my haul at Powell’s

Posted July 21, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Uncategorized

I was instructed to report on the books I gifted to myself after visiting Powell’s in Portland. We had a busy agenda for the day, but the bookstore was only blocks from where the day started, so we managed to get one of my two goals for the week checked off. (The other is a visit to the Nike Factory store with the remote hope that I can find a new hooded jacket to supplement the one I mostly wear non-stop right now — yes, even in the summer since I am always cold.)

I tried to restrain myself some at Powell’s since I still haven’t worked through some of the books I bought there last fall when I was in Portland. There were certainly a lot more books I had my hands on today and then put back on the shelf.

So here they are:

  • The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch – I am slowly rebuilding my Murdoch collection, and I am hoping to re-read her entire output (fiction) in order. This was her second novel, and it’s not commonly found, so I grabbed the one copy Powell’s had and will read it soon.
  • Iris Murdoch by Richard Todd – Essays about her earlier novels. I can use any enlightenment I can get. (I actually already have a shelf of books like these, and some are much too scholarly for me to get through.)
  • Thoreau: the Complete Individualist by Robert Dickens – Because Thoreau!
  • Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin – Because Moby-Dick!

I had deliberately saved some space in my luggage to have room for the books I hoped to bring back with me. (The last time I was here, my son had to lend me a bag.)

yep

Posted July 20, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Of course I’m still around, not doing much but hanging out and wishing I was doing some work or something or anything. The thoughts keep coming, ideas for developing my stories, for news stories, for old stories. But the mental discipline to sit before the blank screen to struggle and strive has abandoned me,  I hope for only a while.

I found that one of my published Fathers and Sons stories, “Men at Work and Play,” has disappeared from the internet. The site is completely gone. I realize this happens all of the time, but I wouldn’t have expected it from this site; it was one of the few that have taken my stories that had me complete and sign a contract. Seemed professional to me, and I guess it was. But all things must pass, as George Harrison has said.

In other news, I am currently in Portland where my doctor son and doctor daughter-in-law live. We’re here to see them and my grandson from New York (also, his mom and dad) who are here this week for Dad’s work. On Thursday of last week, my youngest son (he’s the twin on the doctor son, so he’s youngest by five minutes) and his wife announced that they are expecting and due in March. That was great (and unexpected) news. Then, two days later in Portland my doctor son and his doctor wife announced that they are expecting and due in January! By next year at this time, I will have three grandchildren. I honestly had given up hope that I would ever have any, so life is good. (Both couples have not made a general announcement of their pregnancies, so if you see any of my family, please don’t bring it up.)

open road before me

Posted June 29, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Finnegans

I devoted my weekend writing time to reading the notes I have been compiling for a while toward a new Finnegans novel. (12,000+ words of notes!) I’m making that lane change I discussed in my last post, moving from the Fathers and Sons stories and into something completely different: a Finnegans novel.

I began this humble blog in part as a way to discuss my fledgling efforts on my Finnegans novels. They are cozy mysteries, but they are unique within that genre because they don’t include a murder. I’ve always said that there is plenty of evil that people can do that doesn’t involve murder and often not even crime. (Doyle once calculated that a little more than half of the Sherlock Holmes tales didn’t include a murder and that many weren’t even about crimes, so I feel like I have a literary leg to stand on.)

I had read extensively in the cozy mystery genre, and nearly all of the novels had a murder that the sleuth eventually solved. I have to say, most of this felt contrived, even over the top. And I really don’t think, as some have asserted, that a reader needs something as startling as murder to stay interested in a mystery story. Or rather, I think readers of the cozy mystery genre might welcome a little variation in the formula. Thus my murderless mysteries with a husband and wife team of sleuths who stumble upon whatever is wrong, often not even knowing that something is wrong, and resolving it all in the end.

I’ve written four Finnegans novels (none published though one had some bites when I was shopping it around). They are early efforts, and while I think I can probably salvage a couple of them, I’m eager to get going on this new one to have a fresh start. I have my two central characters well sorted out (from having written the four existing novels), so all I need to do is plunk them down in my plot and let the words flow. (Unlike my “literary” Fathers and Sons stories, I’m not trying to be any more “meaningful” or “lofty” than to tell a good story that can be appreciated on that level alone. I don’t have to anguish over each word and bit of punctuation as I do with the F&S stories. Thus, I think the words can flow on the Finnegans stories.)

