Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent Calendar 2013


A Little Holiday Spirit

As is traditional for many people around the world, the 1st of December marks the beginning of a countdown. From tomorrow onwards, millions around the world will be eagerly marking off the days until Christmas, and then the final week before we welcome in the New Year. We are hurtling towards 2014 at quite an alarming rate.

I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but my family does, and so that is why I have created my own Christmas countdown just for you- in the form of an advent calendar (designed and created by yours truly). If you're not a fan of the holidays, I hope you can still find some enjoyment in this event. 

Everyday (starting from tomorrow- the 1st- until the 25th there will be a new "door" to open. Clicking on that door will take you to the post for that day. And that's pretty much all there is to it. My very own virtual advent calendar for all of you to enjoy. 

I will posting the advent calendar as its own post, following this one. And a little message to all those impatient calendar openers- I will not be activating the link for later days. A 'door' will only be made active on its day- at which point it will remain active indefinitely. 

I will also be working on only making the posts linked by the advent calendar visible to those who clicked on the 'door' that hides its link (unless of course I absolutely fail to create the right code to do so). I want them to only be visible to those partaking in this event. After all, there's not much point to the advent calendar if every post it links to is available at the top of the home page. 

I hope you will all enjoy my small gift to you. I tried my best to make the corresponding posts entertaining and fun. Until Door 1 then. See you all tomorrow.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Living Sketches, Addictions, Vampires and Goths? Perverse!

First Paragraph:

""Perverse" was Emylene Stipe's signature response to just about everything. Others her age were more apt to say "cool" or "wicked" or "awesome", but you knew Emylene was in the house when you heard, "Loved that band last night- so perverse", or "She's hanging with that dude? Perverse!" Or, "I hate people who eat with their mouths open, they're so perverse."


  Amazon /

Perverse is a supernatural tale by Larry Rodness.


Emylene Stipe is a Toronto-living, nineteen year-old goth, who is known as the 'goth princess' to her friends due to her parents high status. They fight for all rights goth, and proudly lead the dark wave. But Emylene's problem is wondering how to 'rebel against a family of rebels'. She's reached those argumentative you-don't-understand-me years, and she's itching to take on the authority figures that are her parents. 

As with many teens she butts heads with them a lot, and everyone is at the end of their tether. Eventually Emylene moves out- giving everyone some well needed breathing room. Living only a dozen blocks away gives her independence, with security. 

Her newest passion is Stelio- a forty year-old Greek who speaks right to Emylene's heart, starting with the first black rose he leaves hanging on her doorknob. When the two are wandering down the street one day, Emylene notices Stelio tense when he lays eyes on a charcoal sketch in an old antique shop. He makes nothing of it, but of course Emylene has to have it. 

She hangs the barren, snowy landscape on her bare, bleak wall, entranced by the solitary cypress tree in its centre. But the sketch has secrets, ones little Emylene will soon discover, starting with footprints in the drawn snow, and the beautiful young girl who left them.


I went into this book knowing very little about it. I tend to be of the mind frame that the less you know, the better. Anyway, this meant I was not aware this was a 'vampire book', but I found it a refreshingly bearable use of the urban legends. Yes ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a story about (or maybe 'including' is better?) vampires- known here as Vrykolakas. This may be a mild spoiler as we're not given this information until about a third of the way through the book, but it's a little hard to talk about the book without mentioning them. 

I want to say this first, vampires have had a very bad rap since becoming a trend some years ago. More specifically, since they shifted from blood-thirsty creatures of terror to romanticised, teenage fantasy boy hunks. The progression is not necessarily a bad thing in itself (if done well- which unfortunately was not often the case), but the over saturation definitely was. Soon most everyone was sick of the fanged denizens of the night. 

These vampires, while they may not be 'traditional', at least have the concept of one. Of creatures who seduce their prey, while malevolence burns in their eyes. While they never reach 'horror vampire' status, they are at least a far cry from 'romantic, sparkly' vampires too. Personally, I find terrifying vampires who want to rip my throat out, far more interesting than teen idol vamps. We have enough teeny-boppers sucking the life out of us already- without having to read about them in what was once a majestic and revered genre. I for one am glad to be getting back to it.

