My novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, picked up by film maker

Yep, in my dream last night, my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, was picked up by none other than Peter Jackson himself. See, he likes dragons and destroying things and when he read my novel, he knew he had to put it on the big screen.

Needless to say,  I was overjoyed, as was my publisher.

Of course the film was a HUGE success and was up for 9 Academy Awards.  All of the authors from Month9Books and its imprints were there at the theater.  We were all dressed to kill and we made such a lovely bunch of giddy authors. My daughter, Heather Jessup, who is a real-life costume designer, did all the costumes for the film (I told Peter I wouldn’t allow the film to be made without my daughter as the CD. Let me tell you, she was stoked beyond stoked.)  Heather won an Academy Award for her role in the film. The film won a couple of other awards for musical score and set design, but I woke up before I found out if it won Best Picture.

Dreams. Ya gotta love them. And until my dying breath, this will be the next major dream I will see come true. Don’t believe me?  Just watch and wait.  Peter Jackson, if you’re out there … I’ve got my eye on you.  🙂

So, tell me. What is your BIG dream?


Follow the tour!

When Curiosity Quills asked if I’d like to participate in the blog tour for THE UNRAVELING, I had to say yes! I’m very excited about this book and I hope you will be, too.  as part of the blog tour, Curiosity Quills released an excerpt from the book, which you can read as well as listen to.  There is also a Rafflecopter Giveaway at the end so make sure you enter to win a copy of THE UNRAVELING! And now, without further ado…

Erin’s parents are murdered and she can sense that same malevolent energy hunting her down. With little time to grieve, Erin is forced into hiding and discovers an unusual ability she’s never had before — she can talk to animals!

With the help of her new found animal companions, she eludes the killer. Disguising herself as a boy, she joins the Autumn Gathering and is able to concentrate on the questions she needs to solve: Who killed her parents? Why are they trying to kill her, too?

Quakes, storms, and murders begin plaguing Erin’s world and she soon realizes that they’re all connected. The fabric of her world is just beginning to unravel…

Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Excerpt from Chapter 14

“There is something about our kind that the planet needs to be stable. We are bonded together. If you count the healer who was killed thirty years ago, and that is not much time to us or the planet, we have lost seven sages in a very short amount of time . Our world,” and he patted the ground, “had fifteen. When Syrah died we had fourteen but that was still enough for a strong bond. When you were born with the Sage Seed the connection started, even though your skills were underdeveloped. As you matured, we regained our fifteen special magnetic threads that were adequate for that stable planet bond. We are now down to nine from the potential optimum of sixteen, almost half strength. I don’t know the tipping point but we are dangerously close or we wouldn’t be getting all of this tectonic activity. Our world’s fabric is unraveling.”

Erin’s eyes were big as she took all of it in. “Then the earthquakes…?”

Lor nodded. “That special cohesion has been greatly weakened.”

“What are we going to do?” she whispered.

“I don’t know, but we must stop this. The danger is very real.”

Alliz spoke for the first time. “Lor is being very honest with you. We don’t know any more than what he shared. Most sages know that they are part of the weave of our world, but perhaps they don’t know it in the clarity that Lor expressed. Yet there’s a lot we don’t know. It wasn’t important for us to understand everything. It’s on a need-to-know-basis and only the Great One has access to more information. It’s part of his job. But from the time of the settlement, we have never been in this dire situation.” She held out her hands, palms up, in a shrugging gesture . “Now we are. I don’t know if the Great One has all of the answers either. I sense that there are complexities here that go very deep.”

The three sat a few moments and looked at each other. Erin was the first to move. She slapped the ground a couple of times and Tempo came running out of the shadows. After that sobering conversation, the three called it a night. Each companion, human and wild, had a lot to think about. Erin lay with Tempo curled at her side.

‘I wonder,’ Tempo said as he laid his head on Erin’s side and looked up at her, ‘if skunks are part of that weave?’

She stroked his head and back. ‘That is a good question, little one. I’ll bet they are. I just don’t know quite how all of this fits together.’

As Cear rose in the sky, it took awhile for sleep to come. Nuit watched from atop of Lor’s wagon in the muted amber moonlight. She thought of her young that had hatched the year before and had begun their lives in newly established hunting territories. Everyone on this world was affected by the actions of these few men who threatened Erin and Ree. She was determined to give Erin any help she could and agreed with Lor’s words. The danger was very real!

