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

[SIGH]

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.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Holding the Line: Andes Mints and Channeling Saturn

Saturn would be first one to tell you that he gets a bad rap in this blog. But one of the areas where Saturn excels is setting and maintaining boundaries and restrictions.

Recently I've seen lots of situations that have gone awry because one person or another doesn't respect someone else's boundaries. On the flip side, many people often allow others to ignore boundaries, which can cause a person to feel like a doormat. 

I was told early on in life that there were "givers" and "takers", and the theme clearly was that the givers were inherently "good" and the takers were inherently "bad". And for a while, I thought of myself as a "giver". But my views have changed: I'm both a giver and a taker now. 

Sure, I'm a giving person--at least I'd like to think I am--but I enforce my boundaries a lot more than I ever have and take time and energy for myself when necessary. While it was a challenge at first, I've realized how much better I am now that I've done it. 

The Wiccan Rede actually says it very well--"Fairly take and fairly give". My mother had her own version: "Being Christian doesn't mean having your face stepped on."

It goes back to the idea of balance. Saturn helps us set boundaries so we can be successful as people. When we don't, we start to run into trouble.

So how do I set my boundaries? Well, I'll give you an example from my tarot practice. I'm very blessed with an amazing group of regular clients, and I'm humbled and honored to read for them. Occasionally, however, I'll get a new client who will ask me why they should pay me to read cards for them, since my "gift" comes from the Universe and I didn't pay for it. 

The answer is actually pretty simple: I'm a professional tarot reader. I spent lots of my time and energy learning the cards, taking classes, and studying to arrive at the skill set that I have now. I'm no different from any other professional. You wouldn't think of not paying your auto mechanic for their time and effort, right? It doesn't matter if your mechanic has a natural gift for fixing cars; even if s/he does, you don't expect that person to do the work for free, do you? It's the same principle. So my boundary is to tell people in advance what a given service costs, and if they choose not to pay it and go elsewhere, that's OK by me. But I won't work for free anymore. 

(NOTE: Before I started charging and had an open box for donations reading cards, one frequent customer gave me three somewhat melted Andes mints as a payment. So I'm glad I set that boundary.)




When I'm the consumer, I set boundaries in other ways. I establish a boundary of how much I am prepared to pay for a particular product or service. If I go to another professional and the cost is more than I want to pay, I can change my boundary and pay for it--which sometimes happens--or I can hold the line and find someone else. If I feel that I didn't receive the level of service I paid for, I will usually bring the problem to someone's attention and likely use someone else in the future. 

Let's look at a more personal example. If you have a friend who is constantly in crisis and you're always there to listen, you're just being a good friend, right? Sure. But if that friend wants to bitch for an hour a day and use up your cell phone minutes, causing you to have to pay for more minutes each month, well...that's a time to set a boundary. You're allowing that person to use your time and your resources, and eventually you will start to resent it.  

This is where it gets harder, because then you have to either 1) confront your friend and tell them--ideally nicely--that you need to talk less on the phone with them, or 2) you establish your boundary in a more subtle way, like not picking up when they call, for example. 

Depending on the situation, either one or a combination of both can work. But it's a challenge, especially if that person expects to talk to you for an hour every day, and the relationship as a whole will take a hit if you try to establish any limit at all. It can be frustrating and difficult. 

So how can you help yourself? 

1) Set your expectations accordingly. Don't expect people to allow you to take advantage of them; offer some kind of compensation for their time, energy, or resources. Note: Gratitude can be considered compensation as well under many circumstances, but to me that's basic human decency and it should be a given when someone does something for you. By the same token, expect people to respect your boundaries, and when they don't, bring it to their attention and expect a change and ideally an apology. 

2) Be careful with promises, and don't promise anything that you're not reasonably sure you can deliver. With the understanding that unforeseen circumstances occur and not everything goes your way all the time (like weather and traffic, for example), if you continually promise and don't follow through, then people will start to distrust you and think of you as unreliable. 

3) If a person repeatedly ignores your boundaries, you should question the value of this person in your life. Being a doormat is no better than being a mooch; it's just two different sides of the same coin.

In short, while Saturn can be a pain in the ass, there's a lot he can teach us about holding the line. I hope you'll channel his energy to "fairly take and fairly give", and not end up pissed off with melted candy as your consolation prize. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: Venus Signs by Jessica Shepherd

Venus Signs: Discover Your Erotic Gifts and Secret Desires Through Astrology
Jessica Shepherd
$16.99, Llewellyn
ISBN 978-0-7387-4194-9

Venus is an incredibly important astrological planet, so when the opportunity came along to review Venus Signs, I jumped at the chance and I’m really glad I did. (For the record, I’m listening to Holst’s “Venus: The Bringer of Peace” portion of his suite, “The Planets”, as I write this review.)

