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.


See You on the Other Side

It’s that time of year again, full of holidays. For those observing Christmas, it’s either the most “Wonderful Time of the Year” or an entire month of almost unendurable stress. Sometimes both, in which case, good luck. One thing it definitely is?


We’re all affected, whether we want to be or not. we’re all in it together.

So for those barely holding on, I hear you. For those looking forward to everything and to those just wishing that maybe, this year, it won’t be a complete disaster? I know how you feel in both instances. How about those who can’t wait to be with their families and for those who can’t wait for a good excuse not to visit or be visited? Only you know which is valid for you.  For those who can’t wait for it get here and for those who can’t wait for it to be over? Virtual hugs to both and all.

Soon the old year will be gone and a new one begun. Maybe we’ll do a better job this time around. Maybe we’ll barely survive. “Barely” counts. Big time. Regardless, a new year is a new beginning. Yes, I know. When we begin or end a year is an artificial construct. Sort of a story we tell ourselves and we all agree to for convenience if nothing else. Doesn’t make it any less real. And, as the Zen philosophers say, “It’s always the first time.” Take it fresh, whatever you do.

Here’s to the good fight in the old year, and a better year ahead.

See you on the other side.

Joe’s Wrong, But Not Entirely

This is going to be one of my occasional political posts. I don’t like doing them, nor do I consider them the primary purpose of this blog. But sometimes you have to do things you don’t like, because not doing them is worse. Those who just won’t or can’t deal or are burned out on the whole mess are at this point invited not to read further. You have been warned.

This is about Joe Biden, and the flack he’s been taking for saying that “We need the Republican Party.” Small wonder about the flack, and he’s dead wrong, of course. We do not need today’s Republican Party, and by “we” I mean the USA. This democracy cannot afford today’s Republican Party. The Republican Party as it currently exists needs to be burned to the ground and rendered irrelevant for at least a generation. Probably more. I say this as someone who was an Independent and damn proud of it until this very year, when I bit the bullet and officially changed my party affiliation to Democrat. That doesn’t mean I’m a big fan of the Democrats. It just means I don’t want anyone to mistake me for someone who approves of racism and fascism, and as a primary voter now I at least get a say in which candidates go forward. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Now then, back to Joe Biden. As I said, he was wrong…but not completely wrong and I think I understand where he was coming from. I may not be as old as Joe, but I do remember a time when the Republican Party had an important role, which was as sort of a minority party forming a Loyal Opposition. They were usually wrong-headed, but not always and they weren’t, as now, insane. I would even vote for them now and again. They were the differing opinion against which more progressive ideas were tested. Conservative, in the more original meaning of the term. Some were even liberal-leaning on cultural issues. That was what is needed–the Republican Party as it existed about fifty years ago. Before Lee Atwater (google him if you want a real horror story). Before the so-called Southern Strategy. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law he was reputed to have said something along the lines of  “We have just lost the South for a generation.”

Maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t. Either way, Lyndon didn’t know the half of it.

In its wake the GOP learned they could win votes and elections by playing to people’s fears, not their hopes, and they’ve been doing it ever since. More, they elected people who actually believed the nonsense they were spouting. To hell with science and to hell with facts. Brown people were the enemy, and so was anyone who didn’t look like them, though in the beginning they were more subtle about it. Now they’re not. Trump isn’t the disease, he’s the symptom, and the logical expression of  where the GOP was already headed. They’re now a party only concerned with the keeping and application of power by any means necessary, and both the country and democracy be damned. By now they honestly believe they have a right to rule, not govern, and anything they do to achieve that is perfectly fine. (Do you really think  #MoscowMitch is holding up all those Election Security bills just to annoy the Democrats?)

I miss the GOP that wasn’t insane and power-mad. Maybe Joe does too, but that kind of wishful thinking is not helpful. So long as their current strategies work, they’re not coming back. The best we can hope for is the complete and utter destruction of their shambling remnants as a political force for a long time to come.

If we don’t get that, we can kiss our democracy good bye.


P.S. This is our current reality and not open for debate. Don’t even try, because I don’t have the time to waste. Unfollow or unfriend as you feel necessary. Sorry to see you go, but your choice. I’ve made mine.


