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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

Thanksgiving (2)


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

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

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

Were such things here as we do blog about? Or have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again—a week before Thanksgiving in the US—and thus it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Given the upcoming holiday, I probably won’t be putting out a blog post next week, but it’s possible that I will.  That will be a decision for the Robert of Thursday, November 26, 2020, and I’m not him yet.

It’s been a somewhat tumultuous week, locally at least, for me.  Business has been slow, and there’s been a relatively high degree of absenteeism at work.  I think both facts are largely due to the current chaos in the social and political climate.  Much of the chaos ought to be unnecessary, but many things in the world are not as they “ought” to be, whatever you think that “ought” entails.

At least one person in my office has come down with Covid-19, confirmed by testing and highly specific symptoms, though thankfully it was/is a mild case.  Also, my housemate appears to have come down with it.  He’s got some flu-like symptoms and whatnot, but again, it doesn’t seem to be a severe case.  I, on the other hand, despite the fact that I am a wistful admirer—and even occasionally a stalker—of my own mortality, feel pretty much fine, or at least as well as usual.  My comparative health may be due in part to the fact that I am the only person in my office who consistently wears a mask*, and as a trained physician, I tend to wash my hands frequently and thoroughly.  I am, in addition, both voluntarily and involuntarily, a dab hand at social distancing.

Nonetheless, I did get myself tested yesterday morning, and I’ll have the results within a few days.  Then I’ll know whether I feel basically fine because I am one of the low-to-no symptom people with the virus, or whether it’s because I don’t have it (yet).  Whatever my attitude toward my own health and well-being, knowledge is generally preferable to ignorance.  Ignorance can only be bliss if there are no potential threats in one’s environment that knowledge could allow one to prepare against (whatever might be the nature of such threats or of that which is being threatened).  And, of course, without knowledge, one cannot know whether there are such threats…though a good starting assumption seems to be that, yes, there are.  There always are.

Existence wends a narrow path through phase space, with the infinitely high walls of reality on either side.  If you don’t do your best to steer your course in parallel with reality’s general direction, sooner or later you will collide with it.  And when you collide with reality, reality always wins.  That’s one of the ways you know that it’s reality; it doesn’t change to suit your convenience, your preference, or your beliefs.

Anyway, things in the world right now, both locally and globally, are certainly apt for a writer of horror fiction**.  Given that, it should be no surprise that The Vagabond is going well, and the editing process is achieving at least some of its goal, which is to improve the quality of the written work.  I’m still enjoying the story, and I feel more and more again that it really is my book, which at first it almost didn’t seem to be, since I had first written it so long ago.

It’s amusing to be editing a story in which the characters have to worry about missing phone calls because they’re away from their apartments, and in which they need to seek out pay phones or campus phones to call each other.  It’s likewise amusing to have characters learn of dire events in their world by reading a daily newspaper, since their TV is only inconsistently operational, and they don’t have cable.

Were such things really here as we do speak about?  Yes, it seems they were.  Reading my own story brings many memories rather vividly back to my mind.  Maybe it will do so for you if and when you get a chance to read it.  I hope so.  It feels a bit odd to think of the late-eighties/early-nineties as simpler times (they were quite chaotic for me, frankly), but as a matter of the creation and processing of information in human society, they certainly were.  The rate at which “stuff” happens has increased roughly in accord with Moore’s Law, though much of that stuff is effectively noise.  I suspect the overall signal-to-noise ratio in society has diminished significantly over time, but whether the signal has gone down enough no longer to be growing exponentially***, or even linearly, is a question about which I don’t have a strong sense of the right answer.

And with that flagrant declaration of my own ignorance, I’ll draw this meandering blog post to a close, which probably won’t disappoint you.  I hope you all do your best to stay well, both physically and mentally.  Keep reading, of course, and try to keep your spirits up.

TTFN

Narrow maze


*Because, after all, the masks do more to protect others from oneself than oneself from others, and whatever my own willingness to embrace a potentially life-threatening disease, I do not have the right to enforce that upon others.  This is a point that frustrates, disgusts, and angers me at those around me a lot of the time.  I have deep contempt for their irrational selfishness and willingness to endanger others needlessly, which they disguise as a declaration of freedom or some other political or philosophical ideal—at least to themselves—but which in fact appears to be simply the expression of laziness…and of intellectual and moral cowardice.

