Monday, October 16, 2017

Fail Better: Learning To Let Go as a Reader and a Writer

Tonight I begin again on a book I'm writing that may have no ending at all. And no hope for one.

It's doesn't even have a title. Or a narrative thread. It has characters and lovely sentences and insight and fun and things I find interesting or peculiar. It has death and love and immortality and no discernible purpose. It was started a year and one month ago and have swelled at one time to more than 200 pages and now rests at a much more slim 78. If it gains no more or loses or deepens again to beyond 3,000 pages is something a care not one bit about. Length means nothing, not in literature.

You certainly wouldn't know this to be the case, though. Books like Infinite Jest, In Search of Lost Time, The Instructions, 2666, and on forever are held in the very highest esteem. They are called Opus and genius and all manner of flirtatious nonsense. They are fundamentally good books. That is all. And that is enough. Page number has nothing to do with it. Just as The Great Gatsby or To the Lighthouse or Of Mice and Men or Invisible Cities or The Catcher in the Rye or Coming Through Slaughter. I could go on.

All that matters is the fun and the interesting and the peculiar. At least in my world. And I mean all of these points as they pertain to the writer, not the reader. That's right. Entertain yourself, of course. For instance, I'm writing a short story at the moment that is about a homunculus. I'm having a blast. I think that because of that when other people read it they'll have a good time, too. And that's all I want.

But what of this insane anti-narrative book without a title and with no clear purpose? Oh yes, that's fun, too. No worries. And it will translate to a reader. If (and this is important) they give in to it. That's vital. It's the only way to enjoy a book like 2666, for instance. Or something by Gaddis or Perec. Give in, let go, enjoy. Stop taking everything so seriously. 

It's fun to open your mind as a writer and let the thoughts go where they might without planning, allowing one second of prose to build into the next second of prose and then see what happens. I do this with nearly all my work. The stories in which I have not done this are stories that were never completed. You'll never read them. They went bust a quarter through or half through. That's the risk of writing without a safety net. The project ain't always going to pan out. Big deal. Start another. Fail better, as the old boy said.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reading is Writing and Writing is Reading

Some reading jots.

I'm reading Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle (checked out from the library because it was too damn expensive to buy everywhere I looked) Unruly Creatures by Jennifer Caloyeras (this one for American Book Review with my review draft due by Nov. 15) and Unpacking the Boxes by Donald Hall (a cool memoir about his life as a poet. Kinda short and it started off a little slow but it's getting better).

Those are the hard copy books I've got working right now in the world of reading. On audio I'm knocking out Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, while on my Kindle phone app I'm reading Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. Which reminds me: I just bought her first collection Stranger Things Happen on Kindle for a mere $1.95. Here's the link to get that, if you're interested:


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tackett Named New Editor-in-Chief at The Airgonaut

Jereny Tackett, Editor-in-Chief
My goodness am I happy to be making this announcement.

The Airgonaut will be continuing and, in fact, growing in wonderful directions with my great friend Jereny Tackett taking up the mantle as Editor-in-Chief. Jereny is a creative mind like no other I've known, and I've known him for more than 30 years, so that's saying a lot.

I've talked with him over the past month about possibility stepping into this role with the journal and it's now a reality. During those conversations I can tell you that he has shared some exciting ideas he plans to put into place. Videos, music, artwork, photography. With his creative vision at play, there are truly no limits.

And Jereny plans to make the transition very smooth. Nothing will change as to how you can send your work in for consideration, and he intends to keep innovation at center stage, hoping to encourage artists from all walks of life and style a place for the unique view of the world.

I can tell you without reservation that I could not have hoped for a better, more suited person to see take over things at The Airgonaut. Jereny has been and will continue to be a selfless patron of the arts in the truest sense of the word.

Stand by for exciting times and please drop by and say hello to Jereny when you get the chance. He's for sure one of the good ones. But you'll learn that for yourself, and very soon.

CLICK HERE to read Jereny's Letter from the Editor at The Airgonaut.

Monday, October 9, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Bakadewin (Hunger) @ Live Nude Poems

This one continued my preoccupation with the Wendigo. I'm still preoccupied, but this was when I was, too.

Read the poem, and thanks to my friend Rusty Barnes for publishing it.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Oui, mademoiselle Hamilton, je suis ici aujourd'hui.

Learning French. I'm trying. I feel like I've not learned a thing (been studying about a week with an app called Duolingo. I know I've absorbed some of it, but words like are, have, etc. are getting me sideways right now. Sometimes are is somme and sometimes it's etes, or something like that. I need words to be consistent. One word can mean fifty different things and still be spelled the same, but I need the word itself to be static. I need that in my life.

What it is, is I'd like to Baudelaire in the original. In particular Paris Blues. Really that's the only thing I'm interested in with Baudelaire right now. Prose poems. I've had a look at his lyric poems and, as you'd expect, things lose focus real fast.

Charles Baudelaire is not playing around with you. This is effing serious.

But I took some French during my freshman year of high school and somehow a bit of it stayed around. Not more than a few sentences, but it was some at least. I think I'll have a better chance to learn another language now that I've been studying English for many more years now. At the time, I'd only been writing seriously for about two years, so my understanding of the relationship between words (no matter the language) was really limited.


I'm tired of writing about learning French, but I want to keep writing this post so I'm switching subjects in a jarring sort of way.

I'm back to reading southern literature again for the time being. William Gay, in particular. He has these moments when he's describing nature where he gets really poetic and you can just tell he realizes that he's already described the chalky purple of twilight spilling into a copse of firs about four hundred times and doesn't care. I like that part. The part where he didn't care. He liked writing those scenes about that stuff in that way and so he did it. I want to see writers be a little more selfish. Break a wall and step right in as Ondaatje did at the end of Coming Through Slaughter. Describe the sky fifty times in the first half of a novel. I'm not always expecting writers to be perfect, but I do want them to be writing for themselves more than they're writing for me.

An example that has to do with titles:

After the success of Fight Club, Chuck Palahnuik's editors and publishing house, for some reason (I guess because his novels Choke and Survivor did well) wanted him to do only one-word titles. They wanted it contracted. Publishers do that kind of horribleness, press a writer to make all of his or her titles sort of similar so that the way average reader can spot them on the shelf in Rite-Aide or whatever. That's at least one reason. Who knows the rest of it. But he did, Chuck. Lullaby. Rant. Haunted. Snuff. It made me sick to see. It made my writer heart hurt a lot.

So Palanhuik and writers who are doing this thing with titles are not writing for themselves. A title is one of the most important things about a book. No one can deny this. And writers are allowing publishing houses to impose on them these limitations that make it theirs and not the writer's. It's seriously hard to watch.

Okay so I'm off to write my new books The Same Terrible Rain, Brown Glass, and Where Chimpanzees Sleep. You guys have a good one.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

I Grew My Mustache Out and Now I'm Thinking About Westerns

Javier Bardem in the best role of his career as Anton Chirguh in No Country for Old Men.

I've got this really good mustache. I mean, I'm going to have to trim it at this point, but it's pretty fantastic. Think Wyatt Earp. Think Wild Bill. Think Sam Elliott. Well, maybe not Sam. But it's trim time, I think.

I'm a mere inch or so from being the dad on American Chopper. It's become a thing. When something steps out of the general realm and becomes a thing - something others would take note of, say, in Food City - it's time to fade back into the obscure. I'm not on the run from the FBI, but it's okay to keep in practice.

But all the Old West thoughts that my mustache has been stirring up in me had me eager to share my list of favorite contemporary westerns. Yes, contemporary. It's time we retire High Noon, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and begin embracing more recent westerns to place within the canon. Here's some of mine.

