random photo Thursday

Posted May 23, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: , ,

This is a gall growing on the side of an oak tree at the piece of Ozark woodland that we owned before we owned Roundrock. I can’t give you exact dimensions, but I could not span the width of it with my arms outstretched. And it is nearly as deep as it is wide. I remember thinking it was the size of a Volkswagen, though that may have been a slight exaggeration.

When we were preparing to sell this piece of property, I contacted a friend of mine who is a woodcarver to see if he wanted to have the gall to carve a giant cauldron or something from it. He explained part of the process for “curing” it, which included some kind of kiln and all kinds of chemicals. And that was assuming that the gall wasn’t filled with insects (which is generally the reason for a gall to begin with). And the task of cutting down the tree so that the gall was not damaged, and then getting it out of the roadless valley where the tree stood would have been too costly for a future cauldron that wouldn’t have fit in any crafter’s stall at the fair.

But that was long ago. For all I know, the thing might be a hunting cabin now.

“Magic for Beantown” finds a home

Posted May 22, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: , , ,

This must be the good news week of the pendulum’s swing. I just learned that my story “Magic for Beantown” has been accepted by Aethlon and will appear in their next issue.

This is the story I’ve mentioned that may or may not have a leprechaun in it, and it’s the one that the editor had sent back to me twice for rewrites. (Another editor I know told me that the second request was a sign that he really wanted to use the story if he could get it in the shape he wanted.)

I have to format the story to the publication’s standards, which won’t be a problem, then send it back one last time.

I don’t know when the issue will come out, and it will be print only when it does. This is my third appearance in Aethlon, which kind of gives me warm fuzzies.

“Forest Succession” is up at Heartwood Literary Magazine

Posted May 21, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Tags: ,

My story “Forest Succession” is now up at Heartwood Literary Magazine. Though the story deals with one of the characters from One-Match Fire, it is not part of that novel and, in fact, occurs much later after the novel ends.

I wrote this story as a kind of coda for the OMF universe, but it hasn’t worked. I am still scribbling other stories with these characters, including one that immediately precedes and supplements it and now one that would immediately follow it.

I should count myself as lucky to have so much material to work with, and I guess I do, but I should explore other fictional worlds too.

bits and pieces

Posted May 20, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic, Rants and ruminations

I started work on a new story over the weekend, and it’s always a hopeful time. It’s a pretty good little story, not part of any universe or with characters I’ve created before; it’s fresh, which is refreshing. I know just where the story is going, and I know what I want to do along the way, so it’s simply (!) a matter of capturing the words as they rumble through my head and typing them onto the screen. (And then refining and refining.)

Many of my story ideas mosey around in my brain for a long time, sometimes for years, before I get started on them, so I generally can’t recall what their genesis was. In this case, though, I can. Oddly, it’s related to two disparate things. One is the drive I make to take my dogs to the park (which also inspired this old post), and the other is visiting my mother in Kentucky recently. She getting on and getting around with a Rollator. Those two disparate things melded and gave me the story I’m working on. (Okay, a third thing: a feud betwixt two neighbors down the street who have a lot more in common than they realize.)


The farmers market in my suburban town opened for the season recently. My wife and I went there on Saturday (dodging raindrops) and spent $6.00 on two tomatoes. I have no idea whether that is a good price or not.

The market has been growing in popularity, and the city has been exploring ways to expand it. We went to a city council meeting where this was discussed, and while weighing the options, the goal was always to have the biggest farmers market in the county. (Our neighbor town to the west has created a space for one that will be very large, so, of course, we have to be larger. Maybe it’s a guy thing.)

As it stands now, our farmers market is just this side of corporate (4th definition). There is competition for prime stall placement, for example, everyone’s signage is slick, and even the Mennonites use iPads. I expect it to get worse as City Hall completes its expansion of the market. (There was talk of moving the whole thing to a nearby park, using the green space for “making green” instead, but there was a lot of opposition to that. I think the plan they settled on was to wrap the market shed around a corner at its current location to double its size. The objection to this was that they would have to elevate some of the stations given the topography, and the car wash that was occupying the coveted space had to go, which it has.)


