I will blog them all, even to roaring.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and time for my weekly blog post.  It’s the second Thursday of the month, and in that brief golden age of the past, this post would have been an entry into “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”.  But that age came to an end long ago.  I’m obviously not completely over it, but I think everyone else is…if anyone else was ever “under it”.

I’ve been working at a halfway decent pace on my writing this week*, though for a few days late last week and so far in this one it has been hard going—not because of the writing, but because my back (and in radiating fashion, my legs, sides, and *ahem* groin, mainly on the right) has been acting up severely.  This has interfered with my sleep and my energy and has worn away at my never-too-impressive will to live.  It’s very annoying, and I’m continually trying to take steps to mitigate and improve it.  My aforementioned will to live may not terribly strong, but I dislike pain as much as most people do.  That’s the nature of pain.  That’s what it does.  It’s arranged so as not to be easily ignored, since it nominally exists to warn a person (or any other animal) to avoid or correct danger and/or damage.

Alas, there is damage that we are not capable of avoiding or correcting (yet), and since we live longer now than we ever have in the past, and we engage in pursuits our ancestors were never built to manage, we accumulate and survive damage that can persist for decades, with pain that does likewise.  That which does not kill you does not always make you stronger, and some things just kill you very slowly.  I talked a little bit about this in an impromptu, poor-sound-quality video that I shared on YouTube and through Iterations of Zero, but obviously it’s a subject that still weighs on my mind.  No surprises there.

I encountered a very nice quote recently—in a Doctor Who episode, actually (though I heard/saw it on one of those YouTube compilation videos)—and it struck a chord in me that relates to why I wrote my late, lamented run of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”.  In the scene, The Doctor is in a stand-off with a group of enemies, and one antagonist says to him that the anger of a good man is not a problem, because good men have so many rules.  The Doctor slowly turns and walks up to her, quietly saying, “Good men don’t need rules.  Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.”

This really moved me—it moved the antagonist of the piece as well, who quickly stood down—because I have never been a good person by nature or inclination, but I have always tried to do and be good things, so I’ve created many, many rules for myself**.  I don’t think I’m rare, let alone unique, in this.  I have very dark thoughts and ideas, which I put to good use in stories, but they make me dislike myself quite a bit a lot of the time.  And, interestingly, because I curtail my own evil impulses, and have done so all my life, I get particularly angry at people who do thoughtlessly negative, petty, harmful, selfish things.  If I can’t do it, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be okay with other people doing it!

Again, I don’t think this is at all unusual, though I may tend to think and imagine more extreme things than many or most people.  But Steven Moffat, the writer of that Doctor Who episode seemed to understand.  And, based on other things he’s written, I think he understands it rather deeply.  Maybe everyone does, at some level.  After all, not many of the stories we love are peaceful and positive and beautiful throughout.  In the real world and in fiction, only a minority of our heroes are not violent at any level.  It is an often dark, often dangerous world out there—everywhere—and true pacifists tend to be little more than excellent sources of protein.  It’s not fair, of course, but fairness is a human conceit, or an aspiration, if you prefer.  Fairness—in the human sense—is not found in the laws of physics, except to the extent that everything is.

On to other matters.  I’m going to be posting one more video for Iterations of Zero, I think, and then I’m probably not going to be making many, or any, more.  I don’t get very many “likes” from them, and I prefer writing for many reasons.  Also, I just can’t really enjoy the process of editing videos, because I really don’t like looking at my face.  It’s cruel to force me to do it, and I can only allow myself to be cruel up to a point, even to myself.

But, anyway, In the Shade is coming along nicely.  I’m thinking of writing the first draft of its final section longhand, just to see if it affects my speed of writing and my tendency to wordiness, as well as the quality.  I’m not certain of that decision yet.  I’ll let you know.  In whatever format, the story’s first draft ought to be done soon—by the end of the month I should think—and then I will set to rewriting/editing it and then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  That should be out this summer sometime, I would guess…something to chill your blood during the dog days.

TTFN

3700361-440565 doc

“Doc” is what everyone at work calls me.


*Yesterday was my best day this week, at just over 2000 words.  Last Friday I didn’t even break a thousand.

**These are implicit rules, not literally codified even in my head, but I know them when I come up against situations in which they are applicable.

The canker blogs have full as deep a dye as the perfumed tincture of the roses

Hello and good morning.  It’s the first Thursday of May in 2021, and so, of course, it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  I don’t have any particular topic to write about today, so I’ll just start with some comments about how work has been going on my latest story.

It’s going well.

I won’t leave it just at that, though you might prefer it.  I’ve been writing at a decent clip, but not quite approaching my peak levels from recent weeks, because I had a flat tire, and earlier this week I had to get the repaired tire replaced, and I had to take the train to and from work while that was happening.

I’ve still been writing over a thousand new words—so to speak—a day, even on my worst day of the week, and on Monday I hit two thousand.  Given that I do my writing in the space of roughly an hour in the morning, that’s pretty good.  I’m enjoying being able to write new things instead of simply having to rewrite and edit works that have already been written.  I feel a bit like a kid how is finally able to go outside and play after a long rainy spell; it just feels good to move, or to write as the case may be.  I also tend to get caught up in writing new things more readily than in most other pursuits.  Though it’s often a minor push to get going in the morning, by the time I need to stop, I often don’t really want to do so.

The new story I’m working on, In the Shade, is a horror story, and is rapidly turning towards the Lovecrafty side of things, which was my intent and expectation when I originally started writing it.  Invoking Howard Phillips always seems to energize me.  The story is getting a bit longish, but that is at least tolerable in a Lovecraft-style tale, since his stories were often pretty long.  Still, I think I’m going to set my self a more draconian goal than usual in reducing the word count during the editing process.  Then, of course, I must put together my collection.

