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An Interview with Author Barry Wilker

The Dark Phantom Review

Chances are rare, change is valuable.

Barry Wilker spent forty-three years working as an interior designer for a myriad of clients across the United States. Retirement has provided him time to assemble all the fragments of his wild imagination into this, his first novel. He lived for a number of years in the Los Angeles area and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.


Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about “The Lapone Sisters” and what compelled you to write it.

Author: I hatched the idea of The Lapone Sisters over a period of almost forty years. Being an interior designer for forty-three years was at times a tedious and sometimes a stressful profession. During downtimes in my business, ideas for the story sprang like seedlings that over time grew and multiplied into pieces I knew someday would be a fully realized story. During those free times, I wrote thoughts about…

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Read-a-Chapter: Moon Deeds by Palmer Pickering

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the adult fantasy scifi, Moon Deeds, by Palmer Pickering. Enjoy!


  • Paperback: 598
  • Publisher: Mythology Press (May 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1732568804
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1732568808

First Place winner – Chanticleer’s Paranormal award
Gold Medal winner – Readers’ Favorite General Fantasy award
Finalist – Foreword Indies awards
Finalist – Killer Nashville Silver Falchion awards
Finalist – Chanticleer’s Cygnus Science Fiction award
Semi-Finalist – SPFBO Fantasy award

“The path to power is cloaked in shadows, so if you avoid all the shadows, you’ll never learn anything.”

It’s 2090: the last outpost of freedom is the moon, the best defense against technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the Star Children.

Twins Cassidy and Torr must save Earth from a ruthless enemy at a time when the only force more powerful than alien technology is magic. Moon Deeds launches the siblings’ journey across the galaxy, where they must learn their power as the Star Children, claim their shamanic heritage, and battle dark forces that threaten humankind.

The Star Children Saga follows Cassidy and Torr as they slowly awaken to their destiny as the twin Star Children, born every millennium to reconnect with the source of all life. They come to discover the sheer enormity of their task: to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy and save humanity from a spiraling descent into darkness. The powers they must wield to accomplish this task are truly frightening and put at risk everything they love.

Come along with twenty-year-old twins Cassidy and Torr, who inherited deeds to lunar land parcels and want to use them to escape a brutal dictatorship on Earth. But first they must unlock their shaman powers.

A rollicking yet poignant adventure in the not too distant future, when we have colonized the moon and nearly lost Earth to a military dictatorship. Only the shamans remain free, plus the lucky ones who escaped to the moon.

“Evocative, wholesomely absorbing, and thematically rich, Moon Deeds is a must-read for all science fiction fans …Stunningly written, filled with magic, science, and intrigue, and featuring fascinating, endearing characters and a brilliant ravaged setting, this ambitious sci-fi novel is one of few books that once started are hard to put down and will make fans eagerly wait for the next installment in the series. It’s a novel that deserves to be read by every science fiction lover. Highly recommended.”

“A highly recommended read for fantasy fans everywhere …There are some powerfully adult themes at play in this epic-length space opera, making the character-driven emotional plot just as important as the galaxy-wide savior story at play in the wider story arc. Fantasy and science fiction fans will enjoy the combination of alien sci-fi elements, super tech, fantasy magic, and old mythologies, which are all woven into the everyday plot with great credibility. Author Palmer Pickering handles the balance of interpersonal drama and plot progression well, and fans of series like Star Trek and Doctor Who are sure to appreciate such craftsmanship.”
-K.C. Finn, Readers’ Favorite

“A really strong and engaging first book …There is so much to love about this book, from its complex and intricately woven plot filled with tension, strife, and discovery, to the personal attachment you begin to build with the characters due to finely executed character building, engaging personalities, and difficulties in both moral dilemmas and situations.”
-K.J. Simmill, Readers’ Favorite

“Intelligent, high science fiction at its finest …I found this novel to be as much a psychological thriller as it is a science fiction adventure, and the draw-in happens almost instantly. This is unquestionably one of the best books I’ve read this year and Pickering has roped in an entire family as new fans. I’d give Moon Deeds a whole bucket of stars if I could.”
-Asher Syed, Readers’ Favorite

Book Information

Release Date: May 25, 2019

Publisher: Mythology Press

Soft Cover: ISBN: ‎ 978-1732568808; 598 pages; $21.99; E-Book, $.99; Audiobook, FREE.

Book Trailer:


Barnes & Noble:

Chapter One

Star Song

West San Jose, California, Western Free States, planet Earth

July 8, 2090

Cassidy stood in the backyard, staring up at the sky and listening to the music of the stars. The Shaman’s Shield of gray clouds loomed far overhead, covering the sky in a thick, impenetrable roof, and casting a gloomy pall over everything. Ever since the Shaman’s Shield had appeared three years ago, she had not seen the stars nor heard their music. But today the thin, ethereal strains wove through the neighborhood noise. The music was faint, but it was there.

It had been louder when she was a child, before Grandma Leann had shielded her. Cassidy had thought everyone could hear the music, a constant background noise of such poignant sweetness that sometimes it was painful to listen to. But she had realized over time that others did not hear it. Or perhaps they heard it subconsciously, or in their dreams, because sometimes she heard an echo of it when musicians played their instruments or choirs sang. Cassidy had tried to replicate the sound, studying violin as a child, then piano, but neither instrument captured the elusive tones.

The only one who understood was her twin brother, Torr. They had shared a room as children, and she used to sing to him.

“I recognize that song,” he had said one time in the middle of the night. She had been sitting up in bed humming the tune that was streaming through her head. Torr had awoken from a deep sleep and sat upright, staring at her. “I heard it in my dream.”

“You heard me humming,” she corrected him.

“No,” Torr said stubbornly. “The golden people were singing to me. Their song said you and I have to find them. We have to follow their voices.” Torr closed his eyes and sang the melody more truly than she ever had, picking out parts of the multi-layered harmony she had never captured before. And he added something resembling words that she did not understand, but which made her cry.

In the morning he had remembered the dream, but he could not remember the song. For days afterwards he had tried to get her to sing it back to him, but she could not get the melody quite right, and she did not know the strange language. Then when Grandma Leann laid the blanket of silence over her, the song stopped. As time passed, Cassidy forgot the tune she had always hummed. She could only recall hints of it, like wisps of clouds that slipped away as she tried to grab them.

Now the sky was singing to her again. The melody came to her, carried on the wind as though from a distant mountaintop. She was filled with joy to hear it, though the song was more mournful than she recalled. She still could not understand the words, but she remembered what Torr had told her that night in their attic bedroom, that the two of them had to follow the golden people’s voices and find them. She did not know who they were, or where they were, but they were still out there singing to her. Calling to her. Waiting.

About the Author

Palmer Pickering

Palmer Pickering has been writing fiction since she was eight. She received her BA in American Studies from Wesleyan University, with concentrations in Religion and Race Relations.

She currently works in Silicon Valley in the gaming industry and high tech. In addition, Palmer holds a certificate in Chinese Acupressure, is a certified solar panel installer, and studied Tibetan Buddhism with the 14th Dalai Lama.

She lives and writes in the magical redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

Her latest book is the scifi fantasy for adults, Moon Deeds: Star Children Saga Book One.

You can visit her website at or connect with her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Read First Chapter of Silent Little Angels by Jennifer Chase

Title: Silent Little Angels: Detective Katie Scott Book 7  

Author: Jennifer Chase

Publisher: Bookouture

Pages: 402

Genre: Crime Thriller

The water ripples as the girl’s body escapes the reeds and floats silently upwards. Her beautiful face—blue eyes frozen open, skin as white as snow—breaks the surface. But it’s too late, this innocent soul has taken her final breath…

When camp counselor Carolyn Sable’s body is found floating in a lake beside Eagle Ridge Summer Camp, Detective Katie Scott must dig deep to stay focused. As a child, Katie spent many happy weeks at that camp toasting marshmallows on the fire with her best friend Jenny… until the day Jenny disappeared. The loss will always haunt Katie, but Carolyn’s inconsolable family need answers.

Searching the area, the devastating discovery of two more bodies sends the case into a tailspin. Suddenly on the hunt for a serial killer, Katie’s blood turns to ice when she finds newspaper clippings about her own past cases planted near one of the bodies. Was this twisted killer banking on Katie taking the lead? And why?

Carolyn was adored by children and staff at the camp, so Katie thinks her sudden resignation is key to cracking the case. Uncovering a tragic accident involving a group of children in the weeks before Carolyn left, Katie knows she’s getting close.

But when the carefully laid trap Katie sets to catch Carolyn’s killer backfires, Katie finds herself in unthinkable danger and unable to even trust her own team. Can she stay alive long enough to crack the toughest case of her career, and how many more innocent lives will be lost before she does?

An absolutely unputdownable crime thriller from a USA Today and Amazon bestselling author. Fans of of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh will be sleeping with the lights on!

Everyone is talking about Silent Little Angels:

I still have goosebumps! Omg……… amazing…I flew through the pages with Olympic speed. I was hooked from the very first page.” NetGalley reviewer, 5 stars

One hell of an unpredictable rollercoaster ride with several twists and turns along the way… I almost had to read through my fingers… A brilliant, and highly recommended read.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

“It kept me guessing right until the end. There is plenty of action, suspense, and tension. I’ve become so invested in these characters. I was glued to this one and up way past my bedtime. I couldn’t put it down.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

“I read this in one very short sitting, I couldn’t put it down. It was well written with well-developed characters and a gripping storyline that was full of mystery, tension and twists… a thrilling read.” NetGalley reviewer

All-time favorite… I was shouting in my head, don’t go back there… wow!” I Spooky’s Maze Of Books, 5 stars

THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS PUTTING THIS BOOK DOWN!!!!!… I was literally holding my breath… I HAD TO KNOW!!!!! As for the explosive ending: WOW definitely not what, or who I was expecting.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Book Information

Release Date: April 19 2022

Publisher:  Bookouture

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1803142319; 402 pages; $11.99; E-Book, $3.99; FREE Audiobook with Audible Trial; eBook FREE with Kindle Unlimited Membership


Chapter One

Tuesday 0930 hours

The luxurious dark-gray sedan crept along the rural road that led up to where Eagle Ridge Camp was nestled in the beautiful, wooded hills of Sequoia County, California. In places along the track, large pine tree branches arched downward creating makeshift tunnels. As the car climbed, the views of the rolling hills and the picturesque town of Pine Valley became even more spectacular.

