There Are No Ivory Towers

sheffield1Not for us, anyway. Case in point, the illustration to the left. That is Sheffield. He is the elder (we think) of our two cat brothers, Sheffield and Sterling, sometimes referred to here as “Da Boyz.” This is the context–yesterday I started a new story. What it is or how it’s going to turn out is, for now, beside the point. What does concern us is the simple fact I had stolen the time for it from a period when I was supposed to be working on something else, and I had taken the time for that theoretical “something else” from other pressing projects. In short, I was writing in the mode of “guilty pleasure,” which is one of my favorite ways to do it. Seriously, I get some of my best work done when I’m supposed to be doing something else. A psychologist might make much of that, but I really don’t care. It’s just the fact, and being forced into early and I believe temporary retirement hasn’t changed that. Continue reading

Carousels and the Madness of Everyone

img_0625On Saturday Carol and I took a break and headed down to Cooperstown. Not, as you might have guessed, for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but rather for the Farmer’s Museum. Next trip will likely be for the James Fenimore Cooper Art Museum. We would have stopped this time but there was too much to cover and not enough day. Continue reading

Cats, Skunks, and Audiobooks. Is There a Connection?

YamadaEmperor-600You don’t always dodge the bullet. Carol and I just spent a rough night followed by some non-too-joyous time this morning giving one of our cats a special bath to remove (or at least dial-down) eau-de-skonk. Took us a while to figure out what had actually happened, since he got the concentrated point-blank skunk shot and it smells more like burning rubber than normal skunk. For a while. Then the true nature of the situation becomes way too clear. I hope he’s learned his lesson. I doubt it, because Cats.

In an attempt to move on to more to a more pleasant subject, I just received my free author codes for the Audible.com edition of Yamada Monogatari: The Emperor in Shadow. More than I need, and rather than let them sit idle, I’m going to give them away. No silly contest, no “What was the ghost Seita-san’s favorite food?” None of that nonsense. Just one string—I want you to review/rate the audiobook when you’re finished. That’s it. Hate It, Love It, Meh, Whatever. The review can be long and insightful or short and pungent. Entirely up to you, and doing a review at all is strictly on the honor system. I will not be checking. The only other catch, if you can call it that, is I have only a limited number of these, so it’s first come, first served, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I’ll put up a note when that happens.

All you need to do is shoot me an email requesting one of the codes, and as long as I have one free I will send it back to you along with instructions for using it. My email address is in human-readable form on the “About” page on the website. Grab it and go, and Happy Listening.

Edited to Add: And we’re done. Thanks to all who participated.

The Draken Harald Hårfagre

DrakenProwMy new home town is situated in a river gorge, and both the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal pass right through it. So we were fortunate that the Draken Harald Hårfagre made it one of their stops in the their Canadian and US tour. The name translates as “Dragon Harald Fairhair.” The Draken Harald Hårfagre is the largest Viking ship built in the current age. Named in honor of King Harald Fairhair (sometimes also translated as “Prettyhair”, the dude clearly had some major locks), the first King of Norway and modeled after the Gokstad Ship. On Saturday and Sunday the ship itself was open for tours, and who with a modicum of interest in history is going to pass up the chance to stand aboard a real viking ship? It’s not like that happens every day. So we braved the crowds and headed down to the marina. Continue reading

Short Stories, Novels. Nothing about WorldCon

Detail From Spencer Park Dentzel Carousel - Kevin Burkett http://www.flickr.com/people/kevinwburkett

Detail From Spencer Park Dentzel Carousel – Kevin Burkett
http://www.flickr.com/people/kevinwburkett

Whenever a thought occurs before posting, said thought being along the lines of “Who can I annoy today?” it’s probably a bad time to be posting anything. Yet I’m going to do both now and again, so best to get on with it.

I’ve been thinking of the short story again as it relates to novels, since I’ve had more than enough reason to consider both lately. I know we’ve been over this before, yet I can’t say that my basic position has changed. Which is: If you want to write novels, write novels. If you want to write short stories, write short stories. If you want to do both, well, come sit next to me and we can compare notes. I’ve also noted some discussion here and there on the idea of the “natural” novelist as opposed to the “natural” short story writer, the theory being that your brain’s wiring tends to push you in one direction or the other. I think it’s true up to a point. I know we can all think of examples of the brilliant short fiction writer who can’t do novels, and some novelists that wouldn’t recognize a short story if it bit their ankles. Yet I wonder how much of this is based in biology and how much is training and craft.

There was a time when whatever notice I’d gotten as a writer was for short stories. Then the Yamada Monogatari series transformed into a novel series and I haven’t published an original short story in two years. That has to change, or at least balance out a bit. I love short stories. I love to write them and (when I get the chance) to read them. Yet I’ve also loved a novel or two in my time and one of the very earliest pieces of writing I ever did turned out to be a novel. And I don’t claim to be a “natural” anything. It took me a lot of time and work to reach professional level at short fiction. Novels were no different. Like writing anything, it’s a learning curve and we learn by doing.

Some people still think that they should write short stories first because they’re stepping stones to novels. Like many cliches, there’s a grain of truth in it. Short stories can be a way to get your name in front of the readers. Also, there’s nothing like getting paid for something you’ve written to make one think, perhaps, you’re on the right track. You might even get the attention of book editors. Heaven knows it has happened before. But it’s just as likely you’ll publish short stories that vanish, as we’ve oft noted, “like rose petals in the Grand Canyon.” You’ll have spent months, years, perhaps decades doing something other than what you really want to do and be no closer to achieving it.

Still can’t think of that as a good idea.