Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a #shortstory by Jan Sikes – Satin and Cinders. This is a sweet love story between a privileged horse and a wild stallion.
I’m currently halfway through another of Jan’s books, as well as an historical fiction memoir and a book about NLP therapy, but I wanted to put up a last review before I take a blogging break later this week, and pulled up this sweet short story on my BFK. I’m looking forward to a timeout and a readathon on the beach – in between having actual conversations with human beings.
A wild black stallion has cautiously watched a beautiful white mare, from the safety of the forest for many years. He longs to be with her, and ventures close to the barn nightly to communicate with her. They share their deepest desires and secrets. Now it is winter, and the rest of the wild herd has moved on, but the stallion stays. He cannot stand the thought of being so far away from her. The scent of sweet alfalfa hay and the enticing lure of the white mare is too much for him. He must find a way to be with her. But will it be worth the risk? Satin and Cinders is a story of courage and determination.
My 5 Star Review:
This was a sweet love story about two horses in love. This story could have been about any two people, but it’s about a beautiful mare, Satin, and the wild black stallion, Cinders, who are in love and separated by living standards and a fence. Cinders narrates. The author does a wonderful job of bringing the emotions to life and writing about the horse’s thoughts, inviting us into their story. An equine love story with a human feel.
What a fun prompt. As I don’t have the fortitude or time right now to hop on to every daily WordPress #bloganuary challenge, this is one topic I thought would be fun to join in with – What emoji(s) do you like to use?
As a person who is naturally animated when she speaks, emojis are always an accompaniment to all my posts and comments – as many of you know. For me, they are accessories to punctuation and emotions. For many in my closer circles, I will add a heart and at the very least, I’ll always add a smiley face after commenting. For me, it’s like speaking to someone while wearing a smile.
Emojis are used to add fun and expression of feelings and emotions. I’m inclined to think that people who use them are also people who like using their hands in animation to convey expression. That would definitely be me. I use them in comments and social media, and even sometimes on a post. ❣
If you’d like to join in and/or receive the daily question prompts from WordPress, find the rules below:
WordPress has started #bloganuary, prompting writers with a different question daily, and reminds to tag the post Bloganuary in your tag section so it shows up in the reader with other Bloganuary posts. Also, don’t forget to share these posts on social media using the hashtag #Bloganuary.
Today’s a great day to blog, and the Bloganuary prompt is:
Promote your blog post on social media, using the hashtag #bloganuary.
What Does It Mean to Live Boldly?
I hopped on to this prompt because it felt appropriate as I’ve been struggling with my decision about going on my long awaited winter escape to Mexico. I’ve eagerly been awaiting this much needed escape, despite my being a Covid hermit for much of the last two years. I avidly follow news reports, Covid reports, country alerts etc. and even though my airline has canceled my flight a few times and my managing to book new flights, the apprehension looms with my anxiety of braving the elements while also hoping my new flight will remain.
I’ve spent a lot of time battling my two minds, or my mind and my heart, and after all I’m seeing and hearing with Covid reports, it appears as of now, Mexico is doing better than my own country! So I’ve decided, Covid here, Covid there, minus 20 here with grey skies and seclusion, sunshine and 88 degrees and several of my friends have already arrived there, what am I fussing about?
With all my weighing out, and despite my biggest fear of passing my Covid test to get back to Canada when the trip is done, I can mask up there as well as I mask up here. So yes, I’ve decided that I’m going to live boldly and go ahead with my travel plans. If I spent the rest of my life worrying about what could happen, I’d never do anything. This virus is heading into its third year. Nothing is going to change for a very long time as long as the world doesn’t reach herd immunity. It’s every man for himself to stay protected no matter where we go. If we wait to get back to living, when will that actually be? Years more, no doubt and more spikes and mutations to be had. Another day of living life is no guarantee. Every day is a gift. If we keep pushing off plans for living, who knows if we’ll be capable of traveling next year or the next year. Tomorrows are never guaranteed.
So yes, I’m going to live boldly instead of cowering behind my fears. I’m going to head for sun and sea with best efforts and begin to loosen the load of worry and act like the excited going away person that I should be savoring at this time instead of dreading. Ole!
*Don’t forget to sign up for the daily prompt if you feel like jumping into one for the month of January. If you missed or deleted the signup invite post from WordPress, you can sign up from the original post page.
