“When comes the storm?”

I brought my laptop with me yesterday after work, and I’m using it to write this post.  I was afraid this morning that I would need to avoid its use.  I was worried that there would be heavy rain and high winds at the train station thanks to the “subtropical storm” morphing into a hurricane that’s bearing straight at the east coast of Florida.  However, this morning it’s just a bit breezy, and the rain is not very impressive—more a drizzle than anything else, though it is steadier than rain tends to be down here.

I have my raincoat on, just in case.

As of yesterday, the announcement was that today the trains would stop running after about 5 pm, so I’m going to need to leave work early if that’s still the case.  In addition, the announcement was that there would be no train service on Thursday, since the storm is predicted to make landfall at around 1 am Thursday morning.  So, I may not be going to work on Thursday, since if the trains aren’t running, the buses aren’t likely to be running, and I have no other reliable way to get to the office.  If that’s the case, I probably won’t be writing my traditional Thursday blog post.

I doubt anyone will mourn.

Maybe I should take this as a sign from the universe that I should just give up on this blog post, as I’ve given up writing fiction or playing guitar or even really listening to any music, let alone singing along.  I get the impression that my post yesterday—which was on a subject I find interesting, and thus about which I tend to go on and on and on, even when writing on my phone—wasn’t particularly interesting to anyone but me.  There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but it’s a lot of work just to spew my random thoughts into the void, when for the most part, I already know what those thoughts are.

I’ve given myself plenty of such potential “signs” to look out for, that I would take to mean that the universe wants me to stick around.  Not that I really believe in any such nonsense; it’s just a bit of frivolity.  Most of the potential signs I’ve chosen center on my love of numbers; they relate to certain automatically generated codes that happen when processing things at work.

I gave myself more than 10 opportunities over the last several months, and they’ve all failed, which was predictable.  I knew that they weren’t likely—I was looking for palindromic sequences of eight digits in an eight-digit code that turns over very rapidly, since numerous offices and businesses use the service—but I figured, since I’m a fan of numbers, and especially such numbers, if one of them came up honestly, in the normal course of business, I would take it as an indicator to reorient myself somehow, at least for the time being.

I don’t actually imagine that the universe cares one way or another whether I live or die, or indeed, whether anyone or anything lives or dies, except to the extent that the universe contains minds instantiated in flesh.  All of those that might have any pertinent opinion have shown the general tendency to find their lives more comfortable when I am not around them much, as I’m sure I’ve noted ad nauseam in the past.  So, there really is nothing significant holding me here.

Even those distant people with whom I keep in occasional contact, and who would probably be sad for a bit if I were gone, would not experience any true upheaval in their lives.  I’m disconnected from nearly everyone, beyond tenuous cobwebs; the people at the office are the ones who would have the greatest adjustments to make, but these would be rapidly achieved, and some people there would no doubt get raises as they took over some of my duties.

I’m tired, in so many ways.  I’ve slept worse than average even for me this week, probably partly because of the change in the clocks over the weekend.  And the fact that it gets so dark so early in the evening this time of year has never been good for me.  I’m on the first train of the day here, now, but I was up for hours already before I left the house.

I kind of wish for something to take the whole issue out of my hands.  I don’t tend to cross streets against lights deliberately—that would feel utterly impolite and inappropriate to me—but I have been willfully walking into the road even when right turners are approaching the intersections, hoping that someone will be reckless and run into me.  It’s a silly little thing, but if someone caused such an accident, they would be the ones disobeying traffic laws, so the fact that my “gain” would inconvenience them would be appropriate.

So far, I’ve had no luck.  I don’t really expect to have any in this sense—even if someone were to hit me, the speeds are too slow to be likely to be lethal.  Still, I have channeled the Joker (from The Dark Knight) a few times while crossing the street recently, saying, “Hit me, hit me, I want you to do it, I want you to do it,” under my breath as drivers approach the intersections.  Of course—rather obviously—no one has hit me so far.


Oh, they’ve just confirmed with announcements on the train that, yes indeed, there will be no service tomorrow (and today it will stop early) so I don’t plan to write a post tomorrow.  If you’re looking forward to my bastardized Shakespearean quote for the week, I can only apologize, but I’m not going to go out of my way to do it.  It’s not as thought there would be any point, to it or to anything else that I do.

