Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review — Devil’s Blade

by Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Devil's Blade by Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Devil’s Blade
by Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Book Review
By Rich Weatherly

Homicide detective Malacca Longwood of the NYPD thought he’d seen everything but this case made him want to wretch. He and his partner were up against a demented serial killer who preyed on members of the medical community. The press had given this sicko the nickname ‘Nanny ’ because he did his dirty work in the homes of families with children. After disabling the parents, the sociopath would drug the children then carry out his horrific flaying and mutilation ritual on the parents, one small strip at at time. The killer would bind the parents, tape their eyelids wide open and force their partners to watch. You’ll need to read Devil’s Blade to fully comprehend these depraved acts. Simply put, the book title, Devil’s Blade is an apt title for one of the instruments used to satisfy this person’s abominable deeds. The objects of his fascination would be carefully laid out in an artful presentation for investigators to see. You see, the killer is not only a serial killer. This is a ritualistic serial killer.

This has been a baffling case for Malucca, or Mal, as he is know by his friends and relatives. Fortunately, the shade of Mama Marie would be the source of answers to the mystery. Mal would listen, and listen closely.

Excerpt from a scene with Mama Marie:

I stood there in a sort of suspended animation as she took a long drag on the foul cigarette, then half-turned to her right and blew the smoke toward the closed window.

Her black eyes glittered, squinting back sidewise at me through the haze she’d created, as if they reflected ritual bonfires. She seemed to draw all of me into their depths.

Madame Marie Duminy Clapion, Mama Marie, watching me from the chair, died when I was eleven years old. I wept at her elaborate, ritual funeral in New Orleans— twenty-two years ago.

Continuation of the excerpt…

“You up agin’ a bad ‘un here, Honey. This man you lookin’ for is just plain evil— crazy, too. Watch everythinreal close. You gotta catch him ‘fore he kills a bunch more more people. You’ll see when you face him—he’s cold as a copperhead. Watch him close now.

Watch ever’ little thing he do. You gotta stay calm, too, jus’ like I taught you when you was a chile.” She spoke quietly, her mouth a flat grim line and a hard glint in anthracite eyes. She began to fade slowly into transparency and was gone.

The smell of Picayune cigarettes faded more slowly than her shade, or maybe it was just the memories, awakened by the smell.

After a series of murders matching the killer’s profile, police got a break. A man wearing hospital scrubs had been stopped for running a red light. A diminutive man who stood about 5’5’’ looked chilly and slimy. He worked at Mount Sinai as a surgical nurse. Good detective work and a tip from Mama Marie, led to the conviction of Halyard M. Moonleigh in spite of a hard fought battle in court against Moonleigh’s high priced attorney. Moonleigh had connections. Moonleigh was convicted of murder and received a life sentence. His defense managed to get him shipped off to a high-security mental institution. During the trial, the defendant made eye contact with Malacca. If looks could kill, Malacca would be dead. Evil reached out from the man’s stare.

Some time later during a dark and stormy night, Moonleigh took advantage of a power outage and light staffing caused by the emergency conditions. In spite of a determined effort to find him, Moonleigh had vanished.

A few months later we find Malacca on the trail of a mafia don named Lagano. This event will complicate future efforts by the detective to capture their fugitive.

During the course of the story we learn that Malacca is dating a highly sought after fashion model. He’s the envy of everyone he knows. The model, Chloe has captured Mal’s heart. She was gorgeous and loved Mal as much as he loved her. Chloe’s mother was one of the lucky one who managed to get out of South Vietnam while there was still time when the country fell in 1975. Mal and Chole manage to keep a warm and growing relation in spite of their frequent separation caused by a long distant relationship due to their travels.

One day, Mal receives a call from his cousin, “Skeet,” William Andrew Longwood. Skeet serves as a county sheriff in Alabama. Skeet has disturbing news. An anonymous caller dialed 911 to report a murder scene. During the investigation, Skeet found a note addressed to him but stating, “Tell Malacca I’ll look forward to seeing him again.”

The news shocked Malacca and he knew he had to head back home to Alabama to assist with the investigation. This sets up a chain of events that will have you flying through the pages. You’ll get a glimpse of small town life in Alabama. You’ll see warm but hesitant reunite. Rivalries will resurface and before all is said and done. Malacca, Chole and his family will find themselves caught up in a deadly mystery that only Malacca with the help of Mama Marie can bring to an end.

