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.

Before my blog I throw my warlike shield

Hello, everyone.  I hope you’re having as good a day and as good a week as possible.  It’s Thursday again, which means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  “Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!  For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.”

Anyway…

It’s been a rather momentous week.  I received the files for my old stories and poems as discovered and generously sent by my ex-wife.  Most prominently, I received the files for my old book Vagabond, complete as it was written.  It’s very exciting, and though I haven’t stopped working on Outlaw’s Mind (formerly Safety Valve) I did take at least a little time, when I didn’t have my latest work with me, to do a little editing and rewriting of just the very first bit of it.  I have to resist getting sidetracked, because I want to finish my current story and put it in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities so that I can release that before getting to Vagabond.

The current story is growing rapidly; I’ve been steadily writing at least two thousand words a day on it.  Hopefully, it won’t become so large as to make it unwieldy for including in the collection.  If it grows too much, it’ll have to be released as a short novel, which I’d really prefer not to do.

It would have been nice to have the complete copy of my old short story House Guest, which I wrote in high school, and which helped me win an NCTE award, but unfortunately, it seems that I only had typed in about the first one and a half pages of the thing (it was originally typewritten the old-fashioned way).  Still, that’s the most important bit, since it gives me my character’s name and back story, and it sets the stage for what’s to come.  It wasn’t nearly as long as many of my current “short” stories, so it won’t be too much labor to try to recreate it, but I don’t know if I’ll go to the trouble to include it in DECoC.

Still…it would be a shame not to have it there…

Vagabond is good, but it bears the hallmark of my old, disjointed way of doing things:  only writing when I felt “inspired” and bouncing from one project to another haphazardly.  By this I mean, though I like it, it’s rather abrupt in some ways, and doesn’t flow as nicely as I would prefer.  Still, that’s okay; I can fix it now.  I can’t feel too bad, and I’m not complaining.  It’s the rediscovery of a book I started in college, more than thirty years ago, and finished by the end of medical school, more than twenty years ago.  From this you can tell that it took me ten years to complete it, though it’s only about 150,000 words long in present form.

Among the treasures my ex-wife sent was an early beginning of Son of Man, which I recreated from scratch in its current published form.  It’s interesting to compare it to the final version, which definitely follows the same pattern but is a lot better, in my opinion.  The main character’s name didn’t change—that much was easy enough to remember—and one of the secondary characters retained almost the complete same name, but with a change of spelling.  Of course, Michael Menelvagor also remained the same.  That was inevitable, as you’ll know if you’ve read Son of Man.  I even found the first two pages of a prequel I had planned for the book,which was to be titled Orion Rising, and was the “origin” story for Michael.  There was also the beginning of a relatively realistic novel called Lazarin, which I doubt I’ll ever restart.

As you can see, I did an awful lot of starting things and not finishing them.  Admittedly, I had a lot going on at the time, but if I had disciplined myself to write a little every day, whether I felt like it or not, and to stick with one thing until it was done before starting something else, I could have been a lot more productive.

I also received a file of old poems of mine.  They are a dreary lot—I tend to write poems when I’m feeling particularly depressed—and are often embarrassingly pretentious* and purple.  Still, among them are the earlier versions of poems/lyrics that became Catechism, Breaking Me Down, and Come Back Again, and I’m pleased with two facts about these:  first, that I really did remember them pretty accurately**, and second, that where I changed them for the current versions, I definitely improved them.

So, it’s been quite interesting to look back in joy (and in groans) at my old works, and to be able to look forward to finally being able to publish Vagabond, and to have the stem from which to regrow House Guest.  That was really a seminal story for me; it showed me that my writing was actually good not just from my Mom’s point of view.  I’m quite sure that it was the main factor in winning me the NCTE award, because the other part of the entry was an impromptu essay, written by hand…and as I think I said before, I can’t imagine anyone being able to decipher it, let alone liking it.

This isn’t just false humility.  My MCAT essay (I don’t even know if they still use those) was the only part of the test on which I got a mediocre score, and though I may just have written a crap essay***, I think it was very difficult to read as well, and that can’t help but hurt one’s evaluation.

Which point demands of me that I once again profoundly and profusely thank my sister, who undertook the Herculean task of trying to decipher and type in handwritten chapters of Mark Red and I think of The Chasm and the Collision that I sent her from jail and from prison.  Thank you, Liz, if you’re reading!

And that, I think, is a good point on which to close things this week.  I hope you all stay safe and healthy and use any enforced isolation time to read whatever strikes your fancy, and not to succumb exclusively to the temptations of video and social media.

TTFN Writer-at-work


*I know, right?  If even I think it’s pretentious, it must be really something!

**The middle portion of Come Back Again is verbatim from the original poem, though it was part of a completely different piece of work originally.  The last verse is almost the same, just with a slight flushing out of the second line for rhythm purposes.  Catechism is very accurate, but there were a few phrases that were a bit awkward in the original that have come out better.  Likewise for some of the imagery and word choices in Breaking Me Down, though that also is very close to the original.

***I have absolutely no recollection of what the subject was, let alone what I wrote.  Ditto for the NCTE essay.

But if the while I blog on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored, and sorrows end.

