Magic Weaver and Saint Death both launch!

I was pleased to see that my friend Mike Duran launched his urban fantasy Saint Death today. So did Magic Weaver–so why not promote them both?

First up, here’s Magic Weaver!


So far it’s only available at Amazon, but the other retailers will be up in a day or two. This is a young adult contemporary fantasy–technically urban, but it’s less about a gritty city setting and more about friendship and chasing ghosts. You don’t have to have read the other books to enjoy this one. But if you have read the others, it’ll be fun to visit all the characters again. Magic Weaver is on sale for .99 for the rest of the week, so grab it now!

Second, here’s Saint Death, by Mike Duran:


This is the second book in his urban fantasy series. Unlike Magic Weaver, this IS set in a gritty city setting. If you ever wondered about the secret occult underbelly of Los Angeles, this is the book for you. Also, all the heroes have superpowers that are like all the fun bits of quantum physics.

Two new books! It’s so fun getting to launch books. Especially when I’m excited about my friends’ books, too.

How worry steals your magic

It’s July National Novel Writer’s Month! Props to all my frantic writer peeps who are taking time out of vacation to scribble out random stories.

To get into the creation mood, I’ve been listening to all my brain-food music. One of them is Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins. I listened to it over and over as a teen while composing tons of crazy fanfics.

You know how listening to music can make those mental connections, and place you right back into a time and place where you last heard it? It also can have really powerful emotional connections. For me, it was like a snapshot of my mental state as a super-creative teen.

I lived in a world of good and evil, fantastic adventure, and heart-tearing drama. This album was some of the backdrop. I lived in Neverland, where once you’ve been there, you can never grow old. This was my land of pure imagination. I didn’t worry about genre or market. With fanfics, you don’t have to worry about that stuff anyway–it’s all built in. My plots were bonkers, but so fun.

Floating Island by Bezduch

But things changed.

I’ve spent the last decade learning to be afraid. Learning to worry. Learning all those dark, negative things that help you survive adulthood–but they cut off your shining Neverland. In its place, I built a narrow, dystopian world of darkness and fear.

Dark fantasy landscape concept by FPesantez

I didn’t realize how far I’ve come until I put on Kenny Loggins and revisited that snapshot of how the inside of my head used to look. I want to go back to being that intense, happy person. I think my kids would like her. So I’ve been trying to be thankful, like Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Vitamins, minerals (and how mostly they suck)

Ever since we started taking our high-quality supplements last year, I’ve gotten used to feeling healthy. No allergies, few colds. The only thing I get now are the big nasty bugs during flu season.

The Legend of Biff

The thing about good health is that you take it for granted. You get up and go about your day, you eat what you like (within reason–avoid gluten and sugar like the plague). You go to bed at night and sleep like a baby. The health part of your life works like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t think about it.

Like the doctrine of grace, life is a list of Dos. Do your chores, do the things that need to be done, do enjoy your life, do have fun, do smile a lot.

Then one day, you run out of supplements.

I ordered more, but I’m cheap and use standard shipping, which takes a week.

You know why people think vitamins and minerals don’t work? Because the stuff you get at the drugstore does NOTHING. Our medicine cabinet is stuffed with multivitamins–men’s, women’s, prenatals, weird samples the doctor gave me, and so on.

Investigation of the labels reveals tiny doses of about twelve vitamins and minerals. A good one might have twenty.

You know how many vitamins and minerals the human body needs?

Ninety. 9-0. That’s the correct ratios of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, plus trace minerals that act as co-factors. For instance, vitamin C does nothing without calcium. Iron does nothing without copper. Plus you gotta have the Omega oils, which work in concert with the vits and minerals.

So I’m popping double doses of everything in the cabinet. Absolutely nothing happens. I suspect that they’re such low-quality pills that they go straight through.

My health begins to deteriorate. First is fatigue and brain fog. I walk around like a zombie.

Next is allergies. Then indigestion. I can’t eat a darn thing without my stomach reacting violently. Only vegetables seem to tame the beast a little. And remember, this is mostly gluten and sugar free! If I touch either of those, pick a symptom from The Wheel of Suck. Actually, pick five.

Next comes the canker sores in my mouth. Because those are always fun.

