Author POV: A Portrait of Steal Life

On November 7, 2009, my favorite mixed martial artist, Fedor Emelianenko upped his consecutive winning streak to twenty-six, unprecedented in the world of combat sports. On the same night, I began writing chapter one of Les Cannibales, my first published book. Here’s what it’s about:

During a robbery, Blinky sees police activity down the street. His crew assumes cops have the art gallery surrounded, unaware of their true presence, which is responding to a car accident that has left one man dead. The thieves shoot at responding officers and take hostages. When Detective Reynolds arrives on the scene, he identifies the dead man involved in the car accident. This becomes his main lead to hunt down the thieves’ true identities and work out a peaceful resolution before S.W.A.T moves in.

Each thief has a story explaining why he chose to take the job. Inky is a con artist repaying an old debt, Blinky is a stuntman in need of quick cash, Pinky is an enforcer that’s looking to move up in the ranks and Clyde is a sociopath/art aficionado that loves to steal. When S.W.A.T teams get the go-ahead to overtake the gallery, it’s dog-eat-dog as the gunmen plan their escape.

Jump back a week, car parked curbside on San Pablo avenue. Two cars up, a person stepped out of their parked car, the driver door sticking out far enough some might consider it hazardous to passing vehicles. Without much effort, I found myself lost to woolgathering, waiting for my wife to return with coffee. This is how I come up with most stories—sitting there, bored, waiting on someone else.

“What if that person was struck by a car due to some technicality like crossing the line?” I muttered out loud. “That’d be somethin’.” I regressed further, falling deeper into the vortex of my imagination. Suddenly, viola—chapter one. When I got it down on paper, it reminded me of that unexpected scene in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta’s character accidentally shoots Marvin in the face.

Jump ahead a few weeks later, I caught an interview Quentin Tarantino gave to film students. One student asked Quentin: “What do I need to do to become a great director?”

“Write a movie like Reservoir Dogs,” was Tarantino’s response. Cue: standing ovation. Cut to: me planting myself in front of the typewriter, beginning chapter two.

The first draft was novel length (still have a hard copy on file). Originally, Les Cannibales contained fictionalized stories of actual art heists that occurred throughout history. Think of the theft of Mona Lisa in 1911, thieves seizing two Renoir  from the National Museum in Stockholm with submachine guns, and $300 million worth of art taken from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. The idea was to authenticate my story’s crime by highlighting actual crimes that have occurred. In later versions, I decided on axing those chapters—instead incorporating elements from those anecdotes into the crime I made up.

I wrote Les Cannibales eight years ago. To see it find a home with Shotgun Honey and Down & Out Books is a dream come true. Be a pal and check it out after you read this. Go ahead, give Les Cannibales a chance. You’ll be surprised with what you discover.

Thanks,
DeLeon


From the Hip – Nick Kolakowski

Hola Honeys!

That’s what I’m calling all of you now. Yes, it’s terrible and yes you all deserve it. You know exactly what you did and where.

So, in keeping with my rigid and concise schedule, we’ve got another FROM THE HIP for you with Shotgun Honey’s very own Nick Kolakowski. He’s got a corker of a novella, A BRUTAL BUNCH OF HEARTBROKEN SAPS, out and it certainly needs your love, clicks, and lamentations.

If you dig the novella, you’ll also love Nick’s short fiction. He just happens to have a collection out by the name of SOMEBODY’S TRYING TO KILL ME and it’s pretty damn fantastic. I highly recommend scooping it up as soon as you can.

On to the ranting!

Our chat took place on 5/10/2017 and of course, light editing may apply. Blah blah blah blah. Something, something. I read the book months ago and blah blah blah.

ANGEL (characteristically 100% on time to an 8:30PM chat at 9:00PM): I’m finally here (kids were being cute/not sleepy)

NICK: Sweet.

ANGEL: So, to keep Ron on his toes, I decided to do these things very off the cuff. It allows for cursing and all that fun stuff. That said, how about you tell me about A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps before I go off the path.

NICK: A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is about a dude who decides that he’s going to change careers. The only problem is, he’s a slick New York hustler whose idea of “changing careers” is ripping off his very scary bosses, dumping his equally scary assassin girlfriend, and driving West with a bag full of cash.

To say that things get messy is a bit of an understatement. But I was also going for pitch-black humor, as well.

Because why shouldn’t a severed finger be hilarious?

ANGEL: It is hilarious! And so is the book. I was impressed with its pace. I tend to be a fast reader but I tore through it and I didn’t find myself feeling as if I should scan a few paragraphs here and there. The word economy and narrative were well-balanced.

Which is something I know both of us tend to know a little something about.

So, full disclosure to anyone reading and not knowledgeable: you and I are label-mates AND editors here at Shotgun Honey.

WE’VE ENTRENCHED OURSELVES WELL AND SHALL REAP ALL BENEFITS…

Anyway…

You can do flash – and well. What draws you to shorter form?

NICK: My short attention span. No, seriously, I get distracted easily. Blame it on a lifetime of guzzling down pop culture, but I have a very hard time with ultra-long narratives. It’s not that I can’t follow the plot, but right around page 300 or so I struggle to maintain my inner momentum. There are exceptions — I tore through The Cartel by Don Winslow, and I’ll zip right through anything by Neal Stephenson — but my intellectual metabolism is geared toward short.

Plus I like the punch that shorter fiction delivers. If it’s done right, it’s like a really good standup joke, hitting you viscerally.

And if it’s done badly, at least you’ve only burned a few minutes or hours, as opposed to days of your life.

ANGEL: I’m exactly the same way. The Cartel, House of Leaves, Lincoln in The Bardo – if it’s a damn good book, I don’t care how many pages. BUT if it’s the typical filler fare, it drives me insane. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where I feel as if it would have been better as a novella or a short story.

That last point you made about wasting minutes/hours. You think we can flip that too? Part of the appeal of flash to me is the ability to fail spectacularly. I can land on my face with a piece and not weep. What are your thoughts there?

NICK: Yes! Flash fiction is a great laboratory for testing concepts. You might produce the literary equivalent of an eight-legged dog that spits acid and eats your lab assistant, but you could also create something beautiful… and because you know you’re not burning tons of time, you can be more playful. I’ve written short stories — and I’m sure you have, too — that basically served as prototypes for much longer stuff.

That’s not to say a Hellbeast with Eight Legs can’t be beautiful. I’d love that fucker. I’d sic it on my neighbors when they start blasting obnoxious music at midnight.

It’s easy to spend 700 words on a bank robbery. But it’s more interesting to try and flip it. You did that once, with that crazy story about the clowns knocking the place off…

ANGEL: Hey, clowns make anything either dumber or scary. I figure not enough dumb is out there, so I went for broke.

