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Monday, December 30, 2013

My Final Post!!

Well, this is it. I HAVE HAD IT!!  This is the last post I am ever going to write......for 2013.

  It has been an interesting year. I wrote two full novels, four short stories, a play, and countless other items. I performed on stage with the Miyagi Ryu Nosho Kai in California and performed in the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist in Tennessee. Won a lot of contests, lost even more. It has been one heck of a year. I want to thank everyone who has been there with me during both the highs and lows of 2013.

Now, for my final post of 2013 I am going to leave you with my latest art.


   In 2013 The Crystal Needle gained its newest, and final cover art. I like it and so do the readers. The pic on the left is the actual art, the one on the right is a black and white ink version.


Over the past year I helped my friend Wendy Siefken work on the cover art for her own book. Unlike my own, I actually did the drawing for these before heading to the computer to edit them. You might recall the popular post about these covers here. You'll note that these covers are different than the original covers in the previous blog post about them. Well there is another story about that, but what it came to is that now I am totally designing the cover, not just the character art. So, all the aspects of these covers are by yours truly, with a LOT of input from the authors and their fans.

Here we have a couple ideas for the third Bark book, set to be released in 2014. In the book Bark is dealing with something that is putting a lot of fear and sadness in him. So, I wanted to portray the feelings in art. The image on the left shows his deep fear of falling into madness. The image on the right shows his deep sadness. The one on the right was from a scene that has been edited out of the book for timing. He is in his underwear because he is being medically examined, but at the same time he is fighting back tears.

As a Christmas card for some of my fans on Facebook, I drew this image of Ashinaga. It said, "Ashinaga has been working on your gift. Merry Christmas." A good salesman knows his audience and how to sell to them. A lot of my readers are women who enjoy some eye candy, so.....I offer a sugar rush.

Not the same kind of artwork, but still part of what I do. This was from the second nights performance of The Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist. This also marks the first time in the history of my blog that I have posted a picture of myself. Yes, there I am, right in front of you, in the tree.

So, there you have it. My final post for 2013. Thanks for reading, hope to have even better things to post in 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Gift

Merry Christmas. Yes, it is just around the corner. Okay, it is two days away so it is sitting in your lap. As a Christmas gift to all my friends and readers I have marked both the Kindle and Nook versions of The Crystal Needle down to $1.99. If you already have it, then send it out as a gift coupon to that person who would like to read a fantasy novel. At a $1.99 it is cheaper to give than most candy, and it will last a whole lot longer.

Add to that, if you want, The Crystal Needle: A Christmas to Remember is regularly 0.99. So, bundle them together and you are still spending only $3.00 on two great ebooks to give to your friends.

This is an especially great gift idea if you are giving someone an ereader for the holidays, give them some books to go with it.

Lastly, my Bark books are all still FREE and available for download today, another gift to you from me.

Happy Holidays
Dan Peyton

Monday, December 16, 2013

And now for something Completely different

A little humor and a little life lesson. Here is my opinion of Facebook games;

Once upon a time a child with a set of cute cheeks and a happy smile approached you and offered you some candy. It looked legit and everyone else was taking that candy, so you take it. It is good, it is sweet, there is nothing wrong with it. Well, at first there was nothing wrong but for some reason that candy is all you can think about now. You ask her for more and she happily obliges. Oh, it is good and you are in heaven while you eat it. Then comes the crash. Oh dear God where is more candy!? You look for her but she isn't there.
Just as you turn a corner a sharply dressed man who looks like he stepped out of a circus approaches you. With a sly smile and a witty glare he holds out candy, more than the little girl had altogether for the whole neighborhood. This is the real stuff. You go to grab it, but he swipes his hand away and shakes his head. He hooks his carnival barker cane over the other arm and holds out his empty hand. “It's gonna cost you.” he declares with that wicked smile. This is no gentleman, this is Lucifer. But you are hooked, you can't help it. You must have that candy! So you reach into your pocket and pull out your wallet and behold, you have no cash. A despicable grin crosses his face as he informs you that he can take credit cards. And, at only 99 cents a pop, you will get just enough to get by for five more minutes. Sounds cheap enough, so you do it, and after five minutes you need more, so you do it again, and again, and again.

