Thoughts on Real Magic

November 16, 2018

Magic is real. It’s not quite like you imagine it to be and certainly not like the tricks of stage magicians. But what exactly is it, can it be measured, and can it be scientifically proven.

This is the premise of Dean Radin’s Real Magic. Radin holds a PhD and has done many experiments for psi research.

I listened to this in-between finishing A Flaw in All Magic and Solve for Happy. I could only take so much of this book at a time. And just as the process would have it, some of the sections I listened to in conjunction with Solve for Happy were entertaining. Sometimes it felt as if the two were at extreme odds with either other and I got to see two sides of how scientific minds explore similar topics. At other times, they were in agreement, but saying it in two ways based on their own life experiences. Read the rest of this entry »


Can happiness be solved like a math equation?

November 9, 2018

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been listening to Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat for the last couple of weeks. Let me start by saying that I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much by listening to an audiobook before.


Solve for Happy came about from Mo’s own search to be happy when he found that all the things he’d accomplished and acquired so far during his life left him unfulfilled. He began to pursue his personal quest for happiness analytically like the engineer he is. Not as a psychiatrist, or a self-help guru spouting things that he has yet to experience, but as a scientist seeking his own answer. What he found led him to share his findings with his friends, who reported back with similar results. He started to feel that he was finding the answer and began to fine tune it.

A few days, less than a month before he started writing the book, his son told him to never stop working, that his mission wasn’t finished. Seventeen days before he started writing, his son went in for emergency surgery, a routine appendectomy, and did not survive. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on A Flaw in All Magic

October 19, 2018

I recently finished listening to A Flaw in All Magic by Ben S. Dobson.


Now I came across this book through watching a video that the narrator, Travis Baldree, put out on YouTube. He was sampling a tool that I had just started using for my own audiobook narration and did a sample read in the video. I decided that I really enjoyed listening to his voice. I can’t remember if he mentioned this book or not in the video. I actually think he was working on another, but this caught my eye when I went out to Audible. I listened to the sample and decided to make the purchase.

I enjoyed the story. I can’t say it gave me too many surprises, but it was enjoyable to listen to as I took my lunchtime walks. The writing is solid, enjoyable. Travis does an wonderful job of narrating. He really does make it look and sound so easy.

The story wraps up completely. Though I didn’t feel compelled, I did get the next book in the series. In audio, because I’d be hearing Baldree’s voice in my head anyway and I’m finding that it’s easiest for me to get my reading either when I’m driving to/from work, exercising, or when I’m doing housework. It really has helped me actually finish books that I start (I think – I am getting several half-finished audiobooks now too, but my chances of finishing one are better than books I have to read, be they physical or ebook.)

To learn more about the author, Ben S. Dobson, click here.

To learn more about the narrator, Travis Baldree, click here.

Time for adventure.

The Gladiator & The Guard by Annie Douglass Lima

April 23, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, my Sacred Knight series featured on a blog from Annie Douglass Lima. While working with Annie on this, I learned that she had a new book coming out. Since Annie and I have met and started chatting, it’s been fun getting to know her and her work. I started reading her novel, Prince of Alasia, and loved it, or as much of it as I’ve read so far. When I heard about her new book, I knew I had to help her out with launching her new book.

Imagine my excitement when I learned she was working on a blog tour! This way, she could get her work featured on many different blogs. I am overjoyed at being able to offer her my space now.

So, without further ado, here’s Annie:

I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the CavvarachThe Gladiator & The Guard
First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

The Collar & The Cavvarch


Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?


What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).
Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!


And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

The Gladiator & The Guard


Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats)

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!


Annie Douglass Lima (2)Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with the Author Online:






Amazon Author Page:



Google Plus:


Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!  Rafflecopter giveaway


Wow! I hope you enjoyed hearing from Annie as much as I did. I’m glad she added how to pronounce the cavvarach — I’ve been pronouncing it way differently in my head. Hint: her way is so much easier! 🙂

I’ve been reading The Collar and the Cavvarach as quick I can, trying to get it read before the next book comes out. I’m nearing the end and can’t wait to see how it turns out. The sequel sounds good too, so I can’t wait to read it.

Thank you, Annie, for your guest post and best of luck to you and your newest book!

Doctor visit for the computer

March 29, 2010

Unless you’re a digital artist or a graphic designer, a computer might not be thought of as a primary tool for an artist. But if you’re submitting digital images to shows or selling online, it’s as important as a good brush, a chisel, or a pottery wheel.

