Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette


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.


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:

The Panelists

EM Whittaker

E.M. began writing when she turned 13, starting with fanfiction stories on RPGamer, Forfeit Island, and 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.

Twitter: @EMWhittaker2 (just starting)

My interview with her:

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.


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.


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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.


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:

Independent Author Network:

Read his thoughts on his website:

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Tweet at him: @brockdeskins


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.


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!

Doing Romance in Fantasy Right

As you all know very well, I am NOT a romance writer. I’ve never had the desire to write romance-heavy novels, but I prefer to use romance as an element in my books rather than their driving force.

However, the truth is that a well-written romance can make any story more well-rounded, deeper, and more engaging. After all, we all love to picture that “perfect love” or “happy ending” in our minds. Romance can bring you closer to the characters, give real depth to both antagonist and protagonist, and even provide the motivation for the characters to do what they do.

So as I sat down to write Thief of the Night Guild (Book 2 of Queen of Thieves), I knew I wanted a hint of romance in there. I turned to a few experts on the topic to find out how to write romance in fantasy the right way. The video below is the result of that conversation:

The Panelists

Susan Tizdale

USA Today Bestselling Author, storyteller and cheeky wench, SUZAN TISDALE lives in the Midwest with her verra handsome carpenter husband. Her children have all left the nest. Her pets consist of dust bunnies and a dozen poodle-sized, backyard-dwelling groundhogs – all of which run as free and unrestrained as the voices in her head.

Suzan published her first novel, a 14th century Scottish Historical Romance titled Laiden’s Daughter, in December, 2011. To date, she has written and published more than 15 books. More than 300,000 copies of her books have been sold around the world.

You will find her books at Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Kindle, Audible, and iTunes. Paperback and hardcover versions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Suzan’s Website:

Connect with her on Facebook: suzantisdaleromance

Tweet at her: @suzantisdale

Get text messages on new releases! Text: CheekyWenchUS to 24587

Kathryn LeVeque

KATHRYN LE VEQUE is a USA TODAY Bestselling author, an Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author in Medieval Historical Romance and Historical Fiction. She has been featured in the NEW YORK TIMES and on USA TODAY’s HEA blog. In March 2015, Kathryn was the featured cover story for the March issue of InD’Tale Magazine, the premier Indie author magazine. She is also a quadruple nominee (a record!) for the prestigious RONE awards for 2015. Her bestselling novel, THE WOLFE, is also a semi finalist for the 2015 Kindle Book Reviews award for Best Romance.

Her website:

Micheal Foster

Michael Wayne Foster is an American actor and producer.  Born in Monroe, Michigan to Rowland Foster (Educator) and Emilie Foster (R.N.).  Michael excelled in sports his 12th grade year and chose to pursue that path to Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio.  He spent two years on the baseball and basketball teams before focusing on a career in education.  As a high school English teacher for 9 years, Michael sharpened his improv skills, which were called upon in 2005 when he first appeared on national television.  “A chance to get out and work in New York learning of the opportunities the entertainment industry provides was overwhelming.  It (Hollywood) had my attention and I wanted to see what possibilities I could explore.”   With a M.A. in education and a B.A. in English, Michael set his sights on a newfound passion: Show Business.  In less than a year he resigned from education and moved to Los Angeles. “Teaching was an incredible journey and I am so lucky to have been a part of so many great kid’s lives.  However; every journey has to end when another begins,” he reflected.

His website:

Sean Hampton

Sean Hampton is the more handsome half of Cover 2 Cover Book Reviews, the only male model romance book review website in the world.
Instagram: SeanHamptonForever
SnapChat: ElSeanHampton


Short Stories by Joshua Robertson

Today, instead of one book for you to read, I’ve got two short stories. They’re both written by Joshua Robertson, the author of Anaerfell. The stories are set in the dark fantasy world he’s created, and they flesh out other details of the world and novels he’s written.

When Blood Falls

Defending against the demons of the Deep has long given Tyr Og’s brethren purpose. When Tyr’s mother is robbed from him during childhood, he loses his will to live. Now, filled with rage and regret, Tyr hungers for a worthy death to bring an end to the futility of his life. In a short tale of blood and self-loathing, Tyr seeks the most honorable path to finally join his mother in the afterlife.


The Name of Death

Drada Koehn is a fearless, formidable fighter ensnared in a presaged war against the northern humans. When the Speaker foretells their victory upon discovery of the name of death, she sets out to unravel the mysterious prophecy. Now, bound by duty and honor, Drada faces untold horrors with her companions, searching for what may never be found. In a story of unexpected twists, she soon finds that her resolve to see the quest done will be the fortune or doom of her people.


