Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday's Dream Diary

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I'm off to Readercon in a few minutes -- perhaps I'll see you there? So today's blogpost will, alas, be perfunctory. But I've been so dilatory in recent weeks that I felt it would be wrong to just blow it off.

I have a dozen irons in the fire right now, at a modest estimate: I'm working on a new Darger & Surplus story, a new Mongolian Wizard story, two extremely interesting collaborations with other writers, a raft of other independent stories, a couple of essays, plus any number of hard-to-describe projects. You'll be hearing about them all over the coming year.

Right now, just to include something less (though not a great deal less) vague, here's my...


Dream Diary (July 14, 2017):

I dreamed I was working a crossword puzzle whose clues had no words but only brightly colored cartoons. I had no problem with "fruit" or "volcano" or "The Monkees." But the cartoon of a woman singing into a microphone stumped me. Christine Aguilera, perhaps? The older I get, the more unfair pop culture clues seem to me.


Above: Yes, it wasn't a very interesting dream. But the point of dream diaries is to keep track of everything and then, at some later point, put them all together and see what can be learned. This is how I discovered that, yes, people can dream in color and, no, it's not true that one never dreams tastes or scents.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Back to Short Fiction

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The Iron Dragon's Mother is finished and off in the world. So, while I proceed to research the next book, I have time to work on short fiction. I have a few dozen stories I want to finish with six or seven right at the top of my list.

Pictured above are my notes for one of those stories.

Which I'll get to work on in two minutes.

And as promised...

I'll have my travel notes for Tampere written up soon. Really. This time I mean it.


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Monday, June 26, 2017

A Real Cover for an Imaginary Book

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Look what Manuel Preitano made -- just for the joy of it!

Preitano is an Italian artist and author. Among many other accomplishments, he did the cover for Gli Dei di Mosca, the Italian edition of Dancing With Bears. And this is not the only time he's shared a bit of whimsy with me. Last year, he reimagined Beelzebub the cat from my story "Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown" (a line from which became the title of Not So Much, Said the Cat, my most recent collection) as an anthropomorphic grifter -- a feline rival, perhaps, for arch-conman Surplus. So I have been an admirer of his work for some time.

If you haven't read "The Very Pulse of the Machine," you can't appreciate what a shrewd piece of design this is. It captures the gist of the story in a single striking image. More than that, it captures the feel of it.That can't be easy.

And that's all. I just wanted to share this with you, so you can join in my admiration of the artist.


You can see the cover for Gli Dei di Mosca here.

You can see the portrait of Beelzebub here.

And you can find Manuel Preitano's home page with many examples of his work in the gallery here.


And coming soon...

Regular readers of this blog know that I've been giving travel tips for those going to Finland this summer. This week, I'll be doing a two-parter covering what may be the strangest way to spend an afternoon you can have in that beautiful country.

Hint (and this gives away the game to anyone who knows Finland): It takes place in Tampere.


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

American Names

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I was on the road recently and posted on Facebook (Marianne was driving at the time):

What a country this is for names! Mud Turnpike. Clums Corner. Farm to Market Road. Cropseyville. Quakenkill (river). Dyken Pond. Pickleville Road. Little Hoosic River. Bee Hill. All within a few miles of each other.
Which was responsible not only for our visiting a friend who lived nearby and noticed we were driving through, but also for over fifty comments on Funny Names People Have Known.

All of which was good clean fun. (Though if you live in Pennsylvania you will, after a few decades, grow tired of hearing people snicker about Intercourse and Bird in Hand.) (Not that I kept myself from snickering when I was in Dildo, Newfoundland, so l'm not going to put on airs here.) But I really wasn't making fun of those names, or if I was only a little bit. There is an honest, plain-spoken beauty to old American names. Even a kind of poetry.

Here's an excerpt (with a couple of sentences cut off of the first paragraph) fro a story I wrote titled "Mother Grasshopper":

Our business entailed constant travel.  We went to Brinkerton with cholera and to Roxborough with typhus.  We passed through Denver and Venice and Saint Petersburg and left behind fleas, rats, and plague.  In Upper Black Eddy, it was ebola.  We never stayed long enough to see the results of our work, but I read the newspapers afterwards, and it was about what you would expect…
 We walked to Tylersburg, Rutledge, and Uniontown and took wagons to Shoemakersville, Confluence, and South Gibson.  Booked onto steam trains for Mount Lebanon, Mount Bethel, Mount Aetna, and Mount Nebo and diesel trains to McKeesport, Reinholds Station, and Broomall.  Boarded buses to Carbondale, Feasterville, June Bug, and Lincoln Falls.  Caught commuter flights to Paradise, Nickel Mines, Niantic, and Zion. The time passed quickly.

I hope you can hear the music there. I was trying to evoke the homely rhythms of the plains states, where you can get on an Interstate and drive all night, while periodically an exit sign drifts by for Berlin or Paris or Vienna or London, so that eventually you begin to hallucinate that you got onto the wrong road and are traveling one with off-tamps to all the major cities of the Earth.

