Book Review: Accidental Alchemist

In honor of today’s author’s book launch announcement (the  Masquerading Magician… book two in the series being available in January) and pre-sale kick off – I’m posting this book review a little early)

Book Blurb

From USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian comes a modern tale of ancient intrigue

Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-half-foot gargoyle—not to mention a master of French cuisine—and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past . . . until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice.

 The concept

The Characters:

Main Character:

Character Name:  Zoe Faust

What works – Zoe is a very down to earth character who simply wants to blend in, but she is anything but ‘normal’

Least Favorite trait – Zoe has suffered loss and it still weighs heavily on her mind.  (I like characters who are happy until I start messing with them– but that’s me).  She’s a little too maudlin for my tastes, but again… that’s me.

Why it works/doesn’t work:  Zoe is a multi-layered character who wants to stay under the radar.  This makes for… complications… in her relationships.  She is a  well grounded woman who has had a lot of time to understand herself, having accidentally found the elixir of life (hence the Accidental Alchemist)

What I liked:  I liked the depth and character in the story and it was done in such a way that I was able to lose myself in the story.

What I didn’t like:  There was one moment, at the end, when the police made a very rookie mistake… other than that…

This was a delightful find and one of’s deal of the day audio books – I’m very glad I purchased it.  My one complaint was the fact that there were recipes in the print book unavailable for Audio listeners, but borrowing it as a library book took care of that issue.

All in all an enjoyable story.  Looking forward to book two due out January 8th 2016.


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Story: Count Down

This story first appeared yesterday for Siobhan Muir’s Thursday’s Threads. A slightly longer, better edited version follows:

Staring anxiously at the timer, Beth let her breath out slowly.

“The clock is running out,” she said in a husky whisper, as if she thought being quiet would keep the thing from going off.

“I know,” I answered, a bit more harshly then I’d intended. “Just let me think…”

She remained where she was, simply watching me. I don’t know which would have unnerved me more – her going to pieces as I studied the wiring or her sitting there, just… just watching.

At the time, just watching me was bad enough, but I don’t think I could have taken her losing it.

I could feel her breath catch as I ghosted my hands over the writing trying to figure out design and purpose for everything through osmosis. For future reference boys and girls… it doesn’t help.

I looked at the timer and bit my lip. “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” I finally said as I picked up the dykes to snip the wire.

“Well, when you put it that way… cut the blue wire,” Beth suggested.

Though her voice trembled, I could see the humor in it. I hesitated a moment and then cut the blue wire. And then the red one…and the black one just to be sure.

A moment later the oven timer went off and Beth pulled the souffle from the oven.

This time the smoke detector did not go off.

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Book Review – A Man of Character

  • Author: Margaret Locke
  • Title: A Man of Character
  • Pages: 334 Pages
  • Formats: Kindle, paperback
  • Availability: Amazon, B&N
  • Website:

Book Blurb

What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?

Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

A startling revelation – that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago – forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.

Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect – who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which—or whom—she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.

 The concept:  A bookstore owner receives a book her father intended for her, but it was lost when he passed away and the mysterious book, along with some long forgotten stories she wrote when she was younger… seem to be coming to life.

The Characters:

Main Character:

Character Name: Catherine Schreiber

What works – Catherine is a likable young woman, headstrong, independent on the outside, but aching on the inside.  You feel for her and you want her to succeed.

Least Favorite trait Catherine lost in love once, very hard, and gave up.

Why it works/doesn’t workI sometimes couldn’t tell if she believed in the ‘oddness’ surrounding the manuscript or not.  Having given up on love , as Catherine did, means that when you do find it, you’re more reluctant to believe it, slower to accept it and more afraid of it than you should be.

What I liked:

 I really liked the characters that populated the story (and Catherine’s mind)  I like that love did matter to her, and she was (finally) able to open herself up to the prospect of love, and being loved.

What I didn’t like: 

I didn’t like the ambiguity of the manuscript itself but then again… I’m a lot more mystery and suspense person than romance.  I like definitive answers and when it comes to supernatural twists… that isn’t always possible.

This was a delightful story, and I’m looking forward to its sequel (due out soon).

