Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Green New Year's resolutions

With 2009 about to be here, I'm looking for some new goals as I continue my life makeover that is meant to detoxicify my existence and develop sustainable living habits. 2008 was a fairly ambitious year for me as I tried to reduce my polluting impact on my biosphere.

Because global warming concerns me greatly, I applied myself over the past year to reducing what is commonly called my carbon footprint.

To review 2008's achievements toward this goal:

1. I sold my second car and bought a bicycle, and I used the bicycle. I live close to most of the stores I frequent, and a bicycle is entirely practical for running my errands. I enjoy the bicycle as well, except for risking my life in traffic.

2. I reduced my use of paper products, particularly paper towel and paper napkins.

3. I started harvesting rainwater. I use the rainwater to supplement my water needs. It is better for the plants and soil because it is not chlorinated. Collecting rainwater also reduces energy consumption because power is used to pump and process water supplies. Although it's hard for me to estimate how much water I collected and used, I can safely guess that I harvested and used about 400 gallons in the past year.

4. I bought half a cow's worth of grassfed beef from a local farm. For meat eaters, this is a way to reduce the carbon footprint of meat because local grassfed/grass-finished beef involves low transport inputs, no corn (a very fossil fuel intensive crop), plus it did not involve any of those disgusting feedlots. I visited the farm where I bought the beef and saw the cattle grazing in old orchards. The meat is the absolute BOMB by the way. So good.

5. I kept using my sun oven. I actually got this in 2007, but it's definitely one of my favorite new green lifestyle habits. It works best in spring and summer. I love baking with it because I don't have to get the house hot in the hot weather and I produce absolute zero pollution and the power cost is zero.

So, what will be my new green habits for 2009? I'm thinking that I need to do a better job with the plastic shopping bags. I have one Chico Bag, but I need to get more and get better about using them. My brain is still stuck in the take whatever bag you're given mode, which results in a surprising amount of petroleum based plastic bags in my pantry. I can do better.

Another lifestyle change I recently started and will continue for 2009 is vampire hunting. This means I hunt down and control all those power sucking vampire appliances around the house that draw power for no good reason. Common offenders are everything with a remote control. Even when the TV is off, it is still drawing power so that it can respond to the remote when it signals the TV. The solution is to put such items on power strips and turn off the power to the strip when the appliances are not in use. Of course, this means I have to remember to turn the power on before I flop on the couch to watch TV, but I'm picking up the habit quicker than I thought I would. I just started this, and I'm hoping to see an improvement on my power bill.

What would be some other good sustainable lifestyle choices to practice in 2009? I'm always looking out for good ideas. Cheers to reducing pollution and unnecessary waste. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Here's a tip for partying at casinos on New Year's Eve

A long time ago in a desolate land beyond the mountains (Nevada) I worked as a craps dealer at casinos in Las Vegas. Such work varies between incredibly fun and infuriating, with New Year's Eve being one of the most difficult nights to work. It is a crazy busy night because people want to go out and have fun. They are more interested in drinking than gambling, which would be OK, except people usually end up drunk at a gambling table.

Many of my experiences from my days as a casino dealer are recounted in a book I wrote called Get Dicey: Play Craps and Have Fun. The book explains in detail everything about craps, which is a fascinating and fun game.

As many people are getting ready to hit the casinos to celebrate New Year's Eve, I am providing this excerpt from the chapter in Get Dicey that concerns etiquette.


Working for a Living

The last item of etiquette to consider concerns your dealers. Although working the games can be a glamorous exciting job, the dealers, and many other members of the casino staff, rely on the gratuity of players. Dealers are paid very low wages, usually close or at minimum wage. The generosity of other people allows dealers to have a reasonable existence within society.

In other words, dealers make a living from tips.

How much should you tip a dealer? No set method for calculating a tip exists because the circumstances of players’ experiences can vary widely. As a rule though, tip if you win. A winner who gives the staff nothing is a bitter disappointment to the workers.

The best way to tip is to do it while you are playing. That way, win or lose, you have compensated your dealers for their efforts. The most common method for tipping the dealers is to place a bet for them. Table limits do not have to be observed for a dealer bet. On a $5 game a $2 bet for the dealer is fine. Of course, dealers like big bets too.

When deciding what kind of bet to make for your dealers, remember that dealers love pass line bets like Scooby Doo loves Scooby Snacks. Many well-meaning players put dollars up for the dealers on prop bets, but because prop bets have such a low chance of winning, they usually lose. It is like being paid in lottery scratchers.
It is also acceptable just to give the dealers a tip. For example, if you won a big bet, you can just toss back $5 to $25 and say “for the dealers.”

If you happen to get lucky and win a couple thousand dollars, it would be appropriate to give the dealers $100 or $200, depending on the size of your heart. A player who tips generously, even lavishly, will be dubbed “George” by the dealers. It is the code name that dealers use to inform each other who is paying their bills. George gets better service, genuinely friendly smiles, and good karma.
The situation can occur in which you lose all your money very fast and you feel completely dissatisfied with the experience. Dealers will understand if you do not tip in such a situation.

Why should you tip your dealers? Essentially, because they need to eat (at least until they are replaced by robots), but it also should gain you better and friendlier service. A craps dealer who is being tipped should keep an eye on your interests. Did you forget to bet your odds on a come bet because you were talking to the cocktail server? The dealer will remind you. In general, tips make dealers happy, which should make your experience more entertaining. If a dealer remains cloddish and rude after you have displayed tipping behavior, you can save your money. A person who does not try to deserve a tip needs to get a clue.

Another point to mention is that dealers actually do work hard. Players see them go on break every hour and think dealers have it cushy, but believe me those breaks are necessary. A dealer, no matter what the game, has to be completely mentally tuned to his or her game when dealing. It is mentally taxing, and the attention span on the average human only holds for about fifty minutes.

Dealing is also very physically demanding. The people are on their feet and bending their backs. They earn the money they make.

I will acknowledge, however, that dice dealers are notoriously lazy as cats. This is just because they are conserving their energy for a hot game. They are like the floating crocodiles waiting for the wildebeest herds to enter the river. That is when the work needs to be done. When things get busy, a dice dealer can lose weight during a hectic shift.

Hopefully you have not found the rules, superstitions, and behavior suggestions too oppressive. Having a good time is completely the point of playing craps at a casino. Whoop it up and try not to hit anyone with your elbows. Minding your dice player manners will also let you experience the little subculture that can emerge at the craps tables. The experience really can be splendid. Casinos can be civilized places too, almost like Rick’s CafĂ© Americain from the classic film Casablanca where Nazis chat gently with their fugitives.


In these difficult times tipped employees are often suffering from significant drops in their income. So, if you can afford to go out and party on New Year's Eve remember to spread the happiness around.

And if you'd like to learn how to play craps or at least prevent your buddies from throwing away their cash on terrible bets, read Get Dicey. In addition to paperback, it is availabe in an instant download ebook.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three new free tattoo designs at Destination Tattoo

Today I added some more images to my directory of free tattoo designs. I've spent the last year slowly building the website Destination Tattoo and have been pleased with the results. It gets consistent and growing traffic and makes a little money from advertising every day. Keywords associated with tattoos are fairly low rent, but they come through for me every day. Every once in a while I get a surprisingly high share from Google for an ad. I suspect those come from the article at the website about tattoo removal because that is very expensive.

