Musings: Is Anxiety an Emotion or Physiological? Discuss!

I’m a self-professed introvert. I wear it like a badge of honor, my one proud display of distinction and uniqueness. I’ve discovered that it’s easier to explain to people ahead of time that I’m not a phone person and not one for small talk although hearing about your day or discussing the weather or the latest football game is worthy discourse, just not those deep philosophical, creative conversations I yearn for. That I thrive on, that gives me a burst of energy that one could associate with the Kundalini Rising.

Introvert-Leader

In most ways I strive to avoid notice or undue attention. Most of this is because I’m on a wavelength different from most: I’m highly attuned to the energies around me, particularly emotional energy. I prefer to be an observer, available when least expected but most needed. The wider world would call me an Empath and they are probably right. It feels awkward vocally saying the word, as in “I am an Empath” because in doing so I’m applying a label and labels don’t stick for long because they don’t hold true in narrowing down who I am as a person. I’m too all-encompassing; labels feel limiting. That doesn’t make it any less true in a broad sense.

Lately I’ve joined a few groups on Facebook populated by people all over the world who share the same Myers-Briggs personality type indicator with me. For those of you in the know, I’m an INFJ, or Introverted (I), Intuitive (N), Feeler (F), and Judicious (J). This is only one of sixteen different combinations or personality types that make up the world’s population, and actually one of the rarest, making up less than 1% of the population. I like to call us the “Pegasus among Unicorns” folks. I know of only one other INFJ in my local area – someone I’ve known for a long time but only recently discovered is also an INFJ, but we’re not close, relationship wise, and that’s okay. So joining these groups has been a tremendous connective effort, and lo and behold, I’ve finally found a community to which I feel wholly comfortable belonging. These other INFJs have provided an unexpected font of information just through being willing to share their innermost, and sometimes most intimate and vulnerable moments, with other people just because we’re all the same type.

INFJ head

Not all INFJs are Empaths (INFJ blogger Jennifer Solder explains is so well) but it seems the majority of us are, to a range of abilities and sensitivities. Engaging with these strangers has helped me learned a lot about who I am and what these strange things I’ve always been able to do really are, and the knowledge is grounding. For a long time I’ve been an emotional sponge without knowing it, or why, but recently things have changed in that regard. With awareness comes control. I can better distinguish my emotions from others and shake them off faster. Always one to keep pushing the boundaries, I have begun to wonder if I can’t actually project emotional energy on command, and with enough concentration.

This may all sound far-fetched, and possibly even a bit hare-brained, but it’s reality for me. Remember when I said I’m on a wavelength different from most? This is my wavelength. Emotions are something that we, as Americans, work so hard to ignore. I speak from experience – past and current. Emotions are tough cookies to face, admit, and work through. They tell us things about ourselves that often aren’t true, because perception colors emotions, and perception is faulty at the best of times. If those things are painful to hear we avoid them all the harder, hoping they’ll just go away. But that energy never goes away. It lingers and grows into unhealthy behaviors and thought processes, all fed by the nefarious Ego – that insidious voice inside our heads that whispers, and sometimes shouts, that we aren’t good enough. People overeat, become risk takers, adrenaline junkies, self-medicate through drugs, legal or street, just to drown out that voice.

But no matter how hard they try to silence that voice in their heads, their emotional distress radiates from them in ways they aren’t even aware of. I feel that energy in a part of my brain that is impossible to name or describe. I can feel it in my body; waves of tingling like subtle streams of electricity running through my muscles. The stronger the energy the more uncomfortable it is for me to even stay in the same environs with some people. Because I can feel these energies and don’t want to – happiness is a far more pleasant energy to be filled with and surrounded by – I’ve become a natural diplomat and peace-maker. I’m the emotional harmonizer, always working to dispel the negative energies around me.

This generally happens through emotional engagement. I had an amazing therapist who taught me so much invaluable information and helped me clear the dirty cobwebs from a skewed perception and see the world a hell of a lot more clearly than I was before. I love to learn as a general rule, and for dual reasons. First, I never know what’s going to spark a story idea. Second, I never know what information or experience stored in my expansive memory will come to use at some later point, especially in helping someone else. I like to get people thinking and talking, or talking and then thinking, and not just about what was said in the moment but the meaning behind the emotion, helping them pick out patterns and potential roots.

Enneagram with descriptions

image courtesy of enneagram-europe.com

Most people have only the barest of inklings that they actually feel a certain way. In  “What’s the Point”, a book about the Enneagram, or divining your emotional type based on a circle of nine intersecting points, each marking a particular fear, the Tomasinos explains that there is only one Feeling in the world, and that’s Love. Every other emotion is actually fear in disguise. There’s a spiritual angle to the book which likens Love to a divine source, and fear as the ego or something less divine. Christian Scientists believe similarly, that only Love/God/Mind/Spirit is real, and that Ego, or Error/Satan/Corporeal Existence is not. But spiritual cants aside, emotions other than Love/Happiness often disguise themselves as something else; fear loves to dress up like anger, or panic, or anxiety.

High Anxiety

Mel Brooks had an interesting take on anxiety. But all kidding aside…

It’s this last disguise that brought me to pondering this subject and then sitting down to write this blog post. As my paid job (because I haven’t made a penny on writing yet, but that’s a different subject for another time), I work in a retail grocery store. Since I’m out on the floor stocking shelves or helping customers I’d constantly buffeted by emotional energies that aren’t my own. In the last few weeks I’ve been able to better identify and avoid but tonight I noticed something different. A customer was ringing out on the register I was helping bag for and her hands were shaking. She was pale and was visibly distressed. Before I or the cashier could say anything the customer apologized and stated she was having an anxiety attack. I had no forewarning of her distress (most people radiate energy in a limited bubble that extends beyond them, or at least that’s how I perceive it – the stronger the emotion that larger the bubble) and so had no invading emotions eclipsing mine.

