Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

punctuating stammering speech

November 19, 2018

as in, how do you do it?

In one of my stories I have two runners trying to have a conversation while they are running. One of them is fit and fine, but the other is a beginner, and he’s having trouble keeping up, much less pushing out words between his gasping breaths.

Here is a line of dialog from the non-runner:

“Not sure you can call . . . what I do . . . running.”

The point is to show how much struggle he is having pushing out words as he’s barely able to breathe enuf to keep running. (Later I use this same punctuation when the man is trying to speak as he is sobbing.)

My question is, is this how I should punctuate the sentence to get this across?

I don’t think an em dash would be right. That’s for interruptions and abrupt stops. And I don’t want to put something like *gasp* between the words. I tried punctuating each fragment as a sentence, putting a period at the end. But that didn’t look right. Still, I don’t know if what I’ve chosen now is right either.

I’ve made some forays onto the internet to try to find guidance, but I haven’t found anything that fits. About the only other solution I can think of is to watch for this same sort of thing when I’m reading and see how another writer and/or editor did it.

Unless you know.


“A Tree Falls in the Forest” finds a home

October 31, 2018

It seems like only two days ago I was reporting that one of my stories had been accepted for publication with a literary magazine. And now, only two days later, I get to report another acceptance! I don’t think this has ever happened to me before, that I received two acceptance notices in one week.

Halfway Down the Stairs responded to a submission I had made two months ago for their “Coming of Age” theme. They are an online quarterly, and the issue with my story comes out in early December. I’ll post a link when it’s up. “A Tree Falls in the Forest” is one of my favorites. (I love them all equally, as a good parent should!) It really is a transitional moment in the story line of the novel, and I get to describe the son, Curt, as both a snotty pre-teen and a loving boy while his father is both bemused and confused.

It’s a delightful coincidence that this story was accepted the same week as “Deadfall” since the two are a matched set. There are echoes of each story in the other, and “Deadfall” resolves some of the tension in “A Tree Falls in the Forest.” Nice that they’re coming out at nearly the same time since they should be read together.

I had submitted this story fourteen times, going back two years (!), and all but two were rejections. Of those two, one was this acceptance and the other was a withdrawal for a submission I had made last weekend.

So, two acceptances in one week. I’m now having trouble processing all of this — I guess it’s called — self esteem.

“Deadfall” finds a home

October 29, 2018

My One-Match Fire story “Deadfall” has been accepted by Hedge Apple for its “Personal Identity” themed issue. It should appear online next month (and is apparently “in the running” for the print edition to come out in December — I do like seeing the shelf with the journals carrying my stories getting fuller).

This story is a recent addition to the novel, one that I had originally intended to be part of the “inevitable sequel.” It’s a companion to the other recent addition: “Spring Fever.” The two clarify and then resolve the major conflict in the latter half of the novel.

This is the fifth story I’ve had published this year and my thirtieth published story.


October 3, 2018

So one of the lit mags that ran one of my stories, The Magnolia Review, which ran “Fire Sermon,” has a Kickstarter campaign and if they raise enuf money, they’re going to put out a print edition of the issue with my story in it. Through some quirk, I received an email about it, welcoming me to make a pledge.

While it is nice to see the shelf with the journals holding my stories getting more full, I don’t absolutely have to have a printed copy of each one. Still, I went to the site just to see what it was all about.

And what did I find but that they excerpted my story as a sample of what was in the issue.

As I write this, they have a long, long way to go to reach their goal, but I confess that I did do my part to help them reach it!

Update 1NOV18: The campaign did not reach its goal by the deadline, and I got an automated email telling me this. But the emails contributors received from the editor herself prior to this spoke of seeing proofs from the printer, as though publication was going to happen. I don’t know where this stands, but I’m guessing this one won’t be added to my shelf.

bits and pieces

September 10, 2018

I did that thing again. I went out on my bike and tackled the trails. We’d had a week of rain and overcast skies, and I knew the trail was wet and muddy, so it wasn’t going to be a pleasant trek on those days. But then Saturday came, starting with rain and drizzle, and when I looked at the weather maps, we were pretty much done with the rain for the next week. That meant that I could get on the trail and grab some peddling time while everyone else feared more rain was to come. I started out under massing gray clouds, but by the time I got to my turnaround point, seen above, the sky was clearing. The week of rain had brought cooler temperatures too, so the ride was pleasant (though I did have to ride through some big puddles and a couple of spots of deep mud), and there were very few riders and runners on the trail, fearing more rain I suspect.

What you see above is the shipping container that the trail passes through below the construction on the interstate highway. It’s the green thing with the black maw.


The words “jock” and “jock strap” and “jockstrap” appear six times in the current manuscript of One-Match Fire. I know this because I did a word search for them, having found in one story that I use “jock strap” and in another “jockstrap.” (It’s about four men, two of whom go from boys to men in the story and two of whom are runners.) Based on the dictionary on my phone (and the one in the app on my computer), the proper spelling is as a single word. Now you know the proper spelling, should it come up in conversation. You don’t have to thank me.


