September Success and A Brief Hiatus

Credit: Men's Health (Singapore)

I published five stories in September (2018), and I have a dozen more in submissions. Of the September publications, my proudest piece is “A Cycle of Toxic Domestication.” I’m telling you this because it represents the pinnacle of my writing success this year. I had written most of the stories that were published in the last few months over the summer, or at the beginning of the school year. I had the ability (and luxury) to think freely, to let loose and comfortably sink into a pool of ideas conjured by my brain. Now, unfortunately, I feel too overwhelmed to do this. Though, I’m never too busy to write. I simply cannot write as much as I’d like to.

I have been reading the New Yorker since early 2016. One of my long-term goals is to publish a short story in this magazine, despite how political and difficult it is to even be considered for publication. I know, there are plenty of other prestigious magazines out there, and trust me I’m aiming to one day publish in some of them as well. However, I’m a little concerned that I’m running out of steam. My PhD program is kicking my ass, and I rarely find time to enjoyably write. My prose often feels forced. I find myself staring at a blank canvas, desperately attempting to regurgitate anything but mediocrity after a long day of reading scientific articles/textbooks as well as meeting additional demands of my courses and advisors. Though, I realize this isn’t a real excuse. There are countless people out there who probably tackle on more responsibilities every day and still find the time to write (and produce good work). I’m searching for this balance, something that works for me. Trust me, I don’t intend on giving up. I just need time to figure this all out.

So, I’m taking a short break. I’m going to catch up on my academic obligations and then take a few steps back to reflect. I’ll still be writing as much as I can everyday, but I won’t be focused on publishing and sharing my works until this semester is over. Thanks for reading.

P.S. I have a few pieces scheduled to debut at the beginning of next year. Keep an eye out for them, if you’re interested. A link is below:

Creative Writing Publications


Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Racial/Ethnic Population Statistics

Credit: Eyes on Michigan

After moving to Ann Arbor, one of the first aspects of the city that seemed a little odd was the homogenous racial/ethnic demographics. After getting a haircut in Ypsilanti, a neighboring city approximately 15-20 minutes away from Ann Arbor, I discovered it was vastly different. My experience inspired this short post, which includes very raw population statistics of the two cities to suggest a stark contrast.

Ann Arbor (2017):

Total population: 121,477 (Note: There are no Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders here)

  • White/Caucasian (72%)
  • Black/African-American (7.3%)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native (0.4%)
  • Asian (15.7%)
  • Hispanic or Latinx (4.3%)
  • Two or more races (4.1%)

Ypislanti (2017):

Total population: 55,312

  • White/Caucasian (56.6%)
  • Black/African-American (32.0%)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native (0.3%)
  • Asian (3.0%)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.1%)
  • Hispanic or Latinx (6.7%)
  • Two or more races (6.8%)

These populations are significantly different. I conducted a chi-square test (excluding American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander race/ethnicities) with an alpha level of 0.05, and the results support my prediction (p=<0.0001). Interesting, right?

Source: United States Census Bureau


Good/Bad News, Free Time, & Transition to Ann Arbor, Michigan

Hey everyone,

To preface, I’ve failed my goal of writing at least one blog post a week (consider this bad news). Good news: I successfully defended my thesis and submitted the manuscript on time without many errors. I’m now relieved of an incredible amount of stress.

Though, I’m not immune to that stress reappearing as I soon begin my doctoral program in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan yesterday. For the next few weeks, I’ll be participating in orientation-like activities (workshops, lectures, networking). Thus, I will have plenty of free time. Expect to see more posts from me, including the excerpt-a-chapter theme I tried out a few months ago.

Classes begin September 4th. The first year of my program is supposed to be brutal. However, I will never stop writing. I’m going to be taking a break from flash/short fiction to edit Awakening. With the help of my sister, we should be able to edit/review Awakening to completion within the next couple of years. Fingers crossed!



