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.

For they blog truth, that blog their words in pain

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so—as required by the dark ritual, which is designed to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the end of mankind’s dominion over the realm that rightly belongs to Cthulhu*—it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I can’t say that there’s much new happening around here in the past week.  As you know, last week was Thanksgiving in the US, so I wrote an early blog post that was nonetheless released on the appropriate day, thanks to the wonders of computer technology.  It was not a terribly exciting holiday for me.  I just loafed around in my room, played some video golf, went to 7-11 for some snacks and lunch, and loafed around some more.  I don’t remember specifically giving thanks, but I suppose there must have been some general thankfulness there somewhere, as I expressed in last week’s post.  I can at least honestly say that no turkeys were harmed in the making of my Thanksgiving celebrations.

The Vagabond is still proceeding well.  I’m within 20 pages of the end of the latest run-through, and it’s getting a bit better each time, which is good, since that’s the whole point.  It’s soooooo** much faster to get through than Unanimity was.  Not that I don’t love Unanimity.  I do love it, very much, and I’m quite proud of it.  I like the characters in it a lot, which is not unusual; I almost always like my characters, even the bad guys.  But it is a long book, and editing it was laborious.

It occurred to me yesterday, though—and with a bit of irony, since they’re bit players at most—that in Unanimity, I particularly like Charley’s parents.  They seem like people you’d like to know in real life.  They’re not my favorite characters in the story; I’m not sure quite who my favorite would be.  Possibly Michael; he’s the one with the most attributes of my own personality, though he has them in a much more pleasant form than they occur in my real self.  But Charley’s parents are fun people.

In unrelated news, not even tangential to what I’ve been discussing so far, but which I can’t help but think about:  I’ve been developing some inflammation/strain in the proximal portion of my left forearm, near the origin of some of the hand flexor muscles and tendons.  I know why it’s happening.  I’ve been working on the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia (it’s actually the only instrumental part of the song) and that involves fingerpicking a long series of changing chords, many of which are barre chords.  I’ve practiced to the point where my hand no longer wants to cramp before the end of the song, and I’ve duly impressed myself (which isn’t too hard) but apparently the repetitive strain continues to take its toll.  I’d better finish learning the song and record myself doing it so I can feel that it’s finished and move on, since NSAIDs don’t seem to be helping much.  Do any of you know whether there would be benefit in using a spandex elbow-forearm “brace”?  My medical background suggests that it might be useful, but not with a high degree of confidence.

As far as the infectious disease front goes, I remain Covid-free***, though not everyone in my office is so lucky.  This makes an already slow time of year a bit slower, which in some way makes my job easier, and in other ways makes it harder, and overall makes it gloomier.  This was particularly trying yesterday, when we had a surprising cold snap for south Florida.  I’m sure that people up north would not be impressed, but the temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees in twenty-four hours, and it usually doesn’t get that chilly, even in passing, until January or February.

Oh well.  Subtropical world problems, I suppose.  You may find it funny, and you’re welcome to enjoy the schadenfreude.  It’s already warming back up, in any case, and at least the rainy season is more or less over, as is hurricane season.

That’s about all I have for now, though I’m sure I could find tangents down which to become lost if I chose to let it happen.  But I’ll spare you that indulgence and keep things short this week.  I hope you all continue to have the best possible days and weeks and months and years and other intervals of time that you can possibly have.  At the very least, try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Though, to be honest, in my view—and I imagine that Cthulhu would agree—if one of the Elder Gods can’t just claim the realm on his own, he frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.

**That should be read with a long “o” sound, not with an “oooh” sound like a ghost.  In case you didn’t know.

***Which seems like it could be an excellent bogus marketing claim to put on product packages to lure in thoughtlessly health conscious people, as when one sees “gluten free” on products that of course are gluten free…like plain corn chips or plain potato chips.  I half expect to see motor oil advertised as gluten free and GMO free.  Which it is.

Bad Cover – You Never Give Me Your Money

Okay, here it is at last*, my bad cover of “You Never Give Me Your Money”, which is probably my favorite Beatles song**.

I apologize for the opening keyboards; they would have sounded better with a real piano (I did them over and over again trying to get a better sound), but I no longer have or have access to one of those, and I certainly can’t afford a really good simulated one.

