"We Repel (Each Other)" by Reigning Sound, from their album Too Much Guitar, which sounds exactly like you think it does.
I went on vacation to Grand Rapids and played more pinball in a weekend than I played all last year. I was tearing up Simpsons Pinball Party on Saturday night and some guy asked me if I felt like The Who's Tommy. Then the ball went down the middle, and I said, "Yeah, I feel blind, deaf, and dumb." I was never a Who guy anyways.
Then I saw Reigning Sound in Chicago on my way back. They make me think that the fifties were badass. I was always partial to odd-numbered decades anyways.
Just gettin' my bro on in 1915. Fuckin' deal with it.
I didn't get any writing done when I was gone, which is not fine. I was still looking toward the time off I was going to take in April anyways, so I guess I'll count that as now. I'm still working on that chapbook, but it's still going slowly. No new thoughts on whether or not to throw away my old stories or rework them, which makes me think I should go back and actually read them again. I'm only going to go back a few years on this, though. Nobody needs my bullshit from 2008 except maybe other people who were boring pricks and want to relive the navel-gazing glory of twenty page stories where nobody talks to each other, later on describing their story as having "a subconscious arc to the narrative, lending it organic qualities than really bloom upon multiple readings." (Also: Fuck.)
My friend Dena's manuscript is shaping up. (Probably. I haven't actually read the second draft, but she's a smart little firecracker and I trust her to work hard at it.) I'm sixteen pieces away from finishing up my comments on it for her, at which point I'll sit back and see if she wants me to look at the second draft or if she'll be sick of my shit by then. I'm pretty sure I say "This does nothing" and "Take it a bit further and see what happens" far too often, to everyone about everything, that I myself am sick of my own shit already when it comes to advice.
It's also that time of year where I run a weekly writing workshop for young adults at the public library about twenty minutes away. Sign up is down this year--I was assured that sign up for all things at the library was down this year, though I'm still considered the reckless, nonsensical one in the library hierarchy--and I think a lot of it has to do with Harry Potter and Twilight both dying down in popularity. A couple years ago when those books were a cultural phenomenon, kids thought it was cool to be a writer. Now that the YA thing has fizzled a bit, they all want to go back to doing whatever it is that kids do normally.
Pogs? Fuck, I don't know. I'm old. Leave me alone.
So I've got two groups of kids: four 12-14 year olds (1 age 12, 3 age 14) and four 15-17 year olds (3 age 15 and one age 17). All girls except one fifteen year old dude named Matt who totally has his shit together. He's working on three screenplays and a "psychological thriller." When I was fifteen I was working on new ways to masturbate and lists of my favorite wrestlers. I look forward to resenting his success.
I showed the older group "The Harvest" by Amy Hempel
. They had never seen anything like it before, and I think it added something to their thoughts about what writing is, rattled loose some thoughts that were already there. That's what any good writing should do, especially "The Harvest," a story I read about once a month. I'm trying to find other stories to share with them during our time together, but it's tough because we're only in workshop for an hour and a half each week, and I want to make time to show them how to workshop each other's work. Even if we did have time, though, I'm not so sure I want to sit down and have them read a twenty page short story out loud to one another. I'm already bored by that option. But I am going to show them stories each week. I'm thinking Barry Hannah's "Love Too Long" next, but he says nigger a couple of times in there and the violent sexuality might be a bit much for kids who are just learning about what all that stuff is for.
For the younger group, I'm really trying to focus on in-workshop writing. Lots of exercises, lots of stuff just to get the juices flowing. The first session together was taken up mostly by introductions, including me rambling incoherently for 45 minutes in an attempt to tell them, simply, that I am 27 and have a book coming out. They all said they had stuff written already, so I want to do some traditional workshop stuff with them, too, but it'll mostly be hammering ideas into their heads through prompts.
In previous years, the groups weren't separated, which was a hassle for everyone. Everything changes once kids get into high school, so the cut was perfect: incoming Freshmen and younger in one group, everyone up to recent graduates in another. Other than me finally realizing that I am not cool, have never been cool and am no longer able to convince myself that I am cool as a means of survival, and that I am an unfortunate adult in the eyes of teenagers instead of just a rad guy who happens to be a bit older, things are going fine so far.
