Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

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.

“Pandora’s Tackle Box” appears again

March 30, 2016

My short story “Pandora’s Tackle Box” is now in print (again) at Ealain. I cannot give you a link to it there since it is protected by a pay wall. (“Ealain” is an Old Irish word that translates as art, science, an acquired skill.)

This is the third printing of the story. It first appeared five years ago in A Golden Place and then again a year later in the print anthology Harnessing Fire: A Hephaestus Devotional. (I have a character in the story named Old Festus.) I’m happy to see that the story is still interesting enuf to find editors that want to run it. I am not, however, out hunting up likely targets for it. I simply came across a call with the theme of Pandora’s Box, and the magazine allowed reprints, so I submitted it.

No news yet on when “Been Lonely So Long” will come out. And I’m still lamenting the apparent demise of the magazine that had accepted “Twice Blest.” But onward and all of that, right?

something of a problem

January 14, 2016

So I’m having something of a problem with one of my accepted-but-not-yet-published stories. I wrote several months ago about my story “Twice Blest” being accepted at a certain magazine. That edition was supposed to appear in early November. Then I received an email from the editor saying it would appear shortly after Thanksgiving.

To date, the newest edition of the publication has not yet appeared. I have written to the editor three times and to the magazine’s general email address. No response at all. I found the magazine on Facebook and posted a query there then found the editor on Facebook and sent her a message asking the status. No response at all.

My fear is that something significant has happened that has prevented the editor/magazine from going forward. That would be unfortunate for all involved, of course, and I don’t want to come across as callous or uncaring. But not knowing anything is uncomfortable for me as well.

I contacted a friend of mine who is an editor of a different publication and asked him if this signified anything. He suggested that I wait it out for a while. It was his idea that I try to reach the editor/publication through social media, and I was glad to give that a try.

Ultimately, though, I have to decide if I should withdraw my story from consideration so I can start sending it around elsewhere. And if I can’t get a response at all to my status queries, can I be sure that anyone there will even receive a withdrawal notice from me? Might I get the story accepted elsewhere and then find this original publication has come back to life and already published it?

Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? What would you do?

Over, Under, Through

December 21, 2015

Despite my frettings and moanings here about being unable to write or to finish anything I start, I can report that I have finished a first draft of my Fathers and Sons story “Over, Under, Through.” I know. I’m amazed too. (More than amazed since I reached first-draft stage in a month, if this evidence can be believed.)

It’s a good story, self contained yet fully integrated to the cycle. It reflects on failed relationships between fathers and sons as they have been creeping through the stories, and it sets up what may be the climax of the cycle (to come a bit later in the sequence).

Of course, it isn’t finished yet. It’s a first draft, but it is solid. I’ve got down about 2,400 words, with about that many more words in notes that I need to plunder for whatever might contribute. There are two significant points in the notes that I know I need to fit in, more in the way of character development than plot or theme work, but good points nonetheless. After that, I’ll let the story simmer in the pot, as I do with most of them, to come back later with a fresh eye and see what strengths can be strengthened and weaknesses removed. It’s a slow method but a method that works for me.

And in the mean time what I really need to do is embark on a read through of all of the stories of the cycle, in chronological sequence, to get my bearings for the remainder I must write and to see how I can cross pollinate betwixt them. I’m beginning to think I can see an end to the writing part of this cycle. Whatever will I do with my humble self once these stories are complete?

Currently reading: The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch. You may recall me stating some time ago that I am re-reading Murdoch’s entire fiction production from start to finish, this novel being her third. I picked up this book several weeks ago at a used bookstore here in Kansas City, in the basement where the popular novels are generally kept; I was surprised to find her there. The book is filled with the handwritten notes — in both pencil and ink — of a previous reader, so the store owner let me have it for a buck. I can’t read a word of the notes. The handwriting is florid but not so much that I can’t make out most of the letters. I think whatever was written was done in some language other than English. The book itself (published in 1968) is an British copy and says boldly “Not for sale in the U.S.A.” Sometime in its life the book crossed the Atlantic and probably bopped around for a while before landing in the basement of a bookstore in the middle of the country, waiting to finally fall into my hands. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, and Murdoch is busy with her rapid-fire introduction of characters. Not much plot yet, but it’s a welcome change to read an author whose work requires attention and even effort (rather than the more common sensational stuff that “grabs” you from the first page).

lonely no more

December 8, 2015

My short story “Been Lonely So Long” has been accepted for publication in The Nassau Review. I submitted in response to their call for works relating to “the lies we tell ourselves.” I thought it might fit that theme, and the editors agreed.

The story is a musing on the nature of compassion and in this case, how we dodge it while telling ourselves we aren’t. It’s also narrated almost wholly in 1st person plural, which was intentional and thematic.

This is another one-off story. It’s not connected to my Fathers and Sons cycle, nor are the characters connected to anyone/anything else I’ve written about before. It does include running as a major component however.

I don’t know when the story will appear, but it does appear that it will only appear in print. It’s an annual publication, so it may be next year at this time before it comes out. I don’t know; I’ll have to do some digging about that and let you know.

“Twice Blest” has found a home

October 6, 2015

My Fathers and Sons story “Twice Blest” has been accepted for the winter 2016 issue of [redacted}.

I had submitted it in response to their call for stories under 3,000 words on the theme of family. Of course, my Fathers and Sons stories are all about family, and at a lean 1,300 words, “Twice Blest” certainly met their length requirement. I’ve written about this story here on the humble blog a few times, perhaps most fully here. The title comes from The Merchant of Venice, specifically from the well known Quality of Mercy speech. The story is set in the spring of 1968, which is not necessary to know to read the story, but it does give a deeper meaning to some cryptic statements by the father. When the inevitable collection is published, this will be the first in the chronology of the stories but, as I envision it now, the second story in the collection.

I don’t know exactly when the winter issue will be published*, but it will be online, so I’ll link to it when that happens. This is the fifth of my Fathers and Sons stories to be published and my twenty-first short story to be published.

Always nice to put good news on the blog.

*Update: I re-read the acceptance email and learned that the next issue is scheduled to be published on November 14, 2015. So, that’s good.

*Further Update: As of January 14, 2016, I still do not know the publication status of this magazine or my story.


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