Stolen Ink by Holly Evans

What a pleasant surprise to find Holly Evans’ first book in the Ink Born series. I recently interviewed Danielle Ackley-McPhail, one of the editors of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series and she mentioned Evans as an author she thought was going places. I’d have to agree with her on that one!

Evans takes a little bit of this and a little bit of that and tosses in a dash of this other thing over here and makes a world that is both familiar and different at the same time. In a city that could be anywhere, but most likely in England, resides Dacian. Dacian, or Dan, is a tattoo magician. He can help draw out the tattoo that his clients are meant to have. There is much more to it than that, but I don’t want to take away from the fun of discovery.

Oh, and did I mention that he has two tattoo animals, a cat named Kyra and a snake named Aris; a best friend who is his tattoo partner, former lover, and an elf; that he has dreamwalker and shapeshifter friends? Or that he is a lonely gay man in a world of magic and intrigue that seems to leave little time – or desire – for anything long-term? Or that he has a deep secret that he won’t even tell his best friend?

You’ll just have to read the book to find out about that secret!

Dacian feels compelled to get involved in a series of mysteries tattoo related magical deaths. He’s drawn to the killer through the ink. Like many a hero in fantasy he is reluctant and fights it all the way kicking and screaming. But along the way he learns something about himself, something that he is afraid to share with anyone and something that might lead to him having to flee for his life and leave everything behind that he has worked so hard to create – his tattoo business, his friends, and a budding romance that he didn’t even want.

If you like fantasy, faeries, magic, mystery, and a dash of romance this is a book for you. The love scenes are subtle and won’t even make you blush to read them on the bus or in a coffee-house. The action is intense at times and the road to self-discovery for Dacian is one that I do not envy him.

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Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral – a review by a contributor

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is one of the newer go-to sources for a plethora of worthwhile reads in the Pagan world. January and February 2016 saw the release of two anthologies that have been long anticipated by certain segments of the Global Pagan Community. My hat is off to both the editors of these anthologies and to the contributors. Not an easy task to read, edit, read again, continue to edit, and work with a large number of authors to create as cohesive a collection of articles as possible within the two anthologies. The first to be released was Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor, the second was Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral edited by Erick DuPree.

book_findingthemasculine_small

Erick set out on a grand adventure when he put out his open call for submissions for this collection of very personal essays from men in Goddess religion and spirituality. The voices vary in  many regards. Cis-gender men, transgender men, gender queer identifying (at least in part) as male. Straight, gay, bi, none-of-the-above. The one thing they all have in common is an undying love of some form of Feminine Divine.

First thing is first. I am one of the contributors to this anthology. With that in mind, I am obviously somewhat biased. My contribution to the anthology is called “One Man, Many Goddesses” and talks about my personal encounters with several Goddesses throughout my life. But that is not what this review is about.

Erick DuPree put together a wonderful collection of essays, prose, and poetry from a number of self-identified men in the Pagan community. From a lovely ode to the Mother by Robert Baggani to a heart wrenching story of Auset by Robert Alvarez, from the birth of life to the death of it. Teachers, mentors, priests, practitioners, parishoners, men (and male-identifying) from all walks within the Pagan world came together to put this collection together. Erick opened the gates, these sons of the Goddess walked through it and present to you, the reader, a plethora of visions and realities of the Goddess.

Whether you believe the Goddess to be an archetype, a single individual with multiple names, a facet of the One, or separate and distinct individual Goddesses, you will get something out this anthology. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, straight, gay, or bi. The Goddess speaks through the pages of this book. You only have to read and listen.

Contributors include:

  • Robert Baggani
  • Daniel Holmes
  • Gwion Raven
  • Roxie Babylon
  • Scott K. Smith
  • David Salisbury
  • Christopher Blackthorn
  • Dylan St. Thomas
  • Taylor Ellwood
  • Duane Danielson
  • Ian Allan
  • Blake Octavian Blair
  • Puck deCoyote
  • Matthew Sawicki
  • Ken Torres
  • Bart Everson
  • Erick DuPree
  • Robert Scott
  • Anthony Rella
  • Robert Alvarez
  • Christopher Penczak
  • Philipp Kessler
  • Devin Hunter
  • “An Elder Apprentice”
  • Storm Faerywolf
  • Sypheara
  • Gede Parma
  • Tim Titus
  • Orion Foxwood
  • David Oliver King
  • Eric Eldritch

With a preface by Yeshe Rabbit Matthews, foreward by Ivo Dominguez Jr and introduction by Erick DuPree himself.

