26 October 2010

Dragons & Fairies & Book Signing, Oh My!

Is Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity too crazy for you...or not insane enough?

What you need is a large dose of bacon-loving dragons and bad-assed fairies. To get it, join me for Tea with the Authors at Constellation Books, 303 Main Street, Reisterstown, MD 21136, this Saturday, October 30, from 3-5 p.m.

The event also features my partners-in-crime--er, fantasy--er, fellow writers Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon and Robert E. Waters. The spotlighted books will be Dragon's Lure (which includes my short story "Lord Bai's Discovery") and Bad-Assed Fairies 3: Halfling's Court.

There will be tea, cookies, costumes, readings and lots of fun. Hope to see you there!

25 October 2010

Horror Movie Survival Tips

This past Thursday Thirteen I did a list of 13 Lessons If You Ever Find Yourself In A Horror Movie. It was a fun post with lots of great comments that sparked even more conversations here at home. I try not to get lost in my ever building list of pet peeves, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Now we’ve all seen these movies whether we watched the last one to come out or haven’t seen one in thirty years. There are certain things that happen over and over again and we’re left going really? But in the end it comes down to one main issue, and I’m going to share that with you just in time for your Halloween horror movie marathon!

So what is it? What’s the number one, I-can’t-believe-it-how-is-this-possible problem in every horror movie I’ve ever seen? No one in a horror movie has ever seen a horror movie! The number two problem? The few horror movies where they’ve seen a horror movie, they didn’t pay any attention. In the middle of the night when my husband-like-person and I hear a nose, we both get up and investigate it. Why? Because everyone knows you never split up. They always split up in horror movies—even after someone admits that you should never split up! That’s like hearing that everyone who walks across a particular bridge falls off and then suddenly heading off across the bridge. No one would do that.

Then after they split up, they wander off into dark basements, creepy attics, or dense woods. Let me explain something. I don’t care what you hear in the basement, attic or woods, if people are disappearing or dying in odd ways, you DON’T need to know what made that sound. I can tell you want made that sound. The thing that’s going to kill you made that sound. I know it, you know it, and anyone who’s seen two horror movies knows it. The only people who don’t know it are the people IN the horror movie. How is that possible?

Everyone I know would call a friend in a heartbeat to sleep over if the least freaky thing happened and they lived alone. Not only is freakiness reason for a grown up sleepover but it leads to discussing what happened and looking things up—together. We don’t split up to research things in creepy libraries, during unprecedented storms with rolling blackouts in the area. Why? Because no one does that! The human survival instinct doesn’t allow a rational person to do something like that. It doesn’t matter if you think there’s a preternatural killer on the loose, regular ole’ serial killer fears are more than enough.

But I’m not here simply to complain. I don’t believe in it. I’m here just in case one of those people who sincerely never watched a horror movie and have no idea what’s going on ever finds themselves in one. These are ten tips to get you through just in case.

1. Never split up. You can’t cover more ground if one or all of you die, so just leave it be and don’t split up.

2. Don’t go to dark, isolated places once weirdness has been let loose in your town. If it freaked you out in the daylight when things were normal, avoid it like the plague now that bodies have started dropping.

3. If a child or pet won’t get into a room, walk past a house, or has constantly cried since you drove into down—LEAVE! There’s evil about and you can’t fix it. How do I know? Because you’re reading this list for tips, so get out while the gettin’ is good.

4. If nothing has prompted you to leave and you are instead trying to investigate the history of the quaint but spooking little town you’ve moved to, do it during the day. If you can’t find it in the daytime with a room full of witness, you don’t need to know it.

5. When a house tells you to leave it’s not a suggestion. Just go.

6. They never move the bodies when they relocate a graveyard; that’s why the price is so good on that new housing development. Just pay the extra $300 a month in mortgage elsewhere. You’ll thank me.

7. If you’re running for your life and there’s a child or small-framed woman keening and rocking in a corner with their back to you—it’s a trap. It’s going to eat you. Kill it and run or just run but don’t help. You’re a walking appetizer and should just keep moving with the group.

8. If you’re suddenly pregnant after a mysterious afternoon you don’t quite remember and everyone is stunned. It’s an alien/demon baby. What you do with that is up to you, I’m just saying be preparted.

9. If you’re going anywhere on the anniversary of anything that involved death and you see something, no matter how briefly, go on vacation. Just pick up the family and make that Disney World trip you’ve been promising. Everything will be better for it, trust me.