In addition to writing (and working at my day job, of course), I’ve been doing some more videos.  For two weeks in a row now I’ve released some as part of my Iterations of Zero blog; they appear on YouTube and in the blog proper.  I also did a few little silly videos, mainly in order to play with video editing programs, to see what they can do and what I can do with them, in a half-hearted kind of way.  I also did a video of a cover of the Beatles song, Blackbird.  I’d posted on YouTube a video among others I’d made of me just practicing the song, but my singing wasn’t great, and the sound quality was also far from ideal.  So, I did a more formal recording/mix of the song—in one morning, after writing, originally, but then I redid the vocals after that.  The whole song is just one guitar and a singer (double-tracked in the middle), so the vocals are very much in your face.  I was reasonably happy with the outcome, and I did a video proper—so to speak, again—with pictures of various blackbirds, with effects pasted onto them using a very basic video editor, in a rather silly fashion.  I’ll embed the video here, just in case you want to watch/listen.

I feel foolishly proud of my guitar playing there, because it’s a rather complicated finger-picking song, and I’m really playing it, and at full speed.  I remember reading about how, when the Beatles were hanging out with the maharishi, Donovan showed Paul and John that finger-picking style, and they each excitedly went on to write and record a finger-picked song for “The White Album”.  Paul did Blackbird, and John did Julia.  I’m also practicing the latter, but it has some additional challenges—the use of a capo, for instance, and more complex chord fingering—that mean it’s going to take a bit longer to get to where I want it to be.  I did do a video of me playing it, on that same morning, and it’s on Iterations of Zero, here, with other videos, but I haven’t put it on YouTube.  Eventually I’ll get it in shape and do a full recording, maybe with a real video of me (you are hereby warned).  This song definitely has at least double-tracked vocals, because John overlaps himself singing it.

Anyway, that’s all really a side thing, though it’s enjoyable working on a new skill.  As mentioned last week, I’m unnoticeably far into the beginning of the ten-thousand hours needed to master playing, but it’s fun.  I have advantages in that I’ve played piano and especially cello since I was quite young and played in orchestras regularly right up until the end of medical school.  I’ve never been a great cellist—my practicing habits were abysmal—but I always enjoyed it, and it definitely provides a leg up for playing the guitar.

That’s about all I have to write about today; it’s probably more than I actually have to write about, or at least more than is worth writing about.  I hope you all have a lovely, lusty month of May, but that you stay safe and healthy in the process.

TTFN

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This is a picture I drew a long time ago. It has nothing much to do with this post, but captures my love for the monstrous “hiding” amidst beauty.

To-day, to-day, unhappy day, too late, o’erthrows thy joys, friends, fortune and thy blog

Hello and good morning.  Welcome to Thursday, and to another edition of my blog post.  It’s the last Thursday in April of 2021.  This day of this month will never come again.

Of course, we could say that about any given date, or hour, or moment—that’s the nature of time.  We may, in some future epoch, decide to restart our dating system, and so we might eventually come to a day the designation of which would match this one, but it would obviously not actually be the same day.

If there is some external meta-time, in which higher-dimensional organisms can replay our time and lives at will—perhaps like Kurt Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorians—they might be able to look at any of our given moments or days over and over again, just as we can re-watch a movie as often as we may like on anything from VHS to DVD to blu-Ray to digital download—or even on old-fashioned film.  For the characters in the story, however—as for us if we were “looked at” earlier in our time—the events are always identical.

Each moment of the story is the same moment, no matter how often you see or read it.  The characters don’t change, their experience, if you will, doesn’t change, and they have no ability to recall previous viewings or readings.  Each time you rewind, you undo whatever developments might be coming.  A character in a film—or in a novel—who comes to a tragic end that “could have been” avoided cannot learn from that tragedy, cannot do things differently the next time you read the story or watch the video.

There is a sense in which, according to most interpretations of General Relativity, every moment in spacetime is “permanent”, but it doesn’t help us as individuals living in time.  If, after the moment of our death, we immediately simply re-begin at the beginning of our life, there will be no memory of having lived “before”.  Indeed, the very concept would make no sense.

And, of course, as even the MCU recognizes, at least at some level, if you could “go back in time” and change things, you wouldn’t literally be changing the past, you would simply be creating a new sequence, which would now be your local future.

It’s an interesting notion to write a sci-fi/fantasy, or perhaps horror, story in which a person reads a book over and over, or perhaps watches a movie over and over, and finds that the characters are learning, in a sense, from the mistakes they made “later” in the story.  Perhaps there could be a character with precognition, or some other form of metacognition, that allows her or him vaguely to recall particularly horrible events from “previous” iterations of the story, and so be inclined to change them on another go-round.

A simpler version of such a notion has been dealt with often in science fiction—in such movies, for instance, as Edge of Tomorrow, based on the story All You Need Is Kill.  But in that story, Tom Cruise’s character (or Keiji Kiriya in the book) gains the ability not merely to return to an earlier time, but to remember clearly, in an “ordinary” sense, what he’s gone through before, every time he dies.  So, it’s not quite the same.  Ironically, the course of the stories, including the time repeats, are the same each time you watch or read it.

Anyway, that’s all a digression.

It’s been a peculiar week—in this, it’s not unusual.  Perhaps one might say that a week in which nothing that feels peculiar happens would be quite unusual, though we might not notice it as such.  As I think I said previously, I got distracted last week by playing with video, and playing on video, a bit, so I didn’t write as quickly or as much as I might have in the morning.  This week, I did better.  In fact, on Tuesday morning—I wish I knew why—I went into afterburner mode, so to speak, and in only an hour wrote 2968 words on my new story!  This is first draft, of course, but still, it was coming out in a gusher.

