My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Guest Post by Maria Jane

For decades, the undoubtable influence of Star Wars has reigned true in all aspects of the science fiction genre and community. From the first viewing of the original film in May 1977, through the subsequent five films that span the decades in between and the many spin-offs in cartoons, graphic novels, and literary materials, fans have been hooked. And now, nearly 40 years later, we are once again enamored with the latest installment in the juggernaut, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.   
This new film is set approximately 30 years after the events in The Return of the Jedi and centers on the search for the missing and last Jedi, Luke Skywalker, and the race between who can find him first: the Resistance lead by General Leia Organa or the First Order, whose commander Kylo Ren is a mysterious and emotional new villain. The light side has its own array of new characters as well, with former stormtrooper Finn and desert scavenger Rey. However, both of these characters’ backgrounds still remain a mystery, although there is much speculation about their origins from fans all over the world. We are also treated to familiar faces Chewbacca and Han Solo throughout the journey as well as new face and best pilot in the galaxy, Poe Dameron and his best droid friend, BB-8.  

The Force Awakens is a successful blending of the old and the new, with familiar allusions to the older films and cheesy sweeping scene transitions in addition to these new and already lovable characters and subtle, simple humor. In many ways, this film could also be interpreted as a reboot of the original series, with a whole new story. It seems the torch has been successfully passed to the next generation of both characters and fans, proving that the relinquishing of creative control by original creator George Lucas was a wise move indeed.   
In this latest project within the Star Wars universe, producer and director J.J. Abrams also helped write portions of the screenplay and chose to take the franchise somewhat back to its practical effects roots. Listening to critics and fans alike in their displeasure with the amount of CGI used in the prequel series, Abrams and company successfully mixed CGI in when necessary but relied on practical makeup and effects whenever possible.

The team once again turned to composer John Williams, whose mile-long and very impressive resume includes the musical scores for the three movies in the original series, including the now iconic opening Star Wars theme music. At the age of 83 and with a career spanning nearly 60 years in the business, his legacy will likely live on long after his demise, although here’s hoping we won’t have to play witness to that event any time soon.   
Without going into too many details, this latest Star Wars film validated some of the predictions of fans leading into it, particularly in the area of familial ties. However, it also left some questions unanswered, presumably to explore further in the next two films expected to be made in this newly planned trilogy. While we wait for these further answers, many will likely indulge in viewing this newest film several more times, and we can also catch many of the spin offs, including Star Wars: Droid Tales and Star Wars Rebels through Disney XD and DirecTV. In the meantime, it seems the Star Wars universe is alive and thriving, with many more years of life in it yet. 

This awesome article was written by Maria Jane. Click on the label Maria Jane below to find more articles on this website written by her. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dimensional Abscesses Now Available in Paperback!

I'm so excited! You can purchase a paperback copy of Dimensional Abscesses for only $9.99 on Amazon! It contains my 6,000 word short story The Realm of Fire which I'm very proud of. This would make a great gift for loved ones! Tell everyone! :) Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Neil Gaiman reads A Christmas Carol

Every year in December around Christmas time I read, or more likely listen to, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have 3 different versions of the audiobook I cycle through. They're all great. This below however is very special. I stumbled on it in an email newsletter I get from Tor publishing. Neil Gaiman isn't just a great writer, he's also a great narrator. Listen to him read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. A real treat. His narration of the story begins at 11:55 if you want to skip the cool intro stuff. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Recap of STAR WARS episodes I - VI

I don't know about you, but I'm REALLY EXCITED about STAR WARS Episode VII The Force Awakens coming out! I have my tickets to see it on the night of the 18th and I can't wait! I've seen all 6 of the movies leading up to this film many times and I've even seen all of them again this year but if you're like me you wouldn't mind a quick recap just to be fully prepared to sit down and see it in all it's glory. So here we go, the six films leading up to The Force Awakens recapped for us by awesome YouTuber Eclectic Method in just 3 minutes:

Monday, December 14, 2015


Our Elf on the Shelf has been hanging with some pretty cool characters.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Video Sample of Me Narrating an Audiobook

While the video quality leaves much to be desired here check out me narrating a sliver from an audiobook and a bit of my process. At 1:35 the audio switches microphones and you can hear the difference between my iPhone 6+ internal microphone and my Audio‑Technica AT2020 cardioid condenser microphone. Maybe next time I'll figure out a better lighting situation than just the light of my laptop :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I'm Writing Chapter Books

I really want to finish the novels I've started but I just don't seem to have the time most nights. Meanwhile I really want to get more fiction out there for sale and write enough of it to make a print book. I can't make my short stories into paperbacks except as a collection which I do plan on doing, but I have this burning desire to get books out there. I've been trying to think of short stories I could write that would each be their own story but like episodes in a longer series. I've also been trying to think of books to write that my seven year old could read because he's getting into reading and I'm really excited about that. Luckily for me these books are the same length as most of my longer short stories which I can write in a few sessions and get feedback and rewrites and reviews on in a decent amount of time. So that's where my focus is going - chapter books.

