Laws of Nature: Virtual Book Blast and a Review

Jacqui Murray has a new book on the shelves. I’m a huge fan of her Prehistoric fiction, and my review is below. You did it again, Jacqui, transported me back in time 1.8 million years.


A boy blinded by fire. A woman raised by wolves. An avowed enemy offers help.

Summary

In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa. Though they don’t know it, they will be the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can’t stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.

Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

My Review

I read the first book in this series a while ago, and it was great to travel back in time again (1.8 million years to be exact) and catch up with Lucy and her group of primitive humans. This book starts where the last left off, so I’d recommend beginning the series with book one, Born in a Treacherous Time, which blew me away, btw.

What I’ve enjoyed most about Murray’s prehistoric fiction has been consistent across her trilogies—the way she brings the time period to life with some meticulous research and well-educated guessing. The characters and their lives are fictional, but the primordial setting, the prehistoric human and animal species, migration patterns, and anthropological details about life had me fascinated.

The plot of this installment isn’t complicated. Lucy and her small group of “Man-who-makes-tools” are searching for a home-base after their larger group was attacked by “Man-who-preys.” They face natures challenges in a number of forms: freezing tempertures, seismic Earth changes, treacherous landscapes, animal predators, aggressive tribes, and hunger. Survival is a daily struggle.

The story is primarily in Lucy’s point of view, but there are two parallel tracks told by other characters: Ahnda, a subadult from Lucy’s original group who has escaped captivity, and Xha, one of the “Man-who-preys” who is tracking Lucy as she searches for a safe home. A later addition to the pov characters is a female named Wild who was raised by the large canines (Canus) of the time.

One of the clever aspects of the storytelling is the way Murray’s characters view, think about, and describe their world without a scientific and conceptual understanding of what they’re seeing. Naming, as you might have noticed in this review, is descriptive based on what is observed and learned through experience. Details such as these are immersive.

Book Two comes to a partial conclusion, but the books aren’t standalone reads, and the hunt for a home-base continues. Highly recommended to readers of prehistoric fiction who enjoy man versus nature stories and descriptive details that transport a reader back in time.

Book information:

Title and author: Laws of Nature

Series: Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: The extraordinary Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU  Kindle India

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter: http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website: https://jacquimurray.net

Happy Reading!

Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Fantasy – Legacy of Souls (The Shattered Sea Book 2) by D.Wallace Peach

A wonderful surprise from Sally Cronin this morning… her review of “Legacy of Souls,” the second book in The Shattered Sea series. She made my day. 🙂

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

This week I caught up with the second in The Shattered Sea series by D.Wallace Peach – Legacy of Souls – My Review for Soul Swallowers Book 1

About the Book

Peace descends on the Ravenwood freehold, and Raze Anvrell trusts that as love lays open his life, the turmoil of his past will loosen its grip. But in the halls of Avanoe and catacombs of Ezar, political intrigues thicken. Deflection and secrets manipulate the truth, assassins whet their blades, and more than one ruler stakes a claim in the quest for power.

A swallower of multiple souls, Sajem files his teeth and inks his eyes. Tentacles of madness slither deeper into the slaver’s afflicted mind. His raids grow brazen, tactics harsh, and conscience stripped bare. Alliances fracture and form, and no one is too old or young, too wealthy or beautiful to spare.

As his father’s health fails, Raze…

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My Bookbub experience and a few tips

Phew. What an experience. Talk about pins and needles.

I ran my first Bookbub promo on May 15th and wanted to share a bit of my newbie experience — what I learned, and what I might do differently next time.

First of all, I dove into this effort after reading a detailed post by Deborah Jay (author’s of The Prince’s Man – an excellent fantasy series, I might add). Deborah provided wonderful guidance regarding her strategy as well as a look at her results.

I wasn’t as financially successful as Deborah, but I did turn a profit. Two months after the promotion, my sales are still above pre-promo levels. I’m happy with that.

I also hit #1 Bestseller in a number of categories including Epic Fantasy, ahead of Sarah Maas (and her 22K reviews) for a day! And ranked #24 in the Fantasy genre over all. That little “Best Seller” banner was a giddy high while it lasted.

Some things I learned:

Make your book available through multiple retailers.

Some authors say this doesn’t matter, but I had tried to snag a Bookbub promo a number of times in the past and was always turned down. My books were exclusive to Amazon, a requirement of Kindle-Unlimited. This worked great for lazy old me, but from my perspective, it seemed to be a problem when it came to Bookbub.

I took seven books off KU, including the series I wanted to promote, and three other books that were languishing on Amazon anyway. I had to wait for the KU contracts to expire which can take up to 3 months, so I did this step first.

