Friday, November 17, 2017

the #metoo phenomenon

We've been surrounded in the news about stories of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. One pebble started an avalanche.

Unfortunately, there are many people who are asking "Why now?" or, even worse, "So what?" Others are saying they're tired of hearing it.

So am I, but not for the same reasons.

Having this linger in the news, to be confronted by it over and over and over brings up unwanted memories of my own #metoo history. I had put the repeated sexual molestation behind me, as I'm sure many of these women did, abandoning hope of ever regaining that control and having justice against those who made us feel ashamed of ourselves or fearful of being powerless or made an outcast. I had moved on.

However, being bombarded with this is like a constant irritant on old scars, rubbing them raw into bleeding again. I believe this is part of the reason we're seeing the explosion of accusations.

The other part is that the bravery of one victim and seeing them believed and accepted as legitimate in their suffering empowers others, like myself, to come forward. (I don't owe any explanations here, except to those who matter.)

Unless you've never experienced the emotions of being a victim of such abuse, you really have no right to judge. I'm tired of people judging. As a victim, you cycle through feeling alone, helpless, ashamed, and violated. It lingers with you, even when you think you've moved past it. The only power a victim has to really recover is to gain power over their abuser by seeing justice served. In my case, that will never happen.

I did, however, regain some of my power when, years after I got out of the situation, my parents believed me. It took my husband--then boyfriend--listening to give me that much courage. And when my parents believed me--and I never thought they would, which was why I didn't tell them sooner (part of what you feel as a victim)--I gained a new strength. Unfortunately, I still had to live with seeing the abuser on occasion; I avoided him when possible until he passed away.

You can deny all you want and say there's no proof; there rarely is, except for the invisible scars. We wear masks to cover those scars. Despite the irritant that this has been to me, this needs to stay in the public awareness to discourage the disgusting behavior of predators and prevent further injuries.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Changing Seasons

Fall is here. In my part of the world, the leaves are nearly all blown off the trees and winter's bitter sting is in the air.

I've finally hammered out the rough draft of Enlightenment into a readable story, cutting out clutter that has shortened it to be about the same length as Awakening. In the process, I made notes of aspects of it to consider while writing Eternal, the third and last book of the Luriel Cycle trilogy. In the last couple of days, I've taken the hardest step--beginning.

I'm planning on releasing Enlightenment late next spring and Eternal in the fall, if all goes as planned. I'd like to finish the rough draft of Eternal before going into final edits on Enlightenment.

I'm honored by those who encouraged me to finish the vision of this series. Thank you for your continued interest in my writing.

I'm still struggling with my personal issues, but it just means I have to work a little harder. I'm glad to be able to tell stories and enjoy the journeys of my characters taking me away from real life problems.

And that leads me to something I want to say. With its contemporary otherworld setting, this series allows me to explore some real world issues in a unique way. It offers a different perspective from a fresh palette of backgrounds and cultures in a parallel world that is a more direct correlation to our world than allegorical stories. Science Fiction and Fantasy have traditionally offered views on our Earthly existence meant to open our minds or frighten us with possibilities in a way that is much farther from reality than other genres, and perhaps in that respect is easier to accept. That is one of the reasons I have always enjoyed these genres.

I've also noticed that this series is three different books in one aspect--they each follow their own unique style rather than trying to follow the same formula for each book. I've done that with other series, probably because I get bored easily and like to change things up; in other words, I don't like formulaic writing. Enlightenment is different than Awakening and far more complex in questioning what should be clear, black-and-white good-versus-evil; rather, it is discovered to be quite murky. In the second book, the characters discover that there is no black and white, that it is all areas of gray depending upon one's perspective. Lilly is not the only one to be enlightened to that truth in the second book. There are others who must learn to accept it, no matter how much they hope to deny it (and create problems in the process). Eternal will follow an even different path as the characters mature in their transformations and finally take actions to resolve the issues that they have confronted.

And now, I'm ready to delve into the final leg of this complex story that has become something different than I ever imagined it could be. I look forward to realizing its potential and presenting it to you in due course.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Awakening is Here!

Awakening is now available and for the low price of only 99c (USD).

Expect Book 2: Enlightenment in spring 2018.


Lilly has been marked for death by daemons from a hidden world, a place known as the Shadow Realm. Within her has awakened the spirit of their enemy, one of the luriel. Such beings are myths to her, but one man is out to prove that they exist. The daemon slayer, Mychel, will introduce her to a world of shadows and light hiding beyond the comfort of science and technology, where ancient myths are real and an eternal war rages on, a war in which she has now been conscripted to fight.

One daemon is doing his best to destroy her before that happens. In human form, Darrac is able to get close to her and soon realizes that she is different—through Lilly, an ancient power has revived, a terrible power than can end the war…by eliminating both luriel and daemons. But destroying that power would mean sacrificing the one who has changed his heart.

Time is running out as the luriel within Lilly matures and her powers grow. One choice will determine the fate of two realms.


Amazon
Apple
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
Smashwords

Also available in other stores.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Playing with my Buddy lately (horse pics & a video)

Buddy 9.23.17 after a good ride
Buddy's impression of Maui (demigod from Moana, who transformed and always had his hook as a pattern on his animal form)--Buddy's hook is over his rump. Also, "I like big butts!" Gotta love that that big, fish hook butt ;)
Leia (cat): How's that?
Buddy (horse): A little to the right, please...yes. Right there. Ahhh!
(Kitty massages)
Was that a mouse?
My herd! I'm coming!



Saturday, September 16, 2017

New Cover for an Old Ebook

I finally did it. I gave A Turn of Curses the cover it deserves. In 2008, it was an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest Honorable Mention. In 2009, it became my first ebook.

Sadly, it got pushed aside by bigger, more popular books that I've published, and ATOC languished into obscurity, partly for lack of a good cover.

