Tag Archive: Tympest Books


Guest Post:Sharlene Almond

Hi all, today I’ve got a guest post from Sharlene Almond, author of Initiated to Kill, about the minds of serial killers and some of the commonalities that criminologists have found between them. Enjoy!

Initiated to Kill cover

Delving into the Criminal Mind – What we can Learn from Historical Serial Killers.

Who would have thought we would be living in a world in which we have grown rather fascinated with the workings of the criminal mind. With TV shows that delve into criminal profiling, movies and books exploring the depravity of a serial killer.

Criminology and Criminal Profiling is fast becoming a sought-out degree. Even the knowing the basics on Criminology can help a writer better understand why their antagonist and protagonist is doing what they are doing.

So, come with me and explore the sadistic minds of serial killers.

The Importance of a Childhood, and the Affect on the Brain.

As much as we might want to deny it, childhood can have a huge impact on the brain. The idea nature vs. nurture is something we struggle with explaining, especially when it comes to psychopathy.

After all, is it possible for a baby to be a psychopath? Or is there something absent in the brain, which is then triggered by trauma?

It is important to realize that a person’s interactions “shape the structural and organizational characteristics of our brain.” (Nancy Darling, Ph.D.)

Parenting affects the cortisol and alpha amylase levels in our brain. When children are in an environment that encourages positive responses and communications when feeling unresponsive to feelings, as opposed to encouraging negative responses through the exposure to violence, teaches the child that it is normal to react in a violent way in order to get what you want.

He believed even his parents feared him, which he relished all the more. His sometimes-tender self would suddenly change like a storm blackening the sky. His fits of rage caused people to scurry, delighting him, their terror—his drug.” (Initiated to Kill)

Children learn from the experiences they are exposed to the most. In the early years of their life, their main exposure is from their parents.

However, there are some children with underdeveloped or stunted amygdala, resulting in the areas of their brain connected with empathy, pain and fear to not develop effectively.

Psychopathy may be able to be recognized as early as around two years old. The benefit of recognizing and admitting the potential of certain children lacking empathy, means that those that surround them can help the children experience interactions which help to educate the child on the different responses for the different situations they come across.

Who is capable of being a Serial Killer?

“He would make friends easily; they seemed to flock to his charming and energetic self. But he got bored easily, so when they no longer amused him, he would just vanish, pretending they never existed.” (Initiated to Kill)

Serial killers don’t necessarily walk around appearing as though they are about to commit murder. Instead, many of them may appear ‘normal’. However, there can be some indicators that could cause a person to be more likely to commit vicious acts, and with other triggers, could be a violent combination.

Extreme antisocial behavior, voyeurism (watching a person in private setting), enjoys setting fires, and torturing or killing animals may lead to more serious acts of violence.

Other factors may be less noticeable. Some study results have suggested that male serial killers may have extremely high levels of testosterone.

Another genetic factor could be that they have abnormal levels of the brain chemical dopamine – which is responsible for motivation and pleasure.

Those with lower levels of dopamine require greater stimulation to achieve pleasure.

Do You See Them Coming?

No. Although, there are some traits that could indicate criminal tendencies, many proclaim how shocked they are when they discover who is behind sadistic acts.

Ted Bundy was considered a charming man, volunteering for the suicide hotline, and a college graduate. However, underneath that superficial exterior hid a psychopath that killed at least 36 women.

H.H Holmes was a well-known pharmacist that had a torture dungeon in his basement.

John Wayne Gacy was a shoe salesman, entertained children as a clown, and active in his community. However, was a serial killer of young men.

Richard Angelo, a volunteer fire fighter, respected nurse and an Eagle Scout. He was so obsessed with being a hero he would poison patients so he could revive them.

Philip Maroff, eventually known as the Craigslist Killer was a member of the National Honor Society, promising student, and part of the youth court in school.

The Taunting’s of a Serial Killer.

There is one part of the ‘murder game’ many killers cannot resist, and that is to taunt police or victims, show how clever they are, mock them, dare them to catch them if they can.

