Since brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will blog brief

Good morning, all!  It’s the first day of November, and the day after Halloween (funny how often it seems to work out like that).  I hope those of you who celebrated had an enjoyable time yesterday making light of the dark things by pretending to be them, and laughing, and having some candy and other treats.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I dressed up for work (as a dark cowboy…sort of an amalgam of the Man in Black and the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower), but I really didn’t do anything else to celebrate.  I got home too late—and was too darn tired—to participate in giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, so I basically just laid around in the evening, trying and failing to get a good night’s sleep.

My writing goes well, though more slowly than I would prefer.  Unanimity approaches one of its most terrible moments, after which events will come truly to a head, and the conclusion will be rendered.  It won’t be a happy ending, I’m afraid, but the “bad guy” will be defeated, and the surviving good people will do their best to get on with their lives.  This is often the best for which we can hope, whether in real life or in stories.  Very few characters—real or imaginary—have the option of sailing into the West, into the Undying Lands, to find healing.

I’ve thrown a little reference, or whatever one might call it, to my story Hole for a Heart into Unanimity, since some of the characters in the novel happen to pass by the site where that short story took place.  It seems that these tales take place in the same world, or at least very similar ones, and the presence of the malefactor from the short story is felt by, and may even have a slight influence on, those characters in Unanimity who come near it.

Penal Colony is now very nearly finished.  Once it is, I’ll complete In the Shade before going back to rewrite and edit either short story.  And of course, most importantly, Unanimity will continue to its conclusion.  All this is, of course, assuming nothing bad happens to me in the meantime.  We do live, in some senses, in a horror story—potentially, at least—and though for the most part we exist in the times of respite, the shadow still always takes on new forms and grows again.  The trouble with real life is that the horrors are often less easily spotted and recognized for what they are than in books, plays, movies, and the like.  They are often within us more than they are outside, and we become our own Great Old Ones, our own Crawling Chaos.

Maybe that’s part of why we enjoy dressing up on Halloween so much.

While we’re on the subject of darkness and horror, next week is the second Thursday of the new month, and I’m overdue to write a new episode of “My heroes have always been villains.”  I look forward to it, really, and I think I know which villain I’m going to choose, though I may change my mind.  In any case, those of you who are interested—if such people exist—can also look forward to it.  This is, again, all and always assuming that some dark force or entity hasn’t swallowed me up whole between now and then.  We can only wait and see.

With that, short though it’s been, the time is gone, and the song is over…though in my case, today, I didn’t honestly think I had more to say.  I offer you all my condolences in facing the inevitable and abrupt onslaught of Christmas carols, decorations, shopping, and the like which will begin to rear their heads by today, if they haven’t so reared already.  Don’t get me wrong, Christmas, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, the Winter Solstice…these things are fine and fun, but the concept creep, and the time creep, of the promotional lead-in has gotten slightly out of hand.  I hope you find joy in it, no matter how overpowering or overdone it gets.

TTFN

They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time blogs many parts

Well, you wouldn’t think it would catch me by surprise—it’s something that happens every month, after all, in an entirely predictable fashion—but I didn’t realize until this morning that today was the second Thursday of October and is thus the “official” day for me to write an episode of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Obviously, since I wasn’t thinking about it, I haven’t given a second’s thought to what villain I should discuss today.  Rather than pick a random baddie from my memory’s hat and produce an off-the-cuff essay on him or her, I’ll push that project back until next week or next month.  I apologize if anyone out there was looking forward to a new episode today.  Then again, if there are such people, I haven’t heard from them; I’d be quite gratified if you’d make yourself or yourselves known.  I can exculpate myself a bit for my oversight by admitting that I’ve been rather worn down, tired, and slightly ill, this week (see my IoZ entry here for a brief discussion of the nature and effects of my troubles with insomnia), so I’m behind my mental curve.

Even as I wrote that last sentence, I realized that I’ve often made comment in these, my public venues, about being under the weather.  Now, I don’t think that I’m too whiny and hypochondriacal, as a general rule, but I certainly don’t seem to operate at my physical optimum much of the time.  It’s a problem that I need to keep in mind, going forward.

I will say this, in tangential reference to the above issue:  I’m glad that I decided to put my audio productions on indefinite hiatus.  It’s a melancholy gladness, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, because I really do like those audio productions, and if you’re interested you’re welcome to partake of the ones I’ve made, either here, or on my YouTube channel.  But making them requires a lot of mental energy and physical time.  Since putting the audios on pause, I’ve gotten more writing done on Unanimity, and I’ve worked steadily on my two other short stories during the the hours I would have spent recording and editing the audio, leading to an increased total output of about five pages a day versus only three on average (or roughly 2500 words versus 1500) before.  This is a serious improvement.

