Yamada Evolution

I spent a fair chunk of yesterday going over the editor’s line edits for the second new Yamada story, “A Minor Exorcism.” Rereading it reminded me of how much the character’s life has changed since the events of The War God’s Son and The Emperor in Shadow.

Now he’s got a wife he adores, three daughters, an adopted son, an estate with no fewer than six villages and their people who are all his responsibility. Sort of makes it hard to just tear off chasing ghosts and monsters any time he wants. His situation has changed and so his perspective has changed.

In short, Yamada has changed. He still does what he does best, though lately he’s not looking for monsters—the monsters are finding him.

I can understand the appeal of books and stories where there is simply one adventure after another with people who are just the same in book 1 as they are in book 4 or 5. They’re known and comfortable. You always know what you’re getting. Yet we all know life doesn’t work that way. Situations and people both change. Living does that.

Character or not, Yamada is alive to me. And that means change.


Not Quite as Slow

All right. The new Yamada story is completed, beta- read, revised, and sent out into the world. Working title is “A Minor Exorcism” and it runs just under 5000 words.  I’ll post when I know where or if it’s going to be published before it winds up in the new collection.

Which I now think will happen, if not anytime immediate. I’ve been going over the list of uncollected Yamada stories, and they shake out like this:




  1. The Tiger’s Turn
  2. Three Little Foxes
  3. The Sorrow of Rain
  4. Uzumaki of the Lake
  5. A Minor Exorcism

Clearly, not quite enough for a proper collection. I’ve got at least one more in mind, after that we’ll see. The first collection, Demon Hunter, contained ten, and I’d like to match that. If the delay is too long, I’ll do a short collection of six. I’ll also likely divide the stories into two sections, those occurring before the events in The Emperor in Shadow , and those following. Yamada’s life has changed, and the stories reflect that.

I’ll also likely have more than one mock-up of the eventual cover. Maybe I’ll post those here when I have them and ask for feedback. Some of you out there have been reading Yamada from the beginning, so you should have at least some input. Fair?

Time to get back to work.

Not Quite All

Fan mail is not so common that I get blasé 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.


Story Time: Fox Tails

This week’s Story Time is the novelette that began the Yamada Monogatari series, “Fox Tails.” It was originally published in the June 2005 issue of Realms of Fantasy.

As I’ve said before, I originally conceived of Yamada no Goji as a sort of noir style detective in Heian Japan. Unlike some cases, I did know it was a series when I first wrote it. I don’t always know that, witness the Eli Mothersbaugh stories. What I didn’t know and couldn’t have imagined at the time was how much Yamada would evolve over the series from my original concept. Yamada had his own ideas, apparently, but I didn’t mind. Ill behaved characters are usually the best.

How We Got Here

View of the Pinta and Nina Replicas, Hudson River 2017
Photo by Carol Parks

I blame the Matriarchy. Which is a silly way of saying it’s First Reader’s fault. She’s the one who bought me one of those DNA tests for Christmas. And yes, I know—they really can’t tell you a great deal of specifics, more in broad swaths, and to be fair this one didn’t say anything I either didn’t already know or strongly suspect, though I was open to surprises. There weren’t any, but that’s neither here nor there. The real trouble started because the test included a temporary membership in an online genealogy site.

Oh, dear.

One of my compulsions is research. It’s proved to be a very handy compulsion, especially in tackling projects like the Yamada saga, but unfocused it can be a time sink, and now I was staring right at one. Being a child of divorce was part of the problem, but even on my mother’s side the family memory didn’t go back much before the Depression. In short I grew up knowing almost nothing about the origins of either side of the family, and I admit to being curious. Anyway, combine opportunity with curiosity and there was no way I could resist.

So what did I learn? Bits of trivia of little interest to anyone else, really. Not that I’m not going to bore you with them.  I admit to being a little surprised—my father’s family emigrated much earlier than I’d supposed, mid 1600’s, and arrived just twenty years after Virginia was granted its royal charter. Right now I’m stuck at about 1595 on that side. My mother’s side, on the other hand, easily traces back to some guy named Ralph in the 14th century. The only surprise there was that they were of the knightly class and had a “seat” near London, which they later sold to the Tufnells. (Spinal Tap fans will appreciate the reference). They came over about the same time as my father’s family, or possibly a little earlier.

One thing both sides of the family had in common was just this—they were immigrants, arriving much to the annoyance of the people who were already here. And I don’t want to hear “legal vs illegal”–if you were able to (or forced to) come here, you did. That’s how it worked.

So maybe we should cut the new people a little slack? Just saying.