Archive for the ‘Humble efforts’ category

“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.

Velvet Elvis sings again!

March 15, 2022

My old story “Velvet Elvis,” which I think was where I finally found my narrative style, appeared in the December 2011 issue of Bartleby Snopes, a publication now retired. The digital version is still available here (though the editor told me it will come down eventually). The story won the Editor’s Choice Award at the time.

Fast forward to today and “Velvet Elvis” will be published again! I had submitted it to Fiction on the Web, which considers reprints, and it was accepted. It will appear in the April 29, 2022, issue when it comes online. Fiction on the Web publishes a new story each Monday and Friday, and then the stories become part of the archive there.

I’ll be sure to let you know when the story appears.

thick skinned report

February 9, 2022

I haven’t done one of these in a a long time.

Yesterday was a particularly brutal day for my poor creative self. I received four rejections in my email.

I had sent Obelus to what looked like a suitable publisher yesterday morning, and they responded within hours with their form rejection. That’s a good thing, of course. It means that I missed my estimation of the publisher, and they were kind enuf to let me know quickly. Still . . .

I’d also received a form rejection from a publisher who had asked for the full manuscript based on my Obelus query more than a month before. That was nice, but it didn’t pan out. Well, onward.

And I’d received two rejections for some short stories I had submitted. One was from a publication I had never heard of before, and I had submitted to it merely because its theme seemed to suit my story. Not a fit, but not a problem since the story is out with other mags anyway.

And I received a rejection for a long-shot submission I had made of a speculative fiction story I had written based on an idea I found in one of my early journals. (Yes, I’m still picking my way through my old journals.) I had submitted it to one of the major speculative fiction magazines because why not? I thought maybe I had a shot, but I wasn’t surprised when it was declined either. The magazine did not allow simultaneous submissions, so I hadn’t sent the piece elsewhere, but now I can.

Anyway, rejection is a big part of this business, and yesterday proved it.

How was your day?

Here is a picture of some flowers in my backyard:

why I don’t outline

October 7, 2021

I’ve long thought that the reason so many writers love the “rules” (whether that’s grammar or genre conventions or the proper use of dialogue tags or whatever) is because there is so much self doubt in what we do. Is this good enuf? Am I good enuf? Will anyone want what I write? Will anyone read what I write? Should I be writing something else? And on. So when someone comes along and says that this or that rule about writing is absolute, a good many of us are quickly seduced by the imagined certainty and cleave to that rule.

Of course one writer’s rule is another writer’s suggestion and another writer’s antagonist. Long-time readers of this humble blog (both of you) will know that I don’t give much allegiance to the rules (even spelling — the word “enuf” occurs throughout Obelus — and I suspect my use of em dashes is often incorrect). Sentence fragments seem to be integral to my natural style. But then I know of at least one 100+ word sentence I’ve written as well.

One of the fundamental bits of guidance writers are given when starting out is to outline the intended work in advance. Organize your thoughts. Put them in order. Re-order them. Organize sub-thoughts under major points. Work from a premise and work toward a conclusion.

Yeah, I don’t do that.

When I start on a story, I do generally have an idea of where I’m going and what I want to achieve. But in nearly all cases, my result is far from the original idea. Latest Big Project is a good example. I had an idea for writing a semi-serious work of seeming non-fiction that was really going to be a very unconventional work of fiction. And while it’s still that, the semi-serious portion is barely holding on. The seeming non-fiction part has grown more absurd as I’ve been writing it. Crazy thoughts come into my head throughout the day about how I could develop this idea or introduce that idea. I had introduced a sub-plot that I thought would give my character some depth, and that sub-plot has taken over and become the main (hidden) point of the story.

Similarly with Obelus, a certain character was intended all along to be an ambitious free-lance journalist, but when it came to showing her as such, I suddenly shifted her into something altogether different. I don’t know where this revelation came from. I hadn’t planned for it, but it took the novel in a different, and better, direction. It’s a vastly different novel in tone and plot (the plot is the MacGuffin).

