Dad was always convinced he’d turn into Willie Nelson.
To realize how funny this is, one had to know Dad. He was buttoned up, as they say. A Vietnam sergeant who never hid the fact that he favored his pants pressed and his haircuts high-and-tight. He requested clamps for his birthday — every year. Punctuality was a virtue, as was regular coffee. No flavored syrups, no whipped cream, no frou-frou adornments of any kind. Coffee should taste like coffee was practically a commandment. Cuppa Joe only, please
And good God, did he get up early.
I blame my penchant for…
Note: This story was previously published in Mystery Tribune
Someone once told me that all murderers eventually end up in Florida. I’ve ascribed it, for some reason, to my father, despite the fact that he never once traveled east of the Mississippi, nor had any wisdom to share outside of cattle hauling.
Whether it was dad’s or not, I’ve chewed on that nugget on and off for years. Between clean jobs and brutal ones it came and went, until like all ruminations it faded for a time, stuck to that nebulous fly paper that lines the back of the brain.
Note: This story war previously published in Orson’s Review and Teleport Magazine.
“I wanted to open this intake meeting with a little story about the gulag,” Jerry says.
Because of course he does. Jerry is the kind of guy who’s intellectually curious enough to have read Blood Meridian but too dense to realize he shouldn’t have quoted Judge Holden diatribes at our designer’s interoffice baby shower. He’s full of notions like these — cannibal-themed conflict resolution infographics; bring-your-(his)-pet-to-work day, the perfect opportunity show off his semi-wild ocelot; throwing a going-away kegger for the high school interns. In his mind, subversion…
As any semi-experienced scribe knows, writing isn’t a science. It’s more like sorcery.
Writers spend half their time staring at a blank page (or the back of their eyelids) trying to conjure stories out of thin air. Other times, they’re attempting modern-day alchemy, struggling to turn indecipherable rough drafts into polished pieces that will earn them an audience (or, more importantly, income.)
In other words, writing is difficult, sometimes maddeningly so. There’s no roadmap that will guarantee you success, and luck seems to play just as big a role as talent, diligence, and tireless self-promotion. …
Note: This story was previously published in The Metaworker
The silence inside the giant glass bell is almost always short-lived.
Soon the translucent, riblike curves will spark with electric-blue orbs, followed by clouds of glittering cosmic dust, followed again by a wave of pin-sized fires burning up as fast as they ignite, a lightshow of tachyons, dilatons, exotic matter and phantom particles. Hell of a thing. It’ll go on fussing until a body materializes, like a fetus growing inside a crystal womb. A person will hunch where there wasn’t one before. …
Note: This story was previously published in Expanded Field.
They always fidget.
I see them from a distance, two at a time usually, huddling like blackbirds on a telephone line. Most of them past middle-aged, but always men, always thinking themselves younger and thinner than their midlife has made them. No matter how much confidence they exude or little omens they project — squaring their shoulders up and keeping their heads forward and puffing their chest and fusing that imaginary steel rod to their spine — they always do it. They fidget. Their fingers shake, their eyelids flutter, their nose…
Note: This story was previously published in Coffin Bell.
It sits there like the perfect intaglio, all five toes accounted for, the heel an unspoiled ellipsis, inner arch like the cold, bright crescent of the winter moon. A footprint glaring at me from the carpet. A child’s footprint, more accurately, sunk deep into the thick, pink plush.
I’ve been staring at it for the past hour at least, my face in my hands, elbows on my knees, eyes peeled into colorless olives. The light from the bay window on the other side of the loft has cycled through a half-day…
From stone masonry to playing the banjo, the rule of getting good at something is universal: you have to do it, and do it a lot.
Why should writing be any different?
Many successful authors have suggested you’re not really “good” at writing until you start crunching words in bulk (for Ray Bradbury, it was at least a thousand a day.) Others would say it’s not about word counts, but simply getting your thoughts down on paper and soldiering through that rough draft.
In either case, the advice is clear. Being a competent writer necessitates the physical act of writing…
Note: This story was previously published in Chronoscope Magazine.
The house is squatter than the bastard remembers.
It’s not, of course. But he’s been gone five weeks, and tragedy has a tendency to transfigure things in ways our minds can’t quite reckon. Pain colors us. Looking now into its old cylinder glass windows he can’t see the house as anything else but a dilapidated tomb.
The lawn is the same, though. As battered and uneven as a graveyard’s, surrounded by that yellow hay that looks perpetually rained on — centipede grass, I think they call it — not to mention…
Note: This story was previously published in Five on the Fifth.
At this point, I’m totally in the dark.
Really, I have no way of knowing whether the term spacefly is still in the lexicon from whatever time you’re reading this. But that is who, in fact, has written this rambling, self-serving message to you. Whatever else I am or am not, I’ve got no shame in glomming onto the label.
Besides, even if the word has stuck around, I wouldn’t blame you for being totally ignorant to its meaning. I certainly didn’t know what it meant when I came…