That was the intent, anyway. It fit the story, which was a strange one. But I'm going to share a minor secret here: All those names are of places in Pennsylvania.

Why did I do that? Because I could, mostly. Because even though they were from a single state, they sounded like they were scattered across America. And because as long as you're writing a story, you might as well leave a few Easter eggs behind, to amuse those few who happen to notice.


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Touring Finland: Old Rauma

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As long as you're going to Helsinki for the Worldcon, why not make a vacation out of it? Finland is a beautiful country and the one tie I visited it, I loved every minute of it.

This is part of a continuing series.

Old Rauma is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of seven in Finland, and is quite possibly the single most laid-back to tour. It consists of some six hundred buildings in the core of the town, built between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. (The city is much older but, as with so many other wooden cities, there was a fire.) The streets were laid out in medieval times, so they tend to be narrow and the buildings are vernacular -- in the style of earlier times. They are painted a variety of colors: reds, greens, yellows, blues, and ochres.

Rauma is a living city and most of the houses are inhabited, so you can't go tromping about in people's yards. But in a warm human touch, many people place items in their windows for decoration. I thought that very generous of them.

In Helsinki Square, there is a statue titled The Lace-Maker, a memorial to the fact that Rauma was once a lace-making center. But the pleasure in visiting Old Rauma is not historical but simply the gentleness of the experience: spending a few hours wandering about and getting to know a very old city, and gaining some sense of its soul.

I found the above photo at the Visit Helsinki site, which has tourist information far superior to anything I can give you. I believe (I could be wrong, though) that's the market square at the center of Old Rauma. But really the joy of the place is wandering through its medieval-narrow streets, seeing what there is to b seen.


You can explore the English-language version of the site here.

You can read what UNESCO had to say about it here.


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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bloomsday!

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In Plato's Myth of Er, you will recall, he told how in the afterlife, the Greek heroes were given their choice of lives to be reincarnated in. Most chose lives of glory and heroism. Orpheus chose to be a swan, Agamemnon an eaglle, and Ajax, a lion. Odysseus, wiser than the rest, sought carefully until he found the life of an ordinary and undistinguished man.

Over two and a half millennia later, James Joyce wrote of exactly such a man as Odysseus aspired to be -- Leopold Bloom. His Odyssey of a single day Joyce recounted in Ulysses.

That day was June 16, now known to bookish people around the world as Bloomsday. In Philadelphia, Bloomsday is celebrated by the Rosenbach Museum  which possesses the manuscript of Ulysses. Here's what they say on their website:

The Rosenbach celebrates the Joycean tradition annually on Bloomsday, June 16. Bloomsday, the only international holiday in recognition of a work of art, brings scholars, devotees, and the general public together on Delancey Place for a day of dramatic readings from the novel. The Rosenbach also produces a special exhibition related to Joyce and Ulysses, drawing from its substantial collection of modern literary materials.

And tomorrow I will be one of the readers!

If you care to hear my five minutes of local fame, I'll be reading at 5:05 p.m. But, really, if you're local and have the free time, you should just show up anytime and be happy. It's a public celebration of a work of literature! What could be more pleasant?

The Rosenbach is located at 2008-2010 Delancey Place in Philadelphia. If you've never seen their collection, you really should.

You can find more detailed information on this free event here.

Or you can check out the museum's main page here.


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Monday, June 12, 2017

And It's Done!

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Look what I have made with my own two hands!

On April 4, 2012, I wrote the first 185 words of what would eventually become  The Iron Dragon's Mother. Today, I finished the novel and the trilogy that I didn't set out to write.

When The Iron Dragon's Daughter was first published in 1993, it was intended to be a stand-alone novel. Then, ten years later, Marvin Kaye hit me up at a convention for a dragon story for his anthology, The Dragon Quartet. "I don't have any ideas for a dragon story," I told him. "But if I think of one, I'll send it to you."

In the strange way that such things sometimes happen, I went home, sat down at the computer, and immediately came up with an idea for a dragon story. And when "King Dragon" (published in 2003) was complete, I recognized that it was the opening segment for a new novel. Thus, The Dragons of Babel, which was first published in 2008.

When you have one book set in an imaginary world, it's a novel. When you have two, it's an unfinished trilogy. So I found myself in a situation similar to that of the guy who lives downstairs from a pooka and is waiting for the third shoe to drop.

The protagonist of the first book, Jane Alderberry, was in a world where she did not belong and so, no matter what she tried, she could not find a place for herself. The protagonist of the second, Will Le Fey, was a native of Faerie, and so he had to find a place for himself. I was an English major... I can recognize Thesis and Antithesis when it stares me in the face. So I knew there had to be a third novel and that it had embody Synthesis. But I had no idea what that might be.

Until five years ago.

And now the trilogy is done. At a good guess, I probably began writing The Iron Dragon's Daughter  in 1991. So it's taken me 26 years to write my trilogy.

I cannot help noting that Tolkien's trilogy only took him 12.



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