FREE RANGE MEAT teaser

Note: This story will appear in my upcoming collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and that’s why I’m posting this teaser.  However, it has already been published in “Kindle” format, and there is a link to that below, in case you cannot wait for The Cabinet to be published.

Free Range Meat cover

FREE RANGE MEAT

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

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

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

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

PENAL COLONY teaser

Note: This story will appear in my upcoming collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and that’s why I’m posting this teaser.  However, it has already been published in “Kindle” format, and there is a link to that below, in case you cannot wait for The Cabinet to be published.

penal colony cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bell, book and candle shall not drive me back, when gold and silver becks me to blog on

Hello, good morning, and all that jazz.  It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  Sound drums and trumpets; farewell sour annoy!  For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.  And so on.

It’s the second Thursday of the month, but there will be no new entry for “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” a loss which I’ve clearly not gotten over, a loss for which I shall wreak a bloody and terrible vengeance upon those responsible!  And since, as far as I can tell, I am the only one responsible for it, I shall be taking my vengeance upon me, it would seem.  This is nothing new.

I’m all but finished with the last run-through of In the Shade.  In fact, barring the unforeseen, it should be complete by tomorrow morning.  I spoke last week of considering just publishing the story here, on this blog, probably serially, since it’s a bit long for a single post*.  I think I will instead publish it in my collection of short stories, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, as planned.  I haven’t yet truly begun working on the cover design for the collection.  The basic concept is clear in my head, but the execution will probably involve some fiddling**, as it almost always does.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but since I haven’t really gotten started on it yet, that may mean the book itself won’t come out for a bit.

I also need to decide on the order of the book, which I’m sure I mentioned before.  It’s long since been determined that House Guest will be the first story, and In the Shade will be the final one, but the specific order of the others is a bit up in the air.  I do plan to put Solitaire somewhere in the middle, surrounded immediately by comparatively light fare, since that story is extremely dark.

I don’t know where I’m going to find this “comparatively light” fare, though.

Returning to the notion of sharing stories on this blog:  it has occurred to me that it might be nice to share at least some “teasers” of some of my work here, possibly starting quite soon.  I wouldn’t be doing this on Thursdays, since I want to reserve this day every week for my random walk-in blog posts, as usual.  But maybe on Saturdays, or on Mondays, or something like that, I could post a section from one of my stories, perhaps starting with a bit of House Guest, and then a teaser of the opening of In the Shade.  This would, hopefully, whet my readers’ appetites, and perhaps encourage them to seek out and purchase one or more of my books.  From there, I might post teasers from older works, or perhaps even eventually serialize full stories.

Though it would, in a sense, be giving away some of my work for free, it might actually work out the other way.  I neither have advertisers on this blog, nor do I have a Patreon account, either for this or for IoZ or for my YouTube channel or whatnot.  So, as part of sharing such work, I would suggest that if people like the stories and want to support me, they can just buy a copy of the book  The e-book versions are quite cheap, and I keep most of that payment, such as it is, which cannot be said for the paperback versions (though I love those, personally, for what are probably obvious reasons to any fellow book lovers).

I guess in a pinch, if people want to support me, they can even listen to my original songs, on Spotify, or YouTube Music, or iTunes, or whatnot.  I make a tiny amount of money every time someone plays one of my songs on any of those venues, though nothing like the amount I get if someone buys even an e-book short story.  Of course, playing a song takes less time than reading a story.  A long song is maybe six minutes or so, whereas a long “short story” can be sixty pages…and a long novel might be so big it has to be broken into two or more volumes.

I would very much like to be able to make at least something of a living through my writing, whether through my books and short stories or through this blog, or both, but it’s not why I do any of it.  Staying alive has not usually been my dearest priority, even if I sometimes use the song as my ringtone***.

What I would like much more is for people to read my stories (and to a lesser extent listen to my songs), and to give me feedback, if possible, especially when they like them.  In most matters, I’m indifferent to compliments; I usually don’t agree with them, being by far my own most dedicated and spiteful critic.  But my stories are another matter.  I would really like to know if and when my stories touch people (even inappropriately), when readers like the plots or the characters or any other things about them.  I like my own stories, quite a lot, but I’m a peculiar person, so maybe no one else does or ever will.  If they do, I would very much like to hear from them.

