Overgrown road

Posted July 9, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock

I need work done on the main spillway for my lake in the woods. To have it done properly, I’ll need some cement poured. I’ve had two crews out to look at the situation, and while getting anything done still proves challenging, they both have said that no cement truck is going to want to come down my road through the trees because of the trees.

More specifically, because of the large branches on the trees that grow into and across the road because that’s where the sunlight is. The trouble is that large trucks are tall enuf to have their top parts knock against these branches. One man told me that some were thick enuf (see above) to knock an antenna or light or horn or even the exhaust stack off of a truck.

And so on our recent visits to Roundrock, we have been devoting our time to cutting away all of the branches we can reach. Generally, this has involved me driving my truck into the trees and then climbing into the bed with my chainsaw to cut the branches as high as I can reach.

There are a few whole trees I’m going to have to take down since I can’t get to their offending branches. Fun.

This is, of course, the worst time of the year for this kind of work. Not only is it miserably hot, but the horseflies are buzzing and biting, and the ticks and chiggers are thick in the scrub I must wade into to cut what needs cutting. I even looked into getting the local utility company to bring it’s big articulated sawing machine in — that they use to keep the power lines clean — but they said they don’t work on private property. (Unless I want to bring in power lines.)

The winter is the better time for this. But it hardly looks like there’s a problem at all then. The branches are without leaves, so they don’t seem so encroaching. I might cut one or two just for show, but the matter doesn’t seem as urgent during that time of the year.

Of course, the more I cut away, the more open area I create for other branches to grow into to fetch the sunlight. So it’s really a never-ending chore.

bits and pieces

Posted June 29, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Omphalos, Ouroboros, Ramblings Off Topic

This random photo from the archive is actually a stitched-together panoramic of the lake viewed from just below my cabin. This makes the lake look crescent shaped, but it is not. It is the typical teardrop shape of a lake made of a dammed valley. Also, beautiful bleakness of winter.

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My report several weeks ago of reaching peak suburbia because even the fire hydrants were being painted gray was mistaken. That turned out to be a primer and they are now shockingly yellow again.

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Shortly after I began working from home, back in March, I developed a pain in my backside (“backside” is a euphemism) that I attributed to sloth or cycling (though I hadn’t started up again for the year then) or maybe from shoveling too much gravel at the cabin. I couldn’t really account for it, but it wasn’t going away. And speaking of not going away, I had scheduled a week of vacation back in January for the first week in June. When that came, my wife and I did NOT go away to the west coast as we had planned but just hung around the house. However, what did go away was that pain in my backside. And when I returned to work after my week off, the pain returned too. Somehow, working from home was a pain in the, um, backside. And I figured it out. The seat of the desk chair where I do all of my personal writing and web surfing turned out to be set one and a half inches lower than the chair I was using in my work-from-home office space. It’s an old wooden swivel chair, substantially built, that I upended and figured out how to adjust. Using a tape measure, I lowered the seat exactly one and a half inches and then gave it a try. The pain has not returned. I think I solved the problem.

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I am about two weeks away from beginning to wear a pony tail given my quarantine hair and its lack of cutting for months.

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The Saharan dust cloud reached Kansas City over the weekend. The streetlights didn’t go on as I’m told they did in other cities, but there was a brown haze in the air even when it was sunny.

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I continue to work on the four novellas that have captivated me since before the turn of the year. They are Ouroboros, Omphalos, Obelus, and Olios. I think I’ll collect them and call the whole thing Oeuvre. The first two parts are “finished” and I have about ninety percent of Obelus drafted. I’ve poked a little into Olios, and it may actually be the hardest part to write, though I’m not shooting for 40,000 words (nor in Obelus).

The word “obelus” has a number of meanings, and the one I am using is the typographer’s mark of a dagger, which also has several meanings. The usage where the dagger marks a passage of dubious origin or veracity is what I want. “Olio” is a kind of stew of disparate components, which works perfectly for my intent in that section.

