Interview with Craig Rodgers, Author of “The Ghost of Mile 43”

gom43 promo.jpg


I had a chat with Craig Rodgers about his new book that we released that I thought was pretty fun and provided interesting insight into the thought process behind this amazing novel.


Where did the inspiration for Shaw as a character come from? There are hints from a past life he once held before he exiles himself but not many details, did you originally come up with Shaw as a full fledged character and use that as a starting ground or did you just throw Shaw into the wild and feel it out from there?


Everybody has those thoughts about just being done, leaving everything and moving off to the woods, or here it’s a ghost town.  But the world comes right along behind, you’re never really leaving it.  Everybody’s lost things or had some straw dropped on them and they just feel done with it.

What events in your life, our lives you’ve witnessed, made you want to tell this story? How does “The Ghost of Mile 43” reflect reality as you’ve witnessed it?


A few years ago my identity was stolen, and going through the process of trying to wrangle that, all the calls about debt that wasn’t mine, the idea of up and literally walking away seemed appealing.  This is probably too literal an answer.

From both your perspective and from the perspective of Shaw, do you feel he is better off at the end of the novel? Why or why not?


I don’t want to tell anybody what they should or shouldn’t take away from the ending or the story as a whole, but if I were to answer in the most general fashion I would say he is not better off at the end, no.

There are a lot of characters that tend to meddle in Shaw’s isolation. The two teenagers, for example, refuse to give up on helping him. What do you think motivates these characters to get involved with Shaw?


Misguided energy.  Misguided optimism or the intention to do good.  Their motives are pure enough, but the way they go about it misses the mark.  This man’s a complete stranger.  They don’t have the tools or the perspective to be the help they want to be.

The ghost car is certainly a rather vague abstraction that readers can apply meaning to as they see fit, but what does it mean to you? Why is it haunting Shaw?


Oh I definitely won’t be answering that.

There is a running theme of survival and resilience in the book that I found particularly alluring. Despite wanting to escape from society as a whole, Shaw still wants very much so to live. He fishes, poisons himself with a frog, and scavenges to supply himself with nourishment. He maintains human form and principles despite not being a part of the collective whole of humanity, what do you feel that means for us as a species, as animals?


There’s something appealing in this visceral way about surviving in circumstances that are miles outside your norm.  This guy is not an outdoorsman, he has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s doing what he can with what’s there.  There’s a satisfaction in that.

What do you do to clear your head when writing gets to be too much for the day? Are there any hobbies or little moments you like to soak up in order to unwind?


The boring things. Cliche things. Drink too much coffee. Buy office supplies. You feel like you’re doing something when you buy office supplies. Someday that spiral notebook’s gonna be full of stories. And you can never have too many notebooks or pens.

As for as artistic inspirations go, whether it be painter, musician, or writer, who has influenced you and how? What artists have you been drawn to throughout your own endeavors?


Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Donald Ray Pollock. Who else. Shirley Jackson. Robert Aickman. I’ve been going through a Dashiell Hammett phase lately. I’m spacing the names of painters. Shit. You know Genieve Figgis?  I like her stuff.

What other projects do you see yourself working on in the future? What aspirations are bouncing around inside of your head? 


Oh tons of stuff. I’ve been working on a series of short stories that take place in a lake town.  They share some faces here and there and some locations, but they’re each their own thing. At first I wanted to write it for screen as each one being a few episodes in an anthology, a sort of shared universe thing, but that’s all well outside my wheelhouse. I’ve also been showing around another book, so maybe that’ll pop up soon. And other things.  Always other things. But a lot of that I’ll need to pair with an artist for. That’s down the road stuff.

Any final words, shout outs, or random snippets of information you’d like to share with the readers?

Yeah, just enjoy the story, tell a friend, you know? Enjoy the next one too.


“Building Bodies” by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella



This morning I touched the swarm of knots at the back of my head to confirm that we had sex last night. I was glad it happened even though I drank too much to remember anything other than you explicitly asking me for my consent and how I bit your freckled shoulder.

My hand still clutched my hair as I reached for my belongings, it was a bun made from motion and when I removed my hand it stayed in its wad. I dressed and moved out of the pillared beam nakedness of your bedroom. The paint stains were the only decoration on the grainy exposed wood and it always felt like you would get a splinter just by being inside.

