Sunday, December 23, 2018

Nobody writes better than William T. Vollmann - as good as, maybe, but not better.

Reading several books right now and all of them good. Easily the most skillfully written is The Atlas by William T. Vollmann. Here are two quotes.

"Catacomb, honeycomb of the slow bees of souls, the slow crowd in the halls, where do you keep my little sister? Not in Saint Cecilia’s tomb, where the marble corpse lies on her side, offering three fingers in remembrance of the Trinity. You won’t find her there. Tell me, catacomb, and I’ll leave fresh flowers in the webbed niche around your daylight."

And this.

"But she would not trust me anymore, and so once again, sister, you’d had your revenge as easily and purely as an antler of sunlight slitting a woman’s throat on a passing bus."

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Help me help Donald Ray Pollock, please

I'm helping Don Pollock, author of Devil All the Time, with an accent-related project the studio producing the film and the director filming the movie version of the novel has asked him to work with on. Yep, you fans, after seven years setting on it, they are finally making this movie. So I'm looking for West Virginia residents.

I know a couple people who would be interested but since Don don't traffic on Twitter I thought I'd put out a call here. So here's the deal: I would send you two items - A PDF of a story piece called "Arthur the Rat" that you would read and record in whatever way you'd like.

The second part is a questionnaire that I would send to you as a Word Doc. You would record yourself reading the questions and answers. Get both those recordings back to me and Don and you'll be richly rewarded with the gratitude of one of the best writers living today.

So if you're a resident or know a resident of West Virginia and are interested at all, please write me back and we can further connect to get started. I'm hoping to have five totaI recordings back to Don within a week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Tolstoy's most recent bit of goodness

"'Yes, but then how often the happiness of these prudent marriages flies away like dust just because that passion turns up that they have refused to recognize," said Vronsky. “But by marriages of prudence we mean those in which both parties have sown their wild oats already. That’s like scarlatina — one has to go through it and get it over.”

“Then they ought to find out how to vaccinate for love, like smallpox.”

- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Story "The Last Friend in Red Knife" today @ COG

I had a story submitted around for the past three months or so called "The Last Friend in Red Knife" that was roundly rejected by all the journals I hold in any kind of regard. That's always a sad string of events for a writer, of course, but it's nothing compared to the elation felt when the exactly perfect journal accepted that same story.

In today's new issue of COG, the literary journal of Cogswell College in San Jose, California, my long-traveled story "The Last Friend in Red Knife" appears alongside a host of amazing writers and work. Those I'm happy to share space with include:

Maddy Raskulinecz. Hugh Minh Nguyen. Cassandra Dallet. Glen Armstrong. Marni Berger. Robert Wexelblatt. April Sinclair. Casey Killingsworth. Holly Day. Jed Myers. Judith Cody. Gene Goldfarb. Emily Zasada. Travis Tyler. Ron Austin. duncan b. barlow. M.A. Vizsolyi. Charles Rafferty. Roger Camp. Zahara.

And before I move on to the links to read this packed issue, let me say that the directing editor of COG, Soma Mei-Sheng Frazier, was amazing. She reminded me again how an editor is meant to work with writers, guiding, suggesting, closely reading each piece. She is an example for all those putting literature out into the world.

The new issue is out today. Visit and have a look at the newness. I honestly hope you'll take a little time and read through the issue. These folks are doing good work.



Monday, November 26, 2018

I Bought Hillbilly Elegy for $3.99 and I'm Going By God Going to Read It

Here's a confession: I've not read Hillbilly Elegy. But, to be fair, I've only been critical of it a few times publicly.

That will very likely change and I will spout many venomous phrases and ideas in good time. I bought the book today. So far I've only read the first sentence: "My name is J.D. Vance." I'm already mad. I'm not sure why, but I honestly am.

I know I'm going to agree with my many legitimate hillbilly friends who scorn this book. For one, you should never try to write about the hard life from a Buckeye point of view unless your name is Donald Ray Pollock. I know there's exceptions to that rule, but I've not met them yet that I know of (Chris Holbrook's collection Hell and Ohio is what's on my mind when I say that). It's been years since I read Chris's fine collection, so I can't say for sure what role Ohio plays in it. Being honest here.

So this memoir by Vance. Let's see what the deal is so I can talk about it like a good and real and informed hillbilly.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Heart Is an Organ on Fire and Other News

Since September a lot of good things have happened for me on the literary front.

I've been publishing short stories and poems in indie lit journals and books for small presses for parts of the last nine years. Parts because a great number of those years were not exactly productive. I drank away a lot of them, wrote nothing, read less. In short, I traded life as a writer for life as an alcoholic and drug addict.

When it was over (See also: hit rock bottom as a drunk and started taking responsibility for my actions as best as I could) all I wanted to do was read. The writing followed after about six months of that, and I started sending stories, reviews, and columns out into the world again. As what I considered my personal projects, I also started to write books again, with no hope anyone would ever read them except me.

Steadily I found my way back into the community with various publications over the course of about a year and a half. Editors and journals that shared my work during that time will always hold special places in my heart and mind. They gave me back a life I thought was mostly over.

Now, with three years of sobriety and my compulsion to write returned, here's the developments.

Of course this began with my prior announcement that I am now under contract with West Virginia University Press to write a book about Breece D'J Pancake and being Appalachian. I'm about half way through a rough draft on this work, which I can only refer to as a biography/memoir, though I'm trying to not toy much with labels. I'm letting this book feel its way around, breathe. I'm still in a general state of shock that I've been given the chance to write a book on Pancake. Derek Krissoff, Director at WVU Press, is going to work with me to make what I hope will be a book all of us can be proud of across Appalachia. That's my hope at least.