10. Don’t split up. Yes, this was number one, but you just don’t understand the significance. Staying together means you outnumber the jabberwocky and you always want to default to safety in numbers.

There you are, it’s not everything you need to know but if you keep these 10 in mind and follow the link to the other 13, you’ll make it to act III and likely show up in the sequel. And it’s all about being around for the sequel *smile*. Happy Halloween!

Horror Movie Tips Ramble ~ Done


20 October 2010

Where the work all pays off

Last night my editor sent me a draft of the cover for the next Library of Athena series book, The Mirror of Yu-Huang. Nope, can't show it to you yet, but it made me excited all over again for the release of this book, which for a while I thought never would see the light of day. 

First of all, this was the most challenging book I've written to date. And I've written one and a half books since finishing it, so I can say that with confidence. I started researching it in 2007, when I bought a few Chinese mythology books. It is a complicated culture, mostly because it extends from the beginnings of time up to the present day. There are a bunch of different systems, between Taoism and Confucianism and Buddhism. Their fairy tales and mythologies are short and mostly morality stories, which complicated it even more, since I had been using 'hero' stories in the LoA books up until now. 

Not only that, but up until this point, I had written about mythologies from cultures that have faded from the modern world. But China and its stories still exist today,  and I didn't want to accidentally insult anyone. But I managed to hunt up a few older myths that I could use. Then I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote TOO MUCH. Trying to put in everything I had researched, I got off the story track and ended up with 20,000 words too many. (That's when I started using the nine-block plotting system.)

So finally it was done and polished and sent out. 

And the publisher turned it down. Not for anything really terrible, but because they were moving away from tween books and didn't see it fitting into their new YA imprint (which hasn't gotten off the ground as of yet). Which was okay - it happens.  But here I was with a great book and no publisher. So I went on the hunt and put a distress call out to my peeps at Broad Universe.  The publisher at Zumaya offered to take a look, and the rest is history. 

And now, almost four years after I started thinking about this book, it has a cover. Which you will just have to wait to see.  :P

19 October 2010

Jean Marie's 2010 Capclave Schedule

Halloween is my favorite time of year, not only do I get to celebrate my favorite holiday, I get to play at Capclave, the Washington DC area’s literary science fiction, fantasy and horror convention focusing on the short fiction form, held at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville MD Executive Meeting Center, October 22-24. This year’s guests of honor are Connie Willis (writing), and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (editing).

My schedule comprises two panels, a workshop and the ever popular Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, where I just might read from “Siren Bridge”. It’s strudel weather, after all.

Friday, 7 p.m.
Mutants: Gift or Curse? (Ends at: 8:00 pm)
Location: Plaza II M
Panelists: C.J. Henderson, Robert Scott, Jean Marie Ward
What are the joys and pains of being a zombie, vampire, werewolf? Discussion of trends in depictions of mutants in books, films, comics, and popular culture.

Friday, 8 p.m.
Writers and the Internet: When is Enough Enough? (Ends at: 9:00 pm)
Location: Plaza II
Panelists: Oz Drummond, Walter H. Hunt, Tee Morris, Karen Wester Newton, Jeff VanderMeer, Jean Marie Ward
How much of the Internet is needed for an author to successfully promote themselves and their works? And how much is too much?

Saturday, 2 p.m.
Reviewer's Workshop (Ends at: 4:00 pm)
Location: Randolph
Panelists: Doug Fratz, Peter Heck (M), Jean Marie Ward
A good reviewer does more then read free books and say "I like that". The panelists will demonstrate the hallmarks of a good review and how to create one. Did we mention Peter Heck is a regular reviewer for Asimov's Science Fiction?

Saturday, 7 p.m.
Broad Universe RapidFire Reading (Ends at: 8:00 pm)
Location: Montrose
Panelists: Roxanne Bland, Oz Drummond, Kelly A. Harmon, Dina Leacock, Jean Marie Ward
The women authors of Broad Universe serve up tasty bites of fiction...and free chocolate!


Note: The Fannish Dodo illustrating this post is the Capclave mascot, created by Lynn Perkins in 2005.

Jean Marie Ward

18 October 2010

Friends: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly

This month a friend of mine, Kelly Valen, will enjoy the debut of her book, The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships (Random House). This nonfiction is about relationships women have with one another. Her research was based on a survey of more than 3,000 women and comes complete with some interesting surprises. The Twisted Sisterhood is receiving lots of acclaim already and I wish Kelly the best.