Unforgiven - Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood. This is one most people are familiar with. It's brilliant.

Wild Bill - One of my all-time favorites. Jeff Bridges plays Wild Bill Hickock and does it in his own special fashion. Historical inaccuracies, but who cares.

Open Range - Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall. It has all the classic tropes and invents some more along the way. And the show down, it has maybe the absolute best initiation ever, cutting away the usual drama connected with that moment.

Deadwood - An HBO series that ran only three seasons and never let me down, not a single episode. Packed full of amazing character actors and written as well as anything on television, Aaron Sorkin included.

No Country for Old Men - Very familiar, most likely. And, yes, it is a western. A damn good one. Bardem owns the world in this one.

There Will Be Blood - Not a western in the shoot 'em up sense of the genre, but set during a time close to the Old West and certainly full of white hats and black hats, both which often blur into gray often enough to be perfect. Daniel Day-Lewis's best performance, and that's saying a ton.

The Proposition - I probably have a bias I should acknowledge in including this one. The screenplay was written by one of my favorite musicians, Nick Cave. But here's the thing...Nick can write. No one should have doubted it to start with. Listen to one song and you'll see that. All the good stuff is in this one, and Guy Pierce is a power house.

Tombstone - A lot of people won't agree with me on this one, but Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday takes this one into the stratosphere. And it's just crazy fun.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - I'd put this one on the list even if it didn't have the most artfully shot and scripted opening of any movie in the past ten years. If you watch that and stop, you're probably not breathing.

Django Unchained - I love a good guy winning big in the end, and Django wins big big in this one. The bounty hunting scenes takes it over the top, though.

Bone Tomahawk - Simultaneously my favorite western and horror movie of 2015. Scenes that will burn themselves onto the surface of your eyeballs. And one of two excellent westerns Kurt Russell starred in that year, the other being The Hateful Eight, which almost took The Proposition's place on this list. Bias, like I said.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Gaze of Genius

Roberto Bolaño, circa 1970

Mental Health Day (Stress Day)

I'm taking a mental health day from work today. I spend my days through the week working as a substance abuse counselor about an hour from where I live. It's a long drive to work and a long drive home. And all the hours there are stressful. Take all of these and then include the fact that I have to get up for work at 4 a.m. and you can see how it starts to add up.

The majority of my stress day so far I've spent sleeping. That's due to the 4 a.m. thing all the way. But I also made some really cool finds at my local library. I hadn't visited there since beginning to read and study poetry, so I hadn't been in that section. There's a lot of nice stuff going on in that section. I checked out Madness, Rack, and Honey today and almost had another heart attack when I came across it in the stacks. There she was, in Pikeville, Kentucky. Sadly, some other folks were not I thought would really be there. But still, a good day at the library. Especially a good day (and I'm adding this on an edit because I forgot earlier) because the librarian invited me to do a book signing there. I took in a copy of my book Brown Bottle to donate, something I've done with all my books so far, and she invited me when she realized after asking my last name to check my account that I had written it. So that was cool.

The only other thing I've did today is write and drink coffee. Brewing a new pot right now. After that, my mental health day ends. I've got to cut the grass (hopefully for the last time until spring) burn some garbage (got to wait until after 6 p.m. to do that because of a burn ban going on right now) and haul some old wood down into the barn. I'll be tired, but I'll be able to go back to sleep in enough time to get back up at 4 a.m. Everything is planned around having to get up at that time when you have to get up at that time.

Coffee is done and I'm going to have a cup. You probably were not at all interested in my day, but I just went right ahead and shared it there.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Some Place Like Destin" @ Cooper Street

This story is one that will be included in my new Appalachian short story collection. It was originally published at Cooper Street but had been submitted under a different title. It was originally titled (and will be titled this in the new collection) "How to Get to Destin." I understood the reasoning of the editor at the time but must concede that one is better than the other. Read about a lawyer called Bone and let me know if you enjoyed it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Work at Ghost Parachute

Thanks to editor Brett Pribble, I have some new work up at the literary journal Ghost Parachute this month. The issue went live this evening and includes my piece "Stress Cardiomyopathy".

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Short Story Time Again

Gonna set poetry aside for now and return to the form I'm really supposed to be trafficking in, flash fiction and the short story. That's where my instincts lie, my raw ability. Every time I write a poem, I feel like I'm pretending. I even wrote a poem called "The Good Pretender" and only today thought about what might have been going on under the surface of my thoughts when I wrote it.

I know I can write short stories. I wrote a novel and it was mediocre. I've written some poetry and it was whatever it is. I don't even know how to judge it. Something's got to give here.

So look for more short stories, maybe here at Bent Country, because I'm becoming disillusioned again with the publishing community. I shouldn't allow rejection to cause this within me, but I do. I'm not even sure I have a choice; it's just how my mind works, a self-pitiful wheel that turns me back again and again to the forms I'm most comfortable with rather than the forms that are fun to experiment with.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Sky is Mind-Blowing and Other Imaginations

Ancient Aliens is a show I watch a lot. Most of the time it's sort of soothing comfort tv thing, background noise I can watch bits of here and there and enjoy. I don't know all the guest speakers on the show by their full names. I call my two favorite Sing Song Dave and Snuff. Snuff is that guy all those alien memes were about. Crazy hair with him holding his hands out and the word ALIENS under him. Variations on that. Snuff is great. So is Sing Song Dave. He talks about our alien ancestors and gets pretty excited, which then makes him speak in these highs and lows that sounds like he's singing a little children's song.

But I'm an Ancient Aliens fan all the way. I don't agree with most of what they propose, always with that great sort of tagline from the narrator, something a little like this: "Could mummies be proof that aliens visited and gave us the knowledge of reincarnation? Ancient astronaut theorists say yes." Those cats always say yes. It's beautiful.

But tonight while watching another episode that focused on how cultures across time and distance have depicted in their art all these gods with wings, flying chariots, etc. something occurred to me. Instead of aliens visiting us and blowing people's minds, it's really likely we've just always had this crazy fascination with the sky. Imagine what early humans must have thought of cloud formations and the sun in general, or the way the skyline can sometimes turn red at dusk in certain places and a deep blueblack at other times. And that's just during the day. At night, I have no doubt early humans were losing their collective minds. Stars, the moon, sometimes a sky without stars and sometimes with stars. Where did all those white dots go? Hey they're back! I mean people were likely constantly jacked up about all this. Of course the sky, flying, all things associated with the heavens as it were, was the subject of a lot lot lot lot of discussion, myth-making, etc.

Without question, I'm not the only person who's ever thought this, but it seems to me a lot can be explained by keeping in mind the absolute power of the imagination and people's compulsion to explain the unexplained.

But, truthfully, I'm about 50/50 with the whole thing. It's just as likely that future us folk have been visiting here for awhile. Maybe even planted us here to form the seedbed of some kind of insurance for the lasting of the species. Or it could just be the sky is really awesome and always has been.

Cool thing is, there's something that explains all this strangeness. And I, for one, would prefer the answer be incredibly interesting and odd. There's enough realism in the world as it is.

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Poems in a Collaborative Chapbook Series Called Lantern Lit

I hadn't submitted anything in a fairly long time but some of the pieces I had out have been returned accepted this past week, so that's always a cause for celebration. Remember, celebrate your writing victories, always. If even in a small way. It's hard out here and celebration should happen any chance you get.

I'll have three poems appear in Anti-Heroin Chic in late October. Two of the three poems are footnote poems called "Filicide Muse" and "Nokemon". The third poem is called "Buddha Rat". I'm really grateful to editor James Diaz for once again including my work at AHC. My short story "Behavioral Husbandry" appeared there earlier this year.

