They called her "Überjoy," but her real name was Joycelyn Eberhard. She was a finalist in the Miss Teen Idaho beauty pageant, but now she's gone missing-in China, no less. Her fiancé, Orion, worried when she signed up for the Peace Corps, but he never expected something like this. Her disappearance is shattering to him, so he has no choice but to head overseas and search for the woman he loves.
His search takes him to the remote Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and Tibet, where getting help from local authorities is not as easy as he would have hoped. He is forced to seek assistance elsewhere, from intrepid special operations mercenaries and unorthodox mountaineering guides. Soon, Orion's search targets not only his fiancé, but the meaning of life itself.
Set in the mountains of China-where earth meets sky in more ways than one-Questing for Überjoy is a quest for love. It is also a quest for meaning, as Eastern culture surrounds heroic Orion and teaches him more about himself than any experience in America. One moment philosophical and the next filled with danger, it is a story that could change your life and send you on your own quest for mountaintop enlightenment.
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Questing for ÜberjoyBook Three of the Post-Lux Trilogy
By Konrad Ventana
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Konrad Ventana
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Disappearance of Überjoy
Orion is a special kind of guy. He is a man's man, a ladies' man, the best man. And soon, although he does not yet know it, Orion is about to embark upon his most significant adventure. Orion is an Eagle Scout, which is a title held for life: "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle," as the saying goes. He is, in fact, descended from a long line of Eagle Scouts and, before that, from a long line of hunter-gatherers that goes as far back as anyone can remember. Orion is a man who is no stranger to high drama. In college, he was the captain of the ski team, a fearless downhill racer. It was during those formative years that he articulated his passion for a majestic beauty that moves in exquisite curves, and he developed thighs like tree trunks. In the summertime, he'd worked as a lifeguard at the local country club, where he was always prepared, although there was never much call, for deep-water rescues.
Orion is a different kind of guy—he is a nice guy who is used to finishing first. Yet he'd give you the shirt off his back if such an occasion would arise, and this must have been fairly common for him, since he always seemed to be wearing more than one shirt at a time in an outdoorsy sort of layered look. Let's just say that he was prepared to give you the shirt off his back and leave it at that. However, something needs to be said from the outset about Orion's habit of finishing first. It was almost as if nature had endowed him with such outstanding athletic prowess as to enable him to dash effortlessly across the most forbidding and inscrutable of landscapes as though he were gaining sustenance directly from the sun, driven not by a hunger for some inimitable victory but by a tireless desire to chase, to pursue, to attain something valuable, regardless of the effort required. By the ripe old age of thirty-five, Orion had attained an inspiring constellation of sought-after accomplishments in the various spheres of his life.
Orion's renowned athletic prowess and success as an iconic sporting entrepreneur was equaled only by his impressive good looks, which offered him an expansive choice of leading ladies. A shock of naturally wavy, dark chocolate hair stood playfully on end when he rubbed his hand through it in either exasperation or consternation. His piercing blue eyes made people wonder if he wore colored contact lenses. His plump, perpetually wet-looking lips peered out behind soft, light brown whiskers, which his fiancée found both endearing and scratchy; he bit his bottom lip whenever he was listening carefully or pondering his next move.
At the point in time in which our story begins, Orion is engaged to be married to the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. A finalist in the Miss Teen Idaho beauty pageant a few years back, the lovely Joycelyn Eberhard is still capable of stopping traffic all the way from Bonners Ferry to the main campus of the University of Idaho, where she recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in education. The university's College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences is apparently where Joycelyn adopted the notion that "World Peace" ought to be somewhat more than a convenient rhetorical device used to evoke an emotional response in the audience of a local, or even national, beauty pageant. That is, perhaps, why she was so keen on "doing something earnest and consequential" before settling down and raising a nuclear family, as was generally expected of a young American woman of such obvious natural beauty.
It was the idealistic allure of the Peace Corps that drew Joycelyn Eberhard away from her conventionally anticipated life course, in a personal and somewhat quixotic attempt to do something earnest and consequential in the name of World Peace. Neither Orion nor any of Joycelyn's closest friends or family members—all of whom fondly referred to the quondam beauty queen as their own Überjoy—could fully comprehend her unnecessarily idealistic motivations. They could no more comprehend her decision to join the Peace Corps as a volunteer teacher than they could hide their dismay at the very thought that their Überjoy would forsake her dashing fiancé, her friends, and her family for the starkness of a cold, two-room schoolhouse on the other side of the planet. It bears mentioning that this particular two-room schoolhouse is located in the Khumjung Sherpa village, high in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal.
