Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

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.

Advertisements

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.

and so, a turn of the year

January 1, 2019

I’ve long thought that the first day of spring ought to be when we reckon the changing of the year.* It makes a sense that I can see — the whole rebirth thing — that I can’t see in making the darkness of winter (in the northern hemisphere) the apparently arbitrary turning point.

But enuf of that. I “finished” the story “Three Small Words” yesterday. It’s part of the One-Match Fire universe though it takes place long after the end of that novel. (I know these characters so well now that it’s “easy” to write about them.) And at the top of the first page of the story I wrote “Copyright 2019 by the author.” It felt daring when I did that. A day early, of course, but also ambitious and hopeful — the first of a year’s worth of efforts in what really is a difficult and only infrequently rewarding craft.

I had intended to write a post here about the comparatively large number of publishing successes I had in 2018. But calculating this is iffy in itself. (Alliteration doesn’t work so well with the letter “i”.) Stories published within the year? Accepted within the year? Submitted within the year but accepted after the turn of the year? (I even have a story that I learned late last year was shortlisted, so should that be accepted soon in 2019, does it count for 2018? Or should I be fudging all of these dubious standards to swell my acceptances in 2019?)

As it stands, here is how 2018 broke down: seven of my stories appeared in print during the calendar year. At least one I know had been submitted in the distant past of 2017. By any count, that’s been my most successful year since I began writing/submitting fiction earnestly. (And as full disclosure, I also submitted eight other works in 2018 for a total of thirteen submissions still pending. Should any be accepted today or later, I’m going to tally them in the 2019 column. And fuller disclosure, I had twenty-seven rejections in 2018.)

In the coming days I hope to write my annual post about my visits to Roundrock for 2018, but I have to get down there to retrieve the calendar hanging on the wall (perhaps this weekend if the weather favors my fate). I’m not striving for any “successes” with those visits — not more than the year before, for example — but I always feel I don’t get down there as much as I’d like. Life interferes. (I read someone’s account of having several hundred rejections last year. Was he more diligent than I or less selective?)

I guess our little monkey brains want to quantify our lives so that we can make better sense of them and hold the (mostly) illusion that we are in control. Whatever.

I hope you stride hopefully into 2019. I know I’ll want to hear all about it.

*And some cultures do, as I learned when I acquired a Moslem daughter-in-law.

“A Tree Falls in the Forest” is now up Halfway Down the Stairs

December 4, 2018

Pleasing that I can follow yesterday’s post with the announcement of another published piece today. My One-Match Fire story “A Tree Falls in the Forest” is now up at Halfway Down the Stairs. I had submitted for their Coming of Age call for submissions.

This story occurs about 15 years earlier in the OMF cycle, with the two same characters as in “Deadfall,” both being much younger. I really like this story; everything came together perfectly when I was writing it. There are many significant echoes between these two stories, and it’s better to read “Tree Falls” first and then “Deadfall,” but nothing is lost reading in either order.

I checked the submission history for this story and learned that I had received an even dozen rejections before this acceptance at Halfway Down the Stairs. (I also have one withdrawal, which I made after I received the acceptance.) I’d read somewhere that if you get a given number of rejections for a piece — I don’t remember the number the writer gave — then you should consider that maybe you have a bad story or a badly written story and to stop flogging it. I think that kind of idea is wrong. One thing I’ve learned in submitting stories is that it can be a numbers game. There are thousands of journals looking for fiction, and among there are many editors who simply aren’t interested in what I have written. Fine. But among those thousands are many who are interested. My job is to find the latter. Sure, you can narrow your focus based on what you can learn about various publications, but the number you can do that with is minescule compared to the number you know nothing about. A dozen submissions ain’t nothing. Five times that, the same.

Halfway Down the Stairs is named, I’m guessing, after a poem titled “Halfway Down,” by A.J. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame). In the poem the child stops and sits on the middle stair in suspended action. I don’t know if that’s how the journal truly got its name, but the image of a child halfway between here and there does fit nicely with the theme of my story. (Also, my wife’s Pomeranian, Queequeg, sits halfway down the stairs at our house. I’m pretty sure he does this because it gives him the best view out the sidelight windows by the front door, but maybe he has something more thematic in mind too.)

“Deadfall” is now up at Hedge Apple

December 3, 2018

My One-Match Fire story “Deadfall” is now up at Hedge Apple. Actually, it appears to have been up for a month and I didn’t know it; I never received an email about it.

This is the penultimate story of the novel. It is one of two “crisis” chapters near the end and it reveals a great deal of information about one of the characters. I had submitted to the Personal Identity theme they had called for. This was also one of two stories that I had originally intended to part of the inevitable sequel but then found room for in OMF.

So if you have an interest or inclination, click on the link and read the story. You can leave a comment there (effusive ones are nice) if you wish.

Also, they include a photo to accompany the story — I don’t know if you can see it in your browser — and it’s a bit excessive as an example of what is in my story. Still, nice little touch they added.

__________

Anyone know how to modify text in the headline of WordPress posts? I used to be able to make words italic, for example, and even change their color using my rudimentary HTML skills, but that doesn’t seem to be allowed any longer. I suppose I could look it up online somewhere, but it’s so much more pleasant to talk with you.

punctuating stammering speech

November 19, 2018

as in, how do you do it?

In one of my stories I have two runners trying to have a conversation while they are running. One of them is fit and fine, but the other is a beginner, and he’s having trouble keeping up, much less pushing out words between his gasping breaths.

Here is a line of dialog from the non-runner:

“Not sure you can call . . . what I do . . . running.”

The point is to show how much struggle he is having pushing out words as he’s barely able to breathe enuf to keep running. (Later I use this same punctuation when the man is trying to speak as he is sobbing.)

My question is, is this how I should punctuate the sentence to get this across?

I don’t think an em dash would be right. That’s for interruptions and abrupt stops. And I don’t want to put something like *gasp* between the words. I tried punctuating each fragment as a sentence, putting a period at the end. But that didn’t look right. Still, I don’t know if what I’ve chosen now is right either.

I’ve made some forays onto the internet to try to find guidance, but I haven’t found anything that fits. About the only other solution I can think of is to watch for this same sort of thing when I’m reading and see how another writer and/or editor did it.

Unless you know.

“A Tree Falls in the Forest” finds a home

October 31, 2018

It seems like only two days ago I was reporting that one of my stories had been accepted for publication with a literary magazine. And now, only two days later, I get to report another acceptance! I don’t think this has ever happened to me before, that I received two acceptance notices in one week.

Halfway Down the Stairs responded to a submission I had made two months ago for their “Coming of Age” theme. They are an online quarterly, and the issue with my story comes out in early December. I’ll post a link when it’s up. “A Tree Falls in the Forest” is one of my favorites. (I love them all equally, as a good parent should!) It really is a transitional moment in the story line of the novel, and I get to describe the son, Curt, as both a snotty pre-teen and a loving boy while his father is both bemused and confused.

It’s a delightful coincidence that this story was accepted the same week as “Deadfall” since the two are a matched set. There are echoes of each story in the other, and “Deadfall” resolves some of the tension in “A Tree Falls in the Forest.” Nice that they’re coming out at nearly the same time since they should be read together.

I had submitted this story fourteen times, going back two years (!), and all but two were rejections. Of those two, one was this acceptance and the other was a withdrawal for a submission I had made last weekend.

So, two acceptances in one week. I’m now having trouble processing all of this — I guess it’s called — self esteem.