January 2017 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: January 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

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What Does a Master Thief Look Like?

Fantasy stories involving thieves have been my favorite for years. I’ve read LOTS of them—from The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner to The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (my personal favorite) to the Riyira series by Michael Sullivan. Of course, I had to go and write my own series, beginning with Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)!

Do you know what all these series have in common? They all describe thieves pretty much the same way: short, slim, compact, strong but not heavily muscled, agile, and clever. The best thieves tend to fall into this category—not only the ones in fantasy, but even the thieves in real life.

An article in Psychology Today described Blane Nordahl,  the man who was known as the “Master Silver Thief”. Between 1990 and 2003, he stole sterling silver flatware in the Northeastern United States. He was more than just a burglar—he was a master thief, an artist.

The article gave an interesting description of him. The description below pretty much sums up what a master thief looks, acts, and thinks like:

  • Short. Nordahl was 5’4″.
  • Slim, compact, and strong. He was built like a gymnast, with a slim waist and narrow shoulders perfect for slipping into tight spaces.
  • Educated. Not book-smart, but educated in the latest home security systems, including how to defeat them.
  • Invisible. Not ACTUALLY invisible (a la H.G. Wells novel), but clever enough to get in and out without damaging the homes. Instead of breaking glass doors or windows, he would cut the molding and stack the window panes neatly.
  • Smart at selecting the goods to steal. Sterling silver flatware is easy to fence, or it can be melted down and sold for scrap metal.
  • Clever in selecting targets. He burgled mansions where the owners were either asleep far from the kitchen or out of town. He would break into summer/winter homes when he knew the occupants would be far away. He looked for homes away from the main roads, often those with long access roads or driveways.
  • Prepared. He had a duffel bag that carried everything he’d need: another empty nylon bag, screwdrivers, a carpet knife, wire cutters, a wood chisel, nail pullers, a flashlight, a white cotton rag, duct tape, white cotton gardening gloves, and a small pry bar.
  • Patient. He could spend up to an hour or more cutting his way into the homes. It was all about precision, which requires patience.

The article gives a lot more details on this master thief, including some of his AMAZING adventures. It’s a fascinating look at the kind of person who becomes a master thief, and the things they do to avoid detection.

 

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Guest Post: What are Deontology and Consequentialism?

Today I have an interesting post from a fellow author and friend of mine, the amazing M.L. Spencer. It’s a bit more philosophical than my usual psychological fare, but I found it a fascinating concept…

Deontology vs. Consequentialism

Deontology and consequentialism are two terms that most people (except for philosophy majors) have probably never heard of. Let’s put it simply:

Deontology

From Wikipedia:Deontological ethics or deontology is the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on rules. It is sometimes described as “duty-” or “obligation-” or “rule-” based ethics, because rules “bind you to your duty.” In this terminology, action is more important than the consequences.”

In deontology, the action itself determines the rightness or wrongness of a deed, instead of the resulting consequences. Deontology is often called “duty-based ethics” because a person’s actions are often motivated by their perceived sense of duty or rules. Most people would think of deontology as being more “ethical” than consequentialism. But taken to the extreme, deontology can actually forbid some actions that are morally right.

This is a common element in the more “epic” genres of science-fiction and fantasy. The hero is motivated to do the right thing out of duty or obligation, rather than personal desire. They may end up sacrificing a great deal “for the greater good”.

At the same time, great villains can be made using this ethical position. If a villain feels duty-bound to something, they may be willing to do things perceived as “bad” if it benefits the “greater good”. The apparent ethics can be twisted and made into something dark and dangerous—great for portraying realistic villains!

Consequentialism

From Wikipedia:Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission from acting) is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence.”

When most people think of consequentialism, they think of the Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli and the famous quote so often (mistakenly) ascribed to him, “The end justifies the means.” In consequentialist moral ethics, the consequences of one’s actions are used to judge whether the action was right or wrong. Carried far enough, any method of achieving a morally important goal is deemed justifiable.

Dark fiction (dark fantasy, grimdark, dark sci-fi, etc.) often uses this to justify the actions a character takes. For example, getting vengeance for harm done to a loved one is perceived as justifiable, especially if positioned in a dark world.

(Andy’s Note: Blade of the Destroyer is the perfect example of this! The Hunter goes on a rampage after the antagonists harm the people he’s protecting.)

These two concepts of moral ethics form the underlying basis for conflict in Darkstorm.

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In the novel, the main character Braden adheres to deontological ethics and is very inflexible in his morals. By contrast, his brother Quin is constantly compromising his values. This pair find themselves facing a cabal of darkmages intent on opening a gateway to Hell in order to save the magic field of their planet – a noble intent, but supported by heinous actions. It was a fascinating ethical and philosophical question to ask, “Which of the two ethical positions is ‘right’? Can either be right?”

What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on deontology versus consequentialism

About the Author:

M.L. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. She is now in the process of expanding the Rhenwars Saga into a series. Her favorite authors are Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She is a member of the California Writers Club and the Science Fantasy Society.

Find Darkstorm on Amazon and read the conflict for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

Connect with M.L. Spencer on Facebook: http://facebook.com/MLSpencerAuthor/

Read more of her thoughts: http://mlspencerfiction.com/

Tweet at her: twitter.com/MLSpencer1

 

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Book Review: The Fell by Lyndsey Harper

Today on Book Review Wednesday, I’m bringing you a book from my own personal favorite genre: dark fantasy. It’s a new release (launched Jan 18th, the day after Child of the Night Guild), and one I’d recommend!

