It’s A Dog’s Life


~3 million stories, each unique, no matter how similar to another. 3 million lives that interact and affect each other, most without ever realizing it or understanding that though they are but one drop in an ocean, there would be no ocean without every single one of them, and that each ripple caused by each drop causes waves that affect the entire ocean.

Thanks to the generosity of some friends, I’m sitting this morning in a bookstore cafe in downtown Chicago, watching momentary glimpses of each of these stories –

The businessman in his neatly pressed suit a table over from me, anxiously watching his phone, watch, and the door; who’s he waiting for? What’s got him anxious?

The guy that just walked by, stopped in the middle of his stride to dance and turn to the music in his headphones, oblivious to the world around him, or the attention (and lack thereof); I wonder if he knows that he caused a couple people to smile, and for just a moment, he made their day a little brighter?

The young woman who looks a bit lost while seemingly trying to fit in with the rush around her. Is she new to the city, trying to make a life here? Or has the eagerness of youth been swept away by an overwhelming cityscape that doesn’t seem to care that she’s even there? Maybe she just hasn’t had her ritual cup of coffee this morning, or is already on her way out of the city this afternoon to her weekend plans?

The photographer with his expensive camera and vest, himself capturing moments of life that will forever keep the secrets of the moment while betraying to later viewers that in that moment, there was life happening, there were stories unfolding, writing and rewriting themselves, and the grand play that is life was carrying itself out. Maybe I’ll come across one of his pictures someday, and recognize the moment he captured? Maybe, and perhaps more importantly, someone else will see those pictures, and be inspired to create their own stories in their minds, inspired by a moment stolen and shared…

I suppose, as a poet, a writer, an observer of people, and a traveler that I am inclined to watch the world around me a little more than some others and wonder about all the stories being written, all the stories that are yet to be told, and in some way, even if at least in my head, craft my own version of them based on a moment. Moreover though, I not only wonder about the stories of the people I encounter, but I often wonder at how my own interaction with those people in their moments changes their story.

How do the ripples I create as I wander through life affect the rest of the ocean?

How do yours?

We are each of our own making, and yet… we have all made each other.

Every story fascinates me – especially the ones that I will never hear, nor ever write.

Album Review: Fivefold – Hold On

My review of Fivefold’s EP, ‘Hold On,’ for The Forge.


Hold On

Fivefold - Hold On

Fivefold – Hold On



Review by Rob Salem


Veterans of the St. Louis underground, rock band Fivefold delivers a quality set on their 6-song EP, Hold On. The album reflects the maturity that you’d expect from band that’s been together for 7 years, slowly working its way into being one of the biggest local draws in its hometown. The songs are well written, and while the track ‘Step Back’ offers itself up as the most-likely radio single, every track on this EP is an attention getter. From the introspective ballads ‘Til Death’ and ‘Hold On’ to the energy-driven ‘Falling Into Circles’ and ‘Liars’ to the blunt and angry ‘Worst Mistake,’ Fivefold’s sound is consistent with much of what’s going on in modern rock, yet there is a gritty edge to it that suggests that if these guys wanted to get really heavy they could, and would be perfectly comfortable doing so. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fivefold ends up in the mainstream in the near future,and I’m already looking forward to hearing what they come up with next. If you’re into edgy rock that very carefully walks the line between the mainstream and underground sounds with intelligent, well-crafted lyrics and music, then Hold On by Fivefold is definitely an album you’ll want to check out.


In addition to my poetic and fiction writing, as an on-air radio show host I sometimes review albums from underground rock and metal bands. Here’s a review I just did. Be sure to check out my show, The Forge on Radio Free Kokomo.