Speaking of tattoo removal, the marijuana pot leaf tattoo design that I added today will likely result in regret down the road for some people. I could not resist adding it. I'm curious to see if it will be a good page for attracting search traffic.

The other two designs I added are of a more innocent variety:

Daisy flower tattoo
Hibiscus flower tattoo

So, this month's update was inspired by the plant kingdom.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to quit smoking cold turkey

This past week marked the 12th anniversary of my quitting smoking. I did it cold turkey, which has the main advantage of being free. With the New Year around the corner, it is the usual time when smokers try to get their "butts" in gear so they can stop slowly killing themselves. For encouragement, here's my experience with quitting smoking.

Why did I choose to quit smoking cold turkey?

I have to admit to being a bit of a tightwad, so logically I chose the cold turkey method because it required no investment in quit smoking drugs or therapies. But I honestly opted to use my will power alone against my physical cravings because it did not make sense to me to use a nicotine patch. I reasoned that in order to beat down my nicotine addiction, I needed to stop putting nicotine into my body. Trying to wean myself from nicotine with a patch or gum method did not strike me as a way to set myself up for success. It seemed like I would just be allowing myself to depend on something outside of my own will power, and transforming myself back into a non-smoker required a full and irreversible committment on my part.

I began smoking when I was a teenager. I had my first cigarette when I was 15, and my smoking gradually escalated into adulthood until I was smoking about three packs a week. At the age of 24, I decided that I had to give up the nasty smoking habit. I was still young and healthy, but I knew that my physical deterioriation due to smoking was just around the corner. Plus, as a woman I had to consider that I would want to have children, and smoking during pregnancy was just unthinkable to me. It's one thing to harm yourself with smoking, but it's a far worse thing to imperil the health and development of your own child.

Once I reached the decision to quit smoking (which was a very unpopular decision with some parts of my brain) I had to plan when I would finally fling myself off the smoking bridge into the cold rough waters of withdrawal. The holiday season was looming and at first I thought that I would make quit smoking my New Year's resolution. But after more reflection, I decided that such a difficult resolution would require a headstart. Therefore, on December 10th, 1996 I was ready to quit smoking. (Yes, I remember the date precisely.) I smoked my last cigarette that day. I even tried to savor my last cigarette, but as I smoked it down I became increasingly revolted by the filth with which I was polluting my lungs. I did not smoke it down to the filter as I had planned. I stubbed it out about two-thirds smoked and called it quits.

I can tell you that quitting smoking cold turkey hurts. I could physically feel the inside of my blood vessels cringing and crawling with cravings. And my ability to become irritated was vastly enhanced. The first month when you quit smoking is truly the hardest. My brain and body pined for nicotine, banging its empty cup against the cage of my will.

I did not enter into this misery without a plan. I used some visualization techniques. I pictured myself shutting off a light switch that represented my desire to smoke. I also made specific vows to myself regarding my actions. I did not simply quit smoking. I told myself that I could no longer pick up a cigarette or light a cigarette or put a cigarette into my mouth. I found these specific vows very helpful because even when I felt weak and wanted to smoke, I could fall back on rules such as not being able to touch a cigarette or light it.

Another way that I encouraged myself was to remind myself that if I failed and went back to smoking, then all of my suffering would be for nothing. Nothing!

As someone who has experienced prolonged nicotine withdrawal, I can say that the craving is not constant. Sometimes I felt OK. The cravings came in peaks and valleys and as the days and weeks went on, the cravings came with dwindling frequency.

One technique I used to cope with cravings was to find myself new things to do besides smoke cigarettes. Since I was reviving my body from the slow waste of smoking, I decided to start exercising. I bought a work out video and struggled through it regularly. Also I would simply pick up the hand weights when I felt a craving so as to push back the physical discomforts with my new fitness activities.

Within days of quitting smoking I was surprised to find that I was doing a lot more with my life. I was getting more done and pursuing hobbies with greater enthusiasm. It was as if I had been wasting my life smoking instead of doing the things I liked. This aspect of quitting smoking is very rewarding.

My final piece of advice for smokers about how to quit is that you should not advertise the fact. I say this because it will be very annoying when your friends, relatives, and co-workers ask you how you are doing. The question will instantly make you think about smoking and trigger withdrawal symptoms. It's far better for people to gradually notice that you are not smoking anymore and then applaud your achievement. Trust me, during your first days and weeks as a reformed smoker, you should talk about it as little as possible.

As a publisher, I have put together a website about how to quit smoking called Clear the Air. It has information and advice from various perspectives. Go read some of the articles so as to bolster your courage and begin the long trek back to health and freedom.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Check out the best genre picks of 2008 at the SF Signal

This week I had the honor of being a contributor to the best sci fi, fantasy, and horror genre entertainment picks of 2008 for a big article at SF Signal. The SF Signal is a science fiction focused site that tosses in some fantasy and horror too as it reviews books, movies, and television shows. There's always plenty of news and interviews too, so it makes for a great fanboy pitstop on the internet for those who like science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

My response to the site's editorial question "What were your top choices of 2008 in books, movies, and/or television in sci fi, fantasy, and horror?" had an emphasis on Doctor Who and Iron Man.

To see my full response along with many other great recommendations from the other contributors, please go to MIND MELD: The Best Genre-Related Books/Films/Shows Consumed in 2008 (Part 2).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thinking of getting a dog? Read my experience with the German Shepherd dog

The decision to adopt any dog must be considered seriously, especially if you are thinking about a large breed dog such as the German Shepherd. As the third most popular dog breed in the United States for the last 10 years according to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd dog attracts attention with its good looks, intelligence, and strong personality. However, this classic and lovable dog breed is not an easy or low maintenance pet. Many pros and cons come with owning German Shepherd dogs.

For happy owners of these powerful dogs, the cons become just part of an interesting routine, but for other potential pet owners the challenges of a large breed can be prohibitive. As a German Shepherd dog owner for the last twelve years, I can credibly share my experience with this remarkable breed.

Pro: As a large breed dog, a German Shepherd presents a robust animal full of energy that allows its owner to make a bold statement with his or her pet and enjoy companionship with a dog that adds security to the home.

Con: This breed can easily prove to be too much dog for some people. They are strong, and often strong-willed, and any owner of a large breed bears the responsibility of controlling his or her dog. When visitors to your home are barked at incessantly by a Yorkshire Terrier, they would be annoyed, but visitors receiving an unrestrained barking session from a German Shepherd will suddenly feel like they are in the midst of a civil rights protest. Along with controlling the barking, you need to teach your dog not to jump on people. Getting hit in the chest by a 70 to 90 pound animal with big claws is painful.

Pro: A German Shepherd is an intelligent even mischievous animal that will respond well to training and be fun to play with. You will enjoy the interaction with your dog during formal training and be proud of the learning progress that your pet displays. German Shepherds require mental and physical stimulation, which makes them an excellent choice for a person or a family that wants to integrate a pet into an active and fun lifestyle. A German Shepherd is an excellent motivator for keeping you active and healthy yourself.

