Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: August 2017

Lucifers Star (Small)

Book Review: Lucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’m going to step out of my favorite genre (fantasy), but not too far. It’s just a short skip and a hop to the OTHER speculative fiction genre: Science Fiction. And trust me, it was totally worth it to read this fast-paced, intriguing novel!

Lucifer’s Star

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he’d been fighting for was the wrong one.

Lucifers Star (Small)

Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

My Review: 5 Stars

This book definitely read more like space opera than most sci-fi books I’ve read, but I loved every minute of it. A page-turner, with each scene packed with detail, flavor, and life.

The characters were fascinating and unique, yet absolutely real and true to life at the same time. It had the “dark fiction” flavor I love—neither “good” nor “bad”, just people doing what they need to  do to survive—and the story was wonderfully gripping.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book to delve into the next adventure of the Butcher of Kolthas!

Here’s a Taste:

The sight of the burning starships around me was like a galaxy of new stars lighting up the emptiness of space. Their fuel and energy cells burned without oxygen long after the crews had suffocated in the vacuum of space. Hundreds of dreadnoughts, battleships, carriers, and starfighters exchanged fire in the largest battle of the war.

The Revengeance was taking point in the assault on the enemy flagship Earth’s Successor. We had managed to take out its support craft and casualty ratings were still well within acceptable parameters. Acceptable as long as I didn’t think of Black Squadron-3 as Daniel, Skull Squadron-6 as Rebecca, or Dagger-Squadron-7 as Lisa. They were men and women I’d trained with and called friends, now just particles and gas.

“Focus,” I commanded myself, then spoke into my helmet’s comm. I was sitting in the middle of my tight Engel-fighter cockpit moving at speeds which boggled the mind. While space was largely empty, the tightness of the battle formations meant I needed to fly like I’d never flown before. The slightest misstep would mean not only my death but my entire squadron’s destruction. “Dagger Leader, I need you to bring up your teammates to thin out the ranks of those Crosshairs.”

“Yes, your Excellency,” Dagger Leader, a woman named Arianna Stonebridge, said, referring to me by my noble title rather than rank.

I hated that.

This was a last-ditch assault which Prince Germanicus had planned to blunt the offensive into our territory. The Commonwealth had reclaimed thousands of worlds in their quest to reunite humanity, but they were stretched thin and the Archduchy’s resistance was fierce. If we’d had more allies, we could have repelled them, but the Archduchy of Crius had few friends. In my more reflective moments, I had to wonder how badly we’d abused our neighbors that many had cheered the arrival of the Commonwealth.

The interior of the Engel’s cockpit was a mixture of levers, pedals, and sensor equipment which projected countless images into my cybernetically enhanced mind. I saw close-ups of the sword-shaped Crius destroyers moving to cut off the escape of the massive Earth’s Successor even as enemy reinforcements arrived from jumpspace. The saucer-shaped Commonwealth ships launched several thousand more starfighters to whittle down the shields of our ships, but it made no difference to our battle plan. We had to score a decisive victory here, even if it meant decimating our ranks.

Archangel Squadron’s part in the mission was critical. We had to weaken the Earth’s Successor enough for the Revengeance to blast away at its engines and allow the rest of the fleet to destroy it.

About the Author:

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on “The United Federation of Charles” (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/).

He’s the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lucifers-Star-C-T-Phipps-ebook/dp/B01MDM9MCT/

Read Charles’ thoughts on his website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

Read Charles’ book reviews: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charles.phipps.946

 

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A Scientific Explanation for “Magical” Visions?

The concept of “visions” or “magical dreams” has been around since the beginning of time. People have been reporting these experiences for centuries:

  • 6th century BC: The visions of Daniel the Prophet
  • 1st Century AD: St. Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus
  • 312 AD: Emperor Constantine’s  vision of the cross (Christ’s sign)
  • 1619 AD: Rene Descartes’ series of dreams
  • 1820: Joseph Smith’s visions that lead to the formation of the Mormons
  • 19th Century: Ramakrishna’s visions of Jesus, Sita, Muhammed, and Kali

These visions have been perceived as life-changing, a religious or spiritual experience that shaped the lives of those who experienced them.