The Voice Of Reason


Release Date: 14 June 2014

Review by Rob Salem


Catalytic - The Voice Of Reason

Catalytic – The Voice Of Reason

One of the perks of working in radio is getting advance copies of upcoming releases. I was recently privileged to get a copy of Catalytic’s soon-to-be-released debut album, The Voice Of Reason, and I’ll be honest—I’m glad I did. I’ve not made any secret out of the fact that despite having not seen Catalytic live (yet—I intend to remedy this ASAP) I’m a fan. This comes in part from the fact that I’ve been playing a couple of their demo tracks on The Forge for a while now, but also from the fact that these guys are active in the Indianapolis metal scene, and big advocates of not only themselves, but of other great bands in the scene. With that said, I took the time to listen to The Voice Of Reason a few times through, and to make sure that I was listening not as a fan, but as a critic. Here are my thoughts:


The Voice Of Reason is a solid album from start to finish. The production quality is great, making it easy to listen to, but also to hear everything that’s going on. These guys aren’t super-technical, and they’re not necessarily doing anything innovative with their sound, but that’s okay; they know their music, they know their sound, and they know what they’re good at. One of the things that they demonstrate is diversity in their sound while maintaining consistency. The songs range from thrashing shredders to down-tempo ballad-feeling tunes that succeed at evoking the introspective ear (‘Believe’). Dustin Strole gives his vocals a workout as he moves back and forth from melodic cleans to gut-wrenching roars, but he does it well; he obviously knows his range and sensibly works within it, while never sacrificing any of his power. The guitar work of James Donner and Dustin Chavez is tight, but I think only hints at what these guys are really capable of. Tracks like ‘Red Stained Plains’ evoke the riffing of Amon Amarth at times, while other tracks definitely pull from the New England metalcore sound; these guys obviously have talent, and I’d like to see them stretch their wings a little more by writing some riffs that push the boundaries of their comfort zones and really challenge themselves and each other. Jesse Curtis on bass and Jason Dinwiddie on drums lay down thunder as a tight-as-hell rhythm section that drives the rest of the band while maintaining an unshakeable foundation that gives the guitars and vocals the elevation they need to soar.


All in all, The Voice Of Reason is an impressive first offering. The original demos that Catalytic released in 2013 were good in and of themselves, but hearing those tracks get that studio polish and go through some of the evolution that is expected of produced studio work demonstrates that these guys take their craft seriously and are always looking to improve upon and perfect things that are already considered good. The Voice Of Reason is going to stay in my personal rotation for a while to come, and I can guarantee you’ll be hearing it regularly on The Forge; I only hope that there’s a label somewhere smart enough to pick it up for distribution. Catalytic is poised to help put the Indianapolis metal scene back on the map, and I’m proud to say that you heard it heard it first on The Forge.

Midian Unmade: Table of Contents Announced

Joseph Nassise, one of the editors for Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, has announced the table of contents for the anthology. Del Howison, also an editor of the anthology, announced recently that Tor Books will be publishing Midian Unmade in Spring 2015. I’m excited and honored to have my work included in this anthology, and to have been given the chance to work with Clive Barker’s intellectual property.

From Mr. Nassise’s Facebook page, the Table of Contents is as follows:

Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed
Edited by Joseph Nassise and Del Howison

Foreword by Joseph Nassise
Introduction by Clive Barker
A Return to Midian by Lisa Majewski
Moon Inside by Seanan McGuire
The Night Ray Bradbury Died by Kevin Wetmore
Another Little Piece of My Heart by Nancy Holder
The Kindness of Surrender by Kurt Fawver
The Angel of Isisford by Brian Craddock
Pride by Amber Benson
Button, Button by Ernie Cooper
I Am the Night You Never Speak Of by C. Robert Cargill
The Devil Until the Credits Roll by Weston Ochse
The Lighthouse of Midian by Ian Rogers
Lakrimay by Nerine Dorman
And Midian Whispered Its Name by Shaun Meeks
Cell of Curtains by Timothy Baker
Tamara by Paul Salamoff
Raphael’s Shroud by Karl Alexander
Wretched by Eddie Brauer
A Monster Among Monsters by Stephen Woodworth and Kelly Dunn
The Jesuit’s Mask by Durand Welsh
Rook by Rob Salem
Collector by David Schow
Bait and Switch by Lilith Saintcrow
The Farmhouse by Christopher Monfette