For he today that sheds his blog with me, shall be my brother

clock3

Greetings and good wishes.  It’s Thursday, and thus time for a new blog post.  Another week has passed.  It may well still exist in a General Relativistic “block universe,” but that for those of us who live within the perceived flow of time it’s gone forever.

I hope you’re all doing well.  This time next week will be roughly the date of the vernal equinox, after which, in the northern hemisphere, daytime will be longer than nighttime for six months.  That’s something pleasant for most of us to anticipate (I say “most” because, unless I’m mistaken, the majority of the human race lives in the northern hemisphere…please correct me if I’m wrong).  Also, of course, for us Americans who don’t live in Arizona, last Sunday was the morning of “springing forward,” when we move our clocks ahead an hour in obedience to the whims of Daylight Savings Time (for most clocks I use, the computers themselves did that job).

Tomorrow is my brother’s birthday, by the way, so if any of my readers know him, please take a moment to wish him the best and happiest of possible days.  He certainly deserves it; it’s not his fault that he has a sibling like me.

In all seriousness, he’s a heck of a guy.  I think I’m being quite honest in saying that he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.  My parents certainly did an excellent job with my older brother, and before him with my older sister.  I guess by the time I was born they were just too exhausted to keep up the good work.

I’m kidding, of course.  They did just as good a job with me.  It’s simply a brute fact that, every now and then, a factory will produce a lemon, through no fault of anyone who works there.

Speaking of myself—which is mainly what I do here—it’s been interesting to discover how personal my new story (working title: Safety Valve) is.  That’s the one that started out as a simple short story notion, and which I hadn’t really planned to write at this time but decided to do rather than another story that was too similar in genre to its predecessor.  Now, obviously, it’s a story idea that I had, and which I wrote down, so it comes from me, but it’s remarkable to realize how much meat the idea has, and how much it touches the feelings and experiences of my life.  I’m not sure that this will be obvious to the story’s eventual readers, but it really does have a visceral resonance with me that’s quite unexpected.  This may not be entirely a good thing.  It doesn’t make the writing, or the story, especially joyful, but it does make the process gripping…which is good, because the story is far from finished.

At the same time, I’m puttering along on the editing of Unanimity, which is going to be a long process.  I need to pick up the pace a bit.  I also need to start editing Free Range Meat, my most recent short story.  That’s almost certainly going to be my next published bit of fiction, and there’s no good reason for it to take very long.

In other news, my notion to set aside certain moments during the day—my equivalent of “smoke breaks”—to produce blog posts for Iterations of Zero has not panned out as planned.  However, though “you can’t always get what you want,” it turns out that “if you try sometimes, you get what you need” *.  In this case, I decided to do what I’d meant to do in writing for IoZ as audio instead.  I’ve already recorded and edited a highly non-focused first episode.  I’ll be posting it shortly, probably this very day, and I invite anyone who’s interested, and who has roughly a half-hour of idle time, to listen to it.  I’d dearly love some feedback, as I have no idea how good, bad, or ugly it might be.  At least, I have no idea that isn’t colored by my own point of view.

And, speaking of disjointed collections of thoughts—which I was; see for yourself—this week’s blog post seems about done.  Once again, I wish all of you a tremendous surfeit of happiness, a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction, and a statistically implausible amount of good luck.

TTFN


*I forget who said that

But I am constant as the northern star, of whose true-fixed and resting quality there is no fellow in the blogosphere.

Julius

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another installment of my weekly blog.  It’s the first Thursday in March of 2019.  [This is just one of many declarations of the patently obvious that you can often find here.  Enjoy!]

I’ve had a relatively eventful week, at least as far as writing goes.  I think I mentioned last time that I was feeling under the weather; I’m still fighting the tail end of that illness, but it’s on its way out, so I’m not complaining.  Of course, I’ve continued to write my novella, the working title of which is Safety Valve.

Also, I’ve begun editing Unanimity.

I don’t know if I was fooling any of you, but I don’t think I was fooling myself with the occasional thought that I might go beyond the bare minimum break time of a month that I’d set for myself before starting to edit.  Shakespeare wrote that “men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive.  Yet in that number I do know but one that unassailable holds on his rank, unshaked of motion.”  Well…that I am not he, let me a little show it, even in this:  that, though I successfully enforced upon myself the minimum wait that I had required before returning to Unanimity, there was just no way that I was going to hold out any longer than that.

