Monday, December 21, 2015

Fear The Beast!

The Mighty And Powerful Pop Culture Beast has published my review of Amazon Studios' "The Man In The High Castle"

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Light And Shade Challenge: "Prom Night"

[The Light And Shade Challenge continues with the quote "all we ever see of stars are their old photographs," from the great Alan Moore. This story is called "Prom Night"]

They are walking. The camera is off center, so it looks like they are looking at someone, towards someone, who is to the camera's left. He is smiling. He knows how lucky he is. She is smiling too, but secretly, shyly, like she knows a secret. Neither of them know of the heartache to come.

They are walking, hand in hand, wearing rented clothes, into the night, together. They couldn't possibly guess what is to come. They think they know what forever means.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Light And Shade Challenge: "I Want To Tell You"

[Our friends at the Light and Shade Challenge have posted a picture of a message in a bottle, and what sprung to mind what may or may not be part of my NaNoWriMo project to come. This story is called "I Want To Tell You"]

"Where did you get this?," he said to me.

I looked up at the officer, his chest broad and strong under the navy blue uniform. "BERRY," the patch said over one breast. He was holding the piece of blue paper in his hand, I assumed the same one I had handed in twenty minutes ago. I could hear a song about putting a little black dress on playing in the background. Behind him, her arms folded, was a female officer with short blond hair, scowling. I could not remember being this close to a police officer before, and it was intimidating. He looked down at me, his bald head shining in the artificial light, his face a mask. When I looked straight ahead, I could see his belt, the bulge beneath it, the black objects hanging from it, the silver of handcuffs, the solid grooved handle of his gun, squat and angular, hanging off his waist. I wondered what his personal life was like, if he was married, if cops cheated on their spouses as much as everyone said they did. I looked at the bulge beneath his belt again.  

"Where did you get this?," he said again, his voice rough, almost a bark. I looked up at his face again. The words formed in my chest, in my throat. I had a sudden memory of watching "My Fair Lady" on TV, Rex Harrison mocking Eliza's father, "I'm willing to tell you...I'm wanting to tell you...I'm waiting to tell you!" The need to speak was a bubble of pressure underneath my breastbone. I wanted to explain, to say that I wasn't really involved, that this wasn't my idea, that I was just doing someone a favor, that it was so cold. I wanted to explain, to tell them how I needed to give Janine a ride because neither of us had jumper cables, how I drove her to Marvin's house, how he came outside to drive back to Janine's car and give her a jump start. I wanted to explain about how Marvin leaned into my car window, his breath full of smoke, and asked me to please drop this off for his auntie, that he wouldn't have time to do both before the pharmacy closed, and the twenties he handed me to pay for it, and how I stammered and finally agreed to do it.  

I thought about how I almost never said no to anyone, how my life was a series of agreements I didn't mean to make, how I felt buffeted from currents I didn't understand, how I let things happen because it was easier than fighting back. I thought about Marvin, how I always felt uneasy around him, how his brown eyes turned sharp and angry when you said something he disliked, how Janine said Marvin really scared her sometimes, and I felt sad and sorry and very frightened, and I didn't say anything.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Light And Shade Challenge: Don't Look Back

[Our friends at the Light And Shade Challenge present the quote "Hindsight is 20/20" this week, and my entry is called "Don't Look Back".]

"I always look back," she said. "Everything is in the past. Everything good, anyhow." She was outside, sitting at a gray metal table, ignoring the no smoking sign on the wall behind her. I was standing, leaning against a pillar, watching her smoke, thinking about the past. I had begged her to see me, after she had told me, and after a round of begging and badgering, she finally broke down and agreed. We were along the long side wall of the public library. Through the glass, in the darkened room, I could see shelves full of children's books.

"Not everything," I said. I had to find a wedge, a combination of words and thoughts to separate her from this decision, this conclusion.

"Yes, everything," she said. "What exactly to I have to look forward to? Getting older and dying? Everything I have ever done that was any good has already happened." Her eyes were wide, staring at me hard, imploring me to find the answer. I didn't have anything to offer.

"Do you really feel that way?," I asked.

"Yes," she spat, blowing out a cloud of white smoke. "Every damn thing." She was looking down, staring intently at a patch of sidewalk between her worn Converse high tops. Her hair was short, a melange of green and blue patches.