I think I mentioned before that I have a mild “case” of synesthesia. I know the “color” of each letter of the alphabet, for example, and I can picture the “shapes” of most sounds. (Classical music is especially “shapely” to me.) I thought for a long time that everyone was this way, but it turns out most are not. I also used to think that everyone dreamed in color, as I do, but apparently that’s not true either.


I had a runner friend who is also a handyman come by one afternoon last week — during the rain, which was handy for the man — to shuffle through the itchy insulation in my attic, stepping from joist to joist, to seal some leaks in the roof (that the roofers didn’t). The leaks are most common during driving rains, which led me to think the flashing wasn’t sealed properly. I reasoned this through without having gone into the attic myself. When my friend got up there, he confirmed it through observation. And then he sealed every bit he could find as well as replace both the bulbs and the pull chains in the two light fixtures up there.*

I’ve lived in this house 31 years, and I think I’ve been into the attic four times, three of those times getting no farther than poking my head in through the access panel.


I currently have 12 story submissions circulating. That’s comprised of five stories as multiples and the One-Match Fire novel (in an earlier form) at a contest. The oldest is from last December, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a contender (though I’ve heard stories of older submissions getting accepted). I know/suppose I should be more aggressive about submitting my stories, but I’ve never been a hustler, and with my withered self confidence I understand why I’m not. Still.



*All of his work getting things done around my house motivated me to do some things myself! Fortunately, the feeling passed.

call it finished

August 27, 2018

After weeks of dithering I finally added “Spring Fever” and “Deadfall” as chapters 21 and 23 to the manuscript of One-Match Fire. On some barely conscious level I now consider the story finished. I need to give it a read through from the start, with the knowledge and depth these two newest chapters (and one new character) give the story to see what ripples they have throughout the telling, what prep work I might need to give the earlier chapters, and what fixes may be called for. (I added the minor mention of a birthmark to an early chapter so that it is “in place” when the birthmark plays its part in chapter 21, for example. But that’s an easy fix. I will be on the watch for bigger, more structural changes in my comprehensive read through.)

The addition of these 8,000+ words swells the novel to nearly 72,000 words, which is fine. I wasn’t striving to add the stories as a way to reach some arbitrary word count so that I could define the work as a novel; my purpose was merely to complete the telling of the tale, and I feel that this is done now.

This is both momentous and anti-climactic. And it signals more hard work to be done now that I am ready to begin shopping it around once again. Seven* of the chapters have already been published separately (plus one story that occurs after the scope of the novel, and I’m sending around another post-novel chapter), so I feel as though the novel has some pedigree. I hope this helps with getting some traction among agents and publishers.

This also leaves me with the challenge of working on something new. I have several unfinished, stand-alone stories I can return to, including one called “Stargazing” that’s been taunting me. It’s a fun story, not meant to be serious or literary, but that doesn’t make it any easier to write, or rather, to finish. I got it nearly to the end. And, of course, there is that Finnegans novel I had started some months back which is about two-thirds finished. I’ve figured out some fundamental changes I need to make to the story already written, including changing one character from a man to a woman, but I’m not sure I want to leap into a novel-length project just yet. More dithering, I guess.


*I had a technical writing instructor in college who insisted that you could never start a sentence with a numeral. I always considered it one of those arbitrary usage rules much like a split infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition. Ever hear of this?

before and after

August 20, 2018

So it’s not all grandkids and sneaking off to my cabin around here (or sneaking off to Kentucky or having guests from Kenya staying at my house)! I’ve actually be doing some writing.

You know about the various mutations of the story I’ve called “Spring Fever.” I — once again — think it is finished, and I’ve got a good first draft of another story: “Deadfall.”

I’ve pretty much decided that these two stories, comprising more than 7,000 words together, are going to be added to One-Match Fire, to bracket what had been the second-to-last story, “Little Gray Birds.” I fought this idea for a long time since these two were intended to be part of the sequel, Nature Always Wins. But the more I worked on them, the more I could see how they were tied to the events and themes in One-Match Fire. They fit nicely there, though once again “Little Gray Birds” needs some work. I had adjusted it to accommodate “Spring Fever” but now that I’ve decided “Deadfall” will follow it, I need to adjust it further.

And then I need to do a read through of the entire novel since the addition of those two stories more or less compromises the narrator I had been writing from. Now I don’t know who is narrating the stories, and I’ve always thought that you ought to know your narrator at least as well as your characters, even if the narrator does not appear in the story. It’s more a way for me to keep control of the tone and voice than anything else, and now I have to come up with something. (Half the tale is in the telling!)

As for Nature Always Wins, I’ve written four stories for it. The two I mention above, another called “Fire Sermon,” which has been published, and the fourth, called “Forest Succession,” which I’m shopping around. I have a clear idea for a fifth story in that collection (hint: it involves running a marathon). But even if I write that, I don’t know if there really is enuf further material to achieve the critical mass of a novel. Still, One-Match Fire began as a one-off about a cabin in the woods, and look where it went.