Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gimme Five

2010's been a crazy-ass writing year for me, full of massive highs and crushing lows (to borrow a phrase from Craig Finn), so it only seems fitting I'm sending it out with a bang. Said bang is my list of five top crime stories from 2010 over at Death by Killing. (That's right, I said "five top" instead of "top five"; it was a hell of a year in crime fic, and who am I to claim authority as to the best five stories out there?)

Mondo thanks to Chris Rhatigan for the opportunity, and for plugging my Kindle short story collection, 8 POUNDS (buy it now for your Kindle or free Kindle app for just $0.99!) And to all of y'all reading this, have a safe, happy, and kickass new year...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Odds and Ends

I'm taking a quick break from hall-decking and eggnoggery to point y'all toward a few cool 8 POUNDS developments.

THING THE FIRST is a lovely review from Naomi Johnson over at The Drowning Machine. Naomi's reviews are a go-to for me these days when I'm looking for something new to read, so being included among the well-reviewed on her site is quite a thrill.

THING THE SECOND is 8 POUNDS' inclusion in Steve Weddle's "Best of Whatever" list over at Crime Factory's Day Labor blog. In case you've been living under a rock in some collapsed portion of a cave in a remote mountain range on the dark side of some as-yet-undiscovered moon, Steve is the editor of the always spectacular Needle Magazine, as well as a badass author in his own right (in fact, he might just turn up in a top five list of mine, to be published any second over at Death by Killing), so such an inclusion in his best-of list is high praise indeed.

THING THE THIRD is John Kenyon selecting "Seven Days of Rain" from 8 POUNDS as one of his top five short stories of 2010 over at Death by Killing. John, a Spinetingler Award nominee and fellow Thuglit alumnus, had previously been so kind as to review 8 POUNDS on his blog, and when I look at the rest of the folks he selected for his list, I can honestly say I'm honored to be in their company.

The holiday season is rife with schlock and sentimentality, so if you've had your fill it's best to look away, 'cause I'm about to throw another yule log on the schmaltz bonfire. When I look back over this past year, I'm extremely grateful for the kindness of all those who've supported my writing. My heartfelt thanks to all of you, and best wishes to you and yours this holiday season. Have a merry Christmakkuhkwanza, all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just in time for the holidays...

If you pop over to Women of Mystery today, not only will you find an interview with David Cranmer, editor of Beat to a Pulp, you can also enter to win a copy of BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE! (Man, that's a lot of links for one sentence.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In which I get my critique on.

Spinetingler is doing something kind of cool right now, reviewing every single story in Otto Penzler and James Ellroy's BEST AMERICAN NOIR OF THE CENTURY. It's a hell of a tome, chock full of gorgeous writing on topics that are anything but. Whether you're a die-hard fan of the genre, or just interested in getting a peek of what it has to offer, I highly recommend checking it out. It doesn't get much better.

But don't just take my word for it. No, wait: take my word for it.

That's right, cats and kittens (ugh -- did I really just say that?); for some crazy-ass reason, the good folks at Spinetingler saw fit to ask me to write a few words about MacKinlay Kantor's "Gun Crazy." Whether those few words are worth a damn is up to you, but it was an honor to participate, and Kantor's tale is a cracking one indeed.

Oh, and a confession: this wasn't my first review. My first review was for "The Red Hand of Ulster" by Sam Millar, which appeared in the marvelous REQUIEMS FOR THE DEPARTED, and you can read it here. (Why didn't I blog about it when it came out? Truth is, I wasn't sure the review was any damn good. Seriously, fiction's way easier.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

John Kenyon reviews 8 POUNDS!

In case you've been living under a rock in a cave on the dark side of the moon (or, you know, not religiously reading this obscure writer's blog), I recently released a Kindle short story collection called 8 POUNDS: EIGHT TALES OF CRIME, HORROR, & SUSPENSE. Said collection is available for the preposterously low price of $0.99, and the best part is, you don't even need a Kindle to get it, 'cause Amazon's got a free Kindle app for damn near every device under the sun. (I would have said every device under the sun, but a certain Mr. Lindenmuth might take umbrage on his phone's behalf.)

Buzz-wise, I've been incredibly fortunate, with 8 POUNDS garnering some truly glowing reviews (find blurbs and links to those reviews here, and holy hell am I grateful to those who wrote them). The latest review is from author John Kenyon, whose works have appeared in Thuglit, Demolition, Beat to a Pulp, and Crime Factory. John, who by dint of his reviewerly (it's a word: write it down) kindness is one of my new favorite people, had this to say:
I know he priced this at 99 cents to get the word out, but reading this provided more entertainment than the last movie I saw, and you can’t see one of those without a transaction involving large bills taking place. But no matter how and where he ends up publishing his next work, I’ll be paying attention.
Want to read the rest? You'll find it here. Thanks again, John, for making my day.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

6-Word-Story Contest: Winners Announced!

So today is the day. The day in which I announce the winners of my 6-word-story contest. Winners who will each find themselves proud owners of one of those lovely tomes pictured above (alongside, as you'll note, a hat full of names, lest you think this whole one winner shall be drawn from a hat thing is a euphemism for one winner shall be chosen based on whimsy and blatant favoritism on the part of the capricious ruler of this-here blog.)

But before we get to any hat-drawing, a certain Mr. Cranmer, editor of Beat to a Pulp and guest judge of this little contest, has weighed in with his pick for Winner Number One -- as well as a few honorable mentions for good measure. David tells me there were so many quality entries, he had trouble picking just one, and to that I say amen. But pick he had to do. And so, without (too much) further ado, and only slight continued vamping on the part of yours truly, I give you -- in just a moment...

Oh, to hell with it: here's the list.

Winner Number One (who, for the record, knocked me sideways with this one, and totally deserved the nod) is Kieran Shea, for this heartwarming tale of triumph in the face of economic adversity:

-Scram, honey.
-Who's he, mommy?
-Rent.

Touching, no?

As for David's honorable mentions, they are as follows:

Ame Dyckman
The vultures didn't bother saying Grace.

Sandi Olson
"Don't touch that!" came too late.

Steve Weddle
FOR SALE: Hemingway's shotgun. Used once.

AJ Hayes
Last words?
Fuck you asshole!
Bang.

Now, much as I'd love to give each of y'all a copy of ROUND ONE, I just don't have that many copies to give. Which is why I've decided to kick in PDF copies of my new Kindle collection 8 POUNDS: EIGHT TALES OF CRIME, HORROR, & SUSPENSE (available now! $0.99 cheap!) for each of the runners up. (Steve, I know you've already got a copy, so instead, maybe I'll send you the negatives for those pictures we discussed. You know the ones I'm talking about.)

Now, onto Winner Number Two, who shall be chosen from a hat by my lovely assistant lovely and talented wife (who, FYI, has a kickass mystery review blog you should go check out right now and also honey please don't hit me for the "assistant" thing).

Are you ready?

Like, really ready?

(This is exciting, isn't it?)

Okay, fine -- here we go.

Drumroll, please!

Seriously, I said drumroll! What're you doing just sitting there, blinking at me? We're not going to pick a winner until I hear the pitter-patter of hands on desks, people. Now c'mon, you're holding everybody up.

That's more like it.

And Winner Number Two is...

Ian Ayris!

Huge congrats to the winners and runners up, and thanks to all for playing. If Kieran, Ame, Sandi, Steve, AJ, and Ian could each drop me an e-mail using the link in the sidebar, I'll get your prizes out all pronto-like.

And if you're bummed you didn't win, here's some consolation: BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE is only $15.95 at Createspace and Amazon. Don't you think after all this waiting and anticipation, you deserve a copy? And hey, why not pick up a copy of 8 POUNDS: EIGHT TALES OF CRIME, HORROR, & SUSPENSE while you're at it, for the rock-bottom price of just $0.99...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

6-Word-Story Contest Update

Folks, it's been one hell of a contest, with damn near eighty entries and boatloads of killer 6-word-stories, but now it's time to close it down. As of today, November 3rd, I'm taking no more entries. Tomorrow, I'll announce David's pick as well as the winner of the random drawing. Those two lucky people will get copies of the brand spankin' Beat to a Pulp anthology, BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE.