My Dad got me into noir in a big way when I was a kid. He gave me the Raymond Chandler novels, and Hammett’s Red Harvest, when I was at a very impressionable age. We also saw a lot of crime flicks — not just the classics with Cagney and so on, but also whatever was coming out at the time, like Heat. My love was exclusively for noir and grit, though; I was never a fan of Christie and traditional murder mysteries, with the exception of Doyle and Sherlock Holmes.

NICK: That’s not to knock those books where the little old lady solves the mystery of the priest killed by the lawn gnome, but it was never my speed. I related to noir anti-heroes’ sarcasm, and their toughness.

The fact is, most crime isn’t well thought-out. The majority of criminals are dumb as a bag of hammers. I’ve always had a hard time believing intricate murder plots that hinge on arcane solutions.

But noir captures that idiocy and horror.

ANGEL: I tend to look at the more traditional, toothless work as being more like fantasy? That’ll probably piss some folks off, but I’m not knocking. All writing takes skill to put together but noir, like you said – that grit and idiocy? I’ve never met a criminal that wasn’t a complete idiot. Clever? Capable of problem solving? Sure. Actually intelligent enough to keep their shit together long enough to NOT have to stick someone up for fresh kicks at a 6:30 AM Nike release? Nope.

And those stories are so much interesting!

NICK: Idiocy is undervalued as a character trait. It’s no fun to read a heist novel where everything goes right; you want everything to go wrong. I’m proud to say that every character in “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps” isn’t nearly as smart as they think they are, especially the two characters who absolutely, positively think they’re the smartest motherfuckers in any given room.

I feel like you can write genuine intelligence if you make it a chess match. For example, Heat: two people who are geniuses at their professions, on a collision course. The end-game kicks in when one decides to do something idiotic.

But most people aren’t Michael Mann.

ANGEL: That’s honestly one of my biggest gripes with modern crime fiction. A lot of writers LOVE making their characters super effective at something and while, sure, that can be interesting, it starts to feel tired.

And like you said, most folks ain’t Mann, or a Ted Lewis, or the other folks who can make some of the old tropes sing.

So where do you think we go from there? We’ve got some indie labels producing some cool stuff – ours included – is this the future of the genre? Of publishing? I know you’re a bit of a techie. Are the signs there?

NICK: I’d like to think so. Until a couple years ago, the traditional publishers were a hell of a bottleneck to new voices getting out there. Indie labels have been great about letting those authors sing, but it’s a hard road ahead nonetheless — a label can produce fantastic work and still fold. That being said, I think all the pieces are in place; what we need now is for a couple of indie books to break into the mainstream.

And “mainstream” comes with its own risks, of course. But people are clearly interested in fresh takes on noir — look at the popularity of Fargo, or True Detective. In theory, there’s nothing to stop literary noir from catching serious fire.

ANGEL: I don’t think being saddled with my least favorite genre tag ever, neo-noir, helps. That may be a chip on my shoulder, though. I don’t mind taking inspiration from the history, but bowing down to it irks me to high hell.

So what’s next, man? Will we see this ridiculous crew from Brutal Bunch again or do you have anything else in the plans?

NICK: The Bunch — minus some bits and pieces — are coming back in the next novella, Slaughterhouse Blues, which is launching in 2018. The lunacy rolls to Nicaragua and Cuba before heading back to New York. I’m excited about it because I spent some time in Central America for work, and this is the first time I’ve been able to deploy a lot of what I saw there in a fictionalized setting. I’m also writing the third book in the series, which might be the hardest of them all because I’m trying to have it take place in one location, like Die Hard.

ANGEL: I totally have a Die Hard concept in my file. I think it’s impossible for anyone our age not to. I’m looking forward to that. Single location stories are a bear!

NICK: Plus I have to resist the urge to have the characters make bad Bruce Willis jokes.

ANGEL: INDEED. Well, dude. I think we can call it quits. A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is dropping May 12th (there are more than likely MANY links scattered on this page. Best of luck with this one, man. I loved it and I really think a lot of folks are going to dig the hell out of it too!

NICK: Thanks, man! This was fun. Good luck with the next Blacky, too. You’re up next!

ANGEL: Thanks for dealing with my flaky, flaky planning! And yes, new Blacky! It’s all coming up Milhouse, man.


Dodging Bullets: May the Books be with You

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

It’s hard to believe that it’s May already, and that in a week’s  time Shotgun Honey will have release six titles under it’s new imprint with Down & Out Books. Three of these are reissues from the previous One Eye Press releases, and if you hadn’t had a chance to pick them up before, well what are you waiting for? In case you missed our current offering, here you go.​

 The big goal for Shotgun Honey is to get unique stories from talented writers in your hands. Each books is one I’d personally read and buy, but I’m of course these writer’s #1 fan. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t publish it. So do you trust ol’ Ron Earl? I hope so, because here is the remainder of the years release schedule:

May 12

  • A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski

May 26

  • Hurt Hawks by Mike Miner
  • Goldfinches by Ryan Sayles

June 9

  • Texas, Hold Your Queens by Marie S. Crosswell
  • Face Value by William E. Wallace

June 23

  • Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult by Angel Luis Colón

August 4

  • Les Cannibales by DeLeon DeMicoli

September 15

  • Dead Clown Blues by R. Daniel Lester

October 6

  • Ridgerunner by Rusty Barnes

October 27

  • Knuckledragger by Rusty Barnes

December 8

  • Dillo by Max Sheridan

While I think all these books are notable, there are a couple notable additions in the last quarter this year. October 6th, brings the reissue of Ridgerunner by Rusty Barnes, previously published by 280 Steps. This comes to us as the first part of a trilogy, the second book titled The Last Danger will come in October 2018, with the third early 2019. The other book added to this year will be our first short novel, Dillo by Max Sheridan. Dillo was previously contracted but unfortunately orphaned because the press closed its doors.

That’s 16 new and old titles for 2017. That’s pretty exciting stuff for a small press guy like me. I do hope you take a chance on our books, not just keep Shotgun Honey going but to let these talented writers have a chance to be read. And there’s more exciting things in 2018. I’d tell you, but one of the newly signed authors really wants the world to know, and I think I should let him simmer on that another week or two. What do you think?

2018 Signings

Okay, okay…

Shotgun Honey is thrilled to have contracted authors Lawrence Maddox and Chris DeWildt.

Lawrence Maddox brings us Fast Bang Booze, a beat-the- clock thrill-ride that races through 1993 Los Angeles to a rollicking, deadly climax.

And from Chris DeWildt? A student has committed suicide, and  another has gone missing, but Gus Harris, a small-town private-eye and all-around asshole, is sure the two are connected. Determined to solve the case, it’s a race to see which unravels first: the case or his relationship with his children. Just another day for a Suburban Dick.

