Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mid-Winter: Cairns

One of the things I have loved about writing the Blue Bells Chronicles (yes, that was recently the Blue Bells Trilogy), is the research.  In The Water is Wide, book three of The Chronicles, there is a scene set in the Clava Cairns a bit east of Inverness and a mile south of the battlefield of Culloden.

To be more exact, clava cairns are also a specific type of cairn, of which there are approximately 50, named after the Preshistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava.  However, Clava Cairns refers to those at Balnuaran specifically.

Cairns are one of the many fascinating features left to us from the ancients, leaving us mysteries still unsolved.  But one of the fascinating things about the clava cairns is their orientation.  There are three cairns at Bulnuaran.  Of those, the two outer ones have passages aligned with the midwinter sun, such that the setting sun strikes the back wall of the cairn on the shortest day of the year.

Take a virtual tour:

If you're taking a trip to Scotland and will be there during the winter solstice, you might also be interested in the Maeshowe Chambered Cairn on Orkney Island.  It is one of the oldest, best-preserved of Scotland's ancient monuments.  It is believed to have been the tomb of a chieftain, but also of interest is the Norse graffiti left there thousands of years ago, and its alignment with the sun.

For three weeks before and after the winter solstice, the light of sunset strikes the back wall of the chamber, and on the solstice itself, the chamber is flooded with light.

Enjoy some pictures of the Maeshowe Cairn!

Maeshowe, cairns, mysterious Scotland, mysteries, stone circles, stonehenge
At these links:

And, is it cause for rejoicing or sorrow that even our greatest prehistoric sites now have...webcams!  With any luck, you'll read this on time to check in with the webcam as the sunlight hits the chamber. 

  • My Emmanuel's Light photography will be on display at Chaska Community Center
  • Watch for a big update regarding January 28, 2016
  • I'll be reading and signing books February 10, 2017 at Magers and Quinn with Genny Kieley
  • There is currently a giveaway going on at my facebook page for a Team Shawn or Team Angus t-shirt.  Leave a comment here or there to be entered.  HURRY!
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Creative Realities--An Escape for All by Courtney Conant

Alternate reality, quantum reality, alternate universe… They all encompass the same general concept, another world coexisting with ours. Why do they fascinate us so much? Because it’s an escape!
I have always been intrigued by the thought of there being something better, something else, outside of what I knew and loved. Growing up as a writer, I found that I’d write what I knew, unicorns and dragons, things from fairytales told to me by my mother. Never once had I learned of different worlds that existed alongside ours, yet on a different plane. Another world is not what I mean, as I’m sure most already know. These worlds are happening right here and right now, yet we can’t see them. They are the present, past and future, yet we may never know they are there.
 It wasn’t until I saw What the BLEEP Do We Know that I finally understood what another reality truly was. Seeing that movie enlightened me to the possibilities that everything truly is happening all at the same time and that there constantly are other realities existing in the same exact moment.
Never had I thought of writing about an alternate reality until I was about five chapters into my novel, The Blood Moon of Winter. As I was writing, another world came forward and took over. It was as if this other reality had been there all along and chose that moment to become known. I say it like this because that is how it happened. I don’t plot out my stories, but let them write themselves through my fingertips.
While my novel involves an alternate reality, I like to call it my creative reality. It’s not a world like ours, but one that only the deepest recesses of my imagination could come up with. It’s a reality that only exists in my mind and the pages of my books and it continues to move forward and grow even without my help. Though it is in my mind, it is real within, making it a true reality for me because I can escape to it whenever I like.
It is my creative reality and it is my escape.

About the Author
Courtney is an independently published Paranormal Fantasy author with one published novel for sale and another on its way.

She is passionate about her work and strongly supports the indie writing community, working with fellow authors to help promote their own works (as well as her own), through blogging and reviewing.

She has great aspirations of becoming a stay at home novelist one day...


As the land of Makayra deteriorates, its people seek the help of one that might save them. The only chance of survival is the return of the goddess of the land yet she is nowhere to be found in their world. Through magic and determination, the Prophecy of Resurgence will come to pass.

Their search leads them to discover Lilyana, a... shy, young woman hiding behind her books to avoid the interactions of daily life. The Makayrans must transcend time and space, to bring forth the goddess hidden within Lily and find a way to return her to their world before it is too late.