In addition to this blog, and to my fiction writing, I’ve been positively aching to write some “Iterations of Zero” posts…which is to say, discussions of nearly any subject matter in science, politics, philosophy, psychology, etc., that don’t deal directly with my fiction.  There are huge masses of subjects about which I want to comment, from General Relativity to vaccination, to the cosmic perspective about everyday life, to mathematics, and so on and on.

Many such thoughts and ideas are triggered by items I encounter on Facebook.  These are topics about which I want to comment in no uncertain terms, but often I fear that such commentary might hurt the feelings of friends or family.  This is not because I’m especially mean in the way I put things; I try very hard to be polite, and I take no joy in insulting others, generally.  It just happens that, sometimes, when one says what one thinks is the truth, even if one is being careful, one hurt people’s feelings.

Even worse, commenting on memes and posts often initiates back-and-forth discussions, debates, and/or arguments, of a type which can easily become acrimonious…something I find terribly unpleasant.  All of which leads me not even to want to get on social media at all.  Such interactions bring out a very negative side of my personality, and I don’t like that piece of me.

For this reason, I’ve been on Facebook much more intermittently of late.  This is a problem, because Facebook is really my only means of socialization, my only connection with many people who matter to me.  Most importantly, it is my main route of interaction with my daughter.  Yet seeing so much misinformation and disinformation and misunderstanding about topics in which I have expertise—or just about which I have thoughts—without responding can be maddening and depressing.

Perhaps it’s egotistical of me to want to write about such subjects, but I’m okay with that; writing is egotistical to begin with.  So, I’ve decided to try a new approach to how I write nonfiction:

I work in an office in which there are quite a few smokers, and of course, several times throughout the day, smokers tend to step outside for a cigarette…or for whatever they smoke.  That’s fine, that’s their decision, but these are obviously moments in which such people are not, strictly speaking, working.  So, in parity, I’ve created a Word file called, “This is my smoke break” and during periods when others go outside to smoke, I’ll write and/or at least a page a day on some topic on which I want to comment.  Once such a subject gets in decent enough shape that it’s worth sharing with the public, I’ll post it on “Iterations of Zero.”

Hopefully this will help me scratch my itch and keep me able to abstain from comments on Facebook without feeling bad about myself…and will also keep me from feeling bad about myself because I’ve commented on Facebook.  We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, and as always, my primary concern is my fiction, whether writing it or editing it (or promoting it, which I don’t do enough of), and that’s what I’ll continue to work on first thing every day.  I hope you all stick with me through thick and thin, and that you enjoy my already-published and my upcoming works.  Many such journeys are possible, and I hope to bring as many people along for the ride as I can on each of them.

You should buckle up, though.  It can get a bit bumpy, and I’m not the most cautious of pilots.

TTFN

 

It warms the very sickness in my heart, that I shall live and tell him to his teeth, “Thus bloggest thou.”

Good day to you all!

It’s the last day of February in 2019, and it’s another (hopefully happy) Thursday, so it must be time for my weekly blog post.  I’m feeling rather under the weather today, though I’m still going in to work.  Because I’m still a little poorly, I’m probably not going to write all that much this time…though I’ve been wrong about such things before.  Sometimes, once I get writing, it’s hard for me to stop.

Since February will be over tomorrow, I could, in principle, begin rewriting/editing Unanimity, from which I’ve successfully forced myself to take a break this month.  I doubt, however, that I’m going to take up that task on the first occasion on which I could allow myself to do so.  I still have Safety Valve, my novella, to work on; it’s coming along nicely, but it’s definitely going to be longer than a mere short story.  Also, there’s my previous short story to edit and rewrite.  I’m not going to wait until I’ve finished with Unanimity before starting on that task, of course.  That would be madness!  So, what I’ll probably do—this is a tentative plan, by no means a binding commitment—is to continue to write daily on the new material until it’s done, but perhaps to limit myself to one or at most two pages a day, and then use the rest of my writing time on those days to edit.

