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Description of Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles):
Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.
Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.
As an author, I’m drawn to eccentric, unexpected characters: those who surprise because they hear a distant galaxy, see a different music, create their own fragrance rather than get hooked on a soundtrack; the child who has her own ideas about how the emperor is dressed; the lunatics and rebels who tell stories on the boundaries. Helga’s unusual story will take readers to worlds they never imagined—definitely a whole new ride.
Time and again, the unconventional heroine and her eccentric comrades overcome ominous tyrants and black-hearted slavers, not by battling to the last beast standing, but by being the first beast to think differently.
Helga: Out of Hedgelands is divided into three books which introduce the epic saga of the Wood Cow clan and their role in overturning centuries of slavery and tyranny. This story will continue in additional volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles now in development. Over the series of current and future volumes, the entire history of the Wood Cow clan, the fall of Maev Astuté, and the coming of Lord Farseeker to the Outer Rings, will be told.
Amazon 5-Star Reviews:
STEP ASIDE FRODO Since completing the Lord of the Rings trilogy in college, I’ve looked forward to a fantasy series that exhibited the potential to keep me up reading well past my bed time. Helga, Out of Hedgelands, did just that. Mr Johnson has created a fascinating world full of vivid landscapes and characters wise and courageous enough to inhabit them. Helga is a tale for young and old alike. Pour yourself a hot cup of Peskee tea and gather round your children or grandchildren. You’re in for a treat. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.
HELGA IS A NEW CLASSIC! Absolutely phenomenal book . . . J K Rowling step aside!! I can’t wait to read Book Two!! Creativity abounds, excitement rips through each page. It doesn’t get better than this! Helga needs to become a classic!
Helga, the wood cow, is the essence of a courageous woman, a true role model for any young person. She solves difficult situations in her life through steadfast belief that she will be assisted and she can do it, no matter what it is. This book has the most creative characters, environments, even food descriptions, of any story for children that I have read. It meets the standard set by the classics, and it is even about cows, lizards, otters, and every animal imaginable. Don’t miss this great book.
WONDERFUL FAMILY READ Helga: Out of Hedgelands is a perfect family book for evening read aloud — or individual reading for ages 10 to 100.
It is an amazing story. Not only does it provide adventure, mystery, charming – and not so charming – characters, delightful descriptions and a truly warm story – but it also provides the reader with many areas that are perfect for discussions about discrimination, class systems, peer pressure, and other life issues using the animals as examples. The author has provided a master piece with his story telling and has also given the readers many things to think about on topics that can be easily understood and discussed by all ages. I highly recommend reading Helga: Out of the Hedgelands and hope the author soon comes out with his next book.
Amazon Reader Reviews:
Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.3 stars, with 10 reviews! Read the reviews here!
Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) is available for purchase at:
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Excerpt from Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles):
Tangled snags of fallen trees and piles of debris littered the riverbank. Floating along, exhausted, half-submerged, Helbara grabbed a protruding branch to rest a moment. Remaining low in the water with her small daughter, Helga, clinging to her back, she pulled herself in among the dense reeds and willows surrounding the fallen tree. Except for the soft gurgling of the Deep Springs River—its water colored bronze in the light of the orange moon overhead—the warm night was ominously quiet. Struggling to control the harsh rasping of her ragged breathing, Helbara knew she could not rest long. “Help us, Ancient Ones,” she breathed, as the glint of moonlight caught on more and more points of polished metal rounding the riverbend not more than a hundred yards away. Her mind worked in frantic desperation as she watched what almost seemed to be clouds of ghostly fireflies approaching from up the river.
She hardly had time to think, however, before Helga’s grip on her neck tightened. Their pursuers were drawing near. “Snake-bloods, Mama! Now what?” her five-year-old daughter whispered urgently.
“Shee’wheet, Helga, Shee’wheet,” Helbara whispered. “Yes, I see them. The Wrackshees will soon be here. Be still. Ever so quiet.”
Six heavily-armed Wrackshees, kneeling in individual kayaks made of tightly-woven reeds, paddled silently toward them. The once-faint outlines of the Wrackshee slave hunters steadily grew more distinct as they approached. Their beeline course on the wide river seemed to be zeroing in on Helbara’s hiding place. She realized she could not risk further movement above water—the Wrackshees were now too close.