My Review: 4 Stars

I found both of these short stories highly compelling and fascinating, pulling me into the world. The descriptions were vivid, the scene painted beautifully dark, the action scenes gripping, and the stories well-rounded. They were the kind of short stories I enjoy reading: they introduce a character, give him/her an objective, and reach a clear ending.

On the downside, the dialogue felt a bit stiff and stilted. The stories also relied heavily on a reader understanding the world built in his novels, so as someone who hasn’t read them, I felt a bit lost sometimes.

Still, if you enjoy a good action-filled short story set in a dark fantasy world, these are worth the read!

Here’s a Taste:

When Blood Falls

Vaghor did not budge. He pushed his tangled, red hair from his eyes. “Your mother is dead, and your father is a madman. We all know it. Why can you not accept it?”

“What of your father, Vaghor Fhar?” Tyr rolled the name off his tongue venomously. His voice carried further than he intended. “Your entire family is nothing but a legacy of half-wits and drunkards. Best hold your tongue unless you welcome death.”

He noticed the other sentries shuffle backward as he bellowed.

Tyr felt Gharkis close the distance from behind him with a single step. The man attempted to pull Tyr’s attention from Vaghor’s glaring gaze. “Where is your sister, Tyr? She had gone with you, did she not?”

“I bet she is dead, too,” Vaghor flared his nostrils, his eyes darkened with hate.

Tyr’s chest tightened. His deep voice rattled from his lips. “She is dead. Killed by a bear.” Gharkis grated from behind him with a sense of sympathy. His footsteps crunched against the ground as he moved away.

“Let him be,” Gharkis said.

Vaghor puffed his chest, inching closer. “Mother killed by a Witiko. Sister killed by a bear.” Vaghor cocked his chin, and clicked his tongue. “Where is the bear? We need food and resources.”

Tyr explained with a single word. “Taken.”

“Taken?” Vaghor echoed.

“Vaghor,” Gharkis warned.

“No,” Vaghor pressed. His breath was hot against Tyr’s frozen cheek. “We should expect better from Tyr Og, the son of an Elder.”

Tyr’s muscles instinctively flexed, causing his injured arm to throb from shoulder to wrist. “Bah! You haven’t been outside of Almdalir for three months. Try to provide before demanding from those who keep your belly filled.”

Vaghor growled, balling his fists. Gharkis reached past Tyr to calm the giant, only to have his hand swatted away by Vaghor. The Ispolini sneered. “Are you wishing to join your sister and mother?”

“I welcome it!” Tyr’s left hand clamped onto the jugular of Vaghor seconds before his fist connected with the giant’s nose and upper lip. Bones crunched. Blood gushed.

It was not enough.


The Name of Death

Seigfeld dipped his head. “I found Farthr chained in a hollow in that cave, captured and meant to be eaten by the Witiko scum. He had watched handfuls of his own—and humans—slaughtered at the hands of the demons.”

Drada felt her heart twist, the smoke of the fire burning her nostrils. “Your sister?”

Seigfeld turned his eyes from her. “Forever lost. Farthr agreed to help find her, unsure if he had witnessed her death among the many humans. We searched for a while, but the tunnels beneath the mountain ran long and deep in more directions than the two of us could have ever traveled in a single lifetime.”

Wrylyc looked over his shoulder, scrunching his hooked nose. “I don’t understand how Farthr disapproves of this story.”

“He is shamed to have been captured,” Drada said matter-of-factly, “and you stole from him an honorable death. He would have died with his brethren in that cave had you not come along.”

“He would have been eaten alive,” Seigfeld protested.

“Ah,” Wrylyc grinned, “but the Svet have eaten the living, even their own battle-fallen, since their creation.”

Drada recoiled, catching bile in her throat. She filled the space with words. “So, he is bound to you now because you saved him from an unsavory death?”

Seigfeld dipped his head in acknowledgement.

“Absurd,” she replied. “A life of servitude is far worse than a glorified death. He should have sought more Witiko in the caves to kill.”

“Oh, we killed many more in the search of my sister—”

“I hear little mourning for her in your breath,” Drada challenged, folding her arms.

Seigfeld continued, “…but many paths were so thick with the demons, we were forced to retreat.”

“Retreat?” Drada scoffed. “I know few who would be so eager to tell a story of defeat.”

Seigfeld’s gaze darkened from across the fire. “You do not know the horrors—”

“No. I do not. Because Uvil do not know fear.”

