May 2015 – Page 2 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: May 2015 (Page 2 of 2)

Writing Has Taught Me to Listen

Listening is one of those skills rarely associated with men. Guys tend to let their minds wander when their ladies start talking, and I’ve found myself doing it on many occasions.

When I have a head full of ideas, worries, and things to think about, the last thing I want to do is hear what my wife has to say. It’s difficult to listen when she’s talking, as I’m thinking about all of “my things”.

But thanks to the time I’ve spent writing, I’ve learned to listen. It seems an odd connection to make, doesn’t it? Here’s why…

When people hear that I’m a writer, they often begin to talk about their “awesome” ideas for a novel. They talk about how they wanted to write, or how they plan to write their own book. When interacting with other writers, they’re as interested in sharing their stuff as I am in sharing mine.

To keep any sort of relationship alive, there is a give and take needed. You have to listen as well as to speak. Since I am trying to establish a base of fans and people interested in what I am writing, I have to increase my network and build new relationships. This means that I have to LISTEN to what people say.

People often have great ideas when it comes to writing and stories, and I’ve found that listening to these ideas sparks something in my head. For example, I talked to my teenaged children about ideas for a story I’m working on. Their ideas were NOTHING close to what I actually needed, but they made connections in my mind that led me to developing the current storyline.

When I hear other people talk, it helps my brain to make connections that I would never have thought of otherwise. Their ideas may have nothing to do with what I’m writing or thinking about, but they give me a new perspective that gives me a new angle for my work. Thanks to the listening skills I’ve developed, I’ve come up with many new creative ideas, and I think my writing is much better.

Bonus: My wife likes me much better because I listen to her now!



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Book Review: The Collected Works of Scott Kaelen

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, but today we’re doing something a bit different. Instead of giving you one book, I give you many short stories by the amazing author Scott Kaelen!

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Scott asked me to read his collected works, and here are my thoughts on them:

Falling — I didn’t understand what was going on throughout, or the purpose of the story for that matter. A bit confusing and hard to follow, but I have say that the writing was solid. Maybe the confusion was the idea, but it didn’t go over as well with me as it could have.

Lingering Remains — This is another one that’s hard to follow. I guessed at what was happening from the beginning, but I didn’t really understand the purpose behind the story. It was confusing, but once I finally understood it, it was well done.

The Hyperverse Accord — Yet again, Scott Kaelen confused me. This is basically a conversation between a God-figure and a lone person, and there’s no real point to it. It’s an interesting discussion on theology, physics, and other complex subjects. I found myself intrigued, though it was VERY hard to follow.

Islands in the Sand — I totally missed the point of this short story. It did nothing to grip me or interest me whatsoever.

Bleak 93 — This was a very well done short story. I felt the emoting throughout, and it was absolutely excellent to convey the bleak, hopeless situation. Though I have to say that it’s a bit cliché, it is worth a good rating.

Moses Garrett — I liked this story quite a lot. It was incredibly vivid in the details and the overall feel, and the writing is very well done.

Night of the Taking — This seems like a very small part of a full-length fantasy novel. There is no real point to the story, though it makes a great Chapter 1 of an epic saga. If this is the entire story, it just seems unfinished.

When Gods Awaken — If you want a highly irreverent and humorous read, this is the book for you. Definitely not for Christians or those easily offended by blasphemy, as this book conveys the author’s VERY clear opinions about religion, the Creation story, and gods in general. It had the dry wit and humor that made my love the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and had the exact same feel as a Douglas Adams novel. Love it!


You can find all of Scott’s work on his Amazon page:

The good news: many of these short stories are free! Definitely worth your time to check them out.

Find Scott on his website and read his thoughts:

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A Cool Idea Just Doesn’t Cut It

I’ve been hanging out (online) with writers a lot, and I hear them talking about this awesome idea they have for a story or a unique twist that will make their plot awesome. I smile and give them the proverbial thumbs up, but I always find myself thinking, “Is that ALL they have? Are they banking their entire book on an awesome twist or unique idea?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about cool ideas. You have no idea how thrilled I was when I opened the first pages of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson to discover that the main characters had magical armor that I could understand. I was exhilarated to read the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and discover the first true fantasy con artist.

But was it these “unique” things that kept me coming back to the book–and every sequel published since? Sadly, it was not.