**Not that it’s the only thing I write, but I do tend to turn and return to it a lot.

***Even if it’s slower than Moore’s Law, it could still be growing exponentially, just with a longer doubling time.  Or it could be growing linearly, or staying constant, or decreasing linearly, or even falling off exponentially, though the latter seems unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

Do it


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

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

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

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

Let us be Diana’s foresters, bloggers of the shade, minions of the moon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and another weekly edition of my blog.  Also, welcome to November of 2020, which—like other Novembers in leap years—is a time of some turbulence in the US.  I will make no further comment here about the specifics of that, however; enough, and probably far too much, has been said and is being said about it by others.

I don’t have much new to report today, so this posting may be brief…though, I often say this at the start and end up running off at the word processor nevertheless, whether or not I really have anything of substance to say.  This seems to be a common human tendency, and I am not immune to it.

Yesterday, I recorded one of my “audio blogs”, which I guess could be called a podcast of sorts*, as a follow-up to the post I wrote in Iterations of Zero a little over a week ago.  However, when I started to edit it, I soon lost interest.  It meandered too much, and there was too much required editing of breath sounds, of “ums”, of coughs, and especially of “but…”s, which I appear to use far too often to preface a new thought or tangent.

Maybe I was just not in a sound-editing mood, and if I come back to it, I’ll feel more sanguine.  I also am not sure whether anyone even listens to such things, anyway, even if I keep them short.  (Any feedback from my readers, or listeners, or whatever, would be helpful in guiding my future decisions about such things.)  For now, though, I think I’m going to put that on hold.  Unfortunately, writing new, additional posts is hard to work into my schedule, though writing is more natural to me than speaking.  I’m just pretty exhausted most days, as it is, and adding new things to my schedule feels like a herculean undertaking.

Sorry to be a downer.  I’m sure it’s a blog truism that more people will read posts that are upbeat and cheerful-seeming than otherwise, just as in real life people gravitate more to those who seem to be positive and enthusiastic.  This doesn’t of course mean that “those” people really are positive or cheerful.  Often, we force ourselves to behave (or to write) as if we were feeling positive, for the very purpose of trying to gather a surrounding batch of friends, or readers, or what-have-yous.  We’re not “allowed” to show our sadness or depression; it’s a huge taboo.  Depression is contagious, after all, and the world is already a hard-enough place without someone bringing you down.

On the other hand, pretending everything is great isn’t necessarily advisable, because the world doesn’t take your expectations or attitude into account in that vector space of forces which determine events, contrary to much popular delusion.  Not that optimism is always delusional—rational optimism and belief in possibility is fine as long as it doesn’t stray into overconfidence and unwarranted certainty.  As Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, confidence and accuracy do not correlate well.

Is my confidence in that fact a self-contradiction?  Have I caught myself by the tail?  I don’t think so**.  My confidence is provisional, my attitude deliberately modeled on the scientific method.  Let your conclusions and convictions be based as much as you can on evidence and reason, and always leave them, at least in principle, open to revision.  And, if you have the stomach for it, always try to poke holes in your own conclusions.  Ideas that survive constant criticism and prodding are more likely to be closer to truth than those that are never subject to criticism.  This is the root not merely of the scientific method, but also of the defense of freedom of speech as argued in John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and in many other places.   I’ve encountered no arguments that have even slightly swayed me away from it.

I’m pretty good at self-criticism, of course.  It seems built into me at a more basic level than even my operating system; in the hardware, not the software.  I take after Hamlet more and more as time goes by, it seems, wearing dark clothing and reflecting on how stale, flat, and unprofitable are pretty much all the uses of the world (largely because I’m in it).  He was a bit of a downer, too, I guess.

My writing, though—albeit often dark—is not necessarily a downer.  For instance, I just finished the second run-through of The Vagabond, adding, adjusting, and hopefully improving it as I went along, and I think it’s a good story that ends on a positive note.  One thing I tend to do, despite my tongue-in-cheek “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, is to recognize that evil characters and things, the villains of my stories and of many others, are the most tragically self-deluded, fearful, and deeply unhappy people.  This doesn’t stop them from being dangerous.  I think that “evil” people—and certainly evil characters—tend to be the among the most alone, the most lost, the most despairing, the most deeply suffering in many ways, of all characters, and perhaps of all people.

One of the things I love about the anime Sailor Moon*** is that Usagi tends to win her battles, even against the Big Bad Guys, not by destroying her opponents—not if she can help it—but by redeeming them, and showing them that they are not alone.  Me, I’d tend more along the Sailor Saturn lines and be prone to wipe everything out and start over (I’ve even done that in some of my stories).  When Sailor Moon can’t avoid destroying someone, it breaks her heart.  But then, of course, “Our princess is such a crybaby,” as Sailor Uranus says, with affection and admiration.