Shaking the reeds as little as possible, she pulled herself and Helga further back among the reeds until only small cracks were left to peer through. Sensing Helga’s rising terror, Helbara softly whispered an old lullaby to her daughter, trying to calm her: “Shee’wheet, Sweet-Leaf, Shee’wheet…Shee’wheet, Sweet-Leaf, Shee’wheet…”
Her own heart banging in her chest, Helbara watched the Wrackshee kayaks approaching relentlessly. Moonlight clearly revealed the albino Wolf in the lead kayak—small in stature, abnormally flattened face, thick-necked, with a large moustache. She shuddered. Six kayaks. One Wolf and five Weasels. Somewhere behind them, many more. If she and Helga were discovered, what resistance could they offer?
Suddenly the kayaks slowed, pausing about twenty yards away—close enough that the Wrackshees’ awful stench covered the area with a suffocating blanket. Using only hand signals to communicate, the slavers silently peered here and there for any sign of their prey. The razor-sharp tips of dozens of small throwing lances, carried on bandoliers slung over the Wrackshees’ shoulders, shone red in the moonlight. Helbara knew that terrible things happened to beasts hit by those poisoned tips—going mad with thirst, eyes bugging, bleeding the color of grass. Each time the gaze of a Wrackshee seemed to fix on the spot where they were concealed, Helbara trembled on the edge of panicked flight. To do so, however, would mean certain capture or death. They were trapped. With every ounce of inner strength, Helbara held her panic in check.
“Shee’wheet, Helga, Shee’wheet…We must be very still. Do not say anything unless I ask you to.” As she uttered these words, she attempted to shift Helga’s weight on her back and slipped on the loose sand. Her boot seemed to suddenly drop into a hole. Catching herself before she made a complete fall, she feared the Weasels might have observed her misstep. For the moment, however, their pursuers seemed to be absorbed in their sign language consultation.
Moving her boot gently, Helbara explored the apparent hole where she had stumbled. The opening was large—the submerged end of a long-decaying fallen tree. In the moonlight, Helbara’s eyes struggled to see evidence of the rest of the tree. The dense reeds and willows made it difficult to be certain, but the position of the hollow end she had discovered seemed connected to a massive upended root clump visible further down the bank. How much of the tree was hollow?
“Sweet-Leaf,” Helbara whispered very softly, “I need you to explore something for me. Slide quietly off my back, take a deep breath, and duck underwater—see if you can tell if this tree beside us is hollow.” The request immediately dampened Helga’s fear. Action was an antidote to terror. As quietly as the reeds waved in the soft evening breeze, she disappeared below the surface.
In a few moments she was back. “Not hollow very far,” she whispered, “but there’s a big opening at first. Then the hollow part ends, but there’s a hole in the bark at the end that’s above water. It’s small but a beast could breathe there.” Pausing and looking deeply into her mother’s eyes, she concluded with a tone of sorrow, “But only room for a small beast.”
As she listened to her daughter’s report, a plan rapidly formed in Helbara’s mind. It was none too soon. The albino Wrackshee made a quick sign with his paw. The gesture was at the same time purposeful and sinister. The Weasels were no longer waiting. Two of the kayaks turned and glided directly toward the Wood Cows’ hiding place. Pressing her daughter close to her chest in a comforting embrace, Helbara calmly gave Helga instructions.
“The hollow space in the tree is large enough,” she said, “to conceal you well for some time. The Wrackshees will not likely think to look there for you. They may not even know you escaped with me. I want you to quietly—just as quietly as you did before—duck under again and hide in the hollow space in the tree. Be absolutely quiet no matter what happens.”
Helga immediately understood she was being asked to play a serious game of Hide-n-Seek with their pursuers. Long moments seemed to drag by. Helga knew there had been no mention of what her mother planned to do.
Then Helbara urged Helga underwater and whispered, “Sweet-Leaf, Mamma’s going to talk to those Snake-bloods to make certain they don’t harm you. I won’t be long. You wait in that hollow place and stay as quiet as you can.” She gave Helga a squeeze and handed her a pronghorn flute she had always played for her back in their home. “Take this, Sweet-Leaf, it is my promise that I will be back soon.”
Helga’s eyes met her mother’s in a deeply moving, but silent, farewell as she slipped the flute in her pocket. “Don’t worry, Mama. I will do as you say,” the look said to her mother as surely as if it were spoken.
