Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hanging With Matthew Mayo

Well, what a kick it was to find out that writer Matthew Mayo lives practically around the corner from me. The Charmer and I were invited to stop by, which we did, and we spent a couple of enjoyable hours shooting the breeze about all kinds of stuff like Shane, favorite crime writers and Gunsmoke vs. Bonanza. In Matt's words "we prattled on like a couple of Jane Austen characters." So true. And Matt was incredibly gracious when I became especially exuberant over The Six Million Dollar Man's duel with the Sasquatch.

Matt's latest is COWBOYS, MOUNTAIN MEN & GRIZZLY BEARS: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of the Wild West. I have to confess, it contains many stories about real-life characters new to me, such as John Colter, George Drouillard and Marie Dorian. But even the well-worn tales—Tom Horn, Wyatt Earp—are fresh thanks to this Spur Award finalist's sharp prose. Whole-heartedly endorsed. Oh, and I have to brag... I got a personally signed copy.

Related links:

Matthew P. Mayo's official website

Meridian Bridge: A Conversation With Matthew Mayo

Review of COWBOYS by Laurie Powers.

LEGEND 5: Half A Pig review by Evan Lewis

Sunday, March 28, 2010

7 Questions: Chris Holm

What impact has the state of Maine had on your writing?

The impact Maine's had on my writing would be difficult to overstate. There's the obvious, of course: my first novel, THE ANGELS' SHARE, takes place in a small town on the coast of Maine, and Maine has featured prominently in a couple of my shorts. There's a richness here, of character and of setting, that I've not felt anywhere else I've ever lived. But for me, Maine's impact goes deeper than that. Truth is, writing was just an idle fantasy of mine until I moved to Maine. I was on another path entirely, living in Virginia and working toward a PhD in infectious disease research. It was what I thought I'd always wanted to do with my life, but I was miserable. For some damn-fool reason, I was determined to stick it out, but my wife's a hell of a lot smarter than I am, and she convinced me I should quit and find a new dream. So I did.

Moving to Maine was an easy choice. I think I loved the place before I ever laid eyes on it, having spent my adolescence ensconced in the works of Stephen King. I first started visiting Maine in college with my wife, who grew up in the Western Mountains, and it felt like coming home. When we moved up here in 2001, it was like a switch had flipped. I started writing in earnest for the first time since middle school, and haven't looked back. There's just something in the air up here, I think. It's hard to describe without sounding all crazy and mystical. But I can't imagine living anywhere else, for fear the words would go away.

Where did the spark for writing begin?

When I was six years old, I wrote a picture-book for school titled "The Alien Death From Outer Space." I'm pretty sure I wore out my red crayon illustrating it, so you can imagine how impressed my teacher must have been. As I recall, she liked it so much, she showed it to the principal. He called me to his office and asked a bunch of what I now assume were pretty pointed questions. When he realized I wasn't so much a sociopath as I was obsessed with science fiction, he congratulated me on a job well done and gave me a candy bar. I didn't realize at the time my blood-spattered tale had caused a panic; all I knew was that I wrote something, and people noticed. I consider that candy bar my first-ever literary award, and from then on, I was hooked.

Congratulations on "Action" being published in the current issue of AHMM. Now, you're an old hat at this with "The World Behind" landing in the June '07 issue of EQMM. What's the secret to your success?

Thanks, David! I'm not sure I've any great secret, but if I did it would be blind determination coupled with a knack for writing toward a specific market. The first story I submitted to EQMM got bounced in record time -- twenty-eight days, door to door. And truthfully, it should have been; it was all wrong for EQMM. I hadn't written it with them in mind, and though technically it fell within their guidelines, it lacked the flavor all their stories seem to share. Of course, I couldn't admit that at the time; I was just pissed they'd failed to see my utter, utter genius. It was a vain, wrongheaded, and ultimately useful response, because it forced me to sit down at my keyboard and write "The World Behind", the whole time thinking, "Oh yeah? Let's see you reject *this*!" Only they didn't, and since then, I don't think I've started a single story without a target market in mind. That market may not be where the story ultimately ends up, but I find the guidance helpful nonetheless.

