Recommended: More Wattpad Goodness

I’ve nearly completed half of my pledge to take a year off from writing fiction, and it’s helped that I’ve been swamped at work, putting in around 60 hours a week at the old open-floor-plan-paradise-prison that passes for the norm in Silicon Valley these days. With a partial clearing in the release schedule, though, I’ve found a bit of time to catch up and hunker down with some of my favorite writers on Wattpad.

@DawnAdrie – Rules of Escape – is a journey into the linked minds of otherwise institutionalized autistic young people. This story is quite original and succeeds very well in shifting perspective among several characters, some of whom are inside, and some of whom are outside the telepathic circle . There are abundant twists and turns and I’m genuinely excited every time a new chapter pops up in my mobile notifications because I never have any idea whose turn it’s going to be or how it’s going to advance the story.

@ShalonSims – The Dreaming: Dark Star Book Five – the next in an exciting and ambitious tale of a world where totalitarian rulers harness the power of dream walkers in a battle of unlikely factions, featuring the old and the young, the innocent and the suspect, the foolish and the wise, the human and the alien. There’s a lot to unpack in this and its related series, all well worth looking in to.

@LaraBlunte – Blame the Devil – she’s at it again. Yet another irresistible page-turner from the unstoppable @LaraBlunte, a writer of such talent and mystique that she even has me reading romance fiction, almost against my will, and enjoying it immensely, because of her great style and perspective. I always say that my favorite feature of reading is how it lets you remotely occupy the mind of another person. It’s always a treat visiting this one.

@MichaelGraeme – The Sea View Cafe – and speaking of treats, Michael is rolling out another instantly hypnotic story of individuals pulled along by their own incomprehensible inner forces. In other words, literature. Michael’s writing always reminds me of the classics, writers like Conrad and James, Thackery and Eliot. He’s a masterful stylist and quietly burrows you deep inside his characters’ souls. His The Price of Being with Sunita is still resonating, months after I finished reading it.

Highly recommended, all.

In a general note, I’ve enjoyed that past few weeks of having my last story, ‘How my Brained Ended up Inside this Box’, featured on Wattpad. It was even on the top row of the app for a few days there and got a bunch of ‘eyes’ looking at it (also thanks to the beautiful new cover someone made for me (I won’t mention their name here so they don’t get besieged with requests!). Another friend recently made some new covers for some of my other stories – what a great treat. I’m so grateful. But what I started out to say was that you have to enjoy these moments as they happen and not try to hang on to them forever. As a bookseller for many years I became accustomed to the rhythms of the business, and the cycles of sales enjoyed by books as they came and went throughout the years. You’d come across gems and want everyone to read them but their time is always limited. Whenever I think of ‘success’ in fiction I think of The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, an excellent writer who had several stories featured famously and one book which had its shining moment in the sun. His own moment, his life, was sadly far too short, ending in suicide. I believe we ought to love our time as best we can, and let the things we do, the things we create, have their own time, detach them from our selves, and let them go. They are not us. We have our own stories to live.

Machine, Learning

For the past 25 years or so I’ve been a human learning to program computers.  It’s been my day job for much of that time. My night jobs have included writing fictions of various stripes.  I’m currently working on one about computers learning to program humans.
It’s a work in progress going on in Wattpad under the working title “Machine, Learning”,  and so far consists of log file entries. The computer is controlling a star seed spaceship carrying colonists to a distant planet decades away.  While the humans lie in stasis in capsules,  encased in a minty fresh goo, two programs,  a main and a backup operating system,  set
out to try and understand their cargo. It’s an adventure for them,  but also for me as i try to apply my experiences in learning about an alien form of being. It’s an experiment that could easily fall flat,  but then that’s true of all attempted art.

Now Playing: Magical Futurism

If only I were a trend setter, a cultural maven, a gate keeper, y’know, one of those people who decide what things are called and everybody goes “hey, we’ll call it that”, then I would declare that the genre-du-jour shall be called “Magical Futurism”. Or at least that’s what I’m calling my own genre. It’s not Magical Realism because of the Realism part. It’s not Science Fiction because of the Science part. It’s not Literary Fiction because of the Literary part, but it’s got magic and it’s got futurism, so there you go.

All this by way of re-introducing “Entropic Quest“, now serializing on Wattpad. I co-authored this story with my son, who was around 8 years old when we began writing it. We would talk every night at bedtime about the characters and the plot and the world we were building, and what was going to happen next, and whenever we had enough to move forward, I would sit down and write that chapter.

