silent rejection

Posted May 31, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons


So last fall I had submitted one of the One-Match Fire chapters to a publication that was looking for stories with the theme of “initiation” to use in their issue 7. I thought at the time that my chapter/story might align well with that.

Not long after I received an email from an individual at the publication saying my story was short listed, which was nice.

Then, nothing. Nada. Crickets.

I wrote to the publication twice asking for updates and got no response at all. My guess was that the magazine had folded, and whenever I visited the site the most recent issue available was always number 6. I’ve certainly had a few close calls like that, so it didn’t surprise me.

I wasn’t too heartbroken about this since it is a One-Match Fire story and I’m now no longer going to try to get any more chapters published as I try to get the whole thing published instead.

But for some reason earlier this week, I checked the publication online again and found issue 7 now available. Of course I had to look to see if my story was present, and it wasn’t.

I understand that many publications will use a tacit rejection of no response at all unless they are interested. But this outfit did seem interested last fall when they told me the story was short listed. So it seems reasonable to me that such a status would merit a final rejection letter.

On balance, I’m not upset. Getting the story accepted could be problematic for my efforts to get the novel published. But it would be nice to have received a response given the earlier status.

various thoughts on submitting a novel

Posted May 29, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Tags: ,

I’ve begun submitting queries to potential agents for One-Match Fire. I dithered and hesitated for a long time, thinking the wording of the cover letter had to be perfect. But I knew I would never recognize when perfection was achieved, and I also knew I was mostly just stalling.

I’ve put my basic query together, and I refer to OMF as a novel-in-stories, and I continue to tinker with it, but it’s now a working document that I customize for each submission.

I’m using the new-ish agent function at Duotrope’s Digest. It’s still considered beta, but I’ve found that it seems to be more current than what’s at AgentQuery. I don’t know if the former “polices” its entries better, but I have seen some outdated information about agents at the latter. Duotrope also keeps a log of my queries so I don’t have to.

What’s common I’ve found at most of the agents I’ve submitted to is a statement something like “we will only respond if we are interested.” I guess that’s easier for them. And maybe it’s easier on the hapless submitter not getting dozens of soul-killing rejections. But like the promised letter or postcard that never comes, you wonder.

Some agent webpages have detailed guidelines while others are sparse. Some want an attachment to the submission email, some will delete any emails with attachments. Some ask for the first three chapters while others want only ten pages.

I dipped into the OMF manuscript and removed all unnecessary line breaks so that the text I can fit into a page-limit submission will be a little greater. You never know if the added sentence or two might be the persuasive eloquence that will win the day.

I’m trying to target my submissions now. So far I’ve only submitted to agents that are interested in story collections. (I’m still not certain how lethal or benign having some of the chapter already published is. I’ve been told that a story collection often needs to have 40 percent of its stories previously published to be considered marketable. This is also why I’m calling it a novel-in-stories, which I guess is more palatable than a story cycle, which is what I had originally conceived it to be. Still, if an agent doesn’t respond because the published chapters were the deal breaker, I’ll never know that.)

But I expect that I’ll soon move into a mere numbers game once I exhaust the list of story-collection agents I can find. And maybe after that I’ll begin submitting directly to publishers who are open to queries.

And I hope that taking this action, which “means” OMF is finished, will free my mind to working more earnestly on other work.

bits and pieces

Posted May 28, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic


Apparently it is a serious faux pas in the British empire to add a tea bag to hot water. It seems that the tea bag must already be in the cup before the hot water is poured. (I suppose this applies to a tea infuser as well.) I am willfully guilty of this; I believe I can taste a noticeable difference in a cup of tea prepared each way, and I prefer the latter.


I think we can all agree that there is no textual evidence supporting the idea that Humpty Dumpty was actually an egg of any kind. That must have been added in an illustration after the fact.


My beer education and edification continues. I am now to the point where I sorta don’t even like Bud Light any longer. So far my new favorite is Dos Equis Amber, though I drink enuf KC Bier Dunkels that the waitress at the restaurant (okay, sports bar) along the bike trail already knows when I sit down what I’ll order. This book is to blame!