William and Jane Faulkner grew increasingly uncomfortable the closer they approached the property. They watched from the car as the beautiful forestry hills turned into a heavily wooded area that was almost impassable. The attraction of the potential investment property seemed to become less valuable the closer they got to Eagle Ridge Camp.

Mr. Faulkner glanced at the real estate agent Daniel Green, who had been highly recommended, and watched him grip the steering wheel tighter as he navigated around road hazards. He turned to the backseat and observed his wife as she strummed her long, polished nails on the door handle: sour expression with a downturned mouth. It was clear that she was not happy about being dragged this far out of town. He had second thoughts too.

“We’re just about there,” Daniel said, forcing a smile.

“The road is… barely passable,” said Mr. Faulkner. He gripped the handle of the door to steady himself.

“It’s nothing that couldn’t be easily cleared in a few hours with some bulldozers. It would be a cinch to clear the heavy brush—maybe remove a tree or two. The road itself is in pretty good condition, so it wouldn’t be difficult to scrape and level with a good construction company. There’s also another utility road that comes into the property from the other side. But…” he continued, mustering some zeal, “this road gives you the best view of the most beautiful fifty acres in the county. It’s an amazing investment opportunity.”

The couple stared silently out the windows—seemingly not convinced.

Daniel pushed the high-performance car up the last incline to where the land then leveled out and opened into spectacular views of stunning meadows and groupings of trees.

“Wow,” Mr. Faulkner said under his breath. Finally, he could see past the overgrowth and grasp the potential. “This is amazing. And thank you for making time for us today. We’re on a flight to France tomorrow.”

His wife leaned forward to get a better look through the windshield. Her face softened in wonder as she gazed at the rolling countryside unfolding around them.

Daniel pulled to the left and parked. “You ready for a bit of a walk? You brought your hiking shoes, right?”

The couple nodded.

“Great,” he replied and opened the car door while the couple changed their shoes.

He checked his pockets to make sure he had the keys that opened the main buildings. Filled with nervous energy, he jingled his own car keys against them as he paced in front of the car, surveying the area.

The pines arched and swayed around them in the breeze, blowing their sweet scent through the air. Daniel turned to look down the valley at the various towns he could see in the distance: pretty as a postcard. Fresh air, birds fluttering in the trees, and the warmth of the gentle rays of sun upon his face.

Mr. and Mrs. Faulkner emerged from the car and slowly closed the doors.

“How about we check out the main buildings and then have a look at the lake?” Daniel said.

“Sounds good,” Mr. Faulkner said, still surveying the area. “So, how long has this camp been closed? It’s been on the market, for what, almost two years?”

They began walking along a narrow trail. Before them were some large buildings, clustered around the main clearing, the gentle rolling hills visible behind them. Weeds crunched underneath their shoes as they weaved along the unkempt path.

“It closed about five years ago,” said Daniel.

“I see.”

“We’ve had several interested parties, but something always went wrong with the escrow. Investors pulled out. Money didn’t get transferred. Things like that. We’ve even had a foreign investor wanting to turn it into a family theme park for a while now, but it’s moving slowly.”

As they walked around the area, Mr. Faulkner felt his enthusiasm grow. He glanced at his wife, and she, too, smiled and raised her eyebrows in growing expectation.

Daniel made an abrupt left turn on the path and began to move downward. The trees clustered closely again around them, before the huge trunks opened into another serene clearing surrounded by gently rolling hills. “This is the south end of Echo Valley, where the lake begins.”

“Echo Valley?” Mrs. Faulkner asked.

Hellohello,” he called out, letting his voice resonate around them before fading away.

All three of them stood for a moment and listened. The calmness and beauty of the area was worth a moment of silence.

“C’mon. You’re in for a real treat,” Daniel said. He quickened his pace around two large trees. An enormous lake glistened before them, surrounded by the hills. There was not a ripple across the surface, and the reflections of the nearby trees, grasses, and the partly cloudy sky were cast back at them like a visual echo. Just to Daniel’s left, a little boathouse and wharf sat at the lake’s edge.

“I told you,” said Daniel. “This is only one of many amazing views on the plot. Can you imagine taking a kayak out at sunset? Or building a dream house here? Just breathtaking.” He paused and took a gentle deep breath.

The Faulkners walked over to the dock to get a closer look at the birds swooping and diving around the lake. Daniel followed silently behind them, as the weathered boards creaked gently underfoot.

A soft bumping sound could be heard from within the boathouse at the end of the jetty, and curious, Daniel took a detour to take a quick look. He pushed open the door, which hung cockeyed off its hinges. They gave way with a prickling screech. Inside was revealed a long wooden deck along with several well-worn hooks, used to secure canoes and kayaks.

Hearing the couple behind him, he called out, “Watch your footing, one of the planks is missing.”

The couple followed him inside.

Mr. Faulkner looked closely at the structure. He wondered how much it would cost to build a proper boathouse. He saw Daniel looking down into the water at something dark, something that bumped against the underneath side of the deck with the lapping of the wavelets created from the mountain breeze.

“What is that?” asked Mr. Faulkner, straining to see.

Mr. Faulkner watched Daniel awkwardly kneel down to grasp the end of a piece of rope that was floating nearby. It appeared to be clean and new, totally out of place in a boathouse that had been abandoned for years. The agent pulled at it until there was a resistance.

The dark mass came closer into view with every tug of the rope. As it broke the surface, it rolled to one side and, to Mr. Faulkner’s horror, they stared at a woman’s face; dark eyes fixed open, skin opaque and shiny like artificial rubber. Brown hair swirled in the water around her pale cheeks, framing her face.

Daniel gasped.

“What?” said Mr. Faulkner, not believing what he was actually seeing.

“It’s…” Daniel couldn’t form the words. “She’s…”

“What?” demanded Mrs. Faulkner before leaning in for a closer look. There was a pause before she registered the face staring back at her, screamed, and then ran from the boathouse, her hurried footsteps crashing through the valley path.

“What the hell. Is she dead…?” Mr. Faulkner whispered over Daniel’s shoulder.

Daniel leaned forward. His eyes locked on the dead woman’s gaze.

Mr. Faulkner had never seen a dead body before. Sucking in a breath, he watched Daniel pull at the rope once again, dragging the woman’s body closer. Her torso, oversized from bloat, rolled over so her face was forced downward with one arm out to her side. The other arm was… missing. He could see that she was dressed in dark pants and a light short-sleeved shirt. Shoes missing, her feet ballooned and, cartoon-like, floated on the surface.

“Call the police,” Daniel whispered to Mr. Faulkner without looking back at him.

About the Author

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.

Her latest book is the crime thriller, Silent Little Angels.

You can visit her website at or connect with her on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

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Read an Excerpt: Awaken to Tarot by Karen La Puma

Author: Karen La Puma
Publisher: Soul Source Publishing
Pages: 420 (including pictures)
Genre: Self-Help / Spiritual / Self-Help / Kabbalah / Astrology / Tarot


The Tarot is visual system that reveals both our True Nature and

our obstacles. Introducing a new Tarot deck, made with digital

collage. Through pictures, symbols, meanings, questions, processes, Kabbalah, key words, and affirmations, you can learn to:

      • Find ways to reflect your inner guidance.

      • Explore the magical journey of evolution

      • Blend Astrology, Numerology, and the Tree of Life with the Tarot   

      • Discover the power and implications of the symbols of Tarot


“Awaken To Tarot is full of valuable information and I feel blessed to have it in my possession to refer to as often as I like when I am doing a tarot reading for myself. I am certain I will go to this book over and over again for inspiration and guidance while working with the Tarot.” – Cynthia, A Hippie’s Bookshelf

“This book offers deep wisdom and guidance for anyone seeking to live in alignment with universal principles. It presents a body of wonderful tools for awakening to our divine nature, showing us how to access the help that is always available to us if we know
where to look.–Susan Campbell, Ph.D. Author of Getting Real and From Triggered to Tranquil

Book Information

Release Date: November 2, 2021

Publisher:  SoulSource Publishing

Soft Cover: ISBN:  978-1878203106; 420 pages; $24.95; Kindle Unlimited FREE 


Watch the book trailer at YouTube.


Throughout history we have wanted to understand the circumstances of our lives and our relationships with others. We have had a profound desire to know ourselves on the deepest  levels, to make sound decisions, and to receive guidance from  the Divine.  

The Tarot is a set of universal principles that provide a visual system which reveals both your True Nature and the obstacles to living from this Unified State of Consciousness. Tradition ally and cross-culturally these archetypes communicate all the aspects of existence. Through these rich symbolic mirrors you can receive messages about where you are at present, an external issue, a relationship, your career, and an inner psychological state—in fact all aspects of your evolutionary journey.  In the following pages, you will touch on how to tap into inner guidance and awaken internal allies. This book was writ ten for you to draw assistance from the symbols of your soul’s journey as each card is like a magic talisman. 

As you explore the visual symbols of each Tarot card, you are given different components that add to your understanding of its meaning. After the visuals there are: a short meaning; descriptions; key words to summarize them; reflective suggestions to go into your process; questions to ponder; and an affirmation. In the descriptions there are correlations with Astrology, Numerology, the Tree of Life, the Hero’s Journey, and the general process of evolution. I have included the Hebrew letter for each of the Major Arcana, and the I Ching’s association to the Royalty cards.  

