For it will come to pass that every bloggart shall be found an ass.

Good day, everyone.  It’s that morning for which you all pine each week:  Thursday morning, the morning on which I (usually) release my weekly blog post.  Rejoice!  You can breathe again.

Okay, well, anyway…I hope everyone in America had a good Memorial Day on Monday.  I always try to avoid saying “a happy Memorial Day,” since the point behind the holiday is to remember with gratitude the many military personnel who’ve fought and died in wars, etc., especially in World War II, and that’s not really a happy thought.

Of course, in a certain sense, we should be happy that these people did what they did—it’s good that the Axis powers didn’t win World War II, even despite the many missteps and mistakes the Allies and former Allies have made in the years since.  On the other hand, though, we can surely all agree that it’s lamentable that such destruction and loss of life was ever necessary.  If you stop and think about it, we should all hope for (and whenever possible, strive toward) a world in which neither heroism nor leadership are necessary, since leadership and heroism are generally required only when things are not going well.  At least, it would be nice to work toward a world in which conflict, leadership, and heroism exist in sports, in books, in movies, and in video games, but not in day to day life.

Is such a world possible?  In principle, I think it is.  In practice, who knows if it will ever happen?  I wouldn’t lay heavy money on it, more’s the pity.

On to lighter, or at least more personal, matters.  I’ve been fiddling around with sound editing/recording/mixing software, and it has continued to distract me a bit from my writing tasks, but not completely.  Though I haven’t written any new pages of Neko/Neneko for over a week, I have been editing away at Unanimity, and I’ve been pleased to find that there are some moving moments in it.  One would hope this was the case in a long novel, of course, but I’ve read a few books in which there are no such experiences.  It’s nice that, at least for the author, the book has some poignant, and goose-bumpy, and thrilling passages.  Hopefully, future readers will agree with my assessment.

I continue to entertain the plan of releasing the three short stories from Welcome to Paradox City as individual Kindle editions, and—in sort of a parallel opposite act—of releasing a collection of my more recent short stories, and possibly doing all of these before Unanimity comes out.  And, of course, before any of that, I’m going to be releasing Free Range Meat, my latest short story.  That should happen fairly soon, as the editing on it is going well, even though it’s only one day a week.

Amidst all these processes, one thing that I’ve fallen off on a bit—and which I was never terribly good about in the first place—is promotion.  Though I’ve never found it natural to advertise myself, I at least periodically used to boost some Facebook ads and the like, and I haven’t done any of that in quite a while.  It’s just contrary to my nature, at least as I am now, to shout out for attention, even when it’s perfectly reasonable, and even necessary, to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly be pompous and arrogant in my own right (no, really!), but I’m not very good at talking myself up.  I usually feel that it’s rude to try to push myself into other people’s awareness.  This is not good, of course, for someone who’s trying to get other people to notice and read his books (or listen to his songs, or whatever).  And I myself often lament how much it’s the case that the assholes of the world make far more noise than the benign and positive people.

Of course, one ongoing way in which I do promote myself is by writing this blog (and Iterations of Zero, though that’s more esoteric).  But doing more than that is rather awkward for me.

I often envy the attitude expressed by a moment in “The Simpsons” when Marge flashes back to a two-year-old Bart walking down the hall, banging on a kitchen pot with a spoon and singing, “I am so great!  I am so great!  Everybody loves me, I am so great!”  And, of course, I’m well aware that a key principle of advertising is repetition, even to the point of irritation.  After all, if people are thinking and talking about how much of a pain you are, they’re talking about you.  But it feels like it’s all in such poor taste.

Then again, I write fantasy/sci-fi/horror, and in the latter genre, many things happen which quite a few people would say are in poor taste, or they would be if they really occurred.  Certainly, the fate that befalls the very well-intentioned and positively behaved main character of Free Range Meat could hardly be called a Capra-esque outcome.  Maybe Kafka-esque, but definitely not Capra, and definitely not tasteful.

Tasty?  Maybe.