Astrology books have to walk a fine line, because while many of us know something about our Sun signs, many of us are unaware of where Venus is in our astrological chart. (If you don’t know, this book will tell you, so no worries there; just take a look at Appendix 2.)

Before Shepherd gets started with the Venus signs, however, she gives a great overview of what your Venus sign describes. As a professional astrologer, I found it to be excellent. Overall, it’s about attraction and connection to other people.

Shepherd briefly mentions if your Venus is retrograde in your natal chart and what that could mean, which is important to at least be cognizant of. She also admits that Venus’ position by house and its aspects—connections—to other planets in the chart can affect how Venus behaves. Even though this is a beginner astrology book, I’m glad she mentioned it anyway.

The meat of this book is about your Venus sign and its attributes. It includes a look at the element your Venus sign is in as well as a mantra for each sign and various “love charms”, or the areas where each particular Venus sign excels.

The title of my chapter, “Venus in Scorpio”, has a great quote by Venus in Scorpio Jodie Foster: “Love people and stay beside them.” Ms. Foster was chosen as the “love goddess” for my chapter, and it’s perfectly appropriate. I thought the information Shepherd provided was very on point and described me well, even the “shadowy” parts. I think my favorite statement was, “If it is off-color or taboo, you delight in it.” Guilty as charged!

Warning: Venus is the planet of love, but Venus in each sign has a dark side. Venus in Scorpio’s may be bigger than most thanks to our two planetary rulers, Mars and Pluto. (And thank you, Ms. Shepherd, for also including Mars as a Scorpio co-ruler!) Be prepared for an ego hit or two as you read through your description. I know I winced once or twice; that part about “being obsessed with a partner or unforgiving” also was very accurate.

I liked at the very end where the author included a quick summary of the “good witch/bad witch” of each individual Venus sign. If you don’t have time to look through the entire book for some quick summary information, check out Appendix 1. This is perfect if you happen to know where someone’s Venus is and you’re walking out the door on a first date, for example.

In short, if you’re looking for a basic primer on the “lesser benefic” of the astrological planets, the great Lady Venus, this is an excellent one to select. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: Find Your Happily Ever After: Relationship Advice from a Professional Psychic, by Tiffany Johnson

Find Your Happily Ever After: Relationship Advice from a Professional Psychic
Tiffany Johnson
$15.99
ISBN 978-0-7387-4192-5


As a professional psychic, you find that love and relationships is one of the most frequent questions asked by clients. “Is s/he the one for me?”, “Should I stay or should I go?” and “Does this relationship really have potential?” are questions I often get in my practice.

In Find Your Happily Ever After, psychic Tiffany Johnson provides a very real, down-to-earth look at the advice that she gives to her clients during relationship readings. As I read through this book, I saw a lot of good information that I’ve either passed along to my own clients or come to understand in my own life.

The presentation is simple and clear, which I’m a fan of. There isn’t any New Age feel to the work; for me, a journalist or a counselor could have written it. I was really pleased about this, because often, books written by psychics want to shoot for that “otherworldly” quality that makes them downright annoying. I was glad Johnson’s writing style for the book was practical and sensible. It’s good to find a psychic who organizes well, too; the table of contents is a good way to find what you’re looking for at a given stage in a relationship.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the very beginning of chapter 9, entitled “Change”. I liked it so much because it’s a maxim that I have known for some time and agree with totally: “Don’t try to change anyone into who you think they should be. It doesn’t work. Pushing someone to change only creates discontent and resentment. It will never work out well.” In my own practice I often hear, “I wish s/he would be more [INSERT DESIRE HERE].” It’s exactly the same thing. In short, people have to want to change on their own.

I also liked when Johnson talked about “deal breakers” in chapter 4. This is a term I’ve used for a while in relationship readings and they’re very important. Basically, you have to know where you stand on different issues and decide what you can live with and what you can’t. Some of the topics she mentions include religion and morality, politics, and sexuality, among others. You’ve got to be up front and honest with yourself and any potential partner for things to have a firm foundation. “Cheating” is one of the parts that can get thorny for couples. What constitutes cheating for you may not for your partner. I’ve heard the term “emotional cheating” thrown around quite a bit, and it can be just as damaging as sexual infidelity, and in some cases, more so.

Bottom line: You’ll really have to know what your “deal breakers” are, and if you can’t live with it, then it’s time to move on. By the way, the author follows up on this important topic in Chapter 19, “If You Think They Are Cheating”, which is often when people seek out psychics, interestingly enough.

I really enjoyed this book! It’s a quick read, but Johnson provides solid, intelligent relationship advice at a level that regular people can understand and appreciate.