My new book: Girls, Cigarettes, & Illusions

For the past six months, instead of blogging like I had planned, I’ve been fine-tuning, editing, rewriting, and formatting my NEW book Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions. This project dates back years, and it’s finally ready!

Later this year, or even more maybe early 2020, my novel Girls I Know will be published and released in the traditional way through an actual publisher. So in the build-up to that, I decided I’d give the whole self-publishing a try.

Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions is described as such:

“Evocative and distinctly erotic, Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions is a collection of ten vignettes that trace the lives of modern-day couples and singles. We are transported to the turbulent depths of the romantic and the perverse, where our characters often succumb to their greater primitive desires. Among these provocative stories, a recently dumped entrepreneur battles with the reality that his ex-girlfriend may have committed murder; a couple travels into the wilderness to witness loons on a lake; a woman recalls the story of her best friend who went missing after she lost her virginity; a young salesman writes his girlfriend a break-up letter after falling for a co-worker; and a student is hired to watch his teacher’s cat only to get caught up in his own girlfriend’s dark erotic fantasies. A blend of literary fiction and erotica, these coming of age stories are riddled with ambiguity, irony, and human sexuality in a mysterious, seemingly magical world told from the first person.”

There are some graphic (sexy) descriptions in these short stories so I advise you don’t read them at work or around your grandparents. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t smut but instead a blend of literary fiction and erotica.

I have struggled with the idea of releasing these stories to the world for quite some time. There is a fear of judgment when you release any creative project. And with erotica, there is an even more of a fear of judgment. As a writer, you face these fears every day.  I’ve written about these fears over and over again in this very blog. I know I have to face them head-on. Get your work out there!

So, without further ado, I give you my collection of short stories: Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions.



Onward and Upward

This weekend we finished post-production on a short film, No Time for Romance. It’s a fourteen minute short about a pregnant wife who must decide to stay with her live-in boyfriend or prepare for the end of the world. It’s really about much more than that though: the rising nuclear tensions and the effects it has on a relationship with differing views.

My producing partner and I shot the film earlier this year. It’s been a long time coming. The production didn’t go as planned and the audio was a mess. There were disagreements on the script (that never fully felt complete by the time of filming). In short, we learned a lot.

Upon finalizing and exporting the film, my partner expressed how much he liked it. How good it felt to be done. I felt the same way, but differently.

I replied, “No one will watch it and we’ll make more. Onward and upward.”

He agreed. This might sound complacent but it’s the opposite.

The film won’t win Oscar. And it most likely won’t launch our careers into quitting our jobs and becoming full-time moviemakers. We had a story and we wanted to tell it. Did it come out EXACTLY the way we wanted? No. But that’s okay. Few things do.

I have boughten into this idea/advice from filmmakers like Mark Duplass (and others) whose motto of “just make movies.”

Every project is another lesson for the next one. We have other projects in the works, both together and separately, my producing partner and I. Writing is the same way. With every project you learn something, you get better, you home your voice, your practice.

And as much as we’d love the fame and attention for our projects, the likes and the shares and the views—we know it’s not about that. It can’t be. If it was, we would have quit a long time ago. It’s about the work, the process, the collaboration, the storytelling.

Just write. Just paint. Just workout. Just sew. Set your goals but know it can’t be about the outcome. It has to be about the work.

When facing that lurking feeling of creative self-doubt, born from resistance, waiting to devour all of your dreams and ambitions—Theo Roosevelt said it best:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Come join us in the arena.

This isn’t our first film and it won’t be our last. The next one will be better, and the next one better than that. Fail again. Fail better.

Check out the film here:  No Time For Romance

Thanks for reading. Always be writing.



Am I a writer yet?

The waitress who’s an actress. The Uber driver who’s a bodybuilder. The banker who’s a painter. The lawyer who’s a stand-up comedian.
In the past when people asked me what I do, I always conceded to my day job.

“I work in real estate.”

I’ve tried to tell people what I really do (where most of my time/energy goes).

“I’m a writer.”

Truth is, I’m not one hundred percent comfortable with that. It feels immodest. The next question is always, “What do you write? Have you ever had anything published?”

And when I go into the details of my mild successes, it feels contrived. Their faces are a little bit confused like they’re grappling to find a reason to validate me. They’re seeing right through me. I’m a fraud. I’m full of shit. I’m reminded of why I don’t say I’m a writer…

How much success do I need? How much money do I need to make? When will the phrase “I’m a writer” feel authentic?

