Monday, December 30, 2013

Mini Review: By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

Summary:  Half of Er’Rets is locked beneath an impenetrable shroud. On the side that still sees the sun, two young people struggle to understand the mind-communication abilities thrust upon them.

It's called bloodvoicing. Some say it's a gift. One of the newly "gifted" wish it had never come.

Achan has been a slave all his life. Worse than a slave—a stray. He is consigned to the kitchens of a lord and forced to swallow a foul potion every day. When an enigmatic knight offers to train Achan for the Kingsguard, he readily accepts. But his new skills with the sword do not prepare him for the battle raging between the voices in his head.

Vrell Sparrow is not who she seems. She masquerades as a boy to avoid capture by the powerful forces that seek to exploit her. But Vrell feels called to help a young squire who recently discovered his bloodvoicing gift, even if doing so requires her to work with those who could destroy her.

While Achan learns to use his new ability, Vrell struggles to shut hers down. All the voices strive to learn Achan and Vrell's true identities—and a different kind of voice is calling them both.

Toward a destination that is by darkness hid.

Purchase on Amazon:

Mini-Review: Loved it!  I read it on a trans-Atlantic flight when I should have been sleeping, but I could not put it down.  Although it's the familiar "Chosen one" plot (serf boy really hidden royalty), Willimason adds wonderful details tot he world that make the story unique.  Normally, I don't like a lot of description, but she does it with great skill, and I didn't skim as I often do.  Although styled as Christian fantasy, it's a great read no matter what your faith beliefs are.  No wonder it won the Christy award.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Daughter is home! Parents coming down! It's going to be a wonderful Christmas.  I'm taking the week off, so enjoy your holidays and God bless us, every one!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Editing your manuscript: Read it backwards

Now, the fun begins! Having finished my first draft of Mind Over All and done the first read-through and edit on the computer, I am now editing the document by printing it out and reading it backwards, one sentence at a time, from last sentence to first. Why would anyone edit a document that way?

* It separates the sentence from the plot, so that your brain is less likely to fill in missing words, skip bad grammar, etc., because it's focused on the story.
* It lest you analyze each sentence for clarity and beauty.
* It makes repeated words and bad habits stand out.
* It stops you from scanning or skipping over parts you know too well.

I'm about 20 pages into my backwards manuscript edit of Mind Over All, and I've already made about 200 changes.  Give it a try sometime.  It takes a lot of time, but the end result is worth it!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mini-Review: Edith Stein, An Introduction into her Life and Thought, Edited by John Sullivan


For the fourth volume in this series the Editor has chosen articles about the recently beatified Carmelite nun and philosopher convert, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross/Edith Stein. Six authors examine the life, thought, martyrdom and beatification. Included is the full text of the homily given by Pope John Paul II at the beatification ceremonies in Cologne on May 1, 1987. Homily at Beatification "For Edith Stein baptism as a Christian was by no means a break with her Jewish heritage. Quite the contrary, she said: 'I had given up my practice of the Jewish religion as a girl of 14. My return to God made me feel Jewish again.' She was always mindful of the fact that she was related to Christ 'not only in a spiritual sense, but also in blood terms.' She suffered profoundly from the pain she caused her mother through her conversion to Catholicism. She continued to accompany her to services in the synagogue and to pray the psalms with her. In reaction to her mother's observation that it was possible for her to be pious in a Jewish sense as well, she answered: 'Of course, seeing as it is something I grew up with.'" 


 I enjoyed getting the different perspectives on this complex saint.  It's more academic in approach than many saint books I've been reading, and is better for someone who is familiar with her life or has already read a comprehensive biography.

Buy it on Amazon:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Excerpt from Mind Over All: Joshua plays the Organ

I'm doing the first edit on Mind Over All.  It's slow going because of work, but overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the story.  In this one, the planets Kanaan and Barin are going to collide, and Deryl has to find a way to stop that from happening. Meanwhile on Earth, Joshua's mother is dying from the same disease that killed her father.  Joshua is home for a few days because she's in the hospital and they aren't sure she has much time left.  As usual, he's turned to music for stress relief.  In this scene, he's playing the big organ at church, working on a composition that might be his mother's requiem, when Deryl shows up out of the blue.

