Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Xmas Noir

The folks over at the Do Some Damage blog, a great collection of writers who maintain an excellent blog about writing, have been hosting a Christmas Noir week of stories. They have been excellent across the boards. Some wonderful stories crafted around the holiday which seems so ripe for crime. My addition is up now. Give it a look and then page back through the riches.
At first I was bummed I didn't make it up by the actual Christmas day but now I think showing up in the post-holiday slump is perfect. More bitterness going around out there about now than good cheer. I like it that way.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Grim Fairy Tale

John Kenyon posted quite the unique challenge on his blog not too long ago - take a classic children's fairy tale and turn it into a crime story. It's one of those ideas that is so genius in its obviousness I wondered why I'd never seen the challenge before. I had to give it a go.
As the Dad of a four-year-old who is the biggest book freak I know (I think she and her sister, who is two, own more books than I do) I know from fairy tales. Even so, I went and did a little digging into the classics. I read a dozen or so Grimm Bros. stories with great titles (The Girl Without Hands, Godfather Death, The Robber Bridegroom, The Devil's Sooty Brother, The Flail From Heaven, The Devil and his Grandmother, Death's Messengers) but so many have supernatural elements or are just too weird to make much sense out of. You can see why the classics became the classics. So I ended up doing a riff on a fairly obvious one. Hope it doesn't seem like a cop out. It was one of those instances where I hit on the idea and my fate was sealed. It was the only thing my brain kept coming back to. I went a tad over the 3000 word count but oh well. It was a rough guideline anyhow.
I hope you like it and I certainly look forward to what others come up with for this one. I'm sure you'll sniff out the "inspiration" story fairly quickly. Not like I was trying to hide it.

