Bikes and trains and thoughts of vampires by a different kind of undead

I’m writing this blog post on the train, or at least I’m starting it on the train.  I decided to ride my bike to the station this morning, because I was so pleased with my purchase of an automatic, USB-chargeable, programmable tire pump and the effect it had on my bike tires on Sunday.  It was a nice ride this morning.  The temperature was, supposedly, 69 degrees Fahrenheit when I left the house—so not too hot, but not too cold, neither.  It’s also not expected to rain today.

I almost planned to ride the bike all the way, bringing it on the train and riding it to the office and then back and so on, but I decided to hold off on that.  Yes, leaving it at the station required me sitting on the ground and applying my triple locking setup—two thick cables and the hard steel U-bend* lock—but on the train there are sometimes quite limited spaces for bikes.  It’s also not a good idea to wander far from your bicycle, so I would need to sit on the lower level of the train, which is not my preference, and if there were not enough seats, I would need to stand.

Unfortunately, if one is standing, it’s very difficult to write a blog post on a laptop computer, as I am doing now.  I could write one on my smartphone, but that’s a slightly less convenient process in the sense of it being much slower.  It’s taken me less than fifteen minutes to get on the train, find a seat, unpack my computer, start up the computer, log in to the train Wi-Fi, open up Word, start and name this file, set it to autosave, and to write what I’ve written so far.  Some of that is easier with the smartphone, but it’s mostly more laborious.

I’m on either my third or fourth day taking the Saint John’s Wort, so it’s too soon to imagine that it would have significant effects, but I’m cautiously pessimistic.  By that I mean, I don’t expect it to make a huge difference or to change my outlook or improve my mood, but obviously, I’m willing to see if it does.  As I’ve written, it helped me before, but that was combined with talk therapy, and I was happily married and in medical school, working my way along toward being a doctor, and I had classmates who were my friends and all that.

My current life situation is very different, and you’re reading my only equivalent of therapy at the moment.  But, as I say, we shall see what happens.  At least, you shall see, if you so desire.  I shall experience it, until I stop experiencing it.

I’ve been rereading my book Mark Red, the first book I wrote while a guest of the Florida DOC, its first draft having been done in longhand.  I’m enjoying it quite a bit.  As I’ve said many times, the vampire, Morgan, is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever made up, possibly the favorite.  Mark is a good character, too, but he’s a teenage boy, so there’s only so much interesting there can be about him.  And there are other, secondary characters about whom I hadn’t thought in some time, but upon re-encountering them, they are quite fun.

One of these, who has just arrived in the story, is Ray, a powerful psychic and wise advisor with a quirky attitude, who wears two pairs of glasses—one on his eyes and one on his forehead—and is based almost entirely on a person I met at the place on Gun Club Road, in Palm Beach County**.  That guy had two pairs of glasses, because the county didn’t provide bifocals, and he wore them both at once (one on his eyes, the other stored on his forehead) because it was just easier, since pockets were not an option.  He was quite wise in his way, and he gave me permission to use him in the book.

I also have a character whose nickname is New York—he appears later in the book—who is based on another person I met there, who asked me if he could be in the story, and if he could save the day.  So he is in the book, and he does save the day, and I was happy to let him do that, because he was a pleasant guy, and quite funny.

Cat only knows where those guys are now.

As I reread Mark Red, I find myself thinking that maybe, if I do decide to write something else, I should write the next book in that series.  I have no less than two sequels thought out for it.  Book two would have, I think, the subtitle “Marcus”, and book three would be “Primogenitor”.  Obviously, I already have a general idea for what would happen in the books, though the specifics are almost always a surprise.

I don’t really expect to write any more fiction, though, any more than I expect to write any more songs.  Possibly I’ll never play the guitar again.  I may not even play anything on the “piano” again.  Currently, my keyboard is basically just a small piece of furniture on top of which I store various random items, and underneath which I have stacked much of my small collection of “real” books.

