Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category


January 18, 2018

True story: On a day not unlike recent days (when darting into daunting double digits is doubtful), though nearly four decades ago, I was a callow undergrad at a sprawling commuter college* in the city where I lived. After the day’s classes, I went out to my Volkswagen Beetle and found the door locks frozen. So I called Campus Security since they prowled the parking garages to help the hapless. They told me that there was nothing they could do, but that they recommended people keep a can of de-icer in their cars for just such incidents. So think about that. You can’t get into your car, but you should keep the remedy for that within your car. (I eventually went to the cafeteria, got a large bucket of hot water, and poured it on my door handle. That worked. Of course adding water to a lock that had already frozen once was a fool’s solution, but it was an old Beetle, so I just left it unlocked for the rest of the winter.)


When I read Don Quixote many years ago, I kept a record of the number of pages I had completed as a weekly footnote in my old blog, Roundrock Journal. The paperback copy I had (which I intended to read on the 24 hours of my traveling to Nairobi and back) was 700+ pages. For whatever reason, I didn’t get much reading done on the plane, and it subsequently took me several months to finish the novel. I’m beginning to think I should do the same with The Hatawaki. I’ve been at it for more than a week, and I’m only a third of the way through it.


Here is a picture of a round rock at my cabin:


I realize that I am probably missing some opportunities by not submitting my stories to magazines that charge a fee, even a nominal fee, but the ratio of acceptance to rejection in the submissions I have made elsewhere doesn’t give me the confidence to risk the money.


One unpleasant discovery when I was prowling through the history of this blog, as I reported last week, was finding that someone had linked to one of my posts and said dismissive things about it. I had asserted in my post that the old dictum that the only dialog tag should be some variation of “said” was arbitrary and often a wasted opportunity to use a stronger verb. The other blogger said that my post was “typical” of a naive line of thinking about writing, common to beginners. This other blogger has several novels published and happens to be a descendant of a very prominent British writer and thinker, but I still stand by my assertion about dialog tags! (In fact, one character just “chirped” in The Hakawati!)


And here is a picture of my dog, Flike:


I dream in color. What about you?



*And where my daughter-in-law is now a student!


ruff opinions

January 15, 2018

My dog has many strong opinions but only one word in his vocabulary.

a Monday accounting

January 10, 2018

My recent post proposing that I spend Monday evenings “working” on my writing without actually writing resulted in some action on my part. I actually did devote a couple of hours on Monday evening doing writerly things, just as I intended. Here’s an accounting:

  • I began by taking my wife out and buying her a new winter coat that she’s been saying for months she’s needed. Then I got back home and settled in at my desk.
  • I wrote a blog post (which I think counts).
  • I made some notes on a new story. Lotsa brainstorming. Early stuff, but promising. (I also consulted with a certain pediatrician I am related to about vaccination practices for infants — related to the story idea.)
  • I made the rounds of my usual submission calendars (Duotrope’s Digest, New Pages Classifieds, The Review Review, Calls for Submission on Facebook) and lamented things like tiny word count limits and submission fees. (If you have suggestions for other places, let me know.)
  • I almost submitted one of my stories (“Fire Sermon”) to a publication with a call theme of “fire” but then discovered that I already had. (No response yet but the issue comes out next week.)
  • I did submit one of my stories (“Forest Succession”) to a publication with a call theme of “liminal spaces.” No info on response time but it’s an annual publication and the submission deadline is still two months hence.
  • I browsed the statistics page at Duotrope’s Digest and learned four things: the publication with the slowest response time is McSweeney’s Quarterly at 528 days; the publication with the fastest response time is Whiskey Paper at 0.4 days; the publication with the highest rejection rate is Fantasy & Science Fiction at a 0.09% acceptance rate; and the publication with the highest acceptance rate is Scarlet Leaf Review with an 88.51% acceptance rate.
  • And then I read (Everyman by Philip Roth).

I didn’t do anything I couldn’t have done any other day of the week except that I generally don’t do it any other day of the week. My goal is to establish and respect a dedicated day to this kind of shop work. Not sure I’ll give a weekly report, but maybe I should to keep myself honest.

looking backward*

January 9, 2018

The other day I decided to have a look at the many comments people have left on this humble blog since I began it more than ten years ago. I remembered “conversations” then with people that I don’t see anymore, and I wondered what had become of them.

It turns out there have been (as of this writing) 1,314 comments on this blog, spread across 1,041 posts. That’s a little better than 1 comment per post on average (when you remove the hundred or so response comments I have made), which I think is acceptable. Not spectacular, but decent.

I went back to the very first comments and began moving through them toward the present. In those early days I had some regulars who generally had something substantive to say about whatever I was saying. But I haven’t heard from many of them in long years. Fortunately, their comments usually included a link to their own site, and I could go to those to see what there was to see.

