Monday, November 25, 2013

Food for the Gods, by Karen Dudley

Anyone who takes a good look at me will quickly realize that I'm not afraid to enjoy a meal, especially now that I'm pregnant.  My grandmothers were exceptional cooks and bakers, so I was lucky to learn firsthand how a little bit of love, the right ingredients, and mixing things until it looks right can make for a fabulous dish.

Consequently, I love culinary mysteries, especially if recipes are included.  When I was asked to read, "Food for the Gods," by Karen Dudley, I was told it was a culinary mystery taking place in ancient Greece.  My first thought was, Oh, hell yes.

I'm very glad I said yes.  The world-building was effective and unobtrusive.  The characters were interesting and diverse, and the dialogue was pithy and sarcastic.  One would think that ancient Greek characters with British/Cockney accents would be a bit odd, but in the context of the book, it made social classes immediately clear.

Thanks, Karen, for a fantastic read.  I fell in love, and my only regret was taking so long to begin reading.My reviews are normally a bit longer, but I really don't have any criticisms.  I look forward to the second book.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Originated Under Twin Suns, by Michael Pickard

I'm notoriously nitpicky about my sci-fi.  I've been a fan of all versions of Star Trek since before I knew how to properly pronounce Rene Aberjoinois.  I like Star Wars, but I don't feel the need to wear my light saber to work.  Other than that, I really am more into Tolkein and Butcher than Bradbury or Asimov.

When I received Michael Pickard's novel, billed as "space satire," my ears perked up a bit.  The first chapter made me chuckle, so I threw caution to the wind and decided to dive in.  

The Good

Mr. Pickard's experience as a previously published author made this book's quality a definite cut above most self-published books.  
  • The text had good flow and a defined voice.  
  • Language use by the Frobs were consistent and had voice.
  • It was filled with clever puns that made me chuckle.
  • There were parts that reminded me of Monty Python, which always brightens my day, even if it doesn't involve fish slapping, silly walks, or shrubberies.
  • It was easy to visualize the action.  
  • The plot was multi-layered and complex enough to be interesting, but not so complicated and spread out that it felt like reading Game of Thrones.

The Bad

  • The middle sagged, lacking enough action to compel the reader to need to turn the page.
  • Occasionally he spent too much time inside the characters' heads.
  • I see what he was going for when he wrote the ending, but I found it a bit unsatisfying.
  • The title doesn't flow as well as I'd like.

The Ugly

  • The cover art.  Eeeep.

The quality is a far cut above most self-published works.  As space satire goes, the closest analog I could think of was Space Balls, but the humor reminded me more of British understatement than Brooksian absurdity.  Overall, it was worth the read.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bodacious Creed

As a ranch brat that hid my fantasy novels behind my 4-H projects, I have a thing for fantasy and westerns.  I wanted to BE John Wayne, Sparhawk, a Rider of Rohan, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, occasional sex changes be damned.  It's not that crazy to me to mix genres up a little, so when I got a review request for a zombie steampunk western, let's just say it got my attention.  

The only thing is that it wasn't really a review request.  It was a preview request from Jonathan Fesmire for his upcoming novel Bodacious Creed.  Jonathan has decided to do things a little differently by using Kickstarter to fund his project before it has even begun.  (Basic details for his project and how Kickstarter works can be found here, in case you've never heard of Kickstarter.)  

After reviewing his plan, I had a few questions for Jonathan.

Pretend for a moment that my readers have no idea what Kickstarter is or how it works.  (I'd never heard of it until now.)  Explain how it works and why you chose to do your project through Kickstarter than through other outlets, like traditional publishing or self-publishing.  

Simply put, Kickstarter is a site that allows anyone with a project to share it with the world. People can then pledge money to get that project funded. This new model is called "crowdfunding," and it allows artists to fund movies, graphic novels, computer equipment, and more.

Each project has pledge levels, with rewards that get better and better with each level.  So, backing a Kickstarter project is often like shopping for new and cool products that are still being created.

Each project has a time limit and a goal amount.  For instance, I set my funding period for 31 days, and the funding goal for $2,000.  Using a spreadsheet, I determined that this was the minimum amount I would need to cover expenses, including sending out the backer rewards.