Con: A German Shepherd should not be left alone for long periods of time (more than a few hours). This applies to any dog, but as an original working breed, the German Shepherd dog is geared toward high levels of activity herding animals, aiding in search and rescue, and as law enforcement dogs. You must commit to exercising and stimulating your dog every day. In a German Shepherd reference by D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D., the author reported that this breed was bred to move for hours across large territories. Daily walks and play sessions along with several hours of attention are essential. It is of paramount importance that you commit to training your dog during adolescence and maintain an exercise routine throughout its life. If this is too much for you or your family, then do not adopt this breed.

Pro: As a German Shepherd owner you will receive countless compliments about your pet's beauty during its lifetime. They are gorgeous animals, and you will be proud of your dog, especially if you train him or her properly. You will admire and love your pet for its many capabilities and charms.

Con: German Shepherds will be naughty, particularly during the first two years. My dog ate my birthday cake when she was two years old. Overall, be prepared to have things you love destroyed by chewing, digging, and rough play. Flower beds in a German Shepherd's mind look like a soft cool moist play station. Packages delivered to the front porch become chewy cardboard balls. All manner of possessions such as clothing, remote controls, books, walls, doors, and garden tools will be crunched between powerful jaws.

Pro: Being a very smart breed, the German Shepherd can be steered away from inappropriate behavior. Have lots of toys and chews available at all times. When your dog chews on the wrong things, give him or her a chew or toy and positively reinforce chewing on the correct objects. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, these strong-willed dogs will never entirely give up digging. Their taste in landscaping will not win you any home and garden awards. I've had to content myself with a dog trained not to dig up the vegetable garden.

Con: German Shepherds in general are susceptible to genetic conditions that can be troublesome or even debilitating. Hip dysplasia, panosteitis, and degenerative myelopathy commonly develop in this breed, and you will need to learn about care and possible prevention. This breed can also suffer from various allergies. My dog has food and environmental allergies that took me months to sort of before she got relief. Good breeding can limit the frequency of these conditions but there are no guarantees.

Thinking through how you will respond to the challenges of dog ownership before you adopt will significantly help you enjoy your pet. Dogs, especially German Shepherds, need your attention, formal training, and consistent exercise. Ignoring these needs will lead to a negative experience and an unhappy dog that might end up at the shelter. The joys and challenges of owning a German Shepherd overlap with the needs of most large breeds, but it is essential to recognize that a German Shepherd is not a mellow breed. It is an active dog that will always be looking for fun. Depending on your situation and lifestyle, these traits could be ideal or burdensome.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Joy to the world my website is done

The revamping of my Brave Luck Books website is finished after about a week of intensive labor. I posted all the shiny new pages online today and am quite satisfied with the results. The old version of the website was nice, but it was cramming too much information into the space. The latest version I believe is much easier on the eye, allowing visitors to peruse what I've got to offer without having their attention jerked around.

When making a website it is always a challenge to deliver information in a comprehensible and logical manner that will encourage a visitor to stay and ultimately take an action, like download my ebook, bookmark my website, or buy something. A web designer always has so much to present and wants to get it out there all at once, but in reality one has to pick and choose and make priorities. For my latest website redesign I really tried to apply the approach of meeting the needs of the visitor, which I'm hoping is the desire to learn something about my fantasy series because he or she wants to read fantasy books or ebooks. If I can effectively communicate to such a person, then I just might meet those needs.

When designing communications it is always hard to act as the creator of the message while trying to imagine how the receiver of the message will perceive it or if he or she will even understand it. In the book "Made to Stick" the author described this as the curse of knowledge because it is hard to escape your intimate understanding of a subject and explain it to someone who knows nothing or little about it.

Ultimately, even if I get the message right, no website is ever perfect. I don't know if anyone can design something that will be clear to every user and present the information in the best order. At this time, I will just have to be satisfied. My old website was good and the new one is better. It is most certainly done, and I can move on to other projects, like getting back to work on my novel.

To get to know about novels I've already written please visit Brave Luck Books. It's New and Improved! Now 48 percent more comprehensible.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Brave Luck Books website is going under the knife

The time has finally come for me to overhaul my fantasy book and ebook website that serves as the online home of The Rys Chronicles, my epic fantasy series. It has been two years since the website had a major reworking. As always, I'm seeking to make the website easier for people to read and use. I strive for a simple presentation, but I've always struggled with this goal when I get to the merchandising areas of the website because I have six ebook formats plus the trade paperbacks to present to people. On top of that, I offer the additional option of buying all four novels as a set, which most of my ebook readers choose to do. Then, to make things even harder on myself, I include international options for readers outside the United States. About a year ago I noticed that I was getting international sales, which prompted me to give the website a worldwide orientation instead of just a U.S. focus. So, the trick is to show these options in a clear manner that does not leave visitors scratching their heads.

The old version of is still live online, but I have made substantial progress on the new version, which is much sharper looking and does a better job of communicating to visitors what I have to offer.

It's times like these that I wish I was big time and could hire professional help to redo the website, but since that's not feasible, it will be a do-it-yourself project. Fortunately, I love making websites. I'm not some programming guru, but I can handle web editing software and put out a decent website. For my purposes I only need to market my products and incorporate some basic ecommerce, so it's more about communicating effectively than ringing a bunch of internet bells and whistles.

Part of my new strategy for increasing the marketing effectiveness of the website is to add some interactivity and social networking tie-ins. Realizing that the majority of visitors aren't going to make a purchase on their first visit (It's an imperfect world.), I will be adding features that will improve the chances of my novels sticking in visitors' minds. For example, I'm adding links for each novel to its corresponding page at so people can add my books to their reading list at Goodreads if they happen to use that service. Also, I'm including a way for Facebook users to become a fan of the Brave Luck Books page on Facebook. Every little thing adds up.

I expect to get the website update done in a few days. Until then, if you like fantasy books, please go to where you can download Union of Renegades for free or pick up the trade paperback for $1. Although this version of the site is officially condemned, it really isn't that bad to look upon. I even liked it two years ago, but I'm always working to improve my business. It's not easy being a one-woman publishing business, but I love it, and I hope my affection comes through in what I do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I was a good global warming gal today

Having posted yesterday about the benefits of LED Christmas lights, I actually went out and bought some. I had already bought a string of orange LED lights for Halloween, so I was aware of their quality and attractiveness, but the Christmas ones were beautiful, particularly the blue and clear snowflake lights. They are so bright, it is hard to believe how little energy they use. The box of Sylvania LED lights claims that the bulbs will last for 50,000 hours.

LED lights are good because the lower energy use translates into using less power that is generally the result of burning coal - one of the major nasty fossil fuels that spew carbon dioxide and cause global warming.

I was especially echo-friendly today because I rode my bike to the store to buy the LED lights. I was filled with a vast sense of superiority.

Of course, my little trip to the store is insignificant compared to the vast pollution problem that is causing global warming, but as an individual I can hope that my little things will add up. To update your daily life with energy reduction lifestyle choices, please visit my global warming website.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas LED lighting great way to reduce your holiday carbon footprint

I just found an illuminating online calculator that you can use to compare old fashioned Christmas lights' energy usage to LED Christmas lights. I posted a link to it on the home page of Global Warming Facts and What to Do. It is amazing how much less energy is consumed by LED lights. Because most of our electricity is generated from polluting fuels like coal that spew carbon dioxide into the air and cause global warming, it is imperative that people find ways to reduce their energy usage. Using less energy means creating less pollution, and it saves you money too. Christmas LED lights serve as a wonderful example of how improved technology can significantly reduce pollution. Now if only all those LED lights were solar and wind powered. We'll get there soon!

