Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TV Tuesday - Let's talk Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy is one smoking hot show. I had noticed it in the popular category on Netflix for quite a while. And then I heard that Katey Sagal was in it. I've always admired Katey Sagal famous for the role of Peg Bundy in the hilarious show Married with Children.

So even though Sons of Anarchy is decidedly not a comedy, I still chose to watch because of her. As expected, Sagal is majestic in the role of Gemma, the old lady queen of the president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original). She's married to Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), who's a frightening gangster. His Sons of Anarchy runs guns and dabbles in all profitable forms of vice and theft. They are based in Charming, California and they keep the meth trade out of the town along with development. Clay likes to be the kingpin of a quaint little town that he can keep under control. He's completely protected by the local sheriff, but there are always enemies sniffing at the edges. Rivalry with other gangs is common, and then there is the threat that Clay considers the most formidable: "Old White Money". He doesn't want developers with deep pockets to come in with their bedroom communities and strip malls. They'll make Charming bigger and more profitable and sooner or later SAMCRO will get cleared out by bigger thugs who don't want any pesky hill bandits around.

Gemma and Clay have an interesting relationship. It's kind of unique because it shows an older couple, which is rare in youth-obsessed TV culture. But nookie with people who definitely don't get carded anymore only takes a show so far, which brings me to Jax, or Jackson Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the heir apparent of the club and a man who billions of women would place into the "yes" category without hesitation. He's quite the attractive individual. Add his roguish outlaw alpha male intensity and he's positively ovulation inducing.

He knows it too and obliges women as necessary.

Jax is also a very complex and carefully crafted character. He's been raised within the club culture. Being a murderous criminal is all he knows, but when he stumbles across a memoir written by his dead father, his mind is opened to other possibilities. His father had wanted the club to move out of gun running and invest in new directions. He'll struggle with his growing realization that being a criminal might be wrong and won't lead to happiness.

Sons of Anarchy also has fascinating subplots. A particularly touching one is the story of Opie, Jax's best friend. After doing prison time he's back with his family and trying not to be a criminal anymore, but he just can't make ends meet working at the mill. It's a heartbreaking commentary on our cruel economy. He can't work all day and make enough money for his family. Crime beckons him not only with a chance for better income but also dignity.

I'm only as far as Season 2 with Sons of Anarchy. It's hard to know what will happen next. Something awful to be sure because it's a violent and gory show worthy of Mongol raiders. It's also a visceral and sexy and exciting show full of thoughtful storytelling that anyone can relate to, especially its illustration of generational dynamics. The elders are slowing down. The youthful are rising, and the tension between them is unavoidable.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mystical Moonstones in Staurolite by Marsha A. Moore

Today at Her Ladyship's Quest, I welcome back fantasy romance author Marsha A. Moore. She's been working hard on her Enchanted Bookstore Legends series and is here to announce the release of the fourth novel Staurolite.

Mystical Moonstones in Staurolite: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Four
by Marsha A. Moore
In my new release, Staurolite, the fourth book in the Enchanted Bookstore Legends, I’m expanding and developing the foundation of the magical lore of my fantasy world. The characters find themselves needing the world’s ancient wisdom to solve their own present day problems. The basis of this ages-old magical power is a group of four mystical gemstones that parallel the four Chinese elements of nature: air, earth, fire, and water. These stones serve as four powerful keystones which, together, can empower the good Alliance to overcome the threatening attacks of the evil Dark Realm. There is one controlling master gemstone, the Staurolite, which gives this fourth book its title.

The gem corresponding to air I’ve chosen to work with is the moonstone. When I selected my keystone which corresponds to air, I considered many attributes that would make it an empowering symbol.
I’ve long been fascinated with blue-white opalescence of the stone, sometimes described as ‘billowy light’ gliding over the smooth cabochon surface. Gemologists refer to this characteristic as adularescence, and a synonym for the stone is adularia. Moonstone can be colorless, white, yellow, green, brown, orange, pink, or grey, but it always has a white or blue sheen. The best moonstone is colorless with a blue sheen. The colored varieties mainly come from India.

The mystical connections of the gem intrigue me. Moonstone is considered a birthstone for February, a mystical birthstone for June, an astrological birthstone for the star sign Cancer, and the Ayurvedic birthstone for September. I’ll be studying Ayurvedic yoga during my teacher training this year and am eager to learn how this stone is used in that science.

Traditionally, some believe moonstone can be used to balance a one's yin and yang. The gemstone is thought to soothe and balance emotions and evoke calm responses. Called a visionary stone, moonstone brings inspiration, strengthens intuition and sensitivity, enhances creativity, allows the wearer to see situations from different angles, and helps one to see things more clearly. It has even been said that moonstone has the power to grant wishes. Some believe this stone will build self confidence, enhance compassion, and promote happiness and longevity. It is also thought to be a stone of protection, especially for travel at sea, pregnancy, and childbirth.

It is also considered an ideal stone for lovers, since moonstone is reputed to bring forth tender feelings, protect true love, support a person's emotional and dreamy tendencies, and increase sensitivity to others. It’s said to attract friendship and loyalty to the wearer, encourage personal attachments, help obtain romance, and arouse tender passion.

