Book Review Chronicles of the Marauder

Book Review of Chronicles of the Marauder Book 1 by A. G. Moye

I was intrigued by the initial setup. This story might easily take place just a few years from now! Neil wins “the largest lottery jackpot in American history allowing him to fulfill his lifelong dream of going to space.” Using his newfound funds to help finance his dream, he builds a ship to go to the stars on a ten year mission of exploration, hoping to answer the question: Do aliens exist? Due to circumstances beyond his control, sixty-eight percent the crew are females, an idea I found quite interesting. An ex-Naval officer, Janice, is the Commander, and Boris, the inventor of the new drive that takes them faster than light, initially attempts to under-mining Neil’s authority as Captain.

To the author’s credit, there isn’t any “slow action” chapter in the novel! He paints a realistic picture of the crew adjusting to their new lives onboard the ship, as they work out the kinks of the new spaceship. I found this portion of the novel quite “believable,” requiring no stretch of imagination — a good solid reality. Further, I found the character development to be done extremely well. They are not shallow face-cards, but believable, real people, a compliment to the author’s skill.

When the new Boritin space drive is fired up, it works, moving them faster than light, but in so doing, it takes them so far away that they cannot recognize any star patterns and are lost. Undaunted, they begin to explore and discover they have arrived close to an alien debris field, the remnants of a gigantic space battle involving several different species of aliens.

Aliens. I am always keenly interested in how other authors envision and present alien species. I’m not about to spoil this aspect for you, but I will say I was surprised by the originality of the author’s aliens. True, they pose a huge problem for Neil and the crew. What I truly enjoyed was the initial stark contrast between the alien civilizations and our own. I was surprised and amused to discover humanity’s positive aspects, such as love, compassion, and unwillingness to murder, rubbing off on a few of the aliens. The book ends in a cliff-hanger so be prepared to read the second in the series.

The originality, the character development, the realism, the plot and the action sequences are all good.

In the earlier e-book edition, the copy editing was extremely poor. Because of non-standard and sometimes incorrect or lack of punctuation, sentence fragments not part of someone’s speech, participial phrases modifying the wrong target, and more, the text then was very difficult to read. Often, I had to reread a paragraph several times to attempt to decipher what the author intended.

Important note: This is a new e-book printing and the author has made a drastic improvement in all these categories! While some of these still exist, they no longer impede reading this exciting novel. Thus, I give it a four-star rating.

I received a free copy of the earlier printing and the revised printing in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review of Super Teacher’s Six Success Steps

Book Review of Super Teacher’s Six Success Steps: Winning Teaching Methods with Active Brain Based Learning and Teaching by Jason Stanley Ph.D.

This is the second book in the series and is designed to show how the principles are actually applied in school classroom settings from Kindergarten through high school and beyond. It’s not a theory-based book but a practical guide on how to actually implement the six steps. While there is no scientific study of this system, the results from using this method obtained in the pilot school are not only exceptional but also very dramatic!

This book is valuable for new teachers as well as veterans in that it gives new practical ways to overcome student boredom, to motivate students, and to enhance their long term retention of “facts.” By using these techniques, the students will become an active part of the classroom learning environment instead of passive listeners.

The book covers the six key steps of the Active Brain-based Learning And Teaching (ABBLAT) method. Key to the process is changing the state of the student to reduce boredom and to actively engage them in the learning/teaching process. The book is a practical guide demonstrating just how to actually carry out these six steps in the classroom. Thus, it is filled with examples that are simple to follow.

At several points, reference is made to the first book in this series, which provides the theoretical background and the basis for this method. One does not need to have read the first book in order to fully grasp the methods in this second in the series. When needed, such key underlying data are presented. The case study and results are fully discussed at the end of the book, along with two helpful appendices for those who wish to implement some of the techniques.

The writing style is highly personal with rhetorical questions designed to involve the reader at every step in the process. It is anything but formal writing or that of a college textbook, which makes this book an easy read for anyone. One caution: I found the writing style frequently reminded me of one of those slick, TV Infomercial super-salesmen.

I give this book a 5-star rating because, in my own opinion, if early education teachers even used a portion of this system, the students would benefit greatly from it.

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Book Review of Dreamers by Ted Farrar

Book Review of Dreamers by Ted Farrar

Dreamers by Ted Farrar. I have to say, the very beginning of this book is definitely different and disturbing. But by the end of Chapter 1, we see just why it is this way. In the first chapter, the lead character, Wilson Cole, is “living” a nightmare. His dreaming has, as it has with several other people, taken him into “Limbo,” neither Heaven nor Hell, but a way stop between the two. Bizarre, hideous, viciously cruel, sadistic – this world is gruesome and vividly described by the author. There, Cole witnesses a powerful “entity” known as Greensprite viciously murder another dreamer. The “demon” tells Cole that he is going to kill all these special dreamers, like himself. He wakes up.