That was a weird tangent, wasn’t it?  I did end up writing more than I expected (as I expected, ironically), but I’m not sure it really was about much or if it was expressed well.  ごめん ね すなお じゃなくて、 ゆめ の なか なら いえる****

I hope you’re all as well as can be, and that things go as best as possible for you, in the best of all possible lives you can lead.  Please try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Sailors Saturn and Moon


*Google seems to list such things as podcasts, if you do a search for my name, which is interesting.  I’ve never even owned an iPod, and I only briefly used an MP3 player before it was superseded by smartphones.

**But then, I wouldn’t, would I?

***I love it.  I, a fifty-one-year-old, American male, ex-convict, M.D., love Sailor Moon.  Sue me.

**** “Gomen ne sunao janakute, yume no naka nara ieru.”  Roughly translated, it says, “I’m sorry I can’t be clear/candid; I can say it in my dreams.”  It’s the opening line to “Moonlight Densetsu”, the Sailor Moon opening song (at least for the first four seasons).

When shall we three blog again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Hello and good morning—so to speak—and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I suspect that this week’s writing will be affected by the fact that I got thoroughly soaked on my way into work today and am thus rather uncomfortable.  So much for weather reports of “light rain”.  I won’t be able to get a change of clothes until I go home this evening, so I’m likely to be damp and sticky for most of the day.  I guess it could be much worse.  I guess it could always be much worse.  That’s one of the wonderful things about reality; it has no bottom level—it’s basements all the way down.

As you may be aware, I finished my “bad cover” of the Beatles’ You Never Give Me Your Money and posted a link to it here and directly shared it on Iterations of Zero.  Have a listen if you’re at all interested.  I have to apologize for the opening piano part, which—despite recording and rerecording five times, and trying to adjust in many ways using the sound-editing software, I couldn’t get to sound quite right without either a real piano or a much more expensive electronic one than I have available.  I finally got frustrated and just gave up and left it with the best I had so far.  The rest of the song isn’t too bad, though, and the guitar parts were played on my very good Strat, which was built by my house-mate—who is a much better guitarist than I am—and is also very good at putting a guitar together and improving it.

I have now returned more or less fully to working on The Vagabond, the title of which contains a definite article that is still going to take me a long time to internalize.  I’m on the second run-through, and I’ve found that I need to alter or clarify a few things to get rid of some time-continuity issues that I never noticed when originally writing it.  This is pretty typical, though.  I’ve found it useful literally to keep a running tab of what the day and date is in my stories—at least the ones where such a thing is pertinent—to make sure I don’t create too many embarrassing accidental contradictions.

It’s peculiar that the time of year in this story is almost the same as that in Unanimity.  I guess I implicitly think that horror in a university setting should start in the fall, early in the academic year.  Those who have been to university might think it would be more appropriate to put the real horror at the time of final exams, but somehow, I have yet to do so.  Maybe I feel that it’s too unfair to interrupt students who are studying and cramming, since that can be stressful enough.

I have to say—referring to the above-mentioned soaking—I’m getting sick of the weather here in Florida.  It’s been raining almost nonstop for a period of, oh, let’s see…forever, I think.  This is not an unusual pattern.  This tendency, in addition to the fact that there are no changing leaves in autumn—which I miss sorely, as I even miss wintertime*— is something without which I could do.  The meteorological patterns aren’t the only things wonky about Florida, though.  The politics here is/are frankly idiotic, as anyone who has followed the news since at least the year 2000 should know.  I don’t think that I would have spent three years as an invited guest of the DOC in any other state in which I’ve lived**; perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, as well as being too generous with myself***.

The natural beauty in Florida is, of course, stunning and remarkable, with much wildlife one doesn’t tend to see anywhere else in the US—including introduced species like the Burmese python and some very large iguanas, as well as numerous more indigenous reptiles and oodles of beautiful and amazing birds, insects, and arachnids.  But these and other natural wonders are all but driven into unnoticeability by that most problematic of introduced species:  The Naked House Ape, which is a terrible pest here.

I’m not in the best of moods, even for me, I’m afraid.  Apologies.

I still enjoy writing, at least (and the editing/rewriting process as well, though not quite as much as the initial composition), and that’s a very good thing, since it’s pretty much all I have****.  I really need to get back to posting on Iterations of Zero, so I can keep the relatively dark stuff (other than dark fiction) out of this blog.

