Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fight Card: Bluff City Brawler in paperback

In the last post, I announced that my short story collection, Dig Ten Graves, was now available in trade paperback for 9.95. Now, Bluff City Brawler joins it and The Bastard Hand on the list of my work that's available in old-fashioned print and ink.

I had fun writing this '50's era boxing pulp novella. I think you might have fun reading it. You can get it here.

All three, of course, are still available on Kindle as well.

City of Heretics coming soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dig Ten Graves now in paperback

After working at it diligently and jumping through the required hoops, I did it. My short story collection, DIG TEN GRAVES, is now available in trade paperback. Thanks to Ron Warren and R. Thomas Brown for the invaluable assistance.

It's 9.95, which seems like a reasonable price to me. Get it here.

BLUFF CITY BRAWLER and CITY OF HERETICS are both on the way in paper, as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Schizophrenic Hit-Man for Detroit

"I hate Diana Ross. I love all the Ross family but I hate Diana Ross. She killed Michael Jackson. I know because I'm Darth Vader."

"You're Darth Vader?"

"I'm a Dark Lord Raider. And women, all women, are Women Raiders. Female Raiders. They love me but I hate them. I hate all of them. But I love, you understand?"

"I guess."

"I love my sons but I hate my daughters. Like God hates His daughters but loves His sons. I hate them, even though they're dead. They were killed. My wife and my daughters. But I didn't kill them. Escobar did."


"Escobar, the drug guy."


"He killed my wife and daughters. But I got him. I killed him. Just like God. Just like Vengeful God. I worked for Kilpatrick, and for Coleman Young. I was the Hit-Man for Detroit. Escobar killed my wife and daughters because he thought he was God and Detroit Hit-Man was the Devil. But I punched him in the face and killed him with a gun. He showed me that I hated.

But we're all dead to God, anyway. The only one I love and will see in Heaven is George Washington, none of the other presidents. Not even Obama. Because Obama is friends with Diana Ross, and goddamn fucking Diana Ross killed Michael Jackson."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Who cares about genre?

I can’t bring myself to write just one kind of thing, and I’m not quite sure if that’s good or bad. Also, I’m not sure how much I care. I’ve been told that, back in the pre-digital era, a writer had to define himself, had to brand himself, in order to find an audience. A horror writer had to stick with horror, a crime thriller writer had to produce crime thrillers. And if the said writer wanted to venture into other literary territory, he had to use a pen name.

A lot of writers STILL use that model today. But you know, I’m not so sure we need to anymore. It’s a new century and all, right? All I know is, as a reader, I enjoy multiple genres. I can only assume MOST readers feel the same way.

But you can make an argument that a reader has certain expectations. If she wants to devour a WWII spy thriller, she’ll pick up an Alan Furst, maybe. And if Furst decided to produce, say, a science-fiction story instead, the reader would conceivably be pissed off. It’s Furst, damnit! He’s supposed to write moody espionage tales!

Whatever the right answer is, well, honestly, I just can’t do it. Maybe that hurts me, in the long run, the fact that a reader can’t count on me to write in one genre consistently.

If that’s the case, I put it to you: why does genre even matter anymore? If you like the way a writer writes, if you dig her style and the things she has to say in the subtext, who cares what genre it is?

And why the strict definitions of genre, anyway? For instance, every couple of weeks I’ll come across some new piece on line that tries to define what “noir” means. I’ll read them sometimes (and sometimes they are insightful) but really, who cares what “noir” means? Why on earth would a writer want to draw lines around herself, and not step over imaginary regulated demarcations of genre?

Do we still really need to do this to find an audience?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"If you believe your good reviews..."

Not too long ago, on Facebook, Joe R. Lansdale said, "If you believe your good reviews, you have to believe your bad ones, too." The comment struck me and stayed with me. Up until then, I'd been pretty lucky that the vast majority of Amazon reviews of my work had been positive. And all that kindness had worked wonders for my self-esteem, making the act of laughing off the occasional bad or indifferent review pretty easy to do.

