Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

nothing much to say

April 3, 2017

I’ve been A.W.O.L. but only because I haven’t had much to say. The interstice betwixt “finishing” One-Match Fire and beginning something new is dragging out longer than I would like, but it also explains why I don’t have any writing dispatches or insights to give.


I continue to receive rejections from agents for my One-Match Fire submissions, which suggests strongly to me that I must have been sending out submissions. I suppose I should do more of that. I’m pretty sure after a point, it’s all a numbers game anyway.


The weather around here has been erratic (“bipolar” is the word one friend used). In the eighties one day and then in the twenties two days later. Dry enuf to make your skin crack and then enuf rain in a few days to make basements damp. Whether it has been enuf to fill my dry lake (or even give the poor fish in the remaining puddle a little recharge) remains to be seen. Because of some mixed messages, I didn’t get a chance to trek down to my cabin over the weekend as I had hoped, but I have been watching the weather reports for that part of the state, and it sure looks as though my watershed got plenty of precipitation.


You may already know that my daughter is expecting twins in August. On Saturday, my son sent us a sonogram of triplets! Yes, triplets!

Then we realized it was April Fools’ Day.


I managed to run 100.26 miles last month. Just a quarter mile over my minimum goal. I was hampered, however, by a wonky knee. I’m not sure what caused it, whether it was the newish shoes I have or the transition from treadmill to pavement. But I took off an entire week from running to rest the knee, which would have otherwise added at least 25 miles to my total, so I don’t feel so bad. And once I got back to running, the wonkiness of the knee quickly went away. I’m not sure what that means either.


February 24, 2017

Okay, so I sent out a query to an agent this morning for One-Match Fire. My inertia is broken. You have to be sanguine about these things, even though you know the odds are astronomically not in your favor. But you have to begin somewhere.

Now that it’s done, I suppose it will be easier for me to begin sending out more queries for the novel. Sometimes this part of the effort seems harder than the actual creative writing.


I’m still reading White-Jacket. It’s a long voyage and the ship is now at anchor in Rio de Janeiro where the sailors are chafing at getting too little and too much shore leave. Melville is writing a humorous tale, but it is clear that just below the surface he is railing about the injustices and inhumanity of the Navy in those days. In fact, when the novel was published, a copy was given to each member of Congress and, I’ve read, it was instrumental in getting flogging banned as a punishment aboard U.S. ships. I’m enjoying every word, but I’ll be glad when I’ve finished the novel and I can move from the 19th Century and into something more contemporary.


I crossed the 200-mile mark in my running two days ago. With the cold weather, I’ve done most of those miles on treadmills. But in the unseasonably warm days of late, I’ve been going outside for my miles. The transition from treadmill to pavement has been rough on my poor legs and lungs. The treadmill presents a continuous pace on a forgiving surface. The pavement, not so much. I constantly find myself going too “fast” to sustain, and my legs — especially my quadriceps — ache afterward. I don’t remember this much trouble in past years. Not sure why that is.


I’m making some progress with the story I’m now calling “Stargazing and Eavesdropping.” A couple more scenes and I should have the first draft finished. Still no news on the status of the various stories I have out in submission.

still here

February 16, 2017

I’m sorry I haven’t had a post in a while. Nothing much to report, I guess. I’m still around, still attempting to write, and run, and live as well as I can in each case.

in other news

February 2, 2017

So far this year I’ve run 131+ miles. All but about fifteen of that has been on treadmills, which is tedious, but it does call for a continuous level of effort unlike capricious hills and turns when running outside. My goal is to run 1,000 miles this year, and you can see I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve done a thousand for several years (though I skipped last year and only got somewhere in the 700s). The second year that I did a thousand miles was paced out so that I would turn the odometer during the first half marathon I ever ran, and I did. I reached it at mile 11, which was pretty much my plan so that a) I would definitely run at least that far in the half, and b) I would have run that far, so I might as well finish the remaining two miles. I don’t know what races I’ll have lined up for the fall, though if I stay on task I could wrap up my thousand miles in October at the Kansas City Half Marathon (which I’ve run twice, and the full marathon once). We’ll see.


I have registered for the Kansas City Trolley Run on April 30. It’s a four-mile, mostly downhill course from the Waldo neighborhood to the Country Club Plaza (our swanky shopping/dining district). I’ve run this at least three times (I’ve lost count) but I didn’t last year because I was “recovering” from the St. Louis Marathon (which is utter B.S. — I could’ve/should’ve run it).


I currently have five of my stories out in circulation, looking hopefully for berths:

  • “Old School”
  • “A Tree Falls in the Forest”
  • “Twice Blest”
  • “Fire Sermon”
  • “Moving Day”

Only “Old School” is not in the One-Match Fire universe, and “Fire Sermon” is not part of the novel itself.