Good morning all.  This being Thursday, I figured I’d write another of my weekly blog posts.  What a shock, right?

As I stated last blog post, I’ve started back on my latest work, a novella/short novel* with the working title Safety Valve.  I’ve come up with a better final title for it, which is Outlaw’s Mind.  The main character is named Timothy Outlaw, and it really is about things that go on in his mind, and the troubles he has in dealing with a rather unusual emotional issue…one that may not be exactly what it seems.

I think I’ve built up a lot of writing pressure during the time in which I’ve been editing Unanimity, because once I got going, for the first two days I wrote over three thousand words a day on the new story, and since then I’ve been steady at about two thousand.  Not bad for me age.  One thing I’ll give myself, I do write quickly.  That’s partly why works intended as novellas become short novels, and novels become half a million words long.  At least there’s a lot of meat in my stories, and hopefully not too much gristle.

Speaking of such things, just to let you know, Unanimity Book 2 is already available for pre-order in Kindle form, if you’re interested (though thanks to the way my publishing works, it doesn’t seem that pre-ordering can be arranged for the paperback version).  I’ll include a link and a picture of the cover below.

And, of course, Unanimity Book 1 is readily available for purchase in both paperback and e-book editions, so please look into it.  As I think I’ve said before, it’s a supernatural thriller/horror novel in the form of a pseudo-science-fiction story set in 2018.  It’s sort of along the lines of Carrie or The Firestarter in the sense that the things that happen in the book are arguably based in a scientific process or explanation, but what happens really is something inexplicable and mysterious.  But there are no monsters under the beds…the monster is in people’s heads.  Which is, let’s face it, where most real monsters dwell.

I’ve begun putting together the order for my eventual collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and though I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit all the stories as well as Outlaw’s Mind into one volume, it looks like it’s going to be fine.  There’s also the barest possibility that I’ll be able to include a surprise addition that I had despaired over ever being able to share with the world.

You see, my ex-wife contacted me this weekend and told me that, in cleaning out some old things, she’d found one of our old Macs, and on it, she had found several of my stories, including the short story House Guest, which I wrote in high school, and which helped me win a National Council of Teachers of English Award**.  She’s already sent the disc with the files to a service that translates such things into newer formats and gave them my email address to contact me when it’s ready.  It was an awfully nice thing for her to do, but that doesn’t surprise me.  I did marry her, after all, and I’ve never regretted that.

An even greater source of joyous surprise was that, among the material she found was my horror novel Vagabond, which I wrote over the course of college and medical school***.  I currently have only fragments of that novel in my possession; I had occasionally thought of reconstructing the missing parts, but it’s just too daunting, and I have new things on which to work.  But once I get the original, I can go through it, edit it, fix it up, and finally publish it!  It’s set in the late eighties, since that’s when I started college, and it takes place at a university—which would mean that I’d have two horror novels set in universities coming out in quick succession.  There are worse things, though, and the stories are of quite different character.  Vagabond is clearly and definitely a supernatural horror story, and its villain is one of my favorite creations.

Speaking of favorite creations and villains, this revelation and gift from my ex-wife does lead me to feel a bit wistful about an earlier “completed” work, a novel I wrote in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom.  This was a literal sci-fi fantasy combo, with magic and high tech, parallel universes, cosmic level dangers and a battle to the finish between two men of complex character who had previously been the best of friends.  It has impact on the metaverse of all my subsequent works, at least in my head, though that’s unlikely ever to be obvious.

It’s also unlikely that that novel will ever be rescued, since it was hand-written, single-spaced, both sides, on thin-ruled notebook paper, overflowing almost always into the margins as I thought of things to add.  It was in a green, battered old school-type folder, and it was lost along with essentially all my earthly belongings in 2011.  Odds are it’s rotting in a landfill somewhere, but on the bare chance that someone got it as part of an auction of my old belongings, you’ll recognize it from the description above.  Look for the “hero”, Naldor, along with a gaggle of Earth teens…whose names I’m unsure of, ironically, because they were based on people I knew, and I mix up the real people with the characters.  And look for the villain (no scare quotes needed here), Qaltich Talberod, called The Talberod by those who serve him, which is everyone with any sense of self preservation.  If anyone out there recognizes it, please get in contact with me.  I’ll know it when I see it, obviously.  It might even be worth something some year.  I’d vouch for its authenticity and give it back to you once I’d finished rewriting it.

This, however, is a fantasy, less likely to happen than the events of the story itself.  If I ever want anyone else to read Ends of the Maelstrom, I’m just going to have to rewrite it.  Please don’t hold your breath for that, though.  Had we but world enough, and time, of course I would eventually reconstruct it.  But as Andrew Marvell knew only too well, the phase space of our personal possibilities is finite and bounded.

On that happy note, I’ll finish up for this week.  I do invite you to check out Unanimity Book 1, I think it’s good.  I am biased of course.  Also, if you were to get a copy of the paperback and want to have it signed, I’m sure we could arrange for you to ship it to me and for me to ship it back.  I’ll personalize it if you like; I love sharing my stories with people in a personal way.

