April/May Noir Catch-All

It's been a busy couple of months! Between travel and scribbling away furiously as deadlines approach, the blog has taken a backseat. Here's a short recap: Noir at the Bar Crew[Left to Right - Dale Phillips, Connie Johnson Hambley, Errick Nunnally, Chris Irvin, Tony McMillen, Bracken MacLeod, Mike Miner, Stona Fitch, Patrick Shawn Bagley]

Noir at the Bar Boston II was a great success. Nine authors read some stellar fiction in front of a big crowd. Beers were drank, books were raffled, good times were had. Here's a recap courtesy of Dale Phillips. Stay tuned for news on the next event - June 15th, 6-8pm at Trident Booksellers & Cafe.

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Speaking of fun, Independent Bookstore Day at Papercuts J.P. was a blast. Paul Tremblay and I read some of our favorite fiction by other writers that has inspired us (Shirley Jackson, Nathan Ballingrud) and had a great chat about crime and horror. Be sure to snag Paul's A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS when it drops in June!

Here's a shot Paul took of me talking to myself...err...my doing my thing..

Papercuts

Essay

Write The Individual - a short bit on me writing from a female first person POV, the Andrew Smith debacle and advice from Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Interviews

Terribleminds: Five Things I Learned Writing BURN CARDS

One Bite at a Time - Twenty Questions

Chatteriffic

Reviews

My Bookish Ways: Read This

Bracken MacLeod - I like my Noir dark, thank you very much!

Just A Guy That Likes To Read

Chris Dikes - Despair runs deep...

Goodreads

BB3_2

Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels 3

The third volume from Shotgun Honey is out! This baby was a ton of work and took a couple of delays to come together, but I'm proud of how it turned out. Give it a look - there is some fantastic stuff within.

Featuring 25 stories of crime:

“A Boy Like Billy” by Patricia Abbott “Border Crossing” by Michael McGlade “Looking for the Death Trick” by Bracken MacLeod “Maybelle’s Last Stand” by Travis Richardson “Predators” by Marie S. Crosswell “Twenty to Life” by Frank Byrns “So Much Love” by Keith Rawson “Running Late” by Tess Makovesky “Last Supper” by Katanie Duarte “Danny” by Michael Bracken “The Plot” by Jedidiah Ayres “What Alva Wants” by Timothy Friend “Time Enough to Kill” by Kent Gowran “Copas” by Hector Acosta “Yellow Car Punch” by Nigel Bird “Love at First Fight” by Angel Luis Colón “Traps” by Owen Laukkanen “Down the Rickety Stairs” by Alan Orloff “Blackmailer’s Pep Talk” by Chris Rhatigan “With a Little bit of Luck” by Bill Baber “As Cute as a Speckled Pup Under a Red Wagon” by Tony Conaway “Chipping off the Old Block” by Nick Kolakowski “Young Turks and Old Wives” by Shane Simmons “The Hangover Cure” by Seth Lynch “Highway Six” by John L. Thompson

cover

Bouchercon!

It's official - I'll be crashing Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC come October. AND my buddy Joe Clifford is up for TWO Anthony Awards - LAMENTATION (Best Novel) and TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND (Best Anthology or Collection) - the latter of which is extra-awesome as it features my story, "Death to My Hometown." Hope you see you there.

Until next time...thank you to everyone for your support of BURN CARDS. Can't wait to announce what's coming next.

BURNCARDS

 

 

Upcoming Readings

Thrilled to be participating in an event at Papercuts J.P. with Zachary Klein this Friday. Come on out for some prime time crime, and ice cream courtesy of Scoopsies, a local craft ice cream company.

PapercutsAND stay tuned for Noir at the Bar Boston II (finally free of our record-setting winter)

N@BIISunday, April 26 6-9pm @ The Pour House

 

 

Christmas Sale!

Looking for that last gift? We gotcha covered.

Behold!

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I'm teaming up with Bracken MacLeod to bring you a holiday double feature of crime! FEDERALES and WHITE KNIGHT + a limited edition print by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (ZERO, EXPATRIATE) for $12.00 (shipping included.)

Shoot an e-mail to clirvin(at)gmail.com or hit us up on Facebook/Twitter if you are interested in this bit of holiday madness.

Johansen_Viggo_-_Radosne_Boże_Narodzenie

Keep the Devil Down the Hole

keep_the_devil_1"Keep the Devil Down the Hole," originally published in Dreadworks Journal, is now available to read on Wattpad.

Dreadworks Journal (2012) was a fun little project with writing Mad Dogs Errick Nunnally, Bracken MacLeod, and Javed Jahangir. My good buddy, Joe DellaGatta, did the interior illustrations featured in the book. Check out Joe's deviantart for more of his fantastic work.

keep_the_devil_2

Playing catch up

tumblr_n5jot6nivj1txnetfo1_1280 I've been caught up in a bit a of a whirlwind lately with several ongoing WIP (and a self-imposed deadline of NECON less than two weeks away!) So here is a bit of a catch all post before the nose goes back to the grindstone...

Noir at the Bar Boston was a huge success! Thanks again to everyone for coming out. You can check out Dale T. Phillip's write up and photos, HERE.

My short story, "Snapshots," is up on LitReactor as part of their crime contest with Thuglit. You can check it out HERE, vote and even leave a comment if you are feeling wild.

