For he today that sheds his blog with me, shall be my brother

clock3

Greetings and good wishes.  It’s Thursday, and thus time for a new blog post.  Another week has passed.  It may well still exist in a General Relativistic “block universe,” but that for those of us who live within the perceived flow of time it’s gone forever.

I hope you’re all doing well.  This time next week will be roughly the date of the vernal equinox, after which, in the northern hemisphere, daytime will be longer than nighttime for six months.  That’s something pleasant for most of us to anticipate (I say “most” because, unless I’m mistaken, the majority of the human race lives in the northern hemisphere…please correct me if I’m wrong).  Also, of course, for us Americans who don’t live in Arizona, last Sunday was the morning of “springing forward,” when we move our clocks ahead an hour in obedience to the whims of Daylight Savings Time (for most clocks I use, the computers themselves did that job).

Tomorrow is my brother’s birthday, by the way, so if any of my readers know him, please take a moment to wish him the best and happiest of possible days.  He certainly deserves it; it’s not his fault that he has a sibling like me.

In all seriousness, he’s a heck of a guy.  I think I’m being quite honest in saying that he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.  My parents certainly did an excellent job with my older brother, and before him with my older sister.  I guess by the time I was born they were just too exhausted to keep up the good work.

I’m kidding, of course.  They did just as good a job with me.  It’s simply a brute fact that, every now and then, a factory will produce a lemon, through no fault of anyone who works there.

Speaking of myself—which is mainly what I do here—it’s been interesting to discover how personal my new story (working title: Safety Valve) is.  That’s the one that started out as a simple short story notion, and which I hadn’t really planned to write at this time but decided to do rather than another story that was too similar in genre to its predecessor.  Now, obviously, it’s a story idea that I had, and which I wrote down, so it comes from me, but it’s remarkable to realize how much meat the idea has, and how much it touches the feelings and experiences of my life.  I’m not sure that this will be obvious to the story’s eventual readers, but it really does have a visceral resonance with me that’s quite unexpected.  This may not be entirely a good thing.  It doesn’t make the writing, or the story, especially joyful, but it does make the process gripping…which is good, because the story is far from finished.

At the same time, I’m puttering along on the editing of Unanimity, which is going to be a long process.  I need to pick up the pace a bit.  I also need to start editing Free Range Meat, my most recent short story.  That’s almost certainly going to be my next published bit of fiction, and there’s no good reason for it to take very long.

In other news, my notion to set aside certain moments during the day—my equivalent of “smoke breaks”—to produce blog posts for Iterations of Zero has not panned out as planned.  However, though “you can’t always get what you want,” it turns out that “if you try sometimes, you get what you need” *.  In this case, I decided to do what I’d meant to do in writing for IoZ as audio instead.  I’ve already recorded and edited a highly non-focused first episode.  I’ll be posting it shortly, probably this very day, and I invite anyone who’s interested, and who has roughly a half-hour of idle time, to listen to it.  I’d dearly love some feedback, as I have no idea how good, bad, or ugly it might be.  At least, I have no idea that isn’t colored by my own point of view.

And, speaking of disjointed collections of thoughts—which I was; see for yourself—this week’s blog post seems about done.  Once again, I wish all of you a tremendous surfeit of happiness, a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction, and a statistically implausible amount of good luck.

TTFN


*I forget who said that

It warms the very sickness in my heart, that I shall live and tell him to his teeth, “Thus bloggest thou.”

Good day to you all!

It’s the last day of February in 2019, and it’s another (hopefully happy) Thursday, so it must be time for my weekly blog post.  I’m feeling rather under the weather today, though I’m still going in to work.  Because I’m still a little poorly, I’m probably not going to write all that much this time…though I’ve been wrong about such things before.  Sometimes, once I get writing, it’s hard for me to stop.