The rejection mayhem continues. I got two rejections in the last week. I also withdrew a story from consideration. This reality, that rejection is a far more likely outcome than acceptance, is the chief reason why I don’t like submission fees.


I continue to pursue a definitive answer to my concern about getting chapters of One-Match Fire published and whether or not this hurts the novel’s chance at acceptance. I’ve written to several agents and even one publisher explaining my situation and asking for an opinion. So far none has responded. I’ve posted the question on a couple of message boards, but mostly all I’ve gotten is an echo, the responders saying they wonder the same thing. One responder on a certain forum was emphatic that I had forfeited my chance of getting the work published as a novel, but I checked his credentials, and he is not an agent, nor does he work in publishing. He also has thousands of comments on this forum, and in my experience, there are always one or two self-appointed “authorities” on such forums whose word must be taken as absolute, at least in their minds.

A subsequent responder said she thought the publication of some of the stories probably wouldn’t be a problem. Still, I would like something conclusive (though would I accept it if it wasn’t the conclusion I wanted?).


I mentioned some weeks ago about wanting to post a short video of my lake at Roundrock here (as I used to be able to do) but that I was unable to figure out how. So I did something uncharacteristic: I did research. It turns out that I can post videos in the format my phone produces, but the assumption is that I’m using the paid-for version of WordPress and not the free one. I don’t suppose this is an accident. (In the past I was also able to put my text in color, but that feature has apparently dropped behind the paywall as well. Too bad since I signaled hidden messages on my posts with colored titles.)

too much or just enuf?

Posted May 8, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons


So I’ve been having this mental struggle lately, and I’ve tried getting a solid answer to my dilemma, but so far nothing.

One-Match Fire has 23 chapters (and 22 inter-chapter vignettes). Of those chapters, I’ve had ten published as stand-alone pieces in various lit journals. I’m happy about that. But I’ve begun to worry that this may have been too many.

My guess is that having some of a novel published early will help its chances to find representation and a publisher. Certainly I’ve seen paragraphs in the end pages of many novels that state that parts of the novel had appeared in print in slightly different form. So getting several chapters published would suggest that the parts are worthy and perhaps so is the whole.

But how much is enuf and how much is too much? I’ve had nearly half of the novel before readers’ eyes already. Would a potential agent think that so many parts of the work have already been out that there isn’t enuf of the whole left to make it worth pursuing? Is there a certain maximum percentage to these things?

I’ve talked to several of my writer friends. I’ve posted my question on a couple of forums. I’ve even written directly to agents to ask (though I don’t ever expect a response from them).

My gut (and a friend) tells me that I shouldn’t try to get any more of the novel published. There are two chapters that I think might be worthy, but I’m not going to shop them around any longer. (There are also three that are currently in circulation, so they may still appear in print.)

But another part of me thinks that if the novel itself were never published, these last few chapters that might be worth publication will languish and never be seen.

I don’t know.


Here’s another random photo from the archives.

That’s from eight years ago, so Flike must not have been even a year old in the photo. That’s the corner of the cabin to the right, of course. And that area behind Flike is where I’ve been slinging gravel lately to make things a bit more level and to perhaps deepen the rock enuf to prevent at least some of the weeds from coming up through it.

“Twilight of the Alpha Males” is up at Foliate Oak

Posted May 1, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: , ,

My first bit of flash fiction, “Twilight of the Alpha Males,” is now up at Foliate Oak. It’s a nice publication*, and I’m pleased to be a part of this issue. The story speaks for itself, I think, and it was fun to write, once I came to understand it was whole at only 460 words.

I was “required” to provide a photo of myself, and what you see beside the story may or may not be recently taken and I may or may not still wear a beard and glasses. I also may or may not have less hair. And that may or may not be the best I can do for a smile.


*Poets and Writers lists its circulation between 5,000 and 10,000, though how can you tell with a website that is free, and how can you estimate and then double your estimate and suggest you’re close?