“Hush Arbor” has found a home

Posted June 18, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, short stories

My story “Hush Arbor” has been accepted at fron//tera, a Spanish and English literary journal based in Madrid and Portland. It will appear in volume 3, themed Natural States, though I don’t know yet when that will come out, but it will be print only.

I also don’t know how/if it will be translated to Spanish; I do know, however, that I won’t be the one doing this.

This story includes two characters from my One-Match Fire universe, though it is not part of that novel. It also may or may not have a talking fox named Scrapefoot in it.

I had submitted this story to six other publications and received a rejection from five. With the acceptance at fron//tera, I have withdrawn that sixth submission.

bits and pieces

Posted June 17, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Omphalos, Ramblings Off Topic

Random photo from the archives

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My son recently announced that Grand #8 is in production and is expected to make an appearance in early September. The boy is to be named after his paternal grandfather (though his maternal grandfather also has that name).

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Spell Check in Word sometimes reveals surprising things to me. For example, I recently intended to type “in the” and somehow came out with “int.” (Hitting the space bar at the right moment has often been a challenge for me.) So there sat “int” without the squiggly red line below it. Turns out that “int” is a standard abbreviation for words like “interior,” “internal,” and “international.” Such revelations come at least weekly to me.

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Quietly, the city where I live has been painting the fire hydrants gray. That has to be peak suburbanism. I’m sure the firefighters know where every single hydrant is in the city, so they probably didn’t need to be bright yellow. But still, gray?

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I am only a few pages away from filling my current journal (#28). I use spiral notebooks with college logos on them (current: Syracuse University, next: Villanova). In past years I was able to fill an entire notebook (college ruled pages, too) in less than a year. I’ve been working on this one since late 2016. I attribute this slow progress in part to keeping a lot more notes on my computer and also writing many things — such as my trips to Roundrock — on this humble blog. Before I would write full accounts of such trips in my paper journal, which filled pages. Lately I’ve realized how impossible it would be to find any given things in those thousands of pages of all of my past journals. And I’m sure there are things in them that I no longer even remember. Should I devote some time each day to reading them from the start? Or would that be too embarrassing?

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On Friday during my “vacation” last week, I rode the entire length of the Indian Creek and Blue River Trails: 26+ miles. This was the first time this year that I did that, and my quads were reminding me about it for several days. I completed it — my heart and lungs were in the game — but my legs were finished at about mile 20 and had to be coaxed along. Still, I’m eager to do it again, and by the fall, I’m sure it will be no problem at all.

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The first draft of Omphalos (the sequel to Ouroboros) is completed and I’m getting it out to some favored and treasured readers. Then what? Since a character’s four novellas feature in my two novellas, my wife thinks I should also write four novellas about all of this. (I’m glad I didn’t feature a dozen novellas!) I tend to shy away from challenges, but this work has been unprecedented for me (I wrote the first 45,000-word draft of Omphalos in six weeks), and already I have ideas on this sequel to the sequel. (Nothing yet on the fourth, but I’m not worried. Update: I know what I want to do with the fourth novella, and I’ll call it Olio. Trust me, it makes sense.)

My working title for my third novella is Obelus.

“MTWTF” has arrived

Posted June 15, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: ,

My short story “MTWTF” has appeared in print. The copy of WORKERS WRITER! Tales from the Classifieds arrived in my mailbox over the weekend.

Like so many of my stories, I’d had this one for a couple of years, shopping it around until it found its proper home.

The story was not heavily edited (though they did change “bosom” to “chest” and a few minor things like that), but the review process was pleasant and professional. This was one of the few times I’d received a proof copy of the story to review prior to publication. And the editor responded personally to me twice when I had asked about publication dates. This was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My story appears in the back third of the collection, which is fine and it reminds me of my running days at the back of the pack, but I’ll consider it a great day when one of my pieces appears in the front half of a journal!

napping into the blue ~ Skywatch Friday

Posted June 12, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock

Since I am on “vacation” this week (and not on the West Coast as we had originally planned) I went out to my little cabin on Wednesday to do some chores and talk to a man about fixing that spillway (finally).

