Highly Recommended: M.E. Neidhardt’s Fantasy Novel: Abysmal Canyon

Book Cover Domina Lumen final2 for Len's blog interview

My old friend, M.E Neidhardt, has written and published a highly entertaining young adult fantasy novel entitled, Abysmal Canyon. I can highly recommend this book to any fantasy lover. There is intrigue, romance and a plot that will keep you guessing. Learn more about the book and its author in the interview below:

1. Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:
Abysmal Canyon – Book 1 of Domina Lumen by M.E. Neidhardt
Science fiction/fantasy

“Dowsing with her crystal was just a pastime for Ysolde until it became the difference between life and death. . .”

2. Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Young adult, new adult, adult science fiction/fantasy readers

The story is fast-paced action about an eighteen year old girl named Ysolde who is leaving for college when she learns she is the heir to an ancient legacy. Her legacy could be the deciding factor in a centuries old war between two mysterious races of energy entities, the Lumen and the Vapors. Along with adventure and some tragedy, there’s a bit of light romance and humor mixed in to the story and you learn just enough about dowsing to whet your appetite.
3. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
The idea and title for the book came when I was hiking in Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado. The events that happen in the book around the canyon are so abysmal, I decided to name it Abysmal Canyon. After the book was published, I learned there was an actual Abysmal Canyon in California which somehow slipped past my radar.

The name for the series, Domina Lumen, is the ancient title Ysolde, the protagonist, is given. It is Latin and means “lady light,” but as Ysolde’s title, it stands for the Lady of the Lumen. The Lumen (the good guys) are positive energy entities she helps battle against the Vapors (the bad guys).

4. Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
I designed and created the cover art with Photoshop. I am an artist and wanted to see if I could make a cover that looked fairly professional. I wanted something simple and striking. The main image is from a photo I took from down inside Black Canyon then I added the crystal image. There are a lot of references to crystals in the story, so both images are visual clues of what the story is about.

5. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Although I love Ysolde, because of all the things she and I have in common and I would definitely like to meet Von in real life, Dan is my favorite character. He is Ysolde’s older brother and has the most freedom to say what he feels. He’s fun, easy to like and very real to me.

6. How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
You’d think that would be the antagonist, Kraegon, but he’s kind of sexy so I’d have to say Alia, who lives in the dorm for a short while with Ysolde. She comes across as sweet and kind, but she’s actually quite evil and deceptive.

7. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
In chapter one when Ysolde is in her tent with the blood dripping down, I experienced that very thing years ago while living in a tent in northern Arizona.

8. What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
My book shares the common idea of a romance between a human and non-human, but the difference is that the emphasis of my story is not on romance, but on action and Ysolde’s ultimate goal.

9. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
Other than my art and writing, I have been dowsing for myself for many years and am a member of the American Society of Dowsers.

10. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
I have an Amazon Author page and a Facebook Author page. They are fairly skeletal at the moment, but anything I publish will be posted there. I also started a blog this summer which is more personal. I’ve been blogging about my writing, dowsing, musings about nature and anything else that comes to mind. Anytime I publish something, a notice about it will be posted there. My blog address is meneidhardt.com.

11. What can we expect from you in the future?
I am working daily on formatting my book and cover for print and hope to have that available by mid-October, if not before. I am also working on bundling some science fiction/fantasy short stories to offer and am working on my notes for book 2 of Domina Lumen. I hope to have it written within this next year.

12. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Reviews are hugely important. If you liked the book and don’t mind, please leave a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Spreading the word with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or wherever else is also very helpful. Thank you!

13. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
I decided to self-publish instead of waiting months on end to hear back from publishers. There is a lot of information on the internet about self-publishing now to help with the strict guidelines you must follow. If you decide to self-publish, you may have a steep learning curve at first, but it does get easier and I think it’s well worth the effort. You can always hire someone to format your work if you’d rather not deal with all the technicalities.

14. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Don’t hold back your passions!

15. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:
“I took a few steps forward, staring down at the gaping, black void before me. My toes hung over the edge. The pit of my stomach lodged in my throat. Small rocks under my boots began breaking loose. I watched as they plunged silently into the emptiness below. The man’s strong energy inched my body forward. My boots barely clung to the precipice now. I looked into his pale beautiful face nodding at me with confidence and encouragement. I trusted him. I loved him. I would die for him. I took his hand and stepped off the rim.”

My author portrait 9-2015 72 ppi smaller for len's blog


What’s Good about “Six Feet Under”

Ray and I are down to the last four episodes of the television series Six Feet Under, which aired from 2001 to 2005. (Yes, I know we are slightly behind the rest of the modern world.) I have a few thoughts on this series before I view these last episodes. I may not feel a need to comment afterwards; however, I have been told that the finale is considered the most satisfying ending of any series in television history. I guess we’ll see…

What makes the series so compelling is that characters are completely imperfect in their approach to life. This includes not only the Fisher family, who own a family funeral home, but also the minor characters who often are part of the family of the person who died at the beginning of each episode. Of course, the structure of this series is near-perfect since there are a thousand ways to die and a thousand reactions to death from family and friends. All of that makes for rich material to mine for the writer, but, more importantly, the series originator, Alan Ball, must have insisted on no sugar-coating. These characters are real. They fart, throw up, make terrible choices, say stupid things, hurt each other and act like complete jackasses half the time without any red bows showing up at the end of the hour to tie everything up in a pretty Christmas package. This is an unapologetic look at life through the lens of the show’s creator, which seems to celebrate the wacky, discombobulated way life actually works versus some made-for-tv movie.

