Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shedding Light on Darkness

My Winds series of occult thrillers are upsetting some people. Because I deliberately chose to reveal arcane secrets of alchemy, witchcraft, and tantra, I expected a backlash from evangelicals. Surprisingly, a number of evangelicals have purchased Abandoned, the first book in the Winds series, and read the entire novel from cover to cover. I’ve enjoyed some very interesting discussions with Christian evangelicals about the end times and how my books dramatically differ from the Left Behind books. What I didn’t expect was a backlash from the esoteric community for revealing secrets some felt should remain only in the hands of adepts.

            The complete series of novels—Abandoned, Winds, Darkness, Light, Time, Mysterious Ways, and their sequels—are filled with accurate arcane lore that many adepts believe must be kept out of the hands of ordinary mortals and wannabe practitioners. Although the novels are fictional with fictional characters, the principles of practice are spelled out in enough detail to be dangerous. Anyone with an ounce of sense and the ability to research can decipher the clues I’ve embedded in the stories.

            It has been wisely said, “When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.” It you’re not ready to receive this knowledge, my words will have no special salience. You can read my novels solely as fast-paced thrillers and love these books only for the interesting characters and the epic battles. You may never see links to hidden knowledge, and that is as it should be. But, if you are ready to learn, attend to my words.

            Darkness should be available as an e-book from and by early May. Each of these new novels is a stand-alone story, and you may read them in any order. Winds will be out in July. Light should be out sometime next year.

            We begin with the breath. I teach you to raise the Kundalini power through pranayama alternate-nostril breathing and Vajrayama tummo breathing. Unlike Larry Darrell in Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, you don’t need to travel to Tibet and complete a hermitage in the Himalayas to gain this knowledge. Darkness teaches how to remember your past lives. Winds teaches how to master earth, wind, waves, and flames. Light teaches the secrets of the Pho-wa hinted at in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Shall I go on?

            Most of you know I am an accomplished hypnotist and practiced and taught hypnosis for many years. I am certified in past-life regression techniques and have regressed hundreds of people who re-experienced past lives. I did my doctoral research on changes in consciousness and cognition using techniques to alter respiration, and my master’s thesis was titled States of Consciousness and Cognition: a study of state-dependent learning. Few people know me as an acknowledged master of the Craft or as an elder in certain circles. I know secrets that have remained hidden for millennia. Rest assured those secrets will remain hidden until you are ready to discover them. I’ll provide the key to unlock many mysteries, but you are the one who decides which doors to unlock. I’ll shed no light until it is time.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Many of my novels have ensemble casts of characters. I group the twenty-some novels of the Instruments of Death series together because Carl Erickson, Tom Wesley, Troy Nolan, Andy Sinnott, Sally Brightson Nolan, Marsha Wade, Danny Wesley, Rat, George, Connie Kelly, Linda Davis, and a host of others are recurring characters. Both author and reader know and love those characters. We care about what happens to them. Our lives are intertwined.

            As I edited page proofs for Darkness and Winds, I fell in love with some of my favorite characters all over again. The Ranger is my ideal of a perfect action hero, plagued by guilt and seeking redemption for his own actions that resulted in myriad deaths over millennia. Biegolmai Daavvi and Lokesvara Sailendravarman are my ideals of supernatural forces for good. Udug Hull is the perfect mysterious stranger, part fallen-angel and part demon, who is bound by unbreakable laws established by the elder gods. He has little sympathy for the foibles of humanity for he has never been human.

            I first introduced Lokesvara and the Ranger in Abandoned, and Lokesvara also makes important appearances in Winds, Darkness, Light, Time, and Mysterious Ways. He is a driving force for good who usually acts behind the scenes. Yet Lokesvara Sailendravarman, too, is a fierce warrior. He is one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas.

