Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Blogger Stephen Blackmoore on CITY OF THE LOST

Okay, I said my piece about Stephen Blackmoore's fantastic CITY OF THE LOST (cough cough out January 3rd go buy it cough cough) the other day, but as promised, Stephen's here to give us an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the making thereof. So, without further ado, here's the man himself...

Did you know CITY OF THE LOST is a picture book? 

It is.  Sort of.

Back in 2006 or so I caught a glimpse of CRIMINAL: COWARD, a comic written by Ed Brubaker with artwork by Sean Phillips.  Grabbed me from the first panel.  Brubaker's writing is top notch, but Phillips' artwork really sells it.  Calling it gritty doesn't do it justice.

I'm not able to keep up with comics as much as I'd like and though I've since read the rest of them it took me a while to get back there.  But those images from that first run of CRIMINAL stuck with me.

My novel, CITY OF THE LOST is a book about Joe Sunday, a two-bit thug who gets killed and brought back to life.  Things go downhill from there.

It's being called a dark urban fantasy but I still have trouble seeing it that way.  I wrote it as a noir novel with horror and fantasy in it.  It's a crime novel first and a fantasy second, not the other way around.  I liked the idea of a cover that reflected that.  Something that showed L.A.'s sunshine brand of noir, something with some rough edges and harsh lighting.  Something that caught a little bit of the bad crazy that I was going for in the novel.

When it came time to talk about cover art my editor somehow managed to read my mind and say she was thinking of getting a comic artist to do it and did I have anybody in mind.

I didn't hesitate.  I said Sean Phillips.

Now Phillips has done BATMAN: GOTHAM NOIR, SLEEPER, working on a horror noir book with Ed Brubaker called FATALE, which drops January 4th, by the way.  Guy's got more things than I can name. 

He has light and shadow down cold.  His latest CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT is a fucking masterwork.  In the geek hierarchy I'm nobody.  He's so far above me I can't even see the soles of his shoes.

So I figured, nice suggestion but there's no way in hell I'm getting Sean fucking Phillips to do my cover.

And then I got an email saying that I got Sean fucking Phillips to do my cover.

And then, because my geek heart hadn't entirely seized up, my editor said, "He's going to do some internal illustrations for the book, too."

So not only did I get the cover artist I wanted, but he was going to do some black and white illustrations.

And Jesus Christ did he knock 'em out of the park.

The thing about his work on this that I particularly liked is that he didn't see the characters exactly like I did.  Damn close, but not exact.  And I love that.  He picked up on my descriptions and depicted those characters in a way that never occurred to me.

Here's an example.  The cover.  It's a wrap-around image that I think really captures the essence of the book.  There's no scene with Joe Sunday walking around Hollywood Boulevard with a gaping chest wound in the novel.  But at the same time that's exactly what he's doing.

The harsh lighting, the burnt-out palm trees, the massive hole in Joe Sunday's chest you can see the traffic sign through.  That's the book right there.

Now I'm not going to show you the internal pics.  They're kind of spoilery. 

But I will say this, Sean Phillips draws some mean motherfuckers and when somebody gets their head blown off in Chapter 4, well, he's got one hell of a point of view on that.

Thanks to Mr. Holm for letting me squat on his bloggy real estate.  Even if that does sound kind of gross.

So there you have it. And if you think that cover's gorgeous, just wait until you get a load of what's inside. (If you don't think that cover's gorgeous, there's nothing to be done for you. It is, and that's that.) CITY OF THE LOST will be available at any bookstore worth its salt come January 3rd.

Another DEAD HARVEST Rave!

With thanks to Ed Fortune:
Fans of the Harry Dresden series and those who like their modern-day fantasy with a twist of hardboiled detective story will love this (as will fans of GOOD OMENS and IN NOMINE). I firmly expect this page-turner to do well, and am pleased to hear that a sequel is already in the works.
 Click through to read the rest.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stephen Blackmoore's CITY OF THE LOST

Six days.

That's how long you have to wait before you can read Stephen Blackmoore's CITY OF THE LOST (out January 3rd).

And believe you me, you should. Because I was lucky enough to read CITY OF THE LOST a few months back, and it kicks ass. But don't take my word for it. Peep this:
When Raymond Chandler wrote, "...down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid," the mean streets to which his mind had no doubt wandered were those of his beloved Los Angeles.  CITY OF THE LOST's Joe Sunday is mean, tarnished, and afraid, but for good reason.  The funhouse reflection of LA Blackmoore conjures is at once vibrant, seedy, and mysterious - streets so mean, they feel as though plucked straight from Chandler's DT nightmares.  CITY OF THE LOST effortlessly blends the grit with the fantastical, and paints a world in which magic is to be feared - but not nearly so much as the people behind it.
 Oh, no, wait; I said that, too. But plenty of other folks have been singing Blackmoore's praises, from Wendig to Jacobs to Kirkus, who gave the guy a starred review his first time out. Not too shabby, that.

What I'm saying is, this one is no joke worth picking up (wherever books are sold, yadda yadda). The damn thing practically reads itself. It's fantastic.

What? Still not convinced? Just you wait. Stephen's graciously agreed to pop on by this Friday to share a little behind-the-scenes on CITY OF THE LOST as part of his literary debutante's ball grand coming-out virtual book tour. Least, I assume that's what he's gonna talk about. There's a chance he's just gonna spam y'all with porn links and run his version of a Nigerian prince scam. Not saying he for-sure has one, but if he tries to get you to buy his limited-edition signed gold-leaf printing, I suggest you pass...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


DEAD HARVEST's first review comes courtesy R. Thomas Brown and Spinetingler, and it's a doozy:

"DEAD HARVEST is a triumphant debut that felt like the book I’d been waiting on for years without knowing it."

Click through the link to read the rest. And thanks to the whole Spinetingler crew, who've got me grinning from ear to ear.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"The Final Bough"

If you pop over to Angry Robot's site, you'll find a little present from yours truly, in the form of free fiction. "The Final Bough" has everything a good holiday story should: dames, deceit, dentistry and at the center of it all, an elf who wants answers even more than he wants another swig of nog.

Merry Christmas, and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Psst: want some awesome free wallpaper?

Folks have been pretty darn enthusiastic about the pulptastic covers for DEAD HARVEST (ahem, out February 28 in the US and March 1 worldwide) and THE WRONG GOODBYE (out November 2012). So I thought, what better way than to celebrate the holiday season than to help y'all deck the halls with boughs of awesome? (Where "the halls" is "your computer" and "boughs of awesome" are high-res details of my kickass Angry Robot cover art all cropped and suitable for wallpapering. I'll admit, my analogy needs work.)

Now, I'm no technical wizard. Nor am I technically a wizard, but that seems less germane to this conversation. Point is, I don't know how to do that thing where the little thumbnails serve as a link to the big honking pictures. So I'm just gonna post the big honking pictures. Sorry if I break the internet.

Anyways, here goes. Wallpaper away.

DEAD HARVEST, coming February 2012!

THE WRONG GOODBYE, coming November 2012!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A RIP THROUGH TIME Ebook Now Available!

Four authors. Five stories. One thrilling serial, in which rogue time-cop Simon Rip travels to the farthest reaches of time and space in an effort to recover the Berlin Device, an object that represents both humankind's greatest achievement... and the deadliest weapon ever conceived.

I was honored to supply Rip's inaugural installment, and then joined the ranks of spectators while editor David Cranmer tapped Charles Gramlich, Garnett Elliott, and Chad Eagleton to take the helm. The resulting tale is both thrilling and unpredictable, and is now together for the first time, in ebook form, for the rock-bottom price of $0.99.

And not to sound like I'm peddling ShamWows here, but wait there's more! Included in this collection is a never-before-seen bonus Simon Rip tale penned by Chad Eagleton, as well as Ron Scheer's essay on time-travel in popular culture, "Are We Then Yet?"

