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Book review of The Immortal Life of Piu Piu: A Magical Journey Exploring the Mystery of Life after Death (Dance Between Worlds Book 1) January 25, 2017

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41fel8exsnlAfrican author Bianca Gubalke has written an uplifting visionary fiction novel about the journey of soul. It started out in the first chapter with Anata, a soul in the inner realms, talking to an elder about her next life. She’s picked a hard life for her spiritual advancement in a small village in Western Cape coast of South Africa. A place that is beautiful with numerous plant species, animals, mountains, and ocean.

The elder warned Anata that her memory of who she really is as soul will disappear so she can create a new life. She won’t remember her true home but will search for it.

In the second chapter, we met a little girl named Pippa and MadMax (a delightful talking cat). They heard a peep and find a little gosling on the ground. Pippa brought it into the house, determined to take care of the small, helpless creature. Thus begins the tale of Pippa, MadMax and her goose Piu Piu.

The story explored the loving relationship between humans and animals and included many beautiful photographs of plants and animals.

The novel had a powerful message because it delved into the spiritual realms and the longing of soul to return home in a time when many baby boomers are wondering what happens after they die.

In places, the story of Piu Piu, the goose, reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Both birds long for freedom.

The book also reminded me of Oversoul Seven by Jean Roberts, which is about Oversoul Seven who runs three bodies at once in different times and places as part of his education.

I was exposed to the idea that soul takes part in choosing their next life in Dr. Michael Newton’s work Journey of Souls and Life Between Lives. Dr. Newton hypnotized people to take them back to their childhood so they could heal. Once when he hypnotized someone they ended up in the inner realm where soul goes between lives. After that Dr. Newton took many people back to their life between lives on earth and asked soul about their experience there.

In the Immortal Life of Piu Piu I was fascinated to see how Bianca was able to weave together the idea of soul living more than one life and choosing that life based on what that soul needed to learn for its spiritual growth. I especially enjoyed the action-filled second half of the book that shares the backstory of Poppa’s parents during a raging forest fire.

The end of the book was a treat for it nicely tied up the whole book and brought clarity to the story.

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy visionary fiction. You might find yourself wondering if this is simply a magical world where animals talk, have human emotions and past life memories or if there is a golden thread of truth that can help us in our own journey home.

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you have any memories of a past life?  Do you think we decide what our next life will be?

Here is a wonderful book trailer of the novel.

Check out Heidi Skarie’s website bluestarvisions.com where you can get a free short story and get on her newsletter.

Book Review of The Bears and I by Robert Franklin Leslie November 15, 2016

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51f5sntxuml-_ac_us160_A friend gave my husband The Bears and I.  I picked it up to see what it was about and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

The story is set in the wilderness of British Columbia where Bob, the author, is panning for gold for the summer when an old sow bear leaves him with triplet orphaned black bear cubs.  Bob’s heart goes out to the small creatures that he describes as the size of teddy bears and he decides to raise them until they are old enough to survive on their own.  The cubs end up sharing his cabin even sleep with him in his sleeping bag.

What makes this story remarkable is the amazing bond of love that develops between Bob and these three bear cubs and the insights we gain into bears.  After reading this book I don’t think I’ll ever look at them the same.  The bear cubs each had a distinct personality and enjoyed playing tricks on each other. They also had a wonderful spirit of fun and adventure.

As the cubs grew older they also learned to hunt together and to protect each other. They were highly intelligent creatures and soon learned their names and to respond to simple voice commands and gestures.  Like when there was danger Bob would say tree and point to the tree and they would run up it.

The book is also an exciting adventure story especially in the first half as Bob tries to keep these three cubs alive against all the dangers of the wilderness including predators that eat bear cubs.  There is also devastating fire that sweeps across the forest they live in and a harrowing journey by canoe deeper into the wilderness with a winter’s worth of supplies.

The author vividly describes nature with its planets, flowers, birds, animals and changes in season in such detail that I felt I was right there with him every step of the way.

