Criminal Love and Other Stories is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!

12 Apr

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Remember when I used to have a book out with the same title? Full of stories? And then it disappeared? No? Great, thanks a lot. Anyway, I did have a book out at one time called Criminal Love and Other Stories, okay? Well, after  I got involved with Chris Rhatigan and publishing All Due Respect Books, I took it down from Amazon so we could spruce it up and re-release. I added two new stories, all my blogs from  this site about my bizarre job experiences in Hawaii, and author interviews with Tyler Dilts, Jason Starr, Jake Hinkson, and JA Kazimer. Do you like the new Rebecca Monson-designed cover? So freaking buy it. Now. Here. Here, and here. Note that I took the blogs and interviews off this site so if you want to read them you have to buy the book. Ha!

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My indecent proposal to writers: never quit your day job

9 Feb

Okay, I understand the desire to be a full-time writer.

What a cool thing, right? No day job. No waiting on tables or making fries. No retail. No nine-to-five office work in some dank cubicle with one’s behavior monitored by HR dictators. No wasting one’s time and energy at some profession like law or accounting or engineering in order to make a decent living and raise children in a family-friendly neighborhood.

None of that shit. Just …. writing. Creating. While MAKING MONEY. Wow.

Note that what I am talking about here is the full time fiction writer/novelist version of full-time writer. Because, really, there are a lot of ways to be a full-time writer. Journalists and reporters are writers, for sure, but they have bosses and schedules and human resource departments to deal with—all the usual job stuff. Same with a lot people working in advertising, marketing, public relations. Those people write their asses off and have to be very creative under sometimes extreme pressure. But, again, they are still working a job.

Also, think of all the credits people like me (who watch TV and movies incessantly) see on the screen for ‘writer,’ or ‘written by’ or ‘created by,’ or ‘screenplay by,’ etc. These are names of actual writers who create content of widely varying levels of quality who, nonetheless, are quite often making a living as a writer. They are full-time writers. (And so many of them are actually pretty big deals in our culture and arguably bigger deals than most notable fiction writers. Just think of the men and women who write all those great shows on HBO and FX and Showtime and AMC. That shit can be so good and it really captures our hearts and our imaginations. And people talk about those shows the next day. At their jobs. It’s important to us.)

I think the dream of being a full-time fiction writer is so strong that I bet even many of those writers I’ve just described are only engaged in those wonderful writing jobs because they haven’t yet figured out a way to be a ‘real writer.’ The kind with no fucking job.

I’ve read a lot of essays and social media posts and blogs recently about this subject. Written by writers who have jobs and because they have jobs they really can’t be the writer they were meant to be or want to be. Or, written by writers who don’t have to work because their spouse has a good job. Written by writers who appear to be successful because they’ve had many books published by mainstream publishers who marketed the shit out of the books and who got onto best seller lists and won awards and everything and who confess that, they too, have to have a JOB in order to pay the rent and cover day care and diapers and get medical insurance and all that crap needed to live a half-way decent material life.

I think it’s safe to say for a lot of writers, one has either made it, which means they are making enough from their fiction writing to support themselves, or, they haven’t, which means they still have to have a job. It’s as simple as that. It’s also safe to say that when a writer or an aspiring writer says that they can’t really get much writing done and that their ‘work’ or their ‘art’ is suffering because they have a job, almost everyone sympathizes and understands. Such an idea is not really challenged. Or, at least I haven’t seen that attitude challenged very much, if at all.

I want to propose another idea. Not that I think it is better than what I’ve been describing or that there is anything wrong with wanting to be or being a full time novelist. It’s another way of looking at how to be a grown-up person AND a writer.

It’s two steps, really.

Step one: get a job.

Step two. Write books.

Use the job to make a living. Show up everyday with as much enthusiasm and creativity as you can muster and do the job. Get the paycheck. Pay the rent. Buy decent clothes for yourself and your children. Get the insurance so your kids can get good dental and orthodontic work. Live a normal life like everyone else. Deal with bosses and coworkers and boredom and stupid red tape just like the rest of the world. Get pissed off and then deal with it, get over it, and show up again the next day. Or, quit in a huff and then reboot and hustle yourself in the market again and again until you find something you can stand to show up for. Day after fucking day.

But you’re still a writer, right? So that’s step two. Write. If you really want to write something, something that comes from inside you and that touches people and that readers can relate to and are moved by and that is creative and original, if you really want to do that, you’ll do it. You’ll find the time. You’ll get the words down.

Now, you might not get a chance to write every day. The time and energy you have for writing will come and go. You’re living in the normal work-a-day world and you got stuff to do. A lot of stuff. All the time.

Still, sometimes you might find a niche in your daily life that makes doing quite a bit of writing very possible even while working full time. For example, you get up two hours early every morning and you write a thousand words or more every day, and in six months you have the final draft of a full-length novel. Not bad for a person working a regular job and supporting a family.

Or, maybe, you can just put down a couple hundred words a couple nights a week and then squeeze in another thousand on the weekend. Add an occasional weekend with better output, and you got more than 65,000 words after a year. Maybe take another six months to a year for more drafts and polish and in two years you’ve got yourself a novel. And that’s probably a worst-case scenario. Three hundred words total from Monday through Friday and then 1k over the weekend. Even skip some weekends and you still get 60K in a year.

Some people who work full time jobs may find that they can do a lot more than 1k a day. Maybe the kids are grown or haven’t come along yet. The nights are long, you have no social life, there is lots of creative energy and writing is done hours each week. Shit gets written.

Or, of course, there is the other extreme: for months at a time there is just too much going on. Too many hours at work. Kids needing a lot of help getting to and from their busy activities. Crises in the family and or personal life. Illness. Burnout. These times happen. That’s life, right?

My point is, having a job doesn’t have to stop a person from being a writer. From writing. From writing good stuff. A job can take away time and energy, but having a job doesn’t mean a person can’t write, can’t be a writer. It just doesn’t.

Okay, so you’ve done steps one and two. You’re a writer with a job. So what? What is so good about that? I bet it sounds pretty awful, still, to a lot of people. I don’t think I’ve described some wonderful, cool, hip, way of life. None of this is what you dreamed of as a child or while in college or grad school. Right?

Here is what is good about my idea: your job is your sponsor, your benefactor, your MacAruthur genius grant. Your fucking Kickstarter. Because you have a job, because you have a way to pay the rent and feed the children, you can write without the pressure of finding mainstream success. You don’t have to grub at the feet of agents and publishers. No need to try and figure out what is selling, what is marketable to those publishers and agents. Those freaking gatekeepers between you and the big money deals (if they even exist anymore beyond some kind of lotto fever dream anyway).

All that scrambling is gone. Done.

Your only job is to find your voice. Find your story. To find out the kind of shit you want to write, what you want to say without the pressure of also figuring out if it’s the kind of shit that makes money. And then write it.

As work gets produced that is from this voice, from the heart, from passion, from desire, from that original place that only you have—send it out. See where or if it fits. Could be what you want to write and can write best is exactly what people want to read by the thousands or millions. Could be agents like it and publishers love it and readers gobble it up. Or, it could be that your stuff is a perfect fit for small indie publishers of noir or bizzaro or experimental/literary or BDSM erotica.

It’s also possible that you won’t be able to find a home with a large or small publisher so you learn how to self-publish, and, with the right marketing and networking, you find some readers here or there. Maybe one or two or a dozen or a hundred.

Whatever the number, it’s possible to write something, get it out there and have a pretty good chance of it getting read and appreciated by someone, somewhere. Even actual strangers. And if it isn’t, if no one likes it ever? So what, you’ve still got your goddamned fucking job. So you’re good. And since you’re a writer, you’ll keep trying and maybe with the next book, you’ll connect with more people.