When the KU contracts expired, I published all seven books on multiple platforms: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Googleplay. I didn’t realize that Smashwords publishes (on your behalf) on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. So I did more work than I needed to. But live and learn. Smashwords and Googleplay would have done the trick.

A special note here: Bookbub knows what they’re doing. If the book had only been available on Amazon, I would NOT have made my investment back. For me, the multiple platforms were essential to pushing up the sales.

Pricing

I went with the $.99 promotion, dropping my retail price from $2.99. I’ve heard that the bigger the drop, the bigger the incentive to buy from a reader’s perspective. I have no idea whether my price deal was significant enough to cinch a purchase if someone was on the fence, but there you go.

I dropped my prices a week ahead of the promotion on all sites. I didn’t know how long it would take for all retailers to make the adjustment and didn’t want a hiccup. This also enabled me to do some pre-Bookbub promotions to give the book a bit of a boost in rankings.

Be sure to check ahead and make sure the prices changed. This should be a no-brainer. But… I set up Googleplay to drop automatically and it didn’t! I discovered it the day after the promotion and lowered it then. UGH!

Pre-Bookbub Promos

The Bookbub promotion is expensive – $705 expensive. I used the family’s vacation funds, hoping, HOPING, that I’d be able to replace them. Phew. I also ran $100 in pre-promotions with various sites to build momentum and improve the book’s Amazon ranking. I went with 12 sites, about half of them free with no guarantees.

(There isn’t time to book some of the better promotion sites, so act fast before slots fill).

Basically this was a bust. I sold about 12 books this way with a revenue of $4. Next time, I’ll go with more free sites. Authors who use multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) may do a lot better than I did.

First in a Series

Catling’s Bane is the first in a (4-book) series, and this was key, for me, in making the promotion a success. Sales of the other three books in the series topped 125 in the first week after the promotion, and they continue to sell across the retail platforms. I would not have broken even without them. If you’re thinking about giving Bookbub a try, I recommend going with the first book in a completed series (unless you’re last name is Rowling or Clancy).

Reviews

One question that Bookbub wants answered when considering your book, is how many reviews you have (and your average). I had 66 at the time of submitting, and apparently, this was enough. (I’ve hear that books with fewer are accepted too.) Getting reviews is no easy task! I’ve recommended Goodreads Reading Rounds before, and still believe it’s a great tool. The reviews are Amazon approved. Here’s a link to a post that explains more about them: Goodreads Reading Rounds.

Post-promotion reviews are coming in from Bookbub readers. Yay for Bookbub Readers! Not many of them are text reviews, but even those star-only reviews add up.

A Few Other Things of Note:

US or International or Both:

Bookbub offers a choice in promotion markets. It’s more expensive to go global, but I’m glad I elected this option and was accepted. I had sufficient sales both domestically and internationally to cover the combined cost. I would go this way again if I have a choice.

Reporting lag times:

Don’t panic if a week has gone by and your numbers are giving you heart murmurs. Retailers report at varying times! Apple, for example only reports at the end of the month, so if you run a promo at the start of the month, it will be a while before you have the slightest inkling how you did there. It took me almost two weeks to know that my family vacation was back on again.

Payment lag times:

This takes months, so don’t panic. My promotion was mid-May which Amazon will pay at the end of July. The other retailers take just as long.

Bookbub writes the blurb:

I didn’t know that Bookbub would be writing the blurb for my promo. A bit scary to say the least. They did a good job, but it wasn’t what I would have done (or did). My eyeballs fell out of my face. Just be prepared.

Cover:

This goes without saying. A professional cover is essential. Your promotion is competing with others in your genre.

Quality:

This also goes without saying. A Bookbub promotion is a big investment, and you not only want to snag a bunch of sales, but you want the readers to pick up more of your work. I made another editing pass through the series (and corrected a score of typos) in the weeks before the promotion. I was glad I did.

Was it worth it?

It appears so. I was a wreck, but ultimately Bookbub did what it says can do – provide a return on the investment, sell books, increase sales over time, improve ranking, and generate reviews. No guarantees, of course, but this seems to be a consistent outcome. Would I do it again? Yes.

Ranger Diana

Yosemite National Park

During the last two weeks of June, my husband and I took our first vacation in nearly a decade and headed to Yosemite National Park. It’s a wonderous place of waterfalls, huge trees, and giant rocks. I hiked and read books and was mistaken for a forest ranger. How did that happen, you might ask.

I was wondering why tourists approached me numerous times over two days, asking for information on trails, directions to the parking lot, and Band-Aids for blisters. Despite being my first time at Yosemite, I was able to answer their questions, show them the trail to follow on my map, and distribute first aid.

It wasn’t until my husband and I browsed our photos that the reason became clear…..

