Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caption This, Part Three

I'm not lazy, I just can't get my book reviews to the point that I want to post them.

In the meantime? Caption this...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

R.I.P. J.D.

January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010

With "Catcher In The Rye," you made high school tolerable for me, and thousands of others.

We hardly knew ye, and you that's exactly how you wanted it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Caption This, Redux

Redux, reuse, recycle. Some of you have seen this jpeg already, and some of you haven't. At any rate, caption this-

The Circle of Friends Awards

Okay, this is the last time I'm going to do any awards or memes, okay? Paulie Decibels was nice enough to award me with this-

The reason why this is going to be my last, is because there is someone always left out, or there are hurt feelings.

And I'm going to pass it around to-


My Sister.

The Steel Town Girl On A Saturday Night.

The Baroness.

Johnny Dollars.

"The 'rules' are that THEY have to pass it on to five of their pals."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Crime Factory is live!

Give it up, see!

Yeah, ya mug, Crime Factory Magazine has got you covered and you don't stand a chance! Whether it's in PDF, or as a Kindle format, they've got you surrounded!

Ken Bruen has the shilelagh, Hilary Davidson is pointing a derringer at your temple, Dave White has a stiletto at your throat, Frank Bill has you in the sights of his Beretta, and Steve Weddle is riding shotgun, with both of his barrels pointed at you.*

All the while, Keith, Cameron, and Liam laugh as they orchestrate this killing. It's curtains for you, curtains!

*How are we all fitting in the same car? I have no idea.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Caption This!

In terms of blogging, I've got a bad case of the lazies. So...

...please, caption the back cover of Michael Connelly's "9 Dragons."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Keith Rawson interviews Charlie Huston!

It seems these days that no crime or mystery author would dare swing through Arizona and not be interviewed by Keith Rawson, he is becoming an essential part of the southwestern book tour experience. BSC has just posted Part One of Keith's interview with author Charlie Huston!

Not to mention that Alan Ball ("Six Feet Under" and "American Beauty") and HBO are going to produce "The Mystic Arts Of Erasing All Signs Of Death." Life...or death, as it were, is good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Links and the return of Astonishing Adventures Magazine

Well, first things first. John Donald Carlucci emailed me from the road to tell me that Scarlett is coming back!

No, this has nothing to do with Hester Prynne, we are talking about Scarlett, the mascot of Astonishing Adventures Magazine. John has had a change of heart. He's decided to resurrect AAM, and that he will again take up the mantle of Editor.

Keith Rawson and company are readying a crime magazine that will be ready any minute. It will be called "Crime Factory Zine," and if you love crime fiction like I do, you know that Keith's name means quality.

The one announcement that has held this post up for a couple of days will have to wait for another day, no problem. Think Rod Serling, think Ray Bradbury and now think Katherine Tomlinson, with "The Sin Eater."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"A Red Lipstick" Is Up At A Twist Of Noir

From Astonishing Adventures Issue #5, "A Red Lipstick" is up at A Twist of Noir. This version is unique to A.T.O.N. Christopher Grant made a couple of changes here and there, so that it reads a little smoother than the original.

On a personal note, if a writer or an author is entitled a little self-indulgence every once in a while? This is my favorite story of all of my work, in terms of how it was plotted out. Katherine Tomlinson had me pare down some extraneous subplots and characters, because sometimes less is truly more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writing Quotes, Barton Fink Edition

I'm a writer, you monsters, I create! I create for a living, I'm a creator! I am a creator! (points at head) This, this is my uniform! This is how I service common man!

-Barton Fink, from the eponymous movie

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

- Ernest Hemingway

"Nothing matters but the writing. There has been nothing else worthwhile...a stain upon the silence."

- Samuel Beckett

From the Creative Screenwriting Weekly Newsletter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"The Screw The Resolutions And Get Your Ass In Gear For 2010 Flash Fiction Open"

Bryon Quertermous said-

Alexandra Sokoloff had a nice post the other day about how hard it is to get back into the rhythm of writing after the crazy holiday season. This is something I struggle with and could relate to. So, in an attempt to jump start the year proper-like, I’m setting myself a challenge and extending it to the rest of you.