Stay tuned, and good luck!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

8 POUNDS Update

My Kindle short story collection 8 POUNDS: EIGHT TALES OF CRIME, HORROR, & SUSPENSE has been out two weeks now, and in that time, it's garnered some fantastic reviews. Reviews like this one over at I Meant to Read That:
You will never get such a wonderful collection of gems again at such a bargain price, so what are you waiting for? Hit that button and download it now...
And like this one, by the lovely Elizabeth A. White, who went an extra dozen or so miles by not only posting the review on her fantastic book blog, but also on Amazon, Shelfari, Goodreads, and SavannahNow.com! (Side note: if ever I run for public office, I want Elizabeth to manage my campaign, 'cause damn.)
In 8 POUNDS: EIGHT TALES OF CRIME, HORROR, & SUSPENSE Holm serves up eight wonderfully entertaining short stories that will have you up late into the night reading, and leave you hungry for more.
Meanwhile, over at Amazon, Lauren Winters writes:
[...]$.99 is a criminally small price to pay for this stellar collection.
And Steve Weddle, ace editor of Needle Magazine, has this to say:
When you're twenty-seven deep in line at his ninth book signing, you'll still remember these stories. They're THAT good.
I couldn't be happier at how warmly 8 POUNDS has been received, and each and every person who's taken the time to read, review, or hype it (like Hilary Davidson, John Hornor Jacobs, and a whole host of fantastic folks on Twitter) has my sincere gratitude.

So... wanna see what all the fuss is about? Pop on over to Amazon and give it a download. You do have an Amazon account, don't you? Of course you do; everybody does. And really, that's all you need. Won't take but a sec to download a free Kindle app to your computer or mobile device (there's even a handy link to do so in Amazon's sidebar), and then not only can you get my book on the cheap, you can also pick up some fantastic free fiction like, say, the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, or Bram Stoker's DRACULA. God knows that's what I did.

(Oh, and don't forget: there's only three days left to enter my contest for a free copy of the new Beat to a Pulp print anthology! Details here.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cheap fiction, plus a chance to win a copy of BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE!

For those of you who don't know, I recently released a collection of short stories on Kindle titled 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror, and Suspense for the bargain-basement price of $0.99! In the week that it's been out, it's garnered some lovely reviews (like this one), and more than one report of insomnia, which is kinda cool. (Hey, some of it is horror, after all; I'm allowed to be proud of scaring the sleep outta people.) And if you don't have a Kindle, that's no problem at all - just follow the link, and you can download a free app for your computer or mobile device in seconds. What better way to celebrate the Halloween season than cheap, kick-ass creepy fiction?

That covers the cheap; now let's talk about the free. Namely, a free copy (two, in fact!) of the gorgeous pulp smorgasbord that is Beat to a Pulp: Round One. How gorgeous, you ask? This gorgeous:
And lest you think this baby's all sizzle and no steak, let's talk about what's inside. How about damn near 400 pages chock full of the best crime, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, western, and pirate tales you'll ever read, penned by such talented folks as Sophie Littlefield, Charles Ardai, Robert J. Randisi, Hilary Davidson, James Reasoner, Edward A. Grainger, Frank Bill, Patti Abbott, Jed Ayres, and Kieran Shea. Oh yeah, and, um, me.

So, whaddya gotta do to get one? Easy. I want you to tell me a story. A six-word story, to be exact. (No clue what I'm talking about? Click on over here and find out.) But not just any six-word story. A six-word pulp story.

Now, it doesn't have to be crime; like Beat to a Pulp themselves, this contest is all about celebrating the full breadth of pulp fiction. So use your imagination, and go to town.

Here's how it works: post your six-word story in the comments of this blog post (be sure to include a name if you're commenting without a Blogger account). Submissions will be open for ten days.

At the end of ten days, two winners will be picked. Winner Number One shall be chosen by none other than David Cranmer, editor-extraordinaire of Beat to a Pulp (which means not only does Winner Number One get a kick-ass anthology, he or she also gets some serious bragging rights.) Winner Number Two shall be selected by placing the names of the remaining entrants in a hat and letting luck take its course. (Originally, I'd written that the entrants themselves would be placed in the hat, which would've required one hell of an enormous hat. I'd also written that Lady Luck would have her way with them, but that sounded dirtier than intended. Why am I telling you this? I honestly have no idea.)

Once the winners are announced, they can each shoot me an e-mail with their addresses, and I will stalk them send along their prizes, even sullying them (er, the prizes, not the actual winners) with my signature if they (you?) so choose.

So get crackin', and spread the word! I can't wait to see what y'all have in store for me...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

8 POUNDS reviewed at I Meant to Read That!

I'm delighted to report that my Kindle collection 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror, & Suspense (only $0.99!) has garnered a rave at I Meant to Read That!

Many thanks to the lovely, charming, and mysterious McDroll/FiBe/Small Town Girl for the kind words.

Monday, October 18, 2010

8 POUNDS: EIGHT TALES OF CRIME, HORROR, & SUSPENSE now available!

It's official, y'all: my short story collection 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror, & Suspense is available for download, and for the rock-bottom price of $0.99!

These stories represent three glorious years of toiling in the trenches ('07-'09, for those keeping track), and have appeared in publications as varied as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Thuglit. I've collected them here because, well, websites shut down, and magazines go out of print, which makes some of 'em mighty hard to come by.

Like old-school, whiskey-swiggin' pulp? Then check out Derringer-Award-finalist "The Big Score" and "A Simple Kindness." Need a dose of horror? How's about "The Well," "The Toll Collectors," and "A Better Life"? Or maybe you like your stories black and bitter as your coffee, in which case check out the Spinetingler-Award-winning "Seven Days of Rain" or "Eight Pounds." And just to sweeten the pot, I've included my fiction debut 'The World Behind," which first appeared in EQMM's Department of First Stories way back in June of 2007.

So go on. Take a peek. And if you dig it, maybe do yours truly a favor and post a kind review.

No Kindle? No problem! Amazon's got a link in the right-hand sidebar to download a free Kindle app for your computer or mobile device.

(Oh, and any props for the kick-ass cover should be directed John Hornor Jacobs' way.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Adventure of Links

Just a brief post to point out a couple (er, three) (um, four?) supercool links.

Link the First (Now With Bonus Second Link!)
The new Beat to a Pulp anthology, BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE is now live on Amazon! You can find it here. (Bonus link for those of you who wanna get it straight from the source, thereby depriving Amazon their cut of Beat to a Pulp's hard-earned dollars, right here.)

Link the Second (or Was That Third? Crap, This Header Scheme is Getting Away From Me)
Paul Brazill, decent chap and damned fine writer in his own right, reviewed Needle #2, and had some nice things to say about yours truly. You can read his review here.

Oh, and stay tuned. In not too long, I'll drop the deets on my upcoming short story e-book collection...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE is now available!

Last night, under the cover of darkness, David Cranmer unleashed unprecedented awesomeness upon the world: Beat to a Pulp's first ever print anthology.

At damn near four hundred pages of pure pulp perfection, this collection's got it all. A foreword by the legendary Bill Crider. A story from Hard Case Crime mastermind Charles Ardai. Another from Robert J. Randisi. (You think it's bad-ass to win a Shamus? Randisi created the Shamus.)

Frank Bill. Edward Grainger. Sophie Littlefield. Patti Abbott. Kieran Shea. Jed Ayres. Hilary Davidson. We're talking a lineup of the best names in pulp, all operating at the height of their considerable abilities. Oh, and did I mention the gorgeous, gorgeous cover, featuring original artwork by James O'Barr, creator of The Crow?

That's like a hundred reasons to pick this baby up right there, and here's one more: BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE features a brand spankin', never-seen-before short by yours truly. It's called A Native Problem, and it's a doozy. Picture Indiana Jones by way of George Romero.

I know, right? (Ugh, did I really just say that? Blame the lack of sleep. I may have spent a large portion of last night drinking and dancing in a castle. No, for real.)

So where can you get this magical collection of awesome? Right here.

So go. Buy. Love. Heck, buy two -- Christmas is right around the corner...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

On Cats and Bags


Coming soon to an e-reader near you...
(with a hat-tip to John Hornor Jacobs for the stunning cover design)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Thanks, Julie!

The inimitable Julie Summerell said some mighty nice things about me on her blog yesterday. You can read her comments here.

Julie, you made my day...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy release day, Hilary and Joelle!



Hey, looking for something awesome to read? Then you're in luck: today marks the release of two of this year's hottest crime debuts, THE DAMAGE DONE and SKATING AROUND THE LAW.

Am I biased? Yup - Hilary and Joelle are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Thing is, they also happen to be damn good writers. But don't take my word for it; check out what Publishers Weekly had to say:

"[A] razor sharp mystery debut. . . . Davidson offers a great portrait of sisterly love, despite a dysfunctional past, as well as a highly satisfying mystery."

"Roller skates and crime don't mix, or do they? In Charbonneau's fresh, funny debut they most certainly do."

So go on. Treat yourself. Buy a couple kick-ass books. You know you want to.

