So it’s Christmas.  I know that my ambivalence towards this highest of the high Capitalist holidays makes me somewhat odd, but turns out I don’t care.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the love-fest that is Christmas.  Everyone calls everyone and wishes them well.  That I can get behind.  And I love all the crazy traditions people have.  My family is no different.

Allow me to paint you a scene from one our better Christmases.

When I was growing up, the tradition was, me, and my two brothers would be told the night before Christmas day what the earliest time we were allowed to wake the house.  Usually, it was six in the morning.  Which meant we were up at about four.  We would, stealthy as the three stooges, sneak downstairs in hopes of calming the roiling tumult of crazy, only to find that we – by “sneaking” downstairs had just poured gasoline on a bonfire.

So there’s my brothers and me, having sneakily snuck downstairs to look at the extraordinary proof of Santa’s existence, now trapped downstairs.  Because we all know that a) we cannot return to our beds because if we try to we are just going to be counting seconds as if they are hours and; even worse, b) we cannot stay in the living room (where the tree was) because we are having a lot of issues at the moment with our individual self-control.

Eventually, five in the morning would come around and my dad, no doubt already awake and very aware of our capering, would wake our mother and then he would come downstairs.  Normally, Dad’s a pretty stoic guy.  Don’t get me wrong, my Dad is awesome.  Super-reliable and just filled with wisdom and knowledge, and always ready to help.  Just a great all-around Dad.  He would come downstairs and in the glory of Christmas tree lights, he would be smiling like a loon.  He would match our enthusiasm seemingly with child-like glee.  He would tell us to wait for mom to wake up, and would go to make his morning coffee.

His coming downstairs was the signal to my brothers and me that our non-silence could stop.  The house would explode into noise.  Three boys wishing their father Merry Christmas – exuberantly.  Dad, enthusiastically returning the happy greeting.  About ten minutes later, Dad is sipping his coffee while keeping an eye on all three of his sons, Mom would come downstairs.

My mom is great.  Awesome cook.  Great hugs.  Stern but not too much.  And trust me, she ran (and still does) the home.  She would show up and the noise of Christmas would renew as if somehow her presence meant that Christmas had well and truly arrived.

Eventually, presents opened, pictures were taken and all the usual chaos of the holiday would be past.  Dad would grab a couple trashbags and would begin overseeing the cleanup, mom would start making breakfast.  Usually, this happened around seven, seven-thirty.

Then came the tradition.  Now my family will likely not recognize this as a “true” family tradition, but it exists nonetheless.  I imagine it exists in nearly every home on this day.

I am the oldest, so I usually had much more staying power for the energy requirements of a child at Christmas.  But by nine in the morning, all the toys and games having been ogled, my brothers and I would crash.  It took me a few years to really realize this, but the whole house would just kind of pause for an hour or three, mid-morning, for a post-Christmas-morning nap.  There’s the tradition, a nap.  One of my favorite parts of the day.

Now don’t get me wrong, we have many traditions in my family.  Some are more embarrassing than others, but the post-present nap is one of my favorites.

Now, my wife and I are making all new traditions.  Watching Doctor Who and eating sushi.  Plus with our new little one – Spudford (obviously not a real name) – new traditions will be coming.  Because, let’s face it, Christmas is awesome, but it truly shows itself in the exuberance of children.

Merry Christmas all!  Now I’m off for a nap.  It’s weird how I still want a nap right around nine in the morning on Christmas day…..



Review: The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens

The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens is the first published work of the new author, Katie Cash, and is the first book of the Mapkeeper series. The book would be appropriate for younger audiences, but there may be some parts that are a bit too graphic. The story is essentially the classical monomyth. There’s nothing wrong with the monomyth – or Hero’s Journey – it is classic, very sound, storytelling, and it works.

In a complex double-world story, Ms. Cash has managed to tell an interesting story. Lucy Barnes is from one world, living in the small town of Algid, under an oppressive – and shady – government called the Commune. Shivers at that name. Living an ordinary, mundane life, Lucy is selected to be the Mapkeeper. Ms. Barnes, through the magical artifact (the map), can transport between her world and the fantastical world of Praxis. Praxis has many different sentient species including trolls, centaurs, and kobolds.

The world of Praxis finds itself on the brink of trouble, not that her world filled with the Commune is much better. Lucy and her brothers are transported – via the still yet to be understood map – to Praxis and greeted as honored guests. Upon arrival, the trio is introduced to the king of Praxis and all the leaders of the clans of Praxis. The looming dread of the story is the presence of the Wardens. The Wardens are responsible for having created the map but are also responsible for nearly killing all of the non-human creatures of Praxis years ago.  The story has many complex characters and a small romantic subplot.

