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Book Reviews: I’m supposed to do those?

Ok. I’ve heard this advice a million times: good writers are good readers.

Far enough. I’m an audiobook reader, which means, I don’t have time to sit down with a real book and actually read, but I am happy to switch my radio time with someone reading to me. I have been a audiobook reader for more than a decade at this point.

What I have not done is write reviews of the books I have “read.” So this is my mid-year resolution. Once a month, I will try to review a book. I will mark them as “Book Review” with the book title.

Let’s see what happens.

By the way, as a newb to book reviews, feel free to leave me comments on how to do it or what you expect from a book review.

For Kristy

*For those not part of the Just-Us League, we are a group of international writers. We are having a virtual not-so Secret Santa. I am paired with Kristy.*

TIme MachineSince I don’t know how to otherwise upload photos, here’s your gift.

I like to give practical gifts, and I saw no reason to clutter up your life, so I thought I’d start by getting you a little extra time. Here is a time machine for you.


Next, I felt like any writer needs a bit of color in their imagination, so I found you a rainbow of inspiration.  Here you go.


Oh, and I know it is never much fun to rely on someone else when on vacation, so I got you a step ladder in case you need a way to escape.  Here it is:



Finally, I think you deserve some time to relax, so I got you this footstool.


Merry Christmas, Kristy. I hope you enjoy your gift.

Book Review: Blackthorn And Grim

A friend of mine read the third book of Blackthorn and Grim, Den of Wolves, by Juliet Marillier. She suggested that I might really like the book.

So I got the audiobooks of all three books in the series and listened to them.

Recommendation: Worth the read, but the first two books outshine the third.


Book 1 – Dreamer’s Pool: book_cover_creator_dreamerspool-254x300

Blackthorn escapes imprisonment with three promises:

–Move north into a another king’s land and make her home at Winterfalls

–Use her gifts for good only

–Do not seek revenge for 7 years

When she escapes, a fellow cellmate, Grim, follows along. They become travelling companions.

Meanwhile at Winterfalls, a prince has chosen his bride and is ready to meet her, only she isn’t what he expected. The lovely lady of good heart who loves the forest, her dog, and writing is actually a anxious woman of frequent headaches and general rudeness.

Between Blackthorn’s wits and Grim’s observations, the team must discover what is amiss at Winterfalls.

Book 2 – Tower of Thornsbook_cover_creator_towerthorns-254x300

Having proven herself as a capable wise woman and friend to the princess, Blackthorn finds herself invited to travel to the king’s seat.

There a woman desperate for a female champion asks Blackthorn to travel further south. Blackthorn initially refuses, but she has been reunited with an old friend. This friend has a plot to bring Blackthorn’s enemy to justice. Blackthorn agrees to help the desperate woman as a step along the way to achieving revenge. Screw the agreement. The penalty for breaking the agreement is 1 year extension on her services. For revenge, Blackthorn will take the extra year.

Good thing Grim goes along because Blackthorn has no idea what she has gotten herself into. The desperate woman is more than just desperate, her friend has changed over the years, and there are little people in the woods.

book_cover_creator_den-254x300Book 3 – Den of wolves

This story begins with Blackthorn focused on the changing relationship between Grim and her. When Grim leaves for a full season to build the Heartwood House, both Blackthorn and Grim struggle with their inner demons.  Time alone is not the answer to Blackthorn’s troubles.

The Heartwood House brings troubles of its own between the secretive and aggressive land owner, his wild child, and the wild man who holds the knowledge to build the house.

Again, Blackthorn and Grim are caught in a mystery and must solve it or leave these three people to live broken lives.

While solving this new mystery, again, Blackthorn has a chance to seek justice on her old enemy. The opportunity is sudden and untimely. When it occurs, she must decide whether her revenge is more important than the Heartwood House mystery.


Blackthorn – She is prickly with a haunting past/present, but I liked her over the whole series.

Grim – He is strong and quietly powerful in spirit. He is my favorite by far.

The rest of the cast changes with each novel.


The story is set in ancient Ireland without beating in the setting. More importantly, it is a world full of lore and stories where magic thrives in the background but has dwindled in the everyday life. Fables and tales still carry the answers to problems.


