The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #58: George Sirois Redux – The Making of the Excelsior Audiobook

Episode #58: Author George Sirois Returns to Discuss the Creation of His Audiobook

Back in episode #36, fellow author George Sirois came on the show for a great conversation, and today, he’s back!

As you’ll see in the show, George decided that the way he wanted to get his young adult scifi tale, Excelsior, out there as a audiobook was to record it himself.  Way back when I was learning about making covers for The Thirteenth Hour, I came to the realization that when it comes to things like this, it all comes down to money or time.

If you decide to go the professional route and outsource parts of the creative process, you might get a professional product but you give up some autonomy and generally pay quite a bit (that you justify to yourself as an investment in quality and peace of mind).  But if you opt to do it yourself, you have to deal with the sometimes exponentially steep learning curve of cramming years of knowledge into the bare minimum needed to shoehorn yourself into getting the job done.  There may still be significant expense (sometimes due to trial and error), and there’s the significant time sink that comes with what a professional might be able to do more efficiently.

However, one thing debates such this sometimes forget when focusing on practical talking points such as these is simply the enjoyment to be had in simply doing.  As sole proprietors of businesses (as independent authors essential are these days), it pays to understand as many different aspects of the business as possible.  There’s no better way to understand those details than by doing them yourself (at least once).

And that’s what George did to make his ideas into a reality.  There’s a lot there in his story, so like minded souls, take note.  What’s the harm in going for something you want, George says in the interview.  And why not?  At the end of the day, who else is there to give the necessary permission?


Click on the link to check out the audiobook version of Excelsior on Amazon.

And audiobooks seem to be getting their due after years of being the red-headed stepchild of the literature.  Here’s the full text of the Wall Street Journal on the rise of audiobooks.

George will be making appearances (if you’re local to St. Louis, MO USA) at the following places in the next few wks:


- (now since past, though more good info if you’re a writer hoping to connect with others in and around St. Louis, near where George lives)

Connect with George online at:


GR profile:





References George discusses on the show:

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty, on writing a novel in 30 days

The Stressed-Out Writer’s Guide to Recording Your Own Audiobook by Kirk Hanley

On that note, as always, thanks for listening!

P.S. If you have any interest in getting into audio like George did or wanted to start your own podcast, check out this free guide here.  It’s a guest post I did for fellow author Kelly St. Clare on podcasting as cheaply as possible and has a wealth of info on audio production in general, most of which I learned by trial and error!  Check it out, and start podcasting as more than an amateur!  WIN!



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New Release: Strong Armed by J.C. Boyd

On Monday, fantasy author Joshua Robertson will be appearing on the podcast.  One of his co-authors from the first book in one of his trilogies, Anaerfell, J.C. Boyd, has a new dark fantasy novelette out – Strong Armed, set in the same universe.


Book Summary

Balvoc had always earned his bread with blood on his hands. But when he is forced to protect an amoral merchant to keep his wife safe, he must decide whether his wife’s life is worth the havoc caused by Sin-sim’s greed.

Author Bio

J.C. lives in the Midwest with his wife and two dogs. He recently earned his MA in English Literature and is working on his debut novel for his own fantasy world. Despite growing up with Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, and a collection of both Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels, J.C. has an abiding love of classics and spends his free time reading anything he can get his hands on.

Author Interview

When did you start writing?

As I recall, my brother suggested we write stories one lazy, summer afternoon. I thought the idea was ludicrous, but being the younger, I followed his lead. The memory still lurks in the back of my mind as one of the best. Over the years, Joshua has continued to push me to write, so it is only fitting that my first published work, Anaerfell, was co-authored with him.

That lazy summer afternoon was in about 4th grade. I started writing my first novel, a horror story which featured kids from my class. Unsurprisingly, I did not finish. A similar attempt with a fantasy novel in junior high brought similar results. Not until my fourth attempt at writing did I finish my first novel, completing it my senior year of high school. The final product still makes me cringe, but elements, themes, and even characters from that book still creep into what I write now.

What motivates you to write?

After I had first put my highly illegible pencil to paper, I never really put it down again. While my brother certainly pushed me, he knows as well as I do that I don’t do anything I really don’t want to and his task would have been fruitless if I didn’t find something engaging in the task.

In the end, what motivates me to write is, well, everything about the process. I love putting down the first words as much as I do the last. I cannot help but getting swept away in the imaginary world I create with the characters I craft to face that world. I enjoy tropes as much as I enjoy turning tropes on their heads—one of my first pieces in the fantasy genre featured an evil Gandalf character, seeking to betray those he was meant to help.

However, the ideas and characters only inspire me as much as the words themselves. In fact, my family still pokes fun at me about reading the dictionary during my high school years. While I, like many of my contemporaries, list Tolkien as a major influence, I like to think I do so from the evidence of his philological background within his works rather than his epithet as the Father of Modern Fantasy.

What genre do you write in and what made you choose this particular genre?

While much of my reading has been in Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, and Sword and Sorcery, I tend to lean (quite heavily) toward Dark Fantasy. I don’t know that I really chose Dark Fantasy. I simply realize that this is the genre in which I write. Because I like to play with certain tropes, I tend to lose traditional aspects that make me a writer of other subgenres. As I mentioned earlier, it is not so much that I dislike these tropes, but I cannot always reconcile myself to them within my stories. I have a desire to have exceptionally flawed individuals and, coupled with my rather morose outlook on life, they generally fail or step on others to achieve their goals. Real heroes are both rare and special. I simply haven’t found one in anything I write.

What is your goal in writing? Do you have dreams where your writing should take you?

I want to write stories I can stand behind with which people can identify. But I want my readers to have to think. I want more than simply a good book. I have read plenty of good books, at the end of which I can exclaim, “Thumping good read!” I then put down the book and never open it again. I don’t want to be in that stack. I want my readers to finish my story and immediately hand it to a friend (or stranger) and say, “Read this and then come talk to me. I need to discuss it with someone.”

Ambitious, I know.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if yes, how do you deal with it?