So what are you waiting for? Go pick yourself up a copy. Time's a wastin'...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Magic Box

I've spent a lot of (virtual) ink talking about my Papa Burns' influence on my reading (and therefore writing) habits. There's no question he hardwired me from a young age to always think of story – and life – in terms of mystery. What I haven't talked as much about is my introduction to the world of science fiction and fantasy. That's due in large part to the fact that my love of all things fantastical came about almost passively. I was born into the era of Star Wars and Stephen King, the two being so ubiquitous during my formative years, it's hardly a surprise that I, a voracious consumer of any and all forms of entertainment, internalized them into my worldview.

But Star Wars and King were as mainstream as can be. If I'm to pinpoint the moment I tumbled down the rabbit-hole of hardcore science fiction and fantasy fandom, I've got to to give credit to my Grandpa Holm, and to a box of musty, yellowed old paperbacks, which I devoured by flashlight (fittingly, it seems, in this post-Harry Potter world in which we now live) in a cupboard under the stairs.

I don't remember the specific circumstances behind Grandpa giving me the box, or how the box came to reside in the cupboard beneath our finished basement stairs. (I expect he thought I'd reached an age where I'd appreciate them. If so, he wasn't wrong.) What I do recall is stumbling across it one day in my attempt to push aside enough boxes to craft a proper hiding space, and being enthralled by the secret knowledge those yellowed pages hinted at, and by the tacky promise of their lurid, ornate covers.

The books inside dated largely from the Sixties and Seventies, and ran the gamut from forgotten to disposable to flat-out classics. Paul W. Fairman, Terry Brooks, and countless authors too obscure for Google's reach mingled with Heinlein, McCaffrey, Asimov and Herbert, with Niven and Clarke and Le Guin. Short story collections (all of the shocking-twist-to-the-tale variety) sat alongside massive tomes replete with maps, appendices, and glossaries. Space opera rested next to sword-and-sorcery. Dystopic paranoia tales were piled atop hardcore military sf. And I read every damn one of them, my impressionable young mind giving equal weight to each.

I write this post as news breaks that Anne McCaffrey has passed away. Her DRAGONFLIGHT, as I recall, was the first book from that magic box I ever read. How could any self-respecting twelve-year-old (as I'm guessing I was at the time) not fall victim to the siren song of that book's cover and all it promises?

Of course, it's been decades now since I cracked its cover, so who knows what adult-me would make of it, but at the time, it was one of the coolest things I'd ever read. And it sent me down a path on which I've continued to this day.

If I'm very lucky in this life, one day some nerdy kid will become enthralled with my own lurid, pulpy covers – perhaps while hidden in a makeshift box-fort in a cupboard under the stairs – and begin to read, with no idea whatsoever whether the book in his hands is a stone classic, or some throwaway bit of entertainment, long forgotten.

I only hope that he or she finds my story half as cool.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ramblings of a would-be writer...

Sunday, August 11, 2002. That's when it all began for me. One day before my second wedding anniversary. One year after dropping out of grad school having completed a lone miserable semester, loading up a moving van, and heading fifteen hours north from Virginia to Maine headed toward a new job, a new city, a new life.

In retrospect, it makes sense. I'd always told myself I'd write a book one day, but it wasn't until Sunday, August 11, 2002, that my life settled down enough for me to even consider it. For me to muster the guts to try. For me to get quiet enough to hear the stories in my head.

On Sunday, August 11, 2002, I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of nine AM  a rarity for me in those days and started writing. I didn't even tell my wife what I was doing, so sure was I it would soon wind up on the ever-growing pile of cast-off hobbies I'd turned to in attempt to distract myself from my sudden rudderlessness, having abandoned my life's goal of a career in epidemiology. I'd love to tell you that day I penned the first sentence of DEAD HARVEST, or maybe began one of my many published shorts, but the fact is, that's not remotely true.  No, instead, I created a file folder titled "Ramblings of a would-be writer," and in it, I placed a file named "some beginning thoughts." Apparently, I couldn't even bring myself to capitalize the title of the file, so little did I think of what I typed into it. Which makes sense, because much of what I typed into it was crap.

No, really, I'm not being modest; I just reread it, and it was terrible. But here's the thing: terrible as it was, it was necessary.  Those first godawful notes became my first godawful attempt at a novel, which in turn led to my first not-godawful attempt at a novel, which led me to begin thinking about seeking representation, which led me to write some short fiction so I could pad my query letters, which led me to write an even better novel... which leads me to right now.

In a little over three months, I'll be releasing my first novel but of course it isn't really my first novel. That one, I worked on for the better part of two years, and never finished. It's not even my second novel, which also took two years and turned out well enough to land me an agent, but has yet to see the light of day. No, my first novel is, in fact, my third, and that one only took me a year to write. My fourth one took me shorter still, and it's slated to come out about a year from now.  As for my fifth one... well, I'll let you know as soon as I finish it.

Some of you will read this and despair; after all, it sounds like nine years of toil and torment, with not a ton to show for it.  But others will read this and take heart, because, like me, you realize not a moment of that toil and torment was for naught. The fact is, unless you're a cast member of the Jersey Shore, there's no shortcut to publication, no secret handshake to get you in the door. All you can do is sit down and get your lousy words out of the way because you know in your bones the better ones are coming.

And no matter how far your words wind up taking you, cross your fingers and keep on hoping the next ones you type are better still...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A RIP THROUGH TIME, Coming Soon to E-Readers Everywhere!

Four pulp writers. One old-school, genre-bending serial. And all for $0.99.  Rip mastermind David Cranmer's got the deets up on his blog, but the gist is this: the book includes Rip's first arc in its entirety, from my series opening installment to Chad Eagleton's thrilling conclusion, plus a brand new Eagleton-penned tale in which everyone's favorite rogue time-cop... ah, but to find out what he's up to, I guess you'll have to grab the ebook, won't you?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


For those of y'all who aren't yet sick of reading my inane ramblings can't get enough of my brilliant proclamations here and on the Twitters, pop on over to Crime Fiction Lover, where R. Thomas Brown was kind enough to ask me a few questions...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Over at Musings of an All Purpose Monkey, Elizabeth A. White takes a look at CRIME FACTORY: THE FIRST SHIFT, and has some nice things to say about my tale of a stoner caper gone awry.  Of course, she claims she likes some Weddle fellow's story better, but I'll try not to hold that against her.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Look, Ma! I've got talent!

Hey, wow! Crime Fiction Lover has kicked off New Talent November with a glowing review of 8 POUNDS, courtesy of Jacques Filippi!  (That's right, hypothetical playground bully that lives in my head and haunts my every waking hour, they said "New Talent November," not "No-Talent November."  And while we're on the subject, don't you think it's time you stopped calling me "Christina"? I mean, a guy tries on a dress one time, and you never let it go.  Sheesh.)

Where was I?  Oh, right: Thanks to Jacques and all the fine folks behind CFL. Y'all are aces.

UPDATE: The full version of Jacques' review is now up at his blog.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All hail our robot overlord!

I am thoroughly geeked to report that Marc Gascoigne, my Angry Robot overlord (and architect of my kickass covers) has just won a World Fantasy Award!

Marc is without a doubt one of the most enthusiastic champions of fantasy the world has ever seen, and in the short time Angry Robot has been in existence, they've put out some of the most exciting books I've ever read.  I say that not as someone lucky enough to be along for the ride, but as a fan.

Cheers, Marco.  Your win is well deserved.  Now onto Phase Two of your nefarious plan: ruling this damp rock of a planet and all the meat-suits on it with a merciless, stainless-steel fist...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"The Putdown" to appear in Grift #1!

I just got word from ace editor (and damn fine crime writer in his own right) John Kenyon that my short story "The Putdown" will be appearing in the inaugural issue of Grift Magazine.

Grift Magazine is a thrice-yearly print mag dedicated to crime fiction of all stripes. In addition to the print publication, which will debut February 2012, Grift's website is already a major source of news, opinion, and interviews, and it's well worth checking out. If the print mag is half as slick as the site, I lucked out, getting in on the ground floor before John gets to big to take my calls.