With that in mind, I think I will post a teaser first of House Guest, possibly tomorrow or Saturday, so be on the lookout.  From then, I may continue the process as I described above, especially if it looks like it’s reasonably well-received.  Then, I may go on to serialize some of my earlier works just to try to get more people to read them.  Or who knows, maybe I’ll serialize something like The Dark Fairy and the Desperado here on my website.  I conceived of that as a manga originally, so doing it as a serial on my blog, in parallel with other writings that would be available for purchase, might be interesting.  I’ll think about it.  I would love to hear your thoughts as well.

TTFN

tardis library


*That’s quite an understatement.

**I suppose that’s the way Nero would have liked to carry out executions.

***An idea I picked up from Jim Moriarty (of Sherlock fame), whose attitude toward the song’s title subject matter is much like mine.

Faintness constraineth me to measure out my length on this cold blog.

Hello everyone.  Welcome to the second Thursday of August in 2021, and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  I won’t say “good morning” because I frankly had an absolutely terrible night’s sleep, even for me, and I don’t feel very good or very well this morning…though I do, of course, hope you all have a good one, nevertheless.

I say “weekly” blog post but, of course, I did create an interim post last week sharing a cover that I did of the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), and if you’re interested, I encourage you to check it out and listen.  It exists as a “video” on YouTube, and as is usual with YouTube posters, I hereby request that if you listen on YouTube, and if you happen to like the cover, please do click the “like” button on the YouTube page.  This apparently does real, measurable good for the degree to which YouTube videos are recommended to people online, and increases the circulation of the YouTube page, which I would obviously like, all other things being equal.

This is all somewhat ironic, considering I did my own song called Like and Share, which bemoans the nature of liking and sharing online—but it does so with a very specific point, highlighting the way in which people sometimes try to create or pretend to a self-image by sharing things online and how they can become quite vulnerable to setbacks relating to this, sometimes even leading to, or at least contributing to, personal tragedy.  The only tragedy associated with liking and/or sharing my song cover might be if those who hear it really don’t like it…but in that case, I wouldn’t expect you to “like” it, let alone share it.

I did another “video” this week, of what was really an impromptu audio blog about the possible future of neurostimulation.  It was just some off-the-cuff thoughts, and I made a post on Iterations of Zero sharing the video as well.  If you’re interested in such things, I encourage you to check it out, and likewise to “like” it if you like it and share it if you wish.  By all means, of course, I would like you to “like” the posts here on WordPress as well.  And I welcome any comments, here, at IoZ, or on YouTube, about either or any of my videos or posts.

As is often the case when I find myself obsessed with making a song (or a cover), the editing process on In the Shade has been mildly held back this last week, but I’ve nevertheless been making decent progress.  The word count is shrinking at a slightly lower rate than it was in the beginning, but it does continue to shrink.  And, of course, I’m editing for other things besides simple length, wordiness, digression, whatever you might want to call it.  That almost goes without saying.

As for everything else in life…well, there isn’t much of it.  Though today is unusually bad, my general insomnia and dysthymia continue to give me trouble; I’m tired to exhausted nearly every day, nearly all day.  It’s often difficult for me to see the point in doing anything at all.  However, I am notoriously stubborn, something that might be good or bad or both, and so I plod on.  No one ever promised anyone a rose garden, I guess.  At least, no with the wherewithal to fulfill such promises has ever promised.  The universe promises us nothing—or at most, one thing—and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t make bargains with anyone.

Even so, it won’t be too much longer before I’m done with In the Shade, and then I can compile and publish Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and then I have plans to finish Outlaw’s Mind.  After that, I’m not sure what writing project I’ll work on next.  I listed several possible stories a few blog posts back—I’ll look for that post and link it here—and I’d encourage those of you who might be interested to take a quick read through them, and if any one or few of them sounds particularly interesting or promising to you, please let me know.  If you can also tell me why, please do so.

With that, I’m going to call it enough for this week.  I need to have a nap or something before editing and posting this, but at least the fact that it’s slightly shorter than usual should make that process quicker and maybe even easier than usual.  If my writing is poor today, I do apologize.  Please try your best to stay reasonably safe and healthy, and to be as happy as you’re able to be, as long as your pursuit of happiness doesn’t directly and unnecessarily impair someone else’s.

TTFN

Karloff monster

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

Picture5


*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.

All my books and stories are available and would make excellent Christmas gifts for book lovers!

Hello and good morning.  It’s not Thursday today, of course, but I just thought of something that I wish I had thought of and posted yesterday instead of the rather rambling and negative post that I did create.