The reason that I come back to these books time and again is the fact that they are so much more than just a cool idea. There is real depth and pith to the books. Perhaps there is no deep moral truths, but if you’ve read Sanderson, you’ll know that he adds a bit of philosophy and theology into just about everything he does. Scott Lynch’s work focuses A LOT on overcoming the weaknesses of your own personality.

Without something deeper, it’s going to be nothing more than a “cool idea”. Yes, you may have the very coolest character, world, or group of ideas in mind, but there has to be something to hold people’s interest and CARE about the ideas. Without that “something deeper”, you’re going to fall flat.

In this day and age when the market is flooded with more books than anyone could read in a lifetime, there are far too many “cool ideas” and nowhere near enough depth. Don’t let your book be thrown on a mountainous “to read” pile just because all of your time and focus went into those cool ideas, and not on the people and the deeper stories that will hook your readers.


Book Review: The Sons of Brabant by Michael Bolan

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and boy do I have a treat for you! This is one of the VERY FEW books I’ve ever rated as 5 stars, and it’s a wonderful historical fiction/fantasy novel that’s absolutely worth the read.


The Sons of Brabant

Europe is on fire. Fuelled by religion, politics and power, war rages across the continent, pitting father against son, and brother against brother.

In the wake of such conflict come horrific famine and deadly plagues. Rumours begin to surface of the End of Days, of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the violent Renaissance of Mankind.


As Europe burns, betrayal and feuding rages in the Brabant family. Why does Reinald, the powerful yet dishonest Duke fear his younger siblings so? How will headstrong Leo and noble Willem outsmart their older brother, and take back what is rightfully theirs? And what of Isabella, their troublesome younger sister, whose fiery temper lands her in love and in trouble…

Vowing to put right the wrongs of their family and bring an end to their brother’s deadly plans, Willem, Leo and Isabella must chart a course through war, famine and pestilence.

Meanwhile Reinald forms an unlikely and deadly alliance with a megalomaniac, a warmonger, and a deranged yet brilliant scientist, hell-bent on seeing their holy mission through to its grisly conclusion.

Can the Sons of the King of Brabant survive? Help appears from the most unlikely of places…


My Review: 5 Stars

Yes, I’m giving this book a five-star review because it’s just that good. I don’t hand them out easily, so you can know this was worth the read.

Let’s start with the good:

A great setting. Set in post-Renaissance Europe, the continent is a powder keg of battles and violence. Definitely a get setting for the story!

Good characters. The two main male characters (Willem and Leo) are excellent, though the sister is a bit of a two-dimensional character. The Irish character Conor is also a bit two-dimensional, but he’s interesting enough to make it worth the read. Reinald is a mish-mash of sociopath, psychopath, and villain trying to do the right things in the wrong way.

Good story. Though it took A LONG time to get through this book, I never lost interest. It was no easy reading, but it was a great story overall. A wonderful blend of military fiction, fantasy, and Irish mythology thrown in.

Now for the bad:

The occasional grammar mistake, usually no more than two or three per chapter. Also, there is occasional misuse of a large or complicated word.

Head hopping, shifting from character to character’s POV. Not so easy to read, as it’s always shifting perspectives.

Odd time jump, between the first and second chapter. It had nothing to indicate the passage of time, but just barreled right on.

Odd breaks. The book has scene breaks at random and confusing places.

Flashbacks done poorly. Not only were they out of place, but there was nothing to indicate that they were flashbacks. They didn’t further the story much, and they could have been left out.

All in all, a book that I found absolutely awesome, and I’m totally looking forward to Book 2!


Here’s a Taste:

As Vitruvius, his heavy-shouldered horse, picked up speed, he was aware of the others following him, struggling to catch up. Soon his attention was fully consumed by the onrushing hedge, requiring him to judge both speed and distance, and trust that his steed would heed his judgement. Just when it seemed too late and they would crash into the rough branches at full tilt, he drew back on the reins and lifted Vitruvius’ head, the horse’s body straining as it drove its rear hooves into the ground, lifting man and beast over the obstacle with ease.

