Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dusty Pages Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow

Sinclair's is about to open, a top of the line department store in Edwardian London boasting everything the discerning lady and gentleman could want, including an exhibition hall where the owners famous jewel collection will be on display - including the rare Clockwork Sparrow. However disaster strikes when the night before the grand opening, the collection is stolen. Sophie is down on her luck hoping to make a career at the prestigious department store when being in the wrong place at the wrong time leads her to being suspected of the crime. Between her and her new friends, Lil and Billy they must work out who the real culprits are.

Anyone who loves a good old fashioned mystery, Miss Marple style will love this! Its so nice to see a young adult book that doesn't revolve around the supernatural. Its YA though only because the cast of characters is mainly under the age of eighteen. I read it in the space of about four and a half hours but enjoyed every minute of it and will be looking out for the sequel which is due out at the beginning of next year. I can't wait to see what these guys get up to next and to find out who the mysterious villainous Baron really is.

If you liked Phillip Pullman's Ruby in the Smoke series, you will love this.

I give it



Monday, 23 November 2015

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

... Luke Green



1. Tell me about your book Semester Start and where you got your inspiration for it?

Semester Start is the first (and currently only) novel in the Divine Blood series. The inspiration for Divine Blood directly comes from a fanfiction I wrote for fun that mixed up elements from several different series. Someone noted that with all the work I had done to integrate the various elements together into a cohesive whole that I had more or less created something unique. I started on the work to make the setting into a campaign world for an RPG and in discussions with pre-readers started re-writing the original storyline into a new set of novels.

Beyond that direct inspiration, however, Divine Blood is basically a homage to various shows and types of entertainment I enjoy myself. It ranges from serious story to slight parody at times, since I enjoy poking fun at the tropes of my own preferred genres. There's bits of sitcom style chatting and interaction, the goofy high-school antics you'd get from a slice-of-life television show, some action sequences involving mecha battles and super-power martial artists, as well as delving into mythological entities like Hel and Nike.

2. Are the titles of your books important?

Titles are one of the most difficult parts of writing a book for me. I usually go with something descriptive of the story. Sometimes with a mild pun involved. For Semester Start, most of the story revolves around an international boarding school in a fictional Australian city, so I've decided to use academic terms for the titles of the novels. I'm also calling the short stories “extracurriculars.” Usually I start with a working title and end up using that as the title of the story. Note, for the Divine Blood series I even ended up using the same name I used for the inspiring fanfiction, which I rather think was a mild mistake now, but oh well.

In any case, Divine Blood is fitting. The stories in the setting that I'm writing revolve around Gods, Demons, humans following the same evolutionary path and people connected to them. There's a lot of cases of people that have “divine” blood in their veins and, as the story progresses, cases where “divine” blood will spill. So the title fits.

3. How much of your book is realistic?

I don't tend to write all that realistic storylines. I write stories mostly because they're fun. I have Gods, Demons, psychics, mecha, secret societies and a number of other things that I tend to point out would not work in real life. I tend to keep some level of realism in regards to how characters behave and that's where most of my realism sits.

Character development and interaction is one of the most interesting parts of any story for me. I like to take my time on it and develop characters over several stories and books. I don't doubt that most of my characters probably come across as very simple personalities over the course of a single book, but that seems realistic to me. You don't find the depth of a person quickly.

4. What is your favourite character from your book and why?

This is hard to say and the answer would probably vary based on the circumstances at the time. Currently, I find myself mostly thinking about characters from another series since I'm working on book two of another setting. One of the reasons that there is no clear main-character in the novel is that I like all the characters. They all have their foibles and they are all fun to pick on in different ways.

5. Have you ever written a book that you loved but were unable to get published?

I self-publish, so yes. I got a lot of letters back saying that my stories were well-written but not what the agent was looking for, or I got no answer, or I got vanity presses saying they loved my stories and wanted to publish them but first they needed me to pay them X amount. Several published authors told me that unless I became the hot new property, publishing companies would leave all the marketing and such to me anyway. So, between all of that, I figured that if I was going to likely be the one to do the work then I might as well self-publish and maintain creative freedom too.

6. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I do read my reviews. Some are very good and others are bad. I try to take them in stride either way. Usually most of my stories have been beaten black and blue by pre-readers before they get published. Most of the time the bad reviews work out to people that just don't enjoy my type of writing or people that expect some level of depth or greater meaning beyond just “this felt like a fun story to tell.” I think one of the most interesting was the person who complained that the story didn't feel like Australia at all to him. He was Australian, but so were three of my pre-readers, who had no such complaint beyond reminding me often that Australians would say “Mum” rather than “Mom”.

I do get good feedback and there are some reviews that point to what I would then consider a mistake. Or else someone suggests something that would have been even better. I have been tempted to go back and change things a couple of times, but I don't like to change already published stories. Maybe it's me reacting to what George Lucas did, though I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but I tend to think that when we start revising the events of your own setting, you're prone to cause yourself extra headaches.

7. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I do not confirm the existence of God or any other sort of supreme entity. I personally believe in God and consider myself Catholic, but I don't feel like I could adequately portray the Creator in fiction. I also don't believe that any one religion has it absolutely right, that all religions and philosophies have some piece of the truth in them. The closest I get to discussing God in my stories is in delving into the thoughts of some of my characters. Currently, the only character in Divine Blood to admit to any sort of religious practice is Lilitu, the Demoness of Smoke, who is an active Baptist. Most of the discussion of that is the other Gods and Demons that encounter her thinking she's a bit weird for it. Of the rest of the characters, I have a few that I have a firm idea of their religion but it hasn't been an important facet of their character yet.

I don't want to use my writing to sledgehammer a religious belief. I believe that most of the meaning of any particular story comes from the reader not the writer. So I just write the story I want to write and figure out a meaning for myself later with curiosity as to exactly what other people see when they read being a background constant.

8. Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

Books have always been a big part of my life. Bookshelves made up most of the furniture of my home growing up and I mostly found myself reading Greek mythology, Norse mythology, Grimm's Tales, stories of King Arthur or Robin Hood, Dracula, Frankenstein, Anne McCaffery and a large number of TSR's Forgotten Realms novels while growing up. Comic books were less common, but still made an impression. Then I hit college and got into anime and manga as well as delving more into Asian history and mythology with stories like the 47 Ronin, Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Momotarou, Kaguya Hime, Yuki-Onna and so forth.

I have also always loved telling my own stories and making my own games. When I was in college I used to write a ton of fanfiction. Eventually I started using fanfiction as a way to develop ideas I was thinking about putting into their own original stories. Divine Blood is an example of this, though it sort of developed on accident. It started as a story I just wrote for the hell of it and on a whim. Though most of my longest stories started that way.

9. Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I am a part-time self-published writer. I have a full-time teaching job that pays most of my bills. I would love to be able to write full-time, ten or more hours a day, and get out several books and stories a year, but unless my books suddenly explode into popularity or I win the lottery or something, then it is going to be very unlikely.

What this means is that I have to be picky about the stories I choose to tell. Currently, I'm working on the Bystander setting, but I am also getting ready to kickstart a supplement for the Divine Blood RPG I published last year (It might already be over with by the time this interview comes out). I also want to write three more Divine Blood Extracurriculars to put into a 15-story collection which will be only available in that collection. I also have done some planning for the next Divine Blood novel and have part 4 of the Greenwater serial novellas to work on as well.

Beyond the stories I am actively working on or planning, I also have several other story lines and settings in mind. There's Pandora Pox, which is a deliberately silly setting about a magical virus that turns 1 in 10 women in the world into sexy mythological based superheroes; Naomi Silver, one of my few non-supernatural settings featuring a detective in the vein of Sherlock Holmes; Idun, which I might not be able to work on since I sold short stories of that setting to a website which later failed to launch; and several other settings that are don't have names as yet.

