Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reading Journal -- Review of When Heaven Came Down By Bryan Davis:

Click To View This Book On Amazon

I was offered a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


In a time of chaos, creatures known as angels took over the world, enslaving humans as their hosts.  A rebellion is desperate to get rid of the angels, but the odds are not in their favor.  Even so, the rebels do everything possible to solve the problems in their way and complete their mission to free humanity.


Not many content cautions in this one.  As implied by the angels mentioned in the book's synopsis, there are a few mentions and brief discussions of religious topics, but it shouldn't be too much for most people.  And while this book features adult protagonists, the content is probably clean enough for both teens and adults.


The idea of the angels and how they operated was easily my favorite aspect.  It's nice that, instead of simply having their mission and trying to fulfill it, the plot requires the chars to learn interesting tidbits about the angels.

Another upside is that the story emphasizes platonic relationships instead of relying on a romantic subplot.  There's nothing wrong with romance in stories, but sometimes it's nice to read tales where that isn't the focus.

There were several specific things I liked about the plot and angel design, but I won't get into them because they take place far later in the story and I want to avoid lacing this review with lots of spoiler warnings.


The characters in this book weren’t as interesting as they are in some of Davis’ other tales.  A few basics of their backstories and personality were there, including things commonly fit into action characters (losing/trying to save a spouse or child) but since the story didn't feel as rooted into the characters' perspectives, it was hard to connect with them beyond the initial acknowledgement that they were going through a hard time(just like any other set of action movie characters).  And while there were differences and development for each character, those aspects felt more at a surface level of assigning a few beliefs/traits without using the narrative in a way that made us feel the pervasiveness of those traits.  So it was harder to experience the full breadth of each person's perspective/relationships.  

Some of the speech patterns and such also reminded me of several character types in Davis' other books.  That isn't bad in and of itself since it can be a stylistic thing, but when combined with the lessened depth to character perspectives, those speech patterns felt a little recycled, rather than simply following a style.

Because of that, everything seemed centered mostly on the plot, action, and creature design of the angels.  That’s actually not a bad thing.  It’s perfectly valid for a book to emphasize the situation/mission/etc, rather than harping on the unique perspectives of the characters and their feelings.  But since the book wasn't very long, it would have been nice to have a little more description and depth to character things and scenery.


It's very rare for me to give five star reviews, and since the characters weren't as well developed as other Bryan Davis books I've read, I'm going to go ahead and rate this book as a three star.  But it's not a bad book at all, and I do recommend it for people that prefer quick sci fi reads focused more on plot, action or creature design.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Review -- Let The Ghosts Speak by Bryan Davis

To listen to the audio version of this review, click here:

Or, if you just want the text version of it, read on :)