It helped that I’ve had enough of my own experience in the wilderness to relate to his.  I’ve been backpacking in the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains in the United States and in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve also been canoeing in the Boundary waters wilderness of the US and Canada.  I’ve experienced having a bear come to my campsite at night and breaking the branch of a tree where we’d carefully tied up our food bag ten feet above the ground.  I’ve also paddled a canoe across rough lakes in the rain with high winds and chopping waves.

I could also relate to Bob’s winter experiences with deep snow and long months of cold weather as I lived just across the Canadian border in Minnesota.

Moreover, the book is enjoyable because the writing is excellent with detailed descriptions, original metaphors and good insights into life.  Bob wrestles with questions like how much of the wilderness should be a game refuge or park and how to do we protect wild animals.  Bob also ponders the questions of why animals live by killing one another and why is there are forest fires, which wipe out so many of the creatures that live there.

The book was written 1971 and made into a Walt Disney movie in 1974.  I haven’t seen the movie but from the movie trailer it looks to be a fun family movie with three cute, mischievous cubs and beautiful scenery.

Do you have any good stories to share about a wild animal?  I loved to hear them.

S Collin Ellsworth, Finding the Route 40 Phantom September 29, 2016

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41dcma-8gjlS Collin Ellsworth is one of the authors in the recently published anthology Where Rivers Converge. For the anthology, she wrote a gripping short story entitled Coward about a hit and run woman driver.

Ellsworth’s novels feature elements of life after death interwoven in the lives of women. She writes witty women and comical children that appeal to readers looking for relatable characters.

Her latest novel, Finding the Route 40 Phantom weaves two different women from different times: Natalie, an eighteen-year-old living in the 1950s with ambitions ahead of the era and Alexandra, a small town newspaper writer who constantly has to justify her contentment to her intellectual mother and sister. The two women’s lives intersect with the mystery of the Route 40 Phantom.

The Route 40 Phantom is a Southern Ohio legend. In the early fifties, a man terrorized the truckers of Route 40 by driving dressed as a skeleton. Despite not being an actual ghost, the Route 40 Phantom appears on many Haunted Ohio history sites. The real phantom’s identity remains a mystery. In her novel, Ellsworth gave him a persona of a beatnik mechanic with mysterious intention.

Filled with, suspense, and bucolic charm; Finding the Route 40 Phantom is a great fall read.

 

 

Book Review by Heidi Skarie, Dream Yourself Awake by Darlene Montgomery September 22, 2016

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41danpw89l-_sx298_bo1204203200_Dream Yourself Awake One Woman’s Journey to Uncover Her Divine Purpose through Dreams

Years ago Montgomery realized her dreams were relating to her waking life.  She found they revealed recurring themes and lessons. The images and feelings she began to see formed a map that led to her purpose as Soul. Montgomery states, “Dreams tell a story about Soul’s everlasting wish to journey back home to God.” (p. 18)

The basic premise of the book is that if you have a yearning to know your purpose in life, Spirit will let Soul see its greater destiny and clear away illusions. The law of growth drives Soul on.

Each chapter begins with an insightful quote. Then Montgomery shares a dream, waking dream or inner experience and gives her interpretation of it as she sheds light on the spiritual side of what she’s experiencing.

In the sixth chapter, The Messengers of Life, she quotes from Marianne Williamson: “Ultimately, it is not our credentials but our commitment to a higher purpose that creates our effectiveness in the world.” (p. 28)

In this chapter Montgomery explains that Divine Spirit guides us to experiences that remind us of agreements we made before we were born into this life. Messengers in life may come to us as teachers, friends, movies and books. The people around us show us qualities inside ourselves and help us figure out our life’s mission.

Montgomery also shares what she learned about her career as a writer. In one dream, Montgomery meets Oprah Winfrey. She realized Oprah’s dream appearance intended to awaken her “to my own potential as a voice of change in the world” (p. 11) In the same chapter she says, “To write a book is to open a door literally into another world. Every work of art leaves an impression, which shapes the thoughts of others and more importantly their dreams.” (p. 13)

In Dream Yourself Awake, Montgomery takes the reader on an intimate journey. Through Montgomery’s experience, we see our own fears, failings and limiting ideas. We also see our ability to grow, learn, overcome these limitations and move into a place of love, abundance and gratitude. We see how we are divine sparks of God and how our dreams are here to teach us, give us truth and help us deal with challenges. When we pay attention, dreams will tell us about our higher goals and we can wake up, as Montgomery did. We can become strong spiritual beings, aware that we are children of God, knowing we are powerful, loving beings.

