big news on the little blog ~ One-Match Fire

Posted September 29, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Humble efforts

Tags: ,

I’ve mentioned here a few times that 2022 has been a good year for my writing life. To date, I’ve had six short stories accepted in lit mags (but reduce that to five since one of the magazines failed to come to life and my story was returned — still, five in one year is my high).

But I’ve been sitting on a secret that is even bigger news.

Last June I learned that my novel, One-Match Fire, was accepted for publication by Blue Cedar Press, and it’s due to come out next month as a paperback and a little later as an ebook!

Long-time readers will remember that I have been writing the individual stories — I originally called them my Fathers and Sons stories and then later said they were part of my One-Match Fire universe — for ten years. I wrote the original story, “where late the sweet birds sang,” in 2012. It was about a little cabin in the woods and a son’s struggle with whether to keep it or sell it to pay medical bills affecting his family. I had intended the story to be a one-off, and I vaguely intended it to be a guide for what my own children might do with my little cabin in the woods when the time came. That story eventually became the prologue for One-Match Fire the novel.

I found, after completing that story, that I wanted to stay with the characters I had created and tell more stories about them. They came easily: I knew the characters well, and I certainly knew the setting well (the picture on the cover of the novel may or may not be of my own little cabin taken nine years ago). And so I wrote another story about them. And then another. And another. At first I was just writing the stories that came to me, based on likely situations the characters would face in their lives. But at some point I realized that there was a whole greater than the sum of its parts in what I was doing. I thought maybe I had the beginnings of a story cycle, but a friend told me that no, I was writing a novel. And so I was.

One-Match Fire came into its final form sometime in 2019, and I began shopping it around to likely agents and then more likely publishers, but I wasn’t getting any bites. Still, ten of the 24 chapters had been published in lit mags, and I was proud of that achievement. Maybe that was enuf. In fact, I was considering serializing One-Match Fire on Substack. It was in December of 2021, when I was researching likely publishers for Obelus (still circulating) that I came upon a listing for Blue Cedar Press in Wichita, Kansas that published “excellent and courageous literature.” That sounded like a good fit for One-Match Fire, so I sent in the manuscript.

And then I heard nothing for five months, which isn’t out of the ordinary for such a submission. It was in May of this year that I got an email from an editor at Blue Cedar Press asking me if the novel was still available. I wrote back instantly saying that it was, and the editor responded that in that case, she would continue reading the manuscript but that she liked what she’d read so far.

In June I was invited to join a Zoom call — and given about a half hour’s notice — where I and four members of the board at the press chatted and rambled for about an hour, never quite coming to the big point. They finally asked me if I had any questions and so I asked. Yes, they answered, they did want to published One-Match Fire! Was it still available?

The weeks and months since then have been a whirlwind. I have read the manuscript a half dozen times, going through the line edits and sending proposed changes and responses back and forth. I worked up proposed covers (or rather, my talented daughter did) and we settled on the one above. I solicited blurbs. I began what appears to be an unending job of trying to get profile and publicity for the forthcoming novel (getting on podcasts, finding book review blogs that might be interested, finding the few remaining newspapers that still do book reviews, finding the scant radio programs that might discuss books, learning how libraries select books for their circulating collections, finding bookstores that might be interested in a reading, even getting my alumni record updated to show the publication). It’s a full-time job!

One-Match Fire has an official publication date of October 18, 2022, though it will likely be available before then. It is already available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble and IndieBound (and even one Australian book ordering site). I hope to see it soon on Bookshop, and it will also be on Blue Cedar Press’s catalog page. (It won’t be on Amazon, at least for the present, but that’s another story.) And it’s up on Goodreads (though navigating that space as the author is challenging).

I will undoubtedly deluge you with news and updates about the life of One-Match Fire in the weeks and months ahead. It’s kind of a big deal to me.

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Your careful eye likely noticed that the title of my novel has a hyphen in it: One-Match Fire. There is a hyphen-less novel One Match Fire by Lissa Linden that works a different angle on that title. And it seems that there are several authors with the name Paul Lamb.

an unintended bias

Posted September 28, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

I’m listening to a lot of podcasts lately (mostly on my treadmill or on my drives to and from my little cabin in the Ozarks). Nearly all of the podcasts I listen to are interviews with writers or about some aspect of publishing. It’s insightful, and I’ve discovered a few new authors I’ve enjoyed reading.