About the Author: Holly Barbo’s world is shaped by her love of her family, the beauty of the natural world in Northwest Washington State and an irrepressible creative drive.

Living where the scenery is incredible with a rich abundance of wildlife “is so special and soothing that it feels like a quiet kind of magic,” according to Barbo. She is drawn to creating stories where there is just a bit of something unworldly, perhaps it is magic or psychic skills. Her stories are mostly in non-urban settings and usually have some focus on nature, building a discordant drama inside the peaceful frame.

Follow the author at: Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Graceling – A Review

From the back cover:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight –     she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…

My Review:

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  This book came out in 2008 and it was always on my TBR list but I didn’t get around to it until the end of 2013.  Why did I wait so long?  This book is exceptional on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.

I’m not going to bore you and recap what the book is about as I already posted the back cover blurb.  I will say this is a fantasy novel I will read again and again.  GRACELING is confidently and smoothly written.  It’s fresh and new.  The plot moves along at a great clip…not too fast, not too slow.  Cashore gives the reader time to ponder the characters, the scenes as she takes you from one to the other.  The reader has time to absorb the plot, the scenery, the character interactions.  It’s breathtaking to not be rushed from one intense scene to the next.  Never once did I feel bored or have the need to skim to get to the next exciting part.  The story unfolds naturally.  Exquisitely. The dialogue has a classic style about it and there is a timeless energy in Cashore’s writing style.

The characters are wonderfully engaging.  Katsa is a fantastic heroine.  She’s strong but not sassy.  She’s far from predictable, and yet at the same time, the other characters know not to mess with her.  She’s not a typical, sassy heroine.  She’s a skilled fighter and has been since a young age.  She is conflicted, torn between what is right and what she needs to do to survive.  She’s wary, but not afraid.  She’s strong but vulnerable.  She has no desire to marry and she stands firm to that belief, though there is nothing to keep her from experiencing life’s pleasures.  She is headstrong, not on the delicate side, and yet there are moments where the reader senses a childlike devil-may-care attitude, even aloofness that makes her endearing.  She is definitely an odd mix of personality which makes her real and extremely likeable.

Katsa has a wonderful cast of supporting characters:  Helda, her attendant, Oll, Raffin (her off beat, loveable cousin), and The Council, a grassroots sort of political group determined to bring fairness, honesty and peaceful leadership to the seven kingdoms of the realm.  There is not one person or kingdom unnecessary in the telling of this story or what they mean to Katsa.

The biggest surprise for me was Katsa’s love interest, Po.  I am so happy this is not another one of those ‘twitterpated’ love stories that makes me want to gag.  Po is a prince, Graced like Katsa, in search of his grandfather who was kidnapped.  But Po turns out to be so much more than a love interest.  His character is so deep and the perfect match for such a strong heroine.  He is the catalyst that drops the wall Katsa has built around herself.  My heart is drawn to him because of his unconditional love for Katsa.  It is a pure, unselfish love with no strings, no expectations.  Completely and absolutely refreshing.

I was captivated and mesmerized by Cashore’s writing.  I couldn’t put it down.  At the end of every chapter I kept telling myself, “Just one more.”

GRACELING is a Young Adult novel and I would recommend it for readers 14 and up.  For parents, you should know there are some scenes of violence and sexual intimacy, but none of them are graphic or gratuitous.  I’ve read other YA books that ‘show’ so much more. 

So, in closing, GRACELING is an engrossing read with mesmerizing characters, a truly satisfying romance that is far from mushy, and a plot that will hold you spellbound.  Cashore knows how to weave and tell a compelling tale.  GRACELING is completely worth the read and the tired, blood-shot eyes that come along with it.

Rating:  5 stars

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The Next Big Thing

In the last two weeks or so I’ve been tagged by two authors – Julie and Kathils – to participate in the new blog hop sensation: The Next Big Thing!  The purpose:  discuss my current Work in Progress.  Seeing as I was tagged by not one, but two authors, I figured I should indulge all of you with some little tidbits about my  novel.

What is the working title of your book? In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  The idea has been swirling in my head since I was young.  I’m an army brat with a love for fantasy – the kind of fantasy that involves knights and dragons and sorcerers.  My Army dad was always a hero to me, as are our servicemen and women.  One Saturday morning while sitting in an IHOP, nine servicemen dressed in uniform, came in and took a table by the window.  Watching them, listening to them, the idea for my novel began to play out in my head and it wouldn’t stop.  I’ve been working on the trilogy ever since.

