Write loyal cantons of contemned love and blog them loud even in the dead of night.

Hello and good day.  It’s Thursday morning, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts—though I almost forgot about it and simply started editing Vagabond instead.  I guess that’s a good indicator of how dedicated to the editing I am, but it’s a little embarrassing.  Still, I suppose it’s not all that embarrassing, or I wouldn’t share it.  Or perhaps sharing the embarrassment is a way of diffusing and defusing it—after all, I can tell myself that if I’m not afraid to share it, it must not be all that bad or all that serious (which, of course, it’s not).

Enough self-psychoanalysis.  It’s been a reasonably productive week, and on Monday morning I came to a decision:  At least for now, I’m going to stick with editing Vagabond*, rather than working on Outlaw’s Mind.

I haven’t come to this decision lightly.  I simply noticed that, each morning, when I was starting on the new writing at the beginning of my schedule—knowing that I would, after about a thousand words, switch over to Vagabond—I was less enthusiastic about the new work, and frankly felt an unpleasant tension.  This was mainly because of time constraints, but also due to the division of focus.  Working on both projects at once makes both take longer than they would otherwise; it makes the whole process less efficient, as does essentially every form of multi-tasking.  It became clearer and clearer that, if I worked on both “at once”, they would both come out later than the likely finishing point of even the second of the two if I just worked on them one at a time.

Also, the mental shift from one story to the other was a minor daily lurch.  Though both could be considered horror stories, Outlaw’s Mind is a much subtler, more slow-growing, almost psychological horror—the presence of the word “mind” in the title might make that obvious—whereas Vagabond is pretty much a straight-up, gonzo horror story.  The former does have an element of the seemingly “supernatural” but it’s not obvious or in your face.  Whereas Vagabond is all about that supernatural intrusion of a force of evil upon the otherwise mundane world.

Also, though it’s true that I’ve put off Outlaw’s Mind due to the very long process of editing Unanimity, it’s certainly fair to say that Vagabond has been waiting much longer than Outlaw’s Mind.  It’s been waiting almost thirty years—possibly a bit more since it was first started.  So, The Vagabond has priority, at least for now, and I intend it to be my next published work**.  After that will follow Outlaw’s Mind, which I’ll need to figure out whether I can fit comfortably into the planned Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, or if I’ll need to have it stand alone.  In any case, the Cabinet will likely have at least one “new” story no matter what, because I intend to recreate the remainder of my old short story House Guest, which is even older than Vagabond, and include it in the collection.  Don’t worry, that shouldn’t delay things much.  It truly and honestly is a short story, and making it any longer would be to its detriment.  So let it be written; so let it be done.

On other matters, I keep thinking about possible ways to work into my schedule the writing of at least a weekly post on Iterations of Zero.  There are many subjects about which I’d like to write—and IoZ is a blog that can be about anything and/or nothing—but which I feel don’t really match the tone of this, my author-oriented blog.  I’ve toyed with the notion of combining the two, but I fear the strange collision of other types of articles with the ones here, which are mainly about creative writing and related matters.  If you’re not sure what I mean, take a trip to IoZ and check out a few random things I’ve written there.  Then, if you wish, you can let me know your thoughts on whether they would be appropriate for this blog.

Of course, I can’t close without reminding you that Unanimity: Book 2 is coming out next Tuesday, September 22, 2020, and is available for pre-order in e-book format (for the print format, you’ll have to order once it’s out).  If you haven’t ordered Unanimity: Book 1 yet, there’s still time to get it and even to read it before Book 2 comes out, and of course, I encourage you to do so.  One reader of Book 1—who shall remain nameless until and unless I receive permission to share—told me that her mind was blown already by chapter 6 and 7.  And that’s before any of the real horror starts***!

Speaking of real horror, please everyone, stay safe and healthy out there.  And try to take advantage of the relative decrease in travel and interaction by getting some good reading in.  Written language is the lifeblood of civilization, and thankfully it can even be enjoyed when one is socially isolated.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover Project


*Or The Vagabond as I think I’ll title it in the end, since there’s a revered manga series whose English title is Vagabond, and though there’s essentially no chance of confusion between the two, I hate knowingly repeating a title.  Also, all the characters in my story, once they know the antagonist’s chosen title, refer to him/it as “the Vagabond” and not simply “Vagabond” as though it were a given name.  This will be a bit of a wrench, since I’ve simply called the story Vagabond since I first started writing it, and single word titles can be dramatic.  Then again, the definite article does often convey a certain gravitas.  Also, I just published Unanimity, which is definitely—and inescapably—a one-word title.  Why do the same thing twice in a row?

**I’m planning on recreating a picture I drew a long time ago, portraying the title character standing by the road and thumbing a ride.  I loved that picture, and it’s a brilliant option for the cover, but I cannot for the life of me locate it in any of the old sources of my artwork (since all the physical drawings and paintings are lost and probably destroyed).  Perhaps I can find it in my ancient MySpace page, but I’m not optimistic.

***Though, to be fair, only barely.

Write till your ink be dry, and with your tears moist it again, and frame some feeling blog that may discover such integrity.

Good morning, everyone!  It’s Thursday, and it’s thus time once again for my weekly blog post.

I don’t have all that much that’s new to report, at least with respect to writing.  I’ve been continuing to work steadily on Outlaw’s Mind, producing about a thousand plus words per weekday, which means a little over four or five thousand words a week.  After completing my daily “quota” of new writing, I’ve been going over to Vagabond, or The Vagabond (I haven’t decided which title to choose, and I’d welcome reader input on the question).

