You great benefactors, sprinkle our society with thankfulness. For your own blogs, make yourselves praised.

Hello and good morning.  Once again, it’s not Thursday but Friday, this time the 26th of November in 2021.  I intended to write a blog post yesterday, though it was Thanksgiving here in the US.  However, I’ve come down with a moderate cold this week—nothing horrific, not Covid-19 or the flu, but an irritating and enervating process that includes sneezing, coughing, runny nose, some laryngitis, a bit of achiness, and just generally feeling blah.  So, I decided that I’d take the whole day off yesterday and sleep in, then sleep quite a bit off and on throughout the day.  I have done so, and now here I am, in the office on so-called Black Friday*, writing this week’s blog post.

I did try to make the fact of being sick productive—I recorded a roughly twenty or so minute video reviewing the differences between viruses and bacteria, the different types of illnesses they cause, and the differences in treatment for which they call.  It’s the sort of thing that I would have thought was common knowledge that most people learned and pretty well mastered by the time they were in middle school, at least on a broad level, but this is plainly not the case.  I haven’t edited and posted that video yet, but I will, probably this weekend, unless I’m too under the weather still.

Being sick and so on has seriously diverted me from my work on Outlaw’s Mind.  Between Monday and Tuesday, I only wrote 2450 words, and I wrote nothing at all on Wednesday (nor yesterday).  Part of this is due to the respiratory infection, but another portion is due to the ennui I continue to feel regarding writing any story.  I’m far more stubborn than the day is long, but even I can have difficulty staying motivated.  It’s not that I don’t like the story.  I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite ever story idea, but it’s also far from my least favorite, and no other story that I have waiting in the wings seems eager to push it aside.

Some of my apathy is probably due to the diminishing day length, which leads to worsening of my dysthymia—which has itself been persistent, more or less, in this iteration, for at least a dozen years and probably more.  In fact, the last time I can remember being truly free from it must be from roughly 1996 or 1997 through sometime in 2002 or 2003.  I was well-nigh unstoppable then, though I was in late med school then residency then the beginning of medical practice, and moved states, and became a father to two children.

After that time, especially after my back injury, I’ve been under the pall of depression/dysthymia, overlaid with personal catastrophes of several kinds.  The external stuff is comparably tolerable, however, though that might be hard to believe, since it includes injury, chronic pain, illness, loss of career, imprisonment, loss of family, isolation, etc.  But it’s true.

I liken it very much and quite seriously to being undead, and not in a cool, darkly sexy, Anne Rice vampire chronicles way.  One of the best literary quotes that describes, for me, what dysthymia is like is when Gandalf speaks of the Rings of Power to Frodo, describing what happens to someone (such as Bilbo or the Nazgul) who keeps one of the Great Rings:

“A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness.”

I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t intend this to be a metaphor for dysthymia, but it really resonates with me.  Interestingly, as I looked up the specific quote above, I realized that I had subtly altered it in my head to read:  “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps a Great Ring does not die, but neither does he grow or obtain new life.  He merely continues, until at last each breath is a weariness.”  The gist is the same, and I don’t know how to account for the differences.  Do those two wordings strike any of you differently, or are they basically indistinguishable?  I would honestly be fascinated to know.

Writing new stories has often been a source of some relief from depression; I’m not the only author to have noted this fact.  But rather like the notion that exercise is good for depression, it doesn’t do you much good if your depression keeps you from doing the thing that helps.  I’ve often wondered whether the causality was misconstrued in the studies of exercise and depression; perhaps the people who were able to do the exercising were already experiencing improvement in their depression, and so they were able to participate fully.  I’m pretty sure that the various study designers thought of that issue, and randomized as best they could to counter it, but it’s not always completely doable.

Anyway, that’s a summary of my status.  Maybe I’ll review all my old story ideas and see if any of them really grabs me and makes me want to write more than Outlaw’s Mind does.  I have this weekend off (after having worked the last two Saturdays), so perhaps the extra rest will help.

I hope all of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that everyone else just had a lovely week and a nice Thursday.  Christmas approaches for those who celebrate it, and even those who don’t can’t avoid its presence in the West.  Best wishes of the solstice season to all of you out there, no matter which one you’re approaching.

TTFN

Thankschristmassy


*Though they’ve started with “Black Friday” sales right after Halloween, frankly, so they’ve rather spoiled the whole mystique of the Day After Thanksgiving being the biggest Christmas shopping day.  There’s no good and interesting phenomenon that we in America—and probably the rest of the world—can’t squeeze and overuse until it’s lost all sense of fun and use that it previously had.

Give me to drink mandragora…that I might sleep out this great blog of time

Goodo and hell morning.  It’s not Thursday—it’s Friday, November 19th, 2021—but this is an edition of my weekly blog post.  I did not write anything at all yesterday, neither blog post nor new fiction nor letters nor emails nor notes to self nor any other kind of writing.  I was lying in bed pretty much all day (getting up to obtain meals and to use the bathroom—which, interestingly, doesn’t have a bathtub, just a shower, a sink, and a euphemism, yet we call it a bathroom).  Despite having gotten nicely into a walking routine over the last several weeks—which seemed to be doing good for my back and other joints—somehow, at the beginning of this week, or the end of the last, something triggered a significant exacerbation.  I’ve had pain and stiffness not just in my back but markedly so in my hips and shoulders, wrists and hands, ankles, knees, and so on.  I wondered if I’d started to develop polymyalgia rheumatica, frankly, given the symptoms.