Although it’s probably too late for Hanukkah*, it should not be too late, if you have avid readers on your list of Christmas gift recipients, to order them a copy of one of my books, if you think they would be interested.  I have six titles available in paperback through Amazon, which I’ll summarize here:

Welcome to Paradox City IconWelcome to Paradox City:  A collection of three dark “short”** stories, one of which is a light-hearted near-comedy and the other two of which are darker.  The first, The Death Sentence, is about a man who finds a previously unnoticed room in his public library, and in it discovers a bizarre but intriguing book containing illustrations and writing in languages he doesn’t know…but which also contains one particular line that can be at least pronounced, as it is written in Latin characters.  He only slowly discovers the secret of that sentence…and of the rest of the book itself.  The second story, If the Spirit Moves You, is about a man who suddenly discovers that he can see ghosts—or “the unquiet dead” as they prefer to be called—and that he may well be the only one who can, and who can help them make contact with the modern world.  The third story, Paradox City, involves a man who enters a popular but rather peculiar nightclub, which bears the name of the story’s title.  Though the entertainment is good, and the service is excellent, and he meets and falls for a charming young woman who is equally taken with him, this is a club in which peculiar, impossible, sometimes paradoxical, and ultimately horrifying things can happen…and if you make the wrong decision, you might get stuck there forever.

Mark Red Cover

Mark Red:  Mark Reed, the title character (obviously), is a teenager who spots an attempted mugging and rape.  He tries to intercede to help the woman, but her assailant stabs him, giving him a mortal wound.  However, it turns out that the mugger’s target was a vampire, who deliberately put herself in the situation to prey on the criminal.  She makes short work of her assailant, but then has only one way to save Mark, which she feels compelled to do because he got hurt trying to help her.  She gives him some of her blood to replace what he’s lost, turning him into a demi-vampire—with a combination of the aspects of humans and vampires, the nature of which state he learns over time.  The vampire, Morgan, determines to stay with and protect Mark from his own urges for blood until such time as she can find out how to cure him, for as she explains, contrary to popular folklore, a full vampire can never die at all, even if they wish to.  And if Mark ever kills a human by drinking their blood, he will become a full, uncurable vampire, cursed with immortality.

41lnfutijalSon of Man:  David McCarthy, a college student in Chicago, is going to the university library one morning when, without transition, he finds himself in a featureless cylindrical room.  The wall of the room opens, and two men—Anderson and Greer—eventually explain to him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future.  They tell him that only a few decades after the time from which he was taken, an apparent global thermonuclear war, now call the Conflagration, destroyed civilization and most of the people, but that the human race was saved by a “man” now known simply as The Father, who united humanity, willing or not, under his control and guidance, and rebuilt civilization, with his astonishingly advanced technology and inexplicable genius.  He also initiated the “domestication” of the human race, killing any person who initiates violence against others, and sterilizing their first-degree relatives.  Though grateful for the Father’s rescue of civilization, the two men, their friend Michael, and some others think that he has gone too far, and they enlist David to help them either convince the Father to abdicate or to find a way to remove him…choosing David for reasons that he at first cannot believe.  The Father has an enemy within his own mind—a mind that now spans the entire world—and that enemy wants to help them overthrow the Father.  He alters David in an inexplicable way and assist the group in their quest to achieve their goals.  But his motives are not certain, and he also reveals to them some secrets of the Father’s past and nature that horrify them, especially David.

