For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech, to stir men’s blog

Desert desperado

Hello and good morning!  It’s another Thursday, and therefore time for another blog entry.  In fact, this morning, when activating my computer (which had self-restarted due to one of the seemingly endless “updates” from Windows…which don’t appear to engender any improvement of function whatsoever) I began, by force of habit, to seek out the last point at which I had been editing Unanimity.  Then I caught myself and remembered, “Wait, it’s blog day.”  Those were, as well as I can recall, my actual internal words.  Maybe I should re-christen this day of the week.  Who knows, if my writing eventually comes to influence the wide world enough, we English speakers might cast aside the traditional Norse name, which gives homage to a character now most widely remembered as being played by Chris Hemsworth.*

If I had a hammer…

It’s been a fairly drab and inauspicious week for me.  There’s not much going on that wasn’t doing so already.  I certainly haven’t been keeping up with current events or anything else floating around regular, virtual, or social media.  I occasionally go on the Google News “App”, just to skim through the headlines, but I don’t think I’ve so much as clicked on a single story in well over a week.  I haven’t even been listening to podcasts, or to Audible books, or even to music during my commute.  I just can’t seem to stir any interest in anything, even in books and shows and movies that used to enthrall me.  All this, despite months of ongoing treatment for my dysthymia/depression.

Oh, well, whataya gonna do?  The universe does not bargain, it cuts no special deals, and it makes only one promise to us all.

I have of course, as might be obvious from my comments above, been working steadily on Unanimity.  I’m approaching the end of the book for the second time (really the third, if you count when I wrote it).  Much, much works remains to be done, of course, but I’m still enjoying the story.  Thus, at least one person in the world will do so, and I suppose that’s a good enough reason to have written it.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a difficult time self-promoting, and I’m at least mildly embarrassed bordering on ashamed when I force myself to do it.  At times in the past I’ve rued this character trait of mine, and I’ve wished I could be much more of a sounding brass, but the advents of Kanye West and Donald Trump have reassured me that grandiosity is vastly overrated.**  There’s probably a happy medium somewhere (who runs a successful fortune-telling shop, one presumes), but if there is, I haven’t located it.

I’ve encountered a few germs of ideas for new stories this week—probably short stories—and jotted them down in my memo app, as I do.  That’s always pleasing in at least a small way.  There are many, many such little phrases, sentences, and paragraphs in the that file, but it’s difficult to predict how many of them will eventually become full-fledged stories.

I’ve also been diddling away at musical projects.  As I think I’ve said before, I’ve been working on a rebuild of Breaking Me Down, my personal best musical, or at least lyrical, expression of depression (sounds like a blast, right?).  I’ve learned a thing or two since I first threw it together, and I think it’s definitely improving.  I’ve also been working on a new song, which will be slower and will probably sound moodier than Breaking Me Down, but its words are much more…well, not entirely positive, but at least ambiguous, and its ending is, if not truly uplifting, at least hopeful…I think.

It’s a tough situation where you’re not even clear about the meaning of your own poetry.  Oh, well.

And that’s pretty much all I have to report for the moment.  Apologies if it’s not very gripping, but most days, and most weeks, are ordinary, after all.  I hope you’re all well, and that your futures are very bright indeed…but not so bright as to be blinding.

TTFN


*Not to say he doesn’t do a terrific job.  It’s not easy to make Thor—the comic book character—cool, but he succeeds in spades.

**Especially by the grandiose.

My native English, now I must forgo; and now my blog’s use is to me no more than an unstringed viol…

babel

Guten morgen, buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning!  It’s another Thursday (or Donnerstag, Jueves, or Mokuyoubi, if you prefer), and time for my weekly blog post.  There’s not much new going on, really…which is partly why I decided to write my greeting in four languages instead of the customary one.  You’ve gotta pad these things out sometimes.

I received an interesting and amusing email from Amazon yesterday, telling me that certain authors whom I follow have released “new” books.  I use scare quotes because the second of that brace of notices was just about the release of a new version of a work by that great writer of graphic novels, Alan Moore, whose numerous works include Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and my favorite, Batman: The Killing Joke.

The first notice, though, was of a new story released by that obscure (but also great?) author, Robert Elessar.  Apparently, at some point in the past, I decided to follow myself as an author on Amazon.  This is unsurprising; I suppose all authors are narcissistic to some degree.  The very notion of writing a story and offering it to other people to read must entail a certain (benign) kind of hubris.  But it is amusing that Amazon doesn’t recognize—or doesn’t bother trying to recognize, more likely—that the person to whom they sent this notice is the author himself.

