O, let my books be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking blog.

Good morning everyone!  It’s Thursday, and of course, that means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  This is the first post of Autumn this year (in the northern hemisphere, anyway).  It is also, I’m extremely pleased to note, the first blog post after the release of Book 2 of Unanimity, both in paperback and e-book form!

This very much feels like the end of an era for me—in a good way.  The process of writing and then editing and then publishing Unanimity has been a monumental undertaking, at least from my own small and narrow point of view.  I had no idea when I started the story that it would end up so large.  It certainly didn’t seem likely to become such a long tale.  The concept seemed fairly simple, at first glance…and at second, third, fourth, fifth, and further superficial glances.  But developing the occurrences and progression of the story ended up being quite a process, partly because—I think—it’s a specific plot notion that hasn’t been done before, at least not in quite the same way.  Perhaps I’m flattering myself.

In any case, I’m pleased with the result, and I’m pleased with the fact that it’s complete.  I don’t yet have my copy of the paperback in hand—it’s on its way—but I’m excited to have and hold it.  I was miffed when the problem of its length first made me need to split the book into two volumes, but on the other hand, Tolkien had to do that too, so I’m in good company.  At least it gave me the opportunity to design two slightly different covers, representing the increasing extent and penetration of Charley Banks’s power and “infestation” throughout the course of the story.

I’m afraid the official release date of Unanimity Book 2 on Amazon is September 21, 2020 instead of September 22, which was what I wanted…but in order for it to be available by September 22, I had to put it into the process on the 21st, because there’s always a delay…and indeed, I received the notification that it was, in fact, ready only on the morning of the 22nd.  So, it appeared to the public, as it were, on the first day of Autumn (in the north) and on Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, which was what I wanted.

In the meantime, I decided to release—officially—my song Catechism, which is now available for your listening pleasure on Amazon, on Spotify, on YouTube/YouTube Music, and on oodles of other venues, most of which I’ve never used.  I posted a version of it on YouTube previously, and I think on one or both of my blogs, but this is the “official” version, from each play of which I get a modicum of royalties, so of course I encourage you to put it on your own favorite song playlists!  It has new, official “cover art” with which I’m reasonably happy, and which you can see below.  The song opens with some sound effects made by recording and then splitting, overlapping, stretching, and partly reversing various noises from the office in which I work.  I could dream up convincing explanations for how that all fits into the theme of the song, but honestly, I really just did it for fun.

As I announced I would last week (I think), I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, rereading and editing as I go, improving the language and whatnot, and enjoying the story quite a bit.  Weirdly enough, it also takes place in a university, though the university in this case is plainly and rather blatantly an alternate-universe version of my own undergrad alma mater, which is not the case in Unanimity.  I suppose it makes sense that one writes about situations drawn from memorable times in one’s life, and of course, I started writing The Vagabond originally when I was in university.  You don’t have to have attended college to enjoy it, though.  Even more so than with Unanimity, the college and the town in The Vagabond are just the setting for a battle between universal good and evil.  It’s a much more straightforward story, with far less moral ambiguousness and ambivalence than is found in Unanimity.

I was so young and innocent then.

Really, though, it is a fun story, I think—but then, I would, wouldn’t I—and I’m looking forward to finishing its tweaking and editing and fixing up.  Then, at last, I’ll be able to return to and complete the story of poor Timothy Outlaw, which has also become longer than I would have imagined when I first came up with the story idea.  I think I sometimes get carried away, but whataya gonna do?  You can’t count on anyone else to write the stories you want the way you want them written, so if you want to read them—and to let other people read them—you’ve got to write them yourself, in your own way.  Ditto with music, I suppose, though with that it’s much more—for me—just enjoying the amazement of the fact that I can do it at all, rather like a dog that learns to read, write, and speak.  It’s not that he does it well, it’s that he does it that matters.  Which is not to say that I don’t think my songs are worth a listen—I think they are—but I would never claim to be as good a composer/songwriter/performer/producer as I am an author.

Opinions surely vary on all such things.  Heck, I think Hemingway is (slightly) overrated, though my father thought he was fantastic.  And although A Christmas Carol is a brilliant story, I couldn’t actually force my way though Oliver Twist despite my best efforts and the fact that I was familiar with the story.  This from someone who’s read The Silmarillion about a dozen times.  So, everything succumbs to taste at some level.

