The Codex Audiobook Edition

The Codex Audiobook Edition

The Codex Audiobook Edition


I couldn’t be happier this evening. Recently I decided to give the audiobook market another college try after my first partnership didn’t work out. I reached back out to the original narrator that I was going to go with, and after we caught up, found out that he has gone on to narrate a ton of books, and that he was interested in narrating some of my fiction. I listened to a few samples, and he sounded great. 

steve barnes

Steve Barnes, Narrator

So, Steve Barnes will be narrating The Magic Shop this fall. It should be completed by the end of September.

Once I sent The Magic Shop off to Steve, he asked if he could narrate some of my shorter fiction between now and when he would start hunkering down on The Magic Shop. So, after discussing what I had out there, he thought The Codex sounded interesting enough to start there. 

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Steve turned in his final draft of The Codex, which will include the origin story, “Failed Crusade,” by Patrick Tracy and Paul Genesse (they were gracious enough to allow me to include it.) I just got done listening to it, and I have to say that I am totally impressed with what Steve was able to do with all the characters, and the gritty nature of the stories. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Oh, wait… Here’s a sample!  The full audiobook version of The Codex will run almost 3 hours, and should be available within the next 30 days. I’ll probably be running some contests for free download codes, so keep your eyes peeled!

(Let me know what you think in the comments.)



The Codex Audiobook

by Justin Swapp | The Codex Audiobook

(The sample above is from “The Transition” listed below)

The Codex Audiobook will contain the following content:

  1.  Opening Credits
  2.  Preface
  3.  Failed Crusade, Part 1
  4.  Failed Crusade, Part 2
  5.  Failed Crusade, Part 3
  6.  Failed Crusade, Epilogue
  7.  The Transition
  8.  The Merging
  9.  Club PK2
  10.  Closing Credits
Casting Call for The Shadow’s Servant

Casting Call for The Shadow’s Servant

In preparation for the launch of The Shadow’s Servant, I thought it would be fun to do a “casting call” for some of the characters in the series. What’s a “casting call?” It’s when the author shares his vision of the characters in his book as portrayed by actors. So, here is my casting call for The Shadow’s Servant, book 2 of the Shadow Magic Series. It’s due to launch this spring. You can bookmark it here on Goodreads.

I actually collect pictures as part of my writing process. I think more and more writers are doing this. For me, great pictures help inspire my writing, or, at a minimum help me articulate a feeling I have about a character or a place. Here’s the link to my The Shadow’s Servant Pinterest Board if you want to check them out.

Marcus Fith

I’ve always envisioned a younger Freddie Highmore as Marcus Fith, the main character of this series. Marcus impetuous, and curious, but more than anything, very brave. He makes a lot of mistakes because it’s the only thing he can see doing to save the day. Sometimes he’s blinded by his need to take action.

Ellie Fith

A young Dakota or Elle Fanning would fit the role of Ellie just fine. Ellie was actually named after my daughter (I’ve told my children that I will include one of their names in each book that I write.) Ellie’s character is very smart, quirky, and a bit of a know it all. There is more to her than meets the eye. She has a good heart, and where she doesn’t play as present a role (on camera) in The Shadow’s Servant, she’s sorely missed.

Winston Fith

Winston Fith is Marcus and Ellie’s grandfather. He’s old, eccentric, and quite powerful. I’d envision Sir Ian Mckellen, perhaps my favorite actor ever, to play this iconic role. Sir Ian McKellen has a way of bringing out little details in the parts he plays. It would be fun to see what he would do with Winston.

Charlotte Fith

Charlotte, Marcus and Ellie’s grandmother, is very strong willed, yet loving—in her own way. She’s the backbone of the Fith family. There is more than meets the eye with her.  I would love to see Julie Walters play this part.

Caleb Fith

Uncle to Marcus and Ellie, and husband to Anabell, Caleb Fith was almost destroyed by Sol at one point. He went through quite a transformation in The Magic Shop. He’s gallant, and chivalrous, and will do anything for his family. Richard Madden would make a fine actor for this role, I think. He has a quiet, but strong vibe about him.

Anabell Fith

Aunt to Marcus and Ellie, and wife to Caleb, Anabell Fith has sacrificed much for her family. She’s deceivingly and uniquely beautiful, but sort of ordinary and simple in her way, at the same time. Like the rest of the Fiths, she’s strong, and, when it comes to things that matter, she’s a little impetuous, like Marcus. She takes action. Uma Thurman would portray Anabell’s quirky style, and unique beauty well.