Keep an eye out for more information about these titles and others coming in 2018.

In Case You Missed It

Let’s not forget that Shotgun Honey isn’t all about books. Each week we publish new stories by talented up-and-coming authors who are feed solely on the words you leave them in the comments, and these guys are starving. Read some awesome flash.

Deadweight” by Casey Schwarz

“Oh, boy! You’re a real floppy one.” Peyton struggled as he tried to lift the dead boy from his grave. He linked his arms under the boy’s shoulders and pulled back as hard as he could but the boy didn’t budge. Peyton felt his shoes sink deeper into the mud. He’d always thought that dead bodies would be stiff, like he’d seen in movies. But the dead boy just sunk in his arms every time he tried to move him. Peyton was breathing hard now, exhausted from digging and wrestling with the body. His arms burned.

Read More

Her Bathrobe, White and Soft by Joshua Murray

When he stumbled upon them, he thought they were just having sex and that he caught her cheating on him. He went over early because he wanted to apologize in person for calling her sister a bitch. He meant it when he said it, but when she hung up and the conversation floated in the air of his mind, it replayed with more emphasis and malice on the word until he lost sight of the truth.

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Uninvited by N. D. Coley

I getcha. You just wandered into this party like it’s one of the other parties on this block-cauldrons of frat boys in rugbies and girls shaking their asses in high-waisted shorts, the mixed scent of cheap beer and weed.  You figured you’d put up that grey hoodie of yours, tuck your head, and tip-toe around the room, eyes peeled for fake tits, ears perked for the smell of perfume that says yes please, there’s a room upstairs and I’m all yours.

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And a bonus because I never write and am very needy.

Shiner by Ron Earl Phillips

I heard Uncle Jasper’s tractor rattle to life behind the house; every shudder was amplified by the tin roofed shed he stored it. It wasn’t a monster like you’d see at large farming operations around the valley and in the flatlands. No, it was just an old John Deere that Paw-Paw used to putter around the field and haul supplies down to the family garden.

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We are always open to submissions. So if you want to be like one of the folks mentioned above, hit us up at the Submissions Manager.

Until next time, all the best.


Dodging Bullets: James Lee Burke Reading

This week I promised myself I wasn’t going to spend much time on social media, specifically Facebook, because I have a couple term papers due. I know that’s a strange thing to hear from a college educated gent like myself, but truth is the first time around I did it for the folks and note myself. Otherwise, I’d probably be college professor like so many of the writers I get to publish. There is something pleasing in working with someone and facilitate a story to the published product. So maybe I’ll become a professor yet. I hear they get a lot of coeds.

Though I promised to stay off social media, I’m glad I didn’t. I managed to catch a Q&A with James Lee Burke following a short reading on a Facebook Live. Live is the new instant video post that Facebook allows you to do, that is if you didn’t already know. I first read James Lee Burke by way of my grandfather who was an avid most of his life and moreso in his elder years. Mr. Burke sprung into the world when my grandfather would have been a teen, but the two men had a lot in common. Hard work ethics and big tales. I always thought my grandfather could have made a good writer, but that’s where he and Mr. Burke differ. My grandfather believed in arts as quality leisure, but did not feel it made for a meaningful employment. Partly why I didn’t follow my guts and dedicate myself to writing when I first found I had a knack for it. He warmed up to the idea in the later years and I was a bit shameful that I never finished that first book to show him who and what I really was meant to be.

That aside, James Lee Burke is a national treasure and if you haven’t read his Dave Robicheaux series, then you ought to get on it. The man has a way of making words flow as natural as breath and sharp as steel. And I don’t normally recommend audio books, but they are useful on trips, and to hear the great Will Patton (honestly, I believe he is a fantastic character actor and second man) read the words of James Lee Burke—this man was made to read novels by James Lee Burke for us to enjoy—it is transcendent. A perfect pairing. But as you will hear from the excerpt of White Doves at Morning at the top of the video, Mr. Burke is no slacker. Enjoy.

 

Posted by James Lee Burke on Monday, April 17, 2017

I was considering announcing a book that I’ll be producing for next year with James Ray Tuck Jr that will be released in conjunction with Down & Out Books, and… Well that’s all I’m going to say at this time because I’m a bastard. It’s important and I hope it turns into something special. Next week will be pedal to the medal for me as I use my staycation to produce some books, and hopefully write some fiction of my own.

Oh, have you listened to the latest WriterTypes? The latest hits Crimespree Magazine‘s first Murder and Mayhem Chicago conference. This episode is hosted by Crimespree Magazine and has another Shotgun Honey story, this episode Carnivore by Carmen Jaramillo. Check it!

In Case You Missed It


The Kid by Mark Cowling

The kid was driving. Enrique. He was new but there was no one else I’d want behind the wheel. He did nothing erratic, nothing impulsive. Steady speed — neither too fast or too slow. Just a nondescript truck cutting through the backstreets of Oakland.”

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Back to Tall Pines by Spencer Fleury

When she heard the job offer on her answering machine, her heart sank. Virgil reminded her – again – how much they needed the money. “But it’s the most depressing thing I can think of,” she said. He just snorted. “Naw. There’s worse.” Easy for you to say, asshole. You don’t have to do it.

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We are always open to submissions. So if you want to be like one of the folks mentioned above, hit us up at the Submissions Manager.

Until next time, all the best.


Dodging Bullets: Fortitude and Publishing

Last year television was introduced to a new network called PIVOT, and well there wasn’t a lot good with the channel save for one series starring Stanley Tucci as an American investigator sent to Fortitude to conduct an investigation of the death of a noted scientist. Fortitude is an isolated community in Arctic Norway, which is an amalgamation of nations, yet is under the rule of no particular country. The eponymous series was collaborated and produced by PIVOT and Sky Atlantic. The series starred, along with Tucci, Michael Gambon (Harry Potter series), Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who (9th), Cracker), Sofie Gråbøl (Night Watch, The Killing (original)), and Richard Dormer.

FORTITUDE, as I said, was pretty much the only good thing about PIVOT, in less than a year the network shut its doors and hopes for a second season. The series is part mystery, part science fiction, and season one was some of the best acting on television. But, has Stanley Tucci ever not deliver? Earlier this year, I was happy to learn that FORTITUDE would be back with Dennis Quaid in the lead and Sky Atlantic now partnering with Amazon to produce. Available today free to Amazon Prime member, you can start streaming FORTITUDE season two. And if you missed season one, it is also available, so make it a long weekend.

