Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

“A Civil Tongue”

August 14, 2017

I’ve been making fitful progress on a new One-Match Fire story that I’m calling “A Civil Tongue” for now. This story is intended to become part of the novel and not just another tale told in the universe of the novel but not part of it, such as my story “Fire Sermon.” (No luck so far in finding a home for that one.)

I’d mentioned my desire to write this story back in May, and I’ve mostly been just making notes for it since then. But I’ve had a few revelations about it recently, about what needs to happen in the story to show the evolving relationships between the three characters, and I think those revelations tipped the scale to let me actually begin writing it with purpose. (Rather than just writing scenes to plug in later once critical mass was achieved.)

The story involves a flashback, which I gave my position on in this recent post, and it’s important because it will identify a divergence betwixt two of the characters. The story is set about two-thirds of the way through the novel, and that divergence gains importance through the last third. But I also use it to make an early hint (in the flashback) of one character’s individual development as well.

I have around 1,100 words down, and I expect the story to finish with at least twice that. It won’t add tremendously to the word count of the novel, which is currently at 63,847 words, but I think it will make the novel richer and deeper. I’m glad it’s coming together.


a couple of things

June 12, 2017

I mentioned sometime back on this humble blog that I had snuck the word “enuf” into my One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” and so was proud to be doing my part to evolve the language in print, in the Selected Places anthology. And I think I also mentioned that I felt I ought to read all of the stories in the anthology. Thus the other day I took down the anthology from the shelf by my desk to begin reading it. But first I wanted to see that word “enuf” in print. So I went to my story in search of it. And I couldn’t find it.

The editor, apparently, didn’t think it was an appropriate neologism to include in her collection. Then I began to wonder what else she might have excised. I started reading the story side-by-side with the file for it on my laptop. And in nearly every paragraph I found differences, mostly in the cases of verbs that were less “powerful” than the ones I’d written. But there was a whole paragraph of nice descriptive detail (the smell of a forest in November) that was gone.

I acknowledge that an editor can do whatever she wants with a story, but generally if it’s something drastic (such as this) then the writer gets a chance to review the changes and even withdraw the story if it’s too much. I was surprised that I hadn’t been given the chance.

It was only when I came upon the name of the dog that I began to understand what I was seeing. I had originally named the dog Jack (which was a name I was considering for my own dog, Flike), but a subsequent story in the cycle included the dog, Jack, as well as characters named Joe, Jon, and Jerry. A friend who read that story commented on the clumsiness of the names, and my wife tried to figure out what great literary shenanigans I was up to with them. So, Jerry became Lee and Jack (the dog) became Buddy.

But obviously this change had happened after I had submitted the draft of the story to the anthology. And then I realized that all of the discrepancies between my draft and the one in print were likely due to revisions I had made to the story subsequent to its submission. I found the original email when I had sent the story, and attached was the draft of the story at the time. And everything lined up. Mystery resolved. Still, “enuf” didn’t make it into print.


I received an email recently from the editor of If and Only If Journal saying that the publication had suffered an unexpected hiatus but that it was going to begin publication again after all. This journal had accepted my submission of “Travel Light” a long time ago. “Travel Light” first appeared in Penduline Press, but If and Only If was looking for such stories and would accept reprints. Thus my story would find a second home. But I hadn’t heard from the editor and the journal online hadn’t posted any news or updates. I assumed that though it was a valiant effort, it had folded as many lit journals do. But then came the surprising good news, reaching my inbox while I was out at my little cabin for the weekend where I am off the grid. Thus I didn’t learn of the email until I got home.

writing is rewriting

April 26, 2017

and rewriting is hard!

I’ve doubted my One-Match Fire story “Men at Work and Play” for nearly as long as I’ve had it written. It’s full of sweetness and light, and it certainly achieved what I wanted it to when I wrote it — I even got it published — but it never quite felt like it belonged. It was just too nice, and as the stories evolved, I could see that it wasn’t a good fit.

So I’ve been working on it in recent days, not so much to make it bleak and fraught but to change its tone slightly — just enuf to give it the edge it needs and relate it better to later stories in the cycle. In the story (which you can read here if you want) the grandfather, father, and son do some work on the cabin. But in my revision, two of them must also do some work on their relationship since there was an uncharacteristic explosion of anger by one of them. None of that is in the story now, and once I’m finished putting it in, it will be indirectly referenced and only “explained” much later in the cycle of stories (which means I need to tinker with that later story a little too).

