Archive for the ‘Humble efforts’ category

big news on the little blog ~ One-Match Fire

September 29, 2022

I’ve mentioned here a few times that 2022 has been a good year for my writing life. To date, I’ve had six short stories accepted in lit mags (but reduce that to five since one of the magazines failed to come to life and my story was returned — still, five in one year is my high).

But I’ve been sitting on a secret that is even bigger news.

Last June I learned that my novel, One-Match Fire, was accepted for publication by Blue Cedar Press, and it’s due to come out next month as a paperback and a little later as an ebook!

Long-time readers will remember that I have been writing the individual stories — I originally called them my Fathers and Sons stories and then later said they were part of my One-Match Fire universe — for ten years. I wrote the original story, “where late the sweet birds sang,” in 2012. It was about a little cabin in the woods and a son’s struggle with whether to keep it or sell it to pay medical bills affecting his family. I had intended the story to be a one-off, and I vaguely intended it to be a guide for what my own children might do with my little cabin in the woods when the time came. That story eventually became the prologue for One-Match Fire the novel.

I found, after completing that story, that I wanted to stay with the characters I had created and tell more stories about them. They came easily: I knew the characters well, and I certainly knew the setting well (the picture on the cover of the novel may or may not be of my own little cabin taken nine years ago). And so I wrote another story about them. And then another. And another. At first I was just writing the stories that came to me, based on likely situations the characters would face in their lives. But at some point I realized that there was a whole greater than the sum of its parts in what I was doing. I thought maybe I had the beginnings of a story cycle, but a friend told me that no, I was writing a novel. And so I was.

One-Match Fire came into its final form sometime in 2019, and I began shopping it around to likely agents and then more likely publishers, but I wasn’t getting any bites. Still, ten of the 24 chapters had been published in lit mags, and I was proud of that achievement. Maybe that was enuf. In fact, I was considering serializing One-Match Fire on Substack. It was in December of 2021, when I was researching likely publishers for Obelus (still circulating) that I came upon a listing for Blue Cedar Press in Wichita, Kansas that published “excellent and courageous literature.” That sounded like a good fit for One-Match Fire, so I sent in the manuscript.

And then I heard nothing for five months, which isn’t out of the ordinary for such a submission. It was in May of this year that I got an email from an editor at Blue Cedar Press asking me if the novel was still available. I wrote back instantly saying that it was, and the editor responded that in that case, she would continue reading the manuscript but that she liked what she’d read so far.

In June I was invited to join a Zoom call — and given about a half hour’s notice — where I and four members of the board at the press chatted and rambled for about an hour, never quite coming to the big point. They finally asked me if I had any questions and so I asked. Yes, they answered, they did want to published One-Match Fire! Was it still available?

The weeks and months since then have been a whirlwind. I have read the manuscript a half dozen times, going through the line edits and sending proposed changes and responses back and forth. I worked up proposed covers (or rather, my talented daughter did) and we settled on the one above. I solicited blurbs. I began what appears to be an unending job of trying to get profile and publicity for the forthcoming novel (getting on podcasts, finding book review blogs that might be interested, finding the few remaining newspapers that still do book reviews, finding the scant radio programs that might discuss books, learning how libraries select books for their circulating collections, finding bookstores that might be interested in a reading, even getting my alumni record updated to show the publication). It’s a full-time job!

One-Match Fire has an official publication date of October 18, 2022, though it will likely be available before then. It is already available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble and IndieBound (and even one Australian book ordering site). I hope to see it soon on Bookshop, and it will also be on Blue Cedar Press’s catalog page. (It won’t be on Amazon, at least for the present, but that’s another story.) And it’s up on Goodreads (though navigating that space as the author is challenging).

I will undoubtedly deluge you with news and updates about the life of One-Match Fire in the weeks and months ahead. It’s kind of a big deal to me.

__________

Your careful eye likely noticed that the title of my novel has a hyphen in it: One-Match Fire. There is a hyphen-less novel One Match Fire by Lissa Linden that works a different angle on that title. And it seems that there are several authors with the name Paul Lamb.

