Friday, September 20, 2013

Out Now: Manifesto Destination by Alec Cizak

Full Dark City Press has given a home to ADR founding editor Alec Cizak's wonderful novella, a strange blend of Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler.

Go check it out at Amazon--six bucks for the paperback and two for the ebook. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Other People" at Disenthralled

Got a bizarro piece up at Disenthralled, "Other People." 

Here's a little bit from it: "I am a person of my word. This is something other people need to know about me. If I give my word, I do not go back on it. Unless I have a good reason to. Or I feel like it. Then I go back on my word very quickly."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the kind of friends who murder each other

Huge thanks to Mike Monson for this very sharp review of my book. He points out that it's the kind of book for people who like to read about bad shit going down--that's the kind of thing that makes you laugh makes you giddy. You're that kind of person, this is your book.

I'm not much at promotion, but you can buy a cheap paperback here or go to Smashwords for the free version (link over there on the sidebar -->).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

DangerRAMA by Danger Slater

Danger Slater's latest collection of three bizarro novellas is both wildly entertaining and intensely thoughtful.

My favorite of the bunch is "Knights of the White Castle." A mad scientist, recently fired from his job as a middle school science teacher, is taking a little breather from all that mad science to chow down some square burgers. But his detour ends up being apocalyptic when a gap is ripped in the space-time continuum (or something). I think Danger uses this as a vehicle to drop his characters into as much weird stuff as he can think of--including having Abraham Lincoln get to third base with Hitler and, of course, a defecating sky.

Each of these stories involves a surreal journey in which the characters are forced to ponder the big questions in life: Is saving humans worth sacrificing humanity? Are we making concious decisions or just following a track that someone else has set for us? If my hand becomes detached from my body and becomes personish, is sex with it/him still masturbation, gay, or something else?

Yeah, I could read this stuff all day.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

At Beat to a Pulp

Charles Gramlish has two poems and a piece of prose-poetry that are just devastatingly good over at Beat to a Pulp.

What are you still doing here? Go check it out!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Criminal Love by Mike Monson

This short story collection starts off with two I published at All Due Respect, so I'm hardly an unbiased reviewer. That said, I chose those two because they do exactly what I look for at ADR--stories about criminals from a criminal's perspective. They ooze with grimy atmosphere and dark humor.

I had read many of these before, but enjoyed them on a second go around. In particular, "Heritage Classic," one of the more literary of the bunch that deals with identity crisis, proves to be a moving, detailed piece and one of my favorite short stories of the year.

This is a fast, fun read--a perfect way to kill a boring commute or a wait at the dentist's office. Check it out on the Amazon's for 99 cents.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thunderbird by Jon Konrath

Where the hell did this dude come from?

Just the titles are jaw-dropping: "The Long John Silver Vinegar Douche Abortion Attempt Situation," "Bearded Women Shitting on Glass Tables Is Sort of My Thing," "Vehicular Handjobs and Pirate Hooks," "Fratboy Brad and the Clamato Aquarium of Doom."

From that you should know whether this book is for you.

Each story is from a first-person perspective--the narrator being some version of the author. The effect is that this reads more like a novel, except without a plot and only one character instead of a cast of characters. Nevertheless, the result is remarkably cohesive, each story a gallon of gonzo, fever dream insanity inside of a Sizzler's buffet of obscure American cultural references.

It's hard to put my finger on why this book is so damn good, but I think part of it is the details Konrath mines. Check out the opening line to "The Manuel Noriega/Yo Yo Ma UFC Matchup": "I was playing miniature golf with Diane Keaton and Kim Jong Il in a Dubai Montgomery Ward store and we stopped to eat a sheet cake off the ass of Orson Welles, meticulously decorated by a Kroger cashier to say 'Shove it up your cunt/you are so dumb' in thick gel frosting letters."


Soon as I finished Thunderbird I wanted to re-read it. Instead I went out and got another collection of his short stories, Fistful of Pizza, which was every bit as good.

Friday, July 19, 2013

All Due Respect Updates

So it's been too fucking long since I last posted, but you know, I'm a busy man or something.

Anyway, go check out Steve Prusky's sharp, sad Vegas story "Willy's Complaint" and Ryan Sayles's deeply disturbing "Push, Push, Push."

And the All Due Respect team has doubled (from one to two!) with the addition of Mike Monson. Mike joined the online scene last year (I think...) and he's had a story up at the site and in the anthology. He also recently released a collection of short fiction, Criminal Love, which you should pick up.

I'll have a couple of exciting projects to announce and some reviews in the near future, so stay tuned.

Lastly but not leastly, if you're want to hone your short fiction chops, check out this class with Needle Editor Steve Weddle over at LitReactor on how to best tailor your work for editors. I don't normally plug this kind of thing, but Steve edits what I consider the best crime fiction zine out there. Not to mention that he's an excellent writer and a class act. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Screw the Universe by Eirik Gumeny and Stephen Schwegler

A little while back I said something about how it's difficult to write funny. While that's true, Jersey Devil Press reliably produces very funny shit.

I found Danger Slater's Love Me and Eirik Gumeny's Exponential Apocalypse both hilarious, and Screw the Universe is every bit as good.

The authors say they're glad the creators of Futurama didn't sue. It does have some overlap with that excellent TV show--a group of misfits bumble around space and shenanigans ensue--but Futurama never got one tenth this weird. I wasn't even sure what exactly was happening half the time, but that didn't matter because of the absurdist humor and constant stream of dick jokes.

This is chaotic, gory, sex-filled sci-fi bizarro that moves at the speed of, you know, something fast. I burned through it on the last couple of hours of an excruciatingly long flight--I don't think there's any better way to spend your 99 cents. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Exponential Apocalypse by Eirik Gumeny

Exponential Apocalypse is a train wreck of awesome. A cast of characters that includes a Norse god who works at a New Jersey hotel, a squirrel with telekinetic powers, and the clones of past minor American presidents and Queen Victoria. And a world that's undergone robot, zombie, werewolf apocalypses and just keeps on truckin toward inevitable death.

The first half of the novel is a collection of funny snippets in which we get to know the characters (or something). Then it morphs into every movie plot from the last twenty-odd years--insane supervillain intent on ending the world through destruction and, therefore, a ragtag team of not-quite-super heroes has to save the day.

Luckily this part is still quite original due to its sense of the absurd--and regardless of its originality it's as much fun as you can have with an electronic tablet. The final battle scene between good and evil proves to be one of the funniest parts of a very funny book.

Exponential Apocalypse is a glorious celebration of all that is weird. If you dig Andersen Prunty, Danger Slater, or Kevin Strange, then venture out into the ether for this one too.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

At All Due Respect: Eddie McNamara

Man, do I have a fucking story for you.

Run, don't walk, over to All Due Respect and check out "The Days of Swine and Roses" by Eddie McNamara. What an original voice this dude has.

If you're done with that and you have like nothing else to do (loser) you can stroll over to Out of the Gutter where Ryan Sayles and I throw around juvenile humor and occasionally talk writing.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Story at Shotgun Honey

I've got one up at Shotgun Honey today, "Interview with an Asshole." And, indeed, the story delivers on its title.

I've always harbored a hatred for job interviews. Such a bunch of bullshit. This story sprung from my hatred of the question, "Why do you want to work here?"

