Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spinetingler Awards

Yesterday Spinetingler Magazine announced its nominations for Best Stuff of '11. As you might expect, it's chock full of goodness.

Your humble hack was nominated in two categories-- "Best Opening Line", in THE BASTARD HAND, and, more surprisingly, the David Thompson Community Leader award for Psycho Noir. That one threw me for a bit of a loop, but-- as they say-- I'm grateful and honored to be nominated.

And no, before you ask, THE BASTARD HAND was not nominated for the Best New Voice category. But that's okay. Did you see the list of talent that was nominated? It's all top-notch stuff-- I can't feel too bad about losing out.

Thank you to everyone who submitted THE BASTARD HAND and Psycho Noir for consideration, my gratitude to you is boundless. I cast my votes this morning. May I implore you to head over there post-haste and do the same? Here's the link: Spinetingler Awards.

In other news, since I started giving DIG TEN GRAVES away for free yesterday, its moved almost six hundred copies and as of this writing it's #19 in Horror. I'd love to see it break into the top ten, so spread the word, okay?

Friday, March 30, 2012


Today and the next few days, I'm giving DIG TEN GRAVES away for free on Amazon. Click here to download it. It's that Kindle promotional deal you've probably heard about, in which authors can offer their work for free in order to... what? Entice? Seduce? Gather more reviews and tags?

Whatever the outcome, I like the idea of reaching more readers. If you don't already have DIG TEN GRAVES on your Kindle cue, pick it up, why don't you, or help me spread the word if you're feeling particular generous. If you aren't easily offended, you'll probably like it. If you ARE easily offended, it'll give you the momentary joy of having something to be upset about. Win-win.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why I Love Wise Blood, over at Loitering with Intent

Today, I'm over at the terrific Eva Dolan's equally terrific blog, Loitering with Intent, gushing about one of my all-time favorite novels, Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. It's part of Criminal Classics, Eva's series of guest posts about novels that aren't strictly crime/mystery but had a strong influence on the genre regardless. Lots of good stuff. Hop over, why don't you, and leave a comment or some-such.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My uneasy relationship with memes

I like when people post memes on Facebook. I really do, I’m not kidding. I know that some of you more cynical types turn your nose up at them, ignore them, make fun of them. But I like them. They’ve become a sort of internet shorthand, providing a moment of levity with very few words, and also providing some insight into the person who posts them.

But by that same token, I get bored and annoyed very, very quickly with the whole “variation on a theme” thing. Someone will come up with a good idea, and then almost immediately there’ll be a rush of memes using the same concept that get progressively less and less funny, until they just become mind-numbingly dull and predictable.

One I like:

Funny, yeah? This one, and ones like it, eventually led to the series of "awkward moment" memes, some of which are pretty funny.

But everyone jumped on that “awkward moment” meme scenario, producing mostly un-funny and un-relatable variations. With a few exceptions.

One I dis-liked from the get-go was the “what you think you do” set of memes. Every last one of them was self-serving, presumed a whole bunch of stuff about the poster’s place in the world, and were uniformly uninformative and pointless.

Except this one. This one is funny.

Inspirational messages.

Hate ‘em. Please, keep your happy-crappy, sunshine-coming-out-your-ass memes to yourself, you goddamn Sunshine Nazi. Jesus loves me, the universe will align itself in my favor one day, check out those footprints in the sand, I am beautiful on the inside, oh please, shut the hell up, okay? Part of the joy of living is being able to feel bad about everything sometimes. Well you please let me enjoy my occasional misery?

But probably the most annoying set of memes are the “I’m great the way I am and I don’t care if you hate me, go ahead and unfriend me see if I care” memes. Just ego-driven nonsense. First of all, the people who see your posts probably don’t hate you, man. After all, they are “friends” with you, right? So who exactly are they meant for? Secondly, if you really don’t care what people think about you, you wouldn’t be posting constantly about how much you don’t care what people think about you.

But despite all that, I like the memes. For all the stupid, repetitive and pointless ones that drip across Facebook every day, there are just as many that make me laugh out loud, that make me want to share them because I can relate in some small way to what they’re saying. And they actually make me feel better about the person posting them, because they come complete with a small and very comforting sense of relating to someone, even if it’s only for a moment.

The best memes are the ones that are just funny photos. Caption not really needed.Here's my own special meme-wannabe. This was in the elevator at my mom's building. I took a picture of it because it made me laugh.

