[Insert Empathy Statement Here]

Something disturbing has happened lately. I normally restrict this blog to my own project updates and thoughts on writing, but I had to take a moment to share this story.

I am an independent author. I do not work at writing full time, and I have a “day job”, but writing is something that is very important to me, and getting exposure as an independent author is hard work, especially when you don’t have the time to invest in marketing and promotion.

A few years back, Craig Groshek of Chilling Tales for Dark Nights reached out to me for permission to feature some of my horror short stories on his website’s podcast. Three of my stories were given a fantastic treatment by veteran storyteller, Otis Jiry, and Craig was very respectful and courteous as we correspended about the permissions involved. The folks over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights are a respectable and admirable group, and that has made it hard to witness what they are dealing with right now.

Earlier this week, their youtube channel was the target of a hacking incident. The hackers changed the channel’s name and privatized most of their videos, in essence erasing their brand identity and destroying their subscriber base in one foul swoop – all in an effort to post fradulent bitcoin videos.

The incident itself is awful, but the worst part is how YouTube is responding to the incident. As a result of posts made by the hackers, there were multiple community strikes made against Chilling Tales’ channel and they have had monetary losses as a result. This incident happened days ago and as of yet all that the channel has received from YouTube as a result of their many pleas for help are automated (bot) replies [insert empathy statement here], and generic messages telling them to await appeal.

This is a time where many are trapped at home, or unable to socialize with friends and family as they wish to. We are divided by a global pandemic, and one of the things that helps bring people together during these times of need is art. Art, and exploring creativity. The team at CTFDN not only promotes an interest in horror fiction, but promotes artists and authors in all that they do. They deserve better than this.

To help, please tweet @TeamYouTube regarding the strikes against Chilling Tales for Dark Nights (their YouTube channel name got changed to Tesla by the hackers). Thier official twitter handle is @ctfdn_official and they need all the help they can get.

Read (and write) between the lines (and in the margins (and in the footnotes (and anywhere you want)))

Book design has so many traditionally accepted formats that are taken for granted. There are standard rules for setting margins, line spacing, font, sentence structure, page layout, font allignment, image inclusion and so much more. We are so attuned to these practices that it really stands out when some starts breaking the rules.

But that’s the tricky part. In order to break the rules, you have to know what the rules are. There are three examples that immediately come to mind when I think of books that incorporate non-traditional page layouts and/or typesetting. Some work better than others. Let’s take a look.

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities doesn’t sway too far outside the norm when it comes to the layout and formatting of the page. Instead, Calvino breaks the rules by exploring an atypical series of chapter and section titles, where chapters and sections are not organized chronologically, but by theme, and the ordering of these themes is based on a mathematical pattern rather than an arbitrary Chapter 1, 2, 3 and so on.

While the content of the book is highly stylized and artistically fluid, each section is fitted with a rigid structure of:

  1. A1
  2. A2 B1
  3. A3 B2 C1
  4. A4 B3 C2 D1
  5. A5 B4 C3 D2 E1
  6. B5 C4 D3 E2 F1
  7. C5 D4 E3 F2 G1
  8. D5 E4 F3 G2 H1

And so on.

This works, especially given the nature of Calvino’s work because despite a shared theme, the stories contained within don’t follow a traditional story format. If not for the highly planned-out table of contents, a reader could read the various descriptions, stories and sections in whatever order they please and still get lost in the journey of the book, however, the table of contents and the mathematical structure act as a sort of architecture to guide the reader through the tangled web of concrete, plumbing and beams that is the city of this book. The unorthodox arrangement gives the reader a sense of purpose in the text, which Calvino has used to cleverley set the reader up to search for and discover that purpose. Each reader discovers their own – led on by that mathematical road map.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Here, the author uses typesetting and page layout as a visual representation of emotion. While the ordering of the table of contents and the journey of the narrative follows a more typical format (albiet a non-chronological one), the individual pages and the formatting of the print of those pages are free to morph and change.

Outburts of emotion or anxiety-ridden revelations have the text running into itself, becoming more and more compressed and interwoven until it reaches a point where the pages become nothing more than a black scramble of ink, then solid black, then nothing. In another example, hand-written notes between a non-verbal character and others are represented as single lines or even single words on otherwise blank pages. In some chapters, words and phrases are outlined in ink, while in others images are printed among the words.