The customer made it through the transaction in relative silence, her mouth working hard as her throat bobbed, gulping in what I’m sure she thought was soothing but from an outward appearance wasn’t accomplishing anything. Yet even as she did all of this and fought so valiantly to calm down, I felt nothing outside of my internal calm. So I led me to wonder about a few things, like is anxiety actually an emotion or a physiological reaction – just the endocrine system pumping out endorphins? Meredith Grey, narrates an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, telling us that the endocrine system floods the system with the same endorphins regardless of the stimuli. Excitement or fear, our bodies don’t know the difference. They just respond to what the brain pumps out.

Grey's Anatomy logo

So did I not feel what she was feeling because it was just a physical response, maybe even just from being out in public? Or was I unable to detect her emotions because she already knew about them and claimed them outright? Does the claiming of one’s emotions, good or ill, somehow harness them? Or was I too focused on trying to send some calming, healing energy her way and thereby blocking my uncanny receptors?

I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, but half the fun is in the pondering, and maybe, some future experimenting. What does everyone else think? Have you experienced anything like what I’ve blogged about tonight? Let’s discuss!

It’s here – the cover reveal for TIGHT, Allessandra Torre’s upcoming novel!

TIGHT

Alessandra Torre's TIGHT Cover Reveal Banner

COVERTIGHT Final Cover
BOOK INFO

Title: TIGHT

Author: Alessandra Torre

Genre: Erotic Romance

Cover Design: Judi Perkins

Photography Credit: Maksim Gorbunov

Release Date: Early 2015

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SYNOPSIS

Tight – Standalone

I was happy in my small town. In my life as a single, thirty-two year old woman. I had a good job, wonderful friends, my independence.

I also hadn’t been laid in three years. Hadn’t been on a date in two. Had stopped counting calories and wearing makeup… a while ago.

Then Brett Jacobs waltzed in. Caressed my thigh, dug rough fingers into my hair, lowered his soft mouth to my skin, took sexual control of my mind and stirred it all around with what he packed in his pants. He flipped my quiet life upside down and crawled into a place in my heart I thought was dead.

The issues?

His secret.
Her.
The fact that I don’t even know she exists, and he thinks she’s dead.

Everything is about to hit the fan and I can’t hold on to him tight enough.

TEASERSTIGHT Teaser 1

 

TIGHT Teaser 2

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MEET ALESSANDRAAT headshot - red dress
A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Alessandra Torre has written seven novels, four of which became #1 Erotic Bestsellers.

Her first book, Blindfolded Innocence, became a breakout hit, rising to the top of the charts on Kindle and Amazon where it attracted the interest of major publishing houses and garnered Torre her first print deal with Harlequin HQN. Less than twelve months later, Torre signed a second print deal, this time with Redhook (Hachette) for her erotic thriller The Girl in 6E.

From her home near the warm waters of the Emerald Coast in Florida, she devotes several hours each day to various writing projects and interacting with her fans on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Happily married and with one son, she loves watching SEC football games, horseback riding, reading and watching movies.

Torre has four books slated for release in 2015. To stay informed, consider subscribing to her popular monthly newsletter

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REVIEW: Where is Heaven? by Phil Bowie

Where is Heaven?Where is Heaven? by Phil Bowie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This book was submitted by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve never read a book before that seemed to be tailor written for me. Or maybe I just never realized there were other skeptical believers out there that had the same questions I did and do. Apparently Phil Bowie did have that realization and he’s given us all a book to be proud of.

I grew up in a family that wasn’t particularly religious. I remember being a Jehovah’s Witness as a child; there are still clear impressions of the kingdom hall and the orange chairs we used to sit on (or that I would get down on the floor and crawl around under). For one reason or other both of my parents were cast out of the congregation through something known as “dis-fellowship”. This happened around my tenth birthday, or so I think, because I don’t remember celebrating any holiday until I was ten years old.

As I grew older I went to church with my grandmother on the Sunday morning of our occasional weekend visit, but I was always stuck in with the Sunday school kids who were all kids I didn’t know. As an introvert, being thrust into that kind of social setting was probably the most awkward of all so I never absorbed much from any of the lessons and if I did it was always to question the logic – or apparent lack thereof – and be met with scorn. So eventually I just shut up.

I’ve always felt, like Bowie, that there was some divine power at work but the Bible and my ideas of spirituality, over years of sampling from different churches and religions, have never met up with success. So imagine my elation when I was handed this book with a request to review it.

Phil Bowie writes with the ease and flair of a well-educated and informed old-timer sitting on his porch telling stories to his children and older grandchildren, explaining his thoughts and feelings about God, Heaven, organized religion and the Bible with unabashed candidness. His factual accuracy adds an element of much needed realism in what is otherwise a pretty abstract concept the world has spent thousands of years wrestling with, warring over, and contemplating.

I appreciated his in-depth examination of the root of organized religion, its purpose and affect on society from ancient to modern times. Laying bare the mysticism and exposing the juxtaposition of a wrathful, vengeful, punishing God with a merciful, loving, unconditionally loving God by taking an objective look at many of the stories and books of the Bible, Bowie questions the merits in taking the Bible literally given all the scientific knowledge we now have at our disposal. Is there a “real” Heaven or Hell and where are they if they do? How does prayer work? How do evolution and creationism science co-exist? Why do we refer only to Darwin’s theory of evolution instead of the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution? Bowie covers all of these topics with admirable aplomb, and sometimes even through light humor to prove the ridiculousness of a particular point.

Taking things a step further, Bowie begs us to consider what influence blind faith accomplishes and what it means for the future of our planet and survival of our species. Having professed to living through several decades, Bowie attests to how society’s values and morals have changed over the years and gives us an honest picture of what the future holds if we do not hold ourselves in check, not by strict adherence to outdated traditions but rather by harnessing our innate goodness – that divine spark that exists with each of us and compels us to achieve greatness, and to preserve our Eden, planet Earth. Exploring topics such as population control, global warming, space travel and the implications of confirmed extraterrestrial life, Bowie draws distinct connections between religion’s potential effects and influence on survival of our species both ill and to the good, many of which were astounding and alarming, each based in irrefutable fact.

