So What Now?

It's finally real. I Have Already Been Here Before is published and available for order here.

Obviously, I'm ecstatic to have it out in the world. But there's also something terrifying about the
finality of it; these stories represent the bulk of my creative output for the past fifteen years. I've been tinkering with them off and on for much of my adult life. At the risk of being dramatic, the things I poured into those stories — both the things I was digging out of my psyche to write about and the effort and optimism it takes to work on any creative endeavor — kept me from losing my shit.

And now they're gone. Or at least gone away from me to a place where they're free from my ongoing murder of all their little darlings.

So what now? What now, when the future of my writing life, that part of me that meets the day every morning before dawn when the house is quiet and my dreams or nightmares are still fading into the fuzz of waking?

That's a good question.

I Have Always Been Here Before is About to Drop

I've always wanted say I had something about to drop. That probably means people don't really say that anymore, but I'm going to say it anyway. I Have Always Been Here Before, a (very) loosely linked collection of short stories, will be available from Cowboy Jamboree Press within a week or so. These stories represent the bulk of the writing I've worked on over the past decade, so it's exciting, not to mention oddly terrifying, to have them collected in one place and out in the world.

Here's a sneak peak at one of the stories, "The Big Scary Woods," originally published several years back by Moon City Review. It's a dark comedy about a failing marriage besieged by a pack of raccoons. I had a lot of fun recording this two-part audio version of the story. The links:
"The Big Scary Woods" part 1
"The Big, Scary Woods" part 2
And here's another, an excerpt of the title story, originally published in Bull. It's about a man tryi…

Short cuts: Requiem

The details from the news article are sketchy: police were called to the scene, responding at 11:24 PM, finding the victim, a 45 year old man, dead of multiple gunshot wounds. The incident began as disturbance between neighbors and turned violent. One person was briefly detained, but no charges were filed.

That last bit is puzzling. I assume it must've been a case of self-defense so obvious the person who pulled the trigger multiple times was only briefly detained. He (she?) must've been standing their ground, as the law states.

I hadn't seen this man who was killed yesterday in almost three decades, and we weren't particularly close friends even then. I'd heard his life had gone sideways in the time since I'd known him when we were kids growing up in the same church, for all the regular reasons. But this isn't about speculation. It's not about blame. It's about a memory.

It is 1981. Maybe '82. Somewhen thereabouts. I am perhaps seven years old,…

Short Cuts: Foreclosure

Even now, nearly thirty years later, I don't know exactly why we lost the house except that it had something to do with medical bills. Perhaps if my father were a drunk, he'd have gotten loose-tongued enough at some point over the years to spill it. But he's not, and we never talk about that dark time when the four of us lived in a camping trailer loaned to us by someone from church. We were eventually able (somehow) to get the house back, to stay on the sandhill field-and-pasture land on which my father had grown up, on which his dreams of having a herd of his own cows never materialized, so I guess it's a moot point now.

Still, there are things from that time that haunt me like dreams of a past life I can't be sure I lived: my eleven-year old sister having a friend's mom drop her off at the house and walking half a mile through the woods in the dark to where we really lived, the logistics of four people living in a camping trailer, the frustration of wanting…

Killing All Those Little Darlings

Aside from the admonition to write what you know, the most common writing advice is to kill all your little darlings. There's a certain poetic violence to the phrase, attributed to William Faulkner, meant to remind writers to be mercenary when it comes to revision. That wonderful little scene that doesn't quite fit in the narrative? Kill it. That image you spent five hours honing until it was just right, the one describing the gravy congealing on the plate? It takes the steam right out of that dinner scene you need to be fraught with tension. Cut it and don't look back. Sometimes the things we love the most are the very things we need to omit in service of the story.

But it hurts so bad. Maybe the more it hurts to cut something, the more it needs to be cut. I think that's the case with a pet scene from my work-in-progress novel. Near the beginning of The Year of the Possum (I think that title might actually be a little darling itself, but I'll deal with that later)…

Two New Stories Up

Here's a quick update on a couple of stories that went up recently. 
First is "Hell is Chrome," published in The Airgonaut, which specializes in surreal, fabulist, and just plain weird flash fiction. This is another story that I'd been tinkering on for a few years. I'd pretty much given up on it when I decided on a whim to dust it off and give it another round of revisions. It was already fairly short, but I cut it nearly in half during final revisions, and I guess sometimes less is more. 
"Hell is Chrome" started as an attempt to write a quote-unquote science fiction story, picking up on the age-old trope of alien invasion, and from there it morphed into an exploration of the overwhelming sadness of the world. It also takes a few jabs at internet culture and social media. I don't write a great deal of overtly political stories, but this is probably the closest I've come to doing so. This one is important to me because it's the first story I…

Summer Reading

Here's a quick rundown of the books that have taken up residence in my brain this summer.

Lisa Ko's The LeaversThis National Book Award finalist novel told from the points of view of a Chinese mother swept up in an INF raid and her son who comes to be adopted by an American couple came across my path quite by accident. I haven't read much fiction set in contemporary China, so I found that part of this story especially fascinating. It also made me resolve to read more books listed as finalists for the National Book Award. Sheldon Lee Compton's DysphoriaI've been a fan of Sheldon Compton's short stories for a while now, but this was the first novel of his I'd read. It was the first book to come out on Cowboy Jamboree Press, which will be publishing my collection in the fall, so naturally I was eager to read it. It's one of the most memorable books on this list; the climax of this thing burrowed down into my psyche like a tick sinking its jaws into my most…