Not full book reviews, but recommendations, impressions and random thoughts.

Seven Stones: The Complete Series Cover Reveal

I’m happy to share this great cover for Dave Higgins’ exciting serial. I binge-read it on his blog a while ago, and heartily recommend it.


Behold the front cover for Seven Stones: The Complete Series, a compilation of all ninety-seven parts of my weekly swords-and-sorcery serial, soon to be available in paperback and various eformats.

Book Cover for Seven Stones The Complete Series showing a rapier superimposed over standing stones (Dave Higgins)

The printers sent the proof copy out this morning, so—barring unexpected issues—it will be released this week or next.

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Reviews, Interview, and RAEW

The Friendship of Mortals is getting some good attention! Berthold Gambrel wrote an insightful review on his blog, as well as one on Amazon, followed by an interview in which I answer his questions about aspects of the novel. In both, he explores the relationship between my novel and the H.P. Lovecraft story on which it’s based, namely “Herbert West, Reanimator.”

raew 2018 - 2The Friendship of Mortals is widely available in various ebook formats, and in print. The other three books in the Herbert West Series will be discounted during Smashwords’ Read an Ebook Week sale, March 4th to 10th. Info and links here.

The Mystery of the Missing Mask

Another Almost Local Book Review: The Mystery of the Missing Mask by M.A. Wilson

Publisher’s description:

Ryan and Kendra have returned to Maple Harbour on the British Columbia coast to visit their cousins Claire and Nathan. But the sleepy little town has been rocked by the news that a valuable Indigenous mask has been stolen, only days after it arrived at the local museum! While museum officials and the police search for answers, the four children and their new friend Tyler stumble upon a series of exciting clues. As they enjoy their summer holidays, not everything is what it seems.

This is the second adventure story for children set in the coastal community of Maple Harbour. Brother and sister Ryan and Kendra arrive for another summer vacation with their cousins, Nathan and Claire.

The action begins at the local museum, which has acquired a unique piece of Native art – a grizzly bear mask. The kids attend a ceremony featuring the mask. That very night, the mask is stolen.

The theft recedes into the background while the children plunge into summer activities – sailing, swimming, and building a tree house from salvaged lumber. Their activities are punctuated by wonderful meals provided by Aunt Jennie. A windstorm damages Uncle William’s truck. The kids make a new friend, Tyler, who has a canoe and shows them how to harvest oysters and clams.

Subtle clues to the mask theft are scattered through the plot, and converge in a satisfying way in the last few chapters. A nighttime investigation and exciting pursuit form the climax of the story.

This is a good, solid adventure tale, which would entertain kids from 7 to 12 or so. The characters are fairly distinct in terms of maturity, interests and abilities. Information about the environment and how to do things is presented in an engaging way. A subplot featuring the mischievous Mitchell twins and Claire’s dilemma about a lucky find on the beach is a lesson about doing the right thing. Figuring out who stole the grizzly bear mask by picking up on the trail of clues would be a satisfying reader experience. The final action scenes involve a series of exciting twists and jolts, with a role for everyone and a positive resolution.

I enjoyed the wealth of detail provided by the author, giving readers a complete experience of summer activities enjoyed to the full by a group of kids who are able to figure things out and make decisions. The detailed and attractive illustrations are a good addition to the story.

A review copy of the book was provided by the author.

Electric Eclectic

Guest Post: An Alternative to Free Ebooks

Just before Christmas, I read this post on Paul White’s blog. As you can see, it sparked some fairly diverse comments. In fact, I was so busy formulating my comment, I didn’t read the end of the post as thoroughly as it warranted.

Paul’s solution to the give-books-away-for-free marketing strategy deplored by the rest of his post is called Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

At this point, I’ll turn it over to Paul…


To quote that wonderful philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, “The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I was looking for a great book to read.

I finished reading the last book by my favourite author. It would be another year, maybe two, before his next book became available. This meant I needed to search for another book to read. I was even willing to stray from my usual genre to find an excellent read.

Easier said than done.

You would think, with over 45 million books on Amazon alone, finding a story to enjoy, a book you can immerse yourself in totally, would be a pretty easy thing.

But no, it is not.

You could look through the thousands of free books on offer. But… much of the time there are reasons books are offered for free, or heavily discounted, by their authors… and not all those reasons are good.

There is the uncertain quality and content of many of the full priced eBooks. Anyway, do you really want to commit spending your hard-earned cash to buy something you do not enjoy reading, or find the writer’s style is not to your taste?

