As I mentioned last month, I am pleased as punch to have a story in Murder Under The Oaks, an anthology published in October to celebrate Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention, held this year in Raleigh, North Carolina. I am also delighted that the profits go to Wake County, NC libraries. How can I argue with a cause like that?
This photo shows me at the end of the assembly line, eighteen or so authors signing their stories. I'm the last guy because my story ends the book.
When I heard about the proposed anthology I went through my old files, searching for an appropriate piece. I was happy to give a story to charity, but only one that had already been rejected by the major markets. This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the tale; most of my stories that have been nominated for awards were rejected at least once along the way.
Eileen Gunn said that "'Theme' is what the critics use to describe what you did." Someone else said theme is what the story is about other than the plot and the characters. I prefer the latter definition.
Usually I don't know what the theme of a story is until I am in the final edits. That's when a sentence in the text will pop up in front of me and I'll think: Oh, THAT'S what it's about. But in the case of "On The Ramblas" I knew early on that the theme was: What does it take to make you happy?
So I thought I was all set in the theme department. But as soon as I sat down to revise I realized that there was a second theme, begging to come out and play. It was right there in the first sentence: Tourists wandered through the Ramblas like sheep, waiting to be fleeced. I loved the animal/people metaphor. I realized I could punch up that connection.
(A little inside baseball here: technically my metaphor is a motif which I am using to build a theme. I say that strictly to show off to the English majors. Back to business.)
Of course , there is a connection between happiness and the people/animal thingie. Back in Philosophy 101 my professor quoted John Stuart Mill to explain the importance of her topic: It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.
There was one more thing I needed to do before sending in the story. It was recommended that the submissions include a reference to oak trees. (Remember the title of the book?) So I searched the web to see if there was
|The other end of the line,|
with editor Art obscuring Margaret Maron.
So I sent the story in, editor Art Taylor accepted it, and as a reward for his good taste and erudition he was invited to join the ranks of the SleuthSayers.
That last part is a joke: his name was brought up by someone who knew nothing about the anthology. But I am glad to be in the book and I hope, well, that it makes you happy.