RECAP TIME! On to 2016

Bent Eight I've been neglecting the blog a bit as of late. Between the holidays and kicking off the new year with a new book, I've let things slide. BUT IT'S NEVER TOO LATE, KIDS. NEVER!

Here we go!

2015 was pretty rad.

My second novella, BURN CARDS, dropped in April from 280 Steps, followed by my debut short story collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, in November, also with 280 Steps.

SitV-wraparound BURNCARDS

On the comics front - my first full-length issue, CHARRED KRAKEN, based on my short story, "Charred Kraken with Plum Butter," hit ComiXology in December. I also did a small print run, which turned out really well (and which you can still hit me up for!) I wrote a lot more...but it's all still in development or on the DL. Fingers crossed for some progress this year.

I highlighted some of my favorite reads of the year over at Spinetingler Mag.

Speaking of 'best of' lists...

Ian Rogers picked BURN CARDS as a favorite novella of the year.

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE landed on lists from Paul Tremblay, Gabino Iglesias and Scott Adlerberg.

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE also recently received two wonderful reviews - one from Papercuts J.P. over at Literary Hub, and the other over on Crime Syndicate Magazine.

And I kicked off the year chatting with Pam Stack on Authors on the Air, and the crew over at Miskatonic Musings.

I can't thank you all enough for the support and kind words over the past year, especially when it comes to SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE. It still feels a bit unreal to see how well people connect with the collection, and the variety of stories that are singled out as favorites.

NEXT UP!

2/19 Noir at the Bar Boskone! Cohosting with Errick Nunnally, featuring Dana Cameron, Christopher Golden, James Moore, John Langan, Sarah Langan, Paul Tremblay, and Melinda Snodgrass.

2/20 Boskone Panels

Hidden Heroes 10:00 - 10:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Sometimes the hero of a story isn't its true protagonist. A commonly accepted example is Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, who more and more centers the action as the story concludes. What other examples occur to us? Why might an author choose to focus on someone other than the hero? Can the hero ever be the antagonist?

How Story Works 11:00 - 11:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton claims in his TedX talk that "the fundamental promise of a story is that this tale will lead somewhere that is worth your time." Is there more to story than a well-told promise? What is story? How is it constructed? What compels us to consume story in all its forms?

2/26 Reading at KGB Bar in Manhattan 7:00 - 9:00pm

Prime Time Crime - heading down to NYC for a reading with Scott Adlerberg and Jason Starr.

Hope to see you guys out there!

That's all for now, but stay tuned for more posts on books, WIP updates, interviews, and more as I get back into gear.

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.

papercutsjp

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

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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

 

 

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...

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!

2014 Preorders

A new year means new books. What are you looking forward to? Here are a few on my radar:

The Ape Man's Brother

The Ape Man's Brother by Joe R. Lansdale (January)

Orphaned by a plane crash, raised in the wilds of a lost world hidden somewhere beneath a constant mist, The Big Guy and his ape-man brother from another mother are living a life of danger amongst rampaging dinosaurs, giant birds, warring ape tribes, and all manner of deadly beasts. It's a wonderful existence for someone like The Big Guy and his furry brother, except for the flea problem. Then an expedition of explorers from the outside turn his world inside out. Or rather a very blonde beauty called The Woman does. It leads to his and his ape brother being convinced to fly to New York by zeppelin, where they become the toast of the town. They even make Hollywood movies. It seems perfect. At least until The Big Guy does something that comes quite naturally to him in the wild, but leads to public humiliation in this new found world. To make matters worse, his ape brother has grown to not only love the pampered life, meals he doesn't have to chase down, good cigars, fine wines and statuesque women, he's come to like the Wrong Woman.

Changes are afoot. They lead to a return to the world beneath the mist, and a deadly and unexpected encounter with a foe that is in many ways far worse than any dinosaur. Envy, jealousy, greed, fleas, and pyramids under the mist, are all part of this rollicking novella of the sort only Joe R. Lansdale could write. And don't forget dinosaurs.

