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    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
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    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
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    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
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    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
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  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
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    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Places I Hang Out


It's like one of those dreams where you can't wake up.

"Wake up," you said.

I remember the day rolling away from the roof of the world, like a demoralized guest curling toward the wall, and how the darkness made everything shimmery, grainy, and animate.

"Forget it. Go to sleep," you said.

That winter the winds whistled no human tune. Just an oscillating galactic plainsong. Like abandoned sheets on the flinch of a rise, all fluttering and sullied in a dirty howling wind.

"Meet me one day at the crossroads," you said.

Recall how this was once a place of brightness and strangeness? Target and Walmart and Rite Aid. Boulevards. Rust and stardust. Corrugated iron. Cherry blossom. Cascades. Brick facades. Ferries departing the point. Knots of people gathered outside Starbucks, warmed by a patio heater in winter, by mochaccinos always, and by the arbitrary camaraderie of belonging.

That's all memory now. Here is not here anymore. I had no answer for you anyway.

Except this: "You mean all things to me."

But the dreams. They used to call it post-trauma. I don't want to give it its dignity by naming it fully. It encumbers me. The dreams are part of being awake, or as close to being awake that you're unable to tell the difference. And it's whatever your chosen fear, your trigger. They arrive in pairs. Fluctuate. Could be a small fire breaking out and a scream. Or the brittle shock of shattering glass and a moan. Disbelief and the blurry grind and shred of tumbling asphalt. The hot proximity of a biting human reek, then wrenching tears. Or the feel of rubber or hair or oil or watery, seeping hangnails. It's usually specific and crawly and lost.

To gather myself, I remember a night horse named Blondie. A winter horse. Escaping the horror of family, I would cross the frozen ridges of soil beside the dark barn and talk to that horse, rant at him, stand in the crystalline air beside his paddock, leaning on the railing, my nostrils crackling in the cold, the draw backdropped by a bright moon, my entire world ghosted, and make peace with him, watch his large luxuriant eye as it sought some gentle kinship of its own. 

But that was the world that was, and this is the world that is. No return. I only torment myself with thoughts like these.

You are out there somewhere. At the crossroads.

"At the crossroads. You follow me, yes?"

Murmurations. That's the word. Those twisting, flowing skeins against an orange sky. A fluid net of birds. Starlings. Practicing molten turbulence over the stark ruins of a blackened pier. These were things that occurred in the world.

I want to follow you.

America: you are a generous and optimistic place. Where else would carpet the outdoor stairway of a motel? Carve monuments from sheer cliffs? Serve food on such lavish platters in your cheapest diners?

I love you. I loved you. I will love you.

The sun loses its perfect circular rim and bulges into the horizon, while grey clouds become dark lavender and muted pink against a pale coral sky. All is melting and breathless.

Some memory conjures the reassuring call of a train from another era and I feel a tear fall.

Will you burst through a cloud? Emerge. Like a sprite in a fallstreak hole?

I sit by a roadside and watch a creature, some misshapen rodent thing, drag itself across the blacktop. Its rear limbs are shattered and skewed and blood pours from the tiny holes in its snout. One of its eyes is ruined, and it snuffles like something plague-begotten. A trail of blood and sand points back toward the creature's tale, untold and star-crossed. Its suffering is fascinating. But relieving it of the burden of life is a tenderhearted thing, so I stand, find a large rock, and attend to its leave-taking. Pity almost stops my heart, although not my hand.

"Will you be waiting for me, my love?"

There's only the wind across the bare desert and the single cry of a hawk.

My gaze on the heat mirage, I walk toward the crossroads.


Demon Eyes

When you're in trouble, it don't matter the exact location of that trouble, he supposed. Just the fact you're up to your neck in a deep mess and need to darn well fix it. Yet it still bothered him that home was a damn sight more than a hop and a jump and a skipped rock away and lookit, there were no goddamned people on this godforsaken island, apparently. Which, he had to admit, was kind of the point.

Okay, obliterated ankle and apparent blindness aside, let's back up here.

Grant was a proud Texan, lord of all he surveyed, which actually wasn't much. But hell, he was lord of it. A salvage yard and a used car lot, to be exact, just outside of Lubbock. Between the two, he and his crew brought them in lame and sent them out new, as the saying went. Or if you prefer a more Texan flavor: brought 'em in sinners, sent 'em out right with God. Well, almost new, almost right, close enough for Jesus to turn a blind eye. Small time as his little operation was, it nonetheless provided him with enough enticing glimpses of a world in which movers moved and shakers shook that he pretty much craved a piece of that world every waking minute. This hunting trip was the end product of some complex favors involving at least a couple bribes and even more meaningful nods and winks between connected associates and their high-powered acquaintances. And money. Which went without saying, was the way of the world. All so Grant could solo-stalk some private island off of the coast of British Columbia and bag himself a timber wolf or two. Or black bear or cougar, maybe. No doubt he'd owe somebody something when he got back to civilization, but still. If he brought back the head and pelt of a wild, grizzled mutt, his wan star might rise somewhat, and he was damn sick of being the one who had to constantly bow his own balding, blocky head in company.

Fucking Canada. Swell idea on paper, and he still treasured the memory of the six hundred pound grizzly he eventually took down somewhere near Jasper, Alberta, but it was always either too cold or too damned wet for regular folks—a godawful place, truth be told, filled with mosquitoes, ice, socialists, and black flies, where no one gave you eye contact and too many self-described hosers repeated sorry and thank you instead of aiming for the top, most of them drinking piss-weak beer and pretending to enjoy grown men exchanging punches on a flat rectangle of ice, so's they didn't have to think about their overall predicament—the predicament being that they're an entire country that's basically Minne-fuckin-sota. 

And apparently the place was also home to attack plants. And it wasn't only the lord Jesus who turned a blind eye, no sir. Right after he'd identified his quarry—a ghostly, damn-near white sonofabitch, and big too, well over a hundred pounds—Grant had stumbled, grabbed something greenish and upright to prevent a fall, then—relieved he hadn't taken a tumble and intending to do a double take at the spirit wolf—had rubbed his eyes with his palms. Worst decision of a bad decision day. But why the hell hadn't anyone warned him there were killer plants in the neighborhood? Took him a while to make the connection, but it had to be some kind of plant. Poison ivy? Nah, he knew poison ivy. Someone had even warned him about grabbing on to devil's club, so that wasn't it, either. He vaguely remembered some tall stems topped by parasols of whitish flowers. Come to think of it, maybe one of the early briefings had mentioned them? An "invasive species"? Giant something? Guess it didn't matter what the fuckers were called or who invaded what-all—hell, he was an invasive species himself right now—what mattered was he'd done manhandled those puppies and now he couldn't see. His eyes burned something awful and his hands were tight-swole with what felt like chemical burns, and that wasn't even the whole of it; to add injury to insult, he'd hightailed partway out of the hollow in a momentary panic (which shamed him in retrospect, boy did it ever), then went and plunged his dumb ass down the same gulch or ravine or whatever they called them in this god-abandoned place. He knew it was bad when he both felt and heard the ligaments in his right ankle rupture with an audible pop that actually echoed among the trees for an appalling second or two.

And after that, silence. Lying still as a newborn after some calamitous birth, waiting for the pain in his lower leg to catch up to the fierce agony in his eyes and hands, barely able to distinguish light and dark. Disbelieving. Until he heard the twigs breaking right up close and the sounds of canine breathing. He went cold and still, reached for his rifle and went colder still. What kind of hunter drops his rifle and neglects to even notice? Worse still, as he reached he actually felt the animal's breath on his throbbing hand. He snatched it back and scrambled away, knowing he was only ruining his weirdly flaccid ankle more by moving. He didn't care. The wolf made a low sound deep in its throat. Grant felt around for his rifle, desperate. The beast was right there, its carrion breath assailing his nostrils, and Grant lashed out with his burning hand, catching its wet muzzle, eliciting a mutual yelp.

"This ain't a fair fight, ya flea-ridden heap o' mange!"

The wolf answered with a brief whine.

Then more silence. Grant's entire body was a tuned receptacle: for sound, for smells, for the briefest of movement. His skin, its fine hairs swaying like antennae, could feel the wispy fall of a single seed head, the tiny ripple of air in the wake of a lacewing's bright flutter, the soft exhale of the vast sleeping forest. Oddly, he'd never felt this alive, as he waited here in this place of solitude for his throat to be torn out, to end his days gargling his own lifeblood.

A hot rank tongue raked down his cheek and he actually screamed. But the teeth didn't follow. The animal had stepped away. It whimpered again. Stepped away further.

"You want me to foller you? You know I cain't walk, right?" Talking to the overgrown mutt only made him feel more stupid than ever, but dignity had dropped precipitously down his list of priorities at this point.

He heard the wolf scrambling in the forest detritus and for a mad moment imagined it finding his rifle and bringing it to him, and he almost laughed at that, but then he felt the damp splintered end of a branch and realized the goldarn brute had indeed brought him something: a crutch. For a moment he was amazed, must have looked like a sightless imbecile sprawled amid the needle-rich dirt and the waxy salal with his jaw hanging loose as an old-timer's drawers, but even a blinded Texan with a busted foot knows not to look a gift wolf in the general direction of its mouth, so he accepted the unlikely offering and began to pull himself to his feet.

Using the rudimentary crutch, he began to shuffle in the path of the timber wolf, who made a low chuffing sound, as if in encouragement. Then all of a sudden, Grant got wise, woke the hell up. What made him think this beast was leading him somewhere good? Who's to say it was on his side, this alien biped from a distant land? No doubt it could smell his strangeness on him. Nature's a bitch, always was since the wily old serpent made a naked chick eat an apple, and always would be until the sun went huge and red and time stretched to some kinda impossibly thin strand, and he of all people should fucking know better. This white monster was no friend of man, and somewhere in the darkest forest its dark companions waited, no doubt drooling and pacing some shadowy den. He knew coyotes did that, lured cats and small dogs away toward the waiting pack, and what was a wolf but a damn coyote on steroids? Hell if he was gonna go meek and stupid like some dumb house pet.

He recalled some latte-loving treehugger a couple days ago telling him the wolf had been unfairly "demonized" throughout history. Well fuck that with a giant fucking lumberjack dick. He sincerely begged to differ. And besides, everyone knows history's a tale told by the winners.

Grant stumbled and lurched in the opposite direction of his newfound spirit guide.

He felt a surge of elation, a sense he'd outsmarted this backward place, called the endless sly bluff of the world, until he stepped hapless into cool space and, as he fell, heard the last thing he'd ever hear on this busy green earth: a single forlorn and terrible howl desolate enough to make all the dead, faraway and near, predator and prey, shudder within their eternal sleep.


Discount Noah

He knew a time approached when it might behoove a man to make good his escape from this tarnished jewel of a world. And for this, he began to build his pod from molded plastics and bright chrome, bringing to bear skills he'd learned in his youth. Granted, he favored natural materials, but he was a carpenter in a world bereft of wood.

"Never did Jesus much good, either," he said to Maisie Ellen, who stopped by now and again to chat.

"What's that now?"

"His trade, I mean."

"Stuff and nonsense."

He loved this part. Fastening and honing and sanding. Making things fit. Smoothing and fashioning. The backs of his hands were dry and creased as Martian valleys, all tawny cliffs and canyons fanned with deep rubicund gulches. Life, he thought, is mostly about elaborating.

So he elaborated.

"Jesus hisself, I'm sayin'. A carpenter who ended up nailed to two hunks of wood. Should probably have stuck to fishing. Though even then they probably woulda poked a hook through his damn lip and hoisted him over all them rubberneckers."

"He was a fisher of men, not a fisherman. Different thing entirely, you old heathen."

"Yeah, well."

She regarded him as he worked. He noticed.

"What? Woman, you look like you've been chewin' a lemon soaked in vinegar."

"You really think you can save your scrawny heretic posterior while billions pass from this tired old world?"

"Sure, maybe. Why not? Someone's gotta. Happened once before."

"You heard the saying about the only two things certain in life, right?"


"Tell me."

He put down his tools and gave her eye contact. "Death and taxes."


The faded charcoal arch of her brow forced him to elaborate again.

"Figure if I cheat the first, the other ain't gonna count for all that much. Kind of a twofer."

"Well, good luck with that, Major Tom. Me, I'm happy to keep canning fruit and sweeping away cobwebs until the good lord calls his sheep home."

"Always been more partial to goats myself. More gumption. And I prefer to take my chances up there." He peered into a dark void scattered with bright rainfall diamonds on some vast invisible dome. 

Had a lifetime of such mysteries. Getting tired now.

"You old fool. Up there's where I'm fixin' to go too. Only not in some contraption built outta duct tape, binder twine, and dollar-store gimcrackery, neither."

At this he laughed long into the night, while the two men observing through one-way glass glanced at each other; one shrugged and the other shook his head so briefly it might have been a tic.

"So convincing I could almost hear the other party's words."

"Yeah. He's in deep, poor old fella. We need to up his dose, I'm afraid."

Back in the room, the old man paced and chuckled to himself, rubbing his rough hands together and imagining to what glittering enchantments, what unspeakable radiance, the arc of his ark might soon transport him.





Behold the dark rider in the day's pale onset.

Blaze rubbed his eyes, not yet believing in the apparition on the road to the south. The tide was faraway to his right, and the surf sounded like slow distant applause, as if the waking land itself were reluctant audience to this human theatre. 

A man on horseback was approaching, ragged black against the grey ribbon of the coast highway.

Beside a sign that read Tsunami Evacuation Route, Blaze stood his ground and felt like a child who'd stumbled onto a battlefield. Stripped, hopeless, defences all done. 

As the figure began to resolve and the light from the east made pearly molten banners of the treetops, details emerged, and they were painful, as if a broken man dragged himself from a cave into the raw light. The man on the horse was worse than broken; his dark and hectic face atop the ruination of his body seemed to plead for something neither his fellow man nor this wan morning could conceivably deliver, some annihilating mercy.

The fly-tormented horse slowed and hung its leaden head and was still.

Blaze breathed and felt like the only thing that breathed in the silent vacuum of the world.


Less than a stone's throw away, Klootchman—for it was he—sagged forward then dropped to his left and hit the asphalt hard.

Blaze ran then, and the world breathed at last, although it was a stale and ignoble breath.


Behold the woman on the sand at dawn.

Athena ran as the light grew around her, seeming to buoy her to weightlessness as her bare feet left prints that filled quickly in her wake. Where her soft blue dress pressed against her body, she was rightful and animate, a creature of warmth. A vanguard of the coming day.

The shoulders of the islands out in the ocean still wore shawls woven from darkness and mist, but to her left the sky was brightening, like the shell of an oyster opening.

She was neither liquid nor solid, such states being meaningless, as joy and sorrow were meaningless to the sea and to the land. They were the same. Animal and machine had no distinction. Her feet touching kelp. Her elbows and knees fulcrums to abet her passage in the parting air, her hips a plummet to hold her to the earth, her neck the urge of an iron swan to break from that same adamant earth. She laughed through tears.

Until she heard her man screaming the name of his friend and even the world had the good grace to dim for a while.


There Is Lonely

Something had made her stay.

The call of her humdrum job cutting lengths of fabric and of two likeable if slovenly roommates in an untidy apportioned suburb had not been loud enough. A relationship not so much on the rocks as fully shipwrecked had not been loud enough. Her one-time companions imploring her to head back east with them had not been loud enough.

This was loud. This place. Painted a safe watercolour veneer over hallucinatory light. Where the beat of life drummed deep within the marrow of the land. This land. This place. With its incessant rush and rumble of tides across mist-draped miles of satin blond sand and the restless receding hiss; its storm-stunted forests whose edges leaned ragged and coerced on promontories; these wispy echoes of a world pre-settled; those scents of tangish salt and sweetish cedar; eddies and flukes, spawn and breach, fat tangerine starfish, driftwood bleach, clustered shellfish; brackish secrets of orca and sockeye, coho and squid, slipping slick through the chuck as skinless muscles; great tawny bays flanked by dark masses of dripping beams trailing mosses like the beards of truant gods; vast spruce posts and struts and torrential canopied ceilings, immense sweatlodge dwellings for bear and raven and eagle and wolf, framed and fashioned by no man and heedless of same. 

A poet of sorts, she was humbled to silence by the indigenous poetry of locale.

But now she was isolate. Something had sequestered them here. A fear hush had wrapped them just as the mists became sometime cauls for the trees. 

Her beachfire pulsed in the tideborne gusts, and sparks were whipped and buffeted and streamed to join the effervescent stars in the forthright arc of the overbearing sky.

She stood. She was lonely. She was hungry, in truth, and something about that brought her shame. That she was so utterly unwomanned. Diminished. Five feet ten of corvid-black enviable beauty reduced to a hanging jaw and knees that would barely lock.

We are blunted spears riding the pactless gales of a livid world, tumbling enfeebled from stentorian skies into breeding swamps of buzzing unchecked swarms absent treaty or terms. If an ending is in store, and soon, what of hundreds of years of white-skinned settlement and tens of thousands of far kinder years before that? Of carvers and surfers, of fishers and loggers and holy dancers under the greying brows of both lucid and baffling skies. Did the land dream us? Are we part of a long slumber from which greater sleepers are already set to awake?

She'd noticed two men and a woman earlier, and they seemed to her kindly, but she could no longer see them, and staring so nakedly at everyone on the beach made her urgency more shameful, more needy. Around the closest fire sat three men and she thought they'd been stealing not so benevolent glances at her. Or glances of a different nature. But they were people.

As she stood, a meteor bisected the big spill of the Milky Way above, flashing like mercury from east to west at the speed of an eyeblink. She imagined it hissing into the dark Pacific, some solitary birdless place where our world's face showed nothing but ocean to outsiders, as lonely in its brisk and sudden finale as it was throughout most of its existence, unable to relate its first-person tales that spanned an eon or more, and dying companionless in cold saltwater on this strange convulsing planet orbiting an unremarkable star on some dismal limb of the galaxy.

Enough. She would walk. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream or plead, but she wouldn't. The surf kept rushing, crashing, as if everyone exhaled but no one remembered to breathe in.

She would walk and talk to the men at the next fire, and if that made her a fool then a fool she would be.