Toward the end of the book, you will learn to find your life’s path, your yearly path, some inner teachers, and sample readings for you to try. Please take what is useful for you and ignore the rest. For those of you who want to dive in deeper, there are several dense teaching chapters that I include in Part VII, “Integrating the Tarot.” Altogether these systems can assist your assimilation of each card, as their cosmic voices can exert a powerful support for you. When you use the cards, you not only have a self-reflective tool, a device to awaken intuition, but also a suggestive magnifier of the qualities you want to infuse into your life.  

This book is a part of a series called, A Toolkit for Awakening, which is based on the eminent mythologist, Joseph Camp bell’s great blueprint, “The Hero’s Journey.” It is from his classic book, A Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948). This formula for spiritual evolution, presented in Chapter 83 and the conclusion, gives the structure and foundation of this series.  

The stage of the Hero’s Journey that this book deals with is called “Supernatural Aids.” You are encouraged to seek helpers, animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, ancient and mod ern. You don’t have to rely solely upon your own innate powers.  Magical helpers appear once you are on the spiritual path as you see abundantly in myths and fairy tales. This book suggests that the Tarot is “a supernatural aid,” for these cards are external mirrors from which you can hear your inner guidance.

Having support is one of life’s most valuable assets. I am thankful for all the support I have received. Yet because I have chosen “a road less traveled,” my deepest gratitude has been to those invisible forces—the archetypes (also called universal symbols). Exploring interrelated metaphysical systems, like Tarot, Astrology, and Numerology have given me the keys to the human journey. “Meta” means beyond, for these maps of consciousness go outside the physical to bridge existence with causality. As you play with the archetypes themselves, they become intuitive and active spiritual allies.  

There is a vast array of metaphysical oracles to help you gain self–knowledge. You can delve into the many different cosmic looking glasses to muse and reflect. You can pick cards, gaze at charts and maps, throw coins, select stones, add some numbers, dream, visualize, meditate, or open a book randomly for a message, and they will become your guideposts and supportive tools that help you to see another way and wake up to the highest aspects of yourself.  

My hope is that the Tarot images, the concepts presented in this book, and the series, A Toolkit for Awakening, will be a source of support for you. The empowering myth of the Goddess Warrior on the Hero’s Journey is the underlying basis of this series. Love and allowing are the ways of the Goddess. Being accountable for your time, attention and intention is how you embody the Warrior. These archetypes become your helpers and infuse higher vibrations to facilitate new states of consciousness.  

My inner and outer helpers guide me and inspire me along my sacred path of expressing Divine Light. 

About the Author

Karen La Puma is the Author of a series of books called A Toolkit for Awakening, which are based on the Goddess Warrior on the Hero’s Journey. She is a motivational, intuitive, and spiritual counselor in private practice in the Bay Area since 1979. She is a teacher, astrologer, hypnotherapist, reiki master, inspirational speaker, and creative storyteller with a potent and timely message to empower your life.

Her latest book is Awaken to Tarot: Be Your Own Guide with Astrology, Numbers and the Tree of Life.

Visit her website at or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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 Book Excerpt: Awakening the Avatar Within by Darren Starwynn

Title: AWAKENING THE AVATAR WITHIN: A Roadmap for Uncovering Your Superpowers, Upgrading Your Body and Uplifting Humanity
Author: Darren Starwynn
Publisher: Desert Heart Press
Pages: 348
Genre: Spiritual Awakening/Meditation/Energy Healing/Personal Development

Awakening the Avatar Within offers a practical roadmap for deeply healing yourself and living an awakened, actualized life as an Avatar. An Avatar is Divine consciousness expressing itself as a human being, and this book will help awaken your awareness of this vital part of yourself.

You will learn many transformational practices for raising your level of consciousness and upgrading the health and functioning of your body. Many of these practices are based on the cutting-edge science of epigenetics. From this place you are able to become a vital part of the movement to heal and uplift the human race.

The information and energy transmissions of this book can empower you to:

  • Identify and express your superpowers
  • Become a powerful catalyst of healing for yourself and others on the Quantum level
  • Increase your inner peace and clarity of mind through awareness of the Fifth Dimension and the Quantum Field
  • Identify your “job description” as a Lightworker
  • Create a fulfilling daily practice of meditation and self-development
  • Activate your Light Body (Merkaba)
  • Augment your self-love and come to peace with your shadow self
  • Be a planetary healer, and join with other Avatars in uplifting the human race

Dr. Darren Starwynn has had a long career as acupuncturist, inventor, writer, healer and teacher, integrating therapeutic systems from around the world. He has written four groundbreaking books, led hundreds of workshops and seminars, invented several vibrational devices used worldwide and helped develop advanced mind-body healing systems.

“Awakening the Avatar Within is a phenomenal guidebook on how to live on the leading edge of consciousness and awaken your latent superpowers. It is indispensable reading for those wishing to claim their power to live an extraordinary life of deep love and fulfillment of their highest purpose.”  —Christy Whitman, author of The Desire Factor and the New York Times bestseller The Art of Having It All

“Awakening the Avatar Within guides you through the essential actions and practices you can do to fulfill the higher potential that you always knew was possible but may have had a hard time actualizing. Avatars are human beings going through a process of re-wiring the energy circuitry of their bodies so they can embody higher light more of the time. This is required reading for anyone ready for awakening to their true self and learning to practice energy healing at a high level of expression.”    —David T. Kyle, Ph.D., bestselling author of Energy Teachings of The Three

“Awakening the Avatar Within aligns with the energies emerging during this important time on our planet, calling us to step into our magnificence and embody our Truth as the Soulful Self, or the Avatar we are.”  From the Foreword by Dr. Sue Morter, author of The Energy Codes

“Awakening the Avatar Within is one of those books you will want to keep around for years. It can help you gain insights for self-transformation. This book is a treasure of workable insight and approaches.”  –Richard Gordon, Author/Founder of Quantum-Touch

“Darren Starwynn’s book, Awakening the Avatar Within, is both inspirational and practical. It is a treasure map of how to heal, grow and embody the Divine Self. Anyone with the willingness to follow this motivational guide and apply the simple and grounded processes can accelerate their awakening journey. This book is a spiritual gift, for it shows us how to be a part of the Second Coming of Christ, which is a group event. I highly recommend it for all who want to live their True Nature and manifest a creative and transformative purpose.”  -Karen La Puma author of the A Toolkit for Awakening book series

“Awakening the Avatar Within is a sophisticated yet accessible guidebook for healing and spiritual awakening that brilliantly incorporates wisdom from many streams, including Darren Starwynn’s own direct connection with Source. Fresh, inspired, and heart-based, it’s filled with mind-expanding concepts, moving stories, compelling testimonies, and powerful exercises that will totally uplift your entire being, from body, to mind, to spirit. It’s also an illuminating resource for healing practitioners who want to go deeper with their clients. Thank you, Darren, for using your superpowers to bring this gift forth. It should become required reading for anyone incarnated on planet Earth.”  – Marguerite Rigoglioso, Ph.D.  Author, The Mystery Tradition of Miraculous Conception:  Mary and the Lineage of Virgin Births

“These days, there seems to be an endless stream of books and Internet sites about healing and consciousness, Darren’s book Invoke the Avatar Within stands out like a bright beacon of light. Darren has done something new and different, very necessary in these destructive times on our planet Earth. He has provided a practical roadmap for evolving both our minds and physical bodies to a higher level of consciousness and vitality through the principles of epigenetics and spiritual alchemy. He has convincingly shown a way that people can become Avatars, and how awakened Avatars can join forces to literally change this world. Today, in the compromised political and public domains, it is truly difficult to name any heroes, Darren’s work is indeed champion.”  -Jon Whale. PhD., author of The Catalyst of Power, scientist and inventor

In his latest book, Awakening the Avatar Within, Darren Starwynn manages to describe the current problems, and the solutions for all of humanity in clear and easy prose, and makes it easy to follow his guidance in how to recognize and develop the Avatar you already are. In addition, you can feel an energy transmission that emanates from the very pages of the book. This book is chock-full of intriguing information along with easy-to-follow guided practices, all designed to awaken your remembrance of who you really are.”  -Vidya Frazier, Author of The Ascension Lightworker Guide & Awakening to the Fifth Dimension

“In Invoke the Avatar Within You, Darren Starwynn, O.M.D., offers a practical and pertinent guide to how to be a “practicing evolutionary”, and help heal our own lives, along with humanity’s traumas. As the boundaries between the physical and metaphysical become more porous, Darren helps awakening souls guide others through this evolutionary passage – so that heaven becomes a practice instead of a destination.”  — Steve Bhaerman, aka Swami Beyondananda, Comedian, Uncommontator and co-author of Spontaneous Evolution with Bruce Lipton

“Awakening the Avatar Within guides the reader through practical steps of a deep inner awakening of their highest self, helping tap into pure consciousness, your own healing transmission and the ability to transcend old habits and patterns that have kept us stuck as mind/limiting self.”  —Shannon Kassoff, Yoga Teacher, Master Reiki Teacher

Book Information

Release Date: September 15, 2021

Publisher:  Desert Heart Press

Soft Cover: ISBN: 0578251426; 348 pages; $19.99; E-Book, $7.99


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There is now a rapidly growing movement of people who recognize that the awakening of human consciousness is the ultimate solution to our personal and planetary problems. They recognize the truth that there is one common denominator to all the environmental, social, political, economic and health crises facing the human race now. That common denominator is the part of the human mind denying our true, divine self – the universal consciousness of Love and oneness.

This book is a roadmap to an extraordinary transformative process few people even believe is possible. Each of its chapters contains consciousness-awakening messages combined with transmissions of higher light energy. Receiving these transmissions and working with the guided practices offered will support you in realizing your true identity as an Avatar. The word Avatar is derived from the Sanskrit word avatara, which means “descent,” meaning the Divine coming down into material expression.