Every month, I add what I call a Raindrop of Knowledge to my global warming site. Anyone with an environmentally important piece of news related to global warming or advice on how to reduce pollution is invited to submit a message for possible placement on my global warming site. If chosen, your news or advice will be published on the website's home page for one month and then added to the archive after that. You can include a link to your relevant website or blog as well, so it's a good way to earn a link from a website with related content. Full details about submitting your raindrop is at this page:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New at The Fantasy Tavern: Free short story Challenging Lessons

If you were the protege of evil, at what point do you think you would realize it?

In my short fantasy story Challenging Lessons I explore the concept of such a turning point. This short story portrays an episode of back story from The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. In those novels, the rys are a long-lived magical race, and two of the main characters, Shan and Onja, are shown in Challenging Lessons during a crucial time four hundred years prior to the events in my novels. The short story provides an in depth glimpse into these characters and shows how Shan chose between the paths of evil or good and the consequences of that choice.

I wrote this story after completing the novels, so the Shan and Onja in the short story were coming through me as fully developed characters that I knew well and had written about for years. Challenging Lessons came about in 2005 a year after the birth of my first child as I was getting my brain back in shape for fiction writing. I used to offer this story as a free download at Brave Luck Books (TM) but I'm on the verge of overhauling that whole website, and I decided to relocate Challenging Lessons to the Fantasy Tavern where it can be read online in its entirety. No downloading necessary. Just go read at your leisure. Please visit and bookmark my free fantasy short story.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fun with stereotypical fantasy characters

Fantasy and most genres have stereotypical characters associated with them. Almost all stories, for better or for worse, tend to include these character types. Just for fun, I've tried to label a few character types associated with fantasy. Please comment and let me know which one you like or dislike the most or describe your own stereotypical fantasy fiction denizen.

1. Wizard/Wise old guy serving as mentor - Traits: prone to impatient outbursts, refuses to properly explain anything, insensitive to the needs of youth, cryptic deathbed confessions, can really kick some ass sometimes.

2. Grumpy warrior/fighter - Traits: Usually a supporting character who serves as a battle tank and can really hold his own against the bad guys. Never seems to get a girlfriend, relishes battle, good hearted but often harbors racial prejudices.

3. Teenage Princess - Traits: Hates her corset, depends on her trusted handmaiden, struggles for respect and authority, might have magic power and profound destiny, lives in a world controlled by men who are absent, insane, or working very hard to make her marry someone gross. Almost always has to sacrifice love because of duties to the State. Loves to ride horses.

4. Teenage boy of apparently humble birth - Traits: Dead parents (if living, they must die soon), rural life, mysterious past, suddenly hunted by monsters or other evil forces, inherits magic weapon and/or learns to use magic, awkward around women, develops impressive martial arts skills almost spontaneously, destined to be great hero and save kingdom from doom.

5. Capable Captain or Mercenary - Traits: Usually a supporting character but sometimes the hero, has practical experience, wordly outlook, tends to be ladies' man, good fighter, good heart with a twist of corruption when necessary, sarcastic, strategic, and not as idealistic as the teenage hero type.

6. Nerdy Cleric or Religious Devotee - Traits: Might have magic, can translate obscure languages, clever, can talk his way out of tough situation, tendency to lapse into trances at bad time, knows how to open tombs, good or evil? He can go either way.

7. Amazon - Traits: She is armed and will hurt you. Intensely defensive, sexually desirable but unapproachable, usually trying to avenge a sister that was raped and murdered.

8. Other?

As a fantasy writer myself, I enjoy some of these stereotypes, but I'm not in love with the teenage boy turned hero. Maybe he's just been way overused or doesn't get laid enough. Anyway, I strive to create characters for my novels that have some original lifeblood in them. In my opinion, most fantasy authors manage to create at least one or two really solid and compelling characters (Some make them all good). Fantasy characters just tend to get turned into cookie cutters in the made for TV versions.

If you like warriors, real women, spies, and magic, please check out my epic fantasy novels and visit Brave Luck Books.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

12 Tips for Editing Your Fiction

Good writing includes editing. Just look back at an email you dashed off in haste, and you will likely wince at something. Editing encompasses many levels of intensity from basic proofreading to substantial reworking and rewriting. To produce professional and effective fiction, the manuscript editing will go far beyond merely proofreading.

Whether a short story or novel is being submitted to a publisher or headed for self publishing, it needs to be thoroughly edited and assessed from many angles. Editing strives to create flow with smooth transitions, maintain clarity, cut out unnecessary repetition, and includes a variety of tiny to huge adjustments that make the difference between a block of stone and (hopefully) Michelangelo’s David.

Editing is commonly believed to best be done by a competent person other than the writer. Although the critical eye of another is great, any writer should also assess his or her work by switching gears and looking at the work from the editing perspective instead of the writing perspective. However, a writer is often emotionally attached to a work and reluctant to approach the creation with the attitude of an over demanding, never-satisfied father. Overcoming the protective impulse to cling to an original draft as divinely-driven art will serve any writer well.

Editing also takes much effort. A writer might thankfully turn over a manuscript to an editor like after laboring to plant a garden and then assigning someone else to weed and harvest it. However, many writers do not have the luxury of an available competent person who can polish work for an audience.

All writers want to be considered a good writer, and this requires editing. You may be trying to break into fiction markets with short stories and you need to submit your very best to get noticed. To do this you should approach editing as another and enjoyable part of writing. You will enjoy making your work better, sometimes much better. While editing, you will learn about how you write and you will see what you are good at and what you need to fix.

For example, I often find when editing my initial drafts that I flopped through three sentences to say one thing. Usually I can harvest the good bits from each sentence and then combine them into one strong sentence. To do this, I weigh the nuances of each sentence and judge whether I am actually giving out good details or repeating myself needlessly.

Having spent many years writing fiction, which includes editing and rewriting, I have developed a checklist that keeps me on track when editing fiction. I apply most or all of the questions on this checklist to every chapter during the editing process. Remember, the goal is for you to be your toughest critic and for all other critics to love you.

Fiction Editing Checklist

  1. Is it bad? Be honest. Do you like what you wrote? Can you imagine others liking it? You really must be able to say yes to this fundamental question before being satisfied.

  2. What is the lead like? Good, bad, indifferent? By lead, I mean how does the chapter or short story start? Is it compelling? Does it arouse interest or excitement? Don't let an otherwise great story start like assembly instructions for an entertainment center.

  3. What is the action like? With this question, I analyze what is happening in the story. First of all, is anything happening? Do not let the narrative feel like being stuck in a traffic jam (unless the action is being stuck in a traffic jam). This is a very subjective question for the writer/editor. Basically, you need to decide if events are moving the story and thereby maintaining the interest of the reader.

  4. Are you having a good mix of dialogue, narrative, and action? I use this question to avoid stringing together 80 lines of dialogue. Too much he said and she said in a row does not suit narrative fiction. Non-dialogue elements about the characters, setting, and action need to be mixed with dialogue in order to build the word pictures necessary for fiction.