I want to thank Phil Bowie for taking the time to thoroughly research each of his many subjects and for the writing of this book. He answered a great many questions I had, and tuned me into a great many more than I never knew I should be asking. This is a book that will stay with me in thought, and be referred back to again and again whenever I find myself engaged in any sort of intellectual conversation or debate on this subject.

A definition “would recommend”, I give Where is Heaven? a maximum rating of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Exploring Richelle Daeras

In the fourth installment of character profiles all of you wonderfully patient readers finally get to learn more about Making Patterns’ antagonist, Richelle Daeras.

I know I promised to deliver this post a few weeks ago however, Richelle has been rather slow in divulging her back story, exact connection to Astrid Ferelin, and why she is so… well, Richelle.

Without further ado I present Richelle Daeras, Astrid’s patroness and Quoral’s resident schemer and plotter.

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A Portrait of Richelle Daeras

The woman who comes to mind when envisioning this wily, jealous, manipulative character resembles a cross between Mommie Dearest‘s Joan Crawford and Stardust‘s Michelle Pfeiffer.

I describe her as: Once active in the Peerage and held in high esteem for her decorator’s eye, and older than Astrid by more than a two decades, Richelle was still a beautiful woman. With a face unlined by age and wide gray-green eyes that never betrayed her emotions, Richelle had a body every man lusted after and carried herself with that knowledge, her every movement designed to showcase her buxom figure.

Vain and egotistical, Richelle suffers from a severe case of hubris. Life circumstances (explored further on in this post) have brought her low and so she clings to her beauty as one of her few remaining marks of pride.

A Little Background Information

The world of Abiniam, particularly The Western Tor (also called The Western Ways), operates using social class system, with the Nobility serving as the realm’s royalty and Peerage. The Peerage has about 17 main Houses, some being closer to the crown than others and thus considered the Upper Peerage while the rest the Lower Peerage.

Beneath the Peerage we have the gentry – folks that come from money, or have risen (through official patronage by or connection to the Peerage or crown). At the bottom of the ladder we have all the usual peasant folk, commonly called base-born.

A member of the gentry, Richelle Daeras once rubbed elbows with The Western Ways’ Peerage, both Upper and Lower. In her late forties, she knows everyone to know. She once designed the interiors for King Allard’s new Royal Tower and revamped them at the request of his son, King Llorn. However, once Llorn died and his son Reese took the crown royal, interest in her talents waned. Without the support of the royal family the rest of the Peerage followed suit, leaving Richelle to fade into obscurity.

Her talents were not the only means of income for many years. Ever the gossip-monger, Richelle has always paid special attention to the secrets those among the Peerage would rather not have exposed to the public. While not nobility, Richelle came from a family in high esteem, having risen through the ranks through financial prowess in the banking industry. Richelle’s grandfather served King Allard as Gelawyn’s Steward, overseeing the province’s finances through trade and investment, growing the province and thereby the kingdom’s coffers. Her father followed in his father’s footsteps in business but never reached the same acclaim. As a result Richelle grew up among Quoral’s elite but was never one of them.

Richelle used her family’s elevated status to her advantage, making herself part of as many peer groups as possible growing up. Too prideful and boastful, she was not very popular among her peers who saw her as an upstart. To combat this she cultivated relationships with the people her peers least often paid attention to: the servants. Privy to a glut of personal secrets and all too eager to earn extra coin, these servants of countless Lords and Ladies and their children offered up anything and everything they could think to tell her. When her family’s connections and status proved ineffective in aiding her navigation of the upper levels of society she used this knowledge to her advantage. She quickly developed another reputation outside of her professional talents: a woman you did not want to cross by any means.

Richelle’s fall from grace irritates her to no end. Unable to fall back on family money or inheritance due to her younger brother’s failure to succeed in their father’s footsteps by proving to be a drunk who squandered the family business and his life, dying from consumption fifteen years earlier, Richelle spends what money remains to her on maintaining her illicit social connections to the Peerage. She hopes to use whatever secrets she learns to net her commissions but without the official patronage of the Crown the Peerage wants nothing to do with her talents. She is slowly going broke when an old family friend and business connection surfaces – Astrid’s father, Castor Ferelin.

Plucking the Brightest Flower from a Field of Weeds

Through her rumor mill she learns that Lord Galot Symme, the Duke of Ainsberry, has purchased a cache of books the Ostian church deems heretical. Determined to verify the truth of the shipment, Richelle learns the Ferelin Trading is handling the shipment. A visit to their office in Quoral’s Lower Bay brings her into contact with Castor who verifies the Duke is expecting a shipment but cannot or will not confirm the contents. His confirmation of the details requires Astrid bring him the proper ledger and when she does, and he pages through it, Richelle sees all of Astrid’s artistic doodles. She remarks upon them and Castor laughs it off almost ruefully, expressing a regret that his daughter has no head for business – only her art.

He also seems to be completely unaware or ignorant of Astrid’s talents. Richelle has never seen anything so fresh and unique – so absolutely stunning. An idea sparks but she says nothing to Castor, needing more time to contemplate and solidify her decision. She lets a week go by, abandoning her plans for manipulating the Duke, before approaching Castor with an offer he cannot refuse. She offers to give Astrid her patronage, using her social connections to support Astrid’s artistic talents. This patronage includes a hefty sizable payment to Castor due to the fact that Astrid is only sixteen and not yet of age to seek patronage of her own accord. Additionally, she offers to take Astrid into her home and give food and shelter.

Castor cannot turn this offer down. With nine children to raise and a business bringing in just enough money to stay afloat, the money is desperately needed and one less mouth to feed is a relief. He loves his daughter and knows her talent but had no way to foster her creativity. Richelle takes on Astrid as her protégé, claiming a wish to see Astrid rise to acclaim within the realm. This wish is only partly genuine. Within Astrid she sees her route back into the Peerage and a steady source of income via commissions for Astrid’s work.