In the last week or so, due to circumstances that I still don't quite understand, my work reached a much, much bigger audience than I was used to. Jon Bassoff at New Pulp Press put THE BASTARD HAND up for free on Kindle for a few days, and in that period something like 16,000 readers downloaded it. As if that weren't staggering enough, another 200 or so bought it the first day or two it went back to full price. I don't know where those big numbers came from, what sparked the surge, but I'm glad of it. The sudden interest affected most of my other work as well, and I saw a significant spike in sales all across the board.

I mention this not to brag or puff out my chest (I already did that part, over on FB) but to note that one of the results of this upswing has been a handful of new, less-than-glowing reviews.

" have to believe the bad ones, too..."

Bad reviews STILL don't bother me, exactly. So I hope I'm not misunderstood here. But reading them has caused me to evaluate the situation a bit. And I've concluded that there are THREE different types of bad review.

One: The useful kind. This is an honest, insightful review that can actually help you, the writer. It's the kind in which legitimate points are made and you can actually learn something from them. Obviously, this is the best kind of negative review, and you'd be a fool as a writer to get upset about them.

Two: The funny kind. The review that is so WAY off the mark that all you can do is laugh. You shouldn't worry about these, honestly; if YOU can see that it's a dumb-ass review, trust me, most readers can as well. It's not going to hurt you, so have a chuckle.

Three: The only kind that annoys me a bit-- the review written by someone who shouldn't be writing reviews. They either haven't read the work (I got one from a reviewer who admitted to reading only the first ten pages... um, you have to actually read it to review it, okay?), they've admitted a bias to the genre (would you review, say, a romance novel, good or bad, if you HATED romance novels?), or they're just practicing being snarky without any specific content ("This book sucks ass! I hate it!")

That's about all I have to say about that. But I want to reiterate: I can deal with the occasional bad review. I'm not THAT thin-skinned, honest.

And after all, I win in the end, don't I?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Man Plans, Fate Laughs its Ass Off

Early last year I worked out a writing plan meant to see me through until December. And I did a horrible job of sticking to it, because, well, that's just the way I roll. This year, though, I intend to be more diligent-- there's a LOT of things I want-need-must write, and a rather strict timetable is probably the best way.

So, if you're interested, this is my itinerary for 2013. Hopefully there's something here that's up your alley.

January- By the end of this month, I'll have completed a Gideon Miles novella for David Cramner's Beat to a Pulp. Titled "Gideon Miles and the Axeman of Storyville", it finds our man Miles in New Orleans in 1921, his Marshall-ing days behind him, but his brushes with death ever-present.

February- A fourth Hawthorne weird western story, "Bad Sanctuary", as well as the Hawthorne/Cash Laramie cross-over, which I'm calling "Hell's Own Gun", unless Mr. Grainger vetoes me.

March-June- A third full-length novel, called THE HEEL, which is already outlined pretty thoroughly. It's about a disgraced former pro wrestler who loses a bunch of money belonging to his gangster boss and has to track it down again-- leaving a wake of unintended devastation.

July- Hawthorne's origin story, for those of you who think it's time.

August-November- A fourth novel, WRETCHED CROSS, a twisted, depraved Western. Also already outlined.

December- Another Hawthorne tale.

I'm sure neither of the novels will see publication before the year is over, sorry to say, especially since I intend to shop them around a little.

If there's any down-time between projects, I'm sure I'll fill it with the occasional short story. In any case, it'll be a productive year. Assuming I don't slack off.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Modern Curse of the Doorstop Thriller

I've went off here before on the subject of how annoyed I get about monstrously long thrillers, so I'll spare you a full-on rant this time. But there are a few things I want to say about it yet...

When I'm perusing the book store shelves, I tend to skip right past those wrist-straining Doorstop Thrillers because it's been my experience that most of them are exactly what you'd expect: over-long, full of padding and extemporaneous detail, uninteresting internal monologues and info-dumps.

However, I've had to acknowledge that SOME of them are quite good. I've read a couple by Dennis Lehane that I really liked, and that didn't feel bogged down with needless bullshit. Also, not long ago, a friend lent me a book by Micheal Connelly called NINE DRAGONS that surprised me. And of course, there's James Ellroy (although, to be fair, I don't consider Ellroy a "thriller writer"-- his books are more like Sprawling Historical Crime Epics).

