“Wolf in a Cage and The Gift: Two Fantasies” – Free Short Story Offer

WolfAndGiftStoryCoverFor five days, from Sunday September 14th to Thursday September 18th, my short stories “Wolf in a Cage and The Gift: Two Fantasies” will be available for free download on Amazon.com here.  Stop in and pick up a copy.  Here’s what they’re about:

In the wilderness of Alaska a man escapes the attack of a pack led by a savage black wolf.  Many years later, in the ruins of Jack London’s Wolf House a wanderer discovers the trapped spirit of a wolf pacing back and forth.  But who or what is it, and is it benign or malevolent?  And…  A musician busking in the Athens subway system encounters another musician who can play the souls of men.

FearWebCover_FinalBigIt’s part of my short story collection “Fear or Be Feared: Fantasies” which is available on Amazon here. Here’s a description of the collection:

A teenage girl climbing Mount Olympus with friends becomes possessed by an ancient Greek god who uses her as an instrument of vengeance.

A young artist pursued by her abusive stepfather is recruited to join a society of people linked together by telepathy which exists completely outside the awareness of the present world system.

Paranoia overwhelms a young college student as reality and fantasy merge in the midst of a drug trip that he realizes a dark power may be controlling.

During the British Raj an American reporter discovers a hidden valley in the foothills of the Himalaya ruled by a lovely but sinister woman who may not be human.

In these fourteen weird, surreal, frightening, and fantastic tales, unwary people discover that the world is very different from what they imagined.

While you’re there, stop in at my Amazon author’s page and peruse my other works.

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“The Lady of the Lost Valley” – Free Short Story Offer

LadyoftheLostValleyStoryCoverFor five days, from Tuesday September 9th to Saturday September 13th, my short story “The Lady of the Lost Valley” is available for free download at Amazon.com here. Stop in and pick up a copy. Here’s what it’s about:

During the British Raj an American reporter discovers a hidden valley in the foothills of the Himalaya ruled by a lovely but sinister woman who may not be human.

 

 

 

FearWebCover_FinalBigIt’s part of my short story collection “Fear or Be Feared: Fantasies” which is available on Amazon here. Here’s a description of the collection:

A teenage girl climbing Mount Olympus with friends becomes possessed by an ancient Greek god who uses her as an instrument of vengeance.

A young artist pursued by her abusive stepfather is recruited to join a society of people linked together by telepathy which exists completely outside the awareness of the present world system.

Paranoia overwhelms a young college student as reality and fantasy merge in the midst of a drug trip that he realizes a dark power may be controlling.

During the British Raj an American reporter discovers a hidden valley in the foothills of the Himalaya ruled by a lovely but sinister woman who may not be human.

In these fourteen weird, surreal, frightening, and fantastic tales, unwary people discover that the world is very different from what they imagined.

While you’re there, stop in at my Amazon author’s page and peruse my other works.

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Book Review: On Moving: A Writer’s Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again by Louise DeSalvo

My son and I just moved again, from Yakima to Seattle, Washington.  We took a walk to the local branch of the Seattle Public Library to check it out and apply for library cards.  Waiting for the librarians to do their processing thing, perusing the collection, I naturally gravitated towards books on writing and literature.  I found one fascinating book on literature about which I will comment in due course, and then I came across this book.  “On Moving” – fascinating.  The story of my life.

Since I came back to the United States from Greece to help my sons find better employment and educational opportunities, I have been moving frequently, but in each case the acquisition of a domicile has been a matter of necessity, not of choice.

My first thought upon realizing I had to move on from Greece to the United States was to find a place in the Seattle area, where most of my relatives lived.  Seattle had gotten expensive, though, and housing was difficult to find.  My son in the Navy stationed in San Diego suggested I move there and we could find a house together.  So I flew on ahead, we searched for housing, and finally found a small two-bedroom house just two days before two more of my sons were scheduled to fly in.  We stayed there a year, one of my sons got his high school diploma there, and my youngest son, near the end of that stay, joined us from Greece.  I go into much more detail of that year in San Diego in my memoir “America Redux: Impressions of the United States After Thirty-Five Years Abroad“.

But then my Navy son received new orders and had to move elsewhere.  My thoughts turned again to Seattle, and again the expense and the paucity of available housing frustrated us.  One of my brothers suggested Yakima, just a few hours east of Seattle.  And so it was that we journeyed north to Yakima, not having seen our new abode.  My brother had booked a two-bedroom apartment for myself and my three sons, but we didn’t know exactly which one it was or what it looked like until we arrived and moved in.  We got by in Yakima, but it was unsuitable for a number of reasons.  It’s a small, isolated city without much to do.  There are no writers groups.  The public transportation system is very limited and infrequent.  During this time the two older sons living with me enlisted in the military and took off, and I was left with my youngest son, who was attending Middle School.