I had to fudge on the percussion, using an automatic drum part, since I simply don’t have any drums of my own, nor am I at all trained in drumming such as would be necessary to play Ringo’s sophisticated part.

Everything else, though, is me:  Guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals.  Obviously, it was done, as Khan says, “Not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure.”  Putting it all together is in many ways the hardest part (other than practicing the parts, etc., but that’s fun to do).  I used Audacity, which is a free sound editing/mixing program, and it is amazing.  If you get the chance to throw them some money, please do so.

Of course, as should be obvious, I own none of this, and I am making no money from it, nor should I.  It’s just my labor of love/homage.  Words and music officially are by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, though the latter was the main composer of this song, and of course, the whole group and George Martin, etc. gave their creative bits to it, as with most of the Beatles works.

*It feels like it took a very long time to me, anyway, though I guess it’s only been about two weeks, not counting practice.

*I can’t quite explain why.  Maybe it’s because it opens up the long medley on the second side of Abbey Road, my favorite Beatles album, and is even reprised with a third verse in “Carry That Weight”, but that’s just speculation.  And at any given moment, of course, I may want to hear some other Beatles song more, since there are so many great and good ones, but this one always holds a special place in my faux-heart.

I blog of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy

Good morning and hello everyone.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s Thursday, as you know, and so it’s time for another weekly edition of my blog.  This being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” had I been able to keep that feature going*.

Work has continued on The Vagabond quite nicely; I finished the first run-through early this week, which served to familiarize me once again with my book that I wrote so long ago.  It sometimes feels like a very long time ago, and I guess it was…between twenty and thirty years, or more than half my life.  Weirdly, though—since it has been quite a while, and in some ways, it seems like ages—when reading it, I have to admit that it also seems quite fresh and recent.  I feel very much just the same person as I was when I wrote the novel, which is almost ridiculous considering how many things have happened to me since then**.  I suppose this is just one of the peculiarities of human consciousness…or at least of my own consciousness, which may or may not be considered human, depending upon whom you ask.

I think I wrote last time about how a woman in my office asked about my books for her son.  Well, as promised, I got the boy a copy of The Chasm and the Collision, and I got a copy of Unanimity Book 1 for her (definitely not for him).  She told me a few days ago that her son had been reading CatC and enjoying it and had reached chapter 4 already.  Because of that, I decided I’d read that chapter myself again, just to know exactly where he was.  It’s okay for me to skip ahead; I already know what happened.

Well, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it, and on and off I’ve been reading further***.  As I’ve said before, it’s my most family-friendly book, having been written about three middle-school students, and being therefore written for middle school students, as well as for “children of all ages” as they say.  That’s not to say it’s a childish or light-hearted book; there are some rather scary and dark portions, and it’s not short, except when compared to Unanimity.  It’s nominally a fantasy adventure, and without dark and dangerous forces, such stories don’t work at all.  My sister, who is older than I am and reads even more, says it’s her favorite of my books, and that the main character, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  I might have mentioned that last week.  Apologies for redundancy.

I say it’s “nominally” a fantasy adventure because it could be more literally described as a science fiction story.  There’s nothing “magical” in it, and even the “travel to other worlds” aspect uses concepts that I cobbled from M Theory, as I understand it from my layperson’s perspective, drawn from the popular works of Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, Stephen Hawking, and the like.  Don’t worry, I don’t get much into that—I don’t know enough of it to do so even if I wanted to—but it does give me an arguably plausible way to bring in other universes and the spaces between them, and the possibility that the Big Bang was caused by two “branes” colliding with each other…and that such a collision might happen again.  (The word “brane” never appears in the story, however.)

Anyway, don’t worry about all that.  It’s a highly speculative science fiction story that really has the character of a youth fantasy adventure.  It even contains some environmentalist ideas, though they are by no means in your face.  I know, right?  A book by me, displaying any kind of conscience?  What’s the world coming to?  But again, you don’t have to worry about all that.  It’s a fantasy adventure about three middle-school students who get caught up in an inter-universal crisis and must do their best to help avert cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for missing school.  I’m proud of it, and I can pretty much recommend it to anyone without reservation.  It doesn’t contain even a single instance of profanity!  I do encourage you to read it if you like that sort of thing.

