Stories I-K

I Know What You Need – Starting off this batch of stories is one from Stephen King’s “Night Shift.”  Night Shift is a strange collection, it’s not bad, some of the stories are actually quite good and clever, but it is much less mature then his later works. Unlike his later collections the stories in this collection are almost entirely horror based, and all but one or two are actually short story length. This story is about a college girl that falls in love with this mysterious and somewhat nerdy kid who always seems to know just what the girl needs. This is probably the second best story from the collection, my only problem with it is the title, the title is applicable of course, but it’s kind of bland and there could probably be a better one.

I Want to Live – a candidate for my favorite story form the BASS Century (the other being Gish Jen’s “Birthmates”), this was the first and for a long time only Thom Jones story I had ever read. Since then however I have read one entire book by him, and while two or three of the stories (in that book) are really good, the rest are basically just variations on the same handful of topics. It seems that every story he writes is either about Death, Diseases, Boxing, Africa, Cars, or some combination of the above. This story falls into the Death and Disease category and it’s beautifully written. Jones has his own voice that seems to be cultivated almost independently of any particular influence. It’s a combination of minimalism mixed with train of thought and colloquialism. Three styles which shouldn’t be able to work together, but in this story Jones is able to do just that. Perhaps if he chooses other topics to cover in his stories he would have had a more lustrous corer, but hey there may still be time.

Illinois – one of the historic semi-non-fiction stories from Munro’s “The View from Castle Rock.” It’s not one of my favorite stories from the collection, as it is a western tale and deals largely about a baby and raising a family while fording the wilderness. I have little interest in these topics (i.e. babies and families), but that’s just me. On the plus side it is short, clocking it at a little over half an hour, so you won’t get weighed down in it for too long if you don’t like it.

In Another Country – this is one of the Hemmingway “War Stories,” written in the minimalist vein in which almost nothing significant happens, and there’s almost no plot at all. There is a line in this story where the narrator says he got his medals because he was an American, where as the others (Italians) had earned their medals from the time they spent on the front. That says an awful lot about the meaning the story is trying to convey.

In Sight of the Lake –This story is about a woman who goes to a town she is not familiar with to find a doctor the day before her appointment so that she doesn’t have to look for the doctors on the day of the appointment. Which is not a terrible idea to tell you the truth. This is one of the rare Alice Munro stories to have an unexpected twilight zone-esqu twist ending.

Incarnations of Burnt Children – for a while this is one of the very few audio stories I could find from Wallace’s third story collection “Oblivion.” The story was actually read by Wallace himself at I believe a book signing. Not one of my favorite works of his, probably my least favorite from the collection. It’s about a baby that is accidentally scolded. It ends in a bizarre way that is open to interpretation. The story is painful to read, but on the plus side it is very short.

The Interior Castle – I’ve read this story a few times and I’m still not quite sure what it is about, but I think this fogginess is intentional and also well used given the circumstances. The story is about a woman who has survived a car accident and is in a hospital going through surgeries and so on. You never really find out who the woman is, no friends or family seem to come and visit her, etc. If the intention of the story is to mimic the haziness an accident victim is wont to experience, then the story is highly successful and deserves to be in the BASS century collection. To me, this one is worth a few more reads .

It Grows On You – this is another good, but somewhat weird, story from Kings “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” it’s not really all that scary, and has a high literary value to it. There is actually a whole lot that goes on in this story even though almost nothing actually happens, kind of like a Seinfeld episode. It’s basically about a haunted house and all the townsfolk speculations about it.

The Ivory Acrobat – this is a story about an American woman living in Greece working as a teacher and dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake. The name comes from a gift that the woman’s friend gives her, a small statuette of an acrobat jumping over a bull, the original statue (according to the story) had been destroyed in an earthquake some 80 years before. Like most of DeLillo’s stories, it is very vague and difficult to understand.

The Jelly-Bean – I’ve read this story before, a few times I think, and never really understood it or liked it, until this go around. It’s more or less about wealthy college and post-college hedonism, like a less disturbing 20’s era Less Then Zero. (Maybe it was more disturbing and controversial for the time it was written). It’s one of Fitzgerald’s better stories (now that I’ve had time to digest it) and certainly better then the choice from BASS-Century.