When I think of the many hundreds of books I used to have (not counting comic books and manga and other graphic novels), it’s a bit sad.  But it’s not as sad as losing the real piano my then-in-laws gave me as a medical school graduation present***, and the cello I had played since high school, and the various toys and other things from my kids’ young days.  I guess I have my memories of all those things, though they more often make me sad than happy, largely since I don’t get to see and interact with my kids now.

Oh, well.  Life’s like that, I suppose.  I can’t recommend it unreservedly.  If someone is considering it, I can only say, caveat emptor.  I’ve certainly never assumed that I have any right to be happy or to be comfortable, and people who do seem to think they have such rights seem almost always to be irritating.

It would be nice, though, to have a life that at least was sometimes pleasant and interesting—not in the “may you live in interesting times” sense—and if I had someone with whom I could talk about things that interest me, or that interest that person, or both.  It would be nice to spend time with my kids, most of all.

I suppose if I were a person who had any sense of entitlement, I might push the issue somewhat, but I’m not really built that way, and don’t know how to connect with people even when I want to do it.  I’ve certainly never found much enjoyment in stereotypical social interactions.  And the thought of making any major changes, like trying to pick up and move and start over somewhere else, seems far more daunting than, for instance, trying to bring the One Ring to Mount Doom or whatever.  I almost had a nervous breakdown just when my housemate moved out and then I had to move my stuff into the back room from my front room and the new people moved into the rest of the house.

Seriously, if something like that (or worse) happened again, I think I’d want just to going into some field somewhere and try to lie down and stay there, like when Anne Rice’s vampires “go into the Earth” or whatever that was.  I’ve said it before, but I wish I could just go dormant and sleep and do nothing else until either I was fully rested, or forever, whichever came first.

And, as I’ve also said before, if wishes were horses, we’d all be buried in horse shit.  And that doesn’t sound all that restful.

Mark Reed and Morgan

*All of which, of course, could be undone by anyone who can simply unlock the lock on the U-shaped lock thingy.  But the bike rack really is right near the entrance, where there is heavy foot traffic, and anyone who possesses the skills to pick a lock like that rapidly, in broad daylight, with people coming and going, is so impressive that, while I won’t say they deserve to get the bike—they do not—I will say that something dreadful must have happened in their lives for them to be reduced to stealing bikes by the entrance to the train station.  They are already living their punishment, I suspect.

**You can look it up if you want.  The most positive thing to say about it is that it would be an excellent place to ride out a hurricane…or a nuclear attack.  It’s a sturdy building.

***It wasn’t new—they were far from wealthy.  They had bought it many years before in case any of their kids wanted to learn how to play, but alas, none of them did.  So, when the time came, since I could play, they gave it to me, and it was a truly wonderful gift.

Taking pains to meditate on some of my books

Well, it’s Saturday, and I’m writing this at the bus stop instead of starting it at the house because…well, I just felt like getting out of the house.  I had a pretty bad night, pain-wise, with the pain waking me rudely at a bit before 2 am.  It hasn’t really gotten any better since then, and I certainly didn’t get any more sleep.  It’s really bad, even now, on the second edit; it may be getting worse.

This sort of thing makes my attempts to fight depression extremely difficult sometimes.  Yesterday I did, as I said I would, make it a point to do a bit of mindfulness meditation, usually only for a few minutes at a time; I am just getting into/back into it.  I feel that I was at least a bit less tense thanks to that.  I even walked about halfway back to the house from the train.  That was the second half, since I took the bus partway.

The walk was decent, and I don’t think it triggered my current pain flare-up, because I was already having an equivalent flare-up during the day yesterday, and if anything, it felt a bit better after the walk.  I’m not sure what might have made my pain edge up from its baseline, but edge up it has indeed done, and with a vengeance*.

As I said, it’s hard to try to think about improving my spiritual status when my pain is so striking**.  But I’ll keep trying.

I’m also trying not to listen to any podcasts or audio books or even music for now so that, when I have moments without tasks to which to attend, I can try to relax and be “mindful”.  Possibly it’s beneficial, in and of itself, not to have information piping into my ears all the time, even if it’s interesting information.  Maybe that will help encourage my own identity to speak more.