It also features an asshole boss, perhaps my favorite stock character.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Free?

So some people have asked why I give my books away for free.

The answer is simple: Writing is not my job.

But this has a big payoff--I get to write whatever the hell I want. I'm not concerned about demographics or marketing or target audiences or blah blah blah. I just write stuff that I would like to read, then put it out in the world. It's cool when other people stumble upon my books and dig them too.

A couple of the anthologies I've worked on have a made few bucks to cover expenses and that kind of thing, but, at this point, I don't have any intention of making money off my writing. Not because I'm some kind of artistic purist, that's just not where I'm at right now.

Writing is not work to me. Selling my writing is work, and I don't need to do any more work than I already do.

Anyway, here's my novella, The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other, and a book of short stories, Watch You Drown. They're both free. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Robamapocalypse by Kevin Strange

Sometimes you know how fucking great a book will be just from its premise. A not-too-distant future giant robot Lord Obama controls the masses through zombie ultimate fighting.

Yeah, let's do that.

I heard about this book on Chris Boyle's Bizarrocast and went out into the ether and bought it. It's every bit as enjoyable and nutty as I anticipated.

In his intro, Strange makes it clear that this is an apolitical work. And surely this is a bizarre expedition into a parallel reality that leaves politics or anything else boring*, far behind. This read like a great, old school video game--a fast, furious adventure filled with non-stop carnage.

Don't confuse this with your typical post apocalypse book that takes itself way too seriously and is all dark and brooding and crap. Robama Pocalypse just kicks ass.

* I'm a politics and government teacher, but I like to keep my politics reading and my fiction reading separate.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mastodon Farm by Mike Kleine

Mastodon Farm is an experience.

It is about you. You are famous. Or at least you hang out with many famous people. You always listen to music when you drive your Ferrari. You like the band Vampire Weekend. You go places and do things and then go other places and do other things or the same things.

That's about it.

This book is simultaneously vague (there is no reason why you do these things, or even detailed descriptions of what you are doing) and specific (almost everything you do is linked to some pop culture material, a band, an actor, a clothing company, an author).

Each mention of one of these pop culture bits brings a flood of images and thoughts and feelings to mind, but then each one is hardly ever more then mentioned, each has no significance to it. This got me thinking that we falsely associate significance with pop culture material, when in reality these things tell us nothing about a person's (or a character's) identity. I don't know if that was Kleine's intention, but that's what I got out of it.

I also felt overwhelmed. The pure sensory experience of thinking of so many pop culture things made me exhausted, but in a strangely satisfying way.

Someone who blurbed the book said it was like watching twelve hours of TV on a Sunday. That seems apt to me--I was entertained, did nothing, then felt tired after doing it.

This is a smooth, lightning fast blaze through land of the absurd and one of the best bizarro books I've read.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Bouquet of Bullets by Eric Beetner

Nothing goes together better than flowers and crime fiction.

I think.

Wait, that doesn't seem right.


Anyway, Eric Beetner's short story collection, A Bouquet of Bullets, in many ways harkens back to golden age of pulp writers. This is narrative-driven stuff flavored with cordite and regret.

I had read several of these before, such as "My Asshole Brother," "What the Dog Saw," "Countdown," and "Why Are Mommy and Daddy Fighting?", but they proved entertaining and interesting the second time around. Beetner's smooth storytelling style is a joy to read and I burned through these quickly.

He has a knack for the classic stories that would be boring in a less capable writer's hands. Two stories about that well-worn subject, the hit man's retirement--"The Last Bullet" and "Hit...Me"--proved to be some of the best in the collection. At his best, Beetner's work is moving without being sentimental.

This is particularly true of the closing story, "Without a Body, There Is No Crime." The term chilling is over-used, but if you read this story, I think you'll agree that at the end, you feel physically colder than when you started it. It's probably the most convincing "harmless teenager morphs into killer" story that I've read.

This one from Snubnose Press is a steal at only $1.99 at Amazon

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other

I'm going to level with you: This is the best thing I've written.

It's out today. And it's free.

It's about how three friends confess crimes to each other for no reason, then become really unhinged. It's about smoking and instant coffee and terrible bosses. It's about angry assholes and mopping floors.  

The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other is now available here.  

Or you can pay $3 for a nice paperback from KUBOA

Here's what some writers I respect are saying about it:

"There are a number of writers out there who are playing with noir fiction and bending and shaping it in new ways. Think John Rector, Eric Beetner or Heath Lowrance. If they’re writers you dig, you should add Chris Rhatigan to the list. He has his own style and that comes to the fore in The Kind Of Friends Who Murder Each Other. Truth be told, I was bowled over by the end of the first chapter; from then on he just kept on hurling the balls at me and his characters until things had to end. This book is taut, strong and put together like an old classic. Don’t miss out." -- Nigel Bird, author of Smoke and In Loco Parentis

"The storytelling is in the nuance here. It strolls along with a gritty, flat-line pulse, lulling the reader with paranoid details and untrustworthy narration. Then comes the hay maker and Rhatigan owns the moment. Over and over again." -- Ryan Sayles, author of The Subtle Arts of Brutality

"The Kind Of Friends Who Murder Each Other is filled with losers, from the narrator Simon to his pals Mackey and Slade, all the way down to the bartender who no doubt enjoys Springsteen's 'Born To Run,' so much so that it plays four times before the first page is gone. The thing about these losers, though? We know each and every one of them. Some of us may even be them, in one form or fashion. And that's what makes the book hit like a sledgehammer between the eyes. Read it and weep, kids." -- Christopher Grant, Editor/Publisher of A Twist Of Noir

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Five You Can't Miss: Brian Panowich

Considering I’m such a noob to the online crime fiction community, I still find myself lurking around the dark corners of the Internet trying to find the best stories out there. This column (Five You Can't Miss) has been invaluable for turning me on to some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, so I invited myself over to maybe return the favor.

1. Hatpin By Jen Conley
Ms. Conley has consistently turned out some of the best fiction on the planet, and this one over at Shotgun Honey is where my love affair with her stuff began. It’s full of hard as nails female characterization and a lesson in making every word count. Mary Mulligan is my dream girl.

2. Seeds By Chris Leek
Chris can throw dialogue into any situation, or timeframe, like it’s nobody’s business. From the world of a hardened black jack dealer in Pigeon, over at Grift Magazine, to trailer trash jargon like A Redheaded Woman, at The Flash Fiction Offensive, but nothing compares to the old western revenge tale Seeds, at The Big Adios. You would think Mr. Leek grew up on a mountain learning how to talk by listening to his uncles and cousins while they brewed up another batch ‘o shine. As good or better than any script Sergio Leone worked from.

3. Pit Stop By Les Edgerton
I bought the first issue of Noir Nation Magazine on a whim, not knowing who Les Edgerton was. It included his story Pit Stop and I read it in a fever. It was full of matter-of-fact straight talk that bowled me over. Not once did it feel like “writing”. That shit is what I had been looking for. Lucky for me (and you) the story was an excerpt from the BEST BOOK I’ve read in years called JUST LIKE THAT. Buy it. Read it. Break something. You’re welcome.