The story is sound if a bit rushed. There are some minor issues with editing, but those are pretty common in such works, therefore, forgivable. There are a few issues with spans of time in the book, namely when dealing with recovery times. Again, these issues are mainly minor and very easily overlooked. Towards the end of the story, a great deal of the story is apparently dealt with, leading the reader to feel that there may have been too much going on, this leads to the story feeling rushed.

Here’s the final verdict:

Grade: B-

Good: Interesting world, decent sense of foreboding and dread in both Algid and Praxis. The map is an interesting artifact, and how it functions is unique. The cover art is excellent.

Bad: The story does have some places that are a bit rougher than others. There are minor issues with miscellaneous world-related items. The pacing can be jarring.

Final Statement: All-in-all, a decent first book. I am confident that Ms. Cash will continue to hone her writing skill over the subsequent books.

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies

After reading the first book of Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard SequenceThe Lies of Locke Lamora, I picked up the second book: Red Seas Under Red Skies.  

I am thoroughly enjoying this series.   The first book was excellent, and the second shows that there is a lot more going on in the world.

Red Seas Under Red Skies revolves around our two principle characters: Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen.  Thieves by trade.  The two of them have left Camorr (after the events of The Lies of Locke Lamora) and found themselves in Tal Verrar – ready to run a heist against a massive casino called the Sin Spire.  I love that name.  Honestly, someone in Las Vegas should totally name a casino the Sin Spire.

But, the heist is not without its issues.  There is more going on in Tal Verrar than just business as usual.  There is a massive power struggle happening, and as you might expect, Jean and Locke get mixed up in the middle of it.

The story runs a good clip.  Clearly, Mr. Lynch did a bang-up job on research for this story.  You can’t just look up words for things on a sailing vessel; you have to learn a bit to understand how sail plans work and such.

Overall I would give the story a B+.  Some parts that felt a bit rushed and the conclusion of one of the major sub-plots was a bit hasty.  Otherwise, this was an excellent story.  I will offer that this book is not intended for children.

Mr. Lynch has created an incredible world, with a great deal of complexity.  There is a full pantheon of gods – complete with worshippers and rites.  There are superstitions and powerful groups who shouldn’t be crossed lightly.  I will certainly be (in fact, I already have started) reading the third book The Republic of Thieves.


So I have (finally) published the third and final installment of my short story: Art and Artisans.  This story was a short story I worked on over the summer of 2014.  I wanted to write about my views on creative endeavors.  Setting it in a pseudo-science-fiction world was just me having fun.

I hope that people enjoy it.  Let me know what you like/dislike about it.  How do you feel about your creativity?


— CL

What I’m currently reading!

So, it’s been a while.  Things on the blog have been collecting dust.  Time to change that.

As most of you know I’m an avid reader.  I like to read all manner of story.

Currently, I am reading:

On Kindle: Casino Royale – Ian Flemming. I have seen many of the Bond films, but I have never read any of Mr. Flemming’s work.  So far I have been enjoying it quite a bit.  I will say that I wonder if Mr. Flemming was being paid by the word because I have a decent top-level understanding of how to play baccarat now.

On Audible: Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch.  This is the second book of Mr. Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence.  Thus far I have enjoyed his series.  Admittedly I have only read the first book (The Lies of Locke Lamora) and part of the third book (Republic of Theives)

What’s up next?

On Kindle, I will be reading the first book from Katie Cash, The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens.  

On Audible, I will be reading the fourth book of the Monster Hunter International series from Larry Correia, Monster Hunter Nemesis

So what is everyone else reading these days?

On taking the plunge

Like many authors before, I have often wondered what it would be like to take the proverbial plunge and be a full-time writer.  To exit my full-time, steady job and take up writing as my job.  It’s pretty scary to consider.  It’s entirely unknown.  You’d need to have some money saved, friends/family/loved ones who are encouraging but realistic.  You’d need a plan for what you were going to do to make sure you could keep a roof over your head.  And, most importantly, you’d need a hell of a good idea.

So I was reading Ms. Ana Spoke’s Blog yesterday, and I found myself considering what she is doing.  Ms. Spoke is the author of Shizzle, Inc (Book 1 of the Isa Maxwell Escapades).  She is also taking the plunge.

