first draft follies

Posted June 26, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons


On the first day of summer I finished the first draft of “Spring Fever.” I mentioned yesterday that I’d made good progress on the story, and over the weekend I finished it.

Which is good since I was about to give up on it. It was taking itself in a direction I didn’t want. The first half of the story is light hearted, almost frolicsome, but I was sifting in hints and foreshadowing for the second half of the story. All the while it was getting longer and longer. (I’ve noticed lately that most of my stories are shut out from many publications because they exceed the maximum word count of a thousand or two thousand words.) And the transition point between the first and second parts was too cute. It was one of those darlings that beginning writers are told to kill. And it wasn’t taking the story where I wanted it to go.

So I cut out the darling bit (clever innuendo about the size of two men’s “cars”) and dropped the scene that would have resulted from the bit altogether. This allowed me to┬áboth shift the tone and bring in the crux of the story without delay. It weighs in at 4,200+ words, and there is more work to do, so it’s going to be one of my longest stories.

I mentioned yesterday that “Spring Fever” precedes one of the chapters in One-Match Fire and that I needed to get the story worked out so I could revise the chapter in the novel to make them align. What I’ve found, though, is that I need to revise “Spring Fever” more than the chapter. I pretty much spent the whole novel building to that chapter. (It’s effectively the end of the novel.) So its reality was more solid than “Spring Fever.” (Which is intended to be the opening chapter of the sequel novel to One-Match Fire. I’ve written several of those chapters, and one, “Fire Sermon,” is already published.)

Anyway, satisfying progress. And progress on an interruption. I’m hoping once I get this story m/l finished, I can get back to Finnegans Fogbound and sprint to the finish line on that one.



Posted June 25, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Finnegans, Humble efforts, Rants and ruminations


I find myself in that in-between place again. I have three stories I’m working on at the moment, and though some part of my brain thinks this is probably counterproductive — my creative “genius” being diluted across too many efforts — another part of me says that words are words, and if I can get them down in any fashion or location, I should call it a win.

I’m about three-fourths finished with the first draft of Finnegans Fogbound, a novel-length ambition and something I had embarked on to give myself a break from all of the fraught, literary anguishing I was doing with my One-Match Fire stories. The Finnegans novels are more light weight works, something like cozy mysteries that, while demanding in their own way, can be written without too much personal investment (if that makes sense). I don’t make literary references in them; I don’t strive for some profound, controlling metaphors or psychological insights that span Western civilization. Thus, a break.

But I may have stalled on that story. I’m not sure. I certainly know where the plot needs to go. I have all of the characters in place and developed nicely. I have all of the pieces on the table before me, but I can’t seem to bring myself to finish putting together the puzzle. I suspect it’s temporary and I’m just feeling the daunting demands of a novel-length effort. So I seem to have taken a break from the break I was taking.

And find myself back in the One-Match Fire universe after all. I’m making some decent progress on a story called “Spring Fever” which I think I’ve mentioned here before. It’s a love story, and I don’t write many of those, but I found I needed to get the points of this story worked out so I could revise a different story: “Little Gray Birds” which is part of the One-Match Fire novel and which I realized I needed to refine so I could consider that novel finished and ready to submit to scary agents. (You’re following all of this, right?) “Little Gray Birds” takes place after “Spring Fever” so what happens in the latter affects the telling of the former. Thus once I get “Spring Fever” worked out, I will go back to “Little Gray Birds” and hone/refine/enhance it and call it good.

So I’m busy with that.

And I’m still riding the creative wave of that story “MTWTF” about an incident in my distant and murky past (highly fictionalized in the story) and find myself making notes — even writing bits of story — about one of the characters in “MTWTF.” Clearly I have more to say about this person and need to write another story to do it. (“MTWTF” is not yet published, and it’s being read by a trusted friend now.) Thoughts intrude, and I don’t mind making notes about future work while they occur to me. I can see the structure of the story — it’s really just a character sketch using a day-in-the-life structure to hang it on — and I know the character, so the ideas are coming fast and frenzied. It’s not a bad state to be in if you’re a writer, I suppose.

