Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hilary's Scar

So Dan O'Shea has hosted some great flash fiction challenges in the past and he threw this one out as an informal invitation to write a story based on author Hilary Davidson's scar on her arm. It was too fun to resist.
I don't know Hilary personally but I know her writing and she's great. Looking forward to her upcoming novel. Here's a tiny taste of how she might have gotten that scar.

by Eric Beetner
“Don’t touch me.” She’d said it too many times to count. 
     It was the way he did it with such familiarity. The gentle resting of a hand on her arm, as if he was guiding her through life instead of ripping it apart. 
     “But darling...”
      “Don’t call me that.” Life had become a series of Don’t since Dan moved in. Mom deserved better but Hilary knew the next one would only be worse. Just like Dan was worse that Roy before him. And on, and on...
     “Where’s Mom?”
      “For how long?”
      “I’m not sure. I think she was angry. You know how she gets.”
     Angry. Yes, Hilary knew angry.
     Three boyfriends, two husbands and so far no one had the balls to get this close to her. They looked, but better judgement prevailed. At least they had that going for them. Unwilling to make advances to a teenage girl. 
     Hilary turned twenty last month.
     She’d tried moving out once, during the ill fated attempt at community college. Twelve hours a week at the school bookstore didn’t pay for tuition let alone her own apartment. Back to home, back to Mommy and whoever else was living in the shadowed house.
     He reached out his hand again, laid it on her arm just below her shoulder, comforting. Goose bumps raised on her forearm. She turned her head away.
     “Hilary, when are we gonna get along?”
     “You should worry about getting along with my Mom.”
     “Oh, we’re doing fine. A little fireworks now and then.” He rubbed her arm up and down, caressing the flesh. “Fireworks are good. Shows passion. Passion is good.”
     She pulled away. Dan’s hand hung in the air. He clenched it into a fist.
     “I said don’t touch me.”
      Dan’s voice raised; a familiar tone. “You say that all the damn time. We’re family. I’m allowed to touch you.”
     “Not like that.”
      “Like what? Y’know if you’re gonna accuse me of something maybe I might as well be guilty of it.”
       He breathed heavy from his nose, sounding like an animal. Hilary stared him down. She wanted him to make his move. She wanted an excuse to lash out, to punish him for his impure thoughts.  
     Dan stood, fist still clenched, looking at her from under his lowered brows. She met his stare, unafraid, daring him with her eyes. A sweet girl with hate inside. Hidden worlds of darkness below the surface.
     “Fuck you. Little bitch.” Dan left the kitchen, heavy feet expressing his annoyance.
     The fight deferred to another day. A matter of time. When – not if. Hilary rubbed the spot on her arm where he touched. She shuddered.
     Another entry in her journal wouldn’t suffice. Not today. Today the levees break.
     She opened the drawer, removed a knife. Sharp and clean. Cooking is her Mom’s only skill and she takes more pride in it than in her own daughter.
     She lifts the knife to her arm, the infected area. Still tingling from his touch.
     She cuts. She hacks out the offending flesh. Carves away the feeling of him.
     Blood flows rivers down her arm, drips from each finger. Her knife hand is clean, the arm still capable of wielding the knife. Dan’s heavy footfalls lead her to him.
     Mom will be gone for hours. She gets that way when she’s angry.
      Hilary knows angry. She wears the scars to prove it.

My chat with Kelli

My interview with Kelli Stanley is up now at Spinetingler. Kelli was very gracious to sit with me despite having a cold. She gave some great answers and is very insightful on her process and her characters. No wonder her book is doing so well.

I am confirmed for the LA Times Festival of Books for Sunday the 25th from noon to 1:00. My table-mates will be: Reed Farrel Coleman, Gar Anthony Haywood, Attica Locke, Gary Phillips, Duane Swierczynski.
Holy crap. Someone better take a picture.

I am on a mission to score a nomination for an Anthony award at this year's Bouchercon so if anyone knows someone with a ballot, please lightly suggest they write in One Too Many Blows To The Head for best paperback original. Threats of violence are highly discouraged. Sorry, did I say discouraged? I meant highly encouraged.

Lots of little things percolating. Issue #1 of Needle magazine will be available soon, both new novels are coming along well. Working on getting more signing dates.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Janet Rudolph was kind enough to invite JB and I over to her blog Mystery Fanfare which is a great and very informative blog about all things mystery. She has been running a series called Partners In Crime about co-authors so naturally we fit the bill. It is worth it go back through the archives to read all the partners in crime posts. Very interesting stuff. Thanks for having us Janet!

