Welcome To My World

Since you’ll be hearing a lot about it, and you already know how it came about, here’s the history of Balphrahn by way of a snippet.


Settle, children, and listen to the story of your past. In the beginning, our world was barren and lifeless. Cruthadair, Mother Creator, cast her eye about the stars. She saw our world and formed it into a life-giving planet, filled with food and comfort and love. In those days, everyone used magic to perform simple chores and healing.

For generations, people lived in peace. The first ones taught their children about Cruthadair’s love. Each generation talked less about Cruthadair and more about her children: Brigid, goddess of hearth and home; Macha, her bloodthirsty sister, who eats the flesh of her slain enemies and dominates her lovers through cunning and guile; and their brother, Laoch, god of warriors, heros and champions.

After a time, one man became envious of his neighbor. He took what he coveted by force, and his neighbor gathered others and went to take it back. No one knows anymore what the object was, or why it was so dear that it was worth the blood spilled. One killing sparked another until all of Balphrahn was at war.

The dragons observed all of this, and when it appeared mankind would exterminate itself, they intervened, some on one side and some on the other as they saw fit. More blood was spilled and thousands died in dragon fire.

Eventually, one side overpowered the other. Who can say if it was the right side or the wrong side? The strongest of the dragon riders was chosen to sit on the throne and rule over all of Balphrahn. King Fergus ruled wisely. At first. As time passed, his power overcame him and he cast his eye on his fellow dragon riders. He decreed that, as king, it was his right to have concubines and chose the female dragon riders as his own.

Some of the women went to him willingly, smitten with his countenance and charm. Others went willingly because of his power and the knowledge that if they caught his child, they could mother the next monarch.

One did not go willingly. Ailin protested, saying she was in love with another and wished to stay faithful to him. King Fergus ignored her pleas and had her brought forcibly to his chamber, where he overpowered her and took her by force.

When it was done, he laughed at Ailin’s tears and dismissed her. Instead of leaving, she stood next to his bed and cursed him and all his male descendants through the power of her magic and rage, and in the name of Macha, with a dread of dragons and cowardice. As Macha moved to grant her wish, Laoch intervened, offended at the curse on one of his own. He was able to keep the cowardice from future generations, but not the dread of dragons. In retribution, he took magic from the women. A great cry went up in all of Balphrahn and Brigid took pity, blessing women with her healing touch.

King Fergus rose, terrified, from his bed and ran from the castle. His dragon, seeing the cowardice upon him, repudiated him, burning the curse away with dragon fire.

When she realized what she’d done, Ailin fled to the woods, too ashamed to face her lover and friends. When they found her, she was great with child and insensible with grief and shame. She was soon delivered of a daughter, whom she named Bron. The day Bron was weaned, Ailin killed herself.

It is because of the Curse of Ailin that, to this day, only women ride the dragons, and men are mages.

Ask and ye shall receive

Two years ago I posted this on Facebook:

“I’m getting ready to go on a short story bender. Leave a premise or a first line in the comments, and if I choose yours, I’ll name the main character after you (or the person of your choice). I will be submitting them to various places for publication, so your name could be in print.”

One of the comments I got was from my friend, Jenn:

“The explosion of fire across the night sky meant that the dragons had returned.”

I had mixed feelings about it. I’d written dragons before and thought I was done with fantasy for good, but it was so dang intriguing. I decided to go with it. After all, it was just one short story, right?

From that quote came Dragon Rescue, which was published in Blackbirds Second Flight. I had a couple other stories in that volume, but the one I got the most feedback on was Dragon Rescue. To my shock, people wanted more, so I wrote Mage Hunt for Blackbirds Third Flight.

Since then, I’ve written a third and am planning a fourth. The world is expanding and becoming more detailed. I didn’t want to write fantasy again, but here we are!

That’s how writing works sometimes. You hear an off-hand comment, or see something that catches the attention of the muse, and before you know it, it’s spun into gold. Or sometimes brass.

I’ll be writing more about the development of the world in the coming weeks. For those of you who know writing, I’m a pantser who desperately (now more than ever) wants to be a plotter. Because of that, I’ve already found things I need to go back and change in the first story. I’ll also likely be writing about the process of how I plan to get the story to you. Authors have more choices than ever at this point. If you have a favorite format, I’d love to hear from you.

Back From The Abyss

Hello again! If you’re confused about why this has landed in your inbox, this is the blog formerly known as Shining The Light. I’m updating and cleaning out the cobwebs.

Last month, I turned 50, and it dawned on me that if I don’t get serious about writing in general and marketing specifically I was never going to get anywhere. Hence the rebrand.

