Son of Man

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“On a bright, clear, early autumn day…the world changed suddenly for David McCarthy.”

While on his way to the library to study, college student David abruptly finds himself in a featureless, cylindrical room. There he meets two men named Anderson and Greer who tell him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future.

Anderson and Greer reveal that they have brought David to their present for a reason: The world they live in is controlled by a powerful entity known to all as the Father…and they want David to help set them free from his reign.

As for why they have chosen David for this purpose…that is the most unbelievable, and the most terrible, revelation of all.

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Welcome to Paradox City

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Three men. Three dark journeys.

One man enters a room that should not exist and discovers a mysterious book containing secrets of dreadful power.

Another man discovers in himself an ability that will reveal mysteries of life…and death.

A third man enters a popular nightclub, where seemingly impossible events are commonplace, and where his life is changed…forever.

Welcome to realms of darkness, fear, and wonder. Welcome to Paradox City.

Now is the summer of our discontent made glorious winter by this blog post

Hello, good Thursday to you.  A very Happy Winter Solstice to all, and to all the longest night of the year.  At first glance that may not seem like something one ought to celebrate, yet cultures all around the northern hemisphere have celebrated it for time out of mind.  Mainly, I think, we revel in the fact that “this is as bad as it’s going to get.”  It’s actually one of the most festive times of the year, and that festive spirit is both an act of defiance of the darkness and a celebration of the imminent return of greater light.

Of course, as someone who writes mainly dark fiction (even my sci fi and my attempts at humor are quite shadowy), it might seem odd that I should celebrate the return of longer days.  But even most of the darkest stories tend to be about the struggle against the (metaphorical) nighttime, and the triumph of the light.

In long stories, at least, it’s generally necessary to come to a conclusion wherein the light triumphs and/or holds back the darkness.  There are exceptions, of course, many of them found in more “realistic” fiction, but the vast majority of novels end with the good guys winning, or at least with the bad guys losing.  This is understandable.  It’s a hell of a thing to journey through a story that’s 120,000 words long (and often quite a bit longer, as my novels tend to be), only to find that in the end everything goes to shit.  It’s even more terrible if the story is a series of novels.

Just imagine, for instance, that you finish reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” only to find that in the end Harry dies, and Voldemort wins.  Not only would it be a bummer—even if you’re a fan of good bad guys, as I am—but it would also make you unlikely to read the books again, or to recommend them to a friend.  It’s just too hard to undertake a seven-book odyssey knowing that your beloved heroes lose.  Of course, you always consider the possibility that they might lose as you read the books for the first time, and J.K. Rowling pulls no punches in having terrible things happen to characters we have grown to love.  But you nevertheless read her books, and others, with the optimism born of experience, that in the end, even if things aren’t exactly “happily ever after,” at least the immediate evil will have been contained or destroyed.  Our heroes sometimes come to a peaceful, productive life at the far end of their trials, à la Harry Potter; sometimes, they pay what seems an unendurable price for the benefit of defeating evil (poor Roland Deschain!).  But we can be reasonably safe in the assumption that, though all may not be well, the immediate threat will have been overcome.

This is just one of the advantages fiction has over reality.

On the other hand, one of the great, fun things about short stories is that the good guys don’t necessarily win in the end.  Short stories don’t even have to end with the bad guys losing.  In fact, they may end with everything just about as bad as it can possibly be.  In this, short stories really are Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, and sometimes it’s a box of chocolates made by Monty Python’s Whizzo Chocolate Company, where the best you can hope for is a Cherry Fondue that’s extremely nasty (but we can’t prosecute you for that), and you might just get a Crunchy Frog, a Cockroach Cluster, a Ram’s Bladder Cup, an Anthrax Ripple, or even a Spring Surprise (“covered in dark, velvety chocolate, the moment you pop it into your mouth, stainless steel bolts spring out and plunge straight through both cheeks”).

“Where’s the pleasure in that?” as Inspector Praline understandably exclaims, and you may well share his sentiments.  But…there is pleasure in that, at least in the metaphorical version of it that is the dark short story with no happy ending.  And I’m not quite sure why, but I really enjoy writing (short) stories that summon the shade of Jim Morrison, taunting, “No one here gets out alive.”

(Yes, we are mixing not merely metaphors and genres, but entire art forms here.  Don’t worry.  We can handle it.  We are large, we contain multitudes.)

Speaking of short stories:  I am almost ready to release “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” on Kindle, in a newer, better version than the one I posted here.  I know it’s taking a long time, but as I’ve said before, this would go a lot faster if enough people bought my books that I could survive by writing full time (hint, hint).