But, of course, as I’ve said many times in many ways, there is a reason that a lot of what I write is dark and that most of my short stories are horror stories.  Even The Chasm and the Collision has its quite dark moments, being a fantasy adventure.  And I just finished rereading Son of Man, my science fiction novel, which has as one of its central points the previous, deliberate destruction of most of the human race in an event of “biblical” proportions, called the Conflagration.  Weirdly enough, my demi-vampire story, Mark Red, may be less dark than most of my other writings.

Ah, well, it is what it is.  Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge likes it.  It must be cheap; ninety five percent of the universe is made up of “dark” matter and “dark” energy, after all.  The ironically-named “ordinary matter”, such as what comprises us and everything we can actually see in any wavelength of light, constitutes a mere rounding error among the matter and energy of the cosmos—a very brief candle indeed.

On that cheery note, I’ll call it done for today.  Despite my gloomy demeanor, I wish all of you the best of all possible days and weeks and months and years.  Try to stay safe and healthy, please.

TTFN


*I grew up in Michigan, then did my undergraduate work in upstate New York, then lived in Chicago for two years before going to New York City for medical school—it was the warmest place I’d lived up until that point.  I’m okay with winter, though of course, it has its own issues.

**There’s a local saying that goes, “Florida:  Come on vacation, stay on probation!”

***Those who know me are probably aware that such is not my general habit or character, however.  If anything, I tend to treat myself far more harshly than I do anyone else.

****Plus, some “music”, including my amateurish covers and a few mediocre original compositions that are at least temporarily distracting for me, though many people would probably be just as happy not ever to have anything to do with them.

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.

My soul’s imaginary sight presents thy shadow to my sightless blog, which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, makes black night beauteous

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  Welcome also to a new month (October, obviously), the first day of what has always been—for various reasons—my favorite month.  A major contributor to that favoritism is that, at the end of October comes Halloween, which is my favorite holiday.  It’s also the beginning—in northern parts of the northern hemisphere, anyway—of the real onset of Autumn, with leaves changing colors and becoming heart-rendingly beautiful as they prepare to drop off the trees before Winter sets in.  Such magical Autumn visions have come to feel almost like the memories of fever dreams for me as I spend an ever-growing fraction of my life in southern Florida, the state referred to by Homer Simpson as America’s dong*.  There is no real Autumn here, though at least the weather becomes slightly less hot and humid as the year wanes.  Autumn and Spring—and even Winter, frankly—are the best times to be in Florida.  How ironic that the season when most people come to visit is during the months of “summer vacation”, when heat, humidity, and near-daily thunderstorms are the norm.

Speaking of Autumn—because it, like my most recently published work, takes place in Autumn—things are moving along nicely in The Vagabond.  I’ve nearly finished my first read-through/edit of the book, making many minor modifications as I go along, and I’m approaching the final confrontation of the story.  It’s quite a lot quicker to read than Unanimity, being only about a third as long.  That’s not an insult to Unanimity or a special compliment to The Vagabond, by the way.  Each book is as long as it must be.  The Vagabond is a simpler, more straightforward story, though its events happen on something of a larger scale than those of Unanimity and have even more dire potential consequences if things end up badly.

A somewhat humorous event took place earlier this week.   A coworker saw a hard copy of Unanimity Book 2, and she said her son loves to read, so she wanted to get a copy for him.  I asked her how old her son was, and she replied that he was eleven.  Now, I enthusiastically encourage kids of all ages to read, and the earlier they start, the better, but…well, apart from the fact that it would be bewildering to start reading Unanimity Book 2 before reading Unanimity Book 1, I had to tell her very clearly (and repeatedly, since she didn’t seem quite to believe me) that this really isn’t a book for eleven-year-olds.  Very bad things happen in it—it’s a horror story, after all—and as I’ve said in other circumstances, the type of horror in it is a very human type.  It’s nothing easily dismissible, like monsters under beds, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and the like.  I told her I would get a copy of Book 1 for her to read, and that she should read it, thoroughly, before deciding if her son was ready for it, which I doubt he is.

Then, quite happily, and without reservation, I recommended (and ordered for her) The Chasm and the Collision, a book specifically for and about people of her son’s age or only slightly older**.  She also noticed the cover of Mark Red on the screen while I was ordering CatC, and said her son likes stories about vampires and the like.  I wasn’t sure about this one.  If he’s a truly precocious eleven-year-old, such as I was, he might indeed enjoy it without any trouble, but it has its moments of deeper darkness, and some “mature themes”.  When she asked the leading question, “There’s no swearing in it, is there?”  I had to answer that, yes, there was, though I don’t think it’s excessive.  Of all my stories, I think the only one without any profanity at all—I could be wrong about this***—is The Chasm and the Collision, which I specifically kept free from expletives, following the wise advice of my father.

