But when the blast of war blogs in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s raining here in south Florida; I got more soaking wet on the way to work today than I have at times when swimming in the ocean.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but at least when you’re swimming in the ocean, you plan on getting wet, you expect to get wet, and your clothes—such as they are—are made for getting wet and for drying off quickly.  This is not the case for work clothes, even when one works in a fairly casual office.  This weather almost makes me wish that there were a 24-hour curfew in place that restricted people even from going to work, but no such luck.  I was allowed to go to work even at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, which has apparently passed, and I’m certainly allowed to work now.

In America at least, news of the pandemic has been all but superseded by news of various protests, some of which have turned violent, over the murder of George Floyd.  Both topics seem particularly good at bringing out human stupidity, which is never a tall order, but there is more unified sentiment—where I work, anyway—about the latter story.  Everyone here thinks the cops involved need to go to prison, but that violent protests and especially looting are idiotic, counterproductive, and are probably (mostly) not being done by legitimate protestors.  As for me, I can at least sympathize with occasional, directed violence in such matters.  Peaceful protest is ideal when it works, when you’re dealing with people of conscience and appealing to their better natures, but it wouldn’t have worked against the Nazis, or against Genghis Khan, or against the Roman Empire, and it wouldn’t work in North Korea.  Random violence, however, that hurts one’s own neighbors or other innocent people, seems thoughtless and pointless at best, and looting seems simply opportunistic and despicable.

All right, enough politics, if that’s what that was.  On to more auspicious matters.

This week, I have finally begun the last edit, layout, preparation, etc. of Unanimity.  I expect that, with the finish line in sight, I’ll probably accelerate work on it somewhat, perhaps pushing back my music…though I did make a post on Iterations of Zero this week with embedded videos of my five original songs that are on YouTube, as well as a few comments about them. Check out that post if you’re interested; I’d love to know what people think of the songs.  I’ve also recorded another audio blog for IoZ, but that’s still being edited—those take longer to polish than do written blog entries, though they’re certainly easier to initiate.

As you may know, I’m chronically conflicted about the whole podcast/audio versus writing of thoughts and commentary.  Writing is more efficient for storage and dissemination of information—compare the size of a word-processor document with even a compressed audio file—but there is a certain nuance of expression as well as a greater spontaneity that can be achieved in audio.  As I admit right at the beginning of the new recording, this audio blog post is not intended to be uplifting.  Neither is it meant to be down-pushing (if that’s a term).  It’s instead meant to be a rebellion of sorts against the notion that we all must try always to be positive and optimistic and upbeat and inspirational.

If you need to be inspired—if you need to be “motivated”—to get your work done, I think you’ve already failed.  Motivation—in the modern, self-help sense, not in the basic, fundamental meaning of the word (which is fine)—is a bit like the notions of heroism and leadership.  These are concepts that come into play only when you’re already far from optimal circumstances.  We should all aspire to achieve a world in which there is no need for leaders or for heroes, and to strive to reach a state in our own character in which “motivation” is irrelevant.

No one feels “motivated” every day, but if you want to earn a living, you need to go to work whether you feel “motivated” or not.  The tiger that won’t hunt until and unless it’s “inspired” by something is a tiger that’s got a good chance of dying.  Or perhaps a better animal for that analogy would be the squirrel.  Squirrels keep gathering nuts (and maybe other foods, I’m no expert on squirrel diets) even when they have enough for their immediate needs—even when they don’t feel particularly hungry—because, as they apparently say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”*

To quote Christian Mihai, “The work that you do when you don’t want to is the work that most defines you.” Maybe this is just a different kind of motivation, a more long-term motivation that evaluates the area under the curve of one’s success and happiness, and not merely its moment to moment y-value.  That kind of motivation—or drive, perhaps, would be the better term—seems perfectly fine to me.  But if you have to get jazzed up to get out of bed and get moving, then you’re careening toward failure, because no one can feel jazzed up every day, not even someone in the upside of a bipolar cycle.

I’m not sure how I got onto that subject, but anyway, I’m happy at least to know that my own personal commitment to working on my fiction five to six mornings every week continues to deliver results.  It’s a lesson I learned fromthe King himself, and it’s paid off already in all my published books and stories.  And soon, I’ll release my own megalithic horror novel that matches in size even Stephen King’s longest work.

