Here we are twenty-two days into December and as I look back on the first day of December things around here have changed a little.

My first-born’s back from his first semester as a junior in college, which is mind-blowing. He’s been re-reading the Dabir and Asim novels and short stories with an eye towards running some role-playing adventures for my wife and I — with her playing Dabir and me playing Asim. That just sounds like a whole lot of fun, and he may try running the first one tonight.

That’s assuming that we’re not working late on dinner prep, because we’re hosting the extended family Christmas dinner at our place this year, for the first time. That’s meant that a LOT Of my spare time over the last three weeks has been dedicated to some deep cleaning. The house needed it, even if I didn’t, so much. After that really long run towards deadlines through both October and November I was hoping for more downtime.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been relaxing; in the evenings I’ve been reading quite a lot. Of all that I’ve read, I think fantasy fans would most be interested in  Ilana C. Myer’s  Last Song Before Night, which I found one of the finest modern fantasy novels I’ve read in ages. It’s not sword-and-sorcery, but it’s not high fantasy. It’s more of a character-driven fantasy with a great sense of pace, lots of mystery and intrigue and surprises, and some great prose. It moves at a strong clip, and I found myself interested in every single viewpoint character. No mean feat, that. Most of the central protagonists are bards, and there’s lots of musical knowledge and old secrets and lost magics, but we’re not subjected to tons of poetry. Trust me, it’s a good one. A lot of you would like it. And here’s an added bonus — the story wraps up by the end of the book! There are to be other books in the same setting, but the character arcs introduced at the beginning of this book are concluded at its, wait for it, conclusion!

I had this crazy idea that I’d get at least one short story written, maybe two, for every week I took off from novel writing. Well, it’s been two weeks since I started writing again after about five days away, and I’m not quite done with ONE story. Now, granted, I’ve also had lots of cleaning and errands to run, and it’s a trickier tale than I originally thought. Still, I’m a little disappointed. I aim to bang my way through to the end of this first draft today.

I’ve also been reading a slew of other books. I finished off the third of four “Al Conroy” (Marvin Albert) novels starring his gambler/gunman, Clayburn, and found it a tasty read. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Luke Short’s western work and started his Raiders of the Rimrock. So far it’s good, but I’m not captivated. I’ll probably keep going. It is, at the least, surprising. In the middle of that I started a book Id’ found misfiled in the western section of the used book store and picked up on a whim. It’s titled A Boy Ten Feet Tall, by W. H. Canaway, and it’s the tale of one boy’s trek across Africa. It has a hard-boiled storytelling style and great details about the country and people and environment, and I quite enjoyed it.

Finally, I’ve started a historical that’s been on my shelf for years at this point, a Simon Scarrow novel titled The Eagle’s Conquest. I’m only a few dozen pages in, but so far, so good. Roman historical fiction, set in the legion.

Over the coming weeks I hope to have some great time for family, some time for gaming, some time for reading, and to increase the pace of some short story writing. I’ve got to write at least ONE Dabir and Asim short story before year’s end! I had wanted to write ten! I did succeed in outlining a bunch of them; I’ve just been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t gotten much further than the plotting stages.

I hope you’re all experienced happy holidays, or will be heading into a Merry Christmas.