The Throes of Crime with Erik Arneson

I'm thrilled for my good friend and all around great writer/editor/comic writer/boardgamer/dude, Erik Arneson, and the recent release of his debut short story collection, THE THROES OF CRIME. the-throes-of-crime-finalCalculating hitmen. Corrupt politicians. Sociopathic rock singers. Incompetent private investigators. Sword-wielding orangutans. You'll find them all in THE THROES OF CRIME, a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays by Derringer Award finalist Erik Arneson.

Arneson's stories, which flow effortlessly from dark noir to wicked humor, have been published by Thuglit, Needle, Otto Penzler's Kwik Krimes, Akashic Books' Mondays Are Murder, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, and more. THE THROES OF CRIME also features seven brand-new short stories, never before published anywhere.

All proceeds from THE THROES OF CRIME benefit the James & Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story. The goal of the scholarship is to encourage students from Wilmot to continue writing fiction well beyond high school, to tell the stories that only they can tell. Powerful stories and funny stories and magical stories - stories the world is waiting for, even if it doesn't realize it just yet.

THE THROES OF CRIME is your debut collection. Congrats! Give me the quick pitch!

Thanks! The Throes of Crime is a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays. Some of the stories are brand-new; others were previously published by Thuglit, Needle, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, and more. The essays were first published in Duane Swierczynski’s great comic book The Black Hood.

All proceeds from the book go to a scholarship fund set up in memory of my parents to benefit graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota.

Did you notice any themes emerge over the course of putting the book together?

Some themes definitely emerged even though the stories cover a variety of times, from the mid-19th century to the present, and locations, from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Superior, Wisconsin. The table of contents is split into categories like crimes of vengeance, crime in the workplace, and partners in crime.

There’s also -- despite there being some pretty dark, noirish stories in the collection -- a good amount of humor to be found in the book.

Given your background in government, have you worked politics into your fiction?

How could I not? One of my favorites (“Twitter and Coke”) is a story written entirely in the form of tweets about a politician who really, really should not be allowed to use Twitter unsupervised.

Another (“All Alone”) is set in 1951 Philadelphia, a time when the city was embroiled in a vast web of corruption by public officials. It was so bad that at least six city employees wound up committing suicide.

What draws you to writing crime?

The fact that the stakes are so high for everyone involved. And it usually doesn’t matter if the crime seems silly on the surface, like stealing used french fry grease. If someone commits a crime, there’s probably something going on that’s worth exploring. Desperation, jealousy, greed, fear -- those are powerful things and endlessly interesting to write about.

I especially enjoy stories that touch on how the human spirit can continue to shine in life’s darkest moments.

Favorite Shotgun Honey memory?

Shotgun Honey is an amazing website. As editors, we received so many great submissions. I always loved opening a story from an author I’d never heard of before and being blown away. But my favorite memory is easy: Hanging out with you, Jen Conley, and our fearless leader Ron Earl Phillips at Bouchercon in Albany, New York.

If you could turn one of your stories into a board game, which would it be? Why?

I love this question. I’m going with “Dairy of Destruction” because the idea of a board game about a gang of barnyard animals plotting to take over the world delights me.

Top 5 board games?

My list of favorite games is always changing because there are so many great games available today. It’s a fantastic time to be a board gamer!

Pandemic Legacy is at the top of the list. Brilliant and compelling. The gameplay is superb, and the storyline that evolves over the course of repeated plays is unlike anything I’ve experienced before in a board game.

Other current favorites include Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania (building train routes in my home state -- hard to get better than that!), Codenames (a truly genius party/word game), and America (an excellent party/trivia game). Finally, it’s been far too long since I’ve played Betrayal at House on the Hill; there’s a new expansion called Widow’s Walk that I’m looking forward to playing.

Thanks, Erik! Check out THE THROES OF CRIME on Amazon.

Erik Arneson lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and editor, Elizabeth. His first book, THE THROES OF CRIME, is available now. He hosts the Title 18:Word Crimes podcast. His comic book FORTUNE is available from Comixology, Indy Planet, and NoiseTrade. Find him at ErikArneson.com.

Safe Inside the Violence nominated for an Anthony Award

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In a bit of belated blogging news...SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE has been nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection! Couldn't be more thrilled, humbled and honored to see it listed alongside such a fantastic line up of nominees - especially Protectors 2, which features my short story, "Snapshots."

