Friday, September 25, 2015


Hi folks,

Well, Bouchercon is just around the corner and I’ll be heading to Raleigh… dang! I can never remember if that's in South Carolina or North Carolina… anyway, it’s one or the other. I’ll be rooming again with my buddy Jack Getze who keeps me laughing the whole time.

 Jack with another of his always clever headbands and one of his fantastic novels!

Lots of stuff happening there! I’ll be reading some of my stuff at the Noir at the Bar event, organized by a great writer—Eryk Pruitt, author of HASHTAG and some other terrific stuff—and it kicks off at 7 pm Thursday, Oct. 8 a… you guessed it!... a bar! Looks like a special one—a bunch of old friends and a couple of soon-to-be-new-ones. If you’re in the right Raleigh, stop in for a great time!

The next day, I’m on a panel they’re calling “Rough, tough tales for tough readers” and it’s emceed by Eric Beetner and the panelists are myself, Chris Pavone, Tom Young and Trey Barker. This one’s gonna be really cool!

Sometime in the afternoon after my panel, Jack Getze and I are going to be interviewed by Tom Pitts for the world-wide show Authors on the Air. Rumor is that the lovely hostess of this series, Pam Stack, is coming up from Florida to see if Jack and I live up to our billing as “The World’s Most Handsome Writer and His Faithful Sidekick, Jack"… This is a big, big deal for us. Tom recently did an on-air chat with Benjamin Whitmer that got a quarter of a million hits! What we Texans call “high cotton.”

 Tom Pitts... being cool and bringing attitude...

After I get back, I’ll head on down to Naptown in December to do a booksigning with a bunch of Indiana writers, including an old friend, Michael Martone and a bunch of others. If you’re in town, stop on by!

My German publisher, Frank Nowatzke just let me know that The Rapist is going to be released very soon. I can't wait to hold it in my hot little hand!

Got some big news that should be coming any day now. One’s a supersecret project I’ve been asked to take part in and I’m sworn to secrecy but will let you know the minute I’m allowed to. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been privileged to take part in and I’m dying to let everyone know what’s going on, but… soon!

Blue skies,

Friday, September 18, 2015



Hi folks,

This is going to be a post that some will like—most likely a minority—and some will dismiss or even hate—most likely a majority. Which suits me just fine. I’m a contrarian and I like being in the minority.

I’m a lifelong Notre Dame football fan. I’m relishing the Showtime series currently playing each week, focusing on Irish football. This week really registered with me big-time. As is his custom, Coach Brian Kelly brought in a motivational speaker, this week that person being Joe Plumeri, the CEO of City Group for 32 years. What he had to say gave me chills. It spoke directly to my own personal philosophy that I’ve lived under almost my entire life.

Since I was five years old, I’ve been committed to being a writer. Not for a second have I ever envisioned any other calling. Never under the worst circumstances I found myself in have I ever wavered from the goal of being a writer.

I didn’t know there was a rallying cry for this mindset—this philosophy. Now I do.


This was the message Mr. Plumeri delivered to the football team.

When he began talking to the team, he asked them: Are you  willing to do whatever you gotta do to win a national championship?” In unison, they all nodded emphatically that they were. He then said, “You nod your heads—it’s easy.” He then asked if they knew who the Vikings were and then related their philosophy. “The Vikings were the conquerors from the north. When the Vikings landed, the very first thing they did was they burned their boats. Why do you think they burned their boats? They can’t get home. They burned their boats because they were committed to win. To win.

“They didn’t say, ‘well, we landed. We’ll win.. well, maybe we’ll win.’ That’s not commitment. You gotta ask each other today—are we compelling enough to burn the boats? That’s commitment.”

That instantly became the team’s rallying cry and team and individual philosophy. As probable All-American Sheldon Day said, later on, “Burn the boats is so important to us. It means to do anything and everything we can to get a win.” One of the team captains, Joe Schmidt, reiterated the same sentiment: “That full commitment and burning the boats is something we’re going to lean on all year.”

And, in looking back on my own life, that’s always been my own committment as far as writing is concerned. I burned the boats a long, long time ago and I continue to burn them.

I’ve walked away from good jobs more than once, simply because it was taking up too much of my writing time and/or it was changing my goals into more material ones than writing goals. I’ve left relationships with terrific women for the same reasons. Married to a person who resented the time I spent writing. It’s what William Faulkner meant when he said, “An Ode On a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies.” It’s the mindset I’ve always, always had. Writing comes first. Always. I’ve never allowed anything to threaten that nor will I ever.

And, much of society rejects such a philosophy. That’s all right. I’ve never trusted anything a majority of people are for. Almost always, it’s a compromise. And, if you want to be a writer, compromise is your enemy.

Has it cost me? Absolutely. But, whatever the cost was in each particular instance, it was simply worth that cost to achieve my goal.

