The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday.  I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks.  I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.

First, an update:  I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun.  I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long.  If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied.  However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far.  It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far.  Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes.  Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.

Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.*  I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university.  But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural.  There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).

It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.”  Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories.  Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.**  Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).

I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.

I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works.  I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.

Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college.  It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades.  I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices.  Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in?  What the heck did he take out?”

Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world.  Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained.  Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one.  I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them.  They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them.  I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.

Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel.  At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books.  It’s a freeing thought.

Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I?  I think it’s probably more than enough.  I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending:  If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual.  Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them.  Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it.  I think so, anyway.

TTFN


*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.

**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, to entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determinèd to prove a blogger…

Good morning and Happy New Year to all!

I was just idly wondering, is New Year’s Eve/Day the single most broadly celebrated holiday in the world?  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is…and I suppose I wouldn’t be much more surprised if it isn’t.  Still, considering the general adoption of the Gregorian calendar by, as far as I know, all the nations of the world, I would suspect that New Years is the most generally recognized possible day of celebration worldwide, across all cultures.

That said, I hope all of you who do celebrate it had a wonderful time doing so this week and didn’t suffer too many ill-effects in consequence.  This new year number sounds just a bit like the beginning of a count-down (20…19…), which could be the lead-in to good things and/or bad, but next year at least we should all have clear vision to face whatever comes.

Okay, enough of that nonsense.  I have few new things to say with respect to writing this week, but I’ll give you such updates as there are.  First, of course, I am very close (relatively speaking) to the end of Unanimity.  Interestingly, just yesterday I re-started taking the train—both to save vehicular wear and tear and to force myself to get in some walking every day—and between the train and then some time in the office before work, I got significantly more writing done than I had on any other day in weeks.  Some of this may simply be because I’m approaching the end of the story, and the excitement is building, driving me to push out work more quickly.  Some of it may be from resting over the dual holidays (thankfully, I did rest, being neither very social nor much of a drinker).  But I think just not having to drive (except to the station in the morning) and thus not having to worry about traffic, to say nothing of getting a bit of exercise, really seems to do me some good.  Here’s to hoping I’m right.

Penal Colony also approaches its end.  Which is to say, the editing process is nearing completion; the story has been finished for some time.  I’m enjoying editing it, and I’ve certainly cut a lot of fat out*.  It’s at least a little bit light-hearted, despite its dire predictions about a possible sinister side of social media in the future (I know…can you imagine!?).  It’s certainly not as heavy as Solitaire, but that’s not exactly a high bar to clear.  Of course, all of this means we’re going to have to start working on the cover design any day now, which is its own special, and sometimes stressful, task.

In other news:  I don’t recall whether I’ve blogged about this already, but I recently read the book, Bird Box, responding to all the hype (and some interesting-sounding hints) about the Netflix movie (which I have not seen), and it was quite good.  I left a nice review, not too long, but hopefully useful, on Amazon, and I’d like to take this opportunity once again to cajole all of you readers—especially if you read independent authors—to rate and, if possible, to review the books you read on Amazon, or at least some significant fraction of them.  I know, I tend to harp on about this a bit, but it makes a tremendous difference.  It’s also very useful for an author to get feedback from general readers, who after all are the market for whom the books are written.

I don’t have a tremendous lot more to discuss this week, and I’ve almost reached my stop.  I wish you all, once again, the very best of new years, and I hope you enjoy yourselves and read plenty of books in 2019.  While it’s true that there are a great many other good sources of information and entertainment available, some of which are more seductive—and certainly more passive—than reading, written language remains the lifeblood of civilization, and the most direct and efficient means by which to convey information and stories between human minds.  As physicist Lisa Randall points out in her wonderful book Warped Passages, sometimes a few words (and perhaps a bit of math**) can be worth a thousand pictures.

TTFN


*I have a darkly humorous fantasy of some future person reading Penal Colony and thinking, “This is the story after you cut a lot of fat out?  What was it like before?

**which is, after all, just a special type of words

Since brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will blog brief

Good morning, all!  It’s the first day of November, and the day after Halloween (funny how often it seems to work out like that).  I hope those of you who celebrated had an enjoyable time yesterday making light of the dark things by pretending to be them, and laughing, and having some candy and other treats.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I dressed up for work (as a dark cowboy…sort of an amalgam of the Man in Black and the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower), but I really didn’t do anything else to celebrate.  I got home too late—and was too darn tired—to participate in giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, so I basically just laid around in the evening, trying and failing to get a good night’s sleep.

My writing goes well, though more slowly than I would prefer.  Unanimity approaches one of its most terrible moments, after which events will come truly to a head, and the conclusion will be rendered.  It won’t be a happy ending, I’m afraid, but the “bad guy” will be defeated, and the surviving good people will do their best to get on with their lives.  This is often the best for which we can hope, whether in real life or in stories.  Very few characters—real or imaginary—have the option of sailing into the West, into the Undying Lands, to find healing.

I’ve thrown a little reference, or whatever one might call it, to my story Hole for a Heart into Unanimity, since some of the characters in the novel happen to pass by the site where that short story took place.  It seems that these tales take place in the same world, or at least very similar ones, and the presence of the malefactor from the short story is felt by, and may even have a slight influence on, those characters in Unanimity who come near it.

Penal Colony is now very nearly finished.  Once it is, I’ll complete In the Shade before going back to rewrite and edit either short story.  And of course, most importantly, Unanimity will continue to its conclusion.  All this is, of course, assuming nothing bad happens to me in the meantime.  We do live, in some senses, in a horror story—potentially, at least—and though for the most part we exist in the times of respite, the shadow still always takes on new forms and grows again.  The trouble with real life is that the horrors are often less easily spotted and recognized for what they are than in books, plays, movies, and the like.  They are often within us more than they are outside, and we become our own Great Old Ones, our own Crawling Chaos.

Maybe that’s part of why we enjoy dressing up on Halloween so much.

While we’re on the subject of darkness and horror, next week is the second Thursday of the new month, and I’m overdue to write a new episode of “My heroes have always been villains.”  I look forward to it, really, and I think I know which villain I’m going to choose, though I may change my mind.  In any case, those of you who are interested—if such people exist—can also look forward to it.  This is, again, all and always assuming that some dark force or entity hasn’t swallowed me up whole between now and then.  We can only wait and see.

With that, short though it’s been, the time is gone, and the song is over…though in my case, today, I didn’t honestly think I had more to say.  I offer you all my condolences in facing the inevitable and abrupt onslaught of Christmas carols, decorations, shopping, and the like which will begin to rear their heads by today, if they haven’t so reared already.  Don’t get me wrong, Christmas, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, the Winter Solstice…these things are fine and fun, but the concept creep, and the time creep, of the promotional lead-in has gotten slightly out of hand.  I hope you find joy in it, no matter how overpowering or overdone it gets.

TTFN

Author’s note for “Mark Red”

Mark Red Cover

What follows is my first “author’s note” about one of my works, and I’ve decided to begin with “Mark Red,” because it’s my first published book, and the first book I wrote as an adult since medical school.

Ideas for the stories I write tend to arrive in one of two ways.  Often, of course, I simply think of the idea of a story, develop it, often start or even complete writing it, and come up with the title later.  This was certainly the case with “The Chasm and the Collision” and “Son of Man,” as well as with the short stories “If the Spirit Moves You,” “Prometheus and Chiron,” “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,”* and “Hole for a Heart.”  However, at times I come up with a title first, or a particular phrase seems like it might make a good title, and I develop a story to go with the title.  Such is the case with “Paradox City” and “The Death Sentence,” and it is true in spades of “Mark Red.” Continue reading