In Heritage Avenged (book two), a large rainbow moonstone is used as the focal point of an instrument which interprets information hidden in the stars. The device is called the Spheres of Sidus. It helps the reader find an answer a chosen question from the his or her past. Three onyx balls are positioned according to current positions of the birth stars of specific ancestors. When, at last, the focal moonstone rondure is placed and given sufficient power, it conjures an answer in the form of a hologram-like image.

In my latest release, Staurolite (book four), Lyra again uses rainbow moonstone of the Spheres of Sidus to help her discover clues about the locations of the four missing keystones. Additionally, through her studies of ancient texts, she learns about the air keystone, a moonstone originally from Aria, the sky world above Dragonspeir. Centuries ago, when the second Scribe was forced into Aria by attacks from the Dark Realm, she recovered the lost moonstone. It was enchanted by the queen of the sky world, to keep the folks in the Alliance safe until they could reclaim their lands. A riddle within the Queen’s poem gives Lyra clues about the location of that precious moonstone keystone. 

Learn about the enchanted moonstone and all the keystones in Staurolite: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Four. Lyra must learn how to find all four in time to save the Alliance from the attacking Dark Realm.

Photo credit for moonstones: By Memecry2 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Staurolite: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Four by Marsha A. Moore
Genre: Epic Fantasy Romance
Lyra McCauley, current Scribe of the Alliance, is the only one who can decode magic hidden in the recently retrieved ancient texts written by her ancestors, the first four Scribes. Information in those writings can help Lyra locate the four missing keystones, which will restore power to the Alliance and allow overthrow of the Dark Realm. With peace restored, she and her beloved, Cullen, could finally marry.
Time is short with the Black Dragon’s Dark Realm increasing attacks to avenge the death of his heir. Many innocent lives are lost. Alliance residents are forced into hiding. Magicals and blue dragons follow leadership of the Imperial Dragon and the other three Guardians into battle to defend the Alliance.
While Lyra unlocks the ancient magic, she opens herself up to scribal powers from her ancestors. She alone can fight the deadliest of the Dark Realm’s forces—the cimafa stealth dragons—but at a cost. The energy flux threatens her health and ability to learn where to find the missing keystones. Can Lyra overcome this shrewd tactic of the Black Dragon to decimate the Alliance?

Enchanted Bookstore Legends (series description):
The Enchanted Bookstore Legends are about Lyra McCauley, a woman destined to become one of five strong women in her family who possess unique magical abilities and serve as Scribes in Dragonspeir. The Scribes span a long history, dating from 1200 to present day. Each Scribe is expected to journey through Dragonspeir, both the good and evil factions, then draft a written account. Each book contains magic with vast implications.
Lyra was first introduced to Dragonspeir as a young girl, when she met the high sorcerer, Cullen Drake, through a gift of one of those enchanted books. Using its magic, he escorted her into the parallel world of Dragonspeir. Years later, she lost that volume and forgot the world and Cullen. These legends begin where he finds her again—she is thirty-five, standing in his enchanted bookstore, and Dragonspeir needs her. 
When Lyra reopens that enchanted book, she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save the good Alliance from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. While learning about her role, Lyra and Cullen fall in love. He is 220 years old and kept alive by Dragonspeir magic. Cullen will die if Dragonspeir is taken over by the evil faction…Lyra becomes the Scribe.

Excerpt from Staurolite:
From Chapter One: Ancient Scribal Magic
Lyra propped her head with an elbow against the low library table and rubbed her eyes, paging through the last chapter. She rearranged her weight on the floor cushion and twisted the end of her long braid.
The Tortoise Guardian’s wide, craggy cheek brushed against her forearm.
She jotted a few lines in a notebook and carefully closed the cover of the ancient copy. Her gaze rested on the faded embossed symbols—The Book of Dragonspeir authored by Elisabeth Walsh, the first Scribe.
“Good work. We’ve previewed two of the lost volumes you recovered. One more remains.” The Tortoise retracted his head halfway into his shell. “Take a break. My neck is aching.”
“I want to keep going and skim Scribe Brigid’s book too.” Lyra flipped through her notes.
The heavy wooden door to the lair library banged open. In two strides, the Imperial Dragon stood before them. “We’re under attack! Cimafa stealth dragons have stolen auras of a high order wizard and souls of three non-magicals. They also killed one of our blue sentry dragons.” His flared nostrils were ringed with fire and seeped smoke. A yellow color of concern flashed in the irises of his eyes.
“How?” Lyra rolled off the plush floor cushion, forced her stiff legs to stand, and grabbed her wizard’s staff. “I thought they only went after higher magicals?”
“Attacks from the Dark Realm?” The Tortoise pushed his front legs against the table edge to lift his shell higher.
The Head Guardian nodded. “They’re attacking in small groups for increased strength. Several pairs and trios have simultaneously flown over our Alliance before retreating to the Steppe of Ora into Silva Nocens. Those four people were taken in different places all over the Alliance during the past thirty-six hours. One cimafa attacks the victim, while the others fight our blues. Several sentries are required to battle one cimafa, and we don’t have enough squadrons. They typically sneak over our borders singly to pursue auras that will boost their power—higher magicals, like you said, Lyra. Never have they purposely attacked non-magicals.”
“Can the Guardians fight the cimafa better than sentries?” Lyra asked.
“Yes. We can do more by using our auras, but I will not ask the other three to fight. I’m on my way out to join a patrol, since I’m the most capable. Losing a Guardian would be a tremendous danger. To break the balance of the four elements would seriously harm the strength of the Alliance.” He clasped his foreclaws against his massive chest. “Even I must use control; the great expenditure of Guardian power required to kill a cimafa would temporarily weaken our governance. The blues primarily fight with physical strength, hurling lightning bolts. Unless injured, they can recoup quicker. I alone have the advantage of using both magical and physical means in battle.”
“Do you want me to help?” Lyra asked.
“No. It’s best for all if you continue your studies to unlock the clues from each Book of Dragonspeir. That will reveal a way for the Alliance to overthrow the Dark Realm. As the Scribe, you are the only one who can read the hidden magical code in those texts.” The leader turned toward the door. “I’ll check with you later, when I return.”
“Head Guardian, are the higher magicals helping?” Lyra’s voice caught in her throat. “Is Cullen safe?”
He stooped to miss the upper arch of the door threshold and glanced over his shoulder. “Most are riding the senior sentries to offer additional strike force. Sire Drake will accompany Yord in my squadron.”
Lyra stepped forward, but the Imperial Dragon gave her no chance for discussion, bolting down the stone corridor with tremendous strides. She stared after him, immobilized by the shock of his news and concern for her love. After all that she and Cullen had risked and accomplished, hoping to reach their goal of living together…this didn’t seem possible. Moments ago, a happy life seemed within their grasp. She stared at the gray stone floor, dumbfounded. Their future together, once again, hung by a thread. Her mind filled with a blur of their hard victories won over the past year.