The Zodiac killer would mock the police for not deciphering his code. In 2018, his mocking finally caught up to him, and Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer was finally caught. It is believed he put in practice before the big events by breaking into people’s homes to steal a personal item, or leave something behind.

Of course, one of the most notorious killers to taunt police, and still to this day not yet be fully identified is Jack the Ripper. He would go into great detail of what he did to his victims, and send it personally to the Police Commissioner.

 Dear Boss,

“‘So now they say I am a Yid when will they lern Dear old Boss! You an me know the truth don’t we. Lusk can look forever hell never find me but I am rite under his nose all the time. I watch them looking for me an it gives me fits ha ha I love my work an I shant stop until I get buckled and even then watch out for your old pal Jacky

Catch me if you can Jack the Ripper

Sorry about the blood still messy from the last one. What a pretty necklace I gave her.”’” (Initiated to Kill)

The Happy Face killer become unhappy with the lack of attention he was getting with his killings, so he started writing letters to local media detailing his crimes and signing them with a happy face.

Taking on Different Personas

Serial killers could be considered some of the best actors, having to put on a fake mask for society, while their inner depths are raging with violent emotions.

Juana Barraza was considered Mexico’s first female serial killer, and often thought to have been a man for her physical strength and build. She would favor disguises like a nurse’s uniform to allow herself to get into older people’s homes, or would wear a pink Power Ranger costume.

The Phantom Killer, known for the white mask with cutout holes for his eyes and mouth would target couples in Lovers Lanes after dusk.

It could be considered strategic for killers to wear costumes to reduce the risk of any eyewitnesses recognizing them, or it may play into their role to become a different person once they have that disguise on.

James Eagan Holmes become known for his murdering spree, but more for is so-called fascination with the Joker from the Batman movies. At a midnight screening of the Dark Knight Rises, James shot 12 people at a movie theatre dressed as the Joker, dying his hair to look like him.

Other killers have keepsakes to use after their crimes to relive it.

Although wearing actual costumes during crimes isn’t all that common, serial killers tend to play with numerous roles to hide who they are, or to get a victim’s guard down.

Which could be why so many people are creeped out by clowns…

There is a theory to why there were so many different suspects in Jack the Ripper killings. One theory is that he dressed up in different costumes to throw off the scent and purposefully implicate others in the killings.

He acted, he played, and he enjoyed fooling people.

“Visiting the Red Cross, asking for military uniforms. Walking along the streets dressed in something different every time. Wearing a moustache or hat to disguise the color of his hair. He enjoyed fooling people, and he did just that. No one suspected who he really was, what he was really doing.” (Initiated to Kill)

The Urge to Continue Despite the Risk

One could say that killing may be like a drug, the high is addictive, the adrenaline pumping through the veins, the intense need for more, exposing the person to engage in more risky behavior to feed their addiction.

Serial killers are intent on self-preservation. Just like those that engage in behaviors to relieve stress, so to do serial killers.

Ted Bundy claimed he ‘craved’ killings as it helped him concentrate.

Israel Keyes was addicted to the thrill of the hunt.

“Elizabeth Wettlaufer… described a pressure that would build up before each murder and stated she started killing people to relieve anxiety.” (Joni E Johnston Psy.D)

Perhaps it is the boost of dopamine that occurs, resulting in feelings of pleasure. The more they do, the more they crave, the harder it is to stop, the greater the risk, the greater the rush.

What Happens if they are Never Caught?

The brain is capable of desensitization. Whether it is from external triggers like abuse, or intentional desensitization by continually exposing oneself to what they fear, confidence in what they are capable of doing can grow. Especially when they keep getting away with it.

“There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away… When this monster enter my brain I will never know… I can’t stop it, so the monster goes on…” (Dennis Rader, BTK Stranger)

The BTK Strangler killed multiple people in the 70s. Thirty years later, supposedly, he contacted the Wichita police again. Sending photographs of a murder in 1986, which had never been solved.

