Currently Reading – March 2017

So, since I have promised to try and do better about updating my blog, I will tell you about the stuff I am currently reading.

I just wrapped up (last Thursday) reading Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber.  And I am currently working my way through John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream.

First: Nine Princes in Amber – A decent book, but it wasn’t really to my taste.  I spoke with one of my very best friends about it, and his response was “Dude, you’ve got to read the first five books, then book one doesn’t seem so disjointed.”  Ok.  This is one of my dearest and oldest friends.  He has never steered me wrong on a book recommendation.  In fact, this friend is who put me onto Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.  I remember speaking with him over a beer (or three) about a new story idea, “Alright, so what I’m thinking is Sherlock Holmes but in a magical world”.  He looked at me and said, “You’re kidding with me right?  The Dresden Files.”  The rest is history.

But…back to Zelazny.  I didn’t really care for the first 60% of the story.  It felt like the first part was written when Mr. Zelazny was sixteen.  Then he put the story down and came back to it when he was thirty – except he didn’t go back and fix up the first part.  The ending of the book was quite interesting and I could see some glimmers of what would make me want to pick up the next book.  Perhaps, I will see if they are available via my local public library.

Second: The Android’s Dream – This has been an interesting book.  I’m currently at 60% finished.  The verdict on this one still remains to be seen.  At this point, I guess I like it.  Mostly because the story has finally calmed down and no new major characters are being introduced.  I will say that the main character’s Mary-Sue-ness is more than a little off-putting.  When it comes to Scalzi, you either love the story – or you hate it.

Once I finish The Android’s Dream, I plan to read Frank Herbert’s Dune. Sometimes, you’ve got to go with the classics.

Finally, the status of my current projects:

The Broken Pack (The War-Weary Saga Book 2) – I am currently working on round two of revisions and edits –  55%.

Due to all the crazy in my life, I have not really gotten as far on this in the past few weeks as I would’ve liked.  But, it’s still moving and I’m managing to spell most of the words correctly.

New Speculative-Fiction/Cyberpunk Story (Working Title: The Soloist) – 50% finished with the first draft.

No change on this project.  I have been trying to get some traction on my graphic novel Twenty Steps, and that is taking up the time I would’ve normally spent on this.

Dark Fantasy Story (Working Title: The Cleric Gambit) – 25% done with outlining and character bios.

No change.  I still think about it quite a bit, but it’s in third place for a reason.  As I like to say, the idiots who are running around in my head helping me piece all these stories together are very excited about this one – as am I.  Just to clarify, I am not actually hearing voices or anything.  I just have background processes working on these ideas.

Short-Story / Graphic Novel (current title: Twenty Steps) – essentially done.

This one is pretty well finished.  Save for artwork and all that.  I’m taking a step back from it so that I can clear my head and I’ll come back to revisit it in June or July.  Basically when I publish The Broken Pack.

 

Well, I do hope that all of you are having fun and reading good stuff.

 

CL

And that’s what I’ve been doing

So, it’s been a while.  Yep.  Sorry.  Entirely my fault.  Life is just hectic so keeping up a blog becomes the first thing to fall off the radar.  So, what have I been doing the entire time?  Well, I have been writing my filthy black heart out.

Current Stuff:

The Broken Pack (The War-Weary Saga Book 2) – I am currently working on round two of revisions and edits –  35%.

This is getting 95% of my writing time these days.  I would (ideally) like to get this out by this summer.  The excellent news about this is: I’m very excited for it.  The writing is significantly improved, and I love what’s going on with the story.

New Speculative-Fiction/Cyberpunk Story (Working Title: The Soloist) – 50% finished with the first draft.

I’m super excited about this story.  Since I am working on three series in a row, this is my “palate-cleanser” story.  I write on this when I am shifting gears between other projects.  Expected release date? Fall?  End of this year? It all depends on what’s going on in my family.

Dark Fantasy Story (Working Title: The Cleric Gambit) – 25% done with outlining and character bios.

This is my next big project.  Highly episodic, with 10-15 “episodes” per “season.”  Each episode should (ideally) be around 25K words.  The plan is to release on a monthly schedule and at the end of the year do a wrap up of the entire season’s story with some extras to make it worth people’s while.  Currently, my outline for this project has five “seasons,” so this is a big story.  This is something I haven’t shown to anyone yet, so keep it under your hat.

Short-Story / Graphic Novel (current title: Twenty Steps) – this is basically done.

It’s short, but it’s intensely personal.  I’ve allowed a handful of very close, trusted friends read it, and that response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Still working on my vision for the art and layout, but it’s definitely coming along.

 

Life:

Well, Spudford is doing great.  He’s just awesome.  Walking and all that.  Really trying to talk.  Every vehicle he sees is a “Cah!”.  You’re right buddy, that’s a car.

My wife (Julie) and I are expecting our second child in a few months – our first daughter – codename: Stormageddon.  Whey yes, we are fans of Doctor Who, why do you ask?

Next:

Well besides the work as mentioned above, I’m reading some stuff for other author friends of mine, and just keeping my head above water.  But, I’m making time for writing through all the chaos.   I will endeavor to publish updates for my projects in a more timely fashion in the future.  I’m shooting for no less than two blog posts a month for this year.

 

 

About my story: The Toothfairy

So….aparently there are a few people who have expressed interest in my story: The Toothfairy.  It was just me playing around.  I like storytelling.  Storytelling, to me, is just so cathartic.  So The Toothfairy…. It’s not my usual story.  Hell, it’s not my usual genre.

