Watch Episode One of *Quarantine Story Time* Now.

Episode One of Quarantine Story Time features readings from Our Shadows’ Voice, a novel published by Fomite Press this past November, as well as an excerpt from [STORAGE], the play I co-authored with Christina W. Richardson and Marissa Sophia Schneiderman, which was produced this month by Bare Portland.

If you are in a financially-secure enough position to provide support during this confusing, trying time, you can purchase a signed copy of Our Shadows’ Voice (as well as Blue of the World, In the Mines, and The Opposite of Prayer) and/or leave a one-time “tip” in acknowledgement and appreciation of this installment of Quarantine Story Time. You are also free to contact me directly here.

Episode Two of Quarantine Story Time will live-stream at 7:30 PM this Monday, March 23rd.

Quarantine Story Time

Dearest humans! As many of you might currently be able to relate, nearly all my current performance gigs have been cancelled due to the mounting concerns over COVID-19, including the final six shows of [STORAGE], a play I co-wrote with the Bare Portland theater collective over the course of the past year. Knowing the necessity of such measures does not at all mitigate the heartbreak of seeing so much work and love prematurely concluded. I’m bummed and itchy to do something about it.

So it’s with that loss in mind—combined with the fact that many of us are suddenly unemployed and house-bound with a wealth of time freed up from cancelled social events—that I’ve decided to launch the Quarantine Story Time, a YouTube live-stream reading series that (barring any other nation-wide disaster) will take place during the next four Mondays at 7:30 pm EDT, starting March 16th. Each episode will be roughly half-an-hour and include original fiction performed in various nooks of my home, followed by (fingers crossed we nail the tech on this) an interactive Q&A and discussion.

Episode One: Our Shadows’ Voice, featuring selections from the novel published this past November by Fomite Press.

Episode Two: Blue of the World, featuring selections from the collection published last April by Tailwinds Press.

Episode Three: Undisclosed New Work, featuring a new, unpublished text written over the past year.

Episode Four: Viewers’ Choice, featuring a selection or selections of work based on viewers’ requests, comments, or questions during the previous three episodes.

Please feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested in watching a lone man in a room reading stories of his own creation. All episodes are free and open to the public, though of course, if you feel like sending a tip via paypal or ordering an author-signed copy of any one of my books, I surely won’t turn you away.

As always, thank you for your interest in and support of my work over the years. It’s a real weird time out there right now. One way or another, we’ll get through it together.

The Excruciating Backward Press: Bare Portland presents [STORAGE]

Early in the spring of 2019, I was invited by members of the Bare Portland theater collective to take part in a collaborative project that, if everything worked out as planned, would begin with the investigation of an abandoned storage unit and result in an original theatrical performance. In the months since—and in the company of some of the most compassionate, dedicated artists I’ve had the honor to work with—I have rolled around in the filth of an urban parking lot, cataloged the contents of dozens of vitamin bottles (none of which contained any vitamins), relearned the integers one through twelve both forward and back, memorized and promptly forgot the Greek alphabet, and in an intense few summer weeks, co-authored a 70-minute play.

As described on Bare Portland’s website:

Company member Tarra Bouchard conceived of the project, inspired by the congruences in her experience of housing insecurity growing up in Central Maine and anxieties about displacement and gentrification in her current home of Portland. Bare Portland company members scoured the city for a storage unit auction, looking to bid on a unit to serve as the impetus for our performance and installation. […] [Storage] is the culmination of our experiment. This March, our performance and installation will explore both The Unit and our voyeuristic impulses, ethical quandaries, and sociological questions that haunted us as we unpacked. It will also tell an entirely new story inspired by the stuff, composed by local writers and performed by a team of local performers. The final performance is directed by James Patefield, with an immersive installation by Dana Hopkins.

Photo credit: Sokvonny Chhouk

Being a part of such a massive cumulative effort has been by turns mystifying and exhilarating, inspiring and terrifying, and above all, humbling. No one person makes a production like this coalesce and succeed. It’s an accretion of effort that somehow is eminent from yet independent of all involved. I’m honored to be a part of what [STORAGE] has become.