Signed copy from the author
Amazon (Print or Kindle) 
Smashwords (any ebook format)
Barnes & Noble (Print or Nook)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview with Todd Russell

To all the wonderful people who joined me for the recent blog hops, thank you!  I certainly enjoy reading about your favorite parts of the season.  I am most looking forward to all my children being together again, and the younger kids are eagerly awaiting their big brothers and sister being here again, too.

The blog hop has been a great success, and an e-mail has been sent to the winner.  Congratulations and enjoy!

Today, I bring you an interview with Mr. Todd Russell, horror writer extraordinaire.

Todd, tell us about yourself.

Hi Laura :) Thank you for inviting me over to your place. The furniture is comfortable and the way the leather squeaks when I slide across it is wild.

Enough about my leather, and would you sit still!  I just barely got all my boys to quit sliding around on the couch.  Tell us about yourself!

My name is Todd Russell and I love reading and writing scary, atmospheric horror and thriller stories. I live near Mt. Rainier in Washington State and when it erupts they say we'll have 45 minutes to evacuate before being swept away. Living that close to impending destruction is the perfect environment for writers like me.

I used to live just across the way in Bremerton.   I used to commute right down the highway they said would be wiped out in a heartbeat next time it erupts, and my one time driving up to the visitors' center was a memorable experience, seeing both the destruction and the re-growth.  But we were talking about you!

I've been married for 20+ years and have three grown children.
Oh, and I love eating Tabasco sauce on anything that isn't sweet. Let's party like it's 1985!

Do I have to wear neon leg-warmers?  If not, I'm there!  Speaking of neon leg-warmers, what got you into writing in the first place?  What led you into the world of horror and psychological thrillers, and why do you think they, like paranormal stories, continue to fascinate readers and writers alike?

At a very young age, I got into writing after reading. I still love reading a little bit more than writing all these years later. We all are fascinated by our fears on some level. Horror and thriller writers make our hearts beat faster. It's a strangely pleasurable sensation for many people. We feel better knowing that the bad has been exposed, rather than locked in some dark, dank place . . . waiting.

As if exposing it takes away its power.  I know some people also feel better having confronted, in a sense, the question, What would I do if...?  Tell us about your books.

Thank you. FRESH FLESH is my debut horror, psychological thriller novel about a woman who shipwrecks on a strange, mysterious island and is rescued by a man who is not what he seems. It's available in both paperback and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores.

Mental Shrillness is a collection of short stories, each dealing with a powerful emotion. Stories range in size from flash fiction to one story that is 7,200+ words long about a race of weird creatures at a nearby carnival.

I really like the aspect of the strange and mysterious, of people not being what they seem.  Strange creatures at a carnival...intriguing!  You have me curious.  What was the hardest part to write?

Getting going is hard. Once the writing flow begins, everything starts clicking, but getting started can be challenging for me at times.

But you have gotten going on a few more projects.  Tell us about that.

Work continues on the first draft of the second book in my Fresh series. I wrote over 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo last month, but I still have a good amount of story left to finish.
My second novel will be announced this month with a release coming soon. I have two other novel WIP that are at early stages and if the muse cooperates, both of those books will be written in 2012.
As for short work? I'm doing a story streak that involves writing a new short story (at least 250 words) every day. I've written 113 consecutive days and stories as of this interview. These stories are being entered into online writing contests and available for a short time online linked on my fans page at http://toddrwrite.com/fans/

Wow!  And people think I keep busy!  That's a lot of writing.  I take it you have been influenced by your reading.  What are the top three books that have had the most influence on you as a person and as a writer? Why?
As a writer, I've enjoyed The Stand by Stephen King and Swan Song by Robert McCammon. Two great apocalyptic horror stories. For short work? Rod Serling's writing for The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. A lot of work by these three excellent writers have shaped both me and my work. Plus factor in masters like Poe, Lovecraft and Bradbury.

I loved the Twilight Zone, and I've just downloaded several volumes of Poe to re-read old favorites and discover those I haven't yet read.  Any advice for other writers?

Keep writing. The more you write, the better you'll get. I'm not the first or even the hundredth to say this, but it works. Really.

I have to agree.  Of course, I think a lot of people have a burning desire to write, but don't know what to write.  Where does your inspiration come from? And how do you keep on keeping on?

I try to establish and follow writing habits and routines. My story streak, mentioned earlier, is a good writing exercise for me. It gets my writing brain going.

kickstart stories.  At this point in your life, what do you hope to achieve with your writing?