For those who didn’t get the chance to read “Ifowonco” here on this blog, I’m going to make you wait and find out on your own whether the story is a lovely English Toffee or a Spring Surprise.  Either one can we wonderful.  Like Mr. Milton (the owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company), I’m very proud of my creations, and like him I use no artificial additives or preservatives of any kind.  I will warn you, though, that even at my most sugary, I don’t tend to create purely light and sweet things; even my brightest creations use dark chocolate.

All right, enough with the frikking candy metaphors.  Jesus!

In closing, I want to once again put out a request for feedback on the possibility of creating “Author’s Notes” for my published works, and posting them—with clear identification—as “reviews” on Amazon, hopefully for the benefit of those considering buying the books.  As far as I can tell, this is allowable within Amazon’s guidelines.

Of course, an alternative to this would be posting my author’s notes here, on this very blog.  In a way, that’s what the blog is, after all:  A sort of weekly author’s note.  I’m fine with that idea, and I think it might be fun to write the notes and post them here, but they would really only be useful for those who already read the blog; they wouldn’t provide any benefit for someone shopping through Amazon.  So, I do think the idea of doing such a note/review might be good, but I’m leery of undertaking such a thing if people would consider it to be in very bad taste.  I’m willing to do things in bad taste, but very bad taste is worth avoiding, I think.  Which is why I recommend the Crunchy Frog over the Cherry Fondue.

Please take care when buying your sweeties, please do enjoy the advent of longer days to come, and please give me your opinion, if you have one, on the author’s note idea.

TTFN

Once more unto the blog, dear friends, once more!

In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Dentarthurdent says that he never could get the hang of Thursdays.  I’m happy to say that I don’t seem to share his weakness; I find Thursday to be an excellent day, partly because it’s almost Friday, and also because it has become my default day for writing these posts for my main blog.

I’d like to begin with some updates, as well as some thoughts.  First, I promise you that, yes, I am working steadily on the editing of “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” and am very close to publishing it.  I have, though, as you may recall, intended to make writing new fiction—“Unanimity,” in this case—my top priority, relegating the editing process to the part of the day when the new stuff is done.

This may, unfortunately, not be a workable approach, especially once I finish “Unanimity.”  My hope had been that I’d be able to do the rewriting, editing, revising, etc., of “Unanimity,” even as writing my next work becomes and stays my new primary task.  Well, that’s not going to be good if the editing and rewriting of “Unanimity,” goes as slowly as does the process for “Ifowonco.”  It’s bad enough that it takes as long as it has for a story of twenty-three-thousand words.  When you’ve got a two-hundred-thousand-word novel (which should be the rough length of “Unanimity”) to deal with, this rate of editing and rewriting could take a decade.

That’s an exaggeration.  But it’s not much of one.

I think I will take a break between finishing “Unanimity” and rewriting it.  This was strong advice Stephen King gave in his excellent book “On Writing,” but I haven’t always followed it.  However, going back after some time to “Ifowonco”—having edited it initially before putting it here on the blog—I see that there are simple points of style and wording that I failed to fix because I was too close to the original writing of the story.  The necessary mental break that The King recommends, to allow a work to ripen, really does seem to be a legitimate phenomenon.  I might have been able to guess that would be so; the man does know a thing or two about writing, after all.  But I’m a stubborn soul, and it can take a great deal for me to convince myself of something I don’t want to see.  I am open to being convinced, though, and honestly seek those practices which help me do things better.  So, I’ll have to feel things out and adjust them as I go along; no doubt I’ll keep you informed about the process, whether you care or not.

Now, on to a mostly unrelated subject:

I’ve considered, on and off, the notion of writing—as a joke–reviews of my own works on Amazon.  I’ve bought copies of some of my books to give as gifts, and of course, when you buy something from Amazon, they often solicit your opinion on the book you’ve read (or even on the bird food you’ve purchased, it turns out).  Obviously, up to this point, I’ve ignored such requests for ratings, let alone for reviews, with respect to my own works.  But I have toyed with the notion—again, as a joke—of writing either a particularly glowing, or perhaps thoroughly devastating, review of one or more of my books, but then making it abundantly clear, at the conclusion of the review, that I was the author.  I think this might be pretty funny, but I have a peculiar sense of humor, so it’s possible that I would be the only one who would find it funny.  Thus, hitherto, I haven’t done it.

