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Yule Greetings!

No blog featuring content dealing in Wicca on any level would be complete without the obligatory Yule post. For those that don’t know, Yule is an old Germanic, Pagan tradition and while scholars have connected it to The Wild Hunt, I’m more focused on asking around for traditions you have for the holiday.  Or, as the celebration more or less lasts for about two months in some traditions, how do you enjoy it?

This bit of knowledge from Wikipedia I found interesting:

The Saga of Hákon the Good credits King Haakon I of Norway with the Christianisation of Norway as well as rescheduling the date of Yule to coincide with Christian celebrations held at the time. The saga states that when Haakon arrived in Norway he was confirmed a Christian, but since the land was still altogether heathen and the people retained their pagan practices, Haakon hid his Christianity to receive the help of the “great chieftains”. In time, Haakon had a law passed establishing that Yule celebrations were to take place at the same time as the Christians celebrated Christmas, “and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines, and had to keep the holiday while the ale lasted.”[9]

winter_seasonals_mainSo let me understand this.  I have to have ale and celebrate, else pay a fine?  Where do I sign up?

For that matter, I actually switch up my drinking hobby.  Throughout the year, I’m a die-hard wine drinker, but I enjoy IPA styles of beer. Not being very holiday oriented, so I never saw the joy in bothering with celebration.  In recent years, I’ve discovered Belgian style winter whits and ales to be enjoyable.  The spiced ones, having cardamom and traditional baking spices impart a nice flavor on the beers and the high alcohol content keeps me toasty.

I enjoy cinnamon candles more than any other time of the year.  Anything that spreads the concept of warmth to those who appear on my doorstep, I’m down with as my tradition.

I’ll ask again, what are yours?

You can bet Sonja and Derrick have their own traditions, but life wasn’t always this easy for the former spy and his lovely death metal vocalist. Buy their story now! 

Witchcraft and Artwork

One of the things I’ve discovered in my years of researching Magick Bookwitchcraft and paganism is the artwork.  I’m not a huge fan of paintings honestly, I blame my poor eyesight.  But I can still appreciate not just the talent an artist puts into the work, but the magic itself.  Ever notice how different Tarot decks have different artwork to represent the symbolism in those tools of divinity?

With the myriad of different paths and belief systems in place spanning Wicca and Paganism, there is something to appeal to every taste.

JusticeI lean toward the more erotic pieces but some folks find beauty in nature.  It’s awesome to me when both come together in one piece.    Some folks find strength in the images of the Goddess, both old and new.    I tend to again go with the erotic, but my tastes lean more toward the sensual in these instances.  I’ve pictured the Goddess as this Rubenesque woman with long, flowing hair and curves, but that may just be my fantasy.

How about spirit animals?  Some of the art dedicated to our favorite furry creatures shows our penchant for feline or lupine.  I tend to lean toward the wolf here as I fancy him the creature of the night, just like me, the night writer.

What do you like in Wiccan/Pagan art?

Sonja has a taste for art in the form of music, in Slow Burn – A Sexy

A sexy spy thriller

A sexy spy thriller

Spy Thriller.  Out now from Ardent Books on Amazon.  Former spy Derrick falls for the sexy spitfire he’s bound to protect, even as terrorists scheme to take her from him – and destroy his way of life.  Get your copy today!

Slow Burn – A Sexy Spy Thriller

SlowBurnCoverEbookOn Thursday, July 9th I have a new release in the paranormal romance genre from Ardent Books.  It’ll be available via Amazon for .99 and features my Burn Notice inspired characters Derrick and Sonja.

I’ll be doing a huge promotion for this, starting with a blog tour and mentioning the book, plus the inexpensive price, for the entire week once I have the finals for copy and tagline.  There will be a handful of e-book ARCs going out for review, too.

This story was a lot of fun to write because it meant I could watch my favorite characters from Burn Notice and pick apart their motivations for doing what they do, acting why they did.  Often, a writer comes up with a chacater based loosely on something in reality, and then molds it to fit the story, or the story to work with the character.Michael Westenlarge

I’d been going into San Francisco one day, listening to Devildriver and wishing for something like Devildriver, but with clean, female vocals.  I think after watching Burn Notice that night with my ex, did I come up with the concept of a shapeshifter that retired, rather than was burned, but still hired to do a protection gig.  I paired him with a death metal lead singer who had power to manipulate her audiences through the use of her voice.

