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Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm periodically picking up Danielle Evans' amazing short story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self , and I'm thinking I need to read more. I'm also reading The World According to Garp (Modern Library) and I'm loving it, but my parents told me the kid dies and now I'm terrified to keep reading. The last thing I want to read right now is about kids dying. Literally the last. Which is probably why I'm reading short fiction instead of the news like I usually do.

xTx has a new book coming out called Billie the Bull on the indomitable Mudluscious Press. You should pre-order it here. Roxane Gay has about a zillion projects coming out in the next year or so, so visit her blog and keep abreast of all those fancy developments. I'm starting to submit my novel to other agents to see if I can get some interest in it before I either give up or just publish the damn thing myself. I don't wanna do the latter, but I will if I have to. I think it's too good of a book to just languish in my hard drive. That may be writerly arrogance, but I believe it for reals.

I've started another novel about a mapmaker living in 1600's Amsterdam who gets caught up in all sorts of New World craziness. It's been brewing for quite some time, but I think I finally have enough things figured out, and have enough distance from the last novel, that I can get started on something new. It feels good. I'm writing this one by hand, interestingly enough, because I have several hours a week where I'm sitting on a park bench watching my son run around and interact with other kids. Writing a book seems like a good use of that time, but bringing my clunky, POS of a computer is not an option. So, I bought a small journalist-style notebook and I'm scribbling the darn thing out by hand. Very different feel. May be just what I need to put the last novel behind me. Different story, different method of transcribing, different feel.

It's not cold here, and it always makes me feel weird when it's not cold in the winter. But it's nice for a first time stay at home dad, because the outdoors are always an option. If me or Collins start getting cabin fever, we can just go outside and get our ya-ya's out. That's nice, even if a green, wet, and brown Christmas doesn't quite feel right.

Wish me luck with the agent search. Buy books from indie writers. That is all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Time Has Come

I've been hinting at it for months, and it is now time for me to come clean. Early last month everything changed for me. For starters, I quit my job. The reasons for this are myriad. Some I will lay out here; others I will keep for myself. But needless to say, this is just about the best thing that could happen to me. I now get to write for a living. I get to spend more time with the people I love most. I have the freedom to travel when I want (even if I don't exactly have the money). I get to raise my son the way I want to, instead of constantly compromising with the ideals of a daycare.

These are all very good things.

But in the run up to this decision, several things became apparent to me all at once. The most important of these is that a life not devoted to making the lives of others better is a life well wasted. We are living during an important inflection point in American history, and possibly global history, and we are told constantly that the best way to survive this moment is to protect ourselves and those like us. The rich rally around each other. Unions stage protests. Talk about taxes, taxes, taxes! I don't agree with this. There is more than enough money, time, charity, optimism, and health to go around, and I refuse to spend anymore of my life devoted to wasting those things so that I can be happy to the detriment of others.

So, think of the following as a "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" essay, only looking ahead, instead of back. I will be using my temporary-to-permanent vacation from corporate hustling to focus on a variety of inter-related projects, and I'll keep doing these things as long as I can.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's Set the World on Fire

I needed wine and something for my son to eat for dinner tonight. I didn't want to drive. There's a Target just about a mile walk away from my house and it occurred to me how incredibly absurd it is that I've never walked there. It's just a mile. 10, maybe 15, minutes. I should walk. I told myself this. It would be the right thing to do.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

We Live in a Beautiful World

When I listen to Coldplay I think of England. I feel like I'm in England, the mist, the rain, the chill. I can't help it. I go there. I hope that I'll get to go back in the next year. I also hope that I get to go to New York City. And maybe Amsterdam. It would be great to get to Greece before they burn the place to the ground, or sell all their national monuments to GE or Virgin or the highest bidder, or just throw them into a big bonfire for heat,since the gas'll be shut off.

We live in a beautiful world. Just keep telling yourself that. We live in a beautiful world.

My novel languishes. I have ideas and thoughts and feelings about this, which I won't go into here. My son gets bigger and he now has conversations with me. Not just small, one sided ruminations or existential questions, but actual convos. It's pretty cool. He made up his first story yesterday. It went something like this: Once upon a time there was an apple in a tree and he played and he couldn't get out.

The end. I gotta admit, I didn't see the surprise dark turn it took at the end.

We live in a beautiful world.

My days are surprisingly varied. They have the same rhythm, but the pacing is different, and the events are different, like endless remixes of the same song done by totally different artists. One day the song is mixed by a dub step DJ with a background in salsa and bossa nova. The next day it's Limp Bizkit and fun. duking it out over some Spaghetti-Oh's. I didn't bargain for this, but then who does?

We live in a beautiful world.

The end.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Leaves Are Burning

I like to be sad.

Leaves are burning in someone's backyard and it smells like sadness, and that makes me happy.

I have less than 15 days before everything changes and I don't think I could be more excited about it. The last five months I have tapped into a well of creativity I wasn't aware I had, strange creativity, not for storytelling or words or sentences, but for bigger ideas and businesses and means to ends. It feels very good to know that I am not just a one-trick pony, that there is something else inside of me that can grow and prosper and exhale into the world.

I'm working on rewriting my first novel Godspeed, You Black Emperor, which you can read a little of if you click on the title in the right sidebar of this blog. I think it is pretty good, now that I'm beating the immature out of it. I was a very different writer four years ago. The skeleton is good; it's the meat that's rotted, needs to be cut out and replaced with sturdier, HGH-free meat. I have that meat in my brain and I'm applying it to the skeleton and soon I will have a full-scale model of a novel to shop around. Maybe having two novels out there will double my chances of becoming a hugely successful fiction author, one who looks pensive and concerned and a little mysterious on his dust jacket promotional head shots.

I am going to grow out my beard longer than I've ever grown out my beard. I also think that I might grow out my hair again. I used to look like a young Willie Nelson, only waaaaay hotter. Totally. Now I just look like Right Now Willie Nelson, but without the braids and necklaces. It's a little depressing actually.

But I like to be sad.

And the leaves are burning and the air is just a little bit cold at the edges. Tuck yourself in at night. Struggle to get up in the morning because your bed is just so warm. Hear the howling of the tea kettle. Hear the soft breathing of your child in the next room. Pull the covers tight again. Sleep 'til summer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Publication is mine! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The lovely people at Pseudopod decided that my warm and fuzzy tale of murder and family loyalty, "A Murder of Crows," was fit for publication in this month's podcast. You can't read this one: you just gotta listen, but Malcolm Charles reads the story in a southern drawl that gives the story a completely different context than I'd imagined when I wrote it. Interesting stuff. I suppose this constitutes my first Southern Gothic tale, then.

You can check out the story here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dog Eat Crow, unwitting celebrity

So, I was perusing my Twitter feed the other day when the indomitable xTx posted a link to a book review/preview of her latest book Billie the Bull coming out on Mudluscious real soon, and as I was reading it, I noticed that the words I was reading seemed awfully familiar. They seemed familiar because they were mine, from this two-year-old interview with Extie. I don't mind because the blog author (wicked awesome writer Dennis Cooper) totally gave me credit for it*, but it was kinda nice to find yet one more corner of the internets I've infected with my wordz.

Anyway...


*Though, I wouldn't have minded a link.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Well, this is embarassing

Welcome all my new friends from MGoBlog. It seems my good buddy, Seth, has invited y'all over to my place for the evening. I'm thrilled you could make it. I apologize for not wearing any pants when I answered the door, but ole' Sethy-poo forgot to mention he was inviting you. Don't worry, though. Make yourselves at home.

Let me show you around. Over here on the right of your screen you'll find a bunch of short stories I've written over the last few years that have been kindly published by internet lit friends. You'll also find a little bit further down, a collection of essays I've written about bands I was in back in the day, as well as websites and music samples. If you like music, you might like that part of the website.

On the left of the screen you have a few things of mine available for purchase. Feel free to pick a couple up for your mama and papa.

In case you're wondering who I am (other than an old friend of Seth's) well, the long and short is I'm a writer of fiction things. I'm also a reader of fiction things. I was born and raised in the great state of Michigan and I went to (and graduated from) the only university in that state worth mentioning, U of M, home of the winged helmets, Diag, and outsized arrogance. I live in Atlanta now and I'm married to a Georgia Bulldog. Don't feel bad for me, it isn't all terrible. After six years I think I'm starting to get the hang of barking at opposing teams' fans. It's kind of fun, actually.

At any rate, thank you so much for stopping by. Take a look around. Read some fiction. Enjoy yourselves, and most importantly, Go Blue!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obligatory

 

Written in graffiti on a bridge in a park
'Do you ever get the feeling that you're missing the mark?'
It's so cold, it's so cold
It's so cold, it's so cold

Written up in marker on a factory sign
'I struggle with the feeling that my life isn't mine'
It's so cold, it's so cold
It's so cold, it's so cold

See the arrow that they shot,
trying to tear us apart
Took the fire from my belly
and the beat from my heart
Still I won't let go
Still I won't let go

 'Cause you, use your heart as a weapon
And it hurts like heaven

On every street, every car, every surface are names
Tonight the streets are ours and we're writing and saying
Don't let them take control
No we won't let take control

Yes, I feel a little bit nervous,
Yes, I feel nervous and I cannot relax,
How come they're out to get us?
How come they're out when they don't know the facts?

So on concrete canvas under cover of dark
Concrete canvas, I'll go making my mark
Armed with a spray can soul
I'll be armed with a spray can soul

'Cause, you use your heart as a weapon
And it hurts like heaven 

It's true

When you use your heart as a weapon
It hurts like heaven


Sunday, September 9, 2012

I don't care I don't care I care so much it hurts

I'm sure that for those of you who follow this blog, that when you see three, four, five days elapse and there is no new post you must get really sad because you know that I have likely slipped into whatever time warp crazy zone I go into that leads to three months without an update.

I'm sure that's how you all feel.

But let me assure you that these lapses of postage will be ceasing for good in the next few weeks* and that I will almost assuredly become a regular blog poster. Don't you worry about that, my friends.

One thing you should worry about, though, is that I still have not received any word about my manuscript submission. I have passed from the despair phase into the pure, agonizing depths of ennui. I just don't think about it all that often. It's something that is happening, happened.

Sometimes, though, I'll be driving or listening to something or eating a ham sandwich and I'll stop and think that I finished this book seven months ago and almost no one has read it and those who have it have not read it or commented on it and I'll muse on the black holes these little e-submissions have disappeared into and I'll feel an overwhelming sense of...well...sadness, I guess. It's actually very similar to the feeling I get when I watch my son trailing after an 8-yr old kid who wants absolutely nothing to do with him, with this little 3-yr old kid who can't do the cool things he can do but for some reason just keeps following after him. It's sad to see someone try so hard to do something when everyone can see so clearly it just isn't gonna happen. No matter what people say about doing the impossible and moving mountains and making miracles happen, there are some things that just ain't ever gonna happen. My son is 3 and he doesn't know that. He doesn't know he can't make that 8-yr old pay attention to him, or that it's gonna be several more years before he can climb those monkey bars or run that fast or throw a ball that far.

The thing is, his not knowing is exactly the thing that keeps him trying, that keeps him practicing and working hard, and that practice is why he will someday be able to do all of those things.

But then, when that day comes, he'll just want to ride a bigger bike, or climb a higher tree, or run a faster race. He'll be 8-yrs old himself then and he won't remember what he wanted when he was 3. He'll forget. All he'll know is what he wants now, and how much further he has to go.



*Most likely.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Data Anal

That was the title one of my MBA teammates' recent emails. I couldn't bring myself to respond to it because it brought to mind so many interesting images. There was no way I was going to be able to say anything serious.

The thing is, that's kinda how it feels.

Spreadsheets are a lot of fun. Analyzing business data is fun. Data anal is what all the cool kids are doing now. Get with it, people.

Some things in my real life have been decided, pending other, very small factors. These things will be massively huge in my work/writing life, but most importantly it will be huge for my family life. In a good way. I hope. I will, of course, let you all know as soon as I can.

No, I don't have a record/publishing/film-making deal, but there are more subtle, delicate ways of measuring happiness and I hope that these big, decided things will go a long way toward a measure of happiness.

It's impossible not to put yourself in your writing. No matter how hard you try, you keep sneaking back in. This one time, when I was three, I was playing out in the yard and my mom went inside to answer the phone and just then a small bird landed in my yard. I wanted to touch it because I'd never been that close to a bird before. I wanted to feel what that felt like, to touch the untouchable. I walked toward the bird, but it hopped away. I chased after it, passed one house, then another, then another. The bird wouldn't fly. It couldn't fly. I reached out to hold it in my hand. Then I heard my mom, and she was yelling, and then her hands were on me, dragging me away from the bird. I reached out to touch it, but I couldn't; the strength of my mom was too much. She hugged me tight and she scolded me to never leave out of her sight again. Never again. I looked over my shoulder and the bird was gone. I was very sad.

My mom spanked me, to show me how serious this all was. I believed her.

When you chase after something really hard, your head bent down in the striving, sometimes, when you look back up, you can be surprised at just how far you've come. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's gonna be fine

Apocalypse is everywhere.  I hear it in The Arcade Fire. I hear it in that “we are young” song. I see it in 2012 and The Hunger Games and Revolution and Doomsday Preppers and The Walking Dead. I read about it in White Noise and The Passage and The Stand and The Dog Stars. I hear it in the streets, in my friends’ loping, sad gaits, in their mouths, coughed up like mothballs. I hear it in my own thoughts.

A tape flapping over and over and over and over again, around the spool, around an idea.

We aren’t having kids. We aren’t buying houses. We don’t have jobs. Responsibilities aren’t helpful in the end; they only make it worse when it comes. We’ve seen the movies, the TV shows, read the books, listened to songs, sung the lyrics. We know. We aren’t stupid.

I wrote my own book too, one more voice in a sprouting field run riot with them. It’s called The Greatest Show on Earth. It’s about the end of the world. God’s in it and it’s his fault it’s happening, and he says he says he says, “My children, it’s all going to be alright. This is necessary. It’s going to be alright.” And I hope it makes people feel better about the time we were born into. I hope it makes people feel better that it’s probably not God’s fault. I hope it makes them feel better that God’s probably not there at all, that it’s us, you and me, us and we, doing this. God is like a fogged mirror, I expect. We’re really looking at ourselves but the fog makes it easier to look and see something, something apart from us, a separate thing, smiling, saying, “My children, it’s gonna be alright. It’s all gonna be alright.” I suppose that’s why I put him there, because who could argue with God? God is super-great. Amiright? This is necessary.

It’s gonna be alright.

We’ve seen the movies. We’ve seen the TV shows, read the books, listened to the songs. We’ve sung them lyrics. We can see. We aren’t stupid.

It’s gonna be fine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Addendum

After I wrote last night's post I woke to this brilliant article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic. He basically says most of the things I'd want to say if I could put them into words. This guy's writing slays me.

Post-race post

Inspired both by Roxane Gay's recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the color-blindness, or rather lack of color blindness, on The Bachelor/-ette series and also my own experiences as one half of an interracial power couple, I want to ask something that has stumped me over the last half decade or so of my writing career, namely: can I, as a white man, offer anything whatsoever to the discussion about race in this country that is worthwhile or interesting?

I don't have any idea how to address this and this bothers me because it matters a great deal to me what happens in this discussion. I am white and my wife is black, therefore our son is both (though even in 2012 he is only ever considered black). It matters to me how he is viewed and whether he will someday be forced to choose whether he will be black or white (whatever that means), and whether that choice will have implications for how he and I interact. It matters to me. I know how middle class, privileged white people think and I know what their thoughts will be about my son. It matters to me that they don't think those things. It matters to me how this national discussion goes.

I wonder what I can do about it.

We are told we live in a post-racial society because we elected a black president (though, here we go again, he is half-black). Certainly there is some truth to that. I am in an interracial couple living in the south and we have never been harassed or stared at or discriminated against that I know of. But, then again, we are middle class, college educated, homeowners, diligent voters, parents. So, are we outliers, or the new normal? I can tell you that race never figured into whether I loved my wife: we came from the same background, we could relate to the same cultural touchstones. Race was one of those things we did not have in common, but so was her being a southerner and me a Midwestern boy or the fact that she likes Phish. So, as far as color-blindness is concerned, my feelings for my wife are, and have always been, as color-blind as can be expected in this country. It rarely comes up, race, except during those vaguely uncomfortable moments when I'm with her family and her parents or grandparents talk about the past and it occurs to me that people who look like me are/were the bad guy(s) and that there are some things that just can't be healed in a generation or two or three or four. These moments are few and far between, which makes them all the sharper; a reminder of both where we've come from as a nation and how very far we have to go. I love them, my new extended family. They have been nothing but sweet and beautiful to me, which says a hell of a lot more about them than about me.

As writers are we supposed to depict life as it is, or how it should be?

I rarely mention the race of my characters, nor do I offer many cultural signifiers by way of dialect. In my first novel, Daniel is white and his wife is black. In the latest novel, one of the main characters is black and several of the other characters are ambiguously raced. There's Lin, Sharlima, Ramesh, etc. These are conscious choices. I want readers to know my characters on the inside, irrespective of their outward appearances, and I want to create in my stories the type of world that I want my son to live in, a world where what's inside him is judged first. But is this wrong? Is this a cop-out? Am I side-skirting the issue of race by simply not mentioning it? Of course my son is going to be judged first by his outward appearance. If not his skin, then by the way he dresses or his hair style or the way he shakes hands. He will be judged. Is it cowardly for me to avoid addressing this in my fiction?

It certainly feels cowardly, not least of all when I read articles like Roxane's which are fierce and unequivocal and direct.

But what can I offer to the conversation? I am white. I am middle class. I am college educated. I have received all of the privileges that come along with those signifiers. Is there anything I can say that will not seem hasty or uninformed or condescending or just plain stupid? Is there anything I can say that will not immediately prove the stereotype right, the tone-deaf, privileged white kid. Am I doing this right now?

Maybe it's better if I just don't say anything at all, if I keep writing characters without races, without descriptions, with only insides to be explored. We live in a post-racial society, after all. Maybe that's a--if not good enough, then simply a--not negative contribution, to make this supposed post-racial world a reality, in my life, in my fiction.

It matters to me, this discussion we're having. My son, like me, like all of us, will have to live with the consequences. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

[insert title here]

Why?

My son is asking why all the time now. I guess this is the age when this sort of thing starts. It's pretty astounding, when you stop and think about it, how remarkably cliched much of early life is. We all go through the same stages, see the same road markers on the side of the road to adulthood. There is no one who gets to avoid crawling and then standing and then walking and talking and then asking whywhywhywhwywhwywhwywwhhwywhwywywhwywwhwywhwywhy?

Obviously this is annoying. For all the reasons you'd think: hearing anything repeated over and over again is always annoying, eventually there is no answer one can give, etc. But I think there is a more fundamental reason behind the pure, unadulterated annoyance of this question. First, you have to ask, why are all people between the age of three and four compelled to ask this question? This is not an American thing or a Mexican thing or an Indian thing. This is a people thing. So, why? Perhaps because it is the most fundamental question of our lives.

Why?

Why are we here? Why do we suffer? Why do we die? Why do I have red hair? Why am I attracted to who I'm attracted to? Why do I write? We can not escape, this question, this searching. It begins early and continues long into our old age. Even Christ on the Mount of Olives asked why do you ask this of me, Father? Why?

So, if it is so necessary that children engage with this question, and hence engage with their own mortality and longing, then why is it so goddamn annoying for someone to keep asking it repeatedly? You'd think there would have been some built in tolerance for it or something installed long ago. There isn't. Why?

I think this is because, just as we feel compelled to ask this question, we also feel compelled to answer it when it is asked of us. And we have no answer, in the end. Not really. At the end of every cycle of why's there is only a shrug, or silence. It makes you realize you are no different than anyone else. I am no better off than my three year old son. After 31 years I still don't have any more answers. I still am asking why. This is terrifying, and since it is easier to be angry or annoyed than to face one's own terror (especially at something so big and important as why) we get angry or annoyed. It is easy to do this.

I tried to answer my son tonight, and I couldn't. It took six why's before I had nothing left. Do Daddy and Collins have to stop at the red sign? Yes. Why? So cars don't get us. Why? Because that would hurt a lot. Why? Because cars are a lot bigger than people and they can squash people. Why? Because that's the way it is. Why? Because there are a lot of things that aren't fair in this world. Why?

I don't know.

I don't know.

Monday, August 20, 2012

something something

I must tell you, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

I listened to this on the radio yesterday while my son slept in the back seat and I drove around aimlessly through this schizophrenic city of mine and it nearly brought me to tears.
"And I had the meeting with — giving the food to one of the small children who was dying of hunger. He was at the last stages. Suddenly, I had this experience that is to me the founding experience of humanity, which is discovering through empathy that you really are one with the man who is suffering. You know, you identify yourself with this person, and this can be so strong. So I made at the time the promise to the small child that I will try from now on not to ever turn away my eyes from somebody who is suffering. And that was a turning point in my life."
 Incorporating the weakness, seeing that fragility is part of the system, is as necessary as the strong, rigid parts, that is as much the key to living as striving to remain strong and powerful.

School has started again and I am back in the throes of that striving, of arming myself against a brutal, unknowable future. I am studying marketing and data analysis. Sometimes I am very certain that these subjects are bullshit, that they are merely ways for humans to try to quantify and control that which is totally uncontrollable, that which is brutal and unknowable. But I study anyway and I believe too that it will make me strong.

Yet deep down I have this softness that flows under the crust, makes the crust weak, makes sinkholes.

Don't push too hard.

I wrote another short story last night all in one sitting. It's about a bunch of friends who decide to build a castle in the middle of a road because they realize that once you agree to stop seeing the road as a road it becomes just one more place on this planet, and then you can do whatever you want with it. I think it's good. I dunno where I'll send it just yet, but it'll go somewhere. Maybe I'll shoot for the moon and send it to The New Yorker. Maybe I'll print out a few copies of it and burn it in my front yard. Maybe I'll read it to my son as a bedtime story every night for the next thirteen years so that he grows to understand that just because 6 billion other people see something one way doesn't mean it's right, or true, or just. That's easily as good a message as playing nice with others. After all this world wasn't built by those who played nice, it was built by those who grabbed a shovel and stuck it in the dirt.

But then, you can't forget the suffering and sick and weary and heartbroken, either. What good is a castle if you have no one to share it with?

Friday, August 17, 2012

I can't be the only one

I can't be the only one who feels this way.

That story I just wrote, the one I felt so awesome about. It was rejected. Form letter. Standard fare. This is the fifth time this particular market has sent that letter to me. I don't think me and that market get along. Or rather, I might not understand what they want. Standard fare. It reminds me of that scene from The Princess Bride, for some reason.

"Inconceivable!"

"I do not think that word means what you think it means."

Duh.

But, alas, you must move along, nothing to see here. I submitted the story again, somewhere else. Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.

I also wrote another shortie tonight. It's not fiction per se. It is what it is. I sent it off. I feel as though I shouldn't think very long on these things. Vomit them out and then put a bow on them and get them as far away from me as possible. That's the ticket. If this thing doesn't find a home I may just post it here. Maybe that's where I should have started.

I'm listening to Fleet Foxes. And then I will put on a few records and read about Marketing and Data Analysis, and I will sip a glass of red wine and I will have this serene, slightly bemused look on my face. There will be people who will stand at my window as I'm doing this and look in at me and be jealous as fuck. Their faces will be crimped in frustration. They'll say I wish I was in there by the fire (did I mention the fire?) and drinking that wine and reading those books and listening to those records. Is that Bookends? Is that CSN? Is that motherfucking Jimi Hendrix!? Where did this guy get such a wondrous record collection? These jealous people will ask these things.

But don't worry. I am not a cruel. I will open my door and I will say peek not at the window, Thomases. Come in, eat a minced pie (did I mention the pies? God, did I mention the pies?), warm your feet. Take that sour look off your face, my new friends, there's plenty for all of us. Listening is free. Reading is free. Talking is free. Let's talk. Let's warm. Let's listen. It's better that way, than peeking at the window. Sit in the firelight. 

Do not stand in the shadows.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You Lyed!

Just last week I wrote this whole thing about not liking short stories because I can't write them and being a sore loser and basically a total wet blanket. Well, scratch all that because I'm in love with short stories again.

Not exactly in love in love, but maybe dating again.

I was driving all by my lonesome and suddenly a little bitty story plopped right into my head fully formed, like a celestial baby from Mars and it did a little jig and I just knew I had to put that baby to beddie bye on a little white page in my computer. And I did.

The baby is pretty good, me thinks. More surreal than anything I've ever written before, but I think it's kinda funny, which is saying a lot for me, since I'm not funny. Ever. Not even a little bit.

But then there's this new baby and she's kinda funny. There's copious drugs and a talking bear that gives out hugs and a ghost that gives out nothing and a Vocoder that makes you sound like T Pain. It's great fun.

I'm getting very close to a momentous change in my life which I can't exactly talk about because there are a whole lot of moving parts and there are other people involved and because almost nothing about it can be pinned down with any certainty other than it's happening...sometime.

It's nice to have something to look forward to, even if it's a little like being a greyhound on a dog track, chasing a stuffed rabbit that always seems to stay just a little bit out of reach. I'll keep running though. I got me some stamina. I got me some drive. And I'm gonna git me some.

Sometime.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

THE BRITISH INVASION...of my iTunes collection

Maybe because of the Olympics, or maybe because of the possible future trip to the UK Wife and I are planning, but I have been in an exceedingly British mood lately. This mood has taken root in a strange desire to assemble as much music by British artists as possible on my laptop. I make no claims to being a great mix tape master, but I think I have come up with two mixes that are halfway decent. Both start with a classic British album of the last twenty years and then spend the remaining 80 minutes of CD* time delving into the album's various progeny, or precursors.

The truth is that the mid-1990s spawned two veins of Britpop that came to be embodied by the yin-yang of Oasis and Blur. Oasis were the tough, hardscrabble lads from Manchester and Blur were the artsy intellectuals from London. That these two stereotypes hardly fit the actual bands doesn't matter. What matters is that there was a divide, and in a Britain trying very hard to get out from under American cultural imperialism and post-Thatcherism, the reemergence of British cultural importance was a huge boon to the youth of that generation. For more info on this period check out this awesome documentary, Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop. So, in order to celebrate these two traditions of British music, I have assembled two mixes from each branch: Oasis and Blur. One begins with the true origins of Oasis and the other works backward to see how Blur influenced the bands of the millennium.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In the Future there will be no more professional writers

Or so says The Globe and Mail. I agree with their premise, but, damn, it's terrifying.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Obligatory DFW Post

AHHHHHHHH! 84 minutes of uncut David Foster Wallace interviews! This has made my month. Straight up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Waterfall


Stands on shifting sands
The scales held in her hands
The wind it just whips her away
And fills up her brigantine sails

She'll carry on through it all
She's a waterfall
She'll carry on through it all

She's a waterfall

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sacri-ledge

Have you?

That's not a rhetorical question; it's very very very serious. Or at least it's meant to be.

Maybe it ain't.

So, I'm going to just come and say it: I don't really like short stories all that much. I don't really like writing them or reading them*.  This post isn't meant to knock short stories, far from it. When in the hands of the right writer a short story can deliver a jolt to the system so potent that it makes novels, the longer in the tooth older cousin of the short story, look like a boring ole' windbag. I think my distaste for the short story stems primarily from the fact that I don't write them very well. No, no, don't worry, you don't have to flatter me, I know I'm not a good short story writer and I'm OK with it. For some reason, it is an art that eludes me. After writing lots and lots of them and finding very few I'm even OK with, I think it might be time to accept that this might be a part of the writing gig that just isn't my thing.

I have to admit this is a bit of a relief because it basically frees me of the nagging guilt I've been feeling for years about not being as well read or as published or as super cool awesome as my short story writing contemporaries. It's impossible to stay away from the internet. It's impossible not to be jealous even when you know you shouldn't be. Why be jealous of someone else's success, especially when they're awesome and totally deserve every bit of attention they get? It's silly, no? Still, the internet and the rapid-fire publication schedules of so much of the internet indie writing scene can make a novel writer feel downright lazy, not to mention paranoid as hell that he's going nowhere extraordinarily fast.

The thing is, writing novels and writing short stories is a lot like sprinting and long distance running: it takes a special person to be really good at both of them. There certainly are people who are good at both (Stephen King, Nabokov) but not many. Some writers just take a little longer to develop their ideas, and hopefully the exploration is well worth the extra effort and time. I come back often to this quote from Roberto Bolano in 2666, when at one point two characters are chatting and one of them says that he prefers the minor works of the great masters, like Bartleby over Moby Dick. This astounds the other one, Amalfitano, and he thinks to himself, “What a sad paradox. Now even bookish types are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. They want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.”

I love this quote. It makes me happy, makes me feel like writing books is something worth doing. It's not that short stories are not an art form in and of themselves, or that they are less than novels, it's just that I'm not sure they push the author quite as much as the sustained intensity of writing a novel. Maybe they do and maybe that's why I'm no good at writing short stories. Maybe I don't try hard enough. Maybe I don't feel it enough. It's certainly possible; I'm far from a writing guru. But, I can tell you nothing has pushed me harder than writing my novels, especially this last one. I, as Bolano writes, struggled with myself and pulled out my sticky, angry demons into the light and I examined them and threw them in the book and I spent most nights agonizing over whether it was right or whether I was doing something wrong. More than anything I've ever done, this book felt like something I had to do. Like if I didn't I would always feel incomplete, or empty, or close to bursting.

I've never felt that way about a short story. So, I'll stick to novels. I'll stick to the struggle. I think I could be good at it. Maybe not, but the struggle is worth it. Right? Right?


*There are, of course, obvious exceptions to the rule: xTx, Roxane Gay, Matt Bell, Stephen King, DFW. But really I just tolerate short stories from these writers because I like reading the words they put on a page so much. They are more exceptions that prove the rule kinda things than something that invalidates the post.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

xTx Bringing Home the Gold

The illustrious xTx has been shortlisted for the storySouth Million Writers Award and the vote is open to the public, sooooo get to voting people! The story is called "The Mill Pond" and you can read it here. It's incredible. Vote and then vote again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Helplessness Blues


I was raised up believin'
I was somehow unique
like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
unique in each way you can see

But now after some thinkin'
I'd say I'd rather be
a functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me

But I don't, I don't know what
that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

Monday, July 23, 2012

Woodstock, NY

Follow up to the previous post of...about...two and a half months ago, it appears that there may, in fact, have been an internet snafu that has lead to the aforementioned agent blackout. It could, of course, still be all of the nightmare-inducing stuff like hating the manuscript, laughing with colleagues, etc., but it seems much more likely that she just never got the darn thing. I've re-sent it, soooooo, keep your fingers crossed.

I finished The City and the City by China Mieville the other day and it blew me the hell away. It was like the best of Crichton mixed with The Da Vinci Code only without all the crappy parts, and then mixed even more with sociopolitical overtones. I was describing it to a work bro the other day thinking he totally wouldn't understand it, but he nodded and he said, "You know, that book sounds awesome. It reminds me of when I would go to certain neighborhoods in the Bronx and all the Mexicans and the Jews and Italians had their own stores and churches and houses and everyone was there in the same place and yet none of them had anything to do with any of them. Like they were in the same place, but not." So there you have it, heady sci-fi that even the work bros can get behind. Read the thing if you get the chance.

Did you remember to get your mom a birthday card?

I went to Woodstock, NY a couple of weeks ago and the place was the most incredible place ever. It was as though all those hippies who turned on and dropped out formed a commune and then rather than falling apart and collapsing under the weight of its own dysfunction and drug abuse the commune had actually succeeded and thrived and then it was forty years later and all the hippies had kids who were succeeding and thriving too. It was beautiful. I went to a wedding in a backyard by a pond and the reception was under a tent just like in the 7th Harry Potter book and after several brews I kept waiting for Deatheaters to appear and break the whole thing up. They didn't, and the party just kept going on and on until it was just too much loveliness for me to keep inside. I sang a song by the firelight to all my new friends because my wife and my friends made me do it. I hadn't sang the song in about five years. I was terrified. Singing is a part of me that has calcified and I was the tin man and it took a lot of Dorothy's grease to get my joints working. People listened to me though and they clapped afterwards and that made me want to cry.

Have you picked up your dry cleaning?

I haven't. It's waiting there. It's alone. But after long enough, it'll make friends. And in the end it'll probably be happier there than on my back, working, unappreciated, wrinkling and furrowing and sucking up the things my body lets go of.

I hope everyone in the world reads my book. I hope it makes them happy and I hope that makes them love me. Just little bit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How does this keep happening?

Weeks pass by and I don't blog. I don't no why. It's a problem. I know.

I'm still waiting for a response from the agent about the book. It's been three months. It's very close to that point when I start to really freak out about whether I sent it to the right email address or whether she hates it or whether she's passing it around the office and all the other agents are laughing at how incredibly badly written it is. Probably none of these things are happening. But, you know...I worry. At what point is it acceptable to shoot an email asking about it? I don't know the answer to this.

Last night I went running. At some point a car sidled up next to me and I took the earbuds out of my ear and I looked at this old man leaning out the window of the car and he looks at me. He asks me, "Are you the young man my wife was just talking to?" I say, "No." Then he says, "Did your mother pass away?" And I say, "No. I think you might have the wrong person." He says, "Ok."

Then he drives to the next road and pulls a you-ee and stops right in front of me and his wife opens the car door and she has a wicker basket with a loaf of bread and some cookies in it. She holds the basket close. She asks me, "Are you the young man I just spoke to?" I say, "No." She looks very sad. She says, "Did you pass anyone on the way?" I say, "No...I don't think so. But I've been sort of in my own world, though." She says, "I understand. It's just I talked to a young man earlier and he looked so sad and he said that his mama died three years ago today and I tried to talk to him but he just wanted to be alone." She pauses and I look at the basket in her lap. Now I am sad. I say, "That's terrible..." She nods and she looks at the basket. She looks very lost. She says, "I have four sons. Three of them are adopted from Russia. And I'm old, and my husband...he's 81. I just, I can't imagine how my sons will feel. I don't want them to be orphaned again."

She stops talking. Her husband doesn't look at me. He looks at the steering wheel. I say, "That's terrible..." She says, "It's alright," and then she clutches the basket tighter and closes the car door. I wish her luck on her search. They drive away. I run away.

Maybe I'll wait until the end of May to inquire about the book.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Neo-Sentamentalism

Back in the fall of 2010 I did a spotlight and interview with a soon-to-be-fairly-well-known writer xTx. The interview was amazing and you should read it, but I call attention to it now because somewhere in the middle of it I launched into a long-winded theory about the dominant strain running through the current generation of writers.David Foster Wallace sort of predicted this when he wrote in his brilliant essay "E Unibus Pluram" that irony and sarcasm have become so ingrained in popular culture that the only way for the next generation to rebel against their elders would be to become neo-sentamentalists, to reject irony and instead dive headlong into pure and honest emotionalism. He then pointed out that these writers would probably be incredibly uncool because the dominant culture would still be attached to hip, ironic detachment.

I believed this in 2010 and nothing I've read from the most popular underground writers of my generation since then has deterred me from the belief that DFW got this entirely correct. I believe that the underground scene is thoroughly committed to a revamped Romanticism, a deep, abiding emotionalism that overrides any interest in formal or structural innovation, and instead focuses entirely on the emotional nature of stories. Just as Romanticism at the end of the 19th century sought to break boundaries of form and scale in order to depict the tempestuous nature of human emotions, these neo-sentamentalists incorporate genres into their literary works seemingly at random in order to better tell tales of the heart. That these stories include horror, sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, and magical realism (sometimes all in the same story) does not mean that the authors are interested in the structural complications of mixing genres. These mash-ups are merely a product of the times, and if using elements of a specific genre fit the needs of the story, then anything goes.

The second point of DFW's, that these authors would probably be uncool, also seems to be somewhat correct. While there is enormous respect and support within the underground scene itself, with the exception of select few, almost none of them have found mainstream success on par with authors like Foer or Tao Lin or other decidedly hip and postmodern authors. The mainstream is still clinging to the ironic detachment of the postmodernists, while the underground spills their blood onto the servers of the world. I believe that one of the main reasons this movement has not gained significant mainstream traction is because for now the movement is almost exclusively short stories published in internet and some print journals. But many of the leading writers are beginning to write and publish novels, so we could be on the edge of a literary explosion once these things get out there.

Whether this movement turns into the literary equivalent of Grunge or Punk remains to be seen, but for now it is vibrant and productive, and producing art that is at once lively, engaging, and extraordinarily honest.

What follows is my question to xTx, which more or less lays out the details of my theory.  

Monday, March 12, 2012


So can you understand?
Why I want a daughter while I'm still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before all this damage is done

But if it's too much to ask, it's too much to ask
Then send me a son

Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm movin' past the feeling
Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm movin' past the feeling and into the night

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Did I post just yesterday?

It's like a Christmas miracle, isn't it? Two posts in two days? Incredible.

This has a lot more to do with wine and a blessed amount of free time than anything else. I am, after-all, a student of business administration. In case you didn't know.

Miscellany:

I have been receiving about 15 unique hits from Slovenia everyday for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks. This is primarily due to this post from 2009. I know this because Google is the Devil and the Devil tells me where people come from and what they are searching for. In this case, a lot of people from Slovenia wanna see a picture of a cow pooping out human remains. Honestly, that's not weird. I mean, who wouldn't wanna see a cow doing that?

Wine bottles dressed in wicker outfits do not necessarily hold within themselves good tasting wine. But then I suppose that's more or less a pretty good metaphor for life.

While we're on the topic, I also receive visitors consistently who are definitely looking for pictures or stories of dogs eating crows. This bothers me. Is there really a big market for this sort of thing? Why the hostility toward crows? My wife told me last night that crows represent death in just about every culture on the planet. I told her that crows also represent wisdom, but she thought I was lying. I wasn't. Not exactly. Death, of course, has its own wisdom.

I saw Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part One and it was like an orgasm in my mouth. Did I say that out loud*? No? Well then here it is: Team Edward, baby! Jake's a spazz who needs to totally imprint on that one werewolf chick who says she needs to be imprinted so bad she can taste it or something like that and forget about Bella for good so Eddie can have her for himself without interruptions and whatnot. I mean, like, that bed breaking scene. Gosh. Gave me shivers.

I saw Radiohead. They were awesome. So was Thom's ponytail.

Still, wicker outfits don't make good wine. I don't care what the experts say.

Done.


*It's a joke, get it? Cuz, like I totally don't say anything out loud. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

And I wait

Believe me. I knew it would be this way. But it doesn't make it any easier waiting for some sort of response on my book. I know, I know. It's only been a month. And most websites say to give agents at least 3-4 months to respond. And I sent this agent a doorstop of a book so I should expect it to take even longer. But still. It doesn't make it any easier.

In the meantime I stare at my Twitter feed jealously reading about everyone else's awesome time at AWP, and wondering why I don't have any writer friends (I do actually, but not in the massive volumes recounted by the writers I follow on Twitter). Am I not pretty enough? Is it because I have a beard? No, that can't be it. Everyone has a beard these days. Maybe it's because I haven't written a short story, or submitted anything in, like, eight months. That's probably it. You do sort of have to, like, commit to the writing scene if you want it to commit back to you, I suppose.

It did get me thinking, though, that writers, especially those in the online indie lit scene, are extremely supportive of each other. They may not support me, per se, but they support each other in a way that really can't be replicated with the same fervor in any other indie scene. It's impressive and says a great deal about these people and the commitment they have to their art and other purveyors of same. There is an incredibly lack of competition that is surprising given the relatively small pieces of economic pie over which they are all competing. But maybe that's the point, that the pieces of pie are so small, and the odds of getting even a nibble so ridiculously miniscule, that today's writers have effectively rejected the enticement of the pie in total and have focused instead on making each other happy. That, at least, is a more easily attainable goal, and probably a much healthier one, psychologically speaking.

So, there's all that. And I feel like I kind of sit outside of it, sadly. Sad because I think I actually have a lot in common stylistically with the vanguard, but, of course, they are mostly short story writers and have been able to take advantage of the new technology of the internet in order to advance their writing in short bursts. I have come to the conclusion that I write bigger things. Not better, just bigger. So, I stand apart. But I hope to be let in soon.

I have this book, after-all, and it sits in someone's inbox. And maybe they'll like it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Backyard

Not quite what I was hoping when I set out last year to clear the whole thing out and build it out, but a start, I suppose. The key is that there is no longer a crap-ton of ivy where snakes can hide and bite my son. And he even has a playset now. Go me!


I moved the garden into a sunnier area of the yard, and planted some broccoli, lettuce, and carrots a month ago because I realized those crops do much better in milder weather. Atlanta in the winter is pretty mild. As long as it doesn't freeze for several days in a row the plants should be cool. The broccoli especially is super excited to be in my backyard. I also planted some green and jalapeno peppers in the greenhouse, along with a few strawberry plants. we'll see if those bad boys do better than my plants last year.

I'll chat more as the season progresses.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Souls (Tick The Minutes Away)

So, this song happened. Once upon a time I was in a long-distance relationship. Let's just agree that sometimes young lust, long distance, and creative aptitude with a guitar are not the best ingredients for brilliant pop lyricism. But, I guess what this song lacks in wordsmithery it more than makes up in sheer joy...or at least the closest thing I ever came to committing that particular emotion to tape.

Let's be clear; joy was not something that came to me easily. Not when I was 23 and I wanted to be a rock star so bad it kept me awake at night, tossing and turning and thinking about what my life was going to be like, in the future, when I arrived. In the future. Not when I was sleeping on a cement floor with no blanket and no money in Gulfport, MS, after a night spent singing alone in the corner to drunken midshipmen and their equally drunken girlfriends/wives. Not when I was shaking hands and selling CDs I'd spent $2 printing for a $1, and buying clothes I thought made me look cool, and smelling microphones covered in stale cigarette spit and beer and booze and lipstick. Not when I was finally realizing this wasn't gonna work out for me because I didn't have that certain savoir faire required of the very famous and the very destructive, and I sat down for the first time to work on this fiction story that I'd had bumping around my head for a year, and writing stories came back to me from a distant past I thought I'd forgotten but which had sat in my heart and my head and my fingertips and pried open the old and rusted cellar door of my soul and peeked out and blinked in the light. There was no joy in giving up music, just sadness and defeat and worry over a future self that did not include this part of me that had seemed so integral for so long that it had actually become me. I was the musician me and the musician me was all I had. I was afraid to ask, "What am I, if not this?" That question terrified me.

Yet, strangely, the writing continued. After that really bad first attempt, and the second and third equally bad attempts. After the novel that practically wrote itself then moldered on a shelf, and molders still. After the novella, and the screenplay for a movie that will never be made, not by me at least. After the short stories started getting better and popping up in places and other people who were not me or my mother started reading. And the writing continued even after I started telling people I was a writer and I started wondering what people thought of when I said that, those people who'd known me back when I was a singer, back when I was gonna be on MTV.

And the writing started to become the new me, and it fit me better. It was natural, something I'd done since I was a kid, something automatic like speaking or clapping or pointing at things that surprise you or delight you. This was something that I didn't have to try at, or pretend at, or wear a mask to admit to. This was me. This is me.

I still don't find joy easily. But this is pretty darn close. I don't listen to songs like these anymore and wonder what if. I listen and I say, "Listen to me. How brave I was to try so hard at being something I wasn't." It isn't easy to show the world a smile when you're wearing a damn mask. I suppose it isn't that easy without the mask either, but I'll try. Here you go.