I've continued my weekly uploading/republishing of older short stories on Wattpad. This week's story is MOON BOOTS.

Ricardo Lopez Ortiz and I are plugging away at EXPATRIATE. Keep up with all of the weekly updates, HERE.

...and speaking of Ricardo, Bracken MacLeod and I will have a very cool limited edition print for sale at NECON. Stay tuned for more on that...or if you want to be spoiled, click HERE!

I'm dreadfully behind on my WIP blog update that I owe after being tapped by Meghan Arcuri...it's coming. Until then, take a peek at her first novel.

My great friend Errick Nunnally's debut novel, BLOOD FOR THE SUN, dropped this week. AND it was his birthday! You know what to do.

Annnnd, last but not least, today is the last day of the HUGE ChiZine sale. Catch their entire back catalog of e-books for .99/book. You know you want some John Mantooth, Paul Tremblay, Karen Heuler, Ian Rogers, Rio Youers, Christopher Golden...I could go on all day. These guys put out some of my favorite books and .99 is beyond highway robbery. Get some and tell your friends.

Until next time...

B&B Ep 97 BRACKEN MACLEOD

booksboozeCheck out my writing partner in crime, Bracken MacLeod, in the latest episode of Books & Booze - then hop over and pick up his hot-off-the-press novella, WHITE KNIGHT. Addition appearances on the WHITE KNIGHT circuit:

Ginger Nuts of Horror

Paul D. Brazill's Sharp Short Interview

Chatterific

Happy Pub Day to Bracken MacLeod and WHITE KNIGHT!

whiteknight3d The day you've been waiting for has arrived - my buddy Bracken MacLeod's latest work, WHITE KNIGHT, is available to the masses!

WHITE KNIGHT is a fantastic hardboiled thriller that will keep you in your seat until you've finished it in one sitting. MacLeod's passion is on clear display, and the way he threads the narrative with his experience as an attorney is brilliant. While there are some excellent books dropping today, WHITE KNIGHT should be at the top of your list.

Here's the official skinny:

Once, he had imagined himself slaying dragons and making the monsters pay. But his armor was wearing thin as the women who drifted through his office haunted him with the same, hard-bought lie: I want to drop the charges. Every bruised face and split lip reminded the prosecutor of the broken home he d escaped. So when Marisol Pierce appeared with an image of her son and a hint that she was willing to take a step away from the man abusing her, he made a promise he couldn t keep.

A promise that could cost him everything.

Now, he s in a race against time to find the boy, save the damsel, and free himself from a dragon no one can leash before everything in his world is burned to cinders. This is his last chance to be a White Knight.

Some men only know how to do hard things the hard way.

Praise for Bracken MacLeod and WHITE KNIGHT:

“Bracken MacLeod has outdone himself with White Knight, a bristling beast of a thriller that does what I would have thought impossible: it tops even his own brilliant debut, Mountain Home. I wouldn’t advise missing this or any of MacLeod’s stellar work.”

Ed Kurtz, author of THE FORTY-TWO and A WIND OF KNIVES

White Knight is a harrowing portrait of a man drowning in the riptide created by an imperfect legal system and his own best intentions. Bracken MacLeod packs a lot of story into this thoughtful, propulsive read.”

Rob Hart, author of THE LAST SAFE PLACE: A ZOMBIE NOVELLA and the upcoming NEW YORKED

“Bracken MacLeod’s White Knight packs a novel’s worth of action and emotion into a tightly spun novella; and it proves two of life’s most enduring truths in the process: no good deed goes unpunished, and there is no stronger pull for the righteous than to rewrite the wrongs of the past. A powerhouse of a book.”

Joe Clifford, author of JUNKIE LOVE, LAMENTATION and CHOICE CUTS

“Bracken MacLeod has penned a brisk noir thriller that leaves you panting, with the icy fingers of street-raised psychopaths tickling the back of your neck. Dennis Lehane’s sensibility with the pedal mashed to the floor and the key broken off in the ignition, White Knight is a heart-thumping ride with an inevitable outcome you can’t see coming.”

Thomas Pluck, author of BLADE OF DISHONOR

“I urge you to pick up White Knight by Bracken MacLeod at your soonest opportunity. If you enjoy noir that deposits you in the midst of a fevered nightmare and holds you fast with sweating palms and palpitating heart as street justice is sweetly measured out, this is the fiction you must read. This is a hugely masterful accomplishment and that is an understatement.”

Les Edgerton, author of RAPIST, THE BITCH and (forthcoming) THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING

“MacLeod has written a near perfect novella. White Knight asks the question: how far would you go to protect those you love? The answers are dark and uncomfortable, the story searing and intense. The work is brief, yet weighted with moral concerns that will stay with you long after the final page.”

—Chet Williamson, author of HUNTERS and DEFENDERS OF FAITH

Pre-order Bracken MacLeod's White Knight!

My man Bracken MacLeod's latest novella, WHITE KNIGHT, is now available for pre-order!

whiteknight3d

Once, he had imagined himself slaying dragons and making the monsters pay. But his armor was wearing thin as the women who drifted through his office haunted him with the same, hard-bought lie: “I want to drop the charges.” Every bruised face and split lip reminded the prosecutor of the broken home he’d escaped. So when Marisol Pierce appeared with an image of her son and a hint that she was willing to take a step away from the man abusing her, he made a promise he couldn’t keep.

