Posted tagged ‘one-match fire’

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.

still working on “Spring Fever”

July 6, 2018

I’ve been working mightily all week on my story “Spring Fever” and I think it have it more or less muscled into shape. It currently sits at 4,400+ words, which ain’t bad for a short story, but it’s bigger than I expected. Still, I can’t find an ounce of fat on it.

I’ve also done some work in the One-Match Fire story “Little Gray Birds” that is related to this, trimming and changing as necessary to get the stars aligned betwixt them.

I’ll continue to read “Spring Fever” and find ways to hone it, but I think it’s nearly whole, and I have a market in mind for it already.

Satisfaction from my writing efforts. Imagine that!

Also, here’s a mushroom rock in western Kansas. (I did not deface it.)

betwixt

June 25, 2018

I find myself in that in-between place again. I have three stories I’m working on at the moment, and though some part of my brain thinks this is probably counterproductive — my creative “genius” being diluted across too many efforts — another part of me says that words are words, and if I can get them down in any fashion or location, I should call it a win.

I’m about three-fourths finished with the first draft of Finnegans Fogbound, a novel-length ambition and something I had embarked on to give myself a break from all of the fraught, literary anguishing I was doing with my One-Match Fire stories. The Finnegans novels are more light weight works, something like cozy mysteries that, while demanding in their own way, can be written without too much personal investment (if that makes sense). I don’t make literary references in them; I don’t strive for some profound, controlling metaphors or psychological insights that span Western civilization. Thus, a break.

But I may have stalled on that story. I’m not sure. I certainly know where the plot needs to go. I have all of the characters in place and developed nicely. I have all of the pieces on the table before me, but I can’t seem to bring myself to finish putting together the puzzle. I suspect it’s temporary and I’m just feeling the daunting demands of a novel-length effort. So I seem to have taken a break from the break I was taking.

And find myself back in the One-Match Fire universe after all. I’m making some decent progress on a story called “Spring Fever” which I think I’ve mentioned here before. It’s a love story, and I don’t write many of those, but I found I needed to get the points of this story worked out so I could revise a different story: “Little Gray Birds” which is part of the One-Match Fire novel and which I realized I needed to refine so I could consider that novel finished and ready to submit to scary agents. (You’re following all of this, right?) “Little Gray Birds” takes place after “Spring Fever” so what happens in the latter affects the telling of the former. Thus once I get “Spring Fever” worked out, I will go back to “Little Gray Birds” and hone/refine/enhance it and call it good.

So I’m busy with that.

And I’m still riding the creative wave of that story “MTWTF” about an incident in my distant and murky past (highly fictionalized in the story) and find myself making notes — even writing bits of story — about one of the characters in “MTWTF.” Clearly I have more to say about this person and need to write another story to do it. (“MTWTF” is not yet published, and it’s being read by a trusted friend now.) Thoughts intrude, and I don’t mind making notes about future work while they occur to me. I can see the structure of the story — it’s really just a character sketch using a day-in-the-life structure to hang it on — and I know the character, so the ideas are coming fast and frenzied. It’s not a bad state to be in if you’re a writer, I suppose.

So if I’m not too diluted and dissipated by my creative ferment, a few good things should result in the coming days. Fingers crossed.

 

ferment of spring

June 11, 2018

So I’ve been in NYC for the last few days (home again soon) and wondering if lightning might strike twice, that I might write a whole story because there must be something magical or psychological about being out of my routine and my element, the way this has happened a few times in my past.

And so, without much in the way of specific intent, I opened the file of notes I’ve been keeping about a love story I want to write as part of the collection that will comprise the sequel to One-Match Fire. (No developments there though.) So the story has had the working title of “Spring Fever” (to somehow companion with a yet-to-be-written story I’ll call “Cabin Fever”), and this story, which I intend to be the first in the collection, will make clear what the central conflict was in OMF (if the perceptive reader doesn’t figure it out). And I think this is why OMF has been languishing; I’ve needed to nail down some bits in this story in order to refine the ending of OMF so that I can consider it finished once and for all.

So on my first freakishly early morning, in the house that was still quiet despite a latent frenzy in the form of a toddler and twin nearly one-year-olds, I began the story. Exhausted after writing about 113 words, I figured my ambition was unrealistic. But the house remained quiet and the laptop remained open and some further words followed. I ended my first day of writing at more than 600 words. I hadn’t even introduced the love interest yet, but I achieved a kind of momentum.

And so on the second morning, I returned to the story, added even more words, brought in the love interest, and doubled my word count. By the third morning I had more than 2,000 words, many of them pretty good and in decent order. Even so, I don’t think I’ve gotten to the meat of the story yet; it’s all lighthearted so far.

Regardless, it’s begun and I expect I’ll stay with it (even after I return to the Midwest) and get the thing whole written, just not all outside of my comfort zone. And that’s a good thing.

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.