It’s been quite a treat to reencounter scenes that I remember only when I come to them in the book.  For instance, there’s a particularly vivid nightmare sequence, set in a supernaturally nasty, gigantic underground sewer system, that surprised me with recognition when I arrived at it during my reading/editing this week.  I was particularly pleased to discover that it had been written rather well, at least from my own biased point of view.

In a different way, in can be just as enjoyable to find places where my original writing was a bit awkward, and to realize that I can fix those places handily now.  It shows me that—again, from my own point of view, at least—I’ve become a better writer over time.

It’s required an effort of will to keep from looking at and trying to complete the fragment I have of House Guest, a short story that helped win me a national award when I was a teenager, because I don’t want to distract myself from Outlaw’s Mind.  The latter is proceeding well, as I said, but it’s definitely growing to be a short novel, and I’m going to have to make a rather nail-biting decision—both practically and artistically—whether I want to include it in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities or to let it stand alone.  It’s growth is, I think, a good thing, because I’ve found that there’s more to the life and character of young Timothy Outlaw than I would have expected from the simple seed that produced the story.  This was one of those little notions that popped into my head, and which I “jotted” down in my cell phone note-taking app for later.

It’s amazing that two short sentences can turn into a much longer story than expected, but then again, the story has become about much more than those two sentences ever implied.  I suppose that’s not terribly surprising.  One could summarize even the entire Harry Potter series in a few sentences, after all, if one were so inclined, but the story is so much more and so much deeper than such sentences could lead one to imagine.

I can’t lay claim to anything like J. K. Rowling’s ability, but I seem to be able to write as much as she does, keeping all other things such as needing to keep a “day job” in consideration.  It would certainly be wonderful if as many people in the world read and enjoyed my books as do hers, to say nothing of making a similar amount of money*.

Hopefully, if the internet and its progeny survive unabated into the future, that means that my stories will always be out there, somewhere—even if only as archaeological relics.  Once published, the stories have a life of their own, separate from their author, and not subject to his persistence; this may be a very durable form of life, as information independent of its particular substrate.

And with that peculiar reflection, I think I’ll call it good for today.  I really would love to have your input on the Vagabond title, and on “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” and on anything else that strikes you as worthy of comment.  Of course, I want to remind you that Unanimity Book 2 will be published on September 22, 2020, and that it’s already available for pre-order in e-book form.  And Unanimity Book 1, is already available.  You should have time to read it between now and when Book 2 comes out, if you’re a reasonably fast reader.

Do your best to stay safe, sane, and healthy out there.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 2 simple Cover Project


*Though that’s not terribly important to me.  I’m not saying I would turn it down or wouldn’t be delighted to have such an income, but obviously, it’s not for money that I write, nor for prestige, nor for any simple, short-term, tangible purpose.  I write because I love to make up stories and get them down in print and publish them so that other people can read them if they want, because I have always loved to read other people’s stories; it’s been one of the greatest and most reliable joys of my life.  But no matter how few or many people read my stories, I think I’ll always be my own number one fan, in the sense of enjoying reading and rereading my own books.  I’m not quite as bad a Number One Fan as Annie Wilkes, but I do have my yandere moments toward myself, if that makes any sense.

Come, and take choice of all my library, And so beguile thy sorrow.

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and that means it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  It’s also a new month (September, 2020 AD or CE), and though that doesn’t have much bearing on the blog—now that I’ve long since discontinued “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”—it’s at least an indicator that time, as it tends to do, has continued to pass, or at least that our experience of it has continued, trapped as we are in the grip of the second law of thermodynamics.

My writing has continued well this week, but I’m falling prey to something I expected, but which I nevertheless find challenging:  now that I have the file of Vagabond—or as I am thinking of retitling it, The Vagabond—I’m torn between the process of working on Outlaw’s Mind (formerly Safety Valve) and rewriting/editing The Vagabond.  It’s particularly tempting to do the latter because, after so many years, finally to have the book thanks to the beneficence and munificence of my ex-wife, it’s hard to be patient about publishing it.  Though the risks of it being lost again are surely low, it’s still hard not to feel a combination of anxiety and excitement that pull me toward it.

I’m enjoying rereading it as I edit, since it’s been a very long time since I’ve had the chance.  I’m making changes as I go along—I think my skills as an author have improved significantly since I first wrote it, particularly in style and word choice.  Also, the original suffered from the erratic nature of my writing at the time, as I think I discussed last week.  It’s great fun meeting the characters again after so long; this is doubly so because at least a few of them are based on some of my university friends.  It’s also enjoyable to return to a time when no one was on the internet because there was no such thing (or if there was, it was restricted to very narrow uses relative to today).

I have no intention of trying to bring the story into the “modern” world.  It remains set in 1989, roughly, and will continue to remain there.

So, to balance my urges, I’ve been trying to make sure that I write about a thousand new words on Outlaw’s Mind daily before turning to The Vagabond, but it’s difficult to enforce that, and it makes the new writing more of a chore than it might be otherwise.  I’m going slightly against my principle of finishing one thing before moving on to another, a hard lesson I learned largely from Vagabond itself.  But this is a unique situation, so I’m giving myself at least a little bit of leeway.  I feel that it would almost be a sign of ingratitude to my ex-wife not to proceed quickly with Vagabond.  She always liked the story; she’s the only person other than I who has read it (as far as I know), and she always encouraged my writing.  She even used to say that it was one of the reasons she fell for me*, and that’s a statement worthy of some repayment in speedy effort.