While the practice is effective in some circumstances, in others it comes across as a bit of a gimmick. I think that maybe this is due to a lack of consistency, and as a result it feels like Foer is just playing around with format. When it works, it’s brilliant, but the novel is quick to return to standard format after these explorations. Unlike Invisible Cities, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close fails to work (in my opinion, of course) because while the physical text represents the character’s emotions and journey, it doesn’t represent the reader’s journey, and it is the reader who is affected by the presentation of the story, not the characters.

Therefore, if we are breaking down the format and presentation of a piece of literature, it should both inform the reader and form a representation of the reader’s journey as they experience the book.

Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves

Here, those two aspects come together brilliantly. House of Leaves excercises non-typical chapter formatting, font choice, page layout, images and even footnotes to convey the characters’ mindset, to reinforce the themes of the story and to represnt the readers journey by making the them an active participant in the progression of story and the actions involved in reading the physical book.

In chapters that explore labyrinthian themes, the reader finds themselves lost and trying to make sense of the confusing and overwhelming number of references and footnotes, winding back and forth through pages, forced to read backwards or even upside down. When action in the story becomes tense and threatening, the reader is forced to sprint through dozens of pages at a time, each page containing a single word or even just fragments of words in a clever representation of the stretching of time and space. Even the cover page of the book, like the walls of the house described in one of the narratives, is about half an inch too small to contain what is inside.

Of particular interest is the title: House of Leaves. The book is somewhat centered around the narrative of a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The book is as well. And what is a book if not a house for leaves of paper? As characters explore the titular house, the reader becomes an explorer as well, plagued by the eccentricities of Danielewski’s formatting choices. The formatting represents both the characters’ and the readers’ journeys in a way that creates a feedback loop where we begin to wonder if the characters and the book itself, for that matter, are not some representation of ourselves. What we find inside is informed by Danielewski’s text, but enforced by what we take in with us.


There are countless others, I am sure, that are exploring the boundaries of book formatting and presentation, but these represent three uniquely different approaches. This is a topic that I would like to revisit in the future, and it is a concept I am trying to explore in my own work.

That being said, I have much to learn. In the meantime I will be seeking out other texts that push the envelope in terms of book design and format. If you have recommendations, please leave them in the comments below.

Thanks, and keep writing.

The Great Migration (a short story)

Oh, I remember it well, the great migration, if that’s what you insist on calling it. That’s not the name they were giving to it back then, but these things change, I understand. Back then they called it an “opportunity” and that sounded better than “resettlement” so that’s what we called it. I guess there wasn’t enough opportunity for financial growth created by our little town of fishers so the ones in charge of things took the opportunity to stop providing shipments of food, goods, medical supplies… you get the idea.

The way up was out – or in, rather. In was where they wanted us all to be, not out. Goodness knows, out there on the fringes of everything, on the coastlines and shorefronts we must have cost the the folks in the city quite a bit of money. Those outside places – “outports,” they say nowadays – were a risk to a bigger and better and more comfortable way of life. The only trouble was for the boys in charge to get us in on the whole idea, and people tend to agree to things with a few extra dollars in their pockets.

And with that business sorted out, out, we must go.

The problem with resettling a settlement is this: settlements are more than just the people that settled themselves there, they are also made up of all the things that those settlers settled around themselves. We – being the sure set folk that we were – had naturally settled ourselves quite solidly into the setting, and to reset ourselves and our settlement was to set for ourselves a detestable task. One that we were sure to solve, though, having set ourselves to start.

So it was, then, that the entire community started to pack its things up and prepare to vacate the premises.

First? No, no, no. Goodness no, we weren’t the first to be resettled. That being said, I like to think that we approached the whole situation with a level of creativity that the others could only dream of. Yes, our little town wasn’t about to go quietly and simply disappear into the crowd. We didn’t want to go – of course we didn’t – but we had taken the money and we had agreed to vacate the premises in search of gainful employment in the city and we were – and I like to think, still are – true to our word.

Commotion? Well, I don’t recall us being difficult about the situation, but I suppose that’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I guess you could say we were stubborn, but that is to be expected when you ask – or tell, rather – a community of people to just go away. You see, most would take an instruction like “vacate the premises” to mean “vacate yourself from the premises.” That’s mincing words, in my humble opinion. My neighbors and I – being the very literal folk we were – took “vacate the premises” to mean “vacate the premises.” Doesn’t seem that controversial to me.