The other thing I like about my plan is that this writer-with-a-job person I am describing might have a better chance at having something to write about, something that other people with normal lives can relate to. You know what I mean? I’m not saying that a person who for whatever reason (trust fund, marrying-well, early success due to phenomenal talent and luck) goes straight from high school or college to writing full time without ever having to work and scrape to make a living can’t write, or has nothing to say. No. Some people are just talented and whatever experiences they’ve had up until their late teens through mid-20s when they bloom as writers is plenty to draw on. It’s very possible.

But, I like the idea of the low/middle/upper-middle-class worker writing books about their lives for people who live similar lives. Or, books with just the right kind of plots and characters and fantastic settings that serve to pull all of us out of our mundane existences in ways that only we might be able to understand. Written by people who aren’t doing it to make a living, but rather, to connect with as many readers as possible.

It’s a cool idea anyway.

I even have the feeling that if more writers worked this way, there’d be more books out there that actually had the power to startle a reader, to make him or her think, to see themselves or the world in a new way all of a sudden. Work that is less sentimental. And, okay, more dark. More sinister. More absurd and funny in a cutting insightful way. Writing with less need to only have ‘likable’ characters in stories where everything turns out okay in the end. (Yuck.) Less need for fiction that tells people lies about love and death and families and relationships and religion and god and the devil and their very selves. Less fiction that is agreeable and unchallenging to all the common shit we all want to believe but deep down don’t even realize is a big lie.

I know, I’m getting a little nuts here, but there’s a chance, right?

I guess it’s time to talk about myself and how I fit into all of this.

First, I’m a writer and I have a job. I like having a job and I like seeing the job as the thing that gives me the means to be a grown up person with a home to write in. And the freedom to not have to write just out of the desire to somehow make a living at it.

For the last three years, while working (with a few brief intermittent periods when I was underemployed but looking for work) I’ve written about 30 stories, two novellas, and a novel.

Most of the stories were published either online or in some kind of print anthology and for most of those stories I got some kind of feedback—several people read them and spoke with me about them in some way. When I collected the stories into a self-published ebook, it sold about 400 copies at 99 cents a copy. And, that ebook got a lot of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, some good, some bad. But, it definitely gave me a feeling of connecting to a number of readers.

My noir novella, What Happens in Reno was published as an ebook only by a start-up publisher that was trying to market genre novellas. They needed crime novellas for their marketing plan and they liked mine so they published it. This novella got some good reviews and some shitty reviews but a lot of people told me they really liked it (and a lot of people didn’t give a shit about it but so what). It is still selling on Amazon as far as I can tell and I think it’s maybe sold 200 copies though I’m not sure. I haven’t been paid and I only got one kind of confusing and I think inaccurate sales report last summer. But all that isn’t real important to me, what is important is that I wrote the book I wanted to write with no censoring whatsoever. The book is quite dirty and dark and things do not turn out well and no one is likable and there is even a guy who kind of rapes another guy by beating him up and then jerks him off as a way to show dominance. So, sure, a lot of people just think the whole thing is gross and depressing. Again, so what? That was the book I wanted to write and I got to write it and publish it and some people read it and had a positive reaction to it. Lou Boxer, one of the people behind NoirCon, called the book “The Best-Kept Secret in Noir.” I like that. That’s a good result. And, it’s out there.

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My other novella The Scent of New Death, is not exactly noir, but it is a very a dark and violent crime story. There is some kinky sex, graphically described. Lots of violence. Child abuse. Mass murder. And a main character who not only practices zen meditation while robbing banks and killing folks, but who also has a vividly described satori/enlightenment moment. It’s an odd book, I think. And, again, it has been well-received by a lot of people and it has turned off a lot of people. It grossed out my father. But to me it was a beautiful experience. I loved writing it and I love looking at the paperback version. It was put out by Gutter Books, an indie crime publisher and I think it has sold somewhere between 100 and 200 copies. No big deal I know, but, still, a nice experience for me.

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I also wrote Tussinland, a full-length novel that is still somewhat short. It’s another book that is a bit violent and graphic with a lot of detailed depictions of sex, but it is in a lot of ways much lighter and funnier than the other two books. It was published by All Due Respect Books, the indie press Chris Rhatigan and I started last summer (which is, like my writing, a part-time deal born out of a passion for pulp and noir and not a living in any way). Tussinland could almost be called a hit, I guess. Maybe not. But, it’s been out since October 8, 2014 and it consistently sold about 10 to 15 copies a day on Amazon the first couple of months, and since then it has kept selling between 5 and 10 a day. It has been on the Amazon/kindle/noir top 100 list  since its release, usually varying between the top 30 to the top 60 day-to-day. So far, it’s never left the top 100. A lot of people seem to like it. It’s gotten a lot of Goodreads and Amazon reviews, mostly good or really good, and some horrible, which is okay because that shows it is getting read by a wider audience.

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While that is satisfying to me, because my main intention is to get the work out there and connect to somebody at whatever level I can, on a mainstream level all these books would be considered dismal failures. Ten to 15 sales a day? Like, what is that? Well, to me, that’s 10 to 15 new readers every day. Ten to fifteen humans who want to read my freaking book. That’s just great. And, yes, since I have a job the fact that sales like that will never make me a living doesn’t matter. At all. I just don’t care.

Tussinland is crime fiction definitely. It’s about criminals doing crime. There are cops and there are robbers. But I really don’t think it fits squarely in the genre, in a way that it would sit comfortably with other crime/mystery books in the shelves at the airport, the supermarket, or Barnes & Noble. I really don’t think the big five would want it, and I don’t think an agent would take me on as a client after reading it. (I did send the first ten pages to one agent and she said she couldn’t connect to the characters. I also sent it to an indie publisher who didn’t care for it and after that I withdrew it from another agent and a couple of other publishers because Chris and I were starting the company and he said it was good.) The main character is not very heroic and is basically a loser and he’s victimized throughout the book, and there really isn’t any mystery because the real killers are revealed on the first page. But it’s the book I wanted to write and I like how it turned out and it expresses how I see the world in a certain way that was very satisfying to me artistically. So there.

When I write here about finding one’s voice and writing original and unique fiction, I’m not talking about just writing for yourself. I’m not talking about self indulgence. I’m just saying that if a writer has a job and a living then he doesn’t have to write to the market, to the publishers and to the agents. But I’m still talking about connecting, about communicating with readers, with other people as much and as well as possible. With my books and stories so far, I’m very consciously trying to make the books as easy as possible to read and follow. I’m writing stories about the world and the people and the situations I see, I’m writing about the feelings I’m feeling and what I think the people around me are feeling. I want to get to the point quickly, I want there to be a lot of cool, exciting stuff happening all the time, I want there to always be very high stakes for my characters, and I really want to surprise my readers as much as I can by showing them something, hopefully, they’ve never seen before in a book. I don’t know how well I succeed at all of that, but that is what I’m trying to accomplish.

I really wonder if we’ve come to a time where the idea of being a full-time novelist living solely off of royalties will stop being realistic. I don’t know. It could be something that was possible briefly, from about 1920 or so until maybe 1990ish. Before then, very few writers made a living from book sales. Right? There were writers/novelists in the 19th century who were popular and sold a lot of books but even a lot of them made their living in other ways or were rich somehow or had some kind of sponsor or something. At this point, clearly, it’s nearly impossible from to make a living from book sales (either print or ebook), though I know some people are doing it, especially certain self-publishers who’ve managed to creatively find readers that the mainstream publishers didn’t even know about.

I don’t think we are at a time though where people don’t want to write or read fiction that is original, unique, exciting, and fun to read. That isn’t padded and long-winded and perfectly written and edited to satisfy a big five publisher’s idea of the mass market. A lot of those books are boring, right? Not all of them of course. I love a lot of that shit, but I’m reading less and less mainstream crime (my favorite genre) and more and more of what is coming out of indie presses or from talented and stubborn self-publishers. Because, often, it just feels … new, you know?

