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Any form of expression is arguably one committed “under the influence.” What we eat, what we say, how we walk—hell, human beings simply walking is really just a biological influence. But historically, for writers, one of the most iconic influences of all time is Absinthe—The Green Muse; a devastating liquor. Everyone from Ernest Hemmingway (his short story “Hills Like White Elephants” comes to mind) to Joey Goebel (with his novel Torture the Artist) has capitalized on the image of Absinthe. What better way to weave my own way into this cultural icon than by way of a lit mag called The Green Muse, with “Refill,” a story about a man governed by substance? I suppose a better way would have been for me to actually use the word “Absinthe” somewhere in the story. But I didn’t.


One of my writing heroes, Denis Johnson, has a few pertinent words on the topic of writing under the influence (of drugs and alcohol):

“I think it’s silly for anyone to think you could write under the influence, but if they’d like to think that, I’d like to keep the legend alive.

Read the rest

Online literary magazines seemed to me for the longest time some form of blasphemy. Not much compares to the tactile and aesthetic appeal of a printed, bound journal. Maybe that sounds a little creepy, but I’m a creepy guy.

So when writer and friend Christopher Dwyer posted over at Write Club about this online lit-mag called Dogmatika I wasn’t exactly crushing keys to get over there. But call me a convert.Dogmatika was the eye opener. It stands as not only the first online lit-mag that I read with regularity, but also the first I loved so much that I felt compelled to submit my own fiction. Head over to Dogmatika now to read my short-short, “Petty Injuries.”

Maybe I was a literary snob. Maybe I yearned too much for the prestige that comes with a printed journal. Maybe I was too focused on the canvas, not the art.… Read the rest

It happened sooner than I expected, sooner than I wanted, and sooner than necessary, to be sure, but it’s here. And to be honest, the idea of a personal homepage still seems a bit arrogant to me. “Who cares?” right? But we all must accept the times, I suppose; must accept our technological evolutionary tendencies. As Mrs. Rose, a character in one of my current projects says, “only when you accept control can you really be free.” I don’t know if I agree with that, but it justifies this ego-trip homepage swimmingly.

This is the Caleb Ross Official Homepage (call it CROH because the acronym sounds really urban). I’ve held off contributing to the already brackish stagnancy that is the majority of personal online fiction sites, writing instead for me, for lit mags, for friends, but now anyone can be charged as an accomplice.

For those of you who arrived here by blindly clicking or via an attempt to find this guy I apologize.… Read the rest

Note: This review originally appeared in the now defunct

Jason M. Heim. Remember to Blink., 2003-04. $15.99, paper, ISBN: 1-4116-1121-7.

The narrator of Jason M. Heim’s debut novel, Remember to Blink, suffers from what might best be described as a chronic case of boredom. Taking a cue from his mundane job in computer software maintenance at one of the world’s largest computer manufacturers, the unnamed narrator creates for himself an autopilot personality which he uses to handle tedious tasks while a separate, conscious part of his brain can ponder deeper ideas: “[…] whatever high concept my mind thinks is the flavor of the month. Things like evolution” (19). And evolution is one of the many trains this mind rides throughout the novel’s stream-of-consciousness styled rant, presented successfully, as a well crafted novel about a struggle for control and the resulting infinite burden this struggle carries.

What might initially seem like a cheap gimmick, the narrator claims early on in a faux forward that he is not an author, and later (but still very early in the novel) that he has done no research, outlining, or preparation, ultimately proves to be a necessary admission.… Read the rest

Midnight finds us rolling through the waves of the old Double Drive In, the gravel crunching under our tires, the Monte Carlo’s trunk bottoming out like it used to, and all the broken glass, beer caps, and bullet casings now sparkle like stars.

From “Trauma Plate” as included in Emporium

Emporium taught me more about short story craft than most textbooks dedicated entirely to the topic. Adam Johnson has what some may call a natural story-telling ability, and I’d agree for the most part, but nature, I suspect, takes a person only so far, and Emporium exists as such a perfect specimen of contemporary fiction that I would hesitate to believe we as human beings have this innate level of ability.

Yes, he has a flair for language. Yes, he can craft a compelling storyline. But what truly makes Adam Johnson endearing is his obvious knowledge of the craft. He has – and I would say this about very few people – a Richard Russo-ian ability for story.… Read the rest

…”How old were you the first time?”

“The first time I shot someone? Nineteen.”

Leksi nodded and opened his mouth, but forgot what he had meant to say. Finally, he asked, “Who were we fighting back then?”

Nikolai laughed. “How old do you think I am, Aleksandr?”


Nikolai smiled broadly, flashing his crooked teeth. “Twenty-four.” He pressed the poker’s tip against the base of Leksi’s skull. “Here’s where the bullet goes.”

From “The Devil Comes to Orekhovo” as included in When the Nines Roll Over

I can be a literary snob when I have to be. I’ll admit that critically praised contemporary fiction is never something I go out of my way to jump on. You’d sooner catch me reading a forgotten receipt than something sitting on a grocery store book shelf. Why? I just feel that a lot of great writing goes unnoticed, and it’s my job as an active member of the literary community to give the lesser-knowns a run when I can.… Read the rest

Were you ever drinking one night and thought, “I would like to kill myself, but I just don’t have a good reason. I wish my daughter would get hit by a car or I was a ground troop in The Iraqi War so people would say after I did it, ‘He had his reasons.”

From “Civilization” as included in The Condemned

Keep Going. When you land in a passage about a pregnant woman snorting cocaine and eating pussy, keep going. When you get halfway through a scene involving load blowing and load swallowing, keep going. Beauty exists at the end. And it is the rare beauty that informs everything prior.

Noah Cicero has a way of bringing the most seemingly asinine and gratuitous scenes in toThe Condemned cover sharp focus with just a single paragraph or sentence. Take for instance the story “Gratuitous Kink The Immaculate Cherry Popping,” in which a long list of the protagonist’s sexual exploits is capped with the passage: “In most meaningless sex acts only one of the people has the motivation for a good time.… Read the rest