I'm trying to figure out a way to reference the show It's Like, You Know . . . but I'm pretty sure I was the only onewho watched it, proving that it really isn't a generational gap that makes me look like a goddamn loser.
I want to end this by thanking everyone who donated to the Jersey Devil Press 2012 Collection Kickstarter
. It was funded last week, which means Eirik won't have to fork out the cash from his pocket, which means that he can live comfortably and still support rad things like my book. There's still a week and a half left, and any money over the scant $630 goal goes toward a third book that JDP will be doing. Really, though, thank you so much to everyone who donated. You will be receiving your promised rewards this Fall when the book is released, in addition to a bonus reward from me. Because I'm a pal like that.
"Tables Turn" by Decibully, from their album City of Festivals. Wisconsin, motherfuckers!
Naming songs is easy because I write stupid songs. If I want to call a song "Fake Tits (Real Problems)" I totally can. "Release the Grease" is a go. "Ready, Set, Get Wet" is a must. As long as it's about having sex or drugs or just generally being rad, I can just ramble on about whatever.
My song "Shiksas Are For Practice," about finding love despite the objections of old Jewish ideas, is still in the works.
That's why I'm having a fuck of a time naming this book. We went through and looked at the the story title first, because that's the easiest way to go about things. Most of my favorite short story collections are named that way, too, so it's not like I could have any sort of pretensions about not coming up with a new title for the whole thing. So when none of the titles looked like a good representation of the book as a whole, I was pretty much fucked.
So I had to read my book again. It's a good book. I'm happy with how it's turning out. But I was pretty sick of myself by the time I had to read it for the third time in a week. I had already read it for sequencing purposes and again for typos and grammatical issues. And now once more to see if a title was buried somewhere in the text? I'm dumb.
I came up with a long list of shit from the text that stood out, none of which I was particularly blown away by upon review.All At Once It Becomes Important
(From "Sergei Avdeyev." Not a bad title, but I don't want people to think I'm bragging. If I went with this, I might as well include a free video download of me singing "I'm the Man" by Anthrax and flexing.)Only the Black of the Birds
(From "Plots." It's good, but not for this collection. Maybe I'll write something about crows someday, but probably not, since I only passed my college zoology class because I cheated on all those tests with the stupid Scantron sheets.)The Band Has Been Around Too Long
(From "When There Is No Road." Because we've decided not to pitch this as an OBCBYL book, it's probably best to back off on any music-related title. Plus I didn't want Gene Simmons to sue me.)An Old Television Turned Off And Then Back On Quickly
(From "When There Is No Road." It's fucking dumb, that's why.)And the Way They Swing Around
(From "It's Been Far Too Long Since You Woke Up In Someone Else's Shoes." This one's just not very good, is it? Too vague--they?--and a bit stuffy with that "and" at the beginning. IBFTLSYWUISES was considered as a title, too. Not as an abbreviation, but look at that abbreviation. If that's the short way to write your book's title, you're an asshole.)Climbing Toward the Sun
(From "Haunt." It was originally about tendrils or vines or whatever, which makes sense. I just can't bring myself to go with any title that could be turned into that of a self-help book by adding "MAKING YOUR LIFE THE BEST LIFE" in the sub-heading.)How I've Earned My Darkness
(From "After I Threw the Ball At Thomas Hernandez and Before It Killed Him." Sounds like the title of a self-published memoir.)Whatever You Do
(From I can't remember because it's so generic, and I refuse to go back and check the word doc. Who cares?)Seven As A Threat
(From "Follow the Water." I must have been tired when I pulled this.)Long Enough Will Be Long Enough
(From "Follow the Water." Or maybe not too tired, because this one I like. But I'm a bit torn on it. It sounds a bit like a simple truth and a bit like something my mom would have on a magnet on the fridge.)Bite Off Your Tongue and Tell Me
(From "Follow the Water." This is a paraphrase of the end of the story, and while it sounds cool, it might be a bit too hard for what the book is doing. I do a lot of soft endings, so maybe this stood out for being considerably less soft. And I don't want to give away my punchlines.)With Suddenness
(Again, no idea what the fuck I was thinking.)Distortion
(Yep, really grasping here. I think this is from "Signal" but I have no idea. It doesn't matter. We're not going with it.)Pure Smoke
(From "Refund." This is one of the few later ones I really liked. The word that keeps coming up when I think about the themes of the collection is "ephemerality." I think Pure Smoke
has that built into it, plus it's punchy. Still, it didn't grab me by the collar and tell me it was the title, so onto the burner it goes.)I Imagine A Few Moments From Now
(This could be from any of the stories, really. No clue.)You Can Be Twenty Things
(From "Refund." Another paraphrase, this time from dialogue. I was definitely barely awake when pulling this aside.)You Think of Breathing Out
(From "Things That Are Glacial, Things That Are Gone." I don't mind this one, but it's nothing special. I almost like the title of the story better for the collection title.)
