May 2015 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: May 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Doing the Ordinary to Become Extraordinary

A wise man once said: “Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” — Jim Rohn

It’s amazing how true that is!

I’ve been reading a lot of books in the last few years–to scope out the competition, to do book reviews on my blog, and, of course, because I love to read.

There is one trend I have noticed in all of my reading: the greatest authors aren’t necessarily the most unique.

Let me explain:

There are some writers who do whatever they can to make their writing stand out as unique. They use odd punctuation, they make up their own words, or they adopt a writing style that is out of the norm. For example, I rejected a book for review because the punctuation was totally wrong. The author said this:

“As I write in a first person noir voice I follow the KM Weiland/Dwight Swain school of communication over linguistics, however I know that’s not for everyone and completely understand that my work is not to your taste. So while I reject the suggestions based on my own stylistic choice I accept the spirit in which they are offered fully and with sincere gratitude.”

I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I know the basics of correct punctuation and grammar. So when this author said this, all I read was “I want to do my own thing, and I’m right no matter what you say.”

So this person is committed to being unique by writing in a style that stands out from the “norm”–the accepted writing standards used by the average novelist today. Well, unless he is the next Charles Bukowski or Lewis Carroll, I have a feeling his writing is going to be about as successful as an inflatable dart board in a tornado.

Then I read over the works of authors that I love–Michael Sullivan, Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and Scott Lynch. Their work is all 100% grammatically correct, with no aberrations or deviations from what is considered “common writing”. The structure of their sentences looks as normal and humdrum as it gets.

But it’s the content of the story that draws you in. It’s the words used to make those ordinary sentences. It’s the deeper issues written in the absolutely normal way.

The human eye naturally detects defects, and those defects become the focus of our attention. I have found that books written in a “unique” style often have me focused on the style itself rather than on what is being said. I can’t focus on the content because of the copy.

As a writer, your goal is to make your structure, grammar, punctuation, and layout as ORDINARY as possible. That’s the only way that people are going to be able to get past how you are saying it in order to focus on what you are trying to say. Doing the “ordinary”–and doing it well–is the key to your success. It is the only way that you (and your writing) will truly become extraordinary.

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Book Review: Black Ice by Max Morgan

It’s Book Review Wednesday, my favorite day of the week! Today, we’re bringing it back to the modern world for a story revolving around one of the most controversial natural resources in the world: oil.


Black Ice: The 66 Degree Conspiracy

As a senior intelligence officer with the Norwegian Police Security Service, Magnus Ose enjoys both personal and professional success. But his loving family and his career suddenly hang in the balance as he attempts to solve the mysterious deaths of several of his assets.

After discovering that confidential industry data has been stolen from oil and gas executive Finn Aspen, Magnus vows to identify the thief. But his efforts prove too late when Aspen is found shot in the head.

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Shortly after, Norwegian diplomat Alf Evenson is found dead in an “accidental” apartment building fire—the second of Magnus’s assets to die in twenty-four hours.

Magnus’s investigation uncovers an elaborate network of spies and double agents that involves assets from North America, the Balkans, Western Europe, Russia, and the CIS.

It’s only as he gets closer to the truth that he realizes he might be too late—and that the web of lies he’s trying to penetrate might have already infiltrated his work…and even his own family.


My Review: 3.5 Stars

For a thriller, I was less than thrilled with the book.

First off, I have to say that the book was fairly well-written. There were a few mistakes with the writing, such as:

Head hopping. Popping from one POV to the next without any real cohesion. It happened a few dozen times.

Passive verbs/adverbs. This made it a bit hard to read, as I have learned to spot them in my own writing.

My real issue with the book was the pace. There were a few action scenes, but for a thriller, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement and thrill. The climax was anti-climactic, and there was nothing to make me feel like the character was going to fail in his mission.

It was a bit hum-drum, with the focus being entirely on the police work rather than on the action. The main character spends a lot of time sitting, thinking, and researching, which, for a thriller, makes it a bit slow. Also, the book has the subtitle “The 66 Degree Conspiracy”, but there is no reference to 66 degrees or what it means. Totally confusing!

