Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Life in a Northern Town, Part 4

This serial has been extended to six parts, thanks in large part to all the encouragement you have given me. Enjoy!

I've never been on a date before, but dangit if this don't feel like one. Nick's playing at the pub tonight. I convinced myself to clean up and head here looking as slick as oil. I intend to talk to Nick tonight. That is my intention. Yessir. That is, assuming these chattering teeth let me speak.

I looked in the mirror before leaving the house. Sweet Jesus. You ain't never seen someone look as desperate to impress. I got on my tight dark blue Wranglers, my best blue plaid shirt, and my non-shit-kickin' boots. My hair is parted to the left and maybe a bit too gooped. I take my hand and feel it every few minutes just to make certain it's still in place. Yup. Still petrified.

Da and Auntie Bev looked at me like I was a unicorn or something when I emerged from my room. Then Da finally said, "You look real nice, my boy. Real nice." Auntie Bev even made me pose for a photo. From the way Auntie Bev acted, you would have thought I've been walking around naked my whole life and just found out about clothes.

It got even worse when I walked in here. The pub got all quiet. I noticed those smirks on a few dirty faces too before I quickly looked away and found my usual place against the wall. Nobody said anything, though. At least not to me. Thank God for the waitress Lucille. She came up to me and said, "You look real nice. Don't let those filthy buggers bother you. What'll you have tonight, hon?"

So, here I stand, drinking my beer, feeling like there's a circus in my stomach, and hoping Lucille's right and I look nice. But what have I got to compare 'nice' to? Nobody around here looks nice. Except for Nick.

He's playing that guitar, an old thing that I bet has quite a story to tell, and his singing is enough to calm the rowdiest of guys in here. Nobody's even playing pool. His voice is memory and nostalgia and chances not taken, and I bet you everyone in here feels it. I can even hear some sniffles from a few of the old, old-timers. My eyes ain't leaving the stage, not even when Lucille comes back around and asks me if I want another drink. I just nod. She keeps 'em coming. Nick's looking at me and he smiles. It's a real honest-to-Jesus smile and I swear I feel the edge of my own mouth raise a bit, like it's on a curtain hook, half-smiling in return. It's a start, right?

His set is over. It's gone by way too fast. I breathe deep, a cleansing breath. His music, his voice, has washed the rock dust out of my lungs. The pub returns to life as if Nick hadn't just been up there singing. Pool balls are striking each other and dirty jokes are being told. I stay where I am. I order another drink, feel my hair again, and wait for Nick. He packs up his guitar into a case that's older than the mountain, scuffed all to hell, and there's a satisfied look to him. He steps down from the small stage. I stop slouching and stand up as straight as I can. My eyes are as open as if a big ol' truck is heading right at me. But it's Nick and he's standing in front of me. My God, he's beautiful.

"Hey there," he says, his voice as soft and comforting as a blanket.

"H-hi," I stutter. I was really hoping I wouldn't stutter. Dammit. "That was a good performance. I mean, it was nice. I mean...Damn, you got a voice, don't ya?"

Shit. Just take a drink.

He's laughing. I made him laugh. Me.

"You look real nice," he says.

"Th-thank you." What do I say now? How does this conversation proceed? This is the longest moment in the history of the world. I can't just stand here and look into his eyes forever. Do something, you moron!

"Well, I best be going," he says.

What? No. Don't.

"Oh, okay." I let him pass. "Listen, Nick. Do you wanna...?"

He's looking at me, waiting, but I can't finish the damn sentence. Just read my mind, Nick. Please.

He gives me another sweet, sweet grin. "G'night," he says. He's turning around. He's leaving.


I walk in the door and Da's waiting up on me. He's all smiles. Auntie Bev's sleeping on the couch in front of the TV, snoring like a bulldog. "Well," Da says, "How'd it go? Did you invite him for dinner?"

I don't respond. I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed of my cowardice. I just head for my room with my head down.

"Next time," I hear Da say. "You'll get him next time."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The List: Things You Mayhaps Missed

1. My and Teej had a gratuitously romantic Valentines Day:

2. Our anthology Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open (release date May 17) got a ferocious cover by Kealan Patrick Burke:

3. New Additions to the E-pedia: 

-Mayhaps - describing something that may happen.
-profound box - texting gibberish caused after taking Ambien while conversing with Teej.
-Happygeddon - source: Tj Klune, vast amount of happiness happening at one time.

4. Sent my book Woke Up in a Strange Place to Ellen Degeneres. Plan to send it to Anderson Cooper this week.

5. I was listed on Untreed Reads 25 Best Selling Writers of 2012. Woot!

6. The French translation of Simple Men was recently released. The French version of Galley Proof will soon follow. Paint me like one of your French girls.

7. Here's me in my Dolly shirt:

8. And me and Teej met a giant beaver:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life in a Northern Town, Part 3

We're at the general store near the base of the mountain ordering a new wheel for Da's chair. He's needed a new one for a while now. In fact, he's needed a whole new chair. The one he's got was a throwaway when we found it. I can only afford to replace it a piece at a time, though. Da says he don't mind, but I can see the grimace on his face every time he rides over a bump in the house.

He insisted on coming down to the store with me. Says he needed to get out of the house. Says he don't want to be a shut-in. I'm glad for the company, and it's good to see him out. His face ain't so ashen when he's outside. The air seems to do him good.

Once we got into the store he took off on his own. He don't need me pushing him. Get my da on a flat service and it's like he's in the drag races. You'd hardly notice the oxygen tank strapped to the back of his chair. Makes me smile to see him shooting this way then that, as giddy as a kid, chatting as best he can with other customers, many of them people we've known our whole lives. And they're all glad to see him too. Surprised he's still alive, but glad to see him. I let him be and order the wheel and some other things we need for the house - a new hinge for the front door, a new shower nozzle. I also get some groceries and then splurge on some black licorice for Da. That's his favorite candy.

I hear Da whooping it up with someone, not letting them get a single word in between his chatting and his coughing. I turn around and my heart is in my throat. It's none other than Nick, standing there all polite-like and hearing what Da has to say about anything and everything. The shock of seeing Nick nearly makes me drop my bag of groceries. I've gone all prickly cold and my knees are shaking like I'm naked out in a winter storm.

Oh Jesus! Don't look at me! Don't look at me, please.

But he is. He's staring right at me again with those gem stone eyes and he's smiling. It's a shy smile, kind of scared and unsure, but it's a smile, sure enough. And what am I doing? What the hell am I doing while he's smiling at me? I'm standing here like a dummy five feet away from my own da and too green and stumped to do anything else. I can't even smile. I bet I look ridiculous to him. I can't even remember if I combed my hair this morning. I want to drop the bag right now and run my hands through it to make sure it's lying flat.

"Ain't you gonna say hi to the man?"

Thank God for my da. It's like he reached out and shook me out of my stupor with a big ol' "Get a hold of yourself." I start walking towards them, all awkward and mechanical, and I even eek out a constipated grin. It's the best I can do. I think I'm gonna say something to Nick, to at last introduce myself. All I have to do is reach out my hand, right? But, goddammit, some nervous devil takes me over and instead of talking with Nick I'm telling my da how we better get back home. How Auntie Bev is expecting us. How we don't have time to dally.

I hate myself.


In the truck, on the ride home, Da is silent. We don't have time to dally? Why not? That's all I've been wanting to do these last few weeks. To dally. With Nick. I am furious with myself. I could have said something. I wanted to say something. So, why didn't I? My head is a big empty chasm walled of stone, and all I hear are mocking echoes. My heart is flesh and blood, though. I'm certain of that now more than ever.

"I like him," says Da as he chews on his licorice.

"Huh?" My grip tightens on the steering wheel.

"Your friend. Nick." Da's staring straight ahead. "I like him."

"We're not really friends, Da. I hardly know him."

"You should have him over for dinner some night." He's nodding like a decision has been made. "I like him. Do you like him?"

I get it now. "Yeah, Da. I like him a lot."

"Good. Everybody needs someone they We all deserve a friend. We'll have him over some night. Does that sound right to you?"

"Okay, Da."

"Okay then. Thanks for the licorice."

And I can't help but grin. I don't think my da saw, though. He loves his licorice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tell Me It's Real Release with TJ Klune and Eric Arvin

The day after Valentines Day, and me and Teej made this video to celebrate the release of his new novel Tell Me It's Real.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

French Version of SIMPLE MEN Released

The French version of my book Simple Men is released via Dreamspinner Press aujourd'hui. Neat, n'est-ce pas? Interested? Click HERE.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Great Songs That Reference Films & Actors

And now, songs with references to actors or films:

"Boots" by The Killers, wherein is referenced It's a Wonderful Life.

"Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes, wherein is referenced Mae West...just kidding. It's Bette Davis.

"Beautiful Killer" by Madonna, wherein is referenced Alain Delon.

"January Wedding" by The Avett Brothers, wherein they mention Audrey Hepburn.

"Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" by The Counting Crows, wherein is referenced Monica Potter.

"Genius" by Warren Zevon, wherein is referenced Charlie Sheen.

"Calling it Quits" by Aimee Mann, wherein is referenced Judy Garland.

"L.A." by Amy MacDonald, wherein is referenced Jake Gyllenhaal.

"Steve McQueen" by M83, wherein is referenced Bette Davis...d'oh! I mean Steve McQueen.

"The Late John Garfield Blues" by Sara Watkins, wherein is referenced John Garfield.

"Footballer's Wife" by Amy MacDonald, wherein is referenced Marilyn Monroe.

"Thin Blue Flame" by Josh Ritter, wherein is referenced Laurel & Hardy.

"You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Whinehouse, wherein is referenced Roger Moore.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Life in a Northern Town, Part 2

Monday is a long day. It's the same for most folk, I guess, but in the mines there ain't no clock on the wall to tell you your day's winding down. To offer some sort of escape, reprieve even. You kind of lose yourself to the dark a little bit more every day. The picks and axes hit the stone and it makes a forceful sort of music. Industrial, but with less heart. The music of the damned, maybe, if that ain't too heavy-handed. Shit. Heavy-handedness is all we got down here. You can't be light-handed, light-footed, or limp-wristed because everything's so damn dark.

But enough of that. I'm on break. I'm outside now, trying to enjoy the breeze on my face, though still coughing up the earth's dirty core. I brought myself a sandwich from home, but I don't feel like eating. Once I touch the bread with my dirty hands that pretty white bread will be stained with soot. The same soot that will eventually kill me.

Suddenly, there's a commotion coming from the south. Men resembling old mining stereotypes are yelling and running, calling for the foreman, spouting off nonsense about tommyknockers and vengeful ghosts. There's been a collapse. One of the mines has completely caved in. I'm standing here, thinking there's nothing I can do to be of any help, when it hits me: the south mines, ain't that where Nick works?

I'm off like a jack rabbit, pushing my way past miners, even knocking one down. "Nothing to be done," they all yell, every one of them a Gabby Hayes. "Nothing you can do for the poor bastards."

But I don't listen. I don't want to hear nothing but Nick's voice, his plaintive songs. I'm breathing hard as I reach the south mines and everything here is in a right tizzy. Rocks are being pulled away from where the mine's entrance used to be, guys are yelling down open shafts for any response, the injured are covered with dust and soot and are being tended to or carried away on stretchers. And all the while there are calls of "Where's the foreman?"

And then I see him. Nick. My heart nearly breaks, but not from grief. From sheer pent up exhilaration.  From a flood of relief. He's dirty, covered in dust so that he looks like a stage actor with too much makeup, but he's alive, sitting on a rock, breathing rough-like, and drinking water from an old canteen. Thank God he got out! My knees feel like they're gonna give and I wanna smile and cry at the same time, but I control myself. I don't break. Not even when he looks up at me and nods.


It's taken me a while to get back home. Da's beat-up old truck's about had it. The poor thing's like a loyal horse with bad lungs. It's all fine by me, though. I needed the steady racket of the old truck to smooth away the edges of the day. I imagine Nick's in the seat beside me sometimes, but I know that's silly. Why, I wouldn't even be able to hear him above the truck's rattle.

I get out of the truck and start walking up to our small house. I'm always shocked by how quiet things are in the rest of the world. Outside the mines, I mean. It's nice, but also a bit unnerving. Like something's about to happen. Something real bad just sitting in wait. I ain't six feet from the door when I hear my da coughing and carrying on like he's calling up the dead. It's the worst I've heard him in a long while. Shit, I think. God's spared Nick, but He's gonna take Da.

I race inside, nearly tearing the door from its hinges, and what do ya know but there be my da laughing - laughing - with Auntie Bev. She's all spruced up in her high stacked peroxided hair, heavily applied eyeliner and lipstick, and gawdy accessories, and he's as read as a a pickled beat. She's entertaining him with dirty jokes.

"What the hell is up with you, sweetie?" she asks me. I can't tell if her eyes are wide with surprise or if that's just the makeup.

"I thought you were dying, Da," I say, trying my hardest not to sound too frustrated. Oh, my poor heart.

"I am," he answers, wiping away tears and spitting out phlegm. "Your auntie here be slaying me! She's a filthy woman."

"Naw," says my aunt. "I'm just colorful." Then to me, "You go clean up, hon. I made a stew. You're pale as a ghost. My stew will put some color in your cheeks."

I tell her I'll be back in a few and head to my room, leaving them to their merriment. I shut my door, standing, back against it, for a moment. And this is when my knees finally give and the tears come and I crumple, silently sobbing, to the floor.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Great Songs That Reference Songs & Singers

"The Road" by Emmylou Harris, wherein she references former friend and bandmate, the late Gram Parsons.

"17 Again" by Eurythmics, wherein they reference themselves and their classic "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)".

"Eulogy" by Frank Turner, wherein he mentions Freddie Mercury.

"Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" by Lucinda Williams, wherein she mentions Loretta Lynn.

"The Ghost of Stephen Foster" by Squirrel Nut Zippers, wherein the mention songwriter Stephen Foster.

"You Could Make a Killing" by Aimee Mann, wherein she (supposedly) references on of the Oasis brothers.

"These Photographs" by Joshua Radin, wherein he mentions Nina Simone.

"Never Found My Emmylou" by The Doc Marshalls, wherein they mention Emmylou Harris.

"Burgundy Shoes" by Patty Griffin, wherein she mentions The Beatles' song "Michelle."

"Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy, wherein is referenced Nick Drake.

"Nick Drake Tape" by Clem Snide, wherein he, Nick Drake.

"Matilda" by alt-j, wherein is mentioned folk singer Johnny Flynn.

"On with the Song" by Mary Chapin Carpenter, wherein she references The Dixie Chicks.

"I Dream a Highway" by Gillian Welch, a gorgeous 14 minute song wherein she mentions both Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons.

"Under You" by Better Than Ezra, wherein they mention Leonard Cohen.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Interview About "Illusion"

I am interviewed anew about my first novel The Rest Is Illusion HERE. Because of the renewed interest in the story I'm pondering routes to future publication, rather that be through a publishing house or self-published.