Word is out that Pulp Pusher is no more. Too bad. It was a great site for crime fiction. That jack of all trades/man with no spare time Keith Rawson has graciously stepped up and offered a home to all the orphaned stories in the archives of Crimefactory so mine and all the others won't be lost to the digital black hole. That is good news because the story, My First Crime, was one of my favorite stories. I'm glad it won't be gone forever.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reviews and interviews

Two links for you. One is a lovely review of One Too Many Blows To The Head at Mysterious Reviews. They seemed to quite like it and gave it four stars. Being quoted is still a weird thing but I really enjoy it. It's been a while since I blatantly shilled for the book but you there, yes you. You still don't have a copy? Come on! Other people, good and decent people are liking it. What are you waiting for. Buy one already! Okay, that's over with.

Also the interview I conducted with Rebecca Cantrell is up over at Spinetingler. She was kind enough to give me 10 minutes of her time at Left Coast Crime to talk about her book and she even trusted me enough to do the interview sitting next to a noose and guillotine. (we still never figured out why there were hanging around.) Thanks to Keith Rawson for knowing every single person in the crime writing world and hooking it up to post this wider than I could have given it any attention here on this tiny blog.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Measuring up

I made a sarcastic comment a few weeks ago that my TBR pile was taller than my daughter so I decided to put that to the test. What do you know? Taller than both!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dig it!

A new story, Dig, is up now at A Twist of Noir. Hard to believe I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of Christopher Grant's fiction site. I was entry #5 and Dig is #395. Twist has become one of the go-to site for crime fiction on the web and I'm always proud to be a part of it. 

Bad chocolate

Guest blogging today over at Dying For Chocolate, Janet Rudolph's blog about mystery and chocolate. two great tastes that taste great together!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Report from the Left Coast final thoughts

My favorite moment from Left Coast Crime was when Bobby from the Mystery Bookstore saw me in the book room and said, "Oh, Eric, I need you to sign a book. It's going to Italy." Apparently a regular customer was sending some books to her brother and wanted recommendations and my book was one they chose to suggest. It is so amazing to truly be "hand sold" by a bookseller who believes in your book. We have zero push from any outside source other than our own tenacity and when it pays off that is pretty darn cool.

My other favorite moment was seeing my new friend Rebecca Cantrell win the Bruce Alexander memorial award for historical mystery. Rebecca and I shared a panel and she was very kind to spend time with me all weekend and help navigate my first convention. She and Kelli Stanley even let me sit with them during the awards banquet so I whipped out the old Flip camera and was there for her winning moment. I wish I'd taped more throughout the weekend but I was glad to get her moment on camera so she will have it. Now her family back in Hawaii can see it.

Another good thing was being invited to the Men of Mystery day coming up in October. I was honored to be invited and I will get my paperwork in right away so I don't lose my spot. More on that as it gets closer.

A Trace of Smoke wins at Left Coast Crime 2010 from Eric Beetner on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Report from the Left Coast pt 2

A full agenda Saturday kept everyone busy at Left Coast Crime. I missed the Sex and the Author panel in favor of Agents, Editors and Booksellers but I could hear the laughs coming through the walls and talked to some folks who attended and it sounded great. At the Agents, Editors and Booksellers there was some good information and stories from the trenches of these important jobs. The panel was geared toward writers and the subtitle of the panel - They can make or break your career - was apt. A special shout ot to Linda Brown from the Mystery Bookstore who, in the weeks leading up to LCC, expressed dismay at having to speak on a panel but she did quite well and gave some great insight. 

I finally got a chance to get a signed copy of Christa Faust's Money Shot. Yet another great thing about Hard Case crime is that the books are cheap enough you can buy a second copy of a book you've read just to have a signed one. Can't wait for her next one. She also showed off her new tattoo of the Hard Case logo right on her wrist. It makes a great tattoo and I snapped a picture of her showing it off. On her camera though. I was in such a rush to get out the door this morning I forgot mine. Idiot. Christa and I prmised to spend more time hanging out at Bouchercon in October.

The LOL panel was, of course, funny. I walked in to see all six panelists sitting on the dias in clown wigs. They took their funny seriously, especially Sophie Littlefield who said she hadn't even realized she'd written a comic novel. I tend to agree. A Bad Day For Sorry has it light moments but I wouldn't call it a cozy. Everyone had a unique take on writing mysteries with a humorous tilt. We ran out of time before anyone realized it. 