More importantly, though, is that I’m learning different ways to approach and appreciate fiction. Recently I heard one woman writer make the observation that while women will extend the courtesy of reading men’s novels, men rarely return the favor and read women’s novels. She said this in a tone that implied that this is a universally held opinion.

I had never considered this. I don’t think I’ve even considered myself an “equal opportunity” reader. I think I just read what sounds interesting to me, regardless of race or gender or ethnicity.

But I decided to review the books I’ve read thus far in 2022 to see how the male/female authorship ratio comes down. Here’s what I’ve learned.

To date I’ve read 34 books this year (which is a bit slower than my normal pace, for reasons). Of those, 21 were written by men and 13 were by women. I don’t consider that a grotesque imbalance, but it does point out a tendency that suggests I may have a bias. And I think it further suggests that this bias may be common.

Even so, I don’t know that I want to deliberately “correct” the imbalance. I still want to read what sounds interesting to me. (And I’m still working through my re-read of Iris Murdoch’s complete fiction canon.) I want to think that I pick up a novel regardless of the sex of the author. I have tried developing an interest in contemporary Japanese fiction, and I seem to be reading a lot more Middle Eastern fiction lately, but, again, that is guided by interest without consideration to the sex of the author. Still, this is something to ponder.

So what about you? Do you find yourself reading one sex over the other?

I found myself in an unlikely place

Posted September 22, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Humble efforts, short stories

Tags: ,

I was poking around in Goodreads the other day and found myself listed there. Now, there are a half dozen writers listed there by the name of Paul Lamb, and they are not me. But one reference I saw listed a publication called Crossed Genres. It sounded familiar, so I clicked on it, and it turned out to be an anthology that had taken one of my stories back in 2010. I didn’t know it at the time — or until the other day — that the anthology came out in a print edition.

The story is titled “Diaspora” and I’ve written about in several times on this humble blog. The best link is here. I see from that old post that I did know that a print edition was coming, but I guess I never heard anything more about it; I was never sent a copy or invited to purchase one.

But I did find it on Amazon for just a few dollars, so I bought it. I should have it in a few days. It will go on my shelf of print journals that have taken my stories. That will be nice to see when I look up from my creative labors to the bookcase across the room where those journals sit.

I had another story in a printed journal that I did know about at the time, and I was invited to purchase a copy. But the price was $27! I checked around, and several people had complained to a blogger who keeps track of these things reporting the same thing. Apparently it is the method of this publisher to accept work and then solicit purchases from the accepted writers as a reliable revenue stream. I didn’t buy a copy, but I do check occasionally on ABE Books to see if that issue is there and at a reasonable price. Someday, maybe I’ll have that document to put on the shelf across the room too.

bits and pieces

Posted September 20, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic, Roundrock

I may have shown you this photo before. That’s a particularly nice round rock, about the size of a grapefruit, with the tannish color that distinguishes it from most of the others I have in my forest, which are generally whiter. The location is where my cabin now stands, so this is a very old photo.

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I am now on LinkedIn. I’m not sure why. But if you want to “connect” or “follow” or “stalk” or whatever is done there, look me up.

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I’ve also updated the About Me section on this blog. You can get to it by clicking on the link in the sidebar on the right (on larger screens) or by clicking here. I’m still the same old me though.

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The reprint of my story “Travel Light” in Made of Rust and Glass will be delayed until the end of October because the publisher (and his whole family) contracted Covid. In our mostly vaccinated civilization, the virus tends to manifest as a very bad cold (that’s how it affected me last April), and that seems to be what happened to the publisher et al. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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Cross your fingers, gang. It looks as though that massive cypress tree in my back yard will not have a harvest of “cones” this year for my dogs to bring in the house. I have found a few in the yard (a little early in the season, too), but when I look up in the tree I don’t see the hundreds of them at the tips of the branches I saw last year. The dogs will still bring in the feathery leaves from the cypress, but they don’t puncture the skin on the soles of your feet when you step on them in the night. The squirrels, on the other hand, have built a second big nest in the cypress, and they regularly visit the bird feeder to empty it.