What genre does your book fall under?  a cross between urban and high fantasy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Kidnapped for his own safety, a seventeen-year old boy is thrust into a magical world hovering on the brink of war, and forced into finding a hidden ally before his arc enemies – a sorcerer and a dragon – can kill him.   (Still working on it but it’s what I have for now.)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Wow, my list is long (yes, I’ve thought about this a lot :-))  Are you ready?  Nicholas Haut, Vanessa Hudgins, Megan Fox, Cameron Bright, Jeremy Sumpter, Craig Parker, Roselyn Sanchez, David Wenham and Paul Rudd to name a few. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I would love to have my book repped by an agency, but I’ll probably end up going with a small press.  There are several out there I’m looking at who have a great reputation and same publishing model I’m looking for.  All options are open at this time.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Years.  I worked on it part-time to begin with only to realize I needed to do some research into medieval weapons, castles, locations, etc.  This put the actual writing on hold for a while.  Then I started writing again but I didn’t like the way it started, so I ditched it and started over.  I was also working full-time and trying to raise four kids, so time was limited.  Then I was laid off in 2010 from my job and, unable to find a job, dove into my manuscript with vigor.  I completed it in 2011, sent it off to a publisher who liked it but needed changes.  I’ve been working on those changes ever since, along with the other two novels in the trilogy.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I’ve been told my story has elements of Tolkien, Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Cassandra Clare and Anne McCaffrey mixed with my own flare, but as far as actual books?  I don’t think it’s been compared to any books.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There are mysterious tattoos, fight scenes to appeal to the YA male reader, a hint of love interest for the gals, a bit of sarcastic wit for the adults and some bad a$$ characters to love and hate.  There’s a good dragon as well as a very, very bad one, a couple of kick-butt fae, and an army of shape-shifting teens any kid would want on his/her side in an epic battle.  It’s a story of love, sacrifice and believing in one’s self.

And now, for my nominations, in no particular order:

Amy M. Newman

Kourtney Heintz

Tristan Berry

Jamie Ayres

Carrie Ruben


And anyone else who wants to play along.

Wednesday reflections: review of THE SEARCH, a short story by Susan Leigh Noble

From Goodreads:  For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?


A few days ago I had the extreme pleasure of reading the short story “The Search” by Susan Leigh Noble.  Susan approached me through the World Literary Café, and asked if I would be kind enough to do a review for her.  Seeing as her story was a YA fantasy, how could I turn her down?

Let me say I really, really enjoyed the story.  It is a perfect story to introduce young readers to fantasy.  It wasn’t difficult to read, and in no way insults the reader.

What I didn’t like about The Search

I felt it lacked a definitive ending.  I prefer short stories that follow a standard story line:  meet main character, discover his plight, experience the conflicts, and resolve the problems.  The Search fulfills all of them except for the last.  There isn’t a firm resolution.  The story isn’t ‘wrapped up’.  Rather it sets up the next short story in the trilogy.  While this is perfectly acceptable to do, I was expecting a stand alone. This isn’t bad; just not what I was expecting.

My second minor niggle is the story starts off at a breath-taking pace only to fall more into a quiet third person omniscient narrative.  I was expecting more action, but none came that matched the opening scene.  While this isn’t a bad thing, I felt slightly let down that the rest of the story didn’t keep up with the same pace as the opening.

What I loved about The Search.

The Search is an original story.  The main character, Tosh, is a cat, but not any type of cat.  He’s a STAC, a breed of telepathic cats determined to find the foretold Elemental – a human with extraordinary magical powers capable of saving The Land.  While the theme is common throughout fantasy stories, the fact that the lead character is a telepathic cat is unique.  Ms. Noble perfectly captures the essence of cat-dom and excels in portraying her protagonist with clarity, wisdom and humor.  The reader almost forgets the protagonist is a cat until he stretches or purrs or swishes his tail.  I am equally impressed with the other characters in The Search, from the wolves, to a sweet three-year old girl, to the wonderful Jonah Glade who rescues Tosh from a terrible, unfortunate incident.  They are well thought out, none are extraneous, and their appearances all help Tosh decide what he wants and move forward in his personal quest.

