Archive for February, 2015

TT: This Land is Whose Land?

February 5, 2015

JANE:  We’ve been chatting about moving with cats.  Although my cats don’t go outside, I did have a fascinating experience with just how sophisticated animals can be in figuring out who owns what where.  It’s a longish story.  Are you up to it?

ALAN: Indeed I am. Go for it!

Lurking Cthulu

Lurking Cthulu

JANE: It started with a phone call.

“Hey, Dad.  A wrinkle has come up in our plans to visit you.  We’d need to bring two of the cats.  Talli has a U.T. infection and he won’t let anyone but me give him his meds.  We’d need to bring Arawn as company for him, because Talli’ll panic if he’s alone.”

Dad grumbled a bit, but said, “Bring the damn cats.”

And so we did…  The drive from our part of New Mexico to where my dad lived in Colorado took about eight hours.  Jim and I usually started after he got off work, then stayed in a motel overnight, rather than arrive after Dad was in bed.

Arawn and Talli had stayed in motels before, and Arawn in particular was thrilled.  At home, he’d always been under-cat to Gwydion.  That night, while Talli curled up next to us, Arawn sat in the window, surveying all and pronouncing his new realm Good.

ALAN: Oh yes – I know that posture very well indeed.

JANE: The next day, we completed our drive.  Dad lived in the mountains, without another house in sight.  If Arawn had been thrilled with a motel exterior, he was even more thrilled with evergreen forest, especially with the gigantic wild turkeys, which he clearly thought were dinosaurs.

ALAN: And who’s to say he was wrong?

JANE: I’m certainly not going to argue, those birds are huge.  And, oddly, their footprints do look a great deal like some (only slightly smaller) fossilized dinosaur prints that Dad showed us not very far from his home…  But I wander off point.

Talli was also interested in this new place, up to the moment when he was going through Dad’s living room. This had a two-story ceiling with a ceiling fan at the peak.  Talli decided that the slowly moving fan was Cthulu, and that Cthulu was going to eat him.  He fled, but his choice of refuge puzzled us.

ALAN: Where did he go?

JANE: Rather than diving under something, which would make sense, since he was afraid of a monster on high, Talli fled through the house, all the way back to the mudroom that was the first indoor area beyond Dad’s back door.  Although there was furniture to hide under, he didn’t go under anything, nor did he try to get out.  Instead, he hunkered patiently in the doorway between the kitchen and the mudroom.

Some hours later, my brother (who at that point lived down the road) arrived, bringing with him his large mixed-breed dog, Otis.  Now, my cats don’t have any dogs, but we hadn’t figured there would be any problems with Otis since Dad never let him further into the house than the mudroom.

And, additionally, Otis was a very Good Dog, with a cat of his own, so he knew how to behave around cats.

When Otis came in, we all expected Talli to back off or hide.  Instead, he marched right up to Otis and touched noses.

We were astonished.  They’d met only once before, in New Mexico, but Talli clearly not only remembered Otis, but also, when he’d needed a refuge, he’d gone to the one room that smelled like the territory of someone he knew.

ALAN: That’s amazing. After years of living with cats, I am quite convinced that they always have their own subtle reasons for everything they do

JANE:  I agree.  All those generalizations about animals – like “cats don’t like change” or “dogs will chase cats” – are as misplaced as similar statements regarding humans, like “men are…” or “women are…”

You were telling me about your cats getting used to their new territory and squabbling with the cats who have already staked their claim.

ALAN: Yes – we’ve heard a lot of hissing and caterwauling in the night, and Robin has found several huge clumps of fur in the garden. It’s the wrong colour to have come from Harpo or Bess, so obviously they’ve been asserting themselves with some degree of success.

JANE: Knowing that my cats were outside fighting other cats would make me very nervous.  My cats are indoor only.  I don’t know what the statistics are for New Zealand but, here in the U.S., the average lifespan of a domestic cat drops to under half for outdoor cats.  In our neighborhood, where coyotes occasionally dip in for a snack, it’s probably lower.  I know more than one neighbor who has become a convert to keeping their cats inside.

Domestic cats are actually a great danger to each other, because their bites and scratches have a great chance of becoming abscessed.  I’d just as soon not deal with that – or with the diseases they can pick up.

And then there are cars…  Nope.  My cats are staying in.

ALAN: Domestic cats are the largest predators in New Zealand, apart from motor cars. So as long as the cats stay away from roads, they have nothing at all to fear. All my cats have always been outside cats and, apart from Eccles who was run over by a car when he was five, they have all lived to a ripe old age. I have only once had to cope with abscessed wounds from a cat fight – poor Ginger had to wear an Elizabethan collar for a couple of weeks to stop her licking the wound. She didn’t like that! But it cleared up without any trouble, By and large, the New Zealand environment is very cat friendly.