Before you dive into the television series, Shotgun Honey has started its own the road to second lives. Today, I am excited to reissue through the Shotgun Honey imprint the second printing of FEDERALES by Christopher Irvin. All the books hold places in my heart, but I still vividly remember reading FEDERALES for the first time with utmost dread and by the time I finished I was excited. The dread came from having worked with Chris via Shotgun Honey, who was a second generation editor taking over for Chad Rohrbacher, and I was fearful that the story would be publishable,  even for a press as inexperienced as One Eye Press. But I was excited because the book initially had remnants of one of my favorite movies, Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington. I often tell people that there are no new ideas, the uniqueness in stories comes from how the ideas are worked and presented. So yes, FEDERALES is a book about personal redemption and the responsibility to others, but Chris made FEDERALES all his own.

Expect to see other One Eye Press books see second printings under the Shotgun Honey imprint in the coming weeks.

Synopsis

Mexican Federal Agent Marcos Camarena dedicated his life to the job. But in a country where white knights die meaningless deaths, martyred in a hole with fifty other headless bodies in the desert, corruption is not an attribute but a scale; no longer a stigma but the status quo.

When Marcos’s life is threatened, he leaves law enforcement and his life in Mexico City behind for a coastal resort town–until an old friend asks him to look after an outspoken politician, a woman who knows cartel violence all too well. Despite his best efforts, Marcos can’t find it in his heart to refuse, and soon finds himself isolated on the political front lines of the war on drugs.

Inspired by true events, Federales is a story of survivors’ compulsive devotion to a cause in the face of ever-darkening circumstances.

Where to Buy

FEDERALES will soon be available in paperback from Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com, or ebook from Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Praise

“Christopher Irvin s FEDERALES is an absolute gut-punch of a novella. The story of one man s search for redemption and justice within a Mexican system that has long-forgotten the meaning of either will haunt you long after the last page is turned.”

Todd Robinson, author of The Hard Bounce

FEDERALES is a sweaty, feverish sojourn into a fetid limb of the Mexican drug war, where sentiment, principles and fellow feeling have no place. Christopher Irvin’s read will carry you swiftly through to the fitting end.”

Sam Hawken, author of The Dead Women of Juárez

“In his debut novella, Christopher Irvin deftly captures the frustration and futility of the Mexican Drug War. Part character study, part thriller, FEDERALES reads as a brutally human parable that tells a story that is sadly all too real.”

Johnny Shaw, Anthony Award winning author of Big Maria and Dove Season

In Case You Missed It

The Scientist by M. G. Juelle

The Miami skyline dangled over lavender clouds like stalactites made of pink light and shadows.

“I could die right now,” she said.

“It would take at least eight—”

“It’s an expression, silly.” She laughed. “Means I’m happy.”

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We are always open to submissions. So if you want to be like one of the folks mentioned above, hit us up at the Submissions Manager.

Until next time, all the best.


Dodging Bullets: We’ve Got You Covered Blacky!

Welcome to the relaunch of Dodging Bullets where I will talk shop about all things Shotgun Honey related, plus a few odd and ends that I find interesting.

What do I find interesting this week? Shotgun Honey turns 6 years old this month and we still churns out some of the best crime flash fiction on the web. That wouldn’t be possible without the editors who read stories good and bad seven days a week as they flow through our submissions manager.

Kent Gowran, Sabrina Ogden and I started the gauntlet back in 2011, and it was a solid format for selecting the best stories and to guide those that were good to be better. Those early selections lead to our replacement editors in Chad Rohrbacher, Christopher Irvin, Erik Arneson, Joe Myers, Angel Colón, Nick Kolakowski and Jen Conley. Jen really deserves a medal. Not only is she a great writer, but an outstanding teacher, and she has been part of the gauntlet longer than any other editor. I really can’t thank any of them enough for being part of Shotgun Honey.

If you are looking for an incredible collection of stories, I highly recommend Cannibals by Jen Conley from our publishing partner Down & Out Books.

Speaking of books, I have a lot of books to talk about. First off, just look at the cover for Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult by Angle Luis Colón. Click the cover. Purdy isn’t it? It is the long awaited follow up to The Fury of Blacky Jaguar, and the second book in the Song of Piss & Vinegar series, originally published in 2015 and to be re-issued later this month. Keep an eye out for One Eye Press re-releases over the next few weeks. If you missed them the first time, you’ll get a chance to pick them up again.

Like Federales by Christopher Irvin which will be available next Friday with a brand new cover. Click it. I know you want to.

2017 will be a year of new books, 7 in total, and re-issues, 6 or 7 as well, and a possibly a couple bonus books. And 2018, wow, I can’t wait to share what we’re hoping to do then. I’m excited, but let’s look at the new books in a nutshell.

  • Hardway by Hector Acosta (2/17/2017)
  • The Place of Refuge by Albert Tucher (3/31/2017)
  • A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski (5/12/2017)
  • Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult by Angel Luis Colón (6/23/2017)
  • Les Cannibales by DeLeon DeMicoli (8/4/2017)
  • Dead Clown Blues by R. Daniel Lester (9/16/2017)
  • Knuckledragger by Rusty Barnes (10/27/2017)

I call them my sexy seven because you know you want them. You did pick up The Place of Refuge last week? It’s not like you’re going to make it to Hawaii on your own, so why not read about it as Detective Coutinho tracks down a serial killer on the Big Island? Need more convincing? Read some more about Albert Tucher and the The Place of Refuge:

Show your support for Shotgun Honey authors by buying a book today. And if you can’t swing a book, be sure to read our weekly flash fiction offerings and leave the authors a comment. A little praise is invaluable.

In Case You Missed It

A Jump In the Dark by James Pate

That summer, Paul and Suzie would drink during the day, watching old movies on TCM and talking about their favorite actors and directors. And they would drink at night, having a few Jim Beam-and-cokes before stumbling out to The Lampshade, the bar a few blocks from their gray-brick duplex. Paul had lost his job as a cashier months before, when the manager of the Kroger’s near downtown Memphis caught him sipping tequila from his thermos. Suzie had been out of work even longer.

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Fame by Michael Snyder

For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted was to be famous. It was not a whim or passing fancy. There was no special talent I was pursuing. It’s not like I wanted to be great at something. I just wanted people to whisper and point when I walked into a room. I wanted them all to want a piece of me, to want to be near me, to want to be me.

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And the story that started it all on April 6, 2011…

Two-Phones by Daniel B. O’Shea

Smart-ass in front of Slim in the security queue at Midway couldn’t keep his mouth shut, guy dumping his shit in the plastic box, two fucking cell phones and a PDA coming off his belt like he was Batman or something, a fat money clip with a Franklin on the outside.

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We are always open to submissions. So if you want to be like one of the folks mentioned above, hit us up at the Submissions Manager.