Hello everyone. Recently I was given the chance to read Bryan Davis’ new book, Let The Ghosts Speak, in exchange for an honest review.  The link to the book’s Amazon profile can be found here:  
Let The Ghosts Speak is a mystery story set in 19th century Paris. The protagonist is Justin Trotter, an orphaned English immigrant doing his best to provide for himself and his little sister. Justin’s faced tragic circumstances before, but he endures far worse after attending a party where his friend’s mother is found dead. Unfortunately, Justin is a prime suspect, and must navigate ghostly entities and unjust circumstances as he tries to clear his name.
Audience/Content Cautions: This story discusses a lot of religious themes and matters, so it is best suited for those that don’t mind that. Also, this story is mainly intended for older teens and adults, and thus contains a few mature themes. Although this book is fairly clean, there’s still some morbid content like hangings and beheadings. Furthermore, a character is accused of a very heinous sexual act.  Discussions around the issue are not gratuitous, however, and depict sexual abuse as the evil that it is.
Pros:  I don’t read mystery and historical fiction much, even though I don’t mind those genres, but Let The Ghosts Speak has an interesting premise with a touch of fantasy that makes it a fascinating read. At the very least, it’s worth hearing the way ghosts operate in this story world.
The tale itself had a dreary, tragic atmosphere with a bit of hope at the end. Several real life topics were discussed, such as societal injustice, finding ways to be at peace when everything goes wrong, and not letting romantic feelings lead to blind trust. There were also some portrayals of family conflict that were reasonably well done. Justin, as an outsider looking in, saw several hints of resentment from two of his friends, but later on he saw that those hints were only the tip of an ice berg of family drama.
Some issues mentioned in the book, such as the dark historical conflict between Protestants and Catholics, could hold a parallel to our modern day. Such issues are reflected in conflicts between Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals. Those fights are usually less violent, but they still stem from harsh judgments and cause lots of harm and damaged relationships.
Cons: There were, however, times where this story came off as a little preachy. This is somewhat understandable since it’s told in first person and therefore all the character’s judgments and opinions are more in the reader's face.  But it was more blatant with several characters that were teachers to other characters. There's nothing wrong with the teacher dynamic, and many times teacher and student conversations can be good for relaying information naturally, but now and then those conversations didn’t feel like a natural discussion these characters would have.  The heart of their lessons surrounded good topics like love and mercy, but since they didn’t come across as natural, it sometimes just felt like the author preaching through the text.
Some characterization aspects could have also been better. I’ll discuss one example really quick, but please note that it is a bit of a spoiler, so read it at your own peril: <spoileralert>Near the end, Inspector Fortier talked about how the people of his era needed to stop being blind to their own injustices. That’s certainly true, and he did try to help Justin at various times, but the fact was that Fortier was part of the reason Justin’s life ended the way it did. Fortier jumped to a conclusion and arrested Justin before checking the facts and finishing the investigation, which led to Justin’s execution. In spite of this, Fortier did little, if anything, to show regret for that.
Fortier did express sadness, but it was more in response to societal injustice and trying to prevent a bad thing at the last minute, rather than acknowledging the part he played. And that’s a real shame, because Fortier could have gotten more character growth from that. Realistically, it would have compounded Fortier’s grief even further and made the story more powerful after showing that Justin forgave him in spite of everything. Or Fortier could have taken it as first hand proof of how easily someone could have a hand in injustice, and decide to do everything possible to avoid making such a mistake again.

But there wasn’t much, if any, indication that Fortier noticed his own faults, so instead of us seeing what Fortier would do after realizing his own contribution to injustice, he just seemed lacking in self awareness instead...  Particularly after criticizing the rest of society for an unjust outcome that he technically took part in. Everyone lacks self awareness in some area, but this seemed like a situation where most people would at least notice their part in this tragedy, even if they didn’t feel bad about it. </spoileralert>

Conclusion:  All that said, characterization is something I can be rather picky about, and a lot of the characters were still very interesting even though I didn’t always like the way they were presented.  I liked the dreary tragic atmosphere present in this tale, and the story felt a little different compared to what I normally read, so it was enjoyable even just from that standpoint. So if you like ghost stories, historical fantasy, mysteries, or explorations and critiques of society, this book might be for you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Writing Tips -- How To Make Heroes Deep And Realistic But Not Evil Pt 1:

An interesting thing that crops up in story commentaries is the idea that bad guys are the ‘cool’ ones.  The ones with the awesome theme songs, the ones with edgy character designs, and the ones that sometimes gain the audience’s sympathy whether or not their behavior would be acceptable in real life.

This happens partly because the heroes aren’t allowed to be fully fledged beings often enough.  Real people fail and make mistakes. Real people are wrong sometimes or even hold subconscious beliefs that we might not.  In short, real people have depth and struggles, regardless of how we might perceive those struggles.

Thus, this post will explore some ways to make heroes deep and realistic without making them evil.  Now, some of that could depend on how one defines evil. Does evil mean fighting for what the viewer considers to be the wrong side, regardless of the reasons?  Or does it mean that the character makes upsetting choices? Or, heck, does it just mean that the character knowingly hurts others for fun or for their own gain on a regular basis?

For the sake of this discussion, let’s put all that aside and make a separation between people and their behaviors.  Most people will do both good and bad things over the course of their lives, so when I say ‘good’, I don’t mean it in the sense of someone that never makes grave mistakes.  Instead, I’ll be referring more to who that person is at their core, or perhaps even what they will become in the future.

Now, to begin addressing the issue of depth in hero characters, begin asking these questions about the heroes:

What are they fighting for and why?

At what points do they question themselves?

What do they struggle with and why is it important to them?

What shifts do they make over the course of their lives?

Do they ever have doubts that make them wonder and change their minds eventually?

In terms of personality and beliefs, what about them is different, especially from those that are on their ‘team’?