Some weeks later, my short story "Remodeling" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by one of my favorite journals, Cowboy Jamboree, and its editor Adam Van Winkle. It never fails to lift my authorial spirits when my peers give me this kind of recognition. If we can continue lifting each other up like this, the independent literary community will only ever need one another. Not very much longer after this nomination, Adam wrote to tell me of his plans to start Cowboy Jamboree Press, adding he wanted to see a manuscript from me, if I had anything. I sent a draft of a novel I'd been holding onto for a good while called Dysphoria. He liked what he saw and now it's another book project and my head's spinning and this about when the surreal started to set in. Read "Remodeling" in the current issue of CJ here.

In the same week, my story "South of Cincinnati" was published at my other favorite journal, BULL: Men's Fiction. Editor Ben Drevlow has always been great to me, so much so at times that his support and that of Adam's have been the only reason I've continued to submit work. I count them both, along with Sheryl Monks, editor at Change Seven Magazine, Mike Lafontaine editor at Vending Machine Press, Rusty Barnes at Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Christopher James, editor at Jellyfish Review, as true friends. Read "South of Cincinnati" here.

And just this past week Mike published another story of mine at Vending Machine Press called "The Heart Is an Organ on Fire" the title for which I directly lifted from a poem by the god-like Michael Ondaatje. In this story I've continued to work toward an occasional blending of the place I'm from, here in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, and a sense of the fantastic in many forms. In a lot of ways, I've never left behind my childhood days reading Stephen King novels and short stories. Should you be inclined, read the story here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Is Lee Klein a literary critic genius?

I discovered a website curated by Lee Klein (former editor of and author of The Shimmering Go-Between and others). Lee is a kind of literary critic genius, so you'll want to put on your thinking cap when you visit him there at Literary Fundamentalism Forever or Lit Fun Forever.

I had a second short story accepted by Ben Drevlow at BULL Men's Fiction. It's called "South of Cincinnati" and it's about a hillbilly looking for work and purpose, and a little bit about how people view hillbillies and how that view is most of the time wrong. It contains a joke used as a framing devise that a lot of my fellow hillbillies will possibly not like very much. Let me say that, along with publishing a ton of great content, BULL is also the most beautifully designed journals out there. Just top notch. I think of this every time I visit the site. You will too I bet.

At the risk of all kinds of things, I can say that work is going great on my first attempt at a book of creative nonfiction, which I've taken to calling the Pancake book because I can't get a title in my head that fits. This one is the book that'll be coming out from West Virginia University Press. It's been about a week since I wrote any on it, but I understand my process better at age forty-two than I did at nineteen when I tried writing my first book. There's going to be month-long period when I write page and page after page every day and then there are going to be times when I won't write a word for weeks and weeks, sometimes even months. It'll kick back in.

Been reading more nonfiction the past month. Joan Didion, Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. Reading these (especially Didion) I'm getting a sense of how I can incorporate creative devices in nonfiction. And that's what I need because the book so far (and to be continuing I imagine) has included aspects of memoir, interview, biography, fiction, essay, and personal narrative.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

If you'd like to subscribe to my TinyLetter account I, HILLBILLY

So I'm going to be doing the TinyLetter thing for the next long while. I'd love if you'd subscribe to it. Just use the subscribe link below and you'll start receiving entries right away from I, Hillbilly.


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Joan Didion = Amazing Writer and the Pancake Book Is Moving Nicely

I'm a month and five days into my deadline for the Pancake Book. I still haven't thought of a title, which is unusual for me. Typically I can't write on a story or book or anything if I've not got the title in place first. Could be that I want this title to be flat out killer, I mean a title that just takes the reader's head off. It'll come soon enough, possibly from some place in his letters.

The temptation to say where I'm at on the book (page count, etc.) is strong, but I'm going to resist. Clearly, though, it must be significant if I'm so tempted. There: said it without saying it. I should be okay and free of a nasty literary jinx

Also, if I'm being honest, writing so-called creative nonfiction has been incredibly satisfying. The whole process of writing about Pancake and what it means to be Appalachian has been far different than anticipated. There is plenty of room for creative stretching and building, use of fictive devices, etc. And the decisions, such as structure (especially in sectioning), have proven really roomy for creative tendency. Basically I'm pleasantly surprised, and, incidentially now much more interested in reading nonfiction. Lately it's been Joan Didion. Chris Offutt had mentioned her as one of his favorite writers and now I see why. She is talented in ways I hadn't even imagined. This line, for instance:

deep in that part of my heart where the artificial rain forever falls

Now that's some great writing. And it's even better in context. If you have Netflix watch the documentary The Center Will Not Hold. It's about Didion and turned me around on her. I always thought she would be entirely too highfalutin and New York City to be of much interest to me. I was full-press wrong.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

New story published today @ formercactus

The new issue of formercactus was published today, and I have a short story included. The story, "Low Breeders," is about a pit bull, Appalachia, and a hillbilly named Wench.

But that's only part of what it's about. Go have a look. There are a lot of notable writers in this issue so stick around and read.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

An Important Update

The Braves are literally in the middle of winning the NL East Division title for the first time in half a decade.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

My new story "The Great Ones Eat Up the Little Ones" published today @ Cowboy Jamboree

I have a new short story in the most recent issue of Cowboy Jamboree, the grit lit journal headed by the kind and talented Adam Van Winkle.

