Author Interview With James Derry

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Hello everyone! I have an author interview to share with you. I interviewed author James Derry, who wrote Idyll, the last book I reviewed.

James Derry

James is a talented author who wrote two novels I previously reviewed. The most recent book I reviewed, Idyll, is the first book in a trilogy that I’m excited to finish. I’ll be buying them – I support authors, and encourage my readers to do the same!

Justine: How are you doing today?
James: Pretty good! My wife and I have just put the kids to bed, so this is usually the time when my motivated side wars with my exhausted side to see if I’ll do some more writing for the day, or just veg out watching Netflix.

Justine: Let’s jump right in. Tell me about your books!
James: My most recent book is ‘The Wilds,’ which is the middle book of a trilogy. Overall…

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Book Review: Idyll, by James Derry

A new review for Idyll from Triskele Reviews!

Triskele Reviews

Book Review

This is a book review of Idyll, by James Derry, written by J.A. Steckling. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 Book Details:

IdyllAfter a three-year quarantine, Walt and Samuel Starboard set out from their ranch on a mission to cure their comatose mother and find their missing father. For days they ride through a blighted landscape: deserted cabins and gravestones and the ruins of towns destroyed by fire. Just when the brothers are about to give up, they stumble upon a second pair of survivors, two beautiful and determined sisters.

Miriam and Virginia Bridge offer new hope, but they also present new problems. Stirrings of emotion and shifting priorities threaten to set the brothers against each other. Can Walt and Samuel overcome years of festering resentment, or will their rivalry tear them apart before they can reunite their broken family? And…

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Favorite Character: Olivia from Reamde

I recently finished listening to Neal Stephenson’s Reamde on Audible. Before that, I listened to The Goldfinch, which I guess makes me a glutton for +30-hour audio books. But hey, I have to get my value out of my free Audible credits somehow, right?

Anyway, Reamde is a very long book that’s chock full of colorful characters and locales—and very meticulously constructed action scenes. The story takes a ton of wild, globe-spanning turns, weaving together an immersive World-of-Warcraft RPG video game, Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers, British spies, an Usama bin Laden-level terrorist, and Idahoan militiamen. Remember when the TV series ’24’ earned some eye-rolls for throwing a mountain lion into its unlikely plot? Well Reamde features a mountain lion as well. And a bear for good measure.

In the midst of all that mayhem, it was one of the book’s more understated characters that really captured my attention. Olivia Halifax-Lin is an MI6 agent who is on the trail of the book’s bin Laden character.

When introducing Olivia, the author Stephenson makes an excellent point: The best spies aren’t necessarily charismatic, daredevils who wear wetsuits under their tuxedos. Good spies are better as bit-players—people with faces that you easily trust, and easily forget.

Which of these spies is better at his job?

Which of these spies is better at his job?

Olivia fits this criteria well. In fact, when she reminisces about her love life, she notes that it was filled with men who ignored her for a while, then became besotted, then wanted some sort of special appreciation for recognizing how unconventionally and discreetly beautiful she is. I wish I could quote Stephenson’s prose exactly. I thought this was a really nice detail, and a nice way to help us understand Olivia and picture her in our head. Olivia is like the girl from ‘She’s All That.’ Except she never takes off her glasses, and then she gets recruited by a international spy agency.

Unfortunately, after this promising beginning, Olivia is shunted to the midground, behind characters who show more flair. Ironic that her greatest strength (according to MI6) is to look and act like a ‘secondary character,’ and then that’s what she becomes in the novel. There was one more interesting, metatextual bit when Olivia’s boss criticizes her for ‘sowing her oats’ in the field—both with her assets and her co-workers. Olivia throws off the line, “If I was a man, no one would criticize me for that. They’d congratulate me for being the next James Bond.” You go, girl! Unfortunately, for all her cool British poise, Olivia is only the third boldest female character in the story—so, like I said, she sort of fades to the background for most of the novel’s 109(!) chapters.

Game of Thrones: Learning to Hope

(Spoiler alert, level yellow! If you haven’t seen it Season 6 of Game of Thrones, the ramblings below may be mildly spoilerish.)

All around me, people are rejoicing. On Twitter feeds, and at Monday lunch-breaks… “Go Starks!” “Yay Khaleesi!” “GoT #woohoo!”