When I looked in the mirror before I left, I was wrinkled and too-dry. When I was younger I didn’t know that dehydrated skin looks like the creases in clothes after being pulled from a pile of laundry mountain-ing in the corner of a bedroom. But here we are. I am a body made of pleats. I let myself out; there was no one else to see me out, anyway, except your roommate’s cats and they don’t like me.



On the mud banks of the snow slush train station where I waited for my train, you sent me a text that said, “you’re out of my place, right?” and I respond back “I had to fight a robot to get out but I succeeded,” followed by a bunch of emojis to indicate that I was funny, and casual, and cute when silently I was hurt that the only question was if I was out of your home. What did you think I would do? Stay? …Because in all honesty, that’s what I did for a while. I slept late and held your pillows like they were bodies and it was okay that they didn’t hold me back. The weight of the text asking if I had vacated like a shitty tenant carried itself deep and sunken within me as I thought about how nice the insulation of your blankets had been only a handful of moments ago.

Overly blue days that are also cold are so annoying when you’re in that sort of dull emotional pain that comes with not totally being in pain, feeling feeling-less. It makes the prettiness of passing bright hours feel sharp like pieces of glassy ice against sensitive teeth. The train came as my phone buzzed, and it was you again, and you texted, “you’re such a cool girl. So easy breezy.” And those words were loaded gunmetal grey. I’m not a girl; I’m 34.

The train showed up and glinted against the big big sky. And its hollow body housed me while we both traveled through Philadelphia station after station, carrying me to my job in a paternal motion like a baby being rocked. The broken bodies of abandoned buildings were planted in huge unharvested rows. They had jagged window teeth like teenagers who needed braces and I loved them for their fawn-ish adolescent shyness, covered with ivies and with red bricks like cracked chapped lips from teeth-held bites during winter days.  In the very least, I wish I could have remembered us kissing last night. But I don’t. I don’t think we did.

The mouths of mournful building bodies, like children not holding hands while crossing the street, became multiple-night-stand mile markers, and the train and I coasted by a station three stops before my own. I played a game that I used to when I was a teen, making bets out of probability and the universe with the too too big sky a kicked off comforter from swinging legs above me. If he texts me again before the Fern Rock stop, he actually likes me. And again, if he texts me before the Jenkintown stop, he actually likes me. But you didn’t text so my phone stayed quiet, branch fingers from vulnerable trees gently clawed the windows of the train. Once more, if he texts me before the Glenside stop, he actually likes me. The train rocked forward and I got off at my stop.


Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is a writer living in Philadelphia, She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. She was a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, as well as a contributing writer at SSG Music. In her spare time, she is a candy enthusiast and cat fan. 

When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website Her chapbooks of flash/prose-poems, Tiny Thoughts for Tiny Feelings and Unicorn Tracheotomy, were published by BA Press, 2002. Her forthcoming story collection, BETTER BONES, will be published by Thirty West Publishing House come summer 2019.

‘Crumbling Castles’, ‘Testimony to My Paltriness’, and ‘ My Last Poem’ by Aahna Jain



As the wind carries with it sandcastles of hopes,
As crumbling walls finally give way,
As fires burning from aeons extinguish,
As years of life fade into oblivion,

The child in me gets terrified,
Of change brought too soon,
Of times forgotten and never reminisced,
Of losing the old in the thirst for new,
Of moving on before letting go.


I hate the stars.

They rave of their freedom.
Of the space that they claim
Of the endless expanse
That they call home.

They rave of my eternal enchainment.
Of my teeny tiny territory
Of the gravity that pulls me down
The reasons I can’t explore what’s beyond.

They rave of their immortality
Of the undying fire within them
Of the generations of mortals
That they have seen perish.

They rave of my fugacious soul
Of the minuscule time between my dawn and dusk
Of the truth that I’ll be forgotten
Lost in the shadows of history.

I hate them not because of what they symbolize,
I hate them because I’m jealous
Because they speak the truth
The truth that I’m too scared to say.


Before dusk:

I was too broken and too wrecked
To complete the list of things.
Things to do in your lifetime.
So much as glance at it.

