"Younger Days" by Mount Moriah, off their new record Miracle Temple.
Another month gone that I'll never get back, because that's how time works until you're dead and it doesn't matter anymore. Here's what I've been doing.
1) I went and talked to a temp agency about getting me work in an office because I hate my job at Wal-Mart, mainly because I can't fuck around as much anymore.
1b) I realize this makes me sound incredibly lazy and part of a much larger problem concerning the new adults of America, but it's a matter of right more than anything. I signed up for a shitty job that pays under $10 an hour and has no responsibilities. Being a fuck up is built into it. It's a job for retired people who want to push a broom all day or kids in high school who are waiting for their lives to start. I'm using it as a way to have a job I can leave there when I walk out the door, which it hasn't been, thanks to a clause in my "Wal-Mart contract" that says I agreed to help out where needed, meaning that if this fucking dildo assistant manager I hate tells me to eat shit and bark at the moon, I have to eat shit and bark at the moon.
1c) That dude's a dick.
2) I saw Bret Michaels of Poison at the casino in town. It was one of the worst shows I've ever seen. He opened up with two Posion songs, so fine, I wasn't pissed. Then he went off stage to change his shirt and came on to play "Sweet Home Alabama." Then he dedicated "Something To Believe In" to the troops and the people of Boston. His twelve-string acoustic sounded like Steve Albini's Shellac tone, which was kind of awesome but entirely inappropriate. Then he changed his shirt again, came back out, and played "What I Got" by Sublime after giving a shout-out to Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray. He played for under an hour, which is kind of an odd thing to complain about--"This food is terrible, and such small portions!"--but he didn't play "Ride the Wind" so I'm pissed.3) Some dude came into the bar I work at and stole my screen-printed, hand-numbered Melvins poster from the wall in the little room I do door in. We took a screenshot of the security footage and did a public shaming of him online. I happened to run into him the next day on the street, where I called him a fucker, asked him where my poster was, and then opened up the back door of his car to grab it while he made excuses. He's a white dude with dreads, so fuck him.3b) I put the poster back up and it disappeared that same night. I asked the owners to check the footage the next day and they never did, so I assumed they just didn't care. A week later, I saw the poster hanging back up in the room. The middle of it was completely burned through and then entire thing was ruined. I was immediately bummed. Ten minutes later one of the owners comes through the door holding the real Melvins poster, then explains to me that he saw it on the ground that night and took it home. He went to CopyWorks, made a cheap black and white copy, stained it with coffee, colored it with colored pencils, and then burned out the middle. He and the other owner were watching the security footage to see my reaction and he ran down to the bar as soon as he saw I was about to kill myself. A total dick, but what a wonderful prank.4) I've been eating people's ice cream out of the freezer at work because I'm a rotten human.5) I started writing fake horoscopes under the name Dr. McCracken for a local entertainment magazine.5b) Here are three of them:Aries: You will argue for forty-five minutes with an IKEA representative about the best way to design a pit. Enjoy naps in lieu of the sun, which will eventually burn out anyways. Someone in your professional life will dream of lighting your shoes on fire. Life is debatable.
Taurus: A new love interest will appear and replace all of the light switch covers in your house with photocopies of your baby pictures. Do not be shaken by the unknown. Cry in your bathtub at every opportunity.
Gemini: More than ever before it is important to remember that the human body's age limitations are ultimately usurped by the fact that cancer is unavoidable in all life forms past the age of 150. You will drown your motivation with ice cream.6) My buddy Zach made me a custom leather guitar strap that has my name written in the scoops of an ice cream cone.7) I started watching this video series on YouTube where some Irish guys talk about old wrestling PPVs for like an hour and a half over-top the footage they're talking about. I'm halfway through the Wrestlemania I episode and yes, they make an interesting point with the placement of Lord Alfred. Very odd. And yes, my life is disappearing.8) I found out that I'm Jewish. My mother was explaining something about my grandmother being an old Jew, which made me realize--thanks to David Cross--that if her mother was a Jew, then that means she's a Jew. That means I'm a Jew. A loophole Jew, but still a Jew.8b) Nobody was surprised.
After what felt like a million years but was actually only like two months of minor complaining about not being published for two months, I got e-mails telling me that my story "Go Says No," about pinball and the doldrums, will be going up at BULL: Men's Fiction and my story "A Comprehensive List of the Least Worst Way To Do Everything," about a dead wrestler and his brother dealing with it, will be going up at Necessary Fiction, both in the near future.
Part of why I went so long--"so long," I guess, since it really wasn't a very long time--without getting anything accepted for publication was because I didn't have a lot floating around out there, and what I did have floating around was at the big-time journals that take at least three months to respond. Nothing was helped by the responses I actually was getting, which were all rejections, one of which addressed only to "Dear [name]." I am a human, I swear.
