December 31, 2012

What I've Learned



I’ve had a lot of different magazine subscriptions over the years. The first were all fiction magazines: Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy. When I started gaming, I picked up Dragon Magazine. Near the end of my teenage years, it was all shit like Details, Maxim, and Stuff—you know, magazines that were basically the print equivalent to SPIKE. Then, of course, freshman year of college there was the nigh-obligatory subscription to Playboy.

None of those lasted more than a year, I think. And now print magazines are dying out like the newspaper. But there is one magazine I’ve kept a subscription too and probably will even when that means I can only read it online—Esquire.

Yes, they do waste paper and space on shit I’ll never be able to afford—like cars that cost twice as much money as I make in a year and jackets that start at a thousand dollars—and for some reason they keep voting Mila Kunis sexiest woman alive, but with the articles and essays and works of fiction “the good” far outweighs “the bad.” Beyond any of that, however, the single thing I look forward to every year is their Meaning of Life issue.

Every month Esquire runs a piece with a different actor, writer, politician, scientist, or everyday person called “What I’ve Learned.” It’s just a list. A simple list of what that person has figured out about life, about being human. The Meaning of Life issue compiles the best of the past year with several new ones and a couple of long interviews—standouts from this current issue are James Lee Burke (first novel rejected 111 times!) and Sean Penn. It’s always a thought-provoking and moving read.

So, here’s What I’ve Learned:
  • Be fully present in the moment. This applies to everything, even writing. When you’re not here now, you’re unhappy.
  • Being married is hard. Hell, having any sort of relationship with another human being is hard. I’ve been married 12 years, longer than anyone I know who isn’t twice my age. It’s constant work that requires complete honesty and total intimacy.
  • Loyalty is important. Everybody needs someone who has their six. (See above.)
  • You’ll always see someone else you think is attractive. There’s nothing wrong with that unless you act on it or undercut your partner. (See above.)
  • No one is prettier than my wife anyway.
  • Getting married is the best decision I’ve ever made. I love my wife more now than I did 12 years ago. 12 years ago I loved her more than I did when I first met her 4 years previous. And I know next year, I’ll love her more than I do now. It’s like that.
  • The real moment of intimacy, the real fucking test, will be when one of you is suffering. If you can pass that, you’re set.
  • We’ve passed.
  • Humans are tribal animals. That’s when we’re happiest and function best. We lost sight of that and instead paid lip-service to the idea with a bullshit notion of the “family.”
  • We want continuity. Some part of us recognizes that that’s impossible. So we seek some form of control. Tattoos, piercings, dying your hair, make-up, clothes, going to the gym, and running any part of your life on a strict regimen are all about exercising control.
  • You can’t control someone else’s behavior and you can’t help someone who doesn’t want it. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s true and you need to remember it.
  • I may not want you in my life and I may not want to get to know you, but that doesn’t mean I want you to be unhappy and suffer.
  • Laughter heard from the next room is sometimes the best. And sometimes the worst.
  • I eat healthier and live cleaner now, but sometimes I miss eating greasy diner food at 2:00 am, drinking twelve cups of coffee, and then smoking a pack of cigarettes.
  • It’s what Leonard Cohen said, “Love is the only engine to survival.”






December 30, 2012

Coming in 2013


There's a lot of words coming down the pipe from me in 2013. Here's a taste:

In The Clear, Black Fields of Night—The novella-length sequel to A Rip Through Time should be available soon. Black Fields finds Simon Rip assembling a team to end the fight against The Company’s conspiracy once and for all.

Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats—Right now, I’m waiting on the introduction before racing to the finish line with this anthology of greaser crime tales.

Blood on the Milky Way—Wrote this post-apocalyptic tale of the illegal milk trade for Andrez Bergens’s Tobacco-Stained Sky anthology a while ago. It should see the light of day sometime in 2013.

Searching For Shane Stevens—The heart of my long promised Shane Stevens biography is actually done. I just need to add the new info I’ve uncovered and give it a big rewrite.

Untitled Spy Thriller—I’ve had this thriller for Beat To A Pulp plotted in my head for a while. The story just needed to simmer until I found the right voice for it. Now that I have it, I’ve been flying through it during my long winter break.

War of All Worlds—I’m very excited for people to read the conclusion to my Simon Rip arc. War will be epic and set the stage for other writers to send the timecop into exciting, new territory…assuming enough people dig Black Fields.

December 23, 2012

Drunk on the Moon2


Paul D. Brazill’s Drunk on the Moon 2 is now available from Amazon for the Kindle. This is the second collection of crime/horror tales to feature Brazill’s Roman Dalton, a werewolf private investigator. This time around the anthology opens with an introduction by Richard Godwin and contains stories by Matt Hilton, Vincent Zandri, Carrie Clevenger, JJ Toner, Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, Chris Rhatigan, Ben Sobieck, Ben Lelièvre, Paul D. Brazill himself, and me.

