Saturday, January 28, 2012

Watch You Drown by Chris Rhatigan

I just added this collection to my Kindle and am looking forward to the read.

From the mind of Chris Rhatigan, Watch You Drown includes fourteen tales of modern crime. Kleptos stealing, dealers dealing, grifters grifting.

These characters drift through ordinary places -- gas stations and big-box stores, shabby apartments and urine-soaked alleys -- screwing everything up as they go, leaving behind the nauseating stank of desperation. In Rhatigan's world, there are no winners, only people who haven't lost yet.

Watch You Drown is sometimes wrenching, sometimes surreal, sometimes disgusting, and always noir.

Z-7's Headquarters on...

Beat To A Pulp: A Rip Through Time, edited by yours truly.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Miles Review

U.S. Marshal Gideon Miles finds himself in the sleepy town of Little Ridge, Montana, on the search for a wanted man. But just as Miles enters town, he's spotted by... read the full Western Fiction Review.

Fires On The Plains

Fires on the Plain is now open for submissions!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photo-Finish Friday -- Basic Training Gradution

This is my Army basic training graduation from eighteen years ago. That's my dad in the red flannel shirt watching and my mom in the long jacket. I'm directly in front of my dad with the private first class on my shoulder. My parents were so proud of this moment and it brings tears to my eyes looking at this old photo.

Leah J. Utas is the force behind Photo-Finish Friday.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

7 Questions: Thomas Pluck

Thomas Pluck seemed to shoot out of nowhere in 2011. When did you start writing?

Sorry for the longwinded answer. They say writers have a million words of crap in them, or have to work 10,000 hours before they get any good... and I've been writing a long time.

The first book I wrote was in 2nd grade, about two endangered Komodo dragons defeating a poacher. Through high school I kept a "Journal" where I'd write bizarre humor in homeroom and pass it around, and I wrote 400-odd hand-written pages of an awful science fantasy novel before turning to crime fiction in college. I wrote a dozen or so short stories and began a novel about a recovering heroin addict who hunts down a missing girl for his old boss, but I never completed it. One of my college stories, was accepted by Pulphouse Magazine, which promptly folded; I hunted around and found Blue Murder magazine, which published my first story. So if you've been in online crime for a dozen years, you'd have seen my original, tiny splash onto the scene. Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective found me a copy of Blue Murder #11, and sent it to me. Felt good to see it again.

I wrote more, but I let doubt get to me- something no writer should permit- and stopped writing for years. Then my grandmother, who raised me after my parents were divorced, passed away from cancer and mortality reared its head. I was a morbidly obese computer gamer at the time. I quit gaming, and started dieting, hiking, weightlifting and practicing mixed martial arts. I lost 140 lbs. in just over a year, and found my confidence again. I started dating and met the woman who would become my wife, and she lived in Brooklyn at the time. A long drive or a couple train rides. And let me tell you, crossing two rivers to meet someone, in New York, that's true love.

Those drives gave me a lot of time to think, and I started tossing around ideas for a novel about kids who were bullied in school, who commit a terrible crime, and only one of them pays for it. Someone told me about National Novel Writing Month and a backlog of words exploded out of my brain, 115,000 words in two months, a novel called THE GARAGE, which I'm rewriting into a crime novel titled BURY THE HATCHET. This time it's from the perspective of the guy who went to prison, not the everyman. The guy is out for revenge. It's a very dark and intense tale of small town corruption, familial anger and betrayal, and strong friendships bonded in crisis. After I wrote the "zero draft" I took a rest from it to thing it out, and short story ideas kept popping in my head.

I heard about Flash Fiction Friday, and began participating. I had a humor, food, movie and beer blog that had been my outlet for writing, and I channeled that into stories. On twitter I met Fiona Johnson, and she read my story "The Last Sacrament," and suggested I send it to a few venues including a new one called Shotgun Honey. They accepted it, and I let the ego boost from that first acceptance carry me into writing more and more, submitting to different markets and treating it as a sort of challenge, to reach as many readers as possible. I can't say I've written a story for a particular magazine unless the editor asked me to do a guest spot, but I am very meticulous in reading venues to choose the right story to send them., a great tool for writers to keep track of where you've sent your work, says I have a 38% success rate, which is very good. But a big part of that is reading stories the editors have accepted.

Though I'd only read one or two from BEAT to a PULP before sending "A Glutton for Punishment." It was a fighter story and you have that great boxer art on your splash page. So I took a chance.

Lets jump back. What was it like growing up T. Pluck?

