Cleanse the stuffed blog of that perilous stuff which weighs upon its heart

Okay.  Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus to another blog post.  It’s Thursday the 14th, which feels like it ought to be some inverted, retroactive, complex-time-based lucky or unlucky day, but as far as I know, no one takes it as such.  Of course, there’s no reason to think that the arbitrary dating system we humans use should have any effect on any given day’s intrinsic “luck”, but it can be fun to think about and play with such notions.  Now, at an individual level, there are indeed lucky and unlucky days, but these designations are applied after the fact, since luck is just a description of specific outcomes of events governed by probability and statistics.

I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief, today, which is unlikely to break anyone’s heart.  There’s not much going on in my personal life (though the world, as always, continues to produce new and exciting brands of chaos).  I haven’t even done an Iterations of Zero post this week, though there are plenty of older posts to read if you’re so inclined.  I continue to struggle to work regular IoZ entries into my schedule, even though my lack of “a life” would seem to imply that there would be ample space (or, rather, time) to do so.  There are, however, simply too many empty distractions, and the ever-present problem of “will” or “drive” to accomplish things.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, willpower is very much a neurological function (interacting with other bodily states), and it is subject both to exercise and to fatigue.  It is certainly not constant, any more than physical vigor is.

That being said, my will to work on The Vagabond has seen no significant faltering.  The editing process goes well; the book is subtly improving with each run-through, which is gratifying, at least for me.  It continues to be a good horror story, in my biased estimation, and I’m pleased with my past self for having written it.  I can’t go back and give him a pat on the back directly, but I can at least thank his memory, though most other things associated with that memory trigger sadness and regret.  I suppose that’s the nature of recollections of things past, whether they are triggered by the smell of madeleines or by editing a horror novel*.

As I’ve said before on more than one occasion, my mental health doesn’t tend to be very good, specifically with respect to dysthymia and depression, when I’m not writing new fiction, but I also know that I am too prone to diversion if I interrupt one writing project—such as editing The Vagabond—with another.  That was one factor that led the original writing of The Vagabond to take so long, and also ensured that I rarely completed any long projects prior to the period when I was an invited guest of the Florida DOC.  If I allow myself to be distracted by a new creative writing idea, I will continue to be distracted, and enterprises of great pith and moment will with this respect their courses run awry and lose the name of action.

Not that I never completed anything in the past; quite the contrary.  I wrote a longish fantasy/sci-fi novel** in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom, the cosmology of which lurks still in the background of many of my other universes, though that original novel is long since lost in time like Roy Baty’s tears in the rain.  One day, perhaps (it’s a very big perhaps) I might rewrite it.  But I’m not getting my hopes up.

I also wrote at least one complete screenplay in high school (a lot of it done in idle time at my after-school job at GM, where I usually finished my official work rather quickly).  It was a deliberately cheap horror movie, which I intended to produce, with my friends playing the parts.  Some of them were good actors.  Unfortunately, the technology available to me then made it unworkable, though if I had modern video technology, I probably could have pulled it off.  It’s just as well that I didn’t, I suspect, since even one of my best friends, who was to play a major part in the movie, said that the story was unworthy of the title (Night Vision).

Well, I said I’d keep things short this week, so that’s enough recherche du temps perdu for now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work in an IoZ entry this week, on some random, walk-in science or other.  In the meantime, I’ll wish you all the best I can realistically wish you.  Try not to let the chaos get you down, and especially, try not to let the absurd, tragi-comic antics of many of your fellow humans make you demonize and revile them or consider them inherently your enemies or beyond redemption.

That’s my job.

TTFN

Picture1


*I’ve never read any Proust.  Most of what I know of his work is from other people’s descriptions, first and foremost from the Monty Python “All-England Summarize Proust Competition”.

**It was all hand-written on very narrow-ruled notebook paper, with many digressions into the margins throughout, and was over five hundred pages long.  It would have been much longer than The Vagabond, and if I were to rewrite it now, I’m sure that I would make it longer still, because there were interesting ideas that could have been explored further than I did at the time.

Yet, do thy worst, old Time; despite thy wrong, My love shall in my blog ever live young.

It’s Thursday again, and thus, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I would like to say, “Hello and good morning,” to all my readers, even though you may not be reading this in the morning.  (I switched up my usual starting order to keep things fresh for those who read my blog regularly, and for me as well.  It’s not much variety, but it doesn’t take much to break up minor monotony.)

