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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Finished The Firm and We're Finishing The Year

I finished reading The Firm by John Grisham today. That makes 27 books read this year, and I'm a good way through The Wizard of Oz but I won't finish it tonight so it's twenty seven. If you look two posts back you can see a nice graphic showing all the other books I read this year thanks to Goodreads.

So resolutions and all that. My first resolution: read more than 27 books in 2014. My second resolution: publish a novel length work. This is also the first year I started narrating audiobooks. This year I narrated and produced 6 audiobooks. Most of them were very short, but one came in at over 8 hours long. Two of them even found me and offered a contract to me to narrate their books which blew me away. I auditioned for the others and many many more titles that I wasn't cast for. I feel incredibly honored for every book I was chosen to narrate. My third resolution: narrate more than six audiobooks in 2014.

Other than that I plan on writing more short stories and either podcasting them or seeing if Every Photo Tells will accept them and podcast them. That reminds me - I need to finish a story I started for them.

Image Source: Google.com
I also need to review The Firm. That will probably be the next post and the first of 2014. Anyways, I hope you all have had a great year. What are your resolutions? Reading, writing or otherwise? As always, thanks for stopping by.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

I'm Reading The Firm

One thing I've noticed that I like about Grisham's writing is that his words don't get in the way. His prose is fairly vanilla but it does its job well. I think this shows great craft in his writing. You're able to just sink right into the story and get taken along for the ride. I'm really enjoying the book so far. I'm about halfway through it.

There are a couple reasons I picked up this book. One is that I want to read at least one book from all of those big authors you always see on the shelves of your grocery store. I read Dean Koontz's novel The Door to December back in September of 2011 and now I'm giving John Grisham a try. I really enjoyed Koontz novel and it's the same with Grisham. I guess that's why those guys are on the shelves of the Grocery store. Aparently I like thrillers. It might have to do with the fact that they're fantastic page turners or something. :)

Photo credit: © Lisa Waddell Buser


Another reason I was interested in reading The Firm is that my wife and I love watching legal TV shows. We have enjoyed Law & Order SVU & Criminal IntentThe Good WifeDrop Dead Diva, Boston Legal, Damages, and my personal favorite: Suits. It's incredibly funny, has fantastic characters that interact brilliantly, and it the most beautifully shot show I've ever seen period. They know what they're doing with the camera. I linked to the show websites but many of these are on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video if you want to check them out. So yeah we love those shows and while The Firm is a bit different because it's all at the law office not in the court room I'm still really enjoying it. I'll have a review when I finish it.

Have you read John Grisham? Which of his other novels would you recommend once I'm done reading The Firm? Any other authors other than Dean Koontz who are one of those grocery store shelf guys you'd recommend I give a shot? I've never read Tom Clancy. I'm definitely going to read Michael Crichton. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these authors and any suggestions you have. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Books I Read This Year

*After writing this post I finished The Firm by John Grisham making 27 books for 2013.


I received an awesome email from Goodreads today showing me all the books I read this year. It comes to a grand total of 26. Actually 27 as I finished The Firm by John Grisham December 31st. Is that pretty good or not very many? I was expecting the number to be a bit bigger. I've heard a lot of people who say they read a book a week. There is one explanation however. I read a lot of very long books. Brandon Sanderson's The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. The Passage by Justin Cronin was pretty massive. Dune was a decent length. So I think that's part of it. Hold on, now that I look back on my Goodreads history it appears that last year I only read 16 books. Many of those were also long epics but some were fairly short. Well, if anything I'm happy I read more this year. Weird, I also read 16 books in 2011. Well, I feel better now :)

It's funny, I have read a lot of the classics of literature so now I'm trying to catch up on the classics and current works of sci-fi and fantasy because that's what I want to write. Yes, I want to write genre fiction and I haven't read much of it, well I hadn't but now I'm making my way through it. I read many classics in high school and after because I was going to be an English teacher before I decided on 3D art and multimedia instead. Also one of my best friends did end up being an English teacher so while we were in college we would read a lot of the classics. We'd start the same book on the same day, then write how many pages we read  on a white board in the kitchen to goad each other to read more. It was really fun. We would also go to a St. Vincent De Paul every Tuesday I believe because we could get books for as little as 30¢ but usually just under a dollar. We would scour the shelves for a good 20 minutes and then walk to the counter with a decent stack of books. Mostly we bought classics. They had a steady intake of books and sometimes you'd find a nice hardback or a returned almost new paperback. Sometimes even newish books. We would also always try and find a copy of Wuthering Heights and sneak it onto the other dude's stack. We both hated that novel when we had to read it over the summer for A.P. English our senior year. Back in 09' I actually reread it for who knows what reason, and ended up liking it. The characters were deplorable people, but I appreciated the book for what it was and some of the things it did. Here's the review I wrote up about it.