Although it galled Orion, this strident man of action, to wait upon anything or anyone, let alone something as near and dear to him as the woman he intended to marry, Orion knew that Joycelyn Eberhard was a woman worth waiting for. And so, there was nothing he could do but tarry through the long winter and the spring and the summer until the coming of the fall, when his beautiful, starry-eyed fiancée was scheduled to return from her idealistic sojourn to Nepal—nothing he could do but wait with uncharacteristic forbearance for his Überjoy to return.
Amid the autumn of his discontent—it was September, and Überjoy was to return in late November—Orion trained with the Sun Valley Ski Patrol, striving to keep in top shape for the upcoming ski season. Orion was striding briskly along as the pale, yawning arms of the morning mists rose up as if in surrender to a greater glory ascending in the brightening blue sky. The last crystalline vestiges of nature's dewy tears were silently sublimating from the forest paths as the enduring soles of a dozen high-tech running shoes appeared and pummeled the ground. There was a rasping sound of chainsaws coming from the direction of Dollar Mountain, and the sweet, greasy smells of damp leaves and wood smoke hung redolent in the air. Orion was striding briskly along the Wood River trails, freshly garnished with newly fallen leaves that would soon be blown away or covered with snow in the coming months. As usual, he was racing far out in front of his fellow ski patrollers, who were casually chatting and joking while jogging comfortably along with the uniformly measured cadence of their pleasant, postmodern lives. Following the old Union Pacific Railroad route through the Wood River Valley, the rustic trail looped around Elkhorn Village and eventually connected with a paved roadway that ran on into Sun Valley proper. Yes, it is in the autumn of Orion's discontent when we first observe him striding briskly along; and then he is briskly striding past, leaving the poetic chiasmus of this introductory moment far behind.
When Orion arrived back at the resort complex, he was alarmed to find Joycelyn's father and the Blaine County sheriff standing at the entrance of the circular driveway in front of the main lodge to meet him.
"This can't be good news," said Orion, still breathing hard from the running.
"No, son, it's not good at all," said Joycelyn's father, shaking his head. "It appears that she's been taken from us!"
"What do you mean, taken?" asked Orion. "Who took her where?"
Orion studied the traces of unbearable sadness that strained the ruggedly handsome visage of Joycelyn's father, who slowly averted his eyes, and then he studied the weather-beaten face of the grizzled old Western sheriff for additional clues. Orion squinted hard into the leaden eyes of the seasoned lawman, who appeared to have seen too much trouble, too much inhumanity, too much criminal activity, and too much pitiable human drama to be either surprised or alarmed by anything under this old sun. There was nothing there to behold but gray and gloom and more lead.
"Who took her where?" repeated Orion.
Suddenly overcome by the grief he had obviously been trying hard to control, Joycelyn's father started sobbing in low, mournful tones. Orion and the Blaine County sheriff helped the weeping man into a cedar lawn chair, and Orion planted a consoling hand upon his shoulder.
"We don't have answers to those questions yet," said the sheriff.
"But you do know that Joycelyn is still alive? You can tell me that much, at least?"
"I'm afraid not," said the sheriff. "China is a mighty long way from here."
"China!!!" shouted Orion. He was beside himself for a brief moment, struggling with the weight of catastrophe while striving to be of some comfort to the stricken father of his would-be fiancée. He stifled his indignant outburst enough to mutter a rhetorical question. "How in the world did my beloved Überjoy get taken to China?"
By now, Orion's fellow ski patrollers had arrived on the scene, breathless and panting, and there was clearly more heat than light to be thrown onto the subject. Eventually it would be discerned that very little information was available at this time—other than the news that Joycelyn and several other teachers were missing from the Khumjung Village school, along with a number of female students, and that there were numerous reports of Maoist rebel activities in the area. Other than that, the Peace Corps officials apparently had no additional information.
Not a man to stand around wringing his hands for long, Orion pointed out that they needed to get some real answers tout de suite. After regaining his composure, Orion's forthcoming father-in-law said that he was feeling well enough to make some calls to the State Department and the Foreign Services.