The Fell

After the brutal death of his mentor, Leer Boxwell’s only desire is vengeance. However, his belief that the murderer is the mythical Grimbarror has made him the laughing stock of the Vale. When Leer witnesses the beast steal away the princess in an unexpected attack on the royal city, he volunteers to hunt the creature. Battling self-doubt and ridicule, while struggling to control a mysterious power within that he does not fully understand, Leer must decide whether his convictions are worth the sacrifice the Fell demands.

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My Review: 4 Stars

I found this book a very solid, intriguing piece of art. The story was well-crafted, with a steady pace that kept me reading until the end. It was sufficiently grim and dark for my tastes.

I especially loved the world the author created. The descriptions were vivid and painted a very clear picture in my head—a very important factor in my enjoyment. I experienced the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and sensations of the characters, and the book kept me interested until the end.

It wasn’t perfect though. The dialogue felt stiff, stilted, and unnatural, without a flow. The characters were always hostile and angry, and there were a few important elements left unclear or vague, at least to me.

Also the writer introduced a lot of animal names but gave no descriptions for them. It irked me every time I read one of those names, as I had no idea what she was referring to when she said “Nothin’ but a drink bloated habbersnitch.” Detracted from my enjoyment.

All in all, though, a solid book, one well worth the reading!

Here’s a Taste:

A hush fell over the inn; the fiddle music screeched to an abrupt halt.

Bilby’s eyes narrowed. “What did you say?” he asked.

“I said,” Leer repeated, “I wish to know everything you know about the Grimbarror.”

Callous laughter exploded through the men and few barmaids present, ripples of mockery piercing Leer’s ears.

“You well-washed loon,” Bilby cackled, slapping his knee through his amusement. “You wish to hear fairy tales, is that it?”

Leer’s jaw flexed as he clamped his molars together. “I seek the truth.”

“Hah!” Bilby screeched. “Would you like a cup of warm milk to go with your bedtime story, Boy?”

Leer squeezed his eyes shut briefly, trying to push away the reverberating voices around him. “Are you, or are you not, the Marcus Bilby that Finnigan Lance spoke of?” he demanded. “The one whose life he saved?”

Another wave of eerie silence fell over the inn. Bilby leaned in, gripping the table with white knuckles. “What name did you say?” he asked.

“Finnigan Lance,” Leer enunciated.

“Curse you for speaking that name,” Bilby snarled, spitting on the ground.

“Cheating scoundrel, he was,” a man bellowed from the rear of the crowd.

“Nothin’ but a drink bloated habbersnitch.” another agreed.

“You’d better have good reason for speaking that name in this place, Boy,” Bilby warned, leaning forward.

“He wasn’t a cheat,” Leer snapped. “You peddled furs with him. You worked with him, and he saved your life from insurgents. And I do believe you owe him a favor.”

A murmur trickled through the crowd, sending Bilby into visible panic as his peers reacted to the revelation.

“And what?” Bilby retorted with a scoff. “Lance has come back from the dead to claim it?”

Leer’s jaw flexed. Finnigan’s death was still fresh in his mind; it had not been long since he found his bloodied, mauled corpse. “Nay. You’ll pay your debt to him through answering my questions.”

Bilby’s eyes narrowed. “And just who are you to lay claim to any favors?”

Leer held his gaze. “His son.”

About the Author:

Lyndsey is a brilliant author you’ve likely never heard of, Superwife, and award-winning mother living life in leggings in the expensive and overcrowded state of New Jersey. She is fluent in Spanglish and Sarcasm and enjoys watching Arrow, Supernatural, Psych, and The X-Files repeatedly. You can find her either in the grocery store buying laundry detergent, Tylenol, and cat litter, hovering near her Keurig coffee brewer, or shaking her fist at the heavens in front of her computer. Occasionally, you may spot her on the beach or out shopping (when she actually has money to spare). However, you should avoid approaching her at such times as she is likely enjoying a rare moment of relaxation and can become moody if interrupted. If you decide to engage her during any one of these activities, approach with caution and a sizable cup of Starbucks in hand to avoid any ill effects.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fell-Naetan-Lance-Saga-Book-ebook/dp/B01NCHQ1DR/

Connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorlyndseyharper
Tweet at her: @lyndseyiswrite

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5 Questions with Lyndsey Harper