A promise that could cost him everything.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the boy, save the damsel, and free himself from a dragon no one can leash before everything in his world is burned to cinders. This is his last chance to be a White Knight.

Some men only know how to do hard things the hard way.

 

And if the above doesn't make you jump, the blurbs below will:

“Bracken MacLeod has outdone himself with White Knight, a bristling beast of a thriller that does what I would have thought impossible: it tops even his own brilliant debut, Mountain Home. I wouldn’t advise missing this or any of MacLeod’s stellar work.”

Ed Kurtz, author of THE FORTY-TWO and A WIND OF KNIVES

White Knight is a harrowing portrait of a man drowning in the riptide created by an imperfect legal system and his own best intentions. Bracken MacLeod packs a lot of story into this thoughtful, propulsive read.”

Rob Hart, author of THE LAST SAFE PLACE: A ZOMBIE NOVELLA and the upcoming NEW YORKED

“Bracken MacLeod’s White Knight packs a novel’s worth of action and emotion into a tightly spun novella; and it proves two of life’s most enduring truths in the process: no good deed goes unpunished, and there is no stronger pull for the righteous than to rewrite the wrongs of the past. A powerhouse of a book.”

Joe Clifford, author of JUNKIE LOVE, LAMENTATION and CHOICE CUTS

“Bracken MacLeod has penned a brisk noir thriller that leaves you panting, with the icy fingers of street-raised psychopaths tickling the back of your neck. Dennis Lehane’s sensibility with the pedal mashed to the floor and the key broken off in the ignition, White Knight is a heart-thumping ride with an inevitable outcome you can’t see coming.”

Thomas Pluck, author of BLADE OF DISHONOR

“I urge you to pick up White Knight by Bracken MacLeod at your soonest opportunity. If you enjoy noir that deposits you in the midst of a fevered nightmare and holds you fast with sweating palms and palpitating heart as street justice is sweetly measured out, this is the fiction you must read. This is a hugely masterful accomplishment and that is an understatement.”

Les Edgerton, author of RAPIST, THE BITCH and (forthcoming) THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING

“MacLeod has written a near perfect novella. White Knight asks the question: how far would you go to protect those you love? The answers are dark and uncomfortable, the story searing and intense. The work is brief, yet weighted with moral concerns that will stay with you long after the final page.”

—Chet Williamson, author of HUNTERS and DEFENDERS OF FAITH

Grab it HERE while it's hot - and on sale to boot.

Winter Animals - Spring Thaw Sale!

With signs pointing to the arrival of spring... (rain!)

Winter Animals

Beginning today through the first week of May, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.ORG is shedding the fat and going on sale! Get the best the Mad Dogs have to offer for $0.99, half the price of that Dunks you'll be enjoying on your morning commute, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity, PROTECT.ORG.

Get some!

One Eye Press Announces New Singles

Yes, I'm behind on my blogging, BUT this is still very exciting news to share. Those who have picked up FEDERALES (thank you!) and checked out the teaser in the back are already a bit in the know, but for those who haven't...straight from the mouth of OneEyePress.com:

oneeyepressgrey

On the coattails of the release of Federales by Christopher Irvin, One Eye Press is enthusiastic in announcing the next two releases from the Singles Line.

To those who picked up a copy of Federales our next release for June 10th is no surprise. White Knight by Bracken MacLeod has a little excerpt included in the back of the debut Singles release. Bracken hit One Eye Press by storm last year with submissions being accepted in all three publications: Shotgun Honey, Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2, and The Big Adios. And with the release of his first novel, Mountain Home, when we were offered a chance read his novella White Knight, how could we say no?

White Knight by Bracken MacLeod (June 10, 2014)

Once, he had imagined himself slaying dragons and making the monsters pay. But his armor was wearing thin as the women who drifted through his office haunted him with the same, hard-bought lie: “I want to drop the charges.” Every bruised face and split lip reminded the prosecutor of the broken home he’d escaped. So when Marisol Pierce appeared with an image of her son and a hint that she was willing to take a step away from the man abusing her, he made a promise he couldn’t keep.

A promise that could cost him everything.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the boy, save the damsel, and himself from a dragon no one can leash before everything in his world is burned to cinders. This is his last chance to be a White Knight.

Some men only know how to do hard things the hard way.


Our third novella is a western that tests a man’s faith in Gospel of the Bullet by Chris Leek. Chris Leek is also a contributor to Shotgun Honey and Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2, and has  been a valuable editor for The Big Adios. The man spins a fantastic western yarn that we’d swear that he has Missouri mud shipped to the UK just so he can become one with the West.

Gospel of the Bullet by Chris Leek (September 16, 2014)

Mitchel McCann may have lost a war, but he never lost his belief. The preacher kept his faith throughout all the blood and the dying; trading his pulpit for a saddle and delivering his sermons with a brace of Walker Colts. McCann still believes in God, but he is no longer sure that God believes in him. Now fate has given him a chance at redemption; the opportunity to save a life instead of taking one.