I’m currently reading White Jacket*, by Herman Melville. It’s a 500-page novel, and I’m only about fifty pages into it, so it’s obviously too early to judge, but I suspect it’s a story that can be taken at face value rather than plumbed forever for deeper meaning like Moby-Dick, Billy Budd, The Confidence Man, or Bartleby. A friend, whose book discussion groups I’ve been involved in off and on for 25 years, wants to take up The Confidence Man, in light of recent events. His group covered Moby-Dick in monthly sessions lasting three years. It was glorious!



The three grandkids: Kenneth, Emmet, Elaheh. (More on this subject when I’m allowed to talk about it.)



*I’ve seen it punctuated as White-Jacket, with a hyphen just as the novel Moby-Dick is, as opposed to the whale Moby Dick (sans hyphen). And since the narrator calls himself White Jacket in the novel, I suppose that usage would be hyphenless too.

unburdened (a tiny bit)

January 23, 2017


So the point of the original fire sermon is that we are burning with desire for our sensory lives and that if we can unburden ourselves of these appetites, we can better achieve nirvana. At least according to my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings. (Thank you, Wikipedia! But isn’t desiring to achieve nirvana a, well, desire?)

In my story of the same name one of the characters is unburdening himself of many old and no-longer-needed possessions, literally burning them in a fire. (One of them just happens to be an old peach crate. He probably kept vinyl records in it at one time.) The other character unburdens himself of some gripes about his life while sitting around that fire. (He also unburdens himself of a lot of beer.) The inability to listen, to heed one of the senses, also plays into the story. You can see I am conflicted about this whole freeing yourself of your senses business.

And all of that.

I have a rolling file cart in my little office at home where I keep “important papers,” but lately I’ve thought I need to unburden myself of a lot of them too. Over the weekend I grabbed one of the folders at random from the cart. It was a collection of rejection letters I had received years ago. The most recent one was literally 21 years old. Most were for feature articles I was pitching, but there were a few early fiction rejections as well. And these were actual paper letters. Some of them even handwritten. (Who sends handwritten letters anymore?) Old school stuff. I spent about three minutes leafing through them and reminiscing wistfully (is there any other way to reminisce?), then I closed the folder and carried the entire thing down to the recycling tub in the garage. Unburdened.

That leaves dozens of other folders in the cart (and who knows what in the file cabinet at the back of the closet or the box of “important papers” on top of it) still to be culled. I suspect it will get easier as I go along.

hero or fool?

January 5, 2017

We experienced 1 to 3 inches of fluffy snow in the overnight, and I found myself bundled and on my driveway at 4:30 this morning, wielding a snow shovel to make a path. Note that it was 11 bone-chilling degrees outside, and even the dogs had chosen to stay snug in (my) bed rather than come out and frolic with me.

I thought myself virtuous, abetted by the fact that the scrape of my shovel was the only one I heard in the whole neighborhood at that unholy hour. Sure, home ownership in vanilla suburbia is often a series of conventional behaviors disguised as virtues, but I still thought I had chosen heroically.

But then I saw some movement down the street, coming my way through the snow-dappled light of the street lamps. Some neighbor, more sleekly bundled than I, was out for his morning run! Only his nose and eyes were exposed, so if I knew him, I didn’t recognize him. Nor did he take notice of me as he darted past at what would be my I-can-see-the-finish-line-let’s-get-this-done! pace.

And then I wondered which of us was the true fool.


December 29, 2016

So I’m reading this book Santa left under the tree for me: Sherlock Holmes FAQ by Dave Thompson. It’s full of interesting tidbits. (Did you know that Conan Doyle supposedly read Moby-Dick avidly? This would have been at the time when the novel was obscure and even dismissed.) Even so, it often seems like the author wants to show off his erudition, with pages-long tangents into some facts he’s uncovered that are only tenuously connected to Sherlock Holmes.

A recent chapter I finished began with a short paragraph that contained the word “whatsoever” twice. This didn’t seem like an ironic repetition or a flourish of his style. (The word appeared once more in the chapter.) I think it was just the result of quick work and poor editing. That’s unfortunate, and I did pause when I came across it, but I managed to keep reading the chapter.

This is a writerly failing of mine. I tend to repeat words, and I don’t realize it when I’m doing so. I only catch them (when I catch them) in my editing reviews of my stuff. And then I sometimes only catch them when I’m reading my writing aloud. As far as I can recall, I’ve never used the word “whatsoever” in any of my writing; my repeats tend to be a more commonplace words, and usually verbs. Just this morning I found the word “know” twice in one sentence, for example.

This isn’t necessarily bad, but it usually is. It’s certainly weak writing or at least an opportunity/need for stronger writing. And I’d like to be the one to find these instances rather than some editor down the road. Or worse, that neither of us would find it.


My work on “Fire Sermon” is coming along nicely. I’ve more than doubled the word count at this writing — I’m taking a break from the story to write this post — and I’m up to 1400+ words. Pretty good words too. The story has taken a little turn I wasn’t expecting, but it’s completely in keeping with the theme, so that’s fine. I have no complaints about it whatsoever.