Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas thoughts

by Stephanie Osborn

(Reposted from Christmas 2012)

It's Christmas week, and my family and I will be celebrating it together, as we have ever since I can remember. Each Christmas Eve night, my father gets down his Bible and reads the Christmas passage from either Luke or Matthew. It's a tradition in my family, and a very special time. This is, after all, what Christmas means - the word derives from "Christ Mass." Yes, yes, I know that it's celebrated at the time of the winter solstice, and I know that many of our customs and traditions have their origins in pagan festivals of the season. I know that Jesus almost certainly wasn't born at this time of the year.

But it turns out that one theory may be able to place the arrival of the Magi at this season, during the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, no less. And one of the passages I mentioned provides data from that theory. And so I thought that I'd share my family custom with you by "reading" that passage with you.

* * *


Matthew 2

King James Version (KJV)
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
* * *

To my family, my friends, and my fans, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, God Jul. Peace on Earth, and goodwill to men.

-Stephanie Osborn
(Christmas Day 2013)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Believe in the Magic

I'm a writer. Things in my head get set onto paper and made real for others. In possibly my most popular series, the Displaced Detective, I postulated that what is fiction to us is reality in other worlds, other spacetime continuums.

And maybe this is true. I can't say it is, but I can't say it isn't, either. I used science to create that science fiction.

However, today is Christmas Eve, the most wonderful, magical night of the year. A night commemorating when God came close to us. The night when that jolly man in the red suit defies the laws of physics with a bunch of reindeer. And, so the legends say, at midnight the animals talk. Today, anything is possible.

So tonight I tell you...believe.

(words & lyrics by Glen Ballard & Alan Silvestri,
performed by Josh Groban for Polar Express)

Children sleeping, snow is softly falling;
Dreams are calling like bells in the distance.
We were dreamers not so long ago,
But one by one we all had to grow up.
When it seems the magic's slipped away,
We find it all again on Christmas day.

Believe in what your heart is saying,
Hear the melody that's playing,
There's no time to waste,
There's so much to celebrate!
Believe in what you feel inside 
And give your dreams the wings to fly!
You have everything you need
If you just believe!

Trains move quickly to their journey's end,
Destinations are where we begin again.
Ships go sailing far across the sea,
Trusting starlight to get where they need to be.
When it seems that we have lost our way,
We find ourselves again on Christmas day.

Believe in what your heart is saying,
Hear the melody that's playing,
There's no time to waste,
There's so much to celebrate!
Believe in what you feel inside, 
And give your dreams the wings to fly!
You have everything you need,
If you just believe...
If you just believe...
If you just believe...
If you just believe...
Just believe...

Merry Christmas, my friends.

-Stephanie Osborn
Christmas Eve 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Children's Book Excerpt - StarSong

Here's another little treat for my fans! This is an excerpt from my first children's book, StarSong. It is intended for students from advanced 3rd grade to 7th grade. (But I've had adults telling me they liked it, too!) It's a fantasy, blending elements of Native American lore, European fairytales, and a hint of Tolkienian influence. It's available in Kindle and print, and purchase links can be found on my website, along with more information about the book.
-Stephanie Osborn

Chapter 1

In the Far West, in a cheerful little farming village in the midst of a broad, green plain of great and unknown size, lived a girl. She had long, beautiful dark hair, big, sparkling bright eyes, and a smile that made people happy just to see it. Her name was StarSong, because she loved to sing to the heavens at night, and her voice was, so the villagers said, as beautiful as the stars themselves.

As she grew older, however, she became aware of her beauty, for all the young men began to court her. And she knew she had a lovely voice, for everyone said so. Thus her thoughts turned inward. But where the mind goes, the gifts follow. Therefore, so, too, did her songs, which became all about herself. She became vain and self-centered. Her dresses always had to be colorful and adorned with embroidery, her hair elaborately braided, and her songs were always sung from the flat, patio rooftop of her home so that the entire village could hear.

"Creator has greatly blessed you," her father would tell her. "You should sing for Him."


"No," StarSong would reply defiantly. "I will sing what I please." And she did, singing every night of her own beauty and worth.

This had gone on for many years, since she became a teenager, and as she grew older, near the time of marrying, her worried parents despaired.