That’s just a starting point.  But, if two or three questions like that aren’t important to the character, that’s a pretty decent sign that they’re too shallow.  A character like that risks coming off as a Mary Sue, or being boring or annoying for some other reason. They might also bother the readers because in spite of the author’s best efforts, that character might still be wrong or come off as pointlessly arrogant, and if there isn’t enough questioning or growth to offset that...the character’s realism and appeal will decrease.

To fix this, consider what positive and negative actions a character will take, given his beliefs and desires.  Don’t idealize him too much.  Not even our favorite people will be consistently able to avoid being disappointing.  Instead, allow for a realistic pondering of cause and effect. For example, if people have an important belief or goal, they often won’t be nice to someone that treads on that in some way, especially when they’re younger and less understanding.  Figure out what it would take for the character to act in a less than ideal manner. Furthermore, how does that affect his life and the behavior of those around him?

Everyone will have some sort of flaw that lasts a lifetime, but good people often realize at least a few of their flaws and try to get a handle on them.  Beliefs also change in response to new information, or perhaps even horrific situations that force a character to reevaluate their life and figure out where things went wrong.

At those points, it’s not necessary or always realistic for a character to flip a 180 and turn his back on everything he thought before, though he might feel he has to for a while.  Instead, he might simply develop more nuance and perspective to his mindset. Or maybe he changes the way he expresses or acts on his beliefs. He could, for example, continue to disagree with a friend’s viewpoint or even feel upset about it in his head from time to time, but he could also decide that he still respects and cares about his friend regardless of any differing opinions.  Thus, those two chars fight less.

If you’re worried about the character having such big flaws that they would be seen as villainous, realize that the character’s flaws don’t have to be huge and obvious at first.  It could just be a couple small flaws, like procrastination, having a temper, etc. Just make sure to give those flaws the exploration they deserve. Things like that will permeate every fiber of a person’s being and affect them in ways they don’t anticipate.  Procrastinating could, for example, make someone miss a deadline and thus make them lose a job opportunity. The fallout and how the character handles it is what will shape him.

Depicting realistic mind changes takes practice, though, which can come in the form of authors putting themselves in other people’s shoes more.  They can also think back to how their own behaviors and beliefs changed over time. Paying attention to how these shifts happen in other people is also a useful tool.  

Other than showing realistic growth in a good hero, it is also vital for authors to consider how they’re presenting their characters in the first place.  Does the hero in question seem to have his own life and identity, or is the author merely using him to say ‘this is a perfect model for this one thing I’m talking about’ or ‘this character’s opinions are definitely right all the time’.  

It’s not to say that stories can’t have a message portrayed through the characters, but like it or not, someone in the readership can find some flaw in the hero.  And then they will probably bristle if that character is pushed as some kind of ideal example when the flaws make him anything but.

Using characters to represent themes and ideas is a great storytelling tool, but if the story details the character’s thoughts and actions, don’t approach them in a shallow way.  Don’t fall into the trap of acting like the character is right about everything. Instead, simply show the character’s journey. Allow for challenges or mistakes in the character’s ideals, because if the authors are afraid of depicting such things…  That will only weaken the presentation of their beliefs and characters. willing to show true challenges to the characters themselves.  This is somewhat in line with everything else, but there’s another aspect I want to discuss.  Occasionally characters will argue with someone the author would disagree with, and the character in question will know how to make all the good points, and will almost seem to be talking to a straw man for how little their opponent can put up a fight.  

It’s not to say that heroes can’t win arguments, but it’s important to ask how likely that would actually be under the circumstances.  Furthermore, how realistic are their opponent’s responses? Consider that the opponents have their own backstory and reasons for their beliefs and might be able to throw the hero for a loop, whether or not they’re on the ‘right side’ in a debate.  Regardless, the opponent probably isn’t saying things because they woke up one day and decided to be stupid and wrong for the sole purpose of aggravating people. They have reasons, and addressing those reasons will make the story stronger and maybe teach the hero something.

This can actually make a story much more exciting, because just like with a physical fight, the readers might wait in anticipation for who will come out the victor.  And just like with a physical fight, losing can motivate the hero to question what he’s been doing all this time and make necessary changes in his life.

Alright, that’s all for now.  I’m thinking about doing a second part to this at some point, so let me know if you liked this or have questions.  Have a good day!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Bestiary Tag

Doing my first tag! This one is from Check out her blog if you haven't already.

I will also be cross posting this on my tumblr,

The Rules:

The Questions:

1.) What is your favorite mythical creature?

2.) When was the first time you heard of this beast?

