The habit.

Hello and welcome, reader.

     It’s good to be here, and thanks for showing up.

     Were I that way, my excuse for blowing the monthly schedule after only five of them is that February was a short one. Either that or finishing third draft revisions to my latest manuscript kept me too busy to drop you a note.

     No matter. I’m not, and by now, you’ve accepted me like this. The way I’ve got it figured, those who would not left long ago.

     So, let’s get to it. Because, as usual, I’ve got something to say, and you’ve precious little time to waste reading it.

     First, the literary news.

     On Saturday, March 23rd, I’ll be one of a dozen Alberta writers featured at the Local Author Book Fair hosted by Homexx Homes. We hope you’ll join us between 12noon and 5pm at 1335 – 155 Street SW, Edmonton.

     It’s a chance for both of us to meet some area novelists and talk a little about writing. And yes, there will be plenty of books available if you want to buy them.

     Other than that, believe it or not, beyond the latest public appearance, it’s mainly dullsville in these parts. Unless you’re one of those with a thing for writing, anyway, and that’s for sure.

     Because writing remains a solitary habit practiced by a relative few. Despite nonstop attempts by teachers, guilds, and salespeople worldwide, to brand it a shared experience. So, if you’re one of the few, the Book Fair is a chance to meet others of your tribe. While if, instead, you wonder what makes such people tick, it’s a chance to find out.

     I look forward to seeing each of you there.

     Now, on to more nonsensical ravings by the long-lost pirate of the high prairie.

     Despite a recent snowy blast, the ides are upon us, and deep thoughts, of nonsense like artistry, craft, and work habits fill this battered melon. Here, the in-between time, when one work ends but before the next begins, reflects the worst of the outsider’s life I’ve led since taking up this worthless crusade.

     It’s then when my career choices, even to me, seem most obscure, too. Though one can’t deny their results. A man makes his bed and must then sleep within it, after all.

     As, likewise, freedom comes with no guarantees.

     Well, some of us prefer it this way. Despite the hardships that now and then come along with our choices.

     For we know that countless others have no alternative. Some of us might even be one of ‘those’ people. Because of color, circumstance, or inequity, they’re forever on the outside. We both know who they are, too, no matter who we might claim to be.

     Because it’s tough for reasonable people to deny reality.

     Maybe that’s why I’ve always thought of writing as keeping a fire burning. Not only for myself, and my survival, but for the next one. Who, with any luck, soon enough comes along from who knows where any of us ever do in this dark place.

     I know a little warmth goes a long way, too, when you’ve been cold awhile.

     For me, all kinds of writing keeps the fire lit, as well. Not just novels. Because I started out as a high school poet but made a stage name for myself as a touring songwriter. That was years before writing my first newspaper column in a local weekly, and decades ahead of publishing a monthly feature in a national magazine.

     So, yes, I got plenty of practice, in out of the way places, before taking the big stage. That’s how I see writing novels, by the way. As the top shelf. I mean, as a solo act, to me, the novel is the summit of a writer’s career, and one of the greatest achievements in the arts.

     Or it should, and can, be thus, if done as a solitary act, and well. If supported by a team of editors, however, not so much. Not to me, anyway. And did I tell you, lately, how I’m the only one to whom I answer? Well, if not, there you go.

     There I go, railing on about writing what you know, again.

     I’ve worked hardest to ensure my response to these overly sensitive times is plain in my writing, too. Because I stand against the tyranny of the mob, no matter the shade of PC cloak in which it may wrap itself.

     I’m against censorship, too. Of all kinds. Because only the fearful and ignorant want to ban books. Likewise, those willing to enable such a mob by ‘sensitivity editing’ have reached a new level of cowardice.

     Because the first job of writing is to inform.

     That means showing how it was. Not how you wished it could be. A writer shows how people lived at a moment in time. A writer doesn’t hide the facts out of fear the truth might offend whoever may later read it.

     Those who don’t get that, don’t get what it means to be a writer. Likewise, I’ll wager they don’t get art, or artists, either. For them, I suggest printing this to hang among their participation medals.

     Is it hot enough for you, in here, yet?

     Can you believe this? How could someone holding such outlandish beliefs not be far more popular in the 21st century? Talk about getting what you want! Poor little rich boy, indeed.

     Now that’s what I call entertainment.

     Beyond fortune and fame, I think it’s also why we built the entertainment industry. I mean, how else is the world supposed to get any value out of so many troublemakers? And keeping them together, chasing the same carrot, eases management.

     I guess we owe the guys in the suits for that, if nothing else.