I suppose names like Alan Moore and Stephen King might be relatively common, when you think about it, and it certainly seems plausible that a person who shared a name with such a noted author might enjoy following their new works.  But there are plain few Robert Elessars out there.  I know.  I’ve checked.  Furthermore, Amazon could easily recognize that the email to which they sent the notice is also associated with my account as an author who publishes through their platform.

Again, I suspect that they don’t bother worrying about such trivialities.  Why should they?  They have a great many, very big fish to fry, after all.

On other matters:  I’ve been pleased with the feedback I received (on Facebook, mainly) for my song, Catechism.  Of course, that’s only made me itch to fix my earlier musical experiments to make them more presentable, as well as to continue working on the new song I have,* but I continue not to want such work to interfere too much with my writing and, more specifically, with my editing.  It would be soooooo lovely if I could release Unanimity before the end of the year, perhaps in time for the Yuletide holiday season.  Halloween would be better, of course—this is hardly a Christmassy story—but that’s almost certainly a pipe dream, unless some benefactor out there is so excited to read it that she or he decides to sponsor my full-time work on the project.

Alas, I have yet to hear from such a person.

I’ve received no feedback, one way or the other, on Free Range Meat.  That’s not unusual, of course.  Even among people who read a particular story and enjoy (or hate) it, very few will write a review, and even fewer will post comments on social media or on blogs.  It’s hard for me to feel justified in grumbling too much about this.  Even I, a firm believer in the value of rating and reviewing products, and especially books, only do it a relative minority of the time.  Modern life is just too busy.

It was easier when we were all hunter-gatherers, wasn’t it?  Sometimes I regret giving up that lifestyle.  Then I remember that no hunter-gatherer culture invented or used written language—and also that none of them invented cardio-thoracic surgery, without which I’d have been unlikely to survive past my early thirties—and I’m more conflicted.  The loss of written language, and all the stories and nonfiction books I’d thus have to give up, would be intolerable.  As for living past my thirties…well, that’s more debatable.  From a certain point of view, once my children were born—and certainly by the time I was forty—I was pretty much dispensable, even to myself.

Oh, well.  John Mellencamp was right about life, wasn’t he?

And on that cheery note, I’ll call it quits for this week.  I hope you’re all well, and that all manner of things are well for you in this most possible of all possible worlds.

TTFN


*The words, melody, and chord structure are basically done—that’s the easy part

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drenched our teeples, drowned the blogs!

Rain

Good morning, everyone!  Though “good” is relative; I was severely rained upon by a thunderstorm on my way into the office today, so I’m pretty much soaked to the bone as I write this, and I will probably be damp all the way up to quitting time.  Still, if that’s the worst trial I encounter today, I’ll be justified in considering myself lucky.

Today is, as I’m sure you know, another Thursday.  It’s also the first day of August in 2019, and this is my usual, weekly blog post, but as those of you who’ve been following will know, I’ve posted other items since my previous formal posting.  At the end of last week (ish), I released my song Catechism on Iterations of Zero and on my YouTube channel.  Then, earlier this week, I put a video version of it here on my main website, though I haven’t yet put it directly up on my Facebook page.

I must officially issue a caveat:  the “video” portion of the post consists merely of my Iterations of Zero icon.  I promise you, no one wants to watch me performing a song.  In any case, since I played all the several parts myself (recording them at various times before mixing) it’s physically impossible for me to do it.  I suppose, with a little work, I could do a music video that cut between shots of me playing different instruments and singing along with the recorded song (lip-syncing, keyboard-syncing and guitar-syncing, presumably), but I have no good location in which to do such a thing, and the software required to do it well would probably require significant money.  In any case, I’m far from photogenic enough to make it worth anyone’s time to produce such a video.  I know I don’t enjoy looking at my ugly mug, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone else would, either.

The song, Catechism, on the other hand, is not bad to listen to, and I’m a reasonably good singer.  The production/mixing are certainly better than my previous attempts, which leads me to the strong temptation—to which I will no doubt succumb—to remix Breaking Me Down, and probably to redo some of the parts from scratch.  I’ve discovered already, with a bit of tinkering on the original, that by taking the tempo up from 90 beats per minute to 100, I could not only shave about 40 seconds off the piece,* but also make it peppier, which would be good considering how dark the lyrics are.