Performances begin March 5th and run through March 21st, with tickets available for pre-order here. Because the audience is limited to 30 people per show, purchasing tickets in advance is strongly recommended.

In addition to all the people who helped unpack the storage unit and move/store its contents, who gave feedback and response throughout the process, who hosted various public aspects of the generative process (SPACE, the Apohadion Theater, and Sacred + Profane, among others), and the Kindling Fund for financial support, [STORAGE] could not exist without the following people: Kerry Anderson (Movement Choreographer), Sokvonny Chhouk (Project Documentarian & Videographer), Dana Hopkins (Production & Installation Designer), James Patefield (Director), and Meg Lynch, Mackenzie O’Connor, Mario Reyes-Roberge, and Maya Williams (Performers); Christina Richardson and Marissa Sophia Schneiderman (co-authors); Catherine Buxton (Production Manager), Katie Hunter (Stage Manager), and Zoe Levine-Sporer (Installation Assistant), with additional production support from JJ Peeler, Julianne Shea, Ella Mock, and Mnemosyne Heileman.

Photo credit: Sokvonny Chhouk

At the Fringe of Mystery: *Our Shadows’ Voice* is officially released.

Friends! Comrades! Kin and kindred in blood and virtue!

If it seems like it was just months ago that I last wrote to tell you about a new book being published, that’s because it was just months ago that I last wrote to tell you about a new book being published. I don’t know why I should feel embarrassed by this fact, yet here I am, squirming in my seat like a little kid grossly unprepared for class. Which is especially foolish given how enormously proud I am to announce that today marks the official publication of my new novel, Our Shadows’ Voice, with Fomite Press.

Following close on the heels of April’s release of the full-length collection Blue of the World through Tailwinds PressOur Shadows’ Voice charts the experiences of three people bound together by a common loss:

A young boy internalizes the burden of responsibility for his best friend’s unstoppable death. A sister molds herself into a living memorial to her brother, becoming both mystic and pragmatist, ascetic and sensualist. A mother, through rituals both musical and spiritual, counterpoints herself between feeling too at home in her grief and wishing her son’s ghost will finally leave her alone. And at the center: Joshua Sams, alive and then dead in the fall of 1982, linchpinning together the lives of those who loved him most as they struggle through the visceral permutations of regret, denial, and resignation, the desperate reach toward spiritual rebirth and the failure to be reborn.

Portland, Maine’s inaugural Poet Laureate, Martin Steingesser, has these shockingly-kind words to say about the book:

Words and images rise in Douglas W. Milliken like water from a spring, and he attends them with a watchful heart. Light-handed, far-seeing, a painter in words, Milliken carries us back and forth between the sensuous pleasure of place and the inner life of his characters, each essential to the story as a star to its respective constellation. Douglas W. Milliken, himself a fresh star I believe will find a place among constellations of revered writers, highlights how we live daily at the fringe of mystery.

After nearly ten years of drafting and redrafting and editing and reseeing, I am giddy to the point of near hysterics that Our Shadows’ Voice is finally released into the public world. It a story I’ve held very close to my heart for a long time. I’m proud its found a home with Fomite and, in turn, so many people’s shelves already.

With all of this in mind, I would like to ask a few favors of you, my friends, my colleagues, my audience:

  1. Buy and read the book. If you’ve already done one or both of these things, I thank you from the bottom of my exhausted heart. Locally, copies are available at Print in Portland and will soon be carried by various Sherman’s Books locations throughout Maine. Upon request, most bookstores will order copies through their distributors (ordering through Indiebound is another way of supporting your local bookstore from the convenience of your personal device). You can also order the book through Amazon and Barnes & Noble who, in addition to physical copies, sell ebook editions as well (they also distribute internationally, for those of you in, for example, France or Austria). And of course, if you want me to somehow leave my dirty mark upon your copy, you can order directly from me by replying to this email.
  2. Leave a good review. It seems like such a 90s thing to do, but rating and reviewing the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, et cetera, actually does impact future sales (even if you don’t buy the book through an online retailer, you can still give a rating and/or review). If you wanted to do the same for Blue of the World, that’d be ultra dope as well.
  3. Spread the word. Tell your aunt. Take a picture of your copy—on your pillow, beneath a cat, leaping in front of the ghost of Whitney Houston to protect her from a bullet—and post to your preferred social media. Simply sharing the Amazon link on Facebook helps (though it’s better if you add a few laudatory words, too). Every little gesture has an impact. And if nothing else, I will personally feel the relief of knowing that there’s at least one other person sharing in the work of promoting this project that I really, truly love.