Elba is one of my favorite characters of the series. My favorite thing about her is that you never quite know who’s side she’s on. She plays a critical role in the events in The Magic Shop. Lucy Liu would be so fantastic in this role as she would bring out Elba’s mysterious side, without overpowering her shrewd or capable sides. She can be beautiful, and yet haunting at the same time.


Sol is a critical character throughout the Shadow Magic Series. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but a younger Anthony Hopkins would be masterful at portraying this complicated character. Sol has many priorities competing for his attention, and some of them are noble, and others are maniacal. Anthony Hopkins could bring these complexities into line, and make this character accessible to the reader.


Mirella is yet another complicated character, and I believe that Catherine Zeta Jones could do her justice. Like Sol, Mirella finds herself caught between injustices shown her regarding that which is rightfully hers, and a larger plot to which she is a critical element. In her way, she’s loving and caring, and in another way, the author of many evil deeds. 


Gunnar is a relative that comes to visit Marcus under unfortunate circumstances. After getting to know each other a bit, and overcoming a strange start, they learn to get along, and eventually help each other— seemingly, anyway. Gunnar is a bit of a teenage rogue, and I think Kit Harington could do a bang up job of portraying this bad boy.

Exum Payne

Exum is a sort of pirate, or transporter for hire. I guess you could call him a smuggler. He’s Marcus’s way into the new world in The Shadow’s Servant. Idris Elba, another one of my favorite actors, would do a great job portraying this chracter


Erasmus is, well, Exum’s pet, or, as he would prefer you to say, his partner. He’s more than just a monkey—he can speak after all. I can’ think of any famous monkies I’d have play his part, but I’m sure there are many of them out there.


dividing line

There are plenty of other characters I could mention here, but I figured that this post was getting a bit long. Perhaps I’ll do a part 2 at some point. For now, this hopefully serves as a fun way to bring to life some of the characters from The Shadow Magic series.

I Am Number Four Book Review

I Am Number Four Book Review

I Am Number Four

by Pittacus Lore

I’d give I Am Number Four 4.5 Legacies out of 5

I Am Number Four Summary

Ihad been wanting to get to this book for a while now. I know, I know… I’m late to the game. This book came out back in 2011 or so. At some point, I had listened to a portion of the audiobook, which I did find enjoyable, if not intriguing, but for some reason, I didn’t continue with it. I’m usually listening to and/or reading several books at a time, so my guess is that another book jumped ahead of the rest of my stack at the time, and took over my attention. This isn’t abnormal, per se. So, I Am Number Four merely got leap-frogged, I suppose.


It might be that, around that time, I had also seen the movie. The movie wasn’t great, which may have deterred me a bit. The acting, particularly from the lead, wasn’t fantastic. The bad guys were also kind of, well… chumps in black cloaks. They are much scarier in the book. For those that judged this book based on the silver screen—the book is much better than the movie. We should now that by now, though, shouldn’t we? So, if you have passed judgment on the book because of the movie, you might want to reconsider. The characters are accessible and relatable, and the story is well written.

At some point, I finally got around to reading the book. I think I had seen enough positive reviews that I just made it a priority. I’m glad I read it.

I Am Number Four is a fun, modern sci-fi story bent toward the teenage market. I love the writing style. Its clean, simple, and present, literally. More than just being written in the 1st person, it was super engaging. I can always tell a book tracking to be good if it has “gravity.” If I’m away from the book and I find myself looking for ways to get back to it, it has gravity. I’m happy to report that I’ve already gotten around 30% through book 2. So, now the series has “gravity” for me.

The book revolves around a small group of humanoid aliens that left their home planet of Lorien as it came under attack by a ruthless breed of aliens known as the Moggadorians. Once they arrived on earth, the Lorien’s were separated, and as they became aware of each other, sought each other out. The Moggadorians followed them to earth, and sought to hunt them down. Only, there’s a catch. The Moggadorian’s can only kill them in a particular order. If they kill them out of order, the Moggadorians pay the price.

The book starts out with an action scene on Lorian that changes pace quickly, and sets the setting and tone for the book. Then, it transitions to high school. Yup, you gotta get that teenage angst in there, right? There is a hint of a love triangle. Good girl, humanoid alien that’s just trying to find a place he can stay, and ex-boyfriend turned jealous when good girl’s attention turns to the new boy at school, who happens to have super powers. The boys fight a bit over the girl, and you can guess who wins that fight. Fortunately, the writing, and the storytelling far make up for any of those typical mechanics. 