My point is that if I had outlined what I wanted to write in advance, I don’t know that these “revelations” would have come to me. If I had been neat and orderly in advance, I think I might have missed out on the creative chaos and discovery that seems to work so well for me. I’d have been devoted (blinded?) to developing the story as it was originally conceived rather than flowing with it as it evolved.

So I don’t outline. Well, not in advance. I am about to begin outlining Latest Big Project, which I have mostly finished, so I can see where to wedge in hints and references to the sub-plot that’s become the main plot. It needs to build to that (where all is revealed in the final chapter). So having an outline of how things are now will be a kind of after-the-fact guidebook for where to take it further.

What about you? Do you outline in advance?


(Funny, this post is not at all what I had started out to write.)

progress amidst lack of progress

April 19, 2021

I’ve mentioned here once or twice that I’m working on a new, big project that I’m calling Losers (for now). And while I am making a lot of progress with it, it feels like I am standing still. I have more than 10,000 words written, and I have a clear idea of how to develop the rest of it, and then I have a clear idea of how to really develop the rest of it (mostly the story behind the story), but the sense of completing it is so far in the future that I feel as though I’m making no progress at all despite unbroken hours before my laptop.

While this will be a novel, it will be an unconventional one, at least from the way the tale is told. (And thus, unmarketable?) And before I can get the meat of the story into it, I must “assemble” the parts in their proper order so that I can hang the real story on them. I realize this is all cryptic and perhaps precious, but it’s the only way I can think to describe it without giving away the plot. (A writer I respect once said to me, “Tell your story once, and tell it in writing.” The point being that the motivation to finish a story can dissipate if you tell it before you’re done writing it.)

Helping or hampering this effort is the continuing fact that I’m having profound (in context) “realizations” about what this novel really is. In the last two weeks I’ve had three of these realizations that made everything that came before them just pencil work. “Of course, what’s really happening behind all of these words is . . .”* And “Aha, that’s who the narrator is!” And “I see now. This is why the tale is being told in this way!”

These kinds of revelations visited me when I was writing Obelus, and it resulted in a very different story from what I had started out to tell. I certainly welcome them, but what I have after is so much “better” than before that I fear I can’t finish writing the work until ALL of the profundities reveal themselves to me. And they don’t seem to be on any schedule or announce their pending arrival.

So I make slow but gratifying progress.


*Should I put a period after that ellipsis? Or maybe an exclamation point?

“Icarus” revisited

February 3, 2021

This is going to sound a lot like last week’s post about my story “Hush Arbor.” Just as with that story, I had my story “Icarus” accepted, in this case at The Magnolia Review. But the extraordinary events of 2020 intervened, and not only was publication of “Icarus” delayed, but I feared that the journal itself had gone dark.

But then I received an email this morning from the editor apologizing for the delay and announcing that the issue with my story was in its final stages of production. Volume 6, issue 2 of The Magnolia Review will be coming out online very soon and possibly even in print.

This is the second story I’ve had published in The Magnolia Review. My story “Fire Sermon” appeared there several years ago and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

When the issue goes live, I’ll post a link here.

no NaNoWriMo for me

November 11, 2020

In the month of November I began writing my next novel in earnest. I’m happy to say that I have 550 words down! They’re the hard ones, of course. The first ones. And I’ve struggled with them, changed them, rearranged them, deleted them. As one does.

This is not a blistering pace, but I am finding my way (and if my experience this time is anything like it was with Obelus, I don’t even know what that way is yet).

But 500 words in about half a month is still minuscule. I understand the participants in NaNoWriMo average 1,667 words each day, with the goal of 50,000 words in the month. I’m not going to qualify for that.

I’ve written about NaNoWriMo here before, and it’s not been favorable. Over the years, my thoughts have mellowed. It’s not for me, but if it works for another, then good for them.

Update 27DEC20 – The writing of this new novel I mention has come to a halt. I think it’s a good story that I can tell in a clever way, but it’s leaving me cold, at least for now. Perhaps I’ll come back to it some day. I had really hoped it would become my next great projects, the way Obelus consumed most of this year, but that’s not proving to be the case.