Looking ahead and behind, though not both at once

It's E.J. Barnes's turn to shovel out the back yard

It’s E.J. Barnes’s turn to shovel out the back yard

I’m snowed in today, and the class I’m teaching on “Pirates!” is cancelled for tonight, so it’s a good time to reflect. Where had this blog been? Where is it going? If you’re short on time, the most important news is that a new story will start up on Friday, February 6, 2015. There — you can stop reading now, unless you want the details.

In looking over the stories I’ve posted here since the blog’s inception, I’d say they fall into three categories: short stories, long stories with a rapid pace, and long stories with a slower pace. The former two are better suited for the blog. But the latter is where I experiment, and I do so need to experiment.

I’m happy with my progress in writing short stories. I didn’t intend to write any, after the story that led to this blog, “The Troubles of the Farnsworths.” However, I started up with the Halloween annual short story. Personally, I think those have been getting better. “On Huckman Causeway” is serviceable, “Dead Cellphone” has nasty implications, and “Death and Professor Appleton” is a decent adventure. Toss in the recent “When the ghost came in from the cold,” and I’ve started to get suspense, horror, and humor under some control. Good enough.

Remember me?

Remember me?

The long stories with a rapid pace, The Dragon Lady of Stockbridge and Nightfeather: Ghosts have proved to be popular. I think they’re the type of story that is best suited for this blog: a story in which we make dramatic progress every week, while leaving something important hanging in the air. Naturally, my thought is that my next story should be like them. Whether it will be is another question.

The most problematic have been the longer, slower-paced stories, the ones that have frankly been experiments. Martha’s Children was an attempt to juggle multiple viewpoints, handle the psychology of the new vampire, and tell a “prequel” to a story many of you haven’t read! (I’d established in that story that Martha had created the Chicago vampire cops, if only by biting so many of them, but I’d never thought about how that might have happened in any detail before I tackled Martha’s Children.) As I’ve stated before, I was not all that happy with Martha’s Children, both because of pacing and the plot developments at the end. In retrospect, I have to admit that the story was going to have a slower pace, anyhow, and that my concerns there were more about putting it up on the blog than on the story itself. It needs slower pacing.

Emily didn't realize just how much pentagrams meant to her

Emily didn’t realize just how much pentagrams meant to her

The recently completed Prophecies and Penalties was a better story than Martha’s Children. For one thing, it’s more tightly focused, since the entire story is filtered through Emily Fisher. In the end, it’s not a murder mystery, it’s a story about how Emily copes with her extended family among the Children and all their weirdness. Emily has to decide what’s important about her life, and therefore what she is going to do. If you had put that to her at the beginning of the story, the answer would have been, “What, are you nuts? I’ve turned my back on my childhood. What’s important is my life now.” By the end of the story, Emily has changed. Her supernatural twin among the Children, Stacia Fletcher, has changed even more dramatically. Both have become more human, with more ties and concerns affecting their behavior. Neither is really certain what they will do next, but they make decisions and get by. I’m proud of the human complexity of that story, even as I look through it and wonder why I wrote some parts of it the way I did.

Yep, pirates! I wanted to teach a fun history course for a change

Yep, pirates! I wanted to teach a fun history course for a change

I made it to ARISIA this year, and managed to stay for the whole sci-fi/fantasy convention (unlike last year). It was a bit of a working break for me, as I had a story and my pirate course to prepare. (If you’ve not heard about the latter, check out my most recent blog post on the subject, over at sister blog Sillyhistory.) Still, it reminded me that last year was supposed to be the year I made a major push to get some of my writing published. That didn’t happen, for a variety of personal reasons and simple procrastination. This year I’ll see if I can do better.

As for Sillyverse this year, I expect to be running a major story for much of the year on Fridays, as in past years. It will start up in February. I’m still playing around with the ideas for it, which is to say I’ve written pages of episodes for a possible story, which is how Prophecies and Penalties originally began.

I’m also thinking that I have at least one story that needs to be written that would not be suitable for the blog. If I schedule that, if I have the time, if I can do the research, I may come calling on some of you for help by reading the manuscript. You’ve been warned.

And now on with 2015!


About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
This entry was posted in Dragon Lady, Martha's Children, Nightfeather, Prophecies and Penalties, Writing fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Looking ahead and behind, though not both at once

  1. Judy says:

    I love following your development as a writer and have truly enjoyed all the efforts. I will say on Martha’s Children that even though multiple perspectives can be revealing and interesting, that I felt a disconnect when we shifted out of Ned’s perspective and guess I’d have liked it to be Martha’s and Ned’s story. But, this is not a complaint just something I remember as a reaction when I was reading. As you say, Prophecies and Penalties did center around the major character of Emily Fisher and her peeling back the onion of her past in her own understanding. I thought the psychology was interesting and thoughtful. And Dragonlady with its primary focus on Rebecca and her history. It is important to experiment with styles, lengths of stories and pacing. I’ve always felt it was easier or more common to be a good technician as writing goes, than having the imagination to think up a good story with interesting characters and a bit of world building. I find your stories fun to read, pose interesting dilemmas for the characters and present good story telling. So I am happy to be a ‘beta’ reader of any manuscript or serial you put out there. Your sense of history is a great bonus to have as any story is richer for historical depth which roots the tale in a believable way. Made up history is best in the hands of someone who has a good handle on the subject of the history of our real time.

    If you publish, do you plan to craft a novel, novella or a book of short stories first? It wouldn’t be the first time that weekly serials were turned into a novel.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Well, what a nice post to read! And I should be equally thoughtful in reply.

      First of all, thanks for your readership, praise, and reflections on my writing. I’ve tried to stay alive to new ideas as I’ve developed stories. I can safely say that world-building helps, since rarely does a world support just one story, if you take the time to think on it. That said, I often don’t really know what my story is going to be about until I get well into it. I’m finding this more of a problem with short stories, and so am having to shift from being a “panzer” to a “plodder” when tackling the shorter stories. No doubt this will eventually affect how I write the longer ones as well.

      My understanding of the market is that, if you’re trying to get a book published, that a novel is preferable to a collection of stories, simply because it’s easier to sell, and the reader is more likely to stick through it all. I do have a short story out there that is hunting for a publisher, but it was a one-off effort not directly related to my writing here.

      And you’re marked down as a future beta reader, Judy! 🙂

      • Judy says:

        I wish I had enough of an editor mind to really be of help with structure suggestions. But, as a reader I can say if a story flows, holds interest or contains interesting descriptive elements to enhance the mood of the tale. Isn’t it great we have the technology and means via such things as WordPress to hone skills with a receptive audience!!

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