BCS #300

I’m running so far behind now that I thought about saving this for Monday, but I need to get my act together. Anyway, the new  Beneath Ceaseless Skies went live yesterday. Here’s the ToC:

The Hummingbird Temple—C.C. Finlay

Uzumaki of the Lake—Richard Parks

Bound by Sorrow—Maurice Broaddus

Additional stories go live April 2nd, including an audio version of Uzumaki. I’ll just note for those who keep track of these things that “Uzumaki of the Lake” is the first new Yamada Monogatari story since The Emperor in Shadow nearly four years ago.

Monday, Monday

Running late again because of a medical appointment in Cooperstown. It’s a bout an hour and a half away from here. The drive is pleasant enough, but I’ve managed to get the next appointment scheduled a little closer to home.

Oddly enough, though I’ve been here going on five years, this is the first time I’ve seen a frozen lake. Ponds, yes. Lakes, no. Lake Otsego is mostly iced over, but Summit Lake was completely iced over. First Reader suggested we go ice skating. Fortunately, she wasn’t serious. First, neither of us knows how. Second, no way the ice was safe. It was over forty degrees today. A bit warm for February, never mind ice skating.

I finished the rough draft of the new Yamada story yesterday. First Reader wondered if it was really the first chapter of a new novel. It isn’t. Needs some revision for unity, clearly, but it is a short story. Or will be by the time I fix a few structural issues. Sometimes a story almost writes itself and comes out fine with only minor adjustments. Here, I was trying to do something a little different, which requires more attention to detail. Like the old saying goes, “Writing is re-writing.” Anyway, need to get it done soon because I have two pieces of flash due, one for a local anthology and another for a group reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts on the 20th.

Then back to the not-Yamada book.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting it Wrong

Anyone who has written for any length of time has a few of these. Stories with a notion and characters you like, with decent plot, decent or better execution (in your humble opinion), also with one teensy problem—no traction. In other words…

…They don’t sell.

It happens. Sometimes you don’t get anywhere because the market for that particular “type” of story didn’t exist at the time. Maybe the market existed when you wrote them but didn’t by the time you were ready to send them out. It happens. Markets are born and die all the time. Editorial tastes can be mercurial. And, as I’ve mentioned before, with patience and perseverance, you can wait it out. I think ten years is my current record on that.

Sometimes, though, the problem isn’t them. It’s you.

These days, of course, you can just forget patience and put the story out yourself by various means: ebook, Patreon reward, whatever. It’s nice to have options. I was thinking of that the other day when I revisited an old story I’d written in the same universe as All the Gates of Hell, one of my favorite books. I think I had some notion of turning the premise into a story series, but it didn’t happen, mostly because this piece failed on the launch pad. I still liked the idea and was considering doing a Kindle short read or something of the sort. So I revisited the story…

…and now I know why it didn’t sell.

A little perspective always helps, and I was too close to this story for too long. It had to sit out of sight and mind long enough for the scales to finally fall from my eyes. Now I could give it a good hard look.

I wasn’t totally wrong. The premise is good, the characters likewise. Most of the problems are structural. The beginning is too slow. There’s way too much backstory in the time allotted, and an infodump just doesn’t cut it. If anything, at 7600 words the piece is too short. It should have been longer, with suitable pacing to make all the bits well-blended and cohesive. No way I was putting it out anywhere in the shape it’s in. Perhaps it can be fixed, but it will require a complete rewrite and expansion and I have too much else on my plate right now with new work. So it’ll have to wait.

I hope it’s more patient than I am.

Yamada Evolution

I spent a fair chunk of yesterday going over the editor’s line edits for the second new Yamada story, “A Minor Exorcism.” Rereading it reminded me of how much the character’s life has changed since the events of The War God’s Son and The Emperor in Shadow.

Now he’s got a wife he adores, three daughters, an adopted son, an estate with no fewer than six villages and their people who are all his responsibility. Sort of makes it hard to just tear off chasing ghosts and monsters any time he wants. His situation has changed and so his perspective has changed.

In short, Yamada has changed. He still does what he does best, though lately he’s not looking for monsters—the monsters are finding him.

I can understand the appeal of books and stories where there is simply one adventure after another with people who are just the same in book 1 as they are in book 4 or 5. They’re known and comfortable. You always know what you’re getting. Yet we all know life doesn’t work that way. Situations and people both change. Living does that.

Character or not, Yamada is alive to me. And that means change.

 

We Don’t Want That, With “Story Time”

Today’s topic is fashion in fiction. And I don’t mean what the authors and editors are wearing this year. I mean trends in topics, settings, and whatever. We don’t always think of fiction in those terms, but there’s always a “hot new thing.” Sometimes it really is new. Most of the time it’s a new approach to an old subject, but trendy for a time..

For example, when I was first getting ink on my fingers (in those days, literally), Sword and Sorcery was huge. As in that was most of what was being published as fantasy. I have since seen Cyberpunk, Mannerpunk,  Elfpunk and (briefly) Crackerpunk. (To be fair, that last was simply because a few of us Southern authors were coming online around the same time and rather tongue-in-cheek co-opted the term). For a while “punk” stuck on the end was all that was needed to make a movement rather than a blip. Then came the New Weird, which was a lot like the old Weird, only newer.

And then…well, you get the idea. They come and go with amazing regularity.

Most of the above was just marketing, though each had its own core of what was really happening in fiction at the time. There’s always something else.

And then there’s the subcategory: The Cliché.

These are the stories that no one wants because, well, they’ve become cliché: The Deal With the Devil. The Magic Shop. The Adam & Eve. Not that such stories can’t be well done, they’re just harder to do and not much point.

Or maybe there is. Because, in the case of the first two, I think they’re fun. And there are some stories I write simply because I can, and I enjoy writing them now and again with the full understanding that they are nearly impossible to market. Witness the DWTD collection above. In honor of that tradition, I present a brand new Story Time. This is from the Flash Fiction group I belong to, and the word we had to write a story around was “comeuppance.” A difficult word in the sense that it only means one thing and shades of meaning don’t apply. Unless of course you turn it into a pun in a magic shop story.

I therefore present, squeezed into a 500 word limit,  “The ComeUp Pence.”

There was a more obviously political way I could have taken it, but after last week I resisted. You can thank me later.