Since February will be over tomorrow, I could, in principle, begin rewriting/editing Unanimity, from which I’ve successfully forced myself to take a break this month.  I doubt, however, that I’m going to take up that task on the first occasion on which I could allow myself to do so.  I still have Safety Valve, my novella, to work on; it’s coming along nicely, but it’s definitely going to be longer than a mere short story.  Also, there’s my previous short story to edit and rewrite.  I’m not going to wait until I’ve finished with Unanimity before starting on that task, of course.  That would be madness!  So, what I’ll probably do—this is a tentative plan, by no means a binding commitment—is to continue to write daily on the new material until it’s done, but perhaps to limit myself to one or at most two pages a day, and then use the rest of my writing time on those days to edit.

As for how I’m going to divvy up the editing, I expect that Unanimity is going to dominate my time, with only one to two days a week reserved for the short story and then the novella.  In any case, sometime over the coming months, I expect to publish first my short story, then the novella, then (finally) Unanimity.  There’s much to which to look forward if you’re a follower of my work!  I suppose there’s probably much to which to look forward even if you’re not a follower of my work, but on that subject, I have less information.  Also, if you’re not pedantic about preposition placement, you may very well have much to look forward to.

***

Okay, I just spaced out there for a good five minutes or so, which provides further evidence—if any were needed—that I’m not quite feeling my usual self.  Because of that, I think I’m going to pretty much wrap things up here for today.  I apologize for this post’s brevity, though that may not be unwelcome for many of you, and I apologize for the fact that I really haven’t said much of substance.  I do have all sorts of ideas and urges for articles to be posted on Iterations of Zero, including one explaining some of the basics of general relativity, (triggered by a recent interaction on Facebook), and others that would constitute my response to many of the biases and misconceptions involved in the anti-vaccination movement.  But finding the time and energy to put those out without pilfering both resources from my fiction, and while still keeping up with my “day job”, is daunting.

“Had we but world enough, and time…”*

TTFN


*Side note:  I decided to re-check on this quote, the opening line of Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress, and I discovered, to my mild chagrin—but not to my surprise, since there must have been a reason for my decision to check—that for years I have been slightly misquoting the line as “If we had world enough, and time.”  This does not change the sense of the phrase at all, so it’s a misquote of no real import.  Still, I tend to be pedantic about such things, so I’m glad that my unconscious mind drove me to check it out.  Of such minor triumphs is a feeling of self-improvement, real or illusory, constructed.

Nymph, in thy orisons be all my blogs remember’d

It’s interesting how these things happen.  As you’ll know, if you’ve been following this blog, I finished the first draft of Unanimity at the end of January, and I decided to take a break from it at least through this month (February) before going back to begin the rewriting/editing.  During the break, my intention was to write, and possibly to rewrite and edit, one or two short stories, the choice of the first of which I had made ahead of time.  This much has gone precisely according to plan:  the first draft of that first story is completed.

Then, I had to decide what story to write next.  As I’ve detailed elsewhere, the one I originally had in mind was of too similar a character to the one I’d just finished.  So, I went to my list of (electronically) jotted-down story ideas and found one that was different enough, and interesting enough, to work on, and I started writing.

Well…this story idea, and the protagonist who came along with it, has turned out to be surprisingly deep and engaging, though I have no idea if anyone else will share my assessment.  The character’s back-story and his life experiences resonate strongly with me, so I’m not only having quite a nice time writing about him, but the story has a lot more meat than I would have expected.  It may well turn out to be more a novella than a short story.

Yes, I know, many of my “short stories” stray well over the border and into the No Man’s Land between short story and novella.  This makes me particularly grateful for e-book publishing, since it’s hard to imagine any old-school magazines publishing such stories out of length considerations, though I suppose serialization might have been possible.  This new story, though, with a very tentative title of Safety Valve, is going to end up being even more involved than is usual for me.  It doesn’t merit a full-length novel, but it’s not going to be finished in twenty or so pages, either.  In fact, it’s already reached twenty pages, and there’s quite a lot more to tell.

Of course, by nature I tend to take more of a “Cheesecake Factory” approach to writing than a “Seasons 52” approach.  This isn’t good if one is trying to watch one’s weight, as I know only too well, but when it comes to stories…well, you can’t gain weight from reading a story (nor from writing one, thank goodness).  In fact, given that the brain consumes a tremendous portion of the body’s energy budget—about twenty percent—you may burn extra calories by reading a longer story, as long as you don’t snack while doing so.

