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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

better chronic logo


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do please let me know, when the time comes.

TTFN

Face less 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

TTFN

Unanimity Cover Project


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

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

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

This blog of love, by summer’s ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, which always seems to happen soon after Wednesday, at least here in the English-speaking world.  I have heard the shocking tale that there are some other places that seem not to have those specific days.  One wonders how they remember when to read my weekly blog posts!

I hope you all had a lovely Summer Solstice.  It’s June 25th today, which means that there are “exactly” 6 months until Christmas, for those of you who celebrate it.  Being at the midway point, this date probably serves nicely as a measure of a person’s optimism.  Whether you say to yourself, “Only six more months until Christmas!” with an anticipatory grin (perhaps noting that it wouldn’t be bad to start thinking of gift ideas), or whether you instead dwell on the fact that you are now as far away in the year from that joyous holiday as it is possible to be, probably could be used to predict your attitude about a great number of other things.

Of course, you won’t have to wait nearly six months for the release of Unanimity—barring some personal catastrophe on my part—so that’s at least a crumb of comfort even for the most ruthlessly pessimistic.  Those of you who are already thinking of Christmas shopping for your loved ones could do worse than to order a copy or two when it comes out to give as gifts (though it might be better suited as a Halloween present).  I dare say that it should even be out well in time to begin reading it on or before the date on which the story begins*.  The final editing, layout, and planning for the release are going strongly and smoothly.  If I had more free time—and more free energy—I could probably get it all done within the next month, but I don’t expect that goal to be quite achievable.  That is, unless someone out there wants to option the movie rights (sight unseen) for the book and will give me a large lump sum payment for that option.  It would probably be best as a mini-series, since it’s quite a long story, and I don’t see how it could all fit into even an Avengers: Endgame length movie.  But perhaps that’s a personal bias.

Anyway, it’s going well.

My music is going well, too.  As you know, my single Like and Share is now up on Spotify and is available on iTunes and on Amazon.  It’s also either now available or will soon be available through numerous other platforms internationally, but I’m not as certain of the links and whatnot to those.  If I become aware, of course, I’ll be happy to share them.

I’ve been trying to think through where to go from here with respect to music, and I’d welcome feedback from any readers who have an opinion on the matter.  My internal conflict revolves around whether to proceed as originally planned and release one or two more singles in the coming weeks and months, then to release a full album of my songs, or whether to release them all as singles, one by one.  After all, though I have a deep love of great albums and of consuming music in that form, I can’t deny that the advent of music sites such as mentioned above, and the general digital availability of the music, raises the question of whether releasing an album is the best way to go.  It’s not as though it would be any kind of “concept album”.

I’ve heard (but cannot be certain) that “Weird Al” Yankovic is planning on mostly releasing singles in the future rather than putting together albums, for reasons much like my thoughts above.  I’m no “Weird Al”, obviously, and he’s also not the measure of all things, even if the above rumor is true.  Still, he’s a very savvy individual, and one could do worse than to pay attention to what he’s doing.

As I think I’ve mentioned, I am developing some new songs currently.  Nothing has been recorded on any of them yet—except some musical notes and lyrics on paper, of course—and I probably won’t be doing much more than that until after Unanimity comes out, unless I need a mental break, and/or find the urge irresistible.

I do seem to require at least some form of “new” creative activity as a bulwark against depression, and editing Unanimity has led to my longest run of not writing anything new since perhaps 2013 or 2014.  Also, writing is my oldest persistent love.  But writing music seems to produce the desired psychological benefit almost as much as writing fiction, so it’s been quite useful to me during the long revision/editing process of Unanimity.  All this is what I do in lieu of having close, fulfilling relationships with other human beings, since I’m apparently unpleasant to be around for any prolonged time period.

I’m sure you can all readily imagine why that might be so.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on this week with me.  I’ll be releasing Schrodinger’s Head as my next official single, but that won’t be for at least several weeks.  I think.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all as happy and healthy as it’s possible to be given the current state of public affairs.  I’d wish for you to be even happier than possible, but that would be a silly and contradictory wish, so I’ll abstain.  Not that I’m any more averse to wishing for the impossible than the next person, I’m just…more prone than average to accept and internalize the inherent impossibilities.

TTFN


*Though, unless you have a time machine, you won’t be able to preempt the literal starting date, since the story begins on Thursday, September 14th, 2017.  But you know what I mean.

The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday.  I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks.  I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.

First, an update:  I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun.  I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long.  If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied.  However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far.  It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far.  Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes.  Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.

Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.*  I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university.  But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural.  There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).

It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.”  Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories.  Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.**  Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).

I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.

I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works.  I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.

Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college.  It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades.  I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices.  Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in?  What the heck did he take out?”

Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world.  Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained.  Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one.  I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them.  They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them.  I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.

Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel.  At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books.  It’s a freeing thought.

Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I?  I think it’s probably more than enough.  I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending:  If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual.  Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them.  Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it.  I think so, anyway.

TTFN


*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.

**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.

Mark Red

Mark Red Cover

Click here to see on Amazon

Demi-Vampire:

Mark Reed is an ordinary teenage boy. When he sees a woman being attacked, he rushes to help her, only to be stabbed by her assailant. But the woman he sought to aid was a vampire, and as he lies, bleeding to death in an alley, he sees her deal easily with her attacker. Then, unwilling to let him die because of the heroism of his actions, she saves his life…the only way she can.