Speaking of that, I would like humbly to request that, for those of you who have read my stories and books, could you perhaps take a moment to go to Amazon and rate and/or review them?  I considered doing it myself, as a kind of joke—making it clear that I was the author writing the review—but that seemed just too cheesy, and I don’t think Amazon lets authors do that, anyway.  I’m fairly sure they block reviews from people who have a financial interest in a book, which seems impressively and surprisingly ethical of them.  I can’t help but approve.

Finally, I’m thinking about releasing another of my songs as an official “single” to be put up on Spotify, YouTube Music, iTunes, Pandora, etc., like Like and Share, Schrödinger’s Head, and Catechism, but I only have two more original songs so far that could be so released:  Breaking Me Down and Come Back Again.  I’ve linked to their “videos”, so if any of you want to have a listen and give me your recommendations—even if that includes a recommendation never to allow human ears to hear the songs again for the sake of all that’s good and pure—I’ll gladly take your input.  I won’t necessarily follow it, but I would love to have it.

With that, I’ll leave you again for this week.  I’ve still not been able to kick-start myself into doing more with Iterations of Zero, though I have drafts of a few things.  Keep your eyes open, if you’re interested.  And, honestly, do consider reading The Chasm and the Collision.  Heck, if you can figure out how to work it out, I’ll gladly autograph a copy for you, for what that’s worth.  Most importantly, continue to take good care of yourselves and your family, friends, and neighbors, and stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

CatC cover paperback


*No, I haven’t gotten over it yet.  Maybe I’ll try to do one of them a year or something, perhaps around Halloween.

**Including, but not limited to, medical school, residency, moving to Florida, having kids, acquiring a severe back injury and chronic nerve pain, getting divorced, spending time as an involuntary guest of the Florida DOC and as a consequence being unable to practice medicine or vote among them…all sorts of interesting things that make for a most stormy life so far.

***Interspersed with reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, PhD.  This is a very good and, I think, very important book.  I encourage you to read it.

O, let my books be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking blog.

Good morning everyone!  It’s Thursday, and of course, that means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  This is the first post of Autumn this year (in the northern hemisphere, anyway).  It is also, I’m extremely pleased to note, the first blog post after the release of Book 2 of Unanimity, both in paperback and e-book form!

This very much feels like the end of an era for me—in a good way.  The process of writing and then editing and then publishing Unanimity has been a monumental undertaking, at least from my own small and narrow point of view.  I had no idea when I started the story that it would end up so large.  It certainly didn’t seem likely to become such a long tale.  The concept seemed fairly simple, at first glance…and at second, third, fourth, fifth, and further superficial glances.  But developing the occurrences and progression of the story ended up being quite a process, partly because—I think—it’s a specific plot notion that hasn’t been done before, at least not in quite the same way.  Perhaps I’m flattering myself.

In any case, I’m pleased with the result, and I’m pleased with the fact that it’s complete.  I don’t yet have my copy of the paperback in hand—it’s on its way—but I’m excited to have and hold it.  I was miffed when the problem of its length first made me need to split the book into two volumes, but on the other hand, Tolkien had to do that too, so I’m in good company.  At least it gave me the opportunity to design two slightly different covers, representing the increasing extent and penetration of Charley Banks’s power and “infestation” throughout the course of the story.

I’m afraid the official release date of Unanimity Book 2 on Amazon is September 21, 2020 instead of September 22, which was what I wanted…but in order for it to be available by September 22, I had to put it into the process on the 21st, because there’s always a delay…and indeed, I received the notification that it was, in fact, ready only on the morning of the 22nd.  So, it appeared to the public, as it were, on the first day of Autumn (in the north) and on Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, which was what I wanted.

In the meantime, I decided to release—officially—my song Catechism, which is now available for your listening pleasure on Amazon, on Spotify, on YouTube/YouTube Music, and on oodles of other venues, most of which I’ve never used.  I posted a version of it on YouTube previously, and I think on one or both of my blogs, but this is the “official” version, from each play of which I get a modicum of royalties, so of course I encourage you to put it on your own favorite song playlists!  It has new, official “cover art” with which I’m reasonably happy, and which you can see below.  The song opens with some sound effects made by recording and then splitting, overlapping, stretching, and partly reversing various noises from the office in which I work.  I could dream up convincing explanations for how that all fits into the theme of the song, but honestly, I really just did it for fun.

