I’ve been sitting on this one for far too long, and I’m excited to finally put it out there.
This Can’t Be All There Is was originally intended to be both a poetry book and a fully recorded spoken-word album. I’ve dabbled in the idea in the past, but this time, I got close. Every song was demoed, and most of them were completely finished, save for a few touch-ups, and one major aspect: the vocals. I never was able to get my voice to a place I liked or could even stand.
But I’m proud of a lot of these poems, so the book is moving forward. The album might come someday. I still have a lot of work to do before I’ll know for sure.
This Can’t Be All There Is contains 27 poems:
The House You Built for Me
Someday Will Eventually Come
All My Favorite Songs
At the End of All Things
Take Me Away
When I Went to Bed
This Can’t Be All There Is
I Live Here
I Need You, Summer
Shapes and Spaces
A Long Night’s Conversation
Just Passing Through
The book will be available November 15, 2019. Its cover might change before then. I’ll also post a selection of poems on my site before release. (Keen visitors will find that a few of them have already been here for years. I promise I didn’t shoehorn them in; they were always a part of this collection. Like I said, I’ve been sitting on it for too long.)
Pre-order the digital edition here:
To start things off, here’s “Nowhere Road”.
Hey, weary traveler
Come with me tonight,
All you have to do is be a passenger.
You can recline your seat,
Roll down the window,
Maybe even get some sleep.
There won’t be anyone on the roads,
Because this is a direction nobody goes.
It’s a way that very few people seem to know,
And the ones who do know better than to take it.
I’ll take you somewhere the lines have faded
And nothing divides us, places
Go by like faces in a crowd,
Faded and drowned out.
You and I and sounds like
Tearing the sky.
I want to see the way the asphalt stretches toward the bottom of the glass,
And how surrounding towns burn down to ashes as we pass.
Watch the fog fight the defroster,
Turn our music up full blast.
And, for once, relax.
Your hands can ride the wind,
And when I want to scream I don’t have to hold it in.
In the driveway or out on the highway, we can cast aside our sins
And leave our virtues in the back seat with our vices and our whims.
If I drive fast enough,
Maybe you and I will blur together.
Maybe time stands still and lasts forever.
We can outrun our pain and all bad weather,
Catch storms in our eyes like your hair catches light.
Hey, innocent bystander.
Take me with you.
I’ll go anywhere your soul is aching to.
I’ll show you places they don’t put on maps,
Hold your hand across old railroad tracks.
We’ll go out to the edge of your heart and back,
Or over and fall forever, if you want.
Just take me somewhere the stars aren’t falling
The buses and cars stop calling
My heart isn’t walled up and cold,
Tone deaf and old.
Here we are and nothing,
No matter how far,
Can tear us apart.
Hey there. I’m back again, and I brought another friend with me.
Everyone knows about the afterglow: When someone dies, their spirit briefly visits the living soul who meant the most to them, before quickly fading from this world.
Jake and Emma were normal teens in high school, until a tragic accident claimed Emma’s life. Jake’s understanding of the world is fractured when Emma’s afterglow appears before him—but somehow doesn’t recognize him at all.
Confused, depressed, and in a daze, Jake turns to Emma’s sister Elise for answers, and instead finds a bond unlike any he’s ever felt before. But Elise knows what Jake doesn’t, and the secrets Elise swore to keep could tear the two of them apart.
The Afterglow is a young adult coming-of-age story about ghosts, railroad tracks, summer, and what it means to connect with each other on a spiritual level.
The Afterglow will be available in print and eBook formats July 26th, 2019. You can pre-order digital editions at the links below, which I’ll update as more editions become available.
For the past few years, I’ve been slow to write or publish new fiction. It’s time for that to change. Late last year I was part of a team of talented individuals who published Crypto Bizarro, an illustrated horror story collection for adults. I’m just getting started.
I wrote this one a long time ago. Many of my works have touched on science fiction, but few have flown so far as to reach space opera territory. I ended up writing a novel in the genre, and while I felt like it had a large scope and a lot going on, it ended up being one of my shortest novels yet. That story is focused on a small set of characters on a very specific mission, but the world I found them in had a lot of other stories going on. The Forever Earth is one of them.
In the distant future, humanity has reached the apex of space travel, finding themselves alone in a dark and quiet solar system. Then the Navigators appear, a species of aliens capable of bringing mankind into a new frontier via teleportation.
Cody is one of the first settlers to uproot his life and move to a space colony orbiting a habitable planet half a universe away. People from all walks of life make their way to the colonies, hoping to earn a shot at one day living on a new planet’s surface.
