Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healing Magic in Today’s World

Today I bring you a short guest post by fellow fantasy author, Vanessa Finaughty, as part of a month-long virtual book tour to celebrate the release of her new series, Wizard of Ends. Enjoy!

Healing Magic in Today’s World
Guest post by Vanessa Finaughty

Regardless of its nature, magic can and does have potent healing powers, and modern humans are becoming aware of this and following in our ancestors’ footsteps, in a sense.

One example is that young people suffering from hemiplegia have been attending ‘magic camps’ in London, with startling results. Hemiplegia, a condition in which the trunk, arm and leg on the same side of the body becomes paralysed, can be treated by performing magic tricks that improve co-ordination and hand movement. The fact that the treatment is exciting magic rather than painful and/or boring medical treatment encourages the afflicted children to ‘take their medicine’ by continuous practice.

Thanks to these magic camps, many children are able to use their hands for the first time. Now, they cut their own food, dress themselves, tie their own shoelaces and even make their own costumes. It also gives a much-needed confidence boost and some sense of power over their lives, because, the more one practices, the more dexterous one becomes.

It goes to show that, just because something is unconventional, it doesn’t mean it won’t work – now there’s some food for thought!

Download Wizard of Ends, Book 1 for FREE 

Pre-order Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature
Barnes & Noble

Monday, October 13, 2014

Targeted Killing

Wiktionary defines ‘targeted killing’ as: “The intentional killing by a government or its agents of a civilian or ‘unlawful combatant’ who is not in that government’s custody, and who is taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, and is thus regarded by the government as having lost the immunity from being targeted that he or she would otherwise have under the Geneva Conventions.”

The term ‘targeted killing’ is preferred to the word ‘assassination’, because terrorist killings are seen as self-defence, not murder, and self-defence is legal.

Former Federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Abraham Sofaer, says that assassination is considered illegal in the USA because it is generally seen as murder. He further says that self-defence killing in international affairs is pretty much the same as the police killing a domestic criminal in self-defence.

In opposition to the above, on its website, the American Civil Liberties Union states: “The CIA and the military are carrying out an illegal ‘targeted killing’ program in which people far from any battlefield are determined to be enemies of the state and killed without charge or trial. The executive branch has, in effect, claimed the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret determinations, based on secret evidence, that individuals meet a secret definition of the enemy.”

It seems just as many people are opposed to this definition as agree with it. Those who argue against this definition say that, while criminals should be brought to justice, targeted killing is not, in fact, justice, particularly in some cases, such as where Israeli citizens are targeted as suspected terrorists simply because of their nationality. The argument is that, if the law is not strictly adhered to in terms of human rights, what is the point of having the law in the first place?

However, it is not only the US that uses targeted killing to fight terrorism – Israel, too, employs this tactic, as do other governments.

Those who oppose targeted killing are also concerned about who meets the criteria to become a target, because this information is not easily available – which is one of the main reasons for the dispute. It’s also unclear what the circumstances must be in order for targeted killing to be considered legal self-defence rather than murder.

I’m unsure of the full facts here, because, as already mentioned, some of them are hard to come by, but I must say that I disagree with killing potentially innocent citizens just because they ‘might be’ terrorists, which is what many believe is happening.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An Interview with Vanessa Finaughty, Author of Wizard of Ends

Thank you for joining us on your tour today, Vanessa.

To start off, please tell us a little about your upcoming release, Wizard of Ends.

Wizard of Ends is a fast-paced fantasy novella series. The main character, Lashlor Leaflin, is forced into all sorts of things he would rather have nothing to do with, most of which he believes will kill him. Luckily for the rulers of Ends, he is loyal to his land and will do anything to protect his king and queen.

What made you decide to publish Books 1 and 2 in the same month?

When I came to the end of Book 1, I couldn’t wait to write Book 2. So, instead of beginning my usual editing process, I followed my compulsion and just carried on writing. I’ve always been impatient to publish once a book is complete, so the thought of waiting to release Book 2 when it was already polished was a little too much for me… hence, I decided to publish both books during a month-long virtual book tour to celebrate the release of the series.

What are you doing to market Wizard of Ends?

I planned a month-long virtual book tour in which I’m currently touring via 24 blogs. Readers can find the itinerary here. I comment on all the tour hosts’ posts and thank them for having me on their blogs, and share all the posts via Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Before the tour started, I posted a few sneak peeks on my blog, and announced the book tour about three weeks before it started. I also shared snippets via Twitter and Facebook. I wrote press releases for all the major tour highlights, including the discounts, giveaways and release announcements, and posted them on PRLog. Starting from the day of publication, I will also start submitting Wizard of Ends to a few hundred book listing websites and reviewers. This will be ongoing until I exhaust the list of people who will review, interview, showcase or list authors and our books. Oh, and I also contacted book bloggers and offered them ARCs (advanced reading copies).