That’s probably not a good thing, given the nature of my identity, but we’ll see.  As I say, though, the pain makes it hard to meditate, or indeed to be positive in any sense.

I’m well aware, of course, that it is actually possible for one to meditate using one’s pain as a focus of the mindfulness.  I, however, am not nearly advanced enough for such a thing, and I doubt I ever will be.

I’m very tired of being in pain.  It’s been going on for two decades pretty much without any respite‒not for a single day, as far as I can recall‒and it surely looks like it’s going to be with me until I die.  That’s a horrible thought, but it would be mitigated if I had something else onto which to hold.  Unfortunately, right now I do not have any such thing, nor do I have any inkling where to find such a thing, or even if such a thing exists.

It’s frustrating, but I’ll keep trying to meditate, and to walk, and to minimize my eating-as-stimming habits.  I’m even tempted to start taking Saint John’s Wort again, though the last time I started it I felt worse rather than improved.  But maybe it was interacting with something else at that time, because the first time I ever used it, it was quite beneficial.

This is all probably an exercise in futility, or more than one such exercise; it’s entirely possible that I’m simply not built to be relatively pain free or psychologically stable.  It may be my destiny to be the King of Pain, as the song says.  That’s one song I have memorized still for the piano.  It’s a great song.  One of the others I can always play is Eleanor Rigbyyou know, the song about all the lonely people.  Why do you suppose those two songs have stuck in my head over the decades?

It’s a mystery, Charlie Brown.

I don’t have much more to write this morning.  Though, speaking of my writing, I did, on a whim, begin to read my book Mark Red again yesterday evening.  I’m still only in the first chapter‒really, the first scene‒but it’s something to read at least.

I am fond of the book; I think it’s a good story, and I like Mark, and I like the version of vampires I’ve created in this universe.  But I particularly love Morgan, the vampire who saves Mark‒because he was mortally wounded thinking he was trying to save her‒by making him into a demi-vampire.  I think she’s still my favorite character that I’ve created, though there are strong contenders in The Vagabond and The Chasm and the Collision.

Heck, I really like Michael from Unanimity, who I didn’t realize as I was writing him is almost certainly on the autism spectrum.  He’s an awkward, shy, brilliant but self-doubting, reluctant hero, so to speak.

I guess it’s good that I like my characters and my stories.  It’s not as though I wrote them to try to please anyone else, though I certainly had my kids in mind when I did CatC.  Sure, it would be great if there were lots of people who read and liked my books, and if any of you want to share links to them with anyone you think might enjoy them, I would certainly be delighted.  But I didn’t ever really expect wide readership let alone fame, though I can’t say I never dreamed of it..  I’ve just always liked to make up and write stories.

Self promotion, on the other hand, has always been one of my worst areas.

Life is curious.  Sometimes it’s even curious in a good way.  Often it’s not.  Ah, well, I wasn’t consulted when the universe came into existence…as far as I know, anyway.  Although, as in my book Son of Man it’s conceivable, if far from known to be possible, for the “future” to influence the “past”.  So maybe I was consulted.  Maybe someday I will even create the universe itself, to my own design.

That would probably explain a lot of the poor craftsmanship, wouldn’t it?


*We’re talking Wrath of Khan, Captain Ahab level vengeance here; we’re talking Law Abiding Citizen level vengeance.  We’re not pussy-footing around.

**Or boring, perhaps, would be more accurate.  But I mean boring like a drill is boring, not as a synonym for “dull”…though it could be described as feeling as if someone were using a drill with a dull but broad bit on various parts of my anatomy.  And it does certainly get old.