4. Folded Blue By John Rector
I know this story was written in 2011, but it’s new to me, so I’m breaking the rules a bit. Sometimes a story taps into something so raw and primal that the reader has no choice but to carry it around with them forever. There’s no un-ringing the bell. It’s yours now, whether you want it or not. That’s Folded Blue by John Rector over at Shotgun Honey. It’s the literary equivalent to a layer of greasy film you can’t scrub off. It’s brilliant.

5. Push, Push, Push By Ryan Sayles
I’m going to catch a little grief for including Ryan on this list, considering he’s a good friend of mine, and we’ve written a few books together (SEE HERE), but you know what? Fuck ‘em. The guy can write. I’m going to bend the rules a little further by recommending a story no one has read yet except the editors who keep rejecting it. (Yes, it’s that good.) In 2011, Sayles and I both submitted some stories to an anthology that was kicking off, and we both got rejected. I asked him to send it to me, and I can see why it keeps getting turned down.

Because it’s fucking brilliant.

Sometimes the world needs time to catch up to genius, or maybe they’re just scared. The story is one huge chunk of dread that sits on your chest and squeezes the life out of you. You know what’s coming. You know you can’t stop it. And as horrific as the ending is, it had to be that way. It makes sense. The world is a fucked up place. Anyway, all you editors looking for the next greatest thing, go read Push, Push, Push by Ryan Sayles and publish it, so the rest of the whole can be in the know. You can reach him at his personal email address or his private cell phone number 510-379-8640. Again, you’re welcome.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen

Andrez Bergen is an interesting cat. His first three books, in many ways, are very different from one another. One's a classic detective fiction dystopia mash up; the next is an exploration into the nether regions of the afterlife; and his most recent, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, is an homage to comic books and draws from the work of Philip K. Dick.

Actually, homage isn't really what's going on here--it's almost an investigation of the assumptions comic books are based on. You see, Heropa is a futuristic virtual reality set up with super heroes, villains, and blandos (all the people who super heroes save). The world has become such a terrible place that people have totally given up on it and they journey to Heropa mentally, if not physically. Heropa is a fundamentally (and mechanically) broken place, where the super heroes and the blandos resent each other and everything seems to be falling apart.

Bergen uses this premise as a vehicle to poke at a bunch of interesting questions: What does being a super hero mean? Would a world with super heroes be better or worse? What about all those people who the super heroes "save"? Are they real people or just objects? Can virtual reality be as important as reality?

And this is what I dig about Bergen's work in general--he takes entertaining plots and characters and uses them to explore deeper issues. Yet he's never didactic or navel-gazing; he walks the tight rope expertly.

After three books, it's clear that Bergen doesn't confine himself to one genre. In fact, he prefers to mix and blend genres with gleeful abandon. Yet there is consistency. He creates some of the most wildly imaginative places you will ever encounter in fiction. He has perfect pitch for witty dialog and cultural references. And his characters are fascinating people who you'll want to hang out with.

Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is both an entertaining and challenging read for comic book lovers and the rest of us alike.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I wrote a book

So my book, The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other, is now available through KUBOA Press for pre-order. The print version is only $3. There will be a free ebook available April 30.

I'm terribly excited about this. First of all, I've wanted to work with Pablo D'Stair ever since I read the ridiculously good Trevor English series, and I was thrilled when he decided to make my little novella part of KUBOA's 2013 catalogue. Second, I think this book is the best representation of my work.

It's at the intersection of bizarro and crime. It's about the arbitrary nature of, well, everything. It's about the fall from the curb to the gutter. It's about clock-watching, friendship, smoking, minimum-wage jobs, nihilism, bad coffee, generic America, and boss-hating. At the end of this book, you will have learned zero life lessons and will probably feel like shit.

Rather than summing up the plot, I'll let AJ Hayes tell you about it in perhaps the best blurb ever written, which is really more of a story in and of itself:

"It was one of those nights that Raymond Chandler talked about in the opening paragraph of Red Wind. You know those nights, the ones that make you realize you've done the same things on the same night with the same guys for what seems an eternity. The ones where even the air is thick and still and motionless. Where everything moves slow and turgid and without purpose. And you get the feeling that none of the here you inhabit is real. You get the feeling that you and those guys are like bugs in amber. That a thousand years from now you and those guys will be sitting there, at the same time, on that same night, stuck. That kind of night.

Then one of you says something. Tells you something so unexpected it sets in motion events none of you ever dreamed could happen. And that surety of sameness shatters. And the roller coaster crests the first hill and down down down you go, getting slammed every which way in the turns, feeling the world end in the drop aways and all the while, picking up a velocity that you know is as terminal as a magnum round to the forehead.

Yeah, Friends Who Murder Each Other is like that. Just like that. And it's one helluva ride."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

C'mon and Do the Apocalypse by Brian Panowich and Ryan Sayles

Zelmer Pulp is putting out the kind of books that I have always assumed would gain popularity with the advent of electronic books--short, entertaining collections of novellas (or novelettes or whatever the hell you want to call them), something that the big publishing houses will never do.

C'mon and Do the Apocalypse is two zombie stories (FREE this weekend) I thoroughly enjoyed. Brian Panowich's "My Wife Dawn...and the Dead" takes a standard suburban family and plops them in the center of the apocalypse. One would assume this would lead to social critiques of suburban life and consumerism and blah blah blah, but Panowich follows a different path, instead making these everyday people flawed and likeable. Despite the ensemble cast, I found myself rooting for these characters to beat the odds. The violence is controlled and real--especially when a calloused teenager has to take out her own sister. And the ending is touching without any sentimentality... or, for that matter, hope.

Ryan Sayles brings the nasty (even for a zombie story) in "28 Days of Mutilated Zombie Whores Later." It's about Nelson who (appropriately enough...) runs a brothel of zombie whores. This is a classic zombie  blood bath complete with a bunch of unredeemable characters who probably didn't have a shred of humanity before the apocalypse. It's all good, pulpy fun--and delivers a completely disgusting, satisfying ending.

Zelmer Pulp has also released Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby, with five sci-fi stories that promise to be both mind-bending and offensive. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Monstrous Ego of Ryan Sayles: Five You Could Miss

Ryan Sayles sent me the garbage that I have deposited below. In his staggering megalomania, he somehow thought that he was supposed to write about five of his own stories. I wasn't going to publish it, but then I realized that by publishing it I was providing a public service--letting the world know NOT to read anything by this dangerously insane manchild.

Proceed at your own risk...

I’m a cop. The other night I dealt with a dude who was hurting bad for a fix and ready to throw down because I was the only man standing in his way. I told him he didn’t want to push this thing any farther because I don’t lose.

Later that night, he called me to apologize. Because he lost. Anyways, the point is, he recognized (Urban Dictionary: 1) respect; give honor by public acknowledgement… 3) When you disrespect someone, and they in turn burn your ass, you must "RECOGNIZE". Sometimes followed by a quick "HELL YEAH!"). As he should. As all people should. Because I am incredible.

However, it got me thinking. Above all else, there is one man who must recognize my glory in all things. There is one man who, without a constant reminder of my vast set of skills and abilities, might one day fall short. That man is me. If I don’t take the time out to really reflect on what I have done for mankind, how my presence has brought joy and wonder to a bleak world, how can I expect-nay, demand, that others do the same?

