Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Airgonaut - 2018 Best Small Fictions & Pushcart Prize Nominees

I nearly forgot I had nominations to make before signing off from The Airgonaut entirely. My last act as editor gets to be about the most rewarding thing an editor of an online indie journal can do - sling some love.

So the nominations are in and are as follows (with links to stories chosen):


Nina Sudhakar - Memento Arbori

Donora A. Rihn - The Astronaut

Geordie Flantz - Serengeti


Julia Patt - The Girl in the Deer

Michael Díaz Feito - Pentecost

Lynn Mundell - The Story of Three Metals

Santino Prinzi - These Are the Rules of Our Canopy Shyness and Life

Matthew Lyons - Metastasis

Robert Boucheron - Honalee

A hearty good luck to all nominees. I would sincerely love for each of these stories to be chosen and included in the 2018 installment of both of these series.

And a word about the selection process: It was well beyond difficult to narrow favorites down to only six choices for the Pushcart and a mere five choices for BSF. I can truly say that each story I published at The Airgonaut this past year was, in my heart, as good as any published this past year at any journal.

Monday, December 4, 2017

New story published today @ Vestal Review

I'm awfully happy to have a story called "The House in the Northwest Corner" in Issue 52 of Vestal Review.

It's the longest running journal of flash fiction and has been the home of numerous great writers including Steve Almond, Aimee Bender, Sam Lipsyte, Stuart Dybek, Robert Olen Butler, Pamela Painter, and many more.

Mark Budman has edited the journal for an outstanding 17 years.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Relax, It's a Lit Roundup 5

It's been awhile since I've shared some cool stuff from the lit world. As usual, I'm going to get out of the way and go ahead and start the list.

* Vol. 1 Brooklyn has a pretty good preview of books coming out this month.

* Kevin Sampsell has a fine short story called "Out of Nowhere" at Tin House.

* I only recently jumped in and read Bob Schofield's first two books. Really cool and dreamy material. With that in mind, you should know you can preorder his new book The Burning Person. It has a release date set for December 15 from 2FAST2HOUSE.

* For a few months now I've meant to get on here and drop some love for Robert York, writer and curator of The Dreadful Point. His work is hard to categorize or pin down, which, of course, makes it brilliant. Head over and spend some time reading.

* I interviewed writer Fin Sorrel over at Enclave not to long ago. Now I'm reading his new story collection Caramel Floods. You should, too.

So link it up and check these out as soon as you can. And take a minute or two to find a way to let the writers know what you think. Most of us ain't making money doing this so hearing from readers goes a long way.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Books I'm Reading Now

1. The Cosmos Trilogy by Frederick Seidel

2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

3. Journals by Kurt Cobain

4. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

5. JRZDVLZ by Lee Klein

6. Caramel Floods by Fin Sorrel

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Titles of Stories I'm Working on Now

1. The Sun Appears and the Sun Goes Away

2. Two Negatives

3. To the Cherokee Strip

4. The Judas Steer

5. Donna & Morris 4-Ever

6. The Corn Dolly

7. The Shootist

8. Dove/Serpent

9. You Should Always Call a Mountain Grandmother

10. Typhon's Broken Heart

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Post with No Structure, Part of an Ongoing Collection

Home alone today...for awhile at least. My father in law is bringing me lunch in an hour or so and my daughter will be coming by to see me later this afternoon. My great love Heather is back at work after a week and a half off with me for the surgery. I miss her and the house is quiet and lonely and strange.

It's been a couple of hours since I started this blog post. I've had my lunch and now I'm watching Criminal Minds in that binge kind of way I tend to do when I need my mind fully occupied. Talked with Heather a few minutes ago and I've got a plan to talk my family doc into signing a release for me to return to work with no duties. That kind of thing. I'd do better sitting at work and talking with my friends and being able to see Heather than I am sitting here lonesome and feeling strange and out of sorts.

Well, this isn't very interesting, I imagine. It's recovery rambling without purpose. Been doing a lot of that here lately. What can I say? Not much in the mood to write pieces that have essay-like precision et cetera. Not really sure I can do that or ever have. Doesn't matter.

Doesn't matter. Yes indeed. That's something that's happened since my heart surgery. My lifeline has been shortened. Well, it's been lengthened. But at the same time I have to face the reality that I have a bad heart. A really bad heart and a blood disorder that makes it even worse. I'm not going to trying to figure out what to do during my eighties. Let's put it that way. But the doesn't matter thing can be summed up by saying that with certain perspective a sizable chunk of worries and concerns just sort of slide away. A person begins to focus on the really really big stuff, the important stuff. Family, loved ones. A sense of purpose, of place. The little things really and honestly do not matter all that much.

