Monthly Archives: June 2014

Laurell K. Hamilton writes for Star Trek

I’m one of those odd balls. I love paranormal books, I love vampire novels. But I do not like the Anita Blake series and other such works by Laurell K. Hamilton. That said, I do love Star Trek. So when I came across a Star Trek: the Next Generation novel that was written by Hamilton I still read it.

In Nightshade we meet two new alien races. The Orianians and the Milgians. The Orianians have been at war with each other for over 200 years and they have been destroying their planet. They’ve asked the Federation to step in and send Captain Picard as an ambassador to help establish peace talks and save their planet. There are three factions on Oriana, the Torlicks, the Venturies, and the Greens. The Torlicks and  Venturies are war-like while the Greens are peaceful (no stretch there, considering American politics). Picard beams down with a limited party of Lt. Worf and Counselor Troi and soon finds himself at the center of a murder investigation. The leader of the Venturi has been assassinated right in front of him and both the Venturies and the Torlicks have singled out Picard and the representatives from the Greens as the only possible suspects. Worf finds himself acting as ambassador and investigator on behalf of the Federation while Troi finds herself trying to tackle the empathic overflow from the Orianians and their wild empathic talents.

Meanwhile Riker and the Enterprise answer the distress call from a Milgian ship whose engines are threatening to explode any minute. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge and Dr. Beverly Crusher beam over with an away team to see what they can do, both for the crew and the ship. The Milgians are a stubborn lot and most refuse to beam off their vessel, preferring instead to go down with their ship. Geordi’s VISoR shows that the Milgians and their ship are constructed in much the same manner, Crusher discovers something similar on board the Enterprise as she administers aid. Crusher and Geordi agree that they might be able to repair the engines if they work together.

You’ll have to read the book to find out how things work out. I was pleasantly surprised by the story. Hamilton’s not as adept at the science as most of the other authors for Star Trek, but the hard science doesn’t matter in this story. The human aspect, if you will, is what matters. A centuries long civil war, children dying, a planet dying. We stuff like that all the time in our own lives. The almost constant state of war that we are in someone on this Earth, starving people, children born with birth defects due to environmental pollution – all these things that the Orianians experience are mirrored in our own world. Originally published in 1992, Nightshade could easily be making an allusion to the first Gulf War, but its content is valid even for today.

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Lia Scallon


My introduction to Lia Scallon was with the beautiful and ethereal CD Crystal Keys: Songs to Awaken & Heal. Each piece, titles after one of ten semi-precious stones, takes through an instrumental meditation of the essence of those stones. Starting with the Pearl and continues through Sapphire, Amethyst, Smokey Quartz, Citrine, Clear Quartz, Emerald, Ruby, Gold, and ending with Diamond. Each of these stones, these pieces of beautiful music, will take you deeper within yourself and give you healing and enlightenment. Use them individually or together as a meditation and you just  might experience some of what it was like in ancient Egypt, Atlantis or Lumeria.

A sample of that experience can be garnered through this video for the track Citrine: 

luminous pearlIn 2013 Lia sent me a copy of her CD The Luminous Pearl: Songs of Mystery, Beauty and Light, continuing with the theme of Crystal Keys, Luminous takes you deeper into the experience of the Pearl. With a distinctly Asian flavor to the tracks, Luminous reveals another ancient side to the Pearl.

Combining her ethereal voice and instruments, Lia’s talents take you deep into the Pearl and its meaning for each listener. Like all meditations, your personal journey with this CD is just that – Your personal journey. The light, the mystery, the beauty of the Pearl and of yourself will come to light in this wonderful CD.

At the time of this posting, I have not been able to find any decent full length videos of any of the music offered on this CD. Perhaps it is time that I create one for myself. That said, enjoy the music and keep opening yourself to new and different styles of music!

Note to the reader: Click on the images and you can visit Lia’s website and purchase CD’s direct from her. As a further note: I should thank Lia Scallon once again for the lovely gift she sent me last winter, a gorgeous and blessed pearl.


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Star Trek: the Next Generation: Losing the Peace

Another leg of my journey through the Star Trek universe took me to a Next Generation novel, Losing the Peace. Taking place immediately after the final Borg battle and right before the Synthesis story in the Titan series, Losing the Peace explores more than the hard science that many have grown to accept from Star Trek novels. Instead, it dips deeply into the emotional turmoil that the survivors of a great war often experience – namely survivors guilt.

In Losing the Peace, author William Leisner explores the concept of survivors guilt in quite some detail. His range of understanding the phenomena is truly unique – applying it to the psyches of alien races from the Star Trek universe.

