I’m sorry for the gap in posts. It’s been a crazy month, and I’m barely managing to keep my head above the tide.

There’s been a lot of stress in my life in the last couple months. I’m surviving, but there’s been a lot of changes. I transferred from my Starbucks, where I worked for over three years, and am adjusting to my new store. A lot of names to learn, and new procedures and customers too.

I’m still killing it over at the library, and I’m still working an average of 52 hours a week. Tomorrow is my first day off this month. Tonight is the first Book Club meeting of the second list. We’re discussing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and Devan is slaving away at homemade barbecue as we speak. I’m looking forward to it.

My personal reading has ground to a halt. I think I’ve read about 30 pages in the last two weeks, which is why I’m grateful for Book Club, because I absolutely devoured Miss Peregrine’s. I’m still working my way through The Republic of Thieves, and it’s so good! It kills me that I don’t have the time for it.

Summer school was a mistake. Everyone I talk to tells me I’m smart for doing it, that it was the right decision. But, I’m skating by in this class, bound for a mid-range B instead of my typical A+. It’s going to hurt my GPA. And that Dean’s List recognition for last term? Yeah, that’s not gonna happen again.

I will say that the books we’ve been assigned are generally dreadful. The Great Gatsby? I’ve read it twice before this class. I’m over it. The Old Man and the Sea? I read this my Junior year of high school, and wrote an AP essay on it that earned a 7. You AP veterans know what I’m talking about. Then we read Ceremony, which I really wanted to like. But, the delivery just wasn’t working. I loved the more poetic, chant-like moments, but the actual narrative was needlessly complex. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison was nice, but could have been such a shorter story. I ended up skimming a lot of it. And then Cat’s Cradle, by Vonnegut. The only book that actually captured my imagination and managed to entertain me.

We had a week to read and discuss each book. With my time stretched between the two jobs, this was difficult for me to do. And next term is going to be more of the same. Although it’s a class on Noir Literature, so the book list is already much more entertaining. Hopefully that will help.

Then there’s Caladria. I feel pretty bad. I took on more responsibility than I can handle. And I’ve been slacking with them, which is the last thing I want. But, my new Starbucks is promising to keep me around 20-25 hours a week, so I should have more time to devote to writing and editing. I don’t want to slack in this, it’s the only side project I have, and to give it up feels like surrendering a part of myself.

I haven’t written any fiction that isn’t Caladria related, and I tell myself that’s OK. Doesn’t really feel that way though. I’d write about trying to finally finish those Vessels edits, but let’s be honest, I don’t have the time.

So, I’m here, treading water. Every blog post is like my mouth breaking the surface and gulping in a lungful of air, before the tide swallows me up again.

We’ll see how long I can hold my breath.


White Lightning vs. Illusion


I think I just wrote a comic book.

I guess you need a little more to go on.

I may have mentioned a while ago that I was participating in a free online course offered by the Smithsonian Institute called, The Rise of the Superheroes. Michael Uslan and Stan Lee are the teachers, and thousands of students from all over the world have signed up.

Me, Crazybull, and our friend Flash have all joined. If you can’t tell, my world is big on nicknames.

Anyway, the major assignment is to write your own comic book. Or, at least a few panels. Flash and I decided to team up. He created his super hero, White Lightning. White Lightning is a dorky, awkward, and completely loveable speedster who’s desperate for truth.

And in our inaugural issue, he meets Illusion, an enigmatic shape shifter, who’s also a computer wizard, hell bent on stealing, and selling, all the information he can get his hacker hands on.

Now, I can’t draw to save my life. And Flash is only a trifle better. So he’s drawing, I’m writing. I created Illusion, and I can’t wait for this cocky trickster to get some time on the page.

Anyway, Flash and I sat at our favorite brewery and outlined the entire issue. It’s about 30 panels, so maybe six pages. As it sits now. I know myself, and I’m likely to flesh things out a bit in the writing. The only problem is that I have to write a script.

As in, a script. That same form I swore off 2+ years ago. I’ve never written a comic book before, and have no idea what I’m doing. I know that the script has to come first, which means I have to be thorough. We won’t have the art to go off of… the art needs to go off my script. Blegh.

