Monday, February 27, 2012

My Cup Overfloweth, Biatches.

We had finals last week. Unfortunately, my final was on Friday, after lunch, and I was scheduled to be on a plane to Florida at that time. I had some trepedations about this; I was missing my final to go to Florida to write tests for SSATB. So it was sort of school related, but let's be honest: they paid me quite a bit to do it. So I came back today ready for the fallout. That's when I see this email announcing a write-up about the conference, saying I'd been selected as one of only 80-something folks picked. This is true, I suppose, but it's not really news worthy. All day, people were congratulating me. At least I didn't get in trouble. Of course, I did have to grade all my finals last night and this morning to get my grades turned in by 9, but 'kest luh vii' as the French say.

I have a stack of books to review that look awesome. Ben Tanzer. Barry Graham. Howie Good. I also am waiting on a contract for my next poetry collection, due out at the end of the year. I have a novel coming out either end of the year or early next year, also, and another coming soon as I actually finish revising it. So yeah.

I'm doing all kinds of freelance stuff to make money, like the SSATB gig. I've got a very busy next few months, but the goal is to have our car paid off by then.

I finished the novel I was working on in January. With all this other stuff going on, though, I don't know that I'll have time to start another one any time soon. I might focus on short stories. Or sleep. Whichever.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review of Timothy Gager's Antisocial Network

Antisocial Network, poems by Timothy Gager. Redneck Press, 2012.

Many of these poems deal with outsiders, drug abuse, bar stories, the mix one would expect with the word 'anti-social' in the title. Gager manages to travel this well-trod ground lightly, though, and brings a lot of humor and insight. He begins with "Ode to the Wormwood," which is a kind of ode to the plant -- the Biblical apocalyptic scourge we're all so familiar with from TV. Perhaps wormwood is a metaphor for the author himself, "Growing on roadsides and wasted places" (line 1) or perhaps it's a metaphor for whatever feeds the alienation in outsiders, "the/ drink held in your hand, downed fast with eyes closed,/ resting on the passage in the Bible." Perhaps, even Gager is commenting on the addiction that is apocalyptic/religious fervor. Regardless, in a fairly brief poem, he manages a quite complex entre to this collection.

"Funeral with No Music" is a punch in the gut about a narrator mourning the death of his father and his dog at the same time. The dog, of course, registers the greater loss. Gager's word choice is clean and powerful. He describes burying the dog: "I sat there, my hair layered in sweat,/ the shovel caked with dry dirt,/ thinking dad deserves/ to die alone, the amount of times/ he cocked a gun to his head/ fucking with all of us." (lines 16-21). Gager balances his rancor at his father, his unresolved feelings, and his loss perfectly. I'm reminded of Carver.

There are several poems in this collection I could quote word for word because they rise from the clean, spare language to impart real feeling. One of the funnier ones is "An Angry Mel Gibson Gets a Dog" which I won't spoil, but let me say I'm not a fan, necessarily, of pop culture references, but Gager pulls it off in a surprising, very funny way.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this burst of poetry. Gager's passion on the page reminds me of a great, early 80's punk band, though, lyrically, he's much stronger (let's be honest). I'd be interested to see what he could do with a little more room to spread his wings.

Monday, February 20, 2012

11 Random Questions About Me

I was tagged by AE Martin to answer 11 questions, which is part of a Writer Campaign game. So here are my answers:

1. What is your biggest fear?
sharks that can breathe air and have chansaws for fins.
2. What would you wish for if you had three wishes?
3. What's your favorite childhood novel?
Crime and Punishment
4. What's your earliest memory?
running around the house naked
5. Would you rather be the hero or the villain of a story?
depends on the story
6. Vampire, Witch, Werewolf, Mermaid -- which would you be?
none of these. I'd be a Cort-i-saur, which is something I just made up that can fly, breathe fire, and put babies to sleep very easily.
7. What's your favorite song?
"Panik in the Cattle Pen" or "Lost My Way" by Kathleen Yearwood.
8. Would you rather go back 50 years to the past or 50 years into the future?
future. 50 years in the past would be during the Civil Rights movement. What a sucky place this was then.
9. If someone could tell you how you were going to die would you want to know? (maybe this question is too macabre lol)
My wife tells me this all the time.
10. Are you more spontaneous or do you like to plan ahead?
plan ahead. Sometimes I spontaneously plan ahead...
11. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Whichever was on top.

Okay now I must come up with 11 questions and tag 11 people.