I spend five to six hours a day working on my writing. That’s twice as much time I spend on the day job. I’m very lucky that I can prioritize my writing over everything and still pay my bills. AND now that I’m in grad school, I’m writing all the time. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are now spent writing. Or at least outlining, thinking, brainstorming, navigating stories or reading scripts and books.

So now, if someone would approach me and ask me what I do?

“I’m a grad student.”

I can show them the homework and feedback I got from my workshop. In two years I can show them the Master’s degree and the debt I’ve accumulated. That’s a result. That’s merchandisable. That’s a “viable product.” I can’t show them the countless unproduced screenplays or the short stories or even this blog. That’s not enough. The grad student fits into a box and makes sense. There’s an end game. No need to grapple with that.

ME: “I’m writing a screenplay. I’m a writer.”

SOME GUY: “Oh, so then what’s next?”

ME: “I have no fucking idea.”

I’ve been produced. I’ve sold a script. My novel is being published. I spend the majority of my weekly hours writing, so what has to happen? What would help me confidently answer this question: What do you do? What are you? What am I?

I don’t think there is a clear answer to my identity crisis. It’s hard to say if it’ll ever change. Maybe when I’m living in LA and making money writing screenplays full time… I long for this day. There is honor in it. A LABEL that I strive for.

I’m reminded that all I can do is write.  And to be a writer means to write.

Always be writing.



“Rabbitholing” — Let’s Brainstorm

Urban dictionary defines the term “Rabbitholing” as: “To get stuck on an endless internet search of no particular importance.”

If you’re sitting down and writing every day like I am, sometimes you start feeling like a robot. The work feels dry. The once awe-inspiring story sucks. And even when you’ve hit your daily writing quota, it’s as if you didn’t write anything at all.

This is what I do to cure that bottomless pit feeling…

Set aside a few hours (preferably late at night) when you don’t have to wake up early, when social media is boring, when there are fewer distractions to pull you away.

Go Rabbitholing.

What you will need:

  1. Computer with internet access
  2. A notepad and a writing utensil
  3. A glass of wine, scotch, a joint, or anything that will help you relax (this is optional, but I find it’s crucial to the process)

Rabbitholing is actually one big distraction.

Utilizing the internet and all its information, you will basically follow any and every inclination you have. You will follow all the distractions you want — when you want and however you want. This is your chance to let loose. To rid the pressure of distraction-free, concentrated work. Go buck-wild.

At some point in the day, at least once, I will perpetually scroll through the internet whether that be Yahoo News, Facebook, Twitter. It’s inevitable. I’m simply procrastinating. I’m distracting myself from writing. But even as I’m procrastinating, I begin to procrastinate the procrastination. If I come across an article or link or anything that sounds mildly interesting, I don’t click it. I just save it and keep scrolling. It’s stupid, I know. But my mind doesn’t seem to want to really engage, it just wants to scroll.

So I made it a mission to rid my Facebook of shitty people and memes and fill it with news, inspirational articles, how-to’s, and cats — anything that will make me think a little harder, laugh a little harder and/or smile more.

After a few weeks, the saved articles/links begin to pile up. Facebook has a great feature for saving pages. I suggest you utilize this. I know people who just keep a bunch of tabs open — this is similar.

These pile-ups are great for Rabbitholing. Go to your tabs or saved links. Sip your Gin and Tonic. Sharpen that pencil and sit back. Let your mind wander into the world wide web.

Dive into it. Follow your gut. Click links. Tear down those walls. Follow curious instincts. Absorb it. Write down anything and everything. Be inspired purposely. If you have a question, Google it!

Tell yourself, I’m going to sit down and go Rabbitholing!

The wheels in the brain start turning. The hand moves that pen and suddenly you have threads of a new story, a painting, an invention, ways to get better work out, on and on and on…

Last night I was up until 2 a.m. — I found a news article of a shooting that took place in a drive-through at McDonald’s. The man who was shot was part of the mob. Before I knew it I was looking at the FBI’s Most Wanted list.  Reading stories I have never read before. I made notes. Stole from them. Suddenly I didn’t feel like such a robot.

Always be writing

Rejection Refines Us

“Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?” said writer Chuck Wendig.