Brett Battles cornerd me in the hall and told me he found out we had a mutual friend which was a nice way to meet him. I bought his book The Cleaner and look forward to read it. I certainly know him by reputation but haven't read his work.

The Rap Sheet already covered the one-on-one with Gregg Hurwitz and Lee Child so go there for coverage. 

The Meet A New Author panel I was on went realy well. It was late in the day but we still got a good crowd to come out and see me, Rebecca Cantrell, Gabriela Vazquez, Sharon Rowse and Rachel Brady. Moderator Eric Stone did a great job of keeping it fun and lively. We all had planned to read a short section of our books but Rachel was a late edition and didn't have time to prepare anythig so Eric suggested we throw it out to the audience and have them shout out a page number and we read that page and then give the context and explain more about the work. Rebecca and I were nervous to do it but it worked out extremely well. I lucked out ended up with a page of action and a big fight. We got some good questions including one from Stephen Jay Schwartz whose novel Boulevard made my to be read list this weekend. 

The Awards banquet and auction was fun mostly because I got to sit with Rebecca Cantrell and Kelli Stanley along with Ken Isaacson and Keith Raffel. Our table was thrilled when Rebecca won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Award for best historical novel for A Trace of Smoke. After hanging out with her all weekend I can truly say it coudn't have gone to a nicer person and one hell of a novelist. The Hannah Vogel series is sure to be a hit for a long time. 

The auction was fun as people bid for signed copies and many chances to have a character named after you in a story. The big ticket item was four signed Mickey Spillane paperbacks which went for $5000 to Lee Child. 

There are a few more morning activities today and then it's Santa Fe next year. I'll be there for sure.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Report from the Left Coast

It is day 2 of the Left Coast Crime convention and while I am back at work now I spent the day there yesterday and was back this morning for an early Meet New Authors breakfast and listened to a quick panel on spy stories. I signed some copies of One Too Many Blows To The Head yesterday and got some great feedback from the panel I was on so, so far so good.

LCC is a small affair which makes it easy to mingle (not my strong suit) and get to meet other authors and readers up close. As with all my forays into the world of crime writing, everyone is so damn nice. It is odd that all these people can congregate who love crime stories, write crime stories and generally dwell in the dark side of humanity and all remain so cheery.

I spoke yesterday on a panel about Pulp Fiction and it was great. Authors Kelli Stanley, Gwen Freeman and Gabriela Vazquez were all up there with me in a panel moderated by Bob Fate. We all got to talk about how our books related to the larger world of Pulp and that sustaining influence of those writers on our work today. Gwen came with copious research and notes and we probably should have just let her talk and school us all in Pulp. It was great to finally meet Kelli Stanley who I have been emailing with lately and whose book, City of Dragons, was a great read and is getting a lot of attention. Gabriela and I will reunite tomorrow on a panel and her book The Sick and the Dead, while not out quite yet, sounded really intriguing. Her P.I. main character Tom Wells is a man who is mentally unbalanced. He has hallucinations and rolls with it and makes it a part of his work. Great hook. Can't wait to read that one.
This morning at the New Author breakfast I was also intrigued by a book I've seen around, Boulevard by Steven Jay Schwartz whose protagonist is a sex addict as well as investigator. Why has no one done this before? Seems like a perfect match.

I finally got to meet some people in the flesh who I had been communicating with online for quite a while. First, Deborah J. Ledford, she of the final copy edits of our book which made it markedly better. Deborah is of course here to promote her book Staccato which is a taut thriller worthy of your time and is the first in a series so get on board now and ride it out to the thrilling conclusion. (we'll see if she takes my advice on book titles for the big finale) I am sad to be missing her panel today on the art of the short story.

Finally met Steve Brewer in person and finally gave him a copy of the book he so generously blurbed. Thanks again Steve. Why he isn't to the level of other attendees Robert Crais or Michael Connelly I'll never know. I just love his stuff.

Rebecca Cantrell was kind enough to sit for an interview with me and I have my sights on Kelli Stanley tomorrow. Hers is a book I look forward to picking up and diving into. She's getting a lot of attention for A Trace Of Smoke and it is only the first of her Hannah Vogel series. I'm keeping my eyes on her as one to watch in the coming years. Really nice person too but, as I said above, that's not surprising anymore.
Also got to hobnob with Sophie Littlefield this morning. Hard to believe she is considered a new author since I feel like I've been hearing the soaring praise for A Bad Day For Sorry for so long but there we were in the same freshman class. If only I could get a little of the heat she has for her badass character Stella Hardesty I'd be set.