If there’s one exclamation I never thought I would associate with Game of Thrones, ‘Woo-hoo’ might be it. What sound would I most associate with GoT? Probably a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth. You see, up until this season, my first purview into the doings on Westerns came directly through George R.R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ novels.

For me and millions of other fans, those five novels—those roughly 6,000 pages—have been an exercise in train-wreck spectacle and exquisitely postponed gratification. In all of those 6,000 pages, there’s been what?—maybe three pump-your-fist moments?

But now book fans have ran out of SOIAF books to read, just as producers of the HBO series have run out of plots to follow. Has the TV show faltered, now that the show-runners have to continue the stories on their own? No. If anything TV show has tightened up, quickened its pace, and embraced a fresh, new action-oriented tone. GoT’s Season 6 has shed off some meandering and unsatisfying plot-lines like a working-girl shedding clothes in Littlefinger’s brothel. And the show-runners are killing off the series’ most despised, and most plotting-obstructing characters. Troublesome characters are dropping like… like… well, like good guys in the first five seasons of the show.

Every Sunday night I’ve been watching these new episodes with my arms crossed and a Scroogish scowl on my face. Beside me, my wife hoots and cheers. She loves this new turn in tone. My general reaction has been ‘Everything is too easy.’

Before this season, I enjoyed the HBO adaption mostly because it reminded me of other HBO classics. The Sopranos and The Wire were byzantine pot-boilers—slow-moving and meticulous. They were absolutely brilliant shows with plenty of ‘water cooler moments’ between them, but I don’t think anyone would ever call them ‘crowd-pleasers.’ So I was disgruntled that the GoT TV show had transitioned so unabashedly into crowd-pleasing mode.

Then came the Battle of the Bastards. Good grief. Has there ever been a better-directed, better-directed 60 minutes on television? Forget Emmys. That episode deserves Oscars! Then that episode was followed up by the equally excellent season finale, and I realized: Why am I not opening my heart to this new way of (literally) enjoying these great characters and the thrilling world they live in? Our heroes are actually accomplishing things. They are actually on the move. And everything is spinning up to a huge 3-or 4 front climactic confrontation of Near-Evil vs. Pure-Evil. That’s thorny enough for me. Grab the popcorn, I’m there. And then there’s always the promise that ASOIAF Book 6 book will be here (eventually) to reward the most patient and masochistic fans of the books.

My only hope is the show-runners won’t forget that the Red Wedding is still the series’ most memorable, most quintessential moment. The ‘Game’ can’t end satisfactorily, unless it breaks our hearts, at least a few more times. Here’s hoping they kill off one or two of the characters we all love. And I hope they do it in the most unexpected, most unwarranted way possible.

(And, whomever it is, I hope they keep it permanent this time).

Another one of my GoT articles: Best Actor in a Suppurating Role


Sketchbook: Virginia Bridge

sketch072Virginia Bridge
Age: 22

Like many settlers, Virginia was born of Chinese and Latino descent. This shouldn’t be surprising, since the Idyll expedition was primarily populated by volunteers from the Sino-Pacific Partnership and the United Americas.

Virginia prefers to wear leafweave clothes, which are made from gene-modded plants. The preferred method to tailor leafweave clothes is to arrange the seedlings over mannequins so that the creeping ivy intertwines together. Some articles of clothing are created from fronds meshed in a herringbone pattern. Others are made of broad, felt-covered succulent leaves. Leafweave clothes are usually not green. Jackets, blouses, and skirts are often tawny brown, or very pale blue. Deep red or bone white. If you squint you eyes, you’ll probably see an ancient American-Indian influence to most leafweave fashions.

To learn more, read Idyll, or download a free sample today:
Barnes & Noble

Or check out the continuing story from Virginia’s perspective, starting with The Wilds.

The Wilds, Now Available!

The Wilds by James DerryTHE WILDS (Book 2 of the Idyll Trilogy) is now live on Amazon and Smashwords!



Yay! For people who haven’t read Idyll, check it out here. That book, in my mind, had a pretty satisfactory ending to it, but I knew there was more I wanted to explore about Starboard brothers and Bridge sisters. So I explored ideas to heap more troubles into their lives, and found that I was surprisingly (sadistically!) adept at doing so. The first few chapters shake up the status quo with a big event that will have ramifications that are felt throughout the rest of the saga, to Book 3 and the trilogy’s ultimate conclusion.

