Archive for the ‘Fathers and Sons’ category

a week of this, and that, and the other thing

July 13, 2018

How did a week go by and I not make a post? I’ve been a bachelor for all of that time (and a few days longer) while my wife darts around this state called Colorado — I’ve confirmed it’s a real place despite the odd name — seeing all but one of her sisters. So I’ve had parenting duty for the two dogs, the four (!) birds, and countless fish. Plus I’ve been trying to keep the anemic lawn alive in this monstrous heat (consecutive 100+ degree days). Plus working. And reading. And writing. And generally picking up after myself. So I guess time passes when you’re busy with things like that.

And it was only a week before this that my wife was in St. Louis with our son and daughter-in-law, providing emergency transportation while their car was in the shop. And then about a month before then, she was in Seattle with our other son and daughter-in-law and their little girl. And me during all of her trips playing the dog father.


My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” came out in THEMA Literary Journal during this week. There was apparently some delay with the printer, but here it is. My piece begins on page 55 (why am I always in the latter half of these journals?) and takes up twelve pages: the largest chunk of real estate between the covers. THEMA, as the name suggests, has a theme for each issue, and I had submitted for the theme “The Face in the Photograph.” In my story a son comes across a photo of his father as an infant, and though he doesn’t realize it at the time, the photo directs the course of the son’s life.


I managed to make it out to my cabin during the past weekend. I did some weed whipping (having remembered to bring the gasoline this time), found that no mouse had tripped the trap (maybe they prefer Swiss to the cheddar I had baited it with), and swam for an hour in the lake. I’d also remembered my swimming gear, including the hard-soled water shoes, so I could actually swim, with kicks and everything. It was another idyllic hour. And because I swam just before leaving, I thought I didn’t need to shower when I got home. That was a mistake I’ve been paying for during this week as well. I was apparently still infested with chiggers on my legs, and, oddly, my feet. I have been itching for days. Cortisone cream and antihistamines are intimate parts of my life lately. I thought the other day, as I was scratching, that I must find a way for one of my characters to say that the little Ozark cabin is in “Bugbite County.”


My work on “Spring Fever” creeps its petty pace. Every time I visit it, I hone it a little sharper. I don’t know if I’m nearly finished or if I’m nearly to the point of seeing how bad it is.


I use this image as my avatar in some places online, so you may have seen it before. I carved it into a Volkswagen-sized limestone boulder in 2005, and for most* of the days and weeks and months and years since then, the initials have been sitting mutely under twelve feet of water in my lake. I used a dull chisel and a hammer with a broken handle to carve this, but the one I carved on the side of one of the sandstone steps leading to the cabin was done with a Dremel.



*There have been some times when enuf water has leaked out of the lake to expose the boulder.


still working on “Spring Fever”

July 6, 2018

I’ve been working mightily all week on my story “Spring Fever” and I think it have it more or less muscled into shape. It currently sits at 4,400+ words, which ain’t bad for a short story, but it’s bigger than I expected. Still, I can’t find an ounce of fat on it.

I’ve also done some work in the One-Match Fire story “Little Gray Birds” that is related to this, trimming and changing as necessary to get the stars aligned betwixt them.

I’ll continue to read “Spring Fever” and find ways to hone it, but I think it’s nearly whole, and I have a market in mind for it already.

Satisfaction from my writing efforts. Imagine that!

Also, here’s a mushroom rock in western Kansas. (I did not deface it.)

first draft follies

June 26, 2018

On the first day of summer I finished the first draft of “Spring Fever.” I mentioned yesterday that I’d made good progress on the story, and over the weekend I finished it.

Which is good since I was about to give up on it. It was taking itself in a direction I didn’t want. The first half of the story is light hearted, almost frolicsome, but I was sifting in hints and foreshadowing for the second half of the story. All the while it was getting longer and longer. (I’ve noticed lately that most of my stories are shut out from many publications because they exceed the maximum word count of a thousand or two thousand words.) And the transition point between the first and second parts was too cute. It was one of those darlings that beginning writers are told to kill. And it wasn’t taking the story where I wanted it to go.

So I cut out the darling bit (clever innuendo about the size of two men’s “cars”) and dropped the scene that would have resulted from the bit altogether. This allowed me to¬†both shift the tone and bring in the crux of the story without delay. It weighs in at 4,200+ words, and there is more work to do, so it’s going to be one of my longest stories.

I mentioned yesterday that “Spring Fever” precedes one of the chapters in One-Match Fire and that I needed to get the story worked out so I could revise the chapter in the novel to make them align. What I’ve found, though, is that I need to revise “Spring Fever” more than the chapter. I pretty much spent the whole novel building to that chapter. (It’s effectively the end of the novel.) So its reality was more solid than “Spring Fever.” (Which is intended to be the opening chapter of the sequel novel to One-Match Fire. I’ve written several of those chapters, and one, “Fire Sermon,” is already published.)

Anyway, satisfying progress. And progress on an interruption. I’m hoping once I get this story m/l finished, I can get back to Finnegans Fogbound and sprint to the finish line on that one.


June 25, 2018

I find myself in that in-between place again. I have three stories I’m working on at the moment, and though some part of my brain thinks this is probably counterproductive — my creative “genius” being diluted across too many efforts — another part of me says that words are words, and if I can get them down in any fashion or location, I should call it a win.

I’m about three-fourths finished with the first draft of Finnegans Fogbound, a novel-length ambition and something I had embarked on to give myself a break from all of the fraught, literary anguishing I was doing with my One-Match Fire stories. The Finnegans novels are more light weight works, something like cozy mysteries that, while demanding in their own way, can be written without too much personal investment (if that makes sense). I don’t make literary references in them; I don’t strive for some profound, controlling metaphors or psychological insights that span Western civilization. Thus, a break.