I’m pleased, bordering on delighted, to have found this story so engaging, especially since I came up with the raw idea off-the-cuff, some time ago, and just added it to the “Quick Memo” file on my smartphone.  That practice has turned out to be quite a useful one.  Incidentally, I had behaved similarly with the germ for the other story I just finished.  The “Quick Memo” habit works beautifully, at least for me, and I don’t mind throwing it out there as possibly useful for others.  We might as well take advantage of the little technological marvels that we carry with us.  We can thus avoid the classic nightmare:  a good idea occurs to us while we’re on the job, or in bed, or in some other situation in which we can’t immediately turn to it in earnest, and by the time we find an appropriate location or time, the idea is lost…“and enterprises of great pitch and moment, with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.”

Who would have thought that the words of Shakespeare would apply so well to taking notes on one’s smartphone?  Well, anyone who’s read much Shakespeare might think such a thing.  His work is incredibly powerful and broadly pertinent, worthy of deepest admiration and even excusable envy.  “If I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener.”*

Well, that’s enough self-indulgence for another Thursday.  I hope the weather’s reasonably good wherever you may be, and that your week has been tolerable, and perhaps even wonderful.

TTFN


*This is not a quote from Shakespeare, by the way.  Do you know its source?  Valuable brownie points will be awarded to anyone who does and who states it in the comments below!

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blog…

Well, it feels like the end of an era, but I’m able finally to be able to say that I’ve completed the first draft of Unanimity.  I say, “the end of an era,” because it feels as if it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on anything in my life.  This is not literally true; my horror novel, Vagabond, which I wrote through college and med school, took longer, but that was because I wrote it so sporadically.  I foolishly worked on it only when “inspiration” struck, whatever that even means.  And the first full-length (hand-written) novel I ever wrote, Ends of the Maelstrom, probably took longer as well, for broadly similar reasons.

There’s no denying, however, that Unanimity is the biggest thing I’ve ever written.  At 530,549 words, its first draft is longer than the published version of either It or The Stand.  I don’t know how many days of writing it’s entailed.  I took at least one fairly long hiatus during the middle of the process, to complete various other authorial tasks, but even given that…well, in length, at least, it’s definitely my magnum opus.  So far.

I had no idea when I began it that it was going to be so long.  I don’t often really think in such terms, which is probably good, since I tend to run off at the keyboard.  I love words, I love written language, I love writing stories…and I’m self-indulgent when it comes to those loves.  I hope you’ll be patient with me, but I’ll understand if you’re not.

So, Tuesday I finished the rather melancholy final scene of my novel, and then Wednesday, as you may have noticed, I published Penal Colony, my latest short story (It’s available for purchase in Kindle format, for less than a buck, American).  Having both things happen more or less contemporaneously makes them feel more momentous than they probably are.

Now I must try very hard to take a break from Unanimity, and not to do any rewriting or editing on it for the month of February.  Fortunately, I have two short story ideas eagerly waiting to be written, and I really should finish up In the Shade as well, so I’ll try to get most, or all, of those works done this coming month.  They’re all horror stories—no big surprise—but at least one of them is a slightly jokey, cynical horror story, in which very honorable, morally upright, and laudable impulses and deeds are used against a well-meaning, if slightly self-righteous, person by dark forces.

Such—all too often, and regrettably—is life.

Hopefully, though, we won’t let that stop us.  Dark things and dark people are generally a lot noisier than good things and good people, so sometimes it feels as though they dominate the universe.  Yet the fact that civilization has survived at all, and continued to advance, seems to be mathematical proof that good and creativity are stronger than evil and destruction.  After all, it’s simpler by far to destroy than to create, and yet creation—in the human world—vastly predominates over destruction.  QED.

