O God, your only blog-maker. What should a man do but be merry?

Okay, well…hello and good morning and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I don’t have anything quite as momentous as last week to talk about today, but I’m making progress on good things, nevertheless.

For instance, I’m almost done editing my short story House Guest, which is even older than The Vagabond…I wrote it when I was in high school; I think I was sixteen at the time.  Editing this story is a much faster process than editing The Vagabond was, and it’s about eighty times faster than editing Unanimity was.  House Guest is a true short story, only about six thousand words long; even going through it repeatedly doesn’t take much time.  I haven’t needed to change much, except to update some of the medical trivia based on my far more advanced present knowledge.  There’s only a little bit of it; it’s not crucial to the story, but it does enhance it a bit.

It’s nice to be able to go back and see that I didn’t write much worse then than I do now.  I might have written better occasionally.  Certainly, I didn’t tend to write as long a story.  Or, well, maybe that might not actually be true, now that I think about it.  House Guest is just a short story, after all, and is simply no longer than it needs to be.  My hand-written Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel Ends of the Maelstrom from around the same time was well over five hundred hand-written, single-spaced pages long, on very narrow-ruled paper*, and was almost certainly longer than The VagabondMaybe I worry about story length too much.

Oh, by the way, happy April Fool’s Day!  I only realized the auspicious date—if that’s really the best term—when I saved this file just now.  Despite the usual form of celebration—again, if that’s the right term—associated with this day, I’m pulling no pranks and telling no lies in the writing of this post, unless my forced cheerfulness counts as a lie.  But if that’s a lie, it’s one that I, and I think most other people, tell frequently, probably many times a day.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I encounter a lot of upbeat, “power of positive thinking” type statements and quotes and tweets and posts and whatnot all around cyberspace, but they often give me the sense conveyed by Queen Gertrude when she says, “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”  It’s a rather desperate, almost panicky, quasi-hysterical positivity and cheerfulness…because, after all, no one will like you if you’re not cheerful, right?

And if you do admit to feeling poorly, especially emotionally, then you’ll often get responses full of platitudes and homilies and you-think-you’ve-got-it-bads, sometimes verging toward the tone of a slap in the face from Cher and a shout of, “Snap out of it!”

Of course, to be fair, you also tend to find sincere sympathy and concern.  Even the other stuff often plainly comes from a well-meaning place, so to speak.  I don’t want to impugn the motivations of those responding to things for which our culture gives us very few tools.  I think almost all such people really do mean well.

But our society is drenched in the myths of the rugged individualist and The Secret, and the power of positive thinking and “Think and Grow Rich”, and “quantum healing” nonsense.  If you find yourself tempted by the sugary, empty-calorie bait in those intellectual traps, remember, you only ever hear about the good outcomes, the lucky ones…the failures don’t publish their tales, and the marketing people certainly don’t promote them.  If ever there was an inbuilt and all-but-inescapable confirmation bias, it’s in attitudes about the power of positive thinking.

Not that being reasonably, cautiously optimistic and positive is a bad thing—it’s not, if you can do it, and if you are so constituted that it doesn’t require you to browbeat yourself when you feel down, as you will sometimes, no matter who you are.  Even the Donald gets down in the doldrums de vez en cuando, I’d stake my left kidney on it.  But there’s no evidence whatsoever that the state of the present or future universe is affected by human thoughts and attitudes other than by dint of prosaic methods:  hard work, discipline, planning, thought, careful evaluation and analysis, proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, and—almost always—many failures along the way.

I wish some people would positively think themselves able to defy gravity by the power of their minds and would hurl themselves from the nearest equivalent of the observation deck of the Empire State Building to prove it.  That would be putting their money where they mouths are.  When Deepak Chopra talks about the power of the mind to heal and to resist aging (and the like) through some kind of pseudo-quantum nonsense, make sure to compare photos of him now with photos taken twenty or thirty years ago (they are, unfortunately, readily available).  He’s aged conspicuously.  Also, remember that people like Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Einstein, Wheeler, and the like—all of whom understood quantum mechanics far better than your favorite local or international or celebrity purveyor of quantum woo, to say the least—are currently and conspicuously dead.  At least in this branch of the Everettian** multiverse.

