Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Down The #RabbitHole Again?

Hey Everyone!!

Today, I've got another glimpse at what Petri is up to. This may seem strangely familiar in some ways. ;-)

Excerpt from book two of the Petri Dish Chronicles:
Closing her eyes, Petri concentrated on the city in the distance. It stood to reason, that she would have a greater chance of finding the person she was looking for if she went where the people were. When she opened her eyes, she saw that she seemed to have a bird's eye view of the city, but she hadn't moved any closer. Frustrated, she looked around for inspiration.

It was then she noticed the glowing ribbons that ran towards the city at regular intervals. Cappy had told her they were busses for data. She wasn't quite sure what that meant, but she knew what a bus was, and she wondered if she could hitch a ride on one of these.

Reaching out towards the nearest ribbon, she was startled to find herself next to it before she had completed the motion. It seemed she hadn't lost her ability to move within the rainbow, after all. That was something, at least.

When she touched the ribbon, she found herself briefly within a vortex of energy, which soon resolved into what appeared to be an Under City street. At first glance, it looked like many of the streets in the central area of Southern sector, but it only took a moment before she realized she had never seen it before. Since she knew her sector of the underworld like the back of her hand, the fact that she didn't know this street meant that either it was in a different sector or it only existed in the rainbow.

Looking around, she saw the same kind of clubs, dust dens, retail outlets, fetish houses, and consumables establishments she was used to. The people were also familiar, in a general sense, beat-down, tired, and hungry, the usual denizens of the underworld. She could almost smell the desperation in the air.

And the looks she was receiving made her realize she had caught the interest those desperate people. In the real underworld, that would be dangerous. Here, she wasn't sure what it meant, but she doubted it was good.

Hmm... It looks like Petri is in trouble again. I wonder what will happen next. ;-)  If you're wondering too, you'll be happy to know that I'm nearly done with the first draft of this book, and I hope to have it out to you within the next couple of months. Thanks for stopping by today, and don't forget to check back tomorrow for the latest in Mistral Dawn's Musings! :-)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Something Worth Watching?

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I'm back today with another video I wanted to share.  This is a little something that I thought might lift your spirits, it did mine, but it's also a good reminder about what we all need to do. As is said in the video, Bernie Sanders is effective because he is relentless. We all need to be relentless in holding the government responsible and insisting that our leaders represent real Americans and not just the top 1%.  We've already seen what public pressure can do when it comes to lighting a fire under politicians, we just need to keep it up.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nevertheless, #ShePersisted...A #Herald For #Change?

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Today, I wanted to talk about something that happened recently that really made me think. During the Senate debate over the appointment of Jeff Sessions, a man who said he would like the KKK if they didn't smoke pot and who called a white civil rights attorney a "traitor to his race," for Attorney General, Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King, widow of the renowned civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1986 when Mr. Sessions had been nominated for a federal judgeship. Ms. Scott King's letter was 10 pages long, so I'm not going to discuss everything that she spoke about in it. However, two things her letter said were that Mr. Sessions "used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters" and "to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens."

While Senator Warren attempted to read these statements into the record, she was silenced by Republicans and banned from speaking on the Senate floor.  In an admirably defiant stand against tyranny, Senator Warren turned to the media and social media to ensure that her message reached the voters, in spite of Republican opposition to free speech.

I confess, I've had my doubts about Senator Warren's commitment to Progressive causes at times due to the fact that she occasionally seems unwilling to buck the establishment and fight for her principles. Still, there have been several instances during her tenure as a Senator when I wanted to give her a standing ovation for her willingness to stand up for regular Americans. Even with all those other examples of her desire to be a champion of the people, I consider her demonstration of strength and determination in her opposition to Jeff Sessions's nomination to be one the finest moments in her political career.

Due to all the public outrage over the way Senate Republicans treated Senator Warren, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, was forced to issue a statement about why he thought it was appropriate to deny a fellow Senator her right to speak on the Senate floor. In his press statement, Senator McConnell said, "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted."  Those words expressed an arrogance and sense of entitlement that infuriated the American people, and I personally believe they may haunt Senator McConnell to his grave.