Oh, and while you're at it, how 'bout you polish up a story and send it their way? Submissions are open.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Under the Covers

Today at their blog, the insanely talented Amazing 15 Design team offer up a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of my Collector covers. Thanks to their tireless work and the tutelage of my Angry Robot overlord Marc Gascoigne, this process was a dream. I'm psyched they decided to throw back the curtain on it so you folks could see the journey from conception to (freakin' awesome) finished product.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Okay, I let my Angry Robot overlord Marc Gascoigne have his fun breaking the news of my gorgeous, gorgeous covers (on account of he designed them) but I just couldn't wait any longer to post the images myself.

The covers were Marc's brainchild, an homage to the classic Marber-era Penguin covers of the '60s and '70s, and they were executed brilliantly by the crazy-talented Amazing 15 Design.

DEAD HARVEST is scheduled for release February 28, 2012, and is now available for preorder! THE WRONG GOODBYE will be released November 2012.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


If the interwebs are to be believed, it would seem THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler and featuring my story "The Hitter," is now available!

I can't tell you how honored I am to be included in such a stellar lineup. To share space with folks like Block, Rozan, Lansdale, Collins, and Spillane is a dream come true, and the coolest thing is, they're just the tip of the talent iceberg. This collection truly features some of the finest writing, genre or otherwise, going on today. And also me. (I mean "talent iceberg"? Geez. No wonder I'm not in THE BEST AMERICAN ANALOGIES 2011.)

But don't take my word for it. Not when you can read what Kirkus has to say. Here's a snippet:
“Diamond Alley,” Dennis McFadden’s quiet tale of small-town teens confronting the murder of a popular classmate, packs a far greater punch. Family stories are equally powerful. In Christopher Merkner’s chilling “Last Cottage,” a young couple tries to outlast a neighbor determined to oust them from their waterfront home. Across cultures, mothers protect. In Richard Lange’s “Baby Killer,” Blanca struggles with an acting-out granddaughter. And although embarrassed by her profession, a Chinese mother helps her detective daughter in S.J. Rozan’s “Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case.” An absentee father’s return challenges a wife who’s moved on in Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Stars Are Falling.” But Chris F. Holm shows in “The Hitter” that sometimes the greatest threat is to the dads themselves.
Yup. I got name-dropped by Kirkus. Which is surreal to say the least. And not just a little bit happy-dance-inducing. (But, you know, in a manly way.)

If you're interested in buying THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, you can find it almost anywhere books are sold. Apparently, including Walmart (and no, I'm not going to provide the link.) Obviously, it's also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through your local indie via Indiebound.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Post-B'con Post

I'm not one to take pictures or video, nor to write journals. I prefer the moment to any attempts to record it for future consumption. (I also, um, suck at taking pictures, which may be a more honest reason for the dearth of them here.) As such, this post isn't going to be the typical pic and link fest most B'con wrap-ups are.

Instead, I'd like to say this: if you're a writer or a reader of crime fiction, be it traditional mysteries or the bleakest noir, next year clear your calendar and go go go. I promise you, you won't regret it.

I'm not someone who likes crowds. Or public speaking. Or having my picture taken. Truth is, I'm usually happiest on my couch with my laptop, clacking away like I am right now. Bouchercon pushed me so far outside my comfort zone, I couldn't see it from where I was standing. And, God help me, I loved every minute of it.

As far as nuts and bolts, I think my panels went pretty well (feel free to ask around, since there's a chance I'm a tad deluded on that point), and for the record, the Anthony for Best Short Story went to Dana Cameron (congrats, Dana!), not me. But the nuts and bolts of B'con don't tell the tale. The story, as any good story should be, is rooted in character. And my, the characters I met.

I'm not going to list all the folks I met in St. Louis, largely because I'll no doubt fail in my attempt, and feel terrible about it when I realize that great conversation I forgot to mention. So let me instead say this: if I talked to you, hung out with you, or so much as bumped into you in the hallway, it was my pleasure. To my tweeps in particular, you're even more charming and delightful in person, and I'm glad to count you as my friends. And a special thanks go out to Jon, Ruth, and Judy, the unlikeliest set of guardian angels you'll ever meet. You're all aces in my book.

So thanks, all. Once, and I'm hooked. It's a hell of a thing to find one's tribe. Which means I guarantee I'll see you all next year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Buy the "By"

Check it out, people. From New Pulp Press and the twisted minds behind Crime Factory Magazine comes CRIME FACTORY: THE FIRST SHIFT, a killer collection chock-a-block with some of the finest names in crime fiction. Names like Bruen. Bill. McKinty. Shea. Davidson. Weddle. Wolven.

And, um, Holm.

Wanna know more? Click through and check it out. Then buy it buy it buy it.

Oh, and speaking of names, a funny thing happened on the way back from the printer. See, the story I've got in this anthology is called "Green" (as in money, weed, inexperience, envy, and nausea, all of which feature in the tale.) Or, rather, it was called "Green." Somewhere along the way, a quotation mark got moved, and now it's listed as "Green By." In the far future of my deluded fantasies where I'm rich and famous and ruling the globe with an iron fist from my gold-plated moon base, the THE COLLECTED WORKS OF OUR EXALTED LEADER CHRIS F. HOLM will once more list the tale as "Green." Which, by my estimation, makes this printing of "Green By" a collector's item. Get 'em while they're hot.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

8 POUNDS Named a Top 8 Crime Collection by Crime Fiction Lover!

"This set of dark tales has an unparalleled sense of place... Of special note here is the story 'The World Behind.' It is the best single short story I have read in years."

Click through to read what else they had to say, and to check out the rest of the list. You'll find many a friend o' the blog on it. I'd be remiss if I didn't congratulate Keith, Nigel, David, Paul, and Chris for their inclusion. Congrats, gents.

Thanks kindly to R. Thomas Brown and Crime Fiction Lover for the mention. I'm honored to be included among such fantastic company.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bouchercon 2011 Schedule

September 15-18
Renaissance St. Louis Grand
St. Louis, Missouri


BAD SEED: Sex, Violence, and Everything That Makes a Book Great
Thursday, September 15 from 9:00 to 10:00 PM
Majestic A, B, C
Moderator: Scott Montgomery
Panelists: Christa Faust, Chris F. Holm, Craig Johnson, Scott Phillips, John Rector, Benjamin Whitmer, and Jonathan Woods

DARK ANGEL: Morally Challenged Heroes
Friday, September 16 from 2:30 to 3:30 PM
Landmark 1, 2, 3
Moderator: Chris F. Holm
Panelists: Bill Cameron, Blake Crouch, Leighton Gage, Theresa Schwegel, and Michael Wiley


Sunday, September 18 from 8:30 to 9:30 AM

Sunday, September 18 from 11:00 AM to 1:00PM
Nominated for Best Short Story for "The Hitter"

(aka a shameless plug of my lovely wife's panel, which I shall doubtless be attending)

Friday, September 16 from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Landmark 5,6,7
Moderator: Katrina Niidas Holm
Panelists: Donna Andrews, Shirley Damsgaard, Rosemary Harris, Julie Hyzy, and Joanna Slan

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Southern Crimes and Southern Gods

Yeah, yeah. Been remiss on the blogging of late. But the writing life's been insane lately, leaving little time for chatting at you people. Fear not, though, 'cause I've got a couple kickass suggestions for how to while away your time without me.

Like Lovecraft mythos? Southern Gothic? PI novels? The blues? Damn right, you do. That there list is a lightsaber away from mashing gleefully on every damn geek button I've got. And it also just so happens to be the basis for John Hornor Jacobs' stunning debut SOUTHERN GODS. And if you think the ingredients sound tasty, wait till you find out just how spicy things get once John lets it all simmer. This is one book you don't want to miss.

You know what never, ever happens? A debut author signing a deal with a major publisher for a short story collection. You know what else never, ever happens? A debut author drawing comparisons to Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell, and John Steinbeck.

That is, until Frank Bill.