When I hear authors answer the question "what's the best advice you can give to aspiring authors" they usually say two things. Write a lot, and read a lot. Now I'm not reading a lot just so I can become a better writer, though I do try and learn from every book. I read because books are a passion of mine. One of my favorite things to do has always been reading books. I used to work sometimes for my grandparents. They ran a TV repair business and sold Zeniths out of their basement and when they went on vacations sometimes they needed someone to be at the house for drop offs and pick ups. There were usually only a handful of these in a day and maybe a couple phone calls. So most of the time I had an empty quiet house for hours. I would always bring a stack of books with me and I loved the fact that I was getting paid to do a massive amount of reading. In high school at lunch I could usually be found with the little acoustic guitar I kept in my locker, or a book. When I finished my work in class, I'd whip out a book and get to it.

What books have you read this year that you absolutely loved? How many books have you read this year? Are you on Goodreads? It is a fantastic way to track what you've read and review them. If you're on there and you're not already my friend, add me as a friend. Merry Christmas! Have you heard my Christmas story yet? It's right at the top of the page and it will bring you cheer! Just sayin' :) Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King | Book Review

This book was creepy and vibrant and touching and exciting and an excellent sequel to The Shining and many more things. A few years ago I never thought I would be reading books by this author. I grew up not watching PG 13 movies until I was actually 13, and I never watched any horror movies. I still don't. I'm a pretty cheerful upbeat guy who doesn't like to dwell on gruesome dark stuff. My favorite movies and books are more of the coming of age sci-fi and fantasy adventure types. I guess you could say I'm not a horror fan, that was until I read King. Many times when I would talk to friends about the love of reading and writing they would ask, "have you read any of Stephen King's books?" I would always respond by saying I wasn't into horror. Then I read his great book called On Writing where he gives a bio of his life and writes a lot about the craft of writing. So then, you guessed it, The Shining was the first King book I read. My friend let me borrow his beat up paperback copy, but I ended up grabbing the audiobook from my public library. It was really good. I went on to read many more King books after that finding that he was a great writer, even if some of his books bored me in the middle sometimes. His novella The Body is possibly my favorite book of all time. I've read it several times in the last few years. The audiobook is narrated by the legendary Frank Muller and it is amazing.

Image Source: http://www.healthytravelblog.com/
This story is about an old guy dealing with alcoholism, ghosts, evil old people who travel teh nation in RVs, and many other things. It's also about a little girl dealing with her special powers, I know nothing new to a King novel but he did a bang up job writing this one and it felt new and inventive and fresh and awesome. I'm not a drinker. I have a drink about once every two months or so. A glass of red wine, or a mixed drink at a family party. Maybe a hard lemonade. I've never had more than one drink. I've never been drunk. It would seem there isn't much to relate to in this novel for me, but there is. It's really about seeing a character hit rock bottom and deal with picking up the pieces to eventually get to a place where they can help others. It's about a lot of other things, but that's one of the main ones. I've hit rock bottom a few times. It is just about always when one of my kids are sick. I've stayed overnight in the hospital with a sick child many more times than I'd like to remember. It's different than being at rock bottom from personal bad choices, but all this to say that this book which would seem like a story I couldn't relate to was touching to me and I loved it.

I may have blogged about this in the past but I think Stephen King's main strength is that he writes great characters. I've read many of his books now and there were a few that got boring in the middle. They were bloated with info dumps, flashbacks, back story, and exposition but I always kept reading. I kept reading because in all of his books I had become very invested in his characters and I had to know what was going to happen to them. I cared about his characters. I think this strength Stephen has is why he is the king of fiction so to speak. There are many other reasons, the dude can write some brilliant prose, but I think it's the characters we all come to love that push his books to the top of the charts and keep his stories in the minds of readers. I heard Mr. King asked by an interviewer that while his books are scary there are also touching moments in them. King responded by saying that you can't be scared for a character unless you care about them. Stephen King writes characters you care about. He fleshes them out brilliantly.

So yes great characters I became invested in have carried me through some of his books with bloated middles but this book had no bloat. I loved every chapter. I never grew bored. There were some nice slower chapters where you get to explore the different places in the story, but it never got boring. This book was a fantastic read and if you like The Shinning you'll love this great sequel Doctor Sleep.

Have you read Doctor Sleep? Did you even know a sequel to The Shining was out? Are you a Stephen King fan or do you not understand what all the hype is about? Sound off in the comments, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by.

See for yourself how awesome this book is: Doctor Sleep at Amazon
And the one that comes before it: The Shining at Amazon

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can Restrictions Help Storytelling?


In this Breaking Bad cast interview with Conan O'Brien show creator Vince Gilligan mentions how great it was at the end of season 4 of Breaking Bad to know that they had 16 more episodes to finish out the show in season 5.

