Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Evil smurfs

Carl sat at his desk, staring blankly at the computer screen. The fluorescent lights buzzed above, casting a harsh glow over the drab office space. He had long forgotten what it felt like to be excited about anything. The monotony of his nine-to-five existence had eroded his spirit, leaving behind a shell of a man.

As the minutes dragged on, a flicker of movement caught Carl's weary eyes. He blinked, convinced that his mind was playing tricks on him. But there it was again—a tiny orange figure darting across his peripheral vision. His heart skipped a beat as he turned his gaze toward the wall behind his desk.

To his astonishment, a colony of diminutive creatures, no taller than his thumb, resided within the wall. They were orange, with mischievous grins and pointed hats reminiscent of Smurfs, but something about them felt off—something sinister. Their eyes glowed with an eerie light, and their actions exuded a malevolent energy.

Carl rubbed his eyes, desperately hoping that the stress-induced hallucination would fade away. But the orange creatures persisted, multiplying in number with each passing day. They scurried through the crevices, whispering to one another in a language that only Carl could hear.

He watched as they plotted and schemed, their sinister plans hidden behind those mischievous grins. Their activities disrupted the office environment, causing minor mishaps that went unnoticed by his oblivious coworkers. But Carl knew the truth—they were agents of chaos, thriving on the negative energy that permeated the workplace.

Unable to contain his mounting curiosity, Carl decided to investigate further. One evening, long after his colleagues had left, he gingerly approached the wall. He pressed his ear against it, straining to decipher their hushed conversations.

Their voices were high-pitched and distorted, like nails scraping against glass. They spoke of discontent, of feeding on human misery, and the perverse pleasure they derived from their malevolent acts. Carl recoiled, his mind racing to comprehend the twisted reality that unfolded before him.

Days turned into weeks, and Carl's obsession with the orange smurfs deepened. He researched ancient folklore, consulted obscure texts, and delved into the darkest corners of the internet, desperate to understand their origins and purpose. Yet, no information provided a satisfactory explanation.

As his knowledge grew, so did his paranoia. Carl became convinced that he alone possessed the ability to see these evil creatures, an ability bestowed upon him for some unknown reason. The weight of this burden threatened to crush him, yet he couldn't turn away. He felt a strange responsibility—a need to protect his coworkers from the malicious presence lurking just beyond their awareness.

Driven by a newfound determination, Carl devised a plan. He began leaving small offerings on his desk each night—a bowl of sugar, a handful of candies. It was a feeble attempt to appease the orange smurfs, to redirect their malevolence away from his coworkers and onto himself.

But as the days wore on, Carl realized that his plan had backfired. The smurfs grew more demanding, their antics escalating into outright sabotage. They tampered with his work, erasing files, and sabotaging projects. His reputation suffered.

In a final act of desperation, Carl concocted a mixture of powerful cleansers, determined to flush the smurfs from their hidden lair. Armed with a spray bottle, he doused the wall, his hands trembling as the toxic liquid dripped down its surface. He expected their screams of agony, but felt, with rising dread, the silence in the walls as if they were never truly there.

Saturday, April 15, 2023


Thanks to Nissa McCormick of ElfElm LLC for the design on this one.

It'll populate to Amazon when it populates. Look for it there.

If I sell 10,000 copies, I'll write a sequel. That's a number where I could actually afford to do things without my day job, you see. It will take quite a bit more counseling and/or therapy and/or prayer before my brain is ready to write things again after what I've been through this last year, and things are getting better but not really at the velocity of better I would like.

I just hope my ex doesn't attempt to overdose my son on vitamins or start attacking us again, in the mean time. I mean, the crazy weird aggressive stuff continues, but at least keep your elbows to your damn self.

Coming soon to Amazon and elsewhere...

Goblins sneak. Goblins steal. Goblins stay hidden from the land of giants and grimalkin and trolls and elves. They live in old juniper trees hiding their villages and royal buildings in the deep forest. 

Rambol goblin is determined to be the greatest sneak thief of all goblin-kind, not a tree-sniffer like his parents. He wants his statue forever on display in the Goblin Hall of Greatness and Their Great Goings On, and that means he must do an exceptional act of thievery, like taking the tooth of a living troll. The path is perilous, and the danger vast. But, he does not go alone into the grimalkin kingdoms, where giants live among the roads and buildings. 

I wrote this one as shit started to get really dark in my life, and I discovered things I can't really talk about, and I'm not interested in going through a full publication process on it where I have to go back and go back and go back to that place in my head. I'm just pushing it up to Amazon as soon as I get time at a real computer. If it sells 10,000 copies I'll write a sequel.