I determined to get out of there and move to Seattle.  One of my sisters told me of a nice apartment complex with reasonable rents in a nice neighborhood.  I looked it up on line and liked what I saw.  A two-bedroom apartment there inevitably cost more than one in Yakima, but it was within our means – barely.  I called the manager.  She was very congenial but told me she got at least three hundred queries a month for apartments but rarely had vacancies.  She told me to be persistent if I really wanted one.  So I started e-mailing her every day and calling at least once a week – and lo and behold, after a couple of months of daily queries a place opened up.  I accepted it sight unseen, as I knew I wouldn’t find another deal like it within the city of Seattle.  It turned out to be a good choice.  Another two-bedroom apartment, this one upstairs on the second floor, with views of the greenery of trees from all windows.

But this is telling you of the least of my wanderings.  In my hitchhiking days I wandered down the west coast of the United States, through Mexico into Guatemala, back up, across the States, all around Europe, across the Middle East, through Iran and Afghanistan, over the Khyber Pass, through Pakistan and India, to Sri Lanka and then through India again to Nepal, back across to Europe the way I’d come, around Europe, back across the States, back again to Europe and across the Middle East back to India.  Places I’ve stayed and lived in for considerable amounts of time include India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, and Greece.  And I’ve lived in more than one city in a number of these places.  Yes, I’ve done my wandering.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever settle down.  I thought I had, in Greece, until the economy crashed and I had to leave for the sake of my sons.

So I found a lot of interest, a lot to empathize with, in DeSalvo’s anecdotes of writers and artists and their wanderings and homemaking.  Some stories affected me more than others.  Two, in particular, touched me profoundly.  The first was of the painter Pierre Bonnard, who moved to the south of France and bought a villa overlooking the sea. He created an ambiance there to suit his artistic temperament, and began to paint pictures of the house itself, over and over, all the different rooms, as it evolved and his life evolved in it.  He took to the task with spiritual dedication, seeing it as a life’s work to not paint just the appearance but the essence of things.  The other story that deeply moved me was of Henry Miller.  I have heard it before; indeed, I have read most of Miller’s works, but it was interesting to hear it in the context of DeSalvo’s thoughts on the moves an artist often feels compelled to make.  DeSalvo’s own story is also intriguing.  Though her moves were mainly within the state of New Jersey, she brings out the significance of each one and how it affected her life and work.

This is a slim volume.  I would have enjoyed more detail.  But it is what it is.  As the author brings out, moving is a profound, unsettling experience which can be either liberating or devastating, depending on why and how the move is made and how the artist uses the resulting emotional material in his or her life and work.

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Short Story “Matchmaker” Now Available in Infinite Science Fiction One

Infinite Science Fiction OneThe new science fiction anthology “Infinite Science Fiction One” is now available at Amazon.com. It’s got my story “Matchmaker”, about a man who travels back in time to Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1917, just before the great fire. In his era people have lost the will to pair up and procreate, and his journey is a fact-finding mission to locate and learn from a famed Greek matchmaker. His deception in pretending to be a client becomes complicated when she locates an ideal wife for him, and he is confronted with the decision of returning to the future alone with the knowledge he has acquired, or remaining in the past with the devastating fire about to sweep the city.

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“The Elephants Eyes” – Free Short Story Offer

ElephantsEyesStoryCoverFor five days, from Saturday August 30th to Wednesday September 3rd, my short story “The Elephant’s Eyes” will be available for free download on Amazon.com here. Stop in and pick up a copy. Here’s what it’s about:

In the midst of a savage riot a young Indian woman’s spirit merges with that of a temple elephant.  Realizing that she can control the beast, she guides it out into the midst of the chaos to rescue herself from those who are attacking her.

 

 

FearWebCover_FinalBig

It’s part of my short story collection “Fear or Be Feared: Fantasies” which is available on Amazon here. Here’s a description of the collection:

A teenage girl climbing Mount Olympus with friends becomes possessed by an ancient Greek god who uses her as an instrument of vengeance.

A young artist pursued by her abusive stepfather is recruited to join a society of people linked together by telepathy which exists completely outside the awareness of the present world system.

Paranoia overwhelms a young college student as reality and fantasy merge in the midst of a drug trip that he realizes a dark power may be controlling.

