New Review: The Council by Kayla Krantz

The Council by Kayla Krantz

The Council follows in a similar vein to the Divergent series. There are separate covens and each coven has a primary ability in which they can do magic.  There is a also a ruling group (the Council) and a rebel group.  The main character, Lillith, is a strong character, just discovering her own unique and unexpected abilities.

LIillith is a witch who is powerful enough to overcome her disability, a childhood injury to her leg that had been caused by magic.  The daughter of Unequipped parents, she is not expected to have any magical abilities  That all changes at the Arcane Ceremony, where she and everyone around her are shocked when five goblets light up, each relating to a different power.

Mysteries about why she has these magical powers when she comes from Unequipped (non-magical) parents, her parents refusal to give her information on her injury, and the strange witch that shows up at the ceremony lead the reader into wanting to know more.

I love the idea of witches living in this dystopian world of separate covens being able to harness separate powers related to their individual element.  I found Kayla Krantz’s writing drew me in and I found it hard to put down.  I was dying to find out what was really going on and what was going to happen next!

I would have like to have seen more development between the characters Clio and Helena. I am excited to read Book 2 when it comes out

I received The Council as an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I’d like to thank Kayla for the opportunity to read this awesome book!

You can receive your own copy of The Council here: The Council at Amazon.com.

Kayla Krantz

How to Be Creative in the Morning

I subscribe to Jeff Bullas’s blog.  Today,  he had excellent article on creativity that I thought was awesome and had to share.

7 Hacks For Maximizing Your Creativity In The Morning.  It’s a guest post guest posted by Justin Kerby.  Well done and very interesting with all the science behind each beneficial hack.

All of the hacks that he lists are equally important, it’s definitely worth reading the entire article.  For this post, I’m going to talk about exercising out doors.  It’s the one that resonated with me the most and helped me get going when I was at my worst.

Yes, I used to go to the gym, and hey, I know how great it feels great to hit the treadmill, work up a good sweat and push some iron.  It’s fun to go with a friend, but to be honest, I find
the gym atmosphere a bit stifling and uninspiring.  It might be because of anxiety.  Some people enjoy that environment, and that’s okay!  If your moving and getting in shape, that’s great.  The gym just isn’t for me.
Since Burger and I started hitting the trails, I feel refreshed and energized after our little hikes.  Maybe it’s the cold, the  fresh air in my lungs or just because I’m chasing a silly dog around.  But being out in a field under the wide blue skies or under a canopy of trees with a brook gushing and percolating beside us is so wonderfully peaceful.

“You let the prefrontal cortex rest, and all of a sudden these flashes of insight come to you. It supports creativity, positive wellbeing [and] reductions in stress. There are all kinds of reasons why it’s helpful.”

Kerby recommends 35 minutes of moderate aerobic activity first thing in the morning, but if that’s not possible, even 10-15 minutes of brisk walking can improve creativity.

Credit: http://www.jeffbullas.com/2017/05/12/creativity-in-the-morning

It can sometimes be a little hard to get motivated.  Some days, it seems almost impossible.  It’s so much easier to hit the snooze button, go back to bed or say to yourself, ‘I’ll start tomorrow.’

Before you even have a chance to hit the snooze button, get up.  If you think about it, you will talk yourself out of it.  You will make every excuse in the book. Once you’re up, you’re up.  That’s it.  Your tired body just has to deal with it!

I used to get up and have breakfast before I planned to head out.  I can’t do anything without breakfast in my stomach!  Well, guess what.  I’d have breakfast, and while I was eating, I’d check my Email, Facebook read a book, whatever.  My walking shoes, or my rubber boots would be sitting in the hallway waiting for me.  I did my best to ignore them and I was very good at it!  Before I knew it, hours had gone by and I still hadn’t gone out the door.

The weather has to be pretty bad to keep us from our walk!

So now, I get up, throw on some yoga pants, slap the leash on the dog and go.  I’m out the door before I even have time to think and start talking myself out of it.  I haven’t yet, had any regrets about going out without breakfast.  In fact, it just tastes all that more delicious after an energizing walk in the woods.

Eight Ways to Fight Depression and Anxiety

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to help boost me out of depression and anxiety.  It’s been a rough year, and I’ll just leave it at that.

I’ve been feeling better lately, a very good thing, and I’ve been encouraged to get back into the saddle and start doing some things that I used to do.  I haven’t painted in years, and writing was such a huge mental chore that it just didn’t happen.  Procrastination was my friend.

So, I’ve compiled a list of things that have helped me out of my depression.  I still have a ways to go, but I am making progress.