Like many professionals, I would like to be able to write full-time. I don't need to be the next Stephen King, but need to earn enough money to afford the time to write the stories out of my head. I have a lot of stories to tell. For those reading who enjoy my work, please tell your friends to check out my books. The greatest compliments any writer can be given are to have their stories read, recommended and shared.

Well said.  What would you like to be known for when you leave this little planet?

As a human being? I'd like to be remembered as a good person who was productive with his life. Writer? People enjoying my work, becoming lost in the stories and swept away. People who feel the art I'm creating.

Thank you again for the interview. Much appreciated.

Thanks, Todd, it was fun.  Except for that thing about the couches.  Now I'm going to have to convince my boys all over again that is not what furniture is for!  I'm off to check out your books!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gift Card Giveaway and Updates

The Minstrel Boy is getting steadily closer to release. That's not a very exciting update, is it? I guess I can elaborate.
I have long felt the book is just too long. However, not only has the feedback from multiple sources been not to cut anything, but often to add things. As a result, there was a major editorial decision made this week in which The Blue Bells Trilogy became The Blue Bells Chronicles. Yes, it is now a series, rather than a trilogy, which makes many things more manageable, and hopefully will be enjoyable for readers, as well.
I am currently on what I expect to be a final edit, fixing only minor details, after which it will go through one more read-through each from my editor and myself.
Watch my facebook page, where I often post what I'm researching today for some clues as to what's coming! The thieving MacDougalls--father, son, and daughter-in-law--play a bigger role, a minor character from Blue Bells will show up at Bannockburn with secrets of his own, and gallows are being built for...someone!
Keep watching for the release date, and have fun with the blog hop!

Welcome, Readers, to another blog hop!  This is the Gift Card Giveaway Hop, and I'll be giving away a $10 gift card to amazon.com.  Thank you, I Am a Reader Not a Writer for hosting!

You can have up to 6 entries.


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Five Optional Extra Entries:
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And just for fun (not required) tell your favorite thing about Christmas.  I think mine these days is having all my kids home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jonathan Reisfeld

Please welcome today my guest, author Jonathan Reisfeld, author of The Last Way Station, a look at what might have become of Hitler after death.

1. Tell us about yourself.

Two weeks before I was born, my mother slid off the back seat of a cab and onto the icy, February asphalt. I say she landed on her butt, but she used to tell me she landed belly down, on my head, which, from her perspective, explained a lot. I had no idea what she was talking about then...or now. I've always been a free thinker and someone who questioned/challenged things. I also have been willing to take a stand, on principle--not a trait everyone loves, but usually those who do like it are very secure ... and very smart. Is this what you were looking for, Laura? It seems like more fun than the standard: I'm a marketing-communications consultant and former journalist turned novelist/book marketer. Well, onto question #2.

2. What got you into writing in the first place?

In the second grade, I started writing short poems. Don't ask me why, because I haven't got a clue. (I did like reading Dr. Seuss, and his books rhymed, so maybe there's a connection there.)  A year later, I was goofing around in the third grade, building forts out of counting bundles at the windowside, instead of doing my work, apparently, (or maybe I already had finished it.) Anyway, one day, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Barker, had had enough of my gold bricking and she decided to single me out, in front of the entire class, for some well-earned humiliation.

"Can't you find something better to do with your time, Jonathan, than playing with those counting sticks?" she asked. My crimson cheeks were still hot and  flushed when I responded, to myself. 'Who does she think she is? I'll show the old battle axe!' "Well?" she asked, her patience waning. "Yes, Mrs. Barker," I said, sheepishly. Then, I returned to my desk, pulled out a pencil and a clean sheet of paper, and showed the OBA by writing a string of poems, in rapid-fire succession. When the period ended, I got up, walked to her desk and placed them before her, triumphantly. She liked them and considered herself to be a motivational genius. She made a big fuss about them and soon had the entire class scawling rhymes of their own. By the end of the year, my class of poet Laureats put on an assembly for the entire school, in which I got top billing. And the rest, they say, is history.