During the British Raj an American reporter discovers a hidden valley in the foothills of the Himalaya ruled by a lovely but sinister woman who may not be human.

In these fourteen weird, surreal, frightening, and fantastic tales, unwary people discover that the world is very different from what they imagined.

While you’re there, stop in at my Amazon author’s page and peruse my other works.

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“The Disappearance of Juliana and Invisible People: Two Fantasies” free short story offer

DisofJuland InvPeoStoriesCoverFor five days, from Monday August 25th to Friday August 29th, the short story compilation “The Disappearance of Juliana and Invisible People: Two Fantasies” will be available for free download at Amazon.com here. Stop in and pick up a copy. Here’s what it’s about:

In these two related tales, a young artist being pursued by her abusive stepfather and a middle-aged man fleeing a terrifying incident from his past are recruited to join a society of people linked together by telepathy which exists completely outside the awareness of the present world system.

 

FearWebCover_FinalBigIt’s part of my short story collection “Fear or Be Feared: Fantasies” which is available on Amazon here. Here’s a description of the collection:

A teenage girl climbing Mount Olympus with friends becomes possessed by an ancient Greek god who uses her as an instrument of vengeance.

A young artist pursued by her abusive stepfather is recruited to join a society of people linked together by telepathy which exists completely outside the awareness of the present world system.

Paranoia overwhelms a young college student as reality and fantasy merge in the midst of a drug trip that he realizes a dark power may be controlling.

During the British Raj an American reporter discovers a hidden valley in the foothills of the Himalaya ruled by a lovely but sinister woman who may not be human.

In these fourteen weird, surreal, frightening, and fantastic tales, unwary people discover that the world is very different from what they imagined.

While you’re there, stop in at my Amazon author’s page and peruse my other works.

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“Fear or Be Feared” Free Short Story Offer

FearorBeFearedStoryCoverFor five days, from Wednesday August 20th to Sunday August 24th, my short story “Fear or Be Feared” will be available for free download at Amazon.com here. Stop in and pick up a copy. Here’s what it’s about:

A teenage Greek girl climbs Mount Olympus with some of her friends.  Lost in a lightning storm, she discovers the spirit of an ancient Greek god which possesses her and uses her against her will as an instrument of vengeance.

 

 

FearWebCover_FinalBigIt’s part of my short story collection “Fear or Be Feared: Fantasies” which is available on Amazon here. Here’s a description of the collection:

A teenage girl climbing Mount Olympus with friends becomes possessed by an ancient Greek god who uses her as an instrument of vengeance.

A young artist pursued by her abusive stepfather is recruited to join a society of people linked together by telepathy which exists completely outside the awareness of the present world system.

Paranoia overwhelms a young college student as reality and fantasy merge in the midst of a drug trip that he realizes a dark power may be controlling.

During the British Raj an American reporter discovers a hidden valley in the foothills of the Himalaya ruled by a lovely but sinister woman who may not be human.

In these fourteen weird, surreal, frightening, and fantastic tales, unwary people discover that the world is very different from what they imagined.

While you’re there, stop in at my Amazon author’s page and peruse my other works.

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Book Review: Little, Big by John Crowley

You should not approach “Little, Big” with any preconceptions.  It is an unusual work of fantasy.  I have been wanting to read it for years and never got around to it.  Recently I came across it on a list of old Nebula Award nominees I was perusing looking for reading material and I thought, why not?  I ordered it and began to read, and then found out, completely coincidentally, that John Crowley had been teaching at Clarion West and was doing a reading at the downtown public library shortly after I was moving to Seattle.  That’s another subject, incidentally, public readings by authors.  I have never done one, but I have often wondering how I would do if I were offered the opportunity.  With a few notable exceptions such as Harlan Ellison in his heyday, authors are not public performers.  Their real performances are alone in front of their keyboards or, as when Crowley wrote “Little, Big” back in the late 1970s, their typewriters.  Writers are solitary folk who weave their works alone.  There is a curious time-slip involved, as the writer imparts the words for an imagined audience who will read it in the future.  Even John Crowley, at the library podium, was reading printed-out words he had previously written.

I digress, but not far.  For as I read “Little, Big” and became involved in the complex intricacy of the language and characters, I wondered what the author went through as he wrote it.  As the initial thrill of writing is a solitary one, the ecstasy of the writer/reader relationship is a strange sort of delayed reaction.  I wanted to ask Crowley what he went through as he wrote “Little, Big” in the question and answer time at the end of his reading, but I wimped out and instead asked a general question about his writing process to which he gave a vague non-answer.  I don’t think I really need to ask the question, though.  Whenever the writing is going the way it should, either in first draft or rewrite, it is a thrilling, glorious experience, a feeling of destiny fulfilled.