by Eric Beetner
They called him Coal Black because, as Yancy put it, “You the darkest nigga I ever seen.” Yancy came in just this side of shoe polish himself so when he called C.B. dark, you know he meant it.
The apprenticeship had been three years going. He’d come into the operation at the ripe old age fifteen, nearly over-the-hill for starting a career in gang-banging or super-modeling. C.B. chose the career with more guns and less bulimia.
He fetched coffee, kept the guns clean and did a lot of driving where the rule was to keep his fucking mouth shut. Hauled a lot of weed and uncut coke to drop spots and brought girls back and forth from jobs. Damn girls never once showed any appreciation. C.B. couldn’t cop a hand job, let alone a blow from those whores. Too exhausted after a long night’s work. For driving them all over creation C.B. took home ten bucks leaving the girls with $240, one-fifty of which went to Yancy and his partner Jay. 
Keep the ten bucks, thought C.B., show a little mercy to the jerk driving Miss Daisy around. Not like they couldn’t see the rise in his pants every damn time. 
C.B. was constantly out to prove himself. He wanted his piece of the pie, to move on up to the East side. He volunteered for jobs all the time. When a street dealer came up short of his monthlies, C.B. paid him a visit on his own and beat the boy toothless. 
Yancy and Jay were unimpressed. They explained that if their street talent gets so black and blue they can’t work, that means more money off the table. 
“Got to think long term, man,” Yancy scolded.
C.B. couldn’t look at the young dealer next time he came around, fucker sporting new gold teeth and smiling like C.B. did him a favor.
C.B. wasn’t looking to run the show, only wanted to be invited to the party. His knuckles longed to get bruised on bones, his finger pulsed with anticipation of squeezing off a round, his toes banged the inside of his boot clawing to dig into a gut or break a nose.
“Yo, man, got a job for you C.B.,” Yancy said.
C.B. sat up, waved the joint smoke away and tried to look alert. Like a man who could be depended upon.
“Fuckin’ Asians are crowding us again. I need you to follow some dudes. Find out where they go. Motherfuckers been selling in our neighborhood. Cheap shit too. Shit I wouldn’t let my dog smoke.”
“You want me to fuck ‘em up? Make sure they don’t come around?”
Yancy made a face like C.B. just told him he’d like to fuck his own mother. “No, nigga. I want you to follow them. That’s it. You stay in the car and come tell me where they at. That’s all.”
“Damn it Yancy, it’s my turn. I can do this.”
“You’ll get your shot little man. I knew your Daddy. I’m not sending you in to no place unless I’m sure you can get out. Shit takes time is all.”
“Man, all I got is time.”
C.B. grabbed his keys off the table, spun the ring around his finger once, contemplated saying more but thought better than to piss on Yancy like that. He left to do his chores instead.
Following the piece of shit Subaru for a half hour gave C.B. time to think. Mostly he stewed on forever being the wallflower, never asked to the big dance. He thought now might be a good time to jump ship to another operation, but anywhere he went he knew he’d be starting off on the ground floor. And shitting away what little cred he’d built with Yancy and Jay wasn’t worth it any more than making enemies of those two would be.
C.B. turned up the music and sighed, giving in to his fate as a servant boy for another night, probably another year.
When he brought back the address where the car with the two Asian dudes ended up, the boys were out. Instead C.B. found Yancy’s sister, Bobbi. She hung around her brother’s crib like a test of restraint, her skirts always too short, her tits always pushed up beyond limits. If you knew Yancy at all though, you knew not to go sniffing around his little sister. Her very presence made for an uncomfortable air in the room like Yancy’s ghost sat on your shoulder giving you the death stare.
“Hey C.B.”
“Hey Bobbi. You seen the boys?”
“No. Not for a while.” She sat on the couch and opened the can of soda she held. The sweet smell of marijuana hung in the room and Bobbi’s grin gave her away. 
“Oh.” Too uncomfortable to make himself comfortable C.B. decided not to sit. When Yancy did come back he wasn’t about to be caught on the same piece of furniture as Bobbi. 
“They runnin’ you ragged again? You look all chewed up.”
“Yeah, well.”
C.B. knew the effect Bobbi had on all the young brothers who came through. She seemed to use it for her amusement.
“Tell mama all about it.” Bobbi patted the couch, her slow stoned drawl sounding sexy as hell. C.B. didn’t take the bait.
There were no secrets between Bobbi and Yancy. C.B. could afford to decline her invite to the couch but keeping her out of business would have been rude. And rudeness was almost as bad as an ass-grab if Yancy heard about it. 
C.B. explained his dilemma.
Bobbi repeated the bullet points of his story back to him. “So you got the address they want, but they won’t let you go on the run?”
“Yeah. Basically.”
“Sounds like you got something to bargain with.” C.B. tried to follow her logic. “They can’t get there without you, right?”
“I guess not.”
“So use that and make them let you in on it. Don’t give them the address unless the take you.”
Other than the obvious – poking a hornet’s nest where the hornets carried Glocks – he saw no downside to her plan. They might even admire his gumption. Of course, they might make a game out of how many of his ribs they could break with an aluminum baseball bat but C.B. chose to see the glass half full.
