June 2015 – Page 2 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: June 2015 (Page 2 of 2)

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Book Review: Firetale by Dante E. Graves

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and today we’re going to take it to a strange place. Our book for the day is an odd mixture of circus freaks, mysticism, lore, demons, and so much more…

 

Firetale

Lazarus Bernardius is immortal, but he had to die twice to discover it. The Devil has made Lazarus the ringmaster of a traveling circus of demionis, creatures with supernatural powers that are descendants of demons from Hell. For 140 years, the troupe of mermaids and ogres, medusas and wyverns, satyrs and alrauns has been touring the U.S. tullies, masquerading as just another mud show.

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Lazarus’s task of giving shelter to unusual creatures requires that he not draw the attention of the Judges, modern inquisitors hunting down the supernatural. Lazarus manages this until Greg, a magician who can control fire, joins the circus. Greg seems like a decent sort, but over time, the magician’s behavior becomes suspicious.

When Lazarus learns that Greg uses his magic to fight villains after performances, it is too late. Soon, the first of the Judges arrives. To save his fosterlings and get out of trouble, Lazarus must seek help from a long-abandoned lover who is still angry with him. What the ringmaster doesn’t know is that some of the inhabitants of the circus have secrets of their own.

 

My Review: 3.5 Stars

Let’s start off with the bad:

The author uses a lot of big, complex words that make it hard to stay with the flow of the story. The sentences tend to be a bit clunky and awkward, which again makes for slow reading.

I had a real problem with the POV of the book. It kept switching back and forth from one character to the next, but it didn’t quite nail the omniscient POV right. There are a number of times when it switches from past to present tense, and I found those very jarring. There was A LOT of use of the passive verbs, which made the book feel slow. The book is mostly “telling”, with very little “showing”–something I know many authors struggle with.

The ending was fairly anticlimactic. I was expecting a big confrontation, but in the end, the end was more of a whimper than a bang. There’s no ending to the book–I understand that this is because there will be a Book 2, but still, it should have ended better. I have no reason to want to read Book 2 thanks to that lame ending.

On to the good:

I was amazed by the range of monsters that the author used! These monsters come from folk tales, legends, and lore from all around the world. The author’s understanding of the occult/mystic is solid, so much so that I’d almost wonder if he dabbled a bit in it himself.

There is a lot to love about this book. The characters can be fairly interesting, though they each have their moments when they change personalities. The description of the powers, the history of the circus, and the story overall was quite excellent.

All in all, a solid book that needs a lot of work to make it great.

 

Here’s a Taste:

When Lazarus Bernardius came to life, the first thing he saw was light. It was so bright and blinding that he had to squint. He tried to cover his eyes with his hands, but he could not move. Lazarus blinked, trying to clear the tears from his eyes. When his vision cleared, he saw that the light was not a supernatural phenomenon proclaiming that his earthly sorrows were finished and Heaven waited. The light came from a lamp on a white ceiling. The feeling of weightlessness that had filled his body when Lazarus woke up began to fade. He felt a sense of his own body weight. He also felt tingling in his fingers and toes and warmth in his chest. Suddenly, the feelings that had been coming on gradually, hit him like a wave, flooding into his consciousness. The heat in his chest turned into a fire, as if a torch was burning in the very heart of him. For a moment, Lazarus thought he heard a devilish laugh. He put his hand to his chest and heard a melodious clink.

“Oh, you finally woke up, Mr. Bernardius,” a voice said. Lazarus turned his head to the right and saw a strange metal table on thin legs, on which lay something formless, covered with a white sheet.

“I’m here, Mr. Bernardius,” the voice said. Bernardius turned his head to the left and saw the man who was talking to him. He was tall, had blond hair, and was dressed in a black coat over a white suit. Curly hair fell over the stranger’s quaint face, a face that could be described as beautiful, except for its sharp features, which were slightly longer than they should have been. Bernardius, who had not yet recovered himself, strained his eyes to have a better look at the stranger. The face of the man curved a bit to the left, like a half moon, and one eye was twice as big as the other. His mouth, splayed from ear to ear, was full of small triangular teeth. Lazarus shook his head and the face of a man again became normal.