  1. Please tell us your name and a little bit about yourself: Hi! My name is Lyndsey Harper, and I write dark fantasy. I love stories with magic and grit. I’m a wife, a mom, and I work in a theatre when I’m not writing.
  2. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author? I have been writing ever since I can remember. It started with a newsletter I wrote each month for my next-door neighbor about my pet rabbit, and then turned into poetry, fan fiction, songs, and eventually original work. I didn’t always want to write, though, despite my natural inclination toward it. My mother saw my future in writing well before I did. When I was younger, writing wasn’t glamorous enough for me. I thought it would be a boring career choice. Can you imagine, writing as a boring occupation? (LOL) It wasn’t really until high school that I embraced writing fully.
  3. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?S. Lewis is a long-time favorite. I adore his work. I love Dan Brown’s writing style and his pacing. Right now, I’ve got quite a few books started. “Unclaimed” by Laurie Wetzel, “Crimson Bayou” by Alizabeth Lynn, and “The Shadow Revolution” by Clay and Susan Griffith.
  4. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?) I write the story in order. I can’t skip around and write scenes, then fit them together. My style is very linear in that sense. I’ll re-read what I write and tweak small things, but mainly it’s my habit to write the story in its entirety, then go back and fix it. I treat chapter breaks as different scene breaks in a movie. Sometimes things move around as necessary after the fact, but for the most part, the chapters happen naturally as I’m writing.
  5. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing? I like to draft an outline, or have a bulleted list of important events or concepts I’m trying to get across in the story. They usually fall somewhere between hardly detailed, and fairly detailed, and they almost always change as I write.
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Book Review: The Hunters by Heidi Angell

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and today I’m going WAY out of my comfort zone to bring you a story of a sort I NEVER read: vampires. Thankfully, Heidi Angell does a great job of making me actually want to read the story…

The Hunters

What would you do if you found your town had been infested with vampires? For Chris and his brother Lucas, the answer was simple enough: you fight back. Gathering a small band of other people in their town who have been affected by the vampires, they begin a resistance. But after a year of fighting, they have only managed to kill a handful, while the vampire leader has turned five times that many.

Then two enigmatic strangers appear, changing the groups lives even further.

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Fury and Havoc. They call themselves hunters, and want no part in this little band of heroes. Ordering them to lay low, the duo vow to rid their town of vampires. When Fury is injured, Chris aides these strangers, entwining his future with theirs.

Now that the vampires know the hunters are here, and that Chris and his friends have helped them, the group is in more danger than ever before. Lucas is torn between protecting his new family from the vampires, and protecting them from these seemingly inhuman beings who say they are there to help.

After all, what beings could be so powerful as to scare a vampire?

My Review: 4 Stars

Overall, I found this story enjoyable. The characters were good, the conflict gripping enough to keep me turning the pages, and the various plot elements drew me in.

I liked how the vampires were the enemy sort of like how the zombies are the enemy in the Walking Dead. There’s no humanizing of the vampires or changing what they are—they’re simply bloodthirsty monsters trying to kill.

I gave it a four-star rating because I had a hard time reading it. I can’t say I found the story flawed, but I wasn’t compelled to keep turning the pages. A solid book, well worth the read!

Here’s a Taste:

As the door opened a shadow crossed the lamplight. Chris heard the woman gasp. As she slumped forward, Chris got a glimpse of blood-shot eyes and a pale face. Fury’s arm came up in an arc, a blade glinting in her hand. The head of the ambusher rolled over her shoulder, landing right between Chris’s feet. He recoiled in horror, recognizing the face of his newspaper carrier. Fuck, he’d never have thought of him!

He stared numbly and was unable to react as Havoc shoved him aside to grab the woman before she fell. “Move,” Havoc growled. “Move, get back in the car!” He shoved Chris toward the car where Ricky and Bianca were sitting, oblivious to the violence that had just occurred as swiftly and silently as the wind.

Even though he was carrying the woman, Havoc moved fast. Chris heard the sizzle and pop as the vampire’s body began to burn. Only then was it becoming clear to him what had just happened. He jumped in the front seat and could only shake his head to Bianca’s unspoken question. Havoc was already setting the woman down in the back seat.

“Fury? Fury!” Havoc whispered hoarsely. There was no response.

“Is she dead?” Chris asked, turning in the seat. She hadn’t even made a sound. Unbelievable!

“What the hell is going on?” Ricky snapped in confusion.

“Watch out the windows. They may attack again at any moment,” Havoc ordered. Chris was already on it. Every shadow seemed alive, yet when he looked closely it was only his imagination.

“Can’t you heal her like you healed me?” Chris spared a quick glance and realized Havoc was already trying. Two crystals were reflecting an ethereal blue light off the woman’s dark shirt. Chris only spared a glance before he was scanning the parking lot again, but in that glance he had been able to tell that she was badly hurt. There was a gaping hole in her stomach and blood was pouring from it. His preservation instinct kicked into overdrive.

“Havoc, we have got to get outta here. We’re sitting ducks.” Chris started the engine.

Havoc seemed to hesitate, uncertain what to do. “I need to get something.” In that instant, he leaped out of the car and headed back toward the hotel room. Chris watched him in absolute fascination as he seemed to merge with the shadows, slipping in and out of them to get back to the room. Bianca pointed to the room.

“It’s burning,” she whispered. “What happened?”

“Watch the window!” Chris snapped. “She was attacked.”

“Dude, this is seriously stupid!” Ricky mumbled. “What a stupid fucking move. What’s so important that he’s gotta go back in there?” Ricky pointed towards Havoc as he flitted through the burning doorway. Suddenly Ricky whipped around and stared out the window. “Cops’ll be here soon. We gotta move.”

“I don’t give a fuck about the cops. Where are the other vampires?”  Bianca hissed, searching out the window. “God, I wish he’d hurry up.”

Chris opted not to point out that it had only been a matter of minutes since he and the woman… Fury… Havoc had called her Fury… had gotten out of the car in the first place. He couldn’t believe it himself.