“Thanks, Bobbi.”
“Don’t mention it. I’m just your little guardian angel over here.” She eyed the dark-skinned brother like she was ordering off a menu.
“Well? You forget or something? Where’d those fuckers go?” Yancy asked.
“I’ll tell you.”
“Damn straight you’ll tell us,” Jay said.
“If,” C.B. started and immediately felt the air in the room go electric. “You let me go with you.”
Neither of his bosses said anything. C.B. resisted the urge to take it back and spill the address or blurt out that the blackmail plan had all been Bobbi’s idea. His feet were begging him to run, but he kept them planted, waiting for a response and expecting a bullet.
Yancy and Jay exchanged a look. C.B. couldn’t tell if they were choosing who would be the one to kill him for insubordination or if they were agreeing to his plan.
“Okay. You’re in,” Yancy said.
C.B. smiled. His turn at the big dance had arrived. 
These weren’t the kind of guys you could go hug and slap high fives with so he ran down the address and the lay of land around the house. 
“Don’t make me regret this,” Jay said, his stare hard and unsentimental.
“You won’t. I mean I won’t. I mean,” C.B. swallowed hard. “It’ll be fine.”
Yancy and Jay seemed less than convinced. 
Three days later C.B. sat behind the wheel of the car retracing the Subaru’s route. He had a hard time concentrating on the road because his body stayed focused on the 9mm tucked in his jeans. 
Yancy and Jay had run down the basic ins and outs of the night’s work earlier and since they got in the car had said nothing. C.B. was bursting to talk about it. Wild speculations ran through his head. Fear one second, exhilaration the next. Always it came back to fear like petals on a flower – he loves me, he loves me not. They’ll kill me, they’ll kill me not, they’ll kill me . . .
The Subaru wasn’t parked out front but the lights were on. C.B. checked the dash clock before he got out – nearly midnight. 
Yancy and Jay had silently slid guns into their palms.
“You got your head on, C.B.?” Yancy asked.
He nodded.
“We appreciate the extra body and the firepower but if you fuck up on this we’re all going down. Understand?”
He nodded some more. He resisted the urge to reassure them with steel tough bravado of his readiness for the job, the hours of rehearsal and devotion to the team. His proof was in the doing. After tonight, they’d see that.
Right away C.B. feared he’d fucked up royally. The door swung on broken hinges as the three gunmen aimed at an empty room. The trio stood like Charlie’s Angels waiting for someone to call action.
No Asians in sight. No piles of drugs or stacks of cash. Just a suburban living room with bad art above an out-of-date couch and a grandfather clock hugging the wall that ticked out a beat nearly as loud as the heartbeats of the three invaders. 
A logjam of excuses crowded out any coherent thought from C.B.’s mind. Escape, apology, suicide, and blame all fought to be the first idea to push through.
Sweat had never formed on C.B.’s lip faster.
Yancy dropped his gun down to his side, ready to chew out his young protégé. “C.B., what the f–”
Something like a canon went off and Yancy’s chest leaked red. He slumped backward and hit the broken door jamb as a second shot erupted from the darkness of the hallway. Jay clutched his chest and fell, leaving a bloody spray from the exit wound on the wall behind him.
C.B. hit the decks. He spun on the floor only to find Yancy’s body like a threshold across the open doorway. C.B. could hop up and make a run for it but he risked getting gunned down like a carnival game.
Wanting to keep moving, he crawled forward and made for the couch. Barely over his own breathing he could make out footsteps coming down the hall and into the living room.
C.B. moved to the right around the couch and then heard feet and felt them through the floor as someone circled the couch to his left. He’d gained an extra few seconds of cover but someone upright, armed, and who could presumably do first grade math well enough to know there was still one more intruder to find, stood only a sofa length away.
C.B. seemed genuinely surprised to find the gun in his hand. How had it gotten there? Was he some sort of magician? Then he remembered the three of them in the kitchen choosing their weapons like an old-fashioned duel. C.B. had again reassured them of his readiness. They should have shot him in the kneecaps and left him behind. At the moment C.B. would have preferred that fate. 
The proving is in the doing, he thought. I made it to the dance, no time to be a wallflower. So he stood.
The man he saw wasn’t what he expected. Not Asian at all. Across the couch stood a large, make that extra large black man. A double XL gun in his hand and a XXXL scowl of hate and anger on his rocky face.
C.B. fired once, caught the gun hand. The big man didn’t scream at all. C.B. charged forward.
The canon fell to the floor as C.B. reached the man. Up close and personal he recognized the deeply lined face. Wallace “WALL - E” Price. Chief competitor to Yancy and Jay and a man with whom they’d forged and uneasy cease-fire years ago.
Also apparently a man smart enough to know if he hired Asian dudes to run his business creeping into Y&J’s territory there would be no link to him.
Smart. And big.
So big C.B. couldn’t wrap his arms around him. He’d expected to take him down to the floor, knock him cold or shoot him dead, whatever the moment called for, then make his escape.
Instead, he stood grappling with the giant like they were dancing at a ball. Wallace pushed his thick hand into C.B.’s face, smearing blood from the gunshot wound across the dark skin.
