It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown. He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world. Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…
First of all, I’d like to wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to all those living in the United States. I hope you have a wonderful day, enjoy a feast with friends and family, perhaps watching some decent football games, and doing any and all other good stuff such as will make you feel thankful.
I wasn’t sure I was going to write anything today; I often skip these posts on holidays, as you may have noticed. However, such a fortuitous and unexpected thing happened to me today that I simply had to share it. Talk about being thankful!
I was fiddling around with an older email account, one that I’ve had for many years. It may even be my very first personal (as opposed to work-related) email, I’m not sure. Anyway, I used one of its functions to look through the list of all the files that had ever been attached to my emails. I was, specifically, searching for an old Harry Potter fanfic of mine that I liked quite a bit, but which I’d lost (I wrote part of another at the same time, and I still have that, so it’s doubly frustrating not being able to find the other). It’s a silly story, to be honest, one that I never even had the nerve to submit to a fanfiction site, but I really would like to be able to find it and read it again.
Well…I haven’t found it. I’m not giving up, but my Bayesian estimated prior probability of ever locating it is small indeed.
So, why am I thankful? I’ll tell you.
Some of you longer-term readers may recall me mentioning an old short story I once wrote, and that I had more than half a mind to try to rewrite. This short story was called Solitaire. Well, I did NOT find my lost Harry Potter fanfic (title: Disinhibition), but I DID find an older-style Microsoft Word copy of the short story Solitaire! It’s the complete story! As written, if memory serves, way back in the early nineteen nineties, or perhaps even the late eighties!
I wrote the story during the summer, when I was visiting the young woman who would later become my wife. I don’t think we were officially dating then, but if we were, we had just started…it was right after she graduated from university. In fact, it may have been that summer when we first got involved.
Anyway, she had a summer job with Squibb, if I remember correctly, and was working on a project that was going to keep her up all night. I’ve always been a night owl, and she worked better with my company (according to her), so I stayed up with her. I had a spiral-bound notebook with me, probably from my own college stuff, and I decided, while she worked, to write a story.
Solitaire was that story. I wrote the whole thing that night, almost in its finished form. It didn’t need much editing. When she read it, her response was along the lines of, “It’s really good…but what in the world was going through your mind to make you write something like this?” To that I had no clear answer then, and I have no clear answer now. It’s just the way my mind seems to work.
I never tried to get it published because, frankly, I couldn’t see what kind of publication would want to release such a dark story. Now, though, I have just the venue, and I’m going to put it out for Kindle (and will later include it in my eventual next collection of short stories). It will probably be ready to publish before Penal Colony…which is coming along well, thanks for asking.
I’m obviously even happier than I would have been if I had found the Harry Potter fanfic (though I am still frustrated about that). In fact, I think the only thing that might make me happier would be if I’d magically found a file containing my complete first horror novel, Vagabond. Alas, though that was saved as a computer file, I don’t think I ever emailed it to anyone. If it’s ever published, it will have to have been rewritten.
[This isn’t as heartbreaking as the loss of the first novel I ever completed, back in high school, Ends of the Maelstrom. Unfortunately, that was 570-some-odd single-spaced, handwritten pages, with much overflow squeezed between lines and into the margins, and I never got the nerve up to begin rewriting it. My procrastination cost me dearly there, as that book is now lost with all my other worldly possessions from prior to 2011 (see this week’s post in Iterations of Zero for an explanation of why).]
Hopefully I’ll let that be a lesson to me. Knowing me, though…well, we’ll have to see, I suppose.
But still…wow! Solitaire, in near-original form, discovered at long last. Thank goodness for the near-eternal memory of the Internet. Soon, all of you will have the opportunity, for less than a buck, to read the story that caused the woman I was going to marry to wonder just what the hell was going on in my head. (She did marry me, so obviously she wasn’t all that worried, though many years later she effectively reversed the decision.) And, of course, shortly after that, you’ll get to read Penal Colony and In the Shade if you’re so inclined. And not too much after that, Unanimity will be forthcoming.
You have so much to which to look forward. I envy you.
Okay, well, it’s a new week, and a new month, and this is a new blog post…as is probably obvious. Last week I posted my author’s note for Son of Man, and next week I’m going to write an author’s note for If the Spirit Moves You, the last of the stories in Welcome to Paradox City to receive such a treatment. I suppose that I’ll subsequently write an author’s note each for the three short stories that have followed, and that are now available in Kindle versions (only 99 cents each, and cheap at twice the price). I did write about them each on this blog even as they took shape, but there are, nevertheless, further insights to be delivered, for those readers who are interested.
