Listen to my Short Story "The Forest Trail"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Ehrenreich, Barbara | Book Review

This book was interesting. The only reason I bought it (ages ago) was because it was on a front display table at a Borders, told you it was ages ago, and it was on sale for super cheap. I think it's been sitting on my bookshelf for about 7 years but I finally finished it because I've been trying to finish books I'm partway through. I'm glad I finished this book. It was written well and was interesting so if this is something you think you're interested in it's about what you'd expect. What it's like to try and make it on minimum wage jobs.

Not usually a book I would read. I don't go to a physical bookstore anymore to buy books. I get them all online - usually as eBooks but even when I'm snagging a paperback. I usually only buy those when I can get a signed copy. I know I wouldn't pick this title up today because there are so many Sci-Fi and Fantasy titles I can't wait to read - but this is a good reminder that as writers we should read broadly in all genres. It's good to read a lot of stuff in the genre that you want to write in to know what's been done but it's also good to glean all kinds of stuff you never know where you'll use from other kinds of books like non-fiction titles. I've been meaning to read some history lately but in the mean time I've been watching the amazing Crash Course videos. Lately I'm watching the U.S. History ones. They're really good. Anyways, thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron | Book Review

This was a fantastic book. I bought the eBook version and read it on my iPhone. I gleaned many things from it that I will use to plan, write, and edit my books better. I highly recommend this book. I do believe I'll be reading it again and this time taking notes instead of just highlighting stuff. I'll have to check out the author's fiction now. It seems like she has a lot of fun writing which will probably correlate to her stories being a blast to read.


Friday, January 24, 2014

The Merchant Adventurer by Patrick E. McLean | Book Review

This book by Patrick E. McLean was awesome. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. He is a fantastic narrator. His delivery of all the characters' lines were so good. He got the voice for the protagonist perfectly. The wizard and an interesting Orc character - I distinctly remember them all and they were unique and interesting voices that really brought the story alive and made the fantastic dialog shine. Now onto the story. 

I really enjoyed the story. I was never bored, which sadly I can't say about many novels. First off, I love adventure stories. This was an adventure story that was very different. You can tell by the title. What? A merchant going on an adventure? Yes. But he's what you might expect from Patrick, a character who uses his brains and wit to get what he wants. He's not swinging a sword. He's not out for glory. He never set out to be a hero.

As much as I love fantasy for all its tropes, it was refreshing to read a story with a very different kind of protagonist. The wizard was a great character too. A bit of what we expect except when it comes to his personality. He was a fun antagonist.

Author Patrick E. McLean

Another great thing about this story is that I was never able to guess what was going to happen next. In a way that Boltak the main character might say it: "This ain't your ordinary fantasy adventure kid." Something else I liked was the prose. Usually it was snappy witty dialogue that had me laughing a lot. Sometimes, however, there were remarkable phrases  elegantly describing things of beauty. More quiet moments where you weren't waiting for the next laugh but carefully reading or listening to each word. When you get to chapter 37 you'll see what I mean. Great writing.

So yeah I gave this novel a 5 star rating because it was a blast to read, had fantastic writing, and I'm really glad I gave it a go. Have you read or listened to this book? What about any of Patrick's other works? All his stuff I've read or listened to so far is really good. Thanks for stopping by!

Links for The Merchant Adventurer
Audiobook: Podiobooks | iTunes

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The 2nd Edition of Danthology Available Now

I recently added my latest short story Cue Bull to my anthology. I also took the opportunity to reformat the book. Just a couple minor things but I think it looks much nicer now. I updated it at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. If you're a book reviewer I'd love to send you a free copy for an honest review. Just get a hold of me through the various links on the right of my site under Contact Info. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lana Del Rey - Young and Beautiful (from "The Great Gatsby" Soundtrack)

In my last blog post I reviewed the 2013 released movie The Great Gatsby. One of the songs on the soundtrack for that film has been haunting me. Young and Beautiful sung by Lana Del Rey. That's a good way to describe the song, haunting. Now that I think about it I heard it on the movie preview and it was one thing that drew me to the film - and that Leo and Baz were a part of it. I love it for its ability to convey a specific mood that really fits the film and the novel. I think it succeeds at that the same way the novel and film do - they capture a specific time and place. The Great Gatsby is a novel about more than the characters lives in the book. It captured the time of the roaring twenties. This song captures a tone from the film really well. I like things that can do that. My two favorite books are The Body by Stephen King, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Both of those stories capture intimate stories of childhood merging toward adulthood. In a way you could kind of say that The Great Gatsby captures that time for our country. Am I stretching it? 