 

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Pagan Leadership Anthology – a review by a contributor

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is one of the newer go-to sources for a plethora of worthwhile reads in the Pagan world. January and February 2016 saw the release of two anthologies that have been long anticipated by certain segments of the Global Pagan Community. My hat is off to both the editors of these anthologies and to the contributors. Not an easy task to read, edit, read again, continue to edit, and work with a large number of authors to create as cohesive a collection of articles as possible within the two anthologies. The first to be released was Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor, the second was Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral edited by Erick DuPree.

Pagan Leadership coverLet me be perfectly clear from the beginning. I am one of the contributors to this anthology and thus I may be a bit biased in this review. My contribution to the book is called “Take a Break or Burn Out”. I am not writing this review to talk about myself or my contribution. So… On to the review!

Many in the Pagan community have been anticipating the release of this anthology. Shauna and Taylor put a couple of years into the editing process. Some of that time was spent waiting for late contributors, like myself, to send in their final edits. Some of that time was also spent handling their own lives. We often forget that the editors of these anthologies have lives outside the books. The wait was well worth it.

With contributions from some of the movers and shakers of the modern Pagan movement, recognized leaders within the community and up-and-comers, as well as those who never thought of themselves as leaders until they set down to write, the Pagan Leadership Anthology brings you voices from all walks of life and many different flavors of Paganism. You will read articles from Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Pagans of many kinds. What you won’t read is someone telling you that their brand of leadership is the only way.

With contributions from:

  • Rev. Bill Devendack
  • Kenn Day
  • Phoenix
  • Manny Tejeda
  • Sable Aradia
  • Raine Shakti
  • Rev. Judith Laxer
  • Sophia Kelly Shultz
  • Peggy Johnson
  • H. Byron Ballard
  • Rev. Catharine Clarenbach
  • KaliSara
  • Christine Hoff Kraemer (with Selina Rifkin)
  • Selina Rifken
  • Syren Nagakyrie
  • Shauna Aura Knight
  • Jhenah Telyndru
  • Taylor Ellwood
  • Sam Wagar
  • Melanie Howard
  • Jade
  • Diana Rajchel
  • Melissa Hill
  • Cat
  • Lisa Spiral Besnett
  • Annika Mongan
  • Rev. Dr. Karen Tate
  • Romany Rivers
  • Rev. David Oliver King
  • Julia Maupin
  • Lisa McSherry
  • Crystal Blanton
  • Margo Wolfe
  • Philipp Kessler
  • Courtney Weber

If there is one thing you take away from this anthology let it be that all voices are valid. All leadership styles can work, and they can fail. The only really bad way to lead is to ignore your instincts and ignore those who look to you to lead.

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Iron Tribune, Roman Steampunk by Daniel Ottalini

Iron Tribune - Daniel OttaliniAbout a year and a half ago I stumbled across Daniel Ottalini during an online Steampunk writers’ convention being conducted on Facebook. I was intrigued by his story lines for Steampunk set in Rome. Being the voracious reader that I am, I quickly obtained (legal) digital copies of the first two books in his Roman series and commenced to reading them. You can read my review of those first two novels in the series here.

I was very pleased, and somewhat surprised, when Daniel asked me to read the third book in the Steam Empire Chronicles, in advance of book four coming out this year. Apparently he liked how I reviewed his earlier works in the series and wanted my continued review-input to be available for his reader- and fan-base. I just finished Iron Tribune on May 1st. Before diving into my review, let me just say that I am looking forward to book four, Steel Praetorian.