So I’m no technical wizard. (I rely on my clever SIL for that, and he’s in far-off New York.) When I first began my earlier blog, Roundrock Journal, in the dim ages, and asked that a visit counter be added to it, my technical team at the time (daughter) made a face and said those were sad in a way. But I got my counter and then got to revel in the number of visitors each day. Eventually I lost interest in it, and then the add-on for this broke or something and didn’t keep count any longer.

Not so with the WordPress engine driving this humble blog. I not only get to see the number of visitors I have each day, but an app on my phone lets me see this as well. Which has led to some head scratching. There are days when I will have a new comment on a post and the app counter reports NO VISITORS at all. I’m not good at math either, but that seems wrong. (I suspect the app on my phone isn’t updated in real time.)

And that brings me to my point. I did a little research and learned that RSS feeds, Feedly is an example, allow readers to enjoy the wit and wisdom of my blog without the need to visit it. Basically, I have visitors who don’t get counted in the depressing daily toll. And this, friends, is why visit counters are sad in a way!


We have had a lot of rain in my part of the Midwest in recent weeks. (This has made my riding on the bike trail, which mostly parallels the streams in the area, interesting. In some places I have left wakes behind me.) I noticed as I was in my garage, staring out at the deluge, that the water running off of my roof was skipping over the gutter and flowing straight to the ground in a kind of water curtain. (Note: when we had some work done on the house, we had commercial grade gutters added that have a larger capacity.)

So this past weekend, during a break in the rain, I set up a ladder in front of the garage and peered into the gutter. It had debris in it, but not so much that it was in any way filled. The problem, I soon saw, was that a miniature forest of seedlings was growing right before the downspout, very nicely blocking the flow of the water. So when the rain curtain was falling, my guess is that the gutter was filled to its commercial grade capacity with water and couldn’t take any more.

Since I had hauled myself onto the ladder, and since the problem was before me within arm’s reach, and since I had witnesses (wife and grandson), I began grabbing the loathsome goo of leaves and pollen and I-don’t-want-to-know-what and plopping it on the driveway. (And for the day I had fecund-smelling fingernails.) I soon had the gutter cleaned, but the standing water remaining in it was only lackadaisically flowing toward the downspout. Obviously the installers hadn’t put sufficient slope to the gutter when they installed it.

And this, friends, is another reason why I want to move to a nice condo down in the city. (Preferably one with a lake view, if we had a lake here.)


I only had one rejection this week, but proportionally that may be high given that I don’t have a lot of stuff out there in submission right now. Anyway, I got back on the horse and sent the rejected piece to another publication.

The fastest acceptance I ever received was within a couple of hours, and this resubmission soon became the fastest rejection I ever received. But I’ll keep trying.

random photo Thursday

Posted May 23, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: , ,

This is a gall growing on the side of an oak tree at the piece of Ozark woodland that we owned before we owned Roundrock. I can’t give you exact dimensions, but I could not span the width of it with my arms outstretched. And it is nearly as deep as it is wide. I remember thinking it was the size of a Volkswagen, though that may have been a slight exaggeration.

When we were preparing to sell this piece of property, I contacted a friend of mine who is a woodcarver to see if he wanted to have the gall to carve a giant cauldron or something from it. He explained part of the process for “curing” it, which included some kind of kiln and all kinds of chemicals. And that was assuming that the gall wasn’t filled with insects (which is generally the reason for a gall to begin with). And the task of cutting down the tree so that the gall was not damaged, and then getting it out of the roadless valley where the tree stood would have been too costly for a future cauldron that wouldn’t have fit in any crafter’s stall at the fair.

But that was long ago. For all I know, the thing might be a hunting cabin now.

“Magic for Beantown” finds a home

Posted May 22, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: short stories

Tags: , , ,

This must be the good news week of the pendulum’s swing. I just learned that my story “Magic for Beantown” has been accepted by Aethlon and will appear in their next issue.

This is the story I’ve mentioned that may or may not have a leprechaun in it, and it’s the one that the editor had sent back to me twice for rewrites. (Another editor I know told me that the second request was a sign that he really wanted to use the story if he could get it in the shape he wanted.)

I have to format the story to the publication’s standards, which won’t be a problem, then send it back one last time.

