Witch Song Reader Guide

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
1.      Throughout the book, Senna struggles with her identity. What advice would you give to her—to anyone—who feels like an outcast?
2.      After a childhood of feeling powerless, Brusenna finally realizes the ability to stand up for herself was inside her and always had been. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt powerless? What did you to take your power back?
3.      How does Brusenna change from the beginning of the novel to the end? What obstacles did she have to overcome to grow and change? Do you think obstacles are necessary for growth? Or do they destroy an individual?
4.      At the beginning of the book, Brusenna is a reticent person. Is she still shy by the end? What did or did not change?
5.      At the beginning of the book, what was Joshen’s motivation for helping Brusenna? Was it the same motivation as at the end?
6.      Did Sacra (Brusenna’s mother) protectiveness shield or cripple Senna? If the latter, what do you think Sacra should have done differently?
7.      Trust comes up again and again in the story. How do you decide who you can and cannot trust?
8.      Senna is terrified of loosing those she loves. How does this affect her decisions?
9.      Do you agree with how Brusenna dealt with Wardof, Garg, and Espen. What would you have done differently?
10.  Sacrifice is another theme that is repeated in this story. How does Senna decide what she will and will not give up?
11.  The book mentions that the witches sold their songs for money. Do you think this justifies the populace’s hatred and mistrust of them? Why or why not?
12.  Near the end of the book, Grendi claims that no one group should have more power or control over a people than another. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
13.  Do you see Senna as a weak or strong character? Does the fact that she often cries affect how you see her?
14.  Do you think Sacra was justified in hiding Senna away from the world and its dangers? What would you have done differently?
15.  Senna feels a tremendous amount of guilt when someone dies trying to protect her.
16.  Conversely, was Brusenna justified in spying on her mother to discover the answers to her questions? Explain.
17.  The book hints that Espen used a potion to force Wardof and Garg’s to serve her. Does this excuse their actions? Why or Why not?
18.  What do you make of Pogg’s dislike of men?
19.  Senna often puts herself in danger to protect those she loves (chasing after the whale, using the Ioa potion). Are her actions justified?
20.  What do you think of the Discipline Head’s treatment of Senna? How do you think they should have treated her?
21.  What do you think of Reden’s betrayal of his country and his soldiers? Is his a traitor? Or a hero?
22.  AT the end of the book, the Witches curse Tarten—basically sentencing the entire country and its people to drought. Do you think they were justified in this? What would you have done in their place?

23.  Do you agree with the Witches decision to surrender to Reden? Or should they have fought?

Interview about Witch Song

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Interview between journalist JoLynne Lyon and Amber Argyle

JoLynne: Throughout the story, Senna struggles with her identity. What advice would you give to her—to anyone who feels like an outcast?

Amber: Senna finds herself trapped in a situation where she’s persecuted/bullied/belittled because of who she is. If you’re in a similar situation, don’t sit back and take it. Do everything you can to improve your situation—including looking for outside help. If everything fails, avoid the situation if possible. If even that doesn’t work, remember that nothing lasts forever and do what you can to make it bearable. Remember, what makes you different is what makes you beautiful. In the beginning of the book, Senna wants nothing more than to blend in, be like others. It’s only as she matures that she realizes the very things that make her different also make her beautiful, strong, and powerful. And she wouldn’t trade any of those qualities just to blend in.  

JoLynne: What are the qualities Senna values the most in others? In herself?

Amber: Like so many of us, Senna doesn’t see herself very clearly. She’s harder on herself than anyone else. She’s blind to her own strengths, seeing only her faults in glaring florescent lights. So when she looks at others, her view is colored by her own weaknesses—all she can see is their strengths in comparison to her weaknesses, which isn’t fair to herself. Or the other person for that matter. But let’s be honest, we’re often anything but fair to ourselves.