Purchase link: Click for Devil’s Blade on Amazon

Thomas Drinkard Page on The Intependent Author Network

Author’s Website, Pinnacle Writing

Thomas Drinkard Biography

Thomas Rowe Drinkard was born and reared in the Deep South–Alabama.

Thomas Rowe Drinkard – Author

He graduated from the University of North Alabama with a degree in English. At graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and went on active duty eight days later.

Within two years, he volunteered and was accepted into the Special Forces (Green Berets). After Airborne and Special Forces school, he’d found a home. With a few other assignments in between, he spent ten years with the fabled unit. He was unhappy with the Army’s plans for his future and left active duty, joining the reserves. He is now a Major, retired reserve.

After the Army, he found his way into teaching and writing in the securities licensing preparation business. His textbooks, articles and CE courses are in use today.

His poetry can be found in a number of literary magazines, including Negative Capability, Cotton Boll/Atlanta Review, Elk River Review and several others.

“Piety and Murder” was his first piece of long fiction to be published. Since publishing that book, he has published “Where There Were No Innocents,” “V-Trooper-First Mission,”V-Trooper-Second Mission-The Demon,” and “Overload.” The “V-Trooper” books are novellas. He has novel, “Devil’s Blade,” a work in progress, planned for publication near the end of 2012.

He has also published a collection of poetry drawn from his Vietnam War experiences, “Finding The Way Home.”


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Book Review — Dreamlander

by K.M. Weiland

About the Story 


What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world? Every night, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston’s dreams.

Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night, she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects—or wants—is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he’s gone spectacularly bonkers or the possibility that he’s just been let in on the secret of the ages.

Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history—and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into a battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.

My Review – by Rich Weatherly

Dreamlander is a fantasy story, but it reads like a thriller. It is a rip roaring adventure and one of the best novels I have read in a long time.

Dreamlander excels as a work of fantasy. Imagine you are plagued by a relentless recurring dream. At the end of the dream, you are warned to stay away and are shot in the head. At that instant you waken from this horrifying nightmare. Now imagine the world as we know it is only part of a parallel universe and your dreams are not simply dreams but a portal to another universe. Such is the premise of Dreamlander.

Chris Redston, the protagonist, lives in Chicago where he works as a journalist in the world we know. It is set in our time. When he learns that dreams are real and he has a special role in the other world, the stage is set for a fascinating journey. His conscious life becomes a seemingly endless state of wakefulness alternately waking in one world or the other. He learns the princess of his dreams is the guardian of the Gifted and he is the Gifted. Readers might draw parallels to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, yet Dreamlander is original, unique and deserves a place of its own in this genre.

Follow Chris as he is caught up in a world of intrigue, treachery and war at home and in Lael, his place in the other world. Dreamlander brings a diverse cast of realistic protagonists fighting for survival against seemingly overwhelming odds. Weiland’s world building features well crafted, warring kingdoms, and alliances that do battle for the loyalty of their residents. A map helps guide readers as they try to visualize the wonders of this magical kingdom. In Lael battles are fought with swords, daggers and a steam powered gun. Combatants ride warhorses. Citizens travel between cities via tram like cars. Chris must learn sword craft, and how to fight on horseback under supervision of the protector of the princess who is his guardian. In Lael Chris even enjoys a reunion with his parents and siblings but from an earlier time.

Dreamlander is anything but predictable. Loyalties shift. As in war, the pendulum shifts between the defenders and would be conquerors. Tension builds toward a frantic climax. Add to this, an imbalance in the universe that portends the end of both worlds and you have the makings of an original example of high fiction. I found myself flying through the pages at a frantic pace. Dreamlander is that good.

Where to buy
Barnes & Noble


About the Author, K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland, Author

K.M. Weiland, Author

K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction and mentors other writers through her website, editing services, workshops, books, CDs, and blogs.

Why I write:
Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

Writing routine:
I set aside two hours, five days a week, to write, usually between four and six p.m. I’m a firm believer in Peter de Vries claim: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” I spend the first half hour scribbling ideas in a writing journal, reviewing character sketches and research notes, reading an article on the craft, and proofreading what I wrote the day before. Then I pick a soundtrack, say a prayer for guidance, and dive in.

It takes years sometimes for my ideas to find their way onto the page. After the first kernel of inspiration takes root, I play with it and play with it, discovering characters and scenes and plot twists. Finally, when I think it’s ready, I dig out a notebook and start sketching ideas and outlines. Depending on the subject matter, I spend a few months researching, then take a deep breath and pray that all the work will pay off in a way that will glorify God.