Anyway, with some hesitation, I ordered her a copy of Mark Red also, worrying because, well, the story opens with an attempted mugging/rape.  It’s a crime that goes very badly for the mugger/rapist—after going very badly for Mark Reed when he tries to intercede, thus leading to the story—because the would-be victim happens to be a vampire, Morgan****, who deliberately lures in such assaults to take their perpetrators as her prey.  After that plunge in at the deep end, things become a little less unwholesome, but it’s quite a start for a story.

Maybe I should just attach a blanket “trigger warning” of some kind that applies to everything I write.  This is my mind.  It’s not a safe space.  Not even for me.  Enter at your own risk.

On that cheery note, I think I’ll call it quits here for the week.  I’m continuing to work toward reinvigorating Iterations of Zero, so hopefully I’ll have something to share there, soon.  No matter what, though, I hope you all enjoy this most wonderful time of the year that we are entering, despite all that’s happening in the world.  Do your best to stay safe and healthy, and remember, human events are transitory, ephemeral, evanescent, short-lived, and redundant.  Don’t take them too seriously.

TTFN

full-14

[This is an old, and not very good, concept drawing I did of the above-mentioned opening of Mark Red]

*If you’ll pardon the observation, taking that metaphor in hand—so to speak—it doesn’t have the look of a perky, young body part, but rather of a fairly limp, aged, and dispirited one, shrinking over time as sea-levels slowly rise.  This certainly fits with the human aspect of the state, though its natural beauty is beyond question.  I think “The Governor”, aka Skink, of Carl Hiaasen’s books, would agree with me.

**My sister concurs that this is a good recommendation, and she thinks the boy will enjoy it greatly.  It’s her favorite of my books, and its primary protagonist, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  It’s hard for me to choose, but he’s certainly in the upper echelons of my preferences as well, and of course I am proud of the book.

***It occurs to me that I for one welcome our new computer overlords might not include any cursing.  That doesn’t make it a young kid’s story, of course, but it is rather pleasing for me to realize.  It’s simply a fact, after all, that I tend to write dark stories, and in dark situations, people often curse.  It’s no mere coincidence that Halloween is my favorite holiday.

****Morgan is probably my favorite character that I’ve written.  I just think she’s really cool.  I was absurdly delighted when Tony and Pepper named their daughter Morgan in Avengers: Endgame.  I even fantasized that they named her after my character.

Come, and take choice of all my library, And so beguile thy sorrow.

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and that means it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  It’s also a new month (September, 2020 AD or CE), and though that doesn’t have much bearing on the blog—now that I’ve long since discontinued “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”—it’s at least an indicator that time, as it tends to do, has continued to pass, or at least that our experience of it has continued, trapped as we are in the grip of the second law of thermodynamics.

My writing has continued well this week, but I’m falling prey to something I expected, but which I nevertheless find challenging:  now that I have the file of Vagabond—or as I am thinking of retitling it, The Vagabond—I’m torn between the process of working on Outlaw’s Mind (formerly Safety Valve) and rewriting/editing The Vagabond.  It’s particularly tempting to do the latter because, after so many years, finally to have the book thanks to the beneficence and munificence of my ex-wife, it’s hard to be patient about publishing it.  Though the risks of it being lost again are surely low, it’s still hard not to feel a combination of anxiety and excitement that pull me toward it.

I’m enjoying rereading it as I edit, since it’s been a very long time since I’ve had the chance.  I’m making changes as I go along—I think my skills as an author have improved significantly since I first wrote it, particularly in style and word choice.  Also, the original suffered from the erratic nature of my writing at the time, as I think I discussed last week.  It’s great fun meeting the characters again after so long; this is doubly so because at least a few of them are based on some of my university friends.  It’s also enjoyable to return to a time when no one was on the internet because there was no such thing (or if there was, it was restricted to very narrow uses relative to today).

I have no intention of trying to bring the story into the “modern” world.  It remains set in 1989, roughly, and will continue to remain there.

So, to balance my urges, I’ve been trying to make sure that I write about a thousand new words on Outlaw’s Mind daily before turning to The Vagabond, but it’s difficult to enforce that, and it makes the new writing more of a chore than it might be otherwise.  I’m going slightly against my principle of finishing one thing before moving on to another, a hard lesson I learned largely from Vagabond itself.  But this is a unique situation, so I’m giving myself at least a little bit of leeway.  I feel that it would almost be a sign of ingratitude to my ex-wife not to proceed quickly with Vagabond.  She always liked the story; she’s the only person other than I who has read it (as far as I know), and she always encouraged my writing.  She even used to say that it was one of the reasons she fell for me*, and that’s a statement worthy of some repayment in speedy effort.