But half a universe isn’t far enough to escape humanity’s demons, and Cody and the rest of the colonists soon find themselves cut off from Earth, stranded in the silence of unfamiliar stars. Culture shock, separation anxiety, and lawlessness collide, and Cody’s only hope for peace rests with his dreams of the little blue planet he left behind, and his ability to find his way back.
The Forever Earth will be available on May 10th, 2019, from most eBook retailers. Pre-order links can be found below:
Good night, my little friend.
It may not be forever,
But for now this is the end.
You had so much to show us,
And we have so much left to learn
Beneath the light of alien moons,
In the dust you did your work.
Now it’s time to set aside your tools,
Sleep for a few decades
Until one day,
We will come for you.
Will you dream in lines of code?
Do you feel the world in gyroscopes?
Measure the distance between two breaking hearts
Refracted by the weight of a rusted world?
Do mysteries disturb your thoughts?
Would it comfort you to know
There are still those of us back home
Shedding tears for dying robots?
The hands that made and shaped you,
The fingers that typed in entries/
Pointed you where to go
Still work to find the secrets hidden in the universe,
Equations we have yet to discover,
Numbers we have yet to name.
All of everything beyond our deep blue ceiling
The laws that we have yet to know,
Began with an opportunity
To step onto another planet’s surface,
Just scope out the scenery.
I will never forget your final words to me:
“My battery is low, and it’s getting dark.”
Yet the same sun shines on both of us,
Though we are worlds apart.
We finally have the answer to one of life’s old questions:
At least, for a little while,
There was life on Mars.
It’s been a while, but I haven’t been idle. I have a few projects in the pipeline, hopefully coming soon. In the meantime, my latest is available right now.
Introducing Crypto Bizarro.
Welcome to the world of Crypto Bizarro, where all manner of ghosts and ghouls and things that go “bump” in the night come out to play. This fully-illustrated collection of horror includes short stories, poems, puzzles, cryptograms, secret messages, a choose-your-own-adventure tale, and more. From restless spirits to physical monstrosities, dastardly acts and forbidden rituals, the frights found within ask the reader to question their reality. As the tome comes to life in your hands, you’ll have to search beyond the book itself to unlock all of its mysteries, but take care—when you venture into darkness, the unknown has ways of making itself known.
Crypto Bizarro is a fully-illustrated collection of horror-themed short stories, puzzles, and poems for a mature audience. This collection is the culmination of two and a half years’ worth of work and correspondence between myself and Josh Leichliter, as well as the contributions of our wonderful writing and producing team: Sarah Carswell, Seth Thomas, Nick Brown, Aerys Bates-Leichliter, Andrea Wright, and Ariana Wright.
The book is available in hardcover and eBook formats. You’ll find links at the bottom of this post.
Crypto Bizarro is more than a collection. It’s a brand, a flavor if you will, and this collection is just the start. To keep up on all of our crazy ideas, visit www.cryptobizarro.com and sign up for our mailing list, or follow our page on facebook. Right now you can find a few free samples and a nice little puzzle, with more on the way. This is meant to be a growing, evolving, living (or perhaps undead?) collection, and Josh and I have much more up our sleeves.
You held out for me
A handful of hyacinth petals
I held out in return
A handful of dust.
And when time had frozen
And all stars had settled,
All memories fading,
All worlds gone to rust
No words were spoken
No shedding of tears
Just both of us wading
Through oceans of years
What do we find
At the edge of time
But beginnings and ends
The world starting again?
I looked in your eyes
You looked back at mine
We stood at the end
Waiting for death, my oldest, dearest friend.
I’ve always said a story can come from anywhere, that there are a million different ways to tell it. What started as a spontaneous afternoon jam session led to a brief discussion, and, eventually, my latest story—and probably the most unique way I’ve ever told one.
A Handful of Dust is an instrumental concept album. The basic idea was to try to tell a story using only music, with recurring themes, sounds, and titles representing various story elements.
It’s as open to interpretation as anything I do. Probably more so. But for those interested in my own thoughts, a series of poems and thought pieces will accompany each song on the album’s pages, and here on my site.
In all honesty, there are still some mistakes on here, a few takes I’m unhappy with, but I’m ready to move on. This was something I did for fun in the first place, and if it stopped being fun, I’d stop doing it. For that reason, I’m not charging anything for the album, it’ll be available to listen to for free. I might even go back and George Lucas some of the errors and inconsistencies out, but for the most part, right now I’m just wrapping up the major loose ends.