We started with the houses, thinking to tear them down and rebuild in the city once we could find some empty lots. This, however, presented a challenge. The ones in charge had only given us a month to leave in the contract, and to tear down a town’s worth of buildings for repurposing would take much longer than that, even with all hands on deck. It was old Aunt Islay, who came over from the old world, that suggested we avoid the trouble of tear-down altogether. So we decided to drag the houses behind us, floating them over water and sliding over land to resettle them in the city. Great barges, floats and skis were constructed to prepare, and like a circus caravan for giants, our homes were fitted to coast, slide and roll through the miles to the city. It wasn’t easy work, but we were used to that.

Some folk might have stopped there but we had spent years cultivating the land for our needs – sowing crops, growing hedges, stacking great stone walls – and it felt wrong to leave it all behind. After all, hadn’t we agreed to vacate the premises? We took them too. All of it. Every fence post, every wall, every woodpile leaning against an old rotten stump – it was all carried with us. The trees whose shade we had rested in, the nests of birds whose music we enjoyed, the fertile patches of garden soil, the spring that brought forth cold fresh water perfect for drinking, the rabbits and foxes and mink who we often trapped for pelts (they made such fine hats for winter, you wouldn’t beleive), the old log in the cove where we’d sit and watch the sunset, the swimming hole with the deep pool and waterfall that fell down from the mountains above and oh, the mountains! Goodness, we couldn’t possibly leave those mountains behind! The cemetery with all its tombs and monuments. The hollow in the woods where young lovers were apt to visit. That hillside overlooking the harbor with the most perfect, enchanting view. We packed it all up, and made our way into the city.

And what a sight we must have been. Ha! How those city folk must have laughed and shook their heads at us as we moved our things in, laden with the premises, the settlement and all that. How they must have turned up their noses when we couldn’t find a lot big enough for it all in that rolling expanse where the buildings chafe when the wind blows at night and neighbors stare out of windows, into windows. While the boys in charge had requested us, it became clear very soon that they hadn’t bothered to make room for us and our resettling of everything.

“There,” old Aunt Islay pointed, “by that bus stop. That’s as good a spot as any.” It was there that we laid our burdens down.

I suppose I can understand the fuss. Once we had unloaded our things we took up quite a lot of space, and naturally things didn’t fit quite right. There were houses atop houses, gardens on government buildings, woods growing out the tops of intersections and museums – there was a particular commotion that arose because we had set down our harbor in the middle of a city park, but we thought the place was much improved by the seabirds gliding and the marine sunsets in summer. The locals didn’t much share our thoughts on the matter. A difference of perspective, I suppose.

Despite our differences we lived with the cityfolk for a while. Days went by. Months, years. After a while the locals seemed to grow a fondness toward our way of life. There were times when we’d find teenagers climbing up the streetlamps into our market to haggle prices on pelts and fresh fish, offering to trade in their pre-torn jeans and hamburgers. Other times we would catch sight of passersby gazing up from the busy streets, goggling dreamlike at our simple daily tasks in the town above the city. A few of the locals even went as far as to settle themselves on our native land, raising homes and clearing land amongst the woods and grassy hillsides of our patchwork neighborhood. Things became, in time, rather good.

And, yes, we grew to enjoy the city life as well – I’ll be the first to admit it! After a hard day of hauling traps or fishing it made life easier being able to board our canoes and paddle downtown to pick up a pepperoni pizza for supper that night. We’ve always been a folk to enjoy a good party, and what a good many times we had with those city dwellers – kitchen parties, cocktail parties, festivals, raves. Over time we changed the way they lived their lives and, undoubtedly, they changed us as well.

The one thing that hadn’t changed, it seems, was the opinion of those in charge of life around the city. As it turns out, our stubbornness had thrown what one might call a wrench into their plans of economic development. We had angered the boys in charge by tangling up their idea of a bigger, better way of life by dumping our setting over the top of theirs, and they weren’t about to let us get away with it. I mean this in the most literal sense.

The day came when those politicians and investors came marching to our doors and – without as much as a day’s notice – evicted us from the premises.

“Out,” they said, “out!” And what choice did we have? We’d be painted as criminals, outlaws, disturbers of the peace and wellbeing of the city. Our town above the city was messy, unsightly, in the way. They weren’t having it. We hauled up our boats, gathered our children and animals and belongings. We scrambled to collect everything we’d brought with us but by then it wasn’t so easy as that. The roots of our trees had taken hold in their soil, and the branches of theirs had brought forth fruit from which we ate. Our worlds had become not quite one, but together. We had become settled.