I would like to say that I don’t, but it just wouldn’t be true. I have simply figured out an effective way of dealing with it for myself. When I encounter writer’s block, I usually end up pacing. I walk back and forth in my house and talk to myself. A lot. Usually I talk through the plot, themes, character motivations. And my workout ends with me spouting dialogue back and forth to myself. I have found that the most people deal with their problems by talking and if I let my characters talk to each other, I usually figure out what had me stumped to begin with.

What advice would you like to give new, hopeful authors?

Start over. I have seen too many authors carrying the same novel around in their back pockets for years, trying to get it published without luck. They edit the piece over and over again, but can’t get it accepted. I am sure there are plenty of people who would like you to stick with your tattered manuscript, but throwing it out and starting over is usually best. If you are married to the story, read a chapter and re-write from memory. Don’t keep editing. You are a better writer at the end of your novel than you were at the beginning, but editing can only do so much.

Please, tell us about your work.

My first published work is Anaerfell, co-authored with Joshua Roberston, in the Thrice-Nine Legends setting. Strong Armed will be released on 08 March 2016 in the same setting. Meanwhile, Joshua and I are working on another co-authored novel, which will take place in a setting of my own creation. 

Thank you for being my guest. It was such a pleasure to have you here!  Check out the links below for more info.



Order Strong Armed on Amazon

Order Strong Armed on Smashwords



The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #26: 80s Movies Part 1

Episode #26: 80s Movies Part 1

-News: Upcoming radio show appearance on 2/16: Email the host, Wayne, with questions or comments for a chance to win a copy of The Thirteenth Hour.

Event Details (Live at 1380 AM WNRI or livestream, 9 AM EST 2/16/16)

-More News: brand new audio page for songs on Bandcamp – two new songs in the works!  Stay tuned for more info.

-Even More News: Read most of The Thirteenth Hour ebooks for free!  The standalone prequel, A Shadow in the Moonlight, is free on Amazon and Smashwords.  The standalone epilogue, “Falling Leaves Don’t Weep,” is now free on both Amazon and Smashwords.  And, you can get about 25% of The Thirteenth Hour free when you join the reader’s group.  WIN!

-Film influences for The Thirteenth Hour – this is a big topic that will probably take at least two episodes.  This post I did about a year ago is an outline of some of what I talk about on the show.  About the same time, I wrote an Amazon listmania about some classic 80s fantasy movies.  Amazon doesn’t use these anymore, but the post is still up on the internets: 

-Check out this podcast preview on Bandcamp that talks about 80s fantasy films and the nostalgia coming from rewatching these films, flawed as they often are.

-Featured Author Section: Epic Fantasy Author Malinda Andrews

-Read an excerpt from Through the Mountains


-Starving Artist Section:

Bing Rewards – get gift cards for searching the internet!

-Referral link:

-As always, thanks for listening!


The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #17: Books That Influenced The Thirteenth Hour

Episode #17: Books That Influenced the Writing of The Thirteenth Hour

This episode talks about literary influences to The Thirteenth Hour, partly based on a post which can be found here:

I also refer to the TSR Endless Quest series of gamebooks, similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the time.

Image courtesy of Elfsteaks and Halfling Bacon

Here is a link on Goodreads to the historical gothic romance adventure books written by Madeline Brent, pseudonym for author and comic book written Peter O’Donnell.  He was creating great independent female characters before it was as trendy to do so as it is now.

“When You don’t know what to do, just do whatever comes next and go from there.”
Madeleine Brent, Moonraker’s Bride

Although not mentioned in the podcast, another book that I remember enjoying in grade school that is somewhat similar to books like The Neverending Story (but written for a somewhat younger audience) is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Episode 18 will talk more about comic books and illustrations.

Thanks for listening!  Feel free to leave comments below!


thunderclap 13th hr picture_edited-1




Guest Post by Author Angela B. Chrysler: The Psychology and Subconscious of the Fictional

How do you create good characters?  The dilemma of every author.  In this guest post by fiction and fantasy author Angela Chrysler, she writes about one way of creating good characters – by delving into their psychology to give them depth, and, in the process increase interest and relevance to the reader.

In turn, I have written about a similar topic – using fiction writing itself as a kind of therapy and how stories bind us together as a human race.  You can find it on Angela’s blog here:

Speaking of which, before we get to the post, Angela references some of her own works in the post below.  You can find out more about her books at

Tales of the Drui Book #1 3D


Click on the picture below for information on one of her latest, a dark fantasy, with an equally dark and epic trailer.  Check it out!

And now, without further ado, here she is.


A blank page. Endless possibilities stare back at the writer. They start with a character that stares back up at them—nameless, faceless, void of identity and gender. So the writer invents a face. A name is chosen (unless you are H.G.Wells), and with it the first of an identity is formed.

In most cases, the career is selected and a plot is built around this character. You see conflict, strengths and weaknesses being shaped and assigned. Habits, hobbies, and a back story is eventually selected and, by the time the book makes its way into the hands of a reader, that character leads the story on to the conclusion.

Some readers put the book down and the analysis begins.

“Shallow. One dimensional. Contradicting behavior.”

This is the part where the author pulls their hair out screaming to the muse, “What did I miss?”

What indeed.

The back-story was there. The name, the history, the conflict, but the reader is right. Something was missing.

In the ten years I’ve spent examining the writing world, and the thousands of writers who I’ve debated with, one topic seems to always be neglected in character building. The human psyche. The subconscious.

I will be the first to tell you, adding a subconscious to my characters was one of the hardest things to accomplish, especially having no degree in Psychology. For Kallan, Rune, and Bergen, I took the advice of one of my favorite authors. “Write what you know.” (Mark Twain)

I know me better than anyone else. I didn’t just give Kallan a back story. I gave her a complex with that story. I gave her my complex.

I’m going to step away to one of my most favorite shows for a moment. M*A*S*H. There is an episode when the main character, Hawkeye, is working his way through triage when they come to a soldier with wet clothes reeking of mildew and swamp water. And so begins the psychology of Hawkeye.

Hawkeye begins to sneeze. He starts to scratch at a rash that isn’t there. Hawkeye is surrounded by a full medical team. He is a surgeon himself, and they know, after some simple tests, that this isn’t anything physical. They call in the Psychologist. Dr. Freedman (Rest in Peace).