But anyways, those should be out soon, and I'm sure I won't shut the fuck up about them once they get here. "A Comprehensive List" is the first story (that I have written, maybe not the first story in the collection) in a pro wrestling based chapbook I'm working on called The Road Becomes What You Leave, a title I pinched from a Magnolia Electric Co. song lyric, one that was actually already pinched several years ago for a short documentary about the band. (Magnolia Electric Co. singer/guitarist Jason Molina recently died after a long battle with alcoholism, and though I've been planning on using the title for years and years and Molina probably wasn't a huge wrestling fan, I'm still very dedicated to the idea of using it.)
"Go Says No" isn't a part of any collection, at least not yet, and that's somewhat exciting, because it means that in a few years, if I can keep writing, I'll hopefully have a handful of stories to pull from to make a new collection. It'll be interesting to see what themes emerge from the group of stories. I plan out what I'm writing about, at least in terms of what I want to get across emotionally or thematically, as much as I can ahead of time, so the idea that a book that doesn't exist yet is going to come together from a bunch of stories that also don't exist yet kind of blows my mind.
How inexplicable shitty this Tom Keifer of Cinderella solo album is also kind of blows my mind. For some reason.
The Passenger Side Books website is finally up and running, and the first two titles are available as fuck. Justin Lawrence Daugherty's Whatever Don't Drown Will Always Rise and my Murmuration are$5 shipped each or $9 shipped as a bundle. People said nice things about each of them, like this from Amber Sparks about Justin's book:"Justin Lawrence Daugherty has not just a voice, but a hulking, goose-pimpling presence on the page - like something buried in the earth too long and about to burn its way out. He is an acute and devastatingly honest observer of the current human condition, and his characters limp and bayonet their way through Whatever Don’t Drown Will Always Rise like soldiers of some wounded new century."Or this from Mary Miller about my book:"The five stories in Ryan Werner's Murmuration, which are dedicated to the Midwest, bring me into the heart of a world where boys drive cars off cliffs and have least favorite strippers, where dreams must be revised into "necessary shapes" by playing guitar in the street at night. Ryan writes with authority, skill, and passion, not only about the Midwest, but about youth and what it means to be young."Get them both right here at the Passenger Side Books site.Also, Murmuration is on Goodreads.
And so is Whatever Don't Drown Will Always Rise.
AND ALL THIS SHIT IS ON TWITTER NOW.
Here's our logo. Isn't it rad? Order now and get a free sticker or two with this on it.
I had a couple things go online recently, despite my endless whining about not being published. The first one, my story "Back and to the Left" up at Jersey Devil Press, I totally forgot about because they're the ones who published my first book, where this story originally appeared. We worked out a loose arrangement and now it's here and I'm stoked. It's like finding twenty bucks in an old pair of pants. Anyways, this story is based on the song "Brain of J" by Pearl Jam, and it has to do with the idea that JFK didn't really die--until now--and wasn't really up to anything anyways. OR as I like to call it, REALITY, DUDE.Aside from his relations with Marilyn Monroe and being the most powerful man in the United States for a little bit, JFK wasn’t the luckiest guy around. He was accident prone, more than anything. Still, he kept his humor. He’d call me a few times a year and say something like, “I just slammed my hand in a car door. First I get shot in the head and now this.”The other thing I had go up is a review of Roy Kesey's Any Deadly Thing up at Heavy Feather Review. I didn't really like the book, but here's me being diplomatic.In these large, faraway places are usually two people experimenting with the space they’re forced to cohabitate. In the portion of their lives we’re presented with, the good stuff often seems ready to arrive despite the stories all beginning and ending in odd spots, the story going on, always.
If you liked Roy's book and you're upset that I didn't, keep in mind that this is just one of many pictures of CC DeVille I have saved to my computer.
I didn't talk much about what I'm working on because I'm not working on shit. I've been busy finalizing the PSB stuff and working and playing in four or five bands. And I hate reading more than one book at once, so I've been stuck on Ken Nash's The Brain Harvest, trying to read it at the slow points in my work day, which isn't exactly ideal or productive. However, I just finished the review for The Brain Harvest (and a review for The Stone Thrower by Adam Marek, which was wonderful), so I'm going to reread The Watch by Rick Bass and some new shit by Gary Lutz and I'm going to generally get back into the swing of writing again. Because I like writing. I think.
All right. Let's get incredible.
"If You Want Blood" by Mark Kozelek, because who the fuck knew there'd be so much pathos hidden right there in an AC/DC song?
It's been about a month. Here are some things that have happened since then.1) I watched Summerslam 2005 and didn't cry when the giant electronic American flag unfurled behind Hulk Hogan during his entrance. This is a semi-major life-improvement.2) I applied for a job stocking ice and beer at a casino. I didn't get it. Two weeks later they called me and asked if I want to work part-time checking coats.2b) I told them to fuck off.2c) What I actually did was just not call them back after they left a voicemail.3) I searched for "Iowa" and "Wisconsin" on PornHub. There were a bunch of videos for Iowa and all the chicks looked pretty hot. There were like seven videos for Wisconsin and all the chicks looked like they were made of stale biscuits.4) Several dumb old photos of me were uploaded to Facebook by other people, such as this one where I'm wearing an XL Pantera shirt and standing next to a cardboard cutout of Shaquille O'Neal and this one where I'm wearing a winged battle-suit I made out of Construx.5) I locked my keys in my car twice, once behind the coffee shop and once a week later in front of the coffee shop. The same guy from Master Key came to my assistance both time. The first time he was wearing a pink mesh shirt underneath a button-up tank top and when he went into his trunk to get the tools he needed to get into my car, he had to first take out two huge chainsaws and set them on the ground.