Purchase Links for previous books in the series:

Author Bio:
Marsha A. Moore is an author of fantasy romance. Much of her life feeds the creative flow she uses to weave highly imaginative tales.
The magic of art and nature often spark life into her writing, as well as watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transformed into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Marsha is crazy about cycling. She lives with her husband on a large saltwater lagoon, where taking her kayak out for an hour or more is a real treat. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical! She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and is excited to be taking part in a Kripalu yoga teacher training program during 2013. That spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy.

Author Links:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Two guest bloggers visiting next week

On Monday April 29th Marsha A. Moore author of the Enchanted Bookstore Legends series will present an article about moonstones and the use of stones in the magical system of her fantasy romance series.

Her blog: Illusions of Intimacy

Then on Thursday May 2nd Melodie Campbell author of Rowena Through the Wall and Rowena and the Dark Lord will contribute her thoughts on why bad guys can be so darn attractive.

Her blog: The Author of Bad Girl Comedy

Following Campbell's guest post, I will add a review of Rowena and the Dark Lord on Friday. She just did a cover reveal at her blog for this new release and it's a good one.

Please follow this blog so you don't miss these excellent writers' appearances.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I gave a writing presentation to third graders and they liked it

Because I'm a novelist I was invited to speak at my neighborhood's school on writing day. I addressed all the third graders. There were about 70 of them, including my son. I was a little intimidated. Kids can be a tough audience. You can lose them to total squealing pandemonium in a heartbeat. Luckily I had three teachers working the perimeter to maintain containment.

But the kids were good and only slipped into gleeful chaos a few times. Happily a good portion of them appeared interested in what I had to say about writing.

One boy in particular appeared utterly enraptured by what I had to say. I kept looking back to him during my presentation. His focus never wavered. He was hanging on my every word. Trust me, when a child is paying attention it is shockingly apparent. To be honest he looked like I was blowing his mind, but in a good way. He was hearing information that delighted him.

He reminded me of how excited I was about writing when I was that young. I've always loved writing. Learning it was a pleasure and words have been my toys ever since. Although that particular young man was likely the most excited, I saw a dozen or so other boys and girls lit up with enthusiasm for the topic. They were genuinely interested in developing their writing skills. They loved stories and found joy in both their creation and consumption.

Despite all the setbacks and challenges of developing my writing career, my youthful excitement about writing has not faded a bit. I realized this during my presentation. It was good to be reminded that writing is my calling. I've always wanted to spend my life doing it.

Satirical video review about female authors

Now that I think about it, I have been feeling systemically underrepresented lately.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2 more chapters of The Goddess Queen audiobook released

The closer Dreibrand gets to Jingten and the final confrontation with Onja, the worse things get. He reunites with his old master Lord Kwan who is thinking about killing him. Then his rival the young King Kalek has definitely decided to kill him.

In Chapter 19 The Judgment of Lord Kwan, Quylan seduces the sympathies of Shan. Meanwhile Dreibrand suffers the consequences of his old master’s anger at the worst possible time.

In Chapter 20 King Kalek, Miranda is taken hostage by the young Temu King who then is able to capture Dreibrand. Occupied with the lovely Quylan, Shan is unaware of the vicious squabbling among his allies.
The audiobook production is getting closer to completion. Support its recording and buy episodes now. It only cost $1.50 to start listening.

See all episodes at The Goddess Queen audiobook page at Brave Luck Books.

This fantasy novel is also available as an ebook if you want to start reading.