            Biegolmai is a shaman, part of an ancient tradition that heralds back to the beginning of time. What ties many of my characters together is that they are all wounded warriors who have made horrible mistakes in the past and often suffered and died because of their actions. It is said by shamans that before the physician can heal others, he must first heal himself. Karmic burden can be a real bitch. In Darnkness, the bitch’s lapdogs are the Erinyes, the daughters of Nyx. Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone are also recurring characters in my Winds series which marries shamanic tradition with traditional mythologies from the north, east, west, and south.

            This is the kind of epic fantasy I love to read and write. I hope you like Winds and Darkness as much as I do.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I’m having such a great time writing about my fictional “Riverdale, Illinois,” the county seat of the fictional “Dale County,” that I feel like I’ve been away on vacation. My Instruments of Death series from Crossroad Press is set primarily in Riverdale with two novels in Willow Woods, Illinois, and three other novels set in Merritt County, Wisconsin.

            Pinking Shears ties together characters from Claw Hammer with characters from Pickaxe. Detective Sergeant Carl Erickson has been promoted to lieutenant and is in charge of the newly reorganized Violent Crime Division. Troy Nolan, Richard Pearson, and Betty Brooks come on board as rookie detectives. I love writing police procedurals. And I love creating serial killers that are true human monsters. I’m having a ball tying everything together into a pretty little package.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge. NAL, June 2015.

            There’s nothing I like better than a fast-paced mystery. I like third-person narratives told from multiple viewpoints. I am always intrigued by moral dilemmas, and Arlidge toys with questions of conscience enough to hold my interest. Eeny Meeny is the kind of book you’ll either love or hate. It’s not great literature, but it is my kind of story.

Helen Grace is a Detective Inspector for the Southampton police department. British police procedurals aren’t much different than American. Helen’s supervisor is Detective Superintendent Whittaker. Detective Superintendents are similar to Captains in American police departments. Detective Inspectors (DI) are the equivalent of a lieutenant, Detective Sergeants (DS) are the same in both countries, and Detective Constables (DC) are comparable to plainclothes policemen. DS Mark Fuller is Helen’s assistant, and Mark has become an alcoholic since his divorce.

Guilt and shame and desperation play active roles throughout the book. People don’t play nice with other people, and Helen Grace’s job is to figure out motives for murder if she hopes to find the killer. This is a whodunit, and the only real clue is that the serial killer is a woman. Her MO is to isolate two people who know each other, trap them in a place they can’t escape from, phone them to tell them she will let one of them out if one shoots the other one, starve them nearly to death, and release the shooter only after he or she kills the other captive. There may or may not be a connection between the victims and Helen (she knows some of the victims personally). Is the killer targeting people close to Helen Grace? Why?

There are more than a few nasty complications to keep the story interesting. Helen is no saint, and she has more than a few skeletons hiding in her own closet dying to get out. The story is the kind of down and dirty little thriller I really enjoy reading. The chapters are short, the viewpoints shift from one character to another with almost every chapter, and the pace escalates as the high-stakes game plays out. No one escapes unscathed. The best the characters can hope for is to emerge alive at the end

Arlidge isn’t the most skilled writer, but the storyline is original and the prose readable and often gripping. Eeny Meeny is a cliffhanger with one cliff after another adding to the hurdles characters must surmount. Penguin is releasing four of Arlidge’s DI Grace tales later this year in paperback and digital editions. I intend to read them all.



What I like to read and review

I learned a long time ago not to waste my time writing reviews of books I didn’t like. Reviews and criticisms are, after all, purely subjective matters of opinion. Other reviewers and readers may see things differently. I write reviews today for personal reasons, not for money as I once did nor for a minor byline in a newspaper or magazine. My main reason for writing reviews is to remind me of what I’ve read that I liked and primarily why I liked it. One of my greatest joys as a public and college librarian was performing readers’ advisory, recommending good books to library patrons. Since I retired as a librarian, I have posted reviews on my blogs and websites as a kind of readers’ advisory. And, because I am an author myself, I write reviews of good books and good short stories because I know how important reviews can be for sales and furtherance of an author’s career. Good writers deserve good reviews. Heaven knows, there are too few good reviews of works worthy of praise.