In conclusion: you guys are the best. Thank you for reading my stories and then reading more stories later on. Without you, I’d just be a manic diarist lost in his own mushroom-cavern imagination. Because you read, I have a purpose in my life.

Once the holidays are over, reading events for Our Shadows’ Voice will commence, about which I’m sure you’ll soon hear more. Until then, I remain most gratefully yours,

—Douglas W. Milliken

Visceral Permutations of Regret: *Our Shadows’ Voice* available for pre-order.

After nearly ten years of work, my second novel, Our Shadows’ Voice, is now available for pre-order in advance of Fomite Press’s publication on November 25th.

From the publisher’s site:

A young boy internalizes the burden of responsibility for his best friend’s unstoppable death. A sister molds herself into a living memorial to her brother, becoming both mystic and pragmatist, ascetic and sensualist. A mother, through rituals both musical and spiritual, counterpoints herself between feeling too at home in her grief and wishing her son’s ghost will finally leave her alone. And at the center: Joshua Sams, alive and then dead in the fall of 1982, linchpinning together the lives of those who loved him most as they struggle through the visceral permutations of regret, denial, and resignation, the desperate reach toward spiritual rebirth and the failure to be reborn.

Other details of note:

  • The first pages of the first draft were written during a food-safety course (taught in Italian) at the Agenform School in Moretta, Italy while in the company of Patrick Kiley (who would later go on to found Pilot Editions and publish To Sleep as Animals, Brand New Moon, and In the Mines).
  • Certain elements of the novel tie into existing works of fiction—including To Sleep as Animals and One Thousand Owls Behind Your Chest—as well as the extended narrative of my musical alter-ego Old Fat God.
  • I had to learn a lot about Jewish holidays in order to write the third chapter, “Awake, O You Sleepers.”
  • While the theme of sleep is clearly further explored, I’m pretty sure there are no horses in this book (though I might very well be wrong).
  • The title comes from the misreading a book found in shop in Saluzzo, Italy (also in the company of Patrick Kiley, mere days after beginning the first draft).
  • Despite being purely a work of fiction, this might be the most personal work I have yet to release.

Given the foolhardiness of attempting to compete with winter holidays, a major public launch party will be postponed until sometime in early 2020. In the meantime, if you have an itch to hear me read from this in your community—be it at your library, alternative-arts center, or cozy little living room—please feel free to reach out with an invitation. I would, in fact, be delighted to hear from you.

As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for being the bobbing piece of fuselage keeping me afloat dead-center of a storm-swept sea.

New Music: The Plaster Cramp

In May of 2018, I began sketching out the rough concept for a new Old Fat God album. This would be the first true full-length OFG record since 2008’s nihilistic death-trip The Minotaur, utilizing the existing pallet of extended tones and collaged samples to make a soundscape harkening to an imagined peyote nightmare in the most atomic Nevada wastes (in retrospect, I think I just wanted to combine Califone’s Deceleration 1 and Jonathan Bepler’s soundtrack to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 2). It didn’t take long, though, for my efforts to veer dizzyingly off-course. All the new compositions were much too structural, too formal, too much like actual songs. Obviously, all my years of geeking over John Zorn and JG Thirlwell had impacted how riffs came together in my head and in my hands. Also: I am no good at playing slide acoustic, so that basically killed any western vibe.

So what was I to do with these skeletons of songs that didn’t fit my concept and, in all honesty, were beyond my abilities to perform?