Speaking of things that might seem as though they would be monotonous, but which somehow are not, the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  I said last week that I was only twenty or so pages from the end of the latest run-through, and I’m now well into the next.  I’ll be more than halfway to the end of my usual, rather laborious process, by the time I finish this current iteration, and getting past the halfway point is always a good feeling.

Unless you count life itself, I suppose.  For most people, realizing that they are already (probably) halfway through their lives is a somewhat troubling thought.  Sometimes it’s a very troubling thought.  One readily sympathizes with their angst, particularly when one realizes that, as we grow older, our subjective sense is that time passes much more quickly.  Much of our perception of time is dependent on how much of it we’ve already experienced, so the years before us seem far less substantial than those that came before.  I can remember, when I was much younger, that being told that it was twenty minutes until dinner time felt like an almost unendurable wait.  And if it was still an hour before dinner?  It was hard not to think that I would surely starve to death.

But though I can recall the fact that I felt that way, I can’t recall the feeling itself.  Twenty minutes now feels like an eye-blink, and an hour is barely enough to get anything useful done at all, unless one applies that hour daily.  Pink Floyd captured this nicely and concisely in their song, Time:  “Every year is getting shorter/ never seem to find the time / plans that either come to naught / or half a page of scribbled lines,” as well as, “And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking / racing around to come up behind you again. / The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older / shorter of breath and one day closer to death”.

Of course, everything is a matter of scale and comparison.  Over the course of a single day, the sun may not change in a relative way, but it is older, and though its “lifespan” is measured in billions of years, it is finite.  Likewise, on even larger scales, our universe itself has a limited lifespan, enforced by the laws of nature and the inexorable tendency for entropy to increase.  There are some very good recent popular science books that deal with this, and I personally recommend two of them:  Until the End of Time, by Brian Greene, and The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack.  Both authors are working scientists who know their subject well.  Mack’s book is slightly more playful but is nonetheless clear and informative.  Greene, as usual, gets slightly deeper, but his love of the subject is unmistakable and contagious.  He uses a wonderful metaphor to try to convey the vastness of the time scales he’s discussing, asking the reader to imagine an Empire State Building in which each subsequent floor represents ten time as many years as the floor below.  The top floor is a lot of years later than the bottom floor.

And yet, as Carl Sagan first told me (and a lot of other people) in the ninth chapter/episode of Cosmos, “The Lives of the Stars”, neither a googol nor even a googolplex is any closer to infinity than is the number one.  Even the lifespan of our universe is just an eyeblink from a certain point of view*.  Of course, there may exist some grander arena, a metaverse, which is truly eternal and infinite in all possible dimensions.  I suspect that this is the case, mainly because I find it harder to conceptualize an end of actuality (What’s there at the end?  How does it know where to end?  What could it even mean for there to be nothing beyond it?) than an infinite regress.  But reality isn’t constrained by the failures of my imagination (thankfully) so that’s just a strong intuition or prediction or supposition.  I make no claim to final knowledge.

Anyway, what was I talking about again?  Oh, yeah, the changing subjective sense of time over a human lifespan.  The fact that our own sense of time changes so drastically (in a seemingly logarithmic way) over the course of our lives can lead one—or at least me—to wonder what the subjective experience of time would be for a being, like one of Tolkien’s elves, who lives a very long time, or forever.  It’s more or less pointless to think too precisely about the latter, because forever never happens, or at least it never finishes happening.  But a being that lives for many thousands or millions of years would eventually, I imagine, come to see even the rising and falling of nations as no more momentous than, say, the life of an adult mayfly, or the brief growth, sporulation, and then shriveling of toadstools after a rain.

I think it can be useful to imagine such perspectives, though I’ve found few authors who have tried really to get into the mindset of such possible characters.  Still, to see things from the long view can help us keep our own concerns in perspective.  Our petty differences can be seen to be all the pettier, our urgent ideological divisions not much deeper or more consequential than changes in fashion, and the experiences of our lives both less cataclysmic and at the same time more precious and beautiful.

With that thought, I’ll close by sharing with you a picture that I encountered on Jerry Coyne’s website, taken and shared by one of his many readers.  It’s a photograph, edited in camera** only, by Joseph Routon, who said that I was free to share it if I wanted.  I think it’s beautiful and brilliant, and I like his title for it:  Life is beautiful!  Wear a Mask!!