C.B. resorted to playground fighting, swinging his legs to try for a crotch shot, banging his forehead into Wallace hoping to break his nose. Nothing worked.
Wallace locked eyes with the young brother. “Who the fuck are you?” C.B. didn’t feel like giving out his vitals right then. 
They waltzed across the room, past the couch, past a side table, C.B. unable to lift his arm up to fire his gun.
As they struggled and turned they both found themselves falling to the floor. Their progress had been halted by a lump on the carpet. Jay’s body.
Tripping over the nearly dead man sent them both down to an oriental rug. C.B. managed to fire a round but only made a loud noise and a hole in his jeans from the muzzle flash.
The dance had turned to a Greek wrestling match. Wallace got his blood-slick hand up again to C.B.’s face. The giant nearly hooked a finger in his eye but C.B. thrashed away, spinning his head violently to avoid being blinded. He inadvertently put his ear in the big man’s hand and Wallace pinched down on the flap of skin and the diamond earring in the center.
C.B. made another try at bashing his forehead forward and this time caught Wallace’s nose square on. He also jerked his skull forward fast enough that the grip Wallace held on his ear tore away a piece of flesh, and a bit of jewelry as a bonus.
Not showing Wallace’s restraint, C.B. cried out in pain. 
Like a live wire C.B. bucked and thrashed. Wallace loosened his grip as his nose throbbed and the prey in his arms became wilder and harder to clench with blood soaked hands.
C.B. slid down the man’s belly and popped out of Wallace’s grasp, immediately ditching the gun and grabbing his half an ear. He screamed his way out the door, passing by the quaint suburban grandfather clock chiming midnight as he left.
C.B. felt Wallace reach out to claw at his ankles, trying to keep him in the room. “I’ll find you moutherfucker,” C.B. heard as he reached the car.
C.B. landed back at Yancy’s place wondering how the hell his fortunes had gone to shit so quickly. Bobbi came fast-stepping out of the back pulling on a thin robe over her brown thighs.
“Yancy? What happened?”
She stopped when she saw only C.B. The way he crashed through the door signaled trouble and now the sight of his face, as pale as he’d ever been which meant only a shade lighter than oil, and the smears of blood down the side of his neck from the missing earlobe gave off signs that things were worse than Bobbi could have expected.
“Bobbi, I’m sorry. It all went . . . fuck, it all went bad.”
She glanced over his shoulder through the open door checking for her brother and Jay. When they didn’t appear she knew better than to ask if they were ever going to.
C.B. hit the couch, slumped over and pressed hard against his ear, hoping the damn bleeding would stop and maybe that could help him formulate a plan.
Bobbi went back down the hall, came out ten minutes later dressed and holding a suitcase.
“You best get going too,” she said, but didn’t stop moving out the door.
C.B. knew where some money was hid. An operation like Yancy and Jay’s always kept around a decent amount of cash. Git-up-n-go money they called it. Might be enough to get a start. C.B. discovered that with the only world you’ve ever known suddenly off-limits the choice of where to begin again is a hard one.
Blood crusted around the missing piece of ear and caked like dried mud down his neck and into the collar of his shirt. Bits of it flaked off, dark and dry like his skin had been baked. Even with his eyes closed he felt the world go black.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been on the couch, passed out. The door still hung open, Bobbi’s perfume had dissipated. C.B. thought of the money. He stood.
A figure filled the door. Wallace stared at him, his fist clenched around something more than just anger.
“I knew those two niggas you left on my floor.”
C.B. tensed in his gut, thought he might puke. Of course Wallace knew who they were and of course he knew where they lived. C.B. had spent the night proving, in bright neon signs, the reasons he wasn’t ready for a job like this one.
Wallace held up his closed fist, opened his fingers like a rose blossom – the red coating his hand made a beautiful bloom. Pinched between his thumb and forefinger was a small triangle of dark flesh and a diamond in the center.
“Shouldn’t leave a rock this big behind. Must be worth something.” C.B. opened his mouth but no words came out. For the second time that night his brain had become clogged with information. Wallace did all the talking. “Know what I think? Piece of shit must be glass.”
Wallace stepped forward slowly, no gun out, no knife. Only a rock hard stare and a lifetime of putting down punks like C.B. kept the young man in his place. The way Wallace stared at C.B. as he advanced made him feel like he was being measured for a coffin.
Coal Black stood frozen, resigned to his fate. Never should have tried to dance with royalty. He belonged in the basement, soot on his face, sweat on his brow. A servant to the end.
Wallace held out the ear, reached forward and put it back where it used to attach to his body. 
“It fits,” Wallace said.
C.B. watched as Wallace reached behind him and drew out the gun from the waistband in the small of his back. The same canon from before, still smelling of fresh gunpowder as Wallace rested it under C.B.’s nose.
C.B. closed his eyes, waited for the sweet ever after.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Borrowed Trouble

