A Christmas Eve Reflection

Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s Christmas Eve of this peculiarly horrendous 2023 year. I know I’m supposed to sit back and reflect on all of the good things that have happened and be joyous as I give gifts to others tomorrow. This will be be a true test of my ability to be joyous regardless of my current circumstances. There are myriad reasons to not be joyous, but I have to say, as I sang this morning during church the glorious Christmas song “Light of the World” and the less traditionally Christmas “God With Us” (although it is appropriate for this season) I felt a definite mix of sadness and joy.

This is my first Christmas without either my mother or my father, and it feels every bit as odd as I expected it to, maybe even more. As expected, the family is somewhat physically spread out across the country instead of being concentrated at my Mom’s house. Again, this was not unexpected, but it feels a bit more empty than I could imagine.

Pile on cancer, tax issues, dealing my Mom’s estate and the general state of the world and things start to weigh heavily. All you can do is grasp at the opportunities you have to reach out and be with people. This results in spending Christmas Eve playing Hand and Foot at our new friend’s house with other new and old friends. It was a time of good food, playful teasing, and honest sharing of experiences that shaped us as we grew up, leaving us all laughing, shaking our heads at ourselves, and realizing that we all need times just like this one. Times to share, times to relax, times to not worry about what someone else might think or say, as grace and mercy consumes any potential judgment.

Soon we will begin the new year. A year that will most certainly be fraught with conflict, strife, sacrifice, and hardship. But it should also be filled with resolution, productivity, recovery, and peace. Not so much peace in the world (highly unlikely), but the shalom peace granted by God through the Spirit that is available to us if we can discipline ourselves to accept it.

I’ll end this short little reflection with a traditional blessing offered in churches everywhere, all year long.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.” ’

Numbers 6:24-26

2023 (and 2022), Where Did You Go?

Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

I haven’t posted on this site since May 15th, 2022. That’s nearly 50 million seconds. A measly 555 days. One year, six months, and six days. That’s a long time. I’ve renewed the domain and the hosting, and put in all the work to keep it on the Internet. And I posted…nothing. What happened?

I had posted a grand vanity card for 2022, pegging it as the year I hoped to finish a book. That was in February. I posted two more times, once to proclaim my laziness to the world and another to rant about my disappointment with an indie book series I had just completed. Then it was radio silence, a vast nothingness…until now.

What has caused me to post now? The circumstances that have contributed to my lack of posting haven’t changed. I’m still lazy. I still have a myriad of issues, all grabbing at me with clutching, tearing claws, like a pack of wolves, demanding my attention, stretching my mental bandwidth. challenging my emotional stability, exhausting my physical limits. Maybe someday, if and when I get past some of these challenges, I will write about them, but not now. Now I will safely tuck them away, continue to battle, continue to lose and win based on seemingly random choices and circumstances, and endure.

Because enduring is all I am doing right now. I don’t feel any growth, except as a function of advancing age, mentally, emotionally, or physically. I still have hope that this will happen; that I will one day (hopefully soon) be able to say “I grew in this way” during this time. That hope hangs by the slimmest of threads.

I face possibly the most momentous and consequential decision of my life. This is a decision I cannot avoid, so the weight of it feels even heavier than decisions like having kids, asking my wife to marry me, deciding what college to go to, or whether to be a jock or a band geek in high school. Many will say “That’s life” and I won’t disagree with them, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

What else is going on with me?

I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo since 2020…and if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that was a big thing for me. I have written some, but not much. I have an excellent project just dying on the electronic page, waiting for me to return to it. Maybe I will. I will have several weeks off from work in the near future, so I might get some time (and inspiration) to revisit it. It requires several thousand more words, a LOT of editing and rewriting, and probably some raw luck to get completed, but it is one of my most developed works in progress and deserves to be completed. Maybe, just maybe, 2024 will be the year.

Most of the other things going on with me, as I already said, I’m keeping under wraps for now, so I guess this is the end of sharing time.

So here I am, posting to this site again, 555 days after I last posted to it. I don’t have much to say, but I figured I had waited long enough and something had to be posted.


Photo credit: Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Blazing Frustration, Still Fresh

Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

I wish to expel all of this frustration as quickly as possible, so I am starting this post after 11PM, which is usually when I am settling in for the night. It is both a specific and general frustration with the work of independent authors. My specific frustration is with the series I have just completed, a three book series offered on Amazon by Ernie Lindsey, the Warchild series. The books are titled, in order, Pawn, Judas, and Spirit. I’ll expand on my general frustration periodically in the middle of explaining my current disappointment.

I was drawn in by the first book, read through it quickly, and posted a short, but glowing review on Amazon about it. I couldn’t wait to read the two following books to see how the story progressed and resolved. Herein lies my first general frustration and it is one that I know and understand is driven by the necessity of returning readers for independent authors who don’t get five and six figure advances to write a new book. These same authors don’t get to command normal book prices like traditional authors, so they are compelled to create book series to try and make up the difference between what they might make on a single book, if they were traditional authors.

