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Ghosts of the Past: the Dark Side of Medieval politics

Ghost of the Past Chinese webLast week the Ghosts of the Past debuted in Chinese language edition thanks to the careful work of some of the best translators in all of Beijing.  One measure of feedback I received from my editor was just how dark and sexy the book was.  Given my well deserved scholarly reputation as a historian, Ghosts of the Past and its equally saucy sequel Princess Anyu Returns might seem out of place from the rest of my work.  Out of place until you look deeper into history and explore the treacherous realm of sexual politics that was the experience for most medieval noble and royal women.

Life for women has always been somewhat of a treacherous experience filled with dangers.  With few or no legal rights or protections, women rarely decided for themselves who to have sex with, let alone marry.  Instead the men in their families, their governments, and their religions held almost complete control over their bodies.  Among women of high social status this meant that women’s bodies were tools for gaining wealth, power, and social status by those in position to use them.

Ghosts of the Past cover webThis social and political reality for women underscores the sometimes brutally dark sides to Beinarian society.  Sex and childbearing are tools the villains (both female and male) use at their leisure to impose their will on others, advancing mysterious agendas that only become clear after Princess Anyu Returns from her exile.   These agendas add spice to both Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns with twists and turns around every corner.  Villains use sex and violence freely to achieve their goals, predating on the innocent and using every method at their disposal to thwart the heroes and heroines.  They are just as likely to kill as seduce and use offspring created at the expense of their enemies as weapons against them.

It is a dark, dystopic realm where only the bravest dare tread.

Are you brave enough to travel there?

 

Find the Ghosts of the Past in English on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes or in Chinese on Amazon, Chinese Amazon, and Douban.

Myopia Epidemic: Get Outside and Play

This morning twitter gifted me with a fascinating study published this year in Nature magazine entitled, “The myopia boom: Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.”

Myopia2The study reports alarming and very dramatic increases in myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness/short-sightedness) worldwide with Asian myopia rates now well over 90% compared to 10-20% just sixty years ago.

Intriguing in the analysis is the finding that time spent outside correlates with myopia with the highest risk for developing myopia among children and adolescents spending the greatest amount of time indoors and the lowest risk experienced by those spending the most time out of doors.  Activity level was surprisingly not a factor, but light exposure is.

Our eyes need light, especially unfiltered, natural sunlight in order to be healthy.  We need to get out of doors and play.  And on nice days we need to move our classrooms out of doors, something I am pleased to say my teachers did from time to time, especially in springtime.

So get outside — even when the weather is a less than ideal — and help preserve and protect your sight.  You deserve nothing less than healthy eyes.

The fine print: why the Rite Aid brand helps my skin better than Aveeno

Hives are painful.  Hives are common.  Though sometimes they have a clear cause, often the real cause of hives cannot be tracked, even by painful allergy tests.

Since August of this year I’ve been daily attacked by hives, especially at night when dozens of welts erupt all over my body.  At first I did nothing.  Then I tried cream after ointment after cream before going the classic route and picking up a bottle of plain calamine lotion from Rite Aid.  But that lotion is very runny and without anyone available to apply it to my back, I’ve been suffering.  That is when a friend suggested I try Aveeno’s Anti-Itch concentrated lotion which is creamy and easy to apply.

AVO-03690-1

This lotion costs around $12 for only 4 ounces — per ounce more than double the cost of the store brand calamine.  So I had high expectations for it.

To my shock however it does not work — at least not compared to the calamine lotion from the drug store.  This despite the known benefits to the skin of its oat complex and the excellent reputation of the Aveno problem.

A look at the fine print however is revealing.  Because when you strip aside the brand image and look only at active ingredients the answer becomes obvious:  it only contains 3% calamine and 1% pramoxine.  That means the lotion relies mostly on the oat complex the brand is famous for instead of the calamine solution that families have used for decades to successfully address skin diseases and conditions.

By contrast the Rite-Aid calamine lotion contains 8% calamine and 8% zinc oxide, both of them tried and true ingredients for healing and soothing the skin.  Though runny and a bit inconvenient to use, the lotion works — reducing pain and deterring scratching so the skin can heal.

And when that fails another very simple remedy helps me with the pain and swelling:  ICE PACK.

 

 

Fines not Jail Time — A Better Solution to America’s Incarceration Epidemic

Incarceration_rates_worldwideAmerica has an incarceration problem.  The United States has only 5% of the world population, but 25% of the world’s prison population.  Since 1972 the US prison population is overwhelmingly for non-violent crime, especially drug offences.   Most American prisoners are poor and non-white.  Enforcement is overwhelmingly higher among non-whites and sentences are stricter as well.  Recent statistics show that many states pay over $40,000 per prisoner per year to keep them in jail — that’s more than what many teachers are paid.

WI_Incarceration_rates_by_race_0The social consequences for incarceration are even higher.  Our tough stance on non violent crime has wrecked havoc on our communities and broadened the race divide.  What is worse:  given the poverty of most prisoners and the reduced employment opportunities to ex-convicts, there is far less incentive for most ex-cons to stay out of jail.  When life in jail is better than life outside of jail, it becomes understandable why so many choose to return to prison.

There has to be a better way.  I think there is.  Instead of sending non-violent offenders to prison, we FINE THEM.  Money talks.  Money motivates. Just think about how many people take care to follow traffic laws for fear of a speeding or parking ticket?  How many people will park in the correct spot because they don’t want the expense of their automobile being towed?  If we levied hefty fines instead of jail time on non-violent crime, we would save taxpayer money while increasing revenue through the fines themselves — once we close one critical loophole:  bankruptcy.

StudentLoanDebtMap440x281In the United States filing for bankruptcy will discharge your debts — including fines for breaking the law — but it WON’T purge your student loans.  This of course is completely backward.  Student loans need to be forgiven after ten years.  Period.  No one should die still owing student loans.  Twenty years after I graduated student loans, I still owe more than it costs to buy a house in my local area.  Yet if I failed to mention a box of crackers at customs returning to the USA from a trip to Canada, I could get out of my $10,000 fine just by declaring bankruptcy.

This is backwards.

