I’m an author. To quote the Irish writer, Brendan Behan, I’m a drinker with a writing problem. I do love that quotation. It sums up a lot of the feeling of this profession. The Muses are real, and they visit affliction upon writers, but we praise them for it.
But inside every author–even the ones who say otherwise–there’s a yearning for the world to read and enjoy our work. Some people say they write only for their own amusement, but I have my doubts. Writing is bloody hard work. As Samuel Johnson said, no one but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money. If you’re not a writer, try it sometime. Then try it again. And again. And again. Keep trying it, and you’ll be a writer one of these days. The Muses work that way.
Now and then comes the reward for the work: the book for sale. Is it like giving birth or coming home from a hard journey or getting out of prison? I don’t know. The end of the journey idea sounds right, since once the book is published, that moment is a destination. There are new journeys to go on next, and as Robert Frost told us, way leads on to way, and we don’t get to go back and walk the old paths over.
The written word becomes the possession of the reader. How you see the character or the scene, what you’re feeling and learning and experiencing is yours.
And thus, I submit for your approval, The Willing Spirit.
It was a lot of fun (and work!) to write. I hope it’s a pure pleasure for you to read.
But I’m writing the next book in the Dowland series now. It’s set on Catalina Island and the mainland in 1871. There’s Spanish treasure, a gambling lady, and even grunion fish.
You’ll have to wait for me to finish it.
Crossposted on Greg Camp’s Weblog.
Posted in My published writing | Tagged Brendan Behan, Greg Camp, Pen-L Publishing, Robert Frost, Samuel Johnson, The Willing Spirit, western novel, writing life | Leave a Comment »
A short story that gives the earlier days of my western character, Henry Dowland, is now available on Frontier Tales. That’s an on-line magazine of western short fiction, though this story lets us see Dowland right after the end of the Civil War, going south to find his family.
If you like my tale, vote for it as the best of December. You won’t get a calendar, but you’ll help get my work into the next anthology.
Crossposted on Greg Camp’s Weblog.
Posted in My published writing | Tagged Frontier Tales, Greg Camp, Henry Dowland, westerns | Leave a Comment »
When I was a child, I took mild amusement in the advice that adults feel compelled to give children. It was always predictable. But reading H. P. Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter stories today, it occurs to me that most of that advice comes from a desire of adults to relive their own childhoods. The problem, of course, is that if we really could go back to the days of our youth, we’d probably forget all the wisdom we think we’ve accumulated. Thus all the words of counsel, given in an attempt to play with someone else’s young life. With that in mind, I hereby belly flop into the subject and pee in the pool:
I played a great deal as a child. More precisely, I wandered for miles, making up stories that appealed to me. But sorry, kids, play, by itself, counts for nothing. What matters is what you learn from playing. A lot of my writing today comes from stories that I worked on as a child. What I figured out was how stories had to be structured. And since I was walking around my neighborhood, I also learned that stories needed chapter breaks and timing to be done until next time when I got home. Unlike the children in the picture, you should find time to play alone. You need to become yourself. More on that later.
The earlier you learn something, the easier it will be–at least, that’s how you’ll remember it. But the more you learn early on, the more you’ll be able to learn later. For example, find people who know other languages and pester them until they teach you. When you’re an adult, learning languages becomes much more challenging. The same is true about mathematics. Read lots of books. Read mine. Read the ones your teacher assigns, but pick others that you run across. Hunt for more. Above all else, believe that everything you learn will be useful to you in the future. You may not see it now, but that is true.
Remember that bit about being alone? Well, you should also be sociable with lots of people. They can be useful to you. But be friends with only a few. I don’t mean Facebook friends. I mean something else. Imagine the sort of person you’d be willing to journey across the country with after the zombie apocalypse gets going. The kind of person you could trust and tolerate through that experience is a friend. There aren’t many of them in this world, and the ones who would be my friends aren’t necessarily the ones for you.
The fellow there is Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the things you should read is his essay, “Self Reliance.” But if you don’t learn any of these other lessons, learn this: Be yourself. Yes, you have to fulfill a lot of expectations of others, but those are chores. You have to help others and avoid harming them, but that’s morality. The key duty is to figure out what you expect of yourself. You’re the one you have to please. That’s especially true when you’re considering the people you will spend time with. Whether you’re attracted to someone or you are being a friend–and it’s best if those two go together, ultimately–trying to change yourself to match the other person is a fool’s errand. You’ll lose yourself and not gain anyone else.
