Trouble in the Heartland Release

coverTrouble in the Heartland is out! (...and sold out on Amazon until January.) However you can snag a copy through Createspace for a couple extra bucks, and the e-book is always available. The collection is fantastic and I couldn't be happier to be part of such a cool project.

Here's a link to a post I did back in February about the book and the inspiration for my story.

Go forth and read!

Trouble in the Heartland

Trouble in the HeartlandGood News! I've been keeping this one close to the vest for a while now, but as of this week it's out in the open. Excited to announce I have a story in the upcoming anthology, TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND, edited by the multi-talented (and all-around awesome) Joe Clifford. Best of all, part of the net proceeds will benefit The Bob Woodruff Foundation, which assists veterans.

As the cover states, the collection of of over thirty stories is inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen. I'm humbled to be included alongside such incredible writers and thrilled to contribute to such an iconic project.

My story is "Death To My Hometown," inspired by the song of the same name off of Springsteen's recent album, Wrecking Ball. When selecting a song for inspiration I was struck by the Celtic-themed tune born out of the recent recession.

Though I live in Boston, a city that has fared extremely well through the economic downturn compared to other parts of the country, I've seen the effects firsthand in Michigan. My grandparents own a summer cottage outside of White Hall (Muskegon being the nearest 'city' if you are familiar with the area.) Growing up, I visited every year for a week or two during summer vacation. The small towns bustled with life, thriving on local businesses. But the last five years have been challenging. Favorite restaurants and shops have closed down, and though perhaps skewed through my now-adult eyes, it appears much of the energy has been sapped.

My story centers around Detroit, often a poster child for the worst case scenario. And while the story is dark with streaks of noir, it's not without a sense of hope. And you know what? There's a new brewery under construction in White Hall as I type. Things are looking up.

For more, check out Joe Clifford's recent blog post on how it all came together. A huge thank you to Joe, Chris Leek, Gutter Books and the Zelmer Pulp crew for including my work.

Hope you pick up a copy of the book when it lands in the next few months. Until then, I'll leave you with this.

a book a week 1.6

Post-Bouchercon review time. A lot of new friends and a few recommendations later, I'm swamped with more books on my plate than ever before. But how can I complain? It only gets better and better. On to the reviews!

Bar Scars

Bar Scars by Nik Korpon

Nik Korpon was one of the usual suspects in the small group I toured with most of the time around the Bouchercon campus. A very cool guy and a fantastic writer. I had a great time talking everything from Baltimore to Pigeon books with him (parents with small children...it happens). So it was cool to see that his short story collection, BAR SCARS, was set in Baltimore.

This collection is DARK. One of my favorite kind of books - that I enjoy even more by putting down after a couple of stories and letting them soak in, rather than reading straight through. My favorite story was "A Sparrow with White Scars," followed by "His Footsteps are Made of Soot," and "Haymaker." Heartbreaking stuff and awesome prose.

Happy to be sharing a ToC with Nik in the newly release NOIR NATION #3.

DixieMoon

Under the Dixie Moon by Ro Cuzon

Ro Cuzon was another cool cat in the small crew I rolled around with at Bouchercon. I was sold the moment another writer deemed UNDER THE DIXIE MOON to be like the television show, THE WIRE, only set in New Orleans. Like some of my favorite books, the setting, New Orleans, plays a huge role in UNDER THE DIXIE MOON - almost a character itself. It took me a few pages to get into the novel, but once I was in tune with Cuzon's style, I was hooked to the finish. Cuzon weaves a gritty, complex tale with compelling characters that I found myself liking more and more as I got to know them (even those 'unlikeable' ones). Solid Noir.

BladeofDishonor

Blade of Dishonor by Thomas Pluck

Action-packed, pulpy goodness! I met Tom only a couple of times in passing and he's one of several writers I wish I had more time with. I'd been meaning to buy BLADE OF DISHONOR all weekend and as luck would have it, I won it by answering one of Todd Robinson's THUGLIT questions correctly at the "Noir at the Bar" panel. BLADE OF DISHONOR was a lot of fun and you can tell the amount of passion and research that Pluck put into it, especially for the WWII storyline. In a way, this book is like getting two stories for the price of one; the story of Butch, the main character's father, could stand on it's own as an excellent book, and while I enjoyed Rage Cage Reeve's storyline, I found myself looking forward to the next installment of WWII action with each passing chapter. Looking forward to more pulp from Pluck.

Drift

Drift by Jon McGoran

DRIFT had been on my 'to read' list since it was released and received praise from several of my friends. In another case of "wish I had read it before I met the author" (of which I appear to have a chronic condition), I had the great pleasure of hearing McGoran read at the "Noir at the Bar" panel (a great back and forth between the main character, Doyle Carrick, and his partner) and chatting with him again, later that night.

I found DRIFT (an excellent and very appropriate title, by the way...) to be compelling and entertaining on a number of fronts, not the least of which was centering the mystery around GMOs. McGoran successfully instructed me on a foreign subject matter without slowing the pace of the story and/or dumping paragraphs of information. I loved the small town setting and the suspended/powerless cop vs. Sheriff struggle early on, and the transformation of their relationship. Tightly paced, great characters and a fascinating mystery. I'm looking forward to McGoran's next book, the sequel to DRIFT, entitled, DEADOUT, coming summer 2014.

NEXT FROM BOUCHERCON: Looking forward to Johnny Shaw's BIG MARIA, Joe R. Lansdale's THE THICKET, and Ed Kurtz's BLEED.

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Shotgun Honey!

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It goes without saying that one of the best moments of Bouchercon 2013 was getting the Shotgun Honey crew together in person for the first time. Jen, Erik and Ron are wonderful people, and I'm more proud than ever to be in their company.

Not only are they wonderful people, but they produce some excellent fiction as well. Check out their latest works (several of which are available online for free) at the links below:

Ron Earl Phillips - "The Last Shot" (5 Broken Winchesters)

Jen Conley - "Mary Mulligan" (Grand Central Noir), "Kick" (Literary Orphans), "Howling" (Beat to a Pulp), AND her story, "Finn's Missing Sister" (NEEDLE) was shortlisted for BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2013!

Erik Arneson - "Noose of Trust" (GRIFT), "Oh Well" (Flash Fiction Offensive), "All Alone" (RELOADED)

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