Right now, I suspect I move too slowly to keep a thriving fan-base.

10. What do you like to read in your free time?

Currently, writing takes up a lot of my free-time, but in addition to that I participate in role-playing games with some friends from around the globe. We use roll20, teamspeak and skype to play games like D&D, Scion and other such things, including the Divine Blood RPG I worked up. I have also started exercising more in an effort to lose weight, get healthy and live longer so as to have a better chance to finish all these stories in my head.

11. What are you ambitions for your writing career?

I want to finish the cycle of events I have planned for Bystander, Greenwater and Divine Blood. I want to see other authors writing stories in the Divine Blood setting. I'd like to see fanart of my characters drawn and fanfiction written. These are my primary ambitions at the current moment. When and if I complete these, I'll likely have others develop.

12. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages a day?

I try to hit 2000 words a day but I don't always succeed.

13. What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

Planning. You need to plan. The individual stories need to be entertaining and complete enough on their own to be read individually but still have links to other stories. You need to decide what sort of links you're going to put in and how much attention you're going to give them.

You also need to think of the format. In Divine Blood, short stories focus around individual characters while I plan for the novels to be focused around major events that suck in multiple characters. In Bystander every story is focused on the main character Lucretia. Greenwater is a serial so most every story ends on a cliff-hanger.

14. Do you have any advice for authors on how to market their book?

I would actually like some help in this matter, actually. I suck as a marketer. I find it embarrassing to publish ads for my stuff in the places where it is free to do so and I lack the money to publish ads in the places where it costs money. At the same time, I find writing blurbs to be rather difficult. I always have a tendency to want to put out more information than I need to and feel like I start to rant. The sort of advice I could give would be to look for someone who knows more than you about the subject and get help and advice.

15. Pick two celebrities to be your parents and tell us why?

I very much like my own parents, thank you very much.

16. If a two year old hands you a toy phone, do you answer it?

Yes, I do. Always encourage imagination.

17. Do you collect anything? If so what?

I sort of collect roleplaying games. I have dozens upon dozens of roleplaying games that I have never and likely will never get to play with anybody. Mostly right now I purchase ebook versions since I live in a tiny Japanese apartment and have little to no bookspace. But I own Old World of Darkness; New World of Darkness; D&D 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, 5th and Basic; Champions 1st edition, HERO System 4th, 5th and 6th editions; Savage Worlds; Call of Cthulhu; Cthulhutech; BESM 1st and 3rd editions; BESM d20; d20 Modern; True d20; Mutants and Masterminds 2nd and 3rd edition; Kuro; Legend of the Five Rings 1st and most recent editions; Shadowrun 5th edition; Usagi Yojimbo RPG; lots of Palladium; Scion; Aberrant; Exalted; Monster of the Week; Strands of Fate; Fate Core; Dresden RPG; Chaosiums Nephilim; Chaosiums Pendragon; OVA; Random Anime; FFG's Star Wars game; Fate Accelerated; Batman RPG; Marvel Super-Heros (FASERIP); Toon; Torg; Chill 2nd Edition; Supernatural RPG; Maid RPG; Monster Force; ERA Epic Storytelling Game; Feng-Shui; Gaslight Victorian Fantasy; Gygax's Dangerous Journey's Mythus setting; Teenagers From Outerspace, Numenera and numerous other games I'm probably forgetting. I've played less than half of them half as much as I should like, and I like less than half of them half as well as they deserve.

18. What would be the most gratifying thing a fan could do in your opinion?

Write a story or draw a picture. I believe that a thriving community of fan-made art and stories represents a healthy popularity. I would dearly love to see fan art done for my books, or fanfiction written. The world I devised for Divine Blood is far too large for me to tell all of its stories, and I would love to have help filling it in.

Of course, I wouldn't say no to fans supporting my efforts. Eventually, I'd like to make writing and game-design my full time job and be able to reliably put sixty hours a week toward developing my properties. Then I could also start to afford to go to various conventions with my own booths and physical products to sell. Arrange better playtesting for my RPG products. Hire better artists and get books out both faster and more often.