How Writing is Like a Snowblower


I mentioned the snowblower last time. Well, the snow we were warned about hit yesterday and today and will likely continue through at least some of the night. About a foot and half by my estimate; I have no idea what the official measure is. It was, to state the obvious, a lot.

Time for the snowblower. Now, here’s where it gets tricky. I had an electric model snowblower for the first couple of years in NY. I was, frankly, kidding myself. It was not up to the task most of the time. On a day like to today, the poor thing would have squeaked and hid in the garage. Rather the way I felt too, but things to do, schedules to keep. I had already read the manual and knew the basic operation. Also, many Southern summers wrestling (almost literally at times) with a classic Big Wheel Yazoo Mower taught me the basics of working with a small gasoline engine. I wasn’t too worried.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know how to operate a snowblower. I didn’t grow up with these things. In other words, a snowblower, despite some similarities, is not a Yazoo Big Wheel Mower.

I was in full on learner mode. And this wasn’t anything like a minor training snow, maybe five-six inches or so. This was well over a foot with drifts twice that high. Then there’s the snowplows on their regular rounds which leave a berm of ice and snow across the start of your driveway, and add another foot to the drift height plus the complication of ice in its most immovable form. In short, this was a challenge.

Blank canvas of snow considered as a blank page. You start. Things are going okay, only now where you were throwing the snow is where you need to clear next. You’d fix it in the rewrite except you’re clear on what the change needs to be so you do it now, and correct your mistake on the fly. At this distance from the curb you need to throw the snow this way, at another, that way. Are you throwing it high enough so it doesn’t just avalanche back down? Are you throwing it too high and hitting the side of the house? Adjust, find the sweet spot.

Put the words in. Take the words out, rearrange. Try to get the snow where you want it. Adjust on the fly, don’t let yourself get blogged down. Piece too high too long too deep? Take it in slices until you get what you want. Be flexible, but persistent.

In the end you have a clear driveway. Or a story. Depends on what you’re doing, but it’s all, every bit of it, process.

Yeah, one might say, but the next time you’ll know what to do. You’ll have the snowblower thing worked out.

Next time the snow will be different. So will the words and the story.

Process is how and what we learn. Not rules. Not procedures. Process.

Beginning at the Beginning

There’s a point in any project when imagining and considering and mulling has to end. Some people plot everything out. I don’t because I can’t. The only way I know what the story is, is if I write it. Nothing else. Yet even for the people who know what all happens ahead of time, there’s the point where you put the plotting aside and just dive in. After all, “plotted” isn’t “written.”

In short, time to stare down the blank page.

We’ve all been there. Again and again and again. If it gets any easier, I don’t know about it. Yes, I’ve started a new project. No, I can’t talk about it yet, because there’s almost nothing to talk about. Granted, there will likely come a time when I won’t shut up about it, but that time is not yet. I’m past the first blank page, but only just. There are a lot more blank pages to come.

Writers hate being asked where they get their ideas. I know, because almost every writer I know has fussed about it at one time or another. It’s even possible that, in a  weak moment, I have fussed about it. Pure peer pressure. The truth is no one has ever asked me where I get my ideas. I have, however, been asked more difficult questions.

For instance, at our last writer’s group, a newcomer asked me “How do you write?”

I think I just stared at him for a moment or two, like I didn’t understand the question. Oddly enough, I didn’t understand the question. Still don’t. The guy had come into the group with a beautiful piece of work, so I turned the question around: “How do you write?” He didn’t have an answer either, so that exchange probably accomplished nothing.

I probably write like anyone else does. You put down an opening sentence. You think it’s stupid, erase it and do another one. Finally  you get one that doesn’t strike you as inane. Then you write the second. Is it inane? Does it have anything to do with the first? Rinse and repeat. Eventually  you have a story. Or a poem, essay, novel, or…well, something. I have no idea how it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Oh, but when it does…

There’s nothing in the world quite like it.

Response to Little Fire & Fog has been very gratifying. Makes me want to do more with those characters. Not yet, though. Because of the new thing.