Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review of What If? by Randall Munroe

It’s a New Year. Time to scrape the sludge from the old noggin and find answers to those questions that have kept you awake all night. Well, they’ve kept me awake, anyway. I really need to find a hobby.

Randall Munroe is a former NASA roboticist and creator of the webcomic xkcd. His tackles esoteric questions both large and small with a cheeky sense of humor and delightfully irreverent stick figure drawings. Unlike dry, dusty scientific textbooks Munroe takes a humorous approach, dealing with matters of physics, chemistry and biology—even daring to tackle matters of the heart. Einstein would never have tried to determine the possibility of a random encounter with a soulmate if one actually existed. (Sorry to say it is slim to none, so you better hold on to your current heartthrob while you can.)

His approach to scientific inquiry is both amusing and thought provoking. Who knew a continuously power hairdryer in a box is the secret to building a time machine? Warning: don’t try this at home with your Conair since it requires an indestructible casing and an unlimited power source. Also it is definitely not a good idea to fire off a nuclear device in the eye of hurricane to vaporize it. Apparently, this question gets asked so often to the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Association that they even have a paper on the subject.

Some questions are unexpectedly thought provoking. If every human being disappeared from the face of the Earth, the last artificially created light source would take centuries to go out. No, it’s not the Energizer Bunny. Some radioactive waste products are melted, mixed with glass, and formed into a solid block. In the dark, these blocks glow blue. The last artificial light source would be a pile of toxic waste. Mankind’s crap will outlive all other technological achievements. Ha! Made you think, didn’t I?

All the question in the book have been submitted by fans of his website which does make one wonder about their mental stability. After all, who needs to know if you dial a random person and say “God Bless You” what is the probability that person has just sneezed? Oh, all right, I do.  And I was tickled pink to hear the answer is 1 in 40,000.

Despite the sciency stuff, this book is an easy, fun read and the stick figures are cute with a quirky charm. The biggest fault I found is the author fails to address the one question that has haunted me for years. Why are cologne commercials always stupid and make no damn sense?

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Author Marlow Kelly Writes About the Strong, Independent Bruce Women


Duncan Campbell wakes to discover he is imprisoned with a woman in his enemy's dungeon in the Highlands of Scotland. The disenchanted warrior hopes his last few moments on earth will be spent in the arms of the sweet-voiced Isabel. If only she will cooperate.

Isabel Douglas has no intention of obliging the crude captive. The penniless noblewoman considers herself too tall and thin to be desirable. She intends to become a nun. But first, disguised as a boy, she must deliver an important letter to Scotland's hero in hiding, King Robert the Bruce.

Together, the pair make a daring escape that plunges them into the bleak countryside in the middle of winter. In the struggle to survive, they learn the true strength of their feelings for each other. But when Duncan's animosity towards the king becomes evident, Isabel must decide between her heart and her country.

Most people have heard of Robert the Bruce. He was the fourteenth century king who led Scotland in their battle for independence against England. What many of you don’t know is that he grew up surrounded by strong women.

His mother, Marjory, Countess of Carrick married a man named Adam Kilconquhar. Marjory was a woman of power, her title awarded by birth not by marriage. When Adam died on crusade in 1270 his friend Robert Bruce (Or Robert de Brus) travelled to her home at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire to give her the news. Marjory took a liking to Robert and imprisoned him until he agreed to marry her. They were married in 1271. They must have been reasonably happy because they had at least ten children, including three daughters, Christina, Isabel, and Mary. 

Isabel Bruce married King Eric II of Norway in 1293, and she was widowed six years later in 1299. She never remarried or returned to Scotland, but chose to live out her days independently as Queen Dowager. It is known that she was a supporter of the church, acted as a mediator in land disputes, and arranged her daughter’s marriage to Valdemar Magnusson of Sweden. 

Sisters Christina and Mary were not so fortunate.