CatC cover paperbackThe Chasm and the Collision:  Alex Hinton and his friend Simon come home from middle-school one day and find that Alex’s mother has, apparently, left a newly purchased and unrecognized—but delightful-smelling—bunch of berries in the fruit bowl in the house.  Alex tries the fruit and discovers that it tastes even better than it smells, and he shares it with Simon and with a girl name Meghan, on whom Alex has a crush.  Soon, Alex and the other two begin seeing and hearing seemingly impossible and sometimes terrifying things, which no one else perceives, and they begin developing new, amazing abilities.  They also find a strange apparent “space warp” in the wall of the dining room of Alex’s house.  Eventually, they are accosted, captured, and brought back to what turns out to be a piece of another world—Osmeer—which is the counterpart to Earth, but in a universe that lies adjacent to ours in higher-dimensional space.  They learn that some process has set the universes on a collision course, and that if they collide, the impact will wipe out everything in both universes in a new Big Bang.  A great genius of Osmeer has created what is called The Chasm—a way of taking part of Osmeer out of its world and positioning it between the two universes to hold them apart, at least temporarily.  Within the Chasm, that part of Osmeer has permanently sunset-colored skies, and time flows there roughly thirty times faster than in the original universes.  The pre-teens learn that in the other universe, not only are there intelligent “dinosaur dogs” called tixuns with advanced sense of smell, who work with humans, but also intelligent, furry “mole-weasel” creatures called orcterlolets, that can tunnel and build by manipulating the fabric of space itself.  Most amazingly, they learn that all the plants of that world are conscious, and can communicate with each other telepathically, as well as with gifted humans and tixuns called Gardeners.  The man who created the Chasm has also helped breed and create a special tree, called Wynestrith, whose purpose is to save both universes by returning them to their proper places.  Alex, Meghan, and Simon have unwittingly become embroiled in that quest, and they learn that there is a cult, and a Prophet, and a much darker and more terrible Other, an Ill Will, that wants the collision to happen, and that only the three friends, working with Wynestrith, will be able to prevent the collision, and the destruction of two universes.  But they will have to survive to do so, and also—hopefully—they will be able to succeed without their parents and teachers finding out they were ever gone.***

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 2 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 1 and Unanimity Book 2:  Charley Banks is a pleasant young university student, majoring in English, with a long-term girlfriend he loves very much, nice parents, and a positive outlook on life.  He takes part in a seemingly harmless neuroscience experiment, testing a new form of external magnetic cortical stimulator, innovated by one of the school’s professors.  After the test, though, in the follow-up MRI, he has a severe grand mal seizure.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers, to his amazement and delight, that when he touches other people, if he focuses on the curious sensation that now happens at the point of contact, he can merge with their minds, taking over their nervous systems, replacing their consciousness with his own, but with access to all they know and are.  At first the union only lasts while he’s touching them, but soon this ability grows, and he is able to maintain his presence in others even after separating.  He then becomes able to control more than one person at a time, and then becomes able to extend himself further using bodies he already controls, all while still controlling his normal, original body.  He keeps this gift secret even from his girlfriend (at first), and as the power grows, he decides to use it to correct some perceived and real injustices done to people he cares about.  But his methods are extreme and horrifying, and it becomes clear over time that his mind has been altered in other ways than simply giving him his new abilities.  This becomes still more dangerous when he discovers the astonishing effects of having a person die while he’s controlling them.  His power, and his willingness to use it, seems to grow without obvious limit, and even after a few other people, including his girlfriend, learn of his ability, and of his altered character, its unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent Charley from someday encompassing the entire human race.

All of these titles are also available in Kindle format, including Son of Man, for which I somehow failed to link the paperback and the Kindle versions.

I also have several “short” stories that are only available in Kindle format for now, though I plan to collect them into a paperback edition along with a new novella soon.  Most of them are available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member, and anyway, they’re less than a buck apiece if you buy them.  I won’t go into too much detail; instead, I’ll copy the blurb from each listing on Amazon.  My short stories tend to be rather dark, and most of them would count as horror (not “Ifowonco” or Penal Colony, though).  They include:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”:  Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical change of fortune.  His subsequent actions lead a genius named Darrell White, enabled and inspired by Peter’s choices, to create the world’s first artificial intelligence.  Unfortunately, this happens at a time when humanity has devastated itself with global war and is unprepared to accept the existence of these new and superior minds.  These facts will combine to create a future that Peter would not have had the courage to expect, and the implications of which are impossible to foresee.

Prometheus and Chiron:  Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him.  Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand.  Even after a month passes, she remains seated in the same place, always visibly suffering.  No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all.  But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her.  And she sees him.

Hole for a Heart:  While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill:  A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow.  Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station.  There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes.  Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years.  Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale.  Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.

Solitaire:  (This is my oldest—and darkest—published short story.  It’s not for the faint of heart.)  It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown.  He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world.  Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…

Penal Colony:  While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback.  Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner.  There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment.  He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him.  Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow.  The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it.  It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…until the man proves it.

Free Range Meat:  Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?  Brian certainly would.  As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can.  So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.  But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV?  Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.  And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off?  What breed of dog makes sounds like that?  These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

That’s everything (so far).  None of it is, perhaps, traditional Christmas fare, though CatC is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure whose heroes are middle-schoolers, so its arguably a holiday-worthy story.  But a book, like a puppy****, is not just for Christmas.  Most people can’t read one of my books in one day, in any case.  And to a book lover, there is rarely any better gift that can be given than a new book.