  5. Are you moving the plot along or are you fooling around? It's easy as a writer to start enjoying your characters and exploring tangents or minute details of their lives. Some of this might be essential to story and character development, but let it go too far, and the reader could become bored. Do not let narrative wanderings dilute a story until it is about as interesting as waiting for your number at the DMV.

  6. Do the actions of the characters make sense? Readers need to understand or at least have some clues as to why a character does or says something. If a character does something completely out of character, does the story explain why? Characters are often like chess pieces. They can only move in certain ways. Essentially, I am cautioning against making a character do something just because the writer needs that thing done. It must come down to would the character do that and, if so, under what circumstances?

  7. Do you think the plot twists and turns are acceptable? Do they appear contrived? You want a natural flow.

  8. Are you appealing to the senses? Does imagery occur often enough to build a setting? Are you doing it too much?

  9. Are you watching for places in the story that drag? Can you think of a way to pick it up? Does the dragging portion need to be cut? Or is a pause from the action necessary?

  10. Is the dialogue necessary or should it be replaced with narrative? Sometimes you don’t need to write out mundane conversation with quoted character dialogue. Sometimes it’s much better and efficient to simply writing narrative such as: Becky asked her dad when her mom would be home. He said he didn’t know.

  11. Does the dialogue match the character for language skills, vocabulary, intelligence, emotion and knowledge?

  12. Can the reader identify with the characters in any way? Does anything ring true?

After analyzing and editing your work with the above questions, you have surely improved your writing. The last thing on my checklist is to tell yourself that you did a good job.

Tracy Falbe is the author of the fantasy fiction series "The Rys Chronicles" that has received good reviews since its publication in January 2006. To learn more about her fiction writing style, visit where a free ebook download of her first novel is available.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beware the dark corners of the soul warns Dr. Jekyll of Mr. Hyde

This morning I added The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson to my Ebook Classics collection. The story was quite engaging and kept me turning pages. I can only imagine how startling the book was when it first came out and readers were not aware of Jekyll and Hyde as people are today. The endurance of this story comes from its examination of the truth that all people have good and bad elements within their personalities.

The story begins with the lawyer of Dr. Jekyll, one Mr. Utterson, pressing his concern with the doctor over the terms of his final will and testament that declares Mr. Hyde to be Jekyll's heir in the case of his death or disappearance. Having become aware of Mr. Hyde's wholly vile character, the lawyer urges his client to restate his will before Mr. Hyde is motivated to hurt him. But, mysteriously, the doctor cannot be prevailed upon.

Mr. Utterson continues to monitor the situation as the mystery and horror unfolds. He is concerned for his friend, Dr. Jekyll, who clearly begins to display mad behavior.

Unknown to Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll has been experimenting with cleansing himself of the unappealing and dark aspects of his character, hoping to make the good in himself shine all the better, but in so doing, he has let the proverbial Genie out of the bottle.

In this quote from the novel, Dr. Jekyll attempts to explain himself:

For two good reasons, I will not enter deeply into this scientific branch of my confession. First, because I have been made to learn that the doom and burthen of our life is bound for ever on man’s shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful pressure. Second, because, as my narrative will make, alas! too evident, my discoveries were incomplete. Enough then, that I not only recognised my natural body from the mere aura and effulgence of certain of the powers that made up my spirit, but managed to compound a drug by which these powers should be dethroned from their supremacy, and a second form and countenance substituted, none the less natural to me because they were the expression, and bore the stamp of lower elements in my soul.

For an engaging read set in foggy 19th century London where science and the supernatural collide, I recommend Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why do people hate digital rights management (DRM) on their ebooks?

As a seller of books and ebooks, I spend time measuring the pulse of the growing ebook market. With so many formats and devices out there for reading ebooks, there is a lot to keep track of as I try to create viable product offerings. Most major retail sellers of ebooks employ DRM systems to restrict copying and distribution of ebook content. This is done because the material is copyrighted and the publishers and authors have legitimate fears about online pirates stealing their works.

Although DRM at first sounds reasonable, in practice it is very inconvenient for the actual paying customers of ebooks. Here are some of the problems that arise when people buy ebooks restricted by digital rights management systems:

* DRM can add extra steps to purchase process because the customer's device needs to be registered and authorized in order to open the file.

* Difficulty in placing the ebook on another device. Because the DRM is meant to keep the ebook on the reading device of a single user, a person who uses two devices (say a Sony and a PDA) for ebook reading can run into problems.

* Loss of purchased ebooks when a person decides to get a new ebook reader. If DRM makes an ebook only accessible by a specific authorized device, then getting another new reader means the person cannot transfer his or her ebooks that have already been purchased.

I believe some retailers offer workarounds for these problems, but DRM remains an inconvenience. People just want to buy a product and have it without having to jump through hoops or run into barriers.

As a writer and publisher who is trying to establish a readership, I have chosen to make my ebooks free of DRM. I want my products to be reader friendly, and implementing DRM would be an inconvenience and an expense for me as well. Most certainly I don't want my ebooks to be pirated, but with so many DRM-cracking software programs out there, my research indicates that DRM only delays piracy by a few minutes anyway.

Because lack of DRM seems to be a marketing point that might interest ebook readers, I've decided to be more open about mentioning it. Last night I placed a short video on YouTube promoting my DRM-free ebooks located at and

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jimi Hendrix tribute website resulted from my admiration of rock legend

Although most of my teenage music obsessiveness is well behind me. I don't even have an iPod. But my awe of the talent of Jimi Hendrix has not faded over the years. His profound talent had too little time upon this planet, but as I'm sure Jimi Hendrix imagined, his spirit illuminates distant worlds.

A quote from one of his songs I find especially meaningful, prescient even. In the song "Up From the Skies" on the album Axis Bold As Love (my personal favorite), Jimi Hendrix sang:

I have lived here before
In days of ice.
And I came back to find
The stars displaced,
And the smell of a world
That is burned.
Yeah, well, maybe it's just a change of climate.

For power, passion, and vision, I find the high art of Jimi Hendrix unsurpassed. At my website Amplified Genius - A Tribute to Rock Legend Jimi Hendrix I published my 5-page biography of the short-lived son of all the muses. When I wrote this small biography I was especially saddened to learn that he had just completed the set up of a million-dollar recording studio called Electric Lady. It's sad to imagine what his unfortunate death robbed from his legion of fans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

4 New tattoo designs added to Destination Tattoo

My online publication Destination Tattoo includes a gallery of free tattoo designs along with its articles about tattoo health considerations, tattoo removal, explanation of the tattoo procedure, and reasons why people get tattoos.

I just added four more designs to the gallery. For people trying to figure out what their first or next tattoo will be, browsing free tattoo designs on the internet is a good way to get ideas. Although many tattoo artists are very talented, it is always a challenge for an artist and subject to communicate imagery. Printing out some images that illustrate the desired concepts and discussing these with a tattoo artist are part of a good process for achieving body art results that are pleasing.