As I announced I would last week (I think), I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, rereading and editing as I go, improving the language and whatnot, and enjoying the story quite a bit.  Weirdly enough, it also takes place in a university, though the university in this case is plainly and rather blatantly an alternate-universe version of my own undergrad alma mater, which is not the case in Unanimity.  I suppose it makes sense that one writes about situations drawn from memorable times in one’s life, and of course, I started writing The Vagabond originally when I was in university.  You don’t have to have attended college to enjoy it, though.  Even more so than with Unanimity, the college and the town in The Vagabond are just the setting for a battle between universal good and evil.  It’s a much more straightforward story, with far less moral ambiguousness and ambivalence than is found in Unanimity.

I was so young and innocent then.

Really, though, it is a fun story, I think—but then, I would, wouldn’t I—and I’m looking forward to finishing its tweaking and editing and fixing up.  Then, at last, I’ll be able to return to and complete the story of poor Timothy Outlaw, which has also become longer than I would have imagined when I first came up with the story idea.  I think I sometimes get carried away, but whataya gonna do?  You can’t count on anyone else to write the stories you want the way you want them written, so if you want to read them—and to let other people read them—you’ve got to write them yourself, in your own way.  Ditto with music, I suppose, though with that it’s much more—for me—just enjoying the amazement of the fact that I can do it at all, rather like a dog that learns to read, write, and speak.  It’s not that he does it well, it’s that he does it that matters.  Which is not to say that I don’t think my songs are worth a listen—I think they are—but I would never claim to be as good a composer/songwriter/performer/producer as I am an author.

Opinions surely vary on all such things.  Heck, I think Hemingway is (slightly) overrated, though my father thought he was fantastic.  And although A Christmas Carol is a brilliant story, I couldn’t actually force my way though Oliver Twist despite my best efforts and the fact that I was familiar with the story.  This from someone who’s read The Silmarillion about a dozen times.  So, everything succumbs to taste at some level.

Except Shakespeare.  If you think you’re unfamiliar with Shakespeare, and you live in an English-speaking culture, you’re simply incorrect.  A significant fraction of the metaphors and sayings and expressions we still use on a regular basis come from Shakespeare, and a remarkable number of our words are first found in his works*.  His influence is something even the Beatles could only dream of (though perhaps, over the course of the next four centuries, they will achieve a comparable degree of long-lasting influence).

With that, as usual, I’ve written more than I expected to write again.  For me, at least, writing is easier than talking to people, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me.  All things in the universe follow the principle of least action (or so it seems), but sometimes “least action” can be a misleading term.  I think of it instead as the vector addition of all the various “forces” acting on us at any given moment, in some vast phase space of such forces, with a potentially limitless number of dimensions and parameters.  For all that, it’s still just head to tail addition of vectors, and we go where the net “force” pushes us.  Which, right now, in my case, is to make me finish this blog post.

TTFN

catechism cover


*This doesn’t mean he invented them; he may just have been the earliest one to use such words in a form that was recorded and endured.  After all, as David Mitchell has pointed out, Shakespeare had to have a pretty good idea that his audience would know what he was talking about, so he couldn’t have just made stuff up willy-nilly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

TTFN

Unanimity Cover Project


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

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

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

The desire is boundless and the blog a slave to limit.

Hello and good morning! It’s Thursday again, which means that, for those of you whose level of masochism far exceeds any possible good sense, it’s time to read another of my weekly blog posts.  Hallelujah!

I’ll try to resist saying much about what’s happening in the world or, more particularly, here in South Florida, but of course, the news is even worse than usual…which is saying quite a lot.  I’d like to be optimistic and speculate that, while things are pretty bad now, regression to the mean suggests that they’ll tend to be at least a bit better over coming weeks and months.