May I submit to you that youth and beauty are fleeting things and we should not put our stock in them. That's not the message that normally is crammed down our throats by the media but it's true. I still love the song though. Anyways, Just wanted to draw your attention to this song. It's one I bought on iTunes - don't you love being able to buy singles? Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann | Movie Review

I finally watched the 2013 release of The Great Gatsby last night on my birthday. When I saw that the film was coming out a while back I picked up the book and gave it a second read. I remember thinking it was pretty good in high school, especially compared to the novels we were forced to read in those formative years. My second read showed me why it, along with another favorite novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is called the great American novel. I love the novel. It is amazing. It's prose is like a rich dessert that you want to come back to again later for its deeply subtle taste that’s so nuanced and delicate. You can read the review of the novel I wrote after reading it a second time through here. Now on to my review of the movie.

At first I did not like it at all. I was pretty disappointed. It was just a bit too flashy and theatrical. It seemed a bit over the top, Almost cheesy. That's kind of how most of Baz Luhrmann's film seem to me at first though, and then I fall in love with them. Romeo + Juliet had the same effect on me. It's just so different that it takes a while for you to "get it." Once I do his films have their own kind of brilliance that I love. The Moulin Rouge! was a fantastic film. I love the songs in that one. So by the end of the film I liked it. I remember the moment now when it changed for me. When Tom hits Myrtle it snaps into slow motion and you see Nick Carraway retreat on to the balcony in an attempt to get away from it all and the camera zooms out insanely fast onto the whole city and you finally feel like you're there with Nick and you get it and everything makes sense... at least that's how it was for me. You don't really see much of Gatsby, brilliantly played by Leonardo Dicaprio, until a while after that. I had a feeling that once Gatsby was on screen I would start to like the film. I was right. You don't see much of Gatsby in the beginning of the story in the novel either, so it was fitting but it seemed to take forever to finally get to met him in the movie.

Gatsby's Mansion

One thing this movie does well is capture the novel faithfully in it's own way. I don't recall any major plot points or events being changed. Other than some of the modern music Baz Luhrmann chose to use I finally felt like I was watching the book. The further into the movie I got the more I felt it did an amazing job at capturing many of the moments in the book. Seeing Gatsby reach out for the green light. Seeing Gatsby finally have tea with Daisy and then show her his mansion. From that point on I was in and I really enjoyed it. Much like the book the movie haunts you for a while after you watch it. They did a good job leaving you with the same feeling you get when finishing the book. I'm glad they put in that last line from the novel I found in a nice graphic image here. So good. All in all by the end of the film I really liked it and now I want to watch it again. Maybe I'll end up liking the first act or so this time around. As for the novel if you haven't read it you really should. It's an amazing novel, and quite short so it won't take you that long. If you need more convincing watch this awesome video where John Green describes everything he finds interesting about the novel.

Have you seen the film? What about others by Baz Luhrmann? Do you love them hate them? Not get them or think they define eras of time? Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear from you, and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's My Birthday & Plans for This Year

Well it's my birthday. Did you know Google puts up a custom Birthday graphic on your birthday if you're logged in? Kind of cool. Anyways, I'm 31 today. Depending who I'm hanging out with I'm either really old or still quite young. Either way one thing I know is that I'm very blessed. I have an amazing wife who also happens to be my best friend, and we have three beautiful kids who we really enjoy. I don't deserve the life I get to live. I'm so happy to be married to my wife and be a daddy to my wonderful kids. They are awesome. Life is good.

As far as writing goes a few things come to mind. I remember before I turned 30 I wanted to have a book published. In a way that happened. I'm published in the fine and hilarious book A Method to the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil and I'm very proud to be in that book with the other authors who wrote stories for it. If you haven't picked it up I highly recommend it. The same duo, Michell Plested and Jeffrey Hite, have come up with another anthology they're going to publish and I'm excited to write a story for that one. Hopefully I can craft a tale that they'll be happy to accept. Their anthology will be called There Is A Magic Portal Under My Sink and other Stories of Magical Places you Likely Don't want to Go In fact I started it last night. I think I'm going to call it The Realm of Fire. Here's the first paragraph:
Everyone knows dragons come from the Realm of Fire, even though none know how to get there. It is said to be a land wholly different from our own. There is no road that will take you there, no great body of water on which you can sail to its shores. Legend says the only way to get there is through fire. Who in the burnt realm knows what that means? Surely I did not, but I was soon to find out and it would lead to a journey I will never forget. The day I found the great robes of the old wizard everyone had stopped believing in was the day my fate changed forever.
As this year draws on and I turn 31 I want it to be the year I publish my first novel length work. The novel I'm currently writing, Zombie Super Powers, is the best one I've written so far and I'm hopeful it's the one. Now I just need to finish it so I can get it in the hands of beta readers and then to an editor. I'm excited. If you want to read along with me as I'm writing it and be an Alpha reader you can do so for free over at Wattpad. It's super easy to leave comments there to, you don't even have to be a member. They have great reading apps for all your devices as well.

