Sunday, April 29, 2012

Burning Bridges Now Available Free (Or Not)

The BURNING BRIDGES anthology is now out and ready for your reading pleasure.

Right now, you have two options: 

Option one: you can get it at Amazon (and Amazon UK) as usual-- if you do it this way, it costs .99 cents and all proceeds will go to the non-profit group Literacy for Incarcerated Teens. 

Option two: you can pick it up at Smashwords for absolutely free.

Whichever way you go, I hope you enjoy it. BURNING BRIDGES was a real labor of love for all involved.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How I Got the Gun, at Shotgun Honey

I'm over at Shotgun Honey today, being grilled. Thanks, Ron, for asking such great questions. You made it a great deal of fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Julia Madeleine

I've been a fan of Julia Madeleine's since discovering her last year, pretty much by complete accident. Honestly, I don't even remember how I stumbled across her work, but I was happy I did. She writes solid stories with great, memorable characters, and is as skilled in the short story form as she is with novel-length stuff.

Her newest novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT SCARLET ROSE, is, in my opinion, her stylistic break-out work-- it's just fantastic.

I'm very pleased to have Julia at Psycho Noir today...

Hi Julia, how’s it going? I’m going to ask you some questions. You have the right to remain silent, but if you do, this won’t be a very interesting interview.

Okay, I'll try to be cooperative and tell you everything you want to know so don't break out the duct tape and phone books just yet.

In the last year, you’ve become very visible as a writer to look out for, but how long have you actually been doing this writing gig?

I was 18 when my writing addiction began. I wrote a novel long hand on lined paper. It was a horror story. I was inspired by reading a book by a popular author (I'm not putting the finger on anyone though) that I thought was pure dog vomit. I'm sure what I wrote was just as bad, if not worse. But it made me want to write and I've been at it on and off pretty much ever since. There seems to be no cure for it.

Do you have a philosophy about writing? Or any themes that tend to run through most of your work?

Madness. I like people who live in alternate realities. I discovered not very long ago that three of my friends have spent significant time inside of psyche hospitals (which explains some things). They've got some crazy life stories that I've nicked and worked into my writing. It's very strange because at one point I thought of going into psychiatry as a career. I'm fascinated by the human psyche and what experiences and attitudes shape people. Criminal behaviour in particular. Yeah, I should have been a criminal psychologist.

This is a fairly standard question—sorry—but most of us want to know. What writers turn you on? Who do you read for inspiration?

I've recently begun to read more poetry for inspiration, T.S Eliot, James Kavanaugh, and I think it really helps with my writing. I'm also a fan of Evelyn Lau's poetry. I never used to read much in the crime/thriller genre in particular which might sound strange for someone who writes in that genre. But then again, I never planned to write in any genre, it just seemed to find me. I've discovered a lot of fantastic crime writers in the last couple of years. I'm currently reading Derek Raymond's Factory series and really enjoying his writing. I've also started reading the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay who has great style as a writer.

How much of your own life and experience do you draw from?

Lots. Friends and family, the things people tell me, all work their way into my stuff. Nobody is off limits. I've had people recognize themselves in my work and laugh. As long as they laugh and don't get pissed off at me, that's good.

As well as being a writer, you’re also an excellent tattoo artist. Does that scratch a different creative itch for you? What led you to that career?

I needed a job and knew that I could do it. Art/drawing is something that's always come easily to me so it seemed quite natural. Originally I enrolled in college for an art program but switched at the last minute to a writing program. So the two have always been competing for my attention.

Your new book, THE TRUTH ABOUT SCARLET ROSE, is, in my opinion, the best thing you’ve ever done. Can you tell us a little about it?

Wow, thank you Heath. I'm getting some mixed reactions with this book so hearing positive things about it helps to keep me from throwing a rope over the tree in my back yard.

The story is about the adult daughter of a washed up 1960s burlesque queen who forced her into the sex trade when she was underage. Then when the girl's beloved step-father is brutally murdered, she had to help in the police investigation, while her mother fixates on getting her hands on other people's money.

What’s next for you?

I have stories scheduled to come out in five anthologies this year so that's exciting. I've recently completed a thriller called The Refrigerator Girls. It's about a high school student and apprentice tattoo artist who orchestrates her own abduction to find out where a killer is taking his victims. It's like Lisbet Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo meeting a female Hannibal Lector. The idea for it was from a nightmare that woke me out of sleep. Scared the hell out of me writing it.

When you aren’t writing or searing permanent images into people’s flesh, what do you like to do with your time?

I actually do a lot of ordinary things like yoga, sewing, gardening and cooking. Although my writing obsession doesn't leave much time for these. My daughter and I hang out a lot. She's just turned 19 and she has her first apartment. So on Sundays we're in the routine of going shopping and out for lunch. When you're writing about a teenage girl it helps to have one. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Burning Bridges

Most folks tread carefully through life. They like to keep their options open, you know, just in case. That's the wise and judicious way to do things, after all.