A Handful of Dust will be released this Friday, probably on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and maybe this site. A few of the songs are available to listen to right now, and can be found at the links below. More will be added leading up to the full release on Friday.
Here’s the tracklisting:
1. Jump into the Sky
2. The Interloper
3. It Limps Through the Door with its Head on the Floor
4. World of Waste
5. You Will Walk
6. There is No One Else
7. A Glimpse of Kingdom Come
8. A Field of Broken Mirrors
9. Surrounded by Flies, She Carves Out Her Eyes
10. The 8th Day
11. I Can See Forever
12. In the Hollow of a Tree I Contemplate the Hollowness in Me
13. Run Down the Mountain
14. You Made Everything Better
15. Blinded by the Sun, He Loses Everyone
Special thanks to my sister Tatyana for drawing up my band logo. You can find more of her work here: tythenaught.deviantart.com
I met you when you were a tree. I built my nest high up in your branches.
It started out simple: I’d been flying for hours, and I landed to take a rest. Way at the top, beneath a pillow of leaves, where I’d be hidden from larger birds.
The view was extraordinary. A field to the south, open for miles. To the west rolling hills, lined with houses.
There was a house near you. That worried me. Still, that field would have bugs, and worms when it rained. And every house still had trees in its yard, so I didn’t think you were going anywhere anytime soon.
“What a lovely home,” I thought. And that was that. You were my home.
I spent the summer up there. The field had plenty of food, and your leaves were thick, with tiny branches sprouting off of every larger one. I could spend a lifetime there and not be seen.
But I would be heard. I’d be heard for miles. You were so tall! I could sing my songs, and now and then another bird was loud enough to sing back, but they were always softer, no, always lower.
Winter came on fast and cold. It does that now; all of my senses are off. Maybe the seasons are off. But the air was cold, your leaves were disappearing, and it was time for me to go. I said goodbye and I went south. I hoped I’d find another tree like you there, but I knew I wouldn’t. I found shelter, but not a home. And I was so afraid you wouldn’t be there when I came back. But you were.
One summer I sang my song, and another voice came back, still lower, but stronger than the others. I sang out, and it came back again, playful, this time closer. I sang softer. The voice came back just below me.
Back and forth we sang, until the ladybird tweeted right below me, then right beside me, and back and forth we fluttered and sang so low no one else could hear us. It was like I led her up there, but it was more like you did.
I remember when our eggs hatched. Three littlebirds, squawking and screeching, hungry. We raised them, the ladybird and I and you, our nest and our shelter and our home.
I watched as they learned to fly. I watched them catch their own food. And I watched as, one by one, weeks apart, they would fly away and never return. My heart sang its sorrow song, but I hoped they found a tree half as good as you.
I remember the cat that chased me once, and how it couldn’t make it to even your lowest branches. I remember the young boy who tried to climb you, and I watched him grow alongside my own littlebirds, and his own ladybird he would sit beside, right in your shade, singing their own songs.
And I remember the night it stormed. Thunder crashed, and my heart beat faster, but I nestled closer to my ladybird and tried to sleep it away.
Then lightning struck, and we were falling. I tried to fly, but I didn’t know which way was up. Everything was just black, and wet, and cold, and the last thing I remember is my ladybird taking off into the night, moonlight fighting through the clouds and glinting off of her wings, beautiful.
When you die, part of you stays here, just for a little while, while your soul is fighting its way out of an egg. I stayed right here, where you used to be.
The storm lifted, like all storms do. My heart cried out a song I didn’t know it could, seeing you lying on the ground, your branches broken, your leaves scattered, part of your trunk still standing, jagged and aimed at the sky, a brutal memorial of what used to be.
I watched the humans come, and I knew I was seeing you for the last time. They would sweep it all away, cut down and dig up whatever was left, and you’d be gone like you never existed.
They did sweep you away, and cut down what was left, but they left your roots and stump. And that boy I watched grow beneath you, nearly a man now, placed a bird bath where you used to be, a new memorial, a tribute to what you were, and a promise that you could still be. And I watched my ladybird play in that fountain, I watched the other birds whose songs I’d always heard join together, and my heart sang.
Because you’re still here, in a way. And even as my spirit starts to spread its wings, I know what we shared was here, even though we’re not. And nothing can ever take that away from us.
I sang you one last song, and then my spirit flew south for the winter.
