Steve Earle and the Dukes performing "Fearless Heart" live on Austin City Limits.
With the exception of the working class itself, almost everything with a "working class" tag bites shit. Steve Earle does simple right.
I've kept somewhat busy since I last posted, meaning that I haven't kept very busy, meaning that I still mostly hate myself.
I had a story go up at Juked called "Western v. Eastern," probably the last story from the Our Band Could Be Your Lit stuff worth publishing. (Except my story based on "A Little Longing Goes Away" by The Books
, though I'm the only one who likes that story it seems.) "Western v. Eastern" is based on the song "The Running Kind" by Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers
. I told her about it and she never got back to me. Still, she's a nice girl with wonderful songs, and I was kind of a weird idiot the both times I met her, talking about Queensryche the first time and complaining about Jackson Browne the second time. So that's understandable. The story itself is pieced together from various bits including professional wrestling, bailiff work, Motley Crue, dissolving relationships, a fear of death, smoking weed, artificial appendages, and Bullitt
starring Steve McQueen. Check it out."Semi-important things about tort claims and a federal district court’s level of jurisdiction and some other stuff are being decided through the case of Jane Eastern and Anthony Western. The gist of it is that they were married and now they’re not and soon enough one person will take none of the blame and all of the money even though there’s enough of both to go around." - from "Eastern v. Western"
I also had a story go up at SmokeLong Quarterly, my favorite lit journal. There was a bit of plea bargaining done on the ending, but I'm satisfied with that we came up with. (I will, however, be changing it when the story goes into the chapbook.) "Jalapeno Summer" is the story, the big opening gambit in my Midwestern story cycle called Murmuration
, and the story that finally got me into SLQ after nearly a dozen rejections throughout the years. SLQ staff member Josh Denslow interviewed me about the story and I didn't sound too incredibly stupid, so you should check that out
. As for the story, it's one of my favorites of mine, the exact blending of all the things I want a Midwestern story to be: humor and sadness, action from boredom despite no solution."The summer I turned eighteen, we drove a car off a cliff every Sunday. Gas was still a buck a gallon and all of us were moving away in August to places where polka music wasn't a dogma." - from "Jalapeno Summer"
In the process of trying new things, I've got another book review up at [PANK], this time for Sara Levine's brilliant short story collection Short Dark Oracles
. Anything I say about it now will just ruin it. The short of it: buy this goddamn book."[Short Dark Oracles] is a champion in the blowout of my soul, a reaffirmation of life through creativity and craft. At the intersection of those two qualities is a triumph of artistic merit, a testament to narrative labor and a reminder for me to pay attention, always, for somewhere in the world there is magic at work."
Okay, I'm done plugging shit. Until this other story I wrote goes up this week.
I'm not the worst salesman ever.
Oh yeah, I also had a book come out. I talked about it a lot, so I'm going to stop now. That's what happens, I think, when you work on something. You talk about it until it happens, and then it's other people's responsibility. I've only gotten one review so far, from Joey Pizzolato over at Curbside Splendor
: "These stories are subtle and delicate; it never feels as if Werner is shoving meaning down the reader’s throat. In fact, it’s the opposite. Readers are forced to interact with each story, and are allowed—with a modest grace—to use their own feelings about the historical moments and figures included in these stories to decide what is important.""Each story is short and powerful, complete with terse and refined prose that are quick like a boxer’s jab.""Coupled with the freshness and honesty by which he writes,
Shake Away These Constant Days is an impressive debut from a young and exciting voice."The not-so-great
: "these stories are almost too short; and, coupled with the quantity of stories included, it’s easy for them to melt together, especially if you find yourself reading from cover to cover."
He's right on the money about the not-so-great stuff. I like to think of SATCD as a mixtape I made for someone. I love all the songs on it, but that person won't love all the songs. They'll love a handful of the songs. It's just too much to take in at once, and some stuff will understandably get lost due to simple saturation.
Not this kind, unfortunately.
I swallowed a tiny portion of my irrational fears and submitted to the Caketrain Chapbook Competition. I realized my original chapbook, the aforementioned Murmuration, was about 5000 words short of the minimum length. So I added a second section of short stories, ones with more Midwestern themes. Here's what I ended up with.
Part I: Murmuration (A Midwest Story Cycle)
Jalapeno Summer (869 words)
Reruns (844 words)
Cool Tits, Moxie (1030 words)
Pyramid Scheme (1382 words)
Murmuration (2305 words)
Part II: Heroics
Shoot Out the Bright Lights (5588 words)
Run the Daylight Down (3796 words)
Two Halves of a Tornado (3635 words)
This means very little to most of you, as I realize only a handful of people have read these stories, but there are things to pick up on within a table of contents. I think it'll hold up. I don't really think it'll win the contest--the genius Sarah Rose Etter won it last year, and I'm nowhere near her level--but it's something I'm happy with. When I get the rejection, I'm going to send Part I to Magic Helicopter Press. When I get their rejection, I'll probably just self-publish. So, no matter what, look for Murmuration in early 2013.
I played a lot of rock and roll in the past couple weeks. I look forward to playing more. Let's rock, people.
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.
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.