I’m not going to disparage those visions—there’s a very good chance they are real. However, here’s something that I found interesting:

Formed and unformed visual hallucinations occur as a result of cortical lesions involving the occipital and temporoparietal areas.

Simply put: hallucinations (the scientific term to describe “visions”) could be the result of brain damage.

I came upon this idea while doing research for the Dark Fantasy Romance novel I’ll soon be writing. I like to use a scientific approach to writing fantasy “magic”, so I need a real-world explanation to make these things understandable (to myself as the author, and to the reader). This seemed the perfect way to go.

To explain the “visions” my character is having, all I have to do is add a head injury in the right place (according to one study, “the modal lesion area was the right temporal area, followed closely by the left temporal and frontal areas”) and voila! Science explaining “magic”.

I won’t bore you with all the research into this sort of brain-injury-induced hallucinations, but here are a few things I think you’ll find fascinating:

Risk Factors: Several risk factors for PSTBI have been reported. They include male gender, premorbid neurological abnormalities such as early head injury or neurological disorder (Fujii and Ahmed, 2001), previous psychological disturbance (Violon, 1988), family history of psychotic illness, or mental retardation (Achte et al., 1969). A family history of schizophrenia was reported in 2.9% to 18% of patients with PSTBI, thus appearring to be higher than in normal patients, but less than in patients with schizophrenia (Davison and Bagley, 1969).

Hallucinations have been reported in sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE), which involves the central nervous system, may present as hallucinations.

Types of Hallucinations:

  • Olfactory hallucinations and gustatory hallucinations are usually associated with temporal lobe lesions and lesions in the uncinate gyrus.
  • “Crude” auditory hallucinations are more common in these conditions than formed ones.
  • Peduncular hallucinations produce vivid, non-stereotyped, continuous, gloomy or colorful visual images that are more pronounced in murky environments.
  • “Complex visual hallucinations arise due to lesions that straddle the cerebral peduncles or involve the medial substantia nigra pars reticulata, bilaterally.
  • Auditory hallucinations are most common in all groups except organic brain syndromes, where visual hallucinations predominate.

 

This data leads to an interesting question: are these famous visions from history real, or are they nothing more than the result of the risk factors mentioned above? I’m not going to shut the door to the possibility that these visions are real—it’s very possible God, Muhammed, Kali, or any other celestial being could take advantage of hallucinations to share important messages. However, for those of us (like me) who like a more concrete explanation for this sort of phenomena, it gives a potentially rational explanation for “magical visions”.

Join the Celebration + Giveaway!

It’s time to celebrate!

My super secret, super awesome reader group on Facebook (Andy Peloquin’s Fantasy Fiends) has reached 200 members—a  HUGE milestone for me. So, as I promised the members of the group, we’re going to celebrate with a Facebook Party.

Click here to join the party…

The celebration will take place this coming Friday, all day long. Prepare for crazy amounts of fun. Or fun amounts of crazy—I’m not sure which.

What can you expect at the party?

  • Giveaways
  • Competitions
  • Prizes
  • Games
  • Laughter
  • LIVE readings from my books (I’ll be breaking out my best voices for this one!)
  • and so much more…

Best of all, I’ve got a big giveaway going on all week long. You can enter to win an Alexa Echo, signed paperbacks of the Queen of Thieves series, e-books, and more.

See the giveaway here…

I hope to see you there this Friday!

 

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If You Read This, Let Me Know

As I take on more and more writing projects (new novels, short stories, collections/anthologies, etc.), I have to find ways to “trim the fat” from my life. With only so many hours in a day, it’s tough to know where I should be focusing my time and efforts.

For close to three years now, I’ve been trying to keep up with this blog as faithfully as possible. The two to four blog posts I write a week are time-consuming, but I always thought of them as an important part of being an author.

But in analyzing the web traffic I’ve been receiving over the last few months, I’m not certain I should keep up with the regular blogging efforts. So I’m asking you to let me know what you think:

Should I keep posting regularly?

If you read my blog posts, drop a comment below or on whatever social media page you found this on. Let me know that you read even SOME of the posts I share on this blog.

This isn’t a cry for attention (heh) or a way to pat myself on the back. I want to be certain that everything I share is quality, and if the blog posts aren’t where it’s at, I will focus my efforts on other content to share.