I would be delighted if Unanimity is read and enjoyed by even a fraction of as many people as have enjoyed any of King’s works, of course.  But if even one person reads it and likes it, that’s a huge reward.  And even if no one does, well—I still know that I’ve written it, and I like it.  If I didn’t like it, it really wouldn’t matter all that much if everyone else in the world loved it.  I can only be inside my own head.

TTFN


*I’ve neither watched nor read any of the GoT stories.  This fact surprises even me.  It’s not a matter of stubborn contrarianism or protest; I see nothing wrong with people loving the stories or the series.  I simply haven’t been interested.  These are the types of entertainment that I tend to want to enjoy with someone—not just anyone, to paraphrase John Lennon—and I simply have no one with whom I’m interested in sharing such entertainment.  More’s the pity, but there it is, and other such long-in-the-tooth clichés.

But your blogging by me cannot amend me; society is no comfort to one not sociable

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday and to a new iteration of my weekly blog post.  I say, “weekly”, but of course, last week I didn’t post, nor did I make any announcement about not posting.  I doubt that anyone was worried about me, which is just as well since there was little about which to worry, but I do apologize for the unexplained absence.  You can withhold a week’s worth of whatever you’re paying me if you want.

I was “under the weather” last week (not in a viral way, but in a bad sleep/migraine sort of way, which is preferable, but which has the disadvantage of being a gift that recurs at unpredictable intervals throughout life), so I stayed in bed with the light off for most of the day, reminding myself that, though it didn’t feel like the medicine was working, I didn’t know how I would feel if I hadn’t taken any.

Which brings me, in a weird way, to a thought that occurred to me—and has done so more than once—since this whole pandemic began.  Many people are bemoaning the ordeal of social distancing, of not being able to go out and shop and go to malls and to movies and to night clubs, to spend time with friends and family in ways that they normally do, and in response I’ve been thinking to myself, “What the hell are you talking about?”

I realized that, for me, not socially interacting, not going out, not shaking hands, not going to restaurants or to the movies or to the mall or to the grocery store or wherever is my regular routine.  I mean, I have a housemate*, with whom I share rent, and I have people at the office with whom I work (though mine is the only desk separated from the main room, since I do records and payroll and whatnot), but that’s pretty much it.  I don’t really have any real friends to speak of, certainly not locally.

I cannot abide things like WhatsApp or FaceTime or whatever.  I can barely stomach Facebook and Twitter, both of which usually just make me feel more depressed about my fellow human beings and myself.  I also have a very difficult (or at least unpleasant) time talking on the phone because of highly asymmetrical hearing loss and rather severe tinnitus in my right ear.  Thank goodness for WordPress and for YouTube channels like Numberphile, Sixty Symbols, and PBS Space Time, and for uploaded videos of British comedy panel shows.  Without them, I’d only have books.

Come to think of it, that last part wouldn’t be so horrible, would it?  Books are good.  Hell, books are great.

Anyway, my point is, if you’re feeling bereft by “social distancing” and feel hard done by because you can’t go out to the movies or the mall or the night club or whatever, you’d be well served not to complain to me.  I consider your complaints very much “first world problems”, and I’m liable to respond to you by saying things that will make you feel much, much worse.

Do you remember in The Silence of the Lambs how Hannibal Lecter got mad at his cell neighbor “multiple Miggs” for treating Clarice Starling rudely, so Hannibal just spoke to Miggs quietly for several hours, after which Miggs wept for a while and then killed himself by swallowing his tongue?  It would be something along those lines.  If you don’t believe me, you should read some of my posts about depression on Iterations of Zero and remind yourself that those are some of the thoughts I’m willing to share publicly.

(Insert diabolical laugh)

Seriously, though, it is a little disconcerting for me to realize that I’m barely, if at all, disrupted by current social changes, because I’m more or less socially isolated at baseline.  This is far from the worst way life could be, of course, but I can’t resist a bit of schadenfreude.  I’m not a nice person, I guess.

Anyway, on to far more important things.  I’m more than halfway through the penultimate edit/readthrough/rewrite of Unanimity, still whittling away the unnecessary (and hopefully not too much that will turn out to have been necessary).  Soon it’ll be time to do final layouts and cover design (though the cover’s general form was decided long ago), and then by this summer the book should be ready for publication!