That being said, the book was detailed, incredibly complex, and kept me fairly interested. Clearly the author has an understanding of foreign affairs, international politics, machinery, the oil industry, and police work. The plot threads were all tied together in a neat bow at the end, with nothing out of place and no question left unanswered.


Here’s a Taste:

In Stockholm, a similar night had played out at another meeting be- tween two colleagues in the shadowy corner of another restaurant, right down to the fine food, dessert, a cognac to top it off. Dimitri looked up, dabbing his lips with a linen napkin. “Now to business,” he said calmly, without a trace of intent. “It sounds like the risks are increasing. Just how close is he? Do we need to act immediately, or have you got your man under control?”

Across the table, Adrian pondered his next move. The light of the candle cast shadows across his face, leaving him seemingly with- out expression, but in reality the cogs were turning hard and fast as he tried to stay ahead of whatever Dimitri might throw at him. He had known from the beginning that this wasn’t a social call. Dimitri wasn’t a friend in any sense of the word. They didn’t share dinner or “do lunch.” No, Adrian was an employee; Dimitri was a boss.

In fact, he was more foe than friend. Adrian knew that he could get burned like Icarus if he flew too close to the bright plans Dimitri was forging for himself and Mother Russia. Adrian knew how Dimitri operated, though, and that included the Russian’s love of chess. He was always many moves ahead of everyone else, usually all the way to checkmate. This forced Adrian to do the same lest he find himself another piece cast aside without a second thought.

“It’s being handled,” Adrian said resolutely. “I can manage Ose. He won’t make a move without my saying so.” That was true…up to this point. Magnus had checked in and kept Adrian updated at ev- ery step of his investigation. Several times, Adrian had subtly placed Magnus in check, pointing him away from considering Russia a pri- mary suspect, but it hadn’t been easy. Magnus’s instincts had proven far more adept than expected. And his tenacity! Magnus was dedi- cated and determined to find the truth. He was getting closer; it was only a matter of time. But if Adrian allowed Dimitri to believe that, or even suspect, that could spell big trouble for Adrian. And Magnus, too.

“He’s proving more…wayward than you anticipated, though.” There was an edge to Dimitri’s words.

Adrian shook his head. “I’m steering his investigation. And an in- vestigation was inevitable; it actually helps that it’s being thoroughly looked into. Nobody can say that this wasn’t done by the book. And I’ll make sure he stays away from Russia.” Adrian paused for a second, but couldn’t help adding a comment. “I can’t help it when there are trails to be followed. If your people had been more careful…”

“My people? More careful?” Dimitri’s lifeless eyes suddenly flicked with an unsettling electricity that caught Adrian’s attention. It was then that Adrian realized that he had been wrong—the lifeless, dead, unseeing look that Dimitri always gave him, the face that had haunt- ed him on previous meetings, was preferable to the intensity of this new stare, filled with a spark of something…malice, rage, hatred… or something else? Evil? Or perhaps that bright glare was charged purely by the pursuit of success, visible in the eyes of someone utterly power hungry.

Adrian fumbled for his next words. “What I mean is that if there had been fewer breadcrumbs to be found, Ose wouldn’t keep getting himself out of the corners that I’ve pushed him into. If you give a bloodhound a scent, he will seek it out. I can only throw him off the trail so many times. I’ll put sardines under his nose all day long, if I must, but to be fair to me, he does have a talent for this.”

Dimitri allowed the embers in his eyes to simmer down before replying in a cool and collected tone. “Perhaps I bought the wrong man. Perhaps a resourceful individual like this Ose would have been more valuable to me.” Dimitri was clearly aware that he was pressing Adrian’s buttons.

Adrian could feel the first dots of sweat forming on his upper lip and brow. He licked his cracked lips. “Some men can’t be bought,” Adrian said in a hushed voice. “Ose is one of them. But, if it comes to it, he can be controlled. He has vulnerabilities.”

About the Author:

Max Morgan is a former government official with insight into the workings of security intelligence issues. Having traveled and worked around the world, the author is currently employed as a private consultant. For the author’s outstanding work, Morgan was awarded the State Security and Intelligence Cross of Merit by a friendly country.

