O! for a blog of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.

Okay, I’ll begin with some exciting news:  Yesterday I finished the first draft of my short story, Penal Colony.  I plan to rewrite/edit PC before finishing In the Shade; I think it’ll be more fun that way, though I reserve the right to change my mind.  Completing Penal Colony first will also lead to a bit more separation between the stories’ publication dates, and I find that more aesthetically pleasing than the alternative.

Yesterday I also completed what was, for me, a traumatic moment in Unanimity.  I say traumatic because some truly terrible things happened to characters who have been in the story nearly since the beginning, and whom I like a lot.  In association with that tragedy, another larger-level horrific event happens, which will in turn galvanize the climax of the novel.  In other words, since things are always darkest before the dawn—at least in conventional narrative—that increasing darkness points toward the story’s resolution.

Which is just a pompous way of saying that I’m getting within sight of the end of the novel, and I’m excited about it.  Of course, after that, the real work begins.

I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned this before, but I know a gifted local young artist, and I’ve preliminarily engaged her to do the cover designs for my next book, Neko/Neneko.  This will be a much more lighthearted tale than Unanimity, and it will also be much shorter.  I’m excited about this artist’s work; I can barely wait to see it, so I’ve already given her the rough idea of the plot, and some thoughts of what I’d like the cover to be, but I also encouraged her to brainstorm ideas of her own.  I’ll be deeply happy if I’m able to get her some public exposure that boosts her career.  She’s not a big computer/internet person, and she doesn’t promote herself.  She’s “officially” an amateur, in that she doesn’t get paid for her work but merely does it for her own pleasure and fulfillment.  At least, she was an “amateur” until I commissioned her to do work, and I’ve already paid her a bit, which is another happy thing for me.

More tangentially:  I’m seriously considering doing a second edition of Mark Red, and probably Welcome to Paradox City as well.  I’m just not quite satisfied with their current forms, and I want to make them better.  I mean to publish each of the stories in WtPC as “Kindle Singles” anyway, and I’d revise/reedit them before release, so I might as well go whole hog.  (I’ll also add my author’s notes to the books in their second additions).

In other news, I’ve almost come to the decision just to stop producing “My heroes have always been villains.”  I get few responses to these entries, relative to my other posts, even though I enjoy them very much, which becomes a bit disheartening over time.  Maybe I’m just not finding my target audience.  The love of villains—as characters and essential plot drivers, not in real life—may be more niche than I thought it was.  I would have expected that most lovers of good fantastic literature would consider a great villain essential to any adventure, and well worthy of discussion.  Maybe they do, but I just write about them in a boring way.  Or maybe I need to promote those posts in the right venues.

This leads to a personal conundrum (one that my beloved villains would not share):  It’s very hard for me to develop the functional narcissism necessary to promote my posts (and other writings) as aggressively as would probably be optimal.  For instance, I think may of my Iterations of Zero essays would get a lot of interaction and feedback if I posted them on certain Facebook pages that deal with the various subjects they address, but I feel awkward about posting them, fearing that I’ll come across as an egotistical asshole.  The peculiar thing is, I’d feel far less awkward about thus promoting someone else’s writing.

It’s a strange mind I inhabit, and I’m not sure the best way to use it optimally, despite having been its nominal pilot for almost half a century.

Well, one good principle is not to give up, so I’m certainly not going to stop writing, probably not until I die.  But I may end “My heroes have always been villains,” not as a matter of giving up, but simply to allocate my resources better—time being the most strictly limited resource.  If any of you want to argue me out of that decision…well, I’m always open to persuasion, as a matter of principle.

For now, as Forrest Gump would put it, that’s all I have to say about that.  I wish you all well.  Next Thursday is Thanksgiving here in America, so I may or may not produce a blog post.  In case I don’t, I hope those of you who celebrate have a truly happy day.  I hope you get together with your families and have a wonderful, gargantuan feast.

If possible, send a little thought for food my way when you do.

TTFN

They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time blogs many parts

Well, you wouldn’t think it would catch me by surprise—it’s something that happens every month, after all, in an entirely predictable fashion—but I didn’t realize until this morning that today was the second Thursday of October and is thus the “official” day for me to write an episode of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Obviously, since I wasn’t thinking about it, I haven’t given a second’s thought to what villain I should discuss today.  Rather than pick a random baddie from my memory’s hat and produce an off-the-cuff essay on him or her, I’ll push that project back until next week or next month.  I apologize if anyone out there was looking forward to a new episode today.  Then again, if there are such people, I haven’t heard from them; I’d be quite gratified if you’d make yourself or yourselves known.  I can exculpate myself a bit for my oversight by admitting that I’ve been rather worn down, tired, and slightly ill, this week (see my IoZ entry here for a brief discussion of the nature and effects of my troubles with insomnia), so I’m behind my mental curve.