“What the fuck happened!” Ricky yelled, pointing at Fury, seeming to have only just now realized that she was badly injured.

“A vamp attacked just as she opened the door. It… it must have stabbed her and then she lopped its head off… Is she alive?”

“Fuck if I can tell,” Ricky murmured. After a beat, he added, “She looks dead to me.”

“We gotta get out of here!” Bianca whispered. She was trembling from head to toe. At that moment Havoc backed out of the door and sprinted back to the car, throwing himself in the back.

“Go!”

“Where?” Chris asked hesitantly.

Havoc looked up. He was clearly lost without the woman’s guidance.

“We’ll go back to our place,” Chris stated.

“Is it safe?” Havoc asked uncertainly.

“Helluva lot safer than sittin’ out here,” Ricky muttered as he cocked his gun.

Chris peeled out of the parking lot and spun gravel as he pulled back onto the highway. Although he considered himself a pretty good wheelman, it took all his focus to maneuver the car at the accelerated speed he was attempting. He jerked a hard left, sending everyone sliding into one another, and was now on dark winding back roads. All his concentration was on the driving, but he tried to catch as much of the conversation around him as he could.

As Chris took a particularly sharp turn, Bianca turned in her seat. Holding onto the headrest of the seat, planting a hand on the dashboard, and bracing her back against the door, she managed to keep from being flung about the car. Looking at the woman in the back seat, her face paled. Chris wondered how bad it was. Unfortunately, he had no time to look.

“Is she gonna be alright?” Bianca asked nervously.

“For now,” Havoc responded tensely.

“Why isn’t she better like Chris got better?” Bianca asked, after quickly repositioning herself from another sharp turn.

Havoc looked at them carefully, a guarded look in his eyes as he seemed to debate his response. He finally shrugged. “The crystals are drained. I cannot heal her any more until I cleanse and recharge them. Her wounds are… more severe than Chris’s wounds were. He was mostly in danger of the virus, but her wounds are mortal.”

“So, she might still die?” Chris managed to ask as he pulled out on a short stretch of straight road.

Havoc nodded solemnly.

“Bianca, call Lucas, fill him in, and tell him to get Doc there,” Chris ordered. He looked back again and saw Havoc leaning over the woman… Fury…. His eyes were closed as he leaned over her and his lips moved silently, fervently. Was he praying? Casting a spell? God only knew. Chris groaned and debated praying, himself. It would be the first time in years… but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he fervently whispered “Please don’t let her die,” and hoped that someone answered, even if it wasn’t God. He couldn’t lose two people in one night. Lucas was going to kill him!

About the Author:

Heidi Angell is a bibliophile, lexicomaniac and wordsmith. She is the author of The Hunters Series, The Clear Angel Chronicles, and The Hell School Series. She also created Royal Prince Vince, and Creative Exercises to Inspire.
When she is not reading and writing, she can be found spending quality time with her lovely family camping, hiking, swimming, or watching movies.

 

Find the book on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/270492

 

Read Heidi’s thoughts on her website: www.heidiangell.com

Connect with her on Facebook 

And Twitter

See her photos on Instagram

Goodreads

 

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The Hardest Thing About Character Development

Today, I’m fortunate to have a guest post by the awesome L.E. Fitzpatrick, author of The Reacher series. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart: character development…

The Hardest Thing About Character Development

I’m a character writer, which basically means the characters always come first. Before I have a plot, a setting, even an idea, I have a character. In The Reacher series the first characters that came to me were the two brothers; John and Charlie. I knew that one of them would be serious and almost robotic, while the other would be tormented and broken. They were created in a split second while I was getting out of the shower and, at that moment, I knew who both men where, what they felt and thought, what they would do in any situation. I guess I probably know them better than I know myself.

From that concept you’d think character development would be easy right? Well it wasn’t. I had these characters at a present moment, the moment the book would be set and I had them in epic detail. What I didn’t have was a back story. Why was John so serious? Why was Charlie broken? I had the dynamic of their relationship but no idea why John supported his effectively useless brother (and at the early stages they weren’t even brothers). So it was time to scratch my head and think for a while.

The back story was like an archaeological dig. I had to take these two men and brush back the layers of dirt to reveal things about them I hadn’t discovered yet. For instance, I started to see that Charlie was broken because he blamed himself for his wife’s death. And that discovery then posed more questions. I had to peel back the story of how his family was torn apart. How he tried to be the perfect husband but failed. Why he failed at a normal life.

Each question expanded the character and for me that expansion always had to be realistic and credible, otherwise it just didn’t work. The character needs to be developed until there can be no more questions. There has to be history and reason behind everything.

It takes time and it can often go in directions you don’t want to go in. When I started The Running Game I was actually going to set it in an alternate past but these characters just didn’t fit there so the setting had to change. And as the setting changed, the world around them grew so quickly it was like it had been there all along.

But that’s the easy bit. The characters, John and Charlie, did all the work for me on the back story. What comes next is where do I take them? How can I change them? How can I fix Charlie and let him forgive himself? How can I make John more human? This is the hardest part for me because there are so many options and I have to pick the best one.

In The Running Game I got to work on fixing Charlie. He needed something to kick his life back on the straight and narrow and in the sequel, Border Lines, you get to see Charlie return to his former self. Now it’s John’s turn. Book three is going to start his journey, but it also is going to start a spiral for other characters too. The thing is life doesn’t stop, it evolves, it erodes, it heals. Plots are the same. My characters age, they make mistakes, they have successes but they never stop spiralling and as an author the biggest challenge is keeping that spiral going.

