Locked & Loaded: Upcoming Anthology

Submissions are now being accepted for Shotgun Honey’s third anthology, Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3, which will be published by One Eye Press later this year.

We’re looking for great crime fiction stories between 1,500 and 4,500 words long. If you’re interested, check out the complete submission guidelines. The deadline for submissions is May 11, 2014.

My story “All Alone” was published in the second SH anthology, Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2, but this is the first SH anthology I’ll be an editor for. I’m really looking forward to reading some great stories, so get to it!

Handling Snakes in Crime Fiction

A Land More Kind Than HomeThe practitioners of snake handling have always fascinated me.

Not in an “I’d like to try that” kind of way, but in a “why would they do that” kind of way.

When a star of the reality television show “Snake Salvation” (which I’ve never seen) — a man described by NPR as “a 42-year-old Pentecostal preacher and third-generation snake handler from Middlesboro, Kentucky” — died this weekend from a snake bite, it caused me to wonder again.

If you’re at all interested in the strange world of snake handling, I highly recommend two novels which incorporate the practice as a plot point.

Last Call for the LivingIt’s a key element in Wiley Cash’s wonderful A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME and plays a smaller — but still quite important — part in Peter Farris’s excellent LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING. (Here’s an interview with Farris about his book.)

Both novels are tremendous and well worth reading whether or not you have any interest in learning more about snake handlers.

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Noir at the Bar in Baltimore

This Sunday (Feb. 9) at 6 p.m., a super-talented group of crime fiction writers will converge on Baltimore for a tremendous Noir at the Bar event. If you can make it to Slainte Irish Pub & Restaurant (1700 Thames St., Baltimore), you’ll hear readings from:

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Off the Record 2 for $0.99

Off the Record 2 Now AvailableThe Kindle editions of the charity anthologies Off the Record and Off the Record 2: At the Movies are now available for just $0.99 (or £0.77 in the U.K.) each.

Both books are packed with great short stories. The original Off the Record features stories sharing titles with classic songs (including “Free Bird,” “American Pie” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”), while Off the Record 2: At the Movies features stories which borrow titles from classic films (including “Weekend at Bernie’s,” “Dead Man” and my contribution, “American Beauty”).

The sale ends Thursday, April 4, so get your copies now:

In more Off the Record news, editor Luca Veste recently posted an update on the forthcoming Off the Record 3.

Kwik Krimes Cover Revealed

Kwik KrimesWhen it comes out later this year, Kwik Krimes, an anthology edited by Otto Penzler, will — this is still stunning to me — include my short story “Fortune.” It won’t be available until August 20, but for now check out that amazing cover! (Click on it for an even bigger version.) I love the beat-up look, the the fedora, the seedy motel, the colors, the font… Everything works.

I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands.

If you’re interested in reading ultra short stories (all under 1,000 words) from great authors like Ken Bruen, Reed Farrell Coleman and Lyndsay Faye, you can pre-order Kwik Krimes from Amazon.com right now:

  • U.S. paperback
  • U.S. Kindle
  • U.K. paperback
  • U.K. Kindle
  • h/t to Rob W. Hart for being the first to notice the book cover being added to Amazon’s website. Or at least the first to notice who posted something about it that I noticed…

    Four Questions With… Merry Jones

    Winter BreakFew writers will have more novels published in 2013 than Merry Jones.

    Winter Break, the third in her series of crime thrillers featuring Iraq War veteran Harper Jennings (following Summer Session and Behind the Walls), was released in January. In it, a pregnant Jennings sees a young man dragged into the woods near her house, but the police write it off as kids playing around — or Jennings’ hormones. She knows it’s something more.

    The Trouble with Charlie, a standalone thriller, was released in February. In it, Philadelphia schoolteacher Elle Brooks finds her husband Charlie (who was soon to be her ex-husband) dead on her sofa, stabbed with her kitchen knife. She can’t remember killing him, but she also can’t say for sure that she didn’t.

    Outside Eden, the fourth Harper Jennings novel, will be released in July.

    Jones — who’s also the author of the Zoe Hayes mysteries, which include The Nanny Murders, The River Killings, The Deadly Neighbors, and The Borrowed and Blue Murders (and that doesn’t even get to her non-fiction!) — lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia and teaches writing at my alma mater, Temple University. When you meet her in person, it’s easy to see that she has the energy needed for such an ambitious publishing schedule. She’s smart, engaging and fun to talk to.

    Here are Four Questions With… Merry Jones.

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    My Favorite Five Books of 2012

    As is the case every year, there were far more excellent books published in 2012 than I had time to read. And, truth be told, one or more of the books on my list may have actually been published in 2011 (or earlier… I think the first edition of The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson came out in 1999). But these are all incredible books I read for the first time in 2012, and which I recommend without hesitation.