The other aspect of the series that makes it special is that the writers do not shy away from tough subjects. They have dealt with almost any social problem one can name from adoption to sex addiction to mental illness x 2 to physical illness to artistic angst. There is no moralizing; these issues are presented as they would appear in real life and the characters do their best to cope with them.

Finally, the use of magic realism adds a special touch to the series. We get a vision of life after death from the perspective of several of the main characters – which is at the very least entertaining – and each member of the Fisher family is routinely visited by Nathaniel Fisher, the dead patriarch of the clan. This often provides deeper understanding of a person or situation, but can sometimes just be downright funny. Whatever the case, this decision to go into the afterlife gives the stories greater depth.

So, yes, I would highly recommend this series even if it’s ancient history by today’s standards. It remains one of the most lauded series on television for good reason – crazy good storytelling with an eye to the honest. What more could you want for a night’s entertainment?

six feet under

Back in the City

We are back at home after two days in Ojai. What a switch from almost no sound at night except for coyotes versus driving through Hollywood with hundreds of people on the street and lots of neon. It doesn’t take long to get used to that more rural experience.

We were in Hollywood because we went to our pottery class this evening at Barnsdall Art Center. This is a slab class so we were not using wheels to throw pots. Instead we were busying rolling out clay or pinching it into different shapes. I made two pots, Ray made one, Liz made a bowl and glazed a piece she’d already had fired. Ron, Liz’s boyfriend, joined us while we worked. We haven’t gotten to see him lately so that was a treat.

Now we are back home and the house is quiet. I can hear cars roaring up and down Doheny Drive, but it won’t be long before they die away. Even the heart of the city has to sleep at some point.

On that note, I’ll take myself upstairs to sleep. We worked hard at Ojai, but we got accomplished what we had planned. Now I am ready for a nice long night’s rest.

Talk tomorrow, my friends. Sleep well.


Making Tough Decisions 

Ray and I have worked our little tushes to the bone today going through our estate inventory and assessing, organizing and making the tough decision of what to sell versus what to donate. 

We have handled five estates this past year and there inevitably are pieces that simply haven’t sold or will not sell anytime soon because of their value or lack thereof on the antique market. So, today, we bit the bullet on several of those pieces and headed down to Restore, the Habitat for Humanity resale store, to make a donation. The bad news is that we don’t make a commission on these pieces, but the good news is that the owner gets a tax write off and we get back some of our storage space.

 Of course, we work like the dickens to sell absolutely everything, but, alas, there are just some pieces that will languish long past the date that makes sense for us to keep them. Now those pieces are at Restore, where, hopefully, they will find a new home soon. 
Needless to say, all that assessing, organizing and donating is extremely physical; so here we sit at  7:25 in the evening, already bathed and ready for bed. There have been a few Advil taken, as well. 

I know several people who handle estates and I believe it is fair to say that we all treat the objects entrusted in our care with a sense of respect. After all, someone’s household is symbolic of their life. I believe this is a bit of a calling for those of us who are asked to handle and honor the parts of another person’s life that are so highly personal. So tonight Ray and I are feeling tired but happy. We have been diligent in our trust and have taken the next step. 

On that note I will close. Time for bed in this lovely cool Ojai weather.

Talk again tomorrow. Stay well, my friends.  
Here are a few pictures of the Orange grove this evening at sunset. 


Heading Up Ventura Highway 

Ray and I are on our way to Ojai. We need to work there tomorrow related to our estate business so we are heading up this evening. It is supposed to get down to 51 degrees there tonight, so we both felt that to miss those cool temperatures would be a shame after all the heat LA has been experiencing lately. We are looking forward to covers piled high when we sleep in the Airstream tonight. 

Not that it was that easy to mobilize to leave…

We worked this afternoon on marketing our estate merchandise and it might have been easy to just get up early in the morning to drive to Ojai. But the lure of that peaceful grove can wrest even the most resistant soul out of his/her complacency and send them scurrying for just a few clothes to toss into a bag. Alas, that would be me this evening after I finished up the last of my work.  
We will arrive around 9 with the dogs. Luckily, everything is in place so we don’t have to do much once we get there.  Coming tonight means we get to sleep later tomorrow morning, a good motivator since it may be a bit chilly there in the early am. 

So, currently we are sailing up 101 North. Traffic is light this time of night so that makes it nice. I can now just settle back and enjoy the the ride. My work is done for today. 

Sleep well, my friends. I hope you had a good Sunday. I wil check back in tomorrow. 


Information on Mass Murders

I was surprised to see the strong reaction that my post generated last night on what we are not doing to prevent mass murders in the U.S. Please take the time to read the comments. They are well thought-out and provide new perspective on the debate.

I believe we all agreed that more mental health services are necessary to help with people who are potentially dangerous to the public. That would be the very least we could do to help curb this national concern.

Here is a fascinating powerpoint I found that discusses lots of facts about these mass murders. You will be surprised by some of the information you learn.


I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts….


What We Are NOT Doing

Dear folks,

We need to look long and hard at what is happening in our society related to firearms and teenage boys. We have a serious problem on our hands and these mass murders are getting far too commonplace to be considered an aberration.

In the most recent case in Oregon, news reports state the murderer had been “a student” of other mass killings. He allegedly said, “I’ve been waiting for years to do this,” then shot his teacher point-blank in the head.

It is time to stop pretending these are isolated incidents and start looking for the causes.

We have a social issue on our hands and we need to stop fighting about our right to bear arms and look deeper at the problem. When did we become a society where mass murder is just another news story? When did we get to a point that sending our kids to school or church might result in them facing their deaths?

Good grief.

We need to stop fighting and start looking for the root causes of this deeply anti-social behavior.

The future of our “civil” society depends on it.