Hello and good morning. It’s not Thursday today, of course, but I just thought of something that I wish I had thought of and posted yesterday instead of the rather rambling and negative post that I did create.
Although it’s probably too late for Hanukkah*, it should not be too late, if you have avid readers on your list of Christmas gift recipients, to order them a copy of one of my books, if you think they would be interested. I have six titles available in paperback through Amazon, which I’ll summarize here:
Welcome to Paradox City: A collection of three dark “short”** stories, one of which is a light-hearted near-comedy and the other two of which are darker. The first, The Death Sentence, is about a man who finds a previously unnoticed room in his public library, and in it discovers a bizarre but intriguing book containing illustrations and writing in languages he doesn’t know…but which also contains one particular line that can be at least pronounced, as it is written in Latin characters. He only slowly discovers the secret of that sentence…and of the rest of the book itself. The second story, If the Spirit Moves You, is about a man who suddenly discovers that he can see ghosts—or “the unquiet dead” as they prefer to be called—and that he may well be the only one who can, and who can help them make contact with the modern world. The third story, Paradox City, involves a man who enters a popular but rather peculiar nightclub, which bears the name of the story’s title. Though the entertainment is good, and the service is excellent, and he meets and falls for a charming young woman who is equally taken with him, this is a club in which peculiar, impossible, sometimes paradoxical, and ultimately horrifying things can happen…and if you make the wrong decision, you might get stuck there forever.
Mark Red: Mark Reed, the title character (obviously), is a teenager who spots an attempted mugging and rape. He tries to intercede to help the woman, but her assailant stabs him, giving him a mortal wound. However, it turns out that the mugger’s target was a vampire, who deliberately put herself in the situation to prey on the criminal. She makes short work of her assailant, but then has only one way to save Mark, which she feels compelled to do because he got hurt trying to help her. She gives him some of her blood to replace what he’s lost, turning him into a demi-vampire—with a combination of the aspects of humans and vampires, the nature of which state he learns over time. The vampire, Morgan, determines to stay with and protect Mark from his own urges for blood until such time as she can find out how to cure him, for as she explains, contrary to popular folklore, a full vampire can never die at all, even if they wish to. And if Mark ever kills a human by drinking their blood, he will become a full, uncurable vampire, cursed with immortality.
Son of Man: David McCarthy, a college student in Chicago, is going to the university library one morning when, without transition, he finds himself in a featureless cylindrical room. The wall of the room opens, and two men—Anderson and Greer—eventually explain to him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future. They tell him that only a few decades after the time from which he was taken, an apparent global thermonuclear war, now call the Conflagration, destroyed civilization and most of the people, but that the human race was saved by a “man” now known simply as The Father, who united humanity, willing or not, under his control and guidance, and rebuilt civilization, with his astonishingly advanced technology and inexplicable genius. He also initiated the “domestication” of the human race, killing any person who initiates violence against others, and sterilizing their first-degree relatives. Though grateful for the Father’s rescue of civilization, the two men, their friend Michael, and some others think that he has gone too far, and they enlist David to help them either convince the Father to abdicate or to find a way to remove him…choosing David for reasons that he at first cannot believe. The Father has an enemy within his own mind—a mind that now spans the entire world—and that enemy wants to help them overthrow the Father. He alters David in an inexplicable way and assist the group in their quest to achieve their goals. But his motives are not certain, and he also reveals to them some secrets of the Father’s past and nature that horrify them, especially David.