Iron Tribune continues the story of Julius, Constantine, and Alexandros as they find themselves being promoted through the ranks of the Roman military and facing the battles that those promotions can entail, both physically and politically. The story also builds on Marciena, Julius’s little sister, and her fostering with the Senatora. Loaded with political intrigue, military tactics, and some homespun feel good back stories, this third installment in the Steam Empire Chronicles won’t disappoint readers one bit.

In this third installment the heroes find themselves gaining on life. Julius finds love in the unlikeliest of places, Constantine assumes the mantel of the heir apparent, and Alexandros overcomes an obstacle he never thought he could surmount. Along the way they get themselves into all kinds of trouble – war, assassination attempts, substandard military weapons and gear – you name it and they just might have to deal with it. Oh, and did I forget to mention that new characters get introduced that will keep you guessing as to what Ottalini has planned for his intrepid Legionnaires?

With all due respect to the genre of historical fiction, Ottalini’s Steampunk revisioning of the Roman Empire will keep you wanting more.  The political intrigue alone is enough to make this reader want to snatch up book four when it comes out. But don’t let that be the only thing that grabs at you!

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Voices of the Stars by Rowena Whaling

Voices of the Stars, cover.

I’m most familiar with Rowena as a recording artist, having listened to her first album My Mother’s Song for far longer than either her or I would care to admit. Little did I know that she also wrote stories. For most of her life she has been a storyteller and writer. But it wasn’t until Spring 2015 that her first full length novel was published. Voices of the Stars is an epic novel that takes the story of Arthur the Pen Dragon and puts it into the perspective of the key players that we all know and love (or hate).

Somewhat similar in format to The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Voices takes us on a journey through the story – the myth, legend, AND history – of Arthur and his Round Table through the journals and letters of those who were there. A truly riveting story is told through the eyes and memories of Morgan, Arthur himself, Bedwyr, and the Lady Vivienne, to name a few. If you are a fan of the Arthurian legend I suggest you pick this tome up. It’s a great read!

Rowena takes poetic license with the story as we know it. She inserts bits of forgotten lore and history, as well as some of her own poetry and song, into this retelling of the tale. There are some intriguing twists to the story that long time fans of the genre might not like, but I encourage you to read with an open mind. We were not there in the time of Arthur and if we were, our memories may be faded with the passing of the ages.

Wait a minute. Did I just say “if we were” there? Yes. Rowena tells the story not only from the perspective of those who lived it, but with the idea that reincarnation is real and that some who read it might remember bits and pieces, or even whole chapters, of the book. Call it crazy if you want, but the story means so much more if you keep that in mind.

Battle scenes, love scenes, magic, Dragons, and an exploration into how Christianity influenced the politics of ancient Britain. Voices has it all. You won’t be disappointed when you read this novel. The first in a proposed trilogy by Rowena “of the Glen” Whaling.

From a Pagan’s perspective, the story as told by Rowena holds much more import than just the literary work that she has created. It contains much of the myth, the magic, and the reality of the age. Combining the thoughts and deeds of the well-loved (or hated) characters with the reality of the magical life that many of them led, Voices will give you a history of the magic and practices that may have been used during that time.

Ever wonder what it was like to be a practitioner or follower of the old ways back when they weren’t the old ways? In her debut novel, Rowena gives you an idea of what it was like. With explorations of the Divine from the perspective of the Lady of the Lake and her acolytes you will delve into the spirituality of how Rowena remembers things in her own mind. The Prime Mover, the Feminine Divine, even the Masculine Divine are explored in this literary style that will keep you turning the pages.

I’ve got to give Rowena props. She incorporates the “Charm of Making” into the story, just as the classic film does. She does it in such a way that those who know the Charm will know what she is doing and what it means, but without revealing the full charm. For those in the know, the Charm is used in the film, but badly mispronounced. Reading the Charm as she has it in the book will not cause the results of the Charm, however. Unless you finish the Charm out loud or even in your head.  She leaves off before the Charm is completed, switches languages, or otherwise leaves it incomplete in the book. She does the same with the “Charm of Unmaking.”

Simply put, this novel is worthy of five stars. At least in my book.