Any day now we should get our print proofs of Borrowed Trouble and then it's off to the printer (providing there are no errors). I can finally release the cover art into the wild so here you go. I also did a book trailer, the effectiveness of which is still debatable among the book world but I think they are fun to make and it didn't cost me a dime so why not?
So to recap: cover art I designed and made myself, a homemade promo trailer for a book I co-wrote. I'm feeling quite accomplished today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Immortalized in print

He kind of slipped it by me but I'm happy to report that Stephen Jay Schwartz' new, original Hayden Glass short story Crossing The Line is available for free download. Why should you read this story? Well, for starters Schwartz is a great writer and Glass is a great character and if you haven't discovered him already this is a great intro to the hero (well . . .) of Boulevard and Beat. Second, it's free. Duh. And third, there happens to be a little character named Sergeant Beetner. Yep, I've been fictionalized. Well, not me exactly but my name anyway. In the story Beetner is an oversized black man. Not even close. I happen to know also that the character of Christa's name was lifted from Christa Faust.
The story is a prequel, an origin story of Hayden's major vice - his sex addiction. Not for the easily blushed. It's positively NC-17. Safe to say I won't be telling my Mother about the story, my name in it or not.  Not that I fear she wouldn't like it, more than I'm afraid she would and the images that conjures. For all the action you can handle check out Boulevard and Beat. Darker, tougher detective stories you won't likely find.