Now, first and foremost this may appear to be a story of the supernatural, but a lot of emphasis and time is placed on prejudices. The age-old fact that many people fear those who are different, or things they don't understand. A lot of the story focuses on Emylene's feeling of being an outcast (as many teens do), but on a more extreme level using her 'goth-ness' as a metaphor for many other forms of bigotry. 

There is also some exploration of social and political issues, as well as satire on desire and obsession- if a little exaggerated. The lies we tell to convince ourselves and those around us that one more 'hit' won't hurt. It looks at the very nature of addiction. There is no black and white, no clear answer. Social stigma has been around since the dawn of humanity, and addiction was not far behind. Everyone has one- usually more. Some less harmful than others, but all as all-consuming as each other. The book also briefly touches on why we seem to need addictions. Are we so unhappy in our daily lives that we have to create an escape or false happiness through objects or actions? 

It becomes a force of habit, a placebo, Pavlov's dog. It makes us feel good, because we associate it with emotions from previous times. Whether or not that is real happiness is up for debate, but suffice to say that as a species we can never be addiction free. But (depending on the form of the addiction) maybe that's not a bad thing. We all have cravings, and to ignore all of them would be unhealthy. So the question becomes not so much about kicking the addiction, but in choosing the ones that are the least harmful, and of moderation. Anything can be addictive- sex, drugs, coffee, exercise, reading, etc. As a species we are naturally inclined to overindulgence, making us susceptible to addiction. This book goes a little into the 'darker' addictions, and exactly how far we are willing to go, and how much we will tolerate to satisfy the cravings. The vampires act as a 'channel' for addiction, prejudice, etc, etc, discussing the very real topics, while making them more ambiguous and universal through non-existent beings. 

Anyway, this book seems 'act-driven'. It's almost like three different stories blended together. Each interconnected, but separate. It's not so much that the POV switches (though occasionally it does), but more of the focus shifting. You start with Emylene's, then the focus switches to another character, and finally another (I won't say who because they could be considered spoilers). Each time a new story is introduced, we get taken further back into the past- through the different generations and circumstances that brought them together. The main focus is still on Emylene, but when the other two get their turns, she becomes more of a secondary character. 

The end was a little too easy in my opinion. It came together just a little too neatly. You spend some two hundred or so pages getting to that point, and it's all over in just a few. Though the last line adds a final element of mystery, and possibly a hint at a sequel (though I like the open ending as is). 

On a brief side note, I felt the antique shop owner who sold the sketch to Emylene in the first place, was a little stupid considering that he knew exactly what it held within its image. How hard would it have been to say, "It's not for sale"? But then I suppose we wouldn't have a story. 


I breezed through the smooth-flowing writing quickly, and the only times I felt any kind of 'road block' was when the story meandered slightly when the story switches its focus character. 

As I said earlier, I am very glad to see violent, demonic vampires again. This is the first 'vampire book' in a long time that I have enjoyed at all- let alone actually liked. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Author Interview: Jac Wright

Hello everyone, I do hope you are enjoying your day/night/morning/other. Today I have an interview for you with Jac Wright- author of The Reckless Engineer- which was released on the 6th. I also have a little surprise for you at the end of the post, so look for that. Now there may be a few spoilers of the book in the following interview, so if you're interested in finding out more you can check out my review here. I will be putting spoiler warnings on questions that contain them, so if you'd like to see what Jac has to say, but don't want a plot point ruined, you can skip past those ones and enjoy the others to your heart's content.

So let's welcome Mr. Jac Wright everybody. Now I know everybody loves to hear the voice behind the words, and get a little insight into the development of a story, so I have a few questions for you, to help appease some curious readers. Let's get into it, shall we?

When you set out to write your first full-length novel did you know this was what it was going to become? Why this genre?