Beneath the cypress tree, in a raised bed built especially for them, my impatiens have lost their fight with the heat and drought of this summer. Last year we had removed two ash trees on our western fence line (that sounds so grandiose). They had kept this flower bed shaded from the afternoon sun. This year the impatiens received the full force of that sun, with atypical heat, in a worse-than-normal drought. Though we were vigilant about keeping them watered — and I had added peat to the soil before planting and mulch on the soil after planting — the impatiens couldn’t thrive and barely survive. They’re an understory plant not suited to too much direct sunlight. So now they’re spindly, losing leaves, sending up few flowers. I keep hoping for a second act when the milder fall temps come. (And I calculate what different flowering plant might do better in that bed next year. Maybe wax-leaf begonias?)

return to Roundrock

Posted September 12, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock

Tags: , ,

Libby and I went down to Roundrock on Sunday, mostly because there was a break in the hot weather. We had no agenda for the day, which often results in the best visits.

When I arrived on the cabin porch, I saw this dragonfly resting on the door. I was surprised that it didn’t fly away at my approach, but then I saw that it was caught in a spider’s web. I pulled away a couple of strands of the webbing, and the dragonfly flew away, through the trees toward the lake. So I got a few human decency points for the day.

I did have a vague notion that I might spread some of the gravel from the recently delivered pile onto the parking area. I had covered a big part of it with a tarp a month or two ago to kill the grass growing there. And I’ve heard that if you spread the gravel thick enuf (at least four inches), the grass and scrub won’t grow back (except for this one type of plant that seems to thrive in limestone gravel). But I was doing my best to talk myself out of doing the work because it was, well, work!

I was dithering in the cabin when Libby called me out and said there was some mammal swimming in our lake. It happened that we’d heard a tree crash to the ground moments before, so it was easy to identify the mammal. It was one of our elusive beavers! We had finally seen one in the flesh. It swam for a little while then dove under the water, popping up in a different part of the lake. It did this twice. I suspect it was judging the threat level of the two bipeds up the hill. After that we didn’t see the beaver again, though we did try to convince ourselves that a large sunning turtle was a beaver. Still, it was great to see one live. They’re mostly nocturnal so we were lucky to see one during the day. But it had been nearly a month since I had been out, so I guess the beavers thought they had the place to themselves.

I eventually talked myself into spreading some gravel. I didn’t want to leave the area open to the sun as it was once I removed the tarp. I figured the mostly dead grass would just green up again and laugh at me. So I pulled out what dry stuff I could and then got busy transferring the gravel from the big pile to the exposed parking area. One wheelbarrow load at a time. I dumped 15 loads in the area, and Libby spread them with a steel-toothed rake. Then we had lunch. After lunch I returned to drop and spread four more loads. I estimate that I covered about half of the parking area, and that’s how it’s going to stay for a while because I moved the tarp to the other half of the area. This method of thwarting growth works best during the active growing season, and I’m hoping that I still have some of that. But I think in a couple of months I’ll just remove the tarp from that area and spread the gravel there too. That will pretty much use up my pile, so I’ll need to have more delivered. You see how having an 80-acre forest with a cabin and a lake is just like having a yard in suburbia. There’s always maintenance.

We didn’t have a fire this visit (one-match or otherwise), mostly because those take tending, which restricts what we can do, but also because it had rained heavily overnight. Though the roads were dry, there were robust puddles everywhere. Even so, the lake is down about four feet from full pool. We could use more rain, but there’s nothing in the forecast. Warmer dry weather stretches out as far as my weather app can see.

“Travel Light” will reappear next month

Posted September 7, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: , , ,

My story “Travel Light” will appear in the second volume of Made of Rust and Glass, an anthology of Midwestern fiction, next month. The official release date is October 4.

“Travel Light” is an older story of mine that first appeared in Penduline Press in 2013. The story is about an office float trip on the Kaw River near my home. I had considered it the foundation for an entire novel about the character featured in it, but then along came the characters in my One-Match Fire stories, leaving no space in my brain for other stories, and that original idea never developed.

Made of Rust and Glass is a print anthology, though there is an e-book version you can buy. I won’t be able to share a link here, but the story is still up at Penduline Press.

bits and pieces

Posted September 6, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: , , ,

In recent weeks, I’ve had two accepted stories fail to reach publication because the anthologies that took them subsequently failed to come together. This has happened to me at least once before, and I suppose it’s to be expected if you do enuf submitting.

