something of a problem

Posted January 14, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, short stories

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?

I did not know that

Posted January 13, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic


Apparently it is accepted form to use a hyphen when referring to the novel Moby-Dick and not use a hyphen when referring to the whale Moby Dick. (If he really is a whale.) And apparently there is controversy about this.

I did not know that.

riding a wave of momentum

Posted January 11, 2016 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Process

Well, the grandson (#1) has completed his three-week visit and has gone home to New York. Granddaughter (#1) has made her appearance in Oregon but has not yet travelled to meet me. Grandson #2 has not yet arrived. Seriously cold weather has returned to my part of the country. With all of this social liberty, and the hostility of the outside world, I chose to hole up for the past weekend and try to get a comprehensive sense of my Fathers and Sons stories. This involved reading all of them in the order of their internal chronology to see what worked, what isn’t working, what holes still need to be filled, and how much farther this journey will go.

One thing I learned early in this effort is that I truly love sentence fragments.

Here’s what else I’ve learned.

  • I’ve written 16 of these stories (most still in draft mode). I hadn’t realized there were that many.
  • Of these, four have been published and one is accepted for publication.
  • Two unpublished stories were sent to magazines for consideration over the weekend. (Go me!)
  • Some of these are very, very good. Some need lots and lots of work.
  • These 16 stories currently comprise more than 46,000 words.
  • One, of more than 4,400 words, may not make the cut. (It’s one of those that needs lots and lots of work.)
  • I have three stories still to write in the cycle as I conceive it.
  • I expect the three remaining stories to contribute about 10,000 words.
  • The cycle has a specific starting date in real time: the spring of 1968. I need to give more effort to pinning down more precisely when the subsequent stories occur given that starting point, mostly to know the age of the characters.
  • The overall cycle is mostly about the middle character (both a son and a father), Davey. That was not my original intent, but I have no complaint. I understand this boy/man.
  • There is a lot of skinny-dipping in the stories. Also peeing in the forest. And talk of underpants. Trust me; it’s thematic.
  • Memory is important in the stories. Good memory. Lost memory. Faulty memory. Made-up memory.
  • Even people who deeply love each other will hide things from each other or find they cannot say some things.
  • Most of the stories I’ve written with a first-person narrator sound wrong and jarring. Gonna have to fix that. (I used first person in these cases to emphasize the self deception people can commit, but I can probably do it just as well with a third-person narrator.)

I don’t know if I’ll discover I need more stories or not. Given that the middle character gets most of the attention, I may conclude that the grandfather and/or the grandson needs more development.

Part of the point of the comprehensive read through was to spur cross pollination, and I think it is working. Though each story is intended to stand on its own (at least the ones that are published or that I’m trying to get published), they are interrelated. So an insight in one might serve a purpose in several other stories. Similarly, there are tropes that pop up in the stories to tie them together or at least give tangibility to the universe they are in. Cotton flannel shirts are an example of this. Repeated adjectives another (“green, green eyes”). My hope is that more things like this will occur to me in the coming days and weeks as a result of the read through, and I can go back to the stories with these fortifying elements.

I spent the entire weekend in sweats (except for an hour or so on the treadmill). I brushed and flossed twice and showered at least once.

I know it all sounds so very creative and glamorous, but I assure you it’s hard work. When it all comes together in the end (should I live that long), it will be a beautiful thing. (Just like you are!)


tavallodet mobarak!

Posted December 28, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Ramblings Off Topic

So, for some unfathomable reason, both NBC and NPR chose not to deliver this important piece of news: my granddaughter, Elaheh Laurel, was born on Saturday, December 26, in Portland, Oregon. “Elaheh” is the Farsi word for “goddess.” A lot of texting and Facetiming has been darting about the intertubes, but I won’t get to see her in person until early February when my wife and I make a trip up there. In the meantime, the other in-laws are in Portland for a month’s visit, which is great since mom is recovering from the C-section delivery.

Also in the meantime, my grandson, Kenneth Gunner, is here in Kansas City for a three-week visit. He’s a delight, and I mean that in more than just a doting, grandfatherly sense. He is a happy, happy baby who hasn’t developed any stranger aversion. He’ll go to anyone and loves to play. He also loves to feed people (and dogs) his Cheerios. He’ll be here for his first birthday early next month, so that will be fun.

And then, come March, my next grandchild should make his appearance. Emmett Undetermineded-as-yet-middle-name is expected to arrive then. His parents (my youngest son and his wife) live about forty minutes down the road, so I’m sure I’ll get to see Emmett a great deal.

*   *   *

I’ve been experiencing an unexpected bout of creativity (or more likely motivation) lately. I’ve muscled my latest Fathers and Sons story, “Over, Under, Through”, into really fine shape. I like what I’ve done with it, and it’s already got me to thinking about the next story in the cycle I need to write as well as what subtle linkages I can pepper into the other stories already written or yet to be written.

Which leaves me with a bit of a quandary. While several of the unpublished Fathers and Sons stories are finished in my mind, and I’ve even shopped some around for publication, with each newly written story I find new connections with the others. This makes sense, of course, because they all occur to the same characters in the same universe. And I want to incorporate those connections, either by oblique reference or character development or foreshadowing or whatever. Yet if one of the stories gets published, I consider it carved in stone. And as such, I don’t suppose I can then tinker with it to make these connections that come to me from subsequent work. Thus the quandary. Do I try to get any more published as individual stories, or do I hold on to them so I can refine them as needed until they are all finished and the entire cycle is collected into single, no-doubt-prize-worthy unit?

*   *   *

Perhaps as antidote to this, I’ve begun making notes on a different story, one that is not a part of the Fathers and Sons universe or that is connected to any of my other characters. It will be a fun story, something like “Velvet Elvis” was/is fun, though it will involve a couple of love stories. I’ve had the kernel of the idea for this story for decades — literally — and it has to do with the two words “piece” and “peace.” I’ll leave it at that, and I still have plenty of story to think through before I can even begin writing it. But it does feel good to feel motivated.

“. . . ye sons of bachelors”

Posted December 25, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: , ,

Get down your copy of Moby-Dick and read Chapter 22 today, Christmas day. You owe it to your fine self and to fine literature.

The Pequod (Ahab’s ship, natch) embarks on its voyage into history on Christmas morning “never mind how many” long years ago.

Peleg, the pilot who will lead the ship out of the harbor and then depart, urges the crew to get busy with weighing the anchor and calls them “sons of bachelors”, which I take to mean, illegitimate children: bastards.

Over, Under, Through

Posted December 21, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, short stories

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

Posted December 8, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: ,

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.


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