TTFN

Unanimity Book 2 simple Cover Project


*Short for me, anyway.

**There was an essay portion as well, but as this was handwritten, it’s hard to imagine the judges even being able to read it, let alone think it was any good.  My handwriting is deplorable.

***Back then I bought into the foolish behavior of only writing when inspired to do so—and there was always so much else to do.  This led to things taking a terribly long time, and it also led to me constantly getting sidetracked by new ideas, so I rarely completed works, or did so slowly.  Don’t fall into that trap!  Just set a schedule, like a job, and write whether you feel like it or not, on that schedule…and finish what you started—at least most of the time—before going on to something new.  Here endeth the lesson.


And just as a little added note:  WordPress’s new “block editor” sucks.  It was fine the way it was.  I’m tempted to find another place to host my blog, honestly, this is crap.  As Marullus said, “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!”

Taunt him with the licence of ink: if thou blog’st him some thrice, it shall not be amiss

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday again, and thus time for another weekly blog post.  I took the train today*, since my vehicle is in the process of some repairs/part replacements.  It’s nothing serious, and I rather enjoy riding the train from time to time, though when doing so I get sick more often than when I don’t.  This is surely not surprising, and in the era of Covid-19 it points out why they encourage people not to use public transportation if they don’t have to.  Unfortunately, many people—weirdly enough—still have to work to make a living and don’t have easily viable alternatives.  At the very least, taking the train makes me nostalgic for the writing of Prometheus and Chiron, which was inspired by my then-daily wait for the train.

Speaking of stories and inspiration:  as most of you who follow my blog probably already know, Unanimity Book 1 is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions.  I posted my usual blog entry/link source here on my blog last Saturday, and of course I shared the info on my (limited) social media.  I’m excited!

I gave several (signed) copies to selected people at work.  It felt slightly hubristic to do so, as it always does, but in a certain sense, this is the most personal gift that I could possibly give anyone.  I certainly don’t make them pay for it, for what that’s worth**.  I also certainly couldn’t possibly sit near them—or anyone—while they read it.  I’d be constantly worried about them suddenly tossing it aside with words to the effect of, “this is terrible,” but with more profanity.

I decided to go with Book 1 and Book 2 instead of developing subtitles of any kind for the two volumes, obviously.  Writing about and thinking about what titles to use last week led me to conclude that I could not come up with any pairs of titles that worked ideally together without clashing and which didn’t distract from the main title.  I’m satisfied with that, but wasn’t satisfied with the others, so it’s now “Book 1” and “Book2”, the latter of which is planned for release on September 22.

Moving on to other titles with which I’m not satisfied, I finally restarted work on my novella Safety Valve this week.  Monday morning, Tuesday morning, and most of Wednesday morning were taken up with rereading (and minor editing) of the fifty thousand words I’d already written of it (oy, I write a lot), but at the end of yesterday morning, I was able to produce one new page!  It’s been over a year, I think, since I’ve written any new words of fiction, thanks to editing Unanimity, and it was wonderful to be able to get some new bits of a tale down.  I’m happy to say that I really like the story, and particularly its main character, but I cannot abide the working title.  This was one of the stories whose raw idea popped into my head randomly and I jotted it down in my smartphone notes app, returning to it later.  That has turned into what will be quite a longish novella.

Of course, as I’ve said before, I plan to use that novella as a portion—first story or last story, most likely—of a collection of otherwise previously published works, including all my short stories that have been released in Kindle format only, so that anyone who wants a paperback story collection*** can buy it, and will still be able to get something new into the bargain.

However…given the recent trouble I had with the length of Unanimity, I’m worried that the combination might end up being too big.  If the novella even approaches a hundred thousand words, then with the other stories added, I fear the thing might grow to be comparable in size to the un-split text of Unanimity, and if that’s the case, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  Maybe I’ll have to release just a collection of the short stories and then release the final product of Safety Valve as a stand-alone novella or shorter novel, available for paperback as well as e-book.

I’ll keep you posted about this, obviously.  I’d very much love to be able to release it in time for Halloween, but I’m not sure how doable that will be.  I suppose, if I do see that I’m going to need to leave the new novella out, there’s no reason I couldn’t get the collection together in time, barring the unforeseen.

In any case, I am not unsatisfied with the proposed title for my collection…in fact I like it very much.  It will be called Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  Be on the lookout for it!

And that, I think, is plenty of news for today.  I do encourage you to peruse Unanimity Book 1 and if interested, buy it in paperback or Kindle version.  If anyone wants a copy signed by the author…well, I’m not sure how we would arrange that, but I’m sure it could be done, and I’d be happy to do my part.  While you read, and while you do whatever else you do in your lives, please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

better chronic logo


*All duly masked and social distanced, have no fear…they only allow use of one seat per row.  They’ve reduced the train schedule significantly, but have suspended fares for months now, which is quite impressive.