So if I’m not too diluted and dissipated by my creative ferment, a few good things should result in the coming days. Fingers crossed.


“It’s not you. It’s me.”

Posted June 18, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

I received a unique rejection letter over the weekend. I’d probably get more rejection letters if I sent out more submissions, but that would require effort and confidence and other qualities that I rarely possess, so I spare myself a great deal of disappointment by being a lazy slug.

But anyway, the rejection I received was for a submission of a story I had made months ago and that I had forgotten about. It was by email, and it was actually lengthy for both a rejection and an email. The first third of the letter was the standard let-you-down-gently, template stuff that never mentions the actual name of the story. Routine. But then it ventured into fresh territory.

The editor devoted the remaining two-thirds of the email to explaining that after their next issue, the publication would cease to exist. They had lost their funding.

I’ve certainly seen publications go out of business. (One even did so immediately after accepting one of my stories.) But I’d never seen such an announcement in a rejection letter. It seemed to me that the editor took this unlikely opportunity to make the announcement because she wanted to tell the world in every way she could what her painful news was. It almost seemed like a memorial.

The rejection letter devoted a lot of words to encouragement, telling me (and I realize it was not me so much as all recipients from their slush pile who received the non-personalized email) to continue writing and submitting and being part of the community of creative people.

So I guess I’ll do that.

Skywatch Friday ~ blue green

Posted June 14, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic


While I was in New York for five days, the dogs were at “camp” and they’re always glad to come home afterward. I’m trying to get them back to their normal, but even though they’re in their familiar house with the familiar beds (and smells), I’m off at the office all day, so they’re home with only each other (and the four birds and the constantly changing parade of fish).

So yesterday, even though it was 93 degrees F (“F” is for Fahrenheit, though I could think of another word), I took them to the park we often visit for a trip around the lake. We only made it about a third of the way before the littler dog, Queequeg, was in obvious distress. So we turned around, did a little cross country, and then got back in the Prolechariot to head home to air conditioning and copious water.

On the quick hike back to the truck, I snapped the photo above. I liked the contrast of the blue sky and the green trees.

ferment of spring

Posted June 11, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Tags: ,

So I’ve been in NYC for the last few days (home again soon) and wondering if lightning might strike twice, that I might write a whole story because there must be something magical or psychological about being out of my routine and my element, the way this has happened a few times in my past.

And so, without much in the way of specific intent, I opened the file of notes I’ve been keeping about a love story I want to write as part of the collection that will comprise the sequel to One-Match Fire. (No developments there though.) So the story has had the working title of “Spring Fever” (to somehow companion with a yet-to-be-written story I’ll call “Cabin Fever”), and this story, which I intend to be the first in the collection, will make clear what the central conflict was in OMF (if the perceptive reader doesn’t figure it out). And I think this is why OMF has been languishing; I’ve needed to nail down some bits in this story in order to refine the ending of OMF so that I can consider it finished once and for all.

So on my first freakishly early morning, in the house that was still quiet despite a latent frenzy in the form of a toddler and twin nearly one-year-olds, I began the story. Exhausted after writing about 113 words, I figured my ambition was unrealistic. But the house remained quiet and the laptop remained open and some further words followed. I ended my first day of writing at more than 600 words. I hadn’t even introduced the love interest yet, but I achieved a kind of momentum.

And so on the second morning, I returned to the story, added even more words, brought in the love interest, and doubled my word count. By the third morning I had more than 2,000 words, many of them pretty good and in decent order. Even so, I don’t think I’ve gotten to the meat of the story yet; it’s all lighthearted so far.

Regardless, it’s begun and I expect I’ll stay with it (even after I return to the Midwest) and get the thing whole written, just not all outside of my comfort zone. And that’s a good thing.

