Friday, January 20, 2017

Witches, Then & Now

Each Halloween, I've researched different tradtional Halloween monsters. So far I've done Frankenstein's monster, vampires, zombies, and werewolves/shapeshifters. I enjoy finding out a little bit about how the mythology of such creatures evolved.

I know it's not Halloween now, but I thought I'd touch on the mythology of witches seeing as how I have a new release out today which is about...you guessed it...witches. (More on that later).

According to Wikipedia, "witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) broadly means the practice of, and belief in, magical skills and abilities that are able to be exercised by individuals and certain social groups. Although witchcraft can often share common ground with related concepts such as sorcery, the paranormal, magic, superstition, necromancy, possession, shamanism, healing, spiritualism, nature worship and the occult, it is usually seen as distinct from these when examined by sociologists and anthropologists. It is said to have been an ancient religion." (Wikipedia, 2017)

From what I can tell, there is still dispute about the historical original of witches and witchcraft from country to country and continent to continent, let alone worldwide.

Most of the mythology which feeds the modern day Halloween witch image seem to stem back to Ancient Greece. For example, in Homer's The Odyssey, the titan Circe is described as a witch and her brother Aeetes as a wizard. The term magic is derived from the Greek mageia, which came to Greece from the east and referred to rites and ceremonies performed by a magos.

In Asia, meanwhile, witchcraft seems to date back to antiquity (documents referring to it as early as 2000 B.C.E.). Obviously, regionally, the types of mythology differ. Many are associated with religions. But in Japan, for example, there seem to be two types: those who employ snakes as familiars and those who employ foxes. And the countries of Africa and the various island countries they lump together as Oceania, have too many mythologies for me to explore today.

Given the documentation of beliefs about witches all over the world, I find it interesting that, when doing a simple search, most websites are dedicated to the prevalence of witches (or at least copious amounts of fear directed toward them) in 1600s Europe which bled over to America. It's during this time period that witches become one of the many iconic monsters associated with Halloween.

It's also during this time period that we get the more traditional image of witches: deformed old hags who are terrifying and horrifying to behold. In addition, many of the traditional symbols emerge, including the black cat, who was thought to be the witch's spirit out in the night. Because much of the fear concerning witchcraft seems to have been the church's effort to stamp out paganism, other symbols (the moon, the pentagram, runes, etc.) are also traditional symbols.

The persecution of anything remotely suspected of being magic reached it's zenith in the late 1600s (think Salem witch trials) and deescalated from there, largely attributed to the Age of Enlightenment. Today's witches, particularly in literature and pop culture, range from cute, to precocious children, to sexy ladies, to alpha men.

No matter what century you're in, witches fascinate and spark the imagination.

Here's a bit of shameless self-promotion. My new release comes out today!

BAIT N' WITCH

A Legendary Consultants Book

Rowan McAuliffe has been hiding most of her life. Secretly trained in her powers by an unusual source, she’d been taught not to trust anyone. Especially other witches. However, after she was forced to perform a hateful act against her will, she now hides from the Mage High Council who seek answers, and possibly her life.

Greyson Masters is the Council’s best enforcer–a witch hunter who lays down the law. Despite the danger of his job, Greyson is also raising his triplet daughters. Alone. Budding new witches who display an alarming combined power no one understands. Too bad he hasn’t got a clue how to deal with them.

Little does Greyson realize that the new nanny sent to him by Legendary Consultants is the very witch he is hunting. When the truth is revealed, can these two opposing forces find a way to listen to their hearts? Or will Greyson have to follow orders and kill Rowan–the one woman who has made his soul come alive?






Picture above from: http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/the_eye/2013/10/131017_EYE_WickedWitch.jpg.CROP.original-original.jpg

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Magic of Music by C.J. Burright

Music is all around us every day, whether it’s the pop song on your iPod, the birds chirping outside, or the gentle beat of rain on the roof. It’s a powerful force, even, dare I say…supernatural?

The antagonist in my current WIP (which isn’t even *gasp* paranormal) is a musician, so I’ve been thinking a lot about music, more than I usually do. Music is one of my great joys in life, right up there with reading and writing my own stories, and if I’d inherited more natural skills at it, I might’ve traded my pen for a violin. But alas, my musical triumphs include a two-week stint at first chair flute in middle school and being the highlight pianist for my music teacher’s recital one year in high school (and perfectionist that I am, I practiced 24-7 so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself). And that was the problem. I had to practice my patooty off just to be on the upper crust of mediocre. So after a few tantrums and growling rants covering the injustices of life and genes, now music plays second fiddle to my other love, the written word.


