Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil – a review


Time for another review. Yes, just a week after my last one, but then this tasty Tuck-sized treat, “Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil“, was a novella that I had to keep reading.

This was my introduction to the world of ‘The Forest Lord’ that Steven A. McKay has created, and a perfect one at that – even if Robin Hood, the main character in the books, was only mentioned. But Wolf’s Head (The Forest Lord Book 1) is now a MUST READ.

In this tale, Friar Tuck investigates a series of burglaries committed by the Devil and another fiend. The setting felt accurate and I realised that Steven A. McKay had done a lot of research for his world. But it slotted into the story seamlessly.

The plot was clever, and the Devil faced a formidable foe in the friar. Given the length, the novella couldn’t twist and turn as much as a full-length book, but there was more than enough to get my teeth into – even after Tuck had ate and drank his fill. He’s more than a well-rounded character, and for me there was a bonus in an Foreword by Phil Rose, who played the character in the great TV series “Robin of Sherwood”.

Of course, being set at Christmas there were traditions and festivities adding to the atmosphere, and Steven A. McKay even gives some additional insight into how the season was celebrated in medieval times, in his author’s note at the end.

The Element Trilogy – a review

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

For a change, I decided to produce a blog post around two reviews on two books from the same author Donna Galanti. In fact, they are the first two books in The Element Trilogy and, although I’m a slow reader, I’m looking forward to the release of the final book.

I won the second book in the trilogy in a competition that Donna Galanti ran on her website at, so I bought the first and read them in order. That proved to be the right decision, even if it meant delaying the first review.

A Human Element (The Element Trilogy #1)

The blurb starts off, “Evil comes in many forms…” and that is very true of both books. I was quickly drawn into the tragic life of Laura Armstrong, whose “friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it.”

Donna paints her characters in vivid detail, and applies her same graphic description to the unfolding events. As a writer, she doesn’t hold back, and for some readers that might be too much. But for me the graphic details work, as Donna weaves images and emotions with her words.

As the savage killer emerged, haunting her dreams, and killing her friends, I became incensed with this cruel antagonist. But then I tempered my anger, much like Laura learnt to do, and there seemed to be echoes in my head of the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

A second protagonist is woven into the story, Ben Fieldstone, and his storyline leads him to the same place and back to the night when a meteorite struck, killing his parents. The plotlines that bring Ben and Laura together kept me reading, and rooting for them.

The questions that they both face, also challenged me, and although the face-to-face showdown with the killer was an emotional one, it was inevitable. So I had to keep reading more… which meant Book 2.

However, A Human Element is still and excellent stand-alone read. And I would recommend this novel, which blends suspense, science fiction and romance.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

A Hidden Element (The Element Trilogy #2)

Once again, “Evil lurks within…”, although fifteen years on the stakes are raised as Laura and Ben Fieldstone face a secret alien community with the powers that they confronted in Book 1.

Their son, Charlie, has inherited his mother’s alien powers and from early on in the story, the reader wonders which path he will choose – his parents or the community that offers him so much more. His feeling of being different is akin to the alienation so many youngsters feel, and Donna Galanti portrays that well.

However, not all the community share the extreme views of the leader, and his son, Caleb Madroc, provides another viewpoint and a plotline that throws up many of the twists and resolutions.

The graphic descriptions of his father’s attempts to breed a secret alien community are in keeping with his tormented mind. The description also captures the desperation of a community struggling for survival. They might have unique powers, but that brings emotional turmoil and life-changing decisions that are cleverly described.

As the season changes to winter, I could envisage every drifting snowbank and feel the biting wind, elements that echoed the story as it spiralled towards the finale.

I was swept along with Laura and Ben as they risked everything to defeat this new nemesis that wanted to rule the world with their son. I kept wanting Caleb to not just be their only hope — I wanted him to survive as well, and save his own children.

By the end of the novel, I still wanted more, although there were passages that I felt were a trifle overwritten – but I never flicked through. Bring on the ‘unknown’ element.


Despite my slow reading pace, there will be more reviews… when I get to the next indulgence tackled. Next up is Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil by Steven A. McKay.


Where are my quills?


If I was a real Elizabethan writer, and not an Elizabethan wannabe, then I’d be content to discard my dull goose feather and sharpen a new quill, then pull out a new sheet of parchment.

But Elizabeth II is on the throne and computers are more than just a quaint novelty. In fact, I’ve become addicted, whether for emails and accounts, or for writing. I can’t even throw the polyhedral dice to slay raiders without a computer.


However, I’m forced to scrawl the first draft of this post without the security of my desktop, relying on my pen not crashing. Yes, my hard drive crashed for the third time in two months. So I’m feeling very insecure – more than I did when the old year ended.

Back in December, the insecurity was just about my writing. Was it worth reading? Was it worth spending time on? Or was it best to spare the readers from what might well be dire? I know too many excellent writer friends to muddy the publishing water with my attempts.

I was thinking of having a New Year sale… of my unresolved ideas. But second-hand goods are hard to flog – I learnt that trying to re-publish my first novel; but then few people bothered with it when it first came out in 2013. Anyway, as I’m struggling with the new plots, they have little value.

Fortunately, or not, my desktop resolved the issue by dying upside down, falling to the dreaded blue screen of death. I couldn’t face asking my technically-proficient wife to install yet another hard drive, so I bought a new machine. Now, for the third time in two months, I’m re-installing all my favourite pieces of software, from Office to Star Wars: The Old Republic.

However, I still need to decide if I’m cut out to be a real writer, rather than a dabbler in ideas. Only then can I install something like Scrivener. Is that going to be my 2016 resolution?

Is there an answer in the following? (And who said it first?)

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”



The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with other writers – aim for a dozen new people each time.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group –

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are L.G. Keltner, Denise Covey, Sheri Larsen, J.Q. Rose, Chemist Ken, and Michelle Wallace!