The setting, the world in which we travel, is well laid out and easy to imagine.  In most cases, the journeys take weeks, not days.  There are thick forests, poor villages, posh towns, rushing rivers, blight, and danger lurking around every turn.  We can smell the air, touch the earth.  Every sense is awakened.  Tosh’s trek is not an easy one and we feel every bruise, every sore paw and muscle as we tarry alongside him.

The plot is well thought out and carefully constructed.  We begin the story with Tosh and his charge, Nolan, an Elemental, fleeing from some men that Nolan angered.  Nolan is soon murdered, leaving Tosh alone.  Tosh must set out on another search for another Elemental with the powers to save The Land, but Tosh is torn between taking on another charge or settling down and living the easy life of a cat.  There is a lot of internal conflict as well as external and plenty of factors that could sway him to go either way.

Ms. Noble has a wonderful way with words that allows the reader to suspend belief.  Never for a moment did I think “We have a talking cat.  Cats can’t talk.’  Tosh’s journey, his internal conflict, his humor, his fears, all resonated deep within me.  I felt his agony, his torment, his sorrow, his joys.  I felt like I was right there with him the whole way.

I would highly recommend this short story for everyone, but especially for young readers who are not quite sure if they are interested in the fantasy genre.  For those already fond of the genre, you will find the story both heart-warming, entertaining and an easy, relaxing read.  If you like stories narrated in a fairy tale style, The Search is for you.  I definitely want to find out what happens to Tosh so I will also continue on with the next short story in the series, the Summoned.

I give this short story a solid 4 stars.  It would have been five had it had a solid resolution in the end instead of a set up for the next story in the trilogy.  Again, the ending wasn’t bad; I simply prefer closure in a short story.


susannoble.JPGSusan Leigh Noble has always loved to read. She has been writing since childhood – anything from poetry, short stories, news articles and finally full length fantasy novels. She has always loved dragons, magic and cats so it is no wonder she put them all together in her “The Elemental” trilogy.

When she isn’t writing, Susan is an active volunteer in her neighborhood and at her children’s’ schools. She lives with her husband and two children in Texas.

Connect with Susan:


Twitter: @SusanLeighNoble



Work in Progress Challenge

I was recently “tagged” by Julie Catherine in a book interview of sorts. I am glad to have this opportunity to share information about my work in progress and send my thanks to Julie Catherine and to all those down the line who continue to pass this challenge along.

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?

I have many works in progress but my baby is In the Shadow of the Dragon King.  It is the first in the Chronicles of Fallhollow saga trilogy.

2. Where did the idea for the WIP come from?

I’ve always had the story crawling around in my mind since I was young.  My dad was in the army and like a silly child, I envisioned his work as romantic, like the knights of medieval times.  Of course I always loved a fantastic fairy tale where knights and princes would come to the rescue of a fair damsel.  I always knew I wanted to combine the two together and have a young person lead the way as the knights and their army fought dangerous beasts like dragons.  The hero would always have magical folk to help (and hinder) along the way.  In 2003, I revisited an old manuscript I started years ago and piddled around with it part-time.  Then, in 2010 after I lost my job, I threw my entire being into finishing it, which I did in July 2011.

3. What genre would your WIP fall under?

Most definitely on the cusp of Young Adult/New Adult high fantasy.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Wow, you know, I’ve thought about this a lot and I keep coming back to the same folks.

David:                  Nicholas Hoult
Charlotte:        Alexandra Daddario
Lily:                     Natalie Portman
Slavandria:     Olivia Wilde
Eric:                    Cameron Bright
Sestian:            Jeremy Sumpter
King Gildore:      Craig Parker
Queen Mysterie:    Roselyn Sanchez
Trog:                David Wenham
Seyekrad:      Paul Rudd

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your WIP?

To keep him from being murdered, a passive seventeen-year old boy is kidnapped from his world and forced to fight a war steeped in sorcery.  His price of failure:  the annihilation of the girl he loves…and maybe a world or two.

6. Is your WIP published or represented?

Not yet.  It’s been to a publisher who came back and said they would consider it if I made some changes.  I’m making changes.  🙂

7. How long did it take you to write?

I’ve been at this off and on since 2003, but I seriously set my mind to finishing it in 2010.  I put “The End” on it in July 2011.