Even if my DNA neglected the natural music skills I’d prefer, music is meant to be celebrated, and here are a few reasons why you should never regret spending time with your instrument of choice, belting it out (shower optional) or blasting your favorite rock song.

Pain Destroyer
Listing to music kicks chronic pain in the ass. Up to 21%. And if you're hooked by the winter blues, music can reduce depression by 25%. The song tempo is key, so pump up the jam, people.

Join the Smarty-Pants Club
Research confirms that listening to music or playing an instrument improves learning, and listening to whatever music floats your boat positively affects cognition. Did you know that Mozart’s music (at least the ones with 60 bpm) activates the left and right brain? Good thing for learning and remembering. Working both sides of the brain at the same time kicks everything into gear. How many of you learned their ABCs in song form, huh? Exactly. And if you’ve already mastered your skills, listening to music while you’re working has a magical way of improving performance.

Work It, Sister
Need motivation to lose that extra holiday weight? Upbeat music drives you to work out harder and longer. Sure, it can help take your mind off your struggles and add a fun factor, but studies have also shown that listening to music with a beat faster than your movement also helps your body use oxygen more efficiently. Weird, huh?  

Dr. Feel Gooooooood
Listening to music can trigger the brain’s “reward center”, resulting in hits of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine opens the door to pleasure, “the feeling of euphoria which is associated with addiction, sex, and even eating.” In other words, music = oh yeah. Music also may affect oxytocin levels in the body, a neuropeptide connected to bonding and sexual contact. And now you know why girls go gaga for ugly as sin rock stars.

It’s All About Connection, Baby
I’m sure this has happened to everyone—you meet someone who loves the same obsolete band as you and BAM! Instant connection, right? There’s research that suggests music arose from a human’s need to connect. Music impacts our ingrained empathy, trust, and cooperation, and when you’re singing along at a music concert, you don’t need to know the name of the person dancing next to you to feel a bond. Also, coordinating movement with another person (as in dancing) releases endorphins, making you feel all warm and fuzzy.

And in my ever twisting writer’s brain, I learned a few facts that may come into play for some of my more villainous characters down the road:

Your heartbeat mimics the music you’re listening to.
An “earworm” is that song you can’t get out of your brain.
Music can unite in a negative way too…some believed that Wagner’s music played a role in Hitler’s propaganda schemes. Scary, huh?

Use your musical powers for good, people.

In signing off, here’s a video from Lindsey Stirling, one of my two favorite violinists (I have an equal love for the phenomenal David Garrett). Not only does she play the violin while freakin’ dancing, she also performs the Assassin’s Creed III theme song. Instant girl crush. I was lucky enough to see her in concert last summer (best birthday present ever...although if someone wants to take me to Europe this year to see DG in concert, that might be even better *hint, hint*). 



Before you leave, what’s your favorite music? Let’s bond!



Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/02/music-and-health-rock-on_n_6573132.html

http://www.unbelievable-facts.com/2015/04/facts-about-music.html/2
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_music_strengthens_social_bonds

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Magnificent and Magical Creature - The Friesian Horse


Tall, dark and handsome...with four legs, a mane and tail.  The Friesian horse captured my imagination years ago.  He is featured in almost every book I write along with the wonderful Andalusian horse.  Here, if you are unfamiliar with the Friesian horse, I'd like to introduce a special breed. In Ladyhawke, the hero Navarre rode a Friesian. The most prominently used horse was a 19-year-old named Othello.

The Friesian breed originates in Friesland in the Netherlands, Rutger Hauer's native  country.  These splendid horses conform to people’s idea of a light draft horse, and, in fact, were originally used as fancy carriage horses. However, they are nimble and graceful, currently quite popular in show arenas for their lofty movements and shining ebony coats.  The Friesian ranges from 15 to 17 hands, are powerfully muscled, with thick manes and tails and feathers (long hair) at their fetlock joints.  Their neck is high-set and proudly arched. In a word, they are beautiful.

When I wrote Gypsy Ribbons, I envisioned the hero Simon rearing his midnight black Friesian Goliath on the moonlit moor after robbing the King’s Highway.  These horses are massive and have a lot of pizazz, presence supreme, but are quite docile. Goliath would have stood quietly while his master relieved his lordship of his diamond ring and purse, or held still as an ebony statue while Simon courted Tory.

I bred, trained and showed the magnificent Andalusian, but I would have loved to owned a high-school trained Friesian.  They are truly poetry in motion.  The only drawback to Simon’s chosen trade would be Goliath’s elegant movement means he is not as fast as, say a Thoroughbred.  When you are running from the law, knowing if you’re caught you’ll hang, speed is of utmost importance. Ah, but he’d look good doing it!  If you would like to know more about the Friesian, visit the national association.