We found our way home, or back to the place where home used to be, at least. Our flight back over land and sea was a hard one, plagued by sickness and danger and terribly dull reading material, and once we had set ourselves back down at our space by the sea, we set ourselves to making things the way they once had been. The mountains were slid into place, the harbor positioned, the houses and trees and fence posts restored. Our memory had faded over time, so it became difficult to get things just right, and even when we called to our elders – the ones with the greatest knowledge of our home – they had lost interest. Old Aunt Islay said “Just put it over there. There, by that… whatever you call it,” and waved her hand dismissively when we asked whether it was right before going back to her tabloids.

Some of the city folk had come with us, I think, but they were nice enough and took the places of those that must have hidden away and stayed behind. We tried our best to put it all back – every rabbit, every field, every subway station – but it seemed impossible to make it all as it had been. We came to accept that, and in time even came to forget the things we left behind. Slowly, with some reservation, our setting became settlement again, and whether it’s the same as before or not, that sunset is just as beautiful as I can ever remember it being.

What is lost in translation?

I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring ideas for “Oceans Under Oceans” recently, and when I write I often find myself taking breaks to read some of my influences to get a grasp on what it is about them that I adore so much.

When it comes to short fiction, for me there is no finer collection than Italo Calvino’s “Cosmicomics.” The way that he can thrust the reader into fantastic settings where time and space are arbitrary, the characters are almost entirely non-human, but you connect immediately with the tale in a deeply emotional way is nothing short of amazing. It really is superbly written.

But – I reminded myself today – I’ve never read it as Calvino originally wrote it. I’ve only ever read the English translation. Admittedly, the English translation is superb, but one wonders how many liberties were taken to make the works work in English. It would be incredibly interesting to be able to read Calvino’s work in both English and the original Italian. The inverse would be interesting as well – how do McCarthy, Steinbeck, and Dickinson read in French? Italian? German? What about the reading experience changes? What remains the same?

Just a thought.

Keep reading, keep writing.

Oceans Under Oceans (a short story collection)

I’m excited to announce that I am working on compiling a collection of short fiction, entitled “Oceans Under Oceans.” This will contain a selection of nine short stories, including “The Town That Moved,” “The Water’s Edge,” “The Definition of Fog,” and six more that have not been published anywhere online. This collection of non-horror short fiction will follow a common theme of nautical life and serve as a sort of faux folktale compilation. I can’t wait to share more, but for now, here’s a working cover design:

The Definition of Fog (a short story)

fog(1)

noun

1. [common noun] A thick(2) cloud of moisture in the atmosphere at low altitude near the earth’s surface that restricts visibility to less than 1km.

‘the flight was delayed due to thick fog’

2. [well that’s an understatement] Thick? You’re damned right it’s thick in these parts. I’ve got a sample of it sealed up in a jam jar around around somewhere that I could show you if you like. Thicker than frozen peanut butter, it is. I chipped it off the corner of a fog bank back when I was a bachelor and held onto it for safekeeping, just in case inquisitive folks like yourself came around and had questions. You can guarantee I like to be prepared for these sorts of things, being the expert that I am on the subject. The problem is getting it out of the jar to show it off, though. The bloody stuff is stickier(3) than wet glue. Now, it’s not quite as bad as it used to be in the old days, but it’s still enough to trip you up if you don’t mind where you’re walking when it rolls into town.

3. [that’s just the thing!] Nobody considers the stickiness of the stuff. My goodness, I remember walking back from the cobbler or the market on a damp morning and having to wash my hair three or four times to get all the fog out of it! It was like syrup – all gloopy and stringy – and sometimes you’d get it all jammed up behind your ears or clogged in the corner of your eye and it would take a dog’s age of digging around with a wet rag to get it all wiped off. I recall more than one embarrassing moment where I got caught with a finger halfway up my nose while I was trying to hook the stuff out. I shouldn’t have felt ashamed, though, because everybody and their mother-in-law was doing it in those days. It wasn’t uncommon to see – during a bought of particularly heavy fog – a crowd of your neighbours strutting down the road with one hand covering their eyes and the other picking away at their nostrils with wild abandon. It was a constant irritation – not that any of us had any time(4) to complain about it in those days.

4. [we just got on with our lives] Consider this: you are a fisherman who works every day. You want to get out on the water (assuming you are not an underwater fisherman) before daybreak to make sure you find a good spot. You could get up at 5 o’clock, dress yourself, eat, and make your way down to the harbour. By the time you loaded your lunch, your bait (all prepared the night before, of course) and yourself into the boat and rowed out to sea, you could probably get in position and be ready to start by sunrise at around 6 o’clock. Sounds reasonable, right?