  1. Exercise.  Getting moving is one of the hardest things to do when you feel depressed and anxious but it really does help.  Start small.  Put your shoes on.  Walk outside for five, ten minutes.  I found a lot of times, once I got out the door, I was fine, I enjoyed being out.  The hardest part for me was getting those darn shoes on.
  2. Talk to someone.  Someone who understands depression and/or anxiety and gets what you are going through.  Sometimes, when I would try to explain to people what I was going through, their responses would only make me worse.  In hindsight, they likely don’t want to see suffering, and so made excuses for the way I felt.  I got everything from hormones to stress and blah, blah, blah.  I was surprised actually, how many people that I thought were ‘normal’, confided in me that they, too suffered from one or both conditions.  And yes, they got it.  They could relate to the devastation that these silent diseases can cause.
  3. Do something creative.  I avoided painting for years.  I thought my art work just wasn’t good enough.  I made the excuse that I was uninspired.  And writing was just too hard. And I wasn’t very good, anyway.  My occupational therapist assigned me painting sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:00.  It’s an appointment that I am expected to keep.  So at the appointed time, I go to my studio and I paint.  Just something simple.  Just for me.  And knowing I didn’t have to hang it on the wall took all the pressure off.  It was enjoyable and now I look forward to my painting sessions.  I even sneak into the studio when I don’t have an appointment.  Yes!  That’s progress.  It’s the little things, right?
  4. Get a rubby rock.  What’s a rubby rock?  It’s just a smooth stone from the beach.  My therapist gave it to me to help deal with agitation and nervousness.  It helped to calm me down, because my focus was switched elsewhere.  You could also use a stress ball.  Same idea.
  5. Accept invites for dates.  My anxiety would have me turning down invitations to go for coffee or go to a movie or go out with a group to dinner.  Go.  Even if it’s just for an hour.  Let them know in advance that you can’t stay long.  If you are having a good time, by all means, stay. On the other hand, if you are not feeling up to it, then you have already made your excuse to leave.
  6. Make sure you get enough sleep.  Eight hours is a good amount.  Too much or too little sleep can affect your mood.
  7. Get sunshine!  Aim for at least fifteen minutes of sunshine a day.
  8. Eat healthy and eat enough.  Food can have a huge effect on our mood.  Too much sugar, caffeine can make you feel worse.  Don’t skip meals, that can make you irritable and tired.  Boosting your B vitamins helps too.

 

Of course, if these techniques just aren’t cutting it, be sure to get professional help.  Know that the dark thoughts are not you, but part of a condition that can be helped.  Know that it will get better.

I made this list more or less off the top of my head.  There are far better resources out there if you are coping with depression and/or anxiety.  Here’s a few interesting ones:

Coping With Depression

Natural Depression Treatments (WebMD)

Thirty Ways to Improve your Mood

My 500 Words 31-Day Challenge

500 Words and Who Started It

Today is my first day doing the five hundred word challenge.   I stumbled across this challenge when I was hunting for information on blogging and how to improve your blog on Jeff Goins site.  He is a fantastic resource for information on writing, blogging and marketing, by the way.  Check him out!

Today was an incredibly busy day juggling multiple appointments, an airport run, feeding the kids, walking the dog, blah, blah, blah.  I didn’t have time for any yoga, I missed my usual morning walk (Burger gave me the big puppy dog eyes when I went out the door without him).  No breakfast with coffee or perusing my email with a little writing on the side.

Nova Scotia Writer’s Federation

This evening, I attended a workshop held by the Nova Scotia Writers Federation called “So You Want to be Published“.  Everything I have right now is a work in progress and far from ready to be published.  A girl can dream though, right?

One of the points made this evening was “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.”  I found a reference to it in this article.  It was based on an interview with painter Chuck Close, who says he’s never had “painter’s block” in his life. The “just show up and get to work” motto is a great creed to live by, especially if you want to be prolific and creative.

True.  Just sit down and do the work.

As Picasso said:

Inspiration exists.  It just has to find you working.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, here I sit, 10:30 at night, working.  I should be winding down for bed.  But, I am committed and I will do this.

A dear friend sent me this, to inspire me to get my butt in gear and get writing.  I love Stephen King’s work.  He’s an amazing writer and incredibly prolific.

 

He writes two thousand words a day.  Two thousand!  Holy crap.   I have participated in NaNoWrimo for the last three years running, and each time was a struggle to get the time (and energy!) to get my word count in.  If  you’ve never heard of Nanowrimo, it is also known as National Novel Writing Month.  Writers from all over the world participate by committing to
write 50,000 words during the month of November.  This is the amount of words in the average novel.  This amounts to 1,667 words per day in order to meet this goal.  Imagine writing 2,000 words every day.  Amazing.

Well, if he can do 2,000, surely I can five hundred right?

That’s the plan.  Wish me luck.  🙂  Thank you.

After my crazy day, and missing out on my walk this morning, I came home from the workshop and as tired as I was, I knew I would feel so much better if I got a good walk in.  I knew Burger would enjoy it too.