Until next time, all the best.


From the Hip – Alex Segura

Hey folks!

So, an experiment – sort of, not like this hasn’t been done before. Though, I wanted to start an author Q&A series that wasn’t so ‘canned’, something where writers can shoot the shit while giving them the room to talk about whatever they’re pimping OR whatever strikes their fancy.

For the first installment of what I’m calling FROM THE HIP, we’ve got Alex Segura, the author of the Pete Fernandez series of books and a slew of awesome Archie comics. His latest, DANGEROUS ENDS, is dropping April 11th, 2017 from Polis Books, so I decided to use him as guinea pig and try my best to throw him off his game.

Our chat took place on 2/8/2017 – there’s been some light editing to improve the flow of conversation and to cover up Alex’s shocking opinion about pre-fab flooring.

ANGEL: So, to reiterate, loose convo. This is going on Shotgun Honey, so we know our audience. They’re fucking degenerates.

ALEX: Keep it CASUAL

ANGEL: EXACTLY. You ready for the snowstorm coming our way? Do you have French Toast reserves?

ALEX: I’m hoping it snows so I don’t have to drive to work! How about you guys?

ANGEL: Kids already got cancelled school and my job is cool with working from home, so we’re pretty much stuck at home the next two days.

ALEX: Not bad! G is turning one soon, so Eva’s running around prepping for a family thing this weekend

ANGEL: The big 1! That’s on Valentine’s Day, no?

ALEX: Yeah! Crazy! Valentine’s Day will never be the same

ANGEL: It’s an awesome time. Hell, we’re both going through the same stuff; Kid 2 is just a month older.

ALEX: We need to get them together again

ANGEL: I WILL TALK TO THE WIFE

ALEX: YEAH…Same here

ANGEL: For real, I have no idea what’s going on at all without her. So….WRITING

ALEX: OK!

ANGEL: You’ve been busy, dude. About a year, two books out with Polis, Archie Meets Ramones, ANOTHER Archie book and Pete Book 3!

You ready to take a breath?

ALEX: Not yet! Yeah, it’s been busy – but good. It’s like I’m working on two tracks, which is fun and keeps my brain clicking.

On one hand, I’m writing fun, all-ages comic book stuff, which is what first got me hooked on comics and reading, and on the other, I’m telling these really dark crime stories set in my hometown.

I can’t believe DANGEROUS ENDS is my third. It hasn’t really clicked in yet.

The comics happen faster – you write a script, then you start seeing artwork and before you know it, it’s on the stands

Novels are a much slower, more thoughtful process

ANGEL: I’m excited about this next one, Dangerous Ends. Having read it in an earlier state (VIP, YO) I really enjoyed the link to Cuban history. Pretty timely too! I never assume that folks pull directly from their family history, but is it safe to assume that here?

ALEX: Yeah, for sure. And I’m glad you got to read it early. Don’t worry, you’re duly thanked in the back! (Spoiler alert). The Cuba flashbacks sprung out of a conversation with my aunt one day. We were at a family gathering and Cuba came up, as it does, and she said there were a lot of family stories that I didn’t know and that she’d have to share with me sometime. Well, I couldn’t wait, so while everyone else is having a jolly good time I’m huddled with her talking about Castro, how our family got out of Cuba and the challenges a lot of them faces. It really made me want to paint a picture of Pete’s family.

But I also knew I didn’t want to just steal stories from my family’s past and switch names. I did a lot of research, about Cuba and Cuba-US relations and where the country was before Castro took power.

But that was fun research, and the kind of stuff I could do while still writing.

I also knew that I wanted the mystery from the past had to intersect with whatever Pete was investigating in the present, and at the end he had to leave the book changed and have some progression as a character.

I didn’t want him or his friends to be static.

ANGEL: I got a firm sense of that underlying tension and rage that is sort of a burden for a lo of Cuban Americans to bear. Did that inform how you wrote the flashbacks? Was it difficult to find a balance? Not to say Castro’s sins should be looked at objectively, but how do you pull back when trying to tell the story as it happened?

And to add a little perspective, I grew up with a lot of dudes who were first gen. Getting stories about their parents coming on the boats in the late 70’s / early 80’s. All different, but hell if that general mood is the same. It’s dark and hopeful.

ALEX: I tried to be objective in my research and how I presented what was going on, but I also used specific POVs, so you’re inherently biased. The first flashback is told from the perspective of Pete’s grandfather, a government official who’s at odds with the new regime. So, you’re already starting from slanted view.

But I did try to show some balance and not make it seem black and white, because it isn’t. We’re all human and even if you’re for the good guys, you can make mistakes and sometimes get corrupted by power or money or whatever.

The challenge was to show the Cuba parts accurately but also write a compelling mystery while still propelling the present narrative forward, which was tricky but I think it paid off.

And Pete, like me and many guys or ladies my age, isn’t immersed in the exile story. I mean, I grew up hearing stories about Cuba and it was ever-present, but I didn’t go there or visit, so my connection to the island was very cerebral. It’s the same for Pete. So I wanted to give readers a sense of what his connection is without literally taking him there.

ANGEL: And it’s all so timely. Over the past year, I think a lot of us have forgotten how shook up Cuba’s been. Did that help to inform any changes/edits for the book?

ALEX: The changes for Cuba happened as I was finishing up a polish of the draft, so I tried my best to keep the book as timely as possible. When I first wrote it, Castro was still alive, for example. So, on revision, there’s a mention of his death. Things like that. A lot of the heavy plot lifting had been done, but I wanted to interject as much about current events as I could. There’s mention of the softening relations and the loosening of travel restrictions, and it gives readers a chance to peek into Pete’s head and see what his take on all of it is.

ANGEL: Would you take a trip out there if you could?

ALEX: You know, this came up recently – as in, a literal invite to go, expenses paid. And I couldn’t do it. Not until the Castros – plural – are gone and no longer in power and an actual democracy is in place. I just can’t bring myself to know that my money is going into their pockets. It’s a simple view, I know, but sometimes we can only work in broad strokes.

I’d love to see the country, explore, visit the house where my parents grew up and so on, but I also know how desperately my family struggled to leave Cuba while Castro was in power, so I don’t think it’d be respectful of me to take a pleasure cruise now because it’s easy or convenient.

ANGEL: That makes sense. With all that history (mostly negative) I can see it being difficult to just dump money into the pockets of bastards.

ALEX: Right. And Raul Castro is not an innocent. Not Being Fidel doesn’t exonerate you.

ANGEL: And speaking from parallel experience with my own Caribbean roots, it’s not easy to see the places you come from – especially when it’s pretty much 3rd world.