 

About the Author:

L E Fitzpatrick is a writer of dark adventure stories and thrillers. Under the watchful eye of her beloved rescue Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she leaps from trains and climbs down buildings, all from the front room of a tiny cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside.

Inspired by cult film and TV, L E Fitzpatrick’s fiction is a collection of twisted worlds and realities, broken characters, and high action. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of her imagination and creating hugely entertaining stories.

THE RUNNING GAME, is the first in her paranormal thriller series, set in dystopia London under the Creativia label and now BORDER LINES is the second instalment of the Reachers series.

 

L.E. has actually just launched a new book, one I’d highly recommend checking out:

BORDER LINES

When the perfect job comes up, Charlie doesn’t think twice about taking it. This is the break he’s been looking for and nobody, not even the rest of his team, can persuade him otherwise.

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The job means working for an old enemy and crossing the border into London. Both are risky, but Charlie has no idea how high the stakes really are. The team will have to confront their past, each other and a killer who is closer than they realize. But can they all make it out of the city alive?

“We all remember that kid in Piccadilly. That determined look he had on his face as he willed all those people to him. Just using his mind, he pulled them close then blew them all to pieces. It could be anyone. Your neighbour, your friend, your lover. Remain vigilant. Reachers are everywhere.”

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/L-E-Fitzpatrick/e/B005DD5CE8
Connect via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lefitzpatrickbooks/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/L_E_Fitzpatrick

Read her thoughts on her website: www.lefitzpatrick.com

 

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Book Review: Child of the Night Guild

For Book Review Wednesday, I’m going to do something different: I’m going to share reviews of the book I just launched yesterday (Jan 17th). I’ve gathered the reviews from various people, and they are as honest as I could ask for.

Child of the Night Guild

“They killed my parents. They took my name. They imprisoned me in darkness. I would not be broken.”

Viola, a child sold to pay her father’s debts, has lost everything: her mother, her home, and her identity. Thrown into a life among criminals, she has no time for grief as she endures the brutal training of an apprentice thief. The Night Guild molds an innocent waif into a cunning, agile outlaw skilled in the thieves’ trade. She has only one choice: steal enough to pay her debts.

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The cutthroat streets of Praamis will test her mettle, and she must learn to dodge the City Guards or swing from a hangman’s rope. But a more dangerous foe lurks within the guild walls. A sadistic rival apprentice, threatened by her strength, is out for blood.

What hope does one girl have in a world of ruthless men?

Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Scott Lynch, and Brent Weeks will love Queen of Thieves…

The Reviews:

It’s not for me to give out any spoilers to lessen the impact for other lucky readers, who will encounter it for the first time, but suffice it to say that it is packed with gritty, fast-moving action and you will be on the edge of your seat. Peloquin particularly excels at action sequences, and treads the fine line between tame and too graphic with as sure a foot as Ilanna on the high beam. Scenes of brutal violence get the point across without disgusting the reader, and I don’t know when I have seen this kind of thing better handled. The characters are believable and engaging, and the plot well constructed. A well-deserved five stars for an author who has given us his best work to date. — T. Ormiston-smith

This is a raw and brutal story but I loved it each step of the way. There is so much detail that goes into this world. I loved all aspects of the Guild and the different jobs they learn. It’s so easy to get drawn into the story that I had a hard time putting the book down. I just had the see what happened to Ilanna next. And the ending, not what I expected but left me eagerly waiting for book two. — JBronder Book Reviews

This read is not for the weak of heart.  I’ve got to tell you, it was time I retired for the evening and the last hour of the read is upon me. I lay in bed for one hour, trying to figure out how this story would end.  I really tried to sleep, but crawled out of bed at 12:45 a.m., wrapped myself in a blanket and finished the book!  I just had to do it.  I couldn’t sleep otherwise, and then I still had a time of it, since this book does not have a happy ever after ending—propelling me to the sequel. You are forewarned.  If you like this kind of read, then it is right up your alley. Scared shitless, I was.  The whole setting is so fantastic, the characters so mesmerizing, that is, those left living, I cannot walk away. – Eileen Dandashi

Andy Peloquin has taken fantasy to a new level. You hear the words, magnetic, non-stop and gut-clenching often, but every one of these words applies in full force to this unforgettable tale of one small girl who beat the odds, and never let anyone break her soul. CHILD OF THE NIGHT GUILD maybe Andy Peloquin’s finest work yet! It takes bold writing to bring life to a bold story of survival and this author has succeeded and then some! No matter what genre you read, this one should be on your MUST READ lists! – Tome Tender

Here’s a Taste:

We’ve been at this for hours! When will he let us rest? Mind numb from hunger and fatigue, Viola placed one weary foot in front of the other. Blood dripped from cuts in her hands, arms, and forehead.

Master Velvet refused to let up. “Your past is gone, your families forgotten. You have no names, no identities. You are nothing more than a number until it is deemed fit to give you a name.”

The children called out as one, “Yes, Master Velvet!”

“Everything you are, everything you will be, you owe to the Night Guild. We are your masters, your creators, your gods.” The tirade had repeated for endless hours, but Master Velvet never seemed to have enough.

