Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

horrorWell, it’s been a long haul. Been dealing with some stuff. (See last blog entry.) But somewhere in there, the Oct. 31 release date for my short story collection, “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take Requests,” crept up on me. So I guess now’s as good a time as any to blow the dust off this blog and post something. A while back, I found some two-sentence horror stories on the web. Here’s an example:

“The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.”

Here are some more.

Since then, I’ve made kind of a Halloween tradition of posting my own two-sentence horror stories every year. This is the 2016 edition. Be forewarned. Bone-chilling terror awaits:

  • “Don’t apologize to me for your foul mouth,” my new cubicle-mate says. “Apologize to Jesus.”
  • A new congressman is elected in your district. InfoWars endorsed him.
  • “I’ll be here for the next four weeks,” the contractor says. “Have you heard the one about the two blacks and a Jew in the gay bar?”
  • Your daughter says things are getting serious with her boyfriend. He has a “9/11 Was an Inside Job” bumper sticker on his car.
  • “We’ll get started in just a minute,” the woman at the front of the room says. “But first, we have a fun team-building exercise for you.”
  • I hand her my phone to show her the picture I just took. She starts scrolling through the rest of my pictures.
  • “Welcome to ’90s night!” the DJ says. “Who remembers the Macarena?”

 

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human chessWhew! Long time, no blog!

Don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog before, but I’m a caretaker for my two elderly parents. My Dad had a bit of a health crisis about six months ago, and dealing with it really ate up a lot of my time.

Things are settling down a little, and I’d really like to get this thing going again. So …

Two of my favorite things in the world are martial arts and stories about con artists. So when Kevin Smith incorporated both topics into his novel “Human Chess,” I guess it was inevitable that I was going to like the results.

And I’m sure you’ll share my opinion — whether you’re a fan of mixed martial arts, old-school hard-boiled stories about tough-guy schemers, or just entertaining stories.

Kevin agreed to answer a few questions about his book, so here goes:   (more…)

philconGreat weekend! I spend most of it at PhilCon — the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference. Actually held in Cherry Hill, N.J. But I guess PhilCon is too august a name to change lightly. This event has been going on in one form or another since 1936.

In the near future, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about different elements of it in greater detail. Geez, I got enough material there for a year’s worth of blog entries. And I got the contact info for a lot of people I intend to be interviewing here — after reviewing their works, in a lot of cases. So stay tuned.

Anyway, I was very impressed. Up to now, I haven’t really been big on conventions. As I’ve mentioned here many, many times, I love science fiction, horror and fantasy. And I certainly don’t want to put down the means by which anyone chooses to enjoy them. Hey, it’s a big tent. Glad everyone’s here.

Still, I’m just not into the obsessive parsing of specific TV shows and movies that seems to characterize a lot of fandom. And I had this image in my mind that the convention scene has a lot of that.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. PhilCon seemed to have a very pronounced emphasis on the literary side of science fiction, which I appreciated.

Hell, I walked through the door of the hotel and momentarily wondered if I was in the right place because the lobby wasn’t packed with people in outlandish costumes. The I looked to my right and saw Gardner Dozois — legendary writer and editor — hanging out at one of the hotel restaurant tables. The guy’s been one of my heroes since I was a kid. After suppressing a “SQUEEEE!” worthy of a 14-year-old girl who’s just spotted One Direction, I wandered over, told him I was a big fan, and asked if he could point me toward the convention.  Mr. Dozois, who proved to be every bit as cool as I could have hoped, did so.

So my convention experience started out good, and pretty much stayed there the entire weekend. I think I might end up attending more conventions.

Like I said, I plan to blog about it more. But I’m kind of tired and about to crash, so I’ll get to that later. Time to dream pleasant dreams stoked by the endorphin rush I’m still riding.

ZZZZZZZZ! What’s that, Mr. Dozois? You say you want to edit an anthology of my short stories with introductions by Joe R. Lansdale and Neil Gaiman? Why … I’m flattered. ZZZZZZZZZ!

 

cheesesteak 2“Naked Came the Cheesesteak.” Weird fetish site? No. At least … I hope not.

Actually, it’s a “serial novel” mystery, with each chapter written by a different Philadelphia-area writer. And it’s happening right now at Philadelphia Stories, where a new chapter is being released each month.

So how do nakedness and cheesesteaks tie in? Here’s a little bit of background.