In my story, “The Girl With The David Bowie Eyes,” Petra Kier is sick. Petra is the first girl Roman ever loved and she needs him to track someone down before she dies. Her last wish sends Dalton careening down memory lane to confront his past and his future while dropping him into the middle of a blood-soaked feud between two elder supernatural creatures.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

December 16, 2012

That Day He Had A Headache



A part of me doesn't want to write this. Honestly, I'd rather not talk about it at all and I usually don't. The only person who knows this story and hasn't been my friend for years is Tommy.

But yesterday, in town, I was waiting in the checkout line at a store. The woman in front of me was talking about the school shooting with the cashier. She said, “I don’t understand why that boy’s mother didn’t get him some help or have him committed.”

I almost said something.

I didn’t, because I knew I would lose my temper and that would accomplish nothing—“Get him help? Are you fucking serious? You don’t think she tried. ‘Oh, shit, get him help! I never thought of that!’ The problem, lady, is that our health care system is fucking broken, and it’s easier to get a gun than it is to get treatment for mental problems.”

Then, today, I read this blog post... 

You're not alone, Soccer Mom. So, here goes

My middle brother is currently serving 56 years in prison and he’s violently mentally ill.

Nearly all my memories involve visiting him behind one set of bars or the other. From a lax juvie hall to a maximum security prison, I’ve seen him walk into the visiting area normally and I’ve seen him lead in by burly corrections officers. Sometimes, he’s been free to touch and hug, but others he’s been barely able to raise his hands thanks to the handcuffs, shackles, and belly chain. I’ve talked to him easily across a cheap plastic table and strained to hear through the vents in thick shatterproof glass.

His behavior started when he was young and only worsened with age. Mood swings become outbursts. Outbursts lead to punches. Punches escalated to full-blown and nearly unstoppable violence. Sometimes, during an unguarded moment, if you approached him correctly and he was in the right mood, he might tell you about the things that followed him home in the dark, watching and whispering.

My mother tried to get him help.

“He’s fine. He’s just being a boy. Boys are rambunctious. They get into trouble. He’ll grow out of it.”

“The problem is you, lady. You need to relax as a mother.”

“We can hold him for observation for only a short time, then he will be released.”

“Your insurance won’t cover more treatment than this.”

“He’ll be ordered to report for counseling.”
“If he doesn’t show?”
“He needs to be arrested for something. That will make detention and treatment easier.”

As a child, I was afraid of my brother. It’s hard not to be when you know he's sick and the only response you can get is from the police and each encounter leads to more officers and the five armed with nightsticks that showed up that last time barely slowed him down and he managed to drop at least two before being subdued. It’s hard not to be when you have a hushed conversation with your mother in your bedroom about what to do if the worst happens, where you are to hide and whom you are to call.

And it’s fucking impossible not to after the day he came by to visit, complained of a headache and went to lie down in the back room. I remember he woke up an hour or so later, and a switch had been thrown somewhere in his brain. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on his face when he came through the bedroom door and rounded the kitchen table. I remember the rest of it—the empty car seat pitched through the glass door, my father lying in the backyard with his nose broken and two ribs busted, our eldest brother’s friend getting beaten with his crutches then strangled until his face started to change colors, our mother getting tossed down the hall then loading her gun and instructing me to follow her to the backdoor and run to the neighbors, standing on the property line crying because the neighbors wouldn’t let me or the other kids in, then there’s only the loud gun pop and my mother is yelling for my brother to stop because she won’t let him hurt anyone else and he moves and there’s another loud pop and the bullet hits dirt a few inches from his boots and she warns him again that if he doesn’t stop she’ll shoot him and he goes to move and she locks the hammer back and thank fucking god sirens are finally blaring down the county road and he’s running off into the woods—but fuck that look on his face. That look on his face...

 Looking back and pondering my brother's life, only one thing brings me any comfortat least he never picked up a gun. That's the best that can be said when you live in a country where a citizen's best hope for mental health care is prison.

December 6, 2012

Not That Kind of Demonic


I downloaded A Course In Demonic Creativity from Matt Cardin’s site the other day and read it in a single setting. At times, it was a little too New Age for me thanks to Cardin’s talk of finding your destined “purpose”. But that shouldn't put you off, overall it’s a fascinating read on the nature of creativity, genius, and the relationship between your conscious and unconscious mind. It’s a free download, so give it a try because—

“You don’t stop at the boundary of your conscious self.” 

November 28, 2012

My Next Big Thing



I got tagged by my friend Thomas Pluck, writer extraordinaire and editor of Protectorsto participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Tour. So—

1.) What is the working title of your next book?
Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats. It’s an anthology of greaser-themed crime stories.