In fact, the phrase, "Nevertheless, she persisted" became a rallying cry for many on the left; a symbol of an instance when power tried to silence truth, but power lost. Those three words highlight the effectiveness of persistence. And at a time when many Americans are disgusted and disheartened by the hate and fear-mongers who have taken over our government, that symbol provided a much-needed boost for morale.

However, many on the right continue to mock that call to arms.  I, personally, had a neighbor inform me that "Nevertheless, she persisted" is a "weak" rallying cry. I knew immediately he -- yes, of course, he -- was wrong, but I needed to think about it for a minute before I could put into words why he was wrong.

There are several memes circulating that point out those words are a good summation for the history of women's rights, and that's true. But that's not all those words represent.  If you think about it, all human achievements, from the greatest to the smallest, both good and bad, throughout the whole of human history, can be described using almost those exact words. Again, think about it.

Two brothers dreamed of flying. Everyone told them it was impossible. Nevertheless, they persisted.

A group of people who had been treated as inferior for generations were determined to be granted equal rights under the law. They were ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned, and even murdered. Nevertheless, they persisted.

A lonely young man, languishing in a prison cell, wrote a book in which he envisioned a Utopian future for his country. Given his circumstances, it seemed impossible that his goals would ever be realized. Nevertheless, he persisted...and in the process murdered millions of innocent civilians and plunged the world into war.

See, that's the thing. Persistence tends to pay off no matter who is doing the persisting or what they ultimately hope to achieve. And people who are evil seldom see themselves that way.

So, far from being a "weak" rallying cry, "Nevertheless, she persisted" neatly encompasses the enormity and indomitability of the human spirit, in all of its terrible beauty. The power of a single determined person is formidable. The power of a group of determined people is irresistible, and it can change the tides of history...for good or ill. It all depends on who persists the most and what target they've set their sights upon. I know which side I'll be lending my persistence to. Do you?


Saturday, February 18, 2017

#February2017 #IndieBooksBeSeen #Indie #Author #Books #Monthly #BookReview!

Hey Everyone!!

It's the 18th again so, you guessed it, I'm back with my monthly #IndieBooksBeSeen book review! Enjoy! :-)

Swiftly Sharpens The Fang by Stuart Kenyon:

Joseph Travis seems like a regular guy. He has friends he likes to hang out with, an intelligent, beautiful girlfriend he loves, and he enjoys living it up on the weekends. His job is soul-killing, but that's not anything that most of us can't identify with. And the hobby he enjoys the most is boxing, a little violent, but he's a healthy young man with a frustrating and sedentary job, and he needs an outlet for his energy and aggression.  All-in-all, he seems like a regular Joe (pun intended) with just enough of an edge to make him interesting.

Joseph is even rather liberal and enlightened in his outlook and attitudes. In a world where bigotry and intolerance are becoming more and more blatant and accepted, he maintains an open-minded position, willing to listen and educate himself about the various viewpoints. But, overall, he isn't inclined to hate anyone or blame entire segments of the population for the problems created by a few. That is, until things start to change.

It's subtle at first, but through a series of unfortunate events, some of them at least partially his fault, Joseph's worldview starts to change. He begins to see malicious intentions where none exist and to ascribe malevolent characteristics to groups of people after observing them in only one or two individuals. In short, his open, tolerant nature changes to one of bigotry and hate. And it's frightening how easily and naturally the devolution of his attitudes occurs.

The thing I liked most about this story is that it illustrates how easily a person's point of view can be shaped by the people and society around them. Most people look with askance at those who subscribe to violent, extremist ideologies. After all, it's hard to imagine how anyone could come to hate others so much that they would be willing to commit murder over a political or religious philosophical difference.  And yet, terrorism is becoming increasingly common, so something must be radicalizing people. Because no terrorist ever sprung up out of a vacuum. Something must happen to turn "normal" people into terrorists, but what?

