It strikes me that today, after the fulminations of the previous few days, it’s time for something a bit less…well, less like the past few days! So this will be a ramble of sorts, and as divorced from the most recent national news as I can make it.


     Among the things I watch for vigilantly are any signs that someone is trying to exploit my good nature, or that of the C.S.O. Beth is an unusually generous sort – she’d have to be, to endure me for several decades – which makes her susceptible to being used by persons of weaker ethics.

     This morning, my almost-retired wife will get into her buggy at 6:15 AM EDT, drive approximately twenty miles, and perform unpaid babysitting duties for the entire day. The focus of those duties is a three-year-old boy with the energy level typical of such creatures. Beth will come home exhausted and seriously undernourished. I’ll have to feed and nurse her through what remains of the evening.

     Yes, of course the kid is a relative! Her grandson, in fact. But that doesn’t quite justify asking a seventy year old woman still convalescing from cancer surgery to travel a considerable distance to provide free labor. Especially since the boy’s mother and father significantly out-earn what Beth and I were making when we were both working full time.


     Every now and then I get a phone call from the sort of parasite that preys on indie writers. Yesterday was such a day. The usual appeal is “we love your book, now here’s what we can do for you.” In the sonic background is a “boiler room” full of minimum-wage types making the same fraudulent appeal to other writers.

     When I first got such calls, I merely said “not interested” and disconnected. After a while they became a source of amusement. These days, I make an effort to keep the minimum-wage type on the line for as long as possible. I ask all sorts of detailed questions, answers to which would be difficult to prescript, to plumb both the ingenuity and the endurance of the caller. As it keeps such persons from harassing other writers for at least a little while, I consider it my contribution to the well-being of the indie community.

     Yesterday’s caller set a record: 34 minutes on the phone with me. I quizzed her about her organization, what it does for writers, how long it’s been doing it, what other writers it’s served, what benefits they’ve derived, how long she has been doing this sort of work, how she stumbled upon my book, how it compared to the other books in its series, what she thought were its high points, how the style resembles various works by such luminaries as David Foster Wallace, Arthur C. Clarke, Agatha Christie, Anne Rice, Frank McCourt, Joyce Carol Oates…

     When I realized that the poor lady had hung in there for a world-record interval, I said, as sadly as I could through the giggles, “I’m sorry, I have to perform open-heart surgery now,” and disconnected as she keened out a despairing “But wait…!

     What’s that? You think I was cruel? An underappreciated indie writer has to get his jollies where he can, you know. Besides, consider what the caller’s paymasters were trying to do to me. Oh, did I mention the origin point of the call? Kolkata, India. Think about it.


     While we’re on the subject of indie writers: Yes, you’re correct. I haven’t released a new novel since late 2021. Call it a sabbatical, if you like. That’s kinder than what I call it.

     There’s such a thing as storyteller burnout. I might not be there yet, but I got a foretaste of it after finishing The Discovery Phase. The characters I’d grown to love seemed tired. I had all sorts of ideas for them, but they didn’t want to come out and play. Worse, my beloved Onteora County, perhaps the most absurd fictional locale ever conceived, had begun to seem over-exploited. I had to step back for a bit, think seriously about possible changes of direction.

     I’m still struggling over it all. The intended novel for which this was a teaser has been fighting me. I’m having trouble contriving a credible path to the critical tragedy and resolution. I’ll manage it eventually, I suppose. However, several other projects are hanging fire while I grind my teeth over it.

     If you’ve been waiting for fresh fiction from me, consider this a status report.


     There’s a downside to everything. Loyalty is no exception.

     If there’s an artisan you call upon for everything in his field of endeavor, he can come to feel that he owns you. If you’ve done a lot of business with him over a long spell of years, then beware should he find out that you’ve patronized one of his competitors.

     There’s a general contractor with whom I’ve done business for more than thirty years. He’s a good fellow, he treats me well, and he and his people are generally reliable. Indeed, I’ve come to rely on him even for things nominally outside his sphere. When there’s a problem with the house that I can’t fix myself, “call Tony” is my immediate reaction. That pleases him.

     Tony installed the roof on the Fortress back in 1995. It’s been showing its age recently, and recently I decided that the dump needed a new one. It was partly an impulse decision, and partly the discovery that one of my ceiling light fixtures had (ulp) filled with water. As it happened, a major national renovations company was doing work nearby, so I asked their representative to stop by for an inspection and an estimate.

     The estimate was a lot more than I was prepared to hear. Apparently the cost of roofing has…well…gone through the roof in recent years. But the product I was pitched was dazzling: a space-age roof, new down to the plywood, with special anti-leak, anti-fungus, anti-mold, and anti-vermin properties, and special protections around the chimney and other protrusions. Moreover, it came with new soffets, improved ventilation for the attic, new gutters and leaders, and a lifetime zero-cost guarantee. It went well beyond what Tony had done for me thirty years ago.

     I signed the purchase order. I had a premonition that I hadn’t thought the matter through adequately…that there would be unpleasant consequences. However, the company’s performance not only fulfilled all its representative’s promises in every detail, it exceeded all my expectations.

     But Tony wasn’t happy when he found out about it. “Why the hell didn’t you call me?” was his reaction. And I had no answer. None that would please him, at any rate.

     There may be some benefit in not being so loyal to a service vendor that it evokes such a reaction.


     That’s all I have for the moment. It seems I did manage not to vent about anything political for a change. I hope my Gentle Readers are not too disappointed. Anyway, it’s time for Mass, so to close, here are Ellie, Joel, and a giraffe from Sony’s best-ever video game, The Last of Us:

     And do have a nice day.


    • Abbe Faria on June 23, 2023 at 7:16 AM

    Fran, my man, I’m 100% on Tony’s side here.  If you *trust* him to take care of you, then you have good reason to expect he might have seen a way to improve on the other bid, and/or give you a better price.  At the very least his loyalty to you says he deserves the chance to earn your business again, doesn’t it? I would want him to vet the other bid even if he couldn’t better it – and he’d probably tell you if that was so. I know I would. 

    • Evil Franklin on June 23, 2023 at 7:28 AM

    Do you have fun while writing your books?

    Evil Franklin

    1. Occasionally. Not always. Lately it’s been frustrating rather than entertaining. But this too shall pass away, I suppose.

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