Hear an interview with Rowena on the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel and an upcoming episode of Green Egg radio with the Maiden, Mother and Crone on January 16, 2016.

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Lammas Night, a mini review

Many years ago I came across Katherine Kurtz and her books. In particular, Lammas Night sticks out in my mind. It is a book that I go back to time and time again. Usually right around this time of year. Probably the title. *wry grin*

The book is partially based on fact. Though Kurtz takes large artistic license with what facts she represents in the book. Not just the bits of history from World War II and the British monarchy of the time, but exploring the connection between the throne and the land throughout British history.

Let’s put it this way… Kurtz takes a page from the history books about the supposed witch crafting that repelled the Spanish Armada and applies that to the WWII contemporary story of Dion Fortune and several other magical practitioners of her time doing a similar working to repel the Nazi’s. Combine that with unexpected change in the order of succession of the British royal family and flashes to the past and Thomas Becket’s role in the repulsion of the Spanish Armada and you’ve got quite the story.

What we do know for sure about the planned Nazi invasion is that the skies suddenly clouded over, a heavy fog covered the land and the Nazis were unable to land as planned. Whether Dion Fortune and her contemporaries had anything to do with it is anyone’s guess. Katherine Kurtz takes to that idea and more.

Lammas Night takes you on a journey through a war-torn country with elements of magic and politics. She certainly knows how to tell a story, and one that is believable. With elements of past lives and reincarnation, royal intrigue, and references to Hitler’s occult leanings, this book is sure to capture the imagination of anyone, particularly those with a fascination for British history and the World War II era.

Kurtz has a flare for magical drama, check out her Deryni and Camber series.

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To the Stage Again!

I Am My Imaginary FriendJust throwing out a little teaser here. I get to be on stage again this summer. We’re going to be doing a dramatic reading of David Csontos’s “I Am My Imaginary Friend.” “Imaginary Friend” was the first of his plays that I got to do two years ago. You can read about that experience in a previous posting to this site.

I’m looking forward to reuniting with most of the cast. Last I heard we had gotten confirmation from all but one cast member about doing the reading. As this will be a reading things will be a lot different. Easier in many ways, more difficult in other. What makes it easier also makes it difficult. There will be no set, no staging, no blocking. Just the four of us sitting with stands in front of us with the script. Yes, we get to read straight from the script! If David permits, I am going to rewrite/ad lib some of my parts. Bringing them a bit closer to what I did on stage two years ago.

 Full length recording. We never did get that third dinner table scene quite right. Perhaps we can with the reading.

We’ll be doing or reading of the play at the Historic Ferguson House near the Capital Building in the Near South neighborhood of Lincoln, NE. It is being sponsored by KZUM community radio and the Platte River Sampler, a program on that station. David has had small parts of other productions aired on the show, including the Mommy/Baby scene from “The God Show” followed by the original song “I Was a Teenage Girl Group”, also written by David. I was not involved in that broadcast, though I did appear on stage in the expanded version of that play last Spring at by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and St. Mark’s on the Campus.

 At about the 7 minute mark I get to play my most challenging role of the show, Meryl Streep.

Phil Schupbach, one of the hosts of Platte River Sampler, has been so kind to work with David and the cast to make this special reading possible. Cast members Sharon and Jayme are on board for sure. We’re waiting to hear if Damon will be available for the summer reading. He’s plotting a move to the East Coast sometime this year and may not be here the end of June when we go on with the show. David is going to talk with local slam poet Cei Loofe about helping as stage manager. Though the set, blocking, and such are nonexistent for this production we are still planning to use the Power Point Damon put together for the stage production. We’ll Cei or someone to take care of that for us.

If this goes as other special performances with Platte River Sampler, it is part of a workshop with Q&A. Of course this would be a workshop on writing and producing a play. That is where David comes in. But we’ll have to wait to see what happens between now and then. And until then, feel free to browse through the related videos on YouTube to get more of a feel for David’s work and what he has tortured..er..what he has done with his various casts!

Check back with this blog or follow me on Facebook for updates on this special performance of “I Am My Imaginary Friend.”

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