Back in 1969, a bunch of journalists played a literary practical joke by releasing a deliberately bad book titled “Naked Came the Stranger,” in which each of them wrote a different chapter and released it under a pseudonym. Their intent was to show that any book could be a success, as long as it featured lots of sex. Turns out they were right. The book became a best-seller.

In 1996, a bunch of South Florida-area writers — including the legendary Carl Hiaasen and the beyond-legendary Elmore Leonard — did something similar by crafting a mystery/thriller parody in which a different author wrote each chapter. Unlike “Stranger,” this one wasn’t a hoax. But the title, “Naked Came the Manatee,” paid tribute to its literary forebear. Or, should I say … foreBARE?

Sorry. I kind of hate myself now. Anyway.

Some of the folks over at the wonderful Philadelphia Stories decided to do something similar with a bunch of Philadelphia-area writers.

I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’ll let co-editor Mitchell Sommers take care of that in the following interview.

But I will say this. I recently attended the launch party for “Naked Came the Cheesesteak,” at which a number of the authors gave readings from their contributions. I can tell you already that it’s very different from “Naked Came the Stranger,” which the writers intentionally made bad. Because “Cheesesteak” features some amazing writing.

The writers themselves, who didn’t see the chapters that came after their contributions, have no idea if it’s going to hold together as a story. But hold together or not, it will definitely be worth reading for the quality of the prose, if nothing else.

That’s why I wanted to feature it here. That, and the fact that it gives me an excuse to use the word “naked” a lot, which I figure will boost my Google search rankings.

By the way, the writers associated with the project are: Kelly Simmons, Nathaniel Popkin, Kelly McQuain, Warren Longmire, Don Lafferty, Tony Knighton, Merry Jones, Victoria Janssen, Shaun Haurin, Gregory Frost, Mary Anna Evans, Randall Brown and Diane Ayres.

The co-editors are Mitchell Sommers and Tori Bond.

So here are the questions that co-editor Mitchell Sommers graciously agreed to answer for me:

Q: Can you give us some background on how “Naked Came the Cheesesteak” happened, and your involvement with it?

A: The idea of a serial novel has been something I’ve thought about ever since reading the Dave Barry/Elmore Leonard creation “Naked Came the Manatee,” which was also a serial novel/ murder mystery set in Miami using South FL writers. It’s a crazy book (and totally worth reading). And when I finally had a forum to try something like this in Philly, I decided to try it. I’m fiction editor for “Philadelphia Stories,” and the two co-editors and founders, Christine Weiser and Carla Spataro, were totally on board. They may have thought I was nuts, but they were on board. I very quickly realized that I was not even going to come close to organizing this thing myself, and I asked Tori Bond, who is also with “Philadelphia Stories,” and who is a recent MFA graduate from Rosemont College, to become co-editor. She has an important quality I lack, that being anything involving even rudimentary organization skills. (Note to my law clients: Please ignore what I just said.)

 

Q: What were you hoping to accomplish with this?

A: Two things: First, I wanted to see what a bunch of writers, with different styles, writing in different genres, could do on a project like this. The story very quickly became a murder mystery–that format worked well with the concept, and it was a way of paying homage to Naked Came the Manatee. And it really did take on on a life and shape of its own. Getting several member of the Liars Club (Kelly SImmons, Merrey Deedee Jones, Gregory Frost and Don Lafferty) was a big help. We also had two poets (Warren Longmire and Kelly McQuain), which I thought added some interesting shape and texture to the project. But really, every writer brought something cool to the project.

Second, I wanted to bring attention to “Philadelphia Stories.” Our mission is fostering a community of writers in the Greater Philadelphia Area, and this fit perfectly. I wanted people to read us, to stick with us, to come to our readings and our yearly Push to Publish one day writers’ conference. And, hopefully, give us money. Our on-line auction is up right now.

 

Q: Do you think there’s any particular literary quality that tends to characterize work from the Philadelphia area?

A: I don’t think pretense is a quality you’re going to find in Philly writers. They, like the place, are a tough bunch, without a lot of fake sentimentality. Funny and poignancy exist pretty much side by side.

 

Q: Obviously, everyone involved is having some fun with this. But do you think it reveals anything about the storytelling process?

A: That it’s mysterious, lively, capable of taking inspiration from all kinds of places and if I knew more, I’d use it to finish my own novel.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Philadelphia Stories?

