Senior Moments

I couldn’t call it a “senior moment,” singular. It went on too long. Last week I had a lovely fan post from a long-time reader. She was a big follower of the Yamada books but here was referencing characters in a short story that was a particular favorite of hers (Yes, I’m looking at you, Yoko).

One problem—I had absolutely no memory of that story. Yes, I’ve written a lot of stories, but not so many that one (me) would think I could completely forget one, even to the point that I was starting to believe that perhaps she was mistaking me for the author of someone else’s story.

Awkward.

I miss grep. I even miss Win98, in that one regard. There was a “search inside” function built in that would allow me, as with grep, to search within every single story file in my catalogue to determine if, indeed, this one was one of mine or not. And yes, I know there’s a way to do that in Win10, but it’s a colossal pain in the butt. If this happens again, I’ll look for grepwin or something similar. But I digress.

There’s something about writing that most of you already know. Sure, everything you write comes out of you. An experience looking for meaning, an image, a train of thought you’d like to derail, whatever. At the same time, it’s a lot like channeling spirits. You’re not always sure where it comes from, even if, intellectually, you do know, and when it’s done, it’s a separate thing from you. You go on to something else, until the next time. If, in the case of a series, there is a next time.

Which is why I thought I was done with Lord Yamada, or rather he was done with me. After The Emperor in Shadow, the story arc was wrapped up and that was that. Only last night I wrote a new Lord Yamada story. Granted, it was a piece of flash, but I’m thinking of expanding it to a proper short story, at least. There’s enough “there” there. So you never know.

As for the story I couldn’t remember? Something finally clicked, and I pulled it up. “The Right God,” from RoF August 2004, reprinted in my second collection, Worshipping Small Gods.

Took me long enough.

Yamada and Beyond

Audible Edition

Audible Edition

Surprise package in the mail last week, from my publisher’s agent—physical copies of the The Emperor in Shadow audiobook. Just the thing for those long drives in vehicles that still have those, what were they called? Oh, right. CD players. I’m sure there are a few around…other than mine.

I wonder if I should preface this next section with SPOILER ALERT, or some such, but for those who don’t know, The Emperor in Shadow is the concluding volume in the Yamada Monogatari series. I’m not going to say that I’ll never write another Yamada story, because I don’t know that (he also has another sister we still haven’t met), but the main story arc is completed, since the series always had an endpoint and my only uncertainty was if I’d get it there in a reasonable time frame. The answer turned out to be yes. The publisher plans an omnibus volume which will gather all the Yamada stories, plus three stories not yet collected, plus the three novels. That is likely not to be out until 2018. After that, well I plan to be doing something else. I hope some of you are willing to stick around for that. More details when there are any to share.

 

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?

 

History Lesson

Library

Library

Believe it or not, that mess on the left actually represents progress. There hasn’t been a lot of that, at least in the library. I can see about a third of the bare floor now. I also know that, judging the remaining books with the remaining shelf space, the numbers just don’t work, and I can’t add more shelves…well, maybe one.

That’s for later. Part of the point of at least attempting to get organized is that I have a book to finish, a book set in a specific historical period and at a very important historical crisis point. In short, my references—and one specifically—were packed up, and I needed them. Not to get into many details, but there was a particular point in the story where Imperial and clan politics interacted in a very specific way, and in order to understand how that all fit into the narrative, I needed a specific book. That is, I thought I did. Until I was able to unpack said book.

Funny thing about that—what one person considers important, another just skims past. In other words, the book I was depending on was no help at all. I shouldn’t have been too surprised. What I was looking for was a fairly obscure series of events that happened over nine hundred years ago. Unless you happen to have a large university reference library at your disposal, you’re probably not going to find what you’re looking for. I don’t happen to have that. Nor do I have the shelf space to stock every reference I might possibly need, even if they did exist in translation, and usually the ebook edition in any language simply doesn’t exist.

What I do have is Google. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but online it took me maybe twenty minutes, tops, to track down what I was looking for, thanks to a Japanese site pulling from primary sources, with English translation provided. The internet does make some things more difficult with its constant distractions. But it also makes a lot of things possible. The information I needed simply wouldn’t have been available to me without it. Fortunately, I am not without it, so no problem.

Also no excuses. Funny how that works.

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.