(I would advertise my songs here as well, but they definitely aren’t holiday-type ditties.)

Happy Holidays!


*Except for Kindle books, of course.

**I use scare quotes because though not truly novellas, they are quite long for short stories, especially Paradox City, which gives the book its title.

***This is my most “family-friendly” book.

****Which is also very good cold on Boxing Day.

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.

The blogs of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo.

Hello and good day, everyone.  It’s Thursday morning, the last Thursday of May (2020 (AD or CE (Gregorian calendar))), and—at least where I live—people are starting to go back to work.  We can only wait and see whether this will be something that large numbers of the population will regret or not, but I can certainly sympathize with their desire.

I haven’t yet written anything for Iterations of Zero this week.  I could post one of a few bits that I’ve already written; I have two pieces primed and ready.  However, those essays are rather dark and somewhat negative; they have a sardonic and grim character, and that’s not what I want to get across right now.  I’m trying very hard to be positive (this despite appallingly wet weather, even by south Florida standards, which is making my chronic back pain flare up something fierce*).

So, instead of using either one of those articles, which I’ll save for later, I think I’ll make a post embedding my five original song “videos”** which are up on YouTube.  I’ve said before, half-jokingly, that I have roughly half-an-album’s-worth of original songs recorded and produced, and I’m inclined to work toward another half, just for shits and giggles.  But it would be nice to have more people tell me what they think about the songs before I put a lot of effort in.  I have received good reviews from those who have listened so far (and they weren’t all family members).  Considering the limitations under which they were made, I think the songs have come out remarkably well.  Still, I’m definitely my own primary audience thus far.

This isn’t so terrible; it’s nice that, just as I enjoy reading my own stories, I also enjoy listening to my own songs.  But I do face a serious obstacle in that I’m built or was trained or raised in such a way as to find self-promotion extremely difficult, and even distasteful.  Some large and loud part of me finds it unseemly to tell people, “Hey, listen to this song that I made,” or even, “Hey, you should read this book that I wrote.”  I’m also terribly embarrassed to be in the same room as someone listening to one of my songs.

I think I would benefit greatly from awakening just a little bit of the Trumpian spirit that must surely lie dormant within me.  When I’m honest with myself, and can push past my cringing, I really do think the songs are pretty good, especially considering what I have to work with***.  And in all honesty, I think my stories and books are quite good, and if it wouldn’t be just supremely cheesy, I’d go on Amazon and rate them each five stars and give them dazzling reviews.  That’s probably what Kanye West or The Donald would do, but I don’t know if I’m capable of it.

Speaking of my books, I’m about seventy pages from finishing the second to last run-through of Unanimity.  This means that the final turn, with layout, cover design, etc., is fast approaching.  I’m tempted to say that I feel like Frodo finally reaching the Plateau of Gorgoroth, but Unanimity is definitely NOT like the One Ring.  That is to say, I don’t consider it a cursed or dark or deadly burden of which I’m eager to be rid.  Quite the contrary, I love it dearly****.  But it has been a helluva journey through spacetime and through mindspace and workspace and whatever other phase space one might conjure to describe the process.  It’s certainly taken longer in proper time than the journey portion of The Lord of the Rings took‡, though the main-arc events of that book, from “A Long-expected Party” even just until “The Scouring of the Shire” last at least a good seventeen or so years, if memory serves.  Correct me if I’m wrong†, please.

With that good and exciting news, I think I’ll wrap things up for the week.  As always, I wish you all the best of all possible things, both short-term and long-term, both deep and shallow.  And though it is true that, if wishes were horses, we’d all be hip deep in horseshit, that wish is nevertheless entirely sincere.

TTFN


*Do you hear that high, plaintive, irritating sound, Mr. Anderson?  That is the sound of the world’s tiniest Stradivarius playing a doleful tune.

**This is in scare quotes because the video portion of these songs is just a fixed shot of the Iterations of Zero symbol.  It’s simply a fact that YouTube is one of the best, most available means by which one can spread an audio file and make it available, in principle, to the largest possible audience, but to use it, you need some kind of “video”.  There is no comparable “YouWoofer” or other stereo-speaker-titled venue for purely audio tracks for people to share, though podcasts are certainly all the rage.  Likewise, Facebook lets one upload videos as one wishes (true to its name, I must admit), but if there’s a way to upload purely audio files to the platform, I’ve yet to discover it.  Ditto for Twitter.

