Confession Time

I am a writer, so it should go without saying that I’m a reader. Show me a writer who didn’t start as a reader and I’ll show you someone painting by numbers and connecting the dots.

On the other hand, or foot, or whatever—there’s more than one kind of reader. Most true readers start as the voracious sort, and I certainly did. Once I learned that those black ink spots meant something, there was no stopping me. Storybooks, philosophy, cereal boxes, whatever. Put it in front of me and I’d read it. I wouldn’t always understand it, mind, but at the time this hardly mattered.

That’s fairly common among readers. Later, after that initial insane rush, we start to specialize…or drift, depending on your point of view. We start to recognize that certain forms “speak” to us more. It may be a phase, it may be lifelong. I started with books and later moved to an intense affair with comics when I had a bit more discretionary income and could, you know, acquire things that weren’t already in the family library. I came into that about the time Jack Kirby moved to DC and started the New Gods series. But all good and bad things come to an end, and if you’re lucky, new good things appear (and bad, whether  you’re lucky or not) and by college I was back to books. LOTR and The Earthsea (at the time) Trilogy. Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and those echoes of the pulp era. HPL, REH.

And then…well, my true bent manifested. Turns out I am a butterfly. I go to whatever catches my attention. I am not focused. Some readers make it a point to, say, read the Romantics and ignore everything else until they’re done, then move on. I can’t do that. I go back, I go forward. I read collections and novels by current writers. I go back to things I’ve missed. Bear in mind, this is for pleasure. There’s also writerly research, which is another subject entirely. It can be and often is pleasurable, but that’s not the reason you go there. You need to know about something and try to find out what you don’t know. You go where you think that information is.

Just another way of saying I am haphazard in the extreme. For instance, I’ve managed to read ULYSSES, but not FINNEGAN’S WAKE. I’ve read Eddison’s THE WORM OUROBOROS but not Morris’ THE WELL AT WORLD’S END. You get the idea.

So the confession part. I, a fantasist, have never read George Macdonald. At all. This is something I feel a sharp need to address. So I’ve acquired copies of THE GOLDEN KEY and PHANTASTES.

Which, at the very minimum, will tell me what, if anything I’ve missed. Other than, you know, almost everything.

Up Your Nose, COVID

Lucky me. I got my first COVID-19 test on Friday and I have to take another one tomorrow. Not, I hasten to add, because I or anyone else thinks I have the virus, it’s just unfortunate scheduling. I’ve got a medical test on Wednesday that requires I test clear for the virus before I take it. I also have a routine procedure a few days later which also requires a clear test. Can’t they use the same test since it’s within such a short time frame? Ummm….no. I need a separate test for each one.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, let me tell you how it goes: they take a swab that looks about a foot long and put it up your nose as far as it’ll go, both nostrils. It’s not actually painful (or wasn’t for me). It is, however, unpleasant. Not nearly as unpleasant as getting the virus, but not something I look forward to. I sneezed continually for a couple of minutes afterwards, fortunately not until after I’d left the testing station, because if I’d had the virus I’d have been spreading it. A lot.

Wear your masks, people. It’s not a political statement. It’s just common f&&king sense.

 

Progress Report and Some Minor Rebranding

Since one or two of you expressed interest, I’ll start off with a brief progress report on the 4th (and I think final) book in the Laws of Power series, working title The Seventh Law of Power. I mean, there are seven laws total and Marta’s looking for number 6 and 7. Once she finds the 7th, well, the point of the whole thing will finally be made manifest. And there will be a point, I promise. That’s the plan. A lot is going to depend on how the next few sections go. As it stands, I’m approaching the end of Chapter 3. Marta’s getting a new servant with a lot of baggage. About 200 years of it.

And Tymon the Black is coming out of the retirement he was never really in.

I still plan to post at least a few opening chapters along the way, but not until I’m far enough along that I know I won’t be doing major cuts/rethinks to the first few.

Other Business.

I really don’t like the word “rebranding,” as it implies I’m a brand. Which I’m not, for yay or alas. But every now and then revisions must be made, and not just in stories. One of my earlier books, The Ghost War, only has one review, and it’s a crappy one, mostly because the reader looked at the cover, assumed it was something in my Yamada series, and was disappointed. While a quick scan of the description should have knocked that idea down, to be fair I see the point. While I think it was a very nice and evocative cover, some of the armor being worn certainly shows a far east influence. Here was the original cover:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I changed it to something which still fit the story (the main character soul-casts into a raven’s body at several points) but couldn’t possibly be mistaken for a Yamada story at first glance, like so. This isn’t about which cover any of us might prefer. The point is if the cover was misleading anyone, it needed changing, so I did. Here’s the new one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem, if not solved, perhaps prevented from propagating. Here’s the thing though—I’m still showing what I still think is a pretty decent book (while I was cleaning up the text for the re-release, I read a few scenes I didn’t even remember writing, and thought “Dang, this guy can write. Ego? A little.). And yet here it sits with one 2 star review. Not very enticing.