As I think about all of this, I’m realizing how many of the books I’ve read in the past couple of years that I’ve just loved were written by people with full time jobs. Most of them, probably. I’m pretty sure nearly all of the people whose wonderful books we are publishing at All Due Respect Books have jobs. So, more proof that it can and is being done. All the time.

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Recently a person who knew I had some books available online asked me an interesting question. Since I was sitting there at her dinning room table and my 2002 Hyundai Santa Fee with 120,000 miles was out front in her driveway and she knew I lived in Modesto and worked as a paralegal full time, it was clear I wasn’t a ‘successful writer.’ Clearly, I wasn’t making a living from my books.

She said, “So what is your dream? It must be to get big book deal and have a best seller, right?”

I told her that I didn’t have a dream. That I was already doing exactly what I wanted to do. And, man, it felt good to say that and to know it was the truth.

All Due Respect 5 is Kicking A** and Taking Names

22 Jan

Originally posted on Regular Guy Reading Noir:

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What the hell is going on over at All Due Respect Books? Did someone sell their soul to the devil in return for the ability to only put out books that satisfy any lover of dark noir? Or is it just that Mike Monson and Chris Rhatigan have a keen eye for talent and are set on consistently publishing the best noir short stories, novellas, and novels coming out today? I am not sure which explanation to believe, but I am grateful for whatever is causing the influx of great books that are beginning to flood my TBR pile.

I can’t even begin to choose my favorite story from this badass collection. It starts with an excerpt from Steve Widdle’s upcoming novel. This sets the tone of the collection very nicely. It is a fast rolling selection and makes me excited for the novel to come out. After reading Widdle’s…

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A Pack of Lies: Sneak Peak of Chris Rhatigan’s contribution to ALL Due Respect Books double noir package Two Bullets Solve Everything

6 Dec

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This is a portion from near the end when sleazy newspaper reporter Lionel Kasper’s dirty deeds are catching up to him:

 

I ended up in a gas station down the street, put a pack of GPCs, a dollar scratch off, and a small coffee on the debit card. I sat in a two-person booth by the window. The ticket was called MONEY BAGS. The goal of the game was to match three or more numbers. I took a quarter, scratched until I created a small pile of silver dust. I won two bucks, took my winnings in lottery tickets, kept scratching away with that quarter.

I was debating getting more tickets when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket.

“Hello.”

“Is this Lionel Kaspar?”

“Who’s this?”

“Rich Cummings, Wallingtown Police.”

The first ticket was a loser. I moved onto the second one. “They got you calling the media? Where’s Vaughn at today?”

“This is actually regarding Janet Schaefer.”

“What about her?”

“We’d like to have a chat.”

“On the record?”

“This isn’t related to your capacity as a reporter.”

“Then there isn’t much to chat about.”

“Excuse me?”

“I didn’t know her well. I have no idea about the circumstances around her death.”

“We understand that, but we’re gathering information about her right now. Trying to get everything we can. You can relate to that, right?”

“Sure, but I can also tell you that when I’ve been in your position, the Wallingtown Police have given me shit. Am I compelled to talk to you in any way?”

“Listen, just come down to the station. We’ll explain everything when you get here.”

“I asked you a direct yes-or-no question. Am I compelled to talk to you in any way?”

“Not yet.”

I didn’t like how he phrased that.

I stumbled for words, swallowed hard, then ended the call.

The second lotto ticket was a loser too.

* * *

I had to get out. I went back to the ATM, took out twenty bucks. Dropped my cell phone in a trashcan. Back to my apartment to pack a bag with a change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb, a spare half-pack of smokes I found in the bottom of a drawer.

I had to take two buses to reach the train station. Bought a ticket to East Orange for eleven dollars. I had an old friend there who I could hole up with until I planned my next move.

Next train didn’t leave until 3:46. I smoked two cigarettes quickly, glancing this way and that, nervous little puffs hanging in the wet air. No security at the station, no cops. I watched the people enter the station, seeing if I recognized anyone—trying to discover if the witness was, in fact, following me this entire time—but it was a sea of nobodies bouncing from place to place.

I went through the station outside to the crowded platform, couldn’t resist another cigarette despite my dwindling supply. The trains roared in and out, the groups of people swarming on and off like diseases.

As soon as I got a spot on a bench, my train rolled up. The doors hissed open and I found an open three-seater, lied down across it, no way I was going to allow other people into my space.

 

Get it here, ebook or paper.

More about ALL DUE RESPECT BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!

18 Nov

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I need to use this space to promote the ALL DUE RESPECT BOOKS, the indy noir/crime book publishing company Chris Rhatigan and I started just a couple of months ago. (I promise that any day now we will have a really cool-looking professionally-prepared web site designed by Mr. Ron Earl Philips of Shotgun Honey fame, with all kinds of bells and whistles and cool shit like all the other book publishers have. Any day now, I swear.)

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We’d been doing  All Due Respect the crime journal for a year and it was going pretty well and it was fun and we were shocked to be selected as an “Approved Publication” by the Mystery Writers Association of America very early on (How THE Fuck Did That Happen?) and then the Todd Robinson story we published, Good Dogs, was named as one of the Other Distinguished Stories in the book Best American Mystery Stories of 2014.

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So we got kind of cocky and decided to start a publishing company even though we don’t know what the hell we are doing.

First up was you don’t exista double noir novella package that writers Rhatigan and Pablo D’Stair were already preparing for publication.

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It’s been well-reviewed but not a lot of people have bought it so please buy one, okay?  It is so so good. Synopsis: Two noir novellas about wandering around in cars, finding dead bodies, finding bags of money, drinking coffee, and smoking cigarettes. A heavy dose of isolation, self-doubt, and bleakness. FUN, HUH?

Then, we put out Tussinland by Mike Monson. THAT’S ME!

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This sucker is doing pretty well and people like it I think — 14 Amazon reviews (13 five star and 1 four star from my new best friend Steve Coulter) and people who weren’t already my friends and fans are buying it and reviewing it (but three of my super fans who I know bought it have been eerily silent) and when I went to freaking Bouchercon a lot of people knew about it which was great (and I got to read the first page and a half at the Noir At The Bar event and it went over well I think at least that is what people told me) and it’s stayed in at least the Top 20 Kindle/Noir since it came out over a month ago and I’m just so happy about it.

Synopsis: Addicted to cough syrup, television and Sugar Frosted Flakes, Paul Dunn is living in a state of torpor while staying at his mother’s house after the humiliating ending of his third marriage. His inertia is broken when he becomes the chief suspect in the murders of his soon-to-be ex-wife and her new lover. Set in the town of Modesto, deep in California’s Central Valley, Tussinland is about sex drugs, addiction, smart phones, Facebook and the internet, digital cable, anti-government militias, reality TV, fundamentalist homophobic Christians, families, 12-step groups, pornography, marriage, death, disease, and love.

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Cover design by the beautiful and sexy Rebecca Monson (along with key consultation by JT Lindross because at first, like I said we were clueless and now we are slightly less so but really just slightly).

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And then came the perfect pulp nugget Revenge Is A Redhead by Phil Beloin Jr. and it is so wonderful and people are buying it too but not enough so please please please get it — it’s only 99 cents and it’ll make your day I promise. Cover by Lindross and the background pic of the sleazy hotel was taken in West Modesto by Rebecca.

Check out the synopsis: Rich Brown is out of cash and luck when he finds stripper Cherry Pop. Like so many before him, Rich falls for the redhead, but all he can afford is a quick peep show. But soon Rich has bigger problems than lack of love and money when he stumbles into a homeless shelter that’s really a front for a bunch of shady dealings. He crosses paths with Cherry Pop again, and to survive the night, the duo have claw their way out of all kinds of mayhem. Trashy, funny, and filled with pure pulp action, Revenge is a Redhead is the ideal way to kill time before you die. 

Sounds pretty good right? (It’s okay, you can admit it, I won’t tell your neighbors.)

And just yesterday we came out with another double-noir package Two Bullets Solve Everything.