This dude's got the goods. The stories in CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA pack a punch. Like a vicious, unexpected, holy-shit-was-that-a-roll-of-quarters-in-your-fist kind of punch. Pick this collection up now, so you'll know what the hell folks are raving about come award season.

So there you have it. Get clicking, and get reading. But don't stray too far. I just may have a cover to show off soon...

Monday, August 15, 2011

PULP INK Now Available!

Cats and kittens, grab your hats and mittens, 'cause do I have some cool news for you. (Ugh; who says that? No matter, Chris: just keep calm and carry on.) As of right this second, PULP INK is live and ready for download.

What is PULP INK, you ask? (You don't? Well, just be a sport and play along, then, would you? Because obviously, I intend to tell you either way.) PULP INK is an ebook anthology, cooked up by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan and released by the good folks at Needle, in which some of today's hottest crime fic writers take turns riffing on tracks from the iconic Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Writers like Allan Guthrie. Matthew Funk. Patti Abbott. Hilary Davidson. And, um, me.

My entry's called "A Night at the Royale." It's bloody, pulpy, and as referential as all get-out. (Seriously, I even crammed a nod to Tarantino's portion of Four Rooms in there, so you know I'm eight kinds of Tarantino-geek.)

You can download PULP INK for Kindle, Kindle UK, and via Smashwords. So what're you waiting for? Don't make me summon the gimp.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Bouchercon Appearances

Confession: I've never been to a writing convention. Not sure why. Distance, for one, seeing as how I live way the heck up in Maine – a lovely place to spend one's time, but not exactly central to anything. Also, there's the whole what-do-I-do-when-I-get-there question. Okay, there are these panel things, and dinners, and a whole bunch of drinking, but for years, I didn't know many of the attendees, so I kind of expected I'd wind up having a quiet cocktail at the end of the bar with my lovely wife while wondering why we hadn't simply elected to do so in our living room.

Then Twitter happened, and suddenly, I knew all kinds of writerly folks. And to a one, the con they most talked about was Bouchercon. So, said lovely wife and I decided to hell with it – we'd go. Mostly, we figured, we'd just lay low; you know, watch our friends' panels, have some drinks, grab some books. It sounded like a decent enough plan.

Then I got a book deal and an Anthony nomination, and that plan went out the window.

In lieu of lying low, the fabulous Judy Bobalik, Jon Jordan, and Ruth Jordan have seen fit to put me on a couple panels.

Yeah, I said a couple.

The first of them, titled BAD SEED: SEX, VIOLENCE, AND EVERYTHING THAT MAKES A BOOK GREAT, is scheduled for Thursday night at 9:00 PM. Moderated by Scott Montgomery, this panel features such ass-kicking name-takers as Christa Faust, Craig Johnson, Scott Phillips, John Rector, Benjamin Whitmer, Jonathan Woods – and, um, me. Oh, and I hear tell there will be a bar.

The second panel, which I'll be moderating, is titled DARK ANGEL: MORALLY CHALLENGED HEROES, a topic close to my heart. It's set for 2:30 PM Friday, and damn did I luck out with panelists: slated to participate are Bill Cameron, Blake Crouch, Leighton Gage, Theresa Schwegel, and Michael Wiley.

Oh, and as a super-duper added bonus, the missus (aka ace mystery reviewer Katrina Niidas Holm) is moderating a panel called DEATH BY GOOD INTENTION, which features such luminaries of the cozy mystery scene as Donna Andrews, Shirley Damsgaard, Rosemary Harris, Julie Hyzy, and Joanna Slan. You can catch that one at 11:30 AM Friday.

So there you have it. In one fell swoop, I went from no cons and no appearances to one con and two appearances. Three, if you count me cheering from the back (or, more likely, right in front) while Kat does her thing. So stop by. Say hi. Feel free to heckle (me, not Kat). I should be easy to spot; I'll be the one surreptitiously snapping cell phone pictures of my fellow panelists whilst simultaneously trying my damnedest not to vomit. ('Cause dude. Big crowds. Big nerves. I'd best get interesting quick.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Boys of Summer

In my last post, which was apparently the first in an accidental tangentially music-themed self-help series, the ghost of Beatles past told me not to worry so much about my prose (or something.) Today, Don Henley has this handy tip for getting first drafts done in a timely fashion: “Don’t look back – you can never look back.”

When it comes to first drafts, I ain’t historically the speediest of writers. I have a tendency to comb over a chapter until I’m completely satisfied with it before I can bring myself to move on, which means my completed first draft is pretty clean, but getting across the finish line’s like pulling teeth.

Two weeks ago, I began work on a new book. I’d like to have a first draft done by the end of the calendar year. Factor in the Day Job, the pending release of DEAD HARVEST, and THE WRONG GOODBYE to edit, and that’s a pretty ambitious timeline. So to stick with it, I turned to that most polarizing of writing tools: the outline.

Some writers outline everything. Some never outline. My approach to outlines is more situational (read: haphazard). THE ANGELS’ SHARE I outlined. DEAD HARVEST and THE WRONG GOODBYE, not so much. The new book, I’m kinda sorta outlining, by which I mean I’ve got maybe the first third of it outlined, and I’ve already started writing. I know the broad strokes of where the story’s going, but I plan to keep on outlining a little ways ahead of where I’m writing until I finish – as well as updating the outline-sketches of the chapters I’ve already written to reflect any details that may’ve changed. The former affords me the luxury of knowing the beats of a scene before I sit down to flesh it out, which cuts down on pointless noodling, and the latter provides me with a document I can use to confirm what’s come before to inform what comes next, without getting bogged down trying to iron out the prose every time I need to peek back. And if you ask me, it's the latter that makes the outlining worthwhile, which may make me the first writer ever to use an outline predominantly as a rear-view mirror. Or maybe this is something all serious outliners are hep to – but if that's the case, those sneaky bastards are mighty tight-lipped about it.

Maybe this little experiment of mine will prove a failure, but so far (knock wood), it’s working great. I won’t allow myself to read any chapters once they’re finished; if I need to know a name or date or salient detail, it’d better be on the outline. If it’s not, I’ll fix it in the second draft. And I’m writing faster than I ever have before – not to mention, having more fun. This weird hybrid method of mine is just the safety net my subconscious needs to soldier on without too much painful self-reflection, so I can just sit back, and watch the story unfold.

But of course, the real test will be how the finished draft looks...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“On Style” or, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Tell the Freakin’ Story”

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” (Okay, actually, he was like the fifth person to be credited for that sentiment, but he’s the famousest fellow to utter the line, so like it or not, it seems the quote’s now his.) And seeing as how Lennon and I have so much in common (what? I’m a skinny white dude who owns a guitar), I’d like to not-so-humbly offer up a writerly corollary:

Your writing style is what you’re left with when you stop trying to write with style.

Crap. Hold up a sec. That came perilously close to Writing Advice. Writing Advice, in my opinion, is something I’m neither qualified nor inclined to dispense – except, on occasion, to myself. (That sounds weird, I know, but I find I’m constantly relearning stuff I thought I’d long ago internalized; you’d be surprised how much it helps to remind yourself of what few writing truths you know.)(Why the hell do I keep saying “you” when I mean “I”? For that matter, why am I posting this online if it’s only for personal reference? This post seems, at best, ill-conceived.)

But as a bit of self-instruction, it’s a useful one – particularly since I tend to write in multiple genres: crime, fantasy, horror, the odd bit of science fiction. See, whenever I sit down to write a story, I tend to think along the lines of what I’d like to see it shelved beside. “The World Behind” began as a coming-of-age story in the vein of King’s “The Body.” “A Simple Kindness” was a love-letter to Hard Case Crime. And I’ve always thought of “Seven Days of Rain” as my attempt to rewrite “The Tell-Tale Heart” as told by Michael McDowell. But that kind of thinking can sometimes lead to pastiche. So the trick, for me, is to leave all thought of style aside while I’m writing, and just try to tell the story. That doesn’t preclude making conscious decisions about prose; some stories demand short, terse sentences, while others support a more languid, descriptive style. But long or short, terse or florid, they’ve still got to sound like my sentences – not Ardai’s or McDowell’s or King’s.

