In December 2018, I was lucky to be a guest on the ‘South Branch Scribbler’, author Allan Hudson’s blog. Back then, I introduced ‘Soul Taker’, the first book in ‘The Council of Twelve’ series. Today Allan Hudson allows me to talk about the series, books two and three, Sundance and Demon Tracker, and of course, book four, Bounty Hunter. Thank you very much, Allan!
Aurora visited us last in December of 2018 when she published the first book in The Council of Twelve series – Soul Taker. We chatted about the book, the series, childhood memory, and her exceptional website/blog – The Writer’s Treasure Chest, and she shared an excerpt from Soul Taker. If you missed it, please go HERE.
A lot has happened since then, and we are beyond happy to have Aurora back. She is kind enough to answer a few more questions and share an excerpt from Bounty Hunter.
Aurora Jean Alexander grew up in a family involved in politics and was blessed with an excellent education in several countries. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in BA. Currently, she lives in Southern California, all by herself, with three cats. A. J. Alexander is the author of ‘The Council of Twelve’ series, with three published books. The fourth book will be published soon.
4Q: Let’s start off with your newest book, Aurora. Demon Tracker has a fantastic cover. It’s generating a lot of excitement. What can a reader expect when they pick up your novel?
AJ: Demon Tracker is the third book in ‘The Council of Twelve’ series and introduces Zepheira to the reader. Zepheira is the best Demon Tracker working for the good side. She is hired by ‘The Big 7’ to find a lost demon and angel and find them quickly before the angel will be lost forever. During her assignment, she meets Archangel Uriel, the ‘Fire-Angel,’ and gets involved in the eternal fight Good versus Evil.
The word ‘Halloween’ was first popularized in a poem.
So where does the name itself come from? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it’s actually two words smushed together. “Hallow” — or holy person — refers to the saints celebrated on All Saints’ Day, which is November 1. The “een” part of the word is a contraction of “eve” — or evening before.
The day’s morbid traditions go back to ancient times
According to Celtic mythology, the veil between the Otherworld and our world thins during Samhain, making it easier for spirits and the souls of the dead to return.
People would make offerings of food in order to get on the good side of these spirits and departed ancestors, according to the Mirror.
Allhallowtide, which includes All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and the subsequent All Souls’ Day, was initially celebrated in the spring, during the early years of the Church.
Pope Gregory IV switched it to the current date in 837, according to Britannica. His reasons were unclear, although influence from Celtic factions of the church and the fact that it makes sense to commemorate death during the fall are possibilities.
Bobbing for apples used to be more than just a splashy party game.
Halloween has come to be most closely associated with the pumpkin, but apples have played an important role in its history.
After all, apples make numerous appearances in Celtic mythology and are often connected to the Otherworld.
Bobbing for apples remains a popular party game.
The reason? Well, the practice used to be considered a form of divination performed around Halloween, according to NPR. That’s right — people would dunk their heads in a vat of water and try to bite into floating fruit in a quest to figure out their future spouse.
Ladies would mark an apple and toss it into the tub. The thinking was they’d be destined to whoever pulled it out of the water.
Jack-o’-lanterns symbolize a fateful deal with the Devil.
If you ever meet the Devil on a darkened road, don’t try to trick him into climbing a tree.
Otherwise, you might end up like Irish folk figure Jack O’Lantern.
Modern day, intricately designed pumpkin creations certainly make for impressive decorations. But back in the day, folks in Ireland dubbed their carved, fiery turnips “jack-o’-lanterns” thanks in part to an ominous legend.
One night, a conniving local drunkard named Jack trapped the Prince of Darkness in a tree by hacking a sign of the cross into the bark. In exchange for letting Satan climb down, Jack had him vow to never claim his soul.
Jack proceeded to act like a jerk his whole life. When he died, he sure as heck was not allowed in heaven. So he tried to return to his old pal, the Devil. But Satan upheld his end of the deal, hurling a piece of coal from hell at the dead man for good measure.
Left without anywhere to go, Jack placed the blazing coal in a turnip to use as a lantern. The dead man then set out, doomed to wander until he can find an eternal resting place.
Trick-or-treating has ancient precedent — but the candy part didn’t come about until much later.
In medieval England, “soulers” would go around begging rich folk for “soul cakes” on Halloween. Instead of threatening to play tricks, however, they’d pray for peoples’ souls in return for the cake, according to “The Compleat Teacher’s Almanack.”