Landing safely, Willem allowed his steed to continue its gallop, but drew it in a lazy circle so that he could observe the others as they jumped. Leo and Reinald cleared simultaneously, their voices raised in whoops as they sailed through the air. Moments later, Bella’s dun mare crested the hedge. Immediately Willem could see that something was amiss, as the horse’s trailing leg clipped a solid cross-branch and its body twisted in mid-air. Time slowed and he heard his own voice cry out for his sister as he raced his horse back towards the fence. While Duke Henry loved all of his children, Isabella reminded him of the fire and spark of their dead mother, and the Duke was fiercely protective of her wellbeing. The thought of bringing her home injured terrified Willem.

His cry had alerted the others, who reined in their horses and tried to turn back to help. Vitruvius’ momentum meant that Willem was the only brother close when Bella leapt from her saddle, half sprawling as she tried to distance herself from the falling mare. Willem watched with amazement as his sister landed on the soft earth and rolled as skilfully as one of the acrobats that sometimes visited court as entertainers.

Triskell, Isabella’s mare, was less lucky. Willem watched as the horse landed heavily on its right foreleg, his gaze aghast as he saw the leg concertina, bone pieces twisting and rupturing out of the skin. An almost human shriek accompanied the fall, which left the horse thrashing in agony, unable to right itself. Willem threw himself from the saddle before his horse had come to a stop, dropping to his knees beside the crumpled form of his younger sister.

“Triskell!” gasped Isabella, her voice clouded with pain, “is she all right?”

Willem ran his hands over his sister’s arms and legs and straightened her neck gently. “I don’t know. Are you well? Nothing seems broken, but lie still and let me see.”

“A plague on you, you dung-for-brains goat! How fares my horse?” Bella shouted angrily, as she struggled to sit up.

Listening to the beast’s agonised screams would have told anyone that her horse was mortally wounded and a cursory glance confirmed that for Willem. He looked down at his sister sadly. “She’s done for, Bell. There’s nothing to be done, except put her out of her misery. I’m so sorry.”

Bella screamed madly, pushing herself to her feet and staggering over to the fallen horse, whose struggles calmed somewhat in her presence.

Reinald and Leo dropped to the ground beside them, concerned for Isabella’s well-being. They both immediately realised the nature of Triskell’s injuries. Reinald, in command as ever, stepped forward, drawing his belt knife. “I will put her out of her misery. It’s all that can be done and we need to run to stay ahead of the storm. You can ride with Willem – Vitruvius is strong enough to carry you both at a gallop.”

“Leave her alone,” screamed Isabella. She rose to her knees and looked into her brothers’ faces, seeing the same answer in all three. Tears streaming down her face, her natural practicality took over. “Very well, but I will do it myself.”

The boys nodded, expecting no less, as she took the knife from Reinald’s outstretched hand. She knelt again, looking into Triskell’s eyes and raised a shaky hand with the knife poised to fall. Her hand shook as sobs racked her body and she dropped her arm to her side once more. Between cries, she mumbled, “I can’t. I’m so sorry, Tris, I just can’t.”

Reinald stepped forward again. “Get out of the way, then. This needs to be done – it’s the right thing. If you don’t have the strength to do it, I will. Stop your tears, girl, it’s only a horse.”

Both Willem and Leo turned to stare at their older brother, horrified at his statement, but their reaction was nothing in comparison to that of their sister. From her crouch, Isabella launched herself straight up at Reinald, knocking him over, beating and scratching at his face, fury written large across her features. With her knee on Reinald’s chest, she remembered the knife in her hand. With no warning, just a manic gleam in her eyes, she made to drive the knife into his chest.

“I should kill you, you brute,” she snarled, before jumping to her feet and throwing herself to the ground beside her horse once more. With a quick slash, she drew the blade across the beast’s throat, spilling its lifeblood into the soil.


About the Author:

It took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realise that all he actually did was tell stories.
There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, “The Sons of Brabant”. An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.
Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.
Now living in Prague (for the second time), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.
Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the thirty Years War raged around him.

Find the book on Amazon:

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Tweet at him: @michaelbolan225

Read his thoughts on his website:




Writing Has Taught Me to Be Prepared

It’s always easier to get things done if you have an idea of what you’re trying to do!

There are a lot of writers that write by the “seat of their pants”–called “pantsers” or “gardeners”. They have a rough idea of where they want the story to go, and they let the story tell itself. They see themselves as the “conduit” through which the story flows.

