Monday, November 11, 2019

Excerpts

From a WIP. What do you think?


Someone banged on our door, an insistent rat-tat-tat. “Grab your things and come with me.” Marlene, the attendant for our train car, sounded out of breath. “Hurry. Abandon this car. It’s gonna fall into the ravine. Couldn’t decouple it.” The words tumbled over each other and were repeated a little farther away.
My eyes became accustomed enough to the dark that I could put my arm through the strap of my messenger bag and follow Abby out into the corridor.
Marlene rushed us to a line of people heading down the spiral stairs in the still-hurtling train. She shouted so we could hear her above the increasing noise level, “You’ll have to jump, no matter how frightened you are.”
As I went around the bend of the stairway, I heard, “Geoff, I can't do it.” The little girl at the front of the line balked. She turned to reveal a face covered in tears and a shaking body. “Please don’t make me.”
Marlene said we have to, Franny,” The teen behind her said. “Toss your backpack first so it's easier.”
I wasn’t sure I could jump either. I slipped the strap off my shoulder, preparing to throw the bag.
Franny finally leaped off, and her brother followed. Next, a younger boy jumped as if he were vaulting into a pool.
I reached the front of the line and looked down. Would I break something if I jumped? At least it was still light outside, and the ground was almost flat. I flung my bag, closed my eyes and jumped, trying to emulate the boy. My fall from the train was broken by the ground and sparse grass. From the siding, I glanced around. Holy moley! The cars ahead of ours were tumbling into a ravine. Any trestle bridge that had been there was gone. The falling train sections pulled our car toward the precipice, too. I gulped, realizing we could still be on it. My stomach clenched as I watched more people jump from our car as it neared the edge. Sparks flew from under the wheels as it neared the edge.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Tuesday Reviews on Wednesday


Forager by Peter R. Stone


4-star review of Forager by Peter R Stone

A hundred years from now, after an apocalyptic thermonuclear war, only parts of Melbourne remain. Ethan lives in Newhome, an area outside the damaged center of the city and works as a Forager, going out daily with his crew to find valuable metals in the ravaged skyscrapers and houses. When a group of Custodians is assigned to accompany the group, ostensibly to protect them from Skels, the skeleton-armored humans that haunt the area, Ethan believes they’re really there to root out anyone with mutant abilities, abilities he’s hidden from all but a few. When a convoy sent to establish trade with a Japanese-developed village is attacked by the Skels, the action revs up, especially when Ethan is drawn to the female translator sent with the convoy. I’d rate this 4.5 except for the abrupt ending that requires the next book in the series to find out what happens next.



Becoming by Michelle Obama


5-star review for Becoming by Michelle Obama

This was a fascinating look at Michelle’s childhood, education, marriage and her time in the White House. Her rise from a humble beginnings to First Lady of the United States is inspiring. Her efforts to help other girls reach for the stars is a part of her. No doubt she is an intelligent and caring woman. I’m impressed by how much time and energy she has devoted to her family. If you’re looking for a political book, this isn’t it. As she says, politics isn’t her field of interest. For her, championing education for girls all over the world, including the US, is of utmost importance.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Excerpts on Sunday

Here's an excerpt from The Crimson Orb, the first novel in The Crystal Odyssey Series.


