The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

This fantasy tale hasn’t received a lot of press lately, so when a review showed up on fantasy author K. D. Dowdall’s site, I was more than delighted. Many thanks to Karen for her thoughtful comments. If you head over to read, take a gander at her books, and I hope you enjoy her review!

❤  ❤  ❤

In the story of The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach, we see the overall story as fascinating and rich in details that excite our need for fantasy and storytelling.  At first glimpse, it is a story about dragons, courage, adventure, war, soul-thieves, and the good versus the bad in people.

The story is really two stories, that in the end, become one where fantasy and reality merge.  The main characters, Madlyn, Cody, Dustin, and Lillian, each have different world views that conflict with each other, but all are necessary for everyone to cope with the approaching sense of loss that is meaningful to each one, a natural human response to things out of our control…

via The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

Book Review: Catling’s Bane (The Rose Shield Book 1)

Rob, at IARTICHOKEU Book Reviews was wonderfully kind to read and review Catling’s Bane. With the millions of great books out there, it’s an honor I’m thankful for. Gotta love the book bloggers and share the good news. Thank you, Rob. 😀

iArtichokeu's Book Reviews

61czHDIautLTitle: Catling’s Bane (The Rose Shield Book 1)

Author: D. Wallace Peach

Length310 pages

Amazon

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

When I finished this book, instead of instantly knowing what was going to write about in my review, I pretty much turned caveman mode and felt like rushing to all my friends, grabbing them each by the arms and yelling “THIS BOOK. YOU ALL READ. MUST. NOW!”


5starMy Rating: 5 Lit Fireflies

I absolutely LOVED this book! I’ve been pretty busy as of last month, because of some medical healing issues, and was unable to read for long periods of time. I did however read this book every chance I was free, and only this book. In a way I am grateful for the long progress, because I got to savor every beautiful and exciting moment this book had to offer. Instead of binge reading…

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Twenty-four Days – Blog Hop

Jacqui Murray has a new book out and I had the privilege of a sneak peek. I read her first book, To Hunt a Sub, and this sequel does not disappoint! It’s a torpedo-paced military thriller that I happily review below. 

But first things first.

Twenty-four Days

An unlikely team is America’s only chance

World-renowned paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeke Rowe is surprised when a friend from his SEAL past shows up in his Columbia lab and asks for help: Two submarines have been hijacked and Rowe might be the only man who can find them.

At first he refuses, fearing a return to his former life will end a sputtering romance with fellow scientist and love of his life, Kali Delamagente, but when one of his closest friends is killed by the hijackers, he changes his mind. He asks Delamagente for the use of her one-of-a-kind AI Otto who possesses the unique skill of being able to follow anything with a digital trail.

In a matter of hours, Otto finds one of the subs and it is neutralized.

But the second, Otto can’t locate.

Piece by piece, Rowe uncovers a bizarre nexus between Salah Al-Zahrawi–the world’s most dangerous terrorist and a man Rowe thought he had killed a year ago, a North Korean communications satellite America believes is a nuclear-tipped weapon, an ideologue that cares only about revenge, and the USS Bunker Hill (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser) tasked with supervising the satellite launch.

And a deadline that expires in twenty-four days.

As America teeters on the brink of destruction, Zeke finally realizes that Al-Zahrawi’s goal isn’t nuclear war, but payback against the country that cost him so much.

***

Jacqui’s research and technical knowledge is outstanding and adds immensely to the believability and enjoyment of the read. Here’s a tidbit:

Can today’s science make a warship invisible?

If not today, in the very near future. DARPA and other scientific arms of the US Military are experimenting with approaches such as the use of metamaterials (the device used in Twenty-four Days) To hide military equipment from all sorts of waves—like sound waves and light waves. In a nutshell, here’s how they work: Rather than the sound or light waves hitting the object, they are deflected around the object and they land on what’s behind it. That means, the viewer (or in the book’s case, sonar) see what’s behind the object rather than the object. This is already effective for small objects, but is experimental for large ones like tanks and subs, and planning stages for sonar.

Pretty cool.

My Review:

I was an avid fan of Murray’s military thriller To Hunt a Sub, and her second book, Twenty-four Days, somehow managed to top the first. Though it isn’t necessary to have read the first book before diving into Twenty-four Days, I do recommend it. Murray mentions backstory but doesn’t spend a lot of time on it, so I liked having a solid grasp of the network of main characters prior to jumping into the new novel. It increased my enjoyment of this torpedo-paced book.