When I had arrived in the morning the sky was overcast. After seeing to a few things, I decided to take a nap. When I woke an hour later, the sky was blue and sunny.

Moral of the story: take more naps!

Visit Skywatch Friday.

so I did a thing

Posted June 8, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Running

Tags:

Yesterday I did a thing.

I had signed up for the 2020 Head for the Cure 15 Mile Bike Ride nearly a year ago. Back in my running days I had done their 5k twice and volunteered for it once. I’m no longer running, but I am cycling, so I was eager to get in the game a little more.

Given the global situation, the group ride was turned into a virtual ride, which meant I didn’t have to ride the route downtown and could ride 15 miles in my neighborhood to complete the activity. And that’s what I did.

I started at mile post 15 on the Indian Creek Trail with the intention of riding to mile post 0.0, which is just across the Missouri state line. I’ve run and ridden this route scores of time, so it was all familiar to me, but I hadn’t been out riding too much this season, in part due to spring rains making a mess of the trail, in part because I have to mow my lawn about once a week now (last summer, you may remember, I only had to mow it three times), and partly because sloth. Thus, while I knew I could complete the distance, I wasn’t sure if it would be pretty.

I started just after dawn because I wanted to be on the trail before the little kids with big dogs on long leashes were out. And while I achieved that, there were still plenty of adults on the trail, running, walking, and riding. Still, I had no mishaps or delays. I was able to ride without stopping, though I did stop at mile post 8 because that is in my neighborhood and my wife was there with a water bottle for me. There are a number of water fountains on the trail, but given the pandemic, they have not been turned on this year. So that was about the halfway point, but the hard part of the trail was still ahead of me.

The two worst hills on the trail are at mile 7 and about mile 4.5. (This is going from west to east.) The first one isn’t steep, but it is long, .75 miles long. And very soon after you gain all of that elevation, you lose it again in an S-curve with blind turns. Then come a series of bridges you must cross on narrow sidewalks. On one side of you is a steel fence (so you don’t pitch into the stream) and on the other side in a concrete retaining wall (so the passing cars don’t pitch into you). These are perfectly navigable unless some jerk coming from the other direction decides to play chicken with you. This happened to me once years ago, and while we did manage to pass each other on this narrow stretch, I lost some of the skin on my shin after scraping against the concrete barrier. Nothing like that happened on my ride yesterday.

The second big hill is not long but it is steep. There is actually an alternate route along paved streets and an ancillary trail that bypasses this hill and connects with the main trail later, but I decided to take the big, bad hill. I rarely use my lowest gear, but I did on this beast. I was also zig-zagging up the path (about eight feet wide with encroaching branches) to managed the climb a little better. I managed to get to the top without stopping or walking, but the last twenty feet or so were covered at less than normal walking pace.

After that it was a rapid descent through another S-curve around blind turns and then mostly flat trail for a long while.

There is a detour on the trail because of a massive construction project at a water treatment plant. The trail used to pass right in front of this plant, but not now. The detour is on more ancillary trail, and it’s nicely paved and picturesque, but there is one more monster hill waiting as a result. I knew it was coming and managed to downshift properly, making it to the top of the hill at a less embarrassing pace. then one more rapid descent on curving trail, though the turns were not as blind.

At that point I only had a mile left to go, and all of it was on flat ground. I made it to the end point, as you can see here:

There is no stopping or parking space for cars near here, so I rode another quarter mile to a shopping center the trail passes behind. My wife was there with the Prolechariot and I soon had my bike loaded in the back. Then it was home for a hot shower and dry clothes.

Somehow, I am supposed to get a nifty shirt for my participation, but the organizers have not been informative about that bit. I know there was an after party down at the official race start, and I know a bunch of people did ride the official course, so that’s where the bling was no doubt dispensed. Those of use who rode virtually will have to make other arrangements, I guess.