I sat on a carved wooden bench in my favorite corner in the vegetable garden, watching the boys at their morning sword practice with my father and wishing I was out there with them. My brother Blane, nineteen-years-old and blond like Father, was easily besting the duke's son Kerr, as he usually did.
My favorite of the pure black cats inhabiting the Manor jumped up on my lap, licked a paw, then curled up and promptly fell asleep. It was that kind of warm summer day when, if I wasn't with the boys, I didn't want to do anything more than sit in the shade of the old apple tree and inhale its sweet scent. Since I was ten I've dreamed of learning to feint and parry, thrust and slice like Blane, Kerr, and my other brother Donal. But I'm a girl and it wasn't seemly.
Girls of ten to twenty were relegated to the sewing room where Jannet, the governess and seamstress, taught us the fine art of needlepoint. I couldn't sew a straight line to save myself, and I really wasn't interested in learning. Our only other lessons were in the kitchens. Cook – whose name was Bridey although no one ever called her anything but Cook, not even her husband – taught us to boil an egg and make soup from whatever was available. That wasn't so bad, because we could eat what we made and no one else was the wiser when it tasted awful.
Blane won his match, and next Donal fought a duel with Adair, the duke's younger son. I watched them closely, Donal's red hair and Adair's blond shining in the sun. I hoped I could learn by paying close attention, if not by actually using a sword. Mind you, these were short practice swords, not meant to do much damage. Donal appeared to do much better than I'd seen in the past.
I was startled when someone sat next to me on the bench. It was Madoc, the Manor's resident wizard. I never heard him coming, and yet suddenly he was there, like magic, which was what he wanted everyone to believe.
"Donal has improved, hasn't he?" Madoc hadn't lost his East Island accent. You would think a wizard would do something about that, but his kind of magic came from knowing what others had long forgotten. All I knew was that things had been different in the past. He had knowledge from reading ancient texts and passed some of it on to the boys.
I looked into his warm, dark eyes. "Yes. His movements are more..." I strove to find the right word. "more fluid." I waved my arms about, imitating my brother.
"He's learned how to become one with his sword," Madoc said. "Notice how Adair has to work to make the sword do what he wants, but Donal lets his sword go where it should."
I turned to him. "Did you teach him that?"
"Your brothers both have some magical talent, an understanding of how to connect with everything around them," Madoc explained. "I just helped Donal to recognize how to use that."
"Oh." As much as I wished I’d be allowed to learn to use a sword, my desire to study magic with Madoc was even greater.
He'd come to the Manor when I was eight. The duke's previous wizard was getting old and the duke wanted a younger man to take his place, although I doubt he expected a lad of sixteen. Madoc had shown his abilities on several occasions, despite his youth. He taught the boys who were interested in his art, and gave all of them lessons in science as well.
Now, eight years after his arrival, he was part of our lives, and no one questioned his ability.
Why aren't you in the sewing room with Morna and the other girls?” he asked.
I hate sewing.” I hesitated about going on, but the need to tell someone who might help make it happen was too strong. “I would rather learn to sword fight and do magic.” There, I'd said it.
He looked deeply into my eyes and asked, “Why do you hate to sew?”
I shrugged. “I'm not very good at it.”
Do you hate it because you're not good at it, or are you not very good at it because you hate it?”
That was a question I'd never considered. “Do you think if I liked sewing and thought it would somehow be useful, I'd be better at it?”
Then he really surprised me. “Nissa, you probably have as much magical ability as Blane and Donal.” He paused briefly while I considered that and what it had to do with what we'd been talking about. “Just as your brothers use the energy around us to guide a sword arm, you can learn to use it to improve your sewing.”
I swallowed. “Would you teach me?” I dared to ask. “I mean, show me how, as you've shown them?”
He stared at me for so long that I was afraid he was preparing to refuse, but then he surprised me one more time. “Meet me in my rooms this afternoon when the boys return here for sword practice, and we'll see how good a pupil you can be.”
I thought I would burst with happiness. Madoc was going to teach me to do magic, or rather how to use it!
I'll be there!” I said. He laughed, but it was a friendly laugh.
The cat woke just then and jumped off my lap. “Well, I guess I'd better get back to Jannet before anyone misses me.”
I could feel his eyes on me as I walked off. It was more of a skip than a walk as I made my way through a wooden side door and down the narrow hallway inside the Manor. But my good mood dissipated when I entered the room where my fourteen-year-old sister Morna and a few other girls sat at two tables, hemming the cloth napkins they would later embroider.
Narissa Day, where have you been?” Jannet asked, her broad accent deepening with her annoyance. Few people called me by my full name, but usually it was when they wanted to scold me.
I...I needed some air,” I replied. It was true that this room was stuffy. Lint from the linen cloth we worked with hung in the still air and I could actually see it when the light came through the two tiny east windows that early in the morning.
Well, you're falling behind. Morna, show your sister what she's to do,” Jannet instructed.
Yes, Ma'am,” Morna said, smiling her usual radiant smile. She still hadn't outgrown the sprinkle of freckles across her nose, and her bright red hair cascaded over her shoulders. You had to smile with Morna whenever you looked at her.
For the next hour or so, I worked diligently at hemming large squares of cloth under Jannet's critical eye, hoping that my lesson with Madoc in the afternoon would make this task much more pleasant in the future. The time passed slowly on the old hourglass Jannet used to time our work. I was always the last to finish.
Well, this time my finished hems were more or less straight and my stitches were even smaller and more even than Larena's. She was the duke's daughter, and the second worst seamstress after me.
Very well, ladies. You may all wash up and go to luncheon,” Jannet said.
We stood up and then trooped out toward the dining hall, stopping at the trough just outside to rinse off our hands before we ate. The hall was already filling up. The boys, hungry after their exertions on the practice field, were lined up to get their food. I just hoped they'd leave something for the rest of us.