Also, Unbroken Journal will publish another piece of mine this coming January. The flash story/prose poem was started and honed in The Flash Factory at Zoetrope not very long ago, so I surely thank everyone there for their kind insights and suggestions. The piece is called "Aversion" and, as with Diaz, I'm seriously thankful to UJ's founder and editor-in-chief R.L. Black for giving a chance to be in a journal I couldn't hold in higher regard.

These single publications are always wonderful, but the news I've saved for last is the news that had me wondering if someone was sort of jerking me around. Or that I was asleep. That kind of Twilight Zone feeling.

Sometime in the spring, I think it was, I spoke online with Beasley Barrenton, the founding editor of Dog On a Chain Press, about ISBN numbers. This is the kind of thing writers and editors, etc. can be found discussing at any given moment. But we connected more solidly through that conversation. We talked some here and there online when we could and then a couple weeks ago Beasley asks if I'd like to submit roughly 20 pages of poetry to him for the fourth installment of his Lantern Lit chapbook series. 

I was stunned. But this didn't stop me from responding immediately and accepting the offer. The series publishes a chapbook of three poets, each offering about that 20-page count of poetry for a full-length chap. I'd only started writing poetry this year and now I had the chance to send some work his way and maybe share in a chapbook with some top notch writers. It really was too good to be true. But I reckon it is true. So I'll be sharing updates on the status of that project as things move along.

Like I said, I have a lot to celebrate this month, so I thought I'd celebrate it here, at my bent little home. Okay, see you later. Drive fast; take chances.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Everything After Eddie" @ People Holding

Still celebrating with my little self getting a piece in People Holding. Such a super innovative journal from concept to writing, the whole nine yards.

Here's my story "Everything After Eddie."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Update About the Airgonaut

I've published for the last couple of years an online journal called The Airgonaut. I've placed a submission closed update there this afternoon due to the fact that I'm finished with editing for the time being.

Since 2002 I've been editing literary journals - Cellar Door Magazine, The Wrong Tree Review, A-Minor, Metazen, Night Train, Revolution John, and now The Airgonaut. I think 15 years is enough time for me to have given back to writers by publishing and championing their work.

Now, at 41 years of age and not healthy enough to foresee a life into my 70s or 80s, I'd like to spend the remainder of my time as a writer working on the few of my projects currently on the table.

For the time being, I'll publish the work that has already been accepted at The Airgonaut. This will constitute monthly issues covering October, November, and December. After that, who knows? But it's been fun. Thanks to you all for the solid work and for the chance to share it with readers. That was really cool of you. The archives will, of course, be available from now until doomsday.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's American Horror Story Time *smiley insane face*

So I just watched the intro scene for American Horror Story season 7 and it's the scariest one yet. The gang at AHS were exactly on target for displaying in fiction the terror of our current reality with that guy as president.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I'm Eager to Read Max Ritvo's Poetry

Because he can do this:

I come from a place where the water’s emptiness
is so savage that  
when you drink it  
the fish of the throat die,  
causing malignant thirst.

See what I mean?

Matthew Zapruder on Poetry

"I don’t know what writers of stories, novels and essays eventually discover for themselves, but I can say that sooner or later poets figure out that there are no new ideas, only the same old ones — and that nobody who loves poetry reads it to be impressed, but to experience and feel and understand in ways only poetry can conjure."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Frederick Seidel Just Goes To Show You

This anecdote from Frederick Seidel in the New York Times piece on him is hilarious and ridiculous. Just goes to show you.
"Although it would provide a nice causal coda to his time of silence and self-analysis in France, Seidel’s return to Harvard the next year didn’t coincide with the discovery of his poetic voice. He was writing, but “the poetry was not for me very impressive.” He published poems in The Advocate, even one in The Atlantic, but only at the very end of Harvard did one attain a different caliber. Called “The Sickness,” Seidel sent it to The Hudson Review. 'I got back a letter from the editor saying that the poem was brilliant . . . but wouldn’t I consider a number of changes they wanted to propose to the poem’s advantage? So I took a look at their suggestions, hung onto the poem and three months later sent it back to them — no changes whatsoever. Back came a note saying: Wonderful! That does it! It’s just superb.'"

Friday, September 8, 2017

There Is a Journal Called SOFTBLOW; There Is a Journal Called Mannequin Haus

I have two new poems out in the world. One, a footnote poem, was published today at Fin Sorrel's journal Mannequin Haus and is called "Psychedelic Death Shroud". What's a footnote poem? Go see. The other was published yesterday at a journal called SOFTBLOW and is titled "Ipseity". This makes me happy because I like having my work shared and having people read it.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Unbroken Journal Nominates My Poem for Best of the Net

RL and the gang at the outstanding Unbroken Journal included my prose poem "Cloud to Ground" in their list of nominations for the Best of the Net anthology.

I thought I'd been nominated for this before, but I was mistaken. So, this is my first for this particular honor. Thank you, Unbroken!!!

Here's the announcement that includes a link to my poem and the other pieces named.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Shane Jones on workshopping with Lydia Davis @ Fanzine


Read this and feel the goodness, the goodness that is Shane Jones and his words, the goodness that is bits of insight into the goddess literary genius Lydia Davis, read and feel all the goodness.

Lydia Davis being better at writing than you.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Thanks, Breece" an essay on Breece D'J Pancake @ MadHat Lit

The above quote is from Pancake's immortal story "Trilobites" and it's the perfect compressed expression of the loneliness inherent in his fiction. The man was a force of nature. I wrote about him at length at MadHat Lit a couple years ago. Following the essay there's also an interview with me, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Read the essay "THANKS, BREECE"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Upcoming Publications

"The House in the Northwest Corner" upcoming @ Vestal Review

I'm crazy happy to say that a flash fiction story of mine called "The House in the Northwest Corner" will be published in the next issue of the immortal Vestal Review. I'm so thankful to Mark Budman and sincerely honored to have placed my work in the oldest and most prestigious journal of flash fiction in the world.

"Ipseity" upcoming @ SOFTBLOW

I've seen the mock up webpage of my prose poem "Ipseity" at SOFTBLOW and that journal is attractive, let me tell you. Not to mention that everything I've read there has been top notch work. I finally felt brave enough to send them a strange piece about redheaded guys deifying Eric Stolz (which makes perfect sense to me) and was thrilled to hear that it will appear there in September.

"Solo Flight" upcoming @ Free State Review

As you've likely seen me talk about here, I've been writing poetry for the past several months. Well, I wrote some poetry very, very early in my career, but without an eye on publication. So how exciting was it for me when Barrett Warner, one of my favorite poets and a good friend and person, wrote and accepted "Solo Flight" for Free State Review, one of the best journals for poetry around? I couldn't stop talking about it. I told every person I saw. The poem will appear in the Summer 2018 issue.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Other Ears Look Fine" @ Gone Lawn

Gone Lawn is an A-1 great journal for progressive literature, stories that push ideas around until they bounce into one another in the best of ways. I've submitted to GL a number of times but only once saw a piece published there. My odd story "Other Ears Look Fine" appeared there in the fall of 2014.

The catalyst for this story itself came after learning about the Roman soldier Longinus. Longinus had cataracts and couldn't participate in battle anymore. Because he was valued, though, he was put in charge of crucifixions at Mount Calvary.  But since he had long been a loyal soldier, he was placed on duty at Mount Calvary, overseeing crucifixions. Whatever else was on my mind at the time, who could possibly tell.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Review of Best Small Fictions 2017

Best Small Fictions 2017
Guest Editor Amy Hempel
Series Editor Tara L. Masih

Braddock Avenue Books (September, 2017)
$13 (Braddock Avenue Books)

My general thoughts about the Best Small Fictions series are probably no secret. I've called both BSF 2015 and BSF 2016 the most important books published in their respective years.

