Thursday, April 26, 2012

Couple of Good Ones

Phil Beloin Jr. has a disturbing story up at Yellow Mama, "Agony or Delight." 

A high school loser gets the girl of his dreams, but bungles his chance. Beloin nails this kid's voice--it really sounds like he's talking to the reader. 

At Shotgun Honey, Travis Richardson's up with "The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street." This one's a surreal tale about a devout Southern town that won't put up with any heathen bullshit. It's a roaring good time.

And I landed a few more good reviews of my short story collection, Watch You Drown, which is free at Smashwords and cheap at Amazon.

Fiona "McDroll" Johnson gives it a nice write up,  saying that it's "packed full of surprises and brutal punches that will keep you flicking through, only to be disappointed when you realise you're at the end." 

I was also honored to see that Pablo D'Stair post about Watch You Drown at Goodreads. Here's some of what he had to say: "I was just fascinated, by the voice, by the unadorned musicality of it, by the swirl of it around itself, using the character, the scenario, the inertia as playthings, pushing the cake crumbs around an empty plate for the pure enjoyment of that, no desire toward the cake itself at all. "

Friday, April 20, 2012

Story up at Spinetingler

I've got a flash fiction piece that I would describe as quiet noir up at Spinetingler. It's called "Old Fashioned" and it's about a couple of drunks and the bar that they love.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

PULP INK 2 is coming!

First off, we have this incredible cover art from Eric Beetner. I could not be any happier with this--it says crime, it says horror, it says kick ass.

Speaking of kick ass, here's the lineup:


Pulp Ink 2 will be published by Snubnose Press and will hit a virtual newsstand near you mid-summer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writing Advice

Stephen Graham Jones* wrote this article called "Ten Obvious Truths About Fiction" over at LitReactor. Then Pablo D'Stair and Sarah D'Stair responded to it in a podcast over at P.S. We Are Better Than You.

They critique the 10 Obvious Truths on a number of grounds, noting that they do agree with Obvious Truth #2 "The reader is smarter than you think," but almost nothing else.

Overall, I side with the D'Stair (their opinions on this are basically identical) critique of this particular piece of writing advice and most writing advice in general. (Although there are some points on which we differ...)

Some objections they bring up with which I wholeheartedly agree: 

1) Jones' piece assumes that there's some generic reader out there. Maybe there is such a thing, but why are we assuming that every writer wants to hook this illusive median reader browsing through the airport bookstore to find something that kills a few hours? There are plenty of writers already writing to the median reader--most of who are failing at this goal--certainly we don't need more of these writers. 

2) Jones' piece seems geared toward writers who play it safe. Don't break conventions! Make sure every page has a hook! Make sure the story keeps its promises! Sure, there are plenty of writers who succeed within these confines, but there are plenty of others who set up completely different confines.  

3) Jones makes the point that readers don't go for vague endings. This gets on my nerves. First of all, I think some of the most satisfying endings in fiction are vague endings. (Pablo D'Stair happens to write some of the finest vague endings around.) So to say that "readers" don't go for it is only true if we're talking about that median reader again. 

Where I disagree with the D'Stairs is about Obvious Truth #8 "Readers can tell when you are trying to be smart on the page." Pablo says, instead, that you should "be as smart as you are." I don't see any reason ever to "try to be smart" (even "as smart as you are") on the page. Sure, there are some writers who I like who I would imagine are very smart, but more often than not, even with writers I like, usually I'd prefer to see less research, less of their education, less of all that shit--save that for writing essays or something.

A good example is Tom Clancy. Clancy clearly did so much goddamned research and then felt like he had to fit it all in, or just he got carried away. Either way, he threw down way too much knowledge. Especially in The Cardinal of the Kremlin. So fuck that. Don't be as smart as you are. Be as smart as your characters are.

I'm sure Pablo knows where more shit than Trevor English.

Also, I'm surprised Pablo didn't shred apart Obvious Truth #1 "The reader should never have to work to figure out the basics of your story." Jones seems to suggest (and not just in #1, but throughout) that the reader should leave the experience with few to no questions. Some writers pull this off beautifully--they load you up with questions and never answer them. I prefer these kinds of writers over the ones who try to tie up everything little thing.

*note that Stephen Graham Jones is a far, far more accomplished writer than I am. So maybe you should take his advice over mine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

At All Due Respect: Thomas Pluck

Since Thomas Pluck burst onto the scene last year, he's appeared in virtually every crime fiction zine and won a Bullet Award for one of his stories. And with good reason--he writes with urgency and creates big, memorable characters.