While all this teenage drama is happening, of course, the real bad guys, the Moggadorians, are closing in. Ultimately, John Smith, our alien hero-boy, and owner of the most generic name he could think to give himself, befriends someone at school, and they band together to thwart the Moggadorians. 

If you want more details, you’ll need to go get the book 🙂

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are fleshed out well, and the pace is fun. If there was one part of the book I would have watered down, its the teen romance. There’s nothing too over the top here, but once it revs up, it seems like its constantly there. I never put the book away, so it wasn’t THAT bad, but I was aware of it constantly being in my face, so it was annoying a bit. Have you read the book? If so, comment and let me know what you thought. In the mean time, I’m back to book number two. 

Throne of Glass Book Review

Throne of Glass Book Review

Throne of Glass

by Sarah J. Maas

I’d give this book 4 out of 5 daggers.

Ihad been wanting to get to this book for a while. The positive reviews raving about the world that Sarah J. Maas had created; about the royals, and the nobles, and the intrigue that ensued in the book got my attention. What I had heard about the world building alone would likely have been enough to get my attention, but throw on top of it all that there was supposed to be some elements of magic, and I was sold. It probably didn’t hurt, either, that when I picked this up I was feelng like mixing up my reading a bit, and going for a book with a strong female protagonist for a change.

So, what was the book about?

The beautiful Celaena Sardothien,  a former assassin left to rot in the salt mines of Endovier, had quite the reputation. Enough to warrant a visit from Prince Dorian himself, and the Captain of his guard to attempt to strike a deal with her. What could she possibly want from them? As it turns out, her freedom in exchange for her unique skills. The offer: If she successfully fought on the King’s behalf in as his “Champion” in the upcoming competition, she would be granted a pardon, and her freedom after four years of service as said Champion. While Celaena loathed the king, the offer was too good to turn down.

As she travels with the Prince and the Captain, some of Celaena’s backstory is revealed: her familiarity with the forest, hints of magic history, and other little clues that come to her memory.  Once at the castle, Celaena is given some of the niceties of court life that show another side of her. Dresses, jewelry, and attention from the other ladies that are vying for the Prince’s affections. These things seem all too familiar to the cold, hard, killer, and juxtaposed to her personality, make the reader wonder about who she was in a former—pre-assassin life.

The story gets interesting when the author begins to leave behind all the training and court life that Celaena has concerned herself with for a mysterious evil that begins to influence the competition. One by one, Celaena’s competitors are gruesomely murdered by what would seem to be some kind of beast. Celaena gets involved in the investigation, despite being warned not to, and tries to help solve the mysteries that would lead her to the killer, before the killer finds its way to her. 

Ultimately, this is a good book. Let’s start with the positives. I liked the bit of magic it contained, although I was hoping for more, to be honest. I liked the fights, and the warriors, and even the politics. It was the romantic part that I struggled with, in a way. It almost felt that it was just there to be there…to check a box that says “I’m a YA paranormal romance novel.”  I don’t mean that in a way that takes away from the writing—it was very good. It was just the literary device, I guess. In other words, this didn’t bother me from a genre perspective, because that’s not why I picked up the book, but for those that thought this was a paranormal romance, I could see it bothering them. I assume one of the reasons the author did this, from her perspective, was to round off Celaena’s character. 

The book’s worth a read. Check it out! 4/5 stars.


Writer “Easter Eggs”

Writer “Easter Eggs”

Easter Eggs are awesome, right? I’m not talking about the holiday, the chocolate bunnies, or even those gross peeps that some people like to eat (seriously, what are they made of, gooey styrofoam laced with sugar crystals?) No, I’m referring to the mysterious “Easter Eggs” that artists of all types hide in their work. 

While I believe artists have always done this, I think this practice really blew up with video game programmers. Game developers would hide entire secret levels, crazy pictures, tokens or items in their software for gamers to find. It’s kind of a game of hide and seek. Sometimes these items were intended to pay tribute to some pioneer in the developer’s field, or to pay homage to someone or something they respected. Disney artists have done this in their movies for years.

If you like popular fiction, you might have already read, or at least be familiar with the novel, Ready Player One. It’s a great book, and it almost entirely revolves around this theme.

