Listen to my latest short story "The Forest Trail"

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sword of Deaths by Christopher Mannino | Book Review

This book was awesome! If you liked the first one get this one and join the characters for some more adventures. The first book "School of Deaths" was really good. Okay with that out of the way I do have one beef with this book even though it was great. 

I loved this book, but not the ending. It ends with a huge cliffhanger. There is very little resolution, and it leaves you in the middle of the story. That's fine for the end of a chapter, but not the end of a book. There were loose story strings left dangling that should have been tied up. It feels like a cheap way to get you to read the next book where as the first book wrapped up in a good place and resolved a lot of things. I really enjoyed this book and would have given it 5 stars, but I gave it 4 because of the cliffhanger ending. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome and I can't wait to read the next one, but that's not how you end a book. Not cool man, not cool. :) Other than that it was just as good as the first book and was a really fun read that I still highly recommend.

You get to know the main character, Susan Sarnio, and her friends a lot more. They are tested even harder and face bigger challenges than in the first book. Mannino does a great job of raising the steaks a ton in this novel. A new school year starts up and with it come new characters and new adventures. Also there is a little romance in this book that wasn't there in the first one. I really liked the new characters and how they interacted with the ones I already knew from the last book. New powers are revealed, for more than one character, and that was really fun to see. Also we get to meet dragons up close and personal! I loved that. I also liked how we were introduced to new places in the land of deaths. 

The steaks are raised to the point in this book where the actions of the characters could change history. This made for a really exciting story—I just wish I could have gotten the whole story in this book instead of reading to the start of the climax just to have the book end on me.

The scenes where they play their sport with scythes called Boskery were really fun and well done. There were also many scenes in this book where they explore places other than the school in the world of deaths. Those scenes were awesome.

I'm excited to read the next book in the series, and even though I think it was a cheap trick to leave us hanging with the ending I really enjoyed this book.

Get the book on Amazon (Affiliate Link):
Sword of Deaths

Check out the Author's Website:
http://www.christophermannino.com/

Dan Dan The Art Man's Book Reviews | Episode 48
The Merchant Adventurer by Patrick E. McLean



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In this 48th episode, I review Patrick E. McLean's book "The Merchant Adventurer!" If you love fantasy but are looking for something a little different then check this book out! The merchant our hero usually passes by or buys weapons from is the main character of this epic quest! Have a listen to find out why I loved this book for its gorgeous writing, amazing narration, and brilliant humor. 

Buy the Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link):
The Merchant Adventurer

Learn More About the Author:
http://patrickemclean.com/

Music Attribution:
Music by Kevin MacLeod at http://www.incompetech.com
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Visit my website: www.DanDanTheArtMan.com

Support the show AND get a free audiobook!
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 

The Merchant Adventurer (Affiliate Link)
Written by Patrick E. McLean
Narrated by Patrick E. McLean


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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler | Book Review

This was a really fun book. I am now a fan of hard-boiled detective novels. I've been meaning to read a classic of the genre for a while. I'm glad I finally did. Other than Sherlock Holmes I haven't read much in the form of detective fiction. The first Dresden Files book and The Case of the Singing Sword are the only other two I can think of. It was really cool to read one of the books that founded the genre. I just remembered that I also read The Cuckoo's Calling too, but I was pretty bored by that book even though I did like it. 

The author had a powerful command of his prose. Everything was described in beautiful elegance but I was never bored because it was written in a way that kept me interested. Raymond Chandler was a very talented writer. I loved his style and authorial voice. It was gorgeous writing with a really cool swaggering attitude that was a blast to read. Right away you can tell that the main character, detective Philip Marlowe, has an awesome self-assured way about him. I liked him right away. I loved that it was a first person narrative through his eyes. It was really fun following him around on his investigation. I really felt like I was tooling around with Marlowe as he searched for clues, ran into scary bad guys, and combed over crime scenes. 

There were some really intense scenes in this book. It was quite the page turner when Marlowe was in mortal danger or a situation that could turn deadly at any second. I love how he keeps a cool head in the face of some pretty tough characters. He was a guy I had fun rooting for. The writing did such a great job describing everything that the whole book played out in my head like a beautifully shot film. I will definitely be reading more of Raymond Chandler's work. The man could write!

Lastly, I will note that there is some pretty horrible misogyny in this book that is unsettling to read in this day and age. That said the story was fantastic and the writing is beautiful so I think it's worth reading even with those cringe-worthy parts. I'm so glad I picked this one up.

Get the book on Amazon (Affiliate Link):
The Big Sleep (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

Learn more about the author:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Chandler

Friday, September 9, 2016

My Writing Tools and Processes

This blog post originated as a comment in response to episode 2 of The Writing Crusade titled "How Do you Write?" It's a podcast by Indiana Jim. My comment answer was so long I figured I would stick it here too. So thanks Jim! My readers thank you as well. As always, thanks for stopping by!