Throughout medieval Europe, mummering — dressing in disguises and visiting neighborhoods while dancing, playing music, and doing tricks — was popular on major feast days.
TIME reported Irish and Scottish immigrants brought “souling” to the States in the 1800s. But modern day trick-or-treating didn’t catch on in the US until the 1920s.
The “Bloody Mary” ritual has unclear origins (and various practices).
Late folklorist and UC Berkeley professor Alan Dundes wrote an article titled “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety” about the various origins and practices of the “Bloody Mary” ritual, also known as “Mary Worth” and “Mary Whales.”
Many versions of the ritual include the elements of a girl peering into a mirror (often in a bathroom), darkness, blood, chanting, and the appearance of the cursed “Mary.”
Black cats have been associated with the supernatural for hundreds of years.
“In the Middle Ages, black cats were often portrayed as the famliars of witches, which is likely to be the origin of the distrust with which they are regarded in America, where early Puritan settlers rejected anything associated with the Devil and witch,” Chloe Rhodes wrote in “Black Cats and Evil Eyes: A Book on Old-fashioned Superstition.”
According to History.com, it was also believed in the Middle Ages that witches transformed into black cats to conceal themselves.
After this interesting and fascinating information about ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ I wish you and your loved ones:
Hi AJ. It’s nice of you to invite me. I love your little office. And the kitties, of course. *laughs*
Now, Zye. You met your husband, a while ago. We all read how you two fell in love and got married. How is married life?
Well, it’s more or less what Katie told me it would be. Of course, I’m still a Demon Tracker, working for the ‘Council Of Twelve’. I love what I do and I’m very proud they haven’t ‘reduced’ me to be a ‘housewife’ at this point. But additionally my regular work I had to take over quite a part of my work as a consort. And these tasks are specific.
Can you tell us what is expected of an Archangel consort?
Consorts aren’t just glorified Archangel groupies. We ladies are a part of our husbands. We are their connection to their troops, to their commanders, and their subordinates. We are expected to take care of them, look out for their wellbeing, function as their point of contact if there is a problem. And we aren’t talking about a military strategic flaw, we are talking about personal problems. Often we function as psychologists, we help, advice, comfort and they know they can count on us. Of course, there has been the one or other case when a subordinate has tried to befriend us, hoping he’s getting chances to be promoted. But that’s not what we are there for. Often we organize our husband’s meetings, training, calendars, management, guards, and many more things…
We can read about you and your husband’s romance in the ‘Demon Tracker’ book. Will you tell us just a little about it?
Of course. My hubby’s Big Seven have demanded my services as a Demon Tracker after one of them has been killed and disappeared. They needed to save her soul, otherwise, it would be lost to the evil side. I helped them to find her, and during that process, I met Archangel Uriel. He is an enormously strong Archangel, one of the oldest Archangels in existence. The case was quite difficult to solve and during my research, another problem came up. I took a great risk to finish my assessment and solve that problem…
Do you recommend reading the book?
*laughs* I definitely do. It’s an interesting adventure and also, Uriel and I meeting is quite romantic, actually. Read the book. And keep in mind – there’s more to come!
Nicol Natale on the Business Insider wrote an article about the physical and psychological changes in our body when we’re in love. I found this very interesting and decided to share the article with you, of course, linking it back to the original page. Maybe you find the one or other information as fascinating as I did.
Love leads to biological changes that have been observed in scientific research.
Being in love can reduce stress, relieve pain, and make you happier.
Here are seven ways your body and brain change when you fall in love.
Have you ever looked at your partner lovingly and felt your heart flutter, palms sweat, or mood instantly get better?
That’s because falling in love actually changes what happens in your body — for the better. When in love, neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin flood our brains in areas associated with pleasure and rewards, producing physical and psychological responses like less perceived pain, an addictive dependence, and a stronger desire for sex with your partner.
Cuddling, hugging, and kissing the one you love can instantly reduce stress and increase feelings of calm, trust, and security thanks to oxytocin, while your mood improves as a result of your reward center flooding with dopamine.
Here are seven ways your body and brain change when you fall in love.
Being in love can lower your blood pressure.
Elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, is a dangerous condition that puts your body at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. Medication and lifestyle changes like getting exercise and eating healthier can control or reduce hypertension, but research has also suggested that being in love can serve as a a natural way to reduce blood-pressure levels.