So, if you read this blog post, let me know. Even a one word comment will do. If my blog posts make a difference to even just a few people, I’m happy to continue posting.

Alternative:

If you haven’t been reading any/many of my blog posts, I’d like to know why and what I can do to make them more appealing and engaging.

  • What sort of content would you like to read? What topics?
  • Longer or shorter posts?
  • More/less frequent?

Thank you!

 

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Book Review: Backfire by Philipp Kessler

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’m stepping outside my fantasy/sci-fi comfort zone and reviewing something a bit unusual: a story of pagan magick in modern society!

Backfire

It was a simple protection spell, what could possibly go wrong? Everything and then some!

Sandra Blackwell wants to help her friend find peace and protection after a nasty break up. Little did she know that Elaine’s home was already under protection – if you call flickering lights and depression protection. After the bulbs begin to blow and they realize something has backfired, they battle their own mental and emotional demons to fix what Sandra did. Two Egyptian Gods play with Sandra’s understanding of who she is and Elaine is floating in her own personal limbo after the blow up of her relationship and the backfire of a well intentioned spell. Can they fix things without it all blow up in their faces?

The first in a series of stories following Sandra and Elaine, Backfire introduces the characters and establishes their life together. Friends since middle school, the two are now getting established in their careers. Magick, love, and unexpected happenings follow them all over the place.

My Review: 4 Stars

I found this an utterly fascinating book! While many other novels skirt the issue of spell-casting and magick, this felt more like a how-to primer on the concepts. I walked away from the reading knowing a lot bit more about paganism, the pagan lifestyle, belief system, and practices. It had me curious and wanting to find out what else I can learn. Definitely going to keep reading the next books to delve more into pagan practices!

There’s not a whole lot in the way of action or suspense—just two women trying to find out what went wrong with the spell. There was a lot of interesting concepts presented through the pages of the novel, offering information without cramming the belief system or practices down a reader’s throat. Well-presented, thoughtfully laid out, and set in an interesting (if slow-moving) story.

100% worth the read for anyone interested in learning more about paganism!

Here’s a Taste:

Sandra opened the window a crack to let a bit of fresh air into the room. The incense smoke swirled in the breeze as it was sucked out the window. As the air cleared she blinked the smoke from her own eyes.

“Well that sucked,” she muttered under her breath. “Back to square one.” She pushed her hair away from her forehead, brushing the sweat away from her brow.

She looked about the now smoke free room and sighed. Picking up the athame she began to put her ritual and spell tools away. Sandra put each tool into its place in the box she pulled out from under the altar table. The wand, the incense burner, and the athame each had a special compartment in the ornately carved oak box. As she put the pentacle plate and the bowl into their pouches she gazed into her own reflection in the blade of the boline.

The curved blade, shaped like a crescent, was affixed to a piece of deer antler. The antler was hand carved with delicate Celtic knot work and the blade itself had been hand forged by her grandfather. Her eyes were captured in the blade’s surface, reflecting back her own frustration at the failed spell. Her hand shook a little and she broke her own personal staring match.

“Oh, stop it!” she admonished herself. “No sense in crying over spilt milk.”

She tucked the boline away into its pouch and picked up the simple silver chalice she preferred to use for her personal workings. Her gaze went to her reflection in the curved metal and she paused. What she saw in that reflection was different from the narrow bladed reflection of the boline. She could see more than just her eyes. She could see the frown of her lips and the smudge of soot on her nose where she had touched her face after snuffing out the candles with her dampened fingertips. The smudge made her grin a little and as she watched her lips twist in the curve of the chalice she couldn’t help but giggle at the image. The giggle soon turned into a laugh.

She took up a small terry towel and wiped out the chalice before placing it into the box as well. All the while laughing to herself.

“Hmm. Wonder what I did wrong this time.” She shook her head and made sure that she had placed all the tools in the box before closing it and putting it back under the altar. “Too much sandalwood in the incense? Or what is it the wrong color for the candles?” She wrinkled her brow with thought and picked up the remains of the failed spell materials. A bit of burnt twine, blackened parchment, and a small cracked quartz. She brushed it all into her hand and got up from the pillow on the floor.

