Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

v.v

March 4, 2019

When I had boldly said before that I had finished writing the vignettes, surely you knew that I would come back to correct such an outrageous assertion.

Doing the math, I had them done. Twenty-four chapters; twenty-three inter-chapter vignettes in the bank. I even spent a stressful evening inserting the vignettes from their separate file into the body of the One-Match Fire document, creating the new document I named “OMF v.v.” I grumbled as I did this because every single time they imported as a different typeface that I had to fix and then panicked when somehow their placement got off and I seemed to be missing one. I got it all worked out in the end, even changing the (very short) Chapter 24 into a vignette itself. And I thought it done.

Silly me.

I guess maybe I needed to believe it was done so I could jolt my self into considering the implications of this and realize that I was missing something truly fundamental.

Nowhere in the entire novel did I have a character actually building and lighting a one-match fire. I had fires burning and fires remembered, but I’d never had a one-match fire built. Building a successful one-match fire is supposed to be a skill that is handed down from father to son in the novel. Hence the title.*

So, vignettes to the rescue. I thought that I could devote one of them to this important task. They are long enuf (~300 words) to cover the process, and the activity spans the novel, so it needn’t happen in any one given story. It occurred to me that since it is a tradition that belongs to the three main characters, I could write the vignette such that any one of them could be building the fire. (There are a couple of lines of dialogue in the novel that are not tagged and remain ambiguous because they could be spoken by any one of the three in their moments.) I wouldn’t specify which character was building the fire. He would note that the other two were down at the lake, thus making clear that all three are at the cabin, while he was building their evening fire. And which of them he was wouldn’t matter. The tradition was successfully handed down and any of the three could accomplish it.

That part was easy. I’ve built enuf of one-match fires myself to know how to describe the process. But once I had the vignette written, I needed a place to put it. Fortunately, I was never really satisfied with another one I had written. It did provide important information to the novel, and it bolstered some character explication that was also important, but it seemed forced, even gratuitous. I figured I could take the essentials from the weak vignette and insert them into an existing story/chapter to do the same thing. (Plus, it had some snarky word play that I didn’t want to lose.) I did this without too much surgery, leaving its placement open.

And it happened that its placement was sufficiently along in the storyline that the youngest character (of the three) was old enuf to be able to build successful one-match fires himself.

I’m in the process of reading through v.v now, and someone should probably slap me and tell me to leave well enuf alone, but I have this idea that maybe I can do a little something to clarify/fortify the presence of the narrator. I don’t want to bring him out and make him overt, but I think if I can make it clear that there is someone actually telling the tales, an outsider, it will smooth over some of the structural “issues” that have always nagged me about the telling. (Chiefly, how can anyone know/remember specific moments from forty years in the past? My narrator can’t, of course, but his is telling stories, not writing history.) I’ll be on the watch for the one or two opportunities I think I need to make this happen.

And then really, for certain, absolutely, I’ll consider the novel finished!

*Thank you, Ellen Goldstein!

vignettes are completed

February 28, 2019

I finished drafting the vignettes last weekend, and I’ve been monkeying with them in the days since, but I think I need to call them done. They are all in first person — the rest of the novel has a third-person narrator — and they’re spoken by five different characters.

The novel’s narrator is an outsider to the family, looking in at two father/son relationships that are far better than what he experienced. So his telling of their stories is idealized to some extent. The first-person vignettes between each chapter allow the characters to balance his ideal with their real.

Anyway, they add 6,800+ words to the overall count, which was part of my goal. There are twenty-three vignettes — one between each chapter and one at the end, which was actually the last chapter originally, but I revised it to be a vignette. Now I must shoehorn them into the novel and then give the whole thing a massive read through.

And then?

the second life of “Men at Work and Play”

February 25, 2019

One of the early (2014) One-Match Fire stories that saw publication was “Men at Work and Play.” Back then the perfect title (for the whole collection) had not yet been bestowed upon me by a certain poet, and I was calling the slowly growing collection of them my Fathers and Sons stories.