You need help!

What did I just illustrate? Oh, you might be thinking this is an anti-drug pitch, but it isn't. I want to illustrate how Facebook games are made.
Anyone playing CandyCrush might recognize the villains in my story, and the subject matter made that clear....I hope. Just like a drug dealer working on getting a new customer, these app games common to Facebook are created to drive addicts insane. They provide you a few free helps, and they give you the first few levels by making them so incredibly easy and fun. Once you are hooked suddenly those helps cost. To make matters worse, you have spent hours and hours developing your game and you are soooooo very close to a victory at that certain level, but you will surely lose unless you buy a help. It seems cheap enough at first, but in the long run it is an utter waste of money and time.

This is how Facebook games are like drug dealers.

You walk down the street and you see all these people that are always there. They wear the dirtiest clothes and hold cardboard signs. They are beggars, people who solicit unsuspecting citizens for a living.
Oh dear lord, is that Billy!? Yes, it is. Oh no, he got sucked into this. “What happened to him?” You wonder. Oh no! Here he comes, he recognizes me.
“hey man, can you help me. I just need a few more friends to help me.”
You try to look away, hoping he hasn't recognized you. Walking faster you leave him to his begging.
Later you get home and there, in your mailbox, are dozens of letters from Billy, all asking you to join him. He wants you to help him by becoming part of the same community that has left him on the street. He wants you to willingly step into that world and start abusing the same substances that made him who he is today, and worse than that it will eventually lead you to doing the same thing.

What was that all about? Well, I wasn't going all sociopolitical here, this is an illustration of how Facebook games lead our nearest and dearest to turn into beggars. You know the kind. One day they hardly message you on facebook, they might leave a comical comment under a post of yours now and then, but otherwise they are just a face to the side of the screen. Then, BAM, you are suddenly inundated with requests in your message box. They aren't heartfelt, they are form letters crafted by the cruel dealers of the drugs. Each one pretending to be your friend so that you can get sucked into their world. And each one begging you to join so you can give them gifts inside a game world you want nothing of. Once or twice is okay, but suddenly its every day and they even share posts about it onto the newsfeed, begging even more for people to join in their addictions.

This is how Facebook games turn people into beggars.

Welcome to the distant future. The world has changed a lot since your day. We live in what you might call a dystopia. Well, half of you do anyway. You see, eons ago the rich got so rich that they separated themselves from those loathsome poor. All good things of society are now on one side of the great fence, and the rest of the undesirable parts of society are on the other.
We both enjoy the lives we live and are given the same privileges. A home, food, clothing. It is just that if you have extra money, you can bribe your way to the top of the food chain and get unique and special treatment. You can buy yourself a home that is a mansion while the world government provides the rest a shack that barely stands on its own. Food, well we get what we want with money, you get what you can scrounge for. Everything is this way. If you have money, you are comfortable, if you don't, you hate your lives.
Now, there are open forums to speak about the lives we live and the games we play. But, if any of the undesirables, or non-paying people, come to speak, they are laughed at and ridiculed accordingly and made to feel the shame that is their existence. Usually they leave bitterly and crawl back into their pathetic holes.
Once in a while there are games we play. We invite them to play as well, those undesirables that is. What they don't know is that they are merely there to entertain us, the paying population. They come in expecting a fair, level playing field. HA! They are ground into piles of gross meat if they even set one dirty foot onto our playing field. It is quite entertaining to tell you the truth. Why would the non-payers even consider entering the “games”? It is because the government cleverly dangles before them prizes that, if won, would put near at our level. The lure is so great that they forget themselves and actually think it possible to win such trophies. In the end, using our bought tools and weapons, we crush them, their spirits and their hopes. They are lucky to be left alive after the games. We, the payers, garner the rewards and that only makes us all that more powerful in the long run. It is a win-win for us, and a lose-lose for them. Isn't that grand!