Blood for the Sun

Blood for the Sun by Errick Nunnally (March)

After more than one hundred and forty years, Alexander Smith is suffering from memory loss that plagues him like a supernatural Alzheimer's. He has lasted longer than most by clinging to the love he has for his adopted daughter, the vampire Ana, and puzzling out cases of missing or murdered children. Without them, he wouldn't be able to ignore the ghost of a child from his guilty past or fight the whispers goading him to kill. On his latest job, he's stumbled upon a vampire conspiracy that has left a trail of child murders up and down the East Coast-a conspiracy that promises inoculation against the sun. If true, the conspirators' success would mean a bloody conflict, altering the balance between humans and the supernatural forever. Losing more of his mind every day, Alexander has two impossible tasks ahead of him if the world is to survive: stop the vampire coven and reconnect with his humanity.

Plaster City

Plaster City by Johnny Shaw (April)

The raucous second book in the Jimmy Veeder Fiasco series returns to the Calexico/Mexicali border two years after the events of Dove Season, reuniting Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves—not exactly the luckiest guys in the Imperial Valley, but, hey, they win more fights than they lose.

Settled on his own farmland and living like a true family man after years of irresponsible fun, Jimmy’s got a straight life cut out for him. But he’s knocking years off that life thanks to fun-yet-dangerous Bobby’s booze-addled antics—especially now that Bobby is single, volatile as ever, and bored as hell.

When Bobby’s teenage daughter goes missing, he and Jimmy take off on a misadventure that starts out as merely unfortunate and escalates to downright calamitous. Bobby won’t hesitate to kick a hornets’ nest to get the girl to safety, but when the rescue mission goes riotously sideways, the duo’s grit—and loyalty to each other—is put to the test.

Stay God, Sweet Angel

Stay God, Sweet Angel by Nik Korpon (April)

Damon lives a content life, playing video games and dealing drugs from his second-hand store while his girlfriend, Mary, drops constant hints about marriage. If only he could tell her his name isn't really Damon. If only he could tell her who he really is. But after he witnesses a friend's murder, a scarlet woman glides into his life, offering the solution to all of his problems. His carefully constructed existence soon shatters like crystal teardrops and he must determine which ghosts won't stay buried - and which ones are trying to kill him - if he wants to learn why Mary has disappeared.

The Poor Boy's Game

The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya (April)

When US Marshal Frannie Mullen gets one of her best friends shot during a routine apprehension, her career is over. Still reeling from the loss, Frannie is trying to sort out her feelings for Wyatt, the reformed outlaw who loves her, and to support her newly-sober sister, Mae, as she struggles with the fallout of their unstable, violent childhood.

Their father Patrick Mullen is a thug, a vicious enforcer for a corrupt Philadelphia union, and when he escapes from prison, bodies of ex-rivals and witnesses begin piling up. Now Frannie is suspected as an accomplice in his escape and targeted by shadowy killers from the Philadelphia underworld. Unsure who to trust, drawing on the skills she's learned as a Marshal and her training as a boxer, Frannie is forced to fight to protect her shattered sister and Patrick’s pregnant girlfriend from the most dangerous criminal she’s ever faced—her own father.

Tequila Sunset

Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken (June)

In Tequila Sunset, three people are confronted by Los Aztecas's ruthless power: a reluctant gang member, an El Paso police officer, and a Mexican federal agent. As their paths cross with the gang and each other, they all become involved in a complex struggle between law and crime, violence and order, and ultimately, life and death.

The Fever

The Fever by Megan Abbott (June)

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.

 

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.

Interview with Errick Nunnally

Once upon a time I said something like "2014 will be the Year of the Nunnally." It appears I was off by a few months as the man has FIVE short stories out in the past couple of months. NEHW_Wicked_Seasons   Doorways_2013-cover-200x255   Anthology_InnerDemonsOut   AfterTheFall-200x276   a-dark-world_cover-200x253

A great friend and fellow Mad Dog, Errick Nunnally has written some absolutely killer fiction. I can't wait for his first novel, BLOOD FOR THE SUN, to drop next March.