I also started advertising this audiobook on the Functional Nerds. You can hear an audio excerpt from the novel in my ad in this week's episode.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Michael Corleone and the power of an unforgettable anti hero

At first thought a writer might think that the protagonist of a novel needs to be likable. Readers should be able to relate to the character and care about what happens to him or her because they like that person.

This is not necessarily the case. Some exceedingly famous novels are dominated by characters that are neither likable nor admirable. But they are entirely unforgettable.

I believe that it is most important for a protagonist to be interesting. Readers aren't always looking for a main character like them. They want someone who can take their imagination to new places and experiences. And they hope for that rare character who can reveal profound truths.

A preeminent example of a famous character from a smash hit novel is Michael Corleone from the Godfather by Mario Puzo. He is basically a reprehensible person that most people would pray they never cross paths with. Yet, he's a great literary figure. I read the Godfather by Mario Puzo nearly 20 years ago, and I still think about it. That is the hallmark of a powerful novel.

What is so interesting about Michael Corleone? 

In many ways his appeal comes from his willingness to be the bad guy for the sake of others. He will take the risks. He will make the hard decisions. He will do the killing. In his mind he justifies his actions because he is protecting his family and providing for them. He's defending his father's legacy.

He pledges to Kay that he'll make his business empire legitimate, but does he really mean it? Is that goal even important to him? If being a legitimate business person was so enticing to him, why does he keep threatening rivals and killing people? Why does he even go so far as to kill his lack-wit brother Fredo instead of forgiving him? He could have exiled him to someplace where he could do no more harm.

Maybe Puzo's point with Michael Corleone is that a powerful man will do anything to keep his power. And he'll tell himself it's all right because he's doing it for his family.

Michael expects his wife to be grateful for how well he provides for her and the family. In his mind she should just accept the life of privilege that he gives her. The story as portrayed in the films shows that Kay's conscience ultimately guts her ability to play the role. She wants to believe him when he lies to her, but eventually she can't accept that she and her children are the so-called justification for his brutality.

Eventually, she can support him no longer and aborts their child. All of Michael's power evaporates when Kay declares that she will bring no more of his flesh and blood into the world.

Michael ends up alone and stripped of his supposedly sacred motivation. He's still a wealthy and powerful man, but his justification for his actions abandons him. He's deserted by the woman that was supposed to blindly appreciate his ruthless efforts.

I consider him a metaphor for a world ruled by men supposedly for the benefit of others. These powerful men let their women have no say in what goes on yet claim that what they do is for their benefit. Michael actually does what he does for the sake of being powerful. It's all about what he wants.

Literary figures such as Michael Corleone illustrate the power of fiction to create people that are unforgettable, and memorable is more powerful than likable.

What anti heroes have struck a chord with you? Comment about characters that you found more memorable than likable. How do such figures make books better?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Watcha Reading? Blog Hop - The Future and Furies

I'm one of those people who reads more than one book at a time. The two nonfiction titles that I am currently into are The Future by Al Gore and Furies: War in Europe 1450 - 1700 by Lauro Martines.

Interestingly the books are rather complementary. Furies focuses on the awful wars that tormented Europe during the Early Modern period, and The Future often cites developments in civilization from the Early Modern period that are still having impacts today.

What have I gotten so far from Furies?

During the Early Modern period in Europe nation-states were emerging as the main entity of political power. The power wielded by nation-states stimulated a voracious appetite for war that drove ever rising taxes, the creation of new taxes, the impressment of unwilling people into the ranks of armies, and a wholesale disregard for the common good.

The details about killing deserters, sacking cities, peasants having their gruesome revenge on pillaging soldiers, raping, and plagues of disease are quite alarming. No wonder so many people chose to take their chances crossing the Atlantic in a sail boat to get to the New World.

Out of this war torn period the elites of the ruling class developed a heightened disregard for the victims of their wars. Drafted soldiers tended to come from the lowest classes and the homeless. Shoveling these starving souls and nasty rogues in front of guns and canons was seen as cleansing for society by many rulers.

So how's the Future looking?

In Al Gore's remarkably well researched tome The Future, I am receiving a vast quantity of information that basically everyone on the planet needs to digest and deal with.

Here's some main issues:

- Most stock and other financial transactions are performed by software. Humans have less involvement and less control of global finance than ever before. This system has developed because machines can do the trades faster and this gives competitive advantage to financial transactions on vast scales. Oh, and many of these financial instruments that software are so frantically playing at the speed of light are not based on reality and likely defy human comprehension. It's basically Skynet from the Terminator.

- Unemployment will continue to worsen. Outsourcing and robosourcing (machines are replacing you) boost productivity and profits for companies but lessen employment of actual human beings. At some point the inability of millions upon millions of people to obtain income will collapse demand for products and services.

- The Internet is creating a Global Mind in which people are able to share information and identify with each other beyond cultures and natiions. This aspect is hopeful for humanity, but the Internet is also another powerful media tool for manipulating societies, so it's power can serve both humanity and evil.

- Colossal amounts of data are being collected on everything we do and being stored for perpetuity to be used potentially for purposes ranging from benign to oppressive.