19. If you could chose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be and why?

Twenty-five. The brain has finished developing and your body's metabolism is still ramped up enough to deal with injuries, over-eating and lack of sleep easily without getting out of shape.

_____________________________________________________

Prestigious Bravura Academy in Volstahl, Australia; a school that teaches gifted teenagers from all over the world. It's a new school year and there are new students coming in as well as old students returning. Yoon-Ji Jeon returns to school as Vice President of the student council, school disciplinarian, unaware that her gifts have attracted dangerous attention. Damir Milos arrives off the battlefield of his life to join other young men and women in perhaps the first school he's been to since he was eight. Eija, Naiki and Deimosu Semezou have come to Australia along with their mother, a native to the town, after living on the fringes of society for all their life. Hel Logesdottir is determined to finish out her third and fourth year at Bravura, in spite of some relatives rather...aggressive efforts to gain custody of her.

Civilians, mercenaries, psychics and immortals....paths are going to cross that have been blissfully ignorant of each other to this point.


About Luke

Luke Green is a full time English teacher in Japan who spends as much time as he can writing, testing or promoting RPG supplements and various sorts of fiction.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Sunday Showcase


Agent Nicholas Grafton has a plan. To use a convicted criminal to catch other criminals and he thinks he’s chosen the perfect candidate.

Cera Raine went to prison for the murder of her father. Intelligent, beautiful and resourceful, Cera could have done it but claims she didn’t. Intrigued by Grafton’s proposal she takes it, even with its condition – that she wear a bomb around her neck. Once out, she will do whatever she has to, to get him to trust her, even take down a drug operation plaguing the streets of Central City.

BUY

Celebrating a new cover created by the wonderful artist Dawne Dominque

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Dusty Pages Review: The Mortal Instruments



A lot of people raved to me about these books and I can see why. I read all six in five days. The last one keeping my up until five in the morning so I could get it finished. I liked the characters a great deal, especially Jace and Simon who both caused me to laugh out loud on more than one occasion.

I don't know if they were originally only going to be a trilogy because after book three, things seemed to come together pretty nicely and I wasn't sure with three books left to go where the story was heading. The final book doesn't leave you with the sense of unfinished business which I like, all the characters stories were tied up nice and neat. However there were a couple of characters that appeared which I think are a tie into the prequel trilogy - The Infernal Devices - that I am going to be looking into.

These are good reading for teen or adults and you won't be disappointed if you pick these up.

I give the series



Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Dusty Pages Review: Untouched


I liked the set up of this book even if the outcome was some what predictable. I saw Aiden's secret coming even if the slightly more duplicitous nature of it was something that caught me off guard.

I liked the main character of Aria. She was someone I could easily identify with. She's a strong character that comes across well on the page.

The sex scenes were definitely hot but I found myself skipping some of the bits in between. There were whole passages that didn't seem to move the story forward and there is one scene about a drunken one night lesbian encounter with her best friend that just seemed to be a pointless flashback.

However as the first in a series there are of course unanswered questions that might lead me to purchasing the second book. To see whether Aiden and Aria do get together. To find out what happens with Dane and his divorce and just to see if at any point we find out who the hell Eric is.

I give Untouched


Monday, 9 November 2015

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...Duncan Milne




1. Tell me about The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Impossibility of Time Travel and Other Lies and where you got your inspiration for it?