The ebook is on sale this week

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tuesday Book Review

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet


4 star review of Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie Holmberg

The title of this fantasy story is appropriate, as the protagonist, Maire, is a baker who infuses her confections with emotions and attitudes just by thinking of them. The story is also sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, and sometimes bittersweet. Maire goes from her sweet life as the baker in an idyllic town, where she lives with lovable Dorice and Franc to the bitter life of a slave to the simple but cruel Allemas. His demands evoke known fairy tales and, like them, have their dark moments. All the while, she’s visited sporadically by the ephemeral Fyel. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say, as bittersweet as the ending is, the epilogue is almost too sweet.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Wool Blog

Superwash wool 
First a couple answers on the why of superwash wool. Why do people want it?
A big reason is washability. Non-superwash baby gifts can end up doll clothes, and socks that have been tossed accidentally in the washer and dryer barely fit a big toe. Dyers and knitters also love the intense color produced by dyeing on superwash. Lots of folks also say that superwash yarns are softer; they are certainly smoother.
Only a very small percentage of the superwash produced in the United States goes to the hobby market (that’s us knitters).
Much of the US-made superwash wool goes to ready-to-wear fashion, and to the military for uniforms. Wool for military wear is praised for its durability, its suitability in a variety of climates, and its fire resistance. The superwash process makes it washable, and it makes the United States wool pool (a variety of sheep breeds mixed into one yarn) soft enough to wear. The military uses a lot of wool and helps keep wool farming viable in the United States.

What Exactly Is Superwash?

Superwash is a process that makes wool less susceptible to felting when it is washed and dried by machine. There are two ways most commonly used to make a superwash yarn. One is to strip or dull the scales of a fiber, then fill the irregularities left behind with a polymer to smooth the fiber. The other is to coat the fiber to suppress the scales. There are many scientists working on developing new ways of shrink-proofing wool. Most methods are the super secret, proprietary information of the companies and labs developing them.

Felting: It’s All About Scales

Each individual wool fiber is covered with tiny scales, like a snake’s skin. When these little suckers are agitated, literally, that’s how felting happens.
Felting needs moisture, friction, and sometimes a change in temperature like accidentally putting things in the dryer. Wool relaxes in water, even more if it’s warm or hot: the scales open like the hatch on the back of a car. Agitation makes the fibers scootch closer together so that the scales hang on to each other. As the fiber dries the scales slam shut, locking out the ability for fibers to move past each other and locking in the new shrunken size. Your beautiful knitwear is now smaller, stiffer, and not so soft. If you’ve ever knit and then felted a bag or slippers on purpose, you know exactly how much the felting experience can change knitting.

