the mungk

It’s hard to describe the feeling of peace when you let a piece of writing that’s dwelled inside you for so long go, especially when it’s one that took you to a very dark place.

I have ideas.

I have lots of ideas.

As it stands, I’ve over three dozen ideas for novels written down, in part, and at least a dozen ideas for comic books. Hundreds of short stories. Poetry just tends to happen.

But The Mungk represents a starting point for me. While someday, I hope to write novels about the Great Way, blending reality and all things good, today, here, now, The Mungk focuses on everything and anything awful in life.

Feelings of hopelessness, of loss. Of trauma and drain, the kind that wears you down over the course of a life and leaves you withered and bitter fruit.

And I’m glad to see it go. I suspect there will be some residuals, as I try to sell the thing to a publisher or an agent, but it’s a novella. Not particularly saleable in the best of times, no matter how good.

In any case, it’s done. No more editing. No more putzing about with it. It’s time to send it out into the world to spawn its feckless devils. If I can’t get any takers in a year, I’ll publish it myself. From this point on, everything I write gets out there in some way. The universe receives it, whether it’s wanted or not.

Peace, Mungk.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 1449 words, novella: The Mungk


I know it’s not cool for me to say as a grown-up grunge, punk and alternative kid, but I love a good blockbuster.

The thing is, to me, sneering at the popular is only useful as long as the popular is actual tripe. The fact of something’s popularity is absolutely no indicator of quality, but it’s also not entirely a reliable indicator of a lack thereof either.

Breathing is popular, and I think there’d be few people who believe breathing is bad. Chocolate – popular. Fucking wonderful.

There are great bands, great movies, great games and shows and books that are wonderful. The Shining is a huge selling book – and it was amazing. I love a good Marvel movie.

The fact is, it doesn’t have be high art. It can follow the hero’s journey or a standard plot. The trick is to do it well, don’t pander too much and take the time to develop the characters and situations.

Not all popular things are bad, and not all unpopular things are instantly cool. Sometimes, they’re unpopular for a reason.

Anyway, I liked Avatar: The Way Of Water, same as the original, and even though I understand James Cameron is kind of a prick, I, for one, really appreciate his environmentalism, and his willingness to think big.

Anyway, if that makes me uncool, so be it. I also like Local H, Lou Reed and Modest Mouse. I read obscure indy comics and classics by Jules Verne and Farley Mowat. I think stoicism is cool. Elizabeth Bear.

I’ve heard just about every Who and Rolling Stones song a hundred times. Same for the Beatles. Same for Nirvana, Green Day, NOFX and Bad Religion. The Hip are my religion, right next to Taoism.

My point is, limiting oneself by how popular or “cool” something is is limiting how you see it, leaving you judging it through the lens of what’s being told to you about, instead of its actual value. Ignore the size of the thing; try and enjoy it for what it is. If it’s shit, it will let you know.

Target: 1100 words
Written: 503 words, novella: The Mungk

lost in space

There are certain shows and stories that, for whatever reason, hit me so hard that the endorphin spot in my brain explodes in a shower of “holy shit”.

Lost In Space, the Netflix version, did that for me. I felt like the writers really understand the concept of put your characters in danger and keep them there. The tension was palpable, right from the start. The magnetized aliens, Penny and Dr. Smith in the box, Judy in the water, it goes on and on. Terrifically done.

One of the best series I’ve seen in this new “golden age” of television. Beginning to end. Great characterization, well done weaving all the threads together, good mix of tension, humour and conflict.

I like when a story really sucks me in. Like the way you can feel the Alabama sticky in Jasons Aaron and Latour’s Southern Bastards or the chill vibe of Dazed And Confused. There’s a reason I don’t limit myself to certain genres. It’s all about experience and empathy, and that can be found in stories about elves or stories about football. It can live in a love story or a revenge kick.

Creating closer connections and greater understanding (or at least, having a good time trying) is the whole point of art. Exploration. Understanding. Joy in the thing, even if it’s insanely dark.