THE DAMAGE DONE:
Amazon
Kindle Edition

SKATING AROUND THE LAW:
Amazon
Kindle Edition

And me? I'll be checking the mailbox hourly till they get here...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chris Rhatigan reviews my installment of A RIP THROUGH TIME

"...the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Anybody who claims reading is boring clearly hasn't read A RIP THROUGH TIME." So says Chris Rhatigan of Death by Killing.

Read the rest of his review here. And if you think that pull-quote didn't make my day, you're freakin' nuts.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dancing, et cetera.

Just wanted to pop in to say the gracious and talented Nigel Bird (seriously, his Beat on the Brat in the newest issue of Needle is flat-out fantastic) was kind (foolish?) enough to invite me to interview myself on his blog as part of his Dancing With Myself series. I have to say, I had a blast participating, even if the interviewer was kind of a dick. You can read the results here.

Also, according to David Cranmer's blog, our serial collaboration A Rip Through Time: The Dame, the Doctor, and the Device is a smash hit! Thanks to all who took the time to read it, with a special shout-out to those who commented (write this down: favorable comments make writers' days). Like you, I look forward to finding out what's in store for Rip, Ludwig, and company. More details on the e-book release as I have them...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Rip-Roaring Good Time

Thus far, the first installment of David Cranmer's epic multi-author pulp serial A Rip Through Time has been quite well-recieved, and I couldn't be happier. It was a blast to write, and it'll be even more fun to watch where David's stable of writers take it from here.

If you haven't checked out A Rip Through Time: The Dame, the Doctor, and the Device yet, go, do!

If you'd like to read David's thoughts about the genesis of Rip and company, check out his blog post on the topic here.

Gary Dobbs at The Tainted Archive has a brief piece up about A Rip Through Time; check that out here. (And thanks, Gary!)

And last but not least, I understand there've been some problems with the Beat to a Pulp spam filters keeping folks from commenting. Rest assured, crack editor David Cranmer is on it, but in the meantime, if you tried to comment but could not, please e-mail David at paladin-1[at]hotmail[dot]com, and he'll be sure to post it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Chapter One of A RIP THROUGH TIME Now Available!

Flash Gordon. Han Solo. Buck Rogers. John Carter. Indiana Jones.

All evoke for me a wide-eyed sense of adventure -- a childlike edge-of-seat glee as you wait to see what happens next.

Which is why when David Cranmer asked me to pitch in and help him scrawl a new name on that list, I said, "Hell, yes!"

That name is Simon Rip. And today, my chapter of his story, A Rip Through Time: The Dame, the Doctor, and the Device, is live at Beat to a Pulp.

Check it out. Leave a comment. And if you dig it, you're in luck, because there's more a'comin'. See, David conceived of A Rip Through Time as an old-school serial, but with a twist: each installment is to be written by a different pulp practitioner. Charles Gramlich is up next, and after that, Matt Mayo takes old Rip out for a spin. Same characters. Same story. But each episode with its own unique flavor.

I, for one, am dying to see where the story goes next. (No, seriously; I haven't the foggiest idea.) Wherever it goes, there is one thing I'm sure of: I'll be reading it on the edge of my seat.

So what're you waiting for? Read it now!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All shifty-like...

Hey, remember a while back when I mentioned I'd written a short called Green for the good folks (er, yard-hardened badasses) at Crime Factory? (If not, just smile and nod; it's not like I'll know the difference.) Anyways, in that post, I mentioned Green would be appearing in issue #4 of Crime Factory. Thing is, issue #4 hit the virtual stands a couple weeks back, and Green wasn't in it.

So what happened? Was it a case of crossed wires? An editorial slip-up? Or was it something more sinister, like maybe me and Rawson tossed back a couple and then had ourselves a knock-down, drag-out brawl over which Macdonald is the awesomest? (Ross beats John D. hands-down, and I'll fight any man among you who says otherwise. Unless than man is Matthew McBride. I mean seriously, have you seen that dude? I'd concede Dan Brown beats Ross Macdonald before I'd go toe-to-toe with him.)

Turns out, the answer is no to all three. In fact, the reason for my omission is pretty damn great. And today, I got the thumbs-up to tell y'all what it is.

See, Green is going to appear in Crime Factory's upcoming print anthology, Crime Factory: The First Shift, and I for-seriously couldn't be happier. Liam, Keith, Cameron and company've got a good thing going with their online magazine (if you haven't had the pleasure, check their archives here), cranking out issue after issue of kick-ass fiction, news, and reviews from the wrong side of the tracks. And now they've set their sights on sullying up the print world, too.

Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? (Not this guy. This guy's psyched. You know, unless Rawson starts talking shit about Ross Macdonald.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Needle #2 Now Available!

The summer issue of Needle, featuring my novella The Hitter, is now available! Oh, and it also contains new fiction by such kick-ass writers as Stephen Blackmoore, Frank Bill, David Cranmer, Ray Banks, and Julie Summerell, just to name a few.

So what're you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy or three! (No, for real; orders over $19.95 are eligible for free shipping...)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sneak Preview of "The Hitter"!

Want a taste of what the summer issue of Needle Magazine's got in store? Then pop over to their blog for a sneak preview of my novella, The Hitter!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE Cover!

Last night, David Cranmer dropped a bombshell: the cover for the upcoming Beat to a Pulp print anthology, BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE. Painted by James O'Barr, creator of THE CROW, with additional design by John Bergin, it's at once brutal, witty, and nostalgic, like some gorgeous artifact from a violent, bygone era.

I, for one, am nuts about it. It reminds me of the timeworn pulps I used to buy in bag sales at the North Syracuse Free Library (two bucks a bag, and as many books as it'll carry). It taps into that lurid, visceral appeal that draws folks like me to pulp in the first place. In short, I couldn't have asked for a better cover for the first book I'll ever be a part of.

ROUND ONE is set to drop in a month or two. I suspect when it does I might just mention it. Buy it for Ardai, Littlefield, Davidson, Abbott, Reasoner, and Randisi. But when you do, take a gander at my humble entry, a creepy little adventure-pulp/horror crossover called A Native Problem. If I'm half as good at my job as the guys who made this cover are at theirs, it'll scare you silly for sure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Quick Update

If you take a gander at the snazzy banner in my sidebar, you'll see I've written a novella (news to me, but I did think as I was writing it that short was gettin' kinda wordy), and that said novella is to appear in the summer issue of Needle Magazine. I'll be appearing alongside some damned talented writers (make with the clicky if you don't believe me), many of whom are friends to boot, and I couldn't be happier.

The summer issue's set to drop sometime this month, so keep an eye on this space. Needle's spring issue was no-shit some of the best reading of the year, so I'm psyched to get my hands on this one. Oh, and if you wanna know who's responsible for that sexy, sexy banner ad, that would be the lovely and talented John Hornor Jacobs (who, for a price, would no doubt be happy to design you a gorgeous banner ad for your macrame typewriter cozy business, your line of designer eyepatches, or, you know, your book if you wanna be all boring about it).

Monday, July 05, 2010

Free Fiction: Seven Days of Rain

Seven Days of Rain was initially published in the late, lamented Demolition Magazine back in September of '07. I remember being pleasantly surprised when Demolition's editor, Bryon Quertermous, accepted it, and then utterly bowled over when it went on to win the Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web. Since then, Bryon closed up shop, and Seven's been without a home. So without further ado, here it is, for your reading pleasure:

Seven Days of Rain

It was bound to happen, I suppose.

There was a time, of course, when I didn’t think so. We were too smart, I thought. Too careful. But there’s men’s plans and then there’s God’s plans, and it looks for damn sure like God don’t think much of mine.

In all my years, I ain’t seen nothing like it. For six days now it’s rained. And not no spring shower, either. The kind of rain that soaks you clear to the bone. The kind of rain that gets in your joints and reminds you of every ache and pain you ever felt. The kind of rain that makes you feel like you ain’t never gonna be warm and dry again.

On the first day, nobody paid it no mind. Sure, the power flickered and the gutters overflowed, but most just figured it’d blow over by daybreak.

On the second day, the river swelled. Folks took off work to haul sandbags to the riverbanks, hoping to keep the rising waters at bay. They worked for hours in the wind and wet, and in the end, that river breached its banks and sent 'em running.

On the third day, they found the body.

I was out back in my workshop when the knock came. The place was leaking like a sieve, and between the hollow thrum of water into pots and the rain beating against the shingles, I barely noticed it at all. It wasn’t till he started yelling I thought to let him in.

“Christ, Eddie, I thought you were gonna leave me there all night!” Matt shook out his umbrella and shrugged off his slicker, tossing both across a chair.