This year is no different.

The most important book published this year is now and will prove to be Best Small Fictions 2017.

Now that's we've established that once again, I will say this year has been a particularly good year for flash fiction. The New Yorker has decided to publish flash stories throughout the summer (though some of those stories beg the question as to whether The New Yorker and those of us writing flash fiction actually agree on what constitutes the form). This year, BSF series editor Tara L. Masih worked with a writer who is arguably one of the best ever at this beautiful and supremely difficult form, the astonishing Amy Hempel. Hempel herself has said this of the series:  “[T]his striking new series...has quickly become essential reading."

Yes, it has, Amy.

This year the selections are as strong as ever. The usual cast is present with veteran flash fiction authors such as Scott Garson, Jen Knox, Randall Brown, and Sherrie Flick, among others, while also peppering in some iconic short-short form writers like Joy Williams, Stuart Dybek, and Robert Scotellaro. But don't let these big names and longtime flash writers lead you too far afield from the others included in BSF this year. The talent is spread around.

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello's story "The Sea Urchin" was the first story to stop me in my tracks this year. First published at Paper Darts, Cancio-Bello takes what could be a basic memory from childhood and creates a picture perfect example of flash fiction, employing nearly all the usual techniques in the most delightful ways, beginning with that always important first line: "Grandmother kept a diver’s knife strapped to her thigh."

She continues the story and gives the reader a marriage of the beautiful and practical, along with strange tradition and other-worldliness.

"On my birthday, she brought me a ball of spines in a bucket, lifted its bit of ocean into my cupped hands. The creature’s round mouth explored the cracks of my palm, tasting the salt on my skin, recoiling. An offering like the pincushions I often brought my mother, every needle threaded with a different color. Grandmother boiled garlic, soybeans, salt into broth, ladled the seaweed soup into a white bowl. She turned the urchin and broke it open, scooped out the ocher roe with a spoon, dropped it in among the kelp."

Another story as deserving for inclusion in this year's edition is the flash piece "Silent Hill" by Ras Mashramani, originally published in Pank. Mashramani takes a Playstation game from the late 1990s and creates a flashback world to when the character lost herself in the game while escaping a world in which her father was dying.

"There was a first generation Playstation video game about a young father who lost his child in a town where it snowed ash. Together you stumbled through foggy whiteness in the creature infested streets looking for her. Some early mornings you passed out in front of the living room TV screen watching hidden monsters behind your eyelids, ash in your hair, a fire burning forever underground. For so long it had been you and your father just like in the game running from stuccoed apartment to stuccoed apartment."

We are firmly placed in this world of father and daughter, both in the context of the video game and also the reality of the story. And when we find later on that the character finds herself allowing a boy much older than her named Marquise to live out a young lapgirl fantasy while she loses herself in the game, it's both a revealing and a supremely sad moment. But more than that it's a brilliant technique and wholly original, even for a form that is innately original in nearly any and all concepts of fiction. When a story stands out in such a way, it's no surprise to find it between the covers of BSF.

"You did this on the point of Marquise’s knee, engrossed in game play, addicted to the focused labored attention of a teenaged boy with sexual behavior issues and the fear of the screen, the fear of touch, wanting the fear, flattening all the affect and focusing it into this character, the Father, and his quest for his kid in this ghost town, and it was hard to disentangle Silent Hill from Paramount, California, and the neglected section 8 pool and automatic gates that made up the Sierra Gardens apartment complex."

This year's edition of BSF is a clear indication that the series is nowhere near a slowing down point, but is, instead, gaining momentum and prestige throughout the world of literature. When the history of flash fiction as a vital form is told, Best Small Fictions and Masih will be in the opening chapter. Of this there should be no doubt.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Brown Bottle featured at Snowflakes in a Blizzard

Darrell Laurant has featured my novel Brown Bottle at his website Snowflakes in a Blizzard, a site he dedicates to underappreciated books in hopes of getting them in the hands of eager readers. How cool is that of him? Good people left in this world. I answered several questions about the book, if you're interested in that sort of thing.


An excerpt:

"Brown Bottle is a true hero story. The journey of a broken and flawed individual who sacrifices the better parts of himself for an innocent youth who is in peril. Along the way he faces the highest levels of corruption, modern day sirens, powerful contemporary potions, and even humans in the form of the most grotesque and heartless monsters imaginable. It’s a tragic but uplifting version of the hero’s journey told against an Eastern Kentucky backdrop recognizable to any rural citizen the world over."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Mating Ritual" at decomP

Bored children do strange things in the South.
This was one of my earliest flash fiction stories to be published. Looking at it now, I see it could very nearly be considered more prose poetry. But then I have a tendency to get caught up in labels more often than I'd care to admit. I'm working to surgically or otherwise rip that part of me out as quickly as possible.

"Mating Ritual" is one of the pieces I'm most proud of, one that, over the years since I was first published, I've always had a fondness for deep down. It's an odd story for me. I wrote it in less than fifteen minutes without a break. It was actually more like ten minutes, I guess. Each sentence came exactly formed without need for any further adjustments. And each paragraph was structured in the exact way needed. I didn't have to stop and think, didn't hesitate or second guess a single thing about this story.

I've never had this happen with anything I've written since. I really have no idea where this story came from at all. What I can remember is that earlier that day I had told someone how during the summers as a kid I would rip lightning bugs in half with my cousins and admitted we'd then take the luminescent  abdomens and stick them on our fingers and pretend we had glowing rings. Most unusual, yes.

See what you think.


Monday, July 24, 2017

New interview up at Poets & Writers of VMP

Staring at souls
Mike Lafontaine, chief of all things at Vending Machine Press, is working up some great magic for his contributors. One of those extras are interviews he's posting at a sister site called Poets & Writers of VMP. My interview was posted yesterday.

Mike asked some good questions and because he opened his doors to my work at a time when so many others seemed closed for awhile, I opened up and talked about some things I hadn't touched on before. It was fun and interesting. Have a look.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Appreciation of Timothy Gager's CHIEF JAY STRONGBOW IS REAL

Chief Jay Strongbow is Real
by Timothy Gager

Big Table Publishing (July 18, 2017)
$14 paperback (Amazon)

Timothy Gager is a fantastic poet. I'd like to say this up front. And I say that for everyone. To my mind, and I could be off base in mentioning this, but I seem to think he may go unnoticed too often for his poetry. Reading his most recent collection, Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, I've become convinced he could be one of our most natural poets. His poems have this feel to them, as if they appeared to him in visions. In truth, I realize this only means he worked on them extraordinarily hard. But still, not everyone can bring across this natural feel in their work.

Take this from Act I, the first of eight sections of poems from the collection, a piece titled "Repatriation":

It’s still happening, now, as 
science, debunked their tall tale

that I wasn’t really a native American,
not a cultural item of lineal descendants

see what they dug up, check the DNA 
which shows, I still long to be in the ground.

Timothy spends a good deal of time at the beginning of this collection dealing with justice and injustice, especially in regard to the native American. In his preface, he explains that his perspective on the treatment of the native American was changed following a failed grade school assignment. He spends time on the subject in the title poem, as well, Chief Jay Strongbow, a former pro wrestler who used a racist gimmick, a popular show technique for those guys in the 1980s. But he doesn't stay on the subject, instead moving on to topics ranging from the complexities of love to the hardships of addiction.