Getting published by a professional house is extremely difficult, and many amazing books get rejected every day.  That's why many writers have turned to self-publishing.  Many of the best books out there are self-published, as are many of the worst, and it's the writer's responsibility to make sure that his or her book is top quality.

So, print on demand publishing and the Internet have already made it possible for writers to reach their readers directly, upsetting the old paradigm where we wrote to please publishers and then hoped against hope that our work would get noticed.

However, marketing is still extremely difficult. So you can work for a year or more writing a book, and then have few sales.

Crowdfunding turns the whole thing on its head.  Not only can writers self-publish, we can share a project to see if it's something people would like to read.  This gets the word out and gets people excited before the book is finished.

Significant backers get to have input into your book.  How do you feel about giving up some of the control over your project?  Or, do you get a creative charge out of bouncing ideas around with others?  (I do.)

I'm excited about working with higher level backers!  I have two now, and one wants to have a character based on himself as a villain.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

I also come from an improv background.  I did drama way back in high school and college.  At my junior college, I took three semesters of improvisational acting, and was the formative member of an improv troupe that is still going strong.  A little like Saturday Night Live, none of the original members remain.

I love the process of making disparate parts fit together.

It will be a controlled collaboration experience, however.  I'll make sure that the characters and ideas fit into the milieu.  I hope that more people pledge in that range, so I can work in more ideas and characters!

It takes a lot of stones to put oneself out there on the internet, potentially inviting criticism before a project has really begun.  Have you had negative experiences with backers, or has it largely been a positive thing?

I've been a public figure on the Internet since the mid-90s, when I had a relatively popular site called "Introduction to Fantasy."  The entire process of creating my demo reel, which Bodacious Creed is based on, is documented in an extensive blog.

As for the Kickstarter project, most people have been very positive and excited about it.  I have had some criticism.  One person thought it was just plain wrong to ask for funding to help publish a novel.  Don't you know, writers have to write first, and then struggle to get a book published, and then hope that people read the book!  That's how it's always been done, so how dare I try something different.  In fact, even telling people about it is spamming!

Another person assumed the book would be about cowgirls riding around on horses, braining zombie hordes.  You know, the most cliché idea possible.

I question the rules, and think outside the box.  In fact, as far as I'm concerned, there is no box.

But as I said, most people have been very positive, and some have even asked how to go about creating their own Kickstarter projects for novels.

How will the books be sold once they've been printed?  Do you have contracts with book sellers lined up, or will it be mostly on sites like Amazon?

I'm going to self-publish directly through Lightning Source.  That's the company that Lulu and CreateSpace both use.  By publishing through Lightning Source directly, I will pay less for each copy, and can sell the book for less.

One person wants to carry the book overseas, and I'll contact various book stores to see if I can get them to carry it. It will definitely be available online through Amazon and other sources, however.

I recently bought a children's printed book that interacts with the camera on my laptop.  My son completely loses his shit when he uses it.  Have you toyed with the idea of making enhanced e-books or digitally enhanced printed books, considering your expertise with 3-D modeling? 

Excellent question!  I don't know about creating an interactive book, though I suppose it's possible through a program like Unity.

What I will probably do, though, as I write the book, is create 3D models of some of the items or characters, and share those on my website, and on the Bodacious Creed site (which I'm developing now).

With the end of his funding period coming fast, I wish Jonathan the best of luck.  Many of you know that I'm a music educator, but this year I'm actually teaching a course in creativity and integrated arts.  (I CAN'T EXPRESS HOW EXCITED I AM FOR THAT CLASS!)  Bodacious Creed is a creative and "novel" approach to writing a novel, and I'm very interested to see how it turns out.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: A Once Crowded Sky, by Tom King

I was approached by Simon and Schuster about reviewing A Once Crowded Sky, by Tom King. After reading the description, which, "...fuses bombastic, comic-book-style storytelling with modern literary fiction..."I knew it wasn't up my alley.  However, I married a man that has been glued to every comic book movie ever made and knew it would tickle my hubby's fancy.  I've summed up my husband's thoughts on the book, which are largely positive.  He really enjoyed the book.

A devastating force called the Blue attacks all, superheroes and villains alike.  The Blue causes supervillains to commit suicide, leaving only the heroes left.  In order for the superheroes to defeat it, all superheroes but one to sacrificed their powers to defeat the Blue.  The world is left with left with powerless superheroes trying to cope with being normal, save one, a hero named Pentultimate, superhero Ultimate's former sidekick.  (The play on words makes me giggle.)