UofL CEP & Research Q&A with Delvon T. Mattingly

Hello everyone,

I’m featured on UofL News and UofL School of Public Health & Information Sciences websites. The article contains a Q&A about my experience in the Cancer Education Program during the summer of 2016 and my future research plans, mainly at the University of Michigan, where I’ll be attending soon. Please feel free to check the article out. I’m posting links below:

UofL News: http://uoflnews.com/post/uofltoday/public-health-student-discusses-unique-research-program-epidemiology-interests/

UofL SPHIS: http://louisville.edu/sphis/news/public-health-student-discusses-unique-research-program-epidemiology-interests



Novel Excerpt: Space Gates & Lukas Shitting His Pants

Artwork by: Thomas Stoop

Above the fountain presented a blank image—shaped like an amorphous sphere, appearing fluid as if the space enclosed by metal brackets held a tiny fluctuating maelstrom leading into an everlasting void—emitting the eerie and sporadic bubbling tune from before.

“This one still works,” Alexandra confirmed.

“Here!” Lukas handed her an access card engraved with Andrastian symbols. “These will disappear after two uses, one to Hyperion and one back home.”

“Thanks.” The card activated at Alexandra’s will. It took a simple thought to trigger it, causing the card to shine and dissipate onto her wrist, activating a vertical align of numbers—or the set of islands Alexandra were allowed to travel to—adding “2” to the list.

“Okay let’s go.” Lukas led, performing the same action.

“Wait, I need to ask you something first.”


“What do you think really happened to my brother? Was Andraste involved in the incident?”

“No,” Lukas denied. “Oracle Luther would never allow it. We’re still at war.”

“So, it’s not crazy to assume collusion?” Alexandra asked rhetorically, expecting Lukas not to answer. “I guess I’m alone on this hunch. Has anyone even met Luther? Why did Troy entrust him? What type of ruler leads from the shadows?”

“Our answers lie here,” Lukas promised, pointing at the Space Gate. “Alex,” he continued while gripping her shoulder, “Things will get better. Trust me.”

“What is it?” She scrutinized Lukas as he began to chuckle.

“Remember our first time accessing one of these?” He asked, waving one hand at the portal. “When we were like five.”

“Oh my god! When you shit your pants!”

“Hey!” Lukas shouted. His attempt to take Alexandra’s mind off the incident worked, even if it were just for a second. “I can’t help that it literally feels like all of my organs are pulled apart to be shoved back together again at the snap of a Gatekeeper’s fingers … I thought my ass got put back the wrong way.”

Alexandra couldn’t stop laughing. It’s not that bad. After a moment of silence, seeing Lukas smile back at her, she then watched him shrug and meander to the portal, scanning him with the intensity of a hawk. She waited until his body dissipated into thin air, her eyes following the particulate matter of his essence travel into the portal, into an image of Island Hyperion. It was a beautiful sight, but droning after a while, behind many travels.

She contemplated once no trace of Lukas remained on Hera: “My best friend, you may be wrong about this one. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for taking all of this out on you.”


Novel Excerpt: Alexandra on Maven

Artwork by: jjpeabody

They journeyed back to the Baron district market, cutting many corners, attempting to retrace their steps from the day before.

A faint bubbling sound resonated the closer they approached their destination, exploring the Maven district, adjacent to Baron. It amused Alexandra, watching the dirt roads of her hometown morph into seemingly untrodden pathways, embellishments of salubrious grass on their fringes, the buildings transforming almost in an instant: from archaic and abandoned to lavish and gentrified. That was Maven—a sister neighborhood of luxury.

“Maven,” Lukas crooned. “Makes you wonder why Baron is the way it is.”

“Baron is fine,” Alexandra sharply replied. “This is all a façade.”


“This place is no better than Baron. The people were the same, same customs, same ways of living. Same Arch-Mage. Just fancier surroundings,” She lectured at a halt.

Lukas scratched his head while briefly observing the scenery. “Seems like the Baron rebellion dragged Maven down as well. No one is here.”