So let’s reverse this.  Let’s increase fines on criminal offences.  Let’s punish with fines instead of jail time.  Let’s prevent bankruptcy from discharging debts owed to states for criminal offences (even parking tickets).  And at the same time, let’s forgive all student loans after ten years, including and especially for those who graduated university before 2005.  You shouldn’t be paying student loans while receiving medicare — but you should be paying back child support if you skip out of your obligations.

To make the system even more fair, let’s make fines follow income resources with the wealthiest paying the highest fines for the same offences.  Earn less than $20,000 a year and your parking ticket (as a simple example) is $25.  Earn $25 million a year and your parking ticket is $2500.

We need fines to work this way because at present the wealthiest Americans feel they are above the law.  Of course they are:  they have loopholes they can use to avoid taxes.  And if they receive the same fine for the same crime as someone making minimum wage, they have no deterrent.  What is $100 to a billionaire?  They spend more than that on lunch everyday.

We can make the system fairer.  We can bridge the gaps between us.  We can close loopholes and use the power of money to reduce crime.  And we can use that savings to fund education and forgive educational debt.

We can and must do better, forgiving educational debt while using monetary incentives instead of costly jail sentences to reduce crime.

The US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment: Police, Not Guns in Every Home

American gun patrioticThe 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution is interpreted by the National Rifle Association to mean that every American is guaranteed the right to own and carry firearms anywhere, at any time, in any context s/he wishes.  Common sense is not part of their position.  Guns should be at the zoo, at Starbucks, at your kid’s playground, even in your child’s school.  Guns should be everywhere because the Constitution says so!

Except the Constitution doesn’t say that,  Instead the full text of the 2nd Amendment is:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

14th century Italian militias.

14th century Italian militias.

Now as I talked about three years ago on Yahoo Voices and reposted a year ago, the idea of the militia has a specific historical context grounded in Anglo-Saxon tradition.  It is, at its core, a feudal institution pre-dating professional armies where local men and women responded to local emergencies by arming themselves and protecting their towns and villages.  Mercenaries (soldiers for hire)  were for centuries rather unreliable folks with rape/pillage habits — something American colonists experienced with the Hessian mercenaries hired by the Crown.  Before the emergence of completely professional national armies, soldiers for hire had the habit of abusing the local population, of taking what they wanted.  So locals tended to maintain their militias to protect themselves against such abuse.

gun murder

Times have changed in the United States and United Kingdom. Professional soldiers are hometown heroes and heroines — not threats to the safety of civilian populations. Invasions from foreign powers on home soil is essentially unknown to most Americans and British — the main modern exceptions to that happened during the 2nd World War.  Our armies have professionalized and this is a good thing. Because since the beginning of professional soldiering, the professionals have always possessed superior skills, protection, and weapons compared to their civilian counterparts.

And that is what a militia is:  civilians responding to emergencies.  It’s volunteer police, volunteer fire department, and neighourhood watch organizations. I’ve seen arguments for including USA state national guard units under this umbrella — except those are trained and equipped much more similarly to the full time army, navy, and so forth — and they are paid to do so!

Two London constables on duty.

Two London constables on duty.

So what then does the 2nd Amendment actually guarantee Americans?  If you treat the word “militia” properly, what is the 2nd Amendment actually protecting?  In my analysis as a historian, the 2nd Amendment guarantees us POLICE FORCES and FIRE DEPARTMENTS which do the same job that our militias once did.  Police forces/constabularies and fire departments protect local populations from danger — from within our localities and from outside threats.  When a riot breaks out, it’s the police — not a Federal soldier — that is sent in to deal with it.  When Federal soldiers ARE sent in to deal with riots we habitually treat this much as our ancestors did with mercenary soldiers — and perhaps rightly.

In the Autumn of 2001 New York Penn Station was protected with Federal soldiers carrying high power weapons through the station to police it, a response to 9/11.  Believe me, that terrified me as I walked through the station to catch or depart from my New Jersey Transit trains!  A regular NYPD officer in regular uniform with regular equipment felt safe to be around.  But Federal troops?  Utterly terrifying!

gun murder 2We need our police officers and constables.  We need this modern form of our ancient militias.  We need to honour and respect the work our officers and constables do and trust them to do their job — rather than delude ourselves into thinking we can do their jobs better than they can and therefore arming ourselves.

Gun are not the solution.  As a matter of fact, they aggravate our problems.  A woman is 500x more likely to be shot/killed during a domestic dispute when firearms are kept in the home than she is when family firearms are kept in a neutral location such as a gun club.  There is a reason why the murder rate in the United Kingdom is so much lower than in the United States.  This twisting of the 2nd Amendment is why.

Some of you are likely to attack me for writing this.  That is fine with me.  Be my guest.  Because as a woman who was hurt in a gun “accident” as a child, I fiercely uphold that the gun laws in the United Kingdom are the best way to go.  I’ve seen what guns everywhere all the time can do and it disgusts me and terrify me.

Leave the guns to the police and the constables.  Leave them to the real modern militias. And please, in the name of sanity, stop thinking that having a gun around makes you safer!  IT DOESN’T!

Going at it alone: more lessons from Josh Duggar

josh-duggar-reason-for-abuseRecently the Duggar family went on the record in an effort to lay to rest the scandal concerning Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters when he was fourteen years old.

In the interview the Duggar parents admit that Josh informed them of his behaviour three times across 2002 and 2003 and that each time the family decided it was best to deal with it from within the family boundaries instead of going outside of it.  When that did not work on the first attempt, they went to their church for help.  On the third time in 2003 they sent Josh to a faith-based camp for help.  But in all three cases it was dealt with entirely from the tiny confines of their close-knit community instead of informing the law and allowing the state to step in.

In 2012 I wrote a report for Yahoo Voices concerning rape and incest within the insular orthodox Jewish communities, a report that was re-posted into this blog before Yahoo dismantled Yahoo Voices.  In that report I called for an end to victim-blaming in religious communities.  Sadly with the Duggars his victims are also defending his behaviour, no doubt partially because the Duggar parents are in denial themselves regarding just how serious sexual violence is.