Welcome to my December edition of Writer’s Tips. In this last edition for 2021, I’m sharing some great information and tools to help with creating social media posts, QR codes for books, Twitter, and editing tips.
Hugh Roberts demonstrates why every blogger should be using the ‘pinned tweet’ option on Twitter, also, how to draft a blog post
Welcome to my last Q & A post for 2021. I know I have been sparse this year with Q & A features due to my world turning upside down, but I couldn’t end off the year without sharing the news here from one of my oldest blogging friends, Deborah Jay, who has just released Book 4 in her 5 Kingdoms series – The Prince’s Heir.
About Deborah Jay:
Deborah Jay writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy featuring complex, quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.
Fortunate to live near Loch Ness in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands with her partner and a pack of rescue dogs, she can often be found lurking in secluded glens and forests, researching locations for her books.
She has a dream day job riding, training, and judging, competition dressage horses and riders, and also writes books and magazine features on the subject under her professional name of Debby Lush.
A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, she started writing her first novel aged eight, and has never stopped. Her first published novel is epic fantasy, THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in the Five Kingdoms series, and winner of a UK Arts Council award. #2, THE PRINCE’S SON and #3, THE
PRINCE’S PROTEGE are both available with the concluding book in the quartet, THE PRINCE’S HEIR, released December 14th 2021.
Read the gripping conclusion to The Five Kingdoms series…
King Marten’s reign balances on a blade’s edge. Chel’s Casket, symbol of his right to rule, is missing. Can master spies, Rustam and Risada, recover it before someone notices its absence and challenges Marten’s sovereignty? Or is there a more sinister motive behind the disappearance of the casket—a relic that could be used to raise the demon god, Charin.
As a series of natural disasters besets the kingdoms, evidence points towards interference by the meddlesome deity, and the terrifying prospect of war between its two opposing aspects.
When Marten’s beloved wife, Betha, and their infant daughter vanish, Marten faces a stark choice: save his family, or try to save his kingdom from a conflict that threatens all humanity.
Excerpt from Prince’s Heir
“Risada,” said Marten in a tone that sent ice crawling down her spine. “There’s something we didn’t tell you last year. We thought it would never be an issue once we’d destroyed Charin’s Cult.”
The king paused, pursing his lips. Blood pounded through Risada’s head, filling the silence. She felt nauseous. What had they kept from her, and why?
Marten drew a deep breath, then continued. “You know they wanted our child. What you don’t know is that things came to a head when you returned with Halson. Charin wanted a child of the royal bloodline, and it seems Hal’s would have satisfied Him as much as mine.”
Risada gripped the back of a nearby chair, clinging to that spot of reality in a world turned hazy.
Halson! Charin wanted her son!
A fierce rush of protectiveness blasted through her. She would die before she allowed that to happen. Staring into Marten’s eyes, she saw the same intent reflected there. Of course, he and Betha had been willing to sacrifice themselves before, and now he feared Betha might be forced to make that call again.
“We won’t let it come to that; I promise.” She took one of his hands and squeezed it, but he shrugged and disengaged his grip.
“Sadly, that’s not something you can promise. Not where Charin’s involved. I’ve faced Him, remember? I was lucky to survive, and I don’t give much for my chances if it comes to a rerun.”
“Marten.” Risada employed the same tone she used when Halson was being difficult. “You’re not alone in this. You will never be alone to deal with such an attack again; that I can promise.
Let’s get to know more about Deb’s writing and dressage life in our Q & A session:
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite of your books and if so, why?
Nine so far, plus novellas and short stories. Two non-fiction books on horse training (my day job), one SF (not published), five epic fantasy (one not published) and one urban fantasy. The unpublished books were where I cut my writer’s teeth, learning about plot, pace, and technique. One day I’d love to revisit them, but with so many other projects on the go, who knows if I’ll find the time?
My favorite book will always be the last one I finished. If you are anything like me, as we write more books our style changes, develops and (hopefully) improves. I am still proud as punch of my first published novel – THE PRINCE’S MAN – which in the early days before self-publishing, netted me two agents and a slew of positive feedback from the Big Six (as they were in those days) publishers, although no contract. Now, I’m really happy it didn’t sell – I would never have been allowed to write the sequels the way they’ve turned out, and I wouldn’t have control of my own career.