Rambling again.

Okay, so I'm going to sign off for now. I've got another episode of Criminal Minds coming up and I'm due some Tylenol, as my sore and aching chest and heart muscle has been telling me for the past hours.

Monday, November 27, 2017

JMWW Nominated "A Sensational Tale of Symbolic Patricide" for Best Small Fictions

So Jen Michalski and the rest of the wonderful editors at JMWW nominated my short story "A Sensational Tale of Symbolic Patricide" for Best Small Fictions today. I've been reading JMWW for nearly ten years and it's one of my favorite journals. I hadn't submitted anything to them in a long time when I sent this story their way. It seemed to have that JMWW feel to it, seriously. I guess it really must have. They published it fairly soon after accepting it and now it's up for inclusion in BSF. I'm so grateful to everyone there, but especially Jen, Linda Simoni-Wastila, Kristin Bonilla, Kristin Bonilla, Becca Borawski Jenkins, and Jolene McIlwain.

Below is the link to their announcement. Congratulations to the other writers listed!

Our 2018 Pushcart and Best Small Fictions Nominations!

Checking In All Journal Style

10:20 a.m.

There's no way I can make it another four weeks out from work. I need my routine back. Bad. I see now why people who are 97 and still working basically refuse to retire. It's all over after the routine is gone. I bet it's just a matter of days after that. Feels like it would be.

I've been checking out some really cool online journals I'd forgotten about. Most of the morning I've been traveling around reading from these. I'm definitely going to be sending some work to them soon.

It's pretty much time for my a big ol' nap so I'm going to do that. I've started thinking about cigarettes again and I can't believe I'm doing that. It's ridiculous. I know if I go back to smoking I'll only live maybe another three years. That's crazy. Addiction is crazy. I'm rambling. I know I am. But I'm okay with that. Okay, so I'll check back in later.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

It Was a Stranger Things and Sixth Sense Kind of Morning

It's been a good day of recovery so far. I've spent some good time with my Great Love this morning. We watched a few episodes of season two of Stranger Things and enjoyed it. Enjoyed enjoying the time together. I had some kind of flashback thing happen shortly afterwards where I started worrying real bad that we wouldn't have much more time left together because of my heart not being healthy. It got me in a real real bad way. But before that an episode made us want KFC chicken bad and we went down the road and got a big bucket. Came home and ate like a king and a queen. I think that was what made what happen happen, because it was such a great morning in that way. Simple and wonderful and all because I was spending it with her. I just can't handle the thought of leaving her, the thought of her feeling anything but happy and peaceful. I just can't handle a thought like that anymore. She's been through so much.

Now I'm watching The Sixth Sense. I'm just on week two of a six week recovery and I don't know how I'm going to do it. Heather goes back to work in two days and then I'll have my daughter and my mom here staying with me some but it will also be a lot of time when I'm just here alone. I can't do that very well. I used to could, but not now. I guess I'll read and write a lot, watch a lot of tv. Those are the things I've done before when I couldn't do anything else. But yep The Sixth Sense. An absolute classic and maybe the straight up best horror movie ever made. Hard to argue. Really hard to argue.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

With Great Abandon and Courage

Watching a Coltrane documentary. Wow, him and Davis and Dizzy and Charlie Bird. That whole event that happened on the planet at that time. It was an event. I suppose there are those kinds of events in all endeavors - art, literature, science, technology - but somehow this event with these guys seems to have the most magic of them all.

From what I can gather it was about moving forward without a plan and discovering that which can be great. I think it's why Ondaatje chose Buddy Bolden as a subject for Coming Through Slaughter. Ondaatje is a guy who, as he says, "casts his line out into the dark." I love that. He moves ahead with no plan or plotting, only discover. I've always done the same thing with my stories. Sometimes it pays off other times it doesn't. But when it does (and those are the only ones we keep, right?) it really really does. I couldn't imagine sitting down and plotting out a story and then getting a laptop out and typing it all out like I was taking diction or something like that. A writer might as well give up storytelling and become a court stenographer.

If you're out there and jumping ahead with great abandon and courage, telling a story you're not sure will come together by the time you get to the next page, I praise you as a high and mighty true practitioner of the craft.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Heart Surgery Chronicles - Day 7

3:15 a.m.

I've developed an early routine here less than a week into recovering from surgery. Whenever I wake up (this morning that was 2:50 a.m. or thereabouts) I put on some coffee and start an episode of Cheers. I ease into that head space, a kind of mixbag of 80s and 90s love, and then start with whatever story I'm working on at the time.