Find the book on Amazon:

Connect with Max on Facebook:


Writing Has Taught Me to Be Competitive

I am, by nature, a fairly competitive person. Throughout my life, I have been in competition with someone over something. Whether it was competing with my brother at sports, vying with other men for the attention of beautiful women, or trying to beat out my competition and get the good jobs, competition is a part of life.

Writing has taught me to be competitive, but to be smart about it as well. It’s not just about being the most skilled in a certain area, but having the right SET of skills for the job!

As a writer, it’s not enough to just tell the best stories. I’ve read so many stories that had the potential to be fascinating, but because of the skill of the writer, the stories fell flat.

It’s not enough to just be an amazing writer. I’ve read stories that were technically perfect, but they also fell flat because the story itself was lacking or the writer failed to put enough emotion, struggle, or growth into the book.

It’s not enough to just write well; you also have to market your book. As EVERY writer knows, it’s incredibly tough to get your book in front of readers, and there are so many competitors trying to get customers to spend money on their product as well.

Being a writer these days is one of the most competitive jobs around!

Thankfully, I’ve learned the secret to success: write better, tell better stories, communicate with the reader better, and go bigger than everyone else.

Granted, actually putting that into practice is DAMN hard. I’ve struggled to improve my writing skills, and I’ve dedicated myself to being as creative with my stories as possible. I try to add value and depth into my writing in order to communicate with my readers, and I try to go as “big” as possible in the emotional rewards of the stories.

It’s good, honest competition with all the other writers out there, and I plan on winning. I may be way behind people who have been writing for decades and have dozens of books out there, but so what? I have no doubt that I can be better than most, and I’ll definitely work harder than most as well. All I need is luck and proper timing, and I’m on the path to success!

The Joy of Silence

I’m the kind of person that has a hard time sitting and doing nothing. If I have a spare moment between tasks, I’ll usually fill it with a few pages of whatever book I’m reading, a few minutes of the TV show I’m trying to get through, or a mindless game on my iPad. Basically, I suck at being silent and still.

But in the last few weeks, I’ve had more time to practice…

Thanks to all of the hours I spend sitting at my desk writing (both for work and for pleasure), my level of activity has declined. This has forced me to get up and walk more. Now, a few times throughout the day, I’ll take a short walk around the block. It helps me to stretch my legs and gets the blood pumping.

From the first day, I determined that I wouldn’t bring along an audiobook or music, but I would just be alone with my thoughts. A few minutes of walking couldn’t hurt, right?

The more I walked in silence, the more I realized how wonderful it could be. I came up with the plot of an entire novel in just two days, and all because I spent those few minutes walking around the block and letting my mind worry at the problem.

I’ve started to do a lot more in silence. Things like driving to pick up my kids, walking to the gym, taking a short trip to the supermarket, or lying in bed waiting for the missus. I used to fill every spare moment with entertainment, but now I’ve learned that it’s nice to just sit/lie/walk and think. I’ve come up with all sorts of awesome ideas, some of which I would consider the “best” I’ve ever had.

I highly recommend it for anyone who is in a creative profession–art, writing, design, etc. Just taking a few moments of peace and quiet with no noise or distraction can do wonders for the ol’ creative juices, and it can help you get in the frame of mind for whatever you’re about to do.

Writing Has Taught Me to Take Notes

There was a time that I told myself that my memory was good enough to remember everything, and I never wrote anything down. Sadly, I lost a lot of great ideas and thoughts that way.

Over time, I’ve learned that I have to take notes. Since I started writing, this has become more important than ever!

I tend to forget unimportant things fairly easily, though I guess we all do that. But the problem is when I begin to forget important things, such as birthdays, anniversaries (never forgot this one, thank God!), appointments, and so on.

I also get a lot of great ideas while out and about–while driving, while walking to/from the gym, while working out, or even while walking through the supermarket. If I didn’t take notes, all these amazing ideas would be lost.

I have a lot of ways to take notes:

Skype. When I’m out and about, I’ll use my iPad to Skype my computer anything I want to remember. I have two separate Skype accounts for just this reason. Even if I don’t have internet while traveling, all of the messages will arrive at my computer when I arrive home.

Google Calendar. For anyone who needs to remember anything, this is an invaluable tool. Simply set the notification to arrive in your email inbox minutes, hours, or days before your appointment or to-do, and you never have to forget anything again.