Every day, more and more, I feel like someone lost in a Lovecraftian landscape full of creatures that make little sense to me, and with whom I cannot effectively communicate or interact.  I know that I make no sense to them, also, or at least very little.  I suppose, in a way, I’m the alien, I’m the mutant, so I have no “right” to expect them to try to understand me.

But surely, to Cthulhu or to Yog-Sothoth or to Shub-niggurath, humans and other mortal creatures must look as horrifying and alien as those creatures do to the hapless humans who encounter them in the stories.  Cthulhu may find the presence of humans to be as repulsive (and even frightening) as humans would find an encounter with cockroaches, ants, and mice or rats in their kitchens, in their food.  If it’s evil for Cthulhu to want to destroy humans, then it’s surely just as evil for humans to want to fumigate their homes when they are infested with “pests”.

I know, I know, Cthulhu isn’t real*, but that doesn’t change the point I’m making.  The monster, the outsider—the stranger—can be just as innocent, just as horrified, just as frightened as any human in any scary story.

Fear is not the mind killer, despite what they say in Dune, but prolonged fear is erosive, corrosive, and a burden that can become too great to bear.  And being a stranger in a strange land may be a low-level kind of fear—often more of a stress and tension, really—but it is real.

And even a monster, a stranger, might hope or dream or wish that somewhere, somehow, someone would rescue it, would reach out and try to help it, so that it doesn’t have to feel so lost and alone and afraid.  But it might recognize that it has no actual right to expect that anyone would ever do such a thing, and—seeing as it is a monster, a stranger—that its nature is to be alone until it finally succumbs to its local increasing entropy.

Anyway, that’s nearly all for today.  I won’t be writing anything tomorrow.  As for Friday, well, whether I write anything then will depend on factors such as whether the trains are running again by then so that I’ll be able to get to the office okay, and of course, whether I’m even alive—but, then, it always depends on that latter variable.

In closing, I’ll refer to a different topic.  Many of you are probably aware of the very large Powerball jackpot that was recently won (or so I understand) by some human somewhere.  If you’re interested in reading a story about someone who wins a similarly large jackpot and tries to do good with it, leading to unexpected and earthshaking consequences, you could read my short story, “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” which is available as a standalone story through Kindle, and also as part of my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which is available on Kindle and in both paperback and hardcover editions.  I think it’s a pretty good story.  If you read it, I hope you enjoy it, and I’d be grateful for any feedback I’m able to receive.

Stay dry and safe, wherever you are.

*As far as we know.

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the blog

Goodo and hell morning!  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for the latest edition of my weekly blog post.  I haven’t posted any teasers this week because, as you’ll know if you follow my blog, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is now published, and is available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats.  That latter fact is rather exciting, in a silly sort of way, though I’ve yet to see a copy of the hardcover in person, so I’m not sure how good it will be.  If it’s comparable to the paperback, it will be quite nice.

I’ve considered doing some other teasers now and then—perhaps once a week—of portions of some of my other books, to try to stimulate interest in them.  Obviously, I couldn’t do all that much at once; I’m not sure that it would make sense, for instance, to post an entire chapter at a time from one of my novels, since the chapters are generally at least ten pages long, and often quite a bit longer.  Still, I’d love your feedback regarding whether you would be interested in such a thing, and if so, if you have any requests.  In other words, is there some book of mine that you think might be interesting, but you’re not sure, and so would welcome a taste of what the book might be like?

Of course, it’s like pulling teeth to get most anyone to read even a short story nowadays.  Perhaps it has ever been thus.  I may be biased by the influence of my immediate family, who were and are more avid readers than most, even accounting for the fact that when I was young cable TV hadn’t come out, let alone VCRs or DVDs, etc.  We had only black and white TVs until Cosmos arrived on public television, and I don’t remember feeling deprived.  There were always books around, plenty of them; they were prominent in the room I shared with my brother, and in my sister’s room, and in the living room.