BEST ANTHOLOGY OR COLLECTION Safe Inside the Violence - Christopher Irvin [280 Steps] Protectors 2: Heroes-Stories to Benefit PROTECT - Thomas Pluck, editor [Goombah Gumbo] Thuglit Presents: Cruel Yule: Holiday Tales of Crime for People on the Naughty List - Todd Robinson, editor [CreateSpace] Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015 - Art Taylor, editor [Down & Out] Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds - Kenneth Wishnia, editor [PM]

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Check out Bouchercon 2016 for the full list of Awards.

Art Taylor quickly pulled us together last week for a little chat on short fiction. Check it out at SleuthSayers and give these books a look!

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See you in New Orleans!

CANNIBALS: STORIES FROM THE EDGE OF THE PINE BARRENS with Jen Conley

I've gotten to know Jen Conley over the past few years through conventions and working alongside her at Shotgun Honey, and as a big fan of her work, I'm very excited to see her debut collection, CANNIBALS: STORIES FROM THE EDGE OF THE PINE BARRENS, hitting shelves this May. It was a pleasure catching up with Jen and discussing the book. Check out the pre-order via the stellar cover image below. Jen Conley_Can

Chris: You are well known in the short crime fiction world, but for those who don't know, who is Jen Conley and what's CANNIBALS all about?

Jen: I write crime fiction, usually peppered with a bit of horror. Most of my fiction takes place in the Ocean County area of New Jersey, where I grew up and still live. For a few years I’ve been one of the editors of Shotgun Honey, a flash fiction site that publishes crime fiction. In my other life, I have a fourteen-year-old son and I teach seventh grade Literacy, otherwise known as English.

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Chris: Many of your stories are set in or around the Pine Barrens. I don't know too much about New Jersey and its geography, but I found this setting to be fascinating. Can you talk a bit about it? What draws you to it? What does it mean to you?

Jen: The Pine Barrens is a large region of forested land in central and southern New Jersey. Because of the sandy soil, or “sugar sand”, it wasn’t great for farming so it’s been pretty much been left undisturbed. It became protected land in 1978 under the Pinelands National Reserve, which also protects the watershed areas. (Although, sadly, a gas line was just approved to run through part of it.) Anyhow, in the 1700s and 1800s, there was some industry--sawmills and iron--but it was a difficult place to live, so towns would pop up and go abandoned. Today, it’s the largest body of protected area in the mid-Atlantic states. The trees are scrub pines, which are pygmy pines, and that, with the sugar sand and the lack of development, give the area a ghostly, desolate feel. Especially at night, when you can hear all sorts of wildlife--several types of frogs, toads, insects, owls. It’s really a great place to visit, just bring your bug spray. The mosquitoes and pine flies, especially the pine flies, are downright relentless. Those things hurt.

I guess I’m drawn to it because of the spookiness--lots of “ghost” towns of abandoned settlements. This area used to have a pretty strong iron industry until it moved to western Pennsylvania, so, like I said, it’s pretty desolate. I’m also attracted to the drabness, too, because it’s not pretty forest at all, but it makes for a wonderful setting for crime fiction. The people who live in this area are usually not wealthy, it’s pretty middle class and working-class, and for someone who likes to write about ghosts and working-class people, it’s perfect for me. Plus, it’s where I grew up, so I tend to be sentimental even if it doesn’t come completely across in my stories.

Oh, one more thing--the famous Sopranos episode, “The Pine Barrens,” that wasn’t filmed in the Pine Barrens. It was filmed in upstate New York. It’s a fantastic episode but the first time I saw it, I was really pissed. I could tell it wasn’t filmed in the Pinelands because the trees were wrong, and when the camera panned out, there were large hills in the background. There are no large hills in the Pine Barrens. It’s mostly flat.

Chris: Your stories featuring your character Officer Vogel are some of my favorites. In the past we've talked about you doing more with her. Any plans?

Jen: I’d like to because I love her character but I don’t have any definite plans yet. She’s a very reticent person, compassionate on the inside, but cold and tough on the outside. It’s a good mix for a character of a crime novel but I need a plot and I haven’t wrapped my head around an idea yet. I’m working on it.

Chris: I love how you tackle trust/mistrust in your stories featuring Vogel, and even more so in "Pipe" and "June." What draws you to these stories?

Jen: I’m a big fan the theme of betrayal. I guess that’s why I love The Godfather I and II, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos. Even my all-time favorite, Mad Men, works on this theme because Don Draper spends his entire adult life betraying himself.