The Good:
  • Overall story telling was great.
  • Great twist on superheroes.
  • Not entirely predictable-the only predictable parts came from making fun of or using comic book cliches.
  • He dumped superheroes into what they'd be like in the real world.  Many weren't coping very well without their powers.
The Bad:
  • He spent a great deal of time inside the characters' heads, and at times the monologuing was a bit much.
  • Tended to drill a point to death instead of realizing the audience had gotten the idea several paragraphs ago.

The Ugly:
  • No ugly.  It was a really great take on comic book heroes, though it would probably not appeal to folks who don't care for comics.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Branding Time

My dad, uncle, brother, and husband preparing the calf table and chute.
My vaccine guns in the front, my uncle applying the second brand.
I think that when most folks think of cowboys, they think of horses, boots, spurs, ropes, calves and branding irons.  Historically cowboys used to rope a calf by the hind leg, drag it to the branding area, and then two people held it down while others did the branding and castrating.  My family uses a calf table, which allows us to do our job with fewer people and finish each calf more quickly.

Branding, vaccinating and castrating is a big job, and it probably seems terribly cruel to most.  However, ranchers don't just do it for fun.

Selling calves is where ranchers make their money, and calves can't be sold if ownership cannot be established.  Hence, the brand.  Good brands are hard to alter and are clearly readable from a distance.

Compare the brand to a tattoo, which I understand can be a terribly drawn out and painful affair.  The brand takes only seconds, and the calf's skin is far thicker than our own.

An animal rights activist once asked one of my dad's friends why ranchers castrate the poor little calves.  He could have said that it keeps fighting between males down or that it increases the quality of the meat.  Instead, he said, "It's to keep those little bastards from committing incest with their mothers and sisters."

'Nuff said.

Leg being drawn back to castrate.

Finished brand, read aloud as "Lazy F L Bar."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Step One...

My son, who cannot read, was helping me make mac and cheese.  He picked up the blue box and squinted.  "What's step one, Mom?"

I sniggered and replied, "Cut a hole in the box."

"K.  What's step two?"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Conservative Christian That Supports Gay Marriage

As a Republican Gay Baptist pointed out, we are not a country that likes complexity.  We like simple solutions to complex problems.  Failing schools?  Test the snot out of them.  Crime problem?  Throw them in jail and let them rot.

Whether you're right wing, left wing, or you hang under the dark underbelly of the plane, like me, the debate over gay marriage is a hotbed of stoutly held opinions.  Lobbyists and other political players benefit from fanning  the flames of outrage on both sides of the issue, complicating things considerably.  In this instance, a simple problem has been made very complex, and the solution is in actuality very simple.

In my opinion, gay marriage shouldn't even be an issue.  It should be legal.  Government should not have its nose in the bedroom unless one partner doesn't consent.  Most of those who oppose gay marriage do it for religious reasons.  Religious intrusion into law and politics usually causes more harm than good.

To understand how religion and politics can be harmful, one needs to understand emics and etics.  Emics view behavior from within a system or a culture, and etics view behavior from outside a system or culture.  Mental refers to what a subject is thinking, and behavioral refers to what one can observe them doing.

Traditional Religious Conservative View of Gay Marriage
Preserving the sanctity of marriage.
Advocating politically to ensure the country stays on a moral path.
Afraid of change, and of losing both religious and political clout.
Fanning a debate with inflammatory language to keep from losing power.

By dissecting the motivations behind the opposition to gay marriage, I find that it's more about self-righteousness and power than about protecting Christianity.  I believe Christians should not be seeking power in any way.**  Like an anonymous young man points out, the brain can be a lot like Lindsey Lohan's defense lawyer, because "it may be the best advocate out there, but at bottom, it's still defending every kind of immaturity and poor decision-making there is."  The degree to which we can delude ourselves that we are doing the right thing instead of acting like power-hungry control freaks is astounding. 

I was raised to live and let live, to study the Word and live one's life accordingly.  The two men that had a major effect on my moral development were extremely homophobic, but one would never know by the way they treated homosexuals.  They shook hands and spoke with respect, kindness, and good humor, which I think is a closer reflection to what loving one's neighbors should look like.**

I know that other conservatives will strongly disagree, citing that law is a reflection of morality, and for the majority of Americans, that morality is strongly based in Judeo-Christian ideals.  But, religion and politics never mix without an explosive reaction.

