New Cover for Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage

I am currently working with Jackie on her book through my Author Services! Here is her fabulous, brand new cover:

eBook CYMK


Jackie Griffiths has a BSc in Psychology and Computing and an MA in Psychoanalytic Studies, and has been writing fiction and non-fiction material for twenty years. She founded an online copywriting business providing content for websites, print and digital media, before selling up to concentrate on her novels and short stories. She now lives in abject poverty in the freezing ruins of an old sewage works somewhere in the UK, where she is currently working on her third novel.

Book Description:

Jae has many questions about the meaning of life and the purpose of her existence, but frustratingly, no answers. After the death of her agnostic grandmother, with whom she had her most fruitful philosophical discussions, she embarks on a personal journey to fulfil a mysterious note left to her in the will: ‘Seek and ye shall find.’

The plot follows Jae as one spring day she walks over a bridge into a strange world on the other side of the river. There she encounters challenging situations and unusual people offering tempting theories about the meaning of life. From then on she devotes all her energy to pursuing answers to the philosophical questions that drive her, experiencing a series of extraordinary adventures, until eventually she arrives at a completely unexpected conclusion.

‘Ox-herding’ is a term used to describe the search for meaning, purpose and spirituality that does not result in the finding of God, or of any other external authority. The ox represents the elemental beast within us all: ego. ‘Herding’ our ego is the struggle to recognise, battle with, control, subdue, and finally, transcend the ego. Based on the successive phases of understanding as presented in the Chinese philosophical classic, ‘The Ten Ox Herding Pictures,’ this story has ten chapters through which Jae journeys, discovering the meaning and secret to an enlightened yet thoroughly modern life; a place where all her doubts and questions are dissolved, a place without suffering or fear, yet firmly located in the midst of ordinary life. ‘Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage’ describes how she gets there in a Carrollesque adventure involving remarkable people in extraordinary settings, and sees Jae wrestling a bull, performing in a concert, becoming a guru, engaging in dharma combat, and wandering through the Biblical garden of Eden.

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Summer Shake-up book 2: Strange Academy

As part of my Summer Shake-up, I have decided to snag some of the most interesting-looking reads on my “to-read” list and bump them up! My second bump is


See how fast this goes when I do it this way? I have finished my review of book #1 and am ready to read book #2: Strange Academy by Theresa Wilde. I bumped this book because I love Paranormal Romance and because it looks like a lot of fun and I can really relate to strangeness.


Determined to uncover the secret behind her eccentric aunt’s mysterious death, Sadie Strange, a quirky substitute teacher with a Master’s degree in comic book superheroes, takes a job at isolated private school Strange Academy. Her biggest obstacle? Haughty hottie Lorde Gray, the chemistry teacher who looks down his Roman nose at her as he tries to get her fired.

Undercover demon hunter Gray vows to use his spell-brewing powers to protect Strange Academy’s true purpose—educating extraordinary children with paranormal gifts. If the world knew the school’s secret, it would start a war that would destroy humanity. Gray won’t let a feisty mortal threaten that, no matter how much she swishes her heart-shaped butt.

When fate throws them together, strange allies Sadie and Gray seek to uncover the hidden forces behind her aunt’s death before they destroy Sadie—and the school. But when the demon hunter forbidden from associating with mortals and the mortal woman who can’t trust her own judgment around alpha males find themselves falling for each other, love is going to get a little strange…


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The Excitement Vibe


Is it just me or does everybody have this problem: When I get to the exciting part of the book, or am almost to the end, my whole family just seems to pick up on that vibe and decide it’s a great time to interrupt me a whole lot. It never fails! I constantly have to abandon my book right before the last page, or right at the greatest parts because that is when they all want something from me. Sometimes the phone even rings! Our new one-year-old pound puppy is especially sensitive to this and my screens are all smeared with slobber because of my exciting reading material.

My actual dog with her face on my laptop.

It also works with things that frustrate me. If I’m getting irked over a form or the bills, they all want to throw the slobbery tennis ball, tell me about something on TV or have a little snack. Sometimes it’s much worse.

If something is boring, I have a day of tranquility in which to handle it, but give me a little excitement and everybody picks up on the vibe. What is with that?

Not my actual baby, but so cute!

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Worn-out Themes

Some themes, in my opinion, have been completely worn out. They have been used so much lately that reading/watching them has lost its original thrill for me. Here they are:

  1. The Cinderella story – Rags to riches is everyone’s dream, but this one has had too much screen time lately. From maids turning millionaire to Slum dog millionaires, this one needs a time out. Continue reading
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Aaahhh Sweet Language! Set it free!

A lovely tirade from one of my favorite actors! (Don’t you just think of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy while listening to this?)

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For love of the story: Why I can’t get enough

I just love the stories! I’m not too picky about genre as long as the writing is passable. But why?

  1. I love looking inside people’s heads. Yes, it’s creepy but you know you do too. (And I don’t mean the X-rated stuff. That kind of thing is so overdone.) What a person says and does reveals a lot, but what they care enough about to put on paper is something else. The ideas are refined and thought-out, and they are something important. They may not be 100% honest, but they are usually sincere. Some writers don’t even write based on their conscious thoughts!
  2. People are unique. Duh, Kate. Of course they are. But…it’s fascinating. Nobody will do exactly the same thing as I would in a certain situation, and I want to see what they think they would do in a situation. I compare it to what I would have done and what makes a good story. (Those are often different.) I like fiction, in particular, because it is entirely from the author’s head with maybe just a reference to reality. I can really see the author’s point of view from that angle.
  3. It inspires me. I think of it as “input” that fuels my “output” of my own writing. There is a mystery balance there that I have to maintain. Hearing others’ stories, real or fiction, fuels up my writing batteries for later. I get ideas of things to do and to avoid.

