An Excerpt From OCTOBER ANIMALS

I’m trying something new with this post. I promised audio, and… here we go. Nothing too wild, today, just a short excerpt from my long-gestating novella, OCTOBER ANIMALS. The following is from the beginning of the second chapter. Hope you enjoy!

Reading father’s book had been forbidden. Maybe when you’re older, he had told her. Maybe never, said her mother, and she meant what she said.

Lizzie Bat waited all the same, waited for the day she would be old enough, bold enough, waited for her mother to forget about the book, waited to revel in the reveal of father’s secrets, waited in that way like many others who have waited, waited for a meaning or a purpose to appear, waited for revelation, clarity and clear, waited for her chance, but in the end she simply waited.

And then, Daniel Batson disappeared. 

Father had been gone a year when the storage shed, which contained all the copies of the book he had written, father’s forbidden book, caught fire during the night. Two-thousand books reduced to ash, Lizzie Bat cried at the sight, her father’s second death. Never would she be old enough to see secrets in this smoke and the rest of life yawned out before her, an unfathomable reechy darkness where secrets stretched their skeletal remains across a graveyard with no end. Lizzie Bat, in that moment, wished to never wait, never wait again.

She ran a hand through his carbonized dreams and searched in vain for a single page or a surviving word. Mother shed not a tear. Maybe never, said her mother, and she meant what she said.

“Forget about the book,” said mother. “Only witches can read dust, and you’re no witch.”

“You would know,” said Lizzie Bat.

Mother struck her for that. An open palm across the face. The woman may as well have cast a spell; form and features changed from that of mother to a nameless stranger. Lizzie Bat did not know this doppelgänger before her, as if shadow and skin had swapped places.

“He never should’ve written that damned book,” this Shadow Mother had said on more than one occasion.

OK, folks, that’s good enough for now! I’ll be plugging away at OCTOBER ANIMALS when I can, but lots and lots going on lately and not much of it conducive to writing a book. C’est la vie!

Thanks for reading (or listening).

Read and Re-read Get On A Boat

Life looks like it’s about to get topsy-turvy for a bit. I won’t be able to get to my computer for awhile, so I’m back to the old fashioned “pen & paper” technique. Happy to report I’m just as slow writing on a notepad as I am on a keyboard. Sometimes, though, words are a little different on a page than in a file. I don’t erase as much as strike through, or simply let the words pile upon themselves like my thoughts have just been in a terrible accident.

What definitely remains the same is my tendency to read aloud, and very often re-read. I find reading aloud akin to sharpening a tool. I listen to the sentences, and many times the cadence will come to define the way I write. I am this way with just about all the stories I work on, but especially OCTOBER ANIMALS, which concerns itself with language, with influence, and a type of vocalized spell. It is a musical book, I think, and it is very much designed to be that way.

Last week, I started writing a sestina in a rural hotel and today I may finish that work in a guest bedroom, elsewhere. This particular piece serves as a bridge between the previous reality and the reality to come, and it is composed of the many recurring phrases and details contained in earlier chapters.

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OCTOBER ANIMALS borrows quite a bit from poetry, though the sestina is (I believe) the only time I employ formal poetry in the manuscript.

Funny to think OCTOBER ANIMALS may find itself finished some 2,000-odd miles from where it started. These stories have their own lives, much like we do, and they go through emotional and physical turmoil and they, too, have memories buried inside of them, and everything seems so immediate in the moment.

I don’t know if I will record the entire book as audio, but I am thinking of select pieces from the manuscript.

But, first, I must finish the work and read and re-read to myself. Then, I can read it to you.

I also have to find a place to live.

No Clear Way Home

20210710_152136I am not home. But, I will soon be tasked with making it back there. Only, everything is on fire. Either highway I’d normally take is closed, because of fire. Still, I need to get home. Looks like I’ll have to figure something out, take roads less traveled, you know, metaphor shit.

And, damn, doesn’t that just seem like a proper metaphor? It’s the type of obvious shit you’d be afraid to throw down in a manuscript because it is so on the nose. But, here I am, with a journey to take, complete with obstacles and side stories and things I want and flaws and I ought to change in some way, surely, but… the getting there is now a struggle, and it’ll be linked to everything I do and every decision I make until the task is complete.

Similarly, I want to finish this book, OCTOBER ANIMALS, but life keeps throwing obstacles in my direction. I write when I can, in little bits, little chunks of scenes, notes, poetry. And now, when I thought I’d have the most time, it turns out I may actually have the least. Funny how that works out.

I’m not particularly angry or upset. Mostly, I’m amused. This is how life always seems to be, at least on my end.

Here we go. Onwards and upwards. Until I’m faced with the next thing.

Being Inaccessible Is OK, Actually; And An Untitled Poem

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I would argue that I am not a “very online” person. I have been more online in the past, but become increasingly less so as time goes on. Simply, I don’t give a fuck about all that. At my core, I am an artist, and that moniker stretches across multiple disciplines. I create this or that and sometimes it is for me and sometimes I try to put it out in the world for people to adopt as their own. But I am not concerned with being accessible. I, myself, am not the art, though it surely comes from me. I have no love for “cult of personality” types. I figure it’s hard enough to convince people to buy art, let alone have to sell my goddamned self.