I set out to create a hero who was an engineer and hence I knew what Jeremy’s character was going to be. I based Harry on one of my good friends who is a barrister.  And I knew that the plot was going to be a story of suspense and a murder mystery based on the dual of the plot of The Closet, which I had already written.  By that I mean it was going to be around the troubles that a guy (Jack Connor) whose character fault is that he is weak in love (or, to put it bluntly, a bit of a playboy) can get into.  And then it was obvious that the victim was going to be one of the women he is involved with, with the finger pointing at him as the who dunnit.  This was what I knew at the onset.

The rest of the story grew out of that gradually as I built a family around Jack Connor and people in their lives around Jeremy and Harry; and more people at work who bound Jeremy and Jack  together.

There was never any question about the genre I was going to write in. It was always going to be Suspense, Mystery, and Thriller, hopefully psychological thriller.  As it turns out this one is also a legal thriller.  When I was a kid I used to love watching MacGyver, Mission Impossible (the television series), Perry Mason, and The Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s suspense fiction) with my father from our favourite seats every week. No one could take either one of us away from out seat in front of the TV when any of these programs were on, and we would analyse the week’s episodes for the rest of the week.  There were periods as a kid when I used to read Roald Dahl, Earle Stanley Gardner, Leslie Chateris, and Agatha Christie like I was possessed. These stories had a great impact on me.

Where did the concept come from? 

The first things I ever wrote aimed for an audience and myself were poetry, then short stories. When I started writing The Reckless Engineer I had a collection of 22 poems and 12 short stories. The short story I loved the best was The Closet in which I look at the troubles of a guy (Harold Duncan Wood) who is blinded by romantic love and passion.  In The Closet I am right inside my protagonist’s head, using a very close third person limited POV, looking at and telling the reader how it feels for him–the angst, the joy, the pain. . . In that story, other characters are not allowed to invade the space of Duncan’s internal thoughts and internal monologue.

I had, for some time wanted to do an examination of the “dual” of this plot, or the complementary plot, where I similarly look at the troubles of a protagonist (Jack Connor) who is weak in love, but from the viewpoints of the people around him.  I therefore hardly give Jack a voice in the story, instead choosing to deliberately keep him in custody for most of the time while I give the family, friends, and colleagues around him a voice.  That’s how the plot idea for The Reckless Engineer came about.

Of course, when you are writing a series you have to develop two stories at two different levels.  While this story plays out in the foreground, I develop the series characters–Jeremy Aiden Stone, Harry Stavers, Maggie Harris, Annie Wren, and Otter–and their stories at a slower pace in the background.  

Who were your inspirations for the plot and characters? Out of curiosity, are any of the characters based on your likeness?

I am an engineer myself, and I have two best friends who are an engineer and a barrister respectively.  I think Jeremy Aiden Stone has a lot of me and my friend who is an electrical engineer too in him.  It is more like Jeremy is what I should like to be; he lives the life I want and I live it through him.  Harry Stavers is definitely modelled after my friend Jon, the barrister. 

I modelled Marianne Connor, who is Irish catholic, in the image of a very good friend from Stanford who is from the traditional American conservative right.  Two chapters were removed that were written in her POV because that story is peripheral to the murder in the plot.

Douglas McAllen was modelled after the CEO of an engineering company I have worked for, and Gavin Hunter was modelled after his son, also a director of the company.

I made Otter entirely out of my imagination with a little bit after Lenny Kravitz (whose music I love) and Eddie Murphy (whose comedy I love) thrown in.  Magnus Laird looks like a solicitor I knew briefly, but he is deliberately a “Dickensian” character I made out of my imagination and possibly influence from other fiction.

The others are a mash-up of looks of some people I have known or even seen in passing while people watching, bits of character from others I have known, and lots of imagination.

A very cliche question here, but if you had to pick one, who would be your favourite character and why?

Of course Jeremy has a lot of meaning for me at a deeper level, but I just love Otter.  He is going to be developed even more in the next book as Jeremy’s “sidekick.”  Otter will eventually be a favourite.

In contrast, I also like Harry Stavers, the quintessentially English gentleman.

Together, the 2 of them make an interesting trio.

Did you set out with a clear idea of who the murderer was, or did they keep you guessing? (Spoilers)

This is hard to answer without spoilers, and hence I am going to mark it with a *** SPOILER ALERT ***.