“Hey, mind the finish!” I scolded. “That one ain’t been varnished yet!”

“What in hell are you doing out here, anyway? Can’t you see a storm’s on?”

“Yeah, well, you know what they say about idle hands,” I replied, returning my attention to the chair-leg that sat turning on the spindle before me.

“I guess I do, at that.”

“So,” I said, easing my gouge along the surface of the wood and setting narrow ribbons of pine spiraling away, “what brings you out on so unpleasant an afternoon?”

“They found him, Eddie. They found Timmy.”

The gouge kicked back off the spindle and skittered across my forearm. Blood welled red in its wake.
“When?”

“This morning. Body washed up on the bank.”

“They know it’s him?”

“Not yet, but they sure as hell suspect."

I dabbed at my arm with a fresh rag. “I don’t see what this has got to do with us.”

“You don’t.”

“No, I don't," I snapped.

“Eddie, we gotta tell 'em what happened."

“The hell we do! Ain’t nothing we can say's gonna change a thing. It was an accident. It was sixty years ago, for God’s sake. We were kids. Just leave it be, Matt.”

“You don’t think I tried? I don’t sleep so good these days. Doc says I ain’t got long left, and I can’t help but think I oughta tell somebody.”

“Fine, then. You go on down to Sheriff Brenner’s and tell him me and you and Hollis and Wilson went and killed that boy and see what he says. He’ll think you’re a nothing but a senile old goat.”

“So what if he does? We owe it to Timmy to tell the truth.”

“You think Timmy’d want us locked up? And what about your grandkids? You think they wanna see Grandpa go to jail?”

“Come on, Eddie, I just wanna be square. You telling me it never bothers you?”

“I sleep all right,” I replied.

#

I didn’t, though. Not that night, as the storm rattled the windows in their casements, and not the next, as the water climbed through town, flooding basements and washing away gardens. My mind kept taking me back to the summer of ’48 – to the old abandoned mill, and to Timothy.

“I can't do it!” he called. “It's too far.”

“Don't be a wuss. It's not that far.” I rattled the chain at my end. Timothy, with a hand on the chain some twenty yards above me, squealed. Far above us in the gloom, the pulley clanged against an I-beam, loosing a flurry of rust.

“Come on, Timmy,” Matt said. “Do it.”

Wilson and Hollis picked up the chant. “Do it, do it, do it.”

“All right,” he said. He gripped the chain in both hands, closed his eyes, and stepped off the ledge.

It was the noise I noticed first, or, rather, the lack of it. One second, the chain was jingling past, and then it wasn’t. When the pulley seized, Tim lost his grip. He plummeted toward me, screaming the whole way. Then he hit the ground, and he wasn't screaming anymore.

#

The fifth day of the storm, I found myself walking to Miller's for a bite to eat. There wasn't but a couple of beers and a half a bottle of mustard in my fridge, and the market had been closed since the elm out front came down and took most of the roof with it. I had a coat and an umbrella and my rubbers on my feet, but by the time I got there, I was soaked clean through, and my socks were squishing in my shoes.

I took a seat at the counter as Donna poured me a steaming cup of coffee. “Much obliged,” I said, holding the mug in cupped hands and suppressing a shiver.

“Any time, dear. You know what you're having?”

“Eggs, over-easy. White toast. A side of bacon, extra crispy.”

“Comin' up.”

I sat and sipped my coffee while she put in my order, my clothes hanging wet and heavy on my frame. It wasn’t long before I felt a clap on the shoulder.

“Eddie Hanscombe, as I live and breathe! I hadn’t seen you ‘round in a while – thought maybe the river’d carried you away.”

I winced inwardly. “Mornin’, Sheriff.”

“Your place still standing?”

“For now, at least,” I replied.

“Bad bit a luck, the river overflowing.”

“It is, at that.”

“You hear about the Driscoll kid? Washed right up in the center a town. Scared the hell out of the McCreary boys. Body was stuffed into an Amalgamated Paper barrel, if you can believe it.”

“No kiddin’,” I replied. “Your boys sure it’s him?”

“Got the ME’s report back this morning. I hear tell you and him used to run together – any idea what he’d a been doing up at the mill?”

I pretended to think about it a minute. “No idea,” I replied. “Place had been abandoned for years ‘fore he even went missing.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

“Listen, Sheriff, I’d best be off. I got buckets that ain’t gonna empty themselves.”

“Course. You take care, Eddie.”

“You, too,” I replied. I fished a couple ones out of my pocket and tossed them on the counter, and then headed for the door.

Outside, I glanced backward through the rain-streaked window. Guilty conscience, I suppose. I was sure I’d catch Brenner watching me, but he wasn’t. Instead, he was frowning at the plate that had just been set down at the empty stool beside him.

#

I didn’t sleep a wink that night – I just sat on my porch in the dark and listened to the rain beat against the pavement. I couldn’t shake the memories that kept running through my head. Memories long thought forgotten. Memories best left that way.

“Eddie! Eddie, what the hell happened?”

“Shhh!” I hissed. “There’s someone coming.”

Footfalls echoed through the building, reverberating off the concrete walls. Above me, Matt ducked back into the darkness.

“Who’s in here?” A flashlight beam swung overhead. Security. “I swear if you kids don’t get out of here I’m calling the cops!”

I crouched over Timothy, praying the guard didn’t see us. He searched for what seemed like forever. Finally, though, his footfalls receded, and I raised my head to look around.

“Eddie!” Hollis whispered. “You still down there?”

“Where else would I be?”

“What about Timmy? I mean, is he –”

I looked him up and down, put a hand to his wrist. My mouth went dry. My heart thudded in my chest. “Yeah,” I replied.

“What’re we gonna do?”

“Just get down here. I’ve got an idea.”

Looking back, I wish we’d never done it. We coulda just come clean. We’d have taken our licks, to be sure, but it would have been nothing compared to the guilt we four carried around. Wasn’t but a few years later that Hollis took to drink, and a few more’n that that he wrapped his car around a tree. Wilson didn’t fare no better – the cops said it was a hunting accident, but me and Matt, we knew otherwise.

Morning arrived with an almost imperceptible lightening of the sky in the east. The clouds were low and unbroken, the horizon blurred by the unrelenting torrent. I rose stiffly from my chair, my joints achy and uncooperative. The street, I noticed, was under about a foot of water, and my lawn was a sopping mess. Beneath the patter of the rain, I heard the hollow burble of water poured from a height.

Ah, hell, I thought, wheeling toward the door. The basement.

I ran inside and down the cellar stairs, my bum hip creaking in protest. Sure enough, water poured in through my drainpipes, green-black and reeking. There had to be damn near two feet of water down there, its surface mottled with mud and leaves and bits of debris. Everything I had down there was submerged. An old photograph swam to the surface, where it floated for a moment, warped and discolored, before it was reclaimed by the seething water. A scuffed and timeworn bookshelf, the first I’d ever made, bobbed past on its side, and then foundered and sank. A lifetime of keepsakes, ruined.

I plunged into the murky water and waded to the far corner of the basement. After a few moments of blind groping, I found the floor drain. It was caked with thick, black muck, and no matter how much I scraped away, I couldn't seem to clear it. Finally, I gave up. I slogged upstairs and collapsed into a kitchen chair, sopping wet and covered in filth.

Beneath me, the water continued to rise.

When I regained my breath, I wandered the house, checking windows and changing buckets under leaks that seemed to strengthen by the minute. Walls and ceilings warped and stained. Windowframes swelled. Moisture seeped through the tiniest gaps. I spent hours pressing towels and rags into windowsills to stanch the flow, but it wasn't any use. The house was old and out of square, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do to stem the tide. Not that it mattered, really. The only things worth a damn are the furniture, and even then, only to me.

Still, I thought, I've got tarps and rope out back in the shed – it's not too late to save the pieces in my workshop.

I headed downstairs and out the kitchen door, not bothering with a jacket. Wind ripped the door from my hands, slamming it inward. Rain fell hard and sharp like needles. I leaned into the wind and made for the shed. I tried to slide open the door, but it barely moved, its runners clogged with thick, black mud. I reached through the narrow opening, wresting a couple of tarps and some nylon line from the musty darkness, and then I gathered them tight to my chest and set out for my shop.

I rounded the corner past the garage and stopped short. There was a figure, standing in the middle of the drive. Brenner, I thought at first, but it was only Matt, in a slicker and a pair of rubber boots, his feet hidden beneath the floodwaters. By the look on his face, I musta been a sight to see, all wild-eyed and drenched, clutching a tangled mess of tarp and rope.

“Eddie!” he shouted above the storm. “We gotta talk!”