I often lament (privately) the fact that a generation is growing up that will get almost all of its information from video of one kind or another.  But when I think about it, I guess reading has rarely been something most people spend much time doing, even in the days before television or movies but after the invention of movable type printing.  Newspapers, of course, were long the only sources of popular news, but I suspect only a minority of people seriously partook of them.  What’s more, I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite the ubiquity of video, the various online editions of newspapers and magazines now accumulate a far greater regular combined circulation and true readership now than they ever have before.

Unfortunately, many people seem not to have patience for reading anything that’s longer than 280 characters, and conversely—or obversely, or inversely, or perhaps just perversely—some “journalists” produce their news “reports” by sifting through the drek of such 280-character postings.  It’s a sad state of affairs, but maybe this is as high a level of information exchange as most of us have always reached most of the time—the level of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram—but no one had any way to hear about practically any of it, and much nonsense tended to be locally confined, and didn’t interact and reproduce with other nonsense.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t good things and quite intelligent things going on via the above-mentioned social media*; there certainly are, and YouTube has some truly excellent educational videos of various kinds.  But how I would love to imagine that, when most people are staring at their smartphones, they are avidly enjoying some e-book—fiction or otherwise, on whatever subject or in whatever genre they enjoy—or an intelligent blog or magazine article or written news from reputable sources.  If I thought that were the case, I think I might feel much less depressed than I generally do.  Maybe I wouldn’t.  After all, my depression is mainly endogenous, and it’s been very difficult to treat.  Maybe I’d hate the world and my life and myself even if I lived in some near-Utopia…though one could at least hope that such a world would have developed more effective** treatments than we currently have here.

Oh, well.  If wishes were horses, we’d all be shoulder deep in horseshit.

Back to writing:  now that The Cabinet*** is out, I’ve returned to Outlaw’s Mind, which I hadn’t realized had not been added to in about a year—not since September 10th of 2020, I think.  I’m still going through what I’d previously written, but I’ve almost reached the point where I’m going to add new material, unless something kills me first—which, to be honest, doesn’t seem like it would be such a bad thing.  I’m tired.  I’m so very tired.  The last time I can remember having a good night’s sleep and waking up feeling at all rested was back in the mid-nineties.  Literally.  I’m very tired, and I’m very much alone, but I guess this is just the general condition of life, or at least it is for people like me.  It’s October now—this being the first Thursday in October—and that’s a good month to be thinking about such things.

With that in mind, I’m sharing below a picture I’ve been working on, which is appropriate for the Halloween season.  I did the base drawing quite some time ago—a few years, I think.  I even posted it on Facebook**** at the time, if memory serves.  But I’ve decided to do a bit of playing around with smoothing the lines and coloring it in layers and so on, using the computer program GIMP, which is a wonderful freeware (if that’s still the term) program that does most of what Adobe Photoshop did and does but without requiring ridiculous monthly fees.  Look into it and give them a donation if you get a chance; it’s a great thing.  And please, let me know what you think of the current version of my drawing.  And of my books, if you get the chance.

Oh, and while you’re at it, please take good care of yourselves, your families, and your friends.  Readers and writers are the guardians of the lifeblood of all that’s good in human civilization.  You are necessary; you are essential.  And while you’re at that, do your best to take care of and/or at least be kind and polite to everyone else.  None of us created our own genes or environment, we’re all just muddling through as best we can.  And kindness, I’m led to understand, is just as contagious as cruelty, and is far more productive, and thus much stronger, in the long run.


Welcome Home Medium in prog (2)

*And it goes without saying that WordPress is a haven for far higher-than-average quality information sharing.

**And affective treatments, ha-ha.

***I prefer to shorten it to The Cabinet rather than to use its initials, which would spell out DECoC.  I think you can see why.

****See, I even use it myself, though I haven’t gotten on it for more than two minutes at a time in ages; it stresses me out beyond endurance.

Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Cover picture version 2

[Link to the hardcover edition]

Open the Cabinet doors.

Behind them lies a peculiar collection of events, items, and people from the amazing to the horrible…

A door knocking at three in the morning, though there’s no one on the porch.

A man who suddenly appears one night, banished to a city in the heart of America from a place to which it’s impossible for anyone ever to return.