In the opening we find Captain Picard and his wife Doctor Beverly Crusher on shore leave in France, visiting the Picard estates and trying to come to grips with the great loss of life brought about the recent conflict with the Borg. Even with Picard’s certainty that the Borg are no more, he and his crew must face the after math of that battle and all the potential for conflict that come from surviving such a devastating war. The pregnant Crusher comforts her husband but is called away on her own mission to aid in the care of refugees from the destroyed planets and colonies of the United Federation of Planets.

With out revealing too much for those who may be behind, as I am, on the Next Gen story line, we find many of our favorite characters from the Next Gen, DS9 and even Voyager series scattered throughout the galaxy dealing with the survivors guilt. There is brief mention of favorites like Admiral Janeway, Captain Dax, even Wesley and Seven-of-Nine, but the meat of the story centers around the emotional journeys of Crusher and Lt. Jasminder Choudhury.

Flashing back to Crusher’s earlier years with her first husband, Jack Crusher who died while serving under Picard on his first command the Stargazer, she uses her own understanding of survivors guilt to aid the refugees of Risa and help bring a peace to the host planet that is giving them safe harbor after the storm. Choudhury, the lone survivor of her family from Deneva (with a reference to the TOS episode Operation Annihilate). Her anger and guilt lead her to make irrational decisions, but ultimately with the help of Worf she is able to come to terms with the loss and accept the legacy her family left her.

Unusual for a sci-fi novel, especially a Star Trek novel, I found myself reaching for the tissues while reading this book. Not just in one part, but throughout the story. The emotional level of this book is amazing. You can feel the guilt, the anger, even the joy and acceptance that Leisner’s portrayal of these characters brings to the story.

You’d better understand what is going on if you you’ve been reading the books in order, but Leisner gives enough background to catch up the reader that the novel can stand alone. I know I wish I had been reading the books in the right order, but that’s because I am stickler for continuity.

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Frenchy and the Punk – Elephant Uproar

Once known as The Gypsy Nomads, Frenchy and the Punk have been making music and magic for some time, both solo and together. I’ve had the joy of seeing them live at a local coffee house and I’ve had the pleasure to interview them for my music podcast, Musica Pagani.

Elephant Uproar is their 2013 release, and it is quite the CD. Mainly a drumming CD, but with a distinctly cabaret style to the drumming. Not quite what I was expecting when the CD promotion started. But I am not disappointed!

They launched the CD while at one of the many conventions they travel to. Steampunk, Sci-Fi, all kinds of conventions. Their launch video was Rock, Paper, Scissors – a favorite game and something that you might recall being augmented through the popular TV series Big Bang Theory. MAYBE you’ll hear that tune being played someday on that or another TV show. From what I could tell, the fans loved the song and they certainly seem to love Sam and Scott!

You may recognize a tune or two from earlier releases by F&P or their former name Gypsy Nomads, but from a purely instrumental perspective each piece is unique unto itself.

Take a dance with a Matador in the first track followed by an honoring of the divine Isis in track two. With track three you’ll go on a Carnival ride while playing  Rock, Paper, Scissors (lizard, Spock) with number four. The title track at position #5 will take you for a ride on the Orient Express and then you will settle down with the Dust and the Sand of the Caravan in track seven. The Blacksmith  in #8 will take you a merry Chase (#9) for the Celtic Sprite (#10) and finally you will rest with the Specter in the final track as you contemplate the Forest and the Sea.

1. Nevermore The Matador
2. Isis Rising
3. Carnival
4. Rock Paper Scissors
5. Elephant Uproar
6. Orient Express
7. Dust and Sand In The Caravan
8. Blacksmith
9. The Chase
10. The Celtic Sprite
11. Specter Of The Forest And Sea


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Star Trek: Titan: Synthesis

Continuing with my detour into the Star Trek universe, I picked up another book at that same sci-fi con. This one set in the Titan series. Captain William T. Riker and his wife Deanna Troi lead the crew of the Titan in a long term mission of exploration in this spin-off novel series from the acclaimed Star Trek: the Next Generation. Like New Frontier, this series is best read in order, but I found myself skipping a book or two when I started reading this novel. Taking place shortly after the last great conflict with the Borg, Synthesis poses many deep emotional questions for the crew under Riker’s command – and for  Riker himself.

The crew of the Titan continues to explore the out reaches of known space on their continuing missions to seek out new life, new civilizations, to go boldly where no one has gone before. And that is just what they are going to do in this action packed story of facing the fears of the known and the unknown.