6) I got ordained. I'm going to marry so many drunk people at the bar.7) I met Mick Foley.
I MET MICK FOLEY, DUDE.
I had some stuff get published recently. It seems like I used to be stoked for weeks after something got published and now I've had three things go up this past month and I'm already back to feeling like I haven't done anything. Writing is better than meth, but only because it doesn't ruin your teeth.
----------In a rare showing, I was able to write and publish an essay. It's about Neko Case, and though everything I do is, on some level, about Neko Case, this is blatantly about Neko Case and how her album Middle Cyclone made me learn things about living in and around solitude, the extent to which I should love myself, and respecting fear as it arrives in all humans. It's up over at The Rumpus, and I'd love for you to read it.
"The year 2008 tumbled out of itself and took with it the things that consumed my days. Within a month I had lost my job to the upholding of liquor laws, my college education to an unavoidable graduation, and my girlfriend to youth and general apathy.I spent a lot of time in bed, not depressed, but reading depressing things—Seamus Heaney’s Selected Poems 1966-1987, William Matthews’s Search Party, Rick Bass’s In the Loyal Mountains—often out loud. I read Heaney in an impassioned Irish accent, Bass with a gruff-yet-kind tone of wonderment. I read Matthews sitting up, as if at a podium, addressing a faceless sum of the discontinued millions.There were certain lengths I was willing to go to in order to not be myself."
I also had a story called "Trace" that I've talked about here before on the subject of "revising old stuff I wrote and wondering if it's all just a big waste of my fucking time." This one turned out decent for being around so long and going through so many drafts. It's up over at 10,000 Tons of Black Ink, and it'd be really great of you to read it.
"My grandmother spent her last several thousand mornings highlighting the obituaries."
Lastly, the fourth story in my chapbook/cycle Murmuration is out there in the world now. I'm happy with how this one turned out and, like most of my stuff, it ties in with another story: The Honeybreakers are the band that had dissolved and reassembled in my story "Sometimes We Were Young." Here we find them merely dissolving, as seen through the eyes of our faithful narrator. Please read it over at Bartleby Snopes."Revising my dreams into the necessary shapes involved going out to the van every night and playing guitar in the street. I waited until after the show, after everyone had locked into the distractions that would take them through to morning. I would strap on whichever guitar I grabbed first and commence to shredding first against the van and then eventually to the center of the street. This was a small reassurance that my life would eventually resolve itself if attacked from compromising angles."
The chance of me or my buddy Josh actually learning German: 0%
I've spent so much time playing music that I haven't really had time to sit down and write anything. This isn't really a very good excuse. "Write every day" is kind of the only semi-infallible writing advice out there, and I'm totally blowing it. If this new country-rock project gets off the ground, I'll be in a total four bands in addition to working 40+ hours between two jobs. My options in life turned out to be "one band that does a lot" or "four bands that don't do much." Regardless, none of these bands are getting me laid, so it doesn't really matter.I'm also going on a micro-tour with the Oakland-based rock & roll band Victory and Associates as a hired gun to replace their real lead guitarist who can't make it because he has a real job, unlike us. My band Legal Fingers played with them back in October and we hit it off and I've been on their podcast not once, but twice, and now we're going to christen our union by piling into a van and making it smell bad for about a week. I've spent the last month learning how to play a dozen or so of their songs and in less than a week I've got to prove that I won't fuck it up. For those not in the know, this is what volume was invented for.
Well, and this.
But still, I haven't had time to write anything because when I'm not at a band practice I'm making a flier for a show or I'm being a fucking dickhead on Twitter or I'm watching The Family Feud at the coffee shop. Murmuration has been done for months now, which means I've been slacking on finishing the wrestling-themed chapbook. One story called "A Comprehensive List of the Least Worst Way To Do Everything" is done and making the rejection rounds, but "Waiting for Andre"--the story about a rich man with a bone disease who learns about and becomes obsessed with the anecdote of Samuel Beckett giving Andre the Giant rides to school--is stuck in revision hell. I've just finally got a decent grip on it after weeks of picking at it here and there, but it's still not close. The title story, "The Road Becomes What You Leave," exists only in the form of an aborted story from years ago. If I finish this book before the end of the year, I'd be surprised.And I'm working on a novella, but the truth is that I'm not working on it nearly as hard as I'm working on my tweets, which is fucked up.I hope I have something to show the next time I check in, but I'll probably just have more stories about how drunk girls in bars yell at me and then later on get my phone number and pretend to be Stoya. Mario Kolaric is doing the artwork for my chapbook and Matt Kish is doing the artwork for Justin Lawrence Daugherty's chapbook that I'm putting out through Passenger Side Books. So there's that. But still, I can't take credit for that. All I did was send some e-mails. I did that to Christina Hendricks and NOTHING.That's it for now. Be wonderful.RWFollow me on TwitterBecome a fan of my micro-press, Passenger Side Books, on Facebook
"No One Gives a Hoot About Faux-Ass Nonsense" by Don Caballero, from their second, aptly-titled, album, Dob Caballero 2.