But in both “Pipe” and “June,” we’re dealing with kids, kids who are betrayed by adults. There is another level of tragedy in that and I think it breaks my heart--I like to write stories that break my heart on some level, even if I’m ending it on an upswing. I also like writing about kids but I’m aware that creating sympathy for them is an easy gig, because everyone feels bad for a kid in trouble. So I have to tone down my kid story ideas, not write so many.

Chris: Talk about the process of forming the collection, the selection of stories, etc. Any must-haves? Anything not make the cut?

Jen: It took me a long time to put a collection together. I tried before but I found I was writing stories to fill the collection and they weren’t all up to par, so it’s almost as if I had to wait until they all came to me. Until I was happy with each and every single one.

As for selecting stories, I wanted to pick the stories that actually took place in the area I was writing about. I have stories that take place in London, in New York City too, and those didn’t make the cut because they didn’t take place in Ocean County, NJ, which is part of the collection’s signature. In addition, some of my Pine Barrens stories didn’t make the cut because their themes were too close to something I’d already chosen.

I also made a point to bookend the collection with two stories: “Home Invasion” and “Angels.” In my first story, “Home Invasion,” the main character is haunted by a devil. In the last story, “Angels,” the main character is haunted by angels. So those two were definite picks. I suppose I was going for the classic ying/yang idea.

Chris: "Pipe" might be my favorite of the collection. How did this story come about?

Jen: Back when I was in high school, there was a small skinny kid who was bullied by some of the older boys. One of the older boys told the kid he was going to beat the shit out of him the following day. So the kid came to school with a pipe and hid out in the bathroom. I think he was caught before anything went down. I don’t remember much else about the incident, none of the names, etc., which is good because then I could write the story as fiction. Yes, there was a movie from ‘87 called “Three O’Clock High” with a similar premise, but that was comedy, and bad comedy at that because it wasn’t a good film. The real story from my school was very sad, and this sad, desperate image of going to school with a pipe to defend yourself against boys who were the size of fully-grown men just hung out in my head for years.

Chris: "Home Invasion" is another favorite, in which I get a strong "A Good Man is Hard to Find" vibe. Who/what do you see as your influences?

Jen: Definitely Flannery O’Connor. That has to be one of the best stories ever written, by the way.

I’m a big fan of the short stories by Annie Proulx. I also love the short stories by Edward P. Jones and Ron Rash. I think those three writers are my biggest influences, none of which are actually “crime” but there’s a sense of place and people who struggle constantly, which is what crime fiction should encompass, or at least, I think so.

But as for writers, or collections of stories that made an impression on me when I was young, I’d have to say the stories by Langston Hughes. One of my college professors had us read them and I remember I enjoyed the tales everyday people just trying to get by but more so, I was influenced by his style. His characters jump off the page, as do his descriptions. But his descriptions aren’t overblown, just very simple. One sentence and you can see everything. That’s what I like.

One collection that has stayed with me over the years is Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior. She’s a beautiful writer but boy, does she hit you in the gut and that collection is relentless. I haven’t read everything she’s written although I read Veronica a few years ago. It’s gorgeously written (and I took some notes on her style) but that book depressed me for weeks. Hell, I think it stayed on my mind for almost a year. There are so many painfully beautiful images on those pages that to this day are forever planted in my brain. But the bottom line is that I was bugged out by that book. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Maybe I’m just impressed by her power and as a writer, that’s a bar I’d like to reach.

One other thing--although I love my mob movies and TV shows, I’m not a fan of too much blood. I like stories about people’s lives, about what’s going on inside and around them, about how they got to the violence. Not so much the violence itself.

Chris: How has your work with Shotgun Honey influenced your writing?

Jen: I think so. Not everything that comes through the submissions process is successful and I think that’s what really hits home with me--sometimes I’ll read a story and start reworking it in my head and then I realize I can’t do that for every writer. What Shotgun Honey has also taught me is draw it tight. One or two scenes, one to three characters, one problem. And because we only accept 700 words per story, it’s very, very important to make sure every single word counts. Leave out the backstory--and I love backstory-- but you can’t do that in flash. So your backstory has to be a sentence or two and then your character in action has to show the rest.

Chris: Any plans for a book launch or readings around release this year?

Jen: June 3rd, I’m having a book event at Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. Hopefully I’ll have more events. I’m new at this promotional stuff.