With my limited time to write and edit, it's hard for me to write novels. It takes a while to get my head around such long complicated stories. There's a lot of planning involved, and once it's done there are several revisions and rewrites to be done. At my rate it will take me ages to get a finished novel completed and ready for sale. It's still something I'm passionate about and want to work on, maybe on weekends or when I have decent chunks of time, but in the mean time I'd like to get more fiction out there and short stories seem to be hard to sell.

So I'm going to write a series of chapter books about a kid who solves mysteries. I'll be shooting for a word count of 3000 - 15,000 words. This is the length of chapter books written for kids ages 6 to 11. My oldest is 7 but has no problem reading Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja which claims to be for kids ages 9 - 12. So I'm going to write a ton of chapter books. Honestly I enjoy reading these kinds of books myself and from the little I got down last night I really enjoy writing them too. 

I started a book like this about a kid detective years ago and even wrote several thousand words of that story but it never had much traction for me. This one I can already tell could turn into many chapter books about different mysteries and I'm really excited about it. So I'm still going to chip away on my longer novels when I can but for now I'm going to focus my little blocks of time I have on writing chapter books. Getting them written. Rewritten. Revised. Getting feedback from beta readers. Polishing them. Getting them edited, and getting them published!

The other fun thing is that I'm an artist and I love doing illustrations and these chapter books have lots of illustrations so it will be fun making those and putting them in the books too. Check out the cover I whipped up and a sample of what I wrote last night below. I did not do this illustration but will do the interior ones. This is one I found that is in the Public Domain so it's free to use for commercial purposes. Thanks for stopping by!

The Case of the Magical Snowman A Barnabas Thackeray Mystery

My name is Barnabas Thackeray and this is the case of the magical snowman. It all started with my friend Jeff's sighting of a mysterious snowman in his yard one night. He told me about it the next day at lunch.
"I was getting out of bed to use the bathroom when I saw it outside my window. It wasn't moving or anything like that, but I don't know how it got there. I didn't make it and my brother was  gone all afternoon so it wasn't him either."
"What about your father?" I asked
"Who are you Darth Vader? My father? Why do you always talk funny man?"
"I don't talk funny, I speak correctly. Now answer the question."
"Come on Barns, you really think my dad would just be out building a snowman at night? Grownups don't do stuff like that dude. Besides it was too good."
"When you say too good, what precisely do you mean?"
"I've made lots of snowmen before, but I could never make one this good. All of his parts were like perfectly round, and the coal pieces that he had for eyes were cut down at angles on top to make him look..."
"Make him look what?"
"Well evil. Like he had a huge evil grin."
"And how did you see all of this from your bedroom window?"
"I got my binoculars out. I swear I thought he was going to turn his head and look at me when I checked him out. It gave me the creeps. After that I closed my curtains, went pee, and went straight back to bed."
"And you said it was gone in the morning?"
"Yeah well most of it. First thing I did of course when I woke up was look out the window again, but he wasn't there. But I could see something in the snow."
"Yeah so I ran out in my pajamas to the spot where the snowman had been and there was a hat."
"What kind of hat?"
"It was the hat he was wearing. One of those old school hats."
"Like a top hat? Think Frosty the Snowman."
"Yeah like that. It's black with a red stripe around it's bottom, same color as the scarf he was wearing. Are you going to finish your mashed potatoes?"
"These are something of an entirely different composition than potato. They're all yours."
He grabbed my lunch tray and scooped my mound of fake potato onto his.
"So you kept it then?"
"Kept what?" he said around my so called potatoes.
"The hat."
"Oh yeah. I stuck it under my bed."
"Did it feel smooth?"
"I don't know man I just grabbed it and hid it! Why?"
"Legend has it that silk hats can make snowmen come to life."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Free Halloween Stories

Happy Halloween! I have a couple of Halloween short stories so I thought I would share links to them on this week of Halloween. I also just made a Halloween eBook with 8 thrilling stories in it. You can find that HERE. If you like eBooks or audiobooks I've got you covered. Below are two of the stories in this new eBook that are specifically Halloween stories. They're available below in eBooks and Audiobook formats, but you can find those and others in the eBook pictured to the right and linked above. Also all my stories are available in audio if you find more in the eBook you'd like to listen to. Thanks for stopping by!