Now, though, having finished the publication of all three of my most recent short stories, I have returned to work on Unanimity. I’ve been rereading all that I’ve written of it hitherto, just to get back into the swing of the story. This is, nominally, against Stephen King’s advice in his excellent book On Writing, but I’m doing it only because I took a break to hone those short stories for publication, so I think this case merits an exception to the King’s recommendation. The rereading has been enjoyable so far, and the book is better than I occasionally felt it was while writing it. This happens to me quite a lot: the works that feel forced and inelegant while I’m writing them turn out to be much finer than I expect, and sometimes are better than those which seem to flow more readily—even inexorably—from whatever it is that produces creativity. This may make perfect sense. After all, those things in nature that come forward with great speed and power are often rougher in their original shape than more gradual phenomena and require more honing in the end. I wouldn’t imagine that this is a law of physics, but it is a phenomenon I see in my own creativity.
In addition to resuming my work on Unanimity, I’ve returned to my previous plan and begun audio recordings of my short stories. Specifically, I recorded the first draft audio of me (!) reading I for one welcome our new computer overlords last week and am now in the process of editing it. I’m extremely thankful for the amazing advances in technology that allow sound editing to be carried out on more or less any reasonable computer. I won’t say that my equipment or program is absolute state of the art, but since we’re not dealing here with a musical recording, but with an author reading aloud one of his stories, it’s more than adequate. When I think of the complex machinations the Beatles and George Martin went through to produce their ground-breaking and innovative musical effects in the sixties, my mind soars. Just imagine what a modern equivalent of Lennon and McCartney—or of Mozart—could do with the tools available in the early twenty-first century! As far as I can tell, though, we still await the next arrival of such era-defining genius.
In any case, thanks to that wonderful technology, it shouldn’t be long before the audio version of Ifowonco will be available, and when it is, I shall post it on this blog, free for those who wish to listen at their leisure. Of course, being compulsive about such things, I shall no doubt follow this with audio versions of Prometheus and Chiron and Hole for a Heart, though I’m not sure how quickly that will happen. I’ll probably eventually do audio versions for all three of the stories in Welcome to Paradox City as well. I don’t think, however, that I’ll do so for my novels, at least not in the short term. I’m a bit disappointed in this prediction, but the time scales are simply too daunting. The final recording for Ifowonco—a long short story, I’ll admit—will probably be on the order of about two hours long, and production takes much, much longer. If that length pattern holds, my novels would end up about ten times that duration, and it’s hard for me to see myself sparing the time to produce them anytime soon. It’s really too bad, because I do enjoy reading books aloud, and I expect my skills at both performance and production to improve with practice. Unfortunately, given the fact that I also need to work to make a living, recording time inevitably eats into my writing, and that is my first and major calling. I have so many books to write (and short stories, too), and my time is woefully limited. One must, it seems, prioritize, and so enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.
Alas! Poor audio.
It is with no honest regret, though, that I’ll return to Unanimity, and thence to its younger siblings, proceeding at full throttle. Unanimity isn’t a happy story—what horror novel is?—but I’m definitely happy to write it, and will be just as happy, if not more so, for others to read it.
While you wait for that to be finished, keep your eyes peeled for my next author’s note, and keep your ears pricked up for my upcoming audio releases. As always, I thank you for reading, I welcome your feedback, and I wish you well.
While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill: A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow. Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station.
There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes. Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years.
Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale. Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.
Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him. Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand. Even after a month passes, she remains, seated in the same place, always visibly suffering. No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all. But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her.
And she sees him.
Hello and good day to you all. I’m pleased to announce, as the picture above might lead you to believe, that “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” is now available for purchase on Amazon—for the price of a mere 99 cents. If you wish to go to the Amazon page on which it is available, you need only click the picture above and you will be taken there. It’s almost like magic, but it’s even better; it’s technology.
This story isn’t going to be available as a paperback in its current form (though it may in future appear as part of a collection). It is rather long for a “short story,” being just shy of 23,000 words in length (about forty single-spaced pages), but it still just isn’t economically viable to sell as a physical book. The costs of production would make the necessary asking price prohibitive for almost any sensible purchaser. So, currently, if you want to read it (and I think that’s a reasonable wish), you’ll have to buy it for Kindle. In case you didn’t know already, you can download the Kindle app for free, here, to read from any computer, tablet, or smartphone, so there’s nothing to prevent you from enjoying it. The fact that you’re reading this online suggests that you are amenable to reading works that are presented in electronic format, so presumably you won’t be deterred from reading it by its e-book nature. Although, interestingly, the main character of the story itself prefers to read books in hard copy format, though he happily reads articles and blogs online.