TTFN

Life is Beautiful! Wear a Mask!!


*In fact, if I recall correctly, in Roger Penrose’s book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind he points out that, taken from the scale of the Planck time, and the time scale of subatomic processes, the lifespan of a human is comparable to the lifespan of our universe itself.  Now that’s thought-provoking.  I was so pleased when they gave him the Nobel Prize this year.

**I mean that in the literal sense, not that it took place in a judge’s private quarters, without the press or the public present…though I in fact doubt that there were any members of the press around when he did it.

My conscience hath a thousand several blogs, and every blog brings in a several tale

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts.  It is not Thursday morning as I write this, but it will be Thursday (or later) when you read it.  I’m writing it a day early, to be published on the usual day, since this Thursday is a major holiday where I live.

Given that, I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US who are reading this, and to everyone else, a happy day in general.  It can feel as though there’s much not to be thankful for right now, but I’m sure that, in the modern world, we still have many reasons to feel fortunate—certainly those of us with the luxury of reading and writing blogs.

Positivity isn’t my strong point, as my regular readers may know, but it is worth remembering that we take for granted a tremendous number of incredible advances that our forebears even a generation past could not have imagined.  If you go back a century, to the time of the 1918-ish flu pandemic, it’s sobering to realize that they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the numerous bacterial infections that often complicate influenza, let alone ventilators, oxygen monitors, corticosteroids, or molecular biology to be able to discern the nature of the disease-causing agent.  Indeed, DNA itself was decades away from being described, so the tools for understanding and treating a highly contagious and dangerous viral illness were far weaker than they are today.  Vaccinations had been invented, but they were in crude form, and the science of understanding, let alone designing them, was in its infancy.

And the internet, of course, or anything like it, was not even a dream of science fiction yet.

So, if we work at it—and I say again, it’s not my strong point—we can find things about which to feel truly thankful.

On to other, lighter matters.  I did a rather unusual experiment recently, one about which I have mixed feelings.  I’d be thankful (!) for any feedback you might think appropriate.  As those of use who use Amazon know, when you’ve purchased something, Amazon often sends an email asking if you’d be willing to rate and review what you bought.  I think this is a useful service, but it can become onerous at times, so I don’t review nearly everything I purchase, even books that I read and enjoy.

I received a request to rate a jacket I’d just purchased.  It was the same brand I’d bought a few years ago, and my old one was getting a bit raggedy with use, so I ordered a new one (in a different color—black, of course).  I decided that I really should give a review, since I’d used the product and liked it enough to buy it again.

Well, as you may also know, once you’ve reviewed one item, the Amazon page asks you if you want to rate and review other items you’ve purchased—you know, while you’re in the mood and all.  And at the top of the list was my own creation, Unanimity Book 1, for which I’d already received more than one request for reviews.  I bought copies of the book for the people at my office I thought might enjoy it, and then another one for someone who asked me later for a copy, so the review requests were recurrent, as tends to happen with all of my books.

I’ve occasionally been tempted to write a comical, self-serving review that makes it obvious that I’m the author to anyone reading, but I’ve never done it before.  It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow people who have a fiduciary interest in a product to provide reviews for it.  I respect that policy, as I understood it.  But they kept asking, and asking, and asking…and I’m not made of stone (except perhaps for my heart).  Finally, on a whim, I wrote a brief review, starting off by revealing that I am the author of the book, and I rated it five stars.  This is not, of course, an unbiased rating, but it is at least an honest one, in that I really do think it’s worthy of that rank to me, not least because of the effort involved in writing it and the characters, whom I like very much.  I wasn’t really expecting the review to go up.  I figured Amazon’s automatic checkers or whatever they might be would block it and send me a kind but firm email stating that they can’t publish reviews from people involved financially in a product.  Well, only Amazon itself is more financially involved in my books than I am.  But at least so far, the review is there, which is amusing to me, at least, but I do feel the need to repeat my disclaimers about it and the rating.

