Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

big news on the little blog ~ One-Match Fire

September 29, 2022

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.


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.

“Memento Mori” is now up at Cape Magazine

August 31, 2022

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.


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

August 19, 2022

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

August 16, 2022

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.

my story “Memento Mori” has found a home

June 7, 2022

As I was preparing yesterday’s post about “A System Reboot” being accepted at a lit mag, I received an email letting me know that my story “Memento Mori” has as well! “Memento Mori” will appear in the “This is the End” themed issue of Cape Magazine. It is my understanding that the issue will come online this month. When it does, I’ll post a link.

This is an interesting story for me. It’s essentially my rewrite of Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (though mine is in a dark and dirty place, and I have a different ending — also, thanks, Pete, for the link to your version). I explained this when I made the submission, though I have no idea whether that affected the approval decision. And although it stands on its own and makes no reference to it, the story is part of my One-Match Fire universe.

I had conceived a series of stories revolving around a single incident and how this incident would ripple through the lives of people connected to it, even tangentially. In a different story (“First, Do No Harm,” which I’m shopping around vigorously) two of my OMF characters happen upon the incident and react as their characters would. “Memento Mori” is the incident itself.

I found myself so giddy after receiving two acceptances in a matter of minutes that I continued to check my email repeatedly through the day to see if there were any more! (Alas, no!)

thoughts on Substack

September 27, 2021

You may be familiar with an online publishing medium known as Substack. It began as a site where people in the know could publish “newsletters” about their topics, and subscribers would get an email whenever a new “issue” came online. While many of these newsletters are free, others charge a monthly fee — the minimum is $5, so $60 a year — to access the content. Consider that some of these “influencers” have thousands of subscribers and do the math. One of the biggest is posted by a man who writes about Chinese culture and politics.

So now creative people are joining Substack. Writers are posting their novels a chapter at a time as an alternative to traditional publishing. One of the newest celebrity members of Substack is Salman Rushdie, who will serialize a new work (and put it behind the paywall).

I had heard a very enthusiastic account of one person’s use of Substack on The Writer Files podcast. (Mostly half-hour episodes, which are perfect for my tolerance on the treadmill.) I checked on her subscriptions the other day and she has upwards of 1,200 people signed up. At $60 a year, she’s grossing $72,000. (Yes, Substack takes a piece of that, but what’s left is still hefty.)

A writer friend of mine is posting some of his short stories on Substack, though they are free. The thing about Substack is that if you want to charge a fee and make it worth your time and effort, you must have a substantial following of people who are willing to pay for the privilege. And to have that, you must be a hustler, a self promoter, someone who already has a name and a following. I am certainly not that kind of person.

Nonetheless, I am thinking about beginning to post to Substack. My novel One-Match Fire contains 23 chapters. which means I could serialize two a month and have a year’s worth of content. After that, I could post some of the stories I’ve written in that universe that are not in that novel to continue the content. Seems like a safe way to experiment with the medium. Maybe I could develop a following in that time. Perhaps then I could serialize a newer work (my impossible-to-publish metafictional stuff) and charge a fee. Then retire rich.

I know that Substack has gotten some bad press. It’s been accused of being a haven for right-wing crazies though I haven’t noticed such, and it seems easy enuf to ignore. There have also been some grumblings about the “advance” that Rushdie supposedly received for joining the platform. But I don’t see the logic in that. He’s going to get a bigger advance from a traditional publisher than a no-name would, and no one complains about that kind of thing. Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like a good and safe place to experiment.

So what do you think? Do you have any experience or cautions you care to share?

Edit 18MAY21 – It may prove to have been a good thing that I did not act on this idea.

“Hush Arbor” is in fron//tera

July 27, 2021

The copy of fron//tera containing my story “Hush Arbor” arrived yesterday. It’s a lovely edition containing stories and poems in both English and Spanish as well as color photos, artwork, and even graphic stories. One of the stories (not by me) is even set not very far from my home in the the Kansas City suburbs.

“Hush Arbor” is a story with two characters from my One-Match Fire universe. It may even have a supernatural element. I’m sorry there’s no online edition I can link you to.

“Hush Arbor” approaches

May 24, 2021

Over the weekend I received an email with the proof pages for my story “Hush Arbor.” It will be published in the bilingual journal fron//tera in July. I don’t often get to review the proofs for my stories, though this did happen with my very first piece all those long years ago, and I think I may have expected this process to be the norm. In any case, I read my story closely (and the table of contents, my bio, and the journal’s cover) and found no errors. I was also able to review the proof of the entire issue via Google Drive. I learned that I was mistaken in my understanding of how the journal works. I had though that my story was to be translated and appear in both English and Spanish, but that’s not the case. Rather, there will be stories and poems in English alongside others that will be in Spanish. Just as well since I don’t know how I would have proofed my story in a different language.

“Hush Arbor” features one of the characters from my One-Match Fire universe and another character who comes along after that novel has ended. Of course the cabin and the woods feature in it too. But I’ve added a new twist in this story by introducing the suggestion of something supernatural. Is it “real” or is it part of a child’s imagination? (I make a similar suggestion of the supernatural in my story “Magic for Beantown,” which may or may not have a leprechaun in it.)

Also featured in “Hush Arbor” are marbles in the gravel around the cabin.

fron//tera is expected to appear in July, and it’s a print-only edition, so I won’t be able to share the story with you. I’ve written about it on the humble blog here and here.

“Hush Arbor” revisited

January 27, 2021

Last summer I had submitted my story “Hush Arbor” to a print journal named fron//tera, and it was accepted for publication. The forecasted publication date was for October of 2020, but we all know what 2020 was like. That date came and went, but the journal did not. I had researched it online, and they had a few good-looking issues listed, but they did not respond to my emails. Worse, Duotrope, that great listing of journals and publishers, had dropped fron//tera‘s listing altogether.

But yesterday I received an email from the publishers saying that while the issue was delayed, it was still going to happen, likely in the spring of this year. They even sent a mock up of the cover, which looks nice. (Though my efforts to post a copy of it here are mysteriously unsuccessful.)

fron//tera is bilingual, English and Spanish. (It’s published out of Madrid and Portland.) As far as I can recall, I’ve never had one of my stories translated to another language.

“Hush Arbor” is part of my One-Match Fire universe, though it is not part of that novel.

“Hush Arbor” has found a home

June 18, 2020

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.