Welcome to episode 14 of Short Stories of Dan Dan The Art Man! This episode is a narrated short story for Halloween about a new kid in town discovering just how real the local ghost story is when he's dared to climb up an old creepy tower that sits behind a mansion. Have a listen and I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!

Download the .mp3

Music used: "Tempting Fate" and "Beginning" by
Sound effects used were all Public Domain and came from

Now available in eBook formats here:

The House Sitter 

Download the .mp3

When Tammy is house sitting, she get creeped out. She keeps hearing and seeing things in the dark corners of the mansion she is alone in. Then, she hears and sees something and this time it's not her imagination.

Now available for FREE in all eBook formats at

Bed Music Attribution:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Merlin and the Pendragons | The Story Behind a Book Cover

I had the pleasure of creating the book cover for Merlin and the Pendragons by podcaster and author Chris Moody. We started with a castle as all fantasy stories do right? He had a certian nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace in mind called the Neuschwanstein Castle located on a hill over the village of Hohenschwangau near F├╝ssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. So I went digging and found a great picture of it on Pixelbay that was in the Public Domain which means we could legally use it for commercial purposes.

I left the color of the photo alone and found a medieval fantasy looking font. I also tried seeing what the cover would look like without the medallion. It looked alright but left something to be desired. Chris thought so to. It wasn't there yet.

Then I went and looked at book covers of the other stories in The Chronos Files for style inspiration. The medallion you see above the author name I constructed from scratch in Adobe Photoshop. I grabbed the teal color from one of the other Chronos Files books and then worked on giving it a kind of glowing effect. I added bevels to the metal parts and kept adding layers until all the parts were there. Then I made a new layer in photoshop and splashed a teal to white gradient from bottom to top on it and changed the layer style to Hue to give the whole image that bright teal look. I also added a teal gradient on the top of the image which faded into zero opacity to brighten up the sky and make the title text stand out more and which also made it clearer and easier to read. I also found a new font that looked similar to the fonts used on some of the other Chronos Files stories. Then it was almost done.

Chris mentioned that Amazon would be putting on the Kindle Worlds square logo in the bottom left which might require some things to be moved around. So I copied that off of another cover and temporarily put it on our cover. It showed me right away that Chris's author name needed to be moved to the right and that the medallion needed to be smaller and moved up and to the right. Both would have been partially covered by the square Kindle Worlds logo. Then it was done!

This was a really fun cover to work on and I gave Chris a killer price. I'd love to do the same for you if you find yourself in need of a book cover for your story. Check out my hire me page for prices. You'll find that they're incredibly reasonable if not the cheapest around. I've been on Chris's cool author interview podcast called PodioMedia Chat a couple times so he got a really steep discount as my way of giving back to the podcast community. If you see my prices and still have trouble coming up with some change I've also been known to trade for covers. Shoot me a line and I'm sure we can work out a deal. I'm always in need of people to read my stories and give me feedback and edits! As always, thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Top 5 Dystopian Films
Guest Post by Maria Jane

Dystopian fiction is bigger than ever, and while not all films in the genre are critically lauded or well received by audiences, some manage to stand above the rest with tremendous stories of how society will turn out when the end of the world comes around. Here is a list of some of the best dystopian films in recent years. 

The Hunger Games (2012) 

Based on the trilogy of bestselling young adult novels by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games helped usher in the new era of post-apocalyptic popularity. Leading this list is the story of a young woman who offers herself for a match to the death in order to save her younger sister. Living in a totalitarian world where children are forced to kill each other for entertainment, the heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself wanting only to survive and return to her family. But through her quest to be the last person standing, she becomes a symbol for a rebellion long brewing against the government.  

Snowpiercer (2013) 

In the future dystopian world of Snowpiercer, all of humanity that remains is living on a giant train, constantly circling the globe. Those people that live near the front of the train are wealthy, well fed, and sure of their superiority. Those in the back of the train are the complete opposite – abused, starved, kept in filthy conditions like animals, and constantly under threat of being killed. When Captain America himself, Chris Evans rises up to lead rebels from the back of the train to overtake the front, all hell breaks loose. The ending of this dystopian film is even more bleak than most films on this list, with little hope that humanity can survive what they have done to themselves. 