It all makes choosing a ‘new to me’ author or selecting a book from a different genre a bit of a lottery.

That’s when I thought there must be a better way.


Electric EclecticThat’s when I had my eureka moment.

The result is Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

‘Electric’ because they are ebooks– digital, electric.

‘Eclectic’ for the various styles, genres and authors who write them.

And ‘Novelettes‘ to tell readers they are short, sample books, introducing readers to new authors and new genres.

Electric Eclectic (EE) books are written by various authors under the EE brand as introductory, sample works of each author’s writing style and narrative forms.

Each EE book is a short work of between 6k and 20k words.

A standardised price of just 1.00 (dollar/pound/euro) for each novelette, allows people searching for new reads to get to know our EE authors’ styles and narrative types before committing to purchase their full-length books and novels.

Offering these short works also lets people read examples of genres they may not have previously considered.

Electric Eclectic books are written by some of the best indie authors in the world. Each Electric Eclectic Novelette delivers wonderful and entertaining storytelling to a high standard.

All Electric Eclectic Novelettes undergo stringent assessment, ensuring the storytelling is of high quality, dismissing concerns generally associated with low cost or free eBooks. People searching for their ‘next favourite read’ can rest assured in the knowledge that Electric Eclectic Novelettes have undergone a rigorous selection process, ensuring the stories meet exacting standards.

This means you do not need to read through a bunch of substandard books, or spend money on a random book hoping you will enjoy its content. Say goodbye to ‘dodgy’, inferior writes.

Once you have found the right style of stories, the ones you love, you will have found your next favourite author and can start to work your way through their full-length books and novels knowing you thoroughly enjoy their writing.

Download a handful of Electric Eclectic Novelettes and give yourself a literary treat!

Electric Eclectic Novelettes are easy to find.

The first way is to visit the Electric Eclectic website where all the Novelettes are shown, along with author insights and links to their personal books and pages.

The second is to go to Amazon books and type ‘Electric Eclectic books’ into the search bar. (In the USA you will need the Kindle search page.)

Alternatively, if you are on you can follow this link:

Website link:  (This site is available to view, but not fully functional or edited. Estimated date of completion Mid-January 2018)


Book Review: My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems by K. Morris


The first poem in this collection of 74 contains the theme that pervades the entire work – the relentless passage of time.

Morris’s verses are products of reflection and mature thought, expressing both resignation and a zest for life. This poet is not fighting advancing age and eventual death, but lives with an intense awareness of the temporary nature of human lives and preoccupations. “Passing By,” for example, sums this up perfectly in only three lines. The fleetingness of beauty and attraction are pictured in “Chiffon” and “Dark and Light.” As sadness frequently follows delight / Mourn not, for there can be no dark without the light.

The poet’s mixed feelings about his relationships with others are exemplified by “Shall I Sit Out This Dance?” whose last five lines are especially poignant. “What Is A Double Bed?” further explores love, joy, and pain.

Humour is not absent from the collection. “Howling At the Moon,” “Count Dracula Went Out To Dine,” and “It’s Raining Out There,” along with a group of limericks, celebrate the absurdities and quirky angles of life.

A certain amount of social commentary appears in “Crack” and “Girls in Unsuitable Shoes,” which has a touch of wry brilliance. Climate change is acknowledged by the short poem “Melting Ice.” Of the poems that question progress and technology, perhaps the finest is “Man’s Destiny,” which contrasts the poet’s enjoyment of life’s small pleasures with grandiose aspirations and predictions.

Most of the poems feature pairs of rhyming lines – not rhyming couplets, exactly, because the lines often differ in length and metre. The effect is one of ticking, bringing to mind the clock of the title. In densely packed sequences of short lines, this rhyme pattern can become a bit tedious. “Understanding,” which features a more complex rhyme scheme, is a notable departure.

Morris’s poems are distillations of thoughtful life experience, and thus best savoured slowly, like good wine. Readers will find something here to match any mood, to celebrate life or commiserate with sorrow.

I received a copy of this book with a request for a review.

open books, grass

My Best Reads of 2017

I just looked over my Goodreads books of the past year and quickly identified the ones I found most memorable. This doesn’t necessarily mean flawlessly written or expertly edited. It means books with interesting premises, characters, or writing styles. Some are by indie authors, others trad pubbed. Some are print, some “e.” A few were free (take note, those who say no one ever reads, much less likes, free ebooks).

Sorry, no cover images or links. This is just a list, in order of date I finished reading.