Atheists often point out that religion has lead the clarion call for violence and war, and they have a point.  Think of the Inquisition, the Reformation, the Crusades...the list goes on and on.  Those wars had emics and etics, too.  The emic mental reason for those wars were religious, but etically, the violence was about power, either maintaining it during a time of tremendous change or grabbing it from another country.

Though I'm a religious person, the law should be as religiously neutral as possible because religious viewpoints behind the laws are often biased, which has been demonstrated time and time again throughout history.  I have no problem with legalizing gay marriage.

**I have verses that I could cite to support my beliefs, but I have found that citing verses usually leads to citation wars that are more about winning and less about actual dialogue.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Those Who Want to be Broken

I'm a singer.  Most of the time stage fright is not a problem.  As a pianist, not so much.  I can have mini mental breakdowns in between the Gloria and the Sanctus when I'm playing organ at church.  As a writer I deal with my own fear of not being good enough on a daily basis.  As a music teacher, I teach my students how to deal with their fear from a very young age.  I've had to develop numerous techniques to battle anxiety because all but one of my private voice students are nearly crippled by it.
Image by cobrasoft at stock.xchng

Though music is my game, fear is my specialty in a lot of ways.  I realized the other day that I've noticed a trend.

There are those who conquer their fears and feel amazing for having done so.  There are those who still feel it, but trudge on anyway.  There are those who quit because conquering fear is more difficult than living with it.  Finally, there are those who deliberately sabotage any effort at improving one's physical or mental health because, quite frankly, they get more satisfaction from being ill.

I've seen those who deliberately sabotage personal progress in my professional and personal life.  They get more emotional needs filled from being mentally ill than they do from being well.  When one is ill the others in their lives get to take the consequences.

Julia Cameron calls people who thrive on drama and manipulation "crazy makers."  I'm certain we all know a crazy maker, like the folks that post cryptic status updates on Facebook, then refuse to talk about it.  Drama is about attention.  Adolescents aren't subtle about it, but one person in my life so subtle as to be Machiavellian, having manipulated everyone in her life to hum along to her pity ditty.

What are your experiences with crazy makers or self-saboteurs?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Those Who Are Irredeemable

My father loves to argue a point.  As most of the people he knew did anything they could to avoid
engaging in an argument they'd never win, my sister and I got to debate with him as we were bouncing in the farm pickup's passenger seat.

Photo by cahdequech from stock.xchng
He strongly believed that all people are born inherently self-centered or evil, ourselves included.  He saw it in his animals, and most especially in small children.  (Think about it.  Most kids have to be taught to share, to take turns.)  I can't find any numbers to back this up, but it seems as though most folks I run into believe the exact opposite:  that evil people are made that way.

There are a lot of misconceptions about psychopaths, most of which I've covered in a previous post.  I happen to agree with my father, that people are born selfish or evil, so I never thought much about how believing in man's inherent goodness could make one a victim.  One thing that's really been driven home to me while reading Lovefraud is that believing that selfish, evil behavior is due to previous trauma makes you a prime mark for psychopaths or other personality-disordered individuals.

At Lovefraud one can see countless stories in which victims of disordered individuals were reeled in by the psychopath feigning remorse and a trauma-filled past.  Many people react by feeling like they can help "fix" this person, lead them to the light, etc.  What victims do not realize at the time is that one can NEVER trust a psychopath's word on anything.  They lie to lie.  Even if their stories of traumatic pasts are true, they never try to overcome it.  They use it to their advantage.

Psychopaths have no other goal in life other than to get what he or she wants.  They are only interested in you as long as you have something they want.  Any emotion that a psychopath shows other than impatience, anger, or sexual desire is a feigned, and people who believe that there is good in everyone are easily reeled in by this tactic.

The hard fact is that psychopaths are irredeemable.  They see no purpose in "good" behavior because it does not give them what they want.  (Read this letter and another from a psychopath written to the founder of Lovefraud.)  A lot of people violently disagree that psychopaths are irredeemable because it would mean changing that core belief of inherent goodness.  I actually had one person go into hysterics over it.

