Monday, April 26, 2021

Southern Arizona Book Heroes Golf Tournament by Rico Austin, PhD

Arizona Authors Association member Rico Austin PhD was one of the Arizona authors of children’s books who earned recognition for his educational children’s book, ARIZONA Is Where I Live. This book was showcased by the charitable “Book Heroes,” at the Inaugural Birdies 4 Books Golf Tournament in Tucson, AZ. The golf tourney took place on Sunday, March 21st at the semi-private Rolling Hills Golf Course and Country Club. Rico played in a foursome with three friends who live in Tucson and who also support the 401C Charity of Southern Arizona Book Heroes. 

In 2013, Rico wrote his first children’s book, ARIZONA Is Where I Live, and it is wonderfully, colorfully illustrated in pastel crayons by the talented Ms. Cindy Work. It is an educational and fun book for children ages four through twelve, teaching and giving descriptions of the various wildlife and plants that make Arizona unique and a great place to not only live, but also visit. 

A young woman named Jennifer Dillon founded a program in 2016 in Tucson, Arizona, under the name “Books to Rescue-Pima County.” In 2019, it officially became a non-profit and changed its name to “Southern Arizona Book Heroes.” This organization is very dear to Rico and other Arizona authors because it helps take young children’s minds off of tragedies with books and their illustrations. From violent acts to car crashes to a growing opioid epidemic, “Southern Arizona Book Heroes” (SABH) has joined the front lines with first responders giving comfort to the youngest and most vulnerable citizens. SABH provides resources that help treat children’s unseen injuries—their emotional wounds. Jennifer and her volunteers equip first responders, victim advocates, social workers, and child-centric agencies with new books and new plush toys to distract, comfort, and soothe traumatized children.

Reading a book is just the first step in building a strong relationship with children in our community. We support our first responders and believe this program helps to build partnerships with our most important community members—our kids. Upon inception of this program in 2016, a good friend of Rico’s, Mr. Manuel “Abby” Cady, purchased thirty of Rico’s children’s books to donate, inspiring both Rico and his wife Connie to donate another thirty books. Since that time, both Abby and his wife Kim Cady have donated another fifty of Rico’s children’s books, as have Connie and Rico. 

Jennifer Dillon - Southern Arizona Book Heroes founder

In April 2019, Jennifer was on the local Tucson television show, “Tucson Morning Blend,” where she and Southern Arizona Book Heroes showcased ARIZONA Is Where I Live. You may watch that clip HERE

Rico is so very proud to be a part of this program. If there are any other children’s book authors who belong to the Arizona Authors Association who would be interested in donating their books, here is the web address: 

Rico Austin, PhD is the author of many award-winning essays and books including My Bad Tequila. His first children’s book, ARIZONA Is Where I Live , was featured in this newsletter and on television. Find out more about Rico and his books HERE. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Warrior Women - Part 1 - the Ancient World - by Vijaya Schartz


Ahhotep : Military Leader and Egyptian Pharaoh


Ahhotep’s burial equipment included a dagger and an inscribed ceremonial axe blade made of copper, gold, electrum and wood. The decorations were characteristically Minoan. Also found were three golden flies, badges of bravery awarded to people who served in the army.

Fu Hao: China’s First Female General:

One of the earliest records of female warriors in China comes from oracle bones found in a tomb. The bones told the forgotten story of a ruthless military general of the Shang Dynasty in 1200 BC. The warrior was Fu Hao, queen consort of King Wu Ding, high priestess, and military leader. She defended the Shang dynasty in several battles. 

At the time of her death, she was the first female Chinese soldier to be buried with the highest military honors.

Artemisia I Of Caria: Commander of Ancient Halicarnassus

According to Herodotus, Artemisia of Halicarnassus was a Greek queen in the 5th century BC, long before Alexander the Great. Artemisia wielded power during a time when Greek women couldn’t vote in Athens, the home of original democracy. She is described as a femme fatale, pirate queen, and played a role in the events of the 300 Spartans described in the movies. During the Greco-Persian wars, she fought for the Persians at Salamis and contributed her warships to the Persian Navy.

Zenobia, warrior queen of the Roman colony of Palmyra, in present-day Syria, from 267 or 268 to 272.

She was described as a conqueror. In 269-270, Zenobia and her general, Zabdeas, conquered Egypt, ruled by the Romans. When the Roman prefect of Egypt objected to Zenobia's takeover, Zenobia had him beheaded. Then she sent a declaration to the citizens of Alexandria, calling it "my ancestral city," claiming her Egyptian ancestry. Zenobia personally led her army as a "warrior queen." She conquered more territory, including Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, creating an empire independent of Rome. After winning and ruling these Roman provinces, she was subjugated by Emperor Aurelian. She died in captivity sometime after 274.

The Amazons:

The Amazons were not the stuff of legends.

Long believed to be purely imaginary, the Amazons were the warrior women described as the archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Recently, the remains of 300 warrior women were found in more than 1,000 excavations of Scythian kurgans (burial mounds), from Ukraine to Central Asia. This spectacular discovery gives credit to the myth of the amazon warriors.

They were reported in the Greek writings of Herodotus as women the Greeks encountered on their expeditions around the Black Sea. They rode horses, hunted, fought, used bows and arrows, just like men. They were fierce, nomadic, and refused to remain sedentary. They lived without men, whom they only frequented for procreation. They kept the baby girls but when the boys reached the age of five, they returned them to their fathers.

Other writings relate similar stories of Amazons by travelers from ancient Persia, Egypt, and as far as China.

