How to keep on creating when no one knows you are there

So here’s the thing… Reaching 70 years old next month and thinking that after a lifetime of seeking some recognition for my work as an artist in many media, and finding somewhere between none and scant little, how can I keep on going?

But I already have the answer. You put yourself out there as if you had a hundred million followers or fans. You treat each new work as an act of raw creation, thrusting it into the world with every fiber of your being to make it real, to make it shine, to give it life.

Destruction of you soul lies down the path of adjusting the intensity of your output to the size of your expected audience. Don’t do art to gain an audience and don’t underplay your best effort even if your audience is absent.

Feel the power of projecting your vision into the ether, splash the biggest ripple you can into a pond, whether calm or beset with the ripples of others. Forget competition, ignore obscurity, eschew anonymnity, and split your heart open until your blazing light bursts forth to illuminate the room with fire, whether there’s anyone else there or not.

Art is made by the totality of your commitment to the work. Throw everything you have into everything you create no matter if anyone sees it or not. Because it was never about the effect you have on others, but the effect you have on yourself.

Only by totally embracing the process can you evolve as a spirit approaching ever closer to that unattainable state where your inner and outer realities merge and you transcend the dissonance of existence.

How I Wrote Man Made | Preface

Man Made is a science fiction thriller based on the premise that in the course of a single day, everything manufactured by the hand of man vanishes from the earth as a mysterious and inexplicable “line of dissolution” moves westward around the globe starting from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich and then returning to the same point from the east twenty four hours later.

As it has evolved, the story moved beyond being a simple nail-biter to encompass social satire, political commentary, cutting-edge science, philosophical exploration, gripping human drama, sardonic humor, spiritual issues, and all in what ultimately became an action-driven travelog across the planet.

I’ve been working on this project for a couple of years now.  Originally I had planned it as a single book but as the story grew to explore how people prepared, how governments and societies reacted, and the cultural and psychological effects of such a devastating event, each successive chapter got longer until I realized it might ultimately be more than a thousand pages in length and take years to complete.

I didn’t want to wait that long to share what I think is a truly intriguing idea, so I decided to release each of the chapters as a book unto itself – basically an installment in a series with an overarching theme.

So far, I’ve published six slim volumes ranging in length from long short stories (something of an oxymoron) to novelettes.  Each one advances the events through one hour of time so that when all  twenty four planned volumes are assembled, the final book will cover one day of story time.

In format, each of the twenty four books is made up of about a dozen short scenarios that explore different aspects of the story as it progresses that hour.  From time to time I publish these sequentially as episodes in The Event Series in order to share the fun things the story covers and also to generate interest in the books.

Every episode has required extensive research into areas I previously knew little or nothing about.  And each has been a creative wrestling match between me and a story that will not follow directions and insists on going its own way (often to my joy and surprise).

Yet even after two years and hundreds of pages, it did not occur to me until just this morning that I would very much like to share what has gone into this project so far, and to document the development of all the new material the Muse continues to provide.

Being a teacher of creative writing and story structure for the past third of a century, it also strikes me that aspiring authors might find it worthwhile to see the process behind the finished work.

To this end, I offer this record of the creative path I’ve taken and continue to tread as I strive to finish the twenty four volumes that complete the narrative of this world I’ve created.

What’s Happening | January 19, 2023

What’s happening today…

Well, today was Teresa’s Big Adventure as a prospective juror at the Los Angeles County Courthouse. It became my adventure too. Check-in time was listed at 9:00, so after reaffirming the drive time was just a little over half an hour from here, we decided to leave an hour early to be sure. Turns out, because of the recent rains, whole freeway sections were closed due to mudslides, and that meant more traffic on our route. It should have been a straight through affair, but once we got to the area, the phone sent us on the shortcut that runs past Dodger Stadium, then onto the harbor freeway, then off into the boonies, and it wasn’t until L.A. was receding in the rear view mirror that we discovered we were going to the wrong courthouse! Tunrs out, there’s more than one Los Angeles county courthouses. There’s seven of them! You have to ask the phone for them by name. So, we found an offramp near USC, pulled over, and re-programmed the phone. Then began Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as we twisted and turned through a dozen changes in direction every few hundred feet. Finally we got her there – pulled up into the red no-parking zone in front of the courthouse, she ran out and managed to get checked in before they started processing jurors. Well, made it home, filled up the tank, bought six tacos from Jack, went home, ate ’em, then Teresa called – she was free! So, we celebrated with her buying us both a take-out dinner from our favorite Mexican restaurant from the tax rebate stimulus Terersa just got from the state. Now we’re sprawled out and vegging on the couch, fat and sassy, and binge watching Maine Cabin Masters. Perfect.

