My Writing

07 April, 2020

Who Feels Like Writing?

Image from Wikimedia Commons: Doctor
Schnaubel von Rom, mid-17th century
Not your humble correspondent, that's for certain.

If it wasn't for the fact I've got several months' worth of material ready for posting (Sowing Ghosts is eighteen chapters long, meaning a dozen chapters to go and a dozen weeks of posts just requiring formatting and scheduling) this blog would certainly have fallen off a cliff by now.

I am somewhat bemused to realize that this period of isolation isn't bringing me any wonderful new discoveries. Cooking? I already do a lot of that. Hoarding? Not necessary, because we have always planned our shopping fairly thoroughly, and we tend to buy fresh meat, veg, and fruit once a week, and to buy only what we know we're going to need.

Reading? It's what I do for pleasure anyway. (This year I decided to keep track of my reading: as of the end of March I had read or reread 75 books, and I added another seven titles to the list in the first week of April.)

But I sure don't feel like writing. For me writing is my full-time job, and at the moment I don't really have the attention span to cope. I'm down to the final few scenes of the first draft of a new novel... and there's just nothing there. I can't even get myself excited about revision and rewriting.

Okay, there's nothing new in that. I can never get myself excited about revision and rewriting.

Sowing Ghosts 6.2

Previous    First

[Continuing chapter 6]

“My Lord Hosokawa,” Hiroki said, bowing with careful formality. “Might this person ask you a question?” He had found Lord Hosokawa on Muromachi Avenue, just south of the abandoned shōgun’s palace—and not far from the decaying pile occupied by the missing wakashū.

“Why so formal, my lord?” the boy asked. His smile could have been mistaken for a friendly one. “You are not in service to me, are you?”

Hiroki felt himself squirm a little at the my lord; it had been said with a knowing air that did not bode well for Hiroki’s secrets. “I am not,” he said, “nor am I your lord.”

“I have been having some doubts about that,” Lord Hosokawa said. “But I can see this bothers you. I will wait until some other time, then.” He raised an eyebrow. “Might a man offer you tea? Or is your inquiry of an urgent nature?”

06 April, 2020

Sowing Ghosts 6.1

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“Hiroki, what do we do if we have to be out at night?” Tetsuo pointed at the gates set into the middle of the intersection of Kita No Kōji Street and Horikawa Avenue. “Those get locked up at night, I’ll bet.” He used his uninjured arm to point. Hiroki was satisfied with the way the wound was healing, but Tetsuo apparently took no chances.

“They wouldn’t dare keep us out,” Shiro said. “Of any street we wanted to go down.”

“I really don’t know.” Hiroki hated having to admit this, but the gates were new to him, and a mystery. The inhabitants of the capital were now, Katsumi had told him, bound together in neighbourhood associations. Nobles were joined together with artisans and moneylenders and even porters and day-labourers, the poorest of the poor, in bonds of mutual protection. In some cases they had even built gates into the streets, gates they could close and guard when night fell. His previous forays into the city in the darkness hadn’t taken him through any such gates, but there were still a lot of them. And it appeared that nearly everyone still living in the city belonged to one of these neighbourhood groups.

03 April, 2020

Sowing Ghosts 5.4

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[Concluding chapter 5]

“A monkey could have got over the wall without being seen,” Tetsuo said, disgusted. That he said this while in the custody of two guards was not exactly a testimony to the truth of his allegation, though. Shaking his head, Hiroki showed the guards his letter of authority from the arms master and they departed, albeit with profane reluctance.

“Tell me what you learned,” Hiroki said.

“I want to know what happened to you,” Shiro said, laughing. “How is it those guards didn’t take your head?”

“Not now, Shiro. Well, Tetsuo?”

02 April, 2020

Adam Schlesinger

Mr Schlesinger died yesterday of Covid-19 at the age of 52. The news was a gut-kick to me, because if there is a single songwriter who made my world sing over the past 25 years it was he. He amazed me with songs (usually co-written with Chris Collingwood) that were in essence tiny perfect short stories (in the vein of Ambrose Bierce or O Henry) about complete losers who somehow managed to be charming anyhow, or at least for three minutes they were.

I first heard about Fountains of Wayne from Stephen King, in an article he wrote for Entertainment Weekly. Immediately went out and bought Utopia Parkway, and within a couple of weeks of that bought everything else Fountains of Wayne had recorded to that time. And then bought everything else as it came out. I even bought Tinted Windows, the eponymous only album of the supergroup he formed with members of Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins, and Hanson. Not his best work but still worth listening to.

And I'm pretty sure most of you have heard something he wrote, because the guy was a machine. His first hit record was actually a song recorded by a band that didn't exist: "That Thing You Do" by the Wonders, from the Tom Hanks movie of the same name.

He also wrote a lot of material for TV, which I've been discovering today and laughing with through the tears. "It's Not Just For Gays Anymore," for example, as sung by Neil Patrick Harris at the Tony Awards. Or the 150-odd songs he co-wrote for "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

Rolling Stone is a pretty good place to start if you want to learn more about this guy. Then go out and buy Fountains of Wayne albums. Welcome Interstate Managers is best, but buy them all.

Sowing Ghosts 5.3

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[Continuing chapter 5]

This is not like spying, Hiroki thought, looking at the two women kneeling before him. When spying for Lord Tanuma he had mostly been interested in numbers: how many armed men an enemy could call on, how many days it would take to gather them, how many ri those men could travel in a day as opposed to the distance Lord Tanuma’s own men could walk or ride.

Now he was expected to learn something very specific, which could only be learned through the examination of individuals, many of whom he had been raised to consider not only unequal to him, but in many cases not even fully human. These women, for example: until he had realized what he was doing, all he had seen was two female servants, selected by Shiro from amongst who knew how many in the household. They were dressed as menials always dressed; they moved in the same deferential shuffle as all menials adopted; they kept their faces averted, so their superiors would not be required to make eye contact unless those superiors wished it.

31 March, 2020

Sowing Ghosts 5.2

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[Continuing chapter 5]

“She was my friend.” Kanegawa Akihiro sat, perfectly rigid, on the cold floor of the chamber in which he was being held. The room felt as cold as the floor; the rain, which had not stopped overnight, pounded on the tiled roof. A lamp provided little light, so that the secretary seemed to have only half a face. The visible part of Kanegawa’s face, drawn and pale, suggested he was still feeling a kind of shock — even though he had not seen Lady Tomiko’s body himself. Hiroki, watching the young man, reminded himself that Kanegawa was a clerk, not a warrior, and had probably never come this close to death before. Now he was facing his own death, and likely by shameful execution rather than honourable seppuku.

30 March, 2020

Sowing Ghosts 5.1

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The eighth day of the second month

“What you are telling me, I think, is that I wasted my time yesterday.” Tetsuo stabbed at a pickled plum. “And now we have three jobs to do and any single one of them would be enough to occupy all of us. Even if you are right about that woman, Hiroki, we can’t do two things at once. Not and do them well.”

“Nonsense,” said Shiro, his face alight. “We can do it all. Any one of us is a better man than any ten of the men we’ve met this week, Tetsuo. Even you.”