Four by Moonlight from Class Act Books:



An anthology of love in the moonlight…in the paranormal universe.

©       Gypsy Ribbons – A moonlight ride on the moors and meeting a notorious highwayman will forever change Lady Virginia Darby’s life.
©       Star Angel – Lucy was stuck in a rut and in an Idaho potato patch. She’d seen him in the corner of her eye—a fleeting glimpse of beauty—now he stood before her in the flesh.
©       The Night Before Doomsday – All his brothers had succumbed to lust, but Azazel resisted temptation until the wrong woman came along.
©       The Gate Keeper’s Cottage – Newlywed Meggie Richelieu’s mysterious, phantom lover may be more than anyone, except the plantation housekeeper, suspects.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Linda

Friday, January 13, 2017

Surviving Deep Space Travel


“Ready to turn into a popsicle, Commander?” from Mission to New Earth.

Have you ever wondered how humans could travel across vast reaches of space? Last year, I wrote a blog post on cryosleep (or cryogenic sleep) for C.J. Burright’s blog. This week, I saw the movie Passengers about travelers into deep space and discovered another option for travelers: hibernation. So I've rewritten that blog for today. 

Passengers – Photo credit: Sony Pictures
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

To travel into deep space, first we’d have to build spaceships that could go that far. Those ships would need fuel. The more fuel, the farther the ship can go. If the ship was empty, it could go even farther. A computer can perform all the necessary functions. In fact, that’s what the Kepler, Cassini, and Hubbell spacecraft do.

But what if we want to send people out past our star (the sun) and past many stars until they get to a planet in the Goldilocks zone? In my post on Veronica Scott’s blog, I wrote about planets that aren’t too hot, not too cold, where the environment is just right for humans.

The heavier the cargo, the more fuel is used. Humans need essentials like air, food, and water. To preserve their bones, gravity is needed, too. To maintain gravity and haul enough food, water, and appropriate air for several years would take a lot of fuel. They also need room to move around, places to eat, sleep, work, relax during downtime. That means the ship would have to be big, and the bigger the ship, the more fuel it would use. The problem remains. How do we get humans into deep space?

Scientists have been working on that for years. Science fiction movies and books already have it worked out. Just put the astronauts into hibernation or cryosleep. There is a difference between the two procedures. In hibernation, the person’s body wouldn’t be frozen. Instead, the body temperature would be lowered to about 9°F.



Photo credit: OldJohn73 at DeviantArt.com

In movies like Avatar, Interstellar, 2001: A Space Odyssey, astronauts are put into suspended animation (sometimes called stasis or torpor) so they can endure long space travels. Not every story or movie has warp or hyperdrive to get from Point A to Point B, thereby reducing travel time. I doubt if scientists can figure out how to warp space or develop a faster-than-lightspeed engine in our lifetime. Not mine, anyway.

When astronauts are put into cryosleep, as mine are in Mission to New Earth, food and water aren’t needed since a sleeper has no need for them plus they don’t breathe. The result is less fuel consumption, which then means the spaceship can go farther than if the astronauts were awake.


Photo credit: Spaceworks Enterprises

There’s another benefit of cryosleep. Relief from boredom. Can you imagine looking at empty space for years? In my novella, Mission to New Earth, the trip from Titan (Saturn’s moon and launch platform) to Serenity (a planet in the Goldilocks zone) takes three years. With nothing to do and nothing to observe, the astronauts would need to keep busy. Workouts take energy—not just from the astronaut but from the ship. Gravity, air, food, and water. All demands on fuel consumption.

Interstellar - Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

As a sci-fi writer, I’m not concerned with the mechanics of cryosleep or hibernation. I compare it to an automobile. I don’t know (don’t need to know) how my car works. I just need to know that when I put the key in the ignition, that car will take me where I want to go.

From what I’d read, seen in movies, and researched, I gathered enough info to make the scene of my astronauts going into cryosleep believable. At least, I hope so. Or that the reader can suspend disbelief. I was more concerned with the emotions experienced by the astronauts.

Sara Grenard, the commander of the mission and the story’s narrator, has a vivid imagination. While preparing for launch, before being put into cryosleep, Sara experiences many emotions. Fear, mainly. What if there’s a problem with the freezing chamber? What if the computer (an AI like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey) decides to eliminate the humans? What if there’s a malfunction and the computer has to decide whose vitals can be turned off and who will live? What if the cryosleep chamber is vandalized?


