Incoming, Or What I’m Planning on Publishing This Year

I’ve got a few projects completed, and I’ve finally sat down and givien myself a timetable for getting them out for the world to see. They’re in need of some edits, but that won’t take me as much time as I sometimes imagine. So here’s what we should see by the time 2021 closes:

  1. Death Riding. I announced that I’d finished this this month. This one will probably be easiest to bring to market, requiring some line edits, maybe an additional scene. I’m putting aside next month to work on it, so I’ll know more very quickly.
  2. The Meditations of Caius Caligulia. This one has been finished for a little while, but I’m nowhere near as satisfied with it as I want to be. It’s going to require some plumping, because I need the ending I’m building towards to be, well, built to. Still, by summer it should be a living thing. As this was a serial in Unnamed Journal, it’s going to be published in conjunction with that, on UJ’s Gumroad.
  3. Drunk Vampire Hunter. A UJ anthology of DVH- short fiction. There are four DVH stories at present, and the fifth will be available in the next issue of UJ, coming in April. So I’m thinking October, with all five stories, plus a bonus.
  4. The Sword. This novel has been sent out to readers, and feedback has been trickling in. Once the first two on the list are in the can, I’m going to sit down and fix some of the issues it has. Publication strategies are still kind of up in the air, but I might put it out into the world by year’s end, depending on where I am with it.

The future cannot be known, so all or none of these could come to fruition. But you cannot work without a plan. A plan incomplete, or adjuest as it goes, is better than no plan at all.

West of the Pecos

Yesterday I finished a project I had all but earlier abandoned. It’s a novella, relatively short, but set in the West. And in some ways it returns me to one of the first protagonists I ever created, in my wild ambitious youth. There will be blood, and cruelty, and hard eyes over hot sands, and the devils that drive men and the angels that hold them will battle in the soul of a gunslinger.

I may or may not use this artwork, but I’ve had it for a while, and I quite like it. My plan is to have it out sometime this year.

Unnamed Journal 25 – Rabbit Gets the Gun

We’ve got Swords, Sorcery, and Pirates in The Skeleton King, codes of cat combat in Catakure, A morning of yogurt and pan-dimensional alien invasions in Ale-Man Blues, and Ghost Raid, a mystical take on a Western standard.

Buy it on our Gumroad to get in .epub or an aesthetic .pdf!

This is an experimental issue of sorts. Skeleton King is a Tygg and Drea story, but I tried some other moves with it, kept the action pretty streamlined. Catakure: Combat is also the return of a series. But with Ale-Man Blues I definitely played around with meta-structure. A bit brain-twisty, according to our art director. Ghost Raid injects fantasy elements into the Western genre, but keeps it pretty grounded by putting the natives at the center. It’s a good start to our new volume.

The Three Tiers of Aesthetics

A long essay, but worth your time, which dovetails nicely with other things I’ve written on the subject. Our Cranky Professor lays out three “approaches” to aesthetics/beauty:

  • The Psychological Approach – In which one experiences beauty as an individuated response to the appearance of a thing. A Flower is Beautiful.
  • The Rational Approach – An understanding that beauty runs parallel to order. A well-ordered thing is a beautiful thing, whether or not you enjoy looking at it. The Human Brain is Beautiful.
  • The Mystical/Spiritual Approach – The idea that Beauty is rooted in the supernatural, as a reflection of a cosmic truth. The Buddah is Beautiful.

These can intersect (there are those prepared to argue that the Psychological Approach is simply the recognition of what is found in the Rational Approach), but what I like is that it covers the multiple meanings found in the word “beautiful”. Recall when I wrote this:

On top of that, the idea of objective aesthetics sounds to many people like “objective enjoyment” and enjoyment is an emotional response to something. You enjoy something. You cannot make yourself enjoy something that you do not, in fact, enjoy. The Star Wars prequels and David Lynch’s Dune are my personal evidence to that.

Originality is Not Art

This issue is handled by Approach Theory. Something can be “rationally beautiful”, while not eliciting a psychological response. A thing can be beautifully constructed, and still boring. This helps me understand what Camille Paglia was blathering about when she praised the end of Revenge of the Sith as a work of profound art.