Most of my story ideas begin with a character and a place. An outlaw in the Wyoming Territory. A mercenary knight in the Crusades. A vigilante plantation owner in Kenya. A female spy in the Napoleonic Wars. A barnstormer in early 20th-century Kansas. After that, who knows? Inspiration is a gift from God: bits and pieces, tiny ideas that bloom into unexpected treasures.

Writing is both a gift and an art. As a gift, it must be approached with humility: the writer is only the vessel through which inspiration flows. As an art, it must be approached with passion and discipline: a gift that’s never developed wasn’t worth the giving.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Fantasy, Publishing, Writing

Book Review – Overload

by Thomas Drinkard

The gripping suspense-thriller, Overload opens on a scene all to familiar to American citizen’s these days. A vile religious extremist and his band of protestors are shouting derisive slurs and working themselves into a frenzy. He and his fanatical followers have the gall to protest at graveside services for a fallen soldier. During this protest, a sniper’s bullet takes out this fanatic.

Book Description

Terrorists are coming into the United States across the Southern Borders. They’re being assisted by the drug cartels and others. When the fanatics begin suicide bombings in shopping malls, one man forges the clues into links that form an escalating chain of terror. 

The enigmatic Frost, a former Special Operations soldier, knows that soon, Americans will be confronted by a weapon of mass destruction—aimed at its heartland business and trading center—Chicago. 

Only he and his team stand between the terrorists and the death of thousands.

Kingpins from drug cartels, human traffickers and middle-eastern terrorists conspire to bribe state troopers and law enforcement officers from Arizona to Florida. State troopers attempt to charge a combat veteran with the murder of the religious fanatic. This sets a series of events in motion that will propel this story into a fast paced, realist thriller.

A small group of former special ops soldiers unite to defend the accused, investigate the allegations and correct this injustice. These combat veterans owe their lives to one another. This is a bond that draws them together. Their leader, a man who calls himself Frost, has a quiet unassuming demeanor. This behavior belies a will and determination to get the job done. Frost’s girlfriend uses her skills as a computer hacker to develop links between the suspects. Frost makes the connections and the race is on to stop a terrorist attack.

I liked the protagonists. These are people you would like to have on your side if threatened.
The antagonists are a bad as they come. Religious extremists who are not who they seem to be; drug lords who kill at the drop of the hat, double-dealing troopers and middle-eastern terrorist cutthroats.

Overload will have you flying through the pages. Expect twists, turns and plenty of surprises. This is a well crafted thriller that deserves your attention if you are a fan of suspense-thrillers.

Author site Pinnacle Writing
Amazon Purchase link Overload

Author Thomas Drinkard Bio

BioThomas Rowe Drinkard was born and reared in the Deep South–Alabama.

He graduated from the University of North Alabama with a degree in English. At graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and went on active duty eight days later.

Within two years, he volunteered and was accepted into the Special Forces (Green Berets). After Airborne and Special Forces school, he’d found a home. With a few other assignments in between, he spent ten years with the fabled unit. He was unhappy with the Army’s plans for his future and left active duty, joining the reserves. He is now a Major, retired reserve.

After the Army, he found his way into teaching and writing in the securities licensing preparation business. His textbooks, articles and CE courses are in use today.

His poetry can be found in a number of literary magazines, including Negative Capability, Cotton Boll/Atlanta review and a several others.



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Review – American Dream

by J.J. Brown

It has been more than a year since I subscribed to author J.J. Brown’s blogs during the summer of 2011. At the time I knew of her work as a scientist.  Many of us hold to stereotypes and think of scientists as Stoics; people involved in objective analysis of data and who are somewhat detached from the lives of ordinary people.

I learned from the start those assumptions were unfair, at least with Ms. Brown. She writes with sensitivity and insight about the world around her. It was her poetry that first garnered my attention but I soon noticed the same qualities in her prose.

American Dream gives readers an in depth, well crafted look at life in New York City and landscapes along the Hudson River in New York State. We read of the last days and final moments of a mother dying from stage-four bone cancer. These are touching scenes delivered with warmth and sensitivity. It is in this context we get our first look at the impact on her loving son, Daniel.