As always, the day I decide to up my target is the day I miss it. I hope I’m retired in twenty years so these ever increasing targets don’t grow out of my reach.

Target: 1100 words
Written: 764 words, novella: The Mungk

the crow

It’s been a while since I read the original, but it packs a punch like no other comic I’ve ever read, save for maybe the last bit with Ampersand in Y: The Last Man. That gets me every time.

The whole thing is so intensely personal, so perfectly raw. It’s brilliance and connection with a subject on a level I can’t even comprehend. Christ, all the navel gazing bullshit I’ve endured in my life, and this is the homage I strive to live up to.

For all the darkness and wallowing, for all the violence and anger, it is a story of love, like no other.

Target: 1000 words
Written: 806 words, novella: The Mungk

slight consideration

I’m taking my own well-being into account these days. I knew I would start small, and I did.

I read short books. Crappy books. Short comic series. Standalone movies. Single season shows that got cancelled.

I wrote a haiku.

A piece of flash fiction.

A one-shot comic.

A short story, which was really more of a noir, back-twisted rant I didn’t believe in.

Weirdly, all the individual work was published. The comic is pending, because comics are collaborative, and I’m an anxious collaborator, in the sense that I’m terrified of anything beyond the script stage.

I try to remember. Little things build to bigger. Most overnight successes spent ten or more years laying groundwork.

Learning. Mastering. You don’t pick up a guitar and channel Jimi or Kim Thayil.

That shit takes time.

Piece by piece. Trying to remember, it’s not about hitting targets. No such thing as delayed gratification; the joy is found in each stage. To defer it to the end is to guarantee frustration and a fleeting moment of exultation, if we even make it that far.

Most of us will not.

Target: 800 words
Written: 631 words, novella: The Mungk


I don’t know why, but this birthday feels different. Perhaps it’s because I just went through one of the roughest periods of my life. Call it my Mungk phase, in which I learned most definitely what I did not want in my life.

It could also be my mother-in-law’s hospitalization. I’ve already had three grandparents die, but this is the first in the generation right before mine that’s gone. Everyone younger has been more tragic than fact-of-life aging.

I’m definitely feeling it. Still, I can’t claim no progress. I’m writing a novella. I had three things published – two short stories and a haiku. I wrote a one-shot comic that could be fun to draw (and it’s increasingly looking like I might need to do that myself, despite my lack of ability).

The process could be good. Find the pitfalls on my own so I can have a better rapport and understanding with future collaborators.

As I head into a new draft of The Mungk, having ideas for a four-issue crime comic, three more short stories (including one that strays into novelette territory) and another couple of poems, I’m actually a little proud, even if the work is a bit raw and I’m feeling less than inspired lately. I’ve read over forty books since I penned that first haiku back on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve read almost five hundred comics. Lost a pound. Built my meditation practice up to five whole minutes a day. Listened to almost a hundred and fifty albums. Learned forty new recipes.

I get it. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s important to acknowledge even small steps forward. If The Mungk was about feeling all the bad things at once to understand how I don’t want to feel, the next one has to be about finding a way forward. Finding a few moments of kindness in the dark. Being nicer to myself, included.

Target: 700 words
Written: 1324 words, novella: The Mungk

running up that hill

No offense to Kate Bush. Good song, but I’m on a Nirvana kick. Matches my mood.

It’s taken a lot of strength to get up off the floor and keep moving this week, with this godawful workplace, my wife’s mother’s hospitalization, new floors being put in, a thousand different chores popping up at each moment…

Plus, I’m trying to write still. And read a little. I feel a little like Abel in Middlewest, tossed violently on the wind by circumstance and relentless emotion. Beautiful comic, FYI. Props to Skottie Young and Jorge Corona. Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colours are fucking gorgeous. Buy it if you get a chance.

I love stuff that hits you right in the gut with bad feelings, and then does its best to pull you out. The Mungk doesn’t quite fit that concept, but maybe the next one will. A glimmer of light, in the dark.