While I can respect that, it just doesn’t work for me. To write a proper story, I need to have a layout of where I want things to go. I don’t have to have everything figured out, but at least a rough structure of events to get me started. This helps me figure out where I’m headed, and it makes it possible for me to come up with the rest of the book as I write. Before I’m a third of the way into the writing, I know how it ends.

That is something that I’ve learned to translate into every other area of my life!

If I need to do something, I’ll break it down into individual tasks that need to get accomplished. One by one, the items are checked off the list until I’ve completed the task.

If I need to make a big decision, I’ll list the pros and cons clearly and concisely. Then, using the intuition that I have developed over the course of my career as a writer, I’ll follow my gut and my head to make the decision I think is right.

Being prepared is a VERY important part of success, not just as a writer, but in everything. You can’t go through life without a general plan, and making things up as you go may not always lead to success. You don’t have to plan every aspect of your life to a T, but it sure helps to have a rough “outline” of where you want it to lead.

As Alexander Graham Bell said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success!”

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Book Review: Fatal 48 by Kassandra Lamb

Today I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and reviewing a book set in the real world–a  murder mystery book that is part of a series.


FATAL FORTY-EIGHT, A Kate Huntington Mystery #7

Celebration turns to nightmare when psychotherapist Kate Huntington’s guest of honor disappears en route to her own retirement party. Kate’s former boss, Sally Ford, has been kidnapped by a serial killer who holds his victims exactly forty-eight hours before killing them.
With time ticking away, the police allow Kate and her P.I. husband to help with the investigation. The FBI agents involved in the case have mixed reactions to the “civilian consultants.” The senior agent welcomes Kate’s assistance as he fine-tunes his psychological profile. His voluptuous, young partner is more by the book. She locks horns out in the field with Kate’s husband, while back at headquarters, misunderstandings abound.

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But they can ill afford these distractions. Sally’s time is about to expire.

My Review: 4 Stars

Reading this book reminded me why I prefer fantasy so much!

First off, it’s hard to know who the main character in this book was. It seemed like it would be about the kidnapped person, but then it kept hopping from character to character until I didn’t care about any of them. The switches in POV makes it hard to stick with the book or remember who is who. Perhaps that’s because this is a book in a series…

There were a few weaknesses with the writing itself. The occasional grammar error drew my attention. What I  HATED was that the author forgot to use the Oxford comma.

One thing that seemed jarring was the discovery that the kidnapped character was black. It was only made clear about 75% of the way into the book, and there was no mention made at the beginning of the book–or at least none that I saw.

The murder mystery/kidnapping in itself was fine, but there was nothing to make this book stand out from the thousands of others just like it. There was nothing EXCEPTIONAL about the characters or the horror of the kidnapping/murders. It was almost a bit cliché.

Worse still, the climax! It was incredibly anti-climactic, with far less suspense and danger than there should be in a book of this nature.

That being said, the story was complete, and the heroes of the book advanced toward the mystery at a good rate. There was no “sudden strokes of luck”, but it was all solid detective work.

A funny note: the author of this book is clearly a fan of the Criminal Minds TV show. It’s referenced multiple times.


Here’s a Taste:

“Charles,” she said into the phone, “I’m sorry, but I have to–”

“No, baby, that’s not the issue. I don’t care about going out to dinner, but that wasn’t really where we were going tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

Charles blew out air on the other end of the line.

Dear lord, even his sighs are sexy!

“You’ve got to promise you won’t let on that I told you.”

“Told me what?”

“I was charged with getting you to your surprise retirement party tonight.”

It took a second for Sally to digest that. “So we’ve got to show up at the restaurant then.”

“Yeah, that was the tricky part, how to get you to where we’re really going,” Charles said. “The party’s at a former employee’s house. A lady named Kate…can’t remember her last name.”


“No that isn’t it.”

“Oh, right. Canfield. She’s remarried since she left the center.”

Sally glanced at her watch. Five o’clock. “Charles, I’ve gotta go. I have this client waiting. What time’s the party?”

“Seven was when I was supposed to get you there.”

“Why don’t you swing by and pick me up at quarter of? We’ll come back for my car later.”

“Okay,” Charles said, “but you’ve got to act surprised or Pauline is going to skin me alive.”

“Pauline? She’s been retired six years now!”

“You seem to inspire loyalty in even your former employees, baby.”

“Humph. See you at six forty-five.”