The next day, Mark awakens to find that he has been changed in ways he could not have believed, potentially forever. Now he must hide his new nature from his family and friends, learning about his powers and the dangers they entail, and looking for a cure for his new condition. All the while he must guard against his nearly irresistible blood-lust, for if he should kill a human by draining their blood, he will become a full vampire.

And a full vampire can never be cured, even by death.

Now is the summer of our discontent made glorious winter by this blog post

Hello, good Thursday to you.  A very Happy Winter Solstice to all, and to all the longest night of the year.  At first glance that may not seem like something one ought to celebrate, yet cultures all around the northern hemisphere have celebrated it for time out of mind.  Mainly, I think, we revel in the fact that “this is as bad as it’s going to get.”  It’s actually one of the most festive times of the year, and that festive spirit is both an act of defiance of the darkness and a celebration of the imminent return of greater light.

Of course, as someone who writes mainly dark fiction (even my sci fi and my attempts at humor are quite shadowy), it might seem odd that I should celebrate the return of longer days.  But even most of the darkest stories tend to be about the struggle against the (metaphorical) nighttime, and the triumph of the light.

In long stories, at least, it’s generally necessary to come to a conclusion wherein the light triumphs and/or holds back the darkness.  There are exceptions, of course, many of them found in more “realistic” fiction, but the vast majority of novels end with the good guys winning, or at least with the bad guys losing.  This is understandable.  It’s a hell of a thing to journey through a story that’s 120,000 words long (and often quite a bit longer, as my novels tend to be), only to find that in the end everything goes to shit.  It’s even more terrible if the story is a series of novels.

Just imagine, for instance, that you finish reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” only to find that in the end Harry dies, and Voldemort wins.  Not only would it be a bummer—even if you’re a fan of good bad guys, as I am—but it would also make you unlikely to read the books again, or to recommend them to a friend.  It’s just too hard to undertake a seven-book odyssey knowing that your beloved heroes lose.  Of course, you always consider the possibility that they might lose as you read the books for the first time, and J.K. Rowling pulls no punches in having terrible things happen to characters we have grown to love.  But you nevertheless read her books, and others, with the optimism born of experience, that in the end, even if things aren’t exactly “happily ever after,” at least the immediate evil will have been contained or destroyed.  Our heroes sometimes come to a peaceful, productive life at the far end of their trials, à la Harry Potter; sometimes, they pay what seems an unendurable price for the benefit of defeating evil (poor Roland Deschain!).  But we can be reasonably safe in the assumption that, though all may not be well, the immediate threat will have been overcome.

This is just one of the advantages fiction has over reality.

On the other hand, one of the great, fun things about short stories is that the good guys don’t necessarily win in the end.  Short stories don’t even have to end with the bad guys losing.  In fact, they may end with everything just about as bad as it can possibly be.  In this, short stories really are Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, and sometimes it’s a box of chocolates made by Monty Python’s Whizzo Chocolate Company, where the best you can hope for is a Cherry Fondue that’s extremely nasty (but we can’t prosecute you for that), and you might just get a Crunchy Frog, a Cockroach Cluster, a Ram’s Bladder Cup, an Anthrax Ripple, or even a Spring Surprise (“covered in dark, velvety chocolate, the moment you pop it into your mouth, stainless steel bolts spring out and plunge straight through both cheeks”).

“Where’s the pleasure in that?” as Inspector Praline understandably exclaims, and you may well share his sentiments.  But…there is pleasure in that, at least in the metaphorical version of it that is the dark short story with no happy ending.  And I’m not quite sure why, but I really enjoy writing (short) stories that summon the shade of Jim Morrison, taunting, “No one here gets out alive.”

(Yes, we are mixing not merely metaphors and genres, but entire art forms here.  Don’t worry.  We can handle it.  We are large, we contain multitudes.)

Speaking of short stories:  I am almost ready to release “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” on Kindle, in a newer, better version than the one I posted here.  I know it’s taking a long time, but as I’ve said before, this would go a lot faster if enough people bought my books that I could survive by writing full time (hint, hint).

For those who didn’t get the chance to read “Ifowonco” here on this blog, I’m going to make you wait and find out on your own whether the story is a lovely English Toffee or a Spring Surprise.  Either one can we wonderful.  Like Mr. Milton (the owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company), I’m very proud of my creations, and like him I use no artificial additives or preservatives of any kind.  I will warn you, though, that even at my most sugary, I don’t tend to create purely light and sweet things; even my brightest creations use dark chocolate.

All right, enough with the frikking candy metaphors.  Jesus!

In closing, I want to once again put out a request for feedback on the possibility of creating “Author’s Notes” for my published works, and posting them—with clear identification—as “reviews” on Amazon, hopefully for the benefit of those considering buying the books.  As far as I can tell, this is allowable within Amazon’s guidelines.

Of course, an alternative to this would be posting my author’s notes here, on this very blog.  In a way, that’s what the blog is, after all:  A sort of weekly author’s note.  I’m fine with that idea, and I think it might be fun to write the notes and post them here, but they would really only be useful for those who already read the blog; they wouldn’t provide any benefit for someone shopping through Amazon.  So, I do think the idea of doing such a note/review might be good, but I’m leery of undertaking such a thing if people would consider it to be in very bad taste.  I’m willing to do things in bad taste, but very bad taste is worth avoiding, I think.  Which is why I recommend the Crunchy Frog over the Cherry Fondue.

Please take care when buying your sweeties, please do enjoy the advent of longer days to come, and please give me your opinion, if you have one, on the author’s note idea.

TTFN