Thursday, June 21, 2018

Second books and second chances: Guest post from Ant Richards, author of 'Damned If I Don't'

Well hello there. Long time no see. 

(Unless you were just on here yesterday, IDK, I promise I'm not a stalker.)

This week, we've got a guest post from author Ant Richards. Learn about the process behind his new collection of short stories, Damned If I Don't, and decide if you're secure enough in yourself to crack it open....

They left the building hand in hand and walked towards Matt’s car; Mel blushing and Matt feeling like a million dollars.

‘This is my beauty,’ Matt announced, proud as they reached to where he had parked his car.

Mel was impressed at the sight, mainly for the wrong reasons. The car, a ’82 Ford Fiesta, had certainly seen better days. With a few small dents here and there, a few minor scratches and signs of rust around the wheels, it resembled its owner; juvenile, rough on the edges, with a European flair to it, defiant, rebellious, yet cute and loveable.

Matt opened the passenger door for Mel and invited her in.

‘So Mel, what do you think, the pinnacle of class and sophistication, eh?’

‘Reminds me of you,’ she replied all giggly.

‘It’s all I can afford at the moment,’ he had replied embarrassed.

Immediately, Mel pushed up the lock under the window and made as if she was about to open the door and get out of the car.

‘What are you doing?’ Matt feared his battered, little, un-American car had scared her off.

‘You see, I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to ride in the car or help you push it.’
"The Full Circle"

Running naked, splashing the warm foam of the recently crashed wave on the sand on a sunny summer morning is priceless. Accidentally stepping on a hole, you could have sworn wasn’t there and falling face first on the sand is, well, stupid. But that’s the way it ends. All the time.

Jimmy Kerr’s eyelids feel heavy, dry, and grainy. Nevertheless, he still makes the effort. As his eyes adjust to the dimly lit room, he sadly realises nothing has changed. Same dream. Same ending. 

Repeatedly and ruthlessly cruel.

Has another day passed?

Just an hour?

He couldn’t care less. There is no way of knowing, so why bother?
"The Sentence"

While wrecking my brains trying to complete what would become my debut novel In Your Dreams, finding the time, the inspiration, and basically, the will to continue writing, I came across loose ideas to add to the storyline.

As sometimes happens, they didn’t necessarily fit in with the original story I was working on, but after discarding a few ideas, I decided to keep some of them as they came along in my head. At the time, I had joined Wattpad, and then it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to turn these loose ideas into short stories. That way, besides being a good writing exercise, and a way to churn out more ideas to add to In Your Dreams, it could be a good way to showcase my writing to other Wattpad members, and start growing an audience in preparation for my first book’s release.

In Your Dreams was released in July 2014, and in between trying to market that title and life getting in the way, I continued developing these short stories. I must have had three or four by that time.

I then decided that this collection of tales could be my second release.

Working on these short stories I believe really helped develop my writing style, and taught me that there was no need for clever, complicated words to convey an entertaining and easy-to-understand message. It was a great learning curve that taught me that simple is usually more effective.

I explore various different genres with these stories, always however, keeping a few common aspects. In each story, irrespective of its genre, there is an element of dark humour, regret, false hope at times, but ultimately, a moment of lost opportunity. Oh, and the South East London element of some of my characters or locations. Damned If I Don’t, therefore, became a fitting title for these tales.

Life is a journey of opportunities, decisions, and tests. The means and tools are scattered throughout our life and it’s up to us to decide which we use or which we ditch. More often than not, we will decide on the outcome depending on what choices we make and what risks we take.

So, if you love short tales packed with romance, suspense, dramas, South East London gangsters, speakeasies in Spanish beach towns, bad decisions, even worse behaviour, a ruthless enforcer and a missing cell phone then you shouldn’t miss reading Damned If I Don’t. After all, what can possibly go wrong?

It’s available on Amazon in e-book and paperback format.

But hurry, you won’t always get a second chance.

Ant Richards

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Confusion, Catastrophes and Carnivores (no really I feel like a lot of people almost get eaten)



Author: Mark Marrison
Published: February 21, 2018 by Mark Morrison

Goodreads summary: Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited with peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures. 

The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway. 

The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated. 

Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

My Thoughts:

This is a really good idea for a story. The plot is complex and the characters are likable. Mysteries abound throughout the book. The idea of a magical library where you can enter the books is fantastic, and I loved the descriptions of TwoSpells and the magic creatures that dwell within or roundabouts.

I liked that Tornado Abaddon was easily bought off with pickles, and that Sarah and Jon acted like 13 year olds.

I liked that the woodworm Boose was also sweet, this was a theme throughout the story that animals are often just misunderstood, not inherently evil, and can learn to be kind and tame.