The sneezing is so intense, that Hawkeye can not operate. Dr. Freedman arrives and viewers get to witness the therapy session that follows.

You see the denial, the conscious mask Hawkeye wears that allows him to remain in denial. “My cousin and I were fishing,” he says. “We were out in a boat and he saved me.”

“How did he save you?”

“Well, I was in the water and he…he saved me.” Hawkeye scratches at his chest. Freedman glances at Hawkeye’s hand.

“How did you get in the water?” he asks.

The session continues, and Hawkeye releases a Freudian slip that clues Freedman in on the fact that the cousin Hawkeye so admired was the one who pushed him into the water to begin with. The event traumatized Hawkeye, but the cousin devalued Hawkeye’s trauma and laughed, calling Hawkeye a clutz. Viewers have the rare privilege of watching Freedman walk Hawekeye through denial, into awareness where Hawkeye can accept the truth and finally, after thirty years, grieve. All of this because Hawkeye smelled the swamp water that triggered a subconscious memory he had forgotten.

The event isn’t brought up again, but it did one thing. It added definition to Hawkeye’s character. A level of definition only the subconscious can give.

I applied the same method to Kallan, Rune, and Bergen.

Because of my limited knowledge in psychology, I pulled on what I know: grief and an inability to accept death. I took a week and studied the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Negotiation, Depression, Acceptance. After witnessing more than twenty deaths by the time I was twelve years old, I was an expert on this topic.

I assigned Kallan the same inability to accept death and assigned her a need to become powerful enough to stop it. Frankenstein is one of my most favorite books. The same need I too have. I lived vicariously through Kallan, giving her the powers I wish I had to stop the dozens of deaths I saw (A total of sixty by the time I was thirty-two). Suddenly, I was moving Kallan through the five stages in Dolor and Shadow.

I then moved on to Rune. A king burdened with a need to protect, a need to end the grief. He too had witnessed the death and he saw what denial can do to a person. He watched the second stage—Anger—consume his brother. He watched the Negotiation devour his father and fuel his madness. He watched the Denial destroy his mother. Rune knows of the process, although he never calls it what it is. He knows and he understands how Dolor can become a Shadow and kill.

He makes that Shadow his nemesis and when he sees his political enemy, Kallan who seeks to destroy him, hording that same Shadow, Rune moves to fulfill his vow and help Kallan. Rune is the character I wish I had. The hero I so wanted who came in and took me by the hand to help me through that grief I suffered alone.

Bergen, I reserved for last. Bergen, I burdened with failure. An inability to save his loved ones…over and over and over. It consumes him. He never stops. He becomes stronger, more determined, but he is up against a Fae goddess. He can’t possibly best her, but he must try. The inability to save his loved ones haunts him, and Bergen is unable to give up.

In all three of these characters, I bestow my final issue. One that I still am not able to accept myself, an inability to accept their own weaknesses and limits. I often summarize Kallan by saying her greatest weakness is accepting her limits and her own weaknesses.

I live every day biting off more than I can chew. I burden myself with the need to accomplish more than I am able. In addition, I have an eye for spotting weaklings in need. (We call this identifying with the victim). I have a need to rescue, protect, and save regardless of my own limitations.

I have the makings of a cat hoarder. I see a stray cat on the street and I am overwhelmed with a need to take her in and protect her. I see a homeless cat in a shelter and am consumed by a need to adopt the cat. “No one else can do it. I must do it. Only then can I know they are safe.” My husband keeps this in check.

This takes me back to the end of one movie I can not watch. Schindler’s List. I identify with the victim remember? I can not watch this film without wanting to save the millions who were lost in the concentration camps. And I failed…it’s a burden I have to live with every day. I have nightmares of being stuck in Hiroshima and being helpless to save the thousands/millions who died by US technology.  

At the end of Schindler’s List, Schindler falls to the ground and says, “I could have saved just one more.”


Schindler identified with the victim as well and, like me, he did everything in his power to save those who needed help. And no matter how many Schindler saved, it still wasn’t enough. He needed to save just one more.

How many saved would have been enough? I smile. I know the answer. When there are no more who suffer…anywhere, ever again. This is the true burden of identifying with the victim.

I watched the first thirty minutes of Schindler’s List (I turned it off right after they killed the one-armed Jew and then open fired on the children in the hospital. I was fifteen years old). I also watched the last two minutes of Schindler’s List. I also know the premise is about Schindler creating a list to save victims from the concentration camp. Schindler saved hundreds. It was barely a drop in the bucket.

From that little bit of information, I was able to assess his need to help, to rescue, to save. The writers of Schindler’s List did an excellent job not neglecting his psychology. Without it, the entire movie would have been “just another movie.”  

It is the psychology that gave Schindler’s List the impact it had. It is Hawkeye’s subconscious that gives that episode the impact it had.

One more example I love drawing on because so many of us can relate to this one. Daryl Dixon in the Walking Dead. The writer’s outdid themselves with this little number. Yes, you have the most awesome Daryl portrayed by Norman Reedus. Yes, you have the unstoppable, dia-hard redneck. But that isn’t what we all relate to. This isn’t why we swoon.

It is his psychological make-up that steals our hearts. Daryl stands in the stables with Carol who gets close to Daryl. This scares him and he pushes her away. Carol takes it. She is impassive and not assertive, so she holds in the abuse while Daryl (and her late husband) lash out at her. Daryl is scared of intimacy. Terrified of having anyone close to him because anytime anyone got close to him (his brother), it hurt him. Remember Beth? It only re-affirmed that when he lets people get close, he gets hurt.

But he wants to be close. He’s lonely. It’s natural, so he strengthens his relationship with Carol until it scares him again and he lashes out. He yo-yo’s between what he wants—a friend or companion…to not be alone—and self-preservation, a distorted perspective that has taught him that having a companion will hurt him.

Carol is just as fun to analyze. She has learned a similar lesson.

In psychology, there is passive, assertive, and aggressive. I believe, a healthy mind toggles between the three, spending most of the time on assertive (My assumption based on an educated guess). Assertive is having the strength to stand up to an abuser, but not identifying with the aggressor and lashing out. This is where bullies come from. Bullies identify with the aggressor and lash out at smaller beings (animals or people) to feel empowered and feel like they have gained back some of the control they have lost. Merl Dixon. Carol’s husband.  