So, it’s recognizing time. Hell yeah. You’re welcome, because this is a gift.

28 Days of Mutilated Zombies Whores Later – Fellow author Brian Panowich and I made a pact to give the world the greatest zombie stories ever. He failed, but that’s understandable. He’s not me. I delivered. My story, set two years after a worldwide zombie apocalypse, is about a man who runs a zombie harem and sells the undead prostitute’s services to scavengers in return for survival goods. One man decides to pay with a living woman and everything, well, stops running smoothly. This story rules because when people finish it, they ask, “What the f*ck is wrong with Sayles?”

By which, of course, they mean no disrespect. They better not.

They’re recognizing my ability to baffle them with incredibleness. It’s all in the plot twists, baby.

The Roach Motel Reputation – This is under the pen name Derek Kelly. At the time I was a stage dancer (a lot of lesser dudes complain about how the T-backs can really cut into your ass but I enjoyed the burn) and it made sense to write under my glitter name. This story features my private detective Richard Dean Buckner (why yes, I did write a novel about him) as he storms a bar that caters to sexual deviants. He’s looking for a murderer, blah blah blah. This story rules because—and I don’t care who you are—any story based around abusing child molesters deserves the story version of a steak dinner and a happy ending.

People recognize my ability to exude testosterone and all that is deliciously manly. It’s all in my musk, baby.

Grease Monkey Bokur – When I say something, it’s true. Even if that means people have to realize what they’ve believed all along is false simply because I just contradicted it. So, let me put Al Gore at ease and say global warming doesn’t exist.

There. Because I said it, Mother Nature will recognize and stop heating up. Sorry Al, better luck with whatever hippie religion you start next.

In this story, I state that mechanics are better than doctors. What people found so shocking about that absolute fact was I only needed 700 words to make it true (EL James wrote three entire novels claiming some torture porn douche was what all women wanted and that never made it true). Sorry doctors, better luck with paying off those school loans while simultaneously learning how to work on a transmission if you want to continue being “a healer.”

People recognize my ability to make it so by sheer act of will. It’s all in my “I am because I am,” baby.

Junior Detective – Some of the great satire of our time—The Office, The Onion, The Biggest Loser—needs me before they are simply written off by history as “the poor man’s Junior Detective.” In this gem of literature (or, for me, what is considered my daily warm-up) I dissect the inner workings of the Common Man, embodied here as a humble hospital security officer who is working against the odds to save the day. Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, The New Yorker, you guys can learn something about your craft here. Hell, you’ll get your doctorate here.

People recognize my ability to acutely capture the iconic human spirit in ways so fresh and invigorating that it makes both Leo Tolstoy and Mark Twain look like bitches. It’s all in the unique perspective, baby.

Collection – I like this story because the last few paragraphs bother people on a deep, deep level. Some folks spend their whole lives hoping, praying for the opportunity to affect just one person. Just one. Just plant one little seed that might grow into a fruitful experience. Just one? Ha. One is for losers who don’t deserve to share the same sunlight as me. I affect millions. I make it happen. Every day when I wake up and snap the waistband of my tightie-whities (I retired the T-backs along with my always-used-out-of-context Mueller Runner’s Lube and rape whistle) people exhale in relief that I’m still around to give them purpose. That’s when you know you’ve had an effect on people, when they consider suicide the only option if you’re not there to inspire them.

People recognize my influence towards a better world. It’s all in being a guiding light, baby.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mrs. Yu Sheng at Bizarrocast and ADR

I have a story over at Bizarrocast, "Mrs. Yu Sheng." I've never heard one of my stories read aloud before, so this was pretty cool. Chris Boyle does a splendid job, as always.

I received a spam email from a Mrs. Yu Sheng and thought, "Hmm... what if this was all true?" And a story was born. I think it's one of my funnier stories and I hope you enjoy it.

AND a fantastic story by Mike Monson at All Due Respect, "Victor Blank is a Sonofabitch." It's the kind of trashy noir I can't get enough of.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Richard Godwin

Christopher Grant Deviation Jones, at All Due Respect 24 March 2012

What begins like a whisper crescendos into one of the most compelling stories I read all year. Grant mixes his knack for the best crime writing with his surreal perceptions, fast pace, and unrivalled economy.

AJ Hayes Dark Genesis

Thrillers Killers N Chillers 16 August 2012

AJ Hayes is one of the most subtle and technically adept writers out there. This story is mythological, beautiful, dark and disturbing, and contains Hayes's hallmark lyricism and menace.

Cindy Rosmus

Heal Me Gemini Magazine

Cindy Rosmus is one of the finest crime writers out there. Here again she delivers a fast paced razor sharp story that draws you into her characters.

Salvatore Butacci

The Man In The Jar, Authors Info 24 April 2012

Sal is a storyteller who never wastes words, and evokes a strong sense of atmosphere and character. This is a fine example of that ability and his innate humour.

Benoit Lelievre Portrait of an AmericanFamily

Shotgun Honey February 15th

Benoit Lelievre has written a tight fast paced story here that is highly observed and as polished as marble. Not a word out of place.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Salvatore Buttaci

“Ice In The Veins” by Richard Godwin at Pulp Metal Magazine.

A man of the cloth, burdened by self-hatred, unsuccessfully seeks beauty in a world of pain and suicide.

“Neal Figgins” by Kathy Fish at Connotation Press

A casual conversation in a doctor’s waiting room between the young boy Neal and a young girl. A poster on the wall tells of a fundraiser for Neal who suffers from some disease. Neal’s mother is the doctor in whose office Neal is waiting.

“Packing for the Moon” by Dean Francis Alfar at Bewildering Stories

On the eve of the big day, Dad tells his daughter Sam the bedtime story of “The Princess and the Moon.” It becomes the quality time both have left to share.

“After 10 Years” by David Robbins at The Neglected Ratio

In trouble with the school administration, a teacher learns what real trouble is when the third-grade teacher Mrs, Schultz confides in him that her husband has left her for another woman.

“Otto and the Cloth Baby” by Harris Tobias at Mudjob

Two agents of the Department of Agriculture work at uncovering crime cartels that involve the smuggling of drugs in hollowed-out vegetables.

Salvatore Buttaci’s work has appeared widely in publications that include The New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, A Word with You Press, Thinking Ten, Pen 10, and Six Sentences. He was the recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. He was also one of the winners in the 2011 Franklin-Christoph Fine Writing Instrument Poetry Contest.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Christopher Grant

Richard Godwin's Barbeque The Sink Beast (

I've just recently re-read this story and, holy shit, this is some good, good, GOOD stuff. AJ Hayes mentioned in a previous Five Stories You Can't Miss that Bizarro is really coming on strong and it doesn't get any better than this one for bizarre and bizarro.

AJ Hayes's Dark Genesis (

This is a story that makes you want to raise your game. You cannot read this story and not think, "What have I written recently that blows my brains out of my skull and will do the same to anyone that reads it?" This is Dark Genesis in one sentence.

As I said to AJ when I first read it, "Talk about your big bang theory."

You'll see what I mean when you read Dark Genesis.

Chris Benton's The Wait (

Here's the thing about a Chris Benton story: no one ever comes away unscathed. Sometimes it's death that claims a character. Other times, it's life that claims that character.

