Thursday, July 10, 2014

My New Mystery Short Story Collection, NOBLE UGLY DWARVES AND HANDSOME YUPPIE SCUM, is Available Exclusively on Kindle!

I have just published my first book as a Kindle original!

It is a collection of my mystery stories:  Noble Ugly Dwarves and Handsome Yuppie Scum.

Although I self-published it, two of the stories originally appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine:
  • "Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" (June 2011)
  •  "One of Those Plans-the-Perfect-Crime-but-then-Something-Goes-Teddibly-Teddibly-Wrong Stories"  (February 2013)
 (The second item on that list contains the handsome yuppie scum.)

 If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow it from the Kindle Lending Library.

Disclaimer:  The cover is pretty basic, I admit.  It's no The Great Gatsby with those haunting eyes superimposed over the night landscape.  Since it's a Kindle exclusive, I was able to use cover art that matches a scene in one of the stories, at no extra charge, from Amazon's selection.

But I hope you'll agree that I did not skimp on the insides!  It's over 40,000 words.  Twelve mystery stories that range from horror-tinged to borderline science fiction to noir to parody.

You can click to preview it for free, and should be able to read the introduction and a large part of the story, "Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs."

I hope you'll enjoy it, friends!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My new story "Silent Stakeout" published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

I am happy to say that my latest published story, "Silent Stakeout," is available in the September 2014 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (out on the newsstands this month, and now available to purchase online as well).

The story has a full-page illustration by Linda Weatherly.  She did a great job.  (She is on Facebook at You can see the illustration, as well as the first half of the story, at this link:

I have appeared twice in its sister publication, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, but this is my first appearance in AHMM.

This is what the cover looks like:

AHMM June 2014

If anyone would like to get it on Kindle, it looks like it's available with a single click on Amazon, although I believe you have to select for a single issue rather than a subscription:


Monday, January 13, 2014

My Story Makes Tangent's Recommended Reading List of 2013!

I'm honored to say that my story "Will YOU Volunteer to Kill Wendy?" (Galaxy's Edge, November 2013) made Tangent's Recommended Reading List for 2013.  My thanks to Galaxy's Edge editor, SF legend Mike Resnick.

You can read the full list here:

(Note that they misspelled the story's title as "Would you . . ." rather than "Will you . . ."  Oh well, at least they didn't misspell my name!)

Several friends, new and old, also appeared on the list.  Most important to me, my old mentor from Kansas City days, Rob Chilson, was on the same list for his haunting story "Half as Old as Time" in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  It's an honor to be on the same list as Rob.

If you'd like to get a copy of the issue of Galaxy's Edge that had my story in it, you can order it electronically or as a hard copy.  It includes new stories from other rising new writers, as well as some classic reprints by legends of the field.  Just go to this link and scroll down to the November 2013 issue:

Current prices are $5.99 for a hard copy (and my contributor's copies show it to be a handsomely produced magazine), or $3.99 for an electronic version.  If you don't have a reading device, you can get it as a PDF.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My story "Will YOU Volunteer to Kill Wendy?" is now up at GALAXY'S EDGE!

It's fantasy/horror with a bit of literary criticism thrown in.

It will be online for free until the January 2014 issue of the magazine comes out, then this link won't work.  Here is the cover art for the printed version:

I'm very excited about this publication.  I hope you all enjoy!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How I Came to Write "Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter"

I've done my first 'guest blog.' (I've always thought that the term seemed like one that didn't need to be invented.)

Patricia Abbott, whose story "Mad Women," appears alongside my "Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter," in the new anthology MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL: GIRL TROUBLE, invited me to describe the genesis of my own story. I did so here:

Thanks for hosting me, Patti.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My New Mystery Story is Free Online

"The woman who fired me has a lovely daughter."


 Sometimes, first lines just come to you. When I wrote that down, I knew I had a menacing story to go with it.


The full text of my story, "Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter," is now available to roll out the premiere issue of The Malfeasance Occasional.

 The Malfeasance Occasional (The M.O.): Girl Trouble Issue

I'm excited about the venue for this. The Malfeasance Occasional is an e-book put out by the mystery web site Criminal Element, which is a venture of Macmillan publishers. They get a lot of traffic, so I'm hoping to get a whole new audience.


 My story was chosen to be the online enticement ahead of the publication of the entire issue (perhaps because the very title lends itself to viral marketing!)


Although my story is free, the e-book itself is a steal at a mere $3.99 for tales by fourteen authors, who have between them decades of experience and publication credits.  You're in the hands of the pros here.  It is available on Amazon Kindle and for the Nook.  If you use another e-book reader, this link from Macmillan should help you find your preferred seller.


My thanks to The Malfeasance Occasional Editor Clare Toohey for all of her work on this project. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My New Story is Licensed Fan Fiction ... With Penises. Lots of Penises.

E. L. James makes no bones about the fact that her 50 Shades of Grey trilogy started off as dirty True Blood fan fiction.  She dropped the vampire angle, changed the names, and the result was phenomenal sales of books (and vibrator batteries).

Well, I’ve written some fan fiction now, too.  Is it smutty?  Yeah, kinda.  If you call mentions of porn stars and giant penises smutty.  Oh, you do?

