Update: Reading, Writing & The Deathless Home Improvement Project

So, here we are again!

Reading: Reading Lord of the World aloud to the family intermittently. Around 40% of the way through. This will mark the third or maybe fourth time I’ve read it, it keeps getting better, in the sense of more terrifyingly accurate. (my emphasis)

But what was chiefly to be feared was the positive influence of Humanitarianism: it was coming, like the kingdom of God, with power; it was crushing the imaginative and the romantic, it was assuming rather than asserting its own truth;it was smothering with bolsters instead of wounding and stimulating with steel or controversy. It seemed to be forcing its way, almost objectively, into the inner world. Persons who had scarcely heard its name were professing its tenets; priests absorbed it, as they absorbed God in Communion—he mentioned the names of the recent apostates—children drank it in like Christianity itself. The soul “naturally Christian” seemed to be becoming “the soul naturally infidel.”

Persecution, cried the priest, was to be welcomed like salvation, prayed for, and grasped; but he feared that the authorities were too shrewd, and knew the antidote and the poison apart. There might be individual martyrdoms—in fact there would be, and very many—but they would be in spite of secular government, not because of it. Finally, he expected, Humanitarianism would presently put on the dress of liturgy and sacrifice, and when that was done, the Church’s cause, unless God intervened, would be over.

One is not allowed to question the assumptions of modernity; one’s character is up for assassination; if one is important enough, one is shouted down, de-platformed, shadow-banned. For now.

Also for now, we little fish are safe, we are only slandered in general as part of a general mob of untouchables who are not to be heard. We will see what tomorrow will bring. Could go either way, with either enough high profile celebrities defecting from the hate mobs to reveal the emperor’s nakedness, or perhaps those driving the mobs manage to put the hammer down and punish all badthink. We will see.

Also still reading Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. With these Marxists (and, despite protestation to the contrary, he uses utterly Marxist reasoning, so, quacks like a duck) you must read to the end, in my experience. Even the more mainstream Marxists usually can’t resist the call for blood, but follow a standard propaganda method format. Lead with pity and woe at all the injustice, followed by telling us how we get past the current oppressive regimes (spoiler: by radicalizing everything and everyone), how great it will be once we’re in charge, and save the wrong have no rights and will need to be exterminated part for the end.  Polanyi did lead with woe and oppression, and followed with how it’s all the capitalist’s fault – so, again, we’ll see.

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A photograph intended to enhance your blog reading experience. All symbolical and everything.

Writing: Last week was bad. Only got in about 10 hours of writing. The middle of the week was completely unproductive. Wednesday, had a phone job interview. It was also our late son Andrew’s 27th birthday. He died just short of his 21st. Good intentions weren’t enough to get me through.

On the positive side, just sent out the draft of The White Handled Blade to a couple beta readers, and am waiting to hear back from a couple more before shipping it off. Here’s your chance to read a YA Arthurian story set in modern day Wales. If that’s your thing. It really isn’t mine – at least, I thought it wasn’t – but ended having a lot of fun writing it. Mostly because I threw in the small but not light kitchen sink of everything I found out about Arthurian Wales. Lots of hard to pronounce words.

The plan for this week includes:

  • Finishing up It Will Work, a sort of comedy of manners with nanotech, space aliens and explosions. I kid. A little. About 85% done, I reckon.
  • Final pass revisions on Rock, and starting the rejection letter collection process.
  • Working more on either The Measure of Our Days, a story that’s either close to being done or in drastic need of extensive rewrite, I can’t yet tell which, or Line of Sight, a new story from my ideas list I wrote a few hundred words on, or – something else. Questions with Line of Sight is: can I live up to the setup? Can Flannery O’Conner’s basic approach be applied to Military SciFi? Stay tuned!

Finally, the current Home Improvement Project has inched forward. Running into more engineering issues than anticipated attaching a wrought iron (style) fence to a brick wall. But I’ve at least gotten to the point where that’s an issue!

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Update: Week 2 of the Writing/Job Hunt Project.

