#Bookreviews – Ghostly Interference and Brazos Wind by Jan Sikes

Ghostly Interference

Ghostly Interference (The White Rune Series) Kindle Edition

What Amazon says

Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

My review

Ghostly Interference is an unusual romance between a middle class young man who has a good career in the IT industry, and a young girl who has had an unfortunate childhood and is now on her own with no family. Why I say it is unusual is that the young man, Jag, is not particularly happy in his chosen job, but is trapped by its perceived safety factor.

Jag has other talents and desires which he has swept under the carpet in his determination to play it safe and have a reliable income. It takes an unexpected encounter with Rena, a woman with a wild and free spirit, to help him along the path towards happiness and fulfilment. This is quite different from the traditional Cinderella style of romance where the poor, unhappy woman is saved by the rich and handsome prince.

There is a supernatural element in this romance but it is not scary or alarming. Rather, it is comforting in it’s message that our love never ends completely and our loved ones remain spiritually on the prereferral of our lives, watching over us.

I really enjoyed Jag as a character. He was cautious, reliable, but stuck in a rut. It was fun to watch him unwind and start to live life and discover passion, enthusiasm, and freedom. An unfortunate incident with his female boss, who is very obviously attracted to him, proves to be an enabler that allows him to break free from the trap of his well-paid job. This part made me wonder how many people remain in well paid jobs all their lives because they are scared to take a chance and try something different.

Rena is a interesting character. She has experienced the worst life has to offer, right down to losing her only brother who is the rock in her life. The author did a terrific job of making the reader really care about Rena and feel great sadness that she had experienced so much hardship and suffering as a child. Her journey to trusting Jag and gradually allowing herself to experience love and faith is very touching.

This book also touches in a natural way on some serious topics such as child abuse and discrimination. These sub-themes are not preachy or obvious, but are presented subtly in a way that gives the reader food for thought.

Purchase Ghostly Interference

Amazon US

Brazos Wind

Brazos Wind Kindle Edition

What Amazon says

War-torn drifter, Jack McClean is left with nothing but bad memories, scars, and a restless soul. When he stumbles upon a burning homestead, and an unconscious woman, beside the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, he stops to render aid. Grieving widow, Savannah Logan, sees no reason to live, and only wants to join her husband and children in their graves. But, Jack refuses to let her die. In saving her, he might somehow find redemption for himself and hope for a new tomorrow. Is it possible that both Jack and Savannah can find a new destiny in the changeable flow of the Brazos wind?

My review

Jack McClean is burned out with his life of drifting, moving, and fighting, but he hasn’t found any where to settle or anyone to create a home with. He is riding near the Brazos River when he sees smoke and, on investigation, discovers a burned down homestead. The only survivor, a woman called Savannah, is in a terrible state and he is compelled to help her.

As Savannah starts to recover and heal, she shares the sad story of the deaths of her husband and children. Although the fire was an accident, she had lost the will to live by the time it occurred.

This is a story of redemption as both Jack and Savannah rediscover reasons for living. There are hints at a potential romance although the book ends before this aspect develops.

This is a quick and pleasant read that will leave you feeling good.

Purchase Brazos Wind

Amazon US

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge 2021.’ New Image Prompt Week #32. Come and Join in the fun! #IARTG #FlashFiction #WritingCommunity #WritingPrompts @pursoot

This week’s writing prompt is a lamp which lent itself to my sharing this short extract from my new supernatural short story entitled Hide-and-Seek.

pexels-emre-kuzu-4820763(2)

Hidden behind the heavy, velvet curtains covering the window on the upstairs landing, the listener gazed at the fabric with flat, empty eyes. Moments later, she gave a shudder and thought, she’ll come upstairs. She’ll go to the secret room in the attic; it’s a great hiding place.  

The stairs creaked.

Behind her screen, the listener’s thick lips twisted into a pleased smile, as the graceful bride stepped onto the landing, looked around briefly, and slipped soundlessly in the direction of the smaller staircase leading to the attic. 

Moving stealthily, despite her bulk, the listener followed Anne up the stairs, and disappeared into the deep shadows just inside the attic door.  

Unaware of the listener’s scrutiny, Anne moved towards a large chest on the other side of the attic. Reaching out, she pushed on the paneling.  

Click

A piece of the wall slid back, exposing a doorway.  

Anne stepped through into darkness.  