I had a wild imagination and was a daydreamer, still am. It's where my stories come from. We had HBO, so I watched dozens of inappropriate movies for my age, from Conan the Barbarian to Alien, Patton and The Stunt Man, The remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Night of the Juggler, Vice Squad and Magnum Force... it wasn't quite like growing up in a grindhouse theater but at times it was close. Back in the day HBO played movies, and most of them were cheap exploiters. They fueled my imagination, and I'd daydream about fighting laser tanks with crystal swords and my James Bond career, flying a supercar, wearing a tuxedo, and pursuing beautiful women. This doesn't play well on the schoolgrounds, so I got pushed around a lot as a kid. My parents split- my father was a hell of a character, and he influences a lot of my writing- and life was a bit chaotic. We moved into my grandparents place and I spent a lot more time with that side of the family. Storytellers, jokesters, mechanics, horse bettors, sailors, bar owners who ran bars for the mob, veterans, bikers... and a few hard working stiffs thrown in. They told enough stories to last a lifetime, and I still spend Sunday mornings having coffee with my mother and my uncles, average age 80-something. They come from a time when we'd tell stories around the table, and it rubbed off. Getting knocked around a bit made me a weightlifter, and years later, I train in mixed martial arts. The fear's still there, sometimes. I'm built like a gorilla but I couldn't walk into a room without sizing people up in case they turn on me. And that fuels great fight scenes, in your head. I've calmed down a bit. But the sizing up is a habit. Be prepared, the scouts say.

How do you feel about social media and promoting books? Do you feel comfortable using Twitter, Facebook, etc to sell your work?

I joined Twitter as a jokester, and broke 1000 followers before I wrote a single story. It's where I learned about #flashfriday and #fridayreads, and I think it's an excellent tool for reaching readers. Facebook could be, but it lags behind. Facebook started as a stalking tool, Twitter began as a broadcast tool. They're both aimed at data mining now. Google+ began as a data miner, so it's the least useful, in my opinion. Books live and die on word of mouth. Promotion, ads, they help of course, but readers spread the word. Like the fabled "silent majority," I think most promotion blasts into the ether like radio waves into space, but the few people you do hook, you should ask to spread the word. Their friends will buy the book on their recommendation, not because a stranger tweets it regularly. I only have one book for sale, LOST CHILDREN: A CHARITY ANTHOLOGY. It benefits two children's causes, PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children, which lobbies for stronger children protection laws, and Children 1st, a Scottish family support charity. I've tweeted long and loud about it, and so have many of the 30 contributors. We've sold 175 copies in about 75 days. I'm told that's pretty good, but I don't rest on my laurels. I want to sell a hundred times that, then maybe I'll think it's a success.

I think writers are still figuring out how to properly use social media, really. I like to connect with readers, not shout at them. I still think of stories as if I'm telling them after dinner, the tablecloth stained with spilled wine, children hiding underneath to eavesdrop, like I used to. Feedback is not essential to a writer, but it sure helps when you're tearing your hair out in the middle of a tough scene. I'd rather have five thousand twitter followers who spam the hell out of me with comments (that I try in earnest to respond to in my spare time) than 15,000 who just saw my name, read a book, and like hearing the occasional poop joke.

What is Christa Faust like in person?

Christa Faust is as vibrant in person as her writing is on the page. I met her at Bouchercon last year. I hadn't read her work yet, I just knew that CHOKE HOLD was about an MMA fighter and she told the truth, that it's a tough game not unlike being a porn star. Great book, by the way. We met in the bar, I didn't know anybody and she grabbed my arm and introduced me to a dozen people I was too shy to approach. I lightened up and had a great time, met a lot of great people. And I'm thankful, she didn't know me from Adam. Friendliness is common in the crime fiction community, but that kind of generosity is unique, and she's one of a kind.

Mitt Romney or President Obama? And Why?

Politicians give whoring a bad name. I like what Bernie Sanders and Al Franken are doing. Everyone is big government or a crank like Ron Paul, but those two guys aren't feeding us bullshit quite yet. Give them time, and money. Democrat, Republican, once they get a taste of the big money- Congress is legally allowed to insider trade, remember- they're one party, the Wolf party, and we're the sheep. I voted for Jesse Ventura, when I lived in Minnesota. He did some good and some bad, but at least he wasn't a stooge.

Tell us a little more about LOST CHILDREN. How did you become involved with this project and will there be more books in the series?

LOST CHILDREN began as a flash fiction writing prompt I asked Fiona Johnson to write for Friday Flash Fiction. She chose neglected children as the inspiration, and would donate 5 pounds her story to Children 1st, a Scottish charity who help families in need; I matched her donations to PROTECT, who lobby for stronger laws and enforcement against child abuse, and Living Water for Girls, who rescue women forced into prostitution. 44 writers responded, and we paid out over $600 in donations. We decided we could get more if we collected the best stories, so I formatted them into an e-book, and then again into a paperback. My wife Sarah designed the cover with the arresting photo by artist Danielle Tunstall, donated for the project.