One story. Flash fiction (under 1k). Subject matter is open. You’ve got a week. Post a link in the comment section to where your story will appear next Monday and I’ll spread the word.
Go on. Get to it.

"Tommy's Nickname"

Nicknames can tell you everything…or they can lead you down the wrong path altogether. For example, he’s not the most masculine of the bunch; “Viv” is not a woman at all. “V.I.V.” stands for his initials “Vittorio, Ignacio, Volpe.”

So, Tommy’s nickname is a mystery to the new guys and the old guys that knew it are dead. As a matter of fact, nobody knows where Tommy comes from…or just whom he really works for. Carmelo DiSalvo, no relation to the Boss, says that Tommy worked for the Jewish Mob and that Tommy is not a Gentile, if you get my drift. Carmelo also said that Tommy was employed by Bugsy Siegel, up until that fateful day of June 20, 1947, when Meyer Lansky conveniently had Tommy run an errand up in Vegas.

Naturally, despite Meyer sparing his life, Tommy wasn’t too happy about losing his boss, to whom he was very loyal. This I all believe to be far as I know, because Carmelo rarely lies when he’s sober, and he’s been on the wagon for a whole week. So, here it is, some twelve years after Siegel’s demise, and I called Tommy up, because I’m one of the few that knew him when. DiSalvo (the Boss, not Carmelo) wants something taken care of, but when the accusing finger is finally pointed, it can’t be at him.

Giuseppe Cacciato is a thorn in my Boss’s side, and he must be dealt with before he becomes far too big to take on. The bitch about this is Cacciato never comes out, ever. His compound is called “Fort Knox North” by everybody in Our Thing, because of how secure it is. So as long as he stays in there, he figures that he’s safe…and he’s right. On the other hand, Tommy is a wise man. The fact that he is as old as he is and for him to last in the business that he is in, testifies to his true intelligence. You don’t get that lucky for that long, as you can’t help but step on the wrong toes.

“If Cacciato’s reach is long and it extends past his compound walls, you have to cut off his right hand,” Tommy says to me.

“We’ve tried that before, and just like something out of a Greek myth, a new right hand popped up. Smarter, tougher…hell, it’s like we did him a favor. We took out an inferior lieutenant and gave him a battle-tested general.”

“Then, there’s one thing that will get to him, the same thing that will get to every man.”

“We don’t touch the family…not at that level.”

“No, you misunderstand, my friend. You don’t have to go after a man’s family to flush him out,” muses Tommy.

I shake my head and mumble, “He never leaves Fort Knox North.”

“He won’t have to; I’ll get him to bring me there.”

As it turns out, Joe Cacciato does have a weakness...she’s 5’3” and what one would call “classically beautiful.” A regular Venus De Milo, with arms, of course. It doesn’t take much effort on Tommy’s part to get her attention; he’s a handsome old man, even if I do say so myself. They meet at Abruzzo’s, and if I knew who she was and that she went to that joint, I woulda done all of this myself. But that’s why Tommy is the best.

They talk, and they talk. Tommy strings her along pretty good, just enough to let her know that he’s interested, and in turn, that keeps her interested in him. I watch this from the restaurant section, and it’s better than any dinner theater that I’ve seen.

Two nights later and I’m standing in her closet, watching her lie woozy on her bed. Tommy slipped her something, unawares…not to take advantage of her, but to drag the time out. We discussed the particulars of his plan while she was out, and then she stirs, just as Tommy is pouring glue on his head…that’s right, glue. He puts his hat on, and that’s the signal.

They snatch him in the hallway, because he’s not there when I peek out the door. She’s asking me where the hell I came from, as I exit.

Cacciato is mad; he probably knew about Tommy the very first day. I can see it in my mind as I wait outside the compound. He’ll want to talk to Tommy personally. He’ll want to do this himself, to save face in front of his men, not knowing that Tommy has been in this position more than a few times before. When Joe Cacciato gets too close and tries to hit Tommy, that’s when he’ll hit Cacciato right back.