My chronic anemia returns. I can’t draw a full breath, and my legs twitch badly at night in that creepy leg moving syndrome.

Then comes my old friend, the urinary tract infection. It stays for days and weeks. I take cranberry pills. I drink lemon juice. I sit on hot water bottles. I really don’t want to go on antibiotics, but after days of suffering, it looks pretty attractive.

The list of things I can eat and do begins to shrink. This is Law–a list of don’ts. It gets longer and longer. Don’t eat sugar, honey, tea, any fruit, most meat, any grains whatsoever, slightly breaded chicken … it all causes headaches, stomach aches, and other awful things.

Then … Cue the angelic choir … My good supplements arrive.

Serra Angel by Kaiz0

Within two days the brain fog and fatigue are gone. Within three days the urinary tract infection is gone. Within four days the allergies, stomach problems, and canker sores are gone. The anemia and leg twitches vanish.

My hormones calm down–PMS disappears. My mood defaults to Cheerful because I feel so darn good. I go back to eating all the foods I couldn’t eat (except gluten and sugar). Grace rules once more.

I’ve talked about this supplement before and why it’s so good. I now understand why nobody believes me. Did you know that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements? In fact, nobody regulates them. That’s why most of them suck. Having spent a week mixing and matching our inferior drugstore brands and getting zero benefit, I feel desperately sorry for everyone around me.

My cockatiel is old and sick. He had stopped chirping or moving very much. I got him a bottle of liquid supplements, and he cheered right up. Guess what! There’s more vitamins and minerals in the bird drops than in ANY of my multivitamins. Only my really good supplement has more.

Law and grace–do and don’t. Good health and bad. It’s so weird to see a spiritual doctrine so closely paralleled in the health sphere. The law can’t save, no matter how strictly we follow it. Only grace saves. And there are so many counterfeits–its hard to tell the fakes from the real thing.

Storing Force: The Power of Habit

When I was on vacation last week, my mom gave me a stack of stuff to read. One of them was a book of articles (blog posts from before blogging).

One was a fascinating article from the 1800s about habit. This doctor had observed how the more often a person does something, the easier it becomes to do again. Science has recently discovered this very thing in our neurons.

However, this doctor took the concept of habit in an interesting direction: that of force. I believe that she was talking about energy–you get up in the morning, and spend your force, or energy, over the course of the day.


Now, if your life has a series of good habits in it, this saves you a lot of energy. Things like getting up, showering, brushing your teeth, cooking meals at certain times, cleaning house–all these are good habits. They expend force. However, a person who has never consigned these menial tasks to habits must exert more force in order to accomplish them. They reach the end of the day with nothing left over.

The article then went on to talk about storing force. You store force by enjoying the moment, and by sitting and thinking, by having times of rest throughout your day. This is when you convert your force to a higher form, and it is used to bless and enrich those around you.

Crater Lake from Interfacelift

This really spoke to me. While I try to leverage habit or routine, I never, ever sit and store up force. I rarely take time to rest and think. If I have a quiet moment, out comes the device, and on goes the Internet. More energy is siphoned away by Facebook than anything else.

This week, I’ve tried to keep the household running on a routine, and have rest periods without Internet. And do you know, it’s been really pleasant. I had gotten frantic and angry, and wasted my force chasing the kids around, and lugging around the baby. This week it occurred to me that if the baby is old enough to scoot on her tummy and work on crawling, she’s old enough for an enforced nap time. Suddenly she’s much happier. I have more free time. I’m calmer. Habit wins the day again!

I find that writing works best if automated by habit. If I make it a habit to write or edit for an hour every night after the kids are in bed, it adds up. I can finish three books a year that way. The best thing is, if I have those few hours of quiet, I can store up force better. It helps me to think, and refreshes me with a better mood the next day.

Have you ever heard of “force” as applies to your energy level and exertion? Have you leveraged the power of habit to help run your life more smoothly?

A birthday hotdog roast

We went to California last week for my daughter’s 7th birthday. All of my extended family lives out there, so CA is where we go when it’s time to party. Lots of pictures (and captions) following!