Email. Since my beautiful girlfriend got me a phone, I can now log onto my email and send myself a message with anything I want to remember. Though I hate texting, it’s easier than trying to forget.

Voice Recording Software. On my phone I have an app that allows me to dictate anything I want to remember. The software will transcribe it to text, giving me a note I can then email to myself.

Paper and pen. I may not like writing, but the low-tech option is always a good backup. I keep the notes short and use only broad strokes. It works great to remember important things when I am far away from my electronics.

Had I not developed these habits of note-taking, I would have missed out on some of the best stories, plot twists, and characters. Definitely a habit worth developing if you want to be not just a great writer, but a successful person!

Why You Should Attend the Blood Moon Rising Event

Today you are all fortunate enough to receive a DOUBLE post. Hooray!

I hope you all checked out the book review I posted this morning, but now it’s time to head over to Facebook and visit the Blood Moon Rising event.

Why should you visit? If you love fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, science-fiction, and pretty much anything with a dark twist, you’ll find A LOT of great books to read.

This book event is all about paranormal and supernatural stories, and you get over a month of different novels, short stories, and tales from a wide range of authors. Definitely something worth checking out if you want creepy new reads.

You can find the event HERE. All you have to do is join, and you’re in for a treat!

Today’s author is a Miss Christina Engela, the writer of dark science fiction/horror novels that will blow your mind and bring out the goosebumps. She’s actually quite an interesting person! I’ll let her tell you about herself in her own words:

Christina Engela is the proud owner of a warped sense of humor, and it shows. She writes about aliens, space ships, big explosions – and crypts, ghosts and vampires – in the same books and in a way that makes all of these topics fit with each other without causing a melt-down or an inter-dimensional rift. She also enjoys sushi.

Her story settings include starship situations and planetary locations. Her favorite planet to set her stories on is Deanna, where she expresses her own brand of fantasy combined with sci-fi. She loves to create characters and situations and to blend them with her past real life experiences and sometimes endearing (or not so endearing) parts of her real life acquaintances. For some reason this location lends itself to what she calls “quantum-ness” and for creating the unique characters around which her stories flow.

As a fervent advocate of human rights and equality for all people, Christina has also written numerous articles (over 500 on her blog “Sour Grapes: the Fruit of Ignorance” alone) which traversed the globe, being re-posted on a number of activist or special interest sites.

Since 2008 she has also released two lengthy books (over 500 pages each) on the subject of gay rights and freedoms in South Africa, drawing on her experiences as a human rights activist with SA GLAAD and ECGLA. She also compiled a list of useful articles, information and links which come in handy whenever an activist engages with someone who is assuming the role of an “expert” when trying to batter down the human rights or equality of a persecuted minority.

She has also advocated strongly in favor of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, association and the right of the individual to dignity and to identify as he or she chooses. Since 2011 she became active in support of Pagan rights in South Africa. She has also campaigned in support of alternate identity groups and the rights of sub-cultures (such as Goth, emo and vampire cultures) to exist without fear of persecution. She has over the past few years worked closely with people from diverse backgrounds (including Christians, Pagans, Satanists, other occultists and even vampires) to advocate for equality, non-discrimination and to educate the broader public about these pressing social issues.


You can find out more about her at the Blood Moon Rising Event, or by visiting her Home Page. Take the time to check it out and see if her tales of dark science fiction can spook you!


Roar of Smoke by Candace Carrabus

I know Monday is usually the day for “Writing Has Taught Me…” posts, but I’m going to switch things up. Today, I’ll be doing a book review on a brand new book for release.


The Roar of Smoke

Tressida is a smoke-spinner, a meldborn. It’s a lethal legacy, a forbidden force. Daughter of Crone and Sage, she should have been killed at birth.

Now she’s seventeen, wanting only to be a member of her land’s vanished Horseguard and discovering she is more than she ever knew, as first her eyes and then her hair turn to smoke. Just as she learns she can fulfill her dream of working with horses, her talent awakens an ancient and deadly feud.


On one side—those claiming the honor of destroying a meldborn. On the other—those intending to use her for their own ends. Tressida must master her power in order to save herself and those she loves. Is she strong enough?