There, that’s a little teaser for you to whet your appetite.  I can do this promotion thing.  Sure, I can.

Well, I could ramble on and on for much longer than I have, but I’ll save that for another time.  Always leave them wanting more, they say.  I wish for each of you the best of all possible outcomes from your point of view, with only the proviso that it not interfere with the best of all possible outcomes for others from their points of view.

And isn’t that the big problem of crafting a society even of thoroughly well-meaning people?

TTFN

But I am constant as the northern star, of whose true-fixed and resting quality there is no fellow in the blogosphere.

Julius

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another installment of my weekly blog.  It’s the first Thursday in March of 2019.  [This is just one of many declarations of the patently obvious that you can often find here.  Enjoy!]

I’ve had a relatively eventful week, at least as far as writing goes.  I think I mentioned last time that I was feeling under the weather; I’m still fighting the tail end of that illness, but it’s on its way out, so I’m not complaining.  Of course, I’ve continued to write my novella, the working title of which is Safety Valve.

Also, I’ve begun editing Unanimity.

I don’t know if I was fooling any of you, but I don’t think I was fooling myself with the occasional thought that I might go beyond the bare minimum break time of a month that I’d set for myself before starting to edit.  Shakespeare wrote that “men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive.  Yet in that number I do know but one that unassailable holds on his rank, unshaked of motion.”  Well…that I am not he, let me a little show it, even in this:  that, though I successfully enforced upon myself the minimum wait that I had required before returning to Unanimity, there was just no way that I was going to hold out any longer than that.

In addition to this blog, and to my fiction writing, I’ve been positively aching to write some “Iterations of Zero” posts…which is to say, discussions of nearly any subject matter in science, politics, philosophy, psychology, etc., that don’t deal directly with my fiction.  There are huge masses of subjects about which I want to comment, from General Relativity to vaccination, to the cosmic perspective about everyday life, to mathematics, and so on and on.

Many such thoughts and ideas are triggered by items I encounter on Facebook.  These are topics about which I want to comment in no uncertain terms, but often I fear that such commentary might hurt the feelings of friends or family.  This is not because I’m especially mean in the way I put things; I try very hard to be polite, and I take no joy in insulting others, generally.  It just happens that, sometimes, when one says what one thinks is the truth, even if one is being careful, one hurt people’s feelings.

Even worse, commenting on memes and posts often initiates back-and-forth discussions, debates, and/or arguments, of a type which can easily become acrimonious…something I find terribly unpleasant.  All of which leads me not even to want to get on social media at all.  Such interactions bring out a very negative side of my personality, and I don’t like that piece of me.

For this reason, I’ve been on Facebook much more intermittently of late.  This is a problem, because Facebook is really my only means of socialization, my only connection with many people who matter to me.  Most importantly, it is my main route of interaction with my daughter.  Yet seeing so much misinformation and disinformation and misunderstanding about topics in which I have expertise—or just about which I have thoughts—without responding can be maddening and depressing.

Perhaps it’s egotistical of me to want to write about such subjects, but I’m okay with that; writing is egotistical to begin with.  So, I’ve decided to try a new approach to how I write nonfiction:

I work in an office in which there are quite a few smokers, and of course, several times throughout the day, smokers tend to step outside for a cigarette…or for whatever they smoke.  That’s fine, that’s their decision, but these are obviously moments in which such people are not, strictly speaking, working.  So, in parity, I’ve created a Word file called, “This is my smoke break” and during periods when others go outside to smoke, I’ll write and/or at least a page a day on some topic on which I want to comment.  Once such a subject gets in decent enough shape that it’s worth sharing with the public, I’ll post it on “Iterations of Zero.”

Hopefully this will help me scratch my itch and keep me able to abstain from comments on Facebook without feeling bad about myself…and will also keep me from feeling bad about myself because I’ve commented on Facebook.  We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, and as always, my primary concern is my fiction, whether writing it or editing it (or promoting it, which I don’t do enough of), and that’s what I’ll continue to work on first thing every day.  I hope you all stick with me through thick and thin, and that you enjoy my already-published and my upcoming works.  Many such journeys are possible, and I hope to bring as many people along for the ride as I can on each of them.