It's been a month. Here's the loose ends of what happened:
1) I went through a long streak of not writing any fiction, making me go insane and start crying while watching Wrestlemania 21, specifically the part where Hulk Hogan comes out and flexes in front of a giant, electronic American flag.
2) I started trying to watch real films so I have something to offer in conversations aside from Nicolas Cage movies. I'm starting with the works of David Lynch. Blue Velvet
was good once it got into the story. Eraserhead
was up its own ass. I'm watching Wild At Heart
next, starring, oddly enough, Nicolas Cage. Life is a circle/highway.
3) I posted on the Facebook page for the German thrash metal band Kreator, asking if I could join their band. So far, no response.
4) I had the official book party for Shake Away These Constant Days
. It went well. In the words of my friend Bob, "It wasn't runnin' a train, but it wasn't a trainwreck."
5) I bought a package of pizza flavored hotdogs, which was the second grossest food-related decision I made all month, right behind eating a pancake that I found.
6) I went to the Goodwill and saw this bootleg Michael Jackson hat
, which I bought for $1.50, wore for a weekend, and then sent to Sarah Rose Etter
Seriously, it doesn't even say what kind of pizza.
I had the first installment in Love Dumb
, my all-too-thorough chronological journey through the complete song library of KISS, go up a bit ago. There was a slight hiccup in the posting schedule, but from now on, every Thursday there will be a new column. Check out the first one:“Strutter” makes considerably less sense than the song it started out as, a little Gene Simmons 60’s psych-rock ditty called “Stanley the Parrot.” This is significant, considering “Stanley the Parrot” had an oblique narrative about the influence of summer in making a man and a two-minute non-sequitur intro and odd bluegrass solos and it’s called fucking “Stanley the Parrot.”
I also had a review of Gregory Sherl's debut full-length collection, Heavy Petting
, go up at [PANK]. I was mixed on it, for sure, but the gist of it is that the good stuff was brilliant and the bad stuff was bullshit. There's plenty of both, but as far as first collections go--especially such long ones, it seems--Heavy Petting
is as intriguing as it gets.I say this not to slight his work or age—I liked his poems and he’s only two days younger than I am—but Gergory Sherl is a poet of youth, which is to say that his debut collection, Heavy Petting is saturated with a holy-fuck-I-hope-I’m-right sort of faith.
Lastly, I'm probably the only person to who's done an interview with UW-Platteville--the college I graduated from several years ago--and referenced Motorhead and girls who do cocaine if it's free.Q: Can you tell us about one or two high points of your life since you’ve graduated?
A: I didn't get married or have kids and it's awesome. I listen to Motörhead as loud as I want, whenever I want. If that sounds like something a fifteen year old kid would say, that's probably because it's all I've ever really wanted since I was fifteen.
Not that I wasn't a fucking dickhead back in college, too.
After I stopped crying and started writing fiction again, I turned out a short story without a title (I'm soft-positive on "Old Winners") that leans pretty heavily on Barry Hannah, specifically his story "Water Liars." He's got an old guy going to the docks to visit other old men who lie about shit in a jovial way. I've got a young guy who goes to an arcade to visit old men who tell him how to win in a competitive-yet-empty way. There are buried problems with women leaking out of everything in both. I'm hoping that using "Water Liars" as a jumping off point--Amy Hempel calls it "response writing"--won't be obvious. But, if I'm going to rip something off, I want to rip something off that rules.
I'm finding that I like style more than I like substance, which isn't to say that I like no substance, I just like style more. There's Van Halen and there's Elvis Costello. Neither one is without traces of what makes the other untouchable, but they are genius opposites.
I haven't submitted this story anywhere yet, but I'm back on the submission train, so I'll be sending it out shortly. I've got every eligible story in my chapbook, Murmuration, out at several places each right now, just sort of waiting on replies. Of the longer pieces I worked in as a second section for the Caketrain contest, only one, the aforementioned story about a millionaire and time zones and girlfriends and ex-girlfriends and a mute Italian girl called "Run the Daylight Down," isn't out anywhere yet. Once I get done watching The League DVDs a co-worker loaned me and insisted I watch, I'll send them out.
It is pretty fucking funny, though.
I started up the micro-press that I've been threatening my life with for the past year or so. This essentially just means that I ordered a printer and a long-arm stapler and have begun the long process of trying to figure out how to use a bootlegged copy of Adobe InDesign, but those are all big, necessary steps.
