Editing, Kitty Adoption, News

The revision of Privileged Lives is going well, although stuff got in the way yesterday and I only did about two chapters. Still… Cutting the fat, expanding scenes, combining chapters, all on the way to a final rewrite. It’s down to 29 chapters, from 38, and I’ll probably combine several more before I’m through. It’s kind of amazing how much I’ve learned since writing it back in the Spring of 2011. And it’s hard to believe it’s been hanging around that long. This is one of those cases where you have to decide whether a book that’s never sold more than a few copies is worth overhauling. It might still languish unread, but it’s worth it to me.

The “stuff” that got in the way of book work yesterday, was one of the massive shopping trips I go on almost every week with my son. Usually, it’s two grocery stores and one or two thrift stores. Yesterday’s started with the local Humane Society. I decided a month or two ago that I missed having a fur ball, so I kept checking out the photos on the HS site. The cat I’m adopting is a ten-year-old orange female who might not have found another owner at that age. She wasn’t exactly abused by her previous owners, but they put her in their basement because of their little kids (no details on that except her inability to cope), and lived down there for a year. She’s still skittish, but didn’t have any trouble with my petting her, leaned right in, in fact, so I think she’ll be fine once she settles down. We’ll probably go in tomorrow to sign the adoption papers and take Stella home.

As part of getting my life somewhat normalized, which used to mean being owned by a cat, I’m cutting way back on the news. I’ve accepted that things are mostly going to get worse as the new “president” lays about him with an axe handle. There’s nothing I can do about it except put my little bit of money where I hope it will do some good. I made a second donation to the Standing Rock Sioux this morning, even though I know that particular battle will probably be lost.


94,000 Words in a Day

It’s possible that my WIPs live in a universe of their own and impose themselves on me as they please rather than according to any decisions I may have made about which ones are the most important right now.

It apparently didn’t matter that I’ve prioritized more current work for completion and the process involved in getting to publication. One of my early novels, which has had almost zero attention from the reading public, shoved its way to the front of the queue yesterday. It had been handing out warnings, which I ignored, believing that I had entered a new phase of my writing life in which I could limit myself to a few reasonable tasks and actually complete them in a timely manner.

Instead, I spent Saturday reading through Privileged Lives and Other Lies, doing a bit of editing here and there, but mostly just noting the areas that need work. Yes, I read a 94,000 word novel in one day, and at the end of the day I wondered how I’d managed it. I’m a fast reader, but even so…

This novel has been a huge disappointment to me, because for the most part, it contains some of my best writing. That, in spite of having a couple of real problems that I simply didn’t face at the time. And it has a terrible cover, one of my first. And I didn’t know at the time I published it, that it fits in the young adult category. And, and, and…

I’m still stuck about the cover, but I know what needs to be done to bring the novel up to my current higher standard. I just hope that it persists at banging on my door until it’s satisfied.

Simple Website for My Books and Stories

I really need to create a website where the emphasis is on my published work. I did this once before, but hated my design, and didn’t think about it again. I have a pretty good idea of how it should look and could do it either with one of the WordPress templates, or by using a site like Wix. The main question is which is more likely to be seen. It might be good to get out of the WP environment into a new one. But using the same tags and meta description, would one be more visible than the other?

Any suggestions? Your experience?

From Pillar to Post

I’m trying very hard to get over the feeling that I’m being thrown from wall to wall in a room that is somewhat padded, to make sure I don’t accumulate broken bones. Broken mind, not so much. In any one day, I swing from pillar to post, thinking I can get back to writing again, and then wondering what’s the point when everything is tumbling into a black pit without a bottom. These are the days when any sign of cheer is more than welcome, though it’s impossible to avoid the notion that anyone who’s the least bit cheerful has to be either oblivious or crazy.

I wonder what our non-US readers are thinking. Surely, they’re shaking their heads in amazement and disgust. Who would have thought that one man could do so much damage in such a short time? It’s enough to make me want to keep my head under the covers and never, never get up

But then there’s this from Chuck Wendig: This is a Test of the Emergency Broadcasting System 

This weekend there came a moment when I thought, I am ashamed to be an American. But then I thought back to the Women’s March, and I think to all the people I know who are active and engaged, and then I realized: I’m not ashamed to be an American. I’m proud of Americans. I’m ashamed of my government. I’m ashamed of this administration, not of the nation it leads. Ten days in and the president is the most unpopular president in history. It proves that you are not alone. We are not alone. And if we make it out of this — if we can stop this bubbling septic shit-stew from boiling over — then we will have been delivered a timely and necessary reminder that our democracy is not shallow, but deep. That it is not simple, but complex. That even in its pillar-like presence, democracy is vulnerable and demands vigilance and the foreknowledge that axes and rot can still bring down this beautiful tree.