In an analysis of cardiovascular disease risk, the American College of Cardiology looked at 3.5 million participants who were single, divorced, or widowed. They found that married couples under 50 years old tended to have a 12% lower risk of vascular disease. Married people between the ages of 51 and 60 had a 7% lower risk for disease than their unmarried counterparts.
You may feel more or less stressed than usual, depending on the stage of your relationship.
Falling for someone may be stressful in the beginning — there’s uncertainty about whether they feel the same way, the possibility of rejection, and anxiety about when to say those three big words.
The initial stages of falling in love increase levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, in new couples, according to a small study published in 2004. However, when the participants were tested 12 to 24 months later, their cortisol levels had returned to normal.
Though love can be stressful for some — especially in the early stages — it can potentially lower stress in the long run. A study published in 2005 in Neuroendocrinology Letters examined the neurobiology of those in love and found an association between people’s stress response systems, known as the HPA axis activation, and the development of social attachment. The results suggest that forming a bond with your partner could help bring about physiological changes that reduce levels of anxiety.
You feel more attached and safe.
One reason why you feel less stressed may be because being in love makes you feel safe and develop trust towards your loved one.
Oxytocin, a hormone released through physical contact like hugging, kissing, and sex, deepens feelings of attachment towards your partner and produces sensations of contentment, calmness, and security, according to a Harvard Medical School report.
Have you ever felt your heartbeat speed up, palms sweat, or stomach churn (in a good way) at the sight or thought of someone you love?
When in love, cortisol levels increase and the body goes into fight-or-flight mode.
“Your limbic or emotional brain activates the vagus nerve that goes from the brain to your gut,” Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist and neuroscientist, told NBC News. “When you get nervous, or when you get excited (as I explain to my patients, it’s the same feeling, but it depends on your interpretation of it) this nerve is stimulated that activates the gut.”
You become happier.
Being in love releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure center, which makes couples feel happy around each other.
In 2005, a study published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology scanned 2,500 brain images of 17 individuals who self-identified as being in love. Researchers found that participants who looked at a photo of a person they romantically loved showed brain activity in two areas highly associated with dopamine: the caudate nucleus and ventral tegmental area.
You feel less pain.
Being in love has been shown to have pain-reducing qualities, although most doctors wouldn’t recommend relying solely on love after, say, a serious surgery or injury.
A 2010 study published in the journal PLoS ONE took fMRI scans of participants in new romantic relationships. The researchers found that people who viewed images of romantic partners had increased activity in several reward-processing regions in the brain, suggesting that love (and distraction) may reduce the experience of pain.
“When people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain,” Dr. Sean Mackey, senior author of the study, told Stanford Medicine News Center.
You can feel addicted.
Like addictive drugs that light up our pleasure centers and keep people coming back for more, love can be addictive in its own way.
Scientists have observed overlapping neurochemical responses in the same areas of the brain among people experiencing drug addiction and love. A 2017 study published in the journal Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology reviewed research about the relationship between addiction and love. The authors suggested that love can be addictive because it’s a need that can be temporarily satisfied but can become very distracting if it’s not fulfilled for a long period of time. (Official medical classification guides do not include love as an addiction, however.)
Some of these feelings may have to do with sex — sexual activity, orgasms, and some drugs all release dopamine in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. An orgasm’s rush of oxytocin and serotonin, along with muscular relaxation, can leave you craving more. That’s why it might feel like engaging in sexual activity can give you a rush.
As I mentioned on my Saturday post, N.N. Light is hosting a Binge-Worthy Book Festival through the month of August. Every weekday will have a new set of authors. Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Herois on for today alongside others of various genres. It’s a great selection, so I recommend checking it every day. There are contests you can enter as well.
Some writers are plotters. Others are pantsers. There’s no right way to do it. There are pros and cons to plotting, and it’s up to you to decide what works best. Personally, I’m a plotter. Typically, my plotting consists of a basic outline and little else. It worked for two novels. But on my third, I was struggling. I spent ages trying to figure out why my story wouldn’t work before it hit me. I’d not sussed out the timeline, not properly. And once I had, it changed everything. As such, I’m sharing 5 ways that a timeline helps you write your novel.
Figuring out backstory
Not all backstory needs to be written. I would even go as far as to say most backstory doesn’t need to be written. But as a writer, it’s helpful to know where things started for your characters. It’s important to know what happened before the events of the first chapter. This way, you know what to include and what to omit. It also enables you to add depth to your characters, as undoubtedly their past has shaped them.