Torpedo-paced is an accurate description. This book starts off full speed ahead and keeps it up to the last page. For readers who love thrillers with twisting plots, plenty of intrigue, and a race against time to uncover and stop a multi-pronged terrorist attack, Twenty-four Days hits the mark. Not until the very end is the master plan understood, and foiling the plot takes right up to the last page. I’m a slow reader, and I whizzed through this book.

One thing I enjoyed about To Hunt a Sub was the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military elements of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. This book is just as convincing as the first but with the addition of a battleship. The operation, acronyms, and lingo were technical, realistic, and occasionally over my head, but never to the degree that I was lost. Rather, I was thoroughly convinced that Murry is a submariner! 

The science behind both reads is well researched and felt completely authentic, from cutting-edge military science and technology to the capabilities of artificial intelligence. The first book introduces the reader to Otto, a computer-housed AI. He was effective and fascinating but not terribly engaging. In Twenty-four Days, Otto gets a mobile body and the algorithms necessary to acquire a personality. He becomes a captivating character in the story and was one of my favorites as he participates in problem-solving and saving the world from war. The whole cast of characters is well drawn, their personalities, emotions, and relationships believable. There isn’t a lot of downtime to get to know them deeply though – the main reason to start with the first book.

All in all, a thrill of a read – 5 stars and highly recommended. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Twenty-four Days:      

Kindle US,    Kindle UK,    Canada

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Quote from author:

What sets this series apart from other thrillers is the edgy science used to build the drama, the creative thinking that unravels the deadly plot, and the Naval battle that relies on not just fire power but problem solving to outwit the enemy.

Social Media contacts:

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://facebook.com/kali.delamagente

http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://plus.google.com/u/0/102387213454808379775/posts

The Best Advice So Far – Book Review

unnamedThis is a book that I reviewed in 2015 and have been thinking about lately as so many people across the world struggle with feelings of disenfranchisement. Lots of us feel buffeted by events beyond our control and choices made by others. The beauty of this book lies in the affirmation that “You always have a choice.”

Erik Tyler is a frequent visitor to my blog, a friendly soul willing to engage with me and other bloggers who kindly comment on my posts. He sent me a copy of his book, The Best Advice So Far, which I loved, and therefore am pleased to share again.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I read personal growth books. Many of the lessons stuck, but many required too much work: hours of self-analysis, a spiritual conversion, expensive travel, learning a new practice, joining a cult, and wearing beads, headbands, and robes. I just didn’t have the time between working and raising a family. Being a happy person shouldn’t be that hard.

As unique individuals, we all define happiness differently. In the middle third of my life, I discovered that happiness, for me, is a wonderful side effect of integrity, authenticity, and kindness, an outward spreading of “the love.” Sometimes that takes the form of service, but more often it’s a way of being in relationship with others without all the filters, free of the junk I used to drag around, manacled to my ankle.

So, what does this have to do with Erik’s book…

What I loved about The Best Advice So Far is its simplicity. It’s a well-organized and beautifully written guide to cultivating the integrity, authenticity, and genuine kindness toward self and others that lead to satisfying relationships, and ultimately, to happiness. I’m a believer in the power of perspective and that attitude and approach have incredible power over our lives. This is where the power of choice comes into play. I may not be able to change my circumstances, but I have a choice about how I will perceive, process, and respond.

The book is not a religious, theological, or spiritual treatise, but rests on sound psychological principles and practice. In each chapter, Tyler introduces a topic based on his own experiences, foibles, and insights. The anecdotes are entertaining tales in and of themselves, and on many occasions, I found myself laughing or reduced to tears. I can’t remember the last time a “self-help” book touched me so deeply.

At the end of each chapter, Tyler offers Questions for Reflection and Discussion. They provide fodder for further growth, for journaling, for individual, couple, and group exploration. I plan to use some of them as topics for discussion with my adventurous women’s group.

CJIWfXjWEAAdJW3In my few interactions with Erik, it’s clear to me that his principles are in practice. I recommend this book to anyone who seeks a life of greater connection, meaning, and happiness. Enjoy.

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, youth mentor, family advocate, singer, songwriter, musician, poet, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer, and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area of Massachusetts.

Follow his blog at: The Best Advice So Far

And browse his book on Amazon: The Best Advice So Far

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy

While I was taking a break and guzzling cold medicine, a lovely review of The Sorcerer’s Garden showed up on Rosie Amber’s book review blog. The review is compliments of  Suzanne Rogerson. Thank you, Suzanne and Rosie!