But sometimes you need to go ahead and burn those bridges behind you, just so you're not tempted to back-track, chicken out, blink. If you're a writer, it can be quite useful to shut off the path behind you and keep barreling forward.

Burning bridges can be a sign of commitment.

And commitment is what the anthology BURNING BRIDGES has, in spades. This is a collection of stories that are as wide and varied as the writers who produced them, but they all have the fire of conviction.

All the contributors DO have something in common, however-- they've all been burned by a publishing experience that was unfortunate, but could happen to anybody. Instead of compromising their integrity, though, each one of them lit a match, threw it over the shoulder, and shot away as the flames caught on the bridge behind them.

So this is BURNING BRIDGES, a collection featuring stories from:
Julia Madeleine
K.A. Laity
Mark Cooper
Darren Sant
Allan Leverone
Paul D. Brazill
George S. Geisinger
Edith M. Maxwell
Benjamin Sobieck
Tace Baker
Joshua J. Mark
L. Vera
B.R. Stateham
... and me.

I had the honor of putting this thing together, and I'm proud of the diversity and the power of these stories. You'll find that there's no real theme to it; rather it's an object lesson about how writers who are truly committed to what they do can put the past behind them and continue to put out solid, uncompromising work.

And not be afraid to burn bridges behind them.

Coming to Kindle on May 1, absolutely free.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ha-BITCH-ual offenders, Surreal Journeys, Morally Troubled Hitmen, and the Outlaw Marshall

You reading anything good right now? I ask because, if you’re not, you might want to check out some of these recent reads that I thoroughly enjoyed:

THE BITCH, by Les Edgerton.
Before you get all snooty and annoyingly PC, I should point out that the title THE BITCH doesn’t refer to an unpleasant female (we’ll leave that sort of thing to Jackie Collins) but instead is a reference to “habitual offender”—ha-BITCH-ual, get it? This one starts off with a fairly standard premise, as ex-con Jake, trying to get his new life together, is drawn against his will into another criminal scheme. Read that before, right? Well, hold on. Because about half-way through this one, Edgerton starts ratcheting it up, expertly tightening the screws as one disaster after another makes our man Jake’s situation worse and worse. By the time THE BITCH reaches its shattering conclusion, your nerves will be frayed. An absolute gem of pure, unadulterated noir, this one.

An unusual, darkly funny Western. Charlie and Eli Sisters are hired killers working for The Commodore, on a mission to find and kill a man who supposedly wronged their shady boss. But on their long, sometimes surreal journey, Eli begins questioning the morality of his job. Eli is a troubled, strangely sympathetic narrator, and seeing through his eyes the dark world he and his brother inhabit comes off like a strange cross between, say Charles Portis’ TRUE GRIT and Tom Frankin’s SMONK. But not quite. I really loved this one.

THE HUNTED, by Dave Zeltserman.
This is the first novella-length entry in an exciting new series from noir master Zeltserman. Dave Willis, recruited into a shadowy organization called The Factory, seeks out and exterminates anyone whom his superiors deem “threats to national security”. But he’s soon riddled with doubts about the job and begins to suspect The Factory is not what it claims to be, forcing him to make a moral choice that could put his name next on the hit list. There’s maybe a bit too much exposition in this first outing as Zeltserman lays out the premise, but the action soon kicks into high gear and the reader is swept along in the high-octane thrills. Looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

The first full-length novel (although maybe it’s more a novella) featuring Edward Grainger’s “outlaw marshall” Cash Laramie. Dundee nails it with this one. Our man Laramie comes to a small mining town in pursuit of a fugitive, but finds himself involved in something much bigger when a pair of prostitutes need his help in getting out of town. Laramie faces off against not only his fugitive, but an angry posse of townsmen who want the soiled doves back, a ruthless bounty hunter who will stop at nothing, and most challengingly, a bitter winter storm that threatens to close off escape from the mountain. This is a flat-out exciting story, full of great, quickly-sketched characters and swaggering action set-pieces.

Monday, April 9, 2012

You and Your Boring Numbers

Sell, sell, sell. Market your book, pimp it like a mofo, tell us all about those numbers.

Man, is that shit ever boring.

I just read a blog post from a writer who has been hanging in that weird ether between commercial success (you know, where, say, James Patterson hangs) and total oblivion (where, well, guys like me make their home) for a long time now. The post was all about the amazing number of books he sold recently. In fact, MOST of this guy’s posts are about that subject; when they aren’t about that, they’re about other writer’s sales figures.

I can take a little bit of this kind of thing. Just a little bit. And then I start feeling sick to my stomach. Why? Because I’m not a whore, I guess.

Maybe I’m not being fair? After all, most of us want to sell more books, yeah? We want to be able to do something as simple and basic as make a decent living.

But what price are we willing to pay for that? Are we ready to go the whole hog, focus ourselves so intently on marketing strategies and promotional blitzes that we lose sight of the work itself? Because, let me tell you, the blog post in question was written so poorly, so haphazardly, that I wondered a little how this writer made it as far as he has.

