This time last year, I wrote about learning about kindness. That wouldn’t truly start until almost February, despite my protests to the contrary. 2022 would end up being a real bugger of a year, followed by a real bitch of a start to 2023.

2023 isn’t shaping up great in the first half, but the farther I go, the more I realize there’s no turning back, only giving up.

And since this is it, this is all we have, then that doesn’t really seem like a great option.

Since this time last year, I finish my novella The Mungk, wrote a couple of poems (one of which was published), a four issue crime comic (unpublished) and a trio of short stories (also unpublished). I’m working on my first full-length novel – a horror about kindness.

I’ve read more than seventy-five books, roughly fourteen hundred comics, and take ten minutes daily to meditate. I’ve built up my exercise regime, although it’s not helping my waistline, which is definitely bigger than this time last year. I’ve tried over two hundred new recipes. Listened to almost four hundred albums.

Life’s weird.

Here’s hoping forty-six runs a lot smoother than forty-five.

Target: 1400 words
Written: 1423 words, novel: Father Lightning

late riser


Eyes crack in tiny slits. Dark room. Alarm. One hand snakes out from beneath cold linen sheets. Taps a button. Silence returns. Cold air hangs over the bed like black cotton. Presses down heavy.

Ugh. Her legs curl under her, hand clamped between her thighs. She pulls the covers tighter, curled around her shoulders. Across the back of her neck. She feels herself shutting down.

A little while longer.

The mattress tugs. Envelops. Sucks her in, like a smothering friend. She curls into a ball. Trapped between pillow top and the black cotton air, she pulls the linens close. They slither coldly against her naked skin and wrap around her ankles.

The tinny alarm pierces her eardrum again.

God, is it louder now?

Her body turns and one hand rises, landing flat on the snooze. The room is gray now. The edges of the curtain shine with uncertain light.

Uhngh, she cries silently and pulls the linens hard against her chest. Night air seeps in.

I don’t want to do this, she thinks as she squeezes her eyes shut and prays for sleep to come once more, laying prone. The light at the edge of the curtains teases her. Taunts her. She shifts, but the linens wrap themselves around her legs and torso, and she doesn’t get far. She pulls the linens up to her face, over her head.

The light behind the curtains won’t leave her alone. It grows in intensity. Pokes her. Prods her. Calls her by name. White streaks of sunlight lay flat across the wall and she peeks with one eye out at the white fire outline of the window. She reaches out. Inches back the curtain. Morning light floods the room, full of promise and potential and prosperity. A universe awaits outside her windowsill, but the sun is blinding and she can only make out the largest of shapes.

Nope. Not ready for that, she flinches as she lets the curtains fall back again. The room resumes its heavy gray silence. Her hands ball in front of her face.

A few moments more. Not now. Not yet.

She rolls away from the window. The linens constrict more tightly around her exposed skin. She plunges, headlong, back into oblivion.

The alarm screams its ruthless tone again. It grates against her insides and fills her head like a spiked pinball ricocheting inside her skull. This time, a hand comes whirling, streaking through the dead filled air. It crashes down.

Off, damn you. It’s not time yet. I’m not ready.

She stubbornly points her back at the lighted window, the linens stretched so tightly across her that the cold air seeps straight through.

Why is it so cold in here?

She pulls the bedclothes up over her face, over her head. The pillowtop grates at her thighs. Tiny pieces of lint dig into her side. Even the linen itself, once so smooth and so warm, feels like sandpaper that scrapes across her legs and belly.

You have stuff to do, her mind gently reminds her.

I know. I don’t care, she replies. I’m tired.

You still have stuff to do.

Behind her, the window beckons. She can’t see it. Refuses to see it. She squeezes her eyes shut. Spots and flecks dance in her smothered pupils as she refutes the call of the sun.

Ugh. Can’t it wait a little while longer?

She rolls onto her back. One arm drapes off the side of the bed, as she glares at the gray flipping numbers of the old clock. She got this when she was a child and it stayed with her since – her daily tormentor.

Tick tock, comes the back of her head.

Not time. Not yet.

She lays, linens twisted and coiled around her legs, one arm hanging lazily off the edge of the mattress. She stares with tired eyes at the window, outlined in white morning light. The air is cool across her skin and the black cotton is now gray wool, stiff and suffocating. Beneath her, the mattress scratches at her.

You should go outside. You know what’s out there.

Thoughts of sky and sun and cars and children dance through her head. Everything so clear and bursting with colour. Violent green grass and the pink flowering cherry blossom beneath the window. The tiny rock garden with its golden sumac and its red rose bush. A tall gingko with bright orange fruit hanging precariously from the branches. People. Places. Things. The world. Life.

Ugh. Do I have to?

Yes, comes the soft reply.

I can stay here.

Not forever.

Leave me alone. Let me sleep. Please.

She tries more extreme measures. Head under the pillow. Her breathing stifles. Carbon dioxide builds in the small space in front of her face. Her own breath, hot and stuffy, singes her eyes, wets her lips. It smells of garlic and ash and doesn’t taste much better. She pulls her knees to her chest, but the linens tighten on her thighs, keeping her from full contraction. She lays, unmoving, and pulls the pillow down tighter across her face. Sweat beads up on her nose as her exhales raise the temperature. It grows hard to breathe. The room is a hazy gray now, almost white, and still, the light creeps in under the pillow.

No, she tells herself. Tells the clock.

You don’t have a choice, the clock tells her back.

Muscles relax and her grip on the pillow loosens. Fresh air creeps in through an opening at the pillow’s crease. It brushes against her face, its icy tendrils licking at her nostrils.