Then, Tuesday night, I got a flat tire on the way home, and after taking the train the rest of the way that night, I had to come out with my housemate early on Wednesday morning so he could fix it (he has the proper tools), which quite obviously set my schedule back quite a bit.  Nevertheless, I still wrote exactly 1400 words yesterday, still leaving me time to diddle around on the guitar before I needed to start getting the office ready for the day.

If the rule of 10,000 hours’ work needed to become an expert at something holds—and it does seem to be a pretty good rough rule*—it would take me almost 47 years to become an expert guitar player at the rate I “practice”.  I could shorten it, obviously, if I put more time in each day, but that’s difficult.  And I certainly don’t want to live 47 more years.  I don’t even want to have lived as long as I already have!

Oh, well.  I can’t change my past—and I maintain that I would not change anything prior to September 13, 2001, for any reason**—but perhaps I can learn from it.  Indeed, one cannot ever learn from anything but the past, since the present*** is always already happening.  And, unless one falls into the singularity of a black hole, it presumably always will be.

So, the final take-away from this week’s blog post is, “stay away from singularities”.  And in other ways as well, stay safe and healthy if you can, and try to be happy, at least occasionally.

TTFN

time machine


*I once did the math and realized that, during internship and residency, I had literally worked about 10,000 hours in three years.

**That’s my daughter’s birthdate.  I suppose I might be willing to change things on or just before September 11, 2001—it might be worth it to avoid the 9-11 attack and the subsequent/consequent wars; I cannot easily imagine any realistic way in which those two days would have a detrimental effect on my daughter’s birth.  Of course, if this were a “monkey’s paw” type story, there would be such a way, and being a pessimist, I would still be quite nervous.  But I probably would bite the bullet and do it, given the extremely low probability of a bad perinatal outcome.  Goodness knows I would change many things that I’ve done since then.  But if I were told to choose between 9-11 and something bad happening to my daughter or preventing her birth…I’d probably just have to accept 9-11 happening.  That’s easy enough to say, though, since 9-11 did happen, and I already know and have internalized it, sadly enough.  Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s also biased, since we become inured to what’s already happened…even horrible, horrible things.

***Locally speaking, anyway.  In General Relativity, there is no sensible notion of any universal “now”.  Time is always local.  It makes some sense if you think about it.  I can’t say that this address on West Hillsboro Boulevard in Deerfield Beach is in some sense located everywhere, or even anywhere else, and likewise, I can’t say that the moment I’m presently experiencing is happening anywhere else right now.

The bay-trees in our country are all withered, and meteors fright the fixèd blogs of heaven.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and thus it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  Windows, et al recently updated twice (yesterday and a few days before), and that seems to have done more harm than good so far, but hopefully I won’t have too much trouble getting this written and posted.  We shall see.

It’s been a reasonably productive week.  I’ve worked steadily on In the Shade.  I’m near the climax, when the worst of the bad things happen (it’s a horror story, so that’s only to be expected), but I’m going a bit more slowly this week, so it will take a bit longer than I previously expected it to take.  Also, as you all probably know by now, my writing tends to balloon rather easily, so it’s becoming longer than I guessed it would.  That seems to be the usual case with all human endeavors (I think this was discussed nicely in Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, a book I can highly recommend).

I’ve generally made a key part of my editing/rewriting process a targeted trimming of word counts, usually by a set percent (at least), and for the most part I’ve been able to reach that target.  Still, I may need to raise my reduction goal and be more dogmatic in its application.  I try to do this with my blog posts, though the short time given to writing them in the midst of my otherwise full days* impairs that process slightly.  As a historical person, possibly Benjamin Franklin, is reputed to have implied, it often takes longer to write a short piece than to write a long one.  But trimming away excess is important, and I’m capable of producing copious quantities of excess.

I’ve posted some of the guitar/singing videos I did last week, and I even recorded two more of them last Friday.  The process was decently enjoyable, though seeing myself on the screen is not an easy pill to swallow.  Nevertheless, given how popular videos about ideas are—I enjoy many of them, myself—I thought that I’d try to incorporate video into my other blog, Iterations of Zero, using video to produce the equivalent of articles or essays that I had planned to write, but which I haven’t been able to work into my schedule, or into my mental energy budget, or whatever you might want to call it.

I recorded a brief introduction to this idea, and I’ve been working on editing that video, but trimming out my hems and haws and pauses has led me to realize that the Microsoft basic video editor is just too cumbersome a tool for such purposes in the long run.  So, I went to How-To Geek, a most useful resource, and found an article in which they reviewed various free video editors**.  I have downloaded one of them.  I’ll finish the video I’ve already started using the Microsoft editor, but will probably then experiment with this new one.  It has online video tutorials, and these are—as one would expect—quite well produced.

I’m not the most committed person to using instruction manuals for such things; I often try to figure them out as I go along, seeing what works for my purposes, consulting manuals only when I want to do something and am not sure how to go about it.  Usually, successful computer programs are written in reasonably logical ways, so I can usually figure out how they do what they are supposed to do.  Sometimes I learn about things that I would never have thought to use otherwise, just by poking and playing around.

Anyway, I mean to at least try to use the IoZ platform to share these videos, though I’ll upload them to YouTube, which has much more available video storage space; that is, after all, its entire function.  I may try to put together some better videos of me playing music (both better video and better playing, hopefully), and I’ll let you know if I do.  For now, if you want, you can watch recent videos of me playing Pigs on the Wing, a demo of a song I’m working on called Mercury Lamp, and a less well-done video of Wish You Were Here, which I posted on April 20th in (dubious?) honor of my son’s 21st birthday***.

