February 2018 Update (archived)

In the perpetual fumble to figure out what exactly to do with this space, I’m electing this month to share a partial list of recent motivating factors, starting with:

1. This picture of Trump not understanding how to shake hands.

I’ll forego the obvious humor embedded in this moment of fundamental confusion—all too reminiscent of a golden retriever whose been tricked—to focus instead on something about accidental empathy and self-identification. Because as much as I hate this bag of shit, it occurs to me that a lot of my characters could easy be caught in a similar circumstance, baffled by their mistakes and blind to where their knowledge fails (Coleman being maybe the prime example). Which might be a perfect way of describing both the lion’s share of my narrators and our current president: perplexed by their failures and too-often unsuspecting of their ignorance.

So what’s the difference between my imaginary boobs and this very real moron? Claims of likeability could be made (as awful as his life gets, Coleman never strays too far from charming), but I don’t know if that really matters. Partly because writing likeable characters is like preparing Bolognaise (pleasing to consume but unchallenging in production), but also because, back when Trump was just a celebrity buffoon with no real power or control over others’ lives, he was somehow fun to observe. A cartoon whose antics took place in the real world. The scummy friend you somehow can’t help enjoying being around.

No, the major difference between Trump and Coleman resides almost entirely in the amount of power and control they each possess. Coleman has never succeeded at anything (or anyway, much of anything), and no one’s ever been very interested in helping him out or supporting him. He’d likely squander that assistance anyway. Where Trump has clutched hold of every opportunity that’s ever come his way, Coleman lets everything slip through his fingers without even the consideration of regret, let alone chances lost.

So: what would it look like if one of my characters actually succeeded at something in a big way? What if one of these boobs suddenly had some power, over themselves and over the world?

2. Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas.

Late in the film, a mother and child are reunited. They see each other and say some unimportant words, then do the obvious thing: they hug. And as they hug, in a gesture so natural and stripped of motivation as to maybe be unscripted, the child turns his fingers into scissors to snip off his mother’s hair, clok-clok-cloking his tongue for each nick. A small action that reveals more about the character (and the moment) than any line of dialog. The gravity of reunion only goes so far. It’s fun to do fun things. And you don’t try to play with someone you’re mad at for running away.

3. These lines from Tess Gallagher’s “My Unopened Life.”

Hadn’t I done well enough with the life
I’d seized, sure as a cat with
its mouthful of bird, bird with its
belly full of worm, worm like an acrobat of darkness
keeping its moist nose to the earth, soaring
perpetually into darkness without so much as
the obvious question: why all this darkness?
And even in the belly of the bird: why
only darkness?

4. Colin Stetson’s “All This I Do for Glory.”

In a body of work boldly marked by a very masculine kind of might, what makes this song stand out is its singular sensuality. Sure, it’s more a Matthew Barney kind of sensuality than, say, Prince’s. Which is to say: primal, and maybe not entirely safe. Yet it’s also rare to see exhibited so keenly the measured swaying hips of a hunter, someone capable of killing demonstrating a tenderness that has nothing to do with weakness.

As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for  ignoring the tremendous tear in the seat of my pants. If you are a current  Patreon subscriber, thank you for the future promise of new pants. And if you are not a current Patreon subscriber, please feel free and welcome to join the new pants party and help make my lower-half presentable again. And if your view of  the future looks too unsteady for any kind of subscription, consider making a one-time donation and get the equivalent rewards for one month.

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“There was no space between us.”

Cover_OppositePrayerIt is with great pride and excitement that I announce my contribution to The Head & the Hand’s Shockwire Chapbook Series is now available.

In seven interconnected stories of power, entitlement, and privilege set throughout the northern subtropics, The Opposite of Prayer examines the pinprick where control intersects gender, language, and money, where one’s body becomes a weapon and devotion becomes a crutch.

The Shockwire Chapbook Series’ mission is to “to publish writing that has the power to spark change and entertain, […] to raise the storytelling stakes through a socially-engaged focus.”

All books within the series are $3 postage paid (you can select which titles you’d like to purchase after clicking the “Add to Cart” button), and can also be found in The Head & the Hand’s mobile literary vending machine, currently in residence at the Soup Kitchen Cafe in Philadelphia.