Then Helbara stood up. “Sweet-Leaf,” she whispered after Helga silently ducked under the surface, “no matter what, wait in that hollow place. I will be back to you soon.” Whether Helbara actually believed this or not—six heavily-armed Weasels awaited her—whatever “talk” Helga’s Mamma had in mind would not be pleasant conversation…
Suddenly, the replay of her experiences from ten years earlier shifted. The silhouette of a large canoe now filled her misted vision, looming before the same young Helga, who was now sloshing miserably through the river shallows during the deepest dark of the night.
A beast crouched low in the canoe grabbed her with long, brawny arms. Captured in the strong grasp of this unknown powerful stranger, Helga’s sense of panic surged. In a desperate effort to escape, she was almost ready to bite the beast that held her, when the whisper of a gruff voice stopped her struggles.
“Hey-hey, ya lee’tle Bungeet! Stop da chop sputter, or those Wracker’mugs will b’a back at ya ’gin frighter t’en ever. Shee’wheet…Shee’wheet…
The softly whispered “Shee’wheet” calmed Helga. The gentle, soothing tones, so reminiscent of her mother, marked this rough stranger with a kindly manner that made her feel safe. Settling the small Wood Cow in the bottom of the canoe, her rescuer—Pickles DiArdo as she later learned—continued his soft soothing lullaby and patted her gently on the back in assurance of safety, as his partner began paddling again.
“This’n Bungeet has had some stinkin’ Wracker’mugs b’itin at her,” Pickles said to the other Trapper Dog paddling in the prow. “Go for Mianney’s, Lupes—the Healer will s’nd her pain t’way.”
The canoe traveled about another two hundred yards and turned into a small, nearly invisible side channel flowing into the main river course from among the willows. Paddling with gentle determination against the current, the canoe glided toward a rough shack perched high above the water on stout poles. Giving one final hard push with their paddles, the Trapper Dogs bent low as the canoe glided under a dense thicket of wild thorn trees growing around the shack. The thorns, tough as steel and with points so sharp and fine they made marvelous sewing needles, ringed the cabin like sentries. No one would attempt to approach the shack through such ferocious thorns except those invited to come and shown the way to pass.
The thorns did not deter Pickles and Lupes, who often visited Mianney Mayoyo. Tying their canoe to one of the thorn trees, Lupes unrolled a bark mat and threw it up over the lowest branch of the tree. Using the mat for safe passage over the outermost thorns, the three travelers reached the interior of the tree where they were able to drop to the ground. Branches on the rear of this particular tree had been trimmed away to allow exit to the shack.
They had hardly reached Mianney’s shack and called out to her when she was instantly with them. The old River Cat, who was rumored to be ancient—some said she had always lived—had long, jet black hair that was smooth and shining from the walnut oil she rubbed into it each day. Dangling far down in front of her was an ornate necklace of beads, and on each wrist she had broad woven bracelets, decorated with copper sunbursts.
Mianney carried a small basket. Without any word of greeting to her visitors, she pulled a bundle of dried herbs and two green-colored balls of thorn tree pitch from the basket. Arranging the herbs and pitch balls in a ceremonious pile before them, with seeming magic she produced a glowing coal from her jacket pocket and lit the pile. A sudden burst of flame, and the herbs and pitch balls sent up a sharp pillar of fire.
As the small fire flamed, Mianney’s deep brown eyes darted here and there gleefully. Her bubbling wild intensity frightened some superstitious people, who said she was a demon in disguise. Mianney did seem to do things that were supernatural. The flames that burned so furiously for a few moments, suddenly died down, leaving a dense pungent cloud of smoke. Still without speaking, with lightning quickness Mianney lifted Helga to her arms and ascended the ladder to her shack. In the blink of an eye she and Helga were gone. A whisp of pungent smoke, swirling where Mianney had stood, was all that assured Pickles and Lupes that she had actually been with them a moment before…
As Mianney held Helga close through that long-ago night, flute music, rising and falling from a more distant cabin, was a safe and soothing sound in the dark.
That flute music—so comforting, such a balm on her terror—was, for Helga, a symbol of her deliverance. The peaceful imprint of the flute melody wafting to her during the darkest part of the night struck Helga in the heart as powerfully as the shafts of yellow sunlight that illumined Mianney Mayoyo’s shack the next morning. It was as if her mother’s promise to return soon had been fulfilled.
Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) is available for purchase at:
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