Daryl is assertive.

Carol is passive.

Well, she starts off as passive. This is really amazing to watch! Carol starts off as an abused house wife. She holds in her pain and takes it. She may even feel she deserves it. She sees the same pain in Daryl and this is why she latches on to him. She identifies with him. She identifies with the victim.

Apply Daryl’s own subconscious issues and now you have a match made in heaven. Carol, being passive, has all the patience in the world while Daryl works out his own issues.

Carol learns to be assertive from Daryl. Their friendship helps Carol come into her own. I’m waiting for Carol to identify with the aggressor and become the bully. It’s started with the boy in season five…kind of. I’m curious to see how far it will go.

I doubt Carol and Daryl will ever kiss or form a sexual relationship. Neither have the psychological makeup to entertain that possibility, not without some serious therapy and mental changes from both. Carol is almost there, but Daryl has a long way to go…if he gets there at all. Beth’s death mentally set Daryl back. Logically, I just don’t see it happening at this point.

The one thing these characters have in common is that they are fictitious, in Schindler’s case, a fictitious depiction of a real man. Psychology adds a level of character development rarely seen in literature. Many writers insert their character’s psyche on a subconscious level. Some get it right while others get it very wrong (Fifty Shades of Grey). Some writers insert psychology without realizing that is what they are doing. Psychology is the secret ingredient that brings fictional characters to life. It’s what makes us fall in love with the good guy, cheer on the underdog, and loathe the bad guy. In almost every case, we despise the person who identifies with the aggressor.

Next time you watch a movie, read a book, or write a story look for it. Analyze the characters. And when you have a moment or two, read up on psychology. 


Angela B. Chrysler is a writer, logician, and die-hard nerd who studies philosophy, theology, historical linguistics, music composition, and medieval European history in New York with a dry sense of humor and an unusual sense of sarcasm. She lives in a garden with her family and cats.

You can read more of Ms. Chrysler’s writing and accomplishments at


Angela B. Chrysler The Author of Dolor and Shadow



The Potion For Eternal Life

An excerpt from The Thirteenth Hour, soon after the protagonist, Logan, learns about living forever, coffee, and other things.


“No one’s gonna believe me.”

“I’ve already thought of that.  If you try to explain all this to your King, you’re right, he probably won’t believe you.  So don’t even bother.  He’ll find out the truth when his time comes.  Just take this scroll and give it to him.  It contains the ingredients for a special potion that he can drink.  He doesn’t have to know that it won’t make him live forever.”

I opened the scroll.  It said:

The Potion for Eternal Life


ground coffee beans

milk or cream

boiled water

thin piece of cloth or strainer

 Instructions:  Coffee beans look like small red beans when ripe.  The outer red shell should be removed, exposing a white bean with a lengthwise indentation on the flat side.  A handful should be collected to make a few servings.  These beans should then be roasted in a pot until they are brown, but care must be taken to not over–roast them, otherwise the flavor will be affected negatively.  Using a mortar and pestle, grind up the roasted coffee beans into a granular powder (the more coffee you put in, the stronger the potion).  There are two ways to get the coffee from the grounds into the water for drinking.  1.) Pour the grounds into the boiling water.  The entire mixture will start to turn brown, like tea.  Place a strainer over a cup and pour the boiling mixture through.  2.) Alternatively, wrap grounds in a thin cloth.  Put cloth with grounds in boiling water for several minutes until water is black.  Squeeze the bag until no more black liquid comes out.  Although not necessary, you can add milk, cream, or sugar for taste without diluting the effectiveness of the potion.  This potion works best when taken first thing in the morning or when fatigued.

 Aurora studied the scroll for a moment, twirling her hair around a finger.

“What’s coffee?” she asked, scrunching up her nose at the sound of the strange word.

“Oh, just something that your King hasn’t discovered yet.  It’s a little bean that grows in some places in the world.  If he looks south, Your King can import them, probably already shelled and roasted, no problem.  The beans contain something called caffeine – another thing that will get discovered one of these days – it wakes you up and makes you feel more alive.  It’s … a little like magic.  So the potion isn’t a complete lie.  It will make your King feel as if he could live forever, even though, in reality, he’s still a mortal.  But don’t tell him,” said the Dreamweaver, with a sly smile.


scrollWM (1) scrollWM (2) scrollWM (3)


The Thirteenth Hour Is Out! Available for Kindle and in Print!


At long last, the wait is over, and The Thirteenth Hour is out!

This is a story for everyone who has been told to get their head out of the clouds and stop daydreaming.

When a young boy falls asleep during school one day, he is transported to another world, where he witnesses the tale of Logan, a young man, and Aurora, his childhood friend, as they journey to the four corners of the Earth and encounter many exotic creatures, situations, and perils in a quest to find the secret to eternal life for a self-centered ruler.

Part adventure story, part travelogue, and part introspective narrative detailing the struggles we all face when becoming adults, The Thirteenth Hour contains over 35 illustrations, music written specifically for the story, and a rich world both on and off-line that was sixteen years in the making.

Open it today, and let the story of The Thirteenth Hour become your story!




Book Trailer

Free itunes podcast of the book read by the author


Purchase The Thirteenth Hour for Kindle on Amazon

Just available!  Now you can purchase The Thirteenth Hour in print via Createspace (available even before it comes online on Amazon!)


Read free excerpts at and the book’s amazon site.

Influences Behind “The Thirteenth Hour” Part 2: Film

This is a continuation of my previous post that looks at media influences behind The Thirteenth Hour.  Previously, I talked about how novels, illustrated children’s books, and graphic novels played into the writing and art style of the book.  Today, we’ll be looking at how movies and television programs did the same.  I’ve tried to include links for each where you can find out more if curious; all pictures are linked to their source sites.