(I’ll ease up on these updates, which it’s hard to imagine many people find very interesting except, perhaps, as cautionary tales, once I get it more in a grove and whatever feeble novelty wears off. Do have a couple book reviews to do…) 

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Not remotely like this. 
  • First week of The Plan: got one story – the White Handled Blade – finished, read it aloud to the family, revised in response to their criticisms, now need to contact existing/find some additional beta readers. So: if you’ve already said you’ll beta read additional stories for me, expect emails; if you haven’t and want to read this (YA Arthurian fantasy), please contact me using the email under the ‘About’ page here.
  • Also, as mentioned before, did revisions to Rock based on beta reader’s feedback, for which I will always be grateful. I’ve decided to let it sit for a bit, maybe until the end of this week, and take one more pass at tightening it up in response to some recommended changes/clarifications I couldn’t quite figure out how to work in the first pass. After that, it’s done. Next will be finding possible markets, which is proving to be a daunting task – I only know maybe three SF&F magazines personally – Asimov’s, Analog, Sci Fi & Fantasy – and that largely from the distant past when I used to read the dead tree editions. Rock doesn’t seem right for them to me (I have other stories/ideas that would be better fits IMO, but I got to write them/finish them first).  People have helpfully compiled lists of markets on the internet. You want a time sink? Try checking out SF&F/YA markets you’ve never heard of. The only real way to get a feel is to read the stuff they publish. That can take a while.
  • Now working on It Will Work, the flash fiction exercise that grew into a 6-7,000 word short story. Because it began as flash fiction in seven parts, I was shooting for a shocking twist and cliffhanger in each section. Do that seven times, and you got yourself a whole lot of plot to tie together. Lots of fun. Will end up about twice as long as the sum of the sections that have appeared here.
  • Phone interview for London job Wednesday morning 7:00 a.m. Should be interesting.
  • Getting so close on finishing the next phase of brickwork out front. Will post pictures.
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More like this.

Here’s one amateur’s experience trying to be disciplined, writing every day for at least a few hours. It’s fun, so far, since I’m not on a deadline nor needing to sell stuff to put bread on the table. I’m aware that makes me the worst kind of dilettante.  But that’s where I’m at for now.

Over 6 writing days, only had to really force myself to work on stuff a couple times. Mostly, the 4-5 hours fly by. Of course, at this point, there’s a lot of just finding and organizing stuff accumulated over the years in various formats and on google drives under various email addresses. It’s writing time, sort of, since I need to find what I’ve got in order to work on it. That should be over soon. So I might get a job offer I like and that will push me back into having a couple hours a day, tops. Or I might not. We’ll see.

Rock has gotten to the point where I’m thoroughly bored with it (it will pass, I think). It only really has two characters and it’s short, so there’s not a lot thickness to them. It’s a piece of fluff, frankly. Shooting for making it at least a good piece of fluff. But, hey, at the very least it was a good exercise. Now to collect some rejection slips for it! Woohoo!

The White Handled Blade I like a lot, much more fun with the characters and their arcs. The main character is, I think, likable and sympathetic. There’s a clown car’s worth of secondary characters, which it was fun to try to make interesting and different in a few lines. Seems OK. Let’s see how much I like it once some readers have beat it up a little…

It Will Work is likewise a blast so far, despite having only two maybe three characters with much screen time. While I try to keep the action coming, I’ve also laid and set off a number of emotional landmines. This is important practice, at the very least, as the Nameless Novel will need a lot of that action – I’ve outlined a lot of  very complex and emotion-charged relationships that need to unspool satisfactorily over time for the novel to work. So, as of this morning, I’m loving It Will Work. Beats the alternatives.

Hope to finish it this week. Then will be faced with the choice of trying to knock off a couple more half-finished and half-baked stories, picking a new one to try off the Story Ideas list,  working on the novel, or starting in on the education history book.

We’ll see how that goes.

 

Day 2: The Writing Update

Day 2 of the Plan. Day 1, I did get the hours in on ‘writing’ although what that really entailed was getting everything straightened out on my desk (funny how much crap can accumulate on a flat surface if you don’t use it for its intended purpose for 10 months!). So no actual time spent on the book/stories except in getting the files organized (and located!).