Through the book, Senna’s warped perception begins to change. She discovers her strengths—strengths that were there all along—were just in need of sunlight and water to blossom. Strengths like her ability to love—fiercely, her determination, her courage, her loyalty. And most importantly, she realizes that she’s strong—strong enough to face her biggest fear.

JoLynne: Trust comes up again and again in the story, as your characters decide who is and is not worthy of it. How can young people decide whom to trust?

Amber: It’s really very simple. If a person encourages you to become something more— someone better without asking for anything in return (except friendship), that person is worthy of your trust. Please realize that people who genuinely care about you don’t need anything in return. There is no price, no bad consequences for being with them. Because they’re pulling themselves up with one hand and you with the other.

The reverse is also true. If a person brings you down socially, emotionally, physically or asks a price for their friendship, that person is not to be trusted.

JoLynne: Senna's mother chooses to protect her—so much so that Senna feels unprepared to face her life. How can a mother protect her child without leaving her helpless?

Amber: By teaching that child to protect himself/herself. As a child becomes old enough to face a situation (ie bullying, pornography, peer pressure) we as parents need to provide the tools to deal with that situation. I’m a firm believer that if a child is old enough to ask the question, their mature enough to receive the answer (in an age appropriate discussion). And it doesn’t stop with physical safety. Children need to be taught moral guidelines—things like kindness, integrity, individual worth, etc.

JoLynne: Sacrifice is another theme that is repeated in this story. How does Senna decide what she will and will not give up?

Amber: Senna makes her choices the same way we all do—weighing her past experiences with the expected outcome and seeing which consequence she can live with. Refusing to hide from her problems, she educates herself about overcoming them. She doesn’t feel it is adequate, but she does the best she can with what she has. Though she faces daunting odds, she’s knows the cost of failure is simply too high not to try.

JoLynne: Joshen is a heroic man who falls in love with a powerful woman. What kind of future do you envision for two people who are both remarkably strong and stubborn?

Amber: There will be fights. There will be enormous clashes of will. But if Senna and Joshen truly love each other, they’ll work it out. And no, I won’t elaborate. You’ll have to read the sequel.

JoLynne: Reden is an interesting character who makes his appearance later in the story. Which beliefs and values dictate the choice he makes? Will he appear in other books?

Amber: I don’t give a lot of the backstory on Reden, simply because it isn’t really needed. But he’s actually from the Boor class. His military prowess was such that he worked his way up through ranks that are normally closed to the lower class. He’s intensely loyal to his men. And he’s very decisive and strong willed. He’s fascinated by Senna, in more ways than one. And yes, he’ll be a big part of book two.

JoLynne: Eventually Senna finds other people treating her like a leader, though she would rather blend into the background. How can a young woman come to accept and embrace her own leadership qualities?

Amber: By not letting fear cripple you. If you see something that needs done, don’t sit around waiting for someone else to take care of it. You take care of it. Or delegate. Either way, make sure it gets done.

Thanks for the interview, JoLynne! If you'd like to check out JoLynne's book, you can look her up here: http://mountainlyon.blogspot.com/ 

Authors Leveraging Pinterest

Wednesday, June 8, 2016
  1. Pinterest is a social sharing site where you post links and pictures. The whole idea is like pinning a virtual picture (called a “pin”) to a corkboard (called a “board”). The site itself is super simple to navigate. See a picture you like? Hoover your mouse over it and red “Pin it” button will appear on the top left of the picture. Simply click the picture to add it to your boards.

