Updates on Updates

"Night, in Dark Perfection" illo by YK

“Night, in Dark Perfection” illo by YK

First of all, I have a reprint from Clarkesworld #59, “Night, in Dark Perfection” in Science Fiction World, the Chinese SF Magazine. I’d give the link but it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment (Gov. interference or just a down server, your guess is as good as mine). I do have the illustration, by an artist who wishes to be known as YK. I’ve included a scan of the first page, though I don’t read Chinese, so I’ll take their word for it. 🙂

And yes, finally, the rough draft of the novella project is complete at just over 35k words. Tough to say how close to the final word count it’ll be. I usually end up adding more words than I cut out, and I cut out quite a few. This time, however, there are a few continuity issues I’ll have to address, so I really don’t know. The working title is “Little Fire and Fog,” but that’s likely going to change…as will significant portions of the text. Rough drafts are called that for a reason.

The novella has to sit and cool for a bit before I tackle the rewrite, which is fine since there’s a short story I want to tackle next, then probably back to the LoP series, barring the unexpected. I can’t leave Marta hanging fire forever.

Doh, a Deer

Speaking of ivory towers (as I was last week)—I don’t have one. So it was no surprise that last Friday I was out mowing our back terrace. As I did so I noticed something moving on the rather steep wooded hillside that is our backdrop. You likely won’t be able to see it from this angle, but she still has her spots. Rapidly losing them, of course, almost grown-up but not quite.

We looked at each other for a moment and she suddenly decided to run over to our neighbor’s hillside. Then she was peering at me through the hedge, and then she came back. I don’t know why. Curious about what I was doing, or maybe it was the scent of all that lovely mown grass. I was able to get a couple of decent shots off my phone from the bench where I was taking a break.

Actually, we see them a lot here. Rather unlike back in MS, where it was unusual to see a deer on your daily grind because they knew better. Then a section of the new Natchez Trace got completed around Jackson and that changed. Then you saw them all the time, because they quickly figured out they were in a state park and no one was going to shoot them there. It’s pretty much the same here, so far as in town. No hunting in the city limits, and it’s not season yet anyway. So the deer come and go as they please. I know they’ve turned into pests in some neighborhoods, and last year the heirloom  tomato plant I almost but not quite got tomatoes from was eaten by the deer…after the squirrels and chipmunks had already made off with the tomatoes.

Funny thing though, I don’t really mind. They were here first, after all. We just need to learn to get along.

The novella project is almost done. That is, the first of two scenes..sections, really, is done, with one to go, only now I realize there’s one more after that. Brief, but necessary. At this rate it’ll be just shy of proper novel length, but still the most substantial thing I’ve managed since The Emperor in Shadow.

I’ve been wanting to write more short stories, but I really need to finish the Laws of Power series first. We’ll see how that goes.

Nostalgia For What Never Was

I’ve heard, and been told, that there was a time when all a writer had to do was write the next book. Sure, an occasional book-signing or convention appearance was a good thing, but otherwise marketing was handled by the publisher and we didn’t worry our pretty little heads about it.

I don’t think that was ever true, or at least not the extent of legend, except perhaps in one category. That is, if you were exclusively a short story writer, then all that mattered was getting the next story as good as you could make it and getting it out. You hoped, certainly, that enough readers would like your work to create a level of demand, maybe even for a collection every ten to twenty years. Marketing, on any real level, was out of your sphere. My first fifteen years or so as a writer  I spent solely on shorter works and in that mindset, which served well enough at the time.

These days, writing is only part of what you do. And if you self-publish in addition to whatever else you’re doing, it may not even be the biggest part. Mainline publishers either don’t do any marketing at all outside pitches to the distribution channels, or do it perfunctorily at best, so whichever route you’re taking, marketing and promotion is pretty much your responsibility.

My problem is that I suck at it. I’m trying to learn, don’t get me wrong, but it’s an uphill climb. It doesn’t come naturally to me and no matter how much my head knows the necessity, my heart is elsewhere. I don’t want to look at spreadsheets and numbers, and writing ad copy is not like writing a book or story, and even though one serves the other they are definitely not the same thing. A separate skill that has to be learned, along with SEO and things like “keyword relevancy.”

That “ivory tower” idea is looking better and better, even though it’s pretty much a legend too.