While writing this blog post, I had a waking dream experience at the end of my yoga class. The instructor said she had a quote to share and I knew it was related to this post. The quote is from the inspiring author, Marianne Williamson:

“Relationships are our primary teacher. They are the context in which we either grow into God consciousness, or deny ourselves and others the opportunity to do so.”

Have you had dreams, waking dreams or inner experience that helped you wake up to a higher truth about yourself on your journey home to God? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

Annoure and the Dragon Ships by Heidi Skarie December 21, 2015

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Author Notes about Annoure and the Dragon Ships.

I’m excited to finally see Annoure and the Dragon Ships make its entrance into the world of literature. Annoure and Thorstein are finally getting a chance to share their story.

I carefully researched this period of history and did my best to make it accurate. Although the Norsemen had runes for writing on stone and labeling things, they didn’t have books that would have left a more detailed picture of their lives.

Much of what we know about them has comes from archeologist and the people who they invaded who didn’t portray them in a favorable light.

We do know the Norsemen’s longships were an important part of their culture. They were fast, sleek and shallow-drafted, which allowed them to travel up rivers and come into shallow water.

In writing the book I used some Norse words to make the story more authentic. Since the Norse language was before the time of dictionaries, the names given to words varies, as does the spelling of those words. I chose to take the most commonly used words and their spellings of the words such as “sonr” for son.

Even the word “Viking” is a more modern term to refer to the Norsemen. They didn’t call themselves Vikings. They said would say they were going “a-viking” when they planned a trading expedition or went on a raid.

The Viking Age began with an attack on the monastic settlement of Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast on England in Northumbria.

My story starts a year later when five dragon ships sailed up the River Thyne and attacked the St. Paul’s Church at Jarrow. They burned the two monasteries, killed or kidnapped the priest and monks, and fought the soldiers and villagers who tried to stop them. Their war leader was killed during the attack.

As the Norsemen left, a terrible storm arose and two of the dragon ships sank. The Norse warriors who survived the shipwrecks swam to shore and were then killed by the villagers and soldiers.

Historians disagree as to where the Norsemen who attacked Jarrow came from. For the purpose of my book I chose to have them come from what is now known as Norway.

While researching the book, I traveled to England and visited St. Paul’s Church. The church is still in use after over a thousand years. Beside it are the remains of the two monasteries that were destroyed in the Viking raid.

Nearby was an exhibit of a reconstructed medieval village complete with live animals. I was delighted to see what a village would have looked like back then with its thatched-roofed houses and twisted-branched fences.

Later I made a trip to Norway with my husband who is a one-hundred-percent Norwegian. I wanted to visit Rosendal where Thorstein’s family homestead was located on the west coast of Norway, an area famous for its fjords.

We flew into Stavanger where we rented a car and started our journey. We drove through a tunnel cut out of bedrock under a bay, traveled by car ferry, and drove on narrow mountain roads though some of the most beauty country in the world. Obviously the area has changed in over a thousand years yet the mountains, ocean, the nearby island (where Thorstein’s neighbors lived) and fjord are the same. Being there helped me write more realistically about the area.

I hope the story depict the Norsemen in way that shows their strengths and weaknesses and gives you a glimpse into their lives.

 

Interview with KS Ferguson, the author of CALCULATED RISK a mystery, SF book March 25, 2015

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I  recently read Calculated Risk, an exciting mystery story that takes place in outer space. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to do an author interview to find out more about the author and why she wrote the book. I’m sure you’ll find her answers as interesting as I did.

 

What inspired you to become a writer?

I didn’t have a choice about becoming a writer. It’s in my DNA. I started writing stories when I was ten. But being a writer for a living seemed like an impossible dream, so I did lots of other things for years and years before finding my way to a tech writing career. Some modest success there convinced me to throw myself into fiction writing.