In The Wait, it's both.

Chris Rhatigan's Small Bites (

What goes together better than York Peppermint Patties and Bizarro? Nothing, if it's written by Chris Rhatigan. That and the fact that that guy or woman with the red kettle? Probably in business for their own self.

Cindy Rosmus's Out Of Juice (

Okay. What is this?

That's what makes Out Of Juice such an intriguing story.

Read it. Finish it. Then you'll ask that question.

And these:

Is it Bizarro? Perhaps. Is it a mash-up of all kinds of genres? Yes, which, to my mind, makes it Bizarro (by definition). Is it a zombie story? Maybe. The last little bit makes a good case for that. An end of the world story? Yep, it's that, too.

You know what it really is?

It's Cindy Rosmus. She throws everything into the pot and comes up with an extremely tasty brew, as always.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Tom Pitts

1) Daniel Mkiwa's The New Sleep in All Due Respect. This story so moved me that I sought out the author and begged him to send OOTG a piece. It's a fresh take on street crime and his keen sense for dialogue gives this barrio tale a realistic feel that's hard to find out there

2) It's probably already been mentioned by others in this series, but Nicky Murphy's Daddy's Girl in OOTG's Flash Fiction Offensive got my attention. A lot of emotion rises up from very sparse prose. The tale between the lines is brutal and unforgettable.

3) Joe Clifford's Shady Palms from Shotgun Honey. Another story where the writer heats up the heart then sticks a knife in it and twists. Betrayal upon betrayal. Joe at his meanest and leanest.

4) Mike Monson's Hot Cups. A winner of OOTG's Digital Rage contest. The thing I loved about this one was that the action happened off the page. It's crafty to build that kind of tension without hitting you over the head with violence.

5) Going to Hell to the Sound of Sucking or How the Gimp got 86'd from Mac's by Jaylee Alde
I'm bending the rules a bit, but this tale has its own story. There's no link because it didn't get published. Not yet anyway. Its subject was the cause of much backroom hullabaloo over at Out of the Gutter's Flash Fiction back office. I thought it was hilarious, bold, and irreverent. Three things I love. The rest of the FFO editorial staff said, "No fucking way! Hilarious, yes, but I'm not going to hell!" I recently contacted Jaylee to see what happened with it and I believe it will make it onto the virtual pages of some daring zine sometime soon. Watch out for it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Mike Monson

Stuck Between Stations — Joe Clifford

Last summer, at the age of 56, for some reason, I decided to start writing fiction and I had this idea that maybe there were places to publish online if my stories were good enough. I started exploring the internet and found Literary Orphans and this wonderful story. It was so good and everything about it was something I could relate to -- it wasn't some loftly literary thing, it was ... REAL. I was so impressed that I emailed the author, Joe Clifford, and developed an online friendship that led to me getting published many times. It's a good story. Read it.

No Parking — Tom Pitts

I also had a magical connection to this story. I could just see everything the writer described and I could just feel all the creepy feelings experienced by the narrator. I LOVED it.

Accidental Disharge — Ryan Sayles

What can I say? This freaking story is shocking in a good, fun way. Read it ... jeez, what are you waiting for?

Thinking About Her — Matthew C. Funk

Wow. I read this and felt things I'd never felt before. It is a great story about awful people doing the most awful things one could imagine and Funk makes the whole thing beautiful. How? I have no idea. Magic, again.

June — Jen Conley

I'm putting this in not just for this story but for all the Jen Conley stories I read this year. She is just so good. Ms. Conley brings you into a vivid and real world and makes you see and feel things. I just love her writing. June is completely devastating in a completely lovely way. Someday, maybe, she will learn how to write a happy ending.

Party Favors — Chris Leek

I like ALL of the Chris Leek stories I read this year. Check him out, I insist. But this one was the most sublime. Read it now.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

At All Due Respect: Gary Clifton

Gary Clifton has quickly become known for his gritty and quite funny stories about all manner of low-lifes. He's got two flash pieces up now at All Due Respect, "A Step in Time" and "Lucky." If you dig those, you should check out his story in the anthology, "The Last Ambassador to Pushmata." 

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Twist of Noir Returns!

A Twist of Noir is BACK! And I've got a story there, a happy, sugary, glittery, rainbowy, puppy-dog filledy Valentine's Day bit called "That Fucking Bitch Will Pay." Also check out some great stories by Katherine Tomlinson, Bruce Harris, and Patti Abbott.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

At The Flash Fiction Offensive: Furby's Revenge

It's like they say, nothing says "I love you" like a cute, murderous monster. Celebtrate Valentine's Day with Furby's Revenge at TFFO.

Couldn't find one on Google images with blood running down its chin...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Erik Arneson

The Chemistrator: Drug City, U.S.A. by Calvin Beauclerc, discovered by Rob Kroese. (Blood & Tacos #3)

I love Blood & Tacos, a magazine that pays homage to the 1970s and 1980s, the heyday of adventure paperbacks. The writing in Blood & Tacos is purposely and brilliantly campy, and the stories are uniformly entertaining. Drug City, U.S.A., featuring a character known as The Chemistrator, makes my list because of passages like this: “Dax closed his eyes and reflected on how things had gotten so out of control. There wasn’t any moment he could pinpoint, however. It had been a gradual process. He probably shouldn’t have started selling drugs, though. That was definitely a mistake.”

Victor Viral by Hugh Lessig (NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir, Fall/Winter 2012)

In my day job, I work for a politician, so I’m a sucker for a good political story. Victor Viral is a great political story about a campaign consultant working for a state senator. Both of the consultant and the candidate operate far south of ethical, and bad things happen when their unethical worlds collide.

If I Ever Get Off This Mountain by Brian Panowich (Shotgun Honey)

This piece of rural noir (“I’ve got dead brothers in six counties all over North Georgia and Tennessee.”) is excellent on its own. But it really shines when read together with Panowich’s companion piece, Coming Down the Mountain at Out of the Gutter Online’s The Flash Fiction Offensive. Both stories tell the same tale from different perspectives, and the result is tremendous.

The Postman Always Rings Twice by Claire McGowan (Off the Record 2: At the Movies)

McGowan’s contribution to this charity anthology is the terrifying tale of a woman who moves into a new house and is tormented by the (figurative) ghost of a previous resident. The terror builds steadily throughout the story and, best of all, it doesn’t let up at the end.

The Neon Come-On by Eric Beetner (Atomic Noir)

This is a classic noir tale: A clerk at a rundown hotel in the middle of nowhere can’t help himself when he finds a cooler full of cash, despite the fact that the cooler is in a room with a corpse and the obvious smart thing to do would be leave and call the cops. Needless to say, things go poorly. And nobody writes about things going poorly better than Beetner.

The Innocent Man by Pamela Colloff (Texas Monthly)

I’m going to bend Chris’s rules just a little to tip my hat to the best non-fiction article I read in 2012. Michael Morton, convicted of murdering his wife in Williamson County, Texas, is the titular innocent man. His story is a frightening look at how the justice system can go horribly wrong when the police and prosecutors -- through incompetence, conspiracy, or a mixture of the two -- don’t do a good job. Here are part one and part two of Colloff’s article. (It looks as though part one now requires free registration, and part two will probably go that route as well. It’s worth it.)