Muse & Writer Dialogue #14, aka Fool Me Once

Muse: You’re not trying to pull that stunt again, are you?

Writer (looking affronted): Whatever do you mean?

Muse: I mean you have a piece of flash fiction due Wednesday. Your attention is elsewhere, and so you play off me to get your word count.

Writer: No, that would be clever. We both know I’m not clever.

Muse: No, but you are sneaky. It often passes for the same thing.

Writer: Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I was attempting to do so. You’re my Muse. Shouldn’t you help me?

Muse: That isn’t helping. It’s encouraging bad habits, and you already have enough.

Writer: Aren’t you even curious?

Muse (sighing): Fine. What’s the word?

Writer: Barefoot

Muse: And you need me for that?

Writer: I would appreciate your help, yes.

Muse: You’re a lower middle-class kid from Mississippi. You spent half of  your early summers barefoot. The bottom of your feet were so tough, you could run barefoot over a stubble patch and not even notice. And  you need my help for this?

Writer: Well, I admit the word works pretty well as an image, such as the one you supplied above. But you have to admit, as a theme it’s somewhat lacking.

Muse: You’re talking 500 words. You barely have time for a decent scene, never mind a theme.

Writer: But all stories have a theme, and I don’t do vignettes.

Muse: So fine, you were a kid from the Bible belt who avoids anything to do with Bibles. I’ve met vampires more in touch with their spiritual side. Tie that in with barefoot.

Writer: Nonsense. I’m very spiritual. I’m just not religious. And you’ve never met a vampire. They aren’t real.

Muse: Also nonsense.  You write fiction, remember? And by the way, neither are muses. Real, that is.

Writer: You show up here a lot for someone who isn’t real. And the idea of a muse has been around for centuries. That makes it real, in a sense.

Muse: By that logic vampires deserve the same courtesy. By the way, have you ever heard of the Leanan-sidhe?

Writer: Sounds vaguely familiar.

Muse: It should. You wrote a story about one, years ago. It’s a type of fairy muse who inspires writers and poets with inspiration so fierce they burn out and die young. Count yourself lucky you got me instead. Not real? At this point I’m as real as you are.

Writer: That’s not saying much.  I’m something of an artificial construction myself, or at least I feel like one.

Muse: Of course you are. You tell stories about yourself in order to understand yourself. And so does everyone else with more self-awareness than an amoeba. You’re all artificial constructions. The only difference is sometimes you get paid for it. And you think muses and vampires aren’t real? Talk about a mythological creature….

Writer: We’re digressing here; I’ll edit it out later. Let’s get back to barefoot.

Muse: You get back to barefoot. I’m done now.

Writer: Funny, so am I.

Muse: You made 500 words, didn’t you?

Writer: Nope. WE did.

Muse (string of expletives deleted): You….

 

 

 

 

Not Quite All

Fan mail is not so common that I get blasĂ© about it. Last week I got a message from a gentleman who had read all the Yamada books, loved them, and was wondering if there would be any more. So far as the novels go, the short answer is “no.” By no, of course, I mean probably not, because I’m no better at predicting the future than anyone else, and that includes many futurists.

To my own surprise, I knew Yamada would be a series when I wrote the first ever short story (“Fox Tails)” set in his version of Heian Period Kyoto (called Heian-kyo, up until his time). Furthermore, I knew the series had a definite story arc from the time I wrote the second ever Yamada story, “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge.” Every story since then progressed along that arc until it was concluded in The Emperor in Shadow, the fourth book.

Now here’s where it gets complicated. Life stories, as in the story of anyone’s life, also have an arc. There’s a point where you enter the story, and inevitably, a point where you leave it. But here’s the difference—the story itself doesn’t end. It just continues with new people. Fiction isn’t like that. I thought Yamada had left the story, and that was that so far as the series was concerned. It wasn’t.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently wrote a new Yamada story. That was a total surprise to me. Now I think I may do a few more. He’s not quite done, and so neither am I. Together with the stories so far uncollected, I do imagine another Yamada collection is possible, but another novel? Seems like a long shot right now. I almost wish I could give a definitive yes or no, but the truth is I don’t really know, and I can’t pretend that I do.

As for the novella project (totally non-Yamada), I have two more major scenes to write after working backward to tackle some structural issues. This too could be a series. I don’t know that, either.