Friday, March 23, 2012

If this f***ing phone rings one more f***king time, I’m going to f***ing kill somebody

So let’s say I get up in the morning at eight, eight-thirty, something like that. First things first: I need some coffee, okay? I’m not one of those bizarre creatures who can jump out of bed and start doing stuff. In fact, those people infuriate me. Can you just shut up until I’ve pounded down some caffeine? I need a little time for the cobwebs to clear, is all I’m saying.

So while I’m having my coffee and waiting for my brain to catch up to my ass, I log on to check my e-mail and all that. This usually leads to a perusal of Facebook, then a check on the blog to see if there are any comments I need to respond to.

Then, as the coffee begins taking its effect, another quick hop over to Facebook. Oh, look, someone has posted an interesting article. Well, it won’t hurt to take a few minutes to read that.

Then, hey, that was a great article. I need to re-post it. Check my e-mail again, real quick-like. And then, you know, I should check to see if anyone has commented on my re-post.

By now an hour has gone by and I’m wide-awake.

But I’m still screwing around on line. Here’s nine o’clock. Ten o’clock. Eleven. And I realize that, once again, I’ve wasted the entire morning.

So. Log off. Get to work. Maybe I can still salvage the afternoon.

I read over the last few pages of whatever I’m working on, try to get back in the swing of the story.

This takes about an hour.

So… noon, and I make another pot of coffee, go outside for a smoke, then sit down, crack my knuckles, and… after a few minutes I have a paragraph done.

But oh yeah, I forgot, the cats need some food. Better feed them. They are grateful, of course, and I take a moment to go outside for another smoke. Then, since it’s such a nice day, I have a second one. You know, in fact it’s so nice, I’ll sit out here and write.

So I pull the laptop out on the porch and sit down. But whoops, the coffee is ready, I forgot. Go back in, get a cup. Have another smoke. Look at the computer for a while.

It’s now two o’clock, and I’ve written a paragraph. Also, I’m just about ready for a nap.

But I ignore the desire to go lay down for a while, and get to work. I get another paragraph done, and now, finally, it’s starting to flow.

The phone rings. I hate the phone more than anything. If I had a time machine, I’d go back and assassinate Alexander Graham Bell. Maybe after him, I’d do Hitler, but Bell is first.

I pick it up, trying to mask the annoyance in my voice. It’s a telemarketer. I’m polite. I say no thanks, and hang up.

I go back outside but now it’s raining. I have another cigarette, go inside, pour another cup of coffee, and sit on the sofa with the laptop.

I check my e-mail. I peruse Facebook.

It’s now four o’clock. Damnit.

I log off again, vow to myself that I will spend the rest of the afternoon writing. I won’t stop until I’ve done ten pages.

I write another paragraph. The phone rings again.

Gritting my teeth, cursing, I answer it. It’s the library, telling me the book I wanted is in. Well, I can’t be mad about that, can I? I go back to the sofa, pick up the laptop.

The phone rings.

In a rage, I stomp to it, pick it up, say hello. It’s a hang-up.

Cursing enough to frighten the cats into the next room, I sit back down, stare at the computer screen for a while. I re-read what I’ve done in the hopes it’ll get me back into it.

It’s five o’clock.

The phone rings AGAIN. I ignore it. It’s my mom. She leaves a message about the coming weekend. Okay. It’ll be nice to see her.

I start to write. My cell phone in the next room rings. I say out loud, “If this fucking phone rings one more fucking time, I’m going to kill somebody!!” But the cats, over their initial fright, don’t give a shit.
I check the caller on the cell phone. It’s my mom, leaving the same message.

I take a deep breath, pour another cup of coffee, go outside for another cigarette.

Then, back in. Start to write. It’s now almost six, and I’ve written three paragraphs.

Oh, fuck it, I say. I’ll make up the time tomorrow.

My wife gets home half an hour later. She asks me how my writing day went.

Not bad, I say. Not too bad.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another New Logo

I get bored with the same visuals all the time, which is why I switch up the logo here at the blog every couple months. I realize that most of you are not here often enough to get too bored with the pictures, but, man, I'm here just about every day. So some change is required.

The thing most of the images have in common is that they're done by my friend Ron Warren. He's also the fella responsible for most of my book covers. What can I tell you, I just dig his work.

The new image, above, I particularly like. I think I'll keep it for a while this time. What do you think?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fight Card Deal

There's a nice Fight Card promo going on right now, if you're behind on this terrific series of books.

Here's the link for more details: Buy One Fight Card, Get One Free.

I talked about Fight Card just a few days ago, also, and my upcoming entry in the series; here's the link to that: Bluff City Brawler

If you haven't read any of these books, now's your chance. They're really top-notch stuff.