I have developed a strange workflow for writing books over the years. When it comes to first drafts my favorite apps are the ones with very little UI. I love writing with no distraction. Just the words and I. I love writing in Notepad on a PC. Usually though I end up writing on my phone these days. Either with my thumbs or even better with my voice using speech to text. It's way faster than typing though I love the sound and feel of typing on a computer keyboard the most out of all writing methods.

So my first draft goes into an app called SimpleNote. It's free, and it is pretty much like Notepad but it auto saves to the cloud and I can access it in any web browser and of course on my phone. It has a beautifully barebones UI. I also really like writing first draft chapters on my phone in an app called Werdsmith. It also has a nice barebones UI and you can set your word count goal and as you write a tiny red bar slowly fills up at the top of your screen. When you hit your word count goal it turns green. It is really helpful to know where you're at in a quick visual way with word count as you're writing. If you see you're getting near the end of the chapter you know it's time to wrap it up.

I often start chapters not knowing how I'm going to write enough words with what I need to accomplish in the story only to end up going over my word count. So in this way, I'm a bit of a discovery writer inside each chapter, but I love having an outline showing me where to go. If I know what is going to take place before I write a chapter it comes out so much faster. I love the process of turning my paragraph into a chapter. I write with that outline paragraph or bullet points below my prose and as I flesh the story out for the first draft I delete the parts of the outline I've covered. When the chapter is done the outline text is gone. Sometimes though I find I have to put some of it in the next chapter or put some of the following chapter into the current one.

Once I finish a chapter I dump it into Google Docs and format it like an eBook. Then when I'm done I have all the chapters in the one Google Doc to give to Beta Readers.

I am a big outliner, so I start with that. Usually, I have a few paragraphs or even a sentence that explains the idea of the story. From there I plug my story into an outline of story points. Sometimes it's as simple as "what happens in each act of the story?" Usually, that's for short stories. For longer works I use the Save the Cat Beat Sheet combined with the Dan Wells 7 Point Story Structure. I fill in all my story beats - which usually takes me a week or two to figure out. From there I get a lined piece of paper. I figure out how long I think my story will be and then how long I want my chapters to be. That helps me know how many chapters I want the book to be. I try and write down a sentence or two for each chapter. I start by filling in the chapters that I already know the events of from my beat sheet. Like the move from Act I to Act II is at the 25% mark so depending on word count I know which chapter that part of the story goes into. The midpoint where my characters move from reaction to action ends up being halfway through the story so I find out which chapter that goes into and jot down a few lines for that. When I'm done I have a piece of paper with a very rough version of my entire story.

Here's an example: 
Click to 

I'm a little over halfway through writing the first draft of this book though I've been writing it for years :( It's the book I workshopped on The Roundtable Podcast and I really need to finish it!

I love being able to have a lot of the big plot points figured out before I write. It gives me a lot of confidence to know where I'm going while writing the first draft. From there I take each sentence or two that describes each chapter and I flesh it out into a paragraph or two. Once I have that I start writing. That said the first line or even scene of a story often just comes to me out of nowhere and I write it all down in one quick flurry. It doesn't always remain as the first scene but it usually is my jumping off point.

Also I always feel free to change my story and update my outline as I'm writing the first draft. I still have a lot to discover as I change a paragraph or two into a complete chapter. As I write the first draft I get new ideas and update my outline as needed. 

Wow that was a lot but anyway that's how I write!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Godsknife: Revolt by Timothy C. Ward | Book Review


This book surprised me. It is many things all crammed into one book. It was definitely horrific and you could call it a horror novel. And I also might call it an urban fantasy because it takes place in modern times but has a lot of cool magic. It is paced like a thriller. The story moves very fast. Even though the action scenes were a bit too gruesome for my taste at times, they were really well done and I really enjoyed them. 

This book reads quickly because it is paced so fast. That said I was really intrigued with the magic system. I'm pretty sure I have a good grasp of it now, but I didn't really understand it until almost the end of the book. I still have questions about it but thankfully there's going to be a second book in this series, so hopefully I'll get my answers in the next book. The way characters gain power and use it was so awesome. There are those who use chaos and others who use order. The way the author came up with the way they use magic was really creative and made for some awesome fight scenes.

I loved the fast pace but I wish that some things would've been explained more. The powers that characters have—do all kinds of crazy amazing stuff but most of it wasn't explained until the end of the story. I kind of felt like I was flung through the story. That's to be expected in a thriller but with all the other cool fantasy and horror elements it took me a while to get a feel for the story. I loved it though. Timothy C. Ward definitely lets you figure it out as you read the story instead of using info dumps and hand holding. I would have personally liked a bit more explanation earlier on but you'll probably appreciate how he sprinkles it in while moving the story forward at a brisk pace.

I'm looking forward to the next book and especially getting to learn more about this awesome magic system and how the different worlds work in this book. So if you're looking for a thrilling gruesome book with a really cool imaginative magic system then check out this book.

Get the book on Amazon (Affiliate Link):
Godsknife: Revolt

Check out the author's website:
http://www.timothycward.com/