Hunter’s Daughter by Nowick Gray. A gritty novel of culture conflict and change in Canada’s Arctic.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead compiled and translated by E. A. Wallis Budge. A fascinating classic, full of remarkable words and images.

The Girl and the Crocodile (Crocodile Spirit Dreaming #1-5) by Graham Wilson. A long, complicated, rather messy but compelling saga of adventure, sex, murder and love, set mostly in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Shadow Unit 1 by Emma Bull et al. A TV series in ebook form. Binge read it!

Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. True tales of old New York. Almost as good as time travel.

In No Particular Order by Kevin Brennan. A beautifully written “memoir-in-vignettes” by a fellow WordPress blogger (What The Hell).

The Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars by Lorinda J. Taylor. Science fiction and a compelling future biography in three parts. I’m happily reading Part 3 right now.

Baiting & Fishing by Meredith Rae Morgan. Mystery, romance, deception and lots of fishing.

Dreaming In a Digital World by Blanche Howard. Weird but strangely interesting tale of business and romance at the dawn of the computer age.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. Start with mysterious footage on VHS cassettes. Follow the hints and clues over decades in the Iowa countryside. Ask questions. Be disturbed and enlightened.

The Crown Crescent Chronicles by Guy Bullock. Goofy goings-on among the residents of an unnamed community. Domestic ructions, feuding business partners, small-time criminals, monkeys, bananas. You get the picture.

Tallis Steelyard, Shower Me With Gold and Other Stories by Jim Webster. This collection of short tales and poems “by” the estimable Tallis Steelyard is one of many books about life in Port Naain and environs. The jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard may be found on the WordPress blog of that title, along with lovely and aptly chosen illustrations for each tale.

Of Patchwork Warriors (Being Vol. 1 of the Precipice Dominions) by R.  J. Llewellyn. An engaging, action-packed, and yet thoughtful fantasy adventure, featuring three really strong female characters. The author is also a WordPress blogger (heroicallybadwriter).

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. A delightful confection of steampunk and clockwork, history, romance and mystery set in Victorian London with side trips to Japan.

Transhumance by Andrew Shilcock. “A short collection of some even shorter stories where the familiar meets the unfamiliar for a half hearted wrestle.” That is an accurate description of this book of speculative fiction that will make you think and wonder.

That’s it for ’17! Happy reading in 2018, everyone!

New Review of The Friendship of Mortals

I would like to share a lovely new review of The Friendship of Mortals, by Denzil the Book Owl, on his recently launched review site. Read it here, and the interview in which I answer several questions about the book and its writing.


While you’re there, have a look at some of Denzil’s other reviews. They are what book reviews should be, thoughtful and thorough.

Book Review: Of Patchwork Warriors by R.J. Llewellyn

“There came an era when the threat of incursion from the infernal other world realm of the Zerstorung was strong, placing the survival of entire unsettled Oakhostian Empire at risk and thus disparate forces began to marshal, to take up any cause or seize any opportunity.
There in the background The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia just a few names for the force which had arrived upon The World in Ages faded from record. Viewed either as a pernicious creature seeking to control, a power for good, an aspect of Nature to be treated with caution or a means to an end, it remained a constant. With an oft forgotten tendency to engage with the unwilling, the unassuming and the unruly from the ranks of lesser folk whose consequential and various struggles would unsettle many a careful plan.
This is the tale of three such, an innocent housemaid, a dutiful soldier and a self-appointed scourge of evil quite unaware the safety of an Empire would soon be resting on them.
They did not take uniformly or conventionally to the task, for that was the way of things, when involved with The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia.”

Don’t let the magisterial tone of this description fool you. Of Patchwork Warriors is an engaging, action-packed, and yet thoughtful fantasy adventure, featuring three really strong female characters. Fate throws them together, and once they realize they have to cooperate despite their differences, these ladies really kick butt.

It’s hard to say if the setting is a post-apocalyptic future or a parallel reality, and it really doesn’t matter. The Oakhostian Empire vaguely resembles Europe in geography and cultures. Technology is sort of medieval, with a few notable exceptions, the primary one being the force called, variously, The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia. Although poorly understood, it is monitored and made use of by different groups to further their interests — ecclesiatics, military, criminals, and assorted independent operators. This force is sort of like our internet, but much more powerful and dangerous. It can be used to cause time-jolts and move things around (whole buildings, for example), even into other dimensions. If messed with too much, it can open portals into a dread realm called the Zerstorung, where there are monsters. An imminent breach of this sort precipitates the events of this novel.