Several months ago (August?) I was informed of an open call for short stories of the “Creepy, weird or skin-crawly” variety.  I don’t really enjoy the horror/suspense genre, I get bad dreams from such things.  I still shiver when I think of The Dollhouse in the Attic.  Even though I read it cover-to-cover, at least, fifteen times.  But, for some reason, I felt compelled.  I like a challenge.  So what would I write?

I wanted to write a story that didn’t go the way you’d expect.  And then I wanted to tell a story about something that never made sense to me as a kid.  And I remembered how the whole concept of the Toothfairy never made any sense.  Even as a kid, I had questions.  But, hey, a quarter is a quarter (this was many, many moons ago).

My questions came from the fact that my dad is not exactly the type of person who’d tolerate someone creeping into our house and doing anything that might mess with or scare his children.  My mom is not the kind of person who’d tolerate it either.  I just think that in the grand scheme of things, mom would shield my brothers and I and dad would’ve charged in like a knight errant bent on a singular task: removing the perceived threat to his family.  Trust me, growing up, dad was a flipping superhero.  But don’t make any mistake, it’s not like mom wasn’t capable of defending us.  She just would’ve been more than happy to let dad do his thing.  Turns out, when it comes to my dad on this matter the sayings are true: Once a Marine, always a Marine.

So here I am, age six, I’ve lost my first tooth.  I vividly remember it.  I had just gotten to school when I stopped to get a drink from the fountain when I saw some blood.  I pulled the tooth and kind of froze.  Once I accepted that it was perfectly normal, and it wasn’t because I was a poor flosser (which I was), I took the now detached part of my face to my first-grade teacher.  She – having seen this type of scene a million times, grabbed a few tissues, balled them up and pressed them into service to staunch the flow from my jaw.  She then dutifully packaged up my tooth and told me she’d hand it over when the day was over.  She was worried, as was I that I’d spend the day looking at it and eventually would lose it.  She was most assuredly correct.

The next morning, there was incontrovertible proof of the existence of the Toothfairy.  Where’d he (I always pictured this particular Fey creature as male) get the quarter?  What did he do with the teeth?  Was this the same Toothfairy as the rest of my classmates?

So I wrote the story and tried to answer those critical questions.  Apparently a few people like it.  I’m very glad for that.  As far as the journal which put out the open call, they politely rejected it.

On 2015

What a year.  2015 might be the best year ever.  Well done 2015, you managed to make it happen for 365 continuous.  Did 2015 call out sick when Fallout 4 was released?  Nope, 2015 continued right on.

It’s rather weird to me how easily I can come up with such random crap like that.

So….2015.  Interesting year.  A year of changes.  My wife (Julie) and I had our first child (Spudford).  I published a book.  I read a whole mess of books – which is always a good thing.  I reviewed a few books, some for fellow first-time authors.

All-in-all, I’d give 2015 an A-.  Great, but room for improvement.

Busy, busy, busy

Sadly, I have not been as diligent on my blog as I really should be.  Much has been happening, nearly all of it beyond the reasonable scope of a blog entry.  Needless to say, moving half-way across the United States during the holidays is not recommended.

I am continuing work on my stories and hope to someday be able to release the second book of The War-Weary Saga (The Broken Pack).  At this point, I’m behind, but I have no one to blame but my procrastination.  I’ll endeavor to do better.

2016 is off and running and so far, has been pretty good.  Hectic, but good.

Christmas….traditions.

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…..

 

–CL

On Short-form writing

I love short-form writing.  I like reading short stories and such. Writing in the short-form (short stories, novellas, and novelettes) is challenging and very fun.  I typically write a short story when I have writer’s block.  Instead of beating my head on the desk wondering how to make my imaginary friends play with me, I just create a new idea and write that instead.  Some of these short stories are terrible.  I mean awful, unfit for human consumption.  Vogon poetry bad (+10 points for those of you who get this joke). Others are rambling, stream-of-consciousness nonsense (which can be fun to write).  A few of them have been decent.  For the decent (or better) ones, I then get to try to find the best venue in which to ply my wares.  I could whine and bemoan how literary journals are no longer interested in speculative fiction short stories by unknown authors, but I wont.  But while I love to write short stories, I find that when it comes to short novels I’m a bit of a snob.

Many modern fantasy authors seem to have a preference for writing extreme long-form works.  And don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with writing 350,000 or more words in a single tome.  I frankly think that Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are two of the finest authors alive, but man do they love to write wordy books.

So why is it when I see the word count on my novels that I feel so disappointed?  Nearly 60,000 words is nothing at which to sneeze.  Somewhere along the way I think that I got my brain into the idea that Fantasy and Science Fiction books are supposed to be epic both story-wise as well as word count-wise.  Now neither of these are true.  Plenty of great stories have been shorter than 60,000 words and many have been longer. But, then I’m not trying to do what other authors are.  Well, at the bedrock I am attempting to do the same thing they are: convince readers that my stories are worth their time. I’m just trying to do it in a different manner.

I wonder what the world’s view regarding such things.  Is there a “minimum” at which a story is not long enough to publish outside of a blog?  I certainly don’t think so, but yet my prejudice for these word counts persists.  Very odd.

So now I have to come to terms with a) the fact that I love reading a truly epic book (such as Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings). And b) how to reconcile the publication of my significantly shorter works.  Perhaps I will begin posting some of my short stories on my blog.

Sigh.  Back to trying to convince my imaginary friends to play with me.

–CL