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.

 

 

 

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.

Slow Going

I’ve gotten slow.

Normally it shouldn’t take more than two weeks for a novelette. Here I am at a solid week and I still haven’t finished a short story. It’s not because I don’t know how the story goes, I do. It’s not because I’m not working on it, I am. Not really sure about the because, actually, but I’ve got my suspicions.

To begin at the beginning, I’m a member of a flash fiction writer’s group. I’ve been in writer’s groups before. Back in Mississippi we had a very successful writer’s group that produced several published stories and even one Nebula nomination (not me, alas). I hesitated about joining the local group simply because it was flash fiction, which I’ve never been a fan of, but I was curious about the local scene, so I finally put my misgivings aside and very glad I did. It’s a talented bunch and flash has its own challenges. When I think of flash, I think of anything under about 1500 words. Nuh-uh. Here we have 500. Max. Some groups go even shorter.

Start with a challenge word. We write whatever we want, but it has to include the challenge word for the week. Three of those week’s words resulted in new Yamada stories. In 500 words. Still wrapping my head around that one myself. Naturally enough, for each of those I had to leave a lot out and imply a lot more…which meant I naturally wanted to expand them. The first one sold to BCS last spring. Working on the second one now and have plans for the third, but here’s the thing–I am writing very slowly. Yes, now we’re back to the subject of this digression. Which there wouldn’t be room for in flash, but there you go.

I think flash has me in the habit of drafting more carefully. Fine in a rewrite, but it tends to hamper things on a first draft. First draft should be more like careening down a hillside on a bike with no brakes. Even so, I usually end up with a 6-7 hundred word draft that has to be cut to 500. So when I do the same thing on a story that would normally run in the 3000+ word range, that doesn’t work as well. It slows you down.

Now that I’m aware of the problem, I can make a conscious effort to fix it. But of course first I had to become conscious that there was a problem. Which I should have realized when it took me six months to write a novella when I’ve finished full novels in three. Or an entire week to only get two thousand words of what I think will be a 3500 word story, once I’ve put in all the stuff I had to leave out the first time.

Wisdom is uncertain. Learning is optional, but better than not.

To Sum Up….

I used to hate writing synopsis. Now they merely annoy me. In another ten years or so, I might even learn to like them, if I live that long. It once helped me a bit to think of them as “writing a story about a story,” which is true but redundant. Now I think of them as retelling the story to make the story sound as good as you actually think it is.

Only you’ve got 3-4 hundred words, tops. Preferably less.

What I’m really talking about is ad copy. First the book is judged by it’s cover. I know, you can’t do that…but EVERYBODY DOES. So saying you can’t is kind of pointless. It reminds me of that scene from Shogun when a daimyo does something horrible and likely illegal and the hero asks, “Can he do that?” To which the answer, of course, is “He has done it.” So it’s reality. You can argue with reality, and lord knows I’ve done my share of it, but you don’t usually win.

Next it’s judged by the description. The ad copy. The synopsis. Great books have lousy copy. You see it all the time. Does it stop the book from selling? Not if word-of-mouth or other advantages override the fact that its description sucks. Does it help? Not even a little. Does it hurt? Quite a bit. I don’t have control over the ad copy of all my books. Some of it I think is terrible. Some’s not bad. As for the rest, I’m working on it.

All writing is hard, but some is harder than others.

 

Doh, a Deer

Speaking of ivory towers (as I was last week)—I don’t have one. So it was no surprise that last Friday I was out mowing our back terrace. As I did so I noticed something moving on the rather steep wooded hillside that is our backdrop. You likely won’t be able to see it from this angle, but she still has her spots. Rapidly losing them, of course, almost grown-up but not quite.

We looked at each other for a moment and she suddenly decided to run over to our neighbor’s hillside. Then she was peering at me through the hedge, and then she came back. I don’t know why. Curious about what I was doing, or maybe it was the scent of all that lovely mown grass. I was able to get a couple of decent shots off my phone from the bench where I was taking a break.

Actually, we see them a lot here. Rather unlike back in MS, where it was unusual to see a deer on your daily grind because they knew better. Then a section of the new Natchez Trace got completed around Jackson and that changed. Then you saw them all the time, because they quickly figured out they were in a state park and no one was going to shoot them there. It’s pretty much the same here, so far as in town. No hunting in the city limits, and it’s not season yet anyway. So the deer come and go as they please. I know they’ve turned into pests in some neighborhoods, and last year the heirloom  tomato plant I almost but not quite got tomatoes from was eaten by the deer…after the squirrels and chipmunks had already made off with the tomatoes.

Funny thing though, I don’t really mind. They were here first, after all. We just need to learn to get along.

The novella project is almost done. That is, the first of two scenes..sections, really, is done, with one to go, only now I realize there’s one more after that. Brief, but necessary. At this rate it’ll be just shy of proper novel length, but still the most substantial thing I’ve managed since The Emperor in Shadow.

I’ve been wanting to write more short stories, but I really need to finish the Laws of Power series first. We’ll see how that goes.