Freeing the Ladybugs

Ladybugs don’t belong inside. Nothing I’ve read so far reports on this habit of theirs, but I’ve noticed that sometimes Ladybugs apparently find a way inside a house to lay eggs (or the larvae crawl in), and then, when these hatch, can’t find their way out again. Too often I find their sad little dried out exoskeletons in a windowsill, inches away from freedom and whatever they had planned for their lives. Eating aphids? Probably. Spawning? Surely.

The last few days have involved painting the area around certain windows in preparation for removing the nasty old blinds that came with the house and replacing them with clean modern shades. Which has dictated a lot of time futzing around windowsills, and finding the ladybugs congregating there in twos and threes or whatever. So I have to pause whatever I’m doing and free them. I used to do the same thing at my old place of work, again in the spring when they start hatching out. It’s kind of annoying, really, and the ladybugs aren’t usually cooperative, but I have the compulsion. I probably don’t do a lot of good. Maybe it does no harm.

I think of the story of two people walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have been washed up in a storm. As they walk, one paused to pick up a still-living starfish and toss it back into the sea. “Wait a minute,” says the other. “There are many thousands of starfish here. Do you really think that made a difference?” The first just shrugs. “Sure made a difference to that one.”

Well, That Was Just Careless

After getting a couple new submissions under my belt I thought perhaps I should take another stab at organizing my story files a little better. I tended to let that slip a bit when I was concentrating mostly on novels, but since I want to do both, it doesn’t help to neglect one in favor of the other. Anyway, I was going over my submissions files, cross-referencing with my finished stories and noticed something odd.

I have lost a story. Completely. Gone. Poof.

I have no idea of how I managed this feat. I’m usually pretty careful about keeping copies and backups and such. I did have that one scare last year when I was certain I’d lost everything, but fortunately it didn’t turn out that way when I found, you guessed it, a current backup, so I was at least reasonably certain that the story I was missing could be found in my files.


I knew I wasn’t imagining writing that story. I wrote the bulk of it during a meeting of my old writer’s group. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering or such; it was just a fun story that I hadn’t done anything with as far as subs go, since I couldn’t think of the right market for it. I’m still not sure there is one, only now I’ll have to rewrite the thing–literally. I can do it. I remember enough of the plot and tone so that I’m at least reasonably confident I can recreate it. Still, more work for something that should already be done.

In penance, I’m putting up a new Story Time. I was about due anyway. This one is “A Pinch of Salt” from MYTHIC #2, edited by Mike Allen.

Spring Ritual

This morning I spent a couple hours at a nearby auto shop doing the spring ritual—swapping out the winter tires for the summer tires. So now my wheels are studless and the winter tires are bedding down in the garage until next November. I look around at all the snow remaining and wonder if this was a good idea, but the rules are “no studded snow tires after March,” so we do what we have to. Come winter, though, you can bet I’ll have the snow tires back on. I’m a southern boy. I KNOW I do not yet grasp how to drive on ice, so I need all the help I can get.

Last night I finished the rewrite of the second story in the new series and sent it out. No idea yet what the third will be, but it’s out there. I’ll find it. It would be good for the series if I can place them all with the same publisher, but time will tell. There’s a limit to how many stories by the same author any given market can absorb in a year, and if I get on a tear I could easily overwhelm it. I remind myself there are other projects that need attention. None of which will mean a darn if these are the stories that want to be written now; I’ve learned to just go with it when that happens, even if, professionally, it may not be the wisest course.

Regardless, now that the first is written and sold and the second is complete, I feel confident enough in its reality to say this much about it: Set in China (or rather, what will one day be China) during the early Warring States period, about 500 BCE. I’d been thinking about these characters for a while, but never got a good handle on how to tell their story until now. I’m a little excited. Once the first has been scheduled I’ll say more, and more to the point, where to find it.

Grist For the Mill

snow-eastwindowWell, I had planned to start this post in the morning, but the winter storm Orson hitting the northeast sort of delayed everything. I hear it was and is much worse further east of us, but here in central New York State it snowed all day yesterday and all last night, and part of the morning, so this morning was given over to removing about a foot of snow from our walkway, steps, and driveway. I’m starting to get the hang of it, I think, but shoveling snow is a new skillset for me. Straight-handled shovel for pushing, bent-handle for lifting and carrying reduces the amount of bending necessary. I have a little electric snowblower that works surprisingly well, but even it can’t handle a foot of snow at a time unless you shovel a part for it first so you can split off the snow in manageable slices for the blower.

Yes, I know this is old hat for a lot of you, but consider—I’m a southerner, born and raised. We only saw snow very occasionally. In my entire childhood I can remember three good snows. Three. I never owned a snow shovel. I didn’t know anyone who did. Now I own two, and a snowblower. In Mississippi, 3-4 inches of snow would have shut down the entire state, with runs on the grocery shelves because the snowpocalypse had arrived. I know the state owned a snowplow, because I saw it. Once. Never saw it being used. A little sand on the bridges was about the most anyone could think to do. Here, naturally, 3-4 inches is barely worth mentioning. A foot or more, otoh, has to be dealt with.

It’s still a new experience for me, and that’s a good thing. Writers need new experiences, almost as much as they need to sit their butts in the chair and get writing. It was once said that a writer is a person who can watch a cat stalking a mouse and then write a scene capturing what it would be like to be stalked by a tiger. I dunno about that, but in the story I’m working on now there’s a scene where our heroes(?) are trudging through snow, freezing their butts off  to get a job done.

I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble with that scene.

P.S. In the picture above, that white fog? Yeah. That’s falling snow.

Remembering Good Things

Front_cover3Now that the second file cabinet is a file cabinet and not just a pile of particle board, it was time to transfer the last of my paper files from the box they were living and traveling in to their new home. Which naturally involved going through them all during the transfer process. I’d already done one huge purge before we moved, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make more space. After all, most files are electronic these days, even if paper is still best suited for some things, aside from the recycle bin. Sure enough, several times I ran across folders full of errata that had me scratching my head. “Why, in the name of all that’s holy, did I save that?”

Yet there were many more instances where the question didn’t even come up. Like back in the day when Parke Godwin sent me an example of a novel pitch he used when selling one of the wonderful Arthurian novels he did. As I’ve said before, what little I know about writing novel synopsis and pitching, I learned from him. Or copies of (rare) fan letters, including one for my first collection, The Ogre’s Wife from one of my favorite artists. It was a boost, at a time I really needed one. As with my good fortune in marrying First Reader, and the help and encouragement—and Dutch Uncle severity, when needed—I got from Pete Godwin, you can’t always depend on those things along the way. So when it happens, count yourself lucky, and don’t forget. Pass it on when you can, but above all, be aware.

We like to talk about writing as a solitary profession, and mostly it is. So often it’s just you, putting your butt in the chair and facing down the blank page/screen. Yet now and then along the way, alongside the confused/bad reviews and rejections, odds are you’re going to get a hand up. Sure, be proud of what you’ve accomplished, since you did almost all of it yourself. Just remember the “almost” part and don’t forget to be grateful.