But, the story we hashed out is pretty damn good. I’m excited to get working on it. And the two Caladria stories that I’m waiting to get the green light for.

I’m beginning to think of myself as an Elf expert for Caladria. I’m in charge of 4 stories all revolving around Elves, or Allaf’dari, as they call themselves. And I love it. I have a lot of influences, including Tolkien and Dragon Age, but the ‘dari are growing into their own.

I’m supposed to be doing English homework right now, but instead I’m daydreaming somewhere between fanfiction, my fiction, The Gentlemen Bastards, and beer.

I’ve got to pull myself together…

Anywho, I have to at least attempt my homework tonight, before Trevor meets me at the brewery.

I’ll see you soon Blogland.


Book Review- Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Summer is finally making its appearance here in Salem. It was a comfortable 80ish degrees today, with a smattering of clouds and a light, cool breeze. Pretty idyllic. I spent the vast majority of the day sipping beer on the patio of my favorite brewery in the company of good friends.

Days off don’t get much better than that.

Last week was the final meeting of the first round of books for my Booze & Books book club. That’s what we’re calling it these days. And Wednesday’s meeting lived up to its name.

I made a white sangria, with kiwis, raspberries, and nectarines. It was delicious, and I drank a large portion of it. Then I ate the fruit out of it. It was a dangerous thing. And Thursday morning’s hangover was the proof.

Anyway, we talked a bit about Stardust, and most everybody thoroughly enjoyed it. A couple people said that the language was initially a bit difficult to understand, which I don’t agree with, but I do read a lot more fantasy than most of the other members.

A couple members also mentioned that the movie was quite good as well. I’m terrible at watching movies, but I’ve still added it to my list of films I claim I’ll watch some day.

What I really loved about Stardust was the narration. Straightforward and simple, it felt like I was being told a fairytale, instead of just reading one. The foreshadowing is nicely done, subtle, but noticeable enough to keep your brain guessing.

I was surprised at how little world building there was. The world beyond the wall isn’t really described at all. Gaiman allows the reader’s previous knowledge of fairy tales and bedtime stories to fill in any gaps in the setting, but also uses that knowledge to develop characters very quickly.

I would say that Stardust is a magical little book. It reads effortlessly, mainly because it doesn’t feel like reading, and the plot twists and turns in fresh, yet familiar ways. It’s a satisfying adventure filled with magic, mystery, and romance.

The story will stay with me, and when I recently considered trading the book in to make more space on my shelves, I was appalled at myself. It’s not that kind of book. Not the kind you can read once and be done with. It’s a read, time and again, book. And one I’m likely to share with my children as bedtime stories, should I ever have any.

I also want to point out that this was my first experience with Gaiman. I follow him on twitter, and I love how active he is, but I’d never read anything of his before. Now, I’m quite likely to read anything with his name printed on it.

I suggest you do the same.

I’m sorry for the short review. My brain is a bit mushy, and I have to be up early in the morning. So, just a few updates, and then it’s off to bed with me.

I finished the rough draft of my next Caladria story, Fight of the Best. That’s a working title, and knowing us, we’ll come up with something better in editing. If you haven’t been keeping track, issue #5 of Fab Fables released earlier this week! We’ve dropped the price to £1.25 for each issue, so now is the perfect time to get caught up!

My next story is slated for issue #7, which will also see me editing, so I’m looking forward to a busy couple of months!

I’m still reading The Republic of Thieves, and it’s really good so far. I think a like it better than Red Seas Under Red Skies so far, but I’ll know better when review time comes along.

Summer school was a mistake, but I’m not giving up now. It’s much too late for those kinds of thoughts. We’re reading The Old Man and the Sea this week, and though I hated it in high school, I think it deserves a second chance now that I’m older. Next week is Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, which I’ve been meaning to read for ages, ever since I attended a lecture of hers back in Community College. So I’m looking forward to that.

And of course, with the first round of books completed, that means book club has a new list! This time, we’ve got six titles, since we now have six members.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

We’re starting with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A couple members began reading already, and the feedback is good so far. I’m hoping that this list will be more entertaining for everyone.

