Contest: Comment on My Cover Pages, Win a Dalai Lama Novel

I am gearing up to publish my first novel, FINDER OF LOST THINGS, and I’m predictably nervous. I’d like to recruit you wonderful readers to comment on the back cover blurb and cover image for the chance to win a brand-new hard copy of  The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring, the second book in David Michie’s series (check out my review of the first novel, The Dalai Lama’s Cat). To enter, write at least a 25-word comment below by Dec. 27, 2013, and I’ll enter you into the drawing.

Here’s the front cover and the back cover text. I’m most interested in getting your take on the back cover blurb, since it’s arguably the most important element in selling a book:

FINDER OF LOST THINGSFinder of Lost Things by PJ Swanwick metaphysical novel


Lila Chance must find a missing child who has a secret gift . . . a gift so profound and powerful it could change the course of history. Unfortunately for the missing boy, Lila is not the only one looking for him.

Lila lives a quiet life in Boulder, Colorado, ghost-writing amazingly accurate and engaging eulogies. Then an astonishing message from the missing child blows away everything she believes in, tumbling her down the rabbit hole of metaphysical discovery.

When she finds out the missing boy may hold the key to finding her own kidnapped son, Lila will stop at nothing to uncover the truth.

Part old-fashioned mystery, part new age exploration, FINDER OF LOST THINGS is an entertaining and intriguing look at the mysteries of relationships, the meaning of existence, and the most enigmatic question of all: What is life between lives?

Award-winning author P.J. Swanwick lives with her family near Boulder, Colorado. She writes on a wide variety of topics that interest her, such as where neuroscience and psychology intersect with metaphysics, spirituality, and creativity. In addition to writing, she manages Fiction for a New Age, which reviews metaphysical, spiritual, and visionary novels.

Visit the author at or

Well? What do you think? Add your 25 words’ worth in the Comments section and perhaps win a hard copy of The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring. And while you’re at it, check out my Facebook page at

Thank you, dear readers! I’ll announce the winner on Dec. 30, 2013.


Book review: Vingede

An excellent and eerie metaphysical mystery

Tahlia Newland, guest reviewer

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Vingede (The Friar Tobe Fairy Tale Files, #2) metaphysical mystery

The second of Krisi Keley’s Friar Tobias mysteries is even better than the first. Once again the author’s background in linguistics and theology provides the unique material for this superb supernatural mystery.

A man seeks Tobias’s help for his foster son. He thinks the child may have witnessed a crime, but the boy has a speech problem due to either autism or schizophrenia, so no one can understand him. Like Ms Keley, Tobias has a degree in linguistics which is why the man seeks him out. Paolo speaks in poetry and makes obscure references to what Tobias eventually figures out is an old fairy tale about a girl and her eleven brothers that are turned into swans by a wicked witch. He senses that someone is in trouble, but who?

Tobias’s friend, the psychiatrist priest, wants him to meet a mute and apparently traumatised girl who has turned up in a hospital and, in what appears to be sheer coincidence, her sketches indicate that she fills the role of the girl in the fairy tale. But where are her eleven brothers? And how does Paolo know all this? This description is a gross simplification of a story with many subtleties, but as with all good mysteries, our suspicions are aroused and the pieces come together at the end.

Ms Keley manages to imbue her mystery with more than just the supernatural. As with all her books, questions of spirituality are at the core of the story. Tobias is a staunch Catholic. He believes in leaving sex until marriage, so his girlfriend, Samantha, who he met in his last case, must wait with him, and this provides some interesting topics of conversation. The nature of the crime and how it reflects present day morals is also a matter of thought-provoking reflection on Tobias’s part, but both these issues sit quite naturally in the story simply because of who Tobias is.

Ms Keley is a master of the English language. Her prose flows beautifully (though I did find the first sentence rather a mouthful) and she expresses subtle ideas succinctly and elegantly. The characters are charming with a delightful intelligent banter between Tobias and Samantha. The plot is interesting, the pacing never languishes and the editing is sleek.

Overall the book is an excellent and eerie mystery about a sick crime that needs a little supernatural intervention to bring the perpetrator to justice. This is a wonderful example of the kind of gems you’ll only find in independent fiction. It’s an entertaining, skilfully executed mystery, but it’s also different, deep and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for those who like private investigator stories with supernatural and metaphysical elements.