The caveat to that approach is that you (and by "you", I mean "I", but just roll with it) can't be mercenary about it; if you don't really, truly *feel* the story you're writing, it'll come off bloodless on the page. I can set my sights on The Paris Review all I like, but lit-fic ain't my bag, so it's just never gonna happen. The trick is finding that sweet spot between what the market is looking for and what you like to write, and if there isn't one, don't bother submitting. For me, the approach isn't restrictive; I find it actually pushes me to be more ambitious, to take more risks, and (whether it's a coming of-age story like "The World Behind", a comic caper like "Action", or an adventure-pulp/horror crossover like "A Native Problem") expand my own definition of the kinds of stories I write until it more closely resembles those I like to read.

In a recent blog post you mentioned you are a recovering Star Wars geek. What crashed your Millennium Falcon?

Oh, I wouldn't say it crashed. Maybe just picked up a couple mynocks on the hull, who're draining it of juice. But in a pinch, it'd still make the Kessel run in twelve parsecs. (See? Huge geek.)

Truth is, I'm still a huge fan of the original trilogy. (Yes, even Jedi.) But they're no longer the sacred cows to me they once were. I was exposed to Star Wars so young, it's a part of my cultural DNA. It was the first fictional universe that really grabbed me, and it no doubt shaped the way I view the world. That sort of relationship almost precludes criticism. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to extend to the new trilogy. I've seen them all a bunch of times, and even defended them a time or two, but the fact is, they're pretty terrible. They lack the verve, the spark, the first three had. And the more you watch them, the more they call attention to the shortcomings of the original trilogy. Hokey dialogue. Spotty acting. Cloying cuteness.

Also, for God's sake, Lucas, HAN SHOT FIRST!

Sorry. Don't know what came over me there.

That said, I don't subscribe to the idea that Lucas somehow retroactively ruined my childhood by making I-III. Lucas botching the new trilogy led Whedon to create Firefly. Hell, Lucas botching the new Indy led Ardai to create Gabriel Hunt. That's enough to make me wish he had another franchise or two to screw up.

Cliché question here: When working on a story, do you draft an outline or wing it?

I never know quite how to answer this question, 'cause the fact is, I've done both. I think these days, I fall more into the wing-it camp; it keeps the story fresh for me, and hopefully by extension for the reader as well. Usually when I begin a story, I know where it starts, how it ends, and I've got an idea about a few key beats in the middle. But the less written down ahead of time, the better. More room for surprises that way.

Coffee or beer when you're writing?

I write mornings, so coffee. Maybe a beer or a glass of wine when I'm revising. Whiskey when a project's done.

How's the novel coming?

Very well, thanks! I'm in the home stretch on the second book in a series that recasts the battle between heaven and hell as a Golden Era crime pulp. The first in the series, DEAD HARVEST, is being shopped around right now.

*Chris explains the story behind the fun picture of his wife, Katrina, and himself on his blog.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Fisherman

My charmer took some of the sting out of my turning forty by gifting me with this painting that I've dubbed The Fisherman. I saw it last summer at an antique store and resisted the impulse buy. But I couldn't shake the image of this expressive old man. She remembered it also and now two seasons later, it's on my wall. Thanks d!
Artist Hazel W. Carter, 1974, oil on canvas.

BTAP #67: The Pickle by Chris La Tray

I guess you never think about how you got to where someone's got a shotgun pointed at you. At least not until after it's over, if you're lucky enough to survive it. It's just you and that big, fat barrel, and some jerkoff pointing it at you. Everything else just kinda goes away.
I'm pleased to publish Chris La Tray's debut crime ficion piece. It's called "The Pickle" and you can finish this gritty tale here.

Coming soon: Hilary Davidson's "Fetish" and Richard Prosch is in charge of "Dog Day Care."