Or will the roar of smoke consume her?


My Review: 3.5 Stars

Right off the bat, the book made a simple mistake: it didn’t hook me with the opening sentence. It started out a bit too slow, and only picked up a page or two in.

There is a lot to love about this book: a new world, a mystery about this girl’s powers, and fear of death. But by the time the book reaches its third or fourth chapter, the flaws begin to show.

The dialogue is stilted and doesn’t flow, as is the narrative in many places. It feels choppy, and there are a few no-no’s that should have been caught by an editor: sentences with two unconnected clauses, phrases like “even though”, word repetitions, typos, grammar mistakes, homonym misspellings. At one point, the characters change weapons mid-fight. Some expressions made it hard to read, such as, “The idea expanded and stretched behind her breastbone like an emerging seedling reaching for the sun.” Perhaps a bit too much purple prose for me.

The characters were a bit two-dimensional. There is no real suffering or loss for the main characters, and it feels like there’s no real growth beyond their discovery of their skills as warrior/mage. Perren, in particular, reacts oddly for a strong male hero character, and his reactions seemed inconsistent with the idea the author had in mind. The emotions and reactions of all the characters are a bit odd or discordant with what’s happening. The author describes the emotions of the characters, but failed to make me feel them.

The story doesn’t follow a single thread, and there’s no real cohesion between one “cool idea” and the next. There is no big crescendo or climax, and there’s no “phew” moment when the villain dies/hero wins/day is saved.

Loved the idea of the magic system (smoke vs….I didn’t really understand what the mages’ power was), and the world was rich and detailed.


Here’s a Taste:

Rage and fear seethed in the room. Their leader—a lord by his lavish dress and haughty stance—rested one hand on his sword hilt.

That is when she noticed Gran. At least, she thought it was Gran. The woman stood directly in front of the queen. She wore the same stained white tunic she always wore. There, the similarity ended. Her hair hung loose to her thighs, she appeared taller, and the look on her face could only be called fierce.

A Derrian feinted toward her, his sword level with her chest. Tressida barely bit back her scream. She scooted up the last steps and flattened herself against the wall outside the doorway.

Gran flicked her hand and the Derrian flew back like a dry leaf before a cold season wind.

“You are not welcome here,” she said. “Take your shiny playthings and return to whatever bleak hole vomited you out.”

The woman was her Gran, but the voice issuing from her mouth, not to mention the words themselves sounded like the south wind when it whistled from the sea to slash the city, biting, sharp, and cold.

Queen Naele stepped back, her hand to her throat, as if she did not believe it, either. The Derrian lord laughed.

“Do not threaten me, hag. Stand aside or see your blood stain the floor this day. We have no quarrel with you or your kind. We simply need the queen to accompany us.”

Her kind? Gran had said something like that, too.

He stepped forward, made a sharp movement with his hand, and his men surged toward the dais.

Gran disappeared.

Or not.

A black whirlwind spun where Gran had stood. Tressida felt the force of it on her face. Roaring filled the room as Derrians hacked at the billowing mass. Men and swords and arrows wheeled through the air. One blade whooshed past Tressida’s ear to be embedded in the backrest of a hallway chair.

Unable to grasp what she was seeing, Tressida screamed, “Gran!”

The vortex bounded to the ceiling and paused. Something took form at its center. Tressida backed in horror as the cloud swooped closer and Gran’s beloved face emerged. All that was clear were her eyes. The storm raging there turned Tressida’s bones to ice.

Gran’s voice shrieked out of the smoky cloud.



About The Author

Multi-published author Candace Carrabus writes fantasy, mystery, young adult fantasy, and metaphysical fiction. Some of her stories are for adults and star women of a certain age because, well, women of a certain age like to have adventures, too, right?

Candace lives on a farm in Missouri with her husband, daughter, a pack of dogs, clowder of cats, and herd of goats. Her horse couldn’t take it and got his own place. Although riding is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on the back deck, sipping tea, reading a good book, and watching the birds.

Not surprisingly, her stories are often infused with the mystery and spirituality horses have brought to her life. Dogs and cats are usually around, too. A portion of Candace’s profits are donated to animal shelters.