Thankfully, it would seem that finally this deprived psychopath was finally caught in 2005. Dennis Rader terrorized Kansas’s neighborhoods, which sent a flurry of home security systems to be installed. What could not have been foreseen was that Dennis Rader was the one installing these cameras, enabling him to become familiar with his victims’ surroundings.

So, what are the motives behind serial murders?

It is believed that one major motivation for serial killers is to seek that ultimate thrill. Serial killers like the Zodiac killer are motivated through the adrenaline rush of stalking their prey.

While others love the control they can exert over their victims, like Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz ‘Son of Sam’.

Another factor to keep in mind is that even when sexual assault occurs, it does not mean they are doing it for sexual gratification, rather, it tends to be the use of acts to control and humiliate their victims.

Ted Bundy would fantasize about killing; however, initially found the first act so terrifying and nerve wracking that he thought he would never do it again.

Brenda Spencer was an interesting case of a problem sixteen year old obsessed over violent films, and had been involved with drugs and petty theft. Owning a BB gun she would kill birds and break windows. However, when her father gave her a real gun, her psychopathic tendencies came to the forefront.

Setting herself up at Cleveland Elementary School, she went on a 20 minute shooting spree, killing two adults, and wounding nine children.

Even though she seemed to love the spotlight, her claimed motive for what she did shocked all – “I just don’t like Mondays… I did it because it’s a way to cheer the day up. No body likes Mondays…” (Brenda Spencer)

How to Use Profiling in Writing?

So, why do we want to know all this? Well, for authors, especially for those that write mysteries or thrillers, to have some understanding of the psyche of the killer helps to bring the person to life.

A vivid picture is created, the person feels real, their actions feel real, and they slowly progress through the story.

The antagonist, in my opinion, is just as important as the protagonist. They are two opposing forces that eventually have to collide. And, I guess, what makes it even more interesting, is that for some antagonists, you can almost feel sorry for them, can almost understand how they became who they are. And perhaps that is why criminal profiling is so fascinating – to learn what we may be capable of.

To read more about Jack the Ripper and a present-day killer, you can find my historical/present day psychological thriller here.

Sharlene Almond author pic

Author Bio:

I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my partner and two Jack Russell’s (my babies). Historical based movies and documentaries are some of the useful tools to give me ideas for my next books. I have a diploma in Body Language and Criminology, enabling me to understand and portray my main character – Annabella.

At 32 years old, I also have diplomas in Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Freelance Journalism, Editing and Proofreading and Naturopathic Nutrition. These qualifications give me the ability to better understand the human mind, writing about it in a manner my readers can understand and connect with.

Currently, I am studying to specialize in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, and Medicinal Cannabis.

Author Website  Amazon Author Page  Twitter  Facebook  Pintrest  Goodreads  Instagram

72nd of Spring, Year 256

It seems that strange occurrences land together anymore. After a full week of travel and no notable troubles we came across tremendous amounts of recently churned dirt that seemed connected to something that I could only describe as a massive fin a couple of hills away from us. I can only compare it to the creatures that dogged our ship once when mom took me with her on a guild job, sharks she called them. This fin reminded me of theirs only many many times larger.

Somehow Azurei and I were the only ones to notice it at first. Though once we directed the rest of the party’s attention to it no one could quite decide how to continue. None of us quite knew what it was or what it might do if it somehow noticed us.

Eventually Chonck simply picked the wagon up with one hand and Bearrender with the other and proceeded to, as best I could tell, tip toe past the thing and onto undisturbed ground. I do not know what being, divine, infernal, or otherwise, wanted us past the beast so much that that worked, but it did work. Chonck set both the wagon and the dire boar down as lightly as if neither weighed anything.

Shortly after we found a sign advertising some kind of weekly temple meeting, likely demonic given our location and that the sign was written in infernal. With Chonck pulling the wagon it seemed likely that we could make it to the temple, to the old strong hold, in time to arrive during the meeting.