It’s interesting to note that something called polymyalgia* entails such prominent arthralgia**.  But nomenclature isn’t always accurate, even in medicine; it’s often riddled with historical artifacts.  Take the source of the word “vaccination”, for instance.  How many people know that its origin comes from exposing people to Vaccinia (related to smallpox and formerly thought to be cowpox but apparently more like horsepox***) to engender immunologic protection against Variola, aka Smallpox?

So, anyway, I didn’t write my usual weekly blog post on Thursday this week, and I suppose I could’ve just given the whole thing a miss, but I figured I’d try to be better late than never if I could.  I’m more motivated to write this blog than I am to write my new fiction, anyway, which is a bit sad to me, though I doubt I shall hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth from the general public.  Also, it’s just barely possible that I won’t be writing a blog post next week (though I think I usually do) on Thanksgiving.  It will probably be shorter than usual, anyway.  So, it would be a shame to leave this space blank, intentionally or otherwise.

This is not to say that I haven’t been working on Outlaw’s Mind.  I have.  Even when I’ve had trouble getting going in the morning, and I putter around rereading and—this week at least—spending about twenty minutes each morning lying on the floor to try to ease my back a bit, I still have written eight hundred to fourteen hundred words each on the days I’ve written, which is to say Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I’m just not feeling the same drive and motivation for writing that I normally feel.

I wonder if that ambivalence is because this story has been interrupted more than once.  Part of me wants to put it back on the back burner and just start to write something new that I haven’t started before.  But then, of course, that would mean that there would be yet another interruption in Outlaw’s Mind, and it might never get written.  This is not exactly an epic tragedy, obviously—there are many stories waiting in my head that have not yet been, and may never be, written.  But it would be a minor shame.  Had I but world enough and time—or particularly, had I but a time unmarred by chronic pain with exacerbations and free from chronic depression, or at least with all those things under reasonable control—I could write more and faster even than I already do.

And if wishes were horses, we’d all be neck deep in horseshit.

Anyway, that’s nearly it for this week, I’m afraid.  I apologize for the lateness and for the less-than-optimal post that this is.  It’s a day late and, though not a dollar short, I feel it’s not up to my usual standards.  I’m back at the office, but I am still far from physically comfortable, and that takes its toll.  I hope you’ll all understand.

In the meantime, though, in America we have Thanksgiving coming up next week, and I hope most of you are looking forward to a nice meal with family if you’re able.  Though, of course, be careful if you travel, and do your best not to contribute to a new wave of Covid-19, as well as flu and other respiratory viruses—they all tend to have significant upticks here in the US after Thanksgiving, since it’s the biggest travel holiday of the year.

Please, everyone, have a good time with those you love.  And do something, if you’re able, for people who are alone.  Even if it seems that’s the way they want to be, it’s worth checking if they need anything.

But for goodness’ sake, don’t tell them that they ought to be thankful and appreciative and not feel too bad, perhaps because other people have it “worse”.  That doesn’t help anybody; it’s just self-serving crap designed to absolve the speaker of any need to be compassionate.  There’s presumably only one person on Earth at any given time about whom it couldn’t be said that there are those who have it worse****.  What good does it do anyone to be told that, at this moment, they aren’t that person, by someone else who also isn’t that person and isn’t doing anything to make a difference for that person or for anyone else?  If you can’t say anything useful and/or nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.  Silence is preferable to insulting, counterproductive stupidity.

TTFN

desert


*Which refers to muscle pain.

**Which refers to joint pain.

***So many farm animal poxes!  Chicken pox, by the way, is Varicella.  Imagine if our inoculation process had started with chicken pox.  We might refer to the process as varicellation.

****I think we can safely assume that the title changes hands rapidly and often, since such a person probably has a foreshortened lifespan.

Have you not love enough to blog with me, when that rash humor which my mother gave me makes me forgetful?

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, November 4th*, the first Thursday of the new month, and—of course—it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

Halloween has passed, alas, and now we enter the weird time wherein Thanksgiving symbols—at least in the US—struggle to hold onto at least a brief period of prominence before they are overtaken, no later than November 25th this year, by Christmas decorations**.

I’m slightly sorry to have to admit that yesterday I flipped back to writing Outlaw’s Mind on computer.  I’ve been getting quite a bit of minor but irritating arthrotic*** pain at the base of my thumb, and where the metacarpal meets the wrist.  I’d forgotten this.  It probably feels worse than it really is, since it’s been a while; also, the last time I experienced much of it, I was in wretched circumstances.  But I’ve felt it plenty of times before, even going back to my teenage years.  I think I tend just to get really focused when I’m writing and use those joints to a greater than ideal degree, causing wear and tear.  That damage no doubt accumulates, since healing is rarely complete in any region of the body, unless you’re a spiny mouse, so the discomfort starts earlier each time.  But it’s not primarily inflammatory, because there’s never even a hint of heat, redness, or noticeable swelling, and it only flares up with use, so arthrosis it is.

Because of that, and the minor inconvenience of storing my writing when not in use, and of flipping back to reread what I’d written yesterday instead of merely scrolling up, and, of course, because computer writing is easier to read, even for me, I’ve switched back.  I’m occasionally troubled by the spirit of the great Harlan Ellison, who (so I’ve read) thought that one can’t write decently or effectively on a word processor/computer because it’s too easy.  He supposedly disdained anything beyond the typewriter.  Ellison-sensei could be an opinionated curmudgeon by all accounts, but such an argument clearly doesn’t stand up on its face****, or Ellison should have committed to writing every one of his first drafts on stone with a chisel.

I can’t say I would completely have put it past him.