It recently occurred to me, though, that I could do something of the sort without it being a joke; instead I could make a review into a sort of “Author’s note,” for the story or stories in question.  Again, I’d need to make it abundantly clear, right from the start, that this was my own commentary, but I know that I have always loved reading author’s notes about how a story came about, or what the author might have been thinking that led them to write that book or story, or what they thought about the finished product.  That’s one of the reasons I like Stephen King’s short story collections—he often includes such “liner notes” to his stories, and I love them.  The King cautions people not to read the notes before they read the stories, but I think even that caution is unwarranted (unless the notes contain spoilers, of course).  Reading an author’s notes about his or her story gives a new dimension to the work, and a new perspective from which to see it—perhaps even a greater understanding of the author’s intent (if there is one to speak of), that might lead to a greater appreciation of the story.  I’m quite sure that this can backfire, and I don’t think it’s necessary—one might say that, if you need an author’s note to get the author’s intent, then the author didn’t do a very good job with the story—but it might be interesting.

I’d appreciate your feedback on this.  Would you find it irritating or offensive if an author—making it clear that he was the one writing—put up a comment on Amazon in the “reviews” section?  Or would you be interested in reading such side notes to a story, even before deciding whether or not to buy it?

I recognize one mildly concerning fact:  As part of reviewing a book, Amazon asks the reviewer to rate it, and so I would be giving a star-rating to my owns works.  I think, though, that I can be pretty fair in my ratings, and even brutal and ruthless, and can remain philosophically pure.  Obviously, I’m never going to rate anything that I wrote as one or two stars—and hopefully three would be a rarity—but I don’t think that constitutes a biased reviewing tendency; if I honestly thought a work merited only one or two stars, I’d like to think that I never would have published it.

Anyway, these are my thoughts (which are mine).  I would dearly like to read your feedback on the “review/commentary” notion, or on anything else you might care to discuss.  That’s why the comments option below is always open, as it is on Facebook and Twitter.  In the meantime, “Unanimity,” is proceeding well (obviously, if it’s going to be about 200,000 words by the time it’s done), and “Ifowonco,” will soon be released in Kindle edition…improved, I think, over the form originally published here (which I love, nevertheless).  After “Unanimity” is done, I’m probably going to write another short story, then a sort of fable called “Neko/Neneko,” and…well, and whither then, I cannot say.

TTFN!

A blog post that knits up the raveled sleeve of care

Well, it’s Thursday morning again and time for a new blog post.

This time it really is Thursday morning.  Last week, I somehow got it into my head that it was Thursday when it was, in fact, Wednesday, and I wrote and published my weekly blog post accordingly.  This was even though, at work that day, I did all the usual things that I do on Wednesdays, but don’t do on Thursdays.  It was a truly strange example of the compartmentalization of a misapprehension, and it troubled me quite a lot.  When I woke up on Thursday morning, realizing that it actually was Thursday, and that the day before I had put out my blog post on the “wrong” day, I found it strange and depressing.

I don’t really know why it bothered me so much.  It’s not as though there are set rules for doing these things, and I don’t know that I have a large enough number of regular readers for them to be confused about the fact that my blog had come out a day early—or if there were people looking for the new blog post on Thursday who missed it because it had already come out the day before.

You can comment if this happened to you.  I’d be interested to learn about it.

On that same day I also put out a blog post on “Iterations of Zero.”  Maybe that was what pushed me unconsciously to write blog posts that day, because it was on a subject (turn signals, and the frequent failure of drivers to use them) that persistently irritates me.  If you want to get an idea of the intensity of my concern for that issue, you can read the blog post here, but the very fact that the title contains a (censored) bit of profanity, and the opening line of the post has that same expletive fully spelled out, should give you some idea of how much it angers me.

One unrelated but annoying thing happened with respect to that blog post, and this is the second time that this exact error has occurred:  In the first posting of the blog entry, I dropped the “r” from the word “your,” in the title, making it come across as though I were trying to sound strangely (and poorly) idiomatic.  This was not my intention, and I corrected the error immediately, and updated the post.  The problem should have thus been solved, but unfortunately, it seems that the sharing buttons for blogs, when they are shared on Facebook and similar venues, only invoke the version that was first shared.  So, even though the title has been corrected on the posting itself, which you’ll see if you read it, nevertheless, on Facebook (and, I think, on Twitter), it keeps showing up as “Use you f*cking turn signals,” and—to my eye, at least—makes me look like a f*cking idiot.

