Today’s blog post

Well, for those of you who follow my Facebook timeline, you already know that my mother died last Saturday, August 12, 2017, at 5:42 pm eastern time, in Marietta, Ohio.  My sister and I were with her at the time, though she had been unconscious for the previous day or two.  My brother was at Mom’s house; he had visited her, but simply doesn’t handle hospitals and related things very well.  Being a physician myself (no longer in practice), obviously I am more accustomed, but it’s still different when it’s one’s mother.

It was sad, to me at least, that she was unable to read any of “The Chasm and the Collision.”  That’s not just narcissistic author-talk; she really had been looking forward to reading it.  My sister and I both tried to read some of it to her in the hospital, but she was basically unable to pay attention.  Looking back, I regret every evitable delay in the editing and production process, but that’s probably not very useful.  She did know that it had come out, at least, and was as excited as she was able to be about it.

It is out, of course, and I’ll post another link to it below, before the end of this entry.  If you like a fun fantasy/adventure story that’s good for “all ages,” then consider reading it, please.  Although I’ll give a caveat that I’ve probably given before:  technically there is no “magic” in the story.  All the extraordinary happenings are parts of natural processes taking place within the universes of the novel; it’s just that those natural forces are (slightly) different than some with which we are familiar.  Or, perhaps, they’re simply forces and phenomena we have yet to discover.

Now that CatC is out, I have resumed work on “Unanimity.”  Since last Friday, I have written every day, even on the bus, no less than 1600 words a day (and as many as 2100).  Today is an exception in the sense that I am using my writing time to write this blog entry, which is not as interesting as “Unanimity” (most likely), but it’s hard to be too entertaining given the circumstances.  As I’ve stated before, I am extremely lucky in being able to type/write very quickly.  My grandmother gave me my first typewriter when I was eleven (her arthritis had made it difficult for her to use), and I began hunting and pecking away on creative writing almost immediately.  I was much slower then, and I certainly never learned any formal typing system, but my process works well for me.  It was, in a way, good that the aforementioned typewriter had no self-correct key, so when I made the mistake, I had to back up, insert a white-out tab, and retype the mistaken letter.  This irritating process will quickly school you in being careful.

My mother set me up at a little table in the breakfast nook in the house where I grew up.  There I wrote a good portion of a fantasy novel involving (what a coincidence) three middle-school students—we called it Junior High, then—who were transported to another world.  Other than that, though, it had almost nothing else in common with CatC, but I still have the whole origin story/mythology of that world in my head.  Maybe someday I’ll try to recreate that story.  Probably not.

“Unanimity,” the story I’m working on now, is NOT a family-friendly story, and is NOT good for all ages.  It’s also one I never would have wanted to read aloud to my mother.  It’s very dark, and has sex, and violence, and whatnot, at least some of which is awkward to read to one’s parent.  Especially the whatnot.  I like it, though—so far, at least—and the writing has been proceeding swimmingly.

Speaking of writing—writing of it, really—I’ve been, in recent weeks, studiously avoiding writing my political and philosophical musings.  I think people who read this blog seem more interested in the subject of creative writing.  Certainly, I get many more “likes” from these articles than I do from my other types of articles.  Nevertheless, I do have a great many things to say, about subjects that I think are important.  They are important to me, at least.  With that in mind, I’m thinking of starting another blog, as I had done once in the past.  This time, I think I’ll do another WordPress blog, since part of the issue I had before was that the blog system through Google was a bit clunky.  I’ll let you know once I start it, assuming that I do, and I’ll probably transfer all pertinent blog entries from this blog to that new one, if I do so.  I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, if you have any feedback on the idea, please feel free to leave a comment below.

There’s not much more to say at this point.  I’m still a bit emotionally fatigued, and I imagine that I will be for a while.  I’m also in the midst of a fairly uncomfortable middle ear infection in my right ear.  It started Monday, as I was getting ready for the bus ride back home from Ohio, and the eardrum apparently perforated just before I got on the bus.  Great timing, ne?  I was oozing from my ear all the way back from Ohio, and through the day since.  But now I am on antibiotics at last, and my tinnitus is returning to its previous, possible-to-ignore levels.  Still oozing a bit, unfortunately, and still rather sore, but life’s like that, isn’t it?  Oozy and sore.  (Don’t try to find any meaning in that; I’m just being silly).