A destitute woman withdrawing from drugs, seated on a bench in a train station, but only one man can see her.

A pet locked in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, and a well-meaning passerby who may learn anew where the road paved by his good intentions leads.

A game of solitaire dealt by a man suffering from crippling depression as he ponders his future and that of his family.

An act of generosity by a lonely salesman that may change the nature of earthly intelligence forever.

A scarecrow crucified under a tree in Pennsylvania, the unchanging memorial of a man of reputedly supernatural evil…or perhaps the body of the man himself.

And lurking in the shadowed heart of a bizarre, unfinished house, a creature or force that neatly slices the fingers off a nine-year-old boy’s right hand leaving crystals of ice on the wounds—a creature or force that may be only the least terrifying thing within this horrible dwelling-to-be.

Come.  Open the doors.  Look inside.

The Cabinet seems small, but it is deceptively deep.  And in places it is…

Dark.  Too dark to see clearly.

But surely, you can safely open it, look inside, and simply close the doors again.  Surely, such a Cabinet is too narrow for you to stumble into and become lost, never to find your way out again.

Sing to the ear that doth thy blogs esteem and gives thy pen both skill and argument.

Hello and good morning on the last Thursday (and indeed the last day) of September in 2021.  Because it’s Thursday, it’s time for another edition of my usual blog post.  I have posted quite a few other things here over the past several days, earning me kindly electronic pats on the head from WordPress for blogging three days in a row, twice now.

I guess frequent blogging is considered a worthwhile goal for them.  But is it an instrumental goal or a primary goal?  I know what my answer to that question would be*, but that raises another interesting question, perhaps pertaining to cults, especially to ones that are flagrantly dishonest**:  What happens when one person’s instrumental goal becomes some other person’s primary goal?  Come to think of it, that question could be significant in fields ranging from religion to artificial intelligence.

Anyway, all that isn’t even tangential to what I intended to write about today.  Today I’m writing about the imminent release of Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which is locked and loaded for publication.  I’ll send the order this evening, so it should be available for purchase starting tomorrow, October 1, 2021, as planned.  Of course, there are sometimes delays at Amazon, but those delays have hitherto always been shorter and fewer than their warnings say might happen.

I guess they use Mr. Scott’s tactic of telling people to expect the worst so that they are pleasantly surprised and even amazed and impressed when things are better than that expected worst.  This is often my general attitude toward life.  Unfortunately, life is full of surprising surprises (I’m not being redundant), and it appears to have no final “worst”.  Often, the bad things you anticipate and for which you prepare yourself—psychologically at least—are not the bad things that happen, but instead you are blindsided by something utterly unexpected.  At least it keeps you on your toes…until it knocks you off your feet, anyway.

All that notwithstanding, I’m very chuffed about a surprising fact regarding publication of my book:  It will be available in hardcover as well as paperback and e-book format!  This is being beta-tested (apparently) by Amazon, and I’m taking advantage of it.  It’s surprisingly not much more expensive than paperback publication.

I don’t know why I should be as surprised as I am; I don’t really have any good reason to think that producing a hardcover book is prohibitively more expensive than producing a paperback, other than the fact that, all my life, hardcovers have tended to be much more expensive than the paperbacks.  Perhaps, though, that’s merely a marketing decision by publishers.  Perhaps they just recognize that people are prepared to pay quite a bit more for hardcovers than they are for paperbacks***.  It’s entirely possible.  Look at the whole “organic foods” marketing protocol.  And the “non-GMO” labeling scam, or even more comically, the label “gluten free” being slapped on numerous items that are obviously gluten free, like nuts or beans or corn chips****.  The average consumer frequently strays far from the economists’ notion of a rational value maximizer.  As do the economists, themselves, ironically.

Anyway, purchasers of my new book can decide freely and for whatever reasons strike their fancies in which format to buy it.  Indeed, they can get a copy in each form if they like.  Goodness knows I am going to do that!

So, tomorrow, at some point, there will be a post here with the description and cover of Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, with links to the Amazon page for purchase.  The paperback version will also be available through some other online sellers such as Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, but I don’t know how soon those will be up.