"StarSong’s vanity grows worse each day," her mother wept. "Now, none of the young men of our village are good enough for her, according to her. And they are all becoming tired of being spurned by her, and they are marrying other girls. The other girls scorn her, for she scorns them first. She will soon be left alone. And she has refused to learn the skills needed to fend for herself. She is ‘too good for such as that,’ she says."

"I know," said her father sadly.

"Now she is even saying that the village is beneath her," the mother cried. "She desires to go elsewhere, where the life is more exciting, and more befitting her gifts."

"I know," her father said again, even more sadly.

"What did we do wrong?" Starsong’s mother wailed with grief and guilt. "How could our lovely child become so self-centered and vain? What did we do?"

"Nothing, my dear," Starsong’s father said wisely, taking his wife into his arms and comforting her. "Every person must make choices, once they are old enough to understand them. Our young StarSong has chosen, and there is nothing that we could have done differently. We must pray that, someday, Creator teaches her different choices."

And so day followed day, each the same. StarSong sang her own melody, growing more and more self-absorbed, and her parents prayed.


Until one day, when a black speck appeared on the western horizon. It grew swiftly as it fast approached the little village, eating up the sky with darkness as it went. Soon the villagers started to run, screaming in terror.

For it was a giant, spinning windstorm, black and angry, such as none of them had ever seen before, and it overtook the little town in seconds. The villagers, their animals, even their houses, disappeared in the horrible storm, which tore the very grass from the earth. Terrified, poor StarSong stood, frozen to the ground, her normally beautiful voice raised in an ugly scream of fear, until the whirling storm was upon her, and she, too, was swept away.

I am going to die! the poor girl thought in horrified despair as she felt the ground disappear beneath her. I shall never have the chance to have my beauty looked upon, or my voice heard, by those who are worthy to enjoy them.

Far, far, over tree and stream, poor frightened StarSong was carried high in the air for a long, long time, expecting each moment to be her last. Finally the whirlwind beneath her began to weaken and fade.

 Oh, no, she thought in horror. Now I shall be dashed in pieces upon the ground, far below. She hadn’t thought it possible, but if anything, that thought left StarSong even more frightened than before.

But instead, she drifted down like a feather, floating along, until she landed gently atop a high, steep mountain with a flat top. StarSong sang in relief.

"I’m safe! Safe, safe, safe!

Down I shall climb,

Be home by bedtime,

And no longer be a waif!"

But her glad relief soon turned into worry, for StarSong could find no way down. The flat top of the mountain was small, and the mountain’s sides were sheer cliffs, made up of odd columns of rock, and there was no way for her to climb down. She was trapped atop the mountain.

As the sun went down in the west, and the stars came out, little StarSong — feeling very little, indeed — sat down on the ground. But instead of singing, she cried.


I hope you enjoyed it! I loved writing it! I think it would make a wonderful holiday gift for the kids in your life!

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Excerpt: The More Things Change

The More Things Change is another of my ebook shorts. This one might be termed a novelette. The promo blurb runs,

Griblich and his family are happily ensconced in the Village, a settlement of The People, who are offshoots of The Founders. Their lives are peaceful and pastoral as they hunt and gather and play beneath their lovely red sun and green skies, and love and sleep by the light of their moons. But as Griblich is fond of saying, "Wait awhile, and everything will change."

And it always does...

So sit back and enjoy.

-Stephanie Osborn


Chapter 1 ―The Beginning

Griblich was pleased. He watched as the children he had with his wife Bihune gamboled about the yard in the red of the sunshine, and saw how strong and lithe they were.

"Oh, for the energy of youth!" he told his wife with a half-smile quirking one corner of his mouth.

"Hush that," Bihune smacked him with one ofher front limbs, retracting her claws lest she hurt him. "Here, eat." She handed him a plate of greens. "Children, meal time!" she called, and their offspring galloped toward them, their stubby little eight legs taking them as fast as they could go. "Besides," she added to Griblich, "you know better, and I know better. You hardly lacked energy last night." She threw him a broad grin, all three lips parting wide to show her teeth as her multiply-faceted eyes sparkled. She waved her sensory bristles at him suggestively. He chuckled in return, and waved his own bristles right back at her.