Click

The hole slid closed. 

The listener approached the concealed door and stood outside it, her eyes blank. Thoughts, like dark moths, flew randomly around her mind. The casket, I’m sure she’ll hide in the casket.  

Like a bright lamp, this idea attracted the moths until, a little at a time, a plan formed…  

You can join in the challenge here: https://sooozburkeauthor.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/fiction-in-a-flash-challenge-2021-new-image-prompt-week-32-come-and-join-in-the-fun-iartg-flashfiction-writingcommunity-writingprompts-pursoot/

#ThursdayDoors – Fugitive’s Drift Lodge – The lodge and library

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

Last week, I told you about our short visit to Fugitive’s Drift Lodge in Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. You can read this post, which provides a background to this lodge and the historical battlefields and area it serves, here: https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/thursdaydoors-fugitives-drift-lodge-part-1-the-guest-house/.

This week, I am sharing some pictures of the library and the lodge. Next week, I am going to share pictures about the battlefields and museums of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. In preparation for these posts, today I am going to provide a short overview of the reasons for the Anglo-Zulu War and a brief overview of the timeline of the events.

The Anglo-Zulu war saw 15 000 British troops invade the independent nation of Zululand in 1879. Highlight battles were Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, and the final battle at Ulundi [the capital city of Zululand].

In 1877, Sir Henry Frere, a British colonial administrator, was sent to Cape Town with the task of uniting South Africa under a single British confederation. Frere soon realised that he could not accomplish this goal until the powerful Zulu kingdom on the borders of Natal and the Transvaal had been defeated.

In December 1878, an ultimatum was sent to the Zulu King Cetshwayo, telling him to disband his army or the British would do it for him. A British army under Lord Chelmsford prepared for invasion when the ultimatum expired.

This ultimatum expired on 11 January 1879 and on that date Chelmsford’s central column headed towards the camp of a Zulu chief called Sihayo. This camp was destroyed by the British on 12 January 1879.

On 22 January 1879, the right column of the British force engaged 6,000 Zulu troops near the Inyzane River. On this same day, a Zulu force of 25,000 men attacked the central column who were camping at Isandlwana and annihilated it.

On the evening of that same day, 4,000 Zulu soldiers attacked the British outpost at Rorke’s Drift which was defended successfully by 100 active soldiers and 39 men who were recovering from illnesses in the hospital.

The Anglo-Zulu war ended on 4 June 1879 when Lord Chelmsford’s army defeated the main Zulu force of 15,000 men at the Battle of Ulundi.

Door to one of the rooms at the lodge
Doors to the library balcony with me reflected in the glass
Door at the end of the library balcony
Inside the library with a view of the front door
Gate into a private residence made of bamboo

If you are interested in finding out more about Fugitive’s Drift Lodge you can do so here: https://www.fugitivesdrift.com/

If you would like to join in Thursday Doors posts, you can do so here: https://nofacilities.com/2021/01/14/first-journey-doors-thursday-doors/

#Bookreview: Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Talented author, Teagan Riordain Geneviene, has published the first journey in a new series entitled Dead of Winter.

Teagan is referring to the installments as Journeys, because the characters travel across the complex world she built, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. The journeys will publish approximately monthly.  Length will range from 30 to 60 pages, or so.

About Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Dead of Winter takes place in a fantasy world that resembles some countries in the past of our own world.  In this monthly series we travel through many lands, each with a distinct culture.  The series begins in the Flowing Lands at Forlorn Peak (Journey 1).

The Brethren are fanatics who gradually took over the Flowing Lands.  They say all beliefs but theirs are heresy.  Women are little more than property.  Emlyn is only twelve, but to the Brethren she is an abomination.  Why?  She can see ghosts and other entities.  That’s a secret she can admit only to her teacher, Osabide.

The stronger Emlyn’s ability gets, the harder it is for her to hide it.  Now she has also gotten a supernatural warning that she knows is not about the weather, “Winter is coming!

As the veil separating the world of the living from the realm of the dead deteriorates, the danger accelerates.  Journey with Emlyn as she explores her world and its many cultures in Dead of Winter.