The funny thing is, the only sure-fire way I know to write sentences that sound like me is to not think too hard about how they’ll read. Because the more I ruminate, the more my brain is liable to come back with some scrambled version of one of the billions of other people’s sentences I’ve got rattling around my head.

(An aside: do you people think about prose in terms of how it sounds? I can’t help but. To me, reading prose ain’t too far off from reading sheet music, except for the fact that I’m borderline illiterate when it comes to reading sheet music. Seriously, ask my 4th grade band teacher. Pretty sure I hold the dubious distinction of being the worst saxophone player in the history of Central Square Elementary.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On Endings, and New Beginnings

It's been quite a week.

Six days ago, I finished my third novel.

Five days ago, I started my fourth.

The novel I finished (in first draft, at least) is called THE WRONG GOODBYE. It's a direct sequel to my upcoming debut, DEAD HARVEST, and the first I've actually written under contract. DEAD HARVEST is scheduled for release in March of next year, with THE WRONG GOODBYE following that autumn. Technically, it's not due for another few months, which is good, because while it is now officially a complete novel, it's far from completed. There's doubtless a great deal of polishing to be done before I'm ready to let it out into the world, but it's much easier to make something good out of something rough than it is to make something out of nothing.

As for the New Book, it's a big-ass crime thriller, and maybe the most ambitious story I've yet told. I've got about a third of it outlined, and maybe a chapter and a half written. It has a name, but for now, I'm not saying what that name is. For now, that's all you get...

Oh, and a note for the mathematically inclined: yes, this post mentions I've written three novels. Yes, I only talked about two of them. The third, which was actually my first, is titled THE ANGELS' SHARE, and it's still looking for a nice home. So if you happen to have yourself a publishing house and you'd like to take a peek, you just let me know...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Couple New Reviews!

8 POUNDS is getting love all over the place! Seriously, that short story collection is a brazen, brazen hussy. But with a heart of gold, I tells ya.

First up, check out this gem from Unsquare Dance: "Chris F. Holm is one of the finest writers working out there today." I mean, damn. One can only assume by "out there," Stephen means "on Chris F. Holm's couch," but still.

And Ray Garraty had this to say:

Самиздатовский сборник Криса Холма включает в себя восемь рассказов, большинство из которых имеет солидный вес, отчего книга, вопреки своему названию, гораздо тяжелее восьми фунтов. Холм пишет в разных жанрах: есть здесь хоррор, есть современный неонуар, есть т.н «темная проза». Слово «темный» как нельзя лучше подходит для описания всей коллекции рассказов.

To be fair, I'm mostly just hoping that's a good review, on account of it's in Russian. But on the other hand, DUDE, I GOT REVIEWED IN RUSSIAN!

Okay, that's not entirely fair to Ray. See, though Russian is his native tongue (his Anglicized nom de plume is borrowed from a King tale, I believe), he also posts his reviews in English; you can read the translation of mine here. Still, it's way cooler in Russian.

Thanks to Ray and Stephen for the kind words. And thanks to all who've bought 8 POUNDS. If you haven't, but you'd like to, it's available for Kindle in both the US and UK, for the rock-bottom price of $0.99!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Rip Returns!

Wow. The latest installment of Beat to a Pulp's epic serial A RIP THROUGH TIME, titled "Chaos in the Stream," is live, and it is a doozy. Garnett Elliott is at the helm this time, and damn, does he swing for the fences. If you ask me, he hits it full-on, too -- but why ask me? Go give it a read and find out for yourself.

Oh, and if you want to see how Rip's saga began, peep my installment here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

8 POUNDS Reviewed!

8 POUNDS garnered a rave review from Spinetingler today! Click through to check it out.

Big thanks to Nik Korpon and the whole Spinetingler crew.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"The Man in the Alligator Shoes" at Beat to a Pulp!

Yup. The title of the post pretty much says it. "The Man in the Alligator Shoes" is live at Beat to a Pulp. Pop on over and give it a read!

Thanks as ever to David and Denise, the dynamic duo behind the best darn pulp 'zine going. Y'all are aces.

Friday, June 10, 2011


David Cranmer's marvelous Western crime collection, ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES, is now available for Kindle (or your free Kindle app)! And what's more, it's only $0.99!

What're you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy or five today...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Cash and Miles

I've made mention a time or two my love of David Cranmer's Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles short stories (written under the name Edward A. Grainger). For my money, they're the perfect blend of crime and Westerns. So imagine my delight when, a while back, David told me he was putting together an ebook release that'd collect seven Cash and Miles stories all in one place -- including two never-before-seen tales!

Now imagine my shock at being asked to write the foreword.

I won't lie; I damn near chickened out. I'm no critic. No high-powered tastemaker. I'm just a guy who really likes these stories.

In the end, I didn't chicken out. And today on his blog, David posted my foreword for all to read. Go check it out. If you dig it, be sure to buy a copy of ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES when it comes out. And if you don't much care for my foreword, go ahead and buy a copy of ADVENTURES anyway. I promise you, it won't disappoint.

ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES hits Amazon any moment now. Pop back here or to David's blog for updates.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Sweet #$%#ing Mother of #$#@%!" Or, "An Announcement"

Dear Everyone Ever:

If the interwebs are to be believed, it would seem I have a book deal. Not only a book deal, but a two-book deal. Not only a two-book deal, but a two-book deal with one of the hottest publishers in all of speculative fiction. (Yes, I'm aware that if the interwebs are really to be believed, the world is going to end on Saturday. Which would be a bummer, because I've been assured on many nonconsecutive occasions that I do, indeed, really for-seriously actually have a book deal, and that this isn't some kind of elaborate prank.)

Said book deal, for those who've yet to click through (quite possibly due to the same baffling paralysis that struck me upon hearing the news, which, in addition to greatly hindering my jumping up and down, also prompted me to exclaim to kickass-agent-slash-fancy-pants-haver Jennifer Jackson "I CAN'T FEEL MY FACE!") is with Angry Robot. If you're not familiar with them, well, you should be. They've been amassing accolades left and right since their founding two years back, and just last month took home the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Lauren Beukes' ZOO CITY. (Okay, in fairness, I'm pretty sure the mightily talented Ms. Beukes actually took the award home, but you get my drift.) And as an added point of asskickery, they also publish K.W. Jeter, godfather (not to mention coiner) of steampunk. I mean, c'mon.

Oh, right, I should mention which two books! (Hey, gimme a break; I've never broken news of a book deal before.) The first of them is DEAD HARVEST, which is slated for an April 2012 release. It'll be followed by its sequel, THE WRONG GOODBYE, that fall.

Enormous thanks to aforementioned fancy-pants-haver Jennifer Jackson, as well as Marc Gascoigne and the rest of the Angry Robot crew. Thanks also to all of you, for spreading word of my strange little stories far and wide. Looks like you'll get to read some strange big stories from me now...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Value of Free

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. It's been about a year since my last real blog post. Sure, I've posted news aplenty since then, held a couple contests -- even hosted an interview. But I haven't talked much of late about my writing life. Partly I've been busy. Partly I've been lazy. And partly, I feel like there are already more than enough people in the world talking about the art and business of writing. The louder the clamor of contradictory opinions gets, the less I care to shout to be heard over the din. But lately, I've come to realize I'm in a unique position to provide a little perspective on what's emerging as one of the hottest hot-button writing issues of the internet age.

No, not $0.99 ebooks. That debate, I suspect, will prove short-lived, and anyway, I've already said my piece. I'm talking about a belief so ingrained among writers, so prima facie obvious, only a fool would dare argue against it. I'm talking about the edict that (cue echo effect) The Writer Must Be Paid.

Turns out, I am just the fool for the job. 'Cause as far as I'm concerned, sometimes (like buskers, ice-cream shops, and Anthony Kiedis) the thing to do is give it away.