Alien 3 – Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

But Sara’s already decided being the first pioneer on a new planet is worth the risk of cryosleep. For my astronauts, there is no other way. The elation over going first outweighs the fear. So she and the other five astronauts willingly enter their cryotubes and are put into hibernation for the long trip. She is certain she and the others will wake up—just like Jake in Avatar.

Avatar – Photo credit: Lightstorm Entertainment/20th Century Fox

One thing Sara didn’t consider was what would happen if she/they woke up too soon, as in Passengers. While my characters’ journey is only three years total, the travelers in Passengers, Jim and Aurora, it’s devastating to wake up with 90 years to go.

In real life is cryosleep or hibernation possible? As I wrote above, scientists are not only working on cryosleep for space travel, they see practical applications in the medical realm. We’ve already heard or read in the news about people who’ve plunged into icy cold bodies of water, their bodily functions and temperature have slowed down, and they’ve survived with almost no ill effects. Medically-induced hibernation is being used in critical patient care, for instance in cases of traumatic brain and spine injuries.

Whether for medical treatment or space travel, lowering the body temperature can be beneficial. Scientists will find a way to send travelers into deep space.

Mission to New Earth: a novella

Blurb:

Would you go on a one-way trip to explore a new planet? Would you do it to save humankind?

Earth’s overpopulation and dwindling resources force the United Earth Space Agency to expedite exploration of new planets for a possible new home. When new crises ensue—a giant tsunami and the threat of nuclear winter—the timeline changes. Eight years of training crammed into four. Sara Grenard and her team prepare for launch, but are they ready for the one-way trip? Will the Goldilocks planet prove just right for Earth’s inhabitants? Before time runs out.


Excerpt:

We had such hopes for our mission. Scared and hopeful. What a combination. Three years in cryosleep. The scary part.
I forced myself not to think about all that could go wrong. So many people were depending on us. If all went well—that is, if we survived cryosleep—one of the teams would find a planet that could be the answer to Earth’s problems. Or maybe all three would. We could only hope.
I was excited and nervous. In some respects, I wished it was launch day. Just to get it over with. Put me in cryosleep, where I can’t think and won’t dream. At least, that’s what the scientists told us. I dreamed all the time. Happy dreams about Marsh, sometimes about my parents and the wonderful life they had together.
Sometimes my dreams were frightening. Choking to death on the viscous substance that replaced the air in our lungs—my most frequent nightmare. Or our shuttle craft plummeting to the surface and crashing. I often woke up shaking, terrified, until Marsh put his strong arm around my waist and pulled me tight against him.


About the Author:

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com

Goodreads: Diane Burton Author  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2902110.Diane_Burton
Amazon author page: http://amzn.com/e/B00683MH5E
Sign up for Diane’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Guest Kathy Lyons - What My Cat Does to Me in the Winter!

What My Cat Does to Me in the Winter! 

By Kathy Lyons 


It’s cold where I live. There’s snow on the ground and my cat spends her days on my lap even when I have to reach over her back to type. Her favorite thing to do is go outside for a while and get nice and cold. Then she runs inside and worms her chilly, wet nose to some part of my body. Her favorite spots are under my shirt against my belly or if I’m sleeping, she’ll settle against my neck. Brrr! 

That’s Cinnamon’s favorite winter activity (as far as she’s told me). But I have a few favorite things to do when it’s nippy outside. Guess which is my current favorite! 

  1. Curling up with a good book while lounging under a thick blanket. And my cat purring against my belly. 
  1. An extra chocolately mocha hits me just right on a cold morning.  
  1. Fun leggings 
  1. Baking. It heats up the house with yummy smells! 
  1. Racquetball tournament season. Every weekend, I’m making grown men cry as I trounce them on the court. 



Answer: C -- Fun leggings!  I bought a package of cheap fun print thermal leggings. They’re too hot to wear other times of the year, but in winter, I love blinding anyone who sees me!  Here’s a picture. Yes, those are leggings! My husband claims they’re so loud, he can hear them downstairs.  
As for the other things. A good book comes very close, but I love that all the time. Right now I’m reading Rebecca Zanetti’s Scorpius Syndrome books and loving them. If she weren’t such a great person, I’d hate for setting the quality bar so high. 
An extra chocolately mocha hits me right EVERY morning. Racquetball is a year round sport for me, though the winter is indeed tournament season. But I don’t compete that often anymore. I’m starting to feel my age. *sigh*. Though it is always fun to beat an arrogant guy in a sport! And baking … um, not my thing. Whenever I try it, the house gets filled with very yucky smells. Burned fish anyone? Yeah, I didn’t think so. 