Even as I wrote that last sentence, I realized that I’ve often made comment in these, my public venues, about being under the weather.  Now, I don’t think that I’m too whiny and hypochondriacal, as a general rule, but I certainly don’t seem to operate at my physical optimum much of the time.  It’s a problem that I need to keep in mind, going forward.

I will say this, in tangential reference to the above issue:  I’m glad that I decided to put my audio productions on indefinite hiatus.  It’s a melancholy gladness, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, because I really do like those audio productions, and if you’re interested you’re welcome to partake of the ones I’ve made, either here, or on my YouTube channel.  But making them requires a lot of mental energy and physical time.  Since putting the audios on pause, I’ve gotten more writing done on Unanimity, and I’ve worked steadily on my two other short stories during the the hours I would have spent recording and editing the audio, leading to an increased total output of about five pages a day versus only three on average (or roughly 2500 words versus 1500) before.  This is a serious improvement.

It would be nice to be able to do all this full-time, instead of in the interstices between actions of daily necessity required to put food on the table, so to speak.  Then I could write just as much and still make my audio files, which would be a lot of fun.  I hope someday to reach that state, but I obviously haven’t done it yet.

Unanimity goes well, though, and is honestly approaching its climax and resolution (I swear!  No, really!).  I still expect—if I work on it as steadily as I ought—its first draft to be finished before the end of the year, and probably well before that long novel is ready to be published, I’ll release one or both of the short stories I’m working on, Penal Colony and In the Shade.

It’s amazing how something can take so many hours, so much effort, and yet yield a product that can be consumed within the course of, say, a few days for a novel, or at most an hour or two for a short story.  It would be nice if I could give the readers of my work as much lasting entertainment as I get durable engagement from producing them, but I guess that’s the nature of all creative arts.  Even a small, independent film is created through untold hours of effort by astonishing numbers of people, to be then enjoyed within the space of two hours.  A great painting or sculpture can take perhaps less total work, but is then enjoyed in mere tiny, minutes-long chunks by even the most passionate enthusiasts of the arts.

I wonder how many people would have to read my books to make the “man-hours” of reading surpass the man-hours of production; it’s a hurdle I’d love to cross with all my stories.  I don’t know if anyone’s done the math on such a question—I assume that the numbers would be different for different people and different works—but if they have, I’d love to know about it.  I’m sure that Stephen King, for instance, passed that milestone decades ago.  He probably passed it with Carrie, and I doubt that he’s ever caught up in the time since, despite the staggering pace at which he writes.  To match such an outcome is a high bar for anyone to set, but as I’ve long said, only those who attempt the impossible can achieve the unbelievable.

And now, I think that will just about do it for today.  I’ll say, tentatively at least, that I’m going to put off the next episode of “My heroes have always been villains” until November, unless I receive any complaints or protests from those who don’t want to wait.

I’ll close with an exhortation—probably preaching to the converted, but there it is—that you all be cautious of falling prey too much, too often, to the easy distractions of videos and memes and other short-attention forms of entertainment.  Keep reading.  Read “real” books, read e-books (they’re just two forms of the same thing), read fiction and nonfiction, read articles and blogs, read poems, read plays, but do keep reading.  Written language is the lifeblood of civilization, and stories are the default mode of human thought (or so it seems).  To read, and to write, are affirmations of and contributions to the health and longevity of the human project and are well worth anyone’s time.

So I am convinced.  I may, perhaps, be biased.

TTFN

Methought I read a blog cry, “Sleep no more!”

It’s Thursday again, and we’re in the middle of the first week of Autumn (in the Northern hemisphere).  For the next six months, the nights will be longer than the days.  As someone who tends to write about the darker side of possibility, I don’t think that’s so terrible…or it’s terrible in all the best ways.

My writing has been steady but rather slow this week, mainly because I’m struggling badly with insomnia.  I’m not referring here to the Stephen King book by that name (though coincidentally I’m in the middle of rereading it at this very time), but to the chronic, and occasionally incapacitating, sleep disorder.  Over the previous two nights (before last night) I slept for a rough total of three hours; this is, obviously, not adequate, and it has a noticeable impact on my ability to concentrate and to think clearly.

