monsters in my head

Posted April 6, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Running

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I thought I should check in here since I haven’t had a post in a few days.

I have nothing significant to report on my rewriting work of the F&S stories other than that I have the opportunity to get it done or get it done right, and I know I must work toward the latter. Why embark on such an effort if I’m not going to do it as well as I can, right?

As for not doing something as well as I can . . .

I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression “the monsters don’t live under your bed, they live in your head.” The little running adventure I will undertake this coming weekend has been partying with the monsters in my head for the last week. I have a low-grade fever of anxiety. I am woefully under trained for this. And the monsters in my head know it. They remind me of this constantly. They laugh and point and jab each other in the ribs, guffawing about my impending disaster.

Actually, I don’t think it will be utter disaster. I don’t expect to run a brilliant race, and I am resigned to the pain that I know will come (just not as soon as mile 4 this time, okay?). I’ll run what I can and walk what I must and swallow far too many tablets of Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and finish, perhaps even upright.

And then I’ll tell you all about it, okay?

twinge and ache

Posted April 1, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Running

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Each twinge or ache in my legs (and lower abdomen) tells me that this little run I’m going to do next weekend will be a disaster.

Silly me! My pitiful lack of training is what will make it a disaster.

(Actually, I’m going to treat this effort as a way to learn whatever lessons are needed for that other little run I’ll be doing in November.)

“Pandora’s Tackle Box” appears again

Posted March 30, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Humble efforts, short stories

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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?

rewrite of first F&S story

Posted March 28, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Process

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Well, I’ve gotten down a first draft of the first rewrite of my first F&S story, “The Death of Superman.” I’ve recast if from a first-person narrator to third person. This involved more than just changing “I said” to “He said” since it opened opportunities for the new narrator to have an influence (while closing at least partially the first-person narrator from being reflective). Obviously, it still needs work, and I’ll read through it plenty of times before I consider it finished.

And I learned that despite having read the first-person draft literally dozens of times over the years, I still missed some glaring errors. Somewhere through the course of the years this story has existed, I moved it in time from a springtime visit to the family cabin to a November visit. This was partly thematic since the thoughts and emotions of the main character are in large part dealing with his father who is in the late autumn of his own life. But I also needed the main character to slip into one of his father’s old flannel shirts (flannel shirts being the “uniform” of these men across the cycle) while visiting the cabin, so I needed it to be a cool day. So at some point I moved the story into November, yet during my rewrite I found two old references to him making a springtime visit. Oops!

There were some other updates as well. I didn’t even think to consider, until I did the rewrite, that phrases like “tree tops” and “wood smoke” are actually single words when used as nouns. (In general, shorter word count in a submission is a good thing, and always, the right word in the right place is the best thing.)

I’ve noted here before that I can often catch overlooked errors when I take my laptop to the library and read through my stuff. The change in setting actually helps me see it all differently, with a more objective eye. So too with rewriting with a different narrator it seems.

Anyway, the comprehensive rewrite is now underway, and that’s a good feeling.

I guess it begins

Posted March 25, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

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All plans are provisional. Certainly in the wooly, haphazard discipline that is creative writing. My plan had been to devote a few more weeks to refining “Little Gray Birds,” the keystone, capstone, and cornerstone of my Fathers and Sons cycle, and then go back over all of them to make a comprehensive rewrite of each to integrate them more fully and pull the parts into a whole.

And I will do that, only I’m beginning sooner than I expected.

I am always on the prowl for possible venues for my stories. I visit a few sites online that have calls for submissions, and while most of them are opaque because I am usually not familiar with the journal, some list themes they are soliciting for. And that makes them a little more likely because I can see if the story I have ready matches the theme (or can be spun to appear to match it — which has worked more than I would have expected). And so I found one for an upcoming anthology with a theme that I thought was perfect for my F&S story “The Death of Superman.” The trouble was, when I visited the site, I found that their existing anthologies were crime noir and horror, which didn’t look like a fit after all. My stuff carries the pretense of being literary rather than of a genre. But I was intrigued, so I wrote the editor and described my story a little, asking if it could possibly be what the mag was looking for. After a few weeks, after I’d given up thinking I would get a response, the editor wrote back and said the story sounded exactly like what they were seeking.

And so I had found a likely target for “Superman,” which I’ve always been surprised hadn’t found a home yet. I’ve sent it out much in the past, and I really think it is a good bit of writing with two well-presented characters (one present, one in memory), but it never found acceptance. This time it looks as though it has a better chance.