“Yes, Master Velvet!”

Master Velvet’s voice cracked like a carter’s whip. “Disobedience will be punished harshly. Obedience will be rewarded well. Learn this and you will flourish in the Night Guild.”

Viola’s legs wobbled, her shoulders ached, and her arms shook from exertion. “Yes, Master Velvet!”

“Forget everything you know. Forget life outside this room. You eat, sleep, and shit at my command.”

“Yes, Master Velvet!” Viola’s voice cracked from thirst and fatigue. She wanted to lie down, to close her eyes, to sleep.

Master Velvet snarled in her ear. “You live and die at the pleasure of the Night Guild. You belong to the Guild mind, body, and soul. What are you?”

“We are tyros, Master Velvet.”

He crouched beside her. “And what are tyros?”

“Lower than dirt, Master Velvet!”

A satisfied smile spread across his face. “Empty your buckets and set them on the floor beside the barrels. Double speed, my drudges.”

Viola tried to move faster, but her feet refused. By the time she reached the barrel at the far end of the room, only one other child remained. The boy, barely taller than her, had yet to empty his bucket. He strained to lift his heavy load. His hands trembled uncontrollably—a permanent condition that made even eating and drinking difficult. Water splashed down his tunic, turning the dirt to mud.

Emptying her pail, Viola dropped to the sodden ground with a half-sob, half-groan of relief.

“Get up, tyros!” Master Velvet would not let them rest.

Tears of exhaustion and frustration streaming, she climbed to her feet. Though her back protested, she forced herself straight when Master Velvet approached.

Stand tall, no matter what. Mama’s words echoed in her thoughts. I’m trying, Mama, but I’m so tired!

“Chow time, my drudges. You’ll find that table over there loaded with delights to fill your little bellies. Eat. You have done well.”

Someone had piled the table high with fruits, sweetmeats, and treats. She’d been too exhausted to notice. The scent of fresh bread, cinnamon rolls, and pastries wafted toward her. Her stomach rumbled in anticipation.

Master Velvet placed a hand on her shoulder. “Not you, Seven. You were the first to fail, so an example must be made.”

“B-But…” Viola couldn’t put up more than a weak protest.

“Off with you, Seven. To your bunk and reflect on your weakness.” His dark eyes held no kindness. “Pray to the Watcher for strength to survive.”

“Y-Yes, Master Velvet.” She turned away to hide her tears.

“Perhaps you’ll try harder tomorrow, Seven.” He spoke without a trace of compassion or pity in his voice. “If you want to have any hope of survival here in the Night Guild, this will be the last time you fail.”

Hunger gnawed at Viola’s belly, but it could not outweigh the bone-deep weariness. She forced herself not to look at the other children, to block out the sounds of their eating. Feet leaden, she turned to the tunnel that led to their sleeping quarters.

Tears flowed in earnest once she reached the darkness of the passage. Sobs of anger, desperation, and frustration washed over her, shaking her body like a leaf in a whirlwind.

Slamming the door shut behind her, she threw herself onto her bunk and buried her head in the thin pillow. She didn’t care that her clothes were soaking wet or that she hadn’t had any water to drink for hours. She wouldn’t allow any of the others to see her cry.

Bright Lady, hear me and protect me in my hour of need. Her parched throat refused to form the words.

The prayer had comforted her in the past, but now it felt empty. The hunger, exhaustion, and thirst remained. Minutes ticked by in silence. Nothing happened.

She balled her fists and swallowed the ache in her belly. Down here, she was all alone. The Bright Lady can’t hear me.

Why would she? The goddess of healing hadn’t heard when she’d prayed for Mama and baby Rose. The gods were far away, if they cared at all. Mama was gone and Papa had left her here. In this place, she was the only one she could count on. She had to be strong, just as she had been after Mama died.

I will get through another day. Just one more.

Find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Night-Guild-Queen-Thieves-ebook/dp/B01N1TC3VW/

 

 

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Not All Serial Killers are Geniuses

Most of the time, when we read about serial killers (especially in fiction), they’re presented as evil geniuses capable of outwitting law enforcement and evading detection. The truth is that their unique psychologies (sociopaths, psychopaths, etc.) do give them a certain degree of cunning that enables them to continue their kills without being detected. However, they are also driven by their neuroses, their unique “thing” that makes them kill. Sometimes, that neuroses ends up pushing them too far, or they make a mistake that ends up getting them caught.

As I was researching serial killers, I ran across a funny article on Psychology Today  that looked at the silly things that got serial killers caught. Some pretty moronic things, considering how intelligent some of these people were:

  • Ted Bundy got caught because he was pulled over for erratic driving.
  • Randy Kraft got caught because the cops discovered a dead body in the front seat of his car after they pulled him over for drunk driving.
  • Joel Rifkin got caught for driving without a license plate, and the cops found a dead body in his car.
  • David Berkowitz was caught because of a parking ticket.
  • Henry Lee Lucas was arrested on a charge of illegal weapons, then ended up confessing to hundreds of murders.
  • Jack Owen Spillman took a lot of precautions when killing (using surgical gowns, shaving his body hair, etc.), but he got sloppy during a burglary.
  • Alexander Bychkov was arrested for theft, but ended up being linked to nine murders.
  • Arthur Shawcross was caught having lunch over the body of his latest kill.
  • Dennis Nilsen flushed chunks of his victims down the toilet, and that clogged plumbing led the police to his apartment, where they found body parts.
  • Alvin and Judith Neely were caught because of some background noise on a phone call they made.
  • Dennis Rader was caught because he believed the police when they told him they couldn’t trace a computer disc.
  • Peter Goebbels dropped his ID at the scene of a crime.
  • Dr. Harold Shipman got caught because the lawyer relative of one of his victims believed a will was forged in the doctor’s favor.