After his defeat at the Battle of Methven, Robert sent his wife, daughter, sisters, and Christina’s husband, Christopher Seaton, north to his brother Neil for safety. They were betrayed and captured at Tain in Easter Ross. Neil and Christopher were executed. The rest of the women were sent to England where King Edward I decided their fate. Edward was lenient with Christina, a grieving widow, and she was imprisoned in a convent at Sixhills in Lincolnshire, England.

After her release in 1314 she married Andrew Murray, Andrew was appointed the Guardian of Scotland after Robert’s death. In 1333 the English launched a second invasion of Scotland. And in 1335 English forces besieged Kildrummy Castle. A spirited Christina, now in her sixties, led the defenders holding out until her husband, Andrew, could march north and mount a counter attack. She died in 1357 aged 84.

I feel Mary had the hardest life, when captured by the English, Edward I ordered her to be held in a cage made of wood and iron and suspended from the walls of Roxburgh Castle. She was forced to survive the cold Scottish winters outside with very little in the way of creature comforts. She had no privacy and the only person she had contact with was her guard who was not permitted to converse with her.

Isabella MacDuff who had crowned King Robert I and was travelling with the Bruce women also suffered a similar fate. Her cage was hung from the walls of Berwick castle. It is believed Isabella died during this ordeal.

In spite of the many hardships she endured Mary survived and after her release, in 1314, married Neil (Naill) Campbell, a supporter of Robert. Neil died in 1316. Mary went on to marry Alexander Fraser of Touchfraser and Cowie. One can only hope that the men she married treated her well and that she was happy in her later years. She died in 1323 in her early forties.

As much as I admire the Bruce women they were not the inspiration for my story A Woman of Honour, but it is set against the backdrop of the first Scottish War for Independence. Robert is on the run somewhere in the West of Scotland and the Bruce women have been captured. My heroine, Isabel Douglas, has been ordered by her guardian to travel to the Island of Iona. Where she is to take holy orders and avoid capture by the English. It is only by chance that she finds herself in a dungeon with Duncan Campbell, Niall Campbell’s brother.

********

Excerpt from A Woman of Honour

Duncan Campbell drifted into consciousness and opened his eyes to absolute blackness. He lay perfectly still on the cold, dirt floor listening. A small rustle of fabric echoed in the darkness. He cocked his head, getting a sense of the sound’s location, then rose to his feet.

“Tell me who you are before I tear you apart,” he roared, seizing his opponent. Whoever it was didn’t answer, just silence. A fist punched him on the nose. Pain ricocheted through him, and he grabbed his face. In the dark, he lost his balance and fell in the dirt, cradling his head in his hands.

“Oh my, are you all right?” asked a small voice.

“No, I’m not.”

“You threatened me, and I wanted to give you fair warning I will fight back if you touch me.”

The lyrical voice stunned him. A woman? She spoke Gaelic with a strong, lowland accent. He shook off the pain and asked,

“Where am I?”

“Dunstaffnage Castle. Don’t you remember your capture? I’ve heard of people getting a bump on the head and not remembering their own name. Is that what happened to you? Did you bump your head?”

Lord, she was talkative.

“Is it?”

“I remember I was hit from behind scouting the bast….Are we in the dungeon?” He rose to his feet.
“Yes.”

He grunted. On the bright side he hadn’t gone blind. On the other hand they were in a dank, windowless cell with no hope of escape. There wasn’t even a sliver of light coming through the door.

********

About the Author
After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories and her curiosity regarding the lives and loves of historical figures are the inspiration for her characters.
You can visit Marlow at www.marlowkelly.com























Monday, December 8, 2014

Last stop on the One Enchanted Evening Blog Tour. Drop by for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. 


http://unabridgedandralyn.blogspot.com/ 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Author Sydney St. Claire: From Historical to Erotic. Life is Change. Growth is Optional. Choose Wisely

Wealthy computer genius Graham Winters is in love with a woman who won’t join him for a stingy cup of coffee. How can he prove he’s nothing like her jerk of an ex if she won’t give him a chance? Then he spots her at a BDSM club and devises a plan. During the day, he’s “that damn geek.” At night, he’s the masked Dom known as The Wolf.

