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Bedraggled Bird

All right, yes, I admit it. This post is little more than an excuse to announce the publication of a new short story. It’s called Windborne, and it is appearing in Strange Fictions Zine, Friday, April 28, 1:30 EST. Oddly precise, I know, but I guess that’s just the way it is with online zines.

It is a little disingenuous of me to call it a new story. Windborne is at least 12 years old. It was the first story I ever wrote, at least since my college days. I never particularly wanted to be a writer, at least not of fiction. Songs were what I wrote, lots of them. I sang them with several rock bands, then by myself, then only for myself. My musical career traced a long and squiggled line, but that line had a decidedly negative slope.

After that, I got married, had some kids, and settled into a life where my only creative impulses were realized in idiosyncratic woodworking projects. And that was fine. If I was experiencing any great lack in my life, I wasn’t aware of it.

Then, one afternoon I was standing on Moonstone Beach. The kids were playing in the water by the big rock. There were a lot of people there. It was windy but warm. I was standing on a flat rock near the runoff. The wind was blowing full in my face, rifling my clothes. It was one of those winds where a sudden gust can jostle you, knock you off stride—almost, if you let your imagination unreel a bit, lift you up off your feet and into the air.

That’s where the story was born. I stood there, buffeted by the sea wind, and wrote the whole thing in my head.

Later that evening, I wrote it out for real. I showed it to my wife. She liked it. I’m fairly sure I didn’t show it to anybody else for a good—oh, I don’t know—maybe six or seven years.

The first time it showed its face in public was on the Book Country website. Some of you remember that site. Writers posted stories or excerpts from novels, and then everybody did critiques and reviews, made suggestions. Mostly people played nice, but not everyone was above getting petty and personal at times. And that was okay too. If you write for public consumption, you have to get used to the idea that not everyone is going to find it wonderful.

Windborne (and yes, I know the title needs a hyphen, but I didn’t like the way it looked) was the first thing I posted, along with several chapters from my then fledgling novel, Flight of the Wren. Wren mostly got ignored, but Windborne inspired a pretty spirited response. Mostly folks liked it, but there were a few who really didn’t. I didn’t save any of the reviews, but I remember the gist of the critical ones:

“What’s the point of this?”

“This seems unfinished. Is there more?”

“Your protagonist has no character development.”

And, of course, everyone’s favorite:

“Show, don’t tell!”

Pretty standard stuff, and not entirely unfair (though the idea that there might be more to the story always mystified me. How could there be?) In truth, Windborne is a slight thing—a brief, troubling dream with a rude awakening. If there’s a character to be studied, it is the character of the crowd (maybe). If there is a point, well, your interpretation is as good as mine. In case anyone wonders, I made no substantial revisions between the Book Country version and the one published today. I might have smoothed a few ruffled feathers here and there, but it’s essentially the same bird.

Anyway, I hope you like it. If nothing else, it might stand as a message of hope. Twelve years isn’t a lifetime in the publishing world, but it’s a fair chunk of time. This tiny winged thing, after riding the winds for what must have seemed like an eternity, finally found a welcoming shore.

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion

Facebook Street Cafe

My first two weeks:
The humanity cascading down my Facebook page needs filtering, of course. I want to learn from other authors. They get invites. **Purged are the space-wasters – haters, fanatics, scammers and whores may have their story but I am not here to write it. Everyone else is appreciated. Well, I occasionally knock off the loudly ignorant, the maudlin, the chanters of feel-good gibberish, a proselytizer or two, even the emotional yo-yos when they don’t know when to stop. Still, I have over 1400 “Friends.” Some are generous authors happy to share what they know while others would kill your mother for a Popsicle if they were hungry.
But what else should one expect from the crowds on Main Street, Earth?

I am not here to sell books. Happy as I am to see the hits jump on my book’s webpage, I came to see today’s authors and the books they are writing. Posting my book is just flashing my badge.
Most authors seem like myself. They like to write, they like being authors, they don’t sell many books but two out of three keeps them writing. Granted, I’m not friended with James Patterson, Steven King or JK Rowlings but I ‘could’ be chatting up a future Rowlings, King or Patterson. That thought keeps me respectful.

Social media, by its nature, skews the sample towards social people and social themes. There are more women authors on Facebook than men authors. Facebook authors are usually outgoing, happy to share books or thoughts on genres, plots, characters, publishing, marketing or any topic related to life as a writer.
I like them. I learn from them.

