Oct 26 2010

Short Story Spotlight

Remember how excited I was about the impending release of the Beat to a Pulp anthology a few weeks back? The book is out now, and it’s a beaut. BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE was edited by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash, with a foreword by Bill Crider, and stories by some fiercely talented writers: Ed Gorman, Patti Abbott, Chris F. Holm, Charles Ardai, Sophie Littlefield, Glenn Gray, Jedidiah Ayres… actually, every story in this collection is a winner. (My “Insatiable,” which won the 2010 Spinetingler Award for best short story, is also in there.) In case you need any more convincing, Cullen Gallagher‘s essay “A History of Pulp” closes the anthology.

Speaking of Chris F. Holm, he’s just released his own short-story collection, 8 POUNDS, which is available via Kindle. My first reaction when I saw this was “Damn! I don’t have a Kindle!” It turned out that wasn’t a problem; thanks to the Kindle app, which is available for various computers and handheld devices, I was able to download 8 POUNDS without a hitch. I’d already read all but two of the stories in the collection, but at a mere 99 cents, it would still be a steal if I’d read them all. Chris’s stories are a joy to read (also: very scary), and if you haven’t encountered his work before — he’s been in Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Thuglit, and Needle, to name a few — now’s the time to get acquainted.

One more anthology I’m excited about: DISCOUNT NOIR, edited by Patti Abbott and Steve Weddle. Inspired by a flash fiction challenge a few months ago, this collection from Untreed Reads features stories by Dave Zeltersman, Keith Rawson, Sandra Seamans, Eric Beeter, Kyle Minor, Kathleen Ryan, Kieran Shea, Cormac Brown, Jay Stringer… okay, I could go on and on. You know you want it.

Finally, while I’m on the subject of short stories, I’m taking part in Christopher Grant‘s 600-to-700 challenge over at A Twist of Noir. I’m not sure what I was thinking, given that I’ve never written flash fiction before, but my 678-word story, “Sorry Bastard” will be up in a couple of weeks. This is the first time I’ve been inclined to write a second story with the same main character. If you’ve read Cheap Bastard,” published by Spinetingler in March, you’ve already encountered Don. I have a feeling he may be back again after this.

Jun 17 2010

The Thugs Come Out at Night

Last Wednesday night was the launch party for the new Thuglit anthology, BLOOD, GUTS, & WHISKEY. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Thuglit crowd gathered at the Village Lantern. Brass knuckles and shivs? Vodka shots and moonshine? Hair-trigger tempers and fights in the alley? Nope. Instead, I got to meet Todd and Allison Robinson, Thuglit’s creators, and their son (who goes by his street handle Baby Thug; he may already have a tattoo) and a bunch of writers who are just as excited to be in the anthology as I am.

Todd kicked the evening off by reading from “A Message From Big Daddy Thug,” his introduction to the collection:

“To those of you wondering what the hell a ‘Thuglit’ is, we’re all about rainbows, puppy dogs, and whatever Celine Dion is up to. Would I lie? ‘Blood, Guts, and Whiskey’ is the title of a Celine Dion song. Look it up.”

I was the first author to read. I didn’t realize it until Craig McDonald pointed it out on his blog, but I’m the only female writer in the collection (Craig also called me a “noir rose in a thicket of thorns,” which is a title I’m going to be using for the foreseeable future). My contribution to BLOOD, GUTS, & WHISKEY, “Son of So Many Tears,” was the second short story I published, and — just like my first — only the Thugs deemed it worthy to be seen by the reading public. (Thanks again, Big Daddy Thug and Lady Detroit.)

Also reading at the launch: Justin Porter (“Black Hair and Red Leather”), Kieran Shea (“Faith-Based Initiative”) and Glenn Gray (“Mr. Universe”). Todd read from “Death of a Rat” by the late Edward Bunker (also known as Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs).

Then, Todd sang.

Yes, you read that right. A musician had been playing guitar and harmonica and singing between authors’ sets all night, and he and Todd rocked the house with “Tupelo Honey.” The sweetest moment of the night for me was when I noticed that Baby Thug was completely riveted by his dad’s performance.

Jun 7 2010

Blood, Guts, & Whiskey

What are you doing on Wednesday, June 9th? If you’re in New York City, I hope you’re planning to come to the launch party for the new Thuglit anthology, BLOOD, GUTS, & WHISKEY. It’s set for the Village Lantern — 167 Bleecker Street near Sullivan — starting at 6pm and running until the bar kicks us out or the police show up, whichever comes first.