In other news that fine chap Nigel Bird has named my story, My Asshole Brother, one of his favorites of the year. Coming from a fine writer like Bird it is a quite a compliment and I'm honored. You can read about all his picks over at the Death By Killing blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We made the top ten...well, six.

I love it when I randomly trip over someone talking about the book. Well, I guess having a Google alert for the title of our book isn't exactly tripping over, but still.
Graham Bowlin, up and coming writer and newest employee of The Mystery Bookstore, came out with a list of his top six reads of 2010 over on his blog. Somehow One Too Many Blows To The Head made it on there right next to The Cold Kiss, Pike and a few other great books. We'll take it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

La Ronde

Several weeks ago Patti Abbott threw out a 1000-word challenge, as she likes to do. This time it was to have several authors pass a baton between us using the theme of jealousy and the little trick that the person who was the object of envy in one story became the envious one in the next story. The results of the first six rounds are here. A daunting task to be sure. My story is a bit of a reboot on what came before but I couldn't help run with the story once it came to me. I feel like I write about brothers an awful lot without having one (3 sisters. They don't get treated much better in my fiction)
Please enjoy and let's all look forward to what Nigel Bird comes up with next in the rotation. Without further ado - La Ronde, part 7:

by Eric Beetner
Gregory Rubinstein liked to tease his brother Adam. Greg reveled in pointing out that he was the true first born son. Greg beat Adam out by sixteen minutes but it seemed to be enough of a margin to give Greg the ammunition for years of torture. 
By ten years old the dynamic had been established. Greg – the golden boy. Destined to follow in father’s footsteps through law school to district attorney, state office, maybe senate. Adam – the also ran. Forever chasing his brother’s tail. He’d make a damn fine prosecutor. Maybe even run Greg’s campaigns. Respectable, anonymous work.
Despite the house being a five bedroom gothic-style manor, Greg and Adam still shared a room. Even the bunk beds gave away the hierarchy in their way. Greg, one would assume, would be perched high in the top bunk but instead Greg chose the lower bed. In addition to his dislike of heights it let him come and go as he pleased at night, which he did quite often, being a fitful sleeper prone to minor bouts of sleepwalking. To keep Greg from banging his shins on the ladder to the top, once Adam assumed his perch, Greg kicked the ladder away, trapping his younger twin in the Siberia of the top bunk. If Adam forgot to pee at night he risked a broken ankle on the jump down and a pitch-black mountain climb on the way back up. Bladder-busting discomfort was often the best option, until he learned ways to dismount silently using body contortions Spiderman would have been envious of. 
At their riding lessons Greg was the first to canter, the first to make his horse jump, the first to bring home a trophy. When Adam brought one home the very next weekend it sat next to Greg’s like a shrunken, sickly twin. Shorter, the gold more dull, the name etched in a smaller font. Adam stared at the two on the shelf, the symbolism not lost on him. Two of essentially the same thing, only one a little lesser than.
At first Adam played out subtle games of revenge. He put a scratch in Greg’s Spin Doctors CD. He fed Greg’s horse, Blade Runner, a box of ExLax before a meet. At the first water jump the team left behind a trail and fouled the water so badly they were forced to delay the competition for an hour while they drained the pool, lest someone fall into it. 
Adam wished they’d been identical, not fraternal, twins so he could impersonate his brother and get him expelled from school. He compromised by writing notes to girls in Greg’s exact handwriting using words he’d lifted from the stash of Penthouse Forum columns they routinely looked at in Dad’s closet.
Despite Adam’s minor insurgency Greg seemed secure in his place. He called Adam nicknames like Dickface and Assmunch. He routinely told on Adam any time he did anything remotely against the rules and Adam seemed to suffer punishments more harsh and long lasting than Greg ever did. At the dinner table Greg sat at the right hand of Father, Adam a seat down, as forgotten and unnecessary as that extra fork that never got used. 
At night was the only time Adam felt in charge. The nightmares, the whimpering and bed-thrashing contortions Greg would go through, let Adam feel that the cruelty Greg regularly dished out was eating him away inside. When Greg would walk around the room in his sleep Adam enjoyed spooking him awake and then pretending to be asleep, eyes shut and stifling laughter as he heard Greg’s heavy breathing and confused panic when he awoke – out of bed in a dark, foreign-feeling room.
Adam started plotting ways to put to the test the old myth that if you wake a sleepwalker they might die. When Adam would be roused by Greg’s kicking over of a toy or stack of books, he would rise and shimmy down the side of the bed, place something hard and solid at shin level in Greg’s way and climb back to watch from his crow’s nest as Greg jolted himself awake with a cry of pain.
It was report card day that Adam forged his most brilliant plan.
Adam’s GPA: 3.4 Greg’s: 3.8
Ten years old and Mr. Rubinstein had given Adam up for a life of mediocrity. Back-slapping praise was lavished on Greg while a series of questions about Adam’s B-minus dominated the dinner conversation.
Alone in their room at night, Greg said out loud what Adam assumed everyone had been thinking.
“Just give it up, man. You might as well drop out and learn how to wash cars or something.”
The words weren’t irrational to Adam’s ten-year-old ego. 
That night he decided if Greg was so in love with himself, wouldn’t it be great if he scared himself shitless?
After Greg became locked in battle with his sleep demons, Adam descended the bunks. He took the full length mirror off the back of the door with the screwdriver he’d placed in his desk drawer after dinner. He leaned the narrow strip of glass against the lower bunk, right next to Greg’s face as he slept. Adam dismissed the consequences of his stunt. Seeing Greg frightened by his own reflection would be worth the punishment to come.
Adam climbed back to his perch. When he was settled and had stopped himself laughing he waited for Greg to begin a particularly fitful episode. He didn’t wait long.
When Greg let out a stifled cry Adam rocked the bunk and coughed loudly. Greg, on the verge of awake anyway, bolted up, saw his own reflection but had no idea who or what it was. Still half asleep, he screamed and lurched forward, pushing his face through the pane of glass and slicing a diagonal line from his scalp to his chin down over the bridge of his nose and across his wide-open left eye. 
Blood rushed to the wound, nearly obscuring Greg’s face by the time Adam peered over the edge of the top bunk. A flap of skin hung down across his forehead like an open envelope. The wide stare of Greg’s right eye struck a stark contrast with the blood-filled cavity of his left. The bottoms of his feet sliced open as he stumbled around the room, still thinking he was trapped in a dream.
The ensuing chaos let Adam do a quick re-staging of events. The story was Greg, in the throes of another of his sleepwalking incidents, ran headlong into the door, shattering the mirror, slicing his face and blinding his eye.
The next day, Adam got his own room. His father began to talk about plans for attending his alma matter. He filled Adam’s ears with stories he’d heard before, but always with Greg’s name in the starring role, not his own. Bold predictions of the future and Adam’s destiny to be a great man.
Greg began home schooling. His face took months to heal, even then it appeared always at risk of sliding apart into two distinct halves. His glass eye, at eight thousand dollars, never sat quite right so Greg preferred the eyepatch. 
Adam never played a joke on Greg again. He never felt the need. 
The lessons of that night stayed with him. His aggressive technique as a lawyer made the old man proud. At a cocktail reception for his first victory in court, Adam heard his father telling a colleague, “Yep, I knew as soon as he came out first, Adam would be a real go-getter. Came out a good fifteen minutes before his brother. We knew he was something special right then and there.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caught reading