My laptop is the workhorse of my operation as an artist. It stores my manuscripts, photography, and images of my paintings. I draw one of my comics completely in the digital realm. Any time I need an image, I get it from my hard drive. Software for digital imaging, records of my artwork and collectors, e-mail, Internet, website maintenance, etc. is all done on my laptop.

That said, if you’re an artist like me who has everything on your computer, you’ve got to make sure the heart of your operation is taken care of. That means thinking about your software and hardware needs at all times.

Fortunately for me, I spend part of my life as a computer techie. I enjoy computers and I know what they’re capable of. I laugh at their personalities. Yes, computers have personalities. Spend enough time with several different computers, really working with them, and you’ll realize this is true. Just like individuals, computers need to be taken care of.

That said, first and foremost, backup your data! And make sure the data is truly backed up. The worst thing you can do is think that it’s backed up only to realize that it’s not. I’ve seen people cry over this.

Back up your data!

But I didn’t really start this blog to convince you to backup your data. No. I wanted to tell you about a piece of software from SmithMicro, the developers of Manga Studio and several other great programs. It’s a doctor visit for your computer.

Why would you care about checking the health of your computer’s hardware. It’s either working or it’s not, right?


There are usually signs ahead of time that something is malfunctioning, but they can be easy to miss, or rather to dismiss as outdated drivers, bad updates, or just needing to reboot. Fortunately, you can find problems before they take out your system with SmithMicro’s CheckIt Diagnostics.

Downloading and installing the program is simple and quick. Startup checks the components of your system. Once you’re in the software, it does help if you have basic knowledge of computers because the program just jumps right in. There are 5 tabs across the top and several “component” buttons below. You can see these on the screenshot below.

CheckIt Diagnostics screenshot - opening screen

Each of these “component” buttons has a series of test that can be run. To begin, start with the first tab, first “component” and start running tests. Once you’ve gone through all the components, then go to the next tab. Each test will either come back with “Success” or “Fail” as a result. Some test require that you plug in a flash drive or insert a CD/DVD — again, the program reads the hardware of your computer and adapts the tests to your system. Of course, the point is to always have it say “Success” on all your tests. The reality of it is that something, sometime will fail.

CheckIt Diagnostics screenshot of fail link information

CheckIt Diagnostics screenshot of Troubleshoot button information

If you suspect a problem with one part of your computer system, you can narrow down the tests to select just that component on your system and run those component’s tests or just one test instead of having to run through all the tests. You don’t have to have a complete check every time.

So now you’ve checked your system and you know there’s a problem. What then? Knowing you have an issue is just the beginning. Clicking on the “Fail” link will allow you to see more information. From here, CheckIt Diagnostics has the ability to send the error reports via email (like to your tech support person) or to export it to a text file. If you click the “Troubleshoot” button, you’ll get extra information which might help figure out why you received the test failure.

CheckIt Diagnostics screenshot of fail link information

CheckIt Diagnostics screenshot of Troubleshoot button information

Overall, I wish the failure reports did have some more detail. From the ones that I went through on my laptop, I didn’t feel that from a tech support position I had a whole lot of information to work with. However, giving the diversity between computers and systems, this might be an overwhelming task for any piece of software. So again, knowing that you have an issue with a particular piece of the hardware is merely a starting point. When you’re looking for that needle in the haystack (which often is the case when diagnosing computer problems) CheckIt Diagnostics will at least give you a starting point.

From both a tech support person and a user point of view, I find the main value of the program to be in wealth of information about your system that it gives you in one easy spot and the fact that it will narrow down issues with a computer. It’s easy and quick enough to use that I can incorporate it into my usual computer maintainance routine as a checkup for my hardware. So many programs have been dedicated to checking for malware, viruses, rootkits, registry cleaners, etc. that’s it’s nice to find a program that cares about the hardware side of the computer equation too.

Manga Studio 4

February 7, 2010

We interrupt the normally scheduled eBay auction blog, to bring you this special software review!


Stepping back about six years or so, I came to a decision. Though I’ve always loved telling stories, I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be writing stories as novels at that time. Drawing had entered my life and turned my storytelling world upside-down. It was then I decided to start telling my tales as graphic novels. At first, I started sketching by hand while I took a moment to learn what all went into making a comic. It didn’t take me long to discover the illustrating a comic was a lot of work.