The clipping of Farthr’s hooves against the ground drew their attention. Towering over them, crossbow in hand, he stared at Drada with a haunting gaze, the darkness looming behind his massive breadth. His words fell on her like a curse. “You will.”

About the Author:

Joshua Robertson was born in Kingman, Kansas on May 23, 1984. A graduate of Norwich High School, Robertson attended Wichita State University where he received his Masters in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Sociology. His bestselling novel, Melkorka, the first in The Kaelandur Series, was released in 2015. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He counts R.A. Salvatore and J.R.R. Tolkien among his literary influences.

Find the stories on Amazon:

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The Guilt-Free Criminal Mindset

In preparing to write Child of the Night Guild, I had to do a lot of research. I wanted to understand everything that went into the character’s story—from the skills she’d need as a thief to the mindset of a criminal to the techniques used to “brainwash” her to the effects of the life she led.

In my research, I found an interesting article on Psychology Today that put the criminal mindset into very fascinating perspective. The article states:

“Their mentality is well expressed by an offender who told me during a psychological evaluation, “I can make anything right wrong.  I can make anything wrong right.  Right is what I want to do at the time.”  Individuals who think like this are perfectly capable of warning others, including siblings, not to do things that are wrong because they could get into trouble or hurt someone.  However, with respect to their own contemplated action, criminals have a chilling capacity to shut off from immediate awareness any consideration of right and wrong, obliterate any sentiment, and banish any thought of how they might harm others.  Once they have honed in on what they intend to do, in their mind the act is as good as accomplished without any adverse consequence to them.  This usually is borne out by their experience in getting away with many offenses in the past.  Criminals do not have to rationalize what they are doing to anyone.  That comes later if they are apprehended.”

Think about that! The sort of people who commit crimes are able to rationalize what they’re doing—not to others, but only in their own minds. It’s only if/when they get caught that they have to explain.

I’ve found this a common theme in cop/detective shows. The detective has the suspect in custody and they’re sitting in the interrogation room, grilling them or trying to get them to crack. Finally, the criminal says, “I did it because of X”. Most of the time they almost say it like it’s a logical defense, like their actions are acceptable because of X reason.

  • “He hurt me so I killed him.”
  • “She was nasty so I stole from her.”
  • “X company owed me money so I robbed their bank account.”

Now, thinking about my own characters, I can see how that is real.

For example, the Hunter of Voramis (from Blade of the Destroyer) believes that killing out of vengeance is justified because the people who he’s killing deserve it. Talk about wild rationalization! That “eye for an eye” mentality is common among murderers who commit crimes of passion, but also vengeance killers (like the Hunter).

In Child of the Night Guild, the character Ilanna doesn’t really have that justification yet. She’s stealing because she has no choice, and because it’s all she knows. But later in the story, she’s able to rationalize her actions because of actions other people have taken. It’s that same “eye for an eye”, “you hurt me so I hurt you” mentality that’s common among criminals.


A Way With Words: Emotions and Feelings

As a writer, I always have a hard time trying to put the emotions of my characters into words on a page. I can feel what the characters do, but it can be difficult to communicate that clearly to the reader. It’s probably the hardest part of the writing process for me. The fact that those feelings and emotions are so important for character growth and depth just makes it all the more challenging.

Thankfully, I have a few writer friends in my circles who happen to be AWESOME at writing emotions and feelings. In the first video of my new series “A Way With Words”, I get some valuable advice on how best to infuse my stories with emotions and feelings:

The Panelists

Angela Ackerman

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of five bestselling writing books, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. She is passionate about helping writers succeed. Her site, One Stop For Writers is a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description, story structure, and brainstorming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her blog, Writers Helping Writers.

Her websites: and

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Tweet at her: Ackerman

Rachel Marks

Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a SoCal girl, cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she’ll never have to test the theory. Her debut series The Dark Cycle, described as Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” meets TV’s “Supernatural”, begins with the Amazon Bestseller, DARKNESS BRUTAL.

Her website:

See her work on Amazon:

Angie Grigaliunas

Angie Grigaliunas (grig-ah-LOO-nahs) is a fantasy writer and blogger. She’s a country girl at heart, in the sense that she wants to be in nature and away from civilization. She loves Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and has always wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity. Seriously.