That has been rectified. I present the new and improved cover of this little ebook:


Nineteen year old Selina has a life many would love–praised, served, and spoiled. The only problem is she didn't choose that life, because it comes with a heavy price. She will soon die, like all Healers, when the mark of Y'dom completes its pattern around her neck, and hers is nearly complete. Her gift of healing powers are sought after by all, including the ruling prince of a neighboring kingdom to heal his ailing father. Seeing this as her last chance for adventure, she makes the journey to Vastorn. 

En route she encounters Faldon, the fallen leader of the feyquin, and his band of rogues. Cursed by a demon and swearing vengeance on the human who shares his curse, Faldon does all he can to stop Selina from completing her journey. But he also knows how to save Selina, if she survives the night mares.

For more details, visit http://melanienilles.com/a-turn-of-curses.html .


Saturday, September 9, 2017

GF/DF Pumpkin muffins

We've been harvesting up a storm from our garden in the last few weeks. Pumpkins and watermelons are coming out of our ears! And we've had plenty of those also from our corn.

We're sharing what we can't eat in a timely manner and freezing what we can save for ourselves. It's a lot of work, but we've processed four large pumpkins to obtain the seeds and around 4 gallons of pureed pumpkin, which is being distributed to friends and family with plenty to keep on hand for us.

And I and my youngest child loooove pumpkin! We make pumpkin muffins and breads. Because of my food restrictions, we bake using only gluten-free flours and less inflammatory oils than the standard canola or soy.

So, before I forget the thrown together ingredients that turned into the best gf pumpkin muffins I've ever made, I want to throw it up here for me and you. This makes about eight dozen mini muffins, or at least it did this time. It would probably make about three to four dozen regular muffins.



Ingredients:

6 small-medium eggs
1 qt pumpkin puree
2 cups local honey
1/2 cup water (can be used to dissolve honey that has crystallized, simply put them together in a bowl and microwave for about 60-90 seconds on high)
3/4 cup grape seed oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Blend wet ingredients together then mix in the following:

1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
6 cups non-gluten flour (I used 4 cups of sorghum and 2 cups of rice flour)
1 1/2 Tbsp xanthum gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Once the batter is all mixed evenly, spoon into the paper cups so that it reaches the top. Don't worry, as long as you use the xanthum gum with gf flour, they will not run. Pumpkin batter from this recipe is a bit thick and doesn't settle in the cup but keeps its form pretty well.

Bake at 350 F until the tops turn slightly brown and spring back with a light finger press. The length to bake them will vary depending on whether you use metal or silicon bakeware. I prefer silicon because the bottoms don't get burned when the tops are quite satisfactorily browned.

You can top these with frosting for extra flavor. I recommend a good cream cheese frosting.

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Horse pics

Nothing more. Just wanted to share some more recent pictures of my Buddy, my saving grace, the beacon of light through the darkness of the past two years of struggling with Hashimoto's and untreated hypothyroidism. Now that I am being treated, I'm moving ahead with his training and seeing encouraging results with him.

Me and Buddy Aug. 28, 2017


Buddy in his herd

My noble little big man
I often share these first on my instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/melanienilles_author/ .

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Diversity of SFF

I'm counting down to the day that Awakening is released! October 10th is coming soon. I've finished the first draft of Enlightenment. And now, I've updated this blog and my website with the most current information.

Awakening is available for preorder now.

What I am especially happy about is finding covers with a model who is closer to my envisioned main character. It's an alternative Earth-like world, and some of our world issues are touched on. Others are not, but that's the nice thing about fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy.

I love the covers and hope that readers do too. What do you think?




There have been controversies about whitewashing book covers, but I don't have those publishing qualms. I don't have those writing restrictions. I often write about aliens and monsters. I'm open to just about anything, which means I do not limit my imagination to the amount of melanin in someone's skin, the shape of their eyes, or any odd characteristics. That's what I love about SFF--it's liberating. It seems far more open to accepting something different. And in this case, Lilly is darker skinned. It is more common in Lilly's world than being light skinned. It's not our world. Ahlias is a "what if" world -- no Europe, no Africa. The setting is something that is unique but allows for a new perspective away from the conflicts of our world, a perspective of what could be if people were just people.

Sadly, I had a hard time finding a cover that fit. There are a lot of white models used on covers and few other races. It's time to start thinking outside the box for SFF. We have aliens of every color and shape in popular movies, comics, and books. It's time to accept more variety in the human characters also. I was very happy to work with the artist on these and to bring something different to readers.

What you don't see...

It's been over a month since I last posted. Where does the time go?!

I work part-time outside the home and then take care of writing. I also cope with my health. That's something I wanted to address for those unfamiliar.

You may have read that stars like Zoe Saldana openly talked about having Hashimoto's. I am grateful for the exposure that celebrities with chronic illness bring to those issues. Those of us who also suffer want the world to be aware of them, not just so people can understand us but also because we want people to be aware that if they are also suffering, we may have an answer for them. We support each other in a worldwide community.

I have spoken before about having Hashimoto's, which has developed into hypothyroidism. There are two myths that I want to clear up.

Myth #1: Aren't Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism the same?
Fact: NO. Hashimoto's, aka Hashimoto's Disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an immune system malfunction. All autoimmune "diseases" are due to the immune system mistakenly attacking the body. Whether it's Addison's (attack on adrenal glands) or multiple sclerosis (attack on nerve myelin) or Hashimoto's (attack on thyroid tissue), they are basically the same issue--the body's own immune system mistaking healthy tissue for a foreign invader that must be destroyed. Hashimoto's (or Hashi's) is diagnosed by high levels of thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOab) or thyroglobulin antibodies (TGab) or by a biopsy that reveals high lymphocytes in the thyroid.

Hypothyroidism is the underfunctioning of the thyroid. It can be due to the destruction caused by autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's), surgical removal of the thyroid, or RAI (radioactive iodine treatment). It can also happen because of malnutrition or starvation.