I hope you enjoy this review as much as I did:

***

Today’s team review is from Suzanne, she blogs at Suzanne Rogerson Fantasy AuthorSuzanne has been reading The Sorcerer’s Garden by D Wallace Peach.

My Review

Wow, this was a breath-taking adventure that barely stood still.

I was intrigued by the title and the blurb really stood out for me, anything to do with writing and writers and I’m sold! As I started reading, possibilities whirled through my mind…

The start of the story felt a little over the top in the action sense. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but then I realised this was the start of Cody’s story – his tale of slaying the dragon with his brother. I thought this was very cleverly done by the author. This larger than life action helped to distinguish between Madlyn’s real world and Cody’s work in progress. However, as the story developed everything becomes more complicated for Madalyn and soon the two worlds are colliding and you have no idea what is real and…

(Continue Reading: Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy)

To Hunt a Sub – Book Review

To Hunt a Sub is Jacqui Murray’s debut fiction novel and what a read it is.

A nuclear sub goes missing and retired Navy intel officer, Zeke Rowe, is called in to help with the investigation. It turns out that a cybervirus is the culprit. What Rowe can’t figure out was who did it or how to stop the perpetrator from sinking every submarine in the fleet. He joins forces with Kali Delamagente, the developer of an AI named Otto whose unique ability is compiling clues and finding things – like ancient people, kidnappers, and modern subs.

Rowe’s not the only one whose interested in the subs or Otto’s capabilities. Bent on destroying America, a terrorist is making Kali’s life miserable, breaking into her lab, hacking her computer, and making hostages out of those she loves. He nails warnings to the dead bodies of anyone who gets too close. As the terrorist ring closes in, time is running out and the stakes are rising.

One thing I enjoyed about this read is the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military aspects of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. I was fascinated by her explanation of Otto’s capabilities, the security efforts Kali employs to protect her data, and how she used Otto’s data to help Rowe.

If that all sounds like too much science, the characters are also well-rounded human beings with colorful histories and rich emotional palettes. There’s a little romantic attraction thrown in for fun though it isn’t a main focus of the story. The plot is high energy and complex with twists that require the reader to pay attention.

To Hunt a Sub is an entertaining novel for anyone who enjoys military thrillers. A well-written read and great fun!

Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray

About the Author:
J Murray blogs at Worddreams and has wonderful tips for writers. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

To Hunt a Sub on Amazon – Universal Link 

Author Interview – Steven Baird

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This is a selfish interview on my part. I’ve been wanting to pick Steven Baird’s writer-brain since I began following his blog a couple years ago. I love his writing, his fresh, lush imagery, his exquisite word choice. I picked up his book Ordinary Handsome and then his book A Very Tall Summer. I became a groupie. My review of Ordinary Handsome is here.

So, I convinced him to answer all my questions under the pretense of a blog interview. I hope you enjoy!

1. Welcome, Steven. Thanks so much for letting me satisfy my curiosity about you and your writing. You state in your bio that you started writing at age 10. But you didn’t publish until 2015. What took you so long?

ordinaryhandsomeiiThat’s a good question. I have written a lot over the years, submitted some manuscripts, did some editing work, but nothing clicked. So I focused on improving the writing, experimenting with different genres, shifting pov’s, playing with the language. I wanted to see what I could do. It took some time because I am so self-critical. I had a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt, and that can be crippling. What did I have to offer, and was it worth the reader’s time? And now, yes, I think I do have something to offer.

When I started as a kid, I was cribbing off writers I admired, unconsciously mimicking their styles, and it was a terrible hybrid. The first attempt at a novel was after I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Man, I dug into that… the story, the cadence, the narration, everything. And then Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. And then Faulkner’s ‘The Sound & the Fury’. My writing was awful, as you can imagine, but I was so excited! It was a melange of enthusiasm and bad writing! But it was a learning experience. I was putting things down on paper! In those days, that meant typing on a portable Brother typewriter… reams of paper and gallons of White-Out, and carbon copies of everything. It took a long time to physically prepare a submittable manuscript.

