Monday, 5 December 2011

Moving day cometh

As I come ever closer to moving back to America, I've been struggling for inspiration. The past few days, I've spent some time on The White Room, trashing two scenes completely and adding another from Rebecca's POV that paraphrases (a little bit) the missing action. I'm still wondering if I should miss it altogether. There are a couple exchanges in the missing scene that I need, and I'm not sure how to bring it back in the new context.

I would really rather write something new, but I've got two novels that need rewrites and loads of unfinished work. I'd also like to write and send out some new short stories, but that will have to wait.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

On Being Mortal

Life sucks sometimes,
dreaming, planning your future,
but it doesn’t work.
It’s not so easy.

You can’t have your cake,
much less eat it.
There is always something in the way,
or someone.

Grand designs die with a whimper.
You do what you can
with what you were given –
not much.

My lottery tickets never win,
the numbers never come up.
I have to work for it all now,
but I’ve grown lazy.

I wish I’d laid a foundation,
shook the right hands,
greased the right palms,
slept with the right ... men.

That was a hurdle too high for me;
my switch-hitting is limited to baseball.
Maybe I’d be famous now,
in certain circles.

If I’d practised hard,
where would I be now?
It’s prostitution
to get what you want.

I played safe, conventional;
no chances, me – play by the rules.
Don’t hurt, don’t get hurt.
Someone always does.

They say you are as old as you feel,
but who are they?
Young or blessed with a silver spoon.
Where are they?

I have things to be thankful for,
I know, but the tunnel is getting blacker.
I’m starting over
with no light at the end.

Yet I don’t give up,
it’s all still to play for;
I won’t have time to enjoy the prize,
if I ever win.

Grease those flaccid palms,
buy the ticket,
sleep with ...
no, still not that.

I’m still playing safe,
playing the long game,
but how long is that?
Not long enough.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Times, they are a-changin'

Isn't is sad when your largest referrer is a Russian bot? I haven't been that prolific as a blogger lately and it shows.

Things are changing. We are moving to Syracuse in January and I've been busy packing things up to ship out before the end of October. We'll have to be ready to teach and work as soon as possible when we arrive, so all our stuff has to be there.

That means that I have had to go through all the old computer equipment I've had sitting around, and decide what is usable and chuck out the rest. Of course, there is all the old nostalgia attached, like putting my first "super-computer" back together. "Super" meaning an Athlon 1333 RAID with as much RAM as I can cram into it. I'll need to use it for Score and then throw it out or sell it in December ... or possibly give it away.

It's almost like giving away your first born. I mean, it's old news now, and it can't even run Windows 7, but there is a certain bond that I have to break. A harder break will come when we take our first computer to the tip. It's a US MacPlus from 1987. JD and I gave it to each other as an engagement present instead of a ring. It seemed much more useful at the time. The keyboard is missing a key and the box hasn't even been turned on in at least a decade. It's useless, but it will be sad to see it go. Two more Macs are going, too. Our Powerbook is dead, and our Performa 630 won't run anything recent, and won't even connect to our network, being one of the last AppleTalk Macs. It is the last non-PowerPC Mac. Again, that makes it completely useless, except that it has JD's dissertation on it. Somehow, we need to retrieve it and put it on something that a PC can read, in a format that a PC can understand. (It was written in WriteNow, which I hope has an RTF export. Otherwise, it would probably be better to scan it ... over 1000 pages of heavily formatted text.)

As you might guess, not much writing is happening. Once all our stuff is gone, I might start going with my laptop again. We'll see how manic things are.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

More ID Crisis

I've progressed to chapter 5 on this, setting up a conflict between Cherie (who exists in Sam's world) and La-Ra, who appears only in Sam's "dream" world, and in the latest novel he's written.