Jerusalem’s Lot – easily the best story from King’s “Night Shift” and clearly the one he spent the most time on. It’s also the longest from the book, and I would put it easily in his all time top ten best stories. I was a little disappointed to find out that a lot of things from the story were taken from Lovecraft, but not greatly. The story is told in Epistolary form about the strange Abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot. Evidently this is the same place as ‘Salam’s Lot (note the parenthetical mark at the beginning of the title) for which the novel and movie of the same name take place. The story is about the spiritual remains of a satanic puritan splinter group, which is a pretty interesting idea in itself. Definitely worth the read, and it is a little more spooky then most of his stories.

John Billy – one of the stories from Wallace’s “Girl with Curious Hair” collection. I have mixed feelings on this particular story. It’s written in a southern dialect and it’s about a guy named Chuck Nunn Jr. who’s superhuman exploits are highly reminiscent of Chuck Noris Jokes. That’s the down side to the story. The plus side is that it is a pretty interesting story, and is told in an interesting way. One of the characters in the story T. Rex Minogue, has throat cancer and has to talk through a synthetic voice box, which the narrator uses in order to affect the voice, which is a nice touch, Robert Petcoff (Wallace’s Standard Reader) is quite a good voice actor.

The Killers – this is actually my favorite Ernest Hemingway story, at least from all the stories I’ve read by him (which isn’t a huge amount of them). it’s based in part on a painting I really like called “Nighthawks” by Edwin Hooper. The story is a very early example of minimalist writing, both in them and writing style, little happens in the plot and the sentences are generally very small and simple. Personally, having spent a lot of time in diners, I like the back and forth with the two gangsters trying to order dinner when only the breakfast menu is available: “I can make you ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver and bacon, or I can cook you a stake.” what a great line.

Killing – a John Updike story that deals with divorce and the death of a parent. The main character has taken her father off life support and is waiting for him to die. After the funeral her ex-husband comes to visit and support her and the kids and the two end up sleeping in the same bed, but he is unable to perform sexually and finds this to be a vindication that he is truly in love with his current wife. It’s good but not Updike’s best.

Winter Movies

I make a lot of goals or intentions for what to do throughout the year, most of which I don’t fulfill, but this one I have been. last year I tried to watch one movie a week, and I ended with well below half of that goal, this year I am well on pace to achieve this and maybe even make up for the quantity I missed last year. Here are all the movies I’ve watched so far this winter (starting on January 1st).


The Short List:

  • God’s Gun^
  • Bulldog Drummond’s Peril ^
  • Time Raiders
  • Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge^
  • The Front Page^
  • The Pale Face^
  • Grumpy Old Men^
  • The Flying Deuces^
  • Groundhog Day*
  • What’s Up Tiger Lilly*
  • Airplane*
  • British Intelligence^
  • His Private Secretary^
  • Palooka^
  • False Pretenses^
  • Fando Y Lis
  • The Milky Way^
  • Dead Again
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • The Last of the Wild Horses (MST3K)


* = Movies I’ve seen before

^ = Movies from Bargain Bin DVD Boxes.




God’s Gun – A very good western starring Lee Van Cleef (in two roles) and a very young Leif Garret. This is the 4th movie I’ve seen off my Western 20 movies for 5$ DVD, and all 4 of them have been great so far, and I didn’t even think I liked westerns that much, but I guess I do.


Bulldog Drummond’s Peril – Noir/Comedy, not bad, not the first Bulldog Drummond movie I’ve seen and probably not the best either.


Time Raiders – interesting Chinese kung-fu/adventure/fantasy/archeology movie. My wife read the book that the movie is based on and then made her mom and I watch it. It was pretty good.


The Front Page – a Pre-Code Comedy based on a play of the same name about Tabloid reporters. The movie is too long and convoluted to be good, but it gets an extra star for being pre-code and a very good punch line ending.


Grumpy Old Men – Never saw this movie before, though I think I saw a few small pieces when they first showed it on TV.  Right at the beginning, when Walter Matthau greets Jake Lemon with “Mornin’ Dick-head” you know this is going to be a funny movie, and it was. Extra points for Burgess Meredith (in my opinion one of the greatest most underrated actors of all time) in the roll of Lemon’s rakish and hard living 90 year old Father. I am adding this movie to my cannon of movies to be watched during the Christmas season. The others of which are: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Polar Express (recently added), What’s Up Tiger Lilly, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Bank Dick, The History of Mankind, my 1988 Xmas Tape (several times-blog entry forthcoming), Rifftrax Starwars Holiday Special (also several times), 1995 Cartoon Box.