It was a wonderful adventure. He was full of crazy ideas and so was I, and they fit together in a crazy Escher-like patchwork of infinite recursion. There is a shit ton of originality in this story, as creative and wild as anything I’ve ever read. We followed up with a pair of sequels that are also really bizarre, but this one, the first one, also holds a depth in parts that remains remarkable.

What happens when people are different, when they are Other from the majority, is one of the Great Problems of the human world, and we did deal with that a bit, along with the sheer madness of the central tale of an epic anti-quest featuring anti-heroes in an anti-task that must by definition fail and fail in a most unexpected fashion.

It’s my own horn I’m tooting here, and also that of my son, and I’m not given to much horn-tooting, but I do believe this one is worth an occasional shout out.

EntropicQuestCover2_bw_large

Recommended: The Price of Being … With Sunita

If only I were capable of giving a fine book the review it richly deserves, I would be doing that right now for ‘The Price of Being .. With Sunita’ by Michael Graeme (on Wattpad from the link above). Like many of Michael’s books, this story is classifiable as sci-fi/fantasy but is also literature in the classic sense. Michael is right there in my mind with the great patient chroniclers of human behavior, a Thackery or Zola for our time.

The novel begins with a very ordinary and even uncomfortable situation – a middle aged man is shyly ogling a beautiful woman. She, we soon discover, is far more than that. She is a being with powers, but far from simply serving as a metaphor or an archetypal goddess, Sunita is a complicated creature whose abilities raise difficult moral issues, the permutations and ramifications of which Michael carefully and thoroughly explores.

If you could do good for others, merely by wishing it, what would be the consequences? In a fabulous turn of wish fulfillment, Sunita is also noticing our poor, bland middle-aged dude, Derek. She believes he also has powers, and wants to train him in the ways. Derek is happy to follow along, he’s a puppy with a heart of gold and as they journey together in ways beyond mere mortals, they come across a series of obstacles, all of which are very much rooted in the present – terrorism, the surveillance state, racial profiling, and the lust of evil men, while at the same time encountering the limits of charity and good will.

Nothing is as easy at it seems, not even for those with magical powers. There is always a cost, a price to be paid, and sometimes the price can be ‘being’ itself.

Michael tells a great story and he writes with style, grace and patience. I was fortunate enough to be able to read the story as he was writing it, serially, eagerly anticipating the next chapter. It is now complete, and I believe he brought it off well. Highly recommended.

When the Spirit Moves

Below is a story I wrote a long time ago – more than thirty years ago! – and I was reminded of it by some trains of thought that have been accelerating and barely keeping on the rails the past few weeks. I’ve been in a post-writum condition since I finished my last story – How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box (which is of course free on Smashwords, Feedbooks, iBookstore etc and now being serialized on Wattpad as well). The competing trains of thought are about how/when/why even write at all. I’ve written so damn much. It’s sometimes tiresome to even think about writing. It feels like repeating myself endlessly. Often in between writing bouts I spend a lot of time making music, and then at a certain point it seems like all the songs sound the same, and there it is again, the endlessly repeating of onself. All songs the song, all stories the story, all fires the fire (to use a Cortazar title as metaphor). What is it, anyway?

Well, at bottom it’s just what I do. I take in information from the world around me (this partial, biased little bubble world that I happen to be and move around in), and process it. It comes out as stories and songs, and some of those are pleasing to me and some of them are not and it’s a cycle, “ceaseless as the tides”.

Last week a gray whale washed up on the beach at the end of the block where I’m living now. We walked down that evening to see it. She was beautifui in her demise, a marvelous formerly living being, and she was rolling in the waves at the high tide, turned and turned about gently by an ocean which seemed to feel pity for her. Beautiful and sad, over and done, lost and gone. The next day she was towed out to sea, to a place where the tides would never return her to shore, according to scientific calculations.

whale

Millions of impressions enter our spheres every day, and sometimes they are strong and compelling images. They make you feel something, deeply, inexpressably. Eventually these impressions help form and shape an output.

If the idea of writing makes me feel tired, the idea of telling a story makes me feel awake. For me there is no such thing as “writing” as a thing-in-itself. There is only telling a story, and when I have a story to tell I tell it. Writing is only the way that is done. It’s the same with songs. It isn’t about playing the guitar or the piano or programming samplers or mixing in effects – those are merely mechanisms, details. What you do is make something, and then there is something, and once it’s there, the details of how it got there no longer matter at all. One might as well have told the story out loud to a recording machine. One might as well have hired an orchestra and a production team. It isn’t about the writing or the playing. It’s about the process – taking what comes in, and making something of it all in the way that only you can do, in the ways that you do it, whatever they are (plug in any kind of creative endeavor here).

