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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Monday, August 29, 2005

If A Tree Falls....

I’ve been listening to the news, waiting to see if Katrina bailed all of Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans. Didn’t happen. But people are dead and the media doesn’t have their names yet. But it will. Tomorrow. You know, we’ve always had human disaster on a monumental scale, mostly at the hands of Mother Nature, although not always. But now we all get ringside seats. with visuals and cell-phone on the spot interviews.

My Chinese family – the one whose kids I’ve tutored for years – visited the remote family village in far northern China, as they do every year, and found a hillside where the farmers get fresh dirt for their plots of land. It’s where mud has piled up during floods for millennia, so it’s very rich. And full of human bones. Nick brought home two skulls and couple of skeletal bones. He and I have reconstructed our version of what happened. The skull is from someone fairly young, we have decided (with my very rudimentary forensic skills). Not a child. (The wisdom teeth have erupted, which is why we guess young adult). So how did he get here and when?

The family village has been there for 17 generations, so he’s old. There is NO history of a major flood and massive deaths among residents locally and in China, oral history goes back forever. The bodies are not buried, there are no remains of walls and it is on a bend in the river where flood debris would have piled up. No jewelry, no artifacts. Looted long ago, before the village? Lost in the flood waters upstream?

So we guess that he (the dental bite is almost Nick’s size, probably too big for a woman of long ago) drowned far upriver one day, was carried downstream with family and villagers, pigs and strangers, and ended up here, far from home, where nobody came to claim his remains. His teeth are worn but in good shape…they have always eaten stone ground grain in that part of China. Lots of grit to wear teeth. We have figured out how Nick could go about tracing that possible history, should he want to do it…visiting upstream villages to learn their oral histories, figuring out when things happened more or less, (time is measured in generations there) and listening for the story of the big flood that happened a long long time ago. There are a LOT of bones in that huge, thick layer. No media, not a clue in the rest of the world that hundreds and hundreds of human beings were drowning. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear, does it make a sound?

Our young adult has become a very real person to both of us at this point. It has made Nick think about past, heritage, and mortality and even his own mortality a bit, since he really wants to think of it as belonging to a boy his age. So maybe, yes, even when nobody is there, that sound happens. Even if it gets heard later. Even with no media.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Coming Up for Air

Well...I guess I'm no better at journaling online than I ever was when I got those lovely diaries as birthday presents and dutifully started filling out those crisp pages. Generally I kept 'em going for a few days, maybe even a few weeks... Well, I'll have to make a bigger effort here. :-)

Mostly, I fell into story. Finished several, they're out, am nearly finished with a 10,000 word novelette for a big YA fantasy anthology...with a November deadline, so I'm not feeling too much pressure yet, although I just dumped the ending, sigh. In between I have been working in my woodlot, which my dogs love, and teaching my dog DJ to move sheep around neatly. Well, I have been learning to teach DJ to move sheep around neatly and believe me, he learns faster than I do. But we're making progress. Going to have to do a mystery set at a sheepdog trial, for sure. Now I just need a good reason to murder someone there... :-)

Amazon.com has a new feature: Amazon Shorts. If you have a book for sale on amazon.com, you can now offer a short piece of original work for the whopping fee of 49 cents. That way, you can try before you buy, if you're unfamiliar with the author. It was fun. I had to come up with a story in about three weeks to make the deadline (although the launch was then delayed...that's publishing). Hide and Seek in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section is set in the same universe as my recent story in Fantasy and Science Fiction: Gypsy Tailwind. It's set just a bit farther into the future from my upcoming orbital novel from Tor. It'll be interesting to see how this feature works, but for writers like myself with more transitory short fiction out there than published novels, it's a nice advertising boon. And it's a good story, if I do say so myself. Not just something I tossed off. :-)

Well, I think I'm back in civilization again after my orby of words and woodlot. I'll see if I can't hang around here more regularly! (She says sheepishly).