Oddly Ends

Little Falls as seen from Moss Island

Having finally learned the best way to get to Lock 17 and Moss Island, Carol and I decided to take a little hike yesterday. I’ve mentioned Lock 18 as part of the canal cruise we took recently, but Lock 17 is the one located closer to home. It’s also, at 40 ½ feet, the tallest vertical lift of any canal lock in the United States. That’s because the land cut (section of canal that is separated from the Mohawk River) was created to get around a waterfall located in that section of river. Moss Island is an island because the Eerie Canal needed to cut at a path through a big section of rock to make that land cut. The result, other than Lock 17, is an island about 625 feet by 1500 feet composed mostly of volcanic syenite. Syenite is similar to granite and makes a strong rock, which makes Moss Island a favorite of local rock climbers. We decided to take the “easy” way up.

This is a view of Moss Island from the top of Lock 17. You have to admire all the trees that have managed to find a foothold on the island over the centuries, as it’s still basically a rock and not a lot of soil to work with.

 

 

 

 

To be fair, now here is a view of Lock 17 as seen from Moss Island. Just out of view on the opposite side of the lock are the remains of the 19th century version of the lock. I’m sorry I didn’t get a shot of that, as it illustrates just how much narrower the boats traveling the canal were then. Below this is a shot of one of the two massive electric winches that operate the lock doors. It’s hard to get a proper sense of scale from the picture, alas, but it’s pretty darn big.

 

We followed as many of the trails as my stamina and Carol’s knees would allow, finally arriving at the southwestern tip looking back toward the town. Next trip I want to cover more of the river side of the island.

*

Since someone asked about the ebook version of the Tales From the Sunrise Lands anthology, I can only say at this point that it won’t be before next month (September) at the earliest. But it’s going to happen. Once I find out anything more definite, I’ll post it here.

All right, it’s time for a new Story Time. The piece I’ve chosen is “The Trickster’s Wife.”  This story originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy, February 2001 and was included in my WFA finalist first collection, The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups. I was looking over my files and realized, when I switched word processors some years ago, I had never converted it to the new format. While I was taking care of that, I thought it would make a good Story Time. The genesis was me considering how, imo, Loki’s wife got a raw deal. I thought maybe in this version she should get a little of her own back.

 

 

Tales of the Sunrise Lands: Anthology of Fantasy Japan

After the blog post, the commercial:  David R. Stokes at Guardbridge Books has edited an anthology of Japanese themed stories, Tales of the Sunrise Lands: Anthology of Fantasy Japan. This includes an original story by me, “The Cat of Five Virtues.” If that sort of thing appeals to you (and why not?), check it out.

On Efficiency

For those of us by our natures who are forced to figure things out as we go, there’s a part of the creation timeline I’ve come to refer to as the “Fits & Starts” stage, which is rather where I am now. In a short story it usually doesn’t last very long if the story is going to work. A book, if you’ll pardon the expression, is another story. It can last for chapters at at  time and often does. If it lasts more than that, well, that’s a problem.

Fortunately for me, my characters usually sort that stuff out themselves, once I’ve got a handle on them and what they’re up to. Yet sometimes it seems that this “sorting out” happens when they insist on talking to each other for extended periods. Sometimes these are the sorts of conversations that the eventual readers needs to be in on from the start. Sometimes not.  Or as one of Ursula Le Guin’s early editors of what became the Earthsea Trilogy is alleged to have said–“Ged is talking too much!” With all due respect to everyone involved,  I think I know why.

I definitely  know the time will come when, after the sorting out period and rough draft period, there will eventually come the rewrite period, and at least some of these fascinating (to me) conversations will have to end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Pity? No. Pitiless. When something once served the book but no longer does, “When it’s a drag on the flow, it has to go.” It’s our job to write it, and our job to cut it if and when the time comes when sections of the prose no longer serve the story. Chunks of any given book are completely necessary for us to write, and absolutely useless, nay counterproductive, for the reader to slog through. It’s sort of a paradox, but there are a lot of them in this process, so you just go with it.

