When Life Gives You Cracked Plums…

…make Jam!

The rain and the birds are conspiring to give me a bumper crop of split, pitted, or cracked plums. The week-plus of drenching rains has swollen the fruit too quickly, and the birds sense the nearby bounty, so they peck an unripe plum. Once its skin is breached, it splits and ripens fast, falling to the ground, where the birds will feast.

That’s where I step in. Several times a day, whenever the rains let up long enough, I step outside and scan under and around the tree. I scoop up the fallen fruit, and pick any cracked fruit still hanging on the branches. These get cleaned, then pitted and tossed into sugar and a bit of lemon juice to macerate. The following day, I make a small batch of plum jam. So far, I have one half-pint jar in the fridge (which didn’t “take”), 5 on the counter that did, and another batch (which should yield about 3 or so more jars) ready to cook later tonight or tomorrow morning. All I can say is “yum.”

In novel-land, I’ve printed out my first, very rough, draft. Today, I get to spread it all out on a table and begin the painful process of whacking, slicing, dicing, deleting, and rearranging words and scenes. Inserting new bits will come later. Right now, I’ve got to adjust the flow and pace, and cut the excess (I always write to excess, and must trim back later), and make notes where I’ve changed things mid-draft so I can correct those once I get back to the electronic file.

Why in print? For me, it’s easier to visualize how long a scene is when I can see it plainly laid out before me. And I can see how 3 long scenes running together might be too much–or how too many short ones are creating a sense of rush that the narrative isn’t justifying. Or…well, you get the idea. I can’t see all that when I’m scrolling on a computer. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to hold all this in my head. But that day? It isn’t here yet. So I’m doing what I have to do in order to make this novel work. After that, I’ll work on making it sing.

Oh, and how about a bit of good news? Another one of my VP classmates has had a novel sale! Read about it here. I’m so excited for him! (In case you missed it, the first of my VP classmates with a traditional novel publication offer is written up here; I think I may have only tweeted this one, so I’m putting it here on my blog where it belongs now.)

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Posted in food, Nature, Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Mid-May Already?

Time is flying, like it always seems to do. But I have some lovely fruit coming into harvest right now, and just have to show you today’s harvest:

The plums are just hanging in thick clusters on the tree, dragging the branches to sweep the ground. I have to duck low and creep under the higher ones to get inside their barrier in order to harvest–and to clean up the ones the previous two days of rain have knocked off! Fortunately, if I leave them on the counter for a day or so, even these have ripened nicely. This certainly makes up a bit for last year’s harvest of 6 plums (due to a late frost!).

The blueberries are in their first year. We just planted them in early April, so I can’t take credit for their bounty this year. But we are definitely eating said bounty with gusto!

And the strawberries. Well, if I can keep the pill bugs and the squirrels away from them, they are delicious, as always. They just keep popping out scrumptious fruits now and again, throughout the season. It’s all yum.

After having gone through some rather scary health issues and followup physical therapy, I’m now getting my head back into writing, as well. It’s a relief to get back to the novel, but not so pleasing to still be writing the first draft I thought would be finished by April!

It is what it is, though, and all my angst won’t make the draft done if I don’t write it. So, I’m off to do just that, right now.

Happy May, everyone.

 

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Health and Zoning

I’ve been missing here. If you read this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed. 😝 So here’s what’s been happening.

I got a severe case of the flu, and have been having some medical repercussions from that. Those, at last, are starting to be resolved (or so I hope! It ain’t over til it’s over, after all…), and now I’m hip-deep in fighting a rezoning issue that would put a large Dollar General store practically across the street from my house. I can see the site from my front porch, and let me tell you, this does not please me one little bit–or my neighbors. So I’ll be gone a bit more, until this is resolved (we hope next week).

I’ve been writing, however, and with good results. The first draft of Unspoken is nearly done! I cannot wait for that moment when I type “The End.” There will be champagne, I think (at least it’ll be sparkling wine of some variety!). And tears, both of relief and of joy.

And then I get to do a quick read-thru and fixer-up edit, before begging my beta readers for their comments. Afterwards, a real second draft will occur this summer. And in between, I’ll be looking at the series of short Jessamin Stow novels, editing the snot outta them. It’s going to be a busy time.

Stay sane, stay safe, enjoy the flowers. And I’ll keep on writing….