I’m rather excited, not least because I’ll finally be able to do some new writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly love Unanimity, but I seem to be particularly vulnerable to depression when I’m not writing new fiction—or perhaps it’s more precise to say that writing fiction is my strongest weapon against depression—and I’ve committed myself**** to abstaining from starting any new writing projects until I’ve completed the previous one.  I do this because, in the past, giving in to the temptation to start a new story has frequently prevented me from finishing numerous books that I’ve begun.  “Know thyself and act accordingly.”

So, I’m not going to change that policy, which has served me very well since I started it, but I do look forward to completing a new novella (working title, Escape Valve) and putting it together with previously published works into a collection of short stories, then moving on from there to a new novel.

And whither then?  I cannot say.

With that, I think I’ve written all that needed to be written for this blog post, along with much that probably did not need to be written.  I hope you all experience ever-growing levels of happiness, health, and satisfaction, as well as reasonable safety (but not too much…that would be boring).

TTFN


*He’s a good guy, and to be fair, he is a friend.  He also both plays and makes a mighty mean guitar!  He made two of mine—a Strat and a Les Paul (the latter of which is the finest sounding instrument of any kind that I’ve ever played)—and found and bought my SG for me as well.  Who would ever have thought that I would have so many guitars**?

**I have six—two acoustics and four electrics.  That’s enough, I think***.

***This has been my first use, if memory serves, of nested footnotes.  Any thoughts?

****Ha ha.

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

insomnia

Hello and good day!  It’s Thursday again, as you no doubt know, and time for me to write another weekly blog entry.

I’ve had a rather intense exacerbation of my chronic insomnia over the last several days, so I’m worried that my writing might be incoherent and disjointed.  Of course, it’s possible that my writing is always that way, and I simply haven’t noticed.  How would I know for sure?  Still, I might be mistaken, but when I reread my writing, it doesn’t seem terribly incoherent to me.  Until and unless I receive specific feedback from others, there’s no way to fact-check the matter except through my general agreement with other readers about the quality of other writers.

Such are the vagaries of epistemology.

Insomnia has been a longstanding problem for me, certainly ever since I’ve been an “adult.”  One part of that problem is that, unlike what seems to be the case for most people, sleep is not in an especially pleasant experience for me.  If anything, it’s rather dysphoric.  I don’t tend to remember any dreams—which is disappointing, given legends of such writers as Coleridge, who are reputed to have been led to some of their greatest works by slumberous visions.

For me, sleep is at best a bland phenomenon; I have trouble getting to sleep and I have trouble staying asleep.  I don’t resist sleep knowingly, and I certainly don’t fear it in the sense that inspired the apocryphal Edgar Allen Poe quip, “Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them!”  Though Poe never wrote those words, as far as I know, he does seem to have been afraid of and resistant to sleep as a harbinger or precursor of death; he clearly feared premature burial (that dread features prominently in more than one of his stories).

This is not the nature of my problem.  I have no intellectual fear of death at all, though it’s hard to eliminate the purely biological drive to keep living.  I simply find sleep, if not actively unpleasant, somewhere between uninteresting and dreary.  The only time I’ve ever experienced real pleasure both at anticipating sleep and at experiencing it was when I was taking Paxil to treat depression.  That was certainly remarkable, but the medicine had more than enough detriment to counter that one benefit*, and it never did a very good job on my depression.

There’s little doubt that my chronic insomnia and my dysthymia/depression are related, and that the tendency for sleep to be thoroughly anhedonic to me is part and parcel of my dysthymia, though it long predates the latter problem.  I don’t remember any time in my life when sleep held real allure for me.  This tendency has been useful in many situations; I’ve never had trouble being an early riser, and when on call—either in hospital during residency, or from home later on in my practice—I never had much trouble quickly coming awake and being able to focus on whatever problem might need my attention.  And, of course, indifference to sleep was a very useful trait when my children were babies, allowing my then-wife to rest through the night far more often than many new mothers can.

Feeding and rocking my infant children in the silence of the night, now…that was a truly hedonic experience par excellence.

Nevertheless, like every organism with a nervous system, I do require sleep, though the nature of that need is far from fully understood by science.  When I go without enough of it, for long enough, it wears me out, and I know that it affects my cognitive functions, as well as my moods (though there’s a real chicken and egg problem involved in this latter issue).  So, I try—sometimes only halfheartedly, I’ll admit—to avoid succumbing to my insomnia.  But it can be hard just to lay in bed doing nothing and waiting to see if sleep arrives…or if it returns, as the case may be, when I awaken far too early in the morning.  I don’t tend to feel anxious or particularly stressed at such times, because again, I don’t particularly enjoy sleep, but I sometimes get angry at myself, knowing that I’m going to regret my sleeplessness later.