Ranger Diana

Other highlights:

Giant trees. I’m standing beneath one that was hollowed through the center by fire:

This tree is named Old Grizzly, estimated at 2900 years old:

The closest thing we saw to a bear. So scary!:

Sunset on Half-Dome :

Rocks and rocks and more rocks:

Vacations are wonderful, but it’s nice to come home.

June Book Reviews

Vacations are made for reading!

I just got back yesterday from two weeks at Yosemite National Park. Somehow, I still managed to fit in some reading time.

June book reviews include my 4 and 5 star reads of two memoirs, middle-grade fantasy, steampunk, historical/paranormal fiction, two poetry collections, a YA family drama, and a western romance. Something for everyone! I hope you enjoy them.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary by Pamela Wight

What a beautiful book. I started reading this collection of personal flash stories outside on my deck right before dinner. I read through dinner, and continued reading until the sun went down and the mosquitoes came calling. I just couldn’t stop. In the preface, the author hopes that readers will see glimpses of themselves, their families, their joys, and their lives reflected in hers. And that supposition that human life is full of universal experiences couldn’t be more true. I LOVED this book.

Wight’s flashes (pieces of short prose) read like beautifully crafted diary entries and in a way, the book is a memoir. These are stories about herself as a child, spouse, mother, and grandmother. Funny little stories about yoga and pets, food, even a beloved plant. Poignant stories about aging, illness, time together, joy, and So. Much. Love. Perhaps the feeling that I walked away with more than any other was gratefulness. Wight reminds her readers that life is full of wonderful moments if we are mindful, take the time to notice them, and gather them up for safe-keeping. Highly recommended reading for humans who want their hearts warmed over and over again. 

*****

ThunderTree by S. Cox

Another satisfying western romance/action novel from Cox. Ben is a loner with a capital L. He doesn’t want any attachments to place or person, but he also can’t let a bunch of outlaws take advantage of a young woman. After he rescues Katy, he takes her home to her uncle John T’s ranch where an offer of dinner turns into a very short stay (and then a longer and longer one) as a range war heats up with a neighboring ranch. The conflict starts immediately, and there’s plenty of gunslinging.

The romance is a slow build, and there’s more than one couple working up their courage. I liked Ben’s determined resistance and the lack of waffling in his convictions. The story is primarily told from Ben’s and John T’s points of view. Both men are stoic, though kind-hearted, and I liked the lack of wishy-washy, angsty vulnerability that often comes with romance novels. Male friendships are well written, and I enjoyed the distinct personalities.

I also liked the feisty and independent women in the story. No wilting petunias among the fairer sex either! These women know how to ride and shoot. As a whole, the characters are tough and honorable. They know themselves and what they want. Great characters, great action, and a nicely done wrap up. Recommended to readers of westerns who like a little romance in between lots of tension

*****

Apprenticed to my Mother: A Memoir of Barbara Le Pard 2005-2010 by Geoff Le Pard

I never thought of myself as a memoir reader, but when they’re this entertaining, I can’t help but fall in love with the genre. I’ve read a book of short stories by Geoff Le Pard and decided to give his memoir about his mother, Barbara, a try. What a touching book full of humor, compassion, and love. Lots of love.

The book starts with the funeral of Le Pard’s father, Desmond, an event that changed Geoff’s relationship with his mother, bringing it front and center. He became an unwitting “apprentice” for his father’s role, and got an education from his mother about her expectations. It made sense that his father’s death had created his opportunity and that the book would start at that point. But the book isn’t only about Barbara. Each chapter ends with a poem by Desmond, poems that highlighted this thoughtful and talented man and how much he loved his wife, family, and life in general.

As a person who takes care of her elderly parents, I could relate to many of the events that take place in the book from the baffling and frustrating to the downright hysterical. Though the book covers the last years of his mother’s life, there are plenty of look-backs to early times that give a well-rounded and colorful look into the Le Pard household. I laughed out loud at the Manure Years (something we had every spring at our house too), and the escaped guinea pig adventure. Another funny anecdote was after Barbara’s cataract surgery at the age of 82, when she took the author to task for not telling her that she had wrinkles. And there was the car that needed a half dozen clutch replacements… and Gran selling the garden vegetables when no one was looking…

I highly recommend this book to readers of memoirs who want to laugh, have their hearts warmed, and perhaps shed a tear.

*****

Calmer Girls by Jennifer Kelland Perry

I usually don’t read much YA relationship-based drama, but this book has been on my radar for a few years, and I decided to dive in. I’m glad I did. The writing is polished, the story had me hooked, and these aren’t teenage characters with frivolous problems. Samantha, her sister, and her mom are all flawed, as is Ben, the love interest of the two sisters.

The story unfolds in Samantha’s point of view. Her family is falling apart. Her father has moved away, and her mother is drinking too much. Money is tight. Samantha has a crush on Ben, but he falls for her sister, Veronica. Samantha takes a hit to her self esteem, but when the relationship fails, Samantha and Ben get a chance at love.