Kelly’s book got me thinking about the girlfriends I’ve had over the years. Mostly good, others kind of bad, and some were, let’s just say ugly.

At age ten, my “best friend” convinced the fifth-grade class to ostracize me. I was teased for being a goody-two-shoes and teacher’s pet. I will never forget the day I walked into the classroom, sat down, and all the kids picked up their desks and moved away from me. I was left sitting at the lone desk in the middle of the room.

At the age of twelve, my two best-friends decided not to be friends with me anymore. Their reasoning? I was “too nice”.

Three different girls tried to snag my boyfriend from my arms. Although, to be fair, only one of them was my friend at the time.

In high school two “friends” ditched me when we were supposed to walk to lunch together. Once again I was left alone. No idea why. But it did force me to make a conscious decision--

I wasn't going to put up with mean girls anymore.

I searched out the nicest girl I could find, introduced myself and asked if I could eat lunch with her. When she said, “Sure.” Lisa became a dear friend that I have cherished for the past thirty years.

My point to this walk down memory lane? I can still remember the mean girls and what they did to me. They taught me important lessons about not hurting people’s feelings, standing up to harassment, and hanging on to true friendship. But honestly? They were not THAT important in the whole scheme of things. Barely a blip on the screen of all the friends I have had in my life.

Seriously, it would take weeks to even begin to discuss all the beautiful sisters, mothers, and readers who love me. And even then I'd only be scratching the surface. My life has been full of women who have brought me joy, companionship, hugs, shared tears, great food, shelter, smiles and laughter.

The mean girls are a few drops in a bucket. My true friends fill it up.

How about you?

Kimberley Troutte

16 October 2010

Smoking...or not

James Dean encouraged a generation of wannabe rebels to light up. In fact, most of the old, classic movies from the 1930’s to the 1960’s cigarette smoking was as common as eating. Maybe more. And then something happened. We, as a culture, realized smoking was really bad for people. Cigarette ads became illegal in the US in 1971. Slowly, cigarettes became less common in society and in movies and TV shows. It became rare to see smoking characters on TV. Smoking in movies was more common, but not like in the decades past. By the turn of the last century, cigarette smoking was being banned in more and more places every day. As someone with asthma and a major allergy to cigarette smoke, I was thrilled. I could finally go to a pharmacy or supermarket and still breathe. It was wonderful. I was hoping the downswing would continue. But it was not to be.

The last two episodes of House included a character who smoked (a woman in both cases, with is interesting in a whole other way). Then Caprica also had a smoker, male, one of the major characters. That got me thinking. I’ve seen more smoking in movies and TV in the last few months than in years. What’s happening, folks? Are we moving back to the acceptability of smoking? I hope not. I like this breathing thing.

And please, don’t tell me you have a right to smoke. Sure you do, in your own space. Away from mine. Like I said, I like breathing.

As a bonus, if you smoke less, you might live longer. Just saying.

Have a great weekend.


13 October 2010

Good News!

I just signed a contract for my time travel paranormal. This will be my 5th book with Samhain Publishing and my 10th book total.

All of my books are near and dear to my heart, but this one is probably the nearest and dearest. Its been a long road for these characters and their story. Wherever You Are was the third book I've ever written and its a huge understatement to say its been through quite a lot of revisions to become the book it is today.

Keeping fingers crossed that this will be the first in a trilogy.

I haven't received a release date yet, but when I do, you'll be the first to know. In the meantime, here's an unedited blurb:

Morgan's life takes an unexpected turn when the stowaway aboard his burning ship isn't an enemy spy but Juliana, the woman he left behind in the twenty-first century. Unwittingly thrust into Morgan’s dangerous world, Juliana gains the attention of Morgan’s enemy--the man who once enslaved Morgan and who will now settle for nothing less than Morgan’s return to slavery and possession of Juliana.

For the one woman he’s never forgotten and a love that defies the centuries, Morgan must conquer his fears and battle his deadly enemy to keep Juliana at his side.

11 October 2010

Vermillion by MK Mancos releases 10/11 @ 11pm Liquid Silver Books

Kristabelle St. Lucus is an etheralmancer, one who can take the soul of a person and lock them away in the lovely stained glass she designs for the Portamere Cathedral. This is her punishment for daring to be born with what the clerics call ‘the witching talent.’ The Cathedral has become a prison for those who have defied the power-hungry clerics. It is not something she wants to do, but something she must do save her family from destruction. It is either that, or watch them burn for passing an unholy legacy on to their offspring.