A: We’ve been around since 2004. That’s 11 years. We publish quarterly, featuring poetry, fiction, non-fiction and artwork. We are completely, totally free, and are distributed across the Delaware Valley, including every branch of the Philadelphia Library. We also publish PS Jr., twice a year, featuring the work of children up to 12th grade. And the aforementioned Push to Publish writers workshop, in which more and more agents (the magic word to a writer) show up every year. It’s a great magazine. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Nobody else would have let me do this.

Noir2Tomorrow night (Oct, 29), I will be one of the crime and thriller writers doing a reading at Noir at the Bar in Philadelphia. Join us! But look, you. I took the fall for a dame who played me for an all-day sucker. Now I’m on the lam for a murder rap. If John Law shows up, you never saw me. Keep that pretty kisser of yours shut, got me?
Anyway, we’ll be at the Misconduct Tavern, 1511 Locust St., from 7 to 9 p.m. Many great writers will be on hand to do readings, including Jon McGoran, Dennis Tafoya, Bill Lashner, Erik Arneson, Wendy Tyson, Robb Cadigan, Don Lafferty, Merry Deedee Jones, and Duane Swiercynski. With an introduction from Peter Rozovsky, the father of Noir at the Bar.

See more information here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1915303498693979/

I’m excited about the coming weekend. I’ll be attending the 9th Annual Western Maryland Independent Lit Festival in Frostburg, Md. I’ve gone for the past couple of years and it’s always a very rewarding experience. I get to meet some very talented authors and publishers, exchange ideas and network.

I’m particularly psyched this time around, because I’ll get to do a reading from my upcoming short story collection, “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take No Requests.” I’ll also be selling advance copies, as well as copies of my 2013 novel, “The Freak Foundation Operative’s Report.”

Joining me at the Codorus Press table will be Wayne Lockwood, author of “Acid Indigestion Eyes,” and Scott Pruden, author of “Immaculate Deception.”

http://www.frostburg.edu/cla/indie-lit-festival/

My apologies. The blog’s been dormant for a while. A bunch of stuff came up — primarily a new job — and I was obliged to put it on the back burner. But I’d like to start it back up. So how about I begin with a new, original novelette, presented to you for free?

Here’s the deal. I have a young, talented friend named Frank who portrays a character known as “Cuddles McSpanky” at haunted attractions. He knows I’m a writer. At a recent party, we got into a discussion about our mutual love of horror and noir. And we agreed that it might be fun if I tried writing a story featuring his character. I found myself really getting into it. To my surprise, the short story I initially intended to write somehow expanded into a novelette.

I tried including it in my short story collection, “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take No Requests,” due out from Codorus Press early in 2016. But my publisher told me we’re a bit late in the process for that.

So I figured, what the heck. I wrote it mainly as a fun project anyway. And I’d like Frank to be able to share it with his friends and followers. So here it is, presented as a freebie. Enjoy. Share it, if you’re so inclined. And if you like it, keep an eye out for “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take No Requests.” Or check out my Pushcart-Prize-nominated debut novel, “The Freak Foundation Operative’s Report.” You can find Cuddles McSpanky’s page here. And if you’re REALLY brave and/or crazy, you can go see him in person here.

For the record, this is a work of fiction and is not intended maliciously. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any other resemblance to actual events, groups or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

So here goes:

 

THE LEGEND OF CUDDLES MCSPANKY

By Tom Joyce

Based on a character created by Frank Paul Staff IV

 

 

Somewhere in the night-darkened pines to Kevin’s left, chainsaws buzzed like mechanical hornets. Followed by screaming.

Startled, a cluster of girls in Kevin’s group let out screams of their own, giggling at themselves immediately afterward. The Trail of Terror at the BloodShed Farms haunted attraction in Pierce Township, N.J., followed a snaking trajectory, frequently turning back on itself. Intermittent cries from the densely encroaching pines on either side signaling that the group ahead had encountered whatever as-yet-unseen horror would ambush Kevin’s group next, be it zombie, vampire or psychopath.

An unnerving effect, Kevin had to admit, jangling his already jangled nerves.

Kevin trailed behind a dozen or so teens and adults venturing through October darkness punctuated by pale lights on poles set at infrequent intervals along the paved path. Wishing that the night’s errand was already over. He yanked the brim of his baseball cap down lower on his forehead and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt tighter about his face.

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