The long drive through the desert. Such a pretty day! And the desert was so green!
Grandma making friends with the 2-year-old.
Everybody roasting hotdogs. There were many, many wiener jokes.
“Why are these taking so long to cook?”
The kid table, filled with hungry kiddos.
Ahh, the typical American family–all sitting with their devices. Note the cunning use of umbrellas in the background.
Lighting the candles on the ice cream cake.
Dramatic action shot of birthday candle ownage!
After dinner, the kids played Detective with an obliging uncle.
My sis-in-law Makenzie is a professional photographer, and took a lot of these pictures. Like this one.
Family photo–silly faces edition!
Driving home was smooth sailing until we entered Arizona. There a giant storm awaited us. This is us driving into it. I didn’t take pictures of the hail and lightning because I was afraid we’d die if I took my eyes off the road.
The dust was blowing like crazy here. Not sure if the camera captured it.

And that’s a brief photographic summary of our trip. It was so much fun! Big families are the best.

Book review: Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors

My long-overdue post on H. L. Burke’s first Nyssa Glass book! At last!



Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors (Amazon link)

Official summary:

Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician’s apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself framed for murder and forced into one last job. No one has entered Professor Dalhart’s secluded mansion in almost a decade, at least not that returned to tell the tale.

If Nyssa wants to ensure her freedom, she’ll brave the booby-trapped halls and mechanized maids. Nyssa has skills, but this house has more than its share of secrets. As she steps into the cobwebbed halls lined with dusty mirrors, she has to wonder. Is the House of Mirrors really abandoned?

My review: This is a quick read, about 150 pages. My biggest complaint is that it moves TOO fast–I wanted more background detail, more worldbuilding, that kind of thing. But if you’re in the mood for a speedy read, this book suits the bill.

It’s supposed to be steampunk, but there’s computers, and I just couldn’t buy steampunk computers. Maybe I just haven’t read enough of the genre or something, but it felt more 1960s than 1860s to me.

Those issues aside, I enjoyed the various traps and horrors that Nyssa meets as she prowls around this giant mechanized mansion. A bunch of other burglars had tried to break in before her, and she finds their remains in satisfyingly macabre ways. She befriends the security system (who I kept thinking of as Wheatley from Portal 2), who tries to help her around the traps … mostly.

There are a few unanswered questions left at the end, but this is going to be a series, so that’s to be expected. I’m curious to see where this series will go, especially as Nyssa gains a sidekick at the end. Their relationship will carry the series, I think.

Go give it a look! Or go back a few posts and read Cora and the Nurse Dragon!

A short trip to the Phoenix Zoo

I’d been wanting to go to the Phoenix Zoo for a really long time. But with it being so hot last year, and me big and pregnant, we didn’t get to do a thing. So, now that the baby’s big enough to take places, and the weather is cool, I finally finagled a trip.

Crossing the bridge on the way in, we stopped to look at ducks, grebes, fish, and turtles. It was a great start to the trip.
The reptile house in the Desert area was small, and fun. This was the big lizard exhibit, with chuckwallas and collared lizards.
Checking out the collared peccary pen.
“Dayum, them’s some big birds.”
Golden eagles are big. These ones had just been fed, and were sitting possessively on whatever unfortunate animal they’d been fed. The other one was busy ripping its meal to shreds.
The savanna area was really impressive. There were also a zillion people hanging out right here.
The giraffes kept galloping around. I wonder if the noisy people upset them. They look like they’re galloping in slow motion, but they cover, like, twenty feet to a stride.

We only did one tiny corner of the park by noon, and the munchkins were tired and hungry, so we called it a day. There’s a whole bunch of awesome stuff we didn’t see (like the petting zoo), so we’re definitely going back.


This has been one of those weeks when everything happens at once. Let’s try to put things in order.