The tone of the post was really… combative, also. I don’t know why. And it seemed to suggest that, if you really want to obtain commercial success, you need to remove yourself from those “lesser” beings known as independents.

Perhaps I was misreading it… or maybe it was just so poorly constructed that the true point was lost somewhere amidst all the crowing about sales numbers and “units” moved.

Any writer who refers to books as “units” needs to be smacked in the mouth. Let the suit-and-tie types with dollar signs for eyeballs talk like that, not you, the writer. Have some respect for your craft.

A little less focus on numbers and a little more focus on quality might be in order.

Once in a while, I’ll take a stab at promotional stuff, just to see if I can find a way to get my work in front of a bigger audience. But I don’t invest a great deal of time in it. I’d like to make more money (ANY money, actually), but I don’t have much interest in writing anything commercial. It’s just not what I do, and it never has been. My goal as a writer is to stay absolutely true to myself. You know what I mean? If the world’s tastes suddenly change and my sort of work becomes mainstream out of nowhere, well… fine. I wouldn’t complain. But I have no intention of tailoring what I do to fit a bigger audience.

Because of that, promotional stuff is only going to take me so far. So why not just concentrate on becoming better and better at what I do?

I know that there are some of you reading this who might think I’m being pretentious. That’s fine. Maybe I am. But while I don’t take myself too seriously as a writer, I DO take my writing seriously. I’m not messing around here. This is about craft and… yes, even art. And it means everything to me.

That’s something that’s not said often enough. Most of us are too embarrassed to say it out loud. But it’s true.

I just hate to see it cheapened by such a fixation on commerce.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Chicks can't write crime fiction"

Not long ago this guy I know (not a writer but a voracious reader) made a bold statement: “Women can’t write dark crime fiction,” he says. “It’s just not in their brains. Everyone knows that.”

Oooh. Bold words, yeah?

While I admire his stones, the only real response to that sort of statement is: “You, sir, are an idiot.”

…or at the very least, someone who is not keeping up.

At this moment in the on-going development of dark, brutal crime fiction (and genre fiction in general), there are more kick-ass female writers than ever before.
Some examples—

I just read McDroll’s two-part novella, THE WRONG DELIVERY, and anyone who says it’s not as bold or unflinching as anything written by any male writer out there is delusional.

Last year, Katherine Tomlinson wrote one of the most devastating collections of short stories I’ve ever read, the stunning TOXIC REALITY.

And hey, have you heard of this Christa Faust chick? Wrote the ass-kicking MONEY SHOT and its sequel, CHOKEHOLD. I promise you, you can’t write anything near as tough-minded.

How about Patti Abbott? Ever heard of her? Her story collection MONKEY JUSTICE was probably the best single-author collection of the year last year. And that talent must run in the Abbott genes; Megan Abbott, her daughter, is arguably the best dark fiction crime stylist around these days—check out BURY ME DEEP, THE END OF EVERYTHING and her other novels if you don’t believe me.

Julia Madeleine is another one who writes consistently tight and mean stuff; her latest, THE TRUTH ABOUT SCARLET ROSE, is a stunner.

Oh, and hey, what about Vicki Hendricks? CRUEL POETRY is tough and racy enough to make James M. Cain blush.

And those are just off the top of my head.

But what I said earlier, about ‘not keeping up’, when I really think about it, that’s not it at all. There have ALWAYS been great female crime writers. Only a complete jack-ass with no taste at all would dismiss Patricia Highsmith, for instance. She’s one of the all-time greats.

Helen Nielson is another one. And Dorothy Hughes. And Maryjane Meeker (Vin Packer).

And here’s something the great female writers of crime fiction can claim that their male counterparts can’t: most male writers (me included) can’t do female POV to save their lives.

There are exceptions, of course (Vincent Zandri does it very well in THE REMAINS), but for the most part you don’t see it often. All the female writers mentioned above, however, can slip into the male POV as easily as slipping into an old pair of sneakers. And they don’t, as a rule, write stereotyped male characters, either—you know, the kind you see in Thelma and Louise or your typical romance novel. Their male characters are every bit as fully developed as their female characters.

So, okay, rant done. I’m just saying, Mr. Chicks Can’t Write, try breaking out of your sequestered little male-dominated world long enough to see the brilliant, hard-as-nails female writers right in front of you. The wake-up call will do you good.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thank You

Just a quick thank you to everyone who downloaded, tagged, liked, and/or reviewed DIG TEN GRAVES while it was free these last few days. It moved about 1,000 copies, which I am satisfied with. I don't know what the end result of that will be, but I do like the fact that it's now on 1,000 more Kindles than it was before.

At its peak, it reached #19 on the Amazon list of top free horror, and then sorta hovered around the mid-to-high 30's until the end. Which beats where it was before! I consider this something of an experiment to see if the free promotional thing Amazon offers has any long-term benefit, so I'll let you know what, if anything, happens.

Anyway, thank you.