The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) is OUT TODAY!

TSS

How many years has it been since we started this project? I think at least five, my section, Golden Geese, written at the Writers in the Heartland writing residency that I was awarded back in 2011. The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) is a dark journey—four novellas written by four authors (myself, Nik Korpon, Caleb Ross and Axel Taiari) across for seasons in four different parts of The City. Think Sin City meets Memento. It was an honor to work on this with Nik, Caleb, and Axel—three very talented authors.

Here is what This is Horror had to say about it:

The Soul Standard is unlike anything else you’re likely to read this year, or this decade. Think Sin City meets Blade Runner meets David Lynch and you’ll begin to have an inkling of what’s in store for you, but only a very small one. These four brilliant authors have brought their collective genius together to paint this unflinchingly violent, oppressively bleak city with the adroitness of world class painters, drawing vivid images on your imagination in varying shades of gray and frequent splashes of red. Dzanc Books has a reputation for only publishing the very highest quality fiction and The Soul Standard does nothing to tarnish that rep.”

So if you enjoy my writing, and that of my esteemed peers (Nik is blowing up, with several books out, a new contract with Angry Robot books just announced and Axel Taiari one of the authors in the anthology I edited, Exigencies) then pick this up today.

Here’s the official description:

Across four different districts of a city that has torn itself to shreds, four different interweaving tales (each written by a different author) play out. In “Four Corners,” a morally dubious banker must keep his employer happy at any cost. The next story, “Punhos Sagrados,” concerns a boxer who finds himself torn between honor and the woman he loves. “Golden Geese” follows a hardened criminal with a terrifying condition who must come to terms with the life he’s led. Finally, “Jamais Vu” provides a stunning denouement as a man searches endlessly for his missing daughter, a task which is complicated by a peculiar condition: his inability to recognize faces. Told in rugged, bare-knuckled prose, The Soul Standard is a nonstop thrill-ride down the darkened avenues and through the shadowed alleys of a nightmare town.

Thanks for your continued support!

The Next Big Thing!

Today I am taking part in the networked blog interview, The Next Big Thing. I was nominated last week by Joe Mynhardt, a gifted editor at Crystal Lake Publishing. A preview of the novel that my agent (Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary Agency) and I are shopping, Disintegration, can be read below:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Disintegration

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

After writing my first book, Transubstantiate, I wanted to write something that was not nearly as complicated. So a first-person, linear story was what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to tap into some of my personal fears and the worst possible situation that I could imagine was losing my family, seeing them die in front of me. That was the inception for this story. It’s basically Dexter meets Falling Down.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I call it a neo-noir, transgressive thriller.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ve always been drawn to Viggo Mortenson as an actor, he’s intense. I’m also a big fan of Christian Bale, he’d be perfect, I think. This is for the unnamed protagonist, the man who falls apart.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a man sees his family die in a horrible car accident he quickly falls apart, disintegrates, into a life of vengeful crime and dark deeds.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent is shopping it now. I think it’s only a matter of time.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I wrote the first half over six months in my first semester at Murray State University, under Lynn Pruett, as part of my MFA. I later wrote the second half in one week on a massive purge between freelance art direction gigs the following year.

8)8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well, obviously the Darkly Dreaming Dexter series, as well as work by Dennis Lehane, Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay. Maybe American Psycho.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The original push came from Christopher Dwyer, who wanted to see something neo-noir but simplified. And I wanted to honor my family, if that’s possible, by “killing them off” in this book.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a tragedy, for sure. There is a lot of misery in this book, but there’s also love, hope, sex, drugs, violence, redemption, and vengeance. I think it works on several levels—as a fun, fast read, as a layered, dense, immersive cautionary tale, and also as a literary work filled with metaphor and imagery. Hopefully you won’t see the ending coming. I didn’t.

FOR A ROUGH DRAFT OF THE FIRST CHAPTER GO HERE!

Up NOW, December 5th, is Nik Korpon, Caleb J. Ross, Simon West-Bulford, David James Keaton, and Monica Drake.

