The Vagabond

Vagabond ppb cover

A young teacher named Martin Wallace picks up a strange hitchhiker in an overcoat and an old-fashioned hat on his way to his new job in the university town of Eddington.

A college student named Janice Lundgren starts to have vivid and terrifying nightmares featuring a figure in a hat and overcoat, his face always obscured.

A prostitute named Ami Forrester is horrifically murdered by a man in a gray overcoat and gray felt hat. The following night, her body disappears and the doctor who was to perform her autopsy is found dead. They are not the last to die unnaturally.

In the same week, Jake Schneider, another college student, is surprised by a visit from his cousin, Scott. Though Scott initially claims to have come for a self-reflective break from his own studies, it soon becomes clear that he knows or suspects something about the murders in Eddington.

When pressured by Jake, who himself has experienced uncanny visions and disturbing encounters, Scott reveals that he is not merely visiting to take a break from college. He is pursuing the man who brutally murdered his parents…a man who wore a gray overcoat and a gray, felt fedora.

But this killer is not merely a man. He has already survived Scott stabbing him through the heart. No one who sees him can ever remember his face. And what he does to his victims is worse than murder.

Jake, Scott, and Janice, with the help of Janice’s mother, a self-proclaimed psychic, learn that this entity has come to Eddington to perform a ritual that will lead to untold, eternal horror for the entire world. And Jake, it seems, is the only one who might be able to stop it.

But how can three college students and a Greenwich Village psychic possibly stand against an entity that has wandered the world for tens of thousands of years, that can warp the human mind, that can never be recognized for what it really is unless it allows itself to be seen…an entity whose power is growing as its goal comes closer…an entity that can consume the very souls of those who might stand in its way?

In delay there lies not plenty; Then, come blog me, sweet and twenty

Hello and good morning everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and of course, that means it’s time for my weekly blog post, which is obvious unless this is your first time reading it.  If it is your first time: Welcome!  It’s great to have you here.

It’s a rather auspicious week for me, in ways that I have difficulty even processing.  A few days ago, I finished the final editing run-through of The Vagabond.  It was Monday, in fact, the Ides of March (and my brother’s birthday).  Since then, I’ve been working on layout and adjusting chapter divisions, working on the cover design, as well as adjusting the pages for the size of book that it’s going to be.  Taking care of these nitty-gritty details is surprisingly satisfying, and they also take a lot less time than the actual writing of the novel…which is good, because this novel has been in the works for a very long time.

As I think I’ve discussed here before, I first started writing this story while I was an undergrad, way back in the very late eighties or, just possibly, in early 1990.  But I think it was the eighties.  This is, of course, why the story takes place in that era, at a university and in a city that is remarkably like the place in which I did my undergraduate degree.  Indeed, a few of the major characters are quite strongly based on friends of mine from the time—though not all of them.  None of them are really based on me, any more than is every character I’ve ever written, since they come from my head and my fingers.  Though, admittedly, the main character is a Physics Major because, at the time, I was a Physics Major, and his struggle to deal with the fact of the supernatural intrusion into his reality is rather like what I think mine would be if I were to encounter such things.

The prologue of the book was the first part that I wrote, unsurprisingly.  Though there have been some minor changes, it’s largely as I first created it, and so it’s been waiting for publication for more than thirty years.  The last part of the novel wasn’t drafted until quite some time after that…certainly well into the nineties, and probably closer to their end or even the beginning of the 2000s.  I had a lot going on at the time and wasn’t as committed to writing as I am now.  And, to be uncommonly generous to myself, I’ll admit that post-baccalaureate courses, medical school, residency, and so on took a lot of my time and more of my energy.  Then, of course, came the start of medical practice, and the incomparably wonderful birth of my children, and then later, the much less wonderful development of my severe back problem and chronic pain, with subsequent career derailment and other consequent collisions of various sorts*.  Good fun.  The Vagabond himself would no doubt laugh at me heartily, but then, he’s a particularly nasty sort.

Still, though in the course of those years many things have failed, and I have failed at many things, it’s nevertheless amazing for me to know that, soon—before the end of the month, and perhaps even by the end of this week—The Vagabond will be available for purchase by the general public, pretty much the whole world over thanks to Amazon and Kindle.

It’s rather funny to realize that, though it felt like a somewhat long book when I was writing it—and not merely because I took so long to do so—it now feels comparatively short.  This is, of course, mainly because I’m finishing it just after having finished and published Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2, which in first draft was literally a half-a-million-words long.  Geez Louise.  That felt like it took a long time, and I worked on it almost uninterrupted from start to finish.  And, indeed, it did take a long time.

But though both are horror stories, The Vagabond is a different kind of horror story than Unanimity**.  It’s flagrantly supernatural, inspired by my love of the works of Stephen King, and Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson, and H. P. Lovecraft, and others like them.  There’s even a “haunted house” in it.  Though local in scale, it’s apocalyptic in its implications and the danger involved.  This is further subtly connected to my novel*** The Chasm and the Collision, which itself has connections to my long-lost work Ends of the Maelstrom, facts of which underlie much of the multiverse of my creations, though not in overt ways.  Even if Ends of the Maelstrom existed out in the world, and you had read it, you might not recognize the connections, but they are there, in my head, and they provide some of the architecture of good and evil in many of my stories.  I don’t think this matters much to anyone’s enjoyment of any of the stories, but in my mind, at least, it’s nice to have that connection and continuity.

