Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jennifer Wells' "Magick Charm" Now Available on Kindle!

My beloved wife, Jennifer Wells, recently re-released her first novel, Magick Charm, on Kindle. It's only $2.99 to buy it, but you can also read it for free via Kindle Unlimited or from the Kindle Owner's Lending Library if you're an Amazon Prime customer. $2.99 is all, good people...less than a Starbucks! 

It's a fantastic metaphysical story...if you like magick and voodoo, you'll love it! Here's what it's about:

Cover by Samantha Harvey

Janie Adler likes her quiet, orderly life reviewing books for a small New Orleans newspaper exactly the way it is. So what if Duke Hot Pants, the hero of her favorite romance novel, is the only man in her life? She has a Pulitzer Prize to chase. That is until her quirky twin sister Rachel moves in, bringing boyfriend drama, a smelly ferret, and irrational belief in all things magickal along with her.

Persuaded by a local voodoo priestess-and maybe one margarita too many-the twins cast spells to improve their love lives. Loser-magnet Rachel focuses on avoiding the wrong men and Janie seeks her romance novel ideal. While plenty of eligible bachelors flood into their lives, Janie only has eyes for her coworker who lives in the apartment downstairs and works in the cube next to her.

But the twins soon discover the incantations' many unintended-and dangerous-consequences. The increasing number of mishaps and misfortune putting the sisters in grave peril seems more like the work of a curse. Can Janie and Rachel's "twintuition" save them from the menace stalking them?

About the Author:

Jennifer Wells lives in Northern Virginia with her husband of twenty years, John [that's me!], and her three spoiled cats, Morgana, Luna, and Pele. In addition to being a wife and cat mommy, she's a professional procrastinator, Virgo, and the author of paranormal romance novels Magick Charm and Practically Dreaming. She is currently working on sequels as well as entirely new stories.

Jen has been writing since she was in middle school. When she discovered romance novels in junior high, she knew she wanted to write them someday. Her writing remained a hobby while she studied biology and forensic DNA science. She worked as a molecular biologist and published cancer research before finally leaving the lab and taking up her laptop full time.

Jen loves a good book and is usually found with her nose in one. She has a never-ending to-be-read pile and is rarely seen without her Kindle or a paperback.

When she's not writing or reading, Jen engages in some of her favorite hobbies, like making jewelry, photography, sewing, and pottery class. She also enjoys traveling, crafting cocktails at her tiki bar, and playing complicated board games. Her guilty pleasures include binge-watching The Walking Dead and shopping for new Coach purses. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Indiana, Marrying Horses, and Dancing Naked at a Government Building

Being Wiccan or a Witch has its share of challenges; it's not an easy path by any means. Many don't understand who we are or how we worship. They think we're sex addicts, devil worshipers, or damned for eternity. We are targets of discrimination. And don't even get me started on the impressions of us from movies and television. 

But more than perhaps any other religion, people judge all Wiccans and Witches by the vocal ones who make statements to the media, like in this article


We have some very serious battles for equal rights going on right now. You'd have to have been on an Alaskan cruise for the past few weeks to not have heard about the controversy in Indiana over "religious freedom" laws that would essentially permit discrimination by people who could refuse to serve others, such as 
homosexuals, citing their religious beliefs.

One Wiccan High Priest (HP) decided to look on the bright side of these laws. Despite calling them "horrible", he says that it would allow the tenets of Wicca to govern behavior in Indiana, and would provide the opportunity for Wiccans there to:
  • Marry a horse ("love is the law" so "whatever we want to do with marriage we can do")
  • Refuse drug tests ("natural" substances like "herbs" can be used at officially sanctioned ceremonies; the "body is a temple" that we don't have to "give a piece of")
  • Dance naked on the Indiana capitol's steps under a full moon ("The Charge of the Goddess" allows this practice)

People in America (seem to) understand that there are different sects of Christianity. So when a Christian who runs an establishment says they won't serve a particular group because of their religious beliefs, we don't tar all Christians with the "bigot" brush. We seem to get that the indvidual does not speak for all Christians, but is expressing their personal spiritual beliefs, which we are free to agree or disagree with. 

Unfortunately, Wicca has not been given that luxury yet. Yes, I believe we're a growing spiritual path in the United States; I don't think we're the 5th largest, but we are growing quickly. We don't have an overall hierarchy, and many Wiccans wouldn't recognize one if we tried because our beliefs differ so much from person to person. Add all these facts to the common stereotypes of Wicca and Witchcraft, and we're just asking for trouble. 

Bottom line: People assume that this HP speaks for all Wiccans, and of course, he doesn't. 

Hubert H. Humphrey once said, "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." When you talk about marrying horses, what do you expect?

This situation also reminds me of a protest rally going on in Washington, DC, a number of years ago, and a protest march was underway. Way in the back, once almost all the participants had walked by, was a lone man with a sign that said FREE BANGLADESH. While I truly can't recall the reason for the rally, it definitely was NOT about Bangladesh. But there he was, carrying his sign with a group of unrelated protesters.

Indiana has changed the law, which is fantastic news. Ultimately that protects all Indiana citizens from discrimination, which I strongly support. And if I look at it from this HP's perspective, maybe his statement was strategic, that he said some of the most ridiculous things possible to show Indiana lawmakers how crazy things could get if the law actually went through. Seeing anybody dancing naked on the steps of a government building under the full moon would be pretty bizarre indeed.

