Archive for the ‘Process’ category

“Old School” is now online

March 21, 2018

My story “Old School” is now up at Bull & Cross. You can read it here.

I based this story on several things: a conversation with someone who made the basic assertion in the story (I was never certain whether or not he was serious about it); some bosses I have had through the years; and an accounting professor at the second college I attended whose appearance (and perhaps name) I used for the main character in the story.

This story is similar in spirit to my story “Velvet Elvis.” They build to an unexpected yet should-have-been-obvious conclusion.

Enjoy! (but only if you wish; I’m not trying to impose any response, really)


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.


January 29, 2018

I am currently working on journal #28 in my 35+ years of keeping a handwritten journal. Thousands of pages. Hundreds of thousands of words. Countless ideas. Complaints, moans, thoughts, musings, copying, trying, dreaming, scheming. These journals have been my respository for inklings for article ideas (earlier in my writing life) as well as for story ideas now. I’ve worked out themes and characters and plots and whole novels on the pages of these journals. In the dim days before I had my earlier blog, Roundrock Journal, I would write pages-long, detailed accounts of my trips to my woods (because I had this idea that I would need the notes for the great account of my life in the woods I would eventually write). I make entries to voice my complaints with the universe as well as complaints with the quotidian. I’m all over the place in my journals.

I certainly don’t even remember all of the things I have written in my journals and certainly couldn’t find most of the ones I do remember. And why would I as I reflect on it. In those decades, I have changed a great deal, not only in my writing but in my general view of life, the universe, and everything. Whatever I had to say about anything thirty years ago would probably make me cringe with embarrassment today.

I sometimes wonder what will become of my journals. I can’t imagine there is anything particularly insightful within them. The world won’t be a better place because of my musings. About the only thing I ever imagine happening from someone reading my scribblings is these words being uttered: “This explains everything, Your Honor.”

My middle son has said he can hardly wait to read my journals after I have died. There is so much he will want to learn about me then. (Why doesn’t he want to learn about me now?)

I’ve thought about having a cleansing fire sometimes. Burning all of my journals to be rid of the weight of them. I’ve begun burning the notebooks I kept in graduate school. The next step wouldn’t be so hard.

So why do I keep them? Some sort of mental health break, I guess. I do like the feel of pushing a mechanical pencil across a page. I even spent a day scouring Kansas City for exactly the right mechanical pencil for the job. There is some catharsis from holding the pencil in my hand and making marks on the page, marks that form themselves into words that collect into sentences that flow into paragraphs that begin to have meaning.

But maybe the meaning is in the act itself, not the results.


January 24, 2018

So Monday evening was supposed to be devoted to the housekeeping aspects of my writing, right? Except I completely forgot about it this week and watched television instead. (And I never watch television!)

So I gave over Tuesday evening to the noble work.


And here are some interesting photos of round rocks.

The first two photos were taken in September of 2014 (such an innocent time!):

Look closely and you can see two round rocks. One is wedged between the trunks of the trees, and the second is directly below it, almost completely swallowed by the tree. Here’s a closer look at the lower round rock:

And this is how the tree looked last weekend when I was out to my woods:

The rock you can see is the upper of the two. The lower one is almost completely “eaten” by the tree. This is called inosculation, by the way.

a necessary corollary

January 13, 2018

A necessary corollary to the ambitious sentiments in my earlier post is that now on my weekend mornings, I must actually do the heavy lifting of creative writing. I can no longer “research” during this time but must leave that for the weekdays and reserve this time for entering the semi-mystical mental space of my creative genius.


January 8, 2018

I have this conceit that I must enter some (semi-mystical) mental space in order to write my stories. I must have the means, motive, and opportunity just right or I can’t spend any productive time with whatever piece(s) of fiction I’m working on. Generally this means rising at an absurd hour when the house and the world are quiet (and having a pitcher of iced tea — unsweetened, of course — beside me) and cracking open the latest effort, easing into the universe, the tone, the theme, that narrator’s mind, and all that stuff so that the words will flow (or stagger) properly. In other words, I can’t just sit at my computer after dinner (though who eats dinner anymore?) and start hammering out some words. That’s what I tell myself.