While reading American Dream, I came to understand and admire Daniel, the protagonist; a gifted artist who struggles with emotional illness. In Pierre, his psychiatrist, readers see a professional who genuinely cares about his patient. In stark contrast, we discover Daniel’s  cunning, conspiring sister who will do anything to suppress what is best for her brother. Readers will get to know Daniel’s circle of friends. I felt drawn into these characters lives.  At the same time, the antagonist evolves into a pathetic and despised creature. With it’s strong characters and dialog I think it could easily be made into a theatrical play.

Ms. Brown shows us landscapes and architecture in exacting, panoramic detail with writing that appeals to all of our senses.

American Dream excels as a quality work of literary fiction, worthy of comparison with the classics. If you enjoy well crafted characters and a good story, American Dream is a book for you.


Rising from the rock cliffs like a vague image in a dream, ruins of a castle stand at the edge of the Hudson River north of New York City. The blackened stone walls are relics of a prosperous past in a present plagued by loss, debt, foreclosure, and homelessness. People crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge see it and wonder, who owned that abandoned castle on the river? Who lived there?

Brown, J.J. (2012-07-13). American Dream (Kindle Locations 48-51). J.J.Brown Author. Kindle Edition.

Please take a moment to learn more about the author and the book below:

I have included a short bio of Author J.J. Brown below and, included the American Dream book description.

Book Description

In American Dream, a young artist with depression faces eviction from his one-room, city apartment. He unexpectedly finds himself in line to inherit a family castle. The reclusive artist works to escape the long shadow of his dying mother, with the help of his psychotherapist. While illustrating his first animation film and overcoming depression, the artist tries to provide a home for his estranged son. The artist’s older sister schemes to exclude him from the inheritance because of his mental state, and control him as his guardian. His creative spirit defies ownership and redefines success. In this moving portrait of an atypical New York family, author J.J.Brown explores ties between emotional illness and creativity.

More about the author

J.J.Brown, author of “Vector, a Modern Love Story” lives in Brooklyn. Born in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the author has lived in New York City for two decades. J.J.Brown is also a scientist with a PhD in genetics, and is published in leading science journals.

Author J.J. Brown

You can learn more about J.J. Brown through her blogs and websites:


J.J. Brown Official Website

Author J.J. Brown’s Blog

J.J. Brown Science page

The article that inspired my novella, “Toxic Situations.”

American Dream on

Amazon Author page


Filed under Author Interview, Book Review, Books

Review & Interview of a chapbook by Poet Jan Spence

Review of Navigating the Old Road by Jan Spence

When Jan Spence announced her new chapbook of poems, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Jan writes beautiful poetry. We are both members of the Denton Poets’ Assembly so I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, reading and enjoying her poems.

She sets the tone for the book in the dedication.

These poems are dedicated to all the strong souls who are faced with very challenging circumstances in their autumn years yet who continue to see, as Rumi says, blessings falling like blossoms all around them.”

This is a retrospective look across life’s journey by a Baby Boomer. It addresses issues that all will face if they are privileged live long enough. You will experience a full range of emotions while reading these well crafted poems about life; from the simple joy of new freedoms, and play with grandchildren to reunions with old friends.

Jan takes a humorous look at certain un-pleasantries that come with age as well. Yet, I did say a full range of emotions. These poems address sadness at the loss of loved ones and they take a somber look at the eventual destiny of all; end of life concerns.

Between joy and somber we find pleasant recollections of events and memories that have become Jan’s legacy. That said, Jan’s book honors her generation and is well worth reading by those who have shared the journey and by those who wish to learn from her journey. I highly recommend it.

Navigating the Old Road is available directly from the publisher:
To order from Finishing Line Press –  click here.
and to order from Amazon.comclick here.

Jan Spence Interview Questions

My guest for this post is Jan Spence. Jan is a member of the Denton Poets’ Assembly, an affiliate of the Poetry Society of Texas.

Welcome to My Place, Jan.

After reading your new chapbook, Navigating the Old Road, I can’t wait to discuss it with you.

I understand you have an interesting story about how this book came to be. Would you like to share it with my readers?

Well, I entered a contest through Finishing Line Press for “New Women’s Voices.”  I figured I was new enough on the scene of the writing, so I sent in my collection of poems.  I didn’t win the contest – or even place – but they contacted me and said they would like to publish my poems.  So I surmise that perhaps I misinterpreted the meaning of the word “New” in the phrasing of the contest title.

Would you like to share any background on a poem or group of poems in the book?