But I may have stalled on that story. I’m not sure. I certainly know where the plot needs to go. I have all of the characters in place and developed nicely. I have all of the pieces on the table before me, but I can’t seem to bring myself to finish putting together the puzzle. I suspect it’s temporary and I’m just feeling the daunting demands of a novel-length effort. So I seem to have taken a break from the break I was taking.

And find myself back in the One-Match Fire universe after all. I’m making some decent progress on a story called “Spring Fever” which I think I’ve mentioned here before. It’s a love story, and I don’t write many of those, but I found I needed to get the points of this story worked out so I could revise a different story: “Little Gray Birds” which is part of the One-Match Fire novel and which I realized I needed to refine so I could consider that novel finished and ready to submit to scary agents. (You’re following all of this, right?) “Little Gray Birds” takes place after “Spring Fever” so what happens in the latter affects the telling of the former. Thus once I get “Spring Fever” worked out, I will go back to “Little Gray Birds” and hone/refine/enhance it and call it good.

So I’m busy with that.

And I’m still riding the creative wave of that story “MTWTF” about an incident in my distant and murky past (highly fictionalized in the story) and find myself making notes — even writing bits of story — about one of the characters in “MTWTF.” Clearly I have more to say about this person and need to write another story to do it. (“MTWTF” is not yet published, and it’s being read by a trusted friend now.) Thoughts intrude, and I don’t mind making notes about future work while they occur to me. I can see the structure of the story — it’s really just a character sketch using a day-in-the-life structure to hang it on — and I know the character, so the ideas are coming fast and frenzied. It’s not a bad state to be in if you’re a writer, I suppose.

So if I’m not too diluted and dissipated by my creative ferment, a few good things should result in the coming days. Fingers crossed.


“It’s not you. It’s me.”

June 18, 2018

I received a unique rejection letter over the weekend. I’d probably get more rejection letters if I sent out more submissions, but that would require effort and confidence and other qualities that I rarely possess, so I spare myself a great deal of disappointment by being a lazy slug.

But anyway, the rejection I received was for a submission of a story I had made months ago and that I had forgotten about. It was by email, and it was actually lengthy for both a rejection and an email. The first third of the letter was the standard let-you-down-gently, template stuff that never mentions the actual name of the story. Routine. But then it ventured into fresh territory.

The editor devoted the remaining two-thirds of the email to explaining that after their next issue, the publication would cease to exist. They had lost their funding.

I’ve certainly seen publications go out of business. (One even did so immediately after accepting one of my stories.) But I’d never seen such an announcement in a rejection letter. It seemed to me that the editor took this unlikely opportunity to make the announcement because she wanted to tell the world in every way she could what her painful news was. It almost seemed like a memorial.

The rejection letter devoted a lot of words to encouragement, telling me (and I realize it was not me so much as all recipients from their slush pile who received the non-personalized email) to continue writing and submitting and being part of the community of creative people.

So I guess I’ll do that.

ferment of spring

June 11, 2018

So I’ve been in NYC for the last few days (home again soon) and wondering if lightning might strike twice, that I might write a whole story because there must be something magical or psychological about being out of my routine and my element, the way this has happened a few times in my past.

And so, without much in the way of specific intent, I opened the file of notes I’ve been keeping about a love story I want to write as part of the collection that will comprise the sequel to One-Match Fire. (No developments there though.) So the story has had the working title of “Spring Fever” (to somehow companion with a yet-to-be-written story I’ll call “Cabin Fever”), and this story, which I intend to be the first in the collection, will make clear what the central conflict was in OMF (if the perceptive reader doesn’t figure it out). And I think this is why OMF has been languishing; I’ve needed to nail down some bits in this story in order to refine the ending of OMF so that I can consider it finished once and for all.

So on my first freakishly early morning, in the house that was still quiet despite a latent frenzy in the form of a toddler and twin nearly one-year-olds, I began the story. Exhausted after writing about 113 words, I figured my ambition was unrealistic. But the house remained quiet and the laptop remained open and some further words followed. I ended my first day of writing at more than 600 words. I hadn’t even introduced the love interest yet, but I achieved a kind of momentum.

And so on the second morning, I returned to the story, added even more words, brought in the love interest, and doubled my word count. By the third morning I had more than 2,000 words, many of them pretty good and in decent order. Even so, I don’t think I’ve gotten to the meat of the story yet; it’s all lighthearted so far.

Regardless, it’s begun and I expect I’ll stay with it (even after I return to the Midwest) and get the thing whole written, just not all outside of my comfort zone. And that’s a good thing.

who uses Scrivener (or anything like it)?

March 8, 2018

The One-Match Fire¬†short stories that have occupied my crusty creative self for the last few years eventually coalesced into what could be called a loose novel form. I consider (most of) them stand-alone short stories (and some have gotten published as such), but collected in the novel format they feel more like episodes than an attempt at a continuous narrative. That’s fine, of course, and I think it works well enuf.

But now I’m working on that cozy mystery novel (Finnegans Fogbound) and I’m finding that I must give a great deal more attention to plotting than I needed for One-Match Fire. Events must happen in a certain order at certain times in certain ways. And I am out of practice in conventional novel construction.

A commenter here recently asked if I used Scrivener to do whatever it is that Scrivener does. I don’t. I’ve never considered it. Looking at the site, I see how it could help a writer organize the grand effort, but I wonder if I need such an involved tool. (One I would have to pay for.) Would it do anything for me that drafting an outline and keeping a list of characters can’t?

Do you use Scrivener or anything like it? I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts or recommendations.