Writing

I write sometimes. Novels, short stories, poems, scripts, etc. Find that here. Be on the look out for my first novel, The Curse of the Creator… fingers crossed.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson – Book Review

Following and perhaps capitalizing on the “1980s group of kids” trend, The Saturday Night Ghost Club revolves around one man’s memory of his twelfth summer. The book has drawn comparisons to Stranger Things, and while there is a friend group and it does take place in the 1980s, I found that the similarities ended there. A more apt, if not current, comparison would be the Goonies, especially considering the urban legend type stories the aforementioned club explores.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. The Goonies and Stranger Things are also similar. And that is a fair point. However, Stranger Things contains far more elements of horror and science-fiction, while the Goonies is more of a straight-up adventure. In this regard, the Saturday Night Ghost Club is closer in tone to Stand by Me than It. If you loved Stranger Things and you’re hankering for more of the same, I suggest you check out One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence. If you loved the 1980s feel but want FAR less paranormal elements, The Saturday Night Ghost Club may be what you’re looking for.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a coming of age story, wrapped in a memory play, and written with the precise hand of a neurosurgeon. I’ve never read anything written by Craig Davidson before, but I can say I’m certainly impressed with his ability to carve a mental picture.  The story concerns one Jake Baker, an adult neurosurgeon reflecting on a particularly important summer. A relatively short book, Davidson uses specific moments to show the profound changes taking place in Jake. He further illustrates the significance of these moments by drawing comparisons to Jake’s adult career and life. There were several moments where, despite Niagara Falls being hundreds of miles from where I grew up, I found my mind wandering to my own childhood, shading Jake’s world with my own experiences. I can’t say for certain this was Davidson’s intent, but considering the story’s memory element, I suspect it was.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club may not be another Stranger Things. However, it is a compelling and emotional journey certain to engage anyone who remembers feeling that first exciting surge of uncertainty when facing the end of childhood, the beginning of something new. If you’re looking for a new story to read on vacation, look no further. This is the perfect summer book.

5/5

SPFBO 3 – An Experience

Back in 2017, I entered the first novel I’d ever written into the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. It was titled the Last Days of the Wanderer, and it was a hot mess. I self-published the manuscript because of the competition as an attempt to get my work in front of discerning eyes. I was so very new to this writing thing, and I wanted to know if I had any talent. I have since learned there are far better ways to learn this and far better ways to improve.

Anyway.

It was assigned to Pornokitsch and within weeks of sending Jared my book, he posted an article titled, “Some Unwanted Writing Advice.” 75% of that article, I would swear was directed at Wanderer. I had made SO many mistakes in my first foray into publishing, and I was instantly ashamed. The book hadn’t been ready. I hadn’t done my homework as to what went into a self-published book. When his review of my first fifty pages finally hit, it was kind. Reading between the lines, I inferred, “Ehh. It was fine.”

That was enough for me.

I pulled my book from Amazon, shelved the book, and moved on to another project. I’ve since written two more novels, one of which I queried and got some interest. I’m editing it again before I get at querying again.

My point: I had a rough first experience. My first book wasn’t up to it, but I learned, grew from it, and moved on. I’m now part of a larger community, reviewing for Booknest.eu and consequently SPFBO 5.

You wrote a book. You freaking did it. You took a story out of your head and put it on paper.

That is a big friggin deal. Whether you struck out or you win it all, never stop.

The world needs your stories.

Top 5 Reads of 2018

Hey everyone,

I’m currently reading book 50 of my Goodreads Challenge, so I figured I was pretty safe to go ahead and tell you about my favorite five reads for 2018.

5. Name of the Wind by. Patrick Rothfuss

After years of friends and strangers hyping Name of the Wind, I finally broke down and read it. It lived up to the hype. There isn’t much more I can add to the NotW conversation. It is a masterpiece, a compelling story told from the perspective of a mythic figure. While it didn’t top this year’s list of my favorite reads, it is still one of the most excellent stories I’ve read. I followed it up immediately with The Wise Man’s Fear, which was a bit disappointing. To be honest, it makes waiting for the Doors of Stone a lot easier. I needed book 2 when I finished NotW. I shrugged and moved on when I finished TWMF.

