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.

Zen and the Art of Beating Your Head Against a Wall: Who Am I This Week?

YamadaEmperor-600Most of this post will have nothing to do with the image above. It’s the likely final cover for the next Yamada book, due out in September. I saw a working image much sooner, but since the publisher (Prime Books) has officially put it up on their website, I’m showing it here for the first time.  I am working furiously to make sure the book happens on schedule, but taking a few minutes to surface here because I feel bad about missing my post yesterday. I try to keep the posts themselves on schedule too, but you’re always doing battle with the day, and sometimes you don’t win. Yesterday I made my word quota on the book but the rest of the day was spent on an errand to New Hartford and a new air compressor for the next phase of trim work in the house. Soon: back to painting. The fun never stops on the quirky castle on the hill.

All that aside, a day or two ago I sold a reprint story to a new anthology(details TBA). Writers love reprints for a couple of obvious reasons. 1) It’s money for work we’ve already done and 2) Every appearance helps raise the profile and name recognition just a tad, non-trivial if you’re trying to build a readership, and what writer isn’t? Yet again, the post isn’t about that as such, nice though it is, but an event it triggered.

I have to provide a bio.

Yep, I’m here to fuss about bios again. Probably the one thing none of us should complain about is having to provide brief author biographies for whoever is publishing you. When I was just starting out I’d be thrilled at the idea, and struggle to keep the thing within the 100-200 words you’re generally allowed. Now if I can manage more than a couple of sentences it’s only a victory of the will. I went through a phase of just making stuff up, because that’s what I do anyway, but bios are supposed to be non-fiction, at least in theory. I finally judged it inappropriate to claim I had a side career teaching T’ai-Chi to polar bears, though stressed as the poor things are now, they can probably use it. So I generally end up writing something like this:

“Richard Parks’ work has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Realms of Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and several “Year’s Best” anthologies and has been nominated for both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature. The fourth book in the Yamada Monogatari series, The Emperor in Shadow, is due out from Prime Books in September 2016. He blogs at “Den of Ego and Iniquity Annex #3”, also known as: www.richard-parks.com

Seriously, can you get any more boring than that? Possibly, but you’d really have to work at it. And they’re all variations on this one. Believe me, I take comfort in the knowledge that a lot of readers don’t even bother with them, and why should they? It’s the story that counts. The paradox is that I hope publishers keep asking me for them for a long, long time to come.

Going, Going…I lied. Already Gone

3rd Story CollectionTo the left is the cover of my third story collection, issued in 2010,  On the Banks of the River of Heaven, which is the title cut. Not only was it the third collection in ten years, but it was my first hardcover collection. As of a week or so ago, it’s out of print. If you look on Amazon it will say that it’s “Temporarily Out of Stock,” but this isn’t so. There may or may not be a few stragglers with the publisher and a few more with me, some in the used market, but basically it’s gone. We’ve talked about that whole thing where publishing short stories is like “throwing rose petals in the Grand Canyon and listening for the thud.” It was definitely true here. I can’t complain too much, as the book sold well enough to finish out its run, which is something a lot of print books never do, but in five years it never got a single Amazon review. Things like that tend to make a writer feel unwanted. Whereas on GoodReads it had sixteen ratings and a score of 4.5 out of 5.0, and anyone on GoodReads knows what a tough crowd they are. It is a good book, and I’m not going to let the fact that I wrote it stop me from saying that, but its time on the physical plane is over. It will live on, possibly forever, in ebook form.

I have to keep it short today because I’m on deadline. I’ve almost never been on deadline in my entire writing life, but there are firsts for everything. Time to get back to Yamada, and today promises to be interesting. I have the strong feeling that an Imperial Princess is just about to tear Lord Yamada a new one. Is it wrong of me to say that I think I’m going to enjoy this?

 

Almost Normal, For Outlying Values of Normal

New Desk

New Desk

After over four months working off of a folding card table, I finally have a new desk. Carol found it online, a discontinued model for a ridiculously low price, and I only had to argue with the instructions once while I was putting it together. While it’s not my normal style–I have a style? Sort of. I lean more toward Mission and Arts & Crafts–I’m frankly not that picky when push comes to pen. Give me a good working surface with a bit of storage and I’m happy. Plus I managed almost 2000 words on my first writing session on the new equipment. I score that both a good omen and a solid win. Just don’t expect the desk to continue looking this neat. When it comes to my work space and library, I don’t do neat.

Now all I have to do is get the rest of the boxes in my new library sorted, which is going to lead to more painful decisions, but you can’t fight physics. I know the shelf space I want doesn’t fit the shelf space I have. More books will have to go into the attic. Granted, these are mostly books I want to keep even though I know I won’t be reading them again anytime soon. I just have to decide which ones those are. I’ve already had to pack up most of my brag shelf, which stroked my ego a bit because there were so many, but stung it a bit in that I just can’t keep them all out and visible. But then, I was the only one looking at them and I already knew what they looked like. Priorities.

I can see most of my floor now. Once the remaining boxes are dealt with and the guitars on their wall hangers, I can put down a rug. Nothing says “you’re home” quite like your own area rug. That pretty much declares “space of your own.” Little things, but they do matter.

As for the book, it’s coming along, and for those who care, here’s a heads-up.  Yamada Monogatari: The Emperor in Shadow, is going to be a much more political book–Heian politics, I hasten to point out–than The War God’s Son. I sort of knew that before I even started writing it, but my previous writing session rather emphasized the fact. Just saying.

SnowNuts

SnowNuts

I’m learning about snow. In Mississippi, snow was a fleeting acquaintance at most. In all my childhood I can only remember two really significant snows, that is, accumulations great enough to scrape together a half-way decent snowman. One weird winter we had the local equivalent of a blizzard. Nine inches. Us kids had a ball, though I don’t remember the grownups being too keen on it.

So far this January it has snowed more here in NY than it did in the last five years in Mississippi. Yet snow is different here. In MS the snow was damper and tended to stick to itself. Easy to make snowballs and snowmen on the rare occasions when there was enough of it. Here in central NY there’s plenty, only it’s mostly what I think is referred to as “powder.” Very light and fluffy. Doesn’t stick together worth a darn, or at all, really. Good for shoveling. Good, apparently, for skiing, since there are several ski resorts in the area that were really bummed at the mild December. Not enough snow then. Mother Nature’s making up for it now. I am learning how to shovel snow. I can’t say it’s a skill I had ever aspired to, but it’s part of the deal. Fortunately, the snow is light and fluffy. It’s not that hard to move.

Another odd thing: when small animals make tracks, the snow is compressed in the middle and pushed up on the outside. When it partially melts, the pushed up area melts last, leaving these almost perfectly round “snownuts” along the animal’s path. They look like a trail of frosted doughnuts, just left there on the ground. Doubt they would taste as good, though.

The Emperor in Shadow proceeds. I have a long way to go, but I still think I can finish in time. I’m still in the section which I refer to usually as the “churning” section. Plot elements are being created, characters introduced, and the writing itself shows how they all fit together. Eventually. For the moment, it churns. Soon the pace will pick up when, well, I won’t say when I figure it all out, because that’s not quite how it works. Ray Bradbury is alleged to have said, “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” That makes sense to me, but as for the actual day to day writing part, I say rather that the story triggers some sort of self-organization principle which is one of the keynotes of life in general. Life wants to happen, and so does story. For a book to live, it has to do something similar. At those times I feel more like a photojournalist than a writer, just trying to record the life as it happens. In this case, it just happens to be a novel.

If it’s not alive, well, there’s nothing to record. Just words. Like empty holes in the snow where maybe a living thing should have been.