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This has a novella again by Chris Rhatigan — A Pack of Lies, about a horrifyingly unethical reporter who gets into all kinds of trouble, and Disco Rumble Fish by Ryan Sayles that provides a great back story about Sayles’ creation Richard Buckner that is a great and chilling cop story all on it’s own. This debuted as the number six Hot New Seller in Kindle/Noir and sold a lot of copies yesterday but none so far today so jeez buy it NOW it’s so good and only $1.99. Cover by the versatile Mr. Rhatigan.

Synopsis: In Disco Rumble Fish, author Ryan Sayles rewinds to the 1970s, when Buckner rolled with the city’s SWAT team. Tasked with finding a criminal associated with a mobster’s violent jailbreak, Buckner and company prove there’s nowhere to hide when you kill one of their own. In Chris Rhatigan’s A Pack of Lies, newspaper reporter Lionel Kaspar is out to find the truth and advocate for social justice. Just kidding. He’s a scam artist of the lowest order out to make a quick buck off of whoever crosses his path. But the comfortable niche he’s created for himself is about to be crushed.

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And check this out: on December 1, we are releasing Prodigal Sons by Mike Miner. This book will kill you. It’s a crime book, it’s a noir, it’s a literary family drama, it’s a cautionary tale about the dark dark dark side of alcohol addiction. It’s so many things but the  best thing is that it is beautifully written by Mr. Miner and Chris and I are just so proud to publish it. It will devastate you in a good way.

Professional/slick synopsis: Matthew Flanagan is living the American dream. A plum job at an ad agency. A hot wife. A beautiful home in southern California. But something is eating him up inside and a nasty drinking habit is about to cost him everything. After his life finally collapses around him, Matthew disappears to Vegas with a girl he barely knows.When word reaches the Flanagan clan, back in Connecticut, Matthew’s brothers Mark and Luke are sent on a mission to find their brother and bring him home. A longer and darker journey than either of them plans on. At turns funny and moving, Prodigal Sons is a hard-boiled American odyssey. A family saga with the heart of a crime novel.

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On January 15 we will release Uncle Dust by Rob Pierce. This book was a shocker cause we kept rejecting the dude’s short stories for the magazine but we agreed to take a glance at his fucking 70K word novel and it just BLEW US AWAY. (I read it way before Chris and I had to have it so bad that I was able to convince Chris to let me offer Rob a contract before he’d had a chance to look at it because I was afraid we’d lose it and luckily he loved it as much as I did when he did get to it.)

It’s about some guy named Dustin. Dustin loves to rob banks. Dustin loves to drink. Dustin loves his women. Dustin loves loyalty. He might even love his adopted nephew Jeremy. And, he sometimes gets a little too enthusiastic in his job doing collections for local bookies–so, sometimes, he loves to hurt people. Told in the first person, Uncle Dust is a fascinating look inside the mind of a hard, yet very complicated criminal. You’ve never read anything quite like this, I guarantee it. 

Jack Hinkson

Jack Hinkson

Next up is The Deepening Shade, a short story collection from noir master Jake Hinkson.

The Deepening Shade contains 15 stories, most of which were previously published in such journals, anthologies, and e-zines as Beat to A Pulp (Rounds One and Two), Crooked, Crime Factory, Flash Fiction Offensive, Fires on the Plain, Noir Riot, and All Due Respect.
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Hinkson is the author of the novels Hell on Church Street, The Posthumous Man, the novella Saint Homicide, and the brand-new The Big Ugly. He also writes extensively on film noir. He is a regular contributor to Macmillan’s websites CRIMINAL ELEMENT and TOR, as well as the film journal NOIR CITY (the flagship publication of the Film Noir Foundation). In addition, he’s written for THE LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS, MENTAL FLOSS, MYSTERY SCENE and BRIGHT LIGHTS FILM JOURNAL. His essays on film have appeared in anthologies such as FILM NOIR: THE DIRECTORS.
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Sure, that’s all really impressive, but the important thing is that these fucking stories kick ass and force one to think about life and death and god and the devil in ways you may never had considered before. 

CS

Then we got Love You to a Pulp by filthy genius CS DeWildt. The book is the story of Neil Chambers, a glue-sniffing private dick living and working in the small town of Brownsville. The book’s chapters alternate between a complicated case of greed and sexual obsessions taking place in the present, with stories of Neil’s violent and tragic boyhood. Like all of DeWildt’s fiction, it depicts the utter awfulness of people as well as the abject ugliness of their environments in a profoundly beautiful way. 

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CS DeWildt is the author of the literary crime novella Candy and Cigarettes, the Bartleby Snopes flash novel The Louisville Problem, and the much-acclaimed short story collection Dead Animals

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And there is more. We get to publish Alec Cizak’s story collection Crooked Roads, and man is it great. Just the best crime stories ever. I had no idea. Neither Chris or I hesitated in our decision to take the book. I think we were both certain after the third or fourth story. wow wow wow.

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Now, throughout 2015 we will be doing something very special. Have you heard of Greg Barth and his Selena books? I know, probably not, but you will darling readers, you will. (That is not Selena above, it is a young woman working at one of the Bottoms Up espresso stands that have popped up all over California’s Central Valley and it is the kind of job I could see Selena doing if things had turned out differently for her and I can’t show you a photo of Mr. Barth because his true identity is a secret.) Anyway, Barth put out two Selena novellas — Selena and Hostility, which are basically Part One and Part Two of an epic pulp tale — and we loved them so much we talked him into taking them down from Amazon so we could repackage and republish them. Plus, the saga continues with Parts Three, Four, and Five. We will put out each novella as a stand alone periodically in both ebook and print and then (by hopefully next summer) put them all out as one big book.

For us, Barth’s creation Selena is the perfect pulp heroine. She is a stripper, a whore, an alcoholic who needs to pass a breathalyzer test before she can start her car (unless she can find someone nearby to blow it for her if she has to make a quick getaway while drunk), a drug addict, a drug dealer — you know, all the fun things. Plus, she is addicted to violent, bloody revenge and is very handy with a sawed-off shotgun. 

outback bec

Also coming is an all new edition ebook and PRINT edition of my book Criminal Love and Other Storieswhich will have a new lurid cover designed by Rebecca Monson, and added stories, essays, and author interviews. And, we will put out a paperback version of my novella What Happens in Renowhich will also get a new cover, again by Bec. As well, I hope that there will be more from Chris Rhatigan about his character from A Pack of Lies (that’s from Two Bullets Solve Everything — did you buy it yet?).

So far, we are concentrating on selling ebooks on Amazon/Kindle and paperbacks using Print On Demand through Amazon/Createspace. No bookstores. No Kobo Apple Nook. We want to be writer friendly and are doing our best to help as much as possible to promote each book. We want readers to love us and to be able to count on us to deliver honest, real, uncensored crime and noir stories, novellas, and novels without a lot of bullshit.

Tussinland is Live on Amazon

7 Oct

FINAL COVER

Get it here.

Here is the fancy press release:

Point Blank Public Relations and Book Promotion
Modesto, CA 95355

For immediate release

 Mike Monson’s first full-length novel, Tussinland, highlights DM/cough medicine abuse

The hero of Tussinland, Paul Dunn, is at a low point when he discovers DM, or dextromethorphan, the main ingredient in Robitussin and many other over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

“He’s walked off his new job as a high school English teacher,” said Tussinland writer Mike Monson, “his wife is having an affair with a dangerous man, and he is confined all day to a cramped cubicle at a dull temp job in California’s Silicon Valley.”

Struck with a bad cough and cold, Monson said, Dunn finds something amazing in the first aid kit in the employee break room: a medication called Extra Strength Cold Remedy. “Paul Dunn is one of those people who feels like if a little bit is good, then a lot must be great. He begins taking the little white pills six at a time and finds that not only does he stop coughing, but he becomes quite high as well—an effect that just gets better and better the more he takes.”