That's a question that Swiftly Sharpens The Fang attempts to answer, and the method for such a conversion that Stuart Kenyon illustrates in this novel is both surprising and frightening. Because Joseph Travis really is just a normal guy. He has had a couple of severe traumas in his life but overall he's just like most of us, he works, plays when he can, and tries to make connections with other people so he can figure out where he fits into society. There is no burning passion in him; no dominating ideology, extreme or otherwise. He's just a guy living his life and the process by which he comes to adopt extreme philosophies is terrifying because of its very banality and insidiousness.

Joseph isn't a deeply thoughtful or reflective person. He isn't stupid, but he doesn't take a lot of time to analyze the people around him. Like many of us, he's too caught up in his own life and concerns to take much time to research the things he reads in the media or hears from his friends, so he tends to take them at face value. The few times he does take the trouble to fact-check something, he finds that what he had heard or read either wasn't entirely true or wasn't the whole picture. But he fails to keep that in mind when the next heavily biased article or self-interested "friend" presents him with an inflammatory story or statistic.

As his attitudes and actions become more extreme, Joseph loses more and more of the moderating influences in his life. He gives up the job he hates to immerse himself more in the new society he has discovered. Friends who share his previous, more open-minded outlook either avoid him because they disapprove of his behavior, or he avoids them because they now make him uncomfortable. And, instead of viewing that discomfort as the warning that it is, Joseph instead gets closer to his new "friends." Because doing so is easier and it feels better, which is the same reaction that most of us would have, if we're honest.

As his new "friends" become more central to his world, Joseph works harder and harder to earn their approval. After all, it's just human nature to want to be liked by those around us. And he ignores anything that might contradict what his "friends" tell him.  Even his own experiences aren't enough to cut through the fog of disinformation that surrounds Joseph. When something happens that proves the lies that his "friends" are telling him, he rationalizes or dismisses it as a fluke.  How many of us have made excuses for the people we like or admire, even when, if we are honest, we know they are wrong?

Overall, this novel paints a detailed picture of how easily and quickly people can slide into extremism and violence. Mr. Kenyon does a fantastic job of illustrating the dangers inherent in existing in an echo chamber and allowing emotion rather than logic to rule our actions. Simply by failing to verify the accuracy of the information we consume, refusing to entertain the thoughts put forward by opposing voices, and by allowing ourselves to be loyal to personalities rather than principles, any one of us might follow in Joseph Travis's footsteps.  In a world that is becoming more and more polarized, Swiftly Sharpens The Fang is a timely reminder that we need to be careful how partisan we allow ourselves to become. Objective truths do still exist and they do still matter, and it's up to every one of us to seek them out and not allow ourselves to be deceived by those with ulterior motives.

Like Mr. Kenyon's other book, Subnormal, I gave this book five stars and, once again, I'd like to give it more if I could. There are adult themes and situations in this novel that wouldn't be appropriate for children, but I think everyone from juniors and seniors in high school and older should read this story. I think we could all do with the reminders that it offers.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A #MarketPlace For #Fear?

Hey Everyone!!

Something occurred to me the other day that I thought might be worth sharing. The situation in the US seems to get darker and darker as the days progress. People are angry, hurt, and scared. There is civil unrest and have even been isolated incidents of violence. And, of course, all of this centers around Donald Trump, the most unpopular President in US history.

But the question I find myself asking is, why? Why is this orange-faced buffoon, this ignorant man-child with the attention span of a methed-out gnat and the intellectual capacity of your average turnip able to provoke people to such extremes of emotion?  Because that is what's happening.  Whether you're part of the majority of people who are vehemently against Trump or part of the minority who are vehemently for him, it's very unlikely that your feelings on the matter are anything but strong.  But why? Because, on the face of it, Donald Trump is simply not worth all the energy being expended on him.