However, I got lost lots of times and had no idea what was going on. Characters seemingly appeared out of no where, and others were lost just as easily. Characters also adapted to magical creatures with an ease that was uncanny. For instance, take the drive to the grandparents home. Percy (the Mom's boyfriend) is driving and while in the car the family experiences multiple phenomenon that seem as if they will be explained later, but aren't. Was that a werewolf? Did Percy get bit? Why in the world were they suddenly back in time, and why did an arrow penetrate the side of their car???

Things at the house are also strange, the missing mirrors is never explained, and neither is Clyde's betrayal (at least not thoroughly). Once the family gets to TwoSpells things go into overdrive. Catastrophe after catastrophe occur back-to-back-to-back with no time for breathing room or plot explanation. 

See the beginning of the book goes at a good speed, and then suddenly everything begins to happen and characters that weren't mentioned before are suddenly running amuck and there's this strange virus that I still don't understand and suddenly the bad-guy has a sidekick, and the bad-guy is also the twins dad and their mom is a monster AND I GOT SO LOST!!!! (PLEASE SEND HELP).

I mean like, things got weird. I felt like it was three stories mashed into one. Each catastrophe could've had about three more chapters and even then it might not be explainable. 

Basically I read the whole book and still don't really know why or how things happened, and did Jon really get sucked into a wormhole? Because it was kind of unclear, and I don't know about you but if any of my siblings got sucked into a blackhole, I would be a wreck for days, and not be as cool and rational as Sarah was. 

So overall, this story has A LOT of potential, good characters and a great setting, but everything needs to be expanded. Things need explaining (like where in the freak did Jeremy come from) and emotions need to be better expressed (looking at you Sarah), this book could really be great if given more attention and care.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

In which Erin questions her own sanity after reading Jeffrey Bardwell's 'Rotten Magic' rewrite

Title: Rotten Magic
Series: The Artifice Mage Saga (#1)
Author: Jeffrey Bardwell
Genre: Fantasy / Steampunk / YA 
Publisher: Twigboat Press

"It's their hidden fire we fear, that horrible force waiting to burst out. But they're not monsters. They're human beings lost in their own power." - Rotten Magic


Would you sacrifice your future to practice magic?

Artificers are the gilded princes of the Iron Empire. Mages are violent criminal outcasts. Devin competes to become the best artificer in the empire . . . but he's secretly a mage.

All the apprentices in the Artificer's Guild compete by building crude prototypes of powered armor for mock battles. When Devin transforms himself into a mechanical dragon to slaughter the competition, his rival Benson steps into the role of dragon slayer. But Devin's secret grows heavier as he claws his way to the top. He's started hearing eerie voices in his head: the stout words of the being he calls 'the artificer' and the oily voice of 'the mage.' How long can Devin be satisfied with fake dragon armor when the promise of true arcane power whispers in his ear?

Embark on Devin's dark epic journey in Book One of The Artifice Mage Saga. Join the fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody's hands are clean.


If you're thinking, "Hey, wait, didn't she already review this book?" The answer is "yes and no." 

Previously on this blog, I reviewed Rotten Magic 1.0

This is Rotten Magic 2.0. 

I thought the first one was pretty perfect when I read it, so when the author (Jeffrey Bardwell) asked me if I'd like to review a "new and improved" version, I was all on board. But I was a little dubious. How could anyone improve on the fast-paced, delightfully dark story of metal and mages that was Rotten Magic 1.0? 

Regardless, I gave it a read.

I. Loved. It.

Guys, Rotten Magic 2.0 is even better than the first version!

The main story is still intact, as are the characters. There's just more of it, and of them. 

The biggest change from version 1 to 2 occurs in the character of Drusilla: Devin's best friend and fellow apprentice artificer. In version 1, she's more of a minor character. In 2, she's one of the story's two narrators (the other is Devin). 

In my opinion, Drusilla's vamped up role and voice add a lot to the story. It's cool to compare her background, personality, and attitude with Devin's, and it's nice to get a female narrator along with the male one - it brings dimension and depth. Drusilla also comes from a sympathetic background: her family is poor and her father is abusive. 

That said, I'm a little perplexed over Drusilla's actions at the end of the story. Encouraging Devin to free himself by exposing his mage powers to the Black Guards seems like a very roundabout way of helping out your best friend. That said, it's such an insane chain of reasoning that I kind of dig it. (Petition for Drusilla to return in a future book where we realize she's completely nuts.)

Even if she's not bonkers, it's conceivable that the pressures of being an artificer apprentice, together with the stressful time of year (it's evals), her troubled home life, and her frustrations over Devin's actions would drive her to think in illogical ways. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't see any sane person doing what Drusilla did to Devin; but I can buy it if Drusilla herself is a little off.