The newest free tattoo designs this November are:

Spider tattoo
Owl tattoo
Pan tattoo
Genie lamp tattoo

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Watch video product review of Sony 505 ebook reader

Because I know that people thinking of buying an ebook reader often have no way to phystically touch and hold one before ordering an ebook reader, I am providing this video where I discuss my Sony 505 ebook reader. I suppose a video review is the next best thing to seeing one in person.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Fantasy Readers are Fantasy Writers

Genre fiction inspires its fans to write stories. This is probably the truest of readers of fantasy fiction. The fantasy genre tends to inspire great loyalty among its readers, who are always on the lookout for their next epic reading experience. Many of these same fans create their own work as well whether it is short stories, role-playing adventures, or novels.

Readers of fantasy are prompted to start writing fantasy because they like being drawn into the alternative worlds of fantasy. It is fun to escape the boredom of regular existence and go struggle alongside heroes who are trying to save the world from evil. After reading a good fantasy novel, one will continue daydreaming about other realms and new adventures. This triggers the imagination to go so far as to compose a new story.

Writing in the fantasy genre allows the writer to explore his or her own desires for how a story should be told, how the monsters should look, and what powers the characters will be allowed to have. It also allows the writer to imagine a slightly new ideal of a hero or villain. Of course, most writers are trying to create the next great thing in fantasy fiction, but at the very least, each writer is experiencing his or her imagination at deeper levels when writing. And this is what the reader-turned-writer wants: an even fuller and more engaging experience in a fantasy world.

Evidence of how much fantasy fans like to continue acting through the adventures can be found in the multitude of role-playing games that are fantasy based. There are other games with other themes, but the overwhelming majority of them are about questing against trolls and dragons and trying to add to your character’s magical powers and obtaining better weapons.

There seems to simply be a portion of humanity that is captivated by the thought of carrying a sword, battling monsters, and of finding an extraordinary destiny. These elements have always had appeal to many people. Fantasy is arguably the original genre. Stories through the ages and from many cultures have been about battling gods and magical creatures from the very ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to the Iliad and the Odyssey to King Arthur to the Lord of the Rings.

Fantasy literature also explores issues that most people can relate to from their real lives. Characters in fantasy are often tormented by the deaths of loved ones, and characters are driven by such mundane failings as greed and lust for power. All these things people will eventually encounter in daily life, but it is much more stimulating to examine the difficulties of human existence in a fantasy setting because interesting adventures are also happening in the story.

Readers of fantasy find in their genre a perfect blend of trials to which they can relate and things that are never going to happen to them but are exciting to imagine. Such a captivating combination also makes a great place for people to explore their own thoughts and creativity and write new stories. The fantasy fiction genre will likely always be here.

I am the author of the well-reviewed fantasy fiction series The Rys Chronicles that I spent many years writing and developing. Readers looking for the next great epic fantasy series can download the first book Union of Renegades for free at Brave Luck Books (TM).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dragons present a powerful icon of the power of Nature

The image of the dragon has an almost archetypal power to attract people. Dragon beasts are found throughout the myths and legends of cultures around the world. I believe that our human fascination with dragons stems from our prehistoric existence alongside mega fauna. Our oppressive harvesting of Nature was not always the case, and animals held a much larger sway upon the Earth than we did. Mammoths, saber tooth tigers, giant rhinos, super-sized crocodiles, and an endless host of fearsome beasts once populated the Earth, and our early ancestors struggled to survive amid large and predatory neighbors. Even the California valley where I live was once crawling with grizzly bears only 200 years ago.

Dragons emerged into art, legend, and mythology as an expression of the potent forces of Nature that could trick, consume, or bless us, depending on the situation. The image of the dragon hoarding treasure can represent the base emotion of greed. This is illustrated in the story of Siegfried and the dragon Fafnir. Once a dwarf, Fafnir became a dragon or beast after murdering his father and taking his treasure. Long years of guarding the treasure transformed him into a dragon.

Dragons do not always have such malicious meanings. In Chinese traditions, dragons are associated with water and weather, two great natural forces that are embodied by the dragon. The Chinese dragon is also a composite of many animals, such as the snake, carp, stag, tiger, eagle and so forth. In this way the dragon represents animal power in general.

I've studied several dragon legends, and many records indicate that strange dragon-like creatures actually inspired our modern concept of dragons. The winged dragon on the flag of Wales is representative of the persistent folklore about small winged dragons in that land. Actual sightings of small flying serpents with iridescent colors were reported as late as the 19th century. Another amazing account of a Roman army battling a giant snake to cross a river comes from actual history. The snake was reportedly 120 feet long. Exaggeration likely tampered with this story, but even so, it must have been a big snake.

Read more about dragons at my website Dragon Ride: Dragon slayers, legends & serpent dragons. They are a fascinating subject that tug at our deep human consciousness.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How I became a publisher

I’ve always had an interest in business. My parents were successful small business owners, so I had that example to follow. But as a young person, I could not think of what my business would be.

As the years went by, I pursued my desire to write because for essentially inexplicable reasons I am a person able to write books and compelled to write books. I enjoy fantasy the most of all genres, and my contribution to this timeless form of storytelling was The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. In addition to fiction writing, I wrote Get Dicey, a nonfiction how to play craps book, based on my years working in Las Vegas as a craps dealer. This writing was all happening during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As most aspiring writings can confirm, writing books rarely results in gaining a publishing contract. From about 2000 to 2004, I did the usual things: querying agents and publishers. Marketing my fantasy series was problematic because trying to get one book published is hard enough but trying to get a publisher interested in a four-part series from an unknown author is basically not going to happen. My nonfiction work Get Dicey aroused some interest from agents, but ultimately I found that process too frustrating. I totally understand people are busy and I was an unknown author, but I could see no reason to let my aspirations rot on other people’s geologic timescales. Therefore, I reasoned that self publishing was the course I wanted. Self publishing at least allowed me to put my hat in the ring instead of being indefinitely shut out.

Because I was looking for a business to start, I chose publishing, got my business license, invested in my block of ISBNs for my publishing company, typeset and designed my books, and paid to have small print runs made. Despite these achievements, I really had no idea what I was doing. I learned that little publishers, especially self publishers, are almost always locked out of the bookselling business model. I was too small and unknown for distributors to pick up and bookstores stock mostly popular titles that customers will recognize and buy. Thankfully I was able to participate at Amazon and eBay, where I sold books and continue to do so.

At the same time I published my print books, I also made them into ebooks to sell from my website. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision because the ebooks actually started selling. Ebooks have distinct advantages as a way of producing my work. I do not have to invest in costly manufacturing (which accounts for the lower prices I place on them) and I am able to market to readers worldwide because no prohibitive shipping costs are necessary. Going forward, I plan to focus on the ebook business and continue expanding my selection of websites where I make money from advertising. After my inventory of print books is gone, I will switch to offering books in a print on demand model.

Am I making money at any of this? Yes, I have income, but it is only a part time income at this point. I remain very hopeful for my future as I expand my operation and learn to market myself better.

I’m in the middle of writing another epic fantasy series, and when I’m ready to bring this one out to the public, I will benefit from the many things I’ve learned since starting Falbe Publishing in 2004.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Swords - The must have accessory for fantasy fans

I own a sword. My husband and I bought it at a Renaissance faire and displayed it on our wall for a few years. Sadly we've had to lock it away in a gun cabinet (how weird is that?) because we now have two young boys. Having a real sword available to boys while they grew up seemed to be a bad idea. I imagined coming home to a reenactment of Spartacus, and had to put my plans of sword collecting on hold.