I found myself in an unlikely place

September 22, 2022

I was poking around in Goodreads the other day and found myself listed there. Now, there are a half dozen writers listed there by the name of Paul Lamb, and they are not me. But one reference I saw listed a publication called Crossed Genres. It sounded familiar, so I clicked on it, and it turned out to be an anthology that had taken one of my stories back in 2010. I didn’t know it at the time — or until the other day — that the anthology came out in a print edition.

The story is titled “Diaspora” and I’ve written about in several times on this humble blog. The best link is here. I see from that old post that I did know that a print edition was coming, but I guess I never heard anything more about it; I was never sent a copy or invited to purchase one.

But I did find it on Amazon for just a few dollars, so I bought it. I should have it in a few days. It will go on my shelf of print journals that have taken my stories. That will be nice to see when I look up from my creative labors to the bookcase across the room where those journals sit.

I had another story in a printed journal that I did know about at the time, and I was invited to purchase a copy. But the price was $27! I checked around, and several people had complained to a blogger who keeps track of these things reporting the same thing. Apparently it is the method of this publisher to accept work and then solicit purchases from the accepted writers as a reliable revenue stream. I didn’t buy a copy, but I do check occasionally on ABE Books to see if that issue is there and at a reasonable price. Someday, maybe I’ll have that document to put on the shelf across the room too.

“A System Reboot” is now online at OpenDoor

July 26, 2022

My story “A System Reboot” is now online at OpenDoor Magazine. Here is the link for a download. Click on the Mental Health issue cover, July 2022. Then click on the tiny Go To Link text at the bottom. Then you’ll need to scroll to page 61. (So yet another of my stories that doesn’t appear in the front half of the publication, but it is featured on the cover!)

I wrote about this story in an earlier post. The coincidence of my character regaining her memory on the same day that the nation inaugurates a new president — both a brain and a nation getting a system reboot — might seem too coincidental to be plausible, even in fiction, except that it really happened. My wife did have an episode of Transient Global Amnesia on the day before inauguration. Her recovery began the next day. While I have fictionalized the incident, and left out a lot of family-specific details, it pretty much happened in the real world they way I describe it in the story.

Friday Feature ~ “Pandora’s Tackle Box”

July 15, 2022

I’ve had an affinity for Greek mythology, going back at least to high school Latin class (which I guess should have steered me to Roman mythology, but here we are). And I’ve had a semi-ambition to write my own modern versions of some of the tales just because they are colorful and peek into human nature so well. (Michael Cunningham has done something similar with his collection Wild Swan, though he used folk tales.) My early story “Moron Saturday,” for example, is a retelling on the Diana and Actaeon story.

The only other story I’ve brought to completion in this endeavor is “Pandora’s Tackle Box,” set in the Ozark mountains and dealing mostly with a crusty character I named Old Festus, who stands in place of Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods. Hephaestus was tasked with creating Pandora, whose purpose in turn (according to some myths) was to tempt the Titan Epimetheus and bring about his downfall because his brother, Prometheus, stole fire from the gods and gave it to the humans. (The Judeo-Christian character of Eve is believed to have been derived from Pandora.) Hephaestus gave Pandora all of her lovely attributes, and Zeus gave her the box (better translated as “jar”) full of woes and hardships. Pandora, being the weak female character needed to explain/excuse male weakness, opened the box and let all of the woe and hardship into the world, leaving only hope left in the box.

In my story, the ne’er-do-well character Ep wants to win a fishing tournament, and Old Festus sees this as a chance to rid himself of his high-maintenance daughter, Dora, by marrying her off to Ep. He begins this seduction by equipping Dora with some very nice fishing tackle. Ep falls for it. On the day of the tournament, as Ep and Dora are on the water in a small boat, a tussle over the tackle box sends all of the lures to the bottom of the lake. Only one lure remains.

“Pandora’s Tackle Box” was first printed in A Golden Place in the spring of 2011, an online journal that has since disappeared. (They also used my real name in the byline rather than my pen name, so maybe it’s just as well that it’s disappeared.)

