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.”


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.

O, let my blogs be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking breast.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts.  As usual when these appear, it’s Thursday.  Also, we’ve started a new month: March (in case you weren’t aware).

It’s very exciting, I know.

I’ve been mildly active/busy since last week’s rather grumpy blog post.  Earlier this week, while riding in to work, I began reciting The Second Coming, by Yeats, out loud to myself, I don’t know why.  It’s a cool poem, and it’s short, and it contains some of the most quotable lines ever written.  Then, after that, because I had plenty of commute left, I decided to see if I could recall the entirety of The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe.  That’s not a short poem, of course, but it’s at least as quotable as TSC.  I remembered all but one verse of it (and I at least remembered that I didn’t fully remember that one, if you take my meaning).

Anyway, I decided it would be fun to record a recitation of the poems, so I did.  Then I used the same sound program (by which I mean, “program that allows one to manipulate sound”, not “program that is solid, well-made, and stable”, though it is the latter) that I use for audio blogs and for mixing songs, to add a little background noise.  I say “noise” because, though the background for Second Coming is certainly an actual piece of music, it’s heavily manipulated and distorted, and the background for The Raven is just a series of weird, otherworldly* sounds of a purely electronic nature.

I released the recordings on Iterations of Zero, and got such a quick, good response that I decided to do a few more of my favorites yesterday morning.  I did the poem Alone, also by Poe—which I’ve always felt could have been written just for me—in two takes, because I felt the first time through didn’t quite capture what I wanted to express.  Then I thought, “Hey, since this poem is about feeling different from everyone else—feeling alien, if you will—what if I made it sound like something alien?”  So, I laid down both the audio tracks in one file, adjusted the many inconsistent spacings between words and sounds so that they lined up (as well as I could), then doubled each track and moved the duplicates either a little forward or a little backward.  Basically, it’s four tracks, not quite in sync, made from two recordings that had slight differences in inflection and emphasis.

For a bit of background noise, I quickly sang “Ahhh,” into my cell phone in three different pitches (Separately.  I’m an okay singer, but I can’t sing three notes at once!) in a slightly discordant chord, then I lined them all up, stretched the combo out, reduced the pitch, doubled it and reversed the double and combined them again, to make a creepy-creepy sound.

Then, I decided not to use that.  Instead I took a well-known piece of music, slowed it, stretched it, reversed it, and changed the pitch, to make what I hope is an equally creepy background track.  I’m not sure I made the right decision.

I’ve read a couple of other poems, including Ozymandius, by Shelley, which I’ve already released.  I did that one over a background of desert wind noise, because it just seemed so appropriate, if rather obvious.  There are still two more Edgar Allan Poe recordings that I’ve yet to release, and I’m sure I can use my weird impromptu sound effect for one or the other of them.

So, that was a lot of fun!

Of course, unfortunately, this all ate into a bit of the time I reserve for editing, so Unanimity experienced a temporary slowdown this week, but it’s very temporary indeed.  After all, there are only a few poems that I enjoy enough, and have enjoyed enough for most of my life, to want to make a recorded recitation of them.  And I don’t have any songs anything close to ready to begin composing and arranging and recording and performing, etc.**, so the space before me is free and clear for continued editingThis is good, because I really want to get through that book and get it out, so that I can get to work on other writing projects.  Had I but world and time***, I might be able to do all of these things, but unless I become independently wealthy—or my books, etc. sell well enough for me to do this sort of thing full time—I’m afraid I’m going to have to work it into the early morning hours, as I’ve done for some time.

That’s not such a bad arrangement for me.  I’m a morning person by nature, in that I tend to wake up early and be prepared to do a lot of work when I do, though I am not sociable until well after ten o’clock.  Ask anyone who’s tried to engage me in pleasant morning conversations****.  Ask my ex-wife!  I don’t do social stuff very well at the best of times, and morning is far from the best of times for such things.  That’s my opinion, anyway.

Nevertheless, I do enjoy writing to and hearing from any or all of you.  I’d be delighted to know what you think of my renditions of the above-mentioned poems.  I’d be even more delighted if some of you who have never read these particular poems just go and have a listen.  They’re worth your time, I’m sure of that.


*I hope

**Unless you count that Joker song I mentioned a few weeks ago.  But that’s not urgent.

***No, I don’t think I’ll be doing a recording of To His Coy Mistress, though it is very good…the medieval equivalent of Billy Joel’s Only the Good Die Young.

****Of course, part of my grumpiness in dealing with such morning matters is the usual inanity of the interactions.  People ask, “How are you?” or some variant thereof, but they don’t want an honest answer.  Frankly, I’d rather they just commented about the weather, or said “Good morning, nice to see you,” or something along those lines.  I’ve occasionally taken to replying to “How are you?” by saying, “I am that I am,” and wondering if anyone will recognize the quote.  So far, no luck.