Want to add a pin of your own? Simply hit the + button on the top right of your screen. A drop down menu will appear. You can either upload a pin from your computer or add one from a website by copying the address and pasting it. A picture will appear. Click on the one you want to use.
  1. 2Boards

Boards are how you keep all your pictures (Pins) organized. As an author, I suggest you have a board with inspiration for each of your series. Add pins of the setting, actors to play your characters, a playlist, cover ideas, research sites, etc. You’ll find as you do this that this is a great way to keep all your inspiration for your book in one place (no more drawers full of printouts or “bookmarked pages” that you can’t remember what’s on them). Not only that, but your fans will love seeing all the images that inspired you.
So here’s a list of my author Pinterest boards:
Witch Song Series (Insert Series Title) I have one of these for each of my series
Cover Inspiration
Amber Argyle Books (all of your books)
Setting (for future reference)
Character Ideas
Marketing (for pinning marketing ideas)
Writing Research (For all those awesome articles that you can never find when you need them)

  1. 3.       Cover Art

No really. I found my cover artist for my last two books on Pinterest. I used to use sites like DeviantArt to search for artists, but that involves HOURS of scrolling through thousands of images (many of which aren’t relevant or that good). On Pinterest, people have already sifted through the chaff and found the brilliant pieces.  

If you can find a relevant board (I found lots of Fantasy art boards), you can spend a few minutes going through some of the best art around. It isn’t usually that hard to find a name from there.

I found color combinations, fonts, character poses, clothing, background, etc. All from Pinterest.

  1. 4.       Research

I’ve could spend hours going through pictures of beautiful, exotic places. These images inspire the settings for my fantasy novels. If you don’t write fantasy, it’s a great way to “see” the place (say, Chicago) you want to describe without the price of a plane ticket.

I also Pin helpful posts for future reference. Some examples would be “Natural Treatments for Wounds”, “Character Guides”, “ KDP Select Free Promo Resources”, etc.

  1. 5.       Characters

You’d be surprised how many ideas you can get for your characters simply by looking at pictures. For instance, I saw a picture of a girl with white tattoos (something I didn’t even know existed) that I’m totally using in one of my future books.

  1. 6       Share what you love!

Things that have nothing to do with being an author, but everything to do with being you! I have boards for food (I make recipes from Pinterest at least every two weeks), my dream home, my style, the holidays, kids, hair, storage, cleaners, etc.  

Medicinal Plants

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
These are notes from my research for Winter Queen. Enjoy!
Routes of administration
The exact composition of a herbal product is influenced by the method of extraction. A tisane will be rich in polar components because water is a polar solvent. Oil on the other hand is a non-polar solvent and it will absorb non-polar compounds. Alcohol lies somewhere in between. There are many forms in which herbs can be administered, these include:
  • Tinctures - Alcoholic extracts of herbs such as echinacea extract. Usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol (or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water) with the herb. A completed tincture has a ethanol percentage of at least 40-60% (sometimes up to 90%). [67]
  • Herbal wine and elixirs - These are alcoholic extract of herbs; usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38% [67] Herbal wine is a maceration of herbs in wine, while an elixir is a maceration of herbs in spirits (e.g., vodka, grappa, etc.)
  • Tisanes - Hot water extracts of herb, such as chamomile.
  • Decoctions - Long-term boiled extract of usually roots or bark.
  • Macerates - Cold infusion of plants with high mucilage-content as sage, thyme, etc. Plants are chopped and added to cold water. They are then left to stand for 7 to 12 hours (depending on herb used). For most macerates 10 hours is used.[67]
  • Vinegars - Prepared at the same way as tinctures, except using a solution of acetic acid as the solvent.
  • Topicals:
    • Essential oils - Application of essential oil extracts, usually diluted in a carrier oil (many essential oils can burn the skin or are simply too high dose used straight – diluting in olive oil or another food grade oil can allow these to be used safely as a topical).[68]
    • Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions - Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for topical application. Any massage oils, antibacterial salves and wound healing compounds are made this way.
    • Poultices and compresses - One can also make a poultice or compress using whole herb (or the appropriate part of the plant) usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth or just as is.
  • Whole herb consumption - This can occur in either dried form (herbal powder), or fresh juice, (fresh leaves and other plant parts). Just as Hippocrates said "Let food be thy medicine", it has become clear that eating vegetables also easily fits within this category of getting health through consumables (besides medicinal herbs). All of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are phytochemicals that we are accessing through our diet. There are clearly some whole herbs consumed that are more powerful than others. Shiitake mushrooms boost the immune system and are also tasty so they are enjoyed in soups or other food preparations for the cold and flu season. Alfalfa is also considered a health food.[69]. Garlic lowers cholesterol, improves blood flow, fights bacteria, viruses and yeast.
  • Syrups - Extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty five parts of sugar are mixed with 35 parts of water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks.[67]
  • Extracts - Include liquid extracts, dry extracts and nebulisates. Liquid extracts are liquids with a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures. They can (and are usually) made by vacuum distilling tinctures. Dry extracts are extracts of plant material which are evaporated into a dry mass. They can then be further refined to a capsule or tablet. [67] A nebulisate is a dry extract created by freeze-drying.
  • Inhalation as in aromatherapy can be used as a mood changing treatment[70][71] to fight a sinus infection or cough [72][citation needed], or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level (steam rather than direct inhalation here)[citation needed]
[edit] Examples of plants used as medicine
Few herbal remedies have conclusively demonstrated any positive effect on humans, mainly because of inadequate testing.[73] Many of the studies cited refer to animal model investigations or in-vitro assays and therefore cannot provide more than weak supportive evidence.