Still, I already put off Outlaw’s Mind during the editing and rewriting of Unanimity, and I don’t want to leave it fallow yet again.  It’s a conundrum, but I suppose it’s not a bad one in which to be mired as an author; I’ve always had more ideas than I’ve ever had time to bring to fruition.  There are worse things

Another concern with which I’m dealing is how quickly Outlaw’s Mind is growing.  It’s already more than twice as long as, for instance, Of Mice and Men, and it’s about half as long as Vagabond so far.  I’m not yet near the end, either.  Even writing only a thousand words a day (which for me is fairly modest) it grows quickly.  I worry about it becoming too big to fit into Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I may have to turn into just a collection of short stories that have already been published individually.  (I plan to also include in it the author’s notes for the various stories, which appear on this blog, probably modified slightly, which will give it some extra meat).  I really did hope to put this original work in it as well, but I worry about making the final product too big and running into the problem I had with Unanimity**.  I guess I’ll have to see how things turn out.

I’ve had occasion to wonder whether my writing grows so much because I’m able to type so quickly when I write new fiction.  I haven’t clocked myself, but if I get going, it’s not too hard to put out two to three thousand words in a few hours of a morning, and that leads thing to expand rapidly.  The question is, do I write too much.  Might I be more parsimonious if I wrote in a more restrictive form, say by producing my original drafts long hand?  I did that for Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and for the “short” story Paradox City—I had no other choice, being a guest of the Florida DOC at the time.  None of those are particularly short works, of course…Paradox City is practically a novella in its own right, though it is officially a short story, according to me.

With all that in mind, I bought myself a new clipboard and about six-hundred sheets of college ruled notebook paper, and I may try doing the rest of Outlaw’s Mind using that…or I may just try using that for my next new work.  Or I may quickly give up on it, haunted by the irrevocable loss of Ends of the Maelstrom and by the illegibility of my cursive.  I’m not going to make a firm commitment now, but it is something I’m weighing.

In the meantime, I hope you’re having a great month, and I hope at least some of you are reading Unanimity Book 1 and are looking forward to Unanimity Book2 and to The Vagabond and to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  No matter what you read, be well, please!

TTFN

thinker


*My writing in general, not Vagabond specifically, since we were married well before it was finished.

**Book 1 is available here, and the e-book version of book 2 is available for pre-order here.  It and the paperback will be out on September 22, to celebrate Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthdays.

Before my blog I throw my warlike shield

Hello, everyone.  I hope you’re having as good a day and as good a week as possible.  It’s Thursday again, which means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  “Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!  For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.”

Anyway…

It’s been a rather momentous week.  I received the files for my old stories and poems as discovered and generously sent by my ex-wife.  Most prominently, I received the files for my old book Vagabond, complete as it was written.  It’s very exciting, and though I haven’t stopped working on Outlaw’s Mind (formerly Safety Valve) I did take at least a little time, when I didn’t have my latest work with me, to do a little editing and rewriting of just the very first bit of it.  I have to resist getting sidetracked, because I want to finish my current story and put it in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities so that I can release that before getting to Vagabond.

The current story is growing rapidly; I’ve been steadily writing at least two thousand words a day on it.  Hopefully, it won’t become so large as to make it unwieldy for including in the collection.  If it grows too much, it’ll have to be released as a short novel, which I’d really prefer not to do.

It would have been nice to have the complete copy of my old short story House Guest, which I wrote in high school, and which helped me win an NCTE award, but unfortunately, it seems that I only had typed in about the first one and a half pages of the thing (it was originally typewritten the old-fashioned way).  Still, that’s the most important bit, since it gives me my character’s name and back story, and it sets the stage for what’s to come.  It wasn’t nearly as long as many of my current “short” stories, so it won’t be too much labor to try to recreate it, but I don’t know if I’ll go to the trouble to include it in DECoC.

Still…it would be a shame not to have it there…

Vagabond is good, but it bears the hallmark of my old, disjointed way of doing things:  only writing when I felt “inspired” and bouncing from one project to another haphazardly.  By this I mean, though I like it, it’s rather abrupt in some ways, and doesn’t flow as nicely as I would prefer.  Still, that’s okay; I can fix it now.  I can’t feel too bad, and I’m not complaining.  It’s the rediscovery of a book I started in college, more than thirty years ago, and finished by the end of medical school, more than twenty years ago.  From this you can tell that it took me ten years to complete it, though it’s only about 150,000 words long in present form.