I'm very glad to be a part of amazing blogger Jen Forbus' Crime Writers Caught Reading project to recommend books for holiday gift giving. I cheated a bit and picked two books. Oops. My two suggestions: The Cold Kiss by John Rector and The Deputy by Victor Gischler.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So much, sort of

I feel like I'm not writing at all lately. Probably because I'm not putting down many words on the page but so much of writing is that intangible phase more commonly known as "thinking". I do a lot of thinking before I start something. I've done it for years, since I first started screenwriting. If I ventured into something only half-baked I never felt right about it and usually abandoned a project midway through. So I'm a thinker. I run a story over and over in my mind until I really know it.
I use it as a bit of a litmus test too. If I think of an idea and I don't write it down but the core of the plot is still with me several days later I know I'm on to something. Similarly, if a character sits inert in my notes or my brain I know not to keep chasing a blind lead. But when characters start to speak, to suggest themselves in my subconscious, I know I'm on to something that can sustain.
I'm in that phase right now. Doing yet another final read-through on Borrowed Trouble (I've said final before haven't I?) and plotting out what comes next. I have 5 books roughly outlined. Which one will insinuate itself into my brain the strongest and insist I write it? Remains to be seen but one trio of morally questionable men are in the lead right now.
I'm anxious to share the great blurbs we've gotten for Borrowed Trouble as well as the cover art I'm really excited about but I want to wait until there is a reason to shout. No point in blowing it now when we're still 3 months away from release. Killing me not to share though.
Oh, I'm on Twitter now @ericbeetner. So far I have not found it very addictive the way people do or the way I enjoy the community on Facebook but it has its merits. Come follow me if you like.
One thing I hope to initiate before the release of Borrowed Trouble is a push to get One Too Many Blows To The Head into the conversation again. I get antsy at the thought of people reading a sequel without reading the original. I need to get over it and we purposely wrote Borrowed Trouble so you wouldn't have to read One Too Many, but it would absolutely help. I feel that about any series, which remains the main reason I don't read many series. If I miss the beginning I don't want to be late to the party. Hell, I don't watch Mad Men because I missed season 1. I'll catch it someday on DVD but until then I can't jump on board late.
One series I did start at the top with is Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series. I loved the concept of old west cowpunchers making like Sherlock and solving crimes in the 1800's but it just didn't sound like my kind of book. Too light. Too funny. After Hockensmith killed it on a panel at B-Con I couldn't resist getting a signed copy (even after I'd passed on the $4.98 deal Amazon ran a few months back) and I LOVED it. That is a series I look forward to continuing. Y'know, after I beat down my TBR pile a bit. But really Hockensmith's voice for Old Red and Big Red was so unique and so rich with language I couldn't resist.
Up next for me is my entry in Patti Abbott's La Ronde challenge. I just got my assignment story and I'm at work on my contribution to this whirlwind of a challenge.
Also, mine and Jennifer's chapter is up for the Rubicon Ranch project. We're chapter 3 so there's plenty of time to climb on and read along as 7 of us Second Wind authors post a chapter a week in this collective mystery. None of us know who the killer is yet. I am praying it is our pair. Check it out and see if you think they could have done it. A new chapter is up every Monday.
Discount Noir is still going strong in every ebook format out there, even some I didn't know about.
So, soon the new novel will begin. The other orphans are out seeking a home right now. Borrowed Trouble in the new year. La Ronde next week. It's a lot, sort of. I'll feel really good when a full-fledged novel is out in the world again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October Harvest