3.) What is your favorite portrayal of this creature in media?

4.) If you could shapeshift into a mythical beast what would you pick?

5.) What mythical beast would you love to have as a pet?

6.) What is your favorite mythological story surrounding a fantastical beast like in Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, etc.?

7.) What mythical creature would terrify you the most if you encountered it in person?

8.) What is the most unusual mythical creature you've ever heard of?

9.) What uncommon mythical beast do you wish you saw more of in books and movies?

10.) If you could create a mythical creature what would it be?

My Answers:

1.) What is your favorite mythical creature? Out of all the preestablished ones? Probably gryphons. They seem very cool, agile, versatile, and reasonably powerful.

2.) When was the first time you heard of this beast? When I was a kid, I watched Quest For Camelot by Warner Brothers. The gryphon in that show was the coolest thing ever.

3.) What is your favorite portrayal of this creature in media? Quest For Camelot's version is pretty cool. Narnia's wasn't half bad. There's also a book series called The Summer King Chronicles by Jess E Owen. I haven't read much of it yet, but it's about gryphons and contains a lot of elements I like so far. I'm also working on writing a comic about gryphons and dragons, so I'm having fun with designing the lifestyle of the gryphons in that story.

4.) If you could shapeshift into a mythical beast what would you pick? Man, I dunno. Depends on a lot. Would the shapeshifting be permanent, or could I turn back and forth at will? And what kind of story world would I be in? In some story worlds, it would be more advantageous to turn into something small that way I could hide and sneak around. But, in other instances, it'd be nice to be able to turn into something big, like a gryphon or dragon, that way I could have more fighting power. Whatever creature I pick...hopefully it would be cool, and something that wouldn't get me killed in whatever world I lived in this scenario.

5.) What mythical beast would you love to have as a pet? Well, a gryphon would be cool, but hopefully I could live in a fantasy world with wide hunting grounds that could sustain such a large predator. Either that, or have an omnivorous gryphon, that way it could eat plants too. That said...I dunno. Dogs and cats are obligate carnivores and it's actually not that hard to keep them. Maybe if we had pet gryphons in the modern world someone would make kibble based food for them.

6.) What is your favorite mythological story surrounding a fantastical beast like in Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, etc.? I like a lot of Japanese ones. I can't really single one legend out as my favorite, though.

7.) What mythical creature would terrify you the most if you encountered it in person? Malevolent spiritual entities have always creeped me out. Along with pretty much anything that could move through the dark and seems almost impossible to see, much less fight. I can't pick only one of those things. Thankfully thinking about that stuff doesn't terrify me as much as it used to.

8.) What is the most unusual mythical creature you've ever heard of? Some yokai are very strange. Like, I dunno, wasn't there one about a floating head attached to a wheel that had fire on it? I've seen something like that in anime now and then, at any rate.

9.) What uncommon mythical beast do you wish you saw more of in books and movies? Does a unicorn or pegasus with a dark/serious take on them count? Cutesy versions of these animals appear a lot in memes and accessories and such, but there aren't a lot of modern stories where they're taken seriously. That's probably why they're seen as prissy and girly. Nothing wrong with the sparkly take on those creatures, it'd just be nice to have more dark and serious ones as well. I plan on writing stories like that eventually, but that probably won't be for a while.

10.) If you could create a mythical creature what would it be? Creature design is one of my favorite things, so most of my story worlds have at least a few made up animals in them. Something I've been doing with one of my more recent story worlds is to take some beasts common to that world and form legends around them. So, those mythical creatures end up with a similar vibe to yokai and fairies, but with an entirely different mythology and culture surrounding them.

I tag:

Jessi L Roberts (If she wants) from

And everyone else who reads this post and is interested in the tag :P

Friday, July 12, 2019

Writing And Being -- What I Learned From Rushing Into A Story Contest:

In Fall of 2018, I decided to participate in Tapas’ annual writing contest.  The story I submitted is called Ascending Spires, and although I liked the idea of it, it probably won't get finished until I have more inspiration for it.  Meeting the contest deadline was a little stressful, but there were a lot of good things about participating that are worth reflecting on.

Participating opened me up to some opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Tapas offered everyone participating in the contest a chance to join the Tipping Program, even if they wouldn’t normally qualify based on the amount of subscribers they have.  If Tipping is activated on a Tapas author’s profile, it means that readers can tip them with Tapas Ink, which the author can then exchange for real money.