Erik Arneson’s stories have appeared at Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle, as well as in NEEDLE and Off the Record 2: At the Movies. He also has a story in Otto Penzler’s upcoming Kwik Krimes anthology. He blogs at and tweets @erikarneson.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Bradley Sands

I don’t usually read fiction online, so there won’t be any links to the actual stories (except for the first one).

The Human Centipede 2 (UFSI Sequence) by Tao Lin: A Novel (actually by Cameron Pierce): from the book, Die You Doughnut Bastards

This may be the funniest thing I’ve read all year, but it may not be funny to people at all if they haven’t seen The Human Centipede and aren’t familiar with the writing of Tao Lin.

The Walrus Master by Carlton Mellick III from Walrus Tales (an anthology of stories about walruses) Use this link to the book on Amazon if you want:

Perhaps the second funniest thing I read. Mellick rarely does short fiction and although his books are often humorous, I wouldn’t usually put them in the humor category, but this fits the label. It begins with a levitating Walrus Master saying to a young man, “Blessings, my child. I shall answer you three questions. What wisdom do you wish me to bestow?” The young man responds, “What the fuck are you doing, dude?”

The Last Time I Stole Walt Whitman’s Sole by Scott McClanahan from The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1 (

The narrator (or perhaps Scott McClanahan himself) goes to Walt Whitman’s old house. They don’t let him in, so instead he goes to the nearby Walt Whitman mall. They don’t have any Walt Whitman books in the mall’s bookstore. The Walt Whitman mall is near where I grew up, so I got a kick out of that.

UFO: A Love Story by Ben Loory from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (

A relationship goes bad when a teenager becomes obsessed with trying to convince his town that he and his girlfriend saw a UFO, resulting in him hoaxing the town with a full-scale invasion.

The Nook by Matthew Revert from How to Avoid Sex and Other Stories (

About a love triangle between two men and an apartment. It has a hidden nook that the man who lives in the apartment doesn’t know about, but the other one does.

Bio: Bradley Sands is the author of TV Snorted My Brain, Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You, Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy, and other books. Visit him at

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out Now: All Due Respect

I'm thrilled to announce that All Due Respect: The Anthology is out now in ebook form (print coming soon). Huge thanks to all the writers, CJ Edwards at Full Dark City Press, Eric Beetner for the cover art, and Alec Cizak for founding the site.
Only 99 cents for 29 crime tales. Here are the US and UK links.

With stories by Joe Clifford, Tom Hoisington, Mike Toomey, Erin Cole, Stephen D. Rogers, Scotch Rutherford, Patricia Abbott, Nigel Bird, Andrez Bergen, Benedict J. Jones, Garnett Elliott, Alec Cizak, Christopher Grant, Gary Clifton, Jack Bates, Ryan Sayles, Tom Pitts, Pete Risley, CJ Edwards, Jim Wilsky, Chris Leek, Richard Godwin, Mark Joseph Kiewlak, Mike Monson, Tyler M. Mathis, Matthew C. Funk, Fiona Johnson, Ron T. Brown, David Cranmer.

Sure, I could tell you that the book's good, but what the hell do I know? Here are a couple of guys who know their business...

"ALL DUE RESPECT is the sort of anthology you dole out to yourself piecemeal. You read 'Even Sven' and then shake your head, looking off into the distance, trying to make sure you start breathing again. You read Matt Funk and Patti Abbott the way you eat a good meal in that restaurant you go to for your anniversary. You savor the characters, the plot undertones. When a Joe Clifford character says that something 'tastes like a cat’s ass,' you nod that, yeah, that character probably has that experience. Full of great stories from David Cranmer, Thomas Brown, Fiona Johnson, Ryan Sayles and more, ALL DUE RESPECT is a book you’ll read a story at a time, maybe one a night, like that after-dinner drink you can’t put down." - Steve Weddle, editor, NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir

"Highlighting lowlifes in hardboiled homilies - these stories stick it in and break it off. Tender as a brick, subtle as a Molotov Cocktail." -Jedidiah Ayres author of Fierce Bitches

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I've got a story in this one, so this is by no means an unbiased review. But I enjoyed Nightfalls (edited by Katherine Tomlinson) because of the range of interpretations on how the world is going to end. There's a great variety of genres--and stories outside of any particular genre--represented here.

Christopher Grant's "Deja Vu" is a favorite for its funhouse mirror narrative style and disjointed prose. By the end of this one, you won't know if up is down and left is right.

"Amidst Encircling Gloom" by Val Sweeny is also one of the more surreal stories in this collection. A god is living on earth working construction when he gets the call to fight the demons of hell. Seems like it'll be a losing battle. Sweeny's imaginative writing makes this one a must-read.

Matthew Funk's "It's Not the End of the World" is a change from his usual gritty crime fiction. Instead, it's about the failure and brief redemption of a relationship. It's a touching, authentic piece.

"Princess Soda and the Bubblegum Queen" by RC Barnes is another emotionally packed story about the relationship between two sisters in a post-apocalyptic world. So many fine details in this one.

Plenty of more good stuff in Nightfalls, so check it out.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Joe Clifford

Mike Miner, "Kidnapped," Pulp Ink II

Haunting. Nostalgic. Utterly Southern California. This piece evokes a mood that you can't shake. Furthermore, if you are a writer, it will make you jealous. Who knows how to write a perfect short story? Even the best purveyors of the form hit clunkers, can't replicate past success, etc.  In short, a degree of luck & magic & wonder has to be involved, a confluence of events, the perfect word storm. Who the fuck knows? But if we could deduce a formula for perfection, we would. But Miner comes as close to perfect as I've ever seen. I'm talking right up there with "Ordo" by Westlake and "Bullet in the Brain" by Wolff. Just fabulous.

Heath Lowrance, "My Life with the Butcher Girl," Pulp Ink II

In the name of full disclosure, I was in Pulp Ink II. And this is the second story that pissed me off for being so fucking good (pissed off, of course, in a good way). The first time I was able to chalk it up to a fluke. Second time? To quote Val Kilmer's Doc, "My hypocrisy only goes so far." Rarely have I felt so outclassed (except of course when I wake up). Miner and Lowrance are the 1, 2 punch in this collection for me. Here, Lowrance draws loosely on Amanda Knox. Or maybe that's just my connection because I love Knox so fucking much. This is pop culture and down & dirty noir; the little death never felt so divine.

Nicky Murphy, "Daddy's Girl," Flash Fiction Offensive; Out of the Gutter 8

Yeah. This is cheating. I edited it for FFO. The online zine, and then for our anthology. But there is no way I can make a list of can't miss and not include it. Like Miner's, this piece is an exercise in perfection. It is the story I direct everyone to when they are trying to craft hardboiled flash and are having a tough time grasping the concept. Murphy nails everything here--character, mood, turn, and last lines don't come any better. I've put this on every Best Of list every chance I get, and awarded it FFO's coveted mantle (that I made up) of Year's Best. You can't put a 1,000 words to any better use.