She has completed three books: one about elves that needs a massive revision before it ever sees the light of day, one that is part of her current story but also needs a massive revision to fit a new storyline, and the actual first book (Sowing) in her dystopian/medieval/grimdark/semi-romance series (The Purification Era). When she’s not writing, she’s usually Facebooking – ack! – or thinking about story stuff. Despite several of her writing friends claiming she’s Canadian, she is not; she lives in Ohio with her dear husband and their crazy cats.

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Sarah Buhrman

Sarah has been writing for more than 20 years. She lives in the middle of nowhere with two monsters (the kids), an ogre (the hubby), and whatever drama-llama is coming to visit this week. Sarah is the author of Too Wyrd and the Life 101 series. She has short stories in several anthologies, including Visions IV: Between the Stars, and The Pop Culture Grimoire: 2.0.

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Book Review: Hometaker by Dean Wilson

Today, for Book Review Wednesday, I have a book I’ve been looking forward to: the FINAL book in The Great Iron War series by Dean Wilson. I’ve read the books since the beginning, and I’m thrilled to have closure to the story of Jacob, Whistler, Rommond, and all the others.


The Resistance races against time to complete the missile-launcher known as the Hometaker, capable of opening a gateway to the land the Regime came from, and exposing the Iron Emperor for all the evils he has done.


Everything rests on the secrecy of the mission, but from day one tongues are wagging. The atmosphere is like dynamite. An overheard word could light the fuse. With no time left on the clock, General Rommond is forced to make an audacious plan: finish the construction of the Hometaker on the move, driving straight towards the enemy, who have assembled in unimaginable force.

The Great Iron War is coming to an end. It’s all or nothing—their world or ours.

My Review: 4 Stars

What I loved about this story: The circle is closed!

After years of reading these great books, I was happy to finally reach the end and receive that satisfying conclusion to the story. It did the rest of the series justice and closed the story in a way that I felt good about. Not necessarily a “happy  ending”, but the fitting ending the series deserved.

I LOVED the various plot twists and turns in this book. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I’d have to say “I didn’t see that coming!” They totally caught me by surprise, and I found they made for a much more realistic plot.

What I didn’t love: I felt the book was a bit more “rushed” than the previous ones. There were parts that felt downright choppy and “first draft” than Dean’s usual writing style.

But all in all, it was a satisfying ending to a book series I’ve enjoyed from the very beginning. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Here’s a Taste:

And so the fire came.

The first jet of flame reached out over thirty metres. There was no one in its path, but it fulfilled its aim: sending fear before them even faster. The light illuminated the black armour and black masks. Even the coverings of the eyes were dark. These troops did not really need to see. They were here to burn everything.

Rommond’s men split apart, spreading out as he gestured for them to take cover. They hid behind the upturned landships, but only those at the front of the battlefield. They could not retreat any further or they would leave the carrier exposed. If that was set alight, the aim of it all was lost.

Rommond used a rifle from one of his fallen comrades to make his first shot. It only had a single bullet left, with most already wasted on the mines, but it was enough. There were a lot of fallen rifles littered around the sand, and not enough hands to use them. The bullet struck one of the closest fire-flingers straight in the forehead. He halted suddenly, then toppled forward, still clutching his flamethrower. His mate instinctively unleashed a jet of flame before him, but was still out of range to hit the general.

Then the other Resistance fighters unleashed a spray of bullets into the oncoming force, killing several of them, making them look a little less daunting than they did before.

And then the gas came.

The first came in a barrel, launched from a modified artillery gun parked far back with the troop carriers, which formed a black wall across the horizon. The barrel burst open in the midst of the Resistance soldiers, swiftly unleashing a green cloud of vapour, which spread out in all directions, thick and blinding. They were now the vermin-killers, here to weed out the rats.

Rommond yanked open the escape hatch of the upturned landship he hid behind and crawled inside. On its side, it was difficult to get his bearings, but this was not the first time he was in a vehicle like this. He quickly rummaged through the debris, pushing the bodies of the driver and gunner out of the way. He was certain that there was a gas mask in there somewhere, but he could not find it. He could barely see anything. If it was not the night, which entered with him, it was the dark of the interior itself. Everything was charred from the explosion that knocked the vehicle over, even the faces of its unmoving occupants. Even the gas mask that he eventually put his fingers on. Much of it was burned clean through.

He clambered swiftly back outside, where the green cloud was expanding, and the black-masked horde was approaching. He could no longer see his companions, but he could hear periodic gunfire, along with the screams and shouts of someone, punctured by his vomiting. If he was lucky, he would vomit blood. It would be over quicker then. Yet it would never be over quick enough.