The stories range from bittersweet to joyful to downright brutal revenge tales. Paul D. Brazill, J.F. Juzwik, Chad Rohrbacher, Ron Earl Phillips, David Barber of The Flash Fiction Offensive, Gutter's flash fiction arm, all contributed great tales. We have a story of a Lost Boy from Sudan, as told to his teacher J.P. Reese; a story from Vietnam from veteran James Lloyd Davis. Hardboiled legend Wayne Dundee gave us a rave review. A very generous and talented guy, that Wayne.

But I don't like to rest on my broad laurels. I have a second volume in the works, with a lot of heavy hitters interested in joining us this time around. We made a bit of a splash, and I won't name names until contracts are signed, but you will recognize them on the book's jacket.

Andrew Vachss- who's more than an influence, he's a personal hero- calls his fiction Trojan horses. Hardboiled gut punches that leave you thinking, but aren't "message stories." Oh, there's a strong message in his work, but he manages to share it without being preachy, you know?

I hope to do the same. I like that the cover has made people jump, and a local bookstore I've dealt with for 20 years, refuse to carry it. And that's just a child's eyes. But the stories within, and my own, are not salacious. No more than Weegee's photos of poverty, or bodies at a crime scene were. They're a wake-up call. A call to anger.

What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you?

You want me to pick just one? I had a kidney stone a few years back. Second one, but it was a lot worse. I haven't written a story about a man pissing blood yet, but I can accurately describe it. Thanks to an idiot nurse telling me not to drink water before my MRI, I was in the most pain I've ever experienced. The knife in the back shooting down to the testicles kind of pain. And mind you, I've broken bones, crushed my fingers, been stabbed in the thigh, kicked in the liver, sparred with 6'4" heavyweights, and had my heart broken by beautiful women, so you have something to judge this pain against.

By the time I crawled into a hospital bed, pain pills wouldn't touch it. Across the room, an old man lay in bed with his foot bandaged up. I paid him little mind. Women who've had kidney stones will compare it to childbirth. It's that bad, and this was an infection with a 104 degree fever. I felt like a child, delirious with the flu. I couldn't sleep, or move much without pain shooting from neck to nuts. So I press the buzzer and ask for painkillers.

It was not easy. I had my wisdom teeth pulled, and I flushed the Percocets down the toilet. I don't like admitting pain. So this tawny angel, a Latina nurse who don't take shit, comes in, rolls me over and sticks a needle in my butt cheek. And that sends me over the edge. I sob like a little bitch, for a brief moment. It felt like ages. Moments later I'm drooling into my pillow, and wake with the sun in my eyes.

The old man has the TV on, staring at the vast moronic wasteland of morning talk shows and infomercials. I say good morning, ask what he's in for. He has an infection in his foot, aggravated from a war wound he received on Omaha Beach. So I cried like a little bitch over a needle, in front of a veteran of Normandy. Now, I have no proof. Lots of guys say they were there, just like no one served in the rear ranks in Vietnam, when guys talk at the bar. Everyone was in the shit. But he didn't brag any, and reminded me of my great-uncles, who were loathe to talk about their service. It was a humbling experience, and no matter how much my kidney throbbed, as trickles of relief dribbled into my bed pan, I kept my mouth shut.

Then there was the time when I tried to prank call a bowling alley with the old, "Hey, do you have ten pound balls?" gag, and the lady said "Yes, would you like to lick them?" but that doesn't touch crying in front of a war hero, if you ask me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Rip Through Time Update

A RIP THROUGH TIME is now available at Amazon for $0.99.

Dr. Robert Berlin has created The Baryon Core, a powerful device with the ability to predict the future and retrodict the past by tracking the position and vector of every particle in the universe. Berlin swipes his own creation from The Company and disappears into history. The Company's time-cop Simon Rip and the sexy, brilliant Dr. Serena Ludwig join together to track Berlin and return the device. Their pursuit will take them back to the ice age and forward to the end of time.

A Rip through Time follows the time-cop's travels in a series of five short stories written by several of today's top pulp writers. Chris F. Holm opens the collection with the fast-paced "The Dame, the Doctor and the Device." Charles A. Gramlich's "Battles, Broadswords, and Bad Girls" and Garnett Elliott's "Chaos in the Stream" breath new life into the time travel story. Bringing the saga to a gripping conclusion in "Darkling in the Eternal Space" is Chad Eagleton, who then takes it a step further with a mesmerizing coda, "The Final Painting of Hawley Exton." And for all the time-traveling enthusiasts, Ron Scheer provides an insightful essay, "Are We Then Yet," which explores the mechanics of time travel in popular fiction.