We then learn that he has been a volunteer at the Dream Institute for some months, long with many others, of which twenty have “special” dreams similar to his own, namely visiting Limbo. When he returns to his home, an assassin attempts to murder him, but fails. And here is where it become a very fascinating read and really takes off.


Cole possesses some form of supernatural powers, in that he can by thought alone materialize various physical items, such as a ray gun. When the police arrive to investigate, they find bullet holes but no slugs. Now the murders begin to pile up. Jim, who was running the dream experiments, is killed, and Cole becomes prime suspect number one. As more and more of these dreamers and others turn up dead and the police investigate, Cole continues to be their top suspect, but he has no idea who is behind the murders. Necessity forces him to do his own investigation to find out who this supernatural killer is, along with just how does one defend against it and even stop this murderer before he can kill again.

Warning: Cole is not a character that I could identify with or even like as a person. He’s a societal scumbag, uncouth, drunken, self-centered, crass, loser who is on public dole, wholly unlikeable for many, I would suspect. Nevertheless, Cole as a character is very well done, a very believable but disgusting person. This is meant to be part horror story and it certainly is that.

That said, the story is an excellent one, well-thought out, with a surprise ending that I definitely did not see coming!

Much of story revolves around the Leeds police investigation into all these murders, rather like a murder mystery novel. I really enjoyed Inspector Alex Gumbold, who reminded me of Inspector Morse! What I found very realistic was the police incompetence of upper management, often obstructing Gumbold’s excellent detective work. I’ve seen such corruption in other institutions more times than I’d care to.

If you can survive the Prelude and first chapter, the rest of the book flows along very well. The pace of action is nicely done. I particularly liked the many references to rock bands scattered throughout. Now that I’ve finished it and have absorbed the surprise ending, I can honestly say that I missed those musical clues. Hindsight is perfect! The story is fascinating and provocative, a good read.

For British readers, I give this book a 4-star rating and encourage you to get past that first chapter. However, for US readers, you will need both a British Idioms and British Slang dictionary! Nearly every page is filled with English vernacular, some of which are almost indecipherable without looking them up. No, I’m not talking about boot (trunk) or petrol (gas), but owt and buggered, and even a US one, gollywog. (Look them up.) Because of the heavy use of “British-ism’s”, for normal US readers, I give it a 3-star rating, unless you are well versed in British idioms and slang, which makes this book a tough read for those of us on this side of the “pond.” Even so, it is still well worth reading for US readers, for the plot and action are well done.


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Debugging C++ Video Lecture 5

Debugging C++ Video Lecture 5

I’ve just uploaded the next lecture in debugging C++. This time, I spend some time going over the generic double linked list class because this sample will be the basis for several subsequent lectures.

In this debugging lecture, I present the debugger’s Memory Watch window. It allows you to examine any memory location in both hex and ASCII formats. Sometimes, locating the source of the memory leak can lead directly to the location of the coding error that is creating wild results. This example is one of these. By trying to locating the memory leak, we are led directly to the error.

This sample has been added to the site’s free download section along with the others.

Here’s the fast link to the video:
Debugging Lecture 05

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Book Review: Chasing Fate by Maria Miller

Book Review: Chasing Fate by Maria Miller

Chasing Fate, by Maria Miller is one those books that you just can’t stop reading. Both a mystery and an action adventure, Chasing Fate gave me an exciting read right from the first page. The lead heroine, Kate, is near the end of her senior year in high school, a typical teenager, who can’t wait to finish school. Why? He father, though wealthy and a well-respected businessman, is also an alcoholic, frequently terrorizing Kate and his wife. As the story begins, coming home drunk again, he ripped up Kate’s final term paper for her English class, a paper worth seventy percent of her grade. Kate has never told anyone about her home situation, claiming this time she didn’t write the paper. Her teacher gives her one last chance. Interview someone.

Wanting nothing to do with her father’s friends, she rebels and interviews a homeless bum in the park, there in New Orleans. Expecting nothing much from the man, she hears an incredible story. He was a Navy SEAL and a sniper, who has murdered many. However, on his last assignment, he stole a golden idol from a cave in the jungles of Ecuador, before shooting his partner, who was also supposed to shoot him. Now, the bum is remorseful, haunted by his memories, and wants to return the idol and receive forgiveness. Knowing that he cannot do it, he gives the idol to Kate, begging her to return it to its rightful owners.

Unsure how much of this tale is true, Kate takes a drawing of the idol to a local professor, who wants that idol at any cost! Worse, her English paper was discovered by a CIA official, who had ordered the SEALs to hit their last targets in Ecuador, in an attempt to cover up a secret covert operation of his. Now both men are after the idol and the CIA man wants her eliminated as well.