Okay, well, that’s pretty much it for today…except, of course, the aforementioned link to “The Chasm and the Collision,” just below.  Please note, though the link goes directly to the paperback version of the novel, it’s also available for Kindle, and that form gets delivered more quickly.  I think I may also get a slightly greater royalty on the E-book version, given the much lower production costs, but I could be mistaken about that.  Of course, there will always be charm and beauty to a physical book.  I like them both.

Please stay well.  If your mother is still around, do give her a call—and a hug if you can.


CatC cover paperback

Link to Amazon

Some great news, and some not as great news.

Okay, well, I’m not going to be writing all that much today, but I do want to make an important announcement, one to which I’ve been building up for some time:  “The Chasm and the Collision” is out!  Here are the two versions, paperback and Kindle, from which you can choose (or if you can’t decide, you can feel free to buy one of each.  Or more than one of each.  Why not?  ^_^  ).  Just click on the image and you’ll be brought to the Amazon page where the book is listed:

CatC cover paperback



CatC cover kindle


Unfortunately, on the very day it was released (two days ago, now), my mother’s health took a downward turn.  She was already in the hospital after having felt a bit weak and having some other, more specific troubles, and her situation had become more complicated than it was expected to become.  Certainly, it was more complicated than I had expected it to become.  Anyway, now I’m writing this while sitting in the Greyhound station in Knoxville while they clean the bus, having left from Fort Lauderdale (on a different bus) yesterday morning.  I have not spoken with my mother’s doctors directly, but my sister has, and my mother is apparently not expected to recover.  She is certainly very weak.

This makes the whole situation quite bittersweet.  My mother was very much looking forward to this book—at least she said so, and I believe her—so it’s unpleasantly ironic for it to have come out the very day her health took a downturn that may prevent her from reading it.

Incidentally, I apologize that the cover differs somewhat from paperback to Kindle.  For some reason, I was unable to reproduce the paperback’s cover for the Kindle version, so I had to do something else.  (Something Other, you might say.)  Looking back, I actually kind of like the forced, ad-hoc Kindle cover.  Maybe I’ll release a second edition of the paperback that has the same cover as the Kindle one.

Ugh, I feel like my writing is terrible right now.  Of course, that doesn’t stop it from coming out.  One thing I can say for me, I don’t have trouble just getting some words out onto paper (or computer, as the case may be).  But my brain is quite foggy.  Even though I’ve spent most of my time sleeping since leaving the south Florida area, no one could ever claim that sleeping on a bus is actually restful.  Well…I guess they could claim it, but they would be lying, and what on Earth could lead them to such a deception?

Perhaps they are on the payroll of the Greyhound company…

Okay, well, that’s really all I have to say, more or less.  I was hoping to be as excited as Hell (and those who know Hell know just how excitable it is) when I announced the release of CatC.  And I am excited, of course.  But it’s an excitement tempered by grim anticipation and worry.  Hopefully you readers can be excited on my behalf.  I would be deeply grateful.

Also, please call your mothers, if you still have that option.


The Chasm approaches – watch your step!

CatC promo

Okay, well, another week has passed, and we are a week closer to the release of “The Chasm and the Collision” in both paperback and E-book formats.  In fact, as the above Facebook ad shows, it will be released this month (which comes as no surprise to those of you who read last week’s posting).  Even more excitingly—to me, certainly—is that it will be released within the next two weeks, and possibly within the next week.  There are still a few variables at play, so I don’t want to be too specific. Continue reading

The Chasm and the Collision is coming soon – or is that ARE coming soon? No, it IS coming soon.

Okay, well, it’s another Thursday morning, and time for me to write my weekly blog post.  I’m abstaining from writing philosophical and/or political things, today.  Those essays don’t seem to get as much response as my more lighthearted posts, and I never do seem to get good discussions going about them, which is a severe disappointment.  I suppose in the era of Facebook, and especially Twitter, expecting people to read anything longer than 140 characters (or that is not in the form of even fewer characters, written on an amusing or startling or eye-catching picture) is a bit delusional, let alone expecting people to write anything of substance in response.