Now, consider the following: in order to get yourself from your house to the harbour, you need to accommodate for the bank of fog that rolled into town the night before. You spend 10 minutes trying to shove the door open (and many people switched to inward-swinging doors to avoid this) only to be faced with a blinding-thick, sticky mass of fog all piled up against the side of your house and blocking the road downtown. What’s a sorry fisherman to do but grab the axe and shovel and dig yourself a tunnel(5) to get to work in the morning? And then, upon reaching the harbour an hour or so later, you find your boat piled 10 or 12 feet high with wet, sticky fog and need to dedicate another hour – at least – scooping the blasted thing out so it doesn’t capsize with all of the added weight. Most folks had to get up as early as 2 o’clock in the morning to make it out on the water on time, and some became partially nocturnal to accomodate for the extra planning and preparations.

5. [and it was dangerous work, mind you] Oh, I remember one poor fellow who – in the process of digging a tunnel from his front door to the market – found himself in a very unfortunate situation. A pickle, as they say. He had made it about halfway to the market – about 50 yards deep into the fog – when the wind picked up. Now, the wind is a wonderful thing when it’s foggy because it will blow the stuff away, but a seaward breeze can be a frightful thing when you’ve got yourself burrowed into a bank of fog the size of a small mountain. As a result, the whole mighty pile of fog – with that poor fellow trapped inside – blew itself about 10 miles offshore at 8 o’clock in the morning. Visibility being as poor as it was, he didn’t even notice he’d been carried away until he finished digging his way out the other side of the bank and nearly fell overboard. Luckily, another shift of direction in the wind carried the fellow to a small island, where he was treated to some fine hospitality by the local lighthouse(6) keeper. By the time he was able to hitch a ride back home, we’d given him up for dead. He was always bitter about that, and argued that a week was hardly enough time for his wife to remarry and sell the house in the process.

6. [the lighthouse keepers had it hard back then] Those poor souls had their hands full, that’s for sure. My great uncle – I’ll call him my grandfather’s brother from here on, to avoid confusion – used to work as a lighthouse keeper back in the day. He moved out there at the young age of 14 to work and stayed there until he was too old to look after himself any longer. At that point my father and my father’s cousins made arrangements and had the poor fellow put in a home so some nice nurses would blend up his food for him and give him a sponge bath once in a while. Before he went senile he used to tell me stories about things that happenned out there at the lighthouse. They would spend much of their time tending to the fog cutters as they used to call them – great, long blades that would be hoisted up on masts along the shoreline surrounding the lighthouse. These were used to slice up the fog bank as it rolled in and stop it from piling up against the lighthouse and blocking the beacon altogether.

According to my grandfather’s brother, sometimes sea creatures would get tangled up amongst the fog banks and be carried for days at a time through the air. The fog, you see, would graze the surface of the ocean and if a creature was near the surface of the water it ran the risk of being sucked up into the fog and whisked away with the wind. Taking advantage of this, my grandfather’s brother and my grandfather’s brother’s wife used to set up great butterfly nets behind the fog cutters, all in an effort to catch the fish as they fell out of the sky. It was not uncommon to see a school of mackerel or a sea turtle or even monstrous sharks gliding through the air on a particularly foggy day, basking on the wind like paper kites.

People today will tell you that much of the sea life has disappeared but my grandfather’s brother would disagree with their argument. In his final days of clear-headedness he would tell us stories of the many creatures that were lifted up by the fog. Fog, as we all know, rises away in time. Those thick banks that we used to curse did eventually lift up and drift off into the clouds, and the fishes and creatures trapped within must have risen up with them. My grandfather’s brother believed to his final day that after the many years of drifting and rising fog there was now a second ocean floating in the sky, above the one we know, and that if we were to explore above the clouds with a keen eye we would find the creatures that had been spirited away – the schools of fish, the turtles, the jellyfishes, the seals, the auks, the krakens, the sting rays, the schools of capelin and bait herring, the swordfish, the tuna, the great sea birds, the megalodon sharks, the long-necked sea reptiles, the last of the great whales – all safe, all still swimming and thriving and breaching on the wind under yet another endless sea of stars and constellations, far from the hooks and lines of fishermen far below. “Oceans under oceans under oceans,” he would say, staring out the window of his sterile little room. He would watch for hours on end at the long clouds rolling by, every now and then chuckling to himself and nodding his head, though I was never quick enough to catch whatever it was that he had seen.

