And then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I blogged to dream again.

And then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I blogged to dream again.

thinker

Okay, well, allow me to say good morning and happy…Friday?

Yes, it’s Friday instead of Thursday.  I’m afraid I pretty much spent yesterday lying flat on my back.  I don’t know exactly what I did to irritate it this time, but I have a chronic back problem (including so-called failed back surgery syndrome) and its level of trouble waxes and wanes.  Unfortunately, what with one thing or another, on Wednesday night through to Thursday, it waxed, baby.  I got very little sleep and was just a mess.  So, I stayed home from work, and I also blew off writing my blog.  However, I didn’t want just to leave the week empty…I suspect that if one allows too many gaps in regular publication, one tends to lose readers.

Thus, you have before you a Friday morning blog post from me, though of course you may not be reading it on a Friday morning.  In fact, I suppose it’s more likely that you are not reading it on a Friday morning, since unless you’re waiting at the computer for my next post to come out, or you happen to be at the computer around the time it does, you’re likely to come across it at some other point in the week.  It’s even possible (though it seems unlikely) that you’re reading this centuries in my future, perhaps studying the works of one of the most beloved, influential, and enduring literary figures of the early twenty-first century.  You may even be an alien, or an AI, or a trans-human, who can say?

Hello from June 7, 2019 AD/CE!  Hope things are well and good in your time!

I’m trying to think of a way to keep this blog a little fresher than it sometimes feels; I worry that my weekly posts can become a bit repetitive.  I originally spun off Iterations of Zero to put items there which I felt didn’t really fit with the discussions of my books and stories, and the process of creating them, that I was trying to make the central focus here; maybe that was ill-considered.  Maybe I should just wrap all my writings (and speakings) together here in this blog again, all at one address, and just separate them by subject matter, which I do anyway.  After all, and unfortunately, I don’t tend to produce IoZ articles or posts on a regular, consistent basis.

Anyway, I’m thinking about that, and we’ll see what ends up happening.  At the very least, it would free me a little from the self-imposed constraint of having to think of an appropriate Shakespearean quote to mangle every time I write a post here (though I do enjoy that process).

In other matters, the editing of Unanimity goes well, and I’m truly pleased to continue to find that I’m enjoying parts of the book that I feared might be…well, a little too much.  I’m sure that there’s much technically unnecessary dialogue in it (I’ve been told as much about some of my other stories, in the politest and most constructive of terms), and I may try to winnow it out.  But, damn it, there’s an awful lot of unnecessary dialogue in real life, and I do try to make my characters act like real people.

With certain very glaring exceptions, of course.

Still, I need to be judicious.  And one of the good things about editing one’s works over and over and over and over and over again (and then some), is that by the seventh edit, one tends to be quite sensitive to the boring bits of a story.  As long as one can maintain a spirit of goal-directed ruthlessness with one’s own creations, it’s possible in principle to cut a great deal of material out of a work and make it more streamlined.  Though I say it as shouldn’t, you might justly think.

Speaking of shorter works, the editing of Free Range Meat* is also proceeding, though usually only one day a week.  Even with that limited schedule, it will be done waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before Unanimity, and soon I’ll be announcing its imminent publication.

With that, I draw this week’s blog post to a close.  Apologies for its tardiness, but perhaps changes are coming that will give you more frequent material to read here, anyway.  We shall see.

TTFN


*should I hyphenate the first two words or not?

Penal Colony

 

Penal Colony cover

See on Amazon

 

While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback. Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner.

There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment. He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him.

Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow.

The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it. It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…

Now ’tis spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted; Suffer them now and they’ll o’ergrow the blog post.

It’s the third day of Spring in 2018, and I congratulate all those in the northern hemisphere on the upcoming six months of longer daylight than nighttime.

It’s been a productive week, all things considered, though I haven’t quite started writing new material on Unanimity; I’m still engaged in rereading what’s already written, to get myself back into the swing of the story.  I’ve enjoyed that process more than I thought I might.  There were times, when writing it, that the words didn’t flow as easily as I would have wished, but as I’ve frequently rediscovered, such times often produce works that, when read, are superior to those fired by irresistible enthusiasm.  This reinforces the wisdom of so many superb authors, who advise that one should write even when—perhaps especially when—one does not feel the stirrings of the muse.  (I consider reviewing and rewriting to be parts of that process, so I don’t count my recent hiatus for review against my obedience to the recommendation, though it does chafe at me).

Of course, these processes would proceed much more quickly if I were able to devote my full-time efforts to them, but at least the continued need to earn a living by doing other things keeps me involved in many aspects of life that might elude me if I’d been a cloistered writer from the onset of adulthood.  I’ve had a tremendous number of fascinating experiences that have deeply influenced the content and nature of my fiction and my nonfiction, so it’s hard to complain too strenuously.