2.) Where did the idea come from?
Moonshine to quench
the Devil's thirst.
Hearing Steve Earle’s "Copperhead Road" on the radio reminded me how much I always liked movies about running moonshine. Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road is the granddaddy of moonshine movies and one of my favorites. Mitchum originally wanted Elvis to play his younger brother in the film, but the Colonel said no. That got me thinking about '50s B-movies and rockabilly music. The funny though? There's not a single moonshine running story in Hoods.

3.) What genre does your book fall under?
Crime or noir—whichever name you prefer. Though, I’ll stick with calling it crime. I’ve come to dislike the “noir” label more and more. Unless you’re part of the “crowd,” I think it’s confusing for the audience. Noir conjures up period images of black and white films heavy on the shadow, men in suits and fedoras, and femme fatales in tight dresses.

4.) What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The tagline for Hoods is: "Drive Fast. Kill Young. And love a pretty girl."

5.) What actors would you chose to play the parts of your characters?
My story in the anthology, “Blue Jeans and a Boys Shirt,” features a greaser, a girl, and a motorcycle gang. I do actually cast a lot of what I write, I just don't talk about it. I work through most scenes visually in my head, where they unfold like a film. 

A young Ryan Hurst.
I’d cast Ryan Hurst as Lonnie Bonner, the Korean War vet and gearhead. Hurst has acted in a lot of films, from Remember The Titans to Saving Private Ryan, but he’s probably most famous for his turn as Opie on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. I thought he was one of the standouts on SoA. He brought a quiet gravitas and a very real sense of anguish to his portrayal of Opie. Both those things are important for the characterizaiton of Lonnie. Bonner is a man gripped with a non-specific rage, trying desperately to reconnect with the world and find a purpose.

Jessica Lowndes
Casting Daisy Kimbrough, the girl Lonnie nearly runs over on the dark highway, is a lot harder. Daisy is younger than Lonnie, but she’s as wounded as he is. I think Jessica Lowndes could probably do it. She's a Canadian actress, singer, and songwriter. Currently, she makes the most out of what the writers of 90210 give her, but I think she can pull off more. She's also very lovely. I mean, while "Blue Jeans" does have a car chase, a fistfight, a knife fight, and a shotgun showdown, it's really a love story about two broken people.

Michael Shannon
The leader of the motorcycle gang is unnamed and referred to only by his haircut, Flat-Top Boogie. I'd go with Michael Shannon, probably best known now for his role on Boardwalk Empire. I've always thought he was a far better actor than most of the roles that came his way allowed him to show, so he'd have no problem pulling off the necessary menace. I'd round the gang out with a cast of unknowns and a couple hey-it's-that-one-guy.

6.) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. No, I haven’t drank the Kool-Aid. Ideally, I hope to someday move evenly between traditional publishing and self-publishing, depending on the project. Like I said in my Belly Up To The Bar interview, what really excites me about self-publishing is the opportunity for work that would have never seen the light of day previously. Short story collections are notorious for not selling particularly well, doubly so when you shrink their potential market by focusing on a niche topic like greasers and rockabilly. I believe there is an audience for the collection, just not a million-seller one.

7.) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
After a few last minute adjustments and a lineup change, the first draft of the anthology came together pretty quick, honestly. In terms of just my story, the initial draft of “Blue Jeans” came even faster, in just a couple of days once I was able to sit down and focus on my own work. However, the finished product is nothing like that draft. My story has gone through a lot of changes, starting as "Stark Weather" then becoming "The Teeth of Haros" and finally ending up as "Blue Jeans and a Boy's Shirt," after the Glen Glenn song. 

8.) What other books would you compare your story to within your genre?
There are gobs of themed collections out there, especially for crime fiction, but I’m unaware of another greaser/rockabilly themed one.

9.) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I talked about some of that earlier. My love for the '50s rocksploitation/juvenile deliquent B-movies and rockabilly music is the biggest motivating force. My own story comes from the desire to craft something entertaining but meaningful. There were a lot of specific things I've tried to do in "Blue Jeans," but mostly, and this may get me kicked out of the crime club, I just wanted to write a love story, man. Like Leonard Cohen said, "Love is the only engine of survival."

10.)  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The other authors. There's only eight stories in the anthology, but they're lengthy and well-developed. The final book clocks in at well over 200 pages and features fiction by Eric Beatner, Matthew Funk, Christopher Grant, Heath Lowrance, David James Keaton, Nik Korpon, and Thomas Pluck.

RSquared Studios
Then there’s the cover. The art by Skott Kilander is fantastic. Skott was one of the artists for Noir: The Film Noir Roleplaying Game, co-designer of the Zombie Plague Board Game, and painted The Bride of Frankenstein pinup that hangs over my couch. Brian Roe of RSquared Studios, the man behind more coolness than I can name, handled the layout and the rest of the design.

