Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

“Forest Succession” is up at Heartwood Literary Magazine

May 21, 2019

My story “Forest Succession” is now up at Heartwood Literary Magazine. Though the story deals with one of the characters from One-Match Fire, it is not part of that novel and, in fact, occurs much later after the novel ends.

I wrote this story as a kind of coda for the OMF universe, but it hasn’t worked. I am still scribbling other stories with these characters, including one that immediately precedes and supplements it and now one that would immediately follow it.

I should count myself as lucky to have so much material to work with, and I guess I do, but I should explore other fictional worlds too.

too much or just enuf?

May 8, 2019

So I’ve been having this mental struggle lately, and I’ve tried getting a solid answer to my dilemma, but so far nothing.

One-Match Fire has 23 chapters (and 22 inter-chapter vignettes). Of those chapters, I’ve had ten published as stand-alone pieces in various lit journals. I’m happy about that. But I’ve begun to worry that this may have been too many.

My guess is that having some of a novel published early will help its chances to find representation and a publisher. Certainly I’ve seen paragraphs in the end pages of many novels that state that parts of the novel had appeared in print in slightly different form. So getting several chapters published would suggest that the parts are worthy and perhaps so is the whole.

But how much is enuf and how much is too much? I’ve had nearly half of the novel before readers’ eyes already. Would a potential agent think that so many parts of the work have already been out that there isn’t enuf of the whole left to make it worth pursuing? Is there a certain maximum percentage to these things?

I’ve talked to several of my writer friends. I’ve posted my question on a couple of forums. I’ve even written directly to agents to ask (though I don’t ever expect a response from them).

My gut (and a friend) tells me that I shouldn’t try to get any more of the novel published. There are two chapters that I think might be worthy, but I’m not going to shop them around any longer. (There are also three that are currently in circulation, so they may still appear in print.)

But another part of me thinks that if the novel itself were never published, these last few chapters that might be worth publication will languish and never be seen.

I don’t know.

__________

Here’s another random photo from the archives.

That’s from eight years ago, so Flike must not have been even a year old in the photo. That’s the corner of the cabin to the right, of course. And that area behind Flike is where I’ve been slinging gravel lately to make things a bit more level and to perhaps deepen the rock enuf to prevent at least some of the weeds from coming up through it.

“Forest Succession” finds a home

April 2, 2019

Can I trust an email I received on April Fool’s Day? The email told me that my story “Forest Succession” was accepted for publication later this month in Heartwood Literary Magazine. When the issue goes live, I’ll be sure to post a link here.

Heartwood Literary Magazine says that it likes Appalachian voices but is not restricted to them. I set my story in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, so I think there must have been enuf similarity to capture their interest.

“Forest Succession” is not part of the One-Match Fire novel, but it does involve one of the characters, and I think of it as the very last story in the chronology for those characters.

I have submitted this story to three other publications that haven’t yet responded, and I’ll need to withdraw it from those, but it has had the honor of being rejected by fifteen other publications and one that never responded after 279 days.

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.