Soon, Dunn is taking all of the pills on his floor and raiding the break rooms on the other floors as well. “When he loses the job and access to the pills,” Monson said, “he does some research and finds that the magic ingredient in the pills is DM, and that Robitussin as well as the many generic copies of the medication are a much more efficient delivery system of the drug.

“He beings swigging cough medicine by the extra-large bottle-full and finds not only a certain euphoria, but strong hallucinogenic effects as well. As the novel opens Dunn has his first bad experience with the drug and then wakes up to find that he is the major suspect in the early-morning shotgun murders of his wife and her lover. The book tells the story of how he tries to deal with this predicament while in the middle of deadly depression made much worse by his DM abuse.”

Tussinland, like Monson’s two crime and noir novellas, The Scent of New Death and What Happens in Reno, is primarily set in Modesto, a growing city of 200,000 in California’s Central Valley.

“The time is the summer of 2012 and the recession and real estate slump has hit the city hard,” Monson said. “And California’s Proposition 8, an attempt to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, is about to be debated in the U.S. Supreme Court. Tussinland touches on how all of these things affect the lives of Paul and his extended family.

“But, the book is not only about the economy and same-sex marriage. It’s also about murder and drugs, it’s about smart phones, Facebook and YouTube, it’s about religion and right-wing homophobic Christian-fundamentalist militias, it’s about 12-step groups, it’s about marriage and families, it’s about digital cable and reality TV, and it’s about disease and death. Love is a big theme also, although it’s a pretty twisted kind of love for sure.”

Tussinland releases as an eBook on October 8, and in print by October 13. It is second book to be published by All Due Respect Books, a brand-new independent publisher specializing in crime and noir fiction.

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Sneak Peak of Tussinland — Coming October 7 From All Due Respect Books

22 Sep

My first full-length novel will be released October 7. At 52,000 words it is just barely full length, but  since that is more than anyone’s definition of a novella — it qualifies as a novel. I can’t imagine writing one any longer.

It is called Tussinland. It is being published by All Due Respect Books, the company that Chris Rhatigan and I recently formed. It will be available as an ebook and a paperback.

Here is the cover:

FINAL COVER

Isn’t it pretty? Rebecca Monson took the photo at Nino’s, a bar that is a location in the book. She also used her photoshop skills to manipulate the colors in that awesome way.

Here is the back cover synopsis:

Addicted to cough syrup, television, and Sugar Frosted Flakes, Paul Dunn is living in a state of torpor while staying at his mother’s house after the humiliating ending of his third marriage. His inertia is broken when he becomes the chief suspect in the murders of his soon-to-be ex-wife and her new lover. Set in the town of Modesto, deep in California’s Central Valley, Tussinland is about sex, drugs, addiction, smart phones, Facebook and the internet, digital cable, anti-government militias, reality TV, fundamentalist homophobic Christians, families, 12-step groups, pornography, marriage, death, disease, and love. 

Here are the first ten pages or so:

Miranda stared at the images of Tina and Mark’s corpses on the video screen of her iPhone. She didn’t understand how they could be so, like, dead.

Five minutes before, they both walked around like regular humans, yelling and screaming their asses off. Two minutes before, they were still breathing, but with great difficulty since Logan shot them each twice in the torso with a sawed-off shotgun.

Just a few seconds previously they were both gasping, gulping, screeching for air. Mark died first, with a slight smile on his face, then Tina went, as she glared up at Miranda and Logan.

Loud, then quiet, then nothing.

Blood everywhere. And piss and shit. Awful smells—the worst of it seemed to be coming from Mark. Miranda filmed close-ups of Mark’s slimy guts slipping out and his cracked rib bones and other stuff she didn’t recognize but found fascinating. Tina’s face still looked pretty, but just below it she was nearly severed in half. Miranda zoomed in just as Tina’s left saline breast implant popped out and oozed onto the floor beside her armpit.

Wow.

“Are you kidding me right now?” she said.

“I know, right?” Logan said.

“This is so completely awesome. You killed them. You fucking destroyed them.”

“That’s what you wanted?”

“Hell. Yes. God, I love you so much.”

Logan put down the shotgun and reached out to Miranda for a hug. She didn’t notice. She’d turned off the video and moved closer to the bodies. She stared at Tina. She reached out to touch her aunt’s face, then quickly pulled her hand back.

“Logan. Get a trash bag from the kitchen for all the shit. And one for the shotgun. I’ll start the cleanup. We need to move fast.”

She heard sniffling and looked up, saw Logan standing with his arms out. Trying not to cry.

Ashamed at ignoring him, Miranda sat down on the couch. Held out her arms.

“I’m sorry, baby,” she said, as soothingly as possible. “Come on over, sweetie.”

The large young man crawled into the petite Miranda’s lap. He curled up against her like a baby and buried his face in her neck. He slowly stopped crying as she stroked his thick hair.

“There, there, baby,” she said. “I love you so much, you’re such a good boy. You make me so so proud.”

“I do?” Logan said.

“Are you being serious right now?” she said. “Of course you do. You are the best boy ever.”

Logan pulled back and looked Miranda in the eyes.

“So everything is going according to plan?”

Miranda looked back at the corpses, at the more than a dozen bricks of heroin stacked up on the coffee table.

“Yes,” she said. “Everything is going great. Thanks to you.”

“I’m glad,” Logan said. He got up off the couch. “I’ll get the trash bags.”

Miranda Fish grabbed a Rayovac she’d brought, along with a spray bottle of disinfectant, and a roll of paper towels. The two left twenty minutes later with a shit load of heroin, hoping they’d removed all traces of their visit.

***

Even though it cost nearly double the price of Walgreen’s generic version, Paul went for the Robitussin Extra-Strength DM in the largest possible size—twelve fluid ounces. DM stood for dextromorphan and the Robitussin had 30 mls of DM in each recommended dose.

He didn’t have a cough or a cold, just a strong desire for as much DM as possible. For some reason (maybe, he’d always wondered, for the same kinds of reasons wines had such varying tastes and effects—perhaps there was a terroir of DM recipes?), Robitussin was just better than any other DM-type cough syrup. Other name brands and even most generics all had a decent effect if he took enough, and lots of little DM-containing pills also had their various potencies and variations, but the Robitussin Extra Strength was the best and the fastest method to go all the way to Tussinland—a fucked-up place of intense euphoria and colorful, rhythmic hallucination.

It was just past eight on a Monday night in June 2012 at the Walgreen’s near the old Modesto downtown district on McHenry Avenue, the main drag that years before had inspired native George Lucas’ movie American Graffiti.

Modesto had recently become somewhat notorious for various bloody scandals, such as the murder of Laci Peterson by her husband Scott, the murder of native Sandra Levy while working in D.C. at the same time she was the mistress of local U.S. Congressman Gary Condit, and the finding on the street of the wallet of one of the four female murder victims of Cary Stayner—who wasn’t caught until he’d severed the head of a naturalist in nearby Yosemite National Park. Paul’d often wondered why the shit wasn’t spread more evenly around all the towns in California’s Central Valley. Why was it always Modesto?

He took the Robitussin to the counter and examined the clerk closely to make sure he hadn’t bought DM from her before. He’d recently gotten Coricidren DM at another Modesto Walgreens and the clerk scanned the bar code on his driver’s license. Not a good feeling. Still didn’t know what that was all about.

He stared at her name tag as she scanned the purchase: Dayna. She didn’t even glance at him until she grabbed his debit card.

He hated that, hated feeling like he wasn’t even worth looking at. Figured Dayna looked him in the eye briefly only because he’d held the card back for a moment, forcing her to reach for it. Surely Walgreens had some kind of rule or something, like: “Greet each customer with a pleasantry such as ‘hello’ or ‘how are you today?’ while also making a point to smile and look each of the assholes in the eyes.”

Something like that, for sure.

When she handed over the plastic bag, she smiled big and said, “Have a great evening!” This made him fell like an asshole. And she was pretty cute too.