In the poem "Sobriety" with stripped down language and minimal space, Gager absolutely sums up one of many aspects of what staying clean is like, the hourly grind of it and how beautiful recovery can be when managed successfully. The poem begins with a familiar image, the addict or alcoholic in recovery with coffee. In this instance, sitting alone in thought, viewing oil paintings.

view the oil paintings 
hung boats and fields 

thousands of brush strokes 

But more than what he can do with a ripe subject matter, and returning to this natural rhythm his style develops on the tongue, it is his use of syntax that can astound in this collection. Of the many poems on display, none show this more clearly for me than "Nursery Rhythms." Have a look at the final stanza and consider while reading how Timothy must have labored over each syllable working in perfect concert with the other.

off my crooked clavicle
sapiens discern vertebrae 
unbreakable, resilient 
missiled. And shatterproof 
glass in pitched little houses 
is how we wind up a catapult.

Big Table Publishing just released this title. I suggest you get to Amazon and get a copy as soon as possible. BTP will have it available at their site soon, I'm sure. In the meantime, know that Timothy is writing poetry that is not only pleasing on a poetic level but is also important on a social level, aware of long-standing debts and the newly-wronged alike and poetry that offers wisdom shared beautifully, not something found easily or often. And he shares this asking nothing in return but your attention.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

New in the Mail - Kuzhali Manickavel

The Appreciation of Marcus Speh's GISELA

by Marcus Speh

Folded Word Press (June 30, 2017)
$16 paperback (from Folded Word Press)
$5.99 Kindle (free with Kindle Unlimited)

I won't spend too much time talking about when Marcus was Finnigan Flawnt, but you should know that Marcus was once a writer on the indie scene that other indie lit writers couldn't talk enough about. He was like Basquiat in the 1980s New York art scene. He still is, it's only now there's that asterisk there under the conversation with that cool pseudonym. Like Basquiat, he is talented, charming, completely original, and when working under the pen name, mysterious without being in your face with it. He's a natural, you know?

Over the past several years, he's receded a bit, back to Berlin and his primary work of being a genius in other fields of study (yes, Marcus is bonafide that way. My daughter could possibly still believe he alone invented the internet, in fact). But let's move along to his most recent achievement, the historical novel-in-flash Gisela, recently published by Folded Word Press.

Based on the historical queen and later saint Gisela of Hungary, Gisela, the book, bloomed in Marcus's mind (that's how I imagine it happening, blooming) from the idea of this influential woman who history forgot or, at best, made a footnote. How would the many pieces fit together, and how could he, Marcus, combine them to magical ends?

The end result is a beautifully crafted set of short pieces that can both stand on their own as exacting and fully realized works of literature but also, when laced together by Marcus's skilled hands, become a full structure that is, for me, literally breathtaking, in that I seriously discovered myself holding my breath while reading at least half a dozen times throughout. For instance in sections such as one titled "The Witches" the reader feels as much under a spell as any character presented in the text. Here's an excerpt:

"Gerbert, by the window, shuddered; his mouth contorted. The witch began to twist faster and faster while her twin was talking to Gisela, mumbling to her, marching old holy words straight through the child’s ear into her skull, where they entered the bloodstream and looked for the enemy. The monk’s fingers twitched in the same rhythm and he found himself falling into a trance. He knew it would be dangerous to witness the witches brewing and dancing but there was an energy in it that he’d missed badly since he’d been asked to educate the young princess. Gerbert didn’t even notice when the hags stopped, tucked the girl in, rubbed the concoction on her lips and left for the unseen place from which they had come. Gisela healed quickly thereafter: The fever fell that same night and she asked for solid food the next morning. She had no memory of what had happened, but when she bounced on one leg across the meadow in the castle yard, she chanted a little melody that had not been heard in church, an odd melody that made Gerbert’s ears prick up because he sensed the uncanny in it."

To my mind (and I've read everything that Marcus has written that I'm aware is out there) this novel surpasses anything he's accomplished to this point. It is no mind whether you have an interest in history or, in truth, even literature. Reading Gisela is to be fully enchanted, and that is the rarest of all states for any writer to place a reader. It may be the writer's greatest achievement. Marcus set an extraordinary goal for himself in this and never faltered. We're all richer for his effort and success.


Next Appreciation: Timothy Gager's Chief Jay Strongbow is Real

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Appreciation of Heather Sullivan's WAITING FOR AN ANSWER

Waiting for an Answer 
by Heather Sullivan

Nixes Mate Books (July 15, 2017)
$9.95 paperback
$2.99 eBook

My purchase of Heather's poetry collection Sullivan's Waiting for an Answer set the record, I think. I saw it on my Facebook feed at let's say 8:17 p.m. I owned the eBook edition at let's say 8:24 p.m.

I would have gotten the hard copy, but I was eager. And my book buying funds were wiped out about three weeks ago. These are the facts as presented. Here are some more facts.

I'm a fan of Heather's poetry and with this, her debut collection, I was, yes, eager, to say the least. What I found was a heartfelt collection full of talent and composure that took on the powerful topics of love and family and loss and parenting and childhood with an ease that has been, to my eye, unmatched.

The poems are written sincerely and from a place of awe or contentment or some kind of cosmic blessing the rest of us have yet to experience. When Heather trains her poetic vision on the present day of say her children or the seaside town she now calls home, the reader wants to be there with her, feel all the moments along with her. She does this with words, sentences, lines. And in poems that explore a childhood that immediately intones a past with more shadows and perhaps more jagged learning curves that will later feed the seaside present, Heather never falters with the same composure and talent. What is best about what is given up to the reader of these poems is simply everything Heather has to give that is best about her heart and her mind.

Waiting for an Answer is less a debut poetry collection and more a culmination of one incredibly strong person's inner awakening to a life lived with integrity in the face of hardship and a philosophy built on family and built to last for all time. When a poet gives you that kind of book, you pay attention.


Next Appreciation: Marcus Speh's Gisela

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jellyfish Review publishes "After a Certain Point, You've Got to Name the Bird"

Chris James at Jellyfish Review (who I'm compelled to tell you is an unbelievably good writer himself as evidenced by this story alone) published a story of mine I'm very fond of called "After a Certain Point, You've Got to Name the Bird" yesterday. The story was rejected a discouraging number of times before Chris wrote giving me the fantastic news that he'd publish it at JR. I know we don't get to read as many online stories as we'd like, but I really would love if you could get time to read this one.

Read - "After a Certain Point, You've Got to Name the Bird"

Monday, July 10, 2017

Brief Appreciations Coming Soon

I've bought books by two of my friends in the past couple weeks - Gisela: Empress, Abbess, Saint by Marcus Speh and Waiting for an Answer by Heather Sullivan.

I've read most everything I've found by these two and I've always enjoyed it. I have no doubt I will be a fan of these latest works. It's Heather's debut poetry collection (congratulations Heather!) and I'm already halfway through Gisela, so the appreciations will be coming somewhat soon.

Appreciations? Yes, not reviews. Because let's be honest, I'm not going to find much at all in these books that I'm not going to like. Many thanks to Rusty for that term, by the way. It makes all the sense in the world.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Twitter (v.) - Making new friends. Having fun.

This is awkward. Anytime a person says the sentence I'm getting ready to say, it nearly always implies they mean the exact opposite. But I really do not. So, that said, here's my sentence: I truly don't mean to offend any of my many Twitter friends by saying what I'm about to say.

I don't understand Twitter users who have, for instance, 16 people they're following and, conversely, a total of 12,548 followers.  Here's what those numbers look like on Twitter. You know, closer together.

