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."

Yes, I googled myself. But look what I found!

I googled myself yesterday. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. I have a busy online life and so I like to see what...