ALEX: Right. I can’t expect the picture I saw, from the 60s, to be reflected today. I definitely want to experience it at some point, though, but I also have to know when the time is right.

This isn’t a diss on anyone who goes to Cuba. We all have to make our choices and I know people have close family there. I have some distant cousins and other distant relatives, so the urgency for human reasons doesn’t exist. But I can understand that.

ANGEL: THIS IS A HAPPY CONVO – Way to make a political book.

ALEX: CHEERFUL EVEN

It’s funny, because when I set out to write it, I was in a very Ellroy state of mind, but the book became something else.

Which is what you want, I think.

ANGEL: I meant to ask you, especially in light of Pete’s musical tastes AND your work with Archie. You’re obviously a big music guy, but what’s YOUR background. Were you in a band? Play an instrument? Become a master of triangle?

Also, I’ve been drinking – SURPRISE

ALEX: Ha! I am a triangle guru! Drink up, pal

Yeah, I’ve always loved music. I was in a few bands in Miami, though bands might be a stretch – we never played shows. But we had fun, wrote songs, practiced a lot. I was in a few bands in NY, most recently a group called Faulkner Detectives. We put out an EP and played a handful of gigs in and around NYC. The band is on a bit of a hiatus – kids, jobs, life – but we’ve talked about playing again. I loved being in a band and I really think songwriting is a helpful tool for any writer, so’s poetry. Learning to be compact with your words, and being able to tap into a feeling instead of just mechanically moving from plot point to plot point is important and not easy to teach.

Songwriting is unique in that you have to paint a picture or tell a story with a few words or lines and then support those words with a musical backdrop. It’s a fun challenge, and I think songwriting helped my prose and vice versa. Same with comics.

ANGEL: Shot in the dark – bassist?

ALEX: No! But the bass was my first instrument when I was a teenager. Then I discovered I wanted to write songs, so I needed a guitar. I played guitar and sang some songs in the last band.

ANGEL: Nice. I could never nail guitar down, so I played bass for a while and gave up. It’s been almost 20 years since I touched one that wasn’t a Rock Band instrument.

ALEX: I haven’t played much lately, either. It’s tough. One thing having a kid does is it makes you really focus your time across the board. I play guitar with the kid sometimes and that’s fun, but it’s been a while since I sat down and tried to write a song.

ANGEL: I play conga occasionally.

ALEX: Moog?

ANGEL: Nope, straight up LPs – donkey skin and all.

ALEX: Hardcore

ANGEL: So what’s next? You’ve got that special coming soon that focuses on The Archies (is that the current Waid canon?) and then what?

ALEX: Yeah, THE ARCHIES is in the updated Archie-verse, which is cool. That’s the first time I’ve worked there and it’s been a blast. I’m co-writing it with Matt Rosenberg. We wrote ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES, and it’s drawn by Joe Eisma, who was the artist on the main ARCHIE title, which is neat.

After that, I have some ideas (and about 50k words) for another Pete book or two, I’m working on this weird, horror/thriller thing that wouldn’t leave my brain and I have a few other comic book things in various stages.

I’m also pecking away at a few short stories I need to finish for anthologies and such.

ANGEL: The new Archie stuff has been a ton of fun. I still need to check out Riverdale. Chances are high now that wifey and I are done with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

ALEX: It’s a funny show! Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I mean. Riverdale can be funny, but it’s surprisingly noir and stylish, so I think you guys will dig it.

ANGEL: So you’re working on next steps for Pete. You’ve had the dude go through the ringer, alcoholism, death of loved ones, massive betrayals. What else can you do to this poor bastard?

ALEX: Man, I don’t know. I joke and say “Poor Pete” all the time when promoting the book, but it’s true – he’s been through a lot of shit. I knew, going into the writing of DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, the second book, that I wanted it to be, well, dark. I wanted it to really bring him to his knees, not only in terms of the mystery but his own personal demons. For DANGEROUS ENDS, I wanted to show him having progressed, at least in terms of his alcoholism but also his experience level. The Pete we meet in DANGEROUS ENDS knows the basic of what he’s doing. But I also didn’t want it to feel like “Pete Case #453,” y’know? So there had to be personal stakes for him. Each Pete book works on two levels for me – it’s about The Case, and The Mystery – but it’s also about Pete and his quest to not only be a better detective, but a better person. And that, as we all know, involves a lot of missteps and pitfalls. It’s not a straight line.

DANGEROUS ENDS, without spoiling too much, leaves Pete in a completely new situation/status quo, and I’m excited to explore that. I never want a book in the series to feel like it doesn’t matter or like it’s a holding pattern.

Which is tough, because then I think your series becomes finite, automatically

You can only pull the guy through the fire so many times.

When I finished the book, I figured we were in a good place to try something a little off the path he’s been on. Still, things should blow up again – explosions are cool.

Yeah, it sets Pete off on a new path, which I think is good, and it’ll keep readers (and me) on their toes. It opens up new story possibilities.

ANGEL: But there will be explosions, right?

ALEX: For sure. Lots of them.

ANGEL: Holding you to that.

ALEX: For a series, though, it’s tough because you have an inherent expectation, but you also want to keep yourself interested as the writer.

BOOM BOOM

ANGEL: Absolutely. I get that. I’m not the hugest fan of the IDEA of writing a series? On a personal level. If I can pull it off, sure, but like you said with Pete, there has to be a place where you can surprise yourself, right?

ALEX: It’s a cliché, but I believe it because it’s what I do: I write the book I want to read. I wanted to read a detective series that really featured Miami as the setting. I wanted to read about a PI who maybe wasn’t super-great at his job. It didn’t exist, so I wrote it.

That applies to the other books, too. I wanted to read a serial killer book that was a little different. So that’s what I wrote. I wanted a wider-screen look at the Cuban exile experience wrapped in a nice mystery/thriller packaging. It’s more instinctual at first – like, what am I interested in the moment? What stories get me jazzed? – but you see it in your rearview as you move on to the next thing. Oh, OK. That’s what I wanted to write.

ANGEL: I think you’ve nailed it and I think folks are going to be surprised with Book 3, Dangerous Ends is really enjoyable.

Thanks man! I’m glad you liked it. This was a challenging book to write but also the most fulfilling.

ANGEL: So beyond self-promotion (selfish bastard), what have you been reading/hearing/watching/eating/whatevering?

ALEX: Great question. In terms of mystery novels, I really dug Reed Farrel Coleman’s WHAT YOU BREAK, the sequel to his Edgar-nominated WHERE IT HURTS. I love the Moe Prager books, and when Reed announced his deal to do the Jesse Stone novels, the bit that jumped out at me most was the fact that he’d be starting a new series. Gus Murphy is a great, flawed protagonist and Reed just makes it look easy. I’ve been on a big Stephen King kick lately, which might be due to all the insanity happening in the world. Who would have thought that reading about killer clowns, worldwide plagues and crazy, rabid dogs would be soothing in comparison to The World Today, but it has…

ANGEL: Where It Hurts was fucking great. I need to pick up What You Break.