Blogspot hates me

Posted June 7, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

From the first days of my blogging life, back in those wild, heady days of Roundrock Journal more than a decade ago, I always had periods where any comments I made on blogs hosted by Blogspot (sometimes known as Blogger) would have trouble posting and/or disappear altogether. It didn’t help when spam became so pervasive and Blogspot added steps to commenting to prove I was an actual human and not a spambot.

Then the troublesome period would pass, until for whatever reason I began having trouble getting my wise and witty comments to post on Blogspot blogs.

I’m in one of those periods again, it seems. So for those of you out there who haven’t seen a snarky comment from me on your blog in recent weeks, I suspect this is the reason why. I’ve lost the means of expression but not the depth of my love for you.

2nd ugliest building in Kansas City

Posted June 4, 2018 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Running


This was the view from my “steer and cheer” station during the Hospital Hill Half Marathon on Saturday. As you can see, a wicked storm has passed through during the night. I had to slalom through the streets on my drive here, dodging downed branches and unmoored trash bins far from their homes. When I got to my station, lightning was crackling through the sky and the clouds were growing darker. Emergency sirens were wailing throughout the neighborhood, and the race organizers were sending texts to “seek shelter” and “wait for instructions.” (I had thought about wearing short pants because of the forecasted heat, but decided not to. While waiting for whatever to transpire, I pulled on a hoodie to keep warm.) In all, a dismal portent for the race, but runners are dogged people, and running in the rain is actually kind of nice (if it is warm enuf). Eventually, I learned that the start was delayed by a half hour to let the weather pass, which it did.

I was at about mile 6.5, the halfway point. Despite the late start, it would be a half hour before even the fastest runner passed me. When he did, he made it look effortless. He was focused and didn’t acknowledge me as he kept his pace going up the hill I was on. Some people are just born with a different set of heart and lungs than the rest of us. This man was obviously born to run (though he supplemented his good genetics with lots of training and commitment I’m sure). Five or ten minutes passed before the next runners came along, and for the first half hour of my shift, the swiftest runners were spread out. The pack of runners that comprised the bulk didn’t arrive until after this.

Which gave me a lot of time for reflection and observation.

The building you see in the photo above has been called “the second ugliest building in Kansas City.” And what you see is an improvement over how it looked in the past. It happens that when I was in graduate school, I would pass this building on my way to class. I got to see it, warts and all, in the earlier days and wondered how such an eyesore could have come to pass. It was only decades later when a runner friend told me he had worked in this building for a time and that they had joked that it was the second ugliest in the city. The joke, of course, is that it was so bad it couldn’t even be called the worst. It failed at being a failure. And then there is the inevitable question, which I don’t have an answer for.

As I watched the runners (and walkers) passed, including a man in a kilt and a woman in a knee-length skirt and all manner of fitness levels (some were panting hard as they pushed up the hill, others were having casual conversations), there was another little vignette playing out before me.

On the brick wall behind that fallen tree, a juvenile starling would perch and flutter its wings. The fluttering business is how juveniles trigger the feeding response in their parents. The starling would sit on the wall and flutter for a while, then fly off, only to return a few minutes later. I’m sure it was saying “Feed me, Mom!” And the fallen tree before it suggested that the juvenile wasn’t going to get a meal, that the juvenile was probably an orphan. My guess is that its nest had been in that tree, and when the storm knocked it over, the parents were killed, with only the nestling surviving. This would explain why it was staying in that immediate area. It was hard to watch this; I’m a softy.

But runners and walkers kept flowing past me, thanking me for volunteering, and the occasional car came up behind me, hoping to somehow get to the other side of the street, beyond the flow of runners. My job was to make sure they didn’t hit anyone or even arrest the flow of the runners, so I watched for gaps and then waved the drivers through.

Oddly (sadly?), the very last person on the course, attended by two pacers who were at her side, gave up directly in front of me. She said she couldn’t go any farther — she’d gotten half way, and she was struggling up just one of the many hills still before her, but it looked clear to me that she was in distress — and so she fell back to the sag wagon and was driven to the finish.

And so I had an eventful race, standing in one place for a few hours and watching the human (and non-human) drama transpire before me. Plus I got a shirt out of it.