About Me

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"We need to make books cool again. If you go home with someone & they don't have books, don't fuck 'em."--John Waters

I'm the author of more than twenty novels including SHADOW SEASON, THE COLD SPOT, THE COLDEST MILE, THE MIDNIGHT ROAD, THE DEAD LETTERS, and A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN. Look for my next one THE LAST KIND WORDS due out May '12 from Bantam Books. Contact: PicSelf1@aol.com

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm a Loser, Bay-Bee...


I'm a loser, bay-bee...so why don't ya kill mee...

Okay, so no sour grapes about losing out at the Edgars. I was damn sure Christa Faust would take the award home for MONEY SHOT but instead Meg Gardiner walks off with it for CHINA LAKE. My thanks to everyone who was willing to toss a molotov cocktail and cry foul, overturn tables, set fires, smash bottles of tequila and wave around the busted glass ends at the throats of the MWA judges. Never trust whitey!

You can check out all the winners right HERE.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bleeding at the Bottom of the Tiger Trap

Writing a scene where my protagonist regrets some of his life's choices and pines for what might have been. Really shaking my head up. Sometimes you create a character so you can slip inside someone else's skin, and sometimes it feels like you're just suffocating inside your own. You go in deep and pick open your emotional sores and let them bleed all over the page. You wonder what life would have been if you’d cut right instead of dodging left, if a phone conversation thirty years ago went a different way, if you’d cared more about that instead of this. The trouble is that this kind of thinking can’t be quantified. It has no parameters, no start and stop. Way leads on to way, the dominoes fall. I dwell on mistakes. I reflect on faults and fumbles. I ponder oversights and blunders. Writing is nothing but a series of what ifs. Sometimes the scenes sweep you in. I finish a sentence and then stare at it and reread it and reread it. What if? What if? I see myself in the page, I hear speeches that have been swirling around inside my skull for decades that have never been spoken aloud. Bits and pieces show up in dialogue. One regret leads to another, one dream into the next, and a few dusty holdout hopes come creeping out of their corners. It makes the writing real but it leaves me in a sweat. What if? All these years of digging so deeply inside have left trenches and abysses. There are spots now that are like camouflaged tiger traps set with punji stakes. If I get too close I drop in and get carved up, and it takes me forever to claw my way out again.

So how’s your day going?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Redemption of the Sandman


For all friends & fans in France, and for those of you who just want to put your high school French to the test, La Rédemption du Marchand de Sable aka The Redemption of the Sandman aka The Dead Letters is available in France today. And while you're hanging around Amazon Francais, you can check out Un Choeur d'enfants Maudits aka A Choir of Ill Children as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shadow Season - The Coldest Mile Contest Winner


We had twenty-two entries in the SHADOW SEASON - THE COLDEST MILE contest. I scrawled each person's name on a piece of scrap paper, and with the help of my trusty sidekick Edgar Allan Poe and a piece of tape, a winner has been chosen at random.

NICK CATO, editor of the HORROR FICTION REVIEW will receive a signed, pre-advance reading copy of my next novel SHADOW SEASON, due out October 27th. This is a printed out copy of the final edited manuscript placed in one of those cheapo binders with the cover art attached. Publishers occasionally send these out extra-early to start some buzz and bring in a few early blurbs. Only about 20 of these have been done, and this is the only one that is signed by me.

My thanks to everyone who bought, read, reviewed, and help to promote my latest novel THE COLDEST MILE, the follow-up to my Edgar Award-nominated THE COLD SPOT. I appreciated all the isnightful, positive, and even critical comments.

SHADOW SEASON is the story of a blind ex-cop turned teacher at an isolated girls' school. Amid some scandalous events concerning an enamored student, he tries to struggle by with his handicap and a lot of unresolved issues dealing with his girlfriend, his dead wife, and his former partner. When a deadly blizzard hits, it brings along with it a mysterious girl and a pair of killers.

What else is doing--

TASMANIAC has accepted my latest noir novella THE LAST DEEP BREATH for an early 2010 release. More details when the Taz site is updated with ordering information. They'll also be reprinting my story "Between the Dark and the Daylight" as either additional material in the volume or as a separate chapbook.

I'll also be a guest at MO*CON this year, alongside my good pals Gerard Houarner, Linda Addison, Gary Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Wrath James White, and the sinister minister himself Maurice Broaddus. I've never attended before but I'm looking forward to a weekend of horror fiction, poetry & spirituality. Yes, you read that right. If you're planning to attend, make sure you step up and say hey. Or bless you. Or get thee behind me Satan. They all work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Q & A


A few questions came in during ASK ME WEDNESDAY. Thanks for the interest, folks.

Josephine asks:

Ok. How did you come to be represented by David Hale Smith, an agent who does not accept queries? A referral? Or you were already established and repped by another agent, like J. D. Rhoades was?

DHS and I worked together years ago through Write Way Publishing, a small press that brought out three of my mystery novels in the mid-90s. David was their agent and sold THE DEAD PAST and SORROW'S CROWN to Berkley for mass market paperback release. Then for about ten years afterwards I wrote horror novels and worked without an agent. When I turned my eye back towards crime fiction, most of the guys who were doing all kinds of great work in the field--Duane Swierczynski, Sean Doolittle, Victor Gischler, among others--turned out to be repped by DHS. So I contacted him and discovered he'd been keeping an eye on my career over the interim, so we started working together again.

He's the fifth agent I've had in my career and the first to ever sell something for me. The other four failed to garner any interest at all, although on my own I sold seventeen novels to the likes of Pocket Books, Leisure, and Bantam. So no, I have absolutely no advice I can give you about how to find a good agent, because it took twenty years for me to find one.

