it’s Philip Roth’s birthday today

Posted March 19, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Uncategorized


but you probably already knew that!

for and against

Posted March 15, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

Tags: , ,
  • Oxford comma: I’m for it!
  • Double spacing after a period: Just don’t!

I’m sure there are other things I seethe about, but nothing is coming to mind at the moment.

Also, I am now up to four declines from agents for One-Match Fire. It’s funny that I can wait for months to get a response/rejection for a submitted short story, but so far these agents have responded within hours about the novel. (“Funny” may not be the correct word there.)


I’m currently reading We The Animals by Justin Torres. (I should have it finished by the end of today.) I picked it up because I understood it was about abusive fathers and their sons, and it is about that a bit, but it’s mostly about brothers. It is filled with short vignette chapters that are intense, staccato, and piercing. I’m hoping that it adds up to something in the end. It’s only 123 pages, so if you have even the slightest interest, you should read it; you’ll have it done in a couple of days.

breaking the cycle of sloth

Posted March 13, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Tags: ,

I’ve continued to dip my toe into the waters of manuscript submission. I’ve sent queries and sample pages or chapters to several more agents to see if they might be interested. So far my efforts have earned me one rejection,* but it was a kindly written, personal email, so my ego held up.

At this point I’m trying to target my submissions, finding agents who seem as though they represent the kind of literary fiction I imagine One-Match Fire to be. I’m using an online service called Agent Query, which is a huge database that is sortable to some extent. It lets me believe I am targeting my submissions, but I can’t go much deeper than finding agents who are interested in “literary fiction” and/or “family sagas.” (I’m not even sure what they mean by “family sagas” though I expect it’s more the bodice-ripping Harlequin romance type stuff than my tale of a grandfather, a father, and a son over forty years. Still, it’s something to try.) This is further hampered by many of the listed agents not taking on new clients at the moment and/or only taking queries in the form of snail mail. I suppose that latter qualification quickly weeds out those who are using the scattershot method of submission that email makes more easy to do. The trouble is, it can also weed out those of us who tend toward sloth.

I’m self aware enuf to know that I have trouble pulling the trigger. I can take years to write a novel and then blanch at the effort of actually submitting. It isn’t even much effort, but I think that my fragile ego is what’s really on the line. In any case, I guess I’ll keep on trying.



*Make that two, now.


“we should each do good where it is near to us”

Posted March 8, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

Tags: ,

“One can never be sure of the end, only the means, and so we must be sure that the means are good. One can never be sure of the motives of anyone but oneself and those we can examine to ensure that they are pure. All that seems to be certain is that we should each do good where it is near to us, where we can see the end of it, and then we know that something positive has been done.”

from chapter one of Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski

The novel is set in France in the years immediately after the Second World War, though the first chapter takes place early in the war. It involves a British man searching for the infant son he had to abandon shortly after his birth. He learned later that his wife was killed by the Gestapo, but he is chasing a lead to where his boy might be years after.

The quote is spoken by the wife of a friend of the protagonist. She worked in the Resistance (and may have been instrumental in saving the life of the sought-for boy) but she argued with her husband what had to be done to resist and still remain human. He, who admitted the necessity of sabotage and even murder, said her values were those of a saint and not of a human during an occupation.

I devoured this book in a couple of days, and I will certainly read it again, but I’m sure you can see how nicely it fits with my great theme of fathers and sons. The novel deals with things beyond the search, of course, such as duty and responsibility, self sacrifice and self indulgence, deceit and honor. If the very last sentence doesn’t rend your heart, you’re not human.

(Beware the movie version starring Bing Crosby. It was reviled by the author and while it is enjoyable doesn’t come close to touching on many of Laski’s themes in the novel.)

“Runaway” appears

Posted March 6, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Tags: , ,


My One-Match Fire story “Runaway” has finally appeared in the physical world. I received my copy of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature over the weekend, and “Runaway” was in it (way back on page 209 of 228). I had first written about this back in November in this post. And I’ve been waiting more or less patiently for the print copy ever since.

This is volume 32.1 of the publication, but it’s dated Fall 2014 / Winter 2015. I’m not complaining, but that seems a little odd. (I suspect they need to show continuous publication, and that period was the next to be filled.)

in touch once again

Posted February 28, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Uncategorized

When my sons were in the Scouts and a weekend camping trip fell apart — usually due to the weather — we fathers would joke that there was never a camp out so bad that a few hundred dollars worth of equipment couldn’t fix. (That this equipment tended to be things reserved only for the fathers’ use was one of the reasons I reduced and then ended my involvement.)

And so it happened that over the last weekend — when I was not camping — the household lost connection with the internet. (I know some style manuals call for capitalizing that word, but I ain’t gonna do it!) Usually when this happens we merely unplug the router, count to ten in whatever language is available to us — my son’s new wife was there and speaks four languages, my neighbor speaks five — and then plug it in and surf away.

Not so, this time. All of our messing around with the router and the Apple Time Capsule were fruitless (and futile). The last time this happened, four years ago it turned out, it was the Time Capsule that failed and had to be replaced. Fearing this, we unplugged it and schlepped it over to the Apple Store and, without an appointment, managed to get attention. The device was running, they told us, but it was not receiving or transmitting. Apparently this is common enuf, and the advanced age of the device — four years it was revealed — meant it had lived to the end of its useful life. My wife spread the original cost over the four years and was satisfied that we’d gotten our money’s worth.

Thus for a few hundred dollars we came home with a new Time Capsule, which we plugged in. I followed the directions on the tiny user manual they provided, and soon the household was in touch with the universe again. Painless.

I had once lost an entire novel when the hard drive failed on an earlier computer I had. (I’m pretty sure I could reconstruct it from the pieces scattered here and there in emails and such.) This was when the Apple Time Capsule first entered our lives. It maintains a back up of whatever I ask it to. This allowed me to sleep better at night. The fact that the Time Capsule itself can fail is problematic, of course, but I also back up to Google Drive and even to a thumb drive I keep handy.


Posted February 24, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Ramblings Off Topic, Running


Okay, so I sent out a query to an agent this morning for One-Match Fire. My inertia is broken. You have to be sanguine about these things, even though you know the odds are astronomically not in your favor. But you have to begin somewhere.

Now that it’s done, I suppose it will be easier for me to begin sending out more queries for the novel. Sometimes this part of the effort seems harder than the actual creative writing.


I’m still reading White-Jacket. It’s a long voyage and the ship is now at anchor in Rio de Janeiro where the sailors are chafing at getting too little and too much shore leave. Melville is writing a humorous tale, but it is clear that just below the surface he is railing about the injustices and inhumanity of the Navy in those days. In fact, when the novel was published, a copy was given to each member of Congress and, I’ve read, it was instrumental in getting flogging banned as a punishment aboard U.S. ships. I’m enjoying every word, but I’ll be glad when I’ve finished the novel and I can move from the 19th Century and into something more contemporary.


I crossed the 200-mile mark in my running two days ago. With the cold weather, I’ve done most of those miles on treadmills. But in the unseasonably warm days of late, I’ve been going outside for my miles. The transition from treadmill to pavement has been rough on my poor legs and lungs. The treadmill presents a continuous pace on a forgiving surface. The pavement, not so much. I constantly find myself going too “fast” to sustain, and my legs — especially my quadriceps — ache afterward. I don’t remember this much trouble in past years. Not sure why that is.


I’m making some progress with the story I’m now calling “Stargazing and Eavesdropping.” A couple more scenes and I should have the first draft finished. Still no news on the status of the various stories I have out in submission.