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

O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a blog replete with thankfulness!

Welcome, welcome, to August of 2018, the second of those two months which push back September, October, November, and December, changing them from the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months—which they should be, based on their names—to the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months.  It’s a shame.  It might have been preferable to have July and August at the end of the year, rather than the middle.  Then Christmas would be on the twenty-fifth of August, which sounds strange, of course, but only because we’re used to it being the other way.

Next week being the second Thursday of the month, I will write a new entry in “My heroes have always been villains.”  As usual, I haven’t yet decided what villain I’ll discuss, nor even from which media form I’m going to take it.  Hitherto, I’ve done one from movies and two from books, but many other sources are available.  Excellent villains can be found in comic books and manga (especially comic books), and those media have become more and more respectable over time. Continue reading

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

Greetings, everyone.  I hope you’re having a good day.  This post should be relatively short, but I thought I’d give a few minor updates.

First, as those of you following this blog will already have noticed, I posted the audio for Prometheus and Chiron here yesterday.  I think it turned out reasonably well, and the sound quality overall was a step up from Ifowonco.  As I’ve said before, I think I’m getting better at audio production as I become more used to the process, but I imagine there will always be room for improvement.

Unanimity is coming along well—I haven’t been slacking on it, even though I’ve been working on these audio projects.  It is, however, going to end up being rather longer than I thought it would be, because there are quite a few more things that need to happen before the story is done.  I’m not bored of it by any means; quite the contrary.  But I have been surprised by how quickly it’s grown.  I’m sure the rewriting/editing process is going to be daunting, but then again, it always is.

I’ve decided that, from now on, I’m not going to stop writing new things (i.e., first drafts of stories), even while I’m editing older material—I’ll just set a lower target every day for the new writing during those times.  For instance, right now, when new writing is essentially my entire focus (excluding the audio), I’m writing roughly three pages a day, five days a week (with two days set aside, one for this blog, and for my other one, Iterations of Zero).  Once I need to get into editing Unanimity (after it’s been set aside for Stephen King’s recommended weeks-long resting period), I’ll plan to write only one new page a day, and then spend the rest of my mornings editing.

That’s the plan, anyway.  Of course, we all know what Rabbi Burns (ha!) said about the best laid plans of mice and men and all that, but I’m not too worried about achieving that goal precisely, just in spirit.

Other matter, other matters…

Now that the audio of Prometheus and Chiron has been released, I’m soon going to upload the video version of that audio to my YouTube channel, and I’ll notify everyone here once it’s up.  As before, don’t expect much from the video portion; it’s likely just going to be a still image of the cover of the story.  I just find that YouTube is an incredibly widespread and easily shared venue in which to post something, including audio.  I’ve noticed that quite a few people make similar videos of the audio of podcasts, for instance.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I often like to go to sleep while listening to a lecture, or discussion, or something of the sort playing on YouTube.  I don’t know how well that would work with my audio—my stories aren’t really designed to ensure restful slumber—but if you think they might, feel free to play them, in either venue.  As I think I’ve said before, I plan on creating audio versions of all my short stories eventually, and then—possibly—releasing audio of at least some of my novels, a chapter at a time.  When that time comes, I’ll gladly take your input on with which book to begin.

There’s not much other news on the writing front this week.  I plan next week to post an author’s note for Hole for a Heart.  That will no doubt rehash some of what I’ve already talked about here when I was writing the story, but it’s going to be far from redundant, I think.  Then I think I really need to get started on my series of explorations of my favorite antagonists from books, stories, graphic novels, comics, movies, etc., under the general heading, “My heroes have always been villains.”  I’ve been intending to do this for a long time—planning it, you might say (see above about plans)—but it’s high time I put it into motion.

That’s about it.  It’s been brief, as I said it would be, but I will post here also just to let everyone know when the Video of the Audio is up, so you won’t feel too short-changed.  In the meantime, try to enjoy (in the northern hemisphere) the slowly developing Spring.  As always, feel free to comment, and thank you for reading.

TTFN!

From camp to camp through the foul womb of night The hum of either blog post stilly sounds.