Sally hung up her desk phone and stood up. She tugged on the bottom of her tailored jacket. At least she was wearing something she would be comfortable in all evening. The pale peach suit was one of her favorite outfits, partly because it complemented her chocolate brown skin but mainly because it fit her so well, without any binding or pinching. Too often, in her opinion, women’s clothing was too much about the latest style and not enough about practicality and comfort.

She went out to the waiting area of the center, an apology on her lips for keeping this new client waiting.

But he never gave her a chance to verbalize it.

The short, inconsequential-looking man stood up quickly. “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Ms. Ford. I’m thrilled to make your acquaintance.”

Thrilled to make my acquaintance? What an odd choice of words.

Sally extended her hand. As the man shook it, he placed his other hand on her arm.

A sharp zing. Her arm reflexively jerked away.

The man jumped back a little. “Oh my, I’m sorry. Static electricity.” His embarrassed laughter sounded almost feminine. “It’s such a nuisance this time of year.”

“No problem, Mr. Johnson,” Sally said. “Come on in to my office.”

He followed her down the short hallway and through the door, closing it behind him.

Sally stumbled a little as she walked to the sitting area in the corner of the room, where she talked to clients. She was even more exhausted than she’d realized. Hopefully they would be able to beg off from the party after an hour or two. She gestured toward the loveseat and lowered herself into her own chair.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Ford, for keeping you here this evening. I see that your staff has all gone home.”

Sally shook her head, then wished she hadn’t when the room spun for a brief moment. “I was planning to work late anyway.” After she’d heard the poor man’s story over the phone earlier, and his comments that had hinted of severe depression and suicidal ideation, she wasn’t about to make him wait until Monday.

She just hoped she could stay alert enough to be helpful. Fatigue was making her limbs heavy, and she realized her mind was wandering. Mr. Johnson was talking and she had no idea what he had just said. She shook her head again. Her vision blurred but her mind cleared enough for his words to partially register.

“What time is Mr. Tolliver picking you up, Ms. Ford?”

Sally tried to push herself up straighter in her chair. She wondered vaguely how this man knew about Charles. “What did you say?” Her voice sounded slurred, as if she’d been drinking.

“I need to know exactly when Mr. Tolliver was supposed to pick you up, Ms. Ford,” Johnson said more firmly.

Was supposed to, not is picking me up!

Panic shot through her system. Her brain told her body to jump up and run, but her limbs didn’t respond. They felt like they were made of lead.

“Why…” Sally’s head fell back against the chair, her neck no longer able to support its weight.

“Because that is when the clock starts,” the man said.

But Sally didn’t hear him. She had already sunk into darkness.


About the Author:

Writing and psychology have always vied for number one on Kassandra Lamb’s Greatest Passions list. In her youth, she had to make a decision between writing and paying the bills. Partial to electricity and food, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in Florida where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her. She and her husband also spend part of each summer in her native Maryland, where the Kate Huntington mysteries are set.
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Yet Another Great Reason to Love Being a Writer

Not too long ago, I wrote a post talking about the benefits of reading fiction on your brain and mental health. Now it turns out that reading isn’t the only way to boost your brain health–writing does a pretty good job of things as well!

Dr. James Pennebaker, of the University of Texas at Austin, has been conducting research for over 20 years on the effects of writing on mental and emotional health. According to the good doctor, people who write suffer from less emotional turmoil, have more regular immune systems, visit the doctor less, and experience better health.

How is this possible? Pennebaker is of the opinion that creative writing helps us to step back and examine our lives, stopping us from obsessing about events. We can move on from traumatic or emotional experiences more easily, which in turn reduces stress levels and helps us to cope with problems more effectively.

Writing (even blogging!) helps to flood the body with dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel better and happier.

Writing has also been proven to heal traumatic injuries more quickly. A team of researchers in New Zealand found that 76% of people who tried creative writing after a medical biopsy healed within 11 days, while only 42% of those who did not recovered in the same amount of time.

Writing can also:

Reduce the symptoms and attacks in asthma patients

Improve the T-cell count in AIDS patients

Boost the mood and improve the quality of life of cancer patients

Yep, as if you needed more reasons to love being a writer, science has just delivered them to you! Creative writing is amazing for your health, and you’ll find that the time you spend writing every day will do wonders to help you live a long and prosperous life!

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