He said, and I'm paraphrasing:
"...we went to their writer's room and divided up the cork board up into 16 equal sections and figured out how much story do we have left...because you want it to end with the very last loose ends tied up, leave everything on the field..."
I listened to that and thought to myself, that sounds a lot like me deciding I was going to write a 60K word novel with 2,500 word chapters which meant 24 chapters. I divided a piece of paper in to 24 sections and fleshed out each chapter much like they fleshed out each episode. I still stand by my last blog post, but this just strengthens my resolve to get the bare bones of my story down, enough to guess at a length in word count and number of chapters, and then map out the book on a piece of paper filling in each chapter and making sure the right events take place in the right parts of the story. I found it really interesting and inspiring to think of the writers of Breaking Bad going into a room to write the last season of one of the best TV shows of all time. They knew they had 16 episodes, so they planned out each one. 
"...you want to parcel it out so you end with...the very last thing tied up...you don't want to finish up your story too soon...finish the last bit of plot that you hope to achieve...you want to time it out just right..."


I never thought about how precise these episodes have to be. They have to be a certain length to the second so they can fit in commercials and air in its exact time slot. Now one of the beautiful things about novels is that you can take more time with stories and dive deeper, and tell your story without most of the restrictions of television or film. That said, it seems to me the more behind the scenes I hear from creators of films and movies, the more it seems like when they have restrictions they're forced to think out of the box of how to make it work and come up with brilliance. Look at Star Wars.

Did you know the first Star Wars movie A New Hope was extremely difficult for them to make and a lot of people said it wouldn't go anywhere? Then look at Episode I The Phantom Menace. All the money in the world, technology enabling you to show anything imaginable on the screen including a completely computer generated lead character, and it pales in comparison to A New Hope with it's plastic models and robotics - 57% vs a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes if you follow those links. I'm not quite sure where I'm going with all this just yet but I wanted to share what's stewing around in my head about story and structure and restrictions. What are your thoughts about these things? Have you seen Breaking Bad? If not, why not? Here's my spoiler free review of the show I wrote after finishing it last month. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Organic Outlines

My Novel Outline on One Page
I've been studying story structure so much that I think I've been trying to use it too much when planning and writing a story. It may just be in one respect - word count. I've been deciding on a word count before really fleshing out the story. I think that's a mistake. It's one thing to decide your story may be a short story rather than a novel. It's another to choose a word count and then break the story down and put it all into place from there. That said, I do need to try and narrow down a word count so I can put the right parts of the story in the right places. It kind of helped me because then I knew that say the end of chapter 6 would be the end of Act I in my novel. That's really good to know, but I'm thinking I should start with getting the story down in a bare bones outline first, then decide on word count. Certain things should happen at certain parts of the story. If I don't know how long the story is going to be then I don't know when I'm halfway through and the characters should stop reacting and start actively fighting back towards the problems keeping them from achieving their goals. I won't know when I'm at 25% and the characters should be thrust into a different world or have their world flipped on its head. 

As you can see in the image above I decided I wanted my novel to be 60K words so with each chapter at 2,500 words that meant 24 chapters. It was really awesome and exciting to in a small way see my whole novel on one piece of paper before writing it. This is something I want to do every time from now on, but do the following first. Get the story down from start to finish just in a rough outline form. Like one sentence for each scene. Then break it up into what I think will be the chapters. From there I can guess at the word count of the book by guesstimating the word punt of each chapter and adding them up. That might help me have a better more organic way of fleshing out the story rather than deciding on a word count then breaking up the story and inserting all the right parts where they're supposed to go. A story needs to be however long it demands to be. I think story structure is THE thing that is going to take my stories from having great scenes but doesn't work as a book to novels worth publishing - but I still need to let the story roll out organically and be as long as it needs to be. My stories as I've written them in the past did not have certain things happen at certain parts of the story and it hurt the stories. Story structure has helped me see many times what was wrong with a story or why I was stuck and helped me figure out how to fix it.

Image Source: http://cliffordgarstang.com/?p=4363


What are your thoughts? What is your process for outlining? How much do you think about word count before you start your story? Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Third Audiobook I Narrated is Live!


I had the privilege to narrate the book Intriguing Science Fiction Short Stories and Tributes: Thrilling Adventures in Fantasy by James M. Lowrance. This book was really fun to narrate and it covered my two favorite genres as you can see in the header of my website. There is also some excellent non-fiction in this book about UFOs and a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. The book is well written and full of humor, intense action, and a lot of mystery. I know you'll enjoy it if you're a fan of my work. I enjoyed narrating Mr. Lowrance's work so much that I hope to do more of it in the future. He's a great writer. I'm so excited to have three professional audiobooks under my belt! Go grab your copy and enjoy. It's a short work so the price is right. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Frozen by Disney | Movie Review

My family and I went to see Disney's new animated film Frozen last night. It was really good! My 2, 3, and 5 year old liked it and sat still for most of the movie. My wife and I and my parents who were with us had a great time watching it too. My dad and I laughed at a lot of the same parts. There were a lot of hilarious moments in the movie.