Anyway, bed is calling to me, and I am not one to keep it waiting. I’ll see you soon Blogland!


Book Review- Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

So, remember that time I said I was going to write this book review last Wednesday? Well, what had happened was….

I cleaned out my car, entirely, bathed it, and then the battery died. Which turns out, I did not own jumper cables.

Suffice it to say there were shenanigans of the not-so-fun variety. But, silver-lining? My car is basically brand new.

Then there was video-gaming to fully enjoy my week off from school. A solid 13ish hours of Kingdom Hearts time. I have no regrets.

Today has been wildly productive. Started school by reading lectures and posting in discussions. I have to read The Great Gatsby again, which is a bummer, but I’ll live. And then I finished writing the rough draft of my newest Caladria story. I like it.

I always get so attached to my characters, and I just want to continue their stories. Which I have some ideas about, but maybe more on that later.

For now, I’m here to talk about my last adventure with The Gentlemen Bastards!

Of course, there are spoilers ahead.
Red Seas Under Red Skies

So, we last left Locke and Jean getting on a boat, with Locke nearly dead thanks to their epic battle with the Falconer and the Grey King. The second book picks up two years later, with the duo part way through another “game”. This time they’re plotting against one of the most powerful people in Tal Verrar, the owner of the Sinspire, the largest, most popular Casino in Tal Verrar. This book feels much more like Ocean’s Eleven set in Renaissance-era Italy with pirates and magic.

If that doesn’t make you want to read it, you’re broken.

Anyway, their “game” is going well, until some Bondsmagi show up and try to kill them for what they did to the Falconer. Of course, they don’t die, and are actually rescued by yet another mysterious group.

The Eyes of Maxilan Stragos, the Archon of Tal Verrar. AKA, he rules that particular nation. AKA, this can’t be good.

Stragos has figured out who they are, and has poisoned them with some alchemically latent poison. Meaning that they have a two month window before they need a dose of antidote.


So they can become pirates, of course!

No, really. You see, the Archon is in a bad way, and tensions are high in Tal Verrar. The Archon’s solution? Start a war, so that people rely on the military again. Not a terrible idea really, except that he wants Locke and Jean to pretend to be pirates and start said war.

Now, Locke and Jean are damned good false-facers, but they don’t know the first thing about sailing. Which becomes evident as the story continues.

They have no choice but to accept the Archon’s terms, but that doesn’t mean Locke is nice about it. He’s at least got the cursing bit of his pirate act down, and he slings insults and curses at the Archon every chance he gets. I love that about the guy.
Map_Tal Verrar

You’d think that, since they have to disappear to become false pirates, they’d give up the Sinspire vault game, except the Gentlemen Bastards don’t quit part way. In fact, Locke spins so many lies to keep both the Sinspire game and the Archon’s plans running smoothly, that both he and the reader get a little confused.

This story hinges on a tiny thread of doubt that runs between Locke and Jean. They’re brothers, in every sense but blood, but what they’ve been through has taken its toll. Locke spent a huge amount of time after they left Camorr in a drunken, depressed, invalid state. He wasn’t taking care of himself, and barely let Jean take care of him. They fought a lot.

And it’s this tension that remains between them, even after they’ve supposedly moved on from those dark months. Locke, for all his bravado, fears that Jean will finally realize that he’s not worth the effort. And Locke’s constant doubt gnaws away at Jean, leaving him frustrated, and fueling Locke’s doubt. It’s stupid, and all too realistic. Relationships depend on trust and faith, and Locke’s in himself is shattered. We see him far less optimistic, and often fatalistic, in this story. Which is good. If he’d come away from the events in Camorr without being affected, I probably would have given up on the series.

Anyway, they do piratey things poorly, and nearly die again, this time to be rescued by real pirates. Jean promptly falls in love with one of them, and she’s a delight. I love Ezri, and she’s so damned perfect for Jean it’s nauseating.

That adds to the tension between Locke and Jean. Mainly because Locke still pines after the ever not-present Sabetha.