Approachable? Sure. I’m not interested in being mean to anyone. Being mean is exhausting.

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Memory Is Palimpsest

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I am taking a (short) break from OCTOBER ANIMALS, but then it is back to work. It feels like I have taken a lifetime to work on a book so short. I even had a (for myself) pretty detailed outline to work from. But the narrative started mutating right out of the gate and anytime I tried to force the outline it simply wasn’t working. The narrative wanted something else, and I have stopped fighting. Instead, I am giving the narrative what it wants and letting it go.

“If you love something, let it go” says the old adage. Except, i don’t expect this thing I love to “come back” and be mine “forever” or what have you. I intend to let it go, piece by piece, word by word. Every sentence, this story grows nearer to completion, and further away from me. As it should be. Someday, soon, I will let OCTOBER ANIMALS go and it will be yours, not mine.

And then, over time, my perception of the book will become foggy, as it has with works I’ve previously written. Narratives are like memories, in that way. An experience so utterly involving that shatters apart with passing time, to become hardly more than idle thoughts, half-remembered details.

Memory is palimpsest.

So are books.

I write a story to be half-remembered by myself and you read said story and you bring your own life and experiences and this perception of yours is grafted onto to certain words and passages, and so the story conjures thoughts and feelings and narratives within the reader, all of which is beyond my control. And that, is a kind of magic. I may put down the words, but it is the reader who gives life to the story. In their own way, every book is a spell.

And now, I must return to OCTOBER ANIMALS. I have spells to cast and creatures to conjure.

Thanks for reading.

Stopping by a Body in the Barn Out Back: a poem

Whose body this is I once knew

His rotten stench the scavengers drew

And I recall the tenor of his screams

Rack and ruin a rare privilege to view

He swings on breeze from highest beams

Little wonder if God allows the dead their dreams

I visit this man every day

Death is but a deeper sleep it seems

Oft I wonder what my mother would say

To see father hanged in our barn this way

Would she give thanks or think of me insane

But where he has buried her I cannot say

Our bodies like our love cannot remain

Parables of kindness are profane

And all I have to give to you is pain

And all I have to give to you is pain.

Continue reading “Stopping by a Body in the Barn Out Back: a poem”

GOODNIGHT KAFKA

I mentioned having written a riff on the Margaret Wise Brown classic GOODNIGHT MOON, focusing on Franz Kafka. It is, as of yet, not illustrated. I may get around to that sometime in the future. And I have been picking away at my own translation of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” for the last couple of years. Perhaps, once finished with both projects, I will collect them together and release them. Anyway, no reason not to share this, as I have no plans on shopping it around. Enjoy.

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GOODNIGHT KAFKA

In the great gray gloom

There was a kafkaroach

And a bug cocoon

And a painting of—

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Recent Reads and Trying to Reconnect With Leaisure

I dearly love to read. Always have, and always will. But, since taking over editing and acquisitions for Rooster Republic Press (and more recently for Journalstone’s imprint, Bizarro Pulp Press), I find myself reading far less than I have been accustomed. For most of 2021, my spare time has been dedicated to Hailey Piper’s QUEEN OF TEETH, as well as chipping away at my novella, OCTOBER ANIMALS. In fact, the only book I’ve managed to sandwich between these projects was a lovely/harrowing little novella called WATCH THE WHOLE GODDAMNED THING BURN (by Doungjai Gam). It’s a limited release via Nightscape Press, and one I’d heartily recommend. You can grab a copy HERE.

Before that, I spent most of the last few months in 2020 working on various other titles seeing publication in 2021. And the last title I read for leisure was during Spring 2020, THE SILMARILLION (which I loved). Hoping to change that, however, in the next few weeks, especially as work on OCTOBER ANIMALS draws to a close.

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OCTOBER ANIMALS preview

[The following is from the opening chapter of OCTOBER ANIMALS. The novella is still being worked on, so some elements may change before publication, as this is not a final edit. Thanks, and enjoy]

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Risk existed in the collapsing space between lips just before a kiss and the banks of the Mississippi were a cemetery to all that the river no longer wanted. Fireworks exploded, violent rainbows that looked of the heavens but stank of sulfur, and crackling light reflected across black waters. The people of Alton gathered here, as did the great beast, unseen, who patrolled those waters. Here they gathered, but their ceremonies were not the same. And the beast was not greedy; only a few would be chosen.

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The opening to OCTOBER ANIMALS

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Hello! It has been an awful long time since I last wrote anything here on the ol’ website. Let’s chalk it up to being busy, being massively depressed, and being generally fucking shocked by the state of things. BUT… it’s a new year and a new year means new projects. Mostly, I have been working on acquisitions and editing, with some production art thrown in for good measure. And, in my spare time, I have been plugging away at my upcoming novella.

Continue reading “The opening to OCTOBER ANIMALS”