I have been talking it up in my writing group, raving about all the free time I'm finally going to have to write. That's true. Basically, every morning will belong to me, as I'm typically up two to three hours before the girls. But you know what? The closer the date gets, and the more excited I become, the more that little voice inside insists that I'm not leaving one full-time job only to take on another. Once again, I'm looking hard at putting writing aside for good.
Yes, I've talked about this before, pretty much constantly, in fact, over the last year, to the point that everyone is tired of hearing the boy cry "Wolf!" But you know, if you cry wolf often enough, there's bound to be a wolf there one of those times...
The fact is that I've been trying to write for the last year. Ideas come, notes are made, I sit down to write and a story starts to develop, and then maybe a quarter of the way in, it just peters out, lying in a heap and refusing to take one more step. Regular followers have seen Stingaree take off in a blaze of inspired enthusiasm, only to crash and burn in a lonely field of indecisive drivel. The same happened with Beyond the Rails III. Oh, and the real hardcore fans will remember The Darklighters, another epic story that pulled me a mile down the course, then refused to go any further. I have had some modest gains playing in Port Reprieve, a sandbox in my writers' group where authors can go to try new themes and test drive characters. I also submitted a short work to Den of Antiquity, an upcoming anthology that I'll announce here when it's available, but those are shorter than my typical chapters, not anything like I've been accustomed to writing, and even those are few and far between.
I imagine that anyone who has sat through one of these self-pitying rants before is at this point shouting, "Get on with it!" and I can hardly blame you; I'm even boring myself with this. It's time to put a bow on this, and indeed, Get on with it!
I feel at this point that writing was something I wanted to prove to myself (and maybe my classmates, teachers, family, and even friends, who all made no secret of their assumption that I'd never amount to anything) that I could do. Well, I've done that. I've written two books on the subject of my choosing, and while neither has been widely read, both were well-received by all who read them. Comments from fans and critics alike prove that. So, it's off my bucket list. The two books, a continuing story of an airship crew on a wild frontier, can stand alone, with no need to continue further. As the camera of the imagination pans back from the final scene, they are fanning out in Mombasa, their familiar home base, to find their next job. The reader has joined them for about a year of their lives, shared their adventures, and life is preparing to go on. The End.
So, what this rambling essay says is that I'm no longer a writer. People never believe it when a writer says that, because writing is so easy. Not that way. Non-writers tend to think that nothing could be simpler, but come try it... No, what I mean is this: If you are a stamp collector, or you restore old cars, and you decide to quit, you sell all your stock, your cars or stamps, your tools, your reference books, leave your network of contacts, it's a commitment. You aren't just saying you're going to quit, you're proving it by putting yourself in a position where starting up again would require a huge outlay of cash and effort, and no matter what you spent, you could never get back to where you were when you quit.
To quit being a writer, you simply quit writing. If, six months or a year later, you decide to get back into it, you pick up a pen and a spiral notebook and pick up where you left off. The level of commitment required is so slight as to be almost nonexistent. Nonetheless, I'm making my announcement, recognizing that there's always going to be a little pilot light burning down in the boiler room. I may feed it by poking around in Port Reprieve on occasion, but I am making no such plans. And should something of book-length suddenly take off on me, the first you will hear about it is when I post it for sale on Amazon. In other words, I'm not going to tease you with my fickle muse any more. It gains me nothing, and annoys my few fans.
I will be back here on the 22nd to gloat about having ten days left in my career, and at that time, I expect to unveil a new look for this blog. I don't know yet what it will be, probably the world according to Jack. Photos and philosophy, tales of grandkids and old San Diego, a journal of my silly little pastimes, who knows? It probably won't be interesting to anyone but my immediate family, and maybe not even to them either, but anyone who drops by is welcome to read and comment. I only ask that you keep a civil tongue in your head, as children read this, children I'm very fond of. So drop by a week from Friday, and see what I've come up with. Meanwhile, if you came here to read about a real writer, I don't want you to leave disappointed, so here's the last repost from the old blog, a piece from May of 2014 about a great set of stories from Keith Dumble, an old friend and an excellent writer. Enjoy!
Lady Jessica is the nominal leader of the Black Diamonds, a handful of dicey characters who live aboard a sentient airship, and are allowed to remain at large in society because they are willing to exercise their unique skills on behalf of the Department of Interior Security. In following their adventures, you will encounter supernatural creatures, anarchists, power-mad military men, and a time-traveler, amid a few other characters familiar to steampunk regulars. One of the Diamonds is Japanese, and brings a tad of Oriental mysticism to the page. Some sexual tension has even been woven into the narrative; this book truly has something for everybody.
All written down in one paragraph like this, it sounds like Mr. Dumble has just tried to cram every steampunk trope in the manual into his work, but don't be fooled by my imperfect writing. The author has ample room in its 241 pages to introduce and explore each concept without confusing the reader, and more importantly than that, he has the skill to pull it off. He describes government briefings, private conversations, and battles with vampires with equal aplomb, and he has the chops to bring all these threads together into a satisfying conclusion as well.
So why isn't my rating a 5? I reserve that for works that break new ground in literature, at least on my personal radar. An example would be the metal-based magic system that Brandon Sanderson invented for Mistborn. This book contains a number of familiar steampunk themes, but the author's skill lies in the way they are intertwined and pursued. Make no mistake, this is a rollicking good adventure that won't overwhelm steampunk virgins with anything too weird and outlandish to follow, and I heartily recommend it to steampunk fans, but also readers of pure action-adventure stories, and those who enjoy a little light horror.
Keith Dumble is a name to watch. I don't know whether he ever intends to move out to the fringe, but the command he has of the basics, and the way he combines the concepts, is more than impressive. Do yourself a favor, take a ride on the Zephyr; it's a trip you'll not soon forget."
For my other readers, if you'd like to get to know this fine author better, pay him a visit at http://www.keithdedinburgh.com/. I'm sure you'll find him as talented and personable as I did.