Those of you who follow me might know that I’m a Utah Jazz fan (NBA Basketball team.) Back in 2011, my wife and I were at the game after which the team’s legendary coach of 20 plus years, Coach Sloan, decided to retire after a scuffle with one of the players. We could tell something was wrong as we listened to the radio post cast. In our experience, Coach Sloan had never waited so long to meet with the media after the game. Once I digested the crummy news, I decided I wanted to honor him in some way, so I applied his name to one of the characters in a story I was writing at the time for The Crimson Pact Anthology. Since then, I’ve been slipping the names of Jazz players in my stories. It’s become a fun “Easter Egg” for me as an author. 

How do other authors you read do this? Share in the comments below.

Ready Player One Book Review

Ready Player One Book Review

Ready Player One Book Review

by Author Ernest Cline

I’m giving this book 4.5 easter eggs out of 5.

One of the ways I judge a book is by its gravity, so to speak. Do I feel pulled toward it? In other words, when I was away from the book, did I feel like I needed to get back to it. If a day went by without reading it, did it bother me? I listened to the audiobook version of Ready Player One, and let me tell you, it pushed all my buttons (ha!) When my wife asked me if I’d be willing to go pick my daughter up from dance, or to go to the store or (fill in the blank) I quickly said, “yes,” thinking that it was another opportunity for me to flip the audiobook on and keep plugging away at it or a few more minutes. Set in the future, Ready Player One is, in so many ways, a homage to 80’s culture. Movies, music, styles, and especially video games all play a critical role in the plot. When a former video game developer, and rich business mogul learns that he only has a short time to live, he constructs an elaborate contest that he has placed inside the Oasis (online MMORPG type world). There are three phases (gates/keys) to the contest, and the first one to get through them all, wins “the egg,” or his ultimate prize—all his wealth and assets—billions. The story revolves around a less fortunate, yet brilliant, young guy named Wade that spends all his time on the Oasis. Like many others, he is devouring anything he about the 80’s in an attempt to figure out how to progress in the contest. James Halliday, the billionaire that created the contest that would take over just about everyone’s heart and mind,  loved the 80’s, and was rumored to have based the whole contest on 80’s pop culture. So, everyone studied up in order to be able to play the game, including Wade. This was Halliday’s way of resurrecting the 80’s, maybe buying it an extra life, as it were—deposit your quarter, right here, thank you very much. The author does a fabulous job world building not only interesting things about the 80’s, but the futuristic world that would obsess about a dead man’s fortune, and stop at nothing to get it. He’s included the folks that dedicate themselves to hunting down the egg, the commerce system inside the Oasis, a military group established by an evil corporation with ulterior motives, epic battles,   PVP vs non-PVP worlds, and even the naming and description of artifacts and epic weapons in the game…and so much more. This book was a wild ride down memory lane. I’m proud to say that I got most of the book’s references. I did have to look a few up, however, especially the Pac-Man trick (cool!) Ready Player One is well-written, and the plot was good fun.  It has murder, mystery, tons of 80’s backstory, and even romance. The ending was even enjoyable 🙂 If you like gaming, good writing, and the 80’s, and you haven’t read this book yet, once you have, you’ll wonder what took you so long.

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean Book Review

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean Book Review

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean Book Review

by Justin Somper

I’d give this book 4 donors out of 5.


Vampirates…the concept… the title… its one of those things that I wished I had come up with. It’s a great concept.  I must say, though, that I feel bad for the author. As I gathered my thoughts for this review I took a look at other reviews of the book, and some of them are just cruel. The book was a good book, in my opinion, even though it had a few quirks.

This book has a ton of covers. Perhaps that a function of being originally published in 2005, and refreshing the book cover is a way to make it new again (marketing) and drive sales. Either way, the book has several fantastic covers, and as you know, I love a good cover.

The story follows Connor and Grace Tempest, a couple of humble children that live with their father, who man’s the lighthouse. One of their bonding traditions is for him to sing them a shanty as they go to bed. The thing is, its a little bit creepy, as its about Vampirates. Here it is:

Vampirates Shanty

I’ll tell you a tale of Vampirates,
A tale as old as true.

Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
And its mighty fearsome crew.

Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
That sails the oceans blue…
That haunts the oceans blue.

The Vampirate ship has tattered sails,
That flap like wings in flight.

They say the captain, he wears a veil
So as to curtail your fright.

At his death pale skin
And his lifeless eyes
And his teeth as sharp as night.