ALEX: In terms of TV, I finally got around to watching The Night Of, which I thought was great. But aside from that, we’ve been on a fairly disciplined West Wing re-watch. Babies also prevent you from having lots of TV time. So does novel-writing.

In terms of comics I’ll buy anything by Brubaker/Phillips, Rucka, Fraction, Snyder, Lapham, DeConnick…the list goes on. I was doing a fairly epic Uncanny X-Men/Claremont re-read, too, but that tapered off when the team got to Australia.

Also big shot out to Azzarello and Risso’s new one, MOONSHINE. Great supernatural noir shout out

ANGEL: With X-Men, Wasn’t that whole Siege Perilous thing?

ALEX: Yyyyeeaaaah

ANGEL: BLECH

ALEX: It’s not bad, per se, it just lost me and I wasn’t sure I was ready to go through it (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) again.

ANGEL: WELL DONE

ALEX: It did make me want to revisit the Simonson run on X-Factor and the Sienkiewicz New Mutants stuff, so that’s good.

You know, in all my free time.

ANGEL: Alex, speaking of children, terrible Claremont runs, and my drinking, I’m gonna break here and thank you for letting me run this little experiment.

ALEX: Thanks for having me! This was fun.

ANGEL: WE’RE CUTTING EDGE AT SHOTGUN HONEY

ALEX: NICE WORK ANGEL – Thanks a lot, seriously!

ANGEL: No doubt! Good luck with Snowmaggedon and we will set up baby playdate. NOIR AF

ALEX: yes! Soon! GOOD NIGHT!


Building a Book Playlist

New YorkedOne of the first things I do when I write a book is make a playlist. I’ve got three rules: It can’t have too many songs—I like to keep it to roughly an hour’s worth of music. Only one song per musician or artist. And none of the songs can have been used in a previous book’s playlist.

I don’t listen to it while I write. When I’m actually sitting at the keyboard I prefer music without words, like Bach’s cello suits or Aphex Twin or Sigur Ros (they sing in a made-up language; doesn’t count).

The soundtrack is for editing, or while I’m walking to and from work, or when I’m at the gym. Anytime my mind is wandering and it helps to be in the right headspace.

South Village is the third Ash McKenna novel, set on a hippie commune in the middle of the woods. Ash, an amateur private investigator (though he prefers to himself as a blunt instrument), is hiding out from a bad thing he did, waiting for his passport to come through so he can flee the country. And then someone gets killed. Just when he thinks he’s out, he gets pulled back in.

The book is a little bit about madness, but also a little bit about loneliness. And it took me a while to find the right combination of songs, but this is what I came up with.

The ‘Nam Connection

“Shelter from the Storm” – Bob Dylan

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones

This isn’t exactly scientific, but I wanted to evoke the feeling of the Vietnam era, when hippie communes were growing in popularity. These are some songs I’d expect to hear while watching a movie in which soldiers traipse through the jungles along the Meikong River. And each one plays a bit into Ash’s personal journey.

Plus, the first two Ash novels—New Yorked and City of Rose—feel very current to me, whereas this one feels a bit untethered to time period, given the lack of modern amenities at the commune. So I wanted the music to reflect that.

The Hippie Connection 

“Revolution” – The Beatles

“Redemption Song” – Bob Marley

“John and James” – The Maytals

“What I Got” – Sublime

It’s a hippie commune. There’s got to be some Bob Marley. And “Redemption Song” is a little on the nose, but it’s also a really good song. “Revolution” is the same—a little obvious, but it works for me.

I went to SUNY Purchase College, which had a big hippie scene, so I’m pretty used to that vibe. I spent a lot of time listening to Sublime, though I guess that’s not exactly unique to my college experience. But I also listened to a lot of the Skatalites and the Maytals, ska bands from Jamaica. Something was going to end up here; just happened to be “John James”.

Time to Get Angry

“Sleep Now in the Fire” – Rage Against the Machine

“Dogma” – KMFDM

“I’m Against It” – The Ramones

Part of the book involves militant hippie activists and a protest, so I needed some angry songs on here, too. The Ramones because I always need at least one punk song on every soundtrack. Rage Against the Machine because it’s Rage Against the Machine.

KMFDM, to my mind, is Rage Against the Machine with more staying power and a better sense of humor. I could have picked a lot of songs from their huge catalogue, but went with “Dogma”, because there was a snippet I wanted to use in the epigraph. Which the band leader, Sascha Konietzko, very graciously allowed me to use.

The Personal Cuts

“You Learn” – Alanis Morissette

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – Johnny Cash

Twelve years ago, when I visited The Hostel in the Forest—the commune South Village is loosely based on—my friend Jacqui and I were driving from Brunswick to Athens. It was the middle of the night and I got it in my head I wanted to listen to Jagged Little Pill. I don’t even know why. We had to visit three Wal-Marts before we found the CD, and then we sang along until sunrise, driving back road through Georgia. I associate that album with that trip. “You Learn” gets a spot.

And, finally, Johnny Cash. This particular song made it because Ash is dealing with his loneliness, and how he relates to other people. But also, I’ve always got to have Johnny Cash. That should probably count as the fourth rule.


From The Atari Times to The Throes of Crime

erikarnesonsquareOne of my earliest memories of school is writing a short story about King Kong and how proud Mom was when I brought it home. (I wish I remembered more about the actual story — I’m certain it would have made a worthy sequel to the original film.)

A few years later, I wrote a four-page newsletter called The Atari Times to share my fifth-grade thoughts on the Atari 2600 and games like Pitfall, Space Invaders, and Circus Atari. Dad took my creation to work and made photocopies, then drove me around our development as I dropped off free samples to drum up subscriptions. (It didn’t work. There might have been a second issue, but I can’t swear to that.)

As a freshman at Temple University, I started a play-by-mail professional wrestling simulation called the Global Wrestling Federation. Mom and Dad helped me file a fictitious name registration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and buy some advertisements to find customers.

When I started writing for a small music magazine called Notebored, Dad bought me a subscription to Writer’s Digest to help me learn the craft.

In short, Mom and Dad were relentlessly encouraging.

Last year, they both passed away. Mom suffered a stroke on April 22, and I will always believe that she would have fully recovered — except that Dad died of a heart attack just two days later. Once the reality set in that her husband of 45 years was gone, Mom was ready to join him in the next life. She did so less than three months later, on July 12.