I'm planning on doing 20-40 page chapbooks of fiction and non-fiction. Magic Helicopter Press and Future Tense Books are both great examples of micro-presses putting out killer chapbooks. I've read their work and am learning from it, and I hope to put out a quality piece of work sometime early next year.
I've accepted the first manuscript to be released, but what little details I have aren't worth spilling right now. I will say that, in , and a human goddamn being.Passenger Side Books.
(Real website--or at least a blogspot--coming soon. Facebook will do for now.)
Validate me, internet.
"The Only Moment We Were Alone" by Explosions In the Sky
Seriously, though, if you talk about how there's been several Ultimate Warriors because the original one died, you're a fucking asshole.
My column proposal, Love Dumb: A Song-By-Song Analysis of the Nonsensical, Incompetent, Sophomoric, Confusing, Beautiful KISS Discography
, got accepted over at Used Furniture Review
. This, too, is fairly self-explanatory. I'll be analyzing two KISS songs every week for the next two years, at which point I will have dissected all of their songs and decided that I actually fucking hate them. I'm three songs in so far and aside from reinforcing the basics--Peter's not very good at drums, Paul's the weirdest straight gay dude ever--I've learned that I only like KISS when I don't have to think about them. If I'm just feeling the music, they're the best. The second I turn my brain on, they just turn into some mediocre Jews singing about their dicks.
In trying to come up with a name for the column, I called on my friends to help. My buddy Bob suggested, "Get a girlfriend."
Going back to pro wrestling, I'm considering proposing a column to Fear of a Ghost Planet
in which I take old wrestling PPVs and compare them based on the month and year in which they appeared. So, Hog Wild '96 (WCW) would go up against Summerslam '96 (WWF). Sure, it was the beginning of Hogan's first title run as a heel and it was the end of Vader's push in the WWF because Shawn Michaels was a real cunt back then, but what about he shows themselves? I'm curious as to which one is better to just put on and enjoy, free of nostalgia, (mostly) free of wrestling-nerd snobbery.
On the surface, these two columns appear to be way more niche than the stuff I normally write: short stories, book reviews, essays. Really, I think it's about the same. It's 2012 and I'm writing stuff that mostly appears on the internet, a place that already has millions of stuffs of all kinds and doesn't necessarily need any of mine.
In short, maybe I need a girlfriend.
"Look, I know I said 'redhead,' but I also said 'girlfriend.'"
I'm not sure why I've taken a sudden interest in writing a column, but I'm afraid it's because I'm running out of ideas. I'm not counting on my chapbook winning the Caketrain competition because they get a bunch of awesome submissions that are probably more geared toward their aesthetic, but they have to choose someone. (Every writer needs this attitude. No journal or zine or whatever exists without shit other people wrote. You could totally be other people. They have to choose someone.) So, on the extremely offhand chance that it wins the contest, I'm pretty much out of publishable material.
The more likely situation here is that it won't win, but I've already got some self-defeating bullshit for that, too. When it doesn't win, I'll shop the first half--the story cycle--around as a short, 20-page chapbook. That leaves the other three longform stories for another collection, which I would then set about finishing using a few older stories that need massive revision and a few newer ones that need to be written. Still, this is only maybe a year's worth of work. That's not a lot considering that I want to write for fucking ever.
So I'm a bit scared that I'm out of ideas. I haven't reached the point where I'm considering making some poor decisions just so I have some shit to write about, but I'm getting there. (A girlfriend? Come on. Desperate times . . .)
This is how I justified watching all of Party Down on YouTube last week. Just, you know, stirring creative juices or whatever.
"Fantasy is bullshit."
Shake Away These Constant Days
, my mostly-ignored debut short story collection, is now available for your e-reader. Get the Kindle version on Amazon
or, if you think Amazon is the devil, Smashwords
Also, in an attempt to maybe get some people to buy the book, I'm going completely backwards in terms of logic and giving away two copies. Head over to Goodreads and sign up for the Shake Away These Constant Days Giveaway
I'm selling a surprising number of books at the bar I work at. Drunk people love feeling smart. I did, however, have a better reaction to the ice cream I brought in and scooped for everyone. I knew my book couldn't compete against mint chocolate chip. Regardless, a busty girl named Floro took a picture of me scooping her an ice cream cone and texted it to her mother as a means of informing her of our inevitable marriage. We then discussed the finer points of the Aggro Crag from the Nickelodeon show Guts
Things are fine, everyone.
The song quoted in the title is "Northern California" by Police Teeth, but I couldn't find a video for it. Here's a picture of Bathory instead.
I bought a Jazzmaster and I shouldn't have. I don't know anything about jazz, but I know a lot about J Mascis. The way "Freak Scene"
sounds is enough reason for me to go back to saltine/peanut butter sandwiches for a couple more months.
I took some time to type up the non-story pages for Shake Away These Constant Days
. Got the legal/business junk and dedication (it's for my parents . . . and those about to rock) on one page in the beginning and then a page at the end for acknowledgments (yes, Shawn Michaels is thanked) and another page for the details on who suggested what song for each story. We were thinking about doing an essay explaining the Our Band Could Be Your Lit project, but I'm lazy. In the end, we decided to not pitch it as an OBCBYL book at all.
