Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown



In this land of 300 million guns,
logic is a defenseless child. 

I love my country, 
I hate its paranoia 

Where they trade on our apathy
to stockpile their crazy. 

The cost of their "freedom?” 
The lives of the innocents. 

A well regulated militia--
well, Obama is a socialist. 

“I hunt.” 
'Nuff said. (Hunters are such sacred cows?)  

Self-defense?  
Man up. Statistics say otherwise. 

Guns for teachers! Guns for everyone!
Are you fucking kidding me?

Ignore this futile exercise. 
Every word since Friday comes out like shrapnel. 

And still, we bleed. 

--

These links have offered me much insight, if little solace, in the days following the Newtown massacre: 

So You Think You Know the Second Amendment? 
Guns Have Never Saved Us





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gut check: Reviews

(Self portrait in a letter, AndrĂ© Breton)

Here are some thoughts on reader reviews:

1. You are nowhere as good as your best review, especially if said review was written by a friend. (Thank you, friends.) 

2. Likewise, you are not the sum total of your most negative review. Or, rather, the thing about your writing that person hated could very well be the thing the next person savors. 

Which leads me to...

3. Writing is subjective. 

4. Reading is subjective.

5. Writing and reading are subjective. 

6. Resist the temptation to respond to your reviewers, even if you really, really want to.  

7. This one's tough: try to absorb the constructive parts of the bad reviews, especially if they consistently reinforce your own worst suspicions about your writing.  

8. By the next morning, say "Fuck 'em." Prove it. Stop refreshing your Amazon page every hour. You're not a lab rat. Earn back some self-respect. 

9. Start over. Write. Do it because you love it. Do it because you must. Write for selfish reasons, because in my very possibly worthless opinion selfish writing gives way to honest, universal writing. Stop short of self-indulgence, though. 

10. Be grateful for the ego check. Be thankful you have readers at all. Remember when publication was once a distant dream. Count the stretch marks of your progress. Treasure them all. 

Stand tall. Climb the next hill. 

Tumble to the bottom. Repeat if desired. 

It's better with the blindfold off. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Plum Blossoms in Paris: Free eBook


Just a heads-up: the eBook version of Plum Blossoms in Paris is free on the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks, now through November 30th. 

Thanks to my publisher, Medallion Press, for running this promotion. I'm curious to see what the results will be!  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lascaux Flash


There's an exciting flash fiction contest happening right now I wanted to tell you about. Using the photo prompt above, submit a piece of fiction (250 words or less) by midnight, September 22 for the chance to win the grand prize: $250, a virtual medal and publication in The Lascaux Review. Instructions for entering are here

I submitted a guest entry--titled "Orange Juice"--which can be found here

My thanks to Stephen Parrish and Wendy Russ for running such a quality contest and literary review. Good luck to all the participants!  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Deleted (WTW)



Pulled for submission





Although the subject of the poem is a little
macabre, it was inspired by a moment of perfect
solitude on the lake dock aboveI happened to look at 
the plank of wood I was leaning against, when I saw 
my name inscribed there. Sort of hard to see
in the picture, but it made me smile. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ark


(Pine Trees painting taken from here)


I’ve been finding it difficult
lately to have much faith
in the things I once
took to define me. 
Like writing, for instance,
that need to impress
on the world
what I make of it.  
Why bother,
the mind asks, 
(not unreasonably, I think)
when it’s been said often enough 
and better-- 