We managed to fit the wagon above the temple entrance and tuck Bearrender away where he should be safe.

After a good deal of discussion it was agreed that Eclair had the best chances of getting in unnoticed and back out again. She was just meant to listen in and come back to report what was happening. Unfortunately, Chonck got it in his head that she needed protecting and decided that he would accompany her.

Instead of sneaking in they will go in as travelers who happened upon the sign and decided to investigate. If anything happens Chonck will use the bell he bought when we were stocking up to signal the rest of us to come in and save them.

I will write more later in the day. For now I need to ready my gear just in case they need rescuing.

So, here’s a review where I dip my toe in a setting that I know not a ton about. I feel like the book stands well enough on its own to be enjoyable even if you aren’t super familiar with the rest of the Star Wars extended universe. This has sort of inspired another thing I want to talk about. For now though, enjoy!

Star Wars Queen's Shadow cover

On the last day of her rule Queen Amidala stayed ensconced with her handmaidens and trusted guards, relaxing on the one day she could before trying to build a life as Padmé Naberrie. A life she would have to put off building once the new Queen asked her to continue serving Naboo. The planet needed a new representative in the Galactic Senate, who could be a better fit? Who else loves Naboo and its people well enough to fight for them? And so Padmé agrees to take up the mantle of senator, to remain Amidala for as long as she is needed. A senator needs to be a much different person than a queen though, Padmé and her handmaidens will need to figure out what that means if she is going to navigate the Galactic Senate.

I confess, I started E. K. Johnson’s Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow because I wanted something science fiction but with little to no narrative consequence. So a book focused on a character who, while I’m certain other aspects of her personal arc have been covered on other books, by definition cannot be allowed to do anything that would have consequences for the greater Star Wars narrative seemed like it would fit the bill pretty well. The blurb suggested that it would be mostly character work, something that sounded really good honestly. It was pretty well exactly what I was looking for.

As much as this is a book about Padmé, and her change over from Queen to senator, it’s also very much about her world and the people she surrounds herself with. Early on each of Padmé’s handmaidens get a fair amount of focus all the better to drive home how close they all are and how much they care about Naboo, how idealistic Naboo’s culture is even after the Trade Federation’s attack. It gets the reader attached to everything Padmé is about to leave behind. Gives a taste of her relationships and the rules she’s lived by before leading into a place where those relationships and rules are not nearly as effective as they had been at home, are in fact detrimental in some ways. I adored that. Having the protagonist not only very clearly relying on others, but having that be a core feature of how she is able to accomplish things and adapt is something that I had not really realized that I miss in a fair number of other books. Because Padmé’s handmaidens are more than just her staff, she trusts them with her life and there’s this support structure there. Especially with Sabé, Padmé’s best friend and bodyguard and body double, very nearly the deuteragonist in some places where she acts as an agent outside of the happenings directly in the Galactic Senate.

I found myself wanting to see more of the handmaiden characters as the book went on and focused more on Senator Amidala. I find myself wanting to see more of them having finished the book, it left me curious about how they would deal with the Empire but not doubting for a moment that each of them would rebel in her own way be that art or politics, providing space for those displaced or fighting directly. I want to know where they went from the last chapter of Queen’s Shadow and where that took them.

That also leads me to one of the only issues I had with Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow.  The ending, specifically the epilogue, just completely took me out of it. The final chapter wrapped things up on a low note but left the reader with a sense of hope. Padmé and her team are going to keep fighting for what’s good and right in the galaxy.  The Epilogue shattered that in a way that starts off beautifully mirroring the first chapter but that also feels unnecessary and almost mean spirited in how it deals with some of the characters. It took me from knowing that cannon will still happen with everything that implies and hammered it in like a crooked nail in an otherwise fantastically built piece. It killed the sense of hope that the final chapter ended on and that’s what I find myself coming back to over and over like a missing tooth. The death of hope and how very out of place it feels in the context of the rest of the book.