Except Shakespeare.  If you think you’re unfamiliar with Shakespeare, and you live in an English-speaking culture, you’re simply incorrect.  A significant fraction of the metaphors and sayings and expressions we still use on a regular basis come from Shakespeare, and a remarkable number of our words are first found in his works*.  His influence is something even the Beatles could only dream of (though perhaps, over the course of the next four centuries, they will achieve a comparable degree of long-lasting influence).

With that, as usual, I’ve written more than I expected to write again.  For me, at least, writing is easier than talking to people, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me.  All things in the universe follow the principle of least action (or so it seems), but sometimes “least action” can be a misleading term.  I think of it instead as the vector addition of all the various “forces” acting on us at any given moment, in some vast phase space of such forces, with a potentially limitless number of dimensions and parameters.  For all that, it’s still just head to tail addition of vectors, and we go where the net “force” pushes us.  Which, right now, in my case, is to make me finish this blog post.

TTFN

catechism cover


*This doesn’t mean he invented them; he may just have been the earliest one to use such words in a form that was recorded and endured.  After all, as David Mitchell has pointed out, Shakespeare had to have a pretty good idea that his audience would know what he was talking about, so he couldn’t have just made stuff up willy-nilly.

Write till your ink be dry, and with your tears moist it again, and frame some feeling blog that may discover such integrity.

Good morning, everyone!  It’s Thursday, and it’s thus time once again for my weekly blog post.

I don’t have all that much that’s new to report, at least with respect to writing.  I’ve been continuing to work steadily on Outlaw’s Mind, producing about a thousand plus words per weekday, which means a little over four or five thousand words a week.  After completing my daily “quota” of new writing, I’ve been going over to Vagabond, or The Vagabond (I haven’t decided which title to choose, and I’d welcome reader input on the question).

It’s been quite a treat to reencounter scenes that I remember only when I come to them in the book.  For instance, there’s a particularly vivid nightmare sequence, set in a supernaturally nasty, gigantic underground sewer system, that surprised me with recognition when I arrived at it during my reading/editing this week.  I was particularly pleased to discover that it had been written rather well, at least from my own biased point of view.

In a different way, in can be just as enjoyable to find places where my original writing was a bit awkward, and to realize that I can fix those places handily now.  It shows me that—again, from my own point of view, at least—I’ve become a better writer over time.

It’s required an effort of will to keep from looking at and trying to complete the fragment I have of House Guest, a short story that helped win me a national award when I was a teenager, because I don’t want to distract myself from Outlaw’s Mind.  The latter is proceeding well, as I said, but it’s definitely growing to be a short novel, and I’m going to have to make a rather nail-biting decision—both practically and artistically—whether I want to include it in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities or to let it stand alone.  It’s growth is, I think, a good thing, because I’ve found that there’s more to the life and character of young Timothy Outlaw than I would have expected from the simple seed that produced the story.  This was one of those little notions that popped into my head, and which I “jotted” down in my cell phone note-taking app for later.

It’s amazing that two short sentences can turn into a much longer story than expected, but then again, the story has become about much more than those two sentences ever implied.  I suppose that’s not terribly surprising.  One could summarize even the entire Harry Potter series in a few sentences, after all, if one were so inclined, but the story is so much more and so much deeper than such sentences could lead one to imagine.

I can’t lay claim to anything like J. K. Rowling’s ability, but I seem to be able to write as much as she does, keeping all other things such as needing to keep a “day job” in consideration.  It would certainly be wonderful if as many people in the world read and enjoyed my books as do hers, to say nothing of making a similar amount of money*.

Hopefully, if the internet and its progeny survive unabated into the future, that means that my stories will always be out there, somewhere—even if only as archaeological relics.  Once published, the stories have a life of their own, separate from their author, and not subject to his persistence; this may be a very durable form of life, as information independent of its particular substrate.

And with that peculiar reflection, I think I’ll call it good for today.  I really would love to have your input on the Vagabond title, and on “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” and on anything else that strikes you as worthy of comment.  Of course, I want to remind you that Unanimity Book 2 will be published on September 22, 2020, and that it’s already available for pre-order in e-book form.  And Unanimity Book 1, is already available.  You should have time to read it between now and when Book 2 comes out, if you’re a reasonably fast reader.