So now it’s your turn. What are you doing to make yourself smile this winter?   ** One lucky commenter will get all a set of all three of Kathy Lyons’ GRIZZLIES GONE WILD ebooks! And in the meantime, check out The Bear Who Loved Me by Kathy Lyons. 


Blurb:

WHEN AN ALPHA MEETS HIS MATCH . . .
Between singlehandedly running her bakery and raising her teenaged nephew, Becca Weitz thought she had a decent grip on "normal." Then her nephew vanishes, and life as she's known it changes forever. Local legends are true: bear shifters exist . . . and her nephew is part of their clan. As is Carl Carman, the sexy, larger-than-life man who has sworn to find her nephew-and the other young shifters who've gone missing.

As the leader of his clan, Carl is surrounded by enemies. He's learned the hard way that keeping a firm leash on his inner beast is key to survival, though his feelings for Becca test his legendary control. Then danger stalks too close, and Carl realizes he must unleash the raging, primal force within to protect everything he holds dear. But can Becca trust his grizzly side with her life-and her heart?

Excerpt:

More. Power.  
Thoughts came slowly to Carl Carman, but each word reverberated with power. That was the best part of being a grizzly bear. Simple words meant simple, strong deeds. Human complexities were nonexistent in this state, though they echoed in the back of his mind. He was on a mission, had come to this Christmas tree field on a clan purpose. That he took joy in what he did was a trivial detail. 
Now. 
He braced his legs, shoved his claws deep, and then he thought it. One word, and the power crashed through every cell in his body. 
Destroy. 
He did. 
What he held, he uprooted. 
What he gripped, he crushed. 
Whatever he touched, he tore apart. 
Joy. 
He grinned, though he grunted with effort. He tasted blood—his own—and the coppery tang was sweet. Human language tried to intrude in this moment, but the grizzly had no interest in it. His language was action, power delivered with thrilling ease. And he liked to rip things apart. So he continued and was content. 
Until something else disturbed him. Red and blue flashes across his retinas. At first he flinched away from the lights, but they roused the rational part of him. Red. Blue. 
Police. 
With a roar of fury, he began to tuck the animal away. His bear fought the shift, holding on to his shape with every ounce of his determination. But in this, the man was stronger, the mind crueler. With steadfast will, he folded the grizzly into an envelope in his mind. It had taken him years to master it. A thing that large doesn’t origami into a tiny flat rectangle easily. 
His bones shifted and most of the fur thinned and disappeared, though some fell to the ground. His face tightened, and the strength in his arms and claws pulled inside, shrinking as it was tucked away. He straightened, the grizzly hump now gone as the energy coiled tight inside. His eyes burned. Damn, how they burned. But in time that last vestige of dark power would fade and his normal cool green color would return. Quiet control and long, complex sentences would be his norm. Though his first words as human were always the last snarl of his bear. 
“Shit.” 
“And Merry Christmas to you, too,” said a familiar female voice, though that particular holiday had passed months ago. His vision settled, and he saw Tonya dressed in her patrol uniform as she leaned against her squad car. The lights were still flashing, and at dawn, those colors would be seen far and wide. 
“Flip off those lights,” he growled as he started searching for his pants. He was out here swinging in the breeze for all to see, and though that rarely bothered him, naked and vulnerable was not a good idea around her. 
She opened the door of the squad car and used one hand to flip off the lights while the other aimed her phone at him. Jesus, she was taking pictures. 
“I’ll tear that thing out of your hand,” he snarled, “and I won’t be gentle.” 
“Promises, promises,” she said with a sigh. But she did drop the phone. “Doesn’t matter. I already got my holiday screensaver.” She pushed off the car and sauntered over, her hips swinging in a tantalizing rhythm. 

Barnes and Noble - http://bit.ly/2fDoBZo
Books a Million - http://bit.ly/2ibgpCX

Kathy Lyons is the fun, contemporary side of USA TODAY bestselling author Jade Lee. She loves sassy romance with lots of laughter and sex. Spice is the variety of life, right? Okay, so maybe two kids, two cats, two pennames, and writing over 50 books has messed with her mind, but she still keeps having fun.

Check her out at www.KathyLyons.com. Or hang out with her sexy historical half, Jade Lee. Titled heroes with dark secrets are Jade's passion. Especially when they fall for women who add more than just spice to their lives. Find her at www.JadeLeeAuthor.com. Facebook: JadeLeeBooks Twitter: JadeLeeAuthor