This is a novel about second chances and missed opportunities. As characters discover the regret of not having the perfect retort at the ready or while they lament lacking the means to travel away from what they consider a stifling existence, they discover time travel. Not random time travel, but the ability to enter history at rock ’n’ roll gigs. Sanctuary into the only thing that’s ever mattered to them.
What gigs would you see if you could see any band that ever recorded? The answer to this, as well as many other questions of the day, provides the examination of consequences of decisions that are made and others which were not.
Is history pre-ordained or does it need heroic figures to nudge it along? Perhaps both.

~~~~

As for the inspiration, that’s a fun story. I was working as a lawyer in Australia when I was handed a contract to review. At that same time, I was told that they needed it “for last week”, my response was, “right, if I could travel through time your contract wouldn’t be the first thing on my “To Do” list.

Later that day, I was recounting the story to the local barista who thought I looked grumpy (not usual for where I was presently working), she laughed and asked “what would you do if you could time travel?” The answer was travel to rock ‘n’ roll shows that I never saw. She’s in a local band and we roared with laughter. “What a great idea for a book,” she said. When I got home that night I started drafting.

The barista, Tamara, is now in the acknowledgements as well as has a fictitious quote in the text attributed to her.

2. If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would you sing?

“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris. I’ve got the vocals for it, but not much else. I’m pretty sure I’d stun the judges with that one. It might also reinforce the judges decision not to allow Canadians on American Idol; I’m sure it would be interesting in any event.

3. What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?


Finding the story and getting the pace to come together in a meaningful way. The story is fundamental as it tethers the book to the reader; everything else flows from headwater. What your characters say, where they live, how they walk, their needs; everything.

When I have re-written characters or dialogue it’s been because the story wasn’t clear yet.

4. Are the titles of your books important?

Vital. Every bit as important as naming a child.

A good title sets the tone for the reader and is the first thing that they see. This stuck me when I first picked up “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore. The title for my debut novel was strong; I’m struggling with a title for book #2…watch this space.

The cover art applies to the same degree, similarly I’ve been inspired by Moore’s jackets. This led me to engage Peter Wyse to provide original works for my covers. He’s done an amazing job and the cover is as striking as it is fun. This is a practice I can’t see moving away from.

5. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

In building a theme about extreme positions and intolerance I re-examined my own life, the choices and opinions that I’ve held and tried to be more tolerant of others. It’s not something that I felt I was falling down on, just something that I could do better at.
The characters by their very nature were opinionated and brash. I try to teach them that the positions that they battle are merely a different articulation of their own intolerance. Both sides are intolerant to the other, but manage to justify their positions through an internal belief system. It’s easier to see judgment in others than in ourselves.
I met a musician, Steve Dodd, who does Reality tv soundtracks and teaches music producing; he told me that one of his first lessons is to get his class to identify what they like in everything they hear. It’s easy to hate something, but finding what you like is more rewarding. As a heuristic it gives you an opportunity to discover something about yourself as well.

Hopefully, I’ve a better global citizen for it.

6. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I do read my reviews. Mostly because I’m interested in what people think, sometimes I regret this, but still…

It’s been said not to respond, but I have, usually on Goodreads and sometimes on Amazon. I’m still not sure if this is a good idea or not, but I try to feel it out.

Usually I just thank readers for taking the time.

My advice would be to try to take something onboard from each review, good, bad or indifferent. Ask yourself “what is the reader getting at?” “Is this legit?” “Could I have done something differently?” As painful as some of the reviews have seemed, I think that I’ve improved as a result.

The times that I’ve responded to a negative review, I’ve thanked the reader for their time, apologised for letting them down and advised that I’m still working on my craft. In one case the reader responded by saying he’d read my next book. I suppose I converted a “hell no!” to a “maybe…” which has to be a win.

7. What do you like to read in your free time?

I read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction.

Usually I try to find stronger writing, but sometimes just something interesting or unexpected. I’ve usually got a few books on the go.