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On Not-Writing

The dog sleeps contentedly, the chores remain caught up.
Looks around for something else to do, but the eye rests on nothing undone.
Even the cat has been waxed, and run off yowling.
(It is not my cat, but a friendly neighborhood stray. I fear I may have offended it.)

Nothing for it then.

Pours Japanese green tea in fancy Thai teacup.
Sips. Dreams.
Opens file and at last, and begins to write.

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A Little Late, but Better Than Never…

Monday was Tell A Fairy Tale Day, and I meant to post this here then…but, ya know, life, yadda yadda. Anyhow, I’m here and posting now, so that’s going to have to work for this year.

Here’s a little story I wrote a few years back. I hope you like this darkly funny tale, and can find the various stories and nursery rhymes it references.

 

Jack Spratt: The Real Story

by M. E. Garber

 

Jack Spratt could eat no fat,

His wife could eat no lean.

Betwixt the two, 

They licked the platter clean.

***

Jack leaned back from the evening meal, a dark-furred hand going up to pick at his large teeth.

“Mr. Spratt, if you please! Do not pick your teeth at the table!” His wife’s deep voice so close behind him made him jump like a nervous hare. He was glad, therefore, that she had just eaten her fill of the roasted goat. He, meanwhile, had made short work of the salad and carrots. It was a stem of said salad that was stuck between his teeth just now, but he ignored it due to the racing of his heart.

“Sorry, dearest. But I do wish you’d quit sneaking up behind me. It’s not good for my nerves.”

Elsa, his wife, came beside him and cleared away the plate, smiling wolfishly. She liked displaying her large, yellowed canines prominently; he knew she liked the way it made him squirm. Normally he had little qualms over his wife’s peccadillos, but in two nights the moon would be full, and Elsa was growing restless earlier with each moon that passed. It leached away her good sense, and he grew more and more fearful of her during the fullness of the moons.

He retreated to the hearth and poked at the fire, trying to calm his breathing and flatten his gooseflesh. Letting her scent his fear would be bad. In as calm a tone as he could muster, Jack spoke over the sounds of her washing up.

“I thought I might go to the village tomorrow. Leave in the morning, do some trading. Stay a couple nights. Maybe visit my friend Hamm.” He kept his eyes on the snapping fire, but he felt her glowing eyes caressing the back of his head.

“Ohhh, why, Mr. Spratt. I don’t think that’s such a good idea. You know I can use you here during the full moon. To keep things … settled … during my time of the month.”

That’s what she called it, now. Her ‘time of the month,’ as if a werewolf’s curse was something entirely normal. She’d rampage over the countryside for a night and a half, maybe two depending on the moon-cycle, then come straggling back home, naked and bedraggled, flushed with a shameful joy. Lately she’d been staying closer to home during her change. He’d heard her snuffling outside the door, howling in the forest behind the barn.

Jack shook his head. Ever since they’d refused to help the old witch of the wood the year before, when she wanted to lure children, Jack’s ears had grown, and a fine hair grew over his arms and hands, then his whole body. His eyes got sharper, and while living with a woman cursed with lycanthropy never made a man calm, Jack had gotten more high-strung than ever. He refused to admit it for the longest time, but there was no denying it any longer: he was turning into a rabbit. He knew that his wife knew, and found him … interesting.

“Besides,” Elsa murmured, turning her gold-flecked eyes back to her dishes, “you were just to the village two weeks ago, so I can’t imagine you need to visit again so soon.”

Jack froze. His heart hammered once more, and his ears heard the low, throaty laugh his wife gave. He scented his own panic, and knew mortal fear.

#

Jack shut the door to the chicken coop behind him. He’d barricaded the henhouse doors from the inside. Now he prepared to nail boards across the doorframe to secure it — he hoped — from entry. He lifted the hammer, set the nail and swung.

Hot breath on his neck made him leap and twirl, but the hammer landed on his thumb anyway. He hopped a few steps, sucking his thumb, as he took in his wife’s narrowed, gleaming eyes and hungry smile. He noticed the way she tensed at his hopping, and he immediately froze.

“What are you doing, Mr. Spratt?”

“Just protecting the chickens, Mrs. Spratt.” His heart hammered at his throat and made his voice come out as a squeak. Her smile widened.

“Good instincts, but somehow I think the hens will be safe. There are better things on the menu tonight, I do believe.” With a last wolfish grin, she turned and loped back to the house.

