Still Alive

Yeah, I can see how it’d be hard to tell.

Anyway, I was recently was by my web hosting service to renew, and I had to take a serious look at my blogging activity (or inactivity) and make a decision. Long story short, I decided to re-up for one year with the understanding that, if I don’t post at least twelve time within that period, I’ll shut this site down.

So: no more allowing myself to be distracted from what’s important. My goal is a minimum of twelve posts, with 52 being ideal. I mean, c’mon, once a week shouldn’t be that hard, right?

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Flight of the Curious

I’m finally starting to ramp up my writing again after a far-too-long hiatus. The first salvo in this renewed activity is in the form of a fan fiction project I just began, a science-fiction serial adventure based on the role-playing game Traveller, titled Flight of the Curious. You can read the inaugural episode, Curious Endeavor, here.

Please stay tuned for more writerly goodness!

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Goals? What Goals?

Writing, by pdsimao, © 2007

Writing, by pdsimao, © 2007

If you came here after reading my earlier entry, you might notice a bit of irony. If you haven’t read it, please take a moment to go back and read that post. I’ll wait here while you do.

Welcome back. As you can see, the plans I made well over half a year ago have all come undone. You’re probably wondering what happened. I’ll offer a short explanation, and then try to salvage the year by putting forth a couple of new goals.

Where Have I Been

A couple of months before I wrote that last post, I had experienced some medical issues. For several years now I have dealt with a condition called dermatomyositis. It’s a nasty autoimmune condition at attacks my muscular system. As a bonus, it comes with some ugly skin issues as well.

Over the past couple of years, it had been held in check. I wasn’t one hundred percent, but I was functional. Around November of last year, it started coming back. It got so bad that at the end of March I checked myself into the emergency room. I won’t go into details, but from the emergency room I went to a skilled nursing facility, and there I stayed until the end of July.

Needless to say, I’ve been distracted. The problem is, this is mainly just an excuse. Yes, the condition is serious—and had gotten very serious—but to be honest, it should not have prevented me from writing. It’s difficult to type, and writing longhand is even more so, but I can do it. On top of that, I invested in dictation software that should remove the restrictions on typing that I just mentioned.

So there you have it. The last ten or twelve months have been difficult, but they should not have kept me from writing. At the very least, I could have posted to this blog regularly. And if not, at least more often than once in nine months.

Where Am I Going

Even though I don’t believe the previous goals I set were particularly ambitious, I’m going to take it easy on myself for this year’s remaining three months. At the top of my list is to post to this blog regularly. I’m going to begin with once a week, and then increase that if it feels comfortable. I don’t really have a shortage of topics to blog about, so this won’t be too difficult. The trick is to just get back into the habit of daily writing.

The next goal is to continue working on The Unseen. I’m not going to make finishing the first draft a goal for this year, but I don’t see that as being too unlikely. The point is to simply return to a routine of writing something every day. It’s been neglected for too long now.

Finally, I would like to produce at least one short story and make it ready for publication. Actually selling the story and having it published would be even better, but the goal is to simply finish something.

As far as non-writing goals go, I have a lot of work to do bringing my health back. I am not as physically functional as I was a year ago. I’m working with my doctor, and hopefully some physical therapy is in my future. I intend to spend a good amount of time on trying to rebuild my physique. By this time next year, I would like to get back into a kayak. We’ll see.

Now Get Back to Work

So there you have it. When I look at the list I just made, it seems like a lot. That’s mainly because I haven’t been doing much lately. That’s going to change. In the meantime, I will be posting again soon. But now, I had better get back to work.

Thanks for reading.

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Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

I’m looking forward to the new year. This is mainly because, as a writer, 2013 was for the most part a bust. Without exception, I kicked every writing goal I set for myself to the curb this past year. So in this light, 2014 is guaranteed to be a success. Right?

I know it’s dangerous, but I’m going to set some of my goals down here for all to see. Accountability and all that. So without further procrastination ado, here they are.
Continue reading

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Book Review: Stories from the Underworld, by Johanna K. Pitcairn

I am weird. I enjoy what I do. There’s nothing better than this. Such a beautiful gift. I live far away from people. Kidding. New York City is an exquisite playground, but you knew this already. It’s really easy to deceive people into believing I’m such a nice and helpful neighbor. I like to have my little secrets. They’re mine… forever. I don’t even need a photo album. I can remember each of them so vividly. Ah… Let me contemplate this for a second… Yes. That’s right. Perfect.

from “Open Letter to a Kindred Spirit,” by Johanna K. Pitcairn

Stories from the Underworld, by Johanna K. PitcairnStories from the Underworld is a collection of tales that share a sameness of setting and mood which I found immediately engaging. There’s a perception of New York City’s atmosphere that permeates every story, and even those that don’t explicitly take place there are influenced by it in some way or another. There’s a dark and gritty feel to every sentence, as if each word was pulled from a dark and damp alleyway in the dead of night. The stories will shock you, and maybe even surprise you with a twist or two.

The Good

The tales within Stories from the Underworld run the gamut in genre from horror to suspense to near-future dystopia. Despite this, there seems to be a continuity linking all of them together—the characterization of the setting. It is consistent and realistic, and becomes the cord linking the collection together, even though one story may take place in a disabled subway car while another plays out in a wooded battlefield in the near future. The characters all seem to either be trapped in the city or in the process of escaping, physically or psychologically.

Some of the stories are graphic, others are subtle. One or two of the stories seem to end abruptly—but at just the right time. Most are first-person accounts from a female point of view, but not all. If there’s a common thread linking all of the tales together aside from the setting, it’s darkness and a sense of foreboding. These are not happy stories at all.

The Bad

There’s not much to say here. The stories are well written and engaging, and there was nothing to distract from that. With such a wide variety of tales it’s possible that not every one will appeal to each reader, but that’s a matter of taste rather than quality.

The Ugly

The copy of this book I read was an independently-produced Kindle version. As such there were little or no distractions from the reading experience stemming from formatting or presentation. In fact, I have read some professionally-produced e-books from established publishers that have had more issues than this one.

Conclusion

I’ve never been to New York City, but we’ve all read books and seen movies or television shows set there. I even know a few people who’ve lived there. Just like every large American city, be it New York or Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco, Boston or Dallas, Atlanta or Detroit or Miami, perceptions can vary wildly, and I can say that I myself have been presented with a confounding number of different versions of New York. In Stories from the Underworld, Johanna Pitcairn presents a view of her city that is dark and mysterious, and not a little perilous for those who lack the necessary survival instincts. Additionally, she is able to convey a sense that, once entered, the darkness of the city can never truly be escaped, regardless of how far one may roam.

If you enjoy your tales dark and chilling, this book is an excellent choice. I give it four stars.

4 Stars

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