Short, Sharp Interview: Patti Abbott

Another great interview over at Mr. Braill's top site.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Manhunter's Mountain

Manhunter's Mountain shows a powerful side to Cash Laramie as he makes his way down the side of a mountain with a prisoner in tow, and two prostitutes eager to flee a mining town that's gone bust, looking to make a new life for themselves. An early winter storm promises to make the journey more than a normal struggle. And, leaving town with two of its most precious gems, the prostitutes, puts Cash in the crosshairs of an angry gang of men who are willing to keep the women in town ... at any cost.

A fast, hardboiled Western that continues the Cash Laramie legend with swagger and good, solid writing. Wayne Dundee brings his masterful voice to the Western and tells a Cash Laramie story in perfect pitch. Manhunter's Mountain should be on every Western fiction reader's bookshelf.
-- Larry D. Sweazy, Spur Award-winning author of The Coyote Tracker.

Edward A. Grainger's outlaw marshal is on the trail again in this first full-length Cash Laramie novel written by hardboiled veteran Wayne D. Dundee.

Reviews: R Thomas Brown's Criminal Thoughts | James Reasoner's Rough Edges| Larry Sweazy's Tense Moments

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Free Can Equal Sales

Thanks to support from friends on Blogger, Google+, and Twitter, I was able to sell a few hundred copies off the bat with the June release of ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES and it's sequel, VOL. II. Then after the excitement died down, sales puttered along at ten or so copies a day. Not bad, but how to reach a wider audience?

Give it away seems to be the answer!

Kindle now provides the opportunity to offer your book for free for a limited time -- no more than five days to be exact. So I did it, and I stared in amazement when I hit the refresh button -- nearly one hundred copies had moved in less than a couple of minutes. Then I hit refresh again and another sizable batch flew off the virtual shelf. It went on like that for two days nonstop. I eventually ended up moving just over 3k. Now if folks had bought that many of my books, I would have pocketed a cool grand *dreams a bit* but I know that wouldn't have happened.

So what good did the free offer do?

Three thousand readers who weren't familiar with Cash & Miles now have it on their Kindle. If only a quarter of them like my heroes, then that's an improvement on future sales when, hopefully, they purchase the next book for $0.99. Additionally, I sold two hundred copies of the first volume that most likely wouldn't have been purchased if I hadn't decided to offer my book for free -- more than one person on Twitter mentioned they bought the first collection after getting the second for $0.00.

I hope you don't mind me posting about this, not bragging here, and many other writers out there are way ahead of me on this, but I thought it may be of use to a few. In a nutshell: free is good and can equal other/future sales.

Agree? Disagree? What are your experiences?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

'11 Reflections & '12 At A Glance

This post is probably more for me than anything else but I got to thinking what a life changing past year this was for our family.


*Most importantly, my daughter Ava was born on Valentine's Day. The sun now rises and sets for her as far as my wife and I are concerned. Being a father at forty-one has enlivened me with a new lease on life as only a child can. Our little coconut just began crawling in the last week of '11!

*My mother's dementia worsened and it has taken a toll on the family. The good news is one of my sisters is a retired nurse and is giving our mother the best possible care. I take heart that for a few months my mom and Ava were very close. They both enjoyed watching The Golden Girls together and making silly faces. Mom would whistle and big smiles would ripple from my daughter. Bittersweet.

*In June of '11, I released Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles and then three other BEAT to a PULP collections. They continue to do well and by Dec 31st, I had sold more copies than I could have predicted at the start. Not bad, not bad for a beginner but at $0.35 a book, I obviously still need a day job. :)

*This was the year of new social networking for me. I joined Twitter and Google+. It comes easily, it turns out, because I enjoy what others have to say and interacting. Some Blogger friends have written to say they missed my meaty blogs here and I will try to improve the output.


*Ava is learning so much on a daily basis, and Denise and I are eager to continue her education with books, music, etc. She loves being read to and reaches for books before we do. Gotta keep that momentum going.

*I want to do more around the home with repairs that are long overdue.

Upcoming books

*I'm releasing, very soon, the first full-length Cash Laramie novel written by hardboiled master, Wayne D. Dundee.

*BEAT to a PULP: ROUND TWO is a bit late because of some of the above life events but I'm shooting for March 1st. This collection contains some notable names in the literary and pulp circles, and James O'Barr has contributed another fabulous cover.

*Another, yet un-named, BTAP eBook is on the way. I want to keep the title quiet for now but it pushes the envelope just a bit and I'm excited about that.

*Chad Eagleton has written a Simon Rip science fiction novella.

*I also have another round of my short stories featuring Cash & Miles. This collection will reach from 1885 and all the way to 1930 when the outlaw marshal is seventy-five.

That's a little about me. And you? Was 2011 good or bad for you and what are your plans for 2012?