Currently I’ve got a book by David Byrne, one on atomic accidents, The Girl on the Train and a handful of Kindle samples, that I’m shambling through. It all seems to be slower than I’d prefer.

8. What are your thoughts on writing a book series?


I’m in the middle of a four book series, so I’m hoping it’s a good idea. I like it because it should give me an opportunity to develop my story and characters. With some luck I’ll learn some tricks that I can take onward for another story line.

9. What do you think of “trailers” for books?

I’m not sure. I don’t usually watch / listen to them, but Hollywood Book Trailers have done one for The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Impossibility of Time Travel and Other Lies that is amazing!

But are they effective? How do I leverage this? Do they affect reader’s choices? I’m just not sure, something else that I’ll have to work on.

10. What happens when you get half scared to death twice?

You get ¼ scared to death, it’s sort of a math thing, but Nicole, my wife, helped me with this answer. She’s an engineer.

So ¼ to death, but then neither of those things will ever scare you again; whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think 75% stronger because that’s what’s left after the ¼ to death bit, but I haven’t had Nicole check my math. Am I going to be graded on this?

11. If I came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for me?


Curry, fresh naan and a decent pinot. It’s sort of the go to meal for guests.

Do you like curry? Spicey or not so much? I’ve a great cookbook (Vij’s – Relax Honey) that is basically a guaranteed lock for an amazing meal. I love cooking so I’m flexible and have a few tricks to share, so if not curry I can make sure you won’t go hungry.

12. If a two year old hands you a toy phone, do you answer it?

Of course!

You never know who’s calling and what the child’s reaction would be. How can we teach children to stretch their imagination if we won’t?

Besides, you just never know who’s calling. How could you resist the temptation? Plus kids know it’s a toy, I love the delight in their eyes when they look at you with the shared recognition of a game.

13. Where’s Waldo?

I can’t tell you, I disposed of his body.

14. What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?


The Dolphin Tail movies. My daughter watches them virtually non-stop on the weekends, because that’s the only time she get’s to watch tv or movies. I’m dehydrated by Sunday evening.

15. If you could bring someone famous back from the grave, who would it be?

Waldo; my conscious is killing me.

16. To what would you like to devote more time?

Learning. Learning languages, grammar, investing, histories, everything, anything.

17. If you could dis-invent one thing what would it be?

Static constitutional documents and polarised politics; evolution calls for adaptation, yet many of the institutions that we rely upon to govern us lack even the most basic flexibility or capacity for being reasonable.

18. If you had to dispose of a dead body, how would you do it?


Hide them in a puzzle full of similarly dressed and colored items.

Seriously though, I’ve got a BA in Geography as well as a Law degree, so I get asked this question all the time. It’s all about your local jurisdiction and topography. Of course I can’t provide legal advice on this sort of thing.

_________________________________________

Kenneth Ramsayer—loner, self-proclaimed scientist, unapologetic conspiracy theorist, and rock ‘n’ roll authority. Initially an escape from the asphyxiating judgment of his parents and the incessant torments of bullies, rock ‘n’ roll became Kenn’s entire world. Providing the soundtrack to his world, defining his experiences, and leaving him with an insatiable desire for knowledge, the music spoke to him while burning like an addiction; Kenn’s rock ‘n’ roll obsession could never be satisfied—there were simply too many gigs and not enough time—until now.

Kenn has discovered the means to access the depth of live shows that had previously eluded him by traveling through time to any gig ever held. Discovering countless startling revelations in his travels, Kenn will soon find out exactly what he’s willing to sacrifice for his obsession. With a burdensome knowledge that propels him to action, Kenn will have to step up in order to prevent the death of rock ‘n’ roll. Facing threats from evil forces, conspiracies, and even a friend’s errant philosophies, Kenn is poised to become the defender of rock ‘n’ roll. Forced to overcome these perils in 4:4 time, Kenn will have to succeed if he hopes to see his friendship and his precious rock ‘n’ roll survive.

BUY

About Duncan

Duncan Milne is a practicing lawyer in search of a forum where prose doesn’t include the terms “notwithstanding” or “but for.” He has a passion and insatiable appetite for music, art, and literature. His debut novel, The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Impossibility of Time Travel and Other Lies is the first in a four part series, with the second book anticipated June 2015.

Relocated to New Zealand with his wife and daughter, Milne is fortunate to be married to someone whose career facilitates travel abroad.

Website: duncan-milne.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedeathofrocknroll

Tumblr: http://thedeathofrocknroll.tumblr.com/