What do you think?  Please take the survey, and leave your reactions in the comments.

Are people inherently good or inherently evil? free polls 

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Review Policy

It's been a while since I've done a review here.  I've had several really bad experiences for a variety of reasons, and I've been taking some time to create a new policy to address several problems.

The majority of books I have received are self-published.  Many authors sent me books in dire need of editing.  I felt obligated to read the entire book, so my reviews wound up turning into editing sessions.  This was not always a bad experience.  As a teacher, it's fun to help folks find creative ways to address problems in their projects.  However, I was only able to manage to do it while I had a student teacher, which gave me a lot of time to ruminate on issues and how to solve them.  After I returned to full time teaching, editing was incredibly time-consuming and took time away from my projects.

Additionally, I felt I had to be honest, but I'm very good at spinning feedback in a positive way.  However, I had so many books that were substandard it was beginning to be hard to be positive, which led me to make some bad mistakes with one author that I regret deeply.

As a book blogger, I feel it's important to be honest.  Those who visit my site to read reviews are deciding whether or not to purchase a book based on what I say, but I do not like publicly stating why a novel is lackluster.  As a teacher, that is something that should be done in private, but I am not an editor being paid to polish an entire novel, so I couldn't really win.

From now on, if you would like a review, please send me the first chapter.  I will read the whole chapter.  If I don't see issues like excessive exposition, poor editing, flat characters, etc., I will read the whole book and give it a review.  If I do not think there's a possibility of a good review, I will reply with a short blurb as to why I would rather not review the book.  Sometimes it may be due to personal taste, more often because projects are rushed to self-publication without enough rumination.

I feel the new policy will allow me to give self-published authors a chance, and give me a chance to have a relatively stress-free reviewing process.  For more information on what types of books I like to review, click on the "Want a Review?" page above.

If you have contacted me for a review and have not received one, please go ahead and send me the first chapter.  After changing computers I lost many of the files I had set aside for review.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summertime...and the Livin' is Easy...NOT!

School is officially out for summer, and it's time to get crackin' on my writing.

I put my novel aside for the school year to focus on creative projects for my students.  The results were pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.

My students and I collaborated on creating a program honoring veterans and educating the audience on the challenges they faced throughout the years.  We made the Marines cry with, "Sticks That Made Thunder," a bluegrass tune by The Steeldrivers.  (Done with permission, of course.)  The National Guard presented us with a Patriot Award for our efforts.

My writing partner, Cathy, my husband, and I created and produced a kid's musical on rangeland ecology called, "Hairy on the Prairie:  The Search for Montana's Bigfoot."

The last program of the year was written almost entirely by the fourth grade kids.  The fourth grade recorder program used to be so boring, so we decided a few years ago to modify a musical and write recorder parts for it.  That turned out well, but was a ton of work for me.  Last year I started having the kids write their own program, recorder songs included.  I select a them and some songs that go with it.  The kids have to write short skits that match the theme.

The them I picked this year was, "Western Legends."  One can always tell that a skit's been written by ten-year-olds when a cattle drive involves ordering pizza via smoke signals, an alien abduction, and an appearance by Edward Cullen.  (They made the most epic rip on Twilight that I've ever seen.  Bwa ha haaa!)

The best part of the program was that a real-life western legend, Chief Joseph Medicine Crow, the last war chief of not only the Crow tribe, but of nearly any Plains tribe, made a surprise appearance.  The kids asked his permission to tell the story of how he became a chief by counting coup against the Germans in WWII.  He sang his war song for them and reminded them to stay in school so they can become, "good citizens of their community and of these United States."

One unfortunate side effect-a dual stomach infection resulting in vomiting blood in the last few weeks of school.  Stress sucks.  So, I planned on taking the summer to finish The Rider of Nealra.  So far, I have no idea when I'm going to work on it between family obligations, a performance with Rhonda Vincent,  and, well, more family obligations.

Writing is still an integral part of my life, but I want it to be my life.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guest Post by Brad A. LaMar

Pain Meds and Life Lessons
Guest Post by Brad A. LaMar

I’d like to thank Scooter for letting me guest blog on Cowgirl Contemporary Fantasy, even though I am not a cow nor am I a girl.  I thought I would share a story about my father and my uncle that brought a little humor to a rather depressing situation. 