You probably know some people who radiate spiritual light in powerful and charismatic ways. Many are drawn to follow them, and they tend to be spiritual teachers, ministers or other kinds of leaders. You may wonder “I’m not one of those, how could I be an Avatar?” The truth is, there are many different ways Avatars show up and not all are in public view. I can assure you that you have your own “job description” for how you beautifully express divinity. Chapter 17 – Your Job Description as a Lightworker will help you identify it.[1]

Living as an Avatar becomes real as you go through the physiological process of upgrading your body to be able to hold a higher frequency of energy and consciousness. From that place, you will discover you have real superpowers you can develop and share to help heal, bless and uplift others. And, have a lot of fun in the process!

These extraordinary transformations are possible because we are living through a wave of rapid planetary ascension of consciousness affecting all life. This is part of vast cycles of consciousness that have been documented in the ancient Vedas from India, traditional Mayan cosmology and other sources. The doors to awakened consciousness are now wide open, much more so than ever before in recent human history. In fact, our greatest impediment to taking advantage of this extraordinary opportunity is simply believing we can’t.

We are already moving through this ascension into greater light, and nothing can stop it. What is variable is how much suffering there needs to be during this transition time. This is where modern Avatars shine. We have powerful abilities to heal ourselves and reduce the suffering of others. We do this by helping accelerate the grounding of higher light in our bodies, our psyches, our societies, our arts, our institutions and our sciences.

There are so many good people working toward the healing and upliftment of humanity in all those areas. Yet without the major shift of consciousness Avatars help bring, our collective experience is likely to look like one step forward, one step backward. That’s not enough for humanity to make it through this time without increasing destruction.

Each of us is caught up in this ascension of consciousness, and our experience of it can range from blissful to deeply disturbing. A great analogy is riding a surfboard on large ocean waves. When surfers have good balance and skill, the experience of riding big waves is exhilarating and joyful.

If they lose their balance and “wipe out,” they can quickly find themselves crushed under a wall of water and gasping for breath.

In a similar way, when we trustingly allow the rapidly elevating energies of consciousness ascension to carry us, it is a high, joyful experience – the greatest ride of your life. Yet when we fearfully deny and resist this profound shift in consciousness, it can and often does feel scary and overwhelming.

The information, perspectives and practical methods presented in this book come from my own lifetime journey of learning, research, self-healing, helping heal others, meditation, facing my shadow self, teaching and direct spiritual experience. Rather than place a bio about me at the beginning of the book, I have woven my personal story throughout various chapters within it.

Healing Ourselves

If you’re like many people on the path of self-healing, you may have consulted with a succession of healers, therapists, doctors, holistic practitioners, clergy, gurus or self-help books, and yet still have times when you feel a deep sense of trauma or disconnect within your being. And yet there is a mighty divine current flowing through you 24-7 that can free you from all bondage and give you the power to help free the rest of the human race. This is the missing link that can bring you what you have really been looking for through all that searching.

You can access more of this divine current through the process of becoming Christed. Christing refers to a process through which your mind, body, nervous system and genetics are literally rewired to operate at higher frequencies of love, intelligence and creative power.

These are attributes of what is often called God or Divine source, and as an Avatar, your job is learning to practically express them in your everyday life. In this case, the term Christing has a similar meaning to the words “maturing,” “evolving,” or other terms that describe a process of fulfilling one’s greater potential. The oft-prophesied second coming of Christ is not about one superstar person making a grand appearance. The second coming is happening as huge numbers of people become Christed, and through the immense field of love and power that generates, we are able to effectively rebuild our world.

Section Two of this book is titled Quantum Healing and gives you practical guidance in developing your Avatar healing abilities. As will be explained in Chapter 13, you are in holographic inter-connection with all life. This means there is no real separation between you, everyone else and the entire Universe. Therefore you can be a catalyst of healing for people thousands of miles away. Due to the holographic principle, there is essentially no difference between healing yourself and helping heal the planet – it all happens together. It’s just a matter of your intention and focus.[2]

The phrase, I AM Avatar, is a supremely powerful affirmation and mantra of your highest truth. When you say I AM Avatar, you identify yourself as an expression of the pure love, power and wisdom of the Universe. You accept responsibility for being a vital part of the solution at this critical time. To some people, saying I AM Avatar or I AM the Christ may sound like a radical, conceited or even insane thing to say. Yet claiming I AM Avatar is the pre-eminent key to the fulfillment of your personal purpose, healing and self-realization.

The following passage from the beloved Indian scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, expresses the purpose of an Avatar well. The word Dharma in this quote means fulfilling your true purpose and living in tune with the laws of nature.

“Whenever dharma declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to reestablish dharma.”[3]

According to this phrase, we are certainly living in a time where Avatars are needed – lots of us.

I’m calling upon you to trust your own inner knowing and not settle for anything less than this highest and clearest truth that a vital part of you already knows. If you have ever felt that there was a bigger picture for fulfilling your life potential, or a more expansive way you could contribute to the welfare of the human race, now is the time to step up. It is my sincere wish that the message, practices and vibrational transmission of this book act as a touchstone to help awaken you to a greater truth of who you really are. The tools you will gain here can empower you to free yourself from your own inner struggles and contradictions, and recognize the divine energy transmission that is already flowing through you. The ultimate solution is right here to all the things that may have made you feel discouraged, frustrated or afraid.

Dogma–Free Understanding of Avatar, Christ, Buddha and Lightworker

The word Christ has a similar meaning as Avatar. It is derived from the Greek word Kristos which means the anointed one, referring to a human being who is expressing divine Presence. Christ is an innate quality of the true, higher self of human beings. Therefore, I use both terms Avatar and Christ interchangeably throughout this book. The term Christ is not used here in a religious, Christian context. The term Buddha, which means “awakened one” in the Pali language, also has a similar meaning. All of these terms describe the experience of being an awakened Avatar in human form, independent of any religious affiliations or beliefs.

A more contemporary word to describe those stepping up to heal and serve through higher consciousness is Lightworker. There are already many millions of people acting as Lightworkers on our planet now, and that is one of the main reasons that so many natural and human-caused disasters have been averted or lessened from how severe they could have been. If you are a Lightworker or moving into being one, Chapter 17 will help you identify the characteristic ways you offer your love and service.

Two of the most famous Avatars, Jesus the Christ and Gautama the Buddha, were not always awake. They had to go through a process of becoming aware of the illusions they lived in, taking back their power and awakening themselves to their true nature. They were able to break free of the profound amnesia most of us fall into when we grow up in human bodies. Yet they are no more Avatar than you are. It’s just that they accomplished their awakening to a greater degree, and so can act as our helpful big brothers. This same opportunity is in front of you now.

How Can Avatars Help Uplift the World?

Avatars are creators, and intuitively grasp a profound truth: what we see as “the world” is not any certain way. It is really what we believe it to be and make it to be. Realizing this truth is a major step in awakening our consciousness and knowing who we really are. Less awakened people generally see the world helplessly, in a fear-based way. Avatars learn to hold the vision of the world they choose to live in, manifesting their vision by focusing their love, consciousness and actions upon it. This means that each person living as an Avatar becomes a beacon of light helping illuminate the path for others.

This form of focus has unlimited potency, especially as large numbers of us develop our superpowers and focus together. See Chapter 4 to learn more about your superpowers.

I have witnessed many remarkable examples of the power of Avatars when we focus our light together. As a striking example, in fall of 2019 some of the worst wildfires in recorded history were raging throughout eastern Australia. Prior to the start of these wildfires Australia had been gripped by record heat and more than two years of continuous drought. By November of that year a state of catastrophic fire danger was declared in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales. By January, 2020 over 46 million acres were burning in various Australian states and territories, destroying thousands of homes and wiping out entire species of animals and plants.

In mid-January, 2020 I received a series of emails calling on me to participate in two scheduled times of global meditation to benefit Australia. Participants were requested to take a few minutes two days in a row to visualize heavy rains falling all over the fire-stricken parts of the country. It was suggested in the email that we visualize people standing out in the rain celebrating and giving thanks. I participated in these group meditations, feeling the power of people all over the world focusing their prayers.

Rain started falling within two days after these global meditations. The first rainfall in late January started putting out the fires. Then, between February 6th and 10th 154 inches of rain fell throughout the fire-stricken areas of Australia, putting out most of the fires. It was the heaviest rainfall recorded in Australia in 30 years.[4]

I have heard about or witnessed many experiences like that. Another one happened at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill back in April of 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico. Considered to be one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history, over 210 million gallons of petroleum was discharged into the Gulf with severe toxic effects on human and marine life. Scientists and engineers tried many methods to cap the deep underwater well without success over a five-month period.

On the weekend of September 18 – 19 of 2010 I was participating in a spiritual healing retreat in Tucson, Arizona led by Dr. Zhi Gang Sha, a teacher of advanced spiritual healing methods. At one point on Saturday the 18th one of the retreat participants suggested that I ask Dr. Sha if our group could somehow help mitigate the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster. I did go up to him during a break and explained the situation. Dr. Sha had not heard about it since he apparently didn’t listen to the news. But he acknowledged the situation and agreed to “see what he and our group energy could do.” The next day, Sunday the 19th, I was checking the news and learned that a team of engineers had finally succeeded at capping and containing the oil spill.

Was this just an interesting co-incidence? Or could it have been a manifestation of the power of focused intention? I am open to the latter explanation because I have personally experienced or heard about many such extraordinary healings and reprieves from negative or disastrous situations throughout my life. Awakening Avatars can participate in a level of causality hard to explain through most of our sciences, yet can clearly be experienced. The science of Quantum physics has been catching up to being able to explain the power of consciousness to create reality, and you will find several explanations of quantum phenomena throughout this book.