Let's meet the man!

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What kinds of fiction did you read growing up? What grabbed you and still sticks with you today?

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy--escapist stuff--as well as tons of comic books and newspaper strips. I'd read any strip I could find in the papers, even the editorial stuff whose content I never understood! Any trip to the library meant classic sci-fi came home with me and whenever we were near a bookstore, I'd beg my parents to let me buy books. Most of my money went to comics, books, and movies. Oddly enough, I continually find that of all the stuff I've read, very little of it--excepting classics like Stranger In A Strange Land, for instance--seems to be familiar with my storytelling contemporaries. Not that what I'm reading is so much better, but I seem to have not crossed paths with as much of the more well-known influential fiction.

I read plenty of Asimov's robot stories. I, Robot, the Foundation Trilogy, The Caves of Steel--it blew my mind that a sci-fi author could pen functional mysteries in a made-up, future universe. Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man short stories really stuck with me. Far too many comic books have been in my life. I grabbed and read anything I could get my hands on--not just Marvel and DC. I preferred Marvel, but I remember having copies of E-Man, an old Charlton Comics title, for instance, the early Question and Blue Beetle stuff before DC picked them up. I have a bunch of Classics Illustrated and Golden Legacy comics in the attic. The former reproduced the "literary" classics like The Man In The Iron Mask and the latter covered African-American history up through the civil rights era. I'd just devour them all if they were a combination of pictures and words. Except Prince Valiant. I hated that shit.

Much of your writing deals with werewolves and other shape-shifting beasts. What fascinates you about them and keeps you coming back for more?

When I was growing up werewolves always got the shaft! The wolf man was always a mindless beast bent on killing everyone that got in his path or he was controlled by vampires. I always thought having the power to become a super-tough man-animal would be pretty cool. A dichotomy that was easier to identify with than choosing to put on a mask and fight crime or something. Werewolf stories are always about the struggle between the human and other parts within. We all have a "dark" side that's capable of something that would frighten or surprise even those we're closest with. I think it's fortunate that we aren't tested to that point with any regularity. Someone who's a wereanything is going to be tested over and over until death. I read the Werewolf by Night comics and the most satisfying stories were the ones where Jack Russell makes peace with his wolf and is more in control--not that his situation got any easier. All of that just stuck in my head. Then learning that cultures all around the world have shapeshifter myths was just the icing on the cake!

Other than the Werewolf by Night series, what are some of your favorite werewolf/shapeshifter tales?

Ugh, that's tough. Most series have the werewolf characters as secondary or uncontrollable packs. Let's see: in the comics there was Man-Wolf--when John Jameson takes control and we've got a hero in a kind of John Carter of Mars scenario. Jonathan Maberry's short story Like Part of The Family featured a lycanthropic detective. The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is really good. Honestly, there's precious few, in my experience, that have the main character using their lycanthropy rather than suffering from it--like so many vampire stories. I enjoy the struggle of such characters, but the everlasting uncontrollable beast-rage thing wore on me something bad. I have yet to read Glen Duncan's werewolf book, but I get the impression it's main character is someone who has embraced their inner-monster to a certain extent.

What do you think is essential for a great paranormal thriller/mystery?

I believe two things are required: 1) the main character has to have a compelling, troubled background with a conflict larger than a single novel and, 2) the immediate situation they happen to be dealing with should bring a fresh perspective to all the mythology that has come before. (I'm assuming good characterization and writing.) People who read the paranormal mystery/thrillers are looking for that fresh take and new characters to care about as they take a badass thrilling ride of intentional and unintentional adventure. I sincerely hope I've done that with Alexander Smith in my upcoming novel. He's got quite a checkered past, more so than I've read before in books of this genre.

Speaking of upcoming novels... you are making your debut next year! Tell us a little bit about BLOOD FOR THE SUN.