"Look," she said quickly. "It's not that I'm not sorry. I am. I know you've tried. It's just that all this...stuff isn't for me. I'm not any good at it." She gestured uselessly with one hand, indicating the community college building behind us, and the trees and apartments behind that, and all the empty air on top of us.

"What aren't you good at?," I said.

"All of it," she said. "This. Existence. Life. All of it." She stood up, her Nirvana t shirt loose on her small frame. She dropped the cigarette to the cement in front of her and ground it out with the toe of her shoe.

"I can't do it anymore," she said. She turned and walked away. I didn't know what to say, so I didn't say anything at all, and I watched her grow smaller and smaller until she slipped around a corner and was gone.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Last Call

A new book review of mine is available for your perusal here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Am The Beast That Feeds The Beast

This is my latest review at Garon Cockrell's Pop Culture Beast

Monday, June 29, 2015

Advantageous At The Beast!

Garon Cockrell, who is as friendly and sweet as his name is fun to say, has published a film review of mine, for "Advantageous", here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure!

This is Lockjaw Magazine, which has begun an interactive story cycle roughly akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The project contains adult themes, and even features one part (anonymously) written by yours truly. Feel free to check it out!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Anna Waits"

[I have the distinct pleasure of being involved in the Lit Bulb International Literary Festival, sponsored by the SA Writers Centre and supported by Matt Potter's Pure Slush This is my minor contribution, a brand new story, "Anna Waits"]

Anna sits at the table near the window, folds her legs tightly, and looks out into the parking lot. Outside, the wind blows dead brown leaves and paper bags across the metal tables and chairs where people can eat outside in the summer. But no one is out there now, and Anna looks across the tables, across the parked cars, and onto the street. She had stood near the entrance, undecided, her stomach knotted with fear. She had ordered a coffee and a muffin, and she stares at them when she isn't looking out at the traffic. She watches the trash truck swing by, the coarse men hopping off, slinging the contents of cans into the back, and hopping back on as the truck pulls away. It was cold outside, but she is warm in here, and she is not afraid.

He had said he would come. He had called her, his warm eyes on her laptop, 21 long days ago, and he said he needed space. He said he felt trapped. He said that it wasn't her, that she was great, that she was perfect. He said he had to find out who he was. She listened to him saying it, the audio making him sound incredibly close, like he was speaking directly into her ear. She was stunned, too embarrassed and shocked to do anything but nod, not breaking composure until he ended the connection, then crying until she retched bile into her toilet, her chunky roommate Chelsey rubbing her bony back, thick fingers tripping across her ribs and shoulders. It was that night, falling into a shuddering half sleep, being watched over by half her floor, when she decided.

Anna had called him again, days later, her face a mask, insisting that they meet, demanding he tell her face to face, that he not be a coward, that he meet when they were back home and that he make it real by looking into her dark eyes and saying it. She had set the date and the time, and she had been thinking of the day ever since, constructing this outfit, a symphony of silver and gray and black, her black boots modestly heeled, her skirt short, but full, her tights dark and rich, her sweater tapered just right, her makeup modest, her jewelry tasteful. She knew what she would say, and she knew how he would reply, and she knows what will happen. Anna looks good, and she knows it, and she knows his resolve will melt when he sees her.

He was confused, and Anna felt sorry for him. Everyone expected her to be mad- even her parents were shocked at how calm she seemed. The gathering of hens, the friends and friends of friends who offered all the cliches of more fish in the sea and what he does and doesn't deserve, all couldn't get Anna to say a cross word about him. She couldn't be mad at someone for being confused, for being overwhelmed at the prospect of what they were. It was huge. It was their lives. They were each other's first serious relationship, and they fit like no one else could or ever would. He was scared about the future. Who wasn't? She wouldn't blame him for that.

He wasn't perfect. He was graceless, and kind of dorky, but he was charming and sweet and they rounded off each other's sharp corners. She knew, in the depths of her heart she was absolutely positive, that this was the one. He was the only one. They would get engaged when they finished school, and they would marry the following June, and they would get a small house in a local suburb, not far from either of their parents, and they would both work, and they would take vacations, and then, when the time was right, 2 babies, perfectly spaced, and a big English sheepdog.