But it’s not that easy. Resentment drives a wedge between the sisters, and mistakes aren’t going to simply disappear. Ben has some problems of his own that the author waits to reveal. The mystery around his character and issues was intriguing, and I didn’t fully trust him. I had no idea how the story was going to resolve, and that question made me read well into the night.

Ultimately the story is about a family growing up, about dealing with love, disappointment, and wounded hearts. I could relate to how painful that process was for every character in the book. Wonderful writing and highly relatable characters. Definitely recommended for readers of YA drama and family sagas.

*****

New Day, New Dreams by Lauren Scott

This is the second book of Scott’s poetry that I’ve read. And I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than the first. Scott’s collection includes free form poetry, both with and without subtle rhyming. The poems feel personal, poignant, and from the heart, and many reflect the nature of love in its varied forms. Family relationships provide much of the fodder for reflection.

There were so many poems that I enjoyed that I stopped making notes. Some are touching and sentimental like “Morning After.” A poem called “Bananas” had me laughing with its silliness, and “Raindrops and Coffee” has wonderful imagery and a staccato rhythm (like raindrops). Other favorites were “In Loving Memory of Mom,” “Winter’s Lane,” and “Reflections.” Highly recommended for poetry readers who enjoy touching poems about life and family.

*****

A Ghost and his Gold by Roberta Easton Cheadle

This is a highly ambitious book, and with so much going on, I had to think about how to do it justice with a review. Perhaps most of all, it’s a lesson in history about the second Boer War in South Africa. While reading, it’s clear how much research went into the details of the war, troop movements, battles, and military maneuvering. The text is rich with footnotes and sourcing, as well as further descriptions and clarification.

What’s different from a “history book” is the narration of the war’s events through two fictional characters, one from each side: Pieter—a Boer farmer/soldier, and Robert—a British soldier. The two opposing characters make for an interesting contrast, and its easy to connect with their humanity and the tragedies that befall them, as well as to observe the atrocities on both sides.

The historical aspects of the story extend into the concentration camps where the Boer women and children were sent by the British and where many died from the poor conditions and widespread illnesses. I found this part of the book, narrated by Pieter’s daughter Estelle, the most riveting and tragic.

Overlaying the history and interspersed through the book is the modern story of Michelle and Tom who are being haunted by the ghosts of Pieter, Robert, and Estelle. I felt less connected to these characters and the paranormal part of the story, though the past and present are intertwined and the couple is pivotal to the book’s conclusion.

The book’s overall point of view is omniscient, offering a broad view of the war. Narratives occur in both present and past tense, and there are quite a few time-jumps that need to be kept track of, especially in the beginning. Recommended to readers of historical war stories who enjoy a touch of paranormal suspense. 

*****

Tree Fairies and Their Short Stories by D. L. Finn

In the redwood forest, the tree fairies and their human friends are tasked with protecting the woodlands and it’s creatures. They have the help of the Wise Trees who’ve watched over the land for thousands of years. In many ways, this middle-grade book is about real environmental threats, all crafted into age-appropriate and magical stories.

The three tales are connected, sharing the same characters, and each one addresses a different danger to the natural world. “Tree Fairies” introduces the forest fairies and kicks off their relationship with young Daniel and his human family who will save the land from clear cutting. “Roselle” addresses the illegal dumping of toxic waste. And in “Goldie,” the fairies drive off a pair of poachers.

There’s plenty of magic in the books and activities that middle-grade kids will relate to such as fairy school, writing papers, listening to parents, and standing up to bullying by the “city fairies” who’ve lost touch with nature. A fun read for kids who enjoy magical tales while learning about the importance of protecting the old forests.

*****

The Sensaurum and the Lexis by Richard Dee

I believe this novel might share its steampunk subgenre with “biopunk.” The characters, dialog, and social norms seem Victorian in nature, but the story takes place in a world designed around one highly sophisticated technology—in this case, synthetic biotechnology, specifically biorobotics and prosthetics.

The story follows Jackson and Jessamine, two teenage orphans who work as spies for a secret agency determined to stop an evil mastermind from bio-engineering the brains of ordinary citizens in order to turn them into mindless slaves. Along with bio-tech, there are other forms of technological upgrades including gadgets that help the duo survive, gas guns, rail vehicles, and flying machines. Some of the bio-science is a big stretch, but with some suspension of disbelief, it’s consistent and enjoyable.

These two characters share the narration, though the story is told in an omnipresent pov. Dialog is formal and a bit stilted based on the era, but it felt natural in this altered world. I liked both characters, especially Jackson who is new to the spying game and learning the ropes. There’s some romance and tenderness, but the book is full of action, danger, and intrigue as the two heroes and their group try to discover what is going on and how to stop it.