Update: After I wrote this I texted a friend whose daughter works for this organization to ask about the magnificent shirt. She told me that because the event became virtual, they had extended its “existence” to July 1st. After that date, they will mail the shirts to the participants.

the drill

Posted June 4, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Omphalos, Roundrock

Tags:

Yeah, I’m still around.

I can tell you that I finished the first draft of Omphalos last weekend. It is definitely first-draft material, but ideas for it have been pouring into my head to refine it. Pretty soon I’ll have something to send to a couple of readers whose thoughts I trust and respect.

The photo above is of the side of my cabin. The carpenter bees have discovered it and are drilling holes in the wood to lay their eggs. I don’t have too much trouble with this since the holes are small and there aren’t too many of them. But they are constantly buzzing about the cabin, either to find a new place to drill a hole or to guard the holes with eggs in them.

I had thought that the pressure washing and fresh stain on the cabin last fall might deter the bees, but not so. I’m probably going to set out a bee nest to see if they’ll use that instead.

I can’t account for it

Posted May 25, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Omphalos

Tags:

One of the reasons I lost interest in running, I think, was because I was quantifying it too much. I would come home from work (back when I went elsewhere to work) and know I had to run at least four miles that evening if I was going to reach my target of thirty miles for the week. I wore a watch that talked to satellites and that tracked my pace and distance, and I could download this data when I got home to analyze my run, generally to feel disappointment in my performance. It got to be a chore, even an obligation, rather than something I did for exercise and esteem.

So now I find myself doing something similar with the writing of Omphalos. This thing continues to write itself. I have sat whole days at my computer, tapping away to get the story down as it reveals itself to me. I know where it’s going, and I know how to get there, but I still encounter surprises along the way. And the words just keep coming. At this rate, I’ll have the first draft done by the middle of June. I took ten years to write One-Match Fire, and Omphalos will be my second completed novel draft in 2020 alone. I can’t account for it, but then, I don’t want to. I want to ride the wave and be in the moment the way I failed to do when I was running.

I have kept one small quantifier in my journal about this. At the end of each week, I put down whatever word count I have achieved in the whole novel. And (unlike my running days) my pace has quickened. Here are some numbers:

02MAY – 4,600 words
11MAY – 16,660 words
18MAY – 25,000 words
25MAY – 38,900 words

I have two chapters left to write to complete the first draft, and I know I’ll easily exceed the 40,000 minimum for calling it a novel, though I’d be fine with it being a novella too. Ouroboros, for which Omphalos is a sequel, is at 47,600 words now. Both of those word counts will likely increase as I align better what happens in each work, putting in some foreshadowing and some back references and that kind of thing. I also have the wise thoughts of a trusted reader to use in Ouroboros (and then I’ll inflict Omphalos on him because I can).

I am in the moment with the writing of these works. And when I’m away, thoughts come to me about how to fix this or address that, and I want to get back to my keyboard to make the magic happen. It’s a good place to be and I don’t want to harm it by being too quantitative about it.

“Icarus” has landed

Posted May 19, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: ,
XIR3675 Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c.1555 (oil on canvas) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69); 73.5×112 cm; Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium; (add.info.: Icarus seen with his legs thrashing in the sea;); Giraudon; Flemish, out of copyright

Well, the mythical Icarus crash landed, but that does sort of happen in my story “Icarus.”

Anyway, I learned yesterday that “Icarus” has been accepted at Magnolia Review for an upcoming issue. I should know more after I sign the contract and return it.

Magnolia Review had published another story of mine, “Fire Sermon,” a little over two years ago. They even nominated it for a Pushcart Prize.

I thought “Icarus” was a pretty straightforward story, but I’ve been sending it out for more than a year, and it had received eleven rejections (three more pending, and this acceptance, so fifteen submissions in all). I sent it to Magnolia Review for its Defining Moment-themed issue, and there is certainly one of those in the story.

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The painting above was long thought to be by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, but modern scholarship has raised doubt about this. It was Iris Murdoch’s favorite depiction of the mythological event. That’s Icarus in the the lower right, already mostly in the water, while the others in the painting just go about their business.