Until we start treating sexual crimes as serious, until we stop making excuses for those who violate the physical integrity of other people, and until we genuinely punish the perpetrators of these crimes while providing a strong and protective support system for those hurt by them then of course we cannot expect to stem this epidemic of violence and sexual violence.  Even in 2015 we treat rape as “no big deal.”  Women and men both do this, including victims of assault and sexual assault.  We keep making excuses and telling those hurt to shut up and “get over it.”

Now as a healed survivor, I am the first to say that experiencing assault and sexual assault does NOT BREAK YOU.  It doesn’t taint you.  It doesn’t make you less of anything.  In fact it becomes an opportunity for transcendence, to grow into something greater and be a better person — no different than any other form of hardship.  This isn’t lessening the horror of the experience; what I suffered WAS HORRIFYING.  A healthy human being MUST BE HORRIFIED by violence and especially sexual violence.  At the same time, our societies have this habit of not only dismissing survivors when we speak up (been there!), but also treating us as the walking dead.  So we are dismissed first for daring to speak up and second when the wounds heal — as they must heal.

It’s a culture that favours those who rape, beat, and kill and treats those who receive this treatment as surplus population who had better just die off quickly so our societies can pretend there’s not a problem.

Most alarming to me is the matter of the insular community.  Why?  Because I see its danger as someone whose insular community made it easy to continue these acts of violence and to continue dismissing me when I sought help.  Yet, unlike the Duggar girls, I went to adults for help — but they wouldn’t  help because of the insular community.  It was easier to call me “evil sorceress” or “seductress” (right because four year old girls instinctively know how to seduce men 10x their age into sex?) than place that phone call to social services that would have taken me to safety.

The larger problem is therefore not Josh Duggar — a man who doesn’t deserve to have his children grow up with him — but the communities themselves.  We can only help people in need when we go beyond our castle walls and allow the larger secular community to intervene, to enforce laws written to protect children and provide safe home environments for everyone.

Yes, our governments are not perfect; there has never been a truly perfect government.  But when we fail to trust others beyond the boundaries of our small communities we set ourselves up for exactly the epidemic of violence and sexual violence plaguing our societies.  Protecting the community becomes more important than what is right and just for the people being hurt.  This was the case at Penn State and it is the case with the Duggar family.

What is your take on the Josh Duggar matter?  Reply to this post with your comments below and let’s get a serious conversation going!

Does being a sinner make you above the law? Issues raised by the Josh Duggar defence.

19 kidsIn May 2015 a tabloid reported that twelve years ago Josh Duggar of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” reality show molested five girls twelve years ago.  When his parents found out, they refused to report the crimes to the police, even though Josh molested his own sisters.

This is, rightfully, creating a scandal and cries for TLC to cancel the programme — which as of this date they refuse to do, even with corporate sponsors pulling out.

The Duggars and their allies have a defence they use time and time again:  Josh is a sinner who needs forgiveness and is entitled to forgiveness.

If a Christian (which I am no longer) admits to sinning that this is, in essence, a free pass with the law. Josh Duggar’s family doesn’t believe that Josh should be punished because he admitted it was a sin to molest his sisters (never mind their mental/spiritual wounds here; HE is the victim). Another Quiverfull leader named Rick Boyer is repeating the same idea in a story published this morning: that since being human makes you a sinner that any efforts to prosecute these crimes is a conspiracy by pagans and “guillible christians” to destroy more godly people.

So the problem isn’t the crimes these people commit — it’s the rest of us who say that when you commit a crime THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES UNDER THE LAW.

Of course one might say that there is a fundamental belief that secular law and secular government is itself evil — the devil is in charge.

So I must ask: what are they really going for? Should we simply eliminate all secular institutions and put religious institutions in charge of our lives?

How is that any different than what people are facing in Iraq or Syria where religious extremists have replaced the law? Where heinous torture, sexual violence, and murder happen daily? Where the only religious expression or lifestyle allowed is their radical one — and if you disagree or just deviate from their harsh rules, you can expect to lose your life or worse?

Liberty only exists through secular government, through the rule of laws. Religions must not be allowed to hold the powers of life or death over anyone.

And remember if you are fine with one religious group ruling the people by their sense of what is moral or right you damn yourself to be on the receiving end of another group you disagree with. Would you want to live that way?

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/quiverfull-author-delivers-melodramatic-defense-of-duggars-against-pagans-and-gullible-christians/

Why some book series should be read in the order written

Goodbye 3D

Good-bye A672E92 Quintus is chronologically the first book in the Peers of Beinan Series. However it was actually written FOURTH of the six books.

I love a great book series.  From the JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon Series, I find it satisfying to stay within the same world, getting to know characters, places, and events intimately.  It’s one reason why serialized fiction is so popular and entertaining.

Like both my aforementioned literary mentors, I do not write in chronological order.  With the Legendary Women of World History series this makes sense:  each biography is a stand alone book.  The series designation signals consistency in theme and approach to historical data.  But the books themselves are not necessarily strongly connected (the exception:  Mary Queen of the Scots and Journey to Gloriana).

By contrast, the Peers of Beinan Series is much more traditional with the same cultural, historical, and environmental setting across the books.  The books were written in the following order:

  1. The Great Succession Crisis (along with its companion Data Files, now out of print).
  2. The First King
  3. The Ghosts of the Past
  4. Good-bye A672E92 Quintus (most editions integrate The First King into the text)
  5. The Poisoned Ground
  6. Princess Anyu Returns

This means that the bulk of the world building and explanations of the world building are achieved in The Great Succession Crisis and The Ghosts of the Past — much like George Lucas establishes his world building in Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back.  Viewers of Return of the Jedi and of the three prequel films are expected to know ideas like Jedi Knights and Sith Lords before viewing these films.

And so does the Peers of Beinan Series.  The result:  a chronological reading of the series as the first reading of the series is a little bit confusing.  Especially with the novellas (Good-bye A672E92 Quintus and The Poisoned Ground) I found myself not re-describing the wheel already built.  And, to risk sounding pompous, I honestly did not expect to need to do so.  These books are for young adults and adults, after all — not middle grade children like the biographies.  So I expect a higher level of education and deductive reasoning/critical thinking skills from Peers of Beinan Series readers than I do with the biographies.  After all, science fiction readers are some of the smartest and best educated of literary audiences.  As lovers of science fiction we expect our books to be factually accurate, imaginative, and thought-provoking.   We expect to be challenged intellectually and emotionally.  As a life-long science fiction fan, I wrote the books that I most want to read myself.