Vingede (The Friar Tobe Fairy Tale Files), by Krisi Keley
Krisi Keley, 2013
Kindle, 183 printed pages
Buy at Amazon

tahlia newland visionary fiction author

Tahlia Newland

Tahlia Newland writes heart-warming and inspiring contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and visionary fiction at, and she also writes reviews for


Neuroscience research “tool” becomes metaphysical bestseller

Rod Pennington didn’t set out to write an international bestseller. The Fourth Awakening novel was initially a marketing “tool” to identify spiritually advanced research participants for Jeffery A. Martin’s neuroscience research into non-symbolic consciousness. The first novel was so successful, however, it spawned a sequel (The Gathering Darkness) and The Fourth Awakening Chronicles, whose third installment was released recently.

Click this link to download free novel

The Fourth Awakening novel free downloadHow did a spiritual/metaphysical novel written to entice research participants end up No. 1 four years running in Amazon Kindle’s New Age/Mysticism category? It’s all Pennington’s fault. The veteran writer of multiple books and screenplays knew about Martin’s research into persistent non-dual awareness (also called enlightenment, persistent mystical state, transcendental consciousness). Martin, an interdisciplinary research professor who’s worked at Harvard, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the Center for International Studies in California, just to name a few, was having difficulty locating subjects with deep meditation and consciousness-altering skills for his latest research project.

According to Martin, Pennington came up with the approach:  “One of the ideas that Rod had was ‘Hey, let’s write a book to do this. Maybe we create a fiction book, [because] fiction is something that’s read very broadly across the population. And if we weave enough stuff into that fiction book that resonates with people, these people will probably come out and contact us.’” Not long after The Fourth Awakening’s initial publication in 2009, Martin had his research subjects and Pennington had an international bestseller on his hands.

What is the Fourth Awakening?

The premise of The Fourth Awakening is that humanity has experienced three critical awakenings and is on the verge of another. Awakenings occur when something so profoundly changes the world that all of the old rules no longer apply. A powerful new order arrives, completely unexpected and without warning, and things are never the same again.

The First Awakening occurred approximately 200,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens emerged in East Africa, but it took another 150,000 years for things to begin to get interesting.

The Second Awakening saw Homo Sapiens become self aware. We developed spoken language, art in the form of cave paintings and crude figurines, and most importantly, a grasp of the spiritual nature of the world and ourselves. Fourteen thousand years ago, the recognizably modern forms of farming, metallurgy, ship building, and astrology all emerged at around the same time worldwide.

The Third Awakening began around 3,000 years ago with the rise of all modern religions as well as science. Between 800 – 400 BC, there was a religious explosion. The key events in the Old Testament occurred, from which emerged Judeo/Christian beliefs. At the same time, Taoism was followed by Confucianism in China, Shintoism in Japan, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, and later Islam. For the past 500 or so years the political power of religion has waned while the power of science has flourished. Knowledge hit a tipping point about 150 years ago. Universities began to switch from religious institutions to being based on the German research model. During the Third Awakening, the written word became increasingly commonplace.

The Fourth Awakening brings a new mode of being with it, one that goes beyond symbols and thought. According to Pennington and Martin, the number of individuals who can reach a state of non-symbolic thought (aka enlightenment) has reached critical mass. Their book likens this state to the Internet–a giant field of energy, full of information, open to anyone who has the right connection. For more, see the authors’ website.

How has Martin’s research shaped the series?

Working worldwide with over a thousand individuals skilled at achieving non-symbolic states of consciousness, Martin has identified a number of Enlightened Archetypes. The Fourth Awakening Chronicles is a series of short novellas based on the characters and concepts explored in The Fourth Awakening and its sequel.  Each novella features a person who has arrived at the Fourth Awakening. These Enlightened Archetypes include a world-class poker player who suddenly abandons the game, and a successful top executive who must leave his family to pursue enlightenment (as the Buddha did).