“Little, Big” chronicles the stories of a family who lives in a mansion at Edgewood, a place north of a city that is never named but is implied as New York.  This family has intimate association with fairies, but the magical characters are at the periphery of the tale, always there but implied and not center stage.  Instead, the different family members live out their lives through several generations, lives replete with tragedy and mystery, until in the end the survivors are summoned to a special parliament, a parliament of the fairies, which brings closure to the book’s multiple story lines.

As I said, it is a complex book.  It is not an easy fantasy to get into, such as “The Lord of the Rings” is, with a straightforward story and clear good and evil.  Instead, shades of gray, shadow and light dominate.  Nothing is clear.  The characters pursue obscure destinies, seemingly propelled by forces beyond their control, right up until the end.

The language, though, and the building of character, is sublime.  You cannot approach this book as fast food.  It is a slow feast, during which you must chew the food thoroughly, sip the wine slowly, appreciate the getting there as much as the destination.

It’s a good read, though it is not a book I would read over and over as much as “The Lord of the Rings”, which, as I mentioned before, is fantasy in quite a different vein.  You must slow down for “Little, Big”.  You must take it on its own terms.  You must approach it as fine cuisine, not as a fast pick-me-up.  I would recommend it, but you have to be prepared to enjoy it.  I think of the ideal situation as being in front of a fireplace, relaxing in an easy chair, a reading lamp on behind you, a chiaroscuro of shadows playing on the walls.  Enchanting, perhaps, is a good word to use.  It takes you to another world, a world seemingly only slightly different, but actually radically different from our own.  It draws you away with hints and promises, opens the hearts and souls of the characters so that they become your own, lures you into the midst of the wild and magical – and then leaves you there.

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Book Review: Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Lives for the Better by Clive Thompson

I got hold of this book fairly quickly from my trusty public library soon after reading Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows”.  I didn’t like the Carr book.  It was negative and reactionary about ubiquitous technology that is here to stay.  It proposed historical examples that made no sense in light of its premise.  Yes, it had some good ideas, but it was unnecessarily backward-thinking instead of forward-thinking.  So I was looking to the Thompson book “Smarter Than You Think” for some sort of perspective.  I mean, look at the subtitle.  Overall, the book is interesting, much more so than the starkly negative “The Shallows” – but it is not as entertaining and informative as I thought it would be.

To explain, I have to let you in on where most of my money comes from these days.  I have mentioned it before in these essays.  Basically, I write short articles for other people’s blog posts.  They are published under other people’s bylines on websites that use compiled information to solicit hits and links and so on.  I have written so many of these types of articles, in fact, that I often come across my own articles while doing research for writing new articles.  You’d be amazed at how much content repeats itself online.  I write for a few different content mills, as they are called, each of which have different rules about style and sources, but each of which do require specific styles and types of sources.  So what I do, once I have the basic subject, is go to a search engine and call up a half dozen or so different sites I can use for source material, read through the gist of what they say, write the article as a compilation of information, and then cite the sources.

In a way, that’s the way this book came across to me.  It is written in an informal, conversational tone which is all very well, but it seemed a compilation of information I have heard before with very little in the way of new ideas.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was interesting, and the information was very well-compiled and professionally handled.  It’s just that I had heard it all before.

The book devotes a chapter to each of a number of different modern technological realities, including the melding of humans and machines in such fields as chess-play, the use of artificial memory in the augmentation of human intellect, blogging not only as a form of idea exchange but as a stimulus for reading and writing education, new online literacies of sharing videos and photos, search engines as knowledge augmentation, video games and other programs as collaborative exercises, interactive platforms such as Khan Academy as aids to education, social networking as a means of creating ambient awareness, and the Internet as a means of bringing about political and societal change.  Some of these sections are fascinating, but none bring up much in the way of new ideas.

One subject that Thompson did not discuss that I was waiting and hoping for as I read was the impact of self-publishing platforms in the evolution of the publishing industry.  The rise of e-books and print-on-demand technology is an integral facet of the way knowledge is presented and dispersed online, and yet he does not give this, which is one of the most controversial and cutting-edge topics online nowadays, even a passing mention.