 

What is Calculated Risk about?

Calculated Risk is the story of two people finding their way to trust in a future where sociopathic corporations run the galaxy. Rafe, a capitalistic security company owner estranged from his family since he was a teen, is obliged to repay a debt of honor by investigating his brother-in-law. He goes to a mining station in the Asteroid Belt to determine why his brother-in-law, the CEO of a huge ag corporation, has insisted on purchasing the station. At the station, Rafe meets Kama, a genius corporate spy and computer hacker there on a mission to retrieve a secret document that has accidently fallen into the hands of the station manager. But the manager is missing. Isolated on the station together, Rafe and Kama must work together to unravel a web of blackmail, fraud, and murder that threatens the future of millions of Earth’s downtrodden poor.

Why did you write this book?  Can you tell us the story behind the book?

Authors are advised to write what they like to read, and I read science fiction, fantasies, mysteries, and thrillers. It seemed natural to write a mystery in a futuristic setting with thriller pacing and a strong relationship thread. (But it’s a nightmare to market!) After ten years of working in corporate America, I had strong feelings about that world and how it’s shaped our society. That became the backdrop. I wanted the focus to be on the characters and how they find their way through their personal fears to a relationship of trust. And everything I write turns into a mystery eventually, so there are clues and suspects with the occasional chase or explosion thrown in.

What research did you do when writing the book such as corporate fraud and space stations?

The psychology community has turned out some interesting studies on how corporations behave like sociopaths, and how the upper management of many corporations are rewarded for psychopathic traits. I found those studies fascinating, and they certainly mirrored my personal experience in a Fortune 500 corporation. For pleasure, I read a lot about NASA and other space projects. The space station setting didn’t require much additional research.

 

There are two main characters in the story, Kama and Rafe.  How did they grow and change from their experience?  Did you learn anything about yourself while writing the book?

Rafe and Kama are polar opposites in their belief systems. He’s a capitalist who believes in law and order. She’s a socialist who favors justice over law. They have to look past their differences to see the deeply caring individuals underneath. Then they have to trust that person because neither of them can solve the mystery without help from the other. Following a near-death experience, Rafe reveals why he’s estranged from his family. It’s a guilt-ridden secret he’s carried for fourteen years. Kama initially sees Rafe as a stereotypical  smarmy, lying corporate executive. As she discovers that he’s a man who cares deeply about others to the point of sacrificing his life for them, she’s forced to change her thinking.

This book is part of a series.  How many other books are published?  How many will there be total?

Calculated Risk is the first in the series. Hostile Takeover takes up where the first book left off and is available now. In it, readers get a deeper look at Rafe’s dysfunctional family and Harvest, EcoMech Corp’s colony planet. Kama’s there to help and support Rafe, but their relationship travels a rocky road while they defend EcoMech and Rafe’s family. The third in the series, Family Owned, will be available late in 2015. We’ll travel to Oasis Corp to see Kama’s past and her own train-wreck family. She’ll reveal the dark secret that she believes will turn Rafe away her forever. There will be more books as Rafe and Kama continue to solve crimes and build a future together.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your book?

Just that if readers try the series and enjoy it, please leave a review. Reviews are the life blood for indie authors in search of a new audience and are very much appreciated.

Do you have a website or blog? 

I don’t have a blog. There aren’t enough hours in the day! But I do have a website where I announce release schedules and post a few bits and pieces of things about the characters, including some interviews Rafe and Kama participated in, and information about my other two series. My website is at http://www.ksferguson.net.