Wow.  That was a hell of a tangent, wasn’t it?  No April Fools, though.  I was speaking from the heart—which is to say, conveying my honest thoughts and feelings by means of a computer keyboard.  Nevertheless, the good things I shared at the beginning of this post are true and unsullied, and The Vagabond is out there to be read by any who enjoy horror novels.  I’m getting good feedback on it, as well as on Son of Man, which a coworker of mine recently finished.  She said she loved the twists and surprises, and really enjoyed the book, which can’t help but make even a curmudgeon like me feel happy.  Also, I recently reread The Chasm and the Collision, and the ending of my own book brought minor tears of joy to my eyes.  That’s pretty cheesy, I guess, but I’ll take my little bits of satisfaction where I can get them, and I’ll try not to be too embarrassed.

And though you might not think it, I would take great and honest satisfaction in knowing that all of those who read this, and their loved ones—and everyone else for that matter—were healthy, and comfortable, and as safe as they can be, and as happy as often and for as long as they can be without using inappropriate and/or detrimental substances***.  So, if you could do me a favor, please see if you can achieve those results.

TTFN

Some people even go


*I haven’t been able to find such narrow-ruled paper again since that time, though I’ve often looked for it.  Apparently, that super-tight ruling of notebook paper has fallen out of fashion.  It’s too bad, really, because I loved the convenience of having to use fewer pages, though it made editing a bit of a mess.  There were added sentences running into the tattered margins on almost every page, and even I had trouble reading what I had written.  Maybe there’s a good reason that paper fell out of fashion…but it did look beautiful when blank.  So many lines available to fill!

**Hugh Everett is also, lamentably, dead.  He died at age fifty-one, my current age, after having left physics at least partly because of the animosity he experienced against his “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which may nevertheless be correct.

***I might think otherwise if such substances were reliable, or if they didn’t tend to end up causing a subsequent rapid, severe, and painfully ironic downturn in the happiness curve of life, but that’s just not the way things are.

For they blog truth, that blog their words in pain

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so—as required by the dark ritual, which is designed to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the end of mankind’s dominion over the realm that rightly belongs to Cthulhu*—it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I can’t say that there’s much new happening around here in the past week.  As you know, last week was Thanksgiving in the US, so I wrote an early blog post that was nonetheless released on the appropriate day, thanks to the wonders of computer technology.  It was not a terribly exciting holiday for me.  I just loafed around in my room, played some video golf, went to 7-11 for some snacks and lunch, and loafed around some more.  I don’t remember specifically giving thanks, but I suppose there must have been some general thankfulness there somewhere, as I expressed in last week’s post.  I can at least honestly say that no turkeys were harmed in the making of my Thanksgiving celebrations.

The Vagabond is still proceeding well.  I’m within 20 pages of the end of the latest run-through, and it’s getting a bit better each time, which is good, since that’s the whole point.  It’s soooooo** much faster to get through than Unanimity was.  Not that I don’t love Unanimity.  I do love it, very much, and I’m quite proud of it.  I like the characters in it a lot, which is not unusual; I almost always like my characters, even the bad guys.  But it is a long book, and editing it was laborious.

It occurred to me yesterday, though—and with a bit of irony, since they’re bit players at most—that in Unanimity, I particularly like Charley’s parents.  They seem like people you’d like to know in real life.  They’re not my favorite characters in the story; I’m not sure quite who my favorite would be.  Possibly Michael; he’s the one with the most attributes of my own personality, though he has them in a much more pleasant form than they occur in my real self.  But Charley’s parents are fun people.

In unrelated news, not even tangential to what I’ve been discussing so far, but which I can’t help but think about:  I’ve been developing some inflammation/strain in the proximal portion of my left forearm, near the origin of some of the hand flexor muscles and tendons.  I know why it’s happening.  I’ve been working on the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia (it’s actually the only instrumental part of the song) and that involves fingerpicking a long series of changing chords, many of which are barre chords.  I’ve practiced to the point where my hand no longer wants to cramp before the end of the song, and I’ve duly impressed myself (which isn’t too hard) but apparently the repetitive strain continues to take its toll.  I’d better finish learning the song and record myself doing it so I can feel that it’s finished and move on, since NSAIDs don’t seem to be helping much.  Do any of you know whether there would be benefit in using a spandex elbow-forearm “brace”?  My medical background suggests that it might be useful, but not with a high degree of confidence.