Tell us what it takes to organise a virtual book tour.

An endless supply of time, energy and patience! The first thing to consider is how long you want the tour to be. I’m so excited about Wizard of Ends that I felt it deserved a month-long book tour, but, of course, that meant plenty of extra work! I started by creating my invitation to bloggers, in which I listed what I would be offering, and then started putting together a list of bloggers I thought would be a good fit for the tour. I wrote 30 guest posts and character interviews, etc. – before I officially invited anyone to participate. Be sure to set aside time for bloggers who want to interview you as part of the tour. Also before sending out an official invitation, I created promotional images and tour banners. You have to decide what you’re going to give away beforehand too – I chose to discount Book 2 to 99c on the day of publication only (after which it will be $2.99), and give away free copies of some of my other books, along with freebies from other fantasy authors.

There’s so much to enjoy during the Wizard of Ends tour – where can readers find a quick link to an extract?

Which character, across all your books, have you most enjoyed writing about, and why?

Lashlor Leaflin from Wizard of Ends. Because he’s so calm under pressure, and in the face of taunting and unpalatable situations. If everyone had as much self-control as Lashlor, the world would be a much better place!

What is the biggest challenge you face when starting a new book?

Deciding which book to write. Now that I’ve published the start of two series, I need to focus on those two series to avoid disappointing fans. However, besides Legends of Origin and Wizard of Ends, there are at least another twenty stories battling for space in my head. If enough time passes, I’ll lose those stories. It can be frustrating.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block and how did you overcome it?

Not really, no. There are times when I sit at the keyboard and stare at the screen, but that’s due to extreme fatigue, not writer’s block.

Why do you prefer writing fantasy over any other genre?

I don’t have to do any research for fantasy. When you’re writing a story with real world elements, it’s important to get your facts straight, or readers will think you’re a fool, and that means you sometimes have to do research. When writing fantasy, you can make up your own facts. In fact, it’s encouraged. As long as you’re consistent and your ‘invented facts’ are believable, you’re good to go.

How long does it generally take for you to finish writing a book?

It depends. I could write six to eight thousand words a day and still have my evenings free – assuming, of course, I wasn’t working full time. At that rate, a full-length novel would take about two and a half to three and a half months. A novella like Wizard of Ends would take about five to seven weeks. That’s to write the last word, and then the editing and polishing begins.

You work for yourself and your baby daughter is home all day most days. How do you cope with writing and juggling the demands of all your other commitments?

By the skin of my teeth! Honestly, I don’t know how I do it. Some days I feel like I’m going to lose my mind, and other days are a breeze – those are usually the days where I’ve got enough sleep the night before! It helps that my husband looks after our daughter during the day, but, if he needs to go to work, then I take over and work in the hours that evening. My mom takes our daughter for the day once a week too, which helps a lot. As far as possible, I allocate mornings and early afternoons to work, and late afternoons to writing or marketing my books. I fit in doing dishes, vacuuming, mopping floors, shopping, family visits, bathing and eating whenever there’s a gap, and tend to fall asleep on the couch most nights!

Do you have any pets?

We have a cat and three dogs – a German shepherd, a rottweiler and a shepweiler – all of which could more accurately be described as my children.

What’s your favourite flower?

A white lily.

Where can readers purchase Wizard of Ends?

Wizard of Ends, Book 1 will be published at Smashwords on 9 October – this week Thursday. I will also be making Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature available on pre-order at Smashwords on the same day – the official release date is 23 October, so readers won’t have long to wait. Shortly thereafter, the books will be available for free download (Book 1) and pre-order (Book 2) from other retailers, including Barnes & Noble and iBooks.

About Vanessa Finaughty

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.

Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She’s been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and cigarettes.

Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Animals… My Favourite Cause

As you may have gleaned from previous blog posts, I’m dead against animal cruelty. Some of my best friends had fur or feathers. They were loyal, loving and helpful, and, in many ways, better than a lot of humans I’ve met. So why is it that so many humans feel nothing for these innocent creatures? They’re marvels of evolution, unique to this planet, and they have feelings too. They communicate with us in so many wordless ways, and dogs help the physically challenged, rescue people from disasters and protect their human families. Cats provide companionship and love to lonely people whose own kind neglects them. Without horses, mankind would have had to haul all its own baggage, which would definitely have slowed exploration and civilisation. These generous beasts allow us to do the most inhumane things to them, and still try to do their best to please us.

