As adults, we have the luxury of dressing up as ghosts and hobos any old day of the week and going door to door in the neighborhood to ask for candy. This may be why I'm forced to move around so much, but the upside is that every now and then someone actually makes with the candy. But just because you return home with a pillowcase full of sweets doesn’t mean you’re in for a treat. Some of those saccharine delights are tricks of demonic proportions. Here are the three candies that deserve a serious egging should your neighbors have the gall to hand them out on Halloween, or whenever you show up dressed as Dracula’s shabby cousin.
Dead City Jazz, my chapbook about the neon and nightlife of San Antonio, TX is now available as part of the Epic Rites Press Punk Chapbook Series, in which you receive 12 books for $40 (plus shipping) all at once. I should have VERY limited signed copies available by early October, but there are so many talented writers in this series that your best best to to get them all before they're sold out. Below is a sample poem from Dead City Jazz called "Death of the Cool".
Death of the Cool
sewing through Alamo Heights
after midnight, headlights and red lights
and Chet Baker, Miles, news of
your suicide in that cracked little
bungalow further downtown, soft
highway sounds like the ocean
we loved so well
your records and books were gone
by the time we got there to pay respects
but that’s alright, we’ll always
have the night, and all the
pain in the world
My poem "The Ruby Hope of You" now appears in the gorgeous Bare Hands, Issue 23. Included in the issue are Eithne Lannon, Roisin Kelly, Trevaskis Hoskin, Tia Paul-Louis, Brian Kirk, Eoghan O'Sullivan, and Seth Jani, with some beautiful photography throughout. My poem is an older one, reshaped and reconstructed through the years but holding dear to a stoic moment in the southern grass at dusk, staring up through the trees with the last of the red wine and a fresh batch of wonderful, awful pain. I hope you enjoy.
(Just for fun, and with a few light spoilers, but not too much. You’ve been warned.)
This is not to say they were similar shows, or that Peaks played a heavy influence on the Duffer Brothers in the same way that E.T., The Goonies, Stephen King stories, and Alien (among others) clearly did. But I noticed a few things that hearken back to another show that dealt with a monstrous being from another dimension, a dark and strange place that is much closer than we realize…
Epic Rites Press will release my poetry chapbook Dead City Jazz as part of their Punk Chapbook Series 2, coming this October. Last night I added one more poem to the chap, "Death of the Cool," and and now the chap has a cover too, with artwork provided by Janne Karlsson. The book is available in bulk with all the others, 12 books in total that ship in one package. For details, check out Epic Rites Press, and I'm going to try to get my hands on a couple individual copies for future readings and such. Stay tuned for all that.
Ryan Adams has been a top three all-time favorite (alongside Tom Petty and The Replacements) since around 2006 when my friend Mike “Stray” Belardi gave me all of his albums up to that point in a zip file, and I was done. Slayed. Enthralled. Every album has a different tone, voice, story, and I’ve loved almost every track of his that I could hunt down, so putting together a top three list has been near impossible, and I’m sure there’s zero chance that anyone will see my selections and think, “Nailed it.” There’s just too much goodness to choose from. Do you go acoustic and mournful? Do you go bluesy and rocking? Do you go messy and thrashing? So much to sort through. Here’s mine. And you? Let me know!
Epic Rites Press has selected my poetry collection Dead City Jazz for inclusion in their Punk Chapbook Series. This is the second season of their series, which includes 12 chapbooks released over the course of a year to subscribers for just $40, a little over $3 per book. This is an exceptional deal considering the subscription includes work from Ally Malinenko, William F. Taylor, Karina Bush, and many other talented writers, with more to be announced.
Dead City Jazz is a collection of San Antonio poems, of late night breakdowns and smoky bar crawls, of darkened streets and glowing cantina lights, of fading love and frightening lust, of death wishes and jukebox laughter. I'll see about getting my hands on signed copies, but I don't have full details yet on how the series works as far as that goes. But at the price listed for all of the chaps in the series, it really is a good deal to go all in. Many thanks to Wolfgang Carstens for accepting my work! More details coming soon.
In a review of Drunk Moneys first full issue of poetry and prose, The Review Review mentioned my short story "The Philanthropist" as a notable story within the collection. In calling out the story, The Review Review says it is one of the many in the issue that blurs the line between coincidence and circumstance, responsibility and guilt. The main character in the story is torn about what to do with the last of his tainted money from a heist job in which he gets screwed over by a criminal higher up in the food chain. He needs the money, but it reminds him of his stupidity, his guilt, his shame. He tries various ways to excise this guilt and rid himself of his money, before finally doing so in a most unexpected way. And The Review Review said, "There is something visceral in the relief that the protagonist feels in Duncan’s “The Philanthropist,” after he rids himself of his burden, something animal in his desire for simplicity." Check out the story and all the other great pieces found at Drunk Monkeys. Many thanks to The Review Review for taking the time to read the issue!