Still, these things are far from absolute necessities.  Arthur C. Clarke didn’t need to be part of a human race on the cusp of evolving to its next stage and joining the Overmind to write one of the most brilliant works of science fiction in the twentieth century, any more than Einstein needed to have personally experienced the process of traveling near the speed of light to work out Special Relativity.  All fiction is, in some sense, a form of thought-experiment.  This, I think, is one of the reasons storytelling is so ubiquitous and important to humans.

Thus, though I think I can make use of my exposure to so many of life’s vicissitudes, I don’t think it’s a pure necessity, nor do I think it should be an absolute requirement going forward.  That being said, if you want me to work more quickly, and to produce my works in greater number and frequency, I entreat you to please support my work and to spread the word about it, so that I can make my living solely by writing.  I, at least, would certainly not complain.

In addition to rereading Unanimity, I’ve also been working steadily on editing the audio version of I for one welcome our new computer overlords, which should become available within the week.  I have to say, it’s been a surprisingly enjoyable process.  Of course, the work is amateur, but I don’t feel too badly about that, since I’m not going to charge anyone to listen to it.  As with all things, doing this well is a skill, and developing any skill involves trial and error.  Still, it’s been a blast; even the seemingly tedious process of editing out my gaffes and retakes is amusing, and I’ve also been able to use the sound-editing software to introduce a few “dramatic” effects.  Don’t expect too much from this—I don’t want you to think there are going to be sound effects and background music.*  But I was able, for instance, to remove breath sounds (for the most part) from the speech of a character who does not need to breathe when he speaks, and to leave them in during the dialogue of the other characters of the story, at least when they are appropriate to the performance.  That such a thing might be beneficial and even necessary would never have occurred to me before this undertaking.

There are residual flaws that irritate me, and which I can’t correct on this recording without going back and re-doing the whole thing, such as the occasional sound of air striking the microphone when I speak too closely to it.  Some of that can be edited out, but not all of it.  I don’t think it will detract significantly from your listening enjoyment, though, and for future recordings, I’ll take preventive measures against the problem.  Again, it’s been an enjoyable experience, not the least because it’s been a learning process.  The finished product will be about two hours long, and I hereby give permission to download it, if you have that capability, and listen to it at your leisure.  You can also share it, if you like, though obviously you do not have permission to charge anyone for that sharing (as if you would).

That should about do it for this week.  I have to stop somewhere, and usually it’s someplace arbitrary, since I otherwise tend to be the writing equivalent of the Energizer™ bunny.  Next week I plan to post my author’s note for Ifowonco, which will nicely coincide with its audio release, and to follow up subsequently with that for Prometheus and Chiron and then Hole for a Heart.  Then I’ll have caught up with my published works, and should be near completion of Unanimity.  After that, I’ll probably do another short story before beginning my next novel (which is a sort of modern fable, and which I’ll discuss more as it approaches).

Thank you all for reading.  I hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves and continue to enjoy my writing going forward.  As always, your comments are eagerly welcomed.

TTFN!


* I actually dislike it when background music is added to audiobooks.  There’s no music playing in my head when I read a book, and I don’t need sudden bursts of it to heighten the tension in a story performed by a voice actor.  If the writing doesn’t elicit the intended emotion, then that’s its own problem.  Added music just calls attention to the fact, and is a distraction, as far as I’m concerned.

Author’s note for “Mark Red”

Mark Red Cover

What follows is my first “author’s note” about one of my works, and I’ve decided to begin with “Mark Red,” because it’s my first published book, and the first book I wrote as an adult since medical school.

Ideas for the stories I write tend to arrive in one of two ways.  Often, of course, I simply think of the idea of a story, develop it, often start or even complete writing it, and come up with the title later.  This was certainly the case with “The Chasm and the Collision” and “Son of Man,” as well as with the short stories “If the Spirit Moves You,” “Prometheus and Chiron,” “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,”* and “Hole for a Heart.”  However, at times I come up with a title first, or a particular phrase seems like it might make a good title, and I develop a story to go with the title.  Such is the case with “Paradox City” and “The Death Sentence,” and it is true in spades of “Mark Red.” Continue reading

A quick (but not dirty) post

Okay, it’s Thursday, and I think you all know what that means.  At least, if you’re reading this, you know what it means.  It means it’s time for another entry in my blog, with the products of random neural firings in my head put forth on the page (the web page, in this case) for all to see.  How lucky and privileged you are to be able to read this!

There’s not a whole lot to say that’s new—I suppose there are some who would take the philosophical attitude that nothing is new at all, ever, but I think we could demonstrate to them that knowledge, which includes stories, articles, blog posts and many other things, can honestly be new in a non-trivial sense.  For the interested reader, I refer you to David Deutsch’s “The Beginning of Infinity.”

On an unrelated matter, I have come to a clearer determination to put my short stories for sale on Kindle, and have even just begun the further editing process of “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords,” which I intend to be the first of these e-book stories.  It will, however, remain available on this blog until I get to the point of publication, so for the time being you can still enjoy it for free.

Don’t fear, however, that this process will take me away from “Unanimity.”  It won’t.  Writing new material is always my top priority, and I do that first thing in the morning (well…after showering and whatnot), working other matters into the course of the day thereafter.