Why contribute to the 
overcrowded amphitheater? 
I don’t know.
Maybe this lack of ambition is
merely depression’s indifferent 
cousin or a bug I can’t shake or 
maybe it has something to do 
with the wintery landscapes
I keep plumbing in my sleep,
brushing the snow from
my head and my shoulders
before I am fully awake. 
(This is not true.)
No, the mind is not
complacent; it apprehends 
and grasps; it has learned things 
along the way, in spite 
of itself.  
Logic holds that we must be the
craftsmen to our artists’ dreams
or the hunger will die
and days’ll pile up like 
existential episodes on the DVR. 
So everyone is invested in some-
thing, even if it’s just the notion  
of a personal narrative.
Everyone picks a religion. 
And so I reach for you.
Paul, 
when we are locked to-
gether inside our mortal
storm, like a boat unto
water or--wait, no
like just 
you and me
--bodies free of
any editorial eye
You looking 
into me 
Me looking 
into you
That is honest.
That is end and epiphany
And so I say: 
I may never write again. 
And so you reply,
Sarah. There is snow in your hair. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Feasts of Lesser Men


For a limited time, Independent Publisher gold medal winner Stephen Parrish is giving away his novel for free on the Kindle. I had the great pleasure of being an early reader of The Feasts of Lesser Men. Here is my Amazon review: 


Stationed in Germany during the final days of the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jimmy Fisher is a Private First Class with the US Army charged with safekeeping his country's top-secret operational plans.

He's also a first-rate scoundrel with a fondness for buried corpses (and their gold fillings), pissing off officers (and sleeping with their daughters), and his favorite neighborhood whore, Melina.

What Fisher lacks in ethics and honor, however, he makes up for in daring and in a sincere, if reluctant, loyalty to his bumbling partner-in-crime, Chuck Cybulski. Soon these qualities are turned against him: Fisher is forced to turn spy. As the web of intrigue infiltrates the dark German forest surrounding him and extends its threads into a beatific French countryside, the question of whom Jimmy is betraying becomes ever murkier and more entangled. Can any one country--or any person--really be trusted?

Stephen Parrish is a deft writer and a keen observer of human nature, with a brilliant mastery of detail and verisimilitude. In this book he utilizes all the tools in his arsenal, every color in his palette. It's difficult to make the reader root for a character as nakedly opportunistic as Fisher, but he pulls it off with bold strokes, dark humor, and a bracing authenticity. As a reader, he took me out of my comfort zone and plunged me into a world of shadows and misanthropes, arrested by moments of understated, if exquisite, tenderness and beauty. Jimmy Fisher is not a man built for love; he's not a man who cares a fig about redemption unless it comes on the other end of a wink and a payoff. Parrish gives him a taste of both. Not until the final, shocking scene will the reader decide how much, or how little, Jimmy Fisher has changed, as the snow begins to drop and the curtain falls.


You don't need a Kindle to read the book. Just download a free reading app tailored to your specific needs. Or email Steve within this free five-day period and be sent a pdf file. 

Trust me. The book is worth it.   


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sea Legs



She thought she was sick. 
She was sick. 
Or maybe not.
Maybe, maybe not. 
Lord, what a bore she’d become. 

The symptoms were holes around a moving target. Did thinking about fatigue make one tired? Was the bloating as bad as she thought or a natural phenomenon magnified by the distorted lens of her perception? That bit of queasiness: it didn’t qualify as nausea. No. A few pounds lost--thanks, stress! The irregular periods, the disturbing dreams and emotional instability? Fuck you, stress.  
They’d found something in her blood work. Finally--a something. The doctor gave her some medicine, a cure. 
“That should put your mind at ease.”
She’d laughed apologetically. “I’m such a head case.”  
Why apologetically?  
Leaving the doctor’s office, Woody Allen’s character in Hannah and Her Sisters dogged her thoughts. Woody, the quintessentially neurotic hypochondriac. God, what a joke. 

Her steps slowed near the car. Of course, they’d found something in Woody, too, hadn’t they? It had turned out to be a nothing much, but it was enough of a something to vindicate the second look. 
So why did she feel so goddamn ashamed? So queasy with self-loathing?  
Why, coming home again, was she still dissatisfied? 
She set the prescription bottle on the counter, grabbed her laptop and started another Google search. A spider dangled from the painting of crocuses she’d started two months ago, swaying a little in the breeze. When it touched the floor, the dog licked it up and spat it back out. It scurried off. 
She wondered if she wasn’t crazy and looked out the window. 
Lord, it was spring. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Facing the Sun


It's Easter Sunday, and though I'm not a Christian, I've always appreciated the season and the promise of renewal and uplift it brings.