But where have these extraordinary people gone?  In the Chronicles, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Penelope Drayton Spence has been hired by two of the world’s richest men to interview enlightened people who may have arrived at the Fourth Awakening. The problem is, as fast she can locate a potential candidate, they have a nasty habit of mysteriously vanishing. While each Chronicle is a stand-alone episode that can be read independently, it is a part of a much larger and continuing story.

If you would like to learn more about or participate in Jeffery A. Martin’s research into non-symbolic consciousness, visit

Book review: Sensei–A Thriller

 Zen martial arts thriller blends murder, mysticism

sensei-thriller-zen-novelRating: 4  out of 5 stars

The first in a series of Zen martial arts thrillers, “Sensei” by John Donohue blends Zen principles and the sweat and intensity of a Japanese dojo with a wryly smart police procedural in this top-notch Zen thriller.

Story: In every case, the modus operandi is the same, and the only clue available is a cryptic message scrawled on the wall bearing the signature “Ronin” – the Japanese name for a masterless samurai.  Connor Burke, a part-time college teacher with a passion for the martial arts, is called in to help out with the investigation by his brother, an NYPD detective. With the help of his teacher, the master warrior Yamashita Sensei, Burke begins to follow the trail of clues that stretches across time and place, ultimately confronting his own fears, his sense of honor, and the ruthless killer who calls himself “Ronin”. (from

Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. Donohue is a kendo (Japanese sword) master, but this novel is much more than a murder mystery with great fight sequences. Burke applies Zen principles to training, to life, to combat, to art. In fact, there is no way to separate them; Sensei Yamashita instructs his students on how to “destroy with elegance.”

The true spirit of karate, Sensei Yamashita says, is not in perfecting fighting technique but in the development of the spirit. He emphasizes the importance of being fully present, in practice and in life. Martial arts is another way to train to diminish the ego, one of the goals of Zen Buddhism. Kendo training is just another tool in pursuit of enlightenment.

My take: I loved the spare, elegant prose that reflects the spiritual simplicity of the story. Sensei is much like the martial artists it depicts; violent and frenetic on the surface, yet calm and centered within. Donohue’s debut novel is not quite as lyrical as Deshi, the second novel in the series, but it’s still a gripping thriller with amazing details and compelling characterization.

Donohue really knows his subject. The novel is full of interesting little asides that explain the nature of the Japanese, especially  Zen and martial arts. He has a way of describing physical movements, of writing a combat scene, that reveals the grace, precision, and spirituality that hold together the brute force and aggression. You don’t just read about a battle–you experience it. And you understand why one man or woman prevails and another falters, both from a technical and a spiritual perspective. Sensei is a stellar example of a novel that shows rather than tells its spiritual/metaphysical theme. I look forward to reading the entire series.

Sensei, by John Donohue
Thomas Dunne Books, 2003
Paperback, 258 pages
Buy at Amazon

Book review–Mixer: on a Strand

Visionary thriller destined to become a favorite among spiritual readers

Mixer: on a Strand metaphysical fiction spiritual novel visionary fictionRating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Many self-published novels promise a thrill ride with a touch of romance and spiritual insight, but few deliver. “Mixer: on a Strand” by Theresa Nash delivers like downtown Denver on the Fourth of July, excelling both as a multi-dimensional thriller and as an illumination of the nature of the cosmos. Fast paced and well written, the Mixer series is sure to become a favorite among readers of visionary/metaphysical/spiritual fiction.

Story: Secrets kill. Miracles go wrong. Just when you’re resigned to it, an ordinary life can turn…extraordinary. Merri s a moderately successful businesswoman with a pleasant life. But below the surface, nothing is as it seems. Family hides secrets, friends are foes, and dreams wait to awaken a long-forgotten truth. Once upon another life, Merri rode the Strands of life, threw miracles, and hobnobbed with Angels. Then a miracle went wrong, and she fell, and forgot, and became ordinary. Now she’s on the lam with her blind date and a police detective—and she doesn’t trust either of them. Mixer is Visionary Fiction for a new age, that illuminates the miraculous in the ordinary and explores the relevance of destiny in a world of free will.

Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. Nash sets up a rich and detailed ethereal dimension with Guides, Miracle Mixers, Angels, and a throng of characters both angelic and bedeviled. These light beings can influence the physical world, but the key is free choice, which is available to every sentient being in the cosmos. According to Nash, free choice is the only means for advancement, and the only means for decline.