Got a quick hello with Brett Battles, Barry Eisler and more and I am looking forward to tomorrow. I wanted to just experience it and get settled but tomorrow I'll bring my camera and play tourist a little in between acting "authorial". If I can get more interviews I will even if they only end up here but there is a good chance they might appear in either Crimefactory or Spinetingler. That is if I make them semi-coherent.

The Spy panel this morning was great with Brett Battles, Barry Eisler, Alan Cook, Aileen Baron and Gayle Lynds and yesterday's discussion of Raymond Chandler was interesting too. Not sure what I'll get to tomorrow beyond my own Meet a New Author panel in the afternoon. My fingers are crossed for Rebecca to win the award for best historical novel at the big ceremony/dinner.

Back to work now. Trying not to feel left out like a kid taking violin lessons while his friends play outside his window.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Falling behind

February being the shortest month really plays hell with ones reading schedule. I just finished a book I started in Feb yesterday so I still got 3 done if I go with the NPR pledge model of "if you initiate the call" it still counts in the time frame.

I waxed on about how much I loved The Real Cool Killers in a Friday's Forgotten Books post below so that is covered. I also finished:

A Shot In The Dark
by Richard Powell

I was a huge fan of Powell's Hard case Crime reissue Say It with Bullets so I jumped at the Stark House version of this and Shell Game. I chose the original cover over the boring Stark House version although I love that imprint for releasing all these great vintage pulps in double features. 
A Shot In The Dark was good, not great. It reminded me a little of the movie A Lady Without Passport in that it deals with immigration issues and is set in the deep south and Cuba. Powell's work is stripped down and simple but with some great great lines sprinkled in. I'll get to Shell Game soon but other books called.

I also detailed by frustrations at starting a book that didn't hold me so I quit it. That also threw a wrench in to my Feb reading. But then:

City of Dragons
by Kelli Stanley

I couldn't make it to the actual event when she did a signing here recently but I have a signed book anyway and I will get to meet Kelli when we are on a panel discussing Pulp Fiction at the Left Coast Crime convention next week.
This book is getting some great buzz and her style is right up my alley. It is a dense 1940s set P.I. story which isn't always my cup of tea but it had been a while so I was into it. Her main character is such a nice change from the norm too that it kept it fresh. No more so than her writing style.
Stanley has a way with Noir inspired descriptions and a real flare for putting you at the scene. Meticulously researched she sets the stage very well. I'm one for get on with it, let's start the story but every time I started to drift at the lengthy descriptions she would spice them with such great language that it held me and really set a mood. I can see why she is getting so much attention for this book. I'm sure it is going to be a series and I'm really excited to meet Kelli on our panel.

I'm only 35 pages in to The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston and I already love it, but that's for next month. Let's hope I catch up. Time to reach for short books off the 'ol pile. I did just set myself back by ordering new books after I discovered a few gems in the Bargain Books section of Amazon. two Marcus Sakey's, a Steve Brewer, Anthony Neil Smith and Declan Burke. All for $26, the price of one hardcover. Too good to resist.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Novel. Really?

What's one step up from a pet peeve? That's what I've got. I'm not too worked up about it. Really it's a question. Why do many authors, or is it the publisher, insist on putting "A Novel" after the title of a book? How often are readers confused as to what they are holding in a bookstore?
My unscientific research shows a little less than half of all novels choose to specify that they are, indeed, a novel. My usual response to seeing that on a book cover is, "Well, duh!" It's not quite as offensive to me as when they junk up a film title with "Walt Disney's (insert animated film here)" or the worst ever: "Precious: based on the novel PUSH by Sapphire" Where do I start on that gangly mess? Your movie is called Precious. Period. If you didn't want people to be confused you should have called your movie Push. Sunday night at the Oscars some poor sucker is going to have to say that entire tongue twister of a title every time they read it off a teleprompter. And really? Sapphire? That's the best pen name you could come up with?
Anyway, back to "A Novel". Now, I don't mind "A novel by" nearly as much. It's when it comes after the title. "Brilliant Crime Bestseller: A novel" just doesn't do it for me. I guess they just don't want people thinking it is a nonfiction book. I don't read them but do Vampire novels and stuff do this too? Is it like being a doctor? The salutation acknowledges all the hard work?
I just don't get it. Can anyone enlighten me?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My other life