In conclusion, I don’t know whether I would recommend this book or not.  It started dragging for me a bit, as I read on and began to realize it was not what I had expected and hoped for.  It’s okay, and might be informative for someone unfamiliar with what is happening in technology nowadays, but to anyone who keeps up with technological trends it offers little in the way of new ideas.  I don’t even have to agree with everything I read to find a book stimulating and exciting, as in the case of “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  That book dealt with a lot of controversial ideas, but it is interesting for its succinct and arresting way of presenting those ideas.  It opens new horizons of thought.  This book rehashes ideas that admittedly are interesting, but ultimately it does not live up to its promise.

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Book Review: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

I didn’t like this book.  There was too much in it I didn’t agree with.  I thought I would like it, and I wanted to like it.  It’s on a subject I am very interested in, the use of the Internet and its effect on the human psyche.  It was even a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, which whetted my interest further.  In retrospect now, all that did was take away some of my respect for whatever committee makes those Pulitzer decisions.

My discontent started almost right away, when near the beginning of the book Carr states that due to his use of the Internet, he can no longer focus on deep reading of full-length books, and that he has noticed this phenomenon in many others.  In my experience, this is far from the truth.  I have to use the Internet many hours a day, skimming web pages for research as I write articles.  But that in no way diminishes my capacity to focus on or my enjoyment of the books I am always in the process of reading.  I have been using the Internet for years, and I have been reading for far longer than that.  My keen pleasure in plunging deep into a five hundred, eight hundred, or thousand page book is in no way diminished.  The work I do on the Internet, as well as the communication and occasional entertainment, is one facet of my life, and the reading and writing of books is another.  Fine, I understand that if Carr himself personally has trouble focusing on reading after whatever he is doing online, something is wrong and he should look into it.  But to make broad, sweeping statements as he does just because he and some people he knows has a problem with concentrating is a huge logical leap in the dark.  He tries to back up his claims by going into historical and technological minutia, but it just doesn’t wash.

And I am not speaking in isolation either.  I am in touch with various online communities of writers and readers who are committed to the reading and writing of literature, and I have never received a hint that the use of the Internet in any way diminishes their ability to focus either on reading or writing.  They might complain that they fritter away too much time playing with social media instead of writing, but they are fully capable of getting down to work when necessary.

Carr himself shares a story in his book that gives light to the situation.  He writes of Plato’s dialog “Phaedrus”, in which Plato (or his counterpart in the story) and Socrates talk together about many things, and the subject turns to the alphabet and writing.  Socrates is against this new technology because he feels that it will subvert memory and oration; Plato, on the other hand, is a writer and recognizes the advantages of the written word.  Socrates, as far as it goes, may have been right.  Perhaps writing did contribute to the diminution of the power of oration, but that was not the point.  The advantages of writing so far overwhelmed the disadvantages that it was inevitable that it would supplant humankind’s reliance on rote memory.

In “The Shallows”, Nicholas Carr is arguing, like Socrates, of the evils of an inevitable technology.  And his arguments, though pseudo-logical, in the end make little sense.  He is as Socrates trying to stem the flood of the written word through logic of argument.  It’s not going to happen.

One thing I did agree with the author about.  Near the end of the book, in a chapter on the rise and motivation behind Google, Carr argues that the human mind is far more complex than a collection of computer algorithms.  In this he is correct.  But what I can’t understand is why he can’t take the next leap of logic and realize that the Internet, like any other technology, is made to be a tool of humankind.  True, as a tool it becomes an extension of us while we are using it, but we are in control of what we do with it.  Contrary to what Carr seems to believe, the Internet is not some sort of Godzilla that has gotten loose and is running rampant through the downtown Tokyo of our psyches.  No.  It is a tool – a very valuable tool.  True, it should not be misused, just as many other things in this life should not be misused.  That does not negate its effectiveness or value.

If Carr has issues with the Internet, if he feels that he cannot handle it on a regular basis, then he should of course curb his use of it.  But the problem with this book is that it presents Carr like an Old Testament prophet.  “Forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” screamed Jonah as he strode through the city.  But guess what?  In the end, Nineveh was not destroyed.  The people repented and learned to be more responsible.  The answer is not to rail against a technology that is supposedly getting out of hand.  You can’t stop the use of the Internet any more than Socrates could stop the use of the alphabet and writing.  The answer is to posit some practical suggestions to make the Internet more of a positive influence on humankind, to help turn it in the direction it needs to go.  All Carr does in this book is string together a whole series of arguments whose central theme is “Internet: bad!”  I can’t get behind that.  The Internet for me has been a technology of far more good than bad.  It has advanced my writing career immeasurably.  It has enabled me to more easily communicate with my loved ones.  It has put a vast network of knowledge at my disposal for research purposes.  So no, to lambast such a terrific technological tool out of unfounded paranoia is wrong, and I cannot recommend this book.

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