It would be nice to be able to do all this full-time, instead of in the interstices between actions of daily necessity required to put food on the table, so to speak.  Then I could write just as much and still make my audio files, which would be a lot of fun.  I hope someday to reach that state, but I obviously haven’t done it yet.

Unanimity goes well, though, and is honestly approaching its climax and resolution (I swear!  No, really!).  I still expect—if I work on it as steadily as I ought—its first draft to be finished before the end of the year, and probably well before that long novel is ready to be published, I’ll release one or both of the short stories I’m working on, Penal Colony and In the Shade.

It’s amazing how something can take so many hours, so much effort, and yet yield a product that can be consumed within the course of, say, a few days for a novel, or at most an hour or two for a short story.  It would be nice if I could give the readers of my work as much lasting entertainment as I get durable engagement from producing them, but I guess that’s the nature of all creative arts.  Even a small, independent film is created through untold hours of effort by astonishing numbers of people, to be then enjoyed within the space of two hours.  A great painting or sculpture can take perhaps less total work, but is then enjoyed in mere tiny, minutes-long chunks by even the most passionate enthusiasts of the arts.

I wonder how many people would have to read my books to make the “man-hours” of reading surpass the man-hours of production; it’s a hurdle I’d love to cross with all my stories.  I don’t know if anyone’s done the math on such a question—I assume that the numbers would be different for different people and different works—but if they have, I’d love to know about it.  I’m sure that Stephen King, for instance, passed that milestone decades ago.  He probably passed it with Carrie, and I doubt that he’s ever caught up in the time since, despite the staggering pace at which he writes.  To match such an outcome is a high bar for anyone to set, but as I’ve long said, only those who attempt the impossible can achieve the unbelievable.

And now, I think that will just about do it for today.  I’ll say, tentatively at least, that I’m going to put off the next episode of “My heroes have always been villains” until November, unless I receive any complaints or protests from those who don’t want to wait.

I’ll close with an exhortation—probably preaching to the converted, but there it is—that you all be cautious of falling prey too much, too often, to the easy distractions of videos and memes and other short-attention forms of entertainment.  Keep reading.  Read “real” books, read e-books (they’re just two forms of the same thing), read fiction and nonfiction, read articles and blogs, read poems, read plays, but do keep reading.  Written language is the lifeblood of civilization, and stories are the default mode of human thought (or so it seems).  To read, and to write, are affirmations of and contributions to the health and longevity of the human project and are well worth anyone’s time.

So I am convinced.  I may, perhaps, be biased.

TTFN

He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not blog upon his like again.

 

Hamlet:  My father—methinks I see my father.

Horatio:  Where, my lord?

Hamlet:  In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

-Hamlet, Act I, Scene 2

 

It’s Thursday, October 4th, the day of my father’s birthday.  He would have turned seventy-nine today if he were still alive, but he died just under two years ago.  I don’t remember the exact date of his death, and I see no reason to memorialize it.

My father and I didn’t always get along; in many ways we were too alike to avoid butting heads, especially since one of the ways we were alike is a deep stubbornness.  But my father was an admirable man in many ways; he always took care of his family to the best of his ability, which was usually very good indeed.  He and my mother were married right up until the day he died, which is more than I can say about myself, and I admire them both for it.  That they were best friends and constant companions is an unarguable fact, and they got along as well as any long-married couple I’ve ever known.

It was from my parents—both of them—that I got my love of reading, and more indirectly, my love of writing, of making stories.  It was my father who received as a gift, and who proudly wore, a tee-short quoting Erasmus in saying, “When I get a little money, I buy books.  If any is left, I buy food and clothes.”  This wasn’t quite my parents’ literal attitude, but it was damn close.

I didn’t quite realize how proud and supportive my parents were of my love of reading and writing until in college I came to a point of crisis.

I had always intended—for as long as I thought about it—to become a scientist, though I’ve also always written stories, books, plays, and even screenplays (the latter too laughable to discuss).  By the time I was ready for university, I had decided that I wanted to be a physicist.  I went to Cornell as a Physics Major, and in my first year did quite well in all my physics and mathematics coursework (while also thoroughly enjoying my freshman seminars, first Fantasy and then Writing About Film).  But then, during the summer after freshman year, I underwent open-heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect (quite a large one) that had only been discovered that year.