I’ve also—somewhat frustratingly, though in a good sort of way—found myself driven to begin writing chords and formal music for another old song I’d sort of made up a long time ago.  I imagine this is a little like being a drug addict…as soon as I’m done with the last fix, and despite heartfelt promises to myself and others, I immediately begin working my way toward another one.  It’s a compulsion.  Still, if this is my worst vice,** I can consider myself not only lucky but actually blessed.

Still, my primary addiction remains my writing, and in addition to the musical release, I was true to my word about my latest story.  Free Range Meat is now available on Amazon, in Kindle format only.  For those of you who strongly prefer actual, hard copies of stories to read—and I sympathize with your preference—I can only say that this and all my other Kindle-only “short” stories will eventually be collected into Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which will be available in hard copy.  I don’t know, though, how long it’s going to be before that happens.  Free Range Meat might well be the last story to be included in it, but I might decide to finish my novella (tentatively titled Escape Valve) first and include it as a never-before-published treat, if treat it will be.

But for the time being, my authorial energies will be focused entirely on Unanimity, which is a good thing, since I’m not even three-quarters of the way through its second editing run-through.  No matter how ruthlessly I cut, it’s going to be a long book in its final form.  I still like it, though, which is always a pleasant discovery.  Most importantly, I like the characters, even the “bad guy,” and I hope that readers will like them, too—even the bad guy.  It can be fun, of course, to find an antagonist you really hate, who’s just irredeemable and horrible, so you can feel real joy when (and if) the villain finally gets his*** comeuppance.  But it’s often even more fun to have a villain with whom you can at least empathize and maybe even sympathize, and—from time to time—with whom you can find yourself agreeing against your own will.  Who among us hasn’t occasionally secretly wished that Hannibal Lecter were around to punish certain severely rude people?

Maybe that’s just me.

Well, that’s my weekly update, and it’s been a busy week indeed, marred slightly by a virus of some kind that I’ve been enjoying since Saturday.  I wouldn’t call that a very high price to pay for getting done what I have in the last seven days.

As always, I’d enjoy getting any feedback you might feel like sharing, whether about my story, or about my song, or about anything else that strikes your fancy, in any of the venues which I haunt.  All I ask is that you try to be reasonably polite.

After all, how certain are you that Hannibal Lecter isn’t out there watching?

TTFN


*which is currently longer than Hey Jude but with nary a “Na, na na nanana naaaaah” to be found.

**which I doubt.

***yes, most of my favorite villains are male, which I think is consistent with the real world, though perhaps I’m being sexist.  I tend to like strong (but not quite villainous) female characters, as is probably obvious especially from Mark Red, but also Son of Man, and even The Chasm and the Collision.  This pattern will not be broken in Unanimity.

Free Range Meat

Free Range Meat cover

Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?

Brian certainly would. As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can. So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.

But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV? Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.

And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off? What breed of dog makes sounds like that?

These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

Catechism

A Song

 

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

copyright 2019

Produced and performed by Robert Elessar

 

The day is coming, can you hear it?
Night is falling, do you fear it?
The ship has sailed, now can you steer it?
Do you know what’s going on?

The moment’s passing, do you know it?
What’s your secret, will you show it?
When your chance comes, will you blow it?
Can you be relied upon?

If you can answer all these questions right,
You just might make it through that falling night.
But if these words just serve to turn your head,
The coming dark will bury you with dread.

The world is turning, can you feel it?
The wound is bleeding, can you heal it?
The truth is cloaked, can you reveal it?
I might come along with you.

The picture’s hidden, can you find it?
The tape is jammed, will you rewind it?
I must intrude now, do you mind it?
It’s just that I belong with you.

The world is not so hopeless, is it now?
Is that a statement that you might allow?
Just wipe the tears out of your eyes, won’t you?
To fight the truth, there’s nothing you can do.

The game is set, now can you play it?
The beast is charging, can you slay it?
If all your strength cannot delay it,
Then run away, just run and hide!

The path is clear, but will you hike it?
The cheek is turned, now will you strike it?
The song is over, did you like it?
Forget you heard it, it’s only lied

 

Thou know’st we blog by wit, and not by witchcraft; And wit depends on dilatory time.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 75

Okay, so…

It’s another Thursday, and I again don’t have any goal or point in mind as I begin writing this weekly blog post.  There’s not much new to communicate, except to say that certain previously mentioned things are now more imminent…as, I suppose, should always be the case if any progress is being made at all.

