Ana Nelson, Illustrator
& Phil Dynan, Author

Home Page About Nadia About Yussef About CWO/Sergeant Alvarez About Iraq About this novel Other Sites of interest What people have said about this book Illustrated passages from the book About the writer Sign the guestbook, leave a comment Download or Purchase




























































This is the history of the book, Brother Eagle, Sister Moon, which was first called "Tenika's Gift of Life".

I started writing this book after I returned from military service in Ethiopia. The story was based on a true incident that I knew of while I was there. I wrote several short stories about my experiences in North Africa, some of which were published over the years in Literary Magazines.

But I didn't think of turning "Tenika" into a book until some time later. It was a slow going project, as I was trying to make a living as an artist and almost all of my time and energy went into painting and marketing the paintings at galleries and coffee houses. I worked on the Tenika story for about 15 years - mostly adding ideas while I was travelling between art shows.

Once, while working in London, I showed the "long" short story to my friend, Jeannette Nelson, who was a college teacher at the time. She remarked that she thought it was an "unusually well-written story" and I was thrilled that someone had read it and liked the story. But I returned my attention to my art and packed the manuscript away for years.

Eventually I joined a writer's club in Davis (California) and also took a writing class from the "Adult Education" division of the Woodland Unified School District. At club meetings (to a limited degree) and during the classes (to a much greater degree), I was able to read and discuss the book. It grew and became more interesting during that time. But as always, my art took most of my time.

I had extremely positive response to the story in both the club and in the class, and I typed up a very neat manuscript and carried it with me as I traveled. I also read the story at various elementary and high schools as I traveled with my art. I read the story in schools from Arizona to Washington. It was always well received. Along the way, I also discovered that listeners were almost always unable to take "a break" from the story (and they wouldn't let me take a break either)- and the reason seemed to be that they wanted to know (1) if Yuseff found his family; and (2) if Tenika died during the story. A lot of people became very upset when they thought Tenika was going to be used as meat at the Refugee Camp.

Then, about six months after the US and the UK invaded Iraq; a literary agent (now retired) suggested to me that I change the setting from Ethiopia to Iraq. Not as easy as it sounds, I've never been to Iraq.

But as fate would have it, my brother in-law (Matthew Nelson) went to Iraq with the Army and worked in Sadr City. The, just as Matthew was coming home, my good friend, Todd Alvarez, was sent with his National Guard Unit, to Iraq. Todd and Matthew helped me "fill in the blanks" about a lot of things. (Another friend, Duncan Ross Russell (UK), was assigned to Iraq during the same time as Matthew and Todd.)

I also started to correspond over the internet with both military and civilian groups in Iraq, which eventually led to exchanging emails and blogs with various individuals touched by the war and occupation. I did a lot of research and learned a great deal about the war and about Iraq and about how the war touches lives in so many ways. Often, it left me depressed and sad. I worried about Duncan, Matthew and Todd already - now I was linked to a lot of other people who were in danger every day.

It was when I felt the most "down" that I decided I need an outlet. I remember after my brother died (he was 19 at the time, I was 22) that when I came back from his funeral my College Advisor (Bill Anderson) said to me in closed session that I "was lucky I could write". I asked him how that was supposed to help me deal with my brother's death and he said "You can write about it - you can get things out - it's a gift, use it." And I did. And it worked. So I started writing another story - this one about Nadia, one of Yussef's sisters. That story became Part Two of the book.

(BTW, In the meantime, like ten years later, Jeannette asked me "what ever happened to that book?" She said she "wouldn't have asked if she didn't think it was exceptional." And I also got a Christmas card from the Adult Ed teacher - also, about ten years after, asking if the story was published yet...)

But I didn't stop with Part Two. I thought I'd take the idea of "self help through writing" a step further. I started another book. This one is set in Los Angeles (slightly in the future). Alvarez and Dr. Prigent are now married. She works at UCLA Med Centre and Alvarez works near-by and is getting ready to retire from the Army. Yuseff is starting his first year at UCLA - and trying to understand the American culture.

Why is that "self help" for me? Lots of reasons. I grew up in different countries and have always felt trapped between two worlds. In America, I can't even spell correctly. Well, that's because I write in English, not American. Besides being "trapped between two worlds" (or three or four) I also served with the US Army and came back to the US to a "hostile" public. I never really was able to fully deal with what I had been through, let alone dealing with the public attitude. I went to the UK and "lost myself", using my Canadian background, rather than my American background, as a reference point for my new life.

But still, I didn't fit in anywhere (just everywhere) and I never had a chance to deal with the many facets of the Viet Nam war.

So now, I'm writing a book that addresses some of those thoughts - but concealed in arguments and dialogue about Iraq, instead of Viet Nam. And it's pretty cool - because I also have a lot of mixed-up feelings about what is going on in Iraq and lot of those feelings are very similar to the ones left over from Viet Nam.

Anyway, Yussef is one of the main characters in the new book, but he has a moment of utter frustration with America and Americans and flees to the desert outside Cat City (Cathedral City, near Palm Springs). In the desert, he encounters a young marine living in a tree. Yussef is not aware of it at first, but only he can see and talk to the young marine. It seems that the marine is actually dead, but has unfinished business on Earth - namely, a son he has never seen.

Meanwhile, a couple kids in Westwood form a posse to find Yussef. One of the posse is a kid who had totally dissed Yussef. This kid and his bigoted attitude were actually some of the reasons Yussef took off in the first place. But nonetheless, he has decided he might have been a little extreme with Yuseff and has decided to help find him. So here is this carload of 19 and 20 year-olds heading towards the desert, while Yussef is out there camping with a dead marine and talking about what happened in Iraq. The kids include a Goth student, a skateboard addict, the girl who stood up Yussef on his first-ever "date", and the smart-assed punk bigot.

Guess what. Yeah, one of the kids actually belongs in the desert. All things are connected and there is a plan that no of us knows about, but that we all participate in.

You'll have to read the new book to find out what happens to Yussef and the Marine, and the strange posse that comes to the rescue.

That's all the history I got for now.