Justice Simpson was only seven years old when she lost her father. She has been losing steadily ever since. The Yankee ball that did in Dan Simpson also killed his wife, Rosalee, although it took another nine years to do it. Alone and destitute on the unforgiving streets of Saint Joseph, Missouri, Justice knows that the sooner or later the bullet will find her too.

In the winter of 1872 the war is long over, but on the Kansas—Missouri border old wounds are slow to heal and they leave ugly scars. The past is something that neither the preacher nor the girl can escape.


We are still reviewing to fill out our first year and to kick 2015 off with a bang. Submissions will reopen in a few months. Keep an eye on the submissions page.

On the coattails of the release of Federales by Christopher Irvin, One Eye Press is enthusiastic in announcing the next two releases from the Singles Line.

To those who picked up a copy of Federales our next release for June 10th is no surprise. White Knight by Bracken MacLeod has a little excerpt included in the back of the debut Singles release. Bracken hit One Eye Press by storm last year with submissions being accepted in all three publications: Shotgun Honey, Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2, and The Big Adios. And with the release of his first novel, Mountain Home, when we were offered a chance read his novella White Knight, how could we say no?

White Knight by Bracken MacLeod (June 10, 2014)

Once, he had imagined himself slaying dragons and making the monsters pay. But his armor was wearing thin as the women who drifted through his office haunted him with the same, hard-bought lie: “I want to drop the charges.” Every bruised face and split lip reminded the prosecutor of the broken home he’d escaped. So when Marisol Pierce appeared with an image of her son and a hint that she was willing to take a step away from the man abusing her, he made a promise he couldn’t keep.

A promise that could cost him everything.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the boy, save the damsel, and himself from a dragon no one can leash before everything in his world is burned to cinders. This is his last chance to be a White Knight.

Some men only know how to do hard things the hard way.


Our third novella is a western that tests a man’s faith in Gospel of the Bullet by Chris Leek. Chris Leek is also a contributor to Shotgun Honey and Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2, and has  been a valuable editor for The Big Adios. The man spins a fantastic western yarn that we’d swear that he has Missouri mud shipped to the UK just so he can become one with the West.

Gospel of the Bullet by Chris Leek (September 16, 2014)

Mitchel McCann may have lost a war, but he never lost his belief. The preacher kept his faith throughout all the blood and the dying; trading his pulpit for a saddle and delivering his sermons with a brace of Walker Colts. McCann still believes in God, but he is no longer sure that God believes in him. Now fate has given him a chance at redemption; the opportunity to save a life instead of taking one.

Justice Simpson was only seven years old when she lost her father. She has been losing steadily ever since. The Yankee ball that did in Dan Simpson also killed his wife, Rosalee, although it took another nine years to do it. Alone and destitute on the unforgiving streets of Saint Joseph, Missouri, Justice knows that the sooner or later the bullet will find her too.

In the winter of 1872 the war is long over, but on the Kansas—Missouri border old wounds are slow to heal and they leave ugly scars. The past is something that neither the preacher nor the girl can escape.


We are still reviewing to fill out our first year and to kick 2015 off with a bang. Submissions will reopen in a few months. Keep an eye on the submissions page.

Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.ORG

Winter Animals Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.ORG is out and available for purchase on Amazon.

WINTER ANIMALS bark less and bite more!

This chapbook anthology collects four stories from the members of The Boston Mad Dogs writing group meant to give you a little extra chill this winter and bring a touch of warmth to others left out in the cold. Christopher Irvin, Errick Nunnally, KL Pereira, and Bracken MacLeod have crafted tales of December creatures in styles ranging from noir, fantasy, magical realism, and crime thriller, all for a single cause. 100% of the author proceeds from the sale of this chapbook will be donated to PROTECT.ORG, to support the mission of lobbying for effective legislation to protect children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Featuring cover art by Joe DellaGatta and a Foreword by Thomas Pluck, author of Blade of Dishonor.

Help PROTECT.ORG fight and WIN for kids who need it and treat yourself to four stories with bite from a pack of Mad Dogs!

A HUGE thank you to those involved with the project - Errick Nunnally, KL Pereira, Bracken MacLeod, Joe DellaGatta, Thomas Pluck, and Ron Earl Phillips - as well as you readers who have supported us over the past month.

Please check out the e-book on Amazon and help support PROTECT.ORG.

Winter Animals: Round #4

Winter Animals Today, Bracken MacLeod brings WINTER ANIMALS home with his wonderful story, "Can I Whisper It?"

Drop over to his blog for the story and to learn a little more about PROTECT and why we choose to support their mission.

And stay tuned for the full e-book release of Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT on December 30th.

Until then - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and thanks so much for your support over the past month!

Winter Animals: Round #3

Winter Animals Welcome back for WINTER ANIMALS Round #3.

As before, here’s a little background to get you up to speed:

Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Each Monday in December will feature a new festive short story from our writing group – Errick Nunnally, Bracken MacLeod, KL Pereira and me – hosted on the respective author’s blog. On December 30th, the stories will be published together in a collection entitled, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, with foreword by Thomas Pluck, cover by Joe DellaGatta and produced by Ron Earl Phillips. All proceeds from the e-book are going to benefit PROTECT, a pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority.

This week with have "The Child of Midwinter Eve," a wonderfully dark tale from KL Pereira. Hop on over to her blog and give her some love!

Stay tuned next week for Bracken MacLeod and “Can I Whisper it?”