Too many children and adults these days can’t read these many words. If you’ve made it this far, you got the point, and I’ve said enough.
Now go and sin some more.
Posted in Advice for living | Tagged advice, childhood, friends, Greg Camp, H. P. Lovecraft, individualism, learning, play, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Randolph Carter, reading, reliving childhood, Self Reliance | Leave a Comment »
It’s time for another excerpt from The Willing Spirit. If you’re getting tired of teasers, you can read the whole thing soon.
“Why’re we stopping, Mister?”
Dowland sat on a bed of pine needles with his back against a tree, while Joe paced in front of him. In the starlight from the gaps in the trees, he was just a dark shape passing before darker shapes.
“We’ve been moving for the whole day and some of the night. My eyes are tired, and so are my feet.”
“But they’re still after us. I know it—they’re still after us.”
“Sit down, Joe.”
The boy collapsed to the ground, and his feet scraped the soil as he settled.
“I think that we’ve lost them, but we won’t know it if you keep making noise.”
“So what’a you reckon we do now?”
Joe jumped up and paced again.
“Good land, Mister. Are you crazy?”
“Not that I know of, but I will be if you can’t calm yourself.”
Heavy feet crunched the twigs and dry needles on the forest floor until the boy thudded into a tree. He commenced to pounding the bark with his fists.
Dowland picked himself up and walked over to grab Joe’s arms and hold them at his sides.
“Stop it! You’ll make yourself bloody.”
“I don’t care.”
“I do.” Dowland put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and guided him back to the small clearing. “Lie down and sleep.”
Joe stretched out on the ground, and Dowland sat once more to keep watch. In an open patch between the trees, the square of the Big Dipper filled the sky. No one had guided Dowland through the Slough of Despond, as much as he had needed a helper, and he didn’t know what he could offer the boy. Joe was still, though his wet breathing told that he was struggling to hold back tears.
But the calm didn’t last. Joe sat up. “It ain’t no good, Mister. I can’t sleep.”
“I know. I couldn’t, either, after my first time.”
“Does it ever go away?”
Faces floated through Dowland’s memory. He waved his hand in front of him, a futile gesture for dark ghosts in a dark forest.
“You will learn to live with it.”
“How?” The boy wasn’t even trying to hide his tears.
“Some men stop caring.”
Joe was silent for a moment.
“I don’t reckon I wanna be like that.”
“Good for you.” Was it good, though? Was it better to have a soul in pain than to be a man with no soul at all?
“What about you, Mister? What do you do?”
There was the question. Dowland couldn’t have given an answer to it before—it would have made no sense—but after this battle, Joe had crossed over into his world.
“I remember every time. It hurts like hell most days, but it reminds me to watch what I do. If I’m honorable in that, the ghosts have no claim against me.”
“Yes, it is, but we have to take what we’re given. You killed one man to save another. That has to be good enough.”
The sounds of pine needles being crushed in fists stabbed through the darkness. “Did I save him?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can we go find out?”
Dowland stood and walked over to the boy to offer him a hand up. “We may as well. I can’t sleep anyway.”
Crossposted on Greg Camp’s Weblog.
Posted in My published writing | Tagged dowland, Greg Camp, novel, Pen-L Publishing, The Willing Spirit, westerns | Leave a Comment »
The second law of thermodynamics states that the order of an isolated system never increases, but rather that disorder increases to a maximum state of entropy and stays there.
This can be illustrated by leaving a child alone and responsible for a room. The contents will reach a maximum state of disorder and not change until some outside force impels correction.
The claim is made that the second law invalidates the theory of evolution by natural selection. After all, isn’t evolution an increase in order?
Well, that’s not actually what Darwin’s idea says. In fact, evolution by natural selection is the theory that some offspring are better adapted to a given environment than others, and those better adapted youngins live longer and have more youngins of their own. That adaptation isn’t necessarily more advanced. Viruses, for example, are probably derived from more complex organisms.
But certainly, multicellular life is more complex than single cells, and the vast diversity of species is more complex than a handful of creatures. So how is it possible for an increase in complexity or in order to occur without miraculous intervention?
Look again at the second law. There’s a key point that creationists ignore:
An isolated system.
