5 Interesting Links for 01-15-2021

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Diplomacy (Anthropology)

The anthology containing my story A Magical Brew was inspired by the influence of beer on civilization. When I saw this article, I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn about an ancient South American civilization that used beer ceremonies to maintain good relations with their neighbors. Anthropologists are studying an outpost that includes a brewery and ceremonial relics in southern Peru.

Creatives (Interesting People)

Leonardo da Vinci experts offer insight into the man, his creative works, and even how the society of his time influenced how he is perceived to this day. After spending time in his fictional presence recently, I was eager to glimpse the historical figure.

Research (Medicine)

An unexpected result in an experiment to slow the biological clock showed evidence of reversing the damage of time. The study, published in late 2019, is too small to be definitive, but indications are promising.

Copyright (Publishing)

The CASE Act, newly passed by Congress, removes the financial bias from copyright infringement cases using small claims court as a model. Content makers will be able to bring cases before a board for a flat fee instead of requiring an expensive lawyer and potentially a long trial. (Via Author’s Support Network)

Motivation (Writing)

A look at ways to keep productive when outside or inner distractions make focusing on writing difficult. The article includes both story and life issues.

The Steamship Chronicles by Margaret McGaffey Fisk Box Set 1
Posted in Anthropology, Interesting Links, Interesting People, Publishing, Research, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

I finished reading A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) last week, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but reviewing the book turned out to be a struggle. When I try to describe it to people I think would enjoy the story, the book sounds like pure horror. It definitely has a dark side, but the characters pulled me in as much as the world. This is a complex, magical, alternate Earth with magic costs measured in mana from effort or in the equivalent stolen from life. The characters face both tangible obstacles in the form of mana- and people-eating monsters as well as ones created by how they were raised.

Those with the ability to interact with magic start accruing mana naturally from their daily activities at puberty. It’s not without cost, however, as the existence of mana attracts all manner of magical, and deadly, beasts. This is only half of the framework, with the second part being the Scholomance. It is a school created in the void to give students a place to learn to control their magic with some measure of safety.

The school’s original design attempted to protect them from everything, but it proved fallible. By the time of the story, magical beasts have taken over the bottom of the school and some breach the other levels each year. Freshman are collected by a spell and apparated into the school cafeteria. There are no breaks, not for summer, spring, or holidays. Once there, school is in session straight through for four years.

To graduate, seniors must fight their way through the largest and most powerful beasts on the bottom floor. Only those who make it out the gate into the normal world succeed. A good year is when half of the graduating class survives.

The above is why it sounds like horror, and those are driving elements so expect some mortal danger. At the same time, all the traditional pieces of a high school drama are present with cliques, social ostracism, and jockeying for position to name a few.

What makes this story different from a mainstream high school drama is not just the magic. Every high school trope has a concrete reason beyond teenage psychology. The cliques are composed of those with membership in one of the enclaves. They have access to more resources and have better survival rates not just after school but during it. The jockeying involves attempts to earn the possibility of a spot in one of the cliques or to make an alliance that might be strong enough to survive graduation. The ultimate prize is an invitation to join an enclave after graduation, as the dangers don’t cease after schooling, but survival runs a close second.

This world is complex, the reasons things happen are multi-leveled, and the characters have many layers with what you first see not always offering the full story. The main cast (with Galadriel and Orion as leads but a good number of others surrounding them) experiences growth as they figure out not just what motivates others but themselves. They make hard choices, and success is not always within their grasp.

Galadriel guides us through the story as an extremely personal narrator. She didn’t seem likeable at first, but she was relatable. I understood her reasons for acting the way she did and could see myself doing the same given her circumstances. The longer I spent with her grumpy, bitter self, though, the more I grew to like her.

We experience things through Galadriel’s perspective, whether or not her interpretations are correct. She comes with baggage after her father’s family rejects her on first sight because of a vision that she’ll destroy everything. One character likened meeting her with the feeling of realizing it’s about to rain when too far from shelter.

Yes, I’m enamored of the description, with this as an example. The writing is pure poetry at times.

Orion is almost her perfect foil. He runs around saving everyone, but he doesn’t want to be the hero. He wants to believe everyone has the same right to live and the same chances, never considering his attempt to change things could have consequences.

It’s up to Galadriel to open his eyes to the truth of life outside an enclave in the rudest way possible. The dialogue, especially between these two, is another reason I enjoyed the read. It hints at more than we know, offering hooks to keep me reading.

The characters were the strongest element for me, though I found the world intriguing. The series also starts at the end of their junior year, implying we’ll see them beyond the graduation gates before the series concludes. I also found impressive how the modern narration here bore little resemblance to the other Naomi Novik book I read recently. In both cases, the voice matched the story.

The book tackles big questions of how life is valued along with the little ones such as whether Galadriel deserves to be liked. It’s powerful and intense with layers-deep characters, mortal danger, and self-discovery. There are as many humorous moments as horrific, and sometimes the two happen at the same time.

