Excerpt and Giveaway: “On Angels and Rabbit Holes

It’s taken the better part of four years, but this week marks the release of my debut novel, On Angels and Rabbit Holes. I’m so excited, and have so much to share about this book. The odd thing is, I’ve talked about other authors and promoted them extensively, but haven’t done much to promote my own book. It seems I’m better at plugging for others… but this deserves recognition, and I will crow about it, because it’s the kind of book that sticks with you… for all the right reasons.  OnAngelsandRabbitHolesCover

The novel is best described as “magical realism” — there’s a mystical, almost supernatural twist to the goings-on inside the brain of the protagonist, Corrie Weber. It’s a love story, and a book about the complexity of relationships. It’s about the depth and breadth of conviction, and understanding one’s strengths. It’s about forgiveness and loss. More than anything else, it’s about growth.

It’s also about chronic illness… in this case, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, migraine, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, and synesthesia. As someone who’s lived with these conditions, I made sure not to pull punches: you’ll get a heavy dose of what it’s like to experience them. You won’t see it coming — you’ll just get pulled in, the way it happens in real life. I’ve been told by others who’ve been diagnosed with one or more of these neurological “disorders” that the prose is highly evocative and transportive… even somewhat uncomfortable. It’s about as close to experiencing it for yourself as you can get and still sit safely in your favorite reading spot.

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s going to be an orange night. Orange makes it hard to breathe. Orange nights are thick like itchy winter blankets, and always scary.

Briefly, Corrie’s thoughts revert to normalcy and she realizes she’s having another nightmare, the kind that happen when she’s awake and sleepy. In a way, they’re worse than the other kind, the ones where she wakes up in a sweat and calling for her mom because she’s frightened by some unnamed terrible thing. The angels play a different game.

Corrie wonders briefly where the sheep went. She sees them then, orange and dense, making her left arm ache. Her face hurts from the thought of the sheep, the weight pushing down on her arm and making her head feel heavy. The woolly orange sheep bleat a sound like laughter, at once both distant and oppressively close.

The laughter issuing from her father’s television show is long and slow, a mockery of real laughter. Stretched out like this, it sounds like a threat, like a bad clown, its smile turned sticky and dangerous.

Corrie’s eyes are open but her bedroom isn’t what it was; her sheets suffocate her and her bed swallows her. She opens her mouth and releases her terror out into the night. It might be a scream or a laugh, or it might be something like the bleating of sheep. It is weightless, meaningless.

The uncounted sheep that wandered away have returned, and now they’re painful and orange, their cries like the echoing, dissonant, watery sound of her own voice under water. She tastes the sound of it. She sees the feeling of it. The opaque, slow movement of its turbulence leaves a palpable wake in her mind as it passes.

It doesn’t make sense, and she can’t stop it. Being awake does nothing to keep these waking dreams away. They warp everything she knows, and leave her disoriented, exhausted and confused. They’re wrong. They turn reality widdershins.

She distantly remembers that colors aren’t felt. Sounds aren’t seen. Angels are soft, pretty, glowing things. They smile. They make you safe. Except for here, in this place in her head. Sometimes the door opens and she falls in, or they fall out. In the space of a heartbeat, sometimes things right themselves, and Corrie remembers things as they ought to be. A beat later, her open-eyed dream carries her away again, and it doesn’t surprise her. She walks a familiar path every time, and never sees the next step until she takes it.

Corrie takes another intentionally shallow breath, trying to keep from flying off the bed, afraid it will happen anyhow. Each breath is ballast, the thing that keeps her balanced and steady. Right now, it’s the difference between a hand that rocks a cradle and one that tips it over. The moment impresses itself upon her heavily, insistently. It’s a television show that’s always at precisely the same point, every time the set’s turned on. She knows what’s going to happen next; nothing really changes with the waking nightmare in her head.

She tries not to move. She feels the motion anyhow.

Her head rewrites the rules. She is afraid she will become lost and never find her way back home. She searches for the memory of her mother’s face. It’s slippery, but Corrie grasps for it as desperately as a tether in a storm.

Based on the feedback I’ve received so far, it’s being well-received. I read extensively, and confess that this book really is beautiful. There’s also a paperback copy of it up for grabs at Goodreads — enter now! The giveaway lasts only a week!

Giveaway dates:Mar 11 – Mar 19, 2017

Countries available:US, CA, GB and AU

Format:Print Book

On Angels and Rabbit Holes is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle — it’s a great read, and one worth sharing.

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Review: Curse on the Land, by Faith Hunter

Curse on the Land is all about soul: the souls who are lost, the ones who save themselves, the ones in conflict, the alien nature of the soul, and the soul of the land.  It’s the common thread that ties the elements of the second installment in the Soulwood series by Faith Hunter together.