She would smile at him when he arrived, and she would stand up, and she would look polished and elegant, like she had stepped out of a movie, and he would blubber that he was wrong, and that he was sorry, and she would smile, and she would cry a little, and then they would laugh, and then Anna would drive him to his aunt's house, where she went twice a day to feed and play with the cats, and she would undress in front of him, taking off her clothes piece by carefully selected piece, and he would take her virginity there in the empty house, and they would be sealed together, the winter sun keeping them warm, and she would cry again, and when they were senior citizens together, complaining about the cold and how their grandchildren never call, she would think about how he almost made this terrible mistake, and she would laugh at him, and he would never know why.

Anna looks out the window, and she smiles at the thought of her future with him, how they will forgive each other for being so foolish, and she waits for him to come and repent. Anna waits for him to come around the corner too fast, his Ford overcorrecting, and then his swing into a tight parking spot. Anna waits for him, knowing he is coming, knowing he will walk in, squint at the menu for a moment, and then order iced tea and a bagel before he joins her, his big male body sprawled across the seat opposite her, and they will laugh, and she will get her life back on track, the whole three week episode a stain on an otherwise perfect dress. She switches legs, uncrossing and then recrossing them the other way. The suede toe of her boot bobs up and down, and Anna waits.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Greatest Discovery

[Told you I'd blow it. Batting fifth in the Story A Day Challenge is Seanan McGuire, who has won the John W. Campbell Award, which I haven't done, but neither have you. The prompt is "some things got left out, and a little means a lot". This is called "The Greatest Discovery", and is part of a thing I may finish at some point before I die.]

His face broke. He looked. She was in a batting stance, wearing a Little League uniform, a stranger's face but Madison's jaw, his family's defiant chin.

"Your daughter," the woman said.

All motion in the lobby stopped.

"I'm sorry," the woman said.

The words were as empty as his heart.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

SAD #3: "Center of Madness"

[Batting third in the Story A Day Challenge is a 640 Word Limit. This is "Center of Madness"]

Her phone rang. She kept changing the ring tone, and right now it was the opening bars of "The Thing That Should Not Be," fat, ominous, and low. It was a portent, a warning. She knew he would call, knew the inner workings of his brain as well as he did, and she knew just as surely that she shouldn't answer the phone. So she didn't.

He would call because he was the sort of person who couldn't leave enemies behind. He had to know that everyone liked him, that he was an okay person, that he wasn't cruel or heartless or shortsighted. It was a kind of vanity, this insistence that everyone think he is honorable. Whether he is or isn't was immaterial, it was how he appeared that was most important to him. She knew he was going to call to try and mend fences, to make sure she wasn't angry with him.

If she was perfectly honest, she was simply too tired to listen to him. He would be charming, sure- he always was. He would flood her with evasions and half truths and justifications and rationalizations, get her laughing, and then part gracefully, making sure her last image of him was a pleasant one before he faded away forever. She was too tired to engage in that combat right now.

The phone stopped, then, after a beat, the tone started again, the late Cliff Burton's bass line, subterranean, lumbering and angry, full of coiled up menace. She closed her eyes and pictured him playing it, a picture in a magazine she saw once, his hair whipping around in a maelstrom of motion, but his face, in the center, quiet and focused. She imagined the chaos going on around him at the moment that picture was taken, and the calm it must have took to keep playing in the center of madness. She wished she felt that calm, that ability to maintain control, to keep doing your job in the midst of a storm.

The phone stopped again. She knew he would call again, so she waited. She felt herself beginning to fly apart, a slow motion plane crash that she called her life, and the only way she kept from screaming was to not answer the phone, to not allow him a way back in. She had to stay together, keep herself under control, remain within herself, within the limits of good behavior and decent sense, because to lose it all would be to let him win, to let him show that he was in control. To surrender control was to surrender herself, and above all, that was one trade she was unwilling to make again.

The phone started ringing again. She thought about peeking at the face of it, seeing if he left a message, but she thought better of it, didn't dare risk it. He had said he couldn't do this anymore, and that's that: you can't, she had learned, force someone to do something they weren't prepared to do. She wasn't all that mad about the decision itself- it was his to make, and he had made it. She had pushed him until he revealed what she knew he was thinking, and that was, also, simply the way it was. It wasn't really fair to demand an answer, then be upset because it wasn't the one you wanted.