“Where am I?” asked Lazarus.

“You are in a waiting mortuary,” said the stranger. The man was holding an apple, which he cut into pieces with a small knife and ate. The fruit seemed weird to Lazarus, but, because of his shock and poor health, he considered this a hallucination and did not look closely.

“Waiting mortuary?” Lazarus looked around and saw tables on which lay bodies covered with sheets. For a moment he felt sick. His memories returned. “I was attacked. I was stabbed in the chest.” With his memories came renewed energy. He sat up abruptly on the table, pushing away the sheet, under which he was uncovered. The bell rang again.

“What is it?” he asked the stranger. The man silently pointed to a knife on a string tied to Lazarus’s hand. It was strapped around the bell on a stand next to the table on which Bernardius lay. Lazarus looked at his chest. There was a just small scar right above his heart, a trace of the wound.

“I’m alive! I am alive by the grace of the Lord,” Lazarus said. He was so excited by this fact that for a moment he forgot his manners, which normally were very important to him. “Pardon my look, sir.” Mr. Bernardius sat up and dangled his legs from the bed, covering his private parts with the sheet. “However, this might be habitual to you, because you work here.” Only when the words slipped out did Lazarus realize his stupidity. The strange gentleman was too well dressed for a man whose job was to watch and see if someone in the morgue rose from the dead.

“No, Mr. Bernardius, I don’t think that God has something to do with the fact that you continue to breathe, and no, I don’t work here,” the stranger replied. A perpetual smirk seemed to be attached to the face of the stranger. “To be honest, I never heard of anyone in the waiting mortuary watching corpses. As far as I know, the bell has never rung in places like this.”

 

About the Author:

My name is Dante, or maybe it’s not.

I was born far from the US, but that place was nothing exotic – bleak and sterile. That is why I started made up stories, for my cousins, other kids, and my teachers.  But mainly for my own entertainment. Every little boy needs a basis for his stories. Mine was Bradbury, Poe, Star Wars, Jules Verne, Le Guin, and TMNT.

And then I grew up. Found a job. Settled down. Moved to another place. Then one day I recalled I was good, I guess, at creating stories, so I started to write them down. And it was the beginning of The Devil’s Circus Tales.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SXJRWV0/

Tweet at Dante: http://twitter.com/de_graves

 

Writing Has Taught Me the Joy of Being Busy

I’ve always been a pretty chilled guy. In fact, one of the problems I had as a child/teenager was being TOO chilled. I preferred a good book, an enjoyable movie, or an awesome video game to study, working, learning, or doing active things.

In recent years, I’ve been blessed to work from home. That means I can set my own hours and choose how I spend my time. With my off hours, I would read, practice martial arts, spend time with my kids, watch TV, and do enjoyable, relaxing things.

Then I started writing. I had all those extra hours, so I would use them to write. Writing, while enjoyable, is still work, so my hours became more and more productive. The more time I spent writing, the more time I wanted to spend writing–and the less time I wanted to spend watching TV and “hanging around”.

It has gotten to the point where I am currently working from 7 AM to 1 PM on my day job, 2 to 3 PM on one novel, and 5 to 6:30 PM on a second novel. Around that schedule, I’m eating meals, taking care of my kids, trying to be a good parent/spouse, doing what I can around the house, and so on.

But I love it! I feel so much more productive than ever before. Even when on “vacation”, there’s nothing I want to do more than just sit and write. On those rare days when I can’t get to my writing, I miss it. I miss the thrill of creation, but more than anything else, I miss the feeling of working toward something.