Do your best to stay safe, sane, and healthy out there.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 2 simple Cover Project


*Though that’s not terribly important to me.  I’m not saying I would turn it down or wouldn’t be delighted to have such an income, but obviously, it’s not for money that I write, nor for prestige, nor for any simple, short-term, tangible purpose.  I write because I love to make up stories and get them down in print and publish them so that other people can read them if they want, because I have always loved to read other people’s stories; it’s been one of the greatest and most reliable joys of my life.  But no matter how few or many people read my stories, I think I’ll always be my own number one fan, in the sense of enjoying reading and rereading my own books.  I’m not quite as bad a Number One Fan as Annie Wilkes, but I do have my yandere moments toward myself, if that makes any sense.

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.

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!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

better chronic logo


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do please let me know, when the time comes.

TTFN

Face less 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, it’s going well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN


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

Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valor of my blog

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday, of course, and therefore it’s just about the perfect day for another of my weekly blog posts.

I still struggle to get a pattern rolling for Iterations of Zero.  I thought of a way to make use of “idle” time to do longer form “Audio Blog” entries that might become a regular feature, but my first attempt was met with static and road noise.  If you’re interested in hearing more about that—literally—then by all means, listen to the follow-up audio blog I did yesterday for IoZ.  I think it’s worth your time if even just for my description of various social media as…well, let’s not spoil the joke.

Of course, out in the wide world, things proceed as absurdly as always.  Viruses, both literal and memetic, trouble us all.  This is not always a terrible thing.  While it’s hard to see Covid-19 as having much of an up-side, if it forces us to be better prepared for future, still more virulent pathogens—which are all but inevitable, given the enormous and lovely petri dish the human race instantiates for pathogens of all types—then perhaps it will be a net good in the long run.  It would be nice if humans could learn without having to be hit in the face with disease and death, but the principle of least action seems to apply at all levels of nature.  As for the societal, memetic flare-up, though rooted in a real tragedy, it is much more a positive happening.  Some things, thoughts, and people—probably all of us—need to be troubled from time to time.

More pivotal to me personally, though, is that the final run-through of Unanimity is going well.  We’re* working on layout and pacing, deciding how to divide up the sections and chapters of such a long work, as well as developing the cover design.  This all tends to go pretty well when I write books.  My biggest failing is that I have trouble advertising/promoting myself and my work.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it feels almost unseemly to me to tout my own products.  I feel not just embarrassed but often ashamed when I try to shout my own praises.  It’s a strange thing, and I don’t know if the area under the curve of that function is net-positive or net-negative, but at this moment in history, we can at least say it’s not “presidential”.  I need to improve it, though, because I have books and music that I really would like people to read and hear.

One of the things that most makes me hesitant about bigging myself up, as they say**, is that I fear that I’d very easily go too far and veer toward full Khan/Kanye/Doom/Trump mode once I got started, and there are already enough people in the world who think I’m an asshole.  But perhaps I worry too much about such things.  For a time, in high school, I was able to pull off being faux-egotistical as a self-parody of sorts, and it worked quite well (I think).  But, of course, high school is a time of immense possibility, and I was younger then***.  Still, if I could work that persona up, or some acceptable version of a similar process, it might be useful.

I’ll have to think about it.  Your input would be welcome.

There’s not a whole lot more to add.  I’m continuing to practice guitar and to develop a few original songs.  I’m also working on an arrangement of the old, beautiful song “Come Little Leaves” and my version of the Joker’s song from The Killing Joke has long since been complete except for the actual recording.  Both of these could stand to be heard, in my opinion.  Of course, the latter is nothing I could ever produce for profit—unless I left the lyrics out, I suppose.  The music is all me.  I think “Come Little Leaves” might actually be in the public domain, since the original poem, at least, came out in the early nineteen-twenties.  I’m not sure it would fit in with the other songs on my imagined “album”, however.  Though it has a vaguely melancholy feel, and is in a minor key, it is a hauntingly beautiful and ultimately positive song, whereas my work tends to be a bit dark.

Oh, well, time enough for these decisions to be made as and if they happen.  Unanimity remains my top priority, and it is happily speeding toward release, possibly by the end of the summer, but more likely in the autumn…which is, after all, the perfect time for a long, dark story to be told.