Recommended to readers who enjoy steampunk worlds, plots around mind control, evil master minds, and the teens who foil them.

*****

Poetry Treasures (WordCrafter Poetry Anthology)

Poetry treasures is a short anthology that took less than an hour to read. It offers an introduction to nine different poets with a modest (2-3 page) biography and a sampling of 3-5 poems from each contributor. Some of the poetry is exceptional, and there’s a variety of themes. Styles include syllabic forms (haiku and nonet, for example) as well as free-form pieces.

The poets included in the book are Sue Vincent, Geoff LePard, Frank Prem, Victoria Zigler, Colleen Chesebro, Kevin Morris, Annette Rochelle Aben, Jude Kirya Itakali, and Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Recommended to readers interested in learning about the above poets and sampling their work.

*****

Happy Reading!

My 5-star reviews of books by Sally Cronin, blogger and writer extraordinaire

Sally Cronin and her blog Smorgasbord Invitation is a household name around WordPress. She’s one of the most generous bloggers this side of Sunday, and how she manages to keep up her wide range of posts continues to amaze me. I think she has a workshop of elves in the attic.

If you’re not already a fan, check out her blog for book and author promotions, reviews, music, humor, food and health tips, short stories, and poetry. All that, and….

she’s an exquisite writer.

I couldn’t think of a better way to thank Sally for her kindness than to share my reviews of some of her books. You can’t go wrong with any of these.

5-Star reads by author Sally Cronin

(In no particular order)

(click on cover for global link to Amazon)

Life is like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet

I’m a fan of Cronin’s short stories and snagged this anthology the day it came out. The author describes it as a collection of short tales that reflect “the complexities of life, love, and loss.” That’s a fit description. There are stories of kindness, family, grief, courage, and second chances. The characters are ordinary and relatable, but they’re also extraordinary in those moments that define who they are as people.

The first story in the anthology, The Weekly Shopping, is hilarious if not a little ominous, but the rest of the selections are touching. Many are heartwarming, and I wanted to hug the characters. I enjoyed the whole collection but my favorites were: The Scratch Card, The Charity Shop, The Date, and The Gardening Assistant. Between the stories are selections of syllabic poetry. A crown cinquain entitled The Birds was just beautiful. I highly recommend this anthology to anyone who loves well-written short stories about life.

***

Just an Odd Job Girl

Click on cover to order

One of the books that flew west with me was Sally Cronin’s Just an Odd Job Girl. In more ways than one, it’s a great summer story.

I picked up this book while on vacation and thoroughly enjoyed it. A quick read at 156 pages, the book begins with an older Imogen. At 50, she’s on her own, traded-in by her husband for a younger “fast-tracker.” After 25 years of raising children and keeping house, she feels frumpy and bored, and decides to find a job.

The temp agency asks for a resume of her work experience, and all she has is a long list of pre-marriage odd jobs, starting with a summer stint as a teenager at a seaside gift kiosk and rambling through temporary positions with a dental office, department store, bar, funeral parlor, boys school, and country inn.

As the reader joins Imogene on a reflective journey through her odd jobs, it’s impossible not to laugh at her antics, the colorful characters she meets along the way, and the predicaments she gets herself into and out of. What I enjoyed most, was young Imogene’s humanity. She’s a wonderful combination of funny, compassionate, resourceful, and fearless. I couldn’t wait to see the fix she got into next.

In addition to laughs, Just an Odd Job Girl has a lovely message for young adults as well as those of us getting on in age: that life is full of opportunities, that wonderful people are everywhere, and that you are never to old to grow. Get your copy for the beach or backyard hammock. You won’t be disappointed.

***

Life’s Rich Tapestries: Woven in Words

Cronin is a master storyteller and this collection of poems, flash fiction, and short stories makes for a delightful afternoon. The first part of the book is comprised of syllabic poetry with themes based on nature, the human experience, a love of animals, and a bit of magic. Following her poetry, Cronin offers a number of 99-word flash fiction stories, and then dives into her short stories for the bulk of the read.

The short stories were my favorite part of the book as the author writes with a great deal of heart, which comes through beautifully in her plots and characters. Most of her work is positive in nature with a focus on the goodness found in life. Like her poetry, Cronin’s short stories are arranged around themes: dogs, cats, and speculative fiction (which includes a broad range of tales). My favorites were Great Aunt Georgina, and The ‘1812 Overture’ but there are many others that I thoroughly enjoyed. A highly recommended book for all ages.