As I was reading the 12,000+ words of my notes, I came upon little devices and developments that I had forgotten about and am eager to get into the novel. I also came upon some dead ends that I can discard without a problem. This story happens to involve the wonderful sport of running, and my personal experience with that in recent years will inform the writing in a pleasing and fruitful way, I hope. (I had conceived this plot device for the story before I had taken up running. Kind of handy how my life interests took the turn they did then.)

Whatever the fog has been that has kept me from writing seems to be lifting. In recent weeks I have “finished” two short stories and even submitted some to magazines (!). I’m making my lane change and taking up the Finnegans novel. Things seem to be moving again. I hope it sustains.

signaling a lane change

Posted May 29, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Humble efforts

Maybe. Perhaps. Possibly. Dunno yet.

Long-time readers (both of you) will recall that along with the Fathers and Sons stories that have monopolized my creative self for a couple of years, I also have a finished novel titled The Sleep of Reason that I really should be shopping around. I had some good nibbles for it in the past, but my enthusiasm to submit had waned, lethargy and entropy ensued, and now I’m mired. Poor me, right?

You may also recall that I had embarked on writing a series of murderless cozy mystery novels with a husband and wife team of reluctant sleuths, all set in or featuring the bed and breakfast inns where they would stay on their travels. (They were my original purpose for starting this humble blog.) I’ve written four novels in that series, one of which I think is actually good, two of which I think can be salvaged, and one of which may remain forever on the self of apprentice work. In recent weeks, ideas for a couple of the unwritten entries in this mystery series have been presenting themselves in my tortured little brain. I pretty much have the basic plots worked out for these, and I’ve compiled lots of notes for them over the years. I think I have critical mass achieved for one of them. (It involves running!)

And so I wonder if maybe it is time for me to step away from the Fathers and Sons stories (so fraught and literary they are) and put some time/effort/creativity into the less demanding cozy mystery stories. I wonder if my current seeming stalemate with the F&S stories combined with the fresh ideas for the cozy mystery stories might be a sign that I should change lanes for a while.

Can I travel freely and easily between styles and genres as I propose? I think so. I’m not prohibiting myself from doing one or the other (or even some third thing if it presented itself — but not poetry; I can’t do poetry). I like to think I could work to exhaustion on one and then pick up fresh with another since they are quite different. I think that’s what I’m going to try to do.

My mother told me long ago that you should always use the turn signal in your car, even if you don’t see anyone around you, because you may be signalling for the car you don’t see. And that’s kind of what this post is like. Maybe there is someone actually reading this and will appreciate my signal.

I finished a story!

Posted May 25, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

I know! I can barely believe it myself. I rose early this morning and stared at the screen long enuf to put down nearly two thousand words of new material to double the size of my Fathers and Sons story “Father’s Day” and brought it to something like a conclusion.

Sure, it still needs work, and it does not comply with the standard structure of a short story (the normally rapid falling off after the climax is more lingering), and I’m not sure I have the closing words just right, and the supporting character has come much more to the fore than I expected. But it achieves everything I’d set out to do. And best of all, it’s finished (in first draft).

Given my creative torment of recent months, this is an achievement. (Actually, it may be imagined creative torment. I think since the turn of the year, I’ve written three stories: “Boys are like puppies,” “Twice Blest,” and now “Father’s Day.” That’s a decent volume of output.)

Regardless, it feels good to cross this particular finish line. Now to see what lies ahead.

parallel universe

Posted May 20, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

When I lace up for a run, I always doubt my ability to complete the miles.

When I sit down to write, I always doubt my ability to complete the words.

thick skinned report

Posted May 12, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Humble efforts

I got two rejection letters over the weekend (coincidentally on my drive home from the miserable half marathon).

One was for “Twice Blest” and it came all the way from Jerusalem. A journal there was looking for pieces about “men” and since that story is part of my Fathers and Sons cycle, I gave it a try. They chose not to use it, and they sent a form email, but it was a fair attempt. (Plus, I’d since modified the story in what I think was a necessary way, so now I have something better to submit elsewhere.)

The second was for “Been Lonely So Long,” which is accumulating encouraging rejection letters. This email was personalized and detailed. I was told that I am a good writer and that my thematic use of the first person plural narration was clever, but they found a few faults as well. One was the intervention the characters stage for one of their own. The editors didn’t find that they characters knew that other person well enuf to stage an intervention. But that was pretty much exactly my point. Maybe I was too subtle about this and need to draw it out a little more clearly. They also didn’t like the last sentences, which seems to be my weakness. I’m not sure what (if anything) I want to do about that. It speaks to the theme (the nature of compassion), but again, maybe I’m too indirect about that. I’ll ponder it.


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