There’s not much more to say that anyone would probably be interested in reading; I tend to be a bit of a downer.  Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities will be coming before too long, once I’ve finished and edited the last story in the collection (see above) and decided how to put it together.  Then, of course, I’ll finish Outlaw’s Mind and release that as a stand-alone novella, before going on to whatever work I decide on next.

That is, of course, unless some meteor strike or some such kills me in the meantime.  We can all hope for and dream of such things, right?

TTFN

Meteor Shit


*Full with work of various kinds, as well as commuting.  I have no social life.

**They all have options for paid upgrades if one develops the need for them.  The one I chose seems reasonably priced—certainly compared to Adobe software.  I’ve used Adobe’s video editor in the past, when you could buy it in a box and load it onto your computer and didn’t have to pay an outrageous monthly fee and get online to use it.  But who knows, I may eventually go back there in its modern incarnation.

***He’s alive and well, by the way—so I’m told—so don’t worry about that.  He just hasn’t spoken to me in eight years or so, by his choice.  So, particularly on a milestone birthday, I find his absence extremely painful—his birth, and his existence, was the greatest thing that had ever happened in my life, equaled since only by the birth of his sister 17 months later.  Tuesday was not a good day for me.  This is not a good week for me.  I’m sure I deserve it.

How have I frighted thee, that thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down and steep my blogs in forgetfulness?

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog.

I woke up early today, and I couldn’t go back to sleep.  This is not so unusual—I’m rather insomniac by nature, or at least by long habit, and I often wake up well before I need to get up.  It’s one of those hallmarks or symptoms of certain things in which I’m rather typical, which can be either reassuring or discouraging (or uninteresting) depending on your point of view.  Anyway, as I said, I woke up early as I often do, but I felt atypically restless, and I knew that I was going to be writing my blog today anyway, so I just got up and took my shower and came to the office.  Whether that will lead to this post going out slightly earlier than usual remains to be seen.

I don’t recall if I had finished it by this time last week, but by the end of last week I had finished the basic editing of House Guest and I am pleased with the result.  Now, to round out the stories that I mean to put into Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I’m finishing a story I started about eight or nine years ago, called In the Shade, which I’ve mentioned, I think, more than once in the past.  I had written perhaps fifteen pages of it, something like 14,000 words or so, when I kind of lost the thread.

To give myself excuses, and to defend the story itself (which deserves better treatment), many things were troubling me at the time.  Not that my life is a whole lot more even-keeled now, but I guess I’ve gotten used to the difficulties, which is not to say that I’ve developed skills for addressing them.  I think I’ve just arrived at a policy of “biding the end”.  Basically, it’s all going to be taken off my hands by something eventually, so like the rat in the cage getting frequent shocks without any obvious pattern or way to avoid them, I’ve embraced the logic of learned helplessness.  The Vagabond would probably approve.

Anyway, I came back to In the Shade and began applying my current writing approach, which has been much more successful and productive than anything I’ve done before:  Just write something, anything, even if you don’t feel like it.  Don’t worry too much about what comes out.  You’ll fix it up in the rewrite/editing process, so don’t be one of those stereotypical writers who agonizes over each sentence as you produce it.  Just write, try to write at least a page every day, and the outcome will take care of itself (as long as you’re strict about editing).

I’m pleased to say that this has been as successful as always.  The first day of return to the story was pretty much all rereading (fixing a few grammatical and typographical things here and there along the way) and I perhaps wrote less than a half a page after that.  But then Tuesday and Wednesday I came back, reread what I’d written the day before, and then wrote more.  As always, when approaching the keyboard, I was reticent, with a sense of dreariness and inertia, but the rule is always just to write something, at least a page (or even less, if absolutely necessary) and move forward.  The first day this worked well, and by the second day I was into full swing; after feeling as lazy and resistant as usual when I sat down, I churned out over 2600 new words* on the story in a little over an hour.  I finally had to force myself to stop when it was past time to get ready for the normal workday.  It’s really cool how that happens.  If I could bottle and sell it, I’d be a billionaire.

As always, it’s good to be writing new fiction again, especially after quite a long stretch of doing mainly editing, rewriting, layout, and whatnot.  From Unanimity, then on to The Vagabond, with only a tiny bit of work on Outlaw’s Mind in between, I haven’t done much new fiction for a while.  Of course, I’m still just technically continuing an oldish story, but the writing is new.  I’m also very pleased to have thought of newer, better ways to continue and conclude that tale than the vaguer notions I had when I first started it, so that’s taking life’s lemons and making a silver lining for the horns of a dilemma while the iron is hot.  Or something like that.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to arrange the stories in my collection** when the time comes.  I think I’ll probably put House Guest right at the beginning, as it’s both brief and the oldest of my stories.  It’s also, I think, a good introductory tale, and I’m reasonably pleased with it.  I’ll probably put In the Shade at the end, since it’s the last story that’s going to be finished.  I’ll likely throw Solitaire in the middle, surrounded by comparatively lighter fare***, maybe Ifowonco and Penal Colony.  This is just brainstorming, though.  You’ll have to wait and see, as will I, what the real order will be.

I’m getting pretty good feedback from the people who are reading The Vagabond, some of whom are not usually big readers.  That’s certainly gratifying.  If I could be part of turning one person who doesn’t read much into a habitual reader, I could consider myself worth having existed.

My sister, also, is apparently enjoying the book, and she even had a tee-shirt made by customink.com, a picture of which I’ll include below.  I know she’s been reading the book because she quoted the Vagabond himself regarding the color, saying, “After all, gray is the color of despair.”  She added a smiley, winking emoji to the comment, because I don’t think the shirt, or its color, really felt despair-ish to her.  But gray is the Vagabond’s favorite color.

Hopefully, she doesn’t mind me sharing this.  If she does, I’ll happily edit it out.