Following - 16   Followers - 12, 548

It's jarring. At least I'm jarred by it. I'm struck. My attention is captured. I'm stumped, flummoxed. I'm not appalled or anything. I'm only sort of conflicted or confused. Maybe a little bit offended? But only a little, because I have heard the explanations. The one most often handed over is this old standby: I only follow people I really really want to see posts from, people I actually know. Well fine and good and fine, but here's what I see in my already overworked mind when you say that: You standing in a corner of a room talking to sixteen people you know in real life and see everyday in your living room or around the block and who you don't need Twitter to talk to in the first place.

But, in defense of Twitter users seen with these numbers, they cannot, absolutely cannot, be held accountable for the number of people who follow them on this social media platform. And this has nothing to do with my point. My point is this: If they were to follow some of them back I truly believe they'd make a lot more new friends and have a lot more fun.

About two weeks ago, I put this theory into practice. I didn't have the staggering numbers some of my friends have, but I had a noticeable difference. I think it was roughly this:

Following - 321   Followers - 1,252

Here's the truth: I really don't know how this happened. It wasn't planned. I basically stopped following back at some point, I think. Mostly out of laziness. This combined with a lack of checking in on my account and before I knew it I had this big old difference in numbers. In total fairness, this may be the case with many of my friends, too. I have no idea. That said, part of my purpose with this post is to encourage those friends to put my theory to practice, though. Because when I did, my Twitter feed became much much more interesting. And I've started chatting with a crazy amount of hilarious, wise, witty, and charming people.

My theory wasn't complicated. Make things right. Carrying it out was actually fun. I took to Twitter and went first to each account that had followed me. Watching out for bots, I followed people back. No real discretion. How could I know who would be potential online friends? Then I went looking for more remarkable guys and gals. It was fun. Try it, seriously. I honestly think it was what Twitter was invented for. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Four Micros in Second-Person" at Wilderness House Literary Review

This one is from a good ways back. In fact, I forgot until a couple weeks ago that I had ever had anything published at Wilderness House Literary Review, as evidence by the fact that over the past few months I've submitted something to them at least four times with high hopes I might finally get something published there. I'm forgetful, at best. One thing's for certain: It wasn't because I don't admire WHLRevew that I forgot. I admire them at the highest level, and was ecstatic to discover I had placed work with them, no matter how long ago in my career that had happened. I hope you enjoy "Four Micros in Second-Person". It was a piece I wrote while enthralled with both the micro form (still many thanks to Joseph Young for that) and also stories written in second-person (still and still many thanks to Clay McLeod Chapman's amazing book Rest Area).

Read "Four Micros in Second-Person"

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New poem "You Can't Trust Water" at Uut Poetry

Uut Poetry is a fine fine online poetry journal. It's a Tumblr: Home run #1. It has fantastic art: Home run #2. And last but not least, it has some amazing poetry (see Howie Good's Judenrein for one example): Home run #3. That three homers in one game. That's some Reggie level chops right there.

You can assume I'm saying this only because I have a poem published there today, but you'd be wrong. I've followed Uut for a fairly long time and hadn't written any poetry. Now I'm writing poetry and so I sent Brooks something. He liked it. I'm happy he did. That's the whole story, and who cares anyways? Right.

Here's my poem called "You Can't Trust Water" and I hope it makes you think and makes your brain enjoy words for a short while.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Second Installment of My Goodread Year at Enclave

I'm rolling along with my Goodreads installments over at Enclave. It's basically a list of the books I've read so far this year divided into 10 or 12 at a time. I write a little about each one. That's the whole thing. But it's fun. Have a look.

First Installment

Second Installment

Friday, June 30, 2017

New poetry at Fixional

There's a new literature website called Fixional. I have a new poem there called "The Bonding Fire." I'd love if you all visited and gave it a read. Below is the link:

The Bonding Fire - Fixional

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Ouroboros" at The Molotov Cocktail

Here's an oldie that Lee Hamblin reminded about a couple days ago. It's called "Ouroboros" and was published a few centuries ago at The Molotov Cocktail. As with most all of my fiction, there's some real stuff in there. And it's not what you'd expect.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Matthew J. Hall Reviews Brown Bottle

Matthew J. Hall wrote a flattering review of my third book, the novel Brown Bottle at his website Screaming With Brevity. The review came out in February and I'm pretty sure I shared it at that time at another site I used to keep up. But, since I haven't shared it here, I'm going to pop it right up. Follow the below link to read the review.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Seven Drums" Published in BULL

It's a two-way win for me. I've wanted something of mine to appear in BULL for a very long time, and I had a story I felt was the best fiction I'd written in probably a decade that BULL fiction editor said he's like to see. The two-way win came when Ben Drevlow accepted the story, a western called "Seven Drums," for publication in BULL's pulp issue. And it also appears on the website today. I'd honestly love if you'd go read it as soon as you can. I don't usually say it, but I am proud of this one.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Social Media: An A-1 Dodgy Curse

Earlier today I published a post saying I wasn't going to share these on social media anymore.
Well, my post from a couple days ago (which I shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +) had about sixty or so views. The post from this morning has five.

And I'm still not sharing posts from here to social media anymore. These posts are for approximately six people, it seems. And that's turbo okay by me. All are welcome, but six will do fine.

There's Probably a Meme for That

Okay, so the Braves have won their last three games and are only five more wins with no losses to being at 500 ball. Good. Second place in a division where second is really first because the stupid Nats are like 10 games ahead of everybody.

Okay, my back is out, it's 6 a.m., and I've already been at work a half hour.

Okay, something has happened here at my work so that coworkers seem to think my office is Studio 54 and that I love having five to six people in here at all times, which forces me to put on five to six masks at once and nearly cause myself another nervous breakdown. And I also have work to do.

Okay, I'm not going to share this post or any of my other posts to social media anymore because social media is a room full of scratching posts and tomcats and all the tomcats think they have every right to scratch every post. My scratching posts are mine. You cannot touch them. Besides, as the wise and talented Laurence Fishburne said, "My social life is not media worthy." Amen, Orpheus. Amen Jack Crawford.

Okay, my coffee is done and it's now time to grab a cigarette and a cup of McCafe with some hazelnut cream. I'm not even going to talk about how good coffee is, you know? There's probably a meme for that somewhere. Google it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Pure Sounds of Baseball

HEY DAY: Glavine pitching for my Braves.

A baseball game on the radio is a wonderful thing. I've been listening to my Atlanta Braves exclusively on the radio this season (of course along with watching highlight clips of big plays on MLB At Bat) and the option has me like a brand new fan, though I've been watching the Braves for thirty-five years.

As I write this, the boys are playing Miami and coming off their second victorious series this season against the reprehensible Washington Nationals. And I'm listening to it all on the radio, the comfort-food smooth voices of broadcasting royalty Chip Caray and Hall of Famer Don Sutton easing me from inning to inning. In the background I can hear the stirring rumble of the fans rising and falling like a lake current hitting the bank and receding. A full second before Chip tells me Matt Adams connects on a monster hit, I hear the crack and already know. All I need Chip to do now is tell me if it's fair, tell me when it leaves SunTrust.

Any fans who haven't tried the Radio Season, as I'm calling it now, really should test the waters and see if next year would be a possibility. It's a return to some kind of pureness, which baseball will always provide you under any circumstance. As the poet Donald Hall said, "Baseball is fathers and sons. Football is brothers beating each other up in the backyard."

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Hate Being a Writer Today

I hate that writing is so important to me that sometimes the people who love me feel they have to show interest in writing, too, in order to be close to me. Maybe I won't be a writer for awhile.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My Per "Dead" Ohlin Story at Blue Fifth Notebook

Late last year the wonderful Michelle Elvy asked if I'd like to take part in Blue Five Notebook's blue collection 7. Michelle and the other editors solicited ekphrastic works of poetry, fiction, art, and non-fiction that connected in some way with the creative arts.