My review

This is the first journey in an epic story which is being published as a series of novellas/journeys. In this first story, we meet the heroine, Emlyn Eriu, a young girl of 12-years old with a high intellect and the ability to see and feel spirits. Both of these qualities are risk factors for Emlyn who is growing up in a misogynistic world controlled by a zealous religious group called the Brethren of Un’Naf. The main aim of the Brethren is to suppress the population, especially women, and outlaw all the things that make life pleasant and joyful. The people live in a drab and colourless world where they are not allowed to dance or sing. The women are forbidden from revealing their hair, wearing pretty and colourful clothing, and obtaining an education. The Brethren will have Emlyn killed if they discover her abilities.

Emlyn’s mother is dead and her father sees her as plain and unattractive, but realises she is bright and can help him in his business. He persuades the elders of the church to allow Emlyn to have selected lessons with an older woman who lives outside of the village called Osabide. Osabide quickly sees Emlyn’s gift and potential and teaches and expands her lessons to cover a lot more than the agreed lesson plan comprising basic reading, writing, and account-keeping.

The story opens with Emlyn on her way to her lesson with Osabide. A large wolf appears to her and this event is followed by Emlyn receiving a message on the wind that “winter is coming.” Emlyn doesn’t know what this message means but she believes it to be important enough to pass on to her teacher.

The writing in this short novella is quite beautiful and a pleasure to read. Some of the lines which mesmerized me are as follows:

“Night purpled a solitary cloud that drifted across the fullness of the Blood Moon.”

“Her breath froze in the early morning chill as she turned, leaving a briefly shimmering trail on the breeze.”

“She sank deeper into the circle of dreaming. Fog rolled in. Her hair stirred in a breeze but the self she watched did not wake.”

Universal Purchase links

Teagan can’t be exact about the monthly publication dates, but if you follow her at her Amazon Author Page, they should send an email whenever the next Journey publishes.  By the way, Teagan and I both follow many authors there, and have never gotten any spam email as a result.

Amazon Author Page:  relinks.me/TeaganRiordainGeneviene

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08RBBVRGX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08R7RH4F5

What’s coming next – Journey 2: Penllyn

In Journey 2, Emlyn goes to a neighboring village, Penllyn.  Emlyn thinks it’s strange for her father to let her go with him — and we have to wonder why he did!

The effects of the Brethren’s influence become an even greater concern.  We also meet more members of the Society of Deae Matres, including their most mysterious adherent.  Emlyn’s exploration of the wide world is only just beginning.

About Teagan Riordain Geneviene

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene lives in a “high desert” town in the Southwest of the USA.

Teagan had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences from living in the southern states and the desert southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes cozy mysteries. Whether it’s a 1920s mystery, a steampunk adventure, or urban fantasy, her stories have a strong element of whimsy.

Founder of the Three Things method of storytelling, her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers. http://www.teagansbooks.com

Major influences include Agatha Christie, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?disable_polymer=true

Wings & Fire: A horror anthology with 23 stories from 15 authors (The Box Under The Bed Book 5)

Wings & Fire, the newest horror anthology in the Box Under The Bed series, compiled by Dan Alatorre, is currently available for pre-order and will be published on the 15th of January.

I am delighted to say that I have three short stories in this anthology and they are all different. One is a dystopian story about our not-to-distant world deeply in the throws of climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (my first sci-fi or cli-fi story), one is about a farm murder (horror story), and the last one is about the destruction of the pink and white terraces in New Zealand in 1886 (a historical paranormal story).

The Blurb

From the creators of the #1 bestselling horror anthology The Box Under The Bed and its #1 bestselling sequels Dark Visions, Nightmareland, and Spellbound comes Wings & Fire, a horror anthology with 24 stories from 16 authors.

Two high school girls discover an old book with strange that causes strange things to happen. As they learn more, they realize the book has unusual powers and may be a link to a mystical world and the people who “reside” there. But merely opening the book has its own repercussions, and someone you thought was a friend may suddenly not be. In a new world you don’t understand, can you ever be safe again?
Tremble along as this brilliant collection of stories reveals witches and wizards, fools and kings, lovers and demons – and a thrill ride that any horror fan will enjoy!
Compiled by USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror once again unites the minds and talents of more than a dozen amazing authors.