Darius Castillo is a magi- a member of the sacred order who work directly for the Magus, the rightful head of the church. Darius has watched in wonder as Kristabelle works her magic. Only he knows of her torture and pain at having to perform this horrific duty for the sake of her family. Only Darius sees the tears she shows no one. Under the guise of an acolyte, he is on a mission to discover the extent of the clerics’ treachery. Nothing the clerics do can stop the burning passion he feels for the artist or the need to save her and the souls she’s been forced to entrap.


MK Mancos

09 October 2010

The Meeting

Just a little tongue in cheek comedy surrounding some of my favorite genre, fantasy.

Hope you enjoy!


The Meeting

The moon sailed like a pale ruby in a cloudless indigo sky. The sands of the Valkithrm Dunes spilled ivory white beneath the moon’s glow, punctuated by ebony pools of shadow cast by intermittent trees, rocks and dunes – and other…things.

Really nasty things too, Thelea reflected as she shifted her grip on her two-handed axe. Lethal, deadly things. She watched a blue-shelled crab scuttle by. Everything that crawled, flew, bounced or walked on four feet in this Akalltana-forsaken place could and, given the right provocation, would kill you. Fortunately, most of the wildlife here wouldn’t attack – unless you attacked them first.

Unfortunately, in the dunes they had more than wildlife to deal with. Beastmen -- Vana’s ancient enemy – roamed the shifting dunes. Thelea recalled a close encounter but a few minutes ago. Thankfully the Goblin had another luckless adventurer in his sights when he’d begun casting that Bind spell. Thelea’s blood ran chill at the very memory of the beast’s guttural chant. She and Hundak had passed the spot a little later to see a wizened mage raise the hapless Glaalka back to life. The Goblin, content in his kill, having wandered far away.

But now it was night and things far worse than goblins joined the fray. Hungry for fresh blood, and eager to prey on the weak and injured, ghouls and ghosts haunted the starry night.

Many, young and inexperienced adventurers had fallen to their blades and bolts – equally as many more experienced fighters and mages died too – for any number of reasons, up to and including their own errant stupidity.

Thelea sighed. Death was a fleeting thing for some in Vanal. Akalltana granted immortality, of a sort, for those who fought against the hordes of darkness – but, like any gift of value, there was a price – and sometimes a heavy one – to pay for coming back from death again and again.

Dying hurt a lot

There were days when Thelea wasn’t sure that instant resurrection was a good thing.

She started at a nearby rustling sound, relaxing when she saw it was only Hundak reaching into his pack for another mushroom to chew on.

“You’re gonna get addicted to those things you know.” Thelea gave him a hard stare.

“Talk about me, what about you and that rabbit stuff you cook.”

“Well,” Thelea still nicely full from the last slice of cooked hare waved Hundak’s argument aside. “At least that’s proper food. Shhh!”

They both fell to a silent crouch as a Goblin Slugger edged over the far rise. It stared in their direction for a moment before turning and heading back towards Selbrina. An excited grunt, a few moments later, told them it had found another juicy adventurer to chase.

“You know, that chap back in Selbrina was rather rude, don’t you think?” Hundak continued as they relaxed. Well, relaxed a very little.

Thelea glanced at her husband. Hundak stroked his beard and stared thoughtfully to the west. His mage club hung at his hip and a well-beaten maple shield was covering his left arm. The white mage wore a royal archers tunic, pants and a pair of high-gaitered solea. Thelea’s heart leapt into her throat every time she thought of how easily a sword or arrow could cut through such flimsy defenses. But mages couldn’t wear armor, as Hundak had told her, over and over.

“What chap was that?” she asked, putting away her fears and smiling at the man who was the center of her life.

“That Ipsacio fellow,” Hundak answered. “Dissing our survival skills. Hmmph. We know perfectly well how to survive.”

Thelea thought of all the times she’d awoken, bloody and aching, at one of Akalltana’s glowing crystals. “We do?”

Hundak grinned. “Of course we do. If anything is bigger and meaner than us, we just run like hell for the nearest town or border.”

“Or die trying to do same.” Thelea chuckled. “Ipsacio is elvan, love. We’ve never met an elvan yet that wasn’t cranky when he had to deal with a lowly Human.”