Anyway, I’m rambling on, talking about things that may only be interesting to me, and which may bore the bejeezus out of nearly anyone else who might be reading.  But I am, in my quiet and peculiar way, excited.  Like the Vagabond himself, I’ve been waiting a long time for this, and I wasn’t at all sure it would happen.  And unlike the Vagabond, the end of my quest and journey is one that other people can enjoy, if they are so inclined.

I hope you’re looking forward to it, at least a tiny fraction of how much I am looking forward to it.  In the meantime, please take care of each other and yourselves, and stay safe and healthy, and try to be happy as often and as long as you can.

TTFN

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*Figuratively, not literally.

**Which is quasi-sci-fi, by which I mean that the events in it are nominally “natural” but are in fact impossible according to the laws of nature as we know them.  Thus, it is really a supernatural horror story, but with the supernatural well-disguised…though I throw a nod to it by giving a cameo to a location and entity from my short story, Hole for a Heart.

***Which is not a horror novel, any more than the Harry Potter books are horror novels.  Which, of course, means that there are definite elements of horror in it—as in all good fantasy adventures, in my opinion.

There is a kind of character in thy blog, that to the observer doth thy history fully unfold.

Hello, again, and good morning, again, and welcome once again to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.

It’s the second Thursday of the month, and at one time it would have been the occasion for an edition of “My heroes have always been villains,” but that’s long since been abandoned due to lack of reader interest.  Oh, well, I probably would quickly have run out of interesting villains to discuss.  There are plenty of fictional baddies out there, of course, but there aren’t all that many that really merit exploration and discussion.  Villains are a necessary part of nearly any fictional adventure, and often of other kinds of tales as well, but they frequently have little depth.

One villain, however, retains acute pertinence and interest for me, and that is the title character of The Vagabond.  I’m within fifty pages of finishing the final edit of the book, and then will come the remaining layout and finishing of the cover design before publication.  That should all happen by the end of March, so that’s something to look forward to, for those of you who like horror stories with well-fleshed-out supernatural villains.  For the Vagabond is no merely supernatural force, something elemental and impersonal, though those can be wonderful antagonists in horror stories.

Essentially all of H. P. Lovecraft’s dark entities (for instance) are not characters so much as ideas, physical representations of forces of nature (and unnature).  If they have character, it is beyond human comprehension.  This can make them exceptionally frightening.  It’s bad enough to face an entity that hates you and wants to hurt you, but at least you matter to such villains.  Hate is just the opposite side of the coin of love, after all, and is a form of attachment and connection, though it’s one that’s well worth avoiding.  But Lovecraft’s beings don’t really care or think much about humans, much like Terry Pratchett’s creatures from the “dungeon dimensions”.  To them, humans are not much more than ants or cockroaches…and they are decidedly not entomologist types, so they have no affection for humans, even as subjects of study.

But the Vagabond is a character.  In fact, he’s the second character we meet in the book.  I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers by saying that.  It’s pretty obvious within seconds of encountering him that he’s not quite…right, as it were.  For him (he identifies as male, as they say), humans do very much matter, but only because he really, really dislikes us.  It would be far better for us if he didn’t care at all.

I’ve had no success in hunting down the scanned version of my old, favorite drawing of the Vagabond (which I know I scanned at some point, and which I could swear I’ve seen sometime in the last eight years, but for the life of me I don’t know where).  I’m very disappointed.  I wanted to at least base my cover on that drawing, though I would probably embellish and alter it in some ways.  I can see the picture clearly in my mind’s eye—I’m the one who drew it, after all.  But that doesn’t mean I could reproduce it.  I’m out of practice with drawing, and practice really does make a difference.  Also, that drawing captured something that I don’t think I could mimic readily.  I’ve tried sketching some version of it from time to time, but I haven’t liked any of the results.

So, I’m pursuing other means of making the imagery I want.  I’ve done a sort of “sketch” if you will (though it’s not a drawing) of the impression he gives, and I’ll include it in this post, below.  It’s not the final form of the cover by any means—there are ways it doesn’t quite match his overall look, though it’s very close.  Still, it gives something of a taste of what I recall capturing in the drawing, and the impression I have of him in my mind.

Take a look.  See if he’s someone you would want to pick up if you saw him hitchhiking along the interstate.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t—not that you would have any choice, if he decided he wanted a ride from you.

Vagabond cover prohect 3

So anyway, that’s fairly exciting, for me, and I hope that some of you are at least interested or intrigued.  It’s been more than thirty years since I first started this novel, and to see it finally published is something for which I had given up hope.  Thanks be to my ex-wife for discovering and sending it to me (and for many other things besides)!  It was dedicated to her from the start*, and so it shall stay, departing from my usual practice of dedicating my stories to my children.  I hope, quite fervently, that she will read it (again) when it’s published.  I know she liked it, once upon a time.

And with that ironic phrase, I’ll begin drawing this post to a close.  I’m still having trouble getting into fiction reading—or even watching—and frankly, even nonfiction is getting harder to find engaging.  But my passion for writing stories (and blog posts) remains, and I hope those of you not currently suffering from my peculiar literary ailment will enjoy reading them.  And, of course, I hope that you are and will remain well and happy.

TTFN


*This may seem a strange form of honor, but trust me, it was never meant or taken negatively.  Horror fiction was one of the things that brought us together, though it was not the primary one.  I even wrote my short story Solitaire while keeping her company as she worked on a project overnight for a summer job.  She read it soon after, but it was a bit dark even for her.  If I remember correctly, she said something along the lines of, “It’s a great story…but where the hell did that come from?”  I couldn’t say.  I was in quite a good mood, since I was spending time with the woman with whom I was very much in love.  I did tend to play a lot of solitaire at the time (with real cards), so obviously that was a trigger, but as for the substance of the admittedly quite horrific story…who knows?