Under the pitch black starless sky
I did what I do best.
My only activity for years.
I wrote.

But this time I wrote
Not about your perfection or absence or the fact that you smell like home though I never know where
you are.
A suprise-I didn’t write about my ex
Whose forgiveness I seeked,
Warmth I could never forget.

It was not a tale of hunger and greed,
How one leads to another,
Then eventually to destruction.
Didn’t concern the mountains or the sunset or the raindrop that touched my lips yesterday.

I swear I didn’t write about my dead grandma.
Wasn’t in regard to God,the hypothetical being who failed to bring me hope when I needed it the most.
‘What did you write about then?’
You must wonder.
Surely the feeling of despair as you slipped into the void,never to return?

I was never written about, captured of course,
In pixels and polaroids.
But they call it capturing for a reason,
For it binds your body in a 5”×7″ sheet.
Your soul caught between reality and illusion.
Writing?It liberates.

So under the yellow tinged sky ,
I wrote of myself.
Of the little miracle I was(read:had been).
Unknown to the world,never written about

I wrote my eulogy too,
Suprised there was so much to say.
You’ll call it selfish
To end my life with my thoughts.
Maybe selfish was all I ever needed.

With the sky decorated in hues of orange and purple,
And my pen automatically working its way on the paper,
I realized that you weren’t so perfect
and my ex not so chaste.

As sun rays pinched my eyes,
I knew the time.The exact one.
Their dawn.My dusk.

After dusk:

Aahna Jain is a 14 year old Indian girl whose hobbies include reading and writing. An introvert,she sesses over the ideas of freedom and her ephemerality.She seeks to immortalize herself through her words and leave a permanent mark on the world.

‘A Letter to My Partner’ and ‘Another One on Memories’ by Lynne Schmidt


A Letter to My Partner

You were who I was looking for when I was fifteen,
The one whose hands clumsily touched my body,
Whose nose pushes against mine,
Whose teeth clink when we’ve had too much to drink.

You were who I looked for the night he slid his hands down the front of my pants,
Pausing briefly because I asked,
“Have you done this before?”
To which he answered, “This is the farthest I’ve gone.”
So I let him touch me.
Let the darkness of the room feel like safety rather than a prison cell.
Only to find that there was someone else.
And she’d gone farther.

And so we are fifteen years and several partners later now.
And here you stand,
Like a seventeen year old
You giggle when I reach for your hand,
Because you don’t have to tuck your love into a drawer to be pulled out later.
You don’t have a combination on your heart that I don’t have the code for.
You are right here,
In front of me,
Asking if I want to be more than friends.

And I look at my hands,
My legs,
My body,
My brain.
I look at what he’s taken from me,
What the rest have said and stolen, too.

You are who I’ve waited for my entire life.
And now,
I think
I might be too broken for you.

Another One on Memories

Some days, I am too present.
Too aware of the situation at hand,
Your fingers laced through mine,
The cloud placement in the sky,
The exact placement in the parking lot where my phone rang,
Where I answered it three steps away,
When my sister asked, “Why would this happen?”

Some days, my brain retains these memories
Stores them like files in a cabnent
So that when I see you again
Or I stand in this exact spot,
The memories flip through,
A slide show of everything we have experienced together,
Until the film catches flame
And my hands drop to my sides.

Because these things are just memories.
And you are standing in front of me.

And we look through each other

And keep walking.

Lynne Schmidt (she/her) is a mental health professional in Maine. Her memoir, The Right to Live: A Memoir of Abortion was the Maine Nonfiction Award Winner and a PNWA Literary Contest finalist and her poetry has received the Honorable Mention from Joy of the Pen. Her work has appeared in Royal Rose Literary, Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2018, 2018 Emerging Poets, Frost Meadow Review, Poets of Maine, Poets of New England, Maine Dog Magazine, Alyss Literary, UNE Magazine, Her Kind Vida, and others. Lynne is the founder of AbortionChat, and has been and continues to be a featured poet at events throughout Maine. She prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

Twitter: @LynneSchmidt

“Paradise Etc” by Geoffrey Heptonstall


One day I walked out of paradise. It was something that I did on a hot July day when the horizon shimmered as if the earth were burning. Then there was a sudden change.  

