Thursday, August 29, 2013


written with a beta song and a thought blasting by jake kilroy.

when our bodies collapsed and the roof caught its breath,
we gulped the fresh sunlight that hurt our torn-apart mouths,
hearing the sounds of words, laying in wait to pounce on our tongue,
caravanning up through our throats, leaving all the red wine behind,
strangling our stomachs, so that every inch of us felt out of place.

we listened to our hearts pound like our chests were snares;
punched, knocked, blasted, and destroyed with warmth.
a punk band of ditch diggers using welfare checks as picks,
with everything going toward romance, we were well spent,
down to the last dime; but this time, we were spry and loud,
now maniac skins fleeing the spirit core to each other, finally.

godspeed us to ourselves, we chanted over and over,
peeling clothes off like fruit skins, casual and healthy,
deliriously in love with nearly everything in the room.
but your music wasn't enough, and this light wasn't either.
nothing would cure the starvation, probably ever.
but we tried. with every magic trick and lie we had,
we put everything we knew into a second chance.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jake Kilroy's Ten Rules for Writing

Jake Kilroy's Ten Rules for Writing
by Jake Kilroy

1. Read everything from western novellas to cereal boxes.

2. Let people know you write in your free time, so you appear deep and attractive, but don't boast enough to where they ask to read your stuff.

3. Don't date a writer that's better than you.

4. Briefly hate the entire activity of writing from time to time.

5. Have one moment in your life that you can definitely cite writing as something that saved you.

6. Impress someone you're attracted to with the written word every so often.

7. Write in different places and settings.

8. Be practically turned on by the sheer thought of publication.

9. Acknowledge that you're better than your peers, but not as good as the greats.

10. Steal.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Melodyfest 2013

Melodyfest 2013:
An Extraordinary Day In The Life Of Melody MacKeand
a third-party, second-person, one-star account
of the greatest day ever for Melody MacKeand
by Jake Kilroy

You are Melody MacKeand, and you have had enough.

You crafted the guest list with strategic precision. You penned the invitations yourself. You personally addressed the envelopes.

And then they came to Melodyfest 2013.

The men.

The men that wronged you, the men that misled you, the men that couldn't quite get an education in the essence that was...Melody.

With the promise of free booze and even freer sex, they gathered in the plaza, cooking in the heat like what they had eventually become to you: meat. Many were charmless, some even shirtless, as if to go just a bit farther to let everyone know there was a keg instead of a heart underneath the eternally tan skin of former flames. It was a breathtaking spectacle to watch them amass, the men bumping into each other like idiot seagulls, here for the grandiose promise of a morally reprehensible, yet thrillingly verbose, no-strings-attached reward of womanly flesh that would've brought the likes of a lifelong minister, hellbent on building a new church for a half-Korean, half-white goddess, if she had a shred of nerve to witness society's total and unequivocal downfall.

True, you weren't always the best to these men, and, granted, you broke up with most of them, but what mattered most was the reckoning to come, the emotional abyss that these men should, and apparently would, crawl into for you.

And high above the chumps laughed a well-rested and very drunk queen.


Draped in a lawn chair like an Olympic heavy-hitter enjoying rum punch for the first time in years, you lean back, farther than even Fat Joe would recommend. To your left is an ashtray filled to the brim with exhausted cigars that did you better than any man ever really did. To your right is two mini-fridges; one stacked with an acid trip variety of wine coolers, and the other practically suffocating with full-sized wine bottles and diary pages between them so that something finally wouldn't break on you, let you down, and complete the full final push of the grating spiral you whimsically once called a "life."

Your feet splash in the restless, fully charged water basin massager that you purchased at The Sharper Image more than a decade ago that one Christmas after Geoff (whose spelling of the name you always hated with more passion than he showed you) broke your heart, following what he called an "exaggerated" episode at the local Claimjumper when he foolishly suggested you two go "dutch," like some married couple of serfs that haven't gotten around to signing the divorce papers.

Below you are the men, physically and metaphorically. They roam without direction, a scene that would bring tender tears to your eyes if you were a little bitch. Instead, you watch with a starving glare, cackling and bellowing at the men you recognize in the crowd, now sneaking its way to at least 100.