Truthfully, I enjoyed the first two books more than the third. The final book felt abrupt.

Just as I had settled in for a 7-12 novel series, The promise to live 7 years before seeking revenge is ignored. The two issues that were overarching series issues (the romance of Blackthorn and Grim and the revenge on her enemy) swallowed the end of this book. It felt like a rush to tie up these two issues. With these two themes finished, this third book bid the reader farewell.

Despite the last book feeling like a guillotine chop, the first two books and first half of the third book are wonderful. Ms. Marillier sets up likable characters in a sustainable mystery situation. She pulls in lore and fantasy in a way that feels both unlikely and realistic. Her world is not a shiny, sparkly perfect world full of smooth skinned elves. Instead, it is a world of women with rotted out teeth, men who are judged by their strength instead of wit, where literacy is a novelty, and cruelty can be common. It’s the kind of world that deserves a wealth of stories. I was looking forward to a series that examined some of the less known Irish lore or maybe even built its own tales to guide the people. It is too bad the series has been cut short.

Author Highlight: J.R. Creaden

I’m headed into the new year, and here’s another new author to follow.

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J.R. Creaden

I’d like to start with a question about you. What is your favorite movie and why?

I have a favorite movie in every genre, so I don’t know where to begin! My favorite science fiction movie is Serenity, because the characters are rich and well-spoken, and the world is complex and challenging. It isn’t only the film itself that I love, but the story behind the film as well—fans coming together to beg Firefly creators and actors to make the movie.
My all-time favorite children’s film is Disney’s Sword in the Stone. The music, the magic, the iconic voices—I watch it at least once a year with my family.

What are you currently working on and what is it about?

I’m currently working on a YA scifi series; the first book is A New Morse Code. It’s about time travel, the ethics of change, and the power of creativity. The story began on a storyboard I built with my children and grew from there. They wanted: robots, aliens, time travel, a space academy, weird planets, and amazing tech; basically, a cross between Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Harry Potter.

ANMC is set in the 31st century of Earth, a thousand years after space travel became common and humans have allied with other species. One time ship is stranded far from Earth in a region of “dead space”—where all life has long been extinct. The ship’s crew must revive the region to find their way home. I aim to please!

JR Book What goals do you have in mind for Contact Files after publishing?

I want to see this story on a screen so badly that I’ll watch anything that comes close to these ideas. Best case scenario for Contact Files would be its adoption by Star Trek franchise. Worst case is I pitch this locally in Atlanta and follow where that leads, even if it means hiring other writers to see the series through to its end faster. I have nine more books in this series, and I could see the first book alone becoming two seasons. What excites me about transforming the story for screen would be the inclusion of other parallel story lines, voices we don’t hear firsthand until late in the series.

Will you use a PR agency when you publish?

I’d have to, whatever route I go. I’m notorious for sticking my foot in my mouth or word vomiting at strangers. For now, my PR consists of my husband reading over my shoulder and saying, “Don’t send that. Seriously, just close the tab and walk away.”

Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

Never give in to brain worms. Brain worms might be your family’s opinion of artists, your high school lit teacher’s opinions on “what makes a good story,” or even your inner critic saying, “You’re not smart enough, dedicated enough, talented enough, ambitious enough to write this story.” Don’t let these critics stop you from doing anything you love, and, if you don’t love it, maybe you should stop. Yes, writing is competitive, and it may be foolhardy to expect your story to be a bestseller, but you can’t compete without finishing, and you can’t know you won’t be successful unless you’ve tried.




JR 3JR began her authorial career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to myself. A Major Shift, JR’s first novel (rife with first-time novelist problems to solve), may permanently be “under revision,” but her current YA scifi project will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.

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Visit J.R. Creaden online at:

her website: Ever Forward With JR Creaden

Facebook: J.R. Creaden

Twitter: JessCreaden

A Challenge – The Naughty List

I am a part of a writing group. We have recently published an anthology of Fairy Tale retellings. One of the members of the group has issued a challenge.  I am taking it up.