Unfortunately, it’s only a short story, so I won’t be getting any 50 Shades-style riches.  It’s licensed fan fiction through a new-ish program from Amazon called Kindle Worlds.

Amazon signed deals with various intellectual property owners.  Fans can publish their stories and even novels using the copyrighted worlds, exclusively through this portal.  (If E. L. James had tried to sell her novels without changing the names and ambiance from the copyrighted True Blood characters, her trilogy would have been called 50 Shades of Sued, then 50 Shades of Broke, and finally 50 Shades of Living in a Cardboard Box). 

You, the writer of the fan fiction, get a percentage of the sale.  There are some restrictions.  Chief among them: no erotica.  Why did I write a story with smutty elements, then?  Keep reading.

You can see the list of available licensed worlds here.  Some are literary properties (the Silo Saga), some are TV shows (Gossip Girl), and some are a mystery to me (Bloodshot? X-O Manowar?  Hey, to each their own).

From what I understand, the Kindle Worlds program has been around for about two months.  A month ago, the anonymous Kindle Worlds official blogger noted that there were now 100 fan works for sale now.  So clearly, there are people who are excited about this.

Being the nerd I am, I chose to jump in and experiment with this using ….

… drumroll  please …


That’s right, Kurt Vonnegut.  Alongside The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, comes the work of one of the literary giants of the 20th century.  An accessible literary giant, who wrote with short, clear sentences and never hid behind cant and pretense.  But a giant nonetheless.  How did this happen?  I dunno. 

It so happened that the day I saw that (the fact that Kurt Vonnegut’s estate had licensed fan fiction rights to Kindle Worlds, that is) I had just finished a story.  So the next one I started was "So It Goes ... Until It Doesn't".

It is a continuation of the story of Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse-Five.  I tried to write parts of it in the style of Vonnegut.  In other places, I dropped the parody in order to be able to tell (what I hope is) a satisfying story.

In trying to capture his voice, I did my best to use mostly 1960s and 1970s references; the kind that would have been roughly contemporary to Slaughterhouse-Five and some of the other novels I referenced.  I also tried to write in his political voice.  For instance, here is a passage from my story that attempts to capture the feel of his mordant observations:
Billy’s home in Ilium, New York was not unusual for a man in his seventies in 1999.  He had been a successful optometrist before his retirement, and his home was quite nice.  Billy had had the great accidental good luck to be born in the 1920s.  He had been an American when a comfortable middle class life was attainable through hard work.

Many red-blooded he-men talked about this phenomenon, calling it, “The American Dream.”  The main components of this Dream had been the basket of government programs enacted in the early 1930s and the mid-1960s:  Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The programs had created a safety net which had kept the poor from starving, and therefore rising up to murder the rich, and had kept the old from living in destitution in their final years.
In other words, the “American Dream,” also called the “American Way of Life,” had been built on unbridled socialism.  The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx, had laid out everything needed to build the country that anti-Communists were so proud of.  So it goes.
Now, understand that the politics of that passage are not quite my politics.  But I believe it is something Vonnegut could have written.  He self-identified as a socialist.  And I hope that I was able to capture some of the flavor of the man in that passage.

Of course, no pastiche featuring Billy Pilgrim would be complete without mention of his "enormous whanger" (Vonnegut's words ... and odd spelling).

Whangers aplenty make their appearance.  Vonnegut was what I would describe as ‘Vulgarity with a mission.’  This is, after all, a man whose story in Harlan Ellison’s legendary Again, Dangerous Visions anthology was entitled “The Big Space F***” (without asterisks; much of my writing is R-rated, but this blog is deliberately not.)  So, I did the vulgarity thing.  At one point in my story, Montana Wildhack tells Billy: “Oh wow, you’re almost as big as John Holmes.”

So if I’m vulgar in my pastiche (and Vonnegut’s 1969 novel was censored by many communities because of its language) do I have a mission, as Vonnegut did?

I think I do.

I went to graduate school and I have a master’s degree in English.  (I didn’t complete the Ph.D. program.)  Looking back, I am very angry about it.  Because I do feel that the English programs in America have lost their sense of wonder, and have been replaced by hack literary criticism.  There are other reasons as well.  If you want to get a sense of how people can be fooled by the nonsense of literary criticism, check out the celebrated Alan Sokol hoax.
The first story I ever sold at professional rates was “Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs.”  It was my tribute to Poe.  And that’s how I practice my love of literature now; instead of some silly paper aimed at a single professor’s prejudices, I can create my own work of art that riffs on the author's original.

My Writers of the Future-award-winning story “Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya,” is inscribed “To Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Master.”  The story cannot be said to resemble anything he wrote … except in one particular.  It features a protagonist who pledges lifelong devotion to a certain idea that others might reasonably consider to be tragic or weird.  I had read Hawthorne for years, but until I finished that story and then impulsively added the dedication, I had never realized that.  It was a wonderful moment.

So, my 5,700+ word story, “So it Goes … Until it Doesn’t” is now available exclusively as a Kindle download.  Kurt Vonnegut, parody, and penises.  For 99 cents, how could you go wrong?