Somewhere in the middle of all this bullshit, I came up with a couple titles that weren't from the text.Shake Away These Constant Days
andEvery Day A Juggernaut
After all that deliberation to find something from the text, the two I like the best aren't even from it. "Shake" and "juggernaut" are two of my favorite words--I had planned a solo album years ago called Shake
that never happened (the cover was going to be me in the pose from Electric Warrior
) and "Juggernaut" is my favorite Rick Bass story.I e-mailed all of this (sans commentary) to Mike at JDP and he once again told me to settle down, that we've reached the point of diminishing returns on new titles, and that we should pick from what we have. This is sound advice, somewhat, which I wouldn't say if I wasn't already partially in love with Shake Away These Constant Days
. Barring a rejection from JDP fearless-leader Eirik, that's going to be the title of the book.
What a long, drawn-out process of explanation for no reason.
And that's the Rickey Henderson biiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!
On the chapbook front--the title of that is going to be Murmuration--I'm about halfway through the second story. It's called "Cool Tits, Moxie" which I'm excited for because writing about strippers is always fun and I haven't used "tits" in a story title since I was in third grade. My band starts recording our first EP and second full length today, so time will now officially be split between writing and rocking, not that I'm trying especially hard at either one.
Be cool, baby.
"Back Off Evil" by Dirty Tricks off their self-titled debut from 1975.
I can't get enough of old psych-rock and heavy blues shit lately. As a bonus, it's always fun to fuck with Opeth fans by telling them I like Blackwater Park only to later reveal that I meant the German band
and not that stupid album
with the quiet parts that don't make sense next to the loud parts.
Writing-wise, I've made some progress on both the leg-work for the book and the writing-work for the chapbook. The first story for the chapbook--I mentioned it last week in a sideways way as "he's just wrecking cars with his buddies as of now"--is done. It's called "Jalapeno Summer" and it's a bit shy of a thousand words. It'll be a great story to kick off a collection with and it's a nice lead in to the next story, which starts off with the line, "My least favorite stripper was obsessed with past life regression."
Thanks to my friend Joan LaRosa for texting me a picture of her holding two dozen VIP passes for Club Silk in Milwaukee and getting me hooked on strippers again. Also, I get a stupid number of ideas and interesting things to add to a story just by listening to WTF with Marc Maron.
Thanks for being a drunken eccentric recluse, Laura Kightlinger.
When I said that I've made some progress on the leg-work for the book, I actually meant Mike Sweeney has made progress on the leg-work for the book. We had a pool of about 70 stories to chose from and less than half of them were going to be in the book. I told Mike the ones I liked, the ones I liked but needed work, and the ones I thought kind of sucked. He read all 70 of the stories--most of them for the second or third time, this time with a collection in mind--and sent me back a tentative table of contents and title that looks something like this:
This Is How Long a Second Lasts: 30 Stories
Back and to the Left
Look At How Fast I Can Go Nowhere At All
Wide Right Game
When There Is No Road
It's Been Far Too Long Since You Woke Up In Someone Else's Shoes
Monsters: A Series of Non-Chronological Vignettes
The Sounds of the Earth Precede Us
God as a Jigsaw
Follow the Water
What Burns Never Returns
Let’s Go Shoot Her While She’s Crying
Jests At Scars
Where Is Your H?