It’s a humbling experience. So many people who know more about any topic than do I are happy to set me straight. My reference to the War Powers Act was expanded in a reply from a judge who kindly explained why I was right but …not really on target. My comment in another discussion was labeled a “red herring” by someone who knew.

True, some here have unusual kinks in their DNA helix and always remember that you are talking with faceless strangers even when they put a face to the talk. I received a friend request from an active duty soldier. The photo showed a wholesome young woman in US Army uniform at her desk. Her account page said she was born in NYC, currently living in Damascus, Syria. Right.
Y’gotta love Humans.
**Addendum. Note: Do not use the word “purged” or the phrase “knock off.” My use of those elicited a happily rabid response from a fanatic agreeing on the necessity for “culling the rat fuck bastards” who can “be erased with the push of a button on a suicide vest.”
Apparently, word choice can be critical here.

Writing at my desk with Facebook but a click away is like writing while sitting in a sidewalk cafe where one only has to look up to engage people going by. Talking with people having similar interests is a refreshing break. So if you’re a lover of books, please send me a friend request. I’m in front of Ducky Smith’s SciFi Roundtable cafe. I’ll hold a chair for you.
+++– GD Deckard

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About Writers

Bring Me the Head of Philip K. Dick!

AI-Robot -- PKD

http://www.hansonrobotics.com/robot/philip-k-dick-android/ 

…A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne’s theorem that “No man is an island,” but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and moral island is not a man.

Philip K. Dick, “Man, Android and Machine”

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.

—Philip K. Dick

It is amazing that when someone else spouts the nonsense you yourself believe you can readily perceive it as nonsense.  

—PHILIP K. DICK, Valis

This is a mournful discovery:

(1) those who agree with you are insane

(2) those who do not agree with you are in power.

—PHILIP K. DICK, Valis

If you or I ever really accepted the moral responsibility for what we’ve done in our lifetime—we’d drop dead or go mad. Living creatures weren’t made to understand what they do.

—PHILIP K. DICK, Now Wait For Last Year

The appropriate response to reality is to go insane.

—PHILIP K. DICK

………………………………………….

Are you aware that “they” once built an android of Philip K. Dick?

This mechanoid simulacrum was no mere mannequin, robot or cheap A.I. computer program powering a ventriloquist’s dummy but a seemingly sentient creature whose camera eyes focused on your own as you talked. An android so advanced that its eyes would track you if you got up and moved about the room; that listened attentively to your speech, pondered, and then responded in kind. Whose face could display every shade of emotion known to man, and who in turn could read the emotion on your own face.

The android had the corpus of P.K.D.’s works and interviews programmed into its advanced artificial intelligence in order to draw upon this vast repository of Phil Dickian thought to answer questions put to it in near real time. Yet the one question its makers dreaded interviewers asking it above all others was, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” Because if confronted with this particular dystopian sci-fi interrogative Phil would begin to talk . . . and elaborate . . . and baroquely ornament its answer with references drawn from the entire corpus of human knowledge and divers academic/esoteric disciplines (psychology, sociology, philosophy, religion, history, engineering, physics, astronomy, myth, magic and mysticism, et. al.) until infinity—or its makers pulled the plug.

And I do mean infinity. When programmers examined the queued-up data logs compiled from Phil’s prepared response to this question they found themselves marveling with equal parts rueful humor and bemused horror at the discovery that the android was prepared to discourse on this particular subject . . . forever. Literally—forever: until the end of time. The only way they could get faux-P.K.D. to stop talking about androids dreaming of electric sheep was to wipe its memory clean and start over with a different question.

Came the day one of the principals involved in chaperoning the android to a new convention fell asleep on a plane. Upon arrival at the airport this man woke up, grabbed his personal effects and left the aircraft in a groggy state only to belatedly realize that he’d left the android’s head behind.

It was never seen again.

Run, Dick, run.

…………………………………………..

http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/bring-me-the-head-of-philip-k-dick/Content?oid=3191917 

http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/frank-views-archive/philip-k-dicks-final-interview/

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Ill-defined and disreputable?

novella

‘Sir, what’s the German for notice?’ ‘Notiz.’ ‘No tits?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Really, sir? None at all?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You just said, “No tits”, sir. Do mean, like, absolutely flat?’ ‘Any more of that, Bausse, and you’re in detention.’

That this and similar episodes are what spring to mind most readily when I think of German at school may well mean that my mind is as puerile now as it was back then. Nonetheless, by way of association, and with much effort, I recall other details too: the scarred wooden desks, the dingy yellow walls and the hapless features of Mr. Graham, whose life we made such a misery.

