Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Just a reminder...

This Thursday, October 30, at 7:00, I'll be doing a live reading/lecture/signing at the Arndstville Library.

You can get directions by clicking on this handy link and get a printable pdf.

If you all behave, I'll take you out later to any local watering holes we can find in Arndstville.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Little Halloween Treat

A little Flash Fiction... since it IS my favorite month...

Baby's Breath

She held the baby close, feeling its warmth. She pulled away the last button on her blouse to let its tender skin come in contact with hers. It moved puckered lips against the small of her neck, made a wet gurgle and she smiled. She closed her eyes and reveled in the details of the moment. It’s heart beat, strong and rapid. The sound of its breathing, soft as butterfly wings. The touch of unblemished flesh and feathery hair. Scent of diapers and powder. Even more subtle, the odor of the umbilical cord blackening in a crimped curl.

And the gentle, sour smell of its breath.

She wondered if the baby’s mother wondered where it was yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Black Hats and Heart

It was 1986. I was fifteen and school had let out for summer vacation, my father took me with him to work one day and dropped me off at the Maryland State Fairgrounds to get a job. You see, it was something of a family tradition.

My grandfather worked there for years doing everything from groundskeeping to helping train the horses with sulky carts. My father worked there. Lots of my uncles worked there. And so it was a given that I'd be working there.

It was hard work, no question. As a young grunt, my work consisted of mowing and raking grass on the infield, shoveling sand mounds inside the livestock buildings or packing cedar chips for the cattle and sheep that would come in for the Fair later that summer. I also dealt with shoveling so much cow dung that... well... let's just say that I could have fertilized half the crops in York County. And let's not forget riding on the back of a garbage truck that led to the single most disgusting incident I've ever been privy to (it involved a blazing August heat and a dead iguana, but that's another story for another time).

It was hard work, but also mindless and even though the pay was for shit, there are some days that I truly do look back upon the three summers I worked there with fond memories.

I'd been with my father many summers to go watch horse racing. It can be harsh at times - even cruel to be certain, depending on the owner and trainer - but when there's a horse that's loved and cared for, the excitement of being at the races... whether it's a $2 bet to win, or a $50 bet on the long shot... the time between Post Time and when you see the blur of silky blacks and browns crossing that finish line... the surge of the crowd as one cheering entity, the smell of draft beer and heavy cigar smoke, the sound of scores of people swatting their thighs with a folded racing form, all of them screaming for their horse to pull through... it's like nothing else.

Fast forward to 2003.

A beautiful lean thoroughbred, described by the original owner as strong-willed from birth, Smarty Jones made his racing debut and won the race by 7 3/4 lengths. At his second race, two weeks later, he won by 15 lengths.

Move ahead to the Kentucky Derby, and Smarty Jones became the first unbeaten Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977, taking the win by 2 3/4 lengths, and securing his place in history.

At the Preakness, a couple weeks later, Smarty blew the other horses completely away, blazing ahead to the finish line a record margin of 11 1/2 lengths. It was the second leg of the Triple Crown.

I remember watching the race... beer in hand, warm weather outside. It was incredibly exciting. It was history in the making. I remember calling my dad and hearing the excitement in his voice.

By the time the Belmont Stakes came around, Smarty Jones had become a rock star. Offers for breeding rights were coming in regularly as high as 40 million dollars. He had a legion of fans to cheer him on. The public had gotten Smarty Jones Fever.

And yet... it wasn't meant to be.

The Belmont kicked off and Smarty came in second, losing to a long shot horse of 36-1 odds named Birdstone. There is a lot of speculation as to why Smarty didn't win, but in the end, it doesn't really matter.

Watching Smarty come up short was devastating. I was completely and utterly depressed that he didn't win. It was the first time in my entire life I saw the owner of the winning horse apologize for winning. She had tears in her eyes as she spoke at the podium after Birdstone won.

There were a lot of people in the crowd at Belmont that had tears in their eyes too. It was as if hope had been stolen from them.

Smarty jones gave his entire being to the race. He gave his heart and spirit. He did the best he could to win and still fell short.

Sometimes shit happens.

During the time between the Preakness and Belmont, my father gave me a black hat and pin with Smarty Jones name on it. Like I said, it was a big deal... the public had caught Smarty Fever and there was everything from t-shirts to thongs with his name on it. Never before or since have I seen that sort of thing in horse racing.

When I write, I usually have a mug of coffee at my side. I wear that Smarty Jones hat flipped backwards like I'm a gunner ready to wade into battle.

It seems kind of silly but I think of that horse and that last race at Belmont a lot. He didn't win, but that doesn't matter much.

Smarty Jones never gave up heart. His spirit never faltered. That's the best we can strive for ourselves isn't it?

It's not the finish line we should be striving for... it's the race itself.

It's early as I write this. My family will start stirring soon, but I've still got some time. Outside, the sun is just beginning to peak its face over the skyline and it seems as if we've gotten our first frost of the year.