Here’s the description for THE WILDS:

Walt and Samuel Starboard. Miriam and Virginia Bridge. Four travelers entered the mysterious City-Ship of Marathon, but only three made it out.

Now our heroes are faced with a new, more existential threat. An invader from Mother Earth has arrived on Idyll—an outlaw psychopath who will use Terran technology to establish himself as the planet’s ultimate creator-destroyer.

And to make matters worse—he’s brought company.

To stop this ‘outcaster,’ Marathon’s survivors will fight their way through a demolished starship, under the bowels of their planet, across untamed wilds—and into a stark white desert unlike anyplace they have ever imagined. But will it be enough to save Idyll from certain doom?

Continuing the story started in 2015’s IDYLL, THE WILDS is jam-packed with plasma-gun shoot-outs, a love triangle that spans an ocean, and ‘Lord of the Flies’-style suspense. If that sounds like your kind of character-driven sci-fi goodness, then you should check it out!

Series Condition: Tokyo Ghost

I’ve heard a lot of great things about the comics writer, Rick Remember. Nearly every one of his Image series has sounded cool enough to hook me in for at least the first issue. Unfortunately, Black Science, Deadly Class, and Low all felt too nihilistic, too ‘hair-trigger’ for me. Lots of bouts of sudden violence; lots of main characters or innocent bystanders being killed off. They were cool books, with great ideas and art, but I had difficulty finding something enjoyable or sympathetic to grab onto, something to make me hang on for the ride.

tg00That’s not the case with the thundering tank-cycle that is Tokyo Ghost. So far, I’m totally hooked for the ride.

Tokyo Ghost
Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Sean Murphy
7 issues (so far)
Years: 2015 to now
Publisher: Image Comics

If anything, Tokyo Ghost should be the Remender book that I most hate, because it might be his most misanthropic premise. Here’s the description from Comixology: The Isles of Los Angeles 2089: Humanity is addicted to technology, a population of unemployed leisure seekers blissfully distracted from toxic contamination, who borrow, steal, and kill to buy their next digital fix. Getting a virtual buzz is the only thing left to live for. It’s the biggest industry, the only industry, the drug everyone needs, and gangsters run it all.

tg01To establish the setting, Remender presents us with a ton of carnage and depressing scenarios. Also, a couple of truly ruthless and depraved bad guys, including a kazillionaire (a Donald Trump stand-in) who’s so debauched, he spends most of his business hours Donald-Ducking it. (Word of warning: If you don’t like doodles of men’s diddles, or other bits of nudity and bad language, then this might not be the comic for you.)

Again and again, the book goes over-the-top to show you just how this potential future is nearly-completely awful. I think one of the things that pulled me through this section of the book was that the future Earth in my ‘Idyll’ novel has some similar things going on (i.e., crowds of people who are emotionally and physically reliant on indulgent technology).

Then we go to the Garden Nation of Tokyo, which is the one place on the planet that is off-the-grid. In my mind that’s when the story really gets good. We learn more about our two main characters, one of whom is finally forced to disconnect from the tech that has consumed him.

tg02bThe story is always moving, with something at the end of each issue that breaks the status quo established by the issue before it. Then in issue 5, Remender really pulls the rug out from under our heroes, just when they’re at their happiest point.

Besides Remender’s twisty plot, the other HUGE draw is Sean Murphy’s art. He has a new, fun, ‘scratchy’ kinetic style, (I like Otto Schmidt and Sanford Greene, too).  Murphy’s delicate scratchy lines manage to be both dynamic and meticulously rendered. His art is like the beautiful love-child of Bill Sienkiewicz and Alex Nino. Every other page, I had to stop reading and zoom in on my iPad to enjoy a rendering of a Zen Garden, or a kinetic kick, or just a reflection in water.

By Issue 6, the story has turned dark and nihilistic again, but I’m imagining that Remender has more surprises up his sleeve. I’d like to see more of Tokyo’s Samurai Shangri-La as opposed to being stuck in just another Cyberpunk Dystopia. Here’s hoping the story goes to more beautiful locations, to complement Murphy’s stunning art.tg03