“Ain't got time to talk,” I shouted back. “I gotta get this done!” I pushed open the door of the workshop and flicked on the lights.

“Then make time,” he said, following as far as the doorway. The place was a mess, and there had to be an inch or two of water on the floor already. I set about tossing the tarp over as much as I could cover. Matt just watched.

“What,” I asked, “can't you lend a guy a hand?”

“Eddie, I’m gonna tell 'em. I’m gonna tell ‘em everything.”

“Don't be ridiculous, Matt – you ain't gonna say a thing.”

“My mind's made up, Eddie. I only came by 'cause I thought you oughta know.”

“You can't tell 'em,” I replied.

“I can and I will.”

“You got as much to lose from this as I do.”

“Eddie –”

“Me and you and Wilson and Hollis, we all put that boy in that barrel. We all carried it to the river and watched as it sank. We swore we'd never tell. You'd break your word? You'd break your word when you're every bit as much to blame as I am?”

“We both know I'm not.”

I stopped tugging at the tarp. “What did you say?”

“You heard what I said.”

“What in hell are you implying, Matt?”

“Eddie, I saw you. I saw what you did. I saw Timmy wake up.”

“Who's in there?” the guard shouted, close. I crouched over Timothy in the darkness. Suddenly, from beneath me, he started.

“I saw you put your hand over his mouth.”

“I swear if you kids don’t get out of here I’m calling the cops!” Timothy's eyes went wide with pain and fear, and he started to scream. I clamped my hand tight to his mouth.

“I saw him strugglin' against you.”

“Be quiet,” I whispered, but still he thrashed beneath me. “Be quiet be quiet be quiet!”

“I saw you kill him.”

I held him fast so the guard wouldn't hear, whispering all the while. Finally, though, he stopped struggling, and all was quiet.

NO!” I shouted, lunging toward him. I couldn't listen anymore. I had to make him stop. My hand found the gouge on the workbench and I brought it down, again and again.

It wasn't until afterward, when the guard’s footfalls receded and I saw Timmy lying there so terribly still, that I realized what happened, and by then it was too late.

By then it was too late for all of us.

The next thing I knew, I was on the floor. Matt was beside me, lying half in and half out of the door. Sticking from his chest was my gouge, buried to the hilt. His eyes were open, and he wasn't moving. His slicker was beaded with blood and water in equal measure. My hands were streaked with blood as well. I climbed to my feet and stumbled past him out the door. Rivulets of pink cascaded off my fingertips as I staggered through the cleansing rain.

#

It’s past midnight now. I’m sitting at my kitchen table, water lapping against my feet. I’d told myself a thousand times since that day that it was an accident, nothing more. That I could never kill anyone. Now I guess I know the truth.

In a way, it’s a relief. No more secrets. No more lies. Now there’s only one thing left to do.

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. I can see the clouds lessening to the east. I expect the storm’ll break before long. After all, it got what it came for.

I don’t deserve your pity, I know, nor your respect, but should you see your way to granting an old man’s last wish, don’t come looking for me. I know where I need to be, and ain’t nothing can change that now.

Still, I expect there’re some who think I’d run, that this note ain’t but a bluff, so you do what you have to.

But if you have to come and find me, I suggest you look downstream.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A New Hope

It's been an odd week.

This week, I began a new job. It's new. It's a job. Thus far, it's going well (I think). And that is all I plan to say about that.

I also began writing a new novel. Like, only just. I'd been kicking around an opener for a couple weeks now, but I couldn't seem to find my angle, my point of entry. This morning, all the disparate elements in my head suddenly clicked, and there it was. All of three paragraphs, but damn if they aren't an important three.

And they're good. Really good. Now my job's to make sure the rest of the book lives up to them.

Okay, the elephant in the room: no, The Wrong Goodbye isn't finished yet. Yes, I still intend to finish it. In fact, I'm pretty close. But the fact is, The Wrong Goodbye's a sequel, and without a deal for the first in the series, I've found it difficult to invest myself in that world. Not because I've no attachment to it, but because I have too much. My brain gets all knotted pondering publishing scenarios when I should be thinking plot, and I'm worried my lack of focus will bleed into the writing of the book itself.

So instead, I've started something fresh. Something new. Something that both plays to my strengths as a writer, and challenges me to step outside my comfort zone.

Does it have a title? Yes, but I'm not ready to let it out into the world just yet. I will say this about New Book: it's a straight-up crime novel -- a big, sprawling, propulsive thriller. In some respects, it may wind up being the most commercial thing I've ever written. But it may also be the darkest.

Now all I've gotta do is write the thing...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Congratulations Stephen Blackmoore!

I have a confession to make. I'm not a huge fan of short stories.

Whoa whoa whoa -- don't get all mad at me. I know I write 'em. And believe me, I read 'em, too. Lots of 'em. But the truth is, I'm not a huge fan of the form itself. I'm a fan of novels first and foremost, because I like a story with complexity, with room to breathe. Novels take the reader on a journey, a feat short stories rarely manage. Which means a short story's gotta really have something to draw me in. A killer hook. A flat-out awesome character. A line or two that knock me back.

That's why I'm so damn psyched to hear Stephen Blackmoore just signed a two-book deal with DAW. See, forever ago, I read this story of Stephen's on The Thrilling Detective called Sumo, and it was awesome. Funny as all get-out, with a twisted, brilliant premise and prose that sparkled without calling attention to itself. So I sought out more of Stephen's stuff, and guess what? Sumo was no fluke.

But like I said, I'll take novels over shorts any day. And I've been dying to read Stephen's City of the Lost a while now. Thanks to DAW, I'll get my chance. And then I'll get to read his next one.

Awesome, says I. And if I had to guess, I'd say Stephen's probably kinda jazzed right now, too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Job Update

Day jobs. Damn near every writer on the planet has one, and until three months ago, I was no exception. Then my company shut down, and I found myself a full-time writer.

Know what? It sucked. I'm a biologist by trade, and I missed the challenge of research, the social interaction of being in a lab. And yeah, I missed the paycheck, too. Not to mention, the stress of job hunting and the pressure the lack of steady employment put on me to generate some cash flow via writing blunted my creative output.

I'm happy to say that as of next week, balance will be restored. On Friday, I accepted a position with a lab dedicated to providing diagnostic tools to veterinarians, as well as technologies to monitor food and water safety -- goals that are both scientifically interesting and socially very, very cool. No, I won't say where, for the simple reason that this is a blog dedicated to the writing portion of my life, and I'm a big proponent of keeping the two separate. In fact, I suspect this is the last I'll ever mention it. But I'd addressed my joblessness here, so I thought its end merited a mention.

So yeah. New job. Pretty psyched. Also psyched to get back to my novel. Or should I say novels? See, ever since I accepted this job offer, I've been kicking around a new idea...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day For Pretty now available!

Sophie Littlefield doesn't have to be so damned nice. Not when she can write as well as she does.

The chops she's got, Sophie could be a big, fat jerk*. I'm talking ego the size of Texas. I mean, did you read A Bad Day For Sorry? The Edgar committee sure did. Ditto the folks behind the Anthony, the Spinetingler Awards, and oh, did I mention the Macavity?

Yeah, it was that good. Smart, funny, thrilling, and featuring a narrative voice so warm and unique, from page one you feel like you've known Stella all your life. If you haven't read it yet, do.

And if you already have, well you're in luck. Sophie's followup, A Bad Day For Pretty, was released this week, and it promises to be every bit as good as Sorry. Add to that the fact that Sophie's one of the awesomest people in an industry chock full of awesome people, and that's two reasons you ought to buy this book. (Hmmm. Two reasons; two copies? Just putting that out there.)

So go. Buy. Read. Love. (Trying not to say "You won't be Sorry"... it's so cheesy... so obvious... and so very, very tempting...)

*Grammarian's note: in this context, "big" and "fat" are intended as reflective of any potential jerkiness, not actual Sophie size. In reality, Sophie would make quite a svelte jerk if she so chose.

UPDATE: A scant three hours after I posted this, Sorry was also nominated for a Barry. Like, for serious.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Killer Serial

Serials defined my childhood.

I have George Lucas to thank for that: his love of classic movie serials led him to create Star Wars and Indiana Jones, two series that molded my fiction sensibilities, locking me in to a love of the classic serial style long before I even knew there was such a thing.

So when David Cranmer, crack editor of Beat to a Pulp (and kick-ass author in his own right) dropped me a line to ask if I'd be interested in contributing the first chapter in a serial he was cooking up, I didn't even have to hear his pitch. I was in.