Now, I'm no expert, and I'm not one to prescribe, preach, or proselytize; at best, all I can say is what's worked for me. Thing is, giving (some) fiction away has for-seriously worked for me.

The first story I ever gave away was "Seven Days of Rain." To Demolition, this was. I confess, though I was delighted they'd accepted it, I was bummed I didn't get a check for it. Particularly since I'd gotten a lovely rejection letter from the editor of EQMM telling me it was a fantastic story, if not the best fit for them. Then "Seven Days of Rain" wound up winning a Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web (an award it would have been ineligible for had I placed it with EQMM), and I didn't feel so bummed anymore.

The second story I gave away was "The Toll Collectors," to Beat to a Pulp. That one (he says bitterly, waving a clenched fist at the cruel, uncaring world) didn't win a bloody thing. It did, however, kick off a rewarding relationship with editor David Cranmer, which has thus far yielded four additional publishing credits (three paid) and what I suspect will be a lasting friendship.

I'm not sure you can say I gave away "Eight Pounds," since Thuglit sent me a kickass T-shirt for my trouble, but I didn't, strictly speaking, get paid a dime. Upon publication of that one, I got a letter from a fancy-pants agent, asking if I was in need of representation. I was not (having already procured an agent of sufficiently fancy pants). But when Stuart Neville got a similar letter, he wasn't agented, and as he's written on his blog, the whole thing worked out pretty well for him.

At 11,000 words, "The Hitter" was perhaps my most egregious violation of the pay-the-writer edict. One seventh of a novel just given away, and before I'd ever even seen an issue of the magazine I gave it to. But I knew the guy who'd asked for it a little bit from Twitter, and I believed in the vision he and his cohorts had for Needle. Plus, I was out of work at the time, so I figured why the hell not write something for them? I had the time.

Not quite a year later, me and Steve are friends, and "The Hitter" has been selected by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011 (which, incidentally, pays about as much as my EQMM and AHMM credits combined, making it the most I've ever gotten paid for one story), not to mention nominated for a freakin' Anthony. Which (and again I'm no expert here) I'm guessing doesn't suck for my writing career.

Look, I'm not saying you should give work away all willy nilly. In fact, careful readers will note I'm not saying you should do anything at all. What I am saying is I've had damn good luck giving stories away. Now, I wouldn't give a story away to just anybody; in fact, I'm far more likely to submit to a paying market than a non-paying one. But the fact is, if I'd only published at the venues that paid, chances are, you never would have heard of me. And, as a side note, the only publication that ever screwed me over was a paying market. (They'd accepted a story of mine and paid me $10, only to disappear without a word when it was revealed they were a vanity project for their editor, who'd been padding his bibliography by accepting dozens of his own stories under a variety of pen names. I only tell you this so my editor-friends don't get all nervous I'm talking about them.)

Believe me, if you want to stick to paying markets, that's cool with me. In a perfect world, all markets would be paying markets. But we live in an era in which anybody with access to the internet and a passion for the written word can be a publisher, and it's important to note most of 'em lose money doing so even without paying for content. That doesn't make their tastes any less refined, or the role they play as gatekeepers any less valuable. So to those folks who stick to their getting-paid guns, I say this: stop demonizing non-paying markets, and grant the possibility that they have a place in the world of fiction. 'Cause I'm for damn sure better off for 'em.

Monday, May 09, 2011

"The Hitter" Nominated for an Anthony!

It's been a good day. So good, in fact, I forgot to blog about it until it was almost over.

Today, "The Hitter" was nominated for an Anthony Award.

"The Hitter" first appeared in Needle: A Magazine of Noir (which, if you click through, is still available, by the way), and is scheduled to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler.

Thanks to Steve and John at Needle. Thanks also to Jon Jordan, crack organizer of Bouchercon, and official nomination announcer-guy. But most of all, thanks to everyone who put my name down on your Anthony ballots; you have my eternal gratitude.

Oh, and congrats to all my fellow nominees! And a little extra-special shout-out to Hilary Davidson, whose debut novel THE DAMAGE DONE was nominated for Best First Novel. Though for my money, to say THE DAMAGE DONE is a great first novel is both true and too faint of praise. In a world of popcorn thrillers, THE DAMAGE DONE's a five-course meal. At once dark, brainy, and propulsive, but with the guts and heart to match, THE DAMAGE DONE announces Hilary Davidson as a major player in the future of crime fiction. (In case you couldn't tell, I'm a bit of a fan.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

In My Element

Today, over at Criminal Element, Elizabeth White's got some nice things to say about yours awesomely. (Yup, way better than "truly.") She also name-drops some dudes named O'Shea, Weddle, Hockensmith, and Dave White, but I think it's pretty clear that secretly, she likes me best. (Editor's note: it is not.)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Kat Debuts on Criminal Element!

Some of you know my lovely wife through her Twitter feed. Others from her mystery reviews at The Season, or on her blog, The Maine Suspect. (If you don't, that's fine; I can wait while you go bookmark them.) But it seems the missus has fallen in with a dodgy crowd of late. A Criminal Element, as it were.

Peep her inaugural post here. And keep an eye out; there's more to come. (No, really. Particularly on account of today's post kinda sorta used to be half of a Katrina Niidas Holm double-feature.)

UPDATE, May 3: Boom: Part Two. (Or one, or whatever it is. This crazy post-splitting thing is getting tougher to follow than Inception.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shorts Weather

As I write this, it's a beautiful Saturday morning in Maine, the temperature climbing, the sun shining bright. I should be raking my yard, or spreading mulch, or whatever it is normal, decent folk do instead of killing imaginary people messily on the page.

Instead, I've been killing imaginary people messily on the page.

See, a while back, Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan cooked up an anthology idea. They wanted pulp tales inspired by tracks from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. And they invited me to contribute one.

Of course I said sure. The track I was assigned was "Royale with Cheese." So I popped onto iTunes and gave it a listen. (What? Mr. Self-Styled Pulp Writer doesn't own a copy of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack? As a matter of fact, he does. It just doesn't have tracks per se, on account of it's a store-bought cassette. Shut up.)

Anyways, today I put the finishing touches on my contribution to the PULP INK anthology: "A Night at the Royale." Old-school Tarantino fan that I am, it's got more references per page than maybe any story ever. (There's even a Four Rooms reference or two. Seriously, who the hell but me even remembers Four Rooms?)

(Actually, my short story "Action" gives "A Night at the Royale" a run for its reference money. That one was my love letter to the comic capers of Donald Westlake.) (Did I say "love letter"? I meant "homage." "Homage" sounds manlier.)

Oh, and in other pulpy short-story news, I have no other pulpy short story news. So beat it. To a pulp. Say, two rounds worth of pulp-beating, just to be on the safe side.

Hmm. BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND TWO. That's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it? (See what I did there? Ring? 'Cause the title has a boxing theme? Oh, you did catch that. It just wasn't very clever.)

Great idea though it would be, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND TWO. Which would make speculation that Matthew P. Mayo was joining David Cranmer in putting together one of the most startling collections of pulpy talent for it the world has ever seen premature at best. And any rumors of Crow-creator James O'Barr reprising his role as kickass cover artist would be correct only rumors, nothing more. Oh, and don't even think of asking me whether my ghost story "An Open Door" is to be included, because obviously, I couldn't say...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two Quick Bits of Business

Stuffed though I am with Easter ham (and a happy nondenominational whatever to all of y'all, by the by), I wanted to pop in for two quick announcements.

Firstly, I've just received word from über-editor David Cranmer that my short story "The Man in the Alligator Shoes" will be appearing at Beat to a Pulp this coming June! Beat to a Pulp's one of the best fiction sites going, and I'm always delighted to grace its hallowed (web)pages.

Secondly, I've finally succumbed to the gray-matter-noshing virtual zombie plague that is Facebook. Yes, just now. Feel free to justify my existence by friending me or whatever it is the kids (and my grandmother, and everybody else on the planet who isn't me) say these days. Or you can simply join the creepy online chorus chanting "One of us... one of us..."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Criminal-E Interview (Now with BONUS: Major 8 POUNDS Milestone!)

