After a too-long hiatus from this site, a very overdue update on the goings-on around here.
In 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.
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:
The 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.
And 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.
So 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.
Karen 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.
After 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.
In 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.
Another delinquent post, but this time for good cause, as I was waiting for these several pieces to go live, which they essentially did all at once.
In such a lovely miniature format that the piece cannot be photographed without revealing the story in its entirety, “Strike Anywhere” makes its appearance as the 50th issue of Petite Hound Press, publisher of micro-texts and images. The story was paired with original artwork by Mira Sadorge (which, in fact, matches perfectly another related story, “Chestnut v. Buckeye,” that was accepted for publication the very same day this was released). All this talk about the story is longer than the story itself. So I’ll let it rest.
Also new in print is “Milk”—another installment in the ongoing toil of Coleman—in Issue 39 of Meridian. This story, resplendent with Tom Waits references and thirst-slaking skin, counts as my 90th short works publication, which sounds more impressive than it feels. The story (as well as the entire issue) can be read for free online, or purchased directly from Meridian.
And lastly—perhaps most excitingly—my collaborative project with the metallurgical genius of Cat Bates, Monolith, is now complete, assembled, and available. Five interconnected vignettes surrounding a slow hospital death, the dissolution of familial bonds, and angel’s claws scratching the walls, all manifest in a booklet, a box, and the startling gravitas of a cast iron medallion.
We couldn’t have a funeral, so instead, we had a brass band. Three men in blue suits playing songs we’d never heard before but that sounded a whole lot like my idea of New Orleans. A full ghost moon dogged the high-up sun […] It made me feel like we were in a movie. But was this the beginning or the end?
This is the second time Cat and I have put our two florescent brains together to create something new and unexpected, and I am infinitely proud of the work we produce as a team. He is a rare specimen of a human being, and I’m awed that I have the privilege of sharing in his light. We’ll be presenting Monolith this Friday on Monhegan Island, near where the narrative of our previous collaboration, “A Fluent Blue,” took place.
After a handful of stimulating and mostly-collaborative reading events, from New York’s Hudson Valley down through the Southern Tier, I’m finally home and grounded enough to catch up on a few noteworthy updates. Please forgive my tardiness.
Above the water, the approaching clouds look like a wall built of prisons. Sometimes I pray this whole thing is a joke. Sometimes, it’s the opposite of praying.
In a year punctuated with some truly beautiful publications, this one might be my favorite yet. Absolutely worth the $12.
Meanwhile, in a continuation of my unlikely string of successes in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations, the Wales-based journal The Lonely Crowd has published “Thank Me Any Day,” the first printed piece in Regan’s multi-episode series of grim family life.
Dickhead always had to wrestle the pig to get it back in its pen and by the end they’d both be caked in shit and bloodied and bruised and Dickhead always acted like he’d taken that hill, but the pig every time eventually got loose again, so who was really the king?
In addition to the printed text, there is also a video narrative of the story (included below) and a brief essay on the making of “Thank Me Any Day,” which should appear on The Lonely Crowd‘s website…someday.
And as one final note: so far, this has been a year of longlists, shortlists, and runnings up. A trio of flash fictions made it to the final round of judging for Meridian‘s Border contest. “Get Bigger” (also a Regan narrative) took third-place in the OWT’s Short Fiction Competition, and was also longlisted for the Masters Review‘s annual fiction contest. “Heart’s Last Pass” was a finalist for the RA & Pin Drop Short Story Award (which might still come with some perks: hopefully more on that soon), as was my unpublished novel Our Shadows’ Voice with Barrelhouse. I’m hoping this means that I’m building toward something instead of slipping backward. I guess only time will tell.
[If you enjoy the mostly-free access to my short fiction that this site allows, please consider becoming a monthly patron or making a one-time “tip jar” donation. Without the support of readers like you, I’d be stooped in half under a load of shingles, ladder-marching eternally toward a roof that’ll never be complete.]
The same calloused hands folded in grace at the table, enveloped faintly in the steam from mashed potatoes and steak. The same hands covering his mouth while his body wracked, trying to drag breath deeply up from the bottom of a phlegmy smoker’s cough. Only Daddy didn’t smoke. Stone dust worked in unmineable blue veins through the rough crags of his hands.
