Current Projects

My current project is a novel. If I’m being kind to myself, very kind, I’d say that it’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicles meets The New York Trilogy with a bit of Ogawa and Saramago thrown in. And, lordy, if I’m being kind to myself, doesn’t that sound amazing? What it really is, if I give it some room, is a disjointed, rambling, wannabe-Beckett (in moments), detective-y thing. It’s definitely ambitious and if I stick with it I’ll have something pretty cool. Something very distinctly—Mikey.

My novel coming out this year with Montag Press is also distinctly Mikey, but in a very different way. This project is a work of pure, unabashed imagination. And I’m talking played-with-action-figures-well-into-my-teens kind of imagination. It’s a fantasy {I think (fantasy adjacent)} adventure story. Here, if I do my best elevator pitch, I’d say this book is Terry Pratchett meets Takashi Miiike’s 13 Assassins. Funny-violent-karate. My wheelhouse for entertainment, not necessarily for literary output. Nonetheless, it’s been a blast to put together and I’m excited for you all to see it.

This was gonna be an essay on my struggles with writing. I’d even go as far to say that, for me, writing is necessarily a struggle. Instead, it’s me trying to lean into some optimism. Writing can feel thankless and when it’s not thankless, it can feel pointless. I mean, I’m going from a Bachelors of Philosophy degree to a Masters in Creative Writing—put all that together and you get a man that’s very good at thinking and writing about not having any job prospects ☺. All of my hard work is paying off, though. I am a writer. I am becoming. I am trying.

If you’re reading this, thank you. You’re a part of a very small group that’s witnessing something emerging and being all at once. My voice is coming together, and who knows, maybe someday people will enjoy my work and want more. But in the end, greatness is for the graveyard. So I’ll just keep cramming words together in hopes of a few moments of clarity.

tulip and Trevor

Trevor Hale is: a punk rocker, a hardcore kid, a DIY dreamboat—and I’m lucky to count him as a friend. Nearly ten years ago I wrote a book called tulip. It’s a decent book, and I’d even say it stands up after all these years. It’s unmistakably the work of a first time novelist with a fresh bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Angsty, slippery ruminations on a world I didn’t quite understand. I still don’t—even less—but I know that now. Nonetheless, it captures something. A clear moment in time for me.

tulip is the story of a young man that worries he can talk to god. One publishing house that asked for a full manuscript said they loved my writing, but in the end the story was a bit too allegorical for their taste. My first of many heartbreaks in the literary world. They weren’t wrong. tulip was born out of a young mind. A Catholic kid turned atheist in the land of Mormons. I was often asked, “If not god, what guides your moral compass?” Versions of that question drove the misadventures of my protagonist and dear friend, Tulip. He was the vehicle for me to unpack and begin to understand my own empathy technologies.

I queried the hell of it. Had some bites, but nothing stuck. I confronted a reality all writers must at one point or another—sometimes writing the book is the easiest part. When I was a kid I figured once the project was finished publishers would be lining up. I was a dumb kid.

Trevor and I mostly saw each other in passing—at coffee shops and laundromats and during the “hardcore handshake”, an after show ritual that was tough on a shy kid like me. Trevor is a cultural institution. It’d be easier to say what bands he hasn’t been an integral part of in the Salt Lake Hardcore community for last twenty years. Some of my blurriest, happiest memories as a kid involve Trevor playing guitar as other tattooed bodies piled on the stage with him in sometimes violent, always chaotic attempts at sharing the microphone—all the while I was somewhere in the middle genuinely trying to hurt myself. A sure fire way to get the wiggles out and the occasional black eye.

So when Trevor offered to publish my book I was a bit in disbelief. The person who had been the soundtrack to so much of my youth wanted to help me get my first novel into the world. But a few months later I stood next to him and held the first proof of my book and probably wanted to cry but likely just muttered some “hell yeahs” and some “wows”. Trevor has always had faith in genuine creators, the most central axiom of a true punk rocker. To somehow be part of the output of the most outputtingness, real dude on earth is quite the honor.

Go to his website, buy some stuff. Listen to the generations of Hardcore he’s participated in and influenced. And if you see Tulip, be kind to him, he’s my firstborn.

Running

Here’s a little prose poem (what is a prose poem?) I wrote at the beginning of last year. I live in Utah and the day after my work decided it was unsafe to continue having folks come to the office because of Covid we had our first large earthquake in fifty or so years. Stress was high. The day of the earthquake I also received a request for a manuscript of mine from Montag Press. And my Jiu Jitsu gym decided, rightfully so, to close down for a few months. It was a heck of a year, March 18th 2021.

Anyhow, I’d been taking some Creative Writing classes at time to see if this oldish man (certainly a relic to the majority of kids in my class) had it in him to go back to school. Professor Lance Olsen‘s class to be exact, wherein which I was introduced to the work of Young-Hae Chang and Jesse Ball among many other wonderful creators. Lance’s class was fantastic and if you ever have the chance to work with him, JUMP! If not, read his work, it’s brilliant.

Our final project was meant to be a reading in class, alas, we zoomed. I’m proud of this project, not so proud of my terrible facial hair and messy apartment. Would love to have some folks interact with it.

Thanks for checking it out.

Updated with closed captions!

Jump Rope

Many of us have been struggling over the last year and into the new one. It’s been impossible to keep our rituals up—at least without changing some of the rudiments. I’m a lifetime Martial Artist and a full time wasps’ nest of anxiety. Every since I was a kid, I’d buzz, buzz, buzz. Thankfully my mom took me to a Kung Fu class and said, son, get your wiggles out. And, by god, I’m lucky in a lot of ways, but the chance introduction to Martial Arts has given me a consistent guiding light in all my follies and the occasional victory.

