Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dark Corners V. 1, issue 4, and Gideon Miles by Ron Scheer

Dark Corners, if you don't already know, is the creation of my friends Craig and Emily McNeely, a quarterly digest of pulp-style fiction ranging from noir to westerns to sci-fi and everything in between. The new issue is out, and I have a lovely story of domestic bliss in it called "The Good Step-Dad". But don't let that throw you. There are also tales from Ed Kurtz, Will Viharo, Warren Moore, Ryan Sayles, William Wallace, Steve W. Lauden, and more.

One of the highlights is a McNeely-penned tribute to our recently departed friend, the great Ron Scheer, which gives me the perfect opportunity to mention his upcoming book from Beat to a Pulp, MILES TO LOST DOG CREEK. I wanted to mention it because it's a Gideon Miles story. Yep. One of the last things Ron worked on was a tale of our favorite black U.S. Marshall. It's coming soon, so keep your eyes open.

In the meantime, be sure to pick up the new Dark Corners. It's available on Kindle and in paper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Loving some bad reviews

I don't know, honestly, how much impact reviews have on book sales. But I still like getting them, on Amazon or Goodreads, or personal blogs. A good review always serves as a little ego boost that might make you feel good about what you do for a few minutes or a few hours, depending.

Bad reviews, though they serve no real purpose and I am generally unaffected by them, are sometimes entertaining as well. Once in a while, someone who leaves a bad review will actually make some valid points, but the majority of them are just kinda... well, they are what they are. 

Here's a little collection of  one-and-two-star reviews of my work on Amazon. This is not me railing against bad reviews, I promise; I have enough of an ego that they don't really bother me too much. But if you're a writer disturbed by readers who hate what you do, maybe this will serve as a reminder that ALL of us get 'em, and let's be honest: if everyone enjoyed what you do, odds are you'd be doing something wrong. 


DIG TEN GRAVES-- "Not thrilling or scary, or even remotely shocking.--  I got this book for free for my Kindle, and glad for it. The book seems to be written by a college student going for his English degree."

"I was left with the impression that the author could benefit from counselling."

MILES TO LITTLE RIDGE-- "Not enjoyable.-- the language in this book was offensive and unnecessary for me. often the reviews mention this but I missed it if any did. I didn't compete the book."

"Meh.-- He writes well but he doesn't know his Western history. Get a fact-checker, Lowrance; it would be worth the money."

THE BASTARD HAND-- "Dreadfully dull. Don't waste your time."

"A disappointment. All the characters seem to have an ulterior motive... and none good."


"I'm used to more quality literature. But you can try."

CITY OF HERETICS-- "Read till the end but felt. Bit let down. Ok if there was very little else to read, but not the best I have read."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Noir at the Bar Chicago

I've wanted to make one of these Noir at the Bar events for a long time now, but circumstances haven't permitted until now. I'll be at this one, reading, signing, drinking, etc, along with some of my favorite indie writers: Jedidiah Ayres, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Jake Hinkson, Kent Gowran, and Dan O'Shea.

If you're in or around Chicago on the 30th, swing by. It should be fun.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reading from The Bastard Hand

Last Saturday in Grand Rapids, writer Chris DeWildt had a reading/signing for his new novel, LOVE YOU TO A PULP, and he was kind enough to ask me to be a guest reader. I was happy to oblige. Our friend Mary Alles recorded both of us on her phone. If you're interested, here's me talking a bit about my definition of "noir", and reading the first scene from THE BASTARD HAND.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gideon Miles returns in Edward A. Grainger's Helltown Shootout

Edward A. Grainger (aka David Cranmer),the creator of Western outlaw heroes Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, has returned with a blistering action story featuring Gideon, "Helltown Shootout". Readers of this blog know I have a special place in my heart for Gideon, having penned two of his adventures so far, so having the character's creator come roaring back with a new adventure is an event. 

Naturally, Grainger's take on the Marshall is spot on, and every bit as rounded and fully-realized as any hero in a Western story has ever been, and reminds me once again why I was so attracted to Gideon in the first place. This one, "Helltown Shootout", finds the level-headed and pragmatic lawman up against overwhelming odds as he takes on an entire gang of outlaws in a thrilling cat-and-mouse series of violent encounters. Allies are scarce in Helltown, and Gideon Miles finds himself pretty much on his own, relying only on his quick wit, blazing Colt, and trusty spring-loaded wrist blade. In the epilogue, Grainger gives us some nice insight into Gideon's processes, and the things that inspire him as one of the first black U.S. Marshall's in the Wyoming Territory. 

This is the 10th volume of the Cash Laramie/Gideon Miles series, following three collections of stories, and a handful of short novels by Grainger, Wayne D. Dundee, Nik Morton, and myself. Highly recommended for fans of fast-paced action yarns.

Monday, February 23, 2015

When Everybody Dies

What would we do, then, if we woke up Thursday morning to find that, overnight, 80% of the world’s population had died in their sleep? Would we/should we mourn? Let’s say, oh, nobody you loved croaked. Just some people somewhere else. If you live in the city, turns out all those folks out in the country died. Or if you’re rural, well… only city dwellers are gone now. All of them, save for a scattering of lost and confused individuals, probably wandering around those suddenly still streets with dumb and vacant looks on their faces. They lost loved ones, you didn’t, and so you watch on the news, in awe over your coffee but untouched, you watch those cheeks streaked with tears.