It was noon beneath a cloudless sky when I felt the unexpected, unaccountable chill of a wind blow across my face so that I shivered even in the sunlight. I can feel that tremor now.

I was walking in a public garden, botanical with unusual trees, and I reached a high wall with a gate that opened by the sudden wind. What could I do but walk through the gate? My curiosity overtook my caution. I thought I’d nothing to fear. Looking back, I could see the gate. I carefully marked the exact location, expecting to return.

There was a feeling in the air. It was about something I had yet to discover. Now came the clouds that darkened the sky. The gust of chill wind had been the first sign. Something was happening very fast. Time was accelerating. It had been noon a moment ago, now it was three. A moment later it was dusk. There was a bright moon and a panorama of bright stars across the sky.

A clock struck midnight in the deep resonance of its bell. I could see no clock tower, but the chimes were clear to my ears. As each chime of the hour sounded the earth shook. I heard the sound of crockery breaking, of stones falling. I heard screams and sirens.

Someone gestured to me to run for cover. There were searchlights casting their beams over the area. Sporadic gunfire could be heard. ‘Don’t you know there’s a war on?’ the helmeted warden asked of me angrily. Someone offered me a cigarette in the bomb shelter. ‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘That’s all right, son,’ the sergeant said. ‘These trenches can be a frightening place at times.’ I looked down at the others in khaki uniform. ‘Which war is this?’ I asked. ‘Why, it’s the war to end wars, of course,’ the sergeant said.

Then the firing stopped as the snow fell. And we all played football to the background hum of Silent Night. The music faded as I made my way through the mist, looking for the others. There were fallen comrades. There was smoke blending with the mist so that I choked my stumbling way entirely alone in the desolate place at sunrise.

There was no-one else to be seen. There was nothing except miles of sand as far as the horizon that seemed to be the end of the earth. Another hot July had risen suddenly.

I woke about nine, remembering my dream. I had dreamed of peace and of war. ‘It wasn’t a dream, was it, Sarge?’ I said. ‘And you’re dead, aren’t you? But I’m not.’ That was my one certainty, that I was alive. Whatever was happening, I was alive. If I held on to that certainty I knew that I could survive.

I looked round, but the sergeant had gone. I was alone in an empty room. There was no window. There was no door. With neither entrance nor exit I was entombed. So I was not alive. But I knew I was, no matter what they were trying to make me believe.

There was a window, after all. It was a very small and in a corner by the ceiling I couldn’t reach. There was a door of sorts, barely perceptible, no more than a hole through which one could crawl. But the hole was blocked with a heavy stone I could not move.

The room was cold, very cold. I began to shiver. And as I shivered the walls began to shake. I put my hand to the stone, only to discover it was not stone at all. It was mist again, as before when the battle raged.

The battle had not ceased. The redcoats were charging past, bayonets before them. Someone pushed me down so that I would not be seen. There was a glow of fire in the distance. The redcoats were burning everything in sight. There was so much brutal noise and the confusion of violence and panic. I feared for my life.

Yet I found I was able to walk through the chaos unnoticed and unharmed. I was not here. It was as if I were a ghost. I saw people I knew well who were passing by without a hint of recognition. And when I spoke they looked away. Here we were on the street of my home town in daylight on a summer’s day. And nobody knew who I was. Nobody saw me.

Nobody saw me because I was the only living presence on that street. When I reached out to touch my hand passed through. And yet they believed it was I who was dead even though I was flesh and blood while everything else was insubstantial and subject to sudden change.

And who was making these changes? I was the one responsible for all that I saw and heard and felt. It was happening to me. It was happening because of me. Once I understood that I saw how I could change things. Everything could go back to the way it was.

It was a hot July day when the horizon shimmered as if the earth were alight. I looked at my watch. It was noon. The clock struck the hour. But it failed to stop at twelve. It did not stop. I could not make it do what I wished. I was no longer in control. Perhaps I was no longer alive?

Was that why the mourners passed in their sombre expressions and dark clothing? They were singing a psalm in plain chant. Tears flowed from everyone’s eyes. They watered the flowers which were scattered on the floor of the vault where the body was laid to rest.