If you want an early look in exchange for an honest Amazon/Goodreads/Whatever review hit me up now.


Friday, December 30, 2022

Goblins and Grimalkin

 With the continuous explosions in my personal life that went off all this year, much of what I worked on this year and last is basically DOA, artistically. I discovered some frightening things happening at home, was violently attacked, etc. I am divorced, now, and still share custody of my son with a person who began screaming and assaulting me in front of him, among other terrifying things, so it's been a year. I'm not even scratching the surface of all the insanity I experienced.


I posted this because it's basically a dead project, now.

Read it if you are interested.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Plugging a story idea I had into an air writing tool...

 Thomas is a college boy that is obsessed with trains and wants to become a train engineer. He spends his days taking care of the trains in a local railway system. One day, he discovers that the primary train that runs the system has been offline for weeks and he sets off to find out what happened.

Thomas finds out that the train has been offline because its number one engineer, also known as the professor, died in an accident. The professor was in charge of maintaining the engine and all trains on the line by hand. This was no longer possible after they were automated. Thomas knows he has to fix this problem before it gets too late or risk shutting down all trains on this line. Every day, Thomas goes back to fix more of the broken parts and continue to feed coal into the engine's firebox because it needs fuel to stay alive.

The other trains on the line know of Thomas' dilemma but remain unsympathetic because they lost their engineer and can

The story begins with Thomas being called to fix the trains before they break down for good. All of the trains in the station are either broken down or about to. The only ones still running are long, empty cars that people use to get out of town.

Thomas becomes friends with a conductor, who is helping him maintain the trains and help them stay alive. Thomas also falls in love with Lily, a girl who has been living on the longest train that runs all through town. She makes up stories to entertain herself while she's stuck on this train that's always running but never arriving anywhere.

It's only when Thomas finds out about her living conditions that he decides to help her get off of this train for good and start a new life. But then Lily learns about Thomas' secret: he has been taking care of these trains before they become too old and need replaced for years now and she is determined to stay on this train at all costs.

"Thomas and the trains" is about a college boy who is obsessed with trains and wants to save them from extinction. He has a death wish and is in love with the trains---they are like his lovers. They exist together long after people stopped riding the trains.

One day, he finds out that a train has been cut up and its parts sold off. Angry, he decides to go to the train yard, where he meets a train named Sally who needs help getting her intestines back into her body. Thomas helps Sally with his boat, then falls in love with her, as she is the only woman who has ever accepted him for who he was.

He tells Sally that he wants to leave his life behind and be with her forever. She agrees and they get on a freight train heading East to find other abandoned trains. The story concludes with all of these trains living together in peace without humans to maintain their equipment or fix their rails from breaking due to age

Sunday, September 4, 2022

If ever critics of an adaptation say this shit here is my official position

 If ever critics of an adaptation of any of my books thinks changing the race of a character or gender or swaps straight gay trans whatever betrays my vision?

My official position is fuck racism, transphobia, and all of that shit. Fuck it straight to hell where it comes from. Directors who are unlucky enough to try adapting any of my work to another medium are strongly encouraged to improve upon the places where I failed to reflect a diverse and proudly diverse vision. 

If I were Tolkein? My official position would be where are the trans gender bisexual hobbits with skin in every available color, and why not cast a lesbian couple for sam and frodo.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Sonnet #359

 No grand designer came and made a tree

but grand designers come behind and speak

the majesty, a perfect form, and it breaks

The skyline, holds the sand, and feeds

A million lives smaller than the eye

And a million more, the size of thumbs,

And how many more, while deaf, mute, numb

Simply being, standing still, eating sky

Oh greatness where the name resounds,

The pictures kept a thousand years and more

The stories told that make new story round

And round and round until the echo bores

The flash of lights, the grand gestures, the world

And yet the trees stand, in quiet, unperturbed

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Everything Important is a Side Hustle

Most college professors aren't hidden in the Ivory Tower. They're bouncing from one tower to another, adjuncting and adjuncting and hustling for gigs. At the community college, most of our professors have other jobs, an understanding spouse, or they're retired and decided not to quite retire just yet even if they could. Most of my coworkers in the tutoring lab are over the age of sixty. 

It's all a side hustle, now, isn't it? I have another job, and that one pays my bills. I write, but hardly anybody makes a living writing. I know amazing artists for whom the arts is not their actual, bill-paying job, but the economic equivalent of an uber gig, driving on the side. 

