Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

“Moving Day” has found a home!

October 10, 2017

My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” has been accepted by THEMA Literary Journal and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue next June.

I had submitted the story last June (by snail mail!) and had nearly forgotten that I did. I responded to a themed call for submissions — the theme being “The Face in the Photo” — and sent this story since a photo plays a critical role in it and in the plot of the novel, actually directing the course of one character’s life in part. You can read about my submission in this old post.

So I have a small, one-page contract to sign and return and I’ll get one copy of the printed journal (next June) as well as actual payment of $25! Aside from the 15 cents I got for one story (a Buffalo nickel and a Liberty dime), this is the first time I’ve ever been paid for my fiction. (Actually, not quite true. I was promised $10 for a story years ago, but the check never arrived.)

This is the seventh One-Match Fire story to see publication — that’s one-third of the whole novel — and my twenty-fifth story published.

I had been reviewing my various outstanding submissions in the tracking function at Duotrope’s Digest that very morning and was sad when I learned that I had not seen a single thing published this year (which didn’t make sense since I’ve had two stories published this year). In fact, the day THEMA’s acceptance letter came (via the postal mail, by the way, in my return-addressed envelope), I had received two email rejections for different stories I had submitted elsewhere. I was feeling dejected, but not so much anymore.


the state of things (or of one thing in particular)

October 9, 2017

Above is all that remains of that notebook from my grad school days that I burned in the fire ring at Roundrock. I wrote about it in this recent post.


I devoted a lot of time over the weekend (betwixt watching Emmett and also driving the course of the half marathon I have in less than two weeks) to “finalizing” One-Match Fire. I’ve been tinkering with the stories, trying to focus and enhance them based on the understanding of the characters and the plots as they’ve developed over time. Now that I know this about a character or that is going to happen, I find places in the stories to develop or set the stage for these things. Nearly every story received a dozen or so new words, some a lot more, and I’ve written an entire new story (“Special-blest”) that includes a flashback that helps fill in some of the early years of one character. I’m now up to 68,237 words for the whole novel, not counting chapter titles, of course. This is about a 5,000 word increase since the last count, and most of it is due to the new story. Still, I feel more confident that it is novel length and that I can pitch it as such.

I have some thoughts still to come from a trusted reader, and that may affect (will, likely) how that new story evolves as well as a “guy thing” that I wanted to bring into the stories somewhere that I think is important for understanding part of the dynamic between one of the fathers and his son.

And then? A comprehensive read through to get the tone more consistent; the early stories are lighter, the later stories more serious. And I’ll look for any opportunities to flesh out characters or story based on what I know now that I didn’t know then. And now that I have the narrator clear in my head, I want to capture that person’s voice more consistently throughout.

And then? The terrifying work of sending it to agents? I must get myself to that point. I can’t fool around with this novel any longer. I have other ideas waiting in the wings of my poor brain.

grandparenting is hard work

September 18, 2017

In its own way, of course, with a different set of benefits.

The twins are now two months old and have grown more aware of the world they’ve found themselves in. That includes the face and cooing of their grandfather (though Evie seems more responsive to low tones so I use a deep voice with her more often). There have been countless diaper changes, plenty of spit up wiped, numerous outfit changes, much bouncing on knees, miles walked with babe in arms, and never-long-enuf periods of patting and swaying to keep the little ones asleep. Added to all of this is their older brother, Kenneth, who demands (and deserves) equal attention. I am reluctantly getting used to “Me” being used as the subject of a sentence. (“Me no want go to bed!”) Plus mom and dad, somewhere in the background. (And a dog.) I’m just about over calling Everett, Emmett and Evie, Ela, and I’ve gotten good about passing through a room with my gaze averted as my daughter is feeding her babies.

And all of it ends for me soon as my week in New York closes. (My wife stays a week longer.) Then back to my quiet Midwestern life, ransoming the dogs from the kennel where they’ve been chillin’, restocking my refrigerator, possibly mowing my lawn, maybe going to a book discussion the day I get home (The Things They Carried), getting reacquainted with my bed and pillow, and back to work to face the hundreds of urgent emails and many missed deadlines waiting for me.