In later times, in medical school, I learned more about some of the central nervous system effects of open-heart surgery, and I even wrote a review paper on the nature of the (usually temporary) cognitive decline that heart-lung bypass in heart surgery frequently causes.  Its effects in triggering mood disorders such as depression (something for which I already have a familial and personal predisposition) are probably more widely known than the temporarily diminished mental capacity that comes to most people who have undergone such surgery.  The state of the art may have improved since 1988, but I doubt the problem has been eliminated.

Anyway, I returned to college at the beginning of sophomore year (only two weeks after my surgery!), and over the course of that semester and year, with the combination of a low-grade-sometimes-veering-into-high-grade depression and a dip in my mental acuity, I had a hard time keeping up with the higher level math courses (and the physics was getting into the intro to serious quantum mechanics and other areas, with matters requiring vector calculus, tensors, partial differential equations, and all that fun stuff).  I think if I’d just had the temporary cognitive impairment and not the depression as well, I might have muscled my way through, and brushed up on things once my mental clarity improved.  Alas, not only was I not so lucky, I also had no idea why I was having such difficulty; I felt merely that I was an intellectual and moral failure as a Physics Major.

I didn’t fail any classes or anything like that—I don’t think I got anything below a low B—but I could see myself having more and more trouble as I went forward, if things remained as they were.  At the time, I was already close friends with the woman I would eventually marry, and she had read some of my writing (and really liked it).  She talked to me long and hard about my options, and with her help, I came to the decision to switch majors to English.

I was mortified about this.  I felt that I was failing myself in some important way, and worse, that I was letting my parents down, but I didn’t see any alternative.  So I called them, and I very nervously told them the decision I had made…

They were practically ecstatic.  My father in particular said that he just thought that English suited me better, because I loved reading and writing so much, and was good at it.  They’d always been supportive of my love of science, too, of course, and had been behind me all the way in my goal to become a scientist, but they’d apparently thought that such a career wouldn’t fulfill me…though they were wise enough not to try to change my oh-so-stubborn mind.  I think my parents—and particularly my father—would have been prouder of having a son who was an author than of having a son who won the Nobel Prize in Physics.  I hadn’t ever thought of that before.  But the fact that they were so supportive of, and even excited by, my choice was an incredible, tremendous relief and encouragement.

I’ve occasionally wistfully looked back and wished I’d gone farther in my formal studies of physics and math, but…well, those are things I can study on my own, and I do so when the mood strikes me.  But as an English Major, I realized my deep and abiding love of Shakespeare (at one point I took two Shakespeare courses at the same time; that was fun!), and I learned of the works of Spenser and Mallory and Milton.  I read Paradise Lost (my personal nomination for the greatest English language work of all time), and innumerable other great works beside, ancient and modern.  I’ve never regretted those exposures.  Who would?  I also learned how quickly I can write at need, when I discovered that I’d mis-marked the due date for my honors thesis, and I had to write the whole thing in one weekend.  That was pretty stupid, but maybe I can blame it on the residua of my cognitive impairment, which thankfully seems to have faded completely in the intervening years.

Anyway, it was thanks to my parents’ support, and my father’s words—and the example he set—that I was able to feel good about my choice.  We had some pretty serious interpersonal problems in subsequent years, but eventually we put them behind us, and though I didn’t become an “official” writer directly after college (I went to medical school instead…go figure) I am finally now finally fulfilling my destiny, as the Jedi and the Sith are prone to say.*

I’m tremendously happy that my father lived long enough to see me publish my first few books, though I wish he’d been alive to read The Chasm and the Collision, since his advice had real, beneficial impact on its style.

And now I have my own version of his tee-shirt that reads, “When I get a little money, I buy books.  If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” It was a gift from my sister, and I come as close to embodying the words as my parents did, if not closer.  I’m more like my father, probably, than I am like any other person I’ve ever known.  I’m a little more playful than he ever was—he was quite a serious man most of the time, and he was exceeded in stubbornness only by his youngest son—but he’s still the only other person I’ve known who had the patience and desire to spend as much time in zoos and museums as I do.  He always loved to learn new things, and I consider that shared love (which also came from my mother) perhaps the greatest gift that I could ever have been given.

I miss him terribly, and my mother as well.  But as Arthur Bach said in the original movie, Arthur, “I was lucky to know him at all.”


*If there is such a thing as destiny, then surely it’s impossible to do anything but fulfill one’s destiny.

Methought I read a blog cry, “Sleep no more!”

It’s Thursday again, and we’re in the middle of the first week of Autumn (in the Northern hemisphere).  For the next six months, the nights will be longer than the days.  As someone who tends to write about the darker side of possibility, I don’t think that’s so terrible…or it’s terrible in all the best ways.

