Obey the Second Law

If you’re one of the faithful half-dozen who takes the time to read these blogs, I should first thank you for enduring my unedited musings and many typos. Thanks!

I wonder, though, what you might think of my productivity.

I often feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I’ll wake up and declare the day has finally come for me to make progress on F is for Float (or whatever half-baked story is sitting on the back burner). Then I read a few articles about cryptocurrency or climate change, solve the NYT daily mini crossword, catch up on some emails, sing Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue off-key while I shower, scavenge lunch from the fridge, go out for a coffee or beer (or both( with Jim, skip my afternoon online writing session, have an evening meal, consider the merits of Jeopardy‘s latest guest host, and fall asleep while I read an audiobook, all without ever touching F is for Float. The reason I often fail to write is that I have no ideas, but I know enough about writing to know that I must write in order to generate ideas. Somehow I’m failing at this most basic aspect of being a writer.

Strangely, as I put together this blog and enumerate everything I’ve written for the past three months, I’m not at a loss for material. I must be writing something. It only feels like I’m idle.

Second Law

Hooray! My critique group’s second self-published anthology, Second Law, is finally available!

Second Law contains Strong Interactions, my story of an outbreak that binds a couple together with the strong nuclear force, the second force of physics.

My fellow group members interpreted the theme in a variety of creative ways that never failed to surprise and impress me. Second Law includes stories by Roswell Award finalist Matthew Cushing and Colorado Author’s League Book Award winner L.V. Ditchkus. I’m proud to be a part of this incredibly talented and inspiring group.

Buy Second Law today, available in all standard book formats. And watch this blog for information about our upcoming holiday-themed flash fiction anthology, available later this year.

Filling the Wastebasket

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.—Isaac Bashevis Singer

Writing is like mining. I have to chip away the tailings to get to the gems. Every version I toss in the tailings pile is one step closer to something I can take a little pride in. Let’s see what I’ve written and tossed recently.

A Joke

I actually wrote a joke. I actually submitted it to Reader’s Digest. I actually can’t share it with you because, if they buy it—for $25!—they own all rights.

F is for Float

No progress to report here, though I’ve probably thought about this short story more than anything else I’ve worked on this quarter. And though a writer friend assures me that thinking is writing too, so far neural activity has not caused pages to magically materialize.

Untitled DNA Editing

Yet more evidence that simply thinking about a story doesn’t increase the word count. Perhaps, though, all the thought I’ve put into gene editing was the genesis behind the following story.

Mutations of the RUDL gene in rangifer tarandus, By Blitzen, et al.

This flash fiction piece (about 500 words) will appear in my critique group’s upcoming holiday-themed science fiction anthology. It’s a parody of a medical research paper, and, as my first attempt at humor, it seems to have been well-received in critique. I’m on about my fourth major revision at this point, hopefully spiraling in on something publishable.

(Expect news about the anthology later this year—it will make a great stocking stuffer!)

The Day After Christmas

When our critique group launched its holiday-themed anthology project, story ideas flooded my brain. I couldn’t write just one. In this short story, Santa and Mrs. Claus confront climate change, each in their own way. Rarely does a story come together in only two drafts, though one paragraph has received so much attention I can practically recite it from memory.

It’s currently under consideration at an online magazine. I’ll keep you posted.

Fish Pond (working title)

When I lived in Louisville, I had a decorative fish pond in my backyard. What would happen, I wondered, if tentacles slithered out of it? Now that I’ve written a pretty rough first draft, I know the answer.

The goal is to submit this to the Dream Foundry writing contest. Wish me all speed; the deadline is October 11.

Dr. Harriet Heartfeld’s Home for Aging AIs

My dad passed away about a year ago, and spent the final months of his life in an assisted living facility. Watching the day-to-day operation provided the seeds of many stories, and this piece was my first attempt at milling that grist. Ive already filled the wastebasket with a couple versions. This project currently idles while I conjure sufficient mojo to generate the next revision.

What I’m Reading

Pretty much everything I read is an audiobook. If I manage to read each evening and stay awake while doing it, I can get through an average 10-hour audiobook a week.

  • Better than fiction 2: true travel adventures from 30 great fiction writers edited by Donald W. George. A collection of true stories by several widely read fiction authors, including Karen Joy Fowler, Dave Eggers, and Aliya Whitely.
  • The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. This biography of Jennifer Doudna’ focuses on her work with CRISPR and its many applications in health and medicine. Isaacson communicates the science in a very readable manner, and fills the story with fascinating characters and rivalries.
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride. A strong character-driven story set in 1960s Brooklyn involving drug use, a local church, and a missing ancient artifact.
  • The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle. Known for her investigations into how technology affects human relations, MIT sociologist and technologist Sherry Turkle tells her life story. And what a story it is! I couldn’t put this book down.
  • Engine Summer by John Crowley. Generations in the future, a young boy searches for purpose among the artifacts and ruins of a once-great civilization.
  • Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott. The classic 1884 science fiction story in which a two-dimensional square is unable to convince his fellow Flatland citizens that three-dimensional space exists.
  • Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils: by David Farrier. A non-fiction examination of our impact on the planet and how it might look thousands or millions of years in the future.
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was a wonderful story of an Artificial Friend’s quest to understand humanity and keep her human happy. The audiobook’s dispassionate narration by Sura Siu was a perfect match for the robotic main character. This novel appears on the 2021 Booker prize long list.
  • Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman. A writer goes to Hollywood to oversee adaptation of his novel into film. But this is only window dressing against a larger story of wildfires, drought, and the end of the world.
  • Wandering Soul by Steven Anderson. This sequel to Wandering Star takes the alien Tarakana in a new direction. Sorry, no spoilers in my blog.
  • The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, his disturbing and chilling 1984 debut novel. Something’s not right, you know it from the very first page, and the tension and suspense build throughout. The surprising end left me wondering whether to applaud or scream.

At the moment, I vacillate between these three books.

  • Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  • I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane
  • The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Gordon Van Gelder

A sampling of what I might read soon.

  • Semiosis by Sue Burke
  • The Singularity is Nearer by Ray Kurzweil. I have a long wait for this book—it won’t be released until September 2022.

3 thoughts on “Obey the Second Law”

  1. Let’s see if this let’s me reply this time. Great post. Despite your feelings that you aren’t being productive, I assure you, you are. Daily writing is difficult. As you know, I’ve really struggled with that this year and failed miserably. That doesn’t mean we will always “fail.” You are producing, and from what I can tell, you are producing gems. Who cares if they might be gems in the rough? Good luck with the ones out for consideration, and either the others will germinate or they won’t. Ideas will come.

  2. I know writing is hard, so many thoughts to choose the right ones for what you are writing. I always planned on writing short stories but even though I graduated nearly six years ago I still remember how difficult it was to write the first paragraph of the many papers I had to submit.
    I enjoy reading your stories and hope you continue.


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