  • Aloe vera has traditionally been used for the healing of burns and wounds.[74] A systematic review (from 1999) states that the efficacy of aloe vera in promoting wound healing is unclear, while a later review (from 2007) concludes that the cumulative evidence supports the use of aloe vera for the healing of first to second degree burns.[75][76]
  • Agaricus blazei mushrooms may prevent some types of cancer.[77]
  • Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) may reduce production cholesterol levels according to in vitro studies [78] and a small clinical study.[79]
  • Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) leaf has drawn the attention of the cosmetology community because it interferes with the metalloproteinases that contribute to skin wrinkling.[80]
  • Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) may have a role in preventing oral cancer.[81][82][83]
  • Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis) has been used traditionally for abdominal cramps and constipation.[84] In animal research an aqueous-ethanol extract of Calendula officinalis flowers was shown to have both spasmolytic and spasmogenic effects, thus providing a scientific rationale for this traditional use.[85] There is "limited evidence" that calendula cream or ointment is effective in treating radiation dermatitis.[86][87]
  • Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) may be effective in treating urinary tract infections in women with recurrent symptoms.[88]
  • Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, Echinacea purpurea) extracts may limit the length and severity of rhinovirus colds; however, the appropriate dosage levels, which might be higher than is available over-the-counter, require further research.[89][90]
  • Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may speed the recovery from type A and B influenza.[91] However it is possibly risky in the case of avian influenza because the immunostimulatory effects may aggravate the cytokine cascade.[92]
  • Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) is sometimes used to treat migraine headaches.[93] Although many reviews of Feverfew studies show no or unclear efficacy, a more recent RTC showed favorable results[94][95][96] Feverfew is not recommended for pregnant women as it may be dangerous to the fetus.[97][98]
  • Gawo (Faidherbia albida), a traditional herbal medicine in West Africa, has shown promise in animal tests [99]
  • Garlic (Allium sativum) may lower total cholesterol levels[100]
  • German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) has demonstrated antispasmodic, anxiolytic, antiinflammatory and some antimutagenic and cholesterol-lowering effects in animal research.[101] In vitro chamomile has demonstrated moderate antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and significant antiplatelet activity, as well as preliminary results against cancer.[102][103] Essential oil of chamomile was shown to be a promising antiviral agent against herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in vitro. [104]
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale), administered in 250 mg capsules for four days, effectively decreased nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in a human clinical trial.[105][106]
  • Green tea (Camelia sinensis) components may inhibit growth of breast cancer cells[107] and may heal scars faster.[108]
  • Purified extracts of the seeds of Hibiscus sabdariffa Roselle may have some antihypertensive, antifungal and antibacterial effect. Toxicity tested low except for an isolated case of damage to the testes of a rat after prolonged and excessive consumption.[109]
  • Honey may reduce cholesterol.[110] May be useful in wound healing.[111]
  • Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), administered daily as an aqueous extract of the fresh leaf, has lowered total cholesterol and fasting plasma glucose levels in rats, as well as increasing HDL cholesterol levels. Lemon grass administration had no effect on triglyceride levels. [112]
  • Magnolia
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) extracts have been recognized for many centuries as "liver tonics.".[113] Research suggests that milk thistle extracts both prevent and repair damage to the liver from toxic chemicals and medications.[114]