I've always been a huge Pixar fan and it was easy to say they were producing the best 3D animated movies out there. Ever since I saw Disney's Tangled I can't say Pixar gets to stand alone on the top podium. As far as Disney films, I never saw Home on the Range (2004), I thought Chicken Little (2005) was a cute fun movie but it didn't blow me away like the Pixar films of the time say The Incredibles of 2004 and Finding Nemo the year before that. Next came Meet the Robinsons in 07' another film I never saw because the preview made it look kind of lame. Then came Bolt which I've heard good things about but have never seen. I made sure to see all the Pixar films.

Being a 3D animation major in college you would think I would have seen all the 3D films but most of these Disney flicks just didn't appeal to me. Next was The Princess and the Frog, but that was 2D and I didn't want to see a movie all about Voodoo magic no thank you. Then I saw the preview for Tangled. Right away I was extremely hopeful. I loved the preview. It made me want to drive to the theater then and there and pay to see the film. The sensibilities it conveys. The humor, the timing. I just hoped the movie would be as good as the preview, and it was. I loved Tangled. It made me stop and say, okay Disney is making amazing 3D films now. I guess I'll have to stop and pay attention the next time they put out another movie.


Frozen did not disappoint. It was visually stunning and had a great story that moved the whole time. My kids never became bored and neither did I. I was going to try really hard to break down the plot structure as I try to do whenever I watch something to learn from it, but I found myself to taken aback by the movie to do more than just sit back and enjoy it. I didn't spend the whole time in the theater telling my kids to be quiet or sit back down in their chairs either so it captured them as well.

As I said before it was hilarious. It was funny on many levels. In more subtle ways with well written dialog for the adults, and also in your face ways like with the little snowman Olaf for viewers of all ages. That little guy cracked my kids up. He was a great character. 

After reading some reviews it seems I may be alone in this but I still like Tangled more than this film. I think the main reason is that I like the characters of Tangled more. That said as you've read I really enjoyed Frozen and if you read the reviews everyone is saying it's possibly the best Disney film yet or as good as The Lion King.

It is worth going to see in the theaters. The visuals in this film were breathtaking. It was really funny, and it takes the characters to places that make you sit on the edge of your seat. A hearty recommendation from me.

Have you seen it yet? What did you think? Best Disney film yet? Just okay? Best film you've ever seen? Sound off in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dune by Frank Herbert | Book Review

In early November I wrote a blog post titled I'm Reading Dune in which I described being incredibly bored by the book and putting it down 3 seperate times, but then picking it up to give it one last shot and really enjoying it from that point on. I have to say that for the rest of the novel I really enjoyed it. The story kept moving at a brisker pace, tons of really awesome action and fight scenes took place. The characters grew in amazing ways. It was a spectacle to behold and an epic story to enjoy as it all unfolded. A rich deep world filled with very different kinds of characters all with their own conflicting traditions. Much of this effects the main character Paul as he grows from boy to man. I really enjoyed seeing him grow into a full on mans man. A great leader, an awesome warrior, and his role as son grew very interesting as well.

Image Source: http://omnireboot.jerrickventures.com/archives/dune/

So let me just say that I had given up on this book and was bored out of my mind reading it at first, but I kept going and I'm so glad I did. If you've ever tried reading this book and couldn't get past the huge info dumping and people sitting in rooms talking of the mythology, religions, politics, worlds and prophesies - pick it up again and keep reading. I promise it gets better. I'm interested to see now that I know what the heck is going on - what I will pick up on with a second read. I'm taking a break to finish and start a heap of other books, but someday I'd like to reread this epic beast and see what I can glean anew from that dense block of a beginning Frank Herbert penned as act one of his first installment in his Dune universe. I also want to go on and read the other books in the series at some point.

Have you read Dune? Did you love it? Hate it? favorite book ever? Most boring book ever? Sound off and give your opinion in the comments and as always thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Christmas Carol | Free in Audio & eBook

Almost every year I read or listen to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in December and wanted to share this great story with you.

This novel is in the public domain so you can get it as an eBook for free! The version I link to below at Project Gutenberg is especially cool because you can get it with illustrations. The epub file will work on your Nook or other eReaders, and there’s also a Kindle format or even just HTML if you want to read it in your browser.

eBook:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46

I also found an incredible version of this beloved novel for free online. While you can find it read by amateur narrators in a few places, I found it narrated by none other than Jim Dale! Who is Jim Dale you ask? Why he's only the fantastic narrator that brought Harry Potter to life in our ears. Yes that's Jim Dale, the Harry Potter audiobook narrator. A real pro and I know a favorite among many listeners.

audiobook:
http://www.audiobooks.org/bookDesc.php?id=a-christmas-carol

So give this story a read or a listen. It's a quick read and every year it brightens my spirits. I LOVE the ending. It brings cheer every time I get to it. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Breaking Bad | TV Show Review


Breaking Bad was an interesting show. It was an amazing show. It was also a show that took a while to grow on me despite everyone saying it's the best drama show to ever air on TV. I was laughing a ton and found the characters to be really interesting, but I just didn't want to watch a show about drugs. Now that I've seen every episode I must say it was one of the best shows I've ever seen and yes, maybe the best. Seeing the main character Walter White change so much from the first episode to the show finale was a spectacular thing to witness. I think this show has also made my wife and I stay up late more nights in a row then any other show. Once we hit season 4 anytime the kids were in bed we were breaking bad.