And  this, from Literary Hub: Entering Scoundrel Time: a new literary site takes on Trump.

This past Monday, January 30, Paula Whyman and Mikail Iossel launched Scoundrel Time, a literary site dedicated to combatting the greed and evil of our new president. I asked Paula Whyman to take me through their ambitious and hopeful endeavor. More than anything I wanted to be convinced that any literary activism—really, anything at all—can work against such a looming catastrophe.

Maybe it’s hopeless to think that ordinary people can prevail against a cabal of people without compassion, or even the intelligence not to cut down the tree they’re sitting in, but the only other choice is to sit back and watch it happen.

The Root of Human Conflict

War. Genocide. Slavery. They have been a dominant part of human history for as far back as we have any records. Despite the harsh reality of our past, and the ongoing current conflicts, we insist that the human race has progressed, has moved toward a more peaceful world of co-existence with each other. Despite the new potential for more, and more damaging, conflicts teetering on the horizon, we maintain a delusional belief that, in the long run, all will be well.

Science fiction plays its part in undermining that delusion, but it also supports it. Space opera is usually based on a belief in human superiority over alien races as an unquestioned assumption. It assumes that these alien races are a danger to us and that we must wipe them out. How many fans of space opera even realize that, explicitly or implicitly, these novels are a metaphor for how the average human actually thinks?

Certainly there are novels in which humans and aliens come to some sort of understanding and even manage to achieve a peace that may or may not survive the many stresses that naturally occur, as between nations. But the breakdown of peace is another theme.

There is no end of speculation and theory about why this is so. Humans are naturally violent, etc., etc. Two novels, one science fiction, which I just finished, and the other literary fiction, which I’m still reading. coincidently explore a concept which is not new, but is rarely discussed in any context having to do with conflict, whether it’s between individuals or nations. It’s the idea that we are incapable, as a species, of seeing others from any viewpoint but our own.

In Gordon R. Dickson’s classic, Way of the Pilgrim, earth has been conquered by a race that is human in many ways, but utterly and completely alien in all the ways that count. The Aalaag have made slaves of the human race, which they consider their cattle. Shane Evert, the pilgrim of the title, is called Shane-beast, and so are all humans called: beast. The Aalaag do not learn any human languages, and depend on a small corps of talented translators, including Shane, to communicate for them, but only to give orders. When improbable mass gatherings around the world convince the Aalaag that the cattle will never be tamed and they will thus never achieve the peaceful and productive use of Earth that they anticipated, they prepare to leave.

In the last conversation between Shane and his former master Lyt Ahn, the alien tells Shane that humans are not worthy of the benefits the Aalaag tried to bring them. It’s the summation of the way in which the Aalaag have, from the first, looked down on humans, and disposed of them as casually as you would dispose of a useless or sick animal. Treat your cattle well, but weed out the sick ones. To the Aalaag, the uprising isn’t a sign of courage, it’s a sign of sickness.

In The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan uses the building of the Thailand to Burma Death Railway by slaves, including Allied prisoners, some 12,000 of whom died during that insane effort, to illustrate the inherent blindness of humans to any but their own reality. The Japanese overseer can’t understand, to start with, why the captured men (Australians, in this case) didn’t kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be made prisoners of war. Further, he can’t understand why they aren’t willing to see their suffering and death as a privilege that allows them to fulfill the Emperor’s wishes and erase some of the shame of their capture. In that suffering and death, he sees honor rather than horror.

From a review of Narrow Road:

Flanagan pulls us right into the minds of these men raised on emperor worship, trained in a system of ritualized brutality and wholly invested in the necessity of their cause. It’s a harrowing portrayal of the force of culture and the way twisted political logic inflated by religious zeal can render obscene atrocities routine, even necessary. The novel doesn’t exonerate these war criminals, but it forces us to admit that history conspired to place them in a situation where cruelty would thrive, where the natural responses of human kindness and sympathy were short-circuited. And in its final move, the story makes us confront the conundrum of evil men who later become kind and gentle under the cleansing shower of their own denial. How infinite are our ways of absolving ourselves, of rendering our crimes irrelevant, of mitigating the magnitude of others’ pain.