14691927_10210834636448831_8116857010231003939_oThe James and Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund was created to honor their memory and continue their legacy of encouragement. The fund provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story.

Why Wilmot? Dad’s grandparents — my great-grandparents — moved to the United States from Norway in 1903. In 1914, they moved to Wilmot, a small town (population 492) in northeastern South Dakota. That’s also where they’re buried.

The scholarship fund is managed by the South Dakota Community Foundation, with a Scholarship Selection Committee consisting of me, my wife Elizabeth, and authors Jen Conley, Merry Jones, and Jon McGoran.

Superintendent and High School Principal Larry Hulscher and English teacher Danielle DeGreef made sure students were aware of the scholarship and encouraged them to enter. In May, Elizabeth and I visited Wilmot to award the first scholarship to senior (now graduate) Jessica Zempel, who won for her short story “Love, Lust, and Death.” We can’t wait to see what students come up with in future years.

If you’d like to donate to the fund, it’s pretty simple.

My first book, The Throes of Crime, a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays, is available at Amazon (ebook and paperback), and all proceeds from The Throes of Crime benefit the fund.

If you’d like to donate directly to the scholarship fund, you can find out how at my website.

And please take a moment today to encourage someone — a child, a parent, a friend, a stranger. Encouragement is a powerful thing.


The 5 Minute Interview: With Grant Jerkins

He’s an overweight, mostly bald, late-middle-age white guy in skinny jeans. Phil Collins meets Phil Collins. Like that. But like a really old Phil Collins. A sad spectacle.

We meet at the Viper Room off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Almost two hours late, Jerkins offers no word of apology, no acknowledgement that he is tardy to the party.

A Pixies T-shirt bulges at the belly as he tosses a pack of Camel Wide Blue onto the tabletop and wedges himself into the booth opposite me. One can’t help but wonder if the convenience store was sold out of American Spirits.

I glance at the publicist hovering just out of plain sight, but well within earshot.

INTERVIEWER: Let’s make this real. No handlers. No interference. Just me and you. Five minutes of honesty. Being straight with each other. You down with that?

Jerkins sighs and motions away the publicist.

INT: Don’t you think it’s a bit trite to interview yourself? It’s kinda been done to death.

GRANT JERKINS: Says you. What’s old is new. Here’s the secret to writing: There are no new stories. It’s up to the writer to tell old stories in a fresh way.

INT: That’s the secret to writing? Clichés are okay?

GJ: Yep.

INT: That’s great. Sagely advice. Faulkneresque.

GJ: ‘Stories from the past don’t die. They haven’t even been told yet.’

INT: Not how that goes.

GJ: ‘Haven’t even been told yet.’ Think about that.

INT: Okay, let’s tie that into your new release, Abnormal Man. It’s about a kidnapping gone wrong. Has that one been told yet? A kidnapping? Gone wrong?

GJ: Not the way I tell it. Have you read the book?

INT: I want to stay with this train of thought before we get into those kinds of specifics. I did a little research on this, about how many books and movies have used the kidnapping-gone-wrong trope. Sticking to things released just within the last twenty years. Care to guess how many there’ve been?

GJ: I have no idea.

INT: Guess.

GJ: I’m not interested.

INT: A shitload. A shitload of books and movies have used that plotline.

(Silence.)

INT: You can’t smoke in here.

GJ: It’s the Viper Room. They allow smoking. Johnny Depp smokes in here all the time.

INT: Okay, but you’re not Johnny Depp. You’re like, a sad old man trying to cling to his youth. And you’re way too old to be wearing skinny jeans. Let it go.

GJ: Have you actually read the book?

INT: Let’s shift gears. What’s up with that cover art? What’s that about? It’s a pink tree in like a deserted Wal-Mart parking lot or something.

GJ: Did you notice the crack in the asphalt leading to the tree?

INT: A bit obvious. But yeah, man. I get it. I get the symbolism. Asphalt cracked in the past hasn’t even cracked yet. I so totally get it.

GJ: Look, the point isn’t that it’s about a kidnapping or that there’s crack in a parking lot. The point is that sometimes we make bad decisions. Sometimes we do things we regret. And hurting another human being can be the biggest regret of all. And maybe we try to fool ourselves, try to believe that our actions were preordained. That what we thought were choices were never choices at all. It was never under our control.

INT: Fate? Seriously? You really are bringing out the chestnuts.

GJ: You have a young man. The protagonist in the book. He’s introverted. Isolated and lost. No friends. Nothing. An island in a sea of humanity. Except he likes fire. He’s sexually stimulated by fire. It’s his only friend, his only escape. Was that a choice for him?

INT: It’s easy to shock. Oooh, he gets off on fire. How disturbing.

abman_1800x2700GJ: Not the point. And you’re right, it is easy to shock. But sometimes when we get to glimpse into someone’s unguarded core, it’s shocking. Hell, the banality of it can be shocking. But what makes it worth exploring is the question of how did that person get that way. How did any of us get to be who we are, doing the things we do? Was what got you here today in front me in this booth the culmination of a series of choices, or were you destined to be a hipster douchebag from the moment you were born? Were you always someone unable write anything of any substance on their own and therefore must associate himself with serious writers hoping the glam rubs off?

INT: A serious writer? That’s how you see yourself?

GJ: What about a child molester? Or a rapist? It’s uncomfortable to talk about, to think about. But are those choices? Is that someone’s fate? Or even a result of chaos? Did carbon atoms swirling about the galaxy bring them to that point? Isn’t it worth putting some thought into how the most despicable amongst us got to be who they are? Or, putting all that aside, what about their humanity? They are human, right? We are all human, so as uncomfortable as it is, we need to acknowledge that our humanity binds us. That we overlap and have commonalities in that regard. What if we concentrate on that overlap, our humanity as a Venn diagram, and then consider the problem from there?

INT: You are not a serious writer. You think you’re like Bret Easton Ellis or something?

GJ: I cannot stand that prick.

INT: Guess what? Our humanity just overlapped. I can’t stand that fucker either. Are you down with the new crime movement? That whole thing? The whole Southern Gothic Burn Barrel Rural Noir thing? Someone like Brian Panowich? What’s you’re take on him?

GJ: Tattoo-riddled charlatan.

INT: We really are seeing eye-to-eye. So Venn it’s Zen.

GJ: Nah, see, I actually like Panowich. I was testing you. I dig his writing. He’s righteous.

INT: He’s a serious writer. I’ll give him that much. But you, you are not a serious writer.

GJ: I try. I honestly try. I aspire.

INT: Dude, you’re a fucking hack. You’re not even a hack. You’re like… Like a nothing. You’re like dark matter. You might exist, but probably you don’t. You don’t exist.

GJ: You’re right. I don’t exist. I’m not even past yet.