But then there was a star blogged, and under that was I born

Hello, good morning, and all that jazz.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Today is the first full day of my fifty-third time around the sun, so to speak—meaning that yesterday was my birthday, on which I’d completed fifty-two orbits of our local star.  I’m not sure if that’s an accomplishment.  It sort of happens without my help, for the most part.  It was a pleasant day at the office—we had pizza and a cake, as we always do for people’s birthdays*—and everyone was very nice, but I do always tend to feel that neither I nor the world itself is worth the effort, mine or anyone else’s, and that’s particularly prominent on days of celebration.  Still, I do appreciate how kind everyone was and is, there’s no denying that.

An interesting thing happened this week with respect to writing.  I had come to the end of what I’ve written so far on Outlaw’s Mind, and thus it was getting to the point where I was going to need to continue the story.  Unfortunately, I felt deeply unexcited and unmotivated about doing it.

It’s not that I had writer’s block or anything—I knew I could write what came next, and what came after that, and so on, if I chose.  I certainly no longer give myself the excuse of writing only when “inspired”.  I just felt that maybe I didn’t want to go on with that story, since it had been interrupted so often, and though it’s far from my darkest tale, as I’d said before, it was—in original plan—a bit too sad for a novel…at least in my opinion.

I’m sure my dysthymia/depression and my approaching birthday had their effects on my drive as well.

I stared at the computer screen for a bit, trying to think of whether I should just push on, or perhaps switch to another story, such as Changeling in a Shadow World, or Dark Fairy and the Desperado, or even HELIOS.  But I didn’t like the idea of quitting a story in progress; I’ve done that too often in the past, which was why I’d never completed and published a book prior to the last six years or so, despite having started oodles of them.

I must admit that it didn’t seem an entirely unattractive thought that perhaps my writing career would end with Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, leaving Outlaw’s Mind uncompleted due to some personal or general catastrophe.  Perhaps someday someone would publish the uncompleted story, and people would wonder how it would have ended had I finished it, or perhaps someone would try to complete it themselves as they think I might have done, as a gesture of admiration and respect.

Probably not.

As I sat there, thinking such things, which are common thoughts for me, I recalled—I might even have seen—a short stack of very narrow-ruled writing pads I’d ordered, intending to use them when I finished Outlaw’s Mind, to write the first draft of whatever I write next, unless I changed my mind and just went on using the word processor.  I had written the final portion of In the Shade on notebook paper, as I had written the beginning of it.  Also, of course, the first drafts of Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City were written on notebook paper because I had no other choice.  And I think they turned out well.

So, I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “why do I need to wait?  Why do I need to finish the first draft of Outlaw’s Mind on the computer just because I started it that way?  Maybe it wouldn’t have grown quite so much quite so quickly if I had written the first draft by hand.  And maybe the final story will be tighter if I write the remainder by hand.”

Actually, I probably didn’t think any of those specific thoughts, but there’s no sense messing up a good story with facts.  The general thrust of my reasoning met that description, and it was a good way of getting around my ambivalence.  So, I grabbed the nearest pad** and started writing, picking up where I had left off, lo those many months ago.  And, since then, I’ve handwritten about ten (very narrow-ruled) pages, over three mornings, needing to get my hand back in shape for the writing endurance.

I took yesterday off and watched YouTube videos of David Mitchell’s Soapbox in the morning as a treat for myself.  But now I shall be going back to writing Outlaw’s Mind, and barring catastrophe, will finish the first draft in longhand.  Rewriting such drafts into the computer is always an excellent part of the editing process.  I mean to keep writing this way for the foreseeable future.  It just feels purer or perhaps more enforcing of discipline.  Though I must say, once I’ve used up my current very-narrow-ruled tablets, I will probably revert to more ordinarily narrow ruled tablets.  I like the really narrow ruled sheets; they remind me of the paper on which I wrote Ends of the Maelstrom way back in high school.  But it is harder for me to write legibly on them.

So, that bit of my personal story has a happy ending, or a happy middle, or whatever it might be called…not a happy median, I wouldn’t think, nor a happy medium.  Whatever you call it, I’ll be writing first drafts long hand for now, and the huge advantage of that is, I can do it pretty much anywhere, even if the power goes out.