To be honest, if I’d thought it was really going to work, the book I’d feel least conflicted about reviewing would be The Chasm and the Collision, which is certainly my most wholesome, family-friendly story, written specifically with my children in mind at the time*.  I’m quite proud of the world-building I did in it, which includes telepathic plants, mole-weasel creatures called orcterlolets who can directly manipulate the local shape of space itself, flying manta-ray like monstrosities called gowstrin, a bit of bastardized M-theory describing universes floating next to each other in “the bulk” and in danger of colliding, and three middle-schoolers who inadvertently get caught up in the emergency attempt to prevent that collision, which would destroy everything in our universe as well as the one of Osmeer.  And, of course, as I say in the jacket blurb, our heroes must try to help prevent this cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for being late for school.

Yeah, I don’t feel any qualms about recommending that book to pretty much anyone.  My sister has read it more than once, and the last time she did, she actually thanked me for writing it.  That was pretty huge.

The Vagabond, of course, being a horror story, is far from as family-friendly as CatC, but it is coming along nicely, and it is fast-paced, and a far more in-your-face horror story than, say, Unanimity.  The horror in the latter is complicated, partly psychological, partly existential, involving the threat of the complete loss of free will, autonomy, self-awareness, etc., without anyone even knowing of the threat, let alone being able to do anything about it.  At least with a traditional, moustache-twirling, evil incarnate type villain, you know what you’re up against and can make a stand.  When the villain is one of the people you love most in the world, who doesn’t even think that he’s doing anything bad, and about the threat from whom you know only because he told happily you, things are a little dicier**.  At least, I think so.

But The Vagabond will probably be more straightforward fun for most people, and it is certainly shorter.  Still, if you read only one of my books, I would recommend The Chasm and the Collision, without knowing more about your preferences and tastes and whatnots.

With that, I think I’ll draw this prematurely written blog post to a close.  I do, honestly, hope that all of you who are in the US have as good a Thanksgiving as possible, while doing everything you can to keep yourselves and those you love safe and healthy.  Hopefully, you can console yourself by imagining the November blow-out that will come once we have this latest virus*** under better control.  “So tighten your belts, and think with hope of the tables of Elrond’s house!”

TTFN

Thanksgiving (2)


*I don’t think either of them has read it, or any of my other books, though each book is dedicated to them.  They don’t want to have much to do with me since the time I was invited to be a guest of the State of Florida for three years…in fact, my son won’t interact with me at all, though my daughter does stay in contact, and shares news of her various adventures.

**I think that’s a neologism.  Certainly, MSWord doesn’t recognize it.

***And our various politicians and the political processes itself.

Were such things here as we do blog about? Or have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again—a week before Thanksgiving in the US—and thus it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Given the upcoming holiday, I probably won’t be putting out a blog post next week, but it’s possible that I will.  That will be a decision for the Robert of Thursday, November 26, 2020, and I’m not him yet.

It’s been a somewhat tumultuous week, locally at least, for me.  Business has been slow, and there’s been a relatively high degree of absenteeism at work.  I think both facts are largely due to the current chaos in the social and political climate.  Much of the chaos ought to be unnecessary, but many things in the world are not as they “ought” to be, whatever you think that “ought” entails.

At least one person in my office has come down with Covid-19, confirmed by testing and highly specific symptoms, though thankfully it was/is a mild case.  Also, my housemate appears to have come down with it.  He’s got some flu-like symptoms and whatnot, but again, it doesn’t seem to be a severe case.  I, on the other hand, despite the fact that I am a wistful admirer—and even occasionally a stalker—of my own mortality, feel pretty much fine, or at least as well as usual.  My comparative health may be due in part to the fact that I am the only person in my office who consistently wears a mask*, and as a trained physician, I tend to wash my hands frequently and thoroughly.  I am, in addition, both voluntarily and involuntarily, a dab hand at social distancing.

Nonetheless, I did get myself tested yesterday morning, and I’ll have the results within a few days.  Then I’ll know whether I feel basically fine because I am one of the low-to-no symptom people with the virus, or whether it’s because I don’t have it (yet).  Whatever my attitude toward my own health and well-being, knowledge is generally preferable to ignorance.  Ignorance can only be bliss if there are no potential threats in one’s environment that knowledge could allow one to prepare against (whatever might be the nature of such threats or of that which is being threatened).  And, of course, without knowledge, one cannot know whether there are such threats…though a good starting assumption seems to be that, yes, there are.  There always are.