When writing serial killers, remember that they are as prone to faults, failings, and human nature as anyone else. It’s interesting to think of small mistakes or slip-ups that get them caught in the end.

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How Dark Should Your Stories Go?

Dark fantasy is, by definition, a pretty “dark” genre. The stories tend to be grimmer, grittier, and more maudlin than heroic or epic fantasy. Instead of the “white vs. black” or “heroes vs. villains”, dark fantasy involves varying shades of grey, with anti-heroes and “bad vs. worse” throughout. Why else do you think so many people love the genre?

But is there such a thing as “too dark”? Can the stories ever get too grim and morose for the reader to enjoy? If so, how can we avoid going too dark? To better understand the genre, I sat down with a few fellow dark fantasy authors to talk about the craft of the darker side of fantasy—and fiction as a whole:

Resources Mentioned:

The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits: https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Guide-Character-Traits-Edelstein/dp/1582973903

The Panelists

EM Whittaker

E.M. began writing when she turned 13, starting with fanfiction stories on RPGamer, Forfeit Island, Fanfiction.net and Lufia.net. After growing her fanbase through these mediums, E.M. considered fictional writing after creating original characters and backstories within fandom universes. After extensive encouragement, E.M. plunged into original writing in 2012, specializing in paranormal mystery, urban fantasy and psychological thrillers.

She is the author of Turbulence, the first book in The Renegades Saga, and expects to release her second book Drift by mid-spring, 2017.

Website: http://www.emwhittaker.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EMWhittaker2
Twitter: @EMWhittaker2 (just starting)

My interview with her: http://andypeloquin.com/interview-with-e-m-whittaker/

Raven Oak

Bestselling science fiction & fantasy author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (Epic Awards 2016 Finalist), Class-M Exile, and the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays (Foreword Reviews 2016 Book of the Year Finalist). She also has several published short stories in anthologies such as Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology and Magic Unveiled. Raven spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.

When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography, or staring at the ocean. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.

LINKS:
http://www.ravenoak.net
https://twitter.com/raven_oak
http://facebook.com/authorroak
https://www.goodreads.com/raven_oak
https://www.amazon.com/Raven-Oak/e/B00P5PT4AM

Matt Posner

Matt Posner is a writer and teacher from Queens, New York. He is the author of the multi-volume School of the Ages series, about America’s greatest magic school; of How to Write Dialogue, a manual for writers; and the co-author of advice manual Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships. Matt’s new novel is Squared Circle Blues, about the rough and rugged lives of professional wrestlers in the 1980s.

Website: http://schooloftheages.webs.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/schooloftheages , http://www.facebook.com/squaredcircleblues

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/schooloftheages, http://www.twitter.com/SquaredCircleB

 

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Book Review: Highlords of Phaer by Brock Deskins

It’s Book Review Wednesday, the day I get to talk about the latest book I’ve read and enjoyed. I think you’ll love the new one: a fantasy novel with just a hint of steampunk thrown in for good measure.

Highlords of Phaer

Born a slave, descended of kings, Jareen Velarius just wants to provide the best life he can for his family, but Eidolan is a realm that challenges even the most stalwart of souls.  Caught between his masters (the highborn and sorcerer Highlords) and those brave or foolish enough to strike against them, Jareen struggles to reconcile his role as a dutiful slave and a man who desires to be free, to return his people to a life lost more than a millennia ago.

Auberon Victore, sorcerer, alchemist, son of Overlord Alexis Victore, and Jareen’s master, creates an alchemic compound he is certain will change the world, he just does not know how. Only Jareen sees it for the weapon that could break the sorcerers’ iron grasp. It will change the world, but not in the way his master desires.

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Across the Tempest Sea, a mighty storm has raged for a thousand years, keeping a terrible, long-forgotten enemy at bay. An enemy whose cruelty knows no bounds, only the perpetual storm and their fear of the sorcerer Highlords keeps the necrophages from returning to Eidolan and cloaking the empire in death and darkness. But the tempest is waning, and the dissidents’ freedom may well come at the cost of their total destruction.

My Review: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for an honest review, and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it half as much as I did. I found myself pleasantly surprised.

The main character (Jareen) starts out without much depth to him, but with just enough hint of something simmering beneath his servile façade. When his world comes crumbling down around him, his response is to strike back—a sentiment I found believable and deepened the character greatly.

The world was rich, well-described, and drew me in. I found myself turning the pages without hesitation, as I wanted to find out what came next. The antagonist was a well-written character, and the story overall was clever, with great plot twists and turns.

It did feel a bit “all over the place” at times, and there were a few parts that lagged—I had to force myself to keep reading, rather than being drawn into the story. However, overall a VERY good book, one I’d highly recommend to any fantasy reader.