    Dead Harvest Hell & Gone The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson Big Maria The Informationist

    Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

    Sam Thornton is a wonderful protagonist, flawed and heroic. And I love how brilliantly Holm explores the overall theme (heaven vs. hell) with an incredible pulp sensibility and in a gritty urban environment. I’m eager to read book two in the series, The Wrong Goodbye, which is out now.

    Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski

    I loved Fun & Games, the first book in Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie series. But Hell & Gone took things to a new level (literally: much of it takes place in a secret underground prison) and added approximately 800 percent more crazier-than-crazy twisted-ness. I’d like Christopher Nolan to direct the movie version, please. I’ve already pre-ordered book three, Point & Shoot, which comes out in April.

    The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson by Douglas Lindsay

    This novel about a serial killer is flat-out hilarious. Barney Thomson is a mediocre (at best) barber and an all-around sad sack. I can’t remember laughing out loud while reading a book as often as I did during The Long Midnight of Barney Thompson. I’m certain that says something disturbing about me, but there you have it.

    Big Maria by Johnny Shaw

    Poor Harry Schmittberger. He’s been picked on his entire life. Rather obviously, his name didn’t help in that regard. But while he starts Big Maria in less than healthy conditions (the first chapter is very … memorable), Harry soon meets up with a pair of men he has enough in common with to launch a search for long-forgotten treasure in a gold mind that happens to be in the middle of a U.S. military training ground. Big Maria is funny, touching, badass and brutal.

    The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

    Including this book is cheating, because I haven’t read The Informationist yet. But my wife Beth has, she loved it, and she has great taste in books — so I know I’ll totally dig it when I do. Protagonist Vanessa Munroe can track down just about any kind of information. In this first book, she’s hired by a Texas oil billionaire to find his missing daughter, who disappeared four years ago in Africa. The second book, The Innocent, is available now. The Doll is scheduled to be released later this year.

    Four Questions With… Peter Farris

    Last Call for the Living

    I first ran across Peter Farris’s fiction at Shotgun Honey, a website dedicated to crime-themed flash fiction. (Be sure to check out “Disney Noir”.) His first novel, Last Call for the Living, was published last year (the mass market paperback comes out on March 26) and has been described as a “gritty and fascinating Southern noir gem” and “a debut that demands attention.”

    I agree with both descriptions. Last Call for the Living probably shouldn’t be as easy to read as it is. Many of the characters are despicable, the situations they find themselves in astoundingly brutal. But the skill of Farris’s writing keeps you turning the page.

    Farris is from Cobb County, Georgia. The sense of place injected into Last Call for the Living is another reason the book succeeds. Imagining yourself in the rural Southern landscape he paints is effortless.

    If it’s not already clear, I highly recommend Farris’s first novel and I can’t wait to read his next. Here are Four Questions With… Peter Farris.

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    “Just One Moment” at BEAT to a PULP

    Just One MomentThe e-zine BEAT to a PULP is one of my favorites, so I’m thrilled to be there with a new story, “Just One Moment.”

    Published just in time for Valentine’s Day, this story starts with a romantic dinner at a fine restaurant in the City of Brotherly Love…

    Angelina’s fingers slow-danced on the backs of my hands and her eyes dove into mine. “Just one moment,” she said. “Let me see if what we are was meant to be.” Her intoxicating smile tickled my brain.

    Outside our favorite restaurant, early evening light grew dim and powdery snow covered Philadelphia’s streets and sidewalks with a fresh white blanket.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    One of the scenes in “Just One Moment” is set at PPL Park, the home stadium of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. Built on the banks of the Delaware River, it’s a spectacular venue. (The stadium is actually in the City of Chester, not Philadelphia.) Highly recommended if you ever get a chance to go.

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    “For the Honesty” at The Flash Fiction Offensive

    TFFO LogoI’m thrilled to have a second story up at Out of the Gutter Online’s The Flash Fiction Offensive today.

    “For the Honesty” is about the loving relationship between Bruce Burton and his wife Amber, how Bruce gives Amber a gold bracelet with a diamond charm, and so on. (That all happens in just the first sentence.)

    With setup like that, “For the Honesty” must have a happy ending, right? Whether it does or not, I’d love to hear what you think. TFFO makes it easy to leave comments on the story.

    Fall On Your WorldMy first story at TFFO was “Sole Operator,” which stole its title from a song by the band Poole. “For the Honesty” takes its title from a song by The Throes (both bands feature several of the same members), from the album Fall On Your World.

    The editors at TFFO are Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts, who also happen to be great writers (notwithstanding their shared poor taste in football teams). I highly recommend Joe’s collection of short stories, Choice Cuts, and Tom’s novel, Piggyback. Check out their websites for more info.