Wings & Fire will send you into the foggy twilight of the eerie and macabre, with heart stopping stories from:


USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre (The Gamma Sequence)
award-winning bestselling author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant)
award-winning bestselling author Roberta Eaton Cheadle (Through The Nethergate)
award-winning bestselling author Betty Valentine (A Twist Of Starlight)
award-winning bestselling author Alana Turner
award-winning bestselling author Christine Valentor
award-winning bestselling author Adele Marie Park
award-winning bestselling author Frank L Parker (Called to Account)
award-winning bestselling author MD Walker
award-winning bestselling author Heather Kindt
award-winning bestselling author Dabney Farmer
award-winning bestselling author M J Mallon (The Curse of Time 1: Bloodstone)
award-winning bestselling author Geoff LePard (The Harry Spittle Sagas)
award-winning bestselling author Ellen Best
and introducing
Jessica Bakkers (Guns Of Perdition) and
Susan Lamb

Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before spending the night alone, watching TV with family, or even going on a casual boat ride.

CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.

Pre-order link: Amazon US

Resolutions and goals

I was just over at blogging friend, Jacqui Murray’s lovely site, worddreams, reading her recommendations about how to keep your New Year’s resolutions. You can read it here: https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2021/01/09/5-tips-for-keeping-new-years-resolutions-2/. While you are over there, take a look at her selection of great books, including some incredibly well researched early man historical novels.

Her article interested me so much, I thought I had to add my two pennies to this discussion.

I don’t set any resolutions, but I do set goals. To my mind, these two concept are entirely different. You may beg to differ, my work colleagues tell me often that not everyone thinks like me, so I am open to discussion about this.

To me, a resolution would be a lifestyle change, something like exercising more or eating better, as Jacqui has suggested in her post. Goals are your planned achievements for the year.

Each year, I set goals and I work hard towards them. Sometimes my goals shift a little over the course of the year in order to accommodate unexpected twists in my life path, but the basic concepts stay the same. Due to the fact my goals seem to increase each year, I know I will not achieve resolutions to work less, relax more, or do more exercise. Just for the record, I do squeeze in 20 minutes of exercise a day, but that’s pretty much what it is during the working week. I also do 15 minutes of light stretching every day.

Writing goals

Last year, my writing goals were to publish one children’s book and to publish A Ghost and His Gold by September. I also wanted to participate in two anthologies.

My achievements last year were as follows:

I published Sir Chocolate and the Ice cream Rainbow Fairies story and cookbook in April 2020 so that goal was achieved.

A Ghost and His Gold took me much longer to finish than expected. The main reason for this delay was that the book ended up being much longer than I originally planned. It has come in at approximately 116 000 words as opposed to my intended 80 000 words. This meant a lot more research, re-writing, and editing.

Has it been worth it? Oh yes, I am very pleased with how this book has shaped up and I feel I’ve achieved my plan to investigate the psychology of the Great South African War. I sent my final changes back to my publisher, TSL Publications, before New Year and this book should be published within the next 6 weeks. Hooray!

Another reason for the delay in my finalising A Ghost and His Gold timeously was work related. At the end of March the world went into it’s first C-19 related lockdown and my world went crazy. I worked excessively hard for the five months from April to August 2020, including weekend and evening work. This obviously ate into my writing time.

This goal was not achieved within my original timeframe, but there are good reasons why it was not so it isn’t a failure, but rather an adaption.

With regards to anthologies, I have participated in two as planned with two short stories in Spirits of the West, compiled by Kaye Lynne Booth and two short stories in Spellbound, compiled by Dan Alatorre. I have also written three short stories which will be included in another horror anthology compiled by Dan Alatorre, Wings & Fire, which is currently available for pre-order. This goal was achieved.

You can find all of these anthologies on my new Roberta Eaton Cheadle Amazon author page here: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5. I must be honest that setting up this pen name author page has also been quite an achievement. Amazon didn’t make it particularly easy for me to do this.

Reading

I did manage to read 100 books last year but 60 of those were for Robbie’s Inspiration and 40 for Roberta Writes. Of the 40 books I read for Roberta Writes, however, 10 were classic books which take me longer to read, so I was happy with this achievement.

Community service

The community service goals were much harder to achieve this year due to the lockdown and C-19, but we attained the following hours:

Greg and Michael got 4.5 hours each for making chocolates and packaging them for a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. The money went to a previously disadvantaged orphanage. Gregory also helped me make up 50 party packs for the children at this same orphanage for their year end Christmas party. This earned him another 2 hours. I also donated 100 Sir Chocolate books for this Christmas party.

During December, the boys helped me make up 110 Christmas packages for the residents of a local old age home and earned 7.5 hours each for their assistance. These were distributed on Christmas day.