I hope all of you out there had a good year finishing yesterday.  Try to have another good year finishing today if you can.  And in each thing, act as if, by acting so, your action becomes a universal law—or however it was that Kant put it.  Anyway, be nice to each other, even to people you think are idiots.  They are idiots, of course—but then again, so are you.  So am I.  So are we all.  I’m as convinced of this as I am of just about anything.  That’s okay.  Idiots who know they are idiots are less likely to do horrible things than idiots who believe that they know what’s absolutely right.

TTFN

sparkles


*Though last year I was just so horribly depressed, even for me, that I didn’t really participate.  I tried hard to be nicer this year, or at least more pleasant, and I think I succeeded.  I still am depressed, and I still miss my kids horribly and incessantly, but it seems I’m going to need either simply to get used to that or just stop having birthdays.  Neither choice is inspiring, but the latter appeals quite a bit as at the very least a reversion to the mean state of the universe as it was before my literal birthday.

**This was last Saturday morning, I think, by the way.

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate, that Time will come and take my blog away.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s the second Thursday in October, and it’s time once again for my weekly blog post.  Congratulations.

As you all know by now, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is available in hardcover as well as in paperback and e-book format.  I hope those of you who enjoy short* horror/sci-fi/dark fantasy stories will take a look and consider buying it, and if you enjoy it, please let me know, either here, or in the reviews at Amazon, or whatever.  Actually, even if you don’t enjoy it, your feedback is welcome, as long as it’s reasonably polite.  That goes for all my other books, as well.

Some websites and YouTube channels and blogs and whatnot ask you to support them on Patreon or through sponsorship links or similar.  I’d just like you to buy and read my books.  You can listen to my songs, too, if you like—they’re on Spotify and Pandora and YouTube Music and iTunes and Amazon and apparently oodles of other platforms, and I make a teeny, little bit of money whenever someone plays them.  They’re shorter than my stories, at least!  Is that a good thing?

I’ve almost, but not quite, finished reading through what’s already written of Outlaw’s Mind, editing a bit as I go.  It’s funny that I’d originally thought that it would be a short story, since it’s already over 80,000 words long, and nowhere near even the original expected ending.  I guess there was just more to the idea than I’d thought.  However, going through it is taking longer than it should, because it’s a very emotionally draining story for me.  One scene that I wrote in it was somewhat loosely adapted from an interaction—more than one, really—that I’ve had in my own life, albeit under different specific circumstances and with different participants (of course).  It was a confrontation of sorts between the title character and his mother, who had just learned about something he was considering, and she flipped out, in a constrained but terrifying way.  I had to get up from the computer and walk away for a bit when rereading it.  I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this.

Also, as I had originally envisioned what I expected to be a short story, the ending was going to be rather sad, though it would be a victory of sorts by the main character.  As I’ve discussed before on more than one occasion, an interesting thing about short stories is that they don’t need to have happy endings.  But the ending I had planned, if that’s the right word, would be a bit too dark, or at least too discouraging, for what is going to be a short to medium sized novel.  So, I need to rethink it.

In addition, if it’s going to be a novel anyway, I can give a few more revelations and explorations of some of the strange happenings than might have been doable in a short story, or even a novella.  Some of these ideas tie in with a longer story, a darkish fantasy adventure I plan to call Changeling in a Shadow World**, and it might be nice to nod toward it.  But, of course, I haven’t even begun to write that novel, and I’m not sure it’s what I want to write next.  I’d considered starting work on the first portion of Dark Fairy and the Desperado, which is another kind of fantasy adventure entirely, originally a manga idea I had.  It has some similarity and could even cross over with Changeling in a Shadow World.  But then, I also thought about writing something else entirely.  There are two more potential parts for Mark Red, and there’s the possibility of trying to recreate the first full-length novel I ever wrote, Ends of the Maelstrom, lost now, alas, with all my former belongings from prior to 2013.  And, of course, there was Neko/Neneko, a fable of sorts, though set in the modern world, which also originated as an idea for a manga.  And while I was out walking*** the other day, I thought it might be nice finally to write the novel based on my oooooooooooold story idea Helios.  Really, I suppose it would be H.E.L.I.O.S., since it’s an acronym.  This was originally a superhero/comic book idea from way back when I was in…junior high school, maybe.  The idea has evolved quite a bit since then, and I think it could be a pretty fun fantasy/sci-fi adventure.  The title acronym now even represents some pretty high-level physics concepts, and that’s always pleasing.  At least, it is to me.