And a first for BTAP, a graphic short story!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spinetingler Nominations

Well, heck, this is pretty cool. I was on my second cup of java this morning when I received an e-mail from Sandra Seamans informing me BEAT to a PULP has snagged three nominations for the 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Short Story on the Web. They are A Wild and Crazy Night by John Kenyon, Insatiable by Hilary Davidson and Paul Brazill’s The Tut. Congrats to all and thanks for submitting such brilliant, evocative stories.

And Kudos to Sandra herself (Big Snoopy dance for you!), Sophie Littlefield, Anonymous-9, Alan Griffiths, Mark Joseph Kiewlak, Frank Bill, and Michael Moreci who round out the nominations. That’s some hard decision making come voting day. All winners, all deserving.

New Camera Time

We need a new camera. Our latest has been a faithful servant but after six years and many thousand photos it's time to upgrade. Do any shutterbugs out there have suggestions?

Here are some of the best from the slew of photos that Little d took over the weekend.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

7 Questions: Clare Toohey

Who is to be congratulated for Clare2e's razor sharp wit?

I won't bother thanking my parents, because they don't spend much time reading blogs. I could thank the many, funnier people I steal from, but why start giving them credit now?

How did Women Of Mystery come to be and who's really in charge over there?

At a local chapter meeting of the New York/Tri-State Sisters in Crime, Laura Kramarsky (aka Laura Curtis) asked if anyone wanted to start a group blog. I raised my hand, as did a couple of other sisters, she registered the domain and set up the site, and we were off. She's really the founder, and still handles most of the technical upgrades, though WoM has always been a collaborative effort, contentwise.

It's flattering you ask who's in charge, because I thought it was patently obvious that we make it up as we go! Though we've lost and added members over time, the basic operation is an enthusiastic, occasionally chaotic, democracy aided by backstage kvetching on our private Yahoo Group. We also have a ridiculously loose, I mean, enlightened and flexible posting schedule. With enough members, we're always working around someone's meat-world issues, whether vacation or illness or alien abduction. We've become good at coming together and flowing like water into the gaps. WoM is like the Tao. It'll transport you into timeless serenity if you'll only let it.

Why the Hamburglar for your Blogger profile image?

Why Hamburglar?
I admire his tenacity, though he's arguably the least successful criminal ever, after Wile E. Coyote that is.
We both look good in stripes, Dracula capes, and Zorro masks.
Burgers rule.

What is your most memorable moment from the various conventions you have attended?

I have had many awesome times at mystery conferences, several I still don't remember, even though I got report photocopies from the arresting officer. (Hi, Patrolman Schuler!) One event I particularly remember was at Bouchercon in Chicago in 2005. I had met mega-author Lee Child at a previous MWA event where he most graciously inquired about my manuscript, and said I could e-mail him if there were anything he could do to help. Swell guy, right? So, at the B-con party he hosted at a nearby bar, I went up to him and thanked him for the shindig. So far, so good. Then, I reminded him of his kind offer to help me in any way possible, and told him I'd brought a cooler along for the extraction because I was seriously running out of time on my remaining kidney.

He just blinked at me, but fortunately, the lovely Robin Burcell, who was standing nearby, actually laughed, so I felt slightly less an ass. Thanks, Robin! And Lee, don't worry. I stole a loose hair from your lapel, and made a voodoo clone from which I'm harvesting organs and plots as needed. No biggie.

Do you have a guilty pleasure TV show that you currently watching?

Along with my incredible erudition and high-mindedness comes horrendously shallow taste. Super-jive old shows like Hart to Hart, Love Boat, and Buck Rogers, really anything with lip gloss or a Mancini theme song, work for me, so I love that they're being re-broadcast on four-digit cable channels. I also indulge in anything with elf boots, giant spiders, demons, and martial arts ass-whupping. But I don't feel guilty about a thing.

Outside of writing, what's Clare's hobby?

I'm the current president of the New York/Tri-State chapter of Sisters in Crime, a very busy chapter of active writers. Check us out at www.nysinc.org. We participate in and offer loads of events, and are just beginning our own anthology process. (I may ask you for BTAP war stories!) Fortunately, I excel like a Stepford at what many consider administrative and domestic drudgery. When that's satisfactorily accomplished, I enjoy road trips and being awesome.