ET – I was obsessed with this movie when I was eight years old.  As much as I liked the idea of an alien visiting my backyard, I think I also wanted to Eliot, the main character, too.  I mean, he got to drink Coke out of a can, had Star Wars action figures, and ate Reese’s pieces.  In 1988, that seemed like the bees knees as far as I was concerned.  And, he was a misunderstood youth who was picked on and bored at school – a sympathetic main character for an eight year old trying not to zone out while the teacher went on about long division.  There was also a scene near beginning of the film where his brothers are playing a board game I thought was Dungeons and Dragons (more on this below … or maybe the game Tunnels and Trolls), with little men and a diorama-like set that (I guess) was supposed to by a dungeon (you can sort of see it below and in this clip).

That seemed awesome at the time, too.  I created the character of Alfred, the boy who falls asleep in class and dreams the events in The Thirteenth Hour, with at least a little of Eliot in mind.

The Neverending Storyanother contribution to the Alfred character was one of the main characters from this 1984 film, Bastian, the boy who finds The Neverending Story book in an old bookstore while running away from bullies and gets transported inside its covers.  I saw this movie before I read the book.  They both have different merits, but I must admit that from the start, with the swirling, dreamscape clouds (see below) and 80s synthpop theme, I was hooked.

The Last Starfighteranother 1984 film about a young man, Alex Rogan, from a trailer park who is recruited into an interstellar space war after acing The Last Starfighter arcade game implanted on Earth by an enterprising alien recruiter.  Although I don’t think I realized it at time time, there are a lot of parallels in this story to how Logan from The Thirteenth Hour is recruited by Wally, a fast talking wizard, into becoming an Imperial Ranger.  There’s even a part where Wally tries to convince Logan he should stay in the Imperial Rangers, just like how the film’s alien recruiter tries to convince Alex he’s destined to be a starfighter and not just a kid from a trailer park.  (At least, that’s how I remembered it, I haven’t seen the movie in a long time.)  And, now, as I write this, I’m just realizing that Logan and (Alex) Rogan sound … kind … of … alike.  (I can’t remember if his last name is mentioned in the film, but it’s the one listed on  Hmm.  I guess the things you consume do influence you in unconscious ways.  But … that’s kind of the point of this site – to explore where all this came from as much as possible!

Labyrinth – a film featuring a young Jennifer Connelly playing a girl that faces off against David Bowie (in tights and big hair) in a labyrinth filled with fantastical creatures to rescue her infant brother, who is kidnapped by David Bowie’s goblins.  Why David Bowie has goblins and is wearing tights is anybody’s guess, but it might have something to do with it being 1986.  Jim Henson and his team created the goblins for the film, and it’s a wonderful example of puppetry prior to films dominated by CGI.  I recently rewatched the movie with my brother, and we felt to held up pretty well over the years.  But one thing I was struck by this time was a scene where David Bowie is pointing at a clock with 13 hands:

Umm … 13 hands … 13 hours … uh … was I aware of this at the time when I wrote The Thirteenth Hour?  I’d seen the movie for sure; it was one of my favorites since first seeing it at age nine or so, but I honestly can’t remember looking back 16 years.  Who knows;  like I said above, the unconscious works in weird ways.

The Flight of Dragons this early 80s animated film (which I think was done by Japanese animators since the characters have that vaguely early 80s anime look) is another story in which the protagonist is transported into a parallel world, this time into the world of a game.


In the game’s world, there is a (if I remember correctly) subtle romance between the main character (the guy in the bowtie) and the princess character (the piece on the right).  Now, I haven’t watched this movie since I was in elementary school, but I seem to remember this part of it was, well … nice.  Yeah, really nice.  There was a kind of warm, fuzzy, wistful feel about the way the writers portrayed the growing attraction between these two characters.  Not sure what was responsible for this – it have been could be the 80s Japanese influence or just two and a half decades of fuzzy memory at work, but that’s what I remember for whatever reason.

Flight of the Navigatoranother 80s film in which a boy meets an alien (in the form of a spaceship), though this time, he’s abducted and transported 8 years into the future.  I think the scenes of the ship and its interior served as inspiration for some of The Thirteenth Hour‘s locations, like the Palace of the winds, with it’s floating chairs and staircases.

Flight Of The Navigator(the page this picture is from has lots of other great movies on it with clips and comments)

There are also some great scenes of the ship zooming through the clouds and over water, which was sort of what I was envisioning when Logan zooms around the sky on Lightning in The Thirteenth Hour.  I wonder if this was something of an 80s movie staple – films like The Neverending Story, The Flight of the Navigator, and The Lost Boys come to mind as ones where there is aerial footage of flying through a sunset-lit clouded sky.  I tried to do something similar in the book trailer.  I guess it was my way of paying homage to these films.


logan flip clouds black cover no infinity

Update (2/7/16): Old and new covers of Logan soaring and backflipping in the skies.

The Sword in the Stone – This animated film from the 1960s had a great portrayal of Merlin the wizard.  It was based on the first part of the book, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, but this was one of the few cases where I enjoyed the movie more than the book.

There’s one part where Merlin transports himself to Bermuda, and when young (future King) Arthur asks where that is, Archimedes, Merlin’s pet owl and requisite Disney animal sidekick, says, (roughly) “Oh, some place that hasn’t been discovered yet.”  In the picture above, you can see Merlin is sporting shades and Bermuda shorts.  And that gives you some idea of the humor they imbued in the film.  I tried to give a nod to these kinds of anachronisms with the banter Logan has with Lightning, as well as with Wally, Wander, and William (these three wizards I envisioned looking something like the Merlin in this cartoon).

Willow unlike some of the other examples above, in this 80s fantasy film, there is no alternate world in which the protagonist is transported.  You started off the movie in it, which, after all the parallel universe shifting in 80s movies, was a nice change of pace.  (You can only stretch the fantasy thing so far – when fantasy characters pop up in the modern world and end running around in New York city or something, it gets a little weird.)  Anyway, I saw this when it first came out, thought it was basically the second coming, and now am kind of afraid to rewatch it for fear it may not have aged well (that’s probably true of a lot of these films, by the way).  However, I remember liking the epic score.  And, the idea of an unlikely, somewhat naive hero going on a quest to save a world is a fantasy staple that never really gets old.  Joseph Campbell has written about the archetypal tale of the hero’s journey and why it has appealed to us throughout the ages.