Beyond the dimension of lightworkers, there isn’t much spirituality in the corporeal side of the story. Characters in the ethereal dimension spend a lot of time discussing the nature of reality: What is fate? Destiny? Free choice? The importance of intent? The will of the Creator? Nash notes that “Free will without context is just chaos. Souls need purpose.” She goes on to say, “Spirit wants to grow! But our measly little souls just want to contract, to huddle like frightened infants in the bosom of their mother.” I have certainly felt that dichotomy of existence–the drive to grow spiritually versus the need for stability and safety in the physical world.

Nash’s cosmology is thought provoking and easy to follow. And by placing all the metaphysical musings in the context of the parallel dimension, it frees her earth-bound characters from the need to preach in order to convey the spiritual theme of the story–a trap many spiritual/metaphysical/visionary authors fall prey to.

My take: Nash has conjured up a strong, sassy, and appealing heroine in Merri, a lightworker who accidentally incarnates on earth. Her character is outspoken yet endearing, and she outshines the male characters who try to save her but mostly get in her way. In addition to the earth and lightworker dimensions, this visionary novel also operates across time; Merri experiences a parallel story from the 1920s that holds the key to saving the cosmos.

It’s a bit too convenient that Merri’s kooky millionaire ex-fiance and best friend pops up with whatever it takes to bail Merri out of a scrape, whether it be houses with bullet-proof windows, cabins with trap doors, or conveniently located escape vehicles. However, Nash imbues the character with enough quirky detail and complex layers to save him from becoming a mere plot contrivance.

As an author, Nash has a light touch, leavening her scenes with dollops of humor. The few romantic interludes are touching, written with a sweetness and delicacy not often seen in thrillers. And a proper thriller this is, from the first door that gets bashed in to the fate of the seen and unseen universes riding upon an impossible goal. Mixer is an epic battle of good and evil that unfolds across multiple realities–the lightworkers against the darklighters, Merri and her friends against a misinformed police force–and across multiple timelines. The tension builds quickly in all three dimensions, prompting the reader to turn the pages faster and faster, until the multiple realities come careening together into an  explosive–and thoroughly entertaining–climax.


Mixer: on a Strand, by Theresa Nash
CreateSpace, 2012
Paperback, 365 pages
Buy at Amazon

Book review: The Second Rule of Ten

Dharma Detective series keeps getting better

Second Rule of Ten Dharma Mystery metaphysical fiction new age novelRating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Second Rule of Ten is a delightful example of well-executed spiritual / metaphysical fiction. The narrator doesn’t tell you about how to live in harmony with yourself and your experience; he simply shows you, using his own life as a canvas. There are none of the metaphors and parables that typically slow the story’s pace and hang like overripe fruit from the plot. He simply lives each moment and shows you a better way to manage those moments. Spirituality is not a concept, but a way of life–a practice that anyone could adopt.

Story:  Ex–Buddhist monk and ex–LAPD officer turned private eye Tenzing Norbu is back with a new case, a new love, and a whole new set of problems in this fresh installment in The Tenzing Norbu Mystery series.

In The Second Rule of Ten, Norbu investigates the unexplained death of his former client Hollywood mogul Marv Rudolph and searches for the sister, lost during World War II, of wizened Los Angeles philanthropist Julius Rosen. With two cases and an unforeseen family crisis that sends him back to Tibet, Ten finds himself on the outs with his best buddy and former partner, Bill, who is heading the official police investigation into Marv’s death. Cases and crises start to collide. When Ten mistakenly ignores his second rule, he becomes entangled in an unfortunate association with a Los Angeles drug cartel. As he fights to save those he loves, and himself, from the deadly gang, he also comes face to face with his own personal demons. Working through his anger at Bill, doubts about his latest lady love, and a challenging relationship with his father, Ten learns to see the world in a new light—and realizes that in every situation the truth is sometimes buried beneath illusion.  (From

Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. Ten puts his Zen principles into practice at every opportunity, such as constantly monitoring his thoughts for “right thinking.” He uses examples such as his own sense of righteous indignation to show how such thinking can lead directly to blind ignorance and away from insight. He talks about mentally “changing channels” in his head when he becomes obsessed with negative thoughts, picturing what he wants to happen rather than what he fears might happen. He reminds himself that “Maybe, just maybe, everything was pretty fine just the way it was.” He practices feeling an emotion such as sadness and experiencing it without attaching any “mind story.”