You should buckle up, though.  It can get a bit bumpy, and I’m not the most cautious of pilots.

TTFN

 

Nymph, in thy orisons be all my blogs remember’d

It’s interesting how these things happen.  As you’ll know, if you’ve been following this blog, I finished the first draft of Unanimity at the end of January, and I decided to take a break from it at least through this month (February) before going back to begin the rewriting/editing.  During the break, my intention was to write, and possibly to rewrite and edit, one or two short stories, the choice of the first of which I had made ahead of time.  This much has gone precisely according to plan:  the first draft of that first story is completed.

Then, I had to decide what story to write next.  As I’ve detailed elsewhere, the one I originally had in mind was of too similar a character to the one I’d just finished.  So, I went to my list of (electronically) jotted-down story ideas and found one that was different enough, and interesting enough, to work on, and I started writing.

Well…this story idea, and the protagonist who came along with it, has turned out to be surprisingly deep and engaging, though I have no idea if anyone else will share my assessment.  The character’s back-story and his life experiences resonate strongly with me, so I’m not only having quite a nice time writing about him, but the story has a lot more meat than I would have expected.  It may well turn out to be more a novella than a short story.

Yes, I know, many of my “short stories” stray well over the border and into the No Man’s Land between short story and novella.  This makes me particularly grateful for e-book publishing, since it’s hard to imagine any old-school magazines publishing such stories out of length considerations, though I suppose serialization might have been possible.  This new story, though, with a very tentative title of Safety Valve, is going to end up being even more involved than is usual for me.  It doesn’t merit a full-length novel, but it’s not going to be finished in twenty or so pages, either.  In fact, it’s already reached twenty pages, and there’s quite a lot more to tell.

Of course, by nature I tend to take more of a “Cheesecake Factory” approach to writing than a “Seasons 52” approach.  This isn’t good if one is trying to watch one’s weight, as I know only too well, but when it comes to stories…well, you can’t gain weight from reading a story (nor from writing one, thank goodness).  In fact, given that the brain consumes a tremendous portion of the body’s energy budget—about twenty percent—you may burn extra calories by reading a longer story, as long as you don’t snack while doing so.

I’m pleased, bordering on delighted, to have found this story so engaging, especially since I came up with the raw idea off-the-cuff, some time ago, and just added it to the “Quick Memo” file on my smartphone.  That practice has turned out to be quite a useful one.  Incidentally, I had behaved similarly with the germ for the other story I just finished.  The “Quick Memo” habit works beautifully, at least for me, and I don’t mind throwing it out there as possibly useful for others.  We might as well take advantage of the little technological marvels that we carry with us.  We can thus avoid the classic nightmare:  a good idea occurs to us while we’re on the job, or in bed, or in some other situation in which we can’t immediately turn to it in earnest, and by the time we find an appropriate location or time, the idea is lost…“and enterprises of great pitch and moment, with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.”

Who would have thought that the words of Shakespeare would apply so well to taking notes on one’s smartphone?  Well, anyone who’s read much Shakespeare might think such a thing.  His work is incredibly powerful and broadly pertinent, worthy of deepest admiration and even excusable envy.  “If I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener.”*

Well, that’s enough self-indulgence for another Thursday.  I hope the weather’s reasonably good wherever you may be, and that your week has been tolerable, and perhaps even wonderful.

TTFN


*This is not a quote from Shakespeare, by the way.  Do you know its source?  Valuable brownie points will be awarded to anyone who does and who states it in the comments below!