It's like saying Grave's Disease and hyperthyroidism are the same. Grave's is an attack on certain enzymes of the thyroid that cause it to increase hormone production (hyperthyroidism).

Myth #2: Hashimoto's is no big deal.
Fact: Um...Read what I just wrote under myth #1. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease. It is the immune system attacking the body. With any autoimmune disease, there are symptoms that cause suffering in misery, from brain fog to aches and pains. These come and go depending on the attack. Worst of all, with the attack on the thyroid comes swings from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid. Some people notice this more than others. Those who don't realize what's going on until they are hypothyroid permanently are the lucky ones. Those who suffer the swings, which can go on for years before the thyroid is finally destroyed enough to settle into a permanent state of hypothyroidism, are prone to insomnia, anxiety, and depression and are often diagnosed as bipolar. It is a rollercoaster that leaves the sufferer wishing for an end. Because of the swings, the standard testing can often look "normal", which is why it is so important that doctors check all the thyroid markers, not just the TSH, which is actually a very poor test of what is going on. (Every thyroid test should include free T4, free T3, TPOab, TGab, and TSH.) Conventional medicine often mistreats these patients as simply having a mental illness. That is a mistake as often antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications only make the patient feel worse.

Hashimoto's can be managed, like any autoimmune disease, but it is not easy. Starting with the autoimmune protocol diet and adding in thyroid hormones as necessary, reducing stress, and getting regular, moderate exercise go a long ways towards reducing the symptoms of Hashimoto's.

How do I know all this? I've said in past posts. I am a Hashimoto's survivor. It started over two years ago and I have finally started levothyroxine, which has made a big difference in the quality of my life. In some ways, I am lucky that I am able to convert T4 to T3 so easily that levothyroxine is all I need. However, I'm not so lucky in that I tend towards what is called Hashitoxicosis; my thyroid tends to overproduce T3, because of the low T4. The levothyroxine balances that out and supports my thyroid, calming it to reduce the combination symptoms of hyper and hypo so that my body only converts what it needs (instead of overcompensating--my body is an overachiever).

I hope this helps people to understand that Hashimoto's is a big deal and is not the same as hypothyroidism. It's not the same for everyone. If you've met one Hashimoto's survivor, you've met one Hashimoto's survivor. Our bodies may generate the same attack but that's as far as it goes. Symptoms, sensitivities, and treatment are unique to each individual.

I had reached a point of wanting to quit everything and that included writing. However, thanks to finally treating the hypothyroidism, I have begun to sleep better and think more clearly. My memory has improved and I feel more calm. All that FT3 was making me feel like I had ADHD, and I had all those symptoms too. The best part is that I love writing again, because it's no longer a blur and a struggle. I feel like my brain is back and my life with it and I use that thought to keep me going through the autoimmune flares that make some days more difficult.

You can't tell someone is suffering when you see them. We tend to hide it, embracing what joy we can glean from life to carry us through the difficulties of our invisible illness. Please remember that anytime you encounter someone on the street or online, you don't know what they may be struggling with in their lives. If for no other reason, I ask that people be a little more thoughtful and considerate to each other.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

writing, riding, and cats

I haven't had much to say lately and have been quite busy with life and writing. It's great to write like that again.

But this only came about because I finally received treatment for at least part of what I've been suffering. It's taught me that it doesn't matter what your numbers are but what you feel. Don't listen to conventional doctors who say you're fine and anything you think you're feeling is wrong is "just anxiety" or "just old age." Find a new doctor. I did and I found some relief, not only because of the treatment but also because they listened and that alone is powerful medicine. Those doctors tried many things and tested to try to find the root cause but ultimately, we had to resort to the most common treatment, which is sufficient for me but at much lower dose than normal. And I have to watch my diet or risk a flare of the other part of my issues.

I wanted to make a point for anyone who feels sick but isn't feeling better. Look beyond traditional/conventional/corporate medicine. Listen to your body, not medicine.

Because I've finally found a treatment that works, I've had incredible creativity (except on flare days) and have made fast progress on Enlightenment. It is currently at 92,000 words and growing to where it will likely end up with a final word count between 110K-120K. But that's just the first draft. I tend to over-write and then have lots of space to cut back.

Lilly is learning to use a new power and there's a new daemon, a scout sent to learn what it is she can do. Nothing is what it seems and Lilly is having visions of a time before the Sundering. Her visions will reveal secrets that could change the course of the war.

This summer I have also been feeling more like riding Buddy and he's doing magnificent. He has been learning lateral work and has become pretty adept at walking leg-yield and the beginning of straightening. Although he still wants to go to his herd, he is learning to cooperate better. Since he has to work, he appreciates straightness more and more. He's at a point of learning trot leg-yield in preparation to canter. The dressage work is making things easier on him as he learns to carry himself properly and lift his back. He is becoming fun to ride, especially since he feels like he's enjoying the training.

After we finish working, we often head outside the arena for a little trail ride. To make those rides calm and pleasant, on days that I don't ride, I try to take him down the ditch for a trail leading session. By leading, I stay safe from him freaking out over something new. And by getting him out away from his herd, he learns that he can go out alone and trust me as his leader. If we're going to really trail ride, he needs to learn to deal with new situations and sights without letting his fear overcome my training. At least I can stay safe introducing new things to him because I am often alone in these situations and am getting older. The ground gets a LOT harder when you get older. I don't need any accidents, even if I always have my cell phone strapped to my leg when I'm with my horse.

Buddy and I after a great riding lesson.

And because he was too cute to leave out, the latest barn addition, who just appeared without any explanation. I don't know if he was thrown from a car nearby or fell out from hiding under a hood or if his own mother left him there. I know that he'll have a good home and that the dog is smitten with him, just as the rest of us are.



Saturday, July 1, 2017

the view from the saddle

The world looks different from the back of a horse. It's more peaceful and connected. One doesn't think about their problems or, if they do, those problems are minor compared to the beauty in that moment.