Hoods also features an introduction by someone I’m huge fan of. That reveal, however, I’ll save for the crowd funding campaign.

_______________

Now, to keep this thing going, I'm tagging: David CranmerNik KorponDavid James KeatonGarnett Elliott, and Andrez Bergen.

_______________

November 24, 2012

Belly Up



Over at Thomas Pluck’s blog, I belly up to the bar to talk about bullying, forgotten writers, American myth, and a host of upcoming projects. If you can spare a moment during the holidays, you should head over there and  give it a read.


November 12, 2012

Loose Ends


If you’ve read A Rip Through Time, Beat To A Pulp has a 900-word beaut from Garnett Elliott detailing Simon Rip’s encounter with the most famous time traveler of all:

November 8, 2012

The Only Question


For me, it was never a question of whether or not I wanted to be involved in Lost Children: The Protectors. Protects’s fight is the fight. A single abused child is one child too many. Even the victims who escape the statistics (drug/alcohol abuse, incarceration, further victimization) can’t escape the scars. Abuse—whether mental, physical, or sexual—is not something a victim just gets over. I know this first hand. My wife’s mother and father have both been dead for over a decade now, and she’s still in therapy undergoing PTSD protocol due to their “parenting”.

The only question I ever had was what to write.

I began with an idea about a group of kids pulling off a complicated scheme to save an abused friend after all the adults failed to act. In my experience, adults turn their face from abuse for a litany of excuses: it’s not my business, it’s not my kid, who I am to tell someone how to raise their child, they’re just toughening them up, or I don’t want to make things difficult for me. Kids, until we ruin them, can usually see things for what they are—wrong.

I wanted that idea to work, but the first several pages fell flat. The more I struggled, the more I bogged down in that negative headspace that leads to frustration, self-doubt, and writer’s block. So I scrapped it and moved on. But all my false starts led me back to some kind of scheme.

I’ve always liked heist stories. Not so much the modern Oceans 11 variety that are all about beating computer codes, pressure plates in the floor, laser beams, and retina scanners. I don’t really go for the ones either that turn out to be some convoluted Xanatos Gambit involving a Spanish Prisoner, a Cat In A Bag, and a variation of the Fiddle Game with triple and quadruple-crosses. That’s all fun, but for me the meat of the story hinges on the character’s actions and choices, not my authorial cleverness.

I’d had this idea in the back of my head for a while about a robbery at a university, a simple and straight forward theft with the promise of a big payday. It was the perfect bait for a thief like Mercer.

In my story “Go Away,” Mercer is lured back to his hometown by a fellow ex-con offering to let him in on this potentially big money job. When he arrives, Mercer ends up facing a choice he didn’t expect. He can pursue the easy life he always wanted or he can help a young girl who reminds him of the sister who never escaped their father’s abuse.

To learn Mercer’s choice you’ll need to purchase a copy of Protectors. But you already know the deeper lesson here, don’t you? It’s really, to me anyway, what this entire collection is about—

October 20, 2012

The Mystery of Jersey Tomatoes


My copy of Jersey Tomatoes, the first book
Stevens wrote as J.W. Rider.
I've always wondered about the cover design for Jersey Tomatoes. It's so similiar to Way Uptown In Another World. Both books feature the title and author as graffitii on a a brick wall. The main difference is Uptown is gritty photorealism and Jersey is dated 80s cheese. But is it that a purposeful or coincidental similiarity?

Truthfully, it's probably just coincidence. But it feeds the mystery of Stevens' pseudonum. On one hand, Shane registered J.W. Rider as the copyright holder on his P.I. novels. Yet, if you look up the larger record, which doesn't take much effort, Rider is clearly listed as a pseudonym for Stevens. The first line of the so-so Kirkus review of Jersey Tomatoes outs Rider as a pseudonym, but doesn't say for whom.  The book won the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. novel. When I spoke to Robert Randisi, he remembered speaking to Shane over the phone. While Stevens was glad to win the award, he didn't want to accept it in person, because he was reluctant to be revealed as J.W. Rider.

By Reason of Insanity made Stevens a name. It sold extremely well. It's still in print today, and it also brought big money from the sale of the film rights. (By Reason is another one of Shane's many unproduced screenplays.) Granted, The Anvil Chorus, despite being a great novel, wasn't the blockbuster follow-up, but I have a hard time believing that no one wanted a new Stevens novel. He sold the first Malone book quick, along with the film rights (another unproduced screenplay), and had the second book finished by the time the first dropped in hardback. Sure, the P.I. novels are different from everything else Stevens wrote, but not that different.

So, why the pseudonym?