**$15.99 plus any applicable tax, I suppose.

***I know that I have always loved such collections.

UNANIMITY Book 1

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover Project

 

Charley Banks is an ordinary English major at a prestigious middle-American university, with friends, a part-time job, a long-term girlfriend, and loving parents.  For fun and for an interesting experience – and to get a bit of extra money – he takes part in a seemingly unremarkable and benign experiment in the Neuroscience Department, testing a new version of a trans-cranial magnetic stimulator.  After the initial test, however, Charley has a severe seizure in the MRI machine.

He awakens in the hospital to discover that now, with just a touch, he can extend his mind into others, replacing their consciousness with his own, operating their bodies, having access to their personalities and memories.  Initially this control lasts only while he is touching them, but soon the power grows, and Charley finds himself able to control others even when they are no longer in contact.  He also learns that he can control more than one person at a time, and that each new person he incorporates can extend him further into others.

Thrilled by his new ability, Charley determines to keep it a secret, at first even from his girlfriend, while he explores its implications and its limits, if there are any.  Though he thoughtlessly reveals something of the power to the professor who ran the initial experiment, the professor does not believe him.

It soon becomes clear, however – or it would if anyone knew of it – that something else has changed in Charley, beyond his paranormal power.  For in his use of his new ability, he quickly begins to do increasingly terrible things…especially once he learns what happens when someone dies while he is controlling them.

Come, and take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow, till the heavens reveal the blogg’d contriver of this deed

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  Welcome, also, to August.

Something has happened to me that’s happened to greater and finer authors than I:  my new book, Unanimity, was too big/long to be published in the format I had chosen.  This was initially spotted by an automated system but was confirmed by human double-checking.  It was frustrating, of course, but not entirely unexpected.

Though I had been more or less emotionally prepared for such an eventuality, I still wasn’t sure what I should do.  I could reduce the type size, and that might be effective, but I feared it would make at least the print version of the book difficult for many people to read.  I could just make the book bigger, but again, I thought that might make it less likely that people would read the print version.  A big volume is simply less wieldy than a smaller one.

I certainly wasn’t going to do what Stephen King was originally forced to do with The Stand and cut out large chunks of the novel.  I’ve just spent months and months, possibly a year, pruning the story as much as I could while still leaving it in the form in which I conceived it.  It is one of my rare—or not so rare—points of egotism, but I like my stories the way I write them.  If their form is unsatisfactory to some, that’s fine.  There are plenty of popular and high-quality books that I find mind-numbing, and some books that I love that others might consider crap.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Some people love mushrooms and eggplant, while I find them literally nauseating.  I don’t hold this against those who like them; in fact, I rather envy them the pleasure that’s available to them that’s not available to me.  Ditto for shrimp and lobster.

Culinary considerations aside, I needed to decide how I was going to proceed.  The only other person in the office at the time (I had stayed late to start working on publication), my friend Bill*, listened to my tale of woe (of inconvenience, really…I took the setback with good humor, knowing only too well that I’ve written a great book in the quasi-archaic literal sense if not the literary sense).  He then said words along the lines of, “Well, didn’t your buddy have to break his book up into parts to have it published because it was so long?”

I didn’t know to which buddy he was referring at first.  I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who’d been in a similar situation.  So, he said, roughly, “You know, he wrote the…the books that they made into those movies.”  I gradually caught on that he was referring to J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.  I’d never thought of Tolkien as “my buddy” before, but it was quite a pleasing thought.  And Bill was right, of course.  LotR was originally written as one long book (in six parts, also called books by Tolkien), but was much too long to be published in one ordinary volume.  I don’t know for sure, but I think I’ve heard that George R. R. Martin had similar issues with Game of Thrones**.

Not completely convinced, despite the comparison to Tolkien, I also texted my sister, presenting several options, including the one Bill had suggested.  She texted back that she wasn’t sure, but that her knee-jerk was to split it into two books.

When two people whose opinions I respect came to the same conclusion rapidly and rather strongly, all while reminding me of the history of my single favorite work of literature, I became convinced.  Well, okay, it took a little more thinking about possibilities and new opportunities to cement the decision, but by morning I was there.

So, now, Unanimity is going to be published as two books—I like the irony—the first to be sometime within the next week-ish, and the second to be released on September 22nd.  Doing this gave me the opportunity to adjust the cover art between the two, making the second a more intense, or advanced, stage of the first, if you will.  This is quite pleasing, if rather frivolous.  Also, after I’d already decided what to do, I went to look at where the break in books would come, and I realized that book one would end on a heck of a cliffhanger.  Now that is almost enough to make a die-hard skeptic like me believe in fate.  Not quite, but I’m happy to embrace the feeling.

You see, I don’t tend to write in chapters.  Even The Chasm and the Collision, which has traditional, named chapters, was originally written as a continuous story.  There are scene breaks, of course, as I write, and some of these end up becoming chapter breaks, but I don’t write with that in mind.  Chapter division, in my writing, tends to come after the fact, as a way to break things up for the reader.  It’s just psychological, but I absolutely get it.  I also broke Unanimity up into four “parts”, because it is quite long, and would benefit from the additional psychological meta-commas provided.