Other than that I still have the novella Sword and Urn that I had edited by two people which needs a major revision and the edits put in. Once I'm done with my novel I'll get cracking on that so I can whip it into a publishable shape. With any luck I should be publishing a novel and a novella this year. That would be awesome.

Thanks for stopping by everybody. Though it's just begun, I hope 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for you all!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cue Bull reviewed - 5 stars!

Someone reviewed my latest short story Cue Bull! Click on that link to get your copy for free in any eBook format and look for this story to come out in audio in the near future as well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum | Book Review

I think the best word to sum up this novel and it's narration is delightful. Anne Hathaway's narration was incredibly fun to listen to. You can tell she had a blast narrating it and getting into the different characters. I'm turning 31 this month and I loved it. I know my kids will love it too. I can't recommend the audiobook version enough. The story was surprisingly great as well. Wonderfully written and never a dull moment. For as old as the novel is it reads great today and holds up very well. I could especially see children really enjoying this book. I would easily call this book timeless for that reason.

As I've studied story structure I always try and find it in the books I read and the movies & TV shows I watch. I was surprised at the well constructed structure in this classic story. Maybe it's because it's old, and maybe it's because I sort of was expecting it to be something like Alice in Wonderland, but this was a very well laid out story.

One great simple way to look at stories that I gleaned from listening to editorial director of Pyr Books Lou Anders in an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast is this:
Act I - Orphan
Act IIa - Wanderer
Act IIb - Warrior
Act III - Martyr
Act IIa is the first half of the second act and Act IIb is the second half of the second act. So think of the story as four parts equal in length. Okay so let me plug this story into this simple story structure tool:

Act I | Orphan
Dorothy is a young orphaned girl raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in the bleak landscape of a Kansas farm. 

Act IIa | Wanderer
In order to return to Kansas, the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that she will have to go to the "Emerald City" or "City of Emeralds" and ask the Wizard of Oz to help her.

Act IIb | Warrior
The Wizard agrees to help each of them....but only if one of them kills the Wicked Witch of the West who rules over the western Winkie Country.
As the friends travel across the Winkie Country, the Wicked Witch sees them coming and attempts various ways of killing them:
  • First, she sends her 40 great wolves to kill them. The Tin Woodman manages to kill them all.
  • Then the Wicked Witch of the West sends her 40 crows to peck their eyes out. The Scarecrow manages to kill them by grabbing them and breaking their necks.
  • Then the Wicked Witch of the West summons a swarm of black bees to sting them to death. Using the Scarecrow's extra straw, the others hide underneath it while the bees try to sting the Tin Woodman.
  • Then the Wicked Witch of the West uses her Winkie soldiers to attack them. They are scared off by the Cowardly Lion.

Act III | Martyr
This one is a bit harder. I guess I would say that she risks herself to feed the lion when the two are trapped in the wicked witch's castle.

Another story structure part of this book that caught my eye was the midpoint. In the middle your characters should move from reaction (wanderer) to action (warrior). This usually involves the characters sitting down and hashing out a plan like The Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings. It's also a false victory in many cases. You think you've solved the problem only to find a bigger problem. After they finally make it to see the great and terrible wizard Oz he tells them he will not help them until they kill The Wicked Witch of the West. They sit and talk about how surely they can not do this but over the course of the talk decide that they must or they will never get what they want.

The prose was well written in this book, and I just loved the interesting characters. The little people made out of China was not something I remembered from the movie and that was cool. It may not be in the movie. We used to watch the movie as kids at my grandparent's a lot.

Have you read this novel? Did you love it as much as I did? Do you have kids? I recommend reading it to them or getting the audiobook narrated by Anne Hathaway. Did you know there are a ton of sequels? The new movie looked kind of cool but I heard it was pretty bad. Have you seen it? Is it worth watching? Sound off in the comments, and thanks for stopping by.

This book is in the public domain so you can pick it up for free!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

And Another Audiobook!

I had the pleasure to narrate another audio book by James M. Lowrance under the pen name of Percyvelle Pennington III. This one is called Evolution Can't Be True Because I Don't Like Bananas: My Ponderings on Mr. Darwin's Flawed Theory and it's much more hilarious than it is controversial or opinionated. Click the link and give it a listen. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Audiobook I Narrated is Live!