I haven't had a huge amount of writing time for this, since we are preparing to move house soon, but I'll keep visiting it from time to time.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Identity Crisis

I started working on the second chapter of Identity Crisis today. I've been trying to decide what to work on for some time, and I was at a concert/sound installation today that was all about remembering. Identity Crisis is about forgetting. I'll tell you more later once I sort out the plot.  The first chapter is posted as a short story on the WritersCafe.

I'll tell you more soon. It is probably Sci-Fi/Fantasy.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Discussing projects

Today's question: Do you like to talk about what you write?

 I do. The act of discussion helps me hone my ideas. I may not use all the ideas that I throw out there, like Modern Dance (Jan, Feb 2008), but sometimes in my explanations, I find the spark that helps me through a problem. So please comment and ask questions. I will answer ... and I might even visit your blog (if you have one) and comment there.

Monday, 29 August 2011


(A short story based on a vivid dream. I've had many tornado dreams, but this was unlike any I've ever had.)

I don't know what my visit was meant to accomplish. Out of the blue, I had received an invitation to Alton State University to deliver a keynote lecture on occult influences on fin-de-siècle musicians. Granted, that was my specialist area of study and the subject of my two books, but neither had sold well, even in academic circles. I had never heard of Alton State, a tiny university in up-state New York. Neither had I heard of the NASAS, the North American Society of Alternative Spirituality who was putting on a conference on Post-Christian Spirituality in Art.

The topic made two false assumptions: 1) that we were in a phase that was inherently post-Christian, and 2) that the spirituality that artists had turned to were created after Christianity. Neither in my view were true. The premises of my books were that late in any century or spanning the turn of the centuries, artists and musicians turned towards alternative spirituality as inspiration for their art, for example, Mozart with Freemasonry or Zoroastrianism and Debussy with Rosicrucianism. Certainly, one finds Christianity at the heart of both Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism, as well as the Templars and other secret Christian societies, but in addition to Zoroastrianism, there was also Theosophy and modern Wicca, only the former of which might be considered post-Christian.

My personal history with Wicca was checkered. A brief trawl of the Internet revealed the likely source of the invitation to speak: Paloma Laird. When I first knew her, of course, she was known as Mary Laird, daughter of a Methodist Minister. She was the love of my life, but our timing was all wrong. By the time I had broken up with Kendra O'Flanagan, Mary had started up with some football player. Sometimes I thought she spent more time with me than she did with him, although Mary waxed poetically on how much time she spent in his bed.

My interest at the time was already drifting towards the occult in art, and that drew me to a neophyte Wiccan priest – a friend of a friend, and co-resident in my dormitory. He invited me to view a full moon ritual, but in the end couldn't attend himself. Having confided my fear of attending alone, Mary offered to accompany me. When the priestess explained that she normally presided in her circles nude, Mary was the first to offer to remove her own cloths.

The ritual performed little magic, just healing spells and some basic divination. It was nothing to write home about, but Mary was hooked, and I was hooked on Mary's body – well, Mary in general. At the next full moon, we were invited back, but remained clothed, since there were other visitors present. Along with the disappointment in not seeing Mary's naked body again, the circle also failed to impress. The priestess, to me, seemed too wide-eyed and fanatic, worshiping with the same fake zeal that some of my Christian friends exhibited, the same ones who professed to be “Born Again” while at the same time taking drugs, drinking heavily, and sleeping around.

A month later, another circle (again clothed), and Mary told me she wished to be called Paloma from then on. At the time, she retained the name Mary in public, but she wanted me to call her Paloma. She thought that the name drew her closer to nature, and it proved a precursor to her Wiccan indoctrination. Perhaps too tied to my Catholic upbringing, I couldn't fall in line with her. Her boyfriend, for his part, knew nothing about it. In the next circle, Paloma made her intentions clear as well as her notion to take me with her on that journey, resulting in a candle spell cast for us.

As we burned the candle together the next night, we made love in my dorm room. I loved her with my whole heart, but her new-found sexual freedom, along with her reluctance to leave her boyfriend scared me. I lost my trust for her that night, and we soon parted ways.

Until now.