This division is semi-arbitrary…but not completely so.  I choose my breaks with care; I just do it after the fact.  And when splitting the book into its parts, I had chosen to end the second part, the rough mid-point of the story, at a point of dramatic shock.  And that’s going to work beautifully for the two-book form.  I don’t quite have goosebumps about it, but it’s close.  If I had a long moustache, I’d twirl it.

Of course, being who I am, I can’t just call the books Unanimity Book One and Unanimity Book Two.  There must be titles, of sorts, for the individual volumes.  Unanimity will still be the overarching title, but I want to give something of the character of the story in the two halves.  This is slightly tricky.  I’m almost completely decided on calling Book One Contagion, because I like the metaphor of disease…not just because of the current pandemic, but also because it’s how some characters eventually think of the threat faced in the story.

I particularly like a cancer metaphor, with the notion of Charley Banks as a transformed cell, no longer healthy or appropriately restrained, capable of uncontrollable spreading and invasion of the previously “healthy” tissues of society.  In fact, I thought of titling the second book Metastasis, but when I bounced that title off a number of people, all of whom are reasonably well-educated and informed, I got a lot of blank stares.  So, I may go with Malignancy, which I think is a more universally known term, one nevertheless fraught with horror.

I actually have some little bit of uncertainty about Contagion as the first title, and not just because it’s been a book title before.  Contagion and Malignancy are slightly divergent metaphors, related to different disease processes.  Perhaps I’m worrying too much about that, but it does eat at me***.  I think maybe calling Book One Mutation or Transformation might be better and more consistent.  But “mutation” might be a misleading term, and “transformation”, though a technical term in oncology, can have entirely benign connotations.  Well, so can “mutation”, really.  Actually, so can “unanimity”, when you get right down to it.

Maybe I’m overthinking things.  Probably I’m overthinking things.  Maybe I should just go with Book One and Book Two.

In any case, before long I’ll pull the trigger and you’ll see the result.  For now, you can look forward to two books, each one easier to carry than the whole would have been.  I think you’ll like them.  I like them…and I’ve read Unanimity over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  I’m not bored yet.  Hopefully, that’s a good sign.

Do please let me know, when the time comes.

TTFN

Face less 1


*Bill is a coworker with whom I get along partly because we have similar work ethics, and partly because of music.  He also plays guitar, actually quite a lot better than I do, and has been playing for a lot longer.  Some years ago, he recorded a personal CD of original songs, folk/rock style, just him singing along with acoustic guitar.  He let me borrow (and rip) the CD.  It’s very good.  For a muscular guy who could easily pass for a construction worker/foreman, and who once had a bit part as a body-guard for a bad guy in an episode of Miami Vice, he’s got a real artistic, moving, sentimental quality to his music.  I’ll try to get him to publish the CD, and if he does, I will give you all links to it.

**I think the broad title is A Song of Ice and Fire, but I’ve not read the books nor seen the show, so I could be wrong about this.

***Like a parasite.  I tried to find good terms related to the field of parasitology, but nothing I’ve found works.  It’s too bad, really.

Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain: for they blog truth, that breathe their words in pain

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I have great (to me) news to share today; I suspect that regular readers, if there are any, can guess what that news might be.

It is not that Unanimity is now available for purchase.  It isn’t.  Not quite, anyway.  Rather, I have completed, as of yesterday morning, the final content editing of the novel and much of the layout editing.  Now there just remains the final layout of the book and the final version of the cover (as well as the blurb, but that part is quick).

I have a preliminary version of the cover, which has been toyed with for almost as long as the book has been in the works.  I’ll include it below, to tease you with what the book is going to look like, though the final version will probably be at least a little bit different.  It’s a metaphorical picture, not representing any literal event in the book, but attempting to convey the central horror of the story:  the notion of each individual no longer being an individual, but having their identities replaced by and subsumed into another.  Many of the horrible events in the book are consequences of this fundamental horror.  If that sounds a bit abstract for a horror novel, don’t worry.  It’s not focused on much, since most of the characters in the novel don’t even know what’s happening at any deep level.  They simply become the victims of the consequences.

I’m not sure I’m doing a great job of selling the idea of the book.  I will readily admit that I’m not great at self-promotion.  But don’t judge the book by me (and don’t judge me by the book either, please.  I’m a nice guy.  Really, I am.).  Judge the book on its own merits.  It’s a good story, I think, and it’s certainly going to provide a lengthy diversion.  Though it has been trimmed down to a certain degree, it’s still just shy of half a million words long.  Unless you have a tremendous amount of spare time, I don’t think you’re going to be able to breeze through it in one sitting.

Certainly, I’m not going to be doing an audio version of it any time soon, though I would very much like to do one eventually.  In fact, I’d really like to do audio versions of all my books, not just some of my short stories and a few chapters of The Chasm and the Collision.  I really enjoy reading aloud—in fact, when I read a book, I tend to absorb it verbally more than visually.  By this I mean, I tend to speak the words in my head, rather than merely experience them with my eyes.  This may seem obvious, but I know people who read very quickly who don’t seem to “subvocalize” the words, even internally.  This can often make them fast readers, which I am not*, but I find that it doesn’t tend to make them very deep readers.

