Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

a couple of things

June 12, 2017

I mentioned sometime back on this humble blog that I had snuck the word “enuf” into my One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” and so was proud to be doing my part to evolve the language in print, in the Selected Places anthology. And I think I also mentioned that I felt I ought to read all of the stories in the anthology. Thus the other day I took down the anthology from the shelf by my desk to begin reading it. But first I wanted to see that word “enuf” in print. So I went to my story in search of it. And I couldn’t find it.

The editor, apparently, didn’t think it was an appropriate neologism to include in her collection. Then I began to wonder what else she might have excised. I started reading the story side-by-side with the file for it on my laptop. And in nearly every paragraph I found differences, mostly in the cases of verbs that were less “powerful” than the ones I’d written. But there was a whole paragraph of nice descriptive detail (the smell of a forest in November) that was gone.

I acknowledge that an editor can do whatever she wants with a story, but generally if it’s something drastic (such as this) then the writer gets a chance to review the changes and even withdraw the story if it’s too much. I was surprised that I hadn’t been given the chance.

It was only when I came upon the name of the dog that I began to understand what I was seeing. I had originally named the dog Jack (which was a name I was considering for my own dog, Flike), but a subsequent story in the cycle included the dog, Jack, as well as characters named Joe, Jon, and Jerry. A friend who read that story commented on the clumsiness of the names, and my wife tried to figure out what great literary shenanigans I was up to with them. So, Jerry became Lee and Jack (the dog) became Buddy.

But obviously this change had happened after I had submitted the draft of the story to the anthology. And then I realized that all of the discrepancies between my draft and the one in print were likely due to revisions I had made to the story subsequent to its submission. I found the original email when I had sent the story, and attached was the draft of the story at the time. And everything lined up. Mystery resolved. Still, “enuf” didn’t make it into print.

__________

I received an email recently from the editor of If and Only If Journal saying that the publication had suffered an unexpected hiatus but that it was going to begin publication again after all. This journal had accepted my submission of “Travel Light” a long time ago. “Travel Light” first appeared in Penduline Press, but If and Only If was looking for such stories and would accept reprints. Thus my story would find a second home. But I hadn’t heard from the editor and the journal online hadn’t posted any news or updates. I assumed that though it was a valiant effort, it had folded as many lit journals do. But then came the surprising good news, reaching my inbox while I was out at my little cabin for the weekend where I am off the grid. Thus I didn’t learn of the email until I got home.

“where late the sweet birds sang” debuts, somewhat

April 24, 2017

My One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” has now appeared in the real (virtual) world. It was accepted (last summer?) for the Selected Places anthology put out by Simone Press, a British publisher seeking stories where place is a dominating factor. My story takes place at the family cabin in the Missouri Ozarks (and in the protagonist’s mind), and I suspect (not having read the anthology yet) that I am the “exotic” component to the anthology, the rest likely being works set within the United Kingdom.

I’ve written about this here and here (when the story was still titled “The Death of Superman” and the anthology was still titled Pulled by Place).

The anthology is an ebook, available through Amazon. As a contributor, I will get a free copy to download to my Kindle, which rests forlornly on the shelf beside me. There is actually a window (late next month) when I will be able to download my free copy. And I shall.

But when I went to the site recently, I saw that there will also be a print edition. And surely I needed to have that to hold in my quaking hands! (The shelf of lit journals with my stories in them is slowly filling; I must add this physical document, n’est-ce pas?) So I began the process of ordering it through Amazon. The cost was displayed in British pounds, and I had no idea what the equivalent amount was in good old American dollars, but that wasn’t going to stop or slow me at all. I made my order and pressed the SEND button. When the confirmation email arrived, I learned that I has just spent $23 (and some change) on a paper copy of a document I will get free in virtual form.

But I don’t mind!

 

Update 8MAY17: The bound copy of the anthology arrived today.

persistence in the face of withering rejection

April 12, 2017

In three days I’ve received three rejections for stories I had sent out. All three were for chapters from One-Match Fire that I thought stood on their own well enuf to be considered discrete stories. The rejection emails were form letters, assuring me that such decisions are objective subjective and that my stories very likely will find worthy homes elsewhere. But one of the rejections did have a two-sentence, story-specific comment inserted. Basically it said that nothing happened by the end of the story.

The story was “Moving Day” and something very specific does happen in the story, in the context of the whole novel. And that was the problem. This story, I suspect, can’t really stand alone outside of the novel. It plays an important role in the novel, but only as a part of it.