Among the treasures my ex-wife sent was an early beginning of Son of Man, which I recreated from scratch in its current published form.  It’s interesting to compare it to the final version, which definitely follows the same pattern but is a lot better, in my opinion.  The main character’s name didn’t change—that much was easy enough to remember—and one of the secondary characters retained almost the complete same name, but with a change of spelling.  Of course, Michael Menelvagor also remained the same.  That was inevitable, as you’ll know if you’ve read Son of Man.  I even found the first two pages of a prequel I had planned for the book,which was to be titled Orion Rising, and was the “origin” story for Michael.  There was also the beginning of a relatively realistic novel called Lazarin, which I doubt I’ll ever restart.

As you can see, I did an awful lot of starting things and not finishing them.  Admittedly, I had a lot going on at the time, but if I had disciplined myself to write a little every day, whether I felt like it or not, and to stick with one thing until it was done before starting something else, I could have been a lot more productive.

I also received a file of old poems of mine.  They are a dreary lot—I tend to write poems when I’m feeling particularly depressed—and are often embarrassingly pretentious* and purple.  Still, among them are the earlier versions of poems/lyrics that became Catechism, Breaking Me Down, and Come Back Again, and I’m pleased with two facts about these:  first, that I really did remember them pretty accurately**, and second, that where I changed them for the current versions, I definitely improved them.

So, it’s been quite interesting to look back in joy (and in groans) at my old works, and to be able to look forward to finally being able to publish Vagabond, and to have the stem from which to regrow House Guest.  That was really a seminal story for me; it showed me that my writing was actually good not just from my Mom’s point of view.  I’m quite sure that it was the main factor in winning me the NCTE award, because the other part of the entry was an impromptu essay, written by hand…and as I think I said before, I can’t imagine anyone being able to decipher it, let alone liking it.

This isn’t just false humility.  My MCAT essay (I don’t even know if they still use those) was the only part of the test on which I got a mediocre score, and though I may just have written a crap essay***, I think it was very difficult to read as well, and that can’t help but hurt one’s evaluation.

Which point demands of me that I once again profoundly and profusely thank my sister, who undertook the Herculean task of trying to decipher and type in handwritten chapters of Mark Red and I think of The Chasm and the Collision that I sent her from jail and from prison.  Thank you, Liz, if you’re reading!

And that, I think, is a good point on which to close things this week.  I hope you all stay safe and healthy and use any enforced isolation time to read whatever strikes your fancy, and not to succumb exclusively to the temptations of video and social media.

TTFN Writer-at-work


*I know, right?  If even I think it’s pretentious, it must be really something!

**The middle portion of Come Back Again is verbatim from the original poem, though it was part of a completely different piece of work originally.  The last verse is almost the same, just with a slight flushing out of the second line for rhythm purposes.  Catechism is very accurate, but there were a few phrases that were a bit awkward in the original that have come out better.  Likewise for some of the imagery and word choices in Breaking Me Down, though that also is very close to the original.

***I have absolutely no recollection of what the subject was, let alone what I wrote.  Ditto for the NCTE essay.

But if the while I blog on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored, and sorrows end.

Good morning all.  This being Thursday, I figured I’d write another of my weekly blog posts.  What a shock, right?

As I stated last blog post, I’ve started back on my latest work, a novella/short novel* with the working title Safety Valve.  I’ve come up with a better final title for it, which is Outlaw’s Mind.  The main character is named Timothy Outlaw, and it really is about things that go on in his mind, and the troubles he has in dealing with a rather unusual emotional issue…one that may not be exactly what it seems.

I think I’ve built up a lot of writing pressure during the time in which I’ve been editing Unanimity, because once I got going, for the first two days I wrote over three thousand words a day on the new story, and since then I’ve been steady at about two thousand.  Not bad for me age.  One thing I’ll give myself, I do write quickly.  That’s partly why works intended as novellas become short novels, and novels become half a million words long.  At least there’s a lot of meat in my stories, and hopefully not too much gristle.

Speaking of such things, just to let you know, Unanimity Book 2 is already available for pre-order in Kindle form, if you’re interested (though thanks to the way my publishing works, it doesn’t seem that pre-ordering can be arranged for the paperback version).  I’ll include a link and a picture of the cover below.