Bar Scars by Nik Korpon

When I think back to when and where my writing career really started, about five years ago, one of the first names that pops into my head is Nik Korpon. He was there when I discovered what neo-noir was all about, and he’s been a brother-in-arms ever since. With the release of Bar Scars (Snubnose Press) he puts together a compelling collection of neo-noir fiction that is always entertaining, thought provoking, and unexpected. Since we both have collections coming out with Snubnose this month, I’m going to talk about Bar Scars, and he’s going to talk about my collection, Herniated Roots, over at his blog. So check out both posts, it’ll definitely be worth your time.

“This Will All End Well”
SYNOPSIS: A man walks in on his girl with another guy. Or does he?
COMMENTS: With a title like “This Will All End Well,” you know it can only be the opposite. What Nik does so well here is set you up, again and again. First, it’s the cheating wife, the politician tossing money on the floor, begging for forgiveness, caught in the act. Then, it’s the fact that she hasn’t been cheating at all, this is all a set up, they’re in on this caper together. But there’s more here. And that’s what I love about Nik’s work, it just goes deeper. Adding in his usual lyrical voice and ability to turn a phrase, set the stage, and you have a great opening story to his collection.

“A Sparrow With White Scars”
SYNOPSIS: A man in a bar has an ongoing relationship with a young girl.
COMMENTS: Tension is another thing that Nik does really well. I was nervous throughout this whole story. An underage girl, a man who is spending time with her when he shouldn’t, love that knows no rules. The violence fans out in every direction, and in the end, it’s a brutal story, one that cause you to shift loyalties several times.
QUOTE: “Darla straddled a stool, listening to a man in a white polyester suit tell a joke. He looked like a Messiah Elvis. Her pockets peeked below the frayed edge of her jean shorts, a bikini strap caressing her neck underneath a tank top the color of a fresh bruise. She threw her head back when she laughed, tender breasts rocking, slender throat pale and exposed and I could taste the salt on her neck, smell the hot sweat on her thighs. When the troll turned to order drinks for them, she glanced over to me, licked her teeth and winked. My stomach filled with moths and metal shards.”

“Intersections”
SYNOPSIS: A man prepares to propose to his girl, but an accident ruins everything.
COMMENTS: Of course the title gives you the first clue, “Intersections.” This story moves along at nice clip—we see the seedy underbelly of Baltimore, a guy trying to get out from under a rock, no more working for Mr. Harry. And in one evening things take a dark turn. I thought I knew where this one was going, too, and the tension, that beautiful moment when you get a shock through your system, muttering to yourself, “No, no…it can’t be.” And then you think, he’s going to get away with it, it’s okay, you realize there is a tape, and there is proof now, and everything spins out of control. Nik is very adept at creating these situations, things get bad, and then they get worse, and then there’s no way out.

“That Pale Light in the West”
SYNOPSIS: A confrontation in a bar does not go well.
COMMENTS: In a very short period of time, two pages here, we get the whole story. It doesn’t feel like a set-up from the beginning, but at some point you know it’s going to go wrong. The last line is heavy. It’s nice to know that psychopaths have rules.

“Alex and the Music Box”
SYNOPSIS: A man sneaks into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment to get something turns out bad.
COMMENTS: The tension of not only sneaking back into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment but then her coming home with a guy? Man, that’s tough. Poetic at times this story, like much of Nik’s work, has layers, and we keep getting into it deeper and deeper until there’s no way out. I like that he leaves it open, the ending. We’re left with that anxiety of what to do.
QUOTE: “I lay listening to breath drift from my mouth for minutes or hours. Rub my palms over my cheeks. I blow on her hand, and when she doesn’t move, I slide around it and stand. Naked, sweaty and flushed, she’s sprawled over her bed like a gunshot victim. Red phantom fingers wrap around her neck. I want to lay my hands on them, pretend they’re mine again. No smell of latex and I hope she doesn’t regret this tomorrow. I kneel beside her, penitent.”

“She Sleeps Beneath Clouds of Embers”
SYNOPSIS: Foggy memories and a strange hotel room lead to some very strange moments.
COMMENTS: “This is one of Nik’s more atmospheric pieces, and really, doesn’t a foggy memory, bruises and a dildo always lead to trouble? There is a sadness that permeates this story, the last line echoing desperation and loss. And somehow in the midst of this Baer inspired madness he made me laugh twice.”