While examining long range sensor readings, Mellora discovers a strange subspace disruption in an uncharted sector of space. Riker and his command crew choose to investigate when they come across the tattered remains of an unknown race’s vessel. Sending an away team to board the remains of the vessel, Riker takes the risk that every captain must – the team may not come back. The away team, led by Bajoran security officer Ranul Keru, soon finds themselves trapped as the ship begins to react to their presence like an organic’s immune system. Separated, the team finds the computer core and realizes that the ship is run by an artificial intelligence.  They take that core with them as the escape the ship and find themselves and the Titan under attack by another strange vessel.

The rescued computer core is able to establish contact with the Titan’s crew, calling itself SecondGen White-Blue, and is able to persuade the attacking vessel to cease fire. In the process White-Blue uses the Titan’s own computer to learn about the organics aboard and starts a cascade effect that awakens the computer to its own sentient potential. Cyan-Gray, the second of the Sentry vessels, insists that the Sentries, for that is what they are called, assist in the repairs they caused to the Titan. This introduces the crew to the politics and the struggles of the Sentries, a race of AI’s that has been in a millennia-long battle with The Null, a mindless creature that lives in a plane of subspace that their faster-than-light travel technology has unleashed upon the galaxy.

Meanwhile, Riker and his crew face their own inner demons as they try to understand the Titan’s new-found sentience, appearing to the crew in the form of a long forgotten hologram called Minuet. Having escaped the final with the Borg, the crew only have their own survivors guilt to guide them as they come to terms with the end of that war and part of that guilt is the innate fear of most any non-organic sentient beings.  The Sentries are just such a race and the trust is slow to build between the organics and the AIs, even slower at times when it comes to accepting the Titan’s new personality. As the battle with The Null is realized to threaten not just the Sentries but all of time and space, the crew must face the ultimate sacrifice …

Read the book yourself and find out how a myriad group of organic life forms can ally themselves with a race of artificial beings to over come a creature that is without mind, without morals, and without any want other than to consume whatever it can to survive in a strange new galaxy.

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Primordial Sonics – David Vito Gregoli

I just love it when I get introduced to a musician! David Vito Gregoli, or Vito Gregoli as some know him, is a master of music. The first of his CDs I heard was Primodorial Sonics. And let me tell you, I’m eager for more!

Combing several genres of music, this new age master piece will amaze the listener. From Raga to Raggae, Vito takes you for a jaunt inside the primordial being that all of us. Categorized on CDBaby as New Age: Ethnic Fusion, this disc is definitely a fusion of multiple styles and a trip around the world of aboriginal music. You might recognize some of the tracks as something else, like the first track “Rag Klem”. “Rag Klem” is a re-orchestration of “My Darling Clementine”. Fusing his experience over decades of music, Vito combines classic rock styles with the aboriginal sounds of India, Australia and the Middle East.

This kind of fusion is a personal favorite of mine, it brings a depth to the music that just isn’t there when a musician limits themselves to just one cultural influence. Having received this in my collection around Midsummer last year, it is fitting for me to add the review this Midsummer weekend. I’m certainly enjoying revisiting the music of Vito Gregoli!

Nominated  for the 2013 Best Chill/Groove Album by Zone Music Reporter, Vito’s CD is a truly groovy CD to chill out with. At KZUM‘s Murphy’s Magic Mess we enjoyed playing it during the summer of 2013 and kept it in our rotation for the rest of the year.

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Star Trek: New Frontier: Treason

I’ve long been a fan of the Star Trek universe. One of the few non-educational TV shows we were allowed to watch growing up in rural Colorado was the original Star Trek series. My dad was a big sci-fi fan, not the dress up as a Klingon and go to a convention kind of fan. But the kind that watched the same episodes over and over again, introducing his kids to shows like Star Trek, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, and more. My love of sci-fi hasn’t diminished over the years and finding a break away series like New Frontier by Peter David was truly exciting when it first launched several years ago.

Treason is the latest of that series that I have read. I know, I am woefully behind on my Star Trek books. You have to pick and choose with so much in the way of good books out there. Somehow, when I found a copy of this book at a sci-fi con in Lincoln I was lucky that it was the very next in the series from where I had left off!