In contrast to the setting, the three main characters, their personalities, and their lively and colourful dialogue humanize the story and make it irresistible. Arketre Beritt is a medician in the elite LifeGuard. From her point of view, the reader is introduced to the military culture of this force, its practices and outlooks. Trelli (whose surname is never mentioned) is a maid in the household of a merchant family. A younger son of the family is a Jordisk (sort of like a hacker), who has built his own device to access the mysterious force called the Stommigheid. Unfortunately for Trelli, the force has an affinity for her, which throws her into situations beyond belief. And then there’s Karlyn Nahtinee, a zany individual with a nose for evil (and good) and a talent for incendiary devices. When a number of conflicting interests collide with disastrous consequences, these three must join forces to save each other, and maybe the world.

The supporting characters are varied and memorable. They include priests, soldiers, organized (and disorganized) criminals, pirates, noblemen, and one nasty evil-for-the-fun-of-it type. There are also monsters.

In fairness, I must note bumps in the form of typos and omissions, but the story is compelling enough to ride over them. For anyone who enjoys fantasy with a difference, I thoroughly recommend this idiosyncratic work. The author has provided a helpful glossary that explains invented terms and swear words. Those invented swear words are strangely apt; you may find yourself using some of them!

Of Patchwork Warriors is available at the usual Amazon outlets:




Zeke the Cat sleeping on pond bench,


A cat would rather sleep than read a book.* So would many readers, if the book they’re reading is boring.

This is the ultimate condemnation of a piece of writing. It’s OK (sort of) for a book to be gross, disgusting, crude and even lame (well, lame isn’t so good), but to be labelled boring means a book is a dead duck. Review sites are full of comments like, “If you can’t sleep, take this book,” or, “The only time the story moved along was when I threw the book at the wall.” Accompanied by single stars.

So, authors — don’t write boring! Easy peasy.


What is boring, anyway?  “Boring,” like “fun,” “profound,” or “disgusting,” is a judgment, not an absolute.

Words and phrases often seen in reviews along with “boring” include: slow, too much description, too complicated, doesn’t go anywhere.

So, to many readers, “boring” = slow, wordy, confusing, pointless. But some readers describe slow-paced books as engrossing, with vivid descriptions, complex characters and intricate plots. Questions, puzzles or mysteries engage readers and make them eager to go on the journey created by the author, even if it’s 700 pages long.

For examples of diverging reader opinions, have a look at Goodreads reviews of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

The deciding element seems to be purpose — slow or fast, wordy or terse, simple or complex, if a story doesn’t present a destination, however distant, many readers are not willing to put in the time and effort to read it. To put it crudely, there has to be a payoff.

July 2, 2012


A book must offer something worth the reader’s time, a path with promise. If the path heads into a dismal swamp or an arid wasteland, instead of climbing to gorgeous views and dramatic heights, the reader will turn around and go home.

Beautiful prose alone isn’t enough reason to keep reading. A plot full of twists and turns won’t keep the reader’s interest if it wanders around aimlessly without a resolution. Fulsome descriptions, extensive backstory, and philosophizing by the narrator put demands on readers’ patience, but they are willing to do the work and put in the time if there is a question to be answered, a mystery to be solved, a revelation to be revealed. The author must acknowledge this and keep the story moving, even if it’s slow and complicated.

Some readers appreciate books that require a bit of intellectual effort. Others demand pure escapism, effortlessly absorbed. The cover image and book description should accurately signal the book’s genre and tone, but, like body language at a cocktail party, there may be room for misinterpretation. If a book’s exterior says “I’m a thriller,” but the story inside is actually romance or another genre, readers feel deceived.

Once annoyed with a book, readers may detach from the story and start to notice things they wouldn’t otherwise: overused phrases or reminders of character quirks; writing that calls attention to itself  (“Hey, check out my strong verbs!”); potentially confusing complications such as chronological and p.o.v. jumps. And, of course, typos, misspellings and grammatical errors.

At this point, the reader closes the book never to open it again. Or maybe throws it at the wall and writes a one-star, one-word review: “Boring.”

Finally, “boring” may be short for “It wasn’t my kind of book.” Reading, after all, is a two-way process. Just as publishing has become easier, so has reviewing and commenting on books. Not all reviews and comments are thoughtful and eloquently expressed.

Authors, be aware of the expectations your book creates, and make sure it delivers what is promised.

Readers, if you think a book is boring, try to figure out why, and put those thoughts into your review. They might help the author write a better book.

* Of course, cats would rather sleep than do just about anything.