Existence wends a narrow path through phase space, with the infinitely high walls of reality on either side.  If you don’t do your best to steer your course in parallel with reality’s general direction, sooner or later you will collide with it.  And when you collide with reality, reality always wins.  That’s one of the ways you know that it’s reality; it doesn’t change to suit your convenience, your preference, or your beliefs.

Anyway, things in the world right now, both locally and globally, are certainly apt for a writer of horror fiction**.  Given that, it should be no surprise that The Vagabond is going well, and the editing process is achieving at least some of its goal, which is to improve the quality of the written work.  I’m still enjoying the story, and I feel more and more again that it really is my book, which at first it almost didn’t seem to be, since I had first written it so long ago.

It’s amusing to be editing a story in which the characters have to worry about missing phone calls because they’re away from their apartments, and in which they need to seek out pay phones or campus phones to call each other.  It’s likewise amusing to have characters learn of dire events in their world by reading a daily newspaper, since their TV is only inconsistently operational, and they don’t have cable.

Were such things really here as we do speak about?  Yes, it seems they were.  Reading my own story brings many memories rather vividly back to my mind.  Maybe it will do so for you if and when you get a chance to read it.  I hope so.  It feels a bit odd to think of the late-eighties/early-nineties as simpler times (they were quite chaotic for me, frankly), but as a matter of the creation and processing of information in human society, they certainly were.  The rate at which “stuff” happens has increased roughly in accord with Moore’s Law, though much of that stuff is effectively noise.  I suspect the overall signal-to-noise ratio in society has diminished significantly over time, but whether the signal has gone down enough no longer to be growing exponentially***, or even linearly, is a question about which I don’t have a strong sense of the right answer.

And with that flagrant declaration of my own ignorance, I’ll draw this meandering blog post to a close, which probably won’t disappoint you.  I hope you all do your best to stay well, both physically and mentally.  Keep reading, of course, and try to keep your spirits up.

TTFN

Narrow maze


*Because, after all, the masks do more to protect others from oneself than oneself from others, and whatever my own willingness to embrace a potentially life-threatening disease, I do not have the right to enforce that upon others.  This is a point that frustrates, disgusts, and angers me at those around me a lot of the time.  I have deep contempt for their irrational selfishness and willingness to endanger others needlessly, which they disguise as a declaration of freedom or some other political or philosophical ideal—at least to themselves—but which in fact appears to be simply the expression of laziness…and of intellectual and moral cowardice.

**Not that it’s the only thing I write, but I do tend to turn and return to it a lot.

***Even if it’s slower than Moore’s Law, it could still be growing exponentially, just with a longer doubling time.  Or it could be growing linearly, or staying constant, or decreasing linearly, or even falling off exponentially, though the latter seems unlikely.

Travellers ne’er did lie, though blogs at home condemn ’em.

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday again—just another Thursday, there’s nothing particular about this one for me to mention, except of course for the fact that it is merely a common, ordinary Thursday such as Dentarthurdent never could get the hang of—and so it’s time for me to write my weekly blog post.

I intend to make this relatively brief today, because I’m working on a project that I want to put some time into before work.  I’m also riding the train this morning—for several reasons, not least of which is to try to force myself to get at least a bit more exercise by walking from the station to the office (and back) which is slightly less than a mile each way.  It’s good to be able to write and ride at the same time, but it is irritating when the train runs behind schedule and there’s not even any announcement about it at the station or on the website (this happened today, in case you couldn’t guess).

I haven’t gotten as much done on The Vagabond this week as I did last week, because I got sidetracked by the project I mentioned above, namely:  I’m doing another of my “bad covers”.  This time I’m doing one of one of my favorite (possibly my very favorite) Beatles songs.  I doubt you could guess what it is—it’s certainly not one of the first ones to come to most people’s minds when they think of the Beatles—but I’ve always loved it.  Even I don’t know quite why it stands out for me, but it does.

Anyway, I already had the score (I have all the Beatles scores, in a lovely, hardcover book full of them), and I’ve been practicing and learning the guitar and bass parts for the song for quite a while.  There’s some piano in it as well, but that’s easier; I’ve been playing piano since I was nine.  Not that I play it that well, mind you, but it’s not particularly challenging to learn short accompaniment piano parts for songs in which piano isn’t the main instrument.  There are mostly lots of chords, etc., though there’s a really rocking left hand part that I really love that doubles a slightly simpler bass part in the second section of the song.  I’ve only really been playing guitar for about two or three years, if that, learning by doing as it were, and these “bad covers” are one of the ways I do that.  So, that’s been taking a bit of my time this week.