“Haymaker”
SYNOPSIS: A fighter runs into a bit of bad luck.
COMMENTS: “This one kind of breaks my heart. I hate it when the good guy gets screwed over by a crooked cop, some palooka trying to work his way out of the gutter with his fists, or some straight blue collar job, but the man keeps pushing him down. The ending just makes me sad.”

“His Footsteps are Made of Soot”
SYNOPSIS: When his mother’s memories and bruised love can’t be ignored any longer, our protagonist opts for a risky surgery.
COMMENTS: “This might be the best story in the collection. It’s the back and forth between the basement surgeries he assists and the broken body and mind (and heart) of his mother that really pulls you in. The final scene, and the final words (or lack thereof) are so powerful, they just echo out into the silence. Classic Korpon.”
EXCERPT #1: “Sometimes things happen in home surgery, and it’s easier to be objective when the body doesn’t have a name, an address, a way
they take their coffee. Everything’s easier when history is malleable.”
EXCERPT #2: “I just nod and lay down, close my eyes. A muted rainbow of dots float across the flesh inside my eyelids. I focus, try to rearrange them into a halftone print of a family portrait with only two people. Inhale. The smell of damp smoke floods my nostrils, and Marcel gave up cigarettes years ago when his wife died of cancer. Exhale. The sound of game-show audiences drowns out scratchy country guitars. Inhale. A fist of cheap cologne, vodka and the burnt baby laxative used to cut dope crushes my nose. Exhale. A whiff of ash, of baby powder, of Mom’s shampoo from when I was younger that always reminded me of cut grass. Inhale. Nitrous oxide and Marcel’s liquid voice telling me to count to ten. Somewhere beyond my ears, past bloody eyelids and clenched fists and bruised legs and pipe-burnt chests, Hank Williams drags his voice over broken glass in the darkness.”

“Glass Bubbles”
SYNOPSIS: Hanging out in a local bar you can only get yourself in trouble.
COMMENTS: “This story touches on those lost moments, things you can’t get back, better days. I love the way he doesn’t tell this story in chronological order, it makes it much more powerful.”

This is a great collection of Nik’s work. Chuck Palahniuk said something like “Teach me something, make me laugh, and then break my heart.” And that’s what Nik does. Whether it’s educating me about Baltimore or basement surgeries, boxing or drug dealing, his stories always resonate with authority. He also has a way of turning a phrase, juxtaposing words in a way that is totally unique, his own language. And he also creates plots that aren’t what you expect, layers and turns that keep you guessing. He’s one of my favorite neo-noir authors going, and if you haven’t read his work before, this is a great place to start.

Also, keep an eye out for a future project we’re doing together entitled Four Corners, a series of four novellas that Nik and I, along with Caleb J. Ross and Axel Taiari have written and are currently shopping. It’s some of his best work to date, I think. You can find more of his work on Amazon, of course. I suggest Stay God as well as By the Nails of the Warpriest.

READ HIS COMMENTS ON MY COLLECTION, HERNIATED ROOTS, HERE.

Dueling Columns 3 – MFA Programs: Yes or No, with Caleb J. Ross

TODAY AS PART OF THE EPIC CALEB J. ROSS STRANGER WILL TOUR, CALEB AND I WILL DEBATE MFA PROGRAMS. HE WILL TAKE THE CON AND I WILL TAKE THE PRO. ENJOY. OH, AND PICK UP HIS BOOK, HE’S SO TALENTED. I’M HONORED TO BE ON THE SAME LABEL AS CALEB.

Dueling Columns – To MFA or not to MFA

This is a guest post by CalebJRoss (also known as Caleb Ross, to people who hate Js) as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contacthim. To be a groupie and follow this tour,subscribe to the CalebJRossblogRSSfeed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb

AGAINST MFA PROGRAMS – Caleb

In the third installment of Richard Thomas’s Dueling Columns series, he and I stake our positions on the idea of an MFA. At this point in my life, I land in the “not to MFA” group.

First, a bit of context. Richard has an undergrad degree in Advertising and Communications with a minor in Psychology. He is currently pursuing an MFA. I have an undergrad degree in English Lit with a minor in creative writing. I am not currently pursuing an MFA. Why is this important? To show that I am coming at this question of education with a different educational history than Richard. Furthermore, as far as I am aware, Richard’s goal is to teach creative writing at a college level. An MFA is a requirement to do so. I do not want to teach. So I must argue this as though he and I are both looking at the MFA as a way to develop one’s creative writing abilities, not as a way to ensure a career in academia. If you want to be a professor, you can stop reading now; there really is no pro vs con debate.