8. What other WIPs within your genre would you compare it to?

If you mean what other novels are out there like mine, I don’t think there are any.  I’ve read a lot of YA fantasy, but I don’t recall reading ones similar to this.  I’ve been told there are elements of Iron Fey meets Narnia meets Lord of the Rings with a whole lot of me mixed in.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?

I don’t think any authors inspired me to write this particular novel.  The story has always been in me.  It just took a long time to come out.  However, there are many authors who inspire me to write like: Raymond Feist, J.K. Rowling, Cassandra Claire, C.S. Lewis, Julie Kagawa, The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Perrault.

10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project.

As an army brat, I was lucky enough to travel a lot when I was young.  I actually lived in Germany for two years and during that time, I got to see a lot of castles and visit many medieval locations.  The romanticism of the medieval times always stayed with me.  It seemed all the stories I wrote while growing up were centered around castles, dragons, faeries and magic.  The older I got, the more entrenched in Arthurian legend I became.  I became obsessed with Merlin, Arthur, Gwynevere, and Morgana, and began reading anything that was similar.  I knew when I finally wrote my novel, it would be steeped in the same sort of myths and legends, and take place in castles I envisioned and made up in my mind.  Without a doubt, there would have to be dragons and sorcerers, mages and magic.

But I also spent many years in the south, making Georgia (United States) my home.  While living in Georgia, I traveled all over the deep-south:  Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, and came to know and love many places and people I encountered.  When it came time to write In the Shadow of the Dragon King, I knew I wanted the story to take place in two worlds existing side by side, sharing much of the same landscape, and I wanted my protagonist, David, to live in the mountains.   Some of the most beautiful land in the world is located in the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina, so I naturally picked a center spot of all three states.  I created the town of Havendale which is a stone’s throw from Kingsport and Bristol, Tennessee, two very real cities.  It’s a perfect backdrop for David’s story and it’s been a lot of fun creating two ‘worlds’ to accommodate his adventures.

One final thing …

Tag, You’re It:

As a final step of this Work In Progress blog post, I’m supposed to tag other writers who are then “it” to make a blog post of their own.  I’ve chosen three blogging buddies I know who are working on something:

Jennifer M. Eaton

Julie Reece

Terri Rochenski

I hope they choose to participate in this challenge.  You should really stop by their blogs to find out.

Chain Story Blogger Contest Winner Announced!

Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>As promised, today I announce the winner of the Chain Story Blogger Contest and Award!  I would like to thank all of you for participating and I really loved all the responses and seeing the story develop over the last week.

My 17-year old son, Kevin, read over all the entries several times and debated them, trying to decide which one he liked the best.  In the end, he had to pick only one, and that winner is…


Julie Catherine

Congratulations, Julie!  *throws confetti in the air*

I asked my teen which post of Julie’s was the deciding point and why.  He said the following was the one that he really liked the most:

“Green scales glimmered in the sunlight, flashing down the length of his sleek back and long, flickering tail. Darren’s emerald eyes rimmed with gold shone as he raised them towards the heavens and roared, belching crimson fire and tendrils of curled gold flame.”

Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>

He loved the description of the dragon and the atmosphere she created in this scene.  Kevin went on to say that he enjoyed all of Julie’s entries the best for her choice of words and how she was able to get across the meaning intended in as few words as possible.  She evoked a sense of mystery in her writing and kept him wanting to turn the page.  He also thought she made the characters pop off the screen.

There you have it, straight from the mouth of a seventeen-year old avid reader.  I liked this exercise, even for me, because I got to hear an unbiased view from a teenager about what he looks for when he reads:  few words, tight scenes, mystery, description and characterization.

Julie Catherine, as the winner you get the Chain Story Blogger Award

and a free critique from moi of the first 10 pages of your manuscript.  Please send your ten pages, double-spaced to me at  Please allow 2 weeks from the date I receive the pages to send back my comments (I do not foresee it taking this long but, just in case…) J.  Also, please stress in your e-mail exactly what sort of feedback are you looking for in addition to the line-by-line edit and critique.

Distractions – can playing games at work increase productivity?

Distractions.  We all have them.  Whether we work at an office or from home, we are distracted from our ‘job’ by ringing phones, meetings, the occasional thunderstorm outside, or someone dropping in to say hi.  Stay at home workers, I believe, are subjected to twice as many distractions, especially if you are a stay-at-home mom or dad.  Kids and pets have an uncanny way of interrupting the ‘work flow’.