That’s my only big issue and, aside from a couple of odd romance-ish moments that felt a little out of place, I think it was my only real issue. If not for the epilogue Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow would be a five out of five for me. It leaves me wanting more from the characters and I am definitely planning on looking for more of E. K. Johnson’s work. So, all told Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow earns a four out of five.

House Keeping 1/21/20

Not much to talk about this week.

I have something exciting coming up for the dice review next Monday. I’ve been waiting on this thing to arrive for awhile and I am really excited to test it out a bunch and show it to you all.

Planning on having a book review ready for you all Wednesday. I’ve got a couple I’m working on, so it’s mostly down to deciding which I want to focus on and getting that one finished and polished up. It’s been nice to get back into it. I forget how many ideas I bounce around while working on these.

And there will, of course, be a “Sunshine’s Journals” post on Thursday. We’re getting closer and closer to the end of things and I’m still not quite sure what the DM has in plan for our intrepid party.

There’s also going to be a really interesting guest post on Friday. Definitely worth giving a read.

Got some life stuff coming up soon. It’s in planning stages now, but I want to try and get a little bit of a cushion worked up before it hits so that there are as few hiccups as possible here. How many times have I said that? I’m in a pretty good place for it just now, I’m just going to have to keep working steadily on the things I have partially finished now. Should be doable, but if it doesn’t work out I will keep you all up to date as best I can.

Which leaves us at the usual.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I enjoy seeing it when people enjoy the stuff I write here. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. If you aren’t a fan of that and were planning on dice shopping any way, you can also follow this link to Dice Envy or this link to Skullsplitter Dice, both places have some really cool stuff. Regardless and in any case, have a great rest of the week!

Celestine Dice

New week, new dice review, and this is a set that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a little while. So, thanks to Dice Envy, here is their Celestine Dice. Enjoy!

Celestine 1

This set is one of those instances where I really dig each part individually. The soft clear pink of the acrylic is a nice color, readily complemented by both the gold leaf and the pink micro glitter. The gold leaf is a really cool idea for an inclusion and the way it settles through the acrylic gives the dice a nifty effect that is only enhanced by the micro glitter. Even the inking being gold complements the pink of the acrylic and offers a good visual follow through to the gold leaf.

The inking is, as usual with Dice Envy, well done with no notable thin spots on my set. The only issue I have with the inking is a largely personal one. Because the inking is gold and the dice have gold leaf scattered through them some of the sides where the gold leaf has settled can be a little hard to read from the table. It isn’t a really big deal, but if I was going to use them as my main dice for a campaign I would probably either use a dice tray and keep them close or consider re-inking them. Possibly just re-inking the sides that I was having trouble with, because that could also be used to good effect.

Celestine 2

Also as expected, the dice roll well and do not seem to have favorite numbers. Considering the gold leaf inclusions and some of their crinkly shapes, this impressed me a good deal more than usual.

The Celestine set is something of an oddity, being a nine die set rather than the seven or eleven that seem to be standard. Part of this is likely due to the inclusion of the extra large 33mm d20 which I admittedly have a fair amount of affection for, so it isn’t like I’m missing there being more d6. I like the chonky dice, it’s fun to fiddle with.

Celestine 3

Which brings us to the last bit. I like these dice, not unexpected, they’re sparkly and visually interesting. I do wish that it was a little easier to read all of their sides, but that’s an easy fix. And the extra large d20 just makes me kind of happy. So I feel like the Celestine dice earn a four out of five.

The more I play with them the more I want to use them for a character that’s just Sailor Moon but in D&D, maybe some kind of celestial warlock bound to the long dead Queen of the Moon or something to that effect. I would have to think about it. Think about it and probably home brew some stuff for how her patron would even work.

65th of Spring, Year 256

After spending the night at Aunt Frense’s home in the library we spent a fair amount of the morning finishing our preparations to leave. I found a smith willing to sell me some blessed bolts for my crossbow and Azurei arrows for her bow.