"Well, I do have the most beautiful wife in the Village," he proclaimed as their six children gathered around to eat. He surveyed the lavish spread before them. "You did wellin gathering today, love. That looks delicious. Maybe tomorrow we can make a fresh kill together and have something to eat besides salad."

"Salad is good, Daddy," little Biblich murmured around a mouthful of food. "I like salad."

"There's my baby girl." Bihune smiled again. "But knowing Birglah, he wants meat."

"Well, salad is okay," Birglah decided, chewing thoughtfully. "But a nice fresh steak is better."

"You know Daddy's saying," Loblich interjected. "'If you just wait long enough, everything changes.'"

They all laughed.

* * *

And it did. Some days the hunt was good, and The People had steak with their salad, and fresh,
clean water from the nearby sacred Spring around which the Village was situated. Other days the hunt was less so, and fresh salad was the order of the day. But the plants along the Spring, near which Griblich's home was situated, were lush and plentiful and varied, and no one ever went hungry or became malnourished. And the children grew.

Until the rains stopped.
* * *

As the drought deepened, the temperatures rose. The normally pale green skies turned a hard orange and grew hazy as dust rose into the air. The herds that provided part of the Village's food migrated elsewhere. Unfortunately, no one knew where "elsewhere" was.

But worse, theSpring's output began to decrease, and as it did, the vegetation around it wilted, then turned brown and died. Finally the flow stopped altogether, and the pools and puddles left behind began to dry up.

"I'm hungry, Father," Biblich murmured. "No food today, either."

"Yeah," Burglah agreed. "I'd take a salad today, for sure."

"I'm sorry, children," Griblich told his brood with a heavy heart. "Your mother and I ranged even farther afield than you did, and could find nothing."

"Are we going to die?" Loblich,their youngest, wondered, afraid.

"No, no," Griblich protested, soothing his little one. "No fear of that. Wait long enough and everything changes. But I am beginning to think the Elders are right..." He waved his bristles in deep thought.

"Time to oversleep, you mean?" Bihune wondered, waving her own in sympathetic vibrations.

"Yes. Yes, I think so," Griblich decided. "Come, children. Let us go to the cave."

"Yes, Father..."
* * *

So, deep inside their shelter, in oversleep, neither Griblich's family, nor the rest of The People of the
Village ever knew when the wildfire swept through and obliterated what was left of the Village itself, taking their homes with it. The skies went from orange to black with smoke in its aftermath.

But when the rains began, and the water started to drip from the ceiling of their cave, the entire family awoke. Griblich stretched, then hobbled stiffly over to the cave entrance.

"Dear?" Bihune asked, as all the children looked on, bristles quivering in anxiety. Griblich took his time surveying their surroundings.

"There has been a fire," he noted calmly. "We shall likely have to rebuild. But things are greening up. The Spring is running again, and the herds have returned. Let's go," he declared.

They went out in search of their friends and neighbors, ravenously grabbing a bite here and there from edible plants along the way.


Thus ends Chapter 1 of The More Things Change. Currently it is only available for Kindle, but it can be purchased here.

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Excerpt: The Fetish

I thought I'd give my fans a taste of what I have available that they might not know about, for the next few weeks. The Fetish is a short story set in the same universe as Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. Those who have read that book may recall that Dr. Mike Anders purchased a little lapis spaceman fetish as a necklace at a Native American trading post; The Fetish is the story of how that object came to exist. I am also proud to say that it was an EPIC Award Finalist. There's a good deal of Native American lore in it, and some might consider it a fantasy, but it is indeed science fiction. Here's an excerpt; hope you enjoy it!

-Stephanie Osborn


The Zuni youth, barely in his teens, listened carefully to his medicine man ― a lone Zuni priest, something of a rarity for the Zuni ― as he prepared to set out upon his journey.

“This is the time,” James Running Horse told his pupil. “It is midsummer, when the Twins come to the mountaintops. Yes, the Twins,” he nodded, seeing young Vernon White Owl opening his mouth to speak. “The Beloved Two. If you are to continue being my apprentice, you must have their approval first. Only then will you truly become my son and heir, and all my secrets will be given to you.”

