Story Time: Closing Time

Today’s Story Time is from the collection The Devil Has His Due, published in 2012. It’s a book I put together myself, and many of the stories were originals. There’s a reason for both. See, I’ve always enjoyed “deal with the devil” stories. They’re fun to write, but old-fashioned (read “cliche”) and not likely to find sympathetic editors in most conventional places these days whether the story is good or bad. But sometimes I wrote them anyway, just because. So I put them there. “Closing Time” is a bit of an exception. It is not a “DWTD” story. It’s a consequences story. The fact that it takes place in hell is incidental.

Standard Note: “Closing Time” will remain online until next Wednesday, March 21st, when it will be replaced by something else.


Doing Nothing

There should have been a blog post up earlier, but that was out of the question. See, this is a nothing day. The only appropriate activity on a nothing day is, well, nothing. The mind spins in circles and goes nowhere. All your interests, passions, odd trains of thought, all derailed, and the only mental image available is one of those old fashioned tv test patterns. Do they still do those, by the way? Haven’t seen one lately, not that it’s important, but even on a nothing day, those random thoughts and images will appear.

See? Doing nothing is hard. We’re not designed for it. Active creatures are we, in a physical if not always imaginative sense. Doing nothing, and doing it well? That’s rare. I’ve never had the knack. Wasting time? Sure. Past and future master of the form, but that’s not the same thing. Wasting time is to have something to do and decide to do something else, something not considered “productive,” but that’s not necessarily so. I’ve done some of the very best writing I’ve ever done when I was “supposed” to be doing something else. From the perspective of anyone expecting what I was “supposed” to be doing to get done, it was a waste of time. Not from mine.

Neither do I see doing “nothing” as a problem. Sometimes the mind needs to spin. Sometimes nothing, as the commercial says, is exactly the right thing to do. I have trouble with that. I tend to pound my head, figuratively—usually—at the brick wall I imagine between myself and what I should be doing, when really what I should be doing is nothing, and until I do, that wall isn’t shifting an inch.

So I did nothing, various sorts, imperfectly, but with resigned competence.

And the wall came tumbling down.

Story Time: How Konti Scrounged the World

When I went looking for the text of this story I thought for a while it had gone missing. I mean, sure I could recover the story from its book appearance so it wasn’t really lost, but my original file was apparently gone. Then I found it in an old format under a name I wasn’t looking for, in a font that was just weird. It took some cleaning up to get here, but today’s Story Time is “How Konti Scrounged the World, from the February 2000 issue of Realms of Fantasy. I’m including the introduction, written after the fact as all these are, so take it for what it’s worth.

“This story may be unique among all the stories I’ve written to date. Not because of its subject matter, or tone, or approach, or any of the likely culprits. No, it has to do with the way I work, and when it comes to deciding what story to write, I’m not in charge. Stories come from anything and anywhere: bits of an overheard conversation, an old legend combined with a new understanding, an image, an emotion. That’s why “where do you get your ideas” is such a silly question to ask a writer. Everyone above the mental level of an eggplant has ideas all the time, but not all of those ideas are stories. The real trick to writing is being able to recognize a story when one comes calling.

Except, of course, for “How Konti Scrounged the World.” It didn’t come calling ‑‑ I went and got it. I’ve always had a fondness for Creation Myths, and the clever and fun ways our ancestors answered the “how did we get here?” question. I mean, really. Mud? Transformed ants? Leftovers from the carcass of a slaughtered giant? A god’s dream? Nifty stuff. Anyway, we’d just moved into a new house and I was feeling a bit detached and out of place. Perhaps to bring some order out of the chaos I was feeling, I thought it would be fun to write a Creation Myth and I sat down with the conscious intention of doing just that. All I can figure is that there must have been some subconscious prep work going on, because in that instant Konti and his little sack appeared and the story, as they say, practically wrote itself. Wish I could do that more often. However, it would be nice if I didn’t have to pack every time.”


As always, “How Konti Scrounged the World” will be online until next Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Then it won’t be.

Story Time: Keeping Lalande Station

Today’s Story Time is something a little different–an actual science fiction story, “Keeping Lalande Station,” originally published in Future Orbits #2, back in 2001. I wish I had something relative to say about the story. I remember the process of writing it, but the genesis? No clue. Then again, it’s a story about illusion and reality, so whatever I think about it might not be relevant. I wrote it, I know that much. After that, it all gets a little fuzzy, not unlike my protagonist’s mental state.


Standard Note: “Keeping Lalande Station” will stay online until next Wednesday, February 28th, when it will be replaced by…something.


I’m a little tardy with this today, but at least I have a good excuse—I was working through the editor’s notes on “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village.” Did anyone out there think the job was done once the story was written? Heh. Quite often, that’s the easy part. Then there’s marketing, deciding where you’d like a story to be published—and no, the answer is NOT “anywhere that will take it.” You have to be picky about those things, even from the beginning. If your first venue turns you down, then you consider where next, but only then. If you believe in your work, you want a showcase, not just a venue.

Then, if you’re lucky enough to get the story placed where you want it, odds are more than likely there will be galleys, probably electronic these days, and it’s time to revise the story again, this time taking into account where an editor thinks it can be improved. You can agree or not—it’s your story—but be very clear on what you’ll accept and what you won’t, and keep your ego out of it. The goal on both sides is to make the story the best it can possibly be, and there WILL be things you missed, points in the story where you didn’t consider all the implications of your text. Keep an open mind, but fight—politely—for your vision. A good editor will not try to turn the story into something you didn’t intend. She is your ally, not the enemy.

And, when all that is done and out of the way, comes the waiting. Again, though this time it’s for the story to be published. As with submissions, the time passes easier when you don’t have your eggs in that one basket. Write the next one.

Time to take my own advice.