When my father, John, turned 50 he owned his own roofing business and was also a firefighter with great work ethic and big heart for helping someone in need.  He never really needed anything from anyone since he was going to work twice as hard as the next guy and make whatever it was that needed to happen happen.  I tell you this because about four months after he turned 50 he was struck by a debilitating virus in a condition known as Guillain- Barre syndrome (GBS). (You can follow the link to learn more, but essentially the covering on his body’s nerves known as the myelin sheath was stripped away and his body cannot receive messages from his brain to move.  It can be experienced differently by those who are afflicted it, but in my dad’s case he became paralyzed from the neck down.  Also, he had amplified sensitivity to being touched.  Sort of like if you placed a finger on his skin he would feel it like he was being hit by a hammer.  He would remain that way for over a year and a half before he had some regeneration in his nerves.  One doctor told him that he had the deepest case in Indiana history that didn’t kill someone.  Lucky, but also unlucky.

Dad wasn’t feeling very well at the firehouse and found some opportunities to take naps in between emergency runs.  The next day he drove over to a roofing job site and met his crew, but he still wasn’t feeling quite right.  He left his crew to head home, but on the way home he noticed that he was getting a tingling sensation in his feet and in his hands.  He got home and slept for a while and then around 3:30 in the afternoon he got up and walked to the kitchen for a drink of water.  By this time his hands felt like the circulation to them had been cut off and he fumbled with a glass.  Once he finally took hold of it he turned on the faucet and filled the glass, but something was way off.  He couldn’t direct his arms and hands to lift the glass to find his mouth.

My mom walked in from work at this point and noticed that dad was just standing at the sink.  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I can’t find my mouth,” he replied.

That was it!  Mom led dad out to the car and drove him to the hospital.  By the time they arrived, dad couldn’t get out of the car.  Nurses came out and lifted him into a wheelchair and took him in.  I was at my college classes and knew none of what was going on, so when I came home that evening my cousin was waiting for me.  He told me what was happening and we hustled to the hospital.  When I arrived and looked at my father lying in that bed completely unable to move I broke down.  I was nineteen and that was the first time I had experienced any real heartbreak.

Over the next couple of weeks doctors ran a battery of tests ruling other possible aliments out until they settled on GBS.  A diagnosis was nice but dad was not sleeping, not eating, and on some heavy pain medication.  Those three things added up to a man not thinking straight.

My uncle Steve, my dad’s brother, came to visit one time while I was there in that first couple of weeks.  Dad was in a chair and was at a slight angle so he could watch the TV comfortably.  Steve and I stood on either side of him as we all participated in small talk.  At one point I noticed that dad was quiet and staring down at his knee.

“What’s the matter, Dad?” I asked.

Dad sighed.  “You won’t believe me if I tell you.”

“What is it, John?” Steve asked.

“Well,” Dad began.  “There’s a white rabbit sitting on my knee looking at me and I don’t want him to.”

Steve and I exchanged looks and Steve decided to play along (not in a mocking way) and he said, “I’ll get it for you, John,” as he swept his hand over dad’s knee to knocked the “bunny” away.

Dad’s face showed his frustration.  “No, no, no.  He just jumped over your hand.  Help me grab him with my hand.”

“Okay, Dad,” I said as I lifted his wrist and hand and helped him to work his fingers to grab the rabbit.

I wanted to cry, but the satisfaction on his face after that did not let me.  He later told me that he knew the rabbit, among other hallucinations, wasn’t real, but to satisfy his mind he still had to run through the motions.  He needed to be the one to do it.

I learned something about perseverance and the strength of a person’s resolve throughout that whole experience with my father.  His ordeal and the way he responded to it helped me to put things into perspective.  I learned that life is going to hit you with waves of hardships but you can’t allow the undertow to drag you out to an ocean of misery. 

My father eventually was able to walk again, feed himself again, and give himself a shower.  He fought through one of the darkest moments in his life and came out of it a stronger man.  In the process, his son came to think of his father as one of his heroes and greatest teachers.

A little about me…

I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana as a kid in the 80’s and a teen in the 90’s.  So I went from neon colors and short shorts to grunge and flannel; funny how things change.  I graduated high school and then pursued a teaching degree.  I have been married and divorced and married again and have two great kids from my first marriage.  I have been an educator for the last 14 years and have been writing with being published in mind for the last six years.  My wife and I are animal lovers so we have two little dogs, one puking cat, and two small frogs.  They all bring adventure to our lives.