Orion nodded and bit his bottom lip, recalling that the man had several business associates in, shall we say, high places. Orion thought for a moment or two longer, and then he asked, "Where can I find the regional headquarters of the Peace Corps?"
Joycelyn's father looked up, and their eyes met as he replied, "Seattle."
* * *
Along the promenades of Seattle's Westlake Center, horses bearing uniformed policemen trotted, musicians strummed acoustic guitars, and brass horns blared. Hordes of busy people came and went on buses, streetcars, and monorails, dining under festive outdoor canopies and shopping in the fashion malls. The numberless granite face of a pedestal clock was wrapped in the embrace of a large, stainless-steel question mark that forever raised the most haunting question—for whom does this silent face now toll? No one seemed to be the slightest bit aware of the great disaster that had befallen them. No one even seemed to notice that Überjoy had been taken away.
"I'm sorry, but there is nothing we can do but wait for more intelligence," said the Regional Director of the Peace Corps, a nondescript little man in a pinstripe suit behind a large mahogany desk. "The Chief of Operations is in direct contact with the Director of International Volunteerism who is in direct contact with the Director of Asia Operations who is in direct contact with the Director of Crisis Management who is in direct contact with the Director of Communications. It's really the best that we can do, under the circumstances. You know, our hands are tied when it comes to such matters," he said as he interlaced his fingers complacently and hunched his narrow shoulders. "All I can tell you is that the safety and welfare of our Peace Corps volunteers is always among our top priorities."
"There must be someone I can speak with to get some actual information concerning Joycelyn's mission and her itinerary," said Orion, leaning heavily on his hands, which were now planted firmly on the polished surface of the executive's desk. "After all, someone had to swear her into this Gipsy circus."
"That particular kind of information would be made available to the Director of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection, or possibly the Associate Director of Volunteer Support, but those offices are located in Washington, DC," he quipped, completely unfazed by Orion's intimidating display.
"Come now. You can do better than that. This is the US government, for pity sake." Orion pushed himself hard off of the polished mahogany surface and began pacing in front of the oversized desk. "Suppose that your fiancée went off to god knows where to teach some third-world children a thing or two, and then you suddenly found out that she was missing and unaccounted for and that no one could tell you where she is, who she was taken by, or even whether she is dead or alive." Orion stopped abruptly and pressed his weight onto the mahogany desk again. "Can you really expect me to stand calmly by and wait until your departmental directorial daisy chain finishes communicating with ... with itself?"
"There is no need to get rude with me. There is no joy in this for me either. I expect that I would feel exactly the same as you, if I were in your position. But as an officer of the Peace Corps, I have to accept the fact that I occupy a position of great bureaucracy in an increasingly unstable world, and accepting that fact, I have to work for increased stability through international directorates that lead, through education and example, to a renewed appreciation of the virtues of our great bureaucracy."
Orion realized that he was getting nowhere. He was obviously confronting the very same kind of purposeless mentality that would have the entire population walking for the cure, running for the cure, treading water, and spinning its proverbial wheels for the cure—a cure that would finance the construction of many lofty edifices and officious institutions—but without the involvement of real-life heroes, it would be an elusive cure that would never come. Orion concluded that this Regional Director's notion of World Peace, as a placid acceptance of some global bureaucratic unanimity, was a peace that would come at too great a price for him to even consider, let alone accept. He would seek his Überjoy, he would find his Überjoy, and, come hell or high water, he would have his beloved Überjoy back in his muscular arms again.
Orion began to pace the floor like a caged snow leopard. "Please, in the name of all that is sacred and holy and endangered, tell me who I can speak with to get some useful intelligence to formulate a useful plan of action."
"Oh, that's easy. That would be the Director of Field Assistance and Applied Research. I'll see if she's in ..." he added as he pressed a button on the oversized telephone stationed on his mahogany desk and listened carefully for an assuring ring.
Orion was soon ushered into the office of a comely, middle-aged woman in tasteful business attire who rose from her chair behind a duplicate executive desk, introduced herself as Miss Helena Hypatia and asked him if he would care for some tea. Orion found himself staring awkwardly at the graceful yet determined movements of this urbane Director of Field Assistance and Applied Research as she prepared the ceremonial teapot. Then, catching himself in the foible, he quickly apologized by admitting that she just happened to remind him of a splendid teacher of mathematics he had known a long, long time ago. "I don't mean to offend you by my gauche historical reference, but this particular math teacher was a fine woman that I truly admired."