Also a book with a pale blue cover, The German Novelle, which presumably I read. Like pretty much everything else I studied at that time, I don’t remember a thing about it, except that the Germans were the first to take the novella form, originally established in Italy, and turn it into something with a specific set of characteristics, different from those of the novel. Notably – and here I turn not to my memory but Wikipedia – it is ‘restricted to a single, suspenseful event, situation, or conflict leading to an unexpected turning point (wendepunkt), provoking a logical but surprising end.’

Importantly, length is not a criterion. A Novelle could run to several hundred pages. But these days, when we use the word novella in English, length seems to be the determining feature. And I must admit that when I set out to write one, what I had in mind was something in the order of 30,000 words. But to reason only in terms of length would be a mistake, and run the risk of validating Carl E. Reed’s apothegm of wince number 69: ‘A novella is a book that ran out of steam.’

Stephen King has called the novella ‘an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic’. This hasn’t prevented him from writing several himself, though he points out the difficulty of selling them in the commercial world, being too long for a magazine and too short for a book. While this may indeed be a drawback, it makes the novella an ideal candidate for self-publishing, where a common strategy is to make it free in order to draw readers in to the rest of a series. This was indeed my reason for writing Closed Circle. I’ve read of that strategy many times – now I aim to test it out myself.

Not for a while, though. Because although I’ve finished a version that might pass muster, I’m not satisfied yet. It needs a good dose of improvement, for which I’ll need to let it simmer subconsciously – or whatever books do when we’re not actually working on them – for a couple of months or so. Basically, I didn’t realise when I embarked on it how hard it would be. All writing, of course, turns out more difficult than the initial vision promises, but I grappled with this one a lot. Not that it ran out of steam, on the contrary – it’s got a bit too much. I need to tighten the valves a bit, fix a gasket or two. It might gain a few thousand words in the process, but that won’t matter. It’ll still be a novella, because strangely enough, without thinking about it, I ended up with something close to the definition in The German Novelle. Maybe I did remember something more than the German for notice after all.

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Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

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Creation to marketing, obsessive-compulsive all the way. 

I’m working through my novella, revising. Except for one or two chapters in the middle, I’d truly thought it finished, except for commas, etc. Now I find my logic in one area less than acceptable. It sounds pretty good if you don’t think too hard, but when I pick it apart I am unhappy with it. I never did feel it was strong enough, and I’ve also thought I could wring a lot more fun out of it. I hadn’t figured out what to do about it until just the other day.

Motivations are what I fixate on: Does this really make sense? It meets a need, but is it essentially bullshit? My bullshit meter, one to ten, tells me certain behaviors as a basis for subsequent doings are about a five. I still like what I have in general, but I love my new idea. I’m going to fold them together. They do not conflict, they work hand-in-glove.

My first question is: Do you ever feel ready? Do you ever stop cramming your back pockets with scribbled sticky notes?

Chapters one to five are done. Six and seven will get the just-dreamt-up stuff plowed in. The remainder (another seven chapters) is, I believe, pretty OK. I have avoided decisions near the end by treating my novella as a cliffhanger: This might happen, it might not. (My characters may only discuss it. They do a lot of discussing.)

The full book will have resolutions to all the speculation. Nonsense that I’ve removed to create a shortie will be restored, and the second half will be completely new. There will be some overlap, most of it in the first quarter, but the novella is meant as a teaser, and will be cheap, perhaps ninety-nine cents, or maybe even a give-away.

Where to publish? Let’s talk about that.

I see ISBNs are pricey unless you buy a block of them. Does anyone have a number to sell? Should we buy a block as a group and share them out?

KindleScout looks interesting. It feels rather like a game to me. Find something great, help it along with a vote in favor. It takes no time, you’re looking at a blurb and a few paragraphs. On Scribophile, however, is a negative review concerning quality of the offerings:

“. . . many of the covers and descriptions are not professional and do nothing to promote the book. One doesn’t even have a picture or a layout, just the title and a sentence describing it. I had to look at it to figure out what was what, which I wouldn’t have done if I weren’t coming back here to comment. Same for the blurb. It’s repetitive, and it’s boring. The sample chapter has no paragraphs and it’s unreadable – spelling, grammar, spaces between sentences.” A few pieces like this would discourage me away real fast.

What are your thoughts on KindleScout/Kindle Select?

Here is the link for an interesting looking post on marketing yourself. I haven’t read it yet, but the response on Scribophile is enthusiastic.

My climb-every-mountain/follow-every-rainbow neuroses may have been counterproductive until now. From here they may be a plus.

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