Hello, good day, and welcome to April 2018.

For those of you who might have missed my recent updates and posts:  within the last two weeks, I’ve posted the audio for my short story I for one welcome our new computer overlords on my blog here, and I subsequently made it into a video and posted it on YouTube.  The blog post linking to the video is here.

Don’t misunderstand the fact that the story is posted as a video.  Like many others before me, I simply took the audio and added a single video image—the cover of the e-book, floating in a black background—as the video portion of the file.  This is probably a relief for many; you don’t have to go through the misery of watching my ugly mug as I read the story aloud to you.  I posted the audio story in both places and forms to make it more easily accessible, so that more people who might want to listen will find it easy to do so.  It’s just over two hours long, but YouTube lets you start and stop videos in the middle, so you can pick up where you left off, which is convenient.  If you’re the sort of person who likes to listen to bedtime stories—and there are, pleasingly, many adults who do—then you can set the video playing on YouTube as you lie down in bed and listen to it as you make your way off into Slumberland.  I’m told, by relatively disinterested parties, that I do a decent job of reading people to sleep, and I’m also told (hopefully not just to spare my feelings) that this is a compliment.

In the meantime, I’ve returned whole-heartedly to writing Unanimity, and the first draft should/may be done sometime within the next month or two.  Then, of course, the hard and crucial work of rewriting/editing begins, so don’t get too excited.  Unanimity will not be available as beach reading this summer by any stretch of the imagination, though I do hope it will be out in time for you to consume it on a few dark, wintry evenings as 2018 draws to a close and 2019 begins.  It’s the sort of story best read alone in the dark.

Which brings up an interesting, tangential point:  I’ve noticed that, no matter what time of day I’m writing, even if the blinds are wide open on a sunny afternoon, I always feel like I’m working in the deep dark of a silent night, when everyone else is asleep.  I’m not sure why that is, but it’s consistent.  Many times, when I’ve drawn to the close of a stretch of writing and stood up, I’ve been utterly surprised to find that it’s daytime.  It’s probably something to do with the fact that writing is like hypnosis.  I wonder if other writers experience this.

In addition to writing about three pages a day on Unanimity, I’ve also started something I hadn’t really planned to do.  After completing the audio for Ifowonco, I had originally intended to take a break before doing audio for any of my other works, but I’m afraid that I couldn’t hold myself to that plan—or I didn’t want to and didn’t choose to, which amounts to the same thing—and have already almost completed the first “draft” of the audio for Prometheus and Chiron.  Of course, this is a shorter story than is Ifowonco, so it’s not that impressive that I’m already almost done with that draft.

I expect, given how interesting this process has been, and depending on how many people seem to listen, that I’ll ultimately do audio for all my short stories.  This will take a while, even though I don’t have all that many such stories to purvey.  But then, once that’s completed, assuming it continues, it raises another question that seems obvious to me:  will I do the audio for any of my novels?

One thing is quite clear, I would not be doing such audio in single, whole-book form.  I’m happy to listen to full audio books, especially during my commute, but the file size alone of a complete audio book, even a short one, is daunting.  I can’t even estimate what the comparable video size would be, even if the video portion were just a blank screen.  However, I haven’t ruled out the possibility of doing such audio one chapter at a time.  In fact, that might be kind of enjoyable.  I’m a bit nervous, of course, that doing so would expose me to too many imperfections in my prior works, but if I’m honest with myself, I recognize that collision with imperfection as a good thing.  In fact, that alone might be reason enough to do it, even if not a single person in the wide world listened.

Of course, I still haven’t even begun my planned series of blog posts about my favorite villains.  I haven’t forgotten (obviously), it’s just gotten pushed to the back burner because other plans have gripped me and seemed more urgent.  I may, though, start doing them on a monthly, or perhaps bi-weekly basis, once I’ve completed my series of author’s notes on the works I’ve written to date, and that series will soon be complete.

Well, that’s about all that I want to talk about today.  I wish you all the best, and hope that those in the northern hemisphere are at least looking forward to full springtime and the summer that follows.  Do be good to each other.

TTFN.