So, more piratey stuff. Ships and larboard, and “ahoy the boat”. Yadda yadda. They convince the pirates to help them do the Archon’s bidding, which is a hell of a bad paraphrase job on my part. There’s a lot more to it, but basically, the Captain, Zamira Drakasha, agrees to head back to Tal Verrar and start pillaging.

Well, the other pirates aren’t too keen on that, and they ambush Drakasha’s ship. There’s a bloody battle, that Locke miraculously lives through, since we all know he’s no fighter. But, Ezri sacrifices herself to save the ship.

It is an incredibly painful death, and Jean’s grief is profound. I cried. I still get teary whenever I see fan art or quotes from them. It’s awful. Which means it was really great writing.

So, the ship survives, and they head toward Tal Verrar with a will. Because Jean and Locke are going to make Maxilan Stragos pay. Which they do, right after they finish the Sinspire game, which wasn’t about the Casino’s vault at all, but about the artwork lining the owner’s office. They get away with the art, and then pay a fatal visit to the Archon.

But, what about the poison?

Well, there was an antidote, but only enough for one. Locke tricks Jean into drinking it, saving his best, and only friend from a very painful, drawn out death.

Which you get to see first hand in the next book, The Republic of Theives, as Locke succumbs to the poison.

I will say that this book wasn’t as good as the first one. But, the first one was fantastic. It’s just hard to follow that up. What I liked about this book was the realistic dynamics between Locke and Jean. This story is told so that we can see them on their own, without the other Gentlemen Bastards. They struggle with the new dynamic, and with their grief.

But, this book suffers from a lot of strenuous world building, mainly because of the piracy. Locke and Jean don’t know shit about sailing, and neither do I, which made the 200+ pages of sailing terminology a bit… boring.

If it hadn’t been for Jean and Locke’s humor through the whole thing, I might have put the book aside.

But, now that I’m 200 pages into the third book, I’m glad I didn’t.

My summer reading list, as I’ve discussed, is pretty intense. I will do my damnedest to keep reading for pleasure, but it’s going to be at a much slower clip. Much.

Tomorrow is book club, so hopefully you’ll see a book review for Stardust up soon!

I’ll be around Blogland, I promise.


Quietly Reading My Life Away

My brain is feeling particularly gooey. Like… organic peanutbutter. Have you seen that stuff? It’s way runnier than your typical “Mom Approved” brand. That’s my grey matter right now.

School’s over, for the time being. I’m taking summer classes after all, just a lighter load. Doing half time instead, and only taking classes that actually interest me. “Major American Novels” and “Topic: Noir Fiction and Film”. The book lists are pretty exciting, at least to me. This summer I will read:

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Now, I’ve read The Old Man and the Sea and The Great Gatsby before, but the rest are new to me. I think the Noir titles will be the most interesting, since I read Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and loved it.

And somewhere in there I’ll still be reading for my own pleasure and for Book Club.

Speaking of which, I finally finished reading Red Seas Under Red Skies. I’m about 10 days behind schedule, but Stardust and The Republic of Thieves are both shorter than my usual reading. I expect them to go quickly.

I’m suffering from a book hangover. I loved the second Gentleman Bastard book, though not as much as the first installment, and I’m loathe to read something else. Even something as wonderful as Stardust. Other Book Clubbers are reading it and they love it so far.

I also have a tentative Book List written up, but I’m waiting to finalize until I get the newest member’s list. Currently I’m working on creating a Facebook group and Goodreads group, so we can chat easily and help each other out. So far, it’s looking good.

Anyway, it’s time I got ready for work. Keep an eye out for the Book Review of Red Seas Under Red Skies. It’ll probably come out on Wednesday.


Avoiding the Research Paper


Sorry about the delay in posts. This is the last week of school, and of course I’m working almost 50 hours this week. Add in a little personal drama (don’t you fret), and I’m am up to my earlobes in all kinds of time consuming things.

I’m still making steady progress with Red Sails Under Red Skies, but will probably have to read Stardust between the two Gentleman Bastard books. I just couldn’t devote quite enough time to them. Follow my progress on Goodreads!