Except,

I need to rewrite it. The story, as it exists, is told by a first-person narrator, and it works well that way. But that comprehensive rewrite I want to do will require it to be told in third person. I’ve decided to do that before I send it off to see if the second version is “better” than the first. Better being relative, of course, and perhaps “final” is more correct. Once I have both versions before me, I can decide which I would rather set loose in the wild. Fortunately, the submission deadline for this themed anthology is in August, so I have plenty of time to write the rewrite. (Long-time readers — both of them — may recall that I had written an entire novel in first person before realizing right at the end that it had to be told in third person. I rewrote that beast and had a better novel, which actually got some nibbles from a few agents before the forces of entropy assaulted my ambition and I set it aside. Just as well. Had that been a success at that time, I don’t think I ever would have become the person who could write the Fathers and Sons cycle. Still, I’m a practiced hand at rewriting from first to third.)

So I’ve created a new subfolder on my drive. I’ll put the rewrites there and let them accumulate. And the first one I will do is the first one I ever wrote and the first one in the cycle (though not first in chronology, but it sets up a tension that spans all of the stories). I’ve printed the story on actual paper and I will work from that, transcribing directly into the new file in the new directory. (When I had rewritten that novel, I had two laptops open on the desk before me, reading from one and writing to the other. It was clumsy, and I had to make sure one of the laptops was not online since Microsoft could tell that two identically licensed incarnations of Word were being used and, technically, that wasn’t allowed — though I think it was since both computers were mine and I had paid for the software, but their bots didn’t know that as they scanned the web looking for possible infractions). Thus the paper copy, which is probably better for me anyway. For me, writing isn’t about technology, and while a computer takes a lot of the drudgery out of writing, it still goes on mostly inside my head. The paper document just seems more pleasing.

And so I’m begun on my project sooner than expected, but why not?

finished!

Posted March 21, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

And by finished I mean not really finished and not even close to finished and now the hard work must begin because it’s hardly finished at all. But finished as a first draft. I wrote the last words of “Little Gray Birds” over the weekend and “finished” the last story of the cycle. (Except now I have this short coda I want to write as well, but that will be easy. *sardonic chuckle*)

It’s pretty good, I think. Ties everything together sufficiently, though the subsequent thousands of readings I give it will refine that a bit. And the rewrites of all of the other stories, in light of the narrative revelation I had some weeks ago, will strengthen those bonds.

The draft I have comes in at* just under 2,000 words, and my notes for it still contain about 5,000 words, so there is much material I have had to leave out. Most of it just didn’t fit with the plot as it evolved or with the tone I was trying to achieve. Some of the notes were for a different “Little Gray Birds” I might have written at a different time. Some of it I may still find a place for, if not in “Birds” then perhaps in one of the earlier stories. Who knows. Maybe as I muscle my way through the entire cycle I’ll find some hole that needs to be filled and write yet another story.

As things stand right now, the first two words of the cycle (in “The Death of Superman”) are “My father.” And the last word of the cycle (in “Little Gray Birds”) is “everything.” That should give you a good idea of the subject matter of the stories. And I didn’t even plan it that way.

I’ve just about given up the notion of trying to get any more of the stories published as discrete pieces. I think they’re good enuf, certainly, (and I really should get “Fathers Day” out there for consideration since that holiday is coming up, plus a couple of stories are currently under consideration), but I know they’re all going to come under fundamental revisions (even the already-published pieces), so I guess they’re not finished either.

These are good problems to have, by the way.

 

 

*”Comes in at” – idiomatic expressions are really odd when you pause to consider them.

little gray birds

Posted March 16, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Process

I’ve been able to make some good progress on my Fathers and Sons story “Little Gray Birds.” I have more than a thousand words of the story down, and I think it’s going in the right direction.

My process for years has been to collect my thoughts, bits of dialogue, ideas for character development, ideas for flashbacks and connections in a Word file. I just let them accumulate there until I think I have critical mass, then I start in with the story.  (The times I have tried to sit down and just start writing whatever came to me nearly always resulted in misfires, with the notable exception of my story “Travel Light”, which I still think is the best I’ve ever done.)

In this case, I had about 5,000 words of notes, more words than the entire story would encompass likely. What I didn’t have for a while was a way to start it. Then that came to me in one of those unbidden epiphanies that writers sometimes talk about (but not too much cuz you don’t want to jinx it). I had my start, a start that reached back across all of the stories and tied them together in a way that I had never considered before (but that I needed all along).

So with a good start and a decent amount of notes, “Little Gray Birds” is now underway. My guess is that I already have two-thirds of it in draft, but there is a lot that the last third must do, so the word count may mount. Also, I’ve decided to carve out a bit of introspection that was my original ending for the story to make it its own vignette. A sort of coda to all of the stories. I think it works better that way.

I can see the finish arch, but I’m not sprinting yet.


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