Lucky for me, then, his pitch was awesome. A rough-and-tumble time cop named Simon Rip, who along with his enigmatic partner, Ludwig, is tasked with hunting rogue genius Dr. Berlin across time. David's plan was to recruit writers from a wide spectrum of genres -- pulp practitioners all -- and just let 'em loose. I mean, who wouldn't want to play in that sandbox? A schlocky sci-fi premise. Larger than life characters. Limitless possibilities. One day, Rip might find himself the unwitting star of a Western. The next, an old-school mob tale. Sword and sandal? Check. Victorian Gothic? Why the hell not?

David called his serial A Rip Through Time, and I was lucky enough to kick it off. My installment's titled The Dame, The Doctor, and the Device, a rollicking adventure that kicks off in the 24th century, takes a little jaunt into prehistory, and then winds up with a good, old-fashioned Prohibition-era gunfight. And oh yeah, ends on a big fat cliffhanger. (It's a serial, after all; did you even have to ask?)

So, who takes the reins for chapter two? I'm not telling. (Seriously, copper, you'll never get me to sing!) I will say this, though; the folks David's brought on board can write. I'm giddy at the thought of seeing where the story goes from here.

As to where you can read about Rip's exploits, go bug David. Seriously -- call him up. Write him letters. (You could even use these stamps.) Right now, it looks like Rip's set to appear first at Beat to a Pulp in serial form, and when the whole shebang draws to a close, he'll get his own snazzy little e-book for your downloading pleasure. The question is when.

But then, with Rip, the question is always when.

(Oh, and if you'd like a little tease as to what's in store, pop over to David's blog for a quote excerpted from Dr. Berlin's 2342 MIT Commencement address...)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Oil

Cherie Priest, author of such rip-snorting novels as Boneshaker, Fathom, and the Eden Moore series, has written a post about the environmental disaster in the Gulf that's far more eloquent and heart-wrenching than I ever could. You can, and should, read it here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

SyFy Flash-Fic Roundup

So a couple days back (er, yesterday), I threw down a challenge. A challenge to write a trailer, scene, or treatment for the most ridiculous schlockfest of a made-up SyFy Original Movie you could muster. And for some odd reason, people did. Talented people. Funny people. Awesome people.

You want to read their entries. (Note that wasn't a question. You so very do.) Well, here they are:

Maggie Carroll
Dan O'Shea
Julie Summerell

And of course, little old me.

Oh, and a hat-tip to Chuck Wendig, who contributed the glorious photo that accompanies Dan's tale.

Now, I have it on good authority that others have got theirs cookin', so check back often; there's more schlocky goodness a'comin'. And if you've partaken in the challenge, let me know -- I'll be sure to include you in the links...

Meanwhile, thanks to all who participated. If and when we ever meet, the first round's on me. And obviously, when SyFy contacts me to option these works, I'll be sure to pass you along a solid 3%.

UPDATED MAY 26: Jimmy Callaway's joined the fray! Huzzah! Check his delightfully exclamatory entrant here!

TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. DOLPHIPOTAMUS, The Flash-Fic Trailer

So here it is: the trailer for my made-up SyFy schlockfest TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. DOLPHIPOTAMUS. Wondering what the eff I'm talking about? Go here to get the deets. (Did I just say "deets"? Ugh. Sorry.)

First, a couple caveats. Caveat The First: Dan O'Shea prefaced his stellar entrant in the challenge (PUGRAHNA!) by saying all he knew of writing scripts he learned in sixty seconds before writing his. Well, all I know of writing scripts is nothing, so, um, I didn't. And Caveat The Second: astute readers may note my title's changed since I issued this ridiculous little challenge. Just one more case of network suits meddling with an artist's clarion vision. That, or I couldn't make any sense of my original premise. Anyway, here goes:


TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. DOLPHIPOTAMUS

We open on a beach, a cloudless night (or the filtered high noon that, in B-movies, passes for cloudless night). A teenage couple in their late twenties stagger drunkenly arm-in-arm across the sand. Kissing. Laughing. Passing back and forth a flask. Because an earthen jug with three Xs on it was presumably unavailable.

"Wanna go for a swim?" the boy asks.

"I dunno. The ocean's creepy at night."

"Oh, c'mon," he says, stripping down, "what's the worst that could happen?"

He splashes out into the surf, paddles out a ways. Then he turns and calls back: "Come on in -- the water's fine!"

The girl considers it, but hesitates, unsure. "But what if it's not safe?"

"You watch too many movies; it's perfectly --"

His head dunks under. Then he surfaces, tries to speak, but gets dunked under again. He's thrashing now, trying desperately to escape, his girlfriend screaming all the while. But eventually, he stops thrashing. All is quiet and still.

The girl calls to him from shore. "Bobby?"

No reply.

"Damn it, Bobby -- I told you not to go in there! You should've stayed up here, where it's safe!"

Then something bursts from the water -- massive, primordial, and vaguely gelatinous in the way of half-baked CGI -- and races up the narrow strip of shore toward her. She shrieks. The light glints off of teeth and claws and dorsal fin as, with a vicious snap, hers cries are suddenly silenced.

***

It's early morning. A gleaming laboratory. Empty, but for one woman, beautiful in her lab coat and glasses. Her lustrous blond hair is tucked behind one ear as she peers into a microscope, lost in whatever nebulously sciency things beautiful, faux-bookish types do for a living in these sorts of movies. Biogenetiphysigeology or something. Point is, she's smart and pretty. I mean, just look at those glasses, that hair! (Also, said beautiful scientist totally looks like the girl who was in that thing you used to watch when you were little. You know the one I'm talking about.)

A harried grad student bursts through the door, panting and waving a stack of computer printouts and impossibly detailed satellite imagery that looks like it was taken from about four feet above last night's attack. A vaguely sharkodilian blob can be seen noshing on a twenty-something teenage girl.

"Dr. Splyce!" he calls. She looks up from her microscope. "It's begun."

She frowns, and pounds the bench top, so you can tell it's serious.

***

A different beach, this one bathed in afternoon light. A small wedding ceremony is taking place. A handsome couple, he in a linen shirt and rolled up pants, she in a diaphanous white dress. Maybe twenty people are watching the ceremony from folding chairs just up the beach, and to the right of the couple is a string quartet, silent during the ceremony.

The reverend says, "If anyone objects to this lovely man and woman being joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace."

All is, of course, silent as their family beams on. That is, until the sharkodile bursts forth from the water, launching itself at the groom and biting off his head. The crowd screams, the bride runs -- and the reverend, too stunned to move, is swatted aside by one gray-green clawed flipper thingy.

Wait -- did the cellist just play half a bar of the Jaws theme? 'Cause that's just tacky. Probably happened accidentally during all the panicked fleeing.

The reverend regains his senses, and scrambles away from the feeding beast. But his limbs are heavy, and his eyelids, too. As paralysis creeps through him, emanating from the sharkodile's scratch, he mutters, "My God, it's toxic... for some reason." Then he collapses, and all fades to black.

***

Our lovely protagonist, Dr. Jean Splyce, is sitting, hair tousled, in the lab, laboring over calculations. "Oh, if only I could find a way to reverse the process that my mentor Dr. Cronenberg used to create the toxic sharkodile only to have it escape from the lab and kill him, at which time I dedicated my life to stopping it from killing again," she exposits awkwardly.

Once more, her harried grad student bursts in -- you know, all harried and stuff. "It's getting worse," he said. "There are attacks all along the eastern seaboard. Why just today, a hippo from the zoo was mortally wounded, and an injured dolphin washed up on shore three miles from here. Also, there was that wedding party the sharkodile ate."

"Wait -- did you say dolphin and hippopotamus?" She thinks a moment, all frowny and cute. "That's it!"

"What's it?"

"Well, apart, they wouldn't stand a chance, but together... they'd be a sharkodile's natural enemy."

"Uh, I'm not sure you know what natural means."

She ignores him. He's just a grad student, after all. "Call the military. Tell them we need those animals. Tell them we can save them. Tell them we can save us all..."

***

A shot of a helicopter, airlifting in a hippopotamus. Another of a dolphin, transported by ambulance. Then a chamber -- iron, portholed, and apparently occupied by a floodlight and a smoke machine.

The chamber hisses open. Dr. Splyce and her harried grad student wait, expectantly, for the smoke to clear. And when it does, they see a magnificent beast, its eyes full of intelligence, its face all cute and cuddly -- its blowhole glistening majestically in the chamber's light.

But Killjoy the harried grad student is having none of it. "How do we know we haven't simply created another abomination?"

"The toxic sharkodile is the abomination," Splyce replies. "And our dolphipotamus is the perfect antidote."

"Abomination? Antidote? I think your metaphor's a little jumbled."

But Dr. Splyce doesn't care about metaphors: she just made a freakin' dolphipotamus.