"My, my, my! Is that Tommy? Well, I guess we haven't seen each other since junior high, but lest we forget that fateful day in P.E. Who looks like a boy now, you weasel-faced nothing! I heard about how you got fired from O'Reilly Auto Parts for being high all the time! I went there to laugh at you, but I suppose you were already out spending your last fifty cents on that abomination you think passes as a haircut!"

Not all of your jeers are as historical or thorough, especially as you empty the soul of wine bottle after wine cooler after wine bottle. Your throat is ripe with the harsh flavor of an exquisitely enjoyable balance of fermentation and frustration. You notice no pain, but the shout-outs come in shorter bursts with more deranged laughter.

"Oh, and what's this? Dearest Benjamin is here? Well, guess what, you control-addicted megalomaniac? Mama doesn't need your shit now! She's got her own place, her own jewels, her own cassette tapes, and she doesn't need you to take her to see Josh Groban anymore!"

After another bottle of wine and a bottle of Boone's Farm you purchased by mistake, your blazingly aggressive observations of the past come in only a splatter of words against the dry air.

"And interesting seeing you here, Chad! Or should I say...Mr. Too-Good-To-Clean-The-Puke-Out-Of-My-Dress-On-The-Best-New-Year's-Eve-He's-Ever-Seen!"

You beat your chest, bordering on calling out that this is, in fact, your house, despite it clearly being a hotel room you overpaid for, but you instead nearly jab yourself in the throat and definitely spill red wine across the drying towel you only brought for laying out and not-so-subtley inviting the poolside bartender back to your room for what not-so-charmingly came out as "a code dime."

You make a small peculiar whimper that demonstrates such empathy, it makes you question if it's even yours before realizing the red wine could actually stain the towel you lifted from the parents' house of one, Marcus Wyatt Johnson, a college playboy with thinning hair and an affinity for you that lasted all of Thanksgiving break. Realizing this could be a problem, and then countering the infectious fleeting compassion for even just yourself, you quote the one Jay-Z line you can slur from memory.

"Well, I don't give a shit. So?"

You keep up the rapper's swagger with a shoulder shrug that even a deaf-mute would have found too loud and proceed to swallow the rest of the wine in your glass like a high school student's morally ambiguous mother showing off for her son's friends.

Hours pass, and the men have lessened their ranks in the sweaty, confused army that was undeniably well-organized. Some took to noticing you berating them, some simply couldn't find you, some wandered off for pizza, and some, as it turns out, were only strangers that got sucked into a mob mentality. Raising your eyebrows in a brief blackout of sensual perplexity, you realized these strangers could potentially entertain you in the deep reaches of the coming evening, so, in a moment of drunken madness mistaken for awkward genius, you threw a near-dozen paper airplanes, almost going over the balcony railing once in a brazened attempt at a stunted running-start shot-put huck. To your fascination, though more so to your furious rage, the hastily assembled paper airplane invitations, featuring several crude and generally disgusting sketches of what loitered around your mind all afternoon, weren't met with the warm reception you anticipated. Not a single one was plucked out of the hotel's extraordinary landscaping by some jovial and inquisitive hunk, despite you catching the attention of several chance pedestrians and recreating the frantic doodles with equally offensive hand gestures.

It was a beautiful affair, you tell yourself in the dying light of the day. And so with your energy zapped and your sanity drained, you light the last of the stogies and wait for night to shroud you in a familiar cool breeze and contemplative delirium.

The sun sets on your balcony as well as the deserted plaza below, but, as God as your witness, not on your integrity! No, no, no! Despite what Alexander the Great Liar of San Bernardino County, Mr. Razzle-Dazzle-Sizzler himself, would have you believe, you are a woman—nay, a force of femininity!—and you'll be damned if you're not going to strut your stuff like BeyoncĂ© with an injured knee, persevering through the pain in an outfit that'd make even a Playboy Bunny blush green with envy.