Robyn Lefler, the widow of Thallonian Ambassador Si Cwan, is alone on New Thallon with her sister-in-law and pregnant with Si’s child. Her mother, who just happens to be the mind of the Excalibur, fights for her child’s safety while the captain’s son fights for the mind of his beloved – Kalinda, Csi’s sister. Cpt. Calhoun finds himself on a mad-dash rescue mission after the birth of Robyn’s son. The child has been kidnapped by an apparently mad Vulcan, the ship’s CMO who is attempting to save the life of her own son. Admiral  Shelby, Calhoun’s wife and commander of a starbase, finds herself in the thick of things as first officer Kat Mueller and former Starfleet officer-turned Romulan spy Soleta band together to save their friend and her child from imminent death.

Travel with the crew of the Excalibur as they fight to save the lives of their crew mate and the newborn leader of the New Thallonian Alliance. This battle of virtue and preservation takes place on the physical, mental, and emotional planes. You’ll meet a new race that claims to aid in the advancement of all races, as well as get a grasp on what it means to be a family – even when that family consists of diverse galactic races that are often at odds with each other.

Taking you on an adventure not only of space, Missing in Action gives the reader an opportunity to explore the inter-personal dynamics of Vulcan families, an understanding of how an AI can still have feelings for her human child, and the trials of a ship’s captain as he deals with the politics of a newly formed alliance while juggling his own family struggles with his superior officer wife and his renegade son. Even if you’ve not read all the New Frontier books, you can get a grasp of what is going on in this riveting novel. Unlike TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager novels that happen after those respective TV series concluded, New Frontier is a series that I would recommend you read in order from the beginning. The ongoing character development and the relationships between the various characters is better understood when you read them all. With only two main characters that were introduced through the various TV series (Admiral Elisabeth Shelby, first appearing as Commander Shelby in TNG‘s “Best of Both Worlds 1 & 2”; Morgan Primus, introduced in TOS as Yoeman Janice Rand), these characters are a mass of xenobiology that just can’t be beat.

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Sing Me Malaise – Rosin Coven

Rosin Coven - Sing Me MalaiseOnce in a while a musician or band will send an email to our music director at KZUM inquiring which show their music might fit in with. In August of 2013 that very thing happened.

Rosin Coven reached out to Murphy’s Magic Mess through our music director. She forwarded their email on to us to see if we might be interested in the music. I took a look and a listen and thought, “Of course!”

Cabaret style Pagan music is something that you don’t hear very often (Frenchy and the Punk, when recording as the Gypsy Nomads, being another example). This San Francisco, CA based band definitely fits that bill. Their newest release Sing Me Malaise is lively, thought provoking and different from most anything that has come across our mixing board in some time.Rosin Coven - in the trees - b-w

Listening to Sing Me Malaise makes me want to get up and dance. Not the best thing to do while trying to write, but it happens. The cats are giving me strange looks as I try to chair dance and type without too many errors. It is quite the sight, I am sure. The beats and notes help tell the story of the words. The auditory alchemy of the music is evocative of traditional cabaret, but the added darkness to certain pieces, or the lively humor of others, is something that is purely Pagan in feel.

The more I listen to Rosin Coven the more I am reminded of the movie (and stage production) Gypsy. Which makes perfect sense. Gypsy is a story about a family that started in Vaudeville and wound up in burlesque. Both styles of entertainment are related to Cabaret. I can even see Bette Midler strutting around on stage to some of the marvelous songs on this CD.

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Vampire Academy 1-3

It is not often that I read young adult fiction. One of my customers at the c-store and I have bonded over books. She’s a prison guard and likes to have the escape of fiction. One can well imagine that her job can be stressful and a need for escape surely exists. She was raving about this series by Richelle Mead and convinced me to read the books. In May she loaned me the first three books in the series and after I finally got caught up on some of my other reading I picked them and devoured them in days.

Find out all about Richelle Mead and the Vampire Academy books at Penguin’s website.

St. Vladimir’s Academy is a school for special children. The children of the vampires and their guardians. Somewhat like Hogworts from the Harry Potter series, the school teaches the basics of math, language arts, and history as well as the physical and magical disciplines necessary for the vampires to live and prosper in a non-vampire world.

The Moroi, the elite of the vampire world, and their guardian Dhampir, half human half vampire, send their children to special schools like St. Vladimir’s. A place where they can learn and be protected at the same time. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, the best friend of Moroi Princess Lissa, the last of her line. They’ve been friends since childhood, Rose and Lissa being the only two to survive a tragic accident that killed the rest of Lissa’s family. An accident that may have been the plot of the evil Strigoi, the truly immortal – yet immoral – vampires.