So, with all of those qualifiers out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the duel.

Cost analysis

At its core, an MFA program is an extension of the traditional 4-year undergrad program, and in being so carries financial and structure burdens similar to that of an undergrad program. What we are looking at then is cost. Basically, the cost of an MFA includes two things: connections and time. You’ll meet many famous writers and you’ll be forced to write. Both of these things are necessary for a serious writer. But, neither of these things is the sole intellectual property of the MFA program. For any serious writer, MFA or no, connections and productivity are things that will come as a result of dedication. Using my experience as an example (a sample size of one, I know, dangerous), within the first two years of post-undergrad life (2005-2007), I completed three novel-length manuscripts (two of which are to be published in 2011), became an editor at Outsider Writers Collective (where I’ve interacted with some of the best independent writers around), contributed book reviews to a variety of online zines, participated in Write Club (which surpassed my undergrad workshops in many ways, but not all ways), and met Richard Thomas (which ultimately led to my book being published by Otherworld Publications). Roxanne Gay, in ablogpostatHTMLGiant about this very topic of MFA, sums up my opinion nicely: “I do believe one should never pay for graduate school but that a graduate education is awesome.”

I feel any higher education in the liberal arts should focus as much on the how tos as the whys. From what I know of MFAs, there is a large why focus, specifically in regards to pedagogy, which is great. A good writer can write. A great writer can think. But again, if you have the passion to be a great writer, you’ll seek out the whys on your own. Does this mean an MFA is essentially a writing desk with a $30,000 gun to your head? Yeah.

Craft analysis

I don’t believe that the MFA program offers anything in terms of learning how to tell a story that an adequate undergrad program can’t offer. Continuing with my personal experience as an example, it may be that my undergrad experience was so great that I gained what I would consider the equivalent of an MFA (in terms of education, not in terms of papered credentials). My professor, Amy Sage Webb, continues to be one of my strongest supporters, and without her I may very well have moved right into an MFA program after undergrad. Though ironically enough Amy pushed me almost daily to pursue graduate school; perhaps in a strange Socratic way. What I learned as an undergrad, when weighing the pros/cons of grad school, is what Lincoln Michel, Master of Fine Arts and co-editor of Gigantic Magazine says in his reaction piece to ElifBatumansantiMFAreviewbookreview: “Studyingandcritiquinganartformisntthesameaspracticingit.” MFA programs train students to study and critique writing. The craft itself can be learned elsewhere. Sure, there’s a thesis/novel to be written during a two-year program, but any writer worth his own cramped knuckles will produce a manuscript in two years.

I have to end by admitting that this opinion isn’t one I intend to keep, unchanged, for the rest of my life. I may want to teach one day. In fact, I’d be surprised if I didn’t attempt to teach someday. At that time, I’ll be in line for my MFA. But professorial aspirations aside, MFA’s just aren’t worth the time and financial investment.

Takeaways:

  • An MFA may guide a student more directly than self-navigation through the vast land of education, but at a great financial cost
  • An MFA is necessary for teaching at a college. I think this is the case all around, but correct me if I am wrong.
  • Given the right undergrad program, one can learn just as much in terms of how tos and whys without pursuing an MFA.
  • If you want to be a great writer you will be a great writer; no MFA necessary
  • The internet makes it almost impossible not to network with established writers; no MFA program necessary.

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FOR MFA PROGRAMS – Richard

As Caleb mentioned in his column, if you want to teach at the university level, then you must get an MFA. And at many fine universities, you may need a PhD these days as well. In addition to that, most schools want you to have at least one published novel or short story collection (the bigger and better the press, the greater the recognition) as well as many stories published in the best journals and magazines in the country, and some teaching experience as well. But we’re not talking about that today, we’re talking about everything else that comes with your MFA experience and why you should spend the time, money, and effort to get an MFA. Here’s what I think about it all.