- The tools of mass communication and mass marketing coupled with the unlimited wealth of multinational corporations manufacture consent on a vast scale across societies and undermine democracy. The power of gigantic multinationals goes beyond the power of nation states. If you've heard of too big to fail, these companies are too big for laws made by representative democracies. They make the laws in various countries to suit their narrow profit-driven interests and override the self interest of citizens. All democracies are seriously threatened by the removal of governance by the people for the people. The United States is a shining example of this process in action.

- Vast increases in human population and consumption are hitting the limits of natural resources, especially metals and food. Serious issues like climate change and loss of topsoil will greatly impact food supplies.

Very cheerful stuff isn't? When I picked up The Future by Al Gore, I had meant to skim through it, but I've ended up reading it very carefully. I even study all the meticulous details in the charts at the start of each chapter. It's an astouding work and everyone should read it. I'm only a quarter way in. It's been fascinating so far. It's actually refreshing to see serious issues presented instead of totally ignored like in mainstream news.

I expect that some of the other reading material being presented on the Watcha Reading? Blog Hop will be of a little lighter nature than mine, but I wanted to let my readers know about some of the tough material I tackle. No wonder I like writing fantasies where magic can solve so many problems.

Please hop around the other blogs during this event. You might find a reading recommendation that fits your taste and you'll find some great blogs that you can start following. 

Bloggers - Join the blog hop and get the linky widget

Watcha Reading? blog hop
Sponsored by Her Ladyship's Quest

Ebook Giveaway

During this blog hop I am giving away 3 ebook copies of my novel Judgment Rising: The Rys Chronicles Book III

Although it's the third novel in the series, new readers can jump in because it's a new point of entry into the saga. It starts five years after the events in the last novel and starts new adventures.

Please comment on this blog to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway form.

This is an international giveaway.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Near Death Experience and the Magic of Fantasy

Her Ladyship's Quest welcomes today guest contributor Omon Hart, an accomplished therapeutic bodywork professional in the Pacific Northwest. Hart is touring blogs to promote the release of his novel PureLights of the Ohm Totem. 

A Near Death Experience and the Magic of Fantasy

            Many years ago an extremely good friend of mine had a Near Death Experience. When I first met her, she explained to me that there was nothing “near” about it. She was as dead as a door nail until someone revived her back to life several minutes later.

            I had met her when I was getting into the throes of writing. Little did I know she was about to change my life forever, especially in the writing field (not to mention every other field I entered into).
            Her name is Deborah B. Gregg, and this is how she died.

            She was standing at the edge of a river, looking down at the water, feeling the gentle breeze across her body as she pondered if she should take a dive or not. The instant she jumped, she saw something that the algae in the water had masked moments earlier—a large boulder inches below the water's surface.

            As her arms splashed into the water, she felt her hands hit the boulder. She pushed against the boulder in an attempt to guide her body away from it. Her hands slipped and she hit her forehead against the large rock, splitting her head open, tearing several ligaments in her neck, and temporarily paralyzing her.

            She said she did the dead man's float—face down, bobbing up and down, unable to move. All she could do was watch the flurry of tiny fish swimming around, observe the busy water bugs moving about, and look at the beautiful sand stirring into a cloud, then settling to the bottom; all along not being able to do anything except wait to die.

            And it wasn't a terrible death. It wasn't ghastly, horrific, or terrifying. No demons came out of the ground and snatched her, taking her to the depths of an unforgivable hell. It was the opposite. It was peaceful and the most loving experience she had ever had.

            When the last seconds of her life started to fade, she popped out of her body, went up a tunnel, had a life review where she felt the wrongs and rights she did to others, then spoke with someone she called her “guide”—all in a place where time doesn't exist. She was told wondrous things and given many insights.

            When she came back, it was to a very broken body. A body she had to learn to live with in order to cope with the horrible pain that accompanied such a tragic accident. 

            It was years after her Near Death Experience when I met her. Fifteen years later we're still friends.

[Get her story and experience at www.deborahbgregg.com]

            As I've stated above, she learned a great deal during her Near Death Experience, most of which I've been able to listen to and incorporate into my own life, leading me to success in many endeavors. In fact, I've learned just about everything I know through her Near Death Experience, even writing.

            Yes, writing.

            I'm a writer, or at least that's what I told her when I first met her. I had no idea at the time that I had to be a “good” writer in order for others to understand what I was trying to communicate. She pointed that out many times, making me practice and practice this sacred art. It helped that she was a damn good teacher and a literary genius to boot—something her “guide” also told her during her death experience.

            Then it happened. A day I won't ever forget. A writer's dream come true.

            I was walking into my bedroom after a long day of work when an inspiring idea, or rather a story, exploded in my mind. The detail, the story line, the characters—everything—was so vivid and real. I don't know how long I was standing in my room, silent, staring at nothing but the book showing itself in my mind, but when it stopped I immediately wrote down the summary of what I saw, thinking that I'd get writing as soon as possible.

            Two years later, I had the summary and a couple of completed chapters. Life had gotten in the way and I hadn't written much.

            Then it happened again. This time I was asleep, dreaming.

            I was dreaming of the book, the characters, the dialogue, the landscape, the map, and much more—for months! This prompted me to start writing and writing. Everywhere I went—to work, the park, a restaurant, you name it—I carried a pad and pencil, jotting down the story as I saw it, weaving Deborah's words and wisdom of her Near Death Experience into it. I even made a character with her personality. I named her “Snow Tree”, using her voice to carry us into the profound texture of my book. When I got deeper and deeper into the story, I realized that Nova, one of my main characters, was taking on a portion of my friend's disposition. Nova's dialogue was very similar to Deborah's, almost mimicking the way she spreads her sage-like advice and important messages.