Here was a consent, knowing aforehand of our merriment, to blog it like a Christmas comedy

Hello, good morning, good Thursday, and an early Happy Solstice to all.  To those who celebrate it, I wish you a very Happy and/or Merry Christmas next week.  And Happy Newtonmas—also December 25th—to those who celebrate the date (on the Julian calendar) of Isaac Newton’s birth.  If you don’t celebrate this, of course, it’s difficult to blame you.  Though he was probably the single greatest scientist who ever lived, Newton was, by all accounts, a real shit.  Also, on the Gregorian calendar, he was apparently born on what would have been January 4th, 1643.  Now, Johannes Kepler, whose laws of planetary motion helped Newton derive and apply the principle of universal gravitation, was apparently born on December 27th by the Gregorian calendar, so Keplermas might not be an unreasonable celebration.  He’s always seemed much nicer than Newton, and his commitment to intellectual honesty is legendary.  He’s reported to have said, “I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.”  It’ a bit sexist, perhaps, but he was born in 1571; it’s hard to expect otherwise.

There’s little that’s categorically new here in Robert Elessar Land, but I’ve certainly written a good deal on Unanimity over the past week, making steady progress toward the end of that novel.  The editing of Penal Colony also continues at a good pace, and though there have been a rare few new bits added to it here and there, the dominant theme has been removal.  I’m prone to run off at the keyboard when writing, and I often repeat myself.  What’s more, I frequently say the same thing more than once, and on more occasions than I would prefer to admit I tend toward greater wordiness than is, strictly speaking, necessary.  Thus, a crucial step in making my stories better is for me to be as ruthless as possible in eliminating the redundant.

Alas, it is not my greatest strength; why use only ten words if twenty will do, after all?  (Of course, there are complex and nuanced ideas that honestly require many words to convey, but usually it’s just a bad habit.)

This is one reason it’s useful—for me at least—to edit my work over and over and over again, with several added “overs” into the mix.  If I edit and reread my writing often enough that I lose almost all proprietary affection for it, I find that I’m much more able to say, “That’s crap, isn’t it?” and try to make it better.  I suppose it’s possible to go too far along that path, but I seriously doubt that I’ve ever done so; I love my own words too much.

<<sigh>>

Solitaire has been out for about a week now, and I haven’t received any negative feedback about it.  I can honestly say that those who’ve read it and responded, either recently or in the past, have all said that it’s good, but also that it’s pretty effed up…in the sense that it’s about pretty effed up things.  If you disagree—on either point—I would be delighted to hear from you.

Okay, well, if you hate it, I probably wouldn’t be “delighted” to hear from you, but I would consider it a valuable service, so please don’t be shy.  I can take it…I think.  I do try to live up to Kepler’s example.

Perhaps this is a good time to exhort you all to take a moment to review books that you’ve bought and read.  It’s tremendously useful to authors, especially independent authors.  It’s also terrifically helpful to others who are considering reading a book.  Reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, or Publishers Weekly are all well and good, but many of us find it much more useful to know what other “ordinary” book consumers/lovers think.  This is one of the greatest services provided by online book-sellers, in my opinion:  the ability of readers in large numbers to rate and review books and other creative works.

If you buy a lot of books, it may be asking too much of you to review each one (though giving a star rating, if you bought the book from Amazon for instance, is the work of mere seconds).  But if you only give a written review to one tenth of the books you read, you’ve done a real and great service.  As Carl Sagan says in Episode 11 of the original Cosmos TV series, a person can only read—at most—a few thousand books in a normal lifetime, and there are literally millions and millions of books from which to choose.  “The trick,” as Sagan points out, “is to know which books to read.”

By rating and reviewing books when you can, you help your fellow bibliophiles, and even sporadic readers, to make better decisions.  I can’t say that it’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of such a service.  I could, for instance, claim that the very fate of the universe hangs on your choice to review or not review, and if you don’t, all present and future life will be cast into an eternal Hell where they will suffer interminable agonies beyond anything we could possibly imagine.  That would be an exaggeration.  I think.

But to review books is important and useful for your fellow readers, and it’s a wonderful thing to do for an author.  Consider it, if you wish, a very cheap Christmas/Saturnalia/late Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Newtonmas/Keplermas/New Year’s gift.

