About ogresan

Richard Parks' stories have have appeared in Asimov's SF, Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and numerous anthologies, including several Year's Bests. His first story collection, THE OGRE'S WIFE, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He is the author of the Yamada Monogatari series from Prime Books.

Rewrite Time

First Reader has returned the manuscript for the novella project, so it’s rewrite time. I’m about fifty pages in, trying not to rush, trying not to dawdle, and above all trying to get it right.

Some writers hire editors for indie projects, which is a good idea in general. Me, I married the best one I know. She’s thorough and pulls no punches, even if she does have to live with me. Which is probably why she pulls no punches. Just between you and me, I think she enjoys them.

For the good of the work, of course.

I don’t normally have so much trouble with titles, but this one is beating me up. I still haven’t been able to improve on my original. I also don’t think the original quite does it justice. That is, it describes the story perfectly to me, but that’s not the title’s job. Its job, it should go without saying, is to give enough of a hint to the reader to let them know this is worth reading. It’s a tough gig, titles. Almost like a separate skill from writing the story in the first place.

Just as an aside, if anyone out there gets their ebooks on Kobo, The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups, is finally getting a Kobo release, as of October 31st. I’ll put a link up when I have one.

 

 

 

They Never Will Be Missed

In the Mikado, Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner of the village of Titipu, had a little list of people who never would be missed. Just in case he was ever called upon to execute anyone. Apparently it wouldn’t have mattered who he would have killed. Just someone. If you’ve read the original, you know it was a terrible list. What wasn’t racist or misogynist was misguided and, worse, unfunny. Not that it mattered, since—spoiler alert—he never did execute anyone.

George Carlin also had a list of people who ought to be killed. As far as I know he didn’t kill anyone either. In my youth, when both hormones and passions ran higher, I also kept mental lists of people who, in my sole opinion, really should have done the world a favor, stepped in front of a speeding truck, and thank you for your cooperation. I never killed any of them, which is likely the only thing I have in common with a real comedian and a fictional executioner. And, since I’m not Lord High Executioner of anything, that’s probably for the best, but hey, one can dream.

Which brings me to lists. Almost everyone keeps lists. There are grocery lists, bucket lists, playlists, set lists, Things to Do lists, guest lists, and the list go on and on. So much so that it has devolved into a peculiar form of essay slash article slash advertisement: the listicle.

You see them everywhere from clickbait on FB to actual ebooks on Amazon. Ebooks, I should point out, which people actually buy. Fifteen Ways Kale Can Kill You. The Eight Best Planets to Visit. Seven Creative Approaches to Slicing Onions. The Top Five Ways of Dying While Taking a Selfie.

You get the idea.

Listicles don’t think you do get the idea. Everything on the list has to be explained, justified, expounded upon, which makes it a listicle and not just a simple, actually useful, functional list. Imagine a grocery list. It’s easy (if  you thought I was going there, wrong. Copyright violation).

  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Milk
  • Dryer Sheets

Now imagine someone going through every one of those items explaining why it’s there, the deeper meaning of what it means to buy eggs. The virtues of bacon, the advantages of milk for anyone over the age of five. What is the actual purpose of dryer sheets. Are you not enlightened?

All based on the humble list. The difference is that a simple list is actually useful. You make a list so you won’t forget who to invite to the party. Do you go down the list writing an explanation of why they’re on the list? It’s enough to know that they are. Besides, you already know why. Explanations would be for the people who aren’t on the list, but odds are they’d know too. I’m looking at you, Francine.

So what are listicles actually for? For taking monetary advantage of our natural curiosity. And selling books. In general, I’m all for selling books. But there are limits.

I’m going to make another, very short list.

They never will be missed.

 

 

Roots

When I was a kid I developed an interest in family history, mostly because I didn’t know much of it. The reason is no one was recording it. Older relatives would talk about this or that Great Uncle, or who was my cousin three times removed (not removed enough, in many cases). Then they passed and whatever they knew was gone with them. So I started a family history.

Did not get very far.

Then came the internet, and new sources of information and tools to build family trees. So in my copious free time I got into that, with some surprising results. Mainly because what I found out didn’t always match family tradition or my own weak efforts. First of all, my original research convinced me the paternal line first arrived in the new world in the mid-1700’s. Nope. Turned out to be about a hundred years earlier. My paternal grandfather thought we were from Wales. Nope again. England, specifically Essex. Both sides of the family even, except for my father’s mother’s side. Scotland. And from my mother’s mother’s side, Germany.  Though in my paternal grandfather’s defense he did say we came west from North Carolina, which was true, though the family lived for several generations in Virginia first.

Fascinating? No, not even a little. Naturally it interests me to find I had knights, earls, lairds, a baron, a viscount and one king in the tree. But I wouldn’t expect anyone else to give a darn. So why am I telling you all this? Because of a picture I remember from my childhood. It’s of my grandmother as a child, taken sometime in the 1930’s at a farmhouse with her extended family. Dirt poor Mississippi farmers near the end of the Great Depression. Her ninth great-grandfather was a frickin’ baron.