Chris: What's next?

Jen: I’ve decided to take a break from short stories. They’re my great love but I’m never going to get anywhere if I just write short stories. So I’m working on a thriller/horror book. It’s about a woman who gets involved with a bad guy--I know that’s vague--but she’s in transitional point in her life, she’s restless and also desperate to have a family, and he’s good-looking, cool, and all that good stuff. It’s got a horror touch so there’s more to it but I guess I’m going for a thread of reality--what happens when you land a guy who seems perfect for you, accepts you as you are (my main character has some horrible scars from a dog attack) but as the relationship evolves, he becomes darker, almost abusive, then abusive, and you have come to the realization that you have extricate yourself from it all. Of course, it takes place in Ocean County and I’ve got the “first draft” written but I’m in the process of slowly and methodically going through each chapter, rearranging, cutting, expanding, rewriting. My writing MO is this: blow through the first draft, then go back and do the “decorating” as I like to call it. This method works for me only because of computers--you never really have to write new drafts, do you? You just improve on the first. I have no idea how anyone wrote in the old days, before computers, before you could cut and paste and then cut and rewrite… what a pain in the neck.

Thanks for having me Chris! It’s been a lot of fun.

DOWN THE DARKEST STREET with Alex Segura

The past couple of months have brought a double dose of multi-talented author Alex Segura in the form of Polis Books re-issuing SILENT CITY, his first novel featuring Pete Fernandez, along with a new book - the follow-up - DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. I really enjoy Alex's take on the PI, and it's a pleasure to have him stop by and answer a few questions regarding his latest releases. Here we go! DTDS-e1458140880212

Chris: The PI story is classic - one that countless authors take on each year. With SILENT CITY and now DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, you've received high praise from the likes of Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Brad Meltzer, Reed Farrel Coleman, and more. Who's this Pete Fernandez? What's drawing readers to his story?

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Alex: When we meet Pete in SILENT CITY, he's hit bottom. He's lost his father, his fiance has left him, he's moved back to his hometown of Miami in shame, he's working a dead-end job and he's basically fallen from grace, career-wise. He's gone from being an on-the-rise sports reporter to being a mediocre copy editor. He's also drinking himself to death. He's got only a few friends left and is floundering. But then he gets pulled into a missing persons case and finds that spark again - and as he pulls and tugs at the thread, he finds it leads to a bigger, more dangerous mystery. Unfortunately, being inspired or motivated doesn't solve our problems, so he's still kind of a fuck up. His story isn't just about solving the crime - it's about fixing himself, and that's something I think anyone can relate to.

We see him fail and stumble, but we also see him use his smarts and experience to help others. He's a flawed person and a conflicted hero, and I think  that's part of the appeal. He's not your polished PI with a stack of cases and the office. Hell, you should see where he ends up by the middle of DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. These are the formative moments for Pete - we're not meeting him in the middle, we're starting at ground zero with him.

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Chris: You mention the setting of Miami and Pete's job as a reporter - two of my favorite aspects of the first book as both are foreign to me and I found your take to be very engrossing. How did these pieces find their way into the story? Have you set stories in Miami, or featured reporters as characters before? If so, how has the place/person evolved in your writing?

Alex: First off, I'm glad you liked the setting and Pete's job. I really wanted to showcase the Miami I remember and know, as opposed to some commercialized version. Whenever I see Miami portrayed on TV or in movies, I tense up - because I've had so many experiences where the Miami I see on the screen just doesn't ring true. I wanted to show Miami as a sprawling, complex, dangerous and off-the-rails place. Not a tropical getaway, even though it can be that to some people. I wanted to show the Miami residents see, as opposed to the one tourists see. I worked in newspapers for a big part of my early professional life, so I knew that world, and I love newsrooms - the sense of urgency, the workmanlike vibe, the flow of information. It struck me as the perfect place for someone who would eventually evolve into being a private eye of sorts. I toyed with having Pete be a reporter at first, but realized that someone like him - basically destroying himself slowly - wouldn't be able to hack it. That's why I set him up as a kind of fallen star: a former reporter relegated to desk duty and hating every second of it. This opened the door to him tapping into his inquisitive skills to do other stuff, like investigating a murder mystery, for starters. Most of my crime fiction is set in Miami, including a few short stories - the bulk of it comes via the Pete books, though. But my interpretation of the city evolves because Miami itself is always changing. I live in New York now, and while I come home to Miami 2-3 times a year, I'm always amazed at how much it's changed. I try to be as true as I can when researching stuff, and usually take time out of trips back home for fun to do some legwork for the next book - but I also want to preserve Miami as I remember it, too, so the Miami of the Pete books may not be identical to Miami as it is now, but it's my riff on it. (I hope that makes sense!)