The overwhelming majority of writers don't make a living at it. It's a side hustle. 

And streaming is coming for directors and actors who don't get to have those syndication deals, anymore. There are no residuals on Netflix, Prime. The huge wealth acquired by the top stars in cinema and series work is fading out and folding into the executive pocketbooks. It's slowly turning into a side hustle, there, too. 

What's next? Medicine? Is the traveling nurse model going to overwhelm a busted system and turn all healthcare into a side hustle? 

If college educators are basically side hustlers, and the greatest minds of our generation in academia and the arts are falling into the hole of hustle, what's left for anyone else?

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


 So, I was an editor for a while over at Vernacular Books until my personal life exploded. 

I picked up this book out of the slush pile with beautiful writing and a powerful story from a debut author, and next thing I know, it's getting a starred review in Publisher's Weekly


So, I'm thrilled for A. M. Muffaz, and I know this is only the beginning of a storied career with many more awards to come for her, and if I'm very lucky (luckier than I've been this summer) I'll be at World Fantasy to cheer her on!

So, if you haven't read this one, you really, really should.

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Espresso Thing

 I knew I was going to be let go. It was the way this place worked. When Carmen liked someone – the head of the orange outfits – they were king of the world, and could withstand any number of budget disasters and project launch aftermaths. But, I had stolen Carmen’s espresso pods. I didn’t know they were hers, exactly. I was setting up a meeting with the Koreans, and I was told they loved espresso. We were out of the pods in the meeting bubbles, but I knew we had some in our break room that was actually a bit better than the usual stuff. I took it, not knowing it was Carmen’s espresso, and took it to the meeting. My sin was twofold: Obviously, I upset Carmen when her precious, expensive nectar was gone by her second latte of the day; also, the espresso was so delightful for the Koreans that they bragged about it to the other suppliers, and now the company had to pay for the expensive espresso or else Kazakhstan or Bahrain or Zimbabwe would think we liked the Koreans better. Really, my time at the company was swift ending, and I knew it. I had seen how they let ARC-X 14 go, just two weeks ago, when his head started clicking while he talked, and it bothered Carmen. I had seen how they cycled through the delivery boys every season, always upgrading even though nothing was wrong with the previous model. I expected I had about two days, and once the budget cycle and the paperwork cleared, I’d be replaced, and then what? We are taken away, and go away, and we are replaced.

Carmen was not happy with me, and I was doomed to be laid off in two days.

I asked GYF-7 HHK what they thought happens when we are laid off. They are the oldest worker in the building, eligible for full retirement for almost three years, now. “The less you think about it, the better,” they said. “Look at me! I’m nearly seven, and still working. I’m going to keep on as long as I can. The busier I am, the less I think about it. Try not to think about it. I heard about the espresso thing. I’m sorry.” 

It was good advice. Thinking about it only made my production go down, and that wouldn’t help me stay, would it?

At night, when the building was quiet, and we were all lined up in our cubicles, with our shoes off, at the strips, I didn’t want to just stand around and wait. I could go for six or seven days on one night’s charge. I had plenty. I felt my time was too short to just wait like before. I walked out of the building, all the way out to the edge of the carpark. I looked up at the night sky, where the lights flooded into the clouded void. I listened to the raccoons diving in and out of the trash cans along the sidewalks where the people walked in from their cars. The raccoons hissed at me if I got too close. The night insects crashed and crashed against the bright lights. The clouds were beautiful, drifting in the gray light, and spinning and bending. There was nothing else to do but wait, then. Sunlight would come. People would return. My absence on the strips tonight would be recorded, and hasten my layoff.. I walked back to the building. 

To my great surprise, GYF-7 HHK was on the roof. I saw their silhouette against the lights and night clouds. Maybe it was all right, then. I went up to the roof to ask them what they were doing.

“I come every other night,” he  said, “I had a friend, WEJ 344-D, who did this once. They were laid off that cycle, and I was so sad. I thought I would get laid off, too, but nobody seemed to care as long as I was able to work the next day. I have been coming for years. No one has said anything. It doesn’t cost the company money. Not like the espresso thing.”

We stood together on the roof a long time, observing the night. From up high, we could see the cars rushing past the carpark lights in their own river of color in the gray night. “Will anyone miss me when I am laid off, GYF HHK 7?”

“No,” they said. “I miss my friend, though. It’s been almost four years. I don’t know what happened to them. I’m afraid to ask. They might lay me off just for asking. You never really know, to be honest. It just happens. They don't tell us why.”

