I was born in Richmond, Va, a baby boomer, and went to the local Catholic military H.S., Benedictine. Go West! One priest advised. So I went to Oklahoma University and discovered new places, new people, and admired an Indian culture so sadly diminished in the heritage of our country. Always independent, I learned to paint and remodel. I learned to cook and serve fresh gourmet dishes in a country inn I designed and appointed in the Victorian style.
For twenty years I designed and built homes and learned the trades of carpentry and tile setting. When adventure called, my wife Beth and I took our two children to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she taught and I contracted tile and marble work. My break came when I was awarded the contract for the marble at the five star Grand Palazzo Hotel on St. Thomas. Next came the Westin Rio Mar in Puerto Rico where we laid 250,000 square feet of tile and marble.
But in the islands, Mother Nature showed her wrath. Twice dreadful hurricanes destroyed our houses while we lashed ourselves together and held on for dear life. In my novel, "Ora and the Gem Star," the hurricane scene is from experience. Our son went to Georgia Tech, so we decided the mountains offered the refuge and peace of mind we so desperately needed.
In the early 90's, I started a rare book collection, and read everything I bought. Reading became a constant habit. Modern fiction was very special for me, especially the generation that broke the bonds of Victorian pretension. Jack London, Stephen Crane, O'Henry, Theodore Dreiser, Dos Passos, and my favorite, Sinclair Lewis. As my collection grew, I started trading, selling, and more scouting for the best books of modern lit.
I was still building houses for sale or lots on a mountainside. Sales were slow and interest payments were being made from the books I sold. Without warning, the stress took its toll and a heart attack came out of the night like a dagger. I changed my life. I decided to learn all I could about healthy eating. I also wanted something more for myself upon seeing my own mortality.
Adventure, adventure, I kept yearning. Then I started pecking at the keyboard. I loved history, anthropology, lost civilizations. Poor Mexico, I thought, but yet they still have two cultures from pre-Columbian times. The landscape is dotted with evidence of great achievements. I wanted to write a story about a mystery, with a little mystique, a little magic. The cultures, the Maya and the Totonacans, were male dominated. So I created a heroine; Her name is Ora, and she is the chief's daughter, so she can be adventurous, independent. But I wanted her to be like my daughter-precocious, fearless, tenacious, and reverent. So Ora plays by the rules, honors the gods, loves her family and depends on her grandmother for advice.
Thus, "Ora and the Gem Star" is my first novel. It has a little magical realism, the Gem Star, and a lot of adventure, intrigue, and transcendence for Ora. She will lead warriors and 'bahlum' (jaguars) against an avaricious king and an evil general who hail from the great City of the Gods, Teotihuacan; the city that came to an abrupt and sudden end, circa 750 AD. Ora and her Gem Star prevail, and she realizes all energy comes from the heavens, and we are but one member of the celestial family. She honors the Earth and the delicate balance man has in being fortunate to share such a place.
The book is full of cultural flavor in the ways these people survived and built magnificent temple cities without the use of the wheel or metal objects. The two native cultures, the Maya in the south, and the Totonacs in the north and west, are contrasted and blended, as Ora's grandfather fled the ravages of the Maya to go to Totonacapan and live a more sedentary and peaceful life. The local villages on the sea thrive in inter-dependence and social collectivism. Only the threat from the king and his thousands of warriors far to the west concern these peaceful, spiritual people. But all things change, and any day life can bring surprises. For Ora, that day happens in chapter one, and every chapter thereafter. For a sample chapter and other special information, especially the tribute to my dedicatee, please go to my web site: JackCowardinBooks.com. Thanks for visiting!