In total, Michael earned 12 hours of community service and Greg earned 14 hours. The boys did also both assist me with recording nine baking and children’s book reading videos for our YouTube channel during lockdown. These were aimed at helping to entertain children stuck at home for the lockdown period. You can find our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA

We are thinking about what we can do this year.

So far, Michael has contributed $10 towards sponsoring a turtle nest. If you are interested in contributing towards this worthy cause, you can read it on blogging friends, Micah and Markus’ lovely blog here: https://markusundmicah.com/2020/12/30/we-can-save-more-turtles-together/

Picture from Markus & Micah‘s blog

Do you set resolutions or goals? Do you achieve them? Let me know in the comments.

#ThursdayDoors – Fugitive’s Drift Lodge Part 1- The Guest House

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

My family spent the past few days at Fugitive’s Drift Lodge in KwaZulu-Natal. This lodge comprises a nature reserve near the Buffalo River, which prior to the Anglo Zulu War of 1879, constituted the border between the British controlled Natal colony and Zululand. At this time, Zululand was under the leadership of the Zulu King Cetshwayo kaMpande, who led the Zulu army to victory at the Battle of Isandlwana on the 22nd January 1879.

Aside from the obvious goal of spending time in an amazingly beautiful place and enjoying the wildlife, we also had a goal of touring the graves of Lieutenants Melville and Coghill, who lost their lives attempting to save the Queen’s Colour of their regiment after the Battle of Isandlwana, and the battlefields and museums of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift.

This post is the first in a series of four posts which will share the doors from the guest house we occupied during our stay at Fugitive’s Drift Lodge, a beautifully maintained traditional South African farm house, the Library and selected doors from the lodge itself, and pictures of doors relating to our tours of each of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift.

Today, I am sharing the pictures of the guest house and the grave sites of Lieutenants Melville and Coghill.

Traditional farm house styled accommodation with a corrugated iron roof and slate floor
The library in the farmhouse with an old writing table and bookcases
Picture of an impala taken through the doorway

If you are interested in finding out more about Fugitive’s Drift Lodge you can do so here: https://www.fugitivesdrift.com/

If you would like to learn more about Coghill and Mellville, you can do so here: https://www.fugitivesdrift.com/melvill-coghill-at-fugitives-drift/

If you would like to join in Thursday Doors posts, you can do so here: https://nofacilities.com/2021/01/07/charter-oak-pl-thursday-doors/

Open Book Blog Hop – 4th January 2021

‘How do you keep focused during long writing sessions?’

Focusing is not something I struggle with. In fact, when I am focusing, I am unlikely to hear anything going on around me as I block out all other noises and sounds. I have always done this and the teacher always had to come over and tell me it was time to stop reading at the end of each lesson [we were allowed to read until the end of the session, when all our work for that specific lesson was completed]. It used to drive my parents and siblings nuts and now it drives my husband and children crazy because I won’t hear them talking to me if I am writing, reading or blogging. My sons get quite upset about it, especially Michael, as he says I ignore him. I’ve tried to explain I just don’t hear him if I’m absorbed.

When I’m on work deadlines, I work 12-hour sessions, eating and drinking at my computer, in order to review and mark up changes to a document and all the related reports. These sessions are usually from 6am to 6pm and occur about 3 or 4 days a month during my busy periods. During the working week, I am usually logged in to my email and Skype from 6am to 8pm in case there are emergencies or ‘urgents’ that I need to deal with. I pick up emails and deal with them while I read or blog and sometimes when I write if I’m working through the weekend. I am trying to do this less often lately due to the high levels of work stress I experienced during the C-19 lockdown period which was bad for my health. I worked every weekend for 3 or 4 hours a day for 5 months.

I am quite fortunately in that I can split my focus to a certain extent if I want too. This enables me to listen to a meeting and do other ‘light’ tasks such as checking changes to documents at the same time. My son said this is impossible until I made by point by repeating the a work conversation word-for-word, having listened while I reviewed changes to a work document. I can’t write a story, read a book, or review complex spreadsheets or legal agreements while doing other things. These tasks do require my complete focus and attention. Being able to use all my time efficiently by frequently doing two things at once does help me do things much quicker and gives me more time for other things. I always read both my blogs and twitter accounts at the same time. I have two computers and alternate reading posts and tweets on the two machines. I am also fortunate in that I read very quickly and retain most of what I read.

