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.

Not Quite as Slow

All right. The new Yamada story is completed, beta- read, revised, and sent out into the world. Working title is “A Minor Exorcism” and it runs just under 5000 words.  I’ll post when I know where or if it’s going to be published before it winds up in the new collection.

Which I now think will happen, if not anytime immediate. I’ve been going over the list of uncollected Yamada stories, and they shake out like this:

 

 

 

  1. The Tiger’s Turn
  2. Three Little Foxes
  3. The Sorrow of Rain
  4. Uzumaki of the Lake
  5. A Minor Exorcism

Clearly, not quite enough for a proper collection. I’ve got at least one more in mind, after that we’ll see. The first collection, Demon Hunter, contained ten, and I’d like to match that. If the delay is too long, I’ll do a short collection of six. I’ll also likely divide the stories into two sections, those occurring before the events in The Emperor in Shadow , and those following. Yamada’s life has changed, and the stories reflect that.

I’ll also likely have more than one mock-up of the eventual cover. Maybe I’ll post those here when I have them and ask for feedback. Some of you out there have been reading Yamada from the beginning, so you should have at least some input. Fair?

Time to get back to work.

Nostalgia For What Never Was

I’ve heard, and been told, that there was a time when all a writer had to do was write the next book. Sure, an occasional book-signing or convention appearance was a good thing, but otherwise marketing was handled by the publisher and we didn’t worry our pretty little heads about it.

I don’t think that was ever true, or at least not the extent of legend, except perhaps in one category. That is, if you were exclusively a short story writer, then all that mattered was getting the next story as good as you could make it and getting it out. You hoped, certainly, that enough readers would like your work to create a level of demand, maybe even for a collection every ten to twenty years. Marketing, on any real level, was out of your sphere. My first fifteen years or so as a writer  I spent solely on shorter works and in that mindset, which served well enough at the time.

These days, writing is only part of what you do. And if you self-publish in addition to whatever else you’re doing, it may not even be the biggest part. Mainline publishers either don’t do any marketing at all outside pitches to the distribution channels, or do it perfunctorily at best, so whichever route you’re taking, marketing and promotion is pretty much your responsibility.

My problem is that I suck at it. I’m trying to learn, don’t get me wrong, but it’s an uphill climb. It doesn’t come naturally to me and no matter how much my head knows the necessity, my heart is elsewhere. I don’t want to look at spreadsheets and numbers, and writing ad copy is not like writing a book or story, and even though one serves the other they are definitely not the same thing. A separate skill that has to be learned, along with SEO and things like “keyword relevancy.”

That “ivory tower” idea is looking better and better, even though it’s pretty much a legend too.

Muse & Writer Dialogue #14, aka Fool Me Once

Muse: You’re not trying to pull that stunt again, are you?

Writer (looking affronted): Whatever do you mean?

Muse: I mean you have a piece of flash fiction due Wednesday. Your attention is elsewhere, and so you play off me to get your word count.

Writer: No, that would be clever. We both know I’m not clever.

Muse: No, but you are sneaky. It often passes for the same thing.

Writer: Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I was attempting to do so. You’re my Muse. Shouldn’t you help me?

Muse: That isn’t helping. It’s encouraging bad habits, and you already have enough.

Writer: Aren’t you even curious?

Muse (sighing): Fine. What’s the word?

Writer: Barefoot

Muse: And you need me for that?

Writer: I would appreciate your help, yes.

Muse: You’re a lower middle-class kid from Mississippi. You spent half of  your early summers barefoot. The bottom of your feet were so tough, you could run barefoot over a stubble patch and not even notice. And  you need my help for this?

Writer: Well, I admit the word works pretty well as an image, such as the one you supplied above. But you have to admit, as a theme it’s somewhat lacking.

Muse: You’re talking 500 words. You barely have time for a decent scene, never mind a theme.

Writer: But all stories have a theme, and I don’t do vignettes.

Muse: So fine, you were a kid from the Bible belt who avoids anything to do with Bibles. I’ve met vampires more in touch with their spiritual side. Tie that in with barefoot.

Writer: Nonsense. I’m very spiritual. I’m just not religious. And you’ve never met a vampire. They aren’t real.

Muse: Also nonsense.  You write fiction, remember? And by the way, neither are muses. Real, that is.

Writer: You show up here a lot for someone who isn’t real. And the idea of a muse has been around for centuries. That makes it real, in a sense.

Muse: By that logic vampires deserve the same courtesy. By the way, have you ever heard of the Leanan-sidhe?

Writer: Sounds vaguely familiar.

Muse: It should. You wrote a story about one, years ago. It’s a type of fairy muse who inspires writers and poets with inspiration so fierce they burn out and die young. Count yourself lucky you got me instead. Not real? At this point I’m as real as you are.

Writer: That’s not saying much.  I’m something of an artificial construction myself, or at least I feel like one.

Muse: Of course you are. You tell stories about yourself in order to understand yourself. And so does everyone else with more self-awareness than an amoeba. You’re all artificial constructions. The only difference is sometimes you get paid for it. And you think muses and vampires aren’t real? Talk about a mythological creature….

Writer: We’re digressing here; I’ll edit it out later. Let’s get back to barefoot.

Muse: You get back to barefoot. I’m done now.

Writer: Funny, so am I.

Muse: You made 500 words, didn’t you?

Writer: Nope. WE did.

Muse (string of expletives deleted): You….