As for how I’m going to divvy up the editing, I expect that Unanimity is going to dominate my time, with only one to two days a week reserved for the short story and then the novella.  In any case, sometime over the coming months, I expect to publish first my short story, then the novella, then (finally) Unanimity.  There’s much to which to look forward if you’re a follower of my work!  I suppose there’s probably much to which to look forward even if you’re not a follower of my work, but on that subject, I have less information.  Also, if you’re not pedantic about preposition placement, you may very well have much to look forward to.

***

Okay, I just spaced out there for a good five minutes or so, which provides further evidence—if any were needed—that I’m not quite feeling my usual self.  Because of that, I think I’m going to pretty much wrap things up here for today.  I apologize for this post’s brevity, though that may not be unwelcome for many of you, and I apologize for the fact that I really haven’t said much of substance.  I do have all sorts of ideas and urges for articles to be posted on Iterations of Zero, including one explaining some of the basics of general relativity, (triggered by a recent interaction on Facebook), and others that would constitute my response to many of the biases and misconceptions involved in the anti-vaccination movement.  But finding the time and energy to put those out without pilfering both resources from my fiction, and while still keeping up with my “day job”, is daunting.

“Had we but world enough, and time…”*

TTFN


*Side note:  I decided to re-check on this quote, the opening line of Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress, and I discovered, to my mild chagrin—but not to my surprise, since there must have been a reason for my decision to check—that for years I have been slightly misquoting the line as “If we had world enough, and time.”  This does not change the sense of the phrase at all, so it’s a misquote of no real import.  Still, I tend to be pedantic about such things, so I’m glad that my unconscious mind drove me to check it out.  Of such minor triumphs is a feeling of self-improvement, real or illusory, constructed.

I would forget it fain, but oh, it presses to my memory, like damnèd guilty deeds to bloggers’ minds.

Hello, good Thursday, and welcome to yet another weekly edition of my blog, that electronic periodical which so many people find so necessary for their ongoing well-being.

I must confess, this morning I almost didn’t write this blog.  I boarded the train, took out my computer, and just started work on my new short story.  From this, you can conclude—if you’re as clever as my readers tend to be—that I am writing a new short story, and that I’m enthusiastic about it.  That conclusion would be correct.  It’s going to be a reasonably short short story, at least for me; after five and half “days” of writing, it’s nearly done, at just a little over twelve-thousand words.  It’s not a deep story; there’s no message to be conveyed, as far as I know…except perhaps to be careful, even if you have the best of intentions, because there are people—and <<things>>—in the world that will take advantage of your beneficence, to your cost.  But most of us learn that lesson early in life.

In any case, I only started this week’s blog entry after I realized—well into the day’s writing—that I was working on the “wrong” project.  Thus, I’ll keep this brief.  If that disappoints you, I apologize.  If you’re gleeful about it, well, why in the world do you read my blog in the first place?

I must say, it feels peculiar not to be working on Unanimity any more for the time being.  At some level, it’s a welcome break; as the old Chicago song says, even lovers need a holiday.  Yet, contrariwise, even the most harried of parents often start to miss their children when they’ve been away to summer camp for a few weeks.

Boy, this bag of mixed metaphors tastes delicious, doesn’t it?

The bottom line is that I’m going to need to exert some effort of will to keep from working on editing Unanimity during the month of February.  I beg you to help me if I falter!

Of course, as you’ve probably seen, Penal Colony is available for purchase for Kindle, and I finally added an entry here for it as well…though I haven’t yet put it in the “My Books” page, since I’m lazy when it comes to little things like that.  I do, of course, invite you to read the story.  If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t want to spend the ninety-nine cents, I offer two alternatives.  First, Penal Colony—like, I think, all my works—is available on Kindle Unlimited, which means you can read it for free if you use that service.  If that isn’t a tenable solution for you, then I offer you this:  if you’re really uncertain that you want to spend the money for my stories, long or short, I offer—at least to the first several people who ask—to buy the story for them (or one of my other stories, if you prefer).  I would need an email address to do this, since a Kindle story purchased for someone else requires an email to which to send a link.  Then, even if it’s your first ever Kindle purchase, you can download the app for free, and see whether or not you like my works.  This has the benefit for me of being both superficially generous and deeply narcissistic at the same time; it’s a win-win scenario.