Many things are left unsaid in relationships. Many answers are only revealed years, even decades later. I do a little of that in the stories, just as it happens in real life. (For example, I learned only last week that my father had rickets as a boy from malnutrition. Now I understand why he pushed some dietary supplements on us.) I wonder if my oblique references to a “fight” in the story will leave the reader unsatisfied — for the moment. I worry that an agent or editor will want it spelled out more clearly. But I guess that’s part of rewriting, too.


“where late the sweet birds sang” debuts, somewhat

April 24, 2017

My One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” has now appeared in the real (virtual) world. It was accepted (last summer?) for the Selected Places anthology put out by Simone Press, a British publisher seeking stories where place is a dominating factor. My story takes place at the family cabin in the Missouri Ozarks (and in the protagonist’s mind), and I suspect (not having read the anthology yet) that I am the “exotic” component to the anthology, the rest likely being works set within the United Kingdom.

I’ve written about this here and here (when the story was still titled “The Death of Superman” and the anthology was still titled Pulled by Place).

The anthology is an ebook, available through Amazon. As a contributor, I will get a free copy to download to my Kindle, which rests forlornly on the shelf beside me. There is actually a window (late next month) when I will be able to download my free copy. And I shall.

But when I went to the site recently, I saw that there will also be a print edition. And surely I needed to have that to hold in my quaking hands! (The shelf of lit journals with my stories in them is slowly filling; I must add this physical document, n’est-ce pas?) So I began the process of ordering it through Amazon. The cost was displayed in British pounds, and I had no idea what the equivalent amount was in good old American dollars, but that wasn’t going to stop or slow me at all. I made my order and pressed the SEND button. When the confirmation email arrived, I learned that I has just spent $23 (and some change) on a paper copy of a document I will get free in virtual form.

But I don’t mind!


Update 8MAY17: The bound copy of the anthology arrived today.

persistence in the face of withering rejection

April 12, 2017

In three days I’ve received three rejections for stories I had sent out. All three were for chapters from One-Match Fire that I thought stood on their own well enuf to be considered discrete stories. The rejection emails were form letters, assuring me that such decisions are objective subjective and that my stories very likely will find worthy homes elsewhere. But one of the rejections did have a two-sentence, story-specific comment inserted. Basically it said that nothing happened by the end of the story.

The story was “Moving Day” and something very specific does happen in the story, in the context of the whole novel. And that was the problem. This story, I suspect, can’t really stand alone outside of the novel. It plays an important role in the novel, but only as a part of it.

So, lesson learned. Maybe. If I see a call with a theme that might align with “Moving Day” I’ll send it out again. I’m just that way.


I was going to title this post “nonetheless, he persevered” but I didn’t want to co-opt that cultural meme. It’s already doing far more worthy work.

breaking the cycle of sloth

March 13, 2017

I’ve continued to dip my toe into the waters of manuscript submission. I’ve sent queries and sample pages or chapters to several more agents to see if they might be interested. So far my efforts have earned me one rejection,* but it was a kindly written, personal email, so my ego held up.

At this point I’m trying to target my submissions, finding agents who seem as though they represent the kind of literary fiction I imagine One-Match Fire to be. I’m using an online service called Agent Query, which is a huge database that is sortable to some extent. It lets me believe I am targeting my submissions, but I can’t go much deeper than finding agents who are interested in “literary fiction” and/or “family sagas.” (I’m not even sure what they mean by “family sagas” though I expect it’s more the bodice-ripping Harlequin romance type stuff than my tale of a grandfather, a father, and a son over forty years. Still, it’s something to try.) This is further hampered by many of the listed agents not taking on new clients at the moment and/or only taking queries in the form of snail mail. I suppose that latter qualification quickly weeds out those who are using the scattershot method of submission that email makes more easy to do. The trouble is, it can also weed out those of us who tend toward sloth.

I’m self aware enuf to know that I have trouble pulling the trigger. I can take years to write a novel and then blanch at the effort of actually submitting. It isn’t even much effort, but I think that my fragile ego is what’s really on the line. In any case, I guess I’ll keep on trying.



*Make that two, now.


“Runaway” appears

March 6, 2017


My One-Match Fire story “Runaway” has finally appeared in the physical world. I received my copy of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature over the weekend, and “Runaway” was in it (way back on page 209 of 228). I had first written about this back in November in this post. And I’ve been waiting more or less patiently for the print copy ever since.

This is volume 32.1 of the publication, but it’s dated Fall 2014 / Winter 2015. I’m not complaining, but that seems a little odd. (I suspect they need to show continuous publication, and that period was the next to be filled.)