Oh well.  Whataya gonna do?

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do:  keep chugging along, I suppose.  The editing of Unanimity continues to go well, despite a few computer issues; I’m still enjoying the story and the characters.  And, of course, my footnote reminded me that I have a substantially begun novella waiting in the wings, which I may even complete someday.  And, however much I tend to begin my blog posts with no clear idea where I’m going in any given week, it’s still a rewarding process.  If nothing else, I amuse myself, and that’s got to be worth something.

Hopefully, at least occasionally, some of you enjoy it, too.

TTFN


*When coming off it, I did have two experiences of sleep paralysis, which I’ve not experienced before or since, but which were astoundingly vivid and thoroughly terrifying.  The first centered on the comparatively benign illusion of a lion resting on my body and holding me in place, and the second—far worse—involved an indescribable, extradimensional monstrosity pinning me to my bed.  I’m somewhat proud to say that, on that second occasion, rather than try to scream or anything of the sort, I was able with great effort to force my head into motion—or to imagine that I did—and I bit the effing thing.  This woke me up fully at last.  I immediately recognized the well-described phenomenon for what it was, but that didn’t prevent me from feeling truly frightened for several long minutes afterward.  A version of that second experience has appeared in a current work in progress, the novella tentatively titled Safety Valve.  So, I guess I have used “dream” experiences to inspire my writing upon occasion.

I once did hold it, as our statists do, a baseness to blog fair

gibbon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  As is often the case when I start writing a blog entry, I really don’t know what I’m going to “talk” about.  Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view) that rarely stops me from putting a great many words down in short order.

This seems a common tendency in both writing and speaking.  In fact, it seems to be more common in speaking than in writing, though I myself (you know:  me…the guy writing this blog) tend to be a bit reticent in social settings, unless ethanol-containing beverages have been consumed.  I was raised on the aphorism, attributed to Mark Twain, that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  I’m sure that there are many who would wish that I had followed this idea more assiduously.

The fear of being thought a fool does bring one to an interesting converse, or corollary, to the above-noted garrulousness of those who have nothing of substance to convey, and that is the human tendency to find it difficult to speak (or to write) when it’s important.  This isn’t universal, perhaps, but who among you cannot recall a time when you really liked some member of the appropriate gender and wanted to express that feeling (and perhaps ask said person out on a date) but found it impossible to say anything that was discernible from the babbling of an epileptic gibbon?  Many a comedy, both real and fictional, has highlighted such situations; alas, so have quite a few tragedies.

I suspect that this is born of the inherent perfectionism we all tend to embrace when trying to communicate something that’s important to us.  When what we say really matters, when we feel that it is crucial, we want our communication to be absolutely perfect…or we feel that it ought to be, anyway.  Those of you who have ever written term papers in school or university can surely appreciate that horrible sense that if it’s not perfect, or nearly so, then it’s simply horrible.

But of course, such perfection seems impossible to define, let alone to achieve, even by the greatest among us.  Upon occasion—Blasphemy Alert!—I’ve even read Shakespeare and had the sneaking thought that he could have written some particular line better than he did.  I might even, when feeling particularly cheeky, imagine that I’ve seen such a better way.  I hastily defend my humility in such instances by declaring that the line’s imperfection must have been the fault of the transcribing player who recorded it, not Shakespeare himself, hallowed be his name.

Actually, I don’t do that.  Nor do I imagine that everyone would agree with my suggested improvement, nor on which lines could be improved.  It’s simply the case that even Shakespeare was not perfect—whatever that means.

There are even people—yes, people of intelligence and good taste—who don’t much like Shakespeare.  Really.  It’s true.  I’ve met them.  They’re not monsters, nor are they insane (if you can believe it).  They’re ordinary, decent people.

My point is, perfection in communication isn’t even definable let alone achievable, so it’s curious that we get so hung up on stumbling over our words when we try to convey something important.  When we’re less wound up about it, we seem instinctively to recognize that conversation is like a sketch.  It doesn’t matter if a particular stroke of the pencil isn’t exactly right, because you’re just going to modify it with the next stroke anyway, and gradually you’re going to add and adjust until you get your point across…or until you fail to do so.  Even the overuse of metaphor and simile can still achieve some kind of communication.