But, for school I’m researching a pretty awesome topic. I have to write a paper about a literary topic of my choosing. My topic of choice? Mephistopheles as a Modern Archetype.

I haven’t been this excited about a research paper in pretty much my entire life. I’ve checked out about a dozen books about the Devil, the Trickster Archetype, Norse Mythology, and a couple comic books. All to arm myself with the argument that Goethe’s Mephistopheles is ready for a revamp. I think telling the Faust legend from his perspective would be wildly successful.

Anyway, I’ve basically been holed up in my favorite breweries/taphouses studying for days. I’m anxious to finally sit down and commit the words to paper.

Outside of school, it’s one of my best friend’s birthdays today. I’m balancing social interactions and academic responsibilities like a boss. Unfortunately that means my own writing endeavors have fallen a bit behind.

The good news is that the new issue of Fab Fables, in which I make my first appearance as Editor, is out now! You can buy it here for the low price of just £1.25!

So, what else is up?

Basically, I’m just busting ass until school is done. I just have to get through this weekend, and then I’m off for the summer. Work will be easy enough to balance from there. My plan is to really commit to my writing, and reading, over the summer break.

And, sometime next week I am going to finish the rough draft of Fight of the Best. I’m still quite infatuated with the story and feel that it’s a much stronger first draft than A Stranger in the Mists was. The current story falls comfortably between Hunting Storm and A Stranger in the Mists, which leaves me feeling confident about what Leah and I can do to it. Between the two of us, we’ll polish it up nice.

What else?

I’m generally exhausted, as of this writing. But, I’ve been up since 6:45, and it’s a quarter after midnight. I have to be back up at 6am tomorrow. You know, the usual.

Anyway, I’m here. I’m thinking about you guys, and reading your posts. If my paper goes well, I’ll post it here after I’ve received a grade for it.

Also, if you haven’t visited my reading page, or my about page, keep an eye out for some updates!

I’ll talk at you all soon!


Book Review- Purple and Black by K.J. Parker

Back, as promised, to discuss Purple and Black, a novella by K.J. Parker. A quick Goodreads search showed me that Parker actually has quite a few titles to his name. I hadn’t heard of him until I saw this book float by me at the check-in terminal at work. I won’t lie, the cover art really caught my attention, so I read the quick synopsis on the jacket flap, and then shelved it.

Except my brain wasn’t ready to shelve it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, wondering how an Epistolary fantasy novella would read. And so I wrote the title down, and vowed to add it to my list.

Flash forward a week, and here we are at the Review.

Be ready, this one’s gonna be spoiler-y.


So, as I learned in my Intro to Literature class (though I’m sure some level of my brain already knew this), an Epistolary story is one told by correspondence. Letters, emails, etc,. Parker’s novella is 113 pages long, told by a series of correspondences between Nico (short for Nicephorus) and his best friend, Phormio. Nico is the Emperor, and Phormio is his newly appointed Govenor of Upper Tremissis.

The story takes place in an Alternate-Byzantine, according to the jacket, and though I don’t know the first thing about actual-Byzantine, the language shared by Nico and Phormio seems unlikely to me.

Both of them speak in common slang and euphemism. There’s plenty of cursing, which I’m not generally opposed to, but it felt unnatural given the setting of the tale. Aside from the frequent mention of locations that sound like they’re from a Fantasy world, the letters themselves could be from anyone.

Maybe that’s supposed to help the reader identify with the main characters, but I was a little disappointed. Because the mentions of locations, and a couple battle descriptions from Phormio are the only world-building present in the novella.

So, the main premise is that Nico has been newly crowned Emperor after all his remaining family killed each other off in an effort to gain the throne. He doesn’t trust anyone currently on the cabinet, and so appoints all his college buddies to positions of power. They’re the only people he can trust.

Phormio has been sent to Govern a small city in the northern extreme of the Empire, where there’s been reports of rebellion. And he hates it. He hates the village, the weather, and his position. He never wanted power. Yadda, yadda.

He and Nico bicker back and forth, showing their familiarity and comfort with one another. Phormio complains about freezing to death in Tremissis, Nico sends him a scarf and socks.