The monitor of my laptop glows brightly in the dark dining room and there's a faint head of steam rising off my mug of coffee.

I have my Smarty Jones hat on and I can feel that excitement building like I'm ready to watch a race begin.

Somewhere in the back of my head, I can hear the announcer blowing his trumpet.

It's Post Time and I'll see you all on the other side.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Russian Tea Houses and My absent liver.

I'm guilty.

I admit it.

This Context report is unbelievably late. But duty called and no, you won't know why, but that doesn't matter. Because... like my little Ka-Tet of friends... I'm nothing if not loyal, and with loyalty comes responsibility to be there when called.

But let's take a breath for a moment and talk about Context.

The morning I left started off with me grabbing several hours of sleep the night before as I had some work deadlines I had to meet. These required me ingesting enough coffee to make a rhino dance an Irish line dance.

Throwing assortments in my bag, I headed off to meet Brian Keene and JF Gonzalez

I promptly got behind an entire convoy of school buses that apparently had engines only allowing them to go five miles below the speed limits. This prompted a call from Brian.

"Where the hell are you?"

"In Dante's hell. I'm minutes away. Is Gonzalez there?"

"Of course he's here... he's already in the car kicking the back of the seat screaming "Let's Go! Let's Go!"

I arrived and tried unsuccessfully to coax Sam-dog to come to me, though he was wagging his tail, so that was a good day.

And we were off.

There's a certain feeling of relaxation being around other like-minded individuals, and the ride up was great talking about things going on in the genre... plans for JF and I to accomplish world domination... and the political arena/circus that we're all witnessing right now.

After witnessing an incredibly lovely welcome committee to Ohio, we pushed onward and arrived at Context.

And promptly got into an argument in the parking lot with an idiot in a black Audi.

I rifled through my cash supply to see if I had bail money. Check.

And then the argument fizzled out... we moved on. The fur on the backs of our necks went down and we walked into the con, revenge tactics whirling through our minds.

And promptly found Kelli Dunlap sitting in front of the door with her laptop cracked open.. deep in the throes of editing. This was a better welcoming committee than Ohio.

After settling into our rooms, Gonzalez and I stared, confused, at the shower in our room. It was something out of HBO's Oz. It was a murder or prison rape scene waiting to happen. I kept locking the door throughout the weekend. Something was off and I'd seen this movie before... there's a drain hole in the middle of the floor for a reason... so the blood washes down easily.

The weekend was a blur of meeting new faces. The incredibly lovely and ridiculously talented ball of sunshine herself, Alethea Kontis,one of the most amazing women I've ever met. I picked up both AlphaOops and her incredible collection of personal, insightful essays called Beauty and DynamiteShould you not have a copy... you should go remedy that situation now.

Also met Mark Sylvan, aka Dezm... a huge genre fan and all-around, one hell of a guy, that I proceeded to have a who-can-buy-the-next-round-first contest with.

The first bartender we met was Tina... a likable, odd-ball personality who has written the most extensive occult book I've ever seen, and who entertained us with magic tricks (how the hell did she bend that fork?) and who we befriended throughout the entire weekend.

The first night of a con, everyone is drifting in... it's a chance to unwind a bit.. play catch up with loved ones you hadn't seen in a while. It's a chance to vent and wail and unload and find that unity and camaraderie that only exists in that environment. It's a chance to purge and reveal and is so needed. It's synchronicity at its finest.

The con organizers wanted to take us to dinner... and chose a new Russian restaurant for the experience. And by "new" I mean... "maybe you should've considered staying closed for a few more... years.

They had seven menus.


I'd go into detail, but it's not necessary. The thought behind it was nice... though I think all of us would've preferred going across the way to Whiskey Dick's biker bar. They had a band and a lot of beautiful bikes and I'm sure my bail money would've come in handy.

Friday was a signing upstairs, and I met some new faces, signed some copies of my chapbook and wandered around the dealer room.

Friday evening, Dezm brought Kealan Patrick Burke. I'd read Kealan before, but had never had the opportunity to meet him in person. This was one of the highlights of the weekend. The man has a liver the size of Texas and a constitution for alcohol like none I'd ever seen.

Then I introduced him to Cuervo Black and the world tilted on its axis and remained unhinged for a while. I took great pleasure in this... especially when Maurice Broaddus attempted to leave a half cup of the Mexican elixir behind in Keene's room. He got busted for alcohol abuse and, in true Black Camelot form, downed it in a gulp.

This made me giggle. And I think it made Maurice time travel.

Ever see this Jamiroquai video? The one where he walks like this? That's how Kealan was walking that night.

I'm convinced that Kealan has my liver and is using it as a paperweight. I have asked him to Fed-Ex it back to me, and he has confided that he's traded it for a mason jar of Grade-A moonshine, but also offered words of consolation that he thinks livers grow back.

Saturday was a great day... I got my traditional wake-up call from Kelli... we had a truck-driver's breakfast downstairs, and the day kicked into full gear.

I helped Jason Sizemorefrom Apex set up for his party and assisted in mixing some incredible Rum concoctions that looked like anti-freeze, but tasted like ambrosia with an uppercut.

We had an incredible dinner at a local Mexican restaurant where I witnessed the sheer enormity of Keene's appetite. During his order, the waitress listened patiently, responding at the end of his dialogue "This is all for you?."

It was. And he finished it all with a burp and a smile.

The Shroud Publications also had an incredible party. JF Gonzalez and Michael Laimo signed and sold some books and I saw Gonzalez levitating a bit after being force fed some shots of Basil Hayden. Well.. force-fed may be a bit strong of a description... there wasn't much arm-twisting involved, but all had a great time.

Kealan returned... batteries recharged and ready to wash, rinse, and repeat Friday's experience. He proved he's a stand-up guy by intervening with some drama in the bar, and I'm casting my vote for him to be the next Agent 007.

And then, as it always does, the last day of the con comes way too fast. There were moments left over for one last pass through the dealer's room... catching some panels and saying goodbyes.

We hit the road, bound for home and both Brian's and my head started to melt like the Nazi at the end of Raiders. It was not a pleasant experience.

Got home.. exhausted... and stayed awake long enough to edit a story and submit it... then fell into a coma.

Back to the grind... looking forward to seeing you all again.

Current Reads:
Alethea's Beauty & Dynamite - Amazing collection.. you need it.

Triage.. Ketchum, Laymon and Edward Lee. Heh heh... this fills me with evil giggles.

Current Music:
Not much.. but reading a shitload of lyrics.

Current Infatuation:
errm.. Honey Crisp Apples... mhuhahahahah

Saturday, October 04, 2008


The question recently came up that if a door suddenly appeared in your living room, would you have the courage to open it up and step through to the other side.

Would you?

-- Wild at heart, but whose mind keeps reeling it in.

On duty today for various things... Almost finished Context report and that'll go live on Sunday.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Same as It Ever Was...

Although my chest feels as if I have turning leaves rattling around inside, for the most part, Captain Tripps has left me unscathed, unlike other fellow Contexters, who sound as if they are Death warmed over.

I'd been working up a Context report... and that'll be forthcoming, honest. But there's more important fish to fry at the moment.

See... my morning started halfway through my first cup of coffee with a call from Brian Keene. I answered groggily, still savoring caffeine on my lips, and continued questioning for a few moments until I realized he wasn't going to speak... just let the song Once in a Lifetime, by the Talking Heads, unfurl in the background.

Not that I don't enjoy talking to Brian... but this time, the song was all that was needed.

The song has always resonated with me and depending on when I hear it and what's going on in my life at the time, it takes on new levels of meaning. I'd have to dig back in the archives here, but I'm pretty sure I've quoted it on my blog once or twice. And over the past few days, it's taken on yet another few definitions to explore.

Not sure why, but it appears that a lot of my friends are having relationship issues right now in one form or another. I recently told someone that I think sometimes it's more important to realize who you don't love, than who you do love.

Anyone who's followed this blog long enough knows that I'm a believer in karma.. what comes around goes around. And on that same path, there are things that happen in your life that shape your future. Things that you have to go through and experience to prepare you for something else... something... bigger.

And there are those odd little moments of synchronicity. You know the kind... you're running late because you spilled coffee on your shirt and because you were running late, you missed the jack knifed rig on the highway by seconds. Someone steps away from a slot machine and you throw a quarter in and hit the jackpot. Strange little moments of time and chance coming together in a little sensual dance.

And then there are the people you meet in your life. The ones that somehow, subtly nudge you in certain directions. They make you view life with a new pair of eyes and see things that were right in front of you the entire time. Just that you were either too stubborn or too beaten down to notice them yourself.

Those are the moments that I love the most. I suppose it's easy to look back and justify the past and how it affects the present. Any hack writer with half an imagination could do that. But often times, the people who have entered my life have altered things for me in ways that I could've never dreamed.

We are walls. We are open doors. We are both exits and entries. Each moment is an opportunity for bettering ourselves and those around us. Each moment a chance for refusing to put up with the lives we've become accustomed to, and push ahead and fight for something better... something we deserve as basic creatures.

One of my best friends is standing at an open door at the moment. On the other side is a world of unknowns. It's scary. It's somewhat intimidating. But what it is, is an opportunity to wring karma silly little neck and forge a brand new path.

It takes bravery to do such a thing - to step through. It takes a small amount of insanity too. It's jumping off a cliff based on nothing but faith... nothing but the glyphs of power you've chosen as your own.

And no matter what she decides - what we all decide - those days keep going by.


**Thanks for the call, Brian... right now, that's not a bad song to have rolling around in my head at all.