#

The moon rose early that evening. His wife never left the house, but sat watching Jack, pinning him to the dark corner of the room with her intense eyes. As soon as the change rendered her immobile, he raced out the door, zigging and zagging in a panic. All too soon, he heard the howl of pursuit, and in a burst of speed, Jack zipped up to Hamm’s dilapidated, straw-mortared hovel. At his panicked knocking, his short, fat friend opened the door. Jack burst inside, slamming the door behind him.

“Why, Jack. Whatever is the matter? Onk.” Hamm always caught his breath after each utterance, sounding like a goose. Or a pig.

Before Jack could explain, Elsa was upon the house, howling for Jack’s blood. The two friends cowered in the center of the room as the wolf shouted, “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!”

“Go away! Onk. Onk.”

Elsa rammed the door, and it gave way in a shower of wood and straw. Jack and Hamm sprinted out, to Hamm’s brother’s house nearby.

At Pudge’s wooden house, the scene repeated itself, and Jack and the two little pigs squealed in terror as they zipped to the eldest brother’s home. Porky’s home was stout brick, and when the wolf arrived hot on their heels, Porky laughed at the wolf’s foolishness. Jack cowered by Porky’s feet, panting, as his friend’s brother told off the wolf.

The door shuddered once, twice, three times, but held. Elsa snarled and snapped on the other side, cursing Jack, cursing bricks, and doubly-cursing Porky. Jack looked up, his pulse slowing as hope bloomed in his heart.

There was a long silence, then the sound of footsteps on the roof.

“The chimney!” Jack shouted. But Porky was already stoking the fire higher. He placed a large soup pot in the hearth. The wolf popped out the chimney and fell into the pot, and Porky threw the heavy lid onto it. Jack and the others raced to hold the lid in place as the wolf who’d been his wife struggled to escape.

As the bangs and knocks came to an end, Jack grinned at his friend.

“Looks like you’ll have soup tonight, my friends. Thanks!”

“No thanks needed. But you know, there’s one thing that goes perfect with soup.”

“Oh?” Jack looked back towards the kettle, sniffing appreciatively as Porky lifted the lid. “What?”

“Roast rabbit.”

As the lid hit his skull, Jack heard the pigs cheer, and he saw only dark.

###

(This story was first published in Short Sips; Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2)

If you liked this short tale, here are links to a few other people who played along this year–and they actually got their stories posted on time, unlike me. (Drat them! Um, I mean, good for them!)

Cecile Cristofari

Melissa Mead

Karlo Yeager Rodriguez

 

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2018 Brings Me the Flu

Ugh. Yes, I caught this terrible flu. I’ve been battling it for nearly 2 weeks, and am feeling better, but still not 100%. This is why I’ve been so quiet for so long here–I’ve been busy sleeping, and drinking water and Emergen-C and echinacea tea, and sleeping. I’ve done a lot of sleeping.

Captive manatee snoot.

Just before the flu, however, my sister came to visit (fortunately, she did not catch the flu; only I was so lucky!). Since the weather was cool, the manatees had congregated thickly in the rivers around the springs, where the water spouts up from underground at a lovely 72°F (22°C) year-round. Sister-dear wanted to see manatees, so we went in search of manatees. Ironically, Manatee Springs Park did not have manatees; by the time we arrived, they’d already headed back to the ocean, as the unseasonably cold temperatures had begun warming up. We did find some at Fanning Springs, though, and later, we got really great views of some injured/rehab manatees at Homosassa Springs. 

 

We also visited our old favorite, Payne’s Prairie State Park. It’s been flooded since Hurricane Irma dumped so much water here last fall, so only the boardwalk and a narrow band of land before the boardwalk is open. Fortunately, that still left us with plenty to see.

Mama and her young foal wading for breakfast. Baby really didn’t like the cold water on his legs.

 

 

 

 

Joining the stallion

 

 

 

Why the trail is closed at this point…gators basking at the end of the boardwalk.

My sister is fascinated by armadillos. They were out in force at Payne’s Prairie, and completely unbothered by our presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we went to the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, where, despite cold weather, many animals were more than willing to greet us.

 

Caracal in her pen.

Lemur, blessedly quiet, basking in the sun.

Peacocks wandered the grounds, looking otherworldly with their shocking colors.

Riches of gold, emerald, and lapis.