This is not such an unusual experience for me, thankfully, so although I don’t like it, I can deal with it.  Nevertheless, I want to disabuse everyone out there of the notion that it was some stupid, failed attempt at using “cool” language.  It was not.  It was an entirely different kind of stupid, one with which I am far more comfortable.

I would dearly like to promote that post and get it spread around, because I think its message is important, but I find the notion of advertising a post that looks like it has a typo in the title intolerably galling.  I really do need to be more careful about these things.

Before moving on to other matters, I will say that one reason I was distressed at finding that I’d gotten my days wrong is that Wednesday morning is supposed to be a morning for writing new fiction, and Thursday is the only day that I give myself an out from it.  I’m a creature of habit about some things, occasionally bordering on obsessive-compulsive.  It’s bad enough when my schedule changes because of external events.  For it to happen because of some weird misfiring of my own synapses is a bit like discovering that one has deliberately poisoned one’s own tea.  I did make it up for myself, though, by writing like a madman the following day; I got more than five pages written in the space of time that would normally have produced three.  Maybe the mental tension was beneficial for the production of a horror novel.

On other matters, I am inching ever closer to the release of “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” but it’s going slowly, because I’m trying not to take any time and energy away from new writing.  This is part of a pattern I had intended to use going forward:  Never stop writing new things, even while editing/rewriting my previous works to prepare for publication, but instead do the editing and rewriting, as well as other bits of preparation, at other times, later in the day.  This may not be a workable plan, unless I can carve out set times for doing so, as I do for my writing.  I’m sure that there is many a wasted moment in my days that could be so repurposed, but the mental energy for it may or may not be readily accessible.  If I were writing “full time” I suppose it would be much easier, but I do have to give an annoying amount of my will to making a living.  I’m good at shifting mental gears while in transit, but I have my limits, and it’s hard to believe that I’m going to get a lot of editing done during lunch break.

We at Chronic Publications have come up with what looks like a good cover design for “Ifowonco,” and I like it a lot…though it is slightly jokey, as is the title itself, and the story isn’t jokey at all.  Maybe the title and cover will serve as armor against what are some rather dark moments in the tale.  I’m not going to change the title, though, and I’m certainly not going to change the story.  I really like it, even after rereading it over and over again as part of the editing process.

We’ve also produced a sort of concept draft of a cover for “Hole for a Heart,” which has gotten good reviews from the few who have seen it.  I had been planning to release my short stories on Kindle in the order in which they had been written, which would mean “Prometheus and Chiron” should follow “Ifowonco,” but that plan may change, since we have a design concept for the cover of “Hole for a Heart,” and don’t really have one for “Prometheus and Chrion.”

We are slightly struggling with the “blurb” for “Ifowonco,” because it’s a story with a few red herrings and surprises, but describing the story enough to make it interesting for potential readers might accidentally produce some spoilers.  This is far from an insurmountable problem, but it’s important.  If any of you reading this, who have read the story here on the blog, have any suggestions, I’d be delighted to read them, and would certainly give you full credit if even an altered version of your suggestion is used.  This is the house of ideas, and ideas deserve to be credited.  (In that vein:  I got the term “house of ideas” from a comic book, where it was spoken by the illustrated version of none other than the great Stan Lee, though I’m not sure if he ever said it in real life.)

Okay, well this posting has gone on longer than I expected it to do, but I guess that means that I had plenty of things to say.  I was considering posting a version of the covers described above, for your perusal and possible feedback, but my forgetfulness decided the matter:  I neglected to forward the graphics files to myself so that I could include them.  I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.

In the meantime, I hope you’re all well and thriving, despite the stress that often attends the major holiday season (I know that it’s stressful and often deeply depressing for me, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this).  Do be good to yourselves, even while you’re going mad trying to figure out which gifts and how many to get for those you love.  The solstice approaches, when the days become longer again at last, great nature’s other, annual, second course.  I hope none of you are ever truly in a situation where things can only get better (because that would mean that things are maximally bad), but it is true that, on December 21st, daylight can only get longer.  (Barring some dreadful and catastrophic change in the tilt of the Earth’s axis.  Which might be an interesting idea for a story.)

TTFN

Is this a blog post which I see before me?

Okay, well…good day, everyone.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving, at least those of you who live in America, and who celebrate the holiday.  As for everyone else, I hope you just had a happy day, and a happy week.

But you can stop all that now.  Being happy, I mean.  Too much happiness is probably not good for you.  Certainly, many religious people seem to think that way, as do those who are against even fundamentally safe, minor, occasional, recreational use of drugs or alcohol.  Self-abasement and penitence seem to be the preferred modes of thinking of many a human, but they don’t want to pursue those modes all by themselves; they want to take you along with them.  For your own good, supposedly.