Nor blog nor poison, malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further.

Hello and good morning to everyone reading—and since this is written language, I’m only addressing anyone who happens to be reading it, wherever and whenever that might be.  It’s Thursday again here, as always seems to happen at this time of the week, so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

There’s not much new going on with me.  Of course, I’m continuing to work on The Vagabond, and am well into the final run-through/edit of the book, which means that shortly I’ll be laying it out and preparing it for publication.  That’s exciting, at least for me, but I hope it might be to some other people out there.  It’s a more-or-less classical style horror story, a tale of what Stephen King might call “outside evil” threatening first the residents of a small university city, but ultimately threatening everything in the human world (and—it being “outside evil”—things beyond the human world).  In the process, it does some horrifying and, I hope, terrifying things.

As I think I’ve said before, it’s a bit shorter than some of my other novels, except possibly Son of Man*, and the story moves along quickly.  I suspect that’s partly because I wrote it over the course of a long period of time—ironically—and thus tended to get on with things in the story when I took it up.  Despite that, it hangs together very nicely in style and character development and all that high-falutin’ stuff, which is nice.  I’m reasonably proud of it, as far as that goes.  And I think that other people, people who enjoy horror and who enjoy dark adventure/fantasy in a so-called real-world setting will also enjoy it.

As for everything else, well, there’s not much to say.  “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps on in this petty pace from day to day,” as the man wrote.  I’m still having a great deal of trouble even finding the urge to read new fiction—or old fiction, for that matter—or to watch movies or TV shows, or anything of the sort.  I bought the new Stephen King novella collection If it Bleeds, but I couldn’t even get well into the first story before losing my ability to sustain interest.  I’m doing a bit better with science-related non-fiction, especially physics and math-oriented material, but I burn through the books too quickly, and I’m running out of ones that entice me.  I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to re-read books of that type that I’ve read before (which is what I usually do), nor even to listen to the audiobooks during my commute.  Even my go-to YouTube channels like Numberphile and Sixty Symbols are coming up dry for me.  I haven’t even watched the most recent two or three videos of PBS Space Time!  It’s very troubling to me (intellectually, anyway…emotionally it’s just the background hiss of the universe) how even the things that usually command my interest without fail, without even trying, have become “weary, stale, and flat.”

Speaking of YouTube**, it’s a common theme amongst YouTubers and bloggers and other, similar creative people to ask their viewers/readers to “like” and to “subscribe” to their channels and, if they like what they’re doing, to consider supporting them through such things as Patreon or that “cup of coffee” thing, and whatnot.  I very much like these new ways of supporting creative work, which bypass the need for interceding corporations and marketing departments***.  I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of participating in some such service.  But I think I’d prefer just to say that, if you like my blog(s) and want to support it/them…buy some of my books!  Even if you don’t tend to read novels or short stories, or if you don’t tend to read sci-fi/fantasy/horror and whatnot, it would still be a way to support me at more than one level.

My books are all available on Amazon in paperback and e-book form, and the latest is available through Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, too.  It gives me a little boost when someone buys one—monetarily but also emotionally, which I think everyone can I agree I could use.  More importantly for me, if you have the book, there’s the possibility that you might read it sometime when you’re feeling desperate and have no other means of escape.  And if you do, I think you’ll probably enjoy it, at least if you like those types of stories.  I’ve been told that I tell a story very well****.

Of course, you can also support me by listening to my songs, on YouTube or Spotify (they’re also up on Pandora and iTunes and a bunch of other sites for which I don’t have links, but if you go there and search for “Robert Elessar” they should pop up).  I’m not as confident that these are very enjoyable, though I like them.  But even the very long song is only six and a half minutes long, and I make a few cents every time someone plays them.  If you can Like and Share them when you listen (oh, the irony!), that’s always a bonus.  I also have some other stuff on my own personal YouTube channel, but that’s not monetized.  Still, it’s got some of my stories read aloud by the author (me).  It also has my “bad covers” of some songs I like, and one song of my own that I haven’t released as an official “single”.

But, of course, just reading and liking, and if you feel like it “like”-ing this blog is also good.  I hate trying to persuade people to read my stuff or to listen to my music or otherwise tooting my own horn.  I just don’t like myself well enough to be able to recommend me in good conscience*****.  This is where those marketing people really come in handy.  I always just feel, “Well, I know that I like it, but I’m the one who made it, so you can’t judge by me.  I can’t in all honesty tell other people that it’s great or terrific, even if I feel like it is and am proud of it, because they might think its crap.”  For reasons that are far from clear to me, I feel terribly nervous about becoming a sort of poor man’s Kanye West.  Which highlights, I suppose, the one advantage (if that really is an appropriate term, which it’s not) that bipolar disorder has over unipolar depression and dysthmymia.  Rightly or wrongly, at least occasionally people afflicted with it feel really good about themselves.  Even Stephen Fry admitted that’s a comparative benefit.

Anyway, I’ve said far more than I had to say today, so I’ll bring it to an end, here.  I honestly hope that you’re all well, and that you try to be good, and that you do your best to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Which had its origin as a book idea not too many years after I had first started what I then simply called Vagabond.

**I was, you can check.

***Don’t get me wrong, I have terrific respect for marketing departments.  Before the past few years, almost all music, books, plays, TV shows, and so on only came to people’s attention—including yours and mine—thanks to the often wonderfully creative work of marketing professionals. But I suspect that industry/profession is continuing to do quite well, so I don’t feel too bad about working around them.