I’ll be posting the cover this week,so stay tuned!

This is the current rough draft of the tagline and blurb:

Former spy Derrick falls for the sexy spitfire he’s bound to protect, even as terrorists scheme to take her from him – and destroy his way of life.

Description:

Tempting secrets of an angel
Seductive mysteries of the beast

Derrick, a former spy, has been asked to protect the sultry Sonja, a death metal singer whose magical voice grabs him by the balls and won’t let go. He’ll protect her, all right…with every part of his body tight against hers.

Sonja uses her voice to purge her fans of their darkness, their hate and hopelessness. But evil forces want to use her magic for their own ends. All she wants, at this point, is safety for herself and her band.

cigar smokingWhen Derrick and Sonja team up, Sonja does her best to resist the lure of safety he represents, until a radical league that wants her dead propels her into his arms. Will his help be enough? Or will she lose her heart to him, only to be killed in the process of saving the world?

Perhaps for my Patreon supporters, I can throw up something that the public hasn’t seen yet, but I won’t know what’s what until after release day 😉

Let’s talk Bad Boys

I was told recently that the novel coming out from Ardent Books has a bad boy in it.  I didn’t think this was the case at first, but a second glance with some important questions made me rethink my stance.

Capt MalDerrick, from Slow Burn, coming soon from Ardent Books, is a bad boy, though not entirely in the traditional sense of the word.  He’s not really a rebel without a cause, he knows his purpose.  Espionage was not the way he’d get his point across to do his part for shape shifters and humankind.  In fact, that caused nightmares when he closed his eyes.

Nor was he the type of person to be prince charming.  True, he lives by his own rules, but those rules mimic human society close, until the animal part of him kicks in.  The puma, a mountain lion, has his own set of guidelines that are simple, animalistic and break down to only three simple rules:

Mate.
Feed.
Kill, repeat

wine and a cigarThat’s it.  Between the man and the beast, Derrick doesn’t take any shit.  While indulging in human activities like sex, booze and smoking the finest cigars, he also goes against the grain in those worlds, being a death metal fan. In short, he’s a man who charts his own path.

That’s exactly what attracted Sonja to him when she saw him at one of her shows.  The devil may care attitude didn’t come across callously like some males show, but his extreme self confidence, which was as far from ego as could be, was something that aroused her.

When she finally meets him in person, she’s relieved to find him ever the gentleman, even as he hints at perversion they’d both like to explore.  In the end, what type of bad boy will he be?

What do you like about the bad boy image, past or present?

Slow Burn coming soon from Ardent Books:  Former spy Derrick falls for the magical woman he was hired to protect from terrorists who want her gifts to destroy his paranormal community.

Smooth Cigars for Beginners

I’d recently been invited to give lessons on cigar smoking and talk about the basics, including taste, construction, care for and ultimately, enjoyment of, cigars.  We’re talking mostly to new smokers and the question usually comes up about the harshness of Cuban cigars.

I usually explain the flaws with Cubans, starting off with improper fermentation, lack of care for the soil, and too rapid production, and finish with how other countries produce cigars of similar or better quality than Cuba lately.

A favorite of mine back in the day was the Arturo Fuente 8-5-8 arturo-fuente-858-maduro-corona-gordaMaduro.  This 6X47 cigar delivers a smooth taste with light notes of cocoa and tobacco throughout the entire cigar.   Famous-smoke delivers A. Fuente Smokes Online

One of the staples in many cigar smokers opinions of quality, smoothness, and taste is the Oliva Cigar Company.  Yeah, they’ve had a huge hit lately with the Melanio and Melanio Maduro but for folks unfamiliar with Oliva, the standard is the Oliva Serie V.  A little more robust than OlivaGthe cigar I’m about to suggest, a good standby in any humidor.  The Serie G however features an Afraican Cameroon wrapper to add not only notes of cedar but a little kick in the flavor profile.   Pick this up in the robusto size for a short, flavorful smoke.  Also, the box press allows for more tobacco to be packed in for an even bigger flavor kick.  Get your hands on Oliva Cigars among other Premium Stogies Online

A newcomer to my rotation early on was something that required a few more dollars but was justified by intense flavors o f dry cocoa Patel90powder and a hint of spice as the cigar finishes.  The Rocky Patel Vintage 1990, particularly in the robusto size is a solid addition to the Patel line.  Definitely a favorite among those loyal to Patel.  Looking for Rocky Patel, Check out Famous Online

We’d covered these three cigars with the additional discussion of some of the larger boutique brands and while I’ve hyped some of my favorite here, there are plenty of other cigars the new cigar smoker could get into.  What are some of your favorites?