My soul’s imaginary sight presents thy shadow to my sightless blog, which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, makes black night beauteous

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  Welcome also to a new month (October, obviously), the first day of what has always been—for various reasons—my favorite month.  A major contributor to that favoritism is that, at the end of October comes Halloween, which is my favorite holiday.  It’s also the beginning—in northern parts of the northern hemisphere, anyway—of the real onset of Autumn, with leaves changing colors and becoming heart-rendingly beautiful as they prepare to drop off the trees before Winter sets in.  Such magical Autumn visions have come to feel almost like the memories of fever dreams for me as I spend an ever-growing fraction of my life in southern Florida, the state referred to by Homer Simpson as America’s dong*.  There is no real Autumn here, though at least the weather becomes slightly less hot and humid as the year wanes.  Autumn and Spring—and even Winter, frankly—are the best times to be in Florida.  How ironic that the season when most people come to visit is during the months of “summer vacation”, when heat, humidity, and near-daily thunderstorms are the norm.

Speaking of Autumn—because it, like my most recently published work, takes place in Autumn—things are moving along nicely in The Vagabond.  I’ve nearly finished my first read-through/edit of the book, making many minor modifications as I go along, and I’m approaching the final confrontation of the story.  It’s quite a lot quicker to read than Unanimity, being only about a third as long.  That’s not an insult to Unanimity or a special compliment to The Vagabond, by the way.  Each book is as long as it must be.  The Vagabond is a simpler, more straightforward story, though its events happen on something of a larger scale than those of Unanimity and have even more dire potential consequences if things end up badly.

A somewhat humorous event took place earlier this week.   A coworker saw a hard copy of Unanimity Book 2, and she said her son loves to read, so she wanted to get a copy for him.  I asked her how old her son was, and she replied that he was eleven.  Now, I enthusiastically encourage kids of all ages to read, and the earlier they start, the better, but…well, apart from the fact that it would be bewildering to start reading Unanimity Book 2 before reading Unanimity Book 1, I had to tell her very clearly (and repeatedly, since she didn’t seem quite to believe me) that this really isn’t a book for eleven-year-olds.  Very bad things happen in it—it’s a horror story, after all—and as I’ve said in other circumstances, the type of horror in it is a very human type.  It’s nothing easily dismissible, like monsters under beds, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and the like.  I told her I would get a copy of Book 1 for her to read, and that she should read it, thoroughly, before deciding if her son was ready for it, which I doubt he is.

Then, quite happily, and without reservation, I recommended (and ordered for her) The Chasm and the Collision, a book specifically for and about people of her son’s age or only slightly older**.  She also noticed the cover of Mark Red on the screen while I was ordering CatC, and said her son likes stories about vampires and the like.  I wasn’t sure about this one.  If he’s a truly precocious eleven-year-old, such as I was, he might indeed enjoy it without any trouble, but it has its moments of deeper darkness, and some “mature themes”.  When she asked the leading question, “There’s no swearing in it, is there?”  I had to answer that, yes, there was, though I don’t think it’s excessive.  Of all my stories, I think the only one without any profanity at all—I could be wrong about this***—is The Chasm and the Collision, which I specifically kept free from expletives, following the wise advice of my father.

Anyway, with some hesitation, I ordered her a copy of Mark Red also, worrying because, well, the story opens with an attempted mugging/rape.  It’s a crime that goes very badly for the mugger/rapist—after going very badly for Mark Reed when he tries to intercede, thus leading to the story—because the would-be victim happens to be a vampire, Morgan****, who deliberately lures in such assaults to take their perpetrators as her prey.  After that plunge in at the deep end, things become a little less unwholesome, but it’s quite a start for a story.

Maybe I should just attach a blanket “trigger warning” of some kind that applies to everything I write.  This is my mind.  It’s not a safe space.  Not even for me.  Enter at your own risk.

On that cheery note, I think I’ll call it quits here for the week.  I’m continuing to work toward reinvigorating Iterations of Zero, so hopefully I’ll have something to share there, soon.  No matter what, though, I hope you all enjoy this most wonderful time of the year that we are entering, despite all that’s happening in the world.  Do your best to stay safe and healthy, and remember, human events are transitory, ephemeral, evanescent, short-lived, and redundant.  Don’t take them too seriously.