Well, in my opinion, the reason people are reacting so strongly comes down to this, Donald Trump is a con man, but the snake oil he's selling is something with limited appeal.  So, in an attempt to increase his reach, he's trying to manufacture a market for his product. You see, in order for a con game to work, the con artist needs to appeal to a need or desire that their mark has.

For instance, if you're trying to con people into buying a "miracle cure," you're appealing to their desire to feel better. In the most loathsome examples, your pitch is made to people who are terminally ill and beyond the help of modern medicine. In that case, you're playing on their hope that they can find some way to survive and their fear of death. Ironically, the more desperate a person is, the easier it is to con them. Because desperate people don't think rationally, they react emotionally.

And that's exactly what Donald Trump is trying to do to this country. He needs people to be hysterical, because he wants us jumping before we think. You see, what he's trying to sell us is "safety." Oh, not real safety from actual threats, like poverty, hunger, disease, income inequality, lack of access to medical care, dangerous work environments, etc. No, not at all. Because those are real problems that require complicated solutions that will take a lot of work to implement. And the last thing Donald Trump is interested in is work or actually helping people.

No, what he's trying to do is whip up fear over manufactured threats. I mean, look at the specifics of what he wants to do.  He wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico. But why?  Because Mexican people are a threat to US citizens? Really? Does anyone honestly believe that?  What do you think Mexico is going to do, invade Arizona?  Seriously?  Honestly, people, what the fuck are you afraid of here? In concrete terms, what do you think the actual threat is?

That's not a question that has a rational answer, because there is no actual threat from Mexico or Mexican people. Yes, there are some deranged people who are also Mexican. There are also some deranged people who are also blonde dentists from Chicago. There are some deranged people who are also part of any demographic group you'd care to name, but that doesn't make it rational to fear the entire demographic group. Think about it, it's absurd.

Donald Trump also wants to ban Muslims from entering the US. Again, why?  Because Muslims are a threat?  Really?  A religion with almost two billion followers and they're all a threat?  Every single one of them?  Then why isn't the entire world on fire?  If there were really two billion people bent on annihilating everyone who didn't belong to their religion, I'm pretty sure they'd probably succeed.  The resulting holocaust might take them out too, but if Muslims were really dangerous, we wouldn't be around to debate kicking them out of the country.

Again, yes, there are always the odd individuals in any group who are insane, but that doesn't make the entire group a threat.  No, what Donald Trump is trying to do is make us all believe that there are threats where none exist. Why? Because it's far easier to slay imaginary dragons than real ones. If he succeeds in convincing us that this paper tiger is real, then he gets to be the hero when he comes in and tears it apart.  That's the con he's trying to run on us.

The reason he's getting such a strong reaction is because fear is a visceral emotion. People who are afraid don't think, they react. Which makes them easy to control. If you frighten a herd, you can stampede them over a cliff. Even if there are a few individuals who retain their senses, they'll still be swept away by the mob.

Which isn't to suggest that the real problems I mentioned earlier don't exist, they absolutely do. And what Trump has tried to do is use Muslims, Mexicans, and other minority demographic groups as scapegoats for those real problems. By blaming specific groups for systematic failings, he implies that by eliminating those groups he'll rid the country of the problems. Which is patently absurd but, again, desperate people are easy to manipulate.

Despite that, most people are smart enough to realize that the reason they don't have a job isn't the poor Mexican immigrant who is even worse off financially than them. The majority of people in this country understand that the reason they don't have a job is because the corporations and wealthy elite have rigged the system to make it virtually impossible for the working class to assert our rights. And that's a problem that has nothing to do with the scapegoats Trump came up with.

In an attempt to appeal to people who were smart enough to see through his first deception, Trump tried to convince us that he was a populist leader who wanted to represent the working people in this country.  Of course, since the election, his cabinet picks have proven the lie of that claim, and all he is left with are his scapegoats. Which he is doubling down on.