The Maze Runner (2014) 

The Maze Runner centers on all male teenagers dropped into a seemingly impossible to solve labyrinth, where monsters and machines are out to kill them and survival is a thing not to take lightly. Little is explained about the overall post-apocalyptic world the characters inhabit, though it is obvious that there’s more than meets the eye and the answer to a better future may lie in the survivors of the maze itself. The story is action-packed and ends in such a way that viewers want to see the next installment in the series, if only to have their questions about the premise answered. Although the second film in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, strayed away from the plot of the book, it still made for an engaging and action-packed feature. 

The Giver (2014) 

Based on the novel by Lois LowryThe Giver showcases a (seemingly) much more peaceful world than those in the other movies on this list. In this world, all emotions have been removed from the populace so that everyone can live in peace and harmony, with no more war or conflict. However, each individual is given a specific use in this society, and if they cannot fulfill that use they are removed from their community altogether. While less centered on action and fighting than some other dystopian stories, The Giver does present a lot of important questions about what it is to be human and to feel emotions, and what a world would be like if that part of humanity was stripped away.  

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 

One of the biggest, best movies of 2015 was also the latest installment in a franchise that began back in 1979. Mad Max: Fury Road was everything a great, action-packed, post-apocalyptic film should be. It was set in a barren wasteland of a world, run by diseased warlords using water, fuel, and ammunition as leverage against the rest of the populace. One reason the Mad Max series continues to resonate is the feeling that something like this could easily happen in our own, real world, if our reliance on fossil fuels isn’t supplanted by use of renewable resources - for instance, Enmax energy has reported that we may have as few as 54 years worth of oil reserves left, and scarcity has historically led to warfare. The world of Fury Road is obviously a man’s world, run by men and defended by men. However, in this chapter of the Mad Max saga it is not Max that takes center stage in the story. Instead it is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, who seeks a better life for herself and a truckload of enslaved concubines. Women are the warriors as well as the victims in this dystopian tale.  

While all dystopian stories have a central theme of explaining how the world moves on after an apocalypse-level event, the good ones also work to take their stories in unique, memorable, and surprising ways. And they seek to explain not only why we might be so fascinated with what would happen in a post-apocalypse situation, but why it is so important to work now to make sure those kinds of situations never take place.  

This awesome article was written by Maria Jane. Click on the label Maria Jane below to find more articles on this website written by her. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Via Recording and Speech to Text

I'm taking a second part time job again soon on top of my normal full time job. In preparation for this I've been looking at what my schedule will be and not finding much time for writing in it. That's unacceptable. So I've decided to employ my digital voice recorder and my phone's speech to text capabilities to help me out. I've done this in the past but it's been years since I've used it to generate prose for a first draft. 

While I commute I record my story into my digital voice recorder. I've tried just doing straight speech to text but then I'm looking at my phone while driving so that's out. Instead I just record with two hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road. Later instead of transcribing it like I used to by listening and typing it all out I'm using my phone. While listening to the recording I speak it back into my phone. My iPhone 5c does an amazing job at converting my speech to text with very few errors. I tried having my phone listen to the recorder to create the text from my recorded speech and it works in a quiet environment, but then cuts out any small edits I want to make as I transcribe. From my 18 small recordings I made yesterday on my way home ranging from 15 seconds to a couple minutes each I cranked out 1,285 words. It took a while to get the audio into text but with my speech to text method it went WAY faster than keying it in by hand even though I'm a pretty fast typist. So this is my new plan. Recording my story while I commute and speaking it into my phone later to quickly transcribe it.

It's weird at first but doesn't take long to get used to and I think my dialog is better for it because I'm saying everything instead of typing it out. It also gives me a chance to do a light first pass edit because I sometimes find a better way to write something as I'm transcribing. I'd rather be sipping coffee and listening to my hands tap the keys but this is a great way for me to use the time I already have as a constant in the car commuting to get some words on the page. This is the method I used to write most of my second novel the first time I did NaNoWriMo. It helped me find more time to write to try and get those 1,667 words a day and I ended up hitting 50K words by the end of November. Looks like it's a method I'll be employing again during this NaNoWriMo. I thought this might be interesting to fellow writers. I'm sure I'll still do some cherished keyboard clacking on the weekends. Happy writing!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Floating Down River by Martin Spernau | Audio Version
Narrated by Dan Absalonson and Dave Robison

Download the .mp3

In this short story Martin Spernau craft's a wonderful little fable in which a young warrior learns a life long lesson from an old man he always sees sitting by a river. Narrated by Dan Absalonson and Dave Robison this beautiful fable is a treat to listen to with sound effects adding to the ambiance bringing you right into the story.