I’ve been working on a few different projects lately. The first started out as a fantasy short story called Dragon Rescue, which was published in Blackbirds Second Flight. It was followed by Mage Hunt in Blackbirds Third Flight, and has morphed into a full-blown series. The world is called Balphrahn and features dragons and dragon riders, magic, and intrigue.

The other two are still in development. One is a satirical collection of stories based on my experience in customer service fields, tentatively titled How To Get Crappy Service. The other isn’t even titled yet and may end up being a series of articles about parenting and dealing with the empty nest.

I’ve also started a newsletter and plan to share insider information there that won’t be here so I hope you’ll sign up for that.

That’s the excitement here! Well, not all of it, but you don’t want to know everything in the first post, do you?


As soon as she reached for a napkin with her sample cups, I knew who she was. She came in the first time a week or two after we opened. One of the bosses was there, and she went to great length to tell the two of us how one should only eat a tiny bit of frozen yogurt once in a while as a treat. We tried to explain how it’s healthier than ice cream or frozen custard, and she wouldn’t hear it. I thought she was rude, but the boss chatted her up. Turns out she’s a personal trainer originally from Poland. She tried a couple samples and left.

A couple of weeks ago, she came back. This was when she took the napkin. Newbies who haven’t tried our yogurt don’t know to take napkins because they don’t know when the yogurt is in the serving pipe for a while, it melts, and sometimes it makes a mess. She tried several flavors (all with the same sample cup) and came to the register to tell us that although the organic strawberry and organic banana were very flavorful, everything else tasted like Nutella. Might be because she kept going back to the Nutella, or it might be because of the same sample cup. Again, she left without buying anything.

Yesterday, I was working in the back and came to the front as she was walking out the door with nothing in her hands. She’s going in my current story. Her character will be unrecognizable and won’t make it to the end…

Happy Memorial Day

I’m off to work in a little while. It’s been years since I’ve had to work on a holiday, and Eric loves that he gets to stay home and goof off while I head to the fro-yo mines.

While a memorial service isn’t on my schedule today, I will be mindful of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I know it’s supposed to be about the people who died in wars, or from injuries sustained there, but I can’t help but include first responders in there. They wage battles of a different kind every day–against crime, bureaucracy, hatred, anger, entitlement and complacence. Like our soldiers, they do it on low pay and, sometimes, no sleep, and sometimes they spill their blood in the course of their duties.

To those of you left behind, and to those of you who’s loved one came home changed beyond recognition, you are in my thoughts and prayers. You are our living testament to the sacrifice.

My Muse

I went looking for the post where I talked about my muse. I thought I wrote it years ago, but it’s not here. Must have been a butterfly moment.* I cranked up the Wayback Machine** and found the post where I realized my muse is Walter Mitty. Feel free to peruse it if you wish.

If you don’t know who Walter Mitty is, and a shocking number of people don’t, he’s the main character from a short story, “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber. They did make movie by the same name two years ago starring Ben Stiller. I haven’t seen it, but from the synopsis I read online, it bears little resemblance to the story. Therefore, my Walter does not look like Ben Stiller. He’s a white-haired gentlemen who smokes a pipe and has a fondness for scotch. If I neglect him, he runs off to Tahiti (yes, the magical place), where he lies on the beach under an umbrella sipping adult beverages and admiring the thong bikinis  scenery. It’s really hard to drag him back to work.

By now, some of you no doubt think I’m delusional. All you artsy types out there, though, know what I’m talking about, whether you admit it or not. How about you? Have you gotten to know your muse?


*I have ADOB. Attention Deficit Ooooohhh Butterfly!

**This one, ya little whippersnapper, not the digital archive.

New feature

Last spring, when we started to explore the city in earnest, we saw things we’d never seen before. We were sheltered, I guess, but it seemed like common sense not to walk in the city at night in dark clothing while listening to music with headphones, and crossing the street without looking. If she’d been paying attention, she might have noticed the bus that almost rear-ended the car that had to wait for her to get off Holy Ground ( the cross walk). The sad thing is, things like that are commonplace here.

One day I opined to Eric that I’d never known survival instinct could be legislated out of people. If it wasn’t illegal to hit people in a cross walk, maybe they’d pay attention to where they were going. I think that was the first time I said, “Darwin would be appalled.”

Once I got started, I couldn’t stop, and as veterans sometimes do, I made an acronym: DWBA, or as we say, Dee-wubba.

I know I’m not seeing anything that doesn’t happen in other places. I guess you don’t really even have to be in a big city to see it. In our small town downstate, though, you don’t see things like people walking at night in black clothing much, and when you do, it’s usually a teen. I’m probably only seeing more of it because of the higher population density. Nevertheless, I’ll be sharing my observations with you. Let me know if it’s a Chicago thing, or if you see these things where you are.