Talented or Not, Teenagers are Unpredictable

This arrangement works for four years. Astrid’s talents bring her to the forefront of the Peerage’s attention as Richelle knew they would. The girl is in high demand and the money she brings in from her many commissions is enough to keep them in threadbare luxury, maintaining a two-story home on at the edge of the artisan’s district and verging on the Peerage’s doorsteps. Richelle knows the value of her investment and restricts access to the girl through strict means. Fear of what secrets Richelle might use against the other gentry or Lower Peerage keeps them from even thinking about poaching Astrid out from under her and she keeps Astrid on a leash, permitting her to roam only within the artisan’s district when the girl is not otherwise engaged in travel on commission.

Astrid seems content with this until she one day, at age twenty, expresses a want to see new sights of the city. She has exhausted the inspirations of the artisan’s district where she and Richelle live. A peek at the girl’s sketchbook (a means for monitoring the girl’s output and gleaning ideas for future commissions) confirms a creative stalemate. Richelle agrees to give Astrid one afternoon to roam Merchant’s Hill, the next district over, and choose a place she will habit. Astrid takes the afternoon and returns dutifully, having chosen The Seven Houses tea shop as her new daily destination. Richelle reports this information to her local network of watchers and spies who’ve helped her keep tabs on Astrid since the day she brought her home. They watch her for two weeks after which Richelle feels confident nothing untoward is going on and her investment in Astrid is safe. She calls off her watchers and spies and gives Astrid a rare dose of freedom while she waits for the girl to draw in new inspiration and give new ideas for commissions.

Fear and Desperation Take Their Toll

Astrid frustrates Richelle nearly two months later when, over a week’s span, she fails to return home on time, instead arriving well after night has fallen and providing no explanation. Angry at Astrid’s perceived defiance, she reminds Astrid of her sworn vow to obey Richelle’s orders and revokes her freedom, once again restricting her to the artisan’s district. Two weeks go by during which Astrid becomes more and more visibly distraught and lackluster. The girl refuses to talk about anything. Peeks at her sketchbook show a disturbing lack of sketches after a multitude produced during her time in Merchant’s Hill.

A night comes again when Astrid fails to return home at the appointed time, this time arriving almost in the dregs of the night. Now furious at what Richelle sees as deliberate insubordination she prepares to reprimand the girl once more but meets with unexpected defiance. Astrid stands up for herself and her freedom, letting Richelle know she knows she’s the cash cow and can stop the flow at any time. Astrid bargains for a permanent freedom and sends Richelle spiraling down into treachery and manipulation to get her way.

Desperate to maintain control over her increasingly wayward and stubborn protegé, Richelle makes what is only the first move in a series of dangerous gambit that threaten not just Astrid’s continued freedom, but her growing relationship with Nyra and, most disturbing of all, Tullio Sellet’s livelihood and his marriage to Nyra.

Richelle’s choices unwittingly begin a domino effect that may just bring The Western Ways to its bloody heels.

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Well, that’s it for this installment! There’s so much more to Richelle Daeras than I could include here without giving away the entirety of the plot. Every time I think she can’t stoop any lower and make worse choices she surprises me!

Want to know more about Richelle or any of the other characters? Stay tuned for more character profiles! Soon to come: Exploring Lord Atamos Ories, Duke of Dasir. Check back often or, to get these posts in email,  Subscribe using the option to the right of the page!

Thanks for reading!

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The World of Abiniam

Map of Abiniam

My hand drawn map of Abiniam.
Click the picture to see a larger version.

After writing Confessions of a Lazy Writer I decided it was time to get down to business in world-building. I’ve talked about this world at some length in my character profiles (Nyra, Astrid and Tullio) for Making Patterns. My original hand drawn, 8×11 map was just a crude outline of relative geographies. As the plot for Making Patterns grew so too did the need for identifying more specific places on the map other than those mentioned in the text of She Will Become. (seen at left).

 

 

 

 

The provinces/duchys of the Western Ways

The provinces of the Western Ways

The first thing I did was divide  The Western Ways up into provinces. (seen at right)

From there I had to invent a cast of Nobility to control these provinces and figure out who among are allies and who are enemies, and why. I even used a nifty website called My Blazon to design family blazons and shields. (This was pretty fun actually, I may post some as the weeks and months progress).

 

 

 

Of course, once I marked out the boundaries I realized I was running out of room to add new landmarks, locations of cities and castles. So, as a typical American, I immediately thought “BIGGER IS BETTER!” A trip to the store and .33 later, I was the proud owner of a blank poster board just waiting to be etched with a bigger map offering the requisite space.

 

Abiniam's landmass, ocean and waterways in large scale.  Click for a larger view.

Abiniam’s landmass, ocean and waterways in large scale.
Click for a larger view.

I put down the first layer in outline, ocean and waterways. Since I didn’t do a transfer graph for relational sizing some of the coast line changed shape just a smidgen but that comes with going at it free hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two more days of progressive work saw the northern parts of The Western ways gain shape and texture. I’m rather proud of the outcome.

The Western Ways gain shape and texture.  Click for a larger view.

The Western Ways gain shape and texture.
Click for a larger view.

 

And here we have a close up of all my hard work in blended color pencil.

A close up of the northern half of The Western Ways.  Click for a larger view.

A close up of the northern half of The Western Ways.
Click for a larger view.

 

Being able to draw the world in my head (my second, imaginary home) has given me a chance to think about Abiniam in ways entirely different from what’s requires for writing. As I draw in the mountains and rivers, forests and plains I imagine the people who actually live in these places.

The people of the East Remunds are a harsh folk accommodated and accustomed to life in the mainly inhospitable climes of the treacherous crags to the north; the West Remunds are a tamer bunch. Easterners bear a rugged, swarthy complexion with the wild red hair of a massive warrior clan. Westerners are much fairer complected with very light blond hair and blue eyes and are known more for their farming and trading.

