Posted tagged ‘one-match fire’

called “Three Small Words”

January 2, 2018

You’ve seen this photo of me on the humble blog before. Sometime in my early years I was afflicted with something that was severe enuf to get me hospitalized. The only person still alive who was around at the time (aside from myself, of course) is my mother (and my older brother and my younger twin sisters), and she’s vague on the details any more. Years ago, when I first came upon this photo in a dusty album, she told me I had pneumonia, though maybe she said whooping cough. Now she is no longer sure.

I keep this photo on my desk and see it every day. The mystery of it has affected me deeply. (I’m hoping whatever the affliction was, hasn’t.) As you may recall, I used a photo like this as a MacGuffin in one of my One-Match Fire stories: “Moving Day.” The son finds a picture of his father in a similar circumstance, and it basically sets the course of his life. (“Moving Day” will be published in THEMA Literary Journal this summer.)

In that story universe, I’m revisiting the photo in a new story that I’m calling “Three Small Words.” The son, now an adult, has reason to think that there may be some very long-term consequences to whatever had afflicted his father a half century before. But with no one around to tell him what it was (his father having no memory since he was only a few months old at the time) he has to begin his research blindly.

Similarly, I have made a few tentative steps toward finding out whatever had afflicted me. I asked my mother what hospital I would likely have been in and she told me it would have been where she had trained as a nurse. So I called the medical records department at that hospital and asked about documentation from more than a half century ago. I was met with barely suppressed laughter. The woman I spoke with said that any records predating 2005 had been long since destroyed. I suspect that’s not wholly true but patient confidentiality laws being what they are, I’m finding that hospitals are pretty tight lipped about all of this. (I’ll try a different route later. It may be that the records were microfilmed or digitized and I could still have access to my information.) Early in my St. Louis life I was hospitalized again with appendicitis. I’ve wondered if my record from that event might contain a reference to my earlier hospitalization, and so I’ve inquired at that hospital as well. So far, no response.

I intend to use my frustrations in the story, my character coming up against the same brick walls. And since the photo is only the MacGuffin, finding the information is not nearly as important as the quest.

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the unbearable creativity of distance

November 27, 2017

Depending on when you are reading this, I may be several miles above the planet, winging my way home from Seattle. My visit was circumscribed by the needs (demands?) of a fussy almost two-year-old, so I didn’t do much in the way of sight seeing or touristy stuff. (Nor did I go running, though had I wanted, it happened that the Seattle Marathon took place while I was in town. The day was filled with ominous clouds and frequent rain and plummeting temperatures, but despite such delightful conditions, I could not have done anything respectable with that distance right now.)

I did, however, manage to finish two stories. (I am as amazed as you are!) The first is the story I’d mentioned recently called “Forest Succession.” I’ve already sent it to a trusted reader, and I’m feeling good about it. It is not part of the One-Match Fire novel, but it does deal with many of the characters in there, though much later than the time period the novel covers. (I have a vague notion of writing a sequel to that collection.)

The second is a wholly new story that I’m calling “The Kick” and that is unrelated to anything I’ve written, though it is about running, sort of. I’ve often growled at the word count limit of many publications. A thousand words just doesn’t seem enuf to tell a solid story; the shortest of mine start at more than twice that number. Yet “The Kick” comes in at just over one thousand words, so maybe I finally have a contender. It’s only a first draft, of course, so it is likely to change.

I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the two-hour time difference in Seattle (though the evenings were tough). Since I am naturally an early riser, I had no trouble with that part of the day; I actually had to sleep in. And since the household was quiet in the early hours, and since I had copious amounts of iced tea (unsweetened, of course), I found myself before my laptop with my ideas in my head, and the words flowed.

So this leaves me with the question, do I need to travel long distances and be in unfamiliar places in order to write? Does it do something to stimulate my creative ferment?

“Moving Day” has found a home!

October 10, 2017

My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” has been accepted by THEMA Literary Journal and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue next June.

I had submitted the story last June (by snail mail!) and had nearly forgotten that I did. I responded to a themed call for submissions — the theme being “The Face in the Photo” — and sent this story since a photo plays a critical role in it and in the plot of the novel, actually directing the course of one character’s life in part. You can read about my submission in this old post.

So I have a small, one-page contract to sign and return and I’ll get one copy of the printed journal (next June) as well as actual payment of $25! Aside from the 15 cents I got for one story (a Buffalo nickel and a Liberty dime), this is the first time I’ve ever been paid for my fiction. (Actually, not quite true. I was promised $10 for a story years ago, but the check never arrived.)

This is the seventh One-Match Fire story to see publication — that’s one-third of the whole novel — and my twenty-fifth story published.

I had been reviewing my various outstanding submissions in the tracking function at Duotrope’s Digest that very morning and was sad when I learned that I had not seen a single thing published this year (which didn’t make sense since I’ve had two stories published this year). In fact, the day THEMA’s acceptance letter came (via the postal mail, by the way, in my return-addressed envelope), I had received two email rejections for different stories I had submitted elsewhere. I was feeling dejected, but not so much anymore.

the state of things (or of one thing in particular)

October 9, 2017

Above is all that remains of that notebook from my grad school days that I burned in the fire ring at Roundrock. I wrote about it in this recent post.