Why do you love stories?

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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Sometimes you just have to say it with a picture.

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A Quiz: Will you like traditional or self-published books?

What kind of reader are you?
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Are Self-published Books a Good Choice for Readers?

When you look for a book, do you want something popular? Do you want to read all the latest and coolest stories? Or do you want something that pushes the boundaries?

If you translated your buying experience with SP (self-published books) versus TP (traditionally-published books), you might say that TP books are like major brands purchased at a national chain store, such as Cheerios. Conversely, SP books are like a farmer’s market bag of organic rolled oats. Both have their benefits and their drawbacks. Which cereal would you choose?

There are several things to consider when choosing whether to pick a TP book or go indie: Continue reading

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Motivated Beginnings

What makes a good beginning for a book? This is undeniably the crucial part of the book where the author’s talent needs to shine and he or she needs to draw you in so that you’ll bother reading the rest of the book. I usually know whether or not I want to read the rest of the book by the end of the first chapter. So what makes a good beginning?

Here’s what I like:

  • A problem – You’d think I have enough of those in my life, but for me to become interested in a book, I have to discover why the author wrote it and darn quick. If the first five chapters of a book give no hint as to why the characters do what they do, I lose interest. It can even be a hint of a problem and it will draw me in. Continue reading
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Analysis: Get more out of your reading!

Why would I want to analyze a book while I read it? Iread for fun!

My answer: analyzing your reading gives you more fun with the next book. What is it about your book that you like? What don’t you like and why? These are important questions to answer if you want to get more books you will love reading. You want that, right?

If you like to talk with others about books, this is a great way to pull out the intelligent answers to the question, “What did you like about this book?”

Here are some easy habits to get into while reading that will help you analyze books:

  1. Pay attention to the commonly-used themes the author is using. (Example: a woman alone, man vs. the system) They are everywhere, in movies, books, even commercials. There are big themes and small themes, some encompassing the whole book and some for just one scene. They vary with culture differences around the world and even within a city. It’s surprising to see that books on entirely different subjects can have similar themes. Pulling this out and poking it with a stick can be a lot of fun. Continue reading
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The Churn – Emotional things that affect me physically.

Here and there in my reading I find emotional events or encounters that give me a physical feeling. I feel the zing of adrenaline from my neck to my fingertips at a really exciting or scary scene. I feel the clench of my abdomen with fear or surprise. I feel the hollowness in my chest from sorrow or loss. I only get these physical reactions when I’m really engaged by a good book. (I don’t include erotic scenes in this category. Eroticism is an intentional pitch at a physical reaction and can be accomplished without emotion.)

I look forward to finding the churn reaction with each book I read and often start from these feelings when I write. I hope to be able to write in a way that gives the same feeling to others that I began with.

There is a fine balance, though, between good emotions in a book and sappy writing. Authors have to maintain a balance so that you don’t bore your reader with too much sorrow, surprise or fury. You can wear out the emotions.

What emotions give you a physical feeling?

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Source of Power and Technology Withdrawal

My trip was amazing! It was nothing like what I expected. I expected mountains, yes. That was a no-brainer. What I didn’t expect was technology withdrawal! 45 minutes before we got to our rental cabin, my phone service cut out. I had hopes that their website was correct and that they had wifi. But the page, last updated in 2009, was wrong. No email, no voicemail, no Facebook, no Google. It was a whistling vacuum of information. It was relaxing once I got over the struggle to reconnect.

Even the pay phone didn’t cooperate with me. I felt transported back in time standing in that booth, wrestling with the clunky cord and trying to follow the instructions of that female voice, pushing scratched metal buttons. The spider in the corner was not impressed.

So we explored, and it was great! The region was a mixture of small-town charm and spectacular views.

There were three dams up there, all lined up along the river: Gorge Dam, Diablo Dam, and Ross Dam. We drove along roads chipped into the mountainside and walked trails surrounded by metal rails so we wouldn’t plunge into the ravine. There was a sense that gravity was different here.


This is where my family gets 18% of our power. (That’s what the plaques and brochures said). This is why I headed up here in the first place, to show my kids where their tech gets its juice.

Tuesday evening came and my 11-year-old was giddy with excitement. He was overjoyed to return home in the morning to his internet connection, his cable TV, and his computer games. He’s getting to be that age. So we came home to use that 18% as much as possible (and they have been). I sure hope they remember though!


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A Little Break

I’m going on a little trip! They may or may not have Wifi where I’m staying , so I’ll be taking a short break from my blogging. I’ll be reading those review books between adventures!

Here’s our ultimate destination:

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Whining About Getting My Kids To Read

There’s just too much more that interests them. Even when I cut off all TV and other electronic stimulus, they prefer to do other things. They prefer to write books rather than read them. They have a mountain of books to choose from and I buy more all the time. I can make them listen to me read to them if I force them, or I can bribe them to read with something they want. The second only works temporarily if at all.


If there is a book they see and want and I go get it for them, they read it right away. Sometimes they read it over and over again. This happens sporadically and I can’t seem to force it.

I wonder if this might have something to do with the amount of information available to them and an instinctive need to filter it. Does that make sense?

What do you think? Do you have the same issues? What do you do about it?

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