The Ostian River Plains are the font of the Ostian religion. Populated by highly devout, strict traditionalists after the words of the Ostian prophet, Amryllion, the Ostian River Plains provides much of the realm’s food supplies as well as materials for fabrics. Sporting a complexion cousin to those in the Eastern Remunds, those people in the Ostian River Plains tend to be sun-bronzed with darker hair and eyes.

Because the Remunds and the Ostian River Plains are so far from Abiniam’s ruling seat at Castle Westphalia in mid-WW, and even farther from the real capital, Quoral, on the west coast, these people don’t adhere to the same style of dress or hierarchical structure. They recognize the crown’s and the church’s authority but don’t play into the manipulations, drama and intrigue of southern culture. In the Remunds there are no official Lords or Ladies, or titles of fealty beyond clan alliances.

The north and easternmost provinces of Fihan, Vidus, Kocien and Adavia abide by the same hierarchical structures as the rest of The Western Ways but try not to become engaged in realm politics.

The further south we progress we run into the provinces of Naenad and Ainsberry, both fertile, forested lands ruled by Duchess and Duke, respectively. Naenaders are inland farmers and hunters, renowned for their woodworking skills. Some of the best hunters come from Naenad. Like their northern cousins, Naenaders are of lighter complexion but with more darker-haired folk than blonds. Those in Ainsberry are also traditionalists in farming and hunting but also have a stronger pull toward politics and warfare. Closely aligned with House Westphalia and thus the crown, Ainsberry is one of the Upper Peerage.

The provinces of Westphalia and Windlam sit smack dab in the middle of the country, the two provinces abutting. Westphalia houses Castle Westphalia, seat of the crown and the Ostian Church. Castle Westphalia is actually built around the Ostian Church’s first Sanctuary, or Rome’s equal. This is also where the main plot of She Will Become takes place.

Due to its size and number of members filling the lower nobility, Windlam actually serves as a buffer between Westphalia and the province of Dasir, whose ruling family was once a contender for the crown. Primarily a farming province, Windlam is home to She Will Become’s sibling duo, Gwyneth and Endecai, who hail from the farming village of Lysandra. Windlam’s capital seat is at Castle Endemere, a provincial castle built atop a butting mountain next to the realm’s largest waterfall. Most of these folks are red-heads, brunettes, and darker blonds. This is also the area thickest with political morass.

I’ll be adding more geographical detail and content to the map as the days go by. In my next post I’ll likely talk a bit more about the provinces of Galywen, Dasir and Amontis (a most important province in relation the crown and its 300 Year War, aspects of She Will Become’s plot), as well as the southernmost provinces of Jeralen, Elares, Alalen, Trelawen and Graeves.

That’s it for today’s post! Thanks for reading! Check back to the Inkspot or your email (for all you lovely subscribers) for more updates!

COVER REVEAL: Next of Kin by Aray Brown

Hello my faithful friends and readers! Today’s blog post centers around a fellow author, Aray S. Brown, and the cover reveal for her novella, Next of Kin, slated for release Oct 12, 2014.

First, the blurb!

Medina Price always wanted to be a cop, just like her successors, until she gets thrown into a corrupt life at an early age due to witnessing her mother being slaughtered at the hands of a hired gunman. Now that she’s been seduced by darkness, she vows to get revenge, but she gets more than she bargained for. What will Medina do? At this juncture in her life Medina realizes that… Everyone is capable of something.

And now that we know a little more about the contents, I’m honored to present the final cover, designed by All Authors Graphic Design.

Next of Kin cover

Cover design by All Authors Graphic Design

 

And, the full front and back:

NoK front and back

Now for the excerpt!

“You don’t wanna play this game.”

“Ah, how we soon forget.”

“Don’t do this.”

“Never pegged you for the begging type.”

“Not me.  You.”

“Watch her.”

He made a huge mistake trusting him.  Made a bigger one double crossing me. 

Who’s to say he won’t kill you?  Or I won’t?  He was a wealthy man but he wouldn’t be alive to spend it.  He wasn’t a gangster but he knew enough not to carry around dead weight.  He didn’t need him anymore and couldn’t trust him.  He made his bed and he had to rot in it.  If you’re not a friend you’re an enemy.  It’s as simple as that.  It didn’t take a genius to see that we lived by the same rules.  The same code.  He was brought up in Youngstown.  So did someone else, which brought me back to the source.  Alex.  They didn’t just meet by chance.  There’s a reason for everything. Cause and effect.  Have we met someplace before?  I traveled back in my mind, trying desperately to remember.  Trying to piece it all together.  Slowly it came rushing back to me, in bits and pieces.  We HAD met before.  2 years before the murder.  Alex introduced us to him.  Zoe shook his hand, greeted him with an audacious smile.  He was very friendly.  I looked through him.  Didn’t think much of him at the time.  He was his colleague.  He needed someone he could trust.  But why did he pay him off?  He didn’t seem like a man who had a squeaky clean reputation.  What did he have on him?

“He taped him and threatened to go public with it.” He confessed.

“We don’t have much time.” He blurted out, rushed to remove the tape from the legs.  Then made his way to my arms.  I noticed the handle of his gun dangling from his pants.  BANG!  The bullet merely grazed my skin while he crumpled to the ground in a dead faint. 

“Leaving so soon?”

My arms were almost free.  I studied the men who were in front of me.  King and Alex.  Each one equipped with a revolver, aiming at my head.

“Hi honey.  You’ve grown into a beautiful woman.  You still have your mother’s eyes.”

“And my father’s cunning.”

“Let’s finish this.” He growled, cocking his gun.

“Gladly.” Alex uttered, shot him in the head.  I broke free.  He turned around and put the smoking gun on me.

“Trust me, you won’t feel a thing.”

He placed his fingers on the trigger.  I reached for the gun behind my back.  This was how things were settled out in the west.  I knew it would come to this.