It’s funny, but… it seems just so incongruous with a setting that is still waging war with swords and shields. Not the humor, of course, but the delivery of it.

Anyway, as the story goes on, the friends mention their other friends, and the good old days at college. And how they dearly miss their one particularly dead friend. And it’s in moments when he’s mentioned, or when Phormio suffers a defeat, that you really come to like Nico. He’s caring, devoted, and doing his damnedest to do right by the Empire.

And then Phormio betrays him.

You see, and you will see it coming, because it was rather obvious, the dead friend the Nico grieved so much? Not dead. In fact, he’s leading the rebellion, and has Phormio in on it with him.

Phormio begs Nico to see their perspective. He quotes their college selves, and their thoughts on power and politics. He and Gorgias (the not-dead friend) are mad at Nico for not dissolving the Empire and implementing the changes he said he would when they were all drunk in their favorite bar near the school. You see, Nico had a lot of revolutionary ideas when he was young, and so did his friends. And so did we all.

Young Nico and his friends had come to the conclusion that Power corrupted to the point of Evil. That man was meant to be free. That government hobbled man until he could no longer see how enslaved he was, that he would be grateful and beg for his decision to be made for him.

But, with age supposedly comes wisdom. Nico’s only had his throne for a few months, and though he does want to make changes, he has to get some stability first. Which is why he can’t do what Gorgias and Phormio want. He tries to explain, but he knows it won’t matter.

And even after all the hurt, and betrayal, he still writes at the end of his letter that he’s glad to know Gorgias is still alive. Even after his two best friends have declared war on him!

What a great guy! What an outstanding human being! At this point, you’re straight-up rooting for him, and I was seething at Phormio.
byzantine building

And then you read the last correspondence from Phormio to the Emperor, but this time it’s to His Majesty Gorgias. They ousted Nico, and though it’s customary to kill any threat to the throne, they allowed him to live. They just gouged his eyes out. You know, can’t run an Empire blind.

After all they’d said and promised, Gorgias was unable to do anything any differently than Nico. He doesn’t dissolve the Empire, he doesn’t even attempt to cast the power from himself. Though he claims he never wanted to be Emperor, much like Nico.

And the finally letter is from Nico to Phormio. He’s living in a monastery, where Monks feed him and read to him. He can’t do much for himself, being blind, but he’s not unhappy. In fact, he says he’s happier there than he’d been in a long time. He writes to Phormio, telling him of Gorgias’s visit, and asks that Phormio himself come see him soon.

For a little book that started out so funny, it ended on a very sad note, and raised some serious questions.

Parker plays with themes of Power and Good and Evil. What makes men Evil? Is it Power? Knowledge? Ambition? Gorgias saw himself as a revolutionary, doing the right thing, and then became the exact thing he worked so hard to be rid of. At the cost of a dear friend’s well being.

But, Nico… Nico never came off as power-hungry or evil, even when he sat on the throne. And after his “retirement”, he seemed even more at peace, having witnessed his friends’ failure. He’s free from the responsibility of the throne, and free from rebuke. He behaved and acted as best he could when his best friends laid siege to his empire. And then they tortured him and left him an invalid in a monastery where they wouldn’t have to look upon what they did.

So, is Parker claiming that freedom lies in morality? Knowing that you did the right thing?

I’m still not entirely sure. This story was, obviously, quite political. Much more so than my normal reads. I liked it, but calling it a fantasy novella seems like a stretch to me. Or at least, it doesn’t fit with what I typically think of for fantasy. There’s little world-building, the setting is an alternate-Byzantine, which makes it fantasy by nature, but there’s no magic. There’s no imaginative or mythical creatures.

There’s two men writing letters to each other to the tune of betrayal.

Add to it that the plot was rather transparent, and this story wasn’t that great. But, I’m not so sure it was meant to be. I think this novella was written with a very real message to convey. Parker wanted to explore specific themes, and force he readers to confront them as well.

I think the characters and plot were just the best method for him to do that.

It’s a short book, so if it still sounds interesting to you, you should give it a try. Or if you’ve already read it, let’s compare notes!

See you soon,