Chris: Totally. Do you think it has gotten harder or easier to write about Miami since you left? Does your ability to see the city as an 'outsider' give you more insight or flexibility than if you were still in the weeds?

Alex: Different. I mean, I started SILENT CITY after I'd left, but Miami was fresh in my mind. Now I've lived in NY for over a decade. But I go back to Miami pretty regularly. But it means more research - more keeping up with the news and trying to keep up with how the city's changed or evolved. That said, I write fiction, so there's some wiggle room. I can keep a bar or restaurant open longer in Pete's Miami, even if it's closed in real life. I can tweak things as long as I'm in the ballpark. But it is a bit trickier to write about Miami now, so it's something I'm very mindful of and work hard to stay true to

Chris: Let's talk crime fiction for a moment. With your day job at Archie Comics you are exposed to slice-of-life, horror, super heroes, high school intrigue - you name it. What draws you back to crime, again and again? Feeling the itch to tackle another genre?

Alex: I have a few comic book ideas I want to explore, but they're in the very early stages. I've always had a soft spot for sci-fi, and I've written a few things in that genre. I would love to do a Star Trek novel or comic, if that ever comes to pass. I'm a sucker for that universe. But crime fiction is my main wheelhouse. I don't see it as a limiting genre - there's so much ground you can cover, you know? Hardboiled to cozy, noir to humor. It really allows you to explore the human condition and showcase the stuff people are dealing with through the prism of a crime. At its best, crime fiction rises above just a caper or a whodunnit - it gives you a sense of the struggles people are experiencing, of place and how everything fits together. I'm hesitant to even minimize it by trying to keep it in one big crime fiction box, but yeah, it's the most liberating kind of story to write.

Chris: Speaking of outside the genre - any writers/creators outside the genre who influence or inspire your work?

Alex: Great question. I love Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Cristina Garcia, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Kelly Braffet, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Marisha Pessl, Chuck Wendig...those are just a few off the top of my head!

Chris: If Pete Fernandez had to leave Miami today and go elsewhere for your next book, where would he go?

Alex: He ends up going somewhere in Book 3, but it's still a Miami book. I've toyed with New York or Vegas for certain stories, but I think Miami has to always be an element. It's too big a part of him.

Chris: Any readings/convention appearances scheduled for 2016?

Alex: Yup! I'll be kicking the Down the Darkest Street tour at The Mysterious Bookshop on 4/12, which is also release day. After that I'll be doing appearances around New York, like Word Brooklyn and The Astoria Bookshop. I'm doing a few events in Florida, one at Books & Books and another at Murder on the Beach in Delray, in early May and I'll be at Bouchercon and Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee, to name a few. The full list is at my site, alexsegura.com.

Chris: What's next for Alex Segura?

Alex: Finishing up revisions on the third Pete book, Dangerous Ends, and powering through the first draft of the fourth, untitled Pete book. And ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES! That's hitting later this year, with art by Gisele and co-written by Matthew Rosenberg.

Post a review of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE and be entered to win a copy of BURN CARDS!

sitv-header Happy Wednesday, folks.

As you all know, reviews are a difference maker when it comes to visibility for books, doubly so for small press and lesser known authors.

In an effort to drum up some reviews, 280 Steps has put together a little promotion:

Post a review of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE on Amazon or Goodreads by 3/31 and be entered for a chance to win one of five copies of BURN CARDS.

***AND paperback copies of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE are currently 34% off on Amazon***

It's madness, I tell you!

Check out the details HERE - good luck and thanks as always for your support.

Back to work!

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.

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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.

LIVE on Authors on the Air - TONIGHT

First off - I'm WAY overdue for a blog update (it's coming this week...promise) interview

BUT in the mean time, you can find me live with the wonderful Pam Stack tonight on Authors on the Air Radio. Stream the interview HERE, and if you'd like, you can call into the show at 347-633-9609. We'll talk SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, books, crime fiction, you name it.

Should be fun! I've listened to many of Pam and Tom Pitt's interviews and they are all excellent.