The book is freshly released on Amazon, so find it here:

Read her thoughts on her website:

Chat her up on Facebook:

Tweet at her: @CandaceCarrabus



Book Review: Home by the Sea by Shyreen Tyler

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and today we’re going psychological! It’s a unique story set in a mental institution, and definitely worth the read…


Home by the Sea

Writer Aaron Baker decides to intern voluntarily in a mental institution to do research about schizophrenia. In his late thirties and confident of his own mental health, Aaron is not threaten by being surrounded with mentally ill patients for a few days. Violence on the other hand makes him nervous and uncomfortable.

In the hospital, he meets Dr. Marcus Reynolds, a soft spoken and mild mannered doctor who directs the institution. Dr. Reynolds is willing to help Aaron by giving him freedom to interview patients and watch their behavior around the hospital. He also offers him his years of experience to discuss details about the illness.


During his stay, Aaron notices that the patients are provided with excellent care, but show no sign of improvement. On the contrary, as days pass, they seem to get worse. When bringing this up to Dr. Reynolds, his kind demeanor changes and he becomes distant and evasive. Aaron finds a similar response from other members of the staff. This leads Aaron to suspect that there is something happening at the hospital that they don’t want to be known.

With the help of an unlikely ally, a teenage patient named Emeline, Aaron discovers what Dr. Reynolds and his staff are conspiring about. A secret that will change his perception of reality.


My Review: 4 Stars

I started this book expecting something a bit more horror-fueled, but was brought along at a slow pace into the world of this character–Aaron Baker. The book sort of meanders, and it takes its time to build up to the climax. There’s not much to hold your interest in the middle of the book, but once it approaches the end, it gets interesting.

I did get a bit annoyed by all the adverbs, which made the writing a bit clunky. Also, all of the characters spoke exactly the same, and there was nothing to distinguish their patterns of dialogue. The conversations were all a bit choppy.

That being said, wait until you reach the end. It was an excellent twist ending, and not at all what I was expecting. Worth the read!


Here’s a Taste:

“The night was rough. Although Aaron fell asleep almost immediately, he wasn’t able to rest. His dreams were filled with images that came and went quickly.

He was walking through one of the hospital halls when a woman with her face overly painted pulled him to the floor and jumped on top of him not allowing him to move or breath. A deep voice from an invisible man told him not to enter those doors, which he couldn’t see but somehow felt by his side. Dr. Reynolds walked into the scene to ask him if he needed anything, but Aaron couldn’t talk to ask for help. Suddenly, he broke free but he wasn’t in the hospital anymore. He was in the kitchen of a house that looked familiar, and he could hear people arguing. He was grabbed again by an invisible force, and this time he felt a pain that he couldn’t describe. He fought to release himself, but whoever had him was stronger and Aaron was helpless. He yelled using all the air in his lungs, and his own scream woke him up.

He was sitting in bed, sweating, anxious, not remembering where he was. After that, it was impossible to sleep again. The dream had left him breathless and shaking. Some parts of it he could relate to his experiences of the day; others came from nowhere. He used his respiratory exercises to relax, but he tossed and turned for hours trying to get rid of the bad memory. Only the sound of the waves that came from afar soothed him to sleep in the deep hours of the night.”



About the Author:

Shyreen Tyler — I was born with my head in the clouds. As a child, my two best friends lived in a flower which was part of my room’s wallpaper. During my youth, when I wasn’t at school or doing homework, fantasies filled my time.

Thanks to my parents, reading became more than a hobby. It became an addiction. My mom used to read bedtime stories to me and my 3 siblings. My dad was subscribed to a book club that would send him new books every month. Our library was filled with stories of all genres. Reading covered my need for other worlds, other lives. It fueled my fantasy world where I felt so comfortable.

People who love reading eventually attempt at writing. Many years had to pass for me to dare. While taking writing classes, an idea popped in my head which became my first book, Home by the Sea, published in 2014.

I’m in my early forties and my head is still in the clouds. Thankfully, I’m not alone. Many characters and their stories are there with me. Eventually, they will come to life and hopefully, I will share them with you.

Find the book on Amazon:

Connect via Facebook:

Tweet at Shyreen:

Read her thoughts on her blog:


Oh the Stress!