Why Trauma Matters and Why Healing Trauma is an Essential Part of the Solution

Trauma is a big deal for the human race now. While about 8 – 12 million people in the United States are medically diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, almost all of the rest of us deal with what I call “low-grade PTSD.” It has become our new normal to feel stressed out in various ways due to economic pressures, isolation, family breakdowns, exposure to toxins and living in highly polarized societies.

Ironically, all of this easily recognizable stress is exacerbated by the mass ascension of consciousness we are part of. As our consciousness expands, we are becoming more empathic, literally feeling more of the pain of the world. Many of our own conveniently buried psychic burdens and unresolved past trauma are also coming up to the surface of our minds much more quickly than we can often process. These are reasons why so much of the traditional psychotherapies and holistic healing arts only ease part of people’s distress these days.

As mentioned above, Lightworkers are Avatars who specialize in helping others heal by awakening to their true nature. This is the highest and most effective form of healing. It truly frees people from their past mental and emotional programming and allows them to step up to being part of the solution themselves. Section Two of this book is full of valuable guidance for healers and specific healing methods.

Opening to your Avatar Energy Transmission

As you go through the process of becoming Christed, you become familiar with the specific ways divine consciousness expresses through you. I call this your unique energy transmission. This is a stream of pure vibrational energy emanating from your highest spiritual source that flows through you and blesses others in profound ways. This is the essence of you. It is also what makes you most effective at whatever you are called to do in your life.

Why do I say that your energy transmission is unique? Think of the human race as a huge symphony orchestra. Each musician in the orchestra has her own part to play that differs from most of the other player’s parts, although some players share the same part and play in sections. When each player in the symphony plays her part clearly and accurately an amazing, beautiful composite musical sound is created. This is the way it is with us. Our energy transmission is the part we are given to play in the grand symphony of the human race. Our highest key to success, effectiveness and fulfillment in every aspect of our life is identifying our unique energy transmission and cultivating our body’s ability to hold and emanate it.

The specific abilities your transmission gives you can be called your superpowers. These are the ways you express genius in your life. Yes, that’s right, genius. Genius refers to people who have opened up to allow their transmission to freely express though them. There is great, unlimited power in this. We have seen how a handful of people in touch with their genius have transformed the human race through science, technology, the expressive arts, furthering of human rights, spiritual awakening and much more. You are now called to be one of them. Why? Because you can!  And, also because the world surely needs that special ability you are perfectly suited to offer.

The reason this book, and others like it are needed is that most of us who are Avatars in human form are on the latter part of a long journey in which we have been exploring the human experience. During this “long strange trip” we have experienced all manner of high and low vibratory experiences, from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair. We have repeatedly acted out the roles of both perpetrator and victim. Many of these experiences have created lasting energy imprints upon the ultra-sensitive inner membranes of our subconscious minds. By now, that has created quite a bewildering burden that can cloud our hearts and obscure our sight. I often use the Sanskrit word samskara, or the English terms “energetic gunk,” conditioning or “residoo-doo” to refer to this complex psychic burden that is at the root of most chronic pain, disease, anxiety and depression.

One factor that has made this burden even heavier is the tendency for some self-serving individuals and organizations to take advantage of others by programming their minds with messages and images designed to manipulate them into giving their divine power away. These individuals have been all too happy to take this power for their own personal gain. You will learn how to put a stop to that in this book.

Human beings are energy transceivers. This means that that we are constantly sharing energy vibrations with others – sending and receiving. This includes those close to us and those a world apart. The current Earth condition in which close to 8 billion people are sharing vibrations that are frequently stressed and fear-based has created a kaleidoscopic mass hallucination in which we have largely lost touch with who we really are. No wonder things often seem so bizarre.

The great news is that there are simple, effective methods for clearing your inner space so you can not only remember that you are an Avatar, but also embody that pure, high vibration of love in your everyday, physical experience. This makes you a powerful part of the solution whether you are engaging as an activist or living a quiet, contemplative life – or anything in between.

Healing Humanity

As I write these words our human family is living through a new set of experiences that very few of us ever expected. Fallout from the COVID-19 virus epidemic put the brakes on much of human activity through much of 2020 and 2021, and at the time of this writing is still adversely affecting much of the world economy. As is usually the case, those who are richer and more privileged are coping relatively well and even thriving, while the poor face increasingly devastating consequences.

There are almost endless beliefs and theories about what this epidemic is, where it came from, why it is happening and what the solution could be to get the human race back on track. People hunger to know – when will things go back to normal so we can get on with our lives? 

My firm belief is that things will never go back to what we considered normal, and that’s a great blessing. We have been living on Planet Earth in ways that have become increasingly unsustainable, and as a result are facing a myriad of escalating consequences. To put it simply, we just can’t keep living the way we’ve been living. The issues surrounding COVID, and pressing social issues filling the news headlines daily have pushed an even more crucial truth to the background of most people’s awareness – and that is the environmental reckoning we are facing now. Ninety-seven percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree tat climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, and the majority emphatically state that this poses critical threats to human wellbeing and even survival. 

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a well-known sci-fi movie that was released in two versions in 1951 and 2008.  The story is about an alien with God-like powers who comes to Earth to tell the human race that our self-destructive ways are not only endangering ourselves but other worlds as well, and that we must change our ways or be stopped. In case you have not seen the movie I recommend it and will not spoil it by disclosing more.

Although our current situation is not the same as the plot of that movie the underlying truth – the urgent need for rapid, fundamental change – is accurate.

It would make sense for scientists, governments, churches and all concerned people to come together to mobilize our best resources to resolve the pressing crises facing humanity.  Yet there is deep division among people, not only about what the best approach is but even what the most fundamental facts are about our situation. This extreme polarization has hamstringed the kind of massive, unified action and mobilization that is so needed now.

This book offers a radical perspective on some of the most effective solutions to these challenges of our individual and global situation. I will demonstrate that it is through our consciousness that we have collectively created our current situation, and it is through the unlimited power of awakened consciousness that we can save the human race and our Earth from destruction, while simultaneously ascending into a way of living we may have only dreamed of as conscious, joyful sovereigns.

[1]  See Chapter 17 for distinction between the terms Avatar and Lightworker 

[2]  Chapter 13 provides details of the remarkable practice of engaging in planetary healing

[3]  Attributed to the ancient Avatar Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita


Dr. Darren Starwynn has been aware of the Quantum Field of consciousness since childhood, traveling to India to study with a spiritual master during his teenage years. Since then Darren has had a long career as acupuncturist, medical device developer, writer, healer and teacher, integrating therapeutic systems from around the world. He has written four groundbreaking books, led hundreds of workshops and seminars and invented several vibrational devices used worldwide. Darren’s workshops and retreats weave laughter and playfulness with profound personal healing and transformation.

Thousands of people have been directly or indirectly touched by Darren’s offerings, and he has inspired many colleagues to expand the scope of their work to include energy medicine and consciousness-based healing systems. His work integrates vibrational energy medicine with multi-dimensional quantum healing to help people rapidly release old trauma, pain and limitations to their self-expression.

Darren serves as a Reverend through the Lightworker Ministry, empowering healers and Lightworkers to live as Avatars and participate in the currently unfolding planetary ascension of consciousness. He is a graduate of the Tri-State Institute of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and received a doctorate in Chinese Medicine in 1995 through the National Academy of Advanced Asian Medicine. He has been ordained as a Knight through the Sacred Medical Order of the Knights of Hope, a branch of the historical Knights Hospitaler from Europe.

Darren also loves playing and composing music, hiking, writing and dancing.

His latest book is Awakening the Avatar Within.

Visit his website at

You can connect with him at Twitter or Facebook.

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Read the First Chapter of Through Dangerous Doors: A Life at Risk by Robert Charles Lee

Read a Chapter

Read a Chapter is a *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the memoir, Through Dangerous Doors: A Life at Risk by Robert Charles Lee. Enjoy!



In a life defined by risk, Robert Charles Lee experiences a poor and free-ranging childhood in the racist South of the 1960s. After his father dies, the family grows dysfunctional. As a result, teen-age Robert seeks sanity and solace by rock climbing solo and driving cars fast. He wins a scholarship and graduates from university, but still seeks to escape the South.

Moving to Alaska and the Western US, Robert works in a series of dangerous and brutal jobs. He meets and marries Linda, who enjoys climbing and skiing difficult mountains as much as he does. Simultaneously, Robert trains in the science of risk to become a respected professional risk scientist.

Robert shares his remarkable story as he guides the reader through a series of dangerous but rewarding doors, culminating in a vivid journey of adventure and risk.

~ Chapter 1 ~

The Free-Range Door

The horse gallops across our range of a few acres. I’m exhilarated and barely hanging on, but my father, Charles, is watching. I go hunting with him, and he guffaws when I’m almost knocked flat by the recoil of my first deafening discharge of a twelve-gauge. I explore the copperhead-snake, wasp, hornet, tick, chigger, and poison ivy infested hardwood forest on our property. My feet and legs are bare much of the year. However, I tread carefully. The door to the outdoors opens. I’m six or seven years old, but I eagerly enter.


I was serious about managing risk, even as a kid. Life began as a late Boomer and a Fallout Boy. A B-52 bomber broke up over my home state in 1961, releasing two nuclear bombs. Above-ground nuclear weapons tests were conducted in the United States West, creating radioactive dust clouds. These events perhaps foretold a career steeped in radiation.

My family is of working-class, British and Scots-Irish ancestry; the original hillbillies in the Appalachians and Piedmont. My birthplace and time were subject to systemic White racism, resulting in the designation “Klansville, USA.” We lived near Salisbury in rural Granite Quarry, North Carolina, about a mile from the gated compound of Bob Jones, a powerful Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon. Jones was kicked out of the Navy for refusing to salute a Black officer, proclaiming, “I won’t salute no nigger.” Jones helped expand the North Carolina KKK to over ten-thousand members. A friend and I once snuck over to watch a cross-burning near his property.