“Men at Work and Play” appeared in Wolf Willow Journal in April of 2014. That may have been the only edition of that publication because less than a year later the publication itself had gone dark, and today the address is hijacked.

Now, though, the story is going to appear again. A newish publication called Defuncted is seeking fiction that had appeared in magazines and journals that are now gone. My experience with Wolf Willow Journal was exactly that.

A problem, though, was that the word count of the story, 3,500, exceeded the maximum preferred by Defuncted. Writers in that situation were welcomed to write to the editor to discuss the possibility of submitting, which I did. I was told to send the story in, which I also did. And over this past weekend I learned that the story will appear in Defuncted in an upcoming issue.

Once I know that it’s reappeared, I’ll provide a link.

Update: And here it is!

vignettes

February 20, 2019

What of One-Match Fire? you say. What’s the latest news in that adventure?

Well, I seem to have a serious case of not-being-able-to-let-go. I was cautioned about this by a friend. That it was never going to be perfectly finished in my eyes and that I had to reach a point where I released my grip and surrendered it to the world.

And I thought maybe I was there, except the nagging wouldn’t relent. More than just pencil work and trying to refine verbs or staggeringly beautiful sentences, I thought there were some gaps in the story telling that needed to be filled somehow. The novel spans more than forty years in the lives of three people (two fathers, two sons), and there are several long spans of years in the narrative that are not represented. There are some significant life events that readers don’t get to see or the characters to experience. They’re just “understood” to have happened. And that seems insufficient, even a cheat to the reader.

There are 24 chapters in the novel as it currently stands, and that includes two late-addition chapters that were originally intended for the inevitable sequel. (Isn’t that further evidence that I can’t let go?) The gap filling that I think is needed is more than just bringing in some references to existing chapters. In part, I think the chapters are complete and whole as they are currently written. The fact that ten of them have been published as stand-alone stories confirms this in my inchoate mind. So I don’t really want to attempt to substantially change them. And the idea of writing whole new chapters is too daunting for my little mind to be willing to engage. Plus I think a whole new chapter to deal with this or that subtlety might be stretching its worth and/or diluting its impact.

So, somehow, I came upon a different solution. I am now writing 300-word vignettes that I will slip in between the chapters. Vignettes are handy because they don’t really need a beginning, middle, and end. They are just snapshots of a moment, of a thought. But if done right, they can set up or clear up some later or earlier matter in the bigger narrative. They can show how a certain decision was made or why a certain action was taken. They can effectively fill some of the gaps without the need to write a few thousand words to do so.

One-Match Fire is written with a third-person narrator. (Originally, before I realized that the stories I was writing were accumulating into an actual novel, I wrote several of them in first person, and one was even published in that state. But then, when I saw I had a novel rather than a cycle, I figured I needed to rein in the narrator, at least give it a consistency that the reader would follow. So I made it third person, with a specific narrator in mind. Then it became a different person who is the narrator, which I thinks works better.)

The vignettes, on the other hand, are being written in first person. I think this gives a better glimpse into the minds of the characters in these critical moments. I can show the characters to the reader in ways the characters wouldn’t show themselves to each other, giving them more depth. (Uncertainty. Doubt. Regret. Fear. Shame. All human qualities that the characters would keep stuffed inside themselves rather than trouble the people they love.)

I don’t think having between-chapter vignettes in first person is unconventional to the point of being experimental, and I don’t think it would jar the reader, once the pattern became apparent. And I do think it serves the story well.

I’ve written four thirteen of these so far. That leaves only nineteen ten to go. To this point they’ve been easy to write, and that’s due to me knowing what holes need filling (and knowing these characters so well). But I’ve done the easy stuff. Part of what lies ahead is defining what holes are still out there, and which are more important to address than the others.

And then, once I have all twenty-three written, I’m promising myself I will consider the novel finished.