There are times in life when things are totally crazy, and boy does it make you grateful for the times when things are calm!

I’m going through a pretty hectic time of life right now. I’m trying to finish the rough draft of Book 3 of my series The Last Bucelarii, all while trying to work on a new novel that I’m creating as part of a Writer’s Bootcamp that I’m participating in. I thank the gods that I’m near the end of the rough draft, but I’m almost certain that the final round of edits for Book 1 are going to be sent over the minute I type “The End” in Book 3.

The work doesn’t stop with just the final edits for Book 1. I still have to plan the book launch, which involves writing a lot of emails, guest posts, and author interviews. All the while, work on this new untitled Bootcamp novel will continue every day, and hopefully I’ll manage to get some work done on the second draft of Book 2 in The Last Bucelarii series so that I can submit it to the publisher and have it ready to go for March 2016.

All this on top of my regular work duties, my duties as a parent/significant other, and my attempts to diet and exercise. This makes Andy a very busy boy, with almost no time free to do those extra little things I want to do.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I LOVE having things to work on, and I know that these various tasks are exhilarating–they give me a sort of purpose in life. But, if I fail to respond to emails, don’t send you friendly chat messages, or respond to questions and posts, now you know why.

Fingers crossed that I don’t go bald in the next few months! I will get through this alive and, hopefully, sane…

Off Book -- Jessica Dall -- REUTS

Book Review: Off Book by Jessica Dall

It’s Book Review Wednesday, but today we’ve got so much more than just a review! Starting off, a book with a totally new twist on writing…


Off Book

Twenty-year-old Eloise has learned all she can from the School, where characters live until joining their novels. No one knows genre and plot structure better than her, but despite her knowledge, she’s yet to be assigned to her own story. All her friends are off starting their lives with their authors—and if Eloise doesn’t get assigned soon, she’ll fade away, forgotten by all.

Off Book -- Jessica Dall -- REUTS

When she is suddenly offered a job at the Recording Office, she takes the chance to write her own future. Suddenly living among the post-storied, Eloise meets Barnaby Fitzwilliam, a former romance novel hero who hasn’t lost any of his in-story charm. But just as their relationship begins to get serious, everything Eloise has been taught gets turned upside down when she’s sucked into a novel she was never meant to be part of.

Now, caught where the only rules are made by the authors and truly anything is possible, Eloise must find her way back home—or else her life might end before she ever gets the chance to live it.


My Review: 4 Stars

First off, I have to say that I loved the concept. It’s unique and gives an interesting look at the world of writing–both from the perspective of the characters and that of being a writer.

The intro was pretty solid, but it lost my interest after a few chapters. It takes a bit to understand what the characters are talking about, but once you get it, the book makes a lot more sense.

The character of Eloise is solid, though perhaps a bit two-dimensional. There’s no real character growth in the story, no personal suffering that leads her to the climax in the end. The loss of her friend is the closest it gets to hardship for the character.

Also, the romance between her and Barnaby just felt a bit too contrived for my tastes. There’s no real reason for her to have fallen in love with him, no real connection between the characters. More like a girl falling in love with a guy because he’s there–almost too convenient to be real.

As the book nears the climax, the characters mention that their stories needs that high point, but I felt no fear, no potential to lose. It was an anti-climactic ending, one that didn’t really make me worry about the fate of the character at all.

The concept was interesting, the world was fascinating, and it was a fun read, but it’s not a book I’d read again because it was exhilarating.


Here’s a Taste:

Releasing a shaky breath, Eloise forced herself out of bed, not bothering to put on more than the tank top and boy shorts she had ended up sleeping in. The bulk of Barnaby’s clothes from last night remained where they’d been dropped on the floor, likely a byproduct of hurrying to dress this morning. Shaking her head, she gathered them up, dumping them all into the hamper by the dresser. The jacket she had worn out still lay where she had placed it, apparently forgotten.

She picked it up, at least pretending to be productive. The compass fell from the pocket, bouncing slightly on the carpet as it landed. Eloise stared down. Looking entirely benign where it sat, something about it still made Eloise’s chest tighten. Placing the jacket back where it had been, she sank to the floor, sitting cross-legged as she picked the compass up. The metal felt as cool and smooth as it had out by the Wall. Steeling her nerve, she found the seam between the two halves, pressing the little latch.