October 2, 2012

Both Barrels


The first collection from Shotgun Honey officially launches today. If you haven’t already, you should go purchase your copy of Both Barrels now. Since its launch a little over a year ago, Shotgun Honey has remained one of the few sites I go out of my way to read every day. The lineup on this collection looks fantastic, and, hell, I’d pay $15 just to read the stories from Garnett Elliott, Nik Korpon, and Thomas Pluck.




September 28, 2012

Alphas

Alphas is a Sci-Fi (I won't call it Sy-Fy) Channel series whose first season is now available on DVD and Netflix streaming. Created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow, the show follows a team of superhumans who work for the government solving crimes, tracking down other Alphas, and opposing a terrorist group called Red Flag.

While the show does have promise, the writing breaks little new ground. If you’ve ever read X-Men, the setup and plot elements are familiar just trade “Mutant" for "Alpha," then lose the costumes. There’s a team of good Alphas and a team of bad Alphas. Their ideological difference is X-Men versus The Brotherhood of Mutants. Rather than quickly setting their universe apart from Marvel's, Alphas mistakenly wastes a lot of episodes and focus on the team investigating crimes and tracking down the superhuman-of-the-week. Despite some cleverness, this is tedious syndication-fodder. The “crimes” follow the CSI/NCIS plot formula but with superpowers unearthing the clues instead of computers and lab equipment, and the superhuman-of-the-week apes the pattern of the generic X-Files stand-alone.

If it wasn’t for strong characterizations from David Strathairn, Malik Yoba, and Ryan Cartwright, I wouldn’t have made it to the end of the season. The show doesn't find its identity until the last three episodes. "Blind Spot," "The Unusual Suspects," and "Original Sin" are well-paced, tense, exciting, and full of great character moments. They're what the entire season should have been.

Now, if those episodes are the standard for its second season, Alphas has a long life ahead of it, and I'll tune in eagerly. But, if the writers follow the new television formula and produce a season of syndication-filler bookended with enough plot to maybe lure you back for another season, well...at least I didn't pay cable/dish prices to watch it. 

September 8, 2012

Way Uptown In Another World Reviewed


Shane Stevens’ fans familiar only with Dead City and By Reason of Insanity may not like Way Uptown In Another World. It’s the least “crime” of his eight novels. Fans of plot-driven fiction will certainly hate it. Marcus Garvey Black’s story isn’t divided into three neat acts with a slam-bang ending. A man’s life is never that neat, and it’s never that clear.

For me, however, none of those are drawbacks. In my opinion, despite the praise heaped on Dead City by everyone from Stephen King to Dave Zeltserman and By Reason’s importance in the creation of the serial killer novel, Way Uptown In Another World is clearly Shane Stevens’ masterwork.

With his second novel set in Harlem, Stevens finds his street voice. Unlike Go Down Dead with it’s pages of dense and sometimes hard to follow ghetto-speak, Uptown is both simple and starkly poetic, authentic but approachable. In this sometimes messy but always beautiful novel, Stevens explores all those themes that would come to dominate his later and more well-known works:

The dark side of the American Dream and its false promise of opportunity--

“After the first couple, I didn’t tell them I been in prison. But it was the same thing, still nothing. Then I get smart and I put down on the card that I got outta high school. Still the same. So I said I been to college. Nothing. That’s when I got mad and the last place I went I told them I got outta three colleges and I was a doctor and a lawyer but I wanna do something else.”

The problem of money and class, the true great division between peoples--

“And what I learned most was that money talks best. Even when it whispers, everybody listens.”

Sadness and loss--

“Ginny never really had a chance. The sick got her and the misery got her and then the dead got her. She didn’t know anybody much and she was scared of all the paper stuff and she was too proud to ask other people for help. She was a Southern girl who didn’t understand the strange and easy ways of the North and she never got used to the cold.”

And finally, the thing that drew me to Stevens’ work in the first place. Crime fiction is all too often dominated by squalor porn and a certain sadistic glee in aberrant and illegal behaviour. Shane’s work, his reoccurring themes, confront those things in the world that separate and divide us unnecessarily. When he writes about criminals, mobsters, serial killers, French detectives, or New Jersey private eyes, it’s not to show us how awful the world is. Instead, Shane is teaching us that it doesn’t have to be this way--

“I mean, what’s the good of living if you can’t go around hating all the people who screw you down? Without that hate, you got no cover, no protection. And if everybody’s the same and you ain’t better’n nobody, how can you feel like a man? That’s the game everybody plays, but without them all you got is love and beauty everywhere.”

Stevens needs to be rediscovered. His work needs to be reprinted. And no novel is more deserving than Way Uptown In Another world.

September 5, 2012

Lonesome Train On A Lonesome Track


The stories I still owed to editors are done and off. Now I can focus on Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats. I’ll have lots much more info on the anthology soon, but, in the meantime, here’s one of my favorite rockabilly songs:



September 2, 2012

Be A Protector


Protectors: Stories to Benefit Protect is now available. I’m proud that my story “Go Away” is one of the 41 tales donated to help Protect: The National Associate to Protect Children. For full details on how to order your copy go HERE. 