More soon!

December Giveaway! aka Got Reviews?

IMG_8762 I love small press. I can't say enough good things about 280 Steps and their support for SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE over the past few months. It's been a lot of fun and I hope some of the momentum carries over into 2016 and beyond.

But as writer and proprietor of Broken River Books, J David Osborne, described so honestly in his recent blog post - Money Money Money Money (Cha-Ching) - there's only so much a small press can do. It's also on the author to drive sales and promotion of their work.

So what works? How does one do this effectively? I'm not sure anyone really knows. I'm repeatedly followed, unfollowed, and followed again on Twitter by "best-sellers" with thousands of followers in an attempt to make a quick buck. Then there's the relatively recent trend on Facebook to treat it as an impersonal selling tool as well, becoming 'friends' with as many strangers as possible in hope of increasing one's audience. I'm not sure how successful either of these strategies are, but they are too hard a sell for me. Everyone draws a different line in the sand. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have people who won't market at all and criticize those who do. It's impossible to please everyone, especially when there is no clear answer to the question - what makes books sell?

Reviews help, that's for sure. Online, in print, word of mouth - all drive algorithms and discussion that can only boost a book's signal. With that in mind, I have a deal for you:

Leave an honest review for SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE by 12/13 and be entered to win a copy of WHAT HAPPENED HERE: Year One at Papercuts J.P. - a compilation of exclusive works by authors who visited Papercuts J.P., Boston's newest independent bookstore, in its first year - featuring my story, "The Push," a pseudo-sequel to "Digging a Deep," (from Safe Inside the Violence) as well as work from Paul Tremblay, Jennifer Tseng, Rory Flynn, Catie Disabato, and many more. 300+ pages of pure AWESOME.

Where? On a blog, newspaper, Amazon, Goodreads, the palm of your left hand in permanent marker. Be creative, I don't judge. Tell your people and spread the good word!

On Monday, 12/14 I'll randomly pull a name and announce the winner here.

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Thank you all for your continued support!

Week One Recap

Whew! Made it through a whirlwind of a release week. Thank you all so much for your amazing support, especially to those who came out to the launch party (packed house!) last Friday at Papercuts J.P. I couldn't have wished for a better night. Here are a couple pics from the event (by Jabari Asim)

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and another by Papercuts J.P.

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In other news, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE received two incredibly kind reviews last week. I'm still pinching myself (and dreading...in a good way, the novel I need to rewrite this winter):

From LitReactor, where the reviewer called the book "a collection everyone should read — particularly if you’ve ever dreamed of writing this kind of fiction."

And MyBookishWays: "In his short story collection, ‘Safe Inside the Violence’, Irvin provides more proof that he may be the best new writer on the crime scene today."

Reviews have started to trickle into Goodreads and Amazon as well (thank you!) It's exciting to see the variety of stories readers report as their favorites, or those that stuck with them. Like all authors, I greatly appreciate the time and effort it takes to leave a review. I'm not sure anyone is certain how they function in the algorithms of these sites, but they certainly give books a boost. Thank you for spreading the word.

Hope to see you Wednesday at Brookline Booksmith!

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Pub Day!

SitV-wraparound It's alive!

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE is now available through Amazon and your favorite independent bookstores (Give them the title or one of the ISBNs and you should be good to go.)

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE ISBN-10: 8293326700 ISBN-13: 978-8293326700

Alex Segura interviewed me for his newsletter, Stuff & Nonsense. You can check out the interview HERE, but I also recommend subscribing. His weekly interviews (every Friday) cover a wide range of creatives and are always worth checking out. Do iiittttt.

I also received a bit of local coverage in the JP Gazette.

Here's my updated schedule through the holidays, including new stops in Libertyville, IL (north of Chicago) and Columbus, OH.

11/13 – Launch Party at Papercuts J.P. @ 7pm

11/18 – Reading event with Jason Starr at Brookline Booksmith @ 7pm

11/27 – Black Friday Signing at Dreamland Comics, Libertyville, IL @ 1-3pm

12/3 – Mystery Night signing event at the New England Mobile Book Fair @ 6-7pm

12/21 – Noir at the Bar Columbus at Kafe Kerouac @ 7pm (more details coming soon!)

As always, thank you all so much for your support and spreading the word. The run up to the book's release has been wonderful, and I hope you enjoy the collection. Thoughts/comments/reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are much appreciated!

See you on the road.