            So I write favorable reviews (usually 5 stars, but occasionally only 4 stars) of novels and anthologies. Anything worth less than 4 stars isn’t worth wasting time to write about. I always read every word of the books I review. If I can’t finish a book, I don’t try to review it.

            There are many worthy books I don’t take time to review because there are enough other reviewers who have raved about those works that I don’t need to add my voice to the multitude. I like being first to post a good review. I don’t mind being second or third. If I’m the tenth or twentieth, why bother? I do make a few exceptions. But those are few and far between.

            I read widely in all genres. I dearly love a good story. I buy and read nearly everything written by friends and acquaintances, but I seldom post reviews of close personal friends. I don’t want to be asked, “Why did you review his book, but you didn’t review mine?” Since many of my friends are authors, I can’t write reviews of everything my friends write. But, rest assured, I will buy your books and read them. Don’t be surprised if I ask for your autograph the next time we meet.

            I was raised in the pulp tradition, and I dearly love a good action story. I am also a trained cognitive scientist and I love psychological suspense that analyzes motives for behavior. When an author allows me to get into the heads of her characters and actually experience thoughts and feelings, I am ecstatic. When an author then shows actions consistent with the character’s mind-set, I’m hooked.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Holy War by Mike Bond Review

Holy War by Mike Bond.

I bought Mike Bond’s Tibetan Cross in both pb and Kindle. Mike Bond books have excellent plots. Unfortunately, Bond’s punctuation, narrative style, and dialogue are radically different from the American idiom I’m used to reading. Lots of ellipses and half-finished sentences. Too many exclamation points. Mike Bond is a superb writer, but his style takes some getting used to.

            What Bond does best is to describe action, and there’s plenty of action in Holy War. Bond’s short, clipped sentences capture the fleeting impressions of bullets and bomb blasts, the noises of war, so perfectly you think the bullets and bombs are aimed directly at you. Fleeting images of flying shrapnel and body parts illuminate the landscape of war-torn Beirut. You get the feeling that you are actually there, experiencing first-hand the hellishness of war. The first several chapters, unfortunately, are split between Beirut, London, and Paris. The next several chapters take readers on a leisurely tour of Europe as Neill and Andre make their way south toward Lebanon. You get the sense that everything is moving toward a bang-up conclusion. You just don’t want to wait to get there.

            Shifting settings and points of view can be distracting until you get various characters, relationships, timelines, and philosophies straight in your mind. Everyone in Beirut kills everyone else over religion, and nowhere in Beirut is safe. Add the fact that not everyone is who or what they claim to be—Rosa, for example, claims to be pregnant but she isn’t—and you begin to understand what it’s like to live in a war zone where confusion reigns.

            Alternating viewpoint characters include Andre, a Frenchman who lost a brother to the war; Rosa, a Palestinian who relocated to Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of Gaza; Neill, a British journalist and inveterate womanizer who wants to interview Mohammad; Mohammad, a Lebanese Muslim (Hezbollah) resistance leader; Mohammad’s wife, Layla, a former girlfriend of Neill’s. What compounds confusion for westerners are the number of factions fighting in Lebanon. Muslims can be Sunni, Shi’a, or Druze. Christians can be Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Coptic, or Maronite. Although the Maronite church merged with Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century, Lebanese-born Maronites are much closer to Arabic Muslims in ethnic identity than they are to Europeans. Complicating things further is the existence of Israel and the world-wide Jewish Diaspora. The creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent dislocation of Palestinians is the 800-pound gorilla thrown into the mix.

            Of course things are further complicated by the involvement of MI6 and French Intelligence.

            Holy War is a complex, convoluted, and controversial look at war in the Middle East from various viewpoints. Personalities, interpersonal relationships, and international conspiracies always make things more complex, convoluted, and controversial. Bond tries to depict the futility of war and the terrible toll war takes on everyone caught in the crossfire. I couldn’t stop reading, and I learned some things about history, middle-eastern politics, and human foibles in the process. Holy War is a worthwhile read, not a fun read. War is supposed to be hell, not fun.