Speaking of feedback, I hereby make a general request to anyone who has read any of my books or stories please to leave a review and/or rating on Amazon for them if you get the chance—and do so for other authors as well, please.  It makes a huge difference in encouraging future readers to buy the books, and it’s also immeasurably rewarding to get well-meaning feedback.  I think I speak for most if not all authors when I say this.

By all necessary and possible means, keep reading—and just as you would tip your servers at a restaurant, please review or rate your authors.  Above all else, take care of yourselves and those you love.

TTFN

Vagabond tee cropped ha ha


*Not really “new” words, I guess.  If they were new, no one would know what they meant, even if I knew.

**I want to abbreviate its title the way I call The Chasm and the Collision “CatC” for short, but unfortunately, DECoC seems mildly obscene.

***Pretty much everything is comparatively lighter than Solitaire.

O God, your only blog-maker. What should a man do but be merry?

Okay, well…hello and good morning and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I don’t have anything quite as momentous as last week to talk about today, but I’m making progress on good things, nevertheless.

For instance, I’m almost done editing my short story House Guest, which is even older than The Vagabond…I wrote it when I was in high school; I think I was sixteen at the time.  Editing this story is a much faster process than editing The Vagabond was, and it’s about eighty times faster than editing Unanimity was.  House Guest is a true short story, only about six thousand words long; even going through it repeatedly doesn’t take much time.  I haven’t needed to change much, except to update some of the medical trivia based on my far more advanced present knowledge.  There’s only a little bit of it; it’s not crucial to the story, but it does enhance it a bit.

It’s nice to be able to go back and see that I didn’t write much worse then than I do now.  I might have written better occasionally.  Certainly, I didn’t tend to write as long a story.  Or, well, maybe that might not actually be true, now that I think about it.  House Guest is just a short story, after all, and is simply no longer than it needs to be.  My hand-written Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel Ends of the Maelstrom from around the same time was well over five hundred hand-written, single-spaced pages long, on very narrow-ruled paper*, and was almost certainly longer than The VagabondMaybe I worry about story length too much.

Oh, by the way, happy April Fool’s Day!  I only realized the auspicious date—if that’s really the best term—when I saved this file just now.  Despite the usual form of celebration—again, if that’s the right term—associated with this day, I’m pulling no pranks and telling no lies in the writing of this post, unless my forced cheerfulness counts as a lie.  But if that’s a lie, it’s one that I, and I think most other people, tell frequently, probably many times a day.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I encounter a lot of upbeat, “power of positive thinking” type statements and quotes and tweets and posts and whatnot all around cyberspace, but they often give me the sense conveyed by Queen Gertrude when she says, “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”  It’s a rather desperate, almost panicky, quasi-hysterical positivity and cheerfulness…because, after all, no one will like you if you’re not cheerful, right?

And if you do admit to feeling poorly, especially emotionally, then you’ll often get responses full of platitudes and homilies and you-think-you’ve-got-it-bads, sometimes verging toward the tone of a slap in the face from Cher and a shout of, “Snap out of it!”

Of course, to be fair, you also tend to find sincere sympathy and concern.  Even the other stuff often plainly comes from a well-meaning place, so to speak.  I don’t want to impugn the motivations of those responding to things for which our culture gives us very few tools.  I think almost all such people really do mean well.

But our society is drenched in the myths of the rugged individualist and The Secret, and the power of positive thinking and “Think and Grow Rich”, and “quantum healing” nonsense.  If you find yourself tempted by the sugary, empty-calorie bait in those intellectual traps, remember, you only ever hear about the good outcomes, the lucky ones…the failures don’t publish their tales, and the marketing people certainly don’t promote them.  If ever there was an inbuilt and all-but-inescapable confirmation bias, it’s in attitudes about the power of positive thinking.

Not that being reasonably, cautiously optimistic and positive is a bad thing—it’s not, if you can do it, and if you are so constituted that it doesn’t require you to browbeat yourself when you feel down, as you will sometimes, no matter who you are.  Even the Donald gets down in the doldrums de vez en cuando, I’d stake my left kidney on it.  But there’s no evidence whatsoever that the state of the present or future universe is affected by human thoughts and attitudes other than by dint of prosaic methods:  hard work, discipline, planning, thought, careful evaluation and analysis, proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, and—almost always—many failures along the way.

I wish some people would positively think themselves able to defy gravity by the power of their minds and would hurl themselves from the nearest equivalent of the observation deck of the Empire State Building to prove it.  That would be putting their money where they mouths are.  When Deepak Chopra talks about the power of the mind to heal and to resist aging (and the like) through some kind of pseudo-quantum nonsense, make sure to compare photos of him now with photos taken twenty or thirty years ago (they are, unfortunately, readily available).  He’s aged conspicuously.  Also, remember that people like Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Einstein, Wheeler, and the like—all of whom understood quantum mechanics far better than your favorite local or international or celebrity purveyor of quantum woo, to say the least—are currently and conspicuously dead.  At least in this branch of the Everettian** multiverse.

Wow.  That was a hell of a tangent, wasn’t it?  No April Fools, though.  I was speaking from the heart—which is to say, conveying my honest thoughts and feelings by means of a computer keyboard.  Nevertheless, the good things I shared at the beginning of this post are true and unsullied, and The Vagabond is out there to be read by any who enjoy horror novels.  I’m getting good feedback on it, as well as on Son of Man, which a coworker of mine recently finished.  She said she loved the twists and surprises, and really enjoyed the book, which can’t help but make even a curmudgeon like me feel happy.  Also, I recently reread The Chasm and the Collision, and the ending of my own book brought minor tears of joy to my eyes.  That’s pretty cheesy, I guess, but I’ll take my little bits of satisfaction where I can get them, and I’ll try not to be too embarrassed.