Southern poet, rogue, and Pulitzer nominee Charles Clifford Brooks III interviewed me for the third issue of The Blue Mountain Review, and we discuss my thoughts on the literary community, where quality writing comes from, and of course, fight clubs...which don't exist, I promise, so please stop asking...ahem, anyway. The issue also includes three of my poems, "dawn and the empty bottle of wine," "Having Come Down the Mountain," and "How to Read the Braille of Your Heartstrings." You can read the entire issue online (I'm on page 89), and it includes a ton of other spectacular writers and poets, including Dr. John Ratledge, Regina Walker, Rowan Johnson, and others. Thank you for taking a look!
My short story "The Philanthropist" now appears at Drunk Monkeys, a fantastic literature and cultural website offering fiction, essays, poetry, reviews of books, movies, and more. This story is my second with them, and it mixes elements of noir and crime with a sobering look at life on the streets and what we value most when there's nothing left of value. I hope you enjoy the story, and if you do, consider picking up one of my short story collections, What Lies In Wait or The Cards We Keep, each full of similar tales. Thanks!
It has been quite a while since my last post, and my absence stems from a plethora of creative and non-creative brush-fires that kept me busy for weeks upon months, but I thought a little update post would do me some good, so here we are.
For starters, I finished the first draft of yet another novel, this one a 1940s-era noir/mystery titled The Girl in the Mountain. It is a fictional account of an actual crime from Vermont in the 1940s that went unsolved…or did it? My take offers a few more conventional and very unconventional possibilities to the real-life missing person case, and I have been calling it a “Humphrey Bogart meets The X-Files, with just a dash of Twin Peaks” type of story. I’m looking forward to starting the second draft before it goes out to a few choice agents. My deepest thanks to my test readers currently reading away!
Also in publishing news, my ninth collection of poetry is slated to appear this summer. Dark Heart Press is hoping to release my book, We Are All Terminal But This Exit is Mine this June. It’s a poetic examination of the hopeful expectations we place on adulthood as a child and the yearning nostalgia we have once he find adulthood isn’t all its cracked up to be, in all its painful and deadly ways.
Atop that I’ll have an interview in the next issue of The Blue Mountain Review, a short story appearing in the next issue of Drunk Monkeys, and a few pieces showing up in anthologies later in the year. So yes, things have been busy, but I hope to make more appearances here at this blog more often now that spring is here. Stay tuned!
Two new poems of mine are now walking around out in the world for all to see. My poem "East Cevallos Street" now appears in the San Pedro River Review, a massive edition focusing on the American Southwest. My poem takes place in San Antonio, TX, and brings a glimmering colorful nighttime cantina into view, where drinks are cheap and so are the prayers to a saintly boxcar train rumbling through the downtown streets heading into the night, into the west. Copies are available for purchase online.
My poem "How to Watch John Ashbery Read Poetry" now appears at Pine Hills Review, the online literary journal for St. Rose, a college in my hoemtown of Albany, NY. This one is about going to see John Ashbery read poetry in NYC, and how these little gatherings are always more uncomfortable than you'd think.
There are a lot of other poems and stories set for release this year, a few appearing in large anthologies, a story set for release over at Drunk Monkeys, and a new poetry collection due later this year from Dark Heart Press. There's a lot going on, and I'll keep you posted as we get further down the road. Thanks for reading!
My poem "Slaves of Some Strange God" now appears in Yellow Chair Review's Anthology, a print edition that looks back on some of their favorite pieces they published in digital editions in 2015. My poem previously appeared in their September 2015 issue. The print edition also contains notable work from the likes of Rachel Nix, Kevin Ridgeway, Thomas R. Thomas, Allie Marini, Alison Ross, Scott Thomas Outlar, and many others. My thanks goes to Yellow Chair Review Editor-in-Chief Sarah Frances Moran and the rest of the YCR staff for including my work. "I never would have thought we’d be putting together an anthology when we started back in May," Sarah says. "I’m so very proud of what we’ve accomplished and I’m honored to showcase the work included here." The anthology is available for $15. Thanks for reading!
Time flies when your head is spinning because of how busy you are. Yeah, it’s been quite a while since my last post, but thankfully it’s because I've had too much to do rather than not having anything to post about. It’s been a busy winter so far, with multiple and exciting (to me) projects happening all at once, including:
- I have a new poetry chapbook in the works with Dark Heart Press, titled We Are All Terminal but This Exit is Mine. There is a tentative release date for this spring that may be pushed back, but I’m excited to work with editor Kevin Ridgeway on this release with his new press based out of Los Angeles. More news on that coming soon.