Growing up, my mom was a big fan of heavy metal and grunge rock, while my dad mostly listened to country. I think there’s a degree to which we inherit tastes from our parents—like most things—so for a long time I listened to what they listened to. I didn’t strike out on my own into the musical world until I was 11 or 12. I could write countless pages about the countless hours I spent with a Walkman or a radio, mostly listening for something I recognized, until I started to recognize new songs, things I hadn’t inherited from anyone else. This was somewhere around 15 years ago now, but one thing I remember vividly is that my first actual favorite band ended up being blink-182.
I don’t remember the first time I heard them, or probably any of the earliest times. I know I heard of them long before I heard them; one day in 6th grade a lot of my classmates were giggling and making a general hullabaloo about the whole nudity thing. What ended up sticking with me was their music. I remember how catchy “What’s My Age Again?” was, and how I always listened to it on low volume or with headphones, because I knew my parents wouldn’t like the lyrics. I remember falling in love with their more serious-ish songs like “Dammit” and “Adam’s Song,” more catchy tunes with “The Rock Show” and “All the Small Things,” and mostly I remember how “Stay Together for the Kids” immediately became one of my favorite songs of all time.
Despite all this, I didn’t own any of their albums until I was in high school, when a friend burned me a copy of their untitled album. I knew “Feeling This” and “I Miss You” from the radio, and eventually I’d fall in love with the album as a whole. If I had to pick an album that was the most important to me in the formative years of my musical tastes, this would be it.
It didn’t take long before the infamous hiatus, and while I enjoyed both Angels & Airwaves and +44, none of their work meant as much to me as untitled did. Needless to say I was thrilled when the band reunited, and I love Neighborhoods for what it is. The second split didn’t hurt as badly, especially since it didn’t take long at all for the band to start playing shows with Matt Skiba in place of Tom DeLonge. I was never a huge fan of Alkaline Trio, though I did enjoy quite a few of their songs, but I’ve always loved Skiba’s voice, so this was exciting. It all paid off for me when the band released “Bored to Death.”
I pre-ordered California as soon as I was able to, and I’ve played little else since putting it on my iPod.
“Cynical” works as a fun opener, with Mark Hoppus dropping the band’s classic angst-ridden lyrics before being interrupted by Travis Barker’s famous drumming; the man is easily one of the best drummers of all time. Following is about a minute of (literally) unapologetic pop-punk, as Matt Skiba furiously belts out “What’s the point of saying sorry now? Not sorry, not sorry, not sorry, I’m not sorry.”
“Bored to Death” was a fantastic way to introduce the band’s new sound, with Skiba and Hoppus trading off verses and choruses.
Save your breath, I’m nearly
Bored to death and fading fast.
Life is too short to last long.
Back on Earth, I’m broken
Lost and cold and fading fast.
Life is too short to last long.
—blink-182, “Bored to Death”
Hoppus takes over for a cleverly worded bridge, and then Travis Barker drives the song home. By now it’s clear that Matt Skiba is a good fit for the band. His voice doesn’t contrast with Hoppus’s as much as Tom DeLonge’s does, but his guitarwork is right at home for blink-182.
Track three, “She’s Out of Her Mind” is another piece of classic pop-punk, with a catchy pre-chorus declaring “She’s a-a-a-antisocial, a-a-a-she’s an angel.” In the second verse, Matt Skiba proves he can provide a more classic blink-sounding flat vocal style as well as his louder, more melodious singing. After this is “Los Angeles,” easily the darkest song on the album. Barker brings his hip-hop drum style while Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba set each other up for vocals, tossing the song’s lines back and forth until Skiba takes over, leaving Hoppus to tunefully shout out some “ohs” that hit a spot most instruments wouldn’t do justice.
“Sober” provides an interesting contrast to “Los Angeles,” being far more light-hearted and playful. It’s catchy as hell, with a thick chorus of vocals shouting out some of the words to the pre-chorus sections. “I can do bad, and you can do better” is a good example of the kind of fun, simple, yet clever lines found throughout the record.
All 15 seconds of “Built This Pool” were released well before the album. It’s a joke song, and if I had to pick one track to cut, it would be this one. It’s cute and classic blink humor, but it’s the kind of thing that probably made a lot more sense in the studio than out, and for some reason just sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe it’s that it’s the only track that doesn’t feature vocals from both singers, or just that the tone is off; it’s more of a joke than “Sober” and far too casual for the next track, “No Future.”
Speaking of: This one is fun. Barker’s drumming is on point, and while some of the lyrics are sort of mashed into their rhythm, this song has the perfect balance of playful and serious. The random bass note before the first chorus always catches my ear, and Skiba’s verse is insanely good; it’s not the best writing ever, but he pours his soul into singing these lines.