Anyway, as anyone who’s been paying attention will have noticed, I took the week off from writing my blog last week, because Thursday—the day I usually write it—was Thanksgiving, and my only day off work that week.  I have, however, continued to write “Unanimity,” and I’ve been working on the re-editing and fine-tuning of “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” in preparation for its release as an e-book*.  Both endeavors are proceeding well, and I feel good about them.  It’s always nice when you’re re-editing a story that you come back to after a while, (e.g. IFOWONCO), and even though you find things that need improving, you like the story a lot.  I’m lucky that way; I almost always enjoy my stories when I reread them.  Thus, I know that, even if everyone else in the world hates my writing completely, it has at least one satisfied reader.

I haven’t written anything for Iterations of Zero in a while…or, rather, I haven’t posted anything there for a while.  I have written some things—three or four essays to post there eventually—but I just haven’t felt that they’re ready to put before the public.  I’m probably overthinking it a little.  When I write the posts for this blog, I just sit down and go for it, and whatever comes out comes out, and that’s that.  Not to say that I don’t have some general subject in mind before I start—I almost always do.  But I don’t overthink it.  I just let fly on the keyboard, and let the metaphors fall where they may.  I’m especially lucky in that I’m able to express myself better and more spontaneously in writing than I am in conversation with others.

Actually, that may not seem to be so lucky, depending on your point of view.  In fact, it can be quite unpleasant at times.  I’m often terribly uncomfortable when interacting with others in person, especially in purely social situations.  But I do find it easy and fast to write, and once I get started, I tend to keep going for a while.

There are probably those who lament this last fact, but I don’t care about them.  Indeed, I laugh at their agony.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

(See?)

On the days when I don’t feel like writing—especially on my fiction—I just play a little trick with myself (I might have written about this before):  I tell myself, “Okay, well, I’m tired.  So today, I’ll just write a page.  Just get to the end of the first paragraph that finishes on the page after the one on which I’m starting.  If I get there, then that’s fine, I can call it good.”  This is easy enough for me to talk myself into because, as I’ve said before, I tend to write very quickly.  Just to give you an idea of how quickly, I wrote everything up to this point on this post (first draft, obviously) in just over fifteen minutes.  So, I’m almost always prepared to accept the undertaking of writing a single page, even if I’m mildly ill.  And what almost always happens is that I end up writing far more than just that one page.  Yesterday, for instance, I wrote five pages after committing to write one, and I almost always write at least three, as long as I’m not interrupted.

As I say, I’m very lucky, but I would be quite surprised if this trick didn’t work for a lot of writers who have trouble getting themselves started.  If committing to a page is too daunting, how about just a paragraph?  Or even a sentence?  Don’t be too picky about that sentence or paragraph—you’re going to edit it later, anyway, so even if it feels like (as Stephen King put it) you’re just shoveling shit sitting down, that’s okay.  It’s a bit like vomiting:  Just get it out, and you’ll find that you feel better.

Speaking of writing versus speaking (remember when I did that a few paragraphs back?):  I’m still vacillating about the video, and even the audio, postings on this and my other blog, as well as on YouTube.  Maybe I should take a similar approach to them as I take to writing:  Just record myself saying something, anything, and get it down on tape (metaphorically).  I can give myself an out on video for the moment; that requires much more effort and preparation, and I sound better than I look, anyway.  But I can do an audio recording at almost any moment, using the voice recorder on my smartphone, and with excellent quality.

Or maybe I should just say screw it, and commit just to writing an article or post or whatever every week on Iterations of Zero, recognizing that writing is my strong suit.  I can approach it as I do my fiction writing, and my writing for this blog:  Sit down, write something, at least a paragraph, and see what comes out.  Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.

We’ll see what happens.  I don’t know much more about those specifics than you all do.  “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Meanwhile, “Unanimity,” as I said, is speeding along.  I’m presently creating some very sweet, positive, wonderful, and romantic moments in the lives of the main characters.  This will make things even more poignant when it all goes to shit.  Which it will.

I repeat:  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

In closing, I hereby withdraw my earlier recommendation that you curtail your happiness.  By all means, be as happy as you can, but remember:  Happiness is best judged not by the highest point on your life’s graph, but by the area under the curve.  Play the long game.

TTFN


*“Prometheus and Chiron” and “Hole for a Heart” will follow.

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