Kate’s onetime boyfriend, Jeff, rescues her just as two hit men are about to kidnap the unsuspecting teen. Mystified by this, Kate decides to return the idol to the bum in the park, but finds the bum missing and the park filled with men digging holes looking for something. Now, the situation turns deadly serious. Kate and Jeff flee their homes, intending to first get away from these men and later to try to return the idol themselves.

The two lead characters, Kate and Jeff, are well-developed and seem to me to be very real teens. In my opinion, the description of life with an alcoholic father is realistically portrayed and accurate, making the story seem very believable from the first pages.

The minimalist writing style combined with fast-paced action keeps the reader constantly moving through the pages! Although targeting YA, this novel is well worth reading by anyone who likes mystery and action-adventure. I give it 5 stars!


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Some of Crooked Willow Studio’s Artwork

Some of Crooked Willow Studio’s Artwork

I had some fun today photographing some of the marvelous acrylic paintings at Crooked Willow Studio.

I’ve put fourteen of them up here. Have a look.

And yes, I’ve used some as my book covers! Great painter.


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Why I Write Fantasy Novels

Why I Write Fantasy Novels

I get an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction from writing fantasy novels for three key reasons.

One, magic. What would life be like if one could cast magical spells? Such spells range from protection spells, such as my Skin of Stone spell – which protects the body from physical blows from things as sword strikes and even bullets, to offensive spells such as a Ball of Fire. Let your imagination flow freely and then ask yourself just what would live be like for you if you could do such things? Intriguing.

Two, mental skills that mimic magical spells. Often called psi powers, the same considerations apply. What would life be like if you had powers of the mind at your disposal, such as telepathy, telekinesis, and many more? Again, I find such notions highly intriguing.

Three, character development and interaction. I enjoy mocking up unique characters and then “wearing their hat,” writing as though I was that person. In fact, in one novel, I had a high action chapter involving seven quite different and unique characters constantly interacting with each other, making a fascinating read.

Back in the 1980’s, I played a lot of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, even going so far as having an article published in the Dragon magazine and a game module in the Dungeon magazine. That, coupled with my love of Tolkien, led me to write my first such novel, The Return of the Wizards.

From there, I decided to merge magic spells and psi powers. The result was the Trident Series, which also became a love story as well. In the third book in that series, you can find the chapter with the seven characters in action that I mentioned above. Jon Brown has the psi powers, while his new friends have magical spell casting abilities. His friends are each very unique with strong personalities, quite divergent from each other.

One of my students once asked me why I didn’t have a novel involving dragons. So I wrote the Zoran Chronicles in response, making dragons the focal point of that series.

Harry Potter was impressive. I just knew that I had to respond. After all, the US needs its own version. Thus, I began writing the Lindsey Barron series, which soon grew to six novels to tell her complete story. Then, later on, I added a twist. People can change. What would happen if the main evil wizard that haunted Lindsey in those six books suddenly changed – for the better? Enter the recent addition of the seventh novel in that scene! I’m just now finishing up the 8th, continuing  to explore that huge personality change.

As I wrote the two huge science fiction series, I could not help but have sections that are almost fantasy as well.

Several years back, they did a remake of Alice in Wonderland as a short mini-series. Impressed with it, I decided to try my hand at writing something akin to Alice. The result was Without Warning, a fanciful wonderland-like fantasy novel.

Nearing completion are several more completely different fantasy novels. Deadly Games (inspired by the Game of Thrones, whose author annoys me no end by killing off all the main characters, and which I certainly don’t in this one) and the three novel series Reclamation, inspired with the direction our country is going with its health care, big government, and corporation control of politics. With luck, they will be out in early 2014.

I hope you have as much fun reading them as I did writing them. They should stir your emotions as well as giving you something to think about, to ponder, when you are done with them, beyond just a good, exciting read.


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I Got Interviewed

I Got Interviewed

Recently, I got interviewed on an author’s blog. I discussed my science fiction writing and the Planet of the Orange-red Sun.

Link to the Interview

And no, I am currently not “blinded by the light.”


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My Review of the Puppeteer by Ian Miller

My review of the Puppeteer by Ian Miller.

Intense, riveting, thrilling, suspense — this novel is all those and one fascinating, complex mystery as well! Brilliantly conceived and superbly written, this novel will keep you guessing, figuring, wondering, and reading until the surprising ending. Ian combines tight action sequences with both suspense and an shroud of mystery.

The author’s book description is dead on: “When resource shortages, debt and terrorism threaten to bring anarchy to the world, one man sent on a mission to thwart hi-tech terrorism must find whoever is manipulating both terrorists and anti-terrorist forces to bring down governance. When he unravels the plot, his sense of honor is severely tested, but only unimpeachable honor can succeed.”