As far as the infectious disease front goes, I remain Covid-free***, though not everyone in my office is so lucky.  This makes an already slow time of year a bit slower, which in some way makes my job easier, and in other ways makes it harder, and overall makes it gloomier.  This was particularly trying yesterday, when we had a surprising cold snap for south Florida.  I’m sure that people up north would not be impressed, but the temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees in twenty-four hours, and it usually doesn’t get that chilly, even in passing, until January or February.

Oh well.  Subtropical world problems, I suppose.  You may find it funny, and you’re welcome to enjoy the schadenfreude.  It’s already warming back up, in any case, and at least the rainy season is more or less over, as is hurricane season.

That’s about all I have for now, though I’m sure I could find tangents down which to become lost if I chose to let it happen.  But I’ll spare you that indulgence and keep things short this week.  I hope you all continue to have the best possible days and weeks and months and years and other intervals of time that you can possibly have.  At the very least, try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Though, to be honest, in my view—and I imagine that Cthulhu would agree—if one of the Elder Gods can’t just claim the realm on his own, he frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.

**That should be read with a long “o” sound, not with an “oooh” sound like a ghost.  In case you didn’t know.

***Which seems like it could be an excellent bogus marketing claim to put on product packages to lure in thoughtlessly health conscious people, as when one sees “gluten free” on products that of course are gluten free…like plain corn chips or plain potato chips.  I half expect to see motor oil advertised as gluten free and GMO free.  Which it is.

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.

I blog of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy

Good morning and hello everyone.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s Thursday, as you know, and so it’s time for another weekly edition of my blog.  This being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” had I been able to keep that feature going*.

Work has continued on The Vagabond quite nicely; I finished the first run-through early this week, which served to familiarize me once again with my book that I wrote so long ago.  It sometimes feels like a very long time ago, and I guess it was…between twenty and thirty years, or more than half my life.  Weirdly, though—since it has been quite a while, and in some ways, it seems like ages—when reading it, I have to admit that it also seems quite fresh and recent.  I feel very much just the same person as I was when I wrote the novel, which is almost ridiculous considering how many things have happened to me since then**.  I suppose this is just one of the peculiarities of human consciousness…or at least of my own consciousness, which may or may not be considered human, depending upon whom you ask.

I think I wrote last time about how a woman in my office asked about my books for her son.  Well, as promised, I got the boy a copy of The Chasm and the Collision, and I got a copy of Unanimity Book 1 for her (definitely not for him).  She told me a few days ago that her son had been reading CatC and enjoying it and had reached chapter 4 already.  Because of that, I decided I’d read that chapter myself again, just to know exactly where he was.  It’s okay for me to skip ahead; I already know what happened.

Well, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it, and on and off I’ve been reading further***.  As I’ve said before, it’s my most family-friendly book, having been written about three middle-school students, and being therefore written for middle school students, as well as for “children of all ages” as they say.  That’s not to say it’s a childish or light-hearted book; there are some rather scary and dark portions, and it’s not short, except when compared to Unanimity.  It’s nominally a fantasy adventure, and without dark and dangerous forces, such stories don’t work at all.  My sister, who is older than I am and reads even more, says it’s her favorite of my books, and that the main character, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  I might have mentioned that last week.  Apologies for redundancy.

I say it’s “nominally” a fantasy adventure because it could be more literally described as a science fiction story.  There’s nothing “magical” in it, and even the “travel to other worlds” aspect uses concepts that I cobbled from M Theory, as I understand it from my layperson’s perspective, drawn from the popular works of Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, Stephen Hawking, and the like.  Don’t worry, I don’t get much into that—I don’t know enough of it to do so even if I wanted to—but it does give me an arguably plausible way to bring in other universes and the spaces between them, and the possibility that the Big Bang was caused by two “branes” colliding with each other…and that such a collision might happen again.  (The word “brane” never appears in the story, however.)