This show does something I'm trying to learn how to do, pushes the character through some extraordinary circumstances. This show gets crazy, and the further into it you go the crazier it gets. Seeing extreme things happen to characters you love really puts you through the paces as the viewer. Okay so a lot of shows do that, but Breaking Bad keeps going and really shows you how these things effect the characters. Things that happen several episodes back are many times still effecting the characters.

There were a lot of moments in the show were I thought, now what? How the heck are they going to get out of this? How could this possibly be solved? Many times it was solved in a way I didn't expect the characters to try because it was so extreme, but it always seemed to be their only option even as bad as those options were. Seeing these "good" characters start to do some of these things helped show us moments where the characters were changing. Making critical decisions that changed the course of their lives. They had to face up to some harsh realities and deal with them. They had to do things they never would have imagined themselves doing before. They had to step up, which sometimes meant doing some despicable things.


I think any good story is one where you really care about the characters, even if that means a villain you love to hate who you want to see die.

Breaking Bad is a show like no other. It had my wife and I thinking about it all day as we waited to play with our kids and tuck them in bed at night so we could sit next to each other and hit play. I finished the last episode a week ago and the show is still lingering in my mind. I'm still thinking about it.

Well done Vince Gilligan and crew. Brilliant show. I can't wait to see what you and the actors from the show work on next. I have found listening to the Insider Breaking Bad Podcast helps with that whole feeling of is it really all over? Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad's creator) and Kelley Dixon (Breaking Bad editor) host a weekly conversation with the cast and crew of AMC's original series Breaking Bad - so you get some great insights from people who helped make Breaking Bad. It's like listening to a commentary for each episode. It's pretty great.

Have you seen Breaking Bad? Did you love it? Hate it? Best show ever? Don't know what all the hype is about? Sound off in the comments, and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 25, 2013

8 O'Clock Coffee | Coffee Review


It all started with this tweet:

One of my favorite authors Nathan Lowell was being interviewed by Chris Moody on the podcast PodioMedia Chat. In what are some of my all time favorite sci-fi books, Trader's Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, coffee plays a part in stories. Chris asked Nathan what some of his favorite coffee is and Nathan mentioned 8 O'Clock Coffee. At which point I shot off the tweet above because as you can see in my Twitter bio, I'm a coffee addict. So they sent me a free whole bean bag of their Central Highlands dark roast. I couldn't just give it a try and send off a thanks tweet back so instead I of course recorded myself opening it, making it, and giving it a try. It tasted wonderful. Listen for yourself:


Download the .mp3

Thanks for stopping by and thanks 8 O'Clock Coffee!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dinosaurs: 51 Fabulous Facts is Online!


The audiobook "Dinosaurs: 51 Fabulous Facts" by Lucy Wilson is now available on Audible.com, Amazon, and in iTunes!

This book was so fun to record! My first love is fiction, but who doesn't love Dinosaurs? I think it's important to read both fiction and non-fiction even if you only write fiction. Go grab your copy today and listen to me tell you 51 fabulous, fun, and cool facts all about Dinosaurs. Have a road trip coming up during the holidays? Well here you go. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Signed the Contract to Narrate my 3rd Audiobook!


This time I'm really excited because I'm getting to narrate a collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories. Those are my favorite two genres, a fact you already knew because you've totally checked out my awesome header at the top of my site right? Anyways - I absolutely love audiobooks and narrating them is at least as fun if not more fun than listening to them. Narrating a book that's well written and in my favorite genres is like the chocolate dipped cherry nestled nicely on top of a rich chocolate frosted cupcake complete with three white sprinkles. Okay, I may have used the image I found at the awesome website UnrestrictedStock.com to get some inspiration for that but seriously - I'm so excited to be the narrator for this title! It's called: Intriguing Science Fiction Short Stories and Tributes: Thrilling Adventures in Fantasy by James M. Lowrance and you can snag your copy now at Amazon. The eBook version is only $2.99 and judging from the audition script I got to read and the 4 and 5 star reviews for it on Amazon it's an awesome read. I can't wait to share James's great stories with the world.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wattpad Emailed Me Today.