I contributed a story about the former lead singer of the black metal band Mayhem, Per "Dead" Ohlin called "Draft Notes on Life Eternal" you can read here. His is a strange and sad story in its entirety. If you read this and our intrigued any at all, I'd surely recommend looking further into his life, career, and eventual suicide.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Two Short Stories @ Connotation Press

I want to thank Jonathan Cardew up front for being great in dealing with me on getting a couple stories in shape for Connotation Press's May 2017 issue. He's been doing a remarkable job there at CP as fiction editor and I'm sure we'll see more great work in the coming months.

That said, I have two stories - "Oldbones" and "Persistence" - published at CP this month. The entire issue offers a lot of solid work so cruise around and give it a read.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Relax Again, It's a Reading Roundup, Again

Cause it's my childhood and warm and wonderful.

Here is some work worth checking out. Well worth checking out.

On Beauty and Other Poems by Olivia Marwdig @ Vending Machine Press

Kept by Meredith Alling & Agam Neiman @ 7X7

Three Poems by Howie Good @ RASPUTIN: A Poetry Thread

In the Country of the Broken by David Roden @ gobbet

Hungry by Nasreen Khan @ Anti-Heroin Chic

Storm Girls by Cathy Ulrich @ Fair Folk

The House That Jack Built by John Madera @ Conjunctions

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fluland Is the Name of a Lit Journal

I'm sending poetry out to some journals lately and getting good news. I like that. In fact, I'm so into poetry right now that I may not be able to stick to my plan of focusing on long fiction for the next several months. I need Russell Edson. I need James Tate. I need Francis Ponge. I need prose poetry. As Edson says, I'm a little prose poet. The form just feels comfortable for me. I've always looked at writing on a sentence level and images and the unspoken or unspeakable. The narrative has always been hardly more than the structure that enabled me to lay down these sick phrases, etc.

A few days ago I had four poems accepted at the lit journal Fluland. I saw a friend's piece there a couple weeks back or something like that and checked out the rest of the journal. It's all kitschy and odd and publishes all different kinds of innovative work including comics and such. A place like that draws me in. The different and strange always has had that effect on me and that makes me wonder how in the world I wrote realism for so long. Not to say I won't write more realism at some point (although I seriously don't see me doing it) but just that I can't see how I did so for so long when my interests are in the fantastic. Oh well, only I really care.

So yep, Fluland. So I sent them four the innovative poems. Side Note: I use the word innovative not as a brag sort of thing but because I dislike the term experimental fiction or poetry. It implies possible failure. An experiment can go wrong. Innovation is simply moving past the normal borders in my mind. I prefer the moving past borders option. Yep. So they took four of my poems. One called "a Lectus" that deals with my dad; one called "Forty's Year Mind" that is about Nabokov's death; one titled "Things to Fix With a Hammer" that is about exactly what it says and features some clip art; and a poem called "Rain in Gutters" that is, yep, about rain in gutters. Well, and some other stuff.

This is the first time a journal has accepted a bundle of my poems so I'm excited. I mean Fluland isn't The Paris Review and.....isn't that awesome! I'm serious. I want more journals like Fluland around. This is where the real innovation in poetry and prose is happening. We all know this.

I'm not sure when the poems will appear (I was told when they were published I would be contacted). I'll post here when they are live.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Duotrope Editor Interview for The Airgonaut

Some of you may know that I edit the online journal The Airgonaut; some of you may not know this. If you don't, then pay no mind to what I'm posting here this morning. No worries. If you do, then here is an interview at Duotrope I took part in about The Airgonaut. I basically answered a series of stock questions about things ranging from what I look for in a submission to who are some writers I like. Things such as that. I will say if you're planning on sending something my way there then this would be a benefit to you if you're not already familiar with the journal.

Monday, May 8, 2017

There Are No Prizes

So I'm gearing up to enter some pages for the Italo Calvino Prize this year. I wish I didn't care about awards or prizes because they're intensely arbitrary and a set of certain opinions from certain humans at a given time and place under certain circumstances of which we have no idea the levels of Aristotelian confluences that brought them to their decision that day. But I do care. I hate myself, but I do care. If other people did what I should do and not care then this wouldn't be a problem. My mind keeps going back to the last two sentences in Michael Ondaatje's masterwork Coming Through Slaughter.

"Thirty-one years old. There are no prizes."

Yes, Mr. Ondaatje. I hear you, sensei. But I'm still probably going to make a run for the Calvino. I mean if it was named after just about another other author I'd be able to pass it up right now. But I'm writing Calvino influenced work these days (or had have been the past several months, although that's about to change for a bit). I've also been reading Calvino like a madman. I've been basically trying to take in everything about him and Borges that I can almost as if by osmosis. And I started doing this much much before I learned there was even such a thing as a Calvino Prize. Or that it was given out by the University of Louisville, where I basically went to grad school. Or that someone I actually know (Ryan Ridge) won it last year. Now that's a series of confluences for you. So basically I can't resist. Wish me luck or don't. Either way I'm going to be dropping a $25 entry fee for nothing, as I will not win. I know this because Tyler knows this.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Refocusing on longer stories for now

For the next few months I'm going to be working on some longer stories set in Appalachia but having nothing to do with Appalachia per se. Reading Moshfegh has me kickstarted back to writing about characters. Keeping the focus directly on them and what they want. I've missed that while writing other material since September of last year. I have starts for about ten or so stories like this so hopefully I'll emerge with some decent work when this is all said and done. Wish me luck.

Another Ottessa Moshfegh Post

Yep, another one. Because you can't get enough Ottessa Moshfegh in your life.

I'm reading Eileen now (the book she admits was written along a familiar paradigm in order to make money). Yes, to sell books. I absolutely love that she says this without any shame, for she should feel none. What's wrong with writing to sell a book? Not every endeavor we make as writers has to be Van Gogh-like in its unappreciated genius and obscure innovation.

Moshfegh comes across as completely real to me, at least in the interviews of hers I've read. Her interview with Luke Goebel in whatever place it was I read it was what led me to read her most recent book, the short story collection Homesick for Another World. Those stories were written in such a pitch as I've never encountered before in fiction. I didn't think that was still possible today. And there's nothing really flashy about them that makes them so good. It's mostly how she tells a story - like she starts from inside the characters and makes her way out to you so that by the time her story is told it's like you've lived it along with the characters and her. It's a subtle talent, and a beautiful one.

Yesterday I ran across a guest post by her that I'm surely going to share here now. It was published at The Masters Review and is titled "How to Shit." Seriously, how amazing great is that? she talks a lot about shit, sort of. She talks about things in only the way she is able to talk about things. Have a look. Just follow the below linked title.