What this leaves the reader with is the realization that a complete story will not be contained in a single book, regardless of its length, and that to know the whole story arc, they will be committing to a book series anywhere from three, which seems to be the minimum, to six or more volumes. Some of these individual “books” are merely continuity materials to get from the end of one major part of the overall story to the beginning of the next. Nothing truly impactful or story-driving happens in some of these individual sections. The fact that they cost as much as the volumes containing the meat of the story arc is frustrating (to me).

Back to the current frustration. I read plenty of independently authored books, and I have learned (little by little, with my teeth grinding together) to let slide the errors and mistakes that an independent editor would correct in the text. I understand that an editor is a luxury most independent authors cannot afford. This one certainly can’t. Therefore, small mistakes are a part of the package. In this case, however, a fairly important factual error was made in the second and third volumes concerning an event in the first. The end result was the same, but the images and impact of how the event happened in the first book versus what the main character remembers in the following two throws the reader (at least this reader) out of the story to the point that I had to go back and make sure I didn’t read it wrong. And I didn’t. It was an egregious error and I’m surprised that the author has not bothered to correct it. This series is at least eight years old.

Another minor frustration was the cover art. This is not the first time that cover art has been unrepresentative of the books, but this, again, was egregious. The initial cover art (which I can no longer find anywhere) was just the face of an obviously female child or teenager. It was consistent with the contents and actually convinced me to initially start reading the book. The cover images for the second two volumes and the replacement cover image for the first book my electronic reader picked up after I bough the series, in no way represent the content of the books. They show the back of a blond female, obviously older than a teenager, dressed in body armor, armed with weapons the main character held only briefly in the story, walking through various post-apocalyptic scenes. It’s like the author gave only the title, the sub-genre of the book, and a poor description of the main character to the cover artist and just went with what they produced. I understand that this is yet another curse of independent publishing, the lack of a dedicated cover artist, but this is probably the worst misrepresentation of the content of books I’ve run across in my exploration of independently authored books. I believe it contributed to my next and final direct point about the series.

It’s the end. I didn’t think I would ever run across an ending more terrible than the last season of Game of Thrones, but I believe I have now. I won’t spoil it for anyone and I still recommend reading the series, as the story craft, aside from the issues already mentioned, was exceptional. I got the same feeling reading the end of this as I did watching the last six episodes of one of the greatest series ever put on screen. It’s like the author simply gave up. There were issues he couldn’t fix and problems he could not resolve and he just finished the story and stuck a “The End” on it. There were so many problems and issues left unresolved and he employed a plot-convenient deus ex machina to end the final confrontation and it left this reader with a bitter taste of lost potential. It’s like none of the sacrifice and loss suffered by the main character (and others) mattered anymore; he (the author) was out of words and just…stopped.

This was not the first book series to do this to me and I know it won’t be the last. Each author has a story and it begins, develops, and ends, hopefully with some internal consistency, as they write it. It is not my place to say it should have ended another way. I’ve made this argument before-it was in defense of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars that so many love to hate. Were there annoying characters? Yes. Were there plot turns and twists that didn’t happen how I (and others) thought they would? Sure. It was George Lucas’ story to tell. He just did it in a screenplay, rather than a book.

Last thoughts…

Did I like the Warchild series? Again, yes I did. If you like post-apocalyptic stories, it is a good read and has some familiar themes-extreme poverty versus comfortable lives, technology versus mankind, war as a necessity, humanity dealing with the results of excesses of the past.

Did I think the end had far more potential? Absolutely.

In the end, I feel that reading this series has somewhat galvanized me to do differently. I feel I should offer a complete story in one volume, although that is highly impractical in the world of independent publishing. I still feel I should aspire to present a complete story arc in one setting, while allowing readers to follow (hopefully) beloved characters into other adventures, not drag the reader along for three or more volumes to get the whole story. To borrow a line from Star Wars, that’s probably a “damn-fool idealistic crusade”, but it is where I am. I just hope I can now take this frustration and pour it into my work, and that you, dear reader, can one day enjoy it.

Featured Image:

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash


Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

So…it has been a month and three four days since my “vanity card” post. Not bad as far as gaps in my postings go…

I haven’t posted out of a combination of laziness, busyness, indecision, and fear. That’s a pretty toxic combination, so let me unpack that a bit. This will get a touch complicated (or sensitive…one or the other).

The first reason, laziness, is the easiest to explain. I’m lazy, and the older I get the lazier I find myself. I finally get to the weekend with a head full of plans, and I can barely drag myself out of bed long enough to eat some breakfast, brunch, or lunch, depending upon the time I get up. The five days of work seem to take more out of me now that my age starts with a 5 instead of a 4………..Wait…Who am I kidding? This started early on in my 40s. The 50s just compounded it, much like interest on a savings account. Wait…who am I kidding (again). Interest rates are essentially zero.