Our fellow writer and friend, Richard Levangie, had neurosurgery this weekend to remove a pituitary tumor that's wreaked havoc on his body for more than a decade. His wife Kristina has been kind enough to let us know that he's recovering well. Yet in spite of a distinguished history as a journalist and award-winning writer, Richard's debilitating migraines and fatigue have left him unable to pursue his career with as much fortitude as in his pre-tumor years. His friends have stepped up to help him and Kristina with expenses as he continues to recuperate and regain his strength.

29 talented writers--including project spear-headers JA Zobair, Wendy Russ, and Stephen Parrish--have contributed to an anthology of poetry, short fiction, and reminiscences titled Facing The Sun. You may donate any amount of money to receive this anthology in pdf format via email. I've taken my time in looking through this lovely collection and have been deeply impressed by the talent of the contributors and the beauty of the photos and formatting. For your donation, you will also have your name inscribed on the "wall" of the site's sidebar. I've recognized so many familiar names up there already. It's just one more reminder of the incredibly generous and impassioned community of which we're all a part.  

Richard's done a lot for that community. He was one of the first people to interview me when my book was published, as part of his "25 Questions" series. He and Kristina designed my beautiful book "postcards." He's the kind of guy that takes as much delight in the success of his friends as he does in his own accomplishments. I'm happy to see so many people giving back to him now.

Please consider a donation. It's a beautiful day for new beginnings.  


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Lascaux Review

(If this cow horse isn't pregnant with a new literary review of hugely 
awesome potential, then I don't know my 17,000 BCE cave art.)


It's my honor and pleasure to announce the launch of a new literary journal, The Lascaux Review, a "showcase for emerging and established writers and artists." Stephen Parrish and Wendy Russ are at the helm of this new venture, and because of my deep-rooted faith in both of them, my expectations for Lascaux's future success could not be higher. They are just that good. 


My story, "Closer," was selected to be the first piece published in the review, which is something of a Leap Day miracle, possibly? Probably. At any rate, for those wondering: if you do have a piece accepted by The Lascaux Review, let me assure you that the editorial process is extremely professional and painless. Parrish has a sharp editorial eye, and he made my story stronger, for which I'm very grateful. 


And, oh yeah: they PAY! I was paid generously for my story from donations to the review, which is the first time that's happened since....well...


Ever. 


Seriously, I hope that many of you will consider a small donation. It's too seldom that writers and artists are compensated for their work, and I admire Lascaux for embracing such ambitions right out of the gate. I know they mean to make it grow. 


I also encourage you to submit. They are currently looking for fiction, poetry, art, essays and reviews. Submission information can be found here


I'm proud to be a part of this launch today. And I can't wait to see what the future has in store for them. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Deleted (A&E)



Pulled for submission


Story inspired by a Huffington Post article I read the other day. Painting by Picasso: "Girl Before A Mirror."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Luna

(Photo credit here.)

We lived underground
in a circular room 
where you fed me words
o'er song and sand     
and with every vowel
I tore and tongued 
my belly grew more concave
until I was grown heavy,
but pregnant with silence. 

And before I could say when
the dread contractions set in  
as I found myself like   
the primitive daughter
squatting over a caveman’s 
flint, bones and fire
where I will give birth
to an opal moon

again and 
again.