First, I feel like I need to issue a little disclaimer.  All of the poems easily can be read like a memoir, but they aren’t exactly that specific.  I don’t want to be accused of misrepresenting the truth.  Like most poets, my poems are based on my own experiences, but several similar “happenstances” may be combined into one poem that is representative of the overall feeling.  A little “poetic license,” if you will, rather than representing actual facts.  Others in the collection are exactly like I experienced them, such as the one where I felt the presence of my mother shortly after her death.  Overall, I didn’t set out to write a collection of poems about aging.  I just realized one day that I had quite a few poems on the subject, and at that point, my focus became more intentional.

Would you like to share with us how you started writing poetry?

I can remember loving to write poetry WAY back in middle school and high school, and I still have some of those poems.  However, I didn’t write poetry regularly after high school until I was nearing retirement.  I think the idea of retirement made me begin to wax poetic!  It still does!

Do you have more books of poetry planned or for that matter, are you writing or have you written books of prose?

I do have more poetry planned.  This publication is a chapbook, which is a short book of poems.  Finishing Line Press designated only 26 poems be included.  So I have other poems on aging – some a little less personal and more universal/metaphoric – that I would like to add to this collection and expand it to a full poetry collection.  I also have a couple of other areas that seem to keep emerging in my poetry, and maybe they will coalesce into collections. 

Although I’ve never written a book of prose, I have partially finished stories that I am resolved to complete.  I admit to feeling overwhelmed by the idea of a novel.  I think I need to start with short stories, which really don’t have to be extremely short. 

Is there anything else you would like to comment on that I haven’t addressed?

How about a good piece of advice I was given!  I was told in a workshop once to read really good poetry if I wanted to improve my writing, and that has worked for me.  If I read exquisite writing, it  always ignites the muse.  For me, writing regularly and reading good poetry like Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Jane Hirschfield and others are key to my growth as a writer.  I would like to thank you, Rich, for this opportunity, and I would like to thank my poetry critique buddies who hold me accountable, inspire me, and keep me writing. 

Thank you, Jan for giving us a compelling backstory for the poems. I’m confident my readers will find it interesting.

Jan Spence and I are members of the Denton Poets’ Assembly. For more information about this organization, please visit:

Denton Poets’ Assembly Meets on the third Saturday each month for its monthly meeting. Everyone is invited. Time: 10 AM – Noon
Location: Emily Fowler Central Library
502 Oakland Street
Denton, TX 76201



Filed under Arts and Poetry, Author Interview, Book Review, Books, Poetry, Writing

Book Review — Shadows of Destiny

Shadows of Destiny by Gale Minchew, opens with the main character Analise in the throes of a terrifying nightmare.

“I was drenched in sweat as if I had been running for hours away from some unknown enemy I couldn’t really see.  My throat felt scratchy and raw.  My chest was tight, and a burning sensation filled my lungs.  Tiny pinpricks of alarm stung my arms and legs.”

This recurring dream plays out over the course of this suspenseful, paranormal, young adult novel. The dream features a young woman with a child that is only a few days old. She sees this dark-haired, striking young woman place the tiny bundle in a cardboard box. It is clear the woman is under extreme duress. Nonetheless, she takes the child and makes her way to the steps of magnificent church with stained glass windows. There, she places the child on the steps of the church.

At this point, Analise feels a connection to the scene and she struggles to understand why she is drawn to it. Toward the end of the dream, Alalise senses an ominous presence; something threatening. A dark shadow approaches the young mother and fear grips Alalise. The scene ends with a struggle between the dark, shadowy figure and a guardian. Here-in lies a mystery that Analise will attempt to unravel and find meaning in. Her Destiny is to solve this mystery.

Analise Michaels has lived in foster homes her entire life after her parents abandoned her. When the story opens, she is eighteen and beginning her senior year in high school. She lives with Rose Michaels. Rose adopted Analise and finally provided a real home. Rose is wise, kind and has special gifts that Analise will need to rely upon. It is through Rose that Analise learns that she too has similar gifts. Rose, a guardian angel Constantine, and another guardian help lead Analise through this an array of challenges giving advise and looking after her interests.