If the neighborhood White men weren’t pickin’ and grinnin’, drinking and playing guitars and banjos on their porches on a Saturday night, they were hanging out with their bros in the local men’s Klub. I don’t recall any lynchings, but harassment and violence were common. The county sheriff was a Klan member, and wore a Western cowboy hat on his bald head and a patch over one dead eye. Chain-gangs broke rocks in the steaming Southern heat under the squinty eyes of shotgun-toting overseers on horseback. Most of the Black people in the area lived in segregation in the equivalent of a shanty town. Schools, churches, and most activities were segregated.

My family is purported to be related to the slaveowner and traitor General Robert E. Lee, but I’ve not been able to verify this. If true, I’m appalled in a moral sense, but there’s nothing I can do about it aside from trying to be an anti-racist and a good citizen. At least I don’t have the same middle name. I do indeed have a red neck, but solely due to years of outdoor activity.

My father, Charles, was no stranger to risk. He served as a United States Marine drill sergeant and war dog trainer in World War II. He was a marksman, boxer, expert swimmer, hunter, hunting dog trainer, fisherman, and horseman. As far as I can tell, he was good at whatever he tackled. He was a so-called “good ol’ boy,” but he was intelligent and wasn’t racist, which was itself risky in a racist society. He was raised in rural North Carolina and loved the outdoors. His brothers were also intelligent and interested in the natural world. Charles was a small-time homebuilder by profession, which had its dangers. He was struck by lightning once while working on the roof of a house and tumbled off, breaking his leg.

My mother, Frances, was the flaming red-haired, seventh daughter of a quarryman and his wife from Leicestershire, England. This resulted in unusual speech patterns and word usage for a Southern boy. I loved going to her father Pop’s cottage to visit. It was a pat of working-class, Old Blighty butter in a sea of hick grits.

Frances wasn’t as risk-seeking as Charles, but she loved him and indulged his lifestyle. Charles was a strong advocate of what’s now called free-range parenting, but he made sure the kids applied some common sense. My free-range childhood was the start of a long and winding road to rational risk management.

The family likely lived below the federal poverty level, but we grew vegetables, and hunted and fished for meat. I’m not sure whether we were called “White trash” or not. We lived in a small frame house Charles built, so we weren’t trailer trash. Charles was the alpha over the other five humans, a couple of horses, a dozen or so hunting hounds, several pet dogs and cats, a cow, chickens, and various wild animals we kids caught and eventually released. All those kids and animals required food, so this contributed to our poverty. I didn’t inherit Charles’s horse addiction, but my older sister did, and horses became the focus of her life. All the kids loved and still love dogs, the noblest of beasts.

Being an ex-Marine and a natural teacher, Charles taught the kids how to fight and shoot as early as possible. Marines specialize in those skills and consider them important. Part of the reason may have been a practical risk management strategy, given our family didn’t belong to the Klan tribe. These were dangerous times for Blacks, and to a lesser degree, Whites who didn’t buy into the systemic and often violent racism extant in the South.

Hunting was another reason for early firearms training. Charles owned a half dozen or so hunting rifles and shotguns he kept unlocked in open racks in our home. He kept unlocked guns on a rack in his pickup truck, as did many men. We would never have considered touching Charles’s guns without his permission. He taught us how to hunt and take care of guns as soon as we could pick them up. I received a twenty-two caliber rifle and a twenty-gauge shotgun of my own around the age of seven.

Packs of feral dogs prowled the countryside. Many families let their dogs roam, and didn’t neuter them. Chickens and other small animals were at risk from these packs, and occasionally the neighborhood men went dog hunting. Dog- and cockfighting were common, but my parents disapproved.

Charles never used physical punishment on me, unlike Frances, who later in life didn’t spare the rod. He was a powerful man, but I don’t recall seeing him pissed, or even in a bad mood. According to older relatives, he was hilarious, although I was too young to fully appreciate it. He referred to me as an “odd liddle feller,” an assessment that was and still is, accurate.

I was born left-handed. Back then, southpaw-ness was considered a mental and physical defect. Schools encouraged right-handedness, and Frances proclaimed, “I won’t have any left-handers in my house.” The basis for this policy was unclear, as were many of her stances. The sinister implications of being a lefty were never clear to me. I was hampered as an athlete until I ignored Frances and switched to using my left hand for throwing and other boyish activities. I still have unreadable, right-handed penmanship, but using the left would be worse.

A rural Southern accent is often associated with sub-normal intellect, bigotry, and other negative attributes. Many years ago, a dear, sweet Yankee friend from the North commented, “I’m amazed you became an academician, having such an accent.” At the time, I hadn’t lived in the South for twenty years. She had no idea this observation might be insulting or condescending. I’ve known others from the South to tamp down or discard their Southern accents due to negative perceptions, which ain’t easy. I never cared enough to bother, but my yokel-ish accent may have hampered my life in subtle ways.

Our family always made a yearly trip to the Appalachian Mountains, often in the fall when the hardwood forest blazed with color. A surefire way to tell somebody ain’t from around there is if they pronounce Appalachia with a long a sound on the third vowel. Our activities were largely limited to driving around, in the spirit of the 1950s and early 1960s. However, there were high points for an odd liddle feller. I wore a favorite sweater which I imagined to be my special protective mountain parka. Charles gave me an old masonry hammer I employed as an ice ax in mountain climbing fantasies when we stopped for breaks. This foreshadowed the pursuits that have consumed much of my adult life.

Once, the family was in the middle of a sketchy suspension bridge with big air underneath, between the two peaks of Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. Charles started to swing the bridge back and forth, to the kids’ glee and Frances’s terror. To this day, I try to swing my wife, Linda, on any swingable bridge, but she demands I go across first. I’m my father’s child in many ways.

I called my parents “Mommy” and “Daddy” when I was liddle, but for reasons unclear, I started using their first names as a youth. Perhaps I was trying to distance myself from my mother, for reasons that will become clear. She also suffered a number of silly and obscure nicknames, including Chewie, which I don’t think was short for Chewbacca. I may have called her Frances just to be different.

My father died when I was eight, the year the Civil Rights Act passed. He died in his forties, victim of a hereditary kidney disease called glomerulonephritis, which skipped his sons due to genetic luck. The loss of my father plunged me into a maelstrom of involuntary risk.

Frances was a fine mother and partner to Charles when he was alive, but after he died, she was forced to work. She’d never worked in a formal job but had taken secretarial training at a junior college. She sold off most of the animals, Charles’s guns, a rental house he’d built, and most possessions of value. I doubt the family had any savings. Frances was unprepared for working and single parenthood, in both temperament and practical matters, so she hired a Black woman named Annie to babysit us and run the household. She was “the help.”

My two oldest siblings started to grow wild, but Annie kept me and my younger brother under control. She was a hefty, strong, and competent woman, somebody you didn’t want to mess with. As long as she commanded our respect, we continued to live a similar lifestyle as before.

Annie influenced my musical brain in the form of gospel and soul music she listened to on Black radio stations. I thought it was cool, and I enjoyed seeing her sway to the grooves and hearing her sing along. Later, when I became a musician, I appreciated how rare it is for music to speak from the depths of the soul.

While Charles was alive, the family attended both Lutheran and Episcopal churches, according to the preferences of my parents. The existence of two different Christian denominations in one small, rural town was due to settlement by immigrant quarrymen of German and British descent. I found the churches and their teachings interesting. They represented two interpretations of the same mythology, and I enjoyed some of the music.

After Charles died, though, I told Frances I didn’t believe any of the spiritual stuff. She was indifferent, so I backslid. I never saw any value in supernatural belief. Lack of belief was associated with risk, if I gave any credence to Blaise Pascal’s wager for the existence of a god or gods. I didn’t, and eternal damnation was and remains the absolute least of my worries. Much later though, I came to appreciate Pascal as a father of decision analysis.

Frances slipped into clinical depression and an anxiety disorder. She was deeply in love with Charles, and unprepared for working and raising four large, headstrong, and unruly kids. Frances did her best, but she wasn’t a strong woman. She was broken, and for years, was prescribed a bewildering cocktail of powerful and toxic drugs. It wasn’t until she was in her sixties that she was weaned off the drugs and her condition stabilized. Her eventual dementia could be partially attributed to drug use. Many elderly people take multiple prescription and nonprescription drugs, unaware of possible negative interactions. If they drink alcohol as well, they risk increased psychological and physical damage.

Modern medicine is miraculous, but it doesn’t always work as well as it should. My health risks due to medical errors increased. This has been a major source of involuntary risk throughout my life. The first I remember was a prescription error. We lived in a rural area with many species of grass which flowered much of the year, and I developed a severe grass pollen allergy. Our physician, who still had bathrooms labeled Men, Women, and Colored, as if the latter were a third gender, prescribed one-hundred milligram capsules of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) every few hours, the maximum recommended adult dose. Diphenhydramine is also used as a sleep aid. I was a child zombie as a result. Perhaps Frances found me more manageable when I was zombie-fied. I missed much of the second grade because I simply couldn’t think. I don’t remember when the dose was adjusted downward, but due to a lack of other effective antihistamines, I took diphenhydramine for years.

I compensated for the zombie-ness by self-medicating with large amounts of sugary and caffeine-laden soda, and sugar in general. This didn’t help my oral hygiene, and had other adverse effects. In grade school, fluoride treatment was made available. Without it, I could’ve been indentured by now. Fluoride was also added to toothpaste (Look, Mom, no cavities!). The result of the overuse of fluoride was mild fluorosis, manifesting as whiter spots on my teeth. A dentist from my childhood, whom I recall with clarity because he had unpleasantly large and hairy, ungloved fingers, tried to grind away the spots on my incisors until he realized they weren’t just on the surface.

I don’t recall flossing until I was a young adult. The family had no dental insurance, contributing to decay and crooked, White-trash teeth. Only wealthier kids received good dental care and braces. It’s surprising I still have the roots of all my teeth.