Also got one job application out – heard back in just over 12 hours, setting up a phone interview (the job is in London). So – who knows? I could be an ex-pat writing in old Roman Londinium between doing my part to finance equipment internationally. Maybe. We’ll see.

And am feeling well. What do you know? Praise God through Mary, Joseph and the angels.

Today, cleaning up more old business. You guys are the best. Just finished responding to the beta readers for the story Rock – only 4 months later! In my defense, those were some pretty hairy months. I’m humbled and grateful for the feedback & encouragement. A couple of you did very detailed reading and commenting – wow, just for some schmuck on the internet’s beginner’s story. Very generous of you.

Several themes recurred: the opening is unclear/too slow/not informative enough about what’s going on. Fair enough. Will correct. A couple continuity errors cropped up – thanks.

In general, the plan is to spend the remaining hours today making a couple structural changes and tightening it up a little. Then, scan through the markets and send it off to somebody. Thanks again!

Next up, I think I’ll try to finish the YA Arthurian story The White Handled Blade because it’s close, then impose on the good natures of my current (and any future) beta readers.

And lay some bricks out front. Current status of that misadventure:

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Facing North. Impressive weed there at 5:00 o’clock.
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Facing South.

22 year old son in from TAC for a couple weeks did the excavation along the curb (hard on me ‘ol back!) so now I just need a couple hours on my hands and knees to take the little walk out past this segment of planter. Then can start in on the little columns at the ends which will support the iron fence. Really down to the more or less fun, less back-breaking part of the job. Then do it all again for the identical, symmetrical planter on the south end…

Finally, did finish that book on r/K selection (micro review: Um, not convinced) and made further progress with Polanyi’s Great Transformation (micro: there better be serious time off in Purgatory for reading these Marxist goobers) and do want (and in fact, have started) to write posts/reviews of them.

But for now, I got stuff to do! And I feel good enough to do it! Wheeee!

 

The Plan…

Attended a nice couple’s retreat this weekend amid the redwoods near Santa Cruz. Prayed a lot with my wife. Tried to get my head clear. After largely disappearing from this blog for most of the last couple months as we tried to sort out this whole health/unemployment thing, here, with my beloved’s blessing of course, is the plan:

For the next 2 weeks and for as long as I can keep productive thereafter, I will spend 5 hours per day 5 days a week researching and writing; at least one hour job searching, and one hour on household maintenance/repairs/cleaning.

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Slav coal miner. Hole in the ground? You were lucky!

This should help me stay sane. The two weeks is just to see if I can really keep up the writing. If so, I’ll keep it up as long as I can. If I turn up a job that sounds right, then that will happen. If not, hey, lots of delayed maintenance, cleaning and paperwork will happen. Financially, I can keep this up for maybe a year or two. The effect will merely be that retirement (if any) gets pushed back a year or two.

If I can’t do it, reallocate time to the job hunt.

 

As far as writing goes, there’s this book about Catholic education in America I need to write, which will require many hours of reading & research. Some of the stuff I need to research is really depressing, with not only war on the Church by secular powers, but war both between and among bishops, priests and laity, ever more inventive in form and with ever more subtle and disastrous results. I’ve stopped reading in the middle of books more than once.

So, when that education reading & writing gets too heavy, I’ve got half a dozen stories more or less complete:

  • The White Handled Blade, a sort of YA Arthurian story. I’ve read excerpts to the kids, who felt seriously cheated by the lack of an ending (big fight scene, denouement). So finish it, clean it up, and ? Who published such things?
  • It Will Work, the flash fiction that mutated into a story right here on this blog. Only about 1/2 through. It’s been very easy to write so far…
  • Biosphere, a Darwin/Machiavelli mash-up in which a disposed prince is exiled to a planet made of living mashed potatoes. No, really, it kinda works. I’ve already written this story 3 times over the last couple decades. This time, for sure.
  • The Measure of Our Days, an astronomical thriller that just isn’t quite thrilling enough. Shooting for Vance, not quite making it. This is either almost done or in need of a serious rewrite. I don’t know which. 
  • Rock, a story for which, months ago before health and work concerned proved too enervating, I asked for beta readers on. I will get back to you all, I promise! (Ya know, I’m obsessed with nano-machines at the moment. Mech, not so much – invisibly tiny & deadly beats huge, easy to target and deadly…)
  • Threader, a space western of sorts, wherein our hero has got to lasso him one last good ‘stroid or he’ll loose his ship and his girl and maybe his life… All but done…
  • Seed Music, a love story/commentary on modern art & education set, among other places, on an ice ball moon. Which is more hospitable than the university back on the colony…

Then, there’s always the Novel Which Up To This Point Has Not Be Named, for which I’ve got to come up with a working title sooner or later. What if the Medici, Henry Ford’s extended family, and Thomas More’s family were stuck together on a colonization spaceship with a bunch of techies and moderns for a couple-three generations? What could possibly go wrong?

I published a rough draft of an early chapter here.

n preparation for this great endeavor, I kind of cleaned and organized my desk:

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Make it so! With Our Mother of Perpetual Help’s help.
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Not sure who this little guy is, but he got the right attitude.
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Front and center. Three is impossible at this point…
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Cleaning up, found this exercise by my late oldest son Andrew, from when I gave the kids a few drawing lessons. Clearly, I’ve inflicted my Hegel obsession on my innocent kids. Taped it to the wall. Hegel gets to watch me write completely unflattering things about Hegel.

Flash Fiction: CH 7

CH 1   CH 2   CH 3   CH 4   CH 5   CH 6

(One last installment before taking this private-ish, since I’m not getting to anything else…)

The alien me looked at me, his look of surprise no doubt mirroring exactly my own. He soon dropped his eyes and looked at himself, raising and slowly rotating his arms and  opening and closing his hands.

“They would not understand.” The team was talking, with an odd note of talking to itself.

Alien me started checking out the equipment, jumping up and down, doing a couple deep knee bends.

“After we infiltrated, we were able to convince the aliens that we were what they consider a similar life form.” Alien me was bending in ways that made me uncomfortable. “They viewed you, however, as raw material.”

Now alien me was stretching and bending in a simply impossible manner. I winced sympathetically at what had to be broken bones. The sort of startled expression never left its face.

“So we had to tell them about you, so they would believe us that you, too, were not a mere resource to be exploited.”

Alien me finally stopped its contortion routine, and returned to a standing posture normal for a human.

I relaxed a little. “It clearly saw me. It saw enough to understand I am intelligent.” I had been under a lot of stress, to put it mildly, and such things should not be possible, but I thought I heard a suppressed guffaw in the team’s voice.

“We have much more information about you, Commander, than that. We had access to all the files collected when Command put you back together physically and mentally before we joined you. We used that information along with our own findings over the previous 6 months to disassemble and reassemble you when you were being destroyed in the tunnel.”

The alien me began to change, elongating to about 3 meters high. Still standing atop the sand dune, the form became what a human would identify as feminine, with long yellow-blonde hair hanging to the ground.

“We had to share that information to keep them from destroying you.”

The new alien form began to repeat the routine, examining herself slowly, rotating her very human like arms and closing and opening her 6-fingered hands.

“So, you convinced them that I am a high enough life form to spare? Thanks. What do we do now? Arrange a cultural exchange?”

There was a note of – sorrow? pity? in the team’s reply. “We made them understand that you were not separable from us, and that we were unwilling to lose you.”

The alien woman was looking at her hands. She slowly brought them up to her face. She began to weep.

“When we disassembled and reassembled you, for a time we became the substrate for your consciousness. We did not mean to intrude, but we had no choice if we were to save you. In some ways, we now know you better than you know yourself.”

The alien woman had fallen to her knees on the sand, hands still over her eyes, still weeping. I could see her body move with each sob.