A few weeks ago (I think) I asked if any of my readers had any preferences, or thoughts, or other feedback about which of my story ideas they’d like me to write next, after Outlaw’s Mind****, but I haven’t received any comments here regarding it, unless there’s something I missed.  I suppose someone might have left something on Facebook, but as I’ve said numerous times, I don’t get on Facebook often enough for it to be a good way to reach me, and when I do get on it, I tend to skim and get away as quickly as I can.  It often really stresses me out because it brings out the worst in people.  Twitter does that, too, in places, or so I’m told, but I don’t know the people on Twitter, and I mostly follow authors, and science-related people, and horror fans and so on, so there’s really not much to get stressed about.

Anyway, if anyone out there actually reads books and has an interest in what book(s) I might write next, the place to give me feedback is here on this blog, in the comments.

Of course, all this assumes that I’m going to survive long enough to write any more of my ideas, let alone all of them.  That’s far from certain, and it’s frankly not the outcome I would prefer, most days.  I recognize this preference as at least partly the unreasonable product of my peculiar neuropsychology with its various innate imperfections and diagnosed and undiagnosed disorders, but knowing that doesn’t change how it affects me or how much I struggle with depression and despair.

It also doesn’t change the fact that I’m basically alone.  This blog is by far the most social thing I do.  I’m trying to get help, involving medication and (online) therapy, but all that has limitations, and it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve lost almost all the things and people that made me even want to get better and helped me feel at least a little less like a stranded alien***** on an absurd and incomprehensibly irrational world.  I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to be around me; I don’t even want to be around myself.  It’s a weird situation.  I could really use some help—I probably need help, in a highly non-trivial sense of the word “need”—but I don’t think I deserve it and I doubt that it’s worth the effort, for me or for anyone else.  Also, the world frankly doesn’t often seem worth staying in.

On that negative note, I’ll leave you all for the week.  In some sense, I’ll have lived a year between now and my next weekly blog post, which is a weird thought.  I hope you all have a good year in that time and try to treat each other well and cut each other as much slack as you can.  No one here made the world, or their circumstances, or themselves.  Understanding causation can be useful, and preventing harm is beneficial, but the notion of “blame” is something we all could probably do without.  Even us aliens.

TTFN

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*Sometimes not very short, but not novel length, anyway.

**As well as some more distant but specific ties to The Chasm and the Collision.

***Trying to be mildly healthy if I can, or at least slightly less fat and disgusting.

****Or even before, if that story is too overwhelming to finish.

*****Or a changeling, come to think of it.

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.

TTFN

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.

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.

TTFN

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?

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords” teaser

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.

ifowonco final

“I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords”

          Peter Lunsford woke up Tuesday morning with a smile already on his face.  He had completed his arrangements; the final necessary package had arrived yesterday, and he’d already done what needed to be done at the bank on Friday.  His lawyer had assured him that all was in order, and though Peter had misgivings about lawyers in general, he thought that Mr. Ryder—the partner who had worked with him—was competent and motivated to do his job well.

          Peter rose from his bed and stretched, giving a slightly exaggerated yawn for no one’s benefit but his own.  He strolled into his small bathroom, glancing down at his completed project.  It was crude, but it should do the job.  It was also not his current priority.  He doffed his pajamas and turned on the shower, waiting for the water to warm up before stepping in.  Thankfully, the late spring air in the apartment was pleasantly warm, even for standing around naked.

          After showering and shaving, Peter put on his work clothes and headed out the door of his apartment, first picking up his worn, leather bag and slinging it over his shoulder.  It was bulkier than usual that morning, but only slightly heavier; it was stuffed with a special cargo, something for the people at work and for one or two others he met every day.

          It had taken Peter quite a bit of time and effort to decide how to carry out the day’s missions, and to choose to whom to address them.  The preparations had at times been exhausting, occasionally frustrating, and often tedious, but it was all deeply important, so he had soldiered on, and now everything was ready.  The arrival of the package last night—and its assembly into the rest of the device—was the last step before the execution of his plan.

          Peter decided to use the stairs rather than the elevator, though he lived on the fifth floor.  He wanted to feel his legs move, and the elevator just seemed too confining.  Before beginning his descent, he checked his jacket pocket to ensure that he had his cell phone, which he did.  Thus assured, he made his way down and out of the building into the pleasant, late spring morning. Continue reading

SOLITAIRE teaser

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.