Friday, March 9, 2012

R. THOMAS BROWN and the Fake Town

So have you read HILL COUNTRY yet? If not, you need to get on that right away. It's the new one from R. THOMAS BROWN, and it's pure dynamite. Stylish, suspenseful, sharp as a whip crack. I'd been looking forward to it for a while, after reading Brown's horror novella MERCILESS PACT, and it did not disappoint.

One of the many strengths of Brown's work is the strong sense of place. His Comal Creek, a little redneck noir slice of Texas, feels as authentic as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County or "Justified"'s Harlan.

Here's R. Thomas Brown on bringing his fully formed setting to life...

Where is Comal Creek, TX?

The easy answer is nowhere. I made it up. It’s a small town that exists only in my head. It’s also true that the place and people living in Comal Creek are very real. Not with those name or those exact personalities, but they all exist. Or at least did once.

When I was in middle school, some of my family had property in Bulverde, TX. At the time it wasn’t much of a town, and they lived out among the cedars and skinny oak trees that dot that area of Texas. We’d spend our days playing the woods, tossing 2X4s to the pit bulls and making the long walk down to the local grocer / hamburger place.

It was a simple place and I’ve always had fond memories of it. Likely remember a far more idyllic time than actually existed. Today, it’s much different. New development and new money have moved in. The overwhelming sameness of new Texas suburbs is slowly taking over. It’s something that is both welcome and troubling.

Sure, I like new stores and new restaurants. They’re nice. But, perhaps even more so as I get older, I miss the way I imagine it used to be. I tried to put that internal tension in the book by having the divide between The Gates and The Range. There’s not a ton of that in Hill Country, but it’s something I’ll probably continue to explore.

Before you get the wrong idea, the really bad people, the killers and such, just live in my head.

I really felt at home in this little fake town I made up. It’s a nice place to visit and daydream. Merciless Pact, a horror novella I self-published takes place in the same town. I’m currently working on another novel that takes place there also.

This summer, I might go back through Bulverde. Just to see what it’s like. See if the old burger joint is still there. If it is, I’ll hop in and remember the past and the imagined present. If not, it’ll hurt a little.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BLUFF CITY BRAWLER and other stuff

BLUFF CITY BRAWLER, my go at the so-far terrific series FIGHT CARD, will be out and available pretty soon. Created by Paul Bishop and Mel Odom, FIGHT CARD is a tribute to the great boxing pulps, and under the house name Jack Tunney they've so far released stuff from Eric Beetner, Wayne Dundee, Bishop and Odom themselves, and several others. Amazingly enough, the quality has been consistently top notch with every release.

I'm in the final stages of hammering out my contribution, so it shouldn't be long before you see it. It's a fast-paced boxing/noir tale set in 1950's Detroit and Memphis.

After that, it's more Hawthorne. Beat to a Pulp has picked up the rights to re-release "That Damned Coyote Hill", in tandem with the second Hawthorne tale, "The Long Black Train".

Then back to the novel I started writing way back in November. 2012 is shaping up to be another productive year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Victoria Watson is LETTING GO...

Got an e-mail this weekend from the remarkable VICTORIA WATSON. She's the author of the new collection LETTING GO, which is out now and garnering praise all over the damn place. Like most savvy writers, she's currently conducting a sort of "blog tour", and I'm very happy to be able to host her here today.

If you don't already know her, allow me to introduce Victoria Watson, with a few words about self-pubbing...

A couple of weeks ago, I released ‘Letting Go’, a collection of eight short stories written by me. I’m hoping within the next couple of months to release another collection. I’m working on those stories now.

‘Letting Go’ hasn’t been published in the conventional sense. It’s only available as an e-book at the moment, I don’t have an agent nor do I have a publisher. “How is this so?” I hear you ask. I self-published the collection. Some people think this is a bad idea. The opinion that only losers or failures self publish is fairly common but the e-book and e-reader revolution means that self-publishing is actually seen as a great way to establish yourself as a writer. It’s acknowledged in the publishing world as a great way to build a fan base and increase recognition of you and your work. If you then approach an agent with impressive sales figures, you are proving yourself to be a valuable asset. If you can demonstrate an ability to make money, an agent will want a cut of that!

I like the idea of self-publishing my short stories because it gives me independence over my work. I don’t write in one particular genre at the moment and going through a traditional agent and publisher route often means you have to be “classified” in one genre or another. I haven’t quite found one genre I want to write in – maybe I never will – but at the moment, self-publishing allows me more freedom to experiment with genres, voices and topics. I see this as an opportunity to hone my craft, gather reviews, feedback and hopefully one or two people who enjoy my work.