All nonsense, I’m sure.

The Water’s Edge (a short story)

My grandfather showed me a trick, when I was a youngster, that he used to become the most successful fisherman in the world (so he claims). We were sitting on the end of the dock one hot morning while he sipped at his black tea and I asked him how it was that he caught so many big fish (and only big fish) when all the other fisherman used to bring home a wide variety of sea critters of many varying sizes. My grandfather only ever brought in cod, and no less than a half-fathom from nose to tail. They were always plump, strong-looking fish as well – the sort that were prone to untying jiggers and biting off lines and breaking the hearts of many young and boastful fishers.

The problem with fishing (he told me) is you can never get a clear enough view from the boat to tell where the big fish lie. To make things trickier, codfish like to lie near the bottom when they get lazy (as big, fat codfish are prone to do) and smaller, jumpier fish tend to get to the hooks before they have a chance to reach the big fish down below. What he would do first is go looking for a sharp stick. It had to be quite tough but also flexible, and needed to have a very particular wedge-shaped point. He would then walk down to the water’s edge and (very carefully, I might add) pry it up with the pointy end of the stick.

You had to be very patient, because the water’s edge is very slippery (an effect of it being so wet) and this made it very tricky to hook the stick under it, but if you drive it in at just the right angle with just the right amount of force, you could get some leverage and flip it up, creating a gap between the ocean and the ocean floor. The next step (and this part is key) is to work the stick in bit by bit (being careful not to break the surface tension) until you have an opening bug enough to slide into, and then drive the pointy end of the stick into the ocean floor to hold up the water’s edge like the flap of a canvas tent. Once you’d finished that step you were laughing, and the rest was child’s play.

My grandfather would get down on his back and wriggle his way under the water’s edge, sliding himself out under the ocean in search of deeper waters and bigger fish. Now, it was hard work crawling out under the water with all if that ocean pressing down from above because (as I’m sure you can imagine) it was very heavy, and also because the ocean floor could be very scratchy at times (I recall my grandfather often coming home at the end of a long day of fishing with friction burns on his forearms). You had to be careful not to get caught up on little pointy rocks or pieces of coral, because one could easily get one’s clothing torn or pulled loose while crawling and not be able to fix it while working in this awkward (but mostly manageable) environment. I recall my grandfather wriggling his way out from under the water one day with his pants across his ankles (much to the delight of his fellow fishermen, who laughed heartily at him and never let him live it down) after getting them snagged across a particularly jagged sunken log.

The view from the ocean floor was much clearer than from above, because there was no wind or waves to stir up the view, and everything was backlit by the brilliant sun from above, making the entire viewing experience quite pleasant indeed. Finding the schools of fish was easy, and once you had wriggled your way underneath them, it was as simple as pulling out your pocketknife, slicing a little cut in the oceans surface, and sticking in your arm to pull out whatever fish you desired. This little technique made picking out the biggest and fattest fish a walk in the park (a peice of fishcake, as they say), and once you had pulled the fish out (being careful not to get too wet in the process) you would simply lick the edges and stick the cut back together. One didn’t have to waste too much time licking the edges first because water (as a general rule) is already rather damp.

This practise served my grandfather well for most of his career, and he was able to retire at a young age while he still had his mobility and use of his faculties (for the most part), however, he did tell me about one experience he had that gave him a bit of a nasty shock. What you need to understand is that it’s very easy to lose your sense of direction down there under the water once you get away from the shore. Another thing to keep in mind is that codfish are very slippery when they are pulled fresh out of the water, and will even skip along quite well on the tricky and scratchy ocean floor when dropped. My grandfather found both of these points out when he dropped a prize fish in a moment of excitement and it went skidding and sliding away under the water off into a deep undersea ravine.

My grandfather (being the perfectionist that he was) couldnt bear to lose his catch of the day, and started off after it, crawling and scrambling along the ocean floor, occasionally stirring up confused flounders and scaring schools of sardines and generally being a nuisance to the variety of critters that lived in the area. Once at the ravine, he stopped to peer over the edge and could see the big fish down below, sliding at top fish speed over the rocks and bumps, deep, deep down into the darkness below, before promptly throwing himself in after it.