Sorry about that little digression into philosophy, but I thought it might be warranted.  It would be all too easy, I know, based on the types of things I write, for someone to imagine that I’m a pessimist about human nature, or the universe in general.  I’m not.  Though the second law of thermodynamics is as inescapable as any other mathematical principle, it’s also the source of life, and of our experience of time.  Life—certainly as we know it—can’t exist except where entropy is going from lower to higher.  I’m very much on board with the ideas David Deutsch describes in his wonderful book The Beginning of Infinity There is no guarantee that humanity and our descendants will go on to achieve a cosmic-level civilization, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason it’s not possible.  Whether or not it happens is entirely dependent upon our actions (and a lack of local astronomical catastrophes, of course).

And that’s about enough of all that for now.  I’ll leave you to the rest of your day.  It’s bitterly cold up north, I know, and it’s even relatively chilly down here in south Florida, so wrap up warm, all those who are affected.  Curl up by the fire in a blanket.  Drink a mug of tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and read a good book, if you get the chance.  Listen to that cold, bitter wind howling outside, with a chill that seems more than capable of freezing the very flesh from your bones.  It sounds almost alive, doesn’t it?

It sounds almost…hungry.

TTFN

This blog of darkness I acknowledge mine.

For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you’ll probably be relieved to read that this will almost certainly be the last time I’m going to write, “work on Unanimity is proceeding well.”  As predicted, I should be finished with the first draft of that novel by this time next week, barring illness and/or accident.  It’s been a long haul, and though the editing and rewriting that follows will surely be a laborious task, at least this stage will be finished.  It is, by far, the longest book that I’ve ever written.

In a similar vein, you may also be pleased to learn that I won’t be speaking much more about Penal Colony*, for that story is all but ready to be published.  It may well be available by this time next week.  In many ways it’s a much lighter-hearted tale than Unanimity, to say nothing of being shorter, but it deals with a few of the same themes and ideas—namely the possibility of insidious threats to personal autonomy, and the possibly illusory nature of such a thing in the first place.

Don’t worry, though, if you don’t like to deal with serious ideas or themes when you read a story.  I’m no highbrow literatus at heart, however much I love Shakespeare.  One of the problems I often had with literature courses in college was that I never had the knack—or perhaps the interest—for trying to dissect works of fiction for deep meanings and hidden messages.  I just read stories to enjoy them.  With Shakespeare, at least, I’m darn near sure he wrote to entertain people.  This explains why I tended to get better grades in Calculus, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics than in English courses.  You didn’t have to try to figure out how to say something the professor thought was insightful, or that agreed with his or her personal take on a given work.  In math and science, if you know the material, you pretty much can get the right answer.

So, you don’t need to worry about my stories being unnecessarily complicated or deep.  I do, of course, tend automatically to put into them whatever I’m pondering at any given time, as I suspect any author does, and in real life I’ve been told that I tend to invite chaos.  But chaos can make for good stories.  It’s an odd fact of human nature, but things we like to read, or to watch, or the games we like to play, are rarely what most of us would ever want to experience if we could avoid them.  This has been said, and far better, by many others before me.

I plan on taking most of the month of February off from any editing or rewriting Unanimity, following Stephen King’s advice in his book On Writing.  We’ll see if I can meet that ideal; I make no guarantees.  If I’m able, though, it means that next month will be one in which I can dedicate myself entirely to new stories.  I have one or two works of short fiction that I hope to finish in that time.  Then will begin the proverbial wading-through-blood of making Unanimity fit to be read by other people.

It’s gonna be a while before that’s done.

In other news:  I’m always trying to think of ways to make my parallel blog—Iterations of Zero—work for me and with my schedule, and I may try something new with it.  I’m a fan of a few podcasts, and I am also an enthusiastic consumer of Audible books, especially nonfictions ones.  My own commute-based listening has convinced me that, however much I want to participate in, promote, and preserve the art and craft of written language, it may be useful to do more audio work, sharing thoughts and ideas that I’d planned eventually to turn into written blog posts.  As you know, I’ve done audio (and associated “video”) of three of my short stories and nine chapters of CatC, and I’ve developed a modicum of skill at using the medium, so I may start posting some more audio stuff on IoZ…perhaps starting by reading aloud some posts I’ve written previously.  Further bulletins on this as events develop.

