Posted tagged ‘one-match fire’

vignettes

February 20, 2019

What of One-Match Fire? you say. What’s the latest news in that adventure?

Well, I seem to have a serious case of not-being-able-to-let-go. I was cautioned about this by a friend. That it was never going to be perfectly finished in my eyes and that I had to reach a point where I released my grip and surrendered it to the world.

And I thought maybe I was there, except the nagging wouldn’t relent. More than just pencil work and trying to refine verbs or staggeringly beautiful sentences, I thought there were some gaps in the story telling that needed to be filled somehow. The novel spans more than forty years in the lives of three people (two fathers, two sons), and there are several long spans of years in the narrative that are not represented. There are some significant life events that readers don’t get to see or the characters to experience. They’re just “understood” to have happened. And that seems insufficient, even a cheat to the reader.

There are 24 chapters in the novel as it currently stands, and that includes two late-addition chapters that were originally intended for the inevitable sequel. (Isn’t that further evidence that I can’t let go?) The gap filling that I think is needed is more than just bringing in some references to existing chapters. In part, I think the chapters are complete and whole as they are currently written. The fact that ten of them have been published as stand-alone stories confirms this in my inchoate mind. So I don’t really want to attempt to substantially change them. And the idea of writing whole new chapters is too daunting for my little mind to be willing to engage. Plus I think a whole new chapter to deal with this or that subtlety might be stretching its worth and/or diluting its impact.

So, somehow, I came upon a different solution. I am now writing 300-word vignettes that I will slip in between the chapters. Vignettes are handy because they don’t really need a beginning, middle, and end. They are just snapshots of a moment, of a thought. But if done right, they can set up or clear up some later or earlier matter in the bigger narrative. They can show how a certain decision was made or why a certain action was taken. They can effectively fill some of the gaps without the need to write a few thousand words to do so.

One-Match Fire is written with a third-person narrator. (Originally, before I realized that the stories I was writing were accumulating into an actual novel, I wrote several of them in first person, and one was even published in that state. But then, when I saw I had a novel rather than a cycle, I figured I needed to rein in the narrator, at least give it a consistency that the reader would follow. So I made it third person, with a specific narrator in mind. Then it became a different person who is the narrator, which I thinks works better.)

The vignettes, on the other hand, are being written in first person. I think this gives a better glimpse into the minds of the characters in these critical moments. I can show the characters to the reader in ways the characters wouldn’t show themselves to each other, giving them more depth. (Uncertainty. Doubt. Regret. Fear. Shame. All human qualities that the characters would keep stuffed inside themselves rather than trouble the people they love.)

I don’t think having between-chapter vignettes in first person is unconventional to the point of being experimental, and I don’t think it would jar the reader, once the pattern became apparent. And I do think it serves the story well.

I’ve written four thirteen of these so far. That leaves only nineteen ten to go. To this point they’ve been easy to write, and that’s due to me knowing what holes need filling (and knowing these characters so well). But I’ve done the easy stuff. Part of what lies ahead is defining what holes are still out there, and which are more important to address than the others.

And then, once I have all twenty-three written, I’m promising myself I will consider the novel finished.

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and so, a turn of the year

January 1, 2019

I’ve long thought that the first day of spring ought to be when we reckon the changing of the year.* It makes a sense that I can see — the whole rebirth thing — that I can’t see in making the darkness of winter (in the northern hemisphere) the apparently arbitrary turning point.

But enuf of that. I “finished” the story “Three Small Words” yesterday. It’s part of the One-Match Fire universe though it takes place long after the end of that novel. (I know these characters so well now that it’s “easy” to write about them.) And at the top of the first page of the story I wrote “Copyright 2019 by the author.” It felt daring when I did that. A day early, of course, but also ambitious and hopeful — the first of a year’s worth of efforts in what really is a difficult and only infrequently rewarding craft.