3. Tell us about your books.

I'll start with The Last Way Station, which tells the story of Hitler's final judgment in Hell. For a long time, I've been bothered by the Holocaust, its deniers and Hitler apologists. On the one hand, I've wondered how there could ever be justice for the victims of such unprecedented evil, and, of course, I've been bothered by the fact that Hitler was never tried for his crimes. On the other, I cannot fathom the intellectual gymnastics required to be a sincere Holocaust denier. Anyone who claims the Holocaust never happened clearly has not had entire branches of his or her family tree abruptly disappear in lands under Nazi German occupation. And then, there are those who claim that IF it did, in fact, happen, that Hitler, the architect of the whole thing, knew nothing about it! It was into this intellectual void and no-man's land that I ventured when I decided to speculate on what awaited the Fuhrer, upon his arrival in the afterlife.

Part of my question involved the type of punishment that a just God would want to exact. Would it be enough to roast Hitler, indefinitely, on a spit, consumed by hellfire? Would that form of phsycho-physical pain have been appropriate ... and sufficient ... for someone who committed evil on such a scale? What would it take to really exact a fair measure of punishment? And considering Hitler's peculiar nature, how difficult would that punishment be to mete out? To find out what I came up with ... read the book!

 4. What was the hardest part to write?

For The Last Way Station, the hardest part to write was the story in the story. You'll understand when you read the book.

5. Give us the scoop on any work in progress.

My next project is a re-release of an earlier book, The Reform Artists, which started out as a novella, into a more fully fleshed out novel. The Reform Artists tells the story of Martin Silkwood, an innocent man, whose wife falsely accuses him of domestic violence in order to get the 'upper hand' in their divorce. Martin gets help from an unlikely source: an underground organization, formed by rogue members of the national intelligence community. These 'reform artists' are determined to rebalance the scales of justice for those the system has short changed. After that, I'm getting started on a sci-fi trilogy that spans several hundreds of years of human history, on earth.

6. What are the top three books that have had the most influence on you as a person and as a writer? Why?

That's a very interesting, and ambitious, question, Laura. I'm going to do what politicians do all the time and answer the part I want, in this case, about the books that influenced me the most, as a writer. These may not be "the three," because I don't think of books in that manner. For me, it's been more the 'collective experience,' of reading. But here goes:

First, I would say every Shakespeare, or should I say, 'Earl of Oxford,' play I've ever read. Why? Because they, more than anything else, have shown me the expressive power of the English language. They've made me appreciate the force and range that great, inspired writing, can produce.
Then, I'd have to say "The Old Man and the Sea," because Hemmingway, as a journalist (which I also was, once-upon-a-time), is a master of terse, action-oriented writing. There's enormous power in that. And finally, I'd say, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, because it gave me an endless appetite for high-concept science fiction.

7. Any advice for other writers?

Yes. Write about the things that really mean something to you, because that passion, and internal drive, will keep you on course and see you through.

8. Where does your inspiration come from? How do you keep on keeping on?

My inspiration either comes from musing on 'what ifs' or on things I see in the world that I don't like: injustice, that kind of thing. And there's plenty of both to keep me keeping on for all eternity.

9. At this point in your life, what do you hope to achieve with your writing?

I hope I entertain readers, but also make them think. And I hope I do a good enough job of it that they keep coming back for more.

10 . What would you like to be known for when you leave this little planet?

A good read.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me, Laura. I appreciate it.

A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Jon Reisfeld has worked, most of his adult life, as a writer and marketer. He has more than 25 years combined experience in journalism, corporate communications, advertising and marketing.  At 23, Jon became the first writer ever to have a story start on the cover of Baltimore Magazine. (It was a piece about teenage suicide.) He later founded and published Housecalls, a Baltimore-based health-and-fitness magazine. In the mid 90s, Jon served as Director of Marketing and Communications for Duron Paints and Wallcoverings. He ran the half-billion dollar regional paint company's 12-person in-house advertising agency for several years before returning to his private marketing consulting practice.

Jon's eclectic interests run the gamut from cosmology, chaos theory, technology and sci-fi to social issues, politics, the economy, anthropology, marketing and writing. He began writing fiction in his 40s and enjoys reading, walking, cycling, attending the theatre and "most" new movie openings.
His next major fiction project will be a sci-fi trilogy set on earth and spanning "several hundred years" of human history. 

Read more at his website, http://www.jonreisfeld.com and blog, www.writeatyou.wordpress.com

Find his books at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like other posts by and about authors:
Dan Blum Kathy Scanlon Opie Phillip Thomas Duck
Paul Clayton Ross Tarry

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