With that, I think I’ll cut things short for this week, adding only that I may soon start hitting a wall of increasing difficulty with respect to Shakespearean quotes for my weekly blog titles.  It may seem hard to imagine this being an absolute difficulty—Shakespeare wrote an awful lot, after all.  Still, not every line is truly worth quoting, even with Shakespeare (gasp!).  Also, I have to find quotes into which I can work some version of the word “blog”, and that can be somewhat difficult.  But, well…life is hard.  Just know that, if you see me give a post a title such as “Blog Post for February 7th, 2019”, you’ll know that I came up dry that week.

TTFN

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blog…

Well, it feels like the end of an era, but I’m able finally to be able to say that I’ve completed the first draft of Unanimity.  I say, “the end of an era,” because it feels as if it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on anything in my life.  This is not literally true; my horror novel, Vagabond, which I wrote through college and med school, took longer, but that was because I wrote it so sporadically.  I foolishly worked on it only when “inspiration” struck, whatever that even means.  And the first full-length (hand-written) novel I ever wrote, Ends of the Maelstrom, probably took longer as well, for broadly similar reasons.

There’s no denying, however, that Unanimity is the biggest thing I’ve ever written.  At 530,549 words, its first draft is longer than the published version of either It or The Stand.  I don’t know how many days of writing it’s entailed.  I took at least one fairly long hiatus during the middle of the process, to complete various other authorial tasks, but even given that…well, in length, at least, it’s definitely my magnum opus.  So far.

I had no idea when I began it that it was going to be so long.  I don’t often really think in such terms, which is probably good, since I tend to run off at the keyboard.  I love words, I love written language, I love writing stories…and I’m self-indulgent when it comes to those loves.  I hope you’ll be patient with me, but I’ll understand if you’re not.

So, Tuesday I finished the rather melancholy final scene of my novel, and then Wednesday, as you may have noticed, I published Penal Colony, my latest short story (It’s available for purchase in Kindle format, for less than a buck, American).  Having both things happen more or less contemporaneously makes them feel more momentous than they probably are.

Now I must try very hard to take a break from Unanimity, and not to do any rewriting or editing on it for the month of February.  Fortunately, I have two short story ideas eagerly waiting to be written, and I really should finish up In the Shade as well, so I’ll try to get most, or all, of those works done this coming month.  They’re all horror stories—no big surprise—but at least one of them is a slightly jokey, cynical horror story, in which very honorable, morally upright, and laudable impulses and deeds are used against a well-meaning, if slightly self-righteous, person by dark forces.

Such—all too often, and regrettably—is life.

Hopefully, though, we won’t let that stop us.  Dark things and dark people are generally a lot noisier than good things and good people, so sometimes it feels as though they dominate the universe.  Yet the fact that civilization has survived at all, and continued to advance, seems to be mathematical proof that good and creativity are stronger than evil and destruction.  After all, it’s simpler by far to destroy than to create, and yet creation—in the human world—vastly predominates over destruction.  QED.

Sorry about that little digression into philosophy, but I thought it might be warranted.  It would be all too easy, I know, based on the types of things I write, for someone to imagine that I’m a pessimist about human nature, or the universe in general.  I’m not.  Though the second law of thermodynamics is as inescapable as any other mathematical principle, it’s also the source of life, and of our experience of time.  Life—certainly as we know it—can’t exist except where entropy is going from lower to higher.  I’m very much on board with the ideas David Deutsch describes in his wonderful book The Beginning of Infinity There is no guarantee that humanity and our descendants will go on to achieve a cosmic-level civilization, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason it’s not possible.  Whether or not it happens is entirely dependent upon our actions (and a lack of local astronomical catastrophes, of course).

And that’s about enough of all that for now.  I’ll leave you to the rest of your day.  It’s bitterly cold up north, I know, and it’s even relatively chilly down here in south Florida, so wrap up warm, all those who are affected.  Curl up by the fire in a blanket.  Drink a mug of tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and read a good book, if you get the chance.  Listen to that cold, bitter wind howling outside, with a chill that seems more than capable of freezing the very flesh from your bones.  It sounds almost alive, doesn’t it?