The wind began to whine through the trees. About a hundred yards away, a party of four Tarturs ran hell bent for leather towards the La Themaine border, a train of six mayflies following angrily behind. As they watched the Tartur at the tail end of the escapees took a fatal blow that tossed him like a sack of feathers over the pale sands. Somewhere in the distance there was a shout of “Goal!” Thelea and Hundak shook their heads. Yet another outlander custom they knew nothing about.

Hundak dug in his backpack and pulled out a battered journal and a small stub of a pencil. “Cranky elvan or not, if we want to train with two jobs at once, we have to bring him those three items. He’s the only one who’ll teach us how. And I’m really looking forward to studying black magic.”

“I know.” Thelea fell silent as Hundak scribbled in his notebook.

“We’ve got the worms and the aprons.” Hundak summed up. “Now all we need are the skulls. Should be dead easy.”

“Yeah, dead.” Thelea agreed, her palms covered with a cold sweat. They’re previous attempts at killing ghouls were as successful as well as Hundak’s ability to use a sword.

An unearthly shriek shivered through the air. Thelea automatically dropped into a defensive posture and scanned the dunes around them. Hundak’s club was in his hand and she heard him start the chant of his favorite attack spell. They both stopped as a bogy appeared, then floated away to the west—instant death for both of them—to the east a couple of leeches bounced like soggy sponges, leaving a trail of blood smeared slime behind them. A glint of ivory bone flickered briefly to the north and then disappeared behind a stand of trees with the echo of maniacal laughter.

“Another ghoul,” she said, relaxing her grip on the haft of her axe. Wishing they were strong enough to hunt and kill the fiend. Hundak shut the journal and tucked it back into his pack. “That’s three we’ve heard or seen so far tonight. Where’s Kaizar? Didn’t he say he was bringing a friend to help us get the two magicked skulls?

“He’s on his way,” Hundak told her. “They should be here very soon. In fact…” Hundak pointed to the road.

Two Humans, wearing armor and carrying weapons, loped towards them—armor and weapons clinking in the night. With a tint of envy Thelea noticed how the gobs moved away from the approaching duo. Oh, to have that much power. She thought.

Thelea instantly recognized Kaizar, a warrior who’d risen rapidly in the mercenary ranks and achieved 24th status. She admired, no lusted after, the gleaming chainmail armor that Kaizar wore. She and Hundak had scrimped and save to buy some lizardskin armor for her while Hundak still fought in his 10th level tunic. Seven levels below his rank and a definite weakness in their constant battles.

Still at least it was clean, Thelea pouted a little. No matter how much Thelea cleaned her lizard skin, the armor always stank. It was better protection than the leather she had been wearing, but it didn’t stop Thelea from hating the smell of the ugly stuff.

“Hey, Thel and Hun,” Kaizar called. He skidded to a stop in front of Thelea, startling a couple of sand hares. They glared at the party suspiciously before going back to the task of chewing the gristly desert grass. His companion halted a step or two behind. “Remember I’ve been telling you about this great guy that I’ve been hanging around with? Well, this is him – Ender’s his name.” Kaizar clapped a hand to the man’s shoulder. “Ender, this is Thelea and Hundak. They’re kinda new around here and they need some help getting old Ipsacio some of those dumb skulls he keeps collecting.”

Even though Kaizar and Ender were much higher in status the duo looked young enough to be Thelea and Hundak’s children. War does such strange things to people, Thelea mused. Especially a war against an evil like this.

“Hi.” Ender pushed back the visor of his helmet. Blue eyes twinkled merrily at Thelea. “Kaizar’s told me a lot about you two.”

“Uh oh.” Thelea laughed. “Nothing good I’m sure.”

“And you still agreed to help us?” Beside her, Hundak chuckled. “Brave lad.”

“Hey, no problem,” Ender replied. “I like to help people.” Thelea studied the man standing in front of her. He wore a sword and shield, but there was something….

“Can you toss a Cure on me Kai?” Kaizar said to Ender. “Damn Goblin Bleecher at the border got a couple of good hits in before we took him down.”

Ender chanted under his breath and raised a hand. Magic swirled in the air and sparkled around Kaizar’s muscular frame. So that was it, Thelea thought to herself, Ender must be a red mage.

“Whew, that felt good.” Ender smiled. “Hun, we’ll need to join your party.” Kaizar adjusted the straps of his backpack. “That way we can keep in touch while we look for a ghoul-friend for ya.”

Thelea reached into her pack for some freshly farmed hare meat and a packet of herbs while Hundak organized the party. Slipping one of the precious fire crystals from her pouch she combined the ingredients. The delicious smell of roasting hare drifted in the breeze. Kaizar and Ender looked on with hungry interest.