Ms. Spoke is making a brave, and highly bold, move as an author – she is taking off (six months!) from work to focus on writing.  This is a huge step.  One that I am nowhere near making.  But on reading her blog, I had to think about how that decision must feel.  While I doubt that Ms. Spoke is making such a bold move without careful consideration, I can only imagine how terrifying and exhilarating her decision is.

Per her blog, she intends to devote a great deal of time (six months) to being an author full-time.  She has even stated that her goal is to write not one, but two sequels to her first novel. Ms. Spoke is taking the plunge.  I hope that her experience works out well!  I certainly believe it will.  I can only wish her the very best of luck in this endeavor.

Someday, perhaps I shall follow in her steps.  Leave the relative safety of the steady known for the unknown.

Tarry not in those small, safe, comfortable places, for in them we find little more than comfort.  Eventually, that comfort can become our prison.

On my Short Stories

I’m a big fan of a well-told short story.  I think that it’s the limited word count that impresses me the most.  When you can tell a good story in under 2-10,000 words, that’s just magic.  It’s even more impressive when you see someone write a story in even less.  I still get chills from the six-word stories: “For sale, baby shoes.  Never worn”  from Ernest Hemingway is just amazing.  My stories tend toward much longer word counts by comparison.  The Toothfairy clocks in at about 2800-ish words.  Art and Artisans (the whole thing) clocks in at nearly 6000.

This is where the blog becomes challenging.  I would love to put the entirety of Art and Artisans on, in one shot.  But the issue is: it’s a wall of text.  Most blog readers would rather not see a wall of text.  This – to answer the question I received on the matter – is why I’ve broken the story into three parts.

Is there a magic upper/lower limit for a word count on a blog post or page?  A point where the reader is just overwhelmed?  Perhaps.  Well until I hear differently I’ll try to keep my posts to sub-2000 words.


On Outlines

I have been writing my stories off and on for about 20 years now.  My early stuff is horrific.  A true affront to the English language.  That’s saying something since I feel that English (the language) took the best parts of like six other languages, drug them behind a dumpster and beat them with a shovel.  I had a tale that was about the early European colonization in the Caribbean; it was horrible.

I was recently asked about what, if any, planning and outlining I did when I sat down to write my first book, Grenheim’s Thorn, I had decided just to post it here.  I write very “organically.”  When I hear authors say this, what I hear is, “I write when I feel like it and will probably miss my deadline.”  There’s nothing with writing “organically,” I know, I do it.  The real issue is that when you write this way you can sometimes wander far afield from your original story.  Wandering like this happens to me all the time.  I like to say that it’s because I want my characters to “feel real.”  They (my characters) have their responses and impulses.  I put them into a situation and then try to see what they will do.  Here is where I run into trouble.  I know what they are supposed to do, but my brain just wanders with my imaginary friends, and they sometimes do their own thing.  Makes for some interesting stuff.

Due my wandering imagination, I must use an outline.  I hate outlines.  I sincerely, hate them.  I hate writing them; I hate following them. But they are pretty much the only way I stay on course.  So my outlines are very – ahem – sparse.  I prefer to write using an outline like it is a compass rather than treating the outline as a map.  When you have a compass, you know the general direction you want to head.  You may wander off the trail a bit, but odds are, you are going to get where you’re heading.  With a map, you’re never going to investigate that unusual sign and find something cool six miles off the highway.

So, yes, I have an outline.  Or more, I have a good understanding (which is written down) of where the story is going.  I know all the key characters and events.  But outside of that, I am just winging it.  I know who dies.  More importantly, I know when and why.  But when I had two characters make a bet early on in my book, I didn’t plan it.


Let me tell you, despite what you may have heard, insomnia sucks.  I know that from the outside it looks all sorts of glamorous.  “Staying up all night must mean you get a lot done”  Nope.  Not even close.  You know how when you lay down your brain decides that it hates you and reminds you of that time in second-grade when you laughed so hard that milk shot out of your nose and sprayed the front of your pants and everyone thought you had had an “accident”?  Right as you’re trying to drift off to the land of Nod, you get this quick moment to feel really embarrassed….again.  That feeling, the one where you have way too much time to listen to your brain remind you of past mistakes and failures, it’s always on when you have insomnia.

Don’t get me wrong, I do quite a bit of writing due to my sleep deprivation.  I have tons of new story ideas and have been just cranking on book 2 (The Broken Pack).  The new series (still no working title) is shaping up nicely as well.  Thanks, insomnia!

Well back to my cup of tea (caffeine-free chai tea) and the beckoning page.

Ever, always, endlessly, I return to the page.