But I don’t think writing with a modern computer is necessarily worse, or that it changes anything all that much in any given writer’s style.  I wrote a good deal of the first draft of Son of Man on a very small smartphone using its note-taking app.  That wasn’t easy on my thumbs, but at the time I didn’t have a portable computer, and I was riding busses about three hours a day, so I was able to do a lot of writing that way.  I don’t think it was any easier than writing by hand at a desk would have been, and I don’t think my writing suffered or improved noticeably for it.

If you’d like to check, you can read Son of Man and compare it with Mark Red or The Chasm and the Collision or the short stories Paradox City and Solitaire, the first and often second drafts of all of which were written with pen on paper, and you can compare it also with Unanimity or any of my short stories starting with “I for one welcome our new computer overlords”, which are straight computer-written.  You can also compare it with The Vagabond, which was originally written partly as pen on paper but mostly on a Mac SE using WriteNow.  Or you can read all the tales in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which begins with a story part of the first draft of which was typed, if memory serves, and ends with a story that was written partly by hand and partly (first draft and all) in Microsoft Word™.  Unfortunately, now that I’ve told you the difference, your experiment will be hopelessly confounded by bias.

Oh, well.  Read them all anyway, what the heck.  You can buy extra copies for friends and ask them what they think without revealing the above information.  If you want to make things double blind, you can ask a third party to ask your friends what they think.  Or you can just read the stories.  I know that a lot of them are horror of one sort or another, but remember, just as a puppy isn’t only for Christmas*****, a horror story isn’t just for Halloween.  The darkness of night continues to grow, at least here in the northern hemisphere.  The time of daylight is in full retreat, and it will be weeks and weeks before it even begins to take back ground, let alone before it comes to dominate again, revealing all the stark unpleasantness of the world in its cold, bitter glare.  In the dark, it is easier to pretend.  And sometimes, if you’re lucky, your imagination can run away with you.

Which brings me back to Outlaw’s Mind, for which I’m gradually regaining my momentum, which was no small task since it’s been interrupted more than once.  Maybe the handwriting thing was just a way to trick myself around my resistance to getting going on the story again.  If so, it seems to have worked reasonably well, and Outlaw’s Mind will perhaps be all the better for its disjointed history.  I’ll do my best to make it so.

In the meantime, Happy November to you all.  It’s generally a month I like, even though it exists in the lee of my favorite holiday.  It evokes memories of still-falling autumn leaves blowing about in briskly cold (but not yet bitter) winds, and the anticipation of two big family holidays, each associated with feasts and TV specials and games and long weekends and so on and on.  And though many of those things are no longer mine to enjoy, alone here in south Florida, I can at least say that it’s a time of year where one can enjoy walks outside without obscene layers of sunscreen and emergency water rations to replace all the bodily fluids that have soaked one’s clothes.

I don’t know what it’s all like in the southern hemisphere but considering that summer’s on its way for them, it’s probably great.

TTFN

Happy Birthday


*It’s my mother’s birthday.  She would be turning eighty, if my memory is correct.  Happy Birthday, Mom, wherever you are!  Knowing her, if she’s anywhere, it’s someplace good.  She certainly would deserve it.  As would my father, of course, who would have turned eighty-two precisely a month ago.  He was a bit of a curmudgeon—I take after him in many ways—but a good person.  So, belated Happy Birthday, Dad.

**And to a far lesser extent, Hanukkah and other solstice-related holiday decorations.  You rarely see any Saturnalia symbols, though.  I’m not even sure what those would look like.  Oh, well.  We get plenty of the Norse decorations.

***The auto-correct thingy tried to change this word to “arthritic”, without even asking me, but that was an incorrect correction.  The suffix “-itis” indicates inflammation, usually as a primary component of a given disorder.  Though there may well be secondary inflammation in the root structures of my thumb, this is clearly a wear-and-tear phenomenon, and so is an “-osis”, not an “-itis”…the latter suffix which the program keeps changing to “it is”, which is again wrong, and again, it’s not asking me.  I wouldn’t mind a little red wavy underline to bring it to my attention—asking me if I was sure about writing that—but especially if I enclose something in quotes, the program should not presume to correct what I write.

****Which sounds both difficult and painful.

*****It’s also delicious in a sandwich on Boxing Day.

For thy part, I do wish thou wert a blog, that I might love thee something.

[Just a quick reminder:  Anyone who wants to leave me a comment—I know, it’s not likely to be many people—should not waste time doing so on Facebook or Twitter.  I check Twitter intermittently at best, to try to minimize unnecessary despair, and though I share many things to Facebook, I rarely go there directly, as being there is far too prone to stress me out at an even more extreme level and make me even more depressed than usual (if that’s possible).  Comment here, on my blog, or on Iterations of Zero if you read that.  I’m on WordPress all the time, since I follow quite a few other people’s blogs, and I get frequent notifications about “likes” and comments.  This is probably an exercise in futility, since I doubt anyone really wants to communicate with me more than is absolutely necessary—goodness knows I don’t want to communicate with me—but just in case.)

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the last Thursday in October of 2021, and so it’s time for the ordeal* known as my weekly blog post.  In three days, it will be Halloween, my favorite holiday, though I suspect that many if not most will be celebrating it on Friday or Saturday night rather than Sunday.  I have a costume to wear, which I’ll probably only put on at work; it’s a sort of steam-punk version of The Master from Doctor Who (it’s my own original interpretation of the character, but Doctor Who does have a sort of steam-punk quality to it), complete with chameleon arch fob watch, Harold Saxon’s signet ring, and The Master’s laser screwdriver**.  I also have a cool cane with an extendable telescope that really works (though it’s not terribly powerful).  Other than the hardware, it’s all black, of course.