4. Ravencry by. Ed McDonald

This year (and in 2019) there were (and will be in 2019), 3 sequels I’m looking forward to in August: Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames, Ravencry by Ed McDonald, and The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark. All three have become favorite authors of mine. This year, Ravencry was far and away my favorite of the three. I enjoyed Blackwing, but it took me a little while to get into it. Ravencry grabbed me by the throat from the beginning and refused to let go. I needed to read the next page, chapter, and book (I need Crowfall asap). Ravencry does what a great sequel should: it further develops its characters, adds to its world, raises the stakes, and introduces new threats. If you haven’t read Blackwing, you need to. If only so you can read Ravencry.

3. Going Postal by. Terry Pratchett

I also took the Terry Pratchett plunge this year, and at Nicholas Eames’ suggestion, I started with Going Postal. No regrets. I made Brandy read it too. And we bought the BBC adaptation (which was fine). Discworld became my palate cleanser this year. Every time I would read something dark and get bogged down, I would read a DW novel and my mood would improve. I also won a copy of Reaper Man from Esme Weatherwax (she’s awesome). GP was the perfect place to start DW. It follows con-man Moist VanLipwig as he is hanged and subsequently placed in charge of the AnkhMorpork postal service. Chaos and comedy ensues. He figures things out with wit and guile. Golems are involved. Will he get the girl and take down his competition? Perhaps.

2. Senlin Ascends by. Josiah Bancroft

It is really hard for me to put Senlin this low on my list (yes, I realize it’s #2. Shut up). SA is one of the most compelling and brilliant novels I’ve ever read. A self-published success story before Orbit published it, Senlin Ascends takes place in a steampunk Tower of Babel. Reluctant protagonist, Thomas Senlin, takes his wife to this hub of humanity only to lose her immediately…and no one will help him. He ascends a couple layers of the tower between this and its sequel Arm of the Sphinx. Will he find his wife? I don’t know! Book three, the Hod King, comes out in January and there’s a fourth book beyond that…and I’m not Mark Lawrence, Dyrk Ashton, and freakin Michael McClendon so I won’t get an ARC. I’m not going to lie…I’m jealous.

1. A Memory of Light by. Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

After two and a half years, Brandy and I finally finished the Wheel of Time (technically neither of us has read New Spring yet which keeps me from doing a series post…more on that later). So, how could this top spot be anything other than the fourteenth installment in the series A Memory of Light? AMoL brings a stunning conclusion to the Wheel of Time series. Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, has finally come. Rand (ginger Jesus), Mat (wise-cracking badass), and Perrin (Dream Thor) have finally been brought up against the Dark One of his cronies. The armies of the light stand against the armies of darkness, friends die, enemies are overthrown, the impossible happens, and happens again. It reminded me a bit of Avengers Infinity War in that there was so much story and so many threads that needed to be pulled together. Sanderson handled it all masterfully. Robert Jordan’s epilogue, while not answering all questions, leaves us with a sense of contentment with the living characters. Some journeys continue off-page. It’s only a shame we’ll never see where those journeys go.

There you have it. Now you know.

-scritch out

 

The Thousand Books

Hey everyone,

One year ago (thanks in no small part to the SPFBO) I decided to take myself seriously as an author. I started writing more and reading as much as I could.

I managed 35 books last year.

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I know, Matt, I know. I’m shooting for 50 this year.

Just hear me out.

Around that same time, Brandy read this article (or something) about the number of books the average person reads. The writer posited that the average person reads about 1,000 books in their lifetime.

1,000.

That’s it.

Now Let’s say I read 50 books every year for the next 50 years. Even at that rate, I’m only hitting 2,500 if I live to 80. The number is unimportant. What is important is for you to understand we now use, “the Thousand Books” as shorthand for the books we can read in our lifetime(s).

Okay? Cool.