1. What's your dream job?
2. Winter or summer?
3. What's your most embarrassing memory?
4. Are you who you wanted to be when you grew up?
5. What's your favorite TV show?
6. Would you rather fly or have telepathy?
7. Who's your favorite author?
8. What's your favorite food?
9. Chocolate or cheese?
10. Would you rather sleep or eat?
11. Yes or no?


1. SP Powers
2. Bridget Straub
3. The Golden Eagle
4. Melissa Sugar
5. Alberta Ross
6. Christine Tyler
7. Diane Gillette
8. Yalena Casale
9. Michael Offutt
10. Carrie Butler
11. Lola Sharp

Sorry if you were already tagged elsewhere!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vagabond Souvenirs, a guest blog by Maurice Oliver

I spent eight months in the hospital when I was 10. I missed a whole school year of classes because my parents could not afford a private tutor, but I had plenty of time to study on my own. When I was not building model planes and battle ships from WWII or miniature versions of the latest automobiles, I read everything I could find on Europe. Don't ask me why that part of the world has always fascinated me. Al I know is that I made myself a promise that if the doctors and nurses ever let me go home for good, I'd see as many of the places I'd read about as I could.

My time to see the other side of "the pond" came in the fall of 1976. Armed with a three month railpass and a bright-colored aluminium framed backpack with an America flag sewn on the back panel, I boarded an Icelandic flight bound for Luxembourg City with a re-fueling stop at the airport in Reykjavik. All the passengers were ordered to run across the tarmac under a dark sky of icy blots of rain just for the chance to wander around a sleepy souvenir shop in the terminal that was awaken at one in the morning for the possibility of lining its cash register with U.S. dollars, or any other kind of spendable currency.

This would be my first opportunity to sample a long list of ridiculous items masquerading as souvenirs I've seen in my travels around the world, a list that includes brightly painted wooden roosters in Portugal to a German beer stein that stood the length of my elbow to the tip of my fingers. What would you do with any of that junk I asked myself but use them as dust collectors? I knew I wanted to be different, to somehow be able to use my imagination. I'd always been frugal with my money too, and there was also the problem of the limited space an already full backpack offers.

So on the first trip I began to search for little patches I could sew on the outside of my backpack. The patches were a small form of an insignia that often were the coat of arms for a European city. Even small towns many times had their own coat of arms representing the privilege of their place on a map. The patches were cheap and colorful and could be sewn on with thread I'd brought along with me from home.

By the time I saved up enough money to make my second trip across "the pond", this time beginning in London, I decided to concentrate on collecting transit stubs and tourist brochures which often times were works of art in themselves. I bought a plastic folder I could store them in and then slide them down into one side of my luggage, which I used that trip. Most of the places I stayed were youth hostels which offered cheap beds in a dorm-like setting, and I found the hostel receipts and business cards with their logo on them was a perfect way to recall stops along the way.

There would be two more trips across the Atlantic, one in which I would live and work in Europe as a freelance photographer for nearly a decade, based in Germany, and one in which my life-long dream of traveling around the world would become reality when I boarded a plane in '95 bound for Frankfurt. Some of my most memorable "souvenirs" come from the world trip and include a chip off the Great Pyramids of Giza, a greeting card from the former prison in Stockholm that now serves as a youth hostel, complete with iron bars, a tiny brown pebble from Ayers Rock in Australia that was blessed by the head of the Aboriginal Movement there, and all three airline tickets for that trip around planet Earth. I suppose the ultimate souvenir though, is my American passport with entry and exit stamps from nearly all of the 37 countries I've traveled to.

* * *

After almost a decade of working as a freelance photographer in Europe, Maurice Oliver returned to America in 1990. Then, in 1995, he made a life-long dream reality by traveling around the world for eight months. But instead of taking pictures, he recorded the experience in a journal which eventually became poems. And so began his desire to be a poet. His poetry has appeared in numerous national and international publications and literary websites including Potomac Journal, Pebble Lake Review,
Frigg Magazine, Dandelion Magazine, (Canada), Stride Magazine (UK), Cha Asian Literary Journal, (Hong Kong), Kritya (India), Blueprint Review, (Germany) and Arabesques Review (Algeria). His forth chapbook was One Remedy Is Travel (Origami Condom, 2007). He edits the literary ezine Eye Socket Journal at: . He is currently putting the final touches on his memoir. He lives in Portland, OR, where he works as a private tutor.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Beasts of the Field

I was meeting my fiancé after work at the movie theatre to catch the matinee. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a white SUV drifting across the empty spaces. The driver was looking at something, and her vehicle was following her eyes. She noticed me and sped out of the parking lot, and I drove over towards what she'd been looking at. It was a dirty yellow Toyota truck. There was a bulldog hanging over the side of the bed, its paws off the ground. I thought I saw it twitch.