JANE: Ah… this raises an interesting thought but, since it’s a pretty complicated issue, I want to save it for next week.

I’d still like to avoid it – but only until next week!

To Theme or Not to Theme

February 4, 2015

A couple of cool announcements, before moving to today’s wander…

Artemis Awakening made Locus magazine’s list of recommended reading for 2014.  Needless to say, I’m thrilled!

I now have a mailing list.  Sign up for announcements of contests and new releases.  Even if you’re a regular reader of the Wednesday Wanderings, you may find this useful for those weeks when you get busy.  Don’t worry!  Your information is not going to be used anywhere else and alerts will be limited.  Oh!  You can also sign up on my website home page or on my Facebook page.

Fantastic Anthologies

Fantastic Anthologies

Award-winning audiobook reader Joe Barrett has been signed on to continue reading the “Artemis Awakening” series with June’s release, Artemis Invaded.

As I mentioned in last week’s interview with Darynda Jones, one of my current projects is assembling the short story collection you folks requested last year.  As I was writing the afterwords that follow each piece, I found myself thinking about theme anthologies and the role they played when I was getting started – and continue to play even today.

I’d better clarify that: by theme anthologies, I mean those anthologies for which original works are solicited – not reprint anthologies for which an editor collects already printed stories that fit a particular theme.

Theme anthologies have never been given the same respect that the magazines have.  I once heard a then high-end magazine editor lament, “I don’t see why writers submit to these!  I’ll let them write about anything they want.”

Leaving aside that this is hardly true, I’d like to focus in on why I have always found theme anthologies appealing.

While every writer has more story ideas than he or she has time to write, an idea is not necessarily a story.  To me, an idea is a seed.  The story is a full-grown tree.  This is why writers are not thrilled when someone says, “Hey!  I’ve a great idea for a story.  How about I tell it to you, you write it, and we split the money?”

So why, if a writer has all these ideas, would writing for a theme anthology be appealing?  Wouldn’t that impose an unwanted constraint?

Rather than being constricting, theme anthologies can provide a challenge.  Whenever I’ve been interested in a theme anthology, I’ve always tried to write a story that will provide a different take on the theme.  The first thing I do is make a list of all the most common takes on the designated theme.  Then I try to find a different twist.

The “Fantastic” anthology series edited by Martin H. Greenberg with various co-editors, and published by DAW books, provides a good example of these anthology themes.

I’ve had stories in Dragon Fantastic, Fantastic Alice, Cat Fantastic IV, Elf Fantastic, Wizard Fantastic, Spell Fantastic, Assassin Fantastic, Apprentice Fantastic, and Pharaoh Fantastic. There were many other “Fantastic” anthologies to which I did not contribute.

Sometimes a theme anthology provides a writer with the opportunity to explore an idea or expand a location.  “A Touch of Poison,” my story in Assassin  Fantastic, is set in the same world as the Firekeeper stories, but does not feature any of the characters or settings from the novels.  It did give me a chance to explore Waterland, which Firekeeper heard about, but never reached.

At other times, I’ve used theme anthologies to tell a character’s back story.  “Beneath the Eye of the Hawk” in Pharaoh Fantastic is a prequel to The Buried Pyramid.  “Fever Waking” in Children of Magic tells of the childhood of Ynamynet, a key character in Wolf’s Blood.

One time I received three separate anthology invitations with deadlines close together.  I really wanted to write for them, but wasn’t sure I could manage all the background material.  One of these anthologies, Maiden, Matron, Crone, pretty much demanded a story with a central female character.  It hit me that I could write three stories – each fully independent – about the same person.  I wrote “Seeking Gold” for Maiden, Matron, Crone, then expanded Andrasta’s story in “Fire from the Sun” in Women of War, and “Comes Forth” for In the Shadow of Evil.

I’m not the only author to find theme anthologies inspirational.  Roger Zelazny’s award-winning novella, “Unicorn Variation” was written to fit into three different (reprint, in this case) anthologies.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  He writes about the story’s genesis in the introduction to the story in his collection Unicorn Variations.  It’s a fun anecdote – and a good story, too.

Readers seem to like theme anthologies.  I’ve had many tell me they hunted out the “Fantastic” anthology series because they would be assured of a degree of variety and creativity, but without the sense of “potluck” they got from many of the magazines.    Andre Norton’s Cat Fantastic anthologies went to multiple volumes.  As I noted above, I have a story in number four.

Oh, and that editor whose lament I quoted earlier in this piece.  Funny thing.  Several of his most recent projects have been theme anthologies.  I guess he finally saw the appeal.