Still, I already put off Outlaw’s Mind during the editing and rewriting of Unanimity, and I don’t want to leave it fallow yet again.  It’s a conundrum, but I suppose it’s not a bad one in which to be mired as an author; I’ve always had more ideas than I’ve ever had time to bring to fruition.  There are worse things

Another concern with which I’m dealing is how quickly Outlaw’s Mind is growing.  It’s already more than twice as long as, for instance, Of Mice and Men, and it’s about half as long as Vagabond so far.  I’m not yet near the end, either.  Even writing only a thousand words a day (which for me is fairly modest) it grows quickly.  I worry about it becoming too big to fit into Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I may have to turn into just a collection of short stories that have already been published individually.  (I plan to also include in it the author’s notes for the various stories, which appear on this blog, probably modified slightly, which will give it some extra meat).  I really did hope to put this original work in it as well, but I worry about making the final product too big and running into the problem I had with Unanimity**.  I guess I’ll have to see how things turn out.

I’ve had occasion to wonder whether my writing grows so much because I’m able to type so quickly when I write new fiction.  I haven’t clocked myself, but if I get going, it’s not too hard to put out two to three thousand words in a few hours of a morning, and that leads thing to expand rapidly.  The question is, do I write too much.  Might I be more parsimonious if I wrote in a more restrictive form, say by producing my original drafts long hand?  I did that for Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and for the “short” story Paradox City—I had no other choice, being a guest of the Florida DOC at the time.  None of those are particularly short works, of course…Paradox City is practically a novella in its own right, though it is officially a short story, according to me.

With all that in mind, I bought myself a new clipboard and about six-hundred sheets of college ruled notebook paper, and I may try doing the rest of Outlaw’s Mind using that…or I may just try using that for my next new work.  Or I may quickly give up on it, haunted by the irrevocable loss of Ends of the Maelstrom and by the illegibility of my cursive.  I’m not going to make a firm commitment now, but it is something I’m weighing.

In the meantime, I hope you’re having a great month, and I hope at least some of you are reading Unanimity Book 1 and are looking forward to Unanimity Book2 and to The Vagabond and to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  No matter what you read, be well, please!

TTFN

thinker


*My writing in general, not Vagabond specifically, since we were married well before it was finished.

**Book 1 is available here, and the e-book version of book 2 is available for pre-order here.  It and the paperback will be out on September 22, to celebrate Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthdays.

Before my blog I throw my warlike shield

Hello, everyone.  I hope you’re having as good a day and as good a week as possible.  It’s Thursday again, which means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  “Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!  For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.”

Anyway…

It’s been a rather momentous week.  I received the files for my old stories and poems as discovered and generously sent by my ex-wife.  Most prominently, I received the files for my old book Vagabond, complete as it was written.  It’s very exciting, and though I haven’t stopped working on Outlaw’s Mind (formerly Safety Valve) I did take at least a little time, when I didn’t have my latest work with me, to do a little editing and rewriting of just the very first bit of it.  I have to resist getting sidetracked, because I want to finish my current story and put it in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities so that I can release that before getting to Vagabond.

The current story is growing rapidly; I’ve been steadily writing at least two thousand words a day on it.  Hopefully, it won’t become so large as to make it unwieldy for including in the collection.  If it grows too much, it’ll have to be released as a short novel, which I’d really prefer not to do.

It would have been nice to have the complete copy of my old short story House Guest, which I wrote in high school, and which helped me win an NCTE award, but unfortunately, it seems that I only had typed in about the first one and a half pages of the thing (it was originally typewritten the old-fashioned way).  Still, that’s the most important bit, since it gives me my character’s name and back story, and it sets the stage for what’s to come.  It wasn’t nearly as long as many of my current “short” stories, so it won’t be too much labor to try to recreate it, but I don’t know if I’ll go to the trouble to include it in DECoC.

Still…it would be a shame not to have it there…

Vagabond is good, but it bears the hallmark of my old, disjointed way of doing things:  only writing when I felt “inspired” and bouncing from one project to another haphazardly.  By this I mean, though I like it, it’s rather abrupt in some ways, and doesn’t flow as nicely as I would prefer.  Still, that’s okay; I can fix it now.  I can’t feel too bad, and I’m not complaining.  It’s the rediscovery of a book I started in college, more than thirty years ago, and finished by the end of medical school, more than twenty years ago.  From this you can tell that it took me ten years to complete it, though it’s only about 150,000 words long in present form.

Among the treasures my ex-wife sent was an early beginning of Son of Man, which I recreated from scratch in its current published form.  It’s interesting to compare it to the final version, which definitely follows the same pattern but is a lot better, in my opinion.  The main character’s name didn’t change—that much was easy enough to remember—and one of the secondary characters retained almost the complete same name, but with a change of spelling.  Of course, Michael Menelvagor also remained the same.  That was inevitable, as you’ll know if you’ve read Son of Man.  I even found the first two pages of a prequel I had planned for the book,which was to be titled Orion Rising, and was the “origin” story for Michael.  There was also the beginning of a relatively realistic novel called Lazarin, which I doubt I’ll ever restart.

As you can see, I did an awful lot of starting things and not finishing them.  Admittedly, I had a lot going on at the time, but if I had disciplined myself to write a little every day, whether I felt like it or not, and to stick with one thing until it was done before starting something else, I could have been a lot more productive.

I also received a file of old poems of mine.  They are a dreary lot—I tend to write poems when I’m feeling particularly depressed—and are often embarrassingly pretentious* and purple.  Still, among them are the earlier versions of poems/lyrics that became Catechism, Breaking Me Down, and Come Back Again, and I’m pleased with two facts about these:  first, that I really did remember them pretty accurately**, and second, that where I changed them for the current versions, I definitely improved them.

So, it’s been quite interesting to look back in joy (and in groans) at my old works, and to be able to look forward to finally being able to publish Vagabond, and to have the stem from which to regrow House Guest.  That was really a seminal story for me; it showed me that my writing was actually good not just from my Mom’s point of view.  I’m quite sure that it was the main factor in winning me the NCTE award, because the other part of the entry was an impromptu essay, written by hand…and as I think I said before, I can’t imagine anyone being able to decipher it, let alone liking it.