Former spy Derrick falls for the magical woman he’s hired to protect; terrorists want her gifts to destroy his own paranormal community; he’s not about to let that happen.  Slow Burn, coming soon from Ardent Books

Slow Burn – a novel about a former spy and a metal maven, coming soon from Ardent Books!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog.  Life sort of got in the way, and I’ve been working on projects in the cigar arena to help promote ACC Cigars, and attempt to have a life.whiskey

Well, the life bit didn’t really happen.  Mostly, I handled editing duties and began building a line at Ardent Books, while my editor took a crack at what was originally called Burning for Derrick.

We decided on a title change.  For one, Slow Burn conjures up images more associated to my existing brand in alcohol and tobacco.  Plus, it pushes forward the ideals we have in romance, about a steamy, sexy affair between two lovers, who end up together despite all the odds.

Derrick, a former spy who left the game to regain peace in his life, and Sonja, the empathic lead singer of an up and coming death metal band, are thrust together in a fast paced, action adventure romance.  We are nailing down the details, but chances are, if you’re here, you’re really more focused on the cigar aspect.

gerard_butler_05That’s right, there is a cigar aspect to this story.  Both my hero and my hero’s brother are ardent cigar smokers.  I’ve named the sticks they tend to fancy in the book, and when it comes out, there might be trivia relating to this for a copy of the e-book.  Who knows.

Rest assured, I’ve smoked plenty of fine cigars over the course of what…it’s been six months since my last update?  There was the viaje stuffed turkey, ACC S. E. 12 year, Propio Leon, think I even had something new from La Sirena.  Oh, right.  The Oceano.  It’s a solid maduro, if your’e curious.

Fans of bad boys will love Derrick’s easy going manner, but those who remember what men were like before the censors stepped in and tried to tell us how to live will definitely appreciate the cigar aspect of this novel.

What long ago past time are you longing for?

Look out for Slow Burn, coming soon from Ardent Books!  Former spy Derrick falls for the magical woman he was hired to protect from terrorists who want her gifts to destroy his paranormal community. 

September Bourbon Review – Eagle Rare 10 Year

A little back story on this bourbon was that I had seen the larger version of the bottle in Cask in San Francisco and was curious about how good it could be.  Just getting into bourbon at the time, I asked the clerks and they gave me feedback which resulted in a purchase.

From the website:  Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is masterfully crafted and carefully aged for no less than ten years. The rareness of this great breed of bourbon is evident in its complex aroma, as well as the smooth and lingering taste. Eagle Rare is a bourbon that lives up to its name with its lofty, distinctive taste experience.

Check out my review and see what you think!  By the way, this would have been a great place for Jozsi and Lukina to get their stHisReign_MEDart drinking bourbon when they made their way to America.  When I started this series, I was initially a scotch drinker but as the price  of good single malt increased, I had to find an alternative and the sweetness of bourbon paired beautifully with the cigars I was smoking at the time.  Hell, it still does.

“Can the Opeth Pack create their own destiny or is their fate set in stone?”  Purchase on Amazon

Ritual Magic

I thought I’d explore another hook for this post because I’m learning
more about Wicca and Witchcraft along with the paranormal, and I’d pumaalready declared this blog open to whiskey, witches, cigars and the more primal element of animalistic urges some of us share.

I’ve also opined on Facebook that the thing linking all of my facebook friends together is ritual. Whiskey has a ritual, cigars are a ritual in themselves as are pipes, music has a rhythm that inspires ritual and those who don’t mind the magic in my life, understand it too, is a ritual.