“Ghoul-friend?” Thelea joked. “Hundak’s already taken, and we can help. We’ve seen three ghouls already, two to the south and one to the north. I can show you…”

“That’s okay,” Kaizar said briskly. “You’ll be safer over by the outpost.” He pointed to a small square of yellow light in the distance. Don’t move, from there and you’ll be okay.”

“But…” Hundak said.

“But…” Thelea said.

“Erh, what does that hare do?” Ender licked his lips.

“It’s sort of like Shikkabobs but not so good.” Hundak told them, itching to get into battle.

“Probably not so useful then,” Kaizar said pulling a bit of meat from his pocket and eating it. Instantly flames flared around him and he looked stronger and more dangerous. “Damn, that was my last one, I can’t afford any more.”

“I can’t afford any,” Ender agreed.

“Here,” Thelea passed the medium rare hare meat over to Ender. “Try it. We use it because we can get everything by hunting, except the herbs and they’re really cheap.”

“Really?” A spark of interest flared in Ender’s eyes.

Ender took the meat and ate ravenously as Thelea cooked another piece for herself. After the flames had dissipated Ender looked stronger too, though not as much as Kaizar.

“Hey, this feels really good.” He admitted.

Thelea and Hundak just grinned. Until Kaizar and Ender started moving away.

“If anything attacks you,” Kaizar told them, “just start yelling, Ender or I will come and rescue you.”

“But…” Thelea said.

“But…” Hundak said.

Ender pivoted and headed north, Kai pounded towards the south. “Just stay put. We’ll have you a skull in no time!” they yelled in unison.

“But I want to fight too,” Thelea grumbled, kicking up dust whorls with her axe. “We can almost take those ghouls. We’re both 17th status, dammit.”

“Oh yeah, don’t attack any flies,” Ender’s voice said in Thelea’s head, she didn’t know whether to thank Akalltana for the gift of Party talk or not. “They link and you’ll die.”

“And you don’t want to attack any sheep either,” Kai’s voice added. “They’ll kill you too.”

“And you don’t want to take on puggilts yet either,” Ender said. “Hey Kai, ghoul at sector J-10! Come on over and help me, huh?”

“On my way.”

“Well,” Hundak whispered, looking at Thelea as the war screams, shouts and threats of dire murder echoed around the party talk. “What do we do now?”

“Nothing at G6,” Ender said, “moving to I-7.”

“They’re being very nice and trying to look after us.” Thelea whispered back.

“Got a ghoul! Damn, its hitting me hard, need help.” Kai shouted back.

“Oh, yes. Very helpful and protective.” Hundak agreed drawing a circle in the sand with his toe.

“Man I gotta heal, that one nearly got me.” Kai yelled.

“Heading to the secret beach.” Ender said.

“I’m getting very bored.” Thelea moaned.

“And once you reach 20th status we’ll help you get some grasses so you can get a Riders license.” Kaizar panted. “Would you believe it, they stole it from me!”

“Me too,” Hundak sighed, carefully burying the toe of his boot in the sand because it seemed the most exciting thing to do at the moment.

Thelea stuck the head of her axe in the sand… exasperated.

“We wanna come kill something.” Thelea told them.

“Kill some rabbits.” Ender said. “There’s always rabbits by the outpost.”

“We don’t want to kill rabbits.” Thelea complained.

The sand hare in front of them watched with boggled eyes, as if it could tell what the four of them were saying.

“They’re cute and cuddly and we want to take them home.” Hundak explained. “We don’t want to kill a rabbit.”

“Oh, well, rabbits are the best thing for you. Don’t want you to die.” Ender explained.

“Kill rabbits.” Kaizar confirmed Ender’s diagnosis. “And we’ll have to escort you Janlo. No way you’ll make that alone.”

“Gee, Dad, willya really?” Thelea asked sweetly. “If I eat all my veggies and clean behind my ears?”

There was a startled silence. “What did you call me?” Kaizar asked.

Hundak stifled a laugh. Hoping it didn’t pass into Party talk.

“You heard me.” Thelea said. “Do you think I could get permission to come out and help, Daddy Dearest? I promise not to trip over my axe or anything.”

“Yeah dad, we promise to be good.” Hundak agreed.

Ender laughed. “Hey Kai, your kids are getting restless. Maybe you should put them on restrictions or something.”