So I was reading this book:

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It is considered by many to be the very best of Grimdark, it is incredibly divisive, and Bakker is worshiped by many authors who I respect.

Like a lot.

You ever have two friends who can’t keep their bodies off each other?
They’re always flirting and giving each other back rubs…
It’s clear to everyone they want to sleep together, but scruples keep them from doing it so they just subconsciously decide to make everyone uncomfortable about it?

Imagine that but between a fan and a book.

It is for these reasons, I put off reading it.

Until I did. Last week.

And it was fine.

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, nor is it the best.

It certainly isn’t the greatest work of fiction ever written, but I get the appeal.

I told Brandy (I complained for most of the time while reading it) I was planning on reading the rest of the series because it had an unsatisfying ending.

“Do you really want it to be part of your thousand books?” She asked.

I was a bit stunned. She had never used the Thousand Books like that before.

After very little consideration, I realized she was right.

I’ve become a bit of a slow reader.
I try to read things to pick up on style and voice to better craft my own, and I very rarely get lost in a story.

I’ll read an author I dislike if I’m invested in the story.
Similarly, I’ll read a story I’m not invested in if the author is fantastic.

But both?

Life’s too short for that.

So now I’m reading Malice by John Gwynne and loving it.
I picked up the next three at the library and will purchase them all in the future.
Support authors.

I also have The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes and An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington on my shelf. To say nothing of three of my four most anticipated books of the year out next month: Bloody Rose, The Tower of Living and Dying, and Ravencry.

So…One Thousand Books…

What are you gonna read?

-scritch out

 

The Court of Broken Thoughts

Hey everybody,

So I finished reading Anna Smith Spark’s The Court of Broken Knives today.

Because a few people asked me about it, I decided to share my thoughts here.

As usual, I hesitate to call this a review.

Instead, I will share my thoughts.

It will be biased.

This is something of a divisive book.

Like Mark Lawrence, I have read 5 star and 1 star reviews.

Some delighted people have devoured it in one sitting, and other disgusted people have stopped reading it after a few chapters.

Delight and Disgust.

Now I buy a considerable number of books each year, but I still live on a limited budget so those same reviews inspired me to add it to my Amazon wish list, remove it, and then add it again.

It had actually re-landed high on my wish list when I won it on facebook…

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Made me feel like I received an ARC, it did.

Of course, Brandy and I had just decided to start reading the Stormlight Archive which took a considerable amount of time…

But then I got to it.

Okay… Thoughts time.

Anna Smith Spark (as you can see on twitter) is the self-proclaimed (others have also proclaimed it) Queen of Grimdark Fantasy.

To that I say…

Hail to the Queen, baby.

She is a phenomenal writer.

She uses words like damn Shakespeare (a claim I can make because education reasons).

The book switches tenses a few times between chapters, a fact I thought would jar me, but freakin’ didn’t. Instead, it provided insight and perspective.

Her words, like the broken knives in her courts, are often jarred loose from sentences. Fragmented. Immediate. Repeated. Repeated. Repeated.

It makes the story vital. It gives it a need to be communicated. Urgent.

And there is a lot of urgency. and pain. and death. death. death.

Back to our protags.

Marith – Homicidal banished emo prince. Demon-spawn hellthing. Distant relative of Dragons. Junkie. To quote a friend, “World’s Nastiest Murder Man.” But he is so beautiful.

Thalia – Ex-high priestess. Performed human sacrifices (including children – though none on the page I can think of. As a father with young kids, I don’t know if I could have stomached that). In love (maybe) with Marith. Discovering a whole new world.

Orhan – Government official. Wants to murder the emperor. Ends justify the means kinda guy. Marriage of convenience to a badly disfigured woman (poor thing). Not-so-closeted homosexual in relationship with another government official. Plagued by his conscience.

Chaos ensues.

I can honestly say, I didn’t expect the story to go as it went. To be fair, I didn’t super know where it was going to begin either… I went in with little to no background on the plot.