Thanking you in advance,

TTFN

Come what come may, time and the hour blogs through the roughest day.

Well, Thursday has caught me off-guard again.  This really shouldn’t happen, considering that it comes every week at the same time—like clockwork, or at least like calendar-work—but I guess I’ve got a mental block in that area.  The days do all seem much the same, with very little that stands out from its surroundings; certainly, there exist plain few inherently exciting events.  Goodness knows the news cycle is too depressingly idiotic to vouchsafe much attention without losing IQ points each time; it’s probably worse for your brain than sniffing glue, though I’ve never tried the latter, and I don’t intend to do so.  If glue-sniffing is worse than paying attention to popular and social media—well, then it is very bad indeed.

Of course, there are exciting things coming in my personal future.  The writing of Unanimity proceeds well, with the story arcing gracefully (I hope) toward its climax, but it continues to be longer than I expect.  I’m pretty sure the first draft is going to be over half a million words before it’s through!  But I do expect it to be complete before the end of the year, and then rewriting/editing can begin, leading ultimately, in the fullness of time, to the release of the novel.  So that’s fun.

I also finished rewriting the original portion of In the Shade, that short story I pulled out and decided to complete.  I am not, however, going to finish writing the story until after I’ve completed at least the first draft of Penal Colony, which is going more quickly now that I’m not splitting my secondary writing time between it and In the Shade.  I expect that both short stories will be complete, rewritten/edited, and released well before Unanimity is ready to go.

I have a tentative plan to put together a new collection of short stories before long, since I write them with some frequency, and release them as the equivalent of “Kindle Singles.”  I know there are people out there who prefer to read physical, paper-and-ink books, and sympathize strongly with that point of view (though I do love being able to carry my library around in my pocket).  Since publishing even my short stories (which tend to be long) in paperback individually just makes for a product that’s probably too expensive for what you get, I like the idea of releasing a new collection of stories, like Welcome to Paradox City, but with more stories than that collection.  I’ve even started playing around with title ideas, like Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, or something along those lines.

And just now, literally, as I wrote this, it occurred to me that—going in the other direction—I could also publish the individual short stories from Welcome to Paradox City as Kindle additions.  These would be The Death Sentence, If the Spirit Moves You, and of course the titular Paradox City.  Interesting.

Of course, if I release these as individual works, it might be tempting to produce audio versions of the stories, which could be fun and rewarding, but which could reinstantiate the trap in which I use a lot of my spare time recording and editing.  I really need to find a way to dedicate more of myself to writing, and its associated pursuits, in the rapidly diminishing (and highly unpredictable) life that remains to me.  Maybe I should set up a Patreon account or something.

Discussing audio leads to an amusing little side-note.  As I think I’ve commented before, I have a longish daily commute, and I like to listen to podcasts and audio books during the trip.  Well, recently, I was fiddling through my phone and found the old, unedited recordings of some of my short stories and the early chapters of The Chasm and the Collision.  I listened to one of these on the way home the other day, and it was quite amusing to hear all my mistakes and retakes, and the inevitable copious profanity that went along with them.  But it was also surprisingly fun simply to listen to myself reading my stories, so last night I opened up the YouTube app on my phone and listened to the first part of Hole for a Heart on my way home.  I don’t know if this is the most narcissistic thing that’s ever been done, but it certainly ranks right up there in my personal experience.  It was, however, honestly enjoyable.  I wonder what, if anything, that says about me, but it’s at least reassuring in that I still find the story to be a good one, and it makes me want to write more.

I just wish I could finish Unanimity more quickly.  Sometimes I think I’m never going to live to see it published, or even to see the finished first draft.  Probably that’s too melodramatic—I do tend to be a bit dark, but then again, if you read my writing, you know that already.

And that’s pretty much it for today, on this surprisingly unexpected Thursday.  I hope I haven’t shortchanged you, but then again, if you enjoy my writing, there’s plenty of it available commercially.

TTFN!

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