“But Dad Number Two, that’s mean.” Hundak answered

There was another startled silence. “Dad Number Two huh?”

“Our kids seem to be getting restless,” Kaizar said, doubtfully.

“Our kids?’ Ender retorted. “These are your kids, my kids behave themselves…”

“Nahuh, they’re you’re kids too!”

Thelea and Hundak looked at each other and grinned.

“Now?” Hundak asked.

“While they’re distracted.” Thelea nodded.

Axe and club raised, with war cries and magic chants, the warrior and white mage ran in to the darkness to hunt with…dads Number One and Two.

08 October 2010

Life's too short to wear boring socks...

When I was a teenager, I longed to be one of those girls who seamlessly pulled off the 'preppy' look. They always looked neat... chic... right down to their socks that invariably matched the rest of their outfit.

Alas, I've never been a trend setter. I'm more the girl who catches on a day late and a dollar short. And I can never keep track of matching socks. :\ I'll spend ten or fifteen minutes some days looking for two clean ones that go together -- an exact match, if I'm lucky.

My daughters have gotten me to loosen up a bit over the years. They love those funky little patterned/colored socks you find at most stores. You know -- green and red for Christmas; black and orange for Halloween; pink, red, and more pink for Valentine's Day; etc. All with various designs that are NOT in the preppy category.

They like them because they're cute. It's a small way to express their individuality in a world where we're expected to conform to social norms, or abnormalities, as the case may be. ;) I like them because they're comfy.

Okay, I admit, knowing I'm wearing orange stripes with black bats taking wing up and down my calves is fun. Besides, few people can see them except for a glimpse now and then. Those that do might wonder at my quirkiness, but that's okay. I have five children; we home school; I've been married once and to the same man for over twenty years. Only marriage for each of us. I think I've earned my 'quirk'. (GGG)

It's one way to express my personality without being in-your-face. I'm quiet...shy...reserved. I love watching people. I love music and furry animals. I love my kids and my dh. And I do love funky socks.

~~Meg Allison


07 October 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Save the Ta-Tas II, Beyond the Veil Edition

Greetings Kittens,

If you've visited my Thursday Thirteen, you already know it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The very idea of being diagnosed or having a loved one diagnosed can make us feel frightened and powerless. I thought I'd turn that around in honor of the month and change our focus from fighting cancer to keeping our breasts and those of our loved ones healthy. And best of all these are things you can do with a simply trip to the grocery store. So I bring you:

13 More Foods For Breast Health.

1. Red Grapes. Like the polyphenols mentioned on my personal blog in reference to red grape juice; the grapes themselves not only provide the powerful antioxidants but in fruit from supply additional fiber and insurance against damage to the nutrients through processing.

2. Green Tea. Also an abudant source of polyphenols; the trick to get the most out of green tea is to brew it yourself. Using tea bags yields almost 90% more of the nutrients that protect the body. 4 minutes is all you need!

3. Tomatoes. Specifically cooked or roasted to enhance the lycopene, an antioxidant that attacks free radicals. They also yield vitamin C that helps prevent cellular damage.

4. Sweet Potatoes. Another great vitamin C source along with vitamin A which converts to beta-carotene that protects DNA against allowing malignant mutations.

5. Carrots. Another provider of vitamin A and therefore beta-carotene, they are also a rich fiber source and can be easily eaten raw as a snack.

6. Chili Peppers & Jalapenos. Capsaicin may neutralize nitrosamines and help prevent malignant formations in the stomach and elsewhere in the body.

7. Seaweed and other sea veggies will give you beta-carotene, protein, vitamin B12, fiber, chlorophyll and chlorophylones, important fatty acids that may fight against breast cancer. If seaweed is scary, everything is better with...

8. Garlic. It has immune inhancing allium compounds (dialyl sulfides) that appear to activate teh immune system and break down cancer causing chemicals.

9. Avocados. This fruit is rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats. Avocados also supply more potassium than bananas and is a good source of vitamin A which gives us what? Yep, beta-carotene.

10. Figs. Because I'm all about the vitamin A right now. But that's not to forget that figs supply vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium which may play a roll in curtailing appetite to improve weight loss efforts.

11. Mackerel. Because you need something to eat alongside these yummy fruits and veggies and it might as well be high in vitamins, minerals and contain 21% more omega-3s(EPA & DHA) than salmon.

12. Rosemary. If you want to bring out the chicken instead of fish, rosemary may help increase activity in detox enzymes. Furthermore its extract, carnosol, has inhibit the development of both breast and skin tumors in animals. Rosemary can also be consumed as a tea if meat is not for you.