It kept me guessing…

Or at least I would have been guessing if I wasn’t so busy reading.

My prediction: future authors will rip off her style.

So why 4/5 stars if I loved it?

Because the people I’m barely acquainted with on Facebook are the only people I can tell to read it. I know no one in real life who I think would enjoy it. Well…who would read it long enough to enjoy it. It is a 5 Star Book… [this is an edit while reading through the post. Knocking off a star for that seems stupid. I’m’a just give 5 stars…There. Done.]

It’s brutal. Death is the answer to every problem.

So…if none of that turns you off. Buy it. I gave you the link above. Read it. And then leave YOUR thoughts on YOUR blog…and on Goodreads.

Also, I truly look forward to the sequel.

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Thank you, Miss Smith Spark, for this book.

Not only for the copy you sent me, but also for the story.

You are an exceptional storyteller.

scritch out.

What Else Have I Been Missing?

Hey everybody,

I had my first Krispy Kreme donut on June 4th, 2010.

I’m sure you might be asking how I remember that exact date? Am I a fatty savant? Perhaps I have a rare eidetic memory that allows me only to remember food related things.

The answer is rather unremarkable…

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I was doing an internship outside Cleveland, Oh and one of my superiors brought me there for Free Donut Day.

Eating that hot, glazed donut for the first time, I only had one thought…which I expressed in an over exaggerated shout…

WHAT ELSE HAVE I BEEN MISSING?!

It was like salvation.

I just had to tell someone about it!

 

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“Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior, Donuts?” (Not me. This is a stock photo)

Now I’m sure you’re asking, “Who the hell cares?”

Well.

Recently, as I’ve begun to take myself more seriously as an author, I’ve been doing a lot more reading (as all 3 followers of this blog can read in my previous post from two months ago).

Yesterday, Jacob (my 3 year old son) selected for me the next book I’m going to read.

A book that has been sitting on my “to-read” list and shelf for better than three years.

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I’m on page 100, and it is amazing.

I have no good excuse for not reading it sooner.

In previous instances in which I encountered a, “WHAT ELSE HAVE I BEEN MISSING?” moment, I’ve chastised myself.

ALL THOSE WASTED YEARS!!!” I’ve thought.

When really, I was so damn focused on the years I’d been missing out I forgot to take the time to enjoy experiencing it.

Which brings me to 2 recent, “WEHIBM” moments that have served as a sort of paradigm shift for me.

The first was listening to, “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” on audible.

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When I’m quiet at night, I can admit to myself it’s my favorite book.

I was so captivated from the beginning, I didn’t think about how long the book had been out until after it was done. It was then I had my moment of realization…

I needed to start approaching every book, show, movie, etc. like it might be my new favorite.

My second moment of paradigm shifting goodness occurred when Brandy and I started to watch…

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Yes, I know…I’ve never watched Friends. We’re on season 4. Shut up.

A few episodes ago, I realized I didn’t care how long I’d been missing out.

I was just happy to be experiencing it with my wife.

I didn’t feel like I’d been missing anything.

I didn’t feel like I should’ve broken down and watched it sooner.

I was just happy…enjoying it in the present.

This had made my first time viewing of another 90’s sitcom all the better…

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Yes, I’m just now also watching Frasier. Shut up.

 

All these new (to me) experiences aren’t being wasted in the same way my first Krispy Kreme donut was…

I’m haven’t once thought, “What else have I been missing?”

I haven’t been disappointed.

I’ve just been enjoying the experience.

I realize for other people this will read just like an appeal to, “live in the present.”

And I suppose it is…

But it was my personal revelation.

I understand finally what it means, not in a universal sense, but in a way that makes sense to me.

I’ve also finally read a book by G.K. Chesterton.

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After reading two books and A SPEECH I ONCE GAVE: ON LEWIS, TOLKIEN AND CHESTERTON by Neil Gaiman, I felt I owed it to myself to read it.

It did not disappoint.

I’ve also finally engaged with an online SFF indie author’s community through…

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In which, I entered my first novel, The Last Days of the Wanderer.