[This is an old, and not very good, concept drawing I did of the above-mentioned opening of Mark Red]

*If you’ll pardon the observation, taking that metaphor in hand—so to speak—it doesn’t have the look of a perky, young body part, but rather of a fairly limp, aged, and dispirited one, shrinking over time as sea-levels slowly rise.  This certainly fits with the human aspect of the state, though its natural beauty is beyond question.  I think “The Governor”, aka Skink, of Carl Hiaasen’s books, would agree with me.

**My sister concurs that this is a good recommendation, and she thinks the boy will enjoy it greatly.  It’s her favorite of my books, and its primary protagonist, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  It’s hard for me to choose, but he’s certainly in the upper echelons of my preferences as well, and of course I am proud of the book.

***It occurs to me that I for one welcome our new computer overlords might not include any cursing.  That doesn’t make it a young kid’s story, of course, but it is rather pleasing for me to realize.  It’s simply a fact, after all, that I tend to write dark stories, and in dark situations, people often curse.  It’s no mere coincidence that Halloween is my favorite holiday.

****Morgan is probably my favorite character that I’ve written.  I just think she’s really cool.  I was absurdly delighted when Tony and Pepper named their daughter Morgan in Avengers: Endgame.  I even fantasized that they named her after my character.

Author’s note for “Mark Red”

Mark Red Cover

What follows is my first “author’s note” about one of my works, and I’ve decided to begin with “Mark Red,” because it’s my first published book, and the first book I wrote as an adult since medical school.

Ideas for the stories I write tend to arrive in one of two ways.  Often, of course, I simply think of the idea of a story, develop it, often start or even complete writing it, and come up with the title later.  This was certainly the case with “The Chasm and the Collision” and “Son of Man,” as well as with the short stories “If the Spirit Moves You,” “Prometheus and Chiron,” “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,”* and “Hole for a Heart.”  However, at times I come up with a title first, or a particular phrase seems like it might make a good title, and I develop a story to go with the title.  Such is the case with “Paradox City” and “The Death Sentence,” and it is true in spades of “Mark Red.” Continue reading

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.

All My Published Books Are Now In Paperback

Okay, well, at long last I am pleased to announce that all three of my published books are now available in paperback on Amazon.

You can find Son of Man here:

Son of man icon

you can find Welcome to Paradox City here:

Welcome to Paradox City Icon

and You can find Mark Red here:

Mark Red Cover

They’re also of course is still available for Kindle.  I’m a big fan of Kindle, but I have to admit that there’s something rather special about having my books out in paperback now.  As always half of my royalties will be given to literacy charities such as RIF, but don’t let that influence your decision to purchase them.

(Wink, wink.)

I am now proceeding full steam with the rewriting and subsequent editing of The Chasm and the Collision, and hopefully within the next few months or so it will be available for purchase as well. It’s a rather long book, so formatting it is going to be interesting.  It’s probably going to be in a bigger volume format, like Mark Red.  It also has not a single instance of profanity it the entire book, which is rather unusual for my work. So it’s kid friendly and family approved

This is literally true; it was my father who suggested to make sure to leave profanity out of this one.

I’ll give you further bulletins as the writing and the editing continues on The Chasm and the Collision, and of course I’ll be posting other random thoughts as they occur to me, so keep your eyes open.


“Mark Red” is now in paperback!

Well, I’m as happy as a pig in…well, in a loving and caring home, I guess, to be able to inform you all that “Mark Red” is now available in paperback as well as in the Kindle edition!  You can buy it from Amazon here:

Mark Red Cover

(Please note, if you use this link, a percentage of the sale will go to RIF, Reading is Fundamental.  This is in addition to my ongoing commitment to donate half my royalties to that or similar literacy charities.)

Now that “Mark Red” is out there in paperback, we are in the process of re-formatting “Welcome to Paradox City” as well, and it should be the next title available in physical print form, followed shortly thereafter by “Son of Man.”  After that, all attention will be given to the completion of the rewriting and editing of “The Chasm and the Collision,” followed by its publication both in Kindle and Paperback editions.

