As part of the Little Falls Library fundraiser, I’ll be signing at Beardslee Castle tomorrow the 18th (Saturday) from around 4pm ET until. There will be a bar and lectures and author signings and a bar.
Did I mention a bar?.
Have you ever noticed, lying along the road, one sad, discarded shoe? Or maybe a boot? Now and then a cap, or work glove, but most often shoes. Rather, one shoe. I think I have seen an actual pair of shoes, once in my life. Mostly, just the one. There are a lot of theories about why this tends to happen, though we probably don’t need any other than simple human carelessness. We lose things. It’s our nature. For instance, First Reader asked me about this story just a few days ago (Didn’t you write a story about the missing shoe?) and I thought it would make a good Wednesday story. Then I couldn’t find it, and thought I had lost the file, until I remembered that I wasn’t working in MS Weird at the time, and expanded my search to include the extension of the word processor I used back then. Still miss that one, but I digress.
Story Time for this week is “Take a Long Step,” and it first appeared in Realms of Fantasy for April, 1999. This was my attempt to give at least one alternative explanation for the case of the missing shoe. Or the found shoe. It’s all a matter of perspective.
“Take a Long Step” will be available until next Wednesday, November 22nd. Then it’s something else. You know the drill.
Today’s Story Time is “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl,” which first appeared in Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix #4 back in 2013. It’s either a meditation on the nature of urban legends or a story about the birth and possible transcendence of a pair of gods. Or something else entirely, which is definitely the nature of stories. Urban legends and gods? I’m still working on that.
While I was going through my files something happened that happens, apparently, to everyone after a while–I found the beginning to a story that I do not remember writing. I know I did it because the style is totally mine, but otherwise? It’s not unusual for stories to be started and then abandoned. Either they weren’t working, or we weren’t ready to write them, either by not being good enough yet or the story refusing to reveal itself or…well, there are a lot of reasons. Usually when I stumble across a story like that I can tell immediately why I stopped, and congratulate myself on getting out while the getting was good. Not this time. This one made me want to read the next bit to find out what was going on, only I don’t have a clue as to what that is. Probably why I stopped. I hope I can figure this one out, since I really would like to know.
“A Pinch of Salt” originally appeared in 2006 in Mythic #2, edited by Mike Allen and later collected in On the Banks of the River of Heaven. It’s about foolish men and mermaids. Sort of. Other than that, I do not have a lot to say about it. The story speaks for itself a lot better than I could, which is pretty much the case for all of them.
Standard Reminder: “A Pinch of Salt” will only be online until Wednesday, November 8th.
It’s windy and blustery, raining off and on and looks a lot like November came just a tad early. Probably perfect for the horror movie crew doing location shots downtown for the next couple of days. It’s good writing weather, even if there are outside tasks waiting. In these conditions? They can keep waiting. Possibly until spring.
So what has a weather report to do with anything? Well, as I said, it’s good writing weather, so when I get done with this blog I get back on the third story in the adventures of Jing, Pan Bao, and Mei Li. Sometimes writing is easy, like pulling the bung on a full barrel and the words just gush out. Other times it’s more like trying to squeeze the last few drops from a sponge. Usually you can’t tell which is which when it comes time for the end result to be examined. Unless we haven’t done our job well, and then you can. Our bad, not yours.
Writing, it seems, can be “like” one thing or another, but what it cannot be is any particular thing more than once. Or, to fall back on the old Zen adage, “It’s always the first time.”
One wouldn’t think so. After all, I’ve written two other stories about these characters. Surely I have a handle on their world and these specific characters by now? Doesn’t feel that way, and that’s a fact. I’m still discovering facets of Mei Li’s doubts and insecurities even as they do not turn her from her ultimate goal of becoming human just so she can die as one and move on to the next karmic step. I’m only beginning to understand how the loss of her mother forced Jing into adulthood before she was ready. Even Pan Bao, that grumpy, mercenary yet pious Daoist priest, has facets to his character only now starting to be revealed. In short, I know how to write the last two stories because I’ve already done them. That doesn’t tell me how to write this one, only getting it done, working it out, will do that. And leave me totally unprepared for the next one, whatever that turns out to be.
I’ve heard variations on the novelist’s complaint before: “I don’t know how to write the next novel. I only know how to write the last one.” As someone who does both novels and shorter fiction, I can personally attest that this applies equally to both. Or as a predecessor once phrased it: “Writing is one of the few avocations which, if diligently practiced, becomes harder the more you do it.”
Doesn’t matter how many books/stories you’ve written. It’s always the first time.