I later submitted it to the Harnessing Fire anthology. It’s described as a Hephaestus Devotional. Since my story had the Old Festus character, I thought it might be a good fit, and it was. The print anthology appeared 2013. This is part of a series of devotionals devoted to old Greek gods and demigods published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina. (I’m not clear if their intent is actual worship of the Greek gods or not.) My story appears in the latter half of the bound anthology, which seems to be where all of my stories are destined to be placed.

my story “Memento Mori” has found a home

June 7, 2022

As I was preparing yesterday’s post about “A System Reboot” being accepted at a lit mag, I received an email letting me know that my story “Memento Mori” has as well! “Memento Mori” will appear in the “This is the End” themed issue of Cape Magazine. It is my understanding that the issue will come online this month. When it does, I’ll post a link.

This is an interesting story for me. It’s essentially my rewrite of Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (though mine is in a dark and dirty place, and I have a different ending — also, thanks, Pete, for the link to your version). I explained this when I made the submission, though I have no idea whether that affected the approval decision. And although it stands on its own and makes no reference to it, the story is part of my One-Match Fire universe.

I had conceived a series of stories revolving around a single incident and how this incident would ripple through the lives of people connected to it, even tangentially. In a different story (“First, Do No Harm,” which I’m shopping around vigorously) two of my OMF characters happen upon the incident and react as their characters would. “Memento Mori” is the incident itself.

I found myself so giddy after receiving two acceptances in a matter of minutes that I continued to check my email repeatedly through the day to see if there were any more! (Alas, no!)

my story “A System Reboot” has found a home

June 6, 2022

I learned over the weekend that my story “A System Reboot” has been accepted by OpenDoor Magazine for its upcoming Mental Health issue. It should be coming out online later this month. When it does, I’ll post a link.

This is perhaps the most unique story I have written. It is about an incidence of transient global amnesia that serendipitously happened on the day before inauguration in 2021. My protagonist temporarily lost her memory for a day due to an accumulation of stress that had peaked that morning. (Among the stress was the dread of what might still happen in the last few hours that the Orange Man was still in office.) Her memory returns — her system reboots — on Inauguration Day, just as the nation is rebooting and leaving a trauma behind.

Such a fine, metaphorical coincidence might seem too pat, too opportune to be allowed. Except that it really did happen that way! And it really did happen to me and my wife! She had an episode of TGA on the day before the inauguration. It was scary for a while, because I feared she was having a stroke. Once that was ruled out, and the “benign” diagnosis of TGA was given, the day became fun in a way. She kept asking me the same questions every twenty minutes, having forgotten that she’d just asked them. Essentially, she lost the ability to make short-term memories for a day, and her long-term memory was clouded for a time. She didn’t know we had grandchildren, didn’t know that our own children were married, didn’t even recognize her iPhone. Most comical of all, she thought that Ronald Reagan was president. I think that was the most merciful aspect of her affliction: she didn’t know who the actual president was at the time.

She was fully recovered by the next day, though she has no memories of the actual event. I began writing this story merely to give her an account of what happened. Then I modified it into a piece of fiction, and now it will be published.

“Velvet Elvis” is now online for your reading pleasure

April 29, 2022

I mentioned before that my old story “Velvet Elvis” had been accepted at Fiction On The Web. It appears today. You can read it here.

This story first appeared in Bartleby Snopes way back in 2011.

The editor at Fiction on the Web likes it most when readers leave comments, so if you feel inclined, please do (at the site, not here, though here is nice too). See if you can find the spelling error in the text.

“Motet” edits

April 25, 2022

I mentioned before that my story “Motet” has been accepted by a lit journal. It’s going through the editing process right now, which is a little new for me since most of my published stories have been accepted as written (or with occasional minor suggestions shared via email). I don’t want to suggest that my prior stories were so brilliantly written that they never needed fine tuning. (The vast imbalance of rejections to acceptances makes that clear enuf.) Rather, I want to show the novelty of my current experience.

I received a redline of my story through Google Documents. I’ve dabbled in that tool before, mostly using it for backup storage before I went to the cloud. (And I should probably go in there and clean out a bunch of old stuff now. Though that is where I found the germ that became Obelus!) So I knew of the document sharing function it had, but I’d never used it. Now I am (I think).