Bouchercon Bound & MORE

Greetings! I've been a bit absent from the blog (a new baby will knock it to the bottom on the list of priorities...) but I'm gearing up for Bouchercon and a busy fall with the release of my debut short story collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, so here goes a quick update:

BOUCHERCON!

No panels or readings for me (yet?) but I'll be dropping off a huge stack of ARCs and milling around the convention/bars for the long weekend. Thursday night's Noir at the Bar hosted by Eryk Pruitt is a must, as well as Tom Pitt's interview of Les Edgerton and Jack Getze on Friday. Looking forward to seeing a lot of great friends. Crime writers are the best.

I'll also have some copies of CHARRED KRAKEN for sale. $5 for 28 pages of kick ass weird noir with art by Artyom Trakanov, colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and letters by Thomas Mauer!

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Still want a copy but not going to be at Bouchercon? Got you covered. The following weekend I'll have a table at...

MICE

October 17-18 - FREE comic con at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I'll be hanging at table D12 (Doucet Hall) with my buddy Joe DellaGatta. A lot of fantastic creators on the list this year. Come out and say hello!

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And last but not least...

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE TOUR

The Goodreads page is GO and pre-order is up on Amazon for paperback and e-book. Want to order from your local independent? Not a problem - they should be able to order it now as well, if not in the next week.

In the pipeline:

10/22  Noir at the Bar Boston V at Trident Booksellers & Cafe

11/13  Launch Party at Papercuts J.P.

11/18  Brookline Booksmith - author event with Jason Starr

I'm hoping to do a little Black Friday signing in the Libertyville/Vernon Hills area north of Chicago, and a Noir at the Bar Columbus (Ohio) close to Christmas. Stay tuned!

Protectors 2: Heroes

PROTECTORS 2: HEROES is now available for pre-order. I'm proud to be a part of a project supporting such an essential organization.

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I hope you guys check it out!

From editor, Thomas Pluck:

Here’s the full table of contents, from legends to rising stars to emerging writers, all who support PROTECT’s cause, protecting children from all kinds of abuse and exploitation. 100% of the proceeds are donated to Protect’s lobby. If you’re unfamiliar with PROTECT, they are the political lobby of the National Association to Protect Children, whose victories include the Circle of Trust act and the HERO Corps, which hires wounded veterans to assist law enforcement in hunting online predators.

Table of Contents: When!? by Linda Sarah The Questions by Alison Arngrim City Water by Allison Glasgow Black and White and Red All Over by David Morrell Silvia Reyes by P.J. Ward Plan B by Andrew Vachss Gatekeeper by Richard Prosch The Night Watch by Susan Schorn One Night in Brownsville by Gary Phillips Silverfish by S.J. Rozan Parental Guidance by Scott Adlerberg Superhero, With Crooked Nails by Rachael Acks Angel by Terrence McCauley Mr. Nance by Linda Rodriguez Something I Said by Bracken MacLeod El Puente by Rios de la Luz Mesquite by Graham Wynd Level 5 by C.R. Jahn On the Road to La Grange by Karina Cooper Reprisals: Enmity by John A. Curley The Whistler in the Graveyard by Chad Eagleton (illustration by Dyer Wilk) Solar Highway by S.A. Solomon Jibber Jabber by Reed Farrel Coleman Doll: A Poem by Jyl Anais Ion (illustrations by Jyl Anais Ion) Doggone Justice by Joe R. Lansdale The Occurrence of the Black Mirror by Teel James Glenn Sister Cecilia by Hilary Davidson Croatoan by Harlan Ellison® Little Howl on the Prairie by Thomas Pluck Things Held Dear by Neliza Drew 49 Foot Woman Straps It On by Laird Barron Moon Over the Midwest by Elizabeth Amber Love Sixth Floor by Albert Tucher Adamsville by Clare Toohey Point of View by Will Graham High Meadow Storm by Wayne Dundee Out of Context by Joelle Charbonneau Lone by Alex Segura (illustrations by Dennis Calero) Love and Valour on ‘the Victorian Titanic’ by Gill Hoffs Just Pretend by Martyn Waites Freak by Charles de Lint The New Heroes of the Old Fairgrounds by K.L. Pereira When the Hammer Comes Down by Josh Stallings Stretching Fifteen by Angel Luis Colón Bounty by Jerry Bloomfield Light-Bringer by Laura K. Curtis Hercules and the Spawn of the Titans by Michael A. Black How to Paint Your Dragon by Andrew D’Apice Don’t Fear the Ripper by Holly West Two Views by Tim Daly A Hundred Pearls by Errick Nunnally Snapshots by Christopher Irvin Deceit by Joyce Carol Oates The Perfect Weapon by Zak Mucha An Open Letter to the Children of the Secret by Dionysios Dionou Behavior is Truth by Gwyndyn T. Alexander Pigeons for Protect! by Linda Sarah