Hunter doesn’t bash you over the head with it… it’s a theme that weaves itself gently throughout the storyline, much as ivy will work its way from its roots and weave itself into a pattern over anything it grabs.  Its subtlety is part of what makes it so lovely.

At the core of this story is the emergence of the protagonist Nell Ingram into mainstream society… but she does it in a truly roundabout way.  Her induction into this world is ushered in through her involvement with PsyLED (a magical law enforcement agency) and recent graduation from Spook School.  It’s a highly exclusive club whose members are anything but average.

Just as Nell is anything but average.  Here’s a sample of the goodies:curseontheland

“T. Laine?” I said again. She took another step. And another. I called her name, louder. When she didn’t turn, training took over. I rushed her. Dropped. Tackled her at the hips. One hand ripping the gun away from her. And to my feet.
She came up swearing, fists swinging, and she shouted,. “What the holy hell do you think you’re doing? Gimme me my gun!”
I held the weapon at her, centered on her chest.
T. Laine’s face underwent a series of changes. “What the holy hell. Nell?”
“Are you back in your right mind?”
“Huh?”
“Who is president of the US? Who is the leader of Unit Eighteen?”
She answered both questions, her expression shifting from anger to bewilderment. “What happened?”
I lowered the weapon. Uncurled my finger from the trigger and placed it along the slide. Dropped my shoulders, which had hunched up at the stress of watching T. Laine fall under some weird kind of compulsion.

She doesn’t even rate “average” among those whose standards include tails, magic slinging and mind reading abilities.  Nell is a square peg in a set of ovals.  But this isn’t to say that Nell’s a superstar.  She’s delightfully awkward, flawed, naive and child-like, despite her depths.

She’s a fascinating heroine, one who’s admirable in both her strengths and her weaknesses.  If you’re going to fall in love with a character (as have I), she’s a magificent example of a strong female who’s believable, likable and compelling… and for a paranormal book that’s saying something.

Bonus for word junkies — the prose in this book can be absolutely haunting:

I was met with a feeling of warmth, of welcome, as if the land was awake now and waiting for me.  As if it had expanded, unfolded, yawned and reached out to welcome me.

Just gorgeous. This is what happens when an author knows how to build emotion through the careful use of sentence structure and word choice.  That’s art.

Do yourself a favor and check out this novel.  It’s the shot in the literary arm paranormal fiction needs.

I received Curse on the Land as an ARC but I’m buying it on audio since I love the performances of Khristine Hvam, and especially loved her delivery on the first Soulwood novel, “Blood of the Earth” (you can find it at Audible here).

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Why the Kerfuffle About “Pecuilar Children” is Absurd

If you’ve read the Ransom Riggs series upon which the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie was based (and I have), you’d know that it’s set in WWII-era England, and it’s based on sensational, somewhat scary, “freak show”-style photographs written into the storyline. It’s a best-selling fantasy series targeted at Young Adults but has also been eagerly devoured by adult fans of the genre.

That doesn’t mean it’s an easy trilogy to get through.  It’s quite disturbing and challenging, in its own way.

The Big Racial Diversity Issue, and Why It Doesn’t Apply Here

It’s fair to say that Hollywood has a lot of changes to make in order to more fairly represent the demographics of this country in film.  That’s not to say that it’s always appropriate or even sensible to do it just for the sake of doing it.  Make the right film with the right actors, and do it the right way and you’ll be helping balance those scales.

If critics contend that the movie lacks ethnic diversity, it might be helpful to consider this: it does offer something perhaps equally accessible in terms of message, and, certainly, is quite fitting for the genre.  The labels that define us are seen for the restrictive and artificial constructs they really are.  And you will most certainly find diversity (read: unique peculiarities, hence the title) in the books.  It underscores many sad and beautiful truths by laying them bare, but it does so slantwise.

It’s not about race at all, but it very much expounds on the value of individuals who must work together to survive and prosper.  At its core, it’s about what brings us together, and why we must see our differences as strengths, and not something to divide us.  It is about the protection of a threatened and diverse group of people who are often exploited, but rise above it.

Fantasy is a wonderful way to introduce abstract concepts to a young audience without Spelling It Out In Capital Letters.

And I can see why Burton wanted it so.  It’s macabre, dark, and it still celebrates the beauty in little things, and the precious core of what makes us all human.  So, he got that right.

The story is terrifying and really quite nightmarish at times…at least, the books are. I read lots of grimdark fantasy (in truth, I’m not a huge fan of that sub-genre descriptor, but it is accurate, if a bit corny…but I digress).  Peculiar Children still unnerved me at points. This series is about children — a diverse group from all walks of life in Britain. They come together, first to hide, and then to fight their exploitation and persecution using their talents, which some see as a blessing, and others, a curse, but they all contribute. Burton’s a celebrity and clearly either doesn’t care or isn’t thinking about what he says in response to the criticisms, but as far as this film adaptation goes, it’s not likely a valid point at all.