This isn’t just false humility.  My MCAT essay (I don’t even know if they still use those) was the only part of the test on which I got a mediocre score, and though I may just have written a crap essay***, I think it was very difficult to read as well, and that can’t help but hurt one’s evaluation.

Which point demands of me that I once again profoundly and profusely thank my sister, who undertook the Herculean task of trying to decipher and type in handwritten chapters of Mark Red and I think of The Chasm and the Collision that I sent her from jail and from prison.  Thank you, Liz, if you’re reading!

And that, I think, is a good point on which to close things this week.  I hope you all stay safe and healthy and use any enforced isolation time to read whatever strikes your fancy, and not to succumb exclusively to the temptations of video and social media.

TTFN Writer-at-work


*I know, right?  If even I think it’s pretentious, it must be really something!

**The middle portion of Come Back Again is verbatim from the original poem, though it was part of a completely different piece of work originally.  The last verse is almost the same, just with a slight flushing out of the second line for rhythm purposes.  Catechism is very accurate, but there were a few phrases that were a bit awkward in the original that have come out better.  Likewise for some of the imagery and word choices in Breaking Me Down, though that also is very close to the original.

***I have absolutely no recollection of what the subject was, let alone what I wrote.  Ditto for the NCTE essay.

But if the while I blog on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored, and sorrows end.

Good morning all.  This being Thursday, I figured I’d write another of my weekly blog posts.  What a shock, right?

As I stated last blog post, I’ve started back on my latest work, a novella/short novel* with the working title Safety Valve.  I’ve come up with a better final title for it, which is Outlaw’s Mind.  The main character is named Timothy Outlaw, and it really is about things that go on in his mind, and the troubles he has in dealing with a rather unusual emotional issue…one that may not be exactly what it seems.

I think I’ve built up a lot of writing pressure during the time in which I’ve been editing Unanimity, because once I got going, for the first two days I wrote over three thousand words a day on the new story, and since then I’ve been steady at about two thousand.  Not bad for me age.  One thing I’ll give myself, I do write quickly.  That’s partly why works intended as novellas become short novels, and novels become half a million words long.  At least there’s a lot of meat in my stories, and hopefully not too much gristle.

Speaking of such things, just to let you know, Unanimity Book 2 is already available for pre-order in Kindle form, if you’re interested (though thanks to the way my publishing works, it doesn’t seem that pre-ordering can be arranged for the paperback version).  I’ll include a link and a picture of the cover below.

And, of course, Unanimity Book 1 is readily available for purchase in both paperback and e-book editions, so please look into it.  As I think I’ve said before, it’s a supernatural thriller/horror novel in the form of a pseudo-science-fiction story set in 2018.  It’s sort of along the lines of Carrie or The Firestarter in the sense that the things that happen in the book are arguably based in a scientific process or explanation, but what happens really is something inexplicable and mysterious.  But there are no monsters under the beds…the monster is in people’s heads.  Which is, let’s face it, where most real monsters dwell.

I’ve begun putting together the order for my eventual collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and though I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit all the stories as well as Outlaw’s Mind into one volume, it looks like it’s going to be fine.  There’s also the barest possibility that I’ll be able to include a surprise addition that I had despaired over ever being able to share with the world.

You see, my ex-wife contacted me this weekend and told me that, in cleaning out some old things, she’d found one of our old Macs, and on it, she had found several of my stories, including the short story House Guest, which I wrote in high school, and which helped me win a National Council of Teachers of English Award**.  She’s already sent the disc with the files to a service that translates such things into newer formats and gave them my email address to contact me when it’s ready.  It was an awfully nice thing for her to do, but that doesn’t surprise me.  I did marry her, after all, and I’ve never regretted that.

An even greater source of joyous surprise was that, among the material she found was my horror novel Vagabond, which I wrote over the course of college and medical school***.  I currently have only fragments of that novel in my possession; I had occasionally thought of reconstructing the missing parts, but it’s just too daunting, and I have new things on which to work.  But once I get the original, I can go through it, edit it, fix it up, and finally publish it!  It’s set in the late eighties, since that’s when I started college, and it takes place at a university—which would mean that I’d have two horror novels set in universities coming out in quick succession.  There are worse things, though, and the stories are of quite different character.  Vagabond is clearly and definitely a supernatural horror story, and its villain is one of my favorite creations.

Speaking of favorite creations and villains, this revelation and gift from my ex-wife does lead me to feel a bit wistful about an earlier “completed” work, a novel I wrote in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom.  This was a literal sci-fi fantasy combo, with magic and high tech, parallel universes, cosmic level dangers and a battle to the finish between two men of complex character who had previously been the best of friends.  It has impact on the metaverse of all my subsequent works, at least in my head, though that’s unlikely ever to be obvious.

It’s also unlikely that that novel will ever be rescued, since it was hand-written, single-spaced, both sides, on thin-ruled notebook paper, overflowing almost always into the margins as I thought of things to add.  It was in a green, battered old school-type folder, and it was lost along with essentially all my earthly belongings in 2011.  Odds are it’s rotting in a landfill somewhere, but on the bare chance that someone got it as part of an auction of my old belongings, you’ll recognize it from the description above.  Look for the “hero”, Naldor, along with a gaggle of Earth teens…whose names I’m unsure of, ironically, because they were based on people I knew, and I mix up the real people with the characters.  And look for the villain (no scare quotes needed here), Qaltich Talberod, called The Talberod by those who serve him, which is everyone with any sense of self preservation.  If anyone out there recognizes it, please get in contact with me.  I’ll know it when I see it, obviously.  It might even be worth something some year.  I’d vouch for its authenticity and give it back to you once I’d finished rewriting it.