So, lesson learned. Maybe. If I see a call with a theme that might align with “Moving Day” I’ll send it out again. I’m just that way.

__________

I was going to title this post “nonetheless, he persevered” but I didn’t want to co-opt that cultural meme. It’s already doing far more worthy work.

“Old School” reaches initial completion

September 6, 2016

I finished the first draft of my newest story “Old School” yesterday. I knew all along where it was going, but I’m still not confident about how it ends. I have ended it, but I’m not sure that’s the most effective way to do it yet.

The story comes in at just over 2,200 words, which is a healthy birth weight for such a slight story; it’s a comic tale, much like my story “Velvet Elvis.” More importantly, though, it is not part of my One-Match Fire universe. It is an independent, stand-alone story that eases me away from the years of devotion I have given those stories. (I’m eager to start on another new story, “Stargazing,” as well. It’s been knocking around in my head for a long while, and I’ll delight in beginning to pull it together. It’s another comic story, with a couple of love interests in it, so it should be fun to write.)

Anyway, uncharacteristic productivity here are Chez Lucky Rabbit’s Foot.

something completely different

August 29, 2016

I did something different and refreshing over the weekend. I worked on a new short story that does not belong to the One-Match Fire/Fathers and Sons universe. I’ve mentioned here once or twice that a story has been knocking around in my head lately that I’ve called “Old School.” It is based on an event that happened to me, one that I’m still not sure isn’t an elaborate joke. Regardless, the story takes that event to its logical conclusion, at least to the conclusion I would take it to if I were actually confronted with the scenario.

I managed to write what I estimate is two-thirds of the story. It’s pretty good so far, and I know how to end it (that “logical conclusion” bit), so it’s really just a matter of putting fingers to keyboard in whatever time I can steal from the rude realities of my life. Then, of course, I need to let it rest and come back to it to revise and enhance.

The story is more comic than dramatic. It’s in the same vein as “Velvet Elvis,” which I think is a pretty good bit of story telling. It’s fun to write, especially after I realized the story needed an antagonist.

What’s also important, though, is that it was a much-needed break from the F&S stories that have consumed so much of the last four years of my life. I really felt good embarking on a different story, especially “just” a short story since the time investment won’t be gargantuan.

Also, here is a photo of Philip Roth and Sisyphus. I made that bronze bookend.

Roth and Sisyphus

everyone needs an enemy

August 22, 2016

This is, surprisingly, not going to be a post about my Fathers and Sons stories, my running, or my cabin in the woods! It is about my humble attempts at writing fiction, however.

Years ago, I was struggling with a story idea that eventually evolved into “Velvet Elvis”. (Perhaps my most fun story.) I had the basic conceit of the story, but I didn’t have the story to go with it. Then it dawned on me, as these things must when you’re a struggling writer who imagines he’s too good to pay any attention to conventional wisdom, that what my story didn’t have was conflict. I didn’t have an antagonist for my character, someone to push the story into gear. Once I realized that I needed that (and should have known all along had I deigned to listen to conventional wisdom) I blazed through the story, polished it a few (dozen) times, sent it out, won an award, and got published. I’m still very proud of this story, and to this day, my wife has little to no interest in attending art fairs any longer.

And so I’ve been struggling with another story I’ve mentioned here a time or two: “Old School.” I thought I had the antagonist. It was to be the central character himself, defeating his own goals by, um, failing to listen to conventional wisdom. But the story just wasn’t developing in my mind. I didn’t know where to take it. I knew how it would end, and even had a good start. And filling in the middle would just be journeyman work. But it wasn’t much of a story.

Then I realized that if I had a different antagonist, one who could bring a plot along with him or her, I would have a story to write. And once that was in my noggin, the story began to blossom. I now know the conflict and the resolution. It’s nearly to the point where I must just copy it down as it reveals itself to me. (See my recent post “mused, and amused” for similar blatherings.)

It is refreshing to have a story to work on that isn’t in the F&S universe. I’m still tinkering with them and waiting with growing dread for the response from one of my readers, but I take this new story idea as a sign that creative Paul is ready to move on to the next adventure.

“Been Lonely So Long”

May 16, 2016

My story “Been Lonely So Long” has come out in The Nassau Review. Unless you’re a subscriber, though, you won’t be able to read it since it is in print only. This is not a Fathers and Sons story; it is one that just “came to me” one day, and then I worked on it for maybe half a year before I felt I had it right.