Superwash and the Environment

There are environmental issues with many superwash processes, but not all superwash or anti-felting processes are the same. Different companies use different processes and chemicals, and different countries have different environmental regulations for their wool industry. The only way to know what process your favorite yarn company uses is to ask them.
While many yarn companies don’t know the process their suppliers use, some do, and a growing number are making it a priority to be aware and to choose supplies with the environment in mind. This is true about yarns processed in North America and the rest of the world.
For example, in most countries there are strict regulations on the cleanliness of water that gets dumped from any  industry, and there are companies that go beyond what the law requires to remove chemicals from their wastewater.
One of the most used methods to make a fiber superwash is to remove or reduce the scales on the fiber with chlorine, either as a gas or as a solution. Then the modified fibers are smoothed with a coat of a polymer.
Chlorine gas is the most toxic way to make superwash, both for the people working in the plants and the environment. A chlorine solution in water is less toxic to workers, and chlorine in this form can be filtered from wastewater.
The polymers used to smooth the fiber are made from different types of plastics. The type most commonly used is also used in paper processing. It’s a polymer that keeps paper from reverting to pulp when it gets wet.
Newer, more environmentally friendly methods of creating superwash are being developed and used in several different countries. I’ve read about some scientists experimenting with heat, and others working on a coating that biodegrades quickly, making the shrink resistance temporary. All of this work is industrial and secret.
One environmentally friendly method is used by O-Wool. They use a natural (and proprietary) polymer to coat the fiber to keep scales from interlocking. They do not remove or reduce scales, but only smooth them down—like using pomade on unruly hair.

With a regular and a shrink-proofed merino side by side, you get a visual to help connect all the words.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews



50 States of Consciousness

4 star review of 50 States of Consciousness by DJ Jones

DJ Jones is a tall, African American woman who loves her children, country music and her motorcycle, Big Bertha. She describes her adventures and the people she met as she took that 800 pound bike to each of the fifty states in 2006. The story of her journey is accompanied by great photographs. The reader also gets a glimpse of her backstory.


Thursday Midnight (Immortal Wake #2)

5 star review of Thursday Midnight by Zachry Wheeler

The sequel to Transient picks up the story of mortal humans and vampires several years later. Jonas is in hiding with Anna, but has kept his pledge to NExUS, the worldwide ruling body. He thinks the few remaining humans can work together with the dominant vampires until a human commits a gruesome axe murder. Turns out to be the tip of an iceberg of humans targeting large congregations of vampires, bringing Jonas out of hiding. The story is filled with tension, thrills and chills. The only thing I didn't like were the number of humans (and vampires) died, especially the ones I liked.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews



Three star review of KiMo Theatre: Fact and Folklore Jacqueline Murray Loring Writer/Editor

Some of the writing in this anthology of pieces was fascinating and I loved the pictures, but there were a few that lacked the ‘feel’ of the old theater. The KiMo is an art deco theater in Albuquerque that has lived many lives in its over ninety years. From conflicting stories about how it got its name to its heyday presenting live shows and first-run movies and to the present, the book shows how the history of the KiMo and of Albuquerque are intertwined. The theater has retained much of the incredible d├ęcor it started with.

Mass Effect: Initiation (Mass Effect: Andromeda, #2)

Five star review of Mass Effect: Andromeda by N.K. Jemisin


Cora is one badass soldier. Technically, she isn't military, but she's been trained. And she has a personal AI. Sent to recapture the source code, she proves her worth and abilities. Jemisin's amazing writing gives the reader an exciting story, part of a series of stories. I'll have to read more of them, because I'm curious about how the Andromeda initiative plays out.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Listening With My Eyes: An Abused Horse. A Mother With Alzheimer's. The Journey To Help Them Both.



5-star review of Listening With My Eyes by Patricia Conoway

Pat Conoway needed to learn non-verbal communication to help her mother with late stage Alzheimer’s and found it working with her horse, Dream. The challenges she faced with both Dream and her mother are told with honesty and sensitivity. It should be essential reading for every horsewoman and everyone dealing with a parent or other loved one who is fighting the battle of Alzheimer’s. Well-written and fascinating book.

Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn




5-star review of Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

This historical fiction takes place in 1920’s New York. Julia Kydd has returned to the city to resolve a dispute with her half-brother over her share of her father’s fortune. She gets caught up in a murder mystery involving the feuding family of a friend from school. She also has to deal with a flower-filled proposal from her lover back in London. Wonderful characters and loads of references to the period in which it’s set. Although a bit slow to start, I enjoyed this read.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Interview with M.D. Neu





What genre(s) do you write in and why? Do you write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and/or novels? Graphic novels, anime or comics? If you do multiple genres and/or lengths, which do you prefer? Have you ever written any poetry?