Finally, a forewarning:  I’m planning, hopefully sooner rather than later, to rewrite the “About Me” section of this blog.  I wrote that piece many years ago now, and when I read it now, it just feels like I’m trying too hard.  I also left out a fair few of the more unpleasant but pivotal things that have happened to me.  I suppose this is understandable, even excusable, but I must remember my above-noted insight that unpleasant stories are often interesting to read.  Mainly, though, I just want to be honest about myself, as much as I’m able, and anyone who’s read my fiction can probably tell that a jolly, happy-go-lucky Dr. Pangloss I am not.

Also, if one is open even about the most embarrassing aspects of one’s life, then one need not fear that those events can be used against one, even inadvertently.  I’m in some ways fortunate that many of my most damaging personal tales are already matters of public record; my personal darkness is rather well-illuminated.  If it contains the sorts of things that would drive you away from me if they were to be revealed later, then by all means, stay away now.

I am what I am, I’m my own special destruction.

But destruction and creation aren’t mutually exclusive, they’re just ways of looking at the processes of change.  And at this stage of the universe, embroiled as we are in the long transition from order to entropy, change is something with which you’re just gonna have to deal.  It doesn’t ask your permission, it doesn’t need your approval, and it will certainly never seek your forgiveness.

TTFN


Here’s a peek at the planned cover picture:

penal colony cover 2

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, to entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determinèd to prove a blogger…

Good morning and Happy New Year to all!

I was just idly wondering, is New Year’s Eve/Day the single most broadly celebrated holiday in the world?  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is…and I suppose I wouldn’t be much more surprised if it isn’t.  Still, considering the general adoption of the Gregorian calendar by, as far as I know, all the nations of the world, I would suspect that New Years is the most generally recognized possible day of celebration worldwide, across all cultures.

That said, I hope all of you who do celebrate it had a wonderful time doing so this week and didn’t suffer too many ill-effects in consequence.  This new year number sounds just a bit like the beginning of a count-down (20…19…), which could be the lead-in to good things and/or bad, but next year at least we should all have clear vision to face whatever comes.

Okay, enough of that nonsense.  I have few new things to say with respect to writing this week, but I’ll give you such updates as there are.  First, of course, I am very close (relatively speaking) to the end of Unanimity.  Interestingly, just yesterday I re-started taking the train—both to save vehicular wear and tear and to force myself to get in some walking every day—and between the train and then some time in the office before work, I got significantly more writing done than I had on any other day in weeks.  Some of this may simply be because I’m approaching the end of the story, and the excitement is building, driving me to push out work more quickly.  Some of it may be from resting over the dual holidays (thankfully, I did rest, being neither very social nor much of a drinker).  But I think just not having to drive (except to the station in the morning) and thus not having to worry about traffic, to say nothing of getting a bit of exercise, really seems to do me some good.  Here’s to hoping I’m right.

Penal Colony also approaches its end.  Which is to say, the editing process is nearing completion; the story has been finished for some time.  I’m enjoying editing it, and I’ve certainly cut a lot of fat out*.  It’s at least a little bit light-hearted, despite its dire predictions about a possible sinister side of social media in the future (I know…can you imagine!?).  It’s certainly not as heavy as Solitaire, but that’s not exactly a high bar to clear.  Of course, all of this means we’re going to have to start working on the cover design any day now, which is its own special, and sometimes stressful, task.

In other news:  I don’t recall whether I’ve blogged about this already, but I recently read the book, Bird Box, responding to all the hype (and some interesting-sounding hints) about the Netflix movie (which I have not seen), and it was quite good.  I left a nice review, not too long, but hopefully useful, on Amazon, and I’d like to take this opportunity once again to cajole all of you readers—especially if you read independent authors—to rate and, if possible, to review the books you read on Amazon, or at least some significant fraction of them.  I know, I tend to harp on about this a bit, but it makes a tremendous difference.  It’s also very useful for an author to get feedback from general readers, who after all are the market for whom the books are written.