I really enjoy the auditory experience, including audio books, which is somewhat ironic given that I’m quite hard of hearing in at least one of my ears, in which I have constant, fairly severe tinnitus as well, thanks to recurrent and chronic infections.

The mention of matters audible brings me to another bit of news, which is more lighthearted and frivolous.  I recorded (and mixed) a cover of the song Hurt, originally by Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails and covered beautifully by Johnny Cash.  As usual in such cases, I called it one of my “bad covers” because it certainly holds no candle (standard or substandard) to either professional version, but I really like the song.  It speaks to me powerfully**, and I hope my passion comes across in my performance.  I’ll embed the “video” here, in case you’re interested (most of the pictures shown in it are quite old ones I drew, inspired by moods similar to the one that no doubt inspired the song itself, or at least by moods the song evokes in me…they’re just there for filler, really, though they do go with the song):

 

And that’s about it for this week.  By this time next week, there’s an excellent chance that Unanimity will be available for purchase.  If so, I’ll no doubt write about it here, and of course, I’ll make a separate post with links to purchase as well.

I hope you’re all doing your best to stay sane in an unsane world***.  Try to keep your spirits up; keep doing and enjoying art and literature and music and all those other little things that make life worth even bothering with, beyond the simple consequence of biological drives and forces.  I’ll try to do my part over here as well.  No promises.

TTFN

Unanimity Cover Project


*All things given, I do read quickly, but that’s more a function of focus than of internal speed.  When reading something I enjoy, I’m not easily distracted…and when distracted, I tend to punish my distractors without much qualm, even if it’s only with a dirty look, a growl in the voice, and body language conveying barely contained aggression.

**I think I’m hardly alone in this, since the song has great and enduring popularity.

***That’s not a typo.  I think “unsane” is a better description of many things than is “insane”.  The latter implies a kind of loss or degeneration of some underlying, preexisting sanity, whereas—as I see it—many things in the world have never been sane to begin with, and indeed, the concept of sanity often does not even appear to apply.  I may write more on this at some later date.

O horror! Horror! Horror! Tongue nor blog cannot conceive nor name thee!

Good morning to you all.  It’s Thursday again, as tends to happen at this time of week, and I bid you therefore welcome to yet another of my weekly blog posts.

I don’t know that I have much new to report, but I do have continuations of previous matters.  For instance, I am now within the last hundred-ish pages of the final edit of Unanimity, after which will only follow the final layout and the cover art (which is still in an early stage).  It seems that my estimate of a possible August publication date should be accurate.  I’m very excited about this, of course, and I hope that you are excited as well, though it’s unlikely that you’re at my level of enthusiasm.

I’ll now repeat my “trigger warning” about the book, however, and I’m only being partly facetious*.  Unanimity is, of course, a horror novel, so no one should be surprised that it contains horrible and horrifying things.  That is, obviously, the point of the genre, and anyone who reads a horror novel and is shocked to find horrors within is surely being a bit dim.

Still, there are many different kinds of horror, and this novel—though definitely “supernatural” or at least “paranormal” in character, albeit in science fiction’s clothing—is not a Gothic style tale.  There are no obvious vampires or similar supernatural “outside” entities, preying on human souls or blood or whatever.  If there are zombies, they are most assuredly not of the George Romero, Night of the Living Dead type.  They are, if anything, more akin to the notion of the philosophical “zombie,” a being that behaves in every way like any other conscious creature, but which has no subjectivity.  Though, in this story’s case, they do have subjectivity, but it is not their own…their own subjectivity has been put on hold, and another has taken its place.  Unfortunately, this invading subjectivity is not benevolent.

In any case, to get to my point, I just warn potential readers that the horror in this story is a very human type of horror, so the bad things that happen might seem real and realistic, and this can—for some people at least, or so I imagine—make them more disturbing.  I don’t know for certain; I can only speculate about others’ reactions.  But if such human types of horror are difficult for you to stomach—if, for instance, you find the works of Thomas Harris** hard to endure—then you may want to consider carefully whether this will be the book for you.

I don’t know if this warning will serve as an impediment to readership or as an incentive; part of me feels that I’m being self-defeating, part of me feels that I’m being subtly (or not-so-subtly) self-promoting.  Unadulterated self-promotion has never been my strong point.  I am almost certainly my own worst enemy, but I am not solely my enemy.  If I were, things would surely be much simpler.  Or if I were an unrepentant narcissist, I suppose some things would be easier as well, though public figures who are narcissistic rarely come across as happy to me.  Perhaps that’s just me projecting misery onto them that I hope they experience, since most narcissists are pretty insufferable.  But who knows, maybe they really are as pleased with themselves as they claim to be.

If so, sign me up!

I doubt it, though.  Reality has a way of biting those who delude themselves in any direction, sooner or later…usually sooner, based on my observations, and often continuously.  I’ve made the point before that I think depression—or at least dysthymia—is a species of realism, a recognition of the fundamentally uncaring, though still often beautiful, nature of reality.  But I’m subject to cognitive biases as much as anyone, and more than many, so any conclusions are firmly provisional.