Friday Reads: The 280 Steps Sampler

Catch a sneak peek of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE in the 280 Steps Sampler, as well new works from Ed Brock, Jonathan Ashley, Eric Beetner, Joe Ricker, and more.

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FEATURING...

Fall 2015

Safe Inside the Violence by Christopher Irvin Out of Mercy by Jonathan Ashley Thieves' Market by A.I. Bezzerides Long Haul by A.I. Bezzerides You Can Kill Anyone by Leonard Fritz Dirty Water by Marc E. Fitch To The Core by Josh K. Stevens Pale in Death by Ed Brock

New Releases

Delving Deeper by Josh K. Stevens Walkin' After Midnight by Joe Ricker HASHTAG by Eryk Pruitt Rumrunners by Eric Beetner Scratch the Surface by Josh K. Stevens Burn Cards by Christopher Irvin

Selected Backlist

The Cost of Doing Business by Jonathan Ashley Stumped by Rob Kitchin The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers Music for the Dead by Luis Gutiérrez Maluenda A Night for Screaming by Harry Whittington The Shooting Gallery by Hugh C. Rae One-Eyed Jacks by Brad Smith The Carrier by Preston Lang Portrait in Smoke by Bill S. Ballinger Tough Luck L.A. by Murray Sinclair

Cover Reveal!

safe-inside-the-violence SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, a collection of short stories, available November 10 in Trade Paperback and eBook from 280 Steps. I'm very proud of how this book turned out - it's some of my most personal work - and I can't wait to share it with everyone in the fall. Stay tuned for more info!

Bonus - my first radio interview with Steven Nester on PRX for Poets of the Tabloid Murder went live this week. Steven is an excellent interviewer, and I had a lot of fun discussing BURN CARDS, noir, writing, and more. Check it out *HERE*

 

Tonight! Independent Bookstore Day @ Papercuts J.P.

papercutsjp Today is Independent Bookstore Day AND Free Comic Book Day - so get out there and support some local biz!

I'll be at Papercuts J.P. tonight at 6:00pm with Paul Tremblay, reading some of our favorite short stories by other authors that inspire us, and talking crime and horror. Both of us will be hanging around afterward for the late night festivities. Check out the full day of events planned for Papercuts J.P., beginning at 11:00am with free muffins from neighboring Blue Frog Bakery and live music.

Papercuts J.P. will also have free copies of the EXPATRIATE zine Ricardo and I put together last year - updated with stunning colors by Mat Lopes. Grab 'em while they last!

Burn Cards Pub Day

My new book, BURN CARDS, is out today. You can buy the paperback from any independent bookstore. Click the image below to find and support your local shop.

Burn Cards_IndieBound

If Amazon is your better option, or e-book more your style, grab a copy HERE. The paperback might be listed as out of stock, but that's most likely incorrect and you'll receive the book without delay. BURN CARDS is also listed on Goodreads.

A huge thank you to everyone for their support throughout the publication process. 280 Steps is nothing but superb (thanks, Kjetil!) and I had a fantastic time at my first event at Papercuts J.P., my (new) local bookstore in Jamaica Plain.* Kate, the owner, and Katie, the event coordinator, did a wonderful job setting up the event, and showed how special a local bookstore can be to a community; the support I've witnessed over the past few months demonstrates the hard work has paid off. That's why I list links to IndieBound first in this post. Unlike FEDERALES, whose distribution is fairly limited to Amazon (and me), 280 Steps is distributed through Ingram, so you should be able to find/order BURN CARDS, and any other of their other titles at brick and mortar stores.

*My partner in crime for the event, Zachary Klein, has done a nice write up of the event on his blog.

Reviews are trickling in - here's a favorite from Angel Luis Colón over at My Bookish Ways.

Upcoming Events

April 26th - Noir at the Bar Boston II: 6-9pm, The Pour House, Boston

May 2nd - Independent Bookstore Day at Papercuts J.P.