As dystopian as that sounds, it is a reality for Facebook games. At least certain ones. Games that pit players against players have a clever way of making it so that if you pay, you WILL win over the non-payers. The costs are just high enough that even if you throw a little money at it, those who have no lives and endless pockets (or daddy's credit card) will still crush you.
In most of the games I have been involved with, and there have been some terrifically bad at this, the game itself is designed to truly punish the non-payers. The game is fun and has a lot of worth as a game. But, the best abilities in the game that make you truly powerful are only available to those who dump cash into the game, and a lot of it. Worse than that, often the best abilities/items/allies/whatever are so good that you don't need to be a good player or tactical genius to win against every non-payer you come across. It would be like playing paint ball and everyone is given the exact same type of gun and amount of ammo, but if you pay a huge lump sum, you get the atomic-bomb of paint that when used will leave you clean but smear everybody in a five mile radius with paint in three seconds. You don't need to be good, just have money.
Add to all that, when you go to say anything about the way the game is designed and the fact that paying players are favored by the way the game is laid out, you are attacked. The paying players treat the non-paying players like they are the pathetic little kid that keeps following his big brothers friends around. They are teased, mocked, belittled, and told to either spend money or shut up. And, I have seen very few moderators of such forums step in and defend the non-payer. The mods know where the money is. Yet, the game will sell itself in ads on the side of your facebook page as "Great new Facebook game that's FREE!" but then goes on to punish anyone who actually attempts to play for free. 

This is why Facebook games are like a dystopian future.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Final Update + Review: DONE!!!

Hello one and all. I am a happy writer today. I finished the last page of the full length sequel to The Crystal Needle last night. I like to say it is tentatively finished, not just  finished. First, it still needs a lot of edits before I am ready to show it to anyone. Second, I am never sure if the book is good enough for a sequel and I will allow my secondary reader help determine that. Personally, I feel that the book is good and I am pretty sure it will be put out.

What's the story about? Thanks for asking. You know that map that Elsabethe talked about in the other two books? Well, that's it. This map is a very powerful magical creation that Elsabethe and Adel created a long time ago. It was meant for great good, but it had the power to also create terrible calamity. A man with a lot of greed in his heart got his hands on the map and then happens to also steal the golden scissors. With those two items he is able to wreak havoc on the whole country. Allison and Joe must set out to stop him and retrieve what he has stolen. That is about as much as I am going to give away right now.

This book was my NaNoWriMo book for this year. I finished adding 50 k words to the book by the end of the month of November, but the story wasn't done. So, I simply continued as though it was NaNo time even into the month of December. That helped me greatly to stay on track and finish the book. My brain is tired, my writing muscles are tired, but I am happy I did it. I would like to thank everyone who continued to encourage me each day.

To make this sweeter today, I woke up this morning with a new review up for The Crystal Needle. It was done by Book Angles website and it was a very positive review. Nothing can help make an author feel better than a good review.

Check it out:

Wishing you a hearty Merry Christmas and ask that you wish me Happy Editing! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Big trip to Little Tokyo

Over a month ago I visited Los Angeles for a big event. If you follow me on Facebook you would've seen some of the daily pictures I posted about the event. Now I want to tell you about my little adventure in Little Tokyo, LA. 

I started my little adventure at 4am in East Tennessee (10/15). I flew from Knoxville to Atlanta and from there to LA. From LAX my group was shuttled to Little Tokyo where we would stay and practice for the rest of the week. It was Tuesday afternoon when I finally walked into the Zenshuji temple to meet up with the rest of the school. The last time I saw everyone together like this was 10 years ago, which is how long it has been since I have seen most of the others. I was greeted with smiles, hugs, and so much happiness. It was like coming home after a long time away.
I arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon and we worked until 10pm. The first day was tiring and long but a lot of fun. For the first day of practice I was allowed to wear a basic outfit, but for the second day and each day after that I was informed that I must be in a full kimono. The reason they asked this was because on the second day the masters, grand masters, and other Sensei's from Okinawa arrived.

We would arrive at 10 in the morning and leave at 10 at night. When I wasn't rehearsing under the watchful eye of Master Nosho, I stepped aside and practiced with some of the other students so we could get the dances right.

Soon the musicians joined us with a whole array of Japanese instruments. It is a joy to be able to practice and perform with live music, especially from high quality musicians. Nothing truly compares to the sound of instruments filling a music hall, even if that hall is the basement of a temple.

