Rainy Sunday

The morning started with rain and thunder, and so far, we’ve had a quarter inch of rain. Lucky, Jim mowed yesterday, so the yard at least looks good.

If it would rain an inch every weekend from now until–say–October 1, I wouldn’t have to haul hose and buckets. That’d be good.

The chrysanthemums and Autumn Joy sedum are in bloom. It looks like I’ve successfully eliminated the balsam that reseeded every year. Now, all I have to worry about are the trees, one of which looks like it has borers. More on that tomorrow.

Just hanging out, waiting for Fall.

Tell Me a Story

For me, stories start with a premise. It might be a concept or an image or even a title. The premise might be compelling or intriguing or even stunning. But I know that the premise–no matter how intriguing–is a necessary but insufficient ingredient in telling a story.

I’ve been reading about “how to write stories” for most of my life. The first thing I ever read–sitting in the middle of the Montclair Public Library at age twelve–was this. Stories need a beginning, a middle and an end.

Okay, but what exactly does that mean? I had no clue at age twelve. I have a better idea today, although it’s still–always–a struggle.

For example. I have this great idea about a witch betrayed by a king. He promised her marriage. She’s pregnant with his son, so when he marries another, she stays pregnant. For nine years.

But where’s the story? Maybe the beginning is implied in the premise, but then what? There’s not much story (conflict, try-fail, transformation) in staying pregnant for nine years.

But what if the king sends an annual “give me my son” message? And what if every year, the witch kills the messenger? The witch hates and someone has to pay. There’s conflict in that. And the king is surely in a try-fail cycle.

But then, whose story is this? The witch? And yes, let’s give her a name. Writing “witch” and using pronouns is likely to lead to problems, including way too much narrative distance. She’s Josefa, the Duchess of Fontan├ír, and once she was beautiful enough to attract the King Felipe of Talavera. The names give me both characters and setting.

If this is Josefa’s story, maybe the question is when–and why–does she decide to give birth? What is the trigger to move the story forward?

King Felipe’s first wife has died and he’s marrying again. Josefa’s angry and awfully uncomfortable after nine pregnant years. The little bastard prince–call him Severiano–is born with teeth and hair and knowing how to talk, saying, “I am my mother’s black heart.” Actually, there might be a good title in that bit of dialog. Prince of the Black Heart.

Okay, but here’s that pesky question again. Whose story is this? Josefa’s or Felipe’s or Severiano’s? Where does it start? What happens in the middle? And most important, where will it end?

I’m still not sure I know. So really, all I have is a premise, some names, a tiny bit of plot, maybe a title. I’ll have to let the rest percolate in my unconsciousness until I know whose story this is. Once I know, the rest may follow.

I’ll think about it this week and will try to let you know–in true cliffhanger fashion– next Thursday. Comments and fresh ideas are always welcome!

What’s Been Eating My Sweet Gum Tree?

The sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) was mature when we got here–a twenty-five or thirty year-old tree. Sixty feet tall and, until now, problem free.

But this year, the lower leaves are about chewed away. The good news: the leaves at the top of the tree seem to be intact.

Google to the rescue–only not this time. Google points to tent or bag worms. It names a few specific caterpillars that like to feast on sweet gums. But I can’t find signs of any of these. So what’s been eating my sweet gum? Still a mystery.

While I haven’t noticed any tents or bags, I have seen black cocoon-like structures dangling from the lower branches. We removed these and drowned them in soapy water. But it’s too late to save the lower leaves, which means it’s too late to spray for caterpillars. But guaranteed, I’ll look for caterpillars next spring.

All the articles say that wasps and hornets will eat caterpillars. This year, we haven’t seen as many wasps as usual. I think that’s a bad thing, another one of those soft signs that the climate is changing.

Sunny Sunday

Sunny and hot, though not as hot as August ought to be. Here’s Loki–our Vizsla–soaking up some rays.

We’ve had a bit of rain this week, maybe about three-quarters of an inch. Although our neighbor down the street said he had eight inches. I suppose, given the way rain falls in Kansas, that’s possible. More rain predicted for later in the week, which will give my newly planted pecan trees a much-needed drink.

For those who don’t already know, check out my short story “Fluttering” in Dark Moon Digest 36. There’s a Kindle version in addition to print. Of course, if bugs terrify you, don’t read it.

I’m busy and feeling like there’s tons left on my plate before summer ends–and signs of fall are everywhere. So I need to hop to…

Hope your summer is just long enough and fall comes when you think it should.

Writing Doldrums

I haven’t written about writing for a couple of weeks. In fact, I haven’t written much at all. I’m in–I was in–the writing doldrums.

After cutting 12,000 words from my completed novel, I sat back and took stock. I really believe in my paranormal romance, but getting it out there is going to be harder and take longer than I thought it would.

My editor emailed that she loved the cuts and would get the proofed document to me soon. Meaning there’s more work to be done. Sigh.

So instead of going full steam ahead on my work-in-progress–also paranormal romance–I’ve been pecking away at it. A chapter here. A half-chapter there. A page. A half-page. Hmm…

I keep checking Duotrope to see which of my pending queries needed to be updated as REJECTED. I had one email rejection from an agent. I had one contract for a short story to appear next month.

But then, this morning, I had an acceptance for a short story I wrote in response to a submission call. That changed my attitude fast.

Except, here’s the thing. My short fiction is almost entirely horror. I’ve had relatively good success with horror. Maybe I should be writing horror and not romance.

Something to think about.

What do you think about changing genres mid-stream?