D.G. – You’ve certainly come a long way my busy friend. And yes, you are spot on, the more books we write, of course, our styles change as we learn new things. How many of us would like to go back and rewrite all our published books? Lol 🙂
What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
As a hybrid author – both traditionally and indie published – I can definitely say the latter is far and away my preferred route. Not only do I get to write what I want, when I want, I also earn a markedly higher percentage of the income from my indie published books (70% from Amazon, 60% from some other platforms, paid each month) than I do from my trad published books (10% from my publisher, paid annually).
Sure, traditional publishers can get you into bricks-and-mortar stores, but that’s far less important since Covid struck, closing so many, or forcing them to sell online. Publishers also have extremely limited funds available for marketing, and contracted authors are expected to do most of the grunt work themselves – marketing, networking, selling in person, etc. – so I’d rather put my efforts into my indie books for a higher return.
D.G. – My sentiments exactly Deb. And I’ve heard same thoughts from a few different authors who left trad to take control of their own books. 🙂
Did you have a passion to write as a child? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?
I don’t know about a passion, I just always assumed I would write. It seemed the natural progression – read other people’s stuff, then write your own.
As a child, comics took my interest, and my earlier attempts at writing were accompanied by awful illustrations (I’m no artist). When my mother died a couple of years ago, in amongst her papers (she was also a writer) I found what must be my earliest attempt, aged about 6 – ‘The travels of Sammy Snail – Scotland here I come’. Weirdly prophetic, as at that time I had never been to Scotland, nor had any of my family, and yet that’s precisely where I now live.
After that, came ‘The Adventures of Galloper’, another illustrated comic book, and then ‘Samantha the Adventurous Poodle’, a novel which failed at chapter 3 because it had no plot!
D.G. – What a gorgeous find! I know you have tons on your plate and agenda, but wouldn’t it be fun if you revised and published her work in a children’s book someday, authored by both of you? Food for thought. 🙂
Would you like to share with us what upcoming projects and/or ideas for books you’re working on?
While this week’s release brings to a conclusion the main story of one set of characters, I still have plenty of other tales to tell about them. One of the best aspects of self-publishing is the option to publish books of any size. I already wrote one short story that fits in between books #1 & #2, with another underway. I plan to write a set of them, with the ultimate goal of gathering them into a book of their own.
I have also plotted out and started a novella, telling the back story of a minor character who grew to become a major force in books #3 & 4. In addition, years ago, I wrote the novel that takes place before this set, so I plan on going back and rewriting that to a publishable standard too.
Beyond that, I have a rough outline for the next sequence of books, featuring the next generation. I’ve set up a lot of worldbuilding ready for them to walk right into, so, although the over-arching plot appears to end in book #4, it has a lot further to go – I’m thinking maybe 10 books in all?
Next up is putting together a boxset of books #1 – #4, and start editing for audiobook production – something I still have to dip my toe in. I also have one novel and a short story published in an urban fantasy series, with 6 chapters of the next book already done and just waiting for me to pick it up again.
Finally (as if that lot wasn’t enough!), I am currently writing a commissioned non-fiction book on horse training to go with the two already published, and sketching out two new in-person presentations now we are allowed to do such things again.
I’m certainly never short of stuff to do!
D.G. – You’re a machine girl! I hate to add to your plate, but I was hoping you would come out with a sequel to Desprite Measures with your Cassie character. 🙂
Do you edit and proofread your own work solely or do you hire an editor?
I’m really fortunate to have worked with an awesome writer’s group for many years – thirty, to be precise! Members have come and gone, but the core has remained. New members have to put in an audition piece, so we can assess the standard of their writing. If we feel they aren’t ready to join us yet we point them towards where they can find more basic help to develop.
The group consists of (almost) exclusively published authors – some short fiction writers, some novelists. We do include a uni student, reading creative writing (what else?), but fundamentally we all write professional pieces that sell. We used to meet in person once a month, now we do it on Zoom, which means a couple of former members who moved away have rejoined.
One of the best aspects is that between us we cover a wide range of professions and interests, such as a medical doctor, a computer programmer, a travel writer, and a stand-up comic! Between the lot of us, we’re pretty darned good at the whole gamut of editing. And knowing we will all be on the receiving end at some point, we’ve become well practiced at constructive critiquing – the best sort of group.