Anyway, don’t worry about all that.  It’s a highly speculative science fiction story that really has the character of a youth fantasy adventure.  It even contains some environmentalist ideas, though they are by no means in your face.  I know, right?  A book by me, displaying any kind of conscience?  What’s the world coming to?  But again, you don’t have to worry about all that.  It’s a fantasy adventure about three middle-school students who get caught up in an inter-universal crisis and must do their best to help avert cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for missing school.  I’m proud of it, and I can pretty much recommend it to anyone without reservation.  It doesn’t contain even a single instance of profanity!  I do encourage you to read it if you like that sort of thing.

Speaking of that, I would like humbly to request that, for those of you who have read my stories and books, could you perhaps take a moment to go to Amazon and rate and/or review them?  I considered doing it myself, as a kind of joke—making it clear that I was the author writing the review—but that seemed just too cheesy, and I don’t think Amazon lets authors do that, anyway.  I’m fairly sure they block reviews from people who have a financial interest in a book, which seems impressively and surprisingly ethical of them.  I can’t help but approve.

Finally, I’m thinking about releasing another of my songs as an official “single” to be put up on Spotify, YouTube Music, iTunes, Pandora, etc., like Like and Share, Schrödinger’s Head, and Catechism, but I only have two more original songs so far that could be so released:  Breaking Me Down and Come Back Again.  I’ve linked to their “videos”, so if any of you want to have a listen and give me your recommendations—even if that includes a recommendation never to allow human ears to hear the songs again for the sake of all that’s good and pure—I’ll gladly take your input.  I won’t necessarily follow it, but I would love to have it.

With that, I’ll leave you again for this week.  I’ve still not been able to kick-start myself into doing more with Iterations of Zero, though I have drafts of a few things.  Keep your eyes open, if you’re interested.  And, honestly, do consider reading The Chasm and the Collision.  Heck, if you can figure out how to work it out, I’ll gladly autograph a copy for you, for what that’s worth.  Most importantly, continue to take good care of yourselves and your family, friends, and neighbors, and stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

CatC cover paperback


*No, I haven’t gotten over it yet.  Maybe I’ll try to do one of them a year or something, perhaps around Halloween.

**Including, but not limited to, medical school, residency, moving to Florida, having kids, acquiring a severe back injury and chronic nerve pain, getting divorced, spending time as an involuntary guest of the Florida DOC and as a consequence being unable to practice medicine or vote among them…all sorts of interesting things that make for a most stormy life so far.

***Interspersed with reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, PhD.  This is a very good and, I think, very important book.  I encourage you to read it.

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

full-14

[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.

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.

UNANIMITY: Book 2

Unanimity Book 2 simple Cover Project

Though forcefully severed by the MRI machine from the minds he had inhabited, Charley’s power is undiminished.  Incited by the abrupt separation, he immediately sets about reextending himself much more than before.  In short order, he encompasses every patient and employee at Denton Regional Hospital, as well as their families.

Though happily and easily spreading his mind without any apparent limit—and discovering that he can join with animals, even insects, as easily as humans—Charley decides that he must try to understand more about his power after the vulnerability demonstrated by the MRI.

He decides to enlist his neurologist, Dr. Weintraub, to take the lead in exploring how his power works.  At Ellen’s request, Charley promises never to take over Dr. Weintraub—nor Michael, who is also “recruited” to help him.  In light of this promise, to ensure cooperation from these people who are to remain separate from him, Charley possesses the neurologist’s wife and children and threatens them with death and worse at their own or each other’s hands if the neurologist or Michael should act against him.

While Dr. Weintraub bristles under the threat to his family, he, Michael, and Ellen must try to find a way to cure or stop Charley, fearful of discovery by a deranged mind who could inhabit any person or animal they encounter.  If they cannot cure Charley—who continues to do terrible things to those he controls, considering them disposable parts of his own being—could they stop him by killing him?  Or would the loss of his original body be no more inconvenient than the loss of so many others he kills for the ecstasy such death gives him?

Is there any hope of stopping whatever Charley has become, or will he encompass the entire world without anyone other than these three even knowing of the danger?

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.

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.