This quote hangs above my computer and, to me, is the most useful quote I have. If you’re chasing dreams, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with rejection.

I drafted this post right after a twenty-four-hour span of rejection on three separate fronts. First from a publisher for my novel. Then a highly anticipated/competitive grad school. And then a “PASS” from a producer for my screenplay.

I’ve been rejected countless times. But I really felt these, which had life-alternating potential. I really felt those tentacles that Wendig speaks of.

It felt like a great deal of weight. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. Lie in bed and close my eyes and hope the feeling would slither away.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way and it never will.

I’ve known from the very start of chasing the elusive career as a working writer that rejections are inevitable. And after so many, I convinced myself that if I wasn’t getting rejected for something at least once a month, then I wasn’t trying hard enough. I wasn’t reaching high enough.

It takes a self-prescribed illusion of an idyllic future to continue to press forward. You have to brainwash yourself to show up every day and know it’s worth it. You have to ignore the reality of statistics that say you won’t make it. Rejection knocks you out of that illusion and tells you, despite all of your hard work and progress, you’re still untalented and you won’t make it.

Those tentacles come lashing, twisting and turning all around. Telling me and you to give up, to take the easy way out and go to business school.

But know this: These tentacles will soon slither back to where they came from. The rejection will refine you and you’ll keep writing or drawing or painting or recording and hopefully if you’re good enough—you’ll again face rejection head-on.

With every rejection, you’ll be refined with a new ability. With a new sense of self and a thicker hide to take it. Grad school rejection? Screenplay rejection? Novel rejection? I”m broken and mended back together with gold. Good as new.

I look at another quote on my wall by Steven Pressfield: “It’s better to be in the arena being stomped by the bull than it is to be in the bleachers or in the parking lot.”

Rejection will never define you. And neither will success. What defines you is how you get back up, how you get back to work and how you fight through the grip of rejection and doubt.

The tentacles will leave their lash marks and you’ll have a story to tell. I’d rather eat my own bullshit than someone else’s at the nine to five.

I’m now refined with a new order of success. I’ve replanted my feet and adjusted, and I’m preparing myself again for the next project, my next rejection, but very possibly the one that makes it all worth it.

Since drafting this post, and now posting it: I’ve found a publisher for my novel and was accepted into BU’s MFA Screenwriting program.


Always be writing



Neglecting My Blog

I recently came across an article about common mistakes writers make with their online profiles.

“Neglecting your blog” was listed in the top eight.

I said shit, opened WordPress, and started writing this overdue post. It’s been well over a year since I’ve added to this blog. A lot has changed since then: I graduated college, moved into a house with my girlfriend, wrote a novel, made my first spec feature sale! A tree fell on my car. I got a new car. I produced a web series. I was accepted into Boston University‘s MFA screenwriting program. I moved to Boston. I got rid of that new car. And even more recently I landed a publishing contract for that said novel.

I’ve never been so elated and scared in my entire writing/storytelling career.

And through all of this, my blog has taken a back seat. My stomach turns when I think about it. For a while, I felt obliged to post. But then I justified my inept ability to fully materialize a post by saying what for? I turned my energy elsewhere: to my novel, to my web series and other film projects, to my grad school applications, etc.

The certain previously stated good news (publishing contract and grad school acceptance) made me decide to continue building my online presence by adding to this blog I’ve neglected for so long. Finally.

Sometimes goal setting takes stating it not only to yourself but to the WORLD. What better way to create an obligation — if you don’t follow through, you’ll look like a real bullshitter.

My goal is to start posting a blog entry at least once a month. I think that’s viable with my very busy schedule.

Here are some things to expect to read about:

  • I write 500 words a day – no matter what. I want to share this process with you on how you too can reach your daily writing goals.
  • I have some new short stories to share.
  • Over the coming months, I’ll be preparing my novel for publication! I’m sure that will inspire a post or two.
  • I live in Boston now. A city I had never even visited before. It’s been arguably my biggest life change.
  • Politics. I constantly have tons of opinions on the current political conundrum. I’ve turned away from the fruitless Facebook platform for sharing these thoughts. Maybe a succinct blog post will cure the frustration and yearning for my opinion to be heard.

Thanks for reading.


Always be writing.