But I still maintain that, for the most part, the Doorstop Thriller is a bane on my reading pleasure. I can see almost NO reason that a thriller needs to be over, say, 300 pages long. Monster-size paperbacks, in a way, go against the very definition of "thriller". Initially, the thriller was a book meant to be read in one or two or three sittings, something to keep you reading late into the night, turning the pages feverishly. Something to, you know, THRILL you.

Last week, I was giving another Doorstop Thriller a go (never mind which one), and I was about 100 pages into it when my wife asked, "So what's happened so far in that book?" I paused, thinking for a moment, then answered truthfully, "Well... nothing, really." About fifteen characters had been introduced, a whole bunch of back-story had been spelled out, and a whole lot of nothing had happened. It was all decently-written, mind you, but... it was stuck in neutral.

Like many other Doorstop Thrillers, it would've been a decent read if it was, say, HALF the length.

I tossed the book and went to find something else to read.

It's not that I'm impatient. In fact, I have a pretty extraordinary ability to concentrate and let things play out. And it's also not that I don't think bigger themes can fit within the context of a thriller-- they most certainly can. But rule number one is: Make Things Happen.

And yet Doorstop Thrillers top all the best-seller charts. You rarely see a thriller less than 600 pages on the NYT Best Seller List. I don't know why. Perceived value? If you have any ideas about that, feel free to share.

In the meantime, I'll stick with those classic-style thrillers that are short, sharp, and unnerving. The kind that actually THRILL you.

In the words of my friend Christian Klaver-- Stick and move, man. Stick and move.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Can a nightmare translate into a story?

Woke up from a pretty creepy nightmare this morning, and my first thought was:

I wonder if it can be worked into a story?

It was one of those that felt uncannily real while it was happening. Me and someone else (I don't know who, maybe my step-father, for some reason, even though I haven't seen him in years?) were cleaning out an attic over-flowing with stacks of old newspapers and various detritus, when I spotted an enormous, weird-looking spider shooting across the floor right toward the other person. I yelled out a warning, and he ducked just as the spider launched itself at his head. It thunked against the wall, scurried under some junk.

The thing was the size of my fist, and had a strange tube-like aperture sticking out of its head. We started to back away from where it disappeared. Then the thing came out from under its hiding spot and came at me. It was actually on the attack.

It clung to my leg, burrowed through my pants, and next thing I knew it was buried in my thigh.

I ripped my pants off, trying not to panic, and saw that the huge spider had somehow burrowed itself right into the meat of my thigh muscle. Only the little tube on its head stuck out an inch or so, and I realized (in dream-logic) that the tube was meant to let the spider breath while it did its horrible work inside my flesh.

I could feel it moving in my leg, trying to work its way deeper. The panic was welling in me, but I knew I couldn't lose control. My fingers trembled as I tried to grasp the tube, tried to ease the thing out of me. Blood and puss were pouring down my leg and the pain threatened to black me out, but I kept easing the thing up and it kept trying to push its way back in.

The tube was slippery with my blood but I kept pulling, slowly, raw seconds away from giving in to panic. I pulled, and the spider's ugly head came up and its legs flailed against the inside of my leg.

I lost my grip on the tube and the spider dug deeper and I screamed.

That's when I woke up. And it took almost ten seconds before I realized it was just a dream. Well, imagine my relief, right?

I lay in bed thinking about it, and naturally my first thought was-- I wonder if there's a story in that.

But no, I don't think so. For one thing, I already wrote a "body horror" story and said all I can think of to say about the idea of something invading your flesh. It was called "Emancipation, with Teeth", and it's in my collection DIG TEN GRAVES. That story was inspired by a nightmare, as well-- a particularly disturbing dream I had about long white worm-things coming out from under my finger nails. So to go there again would just be repeating myself.

But isn't it funny how, if you're a writer, once you get over the initial fright of a bad dream, your first instinct is to examine it and determine whether or not it has story potential?

Writers: have you ever had a nightmare that managed to translate itself well into a story?