The books are beautiful and terrifying, even as they were written as Young Adult fantasy, and that’s what Burton adapted for the screen. To criticize the film because of its lack of ethnic diversity is, frankly, stupid. It’s a valid criticism in other films, perhaps, but in this case, it seems rather like people searching for bones to pick.

Tim Burton is not my favorite director. I like some of his work, but I’m not a huge fan. However, this kerfuffle seems to me just a lot of noise about something that really isn’t an issue. I’ve seen his comments on the lack of racial and ethnic representation in his films, and he’s entitled to his opinion, but I’m not going to knock this film for it.  If you dish it out for this film, you must do the same for the novels.  And I’m not going to do that.  Dictating to authors what they should or shouldn’t write on the grounds that fiction should necessarily promote social order and fairness is called censorship. Again, not a fan.

When all else fails… read the book.

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Review: “Blood of the Earth” (Soulwood #1)

Before I say anything else, understand that I’m a huge fan of Faith Hunter‘s work.  I love her voice, the care with which she develops her settings, the evocative imagery and language, and — most of all — I love her character development.  That she gives urban fantasy a shot in the arm with each new novel and short story only adds to my appreciation.

Frankly, I was concerned that her new series Soulwood wouldn’t be able to deliver the same rich, beautiful mix of elements, painted with the hand of a poet, I have come to admire.

My only complaint is that I fell in love at the onset with Blood of the Earth, and now have to wait until November (THREE WHOLE MONTHS!!!) for the release of its sequel, Curse on the Land.

If you’re familiar with her Jane Yellowrock books, you’ll recognize some significant recurring characters.  This is a spinoff novel that has enough depth and chops to hold its own… and, quite honestly, that also describes the book’s heroine and protagonist, Nell Ingram.  She’s more than plucky… she’s fiercely independent, but also lonely.  She’s fragile, but unyielding.  Her world view is viewed as limited by others, but her mental and emotional flexibility is one of her more appealing traits.

Without giving too much away, she’s a woman making a life for herself outside the church/cult (depending on your perspective) of her childhood.  She’s forced to deal with situations and people out of her comfort zone, and the conflicts this causes in her life ripple out with ever-broadening revelations… about herself, her world, her family, and everything she thinks she knows to be true.  Don’t think that makes it “chick lit” — although you will likely find this an enjoyable read if that’s a genre you keep on your bookshelves.

Nell isn’t human.  She’s something entirely new and different, which, combined with elements taken from the Jane Yellowrock world, satisfies those who, like me, love urban fantasy but long for something different to spice up the genre.  “What” she is is spooled out over the course of this novel, and hinted at in “Off the Grid” (a short story in the Blood in Her Veins Yellowrock anthology).  I’m waiting for the next Soulwood installment to explore this further, as it’s really a fascinating twist on the usual paranormal fare.  It’s at once deeply spiritual and nightmarish… you’ll have to read it to understand.

You still get a bit of romance here, and I’m delighted it’s not the depraved, bodice-ripping sort. There’s a place for that, but I like my books light on the sex and heavy on rich plots and complex character development.  Check, and check.Soulwood1BloodoftheEarth

I will say this:  I read voraciously, daily.  But for me to review a book on my blog or leave more than a starred review on Goodreads, I must have very strong feelings about it.  This review is done not out of a sense of solidarity or support for an author whose work I enjoy (and I most certainly do admire her and her work), but because something about this book sticks with me and I cannot shake it.  I don’t want to shake it.  I want more of it.

At one part of this story, I was actually moved to tears.  This was due in no small part to the phenomenal work of voice actor Khristine Hvam, who delivered a completely soulful audio performance of this novel.  I loved this particular scene so much, I listened to it twice… the second time, with my eyes closed and tears welling.  I hate spoilers in reviews but I will say it happened during a point at which Nell has a profoundly personal experience in the woods.  Her understanding of it unfolds and evokes the most raw, real emotion in the reader… in me.

INFJUnlimitedPotential

I’m an INFJ and made this a few years ago. The message applies to me and to Nell. ❤

Nature is an important part of this book, as is the way different people view the land and work with or against it.  It makes for an interesting sidelong discussion that will prick at you long afterward.  You’ll likely look at your garden or the closest forested area in a new light.  And that’s well and good in any case.  It’s kind of Nell’s “thing.”

Nell and I would get along very well, I think.  She’s an introvert and empathetic almost to a fault.  She loves her solitude but also longs for connection.  Superficial things don’t interest her.  Meaningful things do.  If you were to work out her MBTI personality type, I’d peg her as an INFJ.  Takes one to know one.

And she loves to read.  Oh, my soul sister has an entire book series!

If you’re longing for a truly wonderful new heroine, check out this series.  You’ll thank me for it.

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Viking Cruise? Absolutely!