I look forward to the day when my boys have moved out and I can pursue again my desire to establish a sword collection. This fascination started when I was kid and my parents took me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Among a multitude of other amazing collections, I found a hall of Medieval and Renaissance armor and weapons. I remember staring at huge double-handled broadswords and wondering if they had actually been used to kill people. Gruesome, I know, but antique objects always inspire me to imagine their stories.

At about the same time in my life, I became enamored of fantasy fiction. I'm guessing that swords have strong appeal to fantasy readers. I know I find it delightful to have one or more hanging on the wall. Along with being attractive (to my taste) I can fantasize about being someone of a noble lineage whose home is adorned with the weapon heirlooms of her great family.

For people desiring to start a sword collection, I recommend a visit to my website Sword Buying Guides & Symbolism. I'm hoping someday to use the advice at that website myself.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How to keep Christmas from being overwhelming

The holiday season demands a lot from people. You're supposed to be having fun, but usually you are just stuck in traffic as you rush to buy last minute gifts and get to a party on time.

To avoid holiday stress I recommend planning instead of procrastination. Deciding how much you can spend on gifts, or if you can even buy gifts, and then sticking to a budget are the best ways to stay focused when shopping and prevent frustration and wasted time. I do the bulk of my shopping online, often with the aid of print catalogs. I try to decide what I'm buying for people by Thanksgiving and then place my orders by the end of November. This saves me having to fight the crowds and traffic, which form a black hole from which holiday cheer cannot escape. I just published all my top tips for easy Christmas shopping at the website Gifts of the Season.

If you do not want to do any gift shopping, but can handle a trip or two to a grocery store, I recommend baking Christmas cookies to give to friends, relatives, and neighbors. The cost is modest, and people love cookies.

At my Christmas website you can find these easy Christmas cookie recipes:

Basic Christmas cookie dough
Lemon snowflake cookies
Peanut butter thumbprint kiss cookies

Don't dread the holidays or let the season's many pressures get you down. Eat some cookies and worry about your diet with the New Year.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Organic dog flea collar made with essential oils

Your pets might want to go green too. What environmentally minded dog or cat wants a flea collar laden with toxic chemicals? Fortunately an organic and nice smelling solution for flea control exists. I discovered it today while flipping through A Slice of Organic Life edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith.

On page 70, you'll find a recipe for an herbal flea collar.

You will need:

One soft felt or fabric collar

Soak the flea collar in a mixture of:

2 teaspoons pure alcohol
1 tablespoon rosemary essential oil
1 tablespoon lemon verbena essential oil
1 tablespoon lavender essential oil
Oil from 4 garlic capsules

Once the collar is thoroughly saturated, dry it and put it on your pet. It's supposed to last for one month.

As a dog owner, I found this recipe exciting because I've always been troubled by the chemical flea treatments for pets. I publish more dog health information at my website Dogs - Easy to Spoil where the articles can help you spot symptoms of pain and illness in dogs, identify and solve dog allergies, and learn about foods that dogs should avoid. You might be surprised by a couple of them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I own a Sony 505 ebook reader and like it very much

When people say that they have no interest in reading an ebook, what they actually mean is that they do not want to sit and read a long work on a computer screen. But with a dedicated ebook reading device, such as the PRS-505 from Sony, reading an ebook becomes an excellent experience. The main difference from a computer screen provided by the Sony ebook reader is the e-ink technology that supports the reading screen. The e-ink system allows for low power usage and (here's the big one) comfortable reading. The text is crisp and clear and can be read without eye strain for long periods in both artificial and natural light. Unlike the screen of a laptop computer, the screen of the Sony ebook reader has no glare in sunlight. Essentially the reading experience will feel exactly like looking at the pages of a book. Indeed, upon becoming absorbed in a novel, I have found my thumb seeking to physically turn a paper page because my brain assumed I was holding a book.

The user interface for the Sony PRS-505 is also easy to learn and use. I was able to quickly figure out the bulk of the system's navigation without consulting the instructions. Figuring out how to move between ebook titles and navigate within ebooks took only moments. The menu choices are obvious and make sense - very refreshing in a gadget! No baffling cell phone weirdness here.
The navigation within an ebook is well laid out. You can access the table of contents and go directly to specific chapters within the ebook. You can also simply "begin" the ebook and page through from the beginning. The nicest feature is the "continue reading" choice, which automatically takes you to the last place you were reading in the ebook. This is exceedingly handy for someone like me who is chronically plagued by gremlins (both real and imagined) that take bookmarks from my paper books.

Additionally, the ebook reader has a bookmark button that allows you to mark any page in the ebook. Bookmarks that you make for any particular title are stored within that title's menu where you can easily access the pages you marked for later review.

The system to interface your ebook reader with your desktop or laptop computer is also easy to use. This ebook library management software allows you to load files from your computer or access the Sony ebook store online. Because you can easily load files from your computer, you are also free to obtain ebook files in compatible formats from any source.

The Sony ebook reader connects to the computer with a USB cord. When connected, the ebook library interface will add the reader to its display and you can easily add ebooks from the computer library to the reader by dragging and dropping the files. In the same way you can remove ebook files from the portable reader by dragging the files back into the library.

About my only criticism of the Sony ebook reader is that the little buttons for advancing the pages lack perfection. I find them a little stiff and the positioning of both of them is not an optimal fit for my hands. This may not be the case for all users because I am admittedly an ergonomically difficult personality. The Sony ebook reader does have two ways to advance pages, so one or both of the options may work well for other users.

As with most specialized gadgets, you will need to know where to get content for your Sony ebook reader. Certainly, Sony has its own ebook store integrated with the system, but other sellers such as and serve the Sony ebook reader market as well. Ebook titles from small publishers and individual artists are also plentiful.

For example, my free fantasy ebook Union of Renegades from Brave Luck Books (TM) is available to download in the Sony compatible ebook format and many other popular formats.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Global Warming - The expensive reality

I try to behave as an environmentalist. It's not easy considering I live in a civilization based on oil and coal, but I work to cut back on my energy use. I bought a bike in the spring and started using it for quick errands. I actually live close to most of the stores I frequent, so eliminating numerous short trips with a gas-burning, toxic-exhaust-spewing vehicle was a step in the right direction. I am attentive to energy efficiency within my home, and I my utility bills tend to be much lower than my peers. My electricity and gas bill for a 3 bedroom house and family of 4 in October was $59.

It's not just the financial savings I enjoy that motivate me to reduce my use of pollution-based energy sources. The severe environmental abuses of the Earth that are resulting in global warming are so serious that it is illogical not to take action to correct the situation. One of the websites I produce is Global Warming Facts and What To Do where I present my research about global warming, its causes, how people and businesses can reduce carbon dioxide output, and I include some well-produced YouTube videos of the appalling damage created by the coal and oil industries. When you look upon mountain top removal coal mining, you'll understand that clean coal is a myth. It does not matter if a coal power plant can supposedly sequester carbon dioxide because the actual mining of coal is turning Appalachia into Mordor and destroying forests in the process. Then, the world's filthy addiction to oil is illustrated in ghastly detail if you take a look at what extracting tar sands oil actually entails. In Alberta, a whole region is being turned into a toxic smouldering ruin for the sake of oil.

