Listen to my Short Story "The Forest Trail"

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray | Book Review

Lost Star was a fantastic book. I love how much emotion was in it. That should be obvious because it's a Young Adult novel Romeo and Juliet space adventure but this book surprised me with how much awesome strong emotions it had in it. The characters go through a lot it I really felt what they were feeling as I read this book. It was amazing.

I loved how the intimate story of the two main characters weaved through huge story moments in the original STAR WARS trilogy, even doing things that you see the effects of in Episode VII The Force Awakens. You get to see big parts of Episodes IV, V, and VI through different perspectives and that was really fun. Some of the huge story events that happen in those movies have enormous effects on the characters both emotionally and on their careers. I loved getting to experience a great new story with awesome new characters I had come to love that also intersected with a story I've known and loved for years. Sometimes this book goes into more detail than the original trilogy explaining the thinking and reasoning behind why things happened the way they did and I can't help but think the next time I watch the original trilogy it will be enriched from my reading of this book and that is so rad!

The first time Ciena Ree met Darth Vader the way she described him made him seem so creepy and powerful and it was really fun to see the iconic character through her eyes. It gave me more respect for Darth Vader in a weird way and made him seem scarier and more powerful even though I know him well. That was cool.

The story starts on the small backwater planet of Jelucan and Gray did an amazing job with the world building there. It felt so lived in with its own rich history and the two societies who didn't get along with the newer Second Wavers and the older natives called the Valley Kindred. From these two very different cultures two friends meet and their story grows from there.

I loved the character growth of the two main characters Thane Kyrell the aristocratic second waver, and Ciena Ree the rural villager. They become so much more as they rise in power and position through the ranks of the Empire and more. Their story was really touching, thrilling, and fun to read. You get to see them go from backwater kids with huge dreams to important people in the universe right there at the heart of many of the major conflicts. The way I got to experience these kids grow up was really special and made for a really enjoyable reading experience.

The last act of the book was amazing. There was so much built up emotion and so much intense action that it made for one heck of a story climax. It was fantastic. I can't recommend this book enough for STAR WARS fans.

This Long Vigil by Rhett C. Bruno | Book Review

This was a really touching short story. I loved it! The world building was excellent too. You have a dude who is living with the ships computer on a generational spaceship traveling for years and years to reach some new place to colonize. The main character Orion is the only human awake. He gets to help the ship maintain stuff while walking past hundreds of sleeping humans encased behind protective barriers he'll never be able to cross. His only interaction for his whole life is with the ship wide artificial intelligence called Dan. He likes Dan. He respects Dan, but when Orion's time is nearly up he just can't face going back to sleep for eternity in one of those hibernation chambers, so he picks the person to replace him and does something drastic.

The story is very well written and started off with me being a very interested reader wanting to find out what Orion's life is like. You get to see how his life has been always inside of a ship. His life has been happy, but he longs for more. The author Rhett C. Bruno did a great job building the world, describing the sites and sounds of the ship and space beyond it.

This story was done really well. I loved it. It's a quick easy read but very touching and deep for such a short story. The ending was beautiful. It was also exciting. Great story.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut | Book Review

My first thought upon reading Vonnegut was that he writes amazing details. Details that paint his scenes on the canvas of my mind in brilliant sharp clarity. Each carefully crafted sentence a brushstroke adding light, shadow, and color to his characters crashing through their various environments. Sadly those brilliant scenes were smeared into banality before the end of the novel for me. Look around though, it seems I'm the only one who thought this book was okay but not great.

Some of my favorite quotes from this book:

This one is describing the main character walking through a war-zone in his civilian clothes with no helmet or weapon - dirty and red faced.
"He looked like a filthy flamingo."
I've never heard a dog's bark described this way and I think it's brilliant but then I'm a sucker for similes and alliteration:
"That dog had a voice like a big bronze gong."
All that said, I liked this book but by the end of it I was glad it was over. I had grown bored of it. I didn't really care for the way it jumped randomly from one snippet of Billy Pilgrim's life to another. It was really weird. Definitely interesting and I've never read anything like it before, but this is one book I'm glad I've finished because I didn't want to keep reading it.

From the reviews I've glanced over on Amazon, Goodreads, and YouTube I'm in the minority and this book is pretty much loved by all, but it was kind of just okay to me. Props to Vonnegut for doing what he did in this book and the great writing in it, but this book didn't hold my attention until the end. Maybe that's my fault, what can I say? Comment and disagree with me and tell me why I'm wrong :) I will try reading other Vonnegut books though, because he's a great writer, but next time I want a more cohesive story instead of a weird fiction / non-fiction melting pot of scenes.

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. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant
Book Review

There is a lot of great info in here. I love how the informal tone of the book sets you at ease as if you're listening to a friend give you advice from the other chair in the room. Even though there's a ton of info in here it was entertaining and fun to read because of the great authorial voice. Reading about the authors' journeys and successes was inspirational too. I'm glad I finally picked this one up, and I guess I should get an email list for my author website.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dan Dan The Art Man's Book Reviews | Episode 35
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

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In this 35th episode I review my favorite epic fantasy novel The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. It has three fantastic main characters, an amazingly realized fantasy world that was the reason I first became intrigued in the world, and some super scary bad guys. In short it was awesome! I never grew bored reading this massive tome.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 

Written by Peter V. Brett
Narrated by Pete Bradbury

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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 11, 2015

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White | Book Review

I was surprised by how well written this book was. I shouldn't be as White is the other half of the famous writing book The Elements of Style, but it still struck me just how good the writing is in this book. The prose was clear and perfectly organized. The story moves well and has a great flow, and you could say there are many pieces of poetry sprinkled in because of how beautiful the writing is at times. Look for example at this beautiful line of Charlotte speaking to Wilber at the fair the night before he may become a prize pig:

When the first light comes into the sky and the sparrow stirs and the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the highway, you look up here and I'll show you something.