My Debut Novel…

My book is called The Obsidian Dagger and it is the first book in the Celtic Mythos Series.  Here’s the book blurb:

When a mad witch with a magically crafted and frightfully powerful Obsidian Dagger threatens to obliterate humanity and overtake the magic clans of the Celtic Isles, destiny forces 17-year-old American, Brendan O Neal, and his younger sister, Lizzie, to intervene. Joining the desperate princess of the Leprechauns, Dorian, and her two loyal companions, Rory and Biddy, they embark on a dangerous and wondrous adventure across Ireland and Scotland to thwart the witch and save mankind. Battling the witch s mutated forces of magical beings, the heroic band will have to reach deeper into themselves than they ever thought possible to find the strength, courage, and will to see their quest through to the end. Brendan will soon learn that the lines between reality, mythology, and divinity are more blurred than he ever imagined.

I was thrilled to learn more and more about the rich folklore of the Celtic people and as I researched it all a story began to develop in my mind.  So, after learning as much as I can I began to plan the adventure.  You could imagine my shock and joy when a publisher offered me a contract and a series!  I listed some links below, but you can always Google Brad A. LaMar and learn more about me and my writing.  Thanks to Scooter for letting me hitch a ride on her blog.  Happy reading everyone!

I’m on Pinterest, as well, just search "Brad A. LaMar."

You can purchase The Obsidian Dagger on:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How I Found a Fuzzy Beaver While Looking for a Kidney

Just like the incident with my Grandma's vibrator, the beaver story takes a little explanation.  "Beaver" and "human kidney" don't often appear in the same sentence, much less be tied together by a haunted house.
My mom and dad found out about me about three days before I was born.  It wasn't like Mom had no idea she was pregnant.  She just didn't know I was hiding behind my sister.  It wasn't long before the whole family realized two adults, a four-year-old, and a set of newborn twins weren't going to fit into a two-bedroom trailer house.

My grandmother lived in the large ranch house at the time, and she had planned on eventually putting in a new double-wide for herself so my family could move into the seven-bedroom yellow house, what we grew up calling the big house.  She graciously offered to move up her plans to ease the housing squeeze.

My brother, at four years old, noticed that something wasn't quite right in the big ranch house while they were moving in.  My grandmother never went upstairs.  He noticed that the upstairs was full-on creepy:  cobwebs and dust cloths everywhere, the whole nine yards.  Shortly after the house was cleaned and my family moved in the upstairs bedrooms, the noises started.

When my sister and I were still infants, the upstairs hallway had hardwood floors, as well as the closed-in porch.  One night my mom was reading on her bed at the end of the hall.  She heard boots come down the hall, then a voice whispered, "Pat?"

She immediately thought it was weird that Dad would call her "Pat," because he only ever called her, "Patty."  She looked in the hallway and no one was there.  She groused all the way downstairs and asked Dad what he wanted.  He'd actually been downstairs the entire time.

It really creeped my mother out.  The ranch house is twenty miles from the nearest town and at least two miles from the nearest neighbor.  The pack of barking border collies ensures we know if we have visitors.  There wasn't anyone else within several miles that could have slipped in the house and talked to her, and Dad wouldn't lie about something like that.   Doors would often open and shut on their own, and occasionally some freaky-ass noises originated in the attic, but boot steps were the most common noise heard.

Mom carpeted the upstairs to stop the boot steps, but didn't put any on the upstairs porch because it was unheated and mostly unused.  On Thanksgiving Day in '96, everyone but Dad was downstairs, and the steps we heard were heavy enough to shake the chandeliers.  When Dad came back in from outside, we asked him why he'd been on the upstairs porch.  He replied that he'd been feeding calves.

A skeptic could say that Dad was the source of the noises, but in this case he couldn't have slipped by all of us to get upstairs and couldn't have used the outside entrance because the door was frozen shut.

*Insert Twilight Zone theme*

Incidents too numerous to count occurred through the years, to the point of coming home to find every light in the house on and my brother sitting wild-eyed on the couch with a shotgun in his lap.  My family enjoyed regaling visitors with the numerous stories.