However, optimism isn’t my strong suit, and it’s all too possible that events prior to more recent times have been the atypically good ones and that what we’re experiencing now—which feels like a dip or a downturn—is the actual regression to the mean.  Not that I want to make you feel bad or anything; I’d actually be quite pleased if everyone was upbeat, conscientious, productive, happy, and (quietly) energetic.  I just tend to approach life with an implicit view that, if you’re expecting the worst, the only surprises you’ll get will be good ones.

Maybe I am optimistic after all!

Anyway, in my little corner of reality, things are proceeding more or less as planned.  Unanimity continues to approach its completion.  I’m currently working on the final editing of Part 4 (of 4 parts) of the story, and we’re working on the cover design and the layout and so forth.  It really shouldn’t be much longer.  I doubt that it’ll be ready by the end of July, but August is looking pretty good.

After that, I can go back to a couple of other things I’m working on.  First, I have a new song that I’ve been very gradually developing (I haven’t wanted to let it interfere with Unanimity) that I should be able to put together completely and record and produce and mix and all that stuff.  Then I need to decide whether to release more singles or just to gather everything I have together into an album…though even with this new song it would only have six songs, which feels lame to me*.  If any of you have any preferences, I’d love to hear from you, but I recognize that it’s unlikely that anyone much cares one way or the other.

After that—or more likely contemporaneously—I’m going to go back and finish a novella that I started in the middle of writing Unanimity, as I had done for a few of my recent short stories.  I’m still looking for a title for the story, since I don’t think the working title is good enough, but that’s fine.  I’m sure I’ll come up with something satisfactory; I’m pretty good with titles.

Then, rather than release that novella separately, I’m going to put it together with all my short stories that are currently available only in Kindle format and publish them as Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities***.  There shouldn’t be nearly as long a wait for that as there has been for Unanimity.  It might very well be out before the end of the year, though probably not in time for Halloween, alas.  Anyway, it’ll be in both Kindle and paperback form, so for those of you who prefer a “real” book to read—a preference with which I deeply sympathize—it will have that advantage.

That’s pretty much all that’s happening with me.  Seriously.  I’m extremely boring, even though I live in “interesting times”.  I think I’ve said it before, but this blog is literally the most social thing I do.  I think you’ll find, when you read the novel, that at least one or two of the characters in Unanimity channel that aspect of me, though of course, the horror of the story is something that’s almost the opposite—and yet, it’s also the same.  I’m not sure how even I interpret the message of the tale, if there is one, and I’m the one who wrote it.  I guess in a very long book, which it is, there can be many explorations of potentially contradictory or at least conflicting notions.  I don’t know if that’s interesting or boring.  Perhaps—and this would be weirdly delicious—it’s both.  I guess you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself.

TTFN


*Even though a few of the songs are longish, with those six, I think it’s likely to be only about a half hour in full duration.  The Dark Side of the Moon is just shy of 43 minutes, Abbey Road is 47 minutes, Synchronicity is 39 or 44 minutes depending on which version you’re playing, and Sergeant Pepper is roughly 40 minutes.  Animals is 41 minutes long, and it only has 5 songs!  Four, if you take the 2 parts of Pigs on the Wing as one, which I like to do**.  Perhaps I’m setting high standards of comparison, but why do otherwise?  If I’m going to meet those standards, though, I’m going to need to record a good two more songs beyond the one I’m already talking about.  I have the roots of such songs available, but…it’s a lot of work writing, recording, producing, and mixing songs all by yourself in your spare time, without any expensive equipment.

**If you’ve never heard this album, please go listen to it.  It’s amazing.

***See what I mean about me and titles?

And every tongue blogs in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.

Okay, well, welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  This being the second Thursday in July, this would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, which ran briefly, way back when, but which was stopped after not many people seemed to read it.  This surprised me, given the fact that so many people are so interested in the great villains of popular fiction:  Sauron, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos, Darth Vader, and so on, to say nothing of the quintessential dastard from whom I cribbed the title of this post.  I guess people often follow such characters on the DL, as a kind of guilty pleasure, and openly reading or talking about them is not as popular.

Oh, well.  I’ve been disappointed by the lack of popularity of that series, but the world is hard, and it’s under no obligation to conform to my expectations, let alone my hopes.