Legendlike Willow, the world of Legend is self-contained.  It also has Tim Curry in tons of makeup and a young Tom Cruise running around in armor but no pants (which, if you’re a straight dude, fail).  The story in this one I remember being, how shall we say … a bit shite.  I also saw it as a teenager, so I was probably a bit more critical than I would have had I seen it earlier.  But I recall enjoying the scenes with the unicorns and liked the soundtrack, which if I remember correctly, was a more traditional score (by Jerry Goldsmith) in some versions and a synthesizer-based one by Tangerine Dream in others.  I saw the synth one, and though I think fans of the film often knock it for being out of place, I thought it fit just fine for the 80s (The Neverending Story did something similar).   And, what the hell did I know at the time – it made perfect sense for unicorns to be frolicking about with a pantless Tom Cruise doing roundoffs on a table in the fight with Tim Curry while electric guitars and synthesizers wailed in the background.  I loved every bit of it, and that’s why I made a synth theme for The Thirteenth Hour.

  logan hair

As a total aside, in my opinion, the Tom Cruise character (like Noah Hathaway’s Atreyu character in The Neverending Story) had great hair.  Maybe it was more fashionable in the 80s when big hair was a thing, but to my untrained eye, I thought the longish, somewhat unkempt look was the perfect ‘do for an unassuming hero, and gave Logan from The Thirteenth Hour something similar.  Again, this may be just me looking back 16 years later and trying to make connections out of thin air, hey, if the shoe fits …

(Movies and book illustrations obviously don’t have to contend themselves with the obvious realities of trying to make hair like this look at least somewhat presentable.  Having unfortunately dabbled in the longish hair for a time when trying to um … save some funds, I erroneously thought long hair would be less hassle than short hair since you had to cut it less and do less with it – you know, like combing it.  Right?  Nope.)

The Black Cauldronlike Willow above, this Lloyd Alexander book spun into an unlikely children’s movie, which I remember being quite dark for Disney, was another example of the hero’s journey, where a reluctant hero (an assistant pig keeper, I think) goes on an epic journey because he believes in something bigger than himself.  I haven’t seen the film in a long time, but if I remember right, there’s also a cute romance that develops between the main character and the female lead, that, like in The Flight of Dragons, portrays those awkward, tentative first steps young adults make on their way to figuring out what love is.  In the future, perhaps I’ll write more about this aspect of writing Logan and Aurora’s relationship in The Thirteenth Hour, but for now, I’ll say that it look quite a few years to get their story right, as I suppose it took a number of years of life experience to be able to reflect and write about something that is so central to human existence, yet so mysterious and complex.

-“Wildfire” (cartoon) – a hard to find Hanna Barbera cartoon from 1986 about a girl who has another identity in a parallel universe and a magic horse called Wildfire that can transport her back and forth.  I remember it most for its catchy theme song which stuck with me all these years.  I can’t say this for sure, but I’m sure there was a reason why I thought it was important to have songs as a part of The Thirteenth Hour.  Maybe this is one of them.

“Dungeons and Dragons” (cartoon) – I had no idea what Dungeons and Dragons was as a kid.  I mean, I knew it was some kind of game set in a fantasy world with the potential for quests and epic battles and creatures like dragons and elves, and I had a few choose-you-own-adventure style D&D books that made the whole things seem just … epic, like something out of a video game (but almost better, since the graphics sucked back then).  Then, when I was older, I found out what a “role playing game” really was – you, well, played a role.  Like in a play.  You had to act.  And you had little funny shaped dice that decided your fate.  I never did figure out if you got to have those little action figures like in the ET scene and what, if anything, you did with them.  I mean, I don’t know what I expected, but for some reason, I remember being incredibly disappointed.  Looking back, I think what I really wanted was what video games now are capable of offering – an immersive fantasy world.  But obviously, that didn’t really exist in 1987 (or if it did, I certainly didn’t know about it).  But … there was this little cartoon which I watched sometimes on weekend mornings.  I don’t think I really understood what was going on, either, but it had knights, wizards, and dragons, and that was good enough for a seven year old.

In the next post, I’ll continue the video game talk and how my stumbling attempts at playing them influenced the creation of The Thirteenth Hour. 



“The Thirteenth Hour” Is Finally on iTunes!

Well, it only took forever, and a lot of trial and error, but the reading I did of The Thirteenth Hour  is finally on itunes!

If you’re seeing this for the first time and have no clue what this is all about – well, The Thirteenth Hour is a fantasy book I wrote that’s coming to amazon in a few days.  In the editing process, I read it aloud to catch grammar and spelling errors while audio recording it.  I’m not a voice actor, and there aren’t other actors doing the different roles or a sound effects guy, but hey, that’s for a future project!

There are 15 “episodes,” each about an hour in length.  Start with #1 and progress upwards.  You can find them all here, on this site, in .mp3 format, but itunes may be more convenient for some.  They’re all free, so if you’re curious what this book is about, download a few and see what you think.


Logo for podcast






-Book Trailer:

-Read free excerpts at and the book’s amazon site.

Influences Behind the Thirteenth Hour Part 1: Books

There are no new ideas, really.  But we do take things in our experience and make them our own by changing or tweaking a little here or there.

In the process of editing The Thirteenth Hour, I tried to reverse engineer where the various ideas making up the book came from (or contributed in some way, served as inspiration, or broadened my horizons).  This first in a series of several posts will look at what I came up with so far.  I’ve included links to goodreads and other sites where appropriate:


I read a lot as a kid, and while I always wanted to like fantasy books became they had cool covers, I always had trouble getting into them – the obscure name with a zillion consonants, the fact they they often just plopped you in the middle with little to no explanation of the backstory, the fact that it was usually impossible to find the first book in the series, leading you to have to to figure it out on your own, etc).  Some of those gripes are a thing of the past given you can find pretty much anything on the internet, but at the time, it was frustrating.  So I found myself gravitating to the ones that weren’t necessarily pure fantasy, were a little more user-friendly, and ideally, didn’t necessarily take themselves too seriously.  I’ve also listed some picture books, non-fantasy novels, and comics that I grew up reading that influenced the art and writing style in The Thirteenth Hour.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende – probably the first fantasy style novel that I was able to successfully read.  The hardcover edition I read was printed in red and green text depending on which character’s story it was, which influenced me to do something similar with the text of The Thirteenth Hour.  I was about nine when I read it, and remember feeling very proud after finishing it – not only was it over 400 pages long, it was housed in the adult part of the library.  But it was also a book for grown ups that had pictures (the beginning of each chapter was adorned with a montage-style picture of the chapter’s contents), which blew my mind at the time, and has forever biased me to novels that also have illustrations.  It was also one of the many stories of the time that used the guise of a young protagonist getting sucked into the world of a story to advance the plot).

