Thursday, January 31, 2013

Feeling Confident

I was lying in bed last night, reading a book by an author I admire. All at once I was suffused by a calm and certain feeling. "I can do better than this," I thought. "I am a better writer." And then I thought, "If I lie here quietly, the feeling will go away." So I did, and it did.

I'm actually feeling pretty good. In the last few days, I have gotten praise from a good editor and a nice-sized check from the same good editor; and I am feeling happy with the current story -- aka the very wet, noir, planetary romance. It still needs work, but I like it.

Praise, money, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Can't beat that trio.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Avoiding Work

Well, here I am avoiding work, not writing, but the work around writing. Contracts that must go out today, emails that must be answered. I have always had trouble with the business of writing. I could have solved the problem by putting everything in a chest, like Emily Dickinson. But I like the end result of publishing, though the process makes me nervous. Part of what drives writing is the need for self-expression -- "expression is the need of my soul," as archy the cockroach wrote. Also a love for fiction and poetry and a fascination with the skills involved. Beyond that is a need for recognition and a need to share. "This is me. This is what I see and feel. This -- on paper and in electrons -- can reach people I don't even know and maybe outlast me."

And the pterosaur in my current story is so cool! And the bugs are so horrible! (Imagine poisonous, land dwelling eurypterids.) And the fight scene is so ridiculous! Of course I need to share.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I have a new short story collection in the works, to be put out by an independent press. It will be a real print-on-paper book; and the publisher promises me it will look really good.

It will be stories based on Icelandic sagas. Eddic poetry, folk tales and folklore. I have written a number of these Icelandic fantasies, mostly in recent years. One was published in Tales of the Unanticipated, a local sf magazine, and another was published in Asimov's. The rest have not been published.

The best of these stories are darn fine. I'm happy this is happening.

I should add that this is not the collection I wrote about a few days ago. That project is due out at Wiscon, if all goes well, and is Big Mama stories.

Anyone Can Play a Viola

I listened to a broadcast of the Minnesota Orchestra last night. The orchestra musicians are still locked out by management, so this was a broadcast from two years ago: Beethoven's violin concerto and Sibelius's last two symphonies. Very nice. I can't understand why management wants to wreck the orchestra. The conductor has warned that musicians will find other jobs, and all the work done to create an orchestra that plays very well together will be lost. I think management believes that the musicians aren't important. Why does an orchestra need musicians, especially ones who are good and well paid? Surely what's important is management and the conductor. You can always find people to fill the orchestra seats.

In case anyone is wondering, I am using sarcasm or maybe irony in the above statement.

The guy who blogs as Hindrocket at the right wing blog Powerline expressed amazement when the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed a few years ago. How could a bridge spontaneously fall down? he asked. He apparently did not understand that bridges are built and maintained by people. They do not spontaneously arise or spontaneously fall down. They are the result of human labor. If bridges are not adequately maintained by labor, they deteriorate and then -- maybe -- they collapse.

In the same way, orchestras are built and maintained by all those people you watch file onto the stage with instruments. It is not simply the conductor. In fact, there are orchestras that play perfectly well -- even splendidly -- with no conductor. You can actually do without the guy with the baton. You cannot do without the guys with the instruments or the guys who pour concrete.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Macy's Correction

I wrote a post on the Macy's in downtown St. Paul closing and in the post mentioned that the Macy's at the Mall of America was also closing. This was an error, as I discovered when I got an email from a VP at Macy's. Per this gentleman, Macy's has no intention of closing its store at the Mall.

So this is my correction, as I promised the gentleman.

I'm glad to hear this news. The Mall has always had four anchoring stores. One of these -- Bloomingdale's, which is owned by Macy's -- has already closed. It would have hurt to lose another store at the Mall. And now that Neiman Marcus in downtown Minneapolis is closing, if it has not already closed, I plan to get my perfume from Macy's.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

More Banana-Orange

This idea of changes to the Ring sequel is making me really happy. I can bring back Eh Matsehar, one of my favorite characters from the first novel; and he and Nick can sit down and discuss Nick's behavior honestly. And Mats can be working on a new play, a hwarhath version of Twelfth Night, which would make a splendid hwarhath play, done in human masks, I think, and in human costumes. It would be a commentary of hwarhath and human sexuality.

A medieval trickster story might not have moral insight and moral growth, but Mats certainly understands about morality; and he could have the insight Nick may not have.

I think I can see how Mats would rewrite the play. A character -- maybe Sir Toby Belch -- moves to the front of the stage and takes off his human mask, saying "This is where the human play ends. But the ending is full of questions. Will Olivia discover that Sebastian is not identical with his sister and is not the person she loves? Will Viola discover that the Duke is in love with loving rather than any individual person, and that he can stop loving her as quickly as he stopped loving Olivia? Most of all, what happens to the loyal Antonio, who has put his life at risk for Sebastian? We need to repay loyalty and love properly. Viola and Sebastian should realize who really loves them. Antonio should end with Sebastian. Olivia should end with Viola. The sighing Duke should end alone -- temporarily, until he falls in love again. The selfish, judgmental and uncooperative Malvolio should end alone forever."