These are issues that cannot be ignored. The air we breathe depends on fixing our lifestyles that are out of whack with anything approaching sanity. I'm saving for solar panels. My choice will not be enough to save civilization, but I'm sure I won't be able to afford fossil fuel energy much longer anyway. The economy is just a subset of the environment.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thus far my favorite Star Trek YouTube video

I am a dedicated Star Trek fan. No, this does not mean that I think that Star Trek V is a good movie (Let us never speak of it again.). Other Star Trek fans put together some tremendously good videos on YouTube. I'm posting here a Star Trek video set to music from Nine Inch Nails that poses the question: "What if Spock had not made it to Vulcan in time to satisfy his Ponfar needs?"

I'd call the content of this video R-rated.

At YouTube, I maintain my own channel at where you can find content related to the fantasy genre plus I have a Star Trek playlist as well.

As you might have suspected, I also have a Star Trek website. Check out my favorite articles there:

Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Seven of Nine
Recurring Motifs in Star Trek

P.S. Other Star Trek website webmasters can set up a link exchange at Star Trekreation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where to get a free fantasy ebook that's already been downloaded over 1,000 times

As I so often like to mention, I'm the author and publisher of The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. Because I know fantasy readers have plenty of choices, I offer on bended knee the first book Union of Renegades as a free fantasy ebook at Brave Luck Books (TM) the fantasy imprint of my company, Falbe Publishing. The ebook is available in 6 formats. Wow, I do everything except come to your house and read it to you.

Since I started tracking things in mid-2007, I can confidently say well over 1,000 people have downloaded the novel. Some of these fine readers were even pleased enough with my work to come back and purchase the rest of the series, but I'm truly flattered every time someone downloads the free one.

To glimpse the nature of my fantasy novel, here's the description from the cover of the paperback version:

Dreibrand Veta has killed for his country. At the frontlines of imperial expansion, he seeks to rebuild the fortune of his noble family. In his daring travels he encounters the rys, a race far more powerful than the human empire that bred him. Dreibrand cannot defy the rys Queen Onja nor defend his companion, Miranda, and her children from the wicked tyrant Queen. Desperate for help, Dreibrand and Miranda join Shan, a rys with emerging powers who plans to challenge Onja. In Shan’s pursuit of the rys throne, he exerts his magical powers, gathers his allies, and incites rebellion among Onja’s human subjects. Great wealth and power will reward the kings, warriors, and spies that align themselves with the rys pretender, but defeat could mean worse than death. Onja can imprison souls and her genocidal rage is legendary. Everything is at risk for Shan’s union of renegades.

For those readers who ain't interested in any newly fangled ebooks, you can get Union of Renegades for a mere $1 plus shipping. It's not quite free, but I'm definitely giving it away. What else is a poor fiction writer to do to get noticed?

Visit for full details.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Amazon working hard to Kindle ebook readership

The Kindle ebook reader from Amazon has been a consistent object of media coverage since its debut almost a year ago. Then on Friday, October 24th, the Amazon/Jeff Bezos PR machine feathered its cap with an appearance on Oprah. As the undisputed Grand Duchess of Merchandising, Oprah Winfrey will certainly bless the Kindle with added exposure and more sales.

The already fast-growing market for ebooks will enjoy this boost that will start to shift digital publishing from the niche to the mainstream. With hive-like buzz building about the Kindle, more people will consider purchasing one, but they will want more than some fluffy chatting up on daytime television upon which to base their buying decisions.

Is the Kindle worthy of its buzz?

I answer with a qualified yes. I recently had the chance to check out my mother's Kindle and review its capabilities. I'm a user of the ebook reader from Sony myself, but I'll save the comparisons for another post.

To begin, the Kindle is a versatile device that provides a comfortable reading experience. You can read text on the e-ink technology screen without eyestrain in both artificial and natural light. The power usage is at an acceptable level. Depending on your reading habits, you can easily go one or two weeks between charges.

The Kindle also serves as an excellent device for people who enjoy audio books. The mp3 files store on the device just like ebooks, and you listen with either the Kindle speaker or plug it into speakers or headphones.

Content for the Kindle can be accessed and purchased wirelessly. The wireless capability of the device allows you to connect to the Amazon ebook store or the audio book store at from almost anywhere in the United States. This is a convenient way to shop for content because it does not require interfacing with a regular computer. This could perhaps be too convenient for impulse shoppers!

Although you can purchase and download ebooks or audio books wirelessly, you can still connect to your computer with a USB cable and load content that way. In addition to plain text files, the Kindle will operate MobiPocket format ebooks that are unencrypted, meaning that they do not have digital rights management (DRM). I include unencrypted MobiPocket ebooks for most of the titles that I sell for the convenience of Kindle users.

To learn more about the Amazon Kindle, please watch my product review of the device that I put on YouTube. I admittedly lack the polish of Oprah, but I make some valid comments and I am an unpaid reviewer.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Makes Halloween So Fun?

When kids grow up these days, they do not discard their affection for Halloween. The ancient holiday remains wonderful fun for kids, and adults indulge in the annual revel as well.

I think three things make Halloween fun. The first is a feeling of community. This emerges when people go out into their neighborhoods with their children to trick-or-treat. When else do Americans run up and down their streets having fun and passing out candy? This activity helps people feel connected to each other, which is a basic human need. Even people without young children can participate by passing out candy. And often, merry parties are going on within homes as the doorbell rings. And party hopping among adults as they go from one costume party to another goes on late into the night after the wee trick-or-treaters have been tucked in with their candy bellyaches.

The second aspect of Halloween that makes it fun is costuming. This is a centuries old method for making merry. Costumes allow people to loosen the hold of their inhibitions. A costume allows someone to feel the excitement and freedom of living within an alternative identity. Costuming also lets people explore other aspects and interests of their personalities.

Finally, Halloween allows people to enjoy being scared. Most people like the feeling of fear based on something that is not actually real. It releases a pleasing adrenaline rush. The scary and spooky elements of Halloween celebration also carry on the ancient traditions of recognizing death as part of the world. Halloween can represent the death of one year and the birth of a new year, and it also draws liberally upon traditions that honor dead loved ones once a year.

I produce a Halloween website called Making Fear Fun with helpful information about many aspects of celebrating Halloween. If you're still working on putting a costume together, I recommend the following articles:

Five Top Tips for Saving Money on a Halloween Costume
Fast Low Budget Costumes

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meet the new boss...the same as the old boss

The blog is dead. Long live the blog!

Since 2005, I've had a blog that focused on the science fiction and fantasy genre. It's my favorite form of entertainment, and I blogged about it mostly to amuse myself and promote my epic fantasy series The Rys Chronicles.

However, the narrowly defined old blog ceased to meet my needs because my publishing business has happily gone beyond my favorite genre. My company is Falbe Publishing and it produces websites on a great variety of subjects, and publishes ebooks and trade paperback books.

Therefore, I have started "Her Ladyship's Quest" to chronicle my tireless efforts to extract a living from doing what I love.

Future posts will reveal my numerous activities and products.