That’s why I don’t subscribe to the nonsensical goal of sitting down and writing the “best sentence,” the “truest sentence”* you can write.  When I’m writing (be it a blog post, or a short story, or a novel, or a poem, or a song), I take the approach just to fucking write something.  Get something out onto the page, or the LCD screen.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It won’t be perfect.  In fact, no matter how much you edit it or improve it, it won’t ever be perfect…but it can get better.  You’re not stuck with what you first get out, you can fix and tweak and adjust it as often as you want…sometimes until you’re so bored with it that you don’t give a shit whether it’s good, let alone whether it’s perfect or not.

I sometimes think that this is the ultimate state of most shared works of art.  The artists finally get sick of working on them and just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, fine, that’s good enough.  Or not.  I don’t care, I’m done with it.  Get it out of my sight!”

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but I think that’s a good attitude to cultivate, at least if you’re a member of the legion of creative people with performance anxiety born of an innate (or learned) perfectionism.  Nothing is going to be expressed perfectly.

When you go up and talk to the girl (for instance) that you like, you may stumble over your words—indeed, you may literally stumble—your voice may crack, and you may say something utterly inane.  You probably will.  But that’s okay.  That’s just the first stroke of the pencil; the full work of art is just getting started.  The target of your affection might even find your incoherence charming**.  She might even like the way you mix and overuse metaphors!  But if you don’t say anything, then nothing at all will happen (except personal regret and self-loathing, which are overrated).

I don’t know where to go next with this, and I suspect that I’ve said all that’s useful to say about it for now…except, perhaps, to add my own correction to the irritating, related notion that “practice makes perfect.”  It doesn’t.  But it does make you better.  Indeed, the very fact that improvement is open-ended, with no practical limits, is more exciting than the notion of becoming perfect at something.  If perfection were attainable, there would be nowhere to go but down from there.  But as it stands, we can always get better and better, without limit, for as long as we’re able to do anything at all, if we keep trying.  But we do have to try; we have to say or do something.  And we’re not going to do that if we wait until we have something “perfect” to say.

TTFN


*I don’t even remember who said or wrote words to that effect.  That’s how anti-important I found the idea.

**And she might not.  This is the real world, after all, and sometimes the person you like just doesn’t reciprocate.  Likewise, not everyone will like every story, or article, or painting, or song, or sculpture, or whatever.  Universal popularity is at least as great a phantasm as perfection.

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.

“And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

mars-landscape-3d-model-obj-fbx-blend-mtl

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  Today’s holiday is rather less prestigious than last week’s:  it’s International Convenience Store Day!  (Actually, I just made that up, but if it isn’t International Convenience Store Day, since in much of the world the date would be written as 11/7 rather than 7/11, then at least it ought to be National Convenience Store Day in the US).

I’m afraid my previous post wasn’t well-read, or at least it wasn’t well-“liked”.  Possibly this is because it was a holiday last week and people didn’t read blogs as much as usual.  Possibly, though, it’s because I was so serious and grumpy about what I was writing.  I do think it’s an important subject, but I guess people didn’t find it gripping.  Maybe it was just so obvious to everyone that it didn’t bear repeating…though given what we see in the nation I somehow doubt that.  Maybe I’m just whining.

That last proposal seems to be the most promising hypothesis.

Of course, I’ve continued to edit Unanimity as well as my short story Free Range Meat.  The latter is close to releasable form, and I’ll probably publish it before the end of July.  Cover design has yet to begin, but I have the general idea in mind, and I don’t think it’ll take much work to accomplish.

I’m pleased to find that I’m continuing to enjoy reading and editing Unanimity.  That doesn’t mean that anyone else will enjoy reading it, but at least it will have one fan in the long run.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I was nervous about this.  As I wrote it, and as it continued to get longer, I occasionally thought to myself that this thing feels like it’s never going to end…and not in a good way.  Rereading it, however, has been pleasurable, and I’m getting quite a lot done.

I particularly enjoy the fact that my villain, who is also sort of the main character, continues to be and act like a likeable, nice guy, even as he does horrific things, and he’s not just pretending.  I don’t know why it tickles me so much, but it does.