No, that was not how it was to be. The body was to be burned. They were preparing a pyre. Nothing less than a sacrifice would do to appease the anger within the hearts of the mourners. They sought vengeance and retribution. They sought to dismember me limb from limb and feed me to the rats that scurried across the floor of the vault.

They were not rats. They were people, but not people as you and I know people. They were speaking in a strange language that was akin to animal sounds, like the chatter of chimpanzees, like the cawing of ravens, like the growling of tigers, like the swish of trees in the wind.



‘Tempting isn’t it?’ a voice says. Looking round I see someone uniformed. He has been watching me, observing everything I do. ‘The botanical gardens,’ he says as if to explain. ‘There’s a back way if you know about it. Tempting to go in that way and not have to pay.’

There is laughter as he speaks. The laughter is in the air. The uniformed official has disappeared. The laughter is fading. Dust falls on the stone floor at my feet. Looking upward I see darkness where there is stars. It is a moonless night when the only light is the candle that flickers and splutters, throwing shadows on the wall.

The shadows are not shadows. They are spaces in the wall. I can walk in so easily now. But the other side of the wall is not a garden.  There is only an empty space, an arid land of cracked earth and withered grass. I walk on shards of glass among the scattered concrete blocks. This is not what I expected of paradise. That left me no choice but to walk away.

One day I walked out of paradise.


Geoffrey Heptonstall is the author of a novel, Heaven’s invention [Black Wolf 2017]. Recent publications include fiction for Adelaide Literary Magazine, Between the Lines and Black Dandy.

“Galaxy Forgotten” by Stephen Ground


Ever feel like you’re vanishing?



One second. Let me send this text.

I sigh, slurp my beer.

Sorry, Nick says. What’re you saying?

He’s still staring at his phone.

Nothing. It’s not important.

He’s down another rabbit hole – email, Tinder, gambling on lumberjack competitions. Slack-jawed, he flicks a nimble thumb. I gulp the rest of my beer and stand.

Where you going? he grunts.

The pisser. Do you mind?

I step into the washroom when my phone buzzes in my pocket. I fumble it out and it slips, splashing in the toilet. I slam the lid.

Did you get my text?

My phone, I say. It’s wasted.

Yeah bro, let’s get wasted. He chugs without raising his eyes. I grab my jacket and a beer for the road.

Going to the phone store, I say. Probably already missing messages, tweets, breaking news bulletins. Can’t afford to fall behind.

I’m out the door before he responds. There’s a Cell-o-Phone near our place, and I hurry, crushing the beer crossing the empty lot towards the shell of a shopfront – neon OPEN sign dark. I rush the door and yank wildly, escaping a haunted house – a siren blips and I spin. An old security guard leans on her car.

What you doing there?

I need…a phone.

They shut all those Cell-o-Phones down last month, she says. Brick and mortar can’t compete. They’ve gone di-gi-tal.

I sprint home. He doesn’t notice when I barge in.

I need your help, I say.


I need you to order me a phone.

He chuckles vacantly.



Can I use your phone? Mine’s wrecked, and if I don’t get one I won’t be able to check the weather, my bank balance, or work schedule. You know how it is.

Use your laptop.

Don’t have one, I say. Come on, man. Help a brother out?
He’s gone – YouTube, tuned out.

I thread the sidewalk, past swarms locked into screens, magic watches, step-counters – eyes down, lips murmuring or slack, meandering like first-time walkers; dodging mailboxes, trashcans, chained-up bikes and bus shelters, never glancing from their handheld miracles. A video chatter collides with my shoulder, lurching me but continues unaware. It’s simple to fall into the wind-up rhythm of the procession, to weave like a mouse through the walls of a crooked manse, unseen – I slip into a shop near home and snag a Red Bull, pepperoni stick, gum. Paul, the owner, is engrossed in the tv behind him – someone leapt off their balcony in a condo near the Dome. I drop my goods and patter a flourish on plastic-cased scratchers, but he doesn’t turn – the cordless phone he’s clutching falls, arms limp at his sides. I drop a five and scoop my snacks, sit outside and chug my drink, belch loudly and grin at the woman next to me – she doesn’t glance from her e-Reader. I inhale my pepperoni, stuff the plastic in the can, wave a hand in her face then slide my trash in her purse. I pop six sticks of gum in my mouth and wander, stuffing the wrappers in some guy’s backpack then crossing the street. I poach a slice of pizza from a child lost in Pokémon GO!, bum a smoke off a Snapchatting cook down an alley, then, bored, head home – Nick is stretched across the couch, headset on, the dark room blued by his FPS.