The little silver needle wavered, finding north from where it floated under a glass dome. She studied the markings around the edges—a flourished zero at the top near the clasp, a ninety, one-eighty, and a two-seventy marking the other sides of the circle. Raised black enamel wrapped the edge in what looked like some mix of Arabic and Tolkien Elvish, not that she could have read either. She ran her fingers over the lettering. Whatever it was, wherever this was from, it was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Snapping it closed, she frowned as the smooth surface on the top of the case seemed to engrave itself out of nowhere. She watched the winding curves form, unable to put it down. Slowly, it warmed, a blue glow starting under the new pattern. She released her hold, squinting against the light, but it didn’t drop, sticking to her palm as though seared there. She tilted her hand, tried to shake it off, unable to keep her eyes open as the heat became painful. A final jerk and the compass came free, hitting the ground with a thud.

Dust puffed up. She coughed, trying to bat it away as she babied her hand at the same time, eyes not quite readjusted. Something small and hard dug into her thigh. Eloise froze, the hair rising on the back of her neck. Slowly, she forced her eyes to focus. Trees surrounded her, taller than she had ever seen before. She took a deep breath, debating the likelihood of a complete mental break. Running her hand along the ground, she felt the dirt, hard and gritty. If it was a mental break, her subconscious hadn’t gone halfway. It even smelled like outside—all grass and pine and petrichor.

She stood cautiously. “Hello?”

Nothing answered.

Wrapping her arms around her midsection, she took a few steps forward and tried again.


A tall, blond man broke through the trees with a crossbow leveled at her chest.

Eloise’s hands went up on instinct as she looked at him, wide-eyed.

He stared at her for a long moment, frowning before lowering the bow. He called back over his shoulder, “Over here. It’s just some girl.”


About the Author

Besides being able to read her novel, I also got the chance to sit down with the Jessica Dall, the author of this unique novel, and ask her some questions…

Jessica Dall

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

As most people know at this point, these days I’m a writer, editor, and creative writing teacher in the DC Metro Region, but I grew up on the West Coast (Los Angeles and then San Diego) and my educational background is actually in political science. Until about Junior Year of college, I was certain I wanted to be a lawyer, and so I had long declared my major with a pre-law specialization. I then got an internship at a small press, which was almost a bit of a fluke, and the rest is history. I was only two classes away from my major, so I got my degree in Political Science, but I have writing and editing ever since.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer in some form or another, I feel like. Even before I knew my alphabet, I was scribbling down “stories” in what I though cursive looked like (so… basically a bunch of loops in a line). I wrote my first proper novel at fifteen, about the time that I joined my high school’s Creative Writing Club, but I don’t think I actually got it into my head that being a writer was something I could do professionally until college when I started interning at a small press. My first (published) novel came out the year after that and I haven’t looked back.

Why do you write?

Whenever someone asks me that, I always seem to end up quoting Lord Byron, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” There are so many characters and stories in my mind that if I didn’t actually write, I’m not sure where they all would go. I also find writing to be very calming in general. If I get writer’s block for a few days, I’ll actually begin getting a little tetchy. It’s just something I’ve always been compelled to do.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

As I’ve said, I work as an editor outside of writing, so in a way I’m always reading (I tend to have at least one editing project every two weeks on average). That means I’m reading two to three books a month, along with whatever of my own projects I’m currently writing or editing, and my students’ stories for the classes I teach. So when people ask me what I’m reading, I have a ton of things to pick from. When they ask me for reading recommendations, however, I start having problems trying to remember both what I’ve liked lately and what would actually be out that other people would know about. For favorite authors, I’m not sure I have specific names to pull out. I’m currently reading Way Walkers by J. Leigh and recently finished Finding the Rainbow by Traci Borum, which are two very different books, but ones I enjoy quite a bit. Really, if it’s a good story with interesting characters written well enough for editor/teacher-me to put away the red pen, I’m probably going to enjoy it.

Find Jessica Dall on Twitter andFacebook.

The book can be found on Amazon:


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