This, however, is a fantasy, less likely to happen than the events of the story itself.  If I ever want anyone else to read Ends of the Maelstrom, I’m just going to have to rewrite it.  Please don’t hold your breath for that, though.  Had we but world enough, and time, of course I would eventually reconstruct it.  But as Andrew Marvell knew only too well, the phase space of our personal possibilities is finite and bounded.

On that happy note, I’ll finish up for this week.  I do invite you to check out Unanimity Book 1, I think it’s good.  I am biased of course.  Also, if you were to get a copy of the paperback and want to have it signed, I’m sure we could arrange for you to ship it to me and for me to ship it back.  I’ll personalize it if you like; I love sharing my stories with people in a personal way.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 2 simple Cover Project


*Short for me, anyway.

**There was an essay portion as well, but as this was handwritten, it’s hard to imagine the judges even being able to read it, let alone think it was any good.  My handwriting is deplorable.

***Back then I bought into the foolish behavior of only writing when inspired to do so—and there was always so much else to do.  This led to things taking a terribly long time, and it also led to me constantly getting sidetracked by new ideas, so I rarely completed works, or did so slowly.  Don’t fall into that trap!  Just set a schedule, like a job, and write whether you feel like it or not, on that schedule…and finish what you started—at least most of the time—before going on to something new.  Here endeth the lesson.


And just as a little added note:  WordPress’s new “block editor” sucks.  It was fine the way it was.  I’m tempted to find another place to host my blog, honestly, this is crap.  As Marullus said, “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!”

Taunt him with the licence of ink: if thou blog’st him some thrice, it shall not be amiss

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday again, and thus time for another weekly blog post.  I took the train today*, since my vehicle is in the process of some repairs/part replacements.  It’s nothing serious, and I rather enjoy riding the train from time to time, though when doing so I get sick more often than when I don’t.  This is surely not surprising, and in the era of Covid-19 it points out why they encourage people not to use public transportation if they don’t have to.  Unfortunately, many people—weirdly enough—still have to work to make a living and don’t have easily viable alternatives.  At the very least, taking the train makes me nostalgic for the writing of Prometheus and Chiron, which was inspired by my then-daily wait for the train.

Speaking of stories and inspiration:  as most of you who follow my blog probably already know, Unanimity Book 1 is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions.  I posted my usual blog entry/link source here on my blog last Saturday, and of course I shared the info on my (limited) social media.  I’m excited!

I gave several (signed) copies to selected people at work.  It felt slightly hubristic to do so, as it always does, but in a certain sense, this is the most personal gift that I could possibly give anyone.  I certainly don’t make them pay for it, for what that’s worth**.  I also certainly couldn’t possibly sit near them—or anyone—while they read it.  I’d be constantly worried about them suddenly tossing it aside with words to the effect of, “this is terrible,” but with more profanity.

I decided to go with Book 1 and Book 2 instead of developing subtitles of any kind for the two volumes, obviously.  Writing about and thinking about what titles to use last week led me to conclude that I could not come up with any pairs of titles that worked ideally together without clashing and which didn’t distract from the main title.  I’m satisfied with that, but wasn’t satisfied with the others, so it’s now “Book 1” and “Book2”, the latter of which is planned for release on September 22.

Moving on to other titles with which I’m not satisfied, I finally restarted work on my novella Safety Valve this week.  Monday morning, Tuesday morning, and most of Wednesday morning were taken up with rereading (and minor editing) of the fifty thousand words I’d already written of it (oy, I write a lot), but at the end of yesterday morning, I was able to produce one new page!  It’s been over a year, I think, since I’ve written any new words of fiction, thanks to editing Unanimity, and it was wonderful to be able to get some new bits of a tale down.  I’m happy to say that I really like the story, and particularly its main character, but I cannot abide the working title.  This was one of the stories whose raw idea popped into my head randomly and I jotted it down in my smartphone notes app, returning to it later.  That has turned into what will be quite a longish novella.

Of course, as I’ve said before, I plan to use that novella as a portion—first story or last story, most likely—of a collection of otherwise previously published works, including all my short stories that have been released in Kindle format only, so that anyone who wants a paperback story collection*** can buy it, and will still be able to get something new into the bargain.

However…given the recent trouble I had with the length of Unanimity, I’m worried that the combination might end up being too big.  If the novella even approaches a hundred thousand words, then with the other stories added, I fear the thing might grow to be comparable in size to the un-split text of Unanimity, and if that’s the case, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  Maybe I’ll have to release just a collection of the short stories and then release the final product of Safety Valve as a stand-alone novella or shorter novel, available for paperback as well as e-book.

I’ll keep you posted about this, obviously.  I’d very much love to be able to release it in time for Halloween, but I’m not sure how doable that will be.  I suppose, if I do see that I’m going to need to leave the new novella out, there’s no reason I couldn’t get the collection together in time, barring the unforeseen.

In any case, I am not unsatisfied with the proposed title for my collection…in fact I like it very much.  It will be called Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  Be on the lookout for it!

And that, I think, is plenty of news for today.  I do encourage you to peruse Unanimity Book 1 and if interested, buy it in paperback or Kindle version.  If anyone wants a copy signed by the author…well, I’m not sure how we would arrange that, but I’m sure it could be done, and I’d be happy to do my part.  While you read, and while you do whatever else you do in your lives, please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*All duly masked and social distanced, have no fear…they only allow use of one seat per row.  They’ve reduced the train schedule significantly, but have suspended fares for months now, which is quite impressive.