It’d been a long shitty boring stupid day, like the last hundred or so. He looked forward to sitting around and watching TV with his mother, then spending some quality time in Tussinland before drifting off to a long-ass sleep.

When he got home, Mavis had started that night’s episode of The Bachelorette. She sat in her easy-chair, sipping vodka on the rocks and smoking a Virginia Slim. The place, as usual, was cold as a walk-in refrigerator because Mavis kept the AC cranked down to like 60 degrees all summer long. Also, as usual, it reeked of weed. Smoke still drifted out the top of the bong on the coffee table.

Emily Maynard and her bachelors were in London. Mavis rewound the show to the beginning and fast-forwarded through the commercials to get Paul caught up with the episode. Digital cable—one of the many joys of living with Mavis.

When Emily found out bachelor Kaylon had called her daughter Ricky “baggage,” she said she was going to go all “West Virginia” on him. Paul laughed when Kaylon admitted to what he said and refused to apologize, and Maynard said to him, “Then get the fuck out.”

“I thought she was from North Carolina,” Mavis said.

“Maybe that’s how North Carolina people talk when they’re trying to say they’re going to get all violent and mean. But, if that’s true, it’s kind of a dis on West Virginia.”

“I don’t like this side of her. Such a beautiful girl, though.”

After the Rose Ceremony, Paul grabbed some water and went to the hall bathroom to down his Robitussin. A serious, subtle, careful process. Had to get it all down (slowly, to prevent vomiting), and get into bed under the covers with the bedroom door locked and the lights out (and all the evidence hidden), before Tussinland really hit. Because once he entered, he was in another world and no longer had the motor or mental skills necessary to handle regular reality.

It took about an hour if he got the dosage right. Back when he first took large quantities of DM, he’d often miscalculate dosage, time, and place and wind up somewhere he was expected to act or communicate and be totally incapable. Once he sat in a locked car, parked alongside the 99 Freeway outside of Merced during evening rush hour, unable to drive or even move (he could barely see) for almost an hour while the entire world and all its colors and objects seemed to be pounding and flashing like a giant combination human heart beat and strobe light—terrified that at any second a police car would pull up and an officer straight out of Cops would tap on his window.

Another time he picked up his stepson Tyler at a Cub Scout meeting. As he walked down the steps to the basement, he lost all depth perception and could no longer walk without lifting and moving each of his legs with both hands. Tried to make it seem like he wanted to be silly for the kids, but no one laughed and he felt sure the other dads thought he was some kind of nut. Luckily, he managed to drive home that night, but he never again mixed DM and driving and children. At least on purpose.

Now, as long as Mavis didn’t need or want anything, he should be okay. He’d hidden the empty Robitussin bottle in its plastic Walgreens bag under the bed. In the morning, he’d throw it in some parking lot trash bin in a different part of town.

He made himself aware of the rising and falling of his abdomen as he breathed in and out. He waited. Felt nauseous and resisted the urge to vomit. Also tried to resist the urge to think. Still, as usual, his mind wandered to images of soon-to-be-latest ex-wife Tina in her tight jeans, nasty black boots, long brown hair, and AC/DC t-shirt dancing with that asshole used car salesmen slash drug dealer Mark Pisko at Nino’s that night when things became so fucking clear. Missed her so much and hated her so much and so fucking hoped to never see her again ever, which wasn’t easy since they only lived about a mile away. He avoided all her usual places. Especially since Pisko’d put out a restraining order against him for threatening to kill them both. Asshole had no sense of humor. Besides, there was no way Mark was afraid of him. Unlike Mark, Paul wasn’t a violent person, and Mark had to know that he intimidated the shit out of Paul. Dude just wanted to fuck with him because he could.

Out of habit, his right hand wandered down to his penis as he thought of Tina and her adulterous seductive dancing, but there was no erection as DM completely interfered with sexual stimulation. Made the mistake of thinking about Mavis and the four hundred dollars he owed her every month, but hadn’t paid for three months. Thought about the list of household projects Mavis kept demanding: lawn mowing and edging, tree pruning, watering. Fix the faucet, fix the ceiling fan, repair the patio roof, and on and on and on. Fuck! Why couldn’t she understand he still needed to recover from the slip and fall injury in the kitchen at Denny’s that fucked up his back? Plus, he was incompetent as a fix-it man, a fact to which all three of his exes would gladly testify.

He didn’t know why Mavis cared so much; bitch was rich as fuck. So rich she didn’t even need to live in her old house in the old neighborhood that got shittier and shittier every year.

He’d spent nearly all the workers’ comp money. After the lawyer took his cut (all expenses, then forty percent of what remained), he only netted nine grand. Had just under three left, but he was still unemployed and had alimony and child support in addition to the rent to Mavis (and it was a good thing Mavis paid the digital cable and the internet, and let him on her family plan for his iPhone).

His back was okay most of the time, but every once in a while—with no warning—it would seize up, preventing Paul from walking or standing or even sitting. This condition could last anywhere from a couple of seconds to several weeks. There was no telling.

Finally, things began to change. Thoughts of Tina and Mavis and household chores and money were gone—poof. He felt warm and fuzzy, mostly in his chest, neck, shoulders, face, and scalp. Noticed a rhythmic pattern of sound and light in the darkness of the room. Began to relax, become a little excited. Thrilled. (Finally.) Kept his eyes closed and saw patterns of shapes and colors. The patterns, the colors, and the shapes became more and more complex and more and more rapid. He let go. Surrendered to this new environment that was all in his brain, all behind his eyes.

Usually at this point, he’d begin to interact with certain entities that only existed in this state of mind. Like a veil lifted so he could see a world that was always there but could only be seen after ingesting just the right amount of DM. While very strange, it all seemed familiar and real. He never remembered any of it clearly afterwards (just that it was amazing and cool), but every time he went back in he thought, of course, this is it.

Tonight, though, just when things were supposed to get wonderful and freaky, he began to feel sick. The patterns and colors, instead of being fascinating and beautiful, seemed dark and sinister. Evil, even. He needed to vomit—quick.

He rushed to the hall bathroom. Saw Mavis’ face illuminated by the TV screen. She was watching Dateline (she saved all the crime and murder shows like Dateline and 20/20 and 48 Hours on her DVR queue and watched them over and over). It was one he’d already seen, about a husband and wife who preyed on other couples at vacation resorts, stealing their valuables and money after partying with them, before stabbing them to death. He got inside the door, locked it, and tried to vomit as quietly as possible. Soaking wet from sweat. It looked like the bathroom walls were breathing. He didn’t dare look in the mirror.

He kneeled on the carpeted floor in front of the toilet between each wave of sickness. These came again and again for what seemed like hours. He’d recently seen an episode of Two and a Half Men in which Charlie watched Alan vomit into the toilet and told him to put the seat down to give his forearms a place to rest. Paul tried it and was glad to find that it worked.

Just before Walgreens, Paul ate several servings of hot wings and fries along with a pitcher of Coca-Cola at Wing Stop, and now he could see bits and pieces of chicken meat and chicken skin floating in the toilet. Some of what came up seemed like it was not food, but pieces of organs or muscle. Some of it looked like grey pieces of paper. Over and over he saw mental images of himself bent over his food at Wing Stop eating eating eating and in his mind he looked like a huge slobbering pig with pig’s feet instead of hands, and a snout instead of a nose.

When there was no more to throw up and he’d had dry heaves for about ten minutes, he peeked outside the door. The TV was off, so Mavis had gone to bed. It was two a.m. He cleaned things up as best as he could and careened back to his bedroom.

Several hours passed. All he wanted to do was sleep. Had more disgusting visions—of himself, his ex-wives, his kids, his shrinking bank account. And jobs. (Fucking jobs.)

Just before five a.m. he drifted off, and dreamt of monsters and lizards and rivers of shit. Several minutes later he heard a banging banging banging at the front door screen. Decided that whatever it was would go away if he paid no attention to it.