And so the series best makes sense when you read it in the order that I wrote it in with a chronological reading (such as you find in The Complete Series) best for the second and subsequent readings.  In that, I continue to follow the greats I love:  JRR Tolkien, Frank Herbert, George Lucas, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana,  J. Michael Straczynski, and Stan Lee.

Read these in the order I wrote them and i know you will love them too!

Owen and Catherine: the Love Story that launched the Tudor dynasty

romanc blogfest 2015 small banner

Just then a scream echoed in the forest.  Drawing their swords, Linet and Boudicca charged towards the sound.  By the time they reached the source all that could be seen was Prasutagus, his blood spilling into the ground – as if a year-king killed as an offering to the gods for his people.  Prasutagus looked up, his eyes blurring, “Boudicca?”

Boudicca knelt, weeping, the blood from his chest wound soaking her dress, “I am here.”

“A Roman – scout – I – surprised him.” gasped Prasutagus, trying in vain to tell his wife what happened, knowing the moment he died rage would fill her – rage against Rome.

Boudicca kissed him tenderly, “My love, do not leave me!”  Prasutagus kissed her repeatedly, his eyes fixed on hers until they saw no more.  Feeling his spirit leave his body, Boudicca wept, as if her entire life suddenly passed with him – at least for this moment.  Finally, she rose, helping Linet carry him to their chariot.  With a gentle nudge of the reigns the horses turned for home and the sad work ahead.

—————

Welcome to RomanceFest 2015!  I hope all month long you’ll discover many amazing books from some of the top independent authors in the world.

Complete Series 3D

My contribution to RomanceFest is a bit different.  Rather than offering you the thrilling paranormal science fiction romance of the Peers of Beinan Series, I decided to take a different, much more risky approach.  I decided to make my RomanceFest books CREATIVE NON-FICTION HISTORY for young readers and family audiences.

In the excerpt you just read above and audio excerpt you just heard on the youtube video, you experienced the powerful love between King Prasugasus of the Iceni and his wife, Queen Boudicca.  Boudicca is remembered every year in King’s Cross London for destroying the Roman cities of Camulodunum (originally the capital of the Trinovantes, the southern neighbour to the Iceni in what is now Essex), Londonium, and Saint Albans in the year 61 CE.  Typically she is portrayed as a vengeful shrew getting back at the Romans for publicly flogging her and raping her two daughters (aged 10-12 years old).  I took a different approach with the biography, one intensely grounded in archaeology and one taking a broader look at the cultures of ancient Britain.  Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni is creative non-fiction history for young readers and families at its absolute finest, one benefiting immensely from the dynamic artistry of British voice artist and actor Richard Mann (easily the best English actor you probably never heard of — yet!).

Now I would like to introduce you to Queen Catherine de Valois.  Shakespeare immortalized Catherine in “Henry V,” a play very much taking King Henry’s point of view.  The real Henry and the real Catherine were very different.  In my biography for younger readers and families, you meet the real Catherine de Valois: bright, educated, and religiously devout.  You see her in her historical context as she navigates her father’s mental illness, the French civil war between house Valois and the Duchy of Burgundy, and her brother Charles’ struggles to become king of France — with a little help from Joan of Arc.

But more importantly, you explore her relationships with King Henry V of England, their son King Henry VI, and the true love she found in Owen Tudor.  It is a beautiful, romantic tale to inspire generations of girls and women.

I am pleased to announce that in May or June 2015 Richard Mann and I will release the audio edition of Catherine de Valois on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  So take a listen to the above audio book excerpt, then download your copy of Catherine de Valois on Amazon.com, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, or Ibookstore.

 

Enter to win a free copy of Catherine de Valois! Winners announced 31st of May 2015

The Human Touch: Thoughts about the Teachings of Esther/Abraham Hicks

I am really into the Law of Attraction.  I believe in and the power that our thoughts make on our reality and what comes to us.

negative emotion is

One of the best known lecturers on The Law of Attraction is Esther Hicks who is allegedly channeling a group of beings collectively known as “Abraham.”  While the advice given is generally sound, I do confess a certain unease at the whole channeling thing; it smacks of a scam, especially given there are books, DVDs, CDs, cruises, seminars, and so forth for sale in great abundance.  People pay lots of money for an audience with Abraham and to get a personalized reading of sorts from them in the hopes of turning their lives around.

In such a context it becomes a bit of a minefield as one searches for truly helpful affirmations and advice from all the clutter.

Abraham Hicks emotionKey to the philosophy taught is that emotions are on a sort of hierarchical scale ranked from good to bad.  These are allegedly arranged by vibration — a high vibration emotion is certain to attract what you really want in the LoA while a low vibration emotion is said to greatly hinder you in manifesting it.

In  general there is a measure of common sense to it.  Obviously if you are hateful and vindictive, you are not going to attract love.  Like attracts like.  So hate bring more hate.  This really is common sense.  It speaks to the core of the law of attraction — you reap what you sow!

But a side effect inevitably comes when you rank order your emotions:  you repress the ones that you judge wrong or inappropriate.  That is to say you still have the emotions because they are part of the human experience. They make us Sentient spiritual creatures.  There is no capacity to love if there is absolutely no capacity to hate as well; the capacity for BOTH is what defines each on both a psychological and practical level.

So to love you have to also be able to hate.  To trust, you have to be able to not trust.  To be honest, you have to possess the ability to lie.  This is also what I find troubling and unrealistic about the ways that Christians talk about God.  If God is ONLY LOVE, COMPASSION, FORGIVENESS, ETC and CANNOT experience those other things as well then is God truly a Sentient and living being and therefore objectively existing at all?  No wonder it is easy for atheists to argue that God was created by humankind and not the reverse!