“But how will I know them?” Vernon asked, worried.

“You will know them,” James said, firm but gentle. “They are like none you have ever seen before.”


“Look.” James swept his arm across the vertical rock wall of the canyon in which they camped. “Study these drawings. The drawings of the Ancient Ones, the Anasazi. They have faded much in just the years I have known them; they must have been beautiful, detailed things when first they were made. But if you keep them in memory, you will know the Beloved Twins when you see them.”

Vernon stared at the ancient paintings, trying to affix their details in his memory. All were tall; some had broad bodies, others narrow. All had two protrusions, like insect antennae, or fox ears, or mushrooms, on the top of the head. They all had two prominent arms, but not all appeared to have feet. Some seemed to have tails like snakes instead. In their current condition, and to Vernon's untrained eye, it was impossible to tell whether they were coming or going, although none of them were painted in profile. He returned his attention to his teacher.

“What if they don't come?” he continued his anxious train of thought.

“...They will come.” But Vernon had caught the hesitation, the uncertainty in his master's voice.

“Will they both come?” Vernon wondered. “Ahaiyuta and Matsailema?”

“Not necessarily,” James murmured, as at last the hint of a smile came to his tanned, wizened face. “They are busy, and they often follow the starry entrails of Atahsaia across the sky, the grey, ugly demon who once ate our people, to ensure that he does not somehow regenerate. They protect us still.”

“From what?”

A full smile finally cracked the dark, weathered skin. “Ah, that is what you are here to find out!” James said. “Now, you have been through the preparation, a special medicine preparation I have made sure was as complete as possible, and tomorrow is what the white men call the solstice. It is an important time ― a time of vision. You have a few hours before sundown; just sufficient to climb to the peak yonder.” He pointed at the mountaintop at the head of the canyon. “You are as ready as you will ever be, and as ready as I can make you. Go. I will await you here, however long it takes. You will know when your quest is ended.”

Vernon nodded. He stripped to his skin, leaving his clothing and shoes behind with his mentor, and set off alone toward the peak. The only thing he carried was his whittling knife, on a thong around his
* * *

That night, Vernon was exceedingly glad that it was the summer solstice, for the wind on the mountain peak was chilly even so. He found the small cave, really little more than a notch in the peak, that the vision questers of his people had used for generations, and settled in for the night, although he had his doubts that he would be able to sleep. It had been a long walk, and the last hundred yards of the climb had been arduous; he was sweating profusely, and very tired. Nevertheless, he was growing cold as the sweat on his skin chilled in the breeze. He huddled near the back of the cave and tried to stay out of the wind, knowing he was going to be even more miserable very soon.

Eventually, in the arid air of the high desert, his bare skin dried, and he felt somewhat warmer, although, he decided, that was relative. The sky was crystal clear, a deep blue so dark that it was almost, but not quite, black, and millions of diamonds twinkled across it. But he knew that beautiful, clear skies meant colder nights. He curled himself into a tight ball against the rock, thankful for the daytime heat that still radiated from its rough, sandy surface, and waited.

Sooner or later, he knew, I will sleep, or I will have a vision. Or both.

* * *
But he didn't sleep that night. He was too miserably cold, and the stone was too rough, and he was still too energetic and excited, despite the rigorous preparation Running Horse had put him through.

Long, horrid hours later, the sun rose red over the reddish-orange sandstone rocks, making the whole world around him look like it had been bathed in blood. As soon as it did, the temperatures began to rise, and Vernon spent an hour or so in relative comfort ― except for his empty belly and dry throat. But before the sun was halfway up the sky, Vernon was beginning to sweat again. Somewhere in the distance, the call of a golden eagle echoed among the standing stones and canyons, and Vernon shielded his eyes with his hand and looked for it, finally spotting it far away, near the mouth of the canyon where he had been the day before, where his mentor, Running Horse, still camped in wait.

“That is good,” he decided. “We are guarded even here. The white men cannot find me and take me back to the boarding school.”


Thus begins The Fetish. If you are interested in reading more, The Fetish can be purchased here (for Kindle) or here (other formats).

Have fun reading!

-Stephanie Osborn