Posted tagged ‘one-match fire’

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.


“Runaway” appears

March 6, 2017


My One-Match Fire story “Runaway” has finally appeared in the physical world. I received my copy of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature over the weekend, and “Runaway” was in it (way back on page 209 of 228). I had first written about this back in November in this post. And I’ve been waiting more or less patiently for the print copy ever since.

This is volume 32.1 of the publication, but it’s dated Fall 2014 / Winter 2015. I’m not complaining, but that seems a little odd. (I suspect they need to show continuous publication, and that period was the next to be filled.)

in the ether

October 10, 2016

You send out your stories to likely magazines and you cross your fingers, and if you’re wise, you get yourself focused on other things so you won’t fret about your darlings out in the world. And then maybe you hear from one of the magazines saying they like your submission and want to publish it. And if you’re wise, you indulge in a little (or more than a little) well earned revelry. But then weeks go by without another peep from the publisher. Weeks turn into months. Excitement wanes. Worry ensues. And you wait for — hope for — some indication that your story is still in the works.

I’ve had enuf stories in circulation to have experienced many kinds of outcomes. High-profile publication. Labor-of-love publication. Disappearing publication. (True. Two of my stories were published online and then the zines just disappeared from the internet.) Denied publication. (One of mine was accepted by a magazine that then went out of business before my story appeared.) And, of course, my full share of rejections, which is something you have to get used to in a campaign like creative writing.

And then there’s my experience over the weekend. My One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” was accepted some months ago by Simone Press, an anthology publisher in the UK. My story, about the family cabin that features throughout One-Match Fire, is the first chapter though it takes place late in the chronology of the overall novel. (I’ve been counseled to refer to the collection not as a story cycle but as a novel. I’d long suspected that was the case, but since I was trying to get many of the stories published on their own, I knew that a piece from a “story cycle” probably stood a better chance with an editor than a “stand-alone chapter” from a novel would. In any case, I’m no longer trying to get any of the unpublished stories/chapters published, and I say that half believing that it will cause the one or two currently out there for consideration to be accepted!)

Anyway, back to my narrative. Simone Press had accepted my story a couple of months ago, and I was told I would be hearing from them with a contract eventually. And I wisely got myself focused on other things so I wouldn’t fret about it. Weeks turned into months and I didn’t hear anything, but nor did I worry. Then the email came. The publishing contract for my story arrived. I’ve been asked to complete it and return it. The contract contains all of the usual stuff — there is nothing objectionable in it. So I’ve completed it, signed it, and returned it. Now I must wait for publication, which is scheduled for April of 2017. Somewhere along the way I had thought publication would be at the end of this year, but that’s not really a problem.

I am currently deep in the “final” rewrite of the stories, using the detailed insights from one of my readers as a guide. My spontaneous tinkerings with the stories have mostly subsided, so I think I have them more or less realized. Now for the polish and good wishes. I’ve even been chewing on some ideas for the query letter I will eventually send to agents.


upon reflection

August 16, 2016

Writing is rewriting.

That was a hard lesson for me to learn. I can still remember the early days of my first attempts at writing stories, pouring everything I had into them, considering them complete and perfect and unalterable, and they’d better be because I had nothing left in me.

I mentioned in my last post that I went out to my cabin at Roundrock last weekend. It was (effectively) a solo trip. I had brought along my dog, Flike, but he spent nearly all of the time inside the cabin, alternating between cowering on one of the beds and cowering beneath one of the beds. This dog weighs 75 pounds. He’s pure muscle and energy, with a deep bark. And he is terrified of flies! There. I said it.

August is a bad month in the Ozarks for horseflies. Ticks are on the wane, as are chiggers (evil, evil chiggers!), but if the dragonflies have not been doing their job all summer, the horseflies can be abundant. The males are benign, though annoying enuf being an inch or more long and buzzing angrily in your face, but the females will bite. They need a blood meal in order to produce their eggs so that more horseflies can bedevil my poor dog next August.

For reference, here is Flike:


The brown dog you see at 11:00 is Queequeg, a Pomeranian and, not surprisingly, the alpha male of the pair.

But enuf of that. Back to my point. My little cabin has neither plumbing nor electricity. The lack of plumbing a fellow can deal with fairly reasonably. But the lack of electricity for the laptop — where all of the writing gets done — is harder to deal with. My Mac has about a three-hour battery life, and I’ve experimented with large batteries (the kind you can jump start cars with) to supplement that, giving me about another three hours. But It’s never been that productive for me, perhaps knowing that my time is limited. So my weekend trips to the cabin are times for reflection and note taking (in the paper journal I keep there for that purpose).

I spent most of my time traveling between the comfy chair on the shady porch to the comfy chair before the fire ring. I reflected. I carried on conversations with myself — out loud — and various others who needed to hear my advice and opinions. I worked out story problems in my head and discussed at length with myself bits of dialog and plot development and story enhancements and all kinds of really brilliant things, some of which I remembered long enuf to write in my journal.

Foremost among the ideas I developed was a need to rewrite about a third of the penultimate story in the One-Match Fire cycle, “Little Gray Birds.” In that story the grandson, Curt, reflects on a discovery he made about his past. It is introspective, and I think it’s well done as it stands, but I think it can be done better as dialog between Curt and his mother. His mother can reveal/confess something in her background that is tremendously important to Curt. I think it works better that way, is more dramatic, and gives the mother character a little more presence in the stories.

And so, writing is rewriting. The brilliant way I had figured out how to write this new development, sitting around the campfire and drinking beer, has somehow escaped me. Or much of it has. Or perhaps the seeming brilliance of it has. But I’m working on it. Somehow I’ll finish it then shoehorn it into the story and see what I think of it.

I don’t foresee another trip to the cabin soon, so maybe I’ll finally be able to put these stories to rest.

my one-match fire went out!

July 1, 2016

one-match fire

I said in my last post that although there are plenty of stories I could still write for my Fathers and Sons cycle, I was only going to do one more. It was to be called “One-match fire” and it would have filled in some gaps in the narrative. But the more I thought about the characters in the stories and how the events I wanted to describe would take place, I realized the characters would have been much younger than they needed to be to have the events occur during the gaps. Each father was going to teach his son how to build a one-match fire — twenty years apart. But I needed tweener sons, and this kind of skill in this kind of family would have been handed down to a son much sooner than his tween years.

Yet I can still draw some warmth from this fire because I can use it in two different existing stories. One would be a flashback within “Men at Rest,” and the other would be an example of the very theme of the other story “Meet the Teacher Night.” (That latter story I’ve thought as the weakest of the bunch, but this little thematic addition will help.)

And the fire you see in the photo above is an actual one-match fire I built and cooked my dinner over (probably hot dogs). It’s out at my little cabin in the Ozarks, which was the impetus for the original Fathers and Sons story.

Update 01AUG2016 – I am now working on this story I’d abandoned, though I’m calling it “A Tree Falls in the Forest” instead. And there won’t be anything about building a fire, at least nothing thematic. But the tweener business will be in it.