Yamada Redux

First a quick couple of notes. The new Yamada story is finished, submitted and sold to Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  The title is “Uzumaki of the Lake” and it might come out this year, maybe autumn or winter. I’ll post it here when I get a solid date. Not counting the last two novels, it’ll be the first new Yamada story in seven years. I guess we both needed a break.

Break may be over though. I’m already mulling another one. We’ll see if it comes together. I hope so. I’ve missed those guys.

I hit a problem in the new novel which was slowing me down considerably, but I think I’ve got a handle on at least the next part, so that goes on.

I used to be a chess player, in that I played in HS and even played on the college team. The highlight of my career was getting a draw in a ten-board exhibition match with an A rated player. The lowest point was a HS tournament where a lighting fixture fell on my head. It was enough to make me wonder if I should consider another hobby. Regardless, I hadn’t even looked at a chess board in years when I stumbled across a couple of chess problems recently and solved them easily. I was never that good at chess problems (for those who don’t know, it’s a board set up so that one side or another can easily win or gain advantage,  if only they can figure out the right move).  It’s got me thinking about playing again.

Time just looks at me and laughs.

 

Didn’t We Just Leave This Party?

Saturday it was sixty degrees. Monday there’s snow on the ground. Sounds like an April Fools’ joke where some wiseacre hired a snow machine to trick his neighbor, but no. Just winter being a dick. “You thought I was gone? I’ll show you!” Probably not the last we’ll see of the old boy before May.

I have editorial revisions to do. Been a while since that’s happened. The regular sort of working revisions? Sure, plenty. These are at the direction of someone else. I don’t mind revisions, mostly. Usually it just gives me one more chance to make the story better before any other reader sees it. That’s if you are working with a good editor. This is a good editor. I’ve worked with some that, well, not so much. I take comfort, however, in knowing a bad editor generally isn’t around long, so there’s a limit to how much damage they can do. That doesn’t help much when you’re struggling to make sense of suggestions straight from the Twilight Zone.

As I said. I don’t mind revisions. For proof, I only meant to glance at what I was doing on the story revisions and ended up working through the entire manuscript. Which is why this blog post is going up in the late afternoon rather than early afternoon. Not that I’m done with the manuscript, of course. I’ll look it over again and see what I could do better.

Pretty much my only rule for revision is: make it better or make it stop. It’s a word we sometimes forget. You can always say no. It’s your story. Worse case, you look for a market that appreciates it for what it is, not for what someone else thinks it should be. But usually a good editor won’t do that. They’ll see what you were trying to do, and help you do it better. That’s gold. And rarer.

The Ides of March

Snow’s melting, and the Ides of March was just a few days ago. Richard Armour once claimed that was tax season in ancient Rome, but I haven’t been able to verify that yet. I do know that it’s tax season now, assuming one doesn’t want to wait until the last minute, and I certainly didn’t.

So yesterday was tax day for me, and I spent the entire afternoon, easily 4+ hours, putting it together. Since both my wife and I are self-employed, that’s a lot of receipts and a couple of Schedule Cs in addition to the normal forms. Of course, as soon as I emerge her comment is “That didn’t take long.” Felt long to me, until she reminded me, without computer assistance, it used to take a couple of days, an entire weekend,  and that was even before it got as complicated as it is. Yes, I’m old enough to remember doing taxes on paper.  Thank heaven for software and electronic filing.

A good reason to remind oneself: it could always be worse. Even if, in the country’s current situation, it’s hard to imagine how.

The Yamada story has been through First Reader and rewrite, and is currently under submission. Which is pretty much the situation with any story you’re not putting out yourself: hurry up and wait.

I should be thinking about another Yamada collection. I don’t have quite enough uncollected Yamada to do it right now, but it wouldn’t take more than a few more. I’ll find out later if I have those in me. Those currently uncollected are the later ones: “Three Little Foxes,” “The Sorrow of Rain,” “The Tiger’s Turn,” and the new one, working title “Dai-Uzumaki.”

The Unexpected, and a Confession

Apropos of last week, I finished the rough draft of the new Lord Yamada story yesterday. I am honestly surprised. I have to blame the Flash Fiction group, since I was looking at the trigger word for that week’s assignment and thought to myself…that’s a Yamada story.