Sigh.  Sometimes I despair.


On to much more positive matters:  The Chasm and the Collision is going to be out sometime within the next month, and I want to start generating a bit of hype for it.  Having to edit and edit and edit and edit and to do layout and to prepare things for publication are all relatively mind-numbing tasks, especially with a fairly long book, but they are essential.  And they bear delicious fruit in the long run, so they’re well worth the effort.

Anyway, I want to give you all a little preview, or introduction, or whatever the term might be, of The Chasm and the Collision, beyond some of what I’ve written here previously.

The story would be categorized as a fantasy/adventure novel, but in some ways it’s almost science fiction, because even the fantastic elements of the story have their basis in what are, in the novel, natural phenomena.  There are no spells or demons or witches, etc., in other words.

The story centers around 3 pre-teen middle school students, Alex, Meghan, and Simon.  One day, they eat a bunch of particularly delicious berries they find in the fruit bowl in Alex’s house, assuming them to be a healthy snack that Alex’s mother has left for him.  Starting that night, they begin to have strange dreams of a world with a changeless red sky, and a vast, mountainous city seemingly hanging in space off the edge of a cliff that seems to stretch on forever, with no far side.  Dreams, though, are not the only disturbing occurrences.  Meghan, Simon, and Alex begin to hear, and even see, bizarre and sometimes terrifying creatures that no one else can perceive.  Gradually, they learn about an approaching catastrophe of staggering proportions:  the impending collision of two universes, which would destroy everything that currently exists in both.  And one of those universes is our own.

The prevention of this cosmic catastrophe centers around a single, small tree in the middle of a garden at the top of the gigantic tower crowning the city that floats on the edge of the Chasm.  Alex, Simon, and Meghan find themselves in the seemingly impossible position of needing to help that tree carry out its preventive task.

However, this is not as simple as it might seem (har).  For there is an Other, an indescribable entity, out there in between the universes.  It, and its pawns, want very much for the collision to happen.  Our heroes must try to avoid discovery by this thing of anti-sanity, to do whatever small part they can to counter its wishes, and then—hopefully—to return to their normal lives as before.  They know they will probably not succeed completely at all three goals.

Well, there it is, a quick synopsis/teaser/summary/trailer for The Chasm and the Collision.  I’m planning on creating a few meme-style promotional images to put out into the cyberverse, to garner a bit of excitement.  If the story I described above sounds to you like it might be a good one, then please keep your ears pricked and your eyes peeled.  I’ll let you know when it’s available.

If you want to find out whether you like my fiction writing style, there are two free samples here on the blog:  “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords,” and Prometheus and Chiron.  Give them a read—they’re relatively short, the latter more than the former—and give me feedback, if you like.  Do remember that, unlike the two above stories, The Chasm and the Collision (CatC), is a family-friendly novel.  Though it can be scary at times, and certainly there is some violence in it, as in essentially all fantasy adventures, it isn’t gory violence.  There’s no sex, no drugs, and very little rock ‘n’ roll.  There aren’t even any effing swear words.  What the frak is that all about?

Okay, I’ll stop now before I bore you too much.  Soon I’ll begin my rundown and discussion of my favorite villains, and I think I’m going to begin with one of my personal favorites:  The psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  In the meantime, you fly back to school now, little starlings.


My heroes have always been villains

I recently posted a paragraph on my Facebook page to the effect that I was considering writing a book about the importance of villains in literature, and dissecting the characters of some of my favorites.  Clearly this wouldn’t be the first time that someone has explored this territory—I’m not the first person to notice that bad guys dominate the story development of most large-scale, epic-style literature.  It’s pretty obvious.  Where would the “Lord of the Rings” be without Sauron (and Middle-earth overall without Morgoth)?  Where would comic books be without Dr. Doom, Thanos, Lex Luthor, the Joker, and so on?  Where would “Paradise Lost” be without Satan (the arguable “hero” as well as villain of much of the story)?  Where would Othello be without Iago, where would Hamlet be without his uncle, where would MacBeth be without…well, without MacBeth?  Continue reading

Sort of about my children, the figurative and the literal ones

For the past several weeks I’ve written about philosophy, politics, language, and general esoterica.  In other words, I’ve written posts intended to be thought-provoking, or at least to convey my thoughts on pet peeves of mine.  Now, I’m going to write something a little more personal.

