The Chasm and the Collision, Chapter 3, “The Waves in the Wall” – the audio

Well, here it is, the audio for the third chapter of The Chasm and the Collision, read by me.  It will be posted on YouTube sometime early next week, but for the moment, feel free to listen to it here.  As always, feel free to download it, share it, etc., but you’re not authorized to make any money off of it…

…even if you could.

By the way, for ease of use, here are links to the entries on my blog where you can listen to earlier chapters:

The Chasm and the Collision Chapter 1:  A Fruitful Day and a Frightful Night

The Chasm and the Collision Chapter 2:  Shared Visions

Also, here are the links to the audio for my thee short stories, so you can easily navigate to them:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”

Prometheus and Chiron

Hole for a Heart


I hope you enjoy.  Remember, if you like them, you can find them all (in written form) at Amazon.  You can find my author’s page here.


My heroes have always been villains, Episode II: Sauron, lord of Mordor

It’s the second Thursday of the month and, as promised, this is the second installment of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Today, I discuss one of the greatest villains in modern fantasy literature:  Sauron of Mordor, the title character of The Lord of the Rings.

Peter Jackson’s amazing LotR movies (and the slightly less amazing The Hobbit movies) have brought Sauron to the attention of the population at large to a greater degree than ever before, but he was hardly a shrinking violet to begin with.  Millions upon millions of us met him in the books, after getting teased by him as the Necromancer in The Hobbit.

Except…well, we never really met him, did we?  Tolkien uses Sauron in The Lord of the Rings almost as H. P. Lovecraft uses Cthulhu, Azathoth, and all his other Great Old Ones, more as a symbol, as a force of nature, than as a character.  This tactic has its pluses and minuses, and I’ve always had mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, the lack of an actual character of Sauron gave him an increased mystique, rather the way unseen and inscrutable entities in horror stories can increase their fearfulness, as we project all our worst personal nightmares onto them.  Sauron can also be the literary representation of real-world threats to “the free peoples of the world”, from Hitler and Stalin to Saddam Hussein, all the way back to Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.  Yet, he’s even worse than that, for he is in some sense the representation of a physical, universal force rather than “merely” a bad guy.  Of course, we’re given hints here and there, as in Aragorn’s telling of his summary of the story of Beren and Lúthien, that Sauron is not the ultimate evil in the world, but was the servant of the Great Enemy, Morgoth.  That’s all we’re really told, though.  So, for now at least, Sauron is very much the force of evil in Middle-Earth.

But he really is very much a force, not a character.  The only time we ever see any person-to-person interaction with him is second-hand, when Pippin relates his harrowing experience of looking through the Palantir, through which he meets the Dark Lord himself.  It’s certainly a terrible encounter for Pippin, but it must be said that Sauron isn’t especially impressive in that interaction.  He misreads the situation seriously, and his dialogue is not as moving and powerful as we might have hoped from such a deadly entity.  This is clearly not because Tolkien was unable to write powerful dialogue—there have been few better at such things in the modern world.  I suspect that Tolkien is deliberately showing that, though Sauron is dreadful and dangerous beyond easy comprehension, he’s not really all that bright in many ways.  He’s driven by a sense of ever-present fear, and though he’s done some impressive and clever things in the past, as when he fooled Celebrimbor et al into making the Great Rings, he doesn’t seem particularly imaginative or able to see and understand the minds of his enemies except at the most superficial level.

Again, I suspect Tolkien does this on purpose.  I think his point in general is that, usually, evil is born of a limitation of the mind, a dysfunction, and that the evilest characters are, in many ways, profoundly limited (Gandalf himself describes Sauron as a “wise fool”).  This may well be a fact of reality, and it’s probably a good lesson to promulgate, but Sauron’s lack of personality has always disappointed me slightly.  That disappointment is very slight, though; overall, as a force of nature, with the dark majesty and terror met by the other characters—especially by Frodo and Sam—his impersonal nature is brilliantly effective.  There’s a reason these are some of the greatest books in the modern world, after all.

Of course, if one wants to encounter Sauron as more than a symbolic natural force, one need only read The Silmarillion.  He doesn’t have a huge presence there—it’s very much the story of Melkor/Morgoth and his war with the Valar and the elves.  However, as Morgoth’s chief lieutenant and right-hand man, Sauron can’t help but make appearances, especially in the tale of Beren and Lúthien.  He certainly is seen with a bit more depth here, but he doesn’t come off too well, doing most of such winning as he does through treachery rather than cleverness, before he is overcome by Huan, the Hound of the Valar (though he has an impressive magical battle with Finrod).  Other than this, Sauron is barely mentioned in the later parts of the main story.