Hey, I say. Can we talk?

No answer.

Nick. Can you please pause the game?

Nothing. I leap between him and the tube.

Can you pause it one fucking second?

He’s off the couch like a mama grizzly, the tube her favourite cub – grabs my shoulders, lifts, slams me through the coffee table. I possum in the rubble, and Nick returns to the couch, slides on his headset and grunts something to his team, then plays. I crawl to the hall, searching for a sane person, uninfected; struggle next door, knock, the door cracks – my neighbour, baby on hip, framing the three of us with a selfie-stick.

Rachel, I wheeze. Help.

She snaps a burst, slams the door. I stand and lumber next door, and the next – behind each parasites, leeching from their hosts. I shake them, shout in their faces, but not one looks up.

I’m catching my breath in the lobby when it hits me.
I approach a teen, madly tapping his touchscreen – I can tell by screen proportion, multiple lenses, and casing that it’s the newest model, the one I desperately need but can’t source. I hover, wait for my moment, then lunge – try ripping it away but he fights, small but vicious, snarling, swiping at my face. I raise my fists, but he calmly returns to typing like a supercomputer.

I skulk home, ignoring Nick, into my room to the balcony that costs an extra two seventy-five a month for the privilege. I lean, listen – my city roars like a distant army, cache of millions impossibly out of reach. I step on the ledge, brace on the wall, peer into a pit of twinkling flashes – LED whitewash of a world that no longer knows the dark. I dangle a foot over nineteen stories between me and the sidewalk, just to see if it fits; breathe deeply, bend, wobble, prepare to release when I hear a voice from the lip of the void.


I turn – Nick, drinking a juice pouch, holds a small box.

What’s that?

Just came, he says. Courier.

I clamber off the ledge and take it; he ambles to the couch without another word. Whatever it is, someone bought it online and had it shipped to me – zero human interaction. I tear it open – inside, a note: Happy early birthday, Sweetie. Love, Mom.
Something better than all the gold in the federal reserve – the newest model. My hands shake as I undress it – clutch my prize, saviour, charger in hand.


Stephen Ground’s work has appeared in Dark Ink Magazine, Temenos Journal, and Flumes, among others, and is forthcoming from The Flexible Persona, The Sunlight Press, and Flash Fiction Magazine. A graduate of York University’s Theatre and Community Arts programs, he has migrated back to his hometown of Milton, Ontario after a seven-year retreat – first in Canada’s far North in a remote, fly-in community, then the prairies.

‘III Poems’ by Mike Andrelczyk


Buried 66 feet beneath the backyard swimming pool is the biggest deposit of dinosaur bones that civilization will never see

Losing all my money on an eight-legged horse I turn instead to be hypnotized by the woman with the rose on her neck and the Minotaur in her hair. There’s a cloud leopard out her kitchen window. Y stands for walking in the sky and the dogs are barking at the rain. Her eyes are like the clenched fist meme as she waits at the bus stop on the Scottish moor and everything is backwards so that’s her room. I have nothing to pay her with. But she doesn’t seem to mind. We

are always walking above undiscovered treasure. She throws a lasso and disappears. The 8 Ward bus pulls up, hissing and I get in, still broke.


I ran over a bunny

with my dad’s lawn

mower. broke its legs

I cut the engine.

grabbed the shovel.

made a shadow

over the bunny.

But I couldn’t

smash its brains out

and end

its suffering.

I just went back to mowing my dad’s lawn

and feeling

like a worthless asshole

A Beginning

I pressed the button to turn on the tv

Then it was on

We sat on the worn-out blue recliners

The smoke hung blue in the ping-pong room

The rusted blue refrigerator on the porch was broken

The screen on the door was torn and the spring broken

And it was spring

And it was blue

And broken


And the tv was on

And I could feel in the place where my other hand used to be

I remember

A lion roared.