Forced Reading and Analysis

I know it seems like a horrible thing to say, but if you have deadlines, and if you’re spending money on something, you will most likely pay attention and work hard at it. If you have to turn in a short story, an annotation (based on a novel or collection that you had to read first, of course) by the end of each month, you are going to do it. I certainly do write stories on my own, and without deadlines, but I can honestly say that having a word count, a book (or two) to read each month, it kept me producing. My low-res MFA program down at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky (where I’m just finishing up my studies) really pushed me—to write, to read and to analyze. I doubt I would have done this on my own. Maybe I would have, but the forced requirements left me no room to play around. And since I did pay for my MFA, no grants, scholarships or other aid, I took it seriously.

Working Outside of Your Comfort Zone

I can honestly say that there are many authors that I definitely would not have read if it wasn’t for my MFA program. While we did have the ability to pick our books to read over the course of each semester (7-11 titles), some of what my professors asked me to read were not up for discussion: the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, The New Yorker, and the Best American Short Stories anthology series. I read a wide range of authors that really helped me to see what the literary landscape is like today, as well as in the past hundred years or so. For our fiction genre lectures as well, we read Poe, Murakami, McCarthy, and many other authors that I either didn’t know very well, had read some of their work, or were totally new to me. Since my undergraduate studies at Bradley University were in Advertising/Communication, I was lacking in my literary studies. Between the work I found on my own (Holly Goddard Jones, Mary Gaitskill, Flannery O’Connor, Ron Rash), the work that was assigned, and the authors that I already loved, and decided to re-read or dig into deeper, the scope of my reading and analysis was much wider than I would have assigned to myself on the outside, in the real world. That’s something to consider.

Mentors, Professors and Peers

I studied under Lynn Pruett my first semester and she really helped me to hone in on the authors I already enjoyed and to write the first half of my second neo-noir novel (Disintegration) which I’m shopping now. But it was studying under Dale Ray Phillips (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) that I really pushed myself. Or maybe I should say—was pushed. DRP got me away from the crutches and tricks that I used in my genre writing, where I often leaned heavily on sex and violence and the occasional twist ending, exploring fantasy, horror, crime, neo-noir, you name it. He wanted straight literary stories where nobody died at the end. What was his big line to me? Leave the slow reveal to the strippers. It was hard—really hard. I had to focus on the story, and the classic structure of a story, find my narrative hook, explore the conflicts in the lives of my characters, and bring it to a satisfying end. Above and beyond these two professors, I talked to many talented authors, teachers, and guest authors, who really enlightened me on so many subjects, as well as a gifted group of fellow fiction writers, poets, and essayists.

Guest Authors

I was talking to some author friends at a recent residency I was awarded (Writers in the Heartland) and I mentioned to the poet that I was constantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the guest poets at MSU. The same goes for a lot of the non-fiction authors. I was always surprised at how talented all of the guests were, from fiction writer Richard Bausch making me cry with his emotional truths, and essayist Heather Sellers making me laugh with her stories of facial blindness, to poets Linda Bierds and Alice Friman showing me the power of poetry, and journalist Nick Reding exploring the haunting world of crystal meth and addiction. The readings blew me away and the craft lectures were always enlightening and educational.

Conclusion

Do you need an MFA to write? No, you do not. You are certainly, if you are driven enough, capable of reading extensively, publishing widely, and studying on your own. But if you want to work with published authors in an environment with your peers, and get that extra push you may need to read, write and publish, then an MFA is a great place to study and create. I really enjoyed my time at MSU, and this program is still a relatively unknown and emerging program. If you can get into a top program, and get some financial aid, and especially if you are still unencumbered by a wife or husband and a household full of children, then I can’t think of a better way to massage your voice and grow as an author.

 

Thanks, Caleb for being a guest today. Pick up ^ this book today, people.

Pablo D’Stair’s VHS

Pablo D’Stair is one of the hardest working men in the literary world today. Besides being a prolific author, he is also the man behind the now defunct Brown Paper Publishing. I’ll always have a soft spot for Pablo if for nothing else, because he originally published one of the best micro-fiction collections I’ve ever read, Cienfuegos, by Chris Deal. But Pablo always has SOMETHING going on. Right now, it’s VHS.