A little website I like to call Wattpad sent me an email today:
So that's super cool! I have all of my stories up on Wattpad because it's an awesome place to share them and get feedback and read other people's stories and become part of an awesome community! I love Wattpad. It's also cool because as a reader you can read a story in your browser, or snag the app for every device you have and keep reading there. I have found some other writers on there and lots of great people who love to read and actually comment on your story. It is very hard to find that elsewhere. It's also quite difficult to find a place where so many people will read your work. Even if you don't get comments you can see how many people have read each chapter. You can use that as a tool, like if you have tons of readers but they all drop off at a certain chapter, maybe there's some revision or rewriting that needs to take place there. 
I can't take credit for being a most followed user. I still think that happened because Ivan Yuen, one of the founders of Wattpad, read a couple of my stories, voted for them, left positive feedback on them, and followed me. I blogged about it here. Ever since then I've seen many of my stories get into the charts. That has mostly died down now but I have noticed the novel I'm currently writing as gotten near #100, gone back into the #700s, and as I write this is #439. I happen to think it's the best novel length work I've written yet, but that's easy to say because I haven't finished it yet and I've trunked my other three full novels :) Still I continue to be excited about having my work on Wattpad and it was a nice treat to get this email today. It's really easy to get discouraged about your writing because it's something that takes a very long time to get good at. I've been learning that writing well is one thing, but writing a great story is something else. I've blogged about this before. It has lead me to a search on how I can write a better story which brought me to learning about story structure. Check out the links under Storytelling Tools on the right sidebar of my site by scrolling down... or I could just paste them in for you right here:

Storytelling Tools

Below is the cool little widget Wattpad gave me for being one of the most followed user so of course I've got to share it with you! You can actually start reading my novel right in the widget. How cool is that? Give it a shot. I already have 9 chapters up there and more are on their way. As always thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm Reading Dune

I'm reading Dune. You may have heard of it. If you look it up on Wikipedia you'll see that it is the world's best-selling science fiction novel. Here's a little something I snagged from its book description over at Amazon:
A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.
And here's a little line taken from the Editorial Reviews section From Library Journal:
Dune is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy.
So of course I have wanted to read this book for some time. When I found a version of it on Audible with one of my favorite narrators, Scott Brick, on the list of voice actors in it I jumped on the chance to use my monthly credit and get my copy.

The book surprised me, and then it surprised me again.

I was very surprised to find that the book was incredibly boring. I have heard from friends that it's amazing, but I just couldn't get into it. I actually stopped reading it three separate times. I wanted to like the book so bad, but I could barely stand it. Up until a certain scene that is a ways into the story all you get is people talking. There are a couple scenes where some things happen, but mostly they're not doing anything. They are sitting or standing and talking. Talking about the world, its society, economy, philosophies, environments, prophecies - on and on and ON! I couldn't take it anymore so I stopped reading the book. Three times.

Then I picked it up a fourth time.


Lucky for me this fourth try reading Dune lead me to an awesome scene where some pretty intense action takes place. I've been reading the book for quite a while since then and I'm really enjoying it. The pacing has stayed at a better clip. When it does slow down I'm finding myself intrigued rather than bored. There have been many more awesome action scenes. I really like the characters now and I feel like I'm finally starting to understand the world. Now that I like the characters and want to know more about his crazy desert planet of Dune called Arrakis I'm enjoying the rich detail Frank Herbert put into his writing. So I was quite surprised to find myself enjoying the book after putting it down three times out of boredom. I was surprised to find myself thinking about it and wondering what the rest of the story holds over the weekend when I didn't have commute time to listen to more of the story.

Have you read Dune? Did you stop reading it out of boredom or did it have you from page one? Is it your favorite book or one you don't care for much but respect for laying the way for future science fiction books you love? Join in the conversation in the comments! I'm always curious of what other people have to say about stories and why they do or do not like them. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Second Audio Book Narrated in the Books


Today I received an email letting me know that the completed audio book I narrated and produced was accepted by the rights holder. It was really fun to record and it's called "Dinosaurs: 51 Fabulous Facts," by Lucy Wilson. In about three weeks it will hit all the online stores and my name will then be listed as a narrator for two audio books on audible.com, amazon.com, and in iTunes! That is so exciting to me! I previously had the privilege to record the novel "A Life Worth Dreaming About" by Nicholas Dettmann. So now I have one fiction title and one non fiction title under my belt. 

I absolutely love audio books. I have been avidly listening to them for years and now I'm finally doing it - I'm narrating them! I can't wait to land the next gig and bring someone else's beloved novel to life in people's ears. My goal is to narrate 25 audio books, continue to have a blast and pour my passion into it, and then apply to become and audible approved producer. You can't do that until you've narrated 25 titles for ACX but then you get a special icon next to your profile so people know you're an experienced and approved narrator. I want this to become a thriving career and something I'm posting about all the time. I can't wait to fire up the microphone for the next project!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dust by Hugh Howey | Book Review

I really enjoyed this novel. It was an awesome conclusion to all of the fantastic storytelling and great characters Hugh Howey has given us with Wool and Shift. It was all over far earlier than I would have liked it to be, but then I was dreading finishing this book even as I started the first chapter. It probably went by so fast too because I was enjoying it so much. I didn't want the Silo Saga to end because I have had such a great experience surviving with its characters for some time now. Wool is still my favorite but I enjoyed reading Dust much more than Shift. While shift did a great job of revealing to me how this crazy world came into being Dust returned to having more dramatic and exciting things happen in the story like Wool. There were a lot of scenes that were very gripping and kept me glued to my iPod to hear each and every new word.

