Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dusty Pages Review: Lost Boy

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. Once I loved a boy called Peter Pan. Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate's sword. He wants always to be that shining sun that we all revolve around. He'll do anything to be that sun. Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever. Peter will say I'm a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. Peter Lies.
I always believed that J.M Barrie pointed at a darker side to Peter Pan. Christina Henry slaps you in the face with it. Don't misunderstand, its not in a bad way.

This dark twisting tale is almost a prequel to what I know as the story of Peter Pan and it puts a new spin on the antagonistic relationship between Peter and Hook. Like a lot of retellings its making the traditional villain less villainous, more understandable or justified even in his actions. Although the characters were all small children, they were very distinctly written with individual personalities that shone through in the writing.

Its a gripping read that I very much enjoyed. I like these darker takes on traditional books and especially on fairy tales as they were meant to be Grimm. Get it ;) I have however taken half a star because this author will have me never looking at the original story the same again. I will always imagine that if this Pan and J. M Barrie's Pan are the same, what were his motives for bringing Wendy and her brothers there.

I give it

Monday, 23 October 2017

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...John Brage

1. Tell me about your book The Protocols of Uma and where you got your inspiration for it?

TPOU (as I generally refer to it) is a science fiction story (book 1 in the series) about a race of people called the Umae who are trying to find a new home planet before their enemies, the Hek, wipe them out. There is a lot of political intrigue, questions about societal norms, why they exist, where they came from, etc. There is also an element dealing with how much we can really trust the ideas that come to us from our past as we use them to guide our future actions.

2. What are the top three books in you TBR pile?

1). A Wise Man’s Fear – I’m not going to start it until I’m sure that the 3rd book in the series is at least in progress because the 1st book was so good I won’t want to wait.

2). The book in the Oxford Series on American History that covers the New Deal and World War II (I’m not sure of the title). I’m kind of a history nerd and am reading that series for “fun”.

3). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This sort of BROAD historical work drives me right down Nerd Alley.

3. Which do you use more often, dictionary or thesaurus?

Probably a thesaurus. I have a pretty good vocabulary and the computer generally catches spelling errors (but not always!). I have a habit of overusing the same words in drafts and a thesaurus helps me get away from that.

4. What’s your favourite knock knock joke?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Little old lady.

Little old lady who?

Wow, when did you learn how to yodel?

5. Mountains or the beach?

Beach. I love the mountains but altitude has adverse effects on my body. My kids love the beach and I love my kids, so………..

6. What do you think Victoria’s secret is?

I don’t know, but I enjoy looking at the clues.

7. You’ve just been kidnapped and the people from the last TV Show/Movie you watched have to save you. Who is it?

WHEW! I just saw Spider-Man: Homecoming with my son. Although I’d feel better if the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man were coming since the other two were kind of wimpy in my opinion.

8. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

I LOVE to fish. I’d like to find a quiet lake where the weather is mild and the fish are hungry. Maybe in the NE US somewhere. I’ve always wanted to visit New England.

9. If you could bring one musician back from the dead, who would it be and why?

Freddie Mercury for sure. He’s simply the greatest lead rock vocalist of all time and his stage presence and charisma were off the charts.

10. If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

I’d go to the past. I pick out key moments in history (maybe the Resurrection, Mohammed’s recitation of the Koran, the battle of Yorktown) just so I could watch and take it all in. I’m sort of neurotic and not terribly optimistic about the future. I’d be afraid that if I went to the future that it would be just as bad as I expect it will be and that would really bum me out.

11. What motivates you to succeed as a writer?

While earning a living as a writer would be great, I have never had that as an expectation. I do get great satisfaction when a reader tells me how entertained they were, or how one of my stories really made them think.

12. What genre do you write in and what draws you into this genre?

For now I write science fiction, although I will likely branch off into fantasy in the future. I enjoy exploring big ideas in my writing and the existence of high-tech or magic provides so many additional plot tools that can be implemented to create interesting situations.

13. Do you think the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

I do. I find books that are poorly edited / formatted to be distracting. A cheap looking cover has the same effect on me. If you go back and look at some of the original covers of some of the classics, you will notice that a lot of them are pretty unappealing. In today’s writing world, there are so many options for readers. A poor cover can really put you at a disadvantage.

14. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

You can’t please everyone all of the time. However, I’ve been pretty fortunate in that I still haven’t gotten what I’d call a truly “bad” review. I’ve gotten some “meh, this book was just ok” type of reviews, but if that’s the floor I’m happy.

15. Do you think giving away books for free works and why?

“Works” for what? I’ve given away quite a few free books. It has helped me generate a lot of reviews. However, it hasn’t really boosted sales.

16. What has your experience been like as a new Indie Author? Bruises, Highlights, and lessons?

It’s hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The writing part is actually relatively easy. Getting the editing, formatting, artwork, etc. done can be a chore. Marketing is a nightmare. You are interested in reaching as broad of an audience as possible so you are always hustling to find reviewers.

17. Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I’m told there are two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters start with a detailed outlined describing everything that is going to happen. Pantsers just sit down and start typing. I’m a TOTAL pantser. While I have a general idea of the way the plot is going to go, a lot of my characters are built (at least initially) as I am typing. I then try to keep them consistent with their origins. As I do that, THEY are often the ones who decide what happens next.

18. Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?

I’m a lawyer. I do the whole “gray suit, tie, briefcase” thing during the week, but if you saw me on a weekend or during the evenings, you might think I was a barista at Starbuck’s.

19. What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?

I love….um, I mean, I REALLY hate Dom. He’s my primary villain. He revels in being a truly evil little SOB. Evil because it’s fun. Evil because he can be evil. I made him everything that I despise but he is SO much fun to write.


The Umae teeter on the brink of extinction. Their blood rivals, the Hek, have mysteriously made huge leaps forward in technology and are now poised to exterminate them. Their godlike protectors, the Journeyers, have not been heard from for centuries.
Just as their society is poised to collapse, the Journeycraft Starshine returns to them from deep space. Prohibited from using advanced technology by an ancient set of laws known as The Protocols, the Starshine’s terminally ill Command Agent must lead a ragtag group of exiles on an overwater quest to investigate a clue to the Umaes’ ultimate salvation. But the Hek stalk them at every turn, and a would be dictator plots his own ascension to power.
Can the Journeyers restore the faith the Umae once had in them? Can the key to the Umaes’ survival be found in time? And what is the Starshine’s Command Agent willing to sacrifice in order to have the only thing he ever truly wanted?


About John

John Brage is an attorney who lives in Kansas City with his wife and two children. He is a history and current events enthusiast (which directly correlates with his sometimes neurotic world view) with a particular interest in big picture “wheels of history” types of discussions. In his spare time (as if……) he enjoys working out, fishing, reading and hanging out with his family.


Twitter: @JBrage67


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Dusty Pages Review: The Witches Handbook of Kisses & Curses

Nola Leary would have been content to stay in Kilcairy, Ireland, healing villagers at her family’s clinic with a mix of magic and modern medicine. But a series of ill-timed omens and a deathbed promise to her grandmother have sent her on a quest to Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky, to secure her family’s magical potency for the next generation. Her supernatural task? To unearth four artifacts hidden by her grandfather before a rival magical family beats her to it.
Complication One: Her grandfather was Mr. Wainwright and the artifacts are lost somewhere in what is now Jane Jameson's book shop. Complication Two: her new neighbor, Jed Trudeau, who keeps turning up half naked at the strangest times, a distraction Nola doesn't need. And teaming up with a real-life Adonis is as dangerous as it sounds, especially when he’s got the face of an angel and the abs of a washboard—can Nola complete her mission before falling completely under his spell?
 Audio Book

Nola Leary has to be one of the most complex narrations I've ever had to listen to. A mix between Boston and Ireland, I had to focus on the words not the accent. That said it was better to listen to it because several characters make reference to how weird her accent is, and with a paperback it wouldn't have come across the same way. I mean, you have to hear it to believe it.

It was nice to see a Half Moon Hollow story that wasn't almost exclusively undead or becoming undead. I liked the witchy aspect of it and the centuries old blood feud. It was also part mystery and part scavenger hunt as Nola was looking for four mystical objects to use in a ritual. The love match between Nola and Jed was great but the fact that once again Nola was supposed to be with someone else but found something better in Jed soured it just the tiniest bit. I'm not keen on characters that hook up in the way.

Jane and the gang were of course still in the background of this story as they are throughout the Half Moon Hollow series so far, providing comic relief and helping to move the plot along.

I give it

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Dusty Pages Review: Intimate Equations

Jules Kinsley is a new associate professor of math, and has recently bought a wonderful old house in a great neighborhood. She's sure she has it all together until she meets Sam Lopez, a handsome and brilliant landscaper who is taking her upper level math class. Sam's intensity, intelligence and humor immediately attract Jules. She soon finds that Sam not only ignites her neurons, but other parts as well. Her inhibitions melt with each encounter as she and Sam move from the classroom to the bedroom.

Sam has fallen equally as hard for his professor, but a surprise from her past may prove to be Jules' undoing. Jules has a secret, and Sam will need to face his own past if they are to mend the rift between them. Will they be able to balance the equations of love and build a future together?
 I picked this book up - mainly for the whole forbidden relationship angle - and its been sitting on my Kindle unread for several years. I had high expectations for this book but sadly they fell short - extremely, extremely short. Both parties were grown adults having sex - not even good sex, like naughty teenagers afraid of getting caught sex. Any initial sexual tension there was supposed to be fell flater than a souffle that's been shouted at by Gordan Ramsey for not rising to the occasion.

The main character was a math professor, I expected sexy slim line glasses, white blouses and inappropriate length pencil skirt but instead I got, well math. It didn't burn with any kind of passion and was full of inconstancy, especially with Jules back story. I couldn't in the end even bring myself to finish it, I put it down for a minute and just did not pick it back up again.

**Note** It is worth mentioning that the cover I got here, was not the one downloaded with my copy and when I was trying to find the back cover synopsis for this review, the book was no longer available on Amazon. I found the authors profile on goodreads in the end, the profile was scant, only three book between 2012-2013 and the publisher that supposedly put together the work, I cannot find a website for. Odd!

