Communion Of Dreams

“Other worldly wonder.”

As I write this at mid-day, Communion of Dreams sits at #5 in the ‘High Tech’ subcategory of Science Fiction, at #33 overall in Science Fiction, and at #919 in the Kindle rankings (all for “free Kindle store”). Yeah, today’s Trick or Treat promotion is going well. And if you haven’t gotten a copy of the book downloaded yet, you should be sure to do so.

But don’t take my word for it — there’s also a new review been posted this morning:

When I picked up this book, I had no idea what a treat I was in for. From the early chapters I was hooked, like when I was younger and first discovered Heinlein or Vonnegut. Futuristic high-tech gadgets combine with elements of mysticism and other worldly wonder in a sci-fi book that matches up with the best of them. Highly recommended!

Always nice to be favorably compared to some of my favorite authors.

So, don’t delay — go now, and get your copy!

Happy Hallowe’en!


Jim Downey



Looking back: Welcome to the Hobbit House

While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on May 12, 2007.


Hobbit House

Gotta love this: a collector of J. R. R. Tolkien artifacts needed a small library/museum to house his collection. His architect decided to do the right thing, and go to the source material for inspiration. The result is a wonderful little Hobbit House, straight out of the books:

Asked to design a fitting repository for a client’s valuable collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts, architect Peter Archer went to the source—the fantasy novels that describe the abodes of the diminutive Hobbits.

“I came back my client and said, ‘I’m not going to make this look like Hollywood,’” Archer recalled, choosing to focus instead on a finely-crafted structure embodying a sense of history and tradition.

The site was critical too—and Archer found the perfect one a short walk away from his client’s main house, where an 18th-century dry-laid wall ran through the property. “I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to build the structure into the wall?”

Now, my wife is an architect, so I know a little about this profession, and having a client willing to go along with such a design is a real boon. And as a rare book and document conservator, I appreciate an architect who went to the trouble to make sure that the environment was appropriately climate controlled for the archives. And as a craftsman, I really appreciate the attention to detail by the contractor and his crew – this isn’t just a facade, it’s well-crafted workmanship.

Wonderful, all the way around. I can’t help but think that J.R.R. would be pleased.

Jim Downey


September 16, 2011, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Hospice, Kurt Vonnegut, Society

I posted this Quote of the Day item as a comment on John’s Facebook thread about yesterday’s “And who will that be?” blog entry:

“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before… He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.

— Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”

Why? Well, in part because John (and most other people who heard it, including me) was understandably outraged about Mr. Robertson’s statement about divorcing a spouse who had Alzheimer’s. The simple ignorance of the statement is absolutely infuriating.

But I also posted it in recognition of something else I have learned: that I haven’t learned much about Alzheimer’s.

I should not say that. I have a book to sell, after all, one that I do honestly believe can help people. I want to see that book become a bestseller. I want it to become a reference for anyone who is in a care-giving role, and an insight into what it is like to be a care-giver for all their friends and family who are unsure how to react to their situation. I think that can really help matters for all concerned. And there are millions of people who are (or should be) concerned.

So I shouldn’t say that I haven’t learned much about Alzheimer’s. It undercuts my ‘authority’ as an author. It compromises the image of trust that I should work to build in the audience. It means that I can’t pull off the idea of being an ‘expert’ in the minds of the media elite who can help to promote our book and turn it into a success.

But I can’t lie about this. In fact, it may well be the deepest lesson to come out of the entire experience of caring for Martha Sr, then working hard for two and a half years to write this book: you do not “learn” about Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or being a care-giver by going through this.

Rather, you grow.

You grow to understand that there are few universal truths about care-giving someone with dementia. Yes, there are skills you acquire, and there are some excellent resources out there that can help. And I did learn things about the disease, and good nursing techniques, and even about myself. But I am not an expert on Alzheimer’s. Nor dementia. Nor care-giving.

You grow in ways which are not intellectual. Which cannot be readily taught, or summarized in a blog post or a powerpoint presentation or a tweet. Well, can’t be summarized by me, anyway. That’s why the book is over 400 pages long, made up of hundreds of individual entries, moments of experience, built over time. It’s growth, like a tree grows. That’s not intellectual. That’s not knowledge.

So yes, in some ways I remain ignorant. And I rage when others who have not been through this experience demonstrate their own ignorance, as Mr. Robertson did the other day.

But I hope. I hope that they will read our book. Share our experience. Maybe it will help them understand, before they go through the experience, themselves.

Jim D.

(Cross posted from the HFY blog.)

“Try Sporting Goods.”
May 21, 2009, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Gardening, Humor, Kurt Vonnegut

Since we’ve had a bit of a dry spell, this weekend I’ll be able to finally get my garden planted. In preparation for that, this morning I ran out to get the additional items I needed to supplement what I had ordered in. This included half a dozen additional tomato and pepper plants, some organic fertilizer, and deer netting. Yeah, this year I decided to try deer netting rather than conventional fencing. To try and avoid problems with birds getting entangled in it, I will be lacing some white twine through the netting at several levels.

Anyway, because I needed to pick up some other items at the nearby Wal*Mart (and yes, their new logo does remind me of Vonnegut’s depiction of an anus), I thought I would see if they had any deer netting before I ran out to a nursery where I knew I could find it. I wandered back into the lawn & garden section of the store, where I found a bored cashier flirting with some stocker.

“Hi! Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I need to get some deer netting. Do you have any?”

She looked confused, glanced at the stocker. He shook his head. She looked back with me and brightly said “No, sorry, we don’t have anything like that. Try Sporting Goods.”

I could barely contain my laughter as I walked out.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)

“So it goes.”

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday, age 84.

There have been many authors who had a great influence on me. Among these was Vonnegut. I can no longer say which of his books I read first, but there’s a fair chance that it was The Sirens of Titan, which had a sufficient impact on me that it was one of the reasons I choose that moon for the setting of Communion of Dreams.

What can you say about him? The man was brilliant in so many ways – with a biting wit and a perspective borne of really living, unlike so many writers who think they have something to say because they were once turned down for a date or didn’t get the promotion they thought they deserved. With his background at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he was taken seriously even outside of the genre of science fiction. If you haven’t read his work, do. None of the movie adaptations of his books comes close to capturing the power and black humor of his writing.

Fittingly, he was also a huge fan of Mark Twain’s, and if there is any justice in the world, he will now be considered in death to be in the same league as Twain (I cannot offer higher praise to an author), though of course he would never have thought this possible himself. His use of humor and wry observations on the human condition echoed Twain, his writing style emulated Twains, and he even held a certain resemblence to him. He thought so much of Twain that he named his son after him.

I do not believe in heaven. I do not believe in the afterlife. But I hold a small, quiet hope that the Tralfamadorians have granted Kurt the grace to be caught in the happiest moment of his life, whatever that may be.

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday, age 84.

So it goes.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)