A horse doesn't plan ahead but lives in the moment. Really, they are incapable of that wider scope of cognitive function. Rather, they base their immediate reaction on experiences of the past based on the situation that they are in at that moment. They don't think that the sign in the road might blow in a sudden gust, but if it does, it becomes a monster at that time. You can pass the same sign a hundred times but suddenly on one-hundred-one, it's a fire-breathing, horse-eating monster. Horses live in the now, this moment. We can learn something from that.

I think some of that somehow affects us when we are with our horses, connected. When I'm with my Buddy, I am in that moment. I don't think about projects at work or what so-and-so might be scheming (somewhere) or my writing and what plot point I need to conquer. Rather, it's just me and my horse conquering the world together. That's it. Nothing else.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about how to get him to cooperate in a task. I still think about what I'm doing, but he has my undivided attention and when it comes to riding, it is all about that moment, each moment. It's very liberating.

This morning was a beautiful morning all about preparing Buddy to head out on the trails. After lunging and some arena riding, he was pretty subdued and focused. I've been taking it one step at a time in an effort to give him the most positive experiences possible. We've slowly graduated from one small step to the next: round penning and desensitizing -> lunging -> riding in an arena -> lunging and riding in the pasture and leading down the road outside the fences -> riding outside the fences.

We rode outside any fences this morning for the first time. My goal was to just ride along the property that he is familiar with, getting him used to being ridden somewhere outside an arena. I don't want to push him too far too fast. I never have. And he's rewarded me greatly every chance I've had to work with him. This morning, we did have an issue along the trailer row, but we would reach his limit of fear and I let him retreat to where he was comfortable and calm again, then we rode back and I'd ask for a little further before retreating. He wanted to run away, but he has the personality of a superb trail prospect. He listened to my voice and seat (which I try to keep relaxed) and the bit pressure (which wasn't that much). We did that three times and by the last time, reached the end of the trailer row and headed back to the arena far more calmly and with little rein pressure. That was good enough progress for me!

Buddy is not a flighty horse but he could be if we hadn't prepared for this. I've spent almost two years building his trust and confidence in my leadership. And I've done all I can to let him make the right choice so that I don't have to discipline. He's challenged me a few times, but it's never been too difficult to make him realize that misbehaving isn't worth the effort--he's a bit lazy, thank goodness. It's that laid-back personality, partially natural and partially from training, and achieving first his trust in my leadership on the ground and then his trust in my leadership on his back that combined to bring out the best in this little guy. It's not about the human being the boss but, rather, a trusted leader and partner.

And I did measure him recently with a proper measuring stick. He may not stay a pony for long at already 14.2 hands at 4 years old. Unfortunately, he looks like he will end up being a small horse, which tend to not score so well in shows against larger horses. He won't qualify for the pony divisions against other small equines. But, I have a happy little horse who will eventually carry me anywhere and do anything.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

AWAKENING preorder available!

It is done! Awakening has a new cover, a new series name that better reflects the tone of the series, and it's now available for preorder.


Lilly has been marked for death by daemons from a hidden world, a place known as the Shadow Realm. Within her has awakened the spirit of their enemy, one of the luriel. Such beings are myths to her, but one man is out to prove that they exist. The daemon slayer, Mychel, will introduce her to a world of shadows and light hiding beyond the comfort of science and technology, where ancient myths are real and an eternal war rages on, a war in which she has now been conscripted to fight.

One daemon is doing his best to destroy her before that happens. In human form, Darrac is able to get close to her and soon realizes that she is different—through Lilly, an ancient power has revived, a terrible power than can end the war…by eliminating both luriel and daemons. But destroying that power would mean sacrificing the one who has changed his heart.

Time is running out as the luriel within Lilly matures and her powers grow. One choice will determine the fate of two realms.

Only $0.99 for a full novel ebook!

It is making its way for preorder to the major retailers. As of today, it is available at smashwords, Apple, and Kobo so far. It will go up on Amazon next month but should show up at barnesandnoble.com this week yet. Other smaller ebook retailers will begin to list it soon also.

The book will be released this fall.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

horse update

We have a drought here, so we're praying for rain. And it's been HOT!

Because of the heat, I've been going out to see Buddy in the mornings when I can. It worked out well today. I went out to work with Buddy. The outdoor arena was being worked up, so we lunged outside to get that done while waiting for the arena to be clear. Once that was possible, I rode. He gave me a few young horse moments, but nothing terrible. He's generally very cooperative, but he's still young enough--and damned smart enough!--that he could get spoiled very quickly with the wrong rider. It didn't take much to correct him and then he fully cooperated. He just had to try.

After our ride, I gave him a spring bath, something I've been wanting to do for a while. He gets so disgustingly dirty crossing through the creek in the pasture.

I also did something I've been dying to do--brushed out his tail. I don't do that unless it's cleaned and conditioned, which I did today. You pull out fewer hairs by leaving the tail alone, so it stays thicker and longer--I ended up having to trim it, because it gets so long. Other horses at the barn have thin, short tails because the owners brush them out all the time without washing and conditioning first. I had to shorten his with a scissors, like I did last year--it helps keep it from getting muddy, which gets flicked all over when he's swishing flies, and it helps keep it from picking up cockleburs.

Anyway, he cleaned up to have bright stockings, so I took a few picks of a clean horse, who probably got dirty crossing the creek soon after I left around noon. With the drought coming on, the herd has been crossing the creek to get the grass on the other side, but it's getting crispy there too. We're all praying for rain.




He cleans up nicely! (You should have seen how muddy he was from fresh creek mud!) And look at how long that tail was. It's still long, but not so close to the ground.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cover Reveal!

I'm so excited by this. I said I was going to wait and I at least waited until reaching the halfway point of writing the second book. I love unveiling the covers of books to come, and this was hard to come by.

I searched through premade covers to find one similar to what I had in mind and was pleasantly surprised by what is the Enlightenment cover below. It happened to work out that the designer had more images with the same model that could be made into covers for the other two books. Hooray for consistency!