At almost-46, I’m not exactly a spring chicken.  I’m not saying I’m ready for golf carts and senior discounts yet, but I’m certainly past the age of wanting to party all night, sleep 4 hours and repeat the next day.  If I’m being honest — and you know I will — I was never much for that even as a college student, unless working 3 jobs and a late dinner at Denny’s at 2 a.m. counts as partying.

That being said, I’m more than ready to embrace the slower, quieter, more thoughtful pace of a Viking river cruise.  I know this because I enjoyed one such cruise in April, and already I’m wishing I could go back and repeat the experience.

I was the youngest person aboard.  This makes for a decidedly novel experience, when I consider my white hair and the use of a cane (I have severe rheumatoid arthritis).  Even if I didn’t have RA, though, I appreciated the good food, slower pace, tour itinerary, and not being kept awake by inebriated neighbors stumbling into their rooms at 3 in the morning after drinking all night at a club.  While that might be the ideal way for lots of people to enjoy a vacation, it has never EVER ranked on my to-do list.

I hadn’t been on a vacation without my kids in over 15 years.  I’d been going through a very rough time personally, and I needed the diversion more than I could possibly have known.  Quiet time, relaxation, and allowing myself to be pampered and led was exactly what worked to get my groove back.

PostcardsFromVikingCruise

Postcards from Paris, Trier, and Heidelberg, from our Rhine Rhapsody Viking cruise.  I miss you, Europe! 

Our only irritating companion was the cold, steady drizzle of the rain along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in Germany.  That’s easily conquered with some hot coffee, a good umbrella, and intoxicating scenery…. the latter of which we had in spades.

We got a cabin with a balcony at water-level.  Here’s what you get to do with that:  on a good day (which is most days, rain or no), you open the sliding glass door and sit on the veranda with a book and a beverage.  The vineyards slip by.  There’s very little noise and when the boat is underway, you don’t even feel the motion… it’s smoother and more relaxing than sitting in a car with the windows down on a scenic drive.  You can smell the fresh earth, new growth on trees, and even see the occasional person out walking their dog along the banks of the river.  On a less-than-stellar day, open the door and take in the same view from the comfort of the bed.

I did that on most days.  It was HEAVENLY.

The food was wonderful, if not a bit limited in variety.  For our 10-day trip (8 of which were spent aboard), we had no complaints about the food.  As for the ports of call, my issue was that you spend so little time at each location, there’s no time to explore on your own.  Honestly, 40 minutes after the end of a guided tour to see whatever you can squeeze in and then get back to the bus or be left behind is pushing it a bit.  I would have loved an entire day in Trier, for example.  There was simply no time to see the Imperial baths, which appeared remarkably well-preserved as we sped past them on our bus tour toward the old city center and Black Gate.  I also would have loved more time in Heidelberg, but if I ever return to the area, I probably won’t limit myself to the Viking tours.  That’s not to say that our tour guides for both cities weren’t amazing… just that I’d like to see more.

The fact is, you’re on rather a tight schedule with Viking cruises.  The ships have to be at the locks at certain times, and if you irritate the lockmaster, you risk getting booted to the end of the line to wait your turn through the lock… and that puts everything else off schedule.

It’s somewhat unnerving to be on the boat anywhere near a window when it’s passing through a lock, by the way.  The sides are so close!  It’s not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic.

Viking has flooded my inbox and mailbox with at least a hundred messages and brochures in the three months since we returned from our trip.  When I saw their 2-for-1 deal (no airfare, either), I decided to investigate.  Down the hole I fell!  Honestly, if it wasn’t so darned expensive even with the discounts, I’d have booked another cruise this week.  Alas, 10K for 2 weeks is too steep a price for our budget.  Should they make the Grand European Tour priced within reach, expect another cruise update soon.

I could do with a repeat adventure.

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Just Call Me Pokémom

The day after most of my former students — now grown and most with kids of their own — downloaded Pokémon Go, I decided to do the same.

It’s not because I’m trendy (I’m as far from that as I could be and still reside in the same hemisphere).  I’m not into Pokémon, either.  That’s something my kids grew up playing, and all but one have mostly outgrown.PokeScreenshot

I did it because I saw a way to connect with my kids in a way I hadn’t before.

Let me state up front that we’re close… it’s just hard for me to get them excited about being outside in bathwater-level humidity while the ambient temperature outside approximates that of solar plasma.

Here’s my take on Pokémon Go, not that anyone cares. If you’re working, it’s stupid and counterproductive, and patently dangerous if you’re working with machinery or driving (or lifeguarding, teaching, etc). I’ve rolled my eyes and moaned in frustration at the kid who skateboarded right in front of my van in a parking lot, because he was after something on his phone.  I wondered at the irony of people sitting in a church parking lot near my house, their lights aimed right into my bedroom, because it’s a designated gym and they had to digitally duke it out at 2 a.m.

But before you make fun of it, let me tell you what it’s done for me.