And though you might not think it, I would take great and honest satisfaction in knowing that all of those who read this, and their loved ones—and everyone else for that matter—were healthy, and comfortable, and as safe as they can be, and as happy as often and for as long as they can be without using inappropriate and/or detrimental substances***.  So, if you could do me a favor, please see if you can achieve those results.

TTFN

Some people even go


*I haven’t been able to find such narrow-ruled paper again since that time, though I’ve often looked for it.  Apparently, that super-tight ruling of notebook paper has fallen out of fashion.  It’s too bad, really, because I loved the convenience of having to use fewer pages, though it made editing a bit of a mess.  There were added sentences running into the tattered margins on almost every page, and even I had trouble reading what I had written.  Maybe there’s a good reason that paper fell out of fashion…but it did look beautiful when blank.  So many lines available to fill!

**Hugh Everett is also, lamentably, dead.  He died at age fifty-one, my current age, after having left physics at least partly because of the animosity he experienced against his “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which may nevertheless be correct.

***I might think otherwise if such substances were reliable, or if they didn’t tend to end up causing a subsequent rapid, severe, and painfully ironic downturn in the happiness curve of life, but that’s just not the way things are.

These are blogged in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

It’s been a particularly auspicious week for me, as those of you who follow my blog regularly will know, for this last weekend I finally published The Vagabond, a book I first began when I was in college, more than thirty years ago.  It’s amazing for me to see it out there; I received my own copy yesterday afternoon, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.  I’m always at least a bit nervous before I see the physical form of any book, and this one was more nerve-wracking than most, because it’s a book of such importance and provenance for me.  It’s only the second full novel I ever wrote—the first is truly lost in time, and I can’t imagine any way it could be found, since it was hand-written on notebook paper, and is gone with everything else I owned before 2013.  I wish I had protected it better, or done more with it, but I had no idea that my life could take the turn it did, and I can’t change the past in any case.

That book would have needed a lot of fixing up.  I wrote it in high school, and it was quite a mess, physically, and certainly it would have required extensive editing as well.  As I might have said before, I occasionally entertain the notion of someday recreating it—I certainly remember the story, and most of the names of the key characters.  But it would take a lot of work, and I’m just not sure I’m motivated to do it, or indeed that I’ll ever really have the opportunity to do so.

Speaking of things written in high school, though, I am happy also to tell you that my short story, House Guest, which contributed to me winning an NCTE award in 1986*, has now been retyped into the computer (saved and then backed up in two places!), and I’m beginning to edit it for eventual addition to my planned collection, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I may also add to that collection a short story I started writing in about 2012 but didn’t finish, called In the Shade.  Of course, that would mean that I’ll have to finish it now, but that’s not a big problem.  It was most of the way done already, and I know how it will end.  With those two stories, there will be at least two “previously unpublished” tales in the collection, which seems only fair to those who will buy it.

House Guest is, possibly to the relief of some readers, much shorter than many of my more recent “short stories” which are not quite long enough to be novellas but often tend to be about sixty pages long.  I wonder what’s led to me writing such longer stories than I used to write.  Some of it is no doubt just age-increased patience and practice, but I also sometimes wonder if the fact that I can write so fast on a computer leads me to run off at the keyboard and get carried away.  I may have said it before, but I can type (with a word processor) almost as fast as I can speak, and more coherently.  On the other hand, I wrote Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and my “short story” Paradox City all by hand on notebook paper propped on a “photo album”, under less-than-ideal circumstances, and they aren’t especially short.

So perhaps it’s just me, or that I’ve grown to want more detail and conversation in my stories than others might even like.  I don’t know.  I have received at least one review of my short story Penal Colony that said that they thought the conversation between the two main characters dragged on too long.  It’s a reasonable criticism, and I appreciate it very much—though, to be fair, real conversations do tend to drag on.  And I tried to use the interaction to reveal the quite unusual background of one of the characters in a natural way.  But it’s possible that I got carried away with just pleasing myself.

Of course, if I can’t please myself, I don’t know that it matters if I please anyone else.  But that’s a philosophical question not worth addressing here.

Anyway, I have tentative plans to try an experiment.  Once I’ve finished the stories for the collection, and have then finished Outlaw’s Mind (which is already being written on the computer, and became too long to be any kind of short story but will probably end up as a novella or a short novel) I plan to write whatever I write next—assuming that I’m still around—by hand, on notebook paper, though I’ll use a clipboard this time instead of a photo album sold, for some reason, in the prison canteen**.  It’s not set in stone, but that’s my tentative plan.  At least paper on a clipboard isn’t subject to power outages.

As far as being still around, yesterday I took at least one step toward making that more likely:  I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.  It’s the Pfizer one, and I’ll go back for my second dose in three or so weeks.  Between the vaccine and having had the actual virus, I should be reasonably protected going forward, assuming the protection is shown to last for a decent time.  Since this deed protects me and, more to the point, those around me, it seemed like the thing to do.  No protection is perfect, of course, and no one is ever completely safe.  “No one here gets out alive,” after all.

That’s a sentiment that the title character of The Vagabond might celebrate, though he tends to think that ordinary death is too quick and easy, preferring to terrify and torment the poor mortals he encounters.  If you like stories about such beings, and about the attempts of accidental heroes to fight against them, then please do pick up (or download for Kindle), a copy; I think you’ll enjoy it.

And while you’re waiting for this or my next works to arrive and/or be available, do please take care of yourselves and each other—for instance, by getting vaccinated, if you’re able, an act which works toward both of these aims.  Stay healthy and safe as much as you can and do your best to be happy at least part of the time.

TTFN

Vagabond pose pic on highway 3 posterized


*So that story is thirty-five years old, but it has in a sense been “published” or at least evaluated before, unlike The Vagabond.