Several years ago, I had a man with whom I’d been working with on his novel, announce to me that he was quitting his very lucrative job as the manager of a large hotel, to pursue his writing full-time. He told me his wife was probably going to divorce him as a result of that decision. At first, I wanted to grab him and tell him the common wisdom—“Don’t quit your day job, dude! Not until you’re making a secure income from writing. The odds are against you, man.” I almost did just that… but I didn’t. I could tell he felt the same as I did and who was I to deter him from following his own dream? How could I, who’d done exactly the same thing—several times—as he was proposing to do, tell him not to do so? I couldn’t. That wasn’t my place nor my job to do so. I’ve lost track of him and I don’t know if he ever realized his dream, but it doesn’t matter. For at least one shining moment in his life, he was a Viking. And, people like that are my heroes. I know what has to be given up and it’s considerable. So, even if he didn’t make it as a writer, it doesn’t matter. He knows that he stood tall, at least one time in his life, and that’s something that wealth or even the love of another person can never take away. I expect heated response and arguments on that statement and that’s fine. But, all the arguments in the world won’t sway my own beliefs in what’s best for me.

The vast majority of those who want to be writers won’t achieve their dream. I think in at least some cases, it’s because they weren’t willing to burn the boats. I suspect it’s because a lot of folks want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to keep their job, concede to their wives’ or husbands' demands to employ less time behind the computer, bow to other demands… and yet, to somehow crank out a publishable novel and gain riches and fame. To be fair, there are a great many writers who don’t burn their boats (or bridges) who do just fine. They sell tons of books, have lots of fans, win all kinds of awards. And, that’s great. In fact, that’s ideal. But, for me, if I’d followed that path, I don’t think I’d have become the writer I am. I would probably have become an author, but that isn’t the same as becoming a writer. Not the kind of writer I wanted to be and the kind I am. All in.

There’s a reason the term “starving artist” is a well-known term that has roots in antiquity. I’ve more than once been that guy. And, may be again. So be it. I’ve burned my boats and since I don’t know how to build one, that avenue is not possible. That’s by choice. There have been many people who have burned their boats and it didn’t work out as they wanted or even expected it to. That’s all right. They made a choice and they stuck by it. Even if they didn’t make it, they know what it feels like to go out on that ledge by themselves and without a net, and you can’t put a dollar value on that. It’s a priceless feeling. It’s freedom. It’s living with your own rules and not those of others. When you do away with the possibility of compromise, you’re free. You either learn to survive on your own, or you don’t. It’s that simple.

This won’t be seen as the smartest philosophy in the world by most people. And, I simply don’t care. It’s mine and I own it.

I was a presenter at a writer’s conference in Indianapolis many years ago with a woman writer. At the end of our presentations, we held a Q&A, and the first question we got was, “What if your husband doesn’t support your writing?” To which we both spoke in precise unison and without even looking at each other: “I’d divorce him.” It was just the feeling we both had. We both felt the same—husbands (and wives, and boyfriends/girlfriends) are fairly easy to get. A book—a good book—is hard to get. Especially if you’ve got an enemy of that book in the same room with you. Actually, I’ve achieved Nirvana. I’ve been in several relationships that interfered with my writing and I severed them. My wife now is the most supportive person I’ve ever known and I’m a very, very lucky guy. There aren’t many like her. Probably why we’ve been together for over a quarter of a century. Trust me—there aren’t very many out there like her.

I don’t expect many to understand how I feel and that’s fine. A person that intensely dedicated to something in life is difficult to stomach for many people who don’t have anything that compelling in their own lives. I suspect it’s a threatening idea to many.

So be it. As for me, I say only:


Blue skies,

P.S. I just know this is going to piss someone off and who will want to take me to task...  That's fine--I'll be here all week--remember to tip your waiter or waitress.

Here's a guy who burned his boats to follow his dream as a writer, for sure! One of my heroes, the Honorable Charles Bukowski...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thoughts on Lumet's Rubber Ducky...

Hi folks,

You might want to head over to UK writer/teacher Virginia MacGregor's blog where I have a guest post today, talking about Sydney Lumet and Paddy Chayevsky's "Rubber ducky theory" in writing.

Would love to hear your feedback on the principles I chat about...

Blue skies,

Thursday, September 3, 2015

NEWS--Beat to a Pulp, anthology LAST WORD, and an appearance in Naptown

Hi folks,

A few news items… I’m privileged to have a story in the just-released anthology, LAST WORD, edited by Liam Sweeny. All proceeds will go to the Nation Inside organization, a coordinating organization that unites national efforts to pass prison reform measures. I am proud to say that it was my own ugly self who recommended this group to Liam when he was casting about for a worthwhile charity to devote the proceeds to. So, for both a great read of stories from a truly all-star lineup of crime writers and to support a worthy cause, glom onto a copy today. Just click on the cover image.

And then yesterday… one of my personal favorite stories was published in the Beat to a Pulp webzine. I wrote “The Best of Friends” years ago and it appeared first in the prestigious High Plains Literary Review, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and nominated for Houghton-Mifflin’s “Best American Mystery Stories” series. It was also included in my first short story collection, Monday’s Meal, published by the University of North Texas Press and nominated for the Violet Crown Book Award.

So, swing over to David Cranmer’s superb pulp fiction site, Beat to a Pulp, and check it out.

Just got notified by the Indiana Historical Society that I’ve been selected to be one of the authors appearing at the 13th Annual Holiday Author Fair at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis, on Saturday, December 5. The address is the Indiana Historical Society, 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202. If you’re in town, it will be a free admission day and I’ll be signing books from noon until 5 pm. After that, just look for the closest bar. I'll probably be there, unwinding...

Blue skies,