You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drenched our teeples, drowned the blogs!

Rain

Good morning, everyone!  Though “good” is relative; I was severely rained upon by a thunderstorm on my way into the office today, so I’m pretty much soaked to the bone as I write this, and I will probably be damp all the way up to quitting time.  Still, if that’s the worst trial I encounter today, I’ll be justified in considering myself lucky.

Today is, as I’m sure you know, another Thursday.  It’s also the first day of August in 2019, and this is my usual, weekly blog post, but as those of you who’ve been following will know, I’ve posted other items since my previous formal posting.  At the end of last week (ish), I released my song Catechism on Iterations of Zero and on my YouTube channel.  Then, earlier this week, I put a video version of it here on my main website, though I haven’t yet put it directly up on my Facebook page.

I must officially issue a caveat:  the “video” portion of the post consists merely of my Iterations of Zero icon.  I promise you, no one wants to watch me performing a song.  In any case, since I played all the several parts myself (recording them at various times before mixing) it’s physically impossible for me to do it.  I suppose, with a little work, I could do a music video that cut between shots of me playing different instruments and singing along with the recorded song (lip-syncing, keyboard-syncing and guitar-syncing, presumably), but I have no good location in which to do such a thing, and the software required to do it well would probably require significant money.  In any case, I’m far from photogenic enough to make it worth anyone’s time to produce such a video.  I know I don’t enjoy looking at my ugly mug, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone else would, either.

The song, Catechism, on the other hand, is not bad to listen to, and I’m a reasonably good singer.  The production/mixing are certainly better than my previous attempts, which leads me to the strong temptation—to which I will no doubt succumb—to remix Breaking Me Down, and probably to redo some of the parts from scratch.  I’ve discovered already, with a bit of tinkering on the original, that by taking the tempo up from 90 beats per minute to 100, I could not only shave about 40 seconds off the piece,* but also make it peppier, which would be good considering how dark the lyrics are.

I’ve also—somewhat frustratingly, though in a good sort of way—found myself driven to begin writing chords and formal music for another old song I’d sort of made up a long time ago.  I imagine this is a little like being a drug addict…as soon as I’m done with the last fix, and despite heartfelt promises to myself and others, I immediately begin working my way toward another one.  It’s a compulsion.  Still, if this is my worst vice,** I can consider myself not only lucky but actually blessed.

Still, my primary addiction remains my writing, and in addition to the musical release, I was true to my word about my latest story.  Free Range Meat is now available on Amazon, in Kindle format only.  For those of you who strongly prefer actual, hard copies of stories to read—and I sympathize with your preference—I can only say that this and all my other Kindle-only “short” stories will eventually be collected into Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which will be available in hard copy.  I don’t know, though, how long it’s going to be before that happens.  Free Range Meat might well be the last story to be included in it, but I might decide to finish my novella (tentatively titled Escape Valve) first and include it as a never-before-published treat, if treat it will be.

But for the time being, my authorial energies will be focused entirely on Unanimity, which is a good thing, since I’m not even three-quarters of the way through its second editing run-through.  No matter how ruthlessly I cut, it’s going to be a long book in its final form.  I still like it, though, which is always a pleasant discovery.  Most importantly, I like the characters, even the “bad guy,” and I hope that readers will like them, too—even the bad guy.  It can be fun, of course, to find an antagonist you really hate, who’s just irredeemable and horrible, so you can feel real joy when (and if) the villain finally gets his*** comeuppance.  But it’s often even more fun to have a villain with whom you can at least empathize and maybe even sympathize, and—from time to time—with whom you can find yourself agreeing against your own will.  Who among us hasn’t occasionally secretly wished that Hannibal Lecter were around to punish certain severely rude people?

Maybe that’s just me.

Well, that’s my weekly update, and it’s been a busy week indeed, marred slightly by a virus of some kind that I’ve been enjoying since Saturday.  I wouldn’t call that a very high price to pay for getting done what I have in the last seven days.

As always, I’d enjoy getting any feedback you might feel like sharing, whether about my story, or about my song, or about anything else that strikes your fancy, in any of the venues which I haunt.  All I ask is that you try to be reasonably polite.

After all, how certain are you that Hannibal Lecter isn’t out there watching?

TTFN


*which is currently longer than Hey Jude but with nary a “Na, na na nanana naaaaah” to be found.

**which I doubt.

***yes, most of my favorite villains are male, which I think is consistent with the real world, though perhaps I’m being sexist.  I tend to like strong (but not quite villainous) female characters, as is probably obvious especially from Mark Red, but also Son of Man, and even The Chasm and the Collision.  This pattern will not be broken in Unanimity.

Free Range Meat

Free Range Meat cover

Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?

Brian certainly would. As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can. So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.

But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV? Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.

And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off? What breed of dog makes sounds like that?

These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

Solitaire

solitaire cover

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…

Fortune brings in some blogs that are not steered.

Hello, everyone!

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.

TTFN

Nymph, in thy orisons, be all my blog posts remembered

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.

TTFN

Hole for a Heart

holeforaheartredgreywith frame

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.

Prometheus and Chiron

 

pandccover

See on Amazon

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.