Eventually, Mavis came to his door and banged on that. So, he got up and went with his mother to see what shitty thing waited for them on the porch.

All Due Respect Books — I’m a co-publisher now

23 Aug

I know I’ve bombarded my small cyber-world with news of this already this morning, but, it’s time for the inside scoop on all this, right?

So, anyway, Chris Rhatigan and I launched a book publishing company today: All Due Respect Books.

We are going to publish books that we like to read: graphic, fast, fun-to-read crime and noir. Or, just books about people being very bad. 

A year ago Chris and I took All Due Respect, a twice-a-month ezine, and turned it into a quarterly crime fiction journal publish as both an ebook and a paperback. We’ve put out three issues and it’s been great fun: wonderful stories, interviews, and reviews. And, it just became an ‘approved publication’ by the Mystery Writers of America, which I found out is a somewhat rare honor. 

Chris and I started talking about launching ADR Books a couple of months ago. We both wanted to do it, but it did seem like a huge task and a lot to take on, but, neither one of us has been able to let the idea go. 

I recently finished my first full-length book (well, it’s 55,000 words), Tussinland. I kept trying to think of what to do with it: self publish? send to indy presses? query an agent? None of these felt right. I sent it to two agents. One of them rejected it/me right away, saying that she ‘couldn’t relate to the characters well-enough to be the advocate the book deserves’ after reading the first chapter. The other agent politely put it at the end of her TBR pile. I also sent it to four or five publishers. I got a nice rejection from one wonderful publisher and when I told Chris he said, “Does this mean Tussinland is going to be an ADR Books joint? If so, I’m happy.” 

That was all I needed. I immediately withdrew the book from the one agent and the rest of the publishers. Chris and I got very serious very fast. We are forming a partnership. An LLC. Getting a bank account. An EIN number. We want to put out a book a month. Novels, novellas, short story collections. Uncensored, gritty, raw shit. We’ll publish my books, Chris’ books and all the other cool books from cool writers we can attract. 

Here is our logo, designed by the great JT Lindroos. He is going to help us with some of our covers as well: 

 

 

ADR-LOGO no border small

Here is our slogan/tagline: Lowlife Literature

Here is our website announcement: 

ANNOUNCING ALL DUE RESPECT BOOKS

 
Logo by JT Lindroos

That’s right, bitches.

The crew that’s brought you oodles of kick-ass short fiction is stepping up its game: novels, novellas, novelettes, short story collections–we’re doing it all.

Alec Cizak founded ADR in 2010 with a single goal: publish uncensored crime fiction. Stories about criminals from the perspective of criminals. That continues to be our goal.

We’re starting right now: you don’t exist, two noir novellas by Pablo D’Stair and ADR co-publisher Chris Rhatigan is out now. (With a mass-market paperback out very soon.) Get it here, now!

To celebrate the launch, issues 2 and 3 of the magazine are FREE starting Sunday for a short time.

And we’ve got a killer lineup of books due out this year, including:

Tussinland by Mike Monson. Trashy noir. A cough medicine addict with a penchant for Frosted Flakes and bad TV is framed for murder. All the excitement of Monson’s fast-paced novellas in his first full-length novel.

Prodigal Sons by Mike Miner. Literary thriller. Matthew Flanagan ditches his perfect life to pursue drinking himself to death in Vegas. But his two brothers back home in Connecticut aren’t having any of that.
At turns funny and moving, this book is a hard-boiled American odyssey.

Two Bullets Solve Everything by Ryan Sayles and Chris Rhatigan. A crime split. Sayles comes out with guns blazing in Disco Rumble Fish, set in the seventies and featuring his badass cop Richard Dean Buckner. Then Rhatigan’s got A Pack of Lies. A sleazy, small-time journalist is blackmailing one source and pumping out all manner of falsities. But before he knows it, he’s in a world of shit–scrambling to keep everything straight and the cops off his tail.

Revenge is a Redhead by Phil Beloin, Jr. Pulp novella. After getting kicked out of the house by his policeman father, a young man falls in love with a red-headed hooker, then a spends a wild night avoiding rape, robbery and murder. He ends up committing quite a few crimes of his own and eventually seeks revenge on his attackers with the help of his new-found love interest.

Plus issues of All Due Respect, a new version of Monson’s short story collection Criminal Love, and more.

 

 

 

Sneak preview of new novella

23 Jul

Untitled psycho noir:

 

Chapter 1

 

Killing her was easy.

The killing was always the easy part. Want to kill a bitch? No problem. It’s just a couple simple steps.  Get a real sharp knife, come up behind her, pull her head back by her hair and then, well, commit. Fully commit to making a deep, long, ear-to-ear cut.

That’ll do it. Every time.

Next, just drop Helen or Amber or Nadine or whoever the fuck, and walk away. Just let go. If you’ve done it right, if you’ve actually fully committed, by the time you’ve walked to the nearest sink and cleaned off your knife, the little cutie will either be slowly bleeding out, or be dead already from lack of oxygen due to a severed trachea.

This is what Lancaster Messier had just done to Florence Hanratty. She never made a sound, which was satisfying because it gave Lancaster the sense that he’d done something right and good. Just because Lancaster was a psychopath didn’t mean he didn’t like to do the right thing—it just meant that maybe his ideas of what was best and right and good might be different from most humans’. He’d read all about what psychopaths or sociopaths were supposed to be like, and, sure, he could relate to a lot of the traits. And, yes, he didn’t mind killing another human, but, it did bother him when they suffered. All he wanted was the death to occur and when it did he was fine that he’d been the cause—whatever. But, sorry, he didn’t get off on seeing people suffer, it just wasn’t his thing, okay? All that gasping and crying and moaning. Very unpleasant to watch and hear.

The hard part was getting away clean, getting away with no chance of the body being found, no chance if it was found that it was ever connected back to Lancaster. And, most importantly, the hardest thing of all was getting away with all the cash sucked out of the woman’s life with no trace that Lancaster Messier was the cause of the financial liquidation.

Florence didn’t have much, which was a drag. It was a lot of work to get someone’s trust, to get them to let you in on all their secrets (especially secrets concerning bank accounts and ATM card passwords), and he’d really thought she was good for way more when he managed to get himself invited into her house.

Two weeks earlier, he’d finally gotten access to both her ATM card and the password. She had fourteen thousand dollars in the bank, and he intermittently—hoping to keep the bank from getting suspicious—withdrew up to one thousand dollars per day, until he had almost ten grand collected. He also had her Chase and CitiBank visa cards and the password to make a cash advance withdrawal of up to $2500 in each.

After slitting Florence’s throat and cleaning off and putting the razor-sharp Buck knife in his jeans’ pocket, he began loading up her Ford pickup with every valuable item in the house. The first couple of times he walked through with a load of gold and diamond jewelry, or a flat screen TV, or a lap top Apple computer, he’d check on Florence. The first two times, she seemed to be still breathing, which meant he hadn’t blocked her airflow and she was slowly bleeding to death, which Lancaster didn’t think was such a bad way to die. He’d researched it and found out it was just like slowly falling to sleep—and never waking up. Then, when he went into the kitchen to get the china and the nice silverware, he checked again and she was finally dead, thank god.

He finished loading up the truck. He’d already contacted a local fence named Chester Theodore with a detailed inventory, and they’d already agreed on a basic price. They were meeting on a country road nearby in about two hours. So Lancaster needed to work fast to make a clean exit.

He dragged the body out to the garage. Luckily, Florence’s dead husband Dean had a great set-up out there: work bench and power saws. In about 30 minutes Flo was in about 20 small pieces, all wrapped and duct-taped tightly in black plastic garbage bags. These pieces went into the back of the truck as well.

Then, the real work started. He’d often laughed to himself at how much he hated this part. The one time in his life he’d perform actual physical labor just like most straight people did all day long every day. He hated it. But, it had to be done, because, like, who else was going to do it? Someone had to be the last person standing and that person had to clean shit the fuck up, right?