The mystery takes place over the backdrop of senior year activities at Jefferson High School. I enjoyed the drama this setting created. Prior to her senior year, Analise had been just another girl in school. For some reason, during this final year she is noticed and sought after by the quarterback of the football team. This sets up a rivalry between Alise and the spiteful girlfriend of the quarterback, Melissa. Melissa’s clique has a well-defined pecking order. They generate firestorm of dramatic interplay using jealous sneers, taunts and backbiting antics as a form of intimidation. By contrast we see a joyful Analise and her peers designing and building floats for a completion between high school classes. One of the highlights is a mysterious masquerade ball. Who was that girl and the guy with her?  Young people who read the story will readily identify with this part of the story, its characters and the various interactions between school mates. Interwoven with campus politics is the mystery we found at the opening.

Shadows of Destiny gives the reader a unique blend of suspense, and mystery that includes an exciting cast of human and other worldly characters. I think it is fitting to learn the author is a licensed psychologist who is involved in child custody and related cases.

I encourage you to pick a copy.

Author’s Biography

Gale Minchew is a licensed psychologist who resides in East Texas with her husband and two children. In her professional practice, Dr. Minchew specializes in issues related to children and families. However, over the past couple of years, she has consulted with adults and children who have experienced a broad range of paranormal phenomena, as well.

Gale Minchew Website link for Shadows of Destiny


Filed under Book Review, Books

Book Review — LICHGATES (Grimoire Trilogy #1)

By S.M. Boyce

Imagine a fantasy novel with a taste of Lord of the Rings, Narnia and Harry Potter. You might sense the influences

The Grimoire Lichgates & Author

that must have guided debut author S.M. Boyce. From beautifully crafted descriptions and exposition to action packed thrills, it’s all there: fight scenes that work, magic, shape shifting creatures, time-shifts and a cast of likable good guys offset by terrifying opponents.

Main character Kara Magari stumbles onto an ancient book while hiking on a mountain trail. The talking book, the places it leads her, and the characters will transform her life. Kara is bright, witty and funny. To survive she will need all of those attributes and the help of loyal friends. Part of the problem is she can’t be sure who is friend or foe.

As the latest Vagabond, the World of Ourea is in her hands. It is said the first Vagabond was murdered for attempting to unite a shattered world. Now, Kara has the same assignment.


S.M. Boyce’s Blog





Filed under Award, Book Review, Books, Fantasy Adventure Novels

Book Review — Scalp Mountain

by Julia Robb

Book Cover

My Review

Scalp Mountain is historical fiction and I’m a big fan of this genre. Before writing this story, Julia Robb did extensive research about the history and geography of the region. It shows.

That said, this book has much in common with literary fiction. Throughout most of the story we see the vast expanse of the southern plains, the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains, Rio Grande River and surrounding territory. Julia Robb uses vivid, lyrical prose to show us this landscape. While reading, I was transported back to the 1870s. Her writing takes readers on a ride where they experience the story through all their senses; sight, sound, touch, smell and mental imagery through the use of beautiful word pictures.

Unlike romanticized Hollywood westerns of our parents’ time, in this story you’ll find good and bad on all sides. These truly are three dimensional characters; characters based in the realities of life, not cowboys in white hats and villains in black.

Characters define this story and lead us through the plot. In these characters we see complex personalities. Most of the story is presented through the eyes of the protagonist, Colum McNeal. Colum faces life and death situations from multiple characters who would love to kill him. He understands the motivation of two of them; revenge. Another, long time acquaintance, Mason Lohman is a mystery to him.

Julia Robb relies heavily on inner dialog. You’ll spend almost as much time inside these characters heads as you do watching the action taking place around them. There is a powerful psychological feel to the story.

That said, there are well executed fight scenes; those between individuals and between larger groups; from gun battles to knife fights, you’ll be at the center of the action in these fast paced, rapidly changing scenes.

Julia will help  you see touching emotions from many of the characters; not just the protagonist. Much of the story is centered on pioneer settlers and their Native American rivals; other parts between Texas Rangers and the U.S. Cavalry. You’ll get a balanced, realist portrayal of each. Clementine Weaver, the wife of one of Colum’s neighbor, has adopted an Apache orphan. This orphan child is the son of José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache and at one point we see his love for the child. Column is drawn to her as she nurses him through recovery after a brutal attack. His feelings become much more than sentimental.

Mankind has a history of brutality during war. Scalp Mountain doesn’t look the other way when it comes to violence. These scenes of gruesome violence will make you shudder at the harsh realities we humans foist upon one another. Atrocities occurred upon and from each of the opposing groups.

You’ll find things about the white pioneers and the Apaches you admire. I think you’ll come away with a fuller, richer understanding of the real dynamics of the late 1800s in West Texas.

The author has done thorough research and that research has paid dividends in this well written story about difficult times and circumstances.