It’s encouraged my kids — all of whom are Vitamin-D deficient, despite living in the Sunshine State, two of whom also have autoimmune disorders — to walk in the sun with me (and walking with rheumatoid arthritis isn’t really a pleasant thing for me, generally speaking).

We’re spending time together, and they’re teaching me about something they’re excited about.  It’s compelled us to be silly and energized, exploring our town together. Today, for example, we checked out a cemetery behind my house we’ve not explored for the 11 years I’ve lived here. Shame we didn’t do it sooner; I’d have found the gate that’s always closed isn’t actually locked.

Turns out, we have some surprisingly old markers there, and we learned some things about residents who lived in this farming area years and years ago.

Also, my kid captured a Pokémon for me there — my strongest one, apparently (it has flowers on its head and is a grass type, so it makes sense it was hiding in this quiet place).  It was hanging out  behind a tree.

That being said, I embarrass myself daily, and the kids love it.  I mispronounce the names of most of the critters in my Pokédex.  I’m just happy I’ve somehow absorbed through osmosis what a Pokédex is, and that Eevee is not just super-cute, but is capable of numerous Eeveelutions.  I shrieked when a spiderly-looking thing called a Paras popped up on my desk.  They chased me around with it.  It was silly, and fun, and absolutely perfect.

Instead of making fun of people, do your thing and let them do theirs, unless they’re being jackasses and looking at their dang phones when they should be paying attention to traffic. Then, by all means, be irritated.

The game reminds me of geogaching (which I always wanted to try) and, back further, the scavenger hunts we used to do as kids. The funny thing is this: my trip to Europe wasn’t enough to get me walking every day. Increasing my stamina hasn’t provided enough incentive. Neither has potential weight loss, improved self-esteem or motivational memes, or even those marathons and medals.

But spending time with my kids? THAT did it, and if a silly app is the cause, I’m okay with that.

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Can I Get an Amen? *Fangirl Squee*

Yep.  It was an awesome Game of Thrones season finale.  Indeed, we viewed both cringe-worthy and cheer-worthy scenes.  I even needed a tissue at one point to blot tears.  Teeny tiny ones.  But a girl threw her fist in the air with a triumphant, “YES!” as Sam Tarly walked into the Citadel library.giphy

I felt an urge to be standing RIGHT THERE, inhaling the scents of parchment, leather, and polished rosewood (or the Westerosi/Essos equivalent).  All the books.  All the parchment.  Pfft.  Never mind that women aren’t admitted into the inner sanctum.  A homegirl could make it work.

And then they panned across the ceiling and I got to see the light fixtures…

*crickets chirping*

What?  Am I the only person out of the many GoT fans on my friends list on Facebook who did not catch them?

armillary-spheres-game-of-thrones-citadel-library-opening-credits (1)

They are the spinny metal engraved discs that spin and illuminate and transition through the opening sequence of the show!  THOSE THINGS.  They are hanging from the ceiling in the Citadel.

We’ve been watching them burn their images into our greedy little retinas for years now.

BaratheonGoTDisc

THOSE discs.  Right.  Got it.  HOW FREAKING COOL!!  They’ve been there all this time, and they show up in the LIBRARY!

What a library, though. *love*

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Florida, Fairly Wet-Land, and Home of Dangerous Things (Including Animals)

I’ve been a Florida resident for around 45 years.  I grew up during a time when you could drive on the beach and actually see water instead of condos from A1A.  A lot’s changed, obviously, but while the inevitability of the Urban Sprawl is an unfortunate expectation, it comes with a price: people who move here and say silly things like, “What is an alligator doing living near people?”Florida

And then I acquire a new set of bruises on my forehead from banging my head on the desk.

It seems that there’s a large chunk of the continental US and a pretty large number of Floridians (I’m going to assume urban-dwelling residents who don’t get out much or live near water… which is something of a feat living here) who haven’t yet heard the “news”: Florida is a very wet state, covered by large bodies of water, full of huge expanses of grassland, swampland, forested areas, and everything in between. Crazy, right?  Who’d have thought!?  But, wait — there’s MORE.

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An example of the very cute and mostly harmless native wildlife frolicking near the water.

We have lots of things living here (including people, alas) that are fully capable of causing you serious illness or injury. Many of these things evolved over millions of years to become the ultimate predator in this environment. People did not. We’re fairly recent to their scene, and are making our homes and building theme parks and malls right in the middle of their homes.

Is it really necessary for people to be informed of this upon flying or driving across state lines? Consider this a PSA, then.

LOL

See all of that blue?  Water.  Where there isn’t water… is suburbs.  Where there IS water?  Dangerous things, pretty things, things that mostly just want to go about the business of making noise and making babies.  Many of them bite.