Since I’ve always been one to work smarter, not harder, I hoped someone had some sort of comic book drawing software on the market. Why try to figure out how to do a comic on the computer if someone had already done the work for me? It didn’t take me long to find Manga Studios 3.

I bought the EX version (over the Debut which is significantly cheaper, but has fewer tools) even though I knew that for me it was probably overkill. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing that you should be able to do something in a more simple fashion and you could do it if you had that one version higher.

I produced four graphic novel chapters with MS3. My only lament was that I wished it had color.

Now enters Manga Studios 4 and guess what? Yep, you can color pages with it. Back on January 2, 2010, I had a note in my blog post about MS4. Originally, I’d added an ending line of something to the effect that if I was supposed to have MS4, I’d be granted a way for it to happen. I deleted the line, but it was very much in my heart as I posted the blog. To my complete astonishment, the “way” knocked on my door and I now have MS4. To the Universe and all those involved in my opportunity, please let me once again say, “Thank you!”

So, what do I think of Manga Studio 4? How does it compare to MS3?

Does “WOW!!!” cover it?

Okay, I’ll be more specific. When I first started up MS4, I had an option to start up the Beginner’s Assistant. The Beginner’s Assistant is a sidebar tool that allows you to see tools and layers in a way that actually illustrates the difference between the tools. It also includes pop-up hints to guide you around. I’ve had to go back to the standard mode because I’m so use to finding my way around in MS3, but if I’d started out with this feature as a complete newbie to both comics and the software, this would’ve simplified my life and saved me lots of time with my learning curve. I have switched back to the Beginner’s Assistant if I’ve wanted to find out how to use a tool more in-depth or to play with a tool because of the visual nature of the Beginner’s Assistant.

The feel of the pencils has changed. When I sketch offline, I like to use a mechanical pencil. In MS3, the mechanical pencil tool never felt right. I can’t say it’s perfect in MS4, but it does have marked improvement. The Most Recently Used Files option on the File menu has also been moved up the list and I appreciate this change.

I love the new Story/Page tabs. I can move back and forth between pages in my story in a fraction of the time. There’s also a pullout menu on the left side of the screen that allows you to click on the Story tab when you’re in a page and you can view a page while not leaving the one you’re working in. This is great in keeping continuity in panels without interrupting workflow.

The new Story Editor allows dialogue to be written for several pages and it automatically places the dialogue on the page at the top left so you can distribute the text over the page as needed, but you can also see the text written as you’re sketching the page. Since I do everything for my webcomic, Weblinks, in Manga Studio, I’m always thinking several pages ahead and this feature will help me out greatly.

The way dialogue is added has been changed greatly. If you look at Weblinks, you’ll see that I have one font that I use for thoughts and another for when people are speaking. These are two different styles. In MS3 I had to always change the font style and settings for each line of the dialogue. Having both Weblinks and Sacred Knight comics, I had different styles I was always have to remembers which was which. Now, I can save the settings for each style so I can spend more time concentrating on the story and less time focusing on keeping the look uniform. There are also several more dialogue balloons to choose from. In fact, there are many more tones to chose from too. Tones are now listed under the materials palette — a change I’m having problems adjusting to, but it does make sense.

Let’s talk about the rulers for a moment. MS3 had very nice perspective rulers in it. I saw the potential, but I have to admit that perspective is still a weak area for me. I’ve been trying to improve. To do Sacred Knight efficiently, I’ll need to be good at perspective. Perspective rulers are a feature that make MS powerful. In MS4, a perspective grid has been added for making 3D objects. I can’t wait to sit down with my perspective books and these tools to figure out how to use them effectively. Symmetry rulers have been added too. These are way too cool. They start off as two point symmetry rulers, which are good for drawing eyes and making sure they are even and level, all the way up to 12 point symmetry. Need a round stained glass window? Just decide how many parts you want for your window and start drawing. Whatever you draw in one part is copied in the others. Below, I’ve put in a page from my Manga Studios digital sketchbook showing a quick doodle that I made with a 12 point symmetry ruler.

Manga Studios sketchbook page
© 2010 Dawn Blair

I used a 6 point symmetry ruler to quickly sketch a flower that I put into a character’s hair. There are so many possibilities for the symmetry rulers!