One of my dream publications finally came through. A few blogs ago I mentioned a story I wrote about a guy who just crashes cars with his buddies. It turned out to be about a little bit more than that--not much, though I do finally get a chance to use the phrase "marble dicks" in a piece of writing and get it published--and Smokelong Quarterly
picked it up. When it comes to flash fiction, no place is better. They've published Dan Chaon, Kevin Wilson, Thomas Cooper, WP Kinsella, Steve Almond, Sara Levine, and dozens of other awesome writers who I love. And now me.
One of the editors there was kind enough to not reject my story wholesale despite not liking the ending, and after sending in a couple new drafts, we came to an agreement. It was kind and I was grateful, because I've been rejected a lot by Smokelong, more than any other journal. "Jalapeno Summer" was the eighth story I've submitted to them. I guess this just proves the old saying right: If at first you don't succeed, use the phrase "marble dicks."
I totally had this scene from The Goonies in mind when I was writing that story.
My friend Dena
's manuscript is almost done on my end. One last piece to go, and while it's the longest one, it's still the last one. She sent me a bunch of e-mails asking me why I used a bunch of fancy words, to which I had t reply, "Because I want people to think I'm smart." I had to look up "ennui" the other day to figure out if someone was talking shit about me. Turns out they were just being accurate. Dena's going to get into the real nitty gritty of editing this week, so wish her luck. Or don't. She doesn't need you. She's a pioneer, motherfucker.
On my other friendly philanthropic endeavors, my first YA workshop ditched me this week. No clue why. One of them submitted work, even. I'm trying to think if I made a bad joke about not showing up the week prior. I'm trying to think of anything that isn't "They just think I'm a weird dickhead." The second group made it just fine, though. We read "Mexico" by Rick Bass and talked about it. I'm trying to find the one thing that they'll latch onto and make theirs. "How To Be a Writer" by Lorrie Moore is on the table in the next couple of weeks, which I think they'll respond well to.Monkeybicycle
posted something on Facebook today saying that they want some new columns and features on their website. I sent them an e-mail that included this paragraph:"I've been thinking lately about a column wherein I do an album-by-album review of an almost arbitrary band with lots of albums. Like .38 Special--also known as the dudes who sang "Hold On Loosely" and "Caught Up In You." Did you know that they have 12 studio albums and 3 live albums? Kansas have 14 studio albums and 6 live albums and one song from a Will Ferrell movie that came out 25 years after it really mattered. Chumbawamba have 20 albums. (Right Said Fred have 8, which, though fewer, is still impressive when considering that they're the band who did "I'm Too Sexy" and nobody has ever cared about them beyond the potential for using their song title to justify making a stupid joke when taking off their Marlboro jacket.) Tom Cochrane/Red Rider--that goddamn "Life Is a Highway" song that's so bad that even cover bands in small Midwestern towns won't even play it--has 13 albums. Figure it out.
I went on to explain this in detail, which, regardless of what you may already think about the idea, was most likely overkill. I also offered to review books if they agree to send me free ones. Then I offered to review anything. I'll consider any response that isn't "Please never e-mail us again" a victory.
It could always be worse.
I've got shit on YouTube to watch while I'm busy not writing. Stay handsome, America.
"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.
"Story Never Gets Old" by Death Ships, from their 2006 album Seeds of Devastation.
I've got ten months left to choke on my own vomit. Then I'll be 28 and rock & roll won't care if I'm alive or dead.
In the meantime, I don't know what to do with all my old stories. There's a window of opportunity in revising older material, a temporal self (or whatever) to remain faithful to. This, of course, makes no sense. I don't owe the me of five years ago anything except maybe the satisfaction of knowing that I became his possibilities.
Not that that really says much.
It's an issue of style more than ideas, really. My characters have always been Midwestern people. Desperate, self-contained, and home. Boredom and obsession and the river and the Jayhawks and the Replacements and long car rides to elsewhere. That much hasn't really changed. But in 2006 I wanted to be Nick Hornby. In 2007 I wanted to be Raymond Carver. In 2008 I wanted to be Rick Bass. In 2009 I wanted to be John Updike. In 2010 I wanted to be Rick Bass again, only this time with a bit of Barry Hannah thrown in. Then I got really into Amy Hempel and Lorrie Moore. Tom Franklin's been floating around in there for years. Richard Brautigan and Charles Bukowski really fucked me up. Reading Kerouac and Kundera at the same time I was taking philosophy classes in college was, in hindsight, a poor decision that had to be made. Dan Chaon made me rethink the 20-page story. Debra Monroe showed me the Midwestern people I know and love, on the page, at last. Kevin Wilson's short stories blew my mind at a time when I had thought I had seen it all in short stories--and this was only last year.
Just tonight I was forwarding an e-mail to someone and, in a tiny comment of mine above the e-mail, I used the phrase "cobble together." I never use that phrase, and upon closer inspection, I realized that it was used in the body of the e-mail I was forwarding. Shit like that scares me. I'm not a natural writer, I'm a natural colander.