Book Description

It’s 1876 at Scalp Mountain and Colum McNeal is fleeing gunmen sent by his Irish-immigrant father. Colum pioneers a Texas ranch, a home which means everything to him, but struggles to stay there: José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache, seeks revenge for the son Colum unwittingly killed.

At the same time, an old acquaintance, Mason Lohman, obsessively stalks Colum through the border country, planning to take his life. Colum has inspired the unthinkable in Lohman. In a time and place where a man’s sexuality must stand unchallenged, Colum has ignited Lohman’s desire.

Other characters include Texas Ranger William Henry, who takes Colum’s part against his father while wrestling with his own demons. Henry’s family was murdered by Comanches and he regrets the revenge he took;
and Clementine Weaver, who defies frontier prejudice by adopting an Indian baby, must choose between Colum and her husband.

Scalp Mountain is based on the Southern Plains’ Indian Wars.
Those wars were morally complex, and the novel attempts to reflect those profound, tragic and murderous complications.

“Everyone was right, everyone was wrong, everyone got hurt.”

For more information, visit my website, at scalp and the blog, at

About the Author, Julia Robb

I’m a former journalist and editor-I spent 20 years in the newspaper business-and I’m now a free-lance writer/editor in Marshall, Texas. For fun, I drive across Texas, to the deserted corners, the wide spaces, heading west past Waco, watching the mesas float in the distance.

I began writing “Scalp Mountain” in 2009, when I saw images in my mind; a man kicking his horse into a gallop, racing away from a crime, two men fighting in a Texas valley, a woman hugging an Indian baby, refusing to let him go.

Excerpt about the history of West TexasBuddies in the Saddle said about “Scalp Mountain,”

“This is a fine novel. If you drew a line between “Lonesome Dove” and “All the Pretty Horses,” you would find “Scalp Mountain” somewhere along the way…..there were times when this one had me and refused to let go. For anyone who likes their westerns well grounded in history, this is one you don’t want to miss.”

For more information, visit my website at, and my blog, at Julia Robb’s Blog.

“Here’s the truth:
Everyone was right
Everyone was wrong
And everyone got hurt.
Scalp Mountain, an ebook on sale at, is my attempt to describe this uniquely American tragedy, through the lives of fictional characters.”

To purchase the book, visit: Amazon Purchase Link  


Filed under Book Review, Historical Fiction, Texas, Texas Rangers, Writing

Book Review — Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

“My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other. . . .” —Steinbeck in a 1938 letter

Cover of "The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Cl...

Cover of The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Classics)

After years of suffering through the Great Depression and sweeping devastation caused by ‘Black Blizzards’ during the Dust Bowl era, farmers and share-croppers of the southern plains began an odyssey toward hope and the green valleys of California. This was a time of sweeping social and economic change. This was a time when banks, powerful land owners, mechanized farming, prejudice and bigotry sent people packing.

While working as a journalist in San Francisco, John Steinbeck wrote a series of feature articles about these migrant workers. He developed a powerful respect for their initiative and empathized with their plight. Those articles were the stimulus that drove him to write Grapes of Wrath. A short time after its publication, Grapes of Wrath received the 1939 Book of the Year Award from the American Booksellers Association. In 1940 it won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck used powerful, lyrical prose while establishing many of the scenes his characters lived in and passed through. He had a gift of writing in the vernacular language of the people of Oklahoma, and the surrounding states. Most chapters were anchored in dialog between the Joad family members and those with whom they had contact. Most of the story centers on protagonist Tom Joad, second son and parolee from an Oklahoma state prison. Ma Joad, the matriarch of the family is the glue that holds the family together.

The first half of the book follows the family along Route 66 from eastern Oklahoma across the state into the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Arizona and deserts until they are awed by the beauty of California. Along the way, they experience devastating losses, disappointment, and innumerable hardships. The Joad family meets and bonds with fellow travelers, and experience the generosity of a restaurant cook and waitress. After arriving in California, the family learns harsh realities of life as Okie migrants while camping in one of the infamous Hooverville camps or shanty towns.

Steinbeck gives the reader glimpses of the causes and social issues as seen through the eyes of his characters, but he doesn’t stop there. At times he breaks up the journey and branches into short narratives that read like prose poems. In these narratives he frequently uses repetition to drive home his message. He hammers on banks. He has little patience for land owners who call the migrants squatters even though many of these people acquired the land earlier though questionable means.