The story as submitted was only 860 words long, but the editor found about a dozen points in it to question/suggest/revise. Many of these had to do with removing passive voice constructions, which I was fine with. There were some verb tense changes suggested as well, Some I accepted and some I didn’t. (One helps imply that a remembered character has died, for example.) There were also a couple of word choice suggestions. Most importantly, and one I didn’t yield on, was the word “counterpoint.” “Motet” is a vocal musical form, as is “counterpoint.” I used that word metaphorically to describe the “arguments” as a homes association meeting. The editor wanted to change it to “counterpoints” in the plural form, making it a more literal conversation rather than musical harmony. So I pushed back on that. I hope he accepts it.

The biggest change of all was the deletion of the last sentence. It sort of sums up the point of the story, and the editor didn’t think that summation was needed. He thought the story ended better with the preceding sentence. Curiously, the few times I’ve had substantive edits to my stories have nearly always been with the endings. (“Velvet Elvis” was considerably improved because of this.) So I yielded on this point as well.

I could see the editor’s points on the suggestions, and I agreed with most or gave counterpoint on others. We’ll see if any of that goes through. I don’t know if I transmitted the story through Google Docs correctly. I sent him a follow-up email just to be sure. There will be a second round of edits, so I should find out then.

Update 27APR22 – The editor reports that he has accepted my responses and arguments to his redline and that the work is done. There will be no need for a second edit. If I opened the correct final version on Google Docs, then the story is in the version I wanted in the end. I guess I’ll see when it finally goes online. I’ll let you know when that happens.

a twofer day

April 15, 2022

One day in February, I had received four rejections for submissions I had made. All at once like that was brutal, but that’s the nature of the biz.

I can balance that with the two emails I received today telling me that two of my stories were accepted! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten two acceptances in a single day, but I’ll take them.

One story is called “Motet,” and it’s the internal monologue of a man as he is raking the leaves in his front yard, reflecting on the neighbors whose leaves have blown into his yard. It’s in the spirit of community and diversity and harmonious blending, and I wrote it last fall when I was . . . doing a lot of leaf raking. I guess it would be called flash fiction since it’s only 860 words long, but I wrote the story I had, and I don’t think adding anything would have improved it. The publication that accepted it (“we are thrilled to accept your piece”) is called The MockingOwl Roost, an ezine that’s been around for a couple of years. I had responded to a call for stories on the theme of “Introspection.” Only 12 days passed between submission and acceptance, which is pretty good in my experience. It looks like “Motet” will appear in the journal in the middle of July.

The other story is one I wrote recently titled “The Retreat of the City Folk.” It’s about two city folk who buy some rural forest land and then have a conflict with a neighbor that costs them time and trouble and money. It’s based on a case of timber trespass that actually happened to me and my wife on some property we had before we acquired Roundrock. The point of my short story was that the two characters were almost literally “babes in the woods” and were outsmarted at every turn. In fact, they don’t get a word of dialog in the story, which is intended to show how passive they are. My story will appear in an upcoming issue of Floyd County Moonshine, a print journal that’s been around for 14 years. It’s based in Appalachia, but it is interested in “local color” stories from all over, including, it seems, the Missouri Ozarks. I had submitted the story only yesterday, and it was accepted today. (That’s the second fastest acceptance I have ever received.) I’m not sure when my story will appear, but the journal is published twice a year.

These acceptances are great news, but they also mean I have to withdraw a number of other submissions I’ve made for the two stories, but that’s the nature of the biz.

“Travel Light” travels again

March 21, 2022

I learned over the weekend that my old story “Travel Light” has been accepted to be reprinted in the Of Rust and Glass Anthology. It will appear in the ezine in the fall edition (though they do have occasional printed editions).

Or Rust and Glass publishes work by writers from all over the American Midwest. “Travel Light” happened to be about an uncomfortable overnight float trip on the Kaw River just west of Kansas City (based on my experience). It had first appeared in Penduline Press in September of 2013, and I was proud of it then, but I didn’t see it traveling any farther than that.

When I found the (open) submission call for Of Rust and Glass, specific to Midwestern writers, I sent it in about a month ago and got the good news on Saturday.

Two weeks and news of two reprints. Now my fingers are crossed for a new story finding a home soon.