I’ve come to love feeling and being busy. If I don’t have a project to work toward, I feel like there’s something missing in my life. Taking a week off writing is a challenge for me, and even then my brain doesn’t stop working. I may not be writing a book, but I will come up with ideas for the next book I’m going to write. It’s an amazing feeling, and one I’d never want to lose.

Yes, I never have enough “down time” to get to all those extras–reading books and comics, playing video games, etc. But I’ve noticed that when I’m working hard, the little down time I do get feels amazing!

The Wisdom of Keats

I love this poem:

“I have been astonished that men could die martyrs
for their religion–
I have shuddered at it,
I shudder no more.
I could be martyred for my religion.
Love is my religion
and I could die for that.
I could die for you.
My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet.”
― John Keats

How romantic is that?!

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Book Review: Unrelenting Nightmare by Stan Yocum

It’s Book Review Wednesday, my favorite day of the week! Today’s review is on a topic close to my heart: murders and assassinations…

 

Unrelenting Nightmare

Stuart Garrison, a virtual reality software developer on the cusp of industry domination, navigates a deadly cat-and-mouse game with an international assassin hired by his fierce competitor. The stakes are high, as Garrison tries to outwit his clever potential killer while releasing an innovative new technology to the world.

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My Review: 4 Stars

Starting off with that blurb–it’s just not right! The focus of the book is mainly on the assassin (Clark Cameron), with Stuart being the sort of “lesser bad guy”. It’s an iffy blurb that doesn’t tell you the real truth of the book.

The book is really about the assassin, and it paints an intriguing picture of the fellow. Though he is technically the book’s antagonist, I found myself rooting for him. Imagine the avarice of Deadpool with the morals of a supervillain and the planning skills of the Punisher–that’s Cameron Clark.

I have to say that I heartily enjoyed the book. I read through it fairly quickly, and it was hard to put the thing down. The villain is particularly enjoyable, and I kind of wanted him to win, though it wouldn’t have worked for the story.

That being said, there were a lot of weaknesses with the book:

Typos and word misuses. The author used “flack” instead of “flak”, “sport hero” instead of “sports hero”, “Revelry” instead of “Reveille”, “dialect” instead of “accent”, “speculation ran rapid” instead of “rampant”, “tan” instead of “tanned”, and a few others. Then there were expressions that make sense and are commonly used, but which shouldn’t be part of a narrative–such as the expression “well fit” or “go stealth”.

POV. There was A LOT of head-hopping, and the omnipotent description of it all is a bit amateurish. For example, the narrator tells a character’s back story, when it would have been more powerful had the character relived it through memory or dialogue.

  1. A LOT of telling, rather than showing. That last example of the narration is just one, but there was a lot of “he heard”, “he saw”, and “he watched”. We know it’s from the character’s POV, but the way he uses these words pulls us out of the action. All in all, the writing was a bit clunky and hamfisted in places, with a lot of passive writing.

Alex Nichols. One of the main characters is a woman who is supposed to be “the best” in her field. She is introduced as such, but the author quickly turns her from a bad-ass security expert at the top of the industry into an almost simpering woman, unable to believe that an assassin would kill an innocent person just to get to her. There’s just too much naivete to be real. She’s set up to be “the best”, but she’s fairly inefficient, just waiting for him to come to her instead of being out and trying to find him. For an expert, she doesn’t do much.

The climax. VERY anti-climactic. A bit of build-up, but it was all over too quickly.

That being said, despite the weaknesses, there was a lot to love about the book. I certainly enjoyed the story!

 

Here’s a Taste:

Time seemed to slow as the sun beat down on the parched land. Nothing moved or made noise; only an eerie silence lingered beyond its welcome. A light breeze moved across the desert landscape, momentarily disrupting the stillness in the air. Leaves on the sparse plants adorning the area moved with its gentle coaxing. A small lizard darted from the shade of a scrub brush and scurried across the sun-bleached ground, taking refuge by an old, discarded truck tire. The lizard froze in place, its forelegs extended and head raised. Only its eyes and tongue moved, trying to catch the presence of any nearby predator.