What if they didn’t die peacefully? What if it was agonizing? Would it touch us any deeper?

Those lost souls, they would have died writhing in pain, blood pouring from their ears and noses and mouths. They’d be found in the morning twisted into ungodly shapes, like those mummified victims in Pompeii.

What if it DID affect us, oh so slightly, in that we lost cousins or distant aunts. We could tell our story of heartbreak at work that day. “Yeah, it’s crazy. I tried to call cousin Jim all morning, but the news guy said just about everyone in Port Huron is gone. Sad. I’m gonna miss him.”

You won’t miss him.

80%, gone. All over the world.

Hell, there probably wouldn’t BE any news about it. All the media outlets would dry up, because the suits and hairstyles that operate them would be gone. Statistically, every member of Congress would be dead too. The president as well. Every world leader, except maybe a couple, but they would be powerless because all the lackeys that enforce their wills would be twisted in death.

What if it DID take your loved ones? Your husband. Your kids. Your mom. What if you had to watch them scream and howl themselves into blackness, their faces contorted and blood-streaked.

You might wish you were amongst the dead. You might kill yourself, not able to face this new, silent world. Who could blame you?

All the fears that have driven you your entire life would become hollow things with no meaning then.

And the worst part, the very worst part, is that somewhere in the farthest regions of the darkest corners of the back of your brain, you would KNOW this had to happen. It couldn’t end any other way. And the planet will carry on without our teeming, swarming masses, it would thrive, really. It would do better than EVER.

Until, a few thousand years from now, we humans make a comeback, maybe, we populate ourselves right to the precipice again, we eat up every resource available to us, we place an almost holy sanctity on the value of our own lives.

And round and round.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The First Novel Experience, re-visited

This bit appeared originally at Ed Gorman's blog, a few years ago, in a slightly different form. It seemed like time to re-visit it.

Sometime back, I wrote this book, the one that’s now called The Bastard Hand. I wrote it without any thought about a market or an audience or a future. It was just something that kept eating away at me, wouldn’t get off my back until it was done. It took a long time. I mean, a real long time. But one day I was shocked to discover that I’d actually finished the damn thing. I’d finished it, and I had no idea what to do with it.

If you haven’t read it, I’ll tell you this much: The Bastard Hand is a violent, profane, black comedy-noir-southern gothic. There are no good guys in it, and no bad guys either, not really. There’s just some messed-up people, doing messed-up things. All my personal obsessions got poured into it along the way, and it wound up being a bizarre hodge-podge of genres and influences.

But you know what? I thought it was a pretty good book. I still think so.

For a while, though, it seemed as if I was the only one who felt that way. After the usual editing and polishing up, I did my research and started sending that sucker out to literary agents, one or two at a time. I’d send it off, and sit back to wait for the fame and fortune due me as the creator of this weird literary mess.

I didn’t wait long. The rejections flooded in like a tsunami. There were a lot of the usual “not right for us” sort of things, but also the occasional “no clear market” or “difficult to categorize”. I even got a few “too offensive” and “too depressing” comments.

After about a year of this, I gave up. Just shelved it. This book I’d poured every bit of myself into seemed destined to die alone on some street corner, bumming change from every passing James Patterson or Michael Connelly. But so what? It happens every day, doesn’t it? Some wanna-be strips himself bare on the page, bleeding out his guts, only to be ignored. Sad, but true. I resolved to start working on something new and forget all about The Bastard Hand.

Some time later, I started my blog, Psycho-Noir, more or less just to spout off about books, movies, etc. Maybe even to promote myself a little. On a whim, I posted the first chapter of The Bastard Hand there, along with some short stories and essays I’d written.

And one day… one fine day… I get this e-mail from a guy calling himself Bassoff. Jon Bassoff, from New Pulp Press. Said he liked that first chapter, wanted to know if I’d be interested in showing him the rest. I checked his bone fides and found he’d published 10 or 12 very highly regarded books—and had even done a reprint of an old Gil Brewer!

I sent The Bastard Hand off to him, not expecting anything, to be honest. He’d read it, and write back saying, “Ah, sorry, my mistake. Not quite right for NPP” or, even worse, he’d just “lose” my e-mail.

But that’s not what happened. He loved it.

Weird, huh?

So flash-forward a little over a year, and The Bastard Hand comes out and holy shit, everyone seems to like it a lot. Not just readers of nasty crime fiction, but some of my own literary heroes—Allan Guthrie, Megan Abbott, Dave Zeltserman, Vincent Zandri…

Reviews at genre websites are uniformly positive. People are saying REALLY NICE THINGS.

And I take it all very personally, you know? Because this book was very personal to me, just like most first novels, I’ve been told.

As a bonus, I made some great new friends, people who share a common interest in this thing we call noir. They enriched my life, above and beyond the success of the novel. And many of them went to great lengths to promote my work, and to help me ease my way through the professional stuff (of which I was absolutely clueless).

I've written a number of things since then. But that moment, that weird, invigorating time in my life in which my first novel came out and struck a chord with readers and writers alike, is something I know I'll never get to experience again. It was remarkable, and yes, life-changing.