I’ve written about Jiu Jitsu elsewhere but it’s worth mentioning it’s almost been a year since I was last able to train and… it’s fucking killing me. As scared as I am of most people, and as difficult as I often find interacting with them, communal Martial Arts spaces have always been my therapy. It’s redundant, but again, I’ve never felt so welcomed (in spite of my, sometimes, awkwardness) as I do at the school I train at. Come visit someday. Please.

For now though, to get out those wiggles, of which there are many, I jump rope. I don’t like jump roping, I’m bad at it, the rope often hits my shins and splashes city dregs into my hair. When I mess up I want to cry or punch a wall—a sure sign that my wiggles need exorcising. I’ve always loved boxing, but I’m a terrible boxer, have always been a reactionary fighter and anyone who knows fighting knows that only takes you so far. A good boxer can set me up for just about anything, all my dodging and weaving only ever amounts to postponed agony. But while I’m out there skipping along, listening to my current go-to, Sincere Engineer or the always driving Orange 9mm, I imagine the foot work of Muhammad Ali, or the power Mike Tyson generates from his legs and it all feels a little less tedious.

I still can’t do the freaking crossover with any consistency. But I can two-step like a champ, #thankstohardcore.

Lazarusmas

Every year for the last fifteen or so my friends and I have a holiday party called Lazarusmas. It’s bonkers. It’s crazy. It’s transformative. People have met their lovers and worst enemies on the dance floor there. Sadly we can’t do it this year because of the pandemic. I always send out a special video invite, so this year I decided to make something a little more involved. There’s a poem, there’s an excerpt from the novel I’m working on and there’s a whole buncha love. It also happened to be the last thing I made on my old computer before it went tits up. A swan song, of sorts. Here’s to whatever is around the corner.

PEN15

Out on the coastline, a few years back, my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I watched the sunset. An astounding thing when the sun hits the Pacific Ocean. The water upends, melts sideways, and furrows of red-black sky work their way up and into blackness. One of the many beautiful moments from that trip. We’re not huge vacationers, her and I. We mostly just enjoy each other’s company, but sometimes prefer that company to be in front of an ocean.

We discovered Pen15 on that vacation and watched the whole first season from our bed in the small rental. Season 2 has been the perfect respite from the stuckness of 2020. Maya and Anna’s exploits this go-around are an artistic triumph, as far as I’m concerned. Hilarious at its core, but in its risks examines the awkwardness and too often unkindness of adolescence. From the disgusting, unfortunately, ever-topical racism and homophobia, to the universal heartbreaks of growing up. By the final episode I had cried and laughed, pondered and reminisced. The two vehicles of the narrative, women my age, embodying the lives of middle schoolers is such an inspired move — it stretches empathy to its limits and shows the sincere and difficult work required to understand someone else’s experiences.

Great art helps us inhabit other spaces and the space of others. Pen15 did just that. As the world folds over with each new chaos, find time to enjoy art. Right now we’re all feeling a bit cooped up. Luckily, there’s millions of good books out there and some damn good television.

Don Quixote

Books are powerful objects. Magical, even. In the right moments, with the right book, time and space upends. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you must read as thief — scour your Joyces and Woolfs for inspiration.

As I read “Don Quixote” time folded in. It’s not that I found myself in the land of Sancho and Rocinante, rather, I was in the company of my grandfather. Clifford — I called him Pa, others called him Angel — has been skiing on the other side for some time, yet, as clear as day, he roamed the pages of Cervantes’ great two-parter. Sometimes as Sancho, sometimes as Quixote. Occasionally, he just sat with me and delighted in the courage and missteps of our hero, Alonso.

Two scenes come to mind, the most romantic in that most romantic book. When Sancho buried his face in the curls of his trusted Dapple after facing the harsh realities of mankind’s brutal unkindness, I felt Pa’s guidance. A tender directive. Why govern a city if you have cheap whiskey (or ginger ale) and the kinship of friends and lovers?

And of course, Quixote’s insistence on fighting a lion. The beauty in stubbornness, something my bloodline is full of. In these moments Pa made sure I looked closer and remembered that everyone’s lions are different. I suppose mine is writing. Everyday I look at this thing and beg it to devour me.

Reading can confront us with our own mortality, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, confuse that finality.

Read books and remember loved ones are there even when they’re not.

Narrative Genealogy: 0

This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. And it seems worthwhile, if not important. I’ve often found new authors by seeing who my favorite authors are reading and enjoying. For example, both Yoko Ogawa and Samanta Schweblin mentioned Paul Auster as being influential to them. That led me to the Auster’s New York Trilogy, which — how did I live without it?

I’ve picked up so many books that I’d have been intimated by if not for the direction of others. It’s a bit like when you find out all of your favorite Westerns were inspired by Samurai movies. Good Lord, the well is so deep. Never ending and wonderfully accessible if you dare look.

Over the next few months, and years and decades (if i’m lucky), I’ll be considering the question, “Where do I fit in?” I’ve written so many short stories, and chunks of novels, that are nothing more than poor imitations of the greats. But, slowly, my own brand of prose is emerging. The beauty, and utter terror, is that this will take a lifetime of practice. I’ll discover new works that completely change and dismantle my own processes. I’ll fall in love with new novels and revisit my own work with fresh eyes and tools.

So, be on the lookout for maps and diagrams and thoughts about my own Narrative Genealogy.

An ever-changing, often frustrating, always enriching ride — trying to be a writer.