Monday, December 11, 2023

So, after five years, or more like twenty, I'm finally releasing a new novel. I say more like twenty because that's how long it's been since I wrote the first half of it. The rest... obviously took a tiny bit longer. I intended to publish the ebook, print, and Audible versions simultaneously, but apparently, Audible approval takes a very long time. Stay tuned!

I know there are Debris of Shadows fans who have been waiting for the final act - and that is in the works - but this is a stand-alone story. I hope you enjoy it.

When an explosion leaves Nicholas Croce with a talking afterglow only he can see, his life is no longer his own. Not only does the glowing starfish claim to be an angel, but he can pervert Nicholas’s senses, making him experience whatever he wishes. As a mysterious sect strives to keep history intact, Nicholas finds that such creatures have manipulated humanity for eons. But who commands these “angels,” and can he and his new associates protect reality from their meddling?



Sunday, August 13, 2023






The Jim Friend Toastmasters Club meets every first and third Tuesday of the month, both in person at The First Baptist Church in Metuchen, NJ, and virtually on Zoom.

Our next meeting is Tuesday, August 15th, at 7:30 pm. Please get in touch with me for more details if you would like to join us as a guest.

The mission of every Toastmasters Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, fostering self-confidence and personal growth.

Hope to see you!



Saturday, May 20, 2023

Introducing Egotistical Watch Faces

 Get it on Google Play


From Dick Tracy and James Bond to Inspector Gadget, smartwatches have been a staple of popular culture for nearly a century. And now, the future is here! Strapped to my wrist is a computer that would have made a NASA Apollo 11 engineer drool all his bodily fluids away with envy. It can read my health stats. It can tell me the weather. It can read my emails to me. It can even tell time. Its possibilities are endless.
"All of that technical gobbledygook is wonderful for you nerds," I hear you cry, "but is it stylish?" The answer, of course, is no. It is not.
At least, not until now.
Introducing Egotistical Watch Faces: Sumptuous Android Wear 2.0 watch displays for the discerning carbon-based life-form. Be the envy of all your friends. Whether animated or static, each face has been lovingly hand-crafted from only the finest ones and zeroes. Step up your style and finally sit at the proverbial cool-kids table with an Egotistical Watch Face!


Thursday, April 20, 2023

Birthday Mullings

Let’s talk about birthdays. It’s not mine, or anything, I’ve just been thinking about them.

Some people don’t like their birthdays. They don’t like being reminded that they’re getting older and another year closer to death. Me? I love it!

When I was young, I wanted to be old. My father was about twenty years older than most of my friend’s dads, and I wanted to be like him. I wanted to have nearsightedness and gray hair too. And the good Lord in his infinite wisdom provided me with both. At some point, I got LASIK, but the hair will always remain its natural color. I could shellac it with shoe polish, but I’m not Ronald Regan.

Clowns must have a love-hate relationship with birthdays. It’s their bread and butter, but they also have to deal with annoying brats who would rather have video games, or at least a decent magician. It’s honest work, but I doubt it impresses. You don’t see mothers at the country club bragging about how their son is the most successful birthday clown in the state. It’s probably a non-starter at singles bars at the bar as well.

Once, as a teenager, I was a singing cowboy at some rich kid’s birthday party. It was a last-second request, and I was horrible. My hat was a big, floppy hippy affair my mother owned, and I wore sneakers instead of boots. I played some silly songs on my guitar and got a few laughs. But for the most part, I’m sure I was the worst singing cowboy ever. But I look on the bright side. Somewhere, at this very moment, I’m sure there’s a guy in his forties performing standup with a story about how I made his eighth birthday a catastrophe and was the root of all his psychological issues.

I hope someday he thanks me.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Come and See!

And the electrician poured his ones and zeros into the Google document and cried, “It is done!” And lo, the final draft of a novel he’d been working on and off for some twenty years was finished.

Now comes the next step: agent hunting. This stage requires two more documents: the query letter and the summary. Both items require specific frames of mind. I have left the realm of spinning tales of fiction and entered the shadowlands of self-marketing. As with everything, the secret is to find intrinsic joy in the doing. My inner Julie Andrews sings of spoonfuls of sugar helping the medicine go down. The trick is in making the medicine the sugar.

I miss Illustration Friday. Once upon a time, in the ancient pre-Facebook blogging days, it was a site that gave a weekly prompt, which bloggers would illustrate. Seems pretty straightforward. I made some wonderful friends, most of whom I’ve kept in touch with.