What I also like about self-publishing is the control I have over the end product. I could have, in theory, designed my own cover. Luckily, I had the wonderful talents of Fiona Johnson to do that for me and she was kind enough to keep tweaking until I was completely satisfied with the cover. I know that going down a more traditional route means the cover, the marketing and the PR would be taken out of my control. I like that, for now, I get to know a little bit more about the publishing side of writing. Knowledge is always a good thing.

I’m not saying I would never approach an agent and hope to be published by a big publishing house but, for now, while I’m still finding my feet, I think this is ideal for me.

You can download ‘Letting Go’ at: Amazon Uk and at (It's actually FREE at the moment-- Heath)

You can also read more of my work at elementaryvwatson.

You can catch me at and twitter @vpeanuts

Thanks again for having me over to chat, Heath.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Best. Bookshop. Ever.

A few days ago I was moaning here at the blog about a frustrating trip to the local Barnes & Noble. It was gratifying that so many of you agree that the chain book stores (the few that remain!) are such hell-holes. And the impromptu lessons on basic economics were also appreciated, although I can assure you I already have a vague understanding of supply and demand. B&N still sucks. The supply and demand model didn’t work out so well for Borders, did it?

Anyway, since I vented my spleen about that subject already, I wanted to share something else with you—the joys that come with the exact OPPOSITE experience.

Kim and I went up to East Lansing yesterday and I had the opportunity to visit a book shop I’d been hearing about for a long time: Curious Books. They’ve been an institution in that city for many, many years and within seconds of walking in the door I found out why.

Simply put, this is the best used/rare book store I’ve ever been in.

Yes, he has a great selection of all the sorts of stuff you’d expect, but the real thrill of the place happened when I made my way down to the basement level (Curious is three stories) and found a very large space filled with tons and tons of vintage paperback originals from the likes of Gold Medal, Lion, Dell (with those cool map backs), Ace Doubles… you name it. Pricing on most of them was anywhere between 5 and 20 bucks, with most of them falling into the 10 dollar range.

They also had an enormous selection of pulp magazines—two shelves full of Argosy dating back to the ‘20’s, a slew of Ellery Queens, Alfred Hitchcocks and Mike Shaynes as early as the mid-50’s, All-Story, Dime Western, Fight Stories, Weird Tales, and on and on. It was enough to make you start hyper-ventilating.

The best thing about this place, though, was the owner, Ray. The guy knows his stuff. He knows that Jim Thompson published mostly through Lion Books. He knew that Gil Brewer was a Gold Medal writer, and had done a western. He knew the publishing history of the Doc Savage books, and the Spider, and the Shadow. He showed me a book that he and a friend had published a few years ago by Lester Dent, the guy who wrote the Doc Savage books under the name Kenneth Robeson.

When I told him I was looking for old issues of Manhunt magazine, he knew exactly what I was talking about (unlike another used store I was in some time ago, when the owner thought I was on the prod for gay culture and directed me to his small ‘man on man’ romance section).

Ray was an absolute joy to talk to, and Curious Books is hands-down my new favorite used and rare store. If you ever get out to East Lansing, you really want to check it out.

Here’s a link to their website: Curious Used and Rare.

They also have a page on Facebook you can like. I only wish there was a “love” button instead.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy (?) birthday, David Goodis

Today marks what would’ve been the, what, 95th birthday of David Goodis. Significant because, for some of us, David Goodis is THE noir writer.

His first novel, RETREAT FROM OBLIVION, came out in 1939 and the following decade found him writing steadily for the pulp magazines, for which he was amazingly prolific. In ’46, he caught a lucky break when the Saturday Evening Post serialized his DARK PASSAGE—leading to the film with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall the following year.

That led to a more-or-less unsuccessful stint as a script writer in Hollywood, where Goodis’s bizarre behavior managed to freak out even the strange creatures of Tinsel Town.

But all the titles we know him for happened after he moved back to Philly in 1950—he started writing for the paperback original houses and in relative obscurity produced classics like BLACK FRIDAY, CASSIDY’S GIRL, DOWN THERE (SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER), THE BURGLAR, NIGHTFALL, THE MOON IN THE GUTTER, and STREET OF NO RETURN.

Goodis’ work was primarily concerned with men who had fallen from grace—which was maybe how he saw himself? It was rife with dark alienation, melancholy, and an achingly sad sense of fatalism.

He is the true Patron Saint of Noir.

So happy birthday, David Goodis, wherever you are. You were one of a kind.