Joshua slammed his fingers on the keys of the upper and lower manuals of the grand church organ, and the chord blasted through the pipes—heavy, minor, anguished.  He let it hang, and then played five notes on the choir—why why O God why?—slowly at first, building momentum, increasing in speed until the notes tripped on each other, spilling into new notes.  Those notes growing in number and intensity until a crowd of music cried in grief.  Then: a single note, high and clear, rises above the rest, pleading, asking for…
His hands froze.  His fingers didn’t know what to play next.
Joshua thumped his elbows on the keyboard, making it blare, and buried his face in his hands.
“That’s an interesting ending,” someone behind him said.
Joshua gave a start.  He’d thought he was alone.  He wiped his face with his hands, hoping the person would notice only his sweat and not the tears.  “It’s a work in progress.”
“I didn’t know you could play organ.  Is it more difficult than the piano?”  The person climbed the short steps and sat on the bench beside him.
Joshua glanced at him long enough to take in the dark hair, brown eyes, and short sleeve polo that was totally wrong for the freezing weather outside.  “Sorry.  I’m…tired.  Do I know you?”
The man laughed as if he’d played a great joke.  “Seriously? A new hairstyle and contacts, and you don’t recognize me?  Maybe I should go harass Malachai next.”
“Malachai?  Dr. Randall Malachai?”  Something clicked in Joshua’s overwrought brain, and he gave his visitor a closer examination.  Blue eyes for brown; long blond hair, add a slouch that came from years of resentment and lack of self confidence… Could it be?  Despite his prayers, he couldn’t believe it, and yet…  “Deryl?” he whispered.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Loving The Next Phase of My Life

This is my Christmas decoration outside my cubicle.  Yes, the Wreath of Khan.
What's awesome is my coworkers get it.

Sorry this blog is late, but I've been busy! On Nov 25, I blogged about how we live up to 7 different "lives" in our lifetime, and as you know if you read it, I am entering a new life this year, that of a staff writer for a reviews website.

November 25th, in fact, was my first day at work writing for Yep, if you want to know what the best products on the market are and why, you might actually be reading my work.  It's a cool job.  We are given a type of product (like e-readers or toasters or business websites) and we find the most popular products, study them and test them when we can, then review them on the website.  Along with that, we tell you our criteria for evaluating the product and write some educational articles that apply to the products.  It's a useful site and quite a moneymaker, too.  We also go back and refresh the reviews periodically to add more products, re-evaluate, make sure the information is up-to-date.  Companies let us know if they've improved products, too.

It's interesting to learn about different products, even if they're portable air conditioners (my first assignment.)  There are lots of people with more experience with the products, plus a cadre of experts in the company I can call on, too.  In addition, I'm learning some tricks to help me in my writing career.  For example, did you know that while briefer is better, too brief a blog hurts your SEO?  350 is a good minimum word count.  For maximum, the rule of thumb is "Don't make them scroll down more than once."  I'm also getting lots of practice using the SEO words and phrases while still making the flow conversational.  As I learn other general SEO tips, I'll share.

The people are a lot of fun to work with.  We're divided into what I call "cubicle farms" of 4-6 people per farm.  I got in the quiet farm, but I'm by the hall across from the chatty group.  The first day, they discussed Lost; the next day featured a demo on how Riker gets in and out of his chair.  They've got a long conversation going on top celebrities, complete with charts.  It's great, because I can lean my chair back and kibitz, but when I lean toward the computer again, I've got that barrier and can concentrate.Another nice thing: as long as the work gets done, fun is encouraged.