“Launch party” might be too tame a term to describe the festivities. More apt: “Booze-Up Bonanza,” as Todd Robinson, AKA Big Daddy Thug, put it in the e-mail invitation. I’ll be reading from my short story “Son of So Many Tears,” which is in the anthology, and several other shady characters — I mean, writers — have been corralled into taking part. Bring brass knuckles and prepare for a great night.

May 2 2010

Spinetingler Win for “Insatiable”

Yesterday, I found out that Insatiable won the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story. While I’m still more than a little shocked, I am incredibly grateful for all of the support my story has received. The Spinetingler Awards are voted on by the public via electronic ballot, and it’s an honor to have so many mystery, crime, and noir fans pick “Insatiable” as their favorite… especially given the incredible list of other writers nominated in that category. Thank you!

I also want to say a special thanks to David Cranmer and Elaine Ash. They’re the editors of Beat to a Pulp, which published “Insatiable” in September 2009. Less than 24 hours after I submitted the story for their consideration, David shot back an emphatic Yes. Not only did they publish the story, but David interviewed me for his blog as well. David and Elaine have been wonderful supporters of my work — as they’ve been for many other writers — and I’m grateful that they gave “Insatiable” such a good home. David’s incredibly kind post about the Spinetingler Award was a sweet reminder of how lovely they are to work with.

There are a few other people who need to be mentioned, too. One is Keith Rawson, who reviewed my story for his “Short Thoughts on Short Fiction” column in the BSC Review. Keith’s enthusiastic comments brought “Insatiable” a great deal of notice, and made a wider audience take note of the story. Another is Sandra Seamans, who named “Insatiable” one of the Top 10 stories she’d read in 2009. (Sandra’s own wonderful “Survival Instincts” was nominated for a Spinetingler Award, too.) Also, a special shout-out to my friend Kathy Ryan, who strong-armed countless people into reading “Insatiable” (she’s an ex-cop and she’s fierce!). A huge, heartfelt thanks to all of you.

Apr 23 2010

My Debt to the Thugs

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”

There are lines from certain books tattooed on my brain. The quote above is from BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S — not the frothy Audrey Hepburn film, but the book by Truman Capote, a beautiful novella with a dark heart. It’s what comes to mind when I think of Todd Robinson and Allison Glasgow Robinson of Thuglit.

If you’re reading this site, Thuglit has likely already sucker-punched you with its addictive reading. (But if Google pointed you my way by accident, Thuglit is an online journal filled with phenomenal crime fiction; “Writing About Wrongs,” as they put it). It was the first place to say yes to my fiction. Before that, I’d been racking up the rejections. Some of them were form rejections, easy to shrug off. Others were tough, like the close-but-no-cigar e-mail that came from an editorial assistant at a journal that had held onto a story of mine for six months: “Everyone loves your story, but no one knows who you are.”

The thing about Todd and Allison (AKA Big Daddy Thug and Lady Detroit) is that they couldn’t care less about who you are. They love pulpy noir fiction, and if they take a shine to your story, they’ll publish it. They don’t ask about your qualifications or pedigree. Hell, next week they might stomp on you in a dark alley with hobnailed boots. Doesn’t matter. They gave me confidence about writing fiction, and for that I will forever be in their debt. They keep it simple: You write what they like, you will end up in Thuglit.

You may, in fact, end up in one of their print anthologies, too. BLOOD, GUTS, & WHISKEY, the third Thuglit collection, just showed up on my doorstep. Filled with fiction by Tom Piccirilli, Dave Zeltserman, Stuart Neville, Scott Wolven, Jordan Harper, Jedidiah Ayres, Kieran Shea… well, you get the idea. I have a story, “Son of So Many Tears,” in there, too. Here’s how it starts:

“Go in the peace of Christ,” intoned the elderly priest as Maire Kennelly made her escape. Her heels clattered on the stone steps as she distanced herself from the few penitents whose addiction to early morning mass was as keen as her own. She was glad to be out of the church, a fact that surely meant another dark mark on her soul. It had been seven years since Maire’s last confession, and when she thought of her soul now she pictured a Victorian silhouette with edges sharp and refined but coal-black to the core. As she turned onto the sidewalk, she wondered what effect words of absolution could have on it now. Saint Rita, hear my prayer, she began to recite silently, when a flame-haired woman in a black trenchcoat stepped in front of her.