What’s Happening – January 18, 2023

What’s happening today…

Working on my sci-fi novel series. Hadn’t really written on it since before Halloween, due to the holidays and Teresa’s surgery and recovery. It’s a very complicated story arc and will probably be thousands of pages long by the time it is done. I’m currently working on book 7 of a planned series of 24, with additional follow-up series after that, if I live that long.

Yesterday I received a laminated world map I purchased so I can follow the progress of the plot as it moves around the globe. Today I am the proud owner of 1/2000 of a million 3 x 5 index cards, and am putting them to good use. (That’s 500 cards).

I love index cards. Couldn’t write long form without them. Each book has several categories of cards for each of the major subplots, plus updates to previous subplots, as well as information about all the settings where the plot takes place.

I really want to get back to composing music on my new keyboard which I’ve had for month but not had the time to play with hardly at all. But, I need to make a little progress on the novel series first.

Right now, temperatures are almost down to freezing at night, which is rare for Burbank, but should continue for at least a week. We have this old floor heater that might barely keep the main house warm, but we’re sleeping in the attached patio that was never intended as a bedroom, and getting the heat back there is nearly impossible. We can hardly stay above 68 most nights, and by daybreak (when I usually get up) it is often down to 66 or a little less.

But, Teresa continues insulating and sealing in the walls with sheathing, so each day is a fraction of a degree warmer. But, she just checked with the court about her jury summons, and she has to show up in 13 hours in downtown Los Angeles to see if they want her on the case. So, there’ll be no wall work tomorrow.

She hasn’t driven since months before her surgery, but is well enough now, though way out of practice, so I may be asked to take her there. We’ll see how she wants to go with it.

Anyway, we’re doing okay, generally optimistic, but still have to hassle things like this from time to time. Ah – she just asked me to drive, so I guess it’s off to the races!

All for now, and until next time, may the Muse be with you!

What’s Happening…

January 17, 2023

I’m getting organized to continue writing the seventh book in my science fiction thriller series, The Event. I had to buy a world map from Amazon that arrived yesterday because the only free online map with longitude lines every fifteen degrees (hosted by National Geographic) has been replaced with a new one that’s impossible to use.

Why fifteen degrees longitude? In my story, an unknown event sweeps around the globe at the speed of the earth’s rotation, erasing everything that was made by the hand of man, throwing us into a world where nothing is constructed and no information compiled, save that within our own heads. It is estimated that only 1% of humanity will survive to the end of the first post-event month, and only 1% of those will live by the end of the first year.

This story was supposed to be a single book, but it has grown into a series that looks like it will be a few thousand pages long in total. I actually don’t think I’ll be around to finish it. So, I already wrote a first draft of the surprise ending so I won’t leave anyone disappointed. C.S. Forester, who wrote the Horatio Hornblower series, did the same thing, eventually writing the last book in Hornblower’s career, then going back and filling in the gaps in other books. Good thing too, because he didn’t last long enough to do the who job, so at least we got to see how it ended.

Today, 500 3×5 index cards arrive. I love index cards. When I’m writing a complex story, well, I don’t think I could do it without them because writing is hard work! Just watch the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas, about how Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and you’ll see for yourself. Or better yet, try it yourself – write even a short fiction and then imagine writing a whole book or a series of books. My brain hurts.