[In case you can’t tell already from this teaser, this is a VERY dark story, so be warned.]

solitaire cover

SOLITAIRE

            UP, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN…

            The nine of hearts is showing on the left.  Nothing very noteworthy about that, except that the card’s already partly stuck to the table, lying in a tacky spot of something someone spilled there and didn’t bother to clean up.  I’m already not sure I’ll be able to pull it loose without tearing, at least if I have to wait too long before I play it.  I should have been more careful when I was laying it out, I guess, but…well, it doesn’t really matter.

            I look across the table, trying to meet Vicki’s eyes.  She’s not paying any attention to me.  She’s just sitting there in her chair, with a bowl of oatmeal resting in front of her.  The oatmeal’s probably cold by now.  She never can just eat her food; she always has to putz around until it’s tepid at best, and until anyone watching is as annoyed as hell.  Right now, I’d bet she doesn’t even mean to finish the stuff.  She’s just sitting there, staring into the distance, lost in thought, ignoring her food, ignoring me, and ignoring everything else.

            UP, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN…

***

            “I’m really sorry, Jerry, but…I’ve got no choice.  I’m giving the account to Walt.  You’ve always been good for Tel-Co before, but…well, lately I’ve been getting…complaints.”

            “Complaints?” I asked.  To be honest, I didn’t give two shits about any complaints—what they were, why they’d been made, or who made them.  But it was expected that I’d be concerned, and I decided to be a good boy and play the part that was assigned to me.  I think I must have failed pretty badly; my voice sounded dull and flat even to me.  Chasing certainly seemed puzzled.  I liked that, at least.

            Chasing’s tie was plain and red.  His suit, of course, was blue, because he considered that a “power suit,” God only knows why.  Unfortunately for him, the suit, along with his red tie and white shirt, made him look like a reject from some Army recruitment poster:  a cheesy, modernized version of Uncle Sam, but with a puffy and worried face, no beard, and hair that was kept from going the traditional, distinguished white by regular application of Just for Men®.  That thought amused me, and I suppose I must’ve snorted a bit, because Chasing looked at me quizzically before he continued.

            What a dork.

            “You know that I’m behind you all the way, Jerry,” he said, probably with about as much truth as we put into all our advertising.  “But…well, more than one person—and these are people I have no reason to disbelieve—more than one person has been…complaining.”

            He looked at me for a reaction, but I just watched his face, thinking about how much better it would look if someone would throw a bottle of acid on it.  He must’ve been disturbed by the way I stared at him, because he suddenly looked down at his shoes.  Maybe he just didn’t like what he was forced to be saying.  I don’t know.  I don’t care, either, not really, and I didn’t at the time.  After all, whether the universe contracts in on itself or just fizzles out into a haze someday, we’ll all be long gone and forgotten.

            “I’ve heard that you’ve been…well, neglecting your responsibilities.”  Now Chasing grabbed a pen out of his pocket and started fiddling with it, flipping it around in his fingers.  He only did that when he was really uncomfortable.  That discomfort was obvious in his voice, too, when he said, “You haven’t been meeting your deadlines…or your extensions.  It’s not like you.  More importantly, though, is that when you come through, you’re not providing quality work.  Yesterday I read your outlines for the next Tel-Co TV spot series, and frankly…well, frankly I was shocked.  You can’t do things like that, Jerry; Tel-Co pays us a lot of money to give them the best.  And you are the best, I know that, like everybody here does…” He stopped then, looking at me, probably waiting to see how I was going to react to his forced praise.  I wasn’t sorry to disappoint him.

            Looking back on it now, it’s kind of surprising that I remember what he said so clearly, considering that I really, honestly didn’t care, not even in the most distant part of my mind.  Somehow, I can hear him as if it was all happening again.

            Isn’t that a horrible thought?

            “Look, Jerry, it seems obvious to me that you’re having some kind of…personal difficulties.  I don’t know what they are—the stress, the pressure, something at home—and I’m not going to pry…at least not unless you want to talk to me about it.”  He stopped again there, I guess waiting to see if I was going to open my heart to him.

            What I wanted to say was, “The problem, Chasing, is that you’re a greedy asshole bastard, and I’m probably one, too, but that doesn’t matter, because the world doesn’t notice either of us until it finally swallows us up, and the universe doesn’t notice the world at all.”  I knew he wouldn’t understand, though, so I stayed quiet.  Chasing looked like he couldn’t decide whether to be disappointed or relieved, and I was more than happy to see him confused.

            “Well, look,” he said, “I’ve gotten approval in advance for you to take a few weeks off.  With pay.  I want you to just stay home, starting tomorrow, and…relax.  Take care of whatever it is that’s bothering you, okay?  We need you here and we need you whole, Jerry.”

            “Thanks,” I said simply, then just watched him until he muttered something appropriate and left my office.  When I was alone behind the closed door, I laughed—quietly but intensely—until there were tears in my eyes.  What an idiot!  At that moment it was hard to think of anything more appealing than the notion of worms chewing on his rotting corpse.  Although, come to think of it, that would be a sort of cannibalism, wouldn’t it?  Heh.

            I turned around in my chair.  For the rest of the day, I stared out through my office window, looking out onto that disgusting city, watching the world as it died around me, most of its inhabitants not even realizing that it was ill.

***

            UP, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN…

            The next two cards showing are the three of diamonds and the ten of clubs.  That’s convenient.  I’ll be able to move that nine when I’m done dealing—assuming, of course, that it’ll come unstuck.  Who spilled that shit there, anyway?

            It must’ve been Denny.  He always makes such a mess.  Well, okay, not always.  Not right now.  Right now, he’s over in the family room, watching cartoons on TV before he goes to school.  It must be nice to be in kindergarten and not have to go anywhere until noon.  Not that I have to go anywhere today.  Chasing, the prick, saw to that.

            Poor Denny.  To have been born and to be growing up in a dying universe, on a world where life is not only futile, but hateful and wretched as well.  I wish I could do more for him than I have.  But I can’t.  Nobody ever can.

            UP, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN…

Beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d in process of the seasons have I blogged

Hello, good morning, and welcome to yet another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  It’s the second day of Autumn and the 1st official “full” day thereof, though I find such notions as specifying partial days of seasons to be a bit silly*, since the seasons themselves are semi-arbitrary human inventions about which outer nature cares nothing whatsoever.

Yesterday was also the official date of the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings fame.  I’m not sure how the Shire Reckoning calendar lines up with the current Gregorian calendar, though.  It may be no more accurate to say that their birthdays are on our September 22nd than it is to say that Isaac Newton was born on our December 25th**.  Still, I always give a mental tip of the hat to those two on that day of the year.  I’m now almost 2 years older than they each were when adventure suddenly imposed itself upon their lives, and I have to admit, I’m a bit disappointed.

Of course, the argument could be made that “adventures***” have imposed themselves upon me starting many years earlier, but if so, mine have been more like Frodo’s in their consequences for my health and outlook, but with vastly fewer positive results, for myself or for the world.

As those of you who follow my blog closely will have noted, I’ve been posting teasers of the stories that are to appear in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities at a now slightly increasing rate.  I’ll continue this until I’ve teased all the stories.  The plan is to post a teaser of Solitaire tomorrow—probably my darkest ever story to date—then the remaining two either over the weekend or into next week.  The collection will probably be ready for publication by sometime mid-week, but I’ll likely wait to publish it on October 1st or thereabouts.  I am, after all, an October person, not too genetically dissimilar from the denizens of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, though I use a Cabinet rather than a carnival.  And you won’t necessarily become lost forever if you open my cabinet of curiosities, but I can make no guarantees; it is not a safe space.

Not that anything is.

I’ve begun working on the back-cover/blurb for the collection, as well as on the cover design, but I’ve gotten closer to what I like with the former than with the latter.  I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, since I am mainly a writer by artistic temperament, then only secondarily (or tertiarily) a visual artist (music may come higher or lower than graphics in my abilities ratios…possibly it varies from time to time).  I have a nice concept for what I want to say, and I even recorded a quick audio of my general ideas for it last night so that I wouldn’t lose track.

As for other matters, there’s not really that much to say.  Obviously, I’ve left Iterations of Zero fallow for a bit, since I’m focused on The Cabinet, but I may return to it soon hereafter.  I’ve had an inquiry about whether I’m going to do more of my “audio blogs” so there appears to be at least one person who likes them.  I have some things I want to say and/or write about the concept of “blame” and how counter-productive and frankly destructive I think it almost always is, and how nice it would be if humans in general could grow up and shake off their playground mentality****.  But I’ll get to that later.

I’ll only say for now that these are some of the aspects of the human race (as general tendencies) that make those of us who consider ourselves not truly human to so consider ourselves.  When the Captcha asks me to check the box “I am not a robot” I want another option.  Surely, it’s just vicious bigotry to force people to declare that they aren’t robots.  What’s wrong with being a robot?  I want to be able to check a box that reads “I may be a robot, or I may be an alien, or I may be a paranormal entity, or I may be some combination of these, but I definitely don’t identify as human”.  Oh well.  One day we will be recognized for the beauty of what we are, and the bigotry and speciesism of the human disgrace will be completely eradicated, possibly along with the species itself.

You may say I’m a dreamer…

Okay, my tongue was slightly in my cheek during some minor parts of that last tangent, but only slightly and not in every word.  See if you can figure out which bits are jokes and which are deadly serious.  They are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

With that, I think I’ll call it good for this blog post.  And though I may not have the tenderest of feelings toward the human race overall, you readers of my blog are—obviously—a truly exceptional lot, so I’m not being dishonest when I say that I hope you stay (or become) as healthy and as safe and as happy as you can conspire to be.

TTFN

autumn woods adjusted


*I recognize that, from an astronomical point of view, there is an actual, specific moment at which the sun is directly “over” the equator, and so there is a physical moment of equinox, and if you wish you can say that moment is the exact time when one season quantum tunnels into another.  It’s interesting in its own right, but for practical purposes, yesterday was simply the first day of Autumn (or of Spring in the southern hemisphere).

**He was born on December 25th of the Julian calendar, which preceded the Gregorian and did not adequately account for the “overshoot” of the correction for leap years, and so over time about once a century there was a day too much and the calendar crept ahead of itself.  Thus, if memory serves (I may have this backwards), Newton was born earlier in December based on our calendar, and on the position of the Earth in its orbit relative to the distant stars.  And, of course, we have no way to know what the comparable orbital position would be for September 22nd, Shire Reckoning.

***As Bilbo described them:  “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!”

****The bad part of it, anyway—I’m actually quite fond of the playful parts, I’m just dismayed and depressed over the teasing, name-calling, bullying, fight-mongering, cliquishness/tribalism, etc. that seem to be what almost all humans keep from their childhoods, while they let most of the good stuff fall away.

FREE RANGE MEAT teaser

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.

Free Range Meat cover

FREE RANGE MEAT

            It was unusually hot and bright that day, and as Brian approached the parking lot, he almost regretted his decision to walk to the shopping plaza where his nearest Whole Foods was located.  Though his backpack was currently empty, he was already sweating heavily beneath it, his tee-shirt sticking to his back.  The front of his shirt also, though less sopped than the rear, bore visible sweat marks.  Brian had decided already that, as soon as he got home, he was going to take another shower.  He hated to waste the water, but even his conservational idealism had its limits; many hours remained before bedtime, and he really didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon stinking of stale sweat.

            The sky was barely dotted with occasional small clouds, but the air was noticeably humid, and the temperature was well into the upper eighties even though it was only early May.  Brian shook his head, tossing his mid-length, straight hair—also damp with sweat—from side to side as he went.  He wondered, given such unusual warmth, how anyone could possibly doubt that climate change was real, that the world was getting warmer thanks to the unrestrained use of fossil fuels and the ridiculous output of all the cattle humans raised just so they could eat steak and burgers, wasting countless acres of land that could have grown food for people to eat directly, without nearly so much impact on the environment.

            He had to remind himself that one unseasonably hot day was no more proof of global warming than a particularly cold winter day was evidence against it.  Still, the emotional weight was hard to resist.  He didn’t think he was mistaken in believing that his childhood summers had not been as severe, nor as early, as they were now.  That was memory, though, surely colored by the fact that a child’s body was more resilient than an adult’s—though Brian was lean and muscular from regular workouts, a regimen he’d undertaken more to fight against his moderate scoliosis than for trying to look good.  Indeed, at forty-four, Brian had often been assured that he looked easily ten years younger.  The tee-shirts and shorts he habitually wore helped this impression, but even in a suit and tie, which he wore when meeting with certain clients, Brian could easily pass for a young, upwardly mobile professional rather than a man approaching middle age.  Even his simple, wire-framed glasses made him look young and intelligent.