Nevertheless, the writing continues.  Hopefully, when I go back to rewrite and edit, I won’t be dismayed by how horrible my work product from these past few days is; I don’t honestly expect it to stand out as either better or worse than average.  As I’ve said previously, the way I feel when writing something is poorly correlated with how good the writing turns out to be.  Sometimes when I feel lofty and inspired and superhumanly gifted, I produce nothing but great, steaming piles of oozy excrement.  The converse is also occasionally true.  It’s unpredictable.  Thus, we will always need to edit and rewrite.

Today, for the first time in quite a while, I’m riding the train in to work, due to certain vehicles being in the shop and matters of that sort.  It’s nothing to worry about, just routine maintenance, despite an event I obliquely mention below.

It’s curiously nostalgic to be taking the train, and not entirely unpleasant, though it’s far less efficient—time-wise, anyway—than driving.   I’ve been inspired to write at least one story (Prometheus and Chiron) while waiting for a train, and I see many interesting people when using mass transit.  Little of note happens on the Interstate, especially when one rides a vehicle that is fundamentally solo.  One can have occasional exciting, even life-threatening moments on the road, such as one I had three days ago, but they don’t make very good stories.  Not to me, anyway.  I suppose I could throw some details of such an occurrence into the midst of an action scene to add to the realism, drawing from my personal experience of feeling my right leg squeezed against the passenger door of some idiot’s car, which is changing lanes without the driver looking, but it happens quickly and—thanks to the fact that I don’t tend to rattle easily—is rapidly over, with no harm done.

I’m having a peculiarly good time working on three stories at once, as I mentioned in my previous post.  Of course, my primary work right now is still Unanimity, which is grudgingly proceeding toward its conclusion, but I’m enjoying both the writing of my new short story and the rewriting of the older, uncompleted story, In the Shade.  I remember when I wrote it originally, and more or less why I stopped—I just lost steam, I wasn’t inspired by what was happening, and I had other projects awaiting my attention, to which I turned (with good results, I think).  But rewriting it now, I have to say that I’m pleased with what I made then.  I think it could turn out to be quite good, even if it is just a gonzo horror story.  We shall see.

Skipping to a non-sequitur:  I must say, I’ve so far been consistently disappointed by the lack of response and feedback to the “My heroes have always been villains” episodes.  From my point of view—admittedly biased—I would think people would find such posts particularly interesting.  I wonder if my title for the series throws people off, making them wonder just what kind of horrible person I am, but it’s honestly just an ironic play on the title of an old Willie Nelson song, “My heroes have always been cowboys.”  I don’t actually idolize villains, in the sense of wanting to be like them, though they tend to have character traits that, in the right place, in the right amount, would be quite admirable.  That’s just the nature of the tragic character with the tragic flaw:  Much of what makes a villain a villain would, in proper measure and in the proper circumstances, make them admirable and even heroic.

Likewise, many attributes we admire in our heroes, real and imaginary, can be terrible drawbacks in the wrong circumstances or in different proportions.  Harry Potter, for instance, is one of the most admirable, inspiring, and pure-hearted heroes in modern literature.  Nevertheless, Professor Snape does occasionally have a point when he decries Harry’s reckless disregard for rules and his difficulty controlling his emotions (though I think he’s completely wrong when he calls Harry arrogant).

Oh, well.  I’ll continue to write those episodes roughly once a month, even if they find no readers other than myself, at least until I work my way through most of my most prominently beloved malefactors.  Hopefully there’s someone else out there who enjoys them, but since I think a writer must write primarily for him or herself, and only secondarily for the outer audience, it will only be a moderately devastating heartbreak if there isn’t.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll continue to write my weekly postings in both of my blogs, and more importantly, I’ll keep writing my fiction.

TTFN

Life is as tedious as twice-told tale, vexing the dull ear of a drowsy blog.*

Good day, all.  It’s Thursday again, and time for another incarnation of my weekly blog post.  Rejoice!

It’s been a relatively eventful few weeks with respect to my writing.  As stated before, I’ve put the production of the audio chapters of CatC on indefinite hiatus.**  This is partly due to an apparent lack of public interest (if you are a counterexample to that, please let me know).  Mainly, however, it’s due to a combination of factors within me and my life.  Specifically, the production of the audio takes a lot of my spare time and mental energy, and without any obvious feedback, I’d rather put those resources into doing what I love most:  writing new things. Continue reading

I’ll blog to thee in silence.