I had intended to write a post here about the comparatively large number of publishing successes I had in 2018. But calculating this is iffy in itself. (Alliteration doesn’t work so well with the letter “i”.) Stories published within the year? Accepted within the year? Submitted within the year but accepted after the turn of the year? (I even have a story that I learned late last year was shortlisted, so should that be accepted soon in 2019, does it count for 2018? Or should I be fudging all of these dubious standards to swell my acceptances in 2019?)

As it stands, here is how 2018 broke down: seven of my stories appeared in print during the calendar year. At least one I know had been submitted in the distant past of 2017. By any count, that’s been my most successful year since I began writing/submitting fiction earnestly. (And as full disclosure, I also submitted eight other works in 2018 for a total of thirteen submissions still pending. Should any be accepted today or later, I’m going to tally them in the 2019 column. And fuller disclosure, I had twenty-seven rejections in 2018.)

In the coming days I hope to write my annual post about my visits to Roundrock for 2018, but I have to get down there to retrieve the calendar hanging on the wall (perhaps this weekend if the weather favors my fate). I’m not striving for any “successes” with those visits — not more than the year before, for example — but I always feel I don’t get down there as much as I’d like. Life interferes. (I read someone’s account of having several hundred rejections last year. Was he more diligent than I or less selective?)

I guess our little monkey brains want to quantify our lives so that we can make better sense of them and hold the (mostly) illusion that we are in control. Whatever.

I hope you stride hopefully into 2019. I know I’ll want to hear all about it.

*And some cultures do, as I learned when I acquired a Moslem daughter-in-law.

“A Tree Falls in the Forest” is now up Halfway Down the Stairs

December 4, 2018

Pleasing that I can follow yesterday’s post with the announcement of another published piece today. My One-Match Fire story “A Tree Falls in the Forest” is now up at Halfway Down the Stairs. I had submitted for their Coming of Age call for submissions.

This story occurs about 15 years earlier in the OMF cycle, with the two same characters as in “Deadfall,” both being much younger. I really like this story; everything came together perfectly when I was writing it. There are many significant echoes between these two stories, and it’s better to read “Tree Falls” first and then “Deadfall,” but nothing is lost reading in either order.

I checked the submission history for this story and learned that I had received an even dozen rejections before this acceptance at Halfway Down the Stairs. (I also have one withdrawal, which I made after I received the acceptance.) I’d read somewhere that if you get a given number of rejections for a piece — I don’t remember the number the writer gave — then you should consider that maybe you have a bad story or a badly written story and to stop flogging it. I think that kind of idea is wrong. One thing I’ve learned in submitting stories is that it can be a numbers game. There are thousands of journals looking for fiction, and among there are many editors who simply aren’t interested in what I have written. Fine. But among those thousands are many who are interested. My job is to find the latter. Sure, you can narrow your focus based on what you can learn about various publications, but the number you can do that with is minescule compared to the number you know nothing about. A dozen submissions ain’t nothing. Five times that, the same.

Halfway Down the Stairs is named, I’m guessing, after a poem titled “Halfway Down,” by A.J. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame). In the poem the child stops and sits on the middle stair in suspended action. I don’t know if that’s how the journal truly got its name, but the image of a child halfway between here and there does fit nicely with the theme of my story. (Also, my wife’s Pomeranian, Queequeg, sits halfway down the stairs at our house. I’m pretty sure he does this because it gives him the best view out the sidelight windows by the front door, but maybe he has something more thematic in mind too.)

“Deadfall” is now up at Hedge Apple

December 3, 2018

My One-Match Fire story “Deadfall” is now up at Hedge Apple. Actually, it appears to have been up for a month and I didn’t know it; I never received an email about it.

This is the penultimate story of the novel. It is one of two “crisis” chapters near the end and it reveals a great deal of information about one of the characters. I had submitted to the Personal Identity theme they had called for. This was also one of two stories that I had originally intended to part of the inevitable sequel but then found room for in OMF.

So if you have an interest or inclination, click on the link and read the story. You can leave a comment there (effusive ones are nice) if you wish.