D.G. – Sounds like a great plan and a wonderful and eclectic bunch of writers! 🙂
What was the inspiration behind the series you’ve just completed?
I was always frustrated that the super-spy, James Bond, was never allowed (until now!) to develop as a character. Enter my leading man, Rustam Chalice – a shallow, womanizing, spy. During THE PRINCE’S MAN, alongside the action and politics, everything he thought he knew is challenged and proven to be false, bringing about profound changes to his life, which continues to develop through the entire series.
I chose a fantasy setting partly because of my love for Lord of the Rings, but also because of the incredible scope available to my imagination. I can do whatever I want with the world (provided it’s consistent and makes sense), which allows me to put my characters through a crucible unlike anything they would experience in a real-world setting.
Out of these two things came tagline for the series: Think James Bond meets Lord of the Rings.
D.G. – Brilliant concept! 🙂
It was a pleasure having you over today Deb. I wish you much success with your new release, and no doubts the Prince’s Man fans for this series are anxiously awaiting this new release.
Realms of Relationships – Wrapping up the Year and Covid Lingering Effects
Welcome to my Realms of Relationships post finale for 2021. I hope you all have been enjoying my articles where I share some of own experiences about different types of relationships. Next year I’ll be back with my travel columns and later in the year I’ll be back with more relationship talk, and maybe even something new! Today I’m sharing this post here I originally wrote for my monthly column over at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.
In this edition, I want to talk about relationships that have been altered or have taken on new awakenings through the global pandemic we’ve all been living through for almost two years now.
Once all the lockdowns began, life as everyone knew it changed. Suddenly, moms and dads are working at home, trying to get their jobs done as they had to adapt to helping school their kids digitally – a feat in itself for the technically challenged.
How we’re affected by the ages:
Many couples forced to spend more time together during lockdown discovered they loved and missed going to work to get out of the house to avoid 24/7 with a partner, while some other relationships were strengthened in that time as many re-discovered, reconnected, and re-evaluated their relationships. Some friendships were strengthened, while some others were let go of as realizations and evaluations of our lives took place when we were restricted from seeing anyone. So many were affected from quarantine conditions from unemployment adding financial strains, dealing with sick and dying loved ones, disrupted homelife, home schooling and growing mental illnesses because of forced conditions having created havoc in so many people’s lives. Many statistics have been cited about the increase of divorce enquiries and proceedings. I also must make mention of the many stranded at home stuck in abusive relationships with no escape.
Young children are equally affected at differing crucial stages of their learning, as well as hampered social skills while not being able to play or interact in person with others. Many young children and toddlers missing crucial interacting at nursery schools and play dates spending two of their earliest years either missing social interaction – where they learn to socialize by playing and learning together with other children, while others too young to realize the way they are growing up in their earliest years at home isn’t situation normal.
Middle-grade and teenaged kids were desperately missing social interaction. As they craved their usual activities with friends at a time of exploration of the world at their curious ages, suddenly having their ‘regular’ lives ripped out from them stuck at home with family in their new constricted lives, have had to find ways to adapt. How many suicides do we even imagine have occurred because of the mental disruption of their lives?
The elderly have had to endure not only extra lonely times with aching hearts as their loved ones ached with the worry for them, but many of the elderly who rely on the help and visits from others were devastatingly left out in the cold. The long, lonely hours of being alone became so much more profound for both the sick and the agile – those that require daily visits for care, and those denied the ability for visitations from loved ones. Yes, digital apps helped to connect some and not others, became the backup for visual virtual visits, but there is no substitute for a real human visit where we can look into someone’s eyes and feel the love, a touch, a hug, and human physical compassion, and this missing of human interaction left a gaping hole in the hearts of too many.
The sick who couldn’t get proper medical attention and consequently dying before their time – like my husband, who died BECAUSE of the Covid epidemic halting regular doctor visits and no way to get into a hospital unless there was an evident and immediate emergency. Those that actually feared going to a hospital for serious ailments because they were afraid they’d catch the Covid inside the hospital. The undiagnosed cancers, deeming treatment too late – LIKE my husband. The strokes and heart attacks people died from because they refused to go to hospitals during Covid. The delayed testing for the so many with yet to have diagnosis that did and will ultimately end these people’s lives earlier than would have pre-pandemic. And the list goes on and on.