This fact was driven home yet again for me last week with the difficulty relating to my “single” Schrödinger’s Head, which had to be delayed because of restrictions on the word content of the cover art.  I quickly and easily (but not without grumbling) altered the cover to remove the warped opening lines of the song, and then adjusted the rest for better balance.  I also changed the official title of the song to include the umlaut.  This latter bit didn’t bother me nearly so much, especially since I’d already used an umlaut made from a tiny white cat’s head and a tiny black cat’s head above the “o” in the graphic (see below).  I’m not sure the umlaut in the official title was necessary—it’s hard for me to imagine that being something distributors and song sharing and selling sites would notice much—but it was satisfying, unlike the removal of my opening lyrics.

Bottom line, in short order, once my corrections were made, the song was distributed and has gone live and is now available for your listening pleasure on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube Music, and numerous other venues of which I know the names of only a few, such as TikTok.  If anyone listens on one of those other venues, please let me know; I’d love to share the link.

The song is a folk-rock style, lighthearted, silly thing in which the singer (me) asks various binary questions, mostly about what the titular physicist might be thinking, arriving at the lamentable conclusion that nobody knows.  There’s a little more to it than that, including some deliberately contradictory wordplay, but it’s not supposed to be deep or to carry any message (unlike my previous release, Like and Share, which involves heartfelt, sad commentary about one aspect of social media).  The main guitar sounds are mostly “clean”, since I was really just learning to use it, and that’s part of what gives it the folk-tune feel.  I think.

Anyway, have a listen if you’re so inclined (though you won’t actually know if you are or not until you listen, and then the wave function will have collapsed…Ha Ha Ha!).

In other news, of course, Unanimity continues to hurtle toward completion, though never quite as quickly as I hope.  I, however, am schooled not to rely on the specifics of my hopes too much.  The Tao te Ching counsels us to act without expectation, and I think that’s very good advice, though not as simple as it might seem at a superficial glance*.

Anyway, my novel moves ever nearer to release, and I at least am excited about it.  It’s not for the faint of heart, though.  If you’re the sort of person who requires trigger warnings for anything at all, they are all hereby given.  I am not trying to avoid traumatizing you with this book; quite the contrary.

Not that traumatizing you is the point—or at least not the main one.  The main point is to tell a story about what happens when an innocent college student—Charley Banks—takes part in a neuroscience experiment at his university, has a seizure in an MRI machine during the process, and in the aftermath develops a seemingly impossible, potentially limitless, paranormal power to take over other people’s bodies and minds with just a touch.  Unfortunately, in the process he also appears to have suffered damage to his moral compass**, and he begins to do truly terrible and horrifying things with his new ability—things no one else could ever recognize as his handiwork.

What could be the nature and source of this impossible ability?  How can Charley be cured and/or stopped?  Can he be cured and/or stopped?  Will anyone even figure out what’s happening in time to do anything at all about it, if anything can be done?  How could you even detect a danger that potentially comes from all the people you know and love?

And will Vanessa ever be able to get Brad to notice and return her feelings, or will her poor, lonely, yearning heart be broken***?

Some of these questions—and others not mentioned—will be answered in Unanimity.  Some will remain mysteries.  To find out more, you’ll have to read the book.

TTFN

transformed s head cover no words2


*I urge you to look into it.  It’s not religion, though a religion has been made from it; as I see it, it’s really a book of practical philosophy in the form of 81 very short, evocative poem-oids.

**Or it could just be power corrupting, and corrupting fast, or revealing and releasing a side to Charley that was always present, or perhaps some dark, supernatural force is at work.  Who can say which it is?  Well, I can, of course, but I’m not saying, at least not here.

***Okay, that last question has nothing at all to do with the novel.  I don’t know where that comes from.  There are no such characters in my book.

I have supped full with horrors. Direness, familiar to my slaughterous blogs, cannot once start me.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday and to my weekly blog post.  Also, welcome to July.  In the United States, it’s now two days before Independence Day (popularly and rather unimaginatively called “The Fourth of July” by many or perhaps most Americans, but I prefer “Independence Day” as it reminds us what the holiday is about).  One could, if one wished, call today “Independence Eve Eve,” but I doubt that’s going to catch on.