Excerpt from: Awakening, Chapter 4 — Island Hyperion


Novel Excerpt: Walter on Kingdom Andraste

Artwork by: Tim Matney

“The kingdom in the sky at war with the kingdom underground, and what lies between them: an inhabitable land.

“Centuries of harmony and prosperity marked the rise of Albion. The kingdom, once well known for its advanced technology and rapid growth in power, rested far north on Middleton, the central continent near Ashenland. At the time, mankind had endured and even prospered through pestilence, war, and environmental turmoil. Humans had never experienced the revelations of magic. The entity that created it, a force capable of causing tension among the most formidable kingdoms, had disappeared.

“Magic tore Albion apart. Civilians, who acquired the gift to harness elemental or arcane abilities, committed treason, led by our ruler, Troy Ulster—Arch-Mage of the Sanctum, Emperor of Andraste, and once a commander of Albion. The rebellion occurred quickly; Troy led hundreds of mages against Albion forces. After dozens of battles, Albion’s military planned to destroy the kingdom, so the two parties deliberated their final attacks. Troy, our liberator, assured our safety, and our enemy the same on their end, before the obliteration.

“After the war ended, our land was in peril. Engulfed by a mix of radiation and mana, the wasteland below us could not support humanity. The oppositions were split, the mages dwelling on floating lands, the Albion natives in underground cities. Our leader fell into a coma, people are calling it an eternal sleep, and his successor Luther is responsible for most of what Andraste is today. And if you asked me, I’d say we received the better of the two results.

“Who knows when the enemy will attack again? It can be today, tomorrow, or ten years from now. When it comes to our fate, better to die in battle than for the islands to come crashing down. Nobody knows what’s holding the islands up. Between you and me, I think it’s not only Troy, but also the work of a god. Anyway, that is about all I know. Wake … Wake!”

Excerpt from: Awakening, Chapter 1 — The Drop Count

Short Stories

The Ones Who Flee From Omelas

Artwork by: Aaron Limonick

Note from the author: I wrote this piece in 2012 for an introductory creative writing class at Western Kentucky University. The story plays off the plot of an original short story written by Ursula K. Le Guin titled “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”. I love this piece, even though it represents a raw and dilettantish form of my prose. Because of this, no revisions will be applied to this story. If you decide to check it out, then I hope you enjoy it too. Please consider this story fan fiction.

The Ones Who Flee From Omelas

What was it like outside the utopic city of Omelas? Was it analogous? Or ordinarily divergent, a world where the remaining fragments of humanity dwelled in the damage of their flawed beliefs? Unlike Omelas, nobody had the luxury of living lavish at the cost of one, single soul. Many had fled their own villages, carrying ideals that opposed their former leaders. Outside civilizations weren’t advancing; most of the world was still unknown. The curious theorized what may be beyond their towns, but only the valiant or desperate would set foot outside their village radians. But then there was John Smith—a lone man both frantic and doughty—who burdened a vital decision: flee or die.

John Smith grew up in a very rigid society. He grew up in the working class, trading the sweat of his brow for crumbs of bread and polluted water. John had been caught pilfering from the noblemen of his city. He knew he’d be tried and executed; it was his fault for gambling his life for a loaf of bread. So John fled, he packed a small bag and escaped days before his trial. He cautiously lingered through quiet, desolate terrains, grief his only companion as he explored the unknown. If it weren’t for his adept survival skills, he’d have died of starvation or malnourishment like those exiled or fleeing before him. He then remembered that if he hadn’t heard of the stories told of those wanderers, he would have never primed himself for this very day. Hunting food and gathering supplies was enough to live, but the solidarity drove him closer to the edge—his breaking point. John feared becoming deranged, but this changed once he heard the bells of Omelas chime, mending his sense of seclusion.