Winter Animals: Round #2

winter_animals_cover_type Welcome back for WINTER ANIMALS Round #2.

If you are new, here's a little background to get you up to speed:

Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Each Monday in December will feature a new festive short story from our writing group - Errick Nunnally, Bracken MacLeod, KL Pereira and me - hosted on the respective author’s blog. On December 30th, the stories will be published together in a collection entitled, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, with foreword by Thomas Pluck, cover by Joe DellaGatta and produced by Ron Earl Phillips. All proceeds from the e-book are going to benefit PROTECT, a pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority.

This week with have "Recovery," a stellar tale from Errick Nunnally. Hop on over to his blog and give him some love!

Stay tuned next week for KL Pereira and "The Child of Midwinter."

Winter Animals: Stories to benefit PROTECT

winter_animals_cover_inks_joe_dellagatta

I've got a thing for holiday-themed fiction. I blame Joe R. Lansdale and his top notch noir tale, "Santa at the Cafe." Needless to say, I'm stoked to be involved with such a cool project as WINTER ANIMALS, especially with three others who are not only great friends, but excellent writers as well.

Bracken MacLeod, Errick Nunnally and KL Pereira are a wonderfully diverse group of writers and I'm very proud to be a part of our little 'Mad Dog' collective. I've learned a lot about myself and my writing over the past couple of years and I owe much of my progress to them.

Which brings us to WINTER ANIMALS. Each Monday in December will feature a new festive short story from the group, hosted on the respective author's blog. On December 30th, the stories will be published together in a collection entitled, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, with foreword by Thomas Pluck, cover by Joe DellaGatta and produced by Ron Earl Phillips. All proceeds from the e-book are going to benefit PROTECT, a pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority.

We hope you enjoy the short stories, and if so, support the e-book and PROTECT. Without further ado...

 

Nor’easter

by Christopher Irvin

Randy felt the squelch of his tennis shoes as he stepped around the slush-drowned sidewalk in front of Doyle’s Tavern. The depression near the entrance flooded with the least bit of rain, and in the winter, as soon as the salt trucks made their first run. It had been that way for decades and always would be, giving the locals something to bitch about while Tom poured their first round.

Randy clutched his hat to his chest as the wind picked up, ruffling his long white beard. The falling temperatures stung his cherry-red cheeks and nose, near matching the color of his suit.

Just one drink. Just one drink to warm up.

Forecasters had repeated their call for a Nor’easter throughout the day, promising a white Christmas after several snowless years of drab browns and roads slick with ice. It was the constant talk of mothers waiting in line at the mall. Nostalgic excitement dashed with frayed nerves at even the mention of travel plans. They kept their young ones in tow, plying them with treats to keep them occupied until a brief moment on Randy’s lap. Smile, FLASH, and it was over. Off with memories in hand and onto the next one. He missed years past when he could spend a moment or two with a child, get a glimpse of the innocent wonder in their eyes. Nowadays parents were too busy to wait for a conversation with Santa, too worried about what Santa might say or worse, do. And so was Corporate. One complaint and you were kicked to the curb, replaced by a fill-in forty-something-year-old administrator with a fake beard.

Randy wiped his shoes against the stone steps, slick from early customers. The broken bell above the door clanked once when he entered.

“Well look what the reindeer dragged in.” Tom grabbed a remote off the bar and turned down the volume on the hockey game. Like his father before him, Tom knew every face that walked through the entrance. “Merry Christmas Eve, Randy.”

“Yeah, yeah. Ho, ho, ho.” Randy nodded toward the small television wedged in the corner near the ceiling. “How we doing?”

“Replay from last night. A wicked mess, but the B’s pulled it out.”

Though Randy loved all Boston sports, football was his game. But the Pats were having a rare difficult season and a series of losing Sundays had left him depressed and dreading the playoffs.

“Doug moving my stool again?” The stool three in from the right wobbled when he pulled it away from the bar.

“I’ll tell him to knock it off.”

“Tell him to fix it,” Randy said, replacing the broken stool with the one on its left. His stool, the one on which he’d scrawled his name in black marker underneath the seat. “He’s the one who knocked it over and gave it the limp.”

“Well it’s the holidays, right? Maybe I’ll wake up in the morning to a brand new set.”

“And Brady will run for a touchdown.” The men shook hands. Randy leaned his backpack on the stool beside him and laid his cap on top. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Keg just kicked. I’ll be right back.”

“You know, Tom?” Randy sucked on his front teeth, scratched the roof of his mouth with his tongue. “Hold that thought. Gimme’ a coffee instead.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Figure maybe it’s a sign.”

“You got it. Just brewed a fresh pot for myself.”

Tom selected a dull ceramic mug from a mix of drying glassware, filled it to the brim and set it in front of Randy. A bit of the dark liquid sloshed over the side, slowly dripping until it paused near the bottom, lacking the weight to finish the trip. Randy wiped away the bead and licked his finger.

“Cream?”

“All set, thanks. I’ve had more than my fair share of sweets today.” He patted his belly for good measure. “No longer a requirement for the job.”

“What, Santa’s Union been hit hard by that diabeetus? There goes your excuse. I’m going to remind you of that, you know.”

Randy chuckled. “Baby steps. I’ll make it my New Year’s resolution.”