**I guess the idea was that prisoners might have family members sending them photos to remind them of home, which is nice, though it can also be tormenting.  I’d be mildly interested in what the thought processes were behind the choice to make that available.  I’m glad it was, though!

The Vagabond

Vagabond ppb cover

A young teacher named Martin Wallace picks up a strange hitchhiker in an overcoat and an old-fashioned hat on his way to his new job in the university town of Eddington.

A college student named Janice Lundgren starts to have vivid and terrifying nightmares featuring a figure in a hat and overcoat, his face always obscured.

A prostitute named Ami Forrester is horrifically murdered by a man in a gray overcoat and gray felt hat. The following night, her body disappears and the doctor who was to perform her autopsy is found dead. They are not the last to die unnaturally.

In the same week, Jake Schneider, another college student, is surprised by a visit from his cousin, Scott. Though Scott initially claims to have come for a self-reflective break from his own studies, it soon becomes clear that he knows or suspects something about the murders in Eddington.

When pressured by Jake, who himself has experienced uncanny visions and disturbing encounters, Scott reveals that he is not merely visiting to take a break from college. He is pursuing the man who brutally murdered his parents…a man who wore a gray overcoat and a gray, felt fedora.

But this killer is not merely a man. He has already survived Scott stabbing him through the heart. No one who sees him can ever remember his face. And what he does to his victims is worse than murder.

Jake, Scott, and Janice, with the help of Janice’s mother, a self-proclaimed psychic, learn that this entity has come to Eddington to perform a ritual that will lead to untold, eternal horror for the entire world. And Jake, it seems, is the only one who might be able to stop it.

But how can three college students and a Greenwich Village psychic possibly stand against an entity that has wandered the world for tens of thousands of years, that can warp the human mind, that can never be recognized for what it really is unless it allows itself to be seen…an entity whose power is growing as its goal comes closer…an entity that can consume the very souls of those who might stand in its way?

In delay there lies not plenty; Then, come blog me, sweet and twenty

Hello and good morning everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and of course, that means it’s time for my weekly blog post, which is obvious unless this is your first time reading it.  If it is your first time: Welcome!  It’s great to have you here.

It’s a rather auspicious week for me, in ways that I have difficulty even processing.  A few days ago, I finished the final editing run-through of The Vagabond.  It was Monday, in fact, the Ides of March (and my brother’s birthday).  Since then, I’ve been working on layout and adjusting chapter divisions, working on the cover design, as well as adjusting the pages for the size of book that it’s going to be.  Taking care of these nitty-gritty details is surprisingly satisfying, and they also take a lot less time than the actual writing of the novel…which is good, because this novel has been in the works for a very long time.

As I think I’ve discussed here before, I first started writing this story while I was an undergrad, way back in the very late eighties or, just possibly, in early 1990.  But I think it was the eighties.  This is, of course, why the story takes place in that era, at a university and in a city that is remarkably like the place in which I did my undergraduate degree.  Indeed, a few of the major characters are quite strongly based on friends of mine from the time—though not all of them.  None of them are really based on me, any more than is every character I’ve ever written, since they come from my head and my fingers.  Though, admittedly, the main character is a Physics Major because, at the time, I was a Physics Major, and his struggle to deal with the fact of the supernatural intrusion into his reality is rather like what I think mine would be if I were to encounter such things.

The prologue of the book was the first part that I wrote, unsurprisingly.  Though there have been some minor changes, it’s largely as I first created it, and so it’s been waiting for publication for more than thirty years.  The last part of the novel wasn’t drafted until quite some time after that…certainly well into the nineties, and probably closer to their end or even the beginning of the 2000s.  I had a lot going on at the time and wasn’t as committed to writing as I am now.  And, to be uncommonly generous to myself, I’ll admit that post-baccalaureate courses, medical school, residency, and so on took a lot of my time and more of my energy.  Then, of course, came the start of medical practice, and the incomparably wonderful birth of my children, and then later, the much less wonderful development of my severe back problem and chronic pain, with subsequent career derailment and other consequent collisions of various sorts*.  Good fun.  The Vagabond himself would no doubt laugh at me heartily, but then, he’s a particularly nasty sort.

Still, though in the course of those years many things have failed, and I have failed at many things, it’s nevertheless amazing for me to know that, soon—before the end of the month, and perhaps even by the end of this week—The Vagabond will be available for purchase by the general public, pretty much the whole world over thanks to Amazon and Kindle.

It’s rather funny to realize that, though it felt like a somewhat long book when I was writing it—and not merely because I took so long to do so—it now feels comparatively short.  This is, of course, mainly because I’m finishing it just after having finished and published Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2, which in first draft was literally a half-a-million-words long.  Geez Louise.  That felt like it took a long time, and I worked on it almost uninterrupted from start to finish.  And, indeed, it did take a long time.

But though both are horror stories, The Vagabond is a different kind of horror story than Unanimity**.  It’s flagrantly supernatural, inspired by my love of the works of Stephen King, and Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson, and H. P. Lovecraft, and others like them.  There’s even a “haunted house” in it.  Though local in scale, it’s apocalyptic in its implications and the danger involved.  This is further subtly connected to my novel*** The Chasm and the Collision, which itself has connections to my long-lost work Ends of the Maelstrom, facts of which underlie much of the multiverse of my creations, though not in overt ways.  Even if Ends of the Maelstrom existed out in the world, and you had read it, you might not recognize the connections, but they are there, in my head, and they provide some of the architecture of good and evil in many of my stories.  I don’t think this matters much to anyone’s enjoyment of any of the stories, but in my mind, at least, it’s nice to have that connection and continuity.