How soon can we expect your Great American Novel?

I did write the G.A.N-- so that's another thing off the to-do list-- but my agent couldn't sell it. Now I'm writing the not-quite-as-good, but much punchier and more appealing novel. I'm also experimenting with another, pseudonymous one of a different genre.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

BTAP #66: The Gimme by Alec Cizak

Alec Cizak is holding all the right cards. After unleashing "Diseases from Loving" on the world last year, he returns for a second hand with an ace of a story, "The Gimme."

Coming soon: A Joe Hannibal story by Wayne Dundee.

*When submissions open up again on April 10th, stories with a western, sci-fi, crime flash fiction (between 700-1,500 words) or boxing theme will be going to the head of the class.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Detective Doyle

I know many of you Baker Street Irregulars, will find this documentary interesting.

2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Maine Muse

Maine is a helluva muse for writers. At least for me and a few others.* This week alone I was able to make great strides on many fronts. I focused on our print anthology and read the last minute stories that are being included. I caught up on all my backlogged correspondence and tackled my TBR pile: the new Highsmith bio, The Time Traveler's Wife and Time Travelers Never Die (yeah, I gotta thing for century-hopping), The End Of It All, Texas Trackdown, A Fistful of Legends and The Guilt Edge to name a few. Plus, took in a Jazz show at a local club with the Charmer and fretted over a Cash Laramie short that I’m considering sending EQMM's way.

Now, I suppose I could have done it anywhere, but how can you beat this scenic shot?

Or this one.

There's a state slogan that goes, "Maine - The Way Life Should Be." To that I say, "Amen."

*Including writer, Chris Holm, who delves into the state's extraordinary hold in an upcoming 7 Questions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

7 Questions: Richard Prosch

1. Do you consider yourself a reviewer first who writes or vice versa?

A fair question given the content of my blog. I'm somebody who likes to tell stories, read, write, draw, read, design, fiddle with electronics, read, listen to music, read--with an additional hundred things tacked on for good measure. I've always been a reader, and I like sharing what I read. So reviewing a book or telling a story from my life ("Look at this old family photo I found...") is sorta fun. The question reminds me of something I heard years ago. Peter David, the writer, asked an assembled group of young creatives how many of them wanted to be writers. Almost every single hand shot up. Then he asked them how many wanted to sit down and write. Some confusion there, not so many hands. Rather than tell you I'm a writer, I'll just say that I do write.

2. In a recent blog post, you alluded to a meeting with the venerable Harlan Ellison. How did that come about and what did the two of you talk about?

Back in the '90s, my wife taught at a small college in South Carolina. I was working freelance, and because I had a comic strip running in the Comics Buyers' Guide newspaper, we were friends with editor, Maggie Thompson, who is friends with Ellison. When it came time for the college's annual exploration of media and culture, a regular program, Gina suggested getting Maggie and Harlan come speak together, and we would play host & hostess. They did and we did. Most crystallizing for me is a five minute incident just before Ellison went on. I grew up reading Ellison's stories and think highly of his work. So I managed to get the gig of introducing him the campus, and in so doing wrote this elaborate puffy piece that was more about me than about him. The morning of his first lecture, I show the written piece to my wife who assures me that it's pure drivel, and that I need to quickly retool the thing. "Just give 'em the guy's bio and get off the stage," she says. But it's too late. Harlan is right behind her. She hands him the intro. His face goes slack, and then he starts shaking his head, and all these stories from the media come to mind about Ellison being a mean, unfair guy, etc. And he walks up to me. And shakes his head. And says, "Maggie said you like to write." I nod, and he continues. "Well, first you've got a comma splice here that doesn't work at all. Next you've got a couple split infinitives. Then...here, gimme a pen." He doesn't say one word about the content. Instead, he takes the pen and proceeds to edit my writing, deftly knocking out grammar errors, splicing incoherent thought together, correcting my punctuation. As he spoke, calm and very polite, I realized I'd been running around imagining myself hanging out with a celeb, with somebody FAMOUS, rather than realizing that I was in the presence of a WRITER. A guy that first and foremost...WRITES. As far as the intro was concerned, I had first been concerned about MY ego, then I was worried I would offend HIS ego, and what I should have been looking at was my WRITING. That was the crystallizing moment.