I don’t know when the issue will come out, and it will be print only when it does. This is my third appearance in Aethlon, which kind of gives me warm fuzzies.

“Forest Succession” is up at Heartwood Literary Magazine

Posted May 21, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons

Tags: ,

My story “Forest Succession” is now up at Heartwood Literary Magazine. Though the story deals with one of the characters from One-Match Fire, it is not part of that novel and, in fact, occurs much later after the novel ends.

I wrote this story as a kind of coda for the OMF universe, but it hasn’t worked. I am still scribbling other stories with these characters, including one that immediately precedes and supplements it and now one that would immediately follow it.

I should count myself as lucky to have so much material to work with, and I guess I do, but I should explore other fictional worlds too.

bits and pieces

Posted May 20, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic, Rants and ruminations

I started work on a new story over the weekend, and it’s always a hopeful time. It’s a pretty good little story, not part of any universe or with characters I’ve created before; it’s fresh, which is refreshing. I know just where the story is going, and I know what I want to do along the way, so it’s simply (!) a matter of capturing the words as they rumble through my head and typing them onto the screen. (And then refining and refining.)

Many of my story ideas mosey around in my brain for a long time, sometimes for years, before I get started on them, so I generally can’t recall what their genesis was. In this case, though, I can. Oddly, it’s related to two disparate things. One is the drive I make to take my dogs to the park (which also inspired this old post), and the other is visiting my mother in Kentucky recently. She getting on and getting around with a Rollator. Those two disparate things melded and gave me the story I’m working on. (Okay, a third thing: a feud betwixt two neighbors down the street who have a lot more in common than they realize.)


The farmers market in my suburban town opened for the season recently. My wife and I went there on Saturday (dodging raindrops) and spent $6.00 on two tomatoes. I have no idea whether that is a good price or not.

The market has been growing in popularity, and the city has been exploring ways to expand it. We went to a city council meeting where this was discussed, and while weighing the options, the goal was always to have the biggest farmers market in the county. (Our neighbor town to the west has created a space for one that will be very large, so, of course, we have to be larger. Maybe it’s a guy thing.)

As it stands now, our farmers market is just this side of corporate (4th definition). There is competition for prime stall placement, for example, everyone’s signage is slick, and even the Mennonites use iPads. I expect it to get worse as City Hall completes its expansion of the market. (There was talk of moving the whole thing to a nearby park, using the green space for “making green” instead, but there was a lot of opposition to that. I think the plan they settled on was to wrap the market shed around a corner at its current location to double its size. The objection to this was that they would have to elevate some of the stations given the topography, and the car wash that was occupying the coveted space had to go, which it has.)


The rejection mayhem continues. I got two rejections in the last week. I also withdrew a story from consideration. This reality, that rejection is a far more likely outcome than acceptance, is the chief reason why I don’t like submission fees.


I continue to pursue a definitive answer to my concern about getting chapters of One-Match Fire published and whether or not this hurts the novel’s chance at acceptance. I’ve written to several agents and even one publisher explaining my situation and asking for an opinion. So far none has responded. I’ve posted the question on a couple of message boards, but mostly all I’ve gotten is an echo, the responders saying they wonder the same thing. One responder on a certain forum was emphatic that I had forfeited my chance of getting the work published as a novel, but I checked his credentials, and he is not an agent, nor does he work in publishing. He also has thousands of comments on this forum, and in my experience, there are always one or two self-appointed “authorities” on such forums whose word must be taken as absolute, at least in their minds.

A subsequent responder said she thought the publication of some of the stories probably wouldn’t be a problem. Still, I would like something conclusive (though would I accept it if it wasn’t the conclusion I wanted?).


I mentioned some weeks ago about wanting to post a short video of my lake at Roundrock here (as I used to be able to do) but that I was unable to figure out how. So I did something uncharacteristic: I did research. It turns out that I can post videos in the format my phone produces, but the assumption is that I’m using the paid-for version of WordPress and not the free one. I don’t suppose this is an accident. (In the past I was also able to put my text in color, but that feature has apparently dropped behind the paywall as well. Too bad since I signaled hidden messages on my posts with colored titles.)