The genres I typically write in are: Sci Fi, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal, these are the stories I love to read, so these are the stories I enjoy writing. I love starting with a ‘what if’ and going from there, it’s a lot of fun. All my novels and stories contain strong LGBTQIA+ characters, which may set some people off, but I write my stories for everyone and to date most of my books have been very well received, representation is important and I think people understand that. Also, I like playing with what we think we know, our world is huge as is our universe, we don’t even know what we don’t know yet and to get to play with all that is great.

I have written two short stories; The Reunion and A Dragon for Christmas. My first novella is T.A.D.-The Angel of Death. Mostly, I write novel length books like: The Calling, Contact, and Conviction, I find I can be a bit wordy so I like the flexibility of having plenty of room to play with and not have to worry about word count… well not much.

When I comes to poetry I do write some, in fact I have some on my website https://www.mdneu.com/poetry for people to read. I don’t get to write as much I would like, but I enjoy it and I like to share it, when I feel it’s good enough.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write? Romantic? Sex? The death of a character? Fight scenes? Others?

When it comes to the most difficult kinds of scenes for me to write, it’s a toss up between sex scenes and fight scenes. There are so many aspects to both of those scenes that they can easily cross the line from good, to cheesy, to unreadable. It’s tough to find the right balance. When it comes to both of these scenes I tend to go for the ‘emotion’ more so then the actions or the mechanics. We all know how sex works so, for me, I don’t need to give the details. Why? It’s not the audience I’m going for. It’s the same with a fight scene, we all know what a gun fight looks like or a fist fight, but what we don’t always know are the emotions behind it, which I find much more interesting to write. Plus, like I said above, I want my stories to be read by the masses, so especially with a sex scene I try and limit them or leave them out completely.

If you had unlimited funds, how would you advertise your work?

Unlimited funds (ah it’s nice to dream) I would hire the best PR/Marketing firm in the world and let them go to work. They are the experts so I would pay them and get out of their way. If I were left up to my own devises I know I would blow it, so that is why I would use the money to bring in the pros. For me, it just makes sense. Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing some TV spots or billboards. That would be cool too.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I have a few drafts I’m working on. I have the sequel for The Calling that has been written and is now being read through and edited. The sequel, at this time, is titled, The Called and it will pick up right where the last book left us. I’m hoping it’s as fun as the first one. I’m quite proud of the story and the new characters I bring in. I’ve also finished the editing and have book three of my A New World series ready to send to the publisher. Book three is called Conspiracy and this new installment picks up a year after the end of Conviction. Other than that I’ve been working more on the business and marketing aspect of the book industry, which takes a lot of time and effort.

As far as new writing I have a couple of new ideas floating around in my mind but nothing has jumped out at me yet, but who knows these ideas may start getting fleshed out a lot more and we’ll see where it takes me.

Have you sold your work at book fairs or conventions? What kind of experience did you have?

I love book fairs, signings, conventions and other engagements. They are great fun. This year I’ve started to do more of that (it’s part of what I’ve been working on in the back ground). I’ll be honest I get nervous and feel like a bit of an imposter, but once I’m in it, I have a good time. Overall my experiences have been positive. As an unknown author with a small back log of books, I’m not a big draw, yet, but with the more works I publish and the more events I do, I believe it will start to pay off. I have an events section on my website (https://www.mdneu.com/events) people can check out as well to see where I’m going to be. They can also follow me Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as I post to these regularly.

For the overall experience, I have been lucky, at each of the events I’ve done I’ve managed to sell books and get my name out there, which is all good stuff. It really surprises the people who are reading the books. I get everything from hardcore SciFi and Fantasy fans to the casual readers who pick up the book, read the blurb, like it, and buy it.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Tell us about yourself.

When I’m not writing my husband and I love to travel and spend time with friends. We both love Disney so we try and get down to Disneyland once or twice a year if we can. We’ve been lucky to be able to travel to places both in the United States, North America, Central America and the tip of South America. We’ve also made our way (separately) over to Europe and Asia, but we hope to go there together at some point.