The complexity of the world and the effects of blind privilege works as does the prophecy’s impact on Galadriel. Amazing analogies make even harsh truths understandable. And the school is equal parts frustrating and amusing as they deal with the smaller distractions along with the potentially deadly ones.

Had I read the blurb first, I might not have been so willing to try the book. Instead, my son recommended it, and I’m glad he did. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one for sure. My library had a copy in eBook, so it’s worth checking if your eBook budget is already tapped.

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chaos in Milan by Edale Lane Giveaway

The last book of Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, Chaos in Milan, is now available. You can read my reviews of the series, but here’s a hint about what they say: I enjoyed the trilogy a lot. In case I piqued your interest, I wanted you to know Edale Lane is giving away a $20 Amazon gift certificate as part of her current blog tour. That’s enough to pick up your own copy of the trilogy in eBooks with some to spare.

Enjoy this glimpse of the trilogy’s conclusion, then join the giveaway after the excerpt. The only spoiler in the excerpt is obvious: the state of Forentina and Madelena’s relationship.

Chaos in Milan (Book 3 of the Night Flyer Trilogy)

When chaos strikes at the heart of Milan, it is up to Florentina’s alter-ego the Night Flyer to stop it. As Florentina and Madelena’s love deepens, so does the well of danger surrounding them. The race is on to discover the mysterious Shadow Guild and uncover who is behind the deadly rampage, but Florentina’s mission is threatened by a gang of assassins. Can the Night Flyer prevail, or will Maddie’s love be ripped from her arms?

Chaos in Milan is the third book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like action and suspense, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and a sweet romance, then you’ll want to complete the Night Flyer saga. Order your copy of Chaos in Milan today!


Madelena found herself winded by the time they departed an old dirt road to traipse through knee high grass to the dilapidated wood-plank structure with an obvious hole in its roof. She was indeed thankful for the sensible shoes. Once inside, she set down the bag containing their lunch and wineskins, and settled herself onto a wooden barrel to catch her breath. The scent of rotting hay permeated the space which offered an abundance of natural light through the open double doors, cracks between siding planks, and the gap overhead. Cobwebs draped the corners, and dry balls of petrified horse manure littered the earthen floor.

Her initial excitement was rekindled as she beheld Fiore change into the black silk tunic and tight leather trousers that never failed to kindle her passion. She brimmed with anticipation while Florentina laced the soft-soled footwear over the bottoms of her leggings. With no need of a mask and cowl, Maddie enjoyed a full view of her face and long brunette braid.

Eyes glowing, Maddie purred, “Seeing you in that attire takes my breath away and inspires me to… well,” she added blushing. “I promised to let you work.”

Florentina flashed her a grin. “Happy to please you, my dear.” Then she proceeded to race toward a reinforced portion of the rear wall and up it, running one, two, three vertical steps up the planks followed by a backflip, landing on her feet in the powdery dust. Maddie’s eyes flew wide as she had not imagined such a feat was even possible.

She witnessed Fiore scale ropes up the sides of walls, swing from one to another, hang upside-down with her ankle wrapped in a cord, and run, hop, leap, and climb over every inch of her lair. Observing the tall, lean frame of her children’s tutor pass from one athletic exploit to the next with the dexterity and strength of an Olympian set her heart racing with desire, but also terrified her. Maddie knew that she would do these same exercises at great heights and risk to her person. A fall here may hurt a little, but a fall from a three-story building… don’t think about it!

After a bit, a sweaty Florentina, breathing heavy from her exertion, walked over for a sip to drink. “Mi Tesoro!” Maddie exclaimed. “I knew you could do things, but you are truly magnificent. How did you ever-“

“Practice,” Fiore answered as she wiped her face with a cloth. “Much practice and determination.”

Next, Florentina withdrew her multi-fire crossbow from her shoulder bag. “You invented that,” Maddie said as a half statement, half question.

Fiore nodded. “It was Master Leonardo’s idea, in a way,” she replied with a shrug. Florentina then fired off eight shots in rapid succession at eight separate targets situated around the barn. Some were painted circles, others sets of clothing stuffed with straw, and a few burlap sacks filled with sand that hung from cords. Fiore retrieved her bolts and reloaded the weapon.

“You hit every one!” Maddie gushed in amazement.

“Yes, but I’ve practiced with these marks for months,” the skilled vigilante replied as though unimpressed with herself. “Moving targets or hitting them while I’m running is more difficult.” Florentina pushed the burlap sacks so that they each started to sway in different directions and at varying speeds, then raced across the barn, pivoted, and began to fire. She first shot at the moving targets, then fired at the dummies as she ran traversed the dirt floor. “See,” she said, motioning as she skidded to a halt in front of Madelena. “I hit that one in the knee—I was aiming for its shoulder. And that bag?” she motioned. “I was supposed to strike the green circle, not just anywhere on it.”

