pictures of me

Posted August 8, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Paul in hospital

Or just one picture of me. Yes, that little boy in the hospital gown is me, more than half a century ago. And that’s my father with the Brilliantine in his hair. (Apparently that was how it was done in those days.) I have no memory of this, but my mother tells me that I had pneumonia severe enuf to get me hospitalized. (I don’t look too bad in the photo.)

One of my Fathers and Sons stories (now my One-Match Fire stories) has the grandson find a photo of his father as an infant with a caption on the back saying he is healthy again. His father, of course, has no memory of that time in his life, so the son can’t know what sickness he had. That one photo eventually steers the course of the grandson’s life (though he doesn’t realize it at the time).

I had completed the draft of that story and only then (consciously) remembered that this photo of me existed. Then I was on the hunt for it. If it existed any longer at all, it would be in one of the few photo albums my mother kept when she moved out of my boyhood home in St. Louis. She lives in Kentucky now, and while I had asked her to look for it, she said she tried and had no luck. But when I was down to see her on Mother’s Day, I combed through the albums and found the photo literally in the last one left.

I’m glad I have this photo. When my daughter was here last week, she scanned it for me (much better than the scan I tried to do at work), and now it’s in the digital universe. I’m also pleased to understand how it became part of the stew that makes up my creative self.


Posted August 5, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic, Running

I have a treadmill in my basement that I’ve named Miles. I’ve put hundreds of actual miles on it, during weather like this when it is blistering hot and steamy out or in the winter when the ice and snow make each footfall treacherous. That is all.

mused, and amused

Posted August 2, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Process

I am certainly not the first, nor the only, writer who has sometimes half-heartedly believed that the stories exist “out there” somewhere and are revealed to us if we are good and patient and still. And our job is to scribble them down as they are revealed to us. I can understand why the ancients believed in things like Muses, whispering in their ears, telling them the tales or the songs that were wondrous and so human.

I am busy writing the “last” Fathers and Sons* story, which is titled “A Tree Falls in the Forest,” as you know from my last post. It is zooming along. I am scribbling and trying to keep up as the story blossoms in my humble brain. As the words flow through my fingertips and onto the keyboard, I keep seeing implications across all of the twenty other stories in this cycle of mine. Echoes. Reverberations. Hints. Influences. Explanations. It’s all connected, and I’m more than a little surprised by this. I understand, of course, that this is merely the effect of knowing these characters and the general story line so well, but that’s the quantitative Paul thinking. The qualitative Paul is the one who must do the writing, and that fellow is naive and not worldly wise and is easily impressed by such things. Rube!

The story is coming together nicely. I should have it finished by the weekend, and then I’m going to rush it off to my two readers to incorporate in their gracious and perhaps vicious analysis. I know what must be done in the story to get it to the finish, and with nearly every word, I’m seeing how it is tied to the other stories. It will be integral; it will belong.

And this amazes me. I thought I was done, and perhaps I was, and yet I write one more and it fits like the piece of a puzzle. But I must, must, must declare an end. Right?



*And by this I mean the last One-Match Fire story, of course.

a tree falls in the forest

Posted August 1, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Too long away from here. Not sure how to account for that. Marathon training? Beer? Family in town? Lethargy and sloth?

I babbled in my last post (nearly two weeks ago!) that although I thought I was finished with my Fathers and Sons stories, I realized that there was one more I could write/should write. (And, really, I think I could write a dozen more since I know these characters so well.) So I’m deep in that “last” story, which I’m calling “A Tree Falls in the Forest.” That title, of course, has literal meaning and deep, soul-clenching significance to the theme of the stories. Or maybe not. I’m too close to it now.

I have more than three thousand (!) words written, and I suspect I’m two thirds of the way through it in first draft. It actually occurs relatively early in the chronology of the stories, which is a bit of a problem since the rest of the twenty stories are currently out with a couple of gracious and insightful readers. But the story doesn’t introduce any new themes or plot points and really is more about character development, fleshing out some things I’ve hinted at in other stories but never gave sufficient justice to. Or maybe not. I’m too close to it now.

By the way, I now have an official title for the cycle: One-Match Fire. It was suggested by the Independent Clause herself, Ellen Goldstein. A one-match fire is a kind of challenge that I’ve faced since my youthful Scouting days, and it happens to be a skill passed down through the generations in my stories. It was in them, and yet I was blind to its significance. But once the title was suggested, I could see that it was exactly right.

So I don’t think it will take me long to finish “A Tree Falls” and then, I have no idea. Re-read the entire cycle for the umpteenth time? Massage it, negotiate with myself, try to make it all coherent? Wince and cringe and recoil from the input from my readers? And then stand up like a big boy and begin the terrifying task of trying to submit the “novel”?

I am open to suggestions.

so I thought I was done

Posted July 20, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Uncategorized

Throughout the writing of my Fathers and Sons stories, I kept myself blissfully unaware of the overall word count. I simply wrote the stories I had as well as I could. I knew after about four written that I had something bigger on my hands than just a handful of short stories, and at the time I didn’t know how many there would be or when (if) they would have an end.

But then I decided last week that I was done. I had told all the stories I needed to tell in this universe. Nineteen stories and a short coda. I prepared the documents and sent them to my beta readers. I’d sent them as individual files, but one of my readers asked if I could combine them into a single file. That was easy enuf to do, and I did, and I sent that new document to him.

But because they were now in a single document, I could not stop myself from checking the overall word count, the value that was meaningless to me all along and that suddenly seemed interesting once I actually had it.

The nineteen stories plus one coda come in at about 56,000 words. That’s not bad at all. It will likely change as I deal with the no doubt profound, insightful, quite helpful input my two readers offer.

But nagging me is the fact that the word count comes just shy of 60,000 words, which is the generally held as the minimum considered sufficient for a novel. My thoughts are slowly shifting toward marketing this collection, and, as I said before, the idea of a story cycle seems less likely than just calling it a novel. But coming up short on the word count might make that difficult as well.

And so, what happens? Well, my brain has begun sending me ideas for a couple more stories I could write for the cycle. I’d mentioned before that there are some gaps in the years. I suppose I could attempt to fill those a bit. And I really do know these characters well. If I contrived some new situations for them, I’m sure I would understand how they would behave and think and react. I could do it.


trigger, pulled

Posted July 18, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

I decided I was done. Done enuf to send my Fathers and Sons stories to two readers. This is the end game, at least for my input. I’m finished with the architecture and deep diving in these stories. They are done.

I have, of course, continued to have minor revelations about the stories, mostly how to shore up this reference in that story or otherwise make them reflect and react to each other. They are stand-alone stories that work together as a whole. And I’ve found that by stepping back from them, I have a different perspective. I’m seeing some things that I hadn’t before.

I hope my readers have input for me as well. Minor fixes or major reworking. Suggestions. Insights. Revelations. Disgusts. Disappointments. Delights.

And then I’ll go over them yet again.

I’ve already been giving some thought about submitting the cycle to agents. And what I’ve found is that no one seems to be interested in representing story cycles. Story collections, yes. Novels, yes. But story cycles seem to be a not-very-well-known form. I’m sure if I get a bite from an agent, I can explain how I see the stories working together and then drop in the word “cycle” casually.

But that’s down the road. Right now I’m waiting to hear from my two readers. And I’ve actually begun tinkering with a story idea that is not related at all to my Fathers and Sons stories. Feels refreshing.

happy birthday

Posted July 15, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Today is Iris Murdoch’s birthday, but you probably already knew that.


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