Back then, I sent out almost everything to publishing houses and magazines, and collected piles of ‘unfortunately, your work doesn’t meet our criteria’ rejection slips. Stories to Reader’s Digest, Field and Stream, and, yes, even Playboy. I kept at it. They should have sent me Christmas cards, I was that persistent. I published a couple of short stories in regional magazines, and poetry and weird little vignettes. I wrote a weekly humor column for the newspaper I was working for, and that lasted ten years until I gave it up… humor is a hard gig! Eventually, I found the whole ordeal of writing-and-rejection discouraging, and stopped writing anything substantial for about five years. My confidence was shot. And then I started again, working on a novel called ‘The Penitent Thief’. It was abrasive, violent, vulgar, and I fell back into it with gusto.

Self-confidence has always been an issue with me, and I couldn’t quite come up with a tone I was happy with. I have at least a dozen or more trunk novels stored away, and probably twice that number of unfinished pieces. I was learning.

I wrote a novel called ‘Cronic’ shortly after I was married. It’s available on Amazon, and it’s an unusual, violent story of a kidnapping. Creatively, it’s a transitional novel. I really played around with the dialogue and settings, and discovered a more confident, rollicking voice. And then I wrote – after a few false starts – ‘Ordinary Handsome’. That was the one. I decided to completely rework the core concept of ‘The Penitent Thief’. My voice was calmer, and the only similarities between the two are the main character – Jimmy Wheat – and the consequences of a tragic getaway, how they spread into other people’s lives. I couldn’t have written Handsome as a younger man. I didn’t have the experience or maturity.

2. I remember the old typewriters and correction tape. I don’t think I would have had your persistence without the advent of personal computers. I’m thrilled that you kept with it. What do you enjoy most about writing? What do you dislike?

I love those moments when it all clicks… when all the elements come together. I like how it still surprises me. How those big ‘what if’ ideas take shape and add texture and dimension. Honestly, I don’t know where the ideas come from, but sometimes they’re like bursts of fireworks, real ‘wow!’ moments. I didn’t know for certain how to end Handsome until I was closing in on the ending. Then it hit me, and I wrote the last couple of thousand words in a single sitting. It’s a huge rush when it works.

What I dislike is my own uncertainty. Can this work, is there enough of a story to sustain it, do I have the chops? Beginning a new book is hard because you’re still high from the last one. You have to invest so much of yourself: time, energy, and heart. It’s sort of like trying to fall in love again, and with this stranger who smiles and then shrugs. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

3. One of the things that impressed me about your prose is your precise word choices and rich sensory imagery. Does that come naturally or do you have to work on it? Any tips on writing prose that you’d be willing to share? 

verytallnewtrucover2Well, I really don’t like cliches. Everything’s been said that’s going to be said, so why not find an interesting way to say it? I’m selective and patient. Does it come naturally? At this point, I think so, yes, but after years of practice. The words are the ingredients in the stew, and I want that stew to have the right flavor. I play around with a lot of flash fiction pieces. Snapshots of characters and conversations. It’s a great exercise… there’s that freedom of not having to plot or finesse. And they’re great for coming up with larger, more substantial ideas.

4. I agree completely on the freedom of flash fiction – it’s all the fun without the labor. You describe yourself as a slow writer. Tell me about your process. Do you use a particular structure? Pantser or outliner?

I guess a little of both. Before I start, I let the idea grow in my head. Think about the characters, the setting, the overall story… map it out until it gels into something workable. Sometimes it’s a particular image: A woman standing alone in a cornfield; a boy dying at the side of a road. They capture my attention and I want to see more. I don’t write outlines, but I do develop the story in my head. Sometimes it pans out, sometimes not. I make cheat sheets on the characters, phrases, the geography of the landscape. I don’t have specific endings in mind, because I want it to be natural and not tacked-on or forced. I follow my instincts, and I trust my characters to take me to there.

When I write, I edit what I’m doing after the chapter is done. Immediately. Strip it down, tighten the bolts. I don’t like to open the document the next day and see messy, rambling copy. I cut a lot of the extraneous stuff, and there is a lot. I’m merciless.

5. Another thing I enjoy about your writing is that you write with an incredibly tight point of view. The result is almost no narrative backstory. Instead, the story percolates up through the characters’ (often unreliable) memories and perceptions. Tell me about this choice and how you balance the tight pov with your readers’ need for cohesion.

Well, thank you, Diana. It’s just the way that fits me, I guess. I know the characters very well, and I like to focus on what they’re seeing and feeling. Their past is a catalyst to how they react, and it feels more fluid if it’s revealed along the way. I want the reader to share the characters’ journey, involve them in the intimacy of the story rather than handing it out in large blocks.