It sounds almost…hungry.

TTFN

…and he must needs blog that the devil drives.

Good morning and welcome to another Thursday.  There’s no longer anything very interesting or specific to say about the date.  It’s not the week before Christmas, or the week between Christmas and New Year’s, nor is it even the week immediately after.  It is, instead, yet another featureless span of time, trapped in the wasteland of days that marks the first part of every year.  The next truly celebrated holiday—in America, at least—is Valentine’s Day, and that’s a highly artificial, commercial holiday, mainly celebrated by people in romantic relationships (known to the rest of us by various uncomplimentary epithets).  After that comes St. Patrick’s Day, which is a little better, and then the Easter/Passover time, which has much to do with the arrival of Spring.  Once Spring is here, certainly for those who live up north, one hardly needs a holiday in order to feel like celebrating.

Of course, here in South Florida, at the same latitude as Upper Egypt*, Spring arrives a bit earlier.

Those of you who follow my blog will know that I’ve gone back and forth a bit on the topic of how many projects to work on at once.  Well, I’m thinking of going back (or forth) yet again.  As you may recall, I decided to write Penal Colony and to publish Solitaire because Unanimity was taking so long, and I needed to give myself some variety so that I could maintain my pseudo-sanity.  But all along I’ve dabbled in other matters, such as my experimentation with audio versions of my stories and trying to put out a weekly posting on “Iterations of Zero.”

I can’t help but think, though, that if I hadn’t allowed myself to be distracted, that Unanimity might well be done by now.  Of course, that would mean that it would probably be slightly different than it’s going to be in this universe, but it would be done, and that’s the point.

So…I may go back to the purist’s recommendation and stick to one story at a time (except during the cooling off period between the first draft of a novel and the rewriting/editing process, which is a very good time for a short story).  Of course, there’s little doubt that, someday down the road, when I feel bored or impatient, I’ll switch it up again.  I’ll keep you posted on how that all goes.  I’m sure you can hardly wait.

One reason I’m thinking about this is that I’m frustrated that editing Penal Colony is going so slowly…or feels like it is.  By my usual standards, it’s not that long of a short story; it’s only about twenty-five thousand words.  But of course, for the moment, most of my writing time is dominated by Unanimity, as I come ever closer to its end…it’s hard to walk away from it when my schedule calls for me to do some work on Penal Colony.

This would all be easier, of course, if I were able to write full time, but alas, I must needs make my living in other ways for the time being.  Perhaps in days or years to come this will change.  Hopefully at least some of my Everettian branches have a full-time-writing future…which would mean that I will have such a future, even if I also have other futures, in which no such thing happens.  Each of those futures will be just as contiguous with—just as identical with—the current person writing this blog as any of the others.  All of which speculation assumes that Everett’s “Many Worlds” interpretation is right, of course, which is my personal suspicion.

Isn’t quantum mechanics fun?

I hope all of you who live in climates north of me are staying safely warm to as great a degree as possible.  It feels cold down here when it goes into the low fifties overnight (as it did last night), but I know that’s just because we’re all soft and weak.**  On the other hand, I have mangoes and papayas and avocados and bananas and coconuts all growing in my yard, so there are compensations to such softness and weakness.  I know that you’re all enduring much greater privation.  You may console yourselves with the knowledge that, before long, my home may be (literally) underwater.  A little schadenfreude helps keep the blood warm in winter; indulge yourself.

And what the hell, a belated Happy New Year to you all.

TTFN


*The “Upper” part, by the way, apparently refers to the course of the Nile, so Upper Egypt is actually farther south than Lower Egypt.

**I grew up in Michigan, did my undergraduate degree in upstate New York, then lived in Chicago for two years before med school…so I’ve known what it’s like to be through real, relatively severe cold.  Of course, people from North Dakota, from Minnesota, and from Canada may laugh at my presumption.  I accept such laughter as a just rebuke, even as I stand outside in the sunshine without a jacket in mid-January, wondering why creatures such as we—with almost no fur, and with the highest concentration of sweat glands of any living organism—ever left the rift valley of Africa.