I won't give anything away but I will say when I read the ending I was so happy to be with those characters in that historical moment for them and for their world. It was really moving and I was smiling the whole time I read it. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for every character though, and I really enjoyed seeing characters I have come to love go through more intense and trying situations.

I felt that Hugh did a good job of ending his series and keeping a good balance with all of the characters and silos in the story. By the time you're reading this book there are many characters and silos Hugh had to juggle to finish out his awesome saga. It didn't feel like that though. Yes there was a log of switching between silos and characters, but everytime the viewpoint character or setting switch I was just instantly right with them or right there that it never felt like a big back and forth. It just felt like one cohesive and awesome story. I highly recommend this book. I loved it.

Have you read any of Hugh Howey's books? The first of five parts of Wool is free on Kindle. Go check it out! It's the story that his fans demanded to have more of and now here we are with Wool, Shift, and Dust. It's been an amazing journey.

Links:
Dust (Silo Saga Volume 3)
Shift Omnibus Edition (Silo Saga Volume 2)
Wool Omnibus Edition (Silo Saga Volume 1)
Wool - Part One (Free) on Kindle

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Narrating "Dinosaurs: 51 Fabulous Facts"

As I stood in front of my microphone narrating Dinosaurs: 51 Fabulous Facts I started to run into some fun challenges. There was a fact in the book which listed a ton of different dinosaur names, including the longest dinosaur name: Micropachycephalosaurus. That's right if you pick up the audio book in a month or so and give it a listen you'll hear me pronounce that word casually with perfection. :) That was just one of many names I had no clue how to pronounce correctly until narrating this book. Thank goodness for the internet.

Narrating non fiction is much different than narrating fiction. Instead of going into different character voices and narrating with a bit of dramatic flair I'm going for a fun and energetic voice. I love a good story, but I also love dinosaurs. Who doesn't? This book is proving to be a blast to narrate because as I read I learn lots of cool facts about them, many of which I did not know. I can't wait for people to be able to stick this book in their cars on family road trips or on their iPods for their commutes or chores. It should prove to be a very fun listen.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm Narrating Another Book & NaNoWriMo!


It's almost November so I should be gearing up for NaNoWriMo, but right now I'm excited about something else. I just landed my second audiobook narration gig! This one is nonfiction but it's still going to be very fun. No why? It's about dinosaurs! Who doesn't like dinosaurs?

As I read the short audition I already had lots of fun and learned quite a few things about dinosaurs. It's going to be a blast to narrate this book and I know listeners will have a great deal of fun as well. This book would be perfect for my family. Say we're going on a road trip - the kids could sit in the back and hear all about dinosaurs with fun facts and funny little asides. That's this book and I can't wait to narrated it.


As for NaNoWriMo I plan on writing the same way I did when I won and got 50K words a few years ago. I will either record myself talking in my phone and transcribe it later, or just do straight up speech to text transcription. I did it on my old blackberry and it worked pretty well but my iPhone 5 works so much better with speech to text and I'm pretty excited about it. I should be able to get quite a few words to and from work. Also I'm not working full-time at the moment so I should have some time during naptime as well, but this will only come after I'm done with the audiobook because that comes first. It won't take me too long to produce this one as it's a children's book. It's going to be really fun and it gets me one step further to my goal. Once you have narrated 25 books for ACX you can try and become an Audible approved narrator. Then you get a special little logo next to your name when people are searching for narrators for their book. It tells them that you've been around the block and have some experience narrating audiobooks. It is my goal to become an Audible approved narrator and start doing much more narration. I really enjoy narrating and producing audiobooks. Listening to them has always been a passion of mine, and producing them is now a new passion for me.


Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig | Book Review

This was a fun book. I loved the weird world the characters live in. They live in a very hostile environment and always seem to be struggling but the things they do are so cool. I would love to float above tall stalks of corn on a ship equipped with hover rails scavenging for parts. Would I want to do that as a living? No. But it would be fun for a day, and it was really fun to read about. I don't want to spoil anything so I won't get into the cool things they discover, but it was a ride I was happy to be on next to the characters. That is enough for me to really enjoy a book, but Chuck's writing style was like a big old cherry on top of this hovering banana boat he served up.

I came to know Mr. Wendig from hearing him on a few podcasts and on these podcasts the hosts mentioned how helpful, regular, and hilarious Chuck's blog posts were. So I subscribed to his blog. I then began to receive new posts usually daily and sometimes twice a day. In these blog posts Chuck is at times profane enough to make me cringe but always doling out incredible advice for writers and he is hilarious. I'm pretty sure I have laughed from every one of Chuck's blog posts. I was hopeful this funny writing would come through in this book, and it did. But what surprised me more were the amazing descriptive passages and metaphors. There was some beautiful writing in this book. A lot of the story wasn't funny, it was serious stuff, and Wendig does a solid describing the world and the characters. Sometimes I would stop and just soak in a line or two that he wrote like I often do when I'm reading classical literature. His prose went from beautiful, to stunning, to hilarious, to vulgar, all in the same chapter. The end of the book makes you really wish the second one was already out and I will be sure to pick it up once it hits the shelves.