****But then again, I do talk to myself too much.

*****Now there’s a serious understatement.

When shall we three blog again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Hello and good morning—so to speak—and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I suspect that this week’s writing will be affected by the fact that I got thoroughly soaked on my way into work today and am thus rather uncomfortable.  So much for weather reports of “light rain”.  I won’t be able to get a change of clothes until I go home this evening, so I’m likely to be damp and sticky for most of the day.  I guess it could be much worse.  I guess it could always be much worse.  That’s one of the wonderful things about reality; it has no bottom level—it’s basements all the way down.

As you may be aware, I finished my “bad cover” of the Beatles’ You Never Give Me Your Money and posted a link to it here and directly shared it on Iterations of Zero.  Have a listen if you’re at all interested.  I have to apologize for the opening piano part, which—despite recording and rerecording five times, and trying to adjust in many ways using the sound-editing software, I couldn’t get to sound quite right without either a real piano or a much more expensive electronic one than I have available.  I finally got frustrated and just gave up and left it with the best I had so far.  The rest of the song isn’t too bad, though, and the guitar parts were played on my very good Strat, which was built by my house-mate—who is a much better guitarist than I am—and is also very good at putting a guitar together and improving it.

I have now returned more or less fully to working on The Vagabond, the title of which contains a definite article that is still going to take me a long time to internalize.  I’m on the second run-through, and I’ve found that I need to alter or clarify a few things to get rid of some time-continuity issues that I never noticed when originally writing it.  This is pretty typical, though.  I’ve found it useful literally to keep a running tab of what the day and date is in my stories—at least the ones where such a thing is pertinent—to make sure I don’t create too many embarrassing accidental contradictions.

It’s peculiar that the time of year in this story is almost the same as that in Unanimity.  I guess I implicitly think that horror in a university setting should start in the fall, early in the academic year.  Those who have been to university might think it would be more appropriate to put the real horror at the time of final exams, but somehow, I have yet to do so.  Maybe I feel that it’s too unfair to interrupt students who are studying and cramming, since that can be stressful enough.

I have to say—referring to the above-mentioned soaking—I’m getting sick of the weather here in Florida.  It’s been raining almost nonstop for a period of, oh, let’s see…forever, I think.  This is not an unusual pattern.  This tendency, in addition to the fact that there are no changing leaves in autumn—which I miss sorely, as I even miss wintertime*— is something without which I could do.  The meteorological patterns aren’t the only things wonky about Florida, though.  The politics here is/are frankly idiotic, as anyone who has followed the news since at least the year 2000 should know.  I don’t think that I would have spent three years as an invited guest of the DOC in any other state in which I’ve lived**; perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, as well as being too generous with myself***.

The natural beauty in Florida is, of course, stunning and remarkable, with much wildlife one doesn’t tend to see anywhere else in the US—including introduced species like the Burmese python and some very large iguanas, as well as numerous more indigenous reptiles and oodles of beautiful and amazing birds, insects, and arachnids.  But these and other natural wonders are all but driven into unnoticeability by that most problematic of introduced species:  The Naked House Ape, which is a terrible pest here.

I’m not in the best of moods, even for me, I’m afraid.  Apologies.

I still enjoy writing, at least (and the editing/rewriting process as well, though not quite as much as the initial composition), and that’s a very good thing, since it’s pretty much all I have****.  I really need to get back to posting on Iterations of Zero, so I can keep the relatively dark stuff (other than dark fiction) out of this blog.

But, of course, as I’ve said many times in many ways, there is a reason that a lot of what I write is dark and that most of my short stories are horror stories.  Even The Chasm and the Collision has its quite dark moments, being a fantasy adventure.  And I just finished rereading Son of Man, my science fiction novel, which has as one of its central points the previous, deliberate destruction of most of the human race in an event of “biblical” proportions, called the Conflagration.  Weirdly enough, my demi-vampire story, Mark Red, may be less dark than most of my other writings.

Ah, well, it is what it is.  Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge likes it.  It must be cheap; ninety five percent of the universe is made up of “dark” matter and “dark” energy, after all.  The ironically-named “ordinary matter”, such as what comprises us and everything we can actually see in any wavelength of light, constitutes a mere rounding error among the matter and energy of the cosmos—a very brief candle indeed.

On that cheery note, I’ll call it done for today.  Despite my gloomy demeanor, I wish all of you the best of all possible days and weeks and months and years.  Try to stay safe and healthy, please.

TTFN


*I grew up in Michigan, then did my undergraduate work in upstate New York, then lived in Chicago for two years before going to New York City for medical school—it was the warmest place I’d lived up until that point.  I’m okay with winter, though of course, it has its own issues.

**There’s a local saying that goes, “Florida:  Come on vacation, stay on probation!”

***Those who know me are probably aware that such is not my general habit or character, however.  If anything, I tend to treat myself far more harshly than I do anyone else.

****Plus, some “music”, including my amateurish covers and a few mediocre original compositions that are at least temporarily distracting for me, though many people would probably be just as happy not ever to have anything to do with them.

O horror! Horror! Horror! Tongue nor blog cannot conceive nor name thee!

Good morning to you all.  It’s Thursday again, as tends to happen at this time of week, and I bid you therefore welcome to yet another of my weekly blog posts.

I don’t know that I have much new to report, but I do have continuations of previous matters.  For instance, I am now within the last hundred-ish pages of the final edit of Unanimity, after which will only follow the final layout and the cover art (which is still in an early stage).  It seems that my estimate of a possible August publication date should be accurate.  I’m very excited about this, of course, and I hope that you are excited as well, though it’s unlikely that you’re at my level of enthusiasm.