The challenge with this is that on the fictional world of Ahlias, the races have pretty well blended together so that most citizens have mixed characteristics, although the extremes of skin color do happen. The main character is one of the darker complexioned individuals of the world. Finding a cover with a model with the right attitude, age, and color was a challenge, but I knew the right one when I saw it. I lucked out.

As many know, book covers do tend to be whitewashed. That's such a shame, because, as Guardians of the Galaxy demonstrated with pink, blue, green, yellow, and even crystalline beings and more, we can use whatever color pallet that we choose. Finding a model to represent that can be hard, unless one is willing to hire an artist that can create something from scratch or is willing to rewrite their character, which just isn't an option in my mind.

The Luriel Cycle needed a style more in line with contemporary/urban fantasy, which is to use live models. Besides, I wanted a real person for these. She worked out nicely. Thank you, whoever you are who posed for the stock photos used in these covers. We writers appreciate your willingness to share yourself with the world to represent our fictional characters!

Now, I would like to reveal The Luriel Cycle covers:




And thank you to Angela of Covered Creatively for the artistic talent and cooperation in setting up the series covers to fit the stories written and planned!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Delicious muffins or bread recipe

Ever since I had a health crisis occur about two years ago, I went gluten free. That single dietary choice made a difference to my life.

Since then, I've learned to eat mostly without grains in my diet, but besides the occasional popcorn or rice pudding, I've also learned to bake with alternatives to wheat flour that are just as tasty, if not tastier. My favorites are sorghum and almond, usually mixed, and sometimes a little rice flour.

One of the recipes that I've adapted was the one that I used to make sweet breads and muffins that I think surpasses the traditional wheat flour recipe in taste. I've been asked for the recipe by friends who have enjoyed them enough to ask for the recipe, so here is my gluten/dairy/soy free base plus additions for bananas and chocolate chips (YUM!):

I'm no pro photographer. This is on my kitchen counter under the normal lights.

Ingredients:

2 large eggs
1/2 c. grapeseed oil
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. honey (preferably local, unprocessed)
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 - 1/3 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. almond flour
1 1/2 tsp. xanthum gum
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
For banana/chocolate chip:

2-3 ripe bananas
1/2 c. Enjoy Life mini chips (gluten/dairy/soy free)


Instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) Beat eggs.
3) Add vanilla and beat into eggs.
4) Wisk oil into egg mixture.
5) Use the same measuring cup from the oil to measure the honey. Doing so means less honey sticks to the measuring cup and gets into the batter without much fuss. If the honey is crystallized, you will need to set the jar in a bowl of hot water for some time to liquify it again.
6) Mix the honey thoroughly into the liquid ingredients.
7) Add the water.
8) Add the sea salt and mix thoroughly to dissolve it.
9) Mix in remaining dry ingredients.
10) Mash bananas in a separate bowl until mostly smooth with a few small bits, then mix them into the batter.
11) Add the chocolate chips.
12) Fill muffin cups/bread pan and bake. I use silicon bakeware, which requires longer cooking times. Generally, the batter is thick, so feel free to mostly fill whatever you use. The muffins or bread will be done when they are browned on top and spring back from light pressure.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Updates on life, writing, and training my horse

Life is moving on for me, finally. While I still have to deal with Hashimoto's disease (not hypothyroid, thank goodness...at least not at this stage), I am doing better with the air hunger and insomnia that plagued me for a year and a half. I have learned that I can't take 99% of supplements. Apparently, I get enough in my diet that anything else is too much, according to my body. That's fine with me--eating healthy is the best way to go. And we're still working on figuring out the cause of the eosinophilia that's shown up on over this same time period--I can't help wondering if that's related to the symptoms in some way.

Weatherwise, spring is here and it seems to be full-on heading right into summer. This past week was hot. Time to get our garden going, but first we need to haul in some manure, because what we have is very thin topsoil and mostly sandy clay. We discovered last year that horse manure goes a long ways to fertilizing the soil. And we doubled the size of our garden, so we need the manure on the new section. The old section is good to go, and hubby tilled it up. We even have strawberries already blossoming (returned from last year), which were carefully tilled around.

Warm weather means insects are out too, so be careful of ticks and mosquitos. With WNV and Lyme now spread throughout North America, we should all be careful. It's about time that Lyme get the recognition that it deserves as a terrible disease.

Buddy with a well-deserved treat after a great session (5/6/17)
And this also means I'm out with my horse more. Buddy has blossomed this spring. As I mentioned in the last post, we picked up from the start this year right where we'd left off last year. We've really progressed already this spring. Although I only visit him 2-3 times a week and only work him 1-2 times a week, he's super smart. A few weeks ago, I started asking for frequent walk-trot transitions on the lungeline, and since then, he has really started to carry himself like a champ. His back is starting to swing as he comes through with lift and freedom. And he's straighter, which gives him greater balance. This has carried through under saddle, where he's now trotting for me. He's such a sweetheart in a cute little package (large pony). He's also become intensely focused in his work to where he is tuning out things that used to worry him and seems to enjoy feeling more balanced to where he wants to stay that way, which tells me that dressage is right for him.

Last of all, I want to announce that I will be revealing some book covers this summer. What was once planned to be a 4-book series called the Shadow Realm Saga with the release of Awakening about two years ago (removed from sale several months later for other considerations), will now be a 3-book The Luriel Cycle. The new ebook covers are all designed and ready, but I'm not yet ready to reveal those. They are eye-catching and better than the generic covers that they had previously. Now, I'm waiting until I am further along in the first draft of Enlightenment before revealing these new covers.

I hope to re-release Awakening with its new cover in the fall (after the first draft of Enlightenment is finished). And, as with all things artistic, it will have a little more editing, because art is never really finished and can always be a little better. Right? The titles of the trilogy will be Awakening (book 1), Enlightenment (book 2), and Eternal (book 3). These are my projects to complete over the next year, before I start anything new.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

the story of Buddy

Okay, I'm not totally obsessed with my horse, but horses are a big part of me. I've said before that horses are a part of my soul. Not having a horse partner is like death and I can only have one at a time. I mean that. Buddy has saved my life.