And so we are brought back to this organization of emotions.  What happens to you psychologically when you tell yourself “I’m only allowed to feel THESE emotions?”  Answer:  you repress the other ones.  This in turn means you put up walls within your mind and spirit which, intentional or not, naturally grow into walls between yourself and other people.  You end up FEELING LESS.  Empathy wanes.  You lose the ability to understand and relate to other people.  This in turn makes you LESS LOVING, LESS COMPASSIONATE, LESS HAPPY.

In cutting yourself off from the emotions Abraham says are bad for you, you ultimately destroy your own humanity and the best parts of yourself. This in turn makes it easier for you to harm yourself and harm others.  It is, after all, the person who feels the least, who is cut off from her or his emotions that is most capable of destructive behavior — to self and others.

permission to walk away

And this is the danger point with Abraham and why it would be perhaps correct to label them as demons or manipulative spirits.

That is not to say that they are completely wrong.  But each assertion needs to be thought about and weighed for its value with a focus on balance.  Instead of arranging emotions from “good” to “bad” recognize that all emotions all important.

I am no longer a Christian, but I see the wisdom in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Abraham would have us believe that if we experience both sides that we are harming ourselves.  In reflection I disagree.  We are only harming ourselves if we 1) repress emotions instead of embrace them or 2) focus our energy on hurtful emotions (and therefore attract more hurt to our lives).

Tulips Bouquet

There are many sources of wisdom and inspiration.  The human experience has no limit to these.  Balance comes from applying wisdom from MANY sources of inspiration — from Christianity, from Judaism, from Islam; from Wicca, from Buddhism and Daoism, from Shamanism, from Asatru, and a thousand voices from across time and space.

Embrace your humanity.  Feel your feelings.  Keep your focus on what you want and always phrase everything positively.  Look honestly at your life and think about what barriers your mind projects between the direction you choose for yourself and achieving it.  Believe and have faith and confidence in your ability to achieve and reach what you focus.  Say “I WILL” instead of “I want.”

The law of attraction is powerful. It is common sense. But even as mindfulness about it offers the potential to bring great good and joy in our lives, how we go about it also makes a difference.  For when we wall up part of our emotions in our pursuit of happiness we ultimately destroy our ability to feel, to connect, and therefore be truly happy.

Name Your Own Price Comes to the Peers of Beinan

Complete Series 3DThe Peers of Beinan Series is my epic medieval social science fiction series focusing on the adventures of Beinarian nobles and royals from the Gurun dynasty.  It is a six book series with a Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy edition and a Complete Series volume.  There’s also The Complete Data Files reference book and The Lost Tales companion book for a total of ten total book titles.

 

Effective the 12th of April 2015 all regular Peers of Beinan series books are now name your own price on Smashwords.  The two books that are staying regular price are the two you expect:  the Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy edition and The Complete Series volume because these contain multiple books at already low prices.

Returns 3D

Name your own price is only available on Smashwords; on all other retailers such as Amazon, Barnes/Noble, and iBookstore the books are all at their regular prices.

 

View and purchase the entire Peers of Beinan series on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/2371.

On Air: The Speculative Fiction Cantina (10th April 2015)

Complete Series 3DFriday 10th April 2015 at 600pm eastern daylight time is very special.  At that time I will be LIVE ON AIR with the Speculative Fiction Cantina hosted by S. Evan Townsend.  This is a call-in radio programme for both guests and listeners.  Join in by calling 347 945 7246 (New York City area).  Take a listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2015/04/10/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-laurel-a-rockefeller-and-k-a-laity both live and after the one hour broadcast.

During the programme both K.A. Laity will be reading from our books for about five to eight minutes each.  Expect singing from me as I read to you from chapter eight of “The Ghosts of the Past.”

In preparation for the show and simply because I cannot sing all the Peers of Beinan Series songs in the time allotted, I recently made youtube video recordings of the songs.  These are music videos and not book trailers; not one of the videos include any marketing messages nor any links to buy any of my books.  These exist purely for their entertainment value and for the satisfaction of making them and sharing my music.

Here they are in order presented in the series:

This is from chapter three of The Great Succession Crisis.  It was added to the book when I released the extended edition in January 2013 and does not appear in the rare first edition (1st edition is a major collector’s item if you have one).

This song is “I Shall Always Find You” from chapter seven of “The Ghosts of the Past.  It is a song about love, hope, and reincarnation and is sung by Lady Mind Healer Feawen.  This song reprises as a duet between Lord Knight Elendir and Princess Anyu at the very end of the book.

This is the entire scene featuring “Here Lays My Father and My Lord” and is most likely the section I will read on air.  The song tells the story of King Kendric’s reign which is otherwise skipped over in the book.

The Coronation Hymn is the final song in the Peers of Beinan.  I wanted to perform this scene in full on Friday, but it contains way too many spoilers.

Music is very important to my life.  I hope you enjoy these songs and will share them with others.

Music & Theatre: the Picture Emerging as I Research Gloriana

Hello everyone. I hope everyone is finally getting some warmth and beautiful spring weather.  I know it’s been a while since I wrote more personally and especially since I wrote anything about history, my life-long passion.

Complete Series 3DSince publishing Catherine de Valois (coming to Audible in May or June) in June, I wrote and published two non fiction books and finished the Peers of Beinan Series with “Princess Anyu Returns” followed by a trilogy edition of “The Legacy of Princess Anlei” and “The Complete Series” which is one volume for all six Peers of Beinan Series books.  Now my heart returns to history.

As I research “Journey to Gloriana” about the life of Queen Elizabeth I and “Mary Queen of the Scots” I have found some intriguing information about music and theatre that I would like to share today.  The information I found was not in some aggressive search nor acquired by consulting experts (for which I am known), but almost by “accident” if there is such a thing as I seek to discover who Elizabeth I and Mary of Scotland really were.

Here is the picture emerging before me:

  • Music, theatre, and dance originally served as key conduits for communicating the culture, religion, and especially history of ancient societies.
  • As Christianity spread into Europe, secular music, theatre, and dance yielded to church-controlled forms.  The performing arts became the domain of Roman Catholicism to be used for its particular religious and political agendas.
  • The English Renaissance and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I saw church controls over music, dance, and especially theatre break down.  This brought a surge of secular music (especially for dancing) and construction of the first theatres (starting in the 1570s) in London such as The Globe.
Royal Oak Bartshill

The Rolling Stones Now tribute band to the Rolling Stones perform in England.