Let’s see . . . for Corinne’s challenge:

From the world of Distilled home of Nikolay Marat von Krug, Nessa, and Seth:

#1 Which character would get wasted at a holiday party and end up humping the Christmas tree?

Seth, gang member and future leader, has never turned down a good drink and better is the possibility gaining favor with the gang.

It would be a bright coastal. The gang gathers on the rooftop of Red House. Three beer barrels stack up taller than Seth standing on a chair. Ray, the gang leader, fills his mug and pours one for Seth.

“Drink up. Enjoy yourself.” Ray grabs the house madame and kisses her, bending her back over his arm.

“That little boy can’t hold his drink,” Peter, Ray’s enforcer, jeers.

“Can too.” Seth drinks, pours another and drinks it too. Stumbling drunk across the roof top, he bumps into the christmas tree. “Muck-suckin’ Ray. Tossin’ his whore. He’s not one of us.” Seth grabs the tree and humps it. “Look at me, I’m Ray.”

#2 Which character deserves to get the crap beaten out of ‘em by the Krampus?

Seth again or Ray. In Distilled, Ness, Seth’s sister, helps Nik escape the gang. The gang captures Nessa during the escape and tortures her in attempt to draw out Nik. Seth walks away when he knew the gang was torturing his sister. He doesn’t try to save her. For that, he deserves the wrath of Krampus. Ray deserves it for ordering the torture.

#3 Which character is the Grinch this year?

Nik. People are icky. They are diseased and loud and need to stay away. Parties are loud and filled with people. Christmas is a holliday where they expect things. They want hugs and to touch. They expect gifts, but they never give anything in return. No, Nik doesn’t need them, so they can celebrate without him.

#4 Which character would try to get a little too friendly while sitting on Santa’s lap?

Nessa. She’d be singing Santa Baby and asking for a mansion. If Santa wanted a lap dance in exchange, well, that is easy enough.

#5 Who would your antagonist most like to tongue beneath the mistletoe?

Which antagonist? Vik would definitely hide in a back room with Rose, the daughter of his closest neighbor. Seth could care less about tonguing anyone. Ray would be cuddling up with Simone, mistress of the Red Room.

#6 Which character would accidentally tip the menorah and light the house on fire?

Nik. It would start with the first knock on his door, which would trigger his paranoia. No one should be knocking on his door. As his hand starts to shake, the magic that pools beneath his feet grows larger. As the boarding house grows louder with cheers and laughter, the magic turns black, his legs quake and he falls back against his trunk, knocking the candles onto the floor.

#7 Which character is most likely to bring magic brownies to a holiday party?

Nik. Alchemy is his thing, experimentation is his joy. Some sugar, some chocolate, some of his newest concoction. Maybe it will be sleepy-time brownies mixed with his sleeping potion anchor or hallucinogen laced brownies.

#8 Which character is most likely to ring in the new year naked? And why the hell are they naked in the first place?

Nessa. Because it is natural. Because she is beautiful. Because men are stupid for a naked woman. Because starting the new year with all five outfits clean feels like a fresh start. Because her mom is not there enough to know if she is naked or not. Because she can be.

#9 Which character is absolutely kidding themselves by insisting they belong on the nice list?

Vik. He’s not bad, not really. Sure, he is financing a hit on his little brother, but that’s their father’s fault. If daddy dearest had just let the estate pass naturally to the oldest son, there would be no reason to hunt the brat down. Generally, he’s a good man. He attends his estate and his job, protects his land and people, sends funds and servants to help the war effort. He is a pillar of the community. Of course, he’s on the nice list.

#10 Which characters would readers be most shocked to find on the naughty list?

No one. They all deserve to be on the naughty list. It’d be more shocking to find them on the nice list.

Tour of my house

So I was trying to figure how to post a blog tour of my house when someone pointed out that my blog would be a good place to put it. Then they pointed out how YouTube would be a good way to upload the videos. Thanks to that and my lack of blogging, here is a tour of my house.

This is the outside of the house.

Here is my upstairs.

Here’s my basement.

Since I rambled on in the videos, that’s where I will stop the blog post.