In other news, I’m sad to report that I’m still having trouble finding and reading new works of fiction.  Well, “finding” new works of fiction isn’t hard, they’re everywhere, but finding ones that get my attention, and which I can sit down and read and enjoy, has been very difficult for some time, and it seems to be getting worse.  TV and movies, despite the shorter required attention span, have likewise failed to grab my interest.  It’s even hard for me to go back and pick up books that I’ve read and loved before, which is truly bizarre.  When I do like a story, I tend to read it and reread it and reread it, over and over and over again.

As a case in point, when Book 6 of the Harry Potter series came out, I was one of the midnight buyers, and once I bought it, I devoured it rapidly.  I liked it so much that, by the time Book 7 came out, I had read its predecessor a full seven times, not counting the times I listened to the audio book while commuting.  Yet now, though I have the book handily available in my cell phone on Kindle at any time, I feel no urge to read it or any of the other books in the series.  Some of that may be partly due to negative associations; I enjoyed reading and discussing those books with my now-ex-wife, we both having first been introduced to them by our niece.  But that can’t be the whole story—at least I don’t think it is.  After all, I started reading The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, in junior high, if memory serves, and I’ve read those (and the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) literally dozens of times, well into adulthood.  (I’m not talking about two dozen, either.)  Yet lately, I can’t get interested in them (nor, in the case of Thomas Covenant, the more recent sequels).

Here’s a particularly troubling case:  I recently was able to force my way through a rereading of Ender’s Game…but I couldn’t even get past the first fifty pages of Speaker for the Dead, which I recall as one of the best books I’ve ever read!

I’m too nervous even to try reading Shakespeare.  And I’m a person who once, in my undergraduate days, deliberately took two Shakespeare courses at the same time (and loved them)!

Bottom line, I’m a serious nerd/geek who has been losing interest in the things about which I am nerdy/geeky.  Even such instant gratification story-types as comic books and manga are hard to focus on.  I don’t have so much as a smidgen of curiosity about Game of Thrones, and I’m sure that in the past I would have been a delighted aficionado of those books and that series.  I haven’t even been able to get through the first season of Stranger Things, and if there’s a series that is more perfectly my kind of story, I’m not aware of it.

Thankfully, I still retain at least some of my ability to be interested in and to read about science, though even that is nothing like it used to be.

Oh, well.  Like I said above, I guess I’m a bit of a whiner.  Hopefully my kvetching isn’t too boring, since this anhedonia does trouble me, and I feel a strong need to share my sense of dismay.  Also, maybe I’m not-so-secretly hoping that some reader will have a magical answer for me, and things will turn around.  If not…well, I don’t even know.

Anyway, enough morosity.  (I know, that’s not a standard word, but I prefer it to “moroseness”, which is a standard word).  The woes and laments of a lonely author, blogger, and aficionado of various forms of fantastic fiction and nonfiction are of little real moment.  It just makes life tiring, and it’s hard for me to summon the energy to move forward.  Thankfully, one of my most enduring traits—unsurprisingly, I guess—is stubbornness.  But all things have their limits.

TTFN

 

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

facial-reconstruction-Richard-III

Hello and good morning!  It’s the last Thursday of the month, which implies that next Thursday will be the first Thursday of a new month.  Unfortunately, this no longer means that I’ll release a new episode of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains.”  More’s the pity, but they just didn’t seem to get many readers.  Perhaps people were put off by the title, or maybe people have a trained aversion to admitting that villains are not only necessary to good stories but are also, often, the most interesting and pro-active characters.  I’ve often noted that it is the villains in great stories who make things happen, who try to change the world (often in not-so-good ways, of course), whereas the heroes tend just to react to events.  In this sense, revered inventors, discoverers, and innovators have more in common, personality-wise, with the villains of our tales than with the heroes.

I don’t know what this says about human nature, but I do rue the fact that no one seems to quite get the notions that I try to express in “MHHABV.”  (I’ll rule out the possibility that I’m simply not good enough at conveying those notions.  Let’s not be ridiculous, here).  Thus, I find myself in the shoes of many a villain—the comic-book style ones, anyway—in bemoaning the fact that there seems to be no one else in all the world with the vision, the intellect, the greatness of spirit to recognize and embrace the grandeur of my design!

<<Sigh>>  It’s lonely being a supervillain.  Just ask Thanos, or Dr. Doom, or Hannibal Lecter (but I recommend asking politely).