As she left the small room she used for rituals, spell work, and meditation it was as if she walked from one world into another. Her bearing and attitude changed as soon as she stepped over the threshold. She hurried off to the kitchen and dumped the remains of the spell materials into the trash before washing her hands at the sink. She wiped the smudge from her nose with the dampened towel and filled a glass with water from the tap.

Her phone made a beep. Picking it up she saw that her best friend Elaine was texting her.
U AVAIL?

YES. WHAT UP?

WEIRDNESS AROUND HERE. WAT U DID?

WAT U MEAN?

THINGS WEIRD HERE. SAW U IN CORNER OF EYE & THINGS WENT WEIRD.

??? SAW ME?

YES. IN CORNER OF EYE. WEIRD!

VOICE?!
Sandra’s phone rang in reply to her last text. “What do you mean you saw me? I’ve been here all afternoon.”

“I saw you out of the corner of my eye. I did. And then everything started to go weird.”

“What do you mean weird?”

“The light in the bathroom blew as I saw you out of the corner of my eye. It was like catching a glimpse of you in the mirror and then boom! The light bulb blew. Scared the shit of me, I tell you!”

“Wow, I imagine. You said things went weird. More than just the blown bulb?”

“Oh, yeah! A lot more. I ran out of the bathroom, scared the shit of me. Almost literally. The lights were flickering in the whole apartment. What did you do?!”

“I, uh…” she hesitated. Elaine knew she was a witch, but trying to explain magick to her was not always easy. “I just tried to cast a spell. It didn’t work.”

“Didn’t work? Elaine asked. “What on Earth were you trying to do?” Her tone of voice was enough to convince Sandra that she wasn’t going to have to explain much about magick. At least not just yet.

“I was trying to bring you peace,” she replied flatly.

“You call this peace?” her tone was almost accusatory.

“No. I said the spell failed. Nothing seemed to happen on my end.” Sandra was grasping for an explanation in her own mind. She cast a spell for peace in Elaine’s life and nothing seemed to happen.

“Girl! Something happened here on my end!” Elaine’s voice rose in pitch a notch and her volume was increasing. “What the hell were you doing!?”

“I did what I always do. I made my Circle, laid out my tools and worked the spell. Other than a lot of choking incense smoke, nothing happened. Nothing,” she was really at a loss here.  She couldn’t fathom that a simple spell for something positive would cause anything to go wrong, let alone on the other side of town.

“Okay. Let’s take a breath.” She could hear her friend take a deep breath and exhale loudly over the cell’s speaker. Instinctively she did the same thing. “Now, tell me exactly what you did.”

“But you don’t believe in magick.”

About the Author

Philipp Kessler is a man of many hats.  An accomplished High Priest in the Covenant of Kernunnos Tradition, Phil has been an active practitioner for 25 years and has followed his passion for knowledge by climbing the ivory tower of the written word, from some of the oldest available works to modern, in the moment writings.

This desire for knowledge has led him to change his hat to pursue another passion, which is broadcasting.  He has been co-host of the longest-running pagan radio show, Murphy’s Magic Mess, for 8 and a half years and has been co-host of Pagan Musings on Blog Talk Radio for 8 years and Pagan Weekly News, also available on Blog Talk Radio, for 5 years and co-host of Lavender Hill, a weekly LGBTQIA news show on KZUM public radio for 6 years.

Phil donned his reviewers cap and became a regular contributor to Green Egg magazine and his leadership cap led him to being published in Pagan Leadership Anthology: An Exploration of Leadership and Community in Paganism and Polytheism edit by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood.
Phil changes his hat again and is an editor and the founder of Saturn Returns Publishing.

He turns around again, changing his hat as he does, and he is an author of pagan fiction & poetry, with many stories in different genres (from horror to speculative historical fiction) in the works. His first title in the Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings series, Backfire, came out on April 1, 2017, quickly followed by volume two in that series, Waterfall, on May 1.

But most of all, he wears the hat of butler to his 3 feline rulers, tending to their every need with utmost devotion.

Find Backfire on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XTSBM9W/

Connect with Philipp on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RevKessPMPC/

Tweet at him: www.twitter.com/RevKess

Check out his Patreon: www.patreon.com

Sign up for his Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cNqARz

 

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