***

Showdown time. The streets of Vancouver New York. Splyce and dolphipotamus track down the toxic sharkodile, corner it in an alley.

Before she sics dolphipotamus on the sharkodile, Splyce calls, "This is for killing my mentor, you son of a bitch!"

But the sharkodile opens its mouth. A creaky, inhuman voice says, "No. I did not kill Dr. Cronenberg. I am Dr. Cronenberg."

"NOOOOOOOOO!" shouts Splyce, as the sharkodile charges. Dolphipotamus follows suit.

Sharkodile.

Dolphipotamus.

Sharkodile.

Dolphipotamus.

Sharkodile and dolphipotamus, together finally in the same shot, about to collide in a tangled mess of poorly rendered CGI.

And... title card.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flash-Fic Challenge: TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. SHARKOPOTTOMUS

So here's the deal: the other day, my little sis was over for dinner, and casually mentioned her persistent childhood fears of sewer grates (on account of the freaky, mutant crocodiles that live in sewers) and of pool drains (based upon her fantastically awesome belief that, inside said drains lurked tiny, chlorine-and-fresh-water-immune sharks that, if you were to swim directly over, would burst forth, growing instantly to full size and eating you.)

Naturally, as the decent, kind, loving older brother I am, I responded to this by mocking her heartily about the head and neck. And then, when she went home (presumably to avoid further mocking) (I kid -- it was late and stuff, and she wasn't crying or anything) (as far as you know), I brought said mocking to Twitter, where things, as they are wont to do on Twitter, got a little out of hand.

The result of all this Twitter ridiculosity (with a hat-tip to Dan O'Shea) is what could only be described as the all-time-greatest movie idea of all time: TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. SHARKOPOTTOMUS. How, you may be asking, did we get there from my sister's childhood fears? To that, I answer, "Who cares? It's a movie about a toxic sharkodile and a sharkopottomus!"

So, fellow netizens, I issue a challenge. A flash-fic challenge. I challenge you to come up with a treatment, cold-open, or trailer (your choice) for the most ridiculous, most over-the-top, most godawful SyFy-style schlockfest of a movie this side of MANSQUITO or ATOMIC TWISTER. Does it have to make sense? No. Does it have to be in script form? Heck no. All it has to do is rock.

So get cracking. And if you write something, let me know so's I can link to it.

Sometime this weekend, I'll cook up one myself. My title, of course, is TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. SHARKOPOTTOMUS. And my tagline? "One created to kill. One created to protect. And one trusty sharkadoodle sidekick."

Are y'all in? Or am I standing on this limb all by my lonesome, hoping the sharkodile below fails to notice me?

UPDATE: Okay, I may have changed the title in my own flash-fic challenge. We'll know come tomorrow when I publish the darn thing. Also, one would think it would be spelled "sharkopotamus". One would be wrong.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Toll Collectors" featured on FictionDaily!

Yesterday, I received word from David Backer, editor of FictionDaily, letting me know that The Toll Collectors is to be their featured genre story this coming Monday.

FictionDaily is an aggregator site for online fiction, featuring three stories a day they feel deserve a wider audience. They post a blurb of selected stories, and link directly to the magazines they appeared in -- which, in the case of The Toll Collectors, is the always-fantastic Beat to a Pulp. It's a cool model that not only provides a boost to the author, but to the publication as well, and I couldn't be happier to be selected.

So thanks to Davids Backer and Cranmer, the former for selecting The Toll Collectors for FictionDaily, and the latter for publishing it in the first place. 'Tis much appreciated on both counts.

UPDATE: "The Toll Collectors" actually wound up appearing on FictionDaily Wednesday, May 26. You know, just in case you're keeping score.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tuning Fork

One of the challenges of my current bout of unemployment is the fact that, without a workplace to go to every morning and the coworkers that come with it, my interaction with others has dropped precipitously. Not a huge deal for someone who likes quiet (I do), but there's one area in particular that I feel the sting: writing dialogue.

See, writing dialogue requires a good ear for how people really talk, and a good ear requires constant tuning. Tuning that would normally happen at work, but that lately, I find I've had to go out of my way for.

Not today, though. For today, quite by happenstance, I found myself at one of my favorite places to sit and listen: a diner. I'm not talking some fancy-pants chromed-out rail car diner, lovingly restored, and with a menu full of designer Benedicts; I'm talking about a hot griddle, bunch of regulars, got-a-lunch-counter-'cause-people-really-go-there-to-eat-lunch diner. The kind of place that hasn't changed since it opened in '53. The kind of place where neighborhood folks run into one another and wind up sharing a table. The kind of place where you can get two heaping plates of breakfast and a gallon's worth of coffee for just a shade over ten bucks.

The kind of place where you can hear gems like these:

Table One: Middle-aged, middle-class office-types talking health care. Conservative, by the sound of them, and so riled, they don't seem to notice they're all talking like they're arguing, even though they all agree. Every group bigger than two has got its alpha talker, and this one's no different: a peroxide blonde with a smoker's rasp that says government "guv'mint" and begins every sentence with "What people don't get is...". Money line of the table was, "What people don't get is Nancy Pelosi wouldn't let nobody read the bill before they voted on it -- she said they had to pass it to see it. So now our own government doesn't even know what's in this bill."

Table Two (with a cameo from Table One, the lone male of the group, who wandered over to say hello to two women in the booth behind me when his party made for the door):

"So nice to see you again," he said. A long beat with no reply. "You know my brother."

"Of course," the woman replies -- polite, distracted. "What's his name again?"

"You should know that," he says, surprisingly short toward someone he doesn't seem to know. And then, to her dining companion: "Who's this?"

"An old friend from way back."

"Really? I like old friends from way back."

And then he no shit sat down with them, as if distant, vague replies amounted to an invitation.

But my favorite table of the day was Table Three, occupied by a couple of genial old-timers:

Waitress: "What can I get you two?"

"I'd like a plate of eggs --"

"Sure."

"--but the yolks, and this is important, the yolks should be over medium."

"Okay."

"I mean really over medium. I'm very particular about how I like my eggs."

"No problem. What kind of toast would you like?"

"What are my options?"

She rattles off his options. He mulls. And mulls. And mulls. And then his buddy pipes up.

"You should get pumperknickel," he says. Then, to the waitress, as if it settles the matter: "He's Jewish."

"I'm not getting pumperknickel," the first guy says, mock-tetchy. "I don't like caraway seeds in my teeth."

The beauty of these two was, they had rhythm. They had banter. They had the waitress smiling. Heck, they had me smiling. So I kept listening. Once their order was in, talk turned to fishing (brown trout are particularly hard to catch.) The weather (78? Can you believe it?) And then, when their plates arrived, back to food. But even there, these guys surprised me, because it wasn't Egg Man who complained. It was his buddy. The waitress dropped his plate of pancakes in front of him, and he threw his hands up in distress and declared "I'm gonna need more butter" with all the weight of Brody telling Quint he'd need a bigger boat.

I swear, I wish I could've taken those two dudes with me. They were funny -- and they knew it. Charming -- and they knew it. But they came at it from a completely different place than anybody I'd write.

Or rather, anybody I would've written before today.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green

Way back in January, I mentioned a nasty little slug of noir I wrote called Green. I wrote Green at the request of Keith Rawson, one of the twisted minds behind Crimefactory Two: Electric Boogaloo. (Crimefactory Two: The Quickening? Crimefactory Part Deux? Or should I have gone with The Legend of Curly's Gold? Eh, no matter. Point is, they brought that mofo back from the dead, bigger, badder, and hungrier for brains than ever.)

Where was I? Oh, right. Green. Seems it's set to appear in Crimefactory #4, which should hit the Innertubes in August. So between that, Needle #2, and the upcoming Beat to a Pulp anthology (not to mention another little something I've got cooking that's not ready for mentioning just yet, except obliquely in a parenthetical digression), this is shaping up to be the Summer of Me. Which, if you've ever seen me at the beach, so pale I freakin' glow, may not be a good thing. (Hmm, was that out loud? Man, I've got to learn to filter...)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My, but that's pretty...

So this is where The Hitter's gonna be. More details as I have 'em. I just had to share this now, on account of it's my first (print) cover, and (thanks to the mightily talented John Hornor Jacobs) it's a doozy...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heavy Hitter

Okay, yeah, I've been scarce of late. But I've got a good excuse. See, I've been writing. Writing a lot.

It all started about a month ago. Got an e-mail from a friend of mine. Said he wanted a story for his new magazine -- something hardboiled, noir -- and he wanted it to be a long one. And okay, I'd never written a short longer than 6,500 words, but I'm not one to turn down a writing gig.