When it comes to her love life, Lucy Sanchez has one rule—no geeks. Not even rich, good looking geeks. She’s attracted to Graham but rules are rules. Besides, she has her wolf, the mysterious Dom who makes her blood sing. Then she’s invited to a fairytale event at Pleasure Manor and this Little Red Riding Hood plans to enjoy every delicious moment with her big, bad Dom.

(Enter to win a What Happens at the Castle Stays at the Castle giveaway at the bottom)

LIFE IS CHANGE, GROWTH IS OPTIONAL, CHOOSE WISELY
Anonymous

We’ve all heard two things to rely on in life are death and taxes. Well, for writers, there is another.  

Change.  

The publishing world is constantly changing. Editors come and go and we all know that what one loves, another may hate. Marketing changes. What is hot and selling today might be yesterday’s news tomorrow. The best book you’ve ever written won’t matter if no one is willing to buy it or read it. This is a very fluid industry and not for the faint of heart! We are required to keep up with what’s new, what’s not and be prepared to change with the times. Or be left behind.

If we accept our industry is always shifting and changing, then writers/authors must be prepared not to just ride those winds of change but to grow, even if it means reinventing to keep pace with the world and our own needs.

While writing my White Series (Written as Susan Edwards), I felt as though I was slogging through muck. Each word, each scene was a struggle. I loved the characters, loved the story, but something was happening to me as a writer. I was growing and changing yet my White books were not. At least not much.

My books always had a bit of the mystical with the use of visions, gifts of sight and other aspects of Native American culture. As the series grew, I wanted to explore the mystical aspects of Native American beliefs and go deeper yet my books were historicals, not paranormals. Suddenly, I had a choice: continue to fight the change or give in and grow as a writer.  

I allowed myself to change and wrote the Summer of the Eagle. It’s still a Native American Historical but I let the paranormal world bloom. And I had fun. I loved the book, the characters, the writing. The change my writing attitude was a wondrous feeling. I knew then that as a writer I had to let myself grow.

Several years later, I’ve gone through more changes. My publishing house went under, leaving me out in the cold, harsh world. Historical romances took a dive, the economy was bad, and once again, change was upon me. I decided to try work for hire writing erotica, something I’d never done. I discovered that not only could I do it, but I was good at it. So I wrote my own erotica story, created the Once Upon a Dom series and took on a pen name (Sydney St. Claire) in order to sell in this totally new genre.

Now I’m having a blast writing a fun, light-hearted fairy tale theme series and all because I was willing to do whatever it took to get published again. Good things happen when we give ourselves permission and the freedom to grow and change. Even now, my ear is to the ground as I consider how best to revive my Susan Edward’s name. Historical romances have returned, or so I hear. Am I ready to embark on a new series? Do I want to try paranormal contemporary? So many choices. So many changes waiting for me. I just have to embrace.

No matter what we write, how well we write it, we change because life is change. However, growing as a writer is completely up to us. We can resist, refuse, or embrace. We can listen to our inner voice or ignore it. The choice is ours.  

Most people do not like change because it’s scary but I have always embraced change whether it is a new home or rearranging my house or even a new job. Change freshens my life. It is a renewal of heart, mind and soul--a breath of fresh air to chase away the stale and stagnant.

Life is Change. Growth is Optional. Choose Wisely. My challenge to you: Look for change. Find it. Embrace it. Then grow with it for I believe if you do this, you’ll have the ride of your life on that wonderful, exhilarating, and oftentimes crazy roller coaster called Life.

Except from Once Upon a Dom
“I’m taking you to dinner tonight. In the city.” He sat on her desk, which she now found endearing rather than annoying.

She set her purse into an empty cabinet and lifted a brow. 

“You’re telling me?”

He shrugged. “If I ask, you’ll say no.”

“I have plans.” With The Wolf.

He tipped her chin up. “Cancel them.” His lips brushed hers, then he deepened the kiss.