A missed childhood diagnosis was myopia, which isn’t a sudden onset condition. My third-grade teacher finally alerted Frances to the fact I couldn’t see a damn thing. Being able to see clearly with prescription lenses opened doors to many new worlds.

Frances loved to read, and she had a small library including a complete set of encyclopedias, which I read often. I read the entire King James Bible, as well as Greek, Roman, Norse, and other mythologies. I read everything I could find. I read the dictionary when I couldn’t find anything else. All this reading was a positive thing. Rural Southern schools back then weren’t exactly paragons of learning. History and social studies curricula were laughable, especially with regard to slavery and racism. “Fake news” isn’t a new invention. My voracious reading balanced the risks associated with a poor education, which can persist throughout life.

Back then, a Southern boy who didn’t play football, baseball, or basketball was considered a lower phylum of life. Confused hand dominance impeded my sports ability, but I also wore glasses and did well in academics. I was therefore branded as a nerd, a significant psychological and social impediment. These days, it’s cool to be a nerd, but certainly not then. I was excluded from the athletes’ tribe, and always picked last for teams.

This was devastating, but perhaps fortunate. There’s no better way to put a kid at risk for a lifetime of physical pain and dysfunction than to let them engage in contact team sports. Once I shifted to left-handed athletic activities, I became more proficient in baseball and softball. This was bad enough, considering the risk of high-speed balls hitting sensitive parts of the body such as the nuts and noggin. I wore a cup, but good batting helmets weren’t common when I played Little League baseball. My left shoulder and elbow suffered from throwing hard with poor form and little muscle. I was never good in true contact sports such as basketball or football, which was fortunate. Kids are at much greater risk for injury playing these sports.

The risks added up. Many were then uncertain, at least among the general public, such as health effects associated with tobacco use. One way to make a little money during the season was pulling, or harvesting, tobacco, a major crop in North Carolina. I started work before the age of ten, toiling alongside mostly Black adult laborers. Between sweating bullets in the torrid Carolina climate and getting tobacco plant sap all over my hands and arms, I recall being quite buzzed. The nicotine in the ’baccy countered my diphenhydramine zombie-ness. Most of the adult men, including Charles, smoked and chewed tobacco, as did many boys. The rate of lung and oral cancer must have been whopping. Chewie refused to kiss Charles until he spit out his chewbacca. I chewed ’baccy once I started playing Little League. All the boys did. If they didn’t enjoy it, they chewed to avoid being ostracized. It’s surprising I never became addicted, although there’s likely a genetic component to tobacco addiction.

It’s impossible to estimate my personal cumulative risk associated with all the toxic stuff I was exposed to in the 1950s and 1960s. I’m uncertain exactly what I was exposed to or in what amounts. Environmental protection regulations didn’t exist, and food safety was rudimentary. The family lived on the edge of the higher radon zone in North Carolina, on top of granite with radioactive minerals as part of its composition. Our house was ridden with asbestos, including the siding and flooring, and perhaps the roofing and insulation. Lead from gasoline and paint was everywhere, as were numerous other chemicals later banned. Many substances later found to be toxic existed in prepared foods at the time.

I begged for and received a chemistry set for Christmas one year and proceeded to alchemize foul and toxic-fumed concoctions. I used an asbestos heat-diffusing pad over my Bunsen burner when boiling these brews. I melted lead, because it was interesting to transform a metal to liquid. I soldered wires in old electronic equipment, resulting in more lead fume exposure and potential electrocution. I tried to make gunpowder, but only succeeded in exposing myself to choking smoke. We burned most of our trash in old oil barrels, and I threw in objects or substances that exploded or caused fireballs or stunk. I collected mercury from old switches, thermometers, and other sources, acquiring a fat marble-size ball to play with. As a junior rockhound, I collected radioactive uranium minerals found in North Carolina pegmatite.

I explored under the house and in old abandoned buildings contaminated with pesticides. Frances didn’t let us ride our bikes behind the dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT-fogging trucks patrolling the streets during mosquito season, like many other neighborhood kids. Although DDT per se wasn’t likely to be particularly toxic to the kids, at least in an acute sense, I’m not sure what organic solvent mixture was employed to dissolve the insecticide. Multiple solvents were often used, some of which were nasty. Any one of these chemical risks may not have been of particular concern, but cumulative risk should have been. Whether these experiences started me down the road to a career in toxicology, is lost in the pesticidal fog of history.

I still owned firearms. There were no shooting ranges. I just went out into the woods or a field and blew away inanimate objects. Good thing there were no passersby. I had an aversion to shooting animals, if not humans. I engaged in BB gun wars with neighbor kids, which seemed safer than using a shotgun. Nobody experienced having an “eye put out” or was seriously injured, despite a lack of protective gear. Anybody who wore goggles or padding would’ve been laughed at.

There were always firecrackers. Solid fuel model rocket kits were popular at the time, but I took rocketry a step further into weaponry and rigged powerful firecrackers called M-80s to ignite when the rocket fuel was expended. Small rockets were cheap to build and thus disposable. My friend Keith, who would one day save my life, once shot a cow with a large, non-explosive model rocket. His expensive rocket was trashed, but the cow was unharmed.

In addition to minor crashes, I suffered my first major bicycle accident when I sped down a steep hill on my banana bike. I slammed into the driver’s door of a parked car just as it swung open and went airborne. The driver yelled at me for screwing up his door. I was stunned and suffered major road rash, and my cherished bike was totaled.

As a good junior scientist, I read the classic book Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif, which inspired me to grow colorful and smelly fungal and bacterial forests. This probably didn’t help my allergies. Annie caught me sterilizing my own piss in one of the household cooking pots, for use in a culture medium. After a “Lawd, Robert, what in sweet Jesus are you messin’ with now!” I received a good whuppin’. The whuppin’ is why this event stands out in my memory. Punishment, however, didn’t dampen my fascination with living things.

My diet suffered after Charles died. While he was alive and healthy, the family had a substantial garden, a dairy cow, and chickens, plus we hunted and fished. For my first seven or eight years, I ate a good diet, if heavy in grease, as was most Southern cooking. Once Frances started working, processed food largely replaced her wholesome country cooking. We contributed to the decline of the Atlantic cod, eating boxes of frozen fish sticks. Lord knows what was in hot dogs and sausage back then. White bread, white rice, white pasta. Frozen vegetables boiled to tastelessness. Barely edible TV dinners. Pounds of sugar from soda, candy, and desserts. I was so skinny, I developed ulcers on my butt from sitting in hard school desk chairs. Things might’ve been different if I’d experienced a good diet and stable family life during my childhood and teen years. I might’ve grown inches taller and many pounds heavier in muscle, possessed better teeth, and been much smarter. I coulda been a contender.

I grew tall, regardless. I’m sure there were advantages, but it’s been my experience that being at the ninety-eighth percentile for an American male’s height (six-foot-three) is associated with health risks. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hit my head on low-clearance obstacles. My scalp has significant scar tissue. My wife, Linda, tries to get me to wear a helmet at all times. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered major concussions, or at least none I can remember, but I’ve come close. The world is engineered for the average, a uniformity of design contributing to my current neck and back issues. I suffer a stiff neck after parties and other social gatherings from bending over to converse with shorter folks.


Schools were integrated while I was in elementary school. The overtly racist George Wallace won a straw poll in my class before the 1968 presidential election. My aunt, neighbor, and grade-school teacher claimed, “Those little niggers just cain’t learn.” This was more a reflection of her lame teaching skills and racist attitudes than any inherent learning difficulties among students of color.

In Granite Quarry, riots didn’t erupt after schools were integrated, but a lot of friction existed and plenty of fights broke out. For example, in junior high I saw four White high school football players beat the hell out of a Black friend my age who happened to be talking to a White girl. I started to intervene, but my friend warned me off and just took the beating. It’s fortunate he wasn’t severely injured.

I was never threatened by Black kids. However, I was threatened several times with beatings and torture, such as having my head dunked into a filthy toilet, by other White kids. The bullies included White racist kids with Klan parents who threatened me for my refusal to join them in talking shit, or worse, about Blacks. Klan begat Klan. I managed to avoid fights with them by taking an aggressive posture, balling my fists, and silently staring down my enemies. I suppose I received some mental reward from taking the moral high ground, or maybe I just didn’t enjoy being fucked with, an attitude that persists to this day.

Yep, silent staring worked. They may have thought I was deranged, but after the first couple of times, I learned a valuable lesson. It’s possible to intimidate yourself out of confrontation. Intimidation didn’t always work, especially in fights with my brothers. It nearly always did outside the family, and served me well throughout life when dealing with male assholes. Avoiding fights was probably wise, as I have a bad temper. Allowing anger to take hold isn’t the best defensive strategy. Early exposure to violent White racism on the part of local adults and my Klan Kid Klassmates also influenced my lifelong hatred of racism and bigotry in general. Bigotry is among the ugliest of human attributes.


Frances dated a lot of men. I didn’t want to know why, although she was probably desperately lonely and sick of being a single mom. I don’t recall the parade of men with clarity. Some might have been nice guys, but I found her behavior repulsive. I withdrew more in response to her becoming weirder due to her mental state and the crude drugs she was prescribed, but also to my siblings becoming wilder. I was active, but wasn’t particularly athletic. I grew tall and looked emaciated by the time I was in junior high school. I was self-conscious and slumped. It took twenty years of yoga and physiotherapy to straighten myself out.

I found talking to girls difficult, despite having female friends in the neighborhood. I didn’t understand that girls were just people. Frances thought I was odd for not having girlfriends and tried to set me up with daughters of friends, which made things worse.

I just wanted to escape my family, but I needed a door.



Robert Charles Lee

Robert Charles Lee is a retired risk scientist with over twenty-five years of academic and applied risk analysis, decision analysis, and risk management experience in a wide variety of contexts. He has authored over one hundred peer-reviewed scientific works, as well as over one hundred technical reports for industry and government agencies. Prior to the professional risk work he worked in laboratories a bit, but otherwise was a manual laborer until he reckoned that he could use his brain for a living.