As others have rightly observed, writing and then disposing of these chunks of superfluous wordage is not a very efficient way to go about the job of writing a book, and I heartily agree. I might find myself in envy of those people who can work all this out in a detailed outline before they even start. Then again, writing a hundred page outline of a three hundred page book doesn’t strike me as all that efficient either. Maybe writing is not supposed to be “efficient.” Maybe it’s just supposed to be done, and any way you can do it is the absolute best way there is.

 

Shifting Gears

I don’t shift gears well, as in flitting from one action to another. The first time I wrote that sentence I typoed it to “I don’t shift fears well.” Both are true, and maybe part of the same thing. See, right now it’s blog time. I set myself a deadline to do at least one blog post a week. Deadline being Monday, as in “today.” I don’t always make it, but at least when I don’t, I know which deadline I’m flubbing.

The thing is, it’s also Chapter 2 time. Which is sort of a made-up thing except that it could be anything else. Chapter 7 time, or a story where “that scene where the thing my heroine dreaded turned out to be the least of her worries” time. It just so happens that this time is actually Chapter 2 time. As in “Why, this is Chapter 2, nor am I out of it.” Except I’m writing this thing I’m calling a blog post instead of Chapter 2. What is Chapter 2? Good question. Remember, I’m a pantser, as in writing by the seat of my pants. See, I didn’t know that the norn Skuld was going to show up in Chapter 2 until she did. Why did she show up (It’s a book. Everything happens for a reason. Some say real life is like that too, but the jury’s still out on that one)? Good question. Frankly, I wanted to know the answer to that one myself. Right now the characters are hashing that out while I try to write it down. Or at least that’s what I was doing until the blog called.

A Pooka, a Banshee, and a Norn walk into a laundromat. It’s no wonder I’m confused. The real wonder is I’m not confused all the time. Rather like my “hero.”

 

Aednat frowned. “He’s looking confused again, so perhaps we’d better cut to the chase. Nudd, it wasn’t that you played a trick. It wasn’t even that it changed the past and present. No, the real issue is that no one anticipated it.”

Skuld nodded. “Or were able to factor your action into either the intent or necessity of the outcomes my sisters and I had projected.”

I bowed slightly in Skuld’s direction. “With all due respect, how is that my fault? As I said already, what I did to McReedy is no different than the sort of things I’ve done to mortals hundreds of times over the centuries. I’ve even done worse, the truth be known.”

If Skuld took offense, she didn’t show it. She simply said, “Not this time. You changed the past and the present, none of us saw it coming, and right now no one—including the norns–knows how you did it. That’s the different part.”

“Which means,” Aednat added, “that what you did was pure chaos. Or do we need to explain that part as well?”

Oh, crap….  They did not. Rather like looking up in the middle of the street and seeing a speeding garbage truck looming over you–you immediately understand the situation, even if that understanding doesn’t do you a damn bit of good.

 

Sorry, had a little bleed over there, which turns out to be the scene where our hero realizes just how much trouble he’s in, and why. Now, as soon as he tells me, we’ll both know.

Time to shift gears. Later, people.

 

Empty Places, Part 2

In case you missed it, “Empty Places, Part 2” as performed by LeVar Burton launched on July 4. I use the term “performed” advisedly, because that’s a distinction I learned early on. Back when I was attending more sf/fantasy conventions, I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Parke Godwin. I’d been to a few readings before that and I’d always enjoyed them, but this one was a revelation–Parke Godwin was an actor before he turned to writing, and he approached his readings the way an actor would approach a play–as a performance. The characters each had their own voices, the inflections were placed where he wanted them, the emphasis of one word over another precise and intentional. I was transfixed, and it was a lesson I always tried to bring to my own readings when it came time to do them. I never had the actor’s skillset to pull it off in the same way, but changing my approach improved my readings greatly.

LeVar Burton has those skills. Listening to him perform “Empty Places” Parts 1 and 2 was almost as if I was hearing the story for the first time, and I wrote the darn thing. I can’t recommend “LeVar Burton Reads” highly enough.

LeVar Burton Reads