Don’t worry, though.  The Vagabond is coming, I’ve just slowed down a bit this week due to distraction.  Have no fear.  Or, well, don’t have that kind of fear.  You really should fear the Vagabond; he’s not a nice guy.  He’s cruel, but at least he’s unfair.

In other news, I finished rereading The Chasm and the Collision yesterday morning, after re-starting it because my coworker’s son is reading it.  I bounced back and forth between it and a nonfiction book I’m currently enjoying.

It’s a little sappy, and it may be a little pathetic, but I was actually fighting tears when I got to the end of The Chasm and the Collision.  They were happy tears, however; it doesn’t have a sad ending (though there are some losses and tragedies along the way).  I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if I do say so myself.  Of course, you can’t judge by me.  I wrote it, after all.  But I can at least recommend it without reservation and without feeling disingenuously self-interested.  I really think it’s a good book.

I enjoyed CatC so much that I decided I’d reread another one of my “earlier” books, and I started rereading Son of Man yesterday.  This isn’t a book for young kids—it does have a few curse words in it and so on, and the ideas get a little high-falutin’—but it’s certainly not an “adult” novel either.  There’s nothing I’d feel embarrassed for my kids to read, or for my grandmothers to read (if either of my grandmothers were alive), even in my presence.  It’s a science fiction story, and as the title suggests, it plays around a little with some religious ideas.  Don’t worry, it’s nothing literal; there’s no mysticism, and certainly no spirituality in it (God forbid!).  I just enjoyed making a “real” story with parallels of religious notions, using (fictional) science instead of the supernatural.  I know, that’s vague and unclear.  I apologize.  But you can read the book if you’d like to know more.  I have no reservations about suggesting that.  It’s even on “Kindle Unlimited”, so if you’re a member, you can read it for free.  Enjoy!

And with that, my short-ish and fairly disjointed blog post is about finished for this week.  I hope you’re all doing as well as you can possibly be doing, and indeed, that you’re doing better than any mere mortals could deserve.  I still haven’t posted anything new on Iterations of Zero, but you can join me here each week for this, at least.  It’s better than being on Gilligan’s Island.

TTFN

Son of man icon

My soul’s imaginary sight presents thy shadow to my sightless blog, which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, makes black night beauteous

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  Welcome also to a new month (October, obviously), the first day of what has always been—for various reasons—my favorite month.  A major contributor to that favoritism is that, at the end of October comes Halloween, which is my favorite holiday.  It’s also the beginning—in northern parts of the northern hemisphere, anyway—of the real onset of Autumn, with leaves changing colors and becoming heart-rendingly beautiful as they prepare to drop off the trees before Winter sets in.  Such magical Autumn visions have come to feel almost like the memories of fever dreams for me as I spend an ever-growing fraction of my life in southern Florida, the state referred to by Homer Simpson as America’s dong*.  There is no real Autumn here, though at least the weather becomes slightly less hot and humid as the year wanes.  Autumn and Spring—and even Winter, frankly—are the best times to be in Florida.  How ironic that the season when most people come to visit is during the months of “summer vacation”, when heat, humidity, and near-daily thunderstorms are the norm.

Speaking of Autumn—because it, like my most recently published work, takes place in Autumn—things are moving along nicely in The Vagabond.  I’ve nearly finished my first read-through/edit of the book, making many minor modifications as I go along, and I’m approaching the final confrontation of the story.  It’s quite a lot quicker to read than Unanimity, being only about a third as long.  That’s not an insult to Unanimity or a special compliment to The Vagabond, by the way.  Each book is as long as it must be.  The Vagabond is a simpler, more straightforward story, though its events happen on something of a larger scale than those of Unanimity and have even more dire potential consequences if things end up badly.