I want to let all interested readers know that I’m close to being ready to publish “The Chasm and the Collision.”  In fact, I plan to release it in August.  The editing process is proceeding well, and it should be done before the end of this month.  I read somewhere that, unless you have begun to hate your book a little by the time you’re finished, then you haven’t edited enough.  I don’t know how much empirical data there is behind that pronouncement, but if it’s true, then I have come close to editing my book enough.  Not that I truly have begun to hate it; all my books are labors of love, my figurative children.  But it is a fact that rereading, rewriting, and editing become tedious after a while.

This is probably a good thing.  It’s difficult to look at one’s own work objectively, which can impair one’s ability to edit as ruthlessly as one ought.  So, it’s useful if rewriting and editing lead the author to become detached and harsher toward his or her work.

I’m also a fan of the advice Stephen King apparently received in response to one of his earliest submissions as a young writer:  your final draft should be your first draft minus 10%.  This can be a difficult goal to achieve, but trimming the fat is good, especially if you tend to write very quickly, as I do, and are verbose, as I am.  I don’t always achieve the target percentage, but it’s good to set the bar high.  If you aim for a lofty goal, then even if you don’t quite reach it, you’ll at least achieve something worthy of note, if not of song.

“The Chasm and the Collision,” (to which I often refer as “CatC”) is a particularly special book for me.  I started writing it in jail and finished writing it in prison (I’ll say it clearly:  I was bullied into a plea bargain, but I do not admit to being guilty of criminal activity, though I was certainly naïve).  It was dedicated from the start to my children, and was written with them in mind.  When I came up with it, my son had begun middle school, and my daughter was going to start it shortly.  Also, they—like their mother and me—were fans of the Harry Potter stories and similar fantastic adventures.  So, I wanted to write a fantasy adventure with middle-school students as the heroes.  I thought of the idea in Gun Club, only finally finishing it at FSP West, in Raiford, where I would awaken at lights-on (about 3:30 am), and write 3 to 4 pages every day.  It was on this schedule that I wrote “Mark Red,” “Paradox City,” “The Chasm and the Collision,” and started “Son of Man.”

Of course, those were all hand-written, and my handwriting is horrible.  It’s taken a long time to get everything together, to re-write, and to edit all these books and stories.  I wanted to get practice in on the others before turning to CatC.  On the advice of my father, I decided not to put so much as a single curse word in this book.  Those of you who have read my other works may realize how atypical this is.  I write my dialogue in as close to natural form as I can achieve, and novels rarely involve people in pleasant, sedate circumstances; they tend to involve massive stress.  People under stress—even young people—often use profanity.  Or maybe I’ve just always hung around the wrong crowd.

Anyway, CatC is reader friendly to all ages, in the sense of not having bad language.  It is dark at times, of course—that’s the nature of fantasy adventure.  But it’s optimistic nevertheless.  I like my characters, and I hope the readers do as well.  Above all, I hope my children will read the book and enjoy it.  I haven’t seen either of them since before I went to prison, and while I have spoken with and exchanged emails with my daughter, my son has been unwilling to communicate with me at all.  With any luck, this book—and my others—might make them one day feel proud of me again, maybe even more than they would have if I were still practicing medicine.  Who knows, they might even someday be willing to admit to others that they’re related to me.

Nothing else is very important.  I miss my children terribly; I have missed so much of their growing up, and though I’ve obeyed their own requests and not tried to disrupt their lives by forcing my way back into them using the legal system that I despise, my heart breaks daily.  I love writing, and I continue to work hard at it (even while still working full-time at my “day job”), and I want to make and do things that bring joy to others and help me feel good about myself.  But without my children, nothing in the universe is of any deep importance to me.