It turns out that the elf can produce holy water. Apparently she’s a cleric of some stripe and simply never let any of us know. Useful, but it could have been more so if we had known earlier. Worth taking into account if there are any cultists left or minor demons.

We have food. We have water and tools for a trek through what might be the strong hold’s ruins. We have no back up.

I tried to find mercenaries to help us. No sense in going in unprepared after all, and I do not trust that the remains of the cult or worse might not have moved back in. The ones that I would have trusted to survive a fight wanted far more than I could provide immediately and would not accept partial payment up front.

The ones I could afford were chased off by Chonck. While we were discussing the trip and the risks they faced he began talking about how any of them who did not survive would live on in him. He would not stop repeating variations on that in response to their confusion. They left while I tried to quiet Chonck before he and Eclair could draw the guards’ attention again.

(The next line is scratched through viciously.) If the demons do not kill those two, I might.

We set out shortly after. I doubt that I will write much until we reach the strong hold. There are many miles and unknown dangers between here and there. I will attempt to note anything of interest we encounter.

Given Away

Full disclosure, by the time I had this review written the book that it goes with had been removed from the Kindle store. I almost feel like I’m cheating a little by posting it, but I read the book and I have opinions about it. Not necessarily constructive opinions, but it was something I wanted to talk about. So, without further ado, here is Briar Lane’s Given Away.

Given Away cover

Anya and Catie have been friends since they were kids and have hit every major milestone of their lives together, from rooming together in college to moving to the same city after graduation. Now they plan on sharing one of the biggest milestones of their lives, their bridal shower in Las Vegas. But as they get closer to marrying their respective fiancés worries begin to surface for both. Anya wonders if she should be relying so heavily on Catie for emotional support, isn’t that what her loving fiancé is for? Catie feels years of friendship slipping into a terrifying distance between then, worried that they won’t see each other as much anymore after their vows are said and done. Can their friendship survive the bridal shower weekend? Can love bloom where friendship has grown for so long?

Briar Lane’s Given Away is a book that I found disappointing pretty well from the word go, and my problems with it just sort of piled up like a forty car wreck of poor writing choices and bad editing. Spoilers ahead for a handful of things, I feel like I need to talk about them to get across some of the issues I had with the book.

                Given Away alternates its narrator, so some chapters are from Anya’s perspective and some are from Catie’s perspective. Unfortunately, if it was not for Anya talking nigh constantly about what great friends she and Catie are but she should totally be spending more time with her fiancé, since after they get married he will be her rock and all, and Catie worrying that she’ll never get to see Anya again after they get married and wondering if she really even wants to marry her fiancé, I would have had a serious issue telling the two apart. I actually did have issues telling the two apart for some chapters, something that was not helped by the author seeming to forget the names of her protagonists’ fiancés a few times. The lack of character voice extended to both of the fiancés and the Greek chorus of bridesmaids, who at least had the excuse of being largely kept out of dialogue despite one of the big scenes being a big catching up dinner for them all.

Alongside the issues with character voice are Lane’s habit of telling the reader about characters and situations rather than showing them. Both of the protagonists’ fiancés are treated like stand up guys for the first half or so of the book, the reader is told repeatedly about how great they both are. This lasts right up until the story needs them not to be as good as they were set up to be so that Catie can walk in on hers about to cheat on her and there can be a dramatic breakup leading to her tearful confession of love to Anya. Even Anya, one of the protagonists, is hit by this when she feels that her fiancé isn’t listening to her or respecting her feelings about Derek cheating on Catie, so suddenly her fiancé is also terrible and she’s off to find her best friend the love of her life. None of these characterization changes feel earned by the narrative, which leaves both protagonists feeling at best so in their own heads that they shut out everything else or simply so oblivious to their partners’ feelings and behaviors that they really shouldn’t be in a relationship. It is frustrating to say the least.