Here was a consent, knowing aforehand of our merriment, to blog it like a Christmas comedy

Hello, good morning, good Thursday, and an early Happy Solstice to all.  To those who celebrate it, I wish you a very Happy and/or Merry Christmas next week.  And Happy Newtonmas—also December 25th—to those who celebrate the date (on the Julian calendar) of Isaac Newton’s birth.  If you don’t celebrate this, of course, it’s difficult to blame you.  Though he was probably the single greatest scientist who ever lived, Newton was, by all accounts, a real shit.  Also, on the Gregorian calendar, he was apparently born on what would have been January 4th, 1643.  Now, Johannes Kepler, whose laws of planetary motion helped Newton derive and apply the principle of universal gravitation, was apparently born on December 27th by the Gregorian calendar, so Keplermas might not be an unreasonable celebration.  He’s always seemed much nicer than Newton, and his commitment to intellectual honesty is legendary.  He’s reported to have said, “I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.”  It’ a bit sexist, perhaps, but he was born in 1571; it’s hard to expect otherwise.

There’s little that’s categorically new here in Robert Elessar Land, but I’ve certainly written a good deal on Unanimity over the past week, making steady progress toward the end of that novel.  The editing of Penal Colony also continues at a good pace, and though there have been a rare few new bits added to it here and there, the dominant theme has been removal.  I’m prone to run off at the keyboard when writing, and I often repeat myself.  What’s more, I frequently say the same thing more than once, and on more occasions than I would prefer to admit I tend toward greater wordiness than is, strictly speaking, necessary.  Thus, a crucial step in making my stories better is for me to be as ruthless as possible in eliminating the redundant.

Alas, it is not my greatest strength; why use only ten words if twenty will do, after all?  (Of course, there are complex and nuanced ideas that honestly require many words to convey, but usually it’s just a bad habit.)

This is one reason it’s useful—for me at least—to edit my work over and over and over again, with several added “overs” into the mix.  If I edit and reread my writing often enough that I lose almost all proprietary affection for it, I find that I’m much more able to say, “That’s crap, isn’t it?” and try to make it better.  I suppose it’s possible to go too far along that path, but I seriously doubt that I’ve ever done so; I love my own words too much.

<<sigh>>

Solitaire has been out for about a week now, and I haven’t received any negative feedback about it.  I can honestly say that those who’ve read it and responded, either recently or in the past, have all said that it’s good, but also that it’s pretty effed up…in the sense that it’s about pretty effed up things.  If you disagree—on either point—I would be delighted to hear from you.

Okay, well, if you hate it, I probably wouldn’t be “delighted” to hear from you, but I would consider it a valuable service, so please don’t be shy.  I can take it…I think.  I do try to live up to Kepler’s example.

Perhaps this is a good time to exhort you all to take a moment to review books that you’ve bought and read.  It’s tremendously useful to authors, especially independent authors.  It’s also terrifically helpful to others who are considering reading a book.  Reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, or Publishers Weekly are all well and good, but many of us find it much more useful to know what other “ordinary” book consumers/lovers think.  This is one of the greatest services provided by online book-sellers, in my opinion:  the ability of readers in large numbers to rate and review books and other creative works.

If you buy a lot of books, it may be asking too much of you to review each one (though giving a star rating, if you bought the book from Amazon for instance, is the work of mere seconds).  But if you only give a written review to one tenth of the books you read, you’ve done a real and great service.  As Carl Sagan says in Episode 11 of the original Cosmos TV series, a person can only read—at most—a few thousand books in a normal lifetime, and there are literally millions and millions of books from which to choose.  “The trick,” as Sagan points out, “is to know which books to read.”

By rating and reviewing books when you can, you help your fellow bibliophiles, and even sporadic readers, to make better decisions.  I can’t say that it’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of such a service.  I could, for instance, claim that the very fate of the universe hangs on your choice to review or not review, and if you don’t, all present and future life will be cast into an eternal Hell where they will suffer interminable agonies beyond anything we could possibly imagine.  That would be an exaggeration.  I think.

But to review books is important and useful for your fellow readers, and it’s a wonderful thing to do for an author.  Consider it, if you wish, a very cheap Christmas/Saturnalia/late Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Newtonmas/Keplermas/New Year’s gift.

Thanking you in advance,

TTFN