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Windows 10 – One feature that makes it worthwhile

When I’m not writing, or writing about writing… I’m a software developer with enough slashes after it to cover all things software, and more than a few hardware oriented geekly tasks.  It means wearing a lot of different hats, and having a big heaping pile of open windows on my desk top at any given time

I’ll be working on testing one thing and be asked to look into an issue a client is having when suddenly someone I contacted last week calls and is ready to handle the service call I tried to schedule.

Having to juggle windows, and minimize everything so I can take care of issue C, means losing which windows were related to issue A and which were issue B (not to mention issue P which is tied to my email and helpdesk software which I just accidentally closed rather than minimize when I scrambled to get everything ready for issue C.)

I have actually made it to step A: “Please give me a minute…”

But there’s still that upheaval as everything related to issue A and issue B are turned into a ton of open windows with no immediate reference as to which windows, browser and or applications are associated with which.

Enter Windows 10, Virtual Desktops.  Now , instead of opening everything on one screen/desktop or getting a second screen on your computer (which I also like) you can open a virtual desktop- group all the applications and windows associated with issue A on one desktop, all of B’s windows open on another desktop– and when that client calls… you can open desktop #3 and use that window to load what you need to assist your client without having to go back at the end and sort through which apps were open for which task.

You simply swipe from the left side (touch screen) or click the icon in the tool tray and you can not only switch to an open item, you can switch to a new desktop and load what you need there.

Now that is something I can really use, and makes the switch to 10  a worthwhile process.

My 2 cents, your mileage may vary.


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Story: In the Dark, They Sing

Ink After Dark held their first Monster Mash contest where they supplied the titles and the writers supplied the stories to go with them.  The title I chose was one of the most popular: “In the Dark, They Sing”    Now that the competition is over, I submit the story (edited slightly) for your enjoyment.  Happy Halloween! 


In the Dark, They Sing
by M.T.Decker

Singed earth and acrid smoke filled my nostrils as I choked back a scream. The last thing I wanted was for them to see me.

I moved as quickly as I dared through the chaos unfolding around me. I wasn’t sure how they picked their prey, but God, those little buggers were fast. I had almost made it to cover when I saw one of them standing in my path, an odd little beatific smile on his face.

I grabbed the first thing in reach and threw it at the little monster’s feet. I had to shut him up before he could alert the others to my presence.

My heart pounding, I reached the stairs and broke into an all our run, nearly bowling the thing over. I prayed it was alone as I ran. The only thing scarier than the young, were their parents. The adults were bigger and meaner than the little ones, the only thing that made my life easier in dealing with them was the fact that they were slower— and there were much easier targets surrounding me.

I pushed past the little thing as quickly as I dared, praying I was fast enough and didn’t hurt it in front of its progenitor. I had nearly made it to safety when I heard and odd noise and one by one they turned their eyes towards me. I felt my heart in my mouth as I grabbed the door handle and wrenched it open. I had to get inside, put at least a door between me and the hoard of screaming things. I was so close and yet I knew there was no way I was going to make it without bloodshed.

“Easy there,” I said softly, trying to not let my near terror show. If they saw it, I knew it would be over for me. I held my hand out in front of me as the little ones began pointing towards what I’d thrown, and the greedy expression on the youngster’s face as it tore into the box and devoured it.

“Yeah,” I said. “There’s more where that came from.”

It came out with more of a snarl than I’d intended, but now I was backing away, and all that stood between me and safety was three feet of dead space and a lock.

“Let me just get inside and I’ll get you more.”

Their ears picked up at that, and I could see the adults on the outside edges of my vision. It was going to be close.

“Why don’t you just wait here, and I’ll be right back…”

One of them saw the basket in my hand and started to salivate. I tried not to scream, I really did… but there were some things that were too frightening, even for me. I dropped the basket, turned on my heels and prayed I fit the key into the lock before they got to me.

My pulse racing I turned the key… felt the door stick as I heard the crunch of footsteps behind me. I threw the door open, and ran inside slamming it behind me.

Outside the creatures chorused in unison…their screeching voices rising in an oddly musical crescendo, but I was safe… or was I?

I heard a rustle behind me and yelped with surprise as the chorus was repeated behind me.

“Trick or treat!”