Here’s a Taste:

Jareen pulled an arrow straightener from his pocket, giving testament to how frequently Auberon ordered such corrective action. The device was a simple wooden slat the length of a man’s hand and two fingers in width. A hole was bored through each end, the larger one to best accommodate the digits of a man, the smaller for most women—or a child—as the case may be. It was the most effective and humane way Jareen had found to complete the gruesome task.

He held out his palm, gripped the fearful woman’s shaking hand when she laid it in his, and threaded her finger into the apparatus. Jareen caught the woman’s attention and held her gaze with his eyes.

“What is your name?” he asked.

Her frightened countenance broke into a wan smile and she released a nervous giggle. “Grace. Grace Parkin, and I must be going mad to be laughing now.”

Jareen smiled at her, an effect lost behind his mask. “Sometimes the irony in such an absurd situation is so great that, when all other emotion has been exhausted, there is simply nothing more fitting left to do. It is something I have experienced many times, and I do not yet consider myself mad.”

Jareen flexed his wrist and snapped the first bone in her little finger between the joints. Grace’s eyes flashed wide as she cried out. Her knees buckled but she managed to stay upright with the help of Jareen’s supporting hands.

He leaned close and whispered in her ear as he looped the arrow straightener onto her ring finger. “I am going to bend the finger with the knuckle. I need you to act out just as you did a moment ago. Auberon has spies throughout the palace and he rewards those who report violations of his will. Do you understand?”

Grace swallowed and nodded.

Using his body to block Grace’s hand from the prying eyes of the other servants, he rotated it ninety degrees and mimicked the fracturing motion, but this time, allowing the finger to move naturally with the joint.

Grace wailed a bit louder and dropped even heavier than before, her performance not entirely an act as every movement shot pain through her broken finger. Jareen kept her from falling and helped her stand back up.

“Masterfully done.” He tore several strips from a towel and began bandaging Grace’s two fingers together, using the arrow straightener as a splint. “Never forget that both fingers are broken and act accordingly.”

Grace bobbed her head. “I will. Thank you, sah.”

“I am not a sah. I am a slave just as you are.” Tying off the wrapping, he held up his injured arm. “You can begin practicing by bandaging my wound.”

Grace washed out the cut and wrapped it in the remaining strips of linen Jareen had torn. She was grateful for his making extra as she was unsure if she could have managed on her own. She tied off the bandage and stroked his hand before releasing his arm. Jareen was a married man, but he was not immune to the sensual touch of such a young and attractive woman.

“Do your best to stay out of Sah Auberon’s sight. He has likely already forgotten about you, but it is best to avoid his attention whenever possible.”

“Thank you again for your kindness.”

Jareen chuckled. “What a world we live in where breaking just a single bone is considered a kindness.”

About the Author:

Brock Deskins was born in a small town located in rural Oregon. At age twenty, he joined the army and served as an M1A1 tank crewman, dental specialist, and computer analyst. While in the military, he became an accomplished traveler, husband, and father of three wonderful children. His military career completed, attended college to brush up on his skills as a computer analyst and gain new skills as a writer. Brock received his degree in computer networking and is now devoting his full time and limited attention span to writing.

Find the book on Amazon: http://smarturl.it/highlordsofphaer

Independent Author Network: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/brock-deskins.html

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

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

Tweet at him: @brockdeskins

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Fear: How the World Stands Still

Fear is a fascinating emotion. It can produce all sorts of unusual reactions: tightening in your muscles, a twisting in your gut, a spike in your heart rate, and the list goes on.

One of the most intriguing reactions is the time dilation effect, also known as “time slowing down”.

The other day, a friend of mine related the following story:

“I have been doing bushcraft/survival training since I was about 10 or so. When I was about 21, on one of the last trips I got to take with my grandpa, I ended up killing a bear with a throwing axe. (How bad-ass is that?) When it happened, it felt like my body had an adrenaline surge, and time seemed to slow down. Like you know when things go in slow motion in movies? It’s almost like that. It doesn’t affect everyone the same, the first few times it seems claustrophobic, because all the little things you aren’t actively paying attention to that your brain is registering via your senses get brought to the forefront.”

Pretty awesome, right? In this terrifying moment (being attacked by the bear), it felt like everything slowed down.

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According to Psychology Today, “survivors of life-and-death situations often report that things seem to take longer to happen, objects fall more slowly, and they’re capable of complex thoughts in what would normally be the blink of an eye.”

“Fear does not actually speed up our rate of perception or mental processing. Instead, it allows us to remember what we do experience in greater detail. Since our perception of time is based on the number of things we remember, fearful experiences thus seem to unfold more slowly.”

It’s not that the brain actually stops time—it’s that the rush of adrenaline sends a surge of electrical activity through the brain that makes it work faster. Basically, our brains are able to absorb, process, and utilize information much more quickly in times of extreme stress or fear.

I find this a fascinating reaction, and one that I’ve used multiple times for my characters. But what’s interesting is that it won’t happen in EVERY situation. In one test, researchers found that it ONLY occurred when an object was moved toward a participant. Simply put, if our eyes/brains register a threatening object coming towards us, the time dilation effect kicks in. But if the threat remains static or moves away, it won’t.

I’ll have to remember this when I write my novels. Oncoming threats will slow down time, but other threats (visible and out of field of view) won’t!

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