I’ll now repeat my “trigger warning” about the book, however, and I’m only being partly facetious*.  Unanimity is, of course, a horror novel, so no one should be surprised that it contains horrible and horrifying things.  That is, obviously, the point of the genre, and anyone who reads a horror novel and is shocked to find horrors within is surely being a bit dim.

Still, there are many different kinds of horror, and this novel—though definitely “supernatural” or at least “paranormal” in character, albeit in science fiction’s clothing—is not a Gothic style tale.  There are no obvious vampires or similar supernatural “outside” entities, preying on human souls or blood or whatever.  If there are zombies, they are most assuredly not of the George Romero, Night of the Living Dead type.  They are, if anything, more akin to the notion of the philosophical “zombie,” a being that behaves in every way like any other conscious creature, but which has no subjectivity.  Though, in this story’s case, they do have subjectivity, but it is not their own…their own subjectivity has been put on hold, and another has taken its place.  Unfortunately, this invading subjectivity is not benevolent.

In any case, to get to my point, I just warn potential readers that the horror in this story is a very human type of horror, so the bad things that happen might seem real and realistic, and this can—for some people at least, or so I imagine—make them more disturbing.  I don’t know for certain; I can only speculate about others’ reactions.  But if such human types of horror are difficult for you to stomach—if, for instance, you find the works of Thomas Harris** hard to endure—then you may want to consider carefully whether this will be the book for you.

I don’t know if this warning will serve as an impediment to readership or as an incentive; part of me feels that I’m being self-defeating, part of me feels that I’m being subtly (or not-so-subtly) self-promoting.  Unadulterated self-promotion has never been my strong point.  I am almost certainly my own worst enemy, but I am not solely my enemy.  If I were, things would surely be much simpler.  Or if I were an unrepentant narcissist, I suppose some things would be easier as well, though public figures who are narcissistic rarely come across as happy to me.  Perhaps that’s just me projecting misery onto them that I hope they experience, since most narcissists are pretty insufferable.  But who knows, maybe they really are as pleased with themselves as they claim to be.

If so, sign me up!

I doubt it, though.  Reality has a way of biting those who delude themselves in any direction, sooner or later…usually sooner, based on my observations, and often continuously.  I’ve made the point before that I think depression—or at least dysthymia—is a species of realism, a recognition of the fundamentally uncaring, though still often beautiful, nature of reality.  But I’m subject to cognitive biases as much as anyone, and more than many, so any conclusions are firmly provisional.

This train of thought leads me to a notion that’s been bouncing around my head a bit lately:  I’m thinking of semi-abandoning the practice of keeping a separate blog (Iterations of Zero) for my thoughts and writings that are about things other than my fiction and related creative works.  I find that there’s a kind of mental block that keeps me from writing on IoZ, because it feels too strongly like a division of resources and is separated by an activation energy barrier.  So, I may soon go back to using just this blog to post whatever thoughts and writings I may have, about whatever subject strikes my fancy (keeping the Thursday post as it is currently) and leaving IoZ fallow.

After all, this blog is the one that bears my name—probably the closest to narcissism I’ll come.  Also, to make that mental shift might let me reintroduce “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, but to have it as an orthogonal (or is it parallel?) process to my regular blog posts.  I could just do it when the mood strikes me, as I could do my writings on mood, on math, on medicine, on science, and even occasionally on politics***.  After all, Robert Elessar is not merely an author and sometimes a musician.  “I am large—I contain multitudes.”

We shall see.  In the meantime, though, the focus is on Unanimity, and I urge you not to be too put off by my self-conscious warning above.  I think it’s a good book, and I like the characters—even the “bad guy”—and I think it’s a pretty original story as far as it goes.  It has length, at least, and may even have breadth and depth.  That will be for you to decide.  I can tell you this much, as with nearly all horror novels:  in the end, the “good guys” do win…but not all of them survive, and none are unscathed.  And, of course, the “evil” may not be completely vanquished.

As Lord Foul would say, “Think on that, and be dismayed.”

TTFN


*How big a fraction that is seems to vary from moment to moment.

**How’s that for praising myself with faint damnations?

***Yuck.

And every tongue blogs in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.

Okay, well, welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  This being the second Thursday in July, this would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, which ran briefly, way back when, but which was stopped after not many people seemed to read it.  This surprised me, given the fact that so many people are so interested in the great villains of popular fiction:  Sauron, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos, Darth Vader, and so on, to say nothing of the quintessential dastard from whom I cribbed the title of this post.  I guess people often follow such characters on the DL, as a kind of guilty pleasure, and openly reading or talking about them is not as popular.

Oh, well.  I’ve been disappointed by the lack of popularity of that series, but the world is hard, and it’s under no obligation to conform to my expectations, let alone my hopes.

This fact was driven home yet again for me last week with the difficulty relating to my “single” Schrödinger’s Head, which had to be delayed because of restrictions on the word content of the cover art.  I quickly and easily (but not without grumbling) altered the cover to remove the warped opening lines of the song, and then adjusted the rest for better balance.  I also changed the official title of the song to include the umlaut.  This latter bit didn’t bother me nearly so much, especially since I’d already used an umlaut made from a tiny white cat’s head and a tiny black cat’s head above the “o” in the graphic (see below).  I’m not sure the umlaut in the official title was necessary—it’s hard for me to imagine that being something distributors and song sharing and selling sites would notice much—but it was satisfying, unlike the removal of my opening lyrics.

Bottom line, in short order, once my corrections were made, the song was distributed and has gone live and is now available for your listening pleasure on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube Music, and numerous other venues of which I know the names of only a few, such as TikTok.  If anyone listens on one of those other venues, please let me know; I’d love to share the link.