***

What’s in a Name? (Volume 1)

What’s in a Name is a delightful collection of 20 short stories organized alphabetically by the names of the main characters. A few stories are dark, some are magical or humorous, and many close with a sense of poignancy. Cronin is a marvelous storyteller, and for a reader, spending an afternoon immersed in the lives of the people behind the names is time well-spent. For me, the last story in the collection “Jack” was the icing on the cake, but all the stories are unique and well worth the read. Highly recommended for any reader who enjoys short stories about the human journey.

***

What’s in a Name? (Volume 2)

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

***

Sam, A Shaggy Dog’s Story

This read is a little more than an hour, but it’s an hour of cuteness and laughs. I’ve lived with dogs for most of my life, and the attitudes and antics of Sam, a Collie, were delightfully familiar. This tribute to a dog’s life is narrated by Sam himself, starting when he was a newborn and stretching into his old age. I rarely laugh out loud while reading, and this book was an exception.

Sam has a very funny (as well as adorable) perspective on life with accounts of his cat friend Henry, his love of chicken and sausages, his dislike of veterinarians, his job as a paper shredder, and his occasional encounters with “that Bloody Danny,” a little canine with poor manners. He relays his experiences with “cat speak” as well as his acquisition of several human words which are strategically employed to earn pieces of cheese.

The book is organized into short chapters by topic. This is a lighthearted and endearing read for anyone who loves dogs.

***

Flights of Fancy

I’ve read several of Cronin’s books of short stories, and this collection of eleven tales is as enjoyable as the others. I read it in a single afternoon, completely immersed. As usual, the author includes a wonderful variety of tales from touching stories of eternal love in The Other Side of Heaven and Curtains, to adorable cuteness in Henry’s Story, and humor in Psychic Parrot. Highly recommended for anyone who loves short stories and well-told tales.

***

About Sally

Sally Cronin is the author of fourteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another thirteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry. Her latest collection, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet, reflects on the absurdities and sometimes tragedies that drop into our lives.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Thank you, Sally, for all your wonderful support of this blogging/writing/reading community.

Happy Summer Reading!

Unknowable: #TankaTuesday

Image Credit: Kerfe Roig

This poem is my attempt at a crapsey cinquain for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday. It’s inspired by Kerfe’s visual art above.

~

Unknowable

starlight

stitched in patterns

weaves a vast universe

deciphering the mystical

with faith

~

I’m on the road, hiking around here:

File:Shasta At Night (258050167).jpeg
Mount Shasta. Credit: Dheera Venkatraman, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, I may be a bit delayed with comments and visits. But I’ll catch up. Thanks for stopping by!

#BookReview-The Ferryman and the Sea Witch @DWallacePeach #Fantasy #Reading

The first blog review of The Ferryman and the Sea Witch showed up yesterday, and I couldn’t have been more delighted. I don’t think an author really knows how a book will be received until that magic moment. I’m over at Jacquie Biggars’ today. But I’ll be swinging by Jacqui Murray’s as well since her review went live this morning. If you have a minute, stop by to say hello and take a browse through their sites. ❤

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

Description via Amazon.com

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home. The Ferryman alone can undertake the exchange.

Yet, animosities are far from assuaged. While Brid Clarion’s islands bask in prosperity, Haf Killick…

View original post 609 more words

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Fantasy – The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D.Wallace Peach

Sally Cronin kindly gave The Ferryman and the Sea Witch a bit of a boost today on her blog. And she shared a review of the Unraveling the Veil series by Geoff LePard, who can’t help but make me laugh. If you have a minute, head over and browse Sally’s wonderful blog. ❤

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share the news of the latest release by D.Wallace Peach..a stand alone fantasy The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

About the book

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home…

View original post 520 more words

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch: Release Day!

It’s a big day, the completion of months of writing and all the tasks that go along with bringing a story to life. The muses are satisfied, the sun is shining with the promise of spring, and the mermaids are singing their enchantments.

To all my blogging and reading friends, thank you from the tips of my toes to the ends of my fingers. Your enthusiasm and spirit of friendship make all the months of toil worthwhile. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.

(On sale for the month of June)

Blurb

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home. The Ferryman alone can undertake the exchange.

Yet, animosities are far from assuaged. While Brid Clarion’s islands bask in prosperity, Haf Killick, a floating city of derelict ships, rots and rusts and sinks into the reefs. Its ruler has other designs.

And the sea witch crafts dark bargains with all sides.

Callum is caught in the breach, with a long-held bargain of his own which, once discovered, will shatter this life.

Trailer

Prolog

The hemp net hung from the boom above the waves. Within its lattice of pinched knots, the slender merrow baked in the heated air. She had ceased her struggle while the sun tilted up and shadows pooled on the deck. Her graceful tail with its angelfish fins dangled from the end of her confinement. Beyond the reach of her fingers, swells rose and fell. Taunting, seductive. Rhythmic as they sloshed against the hull.

Gulls shrilled in circles above the ship.