This train of thought leads me to a notion that’s been bouncing around my head a bit lately:  I’m thinking of semi-abandoning the practice of keeping a separate blog (Iterations of Zero) for my thoughts and writings that are about things other than my fiction and related creative works.  I find that there’s a kind of mental block that keeps me from writing on IoZ, because it feels too strongly like a division of resources and is separated by an activation energy barrier.  So, I may soon go back to using just this blog to post whatever thoughts and writings I may have, about whatever subject strikes my fancy (keeping the Thursday post as it is currently) and leaving IoZ fallow.

After all, this blog is the one that bears my name—probably the closest to narcissism I’ll come.  Also, to make that mental shift might let me reintroduce “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, but to have it as an orthogonal (or is it parallel?) process to my regular blog posts.  I could just do it when the mood strikes me, as I could do my writings on mood, on math, on medicine, on science, and even occasionally on politics***.  After all, Robert Elessar is not merely an author and sometimes a musician.  “I am large—I contain multitudes.”

We shall see.  In the meantime, though, the focus is on Unanimity, and I urge you not to be too put off by my self-conscious warning above.  I think it’s a good book, and I like the characters—even the “bad guy”—and I think it’s a pretty original story as far as it goes.  It has length, at least, and may even have breadth and depth.  That will be for you to decide.  I can tell you this much, as with nearly all horror novels:  in the end, the “good guys” do win…but not all of them survive, and none are unscathed.  And, of course, the “evil” may not be completely vanquished.

As Lord Foul would say, “Think on that, and be dismayed.”

TTFN


*How big a fraction that is seems to vary from moment to moment.

**How’s that for praising myself with faint damnations?

***Yuck.

The desire is boundless and the blog a slave to limit.

Hello and good morning! It’s Thursday again, which means that, for those of you whose level of masochism far exceeds any possible good sense, it’s time to read another of my weekly blog posts.  Hallelujah!

I’ll try to resist saying much about what’s happening in the world or, more particularly, here in South Florida, but of course, the news is even worse than usual…which is saying quite a lot.  I’d like to be optimistic and speculate that, while things are pretty bad now, regression to the mean suggests that they’ll tend to be at least a bit better over coming weeks and months.

However, optimism isn’t my strong suit, and it’s all too possible that events prior to more recent times have been the atypically good ones and that what we’re experiencing now—which feels like a dip or a downturn—is the actual regression to the mean.  Not that I want to make you feel bad or anything; I’d actually be quite pleased if everyone was upbeat, conscientious, productive, happy, and (quietly) energetic.  I just tend to approach life with an implicit view that, if you’re expecting the worst, the only surprises you’ll get will be good ones.

Maybe I am optimistic after all!

Anyway, in my little corner of reality, things are proceeding more or less as planned.  Unanimity continues to approach its completion.  I’m currently working on the final editing of Part 4 (of 4 parts) of the story, and we’re working on the cover design and the layout and so forth.  It really shouldn’t be much longer.  I doubt that it’ll be ready by the end of July, but August is looking pretty good.

After that, I can go back to a couple of other things I’m working on.  First, I have a new song that I’ve been very gradually developing (I haven’t wanted to let it interfere with Unanimity) that I should be able to put together completely and record and produce and mix and all that stuff.  Then I need to decide whether to release more singles or just to gather everything I have together into an album…though even with this new song it would only have six songs, which feels lame to me*.  If any of you have any preferences, I’d love to hear from you, but I recognize that it’s unlikely that anyone much cares one way or the other.

After that—or more likely contemporaneously—I’m going to go back and finish a novella that I started in the middle of writing Unanimity, as I had done for a few of my recent short stories.  I’m still looking for a title for the story, since I don’t think the working title is good enough, but that’s fine.  I’m sure I’ll come up with something satisfactory; I’m pretty good with titles.

Then, rather than release that novella separately, I’m going to put it together with all my short stories that are currently available only in Kindle format and publish them as Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities***.  There shouldn’t be nearly as long a wait for that as there has been for Unanimity.  It might very well be out before the end of the year, though probably not in time for Halloween, alas.  Anyway, it’ll be in both Kindle and paperback form, so for those of you who prefer a “real” book to read—a preference with which I deeply sympathize—it will have that advantage.

That’s pretty much all that’s happening with me.  Seriously.  I’m extremely boring, even though I live in “interesting times”.  I think I’ve said it before, but this blog is literally the most social thing I do.  I think you’ll find, when you read the novel, that at least one or two of the characters in Unanimity channel that aspect of me, though of course, the horror of the story is something that’s almost the opposite—and yet, it’s also the same.  I’m not sure how even I interpret the message of the tale, if there is one, and I’m the one who wrote it.  I guess in a very long book, which it is, there can be many explorations of potentially contradictory or at least conflicting notions.  I don’t know if that’s interesting or boring.  Perhaps—and this would be weirdly delicious—it’s both.  I guess you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself.