If you pop on over to Criminal-E today, you'll catch me pontificating on all things 8 POUNDS (which, holy hell, I discover as I check the numbers seems to've passed 2,000 sales sometime during the night!)

Thanks to Allan Guthrie for inviting me to participate, and to the now literally thousands of people who've made 8 POUNDS a rousing success. Or, failing that, the five or six people who email-gifted my book to everyone they know (Hilary, I'm looking in your direction).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Case of the Mysterious Non-Answer

Today, Brian Lindenmuth dusted the cobwebs off of Spinetingler's Conversations with the Bookless interview series. The subject? Yours truly. (Wait; didn't I decide a while back I was gonna try subbing out "truly" for some other, cooler adverbs?) Er, I mean, yours awesomely.

Here's the link if you wanna check it out. And you should, if for no other reason than because I drop a whopping hint of a non-answer in response to one of Brian's questions. Which one? Guess you'll just have to read to find out...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lineup #4 Blog Tour: An Interview with Steve Weddle

For my stop on the Lineup #4 blog tour, I thought I’d pick the brain of a guy who knows one hell of a lot more about poetry than I: Lineup #4 contributor Steve Weddle. Some of you might know Steve as half of the dynamic duo behind the noir powerhouse Needle Magazine. Others from his kickass short fiction, or from his blogging at Do Some Damage. If you have any doubt this dude’s got the goods, stop and reflect that all three of those things garnered Spinetingler nominations this year. Then spend the next few minutes feeling shitty about how much you get done in a day.

Anyways, what you may not know about Steve is he’s also occasionally a fancy-pants poetry writer. (Editor’s note: Steve occasionally writes poetry. However, there is no evidence his pants are unusual in their fanciness.) So, that in mind, he seemed the perfect subject for my (quite possibly inane) questions. Without further ado, here goes.

Not too long ago, you described yourself in your bio as a “recovering poet.” Lately, though, that moniker has disappeared. Does your Lineup poem “The Balance Lost” represent a relapse of sorts, or have you been writing poetry on the sly this whole time?

I think I’m fully recovered now. I wrote that poem because I had an image in my head, the vision that closes the poem. And I got to thinking, well, how did we get there? So I went all Hilda Doolittle/ Ezra Pound and worked with that image to move to a scene that would explain it. The image could have been a graf in a story, of course. But when you have just that image as the poem, I think it kinda hangs out there and lets you focus on it a little more, you know? Like this line I’ve been working on about this dbag who is cheating and lying, etc. The line is “He knew cheating like the back of his best friend’s wife.” I like the line. I mean, it ain’t David Friggin Foster Wallace, but I think it’s a fun line. In a novel it would sound cheap. In a poem, maybe it’s too cute. It’s the kind of line that would probably work best in a song lyric. Which, you know, may mean I half-stole it from some old Foghat song I almost heard on the radio. I dunno. But I’m always working on lines, on images. And I try to find a good home for those, a home beyond scratched out on the back of the electric bill. I’m writing lines of poetry all the time, just not always poems. Come to think of it, maybe that line kinda sucks. So never mind.

Writing-wise, you wear a lot of hats: newspaper work, fiction editing (at the fantastic Needle Magazine), novels, shorts, poems. Which, if any, do you consider your native form? Or does each inform the others?

My native form would be writing characters and dialog. Not a form? No matter. I love the rat-a-tat of dialog running down the page. You picture people saying this and that and weaving in the humor and the darkness both. When I was in the MFA program at LSU, I was the token ‘Narrative Poet.’ I told stories in poems, I guess. The carnival came to my town when I was a kid. This is a papermill town that nearly rolled away when the mill closed. So the circus/carnival comes, big excitement. The parking lot for the Piggly Wiggly-Magic Mart shopping center overflows to the Otasco. And then the elephant dies. And they bury the animal behind the Piggly Wiggly. It was kind of a big deal. So, do you write a poem? A novel? A flash fiction piece? I just jot down images, characters, strings of dialog until it meshes together. Or just some sniper-shots of snark from on high and then move to something else. You know, come to think of it, Twitter may be my native form.

Your short fiction often has a lyrical quality. One that stands out for me is your tremendous “Purple Hulls,” which I wrote about as one of my Top Five Stories of 2010 at Death by Killing. “Purple Hulls” felt to me as if it sat upon the border of poetry and prose, and yet it still solidly came down in the latter camp. My question, as someone who’s never written a poem in his life, is in two parts: a) how can you tell whether an idea is supposed to be a poem or a short? And b) when the eff is “Purple Hulls” gonna be published, so other folks can find out what the heck I’m raving about?

Poem or short? Yeah, all my answers seem to keep coming back to that, don’t they? I’ve written stories that turned into awful screenplays and song lyrics that turned into terrible short stories. I think what happens is you get this thing in your head and you have to figure out what it is first and then what to do with it. Huh, I have this hunk of metal. Let me move it around. Flat. Pointed at one end. Whoa. What’s this? A stick at the other end? Well, this would make a good shovel. See, it would make a good a shovel blade but it would make a terrible carburetor. Sure, it could mix your air and fuel, but only in the manner in which you could mix pancake batter. You can’t decide you’re going to write a poem and then just grab whatever is close and make it a poem. I can’t. Maybe someone can. Maybe everyone can. Maybe those who publish poetry do that. Maybe Mark Strand does that. Maybe he says he’s going to write a poem, sits down and looks out the window, and writes a poem about whatever he sees. Maybe that’s how we end up with “Ode to Deliveryman Peeing on My House.” I don’t know. I’m not a poet. As for “Purple Hulls,” thanks muchly for the praise. I’ve got a Roy Alison story coming out in an anthology this summer and a shorter piece coming out in an anthology any day now. I’ve been toying with the “Purple Hulls” story and looking for a good home for it. It’s a bit of a departure for me in the sense that it’s kind of literary noir. But if I use that term, it sounds like “Oh, look at me. I’m a big, fancy literary writer. I’m not just a crime fiction writer. I write lit-rah-toor and my undergarments are made of feathers and silk.” My point, if I have one, is that the traditional outlets for my fiction aren’t quite the right fit. I’m not talking about a judgment on quality, more on style. Like at Needle Magazine. We get some great stories that we have to turn down because they’re horror, but not noir. And yes, I know there’s overlap. But Needle isn’t built for supernatural-horror-romance anymore than the New Yorker is built for David Goodis. Again, not a quality point – just one of the right fit.

Say there’s this hypothetical crime writer. Let’s call him Schmiss Schmeff Schmolm. This guy’s read the occasional poem that’s knocked him back, but he knows exactly jack about poetry in general. Who should he be reading?

Read The Never-Ending: New Poems (1991) by Andrew Hudgins. You know how there are those moments in your life when you’re glad you didn’t die in that car accident in 1971? Just something that might seem small that happens to you this afternoon, but where you’re just so thankful you crawled out of bed, that the bullet that caught you in that hunting accident back in 1993 missed your aorta just enough so that your Uncle Stan could keep you alive while your idiot cousin Johnny ran and got help. I mean, the sort of sunset that you see and you think, “Well, fuck, Lord. You can take me now.” Like when you’re holding the one you love and you just kind of want the world to end right there because, I mean, it’s just such a moment. You want to freeze that image, that feeling, hoping you can come back to it because it’s just so full of indescribable wonder that you can’t explain and you don’t want to break the spell and you can’t understand why this woman married an idiot like you but you’re sure if you move your elbow she’ll wake up from the spell and the beauty of that moment will be lost? Well, that’s the sort of moment piled on moment you get reading “Praying Drunk” and “Heat Lightning in a Time of Drought” from the Hudgins collection. Just beautiful wonder. That’s it. No list of ten books you have to read. Just the one. And start with those two poems. That’s my suggestion, for whatever it’s worth.

You juggle a lot of recurring characters in your fiction: newsman Alex Jackson, card-carrying badass Oscar Martello, and now the damaged Roy Alison. You figure any of them have got a Moleskine full of poetry hidden away somewhere? If so, you think they’re any good?

You know, Alex Jackson is the sort of character who would have written poems when one writes poems to impress the girls. Roy Alison would probably do something creative to try to deal with the guilt of accidentally killing his parents, but I’m not sure it would be poetry. In the story appearing this summer, “The Ravine,” he’s drawn to a young woman’s paintings. He might paint. As for Oscar, um, I’m not going to ask him. You want to ask Oscar Martello if he writes poems, you go ahead. Just leave me your Kindle in your will.

While I’ve got you hooked up to the polygraph, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you some more general questions about what’s going on in the Weddleverse (that’s right, I said it.) Where can we find your writing in the coming year? What’s the future hold for Needle? Who the eff do I have to threaten and/or blackmail for the privilege of purchasing a novel of yours?

In addition to The Lineup, my work will appear in the two anthos I mentioned earlier – the ones with the Roy Alison stories. I’m working on an Oscar novella at the moment. He’s searching for the people responsible for the death of his half-brother and Oscar is having to take care of his nephew. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill hitman story. Speaking of hitman stories, over at Needle HQ, we’re still thrilled as all hell that Chris F. Holm’s story “The Hitter” was selected for Best American Mystery Stories. You hear of this Holm guy? He’s awesome. We’ll have three Needles this year, kicking off with the Spring Issue, then the Summer Issue in August or September, which will wrap up the Ray Banks novel of awesomeness. As for my own novels, first, thanks for being so nice. And second, I’m reworking the second Alex Jackson novel, while I finish the Oscar novella and get started on the techno-thriller I want done soon. Though I gotta say, after reading this issue of The Lineup, I’m tempted to spend more time writing poems. Did you read the one about the guy who steals the Stephen Dunn collection from the hospital? That is my favorite one today. And speaking of Stephen Dunn, there’s a poem in his New and Selected collection about how this child comes back from Vacation Bible School all indoctrinated with religion and her parents want to explain their beliefs to her that it’s all hokum, but then they realize that she has Jesus now, a belief in something bigger, and they don’t have anything that can replace that. It’s not a religious poem. It’s a poem about belief and loss. And it’s the poem you should read after you finish those Hudgins poems and the new issue of The Lineup.

So there you have it. Thanks, Steve, for participating. If you’d like to read Steve’s “The Balance Lost,” as well as kickass poetry from the likes of Ken Bruen. Reed Farrel Coleman, Kieran Shea, Chad Rohrbacher, Keith Rawson, and more, go buy The Lineup #4, available now!

UPDATE: I don't know what kind of shady government agency this Weddle character's run afoul of in his day-job reporting gig, but I, for one, am scared shitless of them. This interview went live at 7:00 AM, and it looked fine. By 8:00 AM, the formatting had been blanked. By 9:00 AM, the questions disappeared. And by 10:00 AM, the text just vanished. And all without me touching it.

I tried to put it back up. Blogger wouldn't take it. To finally get it back up, I had to actually learn HTML. For real.

All I'm saying is, this Weddle dude has enemies. I, for one, won't be standing too close to him in a crowd...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

8 POUNDS Nominated!

I'm delighted (and not just a little stunned) to report 8 POUNDS has been nominated for a Spinetingler Award in the category of Best Short Story Collection. Many thanks to Jack Getze, Brian Lindenmuth, Sandra Ruttan, and the whole Spinetingler crew.

The Spinetinglers are cool in that voting is open to the public, so if you enjoyed 8 POUNDS, I'd be honored to have your vote. Just pop on over to Spinetingler anytime after 6 AM April 1, and make with the democracy. And hey, even if you weren't a fan, go peruse the ballot anyway. A lot of tremendous folks are up for awards in a whole host of categories. Just think of every vote as a down-payment toward making someone's day.

So thanks again to the Spinetingler crew, as well as everyone who's spread the 8 POUNDS word; I'm eternally grateful. And to my fellow nominees, I'm a lucky man to be in such rare company.

4/1/11 UPDATE: Voting is open! (No fooling!) Click here!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE Available for Kindle!

It's official, people: BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE is now available for your Kindle or Kindle app, and for only $5.99! At 396 print pages of kickass pulp fiction, written by the likes of Charles Ardai, Sophie Littlefield, Frank Bill, Hilary Davidson, and yours truly, this collection is a freakin' steal at twice the price. Download it today!

Oh, and don't have a Kindle? No problem. The app to read it on your computer or mobile device is free. Just click through on the link above and check the sidebar. You'll be gobbling up the ebooks in no time...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How I Came to Write "The Toll Collectors"

Today, at the lovely and talented Patti Abbott's blog, I talk about how I came to write my short story "The Toll Collectors". This hot on the heels of my last post, in which I talked about the inspiration behind my newest short, "Pretty Little Things". And, since people love a trilogy, no matter how slapdash, feel free to pop in on this old post on Patrick Shawn Bagley's blog, where I talked about the writing of "The World Behind".

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Pretty Little Things"

Saturday morning, Kat and I were in our office, doing our usual Saturday morning stuff (which in this house consists of coffee and clattering keyboards), when we were distracted by a low, persistent buzzing. At first we couldn't place it (we live in an old house, so strange noises are commonplace), but eventually, we pegged it: it was my cell phone. And it was going nuts.

(An aside: can strange noises be commonplace? It seems as if they definitionally cannot. And yet the regularity of their occurrence has no bearing on the oddity of the sounds themselves. But I digress.)

I should state for the purposes of this post that a) I am a bit of a technological curmudgeon, and b) I'm also a tad misanthropic, which is to say I don't often use my cell phone, and when I do, it's usually to talk to the woman that, on the Saturday in question, was sitting right next to me. So when I opened the phone to find I'd missed several phone calls (no messages) and received a text ("PLEASE CALL") -- all from the same number -- I was puzzled to say the least. The calls all came in between midnight and three AM on Friday, which somehow only added to the intrigue.

I looked up the number online, expecting nothing more than to find a listing of "Cell Phone" and maybe a city of origin. Turns out, the calls weren't from a cell phone. They were from a landline in Manhattan registered to a company called Perfect Things. Curiouser and curiouser. (Did you know you can text from some landlines? Until Saturday, I didn't.)

You can see where this is going, right? Mystery writer receives a series of calls and a cryptic text from what sounds like a house of ill repute? Yeah, I called them. Turns out, Perfect Things is a self-serve Laundromat on Broadway. It further turns out that they're closed at the time the calls came in. When I asked who might have made the calls, the woman I was speaking to told me in broken English, "Don't know. Maybe the boss."

The question is, who the hell's the boss? Springsteen? Danza? Gotti? Inquiring minds want to know!

The upshot of all this is, my telephonic adventures drew to a close maybe ten AM Saturday. By ten AM Monday, I put the finishing touches on a 2,700-word short story called "Pretty Little Things". The beginning will be familiar to anyone who's read this post. The end, I'm willing to bet, you'll never see coming. And I'll say this: from idea to final draft, I've never written anything so quickly in my life.

So where will "Pretty Little Things" end up? Dunno. An editor friend's expressed some interest. For now, that's all I can say. More details as I have them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Congratulations to David Cranmer and his lovely wife Denise, who, this Valentine's Day, welcomed baby Ava into the world. By all accounts, mother and child are doing fine, so pop on over to David's blog and wish them well!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest!

The inimitable Julie Summerell is running a flash-fic contest in which the spooky-scariest* entry wins 8 POUNDS! Details here. Deadline, Valentine's Day. Enter early and often.

*Why yes, I do now have Werewolf Bar Mitzvah in my head; thanks for asking.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Spinetingler Interview

Recently, Brian and Sandra at Spinetingler interviewed me about 8 POUNDS as part of their series on e-publishing. You can read that interview here. I leave it to you to decide whether or not I've anything of merit to say, but it was a kick to participate either way. Thanks, Brian and Sandra!