Without them, to be honest, I could readily and without regret say goodbye to it all.


A Voice from the Chasm

Hello, everyone—or at least everyone who’s reading this.  I hope you’re all doing well and having a wonderful Spring.  It’s been hot and muggy here lately, even for south Florida, but then again, warm weather is the reason I moved here.  I have no right, nor deep desire, to complain.

All right, enough pointless chit-chat.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I’ve been very busy working on the rewriting and editing of “The Chasm and the Collision,” and that’s quite a task; it’s a long book.  Prior to editing, it weighed in at a quarter of a million words, so the tweaking process is a laborious one, albeit a labor of love.  I’m very excited about the novel, of course.  I think it’s a good story, full of mystery, friendship, adventure, discovery, wonder, and—most especially—danger.

I also, of course, have not yet been able to quit my proverbial day job, so I do a great deal of my writing and editing on the train during my commute, and sometimes at lunch time and at lag times at the office.  This places some inevitable limits on my output.

But I don’t like going for so long without having written on my blog.  For one thing, on a purely mercenary and commercial level, to keep people interested in what one has to say, one has to keep saying things.  That in itself is not an adequate reason to write, however.  A vastly more important consideration is the fact that I do, in fact, have a great deal to say.  My cell phone’s memo app contains a list of a few dozen article ideas that rage to be released, and one cannot forever keep an untamed idea in captivity, lest one kill its spirit.

So, I’ve decided to designate Thursdays as my day for writing non-fiction.  There are many topics—political philosophy, science, creativity, art, popular culture, and even spirituality, to name a few—on which I have thoughts that I’d like to explore.  Therefore, henceforth, on those days on which we all pay our respects to the god of thunder, I will take a break from writing fiction and devote myself to producing blog articles such as this one.

This doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to release these articles on Thursdays specifically, or every Thursday.  Though I tend to write quickly, I don’t know that I can do justice to all the topics I have in mind, and to whatever others continue to pop up, in one day of a week.  Nevertheless, I will do my best to keep my output asymptotically close to that idealized mean.  I suppose it’s just possible that, if the fit strikes me and I simply cannot control an article that forces itself to be written, I may even come out with more than one in the occasional seven-day period.

Those of you who anticipate my next book with bated breath need not fear, however!  The rest of my week will continue to be devoted to my first and greatest love:  writing fiction.  In fiction, we are given the chance to experience the world through the lives and minds of others, albeit imaginary others.  This is not only one of the most wonderful sources of joy humans have ever created, it also allows us to practice seeing the world from others’ points of view.  This skill, or habit, or whatever one might call it, is crucial for helping us get along with our fellow humans, with some of which we will inevitably have differences.  Especially in the fractured political climate of present day America, this seems to me to be an ability we could all stand to enhance, myself included.

Einstein is quoted as saying that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Despite the apparent implicit assumption behind many Facebook memes, just because some famous person—even some famously very smart person—said something doesn’t make it correct, or even sensible.  In this case, however, I think the words are true (though knowledge is certainly crucial as well).  The human imagination is not only our first and greatest virtual reality device; it is also a remarkable virtual laboratory, in which we can experiment with actions, as well as with ideas and points of view, some of them different from whatever might have occurred to us previously.  To read what another person has written is to have them thinking inside our heads.  It’s truly remarkable if you stop and ponder it, and something most of us take for granted, yet it’s something that, as far as we know, only humans can do.  It is a tremendous, perhaps the primary, source of our power…and it is also, I think, one of the most important tools to keep us from abusing that power.  And fiction is perhaps the most potent rough-hewer of that tool.

Perhaps more crucially, though, it is simply a wonderful and mostly harmless joy.  And a life without joy is, I think, worse than no life at all.

I look forward to writing more and to receiving any feedback you might wish to give me.  I’m on Facebook and on Twitter (the former more than the latter), but I would especially love to read your responses in the comment section below, after any article that strikes you as interesting, provokes thought (or outrage), or in which you disagree with me and want to point out why.

In the meantime, and as almost always, I wish you all well.