Input -> You -> Output

It isn’t a matter of just wanting to and then going out and doing the thing. First the spirit’s gotta move … I only wish it’d tell me where it wants that I should go.

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When the Spirit Moves

It isn’t a matter of just wanting to and then going out and doing the thing. First the spirit’s gotta move. I think it’s just like any other thing in life – a gift. Life is a precious gift for those who have it and for those who wish they did. And if you have an extra special talent, that too is a gift from God, and if you have a gift like this you have no choice. The spirit moves, and then you gotta go. Some people have a nose for business, they make money left and right. Other people gotta nose for many other things besides. I never had a head for figures or for anything like that, but I say money isn’t all there is, there’s other things in life as well as that. That’s by way of saying that I never did it for the money or for any other reason other than the spirit moved and then I hadda go.

You can take your lawyer – you could build a case from that. Your basic lawyer has a nose for arguing and twisting words around so they mean one thing to a person and another to the next. Well maybe you could say it’s all the education and the money that it takes to get to go to law school so that you can be one, that’s by way of saying that your basic everyday person could become a lawyer if they had the education and the money that it takes, and I have heard this argument before, but I say no, it takes a special gift, a gift from God, to do that kind of thing. Now you wonder now and then about the kinds of gifts that God goes giving out, but it isn’t ours to judge a thing like that because He’s God and he knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t.

It’s the same thing with the other skills, like doctoring and baking bread, it takes a gift from God, so they have theirs and I have mine and I have never wanted for a moment to exchange the one I got for any other one. My gift, the one I got, it’s good enough for me, and anyway I’m not the one to judge and neither is there anyone who could. The spirit moves in every kind of way. Sometimes it’s this way, sometimes that, and either way you never know beforehand just which way it’s gonna jump. You have to watch out for the spirit. It’s a pretty tricky thing.

Some people’d say I have an extra sense, a special sense that lets me do the things I do, but I say it is not the case, or yes it is but now quite how they mean it when they say a thing like that. I think my special sense is knowing how to let the spirit move and just being their to follow where it goes. A lot of people, you can see them walking all around, their spirit’s inside kicking, bumping, jumping up and down inside their skins, and they can’t even feel it, even though I do and anyone who could could see it going on in them. I think that’s kind of sad ’cause everybody has a spirit moving in their bodies, and there aren’t that many who can feel it or who even know it’s there.

You want to help these people, point it out to them, but it’s no use, I know, I’ve tried. They look at you like you are nuts or something strange like that. Most people have no special sense of knowing what is going on like that. I’ve read a lot of stuff about the supernatural or whatever they like to call it ’cause they change the names they use for that stuff all the time, and I think there is a grain of truth in what they have to say. Now I don’t know a thing about the hora, but I wouldn’t doubt it’s there. I don’t have a special sense for that but I believe the people who say they do. Why not? It is a gift from God, and there are all kinds of gifts, enough to go around, at least.

I’ve also read the things about the people who have a sense like mine, or kind of like it, anyway, but I don’t think they put it into words the way I would. It isn’t like a light goes on inside my head or anything like that. And I don’t start having visions or seeing things at all. It’s more like I just know a thing, it pops into my head, there’s no way I could know it but I do and usually it’s right. I never say “I’m right”, because I know it isn’t me, it’s just the gift inside. And other times some people tell me that I ought to use my gift to help society more often, like the psychics I have read about who are always out there finding bodies in the mud and stuff like that. Frankly I am glad my talent doesn’t tend that way, because it wouldn’t be very pleasant to have these bodies popping up inside your head and knowing where they are and all. In fact I think it would be most unpleasant, and I wouldn’t like to have that happen to me at all.

In any case the matter of helping out society isn’t something I can help. Once or twice, like now, by accident it happens but it isn’t because I wanted it to or made it happen by myself. You never know which way the spirit’s gonna move, and even if you did there is no way you could control it if you wanted to at that. But I don’t let this bother me because I never thought about it all that much, and I’m not sure about the issue anyway. I mean I don’t know what ‘helping society’ really means. Is finding someone’s body such a help? And other things the psychics do don’t seem like such a help to me. I say we will find out about the future soon enough, and really I don’t want to know beforehand ’cause it spoils the surprise. I don’t see the point of even having a future if you’re gonna know about it way before. You might as well just cancel it.

