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!
My 18-word long mini-story “Widow’s Watch” now appears in From The Depths 2018, No. 16 published by Haunted Water Press. The issue is available in print and digital editions, and includes work by Jason Stanaland, Cheryl A. Montgomery, Cindy Knoebel, Elizabeth P. Buttimer, Sherry Morris, and Zack Martin, among others. My contribution is a micro version of a story by the same name that also now appears in my latest book, Nights Without Rain, which is a collection of 50 brief stories about breakups, hauntings, and fresh starts. Thanks for taking a look!
The Girl Who Loved Halloween is a story I wanted to write for a long, long time, and I finally sat down and infused all of my favorite Halloween and October memories into this tale of one little girl who loved the holiday just as much as I did, maybe even more so. The details within are heavily autobiographical, but the events are totally new, especially Hannah’s discovery of her unique talent and the people and things this talent brings into her life one Halloween. Here’s the back cover text:
"It’s finally Halloween weekend. Hannah has waited all year for the parties, the pumpkin picking, the costumes, the decorations, the scary stories, and especially the candy. She thrives on the spooky fun so much that her imagination begins to cross boundaries, and dancing skeletons and flying witches evolve from playful daydreams into eerily realistic visions. And on the afternoon before Halloween, on an innocent visit to a local cemetery to make gravestone rubbings, Hannah discovers why her love for the holiday is so special, and so frightening..."
The book is a standalone story released as both a physical booklet and a digital ebook for Kindle and Fire readers. If you aren’t able to access those versions and would like a free PDF in exchange for a brief review at either Amazon or Goodreads (or elsewhere!), just let me know. I’ll set you up. Thanks, and Happy Halloween!
The autumn 2018 issue of Hobo Camp Review is now live, and this edition features the winner of our Flash Around the Campfire Competition Hasan Jamal, as well as work from Devon Balwit, Siham Karami, Bruce Hodder, DS Maolalai, Anna Brylewska-Cooper, Christina Hubbartt, Cheryl Rice, Ashley Naftule, Don Thompson, Laurie Kolp, D.W. Moody, Rebecca Kokitus, Wes Jamison, Sheikha A., Rogan Kelly, Shannon Phillips, Dan Wilcox, and Steve Bissonnette, and an interview with writer, editor, and publisher Nate Ragolia! Thanks so much for coming 'round the camp and enjoying the fire with us before the winter winds blow in! Our submission window will be closed until next summer, but we’re hard at work on our 10-year anniversary print only issue in the meanwhile. More details on that soon! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you down the road…
The third edition of my Bookshop Hunter column for the fantastic folks over at FIVE:2:ONE Magazine is now live over at their website. This one is has the headline "Don't Go back to Rockville," and concerns my REM-fueled road trip through upstate New York into the lovely towns and rolling hills of Saratoga and Washington counties. The trip includes a visit to a barn bookshop just outside of the town of Greenwich, NY, where I lived when I was a married young man years ago, and I hadn't been back in ages. The town holds both good memories and bad and I was somewhat apprehensive to return, for a number of reasons, but the lure of bookshops was too strong to hold me back. I hope you enjoy this third edition of the column, and feel free to check out the other editions or the more in-depth reviews of the specific shops mentioned in the column. Thanks for taking a look, and keep hunting those bookshops!
The September 2018 issue of Ghost City Review (a publication of Ghost City Press) is now live and includes my poem "Hidden By The Smell of Flowers" alongside the work of such writers as Kate Garrett, Peycho Kanev, Emma Lee, Kristin Garth, and others. The issue includes poems, an interview, and a drama/play. My thanks to the editors for including my poem, and I hope you enjoy!
I'm ecstatic to announce that two of my poems now appear in an amazing collection, The Blue Hour Anthology, Vol. 4. This press has supported my work for a long time and to have my poems "Badlands" and "Sunday May" in their new assemblage is a real honor. They always put out gorgeous books and they have a great eye for writing. Being included with such writers as John Dorsey, Megan Gray, Heather Minette, Allie Marini, and Johnathon Dowdle (among many others) proves it. My deepest thanks goes out to the editors for including my work, and you can pick up copies at their Etsy shop!
My flash fiction piece "Cold Beer - Cheap Rooms" now appears in Nixes Mate Review in their summer 2018 issue. As Nixes Mate says, "With every new horror, with every new heatwave, with every norm a carcass swept up in the dustbin of history there is always poetry and literature. ... We share new voices and returning voices, the voices of friends, voices of hope and voices of humor." This issue has a wide variety of voices and styles, and I hope you enjoy this new story of mine. Thanks!