Robert has a BS in Botany, a BS in Science Education, an MS in Environmental Health, and a Certificate in Integrated Business Administration. He is ABD (all but dissertation) in a Toxicology PhD program. He is an ordained Minister and has an honorary Doctorate of Metaphysics from the Universal Life Church and is a Member of the Nova Scotia L’Ordre du Bon Temps, or Order of the Good Time.

He was born in North Carolina and lived there for over twenty years, but has since lived in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Alberta. He was also homeless for a time while a laborer in the Western United States. He currently resides in Colorado.

Robert and his wife Linda have climbed hundreds of technical and non-technical mountain, rock, ice, and canyon routes, hiked thousands of miles in several countries, and skied many miles of vertical feet at resorts and in the backcountry.

Robert is an avid amateur photographer, largely of outdoor subjects. He is a musician who plays hand, stick, and mallet percussion, and who can sing, but rarely does for unclear reasons. He is an amateur sound engineer and producer and has recorded more than a thousand written and improvisational instrumental pieces with other musicians to date. He was trying to learn to relax in retirement, but then he discovered non-technical writing. He has written a memoir and a poetry collection and is working on short stories.

Through Dangerous Doors is his latest book.

Visit his website at or follow him on Goodreads.

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Children’s Book Review: Frazier, the Very Special Cat, by Faye Rapoport DesPres

The Dark Phantom Review

Based on a true story!

Frazier, the Very Special Cat isa sweet, heart-warming story for young children! It teaches love for animals, counting, the senses, and encourages discussion and problem-solving.

Frazier is a stray blond tabby not doing very well on his own, but things get worse when he gets hurt. Fortunately, the author is able to trap him and bring him to the vet. Now, all he needs is a permanent happy home…but who will want to take a chance on a one-eyed cat? Not to despair, for a fully happy ending awaits this sweet kitty!

Frazier, the Very Special Catis Book 3 in the Stray Cat Stories series, and it is the perfect tale to read at bedtime or discuss with an adult in a home or school environment. The rhythm and repetition make it a fun read-aloud picture book. A charming addition to any child’s…

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Interview with Faye Rapoport DesPres, Author of ‘Frazier: The Very Special Cat’

The Dark Phantom Review

It’s hard work, even when you’re writing a children’s book.

Faye Rapoport DesPres earned her MFA from the Solstice Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College and has published creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry in a variety of literary journals. Faye’s first book, Message From a Blue Jay, is a personal essay collection published by Buddhapuss Ink in 2014. A lifelong wildlife advocate and animal lover, Faye donates a portion of the proceeds from her children’s books, the Stray Cat Stories series, to non-profit animal rescue organizations. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband Jean-Paul Des Pres.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Frazier: The Very Special Cat. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Frazier is a real cat, as is (or was) the subject of each of my children’s books. I wanted to write his story because he is indeed a very special…

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Book Excerpt: The Willing by Lindsay Lees


Author: Lindsay Lees

Publisher: Independent

Pages: 299

Genre: Dystopian

In less than a year, fifteen-year-old Gypsy Capone will be considered a woman in Ovoidia, a “utopian” city-state where every woman can be approached for immediate sex by any man, where curving architecture adds weird whimsy, sporks are the only cutlery, and true intimacy between the genders is a sign of suspect subversion. After all, if a woman just plays along, she’ll also do her job and have children, with the reward of a fine home in the “Communities,” where she and the other “Mamas” live together in harmony with everything they need. Right?

The irony: Diam and Isis, the two leaders of Ovoidia, are themselves females. Fun, yes! And just below the surface, perversely sinister. They personally execute these precise sacrifices by women to establish their “happy,” absurdly totalitarian utopia, and are backed up by their chosen army of male “crusaders,” enforcing a crime-free, fully controlled society.

Men are relegated to work in the “City” where they may “enjoy”—right there on the street if they wish—any woman they want and are welcome to satisfy their sexual and emotional needs at establishments called Gaje Clubs where only the most “gifted” among women are chosen to work.

Not surprisingly, in Ovoidia women have evolved until they feel nothing of sexual pleasure. But in Gypsy’s deepest heart, she realizes her own dark secret: she is the exception. Next she discovers to her horror that her secret, if known, could result in the ultimate punishment—genital mutilation.

To save her body and even her soul, Gypsy chooses a dangerous path—to single-handedly confront this scary and absurd world. She has the support of her allegiant sister Sadie and Miles Devine, a rogue, secretly gay crusader, and also “Doctor,” a morally questionable physician to help her. But none of them fathom the levels of paradox, incongruity, and twisted evil they will soon face, and the ride becomes something even Gypsy could have never imaged.


The Willing is stunning in its brutality as well as its sensitivity! Absolute must read. We all have a piece of Gypsy in us. We must consider our potential future as women now with eyes wide open.”–Amazon Reviewer

“The Willing is an unusually deep commentary on a malignant dysfunction in our society, dressed in fishnet utopian stockings. While the premise and its sensual details push the boundaries of belief, a community that is ostensibly focused on the greater good but is governed by fear and hypocrisy fits perfectly in the dystopian genre. Gypsy’s character is flawed and immature in many ways, but her shield-like honesty is refreshing among a sea of conformists. A rather feminist piece filled with satire on the state of equality, The Willing is weighty and serious in its message, and sad in its reflection of how women are treated in our modern world. For a change from the norm, Lindsay Lees provides a gripping story that will have you thinking deeply about the importance of the relationships in your life.”–Jennifer Jackson from

In a basement meeting room of the Head Gaje’s oval-spiral Headquarters, an arched doorway slid open. Doctor Gino’s tired, wrinkled eyes also bolted open; he had only been resting them. He’d practically been dragged from his bed, after all. Ovoidia’s Chief Crusader, Rigby Katz, entered the hermetical, bleach-white room holding his round helmet, nestled under his thick, toned arm. Eyes bright and vigilant—a caffeine glow—he must have only just finished his shift, Doctor thought. He had been a Crusader for over thirty years but had the good fortune of not appearing his age. Rigby scanned the room like a robot from Robocop or Terminator, one of the Pre-Ultimate Revolution movies. After completing a thorough assessment, he surveyed the white leather office chair where Doctor sat with his liver-spotted hands folded on the round table. 

“Oh good. I’m not the first to arrive.” Crusader Katz clomped in wearing heavy black boots, clean as the day they were made. “Gives me anxiety waiting around, wondering if I’m at the right place. Easy to get lost down here.”

A round clock above the arched doorway swept past the seconds. It was almost three A.M. Doctor hadn’t expected the tribunal meeting to take place so late.

“Do you know why we’re having the meeting now?” Doctor asked, casually.

Rigby regarded Doctor with amusement, rather like the way a mama looks at her child when she asks where babies come from. “Yes, the Head Gajes had an inauguration party to attend.”

Doctor yawned. So much for not having time to get a coffee.

Crusader Katz removed a piece of spearmint gum and his cell phone from his utility belt. He owned the newest model, a razor-thin silver flip-phone with a peek window on the front. When he flipped it open, the interior buttons reflected electric blue on his milky eyes. Doctor didn’t know why cell phones required upgrades. So long as they served their primary function who cared what they looked like?

Crusader Katz snapped the phone shut and shoved it back in his belt. “No service.” He sighed.

“We’re too far down,” Doctor said, pleased with himself.

The steady hum of an air purifier oscillated from a corner. A few stray bubbles burped in a standing water cooler. Doctor eased a ballpoint pen from his lab coat and hovered it over the table, pinching the cap to make sure it was firmly secured. He was forever spilling ink or coffee on the ubiquitous white leather.

“I forgot my notepad,” Doctor said, surprised at his error. While most communications in Ovoidia were transcribed digitally, Doctor preferred to handwrite his notes for archival purposes.

He experienced nostalgia for the tactile fluidity the pen afforded the fingers. “Do you happen to have an extra pad or a piece of paper?” he asked Crusader Katz.

Just then, the meeting room door opened to the heady scent of a dozen steamed bouquets, as though the Head Gajes had bathed in the buckets of wilting flowers being sold on the streets in the mid-day heat. Diam, the eldest of the Head Gajes strolled, chin up, into the room. Her stilettos tapped like hail on glass as she walked across the marble floor. She wore a black satin skirt flared above her knee. Her skin shone, glossy and supple. Isis, the younger Head Gaje, teetered in behind her, gripping a round red lollipop on a white stick.

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Lindsay Lees is originally from Los Angeles and holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and while growing up and later in college, she split her time between the two countries. Lindsay earned a B.A. in 2008 from Manchester Metropolitan University, and next an Creative Writing from California College of the Arts. 

The Willing is Lindsay’s debut novel. She currently lives a quiet Southern life with her husband and a houseful of pets. 

Visit her website or connect with her at FACEBOOK and GOODREADS.

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Meet Mystery Authors Rosemary and Larry Mild

The Dark Phantom Review

ROSEMARY AND LARRY MILD, cheerful partners in crime, coauthor mystery, suspense, and fantasy fiction. Rosemary and Larry have published award-winning novels, short stories, and essays. They co-authored the popular Paco and Molly Mystery Series; Hawaii adventure/thrillers Cry Ohana and Honolulu Heat; and three volumes of short stories, many of which appear in anthologies. After forty-plus years in Maryland, the Milds currently make their home in Honolulu, where they cherish time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.

THE MILDS are active members of Sisters in Crime where Larry is a Mister in Crime; Mystery Writers of America; and Hawaii Fiction Writers. In 2013 they waved goodbye to Severna Park, Maryland and moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish quality time with their daughters and grandchildren. When Honolulu hosted Left Coast Crime in 2017, Rosemary and Larry were the program co-chairs for “Honolulu Havoc.”

Over a dozen worldwide trips to Japan…

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