Over At The Bijou today I have an essay, not a short story, about the film I made a while back. (it seems like forever!) When Kate put out the call for film related pieces to run during this pre-oscar week I figured rather than write something fake I could just tell some of the 'truth-is-stranger-than-fiction' tales of my real experiences. Check it out if you like.
Also, time to come clean on my lies. I guess I am either not a good liar or my squeaky-clean reputation proceeds me but people saw right through my one lie among the truths. I never had a one-night stand with a Japanese girl even though I was in Japan and my friends and I were offered a "date" with Japanese girls promising "Boom, boom." See? Truth really is stranger than fiction.
So everything else was/is true. Guess I'll keep my lying to my stories from now on.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Flash Fiction - Church Challenge

I'm a little late in the morning for posting this but I didn't realize it was on my work computer until last night. Yes, I snuck in a little writing time at work. Sue me.
This is my 2 cents for Dan O'Shea's flash challenge. Enjoy and get the complete list of entries at Dan's blog.

by Eric Beetner
     I seen my Daddy take it. All those years of pulling quarters out of my ear and making a nickel jump from one hand to the other gave me a keen eye for his trickery.
Every week I saw him squirm when the pastor announced it was time to pass the plate. If it came to me first I would pass it to him and he always took it like a pie tin just out of the oven. If it came to Momma first she would hold on to it and wait for him to make his donation. I see that now as distrust, though I didn’t know it at the time.
We was poor, sure. So was everyone else in the congregation. We all prayed hard for more money. Maybe not out loud but when eyes were shut and hands folded white-knuckle tight I know what them people were wishing for.
But that day, I seen him put his hand in and come back out with three more coins than was in his hand when it went in. He did it smooth, almost too smooth. Most people would let the coins drop from high enough so everyone around them could hear how generous they was being. Daddy put his hand down close to the pile of change and passed over it like he was rolling dough. 
I’d never have seen it if it wasn’t for Miss Floretta’s new dress. Talk after services was on how inappropriate it was for church and one of Momma’s friends made a crack that she’d run out of fabric when she sewed it. Fabric over her sizable bosom. I had to keep my eyes averted or run the risk of having impure thoughts right there in the pew.
Instead I caught my Daddy stealing.
I feel like that was the day I grew up. 
If he would take money from the plate at church, what else was he in to? When he stayed out late to work a double shift I pictured him leading a double life. Other women, jugs of wine, sin, sin, sin. I looked at Daddy different from that day on.
I come to know now that he was just a man down on his luck. There was no deep secret, no slick criminal under the factory coveralls. Just a man needed the help of others but too prideful to ask for it. 
I stopped fully trusting Daddy that day too. I started listening less to what he had to say about life. That was my inheritance; his experience. On the tip of my tongue after every life lesson was, “Yeah, but you steal from the plate at church!”
I only saw him do it the once. I tried not to look after that but almost always found myself with an excuse to turn my head. Shoelace untied, lost my page in the hymnal, a dry cough. I watched his hands for more parlor tricks but never saw any.
Still I saw Daddy as a thief. His coloring had changed to me. I wondered if Momma knew. I wondered if she put him up to it. She was always saying about something new we needed for the house. Maybe holding that plate was her way of acting accomplice.
How would they feel if they knew I took for myself?
I started in to shoplifting after that. God didn’t come down and smite me and he never punished Daddy so why not? I stole small. Candy bars, a comic book. Nothing that would get me more than a smack on the knuckles or a lash with the belt. Guys in the papers stole more every day.
If I ever did get caught, I had what I knew in my back pocket. Safe and ready to use. It would whomp Daddy like a horseshoe to the side of the head. I can just see him lecturing me on Godliness and the eighth commandment and I bring it out for all to hear. It would stop him dead in his tracks. 
But I don’t judge Daddy. I don’t throw stones.
He’s a man. He gives me what I need, a roof over my head. I hope he spent those coins on himself. I hope he got himself a beer and a shot down at Langtry’s after work. I’ll hold the plate for him, he ever wants to do it again. I won’t tell.
We all need some help now and again. Ain’t that what Jesus preaches? With all Miss Floretta’s home made dresses, who can tell? I ain’t paid attention to the pastor in months.