If they have him handcuffed, he’ll have a key because all handcuffs have the same lock. Tied with a rope or tape? Tommy will also have a knife that they won’t find, unless they give a search that’s prison guard-worthy. That same knife will cut throats and faces, as it has done so many times before. There will be two small .32s that are just a little smaller than Tommy’s palms, with tiny sights that always find their targets.

When the man that you blindly follow is maimed, it momentarily takes the wind out of you. When the man you swore to protect with your life goes down in a heap, you are stunned, and then you are angry. By the time they get mad, Tommy will kill them, too.

There are the indoor fireworks, like the 4th of July in November. Listen to these idiots running around like chickens with a fox in the coop. The first place these idiots should check, is the secret tunnel that my cousin Paulie helped to build for Cacciato.

Here comes Tommy, with a ring around his head where the glue ripped his hair. You see, they never knew that Tommy’s nickname is “The Hat,” because that’s where he keeps his tools of the trade.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"The Tsar's Treasure" and Astonishing Adventures #8

First, here is the magnificent illustration by Joanne Renaud, which accompanies my chef-d-oeuvre, "The Tsar's Treasure."

Please, take it in for a moment...and please, pardon me if I seem like a braggart, because it was really Joanne that brought my story's lovely antagonist to vivid color, right before your very eyes. It is one of the greatest thrills in life, to have an idea from your mind, manifest itself in such a way as this. A magazine is a collaborative effort, and this? This is the icing on the cake.

The first time that I got to experience this, is when Katherine's late sister Mary, did the illustration for my story "Tit-ForTat" in the premiere issue of Astonishing Adventures Magazine. It was just a rough sketch, but it was sensational to experience someone else's interpretation of a notion that had previously existed, only in your own head. So it is fitting that Joanne did such a tremendous job in ushering the last issue of Astonishing Adventures, with both this picture, and the cover for the last issue ever.

And please, don't get the impression that it is as simple as someone types a story and another person puts ink and paint to paper, and voila, "you have magazine!" No, first it takes an icon, and this man wanted to bring back the pulp magazine to 21st Century...John Donald Carlucci was that man. John shared editorial duties first with Tim D. Gallagher, and then Super Editor Katherine Tomlinson took over from Issue #2, onward.

Tim and Katherine had the difficult task of taking the errant ramblings of the other writers and me, and turning those words into a cohesive narrative. How difficult was it? Let's just say Hercules had it easy with his Twelve Labors...and no, working with John was not like serving under Eurystheus...more like Pluto ; )

Joy Sillesen put the final touches together and she made it a true magazine, then John would, work, yes, that's it, work with Amazon. Yes, Amazon was sooo helpful. At any rate, Astonishing Adventures Magazine was a labor of love, with all of us doing this for the experience, and for you, the reader.

Author Kelli Stanley answered my many incoherent emails that I sent her, and she turned them into a wonderful interview, because she's that good of an author.

The format of the interview was limited, because this was going to be the first of an ongoing series of modern crime and mystery authors talking about pulp. Kelli gives us superior insight into her favorite noir films and pulp authors. Then she finishes the interview up with insight into her novel "Nox Dormienda," and her two upcoming novels, "City of Dragons," and "Cursed," which is the sequel to "Nox."

Also in this issue, the identity of Kat Parrish is finally revealed in this issue. Oh, and uh, I bring the pain, and I bring the pulp. Here's an excerpt from "The Tsar's Treasure," the story in question-

The red man jerks and tries to get a hold of his blackjack as he sits up, and I reflexively pull the gun out. He shakes the blackjack out of his hand and goes for his gun. We both have pistols pointed at each other’s head and I’m wondering if they even know what a Mexican stand-off is in Hungary.

Of all the weapons you can pull on somebody, guns are the most problematic. Once you have the gun out, if other guy has any sense, he’ll back down. Of course, if he has one too, he’s thinking the exact same thing. Unlike with other weapons, you can’t deflect a bullet…especially this close.

I finally get a good look at Mihály and I want to call up J. Edgar and the G-Men, because some way, somehow, a church is missing a gargoyle, and he’s sitting right here just a couple feet away from me.