Specifically, I’ve almost finished my design for the cover picture for Free Range Meat,* and plan to have that story out and available for purchase on Amazon (Kindle format only) before August arrives.  It will be available on Kindle Unlimited, like all my short stories, so those of you who subscribe to that will be able to read it for free.  This may or may not be the case with Unanimity when it becomes ready for publication.  The paperback version of that book is going to be sizable, and it’s probably going to be in “trade paperback” format, since in smaller form it would be quite a fat book and/or have quite small print.  I’m not sure how I’ll settle that issue.  Of course, Unanimity will also be available for Kindle.

On other fronts, I’ve been semi-obsessively laboring over the mixing and production of my latest song, Catechism, as I think I mentioned last week.  I’ve learned some new things about the process since I made Schrodinger’s Head and Breaking Me Down, and part of me aches to go back and completely redo them, but that impulse isn’t strong enough—for now—to engender action.  It’s just such a time-consuming process, and when I’m doing it, other things get pushed relatively to the side, including actual, regular practicing of the guitar and even my editing and writing time.

As I’ve said before, this would all be easier and happen faster if I were able to write full time, but since rent must be paid and food must be eaten if I’m to continue writing at all (at least, for more than a month or so), I’m afraid I have to pay those opportunity costs.  Oh, well.  I’m hardly alone in this.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make before I interrupted myself is that, because I’m learning as I go, Catechism is almost certainly going to be better produced and mixed than were my earlier efforts.  Whether or not it’s a good song is a judgement from which I have to recuse myself, being biased as I am.**  It’s peppy, certainly, and nothing like as dark as Breaking Me Down…though not as light-hearted as Schrodinger’s Head either, I have to admit.  I think my composition skills are improving along with my mixing and production skills, and hopefully that means the music is better.  In any case, I kind of like it; I guess that’s got to be worth something.

One of the slightly annoying facts about getting close to putting something out that’s not my main art form is that, as I finish, I get these gnawing and nagging ideas of more songs to do, and I have to resist jumping immediately into such pursuits.  Though editing and all related business is going fairly well, there’s no doubt that it’s been at least mildly slowed by my other activities.  And I have so many more stories to write once this one is done and published.  I have a novella to finish, tentatively titled Escape Valve, and ideas for many other short stories that would be fun.  I also have Neko/Neneko to write, and Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and Changeling in a Shadow World, and more beyond that.  I want to write the sequels to Mark Red, probably after doing a second edition of that novel.  Also, I plan to publish a hard copy collection of my short stories, tentatively titled Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I may have mentioned before.

I really need to win the lottery (which is vanishingly unlikely, especially since I don’t play it), or to find some rich benefactor somewhere.  If anyone knows such a person, I’d be deeply grateful if you’d send them my way.

And with that thought, I’ll call the blog post good for today, and get back to those other things that won’t let me go.  I hope you’re all enjoying the summer, if you’re in the northern hemisphere (and that you’re having a decent winter if you’re in the southern).  As is always implicit, I’d welcome your comments and feedback about anything you feel like commenting on, as long as it’s in good taste…or in bad taste that I happen to share.

TTFN


*A copy of the draft of the central image is at the head of this blog post.  Yes, it’s supposed to be blurry.

**This does not always take the form of bias in my favor, by the way; I think I’m not alone in being especially harsh in judging my own works, which makes it difficult to promote them enthusiastically.  I occasionally long for the unbridled narcissism of a Kanye West or a Donald Trump.  Well…not really.  But something at least a little closer to such a state would probably serve me better than my frequent and sometimes vicious self-condemnation, overlaid upon a baseline of irritating—and rather ironic—pomposity.  Que lástima.

The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday.  I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks.  I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.

First, an update:  I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun.  I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long.  If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied.  However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far.  It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far.  Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes.  Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.

Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.*  I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university.  But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural.  There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).

It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.”  Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories.  Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.**  Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).

I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.

I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works.  I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.

Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college.  It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades.  I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices.  Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in?  What the heck did he take out?”

Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world.  Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained.  Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one.  I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them.  They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them.  I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.

Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel.  At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books.  It’s a freeing thought.

Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I?  I think it’s probably more than enough.  I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending:  If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual.  Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them.  Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it.  I think so, anyway.

TTFN


*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.

**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.