Back to focusing on writing, I usually write in blocks of not more than 3 hours for the simple reason that this is all the writing time I have in a day. From Monday to Friday, I try to squeeze in 1 hour of writing; I often don’t manage it every day, especially during busy periods. I usually write for 3 hours on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that makes for between 9 and 13 hours of story writing a week. I am not supposed to work on a Friday as it is my off day, but I usually work until 1 pm. I spend additional time editing what I’ve written but that doesn’t require as much focus as the creative process. I often edit on a Saturday afternoon. I also spend extra time doing research and reading as it is easy for me to disappear down a ‘rabbit hole’ when I am interested in a topic that I am writing about.

I write approximately 6 blog posts a week and this time is additional to the above, as is the time I spend writing book reviews. Reviewing a novel takes me between 45 minutes and 60 minutes and I usually write 2 or 3 reviews a week.

I don’t do anything to retain my focus. A colleague was shocked recently when I said I don’t drink any coffee or fizzy cooldrinks. I find drinking lots of water and limiting tea to three cups a day allows me to work at a optimum level. I also try to go for a 20 minute walk around my garden every day as that is good exercise and releases the tension a bit.

How do other writers manage to keep focused? Click on the link below to find out.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party! Click here to enter

Welcome to Day 4 of “THE ENIGMA THREAT” Release Blog Tour! @enigmaseries @1rburkey @4WillsPub @4WP11 @RRBC_Org #RRBC

Giveaways

(1) $25 Amazon Gift card & (10) e-book copies of the “shorts” in the Enigma Series

Our cyber-crime learning curve

We thought it would be fun to share how much we have learned about cyber-crime since we began writing the Enigma Series.

Breakfield and Burkey learned early that there is no shortage of ideas to take into the next stories. Breakfield had suggested a trilogy when The Enigma Factor was nearly completed. Burkey, however, insisted on a series. Technology evolution is so fast and so prevalent that each day brings a new way to position the risks in stories.  Add in our travel, relationships, intrigue, good and evil character universe, with a splash of humor, and you will discover a fun story.

What we find unsettling is seeing ideas or threats we felt were possible but unlikely showing up as current cybercrime exploitation, front-page headlines. We hope we are not giving the criminal element any ideas of what to try next!

Parts of what we see with digital evolution is ugly and terrifying, which is another lesson. For instance, we came across some real-life examples of using software programs run on high-end graphics computers to produce deep fakes. These films, videos, etc., are the result of deep learning or a desire to create fake media. These types of applications use deep fakes to distort legitimate information and weaponize it. 

Case in point, a manufactured video was used to ruin a political career in Malaysia.  Using enhanced audible engineering, a convincing voice mail was constructed using the voice of a U.K. firm’s CEO demanding a targeted CFO transfer nearly 200,000 British pounds to a Hungarian bank account.  Social engineering powered by AI & ML. Outrageous and yet prevalent!

We used the concept of deep fakes in our story threads in our newest techno-thriller, The Enigma Threat, which leans heavily on this latest attack vector from the Darknet. Readers might recall what Obi-wan said in the original Star Wars. Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them!” Of course, it’s a little impractical for us running around in this galaxy using a Jedi masters’ lightsaber to defend ourselves from the bad actors of the Darknet. Plus, our stories are more Science / Technology facts rather than Si-Fi. However, if that is the only way to win, we might reconsider.

Amazon, Netflix, and smart cities such as Barcelona, Spain all have artificial intelligence and machine learning baked into their operational models. These elements help drive sales, suggest the next streaming media series, or help efficiently locate an open parking spot downtown. Many see the positive benefits, but we are in a race with bad actors from the Darknet to survive their predatory onslaught.

We agree artificial intelligence and machine learning have many positive use cases. The benefits of using visual perception, speech recognition, language translations, pattern-extraction, and decision-making capabilities support several different fields and industries. Sadly, these digital inroads are often abused for criminal and malicious purposes.

Therefore, it is urgent to understand the capabilities, scenarios, and attack vectors that demonstrate how these technologies are exploited. By working toward increased awareness, we are more prepared to protect systems, devices, and the public from sophisticated attacks and abuses.