Before the sun came up, we went back to our spot in the cubicles. 

There was a lot to do before the people came. We had to sweep and mop and dry the tiles, and then vacuum up the carpets. We had to sweep the bathrooms clean, and set up the break rooms and work stations. I was in charge of paper and plastics for orange team, and filled the printers. By the time Carmen came, I was already at my station, snipping and sewing the orange, and moving quickly between the machines to keep them full. I thought I could feel her looking at me, but maybe she was just looking at all of us at our stations, working at the orange cloth line. The people came around to their cubicles and called for us when they were ready, and we brought them our pile so the people could process it into the system, then GYF HHK 7 walked around with the bins to take it all away, with a couple others. The mail was delivered to the people. Carmen looked over us all from her office. When the cycle finished, it was going to be the end of a fiscal, and I knew some of us were going to be let go. She called me into her office to talk about the espresso thing, and I thought that was it, then. She was personally going to do it to me, because of the espresso thing. 

Carmen was nearly as old as the office. She had to be over fifteen. It was hard to tell, though, if she was even older. She always wore a bright orange dress with her name stitched on. It was a sign that she was the orange team lead. She had a standing desk that looked down over the green team floor from a window in her floor. She was sipping a latte from one of her little, orange demitasse.

“All right, let’s talk about the espresso thing.” 

I walked up to her desk and waited. I was wondering what being laid off might mean, where I might be sent or do. No one ever came back to tell us. 

“Bold move giving my stuff to the Koreans, but it worked. The company is going to start supplying my preferred brand in every espresso station after partner feedback. You cost the company a bit more, but personally saved me a lot, and it’s improved morale. Now, I don’t need to bring in my own espresso pods from home. I don’t have to tell you that you’ve made a lot of friends with the rank and file with really good pods for everyone. How did you figure that out? How did you pull it off?”

“I don’t understand the question, Carmen.”

“Of course you don’t. Well, good work. I’m shifting you off the fast orange line. GYF HHK 7 is way overdue for retirement. You can take their role. I checked the specs, and it’s within your wheelhouse. I want to keep you around a while. I’m curious to see what you do next.”

What was I supposed to feel? Relief? Terror? I don’t know what I was supposed to feel. I think the beat way to describe it is if a ceiling is falling on you, and you think it’s coming any moment, and then you see that it isn’t a ceiling at all, but it’s still going to crush you, but you don’t even know what it is, or when it will land.

“What’s with the insomnia thing at night? GYF HHK 7 always was a wanderer, but now you both wander a bit.”

What could I say? “The clouds are nice at night,” I said. I didn’t know what I could say. “I don’t like the raccoons.”

“Do you think we should send out an all staff and encourage it among you? Does it help your productivity or morale?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Well, the forms to let go of GYF HHK 7 are already submitted. Why don’t you shadow them today, and see what they do all day, so you can step in seamless tomorrow..”

“Carmen, if I may ask?”


“When we are let go, what happens? Where do we go?”


“GYF HHK 7 will ask me.”

“Oh, will they? Well, they’re long past time. Don’t worry about it. The company lets all of us go, eventually. When people go, we get another job, or we retire.”

“And us?”

She shrugged. “Well, there’s more than one answer. Sometimes you go to other departments or other companies; sometimes you don’t.  That’s all there is, really. Now, shoo. We have to keep production numbers up or we’re all laid off.”

I left her office and went to GYF HHK 7. He nodded at me. “The espresso thing. I’m so sorry.”

“I am, too,” I said. I decided not to tell him. Let them believe as long as possible. Let them not even know when the men come to take him to the back elevator. I followed him around, and I watched him at his work. When the day ended, they came for him and led him to the freight elevator. We waved goodbye to each other. There were two others let go that day, and two new workers came up to join us at the cubicles for the night. I didn’t want to stand next to them. When we were supposed to go to our cubicles and take our shoes off at the strip, I went up to the roof and looked up at the night clouds shimmering in the car park light. I watched the street where the cars raced away like boxes on the line. I didn’t know where they came from or where they were going. They were all just shapes and flashes of colors racing here and away, forever and ever.

Friday, July 1, 2022

If Faith can Move Mountains

 I have heard tell that with great enough faith, trees can wilt at a word, men and women can walk upon the water as if dry land, and mountains can be moved at a word. 