Lunch and dinner were provided by the support staff. They came in with us at 10am and worked all day to make food. We had soba, curry, goya, rice, pork, fish, pizza and many other treats. About 1pm the basement started really smelling good and we were ready for lunch. At least on one occasion the dancers had finished and were looking around to get direction from Master Nosho only to find her poking about in the kitchen getting a sample of lunch.

Being the only truly non-Japanese dancer in the room you might think I would feel out of place. That is impossible with Okinawan's. They act like I am family, not foreign. I admit that I do not speak any Japanese. Okay, so I speak a few words and I can understand a little.....very little....of what is being said. But I am not really able to converse with them. For the American/Japanese members, this wasn't a problem since they spoke English. For those coming in from Okinawa, it wasn't as easy. Yet, what they couldn't say to me in English they said in smiles and a little help from one of the bi-lingual members.

For reasons that I still don't fully understand yet, Master Nosho informed me that several of the Sensei's and Masters coming in from Okinawa had asked if I was going to be there. They wanted to see me again. I haven't seen them in 10 years, but I still remembered everyone clearly and they remembered me. One in particular was Master Hiroko, a sensei who I first met at the 50th anniversary. She could speak very little English and yet could teach anyone. Though her knees prevent her from doing as much as she could 10 years ago, she did not hold back when instructing. On the last day of my visit, at the after-party for the show, she presented me a very lovely fan. I am unaware if she knew this or not, but I collect fans and this one is a very special performance fan for dancing. I was so honored at that gesture that I truly wished to be able to speak Japanese so I could thank her properly.

The star of the show and the whole week was, of course, Master Nosho Miyagi. The show celebrated her 60th year in the performing arts. Half my size, Nosho Miyagi is a towering person with a fierce smile and stern instruction. When I first arrived she didn't require a bow in acknowledgment but a hug. I first met Master Nosho early in my 13 year long career in this school. She seemed impressed by me and that only set my bar higher to continue to impress her. I hope I succeeded. Funny, witty, and clever, Master Nosho saw to each detail of the show.

After 5 long days of practice and work the day had finally arrived for the show. Just like when I left for this adventure I was up at 4 am. With stars overhead I joined the rest of my school as we walked across Little Tokyo in search of the Aratani Japan American Theater. Once we arrived it was a lot of hurry up and wait. The stage managers and workers got the lights, props, and sets ready while we got on stage to check our placing.

For me, I needed a lot of help. The costuming is very particular when wearing Kimono's like these. And the make-up is something unique. I had to wait for someone who knew what they were doing to get my face redesigned. As I said before, I am not Japanese and therefore my makeup is different than the rest. First they had to cover my eyebrows with this clay like substance, then came layer after layer to remake myself in the likeness of the other dancers. Just about the only part I got to avoid was the thick white paint they use on their arms and feet. Being Scotch-Irish I have naturally pasty skin. I sat for thirty minutes staring at one of the Sensei's from Okinawa while he redecorated me. Once done, I was as pretty as ever. Note: The first dance I was doing was a woman’s dance, and so...yup, I was dressed and made up to look like a woman. A six foot one inch five o'clock shadowed woman.

At over 4 hours the show was long, but it detailed many of the styles of Okinawan performance art. We had dancing, live music, plays, comedy, and the presentation of certifications to several of the students who graduated up in rank. The audience stuck with us and seemed to enjoy the show thoroughly. I am pleased that we had a good stage crew that did a wonderful job in keeping us on schedule. Just before the show started we all got out on stage and took a group photo to commemorate the event. Being so tall I was in a row all my own.

Monday arrived and it was time to go home. I started to really feel sad when I realized that it HAD been 10 years since I had last seen these people and it could be that long before I saw them again. Friends old and new were all saying goodbye. I didn't want to see it end. But life moves on and we boarded the shuttle. I returned to LAX and got on a plane headed back to Atlanta. My adventure in Little Tokyo was over.

One and a half years ago I lost my Sensei to lung cancer. She introduced me to this school almost 13 years ago and it has taken me to new places and to new people like nothing else in my life. Just before she died she expressed the hope that I would stay with the school and that I would make it to this particular show. I knew why she wanted me to stay with the school but I really didn't understand the importance of her request that I make it to this show. Now I know what she wanted all along. These people care about me and I know that I care about them. It wasn't the show she wanted me to go back to, it was to see the family again.