All that lead to my not enjoying the book. I did not like the cheating plot on either side, or the telling characterization, or the weirdly sudden sex scene after Anya leaves her fiancé and goes to find Catie. The sex scene seriously felt much more detailed than the rest of the book and went from zero to sixty-nine in seemingly no time and was just jarring and out of place. All of that would have left the book with a two out of five and a note that I would likely not read more of Briar Lane’s writing in the future. That would have just left me feeling like I had been waiting for the book to get better.

But there were two things that bothered me enough to drop the book to a one out of five, two things that were absolutely avoidable and that have little to do with the story itself. The first issue was the sample of Lane’s next work at the end of this one. This is not something that generally bothers me, it can be a great way to find other books that you might like. But in this case the out of place sex scene hit and then a flash forward to a year later at what was, according to my app, around the seventy percent mark for the book’s page count. The author dedicated nearly a third of her page space to advertising her next book in one that desperately needed an editor or a beta reader and at least one more going over. But then she also promised one last chapter of Given Away, an exclusive chapter that the reader could download if they just followed the included link. The link lead to a website that wanted me to sign up to it to get the opportunity to download the chapter that the author just couldn’t include in the book proper, so I guess I will not be reading that chapter.

Those two issues left me feeling more than a little cheated. Which of course leads to this, it is not hard to give Given Away a one out of five. It is worryingly easy to keep finding things that I did not like in Given Away. I can only hope that it is some other reader’s cup of tea and that Briar Lane keeps working on her writing and has the opportunity to improve. After her hiding a chapter of her book away on a website that requires sign up to access, I will not be there for the rest of her career.

 

House Keeping 1/14/20

I’m half way through crocheting four or five goblin dolls just now. I get started working on one and then set it aside for finish later. But then later I just need something to keep my hands busy, so instead of finishing the one I’ve already started because fiddlier bits I just wind up starting another one. I swear I’m going to just start using them as decor here soon. Or maybe I’ll hide them around the apartment and see how long it takes my roommates to find them. Either way, things to plot about as I finish work on this batch.

I think I want to see if I can use some of my free time coming up to get a little ahead on some of my posts here. I have a couple of fairly big things coming up and don’t want to wind up with terrible schedule slip again.

That said, I have a book review on the way for tomorrow. I’m not sure how happy I am with it, but I think I might do some kind of compare and contrast with the book I reviewed last week. They’re the same genre and share a number of tropes, so I don’t think it’s entirely unfair, but also it’s one of those things where I want to talk about genre stuff and this is a good excuse.

There is a “Sunshine’s Journals” post coming up this week. I’m pleased with how regular I have been able to be with those. Though we are closing in on the end of the campaign and have been having some trouble meeting regularly lately, so some of my previous schedule slips are kind of saving me here. Trying to figure out what to do after this campaign is over though. I think it’s my turn to DM again for the next campaign, so I will be putting a lot into keeping the world going rather than playing a character within it, which might make writing posts for the campaign a little difficult.

And, of course, I have so many dice to talk about. My Ice Cream Dice arrived over Christmas. There’s some sets from Dice Envy that I wasn’t able to talk about due to time constraints during finals. And I got a really cool set from Skullsplitter Dice that I’m excited to talk about. All fun things, just have to get them all sorted out and ready to go.

That’s actually about it though. My week so far has been pretty good and there isn’t anything major coming up, that I know of, for a couple of weeks .

So, standard stuff I guess. If you like what I’m doing here, feel free to leave a comment or a like. I thrive on positive attention, as most folks do. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In either case and any case, have a great rest of the week!

Festive Fantasy isn’t a huge dice company just now, but based on these dice I think I want to keep an eye on them going forward. These dice were from a Kickstarter that really excited me. It was one set of dice, no stretch goals, and a fairly short time frame. The campaign was really well run and delivered on time, so I’m definitely backing Festive Fantasy’s current Kickstarter for their new Floral Fantasy line.  They have about twelve days left as of posting, so if you’re interested go check it out!