The Mustafar duel, which took months of rehearsal, with fencing and saber drills conducted by sword master Nick Gillard, was executed by Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor at lightning speed. It is virtuosic dance theater, a taut pas de deux between battling brothers, convulsed by attraction and repulsion. Their thrusts, parries, and slashes are like passages of aggessive speech. It is one of the most passionate scenes ever filmed between two men, with McGregor close to weeping. The personal drama is staged against a physical one: wrangling and wrestling, Anakin and Obi-Wan fall against the control panels of a vast mineral-collection plant, which now starts to malfunction and fall to pieces. As the two men run and leap for their lives, girders, catwalks, and towers melt and collapse into the lava, demonstrating the fragility of civilization confronted with natures brute primal power.

Camille Paglia, GLITTERING IMAGES, pgs. 188-189

Stipulate that George Lucas had all this in mind when he made the scene. Stipulate that Revenge of the Sith is the closest thing to the pony in the pile of turds that is the Prequel Trilogy. It’s still a boring movie to watch, and this scene is only slightly less boring. For one thing, it goes on way too long. For another, the emotions Paglia find in the scene are turned on an off like switches, a problem that abounds throughout theses movies. Suddenly Obi-Wan is in tears, yes, and McGregor does his level best to make it real. But there’s been nothing building to this moment. We haven’t seen Obi-Wans’ face grow in passion. They’ve been staring at each other and fighting for what seems like an hour. I don’t suddenly feel attached to McGregor’s performance. It leaves me cold like everything else in this trilogy does. I understand what Paglia’s saying. I can see truth in her assessment. It doesn’t change my individuated experience of the film one bit, and I’ve watched this scene since I’ve read this book. The prequels are still dull robot-kabuki decanted in a lab.

Thus, adopting an awareness of Approach can go a long way towards settling our various disagreements about aesthetics. It recognizes the subjective and the objective. Read the Whole Thing.

Finally, Some Good News: A Brutal Destruction of the Modern Age by Delicious Tacos

It’s the ending, really. I did not see that ending coming. I should have: it’s on theme. This wasn’t going to be an upbeat ending. That’s not what DT does. Still, though. It was a bit like a mallet to the face. I cannot recommend this book to anyone who has a sunny, cheerful worldview. You will not like it. Also anyone who enjoys daytime television or has a long career of corporate success. You will feel seen.

One does not write a book like this, in which nuclear devestation snaps civilization in two, and celebrates the freedom of it, without having some very real things to say about the post-human tsunami currently riding over us. In the end, Los Angeles suffers nuclear attack not because terrorists want to hurt us (such is always the case), but because our world is too compromised, too absorbed in nonsense, to defend itself. We have branded ourselves to death. Those that pushed us to this precipice: who have rendered every thought, creation, or need into “branded content”, cannot be allowed to have a place in the restoration, such as it is. Civilization must be less civilized if it is to have the animus to survive.

This novel goes forward in a Bukowskian mode, dry and unromantic, finding poetry in the cruelty of life. It is also told in a somewhat non-linear fashion, although things settle down for the third act. Much of its beginning reads very like the slice-of-life tales/lamentations that inhabit The Savage Spear of the Unicorn (which is also worth reading, as its humor is blacker than the bottom of a sewer):

He was eligible for a 401(k). He read up. You can retire comfortably at 65 if you start saving at 23, said Forbes.com. Even with a relatively low yield of 6%. Every 401(k) he’d had earned 1%, lost 2.5% in fees. As for saving at 23: median household pre-tax income is $51,989 per year. Who saves on 40 grand net with a kid. It costs twice that for a school where gas huffing sasquatches don’t commit Rwandan machete genocide. Nobody has money. Nobody gets returns. We’ll all work till we’re dead. Eating shit, having to smile about it.

If I was married– if my wife could work part time. Cover rent. That’d be something. But there aren’t wives now.

Delicious Tacos “Finally Some Good News, Chapter 2

And at first I thought it was going to continue in that vein, more of the “corporate wage slave experiences tfw no gf* in Los Angeles”. A literary Office Space, updated for the new century. But then the bombs drop, and everything stupid and false is wiped away. It’s not a lamentation, it’s a consummation, devoutly to be wished, on the order of Tom Waits’ “Make it Rain.” Society can only get so absurd before it becomes dysgenic, whereupon the Gods of the Copybook Headings get mightily insistent.