            It wasn't until the middle of the book that I realized the name of it, “The PureLights of Ohm Totem”. It made perfect sense. You'll understand its title when you read it. It's a fantasy built in a world like none other, with characters like nowhere else, simply because it originated from a unique point, the point where the story exploded in my mind, offering itself to me on a silver platter, finishing with a series of dreams, and combined with fifteen years of study and friendship with my Near Death Experience friend, Deborah.

            A reader at Amazon in his review said it magically: 

“I couldn't put it down. I liken this book to doing yoga—it allows your mind to escape the daily trials and tribulations of life while simply being reminded to breathe. It is as much a spiritual retreat as it is a great fantasy adventure. I loved this book as it took old themes of warring groups and put a completely new twist on it. The book becomes a philosophical journey around fears and insecurities and what the usual physiological responses are but then explores creating new responses and a different way of being. All the while the author has crafted a book with all the tension, drama, humor and excitement of any great fantasy book.

            “The main characters are siblings named Zoey and Coda who happen to wander into a mystical world of spirit animals. The reader is quickly thrown into the action as conflict erupts between the Dims and Sihu Tribe. As the story develops, the characters struggle with their responses to conflict while being gently guided to respond in new ways.”

            By combining the insights of a Near Death Experience with the magic, intrigue, and plot of fantasy, you come away with a very rich experience. One that I think you'll love and enjoy.

            If you feel drawn to my book, “The PureLights of Ohm Totem”, then I hope you feel transported to a new, incredible world where adventure mixes with a myriad of important life lessons, taking place in a world where dreams and reality merge into one—the world we call Fantasy.

Thank you very much,

Purchase The PureLights of Ohm Totem at: http://goo.gl/a2Uoy

Monday, April 15, 2013

Helga: Out of the Hedgelands book blast and $100 giveaway


Helga: Out of the Hedgelands Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense?

Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms. Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.

As an author, I’m drawn to eccentric, unexpected characters: those who surprise because they hear a distant galaxy, see a different music, create their own fragrance rather than get hooked on a soundtrack; the child who has her own ideas about how the emperor is dressed; the lunatics and rebels who tell stories on the boundaries. Helga’s unusual story will take readers to worlds they never imagined—definitely a whole new ride. Time and again, the unconventional heroine and her eccentric comrades overcome ominous tyrants and black-hearted slavers, not by battling to the last beast standing, but by being the first beast to think differently.

Helga: Out of Hedgelands is divided into three books which introduce the epic saga of the Wood Cow clan and their role in overturning centuries of slavery and tyranny. This story will continue in additional volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles now in development. Over the series of current and future volumes, the entire history of the Wood Cow clan, the fall of Maev Astuté, and the coming of Lord Farseeker to the Outer Rings, will be told.  

Book Trailer


Author Rick Johnson 

I am a native of the Great Plains, having grown up on a farm in the Platte River Valley of western Nebraska. I love the wild beauty of the Plains and nearby Rocky Mountains--the too hot, too cold, too empty, too full of life extremes. Typically, the awesomely diverse and the awesomely stark are much the same, even as they are different. Although I have lived in Michigan, North Carolina, and British Columbia, the western plains, mountains, and desert are in my heart.

As my day job, for over thirty years I have been a faculty member and administrator in higher education. Teaching broadly in the liberal arts, including creative writing, my professional publications include educational materials, poems, and 28 stories for young readers. During my spare hours, I have also collected and carefully studied the records of former times upon which the Wood Cow Chronicles are based.

It is my privilege to bring this astonishing saga to light. The Wood Cow Chronicles have been researched and written with the irreplaceable assistance of Barbara, my beloved wife of more than thirty-five years, and our children. Indeed, the essential research into the history of the Wood Cows has been conducted during the odd hours of family reading and storytelling "around the campfire" as we say--even when there is no campfire! This research continues and grows richer as our family expands across generations and continents.  

Book Blast Giveaway $100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/1/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.

Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Watcha Reading? Blog Hop - share, surf, read, repeat

The Watcha Reading? Blog Hop simulates the experience of seeing someone with a book or magazine and asking that person “What are you reading?”

Word of mouth is an important way for readers to get recommendations. Hop around the participating blogs to be serendipitously exposed to new reads.

Bloggers looking for a new hop are invited to join the Watcha Reading? Blog Hop. The concept is simple. Write a post at your blog about what you are currently reading. It can be a book, ebook, magazine, or ancient scroll that a wizard just handed you. Do a quick write up about what it is, why you’re reading it, and what you find interesting about it. It does not have to be a full and proper review. For example you can say “I just started this book and the main character is intriguing because…” Or, “I have to read this book for my class and this is an interesting fact…”

I’d say a paragraph of 3 or 4 sentences would be a nice minimum size for the post. You can write as much as you want though.

If you can, include a graphic element like a book cover in your post.