- I’m in preliminary talks with a fellow writer to co-edit a new print anthology we want to create collecting personal essays about the daydreams we had while listening to music as kids in the 1980s. It’s early yet to post any more details than that, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
- I’m in the home stretch for the first draft of the mystery novel I’m working on, with a working title The Girl in the Mountain, my fifth novel overall, although at least one or two of those will never see the light of day, and for good reason - woof, that was some rough writing in my early 20s. Anyway, I’m about 15K words away from the end, and once it’s done I’ll have a few beta readers give it a go before moving on to the revision stage.
- I also have a novel waiting for revision that I’m excited to jump back into and get out to agents later this summer. This one is based in Beacon, NY and is about the intersecting lives of five people who moved to town to hide from something, to start over, to figure out what comes next, and then one unsolved murder changes them all.
- Freelance has been keeping me on my toes, with projects due for Pearson (writing ELL essays and questions for overseas students) and ECS Learning (creating end-of-book tests for classic and award-winning novels taught in grades 4-8), so the next few months will be extra busy, but as every writer working today knows, every penny counts while you’re chasing down an agent for your work, right?
As I attend to all that and more, I’ll try to keep a better variety of weird, fun, informative, and literary posts flowing here in 2016, okay? See you down the road…
It’s time once again to tally up the books I read over the last year and see which ones held up. As usual, I only include books I read for the first time in 2015, but they can have been published anytime. Oddly, it seems I read fewer books in 2015 than in most recent years, by almost double digits, probably because I moved away from NYC and lost all that subway reading time. Oh well, so it goes. Here’s my top 10. Enjoy!
My poem "No Harvest" now appears in Issue 84 of Red Fez, a madhouse of a publication that has accepted a great deal of my work over the years and I am always grateful to have another piece in the fold. More of my older poems accepted by Red Fez can be read HERE. In other writing news, I have taken a step away from a lot of social media outlets to focus on the latest mystery novel (as I said in a previous post) and it's going a little slower than I hoped, but I'm getting closer to the end. Details on that will follow, as well as on a few other poetry and fiction publications I have in the works with presses and magazines in 2016. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!
So it’s National Novel Writing Month, and I’m sort of participating. I’m working on my fifth novel and getting about a thousand words a day (average) down, which doesn’t feel like a lot per day but it’s adding up. The “sort of” qualifier comes into play in that this isn’t really anything new for me. NaNoWriMo is every month when you’re working on novels around the year, plus short stories, poems, freelance, and run a lit magazine. So as much as I love everyone (well, writers at least) getting excited about a novel writing month, it’s really just another month for many of us.
But like I said, production levels have been steady. I’m maybe 25K words from the end of this novel so I should be able to finish come December. I’m excited for this one’s potential, and had a revelatory moment while sitting in a mechanic’s lounge waiting on my car about how to better wrap up the ending with more of a surprise connection to how the crime driving the plot started out. Perhaps not thrilling to any reader of this blog, but thrilling to me as I scrambled to jot down all the new details and connections on the back of 23 of the mechanic’s business cards with his dying Bic pen, hoping to get it all down before I forgot anything. So it goes.
By the way, the novel is a mystery based on a real series of disappearances that took place in Vermont in 1945. The working title is The Girl in the Mountain, and I’m really excited about it. More details coming soon.
I’m a big old time radio nerd, and my favorite tales are the creepy chillers and spook stories about ghosts, killers, and weird supernatural happenings that they’d play late at night as you sat by the radio in your stuffed chair with the lights turned low and the wind rattling the windows. Here are my six favorite shows for sending a chill up your spine, perfect for getting in the Halloween mood!
From so-so to legendary, because there are no “bad” Tom Petty albums!!
My number #2 band always fluctuates between The Replacements, Tom Waits, and Ryan Adams, but my overall #1 ever since I was a little kid has always been and will always be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. TP has a knack for crafting that 3 minute rock song that is both radio friendly (well, back when radio mattered) and also tells a story. That’s what I love about the band the most: their storytelling, little fictions that speak to realities. With guitars. Really loud guitars. Sometimes soft ones, too. All good stuff. Enough chit-chat. Here’s my ranking, from passable to great.
The new issue of Change Seven Magazine is now out, and it includes three of my poems. "The Good Fresh Kind" is a look back at a lazy day on the job as a lawn-care laborer back in college before the full hammer of adulthood struck. "Death Row Escape" is a poem about how obsession and lust is a prison, and is a poem I held out of my collection Berlin to work on it some more, and I really like this final version. "It's Only Temporary" is a New York City poem, a love poem, a lonely poem, and still takes me back to that strange feeling you get in NYC of being so constantly surrounded by people yet feeling a million miles away from everyone. A deep thank you to the editors at Change Seven for including my work with so many other fine writers, including Emily Strauss, William Doreski, Seth Jani, Ilana Masad, and many others.