The song is a folk-rock style, lighthearted, silly thing in which the singer (me) asks various binary questions, mostly about what the titular physicist might be thinking, arriving at the lamentable conclusion that nobody knows.  There’s a little more to it than that, including some deliberately contradictory wordplay, but it’s not supposed to be deep or to carry any message (unlike my previous release, Like and Share, which involves heartfelt, sad commentary about one aspect of social media).  The main guitar sounds are mostly “clean”, since I was really just learning to use it, and that’s part of what gives it the folk-tune feel.  I think.

Anyway, have a listen if you’re so inclined (though you won’t actually know if you are or not until you listen, and then the wave function will have collapsed…Ha Ha Ha!).

In other news, of course, Unanimity continues to hurtle toward completion, though never quite as quickly as I hope.  I, however, am schooled not to rely on the specifics of my hopes too much.  The Tao te Ching counsels us to act without expectation, and I think that’s very good advice, though not as simple as it might seem at a superficial glance*.

Anyway, my novel moves ever nearer to release, and I at least am excited about it.  It’s not for the faint of heart, though.  If you’re the sort of person who requires trigger warnings for anything at all, they are all hereby given.  I am not trying to avoid traumatizing you with this book; quite the contrary.

Not that traumatizing you is the point—or at least not the main one.  The main point is to tell a story about what happens when an innocent college student—Charley Banks—takes part in a neuroscience experiment at his university, has a seizure in an MRI machine during the process, and in the aftermath develops a seemingly impossible, potentially limitless, paranormal power to take over other people’s bodies and minds with just a touch.  Unfortunately, in the process he also appears to have suffered damage to his moral compass**, and he begins to do truly terrible and horrifying things with his new ability—things no one else could ever recognize as his handiwork.

What could be the nature and source of this impossible ability?  How can Charley be cured and/or stopped?  Can he be cured and/or stopped?  Will anyone even figure out what’s happening in time to do anything at all about it, if anything can be done?  How could you even detect a danger that potentially comes from all the people you know and love?

And will Vanessa ever be able to get Brad to notice and return her feelings, or will her poor, lonely, yearning heart be broken***?

Some of these questions—and others not mentioned—will be answered in Unanimity.  Some will remain mysteries.  To find out more, you’ll have to read the book.

TTFN

transformed s head cover no words2


*I urge you to look into it.  It’s not religion, though a religion has been made from it; as I see it, it’s really a book of practical philosophy in the form of 81 very short, evocative poem-oids.

**Or it could just be power corrupting, and corrupting fast, or revealing and releasing a side to Charley that was always present, or perhaps some dark, supernatural force is at work.  Who can say which it is?  Well, I can, of course, but I’m not saying, at least not here.

***Okay, that last question has nothing at all to do with the novel.  I don’t know where that comes from.  There are no such characters in my book.

I have supped full with horrors. Direness, familiar to my slaughterous blogs, cannot once start me.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday and to my weekly blog post.  Also, welcome to July.  In the United States, it’s now two days before Independence Day (popularly and rather unimaginatively called “The Fourth of July” by many or perhaps most Americans, but I prefer “Independence Day” as it reminds us what the holiday is about).  One could, if one wished, call today “Independence Eve Eve,” but I doubt that’s going to catch on.

Not much new is going on this week, other than the fact that I am trying to release another single, Schrodinger’s Head.  I was hoping to be able to share links to it in today’s blog post.  However, there is apparently some issue of non-concordance between the cover art and the song name—though, as the one who made both, I’m not sure what the problem is.  Hopefully, it won’t entail any significant rearrangement of the cover I designed, because I quite like it as it is now (see below).  Among other things, I used a tiny black cat’s head (a picture—no real cats were harmed in the making of the graphic, anymore than any real cats are harmed in the canonical “Schrodinger’s cat” thought experiment) next to an otherwise identical white cat’s head to make the umlaut above the “o” in Schrodinger’s name.

It’s possible that this is the issue, and I need to use the umlaut in the official title, making it Schrödinger’s Head.  This wouldn’t be a bad thing, as I believe it is the more correct way to spell the great man’s name, but I wasn’t sure it would be usable in that form on all sites on which it would be available.  Perhaps I underestimate the breadth of available ASCII characters in modern sites, having been born into the computer world with an Apple II+ back in the early ‘80s.

I’m sure the problem is easily solvable, but my frustration tolerance has shrunk precipitously over the years—I think that’s supposed to trend in the opposite direction in most people; I’m not sure why it is as it is with me*—so I was positively fuming this morning when I found out.

Oh, well.

More importantly, Unanimity is proceeding swiftly.  I’m more than halfway through the final edit and a nearly equivalent amount of the layout.  I continue to enjoy the process, and in fact I chafed at the fact that I needed to write this blog post today instead of working on the novel.  Still, this weekly blog is a pattern long in the making, and I’m not going to let myself off it just because I’m impatient.  My frustration tolerance may have diminished, but I’m still fairly good at not indulging myself too much in momentary urges.  Hopefully, I won’t lose that strength as time goes by.

I think that Unanimity is a good book, and I think readers will enjoy it…though I expect it will horrify them at many points, and probably not always in ways that they might expect.  It’s certainly not a gothic style horror by any means, despite my previous jokes about it making a better Halloween than Christmas gift.