***Cue the “back-alley” doctor scene from Tim Burton’s Batman, in which the nascent Joker first sees his new face.

****And you will, too.  Believe me.  Everyone agrees with me.  No one’s ever done a book like this before.  It’s huge (it really is).

‡Or brandybuck or even gamgee.  Ha ha.

†I know, I know—I?  Wrong?  I!?  Don’t be absurd!

Time and the hour blog through the roughest day

Hello and good morning. Welcome to another Thursday, a reminder that you’ve survived for yet another week.  Congratulations!  You’ve earned the chance to read yet another edition of my weekly blog.

I’ve been thinking about the recurrent and ongoing desire I have to reinvigorate Iterations of Zero, my “other” blog, in which I range over a wider…well, range of topics, many of them darker than what I address here.  I tend to keep this blog, the one you’re reading, focused on my creative writing (books and short stories) and on music when that comes up (though that also appears on IoZ).

One of the biggest obstacles to IoZ is that I imagine that I should write about planned and specific topics there.  When I write this weekly blog, I don’t plan it in advance.  I just write whatever comes out, rather in the way that people have conversations*, and it seems to work nicely.  So, what I intend to try is not to plan what I’m going to write in Iterations of Zero, but simply start writing as I do here, and see what comes out.  Hopefully, I won’t start channeling ancient Lemurians or some similar such nonsense.  I can think of it almost as a kind of free-association psychotherapy…except that I can’t really do it while lying on a leather “couch”.

This won’t clear away every barrier to posting in IoZ.  One of its other main obstacles is time.  I don’t want to sacrifice another weekday morning that could be spent working on my books, since I already miss one of the those a week doing what you’re reading now.  And, despite my exhortations for all of you to send me lots of money so I can become independently wealthy and write full-time, I still have to work for a living, and to commute (yes, I’m back in the office full-time now), so my free time is woefully limited.

I’ve tried various means to get around that problem, including buying a Bluetooth keyboard for my cell phone so I can write blog posts there.  It’s a nifty little gizmo, and it does its job nicely, but it hasn’t seemed to make me any more likely to use my spare moments to write.  I’m much more prone to use them to read blog posts and to check various news and science sites.  I guess I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just tell myself to write something—anything—every Sunday, which is the one day I never use to work on my books**.  We’ll see how it works out, but it can be soooo hard to kick myself into gear on Sundays.

Now, to abruptly shift gears and address another potential time sink: I’ve been considering restarting audio recordings of some of my work.  I have a few published short stories for which I haven’t recorded audio (and thus haven’t posted to YouTube), and of course I only reached Chapter 9 of The Chasm and the Collision before deciding that not enough people were following it to make it worthwhile***.

However, there is real, personal, ego-syntonic joy in reading my stories aloud and posting them for people to listen if they want.  Doing so in the past also helped me learn how to use Audacity, which led to me being able to record and produce my original songs, which is double-plus-good.  So, what I think I may do is put out a few posts here with links/embedding of my short stories’ audio “videos” (one post) and chapters of CatC (another post) to give you all an easy place to link to them, to see if I get any new listens, and to elicit any comments in favor of or against me doing further recordings.

It might also be nice to do a post embedding my song “videos” as well, since I have little bits and pieces of the beginnings of various others bouncing about on paper and in my head and might be pushed toward or away from further efforts by reader/listener response.  But that’s mainly orthogonal to the preceding point.

As for much more important matters, Unanimity continues to draw nearer to its final form.  I’m within a few hundred pages of the end of the penultimate edit!  That might not sound like much, but in a half-a-million-word novel, believe me, it’s getting close to the end.  Of course, the final run-through will be the hardest work since the original writing of the book, but the excitement of being near completion should easily keep me going.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to spread a little of that excitement to all of you.  There are worse contagions to catch, as we all know.

With that, I’ll call this week’s blog installment good and move on to other things.  I hope you’re all well, and that you stay well and become even better over time for as long as you are able.

TTFN


*Some of you may say that this fact is obvious based on the quality of this weekly blog.  You really know how to hurt a guy.

**There’s nothing religious about this; Sunday is just the one day of every week that I never go to official work.  For that reason, it’s also the day I do my laundry, and I can guarantee that there is nothing religious about that process.

***I honestly don’t understand this.  I know I’m biased, but I really love that story—and others have told me they love it also and have thanked me for writing it—and I think that I narrate it well.  Oh, well.