Tom pulled a damp towel from his belt and wiped down a section of the bar that he’d already cleaned. It was a habit when talking to customers and not pouring drinks. The man couldn’t sit still.

“Plans tonight for ol’ Santa? Last minute deliveries in that bag of yours?”

“Just my boots.” He patted the backpack. “Gotta keep ‘em in top shape for next year.”

Tom tilted his head and raised an eyebrow as if to say, is that all?

“What’s that face for? I’m one of your best customers.” He lowered his face to the mug, careful not to spill. The hot liquid seared a cracked molar on the left side of his mouth. It was past saving and should have been pulled weeks ago, but the holiday season was Randy’s busiest time of year.

“You should be giving me a gift.” He grimaced as he set the mug down.

Tom leaned over the bar and flicked a bit of pink ribbon that stuck out of Randy’s backpack, exposed between the two zipper pulls.

“Taken a liking to pink then, are you?”

“Ah, that…”

Randy sighed, more ashamed than embarrassed, like he’d been caught with a stolen pack of gum and ordered to return it to the drugstore. He fiddled with the zipper, opening the bag just wide enough to pull out a small package wrapped in pink paper, its edges worn, discolored and creased. The ribbon, once curled with scissors, had since bent and flattened out in places. A corner of the package caught as he pulled it out, a small tear revealing a white box beneath. He pressed the torn wrapping paper closed as if staunching the blood from a fresh wound, and if he pressed hard enough, it would heal. His face bunched up like a child’s who’d fallen, more confused at the sensation than hurt.

He took a moment to himself, cradling the present in his hands before he spoke.

“Same thing every year. It’s for my granddaughter… just haven’t been able to give it to her.”

“What a minute now. You have a granddaughter?” Tom slapped the towel against the taps. “All these years and you never told me.”

“I’ve never met her. You know how it is… haven’t spoken with my daughter since the divorce.”

“That was close to a decade ago.”

“Yeah…”

Randy sat hunched, so low he could almost press his forehead against the bar. Tom played the bartender, trying to cheer him up, but Randy only listened to the muffled sounds of the television. He’d procrastinated enough, any longer and the depression would sink in. He’d switch to beer and inevitably miss the bus home. The stool rocked beside him as he slipped the present and hat into his pack.

“Well I better get going. Snow’s going to hit eventually.”

“Coffee’s on the house. Go deliver that package, Santa.”

Randy gave him a thankful nod. His shoe squeaked as he turned for the door.

 

The much anticipated snow storm finally began while Randy waited alone, shivering at the bus stop. The plexiglass housing blocked much of the wind but small white flurries still found their way in, dancing against his face and melting on his beard.

He cursed himself for telling Tom about his granddaughter. The man played Randy’s unofficial shrink, always lending an ear after a tough day. And perhaps after all these years he had a right to be upset at Randy for withholding such an important detail of his life. But some things you keep to yourself, let rattle around in your brain no matter how much it hurts.

What had it been, five years now since she was born? More? He’d never forget the day he ran into his ex-wife at the grocery store and she dropped the news like checking off an item on her to-do list. Randy had suffered through a lot in life, but nothing took his breath away like that moment. He still felt his chest tighten when he thought of it. His ex would tell him he didn’t deserve their attention, that he’d passed up every chance to earn his way back into their lives after all of his poor decisions. Deep down, a sliver of Randy knew this to be true and it hurt like hell.

By the time the 42 arrived, the ground was covered in white and the snow plows were out in force. The bus was empty except for a young couple at the front. They slumped together, each propped up by the other’s weight, staring out into the blizzard. The snow was so thick it resembled a fog, forcing the driver to slow to a crawl. Randy hugged his backpack against his chest for the duration of the trip, checking every few minutes to make sure the gift was still inside. What should have been a ten minute ride took close to half an hour as winter tightened her grip on the coast.

He couldn’t recall the last time he’d taken the bus out to see his family, but he knew the route by heart. Still he kept watch out the window, training his eyes for street signs and landmarks to make sure he didn’t miss his stop.

 

When he stepped off the bus the snow was up to his ankles. Close to three inches of powder on the ground and drifts twice as high against the houses. The quiet neighborhood looked like it had just received a fresh layer of frosting with glowing lights sprinkled underneath. How could it be that he was the only witness to such a scene, torn from a storybook? He took it all in, committing it to memory—the hint of pine in the air, the pale moon and its reflection upon the snow, the scent of wood fireplaces warming homes. Snowplows would arrive soon, taking it all away with sand and salt.

He threw his backpack over his shoulder and carved a path down the sidewalk toward his daughter’s home. The fresh snow was quiet underfoot, puffing up around his feet, not wet enough to pack. It was a short walk, only three blocks from the bus stop, two straight and a left. His heart fluttered with each step, the full weight of the evening finally coming to bear.

Three fan-blown snowmen danced in a yard next to a series of wooden reindeer complete with sleigh. Further down the street, two giant nutcrackers guarded a front door. He smiled at the cheesy holiday cheer that never got old, even after spending a dozen holiday seasons in the mall. He could never get enough.

He slowed his pace as he turned onto his daughter’s street, her house the second on the left with the large bay window. The streetlight near the driveway was out, making the house shine even brighter in the dark. The roof was rimmed with icicle lights, bushes along the front of the house wrapped with red and green strands. The blinds had been pulled aside, displaying a large, colorful Christmas tree.