Tom Pitts, Vigil, Near to the Knuckle

The number one piece of advice I give writers trying to submit to our magazine is don't have your story revolve around two people just talking. Why? Because it never works. All the pithy dialogue, the Tarantino-esque riffs on pop culture don't work, and nothing can be revealed about character when nothing happens. Of course most don't write as well as (FFO co-editor) Tom Pitts, who uses a deathbed scene to reveal plenty. John is coming-of-age, and his tough guy grandfather is leaving behind a lifetime worth of regret, which offers the the boy an opportunity to make the right choice. It's a Michael Corleone moment, with dialogue and pathos from a man who knows the lowlife world intimately, and he layers his exposition expertly. Like "Hills Like White Elephants," don't try this at home.

Alexander Maksik, "Snake River Gorge," Tin House

Fuck Tin House. About a year ago, I bit the bullet and bought a subscription to see what stories they took (since they routinely reject mine). For a year I've read what they call fiction, and I can honestly say you could pluck 10 random writers off my Facebook wall who write better fiction. I don't give a shit about the pedigree or name. The majority of stories Tin House runs bore me shitless. It's why I gave up writing "literary fiction." Pretentious assholes. Except this one. Which is everything great literary fiction should be. Think: teenage Amway on the run, and the art of bullying underscoring the very fabric of humanity. Yeah, it's that good. (Damn you, Tin House.)

Bio: Joe Clifford is the editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive and producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. His short story collection, ChoiceCuts, is out now. His novels Wake the Undertaker (Snubnose Press) and Junkie Love (Vagabondage Press) will be published later this year. Much of Joe’s writing can be found here. He has been to jail but never prison.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shotgun Honey: Both Barrels

I probably read Shotgun Honey more than any other web site. It's like fast food (without the labor violations, cardiac arrest, and merciless destruction of the planet).

I always know what I'm going to get--well-crafted crime fiction that will take less than ten minutes to read. Good when I need a dose of fiction in the middle of the day.

In the anthology (edited by Ron Earl Phillips, Sabrina Ogden, Kent Gowran, and Chad Rohrbacher), the site's stable of writers have a bit more time to stretch out, though the stories remain lean and in the publication's style.

"The Rhythm of Life" by Nigel Bird shows what a different mind he possesses. What could be a stock story about a killer luring in victims evolves into something more because of the narrator's unique perspective and powerful voice. Here's how it opens:

"Know why people gather at fountains? I'll tell you. It's the music. The notes. The way falling drops make a symphony. That's why."

Immediately we know we're in good hands. Here's an absurdly self-assured character who makes definitive statement after definitive statement.

I make it a point to read every Jen Conley story out there. Her writing is crisp, detailed, and without the irony that sometimes bogs down modern crime fiction. "Escape" is a fine example of her work. Leah's psychotic ex-boyfriend is after her, and she's fighting to survive. It's a condensed thriller with an affecting ending.

In a genre known for lowlife characters, Garnett Elliott writes some the grungiest characters around. "Chicken Soup for the Hole" (what a name!) concerns Kathi and Barbara, a couple of aging, crusty hippies desperately hocking their wears at the Soulful Spirit Holistic Wellness Expo. When Kathi meets up with an old flame who has a new book out, she thinks she'll finally be able to move out of Barbara's shitty trailer. But she should know better--writers don't make money on books.

Tons of other sharp stories in here from Paul D. Brazill, Steve Weddle, Matthew C. Funk, Naomi Johnson, and many more. Check it out US and UK

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Nigel Bird

I’ve loved the short stories that I’ve read over the year. There are so many and people seem to be rather good at writing them.

As usual, I make my choice with some combination of gut and brain and hope that the result is helpful to you.

The first couple of picks have something in them that is similar – they’re perfectly rounded. In their wonderfully shaped endings, they really pack a dynamite kick to the emotions.

First off is Craig Wallwork’s 'Night Holds A Scythe’, the openener from his collection Quintessence Of Dust. It’s beautiful and painful at the same time. A father is flying with his daughter trying to find safety. The problem is that, because of a deadly virus, the only way for them to stay alive is to stay awake. I guess it’s a straightforward concept, but it’s what Wallwork does with it that counts. It tapped into many of my own insecurities about being a human and a father. What wouldn’t I do to keep my children safe? How awful would it be to sense their inevitable destruction and to be the only one in a position to take any action at all? It’s tense and difficult, yet it is gentle and soft, the looping theme of alphabet cards that structures the unfolding of a family’s world. ‘E’ is for excellent. ‘O’ for outstanding. ‘L’ is for lump in the throat. ‘X’? ‘X’ is for X-factor, that feeling I sometimes get in the core of my body after a brilliant tale – a cross between awe, defeat, admiration and pain.

It’s a beautiful, fragile thing.

Next, I’m doing something I’ve tried to avoid, which is picking from the collection I edited with Chris called Pulp Ink 2.

The one I’m selecting is by Mike Miner and it’s called ‘Kidnapped’.

I also found this one beautiful, partly for its sense of symmetry.

A young boy is taken (in more ways than one) by his father’s beautiful girlfriend and they spend some time together. The surprises are keenly felt, but there’s a tone and an honesty about this one that had me thinking of ‘Plastic Soldiers’ from 2011. Brilliant.

The next pair also go together in some ways.

Allan Heathcock’s Volt may not have been as consistently electrifying as I had hoped, but there are some incredible stories in there none-the-less.

‘Furlough’ is the icing on the cake for me. It’s my favourite here and is about a modern-day war veteran trying to find his feet.

Here’s a little of Furlough. Jorgen is telling the girl he’s escorting about his pet:

“I got a bird,” he said.

“A bird?”

“A little parakeet.”

“What’s she called?”

Jorgen felt uneasy. “Don’t know,” he said.”Never called it nothing.” Mary Ellen smacked his shoulder. Laughed like he’d told a joke. He watched her mouth, the white of her teeth, the gap in the front. “Tried to set it free today, but it wouldn’t go.”

“Bet you treat it well.”

“It don’t say one way or the other.”

“It didn’t fly off,” she said. “That’s how it says."

“I guess.”

“You might be too nice for my cousin,” Mary Ellen said. “She’d eat you alive.”

“I ain’t that nice.”

Which is such a fine demonstration of who Jorgen is and adds to the sense of building menace of the story.

And there’s some beautiful description to illuminate the darkness of the work which acts as a counterpoint to the blunt overall style. Try this picture of a building fire on for size:

‘In the lane, oil lapped tiny spectral flames like a riot of hummingbirds.’

Perfect, no?

Its partner is by Steve Rasnic Tem from his collection Ugly Behavior.

My pick (and forgive me if I can’t recall the name) illustrates the writer's skills very well. It's about a man who lives in isolation. His world is dominated by the images he's paid to work with. His clients generally require something a little unusual. In order to cope with the disturbing material he has to use, he focuses upon detail, practically seeing the world in pixels. The author works with a similar attention to detail. He managed to draw me in for a close look, then would zoom out to offer a bigger picture and then POW!

There are some of the writer’s recurring themes here - the difficulties of relationships, the difficulties caused by seeing the world from a fixed perspective, art and images, close-ups and distance, the complications of leaving trails of memory and the need to leave some evidence that we've been on the planet once death has been and gone.

The last pick is a newer piece by a man called Chris Rhatigan. For all that this may seem like some kind of nepotism, you’ll have to accept that I select it honestly and think you’ll understand if you take a read.