This was pretty awesome for someone like me that is just starting out and would like to begin implementing ways to make money off my work.  Furthermore, Inksgiving was going on during this time, which meant that I had a series that I could design an ad for and submit to the list of Inksgiving episodes asking for Tips.  Although I didn’t get many tips off of this, at the very least Tipping is now implemented on my profile and available for when I start posting comics more regularly.

This event also encouraged me to post more work online.  Sometimes it's hard to cross that line and put a story out there for the world to see.  I've already posted fanfictions on other sites, but outside of roleplaying, I haven't posted many of my original stories.  Entering the contest got me started with that.

The contest provided a way to test Tapas' author user interface and get an idea of potential click through rates.  Participating in the contest kind of brought home the fact that, for novels at least, a lot of people might bookmark a series that sounds interesting, and then completely forget about it until a much later date.  This really seemed to be the case when looking through the series' analytics day to day. Often, people would only read a chapter or two at most before moving on or bookmarking the series and forgetting about it.  

Of course it isn't impossible to make people read more consistently, but those posting on Tapas need to be aware that even when someone bookmarks a series, it can easily get lost in a sea of other free stories.  It takes time and planning to facilitate reader engagement, and participating in the contest helped me get a better idea of how that might work on this platform.

Also, I gained further proof that forcing myself to work on something I’m not truly inspired for under a short deadline is bad for me.   I already know I have a hard time forcing myself to write things I'm not inspired for.  Learning to write decently under pressure is an important trait to develop, but this contest served as an example of why those circumstances are not usually conducive to forming my best work.

Overall, this experience was both exciting and stressful.  But I did learn from it and so far don't regret it. Do you have any art/writing related experiences that were both stressful and educational?  Do you have any input as far as facilitating reader engagement or churning out better work even under pressure? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Writing And Being -- Why We Should Think About Characters and Their Authors Separately:

Reading is a wonderful medium that invites people to think, discover, and challenge.   Since readers are invited to contemplate a book's meaning and draw conclusions about the story and its characters, there is always the risk of misinterpretation, especially since many of the best authors won't bluntly state the point of every tale.

I know there's been times when I've disliked statements I've read in stories, and from some comments I've noticed online, most people have had the same experience.  

That's perfectly alright.  We are only human, it’s important to oppose bad things, and some authors do have beliefs that deserve to be challenged.  But, there are times when an author's intent is completely misunderstood .

Writers will often design their stories based on their beliefs and what lessons they want to convey, so to that extent, a story can and often does reflect its author, but not in the way we think.  Someone can write bloody horror without being a serial killer. People can write a racist villain without actually being racists themselves. A person of one belief system can write about characters of a different belief system.

This is often necessary, especially when tales have a large cast, go through a plot line that puts characters through heartache, and reflects an expansive world with complex cultures and history.

Furthermore, when writing from a certain character's point of view, we see what that character thinks and feels.  We get to learn each character's journey, see how and why they got there, and perhaps even feel angry or disappointed at their chosen path.  But that is vital for understanding how people operate. Knowing how people behave can make it easier to solve problems or even keep ourselves from becoming destructive.

People have to be careful when writing about things they haven't experienced, and writing about groups they are not a part of can be particularly challenging.  But, pretty much every story requires authors to step outside their own experiences in some way or another.

This is important on a personal level, because it makes authors empathize with others and invites their readers to do the same.  It is also important for at least some authors to show the world as it is.

Bad people exist, and villains reflect that.  If villains aren't bad people and don't do bad things, there's usually not a good reason for the heroes to fight them.

Furthermore, heroes are people, just like us.  Everyone has flaws. Sometimes those flaws are major and not socially acceptable by our modern standards.  Sometimes authors want to express that reality in a story, or even take those characters on an adventure that forces them to face their flaws and change their perspective.

Keeping that in mind increases our chances of interpreting a story accurately and getting something wonderful out of it, instead of getting angry and assuming the worst about an author.  This also helps us in writing our own tales. Why not study other people closely and learn how to write them accurately and fairly, even if they have a completely different belief system?  Why not illustrate the fact that bad things exist and have consequences?

The hows and whys of that are important, and would constitute entire videos of their own, but, hopefully this was food for thought. So, what do you think? Have you been angry at something an author wrote, only to learn that they meant something entirely different? What's your opinion on the relationship between what an author writes and how an author actually thinks? Let me know in the comments below!