He shows us sheriffs, vigilantes and private security officers working as pawns of the powerful. These are the implements of injustice and the source of escalating tensions. They will stop at nothing to quash dissent. Migrants are exploited through the devaluation of their work by these land owners.

Grapes of Wrath lives up to its accolades. Be prepared for an emotional ride. Use it as an opportunity to assess your prejudices and preconceived ideas about this trying time in our history. If you haven’t read Grapes of Wrath, you need to do so.

John Steinbeck wasn’t alone in his call for better treatment of migrants. Dorothea Lange featured this population in brilliant photo essays. I’m including a link to some of her iconic images.

Dorothea Lange: Migrants in Steinbeck Country

Quote from, Steinbeck, John; DeMott, Robert (2006-03-28). The Grapes of Wrath . Penguin Group. Kindle Edition..

Content resource:


Filed under Award, Book Review, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Author Interview: Black Loon Lake

by Sandy Coelho

I’m pleased to bring back Sandy Coelho to answer questions about why she wrote, Black Loon Lake. I’m including the book description to help set the context of our conversation.

by SL Coelho

Black Loon Lake, novella cover

 Black Loon Lake Book Description

The novelette Black Loon Lake is rooted in the back-country of British Columbia’s wilderness, where it sets the stage for a tension building, suspenseful read. Three tree planters take advantage of a short break between planting seasons, rest and rejuvenation are on the agenda. What actually happens, no one could have predicted. Engrossing, chilling, and creepy; this vivid, fast paced story is written to entertain.
Tranquil, timeless and treacherous. Those who venture there, are dying to see it!

Welcome back, Sandy. I found Black Loon Lake to be thrilling fiction. Your description of the landscape and the characters within the story gave me a sense of genuine authenticity. While the story is fiction, I’m convinced much of it is based in reality.

  • I believe you’ve mentioned that you and your, family have camped in the British Columbia wilderness which is the setting for the story. Would you like to share some of those experiences?

You’re correct. Before we had our two youngest children, my husband and I spent nearly every weekend from mid-May to mid-September camping at Forestry Reserve sites. Many of these sites are deep in the back country of British Columbia and have zero amenities, but have some of the most spectacular scenery and fishing you can imagine. You must be prepared for every contingency because you are over 2 hours from the nearest town, and there is no cell phone reception. The Conservation officers are strict on rules, what you pack in, you pack out – they take preservation seriously. If you ever have the opportunity to camp like this – it should be tried at least once. It is a serene, beautiful experience.

  • The central characters are tree planters. How did you happen to choose this as background of your characters?

Living in B.C. we’ve come to know a few tree planters. I also researched the profession. It is a difficult way to make money, but their stories have kept us entertained for hours. They are an important part of the green movement and reforestation. If it wasn’t for the hard work of a tree planter – future generations may not have wood to build homes, furniture or know the importance the eco-system plays in the health of our planet. We owe them much IMHO.

  • You feature a Conservation Officer in the story. What has your typical experience with these professionals and do you know what their usual roll is?

I have friends in this diverse profession, I asked questions and conducted research. In a nutshell, they conserve and protect our natural resources, enforce provincial compliance with environmental laws, and are involved in search and rescue. They have a special investigations unit which deals with criminal behavior which may have an environmental impact.

  • Have you had contact with dangerous creatures in the wilderness?

Yes. This province is primarily forest so wildlife encounters are unavoidable. We’ve encountered Bears (Black, Brown) and have seen Grizzlies from a distance; Moose (which can be extremely dangerous), and Cougar not far from our current home. In fact, this morning we had Conservation Officers knock at our door to warn us a large black bear was spotted in our neighbor’s yard earlier in the day. My husband has had a close encounter with a rattlesnake, he just missed stepping on it – he was warned by its rattle. You have to be aware of your surroundings and go out prepared – then you can enjoy the beauty without fear.

  • My purpose with this interview is to draw more readers to your compelling story. Are there other comments you would like to add?

Without giving anything away, I think Black Loon Lake is a relevant, fun read. It’s a novelette so not too big a time commitment. If you enjoy a thrill, pick it up, in fact…download it to your e-device and enjoy it while you’re camping!

Rich, thank you for taking the time to feature my story. You have said you enjoyed it and I hope others will also find it entertaining. I appreciate being here and your support. I’m deeply grateful.


Filed under Author Interview, Book Review, Books, Creative Process, Thriller