“We let them feel – our emotions. Your emotions. How you wanted to live, but were willing to die.”

She sat on her heels, her long yellow hair veiling her and swirling about on the sand.

“The aliens understood. They remembered. And they disassembled their form.”

The woman fell to the ground, still wracked by sobs.

“They felt remorse.”

 

Writing Update 6/15/2018

First off, again, thanks so much to my beta readers. I think I’ll have time this weekend to read and respond. I am so grateful for each of you taking the time to read and comment.

I will revise the Rock, and see what possible venues there may be for it, and suck it up and send it out. So far, I only have 1 rejection letter in my collection. That will not do!

Then I’ll pick out another story, and send  it out, if you all are game.

Image result for classic 50s sci fiNext, the flash fiction has now stopped being flash fiction, in the sense that instead of each ‘chapter’ merely being me answering the question: what happens next? I’ve started to think out 3-4 chapters ahead. (If you think there have been plot twists so far, ha! You ain’t seen nothing yet!). Since I’m setting up an epic ending in my head at least, I’d maybe better just write the thing as a story instead of doling it out as faux flash fiction….

OK? I’d be very flattered if anyone was disappointed…. If I go this route, I’ll do my best to finish the story and make it available to anyone who want to be a beta reader.

Finally, I’m actually considering, or perhaps more accurately, fantasizing about, taking 6 months off in order to write the long-imagined book on American Catholic Education. But I’m 60, and there’s hardly a guarantee I’d be able to find an appropriate job in 6 months if I did so. I – we, really, this is a family decision – am still half a decade at least away from being able to retire with any security. If I did this, I’d need all the things I currently lack: discipline, focus, rigor, emotional toughness.

If you’re the praying type, I’d appreciate your prayers on this.

 

Flash Fiction: CH 6

CH 1   CH 2   CH 3   CH 4   CH 5

The leading edge of the wave that was the blob broke against the wall behind which was the room sheltering me. I was still looking at the scene from the view the team provided me, above and outside. Not sure how the team was doing it. Did they send a contingent, configured as a drone, just to provide me a suitable view? Not likely. More likely, they’d assembled a perspective they thought I could deal with from the mass of data millions of units provided, even though none of them actually held that perspective. They’re trying to tell me the truth through a visual story that’s technically a lie. The team probably doesn’t see it that way. Yet another philosophical discussion for later.

Suddenly, I was dropped back into my own head, and found myself in darkness, curled up against a wall behind the barrier the team had thrown up. I felt a shock through the barrier, a rumble through the floor and heard a swirling sound, like sand and water tossed by a big wave.

Some finger of the wave that had been the alien blob had entered the hole and filled the room. After a moment, I could hear the motion calm, then a sound like the sea withdrawing from the beach. After a few seconds of silence, the team disassembled the barrier. I was able to stand and walk back to the opening outside.

Twilight had come. In the gloam I could see faint blue light forming ribbons which weaved their way slowly toward me. The vast floor of the ruins was buried under what looked like sickly yellow sand. Dim blue dots were scattered across the dune. Some moved to join the ribbons, but some blinked out.

dune 2

 

The river of blue stopped about 10 meters from me, and formed itself into a mass about the size of a jet pack. After a minute more, no more ribbons formed. Any blue lights remaining on the dune blinked out.

The darkness defeated my unaided eyes. The visor enhanced the failing light. The team, or whatever part of it made up that meter-tall mass, faded from blue into gray.

“We apologize, Commander.”

“For what?”

“When we tried to communicate with the aliens, we could not make them understand why we needed to live.”

“So – you’re sorry you killed them?” Man, in 6 months of training, we never got this deep. I was hoping the team was OK, just having a little moment.

“We didn’t kill them.”

I spread my arms, gesturing at the massive pile of yellow sand. I shrugged, and gestured again, palms to the sky.

And froze. A faint yellow glow lit the middle of the pile. As I watched, yellow threads arose from the sand, intertwined, and formed a shape. A human shape. A familiar human shape.

Me.

“We are sorry. We had to tell them about you.”