Another added tool that I find exciting is the Select Layer tool. This is one of those tools that is only available in the EX version. I’ve often needed to find what layer a line is on, usually because I’ve accidentally drawn something on the wrong layer and now I need to make a correction. Before, I’ve had to go back and click the eye icon on each layer to turn off the view until the lines I’m seeking vanish. Then I know I’ve found the layer. Now, I click the Select Layer tool, then click on the line I want to find. The layer I’m searching for is selected and all other layers are lightened into the background. I learned this trick on In playing with this, I found that a tone layer can mess up selection of a line, so if the Select Layer tool always selects a tone layer instead of the line, use the Eraser tool to erase the tone above the line. You can then select the line, make your changes, then fill the tone back in.

The preferences menu has changed and several new options have been added. In exploring around here, I discovered a place to change the look of the cursor for tools. This was available in MS3, but I wasn’t aware of it there. I like this because I’ve always been frustrated by the eraser tool and knowing what size it is and where exactly I’m erasing this. Now I’ve been able to change the cursor so now I can see the eraser’s boundary. I haven’t changed any other tool, but I’m glad I know I can.

Have I found anything I wish I could change? Yes. I wish I could set up tools a little more specifically than I can and rename them. Much like the styles in the dialogue, I have several different settings I use with different tools in both Weblinks and Sacred Knight. The one that really comes to mind is when I’m doing Caitlyn’s hair in Weblinks. I start by coloring in the section black. Then I come back with the G brush set at .3 and white “ink.” I scratch in a bunch of white lines, then I change it to black and scratch in more lines until I get her “salt and pepper” look. I’d really like to be able to set up a G brush specifically for Caitlyn’s hair and label it that way so it doesn’t take me so long. Right now, if I have one G brush set in my custom tools, I can’t have another with slightly different settings. Or at least I haven’t found the way yet. Overall, it keeps me from using the custom tools exclusively and sticking with old patterns instead of exploring new ways of doing things which in the end is probably a really good thing.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the coloring yet — the feature I was most excited about. Coloring is tricky and I haven’t figured it out completely, not with so many other great tools to explore as well. But don’t fear. After watching several tutorials and reading about the coloring process, I’ve seen what it’s capable of and I’m looking forward to using it to draw and color my children’s book later this year.

Is Manga Studio 4 worth the upgrade? Oh, yes! And stay tuned. In the next few months I’m planning tutorial videos showing my workflow process. You’ve heard me state before that I enjoy learning how other artists work and now it’s my turn to reciprocate. By then, I hope to have the coloring process down and I’ll do a tutorial on it as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get more tips and tricks posted on my blog. Okay, you know I will!

Tomorrow, the normal eBay auction blog will be posted. Go now to see what’s still available!

Manga review – Demon Diary

November 12, 2009

I’m very picky about the art in the manga I read. I don’t like it too simple and I don’t like it cluttered so that nothing makes sense. If I can’t “read” the art easily, if it doesn’t enhance the story, there’s no way I can get into the text.

Demon Diary has brilliant art, although it had it’s own trials while being written.

Demon Diary

The artist changed after the first book. The original artist was a college student who didn’t have time to work on it. I think it came as a shock to the author who was excited to have the book released and now it looked like it might fall apart if the publisher couldn’t find another artist. Fortunately, they found a great artist and the art didn’t suffer from the change. In fact, if one wasn’t aware of the fact that the artist changed, it might not be noticeable at all. The clothes and setting are all beautifully done.

As for the story, I was a little disappointed in the third volume when the story took a different turn than I was expecting. It flowed very well into this new story, but I still want the other story. I’m so determined to some day write a version of Demon Diary as I wanted to see it. That’s the great thing about writing. If a story goes on another tangent, then the writer reading the story can pick up the story line that interests them and make it their own. Sammy Hagar once said that he wrote songs because when he was listening to other people’s songs he thought they were singing one thing but the lyrics turned out to be something else, so he “stole” what he thought it was originally and put it into his songs.

My favorite character is Eclipse. Not only is he cool, but I think I can identify with his plight to raise up this new demon lord right. It’s a mother thing, I’m sure. The parts where Raenef tries so hard to be a demon lord, but is just too pure of heart to be evil, are hilarious.

In the end, the story takes a couple strange turns, but leaves the reader wanting more. Oh, so much more could be written about this story.

If you’re wondering if Angel Diary (also by the same author and artist) is related to Demon Diaries, I have to sadly say, “No.” I was really hoping the two were related, but they aren’t. Again, something I’ll have to add to my own list to write someday.

I’m finding it much harder to get into Angel Diary, mostly because of my own disappointment I believe. Someday I’ll give it a fair shake and start reading it over. But for now, I’m enjoying Eclipse way too much.