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – my mother started reading this story to my brother and I when I was about twelve or so.  I ended up finishing the rest of the series on my own and always enjoyed the irreverent, dry humor of the book, which probably influenced the narrative of The Thirteenth Hour in some underlying ways).

Lost in Place by Mark Salzman – a memoir, actually, of author Mark Salzman’s childhood.  Probably one of my favorite books of all time because of the irreverent, honest writing style.  I read it as a teenager and particularly delighted at his descriptions of his martial arts training and his youthful obsessions to be an astronaut and kung fu monk, all of which I could relate to.  The writing style probably influenced me giving Logan from The Thirteenth Hour a similar voice).

The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier – I think I had to read this book in the sixth? grade.  I remember it being hilarious, and although it’s a product of the times (written in the 60s with lots of period slang throughout), that didn’t really seem to matter.  It’s a funny story, and the part I recall most fondly is the narrator, who’s a twelve year old but has the perspective of an adult.  Like the proceeding books on this list, the style influenced the first-person narrated sections of The Thirteenth Hour.

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien – I think this was another one we had to read for school, but like The Teddy Bear Habit, it was a good choice.  This book also used the premise of a parallel world operating right under our noses (in this case, one of animals), which was (apparently) a common theme of a lot of stuff I liked then.  Like all those works, that idea probably influenced the creation of the world of dreams in The Thirteenth Hour.

Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman – a wonderfully illustrated and written version of the St. George tale.  We had a bunch of books illustrated by Ms. Hyman (see below for another example) when I was growing up, and the artwork probably influenced how I drew some of the scenes in The Thirteenth Hour.

Swan Lake by Margot Fonteyn/Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman – see above.

Bone comics by Jeff Smith – my brother had a few magazines when he was a kid (I think they were called Disney Adventures) that had a serialized version of the first few parts of this comic.  I later checked out a few volumes from the local library but never actually got around to finishing the rest of the story (it’s on my to do list).  But I really enjoyed the inked black and white art, probably one of the influencing factors behind the stylized, semi-cartoony look I gave the characters in The Thirteenth Hour.  Plus, this was the probably first time I’d seem a fantasy comic done in a graphic novel form.  I flirted with the idea of making The Thirteenth Hour into a comic, and even had some comic-esque scenes that I drew, but in the end shelved those for another day.  I think the only one that made it into the book was a frame where Logan is telling Aurora to run (and you can see the word bubble).

Logan with beardWM

Archie comics – my brother also had a ton of Archie comics which I’d occasionally read.  I don’t recall the stories being terribly engaging (except for one where Archie meets the Punisher – see the link!), but I did like the stylized way the characters were drawn.  I even tried tracing, then copying, a few to get the hang of drawing cartoons.  (I remember having a lot of trouble with eyes and noses and found it easier to make them look acceptable the way they were drawn in these comics rather than in a more photo-realistic way).  So, like Bone above, it influenced the art in The Thirteenth Hour.

Logan pushupsWM

Speaking of art, it took years, but I finally figured out that although fantasy novels were always a kind of plus minus experience for me, with a few key exceptions, what I really liked were the covers.  In other words – fantasy art.  There, it was all spelled out, so to speak – the entire story in one picture.  If you, too, enjoy pictures of surreal landscapes, dragons, and the like, check out the great fantasy art on deviantart.  The Thirteenth Hour has its own page there.

In the next post, I’ll transition entirely to visual media with movies and television programs that influenced The Thirteenth Hour.





-Book Trailer:

-Free itunes podcast of the book:

-Read free excerpts at and the book’s amazon site.

Reading Books on the Kindle

The Thirteenth Hour is currently only available for the Kindle (this may change in the future), but if you don’t have a Kindle, what to do?  Below are a number of options – all are free assuming you have another device that can read ebooks.

1.) You can read it on a PC with free Kindle software.

2.) You can read it using the apps for iOS (iphone, ipad) or Android.

3.) If you had a Nook (the ereader from Barnes and Noble) in the past, you may have found that Kindle books were not compatible.  There are some ways around that.  However, see this article – you may be able to just install the Android Kindle app now.

4.) Failing all these, just wait for The Thirteenth Hour to be available as a physical book, thanks to an Amazon company, Createspace, which allows ebooks to be turned into physical books via print on demand publishing.  Stay tuned!





-Book Trailer:

-Free itunes podcast of the book:

-Read free excerpts at and the book’s amazon site.



The Thirteenth Hour Audiobook (sort of)

A teacher once told me (actually, there were probably several) that reading your work aloud is the ultimate test.  If it sounds lousy or awkward when you’re reading it aloud, particularly in front of people, then go back and edit it until you can stand behind what you’ve written.  So, I figured I would do that while editing The Thirteenth Hour.  I ended up reading it aloud into a microphone connected to a computer, which recorded the files digitally, generally in ~60 minute chunks.  There ended up being about 14 hours of audio from start to finish.

Sometimes, I was reading it alone, just for the purposes of catching grammatical errors, but many other times, I had my infant daughter on my lap.  All the research my wife and I read about infant language development seemed to say that one of the most important things you could do is expose their little brains to language – either by reading to them and/or talking directly to them.  It didn’t seem to matter so much what you were saying; the more important thing seemed to be actually talking or reading to your child.  So I figured I’d do both at the same time.  (You might be able to hear some of her baby noises in the background on some of the files; don’t worry, I cut out the crying/fussing and kept the cooing/gurgling).