A somewhat humorous event took place earlier this week.   A coworker saw a hard copy of Unanimity Book 2, and she said her son loves to read, so she wanted to get a copy for him.  I asked her how old her son was, and she replied that he was eleven.  Now, I enthusiastically encourage kids of all ages to read, and the earlier they start, the better, but…well, apart from the fact that it would be bewildering to start reading Unanimity Book 2 before reading Unanimity Book 1, I had to tell her very clearly (and repeatedly, since she didn’t seem quite to believe me) that this really isn’t a book for eleven-year-olds.  Very bad things happen in it—it’s a horror story, after all—and as I’ve said in other circumstances, the type of horror in it is a very human type.  It’s nothing easily dismissible, like monsters under beds, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and the like.  I told her I would get a copy of Book 1 for her to read, and that she should read it, thoroughly, before deciding if her son was ready for it, which I doubt he is.

Then, quite happily, and without reservation, I recommended (and ordered for her) The Chasm and the Collision, a book specifically for and about people of her son’s age or only slightly older**.  She also noticed the cover of Mark Red on the screen while I was ordering CatC, and said her son likes stories about vampires and the like.  I wasn’t sure about this one.  If he’s a truly precocious eleven-year-old, such as I was, he might indeed enjoy it without any trouble, but it has its moments of deeper darkness, and some “mature themes”.  When she asked the leading question, “There’s no swearing in it, is there?”  I had to answer that, yes, there was, though I don’t think it’s excessive.  Of all my stories, I think the only one without any profanity at all—I could be wrong about this***—is The Chasm and the Collision, which I specifically kept free from expletives, following the wise advice of my father.

Anyway, with some hesitation, I ordered her a copy of Mark Red also, worrying because, well, the story opens with an attempted mugging/rape.  It’s a crime that goes very badly for the mugger/rapist—after going very badly for Mark Reed when he tries to intercede, thus leading to the story—because the would-be victim happens to be a vampire, Morgan****, who deliberately lures in such assaults to take their perpetrators as her prey.  After that plunge in at the deep end, things become a little less unwholesome, but it’s quite a start for a story.

Maybe I should just attach a blanket “trigger warning” of some kind that applies to everything I write.  This is my mind.  It’s not a safe space.  Not even for me.  Enter at your own risk.

On that cheery note, I think I’ll call it quits here for the week.  I’m continuing to work toward reinvigorating Iterations of Zero, so hopefully I’ll have something to share there, soon.  No matter what, though, I hope you all enjoy this most wonderful time of the year that we are entering, despite all that’s happening in the world.  Do your best to stay safe and healthy, and remember, human events are transitory, ephemeral, evanescent, short-lived, and redundant.  Don’t take them too seriously.

TTFN

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[This is an old, and not very good, concept drawing I did of the above-mentioned opening of Mark Red]

*If you’ll pardon the observation, taking that metaphor in hand—so to speak—it doesn’t have the look of a perky, young body part, but rather of a fairly limp, aged, and dispirited one, shrinking over time as sea-levels slowly rise.  This certainly fits with the human aspect of the state, though its natural beauty is beyond question.  I think “The Governor”, aka Skink, of Carl Hiaasen’s books, would agree with me.

**My sister concurs that this is a good recommendation, and she thinks the boy will enjoy it greatly.  It’s her favorite of my books, and its primary protagonist, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  It’s hard for me to choose, but he’s certainly in the upper echelons of my preferences as well, and of course I am proud of the book.

***It occurs to me that I for one welcome our new computer overlords might not include any cursing.  That doesn’t make it a young kid’s story, of course, but it is rather pleasing for me to realize.  It’s simply a fact, after all, that I tend to write dark stories, and in dark situations, people often curse.  It’s no mere coincidence that Halloween is my favorite holiday.

****Morgan is probably my favorite character that I’ve written.  I just think she’s really cool.  I was absurdly delighted when Tony and Pepper named their daughter Morgan in Avengers: Endgame.  I even fantasized that they named her after my character.

Write loyal cantons of contemned love and blog them loud even in the dead of night.

Hello and good day.  It’s Thursday morning, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts—though I almost forgot about it and simply started editing Vagabond instead.  I guess that’s a good indicator of how dedicated to the editing I am, but it’s a little embarrassing.  Still, I suppose it’s not all that embarrassing, or I wouldn’t share it.  Or perhaps sharing the embarrassment is a way of diffusing and defusing it—after all, I can tell myself that if I’m not afraid to share it, it must not be all that bad or all that serious (which, of course, it’s not).

Enough self-psychoanalysis.  It’s been a reasonably productive week, and on Monday morning I came to a decision:  At least for now, I’m going to stick with editing Vagabond*, rather than working on Outlaw’s Mind.