The last thing I'll mention is that I read this book by listening to it on my long commutes. It's how I get most of my reading done. The narrator was one I've never heard before, but Nick Podehl is now one of my favorite narrators. The guy is good. He does different voices for different characters, and he does it well. My favorite thing about Podehl though is that he really gets into it. When the characters are screaming in anger you can't just hear it in Nick's voice, you can FEEL it. Also I've noticed even some of the best narrators are a bit reserved when it comes to lines of dialog that are being screamed. Not Nick. He belts it out. He must be backing off the mic or turning down the gain because you can hear that he's really screaming and it is awesome. I will probably go looking for another book to read specifically because he is the narrator. Thanks for stopping by!

Links to Chuck's stuff:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Short Stories of DanDanTheArtMan 13 - The Staring Stranger




Download the .mp3

A podcast flash fiction story written and read by me inspired by the flash fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig's website www.terribleminds.com.


The creepy bum is always there, staring at me. Every time I ride the subway he's there. No matter what terminal I get off at, he's there. I can't escape him and I'm starting to lose it.


Rules for writing this story challenge:

You know the drill: Random number generator or d20. Roll it. Grab a setting from the list below and go forth and write yourself around 1000 words of fiction set in that location. The list, then, is:
(I got a 12 for my random number) 
12. The NYC subways
Download the .mp3

Music was "Dirt Rhodes" by Kevin MacLeod:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Notes on my Novella

A good friend of mine Michell Plested gave me the honor to have first dibs on creating a book cover for him. I jumped at the chance, especially when I heard what he wanted the cover to be. Check it out! It's for his awesome novel Boyscouts of the Apocalypse that you can read for free on Wattpad. Michell knows the scouts because he is involved with them as a cub and scout leader. He volunteers his time to go on cool outdoor trips and things with his scouts which includes his son. I think that is awesome. My oldest is 5 but I can't wait to see all the things he gets involved with as he gets older and I can't wait to be a part of them. So go check out Mike's book Boyscouts of the Apocalypse.

Here's where I get to my novella. When Mike asked what I'd like as payment for his book cover I asked if he would be interested in reading my novella and giving me feedback on it. I really respect Michell and look up to him as a writer. I'm so thankful he agreed. He has given me some very honest feedback on my novella which is invaluable to me. I first found Mr. Plested online by searching for writing podcasts and found his fantastic Get Published podcast. You get to hear about his writing journey and listen to laid back and insightful interviews he does with other authors. Mike jokes around with his guests but also gets a lot of great writing advice out of them. Since he started the podcast he got published. You can pick up his debut novel Mik Murdock, Boy Superhero now published by Five Rivers Publishing. I bought it and had a blast reading it. It would also be great for your kids to read. I bet you'll hear them laughing as they turn the pages and ask you when the sequel is coming out once they've finished it.

So Mike read my story a couple times and then went through about the first 60% making notes for me and then stopped. He suggested I rewrite and tighten up the story before he goes on to finish his feedback for me. After reading his notes, which I found to be dead on, I whole heartedly agreed with him. I'm also thankful he didn't just get through it and hand it off to me. I can tell he cares. He wants my story to succeed. I really hope to meet Mike someday at a convention or something because he is a class act. He made a ton of notes pointing out a lot of things that could be changed in my story. I read through them last night. He made A LOT of really great points and I'm so glad he didn't worry about hurting my feelings and tell me it was a great story that was ready to publish.

He was very nice but as he put it "didn't pull any punches." I'm so thankful. That's exactly what you want as a writer when you're getting feedback on your story from beta readers before you go and publish it or send it off. I reworked the story quite a bit and changed a lot of it on my own, but that was as far as I could take it and I needed some help seeing the flaws. There are a lot of them. I still have much to learn. After getting Mike's notes though, I'm not disheartened. I'm excited! I have the chance to see things, lots of things, that are wrong with my story that I couldn't pick out on my own. Now I can fix those things before putting my name on the thing and making it available for sale online. I have a lot of work to do, but I think it will be work that will really improve my novella.


I bet I will learn a lot rewriting, hacking, and revising this novella with the help of Mike's notes. That in itself will be really valuable to me. I will blog about the things I learn that will help me write a better story the next time around as I go through this next draft of my novella. If you want to read the thing in it's current state, its just under 30K words, click the big banner at the top of this website and you can read it now for free on Wattpad. Pretty soon I'll be posting up new versions of the chapters as I work my way through it and you can follow along there.

Have you received feedback on one of your stories? Did it help you? Make you curl up in the fetal position? Anger you, or encourage you? I'd love to hear about it! Go ahead, leave a comment - and as always thanks for stopping by!