Target: 700 words
Written: 498 words, novella: The Mungk

huh, again

Well, this is exciting. I broke down my writing career into a little more than three dozen book ideas, plus another dozen or so comic ideas, and like a lot of writers, a few hundred short story ideas. All in all, by the time I was done brainstorming, I had almost two thousand ideas.

Anyway, for the first part, as I was writing The Mungk, I thought I’d take a crack at a half-dozen other smaller things while I was at it, and you know what? As of today, three of the four things I’ve sent out have been published, which is cool. The fourth is a comic book whose artist is yet to be found (well, technically, he was found – a friend of mine whose style was perfect for it, but we’ve been out of touch for while. I miss him, to be honest. I meant it to be a one-off, a showcase issue to show I can write and he can draw, by giving lots of different looks to create, intended as a one-and-done, intentionally light and self-contained. It was more punchline than plot, which was fine. It had an internal logic.)

Anyway, someday on the comic, I hope, even if I have to do it myself, like so many of my indie heroes. (Unlike my indie heroes, I don’t draw often, so let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that, since you know. Not great.)

There’s another “super-secret” project that’s really just freewriting around a very loose idea, to be published for free online, more of an audience builder/test subject type thing, but we’ll see. It won’t be officially published anywhere save as a self-published, online deal.

But still. Exciting. And kudos to the editors, particularly Tom Ball at Fleas On The Dog and Matthew Sorrento at Retreats From Oblivion. Great editing means addition from subtraction and they’ve both done a hell of a job with my short little pieces. Good on them for being better able to see what I could not. We get so close to these things that we lose perspective sometimes. Having someone who can see through it and strip the fat from it, even in a piece of flash fiction like The Ineffable Hat, is much appreciated.

I’ve read enough articles about writers railing against bad editors to wonder what it was really like. Not being from the publishing world, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but these guys have proven how valuable a good editor is. I suspect there might be more than a little ego at play in those articles I read; some loss of perspective or inability to step outside oneself and see the bigger picture. While I’m sure bad editors do exist, from what I’ve been exposed to, the feedback has been more liberating than off-putting.

I continuously push myself to open up my world, no matter how miserable that can be at times, so anything that forces me to set ego aside and look at something with fresh eyes is invaluable.

I look forward to sharing the new thing, when it comes out.

Target: 600 words
Written: 194 words, novella: The Mungk

to live

There’s a point in Monstress: Talk Stories where Maika calls Kippa a coward, because Kippa thinks she should die for having made a poor choice that led to a lot of death.

Maika calls her a coward, because that’s the easy way out. The more valiant way is to remain alive and find ways to make up for what you’ve done and leave the world a better place despite your mistakes.

I am trying to remember this. I am trying to remember this, even as everything seems hellbent on poking all the hurt places, where every decision, every action is criticized or mocked, where every moment of peace is merely a new opportunity for someone to dump more upon you, to pile it on. If I seem idle, I must have time for more, right?

What if idle is all I need? What if idle is the ideal?

Decisions I’ve made have led to this. The course of my life is one long arc bending with increasing tension toward an inevitable snap. A mental breakdown is coming. Maybe it will be as simple as deciding to let go of feeling responsible for everyone and everything, of my expectations of a better world, and simply focusing on some enjoyable, quiet moments. Let the chips fall where they may. Let the Rube Goldberg machine fail; let all the spinning plates fall. Let someone else clean it up. Or let it lay.

Whatever happens, happens, no matter how life-altering. Radical acceptance of the whole.

That would be ideal. Would that I were Jimmy Buffett or The Dude. My taste for weed isn’t strong enough. It makes me more paranoid and anxious than I already am. Would that I could be rich and idle, or poor and irresponsible.

Sadly, we must live. Deal with the consequences of our karma. Of the decisions we’ve made and the words we’ve spoken. The attitude with which we face the people around us and the world at large. Our own behaviour, for better or worse.

I strive for better, but it’s hard to do crushed under a mountain. The first job is to get out from under.

Target: 500 words
Written: 323 words, novella: The Mungk