“But still,” Maddie replied in amazement. “You hit every target, even if not in the spot you intended. That is quite astonishing.”

Florentina smiled, bent down, and placed her lips to Maddie’s. “Grazie,” she said. “Now, I want to show you something new,” she announced, a twinkle in her bright, tawny eyes. Madelena stood and followed Fiore over to where she had set her bag; the barrel was getting uncomfortable, anyway. 

Fiore withdrew a polished wooden case, set it on a rickety work table, one of the few excuses for furniture in the barn, and opened it with care. “I found these when I went into the Oriental shop to gain more opium.”

Maddie frowned. “I didn’t know you use that drug.”

“Oh, I don’t,” Fiore assured her. “Only for medicinal purposes and to subdue city watchmen without causing them any actual harm.”

“I’ve been in that shop,” Madelena commented. “They have some unusual merchandise and a few very popular items. I purchased one of those painted silk fans that are in fashion.”

Florentina nodded. “They have nice things.” Then, from the plush black velvet interior of the box, she retrieved a silver five-pointed star about three inches long. The edges appeared sharp and Fiore held it judiciously in her gloved hand.

“What is it?” Maddie asked.

“The shop owner didn’t know,” Florentina answered with a sly grin. “But I had read about these in an obscure book on Oriental weapons. It’s a Chinese throwing star. There are five in the set.”

“A throwing star,” Maddie echoed as she moved in for a closer look.

“The Spaniard threw a knife at me in the Pantheon,” Fiore recalled. “Throwing-knives are deadlier, can do more damage than these, but it is a skill that is difficult to master. With the star, I have five small blades rather than one longer one with which to hit my target. They are good to distract or throw a foe off balance. Strikes to the eye or weapon hand are debilitating and may take an enemy out of the fight. Because the tines are short and cannot penetrate deep into flesh, only a strike to the big artery in the neck or severing the windpipe in the throat can kill. I think these will prove quite useful, but I’ve only been practicing with them for a few weeks.”

With admiration and anticipation oozing through her voice, Maddie sang, “Show me.”

Florentina removed all five stars from the box and positioned herself in the middle of the barn. “Stand behind me,” she instructed as she lifted one from her left hand. “I’ve had no teacher to instruct me, so I had to guess as to how to throw them. I have developed three techniques, hoping to perfect at least one.”

Maddie withdrew, studying her partner’s every move. Florentina gripped the object horizontally in a curled hand with her thumb on top and her forefinger beneath it. Rotating her upper body from the waist, she drew her right arm back then spun, releasing the small weapon with the motion a child may use to toss a pie pan. The star whirled through the air at an astonishing speed until it lodged into the shoulder of one of the dummies. Florentina frowned. “A nuisance hit.”

“But you hit it!” Madelena exclaimed. Florentina continued to practice the move, thrusting at different targets and from varying angles, collecting the projectiles once all five had been expended.

“Semi-successful,” Fiore admitted. “Another way I have tried is a basic overhand throw.” She demonstrated by taking a star in her right hand, holding it vertically, and throwing it as one might a ball, rock, or piece of fruit. Her first attempt landed low on the target, so she adjusted the second by releasing it sooner, gaining better results. After dozens of pitches, Fiore returned to Maddie’s side. “The third method I’ve been trying is trickier, but has far greater potential. I’ll be at this a while if you want to curl up and take a nap.”

“What? And miss witnessing an act no Milanese woman has ever seen?” Maddie exclaimed. “But if you will point them in that direction,” she indicated, “I’ll sit back down over here for a while.” On impulse, she leaned in and kissed Fiore’s lips before retreating to her stool.

She has so much focus and intensity, Maddie contemplated. She is like a force of nature.

Pick up a copy on Amazon

Amazon eBook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08Q7H6DFX

Amazon Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PXK13B3

Enter the giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47165/?

Author Bio:

Edale Lane is the author of an award-winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.

Author Website: https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/melodie.romeo/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/Pastandprologuepress

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/EdaleLane

Author Instagram: http://instagram.com/melodieromeo

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15264354.Edale_Lane?from_search=true&from_srp=true

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/?s=Edale+lane&search_type=authors

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/?s=Edale+lane&search_type=authors

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07GRFPDRZ

Brought to you by Other Worlds Ink
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things That Make Me Smile No. 238: Unusual instruments – Glass Harp

While the movie Miss Congeniality brought the glass harp to a broader audience, Petr Spatina can stop traffic (foot traffic, that is) with his incredible talent. My mother sent this to me, knowing my interest in unusual instruments. The first minute or so is tuning. I had no idea what to expect when he started to play for real, but it’s stunning. Enjoy.

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Smiles | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Things That Make Me Smile No. 237: Celebrating Colors

A friend shared this song, and the singer is very talented. What I like the most, though, is how it’s a joyful song that seems to be about people coming together. The lyrics are here. Scroll past the first song to find them.

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Smiles | Tagged , | Leave a comment