Ritual to me has always been a point of focus.  The world itself spins out of control so much with everyday activity that trying to put ones mind in the right frame for what some call wishcraft becomes difficult. Burning Candle Learning the very basics of magic I was taught to stare at the flame of a lit candle and focus my attention on that and only that for a few minutes at a time.  Gradually, that time increased from five minutes to fifteen and I found my mind and the energy around me a little clearer.  Simple trick, but powerful, none the less.

I have a ritual when I write that allows me to focus.  I have a ritual as to how I drink whiskey and even how I light my cigars.  It all ties in to focusing my energy for that particular experience.

I mention the candle trick but there are others.  Some folks use visualization to change their realities, creating grandiose vision boards to put their mind’s energy in tune with their desires.   Using magazines, poster board or sites like Pinterest where you can journal creativity online.  I like that option better but many folks prefer the tactile with magazines and poster boards.  With focus, energies can be shifted to move help the greater parts of the universe help us to help ourselves.

When I wrote Sonja in Burning For Derrick as a witch who sings in a death metal band, I gave her the ability whiskeyto manipulate her audience through the power of her voice.

I established a light scene before her band opens up whereby a bottle of wine shatters on stage, in the darkness, then reassembles itself before disappearing.  The trick helps Sonja focus her energies on the excitement of the crowd and be a better performer.  Do you have a favorite ritual you do often?

Look out for Burning for Derrick, coming soon from Ardent Books!

Can you smoke high quality cigars on a budget?

With all the talk of economics and jobs, cigar smokers simply want to find gems on a budget.  After all, our passions shouldn’t suffer just because of bad times, should they? I’ve always stood by the premise of a good smoke is a great experience, no matter the cost, but my tastes as evidenced by this blog have showcased a personal demand for higher priced cigars. 

Quality doesn’t always justify the higher cost, but so far my experiences have been positive.  That being said, I’ve never found problems smoking inexpensive hand rolled premium cigars, because the overall experience has been wonderful.

With the average cost of a cigar in your traditional Brick and Mortar being between $7-$10, we and the difference in online vs  BM prices, we figured we’d aim a little lower for the budget conscious, because I refuse to sacrifice flavor for price.  In short, I won’t smoke tasteless, inexpensive cigars just because I’m on a budget.

A few of the cigars on this list bring the flavor, along with great construction while not being average blends from the multitude of companies out there who make cigars. In short, according to my taste, they’re all winners.PInar Del Rio 1878 Reserva Capa Oscuro

First up, Pinar Del Rio – 1878 Reserva Dominica Capa Oscuro.  A solid cigar with excellent construction and two types of corjoo filler  to provide a spicy experience followed by nutty notes.  Leather on the palate followed by creamy, medium finish

large_brickhouse-toro-single-prod-shotNext  up, BrickHouse – I’m a fan of the toro here, but also the Mighty Mighty Maduro.  Neither cigar is extremely complex, but they’re solid flavors.  Leather and cedar on the Toro with a medium to full finish while the Mighty Mighty boasts coffee and cocoa flavors.  This is actually an old blend from JC Newman Cigars, makers of Diamond Crown.

If you want a real treat, you can look hard enough online and find a vendor who sells Alec Bradley Seconds in either the Tempus or the award winning Prensado blends.  I’ve smoked way too many of both and they’re just as good as the firsts, same draw, same excellent construction, but you’re paying around $2.50 a bundle with no fancy box or band, rather than $9 or more online or in the BM.

Bahia Icon – was a solid blend I had a box of recently.  Full flavor, Bahia Iconplenty of leather and peppery spice with a medium to full finish, the Gran Robusto will give you a good, solid hour of cigar break downtime without disappointing on flavor or putting a major dent in your budget.

Oh, it just dawned on me because I’ve smoked both of these cigars out of samplers and enjoyed them. Alec Bradley American Classic and American Classic Sungrown.  Both cigars come in at under $5 a cigar. The original American Classic features mellow leather and spice notes while the Sungrown is a good expression of sungrown wrappers.

Nothing in this list is overly complicated, but will deliver an experience cigar smokers enjoy.  Downtime, a great conversation starter, or something to pair with your favorite libation while you relax in a passion shared by many others.  What’s on your budget friendly list?

The characters in my upcoming paranormal romance Burning for Derrick are also avid cigar aficionados, often filling their humidors with expensive stick and inexpensive gems alike.   Look for Burning for Derrick coming from Ardent Books soon!