Shots were fired.  I saw the bullet holes on his shirt, pulsating to his chest.  His heart was next.  I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.  He died right there.  I’ve always know he had something to do with it.  That he was apart of it.  He didn’t have a motive.  He did it because he could get away with it.  He was a monster.  But I believe he had an ounce of decency left in him.  Instead of being like my mother, I ended up being the monster he created. 

I looked at King.  He was injured but still alive.  I had to put an end to this.  I raised my gun, pulled the trigger but someone got to me first.  It was Ava.  I felt the bullet penetrate my insides as I stumbled to the floor.  I scrambled to get the pistol back in my clutches.  She tossed it.

“Goodbye.” She said with a sardonic smile, tucking a hair behind her ear. 

I kicked her before it went off.  The gun spewed out of her hand.  I pummeled her to the ground, popped three bullets in her.  One in the chest.  One in the head.  And one in the heart.  I had one bullet left.  And I knew just who to use it on.  His name was on it.  His blood was calling out to me.  I could almost smell it.  He was screaming before I was through with him.  

I retrieved my trusty knife and carved her like a turkey.  This probably would be my last so I took my time.  Made damn sure they would remember me.  This wouldn’t bring them back but I was hoping it would bring me peace.  Some kind of relief.   There were a few things I believed in.  Revenge just happened to be one of them.  It was at the top of my list.  It was my religion, my sanity.  It became my scared realm.  Our special place.

Lastly, Aray Brown’s author Bio:

Aray Brown

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Aray Brown emerged as a bright eyed scribe at an early age, which began her journey to self discovery.

Her short stories consisted of characters such as She-ra and He-man.  Later on she decided to delve into something more real and personal. 

She always had a passion for storytelling even though she couldn’t express it verbally.   

After dabbling in other areas, she found her true calling and vowed to share her gift with the rest of the world.

Just like every other kid he grew up on Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock, she became obsessed with horror.  Most importantly gore.

While she has different genres in mind for her next up and coming projects, her love of gruesome tales will always be eternal.

Aray Brown’s Contact Information:

Facebook: http://facebook.com/ArayBrownfloacistms

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/araybrown

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/AraySBrown

Blogger: http://araybrown.blogspot.com

Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/araybrown

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AraySBrownAuthor

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/arayb

 

That’s it folks! Be sure to support your favorite authors, indie or otherwise, with a purchase AND a review!!

REVIEW: The PITS by Greg Smith

The PitsThe Pits by Greg Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In “The PITS” Smith drops his readers right into the heat and dust of the Afghanistan desert territory, immersing us in military life on the battle front. We meet the two main characters, Captain Kramer and his canine companion Shadow, amid descriptions of the aftermath of a car bomb. Reading this passage brought up a lot of fond memories of my military days as Smith writes from a place of personal experience. While I never saw combat I easily related to Kramer’s affinity for animals and his sudden inexplicable attachment to a stray pup of unknown breed.

As the story continues Smith explores the character of Kramer via his previous relationship with a childhood dog, Rusty. He shows us a man who loved his childhood dog as a brother, the barriers of species proving no obstacle for familial love and loyalty. We watch as Shadow grows and so too the budding friendship between dog and man. Shadow, a tan dog the size of a small horse, seems to have a temperament suited perfectly to military life, complementing Kramer’s life to perfection. It is a proud moment when Shadow officially becomes Corporal Shadow.

When Kramer’s team comes under ambush fire and both man and dog are seriously injured, Smith makes a smooth transition to civilian life while the Captain heals and recuperates from his ordeal. While out and about with Shadow, Kramer is accosted by a group of college kids who mistakenly associate his scarred appearance and Shadow’s presence at his side with dog fighting. After a few tense moments the situation is averted and Kramer is quickly educated in the group’s cause to wipe out dog fighting in the area. As an advocate for humane treatment of animals Kramer is appalled and drawn to the cause, both for the sake of the animals and in looking to protect his new compatriots using his unique skills as a Marine.

Smith clearly knows his subject material and is as passionate about it as Captain Kramer. It was this obvious passion that carried the story and ensnared my attention. Throughout the book Captain Kramer and Corporal Shadow see quite a bit of physical action and combat. Smith’s skill in driving a plot forward through a perfect balance of action, dialog, and information delivery gives us a well paced story, keeping us turning the page in order to find out what will happen next.

Due to a wealth of personal experience Smith’s characters ring true to life, his attention to the details precise and riveting. It wasn’t long before I became invested in the outcome of the book. “The PITS” wraps up well in the end and leaves ample room for a continuation of the Kramer and Shadow’s story.

A compelling, informative read on all fronts, and beautifully edited, “The PITS” earns a full five star rating.

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Confessions of a Lazy Writer

I’ve been stalled lately in continuing work on Making Patterns. It’s not a lack of desire to work on it but rather an intuitive feeling that this story, as I’ve written it thus far, is missing some key elements. The last few weeks the writing has been in spurts, a challenge in trying to write around holes that I realize I haven’t felt much like exploring in greater detail. A lazy writer never finishes a book, and I have been lazy in trying to write this book from an organic “create as you go” method and not taking the time to flesh out more of the political world of Abiniam and pre-plot events.

I see all these other authors out there that can and do write a book in a month to a few months time. These authors inspire me but also leave me wondering – how the hell do they come up with a full plot and manage to write it in such a short amount of time? Then I stop and think back to my co-authored venture (now sadly on indefinite hiatus due to some creative and personal differences) and contemplate how we managed to write almost four hundred pages of material. Even though the book isn’t finished it is still serving as a model for how to successfully write a book. Why? Because we brainstormed and pre-plotted each scene and chapter and wrote only after we had a distinct direction to head.

