Starving the smartphone addiction

It’s been six weeks since I decided to take a break from Facebook. Back in mid-January I took a screenshot to show students how to figure out which apps they used the most (Line, by far, in case you’re wondering, followed by YouTube… not surprisingly, since my students are all Japanese).

It was a little shocking to see that I was spending over 8 hours a week on FB on my iPhone. My train commute is about an hour and a half each way, and I go to campus four days a week. So basically I spent 2/3 of my train time looking at FB posts.

Yuck. What a waste of reading time. Continue reading

1000 Isles

Some people have asked me on FB for some previews of Notes from the Nineties. It’s difficult to prepare excerpts from short stories (which are already short). So while I’m thinking of what’s appropriate as a teaser, here’s another poem from the volume. It appears right after the story “Boys Will be Boys” together with the poem “Grandmother.”


1000 Isles


Summers of my Upstate youth were spent

in the family station wagon, the six of us, or was it seven,

traveling to the great St. Lawrence

Seaway of a thousand islands.


The first time we stayed one night at Mosquito Heaven,

sleepless in a brown canvas tent,

and four nights on the biggest island—

half in the US,

half out.


I learned how to gut a fish, how to swim,

how to roll up a sleeping bag,

and where to buy fireworks—

I mean sparklers.


On my 12th birthday, I got a wallet,

put in a year’s allowance,

then when I forgot it in the campsite bathroom,

got advice in return the next morning—

“I told you so.”


Looking back, it makes sense

to me now

that I hate dressing.

On “En”

DSC00976I’ve been meaning to add a personal essay page to my web site for stories that didn’t seem to fit into any neat categories. The immediate impetus is an essay that was recently “rejected” by my former graduate program’s in-house literary journal…probably because it’s an essay and not a short story (I posted elsewhere an article about the quirkiness of the English-speaking world’s insistence on an artificial separation of “fiction” and “nonfiction”).

Rather than wait up to half a year to see whether I could get it published online in a magazine (most of which seem to only publish US-centric, “woe is me” or “OMG look at THIS” sensationalist drivel) I thought that at least I could share it here…

The essay is “En” (縁), a topic that Asians (particularly those in Confucian-influenced societies) know a lot about. I first encountered the concept as a teaching assistant in Gojo High School, Nara, about 15 years ago. Almost like a previous life. Maybe it was…

Check it out here.

Notes from the Nineties: Upstate is…where, exactly?

This is the fifth and final preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior. In the third part, I delved into the “true story” of The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale. The fourth and penultimate part, I talked 
about my brief experience with occultism and the wisdom of teeth that led to The Four Teeth of the Apocrypha.

DSC00484I’m from New York. No, not New York City. No, not Niagara Falls (the Canadian horseshoe looks better, anyhow). Yes, there is something in between. An awful lot of something, actually. In fact, the oldest and still largest state park in the US comprises most of Upstate New York.

Yes, I’m from the Adirondacks. But it’s more complicated. Continue reading

Goodreads giveaway for Notes from the Nineties

Announcing a book giveaway!

Enter to win one of 10 signed copies of Notes from the Nineties (paperback, $6.98 value).

Begins March 25, 2016 and lasts until May 1, 2016.

Tell your friends! Tell your family! Oh, tell it on the mountain! And dangle your friend off of it…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Notes from the Nineties by M. Thomas Apple

Notes from the Nineties

by M. Thomas Apple

Giveaway ends May 01, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Single, hyphenated, or double?

dolmen.JPGDuring the final proofreading of Notes from the Nineties, I’m finding small amusements in MS Word…which seems to be contradicting previous versions of spellcheckers.

Or is that spell-checkers? Spell checkers?
I’ve always had a habit of using single words where others prefer double or hyphenated words. To me, reproducing spoken language makes dialog in particular (of course) and prose sound more natural. Now that the automated spellchecker (spell-…spell…) is suggesting single words over other options, I’m finding a number of inconsistencies.

Continue reading

Notes from the Nineties: Training the Mountain Warrior

This is the second preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire.

EnnogyojyaFrom first to last: the final story in the collection, “Training the Mountain Warrior,” is based on two specific events that happened to me shortly after moving to Japan in 1999. The date thus places the story barely in the Nineties; the paired-poem (“Asian Dreams”) was written hastily—scrawled, really—in an old yellow lined notepad the night before I left the US (permanently, as it turned out). I still have the notepad, well used and abused.

The short story describes my attempted nighttime climb of Mt. Fuji (which ended short of the summit due to high winds) and my trek through the ancient mountains of the Kinai peninsula, whose hiking trails later became a World Heritage Site. There were a lot of details that I deliberately left out, and of course the dialogue is completely fictional. But I did, actually, dangle my friend over a cliff.

Continue reading