Three weeks later, I crossed the finish line on The Hitter, a big, sprawling, man-I-hope-epic tale of violence, loss, and redemption. How big, you ask? (Yes, I know you didn't ask. It's a rhetorical device; roll with it.) Just a hair over 11,000 words.

Yeah, that's a lot.

And it turns out, I kinda dug sinking my teeth into such a long story. It felt more novelistic in its construction, in its characterization, in its scope, than any of my other shorts. But it was still leaner, more economical than a novel. The turnaround was a little tight for my tastes -- I tend to revise the hell out of my stories before they go out the door -- but even that was exhilarating. It forced me to step outside my comfort zone and just let words fly, so I could have more time for revising afterward.

So would I do it again? Man, I don't know. Not on my own, I'll tell you that. Too grueling, and not enough of a market. But if somebody asked? That's another matter. (Almost said "that's another story", then I realized what an obnoxious accidental pun that would've been.)

Oh, and a brief aside. I know I was all kinds of vague about who did the asking, and where this story's ending up. Those who've been reading my blog a while have probably noticed I've done the same with every story request I've ever blogged about. There's a reason for that, and it ain't 'cause I'm teasing. It's because as far as I'm concerned, there's no guarantee that anything I write doesn't suck. I'm fortunate enough to have a decent track record placing stories, but one of these days, I may well cough up a dud. And the editors who contact me asking for stories are folks I consider friends. Far as I'm concerned, they're under no obligation to publish anything of mine, and I'm not going to publicly put 'em on the hook for a yea or nay.

So cross your fingers The Hitter's as fun to read as it was to write. There's something to be said for getting a new story out the door...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Excerpt: THE ANGELS' SHARE, Chapter One

Kirkland, Maine is a town with many secrets. When reporter Alex Whittaker discovers a Kirkland High student beaten and left for dead on the eve of a contentious local election, she is determined to unmask the girl's assailant. Soon, Alex is plagued by memories that are not her own, and dreams too terrifying to contemplate. Her investigation reveals a town rife with scandal and corruption, and she finds that there are some who'd go to any lengths to silence her. As her dreams bleed into her waking hours, Alex is forced to make a choice: face off against a vicious killer, or risk losing herself completely.


It’s morning, early. The sun hangs low above the treetops, backlighting the skeletal smokestacks of the old Kirkland Paper mill. My footfalls crunch against the loose gravel of the shoulder, a jarring counterpoint to the throbbing in my temples. The cold October air burns in my lungs, but the copper taste like pennies in the back of my throat can’t mask the lingering scent of whisky that clings to my tongue, my lips, my skin. As I come around the bend in the road, I quicken my pace. Just one mile further. One mile, and then I can rest.

I pass the turn-off to Fort Abrams, the gate above the uneven dirt drive swinging open in the morning breeze. As I jog past, I hear something. A girl, crying.

I break stride, coming to a halt doubled-over and panting a few yards past the turn-off. Fort Abrams is one of many battlements that dot the coast of Maine – built in the early eighteen-hundreds to defend against the British, its crumbling ruins now serve as a site for keg-stands and date-rapes. I’d been there once in high school, an ill-fated date with Tom Bradford. I later heard you couldn’t keep him off you with a stick, but it wasn’t true – I knocked his old Datsun out of gear parrying his drunken advances, and it rolled fifteen feet down an embankment, coming to a forcible stop at the trunk of a rather large oak. As he cried over the smoldering wreck of his pick-up, it occurred to me that my presence was no longer required, so I left.

It’s a shame he never called.

The roar of my pulse in my ears subsides, and I can hear her, clearer now. Sounds like her guy drives an automatic.

“Hello?” I call. There’s no reply. I step off of the shoulder and into the shallow, weed-strewn ditch. Dew bleeds through my running shoes as I peer into the forest beyond, but there’s no one there. I glance back toward the turn-off. Nothing. I turn toward town. That’s when I see her.

She’s lying face-down in the ditch, cans and wrappers and cigarette butts strewn around her as if she’s just one more unwanted item carelessly discarded. Her clothes are filthy, and she’s lying at the end of a broad swath of disturbed earth cutting through the thick carpet of pine needles that blanket the forest floor. Her right arm is extended toward the road, and her fingernails are broken and bleeding. One of them is missing, the raw skin beneath glistening in the morning air.

I call to her. She doesn’t respond. I place my hand on her shoulder. Still no reply. I shake her, gently at first, and then harder when she doesn’t react. She must be unconscious, I think. Hurt. I roll her over. I wish I hadn’t.

Deep gashes furrow the flesh of her hands and forearms, black from dirt and grime. Her stomach is in tatters. There’s blood everywhere, its metallic tang catching in my throat and making me gag. Her shallow, hitching breaths seem more labored now, and I brush the hair from her face to help her breathe. Her eyes are closed, her eyelids fluttering, and her brow is furrowed in pain. A single tear slides down her dirt-streaked face. I kneel beside her – paralyzed, helpless.

Suddenly, she begins to shake. Her limbs rattle violently against the bed of dead leaves beneath her. Her chest hitches, and she stops breathing. My indecision evaporates. I tilt her head back and lower my mouth over hers, holding closed her nose as I force air into her lungs. Six summers and a lifetime ago, I’d lifeguarded at a local beach; now it seems so distant, those half-remembered classes in a quiet corner of the empty high-school gym. I pray that I’m doing more good than harm as I feel her battered chest rise beneath me. I check for breath. Nothing. I try again. She’s convulsing now, struggling beneath me. I can taste her blood on my lips, and as I press my face to hers I realize she’s cold, terribly cold.

I press down hard on her chest, open palm to breastbone, a steady rhythm. Fresh blood wells up from her stomach, surging as I bear down. It soaks my hands, thick and black as ink in the long morning shadows of the ditch. So much blood. I squeeze my eyes shut tight against the tears and force myself to breathe deep, again forcing air into her lungs, her head cradled in my arms.

The girl’s tremors surround me now, a low rumble that seems to rise up from the ground itself. I open my eyes, startled – my vision is blurred, and my teeth rattle together uncontrollably as I try to hold her still, taking another breath and expelling it into her mouth. I can actually hear the sound of her vibration now, and my heart leaps when I realize that the noise is a scream, building in her throat like a wave capping and breaking against the shore. I try to pull back but she rises against me – a hand grips my hair at the nape of my neck, holding my mouth to hers. The sound is deafening, a guttural animal roar that blots out all other sound. I struggle against her grip, panic coursing through my body, but she holds me fast. Her eyes are open now, her back arched up toward me as I try to back away. My legs piston against the ground, my arms flailing as I lean back precariously against her grip. My head swims, my vision darkens, and still, she won’t let go.

Then, suddenly, it’s gone. Her hand loosens its grip on my hair and falls away. I’m off-balance, still pushing away from her, and without her resistance I pitch backward. My calf connects with the shallow lip of the ditch and I fall, hard. My head cracks against the unforgiving blacktop with a dull thud, its rough surface scraping the flesh of my elbows raw. I’m dazed and shaken and my head is pounding.

Only too late do I recognize the growl of the approaching engine.

It’s an old Ford pick-up, coming fast. I don’t see anything but the yellowy stare of its headlights and a blur of chrome bumper as it approaches, the driver cutting the wheel sharply to avoid me. As it passes, wind buffets my hair and face, and kicks up dust that stings my eyes and skin like needles. The pick-up continues past me toward the opposite shoulder, leaning dangerously to the left as though it might tip. The driver corrects, cutting sharply back across the road and coming to a screeching halt in the right-hand shoulder. The door is open before the truck stops moving.

“Jesus – are you all right?” he asks.

“Phone,” I croak through the cloud of dust that still hangs like fog over the roadway.

“I could have killed you,” he says, quietly, more to himself than to me.

“Phone,” I repeat, stronger this time. “I need a phone!”

“There’s a cell in the truck,” he replies, confused. “Ma’am, are you all right?”

“I need you to call nine-one-one,” I say, ignoring his question. “There’s a girl in the ditch. She’s dying.”

He sizes me up for a moment, and then turns wordlessly and runs back to the truck. I collapse back down onto the pavement as I watch him go. My head is heavy, and I can feel the beginning of an angry knot where it connected with the ground. I watch as the man leans across the seat of the truck, snatching up his cell and pressing it to his ear. His truck stopped just inches from the sign that’s marked the edge of town for as long as I can remember, and probably long before. I’d sworn to myself a long time ago that I’d never see that sign or its idiot command again, but as I lay here now, I feel an odd sense of relief to see it’s still standing.

Welcome to Kirkland, Maine, it says. Enjoy Your Stay.