Like a storm-torn sail, the tip of the merrow’s tangled hair dipped into the sea with each crest, shed droplets with each trough. The creature wept for her kind, for the sea breathing beneath her, a thin and desolate sound. The mournful plea filled Callum’s young head, overwhelmed the clamor of merriment arising from the Brid Clarion officers who’d captured her in their mesh.

“We should free her.” Callum drew his fish-knife. “She’s dying. They’re killing her.”

 “I spoke my mind, boy.” The brig’s captain laid a firm hold on Callum’s scrawny shoulder. “Put away the blade. It’s not our place to chart the course of another man’s conscience.”

Callum bit off a retort certain to earn him a scolding. The captain had treated him kindly, hired him on as a cabin boy, and freed him from the oily bilges of Haf Killick. By the graybeard’s good grace, Callum earned a wage. At fourteen years, he scoffed down oranges dripping with sticky juice and learned a skill that would save him from ever returning to the bowels of the relic city.

He held tight to a hundred reasons not to endanger the ship or her crew, not to interfere with the amusement of those who served in the king’s war. Well-heeled officers bantered and drank gin at the bow. How could they plug their ears to the keening cries? Pretend her torment didn’t matter?

The merrow’s sorrow twisted Callum’s stomach. The unbearable lament dredged up memories of his mother’s death in a bleak hold and his helplessness to ease her suffering.

He ducked out of the grizzled man’s grip and hauled a bucket of water from the sea. Below him, the merrow’s copper scales baked and bristled into gray flakes. They fluttered to the surface like shed petals. He splashed the water along the length of her body and tossed the bucket into the waves for more. It wouldn’t be enough. Only the sea held the power to save her.

 He drew the bucket up by its line. Movement between the swells snapped him upright, and he shielded his eyes from the sun. “Captain, the merrow are coming.”

The old man fumbled for his spyglass and pressed it to his eye. “The sea witch.” He slapped the device into Callum’s hand. “Watch her.”

“Cut away the net,” Callum pleaded. “It’s not too late.”

“You may get your wish,” the captain said over his shoulder. He strode across the deck to the admiral’s celebration.

Callum focused the spyglass on the witch. Blood drained from his face, and his mouth turned dry as sand. She swam through the wind-scoured waves, the spines of her fins slicing the water. Her tail undulated like a serpent. White-lipped rage hollowed her cheeks and sharpened the angles of her face. Nictating membranes hooded her unnatural black eyes against the sunlight’s shimmer. Three merrow trailed in her wake, their voices weaving into a ghostly dirge.

And with them came the wind. A strange amassing and curving of clouds rose out of nowhere. The sky bloomed with a greenish glow, drenching the brig in the eerie twilight foretelling a storm.

Callum clung to the rigging as the Brid Clarion officers pulled pistols from their belts. With frantic intensity, they shared a powder horn, loaded their lead, and rammed it tight. The captain pleaded his case with wringing hands, but they brushed him aside. The men marched to the gunwale, sighted along their barrels, and fired.

Lightning flashed in reply. The approaching merrow plunged beneath the waves. Callum yelled his warning, “Captain, they’re diving.”

The captain swore. He climbed to the helm and bellowed orders as Callum searched the waves, the spyglass forgotten. The sea witch’s silver tail slashed through the swelling brine like the stroke of a knife. Fins rippled along her body in a feverish dance. She disappeared beneath the hull.

Callum froze with the crew and officers, silent, waiting, the seconds unspooling like a weaver’s thread. A harsh scraping sound cut into the bow. It raked across the keel to the stern, sparing neither the flowery anemones nor sea-greens that clung to the ship’s belly.

Chaos erupted. Jacks shouted in panic as water sprayed into the hold. The captain’s orders to plug the leaks competed with the admiral’s demand for more gunpowder.

The sea witch breached the waves. She grasped the net and sliced it with a coral blade. A hail of shot littered the sea. Iron rounds speared the water. They thudded into the merrow dying in the net.

A fierce scream of grief and fury shrilled from the witch. Callum caught his breath as she slashed at the net. The sky’s whirling cauldron mirrored the turbulence in his belly. Behind her, the waves bloated. A wall of water mounded in the distance and raced toward the ship like a winter gale. Lightning flashed with a sharp crack. The echoing rumble shook the deck.

“I’m cutting her free,” Callum yelled at the storm. Fish-knife in his grip, he climbed the bulwark. Wind battered his body. He hung onto the rigging and leaned over the water. His knife swiped at the net. Once, twice. The monstrous wave curled and crashed. Another slice. Lines frayed and snapped. The net splashed into the sea.