Posted in Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Travel | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Tangent Online Review

I’m very pleased to note that Galaxy’s Edge #30 has been reviewed by Tangent Online, and it seems the reviewer appreciated my story. Click the link for the full issue review, if you’d like. Otherwise, here’s the pertinent bit referring to my story:

In “After the Story Ends” by M. E. Garber, our narrator struggles against the call of the Fairy realm after rescuing her baby from that very place. Her vivid experience in Fairy leaves the human world pale and tasteless by comparison, but leaving would betray her family. Another survivor of Fairy gives our protagonist perspective on her options in a compelling way that many stories inspired by the Celtic mythology of Tir na Nog do not. A story about what makes us human and how trials shape a human soul.

Let me just say…Yay!

 

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Galaxy’s Edge now available free online!

That’s right, starting with this January 2018 issue–which just so happens to contain my story After the Story EndsGalaxy’s Edge Magazine is available free online for your reading pleasure. I recommend you hop over to their site, read not only my story but the other great works online there, and tell others, too. I love this story. It’s one of my very favorites of the things I’ve written, and I would love as many eyes on it as possible. (Scroll down in the orange table of contents box to get to my story; it’s right after the one by Kij Johnson.)

Okay, now for a little bit behind the story. Are you ready for this? After the Story Ends was written for a contest. That’s right–the title was given to me in a contest over on the Codex forums, and I had to write a story to match that title. I got to choose my own title from a huge long list of possibilities, and I scrolled through so many of them, seeking ‘the one.’ Many were often wonderful titles–ones I’d like to read, even–but I couldn’t see myself writing those stories. So I kept scrolling along, and along, and along.

Then I saw this one. It immediately called to me. After the story ends, what? So often, stories end with the “happily ever after.” But I’ve always wanted to know what occurs when that wears off, when you’re no longer the hero of the moment, but just another oddball to the folks around you. The return from fairy lands came from the beginning, and after that, it just rolled right along. But the story wasn’t done yet!

I subbed this to the Writers of the Future contest, where it garnered me Finalist–much to my utter shock! When I’d subbed it, I was sure–utterly, totally sure–that this just wasn’t going to be Dave’s ‘thing.’ So when the Finalist announcements were delayed, I wasn’t worried. I mean, I was totally sure that my story would be another late Honorable Mention, maybe a Semi-Finalist if I was really lucky.

This was the year that I attended Taos Toolbox, and I even had this very discussion with one of my roommates as I pondered whether I should use this story as my week two re-write. I mean, I knew I liked it, and I thought it was pretty good–but I knew it could be better. So, I edited it, and submitted it for critique during week two. And that’s where things get really weird.

There at Taos, Nancy Kress gave me probably the most influential line edit of my life. She pointed out every place in this story where I pushed too hard emotionally, using a two-by-four instead a whisper, where I told instead of showed, or worse, did both in turn, and where my emotions contradicted one another from line to line. She and Walter Jon Williams, and my classmates, helped me take this story from “pretty good” to “great.” My classmates’ enthusiasm and the instructors’ teaching propelled me to rewrite the story again, becoming this version you’re reading in Galaxy’s Edge as the result.

And then, I came home and got “the call” from Joni Labaqui at the WotF Contest. It was the day after I arrived home from Taos, and I still wasn’t over that experience, or recovered from the long trip home. And I swear, right until she said “Finalist,” I thought she was calling to tell me my story had been misplaced, or that I’d gotten an HM but the announcement had gotten misplaced…and a tiny part of me wondered why she’d bother calling someone for that.

So, after I hung up and picked myself up off the floor, I was in a daze. An hour later, I was in a mild panic. I’d looked up on the website to see who judges the Finalist stories, you see, and found Nancy Kress’s name there. I hadn’t thought about it at all while at Taos, but the stories are supposed to be completely anonymous. Sure I’d forfeited my spot, I called Joni the next day and told her Nancy had seen my story already–no problem, she said. And relief washed through me so fiercely my legs nearly gave out and I had to sit once again.

In the end, the story as I’d subbed it to WotF didn’t place in the top 3, so it didn’t become a Winner. While part of me was sad, at least I no longer had to worry about somehow exchanging the improved story for the original. And now the improved story is published in Galaxy’s Edge, a home where I’m very pleased to join the ranks of published authors. Win all around.

All that from a title found in a contest.

(Oh, and did you see–Taos Toolbox is open to submissions for this summer’s session…)

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