In a way, you could call it a pseudo-science-fiction horror story, as the causes of the terrible events in it are not overtly supernatural, but are the products of something having gone wrong in the course of normal scientific exploration.  In this, I suppose, it’s more of the Frankenstein family than the Dracula family, but with no anti-science cautionary intent**.  In fact, deep in the dungeons of my mind, as the author, I suspect there may be darker forces at work behind the seeming science-gone-wrong of the story.  I even threw in a brief cameo by a figure from one of my decidedly supernatural short stories, Hole for a Heart, to hint that all may not be quite as it seems.

Of course, I’ve long contended that the very term “supernatural” is superfluous, since anything that exists is, by definition***, part of nature.  So, anything that actually happens to characters and things in my stories is, in their universe, natural, however paranormal it may seem, and there is some underlying “science” to it, though it may be forever unknown.  There must be “laws of magic” just as there are laws of physics, or else no actual phenomena of any consistent kind would be produced.

In fact, one of my ongoing (and only) disappointments about the Harry Potter books is that there isn’t more exploration—perhaps via Dumbledore and/or Hermione—of what magic is and how it works in that world.  I don’t fault J. K. Rowling; that just wasn’t what her stories were about, and it probably would have been a distraction for most readers of what were, nominally, children’s books.

I’d love to know her thoughts on the matter, though.

With that, I think I’ve said and digressed enough.  Hopefully, before this time next week, Schrödinger’s Head will be available for your listening pleasure on many venues.  I’m afraid I took it off YouTube in anticipation of its release, so if you want to hear it, you’ll have to wait a bit.  My apologies.  Still, it’s useful, in these quite troubled times, to have something to which to look forward, and though they may be small consolations, I can at least offer you a song and a story to anticipate.

TTFN

what's going on bigger


*One might think that, having gone through quite a few severe and extreme frustrations and setbacks in life would make one more tolerant of minor impasses, but the process seems more like chronic pain—the nerves involved get potentiated by repetitive and persistent stimulation and so are more sensitive and harder to shut down.  At least, that’s my hypothesis.

**Newton forbid!

***By my definition, anyway.

The first man that blogged, cried, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

avatarofdeath2

Hello, good morning, and Happy Halloween to you all!  I hope all of you who celebrate the holiday enjoy yourselves, either by dressing up* and having sweets and treats, or by giving out such sweets and treats to the young’uns who come around trick-or-treating (perhaps dressing up to do so).  If you choose not to celebrate the holiday merely because of some religious misgivings that make you worry that to do so would somehow be pagan…well, all I can say is, those concerns are no more realistic than are all the ghosts, goblins, zombies and vampires, and they’re usually not as much fun.  But that’s your business, and as long as you don’t interfere with anyone else, you can do what you want.  Or not do what you don’t want.

Some of my readers will have already seen an article I posted on Iterations of Zero this week, stating my intention to use spare time during my work days to write and post there at least once a week.  There’s much more breadth of subject matter available to be pursued on IoZ, because it’s very much in the spirit of “Seinfeld”, being a blog about nothing…at least nothing in particular.  As I think I wrote when I introduced that blog’s title, it’s possible that the whole universe has a net energy of zero (balancing all the positive energy and matter with the negative energy of gravity), in which case we all—everything—are just iterations of zero.  It’s sort of like the credit economy.  When you only have iterations of zero, everything is far game.

Anyway, I plan for that to be an ongoing process.  And though we all know with what substance the road to Hell is paved, I hope that by declaring my intentions here and in IoZ, I at least put the pressure of avoiding embarrassment upon myself to keep me going.**

On to other matters.  Unanimity proceeds at a steady pace.  I’d say I’m almost halfway through the editing/rewriting process, which may not seem like a lot to those who’ve been paying attention, but when you’re dealing with a novel whose first draft was over half a million words long, you need to be patient.  In any case, it’s a Halloween-worthy effort, being a horror novel, though it’s only vaguely supernatural.  I do throw into it a passing reference to another of my stories, one that I’m tempted to explicate here…but I think I’ll leave it at just saying that the story referenced is one that is truly worthy of Halloween.

Unanimity is definitely a horrifying story, of course—hopefully only in the narrative sense, not in quality—and I’ve again reached a point in the book where more and more terrible things are happening.  I can only console the characters affected by saying that they can be born again anytime someone starts the book over.  This is probably little consolation, since the same dark things will happen to them every time the story unfolds.

Such is the fate of characters in novels.

It may be that such is the fate of us all, come to think of it.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere (in a blog about “playing with space-time blocks”), it’s possible, according to some interpretations of General Relativity, that all of time may pre-exist, so to speak.  This is the origin of Einstein’s attributed statement that, to the convinced physicist, time is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.  If that’s the case, we may end our lives only to restart them, as if we were but characters in a novel or a movie.  Still, we do know that GR can’t be quite right as it is, because it doesn’t properly integrate the uncertainty principle and other aspects of quantum mechanics which appear to be inescapable.  If we throw in the Everettian possibilities of many worlds, diverging at every occurrence of quantum decoherence (not at every place a human is faced with a choice, contrary to popular belief and popular fiction), there may be many possible fixed versions of ourselves.  This can be both a comfort and a nightmare, because as Carl Sagan once pointed out, while we can certainly imagine other versions of our lives that could be much better than they are, we can also—and perhaps more readily—imagine versions in which things are much, much worse.  Such is the nature of reality; there is no obvious bottom level to it.

Oh, well, c’est la vie.  As Camus tells us (if memory serves), there can be meaning, honor, and satisfaction even in the endless, repetitive task of rolling a boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll down again each time, if that’s the existence to which you are fated.  I suspect that Marcus Aurelius would agree with him.  At least, the version of the Emperor that lives in my mind would agree with the version of Camus who lives there as well.  It’s an interesting forum up there in my cerebrum, though it does get tedious and pretentious at times.