*Thanks to our son for pointing out the nearly full moon to me last night. Sometimes I forget to look. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New

The mashed potatoes were starting to stiffen in the bowl. 
“Stop your whining and eat your meat,” Angela said to the four-year-old, before turning toward the others. “Sorry, Nathan, you were saying?” 
“Just that when we were young, our lives were always ahead of us. Perpetually ahead, rigorously being plotted out. Now that we’re older, we look to the past and feel nostalgic. But I think what we’re really pining for is a sense of possibility. Of not yet knowing where we’ll go, who we might become. So we pine, even while feeling a little betrayed by the simpletons we once were.”
He took a pea from his spoon and held it between two fingers. “Do you know that chimps experience the greatest surge in serotonin during the anticipation of a reward, and not during the reward itself? Humans romanticize their childhoods in the same fashion. We project bliss onto our deepest ignorance.” He popped the pea in his mouth and shrugged. “I mean, what if the reward’s not so great after all.” 
“I beg your pardon,” their mother said.
“Your cooking excepted, Mom,” he said and they all laughed. 
The girl dropped her fork to the floor. Angela got her a clean one and sat back down. They felt the strength of winter in the blackness outside, and unconsciously moved their chairs closer to the table.  
“So where’s the sweet spot? The magical place where we’re anticipating and realizing all at once?” Angela said. “Is it in our twenties? Our thirties? When we’re falling in love?” 
He opened his mouth but their mother cut in. “Sorry, dears, but--” her voice rose--”did you take your pills yet, Pop?” 
They looked dutifully toward the end of the table, where the old man sat. He straightened up, patted the front pocket of his flannel shirt, and painstakingly removed five small pills, lining each of them on the table's edge before washing them down, one by one, with an equal measure of water and effort. They let out a collective breath when he slumped back in the chair, exhausted. 
“Everything okay, Grandpa?” Angela said, noting the barely touched food on his plate.
“Fine, fine.”
“But Mommy, I don’t want to eat it.”
Angela plucked the knife and fork from her daughter’s hands. “Here. Let me cut it.”
“No! I want to cut! Me! Me!”
“Fine. I’ll give you five more minutes, then no dessert. And for the love of God, don’t gnaw on it like that!”
After a minute, Nathan cleared his throat. 
“The sweet spot, of course, is unique to the individual herself. And it’s too simplistic to view it as some one-time phenomenon. If human beings define any characteristic, it’s tenacity. We will invent new illusions for ourselves at every opportunity. We will retreat into others’ illusions, if we lack the creativity to formulate our own. We will invent new lines in the sand, like the arbitrary marking of a new year and the blank slate it pretends.” 
Their mother put down her fork.  “Heavens. Is this any kind of talk for the new year?"
“Sorry, Mom.”
“Now eat your sauerkraut. It's good luck.”
“Right,” Nathan said, catching his sister's eye, who smiled behind her napkin. “Because luck's just a big ol' helping of metaphysical roughage."
“You're making fun again."

"It's a joke, Mom."

"Well, I don't care to understand it. Why the two of you have to look down on simple things . . . simple people--"

"Jesus . . ."
The sparring devolved into bickering. Nobody noticed the old man catch the little girl’s eye and hold it for a good, long moment.  He took up his fork in his left hand and pinned the side of pork to his plate.  Then, sawing with his right hand, he forced the knife through the meat until a piece broke free. He put down the knife, switched the fork from his left hand to his right and lifted the meat to his mouth, holding it there for a good, long moment. 
He looked at her and nodded. 
She seized her silverware, looking at the individual pieces before her. A spoon clattered to the table. She gripped the fork in her left hand and stabbed the hunk of meat. Then, with her right fist held tight about the handle, she moved her knife bit by painful bit until a chunk of flesh ripped free. She looked up in surprise and found the old man’s eye trained squarely on her. He took the meat in his mouth and began to chew. The girl sat a little straighter in her chair and began to chew, too. 
“Fine, fine,” he murmured to her, beneath the din. 
She and the old man ate in silence, her legs swinging freely beneath the table. And when she smiled at him, a little bit of meat stuck through the gap in her mouth where a new tooth was just coming in.   

   
For my Granddad, whose absence is felt at every family gathering.