I’m pretty sure it’s bogus. I’m pretty sure that if I have uninterrupted, quiet time I can continue work on a story simply by a) reading what I’ve written so far, and b) putting in actual effort.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking lately that I should put my after-dinner time to more productive writing uses. If I can’t actually write (right!), I could do other things. I could edit (which might lead to writing) or I could do more mundane things like submitting stories to likely publications, or making much-needed back ups of my files, or house cleaning my folders and version drafts, or even researching possible venues. (I also tell myself that whatever novel I’m reading — and even nonfiction — is “work” since it can inform my own fiction. See how he rationalizes!)

Even if I can’t “create” something new, I could/should work with what I have already created. I looked in my files the other day and determined that I currently have five finished stories that I think are ready for submission. (Also, two novels, but that’s a different kind of flagellation of the soul.) And since the publishing world generally looks tolerantly on simultaneous submissions, these five pieces could easily become a dozen or more submissions pending out in the wild. (Looking in Duotrope’s Digest, where I track my submissions, I saw that I have a half dozen of them out there, including one I made yesterday.)

I decided that I should devote Monday evenings to this. Mondays are an onslaught on the mind anyway since they generally mean a resumption of selling my labor to those who own the means of production, so this kind of tangential entry into the higher calling of creative work can be a kind of consolation (or escape). Maybe two hours of devoted effort to whatever housekeeping I find needed or beneficial would be satisfactory.

So today is Monday. I should haul myself to the warm room upstairs where all of my creative ferment swirls and put in my two hours. Maybe I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you do anything like this?

the man with the notes

September 25, 2017

In a past life, in a different city, someone much like me only younger, say 30-or-so years younger, would spend his lunch hours freed from the office at the nearby library. He would pull the book he was reading off the shelf (unless it was checked out since his last visit) and read away his hour of freedom, feeling both righteous and blissed out.

There were plenty of regulars at this library, including one man who clearly had mental health issues approaching schizophrenia. He would sit at a nearby table, murmuring to himself for long stretches. Often he would pull out scraps of paper with notes written on them. He would generally just read his notes, but on rare occasions he would add to what was written there (using the stubby pencils that every library seems mandated to have). Then he would stuff them in his shirt pocket, only to take them out soon after to trouble himself over them again.

That fellow much like me (though 30-or-so years younger) would always wonder what the notes contained. Then one day the man rose abruptly and left the library, leaving his small pile of notes on scraps behind. Well, what was that fellow much like me to do but amble over to that table and fluidly slip those notes on scraps into his own pocket. Then he would return to his office nearby and read the notes.

Not surprisingly, he found that the notes contained gibberish. Inchoate and without context, the words made no sense outside of the schizophrenic man’s mental universe. That man much like me still has those notes somewhere, 30-or-so years later.

Fast forward 20-or-so years and that man is in a different city and participated in a book discussion group that attracted all sorts of people (what is it about libraries?), including one woman who rarely spoke but did often lift her purse from the floor and rifle her fingers through it, pulling out — yes — scraps of paper with notes on them. She would examine them, refile them, pull them out again, re-sort them, then put her purse down and seem to pay attention. All the while the rest of the group continued with the discussion of whatever book was the subject for the evening.

And then to the present day. That man much like me (now 30-or-so years on) is keeping his own notes on scraps of paper. They are ways to capture the brilliant thoughts he has for his stories when he is not before his computer (usually when he is working for the man though also when he is at his little cabin in the Ozarks). They are captured until they can be transcribed, for such brilliant thoughts escape him too often, hence his need to write them down.

And sometimes during the day he will take these notes from his pocket to re-read them, sort them, and even add a few thoughts to them. They all make perfect sense within the context of the stories where they belong, but one supposes that to someone who happens to luck upon them left unattended somewhere, they must seem inchoate and without context. But at least that man much like me doesn’t murmur to himself. Much.