It’s from the charity collection Nightfalls and it’s called ‘Forward Is Where The Croissantwich Is’.

As with all the tales in the book, it focuses on the end of the world.

What I love about this is the way it works in little circles, layers overlapping layers as a man confused by some of life’s simple experiences. By keeping things simple, he seems to create a wonderful depth by adding some kind of new dimension. The best way I can find of to describe it is to mention that it reminds me of my own thought processes during some of my drug-taking experiences better than most other fiction I’ve read and that’s no mean achievement.

Thanks to all for the work I’ve read this year and I look forward to many good years in 2013.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Court Merrigan

Lucy in the Pit, by Jordan Harper (Thuglit #1)

I'm sure Jordan Harper doesn't hate dogs. Almost.

Grit, by Tom Franklin (from Poachers: Stories)

Okay, so this story isn't from anywhere near 2012 (it was published in 1999), but, man, the story is exactly what the title promises. Exactly. Tom Franklin's got as secure a place at the tippy-top of American letters as anyone going.

Occupy Opportunity, Joe Clifford (Pulp Ink 2)

Great writing; bonus points for making making screeching patchouli hippies into a fictional opportunity.

The last two I cheated on, on account of editing them: 

Tourettes, by Les Edgerton (Bareknuckles Pulp Dept, Out of the Gutter Online)

I solicited this story from Les Edgerton to kick off the Out of the Gutter Bareknuckles Pulp Dept., and the man did not disappoint.

The Little Death, by Keisha Lynne Ellis, (PANK Pulp Issue)

This one came through the queue out of hundreds of submissions for the PANK Pulp Issue, and it still sticks with me. A threesome with Jesus & Che? Yeah.

Friday, January 18, 2013

At All Due Respect -- Tom Pitts

Over the last year, I became one of the many fans of Tom Pitts. He's at All Due Respect this issue with a story about the San Francisco underground, "Soldier Boy," and has another in the upcoming ADR anthology, "The Biggest Myth."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Jane Hammons

Smokelong Quarterly
Stephen Graham Jones
I love the incantatory prose and the way the events are listed to create a sense of dread. The repetition of "This is to . . ." is hypnotic: we can not look away.

Speaking French in Kurtz Territory
Atticus Review
Guinotte Wise
Stories in which the setting is a character are high on my list of favorites. The descriptions of the Marais des Cygne wild life refuge in Kansas with its "womb-warm weirdass water" where the characters grow and smoke their "LaCygne Green" set the stage for a violent family story. We know from the opening that the narrator fears his father, with good reason, so what happens in the end isn't a surprise. Waiting for it to happen is the killer.

Josh Medsker
Verbicide Magazine

This story had a similar affect on me as "The Perfect Day," a story by Patti Abbott that I chose for last year's list. The situation the two brothers are in is heartbreaking and realistic. I almost felt as though I was watching a home movie--a terrifying one. The sadness of it lingers.

The Tractor Thief's Jacket
Gita M. Smith
MudJob: Stories and Observations

I'm a big fan of Gita's writing and don't see near enough of it, so I was delighted to come across this story about the "laws of the prairie." The climate is harsh and so are the people. The narrator invites us to "Come see our laws in action," and once we read about the dentist with the Polaroid camera, we are anxious to have justice done. The voice was the first thing to hold my attention. The details and setting are also terrific.

Care Santos
Words Without Borders

Who can resist a story about an author who murders a "cultural journalist" you know the kind "those specialists dealing in rehashed press notes, in the distortion of statements and in the savage copying of previous articles, fished from the Internet and always penned by someone more brilliant." I've been making an effort to read more writing in translation and use the website Words without Borders in one of the classes I teach. I was really delighted to find the "(Non-Scandinavian) Crime" issue this past December.

Bio: Jane Hammons teaches writing at UC Berkeley and also writes stories and essays. Two of her most recent stories, one published in All Due Respect and the other in Protectors, a Lost Children anthology, are part of a longer work in progress. A story inMetazen was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. She also has an essay forthcoming in the anthology California Prose Directory: New Writing from the Golden State

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Cindy Rosmus

1) “Riding the Union Pacific” by Kip Hanson, published May 22, 2012, in A Twist of Noir: <>

I’m a sucker for “train” stories, and this is the most unusual one you’ll ever read, especially in a noir zine.

2) “Black Velvet” by Jim Wilsky, published Aug. 15, 2012, in Yellow Mama:

I’m also a sucker for stories about Elvis lookalikes, especially when this one’s a sadistic killer.

3) “The Man in the T-Shirt” by Richard Godwin, published Aug. 15, 2012, in Yellow Mama: <>

Godwin’s “don’t miss” story of a voyeur who witnesses a double murder originally appeared in Pulp Metal back in 2011, but I loved it enough to reprint it in my own ‘zine.

4) “The Night Mandy’s Car Broke Down on 539” by Jen Conley, published Aug. 6, 2012 in Shotgun Honey:

I love Jen Conley ‘cos she writes like a man. This unsentimental story is a whole new take on the “damsel-in-distress” theme.

5) “New Jersey-Revisited” by Kenneth James Crist, published June 15, 2012, in Yellow Mama:

Barry Wilder’s “paranormal” adventure is a tribute to a local Bayonne, NJ hero, who died in March of 2012.   Rest in peace, Jack!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Katherine Tomlinson

I've always read a lot of short stories, but thanks to my participation in Brian Lindenmuth's "365" Short Story Challenge, I read even more this year, and I read more widely than I would have on my own. Crime fiction remains my first love, but speculative fiction has always run a close second. This was a really good year for speculative fiction and the three spec fic stories I've included have a lot in common--beautiful language, lovely imagery and a sense of the magical. The other two stories use humor to fantastic effect and I've found that's difficult to pull off.  So here are five terrific stories by five great writers:

"Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu--This story (and Liu's work in general) has won a slew of awards, including this year's Nebula for short story. It is completely magical, a bittersweet story of a mother and a son. It originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can read it online here. You can read more of his work here.

Link for more of his stories:

"The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" by E. Lily Yu--This story was nominated for this year's Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards.  We'll see her work nominated again and soon. This story has a fantastic premise rooted in fact (she keeps bees) and the language she uses is gorgeous.  It was published on Clarkesworld Magazine and you can read it here.

"Letter from the Understudy" by Kathryn Simonds--The author is an award-winning poet and short story writer based in London. In this story an understudy writes to the director of a play, complaining about the leading man and apologizing for his actions in regards to the narcissistic twit. It’s funny and tragic at the same time. You can read the story here.

“Worlds like a Hundred Thousand Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard--This is the first story I’ve ever read by the speculative fictionista and it won't be the last. In this story a bereaved parent is offered a choice and the consequences of that choice are terrible. You can read the story here, and you can sample her other works at the free speculative fiction online site.
Link for the story:
Link for her entry in the free speculative fiction online site: 

"Death by Scrabble" by Charlie Fish--The word that comes to mind when you read this story is "clever," the kind of clever that you can only pull off with a lot of skill. I found this story on the East of the Web site (read it here) so I don't know exactly when it was written, but it's the kind of story that should be anthologized and taught in English class.