In my opinion, this is an understatement! When one looks at our own world situation today — with corrupt officials, with a global economy going bust propped up by newly printed money without any backing, with countries, states, and large cities spending far beyond their incomes, with greedy corporations looking only for profits, with barely one percent of the population holding nearly all the wealth and the rest struggling to get by, where the corporations and wealthy fund so many politicians, where global warming and dependency on fossil fuels never see workable, effective solutions — you can see how easily our world could become that in Ian’s novel. I was immediately stricken with just how his vision of a possible future could become our reality!

I began by saying this novel is a fascinating, complex mystery. It is that and more. I like a good mystery, but this one kept me contemplating guessing, and figuring chapter after chapter, as more clues were revealed — very well done! Careful, once you start reading this one, you are not going to want to stop until the end, so don’t start reading it at bedtime.

Ian’s writing is excellent. He’s found a perfect balance between action, suspense, mystery, and character development. I couldn’t help but notice that he’s from one of those “down under” countries, and I did have to look up a couple of words and learned that a “ute” is their word for a pick-up truck. While the action takes place in various countries around the world, a key location is the island group Les Îles Kerguelen, which I promptly had to look up on Google maps. So yes, I picked up a bit of geography as well as some unfamiliar words, all to the author’s credit, challenging me. Well done, Ian.

Ian left me with a heavy question to ponder: is this evil terrorist really a terrorist? The only criticism I have of the novel is its ending. I’m not sure that that outcome could really happen and that it would solve the societal problems, but that’s my opinion. What’s yours?

In short, I give Puppeteer, by Ian Miller a five-star rating and look forward to reading the sequels. He’s earned the rating!


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My Review of Saving Emma by Maria Miller

My review of Saving Emma by Maria Miller. Wow. What a story! I should begin by putting in a disclaimer. That is, if you believe the medical profession always knows best and never makes mistakes, that the FDA always has your best interests at heart, that the courts rapidly respond to inequities, that the newspapers and TV news reporters always deliver fair and accurate accounts of any story, then please don’t read Saving Emma, for you will be terribly upset. Seriously, I found this novel both refreshing and inspirational, and I was extremely impressed that someone would actually “tell it like it really is.”

The story line is precisely stated by the author in her “Book Description.” Young couple in love (Luke and Emma) get married after graduating from high school. He works hard to build up a business to support his family, but she get a nasty cancer and accepts traditional treatment, which doesn’t work. Luke discovers a different, unconventional treatment that has been proven to work, but finds it next to impossible to get Emma this treatment.

The battle to save Emma’s life is incredibly realistic on so many different levels. The medical profession often frowns on “alternative medicine,” sometimes quite harshly. The FDA and the major drug companies have a monopoly on dictating just what is “legal” to use. Just try to get your medical insurance to cover “alternative” medical procedures and drugs. (Did you know that it is against the law in our country to cure someone of an illness unless you are a registered doctor? Look that one up.)

My own father developed a form of cancer and sought “standard medical” treatment. At least he survived it, but had a very rough go. A friend of mine also developed the same form, but he sought “alternative treatments” and got his cured with no ill side effects, no radiation pellets in his body and so on. Thus, I found this novel hitting very close to home.

It is action-packed. I started reading and simply could not put it down until the end came! As the author presented the horrible situation that developed at the hospital and with the medical personnel, I found myself amazed that someone had the audacity to represent it so believably and realistically. But as I read on and saw how brilliantly the author handled the “press” and public opinion and reaction to Emma’s situation, I found myself cheering, “Exactly right!” The author has nailed this one down with a spike! I’m pleased that someone else knows the truth about the press and its treatment of truth and isn’t afraid to say so.

Enter the legal profession, as Luke frantically tries all avenues to save Emma’s life. Even this arena of our society is totally believable and realistically presented, no holds barred. I kept saying, “Come on, come on. You gotta save her.” The end of the novel came all too quickly for me.

Emotional? Saving Emma is that! But expect to have many different emotions stirred in you. I certainly did. Action? Absolutely. How can you not root for Luke to save Emma? (Me, well, I might have tried more “illegal” methods to save her.) Shocking? Yes, particularly if you believe what you hear on the news casts. Fast-paced? While there is one slow paced section, over all, it is quite fast-paced, particularly once Luke learns the truth about what’s happening to his wife. Disturbing? You bet it is disturbing and yet all too common in our society. The author certainly gives you something to think about, to ponder, and I believe that she wants you to take a look at our society and see if some of this might not be factual, although the story is fantasy.

I’m not an English teacher but I’d day that her writing style is rather simple and plain, easy to read.

I give Saving Emma a five-star rating. Thankfully, the author has the sequel to Saving Emma coming soon. I’m more than ready to read that one.

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