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Last week I was in St. Louis at my son’s house. He had to travel for work, and since his wife doesn’t drive (much), I volunteered to care for Small Paul during the day and get her to/from school. It was a pleasant week, and I’m sure if you asked Small Paul, he’d agree. Coincidentally, when I went home, Small Paul and his family came to my house in Kansas City the very next day for the long weekend to celebrate (a little early) his second birthday. We had tried to work out how I could have stayed one more day and then we could all travel together, but too many cars (and a truck, though not mine) were involved, and there were too few drivers. Anyway, I hope Small Paul has some good memories of his Grandpa (though I’m Pa-Pa for now).

While in St. Louis, I also managed to visit an old friend of my youth for dinner and conversation. We had a great time swapping stories of our time in the Boy Scouts (that’s how far back our friendship goes) and generally catching up.

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Remember when I said someone complained to the city about our curb trees being too low? (And then neighbors all around the block were busy trimming their own curb trees, so it must have been a general complaint.) The tree service crew finally came out and trimmed the trees high enuf from the ground: 13 feet of clearance over the pavement and 10 feet over the sidewalk. They also trimmed some of the deadwood out of a few of the trees in my backyard. Then they cleaned it all up and drove away. So now I guess I’m good for a couple of years until the trees grow into the available space in search of sunlight and I have to do it all again.

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Books read in August:

It was again a lean month for reading (because reasons).

Ramadan Ramsey by Louis Edwards – I really liked this one. It’s the story of the love child of a Catholic girl in New Orleans and a Muslim Syrian immigrant boy (who is later deported in the confusion after Hurricane Katrina). The child grows and eventually learns he has a father in a faraway land, so he goes in search of him. (An unaccompanied minor who is aided by a few caring souls.) The sentences in this novel are rambling, and they require close attention, but they always deliver their punch in the end. So to with the whole novel. I’ll likely read this one again.

New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan – This is the kind of book I wouldn’t normally pick up, but Damhnait (pronounced Downith) is an internet and blogging friend of mine, so when I saw her book on a shelf at the bookstore, I grabbed it up. It is the story of a new French teacher at a tiny religious high school in Newfoundland and the troubles she has fitting in. Mix in a clash with the authorities and the inevitable awkward romance and you have a satisfying tale. I’ll probably read any future books by Damhnait.

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“Memento Mori” is now up at Cape Magazine

Posted August 31, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, short stories

Tags: , , ,

My story “Memento Mori” is now up at Cape Magazine (go to page 60), a British publication that’s been around for more than a decade. I had submitted my piece to the magazine’s “This Is the End” themed call, and they liked it. I hope you do too.

If you read the piece you’ll notice a similarity to Hemingway’s story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” I take a different direction with my story.

This story takes place in my One-Match Fire universe, though it includes none of those characters and makes no reference to it even indirectly. I have a companion story, called “First, Do No Harm” that connects to this story, and the characters in that are from my OMF stories. They become involved in what happens in “Memento Mori.” I’m still shopping that other story around, so I can’t link you to it to see the connection.

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I am in St. Louis this week, looking after Small Paul while his daddy is in Nebraska (I know, it sounds like a made-up place, but it’s real — I’ve been there) and his momma is attending/teaching classes at the university where I got my undergrad degree. So far, we’re getting along well.

I picked up my daughter-in-law from school yesterday, and I barely recognized the place. It’s been a few decades, so even the “new” buildings there looked old to me. But it was busy and vibrant, with lots of students intent on getting an education.

one-match fire Friday

Posted August 19, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Roundrock

A day-trip to the cabin yesterday, and I built a one-match fire to cook our burgers over. It’s all in the preparation!

even if you can’t see it, you know it’s there

Posted August 16, 2022 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Roundrock

Tags: ,

Back in 2014, as I was walking through my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, I saw a bird rise from the ground and flop around as though wounded. I wasn’t fooled. It was a whippoorwill, trying to draw me away from her ground nest. I walked carefully to where I had seen her rise, and I found these two chicks.

I had never heard a whippoorwill until I went to Scout camp as a boy. And then the things seemed to sing their three-note song incessantly through the night. Something about that fixated in me, and to this day, I love the call of the whippoorwill.

Most people will never see one. They are night birds that hunt by flying with their mouths open to catch any insects in their path. But you can still know that they’re there because you will hear their night call in the spring and early summer. Here’s a link if you want to hear one yourself.

In one of my stories, whippoorwills play an important role, not only for their natural existence but because they stand as a metaphor for knowing something exists even if you don’t have direct evidence of it. Someday maybe I can share that story with you.