She was basically just annoyed at the universe, angry that nobody ever decided that she was worth the effort. It felt like everything else in life she loved- her favorite sports teams, her favorite musicians, her favorite actors, all of it, even her children. What distressed her most was that you give them everything: devotion, time and money and energy, and in the end, they do whatever the hell they want to, no matter what.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

SAD Day 2: "Reunion"

[The Story A Day Project rolls on with Day 2's prompt, Other People's Memories. This story is called "Reunion"]

Julie's expensive shoes tapped on the hardwood floor. "Remember how we used to hand out the answer key? Everybody cheated in that class! We were so bad!" Forever the bitchy alpha.

That's not how Sara remembered it. She wasn't as included as they thought she was. Or as she thought.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Another Failed Project, Part One

[StoryADay.Org is Yet Another Project I Am Probably Going To Bail On Within The First Week, an effort to write a story every day based on a provided prompt. Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin bats leadoff with an assortment of William Blake's proverbs, from which I have selected "You never know what is enough, until you know what is more than enough." This story is called "In Line"]

She felt the eyes boring into her from behind. She imagined she could feel them burning tiny holes in her shoulders.

"I need to ask a favor," she said, knowing he would say no. But she still asked.

"JUST TELL THEM YOU'RE IN JAIL," the officer insisted at her elbow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Announcements announcements announcements

"The Broken Plate", the literary magazine published at Ball State University, is about to publish a story of mine, and Pure Slush's new collection "Feast" will also feature some of my work.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Who is killing it?

This lady is killing it, that's who. A world where she doesn't have a book contract is not a world I entirely comprehend.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Me In Honey

My amiga Remi Germaine is one hoopy frood, but is also selling a neato keeno t shirt design over here.

So if you're pro honey, or pro Remi, or if you're currently naked and need something to wear, go forth and purchase.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Light And Shade Challenge: "Before She's Gone"

[ Writing resumes on This Blog with a response to the Light and Shade">Challenge.

"It's quite easy, really," she says. We had gone out onto the porch. The night sky was clear, a few stars indistinct behind the glow of the city. I feel like those stars, fading in and out of view.

"I'll be back in 3 months," she says again. It has been a refrain, every time my face closes down in front of her, she reminds me of how little time it really is. August until November. I can't look at her, so I stare up at the sky.

"It's not that long," she says, and I think about how far it is between the planets, and I will myself not to cry. Distances are relative. Time and space dilate at high speeds. I hear the boards of the porch creak as she walks up behind me. She's leaving because she has to go, because its best for her, because it's what she needs to do. Her hands find my waist, and snake across my middle. I cover her hands with my own.

Behind us, the TV is still on, and I hear someone washing a dish in the kitchen. I look at the sky and feel the pain of missing her with every breath she exhales against my back. I miss her, even now, before she's gone.

A Brief Descent Into Sportsball

Why would I, a lifelong New England Patriots fan, take to my digital soapbox to defend Pete Carroll, a man who coached my hometown team so less than eptly that Grantland's Bill Simmons called him "Fredo"? (I think Carroll is a decent man, as far as I can tell. He does appear to be a bit of a fraud, but I think anyone whose job it is to convince grown men to shorten their lives has to have a bit of the huckster.)

By now, nearly every sentient being has registered the fact that Carroll decided (or acceded to a decision) to throw a pass on the 1 yard line, second down, trailing by four points with 26 seconds to go, which was intercepted to cost him a second straight Super Bowl championship. Luminaries inside and outside the sports world united to castigate the decision, but I don't think, given more thought, that this is a fair verdict.

If you think about the whole picture, Carroll's team needs to gain one yard, and he has three chances to do so. He cannot run three times (the clock continues to run on run plays) because they won't be able to unpile, reform and snap the ball again before time expires. If he runs on second down, he has to call a time out, and then, if unsuccessful, he has to throw on third down because he risks running out of time. Thus, arguably, Carroll had to throw on second down.

Now, whether he should have called that particular pass play is another story.