Which brings me to the second reason, busyness. Yes, I feel like I am busier now, especially at work, maybe not so much after work, but once I slog through a busy day of work, I have no real desire to be busy that evening. That, coupled with my distaste for most of what is on what we call television these days, leaves me with watching reruns of some of my favorite shows, meandering about YouTube, listening to music, reading a book, or attempting to write. The fact that I can’t concentrate on any of these for longer than about 20 minutes makes the whole affair rather tedious.

That is a function of the indecision. Not being able to decide what 30 minute show to watch, or which book to start next, or what YouTube video to watch next, or what to write, is probably the most daunting challenge I have faced in all of my five decades. COVID and all of the horrendous responses to it really broke some people, and in some way broke a bit of me, too.

While I am an introvert, I do actually like to interact with people at times, and when told I cannot do that “for the greater good”, it makes it far worse. Those months of partial to total isolation were, to put it mildly, trying. Not knowing who to trust or what to believe bruised my latent desire for equilibrium and constancy so deeply that I am still recovering. Going from “masks don’t help!” to “you have to wear a mask!”, or going from “vaccines will keep you from getting the virus” to “vaccines only help you fight off the virus” were “triggering” (to borrow a word I really despise) to my mentality.

Which brings me to the last reason why I have not posted in over a month…fear. I fear that I cannot openly expose my thoughts here or anywhere else. “Cancel culture” is real and insipid, and I’ve seen lives ruined over expressing the slightest deviance from “ScienceTM” and “FactsTM“. We live in a society that abhors any notion of disagreement. It is suffocating and inhibits true debate and subsequently, progress. The degree to which some will go to smear, silence or gaslight others upsets me to the point that I know i should not write anything in an attempt to not say something truly damaging and cruel (but probably totally true).

Now, for someone like me who absolutely hates conflict to say that we need a better atmosphere for disagreement means that things are pretty bad. I don’t have a solution other than to continue to combat speech with which I disagree with more speech, not censorship or a desire to silence other voices. Might I also take the occasional opportunity to mock, when appropriate, speech I disagree with? Sure.

We’ll see how I do…

Featured Image: Photo by Victor on Unsplash

A “Vanity Card” for 2022

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

It has now been over a year since I posted on this blog. My last post was February 23, 2021. My posting has never been better than sporadic, with a few notable exceptions. I make no money from this blog, I post only very infrequently, if at all, so why keep it, you might ask. It would be a valid question. It is a question I have asked myself many times.

Part of my answer would be that someone, somewhere, would be inspired by something on this blog and go on to do what I grow ever more certain I cannot do – produce a work of words so exciting, so magnetic, so impactful, that others want to read, nay, will even pay money to read it. Or listen to. As an author, I am, at best “aspiring”. I have over ten works in progress, none of which are even close to the point of publication. They are all incomplete, missing vital aspects of plot, character development, conflict, and resolution. They have scattered story lines, incomplete narratives, redundant and tedious wording and detail, and lack any sense of cohesiveness. Yet I keep them around, hoping that inspiration will strike and sustain me to complete one of them.

Having recently jettisoned to the digital dustbin a large body of work that I had created over a decade or more, I know that I can’t do that with my more legitimate works. All of them have one of two fates in store for them. One, and the more likely, is they will remain unfinished, never reaching a moment of completion, forever lacking a “The End” that denotes them as done. Sure, they might be worked on, added to, edited, and tweaked, but more than likely will never be read by anyone besides me and my one trusted beta reader.

The other fate, the one I dream of, the one that tantalizes me, the one I see in my wildest imagination, is that one, or some, or all of them are eventually completed, presented to the world, and bring joy to someone other than me. This will take intestinal fortitude, a lot of creativity, and a lot of long days and nights clicking away on the keyboard to accomplish. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to do this. I don’t know if I am good enough to even finish one, much less make it worth somebody else’s time to consume. I hope I do.

The one thing I have learned and relearned over the last year of not posting anything to this blog is that some things change, and others do not. There’s nothing new in this epiphany, as there is nothing new under the sun, but I believe that every person has to confront this fact on their own, through their own circumstances. It is not enough to see it in other’s lives. It must be lived, directly experienced, and assimilated into the mind of every individual for it to be real.

Sometimes change is good and your life is blessed. Sometimes change is debilitating, and your life is somehow diminished. As I get older, and time and the inevitable destruction of my body from diabetes wears on me, I see the diminishing of life. As I write this, I am rapidly approaching the time when my age will no longer begin with a four. That is only days away, and yet, I still shrink away from it and the full weight of that fact has yet to sink in. I’ve dealt with the curse of diabetes for nearly forty years, and while I have held at bay many of the physical effects of the disease, I know a time will come when I will no longer be able to do so. The pressure to take advantage of “the now” grows with each passing day as I see myself grow older and more diminished.

With all of that said, I once again put here in ones and zeros the proclamation that I will try, with what remains of this year, to complete one of my many works in progress – to turn a bunch of letters, words, pages, and chapters into something that entertains and inspires. Will this be the year I am right? Who knows? Maybe. And this is the best I can offer.

Photo by Ergita Sela on Unsplash