**$15.99 plus any applicable tax, I suppose.

***I know that I have always loved such collections.

UNANIMITY Book 1

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover Project

 

Charley Banks is an ordinary English major at a prestigious middle-American university, with friends, a part-time job, a long-term girlfriend, and loving parents.  For fun and for an interesting experience – and to get a bit of extra money – he takes part in a seemingly unremarkable and benign experiment in the Neuroscience Department, testing a new version of a trans-cranial magnetic stimulator.  After the initial test, however, Charley has a severe seizure in the MRI machine.

He awakens in the hospital to discover that now, with just a touch, he can extend his mind into others, replacing their consciousness with his own, operating their bodies, having access to their personalities and memories.  Initially this control lasts only while he is touching them, but soon the power grows, and Charley finds himself able to control others even when they are no longer in contact.  He also learns that he can control more than one person at a time, and that each new person he incorporates can extend him further into others.

Thrilled by his new ability, Charley determines to keep it a secret, at first even from his girlfriend, while he explores its implications and its limits, if there are any.  Though he thoughtlessly reveals something of the power to the professor who ran the initial experiment, the professor does not believe him.

It soon becomes clear, however – or it would if anyone knew of it – that something else has changed in Charley, beyond his paranormal power.  For in his use of his new ability, he quickly begins to do increasingly terrible things…especially once he learns what happens when someone dies while he is controlling them.

Come, and take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow, till the heavens reveal the blogg’d contriver of this deed

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  Welcome, also, to August.

Something has happened to me that’s happened to greater and finer authors than I:  my new book, Unanimity, was too big/long to be published in the format I had chosen.  This was initially spotted by an automated system but was confirmed by human double-checking.  It was frustrating, of course, but not entirely unexpected.

Though I had been more or less emotionally prepared for such an eventuality, I still wasn’t sure what I should do.  I could reduce the type size, and that might be effective, but I feared it would make at least the print version of the book difficult for many people to read.  I could just make the book bigger, but again, I thought that might make it less likely that people would read the print version.  A big volume is simply less wieldy than a smaller one.

I certainly wasn’t going to do what Stephen King was originally forced to do with The Stand and cut out large chunks of the novel.  I’ve just spent months and months, possibly a year, pruning the story as much as I could while still leaving it in the form in which I conceived it.  It is one of my rare—or not so rare—points of egotism, but I like my stories the way I write them.  If their form is unsatisfactory to some, that’s fine.  There are plenty of popular and high-quality books that I find mind-numbing, and some books that I love that others might consider crap.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Some people love mushrooms and eggplant, while I find them literally nauseating.  I don’t hold this against those who like them; in fact, I rather envy them the pleasure that’s available to them that’s not available to me.  Ditto for shrimp and lobster.

Culinary considerations aside, I needed to decide how I was going to proceed.  The only other person in the office at the time (I had stayed late to start working on publication), my friend Bill*, listened to my tale of woe (of inconvenience, really…I took the setback with good humor, knowing only too well that I’ve written a great book in the quasi-archaic literal sense if not the literary sense).  He then said words along the lines of, “Well, didn’t your buddy have to break his book up into parts to have it published because it was so long?”

I didn’t know to which buddy he was referring at first.  I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who’d been in a similar situation.  So, he said, roughly, “You know, he wrote the…the books that they made into those movies.”  I gradually caught on that he was referring to J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.  I’d never thought of Tolkien as “my buddy” before, but it was quite a pleasing thought.  And Bill was right, of course.  LotR was originally written as one long book (in six parts, also called books by Tolkien), but was much too long to be published in one ordinary volume.  I don’t know for sure, but I think I’ve heard that George R. R. Martin had similar issues with Game of Thrones**.

Not completely convinced, despite the comparison to Tolkien, I also texted my sister, presenting several options, including the one Bill had suggested.  She texted back that she wasn’t sure, but that her knee-jerk was to split it into two books.

When two people whose opinions I respect came to the same conclusion rapidly and rather strongly, all while reminding me of the history of my single favorite work of literature, I became convinced.  Well, okay, it took a little more thinking about possibilities and new opportunities to cement the decision, but by morning I was there.

So, now, Unanimity is going to be published as two books—I like the irony—the first to be sometime within the next week-ish, and the second to be released on September 22nd.  Doing this gave me the opportunity to adjust the cover art between the two, making the second a more intense, or advanced, stage of the first, if you will.  This is quite pleasing, if rather frivolous.  Also, after I’d already decided what to do, I went to look at where the break in books would come, and I realized that book one would end on a heck of a cliffhanger.  Now that is almost enough to make a die-hard skeptic like me believe in fate.  Not quite, but I’m happy to embrace the feeling.

You see, I don’t tend to write in chapters.  Even The Chasm and the Collision, which has traditional, named chapters, was originally written as a continuous story.  There are scene breaks, of course, as I write, and some of these end up becoming chapter breaks, but I don’t write with that in mind.  Chapter division, in my writing, tends to come after the fact, as a way to break things up for the reader.  It’s just psychological, but I absolutely get it.  I also broke Unanimity up into four “parts”, because it is quite long, and would benefit from the additional psychological meta-commas provided.

This division is semi-arbitrary…but not completely so.  I choose my breaks with care; I just do it after the fact.  And when splitting the book into its parts, I had chosen to end the second part, the rough mid-point of the story, at a point of dramatic shock.  And that’s going to work beautifully for the two-book form.  I don’t quite have goosebumps about it, but it’s close.  If I had a long moustache, I’d twirl it.