And yet, despite all of it, I have managed to get some serious work done on that One-Match Fire story, “Special-Blest.” The story, which I had intended as a chance to visit again with two of my characters (three if you count the flashback and four if you count another character mentioned and five if you include the dog) and a way to flesh out some relationship background. The piece has swollen to 4,300+ words, which is about double what I had expected it would be, and right now the ending seems rushed and incomplete. Some of that bloat will fall before the red pen. Some may get reworked to become more concise. But the bulk of it, I think, will remain. It seems that I began working on this story nearly a year ago, which is not quite right. I must have begun collecting notes for a story idea then for that is the origin date for the file, but I certainly didn’t begin working on a story with form to it until this summer.

And then, a comprehensive re-reading of the entire beast of a novel, looking for opportunities to make oblique references and foreshadowing as well as to make the tone more uniform (the earlier stories are lighter). Then, ugh, submission time.

writing is hard work

September 14, 2017

Not hard like farming or construction or breaking rocks or futures trading or writing poetry or countless other truly hard things are, but hard work in its own way.

I’m in New York right now, getting acquainted with my new grandbabies and trying to peck out a few words on my latest One-Match Fire story. (Once I have this one done and consolidated with the others, I’ll consider the novel finished and begin sending it out again.) My daughter’s household rises late in comparison to how I now live, so I was able to rise early on my first day here (despite sleeping in for an hour later than my usual time, though in retrospect, my actual usual time according to my body clock given the time zone change) and sit in the quiet darkness before my laptop, tapping away at the keys to spin gold from dross.

Or at least attempting to. The words come slowly. And I really need to get into the tone of the story I’m working on before the words will come at all, which means I need to re-read it from the beginning. Which in turn means that I need to revise it as I read it, perfecting this or that word choice, chopping or lengthening any given sentence, crafting the perfect metaphor, and on. So by the time I get to where I’d left the story my last writing session, enuf time has passed that the sleepy household begins rousing. Just as the words begin to flow, the solitude begins to end.

As problems go, it’s not so bad. As work goes, it’s not so hard. My visit here is intended to be a help to my daughter: rocking or changing either or both of the twins, playing with their older brother, and generally doing whatever I can to lighten her load. So it’s not like I begrudge the interruption in the writing; that’s not why I’m here.

But if I can get a few words in as well, I’ll be pleased.

(By the way, the story has a couple of flashbacks in it. I know this device is not currently in vogue, but I don’t care!)

bits and pieces

August 31, 2017

I had intended to start off this week with a nice, chatty, informative post for you, gentle reader. But somehow that didn’t happen. And here it is, nearing the end of the week, and I’m scraping together some stray thoughts just to have something on this humble blog.


I can report that I’m making good progress on that new One-Match Fire story I’ve spoken of a few times. The original title was “A Civil Tongue” but I never much liked that, and it didn’t seem to really fit with what I want to do with the story. (Still, it was better than two even earlier title ideas: “Up and Down” and “Forgive and Forget.”) It helped knowing the two characters so well, so I knew how they would behave in the scenario I was putting them in, including a flashback scene with some parallels. But what really helped was reversing the story resolution. Instead of a character doing what I had originally thought, I realized that he would probably do the exact opposite. And when I knew that, I could see my way to the end. Also, reading Sonnet 52 gave me the new title I especially like: “Special-blest.” I have another story in the cycle called “Twice Blest” that is from The Merchant of Venice, and the first story in the cycle is “where late the sweet birds sang,” which, of course you know, is from Sonnet 73. (I also have two stories in the cycle titled “Men at Work and Play,” and “Men at Rest.”)


It’s not that I think there is anything inherently wrong with double spacing after a period. All of the “rules” are merely convention, merely what happens to be mostly agreed upon at the present. What bugs me about double spacing after a period is that so many people do it without any thought at all. They do it because they were taught that way and never again reflected on the “why” of it (that being a relic from the typewriter and typesetting days of yore). The same thing bugs me about people who put underlines betwixt words or characters in a file name. Men_at_work_and_play.docx, for example. I’m pretty sure the underline, that is, not allowing a blank space in a file name, is a relic from the old DOS days. People do it because that is what they learned and they assume, likely without question, that it must be done that way. I never put in an underline for any files I name, and those I’ve “cleaned up” by removing the underline don’t seem to have exploded or anything like that.


I mentioned some months back that there had been a string of murders along the Indian Creek Trail that I run. Well, it seems that the killer has been caught. He has been positively linked to several of the murders (using DNA evidence among other things) and is suspected in the remainder. Apparently it was pure, random malice with no other motive. I hope that’s the end of it.


I also mentioned some time back that I wondered if any of my children read this blog. That linked post was intended as a taunt. Well, none has come forward yet.

“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.