The Ides of March

Snow’s melting, and the Ides of March was just a few days ago. Richard Armour once claimed that was tax season in ancient Rome, but I haven’t been able to verify that yet. I do know that it’s tax season now, assuming one doesn’t want to wait until the last minute, and I certainly didn’t.

So yesterday was tax day for me, and I spent the entire afternoon, easily 4+ hours, putting it together. Since both my wife and I are self-employed, that’s a lot of receipts and a couple of Schedule Cs in addition to the normal forms. Of course, as soon as I emerge her comment is “That didn’t take long.” Felt long to me, until she reminded me, without computer assistance, it used to take a couple of days, an entire weekend,  and that was even before it got as complicated as it is. Yes, I’m old enough to remember doing taxes on paper.  Thank heaven for software and electronic filing.

A good reason to remind oneself: it could always be worse. Even if, in the country’s current situation, it’s hard to imagine how.

The Yamada story has been through First Reader and rewrite, and is currently under submission. Which is pretty much the situation with any story you’re not putting out yourself: hurry up and wait.

I should be thinking about another Yamada collection. I don’t have quite enough uncollected Yamada to do it right now, but it wouldn’t take more than a few more. I’ll find out later if I have those in me. Those currently uncollected are the later ones: “Three Little Foxes,” “The Sorrow of Rain,” “The Tiger’s Turn,” and the new one, working title “Dai-Uzumaki.”

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.

 

There Are No Ivory Towers

sheffield1Not for us, anyway. Case in point, the illustration to the left. That is Sheffield. He is the elder (we think) of our two cat brothers, Sheffield and Sterling, sometimes referred to here as “Da Boyz.” This is the context–yesterday I started a new story. What it is or how it’s going to turn out is, for now, beside the point. What does concern us is the simple fact I had stolen the time for it from a period when I was supposed to be working on something else, and I had taken the time for that theoretical “something else” from other pressing projects. In short, I was writing in the mode of “guilty pleasure,” which is one of my favorite ways to do it. Seriously, I get some of my best work done when I’m supposed to be doing something else. A psychologist might make much of that, but I really don’t care. It’s just the fact, and being forced into early and I believe temporary retirement hasn’t changed that. Continue reading

Cats, Skunks, and Audiobooks. Is There a Connection?

YamadaEmperor-600You don’t always dodge the bullet. Carol and I just spent a rough night followed by some non-too-joyous time this morning giving one of our cats a special bath to remove (or at least dial-down) eau-de-skonk. Took us a while to figure out what had actually happened, since he got the concentrated point-blank skunk shot and it smells more like burning rubber than normal skunk. For a while. Then the true nature of the situation becomes way too clear. I hope he’s learned his lesson. I doubt it, because Cats.

In an attempt to move on to more to a more pleasant subject, I just received my free author codes for the Audible.com edition of Yamada Monogatari: The Emperor in Shadow. More than I need, and rather than let them sit idle, I’m going to give them away. No silly contest, no “What was the ghost Seita-san’s favorite food?” None of that nonsense. Just one string—I want you to review/rate the audiobook when you’re finished. That’s it. Hate It, Love It, Meh, Whatever. The review can be long and insightful or short and pungent. Entirely up to you, and doing a review at all is strictly on the honor system. I will not be checking. The only other catch, if you can call it that, is I have only a limited number of these, so it’s first come, first served, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I’ll put up a note when that happens.

All you need to do is shoot me an email requesting one of the codes, and as long as I have one free I will send it back to you along with instructions for using it. My email address is in human-readable form on the “About” page on the website. Grab it and go, and Happy Listening.

Edited to Add: And we’re done. Thanks to all who participated.

Imaginary Imaginings

YamadaEmperor-600I have a quirk which my wife has often remarked upon. I have conversations in my head which I then forget to have in real life, yet will sometimes believe that I’ve done so. I’m so used to holding up two ends (or more) of an imaginary conversation and spinning scenarios that it’s not always easy to turn off. Unchecked, it can play havoc in a normal relationship, and I do try to keep it under control. Nevertheless, I’d never want to eliminate this quirk, because it is simply too useful a tool. What is dialogue except an imaginary conversation between two beings who do not exist, save on the screen or page?

However….

What happens when the imaginary scenario turns into an imaginary scenario? By which I mean in the writing process an imaginary conversation did not manifest beyond the imagination?

You’re right—I’m not sure I understood that last bit myself, so let me try again, more concrete, less surreal. I finished the rough draft of Yamada Monogatari: The Emperor in Shadow on May 24th. First Reader was kind enough to push it up to the top of her queue because of the time crunch, and the last several days I’ve been working through the rewrite. In the book Yamada needed a crucial piece of information. I worked out a logical way for him to receive said information without alerting the wrong people, and I worked out the scene where it happens. I set the logic bomb in motion and wrote out what followed from this crucial scene to the end of the book.

One problem—I never wrote the actual scene.

How did I manage to do this? Beats me, fore the reason already mentioned. I did not discover this until the read through. There was a hole in the book, left there by me because I had envisioned the scene and its aftermath so clearly, so completely, that somewhere in the twisty lump I call a brain, I thought I’d already written the darn thing. Only I hadn’t. This took all of ten minutes to correct, since the scene was still in my head, down to the last detail, right where I had left it. It was like sentences where someone leaves out a word—or perhaps you do it yourself—in a succession of words which flow such that your brain fills in the missing word even though it is not there. Sometimes you never even notice.

Fortunately for me and the book, I did notice. Though if I hadn’t, I fully expected to hear about it from my editor at Prime—“How the hell does he know this??”

I spared us both the aggravation, but it was a close call.

The book is turned in, and assuming no major revisions are needed—or I didn’t leave anything else out–we should be on track for a September 2016 release. Now it is on to other imaginary conversations, which I hope I will at least remember to write down.