A mountain of white froth roared into him. He crashed to the deck, tumbled, and pounded into a mast. Pain burst in his ankle. His reserve of breath blew from his lungs. The watery world tipped and rolled. Sparks flared in his eyes as something smashed his face. From every direction, the groan and crack of the wreck assaulted his ears. He kicked against the hull, chasing his bubbles. A sail trapped him beneath the surface like an iron lid. Lungs on fire, he grasped a tangle of rigging and, hand over hand, hauled himself to the sail’s frayed hem.

Mouth open, he burst to the surface of the littered sea for a desperate breath. Something gripped his ankle. A male merrow with jet hair streaming behind him drew Callum down like an anchor. Callum pried at the pale fingers grinding his bones.

Shattered wood rained around him with gear and cargo. Air bubbles ascended in pearly strands. Above him, sails wallowed as desperate men grappled for flotsam, and bodies sank like ghosts torn from their white shrouds.

Callum gave up the fight, the merrow’s grip unforgiving. The sea grew muted and green. From the gloom, the sea witch bared her teeth, tail sweeping the water like a silk fan. Behind her, three merrow bore the sun-bleached body of their kin down to rest among the coral for the crabs to pick clean.

Vengeance burned in the witch’s inky eyes. Blood red hair, woven with seaweed, billowed around her head like a dusky cloud. “Drown them all,” she said, her unspoken command bursting in his head.

Merrow swam from the Deep, both male and female, beautiful and deadly. Jacks flailed and kicked, breathed water, and bucked. Coral blades flashed, clouding the water. Sharks ghosted in to feed. As Callum’s vision faded, a hazy shape materialized in the gloom, his ship descending into the fathomless Deep as if riding on a slanted sea.

Drowsiness coiled around him. Consciousness slipped away.

And he inhaled.

Air rushed into his lungs. Someone embraced him, a mouth on his. His eyes snapped open. He jerked away. The merrow clutched his head in her palms and yanked him back into the horrific kiss. He held her by the upper arms, at once pushing her away and craving her breath.

“Breathe,” she said inside his head, her melodious voice a softly curling tide. Without a sound passing between them, he heard her command as clear as a ship’s bell.

He gulped air, pulling it from her body as if his lungs would never draw enough. His thundering heart slowed.

“Why?” he asked, the word unspoken.

She responded with a sense of confusion.

“Why help me?”

She backed away, hair swirling with the blue luminescence of a jellyfish. High cheekbones cast shadows on her pale cheeks. She studied him with eyes like black shells, and her full lips thinned into a stern line as if to hide their softness.

Her ambivalence pulsed into his mind. Gossamer tentacles swirled from the end of her tail like a frilly gown, and her opalescent scales shifted colors in the thin light. Three pink gills on either side of her ribs rippled with the water’s movement. “You aided my sister.”

Her loss swept over him, along with his need for a breath. As though she sensed his desperation, her lips met his in a gentle, open-mouthed kiss. His first true kiss and bound to mark the strangest of his life, if not his last. Her tail pulsed against his legs as they rose. He surrendered to her control, no longer fighting the strange undulation of her body.

When they broke the surface, she pushed him away, flipped her tail, and dove. He threw his head back and inhaled the wind into his lungs. The storm had passed. Clouds peeled back to reveal an empty sea but for the brig’s debris bobbing in the tranquil waves. He swam to a raft of floating dunnage and hung on. “Ahoy!”

No reply.

He hadn’t drowned, but breath didn’t guarantee survival. The ship had anchored at the edge of the Deep, leagues and leagues from either Brid Clarion or Haf Killick, far enough that he’d perish long before he paddled the distance.

The sea stirred as a menacing shape slithered through the scattered flotsam. Callum drew up his legs, the presence of sharks fresh in his memory. The sea witch surfaced. Urchin’s spines fanned from her temples and forehead in a prickly crown. Muscle threaded her arms, her body slim but bold-boned, skin drawn tight across her cheeks and throat. Her hair glimmered with pearls and beads of abalone, bewitching if not for the malevolence in her hooded eyes.

“Naris tells me you are worth saving,” she said, her voice low and full of sea whispers. She swam in a languid circle around him. “What do they call you?”

“Callum, my lady.”

The sea witch twitched a smile, revealing a row of sharp teeth. “You may call me Panmar.” She rolled onto her back with the slipperiness of an eel. Her fins and tail carved the waves, sparkling in the sun’s glare. “You cut my daughter free, but you delayed. You lacked courage. She died for your cowardice.”

The witch’s daughter? Callum’s fingers dug into the makeshift raft. He nodded but held his tongue. No words of remorse could justify or erase the truth, and his face burned with shame.

The sea witch sank beneath the waves and surfaced beside him, so close he tasted life and death on her breath. “I offer you a bargain, mortal. Accept or drown.”

***

Phew! That was a long post. Thanks so much for reading and the kindness of your visit!