Beyond that, not much new is happening.  I’ve been writing the first draft of Outlaw’s Mind by hand, and that seems to be going nicely.  I don’t know whether the story will be better for it, but I don’t think it will be worse, and anyway, it feels a bit like going back to basics, which is nice.  It also feels like it will help avoid me getting too carried away and writing more than I should.  As you all may have noticed, when I have a keyboard, the words come very quickly, and I often go off on tangents.

I’ve been getting in some regular walking recently, as much as six miles a day, both to get a bit healthier and, if possible, to lose some weight (the less of me there is, the better, I say).  It also ties in nicely with a recent impromptu post I did for Iterations of Zero, which I think about three or four people may have read—probably not all the way through.  One of the nice things about walking is, it lets me think about the notion or idea or whatever you want to call it that I discuss in that blog post, particularly in the penultimate paragraph (really, the last full paragraph), which involves going for a very long walk.

It really is a pleasing and beguiling course of action to contemplate, and it’s particularly useful in that it minimizes inconvenience for most other people.  Also, there’s frankly nothing anyone can do to stop it, legally, since it doesn’t involve doing anything that is definitively a danger to oneself or to others.  It’s really diabolically simple.  It just requires commitment***, and that’s something with which I tend to be overflowing.

In addition to that encouraging consideration, the other day, while taking a slightly new route, I thought of a story idea related to walking, which I immediately “wrote” down—actually, I used voice to text because I was still walking—in my “story ideas” entry in my note taking smartphone app.  It’s always fun when ideas like that come, even if the story never gets written.

Speaking of stories, here’s a reminder to you all that Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats, and many of the tales in it might make for excellent Halloween reading.  While you’re at it, The Vagabond is certainly, without doubt, an excellent Halloween story.  And, technically, Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2 are pretty good for Halloween, and the three stories in Welcome to Paradox City are quite strongly so.  Of course, one could hardly say that a teenage demi-vampire was entirely out of place on Halloween, so Mark Red is also good reading for this holiday.

I do tend to lean in that direction when I write, don’t I?

With that, rather unusually, I think I’ll call this blog post to a close after only a relatively short amount of writing.  I do hope you all enjoy the holiday.  Spend some time, if you can, having fun with family and friends (as long as you take appropriate precautions regarding infectious diseases), eat some candy, watch some scary movies, read some scary stories, maybe dress up in fun outfits, and generally have a laugh at the darkness of the world.

You might as well; it certainly laughs at us.

TTFN

The_Doctor_Falls_Master_Kill_it bigger


*At least, I assume it is for all of you—some form of penance, perhaps, through which you wash away sins with a relatively minor bit of suffering.  It’s the only plausible explanation I can think of for the fact that you’re reading it.

**Who’d have sonic?

***So to speak.

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.

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

date yearHello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer).  It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.

I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye.  I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on.  There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well.  But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.  It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021.  The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen.  The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems.  But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*.  Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.

As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion.  Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace.  I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that.  I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it.  Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories.  Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.

As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs.  Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain.  In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me.  I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play.  Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before.  I think I described it as “entrancing” to him.  When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark.  It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.

Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice.  This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good.  And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious.  But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing.  I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords.  I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2.  The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.

But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs.  I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing.  As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.

And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year.  Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.

TTFN

fireworks


*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true.  As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse.  But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean.  Unless that’s what’s already happening.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled blog

Hello, good morning, and Merry Christmas (Eve) to everyone who celebrates the holiday, directly or indirectly.  Considering how pervasive it’s become, and how pervasive Christendom was and is, I imagine there aren’t too many places—in the western world, at least—that don’t have at least some peripheral awareness of Christmas.  Though it is interesting how the celebration has evolved in places that don’t have historical religious associations with it.  Based on my consumption of manga and anime, I get the impression that, in Japan, Christmas is more of a romantic, couple’s holiday than anything else*.  I have to say, I can understand that interpretation; some of my most vivid Christmas memories from my teenage years carry that feeling.  The lights and the snow and the music, as well as the associations with huddling together against the cold are all quite evocative.

Though, of course, living in south Florida as I do, snow is no longer relevant to this time of year.  I even wrote and posted parody lyrics of “White Christmas” on this blog before, focused on that fact.  Here’s the link, so I don’t need to include a copy of the words.  There’s nothing particularly clever about them, they’re just sort of ironic but celebratory about warm weather.  It’s refreshing, at least at first, to have warm weather in the wintertime, especially after having grown up in Michigan (and then living in upstate New York and Chicago and then New York City).

Of course, in Judea of two-thousand years ago I doubt they had snow around this time of year.

There are those who (as I have below), in the spirit of “The Big Bang Theory”**, spread memes of Merry Newtonmas at this time of year, since Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, while Jesus almost certainly was not***.  But Isaac Newton’s birthday was measured on the then-ascendant Julian calendar, so it wouldn’t have coincided with what we now call December 25th using the updated Gregorian calendar.  I could look up what his birthday would have been had the Gregorian calendar already been in use, but I can’t be arsed to do it.  Anyway, Newton probably was born closer to the time of the Solstice than was Yehoshua ben Yosef****.

All these things are trivia, admittedly.  But, after all, in the spirit of Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity,” which could be rendered as “all is trivial”.  And I like trivia, so…I guess it’s okay for me just to go with it.

Less trivial to me by far is the fact that the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  It’s quite rewarding and satisfying to be able to make such rapid progress on it after having done Unanimity.  I love Unanimity, of course, and I’m very proud of it.  But, my oh, it was an immense labor.  In contrast, The Vagabond, while not to be released this year, will likely be available for publication in the earlyish part of 2021.  Perhaps you’ll be able to read it while you wait in line to get your Covid vaccination!