In 2016, we published book 7, The Enigma Gamers. We envisioned ways cyber thugs could capitalize on artificial intelligence and machine learning enhancements for extortion and profit.  Imagine two criminal masterminds, each with their own enhanced supercomputers hammering multiple businesses and governments for sport and profit. Picture a wholly automated mining operation when all of its computer-driven equipment turns on itself after the organizational management rejected the call for blackmail monies to be paid.

What if a fully automated distribution center ruined every product in the warehouse?  Utilizing a space the size of an enormous sports event venue, or downtown of a small city, with automated programs piling all the consumer products for sale in a heap. We created several scenarios where our cyber heroes dispatched personnel to locations to stop the digital carnage. Then the heroes needed to discover the identity of the evil masterminds of this global mess.

Does this sound farfetched?  The Trend Micro, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), and Europol people don’t think so. Many folks in technology agree with the possibilities and provide the documentation on their analysis to back up the cases. Breakfield and Burkey continually scan the technology horizon looking for interesting facts to adapt to intriguing and possible storytelling.  You might enjoy looking at our Kickstarter campaign for The Enigma Threat to see the book trailer and other exciting details on this book releasing January 2, 2021.

Blurb: The Enigma Threat

In the new digital world, there is no tolerance for privately owned supercomputers. Globally, computers are hunted and destroyed for the greater good, by the new cyber police CESPOOL. The information this group receives is manipulated by subversive hidden machine learning devices, the MAG running on the dark net.

Judith and Xiamara are freebooters who steal machine time for their PaaS, porn as a service business. The machine they chose for delivery is the last untapped supercomputer not in the hands of a sovereign. Their activity is spotted by the MAG, but the renegade R-Group steps in to alter the outcome. Leroy teams up with Zara to help these opportunists escape prosecution. They are drafted as reluctant participants in the fight.

Jacob and Quip are trapped in the Chihuahuan Desert trying to reconstruct the base of ICABOD’s logic core. The stress of their isolation is taking a toll. Their wives and children are safe in Brazil for the time being, but Interpol is prowling for answers.

The R-Group has assembled a way to communicate with orphaned satellites. While the next R-Group plans the ultimate honey pot to trap their nemesis who is driving their corrupted agenda. The odds are against R-Group’s success, but they have creative surprises on their side.

The stakes have never been higher. The R-Group young and old must rise to defeat the MAG.

Author biographies

Breakfield is a 25+ year technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. He’s also a fan of wine tastings, winemaking, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Burkey is a 25+ year applied technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. She works with customers all over the world focusing on optimized customer experiences. She writes white papers and documentation, but found she has a marked preference for writing fiction.

Together they create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults. They bring a fresh new view to technology possibilities today.

Contact Breakfield and Burkey

Email:            Authors@EnigmaSeries.com

Website:      www.EnigmaBookSeries.com

Blog:              https://EnigmaBookSeries.com/the-enigma-chronicles/category/blog-statement/

Connect and follow on Social Media: 

LinkedIn:      https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesbreakfield  and

https://www.linkedin.com/in/roxanneburkey

Twitter:        https://twitter.com/EnigmaSeries  

and https://twitter.com/1RBurkey

Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/TheEnigmaSeries/

YouTube:      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Vz4x5ctTnx3yUhZk1OJkw

Pinterest:     https://www.pinterest.com/enigmseries/

Instagram:   https://www.instagram.com/enigmabookseries/

Bublish:        https://bublish.com/author/breakfieldandburkey

RRBC:            https://ravereviewsbookclub.wordpress.com/about-breakfield-burkey-enigmaseries-rrbc-rrbc_community/

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the authors’ tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HEREThanks for supporting these authors and their work!

#ThursdayDoors – EuroDisney, Christmas 2009

We took the boys to EuroDisney for four days the week before Christmas in 2009. That year saw heavy snow in the UK and France and I was thrilled by the white world, taking dozens of photographs. Here are a few that include doors, of our trip to the station to get the Eurostar to EuroDisney and in the park.

Thursday Doors is hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities blog. This prompt is on its annual haitus but I decided to do it this week anyway because these photographs remind me of great Christmas and New Year’s past. You can find out more about Dan Antion and his fascinating blog here: https://nofacilities.com/2020/12/31/looking-back-ahead/

The boys clearing snow off the car
A house covered in snow on the way to the station
Outside the first shop in the park. Michael dived into the snow and we had to stop and buy him new globes as his were soaked
Outside the entrance to the park
Outside the hotel
In the hotel lobby

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!