My writing has been steady but rather slow this week, mainly because I’m struggling badly with insomnia.  I’m not referring here to the Stephen King book by that name (though coincidentally I’m in the middle of rereading it at this very time), but to the chronic, and occasionally incapacitating, sleep disorder.  Over the previous two nights (before last night) I slept for a rough total of three hours; this is, obviously, not adequate, and it has a noticeable impact on my ability to concentrate and to think clearly.

Nevertheless, the writing continues.  Hopefully, when I go back to rewrite and edit, I won’t be dismayed by how horrible my work product from these past few days is; I don’t honestly expect it to stand out as either better or worse than average.  As I’ve said previously, the way I feel when writing something is poorly correlated with how good the writing turns out to be.  Sometimes when I feel lofty and inspired and superhumanly gifted, I produce nothing but great, steaming piles of oozy excrement.  The converse is also occasionally true.  It’s unpredictable.  Thus, we will always need to edit and rewrite.

Today, for the first time in quite a while, I’m riding the train in to work, due to certain vehicles being in the shop and matters of that sort.  It’s nothing to worry about, just routine maintenance, despite an event I obliquely mention below.

It’s curiously nostalgic to be taking the train, and not entirely unpleasant, though it’s far less efficient—time-wise, anyway—than driving.   I’ve been inspired to write at least one story (Prometheus and Chiron) while waiting for a train, and I see many interesting people when using mass transit.  Little of note happens on the Interstate, especially when one rides a vehicle that is fundamentally solo.  One can have occasional exciting, even life-threatening moments on the road, such as one I had three days ago, but they don’t make very good stories.  Not to me, anyway.  I suppose I could throw some details of such an occurrence into the midst of an action scene to add to the realism, drawing from my personal experience of feeling my right leg squeezed against the passenger door of some idiot’s car, which is changing lanes without the driver looking, but it happens quickly and—thanks to the fact that I don’t tend to rattle easily—is rapidly over, with no harm done.

I’m having a peculiarly good time working on three stories at once, as I mentioned in my previous post.  Of course, my primary work right now is still Unanimity, which is grudgingly proceeding toward its conclusion, but I’m enjoying both the writing of my new short story and the rewriting of the older, uncompleted story, In the Shade.  I remember when I wrote it originally, and more or less why I stopped—I just lost steam, I wasn’t inspired by what was happening, and I had other projects awaiting my attention, to which I turned (with good results, I think).  But rewriting it now, I have to say that I’m pleased with what I made then.  I think it could turn out to be quite good, even if it is just a gonzo horror story.  We shall see.

Skipping to a non-sequitur:  I must say, I’ve so far been consistently disappointed by the lack of response and feedback to the “My heroes have always been villains” episodes.  From my point of view—admittedly biased—I would think people would find such posts particularly interesting.  I wonder if my title for the series throws people off, making them wonder just what kind of horrible person I am, but it’s honestly just an ironic play on the title of an old Willie Nelson song, “My heroes have always been cowboys.”  I don’t actually idolize villains, in the sense of wanting to be like them, though they tend to have character traits that, in the right place, in the right amount, would be quite admirable.  That’s just the nature of the tragic character with the tragic flaw:  Much of what makes a villain a villain would, in proper measure and in the proper circumstances, make them admirable and even heroic.

Likewise, many attributes we admire in our heroes, real and imaginary, can be terrible drawbacks in the wrong circumstances or in different proportions.  Harry Potter, for instance, is one of the most admirable, inspiring, and pure-hearted heroes in modern literature.  Nevertheless, Professor Snape does occasionally have a point when he decries Harry’s reckless disregard for rules and his difficulty controlling his emotions (though I think he’s completely wrong when he calls Harry arrogant).

Oh, well.  I’ll continue to write those episodes roughly once a month, even if they find no readers other than myself, at least until I work my way through most of my most prominently beloved malefactors.  Hopefully there’s someone else out there who enjoys them, but since I think a writer must write primarily for him or herself, and only secondarily for the outer audience, it will only be a moderately devastating heartbreak if there isn’t.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll continue to write my weekly postings in both of my blogs, and more importantly, I’ll keep writing my fiction.

TTFN

Life is as tedious as twice-told tale, vexing the dull ear of a drowsy blog.*

Good day, all.  It’s Thursday again, and time for another incarnation of my weekly blog post.  Rejoice!