To John, Omelas was needless to say, perfect. He wasn’t sure if it was because he’d just converted from far underprivileged to extravagant, or if he had in fact lost his grip on reality. Nevertheless, John was happy. The townsfolk were accepting of his company; they even offered to let him stay in a house more luxurious than he’d ever dreamt of. He fell in love with these people. They were so advanced, compassionate, and full of life. John had hoped he wasn’t hallucinating; he intuitively sensed there had to be something conflicted with this city. So he searched for this alleged immorality within Omelas. Much time passed, and John was on the verge of undermining his instincts, until he heard an anguished cry from the distance.

There was a man in tears, sobbing aggressively. He was a lumberjack, John could tell by the man’s attire and the hatchet he wielded. The man brutally bashed the hatchet against a tree. As the man bellowed in grief, he swung again with more fierce and ferocity.

“Are you okay?” John muttered. He kept his distance, vigilant of a man so large and overwhelmed with emotions. Even without the hatchet, the man appeared very dangerous.

The lumberjack hindered his next swing at the tree as he rose, scrutinizing John. “Excuse me,” the man irately said. He dropped his hatchet, and quickly strolled off deeper into Omelas. John couldn’t help but to follow, calling out to the man. The man ignored John’s calls until they had reached the edge of the city, where the man finally showed signs of acknowledgement.

“Why are you leaving?” John asked, worriedly. “It’s perfect here!”

The lumberjack finally acknowledged him. “Perfect? You’re naïve newcomer.”

Though weary and confused, John wasn’t going to let the only answer to his questions escape. “Show me why it isn’t,” John requested, recalling his instinctive doubts when he first arrived in Omelas.

The lumberjack released a deep sigh, and after a long pause softly conceded, “Fine, but you’ll wish I hadn’t.” He paced back towards John, leading him to the core of the city. They both shared determined expressions as they approached an abandoned building. The lumberjack stopped before the entrance, looking back over his shoulder at John. “I’m not going in there again,” he claimed, “Whatever you see down there, just note that if you help him, it’ll be at the cost of this entire city.”

“Help him?” John immediately asked, “You’re not making—” The lumberjack, without another word, drifted back into the night. “Any sense…”

John opened the door that led into the abandoned building. No sooner had the door shut behind him, when John heard a child whining, babbling off cries of unintelligent, primal pain and loneliness. The cries were faint; John knew the source lied within another room. He heard the cry again, coincidently spotting a door to a cellar as he turned towards the sound. He opened the cellar door where another scream was heard, louder and clearer than the first. The cellar led to a small dungeon lit by torches. John’s eyes bulged in woe as he analyzed what he witnessed: a tormented, shattered, little boy.

John had committed many crimes, but what he had observed was out of his imagination. He lamented, slowly contemplating his options. Should this child suffer to glorify the lives of others? John knew suffering, he knew what’s fair, and he particularly knew right from wrong. He gazed at the child, noticing that the child shared a similar, concerned look as his own. It was slightly disturbing. Why was the child so interested in John? I must, John thought as he wiped his forehead free of sweat, I must free him! As he reached to breach through the corridor standing between him and the child, he hindered at the child’s change of expression. It was a smile, the child smiled at John. John was muddled, but resisting all hesitation, he courageously latched onto the door.

As John opened the door, he was struck by a vision of the city around him beginning to corrode and crumble. Everything was suddenly silent. Not even the consistent tunes of the flutes played by children could be heard within this anomalous depiction of a destroyed civilization. The door somehow conjured an envisaged display of Omelas’ doom. So the man was right, John confirmed, quivering in trepidation. If I save this child, I destroy the town. John then understood why the lumberjack simply fled the city; he didn’t want to experience the guilt of ruining others’ lives. The child stared at John, such hope in his eyes. John then stared back, seeing the faces of all of the wretched, underprivileged children he remembered from his old home within the child’s. John knew what was morally right. He clinched onto the handle, heroically tugging the door open in determination. John knew he wanted to save the boy.

“That’s enough. Close the door.” The boy said sternly, his perfected articulated English was far from normal for any child of his age. The world around the two began to quake; the foreseen outcome of John’s decision became a reality. It scared John; he didn’t know what to do but listen and seal the door shut. The quaking stopped. Was the boy some type of psychic, or maybe a demon? Whatever he was, John knew it was in his best favor to escape. But John felt unusually invoked to comply with the boy’s command.