So here’s the request: Anyone who’s read the book but never left a review, would you consider it? I’m not asking for anything more than an honest review, but at least this time let it not be about the cover. That would be a pleasant change.

MS Word is a Tool

In the Realm of Legend

Oh, the joys. After moaning and complaining ever since MS Word announced my version was no longer supported, I’ve been dreading this day. I know I could go with what I had for the foreseeable future, but not forever, and sometimes you just want to get something you know is going to be unpleasant over and done with.

So today I upgraded to MS 365.

Short version? Not as bad as I’d feared. Some new features might even be useful. Still miffed about it, though. Why? Because—and I don’t think I’m unique about this among writers and even otherwise normal folk—I am a creature of habit. When I sit down to (attempt) to write something, the last thing I want to have to think about is the tool I’m using to do it. And new software forces you, at least for a while, to do exactly that. Can I format a paragraph like I always do? Underlining, italics, bold? How about shifting the margins? Headers? Widows and orphans? Of course I care about widows and orphans…oh, that’s the spacing issue. No. I don’t care about that at all, and I especially don’t care in a rough draft. And yes, I know you don’t know what a rough draft is. And for pity’s sake stop lecturing me about standard usage. Standard usage is the last thing I want. When I use a word or phrase it’s my word or phrase, and it’ll do what I darn well tell it to.

Ahem. Where was I?

Yeah, complaining. Hell, I’m still pissed about having to drop WordPerfect years ago, knowing there are still a few folk around still mad about WordStar. Yes, I know George R.R. Martin supposedly still uses it. Which sorta makes my point. Creatures of habit. I liked WP. It did what I wanted and otherwise got out of the way. But file exports to Word weren’t so great, and the editors by then had all switched to MS Word, mostly because of corporate dictates. So here we are. I’ve learned not to hate MS Word, and most of my best stuff was written on it. Once I get used to the new version, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

That is, until the next version.

I know it’s a tool. But does it have to be such a tool?

Stuck in a Groove

Totally AWOL last week and still concentrating elsewhere, for good or ill. So for this Monday it’s another piece of flash fiction. The only context is this was for the Flash Fiction group, the trigger word was “Toll,” and I was feeling a bit fey. So here is:

 

Another Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a good-natured boy named David who didn’t listen.

“You lazy, good for nothing dolt!” Which was his mother’s standard morning greeting, What he heard was: “Good morning, My Blessing.”

“Mother, I’ve decided to go out into the world to seek our fortune.”

“Our fortune? You couldn’t find your arse with a torch!”

What he heard was: “I will miss you. Please be careful.”

“I will, and I love you too.”

She just shook her head. “Mark my words, you will have a heavy toll to pay.”

Having bid his wonderful mother goodbye, David hoisted his pack and left. In five minutes his mother had his room cleared out and advertised for renters.

As happens in such journeys, David hadn’t gone more than a few miles when he met a magical cat sitting beside the road. “Here comes another bungler,” the cat mumbled.

“Did you say you were hungry? Have some cheese.”

David gladly shared what he had. When they were done, the cat sighed. “According to the rules I must help you now. Look under that fallen tree.”

Now the cat may have been magical, but he was also ill-tempered and ungrateful. He fully expected the lad to uncover a nest of hornets and be stung within an inch of his life. Instead David came back with a small bag of gold and the cat just stared.

“I could have sworn I hid that better.”

What David heard was: “This will make your journey better.”

David thanked the cat and continued on his way. The cat stared after him.

“No way this ends well,” the cat said. “I must follow and see.”

So he followed David unseen until the lad came to a river bridge, which the cat knew fully well was the home of a voracious troll. “I will enjoy this,” the cat said to himself.

As David approached the bridge, the troll appeared and roared at him. “I shall make you my dinner!”

What David heard was, “Please make me some dinner.”

“I can’t do that,” David said. “There’s barely enough in my pack now to feed a mouse. But I know what it is to be poor. Maybe I can help you.”

“No tricks,” growled the troll. “No BS about your brother coming and he’s fatter than you. Been there, done that.”

What David heard was: “I’d appreciate anything you can do, and that’s that.”

“Buy yourself a nice lunch.”

He tossed the bag of gold to the troll who opened it and could only stare, dumbfounded, at the treasure, so David crossed the bridge and went on his merry way. Soon he met the same cat again.

“How did you know that would work?” the cat demanded. “That troll should have eaten you!”

“Well, did you see him? He was twenty-five stone if he was one.”

“And what has that to do with anything?!”

“I simply heeded my good mother’s warning. She did say I’d have to pay a heavy troll.”

-The End-

©2020 Richard Parks.  All Rights Reserved.