We all take it for granted that music, dance, and theatre exists outside of the Church.  But the reality is that for many centuries, these were essentially forbidden.  We owe it to Queen Elizabeth I’s own love of secular music, theatre, and dance for the wealth of choices and freedoms we have today.  No longer does religion define and limit how we express ourselves culturally.  We can write, perform, and enjoy a limitless number of songs, dances, plays, and films of our own free choosing.

Though the Church may always wish to control the message (that has not changed in nearly 2000 years), I find it a great blessing to live in a free society where free expression in the performing arts reigns supreme, where each of us can enjoy whatever we like whenever we like.

May we always safeguard and protect that freedom whenever in the world we live.

Alan Turing and The Imitation Game

Turing and CumberbatchI have a new movie obsession.  Yes, Queen Elsa has been deposed!  I am no longer Frozen.  Instead, my heart is taken by the story of a real man whose genius touches all our lives nearly every moment of every day.

 

His name was Alan Turing.  I first heard his name in my cognitive psychology courses at the University of Nebraska.  Turing’s ideas about the nature of thought itself led not only to creation of the first computers, but underscore how psychologists understand how our human brains process information.  The famous Turing test (highlighted at the end of the film as “the Imitation Game”) makes us think about what thought is and how mental constructs relate to one another.  Many computer scientists and social scientists have built upon Turing’s ideas, yet few before or since have made a greater impact on our lives.

 

TuringWhen I first saw the above trailer for “The Imitation Game” I had no recollection of any of this of course.  With the deluge of names that assaults a triple major university student, Turing’s name quickly left my mind after the final examination discussing his ideas in favour of other, more pressing names — like Abraham Maslow and Thomas Moore.  With most of Turing’s achievements still classified until after I received my BA, I had little reason to think of Turing as anything more than one of many brilliant theorists.

That is until last week when I saw “The Imitation Game.”  For those who have not yet seen the movie (and I urge you to do so), “The Imitation Game” tells the story of Hut 8, the ultra classified team led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire who broke the unbreakable Nazi Enigma code.  Except no one knew they broke the code — not until 1996 when the National Security Agency declassified important documents from WWII.

CumberbatchThough full of creative licenses that many argue damage the reputation of one of the 20th Century’s greatest minds (see fact check), the film beautifully dramatizes Turing’s close friendship with Joan Clarke, even if it distorts some of its most important details.  You see Turing’s brilliant mind at work with performances that brought tears to my eyes.  Unlike Russel Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” Benedict Cumberbatch really made me understand Turing and feel for him very deeply.  Though I would never make many of Turing’s life choices myself, I really came to understand them.  This is a film that inspires you to think about our individual differences and what makes us human.  It is a film that compels us to play the “imitation game,” Turing’s test of what makes a person a person and how life, organic and artificial, thinks and processes information.

 

I am of course not being that specific.  That is because I want you to see this movie without knowing too much about Turing himself.  All I knew coming into the movie was that this film involved Enigma.  I am so grateful for that lack of knowledge.  It allowed me to watch without bias — exactly as Benedict Cumberbatch’s opening voice over from Turing asks us to.

Now that I have seen this movie, it is my absolute favourite.  And did I mention the film score?  I am a huge fan of film scores; this is one of the most beautiful scores I have heard in many years with a satisfying complexity and heavy use of both flute and piano.

 

In a word:  beautiful!

 

 

 

 

Just for fun: two quizes to play

Just for fun I spent most of Monday afternoon making two quizes, both of them tied to the Peers of Beinan Series.

 

Ready?  LET’S PLAY!

 

What is your favourite Beinarian food?

slatkoshttps://www.playbuzz.com/laurelr11/what-is-your-favorite-beinarian-food

 

 

 

 

Which Beinarian royal are you?

Princess Anyu Returns digital cover webhttps://www.playbuzz.com/laurelr11/which-beinarian-royal-are-you

 

Excerpt: Princess Anyu Returns (Enter Anyu Wen)

Princess Anyu Returns digital cover web

It’s finally here!  The final chapter to the Peers of Beinan Series!  Released on 1st February, 2015, Princess Anyu Returns tells the story of Princess Anyu’s exile on D425E25 Tertius and of her return home to Beinan to face the murderous and very treacherous Lord Yelu.  In this scene from chapter two, Enter Anyu Wen, you are treated to a Firefly-influenced opening followed by the introduction of a very dangerous alien.

————————

Music filled Anyu’s ears as she wandered the mall, light, rhythmic and sweet with the familiar sound of shawms and flutes.  As if in a dream of the home she knew existed no more, Anyu drifted towards the sound.  In the center of a large open space near an escalator, a small troop of performers dressed very much like Beinarians danced and played the sweet music.  Recognizing the dance, Anyu put everything down and joined the forming circle.  Memories swelled.  Her feet knew the steps, transporting her and surprising the performers while the crowd of shoppers applauded.  As the song ended, she disappeared, collecting her belongings once more.  One of the dancers, a man with brown eyes, jet black hair, and apricot skin followed her, “Who are you?”

Anyu turned and faced him, “I beg your pardon?”

“You appeared and disappeared as if from nowhere.  I have never seen you before, yet you knew the steps to our dance.”

“Everyone knows that dance,” remarked Anyu casually.

“Not in this time and place, they do not,” countered the man.

Comprehension filled Anyu, “Ah!  You must be of this Society for Creative Anachronism that people told me about!”

“I am.  My name is Seo-jun.”

“Strange name.”

“It suffices. So what are you doing here?”

“Shopping.  New dress,” motioned Anyu at the fabric of her dress.

Seo-jun raised an eyebrow, “With a heavy pack like that and a basket of food?”

“Sure, why not?”

Seo-jun’s eyes changed from brown to metallic blue, his voice lowering, “You are not from around here.  As a matter of fact, you are not from anywhere near here – not even this galaxy.”