In the end, though, this HP
 is doing essentially the same thing as the FREE BANGLADESH protester at the rally: Taking the opportunity to dive into a political issue and try to twist the conversation to a topic of his choosing. Yes, the argument could be made that this fight affects us as Wiccans and Witches, and it does in the sense that any group could be targets of discrimination. But all this article seems to do is perpetuate the idea that Wiccans and Witches are crazy, since we obviously think about marrying livestock. [headdesk]

(NOTE: For the record, the Commonwealth of Virginia has not authorized inter-species weddings, so if you're planning to marry your horse here, at least as of the date of this blog, thanks for thinking of me but I won't be able to help you out. Even if you got that far, making the case to your accountant for joint human-equine filing might be a challenge, even if the horse is wealthy and paying taxes, which wasn't an obligation for non-human mammals the last time I checked, although it might be open to debate.)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review: "Predicting Weather Events with Astrology" by Kris Brandt Riske, MA

When I saw this title I was totally intrigued. I knew that astrology was capable of doing many different things—personality traits, compatibility, health and healing, predictions of future events—but one thing I didn’t know was about astrometeorlogy, or the branch of astrology that deals with predicting the weather.

Choosing to review Predicting Weather Events with Astrology was a no brainer for me. I’m a fan of Kris Brandt Riske’s work; her Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Astrology and Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Predictive Astrology are two of my favorite astrology books. So I knew it was going to have that fantastic blend of the basics combined with lots of example charts.

One of the first questions I had was how it all works. The introduction gave it to me straight: “Planets do not cause the weather; they reflect weather conditions. In this way, astrometeorology is much like meteorology. […] The difference is that one is an art and one is a science.” The author’s bio also refers to a “certificate in weather forecasting from Penn State”, and establishes her credentials before the book even begins.

The astrological planets, of course, have different meanings depending on which branch of astrology you’re working in. Saturn in a person’s chart can indicate the level of self-discipline of a person, for example, while Saturn has a number of fairly nasty medical astrology applications. In astrometeorology, Saturn rules slow-moving storms and more “prolonged weather events”. With Saturn’s tendency to rule long-term goals and activities, this isn’t a surprise. But you’ll get a nice introduction to all the astrological planets in this branch of astrology. Day to day, you’ll be looking at the personal planets, but the further out you go, the more you’re dealing with long-term weather patterns.

I especially liked the small section on the astrometeorlogical effect of eclipses. Riske tells us that hard aspects from latitudes and longitudes of an ingress chart to an eclipse often presage major weather events that happen six to twelve months afterward.

I also liked the quick aspects guide. Aspects, the relationships between planets in a chart, are essential to accurate interpretations, and Riske includes a quick reference chart so you can immediately have an idea of what weather is produced with “easy” (like a sextile or trine) or “hard” (like a square or opposition) relationships between the planets. Pluto, for example, brings up the intensity of any weather situation that he happens to be involved in.

This is not a book that I would recommend to beginner astrology students, who might feel out of their depth unless they’re looking for a true challenge. But if you’re an intermediate level astrology student, you’ll be able to gain quite a bit from this book.

Honestly, this is one of the most interesting astrology books I’ve read in a long time. It makes me want to start doing some astrometeorlogy of my own for my neck of the woods; our local weather forecasters have really struggled of late, so maybe applying some of the techniques in Pr
edicting Weather Events with Astrology will help me figure out what’s really going to happen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Review: "In the Company of Sages: The Journey of the Spiritual Seeker" by Greg Bogart

Spiritual enlightenment is something that many of us seek, and throughout our lives we are looking to others to help us along the way. If one of my clients asked me, “How do I find a spiritual teacher or guide?” I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. Luckily, Greg Bogart’s book, In the Company of Sages: The Journey of a Spiritual Seeker, can help people find the right teacher.

This process is much more complicated than it seems, however, and Bogart does a great job of bringing his own experiences on his personal journey into the entire work. He draws from many different spiritual paths of both Eastern and Western spirituality and mysticism, so you don’t necessarily have to be familiar with one particular way of doing things.

One of the challenges of reading this book for me was its length. At 280 pages, not including the glossary, extensive bibliography—the entire book is thoroughly sourced—and an index, it can seem rather intimidating. The author uses plenty of stories and details to paint an extremely vivid picture of his own search for a guru. While autobiographical, the book is very objective and is far more than just a collection of spiritual stories.

Bogart has compiled a cogent work that delineates this entire process into nine distinct stages, from choosing a teacher, through the process of learning from one, testing, awakening, separating from the teacher, and then becoming a teacher to others.

One portion of the book that I didn’t necessarily agree with was the secrecy of the initiation process in Stage Two. Bogart points out that in many cultures, initiation rites were secret to protect them and to make the experience more meaningful. While I can understand and appreciate these points, I think a lot of folks from the west would have difficulty with the idea of a secret initiation ceremony considering the many wrongs that have been done and kept secret by members of the clergy over the years. A ceremony can be meaningful without being secret, and while initiations are not something that just anyone should be able to come and watch, there must be safeguards in place to protect the physical safety and dignity of the seeker.

As a spiritual teacher myself, I found the portions on when to leave a teacher—“Stage Seven: Separating from a Spiritual Teacher”—to be interesting and valuable. Bogart correctly points out that separation from a teacher is inevitable, that the status quo cannot be forever maintained in the relationship. This is actually a good thing, because the student is evolving. Bogart also suggests that those teachers who are most “enlightened” will not attempt to keep their students from leaving. I definitely agree with this last point. When a student is wise enough to decide for himself or herself that it’s time to move on, getting in the way is counterproductive.

This book may not appeal to a lot of people because it is highly specialized, but if you are looking for a book on finding a spiritual teacher, I highly recommend this one. It reminded me of the Nikos Kazantzakis quote: “True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”