Available again on Amazon. Paperback coming soon.

Pornokitsch will be reading the first 20% of it and doing (at least) a micro-review.

I don’t expect more than that.

Bloodseeker (being edited by Brandy) is a much better novel.

All these new (to me) experiences, and I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing.

I’m just enjoying the ride.

Do with that what you will.

 

– scritch out.

Goodreads

Hey everybody,

I know I did this recently, but I still wanted to write it down.

Mostly for my own accountability.

For the first time in ever, I’m actually using Goodreads to track my reading!
This was inspired by my wife’s boss who tries to read 50 books a year.

They’re in publishing so that makes sense.

I decided, fancying myself a fledgling writer, to really work on reading to better improve my writing (excluding this blog because, let’s face it, this hardly counts).

Therefore I am going to try to stick to reading the following list of books (in this order)

  1. Fool Moon by. Jim Butcher (Finished 3/24)
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by. V.E. Schwab (Finished 4/29)
  3. Salvation by Allegiance Alone by. Mattew Bates (Buy Here)
  4. The Judge of Ages by. John C. Wright (15% in)
  5. Speaker for the Dead by. Orson Scott Card
  6. The Reader by. Traci Chee (Finished 5/13)
  7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Finished 5/22)
  8. Grave Peril by. Jim Butcher
  9. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimen (Finished 5/1)
  10. Station Eleven by. Emily Saint John Mandel
  11. Storm of Swords by. George R. R. Martin
  12. The Silmarillion by. J.R.R. Tolkien
  13. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton (Finished 5/19)
  14. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Finished 5/30)

AND on Audio Book

  1. That Hideous Strength by. C.S. Lewis (Finished 3/28)
  2. A Crown of Swords by. Robert Jordan (Finished 4/6)
  3. The Path of Daggers by. Robert Jordan
  4. Wheel of Time 9+

My goal for the year is 25. I think that’s doable.
I may bounce around this list a bit, but I want to get through all of these as part of my 25.

I am already 5 books in, by the way, having read:

  1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by. Susannah Clarke
  2. Lord of Chaos by. Robert Jordan (audio book)
  3. The Hermetic Millenia by John C. Wright (so glad this is done)
  4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by. NOT J.K. Rowling
  5. Storm Front by. Jim Butcher

Mind you, all of this while revising Bloodseeker and reading/memorizing scripts.

It really is a good time to be me.

-scritch out

Bloodseeker – Official Announcement

Good afternoon everyone,

After months of typing and hacking at various keyboards, I have a rough draft of my forthcoming novel: BLOODSEEKER.

“Three times a year, the dried blood of St. Januarius, Patron Saint of Naples, is said to miraculously turn to liquid. If it does not, it is believed to signal the start of a period of war, disease, or famine. The last time the miracle failed to occur was in 1980 when the earthquake of Irpinia killed 2,900 people in Italy. In 1973, it served as a precursor to an outbreak of Cholera in Naples, and in 1939, 1940, and 1943 it closely corresponded with Italy’s involvement in World War II.

On December 16, 2016, for the first time in 36 years, the blood did not liquefy. While many, including some within the Catholic Church, regard the ceremony as nothing more than coincidence and superstition, Adrian Ramsey knows better; he knows this means hell is literally about to break loose.

On November 23, 1980, the same day the earthquake of Irpinia devastated Conza della Campiana, Adrian’s parents opened the gates of Hell.

Thirty-seven years later, Adrian Ramsey has betrayed his oath as a Bloodseeker—an ancient order dedicated to self-empowerment— so he can use his abilities to combat the escaped creatures and correct his parents’ treachery against humanity. When he and his assistant, Kiara Wells, hear of the sign of St. Januarius, they begin a desperate quest to prevent the world from being plunged into the chaos of the Hellscape.”
Please let me know what you think, and if you’re interested in being a beta reader.
I’m currently hard at work revising and editing the first draft and would love some feedback once it has made a round through rewrites.
My sincerest thanks to everyone,
J.L. Scritchfield

The Importance of Being Violent

Hey everybody,

I’ve been thinking about violence lately.