Also, they include a photo to accompany the story — I don’t know if you can see it in your browser — and it’s a bit excessive as an example of what is in my story. Still, nice little touch they added.

__________

Anyone know how to modify text in the headline of WordPress posts? I used to be able to make words italic, for example, and even change their color using my rudimentary HTML skills, but that doesn’t seem to be allowed any longer. I suppose I could look it up online somewhere, but it’s so much more pleasant to talk with you.

“A Tree Falls in the Forest” finds a home

October 31, 2018

It seems like only two days ago I was reporting that one of my stories had been accepted for publication with a literary magazine. And now, only two days later, I get to report another acceptance! I don’t think this has ever happened to me before, that I received two acceptance notices in one week.

Halfway Down the Stairs responded to a submission I had made two months ago for their “Coming of Age” theme. They are an online quarterly, and the issue with my story comes out in early December. I’ll post a link when it’s up. “A Tree Falls in the Forest” is one of my favorites. (I love them all equally, as a good parent should!) It really is a transitional moment in the story line of the novel, and I get to describe the son, Curt, as both a snotty pre-teen and a loving boy while his father is both bemused and confused.

It’s a delightful coincidence that this story was accepted the same week as “Deadfall” since the two are a matched set. There are echoes of each story in the other, and “Deadfall” resolves some of the tension in “A Tree Falls in the Forest.” Nice that they’re coming out at nearly the same time since they should be read together.

I had submitted this story fourteen times, going back two years (!), and all but two were rejections. Of those two, one was this acceptance and the other was a withdrawal for a submission I had made last weekend.

So, two acceptances in one week. I’m now having trouble processing all of this — I guess it’s called — self esteem.

“Deadfall” finds a home

October 29, 2018

My One-Match Fire story “Deadfall” has been accepted by Hedge Apple for its “Personal Identity” themed issue. It should appear online next month (and is apparently “in the running” for the print edition to come out in December — I do like seeing the shelf with the journals carrying my stories getting fuller).

This story is a recent addition to the novel, one that I had originally intended to be part of the “inevitable sequel.” It’s a companion to the other recent addition: “Spring Fever.” The two clarify and then resolve the major conflict in the latter half of the novel.

This is the fifth story I’ve had published this year and my thirtieth published story.

meanwhile

August 6, 2018

You’re too polite to ask, but I’m sure you’ve been wondering: what’s the status of “Spring Fever,” that love story that ties in to the One-Match Fire universe?

Well, I’ve pondered it, revised it, shortened it, deepened it, and more or less struggled with it, and now, at 4,300+ words, I think I’ve finished it. I introduce a new character and a new relationship (one that might threaten the dynamic of my One-Match Fire family or one that may broaden and enrich it).

But it ain’t that simple. The story ripples and I still need to revise “Little Gray Birds” (currently the penultimate story in One-Match Fire) as a consequence.

And if/when I do that, I’m finding that I’m left with some unfinished business in that novel. There is a consequence to “Spring Fever” that can’t be left unspoken in the story line. So I see myself writing yet another story for One-Match Fire. (Recall that I had not been trying to submit the novel because I had this nagging notion that it was “not finished.” And here I am, not finished with it.) I’ve already begun making notes for that new story, and I even have a tentative title for it: “Deadfall.”

“Spring Fever” was meant to be the first chapter of a sequel to One-Match Fire, resolving the great mystery in the relationship between a father and son there, but now I’m thinking that maybe “Spring Fever” just needs to be added to One-Match Fire as its own chapter. There’s a place for it. The story would fit nicely in the narrative and it would add its heft to the novel, a novel that I always thought was a little short in terms of word count anyway.

And if I write that “unfinished business” story and add it to the novel as well, I’ll have a bit more heft and substance.

The trouble is that all of this requires a fundamental rethinking of the “resolution” of the conflict in the novel. Rather than being implied, it will be stated. I’m becoming more comfortable with this, but change is not always easy.