But what about self-imposed distractions, like playing games at work.  For the last year and a half I’ve had the intense pleasure (and pain) of not working outside the home.  It’s not that I haven’t looked for a job.  Trust me, I have and still do.  Every day.  But seeing as no doors have opened at this point, I have been following my passion and writing my heart out.  During this time I have finished my novel, sent it out, received a request for a rewrite and finished it again for re-submission.   I’ve written several short stories, won a few awards for my writing, and am currently writing on books two and three in my YA fantasy saga.

But not all my time has been spent on writing.  Outside of my normal distractions  (kids, disabled hubby, animals, etc.), I have one self-inflicted distraction:

It’s not a difficult game but I like it a lot, for many, many reasons.

Wizard101 is a 3D massively multiplayer online role-playing game  Players take on the role of students of Wizardry to save the Spiral (which is the set of worlds this game takes place in), and battle a variety of creatures by casting spells using a turn-based combat system similar to collectible card . Players advance in the game by accepting quests to learn new spells, gain equipment, and collect gold.  Although designed for pre-teens, the game appeals to all ages.  Players can play alone but it really is a game designed to play with others, and in fact, many of the bosses you can’t beat without collaborative play.  During play, you can ‘chat’ with your teammates.  Many times, I don’t chat much at all.  I ‘listen’ to the conversations between the younger members.  Great fodder for a YA author.  Also, seeing that I write YA fantasy, this game is right up my alley for having fun.

But, how does playing games affect my writing ‘job’?  If I’m playing games, then how can I possibly get any work done?  Well, according to WorldWinner, a provider of online games, playing casual games at work can increase productivity.  The survey from their 2007 press release states (and I quote):


The survey, which involved more than 500 players who compete at, reveals surprising new reasons workers take time out of their day to play casual games. Among them, more than 80 percent of respondents who play online games during the workday feel better-focused on work as a result of periodic mental breaks associated with game play, 76 percent report improved productivity, and 72 percent rely on game breaks to reduce job-related stress.Recent studies suggest that a growing number of workers are seeking alternate ways to reduce stress while on the job; and a great many of them are turning to casual word, card and puzzle computer games.

In fact, more than 60 percent of gamers who play games during their workday use “brain teasers,” including puzzle/strategy games (such as Bejeweled 2) and card games (such as Solitaire and Free Cell), as a form of therapy during the day. When asked how game play recharges their creative juices, the great majority of respondents answered that online games “take my mind off of work for a few minutes” or “calm me down after something has frustrated me.” An inference easily drawn from these findings is that casual game play may boost productivity by serving as a healthy way to refocus the mind in high-stress situations.


I personally find this to be true with me and my writing.  Many times I’ll get to a spot in a chapter or a short I’m writing and my brain freezes. I don’t know where to go with it or what to say.  At that point, I either take 20 -30 minutes to unwind in Wizard101, or I go for a 20 to 30 minute walk.  Sometimes, if time and weather permit, I do both.  It’s amazing what that time away from the ‘job’ can do to revitalize the brain and the body.  After such a break, I am able to go back to several more hours of work.

There’s no doubt that everyone needs a break at work, but whether this calls for gaming stations to be implemented at workplaces across the country is another matter… Does your employer let you sneak in the odd game at work?  If you’re self-employed, do you play a game of Angry Birds or Solitaire every now and then?  If not, maybe you should.  It might just increase your productivity.

Review of the 3rd Installment of Henry Neff’s Tapestry Series – The Fiend and the Forge

The Fiend and the Forge (The Tapestry, #3)From the back cover:

The Tapestry series continues to weave threads of fantasy, mythology, science fiction, and mystery into a wholly original adventure that appeals to fans of everything from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to The X-Men. Genre-blending and fully illustrated, The Tapestry novels have caught the attention of middle-grade and young adult readers alike—and the series is only getting bigger.

Book One, The Hound of Rowan, was a boarding-school fantasy that School Library Journal called “a solid and worthwhile beginning . . . [that] should help ease the suffering once Harry Potter withdrawal sets in.” Book Two, The Second Siege, was an epic quest about which Kirkus Reviews said, “After devouring this title, young fans will clamor for more.”