Tangentially, it’s interesting to wonder if it’s possible to be truly happy and yet to move forward and make profound changes for the better in the world.  Buddhist monks rarely seem motivated to cure (or treat) terrible diseases,* or to invent new products or technologies, or to discover new sciences.  Not to say their activities aren’t worthwhile.  Some of them accomplish real insight into the nature of the human mind.  Still, it’s telling that the end goal of (at least some versions of) Buddhist practice is to achieve a state where you stop being reborn and can finally just frikking die and cease to exist when your time comes.  I can offer anyone with that goal a hugely step-saving strategy.

Of course, I’m caricaturing the teachings of Buddhism and Buddhist monks somewhat; I hardly think I have the final word on this subject.

Speaking of final words, just yesterday I finished the first edit of Unanimity.  Yes, that was just the first one.  Oy.  But still, it was a milestone.  I’ve already trimmed about eleven thousand words from the story, but there’s a long way to go before it’s in publishable form, with lots of little tweaks and corrections to be made.  It’s hard to write a half-a-million-word novel and keep everything perfectly consistent, especially with respect to trivia such as the receptionist’s name in a medical office, whom you forgot you’d introduced once before, and so when you introduce that person again, you use a completely different name, and perhaps even a different personality.  To take just one (purely hypothetical!) example.

Of course, to the surprise of no one who knows me at all, I haven’t come to any conclusion regarding the fate of “Iterations of Zero.”  I would be less conflicted about keeping it going if I could just find the time (and the will) to write in it, or to record “audio blogs”, as regularly as I write here.  But time and will are exquisitely finite resources, even for supervillains like me.  I have to earn a living, doing things that are not nearly so fulfilling, and which bring me into daily contact with…well, certainly with many interesting characters.  In this case, I use the word “interesting” as in the (supposed) Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  Or, in a similar vein (har), as I’ve often said to patients, “You should try never to be interesting to your doctor.”

I would love to write, etc., full time, and to produce more material of more varied nature, but money’s tight.  Of course, if my books were to become international best-sellers and were made into blockbuster motion pictures, that would help matters tremendously, but that’s not entirely up to me.  I’m too self-effacing (and often self-loathing) to be very good at marketing myself aggressively.  This is in ironic contrast to certain people (some of them in high office) who seem uniquely skilled and talented at polishing the turds that they are and selling those shiny pieces of excrement to people who don’t appear to know better…or who don’t want to know better, which is worse.

Thinking about such things too much can arouse real sympathy for the great villains of literature.

If there’s anyone out there who wishes I had time to write more and who has a lot of money or is brilliant at marketing and has some spare time and wants a challenge, you’re certainly invited to help make my nefarious dreams a reality.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying the summer.  While you do, though, as I’ll make clear in my short story Free Range Meat, you must remember never to lock your dogs in vehicles, especially on hot, sunny days.  Conversely,** if you encounter a situation in which it seems someone else has done such a thing, you may want to think twice before intervening too aggressively.  Not all is as it seems, and the road to real Hell, as we know, can be paved with the best of intentions.

TTFN


*Physical ones, anyway.  The argument can be made that meditational practices show real promise in treating some psychological maladies.

**Or is it inversely?  Or obversely?

The young and tender wit is turn’d to folly, blasting in the blog…

Hello, good morning, happy Thursday, and—as always—welcome to another edition of my blog.

There’s not much to add today, I’m afraid.  I launched the “final” version of my song “Breaking Me Down” on my Iterations of Zero blog and on my YouTube channel, for what it’s worth.  To the surprise of no one, it doesn’t seem to have been listened to by many people, so far.  I suppose that’s what happens when one puts a song out and no one’s ever heard of the person who made it.  I certainly have no marketing apparatus at my back to try to promote the song, and I would probably rather use such an apparatus to promote my books if I had such a thing.  The song is honestly just for my own self-indulgence, though of course I’d be delighted if anyone listened to it and liked it.

I’ve written only another page or so on Neko/Neneko since last week, and I’ve done a smattering of editing on Unanimity.  Some of this relative dearth of output is due to the fact of my song.  Most of my “free” hours in recent weeks were burned in arranging and playing and singing and producing “Breaking Me Down,” so my usual work—not my day job, obviously—got left by the wayside.  If there exists a person who is actually looking forward to any of my written works in progress—and I doubt that such a person exists—then I apologize.  I can only say that I would be much more motivated to continue working and to go faster if I but heard from you once in a while.  I have accounts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as my two blogs here on WordPress…and, of course, you’re free to leave reviews of my books on Amazon.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Well…I would certainly like to hear from you.