"Oh, I'm not offended in the least," she said, pouring out the tea with consummate precision. "I myself was a teacher of mathematics and natural sciences, that is, before I became an administrator." She sipped her tea and leaned forward on her desk, steepling her fingers and fixing Orion with a keen and practiced stare. "I consider the cultivation of the mind and the profession of teaching to be a great honor, as well as a great responsibility. For fifteen years," she said as she smiled, emphasizing the duration without giving Orion the space to so much as clear his throat of exasperation, "I worked in inner-city schools and challenged communities with high immigrant populations, which only served to increase my appreciation of the need for cross-cultural education. The Peace Corps provided me with the opportunity to expand my commitment and involvement to an international level. Not only do our volunteers disseminate practical knowledge, provide leadership, and spread goodwill to underdeveloped nations around the world, but they bring a better understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity back home with them, when they return to our society and our classrooms in the States."
Excerpted from Questing for Überjoy by Konrad Ventana Copyright © 2011 by Konrad Ventana. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. The Disappearance of Überjoy....................1
2. A Hero's Journey to Nepal....................23
3. Et Tu, Kathmandu?....................35
4. Thoughts Unbecoming....................51
5. Pleiades: A Lost Generation of Doves....................67
6. Peaceful and Wrathful Emanations....................83
7. The Third Bardo: Lord of Death....................99
8. Mirror of Karma....................119
9. Be Not Fond of the Dull Smoke-Colored Light....................137
10. A Flock of Ladies on the Lake....................159
11. Blessings from Above....................177
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Questing for Uberjoy," the third and final volume of Konrad Ventana's award-winning "Post-Lux" Trilogy (after the light), provides a compelling Journey of Discovery that takes the reader to new heights of drama, action, and adventure. In this stunning new novel, Ventana sweeps the reader off into a world of high drama and adventure in the remote Himalayan mountains of Nepal and Tibet, where lofty ideals clash with the myth of the conquering hero until nothing, not even the evening stars, will ever appear quite the same. The story begins as a quest to rescue a kidnapped Peace Corps volunteer and the young schoolgirls of a Sherpa village in Nepal, only to expand in scope upon the mythic landscapes of Tibet, where earth meets sky in more ways than one. This is Himalayan Action & Adventure at its awe-inspiring, breath-taking, heart-pounding best! Synopsis: They called her "Uberjoy," but her real name was Joycelyn Eberhard. She was a finalist in the Miss Teen Idaho beauty pageant, but now she's gone missing-in China, no less. Her fiancé, Orion, worried when she signed up for the Peace Corps, but he never expected something like this. Her disappearance is shattering to him, so he has no choice but to head overseas and search for the woman he loves. His search takes him to the remote Himalayan Mountains in Nepal and Tibet, where getting help from local authorities is not as easy as he would have hoped. He is forced to seek assistance elsewhere, from intrepid special operations mercenaries and unorthodox mountaineering guides. "Questing for Uberjoy" is a quest for love. It is also a quest for meaning, as Eastern culture surrounds heroic Orion and teaches him more about himself than any experience in America. One moment philosophical and the next filled with extreme danger, it is a story that could change your life and send you on your own heroic quest. Winner of 2011 "Editor's Choice" & "Rising Star" distinctions, and praise from Book Editors and Reviewers: (1)"I've just finished reading Konrad Ventana's 'Questing for Uberjoy,' and I must say it is masterfully done. The adventure storyline is terrific, the philosophy intellectually and emotionally meaningful, and the attention to writer's craft apparent. The novel features many unforgettable scenes and outstanding, beautifully painted imagery that will stick with readers long after they've put the book aside." (2)"The disappearance of a beautiful Peace Corps volunteer makes for a great adventure story. Orion's character-arc begins with a crushingly powerful one-dimensional outlook and philosophy. However, Orion's one-dimensional outlook is his flaw, and this is a masterful stroke by the author, since Orion's character does indeed arc and change into flesh and blood with increasing tenderness and passion throughout." (3)"Thank you for the opportunity to review the fascinating work you have done to bring 'Questing for Uberjoy' to fruition. As someone who successfully completed Peace Corps training (for Columbia before the drug lords took over) only to be drafted, I took a special interest in the plot of this book.. Well done! This book is engaging, interesting, and exciting, all at the same time. Readers will devour the story and tell their friends about it!"