Anyu tensed and instinctively raised her hand to her hip, forgetting for the xiao-shir that her sword was buried in her pack, “Who are you?”

Seo-jun grabbed her arm, “Let us take a walk, Princess!”

 

Seo-jun dragged Anyu to the parking lot outside of the mall.  Forcing her onto the back seat of his black two door Ford Fiesta sedan, he threw her belongings into the car hastily, spilling out one of the kolaches from its basket.   Suddenly a dark-haired and grey-eyed man wearing white trousers, a white t-shirt, and white linen blazer leapt out from behind a nearby station wagon, his laser épée humming fiercely, “Let her go!”

Seo-jun laughed, “Why?  You cannot harm me!” To prove his point, Seo-jun concentrated; the doors on the sedan locked with a loud click.  Anyu tried to pry open the locks; they would not budge.

Understanding her life was in danger she quickly found her sword and drew it from her pack as the man stepped towards Seo-jun with his laser épée.  Closing his eyes and controlling his breath, the locks flew open.  Anyu rolled onto the ground to safety. Lifting a finger, the stranger threw all of Anyu belongings out of the car including the stray kolache which rolled in its protective plastic sandwich bag until it hit Anyu’s pack as Anyu found her feet.

The man with the épée advanced on Seo-jun, “You will leave this world, Seo-jun.”

Seo-jun sneered, “And who will make me?  You?”

“If I must,” confirmed the man, raising his épée and planting his feet firmly to attack.

“Your powers of mind are limited.  Your powers of flesh are even more limited.  When can your kind ever defeat us?” guffawed Seo-jun.

“Perhaps I will die trying,” offered the man.

Anyu raised her sword, taking a defensive position with her strange benefactor, “If he dies, he does not die alone!”

“I did not come here for you, Princess.  But if you wish to die too, I can arrange that.  Pity though; you are worth so much more to me alive – unlike your friend here,” frowned Seo-jun.

“Come now, what would Lady Laela think if she heard you talk that way?  You cannot simply dispose of her favourite pet without provoking her wrath!” cried the stranger sarcastically, his feet instinctively falling into the ritualized martial arts forms of the knights of Gurun.  Anyu smiled, recognizing the steps from countless lessons by Lady Knight Aldris of the knights of Gurun, her feet gliding into complimentary forms in accord with the Gurun style of fighting.  Their two swords – one heritage and one modern – seemed to dance joyfully as they met each other’s eyes.  Two complete strangers yet suddenly comrades in arms.

Undaunted, Seo-jun rolled his eyes, half amused at the irony of a man from the past wielding the modern weapon while the adolescent daughter of Beinan’s conquered queen wielded a heritage sword. It was, from a larger perspective, downright comical while being, from another point of view, rather heroic. “You both surely must realize how useless both your weapons are against me.”

“That has yet to be seen,” challenged the stranger.  “I have never actually attacked one of your species before – but since you obviously are intent on taking one or both of us to Lord Yelu, I see little incentive to not at least try.”  In affirmation, the stranger lunged at Seo-jun with his blade, much to Seo-jun’s annoyance.

Seo-jun deflected the blade with a wave of just one finger, “I am no longer amused.”  Anyu, unaffected by Seo-jun’s telekinesis, glided closer, cutting her blade down and slicing ever so slightly into his shoulder. A few drops of black blood spilled onto the ground, sizzling against the payment acidly.  Seo-jun faced her, his eyes like blue flames, “Unwise!”

Just as Seo-jun was about to throw Anyu into a nearby car with his mind, he observed several native humans approaching their position, obviously attracted by the noise.  A man wearing the navy blue uniform of the State College police department approached cautiously, his firearm drawn.  Seo-jun’s eyes changed back to their brown disguise.  Stepping back towards his sedan, he opened the door, “Very well then, since this place is far too crowded for my taste, let us defer this conversation for another beinor.  I trust you will make peace with your goddesses by then.  I would hate to see your soul trapped around this world.”  Sitting down in the sedan, Seo-jun closed the door, engaged the internal combustion engine, and drove away.

Relieved, the stranger stepped out around a car to turn off his laser épée out of sight of the police officer.  Anyu pulled her sword sheath out of her pack, “What just happened?”

“I would think that would be obvious,” answered the stranger as the police officer reached them.

“State College police,” announced the officer.  “Are you okay?”

Anyu looked at the officer and offered a respective bow, “Yes!  Yes we are – thanks to you!”  The police officer tipped his cap politely before turning back, unwilling to get more involved than absolutely necessary.  Anyu turned once more to the stranger, “Well, now that’s over – did you know that Seo-jun creature?”

‘I do; I did,” admitted the stranger as he re-joined Anyu.

“Who is he?  Perhaps more importantly who are you?”

“That is a long story – to both questions.  I am not entirely certain I know who you are – except that you are not of this world. Why did he call you ‘princess?’”

“I do not know how you know I am not of this world – but he called me ‘princess’ because I am the daughter of my people’s reigning sovereign queen.”

The stranger took off his watch, “This looks like an ordinary multi-function time piece such as local men of wealth wear – but it is not.”  Demonstrating, he tapped the surface of the timepiece rapidly three times.  The display changed. “As I hope you know, all life on this world is kol-based, not silizium-based like we are.  This function scans for silizium-based life.  That is how I found both Seo-jun and you, actually.  All three of us are silizium-based.  But beyond that – all I can tell is that Seo-jun appears to be after both of us – not just me.”

“That name – Lady Laela – sounds familiar. Who is she?”

“Assuming these readings are correct and you come from B345A15 Quartus, also known as planet Beinan?”

“Yes, that is my home world.”

“Mine as well.  Have you ever been to the castle temple of Abka Biya overlooking the Amba Mederi Ocean in Bira Hecen?”

“Yes.

“Do you remember a strange woman with metallic blue eyes who takes care of the temple’s observatory?”

“Vaguely – she did something – scanned me perhaps?  I came to the temple to seek refuge from strange dreams I was having.  She said I was seeing someone I knew in another life – someone named Janus who I later came to recognize as the same soul as this Lord Yelu the Bastard who has no doubt overthrown the Gurun dynasty.”