In thinking about all of this I realize I need to stop being a lazy writer. The writing for my début novel (release date still in the air as it’s a massive editing project with almost seven hundred pages of material/story) She Will Become actually took twenty years to complete. Most of those twenty years was nothing but brainstorming and obsessing and mentally pre-plotting events. I had all the elements in my head and just needed to figure out how to connect the events in the relationships between the characters. She Will Become actually has about 25 characters in total, the most being bit players whose small actions often resulted in the bigger plot points and twists. Twenty years of hard-won life experience helped me build those connections and produce what I hope is a work of fine erotic fiction. Having what I call an “alpha reader” also helped tremendously in having an almost immediate response to the work I was producing and receiving external guidance and comments every step of the way.

Because Making Patterns started out intended as a short story, where my typical organic method of creation usually works to great success (I don’t need much pre-planning or forethought to whip up at 5000 word erotic short), and became something more I realize I have failed to change creative tack. Novels need more than an organic approach in the writing, and I have admittedly just been winging it with this book. Overconfidence is my downfall in this situation, thinking that just because I dropped Tristen Callayas (the main character in SWB) into a world that I’d spent the last twenty years building and was fairly familiar with that writing Making Patterns would be an easy accomplishment. The problem here is that I recognize now that I know the world of Abiniam almost purely through the filter of Tristen’s character but Tristen is a foreigner, an inadvertent transplant from one universe to another. I don’t know the world of Abiniam as a native. So trying to write the story behind Making Patterns from the perspectives of people who were born to this world has been fraught with difficulties born of what I now admit has been willful laziness. It takes a lot of effort and time to build a world and while I put in a good chunk of time learning about Abiniam through Tristen’s eyes I haven’t spent nearly enough time mapping it out through the eyes of my natives.

Creating the character profiles for Nyra, Astrid and Tullio served a dual purpose, allowing prospective readers an insider peek at these characters while giving me an opportunity to flesh them out in even greater detail from an author’s perspective. But these character profiles haven’t been enough to give me a broader view of Abiniam as a whole. This world has a class system only rudimentary explored in SWB, only the biggest and most important players of the realm given time and attention solely for how the relationships Tristen has with them affects her becoming. Making Patterns is a sort of background to tell the stories of some of the bit players in SWB and requires a greater exploration and illumination of Abiniam’s political and social structure.

Game of Thrones

HBO’s Game of Thrones based on the book series by George R. R. Martin

This last week I have caught up on HBO’s Game of Thrones (almost done with season 3). I read the books awhile ago and fell in love, and have watched for multiple reasons. George R. R. Martin’s world building skills are phenomenally inspiring. His extreme attention to detail in creating the social and political structure of this world provides insights into what I now need do with Abiniam for the success of Making Patterns and any other later works that may arise.

Map of Abiniam

My hand drawn map of Abiniam.
Click the picture to see a larger version.

 

It’s time to gather together all the names of important people (all the random names of the sundry nobility and gentry I’ve thrown into the writing of SWB and MP) and start organizing them. I need to sit down with the map of Abiniam I drew and divvy up the lands of The Western Ways into territories (duchies, etc) and build the ranks of hierarchy ruling them. King Reese may rule over Abiniam’s Western Ways but who are his supporters and detractors? Who serves whom? Who plots what against whom and why?

These are the details that need fully examined and explored as the foundation before I can safely and confidently craft a compelling story that will stand the test of readers’ attention and interest. If  Making Patterns will be a follow-up success to She Will Become it’s time I stop being a lazy writer and buckle down to put in the background work. I know that once I have that foundation firmly in place the words will flow like rivers spawned from a ceaseless source. I’ll be able to pre-plot and plan out events and eventually be able to finish this book. I may never be one of those authors than can churn a book out in a few months time but I will be one of those authors whose works is rarely, if ever, questioned in world-building and background structure.

And, eventually, you’ll all finally get to read Richelle Daeras’ character profile. Those of you whom have waited most patiently for this profile to make its way to the Inkwell have my utmost appreciation and heartfelt thanks.

 

 

REVIEW: Heart of Eternity by N. Jay

Heart Of EternityHeart Of Eternity by N. Jay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is in association with The Review Board.

Heart of Eternity is a book unlike any I have read before. Well-written and crafted, the story of Jay and Naida is richly interwoven with unexpected, insightful doses of abstract spiritualism. Readers looking for a light read should be cautioned to pass this book by; the story’s intellectual examination of light versus dark, healing versus destructive energies – the eternal battle between Love and Fear goes beyond mere archetypes and formula plot structure and takes a much deeper, inspired, almost metaphysical approach to romance.

I appreciated the almost direct opposition between the characters of Jay and Naida and, for awhile, wondered exactly how the two were connected as each character was introduced and brought to life in my imagination.

Jay, full of darkness and not only aware of his destructive choices in life but reveling in them, is an elusive, mysterious figure, embracing risk and danger with more affection and commitment than any of the lovers he takes. We get to know him through the filter of his friends’ perspectives and then, finally, from his unique voice. Even from the start of the story his rigid adherence to living life by his dark rules incited in me an almost motherly instinct in wanting to ease whatever fear lay so deeply entrenched in his heart that he felt the need to behave and interact with such deliberate malice. As such Naida’s reaction to him was more than understandable.

Naida, full of light and a compulsion to heal not just her self but others in need, is a beautiful soul plagued by a cancerous tumor that threatens her life. Eschewing modern medical approaches, she seeks out the aid of her paternal uncle, Zachriel, a mystic and spiritual healer who has always inspired her, their shared unique perspectives on the world serving to have connected them from her childhood. Zachriel takes her into his tutelage and begins to show her how to fight her inner demons to reach her healing center. But in the process of doing so Naida encounters a shadow demon in her heart whose presence blocks her healing energies. Knowing she can progress no further until she finds this man and heals the pain residing inside him, Naida invests all of her energies in this new effort.

The two meet almost by accident or some act of divine guidance and the emotions between them are instantaneous. Naida recognizes in Jay the demon haunting her thoughts and the shadows cloaking her heart. Jay senses in her a woman of uncharacteristic emotional fortitude and strength and this scares him, knowing he cannot break her and vindicate his fear-maligned perception of self. His fear casts them apart as quickly as they come together, as he struggles to put physical distance between them. The darkness in him has a firm hold; Jay wages an inner war as he yearns for the redemption Naida offers and fends off the darkness of his ego.