The Chasm and the Collision: Alex Hinton and his friend Simon come home from middle-school one day and find that Alex’s mother has, apparently, left a newly purchased and unrecognized—but delightful-smelling—bunch of berries in the fruit bowl in the house. Alex tries the fruit and discovers that it tastes even better than it smells, and he shares it with Simon and with a girl name Meghan, on whom Alex has a crush. Soon, Alex and the other two begin seeing and hearing seemingly impossible and sometimes terrifying things, which no one else perceives, and they begin developing new, amazing abilities. They also find a strange apparent “space warp” in the wall of the dining room of Alex’s house. Eventually, they are accosted, captured, and brought back to what turns out to be a piece of another world—Osmeer—which is the counterpart to Earth, but in a universe that lies adjacent to ours in higher-dimensional space. They learn that some process has set the universes on a collision course, and that if they collide, the impact will wipe out everything in both universes in a new Big Bang. A great genius of Osmeer has created what is called The Chasm—a way of taking part of Osmeer out of its world and positioning it between the two universes to hold them apart, at least temporarily. Within the Chasm, that part of Osmeer has permanently sunset-colored skies, and time flows there roughly thirty times faster than in the original universes. The pre-teens learn that in the other universe, not only are there intelligent “dinosaur dogs” called tixuns with advanced sense of smell, who work with humans, but also intelligent, furry “mole-weasel” creatures called orcterlolets, that can tunnel and build by manipulating the fabric of space itself. Most amazingly, they learn that all the plants of that world are conscious, and can communicate with each other telepathically, as well as with gifted humans and tixuns called Gardeners. The man who created the Chasm has also helped breed and create a special tree, called Wynestrith, whose purpose is to save both universes by returning them to their proper places. Alex, Meghan, and Simon have unwittingly become embroiled in that quest, and they learn that there is a cult, and a Prophet, and a much darker and more terrible Other, an Ill Will, that wants the collision to happen, and that only the three friends, working with Wynestrith, will be able to prevent the collision, and the destruction of two universes. But they will have to survive to do so, and also—hopefully—they will be able to succeed without their parents and teachers finding out they were ever gone.***
Unanimity Book 1 and Unanimity Book 2: Charley Banks is a pleasant young university student, majoring in English, with a long-term girlfriend he loves very much, nice parents, and a positive outlook on life. He takes part in a seemingly harmless neuroscience experiment, testing a new form of external magnetic cortical stimulator, innovated by one of the school’s professors. After the test, though, in the follow-up MRI, he has a severe grand mal seizure. When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers, to his amazement and delight, that when he touches other people, if he focuses on the curious sensation that now happens at the point of contact, he can merge with their minds, taking over their nervous systems, replacing their consciousness with his own, but with access to all they know and are. At first the union only lasts while he’s touching them, but soon this ability grows, and he is able to maintain his presence in others even after separating. He then becomes able to control more than one person at a time, and then becomes able to extend himself further using bodies he already controls, all while still controlling his normal, original body. He keeps this gift secret even from his girlfriend (at first), and as the power grows, he decides to use it to correct some perceived and real injustices done to people he cares about. But his methods are extreme and horrifying, and it becomes clear over time that his mind has been altered in other ways than simply giving him his new abilities. This becomes still more dangerous when he discovers the astonishing effects of having a person die while he’s controlling them. His power, and his willingness to use it, seems to grow without obvious limit, and even after a few other people, including his girlfriend, learn of his ability, and of his altered character, its unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent Charley from someday encompassing the entire human race.
All of these titles are also available in Kindle format, including Son of Man, for which I somehow failed to link the paperback and the Kindle versions.
I also have several “short” stories that are only available in Kindle format for now, though I plan to collect them into a paperback edition along with a new novella soon. Most of them are available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member, and anyway, they’re less than a buck apiece if you buy them. I won’t go into too much detail; instead, I’ll copy the blurb from each listing on Amazon. My short stories tend to be rather dark, and most of them would count as horror (not “Ifowonco” or Penal Colony, though). They include:
“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”: Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical change of fortune. His subsequent actions lead a genius named Darrell White, enabled and inspired by Peter’s choices, to create the world’s first artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, this happens at a time when humanity has devastated itself with global war and is unprepared to accept the existence of these new and superior minds. These facts will combine to create a future that Peter would not have had the courage to expect, and the implications of which are impossible to foresee.
Prometheus and Chiron: Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him. Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand. Even after a month passes, she remains seated in the same place, always visibly suffering. No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all. But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her. And she sees him.
Hole for a Heart: While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill: A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow. Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station. There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes. Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years. Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale. Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.
Solitaire: (This is my oldest—and darkest—published short story. It’s not for the faint of heart.) It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown. He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world. Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…
Penal Colony: While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback. Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner. There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment. He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him. Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow. The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it. It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…until the man proves it.
Free Range Meat: Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day? Brian certainly would. As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can. So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes. But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV? Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside. And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off? What breed of dog makes sounds like that? These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.
That’s everything (so far). None of it is, perhaps, traditional Christmas fare, though CatC is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure whose heroes are middle-schoolers, so its arguably a holiday-worthy story. But a book, like a puppy****, is not just for Christmas. Most people can’t read one of my books in one day, in any case. And to a book lover, there is rarely any better gift that can be given than a new book.
(I would advertise my songs here as well, but they definitely aren’t holiday-type ditties.)
*Except for Kindle books, of course.
**I use scare quotes because though not truly novellas, they are quite long for short stories, especially Paradox City, which gives the book its title.
***This is my most “family-friendly” book.
****Which is also very good cold on Boxing Day.