Grief, Power, & Pasture Fantasies

I’ve said it before that too often, there are only two modes within which I exist: one of too much, and another of not enough. So while it’s goofily overwhelming, it is nevertheless my great pleasure to say that in the next twelve months, I have three very different book projects scheduled for publication.

  • The Opposite of Prayer, a pocket-sized collection of stories about power and manipulation, due out April 12th through The Head & the Hand Press.
  • Blue of the World, a full-length collection of stories about walking the knife’s edge between self-knowledge and denial, due out later in 2018 through Tailwinds Press.
  • Our Shadows’ Voice (or maybe Awake, O You Sleepers, depending on what mood strikes at that crucial deciding hour), a novel about the messy permutations of grief, due out in the early months of 2019 through Fomite Press.

Again, this is a goofy amount of books to have coming out in such a short period of time. Which means I will likely be on the road a lot in the near future, acting weird in strange places with strange people, which is kinda my element. With that in mind, if you’d like to contribute to this travelling lifestyle, feel free to contact me about doing a reading in your hamlet or burgh.

fieldsburningfarawayWhile these too-many books steadily digest themselves from manuscript to physical thing, here are two new short stories to consider. “Atlantic Leather Co.”—a dreadful meditation on scarves and belts—is part of Issue 47 of Ireland’s Crannog. Meanwhile, Zetetic’s current issue features my irreal pasture-fantasy “Fence Post & Pilgrim.” It’s very possible that one of these two stories counts as my 100th journal publication. But today, I am too tired to count.

As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for accepting the fact that this handkerchief is in fact just a shred of old underpants. If you are a current Patreon subscriber, thank you for the future promise of an actual handkerchief. And if you are not a current Patreon subscriber, please feel free and welcome to join the properly monogrammed kerchief society and help make my nose clean and dignified again. And if your view of the future looks too unsteady for any kind of subscription, consider making a one-time donation and get the equivalent rewards for one month.

A weapon and devotion.

After a too-long hiatus from this site, a very overdue update on the goings-on around here.

maine-review-4-1-coverIn the arena of immediate gratification, two new Regan stories—“The Savage Yard” and “Lonesome Jubilee“—are now available in the new winter issues of The Maine Review and |tap|, respectively. While the former will have to be ordered from the publisher, the later is available for free online.

And in the arena of delayed gratification, nearly half a dozen new stories are slated for publication over the next few months, as well as a new chapbook with Philadelphia’s The Head & the Hand Press as part of their new Shockwire Chapbook Series. Composed of seven interconnected stories of power, entitlement, and privilege set throughout the northern subtropics, The Opposite of Prayer examines the pinprick where control intersects gender, language, and money, where one’s body becomes a weapon and devotion becomes a crutch.

Finally, in non-literary news, two new albums with which I’m involved—a set of weird country songs I’m producing for/with long-time collaborator Scott Sell, and a full-length record by my newest band Milk St. Peter & the Unknown Knowns—are nearing completion and, with any luck, should be available sometime this coming Spring. It’s been a tremendous amount of fun to explore such very different compositional modes with these records. I’ll be pleased to finally share these with the world.

As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for ignoring the tremendous tear in the seat of my pants. If you are a current Patreon subscriber, thank you for the future promise of new pants. And if you are not a current Patreon subscriber, please feel free and welcome to join the new pants party and help make my lower-half presentable again. And if your view of the future looks too unsteady for any kind of subscription, consider making a one-time donation and get the equivalent rewards for one month.

 

Ephemeral flowers.

Having existed in shared virtual spaces for years (The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, etc.), Meghan Lamb and I actually got to share a physical space for the first time this past Tuesday, where we each had ample opportunity to weird out a roomful of people at the Apohadion Theater. It was a pleasure and honor working with Meghan, and I hope the chance comes again sooner rather than later. The story she shared, “To Hold. To Hollow,” is a masterstroke.

So while I savor Meghan’s new novel, Silk Flowers, here are a couple pieces of my own work to consider:

23347516_1206948189407113_6104565244053422080_nThe latest edition of the Pushcart Prize Anthology is now out (I think), which does not contain any of my writing but was gathered this year with my assistance as Guest Prose Editor. Which maybe sounds more impressive than the reality of the job (getting manuscripts delivered 40 pounds at a time and having to comb through searching for a handful of favorites), but despite the labor, was actually a fun process.