Now it’s one thing lying awkwardly under that big blanket of ocean at a depth of 15 or 20 feet, but it’s quite another thing when one finds oneself at a depth of 1000 feet and the weight of the water makes it impossible to move at all. This was the predicament that my grandfather found himself in, and lying there, staring across at his prize codfish (just out of arms reach), he decided that he might have bitten off a little more than he was capable of chewing at the present time, as they say. Lying down there, stuck in place, many brave fishermen would have given up and resorted to living under the water permanently, but my grandfather was a resourceful man (which is obvious, considering his discovery of the trick with the pointy stick at the water’s edge) and, seeing the jiggers of other fishermen bobbing up and down above him, he thought himself up a plan.

Taking his pocketknife and cutting a little hole in the ocean, he planted his lips firmly on the water surface and began to blow bubbles, sending up a little stream of Morse code to the surface where his fishermen colleagues intercepted the message and got to work in sending down a weighted rope. And so it was, on that memorable day, that my grandfather came to be pulled to the surface, holding the rope with one hand and his prized codfish with the other, and cursing gratuitously at his discomfort of having to get so terribly wet (the irony of the situation being he was much dryer and more comfortable when he was under the water than after he was rescued).

My grandfather carried on fishing the way he did for years and continued to be successful, but upon returning to the shore on that particular day, he couldn’t find the spot where he’d propped up the water’s edge, and that was disappointing to him because it had been an especially good stick (good sticks are hard to come by). Most people agree that the stick must have gotten kicked or blown over in the wind, but my grandfather was confident that he’d made sure it was good and sturdy before he went in.

So, if you find yourself walking the shoreline on a romantic excursion, and you should happen across a spot where the water’s edge has been propped up, it would be best (assuming you are not an experienced underwater fisherman) to avoid going in. And, if you and your date should happen to crawl in, in search of scenery that offers dramatic atmosphere and absolute privacy, always remember to carry with you a quality pocketknife (just in case).

Well, hello there.

Hi, readers. It’s been long time since the blog was last active, so first of all I’d like to say thanks for being patient. I’ve been working on a project that has taken up most of my time but now that I have a little more availability, I’m going to be posting on mmo ore regular basis.

Some things to watch out for in the coming months:

  • More short stories, both horror and otherwise
  • More poetry
  • More book reviews

Also, the thing I’m most excited about, which is…

More chapters of my novel in progress, The Keeping of the Light!

All of this, plus more, coming soon. Thanks all and, remember,

Keep writing.

The Town That Moved (a short story)

Up on the plateau over the Silver Valley, there’s a wooded ridge of hills that runs from the southwest to the north in a wide arc. During the autumn and winter, the sun only shines on the northern side of those hills in the evening, just before sunset, and the trees that live there grow slow and old. There used to be a little stream that ran down from that place long ago, winding its way across the plateau floor before finally diving down into the valley in it’s slow approach to the sea. The stream, they say, was clear as crystal, so clean and unspoiled that looking at the streambed on a calm day, sometimes it was impossible to tell whether there was water flowing through it. It was said that if you scooped up a handful of this water to take a drink, it would appear as though you held nothing in your hands but air, and upon swallowing there was no taste of earth or salt or mineral, only pure refreshment and a general revival of the senses that came with good rest.

The people that lived in the valley drank of the water every day, and it was said that many of the folk there experienced unnatural long life and good health. It was also said that as the years went by, the townsfolk gradually moved their way upstream and away from the sea. Their houses were torn down and rebuilt over and over throughout the years, until a point where it seemed that the whole community moved as a single, driven organism. They worked and moved with a purpose, drinking of the water from that perfect little stream and building and rebuilding their houses and working their way, slowly but with determination, up through the valley toward the plateau.

A few years after the movement began, travelers would come to the town in the valley but would stand in confusion when they found no people, no houses, no town, at the end of the lonely highway. They found only the little stream as it slid patiently between the stones of the streambed toward its eventual destination at the coast. These travelers would remark and shout upon hearing that, having made their way through the length of the valley and starting the climb into the highlands, the townsfolk had given up building houses altogether and now kept themselves in little huts that lent themselves more readily to the constant tearing down and rebuilding if those people and their habits. There came a time, as well, where the people found it more appropriate to give up their huts for the warmth and comfort of tents, as the stony plains of the plateau did not lend themselves to the building of foundations and wooden frames. They took up spears and arrows and dedicated themselves to the chasing and killing of the noble caribou, and fashioned their hides into coverings for those little tents that had become their homes. They ate of the caribou and became masters of harvesting their milk for the making of many fine cheeses and dishes, and there came a moment where the people thought to follow the caribou away to the south in their great migration. However, the people decided against it, for they could not bear to leave the little stream for long.