The great question I have when reading Taco’s work is why he picked so glaringly obvious a Pseudonym. On the one hand, the ridiculousness of it is a joke itself, an obvious late-night idea thrown off the wall of the mind that somehow stuck. A more believable, more standard nom de plume wouldn’t frame the oevre in the same way. On the other hand, shoving your nose in the realitythat a significant writer, whose work sells well on Amazon, has to hide his identity in order to keep the wolf from the door speaks loud volumes about the world we live in, and who benefits from it.

That ending though. It’s almost too rough to be funny.

*The Feels When no GirlFriend

Ovid, Virgil, and Lucretius Walk Into a Palace…

Back when I first conceived The Meditations of Caius Caligulia, I had a list of books I wanted to read to give me inspiration and background. Writers have to be readers, and I had the broad strokes of what I wanted to do, without the details. Details are key.

So I needed to read, at the very least, Suetonius’ chapter on Caligulia, and I, Claudius by Robert Graves (I was familiar with the BBC miniseries). I wanted to have a go at Camus’ play of Caligulia, because I’d been reading some Camus anyway, and because the “ennui-into-tyranny” line intrigued me.

These were the books that gave me the narrative structure of the project: Who Caligulia was, and why he acted that way. The novella is now finished, or at least, drafted. What does it need now?

I greatly enjoy the voice of the character: how he dances between flights of theophanic fancy and rigorous political meditations. However, I need a certain level of climax for the ending, and to do that, I will have to deep dive into some of the literature current in Little Boots’ time. These are:

  • Ovid’s Love Books. Ovid was a poet of the creeping epicureanism of Rome’s upper class. A kind of window on the Satyricon (which I also might read).
  • Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things. A Hellenized Roman, a philospher of the capital-E Epicurean school. He’s already mentioned in the existing first Chapter, when Caligulia refers to him as “that atomist”
  • The aforementioned Aeneid

I pick all of these because they were current to the time, i.e., the late 1st century BC-early 1st century AD. Caligulia might have actually read them. And they speak to the culture of that time: the dawn of Rome’s Imperial Age and the concomitant cultural syncretism. I need to feed a blend of them into my not-quite-mad emperor, so that he can rise to his fullest. I do not know when I’ll have finished this process, but I’ve already had fun doing it.

Backlist Publishing News: Amazon Price Shift

Word around the internet campfire of authors is that the best place to make money, especially as a self-published author, is to have an extensive backlist. That way, when you have something even mildly successful, people will come back looking for more. As it happens, I have a backlist of self-published works, novellas mostly, but I haven’t had a hit yet, and I haven’t published anything since 2018. I’m going to change that in the new year, but in the meantime, I’m going to make some shifts to my backlist. For one thing, I’ve delisted anything that was a short story. I’ll probably repackage all the short fiction together in one collection. For another, I’ve lowered the price on all e-books to 99 cents.

Whenever I publish anything, I usually get a tiny boomlet of sales. Hopefully with what’s coming in the new year, I’ll be able to get additional sales from like-minded folk.

That means that, as soon as the new prices show up (Amazon says it can take 72 hours, but I’ve never seen it take that long), you’ll be able to get the following books for 99 cents on your Kindles:

I Am Mildly Distracted Right Now, but Also Writing.

As is the most of the country. Not the writing part, but the distracted part. Lots of things are demanding my attention, and the weight of the current political clown show casts a pall over merely creative activities. I would like to take a nap, but I am too angry.

On the plus side, I’ve returned to a project that I had almost shelved, as it features opportunities for eloquent violence. A sad tales best for winter, and now is the winter of our discontent.

It’s a Western, called Death Riding, and it’s merely a novella in a larger tale that may or may not be related to The Sword. Which reminds me, that book needs an editor. And possibly an agent.

The return of Death Riding owes itself to Pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, which is a page-turner of a graphic novel, one worth owning in hardcover. It pays homage not just to Westerns but to the Pulp era, and reminds us that Westerns had a strong pulp following in those days. They could again.

Unnamed Journal Issue 24!

Witness the firepower of this fully-armed and operational story node!

Click here to purchase on Gumroad

It’s a long long issue, and it looks fantastic:

It’s full of cool stories that have to be read to be believed. If you like space opera, demon-slaying, mad emperors, and other such, it’s the issue for you. Click here and Pay What You Like on Gumroad!