His nerves got the best of him as he approached her driveway, and he grabbed hold of the base of the street light to steady his legs. Inside on the couch sat his daughter, her husband and his ex-wife. The television reflected on their glum faces. Randy slumped against the post. Had she gone to bed already?

Inside the house, the adults’ heads turned, full of excitement. Not one but two little girls crashed into their parents’ arms, the latter needing help onto the couch. Two girls? They each held a package in hand, faces beaming as they showed off their chosen gifts. Always allowed one present on Christmas Eve. A tradition he’d started with his daughter. They tore off the wrapping paper to reveal some kind of doll and tackled their grandmother with hugs and kisses. Their mother and father joined in, and soon they were in a bunch, laughing on the floor.

Randy wiped tears from his eyes. The joy inside the home crushed and melted his heart at the same time, the mix of emotions spilling down his face. This was the joy he’d been in search of, the joy he’d been missing all these years.

He couldn’t intrude and risk tarnishing that perfect moment.

The younger of the two girls pressed her face to the window as he crossed the driveway, retracing his steps to the bus stop. He winked and gave her a little wave as he passed. One day, if they thought of him, this was how he’d like it to be—just a jolly old man passing through the night.

After missing two buses, ‘out of service’ scrolling through their displays, Randy unpacked his boots and slipped them on. It would be a long walk home, but he had all the warmth he needed to get there.

---------------------------------------------

Stay tuned for "Recovery" by Errick Nunnally, dropping next week.

RELOADED!

reloaded-finalcover

RELOADED BOTH BARRELS Vol 2 is out and boy is she a beaut! Available in both paperback and e-book, but with gorgeous front/back cover art from the talented Joe DellaGatta, this is a book you'll want to have on your shelf. RELOADED was a blast to work on, and I hope you all enjoy it. Hats off to fellow editors Ron Earl Phillips and Jen Conley, and a HUGE thank you to all the contributors.

SHOTGUN HONEY, the premier crime and noir flash fiction website, is locked and RELOADED with 25 new stories by some of the best authors in the world. Featuring work from Patti Abbott, Hector Acosta, Erik Arneson, Cheri Ause, Trey R. Barker, Eric Beetner, Terence Butler, Joe Clifford, Garnett Elliott, Rob W. Hart, Andy Henion, John Kenyon, Nick Kolakowski, Ed Kurtz, Frank Larnerd, Chris Leek, Mike Loniewski, Bracken MacLeod, Julia Madeleine, Brian Panowich, Terry Rietta, Rie Sheridan Rose, Ryan Sayles, Richard Thomas and John Weagly.

Available through Amazon.

a book a week 1.2

Round two of mini-reviews. Check 'em out and go support these passionate authors: Mountain Home

Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod

MOUNTAIN HOME is a thrilling debut from Bracken MacLeod. The shock and awe of the first few pages will have you hooked. Parts siege, character study, revenge thriller, real-world horror reminiscent of Jack Ketchum, a hint of supernatural and more, all wrapped into a tightly paced package. And while the plot is superb, it's the characters and setting that bring it home for me, pun intended. MacLeod crafts real and relatable characters that you'll find yourself caring about, all the way to the bitter end. Highly recommended.

Lost in Transition

Lost in Transition by Errick Nunnally

Before I read Nunnally's Lost in Transition, I would occasionally read the comic strips in the Sunday paper. Now I can't get enough. Lost in Transition is the perfect combination of dry and witty humor. If you've ever worked in an office or, better yet, had The Man get you down (and who hasn't?) this is the perfect book for you. Hoping for more!

Broken Branch

Broken Branch by John Mantooth

BROKEN BRANCH is a wonderful companion to THE YEAR OF THE STORM. Like an appetizer before the main course, Mantooth treats the reader to a little taste of the magic one finds in THE YEAR OF THE STORM. I won't spoil the details as I think the story is best discovered on its own, but it is well worth your time. It was interesting to read BROKEN BRANCH after having read THE YEAR OF THE STORM. I look forward to going back to them again in the future and reading them in order. Great prose, layered characters and well paced.

The Wheel Man

The Wheel Man by Duane Swierczynski

I recently tackled two novels by Swierczynski in preparation for a class of his that I'm taking at LitReactor this summer. The first, THE WHEEL MAN, is a wild ride and fun read. The near non-stop action is very cinematic and Swierczynski's style incorporates many character POVs to keep the ramped pace sparking. While this might bother some readers, (there are 2-3 main POVs, with additional minor characters who cut in for sometimes a paragraph or less) I found each voice to be unique and carefully planned to add value. The tone varied from serious crime thriller to cartoon-y/over the top - even some shockingly dark moments. That brings me to....

Fun and Games

Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski

...FUN AND GAMES, the first novel in the Charlie Hardie trilogy. Like THE WHEEL MAN, FUN AND GAMES is action-packed, quickly paced, and told through multiple POVs (though less than THE WHEEL MAN, spending more time with the protagonists, Charlie Hardie and Lane Madden). The novel reminded me a bit of Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger series, and got me wondering if Swierczynski is placing all his novels in the same world. FUN AND GAMES was a bit more fantastical in places than I was expecting, but I bought into it - and it has a great sense of humor. I won't spoil anything, but Swierczynski handles difficult, brutal scenes with a deft hand. Looking forward to finishing the trilogy.