1. Include my blog hop graphic with the text link labeling Her Ladyship’s Quest as the sponsor. In html mode in your blog editor, paste in this code to get the graphic and link text:

<p><img src="http://falbepublishing.com/images/whatcha-reading-blog-hop.jpg" alt="Watcha Reading? blog hop" height="200" width="200" border="0"></p>
        <p>Sponsored by <a href="http://www.herladyshipsquest.com">Her Ladyship's Quest</a></p>

2. Copy and paste the link widget code into your post. This will display the links of participating bloggers so readers can hop around.  

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.simply-linked.com/listwidget.aspx?l=7ea8443d-ee02-40c4-8aa2-0f759c804a65" ></script>

3. Decide what prize to offer.

a. You can include the Rafflecopter form to give away my ebook Judgment Rising (get the code here).


b. Include a giveaway for a prize of your choice. For example, you’re an author and want to promote a title so you use that for the prize on your blog as part of the hop. Or maybe you want to offer a gift card of some sort. It’s up to you.

4. After you publish your Watcha Reading? post, add the direct link to that post to the widget form. It will update to include your blog post everywhere the widget is shared.

The reading material can be fiction or nonfiction. It can be for business or pleasure. The hop is meant to give a snapshot of what you are reading.

In the link widget form put the name of your blog for Link Title. After a few bloggers get signed up I will begin to promote the blog hop until the end of May.
Blog hop ebook giveaway drawing

Comment with the button on the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in the drawing to win Judgment Rising: The Rys Chronicles Book III. Although it's the third novel of that fantasy series, new readers can use it as a point of entry. It begins 5 years after the close of the last novel and introduces new story lines and characters.

About Judgment Rising by Tracy Falbe
To the victors go the spoils, and Shan and Dreibrand have flourished for five years as the leaders of their respective kingdoms. Allied by friendship, they greet the future with excitement and grandiose plans.
Dreibrand counts on his relationship with Shan to protect him from the encroaching Atrophane Empire as he carefully avoids direct confrontation with his former countrymen, now under the undisputed leadership of his old rival Sandin Promentro.

But a greater malice than imperial ambition threatens the new lords of the Wilderness. The long dead civilization of Nufal, where Dreibrand and Miranda nurture their fledgling kingdom, has not forgotten the brutal genocide of its ancient war with the rys. The ghosts of Nufal may have been extinguished but their avengers remain. The inheritors of Onja’s wealth and lands will now battle the nightmare of their judgment rising.

See more about The Rys Chronicles at Brave Luck Books. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fun with table top gaming - Pandemic

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy a few gaming sessions and play Pandemic. It's been out for a few years but I have not had a chance to play table top games with actual humans for a long time. In the distant past I've spent many an evening playing Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. I love that stuff, and it was fun to learn a new table top game. 

Pandemic isn't a really role playing game, but the players work together in a collaborative effort to cure diseases before they wipe out humanity. It's actually rather difficult to save the world, and we were only playing on the medium level. I think it's critical that one of the players draw the Medic card or the Quarantine Specialist. The Dispatcher is very helpful too. 

The way the game play is structured things can get out of hand very easily, as in disease spreads rapidly and beyond our capability to halt outbreaks. Especially devastating is that the same cities often get hit by infections over and over because those cards are put back on TOP of the infection deck, per the rules. 

I won't go into describing all the rules, but it did not take too long to grasp the major concepts. The best strategies were developed by learning how to put all of our various talents together for the best effect. Or, depending on our luck, sometimes we did not have much talent to draw upon. Then everyone dies of nasty disease.

Table top gaming has old fashioned appeal. Everyone is so connected by their little devices with screens and awesome video game graphics, but it's nice to sit together at a table and play on a board and draw cards and move little pieces. It really is. Despite all our wonderfully addictive technology, people still crave actual socialization over virtual socialization. I plan to include more table top games in my future. I'm especially looking forward to when my sons are old enough to give them a try. I can't wait to see how their imaginations navigate a dungeon.

Comment if you've played Pandemic or want to recommend a table top game.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

TV Tuesdays - Portlandia

I think the TV show Portlandia is delightful. It's not always laugh out loud gut-busting funny, but it's sketches are charming, thoughtful, and memorable.

What I love most about Portlandia is that it makes fun of people like me. The "You can pickle that" skit from season 2 makes me smile because I do a lot of pickling. I think I've even used that phrase "You can pickle that." Pickling is one of my favorite ways to preserve vegetables. Spicy pickled carrots are especially yummy although I understand the trepidation of my guests when I offer them a snack. I see in their eyes their realization that they have entered the home of someone who pickles.

Another great Portlandia moment is the little skit when the man forgets to bring his bag to the grocery. I'm one of those people who tries to always have her own bag and avoid stooping to a plastic one, even if I do use them for yucky garbage that doesn't go in the worm composter. (Paper bags go in the compost so I choose to get those sometimes.) In the skit the cashier is horrified by the man's lack of bag and has to call a manager.

In general the chemistry between the stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein is so perfect. Whether they are playing a married couple, just friends, or professional colleagues, they come across as so genuine. They are both very talented actors. I especially enjoy the costuming and the cross-dressing. Carrie makes a mind-blowing man in her (his?) wife beater tank. And Fred as a woman in the recurring Women's Bookstore sketches makes me chuckle every time.