They continued upstream, raising their young and teaching them in the ways of building strong tents and hunting the caribou when they were near. Travelers came few and far between along that cracked and dusty road now, and when they did they brought with them great spyglasses and binoculars to glimpse the people from the roadside. They watched as though watching film, passively, never thinking to interact or interject; not knowing that they could ever reach those townsfolk who once lived so near to the sea. The travelers watched and read magazines and talked among themselves about what pretty, colorful houses the people used to live in back when this was a real town, and eventually they would pack up their cars and return home, leaving their names written on the road sign in permanent marker and leaving little bags of garbage along the roadside to be inspected by the birds and rats once they drove away. Eventually the travelers stopped coming to the Silver Valley altogether, writing it off as a waste of time after reading the poor reviews from previous visitors and choosing other, more interesting venues to explore.

It is only natural, then, that nobody was watching when the people stopped building their tents and began to sleep under the stars in the open air. No outsiders witnessed when they stopped eating the flesh of the caribou and started eating among the caribou, grazing slowly on their hands and knees over the ancient plateau, holding their noses high in anticipation when a whisper of wolves came whistling through the crowd. As with all things, the interest in those people returned, and the new generation of travelers found their way to the old sign post at the end of the broken road, signing their own names and leaving their own garbage and watching through high-powered telescopes as the townsfolk loped naked over the plains, chasing and playing and laughing in their learned language. Many of the travelers wrote stories about the townsfolk and their ways, using them as allegory in great, sweeping tales of fiction, but sales were poor and those authors eventually took up more fruitful careers in finance and advertising, but they continued watching with renewed interest because by that time everybody knew of the people that had once lived in the valley.

It is an unlikely turn of events, then, that nobody was watching at the moment the townsfolk reached the ridge of hills and disappeared into the woods, kicking off the last of their shoes and garments and they followed the stream into the perpetual shade of those hills to drink and sleep and play. Outcry came at the loss of the townsfolk, and the travelers slept by the roadside and wept, holding up candles throughout the night and calling their loved ones to say that it was all, finally, over. A few curious outsiders did eventually return to the old, rusted sign at the end of the dirt road, and wandered the valley in search of artifacts and trinkets to be kept in museums. Their efforts did eventually turn up little bags of petrified and ancient garbage, which were carefully tagged and organized and placed in glass cases to be photographed and studied for centuries to come in universities and colleges and internet forums.

Once the excavations were done and the crews returned home over the old path, the obscure few who returned to the valley sometimes searched out the little stream in hopes of drinking that clear, clean water that used to flow down from the hills, but with the passage of time it was hard to tell the streambed from the tracks of animals and excavating machines, and all of the water they could find was stagnant and muddy. The stream could no longer be found among the bushes and stones of the ancient valley, and as the patience of adventurous individuals waned, people stopped looking for it altogether, and instead turned to watch the rolling of waves along the coast with their backs turned to the memory of the little stream. Sometimes, they talk about the stream and the town and the people that lived there, and sometimes they still tell stories inspired by those poorly sold books of ages ago, but for the most part now, everybody is in agreement that it’s unlikely the stream was ever there in the first place.

Beginnings and Endings

I’m in a bit of a weird mood tonight.

On one hand, I’m excited, because I finally published part 1 of “One Last Round” which I have been very excited to do for a long time. I’m also really excited to complete parts 2 to 5 and get those posted as well.

On the other hand, I’m really feeling the end of this collection of short stories approaching and it’s making me a little sad. The Seal Cove stories have been a lot of fun to write, and I love the concept of a collection of short fiction where the stories are all connected for share a common theme (think Robert W Chambers’ “The King In Yellow” or Michael Shea’s “Copping Squid”), but at the same time I feel like if I carry on this theme for too long I might become stagnant.

So, I’m stuck between being thrilled at finishing this collection of tales and ending the series, but also not wanting to leave the characters, settings and creatures behind. It’s an odd mix of feelings.

Regardless, I am feeling good about the remainder of my work. I plan to reveal things that have been kept in the dark throughout the other stories, and also to explore the point of view of a couple of characters that have been recurring in the background and share some of their perspective on the weird and horrible situations surrounding Seal Cove.

And I guess I should stay positive, because leaving this place behind means I can start exploring somewhere new, right?

Right?