As the hwarhath actor says this, the actors rearrange themselves on the stage, taking off their human masks; and there we have our happy ending.

More work is needed, but I -- and Mats -- can do it.


I just got a story turned down by a magazine that I expected would turn the story down. None the less, it's not a good feeling. The problem with the story (the rejection note said) was that the hero did not develop morally. Well, yes, I guess you could say that. The hero is a clever and decent teenager, who grows into a clever and decent adult, though he is -- perhaps -- less moral as an adult than he was as a teenager.

The story is based on several related folk tales about tricking the devil, and I tried to keep the plot and flavor of the folk tales. The devil is evil, powerful and stupid. The trickster is good, far less powerful and smart. The trickster -- the little guy -- wins. Whatever is going on in stories like these, the message is popular. The world is full of trickster stories. Whatever they teach or tell us matters to much of humanity.

Maybe what they say is, "Power isn't everything. Intelligence matters. The bullies -- the rich -- don't always win." A good message, I would say.

When I started out, I used to get rejections that I described as "this banana is the worst orange I have ever seen. It's the wrong shape, the wrong color, and the taste is funny..."

I found these rejections really difficult, because it seemed so clear to me that the objection had nothing to do with the story. How could I learn from it? There was total miscommunication going on.

This current rejection sounds to me like a banana-orange rejection. The editor expected something from the story that wasn't in it, because it isn't that kind of fiction.

However, thinking about the rejection, I got an idea. I'm working -- endlessly -- on a sequel to Ring of Swords. The hero, Nicky Sanders, is a trickster, and there is a second trickster in the sequel. I think I can see a way to bring moral development into the novel and make it more interesting. Because Ring and its sequel are novels of the classic 19th century bourgeois variety, and moral insight and development work in this kind of fiction.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nothing Much

I can't remember what I've posted, and I'm not going to reread the blog. So what follows may be a repeat.

I'm back to more line editing, against a deadline in a week. Following that is finishing a story by the end of the month. (The story is the noir planetary romance, which did not get finished by year end.) Following that is getting back to my novel.

And I still have six almost-finished stories to finish and get out.

The stories will have to wait till after this month. One thing at a time. Or -- at most -- two things at a time.

For me all of this is busy and somewhat intimidating. But the end result is good. No point in writing, if I don't share.

Tell that to Emily Dickenson, who put her poems in a trunk.

Four stories should come out in reprint anthologies this year, and I should have a new collection out; and -- if I read and sign the darn contract -- my out-of-print books should begin to come out in e-versions.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I got my hair cut today. On the way home, I stopped at the St. Paul Macy's to buy lemon pear marmalade. It's closing in two months. Everything is on sale, and the normally quiet store was full of shoppers looking for deals. I'm not surprised that this Macy's is closing. It's always been marginal and has stayed open only because the original owners, the Dayton Corp., had a commitment to the Twin Cities and some kind of agreement with the city of St. Paul. The agreement has expired, and the store is now owned by an out of state corporation. So -- poof!

I am surprised that the Macy's at the Mall of America is also closing. This makes four department stores in the area that have closed or are closing -- Bloomingdale's and Macy's at the Super Mall, Macy's in St. Paul and Neiman Marcus in downtown Minneapolis. I suspect this is due to continuing recession and the squeezing of the middle class. These are all nice to very nice stores, places where the middle class and upper middle class shop. There were a couple of very plush ladies in the St. Paul Macy's getting deals on Dooney and Burke purses. They knew the product, and a $200 purse did not unnerve them.

As most of the middle class loses money, they move to Target or even Walmart. A thin slice of the middle class -- the upper middle class -- continues to do well. Either there are not enough of them to support traditional department stores, or they are shopping someplace else -- the Galleria at Southdale, for example.

Anyway, I was looking at people losing their jobs. The clerks looked stressed and not very happy. And downtown St. Paul is losing the only real store it had. I got my marmalade and some underwear and left, feeling depressed.

P.S. I may, of course, be entirely wrong, and Macy's is closing stores for reasons that have nothing to do with the economy and the shrinking middle class.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Modern Civilization

The night before last there was rattling and clanking in the street around midnight. It wasn't the ghost of Jacob Marley, but the St. Paul Street Department plowing snow into the street and then loading it into trucks.

Previously, of course, the city had plowed snow out of the streets onto the sidewalks, so traffic could move.

At the same time Public Works in Minneapolis were working to repair a broken water main, which flooded a large part of downtown Minneapolis.

At times like these I remember how complex modern society is and how much work is required to maintain and repair it. This is a vast cooperative effort. We should not think we are independent and self-reliant. Of course, there are people who go off into the North Woods and live off the grid, growing their own food. I'm not one of these people. I am in favor of modern civilization.