Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post. Welcome also to a new month (October, obviously), the first day of what has always been—for various reasons—my favorite month. A major contributor to that favoritism is that, at the end of October comes Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. It’s also the beginning—in northern parts of the northern hemisphere, anyway—of the real onset of Autumn, with leaves changing colors and becoming heart-rendingly beautiful as they prepare to drop off the trees before Winter sets in. Such magical Autumn visions have come to feel almost like the memories of fever dreams for me as I spend an ever-growing fraction of my life in southern Florida, the state referred to by Homer Simpson as America’s dong*. There is no real Autumn here, though at least the weather becomes slightly less hot and humid as the year wanes. Autumn and Spring—and even Winter, frankly—are the best times to be in Florida. How ironic that the season when most people come to visit is during the months of “summer vacation”, when heat, humidity, and near-daily thunderstorms are the norm.
Speaking of Autumn—because it, like my most recently published work, takes place in Autumn—things are moving along nicely in The Vagabond. I’ve nearly finished my first read-through/edit of the book, making many minor modifications as I go along, and I’m approaching the final confrontation of the story. It’s quite a lot quicker to read than Unanimity, being only about a third as long. That’s not an insult to Unanimity or a special compliment to The Vagabond, by the way. Each book is as long as it must be. The Vagabond is a simpler, more straightforward story, though its events happen on something of a larger scale than those of Unanimity and have even more dire potential consequences if things end up badly.
A somewhat humorous event took place earlier this week. A coworker saw a hard copy of Unanimity Book 2, and she said her son loves to read, so she wanted to get a copy for him. I asked her how old her son was, and she replied that he was eleven. Now, I enthusiastically encourage kids of all ages to read, and the earlier they start, the better, but…well, apart from the fact that it would be bewildering to start reading Unanimity Book 2 before reading Unanimity Book 1, I had to tell her very clearly (and repeatedly, since she didn’t seem quite to believe me) that this really isn’t a book for eleven-year-olds. Very bad things happen in it—it’s a horror story, after all—and as I’ve said in other circumstances, the type of horror in it is a very human type. It’s nothing easily dismissible, like monsters under beds, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and the like. I told her I would get a copy of Book 1 for her to read, and that she should read it, thoroughly, before deciding if her son was ready for it, which I doubt he is.
Then, quite happily, and without reservation, I recommended (and ordered for her) The Chasm and the Collision, a book specifically for and about people of her son’s age or only slightly older**. She also noticed the cover of Mark Red on the screen while I was ordering CatC, and said her son likes stories about vampires and the like. I wasn’t sure about this one. If he’s a truly precocious eleven-year-old, such as I was, he might indeed enjoy it without any trouble, but it has its moments of deeper darkness, and some “mature themes”. When she asked the leading question, “There’s no swearing in it, is there?” I had to answer that, yes, there was, though I don’t think it’s excessive. Of all my stories, I think the only one without any profanity at all—I could be wrong about this***—is The Chasm and the Collision, which I specifically kept free from expletives, following the wise advice of my father.
Anyway, with some hesitation, I ordered her a copy of Mark Red also, worrying because, well, the story opens with an attempted mugging/rape. It’s a crime that goes very badly for the mugger/rapist—after going very badly for Mark Reed when he tries to intercede, thus leading to the story—because the would-be victim happens to be a vampire, Morgan****, who deliberately lures in such assaults to take their perpetrators as her prey. After that plunge in at the deep end, things become a little less unwholesome, but it’s quite a start for a story.
Maybe I should just attach a blanket “trigger warning” of some kind that applies to everything I write. This is my mind. It’s not a safe space. Not even for me. Enter at your own risk.
On that cheery note, I think I’ll call it quits here for the week. I’m continuing to work toward reinvigorating Iterations of Zero, so hopefully I’ll have something to share there, soon. No matter what, though, I hope you all enjoy this most wonderful time of the year that we are entering, despite all that’s happening in the world. Do your best to stay safe and healthy, and remember, human events are transitory, ephemeral, evanescent, short-lived, and redundant. Don’t take them too seriously.
[This is an old, and not very good, concept drawing I did of the above-mentioned opening of Mark Red]
*If you’ll pardon the observation, taking that metaphor in hand—so to speak—it doesn’t have the look of a perky, young body part, but rather of a fairly limp, aged, and dispirited one, shrinking over time as sea-levels slowly rise. This certainly fits with the human aspect of the state, though its natural beauty is beyond question. I think “The Governor”, aka Skink, of Carl Hiaasen’s books, would agree with me.
**My sister concurs that this is a good recommendation, and she thinks the boy will enjoy it greatly. It’s her favorite of my books, and its primary protagonist, Alex, is her favorite of my characters. It’s hard for me to choose, but he’s certainly in the upper echelons of my preferences as well, and of course I am proud of the book.
***It occurs to me that I for one welcome our new computer overlords might not include any cursing. That doesn’t make it a young kid’s story, of course, but it is rather pleasing for me to realize. It’s simply a fact, after all, that I tend to write dark stories, and in dark situations, people often curse. It’s no mere coincidence that Halloween is my favorite holiday.
****Morgan is probably my favorite character that I’ve written. I just think she’s really cool. I was absurdly delighted when Tony and Pepper named their daughter Morgan in Avengers: Endgame. I even fantasized that they named her after my character.