He’d bought all the necessary cleaning supplies and they were all ready. He donned plastic gloves and scrubbed all the blood from the floor where he’d killed her and from everywhere it had leaked out of the body as he took it to the garage. He cleaned all the blood and other bits of body parts from the power tools and all over the garage. He cleaned up all his prints that were still lingering. He was a little OCD that way.

He collected all his possessions, anything that could be ID’d as his, and put them all into a trash bag. This wasn’t much, just a few pieces of clothes—an extra pair of pants, some t-shirts, four pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks. This went into the truck as well. Then, he went through the house one last time and vacuumed and scrubbed every square inch.

The house was on ten acres in the Hill Country outside of Austin, Texas. More than a mile from neighbors on either side, he felt certain no one had noticed his presence there the last two months. He’d laid very low, and Florence did not have any close friends or relatives who came by or called—he’d made sure of that before he’d moved in.

He left with the valuables, the body parts, and his possessions, and drove to meet Chester Theodore.

 

The fence was exactly where he said he’d be: a mile up a dirt road that was just off the feeder for Westbound Highway 290. It was a perfect spot. Hidden from the main road by hills and a thick stand of trees, there was no one around and very little chance of anyone surprising them. When their business was concluded all Lancaster had to do was get back on the feeder, enter the highway, and in no time Austin would just be a sweet memory.

Lancaster still felt wary. He had a network of fences all over the US, but this was the first time he’d worked with Mr. Theodore. Their transaction should be simple and brief, but every time money and valuable merchandise changed hands in a criminal setting, there was a chance that one or both parties would decide to cheat the other. Also, this was a rare moment when Lancaster had to expose himself in a way that tied him to the stolen possessions of a murdered woman.

Chester must’ve been waiting a while. His bright red brand-new Dodge Ram 3500 was pulled over to the right and parked in a small clearing of grass and gravel. A couple of feet in front of the truck’s hood the man sat in a large foldable camp chair. He was smoking a pipe. He looked about 50, with grey hair and beard. He wore cargo shorts, hiking boots, and some kind of camo army shirt out of the first Gulf War.

Shit, please don’t be weird. Let’s just do this and go our separate ways with the minimum of bullshit. Please.

Lancaster pulled the truck past Chester’s chair to park and as he did he saw that there was some kind of assault rifle in the guy’s lap and that his right index finger was on the trigger.

Fuck.

Why can’t things just be easy? I bring a fence stolen shit and he takes it off my hands and gives me some cash—what is so fucking complicated about that?

Lancaster pulled up beside Chester Theodore. He pushed the button to lower the passenger window.

“I don’t like seeing that gun,” Lancaster Messier said.

“It gives me comfort,” said Chester Theodore.

“It’s not right,” Lancaster said. “It shows a lack of trust, and reveals a possible violent intention. I’m just here to sell some goods.”

“I don’t know you,” said Chester.

“And I don’t know you,” said Lancaster. “That’s the way it always is at first. But we each have to make a leap of faith if we are going to do business now and in the future. You didn’t make that leap. You didn’t have the nerve.”

Lancaster’s snub nose revolver was on the passenger seat. It was loaded and the safety was off. Chester’s head was only about five feet away.

“So now I have to kill you and deal with your body and all the shit,” Lancaster said as he picked up the pistol and shot the man in the left temple. The dude didn’t even have time react and aim his gun. He just didn’t get it, he didn’t understand about commitment and faith, and he didn’t get that the only reason you brought a gun to a party is if you fully intend to use it. Chester Theodore didn’t get it that he was dead the minute Lancaster Messier saw him with the rifle on his lap.

Lancaster was pissed. So pissed. They’d agreed on fifteen hundred dollars for the merch, contingent on Chester’s inspection and some haggling. That was supposed to be it. Lancaster would’ve settled for 1200 give or take, he would’ve helped the guy put the shit in his truck, then, he’d be long gone. And, he’d have a trustworthy person to work with if he was ever in the Texas Hill Country again.

Fuck. What a drag.

He got out of his truck. He knew Chester was dead, or close enough to it. Who wouldn’t be? He approached  the chair with his gun pointed just in case, but the piece of shit had a golf ball size hole in the side of his head and Lancaster could see skull and brain matter and blood  slowly seeping out. He looked real closely at the guy’s brain to see if there was something there to show how or why he was such an idiot, but, it looked the same as every other shot up brain he’d seen. He always looked though. There was rarely a good reason to get shot in the head.

He found a roll of cash in Chester’s shirt pocket: $1200. Of course. He stripped him down and found another $1000 in his right boot. He put all of Flo’s stuff in the back of the Dodge Ram. He didn’t know what else to do, he didn’t have the time to find another fence.

God, he hated working with amateurs.

He decided not to deal with the corpse, just let it sit there rotting on the chair. Sonfofabitch. He left Chester, the assault rifle and everything else behind and drove away.

 

As planned, he kept going west on 290 until he came to the 281, which he took north up until it met the Colorado River. At this point he found dozens of spots miles apart from each other to drop the plastic bags of Flo’s body as well as his clothes and gun and other stuff into the river. He kept his knife (he always kept the knife).  He was very careful, and felt certain he wasn’t seen.

Then, he kept driving until he met the eastbound highway to Waco. On the outskirts of town, just a couple of miles from the Greyhound Station, he torched the truck on another dirt road. Once he was satisfied it was burning up nicely, he walked into town.

He went to a bank and got the rest of the cash in Flo’s checking account and he managed to get advances from the Chase and Citibank Visa cards. Went to the bus station and paid cash for a ticket to Los Angeles—the farthest destination available with a bus soon to depart. He needed to be as far away from Texas as he could be as soon as possible with as little a traceable record of his movements available to law enforcement.

He now had more than twenty grand in cash in his wallet. Not bad for six weeks work.

 

Thoughts about reading and writing after reading a Joe R. Lansdale book

19 Jul

hot

As I said, he and his son looked a lot alike, but now that I could see Pye more clearly, I should add that though their resemblance was strong, the elder Anthony’s face seemed to hold his past in it, and by that I mean there was something about that face that made me feel even weaker and more lost than I had a moment before. In the dark it was hard, in the light it was a place of ruin. There were bad deeds there, embedded in his flesh like scars; in fact, there were actual scars, and I had seen enough wounds to know that most likely they had come from a knife fight. They stitched little patterns across his cheeks and forehead, like maybe Dr. Frankenstein had put him together in a hurry.

From Hot in December by Joe R. Lansdale

So, that’s pretty good, right? Wow. This is from a very simple and effective novella-length crime thriller I read yesterday. The book is nothing fancy–just a fast-moving story of a normal guy whose family is suddenly in great danger from a gang of vicious criminals led by this Anthony father and son. For the most part, Lansdale doesn’t mess around with all kinds of fancy sentences and paragraphs with descriptions and thoughts and crap. But, every once in a great while he will stop the incredible momentum of his narrative to give a sentence or two like the one I just quoted. Just enough, just enough words to really give us the perfect idea of what kind of people and situations and stakes we are dealing with. When I read that passage, I actually felt scared myself for a moment.

Okay then, this is what I like, what I like to read and write. Entertaining fast-moving unpretentious crime fiction. Books where I don’t have to feel that horrible effort of reading, but instead, am fascinated from the first sentence and paragraph by what is being told, and just can’t stop reading to find out what happens next.

I guess that means I’m low or middle-brow in my basic taste (though I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of fiction considered ‘literary’ and high quality), and in my artistic/creative ambitions. However, no one can tell me that what Lansdale does here isn’t creative, artistic, original, and, somehow, new, and that it doesn’t help us to look at the world around us with a little more clarity, a little more light. Don’t even try to tell me that cause I’ll just get all prickly.

I get this experience all the time  in my genre reading, even the most pulpy and trashy. I mean, how can one ever write with the clarity and skill it takes to compel a reader to keep turning pages without also being able to say what needs to be said in exactly the right way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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