I’ve done a few posts recently on Iterations of Zero, which is a welcome change.  I decided to go with the idea of writing them on my smartphone, and so far, I think it’s working pretty well.  I did, after all, write a significant part of Son of Man on the smartphone I had at the time, and it was a much smaller, and thus less wieldy, device to use.

I have also released the “commercial” version of my song Breaking Me Down, which I embedded on my last IoZ post.  By “commercial” I mean that, if you listen to the song (or watch the “video” on YouTube), I make a tiny bit of money from it.  It’s also on Spotify and on iTunes (though I do not yet have the links) and supposedly on a whole slew of other social media and music sites, most of which I hadn’t even heard of let alone seen.  If you’re on any of those, and you’re interested, just search for the title, and my name, and it should come up.  It’s not a Christmas song, of course, and it’s not exactly a happy song, but it has a good beat, and I’m told the melody is good (I’m too biased to be able to judge), and it even includes some borderline decent guitar playing.  I like/am proud of the lyrics, but they are rather gloomy, I’ll admit.  They’re cleverer than my “Green Christmas” parody, at least.

And with that, I think I’ll wrap it up for this week.  I wish you all the very best of the holiday season, no matter what holidays you may or may not celebrate.  As Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”  As simple advice goes, that’s hard to beat.  I suspect that Jesus would agree.

TTFN

Newtonmas (2)


*And people there apparently like to eat KFC(!) for Christmas dinner (thanks to some very impressive marketing).

**The show, not the actual cosmology theory.

***It’s my understanding that the early Christian church appropriated the date from the festival of Saturnalia and similar related and pervasive solstice celebrations.  Of course, given the current “conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, and some of the amazing photos circulating online of it, it’s not inappropriate to think of Saturn now.

****Of course, if you believe in the literal truth of the story, then a more appropriate Hebrew-ish version of his name would have been Yehoshua ben YHWH.  But that’s hard to say.

All my books and stories are available and would make excellent Christmas gifts for book lovers!

Hello and good morning.  It’s not Thursday today, of course, but I just thought of something that I wish I had thought of and posted yesterday instead of the rather rambling and negative post that I did create.

Although it’s probably too late for Hanukkah*, it should not be too late, if you have avid readers on your list of Christmas gift recipients, to order them a copy of one of my books, if you think they would be interested.  I have six titles available in paperback through Amazon, which I’ll summarize here:

Welcome to Paradox City IconWelcome to Paradox City:  A collection of three dark “short”** stories, one of which is a light-hearted near-comedy and the other two of which are darker.  The first, The Death Sentence, is about a man who finds a previously unnoticed room in his public library, and in it discovers a bizarre but intriguing book containing illustrations and writing in languages he doesn’t know…but which also contains one particular line that can be at least pronounced, as it is written in Latin characters.  He only slowly discovers the secret of that sentence…and of the rest of the book itself.  The second story, If the Spirit Moves You, is about a man who suddenly discovers that he can see ghosts—or “the unquiet dead” as they prefer to be called—and that he may well be the only one who can, and who can help them make contact with the modern world.  The third story, Paradox City, involves a man who enters a popular but rather peculiar nightclub, which bears the name of the story’s title.  Though the entertainment is good, and the service is excellent, and he meets and falls for a charming young woman who is equally taken with him, this is a club in which peculiar, impossible, sometimes paradoxical, and ultimately horrifying things can happen…and if you make the wrong decision, you might get stuck there forever.

Mark Red Cover

Mark Red:  Mark Reed, the title character (obviously), is a teenager who spots an attempted mugging and rape.  He tries to intercede to help the woman, but her assailant stabs him, giving him a mortal wound.  However, it turns out that the mugger’s target was a vampire, who deliberately put herself in the situation to prey on the criminal.  She makes short work of her assailant, but then has only one way to save Mark, which she feels compelled to do because he got hurt trying to help her.  She gives him some of her blood to replace what he’s lost, turning him into a demi-vampire—with a combination of the aspects of humans and vampires, the nature of which state he learns over time.  The vampire, Morgan, determines to stay with and protect Mark from his own urges for blood until such time as she can find out how to cure him, for as she explains, contrary to popular folklore, a full vampire can never die at all, even if they wish to.  And if Mark ever kills a human by drinking their blood, he will become a full, uncurable vampire, cursed with immortality.

41lnfutijalSon of Man:  David McCarthy, a college student in Chicago, is going to the university library one morning when, without transition, he finds himself in a featureless cylindrical room.  The wall of the room opens, and two men—Anderson and Greer—eventually explain to him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future.  They tell him that only a few decades after the time from which he was taken, an apparent global thermonuclear war, now call the Conflagration, destroyed civilization and most of the people, but that the human race was saved by a “man” now known simply as The Father, who united humanity, willing or not, under his control and guidance, and rebuilt civilization, with his astonishingly advanced technology and inexplicable genius.  He also initiated the “domestication” of the human race, killing any person who initiates violence against others, and sterilizing their first-degree relatives.  Though grateful for the Father’s rescue of civilization, the two men, their friend Michael, and some others think that he has gone too far, and they enlist David to help them either convince the Father to abdicate or to find a way to remove him…choosing David for reasons that he at first cannot believe.  The Father has an enemy within his own mind—a mind that now spans the entire world—and that enemy wants to help them overthrow the Father.  He alters David in an inexplicable way and assist the group in their quest to achieve their goals.  But his motives are not certain, and he also reveals to them some secrets of the Father’s past and nature that horrify them, especially David.