Well, while recording Scott Sell’s debut album In the Mines that previous January, I was introduced to some “friends” of his from the New Haven area, a group of skeazy, malnourished rejects who work the New England crust-punk jazz scene as The b.l.a.c.k. Lodge Brass Band. Each one of these scumbags played at least three different types of instrument, from oboe to cello to penny whistle to trombone. Each one made my cat very skittish. Each one smelled kinda like meat. In the day or two they session’d with us, I don’t think they altogether said more than five words. But their arrangements for Scott’s songs were instantaneous and spot-on (and, perhaps best of all from my point-of-view as producer, they knew how to mic their instruments, nearly none of which I’d ever tried to record before). Even if they were a bunch of creeps, I was in love.

By September, having recognized the failure of my immediate goal while simultaneously fostering a musicological crush on some horn-blowing fugs, I reached out to the band’s defacto leader, Dead Charlie, and soon after began emailing him scans of my “scores.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting in response. But a series of beautifully recorded renditions of the songs was certainly not it.

After hearing the first set of five or six tracks, I began communicating more earnestly with Dead Charlie (because of a unique throat injury sustained during his death metal days in the mid-90s, one doesn’t really “talk” to Dead Charlie) about the arrangements while also composing new material. Over the course of the following winter and spring, we put together a complete set of fifteen new songs. I was not present for a single recording session. Aside from a few additional electronic flourishes and constant feckless nitpickery with the mixes, I had nothing to do with creating the sounds on this album.

In certain abstract ways, these songs continue (and possibly complete) the haphazard narrative connecting each Old Fat God record to the others. The doomed lovers. The faithless Father. The merciless self-flagellation. The honeyed light over the Park of Shoals. The unnamed heroine undestroyed by death. I have no idea if there’s anything more to add to this abstract story I’ve been kinda sorta not really telling for nearly twenty years. But if this is the end, I feel pretty okay with where this story at last has come. 

credits

releases September 7, 2019

Composed by Douglas W. Milliken.
Arranged by Douglas W. Milliken and Dead Charlie.
Performed by The b.l.a.c.k. Lodge Brass Band and Old Fat God.

The Alphabets Align to Form the Words

What follows is a list of recent happenings, presented in no specific order.

Over this past winter, I had the opportunity to speak at length with the author Meghan Lamb (Silk Flowers, All Your Most Private Places) about the various processes involved in the composition of my collect Blue of the World. It was probably one of the most stimulating conversations I’ve ever had regarding the art and craft of writing, and it makes me proud to no end that that conversation is now available on Slice Literary‘s online column “A Word About Writing.”

Also available as a free read: my story “Wapiti Nocturne,” about the (pseudo?) mystical phenomena of grief, thanks to the ever-gracious editorial eyes at the Lascaux Review.

Not free but nevertheless worth tracking down: Word Portland has published their second anthology, Ungatherable Things, including work by Martin Steingesser, Suzanne Langlois, and Stowell P. Watters (among esteemed others), and includes my story “Hyacinth & Waxwing,” about quantum physics and the luxury of crapping in private. Below is an image of me—sleep deprived, delirious on cold medication—assailing the audience during the launch party at Portland’s LFK.

Photo credit: Genevieve Johnson

While it has been a few years since I last was able to take a purely-creative outing, I spent this first week of August in residence at the Hewnoaks Artists Colony (where I have, over the course of four residencies in six years, written some of my favorite stories, including the title piece to my most recent collection), during which time I—among other things—swam at least once but often twice each day in a fantastically warm lake, edited the latest 20 pages of my latest novel project, attended an impromptu bat party (in my cabin’s bedroom, no less) just before dawn, composed four new stories as well as thirteen pages of script for a collaborative theater project with Bare Portland, and surprised myself by actively engaging with the other (amazing, fascinating) artists in residence. With any luck, some of the above work will manifest itself in some interesting, public way.

And finally: at the end of May, Scott Sell, Genevieve Johnson, Mariah Bergeron, Jason Lesaldo, and I staged a multi-disciplinary performance event for Blue of the World at SPACE in Portland, Maine. Afterward, I was able to pair the audio of our performance with an expanded edit of the video footage being projected multiply and continuously throughout the night. That video is now free to stream below.

And here’s a little enigmatic photographic evidence of the event:

As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for reminding me of the difference between a correspondent and corespondent.