This is an example of what you DON’T see. It’s roughly where I live. There’s a LOT of blue on this map slice. The blue is water, and that doesn’t include what pools up in ditches after a good soaking rain. Man-made or natural, if there’s a body of water deeper than spit on a sidewalk, there’s a fair chance you’ll have snapping turtles, alligators, and/or snakes nearby. Just assume they are better at hiding than you are at spotting them and you should be okay.

But you also get Experts assuming they speak with the voice of authority, who get it wrong, and make lots of noise about it.  Invariably, there will be someone who goes completely mental about our critters (in a “we must do something about this public menace that lives around our subdivision formerly-known-as-a-swamp” manner), someone who thinks it’s cute (never mind that it’s stupid and illegal) to feed them, and someone who thinks the State of Florida should hand out brochures at every interstate exit letting the Unwary know about the risks lurking just under the waterline, because DANGER!!

Frankly, you’re in more danger of getting hit by lightning on a golf course or being involved in a horrible accident due to impaired drivers getting behind the wheel.

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This little cutie frequents one of the many retention ponds near our house.  We’ve also seen snapping turtles and the odd alligator in these ponds.

Tragedies happen, sometimes heartbreaking losses, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely preventable. Still, it astounds me when people are shocked that their dogs get eaten while they’re barking at ducks around a pond, or a guy gets attacked while hiding from police by wading into a swamp. If there is a gutter, sewer, storm drain or canal, Florida’s own resident hunters will find a way through them.

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Game of Thrones: Where I Think It’s Headed, and Why

GameofThronesI haven’t looked around the internet, because I don’t want to be spoiled (you just never know!) and there are plenty of clever bloggers and GoT fans who have worked out goodly chunks of the plot through HBO’s hugely successful adapted-to-screen series by Sadist, Brilliant Writer and Master of Many Deaths, George R. R. Martin.

I’m not a very clever blogger, but I’m putting down my thoughts on record so I can “neener, neener, neener” my way to bragging rights RIGHT NOW, so as the loooong wait until the next (hopefully not final, but I have my suspicions) season crawls slowly forward, I can say to my husband/mom/brother/friends, “I called it!”  In the likely event that I get something wrong… well, hope springs eternal, even for fans of THIS show.  We’re used to disappointment.

Everyone else who’s read the books and/or watches the show has an Opinion.  Here are mine.

Daenerys Targaryen

A few things here… Dragon Girl is going to take the throne.  We all know this is going to happen.  But she won’t do it alone, and I don’t think her reign will be a lonely one.  More than that, I think she’ll be more than the figurehead beloved of the downtrodden, killer of Khals, mother of dragons, and breaker of chains.

Let’s start with that damnable curse/prophecy laid on her by the midwife and witch Mirri Maz Duur.  Tricky, self-fulfilling things, aren’t they?  Let’s review.

“When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” said Mirri Maz Duur. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then [Drogo] will return, and not before.”

I’m leaning toward prophecy, rather than curse.  Daenerys  seems to have accepted infertility as a foregone conclusion.  She lost her son, Rhaego, with the death of his father, Khal Drogo, due to shock, the effect of the dark magic ritual she completed at Duur’s urging, or as a result of her lineage.  Perhaps it’s because she was young at the time of her pregnancy, endured hardships for which she was not mentally or physically prepared, was herself a child born of an incestuous marriage (and her parents, also the product of an incestuous marriage), and may very well have a genetic predisposition to infertility and/or birth defects… or whether the loss of her child was, as she believes, caused by a curse, Daenerys believes herself infertile.

If viewed as a prophecy, Daenerys could very well still bear a child after years of infertility.  Perhaps it would take the right conditions, and the right man… say, Jon Snow. Or, perhaps not.  And if their child was named Drogo… he, Drogo, will have, in a sense, returned.

So what about the sun rising in the west?  Sounds impossible, right?  So does walking through a fire.  Weirder things have happened. Right now, I’m looking through the invaluable (and addictive) appendix in A Dance With Dragons.  Go ahead… grab your copy.

Notice the section for House Martell of Dorne?   Yes, those Martells… the ones who are on the warpath for mostly justifiable reasons too numerous to count?

Then young Prince Quentyn of Martell shows up, pledging  to the Mother of Dragons “fifty thousand spears and swords” — and Daenarys asks Ser Barristan to identify the arms of House Martell.  He replies, “A sun in splendor, transfixed by a spear.”

Instead of the witch’s curse, though, she’s reminded of  Quaithe’s “prophecy” (also eerily similar):

What else had Quaithe said?  The pale mare and the sun’s son.  There was a lion in it, too, and a dragon.

We know Quentyn, a potential candidate, engages in a highly stupid attempt to master the resident dragons, and dies a fiery, dragon-induced death.  The sun falls in the east.

The children of “Sunspear” daughter Elia Martell and Rhaegar Targaryen were thought to have been murdered by Gregor Clegaine, but in this book, Varys claims to have switched infants to protect Aegon, and another child was murdered instead.  We really can’t be sure, because even at the gory scene, the child’s face was unrecognizable.  Nonetheless, Tywin Lannister proclaimed the body to be that of the child Aegon, and despite false trails and misdirection (of which Varys is highly skilled), we honestly don’t know if this is true, or who this heir might be.  So the sun/son would be a Martell and a Targaryen, and could “rise” in Westeros as a power.

Stay with me.

Gregor Clegaine (Or, She’s Making Mountains out of Mole Hills)

The huge and horrible Gregor Clegane is called “The Mountain” — and while the books and TV series are not entirely in synch, that much, at least, is consistent. In Season Six, we see Clegane alive-ish, despite Martell’s best efforts to kill him.  He’s still a monster, but one without initiative.  The Mountain has fallen.  He’s not blowing “in the wind like leaves” but he’s certainly not what he was.  His brother Sandor, however, also a huge mountain of a man, has also experienced a radical transformation of sorts, as we see in “The Broken Man”.  He’s fallen, been discovered in the dirt and at death’s door by a stranger, and found himself in possession of hours he doesn’t feel he deserves, in a life  he counted all but over.  He’s experiencing a shift in thinking at the moment.  He’s in the process of becoming something new.  Both he and his brother have been instrumental in the change that’s taking place in Westeros.  Both men have taken and traded lives, and paid for it.

But while both of them have fallen, Gregor has become nothing more than an instrument of death.  Anything he was has been reduced to raw materials in a sense.  Sandor is on the cusp of something…more.

But the prophecy mentions mountains… plural.  Maybe there’s more than one way to work through this.

I’m not sure about the sea reference.  I think it goes back to the Smoking Sea, the cursed land and waters near Old Valyria which were rocked hundreds of years prior by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  The Stone Men are all that seem to inhabit these waters.  If it’s still geologically active, it’s possible that this could cause a mountain to collapse, ash to fly, and the sea to dry (with earthquakes and the tidal waves that could follow, this could be a very real consequence).

So the mountain and the sun are mentioned in the prophecy/curse, and the Mountain/Sunspears have a direct connection to a possible legitimate Targaryan heir.

Who might this heir be?  Well, this would have been fifteen years before the events in A Song of Fire and Ice.

That would be right around the time Jon Snow was born.  Right around the time Ned Stark brought home a kid he inexplicably raises as his own, but never formally legitimizes and recognizes as a Stark.

Jon Snow

Not only do I not think Jon is Ned Stark’s bastard son, but I’m kind of conflicted about the guy’s parentage.

On the one hand, I do think he could be the missing Targaryen heir.   I think it’s entirely possible he’s the child of Rhaegar and Elia.  In A Dance With Dragons, a man identified as Aegon VI takes advantage of the infighting in Westeros to try to claim a foothold.  He might have purple eyes and act the part, but I’m not entirely sold.  At this point, everyone and his half-cousin has made a claim on the throne, so why not a Targaryen who was presumed and declared deceased?  I believe he’d be Danaerys’ nephew, but that’s not a deal breaker with the biggest families in the Seven Kindgoms.  Ick.

Then again, he could also be the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar, who very publicly acknowledged her beauty, kidnapped her, and raped her.  This attack not only instigated a massive war, but Jon could very well have been conceived in this violence.

In Season Six, we see Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven exploring history in a “visit” back through time to the tower where Lyanna is held captive.  We see Ned Stark as a young man, fighting to save his sister, along with his brothers and a young Howland Reed.  Lyanna (presumably) can be heard screaming, but we never see exactly why.  Is she being attacked?  Or is she suffering the agony of childbirth?

If the latter is the case, it goes a long way to explaining why Ned Stark comes home from the war with a baby, one he never explains to Catelyn’s satisfaction, and a constant cause of jealousy and hatred from her.  Poor Jon.

And, while no one ever hinted that Robert Baratheon and Lyanna were ever more than betrothed (although Robert carried a torch for her well after her death and his marriage to Cersei Lannister), it’s possible that Jon could be Baratheon’s son.  I’m not sure about this one, though.  Lyanna was by all accounts headstrong and not easily pushed around, and I can’t imagine Ned would have remained friends if Robert had taken advantage of the arrangement in any way.  I get the sense that while Robert was a skirt chaser, he respected Lyanna enough to not have violated that trust… at least, not before they were married.  But, men… you just never know.  If Jon was their child, though, it would make him a legitimate heir to the throne.  He’d also make a reasonable match for Daenerys, since she wouldn’t be marrying into family.  A Baratheon would have the throne… and so would a Targaryen.  Tidy, that.

If Catelyn Stark and Jon Snow never heard the full story about his parentage, it’s likely we’re only going to hear it from Bran and his uncle Benjen… who would have the inside scoop as much as anyone left alive could, assuming anyone believed them.