Kyle McLachlan (Muad'dib!) as the Mayor of Portland is also a delight. He bikes and kayaks around the city. He's a truly enlightened political leader.

When I watched the Brunch Village episode in Season 2, I became even more smitten with the show. It was so clever and I could totally relate to the popular eatery that everyone was willing to wait for a seat in. After watching the episode before bed, I could not get it out of my head the next day. That evening I resolved to watch it again, but then saw on the episode list that the next episode was Brunch Village, the Director's Cut. I immediately watched the director's cut because the director's cut is always better than the original release, and it was! I especially admired the creativity of a show to produce a great episode and then immediately re-imagine its presentation in the next show and pull it off with smashing success.

I greatly anticipate watching Portlandia Season 3. I appreciate creative and clever sketch comedy performed by truly talented people. I wish them much success and thank them for their efforts.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dogs, Cats or Both?

When I consider the differences between dog and cat people, I wonder...

  • Are cat people seeking an authority figure that will rule with an uncompromising iron paw? 
  • Are cat people in need of a sounding board that will treat all of their ideas with contempt?

  • Do dog people want to assert themselves as a "master"?

  • Are dog people desperate for constant feedback about how lovable they are?

  • Do dog people possess a desire to witness the genitals of their guests snuffled? 

  • Mostly I suspect that both dog and cat people just want companionship that's soft and fuzzy. 

A psychological survey of over 4,000 people done by University of Texas professor Sam Gosling revealed some personality tendencies for dog and cat owners.

From the study summary at  http://www.utexas.edu/news/2010/01/13/personality_dogs_cats/
  • Forty-six percent of respondents described themselves as dog people, while 12 percent said they were cat people. Almost 28 percent said they were both and 15 percent said they were neither.
  • Dog people were generally about 15 percent more extraverted, 13 percent more agreeable and 11 percent more conscientious than cat people.
  • Cat people were generally about 12 percent more neurotic and 11 percent more open than dog people.

I like having both a dog and a cat. Perhaps I crave a cat to undermine my authority with the dog. Dogs have rules. Cats have demands.

I would not describe myself as an extrovert but I do enjoy the love and devotion I get from my dog. When I lost a beloved dog in 2011, I was overwhelmed by my grief and could not stand how empty the house was. I really do want that exuberant happiness that a dog delivers upon coming home. No matter how bad a day is going, a wagging tail always helps.

But what of cats? What do they offer? I admire a cat's innate sense of superiority. I like to enable their ability to sleep all day and avoid all the responsibilities that weigh upon us poor humans. I also like having someone soft and fuzzy to curl up by my feet in bed.

Some people think that cats aren't loyal, but I beg to differ. I usually acquire cats from shelters and when you spring a kitty from the pokey, he's going to be your homeboy through thick and thin, even when you bring a German Shepherd puppy home.

Comment with your opinions about dogs and cats. Which one do you have? Are you a dog-AND-cat person like me?

Friday, April 5, 2013

New Audiobook release: The Home Canning Guide for Everyone Who Eats

Hoping to expand on the success of my home canning guide that I published as an ebook in 2011, I've produced The Home Canning Guide for Everyone Who Eats as an audiobook

Recorded by voice professional Kris Keppeler, the guide is one hour and twenty six minutes long. It provides step-by-step instructions for using a water bath canner and pressure canner. Plus it has many tips for home canning, including how to find good produce and plenty of information to motivate you to enter the satisfying world of home food preservation.

The audiobook has 11 recipes with an emphasis on preserving tomatoes, jams, applesauce, and pickles. I also offer advice on how to find other recipes safe for home canning.

I decided to produce this successful ebook as an audiobook because it's always good to expand formats. At first I worried that a cookbook in audio might not be very desirable, but there actually is a niche market for vision impaired people. Just because someone's eyes aren't great at reading print does not mean a person isn't interested in cooking.

Also any person might be interested in listening to the information and learning how to can food at home while driving or knitting or cleaning. Audiobooks have been stimulating brains during monotonous activities for years.

Right now the audiobook is available at my website for $3.95. People can choose from either the zip folder of all the mp3 chapters or the m4b iTunes ready audiobook format.

I've inlcuded a sample mp3 chapter at the home canning audiobook page. Go have a listen and learn how the home canning process stops food from spoiling.

Soon this title will also be for sale at Audible and iTunes. I'll announce the retail distribution as soon as it happens. 

Even if you're a good listener but still want your cookbooks as text, you can get The Home Canning Guide for Everyone Who Eats as a printable pdf ebook. Read on screen or print all or part of it out. It's only $0.99 so that's some really affordable flexibility.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two lovely Asian images added to my stock art catalog

Slowly but surely my selection of royalty free stock art is growing. I find and scan vintage and fine art images from old books and prints and prepare them for the digital market. Recently I added two lovely Asian works of art. 

The first is a divine color woodcut called Two Peaches on a Branch. Chinese printers crafted this image in the 17th century and based it on a painting by Ko Chung-hsan.

The second image is Japanese and called Mother and Child with Bird.

Please visit my stock art site and peruse these and other images. Prices range from $0.99 to $1.95 for individual high resolution 300 dpi jpegs. Creative people who need a variety of images for their projects are always in need of new sources of stock art, especially ones that aren't expensive.