What else is going on this week? Well, we had some unfortunate flooding with the storm before last, so Teresa put up new gutters, but we still needed to install some tarps over both ends of the car port so the rain coming in sideways wouldn’t get past the lack of weather stripping. This LAST storm, we succeeded! No more carboard boxes holding precious family memories sopping with water! Fortunately, we had gotten to even the soppiest boxes before the water ruined anything inside, but is was close!

All three of us here are hooked up with medicare and now that Mary finally retired, we’re all living on social security, and what savings there are. Wouldn’t be nice if my book series was picked up as a streaming series on televion – Amazon or Netflix or something? Or, I could just win the lotto. Or, I could flap my arms and fly to the moon.

We’re sleeping in the enclosed patio for the past few years, never intended as more than a daytime gathering place, and it gets cold in the winter. Last night it was 38 degrees. Not as cold as when we lived in the mountains and it regularly dropped to 5 degrees, but since natural gas prices went up 315% this month in one big price boost, well, with fixe incomes, we’ve had the heat pretty low. No so good for old bones, but we’re working it. Teresa has been rebulding the walls back here to convert the place to a more typical frame construction with better insulation, and it’s helping every time she makes an improvement. But, its a long process and the chill ain’t waitin’.

Anyway, glad to be back writing again for the first time since Halloween, but now I’m chomping at the bit to start working with my musical compositions and my photography, and to get ready to do some hiking and road trips in the Spring. Not enough time in the day, once you retire.

The Event | Episode 6 – Immediate Aftermath

The next installment of my science fiction thriller series, The Event.

Government and military leaders around the world were pulled from meetings or their beds, and sometimes from the beds of others.  Heads of two different states were roused in each other’s company.  Quick response teams were swiftly notified and convened in person or by video conference.

The military’s rapid dissemination of information was not matched in the civilian sector.  As one might expect, the onset of the event was so shocking that few people who witnessed it from the safe side recovered their wits quickly enough to think of capturing it with their phones before the plane of destruction had moved beyond the horizon in little over one minute.

In addition, the entire BBC complex had resided at the heart of London’s modern city center, and every studio, every editing bay, every camera were no more upon the earth, and the technicians and on-air personnel were largely incapacitated.  Further, London’s entire communication infrastructure had been dealt a nearly fatal blow, save for the few satellite uplink vans stationed on the east side that day.

Initial social media posts were largely confined at first to textual accounts and images of the aftermath, save for those few individuals who had already been capturing video before the moment of inception and continued to do so.  Still, the magnitude of the disaster was so broad that hardly any posts with visual documentation of the event itself were posted until after those on the scene had attended to their immediate needs and of those around them.

Being the most extensive metropolitan area right at the point of inception, however, the east side of London quickly became not only a communication hub and clearing house for information both outgoing and incoming, but would later be a staging point for the first frantic scientific studies of the ongoing phenomenon, obviously driven with a great sense of urgency.

But this had not happened yet when first images were posted documenting the results of the devastation seen from the Royal Observatory across all of remaining London.  A few showed the swarm of humanity climbing over itself to reach the safety of the other side immediately after the event had passed.

This flood of bodies, however, had gradually lessened to become a rush, then a flow and, by the time NODAC had gone dark, was no more than a trickle as all who were close enough to see the promise of safety and physically able to move had crossed over or were well on their way to doing so.

Rescue teams and law enforcement had been quick to respond all along the Meridian line, but within minutes it was understood through experience that no vehicles nor equipment could penetrate beyond the interface between the affected and un-affected areas.

Training and courage, however, led rescuers, men and women of the cloth, and those of compassionate hearts to band together and walk headlong into the melee to assist the injured, comfort them if they could not be moved and carry them to safety if they could, while ambulances, medical personnel, and support materials gathered at the edge of the zone.

One particularly resourceful rescuer trying to negotiate the rough ground in the affected area bound some large pliant leaves to his feet with grape vines to create crude shoes that enabled him to more efficiently help the injured and also to provide the ambulatory with foot coverings for the remainder of their escape, as feet that have spent their entire time enclosed are not well-suited for scrambling over uneven terrain.

But, when he had led some initial victims to safety, the moment he turned and crossed back into the zone his impromptu footwear vanished and he was forced to fashion another pair.  Other rescuers, trained to adapt to the realities of changing situations , quickly gathered natural supplies right at the edge of the line, which could be carried across and assembled on the other side. 