The story is called "The Great Ones Eat Up the Little Ones" and is my exploration of one possibility of how the street corner preacher becomes the street corner preacher. We have these individuals in eastern Kentucky, exclusively men in my experience who stand on the corner or just outside the down courthouse and preach and generally call out to those passing by. How does that happen? This story looks at that.

There's a lot of good in this new issue of Cowboy Jamboree. Along with fiction from the likes of my friends Hillary Leftwich and Frank Reardon, there's also an interview with Willie Davis, the author of Nightwolf, his debut novel set in Lexington, Kentucky, which I wrote an appreciation for at Enclave last week.

I hope everyone who can will read the new issue. Drop a line and let me know what you think of my story, too, if you'd like.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Finished Ben Lerner's THE HATRED OF POETRY

The Hatred of PoetryThe Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first half of this monograph was so well done. It spoke of poetry, which is unspeakable, in a way that was straightforward in its failure to do so. That was cool and kind of meta. At some point, and it started when he got into political aspects of some poetry, I went into this kind of trance where I felt stupid beyond imagination for the rest of the book. Could be I'm pretty stupid; could also be that things can be stated a little more simply, even if the subject is the unnameable, indefinable Poetry.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Finished Matthew Zapruder's WHY POETRY

Why PoetryWhy Poetry by Matthew Zapruder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zapruder gets me excited about poetry, and more relaxed. That's key, really - more relaxed. This is a good one for any level of poet, I'd say. Worth the read.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 14, 2018

Writer's Bone interview links to listen

I was interviewed at Writer's Bone and it is available every which way but loose. Here are all the options to link and listen to me talk about writing and other terrible things:

Mother glory am I grateful they interviewed me. Three people joined forces for that to happen - David Joy (who put a bug in Daniel Ford's ear about my writing) and Jay Hill (who set the interview up on my behalf). And, of course, Dan for agreeing to talk to me. You all are pure champions for real.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Contract signed with WVU Press for a book focusing on Breece D'J Pancake

Big news on the writing front

I signed a contract yesterday to write a book on Breece D'J Pancake for West Virginia University Press. Is there any real way for me to explain how incredibly excited I am? Well, I usually use words to express thoughts, but I might come up short on this one. Let's just review the facts:

1. I'm contracted to write a book for West Virginia's largest press.

2. It's the home state of the writer I'm writing a book about.

3. The writer is my favorite writer.

Seriously, there's more, but it would start resembling full on brag time if I went into it. It's enough to say those above three facts result in what is just about the coolest thing that's happened to me since I started writing thirty years ago.

A call out

There's going to be a section in which I take various author interviews (from folks who were influenced by Pancake in one way or the other) and hybrid it all up nicely. That being said, I'd love to get some responses from anyone who might be interested in writing up a little something or answer at length a few basic questions for a form I'll use to incorporate it all later. In particular, I'm hoping to get something from David Joy, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Scott McClanahan, Karen McElmurray, Chris Offutt, well the list goes on and on, really, but that's a start. I'll be sending out emails to solicit all these folks at some point (likely sooner than later).

There's another pot on the fire, writing-wise. I can't mention any specifics yet, but there's a fairly good chance I'll have a great indie press pick up my recent short story collection Sway at some point later in the year. Nothing is at all definite about that, though. I'm only going on some early impressions. It looks okay, though.

On the events front

I'll be reading at Taylor Books in Charleston, West Virginia on September 14. It'll be my third time reading at Taylor Books and I have Jay Hill to thank for every single one of them. Jay is a magician you will be hearing a lot from in the not too distant future. He's a champion.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Interview with Writer's Bone

Daniel Ford interviewed me today for Writer's Bone. I feel like I rambled and answered too briefly and took everything too serious. That's part of my anxiety - taking things seriously, worrying about them until I make myself sick, wishing I was someone smarter, etc. But he seemed pleased, so that's good.

Topics covered in the interview: the MFA debate; my novel Brown Bottle; advice for writers; writing about Eastern Kentucky

The interview may appear about a week from today, Dan said.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Infinite Jest: A Failed Entertainment

Infinite JestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are about seven sections (long sections, though) that stand out as some of the best writing I've ever encountered. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the novel seems more of a platform for Wallace to expound upon various philosophies and personal ideas. Nothing wrong with that, but let's not confuse that with a novel that works as an "entertainment" as he would say. But then I'm immediately reminded that the book originally had a subtitle, which was - "A Failed Entertainment". I don't think it failed, but I do think it was only occasionally entertaining.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"The House in the Northwest Corner" picked as story of the year @ Vestal Review

Assistant Editor Gillian Walker and Managing Editor Mark Budman, the folks at Vestal Review, picked my short story "The House in the Northwest Corner" as their story of the year for 2017.

That pleases me a great deal. Vestal Review is the oldest journal publishing flash fiction, celebrating its 18th year this year. So to have my story recognized in this way at this particular journal adds to the gratification factor.

Here's the announcement and link to the story if you'd be interested at all in reading it. It's short and doesn't take much time to get through. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Two reviews and a talk with Chris Offutt

I'll have a really good interview with Chris Offutt up at Enclave within the next week, along with my review of his last two books - My Father, the Pornographer and Country Dark. The interview and reviews will also appear later at Plumb - A journal of Appalachian concerns. Look for all of it.

"Victory Party" published @ X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine

A new short story of mine called "Victory Party" was published recently at XRAY Literary Magazine. I'm thankful to James, who liked the story when so many others rejected it on its way to him. Good eye, sir. Good eye.

Read the story HERE

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Three of my new stories on the horizon in three great journals

Distressing news first.

I sent out a manuscript to some important people and realize now it was in critical need of about three more drafts. There's no way to fix this, so I have to simply eat this one and hope they see the potential with drafts in mind.

Moving along to better news.

I have some stories that are going to published soon.

— Scheduled for the October issue of formercactus is a story of mine called "Low Breeders" that deals with a mistreated pit bull and a mistreated miscreant and the dots connected between the two. I tried my best to do this in any case. I'll let the readers decide what dots are there and which ones I might have imagined. Of course I believe the story can work either way, and I'm thankful the staff at formercactus agreed.

— Much sooner, my story "Victory Party" is coming out in a mere two days, this coming Monday, at X-R-A-Y. It's deals with a common theme of mine (relationships between parent and child) but it's the first time I've explored the father/daughter dynamic, and from the point of view of the daughter, no less. I'm really grateful to the editors, Jennifer Greidus and Chris Dankland.

— Adam Van Winkle, the shotgunning editor of Cowboy Jamboree (and one of the people I unknowingly sent a shabby manuscript to this past week - Sorry Adam, I can make it better!) has agreed to publish a second story of mine in his upcoming issue. The story, "The Great Ones Eat Up the Little Ones," is my take on one possible origin story for the street corner preacher, at least the kind you run into in my hollows and outcroppings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lincoln in the Bardo: George Saunders wrote a fine book that could have also been a fine short story but was a fine book afterall

Image result for "Lincoln in the bardo" cover

George Saunders's Booker Prize-winning book Lincoln in the Bardo is a powerfully good book. One of my favorite reads this year by far. 

The unique structure and the chops it took for Saunders to write so well and so distinctly in so many different voices while still maintaining the narrative was nothing short of miraculous. 

It had more funny moments than poignant, though, in case you've heard otherwise. Most of the heart of the book was in sections that went deeply into Abe Lincoln. It may sound strange, but Saunders, I think, invoked Day-Lewis's performance in Lincoln with those sections. They just felt dead on perfect. 

Now, although I loved that Saunders basically invented a new form to write this book, I will say that it did also up the page count, an important consideration for a short story writer's first attempt at a novel. With this in mind, I believe whole-heartedly that this novel could have worked, and worked better, as a longish short story. There's a lot of of open space on each page due to the breaks. Take out those breaks and you've got what most people would consider more of a novella, probably. I'm not sure. 

All in all, read this book. I don't really care if he was fluffing with breaks for length or not. It doesn't matter. The book still works beautifully and deserves the Booker, something I wasn't convinced of before reading it, to be perfectly honest. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

China Miéville might try too hard to not be understood

Image result for "Three Moments of an Explosion"I liked some of the stories in Three Moments of an Explosion, such as the story "A Second Slice Manifesto," but, most of the time, I found myself looking to see how many more pages I had until the next story. I always read collections straight through. I know if I don't then I'll never go back and read the ones that were too long or slow to get started, etc. 

In this book, I felt like Miéville tried too hard too often to be, I don't know, obscure in what he was giving the reader. It was like he used this technique we all know as writers how to use but just went way beyond what was needed. Some stories were insanely frustrating because of this. "The Design" comes immediately to mind. 

All in all I suspect he's a better novelist than a short story writer. If I read another of his it'll be Kraken I think. But it might be awhile. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Some Really Solid Writing Advice

Putting this here for remembering, but also because it may strike some of you in the same way it struck me. From the film Rebel in the Rye:

A scene with Salinger and his guru. It begins with a back and forth that may be the best explanation of why to write I've ever heard.

Salinger: I'm afraid I've lost my talent.

Guru: Do you write to show off your talent or to express what is in your heart?

Friday, June 1, 2018

For Yesterday, For Today

    “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

                                                                      - Jiddu Krishnamurti 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Electrocurrent #1

I don't know, I'm reading a lot and writing a lot. Reading Robert Coover but dipping into and away from his playfulness to read about the North Pond Hermit. That book is captivating. I beginning to think I may be more inclined to nonfiction these days. I don't know why. The more fiction I read the less I understand about what people are trying to say with their art, honestly. I'm beginning to think, you see, that literature might be transcendent. Not in some kind of young and innocent kind of way, the way I used to think I'd be able to make a living writing stories, but transcendent in the way that it's the only thing we can create that can live outside of all this. I sound crazy. Don't care. It's the only thing that can live outside all of this simulation, this whatever this is. Coover takes it seriously but he is compelled to be playful. Proust took it seriously but was consumed with his own sense of self-importance. From Proust to Coover I'm sure each writer has their own compulsion for doing what they do. But is it worthy? Is the time taken, the viewpoint taken, worthwhile? Is it worthy of immortality? Does is add a story to the human condition? Or maybe Coover and the postmodernists are right. Maybe it is all just farting around. I don't like to think so. I like to think that the writing of literature is truthful kind of miracle. When I'm moving sleekly in my compulsion, when I'm writing the same way I breathe, when I'm writing and I literally feel as if I have stepped out of this world and into some other kind of existence that goes beyond our ability to articulate in any other way but the written word, when I feel these electrocurrents I believe in something beautiful, even in the face of all this horror. I've learned while writing this that there's no way to articulate what I hope to say, not even with the written word. It's an unspoken perfection found only by those who sit down for hours and hours a day, day after day, and write. But I can tell you this, friends, it is transcendent. Try it and see. Write until you are floating and then keep writing. The stratosphere is amazing. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Band Marches On

There are still three stories I'm working to finish so I can put this latest collection to bed. Two haven't been started, but I have the bead down on them pretty good. The third will be done this evening.

The collection, which I've now, and with finality, titled Sway, is likely about a month from being completed.

I've been listening to some William Elliott Whitmore while finishing up this collection. In particular WEW's wonderful collaborative EP Hallways of Always. It's a good one, if you've not listened it. Also, for general stimulation, I've been hitting Hellbilly Deluxe. Rob Zombie has three masterpieces on that album, each one better than the last. Are they songs that became popular? Yes. But that doesn't always translate as pop.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Finished Reading Denis Johnson's The Largesse of the Sea Maiden and My God It Was Great

Here's a quote that makes Johnson seem exactly like a prophet:

"It doesn’t matter. The world keeps turning. It’s plain to you that at the time I write this, I’m not dead. But maybe by the time you read it."

I honestly don't know what else to say other than I'm deeply saddened that we will have no more short stories from this man. He wrote as naturally as most of us speak to close friends and stories came from him in full bursts, exclamations born fully grown.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

My Next Short Story Collection

I'm four short stories away from finishing what will be my third short story collection, should it find its way to publication.

Of the four, I'm three paragraphs away from finishing one story (now titled "The Burning Torch in Yonder Turret Stands") and half finished with another called "The Corn Dolly". I have about three quarters written on another story, but it's a western tale and so not to be included in this next collection. I do plan to put together a book of western stories in the near future, though, but that'll be a good little while from now. Maybe a year, year and a half. 

I am eager to get started on the other two stories for this new book, but I have to be patient or risk rushing the process, scaring off the story idea and thrust. I truly think a writer can do this. I can't remember who said it, but there's this idea out there that a short story has to approached with care or else you can scare it away, basically make it fold in on itself. I sometimes imagine the process as being akin to trying to massage a butterfly's wing.

Well enough talking about writing. Time to do some.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When I Can't Write Fiction, I Journal Here at Bent Country

Listening to the Braves try to take first place from the miserable Mets. First game in about four or so the Baby Braves didn't get on the scoreboard in the first inning. Doesn't bode well, I'd say. Thing is, even if we drop this one we will win tomorrow and take the series because that's what we've been doing so far this year.

I can't even figure out where or how to get the team on television without buying MLB Network for a year for a triple digit figure. Not doing that. So I listen to them on the radio, an Atlanta station, thank god. There's a simple and nice lull a baseball game on the radio can put you in. Sometimes I'm not listening to the details. Instead I'm kind of zoned out by the rhythm. This game is going to be slow, lots of strikes, lots of pop-ups. I can already tell.


Finished reading Kafka's The Castle. Didn't much like it, other than the comedy relief offered by the two assistant characters. Pretty much hated the narrator "K." who we all know is always a kind of Kafka placed into a fictional world to face fictional problems that perfectly reflected his own perceived horrors, mostly at home and with women (or his self-imposed lack of them). I'm not a fan of Kafka the Man. I love his short fiction and I loved In the Penal Colony, and I'm getting ready to finally put The Metamorphosis under my belt this year, but Kafka the Man was a weak mound of concentrated complaint and whining. I keep reading him because when he's on he really really on. But when he's The Castle, it's like reading a book that gets twenty pages longer every time you finish reading ten pages. Half the book (The Castle) were these massive chunks of dialogue. It almost made me wonder (considering the novel was published unfinished by Kafka's brother Robert) whether or not ol' Franz didn't have a dialogue first, exposition second kind of drafting setup. I don't know. I can't imagine he thought half a novel of nothing but lengthy chunks of dialogue that sounded like the most formal speech ever given in the history of the world was a good literary technique. I mean, I think the guy had a incredibly weak constitution, but I know he was a literary genius.


Reread a great essay by novelist and friend David Joy today. READ IT HERE. I will always let David speak for himself.


Still no score in the Braves game. Lots of strikes. Later you all.

~ ~ ~

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

New short fiction @ Always Crashing

Always Crashing.

Ain't that a great name for a journal? It's about the best I've heard of since >kill author. And the gang there, headed up by writer and editor James Tadd Adcox, are publishing some cool work. The whole situation is a very high-level win, and I'm glad to say they gave my fiction some space there today.

Go have a read of my short story "My Spirit Animal Is the Tongue-Cut Sparrow" and let me know what you think. Seriously, I'd love to hear what you think.

As always, if it's your first visit to Always Crashing, take a few minutes and poke around. There's much there to be enjoyed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Reading Front: Kafka, Proust, bad detective novels, New Yorker stories, and Our Beloved Tolstoy

So I’m plodding along with Proust’s second volume of In Search of Lost Time. At about the halfway point, there is this beautiful moment of insight (the entire reason for reading Proust to begin with) where the narrator (Proust himself of course) describes the love he has for his grandmother. It should be required reading for anyone with a heart. Here it is:

“I knew, when I was with my grandmother, that, however great the misery that there was in me, it would be received by her with a pity still more vast; that everything that was mine, my cares, my wishes, would be, in my grandmother, supported upon a desire to save and prolong my life stronger than was my own; and my thoughts were continued in her without having to undergo any deflection, since they passed from my mind into hers without change of atmosphere or of personality. And — like a man who tries to fasten his necktie in front of a glass and forgets that the end which he sees reflected is not on the side to which he  raises his hand, or like a dog that chases along the ground the dancing shadow of an insect in the air — misled by her appearance in the body as we are apt to be in this world where we have no direct perception of people’s souls, I threw myself into the arms of my grandmother and clung with my lips to her face as though I had access thus to that immense heart which she opened to me. And when I felt my mouth glued to her cheeks, to her brow, I drew from them something so beneficial, so nourishing that I lay in her arms as motionless as a babe.”

More reading lately has included a Lynne Tillman collection that left me vastly underwhelmed. It was called Someday This Will Be Funny.  I think it’s me. I’m flat out done with stories about relationships when all that’s depicted is the relationship. I'm done with the New Yorker stories. Those days of literature are over. Show me the relationship through an oddly colored lens or a broken mirror and then show me how that lens and mirror are really the people we’re talking about, something like that. Something original that goes beyond he said she said. Carver and the gang wrote that stuff out so fast even Updike was surprised.

On a better reading front I’m fully into the Kafka situation. I read The Trial a few years back and it seemed muddled to me at the time. I put good ol’ Franz aside after that for a bit. I read a biography of his that took me forty years to finish and left me entirely convinced that Franz Kafka was the absolute biggest wimp of all time. And a cry baby. And narcissistic beyond the limits of all imagination. But when I recently went back to his work I found it to be delicious. So beautifully strange and weary and perfect. I will say, however, that it’s nearly impossible to find any sort of collected works of his to buy. I’m just patching it all together the best I can.

That’s really the only points of possible interest with my reading lately. I abandoned a book called Double Wide by Leo somebodyorother. It was too much genre for me, and not in a snobbish kind of way. It was just too blueprint without enough uniqueness. And somehow it won what’s called the Silver Spur Award for best contemporary western. No idea how that would have happened.
Books I’m still working on and will be throughout the rest of the calendar year because I read slower than anyone you know:

Infinite Jest (much funnier than I thought it would be); Anna Karenina (Tolstoy is masterful above nearly everyone else); Within a Budding Grove (Proust vol. 2). 

Monday, April 2, 2018

On Pure Craft vs. Learned Craft

 "In this country, though, there is a tendency to regard any kind of writing—especially the writing of poetry—as a game of style. I have known many poets here who have written well—very fine stuff—with delicate moods and so on—but if you talk with them, the only thing they tell you is smutty stories or they speak of politics in the way that everybody does, so that really their writing turns out to be kind of sideshow. They had learned writing in the way that a man might learn to play chess or to play bridge. They were not really poets or writers at all. It was a trick they had learned, and they had learned it thoroughly. They had the whole thing at their finger ends. But most of them—except four or five, I should say—seemed to think of life as having nothing poetic or mysterious about it. They take things for granted. They know that when they have to write, then, well, they have to suddenly become rather sad or ironic."

—Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Brett Pribble and the gang are putting together a beautiful art object, the journal Ghost Parachute

I received my contributor copies of Ghost Parachute (a wonderful surprise in the mail yesterday). I somehow wasn't aware I'd get these. And the issue is beautiful. My story "Stress Cardiomyopathy" is included with some other really cool stories. Thanks Brett for doing what you do, buddy.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Reading Quotes - Kevin Wilson's TUNNELING TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and a bonus interview quote of Wilson

"We’d gotten down far enough to where we were touching earth that probably hadn’t felt the gaze of sunlight in hundreds of years. At one point, Amy took a big handful of dirt and held it close to her face, took deep breaths of it. “It smells like a museum,” she said, “like something from the past.”

- from the story "Tunneling to the Center of the Earth"


And for good measure, here's a good quote from Wilson about the short story form. It's taken from an interview Oxford American did with him, asking if he thought he'd write another collection of stories.

"Yeah. At the same time I'm writing the novel, I'm writing short stories. I love the form. I keep thinking maybe I'll become better at one or the other, but I think I'll just be imperfect at both because I love them both so much. And also there's just something about the weirdness of story—that quickness of it is just really wonderful. It feels much more like an incantation. Like a magic spell, in a way that the novel can't replicate. The novel is just too big and unwieldy to be entirely magical."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Interview and story included in the new issue of Cowboy Jamboree

Let's get this link in right off the top. Go here to read the story and interview.

Okay, now hear this: CJ editor Adam Van Winkle is a jewel. I mean a bright, shining jewel of a man. I've met only a handful of people who are as supportive and as much of a champion to other writers. It's rare for a writer and editor to put as much as Adam does into someone else's work, and it's beautiful.

Aside from from my interview and story, there's also a story and interview from Ben Drevlow, an A-1 writer and also the editor of BULL Men's Fiction.

Adam obviously gave a lot of love to the entire issue and you should go have a look and see the end result.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New review of PODUNK LORE @ Red Fez

Donna Snyder recently turned an attentive eye to my poetry chapbook Podunk Lore, along with William Graham's and Mat Gould's chaps in Lantern Lit Vol. 4 at Red Fez.

It is a really good review that actually revealed to me a larger picture that was already in focus to the head chief and Dog On A Chain Press editor extraordinaire Beasley Barrenton. In all truth, Beasely laid down some serious editing chops on both the content end and overall vision for this volume. 

And it's really cool that it appears at Red Fez. I've been trying to get a story in that fine publication since Methuselah was a pup. A good review is the next best thing. 

So go have a look and see what Ms. Snyder has to say. She says it wonderfully. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A homunculus story today @ Lost Balloon

My short story "Causality Dilemma" was published this morning at the journal Lost Balloon. Before I offer up a link to go read, let me tell you how such an odd story came about.

I'm always looking for oddities in the world. The fantastic and real. Somehow this led me one afternoon to a video on YouTube. In this video a man claims to have "grown" a homunculus inside an egg after fertilizing the egg with his own, ahem, sperm. Yes. That someone would even try this was odd enough for me to be intrigued, but the video made it that much more so. I have no doubt it is entirely fictitious, but that doesn't make it any less interesting. Below you can see the video:

Fiercely gross, I know. But this got me thinking and the next thing that happened was I had this story that now has a fine home at Lost Balloon. If you'd still like to read the story you can find it at this link. Thanks in advance for having a look and, of course, thanks to all the folks at LB for publishing the piece.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Reading Quotes: From Where You Dream & Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

Some solid quotes from two books I'm reading now:

FROM Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

This one seems especially appropriate for this day and age:

"There is no originality in tyrants, and they learn nothing from the demise of their precursors. They will be brutal and stifling and engender hatred and destroy what men love and that will defeat them."

And this one made me miss the days before the Internet and YouTube and social media:

"All our stories are told more quickly now, we are addicted to the acceleration, we have forgotten the pleasures of the old slownesses, of the dawdles, the browses, the three-volume novels, the four-hour motion pictures, the thirteen-episode drama series, the pleasures of duration, of lingering."

FROM From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler

Both of these speak to the craft of writing and are probably more interesting to me than to some of you, but I think Butler has a great way of conveying his ideas:

"If somebody rejects the story, with whatever criticism—you’re going to get bad criticism from literary magazines too, let’s face it—you let it go. What is the editorial reader’s frame of mind? They have fifty things on their desk today, and there are going to be fifty tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Do you think this puts them in a frame of mind where they are naked to each manuscript they open? Where they put aside the worldview they’ve held all their lives and open up to a new voice, a new vision of the world? Rarely. That’s why a lot of bad stuff gets perpetuated, the bland stuff and the mediocre stuff. It’s because often those screening readers—I’m talking about those first two people who see it—those readers, just by the very nature of what they do, are going to be if not consciously looking for, at least more open to, things familiar to them. So all of this works against the unique voice of the real artist. And this happens at the highest, most prestigious, slickest magazines—for any number of reasons that don’t have to do with art."

"You should read slowly. You should never read a work of literary art faster than would allow you to hear the narrative voice in your head. Speed-reading is one reason editors and, not incidentally, book reviewers can be so utterly wrongheaded about a particular work of art. By their professions they are driven to speed-read. Some book reviewers review three or four books a week. Such reviewers could theoretically be fine on works of nonfiction. Or certain works of fiction that do not rely on many of the essential qualities I’ve been trying to identify for you as the characteristics of art. But if you read four books a week and you read them all at pretty much the same pace, you are inevitably going to be a bad reader of literature. A speed-reader necessarily reads for concept, skipping “unnecessary” words; she is impervious to the rhythms of the prose and the revelations of narrative voice and the nuances of motif and irony. This makes a legitimate response to a work of art impossible."

Thursday, March 1, 2018

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Cards, Jacks, and Wooden Guns" @ Necessary Fiction

This is one I've included in an ongoing story collection project under the new title of "Bear Tale".

Here's the story. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Beasley Barrenton's Lantern Lit Gave My First Poetry Chapbook PODUNK LORE a Home

My poetry chapbook Podunk Lore was given a wonderful home in Beasely Barrenton's series Lantern Lit, Vol. 4. I've spent the day looking over the print copies Beasely sent me by mail. It's a beautiful art object made with love. Labor such as this is a rare thing these days. Speaking of that, the cover art is by my good friend Ryan W. Bradley, and it is, as usual for Ryan, perfect.
I want to thank Beasely here (and I'll continue to thank him every chance I get) for giving my poetry a wonderful home. So few people really, truly understand how much work and love and persistence go into art projects like this. Thank you, Beasely. Thank you, Ryan. Thank you, anyone who had a hand in this who I don't know. I'm sincerely grateful to you all. Please buy a copy here and see what it's all about.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Reading Quote #1

"I was already placing that book on a shelf and turning out the lights and then closing the door to a room where the dust snowed through the darkness at a rate of three millimeters per decade."

- Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master's Son

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Morning of Random Thoughts

I'm off Facebook now. Since reading of the algorithms the company had in place during the 2016 election, I can't in good conscious continue using the media platform. It's no great loss. And moving on.

Twitter I'm sure is no different; they've only not been caught. I sound conspiratorial but that's okay. I'd rather sound one way and not live another than end up living in a way I wouldn't like the sound of.

I've been guilty of stopping use of social media before but it was always because I was fed up or bitter or any number of other, unsavory reasons. That's not what this is. I'm not quitting outright. I know that cold turkey doesn't work for me (See Also: alcohol, nicotine) but I'm drastically limiting my time until I can ween myself off. It'll work. I'll be happier and safer.

Watching Angels and Demons today. It's fun. Dan Brown has, like, a thousand people writing his books for him and whatever and I don't care anymore. I wouldn't be able to read one of the novels due to terrifically bad writing, but I surely enjoy these fast-paced, mysterious movies. Kind of like National Treasure but international. Or maybe NT came after, all biblical like.

While watching this I'm writing, trying to hammer down a story for Cowboy Jamboree's upcoming issue. I'm also anxiously awaiting word back on another solicitation from a journal called COG that has published work and interviews relating to some really big swinging writers. I'm exciting at the idea of sharing space there, but am worried the work I have on hand to submit might not be up to the level they want. Either way, it's good to be working on solicitation. It's a rare thing for me these days, and probably a good thing. I'm feeling the pressure.

Writing, writing, writing. It's all I talk about it seems. Or reading. And I know people must get tired of it. Friends, family. As I get older I'm having a harder and harder time keeping these interests more or less under my hat. Why would I need to do that? Well, it has a lot to do with where I live and more so the desire by most people to think of lighter topics. I figure I'd be in the same situation if my obsessions were physics and geometry.

Even now, well past my middle age and able to see the age of fifty not far off, I continue to write, and write with relatively no ambition. I know I'll never publish with a big house, never have an agent, struggle to sell even a handful of copies of each new book I finish after years of working, etc. These things once kept me from a good night's sleep. No longer is that the case, and I'm thankful.

I still have ambition as a writer and reader of literature, without question. I recently spent hours upon hours attending online lectures through Yale University auditing literature courses, enough of these to have, by now, obtained, at the very least, a four-year degree from the esteemed school. Why? Not to brag about it here, for sure. It's because my ambition now is to learn everything I can about the subject dearest to me.

These lectures, for those interested, are easily found on YouTube under the subscription YaleCourses. There's also other subject areas you can explore, should your curiosity and obsession compel you.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Launch Day for Lantern Lit Vol. 4, a Collaborative Poetry Chapbook

The launch is on for the collaborative poetry chapbook I teamed up for with Dog On A Chain Press's Lantern Lit Vol. 4. Along with William Graham and Mat Gould, my poetry is featured in this new volume. Below is the link to buy a copy.


Monday, January 22, 2018

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Grocery Shopping" @ The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature required me to write a statement as to why I was southern when submitting this one called "Grocery Shopping" way back when. I wish I still had that statement. It was a little snarky, if I remember right. See what you think of the story.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Four Poems @ Dispatches from the Poetry Wars

I have been known to Google myself on occasion. There's good reason for this, though. I'd say about ten percent of the time I discover something of mine that's been published without my knowledge. It's always been something I submitted and didn't hear back on, so it's not like these folks are doing anything wrong, other than simply forgetting to let me know they've selected the piece or pieces to be published. It's all good.

Just this evening I found that a really interesting journal called Dispatches from the Poetry War accepted and published four of my poems back in October. These four poems were ones I'm truly proud of and will appear in the upcoming Lantern Lit Vol. 4. Until then, please have a look at them at DPW. They're called "Message from Crown Land," "The Love Poem," "Mother," and "Coming Clean." I hope you like them and have time to let me know what you thought, either way. Follow the link below and thanks so much.

FOUR POEMS - Dispatches from the Poetry War

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Vestal Review Gives Me Some BSF Love

I'm grateful to Mark Budman, editor of the esteemed literary journal Vestal Review, for nominating my short story published there for Best Small Fictions 2018.

The story, "The House in the Northwest Corner," was published online there last year and here's an interesting fact: I just received the print issue in the mailbox this afternoon.

So, news of the nomination and then receipt of the print issue on the same day. It's been a Vestal Review day, and I can think of few other better ones.

Thank you, Mark, and congratulations to the other BSF nominees Michael Chapey, David Galef, Jennifer Wortman, and Tara Isabel Zambrano.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My Current and Ongoing Book-Length Projects

Here are the books I'm working on right now:

Sway: New and Collected Stories - Made up of around 30 new stories not before collected together along with the stories from my first two collections The Same Terrible Storm and Where Alligators Sleep. Should come in at about 200 stories in total.

Evergreen - A long and ongoing book I'm writing about an immortal serial killer and his three immortal siblings. It's strange and may topple at any moment and be gone and never able to actually exist. It has even, at times, been a kind of dumping ground for thoughts and ideas too fully formed to simply note in a journal, etc. There has been one excerpted short story from this book called "Drowning the Witch" that was published last year at Peach Mag. You can read that story here.

What Do You Want For It? (working title) - A book started just this week about a hillbilly guy named Sister Hall who just so happens to be an art genius, as in being able to recognize great art the second he sees it. Taking a guy like that (from Eastern Kentucky) and putting him in the strange sort of non-world of the art world is the whole thing in this for me.

I've yet to find an agent and probably wouldn't do well if I did because I'm generally not cut out for the world of literature and art being a hillbilly, though educated. Still, a hillbilly. Publishing houses and so called reputable journals, etc. mostly don't want books from writers such as myself unless there are guns and drugs and violence in them. I've done that already and so now I'm off to write other things. This is to say I'll be publishing these books myself through my press Shivelight Books. For now that means I can only make them available as Kindle books because I can't figure out formatting to upload for print through Kindle Direct Publishing. If anyone can toss me a couple tips on that, I surely wouldn't mind.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Lantern Lit Vol. 4 @ Goodreads

You can now visit Goodreads and add to your reading list Lantern Lit Vol. 4, the collaborative poetry chapbook from Dog On a Chain Press that includes myself and two others - William Graham and Mat Gould.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Story @ Unbroken Journal & a New Year's Acceptance from Lost Balloon

It's a good writing start to the new year for me for sure. My story "Aversion" was published this morning in Unbroken Journal and I found out just a couple of hours ago that another of my stories will be published in Lost Balloon in March.

I thank editors R.L. Black and Chelsea Voulgares for giving these stories great homes.

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...