13 Gun Salute


It’s been twelve years since we lost my brother to war. The details are still hazy, and the state department continues to give us the runaround. It took my parents four years to give up and let their minds rest on what happened on May 5th, 2004. The initial reports said an IED.  Then we got a phone call from one of his comrades. I answered the phone, and a muffled and raspy voice asked for my father. He took the phone into the den – he was on the phone for only ten minutes. The murmurs of their conversation stopped, and my mother went in there. They stayed there for at least an hour.

They came out with nothing to say. Their eyes were swollen and bloodshot.

“What’s wrong? Who was that?”

“It was a soldier who served with your brother.”

“What did he say?” I asked. My father sat down in the love seat and took the remote. He changed the channel. I looked back at my mother in the kitchen. She grabbed a cucumber out of the fridge and began to slice it.

Growing up, I listened to my brother as any younger brother shouldn’t. He once bought a paintball gun from some kid at school — they snuck it in with backpacks, and my brother gave the kid his last five weeks allowance. I was drawing dragons in my room when he knocked and told me to meet him behind the garage in five minutes — he had something to show me.

He told me he’d give me ten seconds to run.

“Is it going to hurt?” I asked.

“Not if you’re running. It’s called adrenaline. You won’t even know it hit you.”

And then, he started counting. I took off.

When he got to three, he put two paintballs into my back. I fell to the grass and screamed like a ten-year-old boy would. He made me promise not to tell mom or dad — in exchange to play his Playstation as long as I wanted.

When I got to school the next day, I showed all my friend the welts on my back. Proud of my pain.

My brother was well known in our small community of 1200 people. He played wide receiver on the football team and got all-conference honors his junior year. Girls liked him. Teachers didn’t. His senior year he got kicked off the team for smoking dope behind the buses with a buddy during school. My parents weren’t happy, and his life hit a rough patch.

After graduation he worked at the local grocery store, bagging groceries. He would come home late, well after his shift, and I’d awake on mornings for school to my mom yelling at him, as he lay in bed, half asleep. If I could had been as cool as my brother — as cool as everyone thought he was, I would have had a better time growing up. But the older I got, the smarter I got, the less respect I had for him.

My brother hit bottom after he got in a car accident and ruined the family van. The police report said he had fallen asleep at an intersection just north of our town. He was high on something; I could see it in his glassy eyes as he sat there at the dining room table — mom standing with her arms crossed and dad sitting in silence.

They told him that he needed to move out. It was the last straw, my father exclaimed to my mother over dinner. Instead, they made a deal, and he joined the Army. He went to Georgia for his basic training and came back ten pounds heavier and stronger. My parents were proud and as my brother’s drill sergeant presented him with his emblem of completion — I saw my dad cry for the first time.

He returned home, awaiting his orders. And then on a Tuesday morning in September,  two planes crashed into the twin towers. America went to war a few months later. And then to Iraq a year after that. The news of my brother’s deployment soon followed.

My dad dug a hole and put a pole into the ground. My mom went to the store and bought a flag.

The day he left, we had a grill-out. Family from all over the state came to say their goodbyes and give him their luck. The next morning, he peeked his head into my room as I slept.

“I’m out of here, man.”

I woke up and waved and smiled. “Take care of yourself,” I said. My brother gave me a thumbs up. His hair buzzed. His chest out. His shoulders broad.

“You too.”

And then he shut the door and was gone.

Twelve years since he left, and six months after we received that telephone call, I was in last semester of college. Summer was upon us all. I packed a bag, locked my apartment and headed back to my hometown. It had been awhile since I saw my parents — since Christmas. We often talked on the phone. They spent the last few months traveling, living off their pension, touring the southernmost states.

My home was only two hours away, and my father promised a grill out where their neighbors would join us — a younger couple with twin daughters. None of them who I had ever met.

It was all in celebration of Memorial Day.

I arrived on Sunday night. I let myself in with the key under the fake rock in the garden of petunias and hostas. Both my dad and mother were asleep. I came into the den, and the futon was laid out, with sheets ready for me. My mother’s handy work.

My upstairs bedroom, where I slept for eighteen years had been turned into a place for my mom to make homemade stamps. My brother’s bedroom remained mostly the same since his departure and death. There were boxes around his bed and dresser — storage mostly. They acted as a cover for his presence that was still very much felt in the house. I never questioned why my mother chose to use my room instead of his. I understood. I had moved away. My brother had passed away. This place was still very much his home. My home had changed.