Anyway, that’s more or less all I have to say for this week.  I hope you’re all well, and that you continue to be well, in this most possible of all possible worlds.

TTFN

What is it else? A madness most discreet, A choking blog, and a preserving sweet.

Hello and good morning, all.

I apologize for neither posting nor notifying anyone about my lack of posting last week.  My sister very kindly surprised me by coming in from out of town and visiting, and I spent much of last Thursday enjoying the Miami Zoo, which I’ve never visited before, though I live only a dozen or so miles away.  It was excellent, and there were so few guests at the zoo that day that it felt almost like our own personal menagerie.  At one point, we literally rode the monorail entirely by ourselves.

In some ways, it’s just as well that I didn’t post anything last week, because—as far as writing and editing goes—I’ve been taking a few weeks off.  As I may have mentioned before, I’m working on a new/old song, and the process of putting it together has taken up most of my spare time over the past few weeks, or at least the spare time I would have spent writing.  I say “new/old” because I wrote the original words (about a quarter of which have been changed) and the melody of this song when I was a junior or senior in college, sometime around 1990 or so, I’d guess, but I never did anything with it, and it’s just been floating around in my head ever since.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that, once anyone listens to it, they’ll think that it would have been just as well had it stayed there.

Still, the success (from my point of view) of my composition and recording of “Schrodinger’s Head” and the recording and mixing of a few of my “bad covers” on Iterations of Zero made me think it might be fun finally to make this thing into something actual rather than potential.  Of course, the things I’ve learned while working on this song make me want to go back and redo Schrodinger’s Head, and to make another song that I originally composed in college, and to write a new song about a unique manga character whom I particularly like…but I’ll try not to let all that get in the way of everything else.

We shall see.

In any case, it’s been good to have a little break from Unanimity.  My new song is a long one, but seven and a half minutes of song is quite a bit different from seven and a half hundred pages (and more than half a million words) of novel.  The delay on Free-Range Meat is perhaps less excusable, it being a literally short story, but it can handle the break.  And, of course, Neko/Neneko is a horizon-type project for the moment, in any case.

So, that’s about all the news I have to share today.  I’m juggling many projects that are in various stages of creation and completion, but at least that gives any readers of and/or listeners to my work—if such people exist—much to which to look forward.

In the meantime, I wish you well.

TTFN

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me; For now hath time made me his numbering blog

Chronic Publications Logo

Hello, all.  It’s Thursday again, despite our best efforts, and time for another blog post—the first of a new month.

I have now, officially, released my song, “Schrodinger’s Head” in mixed and recorded form—or whatever the proper terminology is—onto Iterations of Zero, as well as onto YouTube, and that’s good.  It’s been an interesting experience, but it took up a lot of my time for the last few weeks, compulsively, so I’ve done no new audio blogs or written postings on IoZ, nor have I done much in the way of editing on either Unanimity or on Free-range Meat.  Now that the music has…well, if not died, then has at least been released into the wild, I can get back to more usual things, and anyone who has been waiting for my stories eventually to come out can breathe a sigh of relief.  I doubt there is such a person, but just in case…

Work on my novella—for which I still don’t have a final title—has continued all along.  I wasn’t going to let anything take me away from that, since my new writing has to be always my primary commitment.  The story’s going well so far, all things considered.  I like the characters, which is a plus, but this usually means—given the way my stories tend to go—that they’re in for some hard times.  Oh, well.

I’m still struggling with the conundrum of whether to keep doing audio blogs for Iterations of Zero, or to try to switch back to doing written blogs (with the difficulties that presents) or just saying “to Hell with it” and not waste any more time on either one unless and until the mood strikes me.  This latter notion, though, tends to be a pipe dream.  For a writer, in my experience at least, waiting until the mood strikes is comparable to waiting for an asteroid impact.  It will happen eventually…but you’ll probably be waiting longer than any human lifetime.

Well, that’s about all I have to say about that this week.  I could harp on about some random, walk-in topic and try to be funny, but even I find that sort of thing unbearably stupid a lot of the time, so I can’t imagine how it must seem to all of you.  I wish you, and all manner of other sentient beings, well.

TTFN