  1. My hubby has to work the weekend.
  2. Friday night, a maintenance guy comes to the door. Water was leaking under the wall of the apartment next door, and he wanted to check our living room for moisture.
  3. Saturday morning. Water is coming under our living room wall.
  4. Sunday. Hubby is tired from not getting a break. The maintenance guys of course don’t show up. The wetness is creeping across the living room.
  5. Monday. Fully half of the living room is now squishy and wet. I attempt to do school.
  6. This attempt is thwarted by the arrival of maintenance and carpet cleaning. The pipe in the wall had a pinhole in it that was spurting water. We haul all the furniture to the far side of the room. They pull back the carpet, tear out padding, and bring in a fan and a dehumidifier.  
  7. Dehumidifiers are scary.
  8. They suck every last particle of moisture out of the air, your eyeballs, your mouth, and your nose. You feel like you have a cold, even though you don’t.
  9. Tuesday, we’re a dessicated, thirsty family. The carpet is nearly dry, though.  
  10. Wednesday, one of the kids “accidentally” bumps the dehumidifier and shuts it off. Instant relief. The carpet is dry. Furniture is moved to its old place. Order is restored. A missing gameboy cartridge is discovered under the high chair’s base. There is rejoicing.
  11. Thursday: painters put plastic over our windows as they begin painting our building.

As you can see, it’s been a crazy week. I’m looking forward to the weekend, when maybe we can have a break.

    Learning humility with Bob Ross

    Painting with Bob

    Back in the 90s, there was this guy named Bob Ross who taught painting on PBS. He was pretty popular, but like all TV, quietly faded from the public consciousness once his show ended.

    Well, Bob Ross has been rediscovered by the latest generation, and his popularity has exploded–mostly because of Twitch.

    Twitch is a live streaming service, like YouTube–only live. Mostly it’s gamers streaming their latest top-level ownage in Call of Duty, or multiplayer shenanigans in Minecraft. It’s common for a streamer to take a break, and leave a video playing to entertain viewers until they return. Well, somebody started putting up Bob Ross videos.

    Suddenly viewers were coming to watch Bob Ross more than the original stream. It got so popular that Twitch now has an annual Bob Ross marathon.

    I thought it might be fun if the kids painted along with his videos for an art project. My kids had such fun that I decided to give it a try.

    The trouble with knowledge is that it puffs up–the less you have, the more inflated you are. I started my painting with an attitude of snobbish know-it-all. “He’s not that great,” I huffed. “But maybe I can learn something.”


    That painting kicked my butt left, right, and center. Gone was my snobbish attitude. I would let the video play for ten seconds, pause it, and frantically try to replicate what Bob had just done.

    See, painting with a brush on canvas is a lot different from painting in Photoshop. You can put multiple colors on a brush, whereas Photoshop looks at you blankly and says, “Wut.”

    What Bob did in one stroke took me ten minutes to replicate with multiple strokes and colors.

    By the time I finished, I was forced to admit that Bob was pretty darn good (a whole painting in 22 minutes!), and that I am intolerably rusty.


    In order to learn, you have to drop the attitude. I think that if I had been more open to instruction when I started my painting, it would have been a lot easier.

    This applies anywhere in life where we want to learn something. A know-it-all will never learn, because they know it all. Whereas the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. Humility comes only after that pride-balloon has been popped.

    Go forth, and paint with Bob Ross! You may even learn something.

    Minecraft as history – the Pilgrims

    The kids and I have been studying American history. To make sure they understood the events of Jamestown and Plymouth, I couched it in Minecraft terms.

    So, you log in to a new map with some guy. He’s never played before.

    “Okay, you start out by punching trees to get wood blocks,” you say.

    “Nope,” he replies. “I’m a gentleman. Work is beneath me.”

    “But,” you say, “when it gets dark, the zombies come out.”

    “You do it,” he says.

    “I’ll gather my own resources,” you say, starting to feel miffed.

    So you punch trees, get wood, make tools, and start gathering stone and coal. The Gentleman wanders around, looking at the scenery and picking flowers.

    By night, you have a shelter built. He has nothing. The zombies come out.

    “You have to let me in!” he yells from outside.

    “No!” you reply. “You should have gathered your own resources!”

    Everything goes quiet. The sun comes up, and the Gentleman has vanished.

    But as the sun is going down, he appears with a sword and a bow and arrow, kills you, and takes your stuff.

    That’s what the gentlemen in Jamestown did to the Indians. 

    The Pilgrims at Plymouth, on the other hand …

    You log into a new map with your Pilgrim friend. They immediately begin punching trees. They chat pleasantly as they gather stone, mine coal and iron, build furnaces and shelters.

    Within a few days, your map looks like this.

    And there you are. When it comes to being a pioneer, you want to be a Pilgrim, not a Gentleman.