This morning that story is one I've been calling "Food in Jars". But that's not going to be the title. It'll be something else entirely for sure. Yesterday morning the story was one called "Causality Dilemma" which I had already finished (I thought) and had submitted to around ten journals or so. Well, it needed work so I withdrew it and did the work and send it the same journals again. I know it's better now but maybe not good enough for any of those places. I don't mind it so. Writing it was the main thing for me.

I may check back in again today but who knows. If I do I'm only going to add to this post. I'm off to try to find the penultimate scene for this story so I can then immediately start working on the next one.

8:40 a.m.

Communication breakdown. I'm running out of pain medicine and will soon be without any at all and suffering. I think the way I'll deal with that is forget that it's coming and enjoy however many pain-free moments I have left before it all goes sideways.

3:35 p.m.

Just had some pineapple upside down cake with milk. And, before that, turkey, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and rolls. Thanksgiving leftovers. Not much going on besides that. I wrote a rare post on Facebook concerning agents and Tyrant Books. I'll probably go and delete it in about fifteen minutes.

5:06 p.m.

I've worked since about four this morning on a short story and just trashed about 90 percent of it. The 10 percent I'm keeping is good though. I think I can make something of it. I like the title really well at this point - "Donna & Morris 4-Ever". The small bit I kept had to do with the many ways Donna wants to kill Morris. Such a thin line.

After today I'll be out of medication for pain. It's going to get pretty intense so be on the watch for that. As of this moment, I'm ready to settle in for the night with a good movie (Life, the one with Ryan Reynolds, etc. that's about a little critter turning into an alien or something like that) and a good book, one my daughter gave me yesterday called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Wish me luck as I let these two entertainments drift me off into sleep. When I wake, the whole deal will be much more painful.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

It Only Hurt When I Breathed

So I'm hurting this morning. The pain medication wore off sometime in the night. The sac that my heart hangs in is inflamed and swelled. Whenever my heart beats (or more accurately, about every three to four beats) there is a spear of hot pain that runs through my chest, mostly my heart. It finally got bad enough that I gave up trying to sleep and got up about thirty minutes ago.

Percocet. Colchicine. Zofran. Bottled water, room temperature. Seedless grapes.


Resting means writing, today and likely every day for the next five weeks. I've got a pile of books I want to read while recovering, but writing will be the key. Writing is always the key. Among the books are Amelia Gray's novel Threats and Frederick Seidel's The Cosmos Poems. After that it's a couple of Bolaño's I've been eager to read  - Distant Star and By Night in Chile.

The meds are working good now and the pain is gone for a bit. I need this for more reasons than simply to be free of pain. I've had a bit of trauma I'm working through, too. My medication Antabuse (used for alcoholism but also opiate addiction) was in my system at the time of my surgery. I had taken a couple doses within the time frame that it would still be present and I hadn't remembered doing so. Couple this with the fact that the surgical staff had no idea about it either, and you've got a torturous situation worthy of Hell itself.

Post-op I felt everything, was there for every single second of it. Pulling the drain tube from my chest. Check. My deflated lung pushing against my ribs whenever I took a breath. Check. All of it. It took twenty-six hours for anyone to figure out the Antabuse had effectively blocked the pain medication. I took shallow breathes that felt like knife wounds for that entire twenty-six hours, and that's all I did. I couldn't eat, couldn't drink fluids, couldn't sleep. For one day and two hours my entire existence was pain.

When the medical team did figure out how to help me (which included, among other things, an epidural along with a couple nerve blockers) I could only wait for it to start up again. It hasn't yet, but I'm scared it might, so I wait. I read, I write, and I wait.

At least I'm alive to do it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

That Human Magic

Shooting for Zen, settling for a peaceful two minutes.
Where do I start? With the heart surgery I guess.

I had a rare, minimally invasive bypass surgery this past Friday. It was the first done at the hospital where I had the operation. The local news ran a story about it. The surgery team was on electronic billboard ads outside the hospital the next day. My feet were there, under a green prep sheet, sticking out from the lineup of proud medical professionals posing for the picture.

Basically it was a whole thing.

And it saved my life.

In addition to this fare of poor health was a CT scan result of my lungs that showed some opacity and air pockets. These disturbing scans were found to be perfectly normal for a person who had smoked for as long as I had.

Two huge scares dealt with and done this past weekend. And it's not been the case without some good old fashioned human magic.

I've had so many writers and genuinely good people reach out and offer good vibes and prayers and positive words over the past week. To each of you I say a grateful thanks. If you only knew what I endured post-opt you'd know that every single bit of that human magic was needed. Put simply, I'm literally lucky to be here. And lucky to have people who continue to hope that I am.