The future is bright, and them boys out there better be wearing shades.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard: Dutch's Lesson

Elmore Leonard, once called "the Dickens of Detroit," passed away today. He was 87 years old and indefinitely rad as hell. Born in New Orleans and raised in Detroit, Leonard aimed to be like Hemingway if he had a sense of humor. He penned some of my favorite crime novels (Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, The Hot Kid) and my favorite pulpy western stories (3:10 To Yuma, Saint With A Six-Gun, Man With The Iron Arm), and they all contained honest, jivey lowlife dialogue. It was pitch-perfect realistic, but it was silly and violent at the same time. It was so spot on that prisoners used to write him fan letters.

He was one of the first real writers I started reading as a kid, and his take on wild characters intertwining in some big crazy deal influenced me and what I wanted to do when it came to telling stories.

Anyway, out of respect to "Dutch," here's Elmore Leonard's essay about his 10 rules of writing...

"WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle"
by Elmore Leonard
Published: July 16, 2001, New York Times

These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather.
If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.
They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's ''Sweet Thursday,'' but it's O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ''I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy's thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don't have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.''

3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ''she asseverated,'' and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said"....
...he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''
This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ''suddenly'' tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ''Close Range.''

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's ''Hills Like White Elephants'' what do the ''American and the girl with him'' look like? ''She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.'' That's the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
Unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you're good at it, you don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character -- the one whose view best brings the scene to life -- I'm able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what's going on, and I'm nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in ''Sweet Thursday'' was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. ''Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts'' is one, ''Lousy Wednesday'' another. The third chapter is titled ''Hooptedoodle 1'' and the 38th chapter ''Hooptedoodle 2'' as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: ''Here's where you'll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won't get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.''

''Sweet Thursday'' came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I've never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"doughnut shop"

"doughnut shop"
written after a raspberry chocolate doughnut by jake kilroy.

i was in line at a doughnut shop this morning
when i smelled your perfume and lost my four other senses,
even though you were states away and years behind me.

it was the aroma on the purple shirt you left the first night,
and maybe that's why i thought of irises, pansies, and asters,
there, memorizing my own breaths,
empty-eyed on the day's special,
counting the seconds until i had to speak.

the years blew through me then, stormy and determined,
as moment after moment crowded into the tavern of my head,
waiting for the band to play, waiting to hear our song now.
the past, scattered about in a crowd setting, cheered drunkenly,
with some rapping their knuckles on the glass of my eyes,
making sure i was paying attention to the brawl to come.

the cold night in Dublin, the near death in Morocco,
the weeks in Spain, the home in Austin, Texas;
they were mapped out in the back, near my neck,
coaxing gibberish out of their stale gums,
to paint a new picture, one that's been touched up
and revitalized as a museum piece out of a barroom.

hope is a matter of personal welfare,
and we sign checks we can't always cash,
wondering what happened to our heart
in the time it's taken to drain the vault a hundred times
and refill it a hundred times more, day in and day out.

where was i for years?
and where was i after that?

everything was wasted, and everything was lost.
everything was reclaimed, and everything was given back.
so nothing was wasted, and nothing was lost.

love is bathtub gin, stirred and stored in the very depths of us,
homemade by hand with directions we write down as they come.
some have barrels, some have pints, but all of us have something.
we must never forget that there are always new recipes upon us,
forever with new lunatics to cook up the wild and the beautiful.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


written after too long by jake kilroy.

in the crack of the evening, i slipped into the unreality,
a daydream that bends and bounces and thrashes and laughs.
i heard horns and clashes but felt every kind of breeze and wind,
while all colors cackled, struck, broke, and washed over me.

there, in the right pitch of the outerworld, i felt you like a church,
a home made of light, a place without gravity.

i was weightless and sublime with the heaviest heart around,
swilling post-rock anthems in my bloodstream until sickness came,
when i finally let go of my eyes and saw like i had been asleep for years.
you were this, you were that, you were there.
what more could i want but a few more words?
what does any spirit really hope for?

i floated into the breaths of the earth,
the deep, sinking gasps for air,
and they glowed a new color, yes,
all while i dragged my limbs behind me
and went free into the unknown,

after what felt like eons, my head returned,
emptied of hate, full of everything else,
and i was what you had always made.
this was me, and i was yours,
and it was complete.