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The book, Blood For The Sun, being published by Spence City, is about a werewolf, Alexander Smith, old enough to be suffering from a kind of supernatural Alzheimer's--all werewolves and vampires lose their minds eventually. To keep his mind intact, he's been puzzling out cases of missing or murdered children. There's also some very dark stuff from his past--such as his responsibility in the death of a child--that keeps turning up to haunt him or people he's forgotten. One of his redeemable acts in the past was to adopt Ana, a vampire since shortly after birth, and raise her as his own. It's ostensibly his first effort to track and save a child. The first book deals with his first large conflict against a vampire conspiracy using children as sacrificial fuel to shield themselves from the sun.

Since it's a series, the reasons behind the memory loss, where the vamps and shapeshifters come from, and some of the other mysteries in the book are intended to play out on a larger stage. The entire back story is mapped out, there's reasons for everything and the whole story is going somewhere. The monsters can't hide forever. There's also diversity among the supernatural characters and humans, martial arts, bloodletting, guns, explosions, depravity, and at least one flamethrower. All the things I enjoy in a thriller liberally tinged with horror.

As we are nearing the holidays - What are some of your favorite books and short stories from 2013 that you recommend readers check out?

Wow, this is a very tough question for me. I started reading Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series this year and it's quite good. Kim Harrison has been a perennial favorite, her Hollows series is wonderful. Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books are great fun. All of the aforementioned authors have had a novel out in the past year. Adam Cesare's Tribesmen was really interesting; Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod gave an unexpected thrill. I've been reading Arthur Conan Doyle's The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes for the first time and they're excellent fun. Tom Piccirilli's Fuckin' Lie Down Already is a tragic hot potato of super-noir, great crime fiction. Ishmael Toffee by Roger Smith was an envious piece of work, really good stuff, another amazing crime fiction story. I've come across too many good stories in Apex Magazine to list--as well as the Science Fiction Megapack anthologies. Ugh, I have so much more reading to do and no time to do it; so many books purchased in 2013 that are still unread!

Thanks, Errick!

 

Going to New York Comic Con?

Going to New York Comic Con? Here are a few tables you should hit! SHP-BFTS-banner-851x315

My man Errick Nunnally will be hanging around the Spencer Hill Press booth (#1058) on Saturday. His kick ass debut, BLOOD FOR THE SUN, comes out next March. Meet the man behind what is sure to be a long running series and grab a bookmark while you're at it.

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Ricardo Lopez Ortiz - the man, the myth, the legend - and a hell of an artist. I had the fortune of meeting Ricardo at Boston Comic Con this year and enjoyed his artwork so much that I've hired him to bring my comic, EXPATRIATE, to life. While the project is a WIP, Ricardo will have the script for the first issue and a few sketches on hand. Stop by (#AA2) for a look, a chat and save some monies for an illustration - his work is killer (I've got a Judge Dredd commission on my shelf to prove it!)

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John Dixon is having the most exciting week of his life. (It's true, he said so.) But seriously, John is doing some incredible work and I couldn't be happier for him. On Friday he'll be signing at the Simon & Schuster booth (#1828) and giving out ARCs of his debut novel, PHOENIX ISLAND, the basis for the upcoming CBS television series INTELLIGENCE, starring Josh Holloway, Marg Helgenberger, and Meghan Ory.

Just make sure you say no if he offers you hot peppers.

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I've met Andrew MacLean at Boston Comic Con for a few years now. He formed Brand New Nostalgia (where I found some of my favorite artists) and is Kickstarting the second issue of his terrific comic, HEAD LOPPER. Stop by (#DD5) and check out the first issue as well as some of his other projects.

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

The Next Big Thing makes another stop in Boston

A few weeks ago, my good friend and top-notch writer, Bracken MacLeod (Check out his Next Big Thing - It's preparing to dish out serious bloody noses), asked me if anyone had hit me up for The Next Big Thing yet. At the sight of my blank stare he exclaimed, "HA, you're mine!" and it was on. I continue the chain below, turning a tiny spotlight on my work-in-progress and passing the torch to five writers who will post next week. Without further ado, I present my Next Big Thing: 1. What is the working title of your book?