The Earth is not an isolated system. We have energy added to the system continually from the Sun. Now someday, several billion years from the present, the Sun will reach its maximum state of entropy, having converted all of its available fuel, but that day has not arrived yet. As long as we receive sunlight, order can increase here.
Posted in Creationism | Tagged chaos, Charles Darwin, creationism, Earth, entropy, evolution by natural selection, Greg Camp, isolated system, order, second law of thermodynamics, Sun | Leave a Comment »
My fellow Trekkers will recognize the reference in the title. It’s the question that the brainwashed people of Beta III ask each other when anything seems amiss. Until, that is, Captain Kirk and the Men in Tights come calling.
Kirk performs his usual denial-of-service attack on the planet’s controlling computer, causing its avatar to have a bad hair day.
And all, ultimately, is well, despite yet another gross violation of the Prime Directive.
But other than a trip down Memory Alpha, what is my point? I had it here somewhere…
The other day, an acquaintance saw my library. She asked me why I don’t just get an i-Paddle, or whatever the latest gadget is. I had my Samuel T. Cogley, Esq. moment, as I always do when asked such questions. You remember Samuel T. Cogley, right?
He’s the lawyer who defends Kirk in “Court Martial.” He also has physical books, despite having been given a computer with lots of stored files. Like Cogley, I love the feel of a printed book. I love the pages that I can turn at my own speed, not what the machine allows. I love being able to go directly where I wish and to write a comment there. And I love the fact that some evil corporation can’t delete my books when it concludes that I’ve had them too long or haven’t paid enough for them yet.
But as a writer who would very much like it if you’d buy my book, I have to accept that the world has changed. People today want electrowhizbangs. They want things with power switches and screens.
And that’s the essence of freedom. You can choose whatever form of my book you want to read. Er, um, you can choose whatever form you wish for the books that you read. As an author, I just want you reading. It’s good for the business, regardless of the format you select. Yes, you’re free not to read, but don’t expect to remain free for long if you don’t. If you are reading, you escape being a mindless drone.
But perhaps those are enough Star Trek references for one article.
Crossposted on Oghma Creative Media.
Posted in My published writing | Tagged Captain Kirk, e-books, Greg Camp, Landru, Memory Alpha, Prime Directive, printed books, reading, Samuel T. Cogley, Star Trek, The Willing Spirit | Leave a Comment »
Today, 28 November 2013, much of America is sitting down to consume a whole flock of these:
But this raises the question: Why is an American bird, one the Benjamin Franklin proposed to be our national symbol, named after this place:
The answer, it turns out, is that when Europeans came to America to take over, they confused the bird here with this fowl:
The guinea was also referred to as a turkey cock, since it was brought into Europe through Anatolia. And thus, the bird and the country are related, if only because of confusion.
Since I’m pushing a book, I’ll give you a teaser in which my character, Henry Dowland, shoots a turkey to feed himself and a young fellow that he’s met along the way:
The wind rustled the leaves overhead, shaking Dowland out of his thoughts. On the other side of the clearing, three turkey hens worked their way across the grass. He picked up Alpha and steadied it with his left hand, the elbow on his left knee.
A big tom strode out into the open. His wings dragged the ground, and his tail fanned out, twitching.
Dowland cocked the hammer, each click as he it pulled back an alarming crack through the air, and squeezed the trigger.
Thunder boomed out across the open ground, and the hens scattered. The tom flipped over and lay still, relieved of the disappointment of courtship.
This evening, there would be a good meal. The world of memory was ever unsettled, but Dowland’s stomach would be full, and that was as much as anyone had any business wanting.
He crossed the grassy field to collect the bird in his pack and returned to mount his horse. If Young Joe had found any luck, so much the better, but the boy had been alone long enough.
The ride back took less time. He knew the way, and he was done hunting. His stomach was also in a hurry. The bird had to be cleaned, and a fire needed making. Dowland knew how he would divide up that labor. There were advantages to having a child about, after all.
But when he cleared the trees again onto the strip of grass next to the creek, a new problem presented itself. Joe cowered by the water, a fish on a rock in front of him, and a black bear, thin from its winter’s sleep, stood on its hind legs some thirty yards upstream and growled.
You can find out what happens on the 8th of December when The Willing Spirit goes on sale.
Posted in My published writing, Turkey | Tagged Greg Camp, guinea fowl, Henry Dowland, Thanksgiving, The Willing Spirit, turkey | Leave a Comment »