Tyrion Lannister

We know he’s always been enchanted with dragons.  Even if you haven’t read the books, the HBO series established this early on.  And in Season Six, Tyrion becomes something of a dragon charmer in Daenery’s absence.  Why did the dragons not eat him?

I’m pretty certain that Tyrion’s a Lannister, and he isn’t.  Ser Barristan is asked by Daenarys to share what he knows about her father and mother, and who they would have chosen if they’d been “free to follow their own hearts.”  Barristan  tells her about a woman her father had his eye on, a “certain lady of Casterly Rock” who married her cousin, Tywin Lannister.

Tywin Lannister, who always hated Tyrion, who maintained until his death that Tyrion wasn’t his son.  Perhaps it wasn’t figurative language, or the petulance of a judgmental, horrid, self-absorbed man.  Barristan reveals that Prince Aerys drank too much at the wedding and expressed his views on the sexual liberties once granted as “the lord’s right” — and that Lannister never forgot those words or the “liberties [Aerys] took during the bedding.”

The only monkey wrench here is that I believe Tyrion’s siblings are older than he is — Cersei and Jaime might also be complications.  Possibly, Aerys is Tyrion’s father from a union that occurred after their birth.

So, it’s entirely possible that Tyrion is Daenarys’ half-brother.  I’d say it’s even likely.

Back to prophecies, curses and dreams. We’re looking at the pale mare, the sun’s son, the lion, the dragon, a mountain, and a sea running dry.

Still looking for clues.

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On Paranormal Fantasy… and Being Real

I’ve been a fan of Faith Hunter’s books for a long time.  She’s a prolific writer, which means I’ve been able to sink my teeth into her books, particularly her Jane Yellowrock novels, with delightful regularity.  It’s good to have a hobby that’s good for me, too.

As she’s currently promoting and enjoying the successful release of Shadow Rites (the series’ tenth installment), you won’t have any trouble finding lots of positive reviews, all well-deserved.  The book delivers the best of the genre, and continues to build on the rich history of her characters and the familiar sights and sounds of the South I know.

I’m not going to echo those reviews.  They’re right, naturally, in calling tShadowRiteshis book a success, and a highly gratifying read.  But what I’m compelled to share is what sets Faith Hunter’s writing apart from so many others in the urban fantasy and romantic urban fantasy genre.

And here’s why:  I appreciate artistry and subtlety.  I love complications.  I love imperfections in a character.  I love cleverness without pretension.

To be honest, if I read one more paranormal fantasy in which the protagonist is a suuuuper-powerful beautiful gem who enchants everyone, craps vanilla, attracts sexy paranormal admirers like deer to a salt lick, and saves the day with a toss of her perfect hair and snappy comebacks, I will be violently ill.

Because, let’s be honest… they’re a dime a dozen in this genre.

Gag.  There I go.

No worries here.

Jane Yellowrock is corny, flawed, awkward, imperfect, silly, impertinent, irreverent, and, quite often, blind to her own shortcomings.  She is brutally honest, sincere, and real.  She feels betrayal and hurts deeply.  She lives a genuine life, if one steeped in myth, legend, and impossible, fantastic elements.

This is why Shadow Rites works for me, why Faith Hunter connects on a level other authors don’t, or can’t.

In short, her heroine is someone with whom, despite her history (deep, wide and tall), many readers will identify.  She has bad hair days.  She has difficulty picking out clothes.  She’s comfortable in her own skin, but aware that she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  She’s discovering herself, even as she’s a child in many ways, and, ironically, is also rather an old soul.

She’s sexy without meaning to be.  She fights, loves, and feels life deeply and with abandon.  When she hurts, you ache with the pain of the depth of it.

She’s in touch with herself and honest, even about the ugly parts.  And she’s okay with that.

It works.

Jane wouldn’t relax enough to sit down for coffee with me, but if she did, we’d be okay just sitting, not talking.  She’s a hero I wish I could be.  She’s honorable, brave, and intensely, immensely protective of those she loves.  She hurts and heals.  She cries inside for things she can’t change.  She feels guilt for things she can’t control.

She’s multi-natured, many-layered.  She’s what women are, and try to hide, and that’s ironic, as Jane Yellowrock isn’t human.

She’s a badass, but not for glory’s sake.   She soldiers on when it’s hardest because she’s who she is, and she lives a life full of purpose and meaning, even if no one else understands her journey.  Even when it’s lonely.

I’m delighted every time I dive into Jane Yellowrock’s latest adventures, and love that she’s in the hands of Faith Hunter, who understands that the best things in life come with a bit of wear on them.

Find Shadow Rites here.  For an extra-special treat, grab it on Audible, too, because Kristine Hvam does a wonderful job with this series, and you’re worth it.

It’s nice, in this day of polished edges and edited photos and ridiculously artificial Instagram “slices of life” (which are anything but real) to get something close to honest, even in a fantasy novel.

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