One of my favorite examples of how he expresses his spirituality is when, after a small victory, he allows himself the precious time to sit and absorb the emotion, to experience and understand what he is feeling: Gratitude. Hope. Expansiveness. How often do we afford ourselves the same simple pleasure?

My take: The Dharma Detective series is one of the best examples I’ve found of great spiritual/metaphysical fiction because the narrator does not preach. The monk/detective leads by example, showing readers how he handles difficult emotions and events using his Buddhist training. The novel offers a simple way to learn about and internalize Eastern spirituality, marinating you in its gentle instruction for several hours as you devour its engrossing mystery.

This second book is much deeper than The First Rule of Ten, delving into complex emotions such as the true nature of friendship and a father-son relationship gone wrong. I am truly looking forward to watching this series develop as its authors hone their craft and as Ten masters his spiritual and emotional challenges.

The Second Rule Of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery (Dharma Detective), by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Hay House Visions, 2013
Paperback, 340 pages
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Book review: Infinite Sacrifice

Delightful historical vignettes can’t overcome weakness of reincarnation theme

Infinite Sacrifice LE Waters spiritual fiction metaphysical novel new age fictionRating: 4 out of 5 stars

When I view Infinite Sacrifice as four interconnected vignettes, I fall in love with the characters and their personal triumphs and tragedies. Each vignette is a first-class example of short historical fiction. However, when I read the book  as spiritual fiction with a reincarnation theme, the novel falls short. Reincarnation is used more as a trope to tease the reader than as a substantial theme that reveals insights into the life of the soul.

Story:  Maya’s shocked to discover it’s not the heaven she imagined; in fact, a life of adventure begins the moment you die. Zachariah, her faithful spirit guide, explains the rules of the dead: in order to regain complete awareness and reunite with loved ones, all souls must review their previous lives. Maya plunges warily into her turbulent pasts as a sociopathic High Priest in ancient Egypt; an independent mother protecting a dangerous secret in glorious Sparta; an Irish boy kidnapped and enslaved by Vikings; and a doctor’s wife forced to make an ethical stand in plague-ridden England. All the while, Maya yearns to be with those she cares about most, and worries that she hasn’t learned all of heaven’s most vital lessons. Will she be forced to leave the tranquility of heaven to survive yet another painful and tumultuous life? Or worse, accept the bitter reality of having to go back alone? (From

Spiritual/metaphysical content: Low. Between incarnations, Maya must review four of her past lives and integrate the lessons from each. Although the historical vignettes are very well researched and written, there is virtually no spiritual or metaphysical content even though the novel’s premise sets up that expectation. The epilogue, which purports to show how Maya assimilates the lessons, is very disappointing. A quick re-hash of the complex interactions among the various characters over time simply isn’t enough to carry the reincarnation theme successfully forward. Even though the tables for tracking the characters across lifetimes is helpful, it is difficult to trace what the lessons are and how Maya evolves spiritually.

My take:  When I view the novel as loosely connected stories set in ancient Egypt, Sparta, the Viking invasions of Ireland, and England wracked by the Black Death, I enjoy the story and characters immensely–especially the vignette set in Sparta. Waters’ exploration of Sparta’s cultural norms, particularly for women, is fascinating and insightful, and Waters finds unique tidbits in every time period that engage the reader. Waters is an excellent researcher and writer with a knack for vivid detail and a fine grasp of storytelling.

However, Maya’s story, which frames the vignettes and provides context for the reincarnation theme, feels wispy and insubstantial. The storyline hints at great intrigue and drama in upcoming books, but there’s not enough realistic detail and emotional engagement in Maya’s personal story to make me want to read the next book in the series.

Infinite Sacrifice, by L. E. Waters
Rock Castle Publishing, 2011
Paperback, 282 pages
Buy at Amazon