 

Interview with Virginia McClain author of Blade’s Edge February 23, 2015

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Blade's Edge

Blade’s Edge

Recently, I read a wonderful fantasy book entitled Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain.  The characters are well developed, plot intricate and the setting influenced by Japan.  The book is about two young girls living in an orphanage who have powers that they must hide.  They eventually become separated and the story follows each of their lives.
I loved the cover art that was done by artist Juan Carlos Barquet.
Here is a description of the book:
The Kisōshi, elite warriors with elemental powers, have served as the rulers and protectors of the people of Gensokai for more than a thousand years. Though it is believed throughout Gensokai that there is no such thing as a female Kisōshi, the Rōjū ruling council goes to great lengths to ensure that no one dares ask why.
Even as young girls, Mishi and Taka know that they risk severe punishment – or worse – if anyone were to discover their powers. This shared secret forms a deep bond between them until, taken from their orphanage home and separated, the two girls must learn to survive in a world where their very existence is a crime. Yet when the girls learn the dark secret of the Rōjū council, they discover that much more than their own survival is at stake.
After reading the book, I asked the author for an interview.  Her answers were quite interesting.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. Even as a child I would write down ridiculous stories (written in crayon, and largely illegible, to start with) and share them with my mom, who always thought they were brilliant (as mothers do). Then when I was in middle school I had an English teacher who actually told me that my creative writing was good and that she enjoyed my stories. She encouraged me to write more and asked me if I wanted to become a writer. That was the first time anyone other than my mother had told me I was a good writer, or made me wonder if it was something I could do for a job. I decided it was, and I’ve been working (slowly) towards becoming a writer ever since.
How did you come up with the idea for Blade’s Edge?
 
Actually, the idea started because, as I was living in Japan and spending a lot of time hiking to secluded mountain shrines and temples, I started to wonder what it would be like if all of the shinto spirits were actually real and able to influence the world. Then I started to wonder what magic would be like if it were based on certain zen meditation practices. Ultimately, the book became something very different than a simple answer to those questions, but it was how the initial spark for the story started.
The world you created is very detailed.  How did you come up with it?
 
Well, the last question answers part of this, but the rest of it is that I stole a lot of inspiration from the Japanese landscape, and from feudal Japan. Of course Gensokai (the world in which Blade’s Edge takes place) is completely fictitious, but it’s inspired by Japan and feudal Japanese samurai culture. Living in Japan, having access to a lot of Japanese history even in the small and remote city I was living in, and having that cultural experience to draw from certainly helped me detail the imaginary world I created in my head.
You had interesting names for your characters.  How do you come up with them?
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Virginia McClain

 
Most of the names of the characters are the names of animals in Japanese (Taka is the word for Hawk, for example), but not all. Others are Japanese words that suited the characters’ personalities or physical traits (Mishi’s name is an abbreviation of an infrequently used word for ‘strange’ for example) and others are actual Japanese names.
What is the most important theme in the book?
I prefer to let readers answer that question for themselves. Everyone’s experience of the book is likely to be quite different, and I don’t want to sway anyone else’s experience with the text. However, without getting too specific, I would hope that the book raises some questions in readers’ minds about gender norms, and how they affect us as a society.
What experiences from your own life helped you write this book?
Wow. That’s a difficult question to narrow down. Obviously my time in Japan, but also my whole life leading up to that point and since. How’s that for a broad answer? Honestly, though, my experiences with martial arts training, contact sports, and the fact that my parents always went out of their way to treat me the same way they treated my brother, all affected my ability to write this particular book. Hopefully, that makes sense to those that have read the book already, and is sufficiently vague and intriguing to those who haven’t read it yet.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t think so. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask me these questions and for sharing them with your readers!
The author’s website is: http://www.virginiamcclain.org/
Here is the book trailer:
If you’re looking for a good fantasy novel, check out Blade’s Edge.
I’m always interested in hearing your thoughts and comments so feel free to share them.

Author interview with MCV Egan January 22, 2015

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Defined by Others

Defined by Others

MCV Egan has recently published a delightful book titled Defined by Others.  Here is an interview with her.

-What inspired you to become a writer?

I am the sixth child of eight. As such it is not easy to be heard, by the time I knew what I wanted to say louder older dominant voices interrupted and I resorted to writing, to be prepared to communicate with words.

When I was twelve my entire family moved from Mexico City, Mexico to Washington D.C. , I left behind a really nice group of friends and there the need to stay in touch was a motivator to write.

Now any Astrologer would tell you that as I was born with the moon in Gemini and a few other aspects on my natal chart I had no choice but to write.

-What is Defined by Others about?