I give it

Monday, 9 October 2017

Meet A Writer Presents...

...H. Max Hiller

1. What is the longest you’ve gone without writing?

Decades. I was fifty-four when I published my first full-length novel. I have a stack of unfinished manuscripts and laughably bad story ideas dating back to my teens.

2. If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

I would go back if I were able to interact with my younger self, though I’m not entirely sure I would take my own advice even if given the opportunity. Going forward carries with it the risk of knowing the date and time I die, and some things are best left to surprise.

3. What genre do you write in and what draws you into this genre?

Mysteries of a fairly hard-boiled nature. What I really wanted to do was to write a novel about Hurricane Katrina that wasn’t just another middle-class white guy crying in his beer, which is mostly what was published in the immediate aftermath. The mystery format has allowed me to incorporate the stories of a lot far less privileged people into my plots and characters, which gets the stories told without being maudlin or “preachy” and brings incredible depth to the landscape of the novels.

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

No. I set aside three hours every day of the week, noon to three in the afternoon, and whatever I write is that day’s production. I also start the day’s writing by editing the previous day’s work and then picking up where I left off with the story. I still average a chapter a day doing this.

5. Do you let a book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

I have begun doing so, somewhat at my editor’s insistence. I had tended to send a “final” draft and then follow it up with a truck load of small changes. Now I get to the “final” draft and start pre-marketing while the story hardens. I leave it alone for a couple of weeks and then do a series of readings that result in those small edits before I give it to my editor for their suggestions.

6. Do you think the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

The cover is at least as important as the first page of the story and blurb on the back. Those are the three things that determine whether anyone buys the book, and online purchasers only get the cover and the blurb to help make their decision. The cover needs to be eye-catching AND relevant to the story inside.

7. What part of your writing time do you dedicate to marketing your book?

I separate the two time blocks. As I explained above, I start marketing while I let the manuscript ferment and age. I also spend an hour each morning doing fresh marketing and about an hour each evening evaluating what marketing is working.

8. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

What annoys me the most are reviews by people who obviously lack a body of knowledge about the genre and police work. I have only complained about one reviewer, because she wanted to argue that military veterans never join the police force. I would prefer a review that clearly shows the person read the book from cover to cover and grasped the plot and subplots and has developed well thought out criticisms or praise for how I told the story. I can live with a bad review written by someone who can convince me they actually read the book from cover to cover.

9. Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I find my characters had a much better way to tell my story that I did in the first couple of books I wrote in the series. This was when I was still firming up their character traits and relationships. I have a clearer picture of the characters now, and what they will and won’t do or say, and am able to take more control over the stories than I formerly tried to exert. Another factor in writing a continuing series is that, at least in my series, there are subplots and character developments that run parallel to the main plot and story of each individual book.

10. Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

The central character is entirely fictional and germinated in my imagination for years before he ever made it to paper. His immediate family members are based very loosely on people I actually do know, his partner is also based on a very real person—even though he seems the most made-up of the characters. Most of the support characters are also people I have known, but are usually composites of a lot of small characteristics of a lot of people I have worked with at some point.

11. Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?

It is my “day job” that affords me the opportunity to write. I began my career in the restaurant business in 1974 and always imagined it would give me a way to make a living and the flexible hours so I could write, but I lacked the discipline to actually write and not just indulge in the distractions that come with being in the restaurant business (and they are many). I eventually took a job as a training-chef for a towboat company and now work a rotation that has me away from home for a month at a time in exchange for having a month off with nothing to do but write, and a schedule while on board that still affords me those three hours a day to write. I get to travel, my “day job” is nearly a hobby compared to what I used to do in the kitchen (I cook three meals a day for only eight to ten people), and I can afford to do nothing but write or do support marketing for a month at a time.

12. What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?

Definitely the central character’s mother. She is intentionally written as a humorously difficult person to deal with. She is Southern Old-Money, with attitudes about class and society to match, but also relies on an on-line psychic for advice and recognizes that her children have considerably different attitudes.


The oath Detective Cooter “Cadillac” Holland swore to defend his home against foreign and domestic enemies is put to the test when evil men from both sides of the border start a war on the eve of Mardi Gras, an election, and the first Super Bowl in Saints’ history. A shadowy operation has resurrected the blueprints for the classified operation that nearly got Detective Holland killed in Iraq, and threatens his life again. When Cooter’s friends and family are also put at risk, he is forced to call upon the skills and mind-set learned as a Special Forces and Intelligence operative to keep the peace between local heroin dealers and a violent Mexican drug cartel, outsmart a defense contractor, and take on a loose-cannon Federal official out to cover the tracks of a deal gone bad.

 About H. Max

H. Max Hiller’s first taste of New Orleans was as a cook on Bourbon Street at the age of seventeen. His resume now includes many of New Orleans’ iconic dining and music destinations. Max uses a lifetime of characters and anecdotes to add depth to the Detective Cooter ‘Cadillac’ Holland series. He now divides his passions between writing at his home overlooking the Mississippi River and as a chef aboard a boat traveling America’s inland waterways.