No way.

Yes, way.

So first I wrote the flash, then went on to expand it to (to me) proper story length. It’s still short for a Yamada piece. Most of those were in the 5-7k range and many went to novelette, even excluding the actual novels. This one’s only about 3000 words. May get a little longer (or shorter) in the rewrite. We’ll see. If and when it’s published, I’ll be sure to let everyone who’s interested know. And even those who aren’t. Blogging is like that.

Now the confession, triggered by a twitter exchange I saw a few days ago. A writer I know was confessing to writing fan-fic when she was starting out. Several others chimed in to, sharing their confessions. Some were still writing it, long after they turned pro.

I found this all a bit fascinating, so herein is my confession: I have never written fan-fic.

For the one or two of you out there who don’t know what fan-fic is, it’s simply writing your own stories using someone else’s characters and set in their universe. Just for fun. Or because you think you could handle certain things better than they did.

But wait, Straw Man says. I know for a fact you’ve written stories featuring Beowulf, and Oedipus, Hera, and Eris, Goddess of Discord.  You didn’t invent them! Very true. And I will concede that, legendary or not, someone made them up at some point. Unless Eris or Hera takes offense at that categorization and I therefore humbly withdraw it. I don’t want either one mad at me. Regardless, in my mind there’s a very fine but definite distinction between writing a story based on legend and writing, say, a Harry Potter story. That distinction is the author.

That, to me, is the difference. Writing a story based on a legend and supplying my own slant on the story is being part of a conversation that we, as human beings, have been having with ourselves for a long time, and one that deserves to continue. Writing in a known author’s universe, otoh, is me playing in their sandbox, and I do not belong there. It’s not even about copyright, for the most part, since most fan-fic writers only publish in closed groups and aren’t trying to usurp the original author’s prerogative. Even in cases where the copyright has expired, I still can’t do it.

It’s not a moral position. I know other people don’t have this problem, and if you can do something interesting with a public domain work, go for it.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to, mind you. A few years ago someone was putting together a Fritz Leiber tribute anthology. At that point, Fafhrd and the Mouser were fair game, and  since Leiber was one of my favorite writers ever, I wanted in.

I couldn’t do it. I tried, but every word I put down on paper echoed in my head as the same word: wrong. And no matter what I told myself, or what I wrote, that word never changed.

I’ll always regret not having my work in that book. But I’ll never regret why.

 

Senior Moments

I couldn’t call it a “senior moment,” singular. It went on too long. Last week I had a lovely fan post from a long-time reader. She was a big follower of the Yamada books but here was referencing characters in a short story that was a particular favorite of hers (Yes, I’m looking at you, Yoko).

One problem—I had absolutely no memory of that story. Yes, I’ve written a lot of stories, but not so many that one (me) would think I could completely forget one, even to the point that I was starting to believe that perhaps she was mistaking me for the author of someone else’s story.

Awkward.

I miss grep. I even miss Win98, in that one regard. There was a “search inside” function built in that would allow me, as with grep, to search within every single story file in my catalogue to determine if, indeed, this one was one of mine or not. And yes, I know there’s a way to do that in Win10, but it’s a colossal pain in the butt. If this happens again, I’ll look for grepwin or something similar. But I digress.

There’s something about writing that most of you already know. Sure, everything you write comes out of you. An experience looking for meaning, an image, a train of thought you’d like to derail, whatever. At the same time, it’s a lot like channeling spirits. You’re not always sure where it comes from, even if, intellectually, you do know, and when it’s done, it’s a separate thing from you. You go on to something else, until the next time. If, in the case of a series, there is a next time.

Which is why I thought I was done with Lord Yamada, or rather he was done with me. After The Emperor in Shadow, the story arc was wrapped up and that was that. Only last night I wrote a new Lord Yamada story. Granted, it was a piece of flash, but I’m thinking of expanding it to a proper short story, at least. There’s enough “there” there. So you never know.

As for the story I couldn’t remember? Something finally clicked, and I pulled it up. “The Right God,” from RoF August 2004, reprinted in my second collection, Worshipping Small Gods.

Took me long enough.