The enslavement of the human race by Aalaag conquerors is fiction; the construction of the Death Railway during WWII was real. Flanagan’s father was one of the survivors.

Burning Down the House

The Talking Heads said it. No need to elaborate.

Hold tight, wait ’til the party’s over
Hold tight, we’re in for nasty weather
There has, got to be a way
Burning down the house

Here’s your ticket pack your bags
Time for jumpin’ overboard
Transportation isn’t here
Close enough but not too far,
Maybe you know where you are
Fightin’ fire with fire, huah


Short Break from Long Stuff

I just started a revision and expansion of Refuge, one of my short stories. It’s currently around 4,500 words, and I hope to get it up to between 6,000 and 7,000 words. Why, when I’m trying to get Bentham’s Dream finished, am I veering off again? There’s certainly some burnout here–really good progress for a while, and then the wall. Maybe jumping from getting Camp Expendable out of my hair right into another big project wasn’t a good idea.

One reason to switch off is the nagging need to publish, to start making up for the last two dead years. Even a short story is a right step in that direction, and it can be done comparatively fast. From that point of view, it can relieve the pressure to get Dream written and published as fast as possible. Fast doesn’t work for me, so some downtime is never a bad thing. As long as it doesn’t turn into nevernever time. I’m always going to be switching back and forth between projects, but maybe using a short story for burnout breaks will keep me from switching to one of the long WIPs and keep me on target with Dream.

I’m thinking all this through as I’m writing, and I think I see how spending some time with short stories might break into my dysfunctional pattern of jumping constantly between novels, which just delays finishing any of them. That’s probably a big contributor to that period of publishing nothing at all. So a new pattern would be: work on a novel or novella until I reach burnout. Take time out with a short story, and then go back to that novel or novella. Repeat until publication.

It could work. Something has to work, before I’m too old and feeble for it to matter any more.

Orwell Would Be Proud

Or maybe jealous. It’s all over the internet today, the “President’s” puppet’s new take on truth: alternative facts. I hope someone’s collecting the 21st century additions to Orwell’s Newspeak. We’re probably going to be seeing a lot of that kind of thing.

Did anyone seriously think that the man would suddenly turn presidential? That his people would gently coach and guide him in his role? Did anyone expect that the very first press conference of the new administration would be a series of blatant lies? If you were surprised by any of this, you haven’t been paying attention.


Good to Know: Near-future SF is Dangerous

Near-future science fiction can be dangerous, not that it always — or usually — is. In a recent article, SF writer Charles Stross says, “Over-generalizing wildly, science fiction falls into two categories: scifi with a far future setting, and scifi about the present or the near future. Far future settings are fun to write, and they also insulate you from the slings and arrows of contemporary history in the making. If you’re playing in a Star Trek setting circa 2400, the events of 2016 are as remote as the events of 1916, or even 1816. And by “remote” I don’t mean that the denizens of 2400 might not have heard of Donald Trump; I mean they might not have heard of the United States of America—2400 is as far away from us in time as 1632.”

No one’s going to complain about SF that just entertains. But the most thoughtful near-future SF is unsettling. It generally assumes that some of the worst features of the present are going to carry on into the future in one form or another. Where we prefer to believe that the future is going to be even better than the present, near-future SF says tries to knock off those rose-colored glasses and stomp on them.

But… “Near-future scifi is not a predictive medium: it doesn’t directly reflect reality so much as it presents us with a funhouse mirror view of the world around us. But in a post-truth world, it may be that only by contemplating deliberate un-truths can we retain our sense of what it is plausible to believe in the collage the media surround us with.”

Stross goes on to say that what near-future SF does for us — or to us, is glue “convenient handles — explanations we can grasp — on models of phenomena that mimic the patterns of the real world, and gives us the chance to infer the intentions of the hidden manipulators.

“And that’s why near-future SF remains relevant—and dangerous—in the “post-truth” era.”

A near-future scenario worth considering is an America that has joined current repressive governments in imprisoning writers for what they say, not what they do.

Coming up — Four Years of Inspiration for SF Writers

It’s hard to believe that this country’s most significant and dangerous step into the future is only a day and a half away. The writer in me rejoices, not that I’ve been lacking for ideas. But the humanist in me shakes with dread. Will it be a never-ending nightmare in which the future is the blackest of black comedies, or a black comedy that makes every day a nightmare?