The finale of the story was shocking but does incredible justice to the power of sacrifice in the name of Love in conquering the error of Fear and ego’s dominion over the human spirit.

My compliments to N. Jay for crafting such a unique emotional connection between two characters brought to vivid life on the page. It is clear she writes from a place of deep personal belief, or at least extensive research. I read this story, imbibing the supporting and deriving abstract concepts with eager relish. N. Jay delivers romance on both the physical and metaphysical levels and does both with astonishing aplomb.

I do have some notable mentions that do affect the rating given to Heart of Eternity.

The text I received to review had “first draft proof copy – not for reprint – Copyrights and ownership defined 2013” in the header of every page. I would have loved to read the actual final draft/copy and been spared some formatting and editing errors.
In keeping with the header the body of the text was littered with unnecessary blank pages. The following are all the unnecessary blank pages, some of which interrupt mid-dialog or descriptive passage. (20, 28-32, 36, 43-44, 51, 71, 73, 78, 85, 88, 92, 94, 98)
There were many editing misses:

Page 29: He had been encouraging her to give in, wearing her down, knowing it wouldn’t take long to have her, He had always been a good player, and he played to the rules exceptionally well. (He had been encouraging her to give in, wearing her down, knowing it wouldn’t take long to have her.)

Page 29: Charlotte had never felt such an essential lust for any man.Their bodies rasped against each other and the abrading sensation as Jay slid his hand on her lips aroused Charlotte even more. (missing a space between sentences)

Page 33: “Through a source, right…? So, by any chance, is it possible for the sufferer to be the healer at once?” she asked cautiously. (this should start a new paragraph) Zachriel picked up a stone from the ground and determined its weight speculatively as he replied, “I knew right from the start that you were strong mentally and spiritually, which is why you have not fainted or felt weak during the remedial sessions, although I have been expeditiously projecting the Divine Energy in you. My dear, you have the potential to become a powerful healer, if that’s what you’re asking. In fact…your receptivity and power of belief reminds me of someone. (missing closing quotation)

Page 37: Ricky knew Jay had done this to save him and it didn’t help to see his friend bruised and bleeding, yes, victorious, yes and_happy[…] (unnecessary underscore)

Page 57: She slowly closed her eyes while wisps of her long, silky, sand y brown hair[…] (extra space in sandy)

Page 57: She had no idea how long she stood there, trying to draw in the tranquillity (misspelled) of the scene that surrounded her, until her (unnecessary word) the old man’s voice rose in her head.

Page 86: Please…do not try to stop me. (missing closing quotation) Naida let her head rest on his knee and implored amid tears.

Page 87: Let go Jay…you have to let go,”. (extra period)

Page 100: “You! (unnecessary exclamation point and subsequent capitalization of the following word) Simply cannot cast off my dark armour and take on the shield of light without going on war with your dark forces!

If the author had submitted a final proof this book would have easily scored a full 5 star rating instead of the 3 I am giving it.

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REVIEW: Hubba Hubba Santa Claus by LaRae Parry

Hubba Hubba Santa ClausHubba Hubba Santa Claus by LaRae Parry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hubba Hubba Santa Claus is a quirky, chuckle-filled read. While we may have seen this plot enacted and repeated in hundreds of television shows and movies, Parry brings a delightful spin to the switcharoo scenario.

Written with sometimes subtle but more often “slap your forehead while thinking ‘doh, really?!’” humor, Hubba Hubba is a cute holiday themed romance. The main character Shelly is a character you love to scoff and laugh at, her antics bizarre in her disguise and efforts to support it. Yet you also feel for her even if only in an “oh you poor daft girl” humanistic way; we all want the heroine to win the day and snag the man don’t we? Rooting for the underdog is part of our humanity.

I know a lot of people like Shelly’s sister Rhonda who is the antithesis of Shelly’s personality. Shelly is rainbows and unicorns to Rhonda’s prudent rooting in reality. Parry’s analogy of “She’s a spreadsheet. I’m a paper jam” is so spot on I fell in love with the phrase. The dynamics between the sisters are one of the story’s biggest sources of humorous interplay but there is clearly a long-suffering bond between them that goes beyond familial obligation.

Shelly’s paramour Brant Fields starts out as a mystery but fleshed out by the end. Initially I thought the guy had was a few donuts short of a dozen to enjoy and even believe the Bubba-Bubba story Shelly feeds him. However, Parry weaves in an eventual explanation that is as touching as it is bizarre. By the end of the story we see that Brant’s willingness to suffer Bubba-Bubba’s antics is only because they appeal to his brand of bizarre quirkiness. They really are a match.

I enjoyed the Christmas theme. The introduction of some magical elements was intriguing. But what Christmas romance is complete without some Santa magic to encourage love in blossoming?

Overall I enjoyed this book. The story was cute and refreshing in its quirkiness. Parry delivers strange but believable characters with real connections. I chuckled, smirked or snickered often during the reading and that’s always a good thing.

I did notice some editing misses:

Page 51 That’s why we need to spy on Brant to learn more about him.” (missing quotation)

Page 56: “Oh, ho, ho, ho—that—I shaved it crooked so my Santa mustache would fit better. I knew that didn’t make any sense, but hoped he would buy it. (missing quotation, should be: better.” I knew that….)

Page 83: It sort of sounded like an in-between voice—a shmalefe.” (misplaced quotation)

I also have only one notable mention, and that is to comment on the book’s cover. It does nothing for the story except to show it’s a Christmas romance but in a bland, unoriginal way. I would have liked a bit more pizzazz to go with the quirkiness of the story and writing.

In the end I gave Hubba Hubba Santa Claus 4 out of 5 stars with the addendum that her humor has me leaning toward checking out her other stories to get another dose.

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