B Sharp, C Flat
Things That Are Glacial, Things That Are Gone
About a third of these are new stories that haven't appeared in the original Our Band Could Be Your Lit project, and most of those have never appeared anywhere before. This is definitely tentative, but I like the moves. Opening with "Back and to the Left" threw me a bit, but I can see it working, this sort of odd step into not an alternate universe, but an absurd one. The faux-time travel in "Sergei Avdeyev" solidifies that. It twists into the odd apocalyptic stories in the middle and then launches back into my standard storytelling before ending with "Glacial," my big abstract story that was half in response to the way I think kids write these days that ended up sounding pretty much exactly like how I write anyways. I wouldn't have thought of any of this myself, but I can see it now. Mike gets definite props for giving my work some vision, which it more than I can say for myself.
I'm not sold on the title, but that too is tentative. Mike's against the idea of making up a title specifically for the collection--my suggestion of I Scratched Your Name Behind the Jukebox was shot down for sounding too much like a title someone made up for a book, which I can't deny--and he really wants the title to come from the collection, either in the form of a story title or a line. We're leaning toward It's Been Far Too Long Since You Woke Up In Someone Else's Shoes which he's not sure of because of the length (and I'm not sure of because even though it's a literal thing with the shoes and the waking in the story, it sounds a little "my mom has this on a magnet on the fridge" as a stand-alone). Jests At Scars was brought up, but it's a line from Shakespeare and I totally can't pull that off. When There Is No Road was a possibility, too, but I've got a story/collection in the works called The Road Become What You Leave. (Stolen from the name of a documentary on Magnolia Electric Co. Which reminds me, I need to e-mail and get permission to do that.) I'm kind of at a loss for ideas.
Above: The cover of my book, Led Zeppelin 4.
Whatever. I'm working on it.
I'm glad I got to start reading some more, too, now that shipping out CDs has slowed down. Sara Levine's Short Dark Oracles
just rocked my goddamn world. I ordered the six-pack from Caketrain
for $32 (shipped!) and this is the winner. I did not like the MFA Mad Lib style of Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake
by Heidi Lynn Staples or Cure All
by Kim Parko. I think Ben Mirov's Ghost Machine
is interesting enough and it's fun to try to interpret it, but in the end I thought it was several hundred beautiful sentences that didn't do anything. The Weather Stations
by Ryan Call was solid and inventive, which is what I'll also say about Tongue Party
by Sarah Rose Etter, except Etter's book is fucking creepy.
But Short Dark Oracles
. Man. There's a lot of dialogue, which really adds a cinematic quality, but there are still enough moments that can only happen in a short story that make me truly believe that the book is operating on it's most pure level, that it aspires to be nothing but literature. There aren't any gimmicks or tricks here. The turns aren't twists, and when it gets to the point where the story rounds the corner, it actually rounds it. No need to twirl. It's enough to get there, and Levine took me there.
In short, I'm glad I found another talented writer to resent for all of their skill and success.UNLESS YOU DONATE TO THE KICKSTARTER FOR MY BOOK AND THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE JERSEY DEVIL PRESS 2012 COLLECTION. THEN YOU'RE COOL AS FUCK, DUDE.
Okay. Be a real person.
"Sexual Overture/While You Were Away" by Bible of the Devil, from their 2012 album For the Love of Thugs and Fools
I think Bible of the Devil
guitarist Nate Perry is the last of the real deal rock and roll heroes. Too dumb to live, too cool to die.
On the writing front, I've started working on a chapbook story collection/cycle using the narrator from my short story "Murmuration."
That story appeared in the April issue of Jersey Devil Press
. I got the idea for the story after someone posted a video on Facebook of a murmuration of starlings fucking around in synchronicity above a lake. They put ambient music in the background and probably turned it in as part of their art school thesis, but whatever, it was still pretty rad.
Modern installation art sure does look a lot like a hilarious situation that a supporting actor in a Paul Rudd movie might find himself in.