Warrior women of Ancient Japan:

For thousands of years, certain upper-class Japanese women have learned martial skills and participated in battles right alongside the male warriors. They were skilled with sword, spear, and bow.

These include the legendary Empress Jingu, (169-269 A.D.) She ruled as a regent following her husband’s death in 200 AD. After seeking revenge on the people who murdered her husband, she invaded the Korean peninsula, the ancestral land of her mother, who was a descendant of a legendary Korean prince.

Empress Jingū became the first woman to be featured on a Japanese banknote however, since no actual images of this legendary figure are known to exist, the representation of Jingū was artistically contrived from the photograph of a 19th Century Japanese woman.

I write about all kinds of warrior women in my novels. But if you like ancient warrior women, you may want to check out these, available in eBook and paperback on my links below.


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB

Wednesday, April 7, 2021


Know what pounds my cake? Not adapting to a pandemic. But I’m not going to cite all the national/local cases—we’ve all heard them a million times before. Instead, I’m going to cite how I almost blew a golden chance by passing up a virtual Read Across America at Mountain View Elementary School.

Recall that many Arizona schools have gone to virtual or hybrid learning. That means full- or part-time online instruction. My daughter Zooms most of her college classes at Northern Arizona University. As a musical education major, she’s also had to Zoom her student teaching. So, she’s on both ends of online education.

But adapting to this type of education was not problematic for her. She, like most members of “Gen Z” were born in this evolving technology. As a four-year old, she helped me hook up a VCR, DVD, and PlayStation to the family entertainment system. As a nine-year old, she guided me through building my author website. And I’m sure if asked right now, she could reconfigure a more efficient APS power grid—overnight. There just ain’t nothing these Gen Zers can’t do! 

Not the case for me. As a Baby Boomer born in the era of vacuum tube technology, I marveled at the development of solid state circuitry and went dizzy with the dawn of nano-chip technology. But my adaptations were clunky. My once steep learning curve flattened. It may have something to do with aging brain cells. Or maybe I’m too complacent with the present technology and don’t want to fix what ain’t broke. 

As an in-person elementary school presenter, I was happy with my modus operandi for six years. But this year when asked to present on-line, I balked at the offer. 

First of all, I can count on three fingers how many Zoom meetings I’ve attended (the first being a baby shower). Secondly, I’ve never presented in Zoom. Thirdly, I’ve never presented on Google Meet—the local school’s online meeting platform. With three strikes against me I wanted to turn the offer down. 

Before the pandemic, I was comfy-cushy as an in-person presenter for the past six years; proud of only needing a few years to comfortably work a smart board with Power Point. Now in the heat of virtual learning I’m once again in unfamiliar territory. I got on YouTube and spent a few hours viewing tutorials, but because of the upcoming class presentation I felt pressured and didn’t understand a thing. I spilled my inadequacies to the school’s event coordinator, feeling naked in the rain! 

She assured me that I was not alone; that many presenters were like me (OK, maybe not so naked), and that she’d schedule a few practice sessions. I felt a little better and joined one. I did so poorly I had to schedule another one. Then another one. So shameful! 

With one day to go, I scheduled a practice meeting with my daughter, the Gen Z Queen. She’d never participated in Google Meet before but figured it had to be similar to Zoom. Well, she got it, and I still didn’t. She recommended that I get help from the teacher since I didn’t have enough time to jack up my confidence. 

I emailed the seventh grade teacher my slides in case my internet dropped or I succumbed to hypothermia from being naked in the rain for two days. That made me feel a little better, knowing at least I had a Plan B. She emailed back, saying she’d be happy to facilitate the meeting in case I got washed away in shame. 

The night before my presentation, I lay restless in bed. Once asleep, I had nightmares of all the YouTube tutors laughing, jeering, and scolding me for being a Google Meet moron. How could they be so cruel?! I closed one tutorial window, and it popped up in another window continuing to mock me! 

That morning, at 5:30 AM, I got up, took a shower, and washed my hair. If I’m going to be a moron, I may as well look like a well-groomed one. After getting a vente-sized Starbucks latte, I prepped my backlight, headphones and computer in my dining room—my back wall full of family photos and shelf of classic novels. 

I entered the Google Meet meeting about 15 minutes early, about 7:30 AM. Thankfully the teacher was already there. She had viewed my slides ahead of time and really liked my presentation. That eased my mind a little. She also mentioned that her first class contained some gifted students who could assist both me and her should we encounter any technical glitches. After hearing that and sipping some latte, I really felt better.

Show time! At 7:45AM, the teacher thanked all the students for joining and offered incentives for participation. She introduced me, and I gave a brief bio. My presentation was an original, ~3000-word short story that I read entirely. I also included pictures on every slide. After every third slide, I inserted thought-provoking questions for the students to answer.

Sometime during my first few slides I got a chat message from one of the students: “Your voice is reverberating; push in your headphones jack more firmly.” I must have bumped it when reaching for my latte cup. “Thanks,” I chatted back and pushed in the jack. At least three more students acknowledged my sound correction. I am liking these seventh grade students; they’re so much nicer than those YouTube tutors in my dream! 

Many students engaged in the question/answer period—sometimes presenting arguments with supportive reasons. They must have been following my story closely! After the presentation, a lot of them chatted their gratitude for hearing my story. The teacher also seemed excited about her students’ participation. After dismissing the students, she wanted to know if I could present more short stories if I had them—and I did! 

After that first experience with Google Meet, I didn’t feel so naked in the rain. Take that, YouTube tutors! 

Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s judged many association literary contests and is now in her third year as the Literary Contest Coordinator as well as Secretary of the Association. Learn more about Jane HERE