Bloodstones 1

It isn’t well captured here, but a big part of what interested me in these dice was the iridescent red throughout. It’s a pretty fantastic effect that catches the light fantastically and is kind of swirled through the acrylic, interrupting the iridescence and making nice patterns. The breaks in the iridescence has an interesting side effect of almost making the white of the acrylic seem tinted green, it’s nifty. Something about it makes me think about the way velvet looks when the light catches it just right.

Bloodstones 2

Despite the red sparkles the inking is super legible and easy to read. It’s also well done with few notable thin spots that do not take away from the dices’ usability. In addition to being nicely legible, the Bloodstones set rolls well. I haven’t found where any of the ones in my set tend to favor certain sides more than others. I’ve been using them for my Saturday night game lately and they are really nice to roll and feel good in hand.

Bloodstones 3

I really like these dice and find myself hoping that Festive Fantasy will make more dice in a similar vein after their current Kickstarter ends. The red iridescence makes for a fantastic trick of the light, leaving them with shining swirls of color that make me very much want to use them for a magic using character. I’m definitely sold on the quality of Festive Fantasy’s dice and the Bloodstones set gets a five out of five from me.

Never Just Friends

So, this got delayed a little. Got some stuff going on that made it a little harder to write than I’d like to admit. But this was a book I had a really good time reading. So here is Lily Craig’s Never Just Friends. Enjoy!

Never Just Friends cover

Having feelings for your best friend, as Georgie knows well, is terrible. Having feelings for a best friend who has not only just come out to you, but also assured you that she would never date you, is worse. So Georgie does the only thing she can to deal. She leaves town, finds a new job and tries to start a new life. Through a year of distance and worry Madelyn has come to realize that the love she holds for her best friend is romantic. She hopes that she can take time during their yearly cabin trip to mend the rift that has opened up between her and Georgie. Mend the rift and make her feelings known. But Canadian winters can be brutal and a sudden snow storm traps the two together in their cabin. Trapped by the weather the two will have to deal with their feelings and the distance created by miscommunications.

I feel like, before digging into the review here, I have to admit that friends to lovers is one of my favorite fictional romance tropes. I like the history that it can give characters and the familiarity that it tends to bring which, at its best written, can make the evolution to romance feel more natural or can bring really good drama. In most ways Lilly Craig’s Never Just Friends delivers on that.

Something that really worked for me in Never Just Friends was the way the chapters alternated between the present, with the events in the cabin as Georgie and Madelyn try to work around their feelings, and the past, showing bits of their friendship from when they first met right up to the year before. It does a good job of keeping the characters’ history and the reasons why two people who are as totally different as Georgie and Madelyn would still be sticking together after years and years. It also gives a really nifty look into who the characters were and who they became as they grew up. These looks into the past are really something that it feels like the book needs to work, the characters’ attraction could feel a little one sided and shallow without it. Georgie is shown to be more than a little emotionally shut off, not really willing to put herself out there, especially after having her heart broken by Madelyn at the start of the novel. The sections of their shared history help keep Madelyn going after Georgie so doggedly from feeling forced.

There’s actually a lot baked into Never Just Friends that really works for me, though a lot of it also verges on spoilers to talk about so I won’t go into it here. Similarly, there is not a lot that I find myself wanting to complain about. There are some places where either protagonist could have been toned down a little. Georgie’s temper flares up more than feels entirely reasonable a couple times and Madelyn can feel almost a little manic pixie dream girl desperate in her attempts to get Georgie to hear her out. Neither issue is a major one and both fit pretty reasonably with their respective characters, but there were spots where it felt more like an awkward necessity to move the plot along or maintain drama than something that was natural to the moment.

So, where does that leave me? I really liked this book. The characters were a little more complicated than I’m entirely used to in romance novels and the chapters that covered their history together was a really nice touch. While there were bits that felt like they were pushed a little further than necessary for the sake of the plot, they didn’t distract terribly from the narrative flow. For me, Never Just Friends earns a four out of five. I also admit that I did not realize that I was reading another Lily Craig novel until I was most of the way through and needed to redownload the book after clearing space on my phone, so points to her for range. I’m likely to seek out more of her work at this point.