Do you visit/use Poets and Writers? They had a forum that I used to visit and participate in, but like many forums, it was dominated by one or two contributors who seemed to sit in judgment and speak the “final word” on whatever topic was raised. The forum’s gone now.

sorry, not sorry

Posted April 30, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic


I’ve embarked on a little adventure in recent weeks. If you are a friend on Facebook you have probably seen some of it.

A poet friend has written a book called Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know, which I purchased when it was first released and then read in bits over much of a year. (And the book makes me think there can’t possibly be anything left to know about beer.)

You may recall that I grew up in St. Louis, home of Anheuser Busch, and beer was pretty much available in my best friend’s basement all of the time. (Our preference in those dark days was Busch, though we were known to drink Budweiser, Miller, and even Pabst on occasion.) Thus I had never developed a sophisticated beer palate and more or less settled on Bud Light in my recent years. (When I would get to the water stations back in my running days, I would always ask for Bud Light, which never failed to raise a smile. Not in me — I was exhausted — but in the good people who held cups of water and Gatorade out for us running fools.) One member of my running club tried to drag me out of my beer mediocrity by pressing IPAs on me, but those always felt like bricks in my stomach. About as exotic as I got in those days was to drink Boulevard Wheat, which was yummy, though not in the massive quantities that seemed to be my norm.

But although I am not (currently) running*, I am cycling on the same paved trails I used to run on. And the same trailside watering holes are still there, reminding me not to get dehydrated and urging me to continue to carb load for the exercising vigor of cycling. Thus I would go out in the late afternoon (now that the weather has turned decent enuf) and grab some miles then meet my wife (who would drive my truck with bike carrying capacity) at one of these watering holes. And because I have recently finished reading Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know, I thought I could begin sampling the strange brew that called itself beer but that wasn’t Bud Light. If a particular craft brew was “nasty” I could wash my palate with a Bud Light. And if it wasn’t, well, maybe an adventure could begin

My first (recorded) effort in this great regard was at the beginning of this month, and I had a Lucky Bucket Lager, picked more or less randomly from the (four pages of) selections at the watering hole along the bike trail. Lagers being the closest to the Bud Light of my wandering in the wilderness time, I wanted to start with those. It was okay, but it didn’t win me over. In fairly quick succession (and grateful was I to have this motivation to hop on my bike and grab some miles) I tried a Fulton Standard Lager, a Northern Scrimshaw Pilsner, a Tecate, a Granite City Northern Lager, a Boulevard Wheat, a Harp Lager, a KC Bier Hefe-Weizen, a Dos Equis, and a Free State Johnny’s Blue Collar Lager. Alas, none of these really did anything for me, and several needed an urgent Bud Light chaser.

But then I tried a Dos Equis Amber, and it was really pretty good, and I began to think there might be hope for me. At dinner with some friends (and thus not biking related) I spontaneously ordered a KC Bier Dunkel, knowing nothing about it. As I waited for it to arrive, I looked up the meaning of the word “dunkel” and it’s German for dark. That did not bode well. I really don’t like stouts** at all, and I expected to need another Bud Light chaser to set the world right. But I was mistaken. The Dunkel was really very good. It’s not a guzzling beer, but each sip provides enuf flavor and satisfaction to equate to an entire 12 ounces of Big Bru.

The next time I was finishing with the bike trail, I ordered another KC Bier Dunkel and truly enjoyed it. Soon I had six bottles of it in my refrigerator at home and I sent a photo of this important development to the Beer Snob author. She replied “Sorry, Not Sorry.”

The adventure is not over. I’ve had enuf positive experience to think I should keep exploring and sampling and trying and savoring. (Alas, my most recent was a Pacifico, which was pretty bland, but I suppose it has its adherents.) Unfortunately, the weather has taken a turn to colder and rainy, so I won’t be hopping in my bike soon.

Still, I guess you’re never to old to learn.


*I am in my dreams sometimes, which is unsettling.

**My doctor son has a minor case of gout in one of his ankles, which is ironic given that he was the athlete of my children and was known for his moderation. And he likes stouts. So as a gift, his wife gave him an enrollment in a beer making class, and he chose to brew a case (or two?) of stout beer. Of course he named it his Gout Stout!