I haven’t come to this decision lightly.  I simply noticed that, each morning, when I was starting on the new writing at the beginning of my schedule—knowing that I would, after about a thousand words, switch over to Vagabond—I was less enthusiastic about the new work, and frankly felt an unpleasant tension.  This was mainly because of time constraints, but also due to the division of focus.  Working on both projects at once makes both take longer than they would otherwise; it makes the whole process less efficient, as does essentially every form of multi-tasking.  It became clearer and clearer that, if I worked on both “at once”, they would both come out later than the likely finishing point of even the second of the two if I just worked on them one at a time.

Also, the mental shift from one story to the other was a minor daily lurch.  Though both could be considered horror stories, Outlaw’s Mind is a much subtler, more slow-growing, almost psychological horror—the presence of the word “mind” in the title might make that obvious—whereas Vagabond is pretty much a straight-up, gonzo horror story.  The former does have an element of the seemingly “supernatural” but it’s not obvious or in your face.  Whereas Vagabond is all about that supernatural intrusion of a force of evil upon the otherwise mundane world.

Also, though it’s true that I’ve put off Outlaw’s Mind due to the very long process of editing Unanimity, it’s certainly fair to say that Vagabond has been waiting much longer than Outlaw’s Mind.  It’s been waiting almost thirty years—possibly a bit more since it was first started.  So, The Vagabond has priority, at least for now, and I intend it to be my next published work**.  After that will follow Outlaw’s Mind, which I’ll need to figure out whether I can fit comfortably into the planned Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, or if I’ll need to have it stand alone.  In any case, the Cabinet will likely have at least one “new” story no matter what, because I intend to recreate the remainder of my old short story House Guest, which is even older than Vagabond, and include it in the collection.  Don’t worry, that shouldn’t delay things much.  It truly and honestly is a short story, and making it any longer would be to its detriment.  So let it be written; so let it be done.

On other matters, I keep thinking about possible ways to work into my schedule the writing of at least a weekly post on Iterations of Zero.  There are many subjects about which I’d like to write—and IoZ is a blog that can be about anything and/or nothing—but which I feel don’t really match the tone of this, my author-oriented blog.  I’ve toyed with the notion of combining the two, but I fear the strange collision of other types of articles with the ones here, which are mainly about creative writing and related matters.  If you’re not sure what I mean, take a trip to IoZ and check out a few random things I’ve written there.  Then, if you wish, you can let me know your thoughts on whether they would be appropriate for this blog.

Of course, I can’t close without reminding you that Unanimity: Book 2 is coming out next Tuesday, September 22, 2020, and is available for pre-order in e-book format (for the print format, you’ll have to order once it’s out).  If you haven’t ordered Unanimity: Book 1 yet, there’s still time to get it and even to read it before Book 2 comes out, and of course, I encourage you to do so.  One reader of Book 1—who shall remain nameless until and unless I receive permission to share—told me that her mind was blown already by chapter 6 and 7.  And that’s before any of the real horror starts***!

Speaking of real horror, please everyone, stay safe and healthy out there.  And try to take advantage of the relative decrease in travel and interaction by getting some good reading in.  Written language is the lifeblood of civilization, and thankfully it can even be enjoyed when one is socially isolated.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover Project


*Or The Vagabond as I think I’ll title it in the end, since there’s a revered manga series whose English title is Vagabond, and though there’s essentially no chance of confusion between the two, I hate knowingly repeating a title.  Also, all the characters in my story, once they know the antagonist’s chosen title, refer to him/it as “the Vagabond” and not simply “Vagabond” as though it were a given name.  This will be a bit of a wrench, since I’ve simply called the story Vagabond since I first started writing it, and single word titles can be dramatic.  Then again, the definite article does often convey a certain gravitas.  Also, I just published Unanimity, which is definitely—and inescapably—a one-word title.  Why do the same thing twice in a row?

**I’m planning on recreating a picture I drew a long time ago, portraying the title character standing by the road and thumbing a ride.  I loved that picture, and it’s a brilliant option for the cover, but I cannot for the life of me locate it in any of the old sources of my artwork (since all the physical drawings and paintings are lost and probably destroyed).  Perhaps I can find it in my ancient MySpace page, but I’m not optimistic.

***Though, to be fair, only barely.