Of course, being who I am, I can’t just call the books Unanimity Book One and Unanimity Book Two.  There must be titles, of sorts, for the individual volumes.  Unanimity will still be the overarching title, but I want to give something of the character of the story in the two halves.  This is slightly tricky.  I’m almost completely decided on calling Book One Contagion, because I like the metaphor of disease…not just because of the current pandemic, but also because it’s how some characters eventually think of the threat faced in the story.

I particularly like a cancer metaphor, with the notion of Charley Banks as a transformed cell, no longer healthy or appropriately restrained, capable of uncontrollable spreading and invasion of the previously “healthy” tissues of society.  In fact, I thought of titling the second book Metastasis, but when I bounced that title off a number of people, all of whom are reasonably well-educated and informed, I got a lot of blank stares.  So, I may go with Malignancy, which I think is a more universally known term, one nevertheless fraught with horror.

I actually have some little bit of uncertainty about Contagion as the first title, and not just because it’s been a book title before.  Contagion and Malignancy are slightly divergent metaphors, related to different disease processes.  Perhaps I’m worrying too much about that, but it does eat at me***.  I think maybe calling Book One Mutation or Transformation might be better and more consistent.  But “mutation” might be a misleading term, and “transformation”, though a technical term in oncology, can have entirely benign connotations.  Well, so can “mutation”, really.  Actually, so can “unanimity”, when you get right down to it.

Maybe I’m overthinking things.  Probably I’m overthinking things.  Maybe I should just go with Book One and Book Two.

In any case, before long I’ll pull the trigger and you’ll see the result.  For now, you can look forward to two books, each one easier to carry than the whole would have been.  I think you’ll like them.  I like them…and I’ve read Unanimity over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  I’m not bored yet.  Hopefully, that’s a good sign.

Do please let me know, when the time comes.

TTFN

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*Bill is a coworker with whom I get along partly because we have similar work ethics, and partly because of music.  He also plays guitar, actually quite a lot better than I do, and has been playing for a lot longer.  Some years ago, he recorded a personal CD of original songs, folk/rock style, just him singing along with acoustic guitar.  He let me borrow (and rip) the CD.  It’s very good.  For a muscular guy who could easily pass for a construction worker/foreman, and who once had a bit part as a body-guard for a bad guy in an episode of Miami Vice, he’s got a real artistic, moving, sentimental quality to his music.  I’ll try to get him to publish the CD, and if he does, I will give you all links to it.

**I think the broad title is A Song of Ice and Fire, but I’ve not read the books nor seen the show, so I could be wrong about this.

***Like a parasite.  I tried to find good terms related to the field of parasitology, but nothing I’ve found works.  It’s too bad, really.

Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain: for they blog truth, that breathe their words in pain

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I have great (to me) news to share today; I suspect that regular readers, if there are any, can guess what that news might be.

It is not that Unanimity is now available for purchase.  It isn’t.  Not quite, anyway.  Rather, I have completed, as of yesterday morning, the final content editing of the novel and much of the layout editing.  Now there just remains the final layout of the book and the final version of the cover (as well as the blurb, but that part is quick).

I have a preliminary version of the cover, which has been toyed with for almost as long as the book has been in the works.  I’ll include it below, to tease you with what the book is going to look like, though the final version will probably be at least a little bit different.  It’s a metaphorical picture, not representing any literal event in the book, but attempting to convey the central horror of the story:  the notion of each individual no longer being an individual, but having their identities replaced by and subsumed into another.  Many of the horrible events in the book are consequences of this fundamental horror.  If that sounds a bit abstract for a horror novel, don’t worry.  It’s not focused on much, since most of the characters in the novel don’t even know what’s happening at any deep level.  They simply become the victims of the consequences.

I’m not sure I’m doing a great job of selling the idea of the book.  I will readily admit that I’m not great at self-promotion.  But don’t judge the book by me (and don’t judge me by the book either, please.  I’m a nice guy.  Really, I am.).  Judge the book on its own merits.  It’s a good story, I think, and it’s certainly going to provide a lengthy diversion.  Though it has been trimmed down to a certain degree, it’s still just shy of half a million words long.  Unless you have a tremendous amount of spare time, I don’t think you’re going to be able to breeze through it in one sitting.

Certainly, I’m not going to be doing an audio version of it any time soon, though I would very much like to do one eventually.  In fact, I’d really like to do audio versions of all my books, not just some of my short stories and a few chapters of The Chasm and the Collision.  I really enjoy reading aloud—in fact, when I read a book, I tend to absorb it verbally more than visually.  By this I mean, I tend to speak the words in my head, rather than merely experience them with my eyes.  This may seem obvious, but I know people who read very quickly who don’t seem to “subvocalize” the words, even internally.  This can often make them fast readers, which I am not*, but I find that it doesn’t tend to make them very deep readers.

I really enjoy the auditory experience, including audio books, which is somewhat ironic given that I’m quite hard of hearing in at least one of my ears, in which I have constant, fairly severe tinnitus as well, thanks to recurrent and chronic infections.

The mention of matters audible brings me to another bit of news, which is more lighthearted and frivolous.  I recorded (and mixed) a cover of the song Hurt, originally by Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails and covered beautifully by Johnny Cash.  As usual in such cases, I called it one of my “bad covers” because it certainly holds no candle (standard or substandard) to either professional version, but I really like the song.  It speaks to me powerfully**, and I hope my passion comes across in my performance.  I’ll embed the “video” here, in case you’re interested (most of the pictures shown in it are quite old ones I drew, inspired by moods similar to the one that no doubt inspired the song itself, or at least by moods the song evokes in me…they’re just there for filler, really, though they do go with the song):

 

And that’s about it for this week.  By this time next week, there’s an excellent chance that Unanimity will be available for purchase.  If so, I’ll no doubt write about it here, and of course, I’ll make a separate post with links to purchase as well.