I started out with the idea that the murderer is who it turned out to be.  However, after developing all the characters, some of whom were not there when I started out, I did a re-examination and came particularly close to choosing a different one – Caitlin’s brother, Ronnie McAllen- because he/she had the right psychology.  In the end I thought that he/she and the others had too much to lose by the act and therefore decided to stick with my original one because he/she was in the kind of desperate situation, or rather mistakenly believed herself to be in a desperate situation that might trigger the extreme act.

If you could change anything in the story, would you? If so, what would it be and why?

I would change my series lead’s name from “Jeremy Aiden Stone” to “Jeremy Aiden Reid”.   I hate the last name “Stone”; I think it is naf.  Too late I thought of the alternative, and now he is stuck with it.

Did you ever find yourself stumped by writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?

I did, at one point in particular.  I hit a nasty block in chapter 15.  One thing I do is I set the manuscript aside and read a good book.  I read two Agatha Christie books at this point – At Bertram’s Hotel and Cards on the Table.  And then when I returned to my writing after about a week I decided it was time to bring Jack Connor home.  I had kept him in custody until this point.  Everything flowed naturally again after I hit this insight on how to progress the plot.
I reached a second, nasty block when I needed to write the scenes with Jeremy in a Portsmouth seaside hotel, The Royal Atlantic, in The Reckless Engineer.  This time I knew the plot, but the prose was not coming out right.  I had moved out of Portsmouth by then.  I took 3 days off and checked into The Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea.  I did the same, volunteer at a back-stage to help a friend at the Gielgud theatre to write the scene in it.  When I do this I don’t write while I am there. I just immerse myself into the environment and absorb the people, the sense, the sounds and the views. I might take some photos. And then I come out of the scene do something entirely different for about a week, let it work in the back of my mind. Then when I sit down to write again the words just flow naturally.

Who was the first person you asked to read your story?

It was the engineering manager of a company I was working for when I first signed contracts with my publisher.  He observed my chirpy mood and asked me what was going on.  He was fun and I wanted to impress him.  So I told him about my books and gave the manuscript, not complete at the time, for him to read.

Final question now (we're getting there, haha), are you planning on writing another book? Is so, will it focus on the same characters, or will it be something completely different?

I have two stories – The Bank Job (Summerset Tales #2) and Buy, Sell, Murder (The Reckless Engineer #2) – half written.  
I have started the fifth, In Plain Sight, with just the plot and the main characters designed and only the first chapter written.  I have a hunch that In Plain Sight is going to be my favourite.
This June I woke up with this image of a fugitive – a man escaping from the van transporting him from prison to the courts that had had an accident and overturned by the roadside – in my head. Prisoners wear regular clothes in England and are not chained. He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set.  The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall.  The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set.  He turns to my protagonist and asks: ‘You there, what’s your name?’  ‘Art Miller,’ he gives a fake name.  ‘Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed.’  And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone, In Plain Sight.
I have a hunch that In Plain Sight is going to be my favourite.

Well Jac, thank you so much for answering my questions. A lot of interesting developments there. Would you like to add anything before we go?

My motto, as a bit of advice:
Seize the day. “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - Buddha

Well everyone, that was Jac Wright -who's murder mystery, 'The Reckless Engineer', was released on the 6th of November. If you'd like to learn more about it, please check out my review here: or you can find it on amazonUK here or amazonUS here.

Thank you for joining us today everyone. A big thank you to Jac Wright for joining me today. I hope you all enjoyed finding out some lovely background info as much as I did. Now for the special surprise at the end. 

Jac Wright has a competition up on his site to win 1 of 30 e-copies of The Reckless Engineer, and to win either a Kindle or a $70 Amazon Gift Card this week. If you'd like to enter, check it out here. What's to lose? 