I walked in the door, swapped my kick ass boots for my bright, blue rubber boots, threw on a raincoat and clicked the leash on Burger.  Out we went into the wet, dripping night.  It was a nice rain, not too cold.  Burger walked happily beside me, he didn’t even pull once.

We pulled around a corner that I always felt was a bit creepy.  The streetlight stretched the shadows of the large chestnut trees that lined the sidewalks.  I glanced over my shoulder, sensing that something just wasn’t right when above my the streetlight began flickering.  It finally went out, leaving us in darkness.  The street was deserted, no cars came or went, nor was there anybody out on this rainy, drizzly night.

The streetlight ahead of us, down about four houses was still lit, and we quickened our pace to go back into the light.

So, as I’m walking I’m thinking…that would make a great story idea, right?  So, I started with this…

Lucy was glad for the company, but worried what the younger girl would think if it happened again tonight.

“You didn’t have to walk me home, Jen.”

“I wanted to, I don’t like it when you’re scared.”

“I’m not scared.”

“It’s dark though.  Aren’t you even a little bit?”

I didn’t answer.

We walked in silence for a bit.  Long shadows of  trees were stretched around us.  The streetlight hummed over our heads.  I eyed it, licking my lips. I could feel my pulse speeding up.  I wiped  my hands on my jeans.

 

Maybe tonight it wouldn’t happen.  Maybe tonight it will be alright.  I looked down at Jen.  A small smile escaped my lips.  Maybe she’s me good luck charm.

I was mistaken.  The streetlight flickered and Jen’s eyes went wide.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“Hurry.  We have to go.”

She stopped.  “Why?”

She’s oblivious, I thought.

“Because we have to.”  I didn’t have to look up at the light to know it was flickering faster now.  “It’s coming.”

I pulled her arm and began dragging her down the sidewalk.  Her feet moved like stuck cement blocks.

“What’s coming?” she persisted.

The light went out then, and blackness settled around us.

“The Dark,” I said, proud that I was able to keep my voice steady in spite of myself.    “The Dark is coming.  Run!”

 

Fantasy Fiction: Low Fantasy vs. High Fantasy

Who doesn’t love getting into a good fantasy fiction?

There are oodles and oodles of different types of fantasy genres in literature, and they can  be broken down into their own subcategories.  Fantasy almost always involves some form of supernatural magic.–Wikipedia defines Fantasy as”

Fiction with strange or otherworldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality 

Fantasy falls under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction, defined as any narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements.  Fantasy is then broken down into categories by Setting and Theme.

High fantasy, a subgenres of fantasy, is set in a fictional fantasy universe with it’s own set of rules and physical laws, or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, and plot.

Low fantasy stories on the other hand, are usually set in a fictional but rational world.  A lower emphasis is placed on traditional fantasy elements.  There is a tendency for less magic and a less fantastical, more ordinary setting.

According to Bestfantasybooks,

Common thematic elements include struggles for power, moral ambiguity, and cynicism about society and the flawed nature of the human condition. Moral Ambiguity and a flawed humanity are perhaps the biggest contrasts to High Fantasy and are key to creating a grittier, more realistic world. Magic is also a point of divergence: magic envelopes the worlds of High Fantasy, but in Low Fantasy, magic is not the focus or in some more extreme cases, might not even be present in a Low Fantasy world (example, Jennifer Fallon’s Second Son’s trilogy).

A Review

Speaking of low fantasy, I recently had the pleasure of reading Lady Blackwing by Devorah 

Fox.  It was an advanced reader copy in exchange for a fair and honest review of this science fiction mini. This was my first time reading any of Devorah’s books and I enjoyed this light fantasy very much.

Lady Blackwing is about a young barista, Mercedes, an interesting and kind character. She’s a hard worker, at school and at the coffee shop though she still enjoys making time for writing. After a strange but minor accident, she finds that she is able to control situations, and make them happen as she saw fit.

I found Devorah’s writing to be fresh and fun. I liked that the story was a quick read, and at the same time, I found myself wanting more!  Well written and entertaining.  Please click on the links to check out more of Devorah’s work.

Devorahfox.com

Goodreads

Twitter

On May 10, Lady Blackwing will be launched on Amazon. 

We are Never Getting a Dog.

 

From the time my youngest son Ethan learned to speak, he has wanted a dog.  He’s always loved our cats.  But, he argued, cats don’t play with you the same way that a dog does.

Excerpts of conversations over the years:

“Mom, can we get a dog?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Mom. Why can’t we have a dog?”

“No.”

“Mom, I need a dog.”

“No, Ethan.  You don’t need a dog.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs. I have friends who have dogs.  The way I saw it, life with a dog might be great for some people, but hey, I was not going to be fooled by the charm of these sweet, furry creatures.  They’re a lot of work!  The frequent walks, poop cleanup,  the fur ball tumbleweeds rolling across the floor.