I’d forgotten about my own little monsters.


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Writing Deadlines

It’s funny, I participate in flash fiction contests where you have anywhere from one hour to one week to write a story and publish it, and yet having a month to write up to three stories for an anthology fills me with dread.

I think its partially because with a 24 hour deadline, there’s no time to worry about it: you either have it or you don’t.  Sometime the magic works, and sometimes you wish you’d stayed in bed.  Either way, it’s over before you have time to really think about what you’re doing.

Flash Fiction, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is used to describe short stories that are usually less than a thousand words long.  The idea being that it’s fiction you can read in a flash.  Sometimes you write it in a flash as well.

The first flash fiction story I ever wrote was in a creative writing class in school.  It was very short and to the point, and I can remember it to this day:

The Third World War

The End

Until I started writing Flash Fiction, before I started participating in National Novel Writing Month… I never worried about word counts.  I used however many words I felt it took to tell my story and it was finished when I decided it was finished.

I liked it that way– but then of course… nothing ever got published because it wasn’t good enough, it was too long… or… can wait while I work on documentation.

I think the closest I came to a deadline before all this was documentation, and even that was subjective.

Any deadlines I faced were self imposed, and that might be one of the key differences.  When you’re facing a hard deadline, imposed by someone else, it means you have to have to meet the deadline or you don’t get published. PERIOD.

That sounds awfully final, and it is.  Yes, I could miss it, and not be in the anthology but I really want to be there so I need to get over my fear of deadlines, stop writing about them and … write.

In the end, that’s what this is all about.

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Book Review – Stone and a Hard Place by R.L. King

Book Blurb

It’s hard enough for Alastair Stone to keep his two lives—powerful mage and mundane Occult Studies professor—separate without an old friend asking him to take on a new apprentice. Especially after a university colleague wants him to investigate a massive old house for things that go bump in the night. Still, Stone figures it’s an easy job: just turn up, put on a little show, and announce that the house is clean.

Only it isn’t. A malevolent spirit is reawakening in the basement, imprisoned between dimensions and intent on escape. If it succeeds, countless people will die. Worse, a trio of dark mages want to help it break free so they can control it for their own sinister purposes. They’ll do whatever it takes—including seducing Stone’s young apprentice and using him against his master—to get what they’re after.

With time running out, Stone has to stay alive long enough to uncover the spirit’s secrets. But even if he does, he fears that his own power won’t be enough to send it back.

 The concept – I have to admit to having a weakness for stories that take place in the ‘real world’ or a slightly altered version of our world.  In this case magic and the supernatural exist alongside the world as we know it.    It’s why I like things like Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde Series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  (It’s also why I smiled when I saw a youngster stick his head in the fridge at a grocery store and exclaim “There’s a whole miniature world in there.”)

It makes it easy to believe it could be happening right next door.

The Characters:  I liked that the characters were real.  They made mistakes, they didn’t see a pattern in things– they were thrown into a situation and had to do their best to get through it.  They were human and believable.

Main Character:

Alastair Stone: Acerbic occult studies professor and practicing mage… well actually he’s a tad out of practice practicing mage.  He’s been doing more research than practical lately and his practical has been leaning towards protective magic.

What works – Alastair’s personality and curiosity make him interesting to follow.

Least Favorite trait – His quickness to dismiss things that turn out to be important.

Why it works/doesn’t work:  This works because if you don’t like the lead character, no matter how good the rest of the story is- you aren’t going to enjoy the read.  His dismissal of seemingly unrelated things works because he doesn’t know he’s in the middle of a mystery and isn’t privy to the other instances the readers see.

What I liked: 

I liked the fact that this was a character driven story and didn’t bog itself down in mechanics.  It was a story that drew me in and made me want to read more.

What I didn’t like:

I so wanted to slap a few characters’ heads together.  When the apprentice is doing stupid kid things, I wanted to cringe and hide, but that’s my quirk and I know it too well.  It’s one of those double edged swords where is is very real for a youngster to be a youngster and do stupid things– and yet I have trouble watching it.

I enjoyed the story immensely and was surprised to realize that my back seat driving would have saved one character… but would have pretty much destroyed the world and killed everyone else.

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