August 22, 2012

Updates

Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats
The collection is getting another once-over before I send it to Mick Farren, who agreed to write an introduction. While Mick is working on his intro, I’ll get started on the front/back cover text.

Plague Kisses
After talking it over with Paul David Brazil, the story has a new title: The Girl with the David Bowie Eyes.

Feeding Kate
Should have my story, currently untitled, finished by Friday, then across the ether to the esteemed editors by Monday.

July 24, 2012

Smile


Christopher Grant has finally caught up on the backlog for the 600-700 Word Challenge at A Twist of Noir. The challenge was simple: the number you were assigned equals the number of words to write your story.

"Smile" is my second story for the challenge and comes in as number 694. I hope you'll give it a read when you get the chance.

July 19, 2012

Skott Kilander


© Skott Kilander
I've always liked Skott Kilander's artwork. Hanging in our living room is a great Bride of Frankenstein pinup the wife commissioned as an anniversary present. He was, for me, the obvious choice to do the cover art for Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats.

A couple of weeks ago, he sent his final version of the cover art and it's fantastic. So good I wish I didn't have to muck it up with some text. Until I can reveal it, you should check out some of his other art and sketches over at his blog: Sleepy Oni.

July 12, 2012

Feeding Kate

Feeding Kate

Sabrina Ogden, book blogger, co-editor at Shotgun Honey, and all around nice lady, needs jaw surgery and her insurance won't pay the $15k. Sabrina has championed a number of authors. Now, some of those authors have decided to champion her with an anthology called Feeding Kate.If you donate as little as $5, you'll receive an e-book copy of our anthology. For $18, you'll receive a print copy. Each donation puts Sabrina one step closer to the jaw surgery she needs.

Look, everyone keeps talking about this vibrant online crime community. Well, if that's true, then prove it. Simply liking the same thing does not make a community. A community is more than a group of consumers purchasing similiar products. It's not a link-sharing business. It's not even a reviewing service to click the 5th star on your Amazon rating. A community is about belief and mutual assistance— it's intent and shared purpose for the benefit of all.

Join our crime community. Click the link above and help Sabrina.



July 4, 2012

Danny Lyon

Photograph by Danny Lyon, 1965, portfolio 1979
The Museum of Contemporary Photography.

In his own post on rockabilly, Thomas Pluck reminded me of how much I like the work of Danny Lyon, the photographer and filmmaker from Brooklyn, New York. All his work is brilliant, but I was always especially fond of Bikeriders, and not just because so many of the pictures were taken in Indiana.

For a sampling of Lyon's work, visit the Museum of Contemporary Photography's website.

June 30, 2012

The Origins of Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hell Cats

My parents when they first started dating.

Music is important to me. There's not a day that goes by that I don't listen to music. When I write, I always make a playlist to help put me in a certain mood. I'll listen to just about anything: punk, metal, goth, industrial, techno, rap, soul, pop, country, folk, and rock. Honestly, about the only thing I don't listen to is jazz--except for swing music.

But, man, the style I've always liked is rockabilly. The slapback sound and the driving beat. Cuffed jeans. White T-shirts with a pack of smokes rolled in the sleeve. Slicked hair. Sideburns. Leather jackets. Fast cars. Girls in tight sweaters. 

Rockabilly is a portmaneau of "rock" and "hillbilly," and began as kind of insult -- "Listen to those hillbillies trying to play rock music." The first written use of the word was probably a press release for Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" in the summer of 1956. While the Burnette Brothers did write a number in 1955 called "Rock Billy Boogie," they didn't cut it until several years later, so the honor of the first recorded song with rockabilly in the title belongs to the Hayden Thompson and Roy Orbinson number "Rockabilly Gal."

In 1956, the rockabilly sound went national with the release of three hit songs: "Folsom Prison Blues," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "Heartbreak Hotel." Things started cooking and they burned hot until the start of the 1960's. Carl Perkins career was never the same after his car accident, no matter how hard he tried. Elvis was in the army. Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash. And poor Eddie Cochran died in the same car accident that nearly ruined Gene Vincent.

The music scene moved on.

But rockabilly never died. It's always made a comeback. The first was in the 1970s, thanks, in my opinion, to the brief flash in '68 when Elvis remembered he was Elvis Fucking Presley. Combined with movies like American Graffitti and television shows like Happy Days, people were suddenly interested in the music of the 1950s again. The renewed interest spawned a host of new bands who took the sound further: Robert Gordan, Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe), The Stray Cats, and The Cramps. They in turn inspired other bands that would lead to other revivals.