Not much new is going on this week, other than the fact that I am trying to release another single, Schrodinger’s Head.  I was hoping to be able to share links to it in today’s blog post.  However, there is apparently some issue of non-concordance between the cover art and the song name—though, as the one who made both, I’m not sure what the problem is.  Hopefully, it won’t entail any significant rearrangement of the cover I designed, because I quite like it as it is now (see below).  Among other things, I used a tiny black cat’s head (a picture—no real cats were harmed in the making of the graphic, anymore than any real cats are harmed in the canonical “Schrodinger’s cat” thought experiment) next to an otherwise identical white cat’s head to make the umlaut above the “o” in Schrodinger’s name.

It’s possible that this is the issue, and I need to use the umlaut in the official title, making it Schrödinger’s Head.  This wouldn’t be a bad thing, as I believe it is the more correct way to spell the great man’s name, but I wasn’t sure it would be usable in that form on all sites on which it would be available.  Perhaps I underestimate the breadth of available ASCII characters in modern sites, having been born into the computer world with an Apple II+ back in the early ‘80s.

I’m sure the problem is easily solvable, but my frustration tolerance has shrunk precipitously over the years—I think that’s supposed to trend in the opposite direction in most people; I’m not sure why it is as it is with me*—so I was positively fuming this morning when I found out.

Oh, well.

More importantly, Unanimity is proceeding swiftly.  I’m more than halfway through the final edit and a nearly equivalent amount of the layout.  I continue to enjoy the process, and in fact I chafed at the fact that I needed to write this blog post today instead of working on the novel.  Still, this weekly blog is a pattern long in the making, and I’m not going to let myself off it just because I’m impatient.  My frustration tolerance may have diminished, but I’m still fairly good at not indulging myself too much in momentary urges.  Hopefully, I won’t lose that strength as time goes by.

I think that Unanimity is a good book, and I think readers will enjoy it…though I expect it will horrify them at many points, and probably not always in ways that they might expect.  It’s certainly not a gothic style horror by any means, despite my previous jokes about it making a better Halloween than Christmas gift.

In a way, you could call it a pseudo-science-fiction horror story, as the causes of the terrible events in it are not overtly supernatural, but are the products of something having gone wrong in the course of normal scientific exploration.  In this, I suppose, it’s more of the Frankenstein family than the Dracula family, but with no anti-science cautionary intent**.  In fact, deep in the dungeons of my mind, as the author, I suspect there may be darker forces at work behind the seeming science-gone-wrong of the story.  I even threw in a brief cameo by a figure from one of my decidedly supernatural short stories, Hole for a Heart, to hint that all may not be quite as it seems.

Of course, I’ve long contended that the very term “supernatural” is superfluous, since anything that exists is, by definition***, part of nature.  So, anything that actually happens to characters and things in my stories is, in their universe, natural, however paranormal it may seem, and there is some underlying “science” to it, though it may be forever unknown.  There must be “laws of magic” just as there are laws of physics, or else no actual phenomena of any consistent kind would be produced.

In fact, one of my ongoing (and only) disappointments about the Harry Potter books is that there isn’t more exploration—perhaps via Dumbledore and/or Hermione—of what magic is and how it works in that world.  I don’t fault J. K. Rowling; that just wasn’t what her stories were about, and it probably would have been a distraction for most readers of what were, nominally, children’s books.

I’d love to know her thoughts on the matter, though.

With that, I think I’ve said and digressed enough.  Hopefully, before this time next week, Schrödinger’s Head will be available for your listening pleasure on many venues.  I’m afraid I took it off YouTube in anticipation of its release, so if you want to hear it, you’ll have to wait a bit.  My apologies.  Still, it’s useful, in these quite troubled times, to have something to which to look forward, and though they may be small consolations, I can at least offer you a song and a story to anticipate.

TTFN

what's going on bigger


*One might think that, having gone through quite a few severe and extreme frustrations and setbacks in life would make one more tolerant of minor impasses, but the process seems more like chronic pain—the nerves involved get potentiated by repetitive and persistent stimulation and so are more sensitive and harder to shut down.  At least, that’s my hypothesis.

**Newton forbid!

***By my definition, anyway.