That night, I fell asleep next to my mom’s seventeen-year-old cat my dad had gotten her instead of having a third child. His meow as rough as his fur — greased and matted. He cried for food like a baby and walked like a fawn as if his bones were going to break with each step. Watching him sleep, put me at ease. I fell asleep and awoke to the sounds of a vacuum the next morning.

I came out into the living room to my mother.  She turned off the machine and gave me hug. Asked about my drive. Asked about my semester. She poured me coffee and started to make eggs. I went to the sliding glass back door that overlooked our ten acres of woods and marsh — dad was out there, smoking a cigar, and filling bird feeders.

I sat at the table and mom pushed some scrambled eggs onto my plate. Dad came in complaining about the raccoons. He poured the last of the coffee from the maker and pulled out New York strips from the freezer. He bragged about the deal he got and placed them on the counter to thaw.

My mother wrapped the cord to the vacuum and placed it into the closet.

“You’re coming to the parade, aren’t you?” she asked.

“The parade? What parade?” I asked.

The town was planning something different this year for Memorial Day — a parade with boy scouts, the high school band, the firefighters, and their volunteers. They would start at the post office and walk two miles to the graveyard, where tiny American flags, stuck in the ground, each representing an American soldier who was lost in battle. It was where my brother was buried.

He was buried next to my grandparents on my mother’s side — it was our family’s graveyard plot. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t deserving to be buried next to my brother, a fallen hero, and my grandfather, a Korean War Vet who worked well into his 60s to support six children.

“Okay. Sure,” I said. “I’ll go.”

“Well, we’re leaving in fifteen minutes,” she added. I nodded and took an extra big drink of my coffee.

We parked in the middle of town. The sun was out and scorching the street. Townies found places in the shade with their lawn chairs. Little kids held grocery bags awaiting the toss of candy. The band led the way. Their march moved swiftly down Main Street.

The town I had grown up in hadn’t changed much. The corner still had the variety store. The bar’s sign still hung, just barely, from rusted chains. The bakery was still closed and for sale. The only difference was the faces — men had turned old. Women had gained weight. And then, there was a new generation, ones I didn’t know, young and ready.

The fire trucks followed the band. The firefighters tossed candy and kids scurried around. A woman on a great brown horse waved with a big grin. The Methodist church with its followers with no smiles, walked in two single file lines — a quote from the Book on a sign.

My mother rose from her spot on the grass and started off. My father followed. I watched them go for a moment, knowing where they were headed — to the graveyard, to the memorial, the spot where the mayor would give a speech and order a gun salute for the fallen.

Our pace was quick. The rest of the town followed as the parade’s caboose of classic cars marked the end of the show.

The graveyard had a single microphone out front. An American flag on each side. I took a sweeping look across the graves and saw all the tiny flags in the ground. Many men, many young, all of them dead.

My parents found a good spot and the town crowded around. I trailed off, up the gravel drive to a tree under the shade. I slid down and rested there. I looked around.

Five men behind the trees held rifles. They were in military attire. Decorated from where I could see. Four of the men, well into their seventies, veterans of the Vietnam, and the Korean wars, I assumed. Then there was a middle-aged man, the youngest vet of the bunch. He looked to be in his early 40s and most likely had served in the Gulf or possibly the latest, Iraq war.

The Mayor approached the microphone and gave a muffled speech about the fallen. About the sacrifices of soldiers.

I turned and looked back to the corner of the yard where I knew my brother lay buried. I thought about going over there and looking his gravestone over. I hesitated.

The Mayor announced the gun salute. The veterans behind the trees stepped out so the crowd could see them. One yelled a command and their rifles reached into the air.

They fired. It rang.

They pulled their rifles down, grabbing at the bolt lever action, and then aiming back into the air. But one man struggled — the one at the end. The youngest vet.  A command was yelled, and the guns fired. The youngest vet pointed his gun into the air, now late, and behind one shot. The others reloaded, cocking their hammers.

He followed their movement. Pulling at his bolt action. Again struggling. His gun jammed by his panic. The others lifted their rifles into the air and fired their last round. The youngest vet had failed to fire again. He awkwardly placed his rifle to his side like the rest. The three-volley, honorable 15 gun salute, had become a 13 gun salute.

The crowd applauded anyways. No one said anything. No one corrected the mistake. The crowd dispersed and went on their way — back to their homes, to grill steak with the neighbor family and their twin daughters.




I write fiction.