BLOOD, GUTS, & WHISKEY will be released on May 25th; you can pre-order a copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble in the U.S., or from Indigo in Canada.

Apr 16 2010

Sharp Fiction From Needle

A few weeks ago, a crime-writing friend named Steve Weddle told me he was starting a new publication. Not a Web zine, mind you, but a print magazine. As he described it in an e-mail, “I want ink on paper. I want to turn pages. I want to loan the mag to a friend and have him read some awesome story I just fell in love with.” I was intrigued by the idea, but assumed that it would take months to pull a first issue together. My background is in print media, and I know how slowly the wheels there turn (thanks to years of magazine work, I’m ready for Christmas when July rolls around — that’s normally when all those stories about decking the halls are written).

Instead, Needle: A Magazine of Noir was created in a few short weeks. Steve and his co-conspirators — John Hornor Jacobs, who provided the design genius, and Naomi Johnson, Daniel O’Shea, and Scott D. Parker, who worked the words over — may have sacrificed sleep, or their souls, or both, because the magazine is stunning. Packed with fiction from Dave Zeltserman, Patti Abbott, Jedidiah Ayres, Keith Rawson, Sandra Seamans, and other terrific writers, it’s a must-read. Work has already started on the second issue, and there are submission guidelines on Needle‘s site.

I have a story, “The Black Widow Club,” in the first issue. Here’s how it opens:

Oscar looked exactly as he had the last time I’d seen him, except for the chunk missing from the back of his skull. His body was slumped facedown on his desk, right hand resting on the computer’s mouse, the monogrammed gold cufflinks his company had presented him upon his retirement gleaming in the fluorescent light of the basement. His shirt and chinos were neatly pressed, and his feet were tucked into black suede loafers. What was new was the computer screen splattered with blood and splotches of grey matter that I didn’t want to get close enough to analyze.

I forced my eyes away from the corpse. “Mom, when you told me on the phone that something had happened to Oscar, was this what you meant?”

The complete story is in Needle.

Apr 12 2010

“Fetish” at Beat to a Pulp

My short story “Fetish” is up at Beat to a Pulp, one of my favorite online crime magazines. This is the second tale I’ve published on the site; the first, “Insatiable,” came out in September 2009. (“Insatiable” is currently a finalist for a Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story; voting on the awards is open to the public through April 30, 2010.)

The editors of Beat to a Pulp, David Cranmer and Elaine Ash, are wonderful to work with. They are smart, savvy, and willing to do whatever it takes to make a story work. When I sent them “Fetish,” I knew that it was much longer than the stories they usually publish. David and Elaine asked me to make the story longer, to flesh out a couple of scenes I’d glossed over. I’m grateful that they pushed me to go the distance with it.

Here are the opening lines of “Fetish”:

Paul saw the blonde walk into the bar and stifled his urge to run. Her eyes caught his, and she tossed her long hair back and moved towards him, each step punctuated by the click of a stiletto heel. What the hell was she thinking, wearing black leather boots in the middle of June? Paul sat up straighter and finished his beer.

“Hey, kiddo,” he said as she slithered into the booth opposite him. Her scarlet lipstick matched the shade of her clingy dress. She really should be wearing a bra, he thought, then blushed. It was getting harder to look at her.

“How many times have I told you to stop calling me that, Dad?” she asked. “I have a name, remember?”

The rest of the story is here.

Apr 11 2010

Welcome to the Dark Side

I’ve been threatening to start a blog for a while now. A second blog, I should say; I already have one called the Gluten-Free Guidebook. If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy — or if you just like to travel — please stop by. It’s been up and running for just over two years and covers a subject that’s close to my heart (and stomach).

But if you want to read more about my dark side, stick around here. I write crime fiction, and my first novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, will be released this October by Forge. You can find my short stories all over the Internet, on sites such as Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, A Twist of Noir, and Crimefactory. For years I’ve been writing travel guidebooks for Frommer’s and sneaking the things that really interest me — Gothic architecture, cemeteries, and film noir settings — into them. Now I’m using my travels to places like Prague, Paris, and Peru as backdrops for my fiction. It’s much more fun this way.