CatC cover paperbackThe Chasm and the Collision:  Alex Hinton and his friend Simon come home from middle-school one day and find that Alex’s mother has, apparently, left a newly purchased and unrecognized—but delightful-smelling—bunch of berries in the fruit bowl in the house.  Alex tries the fruit and discovers that it tastes even better than it smells, and he shares it with Simon and with a girl name Meghan, on whom Alex has a crush.  Soon, Alex and the other two begin seeing and hearing seemingly impossible and sometimes terrifying things, which no one else perceives, and they begin developing new, amazing abilities.  They also find a strange apparent “space warp” in the wall of the dining room of Alex’s house.  Eventually, they are accosted, captured, and brought back to what turns out to be a piece of another world—Osmeer—which is the counterpart to Earth, but in a universe that lies adjacent to ours in higher-dimensional space.  They learn that some process has set the universes on a collision course, and that if they collide, the impact will wipe out everything in both universes in a new Big Bang.  A great genius of Osmeer has created what is called The Chasm—a way of taking part of Osmeer out of its world and positioning it between the two universes to hold them apart, at least temporarily.  Within the Chasm, that part of Osmeer has permanently sunset-colored skies, and time flows there roughly thirty times faster than in the original universes.  The pre-teens learn that in the other universe, not only are there intelligent “dinosaur dogs” called tixuns with advanced sense of smell, who work with humans, but also intelligent, furry “mole-weasel” creatures called orcterlolets, that can tunnel and build by manipulating the fabric of space itself.  Most amazingly, they learn that all the plants of that world are conscious, and can communicate with each other telepathically, as well as with gifted humans and tixuns called Gardeners.  The man who created the Chasm has also helped breed and create a special tree, called Wynestrith, whose purpose is to save both universes by returning them to their proper places.  Alex, Meghan, and Simon have unwittingly become embroiled in that quest, and they learn that there is a cult, and a Prophet, and a much darker and more terrible Other, an Ill Will, that wants the collision to happen, and that only the three friends, working with Wynestrith, will be able to prevent the collision, and the destruction of two universes.  But they will have to survive to do so, and also—hopefully—they will be able to succeed without their parents and teachers finding out they were ever gone.***

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 2 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 1 and Unanimity Book 2:  Charley Banks is a pleasant young university student, majoring in English, with a long-term girlfriend he loves very much, nice parents, and a positive outlook on life.  He takes part in a seemingly harmless neuroscience experiment, testing a new form of external magnetic cortical stimulator, innovated by one of the school’s professors.  After the test, though, in the follow-up MRI, he has a severe grand mal seizure.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers, to his amazement and delight, that when he touches other people, if he focuses on the curious sensation that now happens at the point of contact, he can merge with their minds, taking over their nervous systems, replacing their consciousness with his own, but with access to all they know and are.  At first the union only lasts while he’s touching them, but soon this ability grows, and he is able to maintain his presence in others even after separating.  He then becomes able to control more than one person at a time, and then becomes able to extend himself further using bodies he already controls, all while still controlling his normal, original body.  He keeps this gift secret even from his girlfriend (at first), and as the power grows, he decides to use it to correct some perceived and real injustices done to people he cares about.  But his methods are extreme and horrifying, and it becomes clear over time that his mind has been altered in other ways than simply giving him his new abilities.  This becomes still more dangerous when he discovers the astonishing effects of having a person die while he’s controlling them.  His power, and his willingness to use it, seems to grow without obvious limit, and even after a few other people, including his girlfriend, learn of his ability, and of his altered character, its unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent Charley from someday encompassing the entire human race.

All of these titles are also available in Kindle format, including Son of Man, for which I somehow failed to link the paperback and the Kindle versions.

I also have several “short” stories that are only available in Kindle format for now, though I plan to collect them into a paperback edition along with a new novella soon.  Most of them are available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member, and anyway, they’re less than a buck apiece if you buy them.  I won’t go into too much detail; instead, I’ll copy the blurb from each listing on Amazon.  My short stories tend to be rather dark, and most of them would count as horror (not “Ifowonco” or Penal Colony, though).  They include:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”:  Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical change of fortune.  His subsequent actions lead a genius named Darrell White, enabled and inspired by Peter’s choices, to create the world’s first artificial intelligence.  Unfortunately, this happens at a time when humanity has devastated itself with global war and is unprepared to accept the existence of these new and superior minds.  These facts will combine to create a future that Peter would not have had the courage to expect, and the implications of which are impossible to foresee.

Prometheus and Chiron:  Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him.  Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand.  Even after a month passes, she remains seated in the same place, always visibly suffering.  No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all.  But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her.  And she sees him.

Hole for a Heart:  While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill:  A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow.  Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station.  There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes.  Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years.  Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale.  Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.

Solitaire:  (This is my oldest—and darkest—published short story.  It’s not for the faint of heart.)  It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown.  He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world.  Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…

Penal Colony:  While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback.  Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner.  There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment.  He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him.  Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow.  The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it.  It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…until the man proves it.

Free Range Meat:  Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?  Brian certainly would.  As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can.  So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.  But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV?  Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.  And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off?  What breed of dog makes sounds like that?  These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

That’s everything (so far).  None of it is, perhaps, traditional Christmas fare, though CatC is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure whose heroes are middle-schoolers, so its arguably a holiday-worthy story.  But a book, like a puppy****, is not just for Christmas.  Most people can’t read one of my books in one day, in any case.  And to a book lover, there is rarely any better gift that can be given than a new book.

(I would advertise my songs here as well, but they definitely aren’t holiday-type ditties.)

Happy Holidays!


*Except for Kindle books, of course.

**I use scare quotes because though not truly novellas, they are quite long for short stories, especially Paradox City, which gives the book its title.