I hope you’re all doing your best to stay sane in an unsane world***.  Try to keep your spirits up; keep doing and enjoying art and literature and music and all those other little things that make life worth even bothering with, beyond the simple consequence of biological drives and forces.  I’ll try to do my part over here as well.  No promises.

TTFN

Unanimity Cover Project


*All things given, I do read quickly, but that’s more a function of focus than of internal speed.  When reading something I enjoy, I’m not easily distracted…and when distracted, I tend to punish my distractors without much qualm, even if it’s only with a dirty look, a growl in the voice, and body language conveying barely contained aggression.

**I think I’m hardly alone in this, since the song has great and enduring popularity.

***That’s not a typo.  I think “unsane” is a better description of many things than is “insane”.  The latter implies a kind of loss or degeneration of some underlying, preexisting sanity, whereas—as I see it—many things in the world have never been sane to begin with, and indeed, the concept of sanity often does not even appear to apply.  I may write more on this at some later date.

O horror! Horror! Horror! Tongue nor blog cannot conceive nor name thee!

Good morning to you all.  It’s Thursday again, as tends to happen at this time of week, and I bid you therefore welcome to yet another of my weekly blog posts.

I don’t know that I have much new to report, but I do have continuations of previous matters.  For instance, I am now within the last hundred-ish pages of the final edit of Unanimity, after which will only follow the final layout and the cover art (which is still in an early stage).  It seems that my estimate of a possible August publication date should be accurate.  I’m very excited about this, of course, and I hope that you are excited as well, though it’s unlikely that you’re at my level of enthusiasm.

I’ll now repeat my “trigger warning” about the book, however, and I’m only being partly facetious*.  Unanimity is, of course, a horror novel, so no one should be surprised that it contains horrible and horrifying things.  That is, obviously, the point of the genre, and anyone who reads a horror novel and is shocked to find horrors within is surely being a bit dim.

Still, there are many different kinds of horror, and this novel—though definitely “supernatural” or at least “paranormal” in character, albeit in science fiction’s clothing—is not a Gothic style tale.  There are no obvious vampires or similar supernatural “outside” entities, preying on human souls or blood or whatever.  If there are zombies, they are most assuredly not of the George Romero, Night of the Living Dead type.  They are, if anything, more akin to the notion of the philosophical “zombie,” a being that behaves in every way like any other conscious creature, but which has no subjectivity.  Though, in this story’s case, they do have subjectivity, but it is not their own…their own subjectivity has been put on hold, and another has taken its place.  Unfortunately, this invading subjectivity is not benevolent.

In any case, to get to my point, I just warn potential readers that the horror in this story is a very human type of horror, so the bad things that happen might seem real and realistic, and this can—for some people at least, or so I imagine—make them more disturbing.  I don’t know for certain; I can only speculate about others’ reactions.  But if such human types of horror are difficult for you to stomach—if, for instance, you find the works of Thomas Harris** hard to endure—then you may want to consider carefully whether this will be the book for you.

I don’t know if this warning will serve as an impediment to readership or as an incentive; part of me feels that I’m being self-defeating, part of me feels that I’m being subtly (or not-so-subtly) self-promoting.  Unadulterated self-promotion has never been my strong point.  I am almost certainly my own worst enemy, but I am not solely my enemy.  If I were, things would surely be much simpler.  Or if I were an unrepentant narcissist, I suppose some things would be easier as well, though public figures who are narcissistic rarely come across as happy to me.  Perhaps that’s just me projecting misery onto them that I hope they experience, since most narcissists are pretty insufferable.  But who knows, maybe they really are as pleased with themselves as they claim to be.

If so, sign me up!

I doubt it, though.  Reality has a way of biting those who delude themselves in any direction, sooner or later…usually sooner, based on my observations, and often continuously.  I’ve made the point before that I think depression—or at least dysthymia—is a species of realism, a recognition of the fundamentally uncaring, though still often beautiful, nature of reality.  But I’m subject to cognitive biases as much as anyone, and more than many, so any conclusions are firmly provisional.

This train of thought leads me to a notion that’s been bouncing around my head a bit lately:  I’m thinking of semi-abandoning the practice of keeping a separate blog (Iterations of Zero) for my thoughts and writings that are about things other than my fiction and related creative works.  I find that there’s a kind of mental block that keeps me from writing on IoZ, because it feels too strongly like a division of resources and is separated by an activation energy barrier.  So, I may soon go back to using just this blog to post whatever thoughts and writings I may have, about whatever subject strikes my fancy (keeping the Thursday post as it is currently) and leaving IoZ fallow.

After all, this blog is the one that bears my name—probably the closest to narcissism I’ll come.  Also, to make that mental shift might let me reintroduce “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, but to have it as an orthogonal (or is it parallel?) process to my regular blog posts.  I could just do it when the mood strikes me, as I could do my writings on mood, on math, on medicine, on science, and even occasionally on politics***.  After all, Robert Elessar is not merely an author and sometimes a musician.  “I am large—I contain multitudes.”

We shall see.  In the meantime, though, the focus is on Unanimity, and I urge you not to be too put off by my self-conscious warning above.  I think it’s a good book, and I like the characters—even the “bad guy”—and I think it’s a pretty original story as far as it goes.  It has length, at least, and may even have breadth and depth.  That will be for you to decide.  I can tell you this much, as with nearly all horror novels:  in the end, the “good guys” do win…but not all of them survive, and none are unscathed.  And, of course, the “evil” may not be completely vanquished.

As Lord Foul would say, “Think on that, and be dismayed.”

TTFN


*How big a fraction that is seems to vary from moment to moment.

**How’s that for praising myself with faint damnations?

***Yuck.