Anyway, I’m rambling on, talking about things that may only be interesting to me, and which may bore the bejeezus out of nearly anyone else who might be reading.  But I am, in my quiet and peculiar way, excited.  Like the Vagabond himself, I’ve been waiting a long time for this, and I wasn’t at all sure it would happen.  And unlike the Vagabond, the end of my quest and journey is one that other people can enjoy, if they are so inclined.

I hope you’re looking forward to it, at least a tiny fraction of how much I am looking forward to it.  In the meantime, please take care of each other and yourselves, and stay safe and healthy, and try to be happy as often and as long as you can.

TTFN

highway 2


*Figuratively, not literally.

**Which is quasi-sci-fi, by which I mean that the events in it are nominally “natural” but are in fact impossible according to the laws of nature as we know them.  Thus, it is really a supernatural horror story, but with the supernatural well-disguised…though I throw a nod to it by giving a cameo to a location and entity from my short story, Hole for a Heart.

***Which is not a horror novel, any more than the Harry Potter books are horror novels.  Which, of course, means that there are definite elements of horror in it—as in all good fantasy adventures, in my opinion.

There is a kind of character in thy blog, that to the observer doth thy history fully unfold.

Hello, again, and good morning, again, and welcome once again to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.

It’s the second Thursday of the month, and at one time it would have been the occasion for an edition of “My heroes have always been villains,” but that’s long since been abandoned due to lack of reader interest.  Oh, well, I probably would quickly have run out of interesting villains to discuss.  There are plenty of fictional baddies out there, of course, but there aren’t all that many that really merit exploration and discussion.  Villains are a necessary part of nearly any fictional adventure, and often of other kinds of tales as well, but they frequently have little depth.

One villain, however, retains acute pertinence and interest for me, and that is the title character of The Vagabond.  I’m within fifty pages of finishing the final edit of the book, and then will come the remaining layout and finishing of the cover design before publication.  That should all happen by the end of March, so that’s something to look forward to, for those of you who like horror stories with well-fleshed-out supernatural villains.  For the Vagabond is no merely supernatural force, something elemental and impersonal, though those can be wonderful antagonists in horror stories.

Essentially all of H. P. Lovecraft’s dark entities (for instance) are not characters so much as ideas, physical representations of forces of nature (and unnature).  If they have character, it is beyond human comprehension.  This can make them exceptionally frightening.  It’s bad enough to face an entity that hates you and wants to hurt you, but at least you matter to such villains.  Hate is just the opposite side of the coin of love, after all, and is a form of attachment and connection, though it’s one that’s well worth avoiding.  But Lovecraft’s beings don’t really care or think much about humans, much like Terry Pratchett’s creatures from the “dungeon dimensions”.  To them, humans are not much more than ants or cockroaches…and they are decidedly not entomologist types, so they have no affection for humans, even as subjects of study.

But the Vagabond is a character.  In fact, he’s the second character we meet in the book.  I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers by saying that.  It’s pretty obvious within seconds of encountering him that he’s not quite…right, as it were.  For him (he identifies as male, as they say), humans do very much matter, but only because he really, really dislikes us.  It would be far better for us if he didn’t care at all.

I’ve had no success in hunting down the scanned version of my old, favorite drawing of the Vagabond (which I know I scanned at some point, and which I could swear I’ve seen sometime in the last eight years, but for the life of me I don’t know where).  I’m very disappointed.  I wanted to at least base my cover on that drawing, though I would probably embellish and alter it in some ways.  I can see the picture clearly in my mind’s eye—I’m the one who drew it, after all.  But that doesn’t mean I could reproduce it.  I’m out of practice with drawing, and practice really does make a difference.  Also, that drawing captured something that I don’t think I could mimic readily.  I’ve tried sketching some version of it from time to time, but I haven’t liked any of the results.

So, I’m pursuing other means of making the imagery I want.  I’ve done a sort of “sketch” if you will (though it’s not a drawing) of the impression he gives, and I’ll include it in this post, below.  It’s not the final form of the cover by any means—there are ways it doesn’t quite match his overall look, though it’s very close.  Still, it gives something of a taste of what I recall capturing in the drawing, and the impression I have of him in my mind.

Take a look.  See if he’s someone you would want to pick up if you saw him hitchhiking along the interstate.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t—not that you would have any choice, if he decided he wanted a ride from you.

Vagabond cover prohect 3

So anyway, that’s fairly exciting, for me, and I hope that some of you are at least interested or intrigued.  It’s been more than thirty years since I first started this novel, and to see it finally published is something for which I had given up hope.  Thanks be to my ex-wife for discovering and sending it to me (and for many other things besides)!  It was dedicated to her from the start*, and so it shall stay, departing from my usual practice of dedicating my stories to my children.  I hope, quite fervently, that she will read it (again) when it’s published.  I know she liked it, once upon a time.

And with that ironic phrase, I’ll begin drawing this post to a close.  I’m still having trouble getting into fiction reading—or even watching—and frankly, even nonfiction is getting harder to find engaging.  But my passion for writing stories (and blog posts) remains, and I hope those of you not currently suffering from my peculiar literary ailment will enjoy reading them.  And, of course, I hope that you are and will remain well and happy.

TTFN


*This may seem a strange form of honor, but trust me, it was never meant or taken negatively.  Horror fiction was one of the things that brought us together, though it was not the primary one.  I even wrote my short story Solitaire while keeping her company as she worked on a project overnight for a summer job.  She read it soon after, but it was a bit dark even for her.  If I remember correctly, she said something along the lines of, “It’s a great story…but where the hell did that come from?”  I couldn’t say.  I was in quite a good mood, since I was spending time with the woman with whom I was very much in love.  I did tend to play a lot of solitaire at the time (with real cards), so obviously that was a trigger, but as for the substance of the admittedly quite horrific story…who knows?