Music used in this production by Kevin MacLeod at
Sound effects (all public domain) from
Author Martin Spernau's website:
Narrator Dave Robison's podcast website:

This has been a production of Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Zombie Super Powers is Halfway Written!

Placeholder Cover Art for Wattpad
Hey guys! I'm excited! Last night I wrote in my novel for the first time in a very long time. It felt great and even though I'm an outliner I learned about one of the character's backstories as I finished the chapter up. It was a big chapter because it's the last one in the first part of Act II so now I'm right at the midpoint. Now they're making plans to fight back instead of run and react to the problem. My plan knowing how many chapters this book will have and about how many words I wanted in each chapter shows me that somehow I got to the midpoint and was only off by 12 words! I'm at 30,012 words at the end of chapter 12 and there are going to be 24 chapters total. A short sweet 60K word young adult novel called Zombie Super Powers. I know that word count of the first half of the book will change with editing but hey - I've reached the halfway mark! Now I just have to get to Act III where all the really cool stuff happens. It should be a fun ride getting there though with some big realizations for the main character. I can't wait to write it. It feels so good to be writing again in this book!

So I figured out how many words I need to write a day to finish this thing before NaNoWriMo so I can be set to start a new book on November 1st. It's 517 words a day until October 31st. That will get me finishing this book on time. That's the game plan. You can track my progress with the nifty word count meter I put on the top right hand side of my website. You can also be an Alpha reader if you want and read the new chapters as they get published to Wattpad here. I'd love any feedback or comments you have. I'm so excited to see that meter fill up and finish this novel! It's my forth novel and I'm hopeful it's the first one I'll publish. After I write my fifth novel during Nanowrimo then finish the other two novels I started I think I'll try and do a massive overhaul on my third novel and either rewrite it or rewrite lots of it. We'll see. I'm excited to be writing again! Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reading Paper Books Is My Last Choice

image source:
I just finished The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was the first time I've read a book in paper in years. I've owned the paperback for a long time and have been intending to read it for years. I grabbed it from my bookcase because my wife and I were going on a trip where we planned to lay by the pool for hours. I didn't wan't an eReader and my phone screen isn't great for reading in bright sunlight so I opted for a paperback instead of my usual reading habit of reading via eBooks and audiobooks. While reading this story in paper I probably stopped to smell the pages at least once every reading session - but I found it really frustrating that once we were back from our trip I had a really hard time finding time to read it.

I have two hours of communting a day during the week for work and during this time I listen to audiobooks. That's how I do most of my reading. Someday my circumstances might change but for now I just can't find time to read paper books. One of my good friends who also has many young children told me he's the same way and get's most of his reading done with audiobooks. 

Electronic books are great too because they're easy to chip away at in small bursts. They're always with me in my pocket on my phone. I have gotten through a few pages while waiting at appointments or while in a long line at the grocery store. It's so convenient. Here's the other thing though - I actually prefer reading eBooks on my phone to reading a paper book even when I'm lounging at home. I like to read lying down and I've got to tell you that after holding my super light weight phone up above my head and having the ease of turning a page with a tiny quick tap even small paperbacks feel clumsy and annoying. I like to read with the text very large and my screen horizontal. It gets to be so I don't even notice I'm tapping it just becomes automatic and I think I read faster this way than with a paperback, or at least it feels easier. Also having a backlit screen is so much better at night than a clunky reading light perched above my pages that I might accidently shine in my wife's eyes while adjusting my posture in bed.

Yes I love paper books and as I mentioned even the smell of them but I will always choose to read via eBooks or audiobooks when given the choice. They're on my phone so they're always just a click away. They don't take up physical space in my house. They're usually cheaper. I can buy a new one and be reading it within seconds without having to even get up. For me eBooks and audiobooks win out everytime. That said I have hundreds of paperbacks I haven't read yet so I'll keep reading paper books for years to come, but when it comes to buying new books the only time I'll be choosing to buy paper books is when I'm planning on getting them signed and putting them safely on my shelf where they won't get bent and cracked.

What about you? Have you tried eBooks or audiobooks and they're just not your cup of tea or are you a paper defector like me joining the new electronic revolution and loving it all the way? I'd love to hear your side of the story when it comes to reading. Thanks for stopping by.