It’s been a relatively eventful few weeks with respect to my writing.  As stated before, I’ve put the production of the audio chapters of CatC on indefinite hiatus.**  This is partly due to an apparent lack of public interest (if you are a counterexample to that, please let me know).  Mainly, however, it’s due to a combination of factors within me and my life.  Specifically, the production of the audio takes a lot of my spare time and mental energy, and without any obvious feedback, I’d rather put those resources into doing what I love most:  writing new things. Continue reading

I’ll blog to thee in silence.

It’s Thursday again, and time for another of my weekly blog posts about my writing.

There’s not much new to discuss today, but there are a few updates for the imaginary reader who cares about such things.  First, I think I’m going to take at least a temporary break from doing the audio for The Chasm and the Collision.  I had been toying with that possibility for a while but had decided (yesterday) just to go ahead and do the next chapter.  When I had finished the initial recording of the first portion of Chapter 10, though, I discovered that some technical problem had occurred during the recording.  I don’t know exactly what caused it, but the playback sounded echoey and tinny, with uneven volume.  I didn’t deviate in any obvious way from what I’ve done for the past two or three chapters (which were recorded by a different method from preceding chapters and audio stories), and I don’t see any way to salvage the recording and make it pleasant for the listener.

I’m not someone who thinks that the universe sends messages or omens to people in the real world, even though I write stories about the fantastical and the “supernatural,” but I nevertheless took this as a cue—accidental though it was—to take a break.

It’s not as though I think a lot of people have been listening to those stories or chapters, in any case.  I haven’t received a single comment or any other feedback, either here on the blog or on any of the YouTube versions of the audio stories, so I doubt that a hiatus is going to bring heartbreak to any human.  And I sincerely doubt that any non-human is listening to the stories or is capable of responding to them, so leaving the audio aside should obey the dictates of the Hippocratic Oath and do no harm.

I took two days off from writing this weekend, not for any deliberate reason, but the holiday here in America (Labor Day) contributed.  The occurrence of a tropical storm (mild for South Florida, but still rainy and dreary for a long stretch of time), also dampened my enthusiasm.  I guess, technically, I took three days off, now that I think about it, because I wrote the first draft of my latest post on Iterations of Zero last week, in response to something that I had seen.  I just did the editing and rewriting on Tuesday morning, after which I carried out the recording debacle described above.

Then, yesterday, I wrote again on Unanimity, which was productive.  I’m lucky enough to enter easily into a state of “flow” when I’m writing, especially when writing fiction, so even when I’m gloomy or tired, I’m at least able to produce something.  Whether that product is good or not is probably highly debatable, but the audience of one that consists of me at least always finds it tolerable so far.  So that’s good.

On a tangentially related matter, I recently started a trial of “promote mode” on Twitter, but I think I’m going to discontinue it.  The idea was to try to get word about my books and audio and podcasts out to a greater number of people through that venue, but unfortunately promote mode is not discriminating.  It “promotes” every tweet one twits, so one encounters such bizarre phenomena as when a tweet expressing a feeling of profound depression and discouragement becomes my most “liked” and “retweeted” post since I’ve been on the site.  That’s not the boost I’m looking for.  Also, to my surprise and disappointment, my number of followers on Twitter has dropped since I began the trial; I’m getting a net negative return on a not-insignificant investment.  It may be that I should give the experiment more time, but it’s not as though I have money and Twitter followers to burn.  I think I should probably just let things proceed and grow—if they in fact do—organically.

And with that, there’s not much else to say today.  My wittiness, limited at the best of times, is in the lower reaches of its curve, so I’ll wait for an upward swerve before trying to put out anything more entertaining.  I do hope you’re all well, and continue to be so, and if anything, that you get ever better over time.

TTFN

So is my blog, Octavius, and for that I do appoint it store of provender.

Guten tag!  Today is the last Thursday of August in 2018, a day that will never come again (unless it turns out that time is recurrent and the universe is closed in the fourth dimension, which I suppose is possible).

I hope you’re all well.  I myself am in a better mental state than I have been for the past few weeks, something for which I’m intensely grateful.  I imagine that anyone reading my blogs with the hope of enjoyment is probably also at least mildly grateful.  Reading something written by a person in a gloomy mood can occasionally be powerful, but it’s rarely much fun.

Speaking of fun, I got an amusing email from Amazon this week.  It’s something that’s happened to me once or twice before, and I might even have written about it here; apologies if I’m being redundant.  Anyway, the message came because, a month or two ago, I ordered a copy of my book Welcome to Paradox City to give to a friend of mine at work.  Of course, Amazon has the very nice feature that, if you buy a product from them, especially a book, they encourage you to rate it and, if you’re so inclined, to review it.  I thus received a request to give feedback about a book that I had written. Continue reading