Rommond dived out into the clear air, dodging a wall of flame that spat out from a nearby gun, and charged towards another fallen landship. That one was less damaged than the previous, but it was a lot more out in the open, in the eyeline of the fire-flingers, and not long before it was in their jet-line as well. He pulled at the escape hatch door, but it would not budge. It was buckled slightly on one side. Brute force alone would not do it, and yet he had to try. He could already feel the good air fleeing from the battlefield, not just from his frantic tussle. He could already see the sky darkening, not just from the encroaching night.

He felt a sudden heat and only narrowly missed the lashing tongue of flame that came at him. It singed the whiskers of his moustache and left little embers in the rim of his cap. As he span away, he unleashed his pistol, firing two shots. It was more than he needed, he knew, but he was caught off guard. That would get you killed. Yet, having no bullets left would do it too.

The fire-flinger crashed to the ground, almost falling into his own flame. It was then that Rommond thought to grab the gas mask from the corpse. It remained just a thought, however, because another approached behind him, and another, both alive and breathing fire.

Rommond barely had time to pull the trigger before a stream of fire whisked by him as he ran. He was forced to dive into the toxic cloud, gasping one last puff of fresh air before he disappeared inside. From there, laying with his back on the ground, he could barely make out the shapes of people and objects outside. He had to hope they were as blinded by their goggles as he was by the stinging vapour. He also had to hope they did not stray too far, because he was going on guesswork now to fire his remaining bullets.

The first clearly hit, because he heard the squelch of flesh, and the squeal of the man it entered. The second struck metal, and the third seemed to make no noise at all. Who knew what it hit further afield. The fourth—there was no fourth, he realised, as the revolver clicked idly. He was out. He knew his pistol was out too. That one he had kept track of. There were cartridges and bullet boxes in the landships. He even recalled feeling one as he searched for the gas mask, but never thought to grab it in the frenzy.

And now his breath was out too.

He gasped, feeling the first needle-points of the gas prick away at his lungs. He coughed, then tried to disguise the cough, knowing it would lead the fire-flingers to him. He covered his mouth and nose with the edge of his coat and tried not to suck in any more of the noxious fumes, but his lungs chugged along like little pumps and pistons on autopilot. If he took a breath, he would soon die. Yet if he did not breathe, he would die even swifter.

Better to burn than go like this, he thought.

So he rolled back out into the open, where he was greeted with a breath of fire.

About the Author:

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11, when he began his first (unpublished) novel, entitled The Power Source. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001.

He is the author of the Children of Telm epic fantasy trilogy and the Great Iron War steampunk series.

Dean also works as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer

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Is Brainwashing Real?

“Brainwashing” is one of those terms you’ll often find portrayed in movies about religious cults or the CIA. It’s usually perceived as fantastical and not even slightly real, and, in reality, there is no such thing as “brainwashing”. However, there are certain things that can be used for psychological manipulation, indoctrination, and behavior modification.

(Note: I found all of this out as I did research for Child of the Night Guild)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00060]

Low-protein, high-sugar diet. A low-protein diet deprives the brain of vital nutrients. A lack of protein can lead to impaired memory, concentration, and critical thinking. The addition of excessive sugar only adds to the cognitive impairment. It’s basically used to break down mental barriers.

Physical exhaustion. Pushing people beyond the limits of their endurance through hard labor is one of the most common techniques used for this type of manipulation. When you’re too tired to think clearly, you are often more vulnerable to suggestions and less able to resist other manipulation techniques.

Lack of sleep. This only adds to the physical exhaustion caused by excessive work and poor diet. The human mind needs a sleep routine as much as the body does. Take away the routine and force the person to sleep/wake at random times, and it can break their mental barriers.

Elimination of Time and Location. “Time” and “place” are two very important factors in human consciousness. Take away anything that could give an indication of time and location (dark, lightless environment in an unknown place), and you take away the foundation of what human consciousness is built on.

Elimination of Sense of Identity. We all know who we are. I’ve been “me” since birth, and will continue to be until death. But the erasure of identity is possible—often by the removal of names in favor of a number or designation. With the mind so broken by fatigue, lack of sleep, and improper diet, it’s possible to suppress one’s identity.

Repetition of Mantras. AA is a sort of cult, as is Nike, Apple, or Coca Cola. The use of mantras (“one day at a time” or “Just Do It”) is a form of though reformation.

Of course, these are just a few of the techniques used for psychological manipulation, thought reformation, or indoctrination. There are many more—this is a great link to check out.

Pretty scary stuff, right? Imagine being a person who goes through that!

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