I’m not really a complicated writer, but I try to weave the story so everything stitches together in the end. Sometimes a little reading patience is necessary, but if the reader is engaged, I think it’s worth the trip. So I have to make it engaging… through the characters, the mood, the flow of the story. Create empathy and believability. I think I do that.

6. That reader patience definitely pays off! I noticed a common theme in character and setting in Ordinary Handsome and A Very Tall Summer. Both have characters struggling with poverty in rural settings. Tell me about this choice and how it’s meaningful to you.

I’m familiar with poverty, or at least living paycheck-to-paycheck. I grew up with it and still struggle. I’m a working-class guy. I know these people; I played with them as a kid, I’ve worked with them, I’ve gone hungry with them. It’s real stuff. There’s no pretension: this is who I am, this is what I do, this is how I survive. Those are stories I’m interested in. There’s no abstraction in being poor. There’s grit, but there are also huge dreams, huge courage.

7. The grit, dreams, and courage comes through and gripped me as a reader. Both books I’ve read have a ghostly quality or “thin grasp on reality.” This gives your books a paranormal feel, but they’re more than that. How would you characterize your books? What kind of reader would enjoy them?

coveramazonI’d like to say I write literary fiction, but that sounds so fancy-pants. It’s not really supernatural or paranormal, but I’ve used those elements. I do like the concept of employing a dream-like reality, where these people have a fragile understanding of what’s going on, how they’re looking for the core of what it means. I think there’s a deep romanticism in the characters – and in me… a yearning for something better, something with a solid foundation. Literary fiction, I guess, is probably the broadest category to describe it. I hope any readers would come away with something that will stay with them for awhile, that it will be something relatable.

8. Your books do stick with a reader. I’m proof of that. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Read tons. Write tons. Believe in what you’re writing. Write what interests you, not just what’s popular or current. Learn the fundamentals: grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Don’t be afraid to fail… the more you write, the better you’ll become. Be daring!

9. What are you working on now?

It’s a fairly ambitious project titled ‘The Stone Age’. It’s set in the ’70’s, about three children growing up in Upstate New York. The title refers to a terrifying incident that happens to them that sets their childhood in stone and establishes who they become as adults. There’s love, betrayal, and a very human monster who shapes their lives. I’ve wanted to write something about childhood for a long time, about all its frailties and innocence, and how it fades into adulthood but never completely leaves. I can’t say more than that, but I think it’s going to be pretty substantial book.

10. Give us a teaser for one of your books.

This one comes from “Ordinary Handsome”. It’s a few quiet moments between the main character Jimmy and his dying wife. His confidence is badly shaken after a botched getaway, and his heart is breaking.

I kissed Arlene goodnight. The room was shrouded with blankets and black curtains. A dull 40-watt light bulb constantly shone on her night table, displaying a cluster of pill bottles and cups of stale water. Her forehead was warm, and her hair dull and fine. Her breathing was steady but shallow. The skin on her face looked too tight. And her hair smelled like black tea. I don’t remember if that was its natural smell or if it’s just a never-ending memory, a smell concocted from the drugs and the sweat of dying. I think her hair always had that smell, and it was something always uniquely Arlene. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t dying.

I can’t tell you how much my heart broke with every goodnight kiss. I sat beside her for a few minutes each night and stroked her hair. I don’t know if she knew I was there, or even sensed it, but it calmed me. I would cup the side of her face and, though it was always damp and somehow greasy, I could feel the soft underneath-skin, the skin I caressed and kissed and marveled over. Minutes would turn to more minutes until I was afraid to leave her, afraid to stay. I don’t know that I had the courage to see her – feel her – die in my presence. I think that kind of courage was beyond me. But I would. I wanted her last physical perception to be my hand stroking her hair, with a kindness that let her know I was still amazed that she chose to be with me at all.”

newauthorpicblSteven Baird – Short Bio 

Steven Baird is an author, amateur photographer, and 36-year newspaper compositor. He does not like speaking of himself in the first person. He has published three novels, including his latest, A Very Tall Summer, and has been writing since the age of 10. He is a slow writer.

Steven is a native Canadian living in southwest Virginia with his wife Angela, a horse, dog, cat, and a Neurotic Band of Chickens (their official stage name). He does not take himself as seriously as his portrait would suggest.

Link to Steven’s Amazon Page:  Here

Steven’s Blog: Ordinary Handsome

Twitter: @SMBairdOrd