Avoiding plot holes
A number of things can cause plot holes, and time is definitely one of them. If your characters and their story are to be believable, then time must move in the way it should. Even if your fictional world has it’s own concept of time, you should adhere to the rules you set for it. Savvy readers are likely to pick up on things that don’t flow naturally.
This week Nicholas Rossis was busy blogging… I couldn’t decide which tones to re-blog – and decided to just publish his entire collection. He has fascinating and informative posts and this way you can decide for yourself which ones are interesting to you. Thanks a lot, Nicholas!
As anyone who’s been following my blog for a while surely knows, I love puns and bad dad jokes (often the same thing). And I often use them in my work, especially in my children’s books. Which becomes rather problematic when translating them into Greek. How can someone translate puns decently?
Rick van Mechelen, aka “that translation student“, recently shared an interesting post on this very subject. He cites Dirk Delabastita 1996 work* to divide puns into four categories of ambiguity. These are homonymy, homophony, homography, and paronymy, each of which is better suited to different forms of communication:
A pun where a word with multiple meanings is used to give multiple meanings at once.
A hard-boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
A pun using two words that sound identical, but have different spellings.
First, a caveat: the Middle Ages lasted a thousand years in places as different as Iceland and the Holy Land. So, things differed from place to place and from time to time. After all, did your grandmother get married in a similar way to you?
No matter where and when, though, a general fact about marriage in the Middle Ages is that it was usually an economic affair.
This is not to say that the parties to a medieval marriage inherently lacked affection, passion, or sexual attraction. However, economic considerations played an important role in marriage negotiations and contracts…
This is a guest post by Daniela McVicker. Daniela is a contributor to Essayguard. She has a master’s degree in English Literature and is truly passionate about learning foreign languages and teaching. Daniela works with the students to help them reveal their writing talent and find their one true calling.
7 Tips to Write a Killer Book Presentation
Sometimes, a book you have written draws enough attention that you are asked to speak about it to an audience. You may be asked to present as a subject expert, talk about your material at a conference or convention, present at a book fair, or give a quick presentation as part of a book signing.
As they say, more people are afraid of public speaking than of death. Which means that most people would prefer being in a casket than giving the obituary.
My Ph.D. thesis, Design in the Digital Age: In Search of a Collaborative Paradigm, was all about finding novel ways to help designers interact with their clients. I had envisioned a tablet-based Virtual Reality environment with Augmented Reality elements for the client, thus allowing them to better understand what the architect or designer was trying to achieve. As for the architect or designer, Artificial-Intelligence software would significantly speed up the design process.
My thesis was published in 2000. Unfortunately, my vision has yet to be brought together by a software company, even though most of the elements I was describing are now widely available.
However, that doesn’t mean that technology hasn’t changed in other ways. As an article in IndiaCADworks explains, in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries, new technologies are advancing with each passing day that makes the process of construction smarter, more streamlined, and indeed futuristic.
Thank you very much for informing us about the Why’s and How’s of starting our blog. I hope, we can read part 2 soon. This is a great post! Thanks, Kat!
on A Chat with Kat:
“I wish I had my own platform where I could share my views or knowledge. Maybe even build up a positive reputation in my community and an engaged audience.”
If you’ve ever thought something along those lines, you’re just like me. For many months, I read great blogs like Mr Money Mustache and listened to amazing podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Show, wishing I myself had a platform like that. But was I interesting enough? Experienced enough? Funny enough?
Welcome to my mini series on starting your own blog! In the next two weeks, we will explore why starting your own online platform is a recipe for success, no matter who you are, and the practical steps of how to start your own blog.
Charles Yallowitz, over at ‘Legends of Windemere’ published a blog post about cliffhangers in a series. Thank you very much for your great post, Charles.
This came up in conversation and I thought about while coming to the end of War of Nytefall: Eradication. When writing a series, you tend to have 3 types of books.
The opener, which introduces at least some characters, begins world building, and may hint at the main plot.
The finale, which closes up all or most of the plot lines.
Everything in the middle, which I tend to call ‘Bridge Books’. They have their own internal adventure while carrying what was established in the previous books into the next one. You don’t always bring all of the subplots and characters through a bridge book, but you do enough that the main plot can continue.