I’ve never involved in acting, MCing, or radio, so it was a little harder than I thought to just read the manuscript coherently without making mistakes.  But it was a fun project, and it served its purpose.  The text underwent more revisions after I read it (sometimes there a short break in the reading while I edit something), so it reads like a beta version of the story.  There are some parts that are obviously not in the reading, like all the pictures and the supplemental material at the end, but the story that read is about 95% of what’s in the final version.

If you’d like to stream a sample off the web to see what the story’s all about, you can here.

If you’d like to download the files instead (all in .mp3 128 kbps format, all around 60 min, most around 50 MB), you can find them all in this google drive.

Stay tuned for how to get them on itunes.

Writing the Main Characters

My brother once asked me if the characters in The Thirteenth Hour were based on myself. I don’t think so, at least not on purpose. I suppose every writer injects some of himself in the characters that he creates, but I didn’t set out to do this consciously, although I no doubt suspect that there were plenty of unconscious contributions.

The character of Logan was somebody I envisioned as being unassuming and initially kind of naive, not yet possessing the confidence that comes from having more experience in life. Despite losing his parents at a young age, I want to portray the rest of his childhood in as secure a way as possible. I think there’s sometimes a stereotype to portray institutions like orphanages as evil, bureaucratic places that are understaffed, underfunded, and poorly run. And while there are no doubt some places like that, I wanted to paint a better picture for Logan’s childhood environment in order to give him the kind of consistent, safe, caring support that I thought he’d need to equip him for the challenges that he would face in the story. I also wanted him to be someone that spoke to the reader in an honest, sometimes irreverent way, kind of like an adult who’s looking back on his life but has a good idea what it still is like to be a kid (although I didn’t specifically think of it at the time, the narrators from The Wonder Years, Stand By Me, and The Christmas Story do this quite well). I thought it important that he not take himself too seriously, because let’s face it, there are a lot of lousy, humiliating things that happen to everyone when they’re kids that seem a lot funnier years later.

If you’ve read the book, you know that the Logan narrates the majority of the story interspersed by sections told by Aurora. She was not based on anyone in particular, but rather a compilation of characteristics that I thought would make her an interesting independent character yet a good friend and partner to Logan. The creation of young adult female characters has always seemed a bit more loaded than the creation of their male counterparts. I’ve often gotten the impression that some authors write their female characters with some kind of agenda in mind; instead of it just being a story about a human that happens to be female, it’s a story about a woman who is strong, or a woman who is not strong, or a woman who is not strong and becomes strong, or … whatever! While I wanted her to be able to stand on her own two feet, I didn’t want it to be for some kind of feminist or politically correct agenda; I just thought that would be the most realistic way of depicting her given what she has to go through in the story.

Like Logan, Aurora spends much of the book trying to figure out the world around her while navigating the challenges of young adulthood – namely figuring oneself out and finding love. This is, of course, something that all teenagers go through. It was this awkward mix of yearning, anticipation, and reckless abandon that I hoped to capture. Unfortunately, it took me about sixteen years to finally get it to where I was satisfied with it, but that, to me, was more important than any of the adventure parts of the story.

There are a few writers out there I’m aware of that have captured the world of the adolescent well – novelist Cynthia Voigt (Homecoming, A Solitary Blue, Jackaroo) and screenwriter John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) come to mind – and it strikes me now that one of the most critical things you can do for a teenager is let him or her know that – hey, you know what, there’s someone out there who gets you, who remembers how lousy it can be, and despite all the eye rolling and grunts you might give, is going to hold you to a higher standard and isn’t going to talk to you like you’re a three year old while doing it. Of course, I didn’t understand or care about any of that then; I wrote the first draft of The Thirteenth Hour when I was a teenager. But the nice thing about having written the story when I did was that it gave both me and the characters time and space to grow. It often seemed that as got older, I got to know them better and better. I might even go so far as to say that we all kind of grew up together. So in many ways, The Thirteenth Hour is less about the physical journey that the characters take and more about the journey they take from children to adults.





-Book Trailer:

-Free itunes podcast of the book:

-Read free excerpts at and the book’s amazon site.

How “The Thirteenth Hour” Began

I wrote  the first draft of The Thirteenth Hour the summer after I graduated from high school.  Writing it took about two months.  I remember it being a kind of pressured process; I had all these ideas floating around in my head, and it was almost a relief to get them down on paper just so they were somewhere else.  I didn’t think about publishing it and can’t say I had a specific audience in mind other than myself – it was simply a story that I wanted to read but had never quite found.

While I was writing the first draft, I drew pictures in a sketchbook, some of which ultimately made their way into the finished version of the novel.  Because I had created a whole world in my head by that point, text alone didn’t seem like it would be enough.  Some of my favorite books as a child were those that had hand drawn pictures scattered throughout the pages, and I knew I wanted visuals to add to the text.  Actually, what I had really wanted was video – whole scenes that played out like movies with full motion and sound.

I envisioned a sort of book that could be read as any ordinary one – with a cover, paper pages, and so forth, but when it came time for the pictures, the reader could press a button on the page, and a whole movie would play out on a flexible LCD screen built right into the page.  Of course, nothing like that existed then (and still doesn’t, as far as I know), so I had to settle for static, drawn pictures.  Although there were people doing digital art at the time, for the most part, that was still pretty new, and I didn’t know much about it, so stuck to traditional pencil and pen on paper.  However, I did use a scanner, which was fairly new technology (at least for our family), to import my pictures into the text.

At the end of the summer, I printed the manuscript out double sided in book-sized pages, made a cover, and bound it so it looked like a book.  I remember it being under 200 pages.  I showed it to my family, my first test audience, who read it and suggested I publish it one day.  It would be years before I would seriously consider it, but at that moment, I was content to hold that finished product in my hands, knowing that it was something I had created.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the satisfaction that comes from having your work look different at the end than it does in the beginning.  It’s not something that happens in a lot of work we as humans do, because frankly, sometimes, at the end of the day, there is no difference, or things look worse, and you wonder why you bothered.  But at the end of that summer, I didn’t really know all that yet.  I just knew that it was a great feeling to have finished something I had wanted to do for so long.  Of course, that was just the beginning, but it’s what carried me forward in all the iterations, editions, and additions that the book has had since then.





-Book Trailer:

-Free itunes podcast of the book:

-Read free excerpts at and the book’s amazon site.