When my last and dearest horse I had ever had in my life went downhill in his health, I made the difficult choice to put him down. I had never done that before, but it was clear that he was in increasing pain and nothing I did helped him. I took him to a good place where he was put to rest and I can visit him any time. But he has visited me.

I sincerely believe that Beau was looking over my shoulder a year later when I went to the sale barn thinking I'd take on a pony that I could share with my kids and handle with my new health difficulties. I knew my skills could match whatever I found.


At an auction, one never knows what they'll find, but there are hidden gems. Buddy was one of them. He had ringworm, bad teeth, and had been cowboy broke into submission. However, he'd been broke fast to look good in the sales ring. Luckily and unluckily, he'd only been 2, not 3 as he was listed, so I knew that I could undo any training mistakes since he hadn't had long enough for bad handling to cement any bad behaviors.

I knew to be wary and I had my strategy for the couple of ponies I thought would fit the bill, one being that I took one of my kids with me. I know the games that horse traders play and especially those who work that particular semi-annual sale. I lost on a smaller pony but I won Buddy for what I consider a fair price--ponies are always in high demand and high priced. But I do love the thrill of bidding at an auction.

Buddy came with baggage, some of which I quickly dropped. He learned that he didn't have to just take whatever I did. He learned to open up to me, through massage and natural horsemanship and by clearing up the ringworm on his face and getting his teeth floated (the equine dentist discovered sores in his mouth in that first visit just a few weeks after I bought him). He was given a winter to grow up and get used to his new home and herd. It was too cold outside and I was going through a terrible time with my health to get out to see him more than a few times until spring came. Our first spring (2016), he had bloomed!

Last summer, Buddy took to natural horsemanship immediately, and then had to learn to accept side reins and the bit. He had some baggage yet to work through, but he had awakened to a new world and an easier life. He was able to grow up. I didn't ride him more than 15-16 times all year, but he was only three years old. Mostly, I focused on ground work, his feet, and becoming a human he could trust. I had already used our first six weeks before the winter set in since buying him to establish trust and confidence in me, but that went even further when we started working together last year. And I started him in a much gentler bit than the one he wore in the sales arena.

We ended 2016 as a team. Buddy had the advantage of everything that my over 30 years of horse training and then trying to care for Beau's worsening symptoms taught me. He had an owner who could help him physically and mentally to overcome what might have happened to make him contain his emotions. He learned that, while his human had rules, he could express himself because that human would listen; and he came out of his shell to become very expressive and cooperative with training that takes the form of questions and being directed toward the correct answer rather than punishing him for not understanding. As an example, he went from not letting me handle his feet when I first bought him to giving me his feet a year later--they need regular treatment to avoid infection that causes heel pain. He now understands this and lets out a big sigh after all four feet get their triple antibiotic ointment/clotrimazole mixture. (Tip: most foot pain in a horse can be attributed to one or (most likely) a combination of 1) contracted heels, 2) poor trimming, 3) infection, 4) sugar-rich diet...not navicular disease.)

Buddy and a friend, Chevy
We started 2017 as partners. Once again, I gave him winter off--MUCH too cold and snowy to be out for more than a quick check. As the previous year, we started with ground work. Buddy is such a smart little guy that he picked up right where we had left off last fall as if he hadn't had 3 months with hardly any handling. This time, I started with being sure he would yield his head by reaching his nose fully around both sides to his ribs, but I also asked that he relax before I let him go, combining a natural horsemanship technique with body work. This actually worked out to help him even more than I expected.

It wasn't long this spring before I got on for the first time, which happened a few weeks ago. Today we had our second ride (spring decided it wasn't ready to come back and I had busy days in there when I couldn't do much with him). Buddy finally let me ride a posting trot circle on him. We tried once last year but he wasn't sure about my posting and didn't want to trot. He started that way today and then decided to go with it.

Before our ride today, I lunged him with side reins. Last week, when I last lunged him, I started asking for frequent walk-trot transitions to keep his attention on me rather than the herd. He started sitting and reaching more forward at the trot and developed better balance. Today, I asked for that from the start and saw the transformation. He is quick to learn and when guided the right direction, the training seems effortless, like he already knows what to do.

Buddy (April 30, 2017)
I have felt from the beginning that Buddy came into my life for a reason. It could have been any horse, and I might have done far worse with a horse from the auction, but Buddy is the calm, easy-going horse that I need in my life right now. Although he's not a fancy mover, he is easy to care for and work with. I dearly miss Beau's giant strides (when he was at his best, before his deterioration) and the uphill canter (that he would no longer perform in the end because he was in too much pain). However, my life changed and Buddy is the right size (pony sized) and temperament for me now. And Beau's expensive dressage saddle fits him--that almost never happens.

I cared for Beau when his health deteriorated and did everything I could to try to make him feel better. I failed. Now, Buddy is taking care of me. Since I've had him, I've gone through some of the worst issues in my life and had contemplated suicide when things were at their worst. It was knowing that Buddy was there for me, needing me, and that I might be able to return to the joy I once knew by sharing my soul with a special horse that gave me the courage to keep trying to recover. Had I not had a horse, my soul would have been empty and had no reason to continue the struggle through the despair of my health problems. I feel that the day I found Buddy, I had a four-legged angel looking over me making sure that I was taken care of and giving me a purpose.

I have a dream for Buddy--National Pony Dressage Finals. Someday. He'll be able to do it when we're both ready.