What this means is that my style is a collage. I'm aware that this is hardly an original concept. I've read articles on the idea that, due to the embarrassment of riches we call current day information, that everyone's style is a collage. Your style is a combination of your Facebook page, the headlines of articles you don't read, the videos you watch on YouTube, the Etsy store you stumbled on accidentally, the New Yorker/People magazine you flipped through on your lunch break, and, lastly, the stuff you read for real.
I expect all of you to work this into the next thing you write.
My point is that I'm afraid I'm never going to write like myself. If I'm concerned about revising the old stories due to some inane and unjustified responsibility I feel toward the way I was whenever it was I wrote them, then doesn't it make sense to not revise them? There are good lines and good sections and good everything that's good about stories in my old stories, just not all at once. It's like that old saying about finding a girlfriend. HOT, SANE, INTELLIGENT: YOU MAY CHOOSE TWO.
So I'm considering cutting my loses. Publication is my end goal. It may not be yours (you fucking liar), but it's definitely mine. If I'm not doing this to get published, I'm just writing a really fucked up journal for people inside my head who don't even exist for anyone else. That's not even exciting for me, and I'm the guy with the ideas. If I stop taking the time to publish these old stories--we all know the process of write, revise, submit, get rejected, revise again because we've changed our minds about what the story is capable off despite it being "totally finished and fuck anyone who doesn't see the vision that I'm proud of" upon its last round of submissions, get rejected again, revise "for the final time" again, and then get rejected again--I will theoretically have time to work on new stories.
This idea of new things all the time is something really popular in the world of comedy right now. Ever since Louis CK decided he was going to do a new hour of comedy each year (he said he got it from Carlin, but Carlin was every two years) and then subsequently blew up when his popularity fell in line with his ability to realize his vision, every comedian worth their salt seems to be finding it necessary to do a new hour every year. When talking about his moment of realization
, Louie essentially wondered what would happen if he threw away all the shitty material he had been trying to make work for the past fifteen years and started digging deeper. It's like writing with no ideas: this is what you have when you make yourself have something despite having nothing.
Of course, Louie's a fucking genius and I'm not. Still, there's an allure to trimming the inventory, good or bad. It's a certain sort of bittersweet reverie to live completely in the now and immediate future, but in art, it's almost necessary to lean in that direction.
It's like my parents told my younger siblings: "I know your brother had a head start, but there's still plenty of time for you to disappoint us, too."
Then again, if this really is just a style thing, why don't I use the characters and ideas and just rewrite the fuckers? Everything old is new again. If I write differently now, fine. Just use the plots of the old stories as prompts. It's not like there's nothing there to work with . . .
* Guy with a deaf/mute Italian ex-girlfriend goes on cross country plane trip on Daylight Savings Account day and considers his relationship as his rich uncle breaks up with his three different girlfriends in three different time zones in an attempt to cause universal time/space confusion and "tie the rope of time" into a knot to redeem himself.
* An old man kills himself and leaves a note requesting that his landlord decapitate him and bury the head 19 hours away in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to which the landlord agrees in an attempt to find something in his life worth caring about since he no longer has feelings for his young girlfriend, job, or life in general.
* On a random road trip to St. Louis, three men and one woman in their early twenties stop at a gas station and pick up the woman working there after she claims she's going to kill herself at the end of her shift, which is never found out to be true or false due to the fact that she drives the group into Tennessee and subsequently disappears later on in the night after all but one person, the guy who invited her in the first place, has gone to sleep at a bar that has agreed to let them stay the night.
It goes on like this. I'm not a genius like Louie or Carlin, but there's some direction in these little summaries. Am I just lazy? Do I feel that this is indeed not writing a new story, but writing the same story again? Doing the work twice? Double handling? A waste of my time? I think so, which is why I'm leaning toward tossing them all in the first place. But I know better than to be lazy. Reading back over those capsule synopses of the above stories, I think, "Yeah, I'd totally fucking love to read that story." That means I should write that story. Rewriting is writing. Revising is writing. Separating the two from each other or writing itself is how people trap themselves like I have. If it has to be again, it has to be again, even if it means taking away my satisfaction in retrograde.
Kind of like Metallica did.
I was writing this blog to try to figure out what I was going to do with the old stories, and I was hoping to have come to a conclusion by now. Unfortunately, I've pretty much just managed to justify ripping people off, hated myself in reverse, and done no actual fiction writing. I've got to learn that revising after several years with a different mindset isn't a betrayal of my vision.
If there's a moral to this thing, it's this: just fucking write something. Even if you have to write it again.
(And eat some ice cream. You earned it if you made it through that rambling.)
"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.