13. Tapioca. There should always be dessert and tapioca is derived from the cassava plant which produces linamarine, one of the body's tools in fighting cancer.

To Your Continued Health and that of Your Loved Ones!


Other Thursday Thirteen Participants

01 October 2010

The Labyrinth

I think most of us know the story of the Minotaur.

The Minotaur was the offspring of Pasiphae (the wife of King Minos of Crete) and the Cretan Bull. Aphrodite gave Minos a perfect bull so that he could sacrifice it to her, but he decided to keep it instead. To punish him, the goddess made Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. Insert bestiality here and the Minotaur was born, the offspring of a human and a monster.

Minos had the monstrous child placed at the center of a labyrinth constructed by Daedelus and life went on until Minos's(1) son was killed by the Athenians in battle. Minos won the war and to punish the Athenians, he commanded that they send their seven best young men and seven loveliest young women to be sacrificed to the beast. They were released in the labyrinth and consumed by the Minotaur.

After a few of these sacrifices, the hero Theseus decided that enough was enough. He went to Crete where Minos's daughter, Ariadne, fell in love with him. She gave him the key to the labyrinth and a ball of string to help him find his way back. Theseus slew the Minotaur, led the Athenian youths out of the maze, and escaped Crete with them and Ariadne. (At this point, Theseus ceases to be heroic because he abandons Ariadne on the isle of Naxos. Jerk. She curses him to forget which color sails to raise on his way home and when his dad sees the black sails, he assumes Theseus is dead and throws himself off a cliff. Good start, bad ending.)

Anyway...back to the labyrinth. While the maze of the Minotaur is a myth, there is substantial archaeological evidence to suggest that there truly was a labyrinth at the Minoan palace of Knossos. The palace actually WAS the labyrinth!(2) The building was arranged so that it was virtually impossible for someone unfamiliar with the layout to navigate it. That doesn't really explain the whole bull-man thing, but it lends the ring of truth to the idea of the maze.

There are mazes from Ancient Egypt, as well. The labyrinth at Hawara (3) that was, according to Herodotus, "...it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me...."(4)

This labyrinth was originally constructed as a mortuary hall and built over several generations. The oldest name recorded at the temple was that of Amenemhat III, who also built the "Black Pyramid." The burial temples of the pharaohs were never forthright and even the contemporary archaeologist "Dr Zahi Hawass has said that when he first entered this pyramid he had a rope tied around his ankle to ensure he didn’t get lost inside."(5)

While the labyrinth at Knossos is certainly one of the most famous, it's not the only ancient labyrinth left for us by our ancestors. From the Bronze Age, there are petroglyphs of what's now known as the Classical or 7-circuit maze in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

There are labyrinths from the Bronze Ages - even some the Neolithic Age - that can be found throughout Europe. The vast majority of them reflect the same Classical form, which suggests that the symbolism of the labyrinth was in some way universal. However, it's impossible to know for certain. Labyrinths found in the Valle Camonica in Italy are usually found with scenes of battle and soldiers, where similar patterns in Galicia are surrounded by wild animals - a symbol of the hunt, perhaps.

Labyrinths aren't specific to the continents across the Atlantic, however. The Tohono O'odham, a Native American tribe in Arizona have a symbol they call "The Man in the Maze."(6) Petroglyphs of the maze, which features a man standing in the opening of the labyrinth, have been found at the Casa Grande Ruins.

But the real mystery is in the meaning of the labyrinth. As I mentioned, the Stone Age labyrinths seem to symbolize something...but what? Their meaning is unclear.
The Cretan labyrinth might have been merely the result of creative architecture, but was mythologized into a scenario of terror and death.

What, then, do those early symbols have in common with the labyrinths and mazes of the Middle Ages? And how do they connect to the modern-day resurgence of labyrinths as paths to inner peace?

The connection is entirely uncertain. People of many faiths today walk labyrinthine patterns to help clear their minds. It's said that following the path to the center of a labyrinth will help untangle problems as you meditate.

Whatever the symbolism, current or past, they provide an artistic framework for the famous "What if?" How can a labyrinth inspire you?

An excellent resource on labyrinths can be found at Labyrinthos.net.

(1)Minos's is correct according to Strunk & White's Elements of Style. The Chicago Manual of Style can go jump in a lake.
(4)Herodotus, The Histories, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt, Book II, pp. 160–61.