And, of course, Unanimity Book 1 is readily available for purchase in both paperback and e-book editions, so please look into it.  As I think I’ve said before, it’s a supernatural thriller/horror novel in the form of a pseudo-science-fiction story set in 2018.  It’s sort of along the lines of Carrie or The Firestarter in the sense that the things that happen in the book are arguably based in a scientific process or explanation, but what happens really is something inexplicable and mysterious.  But there are no monsters under the beds…the monster is in people’s heads.  Which is, let’s face it, where most real monsters dwell.

I’ve begun putting together the order for my eventual collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and though I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit all the stories as well as Outlaw’s Mind into one volume, it looks like it’s going to be fine.  There’s also the barest possibility that I’ll be able to include a surprise addition that I had despaired over ever being able to share with the world.

You see, my ex-wife contacted me this weekend and told me that, in cleaning out some old things, she’d found one of our old Macs, and on it, she had found several of my stories, including the short story House Guest, which I wrote in high school, and which helped me win a National Council of Teachers of English Award**.  She’s already sent the disc with the files to a service that translates such things into newer formats and gave them my email address to contact me when it’s ready.  It was an awfully nice thing for her to do, but that doesn’t surprise me.  I did marry her, after all, and I’ve never regretted that.

An even greater source of joyous surprise was that, among the material she found was my horror novel Vagabond, which I wrote over the course of college and medical school***.  I currently have only fragments of that novel in my possession; I had occasionally thought of reconstructing the missing parts, but it’s just too daunting, and I have new things on which to work.  But once I get the original, I can go through it, edit it, fix it up, and finally publish it!  It’s set in the late eighties, since that’s when I started college, and it takes place at a university—which would mean that I’d have two horror novels set in universities coming out in quick succession.  There are worse things, though, and the stories are of quite different character.  Vagabond is clearly and definitely a supernatural horror story, and its villain is one of my favorite creations.

Speaking of favorite creations and villains, this revelation and gift from my ex-wife does lead me to feel a bit wistful about an earlier “completed” work, a novel I wrote in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom.  This was a literal sci-fi fantasy combo, with magic and high tech, parallel universes, cosmic level dangers and a battle to the finish between two men of complex character who had previously been the best of friends.  It has impact on the metaverse of all my subsequent works, at least in my head, though that’s unlikely ever to be obvious.

It’s also unlikely that that novel will ever be rescued, since it was hand-written, single-spaced, both sides, on thin-ruled notebook paper, overflowing almost always into the margins as I thought of things to add.  It was in a green, battered old school-type folder, and it was lost along with essentially all my earthly belongings in 2011.  Odds are it’s rotting in a landfill somewhere, but on the bare chance that someone got it as part of an auction of my old belongings, you’ll recognize it from the description above.  Look for the “hero”, Naldor, along with a gaggle of Earth teens…whose names I’m unsure of, ironically, because they were based on people I knew, and I mix up the real people with the characters.  And look for the villain (no scare quotes needed here), Qaltich Talberod, called The Talberod by those who serve him, which is everyone with any sense of self preservation.  If anyone out there recognizes it, please get in contact with me.  I’ll know it when I see it, obviously.  It might even be worth something some year.  I’d vouch for its authenticity and give it back to you once I’d finished rewriting it.

This, however, is a fantasy, less likely to happen than the events of the story itself.  If I ever want anyone else to read Ends of the Maelstrom, I’m just going to have to rewrite it.  Please don’t hold your breath for that, though.  Had we but world enough, and time, of course I would eventually reconstruct it.  But as Andrew Marvell knew only too well, the phase space of our personal possibilities is finite and bounded.

On that happy note, I’ll finish up for this week.  I do invite you to check out Unanimity Book 1, I think it’s good.  I am biased of course.  Also, if you were to get a copy of the paperback and want to have it signed, I’m sure we could arrange for you to ship it to me and for me to ship it back.  I’ll personalize it if you like; I love sharing my stories with people in a personal way.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 2 simple Cover Project


*Short for me, anyway.

**There was an essay portion as well, but as this was handwritten, it’s hard to imagine the judges even being able to read it, let alone think it was any good.  My handwriting is deplorable.

***Back then I bought into the foolish behavior of only writing when inspired to do so—and there was always so much else to do.  This led to things taking a terribly long time, and it also led to me constantly getting sidetracked by new ideas, so I rarely completed works, or did so slowly.  Don’t fall into that trap!  Just set a schedule, like a job, and write whether you feel like it or not, on that schedule…and finish what you started—at least most of the time—before going on to something new.  Here endeth the lesson.


And just as a little added note:  WordPress’s new “block editor” sucks.  It was fine the way it was.  I’m tempted to find another place to host my blog, honestly, this is crap.  As Marullus said, “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!”