All of my nieces and nephews grew up hearing things, and last summer several distant cousins came to stay at the farm.  My nephews took delight in regaling the girls with ghost stories.

Finally, one of the girls asked, "Who's haunting the house?"

My nephew replied, "We think it was Grandpa Art." **


"Because he died in the house.  Right upstairs."

The girls looked around nervously.

I added, "He died of kidney failure.  Wanna see his kidney?"

The girls, naturally intrigued, followed me upstairs to the office.  While looking for Grandpa Art's kidney, I opened the closet door and a fluffy beaver skin fell out.  I had thought I knew all of the oddities contained in the old farmhouse, so I was a little surprised to find the beaver skin.

I confess that I had intentionally mislead the girls into thinking it was his actual kidney, mostly to see the looks on their faces.  After rooting around behind the space previously occupied by the beaver, I found Grandpa Art's artificial kidney.  Dad had kept it after his death because he thought it was pretty cool.  And, it is.  I even took it to show and tell in second grade.

Too bad I didn't know about the beaver when I was in grade school.  I loved to gross out the prissy girls, so the dead beaver skin would have been epic.

**This is the most common theory as to what's causing the haunting.  I honestly don't have a fucking clue.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Guest Post by Rachel Carrington-Enjoy Olive Garden

Enjoy Olive Garden
Guest Post by Rachel Carrington

When my assistant told me I had been graciously allowed to guest post at Cowgirl Contemporary Fantasy, I was excited. I love Scooter's stories and her sense of humor, especially her October 2011 post, Naughty Minds.

So in the interest of keeping with the humor aspect, I thought I'd share my latest faux pas. In the interest of full disclosure, I was extremely busy this holiday season (as most of us are), and I was frantically trying to finish a writing goal I'd set for myself. So I was admittedly a little scatterbrained.

Usually, I sent gift cards to my friends who live out of town because I don't like having to lug big boxes to the post office, and I don't know what they already have in their house. So I stuffed the cards in the envelopes, wrote an appropriately gushy note under the card's sentiment, and stuck the cards in the mail slot to await the forthcoming bouts of gratitude. (Hey, occasionally, my friends do remember to say thanks!)

So on the Friday after Christmas, I received a call from a friend who lives several states away from me. She asked me what my note meant on the card, adding that I'd written "Enjoy Olive Garden." Now, who doesn't enjoy Olive Garden, but it's not a sentiment I would ordinarily write...until I remembered I'd included a gift card. I reminded my friend of that in a somewhat pompous tone of voice since I thought the answer should have been obvious.

My friend's response? You didn't include a gift card. Huh. So I searched through all of my wrapping paper and leftover Christmas tags, looking for that card I'd inadvertently left out. All to no avail. Practically panicked, I headed to my receipts. (Yes, I keep them organized, but that's another story.)

While my friend remained on the phone with me, I discovered not only had I not lost the gift card to Olive Garden, I'd never even made the trip to the restaurant to purchase it. Yet, I had scratched it off my list. My friend thought this was extremely hilarious, especially since I'd been so sure she was the one who was slightly off her rocker.

Needless to say, today, I made a trip to Olive Garden. And at the rate my schedule is going now, she might get the card by mid-January.

About Me

I started writing years ago, and my first attempt was a contemporary romance that will never see the light of day. I think I may even have thrown it away by now. It was absolutely horrific as I knew nothing about well…anything to do with writing.

After that, I started writing fantasy romances about wizards and wizards, and once those took off, I segued to paranormal romances (hello, vampires and ghosts) and romantic suspense. I also write articles for various magazines, including The Writer’s Journal, Writer’s Magazine, Writer’s Weekly, Writing for Dollars, Absolute Write, and Funds for Writers.

I’m fortunate to make my home in historical Charleston, South Carolina. Beautiful city. Beautiful people. When I’m not writing, I love to read paranormal romance, romantic suspense, young adult fantasy and paranormal, create videos, shop, cross-stitch, cook, and drink lots of coffee.

My latest release, Waking Up Immortal, is an adventurous, romantic blend of science fiction and fantasy, and it's available now from several online retailers.

You can find me all over the internet, but here are just a few of the places:
My website:
Facebook: rachelcarringtonwrites
Pinterest: rcarrington2004
Goodreads: rcarrington2004