As I’m writing a novel about demons (sort of), magic (kind of), and death (maybe) and am stage managing a production of Titus Andronicus, I’ve been recently confronted with some dark themes and ill feelings I’d like to expound upon a bit.

As far as my new project is concerned, I’m still playing it close to the vest. However, the above themes are mostly there and in doing research to set it in our contemporary world, I’ve had to dwell on evil and demonic things. I’m extremely excited about the project, but every so often a chill runs down my spine.

Not that I’m afraid mind you.

There’s just something disconcerting about engaging with the, shall we say, unnatural.

Similarly, while being  a part of this excellent production of Titus Andronicus with Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, I’ve had the opportunity to witness and in some instances help stage moments of murder, rape, and cannibalism.

For those of you who know me, violence isn’t a huge issue in my real life.

I’m a nice enough guy who isn’t prone to violence.

As a theatre artist, however, stage combat is one of my things.

See below a 10 beat fight of me getting beaten up.

Of course, it isn’t real.

It’s fun.

But when you’re watching it transpire, (evil, I mean. Something that goes against what you believe to be the way things are supposed to work) there’s a sort of jarring that happens.

Last night, while on book for the actresses playing Demetrius and Chiron, a feeling of dread came over me, and I had to know my wife and sons were okay. So…clumsily, while staying on book, I sent a text message along the lines of

“How’s your night?”

The response was everything I needed.

The boys were asleep finally. She was reading. Asked the same of me.

That’s all. I just needed to know my family was safe.

This is an extremely small (and not quite perfect) example of why I think it’s important to sometimes put yourself out of your comfort zone.

To watch, read, or listen to a book, movie, or album that puts your back up.

Makes your hair stand on end.

It FORCES you to do something.

You can’t just sit there. You can’t just read the words on the page or watch the actors perform. You need to reach out to someone you love and know that there is justice in the world. There is order in the world.

There is good in the world.

Now, I know there are people who have done heinous things inspired by simulated violence.

But I don’t believe they’re the norm.

Nor do I advocate for people immersing themselves in this kind of evil.

I know a Fight Choreographer who talked about building a dummy for a theatrical production that had to be capable of basically being disemboweled and spurting blood everywhere. He would work on it and experiment with it in his basement (as it was his job) and then just above his head, his kids would be playing. He would go from torturing this dummy to playing with his 3 and 5 year old kids. He said it was a, “challenge.”

He needed that good to outweigh the bad.

Because the bad was exhausting.

I think if you indulge those jarring senses to the point where you no longer cringe at it. When you’re so desensitized you can think about rape or murder without it seeming unnatural, you’ve let yourself go too far in, and you need some good in your life.

For me, it was knowing my family was safe.

So…

As you write, as you act, as you watch or participate,  keep in mind those things that are right, just, and natural about the life.

Let evil jar you. Let it bother you. Let it get under your skin.

And then do something.

-scritch out

January State of Blog(ger)

Good evening everyone,

I know it has been three weeks since my last post.

Forgive me. I’ve been ill.

I promise I’ll get back into the swing of things starting this coming week.

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That’s worth something right?

For the few of you concerned, I did not win the Novelist competition on Inkitt.

I know, I know, you’re crushed.

But I did tell you to expect nothing.

HOWEVER!

I have been hard at work on a new writing project.

One I am extremely happy about.

I’m not quite ready to announce the title or give a book summary yet, but it is unlike anything I’ve done before. Not that you’re at all familiar with my books apart from The Shadow of Fate, which will likely be vacating in the internet in the near future.

I’ll say this much. Urban Fantasy. Blood Magic. Mythology.

Piqued your interest?

No…

Well, fine.

I’m 35,000+ words in and I still have plenty of story to tell.

THAT in part is why I have not updated recently…

Because I’ve been writing…and sick…

Often at the same time.

Anyway, I’m up and at ’em.

Tell your friends.

-scritch out