So that's just one except, though there will be a couple more to come this January. Check out the biggest, and the very last issue of Astonishing Adventures Magazine on

And on

The print issue on Amazon is coming soon!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Best Reading of 2009

Well goodbye 2009, don't let the door hit yer ass on the way out. I did not enjoy last year, and I'll just leave it at that, because I don't want to take away from the fact that it was a pretty good year for literature.

I'm sure that it was an even better year than this post would indicate, but I've spent more of my reading time lately, surfing the Internet on my smart phone. So as an example, I have yet to read Connelly's "9 Dragons" and Walter Mosley's "The Long Fall" has been collecting dust in my room. Be forewarned, as I've said a few times before, "I'll keep it simple because I'm not a reviewer by any stretch of the imagination."

First on my list is "Nox Dormienda" Kelli Stanley introduces seamlessly the concept of noir into 84 A.D. Londinium (now London), and convinces the reader that this 20th Century aesthetic is right at home in ancient times. If anything, she’ll have you believing that the Roman Empire actually created noir (which in many ways, it did).

Now, what I mean by "noir," is not inserting Chandlerisms and modern ethics, and calling it "pulp." She writes a historically accurate take on that era and her metaphors ring true to that age. If you are a history buff, or if you just appreciate history, this book is for you. If you love a good mystery or a good crime novel, this is the story for you.

On a side note, you have to figure that this was the absolute last time that anyone could afford property on the West End, relatively speaking.

Listen, when I say that Megan Abbott can get me to read anything, I'm not putting "Bury Me Deep" down, by any stretch of the imagination. I mean that I will read her take on anything...anything. If she does a yarn on the Brontë Sisters, with them comparing ingrown facial hair and hangnails? I will read it. How about 5th Century Chinese poetry on the zen of cleaning chicken coops? You can be sure that I'll have a first edition. Why? Because she can make any subject worth delving into.

Now with "Bury Me Deep," I made the mistake of reading about the actual case that she based the book on, on the Internet. So I took longer than I should've to finish it because I thought I knew the, was I wrong. Don't bother to look up what I'm talking about. Just read the book, enjoy, and know that only Megan Abbott can safely guide you through Nietzsche's Abyss.

"Jack Wakes Up." Remember when Quentin Tarantino and John Woo were firing on all cylinders? Well Seth Harwood has all of that with his novel, in spades. One of the best parts of this book, is that the protagonist, Jack Palms, often doesn't know what he is doing or what he is going to do next. He's purely reactive and damn it, that's perfect. Even though he is a former actor, he is real, by virtue of how deals with each situation.

The finale is nothing short of Woo bullet ballet.

"Spade And Archer?" I thought that Joe Gores would nail Hammett's prose, the very same way that he had done previously in novels and one screenplay. I believe that he didn't try as hard as he could and maybe he didn't want the audience reading this book exactly the way they would read Dashiell.

That being said, this was a good book that while not as crisp as Hammett, is a very satisfying novel. The shadow of the real Thin Man or not, Gores does a brilliant job of creating Sam Spade's back story (don't make me use the word, "prequel") and it is a must read.

Now the beauty about anthologies is that if you don't like one story, you can always move on to the next one. As much as I love the Akashic Noir Series, it is getting harder and harder for them to sustain the quality level that the first dozen volumes had. I am not saying that they are mediocre by any means, but whereas you had no lemons before in a particular volume, you now have apples that are not as sweet (pardon the mixed metaphor).

Well, I'm happy to say with the Boston and Seattle volumes in the Series, there has been a rebirth.

Finally, we come to the knockout punch, Eric Beetner and JB Kohl's "One Too Many Blows To The Head."

Boxing, The Mob in Kansas City, a dame to die for, and a man hellbent on revenge. In our minds, the 30's were all Busby Berkeley musicals, Our Gang comedies, and Fred and Ginger. "One To Many" was a lot closer to reality than the movies have acknowledged, during or since that era.

As much as I liked Robert Altman's "Kansas City," "One Too Many Blows To The Head" is only lacking that film's soundtrack, and the book is so much better. Like good bout in the ring, it is relentless, full of tension, and it never lets up.

Ring in the New Year with writing quotes

"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium."

- Norbet Platt

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

- William Wordsworth

From the Creative Screenwriting Weekly Newsletter.

I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

-Thomas Edison