Alejandro Escovedo and David Pulkingham performing "Broken Bottle" live at Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA 4/6/10
I've been meaning to sit down and work out some new stories for the book, but I'm having a hard time making a selection. That's why I had other people pick the songs in the first damn place. It's too easy for me fall into navel-gazing fuckheadery if I pick the song, because I'm only going to pick a song I like, and if I like it that means there's something that draws me to it. Pretty soon I've got a story where two sad people in the Midwest sit in a diner and look at each other and there's a bad metaphor in there somewhere because the food is cold/the check falls from the table/it's snowing.
I'm also sneaking in revisions and new ideas between listing my entire CD collection on Amazon. That's 1400+ discs, and I'm getting rid of almost everything. (Neko Case, Thin Lizzy, and Black Sabbath get to stay, along with bands I've played with, local bands, and small indie bands that nobody really gives a fuck about but I've seen them in my hometown.) I'm averaging about $4.50 a disc after Amazon's special fistfuck fees and shipping, which is more than I'd make if I sold it all as a lot to one greasy dude, minus the sanity and time I'm losing from having to bubble/paper wrap every single CD because I'm too cheap to buy bubble-mailers. Selling Bob Mould's Black Sheets of Rain last night kind of took a bit out of me. There are some things I won't miss, though.
This Kip Winger solo album that for some unearthly reason sells for $12 in "good" condition, for example.
This money will go toward a car, which relates to writing because I hope to do some touring once the book comes out. My 2000 Saturn with 173,000 miles just isn't going to cut it anymore. I've lost some exterior parts that have definitely made it a bit more aerodynamic, but I've also lost some internal parts that don't let the car shift into fourth gear. A couple weeks ago an old friend asked me if I still have the same car and the only honest answer I could give was, "Most of it." So I'm looking at a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant with 71,000 miles. The woman at the bank asked me if it was a sports car, because Mitsubishi makes her think "exotic." It makes me think "someone in their late-20s whose mother still does their laundry and of course nobody will love them--and they're not capable of full-on, trusting love anyways--so they don't need something you can put a car seat into or even have another person ride in, which is fine because then everyone will be able to see the embroidered KISS (Love Gun era) car seat cover on the passenger seat."
But yeah, I've been having trouble trying to find a song. That Alejandro Escovedo song up top is what I'm leaning toward for the next one, but I can't think of anything for it. I also considered songs by Scud Mountain Boys and The Reigning Sound, but, again, no ideas. Aside from a review of J.A. Tyler's new novel Variations of a Brother War
that I'm hoping [PANK]
will pick up, I haven't sat down and written an entire story/essay/poem in almost a month. I told myself I was going to take the month of April off--I wrote a book review and three full-length short stories in March--but then the book deal came in and I started to sell the CDs and I needed to finish up writing some songs for both bands I'm in, one of which will be recording an LP and an EP at the end of this month. I think I've had my month off by now, though, so it's time to get back to doing what I do least worst.
And then when I'm done watching pro wrestling videos from 1998 on YouTube, I'll start writing.
Also, I read this killer story by Justin Lawrence Daugherty over at SmokeLong called "Blood."
The beginning sucked me, and I couldn't believe it got even weirder and better. My father has a bullet lodged in his ass cheek. I was reminded of this as he leaned down to talk to Cerberus, our mutt, running his thick, car engine grease-covered, scarred hand through Cerb's russet-brown hair. It's all the blacks, he said after he'd been shot. It was a ricochet from a drive-by or something. He was training Cerb to dogfight. To tear other dogs apart. To rip their throats out. We had a stuffed dummy for practice. Cerb got loose and went after the dummy as if he wanted to eat it, like he had not eaten in weeks. Fluff torn from the open seams. "Why are we training Cerb to fight?" I asked. "Because he needs to rediscover his nature." "What's his nature?" Cerb ripped open the dummy's head. "This," dad said, pointing. I didn't get it. I'd seen Cerb eat his own shit once. "Like the wolf. Or, like, whatever came before the wolf, even."
If that sounds awesome to you, go read the rest.
Thrash on, killers.
I'm not as cool as Davy Vain, but I'm pretty cool. And pretty vain: I feel like a bit of a dickhead for making a website about me and my writing. I'd much rather run a website about wrestling botches
. (Don't click that redheads link if you're at work or under 18.) (Don't click that Botchamania link unless you really like watching pro wrestlers make painful, hilarious mistakes.)
But here it all is anyways. You've been on the world wide web before, so I'll spare you the bit about what each of those links at the top do. If you haven't been on the world wide web before and this is the absolute first page you've ever visited, let me just say, "Hey." Also, good luck, you're either 80+ or a toddler and either way shit's fucked up and it's not getting easier.
The main reason I made this is because I've got a book coming out on Jersey Devil Press
this fall, and I figured it's about time I start promoting myself and having an "online presence" as they say in "the biz," which is short for "business," which is short for "nobody says biz, asshole." Also, it's nice to have links to all of my publications in one place, as my parents can now ignore them all--again--in one felled swoop.
Just kidding. My parents love me. But they don't really read my stuff. I told them to "butt out of my life, JEEZ" when I was 14 and they listened way too well. You can come back now, Scott and Diane. I'm ready to hang.
I feel better already. Right. Right?