More locally, we both enjoy movies, cooking, and baking.

Over on my blog and on Instagram I’ll share photos from our trips and even some of the things we cook and bake, so you never know what I’ll post and share, so check it out: https://www.mdneu.com/blog and on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/authormdneu/

Also, I do enjoy photography, but I’m not very adept at it, but every so often I get a good photo that I’ll share around, especially on Instagram.

What kind of support do you get from your family and friends?

I have the best family and the most wonderful friends around. They are so supportive of me and my writing. I couldn’t do any of this without them. My husband has been awesome, he goes with me to all my events and he helps me out so much, even if it is something as simple as getting me a glass of water and helping me pack up and tear down. The rest of my family are just as amazing I have a feeling I wouldn’t have sold nearly as many books without them.

My friends are also some of my biggest supporters and they keep after me about when my next book is coming out, which is fun, but it’s always a little scary, because they are so invested that I don’t want to disappoint them.


Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work?

Readers can find me at all the following:

My website: www.mdneu.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tuesday book reviews on Wednesday




A Life in the Law: A Woman Lawyer's Life in Post-World War II Albuquerque, New Mexico


4 star review of A Life in the Law by Mary M. Dunlap and Mary Kay Stein

The struggles of woman lawyer Mary M. Dunlap, who started a practice in Albuquerque in 1949, make for interesting reading. This memoir follows her trials and triumphs as she faced the male-dominated law field and at the same time raised her young children. Mary Kay Stein, her eldest daughter, covers her mother’s more than forty-year career representing a vast assortment of characters.


My Plunder: Westerners and Warriors

4-star review of My Plunder – Westerners and Warriors by Myles Culbertson

What makes this book enjoyable is the voice of the narrator. He has so many interesting tales of the cowboys who continued to operate in northeastern New Mexico and southern Colorado into the twentieth century. As one himself, he has an appreciation of the difficulties of that life. He also talks about his experiences during the Vietnam War. Illustrated with photographs and drawings, it’s the words that paint the pictures of these stories.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Knitting Blog

Now that I've finished both projects I was working on, I had to choose another one (or two).

This is the blanket I finished and blocked last week:


And this is the sweater. It still needs buttons and blocking.


Next, I'm going to tackle a pair of socks, as described in a Bluprint class called Next Steps in Socks: Fiesta Socks.

Image result for bluprint fiesta socks

They start with a horizontal cuff knit in a solid color and a variegated one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews


The Killer Collective (John Rain, #10; Ben Treven #4; Livia Lone #3)




Four star review of The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler

A complicated story featuring characters from Eisler’s other books and involving people in high places and a child pornography ring. Full of action, but also emotion, even romance. The scenes that take place in Paris are especially riveting. Since I haven’t read any of his other stories, this was my introduction to Livia Lone, Dox, John Rain, Hort, Larrison and Delilah.


Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah

Five star review of Finding Myself in Borneo by Neill McKee

A fascinating account of the authors experiences as a member of the Canadian equivalent of the Peace Corps, the CUSO in the late 1960’s. He taught in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo), and explored southeast Asia. The people he met, the sights he saw and the events he experienced make for a great read. He does an excellent job of conveying his happiness with what he learned, and what he brought to his students and the residents of Sabah.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Knitting Blog

Another great article from the folks at Mason-Dixon Knitting, written by Jillian Moreno

https://www.masondixonknitting.com/its-not-you-its-the-yarn-superwash-edition/?mc_cid=aa7b40d5bf&mc_eid=46c7e49508

Superwash yarns, especially superwash merino, are some of the most loved yarns in the knitting world.  They are as seductive as an ice cream van jingling its song up your street on a hot day. I know my stash is stuffed with colorful superwash yarns of all sizes.
Why do we love them so much? That’s easy: washability (duh), softness and color.
Click on the above link for more.

Another site I've been visiting lately (not just reading but watching wonderful vlogs) is Sweet Georgia Yarns. I've enjoyed these so much, I hope to visit their store next time I'm in Vancouver.