“Twice Blest” has found a home

February 4, 2019

My One-Match Fire story “Twice Blest” has been accepted for publication in The MOON Magazine. It’s supposed to appear in The Power of One-themed issue, which is scheduled for this month, so any minute now! (I’ll post a link.)

UPDATE: And here it is!

I had originally submitted this story for their Atonement-themed issue (coming in March), and the editor wrote back saying she wanted to use it earlier, if that was all right with me. And of course it was! (She also said some very nice things about the story.)

The MOON Magazine had published my story “The Most Natural Thing in the World” back in 2014, so that’s two One-Match Fire stories they’ve accepted. This is the tenth OMF story (of the 24) that has been published, which makes me think the whole might be at least as good as the parts.

“Twice Blest” has a history. It was originally accepted in 2015 by a magazine that quickly went defunct before they could publish my story. Its peregrinations took it to more than a dozen publications before it found a home. I don’t know if that’s a good number or an embarrassing number, but it’s my number. (I’m constantly fussing with these stories, so I think the 2019 version is better than the 2015 version would have been.)

The title comes from the Quality of Mercy speech in The Merchant of Venice, which speaks of how showing mercy benefits both the giver and the receiver. (That’s why I had submitted for the Atonement-themed issue originally.)

So, not a bad start to 2019.

no account

January 7, 2019

Accounting was definitely not my best subject in college. Nor was calculus, statistics, production, finite mathematics, combinatorics, fortran/cobol, and most economics. (I shudder just remembering those days.) I’m clearly not a quantitative person. But give me a literature or philosophy class and it’s straight As, baby!

So I can’t give you an accounting for my recent surge in writing productivity. Since the turn of the year I’ve written two stories (first draft, natch) and have a good start on a third. I wrote one of those stories in a single session! Yes, they all deal with my OMF characters in the years after that novel, and thus they are obviously easier for me to write since I know those characters so well. Even so, this level of productivity is unprecedented for me. I’m struggling to explain to myself why.

Could it be that I’m not devoting hours and hours of my weekend mornings to running and so can use the time for writing? (The math does work, but that seems too quantitative an explanation for what seems a qualitative matter. And why only now since my running hiatus has been far longer than that?) I wonder if the recent holidays and the upset in routine might be the cause. I have found that when I’m traveling that I tend to be more creatively productive. For example, I’ve done some good writing while staying at my children’s houses.

I’m kind of hoping that is the explanation because my routine is about to be upset again. (Running may even be involved.) Not for a long time, but profoundly while it is happening. More on that later perhaps. In the meantime, I’ll take the mysterious productivity.

thick skinned report – 1st rejection of 2019

January 5, 2019

I got my first rejection of 2019 yesterday. The first of many, I assume.

I had sent my story “Forest Succession” to a journal in mid-October in a daring move because I wasn’t responding to a themed call for submission but simply found a journal that seemed to align with my story and tone.

I received a form rejection email, but it was professional enuf not to crush my black and shriveled heart too much.

In the last year and a month, I’ve sent the story to sixteen* publications and received twelve rejections (three of which were personalized) and one “no response” (which the pub noted up front was possible). The story has evolved a little bit in that time but not substantively.

I think it’s a good story. I think I just need to find the right home for it. It’s currently in submission at three publications, and I regularly look for journals and calls that might be suitable for it. The story is (what I believe to be) the final one in the overall One-Match Fire cycle, though it is not part of the novel itself. (Not yet. I keep thinking I should just add all of these after-the-fact stories I’m writing to it. Sigh.)

__________

*I had a technical writing teacher in college who provided instruction on when to use numerals and when to use the words for the number in text. He was a bit haughty about it, saying his instruction was the only one we ever needed to heed. (That’s probably why I still remember his name after *mumble-mumble* years.) Anymore, I just write with whatever the thought is at the moment. It’s my blog, after all.