3. Your bio mentions you co-created Emma Davenport, a comic book. Can you tell us a little about that and if you plan to follow it up with anymore.

In the early '90s I floated around the comic book industry like 50,000 other young people who wanted to write or draw or both. I was fortunate enough to get enough work to keep me moving forward, and in 1993, Emma Davenport, a girl comics fan, became a regular strip in the Comics Buyers' Guide, an industry trade paper. It was a time of great excitement and great speculation in the comics industry as boatloads of creators were casting out with their own properties. Since Gina and I were working together on the strip, we decided to publish a comic book starring Emma. It ran for about two years, did okay financially, was incredibly rewarding in terms of business experience, made us a dozen or so really good friends, and I would never do it again. Not for all the money or fame in the world.

4. You cover many genres on Meridian Bridge but lean toward westerns. Where did the fondness for six guns and horses come from?

Well, first off, I really love the American West and, for a time, lived in Wyoming on the high plains. Of all the genres I read, I actually know the least about westerns. I grew up reading comics, SF, fantasy and detective/crime fiction, though not much noir. I read a few westerns in college and contributed art to a series of historic essays about Nebraska, the Ponca Trail of Tears, and some real-life outlaws, but my renewed interest is fairly recent. In fact, besides being an easy venue to practice writing, I started Meridian Bridge just to learn more about the west.

5. Which film cowboy sits tallest in the saddle for you?

The older Randolph Scott. He's got an understated toughness, especially in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, with Lee Marvin, who I also like. Oh, and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY.

6. What one item in your house would you have a hard time explaining?

There's this big, primitive wooden rooster that, each year, almost makes it to the fire. My wife's great aunt bought it from a local artist half a century ago and somehow we inherited it. It's just this awful piece, and yet it lingers.

7. What's next on the horizon for you?

Research for one. I have a couple short stories here that need some solid props in the past, and getting the history right is important to me. I'm particularly happy to be included in the company of the fine writers at BEAT to a PULP with a short crime story to be posted at some point this spring. Along those lines, I'm also grateful to The Western Online, a great web zine that has accepted my short story, "Last Day at Red Horizon." In general I just want to focus on burning some flab off my writing, achieving better consistency. I had an art prof. in college who said the better artist isn't the one who creates the stunning masterpiece, but the one who can continue to create with consistency. That's the target I'm aiming at.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

BTAP #65: My Best Pal by Joshua Andra

I peeked out my door for a better listen and saw old Mrs. Beasley and old Mrs. Rogers in their evening robes whispering down the hall. Both were widows in their seventies or so. They didn't notice my door cracked open.

I overheard Beasley telling Rogers, "I think he's going to kill him this time." Mrs. Rogers shivered at the thought as her eyes flicked toward the sixth floor with revulsion.

As Mr. Andra states in his bio, he's just "started sinking his teeth into the art of fiction writing." I hope everyone stops over and drops a comment for this new writer.

Next week: "Porn Again Kristen" by Mark Robinson

Coming soon: Chris LaTray's "The Pickle"

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Phone Booth

This post is for Clark more than anybody else. I had stopped at a convenience store in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania last week and snapped this pic. Seriously, how often do you see a phone booth these days?

I was about to post this, decided to check Google, and spotted someone else thinking pretty much the same.

3/10 When One Thing Leads To Another: Patti left a comment that made me curious about the Fort Indiantown Gap, so I did another search finding this buried nugget:
An infamous 19th-century murder in Fort Indiantown Gap resulted in a trial of six defendants who all had blue eyes. They became known as the Blue Eyed Six, given the moniker by a newspaper reporter who was attending the trial. Their murder trial, held in the county courthouse in Lebanon, received worldwide publicity and inspired Arthur Conan Doyle while he was writing "The Red-Headed League".