My father, off-duty in the Army.
But truthfully, for me, it all started with my parents. Espeically my father. He's always been a die-hard Elvis fan -- my earliest musical memory is Elvis Presley. When he was growing up in Kentucky, everyone called him "The E.P. of Whitley City." He met my mother at an Elvis movie. Hell, sometimes I think the whole reason he joined the Army was because Elvis was in the Army.

My father and I have never been close. We've never had a whole lot in common. Except for rockabilly. I suppose if you were to attempt to psychoanalyse it, my own fixation is probably some subconscious attempt to garner his favor and indirectly his love. To artificially engender the relationship we never had.

Maybe. Probably.

But I don't think that's all exactly. I'm sure it's part of it -- I'm self-aware enough to both realize and admit it -- but there were a whole host of other things that came together for me, creating a certain mystique and making rockabilly the epitome of cool.

I remember watching Happy Days as kid. Fonzie was the coolest and lead me to The Lords of Flatbrush. That film in turn lead me to even older films, stuff like The Wild OneThunder Road, and Rebel Without A Cause. Elvis lead me to other musicians, better musicians -- is there a more tragic loss to music than Buddy Holly? When we finally got cable, it just happened to coincide with Showtime's Rebel Highway series, remakes of classic 50's era exploitation films (most of which are now available on Netflix streaming. When I went to college, a band named the Swingrays happened to be playing in Dunn Meadow, part of an event called Cultural Shock. I turned 21 when the Blue Bird Nightclub was still having Cigartini Night every Monday, and, before I knew it, I was driving up to Indy to see groups like Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars, Josie Kreuzer, and The Legendary Shack Shakers.

Now, the hair and the sideburns are gone. While I still wear blue jeans and white t-shirts, the jeans aren't cuffed and the sleeves aren't rolled. I'm not as wrapped up in the scene now -- I couldn't tell you who's playing and where. But the love is still there.

And that love is the driving force behind the forthcoming Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hell Cats. So, get ready to break your jazz records and cue up the slap bass, leave the fedora to rot in your closet and reach for your leather, leave the .38 in the lockbox and sharpen your switchblade.

There's gonna be a fucking rumble.




June 27, 2012

After the Blackout

I've been dark on the social media for a while. Here's what I've been up, what you can expect to see real soon, and what's still coming down the pipeline

Forthcoming:

In The Clear, Black Fields Of Night — The Simon Rip novella. Our daring time-cop assembles a team to accompany him on a bold frontal assault against The Company, trace the conspiracy to rewrite time, and prevent its inception. Black Fields picks up shortly after the events of "Darkling In The Eternal Sky" and reveals "The Final Painting of Hawley Exton" to be more than just a simple coda. Loose ends are tied up, character backstories are explored, the true mastermind is revealed, and the stage is set for the biggest battle yet in the adventures of Simon Rip. My love song to Michael Moorcock and Grant Morrison features Time Devils, Space Vikings, Nazis, Ada Lovelace, Allegra Byron, John Whiteside Parsons, Elvis' dead twin brother Jessie Garon, and a mysterious young boy named Isamnion.

"Somewhere Beyond The Pavement" will be appearing in Beat To A Pulp: Superheroes. A simple walk to the local pizza place ends with a young boy in a superhero costume attempting to save his sister from a drug-addled kidnapper.

"Go Away" — Lost Children 2: The Protectors. Tommy has done an amazing job assembling an impressive array of talent for this anthology to benefit Protect. As I said before, I'm honored and extremely pleased my story about a heist, a career criminal, and an abused step-daughter found a place among its betters.

"Plague Kisses" — Written for the next Drunk on The Moon collection, Kisses pits Brazil's werewolf detective against my take on vampires. Roman Dalton receives a call from an old friend who wants him to track down a one night stand. Dalton's search leads him to discover that he's not the only predator in the City.

"Blood On The Milky Way" —  Thunder Road meets Mad Max. Written for Andrez Bergen's Tobacco-Stained Sky anthology, Milky Way explores the illicit dairy trade of post-apocalyptic Melbourne.



In The Works:

Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hell Cats — Greaser Noir. I'll be talking more about this soon, but I will say: the original cover art by Skott Kilander looks amazing, Brian S. Roe of RSquared Comics will be formatting it, and the stories turned in so far are badass.

Espionage Project — Can't say much about this right now, except it's plotted in my head and I'll began working on it in earnest very soon.

Shane Stevens — My vacation starts tomorrow. I only have two writing things planned: 1.) edits on HHH stories, and 2.) organizing my notes for the final death march on the Stevens biography.



June 16, 2012

Go Down Dead

Jacket by S.A. Summit.
To the right you can see my copy of Shane Stevens' Go Down Dead. It was originally published in 1966, but occasionally you'll see it listed as 1967 due to the month of release. The cover is very striking and the back jacket carries high praise from Hubert Selby, Jr., and John Howard Griffin.