Oh, the irony.
I have withdrawn “Ifowonco” from its previous proud place here on the blog; I have also unpublished my two other short stories here, “Prometheus and Chiron” and “Hole for a Heart.” They will both shortly become available on Kindle as well, but there may be a bit of a delay, as I don’t want to slow down the writing of “Unanimity” too much. I’ve toyed with the idea of assigning two days a week just to the editing of these stories until they are ready for publication, and reserving the rest of the week for the writing of “Unanimity.” I think I’ll try this out as a possible paradigm for balancing the writing of new material with the editing of completed projects in the future. Both tasks are essential, but I have learned—from the long process of editing previous books, during which time I held off writing new ones—that I get a bit blue if I’m not writing new fiction.
Those of you who have been following this blog might have noticed that I recently put up four posts that are essentially the same as the descriptions in the “My Books” page about my books that are published and available on Amazon. I’ll probably do the same for “Ifowonco,” and for subsequent stories as well, and the reason for this is simple: When I share the location of these books to Twitter directly from Amazon, the tweets occur without any attached imagery, and that makes for a less interesting promotional tweet. The same problem doesn’t occur on Facebook, but it has its own issues with how links are promoted, so using it requires its own specific strategies and tactics.
I’m still conflicted about posting author’s notes on Amazon in the reviews section, mainly because it would entail giving a “star rating” to the books, and I worry that that might be a bit misleading. Still, maybe it would be useful as a way of just priming the pump for reviews.
I would like here officially and earnestly to request that any of you who have bought and/or read my books please give your feedback on Amazon. It’s terribly useful, both for the author and for other potential buyers, to have that feedback on the site, so browsers can decide if the book sounds like the sort of thing they might like to read. I know it can be a minor pain, and I don’t do it myself for absolutely every book that I buy, but I do try at least to rate the ones that I’ve bought once I have read them, even if I don’t leave a detailed review. Even a single sentence could be terribly helpful to me, and to your fellow readers.
No matter what, I think I will write an author’s note for each of my published works—including “Ifowonco”—and post them here, for loyal readers to get feedback that might be interesting. Of course, I’ve written about many of the stories here already, in various places, but to have a specific, dedicated author’s note might be useful, or interesting, or at least entertaining.
Speaking of being entertaining, I’m sorry if this post isn’t as fun or as funny as some of my others—though perhaps no one ever finds my posts funny, I don’t know—but as you are all aware, it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I, like so many, am mentally fatigued. It’s something of an irony that, even at a purportedly joyous time of the year, so many people are heavily stressed. This is true even for those who have nearby family and friends, and an emotional support system, to share the joys and the burdens of the season with them. It can be more poignant and difficult still for those of us who do not have those things, especially overlying the dark time of the year as it does, when people prone to mood disorders are more likely to have trouble with them. Still, the days are now beginning to lengthen, and even if there is no tangible change yet in the duration of the light (we are near the minimum of the sine curve, and the rate of change of the function is almost as low as it gets), we at least have the benefit of being able to anticipate with hope the increasing sunshine to come.
Of course, we would never want there to be no darkness at all. Darkness can be beautiful, even when it is frightening, even when it is terrible. Too much of it, though, tends to wither the heart.
Again, please do give me feedback on the author’s note/review notion, if you have any feedback at all to give. And even more, please do review or at least rate those works of mine which you might have purchased and/or read. I would be truly grateful…for whatever that’s worth.
Happy November, everybody.
As anyone who’s followed this blog recently knows, last week I released my latest short story, “Hole for a Heart,” just in time for Halloween. I hope you enjoyed it, if you read it (it’s hard to imagine you enjoying it if you didn’t read it, but I suppose it takes all kinds in this world).
I apologize for the fact that I haven’t yet released the audio of my short story “Prometheus and Chiron.” It’s simply very difficult to seize the moments to accomplish such feats, given that I work full time five or six days a week, with a nearly-two-hour commute in each direction, and of course continue writing every day as well. This all tends to leave me rather fatigued, so on the weekends I mainly decompress (though in boring ways). I do mean to release that audio, but it does need to be edited before I can do that, and I don’t want to rush it. If you were to listen to it as it is now—even if I combined the separate tracks—you might be amused, but I don’t think that you’d particularly enjoy the story, and that’s obviously my hope for the process. Continue reading