It’s Thursday again, and time for another of my weekly blog posts about my writing.

There’s not much new to discuss today, but there are a few updates for the imaginary reader who cares about such things.  First, I think I’m going to take at least a temporary break from doing the audio for The Chasm and the Collision.  I had been toying with that possibility for a while but had decided (yesterday) just to go ahead and do the next chapter.  When I had finished the initial recording of the first portion of Chapter 10, though, I discovered that some technical problem had occurred during the recording.  I don’t know exactly what caused it, but the playback sounded echoey and tinny, with uneven volume.  I didn’t deviate in any obvious way from what I’ve done for the past two or three chapters (which were recorded by a different method from preceding chapters and audio stories), and I don’t see any way to salvage the recording and make it pleasant for the listener.

I’m not someone who thinks that the universe sends messages or omens to people in the real world, even though I write stories about the fantastical and the “supernatural,” but I nevertheless took this as a cue—accidental though it was—to take a break.

It’s not as though I think a lot of people have been listening to those stories or chapters, in any case.  I haven’t received a single comment or any other feedback, either here on the blog or on any of the YouTube versions of the audio stories, so I doubt that a hiatus is going to bring heartbreak to any human.  And I sincerely doubt that any non-human is listening to the stories or is capable of responding to them, so leaving the audio aside should obey the dictates of the Hippocratic Oath and do no harm.

I took two days off from writing this weekend, not for any deliberate reason, but the holiday here in America (Labor Day) contributed.  The occurrence of a tropical storm (mild for South Florida, but still rainy and dreary for a long stretch of time), also dampened my enthusiasm.  I guess, technically, I took three days off, now that I think about it, because I wrote the first draft of my latest post on Iterations of Zero last week, in response to something that I had seen.  I just did the editing and rewriting on Tuesday morning, after which I carried out the recording debacle described above.

Then, yesterday, I wrote again on Unanimity, which was productive.  I’m lucky enough to enter easily into a state of “flow” when I’m writing, especially when writing fiction, so even when I’m gloomy or tired, I’m at least able to produce something.  Whether that product is good or not is probably highly debatable, but the audience of one that consists of me at least always finds it tolerable so far.  So that’s good.

On a tangentially related matter, I recently started a trial of “promote mode” on Twitter, but I think I’m going to discontinue it.  The idea was to try to get word about my books and audio and podcasts out to a greater number of people through that venue, but unfortunately promote mode is not discriminating.  It “promotes” every tweet one twits, so one encounters such bizarre phenomena as when a tweet expressing a feeling of profound depression and discouragement becomes my most “liked” and “retweeted” post since I’ve been on the site.  That’s not the boost I’m looking for.  Also, to my surprise and disappointment, my number of followers on Twitter has dropped since I began the trial; I’m getting a net negative return on a not-insignificant investment.  It may be that I should give the experiment more time, but it’s not as though I have money and Twitter followers to burn.  I think I should probably just let things proceed and grow—if they in fact do—organically.

And with that, there’s not much else to say today.  My wittiness, limited at the best of times, is in the lower reaches of its curve, so I’ll wait for an upward swerve before trying to put out anything more entertaining.  I do hope you’re all well, and continue to be so, and if anything, that you get ever better over time.

TTFN

So is my blog, Octavius, and for that I do appoint it store of provender.

Guten tag!  Today is the last Thursday of August in 2018, a day that will never come again (unless it turns out that time is recurrent and the universe is closed in the fourth dimension, which I suppose is possible).

I hope you’re all well.  I myself am in a better mental state than I have been for the past few weeks, something for which I’m intensely grateful.  I imagine that anyone reading my blogs with the hope of enjoyment is probably also at least mildly grateful.  Reading something written by a person in a gloomy mood can occasionally be powerful, but it’s rarely much fun.

Speaking of fun, I got an amusing email from Amazon this week.  It’s something that’s happened to me once or twice before, and I might even have written about it here; apologies if I’m being redundant.  Anyway, the message came because, a month or two ago, I ordered a copy of my book Welcome to Paradox City to give to a friend of mine at work.  Of course, Amazon has the very nice feature that, if you buy a product from them, especially a book, they encourage you to rate it and, if you’re so inclined, to review it.  I thus received a request to give feedback about a book that I had written. Continue reading

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

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

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