That was the point where our lives short circuited. I went on to become a noted scholar in the occult, although still a practicing Catholic (some habits die hard), while she found a post teaching comparative religion at Alton State. I knew nothing about her personal life, except that she had married and soon divorced the football player without issue. She was also a member of NASAS, an acronym not to be confused with the space agency, although many of its members could easily be considered “out there,” judging by the other papers to be read at the conference.

Oddly, I was offered a room in the same dormitory that Paloma lived in with another female member of staff. I would have thought that a professor earned enough to live off-campus in a house or apartment as I did back in Illinois.

Soon, I learned the reason why, as she invited me over to dinner and spent over a half hour just slicing what was a perfect ball of bread. She had become remarkably thin, and if the dinner ritual was the same every meal, she couldn't have eaten much. Her suite was antiseptic, revealing no traces of her craft or spiritual bent. Our meal consisted only of the bread and a simple soup from a can. She had become seriously OCD, a man's disorder, and I found it sad, as she had been one of the brightest people I knew. Nevertheless, she had reawakened the yearning for her that I had spent years trying to forget, never entirely successfully. I had always been attracted to thin women, and her short-cropped hair remained remarkably devoid of gray. Her eyes, formerly wild and intense, had become an ordinary brown and languid, as if nothing penetrated them, the look of a psychotic in a medication thrall. I couldn't wait to return to the safety of my room, only to battle dreams of her all night.

Having decided not to challenge the premise of the conference, my keynote was well received and followed by several statements touting the questioners' own research rather than challenging or questioning mine. Most of the papers the rest of the day were just plain nuts. The conference attracted all sorts of delegates, Agnostics, New Theosophists, Wiccans – the latter had become a fad, people looking for something to worship that was different, to cast spells and battle imaginary demons. I had time for the true followers, but some put on airs, to go with their crystals, beads and sagging breasts. Consequently, there were also a fair number of Christian protesters and hecklers.

After dinner my host, Prof. Asaard Hawkwing, walked with me back towards my room. The sky grew green and angry, hiding the full moon that the conference had been timed with. I had decided to pass on the mass ritual in a nearby park. Hawkwing was an expert on Sioux mythology, and wouldn't attend either. I suspected from his fair skin and blond hair that he didn't have a single Sioux ancestor.

“Do you get tornadoes around here?” I asked, having grown up in “Tornado Alley.” A green sky was bad news.

“At least a couple every day,” he replied. “They are usually quite small, however.”

A small tornado? I had never heard of small tornadoes. Before I could answer, I noticed two perfectly shaped funnels not more than a half mile away, just on the other side of campus. Nobody seemed concerned. “Shouldn't we take cover?” I asked, nervously.

“No. They won't come near if you don't listen to them.”

“Listen to them?”

“If you do, you are doomed,” he explained.

I was going to press him on the matter, but two tiny funnels passed silently between the two buildings ahead of us. These odd phenomena traveled along the ground but didn't reach to the sky. Ignoring them, we walked right past into the building. Having anthropomorphized into vaguely human form, they followed us through its reinforced glass doors down to the hallway towards my room.

A blond woman emerged from a door as we passed by and walked right up to one, which bent and seemed to whisper something into her ear. She smiled, listening intently as she followed it out into the foyer. From Paloma's room, I heard an argument. Her roommate had returned and had left the door open. Hoping to diffuse the situation, I looked in. The roommate was complaining bitterly about their rent bill, which was huge and hadn't been paid. Paloma sat calmly chopping her bread, which seemed much more important to her. Frustrated, the roommate stomped out.

I urged Paloma to stop chopping and do something about it. I thought she was taking my advice, as she set her knife down, but instead walked out to the hallway and accosted the other tornado. She, too, smiled and accompanied it into the foyer. At first, I attempted to follow but decided that it was too dangerous, heeding Hawkwing's warning.