TTFN


*This refers to me and my creative team, including but not limited to Trevor Smith, Nathan Talbert, and Franklin L. Ritemoore.  I thought they deserved some credit.

**They do say that somewhere, don’t they?

***Duh.

Thou know’st we blog by wit, and not by witchcraft; And wit depends on dilatory time.

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Okay, so…

It’s another Thursday, and I again don’t have any goal or point in mind as I begin writing this weekly blog post.  There’s not much new to communicate, except to say that certain previously mentioned things are now more imminent…as, I suppose, should always be the case if any progress is being made at all.

Specifically, I’ve almost finished my design for the cover picture for Free Range Meat,* and plan to have that story out and available for purchase on Amazon (Kindle format only) before August arrives.  It will be available on Kindle Unlimited, like all my short stories, so those of you who subscribe to that will be able to read it for free.  This may or may not be the case with Unanimity when it becomes ready for publication.  The paperback version of that book is going to be sizable, and it’s probably going to be in “trade paperback” format, since in smaller form it would be quite a fat book and/or have quite small print.  I’m not sure how I’ll settle that issue.  Of course, Unanimity will also be available for Kindle.

On other fronts, I’ve been semi-obsessively laboring over the mixing and production of my latest song, Catechism, as I think I mentioned last week.  I’ve learned some new things about the process since I made Schrodinger’s Head and Breaking Me Down, and part of me aches to go back and completely redo them, but that impulse isn’t strong enough—for now—to engender action.  It’s just such a time-consuming process, and when I’m doing it, other things get pushed relatively to the side, including actual, regular practicing of the guitar and even my editing and writing time.

As I’ve said before, this would all be easier and happen faster if I were able to write full time, but since rent must be paid and food must be eaten if I’m to continue writing at all (at least, for more than a month or so), I’m afraid I have to pay those opportunity costs.  Oh, well.  I’m hardly alone in this.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make before I interrupted myself is that, because I’m learning as I go, Catechism is almost certainly going to be better produced and mixed than were my earlier efforts.  Whether or not it’s a good song is a judgement from which I have to recuse myself, being biased as I am.**  It’s peppy, certainly, and nothing like as dark as Breaking Me Down…though not as light-hearted as Schrodinger’s Head either, I have to admit.  I think my composition skills are improving along with my mixing and production skills, and hopefully that means the music is better.  In any case, I kind of like it; I guess that’s got to be worth something.

One of the slightly annoying facts about getting close to putting something out that’s not my main art form is that, as I finish, I get these gnawing and nagging ideas of more songs to do, and I have to resist jumping immediately into such pursuits.  Though editing and all related business is going fairly well, there’s no doubt that it’s been at least mildly slowed by my other activities.  And I have so many more stories to write once this one is done and published.  I have a novella to finish, tentatively titled Escape Valve, and ideas for many other short stories that would be fun.  I also have Neko/Neneko to write, and Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and Changeling in a Shadow World, and more beyond that.  I want to write the sequels to Mark Red, probably after doing a second edition of that novel.  Also, I plan to publish a hard copy collection of my short stories, tentatively titled Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I may have mentioned before.

I really need to win the lottery (which is vanishingly unlikely, especially since I don’t play it), or to find some rich benefactor somewhere.  If anyone knows such a person, I’d be deeply grateful if you’d send them my way.

And with that thought, I’ll call the blog post good for today, and get back to those other things that won’t let me go.  I hope you’re all enjoying the summer, if you’re in the northern hemisphere (and that you’re having a decent winter if you’re in the southern).  As is always implicit, I’d welcome your comments and feedback about anything you feel like commenting on, as long as it’s in good taste…or in bad taste that I happen to share.

TTFN


*A copy of the draft of the central image is at the head of this blog post.  Yes, it’s supposed to be blurry.

**This does not always take the form of bias in my favor, by the way; I think I’m not alone in being especially harsh in judging my own works, which makes it difficult to promote them enthusiastically.  I occasionally long for the unbridled narcissism of a Kanye West or a Donald Trump.  Well…not really.  But something at least a little closer to such a state would probably serve me better than my frequent and sometimes vicious self-condemnation, overlaid upon a baseline of irritating—and rather ironic—pomposity.  Que lástima.

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