     Not only that, but all fiction writing is entertainment. That’s why we invented novels. Oh, sure, maybe some folks don’t like thinking about writing that way, but it’s a fact. For those who wonder, I’m with Vonnegut on this one, and think the novel is, much like myself, an anachronism leftover from another time.

     Worse yet, the published novelist’s job is entertaining a reader.

     So they can, for a few brief moments, escape the rusted chains of vicious reality. If only now and then.

     And though at best no more than a lifelong fringe player, a darling of the bush leagues, the proverbial four-A man, I’m pleased with my choice, and the results, too, of chasing my dreams. Because even a career in these minor leagues showed me more life than I ever dreamed of seeing.

     Now, don’t get it wrong. Because I’ve had far more than my share of moments. I know many turns I’ve taken were either delinquent, amoral, or wicked, too. If one sought the trappings, instead of the story, I mean.

     I know this because of losing myself in them a time or two. Yes, it’s a fact. Few like throwing it around more than me. Way back when I got a taste for hording it, too. So, let’s say I’ve been as sick on it as anyone, now and again.

     Lucky for me, I got over it, and after a time, returned to my life’s work.

     I’ve not for a minute regretted the choice, either. Though many can’t say the same, neither about me nor their own.

     C’est la vie. Make it. Lie in it. Next.

     For me, life’s beauty is in its simplicity.

     Of course, the trouble with that is people are hard-wired to seek patterns. Which leads to a relentless need for ever more complex answers. Thus rendering real life plain, lonely, or even, as some claim, boring. And leaving its beauty, sadly, beyond the grasp of many of us.

     I think it’s clear that our recent turn to the worship of communal tech is the end of not only freedom, but progress, for our kind, too. Though, unlike others, I don’t blame A.I. for any of it. That’s because I still recall who’s driving the bus.

     Despite the apparent species-wide need to blame the almighty but unseen algorithm for all things unpleasant today.

     Remember, an algorithm is simply a process or set of rules, or run-time instructions, followed by a computer to perform a task or solve a problem. Nowadays, people still write most of them, too. So, for whatever they do, that makes it our fault, every time.

     What we call A.I. has little, or nothing, to do with it.

     Did I tell you how I’ve used some kind of software editor since taking up the word processor in the early days of computing? In those days, spell checking was the limit of its power. Fear of copyright infringement means I won’t say the name of the long dead software I first tried, but it was quite good, for its time.

     I was pleased to set aside the typewriter, as well.

     I’ve used the giant of such software tools since its demise and enjoyed the fruits of development labor as the built-in editor there improved over the years. Once more, infringement fears keep me from publishing its name, but you likely know the product. As far as I know, it’s as good as it gets among its kind.

     But editors are people, too. And all people have tastes, fears, and biases, as well as experience, skill, and talent. Nowadays, the demand to be PC rules their efforts, too. Not only that, but access to their time is expensive. So, after publishing my first novel, I bought purpose built and A.I. powered editing software.

     Today, it’s integrated with the word processor I use for all my published writing.

     What’s it like? Well, I’ll say it’s not worth letting a few kooks run amok on social media scare you with fearful tales of a frightening future. Because the world of tomorrow, and everything in it, is yours.

     That’s whether you want it or not, by the way. So, you know, enjoy.

     As editors go, while easier to get in touch with than a person, software is no more flexible with the rules of the grammatical road. But despite the A.I., it remains a rules-based world. So, even today’s basic tools let the user shape them to quite a granular degree.

     Care to split the infinitive, anyone?

     That also means I can be as purposely incorrect as I need to be when showing how it was in my work. And to me, that’s a writer’s actual job.

     But while a handy tool for a pro writer, an A.I. powered software editor isn’t yet a threat to replace a person at the keyboard. Not today, anyway. But who knows what tomorrow brings? After all, as a novelist, I’m an anachronism, and not long for this new world.

     C’est la vie, my friend, c’est la vie. Still, you know, it’s worth having a little fun while you’re here. Because it’s not for long, as things turn out.

     Though for youngsters to get the best of what’s yet to come, staying in school long enough to qualify for the life they want is likely their best choice. That way, they can be one of those writing the next wave of algorithms.

     With any luck, they’ll save the rest of us from our early attempts at blaming A.I. for not fixing the many things we left broken.

     And though unlikely to see the light made by their fire, here’s a thanks to them for keeping it burning. Because the writers of tomorrow will need warming. Just as they who wrote yesterday did, and we who write today do, too.

     As ever, thanks for being here, and for sharing this with anyone you think might like to read it.


March 16, 2024


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