In the first book in the series you are introduced to Rose and Lissa as they are living among normal humans, having run away from the academy at the urging of Rose and her uncanny sixth sense. They are soon taken into custody by agents of the academy and the ruling class of the Moroi, rescued and taken back in time to finish their junior year at the school. Another Dhampir is assigned to Rose for special training to help her catch up on lost time as well as a means of punishment for taking Lissa away from the safety of the academy. Dimitri takes her under his wing and teaches her most everything he knows, and a forbidden romance begins to take root between them. All this is the background for another diabolical plot to take Lissa away from the academy. This time a plot by another Moroi royal who wishes to use her special talents – healing – to his own ends.

Despite the uncomfortableness that some may have with the idea of a teenager and a twenty-something having a romance, the writing is well done. Few editing errors escaped the over-site of the publisher and the continuity of the story flows quite well. After a time it is easy to over look the strangeness of the romance between Rose and Dimitri (which I guess is common with young adult fiction). You’ll soon be caught up in the drama of the story as Rose fights to protect her friend and companion, Lissa, from the clutches of the plot to use her healing powers to take over the Moroi government.

I’m looking forward to a chance to see the film!

Book two picks up at the winter break with Frostbite. In Frostbite the students of St. Vladimir’s are taken on a ski trip after a Strigoi attack renders the academy unsafe for a time. Here you meet several new characters, including Janine Hathaway, Rose’s mother. The romance between Rose and Dimitri continues, despite his insistence that it should never have been and will never be. Another romance thickens between Lissa and the orphaned  Christian, whose parents succumbed to the temptation of the Strigoi.

A handful of students sneak out of the ski resort in an attempt to seek out the lair of the Strigoi, a group that have chosen to go against Strigoi tradition and actually work together. Included in that group is Rose’s friend Mason, who is madly in love with her. This escapade by the students rides on the coattails of a proposed joint action by the Dhampir and some of the Moroi who wish to combine their physical prowess and magical abilities to combat the nefarious Strigoi.

Rose, against the wishes of Dimitir and behind the back of her mother, takes Christian and follows Mason and his group in a rescue attempt. An attempt that soon needs to be rescued as well. It is here that the reader gets a real glimpse of the magical abilities of the Moroi and how they can be used in combat to assist the Dhampir in defending against the Strigoi and maybe even going on the offensive.

Shadow Kiss, book three in the series, picks up shortly after Frostbite. In it Rose, Lissa, Christian and the rest of the students at  St. Vladimir’s try to pick up the pieces after the attack on the school and the loss of friends, including Mason, during their winter break.

With a trial looming over the heads of the Moroi and the memories of Striggoi attacks very fresh in the minds of everyone at St. Vladimir’s, there is little hope of the students ever truly feeling safe again. Lissa and Christian’s romance continues to build, parallel to the romance between Dimitri and Rose. The Moroi and the Dhampir continue to be at odds with each other over whether they should combine their physical skills and their magical abilities to better defend themselves against the Strigoi.

As the year continues and the students attempt to go back to normal Rose and Lissa find themselves dealing with a new problem. Several students have shown up to class with black eyes, burns, and other minor injuries – many being taken to the infirmary. But none of them is talking about how their received their injuries. When Lissa is approached by other Moroi students wanting to band together to use their abilities as an offensive tool against the Strigoi Rose finds herself using the strange bond that exists between them to rescue her from their initiation ritual. And winds up rescuing one of her frienemies from Lissa instead.

Before the can address the issue with the school’s administration another Strigoi attack is launched against the school and all hell breaks loose.  The raging battle shows that the Moroi are more than a match for their mortal enemies when they combine their efforts with their  Dhampir guardians to protect the children. Janine returns along with many other guardians in the after math of this massive attack and a plot to go on the offensive ensues. You’ll have to read the books to find out what exactly happens. It surprised me, I’m sure it will surprise you.

I’m patiently waiting for my prison guard friend to bring me the next three books in the series so I can find out what happens to Rose and Lissa and their friends.

ADDENDUM (06/20/14): I was able to find an online source for watching the movie free. I watched it. I enjoyed it, but I was disappointed. Mark Waters and his writers took things a bit too much towards the satire side of things, making the characters out to be parodies of high society. As a stand alone, without having read the books I think the movie would have been fine. Having read the books, I was disappointed in how the characters were portrayed.

Zoey Deutch does a fair job as Rose; Danila Kozlovsky is a bit hollow as Dimitri; Lucy Fry (Lissa) does a great job of being a snobby upper crust bitch , but has a real trouble being believable as a friend. Gabriel Byrne, on the other hand, pulls off the nice-guy-turned-villain. Of the four, Byrne is the obvious veteran. Maybe in the sequel Deutch, Kozlovsky and Fry will have matured in their roles.

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