Defined by others is about how difficult it is to be true to yourself when influenced by the actions and influence of others.

It is about two women who feel lost because their husbands left them and they need to re- invent themselves; find themselves at the age of 47. They get involved in a cyber-game of manipulation; in a way living up to the old adage that misery loves company, and they play nasty tricks on other women.

It is a book about falling in love and losing love, friendship and enmity, trust and betrayal. The voice is humorous even though the subject has dark sides and there are strong consequences for their actions.

 -Did you do any research for this book?

There was not much traditional research per se. I did watch the documentary CATFISH and reports about it (http://abcnews.go.com/2020/catfish-movie-tale-twisted-cyber-romance/story?id=11817470 ) to understand how people create false identities to approach unsuspecting targets in cyberspace.

I did minor research on the different Chinese symbols and totems for their Astrology. I wanted to use snakes and dragons and it worked out great as they are years that are chronologically connected in the Chinese calendar. It was so fortunate that the description of Snake women is that they are beautiful, I needed pretty and mean women!

Looked into a variety of psychic abilities and what was the style in the 80s when these women would have been in high school.

 -Who is the main character in your story? How does she grow and change?

Anne Geyer is the main character. She is 47 years old and fascinated by loose words, words that can stand alone to define a moment. She is multilingual, the mother of teenage twins and her husband left her.

He left her and informed her that he had fallen in love with a man. She is broken and undefined. At the same time her dad suffers a major stroke and she has to deal with helping her parents put in order the house she grew up in. The house stirs memories and feelings of betrayals from her past.

The ‘frenemy’ of her youth dies and leaves her a game of manipulation, through pain, fear and perhaps a bit of boredom she gets pulled into this mean game of manipulation.

She grows and changes as the story flows because she has to decide her future, and because her nasty game has harsh consequences.

She is very flawed and as dislikable as she is likable, it was such fun creating her.

 -What projects are you working on now?

Defined by Others is book one in a series; Defining Ways. I am writing book two Climbing up the Family Tree; Defined by Pedigree, and I have another volume which I tentatively call Living in Vain; futility Defined, but I have changed the title umpteen times.

I have a huge list with synopsis and I see the “Defined” possibilities as endless, all books will be able to be read in any order and stand on their own.

 -Is there anything you’d like to add?

I now also write a history article every other week or so at THE INFLECTIONIST with Wanda Hartzenberg. I am very happy to share that with your visitors as well as my three blogs. Where I interact with and promote a wide variety of, writers, poets and artists.

MCVEganAuthor Bio

M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan the author of The Bridge of Deaths and Defined by Others. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family.

She only spent her childhood in Mexico. Her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. From the early 1970s at the age of 12 she moved with her entire family to the United States.

Catalina was already fluent in Southern English as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award; ironically being the only one who had English as a second language in her class. In the D.C. suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977.

She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (The Swedish kind, not the football player kind) Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish business people. She returned to the USA in the late 1980s where she has been living ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son, who together with their five pound Chihuahua make her feel like a fulltime mother.   Although she would not call herself an Astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in Astrology. This is one of her many past times when she is not writing or researching.

Here are two Book Trailers

Contact links

Facebook fan page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bridge-of-Deaths/130675087014521

blogs

THE BRIDGE OF DEATHS

http://thebridgeofdeaths.tumblr.com/

4covert2overt A Day In The Spotlight

http://4covert2overt.blogspot.com/

Is History The Agreed Upon Lie?

http://ishistorytheagreeduponlie.blogspot.com/

Link to AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

http://www.amazon.com/M.-C.-V.-EGAN/e/B0069W9NY2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Link to your website

http://thebridgeofdeaths.com/

 

 

Writing Red Willow’s Quest led to an unexpected revelation January 22, 2015

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A1uYOglfMKL._SL1500_-188x300Every novel has a story behind it—a reason the author felt drawn to write it.  When I started writing Red Willow’s Quest I decided to write a fantasy story of a young woman who was on a spiritual quest.  I began writing the story as fantasy because it was close to the genre I’d written my other novels in.  However, after writing several chapters, I realized I was writing about a culture that was much like the Plains Indians.  I debated starting over and writing the book as a Native American story.  While I was pondering this, I was sent a manuscript.  As soon as I started reading it, it seemed as if the universe was speaking to me, for the story was about a woman who remembered her past life as a Native American woman.  I wondered if the story I was writing was based on my own past life as a Plains Indian.