I don’t have a tremendous lot more to discuss this week, and I’ve almost reached my stop.  I wish you all, once again, the very best of new years, and I hope you enjoy yourselves and read plenty of books in 2019.  While it’s true that there are a great many other good sources of information and entertainment available, some of which are more seductive—and certainly more passive—than reading, written language remains the lifeblood of civilization, and the most direct and efficient means by which to convey information and stories between human minds.  As physicist Lisa Randall points out in her wonderful book Warped Passages, sometimes a few words (and perhaps a bit of math**) can be worth a thousand pictures.

TTFN


*I have a darkly humorous fantasy of some future person reading Penal Colony and thinking, “This is the story after you cut a lot of fat out?  What was it like before?

**which is, after all, just a special type of words

I’ll have my blogs ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a new-year’s gift

Hello, good morning, and welcome to the last Thursday of 2018.

I had three consecutive days off work this week, the longest such stretch in quite some time that didn’t involve sad family events.  To the surprise of no one, I did not get any writing done over those three days—no new work on Unanimity, and no editing on Penal Colony.

Because of this, there’s not much for me to say today.  I have, except on the three aforementioned days off, continued to make good progress.  In Unanimity, I’ve reached the final confrontation that will resolve the outcome of the book, but its development involves some flashbacks, for reasons of dramatic tension.  I think this will work well, but in the end, readers must judge for themselves.  In any case, there’s a great deal of work to do before the book will be ready for anyone but me to read and judge.  Such is the way of things.

I hope you all have a wonderful time on New Year’s Eve and a relatively painless recovery on New Year’s Day.  When next we meet here, it will be 2019.  I have a silly, semi-fun dread of the coming year, since in much of the Stephen King multiverse, the number 19 is one of terrible omen.  Of course, I don’t actually subscribe to any form of numerology, unless one counts my true and deep love (occasionally unrequited) of mathematics itself.  It’s just fun to imagine what might happen if that number really were a harbinger of evil.

The fact that I find such thoughts fun is probably why I tend to sneak “horror” into most of what I write, intentionally or not.

I first clearly recognized this about myself in high school, when I wrote my first full-length novel, Ends of the Maelstrom.  This was a sort of cross-over fantasy/sci-fi adventure novel involving multiple universes, in which beings of godlike power used magic and/or ultra-high technology to battle for the fate of our universe and ultimately all the other realms of the multiverse.  The story’s ultimate villain, the Talberod, had obliterated whole galaxies to demonstrate his power, but he nevertheless had a code of honor and a strong moral sense.  In contrast, the hero was more than willing to lie and cheat to win.  These are far from new twists, of course, but I felt pretty proud of them as a high school student.  Alas, that novel is lost to time and bitter circumstance, though one day I may seek to recreate it.

In any case, during the larger course of that story, I inserted little interludes detailing smaller-scale levels of the invasion, including a series in which a demonic being called Chrayd, for personal enjoyment, preys on numerous random humans from our world (before finally being killed by a lucky and courageous one of those same humans, whom Chrayd “salutes” even as he dies).  These latter sequences amounted to mini horror stories in the middle of my larger epic, though I only recognized them as such after the fact.  They were also the parts of the novel that were the most fun to write and—I suspect—were the most gripping to read.

Similarly, on those rare occasions when I’ve written Harry Potter fanfics, they’ve tended to turn out in rather…well, let’s just say that Harry has done some very dark, bad things.

We use the tools that we are given.

And that’s about it for now.  As usual, it’s more than I expected to write.  This is another gift or tool given to me.  I can’t really claim any credit for it, and it’s occasionally frustrating (for readers even more than for me, I suspect), but whataya gonna do?

Again, I wish you the best of all possible new years.  19 may be a number of ill-omen in the Stephen King universe, and it is certainly a prime number…but 2019 is not prime.  Let us then therefore give honor to the beloved goddess of irony by turning 2019 into a prime year in every other sense.

TTFN