She said that it’s too late to try,
Someday I’ll smile and say goodbye.
Every night that you fight every demon in sight,
Sleeping on the floor.
Wide awake from the dream with a shake and a scream,
Hope for so much more.
—blink-182, “No Future”
The song leads well into California‘s major ballad, “Home is Such a Lonely Place.” I’m a sucker for ballads, and this is a good one. Its surprisingly simple lyrics get the job done without trying too hard, with lines like “I hold on tight, but not enough to hold you back” and “Wish I could slow down time, but not enough to slow you down” reflecting the desire to keep someone close forever, but realizing they need their own space to grow and move.
“Kings of the Weekend” is probably my least favorite song on the album. I just don’t care for the lyrics, though musically it’s solid, in particular the riffs following each chorus. “Teenage Satellites” is one of the bigger-sounding songs, with the now-classic blink space theme going on. Hoppus smoothly cruises through the first verse and provides sturdy backing vocals throughout, while Skiba dominates the choruses and owns the second verse. I absolutely adore his voice, especially when he’s crooning lines like “Then you kissed me like a storm at sea / Like I’m the only one you’ll ever need.”
After this is “Left Alone,” which starts with more spacey-sounding keys before being taken over by a flowing, melodic guitar section and Barker’s intense drumming. This quickly became one of my favorite songs in blink history, let alone on this record. Hoppus and Skiba split the song 50-50 vocally, trading off lines of each verse. The pre-chorus finds Mark Hoppus frantically asking “Can you remember the last time” followed by a hardly-there Matt Skiba contributing a memory, and the whole thing comes off as a bittersweet mixture of fondness and frustration, boiling down to a simple question: “Are we halfway gone, or halfway there?”
Then the chorus explodes, with Matt Skiba belting out some of the heaviest, loudest, most intense singing I’ve ever heard from him. It sounds like nothing the band has done, yet an entirely natural progression from their untitled and Neighborhoods eras. Lines like “Break me down, I’m not afraid of you” become album highlights.
“Rabbit Hole” was the second full song released, and is much faster than “Bored to Death.” It’s a fun tune, with Skiba’s verse lyrically playing with Hoppus’s, a simple and catchy chorus of “I won’t fall down the fucking rabbit hole,” and a great vocal chorus for the outro.
“San Diego” tones things down, beginning slowly with Mark Hoppus reminiscing, clearly about the band’s past. Oddly enough, Matt Skiba sings a majority of the song, but his voice fits the tone perfectly, keeping the song from sounding bitter or too serious. The bridge is one of the best moments on the record, and I’d be interested to know who wrote it, as it’s one of two moments on the whole album that sound more at home with Alkaline Trio than blink-182 (and I don’t mean this in a bad way).
I never needed to hear
All of the pain and the fear
Your secrets filled up my ears like the ocean blue.
I never wanted to know
How deep these cuts on you go
And like a river they flow to the ocean blue.
—blink-182, “San Diego”
“The Only Thing That Matters” is one of the fastest songs on the album, and among the most playful. It’s classic blink through and through, except the second verse, which is the second moment that, to me, smacks of Alkaline Trio, but with the casualness of blink-182.
“California” closes the album as the last full song. Matt Skiba is mostly in the background for this one, which is a softer, ballad-y tune covering the ups and downs of modern day California. It’s one that hits close to home for me, because I was born there, lived there for years, and visited several times. Barker’s drumming is clever as ever, but quiet, along with Skiba’s guitars, letting Mark Hoppus’s vocals take control of the tune.
Two little kids out on the lawn,
Once we had love, now it’s gone
Good things haven’t happened yet
I’m empty as a movie set,
It’s what I’ve always wanted.
The song slowly escalates toward the final chorus, where the trio play and sing their hearts out, bringing the album to a fitting close, if you don’t count the next joke song, “Brohemian Rhapsody,” which would’ve been better off as a hidden track. After the first listen, there isn’t much worth going back for, except maybe Skiba’s epic lead guitarwork.
California is a good record for introducing the band’s new sound. It’s not going to oust the untitled album as my favorite, but there are some unforgettable tracks here. Good luck getting me to ever shut up about how much I love “Left Alone.” It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes from here—these three re-inventing themselves with a more serious sound à la the untitled record would be a welcome direction, and it might be fun to see the band move on as a four-piece with Tom DeLonge back in the mix, if even just for a song or two. Whatever the case, this band has a lot of history, for me and in general, and I’m excited to hear what happens next.