Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"I suspect everyday life is trying to drive me crazy"

A few months ago, IndieReader gave The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors a really insightful review. Today, they published an interview with me, featuring tidbits such as:
What inspired you to write the book: The bills on my counter and the alarm clock by my bed. My car breaks down and as soon as that gets fixed, my dryer breaks down. Sometimes I suspect everyday life is trying to drive me crazy. So I wrote a book about it.
I also talk about why genre fiction is superior to most literature. Please go give it a read!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A quick note about Johnny Marr's Set The Boy Free

I recently read Set The Boy Free, the autobiography of guitar genius, consummate collaborator, indie god and personal hero Johnny Marr. And given that it's essentially the fifth Marr history I've read, I feel like I ought to say something about it. But I'm not sure what.

The book is well-written and entertaining for New Wave geeks like me. But nearly every section feels facile. "I joined Band X and it was great, everyone was talented and I was very happy, but a couple years later I joined Band Y, which was also filled with awesome and talented people, but two albums later I decided to go collaborate with Band Z, and that was good, too."

I wasn't looking for dirt, but I would've loved some grit. I came away with a portrait of Marr as sort of a blithe spirit, flitting from project to project without ever considering the importance of his decisions.

The book is like Marr's guitar playing itself, woven inside time, defined by a dogged refusal to take the lead.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Reflections on proofing the Sin and Nicki Box Set

I published Sin Walks Into The Desert, Regret Things and To Guns as a Kindle box set this weekend. Mostly, this is just a marketing thing. (My Owl and Raccoon box set easily outsells the individual books in that series.) But it's also because I want more readers to make it through to To Guns, which is one of my favorite books.

I did the due diligence of proofing the whole series, and it was a frustrating and illuminating experience. Sin Walks Into The Desert is undeniably a niche book. I get that. Sin is sulky and obsessed with guns and the language of the book follows his lead. Still, with all the awards the damn thing has won, I feel like it should be a best-seller. Some of the scenes - like the conversation between Sin and Sandy in the diner after Sin pulls a gun at school - are just fucking great.

Regret Things was a much more frustrating read. Some of my more creative friends say it's the best thing I've ever written. And there are places they're right. The dialogue between Nicki and Ryan before she asks him to help with her heist? Fucking brilliant. But the pages read like a mashup of scenes, not a novel. And too much time is spent with Nicki's illicit lover, Grant. He was the inspiration for the book, and therefore the whole series. But now I look back and worry that he sucks all the oxygen out of Nicki's story. And his nonstop leering feels eye-rollingly adolescent. I wish I'd culled his airtime back.

So I'm not surprised To Guns has been a flop. To enjoy it, you really need to have read both of the prior books. But I can't imagine there are many people out there who'd tolerate both a raw neo-Western and a casserole of bohemian excess. That's a huge regret of mine. To Guns' descriptions of the Colorado mountains, its shootouts, and its scene between Nicki, Sin and their underage bartender are all so, so good.

I hope this box set will finally get To Guns the audience it deserves.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Baby Monitor comes to YouTube

The entire first (and only) season of The Baby Monitor: A Podcast of Family Horrors is now streaming on YouTube. You can sit back and listen back to the whole thing in sequence right here:


Friday, July 21, 2017

Two songs from The Optimism Delivers House Band

I'm a decent guitarist and a good poet, but I've never been able to write a song. That's something I really wanted to accomplish. So awhile back, I decided I wouldn't start any new personal projects until I'd completed a piece of original music.

The results are "Stanzas From Sober Poets" and "Devil in the Margins," which I published on Soundcloud today.

I finished writing these songs about six weeks ago. I made demos on GarageBand and sent them to my friend Jeff of Of Heaven and Sea. He generously agreed to record and mix them for me. He also gave me tons of advice along the way, and I owe him a huge debt I'll probably pay in bourbon.

The two songs tell a single story, so we mixed them together as one track, a la the Beatles's "A Day In The Life." If you're an indie music fan, you may be able to hear other influences like Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Keaton Henson, Jason Molina, Broken Social Scene, La Dispute and the Cure.

Together, the songs tell a story about a modern couple and their encounter with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. In the first song, two teens meet at a summer camp near the Gulf of La Spezia. The ghost of Shelley seduces them out into the water to search for the spot where he drowned. When the ghost suddenly disappears, he leaves the young lovers adrift metaphorically and literally. The betrayal sucks all the romance out of their hearts. In the second song, the man, now older, realizes the moral of Shelley's life lies not in his writings, but in his actions. He thinks about the psychopathic tricks and devilish sketches Shelley indulged in as a child. In the end, the man decides Shelley's poetry was only a distraction from the decay that defines adult life.

So yeah, it's not a real cheery piece of music. And I know I'm not going to win The Voice anytime soon. But I hope you enjoy it anyway. In addition to Soundcloud, you can stream it on YouTube.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I just published The Perfume All At Once: A Sever Short Story

I have written a bunch of short stories. Some I send to my email list. Some I throw in the trash. Today I published a Kindle version of one on Amazon. It's called "The Perfume All At Once" and it's free from July 17 to July 19.

This story began in the very best way. I wrote a sentence, which led naturally to another and another and so on until I was done. It sat in a folder on my computer for several months, but I have never wanted to rewrite it. It came out almost perfectly.

I published "The Perfume All At Once" partially because it features some of the bit characters from Sever, and I thought fans of that horror novella might want to explore its extended universe. But mostly I published it because I like it and want to share it. It's an unsettling, witchy high school tale. But, like Sever, it's very sad - a sort of eulogy for youth. Please check it out.