He's at All Due Respect right now with "White People Problems," the story of a bartender too caring for her own good, a dumb criminal or two, and a villain who wields a Stogie as a weapon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Submissions Closed: Pulp Ink 2

Pulp Ink 2 submissions are closed. If you sent us something and haven't heard from us yet, you will soon.

Big thanks to everyone who submitted.

Be on the lookout for a lineup and cover in the near future.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview at BR Stateham's

I venture Into the Dark Mind of BR Stateham to talk about ADR, Pulp Ink, writing, noir, and other stuff. Pop on over and check it out here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Every once in a while you read a novel and are say, "What the fuck was that shit?"

I had this experience reading Jake Hinkson's Hell on Church Street.

It starts off innocently enough with a run-of-the-mill mugging in a Texas town. But nothing after that is what you'd expect.

The story ends up being about the victim of the robbery, Geoffrey Webb, a youth minister at a Baptist Church. Webb is keeping his head down doing a job he doesn't believe in when he suddenly and inexplicably falls in love with the pastor's fat, teenaged daughter. Webb finally has something he wants, and he goes after it (her) in a quietly manipulative fashion. Slowly, Webb and the daughter start seeing each other, until a corrupt sheriff sniffs out their relationship and puts the screws to Webb.

Let's just say things get fucked up from there.

I would put Geoffrey Webb up there with Jim Thompson's Lou Ford--this is a killer who you will not soon forget. He changes from a weak-willed blob of a human being to a vicious psycho so gradually that it's almost like he's sneaking up on you.

And at the end I wondered, was Geoffrey Webb actually a calloused murderer the whole time? Did he not change at all?

Jake Hinkson first came to my attention with the masterful "Maker's and Coke" from Beat to a Pulp: Round One. I knew at that point he'd be a writer I heard more from, but really nothing could prepare me for this disturbing, haunting, masterful book. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

HILL COUNTRY by R Thomas Brown

Gabe Hill comes home one night to find a pedophile dead and mutilated on his doorstep. This happens to be precisely the same pedophile Hill just got into a fight with only hours before--although he has no idea how he ended up dead... and on his doorstep.

Things quickly become stranger and more complicated for Gabe Hill. He discovers that a number of nefarious people connected to his long-lost, drug addict brother are after him, all of whom believe that Gabe is the key to getting their greedy paws on a bunch of money. It's not clear who--if anyone--Gabe should trust.

R Thomas Brown is an expert at crafting these lean, gritty tales that drift between crime and horror, and Hill Country (Snubnose Press) picks up right where his first book, Merciless Pact, left off. Brown's a sharp, no-nonsense kind of writer with a gift for creating smooth plots and interesting characters. I particularly enjoyed Tyler, a sociopath of the highest order, and the protagonist is a  likeable guy despite all the dumb choices he makes.

Fast-paced, surprisingly funny, and thoroughly human, Hill Country proves to be a Texas noir classic. (And don't you just love that cover from Eric Beetner?)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stuff you should read...

So I know, dear readers, that I have not been keeping up with the original purpose of this blog recently--namely to recommend books and stories that I think you would enjoy. But I have still been reading and here's some stuff you should check out.

"Eyes Open" by Patti Abbott at Beat to a Pulp. This is a truly terrifying story. A father witnesses, from a distance, his son and one of his son's friends bullying a child with an intellectual disability. The father fails to deal with this issue at all--his resignation is tragically believable. I think I found this story particularly compelling because I'm in student teaching right now at a middle school--I have quickly discovered that teaching involves making about 10,000 decisions every day. You will make wrong decisions. Though I hope I have more backbone than the guy in this story.

Stick a Needle in My Eye by Julia Madeleine. This is a wicked collection of shorts from a writer who consistently impresses me with her attention to detail and her gift for creating suspense. From a clown who gets bullied and can't take it anymore, to a creepy guy stalking a stripper, Madeleine takes us on a tour of the strange and downtrodden. She has a penchant for crafting characters with mental illnesses--getting trapped in their heads is uncomfortable and oddly satisfying. 

Squid Kills by Jordan Krall. I bought this book completely on impulse--David James Keaton posted something about it on Facebook, and I saw it was bizarro crime (a genre that I love), and so I picked it up. Turns out that was an excellent decision because this book lives up to its promise. Krall starts things off with a surreal hitman story in "Assassination's Secret Domain" in which people use the derogatory term "squid fuckers." Descriptions really don't do this book justice--it's just a twitchy, fever-dream of weird tales and poems that you need to pick up. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

At All Due Respect

Over at All Due Respect, R Thomas Brown has a fantastic story in "Running Hard." Over the last year or so, Brown has established himself is a premier writer of crime short stories, and I'm proud to publish this piece. If you like it, you should check out some of his longer work, Merciless Pact and Hill Country.