I’m a cat person.

I was always a cat person.  Litter duty and food duty, that’s about it.  They don’t even need to be bathed.  They take care of that themselves.

Our cat Jag is an absolute sookie baby. He’s adorable and he loves to snuggle.  He can be a bit skittish at times, and he has his independent moments, but that’s okay!

“How do you think poor Jag would feel about having a dog in the house?  It wouldn’t be fair to him.  He’d be scared to death.”

That did nothing to deter Ethan.

It was the beginning of March, 2016.  Ethan’s birthday was coming up.

Jag
Jag the Cat Photo credit Ethan MacDonald

“What do you want for your birthday, Ethan?”
“A dog.”

“We’ve already discussed this.  We’re not getting a dog.”

“Then I don’t want anything.”

*sigh*

He put up some pretty good arguments, I have to admit.  One being that there were almost no kids in the area for him to play with.  He wanted to get outside, run around and get exercise.  That way, he wouldn’t be staying inside on the computer or playing video games.  He would be out with his dog.  All the time.  It’s hard to argue with that logic.

Of course, there were the promises, too.  Walk him everyday.  Feed him.  And yes, even clean up his poop.

You can see where this is going, right?

It took a month to find him, but on March 31, the day before Ethan’s twelfth birthday, we brought Burger home from the SPCA.

We couldn’t imagine life without this adorable pup now!

 

Wait!  What about the cat?

So, things were a little tense for about a week.  Jag was not one little bit happy with this large, goofy intruder in his home.

We managed to come to a compromise, though.  Burger stays downstairs.  He has the run of the main floor (minus the sofas).  He does not go upstairs.  He doesn’t even try!  He’s an amazing, well behaved dog and we feel so lucky to have him with us.

Jag stays upstairs when he needs peace and quiet but he’s quite content to come downstairs, too.  Unlike Burger, he is allowed on the sofas and is quite happy to give him his na-na-na-na-na look when he’s sitting up on his perch.

What does Burger have to do with Creativity and Inspiration?

Well, it’s like this.  Not long after Burger came into our lives, depression and anxiety robbed me of my ability to enjoy life.  I actually hadn’t painted in years.  My attic studio might has well have been on Mount Everest as up two flights of stairs.  I couldn’t make it.  Even when I managed to muster myself up there, at the encouragement of my boys, I would spend a lot of time just staring at a blank canvas.

Writing also became almost impossible.  My ability to concentrate and focus were affected.  It was even difficult to carry on a conversation.  I could not remember what I was doing from one task to the next.

Then comes Burger.  And walks.  And dogs parks.

It’s a ritual for us now.  I drop Ethan off at school then Burger and I make our way to the park.  I’ve increased my walk from 10-15 minutes per day to 35 minutes.  It’s awesome for both of us.

Walking gets me out and feeling better than I have felt in a long time.  And with the arrival of spring, I’ve been inspired to do some art work in my studio.

From my Studio

Here’s an acrylic painting I’ve been working on.  It’s been through several layers of colours and shapes and I think I’m finally happy with it.  It’s called Three Wishes.

 

Today was a gorgeous day, it’s finally starting to warm up on the East coast.  Here’s some pictures I took on my walk with Burger this morning.

Little signs of hope.  The warmth in the air, the blooming of pretty, colourful flowers is so refreshing.

Feeling so very thankful right now for all that is well with the world.

Pretty Mayflowers

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews

 

In my Kindle right now, I have two new Advanced Reader Copies that I can’t wait to start reading!

I will be reading The Council.  This is Book One of the Witch’s Ambitions Trilogy by Kayla Krantz.  Sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Here’s some background

Genres: Epic Fantasy, New Adult, Romance

The Council is the governing Coven over the Land of Five, a region entirely inhabited—and split apart—by witches with varying powers. Lilith Lace, a witch thought to be born powerless, happily resides in Ignis, the Coven of Fire, until she suddenly develops telekinesis, an ability only seen in some witches born in Mentis, the Coven of the Mind. When The Council finds out about her odd development, she’s taken under their wing and is finally told the truth—everything she’s learned about the Land of Five, herself included, have been nothing but lies.

 

Also, right now I am reading Lady Blackwing by Devorah Fox.

Mercedes is just trying to make her way through life: taking classes, working her shift as a barista, and writing short stories that she never seems to finish. After a minor accident, she finds herself imbued with startling powers. She projects future events and rewrites the past, with disastrous consequences. Her first attempts to use her strange talents incite a zombie attack and bring an Egyptian goddess to life. Stunned by awesome abilities that she can’t seem to control, Mercedes wonders if she’s been cursed. Can she be cured? And if she can’t, what then?