Ten Spikes, One Spike, Sado, Baejjangi, and More…

Yeah, another writing update.

Well, I finally got “The Broken Pathway” (aka “The Broken Path” and “The Spike”) done. Some neat magical stuff and a (somewhat) dramatic (and dramatically magical) ending with a tiny, quiet coda at the very end… which expanded the story up to nearly the same length as the original draft, even though I removed several characters — one of them animal — and a subplot about a monk raping a woman sent by her infertile husband to the temple to pray for a son… and about his meeting the daughter he never knew he sired that night. In its place, more overt magic, a new ending, and all kinds of tinkering. The funny thing is that while the story is set during the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95, the time period is almost non-obvious. Much of the story, aside from the attire of one character, could be set in a much earlier time period. The other neat thing is the story takes place in my very neighborhood — indeed, on the very mountain I sometimes mention hiking upon.

While discussing this story with a friend (via email), I realized that another very interesting time-period in which to set a story about Japanese geomancy — and non-Japanese counteroffensive using the same techniques — would be during World War II. My shamelessly Eastwood-inspired sketch (now at 1,000 words, shooting for 4,000) places the action on Okinawa, and in the voice of your average, somewhat racist young American soldier, during the Battle of Okinawa (prior to a geomancy-powered Operation Downfall), tentatively titled “Ten Spikes and a Hammer.” Here’s a taste of the opening:

“Come here, now-now!” Tsai yelled down at us. The old chink looked funny up there on that rock above us all, in oversized army fatigues and that Russkie-styled cap of his sitting way back on his head, waving his white handkerchief in the air, as if to catch our attention. “Come, come, come on, you come!” He looked like he was ready to crap in his pants.

Nobody wants to go first. Not when you’ve seen half your buddies blown to pieces by Jap artillery. You never know where they might be hiding. Them Jap bastards had the goddamned mountains completely hollowed out, it looked like. Nobody — not Wiley, not Chang, maybe not even Command Central — had a goddamned clue how that affected the mountain chi, and we weren’t supposed to ask.

“Go on, Parsons, Robertson, Smythe,” said Sergeant Whittaker, and he slapped me on the back. “You too, Benson.”

I had long gotten over the fact that Whittaker always sent me on the riskiest runs. In fact, I’d taken to believing he sent me because I was so lucky. I’d been shot at thousands of times, and never once been hit. Even when I should have been.

So instead of bitching, or hesitating, I heaved by satchel of spikes up and, rifle in hand, hurried up the rocky slope.

I don’t know when I’ll get back to work on that sketch, mind. I have other stuff on the stove-top, waiting for my attention. One story is a kind of modern-day Aesop’s Fable, retelling the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant from a rather unusual point of view. I’m working on that and an expansion of my story about Iblis and so-called “intelligent design” bit by bit, slowly letting them accrete during periods when I am too busy to work on anything intensively, which seems to be a good approach for these particular stories.

I’m still eager to get to work on A Killing in Burma, but I know I need to do a little more research than I have done so far. Anyone know any good books about Myanmar or old Burma? (Besides the Orwell, which is in my pile, oft-discussed problems and all…) Also, I think I’ll sooner turn to work on “Winter Wheat” instead, since it’s a novella I think I can get into shape in a relatively reasonable amount of time, for a market that I think might really go for it.
Stories I’m putting in the fridge now including the one about Sado Seja, which I think will simply need to sit for a while — it’s one of those stories I think needs to steep for a good while until it’s ready to go.

Finally, and this is important: I’m sending stuff out to market again. I’ve been making enough sales or near-sales lately that the rejections aren’t really discouraging. In fact, I was amused by one rejection on “scientific grounds”… the bit he rejected wasn’t even the speculative part of the story, but rather the well-established phenomenon in real life part of the tale! With a story like that, I think I can do worse than to send it right back out again.

Currently, I have one story on hold, one story pending, one rewrite pending, and one story I’ve just left as pending but really have given up on — it’s at Adbusters and has been there for over a year!

But I’ve just spent some time writing up cover letters and organizing, and I have four short stories and a sheaf of poems to send out, as well as a short story to send out in January (because it’s a contest, a January postmark is required).

Some of these stories are going out the door for the third or fourth time, which means next time, I’ll have to look around at some of the markets I haven’t considered to date. I’m currently eyeing the Canadian SF magazine On Spec as well as a few online venues, but we’ll have to see what’s possible considering wordcount limits. One of the challenges for me is producing stories of a length most venues can consider.

But for the next week or so, I won’t be getting much writing done at all. Besides a time-consuming battery of tests on Wednesday, I have several final exams and parties with students, because it’s week 15 out of a 16-week semester. The nice thing? I’ve canceled my travel plans, which means I won’t be in such a hurry to get grading done. I will still be traveling, somewhere, unless a very good reason comes up, but Lime won’t be traveling, so I’m going to stay here over Christmas (her birthday) and probably New Year’s as well.

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