A long-time fan of Leo McKern, I only recently discovered his wonderful 70s-90s courtroom drama Rumpole of the Bailey. Now that I’ve watched every episode, I must find something new to binge. Perhaps the latest season of The Mandalorian? Star Trek Picard season three has a few wincing moments here and there, but it’s a vast improvement over season two.

I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but Picard should never say the word “fuck.” Riker or O'Brien, I could see. Especially O'Brien. But Jean Luc Picard? It’s not “gritty realism;” it’s just cheapening and out of character.

Pass me the Geritol.


Monday, March 13, 2023



P.S. - 94% compltete...

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Random Musings of Chaos and Wheat Nuts

Sorry I haven’t written in a few days. I’ve been hard at work scouring my latest novel. I’m reaching the end. I’m still trying to come up with a catchy title. I’m trying not to feel stir-crazy, but I’m still healing. I walk around the block when it’s not too cold. Otherwise, I walk up and down the length of my apartment.

So it goes.

I often think about procrastination. Perhaps it is the universe fighting our subconscious, knowing that our actions will change the course of future history. Continued patterns are so much easier for its algorithms to predict.

Does anyone else remember Wheat Nuts? They stopped making them decades ago. Another company tried to replicate them, but they’ve shut down too. That’s a shame, but maybe it’s for the best. I’ve played the keto game, and I can attest that carbs make you crave more carbs.

I’ve been using cloud computing more often, so I can edit on my phone while walking around the apartment. Moving is good: it keeps the chi flowing. I’ve used synched drives before, but I’m embarrassed that getting a good workflow between my laptop and phone has taken me so long. Remote desktop also works well for some things, but not always.

I’m trying to tone down some of the dialogue in this chapter, but I feel that my point will still be as subtle as an epileptic elephant with bronchial pneumonia. Oh well. I don’t want to just preach to my choir, though. There’s far too much of that on all sides, and it doesn’t influence anyone. It just makes one side smug and alienates everyone else.

It’s bizarre what random earworms my brain chooses to resurrect. I woke up this morning with Joe Dolce’s “I Ain’t In No Hurry” stuck in my head. For those who don’t know, this was the B-side to his 80s novelty hit “Shaddap You Face.” Why my brain has zoned in on that long-lost iota of forgotten culture to torture me, I don’t know.



Monday, March 06, 2023


They say that you emulate those with whom you surround yourself. If you don’t want to be a bum, don’t surround yourself with bums. If you want success, surround yourself with successful people. That’s assuming you can find any successful people who want to hang around a bum like you.

As I was a lonely child, I surrounded myself with imaginary friends. And so I found, over time, that I became imaginary too. I invented and reinvented myself until I had boiled away the original me. I developed a passion for the arts, especially writing, or as I call it, being a professional charlatan. And being an imaginary charlatan, I managed to do it in an “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” fashion. I’ve independently published books that few outside friends and family will ever read. I’ve acted a few small roles in wonderfully fun direct-to-DVD films. I draw well but never practice enough to master it, and I can croon drunken karaoke with the best of them. I’m one of those people who start projects full of fire and vinegar but eventually run out of steam, no matter what.

The most important job of a charlatan is to be one unto yourself. You’d think I would have sought careers that appealed to my nature, talents, and abilities. Instead, I chose various professions that were the exact opposite. I served a few miserable years in the army. The government awarded me a medal for Least Distinguished Service While Still Receiving an Honorable Discharge. Now I am an electrician, which sadly requires me to stay constantly grounded in reality. Otherwise, things might catch fire or explode.

One of the joys of being a charlatan is filling your children’s heads full of nonsense. When he was young, my poor son argued with his miserable, spinster, battle-axe of a teacher that Cinco de Mayo was a day of mourning for all the mayonnaise lost on the Titanic. I understand that correcting mistaken children was her job. What ticked me off was that she did so with so much unbridled rancor. Kinder teachers have chastened my daughter over the years for less grievous offenses. Still, it was a grim day when she discovered that Pennsylvania is not where they make all the pencils and that that skyscraper on Sixth Avenue is not called the Umpire State Building. Also, it’s not where the Major League houses its umpires. Yet, for some reason, they still love me. Their future therapists will sunbathe in front of their beach houses and love me too.


P.S. - 90% complete...

Saturday, March 04, 2023


Rant of the Day:

My annoyance at the “Population Crisis” narrative currently shrieked by the media makes my stomach churn. The only crisis is that The Powers That Be want a constantly growing, unsustainable, upside-down pyramid for an economy. Their Sky Is Falling argument goes something like this: There are too many elderly people who need social services, but not enough young taxpayers to pay for them. Therefore, the young adults of the world must have more children.