Robot Baby

Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby Vol.1 (Zelmer Pulp)

The crew at Zelmer Pulp has found a groove rich with wit, dry humor, incredible visuals and strong writing across five stellar tales. Time travel with Ayn Rand, alien abductions, entrepreneurial hackers, grit-infused futuristic paradise and more. HEY, THAT ROBOT ATE MY BABY VOL.1 has got something within its pages that should appeal to both scifi and non-scifi fans alike. I'm eagerly awaiting future Zelmer Pulp releases.

Staring into the Abyss

Staring into the Abyss by Richard Thomas

Excellent collection of dark fiction (and I mean dark) that lives up to its title. The short length of many of the stories surprised me, but I think impactful work is sometimes best served in short bursts (as it is here). Some of the standouts for me were the more fantastical tales - "Maker of Flight," "Transmogrify," "Victimized," and "Underground Wonder Bound" (LOVE that title). Take some time with each story. I've already reread a few of them and came away with more than I did after the initial read-through. I'll definitely be going back for more.

Writing 21st Century

Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by Donald Maass

Probably the best book on writing that I've come across (and I've read a few.) Everyone learns differently - a book that works for one may be terrible for another, but HIGH IMPACT really connected with me, especially the "21st Century Tools" at the end of each chapter. These tools are designed as a series of questions and ideas created to push writers to look at their work differently - to break it down, rework it and make it better. Published in 2011, it was refreshing to see Maass take full advantage of citing both classic and very recent works in his examples.

I still have a full plate of books on deck, but here are a few more I've added to the mix:

Condimental  junkie  blazes  Home Invasion  Slow Burn

Condimental OP by Andrez Bergen

Junkie Love by Joe Clifford

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Home Invasion by Patti Abbott

Slow Burn by Terrence McCauley

NEW RELEASE: Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod

My great friend and fellow Mad Dog's debut novel has arrived! MOUNTAIN HOME

Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod

Seriously, this is debut novel of the year material - not a distinction I give lightly, regardless of my personal connection. Review to be posted soon (after I savor another read through the final edition). E-book available through Amazon and Smashwords. Paper copy to follow in July. Description and blurbs below:

Lyn works at an isolated roadside diner. When a retired combat veteran stages an assault there her world is turned upside down. Surviving the sniper’s bullets is only the beginning of Lyn's nightmare. Navigating hostilities, she establishes herself as the disputed leader of a diverse group of people that are at odds with the situation and each other. Will she - or anyone else - survive the attack?

Bracken MacLeod's MOUNTAIN HOME hits like a Claymore mine and cuts with the emotional precision of a scalpel. Ferocious and tender, painful and real, it shows that the worst horrors are those we create ourselves, and that this world offers no shelter from evil, not even for the innocent. A powerful and thoughtful first novel." ~ Chet Williamson, International Horror Guild Award winning author of Soulstorm

"Bracken MacLeod's MOUNTAIN HOME is a superb page-turner that deserves such merit. What makes the story so compelling is MacLeod's willingness to cast aside cliches and stereotypes, his meticulous attention to facts and details, and his unflinchingly honest characters. His writing is layered with moments of elegant, heart-wrenching prose and pure diesel-fueled suspense, creating a novel that, quite simply, I couldn't put down until I finished the last page. It's THAT good." ~ Peter N. Dudar, author of A Requiem for Dead Flies

"In MOUNTAIN HOME, Bracken MacLeod finds the horrors and fears that are in the human heart and rips them out for all to see. When you start this book make no plans for the rest of the night - and don't expect to get any sleep. Hardboiled terror with an wonderfully eerie touch." ~ John French, author of Paradise Denied

"Bracken MacLeod brings heart and muscle to this taut siege thriller." ~ Nicholas Kaufmann, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Chasing the Dragon

"Bracken MacLeod's debut novel MOUNTAIN HOME opens with a shot and never looks back. It's a great character study of people locked in a small space facing death. MacLeod is able to keep the tension taut throughout, and the story barrels towards a bloody ending. I'm interested to see what MacLeod has up his sleeve next." ~ John F.D Taff, Author of Little Deaths

"MacLeod’s gripping and heartbreaking story proves that evil isn’t always born, sometimes it’s crafted, insult by insult, injustice by injustice, and trauma by trauma. A kick-ass debut of page-clicking suspense!" ~ Jan Kozlowski, author of Die, You Bastard! Die!

"Confident and perfectly paced, MacLeod's novel is at turns heart-pounding and heart-rending, tender and vicious. A grade-A thriller." ~ Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen

"Bracken MacLeod’s Mountain Home is a thrilling tale that took me places I never expected. With an explosive storyline that keeps you on your toes, the real surprise turned out to be his characters; real, growing, and full of vitality that you both love and love to hate. Joanie and Lyn’s intertwined stories are inspiring and horrifying, and after reading Mountain Home, it is astounding to consider the impact just one person can have. Please read this novel, but be prepared. This is a tale of personal passage—of gateways to change, for better or worse." ~ Weston Kincade, author of A Life of Death

...now go enjoy Mountain Home!