But even if I wanted to I couldn’t do that kind of thing because it’s not the gift I got from God. My gift is nothing great like that. Not that I’m complaining ’cause I’m satisfied with what I got, and anyway it makes no sense to gripe because He knows what He is doing and it must be for the best because He’s God. That’s only common sense. But anyway the spirit moves, like I was saying, and then suddenly I know a thing, it’s right inside my head where really it has no business even being there at all. It can be quite embarrassing because it is like peeping into someone’s brain and that isn’t very polite. If people do not want someone to know what they are thinking, then it’s rude to know. But then I do not tell them that I know and then it’s not so bad because they’re not embarrassed only I am but that’s just the gift and I cannot complain. I turn all red in the face sometimes, but nobody knows why. Not even my husband. Oh he knows I have the gift all right but I would never tell him any particulars unless it was important, or maybe funny. Sometimes it is very funny what is going on inside somebody’s brain.

In the matter of what happened this time I can only say that suddenly the spirit moved and then I knew and I had to tell my husband then because it was a matter of importance. The rest was what he did, and he was the hero really ’cause I didn’t do a thing besides just know and tell him what it was. If it was up to me I would have walked the other way because I do not like to get involved in something God is doing. I mean it’s other people’s lives and I have got no business sticking my nose in. Even if it means that someone will get hurt, because I’m not the one to judge and really know one is but God and He knows what He’s doing. It wasn’t a matter of conscience, though. I didn’t have time to think. I just blurted out to Joe – that’s my husband, Joe – that this man was going to hurt this other man in just about two minutes unless something happened quick, and then Joe jumped in the way and he kept the thing from happening.

It was pretty strange, because I knew that it would happen but it didn’t because I knew and then told Joe and he’s the one who made it not happen after all, so I wondered how come I knew it when it didn’t happen after all. Do you see what I mean? I’m still a bit confused about all that, and I don’t know what my policy will be from now on in the future. I always kept my nose clean out of it, no matter what it was I knew, because I had this policy which is based on my religion, and I am a very religious person, by the way. It seems to me that God knows what he’s doing so I shouldn’t stick my nose in business He’s attending to, but now I have to wonder if maybe I am part of it because of this gift that I have, and since I know the thing than I’m supposed to do something about it, and my own participation is a part of what God’s trying to do.

You see why I’m confused. Now I have to wonder if I’ve been messing up God’s plans for all this time since I have had the gift and wasn’t really using it to ‘help society’, or whatever you want to call it. Maybe I was supposed to stick my nose in all along, and since I didn’t than things got all messed up, and who knows how much trouble I’ve caused to God. I think He ought to have told me what he wanted me to do. He couldn’t just leave it up to me, ’cause who am I to judge? I’m not anyone at all. So half of it is that I’m kind of mad at God right now, and on the other hand Joe says I should be proud because I saved that man from being damaged by the other man, but maybe the man deserved it, don’t you see? Maybe the other man was in the right and not the one Joe saved. Well, I don’t know a thing. It seems the more I think about it the more I get confused, so I just want to stop. But then I can’t. The spirit moved and then you gotta go. You don’t have any choice. I only wish it’d tell me where it wants that I should go.

Recommended: More good stuff on Wattpad

I’ve been reading some more good stuff on Wattpad lately, and wanted to share my good fortue, highlighting some that I haven’t before.

@LaraBlunte is really, really good. I’ve been enjoying The Lazy Traveler out of order, but that’s okay with these often hilarious, always interesting travel adventures. I also recommend her fiction, including Love and Blame and the Devil.

@ShalonSims has a new serial going called The Dreaming, a sci-fi epic-in-the-works featuring a sweetheart of a child alien, a mysterious old tome and a lot more to come.

@PHWhittlesea, poet and musician, has begun a serial called Loreless, which is already off to a great start.

@MichaelGraeme’s “The Price of Being with Sunita”, if I’ve mentioned it before I have to again because it’s just so original and intriguing.

@ironymaster Welcome to Myopia begins with the youth who has an unusual goal in life, and is full of surprises.

Wattpad Weekly

Wanted to give a little shout out to some more of my favorite writers on #Wattpad:

@MichaelGraeme, first discovered on Feedbooks but I’m happy to see him sharing some of his great work here

@TipsyLit, the wonderful Ericka Clay

@wizzobravo, storyteller extraordinaire

I’ve also become engrossed in the Encante Trilogy by @CocoNichole and My Camino, a sweet travelogue by @AntoninosNatalis