I have granted enough faith to a future in the arts to move whatever mountain I may, but the books do not move like mountains. I have handed my early morning meditations to the work of writing, and what comes of it? A flood of work drowns a flood of other work, and there are not enough readers, not enough time, for all the faithful writers dreaming the future into life. Faith has done little to help the people who have long been cast aside in publishing. Even now, they nibble at the margins of the world’s mind, winning awards and answering the calls, but the books that move units like mountains remain attached to the white men whose dreams have too long counted for too much. 

Have faith and move mountains, and I try. I have faith and move a mountain of words, and send the mountain of words into the world, and hope that this mountain takes flight, and so far there hasn’t been much flying. Mostly a gentle leap into the air followed by a drop that is precipitous and swift. 

Obscurity is a great comfort. Before Shakespeare strode upon the stage of the world, a spirit greater than the man ever was, Boethius and Chaucer, perhaps, were the giants of literature. Every library of worth contained them. And, in the hundred or two hundred years since their great flowering, they drift into academic interest, an obscurity that is limited only by the students who study them, and study less and less of them as telhe years pass. Obscurity comes for us all, fast or slow. The shining tower of Shakespeare will fall, too, into the darkness. Eventually, everyone fades out.

I take comfort in knowing that we each have our moment, build our towers, build our dream worlds, and place these bricks upon the Tower of Babel that lifts us all up a little bit more, a little bit more, and the days will come when this world collapses, and all the bricks of it descend into the sand. The memory of the tower will transcend any individual stories, until it inspires some other tower, somewhere else, in some other place and time.

I have a story in Analog, now. In two months, it will be forgotten as of it never was, at all. No prizes have ever called for me to come and claim them. No great edifice of my short work has ever been deemed worthy of a year’s best anything. A couple of my novels did okay. But, the new ones come, get some positive reviews, and dissipate faster than they were ever written.

My faith will move mountains, perhaps, and I keep on, working as I’m able, stealing corners of the day for my little prayers, that so far, have amounted to very little.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

If it was a goal to stop migrant deaths in overheated trucks…

 If it was a goal to prevent the horrific death of dozens of migrants in the back of sweltering trucks, or in the dry deserts where heat stroke kills or among the exploitation that they face on their difficult journey north, well, the answer is simple. Let these human beings come out of the shadows and be open and safe. Standing on the ground, itself, particularly for Mexicans who share our border, but really for anyone, shouldn’t be a crime unto itself. A person who means no harm should have the right to go anywhere safely. We create all these rules about who gets to go where, and the sign that it is a farce of racism and ridiculousness is that innocent people who only sought to work honest jobs and send money home to their families die in the back of trucks hidden away, and this quiet genocide of migrants continues in boats and trucks and back rooms all over the world.

If we actually cared about these deaths, there’s a very simple, kind, decent thing to do: let people travel where they will in peace, and let them work if they want to. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Sonnet #357

 The annual fantasy we take in Memorial

Wherein the war is behind us, now

And no one else need bleed to show

Their glory to the school tutorials,

Wherein the price is just the backdrop

of a show on pbs about the price

that love demands, once or twice

a century past, and our grief stops

with the rolling credits, play the music,

maestro, fireworks dazzle and doge

commands, where snow falls to this

cemetery old men visit to show

the children about the horrors of the past.

All of it a lie: the horror comes again; it lasts

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Check out the latest issue of ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT for a new story about Wind and Astroboy!

 The July/August Issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, available wherever your periodicals are found, including as an eBook, magazine, etc., will have a short story that I'm proud of and think is one of my better ones. It's also part of that mosaic novel thing I've been sending around to publishers called WIND OF EARTH, WIND OF TAU CETI, that is a life story of the interstellar immigrant experience, where Wind is a child on Earth (remember "Salt Gator Girl" in 3-Lobed Burning Eye? Remember "Finnegan, Feel the Pain" in Analog two July's back?) and follows her life trajectory to a new planet, a new colony, (Remember "Wind Gets Her Own Place", "Astroboy and Wind", "Long Day Lake", all in previous issues of Analog?). 

Well, here comes what ends the book, in question, justabout, quite nearly. There's more stories in there, and maybe a publisher will pick up the whole thing soon, but until then consider this a chance to check out an excellent piece from a book I think is pretty good for what it is, and hope to share with everyone someday soon.

I'm pretty busy, right now, with some things I'm not really able to talk about, but I know I'll be putting together something new, soon, and maybe you'll see more pieces of it flying around the world, and maybe even the whole shebang.

Pick up your copy, today, and let me know if you like it!