Tony Zuma asks:

W.H. Auden commented on how crime fiction follows a familiar pattern:

1) First there is peace2) Peace is shattered3) Search for wrongdoer4) Apprehension5) Punishment6) Restored Peace

Your crime novels are anything but formulaic (with the exception of the theme of revenge) and I was wondering if you can contribute your success to not following this or other established patterns in your mass market crime fiction. Are you a blank slate for every novel?

I think Auden's list is pretty accurate for my work, with the exception that none of my characters ever starts off or ends up truly at peace. And it's because I focus my energies on trying to explore that chaos of a charater's life that I think each of my novels follows its own course. Even if I do return to certain themes and plot points, it's in that confusion that I try to find exactly what sets a protagonist off on his quest and how he is stymied and suffers and may or may not eventually overcome. I don't think "blank slate" quite conveys the impetus--rather the opposite. The slate is covered over and it's how I try to weave the mess into a cohesive tale that gives the story its structure, momentum, heart, and resolution.

TT also asks: Do you prefer white or red clam sauce with linquine.

If you mean white sauce as in alfredo sauce, then I'm all about the alfredo. If you mean a garlic and butter sauce, then I've gotta go with the red clam sauce.

Keith Rawson asks:

Okay, as you know I'm a pretty big fan of your fiction and I've read just about everything of yours that's in print. And I've noticed in your novels the running themes of automobiles and dreams. So my question is, what's the deal with muscle cars and hanging with dead folks in your novels? Are you a gearhead? Do you have a vivid dream life that carries over into your writing life?

I'm about as opposite from a gearhead as you can get. I know how to start a car, where to put the gas, and maybe in a clinch I could change a tire. Other than that, I'm useless. But as a person and a writer and a 70s movie junkie I know that the Americana myth is front-loaded with on-the-road freedom and muscle car mayhem and movement. We don't just tap into what we are to find our stories, we guess at who we want to be, at what our alter-egos might be like, what they'd do in certain situations that, God willing, we never find ourselves in. So I groove on muscle cars. I can respect their power and their iconic imagery on the road and in film and in fiction. It's a way for me to bring some street value into the work. It's a way for me to dig on my own fantasies. Who doesn't want to be Steve McQueen in BULLIT? Or Peter Fonda in DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY? Or Burt Reynolds in WHITE LIGHTNING? I don't need to know shit about an engine to drop the hammer.

As for the dead folks who ride shotgun or sit in back--along with that iconic imagery comes a lot of Americana history and personal burdens. Freedom costs on the road. Who doesn't like to kick back and go for a ride and hit a righteous radio station and gun for the sun? But it's during those long lonely rides that my thoughts turn back to the folks I've lost--who might be dead or might just be distant, who might be twenty years out of reach. But they're with me in my lonely moments, and the dead and the missing are with my characters on their treks. It's a theme that reverberates with me. That sticks in my gut. So I revisit it every so often.

Anyway, in my next two novels I promise you won't get any muscle car mythos.

Stink-Eye Pete asks:

What else can you tell us about your latest "noirella" THE LAST DEEP BREATH?

It'll be another novella for Tasmaniac Publications, due out in early '10. The story follows Grey, a drifter on the search for his foster sister, who showed up for the first time in ten years with a knife in her side, then vanished without a trace. Grey winds up in Los Angeles dealing with manipulative actresses and scummy agents, hoping to find some clue as to what happened to her after she dropped out of a porn career he didn't know about.

Ask Me Wednesday


Ask Me Wednesday - if you've got a question about my work, writing process, voice, style, reading habits, emotional ambivalence and indifference to just about everything these days, or anything else within reason (ah ha, there's the codicil), fire away and I'll answer right here within a day or two.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blue April Updates


I'm not sure why but I always seem to get a little blue in April. Bluer than usual. Maybe it's the shift in the weather. Here in Colorado we never know what to expect. One day will be like summer, the next we'll have a blizzard. It's hard to get your feet under you emotionally when you wake up and can't figure out if you can go for a walk with the dogs or if you need to lock all the storm windows. Plus, it's tax season, which nobody likes, especially self-employed writers who make peanuts and still have to pay through the whazoo. I'm in the middle of several different projects but can't seem to settle my head into any one of them for any great length of time. I feel anxious and a touch claustrophobic. Looks like the major snowstorm we were expecting has skirted us, so maybe I'll get out of the house later and burn off some of this edge.

Started a new "noirella" for Tasmaniac Publications, the same fine folks who brought you THE NOBODY and the forthcoming CRUEL SUMMER by my good pal, the uber-talented Matt Venne. This one will be entitled THE LAST DEEP BREATH.

Another sweet blurb has come in for SHADOW SEASON, this one from the most excellent suspense writer Robert Ferrigno. If you're not already reading his Assassin series, get moving. His latest SINS OF THE ASSASSIN is out now in paperback.

"SHADOW SEASON is a beautifully written thriller filled with heart and wit, sharp dialogue and characters you utterly believe in. A great ride."--Robert Ferrigno, author of Sins of the Assassin and The Horse Latitudes.

Also, remember, you've got until April 15th to join in on the SHADOW SEASON - THE COLDEST MILE Contest.

For National Poetry Month it looks like FAIRWOOD PRESS is having a sale on my poetry collection WAITING MY TURN TO GO UNDER THE KNIFE. Normally $27, now on sale for $20. Signed & limited to 250 copies.

Here's what JACK KETCHUM had to say about it: "I find this book remarkable on a number of levels. First, the poems themselves are tight and packed with on-target imagery — in the service of narrative. They are decidedly not obscure and read like wicked, funny, sometimes deeply troubling short stories. Then, together, they form a kind of autobiography-of-the-soul. I've never said it before about a book of poetry—but it's a real page-turner."