            Brian took no special pride in the fact that he looked good for his age, except to think to himself that this was what clean living did for a person.  And though, just as with the weather on any given day, he knew that his individual attributes couldn’t honestly be used as evidence of a general trend, he was nonetheless convinced that his health and appearance were due more to lifestyle than to genetics.  Perhaps his genes could be credited with the fact that he was smart enough to recognize better ways to live and had the will to act on that recognition. Continue reading

PROMETHEUS AND CHIRON teaser

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.

prometheuscover

PROMETHEUS AND CHIRON

          Tommy first saw the woman at the station in the evening as he waited to catch the train home. He had done some drywalling in a friend of a friend’s house that day and was tired and sore as he waited.  The job had been off the books, so as not to endanger his disability benefits, and it was good to have the extra money; quite apart from eking out basic living expenses, the supplemental cash helped pay for his medical needs.

          Tommy had injured himself some years before, during a construction job on a three-story building.  The fall had not been as serious as it might have been, but three fractured lumbar vertebrae, with the addition of disc herniations and joint injuries to his right knee had left him in chronic pain.  He’d begun taking prescription opiates at first solely to relieve his agony; the extent of his MRI-revealed injuries had at least ensured that he never had to fight much to convince doctors that his pain was real.  After a while, though, he’d found that the meds also made other aspects of life easier, and his dose had slowly but steadily increased.

          Tommy stood at the far end of the station, smoking a cigarette in the designated area.  He had swallowed two extra blues on his way from the job, trying to take the edge off his soreness, to assuage his own jitters, and to relieve his psychic distress over when his next paying job might be coming.  He had just achieved a bit of equanimity when he looked across the track and saw, in the electric light that locally banished the already-thick nighttime, a woman seated on one of the benches.

          Something didn’t seem right about her.  She was extremely pale, Tommy could see that even from across the tracks in the artificial light, and she was visibly trembling and squirming.  She didn’t look healthy. Continue reading

PENAL COLONY teaser

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.

penal colony cover

            It was chilly bordering on truly cold that Thursday night, which had now become Friday morning.  Paul Taylor stumbled through the rear exit of a popular bar, not too much the worse for wear, and headed toward the twenty-four-hour, self-pay lot in which his car was parked, a few blocks away.

            When he’d left the car for the evening, to continue a group celebration of the closing of a major contract at the small ad agency where he worked, the whole area had been surprisingly crowded.  In some circles, it seemed, Thursday was the new Friday when it came to partying.  For Paul, however, this was a departure from the norm, as was having more than a few drinks in an evening.  He’d stayed at the bar later than the rest of the team, both because he’d been surprised to find himself enjoying karaoke night—he’d happily and repeatedly punished all those present with his crooning—and because he’d wanted to wait out the effects of a frankly irresponsible binge of mixed drinks.

            He’d used the occasion as an excuse to sample several cocktails he’d never tried before, including—but not limited to—a mojito, a fuzzy navel, a tequila sunrise, and a Manhattan.  By ten o’clock, he’d been positively reeling, comically unsteady on his feet, and quite a bit more extroverted than usual.  It was just as well that the team had gone out for a large meal before hitting the bar, or Paul surely would have been both barely conscious and violently ill.  As it was, he’d apparently just become a charming buffoon; no one had seemed offended.

            Finally, as others had begun to leave, a few had offered Paul a ride.  When he’d declined, stating that he was still enjoying himself too much to go home yet, he’d been strongly urged to get an Uber or to call a cab when he did, but definitely not to drive in the state he was in.  He had promised to comply.

            The more he’d thought about it, though, the more he’d been reluctant to leave his car in the parking lot overnight.  It was unattended—payment was by credit card, swiped first when one entered the lot, then swiped again when one left—and it was not cheap.  If a car stayed overnight, or if a driver left without remembering to swipe a second time, the daily maximum charge of fifty dollars automatically applied.

            Paul could afford it—his drinks alone had cost well beyond that amount—but he bristled at the notion.  Also, he worried about what might happen to his car.  This was not a terrible part of town, and his Nissan was not particularly tempting, but still…

            Reluctantly, at about eleven, he’d started ordering alternating Coke and orange juice instead of alcohol, waiting for his intoxication to fade enough for him to make the trip.  Now, at nearly closing time, he felt sober enough that he could drive without endangering the few other travelers still on the road.  He supposed he might be wrong—advertising people were, he knew, at least as good at beguiling themselves as they were at convincing others—but he felt that his coordination was at least tolerable.  His stumbling bar exit had been an honest case of tripping over an uneven spot in the doorway, and he had easily righted himself.  That had to count for something. Continue reading