__________

I devoted a lot of time over the weekend (betwixt watching Emmett and also driving the course of the half marathon I have in less than two weeks) to “finalizing” One-Match Fire. I’ve been tinkering with the stories, trying to focus and enhance them based on the understanding of the characters and the plots as they’ve developed over time. Now that I know this about a character or that is going to happen, I find places in the stories to develop or set the stage for these things. Nearly every story received a dozen or so new words, some a lot more, and I’ve written an entire new story (“Special-blest”) that includes a flashback that helps fill in some of the early years of one character. I’m now up to 68,237 words for the whole novel, not counting chapter titles, of course. This is about a 5,000 word increase since the last count, and most of it is due to the new story. Still, I feel more confident that it is novel length and that I can pitch it as such.

I have some thoughts still to come from a trusted reader, and that may affect (will, likely) how that new story evolves as well as a “guy thing” that I wanted to bring into the stories somewhere that I think is important for understanding part of the dynamic between one of the fathers and his son.

And then? A comprehensive read through to get the tone more consistent; the early stories are lighter, the later stories more serious. And I’ll look for any opportunities to flesh out characters or story based on what I know now that I didn’t know then. And now that I have the narrator clear in my head, I want to capture that person’s voice more consistently throughout.

And then? The terrifying work of sending it to agents? I must get myself to that point. I can’t fool around with this novel any longer. I have other ideas waiting in the wings of my poor brain.

writing is hard work

September 14, 2017

Not hard like farming or construction or breaking rocks or futures trading or writing poetry or countless other truly hard things are, but hard work in its own way.

I’m in New York right now, getting acquainted with my new grandbabies and trying to peck out a few words on my latest One-Match Fire story. (Once I have this one done and consolidated with the others, I’ll consider the novel finished and begin sending it out again.) My daughter’s household rises late in comparison to how I now live, so I was able to rise early on my first day here (despite sleeping in for an hour later than my usual time, though in retrospect, my actual usual time according to my body clock given the time zone change) and sit in the quiet darkness before my laptop, tapping away at the keys to spin gold from dross.

Or at least attempting to. The words come slowly. And I really need to get into the tone of the story I’m working on before the words will come at all, which means I need to re-read it from the beginning. Which in turn means that I need to revise it as I read it, perfecting this or that word choice, chopping or lengthening any given sentence, crafting the perfect metaphor, and on. So by the time I get to where I’d left the story my last writing session, enuf time has passed that the sleepy household begins rousing. Just as the words begin to flow, the solitude begins to end.

As problems go, it’s not so bad. As work goes, it’s not so hard. My visit here is intended to be a help to my daughter: rocking or changing either or both of the twins, playing with their older brother, and generally doing whatever I can to lighten her load. So it’s not like I begrudge the interruption in the writing; that’s not why I’m here.

But if I can get a few words in as well, I’ll be pleased.

(By the way, the story has a couple of flashbacks in it. I know this device is not currently in vogue, but I don’t care!)

“A Civil Tongue”

August 14, 2017

I’ve been making fitful progress on a new One-Match Fire story that I’m calling “A Civil Tongue” for now. This story is intended to become part of the novel and not just another tale told in the universe of the novel but not part of it, such as my story “Fire Sermon.” (No luck so far in finding a home for that one.)

I’d mentioned my desire to write this story back in May, and I’ve mostly been just making notes for it since then. But I’ve had a few revelations about it recently, about what needs to happen in the story to show the evolving relationships between the three characters, and I think those revelations tipped the scale to let me actually begin writing it with purpose. (Rather than just writing scenes to plug in later once critical mass was achieved.)

The story involves a flashback, which I gave my position on in this recent post, and it’s important because it will identify a divergence betwixt two of the characters. The story is set about two-thirds of the way through the novel, and that divergence gains importance through the last third. But I also use it to make an early hint (in the flashback) of one character’s individual development as well.

I have around 1,100 words down, and I expect the story to finish with at least twice that. It won’t add tremendously to the word count of the novel, which is currently at 63,847 words, but I think it will make the novel richer and deeper. I’m glad it’s coming together.

 

breaking the cycle of sloth

March 13, 2017

I’ve continued to dip my toe into the waters of manuscript submission. I’ve sent queries and sample pages or chapters to several more agents to see if they might be interested. So far my efforts have earned me one rejection,* but it was a kindly written, personal email, so my ego held up.

At this point I’m trying to target my submissions, finding agents who seem as though they represent the kind of literary fiction I imagine One-Match Fire to be. I’m using an online service called Agent Query, which is a huge database that is sortable to some extent. It lets me believe I am targeting my submissions, but I can’t go much deeper than finding agents who are interested in “literary fiction” and/or “family sagas.” (I’m not even sure what they mean by “family sagas” though I expect it’s more the bodice-ripping Harlequin romance type stuff than my tale of a grandfather, a father, and a son over forty years. Still, it’s something to try.) This is further hampered by many of the listed agents not taking on new clients at the moment and/or only taking queries in the form of snail mail. I suppose that latter qualification quickly weeds out those who are using the scattershot method of submission that email makes more easy to do. The trouble is, it can also weed out those of us who tend toward sloth.

I’m self aware enuf to know that I have trouble pulling the trigger. I can take years to write a novel and then blanch at the effort of actually submitting. It isn’t even much effort, but I think that my fragile ego is what’s really on the line. In any case, I guess I’ll keep on trying.

 

 

*Make that two, now.