Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

the unbearable creativity of distance

November 27, 2017

Depending on when you are reading this, I may be several miles above the planet, winging my way home from Seattle. My visit was circumscribed by the needs (demands?) of a fussy almost two-year-old, so I didn’t do much in the way of sight seeing or touristy stuff. (Nor did I go running, though had I wanted, it happened that the Seattle Marathon took place while I was in town. The day was filled with ominous clouds and frequent rain and plummeting temperatures, but despite such delightful conditions, I could not have done anything respectable with that distance right now.)

I did, however, manage to finish two stories. (I am as amazed as you are!) The first is the story I’d mentioned recently called “Forest Succession.” I’ve already sent it to a trusted reader, and I’m feeling good about it. It is not part of the One-Match Fire novel, but it does deal with many of the characters in there, though much later than the time period the novel covers. (I have a vague notion of writing a sequel to that collection.)

The second is a wholly new story that I’m calling “The Kick” and that is unrelated to anything I’ve written, though it is about running, sort of. I’ve often growled at the word count limit of many publications. A thousand words just doesn’t seem enuf to tell a solid story; the shortest of mine start at more than twice that number. Yet “The Kick” comes in at just over one thousand words, so maybe I finally have a contender. It’s only a first draft, of course, so it is likely to change.

I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the two-hour time difference in Seattle (though the evenings were tough). Since I am naturally an early riser, I had no trouble with that part of the day; I actually had to sleep in. And since the household was quiet in the early hours, and since I had copious amounts of iced tea (unsweetened, of course), I found myself before my laptop with my ideas in my head, and the words flowed.

So this leaves me with the question, do I need to travel long distances and be in unfamiliar places in order to write? Does it do something to stimulate my creative ferment?

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“Moving Day” has found a home!

October 10, 2017

My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” has been accepted by THEMA Literary Journal and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue next June.

I had submitted the story last June (by snail mail!) and had nearly forgotten that I did. I responded to a themed call for submissions — the theme being “The Face in the Photo” — and sent this story since a photo plays a critical role in it and in the plot of the novel, actually directing the course of one character’s life in part. You can read about my submission in this old post.

So I have a small, one-page contract to sign and return and I’ll get one copy of the printed journal (next June) as well as actual payment of $25! Aside from the 15 cents I got for one story (a Buffalo nickel and a Liberty dime), this is the first time I’ve ever been paid for my fiction. (Actually, not quite true. I was promised $10 for a story years ago, but the check never arrived.)

This is the seventh One-Match Fire story to see publication — that’s one-third of the whole novel — and my twenty-fifth story published.

I had been reviewing my various outstanding submissions in the tracking function at Duotrope’s Digest that very morning and was sad when I learned that I had not seen a single thing published this year (which didn’t make sense since I’ve had two stories published this year). In fact, the day THEMA’s acceptance letter came (via the postal mail, by the way, in my return-addressed envelope), I had received two email rejections for different stories I had submitted elsewhere. I was feeling dejected, but not so much anymore.

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.

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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.

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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