Please is the lame reply, the word hanging impotently at the front of her mind.

No choice. Sorry.

Again, she turns to face the window and stares at the clock. The time surprises her.

Already? How did it get so late?

There is no reply. Only silence, still and pale, frozen in the bedroom’s haze.

Two fingers gently pull back the edge of the curtain and a sliver of the room soaks in white heat. It bathes her face and she squints, but doesn’t turn away.

Ugh. Just…


A tiny…


One moment longer…

Not a chance.

She lets the drape fall closed and sits up. Slowly, she untangles herself from the linens, unwrapping the suffocating coils from her waist and legs. The air of the room is frigid against her skin and she pulls the sheets up over her naked chest. Her heart sinks as she swings her ankles over the edge and leans on the balls of her hands. For a moment, her stomach churns as vertigo kicks in, and she steadies herself against the falling edge of the mattress.

With a sigh, her feet find the floor, soft and plush, and she grips the centre of the drapes and flings them wide. White light floods over her. As her eyes adjust, the world convalesces into pure shapes, sharp and green and red and gold, full of movement and warmth and light.

At last, she smiles, a soft and tender thing, the edges of her lips raised in the barest of lifts, and she exhales, her breath wafting against the window pane.

At last.

She casts one last mournful look at the bed with its rumpled sheets and tousled mattress, no longer inviting, merely cold and stiff and sad. She shakes her head and smiles. Fare thee well, temptress, she says as she turns from its cold embrace. Fare thee well. She heads to the door, out to greet the day, however much of it yet remains.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 611 words, comic: Bike #1


It’s a thing. Headaches are, as well.

I started getting up earlier because I wanted the extra time to write, but now I’m wondering if I’m fucking myself, because I’m exhausted all the time.

Maybe I need to go to bed earlier? What’s the loss of half an hour of TV viewing, versus the fulfillment of one’s dreams?

Target: 1200 words
Written: 1479 words, short story: Late Riser

broke down car

It’s not right, I tell you.

Somewhere along the road, something got broke and it can’t be fixed. The engine keeps failing and no one can figure out why. But instead of replacing the car or the damn engine, we’re stuck with the thing – failing, over and over. Sometimes in the driveway. Sometimes on the freeway. Sometimes on the curve of an icy road.

And no matter the frustration, no matter how often we try to fix the damn thing, it doesn’t get any better.

It gets worse and worse and we know – one day, nothing’s going to start that car again. We’re going to be stuck, wherever we are, in a parking lot or a snowbank or piled up in the wreckage with a dozen other cars enduring the same nightmare, and that’s where we’ll be.


Freezing or bleeding or quietly starving to death. We can’t get out and walk. We’re locked in. The car won’t start. We already ate the only granola bar in the glove box and ripped our shirt to tie around the hole in our belly, but we’re still bleeding. Still dying. Still stuck, in motion or standing still, inside this goddamned car, on this goddamned road, that we never wanted to be on in the first place!

We don’t know how we got here. All we remember is getting behind the wheel and the car started moving on its own. It keeps going and going, and every once in a while, there’s a nice place to stop for a cup of tea, or some beautiful body in a car that smiles as we pass, and maybe, if we’re really lucky, a good song on the radio. Something beyond the nightmare newsline or the static rhythm of whatever tired old pablum some generic pop star is regurgitating to the front lines.

Eventually, this car will die, and we won’t know where that is. Will it be in the high country, in Pirsig’s mountains? Or in the desert, those vast plains of dry and dusted skeletons? Maybe in a city, in the run-down parts, where people oppressed by others who know no oppression scrabble for food and shelter and feed themselves on compromise, over and over again, the way we do, when we’re running out of hope. When we’re living hand to mouth and all of a sudden, the goddamn car takes a shit. Again.

This car takes a lot of shits. We take a lot of shit.

Sometimes, all we can do is sit there and cry, glaring at the dashboard with desperation as it flashes its warning lights, pounding on the steering wheel and screaming bloody rage at the insensibility of it all. All the while, the wheel takes us nowhere we didn’t choose to go, in fits and starts, sometimes slow, sometimes beyond any sensible limits.

We could have gone anywhere, if we’d just ignored the directions we were given. Instead, we followed turn after turn, signpost after signpost, going where the arrow pointed, and now we’re here, with everyone else, wondering what the hell went wrong. Wondering why that turn into the green valley looked so pleasing, and why we drove on anyway into the smog and the soot. Why the thing sputters and chokes and makes noises we can’t identify, over miles and miles of busted asphalt and crushed gravel. We wonder why we learn to live with the little imperfections. The tear in the seat where the spring sticks through. The radio that only tunes one channel, poorly. The rearview mirror held up with baling wire and a trunk that won’t quite close. That goddamn muffler.

Yes, someday, this car’s going to die, and nothing will revive it. Someday, this car will cruise or crash to a stop, to its final resting place, its forever home. It’s going to decay and become no more, as will everything around it, up to and including the road itself. A pile of dust it will be, carried on the wind to the desert, mote by obsequious mote, until it’s so far lost, no one would ever know it existed.

That’s where we all go, in the end.

And no hunk of junk is going to stop us.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 1273 words, short story: Late Riser

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

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

new hip

My father-in-law’s hip is back to normal, as much as it will be, per his doctor. Thus ends a chapter of running around for him, because in his literal manner, he’s now good as gold and where we had to do all things for him yesterday, today, he’s Superman.

Go figure.

It doesn’t end well, naturally.

Target: 700 words
Written: 369 words, novella: The Mungk