Sadly, many of the links were dead. Or they linked to blogs that haven’t had a post in five years. I know that most blogs have a very short shelf life, and I suppose the bloggers have moved on to something bigger or better or less time consuming or just got lives in the real world. Still, it was sad to see familiar names and realize that I’ve lost touch with them after having had lively conversations and “relationships” with them.

Of those early commenters, only two are still around and leaving comments here. I’m grateful for that. And new visitors have replaced the old who are gone. The cycle continues.


*No, not the novel by Edward Bellamy, which I read years and years and years ago (though not when it first came out).

subtle jolts

December 26, 2017

Profound shifts in my life often come in subtle, unexpected ways. And, I’ve found, sometimes the most obvious thoughts or understandings just don’t come to me in the fundamental ways they should (though perhaps they do come to others) until I am jolted into “receiving” them.

For example, and tangentially related to the point of this self-indulgent post, Iris Murdoch has a statement in one of her philosophical works* that goes like this: “Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.” My understanding of this is that other people actually exist and are whole human beings with lives and dreams and frustrations just as valid — and apart from — my own. They are no more “walk-on” characters in the story of my life than I am a “walk-on” character in their lives.** (And that we can’t truly love another person until we acknowledge that they exist apart from us. And until we do, we only love our fabrication of this other person and not the actual other person.) Doesn’t this seem like the most obvious thing in the world? That other people really exist? And yet it is not my first thought when I see someone walking down the street, that this person I glance at briefly has a life beyond me, a life that doesn’t include me at all. Maybe I’m more self contained (or selfish) than other people who grasp this understanding — and live it — readily.

But onto*** the point of this self-indulgent post. I recently had one of these subtle jolts. It was about something that should have been the most obvious thing in the world to me, especially since I’ve written so many stories about fathers and sons, but the point had never occurred to me. I was in Seattle for the Thanksgiving holiday with my son, his wife, and their daughter, Ela. Ela is fussy. She is willful (which I think is a good quality for a future woman in our culture!) and often won’t willingly do what is requested/required of her. One example is bath time. My son must cajole her into taking her nightly bath if she is not in the mood for it. I first observed this when he began walking about the house singing “It’s bath time for Dad and Ela. It’s bath time for Dad and Ela” (to the Popeye tune).

My first thought when I heard this was that I was not going to take a bath with my granddaughter. And here is the big revelation: He was using the name “Dad” in reference to himself! I, who defined myself as “Dad,” was not “Dad” any longer; I was now Grandpa. And the jolt wasn’t that he was “stealing” my identity from me but that it has passed to him. I had to stop seeing myself as this person and start seeing him as this person.

And, of course, I had known all along — intellectually — that my son was a dad in the lower case. But seeing this fundamental yet profound quality in another person — as another person — was something I had not grasped, had not given myself motivation to see and accept or even consider.

I’m not sure that I’m making my point very well. It isn’t that my son is a Dad in the upper case. It’s my realization of it in more than just an intellectual, abstracted way. The world has shifted and it took a jolt for me to see/accept/understand/be at peace with it.

And, further of course, I’m going to incorporate this into one of my stories. My father character David will be a grandfather and will hear his son use the word “Dad.” David will automatically think it’s a reference to himself and then have his own jolt when he realizes it’s a reference to his son, his boy, his child who is now a parent. As it should be. Right on time. Part of the natural, wholesome order of things. Yet hard to internalize for him.


At this point you might be saying to yourself, “But I thought One-Match Fire was finished.” And you’d be right. I’m now working on stories for the inevitable sequel, which I’m calling Nature Always Wins.


*”The Sublime and the Good” – I don’t profess to grasp her philosophical writings very well.

**The recently coined word “sonder” seems to be just what I’m attempting to define here.

*** or should that be “on to”?

Skywatch Friday ~ this is not a snake

December 15, 2017

What you see above is not an albino water snake making its way across the lake in my Ozark woods. Rather, it is the reflection of a jet contrail on the rippling water.

I noted once before that this is an image that our ancestors of only about two generations ago would never had seen in their sky (or reflected in a lake). It’s a Twentieth Century phenomenon. To my understanding, they are much like when you can see your breath on cold days. And as far as I can tell, they are not part of some mind-control conspiracy, but I’ll leave that to you to decide for yourself.

the Transcendentalist and the detective

November 24, 2017

Having read somewhat extensively both Thoreau and Sherlock Holmes, I guess I kind of knew this at a subconscious level: it turns out that Henry David Thoreau and Sherlock Holmes are actually the same person!*

And apparently there are many of us who are convinced of this truth.


In other news, today is Black Friday, and I traditionally spend the day at my cabin in the woods in defiance of the dictates of our frenzied consumer culture. I am, however, instead in Seattle visiting my son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Elaheh. I saw a rainbow upon my arrival, which persuaded me that the sun does make an appearance here, but like most of my visits to the PNW, I expect the sun to appear only on the day I arrive and the day I leave and naught in between.


*And then there is this speculation!