It's also the source of the Stevens' Birthdate Debate. The lengthy about the author on the rear inside flap claims Shane Stevens is 28 years old. That would place his birthdate in 1938. Three years prior to the 1941 date later listed on what little biographic information was circulated.

The book follows King Henry, a 16 year old Harlem gang leader, as he tries to score enough cash to get his hands on a stick of dynamite for an upcoming showdown against a rival white gang. It's an engaging first novel,  but not quite up to par with Shane's later works.The major flaw with Go Down Dead is the first person narration. It's extremely difficult to follow. If you can make it through the first five pages without quiting, the language does take on a rhythm and a cadence you may come to enjoy and not even notice--but it's a chore. Regretably, the plot is very similiar to Warren Miller's 1959 novel, The Cool World.  Miller, another white author and now virtually unknown, crafted a far more successful look at the "black experience" in an America stratified by race and class.

June 4, 2012

16 Tons

Been busy in the word mines, so it's mostly blackout on the social media lately. Expect news, blog posts, and several stories to begin appearing very soon.

May 22, 2012

Marxist Noir


Today, Ed Gorman posted a link to an article on Marxist Noir. Reading it got me thinking again about the kinds of stories I want to write. Regardless of political affiliation, you should check it out. Not only is it a fascinating read about radical literature, but it piqued my interest on several forgotten authors, like Leonard S. Zinberg, aka Ed Lacy.

May 11, 2012

Wisdom from Uncle Alan


There's an Alan Moore quote on my fridge. It reads:
"Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky."
I read it several times this morning while I sipped my coffee. I've been thinking about it a lot today. Don't know why.

Maybe it's a sign?

May 10, 2012

Maybe It's Just Me?


On Saturday, I went with Maria and some friends on one of my wife’s thrifting expeditions—a day long trip to a variety of discount stores in our area. Our first stop was a new place for her. The 25 Cent Store is a church shop just south of us, off the highway on a winding gravel road. It’s no frills: just walls, a roof, lots of racks, and some shelves. The inside smells of dust and mildew, but everything looks clean and, hey, costs only a quarter.
It didn’t take me long to go through the men’s clothes. I’ve never have much luck in thrift stores outside of Bloomington. Most are dominated by women’s clothing. Women tend to update their wardrobe frequently. Men, on the other hand, will generally wear the same thing until it falls apart. Besides, I have a different build than most males in Indiana. I don’t wear an XXL shirt and my waist size is not 46 inches. (That's not me being mean, just truthful.) If I come away with a single anything, it’s a win.

I knew Maria would be awhile. She’s always been very fashion forward. Southern Indiana, however, has never been hip or trendy when it comes to anything—especially clothing. We were pretty damned poor when we were first married, so if she did luck into something new that spoke to her, that was interesting and unique, chances are we didn’t have the money for it. The only way for her to exercise her keen fashion sense was haunting thrift stores and Frankensteining something cool from disparate articles purchased for a few cents here and a few bucks there. We’re in much better financial shape now, but thrifting is still an enjoyable experience for her. Not wanting to ruin it, I went off in search of the books.

I found them in the next room. Shelf after shelf. Milk crates stuffed full. Boxes overflowing. Stacks piled high on broken-down folding tables. A lot of them looked to be in rough shape, old and yellowed and rotting, but with a quick glance I spotted some choice finds right away—an out of print fantasy novel I had been looking for, the first thirteen books in The Executioner series, an early F. Paul Wilson novel I didn’t own, the middle fifteen books of The Death Merchant series.

I stepped back, trying to decide where to begin. Crates? Boxes? Shelves? That’s when I spotted it. Fourth shelf up. Stretched across the top of the hardbacks.

A long black snake.

Startled, I stepped away. Can’t be real, can it? No, of course not. Some kid has obviously taken a rubber snake from the toys and hid it back here as joke. That’s a good one—

The black snake began slithering down the book shelf.

Holy hell, it’s real!

I quickly walked up front. “There’s a snake back there in the books,” I said, quietly, not wanting to send everyone into a panic.

Nonplussed, the Grizzly Adams behind the counter said, “Oh, he’s back?” He’s back? Did you say, he's back?!?! “It’s not a big deal. Just a rat snake. Like to keep ‘em around to keep the vermin out. I’ll go get him though. Put him out back in the woods. People don’t generally like snakes.”

Yes, and I, sir, would happen to be one of them.

Mr. Adams grabbed his wife and, from a distance, I watched them wrangle the snake into an old pillow case. Once caught, the wife carried the snake out the front door and over to the woods. Mr. Adams walked past me, shrugged, and returned to the counter.

I was ready to go. Maria was unfazed and finished shopping.
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