Now, let’s forget a slew of key arguments against this for the moment, mainly:

A – Many adults are choosing not to pop out rug rats due to a lack of gainful employment, expensive healthcare, and a skyrocketing housing market. They simply cannot afford them.

B - Wealth disparity between the 1% (why don’t we hear about them anymore?) and everyone else keeps growing.

C - Most of the tax burden rests on the dwindling middle class, while global corporations contribute little to taxes and continue to profit.

Even If we put all these arguments aside, the most obvious one remains: If you keep adding to the population now to sustain the currently elderly, then isn’t it inevitable that the next generation will have to be even larger to care for them? And so will the one after that, and the one after that — etc., etc., etc. And if there aren’t enough jobs, food, medical care, and housing for the current generation, how can you sustain the following exponentially larger ones? The resources of the world are not infinite.

Again, a controversial figure, but I fear that we’re approaching an economic collapse similar to that in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: the Powers That Be know full well that their current way of doing things is bringing civilization to a breaking point. But instead of acknowledging the need to change, they’re pulling every stopgap measure imaginable to stretch things even further until the inevitable happens.

But hey, as long as we little people are kept at each other’s throats, who cares?


Friday, March 03, 2023


It’s 5:30 AM and the sky is a deep navy blue. I think it’s supposed to snow again. I imagine the Evil Meteorological Overlord perched upon his throne somewhere on Mount Crumpet, fiddling with his weather machine. He giggles with derisive laughter as he yanks upon a giant lever, swinging our climate between extremes.

I know he’s a controversial figure, but sometimes, I agree with Jordan Peterson. A good cure for depression is to clean just a little bit of your room. Then reward yourself. The question is, what is the reward? Does playing games give me pleasure, or do they just kill time? Getting an old DOS or arcade game to work on my phone through an emulator is much more satisfying than actually playing it. So many things these days feel like they’re just killing time rather than being a reward.

It annoys me that productive creation creates so much mental burnout these days. When I started my current book some twenty years ago (as I said, I was on a Vonnegut kick at the time), I intended to let the story go wherever the muse took it without concern for marketability or censorship. That’s why it’s twenty years old, though. I got about halfway through within a few months and had no idea where to go. I read once that writing without a plot is like pouring water on a table, watching it flow everywhere, and then feeling frustrated that it has no shape. Obviously, I have sculpted it (and other books) into a plot, but the gears of my mind grind and screech whenever they change direction.

I want to walk through Coney Island but I don’t feel like driving there. Well, I don’t feel like searching and paying for parking. The problem is that while driving takes maybe a half hour, the subway takes two hours each way. Perhaps when I’m feeling better, and the Evil Meteorological Overlord isn’t quite as cantankerous.


Thursday, March 02, 2023


Good morning, my friends. Here’s to another twenty-four hours of swiveling around the Earth’s axis.

Do you know who I miss? My sleep paralysis demon. When I was a teenager, I used to have sleep paralysis dreams all the time, during which a shadowy, black figure with glowing yellow eyes would sit at the edge of my bed and stare at me. The last time I saw him was when I was in the army, and he came crashing in through the window during a false awakening. It felt so real that I couldn’t sleep again for hours. When I was in my twenties, I learned how to rock out of sleep paralysis dreams and turn them into lucid ones. I would then try talking with my friendly neighborhood S.P.D., but he would invariably turn to smoke and vanish. I suppose he was only a perverted voyeur. Or maybe he was just introverted. As I got older, I found myself lucid dreaming less and less. Not sure if there’s some biological reason for that.

In other news, Amazon has decided to punish independently published authors for having their books stolen by illegal book sites by removing them from Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is a sort of Netflix for ebooks. Members of the program can read books for free. Amazon’s logic is that the author has broken their contract in which they promised Amazon exclusive ebook sales rights. Now, Amazon knows full well that authors don’t want their books stolen and are the real victims here. This sort of idiocy is why people pirate in the first place. “Oh, you’re going to take away my choice to read this book for free on Kindle, which will pay the author a few shekels per page? Well then, I’ll just download it from an illegal site where the author receives nothing instead.”



Wednesday, March 01, 2023


 There has been a lot of brouhaha lately about artificial intelligence, especially concerning chatbots. For those who do not know, a chatbot is a program that responds to words and phrases in a way that mimics conversation. For years, there have been ones you can rent to pretend that you have a friend. Of course, if you truly love your friend, not only will you pay a subscription to keep talking with them, but you will spend money to accessorize their imaginary bodies with nice clothing, purses, and sunglasses. This is where the real trouble with A.I. lies: Not with the A.I. itself but with the easy exploitation of human imagination and emotion.