All that I've been through has taught me not to push and has given me a patience that I never had before in my life. I feel like I've arrived at that special place that all the old horsemen find. I know now what horse whispering really is--taking the time, having the patience to listen. It's knowing how to ask for cooperation by showing the horse that what you want is easy; It is making the horse feel secure and confident. All that I've suffered has been a blessing in disguise, another lesson that I'm sure came down from a four-legged angel. Thanks, Beau, my original buddy!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A sample of today's writing

I thought it might be interesting to take a segment of what I wrote today and post a teaser. I've been working on Enlightenment and am working on chapter 9. It's ROUGH DRAFT, so be forewarned. I can't say when this will be released as an ebook, but probably next year. I will be re-releasing Awakened sometime this fall.

Here's a sample of today's work:

“Well done, Lilly.” The quiet voice of Master Kimisu praising her filled her with pride.

She opened her eyes to the slight lift of his lips.

“You proved that you can, indeed, reach your luriel. You are much closer to Enlightenment than you realize.”

Her smile was forced, and he must have seen it. He studied her with a quizzical look for several seconds and finally said, “You seem…reticent about this stage. What holds you back?”

She’d always been a terrible liar, wearing her emotions on her sleeve.

The internal debate about what to tell him strapped her tongue. Worse was his quiet expectation while waiting on her answer. What should she tell him?

What might he already know? He knew about the Un’dei. What else had Mychel or the other Pallora Fen told him?

Maybe he’d make her leave if she told the truth. That would displease Mychel and make it possible for her to return home and try to pick up the pieces of her old life. There was nothing wrong with that. So why was she hesitant?

Just say it.

Before she could freeze, she looked the master in the eyes, in which she recognized a depth of understanding the world that fueled a respect for the man. In that fraction of a moment of realization, she understood that it was that level of respect that he’d sparked from that first brief encounter on their arrival that she didn’t want to disappoint.

Lilly took a breath and said quickly, “I don’t want to Ascend.”

His demeanor remained the same—no judgment upon her. Had he expected her to say that, so that it wasn’t a surprise to him?

Still, she held her breath on the expectation of a harsh admonishment. Ascension was the pinnacle of celemae development. How could she not want that? –That’s what he would argue.

Instead, his eyes glazed in that way people’s eyes do when they turn their thoughts inward.

He was considering her statement, and eventually, no matter how he looked at it, the inquisition would be the same.

She might as well leave now and rose from the grass mat.

“Why are you here?” His words stopped her from reaching for the door.

“I don’t know. Mychel forced me to come.”

“Did he? Did he tie you and gag you and drag you here? That is not what I saw several days ago.”

-------
That's not everything and I'm not going to reveal much about it. I can say that this is definitely very rough and will be fleshed out in the editing process to come later. The important part of writing a first/rough draft is to get the ideas down. Everything can be edited later.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On a good day...

Spring is here! And for two days (minus the early part of this morning with the sleep med hangover) I've felt great. Standing at my desk is helping to stretch my shoulders and back, but I still caught myself scrunching my shoulders while working today and had to make an extra effort to drop them. I've been downing small pinches of salt throughout the day too--craving it--and feeling better as I reach some level only my body knows, so I'm guessing there are some adrenal issues that are preventing electrolytes from staying balanced. But by noon, I had no breathing issues whatsoever. It's been wonderful!

And then I went to enjoy this day with my boy:
He didn't want to stay away far enough for me to get a decent picture and kept crowding in on me for treats. At least for a moment, he took his mind off me long enough to check out a friend heading our way. This was after I was done playing with him and had taken him back to the pasture


When I had him inside, I turned him loose in the indoor arena to run and he stayed in a circle around me as if I had a lunge-line on him. He even put in a good crow-hop, about 2 feet off the ground! Also, the last few times I've been out, I've been working on him yielding his head in a relaxed way without hanging against the halter, picking up our yielding lessons again from last year in preparation for summer riding. Today, he finally gave me what I wanted, and when I released him each time, he let out a lot of tension in the form of yawns and deep breaths.

I had also expected to touch up his hooves. His heels that I noticed were contracted on Sunday looked improved today already, only five days after first treating them for thrush this year and giving them some touch-up trimming to encourage them to open. It's that time of year to stay on top of the thrush/hoof rot that comes from sloppy footing. I've learned from experience that contracted heels are a major source of pain for horses and are generally caused by two things--thrushy hooves and bad trimming.

I learned barefoot trimming a few years ago, but having been sick and not sure how much I could safely push myself over the last two years (and knowing that trimming is HARD work), I entrusted Buddy's trimming to someone else, although I know this person is a farrier and trims for shoes, whether a horse gets them or not. That is WRONG and can do a lot of harm.

When Buddy started getting foot fussy late last fall, I knew that something had happened the last time or two that the farrier had trimmed him, and I hadn't been there the last time. (Then it got too cold for me to spend more than a few minutes outside with heavy gloves before my fingers froze, so wasn't going to potentially spend an hour working with his feet.) This farrier knows I don't like what he does, since he ruined the feet of the horse I had before Buddy; but I didn't have much of a choice. *I* got that previous horse's heels to open up and soles to heal, despite the sidebone, contracted heels, and high, arched, thin soles that he had developed over several years with that farrier! (Alas, there was more wrong with Beau than his hooves and he dealt with a lot of sacrum, stifle, and general body pain, but I did everything for my beloved boy until he deteriorated too far to bear watching him suffer; and now Buddy reaps the benefits also of all the training I took on in hoofcare, body work, nutrition, and dressage riding.)

If Buddy hadn't just had his teeth floated (and a baby cap removed) a week ago, I would have put a saddle and bridle on him and at least started some lunging in side reins, if not also had a short ride indoors. It's too sloppy outside for him to stretch out in a run, much less for me to feel safe riding a young horse. He's pretty sure-footed, but I don't like to take unnecessary chances. I like to give the mouth at least a week to heal, even if he didn't have much done this time with the dentist. The mouth heals quickly, but why push it?

I was so pleased to see Buddy improved today and especially because I helped make that possible. I only regret letting him go so long without treating his heels for thrush--it was a loooong cold winter! But I know he forgives me, especially because I bring the treats ;) . Also, he now accepts me as a benevolent leader worthy of his respect. He's shown me that he lives up to his name :) .