This is obviously a great milestone for me simply on a personal level, but I’m also happy to be able to provide good stories for people to read.  (Of course, I would think they’re good…I wrote them after all.)

Continuing that trend of blatant egotism – and no one has ever accused me of having a diminutive ego – I wanted to let you know that anyone who has purchased any of my paperbacks, and who is going to be in South Florida, should feel free to seek me out, and I would be delighted to autograph your copy.  Who knows, it might be worth a lot of money, someday.

Even though this is all quite invigorating – and it is – I must say that it will be wonderful when I can finally get fully back to work on “Unanimity,” which is my newest work.  Watch for its coming, and be warned; it’s a very dark story.  I like dark stories.

I shall be posting further updates as events warrant, and I’ll also try to throw in the occasional posting of my thoughts on various political, social, and scientific matters as well, just to keep things from being dull.  Do be on the lookout.  In the meantime, as Stephen Fry might say, be wonderful to one another.

And leave the lights on.


Some (Minor) Publication Updates

Hello all!

This is just a little FYI posting.  First of all, the formatting of “Mark Red” continues, and once that’s done, it will be available in paperback.  After that will follow “Son of Man” and “Welcome to Paradox City.”

In the meantime, the rewrite of “The Chasm and the Collision” can now continue…and so it will.  With that in mind, I will shortly un-publish the serialized early chapters of that book, so if you want to get those, now is the time.  If you want to wait for the full novel, though, I don’t blame you, and I give you my personal promise that you won’t be disappointed.  Seriously.  I’m very excited, it’s one of my favorite stories ever (and there’s not a single instance of profanity in the whole thing, so it’s safe for the whole family).

I’ll let you all know as everything becomes available.


“Mark Red” is now available on Kindle!

Okay, everyone, good news!  At long last, “Mark Red” – the complete novel – is available for purchase through Amazon Kindle, here.

In addition, we are currently formatting “Mark Red” for the paperback edition, which will soon be available as well.  It will probably be somewhat more expensive in paperback, but you will also have the option of buying both formats together for a discount, so keep you eyes open.  (You’ll also, in principle, be able to get it autographed by the author, so that’s something to keep in mind!)

In addition, we will soon be formatting both “Son of Man” and “Welcome to Paradox City” for paperback as well, and these too will be available for purchase, with the same deal as listed above.

Keep your eyes open.  If you like modern vampire stories, check out “Mark Red.”  And remember, 50% of royalties go to literacy charities!


“Mark Red” is Complete

Okay, just a brief announcement:  I have, at long last, finished the editing of “Mark Red.”  Now, I think it’s a true statement that no work of fiction – be it film, script, novel, short story, poem, or song – is ever completed and perfect.  Its creator simply reaches the point where he or she is satisfied with releasing it to the public, warts and all.  Many cringes undoubtedly follow for nearly every creator…or perhaps I’m just projecting.

Anyway, since “Mark Red” was written more or less entirely while I was an invited guest of the Florida State DOC, and the first novel I’d written in a very long time – and was, of necessity, handwritten – there was a great deal of work to be done to get it ready.  This is part of the reason why “Son of Man” and “Welcome to Paradox City,” as well as my two short stories on this blog, though written after, were released before “Mark Red.”  I’m sure it’s still far from perfect, but I do like it a lot…and I especially love the character Morgan.  I’m very proud of her!

If you want to find out who Morgan is, and who Mark is, and who all the rest of the characters are…well, the book will be available shortly.  I hope to take advantage of Kindle’s new “paperback” option and make it available in hard copy for people who prefer that format, but it will almost certainly be more expensive that way.  On the other hand, if you were so inclined, you could get a paperback autographed by the author (me).  Some day that might even be worth something.

In any case, I’ll let you know when the book is available.  Even if none of you are excited about it, I am, and that’s good enough for the moment.


Mark Red