Winding the Crank

WRITING 02

Spent all day up to a few minutes ago doing taxes. I had been putting it off, mostly because I knew I’d lose a writing day just to get everything together (moving, buying a house tends to complicate things, and they’re complicated in the best of times). So now I’m tired and cranky, which is the perfect time to do a blog post. Heck, I’m almost cranky enough to start on politics. Almost, I said. I’m not a complete idiot. Most of the time, anyway.

Despite the curtain state of crankitude, I’m pleased with my progress on the book, and rapidly approaching the halfway point. Some things resolved, a lot more that has yet to be. Looking forward to a final scene that should be killer and I can’t wait to write it, but I have to write the rest of the book to lay the proper groundwork for it, otherwise it won’t work. I call it motivation. Other people just call it, “Seat in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Now Work!”

Just around the time the book should be done I have an Asian-themed story due for an anthology. It won’t be a Yamada story. Time to do something else, and specifically, time to write some short fiction again. I’m thrilled to be able to do novels, sure, but I love and miss the short form as well, of which I’ve been able to do practically none in too long a time, first with the Laws of Power book, and then the Yamada taking all the writing time I’ve had. I have one more book to write in the Laws of Power series and that’ll be done. Yamada? Well, we’ll see.

 

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.

Reporting From Upstate

IMG_0377Don’t you hate it when someone gives you the “I know something you don’t know. It’s really cool, but I can’t tell you.” That one? Well, this one is sort of like that one—I’ve seen the preliminary cover art (by Alegion) for The Emperor in Shadow. It’s pretty much done, but I can’t show it to you just yet, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it is indeed very cool, in my opinion the best cover on the series so far. And I’ve seen it and you can’t. Don’t you just hate that? Don’t you wish I’d just curl up and DIE? Or worse, send me to the Harmony Hut? Your call. I’ll be over here fretting about something else entirely. I got a million of ’em.

I’ve been sleeping on a thin quilted pad with a quilted quilt over me for the last two weeks as I’ve attempted to get the new house sorted before the move. I rather fancy the experience mimics that of the way the Heian (and a lot of other era) Japanese slept, with a roll up futon for a bed and their clothes or blankets as covers in however many layers the season required. It’s at once uncomfortable to someone used to a western-style bed and yet I sleep very well, to my own surprise. Almost too well, sometimes. Things to do.

A contact in Belgium has licensed non-exclusive French Language rights to translate “Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls” into, yes, French. Looking forward to seeing it, even though I can’t read French. It’s just the idea. So far I’ve had stories translated into Russian, French, Chinese, and Japanese. Germany and the Latin and Nordic countries remain holdouts. If anyone in those countries would like to read anything of mine in their native language, bug your local publisher. They’re in charge of those things, not me.

Before the Landslide Brings Me Down

WarGod-600Before I get into anything else, I thought I’d mention that Beneath Ceaseless Skies just released their Seventh Anniversary Double Issue #183, with Rose Lemberg, Naim Kabir, I.L. Heisler, and Grace Seybold. Scott also reprinted “The Bride Doll” from Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter, so if you haven’t read any of that book yet, here’s a free way to get a taste.

Though the official release date is either the 22nd or the 13th (depending on whom you ask), Amazon is shipping real copies of Yamada Monogatari: The War God’s Son sort of…nowish. So if you’re looking for actual paper copies, there’s no more excuse. If you’re holding out for the Kindle/Nook editions, well, you’ll have to hold out a little longer. It’s unlikely they’ll be available before the official date which, whatever date you pick, is later this month.

The fact that I have a new book coming out touches on an online conversation on one of those sites that attempts to do an exhaustive listing of all new books about to hit the shelves. The point was made that, and I paraphrase, “there’s an almighty shitload of new books.” It’s true, and that’s not even counting the Indie and self-published stuff. Just from the publishers who license the rights to publish a book from an author that particular month. Publishing with a traditional publisher of whatever size is and remains difficult, and yet an awful lot of writers do manage it. So many that an awful lot of them do manage to get published every single month. It must be said, that some proportion of those awful lot of books really are awful. But most aren’t. A significant proportion of them, perhaps even the majority, are pretty good. Some are even damned good, but that might not be enough to save them.

For a reader, it’s pretty much like trying to judge the esthetic qualities of one snowflake over another in the middle of a friggin’ avalanche. It’s no wonder that many readers stick with writers they’re already familiar with, and eagerly await anything new from that set of writers. That doesn’t leave much room for happy discoveries, and yet who can really blame them, when the alternative is dealing with the avalanche?

Still, newer writers do get read, sometimes. Could be on the recommendation by a friend, or sheer accident. Perhaps the work was even enjoyed, and the reader makes a mental note to look for that writer again. Maybe. Equally likely they’ll just forget about it and go back to what they know. Most books go nowhere, either in building sales or readership. It’s no surprise that a great many writers publish for a few years and then just go silent. What’s more surprising is that more don’t do the same. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t make that much difference, since there’s always a new batch of writers to come along.

The point, if there is one, is that it’s hard to get noticed. The Yamada series has done well, and frankly the publisher was just as surprised as I was. Not that either of us didn’t believe in the books, but because we both knew that any particular book getting any attention at all is such a long shot. So here’s a thought–If you’re inclined, maybe you can help the next new writer you come across. If you like their stuff, say so. Review it. Tell your friends, especially any with similar tastes in reading. If you want to see more books from that writer, let people know. And by “people” I’m not referring to the writer or even the publisher, especially, but rather to people who might want to know, whether they are aware of this fact or not. You’ll be encouraging more books of the sort you want to read, and writers will get paid to write them for you. Win win.

Otherwise, just watch all the snow fall down the mountain. After all, there will always be more where that came from.