I had to take my daughter to her flute lesson so I put aside the manuscript and went outside.  There I found a hawk feather in the yard.  It was standing up and in perfect condition.  On each of the next two days I found another hawk feather in the yard.  For me finding three hawk feathers was a significant spiritual sign that I should start over and write the story of my own past life as a Native American maiden.

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Later, I heard a talk by a spiritual leader who said that to some Native Americans the cry of a hawk meant clear spiritual vision and flying above the mundane world.  This was further confirmation that I was on the right track.

Once I’d made the decision to write about my own past life, memories of that life started coming through especially as I began doing research on the Plains Indians.  It was as if the reading I was doing opened the door to this past life.  My memories revealed much about that life, but I didn’t know the time period or place where that life took place, nor did I know what tribe I’d been part of.

I knew that the story took place in the mountains, so I started out by figuring out what mountains range I lived in.  Through my readings and looking at photographs, I soon realized that I had lived in the Rocky Mountains.  I had always felt a deep affinity and love for the Rockies that I now realized came from that life.  As a child my family had made many trips Glacier National Park where we had gone camping and hiking.  Later as a young adult I went backpacking in the Rockies. On these trips I always had the feeling of being home.

Draft of map for Red Willow's Quest

Draft of map for Red Willow’s Quest

My research also revealed that I was a Shoshoni Indian. Their culture, clothing and food matched what I remembered from that life.  One book I read about them was entitled The Shoshonis, Sentinels of the Rockies because of where some of the tribes lived.

The time period where that life took place turned out to be fairly easy to establish because in the story Red Willow and her companion go to a fort on the mouth of the Big Horn River.  Research revealed that in 1807 John Colter and Manuel Lisa built a trading post called Fort Raymond in that location. The fort was only in existence for one year.  John Colter was one of the men who was a part of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase.  He built the fort after the expedition was completed.

More pieces of the puzzle of that lifetime fell into place as I continued my research, such as figuring out which people attacked Red Willow’s village.  When I traveled out west, I also found out that a name I thought I’d made up for a tribe was the real name.  I’ll talk about these discoveries in the next post.

Here is a review of the book from Amazon posted on Jan. 21,2015

I could not put this book down. The action, suspense and awesome detail of life as a native American of that time period totally absorbed me. From the first page I was enthralled. Red Willow’s courage (as a 16 year old!) to hold to her visions and implement her dreams despite enormous resistance and danger gave me an entirely new insight into the depth of commitment that is possible in this physical life. It’s a story about living truly on the edge and being faithful in every respect to one’s principles and spiritual mission as revealed through visions and the counseling of one’s spiritual guides.

I can say that Ms Skarie’s story deeply inspired me. There was no room for compromise nor weakness, nor even for what might appear to be pragmatic. Always there was the decision made to follow the star of spiritual vision and the goal of accomplishing one’s mission in life. No quarter was given to personal attachment or ease. That kind of vision clarity is so rare. It was a delight to see it so clearly illustrated in this novel.

It would seem to me that this story would be recommended reading for any young person seeking to discover her/his own spiritual purpose in life or to build confidence and courage in living through the challenges of the modern world. Finding one’s core and staying true to it despite all objections of family and tradition is a worthy goal for anyone serious about their life’s purpose.

As I became increasingly captivated by the spiritual strength of the main character, Red Willow, I found myself identifying with her and literally absorbing her strength and centeredness. Something in me shifted to a greater acceptance of and commitment to my own mission. My guess is that if you read this book with a desire to know yourself better and be true to your own visions you will come away a changed person.

If you’re interested in buying the book click here to get a link to Amazon.

Great fantasy novel: interview with Michael Diack January 22, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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511WeB2EoYL._UY250_Shadows in the Sand is a fantastic fantasy story that is reminiscent of Tolkiens.  The following is an interview with the author.