Soon, both women returned without their companion tornadoes. I thought they were safe, but I noticed that each wore some kind of gold-threaded garment over their clothes. The blonde stopped by a public telephone, leaning in a corner with a sickly sweet smile on her face. Paloma walked only a few feet further before stopping with her back to the wall, as if awaiting a call.

“They're naked!” a bystander gasped.

In a blink, their clothing had disappeared under the golden raiment, which had grown more like a lace dress. Paloma's former beauty had returned, and I felt compelled to try to snap her out of her spell. Neither woman answered to any entreaties from a rapidly growing crowd. Afraid to touch Paloma, I shouted for her attention, but another gasp distracted me. The golden thread had wrapped itself around the blonde's mouth and eyes. It was only then that either woman betrayed any fear, and the same thing had happened to Paloma when I looked away. The threads grew rapidly to stifle any of her volition, so I reached out to help her.

“They prey on fear and despair!” someone whispered, “Stay away!”

Both women began to fade as the thread spun around them, and soon they, too, had become mini-tornadoes, following the other two outside and away into the night.

“They are empty,” one bystander observed. “Only the despair is left.”

The next morning Hawkwing asked me to deliver Paloma's paper in her absence: Immolation and Spontaneous Combustion in Elemental Magic. That seemed more in tune with the Paloma – no, the Mary Laird that I knew.

While reviewing her paper just before her session was to begin, I read her dedication: To my love. I rebuked him, and he stole the fire from me, leaving only the chilled gale of emptiness.

Hawkwing's introduction included a passage from Mary's diary, which he had found stuffed in his mailbox:

I have nothing left. In all my devotion to the Goddess, I realized I was powerless. I am a child of fire, but it was all blown away on that faithful night. My subsequent study of elemental magic came at a cost, and now it is time for the reckoning. In striving to recover what I was, I lost what I am.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The White Room

I've been uninspired lately, so I've been revisiting The White Room. I originally wrote it in five parts, each in first person from the point-of-view of five different characters. Part two is a heavy action part, and I have never felt comfortable writing it in that style, which is probably why I never finished the book. Part 5 is action, too, so same problem.

I'm rewriting in third person, but I'm changing the focus character in each chapter. These are shorter now, and I'm near the end of the third, which is about half way through the original second chapter. (Each part is about six chapters.) It's slow going, but it allows me to step out of the head of a very self-absorbed character.

I'm also prefacing each chapter with "quotes" from "archive material" written by each character. I've done that in the latest version of The Ark Project to fix various problems, and it seems logical here, too.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Nothing much

I haven't posted in a while. I'm in a deadline panic at work, and that is killing my writing time right now. I've been working on my side projects, and thinking about The White Room a little.

Pretty soon, I'm going to have to write another draft of Mirror, Mirror. The version that I've sent out a couple of places didn't get the response I'd hoped for. They like my writing style, but the "fantasy" element bumps them out of the story. Is it fatally flawed? I don't know.

I need to send out some more work soon.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Martin Luther King

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thanks to Athena for finding this one.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


I just returned from a week in the US - yes, another trip. I was completely unable to find any writing time for a variety of reasons, one of which was BASEBALL. I'm obsessed with baseball, and back in my homeland, I couldn't resist watching one game and part of another, then followed Tuesday night's home game on the Internet. I had almost tried to go to that one, but our flight was on Wednesday, and I didn't want to stay out too late. It would have been a nice one to go to, although I was expecting it to get rained out. It wasn't, and my team won.

Writing. Well, I'm back home and again working on side projects. Namely, my main side project. (Huh?) It's a book that I was intending to try to publish under a pseudonym. The beginning is just a little too much like Mirror, Mirror, but it might be a better story. We'll see. A few people have seen an excerpt from it on under that pseudonym on one of my many forums. I'll wait until I finish to decide. I'm 67,000 words into it.