Now that I think of it, she's not the only one. Devin is constantly struggling to remain in control of himself and his powers (this is another element of the book that I love and could probably write a whole nother blog post on); and the fact that he goes along with Drusilla at the end indicates that maybe the two of them are unhinged in the same way. Drusilla's father is a bit wacko; and so is Devin's nemesis, the bully Benson. Even some of the established artificers show signs of being a little off-kilter. Shoot, is anyone in this story completely sane? 

This is partly why I love Jeffrey Bardwell's books so much: his characters are flawed. When it comes to fictional characters, I'm all about the Lokis, the Lady Macbeths, the Victor Frankensteins.

Why? These characters are just so interesting to read about. It's fascinating to get inside their heads and explore their twisted logic, or to guess at what they'll do next when every move they make is so unpredictable. Devin is a Victor Frankenstein if ever there was one. So while I compared him to Ender in my previous review (albeit a warped Ender), I'm sticking with Frankenstein here. 

Here's where I mention that this book is steampunk and fantasy, and what a delightful thing it is to get a book that's cross-genre in my two favorite categories. Thank you, Jeffrey Bardwell.

Another thing I love about this book - in both its incarnations, but especially in the second one - is its pacing. While I usually avoid reading other reviews of a book until after I've written mine, I accidentally read one on Goodreads that compared reading Rotten Magic to watching a train crash in slow motion, and boy is that accurate! I know it's all going to end in tears, but I can't tear myself away!

"We are in control of this situation. The phrase echoed through Devin's mind. For so long, I've wrestled to stay in control. And for what? ...Everything still burst into flames in the end."

Why do I find a train wreck so fascinating? Is it possible I, too, am a little sadistic? A little bit... off?

This is a book review, not a psychoanalysis session, so I'll leave it at that.


Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why I would probably sell my soul to Rick Riordan if he asked me to

Why do I love Rick Riordan so much?

Is a question I have never asked myself because, let's be real, what's the point? Also it's just sort of obvious. Who doesn't love Rick Riordan? (OK, you can leave.)

That being said, here are a few possible reasons behind my enthusiasm for the man and his books. Feel free to share yours in the comments, or tell us your favorite Rick Riordan book and/or quote.

Rick Riordan Camp Jupiter Camp Half-Blood
(Rick Riordan's only rival is himself)

Reason 1: His books just keep getting better

Once upon a time there was this MG series called Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it was like nothing else that came before it. Percy Jackson was this king of sass who was also vulnerable and had adorable friends, and they got up to all these crazy adventures involving ancient Greek monsters and gods in modern times. It seamlessly blended ancient Greece and contemporary America, and it was chalked full of originality, wit, humor, and pretty non-stop action. My favorite novel in the series was The Titan's Curse, which I read in about 24 hours, I think.

When we finished that series, with Annabeth challenging Percy to a race down the hill (ah, bittersweet memory), it kind of felt like an era in our lives had ended. But I bet you all remember reading Rick Riordan's acknowledgements at the end of the book and snagging on the line where he thanks someone for helping him with his "first Camp Half-Blood series."


And there were more. And if we thought that first series was good (it was), the next books just kept getting better and better. Sure, some of us will always have a rose-colored view of that first series, and sure, some of the following books have been better than others. But then Riordan drops something like The House of Hades, or The Hidden Oracle, or The Dark Prophecy, and it's like, "dang, Riordan, I knew you could write, but - well, dang!"

Reason 2: He throws out fabulous one liners like nobody's business

"I confess I lost track of the specifics after he explained about the exploding chain-saw Frisbees."

"You hit the Lord of the Titans in the eye with a blue plastic hairbrush."

"With great power... comes great need to take a nap. Wake me up later."

Rick Riordan is the master of one liners. His off-the-wall brand of humor is one of the things that made those first Percy Jackson books so great, and now it's become his hallmark. What other book (except the ever-present Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) contains lines of such memorable, well-aimed goofiness?

Reason 3: He is the master of the subtle art of haiku

How many of us could come up with an original, clever haiku for each chapter of a book? And then do the same thing for two more books?

Reason 4: He is the master of the subtle art of killer book dedications

You all know what I'm talking about.

Reason 5: He pretends his fans have a love/hate relationship with him but everyone knows we'd probably jump off a cliff into Hades after him

Riordan knows he has us wrapped around his finger, but he plays it cool, pretending we hate him because he's such a troll (we pretend that too, but let's be real, his trolling only makes us love him more). And he keeps giving us more of what we want, and it's pretty consistently awesome. Like how much stuff has this guy churned out, now? Not just novels, but all those things like The Demigod Files and Percy Jackson's Greek Myths. To say nothing of his other series that take place outside of Camp Half-Blood.

Reason 6: He's giving us a whole series about Apollo

'Nuf said. Now you know
Rick Riordan is our man
We love him a lot

Happy birthday, Rick Riordan! Here's to many more demigod adventures.

Until tomorrow.