I threw my car into park, jumped out and grabbed the dog. Its head rolled over to my shoulder, but its cold fur told me it was too late. I lifted it back into the bed of the truck and laid it down.

The sky was darkening and it had been raining off and on for days; the parking lot was wet and as I stood there, stray drops touched my face and arms. The dog was tied to the bed by a thick rope looped around its neck with no collar. The owner had apparently left the dog there while he or she went inside to watch a movie. Maybe it had tried to jump out of the truck, and the rope was just short enough to keep it from reaching the ground.

A sticker on the back window of the truck said, "No Warranty: As is." There was trash in the bed, empty cans and fast food wrappers. I circled the truck, but there was no license plate. And the driver had left the headlights on.

I didn’t know what to do so I decided to go to the theatre proper and alert the manager. As I approached the building, two men came out, talking. One was obviously a manager.

"You say it's a yellow truck?" He was saying.

The other guy nodded. I stopped them and we went back to the truck. The manager went back inside and called the animal services and the police. I sat in my car, watching the truck, waiting for the authorities. The only thing I could think to do for this dog was make sure the owner didn’t drive off.

* * *

This was the second time I had come upon a dog hanging in the air like this. The first had been during my freshman year at college. I was coming home after an overnight DJing shift at the college radio station somewhere around dawn. I lived in a cheap apartment as near the college as I could afford. They had balconies on the second floor that hung about three feet off the ground. As I approached the door to my building I noticed something hanging from one of the balconies, twisting like an upside down weathervane. It was a Chihuahua. A nylon rope was tied to the balcony, attached to its leash. It was alive, eying me, terrified. I stared at it for a moment, and then scooped it up and set it back inside the slatted rails of the balcony. The Chihuahua was tied by a long cord near the sliding glass doors, which I couldn't reach to untie. I went inside the building, banged on the door until the dog’s owner answered. I didn't know the lady's name, but I'd seen her on the bus. She was small and looked older than she acted.

"Your dog nearly died," I said. "It was hanging by its leash off the ground."

"Yeah, he does that," she said, smiling.

It was very early and I was tired. I didn’t know how to handle this woman so I tried to reason with her. "If you keep it tied to the balcony, it'll choke."

"If I don't tie it up, it'll run away," she said. “It barks when we keep it inside.”

Finally, she brought the dog in. It had been such an odd experience that it kept my interest. Every day for the next few weeks, I found myself entering and leaving by the door nearest her balcony, but I didn't see the dog outside anymore.

The more I saw this lady, the more I became convinced that there was something mentally deficient about her. She told me stories about how she owned a McDonalds, about how the entire football team from the local college broke into her apartment and raped her the night before. My roommate openly ignored her, even when she tried to talk to him; he just walked away. Even after I moved; I still saw her. I would walk out of a grocery store or a gas station, hear someone calling, "Hey, You," and there she'd be, grinning. She never learned my name, and I never asked hers. I never saw her dog again, but I wondered what happened to it.

* * *

The animal services people showed up at the movie theatre a few minutes later in a big white van and parked directly behind the yellow truck. As I was giving my statement, my fiancée arrived and I filled her in. A policeman showed up and I gave him a statement as well. As I was talking to them, my eyes kept going back to the stain on the pavement below where the dog had been. I kept seeing, in my mind's eye, how its tongue had been sticking out like it was going to blow a raspberry.

The animal services man took the body away, and we walked towards the theatre.

"The movie's probably already started," I said.

"Well," my fiancée finally said, "Do you want to just go home?"

I really didn't, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. As we approached the door of the theatre, the ticket seller piped up; "Free for good citizens." He was a tall guy, lanky with long blonde hair. I recognized him but couldn't place him till we were inside; several seconds later, then I realized that he used to live in the same old apartments with me and the Chihuahua lady.

The movie had already started and it was nearly deserted. We sat and stared at it. A few minutes later, the policeman came in and worked his way down the rows, asking each person if they owned a yellow truck.

"No one will be dumb enough to own up to it," I whispered, and no one in our
screening room claimed it, though there were other screens.

I couldn't focus on the movie, it seemed loud and annoying. I kept thinking of the dog. It had been raining off and on for days, and yet someone had left this dog tied up, exposed to the elements, while whoever it was went and watched a movie. I couldn't imagine why someone would feel the need to bring a dog along to sit in the parking lot while this person watched a movie. I didn't know the circumstances, of course, but it seemed very odd. It reminded me of being a child, and refusing to go anywhere without a favorite toy. But this wasn't a toy; this had been a living being. And what child doesn’t know better than to bring its toys in out of the rain?

I grew up on a farm, around all sorts of animals. I knew that life was fragile, and that animal death was part of the package. But if one forgot the fragility of life and became careless, there would be consequences. A person had to keep their stock healthy. It was simply good business.

Death is unfortunate but the death of livestock, which would be used for food, was far different from the death of this bulldog. There was no purpose to the dog’s death. Maybe it simply hadn’t occurred to the owner to act any other way.

* * *

When I was very young, my cousin Scott had a pet rabbit. His father raised rabbits to eat, but Scott had named this one, and was trying to convince his father to let him keep it as a pet. I forget its name, but I remember that Scott was forever getting in trouble with his father because the rabbit left pellets on the carpet.

One afternoon we went to his house and he was very upset. I didn't see his rabbit and I asked about it. He took us to the kitchen, opened the freezer and showed us a package of meat.

"He says I have to eat it," Scott said. His face was twisted into a grimace.

His father had gotten tired of telling Scott to clean up after the rabbit and finally killed it. Scott's mother made it into a stew, which Scott refused to eat. I can only assume that Scott's father was trying to teach him some lesson, but it was a vicious one. The lesson seemed to be devaluing life.

My father taught me a similar lesson. When I was a kid, I had a redbone hound named Red. Red was the dumbest dog I'd ever known. My sister had a cat, and when she fed her, Red would try to steal her food. So I would feed Red. But he was still more interested in the cat's food. He would chase the cat away from her bowl, and the cat would go to his abandoned bowl. They would chew for a while, and then Red would notice the cat, eating from his bowl. He'd chase her away and start eating his own food again, and the cat would go back to her bowl. They swapped back and forth several times until the cat finally got tired of it, and clawed Red's nose. This put an end to playtime.

My father hated Red, hated all pets. I knew this, and yet I decided to take the dog when a friend offered it to me. My father hated dogs first off, because stray dogs worried his cattle. They barked and chased cows, causing small scale stampedes, which could lead to injuries. But Red, he tolerated, at first, as long as I kept him outside, tied up around back. I had illusions we’d train Red up as a coon dog. Red was a hound dog, and my father was a hunter.

My father was also a drinker. After I'd had Red for a few months, my father came in, drunk one night, late from the farm.

"Saw a skunk around back," he said, stalking into the dining room where he kept his gun rack. He loaded the gun and went outside. After a while I heard the shot. My father was gone for some time afterwards. When he came in, he didn't speak to me and quickly went to bed. The next day, I found no trace of Red.

A few years later, my father would end my pet ownership for good in a drunken rage by throttling a kitten for urinating on the carpet. I realized, then, that the pain I had caused these animals by bringing them into contact with him wasn't worth the fleeting joy of ownership. Collecting strays wasn't beneficial for the strays. When I brought them into my home, I was responsible for whatever happened to them afterwards. By naming them, I brought them under my care. These were lives, these animals had personalities. They didn’t ask to be brought into the situation I was putting them in.

This was a realization I’d forgotten, until I encountered the bulldog in the movie theatre parking lot.

* * *

Outside the movie theatre, it started to rain again. My fiancé walked me to my car, still parked beside the yellow truck.

"I wonder if the police found out whose truck it was," she said.

We came to the truck. I pointed out that the headlights were still on.

"The owner's probably afraid to come back to the truck right now," I said. "Maybe the battery will go dead," I said. "That's something, at least."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Heard It In a Love Song, a guest blog by Len Kuntz

I fell in love far too young, before I’d kissed my first girl, years before I’d shaved or held a job, years prior to puberty.

Yes, I was smitten. A goner. Whipped. There was nothing I could do about it.

And I was only eight.

It was an attraction that made me manic, desperate and needy. I became a tool, helpless to my addiction, a glutton always craving more.

Each time I encountered my beloved, a chemical coiled through my veins like hot wire, making me flush, shooting neck hairs rigid on the back of my neck. Once my brother saw me in just such a state, his mouth wrinkled with worry. “What is it?” he asked.

I wasn’t even old enough to lie, so I just came out with it.

“The Grass Roots.”


“Two Divided By Love.”

“What the heck?”

“It’s their new single.”

I reached into the smudged white box, which was about the size of what you might stash a cake in, reset the turntable needle and cranked it up.

I sang along in what I thought was sweet falsetto. “Every night your tears come down and I know how you’re feeling inside. Loneliness is no one’s friend, I’ve been takin’ the same kind of ride…Come on, baby!”

He shook his head and walked away.

I didn’t care. I was in love. In love with music.

My actual first musical purchase was The Partridge Family’s Greatest Hits. It cost an utter fortune--$5.99. I recall standing in an aisle at Two Schwabbies, hunched over the record rack, guts roiling as I struggled to decide which album would be my first—Bobby Sherman, The Osmond’s, Three Dog Night, Al Green, Jesus Christ Superstar. At one point, a white-haired woman in a smock approached, her face twitching nervously, and asked me if I was okay. An hour later a security guard stopped trying to hide his presence and just stood across the row, glaring, thumbs inside belt loops, a black-handled pistol snug in his holster.

That night I played my record five hundred times. Maybe more. I didn’t sleep. I sang along with David Cassidy—“I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of? I’m afraid that I’m not sure of, a love there is no cure for…”

From then on, I saved up my fruit-picking money for new songs, new groups. I couldn’t get enough. The notion of being able to actually own music—hold it in your hands even--seemed preposterous luck, making me outrageously happy. How fantastic to--whenever I wanted, without having to rely on AM radio--hear Marvin Gay sing, “Mercy, Mercy Me” or Johnny Cash falling down, down, down in a burning ring of fire.

My first 45 was E.L.O. (Electric Light Orchestra), “Telephone Line.” The vinyl was electric green, as if someone had injected apple Kool-Aid into the plastic. I wasn’t sure whether to eat the record or play it. I bought Elvis’s Greatest Hits C.O.D. (Cash on Delivery). The postman looked perturbed when I handed him a jar of coins and wadded up ones.

For a while, I thought I’d be a musician myself. I got a drum set, but was lousy. I bought a guitar, but stumbled through Kumbaya. The best I could do on my own musically (and can still do--after a few glasses of vino) is a mean version of “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb.

Music has been with me on bright days and dark nights. It’s better than a dog because—contrary to “American Pie” by Don McLean--it never does die. My whole my life I’ve loved music the way a man might love a woman. Our relationship has been at times mood-altering, gentle and tender, rough or passionate, sometimes angry, loud, clashing, soft again, sweet, screeching like a cawing bird, twanging, thumping, pounding, heart-fisting, symphonic, shimmering, serene.

And music is like muscle memory.

For instance, the events of my 12th year of life remain somewhat fuzzy to me, however I remember discovering “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night. It hit number one on American Top 40. And though what all happened to me at age 12 is vague, I can still recite every single lyric of what is a catchy, yet admittedly, very corny tune. “Jeremiah was a bullfrog. Was a good friend of mine. I never understood a single word he said. But he always made some mighty fine wine…”

I recently read that most adults listen to the same music they favored in high school. Not me. Oh sure, I like the old stuff, the classics, but there is so much new material coming out every day from remarkable talents—Fleet Foxes, Wiz Kalifa, Joanna Newsom, Girls, Neon Trees, Cold War Kids…

And I like it all. Even country. Even hip hop. Especially hip hop. Eminem, to me, is like reading Kafka on Oxycodone.

There’s music for every mood, every emotion. It can set you up, take you out at the knees. It can be one of the best parts of your day. For instance, when you’re angry or edgy, there’s no better remedy than playing “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine, and playing it so loud that your windshield shudders.

I once heard Tony Bennett say, “Without music, life wouldn’t be worth living.” While that sounds a little severe, he’s not far off the mark. Music is a treasure too easy to steal or take for granted. Music is a blessing, bliss. It’s been with me longer than any friend. So, I’ll tell you straight away, without even a twinge of embarrassment--I’m in love, and there will be no separation.

* * *

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online literary magazine "Metazen." His work appears widely at such places as Pure Slush, Connotation Press, Thunderclap! Press and others. Please find him at

Monday, February 06, 2012

Outtake from a Novel in Progress

I used to watch an old black man sitting on a bench in the park feeding sunflower seeds to the birds and squirrels. I was working at a fast food place, this was years ago, and on breaks, since I couldn't afford to eat, and didn't want to, I'd go walk in the park, which was nearby, just to get away from the smell of arrested decay the meat reeked of. He was there everyday, and I'd come up through the grass behind a couple trees where he didn't notice me, far enough to see but not be seen.

The first day, he tossed seeds down near his feet, and I didn't stop, thinking nothing of it, except that more squirrels than birds came. After a week, or so, he was setting the seeds on the bench beside him, chewing right along with them, and the squirrels came up and ate them, right beside him. By this time, I'd noticed that he shooed the birds away, which explained the preponderance of squirrels. I hated the job, and would've quit, but I was interested in the old man, who seemed to have a purpose he was approaching methodically, and I am a sucker for drama. The squirrels would come closer and closer, one in particular, I think, and then one day, after about a month, I saw the man reach out, delicate as a lover, and stroke the thing's head. It ran off, of course, but it didn't bite him. I didn't see it the next day, but he kept feeding them until it came back, and, after a couple weeks, he was able to stroke its fur, his hand lingering on its silky head, but only when its mouth was full, otherwise, it wouldn't go near him. I waited, some days, until it'd eaten its seeds and run off, and talked to him. It was hard going. He was shy towards me, a stranger, and a white one, to boot, but I think he saw my sincere interest and responded accordingly. Over the course of several days, he said that he'd grown up in the country, and they used to eat squirrels. He said his mom had died when he was young and his dad made him, essentially, become the mom, and cook and clean. And the father was down on his luck and hardly worked, so he hunted for their food. Except he drank and wasn't much of a hunter, so he mostly brought home squirrels. He liked to eat their brains and suck their eyes out (which, the old man said, probably had something to do with why his father was so bug-eyed mad, and laughed hilariously at this as though it didn't worry him) so his dad made him cook the squirrels, heads on, bug-eyes staring, and it had always bothered him. He ate the things, right along with his dad, for several reasons, hunger being chief, but also fear of retribution, and the fact, he said, that you did what you were told in his day, but he had terrible nightmares about it up to his teens, and even when we was older and working on his own, had stayed away from meat, for the most part, remembering those eyes. He said it was thanks to George Washington Carver who'd invented peanut butter for black folks, because you could get all you needed from it. Now that he was old and used up, he said, he liked to share his lunch with the squirrels, hoping to undo a little of what his father did to them, because it was too late to undo what he'd done to him. A lot of people don't like squirrels, he said, but a lot of people voted for Reagan, too.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Notes on Process

I'm 30,000+ words into a novel right now, and it's taken a weird turn, which is fine. This is an old project. I started it when I was a sophomore in college, I think. Back then, the story was about a guy who accidentally got into an altercation which led him to steal a car. The car had drugs and things in it. So he ends up on the run from the owners of the drugs. It was kind of a drug heist story. This was one of the first times I really attempted fight scenes, sex scenes, and generally getting out of my comfort zone. I don't recall how far I got with it, but it faltered and I put it aside.

But I kept thinking about it. I came up with a second act, which I didn't write (and still haven't) in which the main character runs away and ends up at a commune with this cult who were essentially anti-quiverfull types. At one point, I used them in a different novel, and they morphed into Animal Liberation Front types. I reworked the opening to make it more readible and inserted a more focused philosophical theme into the book. But, again, I stalled and didn't finish it.

More recently, I came up with a new opening and ditched all the work I'd done, previously. I kept the running outline I'd developed for the earlier versions, but as I actually wrote the book, I strayed pretty far from the outline. No drugs, really. Some sex. A little fighting. The book started as an incredibly dark story, but now, it's more of a supernatural odd couple scenario. And it's pretty funny. I've just now gotten to the commune section, and it looks like I'm going to keep it, but who knows what it'll end up being like.

Not every book I write is like this. Sometimes, I make an outline and essentially expand it into a novel, and that's that. With this one, I had an outline bu abandoned it. I've been doing that more lately. But right now, I really have no idea where this book is going, which is unusual for me. At this point, I would usually have a fairly good idea of just about every major scene left in the book. Right now, I've got an idea or two. I don't even know how long the thing will be, which is very strange. I can usually guage that to within a few thousand words.

After I finish this one, which I hope will be fairly soon, I'm going to pick up another one that faltered -- this time because I abandoned the outline. That one's almost done, I think. But then again, I don't actually know. I won't say that it's scary to be off the rails like this, but it is interesting. This book grows at its own pace. It takes its time. I don't know if I like it. But it doesn't really matter if I do or don't.