I need to do something as myself now, perhaps more of The White Room, and another edit of Mirror, Mirror. I also need to work on something new, perhaps a short story, just to keep the creative juices flowing. I should also send some out for publication.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Well, I got an answer on Mirror, Mirror today. That's two agents and two nos. They declined for different reasons. The first didn't think it was Sci-Fi enough for his market, and that I should aim more towards Lit-Fic. He was very positive about my prose and my writing style. The second agent was also complimentary, but was thrown at part 2, when Mark and Miranda swap places, i.e. when it floats into the fantasy realm.

I've had too many good comments to give up on it, but it is definitely frustrating. Probably the next course of action is to go through my YFoW comments and implement them. I need a break from it, though, so stay tuned.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Side projects

I finally finished one of my side projects, a story that has obsessed me for a month or so, but is completely useless and unpublishable. Now I can start getting serious again, but where do I start?

I've been thinking about revisiting The White Room, which was conceived as the first book of The Ark Project. It was about 2/3 through, but it needs a total rewrite. The prequel (The Ark Project) needs some minor reworking, too, so I might work on that a little as well. I need to add a scene or two in the middle. The narrative sags there a little, so I need to pep it up a bit.

The White Room will have to be my main focus until I hear back from an agent about Mirror, Mirror. I may have to fit in some reworking of that, too. There is another side project that will demand some time, at some point, but Mirror, Mirror may dictate what I do with that (top secret) project.

I should also write and submit a few short stories to get my name out there more.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Children, choose your parents wisely

I heard that phrase on the radio this morning. It sounds like something I may use for a short story, so watch this space.

The observant among you may have noticed two things:

1) I have switched to using my real name for this blog. Why? Firstly, I started another blog for my composing and it seemed strange using my writer pen name for my composing blog, especially when I publish most of my writing under my real name anyway. Atlanta Carter is still in action at the, and may even publish some shorts under that name at some point.

2) I've changed the name of this blog slightly. I had to do it because of the name change above. Who is AC? SF's Idea Farm doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Finally, on a number of writers' sites that I frequent, I am constantly told to twitter. I just can't see it right now. I get little enough traffic here (and only one true enlightened follower), so that may have to wait. I haven't a clue what I'd write on it anyway.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The York Festival of Writing

I just spent three days at the York Festival of Writing, where I'm known by my real name, not this pseudonym. Although I had to sneak out to play an orchestra concert (and miss the gala dinner as well as probably the best workshop of the weekend), I found it a well-spent weekend. I met with an agent on Friday and am looking forward to receiving his comments today or tomorrow. There was a mix up on submissions, so he didn't have my materials in advance. He seemed positive about my novel initially (as I described the plot to him), but fear that he may doubt its series potential. I have since come up with some ideas, but I'll wait and see what he says.

I also had a one on one with a "book doctor" for ten minutes yesterday. I dreaded this one, because I was able to get my submission to him. I sat and waited, expecting the worst. He was free the slot before me and I could see that he was reading through it. I felt better when he got to the end and nodded his head. (He didn't know that I could see him.) He seemed excited about the story and generally liked my prose. It was the end of the morning session, so we continued to talk after the slot was finished for probably another ten minutes. I'd heard of so many people being slammed in their one on ones that I can only be grateful that I emerged unscathed.

The workshops were mostly helpful, giving useful advice about approaching agents and publishers, and I was prevailed upon to read the first page of my book aloud in the first session. Again, they were positive, saying that it was "almost there", echoing comments that my wife made when she read through it before I submitted it, as well as those later by the book doctor. Those are minor changes, so I felt pretty good about it.

Now it's back to work for me.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Two in one week, 2057 to be published in March

I just saw a mock up for the cover of the first issue of a new literary magazine/journal. What I liked especially was that it listed one of my shorts. (First, in fact.) I knew they were very interested in the piece, but they hadn't confirmed that they were publishing it.

I'll post it here, since it appears on the front page of their website.

Wulfstan's Literary Tumble

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Gael-huinn is now published on the Absent Willow Review. Here's the link:

And their artwork ...

Do have a read, the more hits it gets, the better my chances of making it into the printed edition.