This hilarious and very tongue in cheek book I narrated is now available at Audible, Amazon, and in iTunes! I had way too much fun with this one. I hope to do more humorous books in the future as the delivery and timing required in the narration on them is a really fun challenge. The next two book to hit digital bookshelves are actually humorous books as well. Look for posts about them soon. 

Here's the synopsis for this book:

While the solution I offer to the growing problem of restaurant patrons blowing their noses outwardly and openly within public dining rooms, is simple and that I could have easily stated within a single paragraph, this would be a lost opportunity. I say this because my example and solution for only one problem we may experience during our stay at a public eatery, is simply that..."an example". I am using what might be the single most disgusting behavioral act that can be perpetrated but not hidden, by a fellow restaurant-patron, being that of "dining room nose blowing".

My purpose being to set a type of standard for correction of similar problems. Certainly we could instead report undesirable behaviors to the staff of a food service establishment. We could simply ask them to speak to the offending patron, requesting that they desist their gross or offensive activity, while keeping us anonymous. My question however, would be to ask if this would be the best way to send corrective admonition? I think not... (just a taste of what you'll get in this over 3,000 word dissertation!)

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction
2. Rudeness of all Types Can Occur in Restaurants
3. "Restaurant Boogie Fever" - One of the Rudeness Biggies!
4. What You Would Like to Do (but Can't)
5. What You Can Do Within Legal Limits
6. In Conclusion

I hope you'll give it a listen. If anything listen to the sample for a laugh. Maybe it will convince you to pick the book up. It's a great price for an audiobook. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Cover for my Next Story

This is the cover for the short story I'm currently writing. Hopefully it will be accepted by the Every Photo Tells duo and they'll podcast it beautifully. It was inspired by their November photo. Okay, now back to writing it! Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Firm by John Grisham | Book Review

This book was pretty good. I really enjoyed it, but it never thrilled me. I think that sums it up. I liked the characters. I liked the writing style, I just wish it hadn't been so easy for the good guys to win. Now they had to do a lot of hard stressful work to achieve their goals, and they could have been in very dire danger many times, but they just didn't quite have the all is lost moment. It felt like it was coming for a long time, and then the book was over. Okay, before I get to things that bothered me about the book let me list things I liked because this was a fun book to read and there's a lot to like.

The slow build of this book was pretty great. You learn about the firm and why it's a creepy bad place to be employed in little pieces bit by bit throughout the book. This was well executed. Also the characters came across as real people. They were fleshed out just enough.

The firm as a setting was a character all it's own. Much like a character should grow and change the firm changes for you as a reader. Now it doesn't actually change, but your perception of it does as you work your way through the story. You know from page one that it's not a great place to work, but you experience the lure of it through the eyes of the protagonist and so it seems like a great and exciting place to work at first. A place of tremendous opportunity. Then as you fly through the chapters and its secrets are revealed you discover what kind of a place it really is. 

Although I do remember a few beautiful sentences here and there describing movements of the weather and other things - John Grisham's writing style was refreshingly plain but in a good way. It didn't get in the way of the story. The words just fly by as the story unfolds. This is no small task to write in this way. His writing has an easy way about it. I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future because if he could write this well early in his career, I can't wait to see how well he can write with dozens of titles under his belt.

Image Source: Tina Finebern / AP

One funny thing that surprised me while reading this book is that it inspired me to work harder on everything in life. You read about the main character putting in insane hours at the office and you think, if he can do this I can work extremely hard too. I always try and work hard at everything I do, but reading this novel seemed to give me a little boost in that department. It also made me thankful for my nine to five job and that I'm not a lawyer. I like seeing my family.

The main character was too confident. I think this may be a part of what made it seem like everything was always okay and that no danger would befall the characters. Now Grisham sets up a fantastically scary atmosphere for the characters to live in. It would be terrifying. But the protagonist was so confident the whole way through that I just figured he would be fine since he wasn't really too worried about it. Maybe this was due to the fact that he kept having to convince his wife that everything would be alright. It kind of got to me the way that he spoke unabashedly to the F.B.I. agents like he was in charge. I guess it could be argued that this is what makes him such an awesome hero.

What did you think of The Firm? Have you read it? Any other novels by John Grisham? I've been calling him "Grishams" because of this funny Key & Peele skit. Do you have any recommendations for John Grisham books? I'd love to hear them. Thanks for stopping by.

Buy the Book:
The Firm on Amazon
I listened to the audiobook which was brilliantly narrated by one of my favorites Scott Brick.