I don’t encourage you to hold your breath—a day is a long time to try to do that, even if you’re a blue whale, which I assume you’re not*****—but I can at least tell you to look forward to seeing The Cabinet for sale starting tomorrow.  In it are several stories previously published only in e-book form and two stories—bookending the collection if you will—that have never previously been published.  In the meantime, and afterward, and also at any given moment, do please take care of yourselves and those you love…and try not to do any harm even to those you don’t love.


Old hardcovers

*Instrumental.  That’s probably obvious.

**I’m speaking now to the spirit of L. Ron Hubbard.

***This is not necessarily an irrational willingness; hardcover books are empirically more durable than softcover ones, so presumably one would need to replace a given book less frequently if it were hardcover.  This is assuming that, like me, a person tends to read books one likes over and over and over and over and over again.  Of course, in some senses e-books are even more durable than hardcovers, but in other ways they are less durable.  A hardcover book might well survive the fall of civilization and a return to the bronze age or worse, but an e-book requires a power source.  I wonder if, in such a post-apocalyptic world, I would be able to work up a generator or solar power source adequate to providing power for my tablets/laptops/smartphone, so that I could read at least the already-downloaded e-books.  I certainly know how such things work, and why…and there might be plenty of spare parts around, depending on how civilization had met its end.  Well, never mind; it’d just be easier to make my way to the Spanish River Library in Boca (or some similar beautiful library) and read the print books there.  Not that generators wouldn’t be useful for other purposes as well, of course, but those purposes are not as important as books.

****I would only be mildly surprised to find a pack of batteries or a household appliance labelled proudly with the words “gluten-free, non-GMO”.  Ah, humans.  They’re so funny.

*****Wouldn’t it be delightful if I were wrong about that, and there’s a blue whale out there who follows my blog?


Note: This story will appear in my upcoming collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and that’s why I’m posting this teaser.  However, it has already been published in “Kindle” format, and there is a link to that below, in case you cannot wait for The Cabinet to be published*.

holeforaheartredgreywith frame


     Jonathan Lama drove west along Interstate 80 on a warm, late spring day, headed for Chicago.  His journey was at least partly an excuse to test the recently purchased ’97 Mustang convertible he drove.  He was not a true car aficionado, but he liked the Mustang, and he had a good friend, Rob Gardner, who was a mechanic and lived near him.  When Jon had told Rob that he was looking for a second car and had found the Mustang for a very good price, Rob had all but offered to go in halfsies just to have the chance to work on and restore it.  Rob plied his trade only part-time—and under-the-table—since a severe back injury had left him both eligible for disability benefits and honestly unable to work a full schedule.  He was, however, good at what he did, and after much effort and a fair amount of additional expense, he pronounced the car ready for long-distance travel.  All the remaining work was cosmetic.

     So far, Jon had no complaints about his friend’s efforts.  He’d previously only driven the Mustang around central New Jersey, where he lived.  In the beginning, it had ridden rough, and the speedometer had malfunctioned, making Jon nervous every time he took it out, though it had been easy enough to match the speed of traffic.

     Now, the speedometer had been replaced and checked and was working as it should.  The engine ran powerfully on all eight cylinders, and Jon could barely tell that he wasn’t driving a brand-new car, at least based on those criteria.  The interior still needed a lot of work, and the car’s paint was noticeably faded, but Jon had never disagreed with Rob in prioritizing functional issues. Continue reading

Sneak Peek of The Cabinet Cover Design

I thought I’d give everyone an early look at the planned design for the cover of Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which should be available Friday, October 1, 2021*.  There may be minor changes in the final look, but this is basically how it’s going to appear.

Also, I’ve just recently learned that it may be possible to have the book available in hard cover in addition to e-book and paperback.  So for those of you who like to hold a sturdy volume in your hands, like the father in Calvin and Hobbes, that should be an option.  I don’t know what the pricing will be yet, but I suspect it will be higher than for the paperback.  As always, e-book will be the cheapest**, since the printing costs are essentially nonexistent.

Anyway, here’s the cover design.  I hope you like it.

Cover picture version 2

*And afterwards as well.  It’s not just going to be available for one day.  I don’t want there to be any confusion.

**And yet, always a bit less satisfying in some ways.