One efficient worker sat just inside the safe zone, reaching over the interface to construct sandals, unaware that the arms of her long sleeved shirt became shorter each time she reached farther in to add a new pair to the growing pile, as reported by one of her co-workers charged with replenishing supplies.

In addition to being useful for the immediate tragedy, this discovery provided an essential clue that enabled the world to prepare for the final aftermath, once the event had run its course.  And soon, all manner of potential material for fashioning makeshift shoes, clothing, bandages, splints, and stretchers (to improve on the fireman’s hold they had been using) were assembled just outside the affected area and then carried into it by other volunteers where an impromptu manufacturing center was established. 

As victims emerged from the disaster zone, they brought with them tales of both terror and heroism.  Though moving and poignant, for the purposes of this report we cannot diverge to dwell on them.

There is one story, however, that though unverified, serves as an example of British resiliency.  Buckingham palace ceased to be within the first minute of the event.  But direct news of this took several hours to reach the outside world as it came from those picking their way toward safety who were met by rescuers and then conveyed back to the front line – a round trip of nearly twenty kilometers taking several hours in poorly clad feet.

But as reported, when the venerable building vanished, and being five stories high with more than four hundred staff in attendance, many were killed by the fall to the ground or by those who fell from above them.  Fortunately, the royal family, though naked and dazed, was not seriously injured as they were in front of the building welcoming a delegation at the time.

Instantly, the remaining staff converged on scene as the royal guard, now without weapons nor their famous uniforms, gathered in a circle around the royals and stood ramrod straight and as implacable as always until preparations were made to move them to safety.

Unfortunately, nothing more was heard regarding the honorable family, though the fact that its location is just under four kilometers from the London Zoo, whose bars had also vanished, has caused some to speculate.

Connected topically to the royals, it was almost simultaneously discovered that the crown jewels that were protected in the tower of London not five kilometers away had survived relatively unscathed in their cut form, though their golden settings had vanished completely.

This provided yet another crucial clue to the operation of the event as there was growing evidence that though anything man made had vanished, the dividing line between what was manufactured and what was simply assembled or brought together was often blurry.

It was almost as if some intelligence or intelligent system had made a choice about the estate of every material item independently through some sort of conceptual classification, though the criteria by which such decisions were made and the nature of who or what was making them remained shrouded in mystery, made even more mysterious considering that all of our computers combined would have been unable to arrive at that many determinations that quickly.

Here, it should be noted that while this report focuses on the logistic specifics of the event and our response to it, these understandings are a dispassionate framework laid across the greatest tragedy in all of human history to better grasp its meaning and significance.

By magnitudes, more people died in the first hour than ever before in such a small span of time, many of them horribly and in front of those they loved.  And the number of injured within the zone included almost everyone lucky enough to have avoided outright demise – it was just a matter of degree.  Only a few remained intact and unbattered, but even for those, survivor’s guilt and the ghastly scenes they had witnessed would haunt them for the rest of their lives, not to mention the almost unbearable loss of those they held close to their hearts.

It was against this background of high emotion that more images and videos of the event and its victims began to make their way to the outside world – sporadically at first, then a rush, and finally a cacophonous deluge as every news outlet and social media platform, was pouring out information, misinformation, learned speculation, and conspiracy theories.

The usual suspects were blamed: Act of God, Terrorists, and Aliens, as well as governments, super villains, the Illuminati, mass hallucinations, or perhaps a new disease.  It did not matter that some of the suggested causes were unlikely to the point of being impossible.  When faced with an unknown threat, any explanation is better than none.

People could be seen rushing through the streets seeking supplies and wearing masks in case it was contagious and aluminum foil hats should it turn out to be broadcast.  Others kissed whatever religious symbol they carried and knelt or bowed in prayer.  Churches filled, as did bars, but most people in the developed world hurried home and hunkered down in front of their television sets seeking understanding, guidance, solace, and a sense of safety.

***

Check out the entire Event series on Amazon beginning with: