Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Importance of Ritual in Writing ... at least for me.

Setting up a certain set of conditions, at least for me, is key to getting a lot writing done.

    I know that I focus best in the morning. Early, like 5am. Know thyself and when the muse is most likely to visit you. Don't be afraid to experiment and see what time works best for you. What conditions do I use?
    1. Set up everything the night before so I'm ready to start writing right away.
    2. Listen to nature sounds (my favorites are rain, waves and wind).
    3. I like wearing noise cancelling headphones to listen to the aforementioned sounds.
    4. Shut off the internet. I work on an old laptop that doesn't get online very easily. 
    5. Turn off the cell and put it out in another room the night before. Don't check email/social accounts until after writing.
    6. Set (achievable) goals. What works best for me is having a list to cross items off. Or a word count/set amount of time.
    Do I always follow all of these? Of course not. But when I do, it's when I usually feel the most productive. If you follow your ritual, your muse becomes accustomed to visiting at that time. If not, at least you've shown up and done *your* job, even if that slacker muse hasn't.

    Do you have any rituals that work well for you when you write?

    Thursday, August 2, 2018

    Wigleaf's Best Flash Fiction 2018

    I'm very excited to announce that my flash story, 'That Dark, Sweet Magic' made Wigleaf's Best Flash Fiction of 2018 (#20). So mosey on over to Flash Fiction Online and read it! It's less than 1,000 words, which means it will take you about 6.5 minutes to read, less if you're fast!

    That Dark Sweet Magic by Travis Burnham

    Thursday, August 17, 2017

    New Fiction and the Aussie Pink Floyd Show @ the Belk Theater, Charlotte, NC

    My flash piece, 'That Dark, Sweet Magic' is up over at Flash Fiction Online. Would love love love if you went and checked it out:

    In other news, I caught the Aussie Pink Floyd Show just a few days ago (8/13/2017). They put on a fantastic event.

    While playing covers from 'The Wall':

    A taste of how amazing the show is. The finale:

    Friday, December 16, 2016

    Wyrm's Gauntlet Writing Contest!

    For the last couple of months I’ve been participating in a writing competition called the Wyrm’s Gauntlet — consisting of a series of challenges, two fiction, two non-fiction—the number of challengers was winnowed from 33 to 8 to 5, and finally to the last 3.

    The first challenge was to critique a book review, the second to write a 2nd person POV short story, the third to write a critical paper about fan fiction and then, the final challenge, to write a short story with a movie trailer prompt.

    And I just found out a few days ago that I came in first place!! As seen here: Gauntlet Champs!

    Definitely fun, but challenging. It really is a gauntlet!

    PS: And thanks to the folks that offered advice on rough drafts -- Matt, Deborah and Sonja!

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    On Goals and the "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest!

    I set some writing and submission goals this summer!

    Some goals that I've unlocked over the last few months:
    • My first royalty check! Not for a lot, but hey, a royalty check!
    • In June, I set out to write 1,000 words a day and I met that goal.
    • Over the course of July and August, I've submitted short stories to over twenty venues!
    • I had a reprint accepted!
    • I have a story will be produced as an audio podcast! Very excited!

    In other news, do you have a novel you're interested in having represented? In the "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest you'll have an opportunity for a real live agent to check out the first page of your novel.

    The contest is live until the end of the day, Wednesday, August 24, 2016. The contest is judged by agent Andrea Morrison of Writers House. Interest piqued? Mosey on over to the website for details!

    Sunday, April 3, 2016

    A Plea for Good Music - Jason Myles Goss

    Are you tired of all the same music that the six companies that control 90% of our media tell you to like?
    Jason Myles Goss

    Jason Myles Goss' music has muscle. It has soul and heart. He tells stories that tell the plight of regular folks trapped in their circumstances. Or folks just trying to live their lives. He writes beautiful songs. He writes earworms that you don't even notice your singing to yourself as you stand in line buying groceries. And then you realize for the fourth time in a day, or the tenth time that week who you're listening to.

    Treat yourself to a dose of amazing music. I've been listening to Jason Myles Goss now for going on more than a decade when he came to play at a little coffee house in Portland, ME. He was really good then, and he just keep getting better and better.

    It's criminal that he isn't better known.

    He brings to mind Bruce Springsteen if he wrote about life in New England, or Ryan Adams if Ryan were a little less Americana and little more Folk Rock.

    Do you really want to listen to what you're told you should listen to by the 232 executives that have our music industry in a stranglehold? Step out of your comfort zone for just a minute and you'll by happy you did.

    Listen to something genuine and good and real.

    Jason Myles Goss' Discography:

    • Long Way Down (2003)
    • Another Ghost (2005)
    • A Plea For Dreamland (2009)
    • Radio Dial (2012)
    • This Town Is Only Going To Break Your Heart (2015)

    • A Plea For Dreamland (2007)

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    Guster and From Bears at the Orange Peel

    Last Tuesday was the fourth time I've seen Guster. They played the Orange Peel, a top-ranked venue (with an iconic enormous ceiling fan) in Asheville, NC. A local band, From Bears, from Boone, NC, opened for Guster. It was the second time that I was able to see Guster for free by volunteering with Reverb (, an organization formed by Adam Gardner of Guster, and his wife, Lauren.

    From Bears, comprised of Ben Taylor, Matt Nemeth, Doug Little & Trent Mason, was the pleasant surprise of the evening. The two lead vocalists both had great voices, and the songs were a blend of catchy, clever, and cool. Links to my two current favorites From Bears tunes that you should click on immediately lest you be deprived of their awesomeness:

    "Noiseless," off their Drone Star EP and "Crunch",a single I found on their Bandcamp site. And heck, while you're clicking on links, you should listen to "Stranger to Mass Confusion" too, which I keep finding myself playing on repeat in my head.

    From Bears:

    Back to Guster, I had a chance to meet them afterwards (a perk of Reverb volunteering), and chat about sundry topics. They put on a great show and has a set list that really clicked with my personal favorites of theirs. Guster formed in 1991 and hail from my own home stomping grounds of Boston.

    I had a chance to snap some photos with individual band members as well:

    with Ryan Miller

    with Adam Gardner

    with Brian Rosenworcel

    with Luke Reynolds

    My favorite Guster songs, in no particular order, and subject to change:

    Song - Album - Year
    1. Manifest Destiny - Ganging Up On the Sun - 2006
    2. Kid Dreams - Evermotion - 2015
    3. Architects & Engineers - Easy Wonderful - 2010
    4. Satellite - Ganging Up On the Sun - 2006
    5. Demons - Goldfly - 1996

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    The Decemberists at the Fillmore Charlotte - April.9.2015

    The first time I listened to the Decemberists I was in a car hurtling up I95 in Maine, heading to Gray-New Gloucester school. It was an inauspicious beginning, as I was underwhelmed. Not surprising—I've been wrong before on a first listen, though never quite so wrong as then.

    Being a writer, I'm a lyric man, and singer/songwriter Colin Meloy makes the writing effortless, weaving in such words as ventricle and eidolon into his lyrics in such a way that they seem foundational, as opposed to flowery and show-offy.

    The show Thursday night at the Fillmore was phenomenal. I don't recall any other concert that passed quite so quickly through sheer enjoyment.

    Meloy, Query & Moen:

     Colin Meloy - The Rake's Song

    Jenny Conlee:

    The Decemberists @ the Fillmore Charlotte:

    The Decemberists are:
    • Colin Meloy – lead singer, songwriter, guitar, bouzouki, harmonica
    • Chris Funk – guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, multi-instrumentalist
    • Jenny Conlee – Hammond organ, accordion, melodica, piano, keyboards, synthesizer
    • Nate Query – bass guitar, double bass, cello
    • John Moen – drums, backing vocals, melodica

    The finale was wondrous fun:

    My Top Five Decemberists Songs (song - album - year)

    1. Red Right Ankle - Her Majesty (2003)  
    2. The Wrong Year - What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (2015) 
    3. Summersong - The Crane Wife (2006) 
    4. The Rake's Song - The Hazard's of Love (2009) 
    5. 16 Military Wives - Picaresque (2005) 

    Saturday, February 21, 2015

    Dogtooth - Movie Review

    Umm. Yeah. So I love movies and I've seen a lot of them, and I'm pretty sure that Yorgo Lanthimos' Dogtooth is the weirdest movie I've ever seen. It's seriously fubar.

    It's also quite engaging. And it spins on a dime from funny to horrific to seriously bizarre. Do I wish I could get my time back after viewing it? To be honest I'm not really sure. As a piece of social satire, I didn't find it successful. And if that's the case, on what level does it work? I think it succeeds in appealing to our prurient, voyeuristic impulses, however artistic its aims.

    If I were to sum up the movie I'd call it ambitiously ambiguous.

    Would I recommend Dogtooth? Probably not. Unless the person was really into home-schooling gone seriously wrong, or wacko art-house movies.

    Alcohol Pairing: Nyquil/Jägermeister

    Overall Rating: C-

    Saturday, February 14, 2015

    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Book Review

    So this will just be a short review with a side order of ranting. It's chockablock with spoilers, so if you haven't read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, keep on rollin' past, finish the book, and then come on back.

    First of all, Shelley does an impressive job generating empathy for Frankenstein's monster. To the point where I truly, despite all of his crimes, cared for the monster more than any other character. We all love a reformed sinner, and the monster does show remorse at the end, but this isn't why I cared for him so much. He pulled himself up from nothing, was nothing but kind in his heart, and was continuously judged by his appearances by any and all who where in a position to offer him compassion. Including Victor Frankenstein, who creates him and immediately spurns him.

    The plot point that really made me angry was when the monster threatens Victor with "I will see you on your wedding night" and Victor thinks the monster is coming for him. Duh! The monster, in three separate instances, killed his friends and loved ones beforehand (William Frankenstein and Henry Clerval, and collaterally, Justine), but, suddenly, the monster is going to shift tactics and come after you? Gah!  So stupid!!! Victor is a shallow, callous, moron. I felt like I was watching a really bad horror movie, but instead of the main character not knowing what was in the dark basement but still going down, the main character actually sees the eight foot tall serial killer with a running chainsaw out on the front lawn and decides to charge, armed with a plastic spoon. And you're really rooting for the killer.

    Not surprisingly, I have the least sympathy for Victor, which might be fine, but I don't think this was the intent of the writer. If anything, I think Victor should have manned up and either made a bestie for the monster, or, failing that, thrown himself from a cliff. Because I did feel for all of the people that end up dying for Victor's stupidity. They were blameless.

    Is this book deserving of being a classic? Hell, yeah. There were moral quandaries aplenty. You care about the character because of solid writing that does get a bit excessive at time, but isn't out of character for the time period it was written in. And it really makes you consider what responsibilities a deity would have. And Shelley was eighteen (!) when she wrote it. So yeah. Kudos. The book, especially being a slender volume, is well worth the time. Particularly because of the monster's entreaties for humanity from the humans around him.

    Beer Pairing: RJ Rocker's Brown-Eyed Squirrel
    Movie Paring: District 9
    Overall rating: B

    Sunday, February 8, 2015

    The Half Wrong!

    I present...The Half Wrong! The winning vote! I'm committed to wearing it until Wednesday. I somehow thought it might start interesting conversations with folks I don't know, but most people just look at me like I might be on drugs, or am a bit deranged. As for my opinion? Kind of fun.

    The final results:

    Beard Style
    # of Votes
    The Half Wrong
    Super Mario
    Franz Jozef
    The Zappa
    A la Souvarov
    Rap Industry Standard
    French Fork
    The Mighty Insecto
    The Half Right
    Mutton Chops
    Handlebar & Chin Puff
    Napoleon III Imperial
    Old Dutch

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    Manuary Beard to Raise Money!

    So. The Manuary Beard. aka: The Fundraising Beard! Students cast .50 cents a vote to determine what I will shave this shaggy thing into. Stay tuned for late this weekend or early next week for the winning beard! All proceeds to benefit the science program at my school!

    Sunday, September 7, 2014

    "Libri de Atrum Divum"

    So my latest story, "Libri de Atrum Divum" has gone live at the Australian-based, speculative fiction magazine SQ Mag. I made the cover! You can read the story here.

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    The Outer Banks - North Carolina

    OBX - The Outer Banks

    When you look at a map of the east coast of the United States, it's tough to not have your eyes drawn to the topography of the Outer Banks, a long thin sliver of barrier islands that guard the coast of North Carolina. I'd always wanted to visit, and my wife planned a trip out there for me for my birthday.

    I spent a few days out on Ocracoke, one of the inhabited island far to the south, and it was beautiful and quirky and, to overuse a cliché, magical. It's also infamous as the location where the pirate Blackbeard met his end.

    And in order to make a big loop, as well as squeeze in a day trip to a northern island, we took three of the ferries that lend access to Ocracoke: we took the Cedar Island Ferry out to Ocracoke, took the Hatteras Island for fun, and returned to the mainland on the Swans Quarter Ferry.

    The beaches are gorgeous, though not unlike the pirates that roamed their water, somewhat treacherous with dangerous riptides, which feel as strong as a river's ebb and flow. Growing up on the Atlantic, I'm accustomed to undertows and riptides and perilous currents, and it was enjoyable to be back in the ocean's embrace.
    beach on Ocracoke
     The sunrises are beautiful.

    Ocracoke Sunrise
    And the Ocracoke Lighthouse comes complete with cats, satisfying no less than two national fetishes.

    Ocracoke Lighthouse & Ocracoke kitty
    Visit. The Outer Banks make for a stunning destination.

    Friday, January 31, 2014

    Radio London - January.31.2014‏

    Thank you for tuning in to Radio London!

    So here we are standing on the brink of January, February a short step away. I trust that all you listeners out there are enduring this cold and keeping Jack Frost at bay with thick blankets or roaring fires or Jack Daniels.

    So normally, I wake up early to do my writing from 5am to 7am. Did you know that you can set the alarm on your iPod or iPhone to ring with specific sounds, or songs? Well, I've been easing into my mornings with music and, being the music nerd that I am, I looked for specific songs to wake me up on specific mornings. There are three or four songs I've chosen for each day, but these are the day-oriented songs that are currently in rotation:

    • Monday - "Manic Monday" by the Bangles - For me this is the perfect pop nostalgia to pull me out of bed on a Monday morning. One could try and drag one's self out of      bed to "Rainy Days and Mondays," but why make Monday harder on yourself? Thanks, Karen, but no thanks.
    • Tuesday - "Super Tuesday" by Vic Chesnutt - Chesnutt lived right down the road from Spartanburg in Athens, GA. Super Tuesday is fun and upbeat. My favorite song of Chesnutt's is another super song, "Supernatural." A beautiful, sad, and quiet song.
    • Wednesday - "Medley: Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly" by Elton John - Sir John needs no intro. As for the tune, it's track one, side one of Rock of the Westies. I feel this must have had some airtime back in the day, because I think I remember hearing it when I was a kid. I can't help but think Elton John regrets this album cover.
    • Thursday - "Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech" by William Faulkner - So this is a bit of a cheater, because though there are Thursday-themed songs out there, I don't own any and the pickings were too slim to purchase. And Faulkner actually accepted his Nobel Prize on a Sunday. Though interestingly enough, it was awarded one year afterward, in 1950, because the Nobel Prize committee couldn't come to a decision in 1949. Because of broadcast quality and his Southern accent, many listeners had trouble understanding Faulkner until they read the speech the next day in the paper. It's a masterpiece and a fantastic way to wake up. A shout out to writer Leslie Pietrzyk for suggesting a listen to this.
    • Friday - "Friday I'm in Love" by The Cure - What better way to jump start your almost weekend than with an emo love song!
    • Saturday - "Acadian Saturday Night" by Stan Rogers - Stan Rogers is one of the giants of Canadian folk music, but in my experience seems little known outside his native land, probably because of his early death (ironically, saving people with his amazing voice). Like folk? Like good music? Do yourself a favor and listen to Stan, specifically "The Mary-Ellen Carter", an amazing ballad about not giving up that has even been credited with saving lives. Mary Ellen Carter live w/ wee story!
    • Sunday - "Any Given Sunday" by Common, Guru and Jamie Foxx - The title track to the movie soundtrack. Though the movie was okay, the song is better, buoyed up by a great hook.
    Here, you can listen to the mix, "AMix to the Heart of London" (based on my novel "A Map to the Heart of London) I'd love to hear what you think. Even if you don't adore Elvis Costello like I do, I'd still love to have you drop me a line and tell me your two or three favorites tunes on the mix.

    Thanks for listening and stay warm!  If you're interested in getting this quarterly email about music and life, drop me a line.

    Friday, June 28, 2013

    Summer in Japan - Busing It!

    Busing It!

    My wife, Chika, and I have taken the bus from my in-laws in Kitami, Hokkaido, Japan to my brother-in-law's in Sapporo. It takes about six hours to make the trip. Six hours on a bus doesn't sound like all that much fun, but if you make it an overnight trip, you possibly save money on a hotel and don’t waste any time in travel because you're sleeping.

    Kitami to Sapporo

    We left at about 11:50 PM from Kitami and arrived in Sapporo in the wee hours of the morning, around 6:00 AM. Sunrise in Sapporo, Hokkaido is around 3:57 AM (!!!) right now, so you even arrive when it's nice and light out.

    Our 5:30 AM Sapporo Morn

    Riding an overnight bus in Japan is not the Greyhound experience. They pull curtains over all the windows and shut off the lights for most of your ride. You get a blanket … and a drink holder … and slippers! Slippers!!!

    Nice Blanket

    Slippers (left) and a Drink Holder

    You also get to fully recline …

    Recline Button

    And have a choice of entertainment.


    A little side story. About ten years ago I spent three days on a Greyhound traveling from Portland, ME to Fort Myers, FL. This was a singular experience in both the unique sense, and also in the sense that it is the only time I will ever do it. It turns out there was supposed to be an escaped convict riding my bus. We were pulled over in Georgia by about twelve state cops with six cruisers, pistol grip shotguns, and K9 support. I considered this a wonderful way to initiate a hostage situation. I'd be hard-pressed to think of a worse way to handle the possible situation. Thankfully, the guy never got on our bus and we were just marched off. Throughout the trip we only stopped at fast food "restaurants", and at the end of the trip I wasn't able to feel my right ass cheek for the next couple of days. 6'2" people such as myself are not designed for three day bus rides. I suggest the train, or flying, or driving your car.

    Suffice it to say, long bus rides in Japan are a very different experience.

    Five Words:
    bus seat
    busu no seki

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Summer in Japan - Kaiten Sushi

    Kaiten Sushi*

     Five Words:
    Japanese tea
    soy sauce
    propane torchi
    propane torch

    One of my favorite dining experiences in Japan is kaiten sushi. It's like a food fashion show with a constant parade of beautiful dishes sliding past. The most notable difference between kaiten sushi and a regular sushi restaurant is the conveyer belt that glides effortlessly around the center of the restaurant.

    My absolute favorite sushi is the "shaki shaki salmon". In order to make it, take a normal piece of portion sushi and add a squiggle of mayonnaise to the top, then use a blowtorch to sear the whole portion. Finally, add a small heap of thinly sliced onions and (ideally) a few daikon radish sprouts. Beer optional.

    Shaki shaki salmon portion sushi... 

      ...with beer!

    This guy was the MASTER of the shaki shaki salmon:

    Usually at each table you have all your condiments at your fingertips. In this picture: soy sauce on the left, pickled ginger middle left and powdered green tea on the right. Chop sticks in the drawer below.

    What meal would be complete without some green tea, tailor made by you to whatever strength you prefer?
     Green tea powder
     Just add hot water!


    Pricing is determined by the color of the plate that the sushi is served on. Each plate comes with two pieces of sushi with some variety when it comes to rolls. In this case the more reasonable plates, white bordered with sky blue, cost ¥125, which is about $1.28. Pricey sushi would be served on a black, silver and gold checkerboarded plate (¥525 ≈ $5.37).  

    At the end of your meal, the server just tallies up the number of plates that you have:

    What make the experience the best of course is sharing it with family!

    *Food Porn Warning