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Charles Gramlich's CHIMES

Dena sucked in a mouthful of air, almost gave in to a yell. The chimes gonged and clanged. Her finger tightened on the automatic's trigger and she clenched her teeth. A gagging sound came from downstairs. Quiet followed.

I bought a Kindle this week (more about that soon) and one of the first ebooks I bought was this edge of your seat thriller by Charles Gramlich. What I like about CHIMES, and actually all of Mr. Gramlich's stories, are the believable characters that anchor the plot. Dena is a woman raising her child alone after her husband was raped, couldn't handle it, and split. When she hears chimes coming from downstairs where there shouldn't be, she realizes she has an intruder in her home. Her instinct in protecting her child and dealing with the trespasser are all handled masterfully. The story is a brisk read with some unexpected plot twists, and the ebook is priced very reasonably through Amazon's Kindle Store. Whole-heartedly endorsed.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

BTAP #64: The Redemption of Tom Chatham by Garnett Elliott

Finally, we have pirates at BEAT to a PULP! I put out the call for crews with cutlasses a few months ago and many of you delivered.

Once a staple of pulps, pirates seem to have fallen out of print. Well, the reboot of seafaring plunderers begins now. In our upcoming print anthology, Ian Parnham digs up some treasure with "Spot Marks The X" and here today the talented Garnett Elliott holds us captive with "The Redemption of Tom Chatham."

Next: Joshua Andra's "My Best Pal"

Soon: "Dog Day Care" by Richard Prosch

Note: BTAP submissions are closed until April 10th.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Oliver Typewriter

Little d knows my fondness for old typewriters and she picked up a gem from a co-worker. I'm now the proud owner of an army green, heavy-duty Oliver typewriter that sports showy batwings. I had never heard of this particular brand and naturally I did a quick search on Wikipedia:
The Oliver Typewriter Company was an American typewriter manufacturer headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The Oliver Typewriter was the first effective "visible print" typewriter, meaning text was visible to the typist as it was entered. Oliver typewriters were marketed heavily for home use, utilizing local distributors and sales on credit. Oliver produced more than one million machines between 1895 and 1928 and licensed its designs to several international firms.

Oliver typewriter demonstration.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Girl In The Other Room

There were some things that I found I really enjoyed singing about; like, on the title track, there's this film-noir character of a woman who's sort of losing it in a room --Diana Krall

Live performance | Diana Krall official site

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Town Monday (Travel Edition): The Birthplace Of Nero Wolfe

I suggest beginning with autobiographical sketches from each of us, and here is mine. I was born in Montenegro and spent my early boyhood there. At the age of sixteen I decided to move around, and in fourteen years I became acquainted with most of Europe, a little of Africa, and much of Asia, in a variety of roles and activities. Coming to this country in nineteen-thirty, not penniless, I bought this house and entered into practice as a private detective. I am a naturalized American citizen.

Nero Wolfe addressing the suspects in "Fourth of July Picnic" (1957)

In the birthplace of the man Archie Goodwin describes as weighing "a seventh of a ton" I came across a clock tower with no clock. I was informed that every Ottoman-ruled town had a clock tower to indicate the Muslim prayer times, and Podgorica's 18th century tower is one of the few remaining structures.

Don't know who he is or represents but I started calling him Slim. The gentleman hung around the radio and television station

A majestic looking Orthodox church in the capital city.

Yes, I still find cemeteries fascinating. And this one has plenty of character to spare.

"In life everything must have an aim, except orchids." I couldn't find any orchids which every Wolfe aficionado knows is the detective's favorite but I did find this colorful tree sprouting a unique flower all its own.

Why did it have to be a black cat in my path? THE MOUNTAIN CAT MURDERS leapt to mind.

Scarlet Johansson looking over my shoulder as I walk the streets of the great detective's birthplace. The song "Return of the Grievous Angel" was running through my head

For more MTM adventures click here.