TTFN


*Even though a few of the songs are longish, with those six, I think it’s likely to be only about a half hour in full duration.  The Dark Side of the Moon is just shy of 43 minutes, Abbey Road is 47 minutes, Synchronicity is 39 or 44 minutes depending on which version you’re playing, and Sergeant Pepper is roughly 40 minutes.  Animals is 41 minutes long, and it only has 5 songs!  Four, if you take the 2 parts of Pigs on the Wing as one, which I like to do**.  Perhaps I’m setting high standards of comparison, but why do otherwise?  If I’m going to meet those standards, though, I’m going to need to record a good two more songs beyond the one I’m already talking about.  I have the roots of such songs available, but…it’s a lot of work writing, recording, producing, and mixing songs all by yourself in your spare time, without any expensive equipment.

**If you’ve never heard this album, please go listen to it.  It’s amazing.

***See what I mean about me and titles?

And every tongue blogs in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.

Okay, well, welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  This being the second Thursday in July, this would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, which ran briefly, way back when, but which was stopped after not many people seemed to read it.  This surprised me, given the fact that so many people are so interested in the great villains of popular fiction:  Sauron, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos, Darth Vader, and so on, to say nothing of the quintessential dastard from whom I cribbed the title of this post.  I guess people often follow such characters on the DL, as a kind of guilty pleasure, and openly reading or talking about them is not as popular.

Oh, well.  I’ve been disappointed by the lack of popularity of that series, but the world is hard, and it’s under no obligation to conform to my expectations, let alone my hopes.

This fact was driven home yet again for me last week with the difficulty relating to my “single” Schrödinger’s Head, which had to be delayed because of restrictions on the word content of the cover art.  I quickly and easily (but not without grumbling) altered the cover to remove the warped opening lines of the song, and then adjusted the rest for better balance.  I also changed the official title of the song to include the umlaut.  This latter bit didn’t bother me nearly so much, especially since I’d already used an umlaut made from a tiny white cat’s head and a tiny black cat’s head above the “o” in the graphic (see below).  I’m not sure the umlaut in the official title was necessary—it’s hard for me to imagine that being something distributors and song sharing and selling sites would notice much—but it was satisfying, unlike the removal of my opening lyrics.

Bottom line, in short order, once my corrections were made, the song was distributed and has gone live and is now available for your listening pleasure on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube Music, and numerous other venues of which I know the names of only a few, such as TikTok.  If anyone listens on one of those other venues, please let me know; I’d love to share the link.

The song is a folk-rock style, lighthearted, silly thing in which the singer (me) asks various binary questions, mostly about what the titular physicist might be thinking, arriving at the lamentable conclusion that nobody knows.  There’s a little more to it than that, including some deliberately contradictory wordplay, but it’s not supposed to be deep or to carry any message (unlike my previous release, Like and Share, which involves heartfelt, sad commentary about one aspect of social media).  The main guitar sounds are mostly “clean”, since I was really just learning to use it, and that’s part of what gives it the folk-tune feel.  I think.

Anyway, have a listen if you’re so inclined (though you won’t actually know if you are or not until you listen, and then the wave function will have collapsed…Ha Ha Ha!).

In other news, of course, Unanimity continues to hurtle toward completion, though never quite as quickly as I hope.  I, however, am schooled not to rely on the specifics of my hopes too much.  The Tao te Ching counsels us to act without expectation, and I think that’s very good advice, though not as simple as it might seem at a superficial glance*.

Anyway, my novel moves ever nearer to release, and I at least am excited about it.  It’s not for the faint of heart, though.  If you’re the sort of person who requires trigger warnings for anything at all, they are all hereby given.  I am not trying to avoid traumatizing you with this book; quite the contrary.

Not that traumatizing you is the point—or at least not the main one.  The main point is to tell a story about what happens when an innocent college student—Charley Banks—takes part in a neuroscience experiment at his university, has a seizure in an MRI machine during the process, and in the aftermath develops a seemingly impossible, potentially limitless, paranormal power to take over other people’s bodies and minds with just a touch.  Unfortunately, in the process he also appears to have suffered damage to his moral compass**, and he begins to do truly terrible and horrifying things with his new ability—things no one else could ever recognize as his handiwork.

What could be the nature and source of this impossible ability?  How can Charley be cured and/or stopped?  Can he be cured and/or stopped?  Will anyone even figure out what’s happening in time to do anything at all about it, if anything can be done?  How could you even detect a danger that potentially comes from all the people you know and love?

And will Vanessa ever be able to get Brad to notice and return her feelings, or will her poor, lonely, yearning heart be broken***?

Some of these questions—and others not mentioned—will be answered in Unanimity.  Some will remain mysteries.  To find out more, you’ll have to read the book.

TTFN

transformed s head cover no words2


*I urge you to look into it.  It’s not religion, though a religion has been made from it; as I see it, it’s really a book of practical philosophy in the form of 81 very short, evocative poem-oids.

**Or it could just be power corrupting, and corrupting fast, or revealing and releasing a side to Charley that was always present, or perhaps some dark, supernatural force is at work.  Who can say which it is?  Well, I can, of course, but I’m not saying, at least not here.

***Okay, that last question has nothing at all to do with the novel.  I don’t know where that comes from.  There are no such characters in my book.