Beyond writing reviews of independent bookshops at my other blog at this site, The Bookshop Hunter, I have also started to write a column about my adventures on the road going out and visiting all of these shop, writing about who I see, what I do, where I go, and so on. The second offering in this series is now up at the incredible FIVE:2:ONE Magazine and it's called "The Bookshop Hunter: Journey to the Isle of Dogs." This edition talks about my trip into western Massachusetts to see the recent Wes Anderson film, Isle of Dogs, and to hit up a half dozen bookshops along the way. If you like it you can also find my first column at the site too! Thanks for taking a look, and there will be plenty more bookshop hunting journeys and columns coming soon! Thanks.
One of my favorite online literary journals, Lonesome October Lit, has published my poem "Long Before Twilight," which contains all sorta of fun nostalgic references to my grade school library, books about werewolves, and childhood daydreaming. The poem also appears in my narrative poetry collection We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, which is available at Amazon. Be sure to read the other eerie, spooky poems and stories over at Lonesome October Lit too, and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.
It's always a good feeling to find yourself in one of your hometown lit magazines, and Up The River: A Journal of Poetry, Art, & Photography is a gorgeous literary web-zine hosted by Albany Poets, an organization promoting events and writers in the Albany, NY area. My poem "Spiders at Night" appears in Up The River, Issue Six, alongside the work of other poets I really enjoy, like Kevin Ridgeway, Alan Catlin, and others. Check out the poem and scroll the through the other issues for a lot of excellent poetry. Thanks!
Hobo Camp Review is hosting a contest with a $25 prize (no fee) for the upcoming autumn issue! The HCR Flash Around the Campfire Competition is open to any flash fiction (we'll even consider long-ish narrative poetry) under 1,000 words, and the shorter the better. All the usual guidelines apply, and again, there's NO fee. There will be a special judge (TBA) who will award $25 and a free book or two from our knapsack to the lucky scribe. The submission window closes on Labor Day, 9/3/2018. For info about the kind of work that moves us, or give any of our issues a look online. Thanks!
Two of my poems recently appeared at Winedrunk Sidewalk, an online daily poetry journal that also subtitles itself "Shipwrecked in Trumpland," and focuses on anti-authority, political, and working class poems. These two, "Lo Cool, 69 Degrees" and "Soft White Infinity" certainly fall along those lines. I hope you enjoy.
The editors at Misfit Magazine included a brief write-up of We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine in their lengthy "Books Received, Reviewed, Acknowledged" section. They point out one particular poem, "Ghost Train," as being a standout, and it's always interesting to me which poems make a mark with people. It's always a different one, for different reasons, and this poem and I go way back so I'm glad it stood out. Take a look at the write-up and scan the section to see who else they've been reading! They also publish a lot of great poets and writers, including Kevin Ridgeway, Megan Jessop, and Holly Day in their current issue, so check that out as well.
BONED Every Which Way 2017 is an anthology of the poems that appeared at the BONED online magazine over the course of the year, and the new paperback edition includes two of my poems, "Dry Tide" and "Going Ghost." The first poem, "Dry Tide," first appeared in my mini-chapbook The Darkest Bomb from the Lantern Lit, Vol. 1 collection, which is also available online. The second, "Going Ghost," takes me back to my days in Berlin, Germany almost eight years ago. Feels like yesterday. Anyway, the collection is full of great poets, including Mikey Sivak, Wanda Marrow Clevenger, Susie Sweetland Garay, RM Engelhardt, Matthew Borczon, Mat Gould, and others. The anthology is also edited by Nate Ragolia, who is a fine poet himself. I hope you are able to pick up a copy, it's pretty darn affordable at just under $12. Enjoy!
I've been seeking out bookshops and reviewing them at my other blog, The Bookshop Hunter, for a few months now. It has been a blast, and now I have a column over at FIVE:2:ONE Magazine about my bookshop hunting trips around upstate New York, NYC, and beyond. In this first column, "The Bookshop Hunter: Electric City and Beyond," I explore Schenectady, NY and other nearby towns. FIVE:2:ONE is an weird-baby consortium of awesome writers, reviewers, poets, columnists, artists, and plenty more. They always have something new going on and I highly recommend you check them out!
Alan Furst and his series of “Night Soldiers” novels focus the European underground résistance against the Nazis between the years of (give or take) 1932 and 1945, and they have been an absolute pleasure to read and re-read since I discovered him back in 2012. One aspect I appreciate most about the series is that the main characters are not your typical British or American WWII hero archetypes—spies, soldiers, or otherwise. Furst gives us more of a grassroots perspective of Europe’s turmoil in that time. Some main characters are Polish army officers, newspaper reporters, Russian spies, Greek detectives, French film producers, etc. They’re people from all walks of life, and they all start out fearful of the Nazi regime and are unsure of what they can do against Hitler’s minions, but each finds a way to help, somehow. My rankings tend to shift depending on which one I’ve read last, but there’s really only one I disliked. The rest range from solid to incredible, and I hope this list inspires you to give the series a chance!Read More