Lucy’s insides clenched at the feel of his warm mouth against hers and the taste of coffee with a hint of caramel, his favorite kind. She closed her eyes, her lips moving with his. His tongue dipped into her mouth, and she moaned, leaning into him.

Then he broke the kiss and walked away.

Lucy gaped at him. Her insides melted, and that familiar longing zeroed in on her center and pooled between her legs. Damn. She was attracted to her geek. Very attracted. Too bad he wasn’t her wolf. Now, if Graham were as good as her wolf in bed, she’d have found the perfect man.
She sighed. Yep, too bad. So what now? Two dates, two men equaled complications.

Her lips turned downward tightly as she got to work. She loved her wolf-lover, but their relationship was not completely satisfying or fulfilling. Not rounded and balanced. Graham, on the other hand, was open. She knew who he was, shared many common interests, and most of all, Graham didn’t have any secrets. What she saw was what she got with him. In a way, she preferred that to the mysterious and secretive.

“All right,” she said.

Graham glanced up, his eyes unfocused. “Huh?”

Realizing three hours had passed, and he was totally immersed in Geekland, Lucy wadded up a sheet of paper and tossed it at him. “Come back to earth, Graham. Dinner. Date. You. Me.”

His eyes cleared, and a huge grin lit his entire face. His blue eyes shone with pleasure. “Great.”

His smile slipped into a frown when she stretched her arms and back. “You tired? Need to stop?”

“Yeah, need to cancel my plans for tonight and stretch my legs. Want to walk outside with me?” His grounds were beautiful. Calm and restful with formal groupings, waterfalls, and a small forest that reminded her of the woods surrounding Bryce’s mansion, the woods where she and her wolf had played and strolled. She shook off the memories.

“Give me ten. You can go explore the house if you want. I forgot to give you the tour.” He grinned. “My bedroom is up the stairs, straight ahead.”

Lucy had been dying to see the rest of the house, and yes, that included the man’s bedroom, but she rolled her eyes for good form. Didn’t want him to know how eager she’d been to see the upstairs. “Okay. Twisted my arm.”

BIO
Sydney St. Claire is the pseudonym of Susan Edwards, author of 14 Historical Native American/Western/Paranormal romances and the author of the popular “White” Series.
Sydney loves writing and sharing stories of love, happiness and dreams come true with her readers. She credits her mother for her writing success. Encouraged to read as a child, she always preferred happy endings which meant romances were her favorite genre. 

Sydney takes her readers into the world of erotica romance where her characters come together in explosive passion as they solve life’s problems and find true love along with the best sex our hero and heroine have ever experienced.

Sydney’s office is quite crowded with three dogs at her feet and five cats to keep her company while she writes. Three cats always insist on beds on her desk, barely leaving enough room for her monitor and keyboard. Life gets fun when all five insist on supervising…When not writing, she enjoys crafts of all sorts including quilting, sewing, cross-stitch and knitting. She and her husband of 30 + years are avid gardeners. He takes care of the veggies, and Susan is in charge of the ‘pretties’. Her medicine wheel garden is in a contact state of war: flowers vs. weeds. Sadly, right now the weeds are wining.
While writing, she listens to a wide variety of music. Her current favorites are Blackmore’s Night and David Lanz.

Where to find Sydney St. Claire          
Email:              Sydney@sydneystclaire.com
Trailer:           http://youtu.be/F-O0tWqMrGM
Website:          http://sydneystclaire.com
                        http://susanedwards.com
Twitter:           https://twitter.com/Sydneystclaire
Blog:               http://sydneystclaire.wordpress.com
Pinterest:         http://www.pinterest.com/sydneystclaire/

Buy Links
Wild Rose press:  http://bit.ly/1xB319E

CONTEST: WHAT HAPPENS AT THE CASTLE STAYS AT THE CASTLE TOTE BAG

Prize includes:
Tote Bag
Mug
4GB Flash Drive
Lighted Key tag
Once Upon A Dom Pen
What Happens at the Castle Notepad
Assorted other goodies