Another vision suddenly clouded John’s mind, it was off the first settlers of Omelas. They too were outsiders, not that different from John. They found Omelas similar to John did, but decades ago. John observed quick flashes of every human soul visiting the child, and leaving him to his fate. Some even went too far by brutally abusing the child. The boy stood, brushing off the excess debris and dirt from his body. John regained his sight. He noticed the boy’s pitiable state didn’t affect his ability to stand in perfect poise. “What is your name?”

“John… John Smith.”

“John Smith,” the boy repeated, “Such a generic name for such a remarkable man.” His voice was distorted, and his eyes began emanating a sinful glow. John convinced himself the boy wasn’t human. “Your soul is pure. You’re the one who shall lead Omelas.”

“You want me to lead Omelas?” John timidly asked, apprehensively worried of his own fate. “I’m in no shape to lead an entire city!”

The child displayed a brooding look on his face. “John, have faith,” he pleaded. “These townsfolk of Omelas,” he continued in a more austere tone, “Are arrogant, selfish, and to be… punished for their sins.”

John knew none of this sounded reasonable. At the very cost of rescuing this child, he had to enslave thousands of others in a world all so familiar to his past’s? No, he thought. “Why?”

“Indulgences,” the boy dictated. “This was simply all a game casted by the maker himself.”

John felt slightly more comfortable conversing with this strange being. He figured the child was passive, well in a sense. John believed the child needed him, so he asked, “And if I say no?”

The child peered at him in displeasure, “If you decline you’ll have to join the others in perdition.” John was shaken by the child’s taunt. The boy sounded so assertive, yet so calm. John wasn’t going to recklessly gamble his life away again. He knew by talking in circles with this strange entity, he’d be digging a deeper hole than he is already in.

John deeply thought. He noticed the child growing impatient. His memory took an adventure back to his former home, the night he had been caught pocketing the bread. He could recall perfectly why he made the decision; it wasn’t a selfish deed or an act of ending injustice. It was to relieve the many growling stomachs, the emaciated children and women whom have been abandoned by their entrusted families. John didn’t care for recognition for his good deeds, but if it weren’t for those starving families, John wouldn’t be here in Omelas nearly bowing down to some tyrannical bastard. Was this the reward for those who commit great deeds? He didn’t think so; he was finally ready to answer: “No.”

The kid regretfully smiled. It was pretense, somewhat like a demi-smile, half-ass and downheartedly. John knew his fate at the sight of the boy’s facial expression. The boy then slowly opened the door to his chamber, calmly stepping foot outside of the pen. Suddenly a bright light shined, scaling across the entire cellar, and eventually the remainder of Omelas. The light was paranormal and too vast to escape, it was anything beyond John’s imagination. He and the rest of the townsfolk reluctantly collapsed, encumbered by the glow.

John couldn’t see a thing; all he could hear were the weeps and cries of hundreds of people around him. It was like he was in a nursery, one that sheltered all ages. He then took a deep inhale, coughing out detrimental toxic fumes he wouldn’t have dared to take in if he could see how potent it was around him. Now that he thought about it, he also heard the coughs of many encompassing him. He began regaining his vision, haunted by what he speculated: a vast wasteland of pestilence and famine. The men performed manual labor, while the women were escorted to their homes by strange entities. Everyone shared etched, doleful expressions; they have lost all hope. John gazed up at the new, towering fortress that rested at the core of Omelas; it had to be the home of the child. It all reminded him of his old town, but the atmosphere here was much worse. He uplifted, trying to rally those around him before ordered his own labor. He exasperated, encouraging others that compared to Omelas now, the outside wilderness was far better. It was no surprise the people were still consternated, mourning the inevitable revelation. Some listened and others didn’t, but nobody followed. When it came down to it, John knew he must do one thing: flee.