 What inspired you to become a writer?

Writing has always made me happy and I’m motivated by a personal sense of achievement not a financial one. It’s great to see your hard work pay off by having one of your own books in your hands.   I still have a day job that I love and that pays the bills, but it’s great to have a hobby.

How did you come up with the idea for the Shadows in the Sand?

I used to work in Oman in the middle of the desert.  I was there for nearly five years on a seismic crew looking for oil and gas.  Everything in Shadows is inspired by the Omani landscape: the rolling dunes, the rugged mountains, the lifeless voids of endless flat terrain and, of course, the snakes, scorpions and other creepy-crawlies!

The world you have created is very detailed how did you come up with it?

I am inspired by the environment I live in.  I’ve had a lot of good feedback about the descriptions of the landscape and that’s because I essentially lived in the world of Shadows in the Sand.  I sweated in the heat, felt the hot, desiccating wind and I know what’s it like to be alone on top of a sand dune with no sound but your own breathing.  I consider myself very lucky to have experience an environment like Oman and in this modern world of big cities and hectic noise, it was very other-worldly to be in terrain like that.  I think my descriptions are strong but character dialogue is something I need to work on for future novels.

How do you come up with good names for your characters and beasts?

Again, some of the names have an Arabic feel to them while others are normal Western-style names.  I actually find it hard to think of strange names for the beasts and I usually just write a list down while a little half-drunk and then see if they make sense when I’m sober!

 This is part of series called Empyria. How many books are in the series and how do you plot your books?

There are actually only two books, the final being The Light and The Glass.  I found the second book much more fun to write as I had already set up all the plot in book one.  So book two is basically one non-stop epic of huge battles and life-changing scenarios.  As for plot, I have a general sense of where the storyline is going but I’m never too detailed.  I usually find that when I’m in the ‘zone’ and writing thousands of words each day the book just takes on a shape of its own.  However, that’s not to say it is perfect as it’s usually editing that is the very hard part and ironing out the plot-holes you find and sticking points.

Do you know the ending to the series?

I must be honest though, the ending to Book Two does leave open the possibility to writing more.  I never actually specified how large the world of Empyria is as I only talked about the one continent.  Perhaps there could be another land, inhabited by other monsters or another race, on the opposite side of the world.  That’s the great thing about writing fantasy, you are unrestricted and there is no limit to the scope of your imagination or world-building.   I know I said I’m not motivated by money but the truth is it also costs a lot to self-publish if you’re putting quality work out there.  A good thousand dollars for paying an editor to proofread your 75,000 word novel and then the cover design.  I’m simply not making the sales from Empyria to justify writing a third and paying to have it edited again.  I appreciate that’s negative talk but you have to prioritize everyday life and rent!

 What fantasy authors have inspired you?

I’m a huge Tolkien fan.  I think my entire bookcase is taken up by almost all his works.  It’s incredible how one man created so much detail and even a language.  I also find that Tolkien’s books are the only ones I regular re-read and never get bored of.  As a child I also enjoyed Brian Jacque’s Redwall series about heroic mice and other animals taking on the evil rats and similar foes!

 61d2n2MCKML._UX250_Author bio:

My name is Michael Diack and I’m from the UK, but currently living and working in Denmark.

I studied geology at the University of Manchester and, after graduating, I was lucky to find a job in the Middle East working for a geophysical company.

My favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, JRR Tolkien, Markus Heitz and an Italian author called Niccolo Ammaniti. I love fantasy books but I’ll read almost any genre that catches my eye, yet it is the world of Middle-earth that fills up my bookcase.

I released my debut novel, The Super Spud Trilogy, back in April 2012 as a paperback and e-book for Kindle. Book 4 of the Super Spuds – Over Land and Sea, was released on Kindle in December 2012. In July 2013 I branched out from writing about magical crisp packets and released Shadows in the Sand, the first part of my fantasy series Empyria – a survival story set in a dystopian world in the desert.

I’ll happily interact with any readers through Twitter, my website or on Facebook.

Be sure to check this book out on Amazon.  What are your favorite fantasy and science fiction books ?