A pair of steel-blue eyes followed the lizard’s movements. These eyes belonged to a predator more menacing than the lizard could ever expect to encounter.

Corporal Cameron Clark switched his attention from the lizard to the task at hand. He lowered his head and swiped sweat from his eyes with the sleeve of his camouflage suit. He couldn’t afford to let stinging sweat blur his vision. His life depended on it.

Nearby, and just as well concealed, were the three other members of Clark’s strike force team—Captain Nathan Pool, Sergeant Benjamin Stokes, and Corporal Raul Diaz.

The four men lay prone in the Iranian desert as part of a covert military operation to assassinate Ahmed Nazim Bahad, one of the most dangerous terrorists in the Middle East. Each man was a trained sniper, proficient at hitting a four-inch diameter bull’s-eye dead center from two hundred yards.

The question the men had asked themselves more than once was: What would happen if the mission, code named Freelance, failed and they were captured? They wore nonmilitary clothing and carried no form of identification. They all knew the United States government wouldn’t admit to authorizing a covert assassination on foreign territory, and so the question remained: What would happen? The four men didn’t like any of the answers they’d come up with.

 

About the Author:

Stan Yocum always knew he wanted to be a writer. After obtaining a degree in theater arts, Yocum shifted to a left-brain career in the analytical business world. 30 years later, the dream was still knocking and Yocum left his career as a businessman to become a full-time author. Eight manuscripts and two published books later, Yocum is establishing himself as a prominent voice in indie-suspense novel with his new book “Unrelenting Nightmare.” He also raises and trains assistance dogs for Canine Companions for Independence®. Yocum is married with two daughters and resides in Palos Verdes, California.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Unrelenting-Nightmare-Stan-Yocum/dp/1491716797

Tweet at Stan:https://twitter.com/stanyocum

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorStanYocum/app_2415071772

Read his thoughts on his website: http://stanyocum.com/

 

Writing Has Taught Me to Confront Emotions

If you ask anyone who knows me, they’d agree that I’m not an emotional guy. Don’t get me wrong: I have my emotions, but I tend to keep them inside and lock them away rather than letting them out or confronting them.

But over time, writing has forced me to become a more emotional person. Or, at the very least, it has forced me to confront emotions rather than running away from them.

In order for my characters to be realistic, they have to have the same emotions and feelings that normal people have. That means that I have to think about what “normal” is, and use the emotions that I feel–and that others feel–to make them deeper characters.

This means that I have to plumb my emotional depths to see what makes me tick. Why do I get angry when X happens? Why does X make me happy? Why do I react X way in X situation? What is it about X that makes me react X way, instead of X?

But it’s more than just that…

Everyone reacts with emotion, no matter how much they like to think that they are ruled by logic. I may be the “hero” of my own story, but the things I do and say are going to cause reactions in my “supporting characters”. As the “hero”, I have to try to understand what’s going on with my “supporting characters”, understand what makes them tick, and why they are reacting a certain way.

That means getting into the deeper emotions of the characters in my books as well. To avoid making them two-dimensional, I have to think about what’s really motivating them, driving them, and goading them to do the things they are doing. That also involves the emotions that they are feeling–both at the moment of their encounter with the “hero” and in general.

This has forced me to confront emotions more–both in myself, and in others. When my children get angry or frustrated, instead of telling them to “stop crying”, I force myself to think about the emotion behind their crying. I examine the situation, think about how they could be feeling, and try to understand what’s going on.

In the last year or so of writing, I feel like I’ve made HUGE strides of progress emotionally. I cried for the first time in over a decade, I’ve opened up more to those around me, and I’ve made good friends. I am more patient with my children and spouse, and less hasty to over-react in situations. I still have a long way to go, but because I’m accustomed to reading into emotions and reactions, I have an easier time in these situations.

Thanks, writing!

 

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