Book Three, The Fiend and the Forge, is an unforgettable dystopian adventure across a landscape overrun with goblins and trolls. The world has changed almost beyond recognition, for with the Book of Origins firmly in his possession, the villainous Astaroth now has the power to reshape history at will. Plucking pivotal discoveries from mankind’s past, he has reduced the world to a preindustrial nightmare.

But while most humans toil as slaves within four demonic kingdoms, Astaroth allows those at Rowan to thrive in peaceful isolation. Theirs is a land where magic and nature flourish . . . so long as none dare oppose the new order.

That proves too steep a price for Max McDaniels. Unsure of his place at Rowan, Max sets out to explore the shifting landscape of the world beyond. In the course of his travels, he will become many things: Prisoner. Gladiator. Assassin. But can he become the hero that mankind so desperately needs?

In the third book of The Tapestry, author–illustrator Henry H. Neff takes the series in an exciting new direction, creating a fascinating dystopia in which myth, history, and monsters collide.

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I must say I’m not a HUGE fan of this series, but I have found it to be an entertaining read and I do want to find out what happens next.

The first book in the series, The Hound of Rowan, felt way too much like Harry Potter to me — a young kid, Max McDaniels, discovers he has magical powers when he receives an invitation to attend Rowan Academy, a secret school of magic.  The difference is that Max begins to learn other children with similar talents are disappearing, and that an ancient enemy may be reawakening and searching for him, to fulfill a prophecy, so they can re-enter the living world.  I almost put the book down because of its stark resemblance to Harry Potter, but I stayed with it because I wanted to find out what happened to Max’s mom.  That little nigglet wasn’t discovered until the 2nd book.  I also enjoyed Neff’s vivid descriptions, especially Max’s room at Rohan.  It was soo cool and I could see how a young boy’s mouth would just fall open in wonder if he had a room like Max’s.

The second book in the series, The Second Siege, kicked up the pace, and I have to say is probably my favorite out of the three books so far.  It is really ‘dark’ and Neff truly shines as an author.  It is an epic tale and the antagonists would definitely give Voldemort something to think about.  By the end of the second book, I was hooked on the series and definitely had to read the third book in the installment.

The Fiend and the Forge is probably Neff’s most ambitious tale yet and really puts this series on a scale that is equal to, if not better in many ways, to the Percy Jackson series.  The book is a virtual history lesson that presents a unique, imaginative view of what history would look like if it could somehow be seized, twisted, rewritten and then retold by a demonic, yet charismatic dictator (the demon, Astaroth).  Imagine a world where all modern conveniences never existed:  no electricity, no cds, no television, and all memories of them were erased.  This is Max’s world in The Fiend and the Forge, and he’s determined to change it back.

In the beginning of this book, we find that Max, the Rowan Academy and the world are inhabited by demons seeking to reassert their control over the world.  His roommate is not acting normal, and his friends are in danger.  Max becomes more determined than ever to protect his home and to seek revenge on the demon who murdered someone he loved very much.  Battling his impetuous instincts for revenge along with the deep forces of the ‘old magic’ within, Max sets off on a journey that takes him far away on a magic toy ship to Astaroth’s kingdom.  In spite of his own magical powers and the help of others, Max’s enemies recognize him and choose to provoke him in painful and personal ways, resulting in some highly poignant moments, life-threatening situations, and absolutely epic battles as he seeks to administer his own brand of justice.

The downside:  I felt some of the scenes should have been explained a bit more, like the child sacrifice scene.  I really wished Neff had explained the ending and the significance of that scene to Max a bit more.  I was left hanging.

I still feel like Max is much younger than he says he is in this book (he makes a comment to another character that he’s 16, 17, he can’t really remember).  His voice and mannerisms strike me that he’s no older than around 14.  This may not be a huge issue to the young readers, but adults might find it a bit annoying.

Neff has a highly visual writing style that pulls the reader alongside Max as he seeks the answers to life’s many questions.  He also doesn’t talk down to his readers, which I find refreshing.  We see Max grow, and we cheer him on and pray his ideas to cure the world’s ills work out.

The Fiend and the Forge is a stand-alone book but I really think you should read the other two books first so you know what is going on.  I am looking forward to the 4th and final installment in the series as I think it will be the darkest and most epic of them all.

Stars:  4 out of 5

Target age group:  10 and up.