But Donald Trump miscalculated when he decided on this strategy. He overestimated both his popularity and his powers of persuasion.  Instead of directing all of the fear against others, he ended up with only some of it directed where he wanted it, but most of it directed against himself. He didn't unite the country, he polarized it.

Now, the fear of Donald Trump is at least a fear that makes sense. It's rational to fear what a malignant narcissist in a position of authority might do. But, in order to resist him effectively, we have to also resist our own impulses to react out of that fear. Instead of responding hysterically, we need to mount a calculated, organized opposition to Trump and those who follow him.

Why? Because we can't allow Donald Trump to call the tune that we dance to. If we do, we'll end up dancing the steps he wants us to dance. Instead, what we need to do is remove the market for his product. That fear/safety combo that Trump and his followers are trying to convince us to buy won't work if there's no one who needs what he's selling.

Yes, there are real problems in this country. But fear-mongering about them solves nothing. Real problems have real solutions, and those solutions can be implemented. Instead of trying to make people afraid of the obstacles that we need to overcome, we need to show them productive ways to deal with those obstacles. Because by doing that we give people hope. Real hope, based on concrete actions; not vain hope based on empty promises.

Why? Because if people see realistic plans in action to make their lives better, it will be much harder to convince them to be afraid of shadows or dupe them into chasing pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Most people are smart enough to know the difference when they aren't blinded by desperation.

So, yes, we do oppose Trump's efforts to sell us on his message of fear and hate. Absolutely. But it's important for us to do so with a rational mindset, keeping the end goal in sight. Acting out of fear will only make things worse; we need to act out of reason and a desire to improve the quality of people's lives. Productive solutions and actions that yield benefits are what we need, not hysterical frenzy and random noise. That way, we shut down the market place that Trump is using to pedal his goods. Not by force, but simply because no one will be shopping there anymore.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

#APC #Spotlight: Pawper To #Pedigree By Angel M!

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Today, I've got Angel M in my APC spotlight!  Angel is an active and supportive member of  the  Authors-Professional Co-op Facebook group and her comedy about owning a dog grooming business, Pawper to Pedigree, sounds like a hoot! Here's the description:
Trying to build a mobile dog grooming business can be difficult when your bus is most likely stolen, your flamboyant cosmetologist keeps people guessing as to his sexual orientation, you are dating the cop who arrested your last boyfriend, and you can hear what dogs are thinking. Luckily for Marnie, her clientele has eclectic tastes and she discovers there is a lucrative market for her dog whisperer gift.
From country dogs to city dogs, pedigrees to mutts, Marnie and Aaron take on new clients while helping owners reach a deeper connection with their pets.
If you think it sounds as good as I do, you can grab your copy here:

Thank you all so much for stopping by! Happy reading! :-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#Agent Thoth's #Personal Log: Day 468

Hey Everyone! :-)

Agent Thoth discusses more of the trials and tribulations associated with living with hominids. Incidentally, if you've missed Agent Thoth's earlier entries, you can find them here: Thoth's Journal

Department for the Preservation and Confirmation of Intelligent Life (DPCIL)
Agent Thoth's Personal Log

Day Four-Hundred-Seventy-Two:
The injustice! The absolute, bald-faced double standard! I do not know how much longer I can endure this situation!

My hominid-servant has now begun treating the infant felid to the luscious liquid bovine secretions that she keeps in her refrigeration unit. On multiple occasions in the past, I have attempted to persuade her to share this ambrosia with me, but to no avail. The tiny pest, however, has but to look at her with pleading eyes and the nectar is produced with alacrity.

She informed me that mammalian neonates require such nourishment and that I ought not be envious. I tried to explain to her that DPCIL agents have need of the occasional luxury as well, and the bovine secretions would satisfy this requirement nicely. But, as usual, she ignored my pleas. The state of affairs here is becoming unbearable.

Ugh! Humans can be so thoughtless and cruel! You may have noticed that Agent Thoth has a new look. I hope you like his new picture as much as I do, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, either way. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. ;-) Happy reading, everyone!