In the Akallabêth, the Downfall of Númenor, we get to see much more of Sauron, in what seems to be his “finest” hour, when he uses cunning and manipulation, applied over decades to centuries, against the people of Númenor, who are too strong for him to defeat militarily.  It’s an impressive display of beguilement and deceit, worthy of Iago, but it’s still not that awe-inspiring, and it leads to the destruction of Sauron’s “fair” physical form when the island nation falls.

(This has always led me to wonder how Sauron didn’t lose the Ring when he lost his shape.  He’d obviously made the ring earlier, because he’d been able to assume fair shape when he deceived the elves into making the Rings of Power, and after the downfall he was never able to look anything but horrifying.  So, did he not have the Ring when he was in Númenor for all those years?  If not, where did he leave it?  Would he really have trusted it to anyone else, or to be safe in any stronghold?  If he did have it, how did he not lose it when Númenor, and his body, were swallowed by the sea?  I have yet to encounter a good explanation for this.)

So, though Sauron is one of the quintessential villains of modern fantasy literature, he is a symbol, a force, rather than a character.  To the degree to which he is a character, he seems to be Tolkien’s critique of the weakness of mind that leads one to become, or to continue to do, evil.  This may well have been deliberate on Tolkien’s part, and is a respectable line to take.  But it does mean that Sauron, however awesome and scary he can be, lacks a certain complexity and pathos, unlike, say, the character of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, whom I discussed in the last installment, and many of the villains I will be discussing in the future.  Nevertheless, he holds a special place of honor, as one of the most powerful, most formative influences on me of the nature of large-scale villainy in fantastic literature.

I think it’s clear, if you look through all the works, in all media, that have followed The Lord of the Rings, that I am not alone in this.

The Chasm and the Collision, Chapter 2: Shared Visions – the audio

Here it is, my audio for Chapter 2 of CatC.  I hope you enjoy it!

As always, feel free to listen, to download, and to share, but do not charge anyone or otherwise make any money from this.

Author’s note for “The Chasm and the Collision”

CatC cover paperback

See on Amazon

The Chasm and the Collision is my currently published novel that has the most recent—and what might be thought inauspicious—origins.  I came up with the idea for it while I was an involuntary resident of Gun Club Road, a period lasting eight months.  It was a longer stretch of enforced restriction from most of the sources of intellectual stimulation to which I was used than I think I’ve experienced either before or since.

During that time, thanks to the help of my ex-wife, I was able to keep in contact with my children by calling them two days a week—though the calls were restricted to fifteen minutes at a time, and this was disheartening (though positively luxurious compared to my current interactions).  My children were around eleven and twelve at the time, my son just entering middle school and my daughter in the latter year or so of elementary school. Continue reading

The Chasm and the Collision

CatC cover paperback

Click here to go to Amazon

Middle-school students Alex, Meghan, and Simon discover a cluster of delightfully fragrant, irresistibly delicious berries in the fruit bowl in Alex’s house.  Assuming the berries to have been bought by Alex’s mother, they eat them all.  But this fruit is like nothing ever grown on Earth.

That night, the friends share a dream about an impossible city-mountain floating at the edge of a horizon-spanning cliff with no other side, just an endless rusty sky.  Over the next few days, they begin to see and hear strange people and bizarre creatures that no one else seems to notice.  Eventually, they are abducted to the world of their dream, where the sky is always sunset, where feathered reptiles work alongside humans, where mole-weasel creatures dig caverns by manipulating space itself, and where the miraculous plants can think and communicate telepathically with gifted individuals called Gardeners.  There they learn of an impending catastrophe of horrifying proportions:  The collision of that world’s universe with ours, a cataclysm that would destroy everything in both realms!

They also learn that there are people—and an Other—that want the collision to happen, in order to fulfill a terrible prophecy.  Now Alex, Meghan, and Simon must do what they can, with new abilities they have gained by eating the berries, to escape from those who serve that prophecy, and eventually to help save both universes…all while trying not to get in trouble for being late to school.

Mark Red

Mark Red Cover

Click here to see on Amazon


Mark Reed is an ordinary teenage boy. When he sees a woman being attacked, he rushes to help her, only to be stabbed by her assailant. But the woman he sought to aid was a vampire, and as he lies, bleeding to death in an alley, he sees her deal easily with her attacker. Then, unwilling to let him die because of the heroism of his actions, she saves his life…the only way she can.

The next day, Mark awakens to find that he has been changed in ways he could not have believed, potentially forever. Now he must hide his new nature from his family and friends, learning about his powers and the dangers they entail, and looking for a cure for his new condition. All the while he must guard against his nearly irresistible blood-lust, for if he should kill a human by draining their blood, he will become a full vampire.

And a full vampire can never be cured, even by death.

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