The Flying Deuces – when I first got into old comedies (back in 2001), I came across Laurel and Hardy and wanted to see some of their films. My mom said “you might not like their stuff,” well it turned out she was right (it happens once in a while), because it sucked. Most of it I didn’t find funny, and half of it I couldn’t even tell what was supposed to be funny. The famous flying sequence for which the movie is named is only maybe 10 minutes at the very end of the film, whereas the rest of it is about Hardy joining the French Foreign Legion to get over a girl.


Fando Y Lis – I’ve wanted to see this movie for years, it’s frequently put on lists of very bizarre movies, and it is unarguably the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. Not bad, it’s definitely one to look into and think about and discuss long after watching it, but it is not for the weak of heart. The film is so strange that when it was first shown in Mexico (the director’s native country) the audience literally rioted.


The Milky Way – the first Harold Lloyd movie I’ve ever seen, and not bad, definitely willing to check out his other films. This one is about a boxer (one of several boxing related movies this season).


Dead Again – we did this movie for the film club, I had never heard of it before and I don’t know who recommended it, but I really enjoyed it. Magical Realist Historic Noir Rom-Com, I never head of a combination like that before. And it works really well, 5 star movie all the way. It may have only been a 4 star, but the stellar performances of minor characters played by Robin Williams and Wayne Knight, and the few unlikely plot turns puts the movie easily into the highest of ratings.


Conan the Barbarian – really liked this movie. The acting is pretty universally bad (James Earl Jones notwithstanding) however the Score, Scenery, Action and Plot make up well for the words that the actors struggle to deliver. I immediately noticed that Subotia’s theme music is almost the same melody as “Firewings” by Aquaria, and the Orgy Temple Attack is again very similar to “Epicus Furor” the opening song off “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” by Rhapsody of Fire. Check out the links to see the similarities, they are striking I assure you, and there are probably other musical homages by later power metal bands, but I don’t know what they are off the top of my head. I don’t know how often I’ll be rewatching this movie, but I am looking forward to the sequel (included in the same DVD Box)


The Last of the Wild Horses (MST3K) – Not one of MST3K’s best episodes. I was hoping it would be good because the first quarter or so of the movie is actually watched by Dr. Forester and TV’s Frank, while Mike and Crow are evil and conducting the experiment due in part to a switch between an alternate universe. However the jokes fell a little flat throughout, audio was not good and hard to make out at points, and the movie also seemed like it might be okay, certainly not one of the worst they did (though that could just be my predisposition towards Westerns, also this is one of the few if not only western they ever did).

Every Woman in the Afterlife Hates You

Greetings loyal readers.

First I’d like to apologize for the lack of blog posts so far this year, hopefully this is the end of the two month long dry spell, and I can/will post things more frequently in the future. I’ve been working on some things, but there hasn’t been as much time to write this year as I was hoping for, oh well.

Anyways I am pleased to present the first newly published story of this year. Its part of the winter 2017 issue of the Corvus Review, which is a publication I have not been published in before. The story is a flash fiction, of the magic realism/humor variety, and was inspired in part by Stephen King’s “Afterlife,” Andy Weir’s “The Egg” (he’s author of novel that the Martian was based on), and one of the ending sequences from “A Scanner Darkly.”

Like the story “Syphon Theory” this is another story that was written and edited and in the form you see it here within a single hour.

You can find the new story here on page 42 of the issue.


P.S. it has recently come to my attention that this is my first published F-Word. Not sure why I’m proud of that but I am. I try not to use a lot of profanity in my writing, though sometimes it calls for it, and if used sparingly the few times it is use, it hits well, kind of like using exclamation points.

The Hours & Wake Up Songs of 2016

The Hours

Since 2012, every day I log the hours of what I have done that day into a spread sheet. Also in the spread sheet I keep a log of how good of a day it’s been (based on a 5 point system) and I draw a daily tarot card and keep a log of that. These two aspects however will not be included in the statistics here.

I wrote this a little before the end of the year so the numbers are not 100% accurate, but they are close enough for Government Work.

Reading: This year I spent a total of 678 hours reading. Reading is usually the highest of all the numbers, and it is again this year. This brakes down to an average of 111 Minutes of reading every day, which makes sense. I have a 20 minute drive to and from work, which I usually spend listening to an audio book. Then I usually read for an hour before going to bed, that’s 100 minutes right there. Also depending on the job I’m doing that particular day if I am working alone I may be able to spend several more hours listening to books. All in all the 678 hours logged in is probably a very conservative estimate. The most heavily read month was January at 77 hours, with August in a close second at 74 hour.

Writing: As it turned out, writing this year went better then expect. It was not a good year, though this is hardly an appropriate place to get into all that, and I thought that the writing would have suffered because of that, but as it turned out, not too bad. I did 411 hour of writing, averaging out to 68 minutes a day. My goal was closer to 2 hours a day writing, but it’s a very hard target to hit. I did better than last year by almost a hundred hours. If I can top this year by another 100 hours next year I’ll be very happy. The most productive month of writing this year was, as it always is, November (because of the NaNoWriMo contest). Also February and March were high months with over 50 hours of writing each.

Music: Music includes 3 things, work on my Drone Metal Band MoonCandle (we released 3 albums this year), work on classical music (of which I haven’t done very much since 2012), and video montages. One of the montage’s was for this year’s Oscars Night at the library, an in memorium video of all the lost actors of the year before set to the tune of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” The one for next year will be considerably longer. I spent 106 hours on music projects, or roughly 17 minutes a day. The most musically productive month of the year was June at 19 hours.

Film: Film includes TV, but not all TV. I only log down hours spent on film if, and only if, I sit down focus on the TV and not do anything else at the same time, which is why the number is considerably low, it’s also why I have quite a few DVD’s that havn’t been watched yet, because they all deserve my full attention the first time they are watched. I spent 107 hours watching films/TV this year, also averaging out to 17 minutes a day. The most watched month this year was August, at 40 hours, no other month comes remotely close. Almost half of what I watched this year was watched in the month of August, and this is because of the Olympics.

Video Games: As you may have already noticed in the blog, I am a big fan of video games, and I’ve played a lot of them this year, 538 hours to be specific, 88 minutes a day. I won’t go into all the games I’ve played this year, but here are the 5 most played: #5 – Oregon Trail II for the PC (13 hours), #4 – Duck Tales Remastered for the Wii U (19 hours), #3 – Chess on various platforms (23 hours) I think this is much lower then the amount of time I actually spend playing chess, it’s probably somewhere around 50 hours this year. #2 – NES Remix for the Wii U (30 hours) really good game, probably my favorite for the Wii U at the moment, and will be the subject of a forthcoming blogpost I’m sure. And #1 – Cartridge/Sonic Review (52 hours), though not a single game a major project of quick plays of all my cartridge and retro games. The most played month was May at 59 hours, also June and July had well over 40 hours of play time logged. I’m going to try and cut down on this number next year, so I can watch more movies and write more.

Work Out: I keep a long of how much time I spend doing strenuous work outs, this includes heavy labor at work and home, and also working out for no immediate purpose. All in all I did 187 hours or 31 minutes a day.

Wake Up Songs

Since late August I’ve been keeping a list of every song that is stuck in my head when I first wake up. It’s something I noticed eairlyer this year and figured it might make a good list to post at the end of the year. of course as soon as I started to keep track of the songs, it would seem, this happened far less frequently. Anyways, here are the songs, I’ve also included links to the songs where available.






The Writings of 2016


This has not been a super productive year w/r/t writing, hopefully next year will be better, I am intending to make it so anyways, thought that doesn’t always work out. As far as numbers go I wrote: 3 Flash Fictions (one published and another forthcoming), 2 New Short Stories, 2 Major Short Story Revisions, 1 Fictional Essay (w/ two versions), 1 Novel, 1 Creative Non-Fiction, 2 Non-Fictions essays, 62 New Blog Posts (of which 34 were posted), This all consists of a total of 377 pages or 193,000 words.

As far as publishing goes, I submitted 59 times, half of those in the winter (I like to hit the publishers hard first thing in the year), and I only submit one piece to one place at a time and not sending the same piece to multiple places at the same time, though I might change this practice Next Year. Of those 59 submissions, 6 of them have been published and one is forthcoming (just over 10% which is about the same percentage as last year).

The published pieces (with publisher and links to them) are as follows:

Below is some insight on the pieces written:

Syphon Theory – the first piece of the year (more or less), which has already been published and was covered in an earlier Blog Post.

Like and Egg Against the Wall of the Universe – a very strange, very short, flash fiction written in train of thought about the possible outcomes of the world if it were to collide with a hypothetical wall at the end of the universe. I actually started I think in 2015, writing it in bed at my old house. But I never got around to editing it (and maybe even finishing it) until this year. I’ve submitted it to two places, one rejected it in >24 hours, and the other took almost 10 months before sending me an email that they had gone through some restructuring and invited me to submit it again if I wished to, which I don’t think I will. Next year I hope to find a home for this peace.

Sardines in Catatonia – this is a story that I actually wrote in 2009 originally under the title “The Shelter.” I like the new title much better. It’s about a couple living in a bomb shelter and going crazy from the isolation. In its newest form it has been submitted to three times with two rejections and one more response pending.

The Arms of Avalay – Avalay is a fictional high fantasy world that I’ve been working on since the NaNoWriMo contest of 2012. There is a great deal of heraldry in the novel and this fictional essay presents all the different arms, blazone and a little bit of history behind the house that coat of arms represents. Two versions of this piece, one with spoilers and one without.

An Illuminating Gas – this was a major revision of an earlier story (also from 2009 if I’m not mistaken), I covered it already in an earlier Blog Post, and it has also been published.

Every Woman in the Afterlife Hates You – this is a humorious flash fiction, which is about a man who dies and goes to the afterlife to see the unusual punishment that is there instore for him. The piece was written, edited and completed in less than an hour (just like “Syphon Theory”).

Turning Over a New Engine – A short story that was written within the universe of this year’s NaNoWriMo contest. It follows one of the novel’s minor Characters (pastor Max) and a man who has been tracking him with plans to settle and old score.

Cloud Dreams – a story about an enormous man who falls from the sky and speaks a language that no one understands, once he is finally able to make himself understood, the story he tells makes no sense at all, so he has to prove it.

Trail of Blood – This year’s NoNoWriMo Novel, I already covered it in an earlier blog post so you can just read that if you’re interested.

Poisoned Peeps – a Flash Creative Non-Fiction piece that was already published around Easter of this year.

Story Titles – this is a project that I plan to work on in the upcoming year. What I did was spend several days writing down what I thought were interesting titles of other stories (a lot of them were taken from the Best American Short Story Series). my plan is to write stories with those title (i.e. if I were to use that title what would the story be about), and then change the title to make them wholly original works. We’ll see how that goes, more on next years writing plan later.

Zach’s Full Movie List – following the NaNoWriMo contest this year, I spent many hours working on this list. it is an alphabetical list of every movie that I have watched throughout my life (as best I can remember) each movie is listed with the year it came out, and my personal ratting on a complicated 5 star system. The list is very long and I had major help from a good friend of mine who had the same kind of list, which created a good foundation for this list to be built. I may actually start next year by adding this list as a page for the blog, and updating it on a yearly bases or so.

Writing Next year.

I have a plan for next year to every month write a new short story (partly where the Story Titles Project comes into play), plus edit a previously unedited story, plus edit the previous months new story, and most importantly (edit a story line form last years novel). I’ve put off very heavily writing for far too long (though not without reason), hopefully 2017 will see a resurgence of work done, I think that it will. Also I may keep an updater going on the blog for all this stuff I write next year. Wish me luck.

Finally, below is a list of all the blog posts from this year from oldest to newest:

Movies Watched in 2016

Movies listened in order watched.

* means they were re watched.


  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Poppy
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  • Amelie*
  • Delinquent Daughters
  • You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man
  • My Little Chickadee*
  • Salt of the Earth
  • Bulldog Drummond’s Escape
  • Africa Screams*
  • Never Give a Sucker and Even Brake
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory*
  • Harold and Kumar go to White Castle*
  • Who Frammed Rodger Rabbit*
  • Somm
  • Purple Rain
  • 1776*
  • Blazing Saddles*
  • Ali
  • Café Society
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Secret in Their Eyes
  • Donnie Darko
  • Leviathan
  • Beetlejuice*
  • Ghostbusters*
  • Ghostbusters II*
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show*
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas*
  • Witchfinder General
  • How Beer Saved the World
  • The Day of the Wolves
  • The Polar Express

2016 Books Read

This year has been considerably better than last year as far as reading is concerned, I put down 44 books this year, some of them were considerably long, including 4 of the Game of Thrones books (in the reread category). 28 books were read for the first time this year, while 16 were reread books. The books marked with an asterisks means they were read on paper, while the majority were read by audio.

Books read for the first time this year (listed from best to worst):

  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Secret Book of Gnomes by Rein Poortoliet*
  • Nobody Move by Dennis Johnson
  • God Bless America: Stories by Steve Almond*
  • Good Omens by Neal Gaimen & Terry Pratchet
  • Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret*
  • Best American Short Stories 2015*
  • The Complete Book of Heraldry by Stephen Slater*
  • Coup D’état by Harry Turtledove
  • Two Fronts by Harry Turtledove
  • Zero K by Don DeLillo
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • The Fantastic Book of Canes Pipes and Walking Sticks by Harry Ameredes*
  • The Seven Good Years by Etgar Karet
  • DFW in his Own Words by David Foster Wallace
  • The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
  • Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnigut
  • Finding Zero by Amir Aczel
  • Strange Library by Haruki Murikami
  • The Laughing Monsters by Dennis Johnson
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Time and the Hunter by Italo Calvino*
  • Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchet
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher
  • The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones
  • A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
  • My Grandfather’s Gallery by Anne Sinclair

Books Reread this year (in the order they were read)

  • The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace
  • This Land Was Made for You and Me (But Mostly for Me) by Bruce McCall*
  • Best of DFW
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
  • Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  • The Angle Esmerelda by Don DeLillo
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • Atlantis and Other Places by Harry Turtledove
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russel
  • A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martain
  • Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz*
  • More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz*
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

List of Stories Read (in order read)

  • 1 = 1 by Anne Carson
  • On the Banks of the Table River (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajeesh Parameswaran
  • The Strange Adventure of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan by Rajeesh Parameswaran
  • Carnival of Animals by Jane Rebecca Canerella
  • The Missteps and Surreal Adventures of Joasquin Mchugh by Matthew Di Paoli
  • Smokejumper by Kenny A Chaffin
  • Aspic by Tatyana Tolstaya
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
  • The End by Anthony Marra
  • Juror Instructions by Kelly Stout
  • To the Class of 2050 by Jen Spyra
  • North Carolina Police Blotter by Henry Alford
  • The Bog Girl by Karen Russel
  • Two Men arrive in a Village by Zadie Smith
  • An Inhabitant of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce
  • The Fugitive by T.C. Boyal
  • The King’s Teacup at Rest by Michael Andresine
  • Stuff by Joy Williams
  • People are Turning Into Clouds by Joe Meno
  • The Amandonment by Jashua Farris
  • Dido’s Lament by Tessa Hadley
  • Papayas by Thomas Mcguane
  • Gender Studies by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Fabel by Charles Yu
  • To the Moon and Back by Etgar Karet
  • Deer Season by Kevin Berry
  • Into the Silence by Marlon Barton
  • The Cousins by Charles Baxter

Note: there were actually 275 stories read throughout the year, the ones listed above were read for the first time and not part of a story collection already read this year and not part of some kind of external project, hence the above distilled list of 28 stories. A lot of them were in the New Yorker, while others were in the BASS books as notable stories, which I then because of title had to seek out, and others still I just came across at random interval.

NaNoWriMo 2016

Just a quick update and some details about my most recent venture into the National Novel Writers Month Competition. I did it yet again, completing my 8th binge written novel. I was able to finish the novel a day early, it’s 83,000 words or 152 pages long in its rough form. A semi-finalized “Readable” version will likely be considerably shorter, I would guess around 70k, and I hope to have it available to beta readers by the start of next year’s NaNoWriMo contest.

The novel is called “Trail of Blood” and will likely be the title it stays with, the only other possible title might be “Knights in Shining RV’s”. The story was heavily inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West” the video game “Oregon Trail 2” and this summer’s passing interest in Motorhomes. The novel is my most violent yet, and also the most Christian positive.

Now, I am and remain a devout and proud atheist, and the first two novels I wrote for this contest had heavily anti-christian undertones, this one however gives them a little more credit. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to have a greater respect for Christians who devote their lives to the non-judgemental help of those less fortunate, even though I do not agree with their belief in a higher power or an afterlife. This is all thanks in large part to a good friend of mine that I have recently reconnected with who is now a pasture, “Pasture Max” a character based on him appears in the book in a number of places.

On a completely different note, this novel also features my first two transgender characters, named Foxy Cocktale and Happy Starlight (the best character names I’ve ever come up with, I don’t care who you are).

“Trail of Blood” is my first foray into the Sci-Fi subgenre of Dieselpunk. This is not exactly a well-known subgenre, and would take a very long time to explain so for comparison you can think of the Mad Max franchise or (if you’re lucky enough to remember it) the TaleSpine TV show, and if that doesn’t explain it well enough, then Google Dieselpunk and do an image search and you’ll get a rough idea.

It’s not just Dieselpunk, there are elements of Steampunk, Solarpunk, and Stonepunk all thrown into the mix. Again these are too complex to explain so I would also recommend googleing them as well. Even though these elements are in the novel, it is most heavily Dieselpunk.

I would explain the premiss of the novel in greater detail, but I think the short first chapter does that quite well, and you can read it for yourself:

America in the Mid 2000’s. Ours is a divided nation, a broken nation, full of scarred idiots looking for a witch. As the population grows our resources become scares. Thousands look west where the promise of a better life shines in the sun. From all over the east coast, people are selling nearly everything they have, loading their remaining possessions into armored motorhomes. They’re heading across the wilderness to the solar cities in California, Oregon, and on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, following trails blazed nearly two centuries earlier. Along the way they experience the reclaimed wilderness of the Midwest. They see sites they can’t unsee, and encounter both heroes and monsters. It’s not an easy journey. It’s hard and long, filled with danger, deserts, war, mountains, cannibals, untamed rivers. Many will fall, but the risk is worth it for those who survive. A trail paved in blood with life and opportunity at its end. Will you take the chance? Come on let’s go.


Two for the Price of One (but with a Price)

It’s a little after the fact, but I am pleased to announce that I have not one but two recently published pieces available to all who wish to enjoy them. They both appear in the first annual Dowingtown Doo-Writers Anthology.

The Downingtown Doo-Writers is a writing group that meets at the Downingtown Library on the second Thursday of every month, I am one of the founding members, and the informal de-facto leader of the group. Membership is open to anyone, and we have a stable of about 20 active and inactive members of the group, but our meeting sizes are usually between 4 and 7.

The theme of this year’s anthology is “Love and Rockets” and the two stories (of mine) included are: “The Boy Scout Camp at the End of the World” and “An Illuminating Gas.”

The Boys Scout Camp story is quite possibly the best story I’ve written. During an unexplained (but theorized) apocalypse a group of boy scouts attempt to put together one last week of summer camp. I had the idea for the story way back when I was still a boy scout, which was at least 12 years ago, maybe longer, right about the time I was starting to write seriously, but I never got around to writing it until last year. I’m glad I waited, it turned out very well. At 6,900 words it’s also the longest story I’ve had published yet.

Although not quite as good as the first “An Illuminating Gas” is still worth the read. Another apocalyptic story, this one follows four characters as they deal with the impending disaster of the earth colliding with the planet Venus, while the United States attempts to build a survival outpost on Mars. I wrote this story back in 2010 and it’s gone through half a dozen major revisions with different titles, until we get to the near perfect piece presented here. The story is also quite long at 5,700 words.

There are some other great pieces in the anthology, from other members of the group such as Jennie Gardiner, and Rebecca Elise, plus a lot of stories from other local authors, and poems from several residences of Simpson Meadows. I probably shouldn’t do this, but my personal favorite piece (besides my own stuff) is the first story in the Anthology by Brendan Lyons called “Distant Societies of the Second Kind.”

As for the price. The Anthology is $9.99 on Amazon, or you can pick up a copy at the Downingtown Library. Unlike the one other story I’ve had published where purchase was required for reading (which will go unmentioned for now) this is actually going to a good cause. All proceeds are going directly to the Downingtown Library.

If you’re looking for any last minute Christmas gift ideas, pick up your copy today.