  • Nigella sativa (Black cumin) coughing has demonstrated analgesic properties in mice. The mechanism for this effect, however, is unclear. In vitro studies support antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects.[115][116][117][118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126] However few randomized double blind studies have been published.
  • Ocimum gratissimum[127][128] and tea tree oil can be used to treat acne.
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare) may be effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria.[129]
  • Pawpaw can be used as insecticide (killing lice, worms).[130],[131]
  • Peppermint oil may have benefits for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.[132][133]
  • Phytolacca or Pokeweed is used as a homeopathic remedy to treat many ailments. It can be applied topically or taken internally. Topical treatments have been used for acne and other ailments. It is used to treatment tonsilitis, swollen glands and weight loss.[citation needed]
  • Pomegranate contains the highest percentage of ellagitannins of any commonly consumed juice. Punicalagin, an ellagitannin unique to pomegranate, is the highest molecular weight polyphenol known.[134] Ellagitannins are metabolized into urolithins by gut flora, and have been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth in mice.[135][136]
  • Rauvolfia Serpentina, high risk of toxicity if improperly used[citation needed], used extensively in India for sleeplessness, anxiety, and high blood pressure.[137]
  • Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) contains a number of phenolic compounds, including flavanols, flavones, flavanones, flavonols, and dihydrochalcones.[138] Rooibos has traditionally been used for skin ailments, allergies, asthma and colic in infants.[139] In an animal study with diabetic mice, aspalathin, a rooibos constituent improved glucose homeostasis by stimulating insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells and glucose uptake in muscle tissue.[140]
  • Rose hips – Small scale studies indicate that hips from Rosa canina may provide benefits in the treatment of osteoarthritis.[141][142][143] Rose hips show anti COX activity.[144]
  • Salvia lavandulaefolia may improve memory[145]
  • Saw Palmetto can be used for BPH. Supported in some studies,[146] failed to confirm in others.[147]
  • Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) are edible mushrooms that have been reported to have health benefits, including cancer-preventing properties.[148] In laboratory research a shiitake extract has inhibited the growth of tumor cells through induction of apoptosis.[149] Both a water extract and fresh juice of shiitake have demonstrated antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria and fungi in vitro.[150][151]
  • Soy and other plants that contain phytoestrogens (plant molecules with estrogen activity) (black cohosh probably has serotonin activity) have some benefits for treatment of symptoms resulting from menopause.[152]
  • St. John's wort, has yielded positive results, proving more effective than a placebo for the treatment of mild to moderate depression in some clinical trials[153] A subsequent, large, controlled trial, however, found St. John's wort to be no better than a placebo in treating depression[154] However, more recent trials have shown positive results[155][156][157] or positive trends that failed significance.[158] A 2004 meta-analysis concluded that the positive results can be explained by publication bias[159] but later analyses have been more favorable.[160][161] The Cochrane Database cautions that the data on St. John's wort for depression are conflicting and ambiguous.[162]
  • Stinging nettle In some clinical studies effective for enign prostatic hyperplasia[163] and the pain associated with osteoarthritis.[164] In-vitro tests show antiinflammatory action.[165] In a rodent model, stinging nettle reduced LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. [166] In another rodent study it reduced platelet aggregation.[167]
  • Valerian root can be used to treat insomnia. Clinical studies show mixed results and researchers note that many trials are of poor quality.[168][169][170]
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