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.

The Long Look Redux

The first thing you may or may not notice about the new US paperback edition of The Long Look is that the cover is slightly different from the original hardcover and ebook editions. That’s because the original design was too close to the “bleed” limits of the pod cover specs. The jacket had to be redesigned from scratch, starting with Steve Gilberts’ original artwork. It took four attempts to get it right, and the final cover was just approved yesterday.

Revising the text was a breeze by comparison. And yes, there were changes. Not major, but changes nonetheless. Mostly a few embarrassing usage and context errors. I’ll be updating the ebook edition with the same changes in a few days, or at least I hope I will. It’s shaping up to be a very busy week.

Regardless, the UK edition is available here. If anyone anywhere else is interested, let me know. For now I had to go with limited distribution to keep the price of the book down, but it will be available in a few more countries.

I’ve been reading and loving Jeffrey Ford’s newest, Ahab’s Return. As the title suggests, it’s about what happens after the events of Moby Dick, when Captain Ahab turns up alive. Once I’ve finished I’ll do a review, if I think I have anything worth saying about it. Don’t wait for me, though. The book is already out there.

Flash Cast

Today I wanted to talk about a new project. When I moved to central NY, apparently everyone on the block already knew I was a writer. To this day I have no idea how; I certainly didn’t tell them, nor does anyone seem to recall how they found out. I’m not complaining, but I still think it was a little odd. Regardless, another neighbor told me about a flash fiction group meeting at the library and suggested I join.

I was reluctant. I’ve never been a fan of flash fiction, regarding it, as I know I’ve said before, as a cross between “short attention span theater” and a parlor trick. Yeah, I know, I hear it too: Judgmental much? Still, it’s not the sort of writing I normally did, but I finally gave in and checked it out.

Glad I did. It’s a talented bunch of people and writing flash has its own challenges, so on top of whatever else I have going, I write a complete micro(mini?) flash piece of <= 500 words every week. Then the head of the local theater group found out what we were doing and thought it would be interesting to do as a podcast. So we all read stories for the project, now called FlashCast. I’m including the link for the Spreaker site. In case you’re wondering, my first story up is “The Stowaway,” in episode #2, second story.  Yeah, that’s my own melodic voice. I need to work on my enunciation, but otherwise not horrible. It’s also available on iTunes, though there’s more than one podcast associated with “flashcast,” so look for the logo if you go that route.

I have two more stories recorded, and I’ll note when they’re up.

UK Okay?

I’m about halfway through the reformatting of The Long Look for the paperback edition. Fortunately, it reads a lot faster than it takes to work through it in editor mode. One reason for that is I’m being careful, as I only plan to do this once. My original assessment that there would only be minor changes to the text still holds. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any changes at all. A few spelling corrections, one or two small continuity gaffes to fix. Nothing major, but I plan to update the Kindle edition with the revised text when I’m done, so there will be essentially no difference between the ebook and paperback, other than the media.

As I said last time, I’ve always sucked at promotion. Maybe I had some introvert’s dream of just writing good stories and books and letting the rest take care of itself. Which it doesn’t. So I’m learning. I remain terrible at networking and the convention scene, which leaves learning copywriting and using those methods to write better online book descriptions and ad copy, something I believe I can do and am doing. Which has led to several online revisions over the last week or so revising how the books are presented. I haven’t gotten to them all yet, and some will be revised more than once. It’ll take time.

Odd result so far—now the UK editions of my indie books are outselling the US editions by 2 to 1. Too soon to say if the blip is statistically significant, but it is interesting. It’s a journey. I’ll report on it from time to time here, so fair warning.