Every day, animals are tortured in slaughterhouses and aboard transportation trucks, at sporting events and laboratories and on farms. They’re injected with chemicals, force-fed, shut in dark little enclosures where they can’t even lie down or turn around, starved, beaten, bled to death and have their babies taken away so we can drink their milk. They’re plucked or skinned alive so we can use their feathers and wear their skins… and we call ourselves the more evolved race.

Worst of all are animal testing labs, where puppies, kittens, monkeys and rabbits, to name just a few, are routinely injected with toxic chemicals, or have such substances dripped into their eyes or forced down their throats. All pointless exercises, since we already know these are poisons. It’s done for money, to support an industry that might have had a point a few decades ago, but now continues only on momentum. Farms breed countless puppies and kittens doomed to a short life of torture before being put to death. It’s horrific, and I have to wonder how the people who dish out this torture live with themselves. Clearly, they hate animals, for whatever reason.

I’d like to put an end to all this suffering, so please help me and sign the petitions on these links:

To learn more about these horrific practices, click this link:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

China’s Assassins

The first recorded assassination in Chinese history was that of rich businessman Wang Hai. Apparently Wang got naughty with the wife or daughter of another tribal chief while he was visiting the family. While he slept that night, a guard chopped off his head with an axe, then dismembered his corpse. It’s not known why the assassin killed him, but it’s generally believed that the hit was ordered by the husband/father.

One famous Chinese assassination was performed by Zhuan Zhu, who was in the service of Prince Guang. The assassination is a true reflection of the Chinese assassins’ creed, which states ‘it is honourable to die for people who recognise and appreciate your worth’. Zhuan was grateful for the way the prince treated him and his mother, so decided to do something nice for him: assassinate his cousin, who was king at the time, so the prince could claim the throne. Zhuan went to the effort of studying to be a royal chef, and specialised in the king’s favourite dish: broiled fish. Zhuan hid a tiny sword inside the king’s fish to get the weapon close enough to use, then stabbed him to death. Of course, the royal guards killed the assassin instantly, but his master did become king – quite a famous king, in fact: King Hel├╝, one of the age’s greatest rulers.

Possibly the best-known assassin in Chinese history, Jing Ke, actually failed at the task. Jing clearly didn’t adhere to the assassins’ code like Zhuan, and, for two years, took advantage of the luxuries offered to him by the Prince of Yan, who hoped he would kill the King of Qin. However, when it seemed the State of Yan would fall, he finally devised a plan to assassinate the Qin King. It seemed he suspected he would fail, because, when the prince bade him farewell, he sang ‘I will go on my journey with no return’. To get close to the enemy king, Jing went to Qin’s court under the pretence of delivering a message of surrender. When Jing arrived in the court, he drew a poisoned dagger and grabbed the king’s sleeve, trying to stab him in the chest. The king’s sleeve tore, and the king ended up stabbing Jing to death instead.

There’s a plethora of tales about Chinese assassins, many of which romanticise them and their motives. Most ancient Chinese assassins, however, were very private people, and not many knew their motives or anything personal about them. In fact, even their assassinations and failed attempts were not publicised.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Doorway to Destiny (A Thirteen-Book Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventure Box Set)

iBooks has done it again, with a month-long international promotion of box set books for only 99c! I love iBooks! I was invited to participate in this promo, and of course I jumped at the chance. I teamed up with emerging fantasy author Vanessa Finaughty to create Doorway to Destiny (A Thirteen-Book Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventure Box Set). It has four of my series starters and the second book in those series: The Queen’s Blade, Demon Lord, The Cyber Chronicles and The Broken World. Vanessa Finaughty contributed two anthologies: Dragon Kin & other fantasy stories and Sorcery & Subterfuge, and her Legends of Origin trilogy. For iBooks readers, the new iOS8 operating system, launched on September 19, comes with the iBooks app pre-bundled.

Around 100 multi-author box sets are being promoted at iBooks between September 18 and October 14, so this is a great time for iBooks readers to load up their iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads with excellent books in a wide range of genres. 40 of the books came from, the world’s leading indie author publisher and distributer, giving readers a chance to discover exciting books by talented independent authors.

Congratulations to all my fellow authors whose box sets made it into the iBooks promotion! Thank you to Mark Coker, Smashwords and iBooks for being the best in the industry and having the foresight to promote indie authors! I’m blown away time and again by the amazing opportunities they give me and other indie authors. If you’re a new author looking for the best places to publish your books, I highly recommend and iBooks!