This story was inspired by the poetry of Phil Levine and Raymond Carver.
[If you enjoy the mostly-free access to my short fiction that this site allows, please consider becoming a monthly patron or making a one-time “tip jar” donation. Without the support of readers like you, I’d be exhaling bureaucracy in a cubicle somewhere, glowing with a desktop monitor tan.]
Praise for BLUE OF THE WORLD
“Blue of the World reminds me of some wild, enormous mineral towers I saw once above a riverbed. Just when you thought you’d figured out the contours, another plane appeared, and then another, then a broken edge, a polished step, a rippled bowl. These stories are like that—brilliant surfaces, hidden depths, unsettled corners. Weeks since I finished the book, still I dip into it like dreaming, the perfect paragraphs new in my hands.”
– Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants and The Remedy for Love
“There’s such a satisfying alchemy to Milliken’s sentences—rhythms, textures, and resonances that magic our day-to-day idiocies into almost hilarious beauty. And by beauty, I don’t mean some transcendent feeling or deliverance from our isolation, but something much deeper and stranger: the extraction of an inner warmth we always hoped was there.”
– Meghan Lamb, author of Silk Flowers
“Beneath the lucid, serene surface of Milliken’s prose lie disturbing realities. His immersive fiction takes us to places where we may be afraid to look and invites us to celebrate the beauty of unsettling mystery.”
– Nat Baldwin, author of The Red Barn
“Milliken is a master of leveling the field of experience and revealing the things we all carry with us—awe, insecurity, nostalgia—whether we’re looking up at the stars or about to be swept out to sea.”
– Celia Johnson, Creative Director, SLICE Literary
Praise for ONE THOUSAND OWLS BEHIND YOUR CHEST
“One of Portland’s most prolific and original fiction writers.”
—The Portland Dispatch
“In Milliken’s stories, you get characters who seem like regular-ass people until their motivations […] collide them.”
—The Portland Phoenix
Praise for CREAM RIVER
“I believe Doug Milliken has a firm grasp of life’s little traumas. He takes his chunk of loving meat and hangs it from a butcher’s hook on display for the world to read.”
—from the foreword by Ben Trickey, singer/songwriter
“Cream River […] is still on my mind, as if its characters were hanging around in the dark shadows of my consciousness. […] I was blown away by “Color Wheel.” I also loved how the stories had a series of sometimes evident and sometimes subterranean connections that became especially intriguing as the cycle approached its end. I highly recommend reading Cream River.”
—Jonathan Weisberg, Stoneslide
“I loved every story, every word.”
—Erin Sprinkle, singer/songwriter
Praise for TO SLEEP AS ANIMALS
“[…] it is impossible not to be the weird kid in Milliken’s Reno. To Sleep as Animals is a mystery about characters succumbing to their spaces, how such a rugged landscape sustains so many strange and dangerous lives.”
“A disturbance of a very specific flavor […] Milliken’s writing is urgent yet finely considered—a literate pleasure.”
—Carl Skoggard, translator of Sonnets by Walter Benjamin.
“A distinctive and often vertiginously frightening psychological landscape […] bracingly disturbing.”
—Megan Grumbling, author of Persephone in the Late Anthropocene.
Praise for BRAND NEW MOON
“These stories […] glow with some sort of holy light, as if every moment were magic, like footage of your family picnic on super 8.”
—The Portland Phoenix
“Seriously the funniest thing I have ever read. I was laughing so much that [my wife] yelled at me. Probably because she was sleeping. And it was 2 AM.”
—Derek Kimball, Last House Productions
Praise for WHITE HORSES
“Douglas W. Milliken takes his time unveiling the savoring of the moment in a narrative of extremely gracious intimacy. The dignified personal. Expert surreal grounded prose. Pragmatic poetics that serve the whole. This man is a master of simile. And it never gets old because the associations are always complex and unexpected. Worked accuracy but seamlessly so. Wow throughout the heartbreaking sensuality. Its core a felled forest of need. The title story, ‘White Horses,’ cannot be improved, which is another way of saying it is perfect.”
—Melody Sumner Carnahan, co-founder of Burning Books.