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.


*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

Methought I read a blog cry, “Sleep no more!”

It’s Thursday again, and we’re in the middle of the first week of Autumn (in the Northern hemisphere).  For the next six months, the nights will be longer than the days.  As someone who tends to write about the darker side of possibility, I don’t think that’s so terrible…or it’s terrible in all the best ways.

My writing has been steady but rather slow this week, mainly because I’m struggling badly with insomnia.  I’m not referring here to the Stephen King book by that name (though coincidentally I’m in the middle of rereading it at this very time), but to the chronic, and occasionally incapacitating, sleep disorder.  Over the previous two nights (before last night) I slept for a rough total of three hours; this is, obviously, not adequate, and it has a noticeable impact on my ability to concentrate and to think clearly.

Nevertheless, the writing continues.  Hopefully, when I go back to rewrite and edit, I won’t be dismayed by how horrible my work product from these past few days is; I don’t honestly expect it to stand out as either better or worse than average.  As I’ve said previously, the way I feel when writing something is poorly correlated with how good the writing turns out to be.  Sometimes when I feel lofty and inspired and superhumanly gifted, I produce nothing but great, steaming piles of oozy excrement.  The converse is also occasionally true.  It’s unpredictable.  Thus, we will always need to edit and rewrite.

Today, for the first time in quite a while, I’m riding the train in to work, due to certain vehicles being in the shop and matters of that sort.  It’s nothing to worry about, just routine maintenance, despite an event I obliquely mention below.

It’s curiously nostalgic to be taking the train, and not entirely unpleasant, though it’s far less efficient—time-wise, anyway—than driving.   I’ve been inspired to write at least one story (Prometheus and Chiron) while waiting for a train, and I see many interesting people when using mass transit.  Little of note happens on the Interstate, especially when one rides a vehicle that is fundamentally solo.  One can have occasional exciting, even life-threatening moments on the road, such as one I had three days ago, but they don’t make very good stories.  Not to me, anyway.  I suppose I could throw some details of such an occurrence into the midst of an action scene to add to the realism, drawing from my personal experience of feeling my right leg squeezed against the passenger door of some idiot’s car, which is changing lanes without the driver looking, but it happens quickly and—thanks to the fact that I don’t tend to rattle easily—is rapidly over, with no harm done.

I’m having a peculiarly good time working on three stories at once, as I mentioned in my previous post.  Of course, my primary work right now is still Unanimity, which is grudgingly proceeding toward its conclusion, but I’m enjoying both the writing of my new short story and the rewriting of the older, uncompleted story, In the Shade.  I remember when I wrote it originally, and more or less why I stopped—I just lost steam, I wasn’t inspired by what was happening, and I had other projects awaiting my attention, to which I turned (with good results, I think).  But rewriting it now, I have to say that I’m pleased with what I made then.  I think it could turn out to be quite good, even if it is just a gonzo horror story.  We shall see.

Skipping to a non-sequitur:  I must say, I’ve so far been consistently disappointed by the lack of response and feedback to the “My heroes have always been villains” episodes.  From my point of view—admittedly biased—I would think people would find such posts particularly interesting.  I wonder if my title for the series throws people off, making them wonder just what kind of horrible person I am, but it’s honestly just an ironic play on the title of an old Willie Nelson song, “My heroes have always been cowboys.”  I don’t actually idolize villains, in the sense of wanting to be like them, though they tend to have character traits that, in the right place, in the right amount, would be quite admirable.  That’s just the nature of the tragic character with the tragic flaw:  Much of what makes a villain a villain would, in proper measure and in the proper circumstances, make them admirable and even heroic.

Likewise, many attributes we admire in our heroes, real and imaginary, can be terrible drawbacks in the wrong circumstances or in different proportions.  Harry Potter, for instance, is one of the most admirable, inspiring, and pure-hearted heroes in modern literature.  Nevertheless, Professor Snape does occasionally have a point when he decries Harry’s reckless disregard for rules and his difficulty controlling his emotions (though I think he’s completely wrong when he calls Harry arrogant).

Oh, well.  I’ll continue to write those episodes roughly once a month, even if they find no readers other than myself, at least until I work my way through most of my most prominently beloved malefactors.  Hopefully there’s someone else out there who enjoys them, but since I think a writer must write primarily for him or herself, and only secondarily for the outer audience, it will only be a moderately devastating heartbreak if there isn’t.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll continue to write my weekly postings in both of my blogs, and more importantly, I’ll keep writing my fiction.