I finished the story in a couple quick drafts and was just sort of throwing ideas around, writing quickly and in a style I'd describe as "a shitty Amy Hempel
story from Reasons to Live
" meets "a really good story as told in the comments section of the AV Club
website." There's a dead dog, a burn victim named Nurse Diamond (not a real nurse), pudding cups, and a bunch of sideways references to Whitesnake and KISS. I had just finished working on a story with a heavier, more labored-over tone called, at this junction, "Shoot Out the Bright Lights." After starting it a year or two prior I, with the help of the Chet Baker documentary Let's Get Lost
, was finally able to really do justice to the parallel redemptions of an old jazz dude and a young widower. Needless to say, I was ready to do something a little more off-the-cuff and a little less heady after that 5500-word behemoth.
At this time I was also working on a story called "Who Wants To Live Forever" about a woman with OCD (based on what Maria Bamford
multiple descriptions of her "unwanted thoughts syndrome") who keeps running into a guy who may or may not be in a Queen tribute band, as well as a story called "Devotion and Doubt" about a drunk dude. I tried to figure out something else to say about it, but that's pretty much it. He tries to fuck a pair of twins but just eats a bunch of breakfast.
You can blame Barry Hannah for that one.
Anyways, "Murmuration" turned out to be one of my favorites, and I had such a good time writing it that I'm going to track the narrator from the summer right after high school until the events in "Murmuration" ten years later. I'm shooting for 7500 words total on the chapbook. Doing a story for each year is out--"Murmuration" takes up a third of that space already, so I'm looking at about four pieces of flash fiction in addition.
As of right now, he's just wrecking cars with his buddies.
I've got some work to do. I'm looking at a friend's manuscript for her, too, and resisting the urge to do a complete line-edit on it. I'm addicted to working at the sentence level on everything, which is good for everything except issues concerning time.
Not to be confused with The Time, which is always good no matter what.
The book through Jersey Devil Press
is at the stage where I'm just waiting for the editor to shoot me a tentative table of contents. Once that rolls in, everything else rolls in behind it: editing, title, layout, artwork, etc. Mike Sweeney
, the editor in question, and I have a lot of the same beliefs when it comes to short story collections, and so far the only problems that have arisen have come from me being overbearing and anxious. No, I can't keep adding stories. No, I can't just make up a random title because I think it sounds cool.
I'm finding out that a first book is like a first girlfriend: I don't know where to put my hands. I trust Mike and JDP head-honcho Eirik
, but my natural response was to do everything. I'm used to the DIY rock and roll band mindset: write your song, play your song, record your song, design your album, press your album, promote your album, sell your album. Book the shows. Load the gear. Talk to promoters. I guess I'm just not used to having other people who will do some of those things. I'm not a control freak, but, well, I just don't know where to put my goddamn hands
Maybe it's not like a first girlfriend, since I've never had one for some reason. Must have something to do with this Sex -10 I got stuck with.
Oh well, Cool Rings +5. Silver nail polish +10.
Even Spinal Tap need some cash.
I've had the Kickstarter discussion with lots of people. It's something I'm torn on. I think it's good for artists to support one another morally and financially, but I also think that it's not exactly the most noble of causes to ask people for $5000 to release your debut LP on 200 gram bleach-splatter vinyl in a double-gatefold foil wrapper. Then you're just being an asshole.
Looking in your direction, Mr. Annihilation and the Doom Troop Boyz.
You're fuckin' high if you don't know where this is heading.
So yeah. Jersey Devil Press
, the dudes putting out my book in the fall, have started a Kickstarter for both my as-of-now-untitled short story collection and the other book they plan on releasing this year
, Eirik Gumeny's Exponential Apocalypse: Dead Presidents
. The best way to utilize Kickstarter is to have it basically be somewhere between a way to organize pre-orders and those candy sales outside of department stores where you buy a $0.75 candybar for $1 because it goes to a good cause. Or at least I like to think so.
Really, though, I think the rewards are pretty rad. Nobody's offering to come over and cook you dinner for a $500 donation. You get actual stuff, and because I'm assuming you're all as shallow as I am, that's a good thing.
I know some of you disagree with Kickstarter still, regardless of how it's done. And that's fine. Don't donate. Feel free to be upset about it if you'd like. (There are more important things out there to be upset about, but the choice is, like, yours or whatever, dude.)
Or you can toss a few bucks our way. If you want to know if I'm worth it, check my (Is Published) page and decide for yourself
.I ain't too proud to beg. Do it.