“Precisely.  That is Lady Laela.”

“You know her?”

“Better than you do – and so does Seo-jun.”

“Who is he?”

“A very dangerous person from an ancient race – Lady Laela’s race actually.  We first met them – we call them ‘The Amur’ – during the Great Migration.  Woe to all Beinarians that beinor ever came.”

“My name is Anyu – Lady Engineer Anyu.”

“You are both a princess and an engineer?”

“Yes.  You find that strange lord…”

“The locals call me ‘Christopher.’”

“That is not your name.”

“No.”

“Why give me an alias?”

“I will tell you my birth name – in time.  This is hardly the place to discuss our world.”

“Agreed.”

“I have a home in town where we can talk more privately – it is not far from here.”

“Lead the way!”

 

Character Profile: Thunder

Seventh NightCharacter name:  Thunder
Parents names:  Storm and Majesty
Character’s Date of Birth: 24th day of the 11th month, year of reason 324
Place of Birth: Stables of Lord Harold of Fortesdale
Book appearing in: Seventh Night 
Profile:  Thunder is a black winged unicorn with a gold horn and unusually large for his breed.  He’s head strong and loyal and loves attention, particularly from his rider Phillip, who acquired a giant’s saddle from a trio of passing showmen.  Thunder loves to fly, with or without his rider, and being part pegasus, he has a good tolerance for the cold weather and enjoys playing in the snow.
Ideal actor or actress to play in a film adaptation:  As a big fan of spotlighting undiscovered talent, I’d leave that up to the casting director.

Top Four Independent Author Mistakes Certain to Drive Away Readers, Potential Reviewers

new-york-times-best-selling-author3As an independent author who is very active on social media (twitter, facebook, and pinterest), I see a lot of book marketing posts.  If you read this blog regularly, you know I have eleven titles out and will be publishing my twelfth, Princess Anyu Returns, sometime before the 28th of February.  So I feel like I know something about this business.

 

Here are the top four mistakes I see independent authors making that are absolutely certain to drive away potential readers.

 

#1 Mentioning you checked spelling and grammar in your book description or on social media.

I am genuinely shocked at the number of times “authors” tout this as a reason to buy their book.  It takes MINUTES to run spell check in a word processing program.  You do not get a gold star or a pat on the head for doing this.  Adults are expected to do this.  Likewise, telling us that you hired an editor to correct your typos only tells us that you do not possess the language skills to write, let alone publish a book.

Writing is a job, a profession.  Treat it that way.  If you need editorial help, hire an editor. That is fine and many experts say you should anyway.  But for heaven’s sake, the only appropriate place to mention you used one is in the credits of your book — quietly and without any noise.

 

#2 NOT correcting spelling, grammar errors

Right after telling someone you corrected your spelling errors, the next best way to drive away a potential reader is to publish with spelling, typing, punctuation, and grammar errors in your book or in the book description.

Why?  Because leaving these errors in your published book screams of unprofessionalism.  It says “I expect you to treat me as a serious writer, but I am not going to bother to fix my mistakes before you read my book.”  It  disrespects readers and it hurts your reputation.

That said, mistakes do happen and sometimes they slip past the best of editors.  What distinguishes the best professionals from everyone else is the response given to locating these errors.  Professionals will quickly and quietly fix any errors they find and resubmit their books to their publishing platforms, knowing that doing so offers future readers a more perfect and more desirable product for purchase.

 

#3 Indiscriminately spamming social media and bloggers

No one likes a hard sell.  As a matter of fact in today’s world we are so accustomed to advertisements across media formats that we instinctively tune out ads in favor of engagement.  We want to be talked to and not talked at.

Enter social media forums and facebook groups, each of them designed around a central theme or purpose.  An effective group offers members conversation and social opportunities.  An effective book marketing group is a place where readers (potential customers) can discover new books without having to sift through a flood of advertisements for books they are not interested in.  This is one reason why I love Tom Tinney’s “Promoting My Published Book,” group.  By enforcing a strict set of rules for posting, readers are able to browse listings relevant to them without having to sift through posts of absolutely no interest to them.

Follow these rules and you are golden; you reach the readers most interested in buying your posts.  But post without care or concern for what the group is about and you alienate not only readers, but the colleagues and potential reviewers most willing and able to get the word out about your books.

#4 Being difficult to reach

For me personally, the number one reason why people buy my books is that I am accessible.  I am easy to reach and I spend large sections of nearly every day on social media answering questions and talking to people. The easier you are to reach, the more people connect with you.  The better they connect with you and the better the rapport you build on social media, the more likable you become and more appealing your books become.

 

Remember:  people buy from people, not corporations.  Be a warm, friendly, accessible professional online and you are certain to see your sales skyrocket.

 

 

 

 

The wind is always there

My simple prayer this evening:

cockatoo in flightHoly Mother, Creatrix of all you know I trust in you and truly believe that everything is happening as it should, that there is a hidden wind beneath my wings. I know that though my feathers are wet from torrents of rain and snow, I know in my heart you are always there to strengthen me.

You also know that for all my faith and trust, sometimes I feel sad. Sometimes those wet feathers feel so wet I am not positive all the time that I can fly. Sometimes I feel a bit anxious because if I fall, it looks like a very long way down.

But for all the inner tremblings, I know your wind is always there. All I need to do is believe in your gentle guiding wind. In the gale, it sometimes feel like no bird can fly. But you are there.

 

Please, Holy Mother, Creatrix, help me to feel your wind under my wings when my feathers are soaked, bring people in my life to cheer me on and tell me they believe in me.

Every bird must fledge, must dare to touch the sky. Be with me and show me how to soar.

Character Profile: Nellie

Nellie KnowsSeries the character belongs to: The Rabbit And The Fox Series

Character name: Nellie

Book appearing in: Nellie Knows How To Knot A Neck Scarf

Profile:  Nellie loves dressing up. She loves wearing pretty dresses, fun hats, cute shoes and long flowy scarves. Scarves are Nellie’s very favorite accessory.

Ideal actor or actress to play in a film adaptation:  Mia Talerico