I'm even getting into the little things about work: dressing up, putting on jewelry...all the stuff I never cared about when I was working before I had kids.  (Of course, I was in the Air Force, and it was a different environment.  I'm really in my element here.)  The thing I like most, though, is knowing I'm employable. After 20 years out of the workforce, I seriously thought my only options were freelancing or waitressing.  It's nice, too, that Rob can have some breathing space to find a job he'll really enjoy (or stay home, take care of the kids and continue the consulting work he's doing now.)  He took such good care of us for 25 years, I like giving him that.  (And I like leaving the kids and house to him.  He's better at it than I am in several areas.)

I'm still writing books and stories. I have an article and a reprint of "Christmas Spirits" coming in Voluted Tales this month, and a DragonEye novella coming in January in Midnight Diner.  I also write for  More on them later, when they launch their site.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying clocking in, doing what I love--writing and researching--and clocking out to come home to my family.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

An excerpt from *I Left My Brains in San Francisco* concerning bridges

In  Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator: I Left My Brains in San Francisco, I wrote about a bridge that was badly constructed.  It was tarted on each end of the bay and didn't meet in the middle.  I figured I was writing fiction, then I saw this photo in a blog on 31 building mistakes. I had to share!

They were coming up on the I-80 Bay Bridge.  Neeta followed Ted's pointing finger to the blocked-off exit beside the original bridge.  Beyond it was a beautiful and abandoned stretch of highway that ended abruptly to start again, closer to San Francisco. 
"Hey!  That's where I'm supposed to make my appearance for Zehedron Hummers!  That's kind of weird."  Neeta said.
Ted switched the radio to the GPS-Guided Tours station.
"If you look to your right, you will see the famous Broken Bridge.  The Broken Bridge was started in 2037, a joint cooperative between the State of California and the Cities of San Francisco and Richmond.  Federal highway monies were allocated to the state, which in turn divided it between the cities.  Each city hired its own contractor to complete its half of the bridge.  Part of the Commission of Highway Expenditures And Programs Initiative, the plan would have saved the governments hundreds of thousands of dollars, except that fifteen months into construction, it was discovered that the two halves of the bridge would not meet, but in fact miss each other at a height difference of over sixty feet.  Two months later, an agreement was reached with the Roadbuilder's Union to halt construction with only one hundred and two feet of linear distance left to connect the two halves.
"Currently, the Supreme Court is trying to unravel the myriad of suits and counter-suits as both cities, the state, the companies, and the Roadbuilder's Union, plus the Association for the Prevention of Stupid Government Spending, sue each other over the errors.  In the meantime, the bridge has become an important cultural and events center, with the cities of Richmond and San Francisco renting out their respective halves of the bridge in order to recoup some of their financial losses and legal fees.
"Designed to withstand even a 9.8 earthquake, the Broken Bridge would have been a marvel of engineering, had it been completed.  It is visible to east-bound traffic on I-80, as well as accessible for westbound traffic in San Francisco.  We hope you will return later to admire this testimony to the Ingenuity of Man." 

Find Neeta Lyffe: I Left My Brains in San Francisco on Amazon.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Mini Review: St. Clare (a Short Biography) by Joan Mueller, OSC


St. Clare is a much-loved figure in Catholic sainthood, although less known than St. Francis of Assisi. These two figures were critical to the renewal of the Church in their time, and their work has implications far down the ages, to our present time.

St. Clare: A Short Biography looks at the founder of the Order of the Poor Ladies (now the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to as the Poor Clares), a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition. It considers the woman who heard and chose to follow Francis rather than marrying a young and wealthy man as her parents wanted, who moved to the church of San Damiano and then drew other women to a place known for its radically austere lifestyle. Most of all, the book reflects her theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ, and her willingness to follow the call of Christ.

This is an introductory portrait of St. Clare beyond the common perceptions, with the spirit of Franciscan practice implicit throughout the work. St. Clare: A Short Biography highlights the relevance of this pivotal saint to our lives here and now.


 Excellent book for middle grade and teen readers as well as adults wanting an interesting glimpse into the mind and actions of this saint who followed St. Francis.  I especially appreciated the summaries from the original documents of her canonization, which had many personal stories of her life.

Buy it on Amazon: