With the results from the Cola Round and the Cream Soda Round now tallied, we move on to the Pepper Round. Now this name might not quite fit since a couple of these sodas aren’t in the same exact vein as Dr. Pepper, but they share some traits and fall into that pepper/medicinal/spiced soda realm in one way or another. And we had to cluster at least four sodas together somehow, so this is what we ended up with: Dr. Pepper, Pibb Xtra, Maine Root Sarsaparilla, and Moxie.Read More
My latest collection of poetry, Feral Kingdom, is now available from Kung Fu Treachery Press, and you can find copies at either Barnes & Noble or at Amazon. A small number of signed copies will be available at future readings and free reviewer PDFs are always an email away, just ask! The collection features poems about that wild and lonely landscape between old lives that have fallen away and the new ones we have yet to find, a place of raw nerves and awkward nights, of bars drenched in neon and highways promising something better. There’s a feral kingdom out there, and all of us have to walk through it, live it, survive it, one way or another. For samples of the kind of poetry you’ll find within, check out “Spiders at Night” from Up The River, “West Texas Skyway” from Punch Drunk Press, or “My Ex’s Father” from Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. My deepest thanks to Kung Fu Treachery Press and to all of you for your support!
And now that we know the results of the Cola Round, we move on to another flavor altogether: cream soda. I have never had a cream soda float despite having a soft spot for root beer’s golden-pale cousin, so I was pretty excited to begin. Before I introduce the flavors we picked for this round, let me give you a quick recap of how we’re doing this challenge.Read More
Summer is coming…and I dream of cold drinks and icy desserts on the front stoop, in the back yard, at patio bars, and roadside ice cream stands. I have designs on a boozy hollowed-out pineapple cocktail complete with little umbrellas and twisting straws, and of course one of my childhood favorites, the root beer float. Or maybe a Coke float. Or a Big Red float. I’ve even had a Purple Cow, but how would that grape soda float hold up against one made with Dr. Pepper?
And thus came the idea for an ice cream soda float challenge: 25 flavors, one brand of ice cream, and eight nights of carbonated sugar highs that will not only threaten our bodies with immediate Type A through Z diabetes but also determine the greatest dessert-beverage question of them all: what soda is the best for an ice cream float?Read More
Issue 14 of The Blue Mountain Review is now posted online and it looks pretty amazing. The new issue includes work and words by Jericho Brown, Robert Pinsky, Melissa Studdard, Elizabeth Beck, Meagan Lucas, Lane Young, and a whole swath of other writers. There’s also a bunch of interviews, art, and essays, including one by me called “Everyone Has a Story to Tell,” in which I thumb back through the years to the time I was talking to a bunch of construction workers about writing and where stories come from while we drank happy hour beer in Jimmy’s Corner in NYC. They didn’t think much of my ideas, except one guy, and I hope that guy eventually told his own story, somehow. My thanks to the editors and Clifford Brooks as always for including my little piece. If you want to take a look you’ll find it on page 100. Thanks for reading!
My latest collection of poetry, Feral Kingdom, is coming soon from Kung Fu Treachery Press. The collection features poems abandoned and cut loose, crawling through the holes in the back fence, running beyond the town line, and disappearing down sprawling country roads into a world unknown. Between the lives we lead, the loves and jobs and homes we claim, there is a place of raw nerves and lonely nights, of bars drenched in neon and highways promising something better. There’s a feral kingdom out there, and all of us have to walk through it, live it, survive it, one way or another.
More details are on the way, including an exact release date and information about reviewer copies and PDFs. For samples of the kind of poetry you’ll find within, feel free to check out “Spiders at Night” from Up The River, “West Texas Skyway” from Punch Drunk Press, or “My Ex’s Father” from Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. But the collection will mostly feature unpublished poetry, and readings and signings will follow upon its release. Thanks for all of your support!
My poem “My Ex’s Father” now appears in the April 2019 edition of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, an online journal published by University of Arkansas-Monticello. It’s an older poem that I recently unburied and revised, and to me the poem speaks to the idea that when we break up with someone, the greatest loss isn't always that person, but the others we no longer get to call a part of our circle. My Ex’s Father” will also appear in my upcoming poetry collection titled Feral Kingdom (from Kung Fu Treachery Press, date TBD) alongside other similar pieces, and I will post more details as soon as the book is available. Thanks for taking a look, and I appreciate all of your support over the years.
My poem “an unordered list of things that remain” is now up in Trailer Park Quarterly, Volume 9, a magazine I’m very fortunate to have appeared in before now and I’m extremely honored to be in there again. The issue features a bunch of other writers I respect, such as John Dorsey, Tobi Alfier, Kevin Ridgeway, Jason Ryberg, Wendy Rainey, and many others. This particular poem is about the passing of our family dog, Rocky, and it means a lot to me. I hope you enjoy it.
It had been a while since I submitted anything to The Blue Mountain Review, and when editor Clifford Brooks asked if I had anything up my sleeve that he could include, I was going through the process of prepping my handful of novels for the arduous lit agent submission process, which involves not just researching literary agencies but also competitive titles already on the market. I decided to write about that in my latest column over at BMR (on page 102). Not so much how researching other titles at Barnes & Noble can help you decide what to write, but how it might help you decide how to go about writing the story you want to write, how you can position it, and hopefully, fingers crossed, sell it. Now I’m no pro at the latter, since I’m still trying to hook an agent myself, but you never know what little hint we might pick up from one another that might get us closer to our goal, right? Anyway, I hope you enjoy the piece, and there are plenty of other excellent essays, stories, poetry, and more in the new issue to keep you otherwise occupied. Thanks to Cliff and the editors for creating another spiffy issue!
I started Hobo Camp Review in 2009 thinking it would be a fun little project that might last a few years at most, a journal where I’d invite poets to a quiet little campfire in the remote corner of the internet to sit a spell, share some road stories, some dreams, some wonderments, little pieces of their own twisting narratives before heading back into the wilds of the universe. I imagined Steinbeck and McCullers, Plath and Kerouac, Li Po and Tom Waits all sitting around eating beans from a can while a train cried out in the far distance, and lo and behold, ten years passed at that fire.
So to celebrate all the wonderful poems and stories that passed through that literary hideaway, I’m creating a print edition of Hobo Camp Review that features a few of my favorite pieces from each issue we released between 2009 and 2019. Most of the selections in that span were mine, but I’d be a damn fool if I didn’t thank the wonderful Rachel Nix for her support and contributions over the last couple years, and also David M Morton for his writings and brainstorming sessions during his time by the fire before wandering off into the wild blue yonder. Here’s a toast to both of you, and to all who submitted work to us over the years.
The issue will come out in early 2019 (date TBD) as a print book (and possible digital version). All proceeds will go to The Food Pantries for the Capital District, a coalition of 50+ food pantries throughout my hometown of Albany and surrounding counties. So if you buy a copy (and I’ll make them as cheap as I can), you’ll be helping someone put hot food on their table, a yearning dream shared by every hobo traversing alongside the railroad tracks on a sunny afternoon while looking for work, rest, and a little home-cooked meal.
So who’s going to appear in the issue? I rummaged through our archives and picked poems and stories that still resonated with me and spurred a little of the eager-to-ramble magic, but just because your work didn’t appear here doesn’t mean it’s not worthy. If you made the cut at one point, you’re in the hobo family for good, but these are the ones that I felt wove the ten-year story I wanted to tell in this anthology. Thank you all.
The issue will include work by (alpha by first name!) and we might have readings planned later in 2019, so stay tuned:
Adam Perkins, Ally Malinenko, Amy Blair, Ann Howells, Anney E.J. Ryan, April Michelle Bratten, Bud Smith, Charles Clifford Brooks III, Charles O'Hay, Corey Mesler, David M Morton, Dena Rash Guzman, Destini Vaile, Don Thompson, Doug Draime, Edward Ferri, Jr., Faith Mingus, Frank Reardon, Glen Armstrong, Gloria Keeley, Hasan Jamal, Hillary Leftwich, Holly Day, Holly Holt, J.C.D. Kerwin, Jack Henry, James H Duncan, James Murdock, Jason Ryberg, Jeffrey Alfier, Jessica Dawson, Jessica Mehta, John Tustin, Joseph Jengehino, Josh Fernandez, Joshua Ryan Wood, Kami, Kate Garrett, Kathleen Sparks, Kathryn Staublin, Kevin Ridgeway, Knar Gavin, L.L. Jacobson, Lark Beltran, Lee Ann Pingle, Lili-Leader Williams, Maria Pascauly, Mary Shanley, Mathew Borczon, Mikey Sivak, Orooj-E-Zafar, Peycho Kanev, Puma Perl, R.M. Engelhardt, Rachel Nix, Raina Masters, Rebecca Kokitus, Rebecca Schumejda, Rhiannon Thorne, Rob Plath, Rogan Kelly, Sam Slaughter, Sarah Warren, Scot Young, Scott Blackwell, Seth Murray, Shahé Mankerian, Sheikha A., Siham Karami, Stan Galloway, Suzanne Allen, Taylor Copeland, Tempest Brew, Tobi Alfier, Tom Montag, Valentina Cano, Vivian Demuth, Wanda Marrow Clevenger, Wilna Panagos, Yossarian Hunter
Okay, we need to get one thing straight right away: there’s no chance in hell I can rank these albums from least to best because I love them all in different ways and their two best albums really are so neck-and-neck that a photo finish result would be useless to determine the all-time champ. Instead, these are ranked in order of which Replacements albums mean the most to me, or which ones I go back to more than the others. In that way, I was able to slightly differentiate these into a more cohesive and organized list. Again, I love each dearly, so I present these with all the sincerity I can muster. Let me know which one is your own favorite!Read More
My short story, “Widow’s Watch,” now appears at one of my all-time favorite online journals, Lonesome October Lit. I’m honored that they chose my story to cap their 2018 run of fantastic eerie tales and poetry, and I assure you that a deep read through their archives will not disappoint fans of the macabre and the spooky. This story of mine, which involves a trek through a forest to an abandoned seaside estate where things are not as they seem to be and escape may not be as easy as one hopes, also appears in my latest collection of flash fiction stories, Nights Without Rain, which you can find at Amazon or order direct through me. Thank you very much for all of your support in 2018, and I hope you enjoy this spooky story!
I recently had an amazing experience volunteering at a local organization in Albany, NY that provides free books to children all over town. The RED Bookshelf not only sets up special red bookshelves at events throughout the year, allowing kids to rifle through gently read or brand new books to take home and keep as many as they’d like, but they also have permanent shelves set up all over town, in libraries, doctor offices, and in areas where kids might have have easy access to books, be it for geographic, financial, or other reasons. The RED Bookshelf accepts new or used books of good quality, and those are cleaned, organized, labeled, and distributed by a dedicated team of people eager to get books into the hands of kids, because a child that reads is far more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead in adolescence and adulthood. A reader is a thinker and we all know how much we need that in today’s world! If you’re interested in helping these great people get books into the hands and homes of children in need, you can check out their website and look for them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I loved spending some time with them and they will gladly accept any quality books, financial donations, or your personal time to help spread the joy of reading. Check them out!
I recently had the pleasure of having a great phone chat with Jeff Doherty, one of the young writers over at NY Writer’s Com.pen.dium, a growing literary website highlighting events, writers, workshops, and publications in Upstate New York and beyond. Jeff threw some excellent questions my way about my writing inspirations, how writing evolves over time, how technology can help or hinder a writer, and also about my latest collection of short stories, Nights Without Rain. Our interview, titled “From Mysterious Figure to Mysterious Author,” is now posted at their website, and I hope you’ll take a look at their other interviews, write-ups, features, and literary event listings. My thanks to the editors and Jeff for reaching out! Enjoy!
I’m very happy to announce that my flash fiction story “Hopper House” is now posted over at an excellent online journal called South Broadway Ghost Society. This short tale is about a strange and possibly haunted green Victorian standing just down the street from wherever I lay my head, following me around for age after age, dream after nightmare. I hope you enjoy reading it, and if you do, it’s also in my latest collection of short stories titled Nights Without Rain, which is now available at Amazon in both print and digital formats. My deepest thanks to the editors at South Broadway Ghost Society, and to all of you for your support!
As with every annual list of top books, I only included the books I read for the first time this year, regardless of when they were published. It was a decent year for reading, with a nice mix of new writers and old favorites, and these were my top ten favorite reads of 2018. What were yours?Read More
My experience with music was a mixed bag as a child. In the years after my parents divorced when I was three, my mom began listening to more country music, which in the 80s was becoming aggressively hokey and pop-oriented, and I heard a lot of it on the car radio driving around. Despite this, I was able to sneak in some time watching MTV after elementary and I became enamored with videos by the likes of Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, The Cars, The Cure, Dire Straights, Men at Work, and others, but as things began shifting more toward metal and hip-hop as the 90s neared, my access to MTV grew increasingly restricted. Like Sting once sang, I wanted my MTV, but no dice.Read More
The new issue of The Blue Mountain Review is now up, and it includes an essay of mine titled “Stepping Back / Stepping Forward” (on page 26) which discusses my month-long experience of stepping away from social media this summer to focus on writing. The break was a great way to re-focus, but I also found that stepping away from a few other things like Netflix, poetry readings, and even magazine submissions (yes, you read that right) also helped be move forward with the writing goals I set out for myself this year. You can read the essay, along with a ton of great poems, columns, and interviews, inside the new issue of The Blue Mountain Review, created by the folks over at the Southern Collective Experience. Thanks!
My new book Nights Without Rain contains 50 brief stories, and this is the newest story of the bunch and the last one added before publication. Signed copies of the book are available and you can find both print and digital versions at Amazon. I hope you enjoy!
Ages of Us
Incandescent afterglow 3 a.m. where the streetlights stain brick walls and dumpsters yellow, orange, filthy neon silent in the southern nights, cigarette ash on my shirt, on the floor, out the door to the broken pavement where the wind carries everything away in time, nothing really yours, never will be mine. I cannot afford a motel room and I cannot afford to call her again. All that is left is the rest of her cigarettes in this pack that I’m burning through one by one and the single REM cassette she left in the dash radio, Dead Letter Office.
It plays on near-muted repeat, insufficient willpower to turn it off, up, or change anything. Drinking Jameson dregs from a pocket bottle all the way down until it’s just the taste of glass on my lips, dull and bitter. Held up to the light, the bottle reflects a dead street, a blurry line in the sand, empty hours approaching 4 a.m., dawn, and whatever comes after.
It was the long drive through Vermont that started it all, a silver creek running along the back dirt road to an A-frame she knew was empty for the summer. We stayed a week, driving into town to find food and liquor and things to talk about.
We met at a party in the town of Hudson and decided to drive north, easy as that.
Want to go for a drive?
And the days took hold, along with black flies that swarmed our eyes during long walks through the forest, but at night they disappeared as we’d slip into that silver water rushing, stony footholds, orchestral turmoil, sweet and daring, holding hands to keep balance. Nocturnal extravagance in the earthen pitch of night. Wet as all things when they begin.
A derelict honeymoon of stupid love.
She began smoking again in Nashville after some good panhandling and stealing quarters from pool tables. We both had the look now, dark rings under our eyes at all hours, unshakable desires that glued our piecemeal existence to one another. We would take the money and feed jukeboxes up and down the back streets where the tourists fade to distant shadows and blinking lights. Her weight against my weight as she played all her favorites: Dead Letter Office, Chronic Town, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document...
She ran her finger down through the condensation along the side of my glass of whiskey and anointed my forehead with a thick bead of water, a blessing. “St. James of New York,” she said, and I asked, “Patron Saint of…?”
In the neon dim of the bar we would pray over glasses and bottles and jostle elbows among rising plumes of smoke and circular stains of dampness on bar tops. Halos cast aside by long dead sinners and saviors. Holy nights of music and her finger wet with condensation, her lips a eucharist I gratefully accepted and returned with all the fumbling grace I could muster, leaning into the night and neon of the bar. We ate the music and stole any drinks we could scrounge up, leftovers, free popcorn at this bar, peanuts at that one. We slept in a parking lot down by the river with legs entwined and music whispering from the dash. She was never far from music, never far from the home we built within one another.
Outside the car the remains of her cigarettes scattered as the wind carried everything away in its own good time.
“Going west is going home,” she said, “all of us going home.”
In Tujunga, CA we ate at diners and would watch for unattended tips left too long on tables, coffee going cold. We got by like that, but by that point our silence with each other stung and we worked that pain like a tongue into a dead tooth stinging long and deep and undeniably pleasurable despite the gutting pain. There was a bar there with red leather booths that opened at ten in the morning and we’d go, play pool, watch the TV showing black and white movies with LuBelle the bartender on weekday mornings.
It was nearby in Montrose where she met the country club chef, tall and rangy and funny, so it wasn’t long before we lost track of one another. The west held little else for me despite the months I spent holding on to any scrap of life that tumbled by, and when I heard she was not long for this world I tried to find her again. But the nurses said she only cried when they told her I was outside waiting, and they would not allow me through.
I like to think that whatever remained of her after the ravenous transition of her body ascended into the fog and warm California nights, thick with condensation and holy silence. I like to think she rose northward beyond Los Padres and Morro Bay, beyond the Big Sur wilderness and the aimless seagulls calling her death song, flying in damp rings in the sky, the lights of Monterrey and Santa Cruz like distant bar signs, calling us home.
But not my home yet. We had lost something at every dot on the map when we headed west, so I headed east, hoping to find a few of those pieces along the way. But whatever I found only made the loss hurt more, made the glaring absence in the passenger seat just goddamn intolerable.
Now, through the blur of windshield rain, the lampposts all catch fire and explode in the 5 a.m. light. The Jacksonville dawn edging on, dashboard clock dead, instincts ticking that internal clock toward the last grain of sand. I’m sobering up now and thinking maybe I’ll drive until I find a boat ramp and roll this old Honda into the sea to find what the land and all its cities have kept for itself all these years, jealous of all us wanderers and what we seek.
I’ll go down there into another age, down into the cool deep, where the holy jukebox music cannot go, where the fire cannot follow. It might be worth it to find her again, and it couldn’t be any worse than this chronic sort of life without.
Nixes Mate Review just released a Best Of Anthology comprised of poems and stories from their 2017 and 2018 issues, and they included my flash fiction tale “Cold Beer—Cheap Rooms”. I’m very excited and honored that they decided to include my piece alongside the work of such writers as Matt Borczon, Meg Tuite, Suchoon Mo, Susanna Lang, Alan Catlin, and Pris Campbell, among many others. This story about a young couple on the cusp of breaking up trying for one last vacation of normalcy and possible redemption also appears in my latest book, Nights Without Rain, which is available in both print and digital formats at Amazon. Thanks for taking a look!