***This is my most “family-friendly” book.

****Which is also very good cold on Boxing Day.

My conscience hath a thousand several blogs, and every blog brings in a several tale

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts.  It is not Thursday morning as I write this, but it will be Thursday (or later) when you read it.  I’m writing it a day early, to be published on the usual day, since this Thursday is a major holiday where I live.

Given that, I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US who are reading this, and to everyone else, a happy day in general.  It can feel as though there’s much not to be thankful for right now, but I’m sure that, in the modern world, we still have many reasons to feel fortunate—certainly those of us with the luxury of reading and writing blogs.

Positivity isn’t my strong point, as my regular readers may know, but it is worth remembering that we take for granted a tremendous number of incredible advances that our forebears even a generation past could not have imagined.  If you go back a century, to the time of the 1918-ish flu pandemic, it’s sobering to realize that they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the numerous bacterial infections that often complicate influenza, let alone ventilators, oxygen monitors, corticosteroids, or molecular biology to be able to discern the nature of the disease-causing agent.  Indeed, DNA itself was decades away from being described, so the tools for understanding and treating a highly contagious and dangerous viral illness were far weaker than they are today.  Vaccinations had been invented, but they were in crude form, and the science of understanding, let alone designing them, was in its infancy.

And the internet, of course, or anything like it, was not even a dream of science fiction yet.

So, if we work at it—and I say again, it’s not my strong point—we can find things about which to feel truly thankful.

On to other, lighter matters.  I did a rather unusual experiment recently, one about which I have mixed feelings.  I’d be thankful (!) for any feedback you might think appropriate.  As those of use who use Amazon know, when you’ve purchased something, Amazon often sends an email asking if you’d be willing to rate and review what you bought.  I think this is a useful service, but it can become onerous at times, so I don’t review nearly everything I purchase, even books that I read and enjoy.

I received a request to rate a jacket I’d just purchased.  It was the same brand I’d bought a few years ago, and my old one was getting a bit raggedy with use, so I ordered a new one (in a different color—black, of course).  I decided that I really should give a review, since I’d used the product and liked it enough to buy it again.

Well, as you may also know, once you’ve reviewed one item, the Amazon page asks you if you want to rate and review other items you’ve purchased—you know, while you’re in the mood and all.  And at the top of the list was my own creation, Unanimity Book 1, for which I’d already received more than one request for reviews.  I bought copies of the book for the people at my office I thought might enjoy it, and then another one for someone who asked me later for a copy, so the review requests were recurrent, as tends to happen with all of my books.

I’ve occasionally been tempted to write a comical, self-serving review that makes it obvious that I’m the author to anyone reading, but I’ve never done it before.  It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow people who have a fiduciary interest in a product to provide reviews for it.  I respect that policy, as I understood it.  But they kept asking, and asking, and asking…and I’m not made of stone (except perhaps for my heart).  Finally, on a whim, I wrote a brief review, starting off by revealing that I am the author of the book, and I rated it five stars.  This is not, of course, an unbiased rating, but it is at least an honest one, in that I really do think it’s worthy of that rank to me, not least because of the effort involved in writing it and the characters, whom I like very much.  I wasn’t really expecting the review to go up.  I figured Amazon’s automatic checkers or whatever they might be would block it and send me a kind but firm email stating that they can’t publish reviews from people involved financially in a product.  Well, only Amazon itself is more financially involved in my books than I am.  But at least so far, the review is there, which is amusing to me, at least, but I do feel the need to repeat my disclaimers about it and the rating.

To be honest, if I’d thought it was really going to work, the book I’d feel least conflicted about reviewing would be The Chasm and the Collision, which is certainly my most wholesome, family-friendly story, written specifically with my children in mind at the time*.  I’m quite proud of the world-building I did in it, which includes telepathic plants, mole-weasel creatures called orcterlolets who can directly manipulate the local shape of space itself, flying manta-ray like monstrosities called gowstrin, a bit of bastardized M-theory describing universes floating next to each other in “the bulk” and in danger of colliding, and three middle-schoolers who inadvertently get caught up in the emergency attempt to prevent that collision, which would destroy everything in our universe as well as the one of Osmeer.  And, of course, as I say in the jacket blurb, our heroes must try to help prevent this cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for being late for school.

Yeah, I don’t feel any qualms about recommending that book to pretty much anyone.  My sister has read it more than once, and the last time she did, she actually thanked me for writing it.  That was pretty huge.

The Vagabond, of course, being a horror story, is far from as family-friendly as CatC, but it is coming along nicely, and it is fast-paced, and a far more in-your-face horror story than, say, Unanimity.  The horror in the latter is complicated, partly psychological, partly existential, involving the threat of the complete loss of free will, autonomy, self-awareness, etc., without anyone even knowing of the threat, let alone being able to do anything about it.  At least with a traditional, moustache-twirling, evil incarnate type villain, you know what you’re up against and can make a stand.  When the villain is one of the people you love most in the world, who doesn’t even think that he’s doing anything bad, and about the threat from whom you know only because he told happily you, things are a little dicier**.  At least, I think so.

But The Vagabond will probably be more straightforward fun for most people, and it is certainly shorter.  Still, if you read only one of my books, I would recommend The Chasm and the Collision, without knowing more about your preferences and tastes and whatnots.

With that, I think I’ll draw this prematurely written blog post to a close.  I do, honestly, hope that all of you who are in the US have as good a Thanksgiving as possible, while doing everything you can to keep yourselves and those you love safe and healthy.  Hopefully, you can console yourself by imagining the November blow-out that will come once we have this latest virus*** under better control.  “So tighten your belts, and think with hope of the tables of Elrond’s house!”