THE MASTERS REVIEW - "How to Shit" by Ottessa Moshfegh 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Reading log from 2014 to present


1. Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

2. The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour

3. Cult of Loretta by Kevin Maloney

4. The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire

5. Saw Strokes My Father Taught Me by G. Arthur Brown

6. Root and Shoot by Nathan Leslie

7. United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

8. Cartoons in the Suicide Forest by Leza Cantoral

9. Visions by Troy James Weaver

10. Naked Friends by Justin Grimbol

11. Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejection Letters from the Eyeshot Outbox by Lee Klein

12. Handwriting by Michael Ondaatje

13. Nothing is Strange by Mike Russell

14. Bluets by Maggie Nelson

15. Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery by Tim Earley

16. Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins

17. On Broad Sound by Rusty Barnes

18. The Second Sex by Michael Robbins

19. Whim Man Mammom by Abraham Smith

20. EOB: Earth Out of Balance by John Minichillo

21. Paris Blues by Charles Baudelaire

22. The Devil’s Trill by Ron Houchin

23. Tinderbox Lawn by Carol Guess

24. Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino

25. Jorges Luis Borges: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Jorge Luis Borges

26. Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

27. Homesick for Another World: Stories by Ottessa Moshfegh

28. Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges

29. Plainwater: Essays and Poetry by Anne Carson

30. The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory by Jorge Luis Borges

31. The Cinammon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje

32. The Lucky Body by Kyle Coma-Thompson

33. Best Experimental Writing 2014 edited by Cole Swenson


1. Easter Rabbit by Joseph Young

2. Best Small Fictions 2015 edited by Tara L. Masih and Robert Olen Butler

3. The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih

4. Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons by Tara Laskowski

5. Hint Fiction edited by Robert Smartwood

6. Metal Gear Solid by Ashley and Anthony Burch

7. The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret

8. Micro Fiction edited by Jerome Stern

9. Rashomon and other Stores by Ryünosuke Akutagawa

10. Severance by Robert Olen Butler

11. Slade House by David Mitchell

12. Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthleme by Tracy Daughtery

13. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

14. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011 guest edited by Guillermo del Toro

15. Studies in Hybrid Morphology by Matt Tompkins

16. Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories edited by James Thomas

17. A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham

18. Appalachian Elegy by bell hooks

19. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

20. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

21. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

22. Basal Ganglia by Matthew Revert

23. The Humble Assessment by Kris Saknussemm

24. Gil the Nihilist: A Sitcom by Sean Kilpatrick

25. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

26. Bolaño: A Biography in Conversations by Mónica Maristain

27. Underworld by Don DeLillo

28. The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges

29. Tables Without Chairs by Brian Alan Ellis and Bud Smith

30. The Tent by Margaret Atwood

31. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

32. The Quiet American by Graham Greene

33. Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor

34. A Universal History of Iniquity by Jorge Luis Borges

35. Souvenirs and Other Stories by Matt Tompkins

36. In Case We Die edited by Aaron Dietz and Bud Smith

37. The Color Master by Aimee Bender

38. Split Rail by Mark Welborn

39. Relax, You’re Going to Die by Tai Sheridan

40. Hoopty Time Machines by Christopher DeWan

41. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

42. Marigold by Troy James Weaver

43. The Insufferable Goucho by Roberto Bolaño

44. Light Boxes by Shane Jones

45. Best Small Fictions 2016 edited by Tara L. Masih and Stuart Dybek

46. He Stopped Loving Her Today: George Jones, Billy Sherrill, and the Pretty-Much Totally True Story of the Making of the Greatest Country Record of All Time by Jack Isenhour

47. The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret

48. Jeff Bridges by Donora Hillard

49. 13 by David Tomaloff

50. Failing This by Alec Niedenthal

51. Kitty by Lindsay Hunter

52. The Map of the System of Human Knowledge by James Tadd Adcox

53. I’ll Give You Something to Cry About by Corey Mesler

54. Our Hearts Are Power Ballads by J. Bradley

55. Daniel Fights a Hurricane by Shane Jones

56. Philip K. Dick: The Last Interviews and Other Conversations

57. The Equation of Constants by b.l. pawelek

58. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

59. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

60. A Death in the Family by James Agee

61. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

62. Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

63. Horror Film Poems by Christoph Paul

64. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

65. My Friend Ken Harvey by Barrett Warner

66. Museum of the Weird by Amelia Gray

67. Two Hundred and One Miniature Tales by Alejandro Cordoba Sosa

68. Not Quite So Stories by David S. Atkinson


1. Tampa by Alissa Nutting

2. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

3. The Baltimore Atrocities by John Dermot Woods

4. Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill

5. Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

6. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash

7. Sinners of Sanction County by Charles Dodd White

8. Hell and Ohio by Chris Holbrook

9. The Cove by Ron Rash

10. Burning Bright by Ron Rash

11. Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

12. Straight to Hell and Astrology by Danielle Etienne

13. American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell

14. Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill

15. Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

16. Gap Greek by Robert Morgan

17. Witchita Stories by Troy James Weaver

18. Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce

19. Big World by Mary Miller

20. The National Virginity Pledge by Barry Graham

21. When You Cross That Line by Sam Slaughter

22. Fourteen Stories and None of Them Are Yours by Luke B. Goebel

23. Gutshot by Amelia Gray

24. The Marble Orchard by Alex Taylor

25. Winterswim by Ryan W. Bradley

26. Haints Stay by Colin Winnette

27. Trampoline by Robert Gipe

28. In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell

29. Blurb by Ravi Mangla

30. Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History by Phong Nguyen

31. Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon by Cameron Pierce

32. The Way the World Is by Michael Henson

33. Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean edited by Karen Salyer McElmurray and Adrian Blevins

34. Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky

35. The Meadow by James Galvin

36. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

37. Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1 by Marcel Proust

38. Beloved by Toni Morrison

39. Ridgerunner by Rusty Barnes

40. Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

41. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

42. The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek

43. The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing by Nicholas Rombes

44. Is That You, John Wayne by Scott Garson

45. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

46. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

47. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

48. The Trial by Franz Kafka

49. The Stranger by Albert Camus

50. The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel

51. V by Thomas Pynchon

52. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

53. Lucky Alan and other Stories by Jonathan Lethem

54. Suddenly, a Knock On the Door by Etgar Keret

55. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

56. Taipei by Tao Lin


1. Nightwork by Christina Schutt

2. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders

4. Galaga by Michael Kimball

5. The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus

6. Hill William by Scott McClanahan

7. Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt

8. Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

9. Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

10. The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell

11. The Uncertainty Principle by Rob McLennan

12. The Day the Cloud Stood Still by Patrick Trotti

13. In the Season of Blood and Gold by Taylor Brown

14. Billie the Bull by xTx

15. Pathologies by William Walsh

16. Baptism and Dogs by B.L. Tucker

17. The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones

18. Above All Men by Eric Shonkwiler

19. The Fun We’ve Had by Michael Seidlinger

20. Backswing by Aaron Burch

21. Brown Dog by Jim Harrison

22. Alone with Other People by Gabby Bess

23. The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

24. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

25. Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

26. Panic, USA by Nate Slawson

27. Third Class Superhero by Charles Yu

28. A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’ Conner

29. Jeff, One Lonely Guy by Jeff Ragsdale

30. Baby Babe by Ana Carrete

31. Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

32. I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying by Matthew Salesses

33. I Was a Fat Drunk Catholic by Jamie Iredell

34. Colony Collapse by J.A. Tyler

35. Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne

36. Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz

37. My Friend Ken Harvey by Barrett Warner

38. Witch Piss by Sam Pink

39. The Black Dog Eats the City by Chris Kelso

40. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

41. Addicts and Basements by Robert Vaughan

42. The Tommy Plans by Cooper Reener

43. Bark by Lorrie Moore

44. Drinking Until Morning by Justin Grimbol

45. High as the Horse’s Bridle by Scott Cheshire

46. Dry by Augusten Burroughs

47. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata

48. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

49. My Salinger Years by Joanna Rakoff

50. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max

51. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

52. Annihilation by Jeff VandeMeer

53. Lost in Space by Ben Tanzer

54. King Shit by Brian Alan Ellis

55. 33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living by Brian Alan Ellis

56. 10:04 by Ben Lerner

57. Misadventure by Nicholas Grider

Fail Better: Learning To Let Go as a Reader and a Writer

Tonight I begin again on a book I'm writing that may have no ending at all. And no hope for one. It's doesn't even have a tit...