Luckily I've been able to come up with titles for my short stories, but when it came to the novel I really struggled. I went through quite a few ideas before, two-thirds of the way through the second draft, I came across a word that I think fits the protagonist's life and the action on the page perfectly: BOTTLED.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

In early 2012 I took a class taught by the great Christa Faust called Tough Dames: How to Write Believable Hardboiled Heroines, over at Litreactor. I had just finished an intensive ten week class at Grubstreet and somewhere in my brain I thought it would be a good idea to jump right back into the fire. The Hardboiled Boot Camp, as Christa dubbed it, put me through the ringer. I learned a ton about my writing style in one short month and found the experience invaluable - hell, she critiqued my work. How often does a wee writer like me get that opportunity? For the first week's assignment I was given the Black Widow trope and tasked with turning it into something new. My story, "Birth of a Black Widow," about a woman who begins to murder gamblers for their money in Reno, received praise but failed to really transform the trope. But I loved the idea so I went back to the drawing board and after a lot of massaging, I had a much more developed character and an outline for a novel.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Crime/Noir/Hardboiled. Bottled has become a little more Hardboiled than I initially intended but I think the core tone of the book is Noir.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Jena Malone. Her knack for playing strong rebellious characters would make for a bad ass heroine.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the wake of her father's gambling debt, a young woman is forced to confront her past and the bleak reality of her predicament.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan to pursue an agency first, but the novel is on the shorter side and may fair better with a small press.  I'm not against self-publishing (there are some wonderful books out there) but I don't have the money, or more importantly the time, to give it the promotional effort it deserves.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A month. I got home from NECON 32 with an overwhelming adrenaline rush to write (somehow eclipsing the hangover and exhaustion from the long weekend). I went through the outline and decided I'd get up at 3:00 AM and write 2,500 words each day until it was finished (cue insanity.) Four months and a lot of coffee later, I'm still in the routine so something must be working. I just finished the second draft and I'm on track to complete it by early 2013.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'd compare it to Megan Abbott's Queen Pin and Christa Faust's Money Shot.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Definitely Christa Faust, who gave me the spark in class, but the real push came after NECON. I had the pleasure of meeting many great creative professionals (John Dixon, TJ May, Matthew Dow Smith, Jeff Strand, Linda Addison, Jack Haringa, Jan Kozlowski, Michael Penncavage...to name just a few.) I can't quantify the inspirational effect of being around such a wonderful group of creatives.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Prior to the book I had written very few female characters and I challenged myself to create a layered, believable woman. She is a strong young woman who begins the story believing she has been cheated in life, but when the shit hits the fan and she really loses everything, it forces her to make choices and see the world around her for what it really is: a struggle. She doesn't go around guns-blazing, instead, fumbles her way through the changes in the landscape. It's a dark noir but not without a tiny bit of hope. My overall idea is to write a series of connected books, each told from a different character's perspective. I've outlined the majority of the second novel, which I plan to start after taking a short break once this one wraps.

And now to pass the torch to five other writers who you should be keeping an eye on:

Errick Nunnally - My good friend is on the cusp of something big. A writer (and artist) who you can't pin down to any one genre. I'm picking 2013 as Year of the Nunnally. Keep an eye out for this man's stuff.

Joe Dellagatta - I met Joe at Boston ComicCon in 2011 and have had the great pleasure of collaborating with him on two projects, the most recent of which is Dreadworks Journal. He's an incredible artist and his current project is sure to draw eyes from major players in the comic industry.

Chris Shearer - Another friend I met at this year's NECON. Chris is currently tearing it up in Seton Hill's MFA program (where his novel is getting some serious attention) and reading (and editing!) more in a day then I do in a month. Do yourself a favor and check out his story "Saturday Station" for free over at Big Pulp.

David Price - David recently published short stories in such collections as Dangers Untold and Tales from the Grave. He's currently putting the finishing touches on a massive novel which I can't wait to read.

Carol Borden - I met Carol through her stories in Weird Noir - two terrific reads that caught me totally by surprise. In addition to writing fiction, she is the Evil Overlord at The Cultural Gutter, a website dedicated to genre and comics. Check out her Monstrous Industry Etsy store.