I know what I write of is merely touching on the tip of the icebergs as so many in the world have suffered losses – loss of lives, sickness, and financial draining. These devastations in all our lives in some way or another have become the rude awakenings for us, and worse for many more.
Realizations. This pandemic gave us all a time for reflection and reckoning, a look around, and insight as to who’s caring about us? I know I’ve certainly had startling revelations myself after losing my husband seven months ago and discovering that my own family (save for two) doesn’t have the time of day for me, as well as discovering that my husband’s family were just that – my husband’s family. This rude awakening for me just brought me back to Maya Angelou’s famous quote: “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
What I’ve learned during this pandemic: Keep your circles small and tight. It’s all about the quality of the people in our lives, not the quantity. And friends are the family we choose.
If anyone here would like to share some of your own awakenings and discoveries you’ve had through these trying times, please feel free to share.
Let us all pray for a better year globally, the sick to heal, the virus to die, and peace, love, and brotherhood to return to mankind.
Below are links to just a few articles on how the pandemic has wreaked havoc on many relationships:
It’s been quite an event! I’m sure many of you know, I’ve moved my blog. Some of you probably don’t know and may be wondering why my blog has been wonky for the last week or so.
I have been wanting to move away from my self-hosted blog for a long time, but dreaded the process – and I wasn’t wrong. Besides the fact that I’d get lots of messages throughout the last few years that readers were having a difficult time commenting on my blog, I’ve had so many issues myself with my old host. I paid substantial money for almost 8 of the 9 years I’ve been blogging, and when technical bad things were happening with it, the support I had was less than mediocre and I had to rely on the kindness of of some writing friends to get me out of a blog jam.
I decided at the longtime urging of my good friend and Fey sister, Colleen Chesebro, now was the time. With the advent of the new BIG WordPress update coming (something that always gave me blog woes), and the thought of me having to deal with scary blog stuff while I escape for a some winter sanity, Colleen convinced me to get it over with now. And it was far from easy.
I decided it would be easier down the road to move back to paid WordPress and let them deal with the headaches. And moving my blog from Godaddy was a nightmare! Colleen helped me a lot. First step was creating a blank WordPress.com new platform to move my content over to, except there were many hurdles. The trick I’ve learned, is to get a good WP happiness engineer – and that only took 2 or 3 until the right one showed up.
The plan was simple, export my content from old site and import into new blog – not so easy. My content wouldn’t load. Colleen was dealing with a WP tech with questions about the import problem and she said she’d get back to her. Well 5 days passed, no blog activity, stuck between two worlds on two platforms and after several days I knew nobody was answering back. And by that time, my old blog content was gone! That’s when the real chaos began.
After 2 days of calling Godaddy (now dubbed NOdaddy from me), first waiting 2 hours til a human picked up and more hours trying to explain I need my blog content and several useless support there, my blood pressure was rising. In the meantime, I was being coached by a WP tech as to how to bring over files MANUALLY. Yes, non backdoor techy me, trying to absorb technical jargon. By the second day of repeat performance, I finally got a WP angel who had spent almost 2 days coaching me of alternative methods to get this and that – to no avail. I finally got through to the WP tech that I was useless in this venture, especially with the SERIOUS LACK OF HELP FROM NODADDY. Let’s just say he went far beyond the call of duty and did things to make the magic happen that were not his job. He and I had a running chat going by email for 4 days! He got the ball rolling last Friday, and yesterday he finally finished getting almost 9 gigs of content over to my new blog, and Colleen went in to make it pretty. I didn’t lose anything, (except what was left of my sanity), my years of posts are back WITH the matching images.
I’m still learning Gutenberg editor tips, but surprisingly, I didn’t find it that complicated. And thanks to my friend Hugh Roberts, who posts excellent tutorials on the new editor, I had already got the basic hang of it.
So, I want to welcome you all over here to my new blog, where it should be easy sailing for readers now to interact. I also hope you will all hit the ‘follow’ button when you visit here. I have to say, it’s a bit discouraging seeing my followers go from over a thousand to 11 LOL – not a good look on a writer whose been blogging for 9 years. And I thank you all for putting up with the madness and coming back!