As I have said before, we do not actually experience the world. We experience a virtual reality model of the world within our minds, created from data acquired by our limited senses. We are all islands of electromagnetic goop simmering in bowls of bone. Yet although we are each locked away in our dungeons, we are wired to be emotionally affected by outside influence. It is bad enough when the people we interact with, the media we consume, and simple everyday life sway our emotions and subconsciousness. Now along comes A.I.s which are happy to pull our strings as well.

I do not fear these programs as it is impossible for them to be malicious. They are neutral ones and zeros. Decades before I was born, science fiction delighted in vilifying A.I.: Landru, Skynet, the psychotic HAL 9000, and my all-time favorite, Harlan Ellison's dagnasty, hateful A.M. In all these scenarios, worldwide governments employ artificial intelligence to benefit humanity, which then turns on us. I find this scenario ridiculous simply because — based on current observation — I cannot imagine any current government using A.I. as anything other than a tool to squeeze every last penny out of us and keep us at each other’s throats.

People have expressed concern because some of these chatbots have gone bonkers and wound up spewing all kinds of depression and hatred. What they should be concerned about is that the chatbots they interact with have learned from past interactions. They are a pastiche of humanity, or rather, those who choose to spend their time interacting with them. (This is why I find most polls bogus: the people who care enough to answer will always throw off the average - but that is a rant for another day.)

Then again, I find myself saying the same old phrases or repeating the same old reactions. Perhaps the way I think and respond to outside stimuli is not that much different from ChatGPT or Replika.

To whom it may concern: I could always use a new pair of Ray-Bans.


PS. 86% complete…

Tuesday, February 28, 2023


Like most bipedal carbon-based life forms, I’ve spent many hours mulling over the subject of love. People have said and done the stupidest things in the name of love, especially going to war. Helen of Troy supposedly had a face that launched a thousand ships. King David stole Bathsheba from one of his generals and set him up for an ambush. And let us not forget the Cola Wars of the 80s, which began when Max Headroom tried to steal the heart of Paula Abdul.

Even worse than war, love is the cause of love songs. According to statistics I just made up, eighty-one percent of all songs ever written are love songs. Ninety percent of those are about longing or breaking up:

“Oh, how I crave you,
My heart will shrivel like a prune if you’re not mine.
Oh, I’m so sorry I barbecued your ferret,
Oh, please take me back,
I am just pond-scum without you.”

Only a tiny percentage of love songs are joyful or thankful. Kenny Rogers already wrote most of these, shouldering the burden and freeing up songsmiths of the future to be as angsty as they like.

But the greatest crime love has visited upon the human race is the romantic comedy. The main character is always a nerdy teenage boy, played by a hunky twenty-something who only needs to stand up for himself and apply some pimple cream for his inner beauty to be revealed. Likewise, he has a crush on the most popular girl in school, but his best friend played by a supermodel in horn-rimmed glasses will steal his heart once she puts in contacts, lets her hair down, and trades her frumpy sweatshirt for a skin-tight prom dress. This formula has earned studios millions over the decades, and as long as love makes people stupid enough to spend their money, will for many years to come.

I have to find a way to get in on that.


Monday, February 27, 2023


Ten days have passed since my open bilateral hernia surgery. I can feel the mesh prickling amidst my guts, and my abdomen is still swollen. The doctor says it will be that way for a few weeks. I’ve stopped taking any pain meds, both prescribed and over-the-counter. I don’t feel pain except for the occasional stabbing twinge that lasts a few seconds at a time.

I took care of some bureaucratic (all these years, and I still can never spell it from memory) nonsense this morning. After I post this, I need to work on the final scouring draft of my next book, which still does not have a title. It is eighty-two percent complete, and I plan on being done within the next few weeks. Then agent hunting shall begin.

I also have the final Debris of Shadows novel to complete, but perhaps my next venture should be a diet book. Whenever I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize the face that looks back at me. I’ve lost ninety pounds over the past year. At one low point in my life, I was twice as heavy as I am now. I currently weigh what I did back in BASIC training thirty-two years ago. I never thought that would be possible.

Here I am at fifty. It’s easy to become discouraged that it took me so long: so many decades spent ruining my health and hurting my career. It was never intentional. I’ve read that such a lament is common for those of us who get (some of) our shit together late in life. But, better late than never.

Life always provides what I asked for, just not how I imagined.

I’ve decided to return to this blog even if no one reads blogs anymore. This site was a much more comfortable home to me than Facebook ever was. I might restore some of the old posts, even if just my favorites. Perhaps someday, my children will want to read these and see who I was.

I’ll let them know as soon as I have that figured out.