Look for some upcoming posts detailing those post-op hours. They were the hardest of my life so far.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Great Jones Street Left Me Speechless & JMWW Made My Day

It has been a really good writing week for me so far. It couldn't come at a better time as I'm about to go into surgery. My spirits couldn't be any higher.

To begin with, Great Jones Street featured a story of mine yesterday and then also informed me this morning that they've launched a "Sheldon Lee Compton Week" there. I'm nearly speechless. It kind of blows my mind.

Before this, a couple days back, I received an acceptance from the top of the line lit journal JMWW for a story called "A Sensational Tale of Symbolic Patricide". When this story hit their website I started getting a lot of responses from people saying how much they liked it. In some cases, going so far as to say they loved it. That kind of thing can put wind in a writer's sails for months and months. Years even. For this I have the following editors to thank at JMWW - Jen Michalski, Linda Simoni-Wastila, Kristin Bonilla, Kristin Bonilla, Becca Borawski Jenkins, and Jolene McIlwain, who all hit the thumbs up button on this story and made my day. Not to mention the artwork they chose is absolutely bullseye.

Back over at Great Jones Street I have three people to thank (to my knowledge, as I know there are probably several more I don't know of. These GJS folks are amazing - Kelly Abbott, Eric Ancker, and Ken Truesdale.

And to everyone who has sent me words of support and encouragement over the past week, thank you. I'm so fortunate to have too many of you to list here without forgetting someone. Just know that you've helped keep me positive by simply a word or two. That's the true power of language sometimes.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thanks for the Love & Support

I'm so grateful to my family, my Great Love, my beautiful children, my Great Friend, and the many fantastic friends I have in the indie lit community for all the kind words and deeds over the past several days. That kind of love is magical. Thank you all so much.

Friday, November 3, 2017

New Art: Tattoos #8 and #9

Had a couple firsts today as far as my tattoos are concerned. I got my eighth and ninth pieces done this afternoon, the first time I've sat for two in one day, and, another first, they were both color pieces. I'm pumped. Here's a couple early photos of them, all shiny with A&D and a little swollen. The guitar is for my dad. It was important in his life. So much so that he has one on his tombstone. Guy could play. Starting teaching me at age five whether I wanted it or not. The sparrow is for my grandmother Wanda. I have no real reason for this but have always thought of her when I see a sparrow or hear about a sparrow. The word itself has always brought her to mind. So there she is, always visible to me.My plan now is to go back and have color added to all my other tattoos. I didn't think I would be, but I'm a fan of color at this point. So these are the new ones.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Dogzplot is one of my favorite (easily in my top five) online literary journals. Likewise, Barry Graham, the journal's founding editor, is one of my favorite writer people. Just a great guy all around. I've been really pleased to have two stories published there over the past near decade. One of them I'll share here today. It's called "K" and was based on a really good friend of mine, which is to say that a whole whole lot of it is just plain true. Hope you enjoy, and give Dogzplot and its current editor Jesse Eagle some love while you're there.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Three New Poems @ Anti-Heroin Chic

I have three poems appearing today at Anti-Heroin Chic. Many kind thanks to editor James Diaz for again giving my work a home there. It's one of the best around, folks.


"Buddha Rat"


"Filicide Muse"

Monday, October 30, 2017

An October Hello To My Ten or Twelve Readers, or An October Hello To My One Reader

Without using the share option and posting links to Facebook and Twitter, I've found that I have a nice, tidy audience of about ten to twelve people here.

Or, conversely, one person who visits ten to twelve times whenever I post.


Here's a song I think you'll like:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Lot of People Are Too Sensitive

Mixbag - Sunday Morning, 9:29 a.m.

I bought a watch. It makes me feel like it's the 80s again. Anything I can do to make that happen more I will.

I finished a story called "A Sensational Tale of Symbolic Patricide" a couple of days ago. Sent it to a few journals to see if they like it. Now starts the months-long wait. Seems like editors get upset when I talk about long response times. I figure that makes us even-Steven.


I have a sink full of dishes to do this morning and it's the bane of my existence right now. All I want to do is sit here on the laptop and do stuff like write blog posts. I'm lazy. And I'm starting to be really honest about that. I should be writing two book reviews for American Book Review but I can't see myself doing it. I don't like writing book reviews for money. I'd rather do what Rusty Barnes so perfectly refers to as appreciations. I want to read books I like and then if I feel like it write about how much I liked it. Also, I'm lazy. I'm probably not going to write the reviews. I'm certainly not going to read one of the two books they sent me. It's a situation but I'm working on forgetting about it.


I'm trying to watch American Horror Story Cult. I say trying because I can't figure out if it's about clowns, politics, alternate lifestyles, or cult leaders. Evan Peters is great. I grabs up all the attention whenever he's on camera. Every scene. Sarah Paulson is great but her character is kind of whiny in an irritating sort of way. But she did just go off on some people in this last episode. Maybe there's hope. It does have Twisty the Clown from the Freak Show so I guess that alone should make it a win. I'm probably being too hard on it. But the whole Trump election thing feels too soon maybe. Too soon? I don't know. Too something.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lantern Lit Vol. 4 Is Coming Soon

Beasley Barrenton, the mind behind Dog On A Chain Press, asked me a couple of months ago if I had any poems I'd like to send him for a collaborative poetry chapbook made up of work from myself and two other writers.

Would I? Does a hillbilly talk funny?

Of course I sent him the material - fifteen or so of the poems I've written over the past several months. He liked most of them and I sent others to supplant the titles he thought were best left out.

I heard from him today with some updates, the most exciting of which was the names of the other writers who will make up the three-part collaboration. Those will be poets William Graham and Mat Gould. According to Beasley both Graham and Gould also live in Appalachia. This makes Lantern Lit Vol. 4 particularly enticing to consider, he said. I can't wait to see how all this comes out.

Have a look at the prior installments of the Lantern Lit series.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Brad Listi's fundraiser for Matthew and Cathreen Salesses

Brad Listi is doing a really good fundraiser for Matthew Salesses and Matthew's family. Please take part. I am. 

Matthew's wife Cathreen has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Here's the Salesses family.

From Brad:

"Cathreen is currently in Korea receiving treatment. she has their youngest child with her. Matt is currently in the States with their eldest. Needless to say, this is very difficult for them—and is made all the more difficult due to financial stresses that it is bringing to bear on them. With this in mind, I had an idea.over the years, many podcast listeners have asked me to make Otherppl t-shirts.  a good thought, but I was never able to get my shit together to act upon it—until now. Thinking about Matt and Cathreen and their kids, and wanting to help their cause, it occurred to me that I could do a fundraiser. So here I am. For a limited time only, I'm selling Otherppl t-shirts."

The goal is admirable, the shirts are really cool. Go do it, folks. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Gratch's Abstract Action" @ > kill author

I had the good fortune to see two of my short stories published at the once and always stellar online journal > kill author. Everyone who recounts > kill author has only amazing things to say about it. It had mystery (the editors remained anonymous throughout the journal's 20-issue run) and published a ton of really good writers (among them Cezarija Abartis, Lauren Becker, Roxane Gay, Matt Bell, Mel Bosworth, Jimmy Chen, Sean H. Doyle, Elizabeth Ellen, Ashley Farmer, Mickey Hess, Christopher James, Shane Jones, xTx, Lisa Lim, Ravi Mangla.....Well, you get the idea).

You really should take a look at their list of contributors and spend some time reading the work they had published there. And please do also have a look at this one from me called "Gratch's Abstract Action" if you'd like. The story was included in their very first issue, I'm proud to say.

Here's the thing about > kill author: I spend a lot of time thinking about when the next > kill author will show up. I know it will.

Even small miracles are prone to repeat. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Prayed for Something Small and Selfish

I prayed for something today. I pray to the best idea I have for what or who created us or from which we came. I do it with all the faith I have because I do have faith in the concept I just detailed, if vaguely.

I prayed today for the first time about something other than the health, safety, and happiness of my family and myself. The thing I prayed about is almost too minimal and selfish to mention. I hesitate. My instincts are to keep it to myself or risk humiliation. To be clear, if I hadn't already prayed, I would now back out of it. If I could take it back, I would.

It was writing related, you see.

You heard me. I really can't believe I did it. I've always been very particular about what I pray for. Somehow I always felt that it had to be a fairly epic thing to merit mentioning in prayer, for whoever or whatever is God, that is. Epic on that scale. Family, health, safety, etc. Not writing. Not literature. I'm still kind of stunned at myself.

But it's already happened, already been done, and I can't take it back now.

There is, though, a subtle sense of comfort or, more specifically, a reinforced hope that couldn't have materialized without praying. It's a strange feeling. A good one. But here's the rub: I don't have faith that it will actually help in any way. All that can help has already been done - writing the work; it's for others to decide how well I've done.

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.


The Airgonaut - 2018 Best Small Fictions & Pushcart Prize Nominees

I nearly forgot I had nominations to make before signing off from The Airgonaut entirely. My last act as editor gets to be about the most r...