SYNOPSIS:

VHS is a literary novel, primarily concerned with a clerk named Desmond Argyle, who works in a medium-sized, chain video rental store.  The novel takes places during the last three weeks his store will still be receiving VHS shipments of movies as its primary rental and retail product before, all at once, restocking with DVDs.

While linear in nature, it will quickly be revealed that the writing is as impressionistic as it is concrete–therefore, I want to point out that VHS is set in the tangible world, that the action is localized to the banal life of this clerk at work and at home etc. However, while set in the specific period of general transition from VHS to DVD, the novel is not meant to evoke with a specific accuracy any exact year or the general events of the world during the period of time when the aforementioned transition would have literally been taking place.”

The following is an excerpt from VHS, a literary novel by Pablo D’Stair being released in various e-formats, absolutely free-of-charge (and in limited edition print-editions-by-part through giveaways). Information on the project, including links to what is currently available, can be found at www.vhsbook.wordpress.com.

“nothing about the police”

Two customers were browsing the spined movies, just there, two bays down, not looking for anything, nothing, standing there, idly turning down this box or that, chatting.  One of them was explaining they’d made a big mistake in doing a policeman a favor, other one wondering what did they mean?  First one explained that a policeman had approached him and asked him to let himself be arrested with regard to a death that was being treated as suspicious—according to this customer, the policeman had emphasized many times it was just a “suspicious death” and not an out-and-out “homicide”—the policeman promising to let him go when it became clear that he wasn’t the one responsible.

“So I asked the policeman why he’d tell people he’d thought I was responsible to begin with and the policeman told me he’d claim it had been an anonymous tip.  But I’d said how that didn’t really make sense, what had the tip been?”

The second customer nodded his head and took a breath like he had been just about to say the same thing.

“So the policeman said the tip had been about someone fitting my description, that all I really had to do was at first say that I’d been on some street—Clive Street or something, Chive Street—on Thursday, then act like I remembered ‘No no it had been Wednesday’.”

“Why not just remember you hadn’t been on Chive Street, at all?”

“Because then it wouldn’t have made sense him bringing me in—the way we played it was I pretended I’d said ‘Yes’ when he’d first approached and asked me had I been on Chive Street on Thursday, hence he’d brought me down for questioning.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, so then I’d just say that I suddenly remembered where I’d been on Thursday—which I could bring in alibi witnesses about, you know?—and then I’d be cut loose.”

They both went quiet, like that was the end of the story, but it couldn’t have been, it didn’t finish the initial thought—the guy’s whole point had been saying he’d made a mistake in going along with this, but so far no mistake at all had come to light in the dialogue.

They wandered over to the Comedy section, then into the Family section, reminiscing about various cartoons they’d grown up on—Watership Down, probably, Wind in the Willows, which I’d never seen—and generally continuing their conversation where I was helpless to hear it.

Sprayed some more cleaner on the shelves, looked at a box for Tromeo and Juliet and remembered about the Toxic Avenger cartoon, tried to remember the jingle for the toys.

“Toxic Avenger, Toxic Avenger, he’s gross but he still gets girls.”

It just came to me and I felt great about it.

But had that jingle been in the movies, or just the cartoons, or just the advertisements for the toys?

Didn’t really care, and soon an odd flood of memories about the show washed over me and then I remembered the cartoon Exo-Squad and then the more grown up show Space: Above and Beyond, but couldn’t remember had I thought it was any good.

When the customers left, I went up to a kid named Dover Reeves who was now on shift, asked him had he overheard what they’d been talking about.

“One of them had never seen Labyrinth.”

He was emptying the trash bags, replacing them, not really looking to notice from my face that I kind of expected more of an answer than that.

“What else?”

Dover shrugged, started putting some returns in the rewinder.

“Hey, did you check those in, yet?”

He shook his head, immediately scanned the barcodes, so I spared him the lecture about how it could lead to trouble not scanning everything in before rewinding.

“But they didn’t say anything about the police?” I asked, then right away asked him if he wanted a candy bar, because I was getting a candy bar and it was almost just as cheap to buy two.  He didn’t want a candy bar, but if I was dead set on getting him something, he pointed to the Big League Chew and said he’d always wanted to try some of that.

“You’ve never had it?”

“Nope.”

I nodded, threw it on the counter.

“Where’s your candy bar?”

Shook my head, getting some money out, but he gave the Big League Chew a few taps back in my direction, said if I  wasn’t getting anything not to worry, or if it was too expensive to get both.

“It’s not too expensive, Reeves, now let me buy it and what did those guy’s say about the police?”

“They didn’t say anything about the police.  Just one of them didn’t like Labyrinth.”

I clamped down on this discrepancy, told him hadn’t he not even two seconds earlier said that one of them said that they’d only never “seen” Labyrinth, but he was quick enough to turn this around on me, explaining that, yes, one of them had never “seen” Labyrinth, but the other one—who he noted was “the one who had seen it”—just hadn’t “liked” it.

“And they didn’t say anything else?”

“The one who hadn’t seen it said he didn’t want to see it, then.”

I nodded, waiting for more.

“And then the one who hadn’t liked it said it had traumatized him because one can so clearly see David Bowies joint boinging around in the tights he wears.”

True, you can see that, but nothing so disturbing about it.

“But nothing about the police?”

He opened his gum, took a pinch, chewed.

“No.”

I gave it up, waited for Dover to move away so I could pull up the account, but he didn’t.  He stood there chewing, noncommittally, putting more and more into his mouth at a time—no way it could be pleasant, that much in his mouth, and soon I just couldn’t look anymore.

Decided to buy myself a candy bar after all and Dover said something while he chewed, slobber sounds, suction sounds, but when I asked him later what it’d been he said “When?” then right away waved me off, shook his head, said it really hadn’t been anything.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS EXCERPT HERE ARE OTHER BITS, SCATTERED OVER THE INTERNET: (in no particular order, none needed)

“Charlies Rose one night” over at Outsider Writers Collective

“insects, rejection” over at Nik Korpon’s blog

“before, therapist, after” over at Gregory Frye’s blog

“all I did on my break” over at Mel Bosworth’s blog

“counting” over at Chris Deal’s blog

“ratios” over at Quiet Fury Books

“sculpture” over at Mlaz Corbier’s blog

“drain” over at Caleb J. Ross’s blog

My flash fiction story “Love Letters” is up at Cannoli Pie, edited by Caleb J. Ross.

Included in this issue is:

• Richard Thomas
• Nik Korpon
• Craig Wallwork
• Brandon Tietz
• Pablo D’Stair

This is part of the Caleb J. Ross blog tour.
He edited this collection for Cannoli Pie.
Honored to be in here.

DIRECT PDF DOWNLOAD, CLICK HERE.

Podcasts – An Update of My Recorded Work

If you’re not absolutely sick of hearing my voice, here’s some stuff to consider—podcasts! With so much going on these days, I thought I’d post up some of my podcasts that I’ve done over the last couple of years. Two places that you should for sure keep on your lists, and subscribe to if possible (iTunes, etc.) are the Velvet Podcast series and the Booked Podcasts,who are currently running a series on the Warmed and Bound authors. Lots of great information and entertainment at both of these sites, so be sure to bookmark, get your RSS Feed on, whatever.

1. Episode 16: Great Writers Edit. Bad Writers Discuss Editing on a Podcast.

I join authors Caleb J. Ross (Stranger Will), Gordon Highland (Major Inversions) and Gavin Pate (The Way to Get Here). Nobody enjoys editing, but we all go at it differently.
Don’t mind the tornadoes in the background. I was hiding in the basement for a bit, if you notice me dropping off the recording for awhile.

VELVET PODCAST 016

2. Richard Thomas Booked Podcast Inverview

I join Livius Nedin and Robb Ols0n over at Booked Podcast to talk about Warmed and Bound, and a lot of other stuff: my novel Transubstantiate,
The Cult, Speedloader and my reviewing at The Nervous Breakdown. Great time.

BOOKED PODCAST SESSION 023

3. Episode 008: Don’t Pull My Hair Unless You Mean It

I join writers Nik Korpon (Stay God), Pela Via (Warmed and Bound) and Nic Young to grind out the topic of sex and violence in fiction
and their complex relationship to sadistic bedfellows, love and shock.

VELVET PODCAST 008

4. AWP Live Reading at Leela’s (Denver, Colorado)

Live reading from my novel Transubstantiate.

DENVER READING

5. BOOKS AND BOOZE

Questions and answers. You know the drill.