Humans, as a species, aren’t good at facing reality, and the next four years may be the ultimate proof of this failing. Global climate is, in a way, the metaphor that illustrates what such blindness will cost. It is proof that when faced with an unacceptable reality, humans are perfectly capable of rejecting what they see with their own eyes and experience with their own bodies, and retreating into a fantasy world in which bad things simply don’t happen. There is factual, real-life evidence, from every part of the world, that processes we can’t stop are already underway, and that they are proceeding at a much faster rate than scientists were willing to admit until very recently.

There is no shortage of rose-colored visions of a future that won’t be as bad as the worriers and Cassandras predict. Wishful optimism fits both climate change and the upcoming administration. The belief that raising buildings a few feet will defeat the incoming waters, or that the man moving into the White House will, sooner or later, start acting more “presidential,” are dangerous delusions. What will happen, sooner or later, is that the wearers of rose-colored glasses will be the first to scream, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” And they will be looking for someone to blame.

January 15 Weekend Odds – Blogs and Cats

I’ve pretty much pulled out of the post-election slump, so things are picking up. Life goes on, though I think I will be spending the next four years in a state of outrage and disbelief.

I did, finally, start a blog about Asperger’s and the autism spectrum. Spent a good deal of time mulling it over, and defining exactly what I want to accomplish and whether I can keep it up long enough to be of use. Two posts and an About, so far. I’ll probably post only about once a week because I’m determined that it isn’t going to be another straw on my shoulders. Anyway, it’s Disorderly Minds, if anyone is interested. Sidebar and other stuff to be developed as I have time and inspiration.

For the first time since I started writing Bentham’s Dream I feel that I have a good grasp on it. Changing to first person was what did it, and giving the protagonist a distinct point of view that reveals more about him than what I originally intended.

I just began the sign-up with Apple’s iBooks so I can publish there. Gad, what a process. You’d think they were making sure of the nation’s security. For some reason, they couldn’t verify my additional information after I registered, so I have to wait, possibly for days, to find out what information they’re talking about and what to do if it’s giving them a problem.

On the home and hearth side, I’ve been pondering, almost since I moved, whether to get a cat. My Lizzie died a few years before the move, so this is probably my longest period in years without a fur ball. Several things have been standing in the way — carting cat litter home (though I can either order from Amazon or get son #2 to do it for me) and the usual litter box hassles. And my age. If I get a young cat, she’ll undoubtedly outlive me and son #2 will have to adopt. He’s been bugging me about it, threatening to find a cat and drop it off at my door. I’m hoping to find an older cat that would like a nice quiet home.

One of the thrift stores we went to the other day was the one the Humane Society runs, and they just happened to have cat dishes and other goodies, and a nice litter box, very cheap. Guess what? I’m now the proud owner of a litter box. It’s a start. I’ll get the rest of the necessities, but won’t pick out my fur ball until next month. It’s a big investment — $80.00, but that includes worming, vaccination and spaying. Much cheaper than paying a vet for all that. Even looked up dangerous plants for cats, and now have to figure out how to keep my two peace lilies out of paws’ reach.

So it goes.

Camp Expendable is Published

And about time, too. It took the best part of the day to wrestle Scrivener’s Compile to the ground and fix a couple of problems, then Amazon found misspellings that needed to be corrected (only two of the four were actually misspelled, the others just aren’t part of KDP’s vocabulary.)

Economic and environmental collapse has turned the United States into a nation of refugees. The solution is every conspiracy theorist’s nightmare — internment camps. When Casey Thompson loses his family, his job, and any reason for living, he goes on the drift. Then he’s scooped up to become one of 300 homeless single men locked behind the razor wire of Camp Midway, a repurposed Army base halfway between “somewhere and nowhere.” Even Lieutenant Capra, the young officer in charge of Midway, doesn’t know if their imprisonment will ever end. Only Casey’s friendship with Jake, an old man nearing the end of his own life, is keeping him going. But violence and death stalk the camp and Casey takes more losses. Sooner or later, he must make a decision: accept a life with no hope and no future, or find a way out and make a new life for himself.

Just in case anyone would like to buy, it’s $3.99, and to be found at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MT85TZB

Those identifiers are getting longer and longer, I see.

Now I’m back to Bentham’s Dream and have finally, after I don’t know how many false starts as to POV, settled on first person. A major chance in voice, also. My books are always the better for taking so long to germinate, so this one stands a chance of being closer to my hope for it than any in the past.