It's descriptive and wonderful. I knew and loved this story from watching the animated movie dozens of times as a kid but had never read the book. I started reading it because I wanted a good book to read to my young kids. They love this book, especially my oldest who is 7. He never wants me to stop and will sit and listen for long periods of time. If you're reading this book it's really fun to do different voices for the different characters and animals. Like the rat Templeton, or the crazy goose who repeats syllables all the time. It's a very fun book to read to your kids that will last many reading sessions as it's a nice lengthy chapter book for kids.

For a children's story this book does a tremendous job of touching on some big themes and subjects. The main one of course is death. Wilbur is a pig and all spring pigs become bacon and sausage. This story happens because the spider Charlotte attempts to save Wilber's life. 

The characters in this story are richly rendered. From Fern's rambunctious brother Avery always stirring up trouble and toting around some poor frog to the loving kind Fern who saves the pig Wilbur's life in the first chapter.

Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.

I don't want to put spoilers into this review but lets just say for such a fun delightful little book where animals talk this story tackles death in a beautiful way and the subject comes up again and again and not just for the pig character Wilbur. This was a gorgeous story beautifully written and I'm very glad I read it and am reading it to my kids. I haven't finished reading it to them yet but I wanted to finish it before the year was over because I'm trying to see how many books I can read this year. This little book easily stands as one of the best books I read this year. Though this slim volume was written for kids, it touched my heart and even brought tears to my eyes twice. It truly is a treasure and a masterpiece.

Have you read this classic? What do you think? Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Broken Magic by Justin R Macumber | Book Review

Another fantastic novel from Justin R. Macumber. I loved the first book in this series, and this one delivered again. Great story, great characters, and two awesome magic systems that clash to make for one awesome story with great action scenes.

The way Justin described the two different kinds of magic, the way they felt when the characters drew them in, and how it affected them was brilliant. I also love how he described the magic hurting characters to use it and how it drained them. It took a lot out of the characters to use magic in this book and that made it seem so much more real and awesome. Yes the characters can do some amazing things with magic but they suffer for it and having that as part of the story enhanced it so much for me. He made abstract fantastical things feel real and alive in the story.

There was a part in the story where there's a magic wielding character in the post-apocalyptic world and they had never seen electricity. That character comes encounters a city with all the street lights up and running. To them the technology was like magic. It was really fun seeing that character interact with the world that would be somewhat familiar to me but had become the stuff of magic to them. Great storytelling and world building.

The imagery described in the fight scenes from magic being used was amazing. Justin did a fantastic job of describing what was happening. I could see the scenes clearly in my mind and they were so cool. I remember stopping just to imagine the moment that was happening in the scene for a few seconds longer just to enjoy it before I moved on. He has a great way of balancing description with action so the scenes move but are described in a way you can picture clearly in your mind.

In the last act of the story Justin utilized all of the characters well. There were a lot of characters and he made all of them important. Even the more minor characters had a major role to play in the final battle and it was awesome to see the battle through all of the different character viewpoints. Another thing I loved about Justin using so many characters in his novel was the dialogue. It always gave each character more depth and personality. The dialogue was also often witty and very funny. I've said this in other reviews before but when an author can make me laugh in a time of intense action where it looks like the characters are doomed I am pretty impressed and it makes reading the story that much more fun and enjoyable.

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, December 1, 2015

First World War by Ken Pelham | Book Review

This was an interesting story in The Prometheus Saga. The Prometheus character was discovering who he was. Instead of knowing his purpose he just knew he was drawn to humans and had instincts to study them but keep itself safe when found in dangerous situations. He also hears voices in times of trouble telling him what to do to save his body from death.

There are different tribes of people in this story. The author did an awesome job of describing them. I could picture them as I read their description. They war against each other and The Prometheus observes it all.

There was a lot of war and brutal violence in this story. Much of it is described in detail and that makes me recommend this story as one that's not for the faint of heart. It's not a horror story but there are realistic horrors of war in it so be ready to read some brutal action scenes full of detailed violence. It fit with the time period and place this story took place in and didn't come off as something to shock the reader but know it's in there. If you have a weak stomach this one may not be for you. If The Walking Dead is something you don't have trouble watching, you'll be fine.

In this story The Prometheus character used his knowledge of his immortal body to convince others of magic taking place when he could heal from mortal wounds. That was a cool concept because as a reader of the other Prometheus Saga stories I knew about his abilities but had not seen them used in this way. Usually he/she hides the ability from humans. So that was cool.

There's a love story in this violent story. It was fun seeing it develop even in this short of a story and what lengths the characters had to go to in order to be together in the warring society. It was a little like Romeo and Juliet but in a weird cool historical fiction / science fiction kind of way. This was a very interesting story and not like one I've ever read before. I'm glad I picked it up.