And that about wraps everything up. So until my next review, enjoy this little heart to heart, or check out some of my other reviews, or just do whatever makes you happy. Have a nice cup of tea or read a book. Whatever it is you do, be happy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Engineer Trawls Through More Suspects Than a Game of Clue, to Find the Proof of His Friend's Innocence

First Paragraph:

"Harry and Jeremy were just about to call it a day and head over to the pub for a drink when the call came through. Harry had gathered the files and papers spread over the round table that stood diagonally opposite the large polished oak desk that dominated his office. There they liked to sit in the afternoon, take stock, and mull over matters at hand once every few days. The London sky, turning a misty orange-red through the window behind Harry, was being served to them lukewarm and sliced finely into stripes by the blind. Jeremy didn't envy Harry and his large west-facing office. He liked his sun served whole, with a black Americano and two sugars, early in the morning."

The Reckless Engineer is a murder-mystery story, and the first full-length novel by Jac Wright. To celebrate its release today, here's my review.


Jeremy is an engineer who started his own company after being made redundant last year. He shares an office with his old school friend, Harry, who runs a law firm. So when Jeremy gets a call from his old colleague and friend, Jack- claiming he's been arrested on murder charges- Harry is the first person he turns to. Together, the pair do their best to solve the murder- hopefully proving Jack's innocence in the process. 

However, the task is a daunting one. The victim was Michelle- another employee at Jeremy's old company- though in this case she was a secretary. Jack and Michelle have been having an affair. Jack is somewhat of a heartbreaker. He left his first wife and two sons to marry his current wife- the daughter of a very wealthy man (who also happens to be his boss). He then had an affair with another engineer at the same company, before he replaced her with Michelle. More than that, Michelle had just told him she was pregnant with his child, and served him an ultimatum- divorce his current wife and marry her (taking half the very wealthy Mrs. share with them) or else. And she wasn't the only one handing him ultimatums. His father-in-law is none too happy about the affair. His wife certainly isn't. His ex stands to lose his child support. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

So when Michelle ends up dead, Jack is the first person everybody points to. Michelle's presence threatened his job, his marriage and his money. But with more suspects than a game of Clue (and growing), Jeremy and Harry have their work cut out for them.


A more intellectual than intense, action-packed mystery, with an ending that will keep you guessing. There are so many different suspects, with so many different motives and means, that keeping track of them all was a challenge. Not in an my-goodness-this-is-overly-complicated way, but more in a maybe-I-should-just-call-it-an-Orient-Express-job kind of way. 

When the murderer is revealed, and the how and the why explained, it is one of the few cases where I could actually understand why they would go to such extremes, as well as the conditions that put them there. The clues are all there, and I was kicking myself slightly that I didn't think more of them, or really even notice them at the time. 

I do have a couple criticisms though. My major one is, unfortunately, Jeremy- our main character. For a large portion of the story he acts as more of a viewer, and as a source of exposition than as a character with any real personality. He does occasionally go all 'Mission Impossible', but then immediately returns to his almost background character behaviour. And the ratio of action-to-non-action is so strongly on the side of the latter, that it causes a lack of tension throughout the book. Mostly we are given a lot of information, and not a lot else. Only about three quarters of the way through the story does Jeremy actively grab the momentum and keep it going. So while he does step-up his almost background character level of interesting, I still think of him as a secondary character on the main premise that we don't really learn much about him. We are overloaded with information about the rest of the characters, and yet the main character's info sheet is strangely sparse.  However, I have it on good authority (from the author himself) that there will be a sequel, so hopefully Jeremy will get a little more development there. I just wish we'd had more here. 

Another issue is that some of the dialogue is a little clunky. Something about is just doesn't fit right, it doesn't quite work. It just seems a little off. It's not throughout the entire book- more certain sections of the text. 

On a similar note, the subject of race is a little poorly described too. It's nothing too offensive, but maybe just a little un-PC? For instance, a Mexican boy is described as "that brown boy". Perhaps that doesn't seem that bad, but something about it just doesn't sit right. 


A little slow-paced, and lacking tension, but with a well thought out story and believable character reactions, as well as an understandable chain of events that could eventually lead someone to murder. I'd say that if you're going to read it, read it for that reason. It's refreshing to have a murderer who has more than superficial or exaggerated reasons for killing. 

If you'd like to learn a little bit more about the story and the author, I'll have a Q&A up with Jac Wright himself later on. As well as that, there's a competition hosted by the author too- so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.