Sure, I have an academic interest in where I came from. (and it was great fun to learn that my 15th great-grandfather was a laird who got kicked out of Scotland for robbing a church). Idle curiosity satisfied. But in the immortal words of Lucy Van Pelt (via Charles Schulz) “Now that I know that, what do I do?”  The answer, of course, is “nothing.”

Doesn’t change a darn thing. I’m grateful to all my ancestors for getting me here, if unintentionally, but that’s all they’re responsible for. Anything else, it’s on me.

 

 

 

Arguing With Word

As previously stated, I’m working on a novella. The rough draft is finished, but it’s very rough, and a thorough rewrite is proceeding. Said rewrite is going a little slower than I’d like, but for the most part there’s good reason. Aside from the usual typos and word choice snafus and missing words that either have to be ruthlessly exterminated or added back, depending, there’s also a great deal of mythological minutiae that has to be accurately rendered. Including reasonable extrapolation of what might happen when two very different mythological cosmos collide. Additional research was required. Also not inconsiderable fallout from the fact that the story started as one thing and grew into something very different. Can you say continuity error? I knew you could.

I was more or less prepared for all of that. One thing I was not prepared for was wasting twenty minutes of rewrite time arguing with Word over the correct usage of “who” and “whom.” As the rewrite sometimes required, I wrote a new sentence. Word insisted that the sentence was grammatically incorrect. Loath as I am to question a computer’s accuracy, I disagreed. Word insisted I change it. I pushed the little button that supposedly explains why Word wants me to edit my lovely prose on the fly. Word said I was using “whom” as the subject of a clause. I said I wasn’t, I was clearly using “whom” as the object of the prepositional phrase beginning with “with.”

All the while this was going on, I was reminded of how ridiculous the whole thing was by remembering an old George Carlin routine about having an argument with his breakfast cereal. In my defense, I note that at least Word has a rudimentary AI working, which elevates it, in this context, above the level of breakfast cereal, if only barely.

Still, pretty ridiculous.

To cut to the chase, I looked up the grammatical rules online. Remember, I’m from the generation where we still had to break down and diagram a sentence into its component parts, identifying those parts. Doesn’t mean I remember all the rules. But I have a decent ear for the language and was still sure I was right, and told Word to stop arguing with me. This afternoon I related the incident to First Reader, who agreed that I was correct but in addition was able to cite the rule, in the process explaining how Word got confused. “Whom” was part of a short prepositional phrase, which Word mistook for a clause, which demands a subject, which in turn would have called for the nominative, not the objective case. An easy enough mistake for either a human or an algorithm to make.

Regardless, I was right. I hereby claim victory in the Battle of Whom. Which, I reiterate, took twenty minutes of rewrite time when I already should have been in bed two hours before.

It’s amazing I get any work done at all.

A Day on the Lake

First Reader and I had been meaning to take one of the boat excursions on Lake Otsego in Cooperstown, NY, for some time now. Summer was pretty much impossible because, oddly enough, the place is overrun with baseball fans come to see the museum and looking for other things to do. Go figure. Now the kids are back in school, at least some of the grown-ups are back at work, and the place is not so crazy. Also, it’s fall now and the leaves, as you can see, are starting to change. And since the boat tours close for the season in a couple weeks, we decided not to wait.

By the time the captain had finished relating the long list of previous lake boats that had either burned or sunk or both, I was maybe having second thoughts about that “not waiting” thing, but as we were well under way it was too late by that point. Still, the current boat is all metal so I was less concerned about the burning part, figuring we stood at least a 50-50 chance.

This is Kingfisher tower. Built by a guy named Clarke around 1876, it’s a sixty-foot folly (in the technical architectural sense) in order to make the lake more “aesthetically pleasing.” Locals wanted it torn down, but overall I’m glad they didn’t.

While I do think it’s a cute building, it’s hard to imagine this as anything other than gilding the lily. Lake Otsego is gorgeous all by itself, and it was probably more so in 1876, before alewives (the fish) were introduced by accident and upset the natural balance. The lovely blue cast to the water, which you can probably make out in the picture, is due to a slight over-abundance of blue-green algae. Alewives ate the plankton which normally fed on the algae, which led…well, you get the idea. The lake water was a lot clearer before that happened. Still gorgeous, but yeah. Alewives are threatened species in some lakes, but in Lake Otsego? Not so much.

Lake Otsego is a glacial lake, nestled into a wooded valley. It is just over 7 miles long and is 167 feet deep at its deepest point. The outlet from Lake Otsego forms the North Branch of the headwaters of  the Susquehanna River, which eventually ends up in Chesapeake Bay. Never let it be said this blog is without educational content.

In non-lake news, I’ve started the rewrite of the unrelated (to Yamada or really anything else) novella. I have a working title, but it’s likely not going to stand, so I’m not giving it here. When I know what the actual title is, I’ll post it.