Yesterday, however, I did not write anything on “Unanimity.”  That’s because I had something urgent to take care of in the morning, during a time when I normally do my writing (like now), but that’s not going to be on ongoing issue.  The book is proceeding quite well, and terrible things are happening in its world…which is, in its way, a good thing.

Other than that, there’s really not all that much to add today.  I haven’t posted any new articles on Iterations of Zero thus far this week, because I’ve just had too much going on, but I have several in the works—they just aren’t in a form with which I’m satisfied yet.  They are forthcoming, however.  In the meantime, since I did miss some work time yesterday on “Unanimity,” I’m going to shift over to that.  I hope you all have a wonderful day.

TTFN

An Update on Editing, Writing, and Florida (with a bit about contagious illnesses and mass transit)

Hello, all!

I haven’t written any blog entries for some time now, so I thought that I’d take a moment today, as a break from daily editing on “Mark Red,” to give those who are interested an update.  I apologize for the delay; I’ve been sick as a dog for a surprisingly long time recently, and as a consequence my motivation has been lagging.  It seems that, after catching one respiratory infection, and being on the tail end of it, nearly recovered, I caught another one.  These are the hazards of riding mass transit, I’m afraid.  With so many people using the train every day, touching the poles and the hand-rails, the petri dish for contagious diseases is prodigious.  I’ve resolved to minimize my contact with said surfaces as much as I can, since I’m still coughing up nasty phlegm after almost a month of illness, waxing and waning.  It’s frustrating, but I’m nevertheless a big fan of mass transit, not the least reason for that fandom being that I can do my writing and editing while on my way to and from work, dreaming of the day when I will no longer have to do so because I’ll be able to make a living solely from my writing.

With respect to the editing of “Mark Red,” it’s proceeding well, but there’s much work still to be done.  I think one of the very best guidelines for editing that I have found is the one an editor gave to Stephen King back when he was starting out (as detailed in his wonderful book “On Writing”), namely, to make your final draft ten percent shorter than your first draft.  This is a terrific rule for me, because I tend to digress a bit in my fiction as well as in my non-fiction.  It’s not such a crime in non-fiction—digressions can be fun and can keep things interesting.  However, when writing fiction, digression tends to slow the story down.  Also, I get too much into my characters’ thought processes, which is particularly bad when they repeat those same thoughts many times.  This isn’t necessarily unrealistic.  After all, people do tend to ruminate a great deal in their daily lives, and if the voices in our heads were all played aloud, every human would no doubt sound hopelessly neurotic.  It does, however, tend to get boring pretty quickly in a novel, or even a short story.

So my goal, among others, is to make “Mark Red” only ninety percent as long as it was when I first started editing, by trimming off the stray bits that don’t add anything to the flow of the story.  This may seem elementary, and I suppose it is, but it’s crucial.

Regarding other matters:  I’ve been getting more exercise lately, despite being ill, because I’ve been walking from my train stop to my new office location instead of taking the bus, and sometimes walking back to the train at the end of the day.  It’s about 2.4 miles each way, so it’s a nice, healthy stroll, and can be very pleasant in what passes for winter in south Florida.

On that note, a few weeks ago while walking, I came upon a sad but interesting sight:  the beheaded corpse of a coral snake on the park path which I take from the train:

1231160838-1

This is, of course, the most venomous snake in the western hemisphere, but it is also not particularly dangerous, since coral snakes tend to be mild-mannered.  I think it must have come out onto the pavement to sun itself during the relatively chilly weather, and someone saw and recognized it for what it was and overreacted.  It’s a shame, but an interesting example of the sorts of amazing wildlife that we have here in south Florida.  I recently read Dave Barry’s “Best. State. Ever.” and I couldn’t agree with him more in that conclusion.  The politics of Florida may be insane—an insanity that has apparently spread to the national level—but it is an amazing environment.  Also, the national weather service reported about a week ago that 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground.  You should know which state was the exception (Hint:  It wasn’t Hawaii).

Well, I think that’s enough meandering for today.  I considered writing my own semi-deliberate digression about the curious phrase “sick as a dog,” since in my experience dogs don’t tend to get sick as often as humans, but I’ll leave that at the immediately preceding comment and spare you any further speculation.  I hope you’re all well, and enduring the ongoing winter in the northern hemisphere with as much equanimity as you can muster.  The days are now getting steadily longer, and that’s good news for those of us who get moody when the nights predominate.  For those in the southern hemisphere, enjoy the summer!  For those who live in the tropics…well, you don’t need any boosting from me, I would imagine.

Stay healthy, everyone.  Watch those doorknobs, hand-rails, and standing poles, and wash your hands regularly!

TTFN

A SOUTH FLORIDA CHRISTMAS SONG

(Sung to the tune of “White Christmas,”…obviously, I guess)

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas,
just like the ones I never knew,

with the flowers blooming
and sea birds zooming
across the crystal sky so blue.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas
despite the Christmas cards I’ve seen.

May your snow be sparkling and clean,
but may all our Christmases be green.