Also, a narrative video of my story “They Vampire Nights” was recently featured in the Atticus Review (who’ve been kind enough to publish several other of my stories in the past). The video is accompanied by an unnecessary craft essay. I would suggest (perhaps beg) you skip the craft essay.

cover-trim-no-fold-front_cover-4246b499-2de5-481f-b86f-7f962c0ec5daAnd finally, because (A) if given the option, I’d rather be read than paid but nevertheless, due to societal edicts, gotta get paid, and (B) I love these things yet hate their exclusivity, I’ve decided to make all of this year’s Patreon mini-books (previously only offered as rewards to mid-tier Patreon subscribers) available for purchase from now until January 1st, 2018. This includes an updated version of my first novella-as-mosaic, White Horses (which for years has been out of print), as well as one story never before published.

As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for not judging too harshly when I dump beer all over myself twice in one night. If you’re a Patreon subscriber, thank you for the replacement T. And if you’re not a subscriber…perhaps consider helping me buy a replacement T?  And if you’re down for the wardrobe change but only this one time, in lieu of a monthly subscription consider making a one-time donation and get the equivalent rewards for one month.

Four new works for the fall.

115-cover-pdfSo you crank “Eminence Front” on the car stereo and cruise so that the passing streetlights fall in step with the beat. You welcome the endless parade of bouncers who gang up on you in every identical bar’s identical parking lot. You groan into a microphone and thrust your hips in the lights, turning all eyes on you when what you want more than anything else is to disappear. And man, if that doesn’t work, do it again next week in the exact same way. Because that’s how addiction works.

From “For the Sake of the System, Never the Individual: A Review of Tim Kinsella’s The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self Defense” in the 115th issue of The Believer.

The male comes and goes, he says, but the female stays. She has to. You cannot set and splint a wild bird’s broken wing.

From “November,” in the October issue of Spartan.

81cwx4d8ttlKaren had the nicest hair. Real shiny and smooth. It looked synthetic. Like brand new Barbie doll hair. Only science can make hair so nice. My hair was blue and crunched like Shredded Wheat. But Karen said it was just her shampoo, her hair was normal but her shampoo was great. I twisted a rope of her perfect hair and wrapped it around her neck and pulled tight until her face got flat and red like wax lips. She sighed and clenched around me. Then she exhaled her brand of shampoo.

From “Houdini’s Final Trick,” in the inaugural issue of Deciduous Tales.

Sure, heartache sucks and at best is only ever backstage, waiting for its cue. But the same can be said of debt. Or losing your job. Or keeping a job you hate. And just as ubiquitous are the ephemeral joys of an unexpected slow dance, of a little sugar stirred in your coffee, of being thirsty and then being given a drink.

From “This Yearning Can Be a Dangerous Thing: A Conversation with Ben Trickey & Douglas W. Milliken,” featured on the Space Gallery Blog.

choke

Acoustic doom & visceral hope.

chokeAfter many years of scheming and dreaming, the time is long last at hand: long-time friend and collaborator Ben Trickey and I will share the stage at Space Gallery on October 3rd for Choke & Croon, a literary/musical event. We will be joined by the acoustic doom of Delta Sierra‘s front-man Brandon Schmitt, prose-poetry by Nadia Prupis, and the equal-parts celebration and dirge primitive folk of Thorn & Shout. I can’t remember the last time I was so giddy with expectation for a show.

And later that same week will be the opening for the 2017 Salt Alumni Exhibition, featuring—alongside the work of twelve other Salt alum—my essay on Jason Molina, “Windows Open in the Southern Cross Hotel.” Presented by the Maine College of Art, the show opens Friday, October 6th and runs through November 10th.

Salt-PosterIn addition, that same night is the opening of the New England Book Fair, also at Space Gallery, where I will (albeit briefly) be doing an author signing with Publication Studio. Combine that with at least four house-guests and family visiting from Oregon and Michigan, it will without a doubt be a dizzyingly busy week.