Some other box sets by Smashwords authors include:

California Dreamin' Boxed Set (Four mature YA Romances set in California to Benefit "A Chance for Children") featuring: Melissa Pearl and Anna Cruise
Dark Roses: Eight Best-Selling Authors of Paranormal Romance featuring: Terah Edun, P.T. Michelle, Anthea Sharp, Trisha Leigh, Cameron Jace,  Lola St.Vil,  Erica Cope, Sarra CannonDangerous Lovers featuring: Becca Vincenza, H. D. Gordon, Cambria Hebert, Janelle Stalder, Jamie Magee, A.M. Hargrove
Epic Apocalypse - Apocalyptic Horror Box Set featuring: Mark Tufo, Shawn Chesser, John O'Brien, James N. Cook, Armand Rosamilia, Heath Stallcup
From the Ballroom and Beyond, A Limited Edition Nine Book Regency Romance Box Set featuring: Rose Gordon, Ava Stone, Julie Johnstone, Catherine Gayle, Deb Marlowe, Jane Charles, Christi Caldwell, Claudia Dain, Jerrica Knight-Catania
Sassy Seven: Sexy, Stylish, Scintillating Novels from Some of Today’s Top-selling Authors featuring Gemma Halliday, Serena Robar, Eileen Cook, Barbara Ferrer, Robyn Harding, Shannon McKelden, Eileen Rendahl
Natural Born Thrillers: 11 Electrifying Thriller Novels from 11 Bestselling Authors featuring Jeremy Robinson, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, David Wood, Kane Gilmour, J. Kent Holloway, Sean Ellis, Jon F. Merz, Casey Neumiller, David Sakmyster, Rick Chesler
Intense Anthology - Ten Bestselling Authors, Ten Powerful Alphas, Ten Passionate Novels featuring: Kahlen Aymes, Sandi Lynn, Aleatha Romig, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, S. E. Lund, Julie Richman, Penelope Ward, Kailin Gow, Liv Morris, J.L. Mac
Playing for Passion: A Limited Edition Collection of Bestselling Sports Romances featuring: Carly Phillips, Toni Aleo, Chelle Bliss, V.K. Sykes,  Pamela Aares, Allie K Adams, Jami Davenport, Catherine Gayle, Mindy Klasky, Roz Lee, Dakota Madison, Bianca Sommerland

About Smashwords 
Launched in 2008, Smashwords is an e-book publishing and distribution platform serving authors, publishers, readers and retailers. Smashwords makes it free and easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to instantly publish and distribute a multi-format e-book.  Smashwords puts authors and publishers in full control over the pricing, sampling and distribution of their works. Authors and publishers receive up to 85 per cent of the net proceeds from sales of their works. Smashwords has distribution relationships with leading online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony, and leading mobile e-reading apps such as Stanza, Kobo, Aldiko, FBReader and Word-Player, spanning all major mobile platforms including Android and iPhone.  Smashwords is based in Los Gatos, California, and can be reached on the web at Visit the official Smashwords blog at

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’. Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She's been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and cigarettes. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Assassins in Disguise

Most famous assassins haven’t bothered with disguises, but the ones who did are perhaps the most interesting to learn about.

For instance, in 2013, a group of Mexicans dressed as clowns assassinated Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, a member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel family. While he was attending a children’s birthday party, the ‘clowns’ shot him, once in the thorax and once in the head.

Often called a terrorist rather than an assassin, Carlos the Jackal, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was a killer for hire. Trained in guerrilla warfare, weapons and sabotage, Carlos also gathered information on people he felt were worth kidnapping or assassinating. He was a bold, merciless killer, often walking into a place, shooting or throwing a grenade, then calmly walking out again. It might be surprising that it took so long for authorities to catch him, but then, he was known as a master of disguise and used fake documentation to authenticate each disguise. It’s thought that, due to this, many murders he didn’t commit were blamed on him. In 1985, he was so famous that no one would hire him, and was finally apprehended in 1994. Responsible for the deaths of more than 80 people, in 1997 he was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1973, ETA – Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom – operators posed as sculpture students and rented an apartment along Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco’s driving route. From the apartment, they dug a tunnel across the road that Blanco travelled weekly. That done, they filled the tunnel with explosives and, on the day, disguised themselves as electricians, waited for Blanco’s car to pass by, and detonated the explosives, killing Blanco. It just goes to show that disguises don’t need to be complicated – as long as you don’t look out of place or suspicious, any old uniform will do, and people tend to not notice the face behind the uniform.

Perhaps the easiest – and most devious – disguise was that of Bolivian painter Benjamin Mendoza Flores. In 1970, Flores disguised himself as a priest and stabbed Pope Paul VI at the airport. Though the pope was badly hurt, he survived the attack.

Potential victims, too, can effectively use disguises, as President Lincoln has shown. In 1860, on his way to be inaugurated, a close friend uncovered an assassination plot against Lincoln, so he disguised himself as a frail old woman, complete with a dress, shawl and walking cane, thus foiling the assassination plot.