TTFN

Thanksgiving (2)


*I don’t think either of them has read it, or any of my other books, though each book is dedicated to them.  They don’t want to have much to do with me since the time I was invited to be a guest of the State of Florida for three years…in fact, my son won’t interact with me at all, though my daughter does stay in contact, and shares news of her various adventures.

**I think that’s a neologism.  Certainly, MSWord doesn’t recognize it.

***And our various politicians and the political processes itself.

And thus the native blog of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

Hello and good morning.  Welcome to another Thursday, and—as I always point out, rather unnecessarily—to another edition of my weekly blog.

For those of you living in countries that celebrate some equivalent or descendant of Armistice Day (in the US, it’s Veteran’s Day), I hope you had a pleasant yesterday, enjoying a holiday that was originally intended to commemorate the final resolution of World War I and a return to relative peace.  Though I have great respect for all those who have fought to protect freedom, as is sometimes ruefully necessary, and I certainly think they deserve to be treated far better than they are—at least in the US—it’s good that we celebrate the fact that these brave ones, at least, the living veterans, were able to come out of the other end of their wars alive and somewhat intact.

The weather in south Florida has continued to be abysmal, what with the recent, slow-moving tropical storm.  Unfortunately, even without such cyclonic phenomena, south Florida can be so damp and rainy that it’s almost unbearable.  I’m also suffering from the clock change that happened just a bit more than a week ago, which brings aggressively forward the months of seemingly endless night, with the sun setting yet another hour earlier in the already nocturnally dominated Fall and Winter.  I don’t look forward to the latter part of December, as I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Of course, those who know me might well wonder in what way my seasonally affected affect effect is in any way different from my usual personality.  It’s a valid question, and I can only reply that it makes my underlying dysthymic and depressive tendencies more difficult to ignore and resist.  I try.  But often I fail.

Anyway, enough of that for the moment.  Work on The Vagabond continues and is productive.  I think it’s already a better book than it was before, stylistically.  I haven’t changed the story at all, and I don’t intend to alter it in any noticeable way.  This is not to say that it’s a perfect story; I’m not even sure what would constitute such a thing.  Still, I think it’s a good supernatural horror novel.  It has action, suspense, danger, a good number of scary parts, a bit of romance, and some fun characters, including a truly malevolent villain.  This is all, of course, my own judgment, and I am inescapably biased, but I still think I’m correct.  I hope you’ll all take a chance and decide for yourselves, when the time comes.  I think it is something to which you can honestly look forward, if horror novels are your cup of tea.

I’m still running up against internal and external metaphorical walls with respect to making content for Iterations of Zero.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s frustrating, because I don’t want to take time away from fiction to do it.  Writing fiction is something I do by simply starting every day with the work—though currently that’s editing, not primary writing—as soon as I get to the office.  Coming up with a story idea is fairly easy.  I accomplish the rest by committing to write at least a page every day, when I’m not editing, and then go from there.  Almost inevitably, once I get started, I end up writing quite a lot more, and usually it’s time itself that calls a halt to the work.

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish,” as Sam Gamgee’s old Gaffer always said; the converse is that, once you begin a job, it can sometimes be hard to stop.  There appears to be a kind of metaphorical inertia, which is why it’s such a good thing simply to set the schedule and commit to writing whether one happens to “feel like it” or not.  When I think of what I could have accomplished if I had taken that approach when I wrote The Vagabond, I sometimes want to weep.  That novel is only about 160,000 words long, but it took me more than ten years to finish it*.  In comparison, I completed two longer novels and a short story that was almost a novella** over the course of just under three years by working every day during the hour or so after the lights came on at FSP West.  While I don’t recommend that location and environment to anyone, it still just goes to show what you can do by saying to yourself, “To hell with inspiration, just work.”  Trust me, FSP was (and still is, I presume) not a place of inspiration, though tragically, it is sometimes a place of forced expiration.  (It could also, during “lockdowns”, sometimes be a place of barely contained urination, when we were forced to stay on our cots face-down for hours on end at times.)

On that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it good for today.  As usual, I wrote more than I thought I would—again, all it took was forcing myself to get started, and just to do it, and then matters moved forward almost on their own.

I hope you all have a good week, and month, and year, and so on.  Please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Do it


*To be fair to myself, I was doing other things—college, post-bacc courses, teaching, medical school, residency, etc.—during that time.  Nevertheless, I could have written so much more had I just committed to doing it.  A big part of my problem was procrastination born of neurotic perfectionism, in which the perfect becomes the arch-enemy of the good, or even of the “good enough”, in a way that is far more horrible than any fictional villain ever could be.  I’m sure many of you can relate.

By way of advice, with respect to this, all I can say is that the best thing you can do is to give up completely on the idea of “perfection”, or even “greatness”.  The terms aren’t even well defined; you’ll always be able to poke holes in yourself and your work, no matter how much effort you put into it.  I feel confident that no work of fiction or nonfiction has ever been perfect.  Some have been and are considered “great”, but that judgment is reserved for their posterity, and as far as I know, it is never universally agreed upon.  Just do it, as Nike and Palpatine counsel, trying to keep improving incrementally as you go along.  Practice will tend to make you better—that’s just how nervous systems seem to work—though it will never make you “perfect”.  If you just keep growing a tiny bit all the time, and keep doing what you’re doing, before you even realize it, you can become and accomplish amazing things.

You will never be “perfect”, but in many ways that’s a blessing.  After all, if there is no highest point to reach, there’s nothing to stop you from continuing to climb higher and higher without limit.  Surely that’s preferable to perfection.  It’s certainly more interesting.

**Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City.