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

the Importance of Ergonomics

I work at a safety organization and just finished putting together an office safety presentation for our trainers. I created the ergonomics portion as a separate presentation last fall, so you'd think I'd have realized this sooner, but my situation is different.

Something hit me today. It's happened a couple of times, but just little ticks, not the big knock that finally hit me today. I realized long ago that there was a musculoskeletal component to the air hunger that I've been experiencing. Stretching and massage have always provided temporary relief but hasn't kicked it out completely.

My work monitor, chair, keyboard tray, and foot stool all put me in the perfect position...for a normal visioned person. I am not normal; I wear bifocals. I've had them for so long that I don't often think about what I'm doing; I don't realize how I adjust my head to see things through the different parts of the lenses.

I realized today how far back I tip my head to read through the bottoms of my bifocals. I have to tip my head back farther than a normal person to read on my monitor, no matter the resolution. (Yes, my eyes are THAT bad!) I never have to do that at home when I have my laptop on my lap and I feel better and breathe easier.

So, I stood up and realized that, although my head is above the monitor, it was in the right position so that I wasn't straining my neck and shoulders to hold my head back to read through the bottoms of my glasses. It was actually perfect, partly because I'm so short. As an added bonus, the portion of my desk for my keyboard and mouse is adjustable and at it's highest is perfect for me standing. So, I have a standing desk! I was amazed at how much my shoulders stretched when relaxed and how much more comfortable I was looking down at my screen instead of up. And the air hunger improved slightly. It will take time to see if I'm on to the source of that problem, but if nothing else, I am more comfortable at my desk at work and am not just sitting on my butt all morning.

I've seen different ergonomics pictures, and most show the monitor below the level of the user's head for proper alignment. I'm hoping the new position helps correct this issue or at least lessen it (there may still be a physiological cause). I still have my other health issues, but only the insomnia is as frustrating as the air hunger. Everything else is a cake walk by comparison.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

some perspective on writing and the real world

Has anyone noticed this--I don't write stories strictly about rebels against a big bad repressive regime. Rather, I like to explore all sides and build up sympathy for even the "bad guys". I don't believe that any entity of many individuals is "evil". Rather, as the best writers have always preached, every character has a story. Even the "bad guy" thinks he/she is doing right for their own reasons and it's worth exploring by removing ourselves from our personal views and putting ourselves in their minds. I believe that adds incredible depth.

The best stories challenge our perceptions and beliefs, challenge us to step out of our comfort zones and look at the world from a different set of eyes, to, as the saying goes, "walk a mile in another's shoes." Unfortunately, much of the popular fiction in the last twenty years has lacked that perspective that I enjoy. That's one reason I write--to enjoy stories that I like to read. Granted, I like an underdog story, but I also like to to be able to see all sides.

I had a real challenge in Starfire Angels: Revelations to put some perspective on the situation with the alien parasites and made Leksel really give the situation a hard look in Nemesis. He had changed so much with training and started questioning the rightness or wrongness of everything. The answers weren't straightforward or clearcut after examining the different aspects of what was right or wrong. The lines blurred, and that's how real life is.

In my worlds, there may be an illusion of polarization, but I like to disintegrate that into a gray area where there isn't any easy answer except for the characters overcoming their flaws. It's not just Starfire Angels but also the Demon Age series, White Dragon books, and even the Luriel Cycle.

Maybe that says something about my personality or maybe it's just me wishing people in the real world could quit bickering and fighting about every little perceived "wrong" by another. What ever happened to "water off a duck's back" or "love thy neighbor" or "mutual respect"?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

re- Awakening

The other day, I picked up a print copy of one of my books that I had left off as an intended series--Awakening. It's a book that I pulled from sale over a year ago, when I wasn't sure I could continue the series. But in picking it up, I read a middle chapter...and couldn't put it down! The writing swept me away and I thought, "This is too good. I couldn't have written this." I love and loathe those moments, because it depresses me to think that I'll never write that well again, which is never the truth. At the same time, it pushes me to write better.


Original cover of Awakening
I have been totally caught up in the world I created in Awakening. And I have made tons of notes, which is probably just duplicating my efforts in some file on my computer somewhere. I had an outline for the series and have been really mulling things over in my head, and I decided that if I'm going to continue this, it will be a trilogy, not a 4-book series as I had originally thought.

When I had first conceived of this, I figured 4 books would be perfect--Awakening, Enlightenment, Ascension, and Eternal. But something was never quite right about that. I even had a tough time coming up with four cover ideas. Now I know why--it wasn't meant to be 4 novels, only 3. I've really been mulling over the outline and inspired ideas from rereading Awakening and see more clearly how the plot fits 3 books much better.

Now, if my muse sticks with me in this, I can finish the next two without distractions...other than the bad days from health issues. I am debating the middle book title--Enlightenment or Ascension--but definitely want Eternal as the final book in the series. This first book isn't changing--the story is the same. Only the unwritten books have a new plan.

And I think I will rename the series from Shadow Realm Saga to The Luriel Cycle. I think it sounds less dark--the story really isn't dark fantasy but a reshaping of angels and demons into something else. It has always been intended as a fantasy saga set on another world but with a modern technology society rather than a medieval, traditional fantasy setting. Magic and technology and science mix in this world and I love the concept as much now as I did when I first developed it.

Now, I'm glad I pulled it when I did. I can better organize how the rest of the story plays out. Everything happens for a reason, and this wasn't a fully developed plan when I first started it. It only took a few years to reach maturity, unlike Starfire Angels, which took twelve years from the first concept to what it became (the first book of my most popular series). Legend of the White Dragon went through a similar redevelopment in its own way also, and now that's been my better seller (helped along by riding the coattails of A Game of Thrones).

Those who did purchase Awakening with its original cover can claim a rare first copy.