Which is one reason why it’s good to indulge in silly frivolities like Halloween, in which we make light of things that might otherwise terrify us, and by embracing them divest them of their power.  Most importantly, it can be a lot of fun.  Life is short, and, as Weird Al Yankovic pointed out, “You’re dead for a real long time.”  You might as well try to have at least a little fun here and there as long as you’re not.

Again, Happy Halloween!

TTFN

 

*I’m dressed up at the office in an all-in-black version of the character in the picture above.  I’m sort of an amalgam of The Gunslinger and The Man in Black.  I don’t think that’s too presumptuous; after all, my father’s name was Roland.

**Though my regular readers may have their doubts about whether avoiding embarrassment is something that ever concerns me at all.

Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat in this distracted blog.

 

pumpkin demon cropped

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday, so it’s blog day, as is probably unnecessary to point out, since you’re reading this.  Still, you might be reading it at some later date, and not have realized on which day of the week it was written.  So, perhaps it’s okay that I start most of my blogs with the usual repetitive reminder.

Be that as it may, this Thursday is special, because it’s one week until Halloween, my favorite holiday—for what are probably obvious reasons if you’ve read my stories.  Given the time of year, I thought to myself yesterday that I’d read something good and seasonal, i.e. a horror story…one of my own.  I started with Prometheus and Chiron, but I realized soon that it was simply too dark and terrible for me right now*.  Instead, I went to Welcome to Paradox City and started to read its the second entry:  If the Spirit Moves You, which is set the day before Halloween.  Though the story begins with the protagonist seeing a ghost, it’s not dark or scary at all.

I’m a little sad not to be publishing any horror stories this year around Halloween.  It would be a nice pseudo-tradition to carry forward, but I just really don’t want to get distracted from editing Unanimity, which is coming along nicely, but which is soooooo lengthy a process.  If I were to write something new while working on it, it would slow everything down, and that’s just too discouraging to allow.

It’s a particular shame, though, because over the years I’ve learned that writing new stories is a good way to mitigate my dysthymia/depression, which otherwise makes me almost as unbearable to others as it makes me to me.  This is especially true in the morning; often by mid-afternoon my mood and temper begin to swing upward and I’m actually capable not just of facial expressions, but even the occasional tiny smile.  Until that time of day, my face feels not so much paralyzed as embalmed.

Thankfully, depression isn’t truly contagious…though those who suffer from it are well-advised not to come to me for cheering up early in the day.  I’m as likely to talk them further down into the pit as to lift their spirits.  This wouldn’t be out of cruelty or malice; it would just be me expressing my honest thoughts and feelings at the time.

Anyway, enough of such dark things, we were talking about Halloween and scary stories.  Once I’d started re-reading If the Spirit Moves You, I was inspired to listen to the YouTube upload of another Halloweeney story this morning on my commute.  That is, of course, Hole for a Heart, which—though certainly dark—is not as bad as Prometheus and Chiron (also available to listen to on YouTube).  I’m enjoying it, even despite listening to my voice reading it, which as anyone who’s listened to recordings of themselves would predict, never sounds quite like how I hear my voice in my head**.

I’m truly blessed to be an author who enjoys reading—and listening to—his own stories.  This may seem narcissistic, but it’s not merely egotistical.  I really do, honestly like my stories.  And, of course, at this time of year, I’d love very much to share them with as many people as I can.  So, please, if you have a spare bit of time, give a listen to one of my short stories on YouTube.  These include I for one welcome our new computer overlords, Prometheus and Chiron, and Hole for a Heart.  I haven’t done audio of Penal Colony (which isn’t really Halloweeney, anyway), or Free Range Meat (which definitely suits the holiday).  Perhaps I’ll do those sometime soon.  Reading a short story aloud is much less daunting than is reading a novel; I stopped after nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision, because I wasn’t getting enough feedback to justify the ongoing effort.  But, if those of you interested in some spooky stories give some of these a listen (and, if interested, if you buy an e-book version, each of which is less than a buck on Amazon), and especially if you tell me you enjoy them, I’d probably be inspired to do some more, and maybe even to finish up CatC.  Who knows what might come after that?

So, I not only invite, but I attempt to cajole, you to give the stories a whirl.

Next week’s blog will come on Halloween proper, so I’m likely to go on even a bit more about scary tales and related phenomena.  I hope you all have a fun time in the week leading up to it.  Attend some work-based (or school-based) Halloween parties, eat some sweet treats, dress up as your favorite Halloween-themed character***, and enjoy yourself!  By celebrating the dark, the supernatural, and the death-related, we really are celebrating life, it seems to me, and more so on Halloween than on any other holiday.  It’s only when you really feel you have a handle on something that you’ll willfully expose yourself to a source of fear just for fun.

Maybe that’s why Prometheus and Chiron is harder for me to reread.  Maybe I don’t have as good a handle on the stuff in there as I’d like to have.

Well, you can judge for yourself.  In the meantime, have a wonderful, spooky, and candy-filled week!

TTFN

headless horseman cropped


*I’m not just saying that to hype my own work.  It’s simply that the fate of the main character, and the cause of that fate, are too dreadful, given my own history and tendency toward gloom.  Of course, I have only myself to blame, since I wrote the story.

**This is especially true of people like me who have conductive hearing loss.  My own voice sounds much louder and clearer to me than other people’s voices do, and also much louder and clearer than it does to them.  Individuals with conductive hearing loss tend to speak softly, while those with sensorineural hearing loss tend to speak more loudly.  This has been your Medical Moment™.

***And don’t worry too much about political correctness when you do.