Oh, they say the captain, he wears a viel
And his eyes never see the light

You’d better be good, child- good as gold,
As good as good can be.

Eles I’ll turn you in to the Vampirates
And wave you out to sea.

Yes, you’d better be good child- good as gold,
Because- look! Can you see?

There’s a dark ship in the harbor tonight
And there’s room in the hold for thee!
(Plenty of room for thee)

Well, if pirates are bad,
And vampires are worse

Then I pray that as long as I be
That though I sing of Vampirates
I never one shall see.

Yea, if pirates are danger
And vampires are death

I’ll extend my prayer for thee-
That thine eyes never see a Vampirate…
…and they never lay a hand on thee.

The children’s father abruptly passes away one night and, unfortunately, he has left them with nothing. The children, after listening to the local banker offer to take the children in, or to be forced into the orphanage, decide that their only chance is to steal their father’s ship (it no longer belongs to him) and to test their luck on the open seas.

They do this for some time, and get some distance out into the ocean, until a great storm brews and dashes their boat into pieces. The twins are separated,  each scooped up by a different pirate ship. One crew consists of normal pirates, and the other, you guessed it, the Vampirates.

The rest of the tale explores each of the twin’s experiences on their respective ships, and their efforts to not give up hope of finding each other again.

I felt the quality of the writing was very good, and so was the storytelling, even though the plot seemed to have some holes that could be addressed. The characters were fun, and distinct, even though some of the more critical reviews underscored the characters as something they wanted more from.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but the one thing that I found strange was the ending. The climax built up to what felt like might be an awesome pirate brawl, but it ended up getting resolved by simply correcting a character’s identity, and then all was well. It was a little anti-climactic. Overall, though, it was a good read. I’ll probably continue on with the next book at some point. Happy reading!

George Lucas on the Power of Myth and The Mythology of Star Wars

George Lucas on the Power of Myth and The Mythology of Star Wars

George Lucas on the Power of Myth and The Mythology of Star Wars

George Lucas consulted at length with Joseph Campbell, author of a Hero with a Thousand Faces, and well-regarded expert on various myth and cultures around the world as they relate to story telling. As Lucas and Campbell spent more time together, their relationship grew into one of friendship, and mentorship. Below are five  youtube videos which are segments of a documentary in which Lucas talks through Campbell’s influence on the Star Wars mythos, and the monomyth model he used to develop and tell his epic sci-fi story.

Ferals Book Review

Ferals Book Review

Ferals Book Review

by Jacob Grey

I give this book 3.5 crow talkers out of 5. What? I liked it…

  Ferals Alternate Book Cover

First of all, let’s start with the book cover. The cover above is absolutely beautiful (the one above.) I say its one of my favorite covers of all time. The color palette is tight, the typography plays into the scene and helps create an effective ambiance. In fact, it was the cover that attracted me to the book initially. To the left is the alternate cover. I assume the intent here was to try to target the Young Adult demographic, and make the story feel bigger. It, too, is nice, but I prefer the original cover. Ferals is a book about a boy named Caw (I know you caught the crow reference there…) who was abandoned by his parents at a young age, and raised by the crows. Talking to them is nothing out of the ordinary to him as that is all he has known. He and the crows live in the “nest,” and they scavenge the city for food and their upkeep. The inciting incident initially starts as a bully scene, but then turns into a scenario where some escaped convicts of the worst kind show up, and Caw takes note. He ends up intervening, something he doesn’t typically do, and saves the day initially. The first theme brought up is whether his loyalties are to the people, or the crows. The crows end up supporting him, but his interference tangles him in this adventure with the escaped convicts. He’ll end up finding out that they are more similar to him than he thought. Caw partners with the Prison Warden’s daughter and they try to hunt down the criminals while protecting their families, and learning about Caw’s past, and parents in the process. The world becomes a bigger place as Caw learns he has more to do with all of it than he had originally thought. The writing in this book is pretty good. This twists and turns were okay, but the writing was good. There is a slightly creepy element to Jacob Grey’s style, and I like that. I didn’t feel it ever really went overboard, but it was darker, for sure. Overall, Ferals is a good book. The pacing was smooth—moved along nicer than most books I’ve read recently—the writing was clean, and ambiance was moody and palpable. The characters surrounding the protagonists were okay. I wouldn’t call them flat, but they were just what they needed to be to move things along. All in all, I think I will be reading book #2 when it comes out. On that note, I got a look at its cover today, and it turned out pretty good, too!  

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