Lots to talk about in this busy month. My first story in A Twist of Noir's 600 - 700 challenge is up. I drew numbers 610 and 698 so I had only 610 words to tell a story. You tell me if I did the job.

Discount Noir is out on all ebook platforms, even the Kindle. Of course, better for you to buy it directly from Untreed reads.

The Men of Mystery conference is this weekend. That promises to be a fun event.

Rubicon Ranch is up and running with chapter one. A new chapter will follow every week until the mystery is solved. At this point I don't even know who the killer is. Get in early and take the ride with us.

I've joined Twitter so, um, follow me I guess.

Very soon I'll be unveiling the cover for Borrowed Trouble and letting out some of the great blurbs we've gotten in. Oh, and speaking of blurbs, I gave out my first one. I'm happy to report the book was quite good. It's called The Science of Paul and will be published by New Pulp Press in January.

I'm sure there's more but I'll have to report later. Full details of Men of Mystery next week.

p.s. I knew I forgot something. My interview with Czar of Noir Eddie Muller runs in this month's Crimefactory. Check it out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Day After

All over the internet people are posting their thoughts on the recently completed Bouchercon before the memories slip away (most as soon as the alcohol leaves their body) so I figured I'd do my part.

So, my first B-Con and I had a great time. I didn't sell any books. Nope, not a one. Do I care? Did it lessen my experience? Not a whit. It's so not about that. For me it was meeting with people I'm getting to know better like - Rebecca Cantrell, Sophie Littlefield, Kelli Stanley, Reed Farell Coleman, Duane Sweirczynski, Deborah Ledford (and watching Rebecca and Sophie win awards to boot) - and meeting new authors I had mild fanboy moments with like Jason Starr and Marcus Sakey.
My biggest book nerd moment had to be when I ran blocker for Linda Brown as we powered our way through the crowd at the Mulholland Books party to catch Sara Gran before she left. Linda and Pam talked with her about the Mystery Bookstore and she was gracious and thankful for their support. I waited until the love died down and then awkwardly shook her hand proclaiming, "I'm just a fan and wanted to say hi."  Dope was the only book I brought from home to have signed. Could she be any cuter?

I finally got to meet my agent face to face and that was great. We had a brief meeting about the new book and I got some final notes on it and then had the pleasure of hearing multiple times, "Oh, you're David's new client. I've heard good things about you." from people out and about. Score one for the word-of-mouth campaign.

I had a good time getting to hang with Eddie Muller for a while, meet his wife and sit to chat Film Noir Foundation stuff and felt glad for him that the Giants won.

My one panel was a lively affair. Seth Harwood was the only other person I knew going in but we were joined by one other author and three people from the publishing world, big and small. Seth, as you surely know, is perhaps the foremost practitioner of new media promotion for his work. He pioneered podcasting his novels for free, he is a master of beating his own drum. Plus, he has experience working with a bigger publishing house and now with a smaller one so he knows the world from both sides. He and I were touting the new model of giving away work, letting an audience find you and we found swift and adamant rebuttal from the oldest of the old school panelists who insisted on retaining an outdated publishing model that is currently broken and dying. I compared it to turning around a ship whereas guys like us on our own or indie presses can be swift and nimble. The old guard wasn't having it. I think the room was on our side though. The discussion could have gone on all day. The best was when I took the microphone Seth and I shared to give a rebuttal but Seth stopped me and said, rather darkly, "I want this one." The man has opinions on the subject.
I kind of felt bad for our moderator, J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet - a daily stop for me - that we all took over in the verbal sparring and left him with not much to do.

The panels were good, sometimes uneven and the little challenge they ran asking people to guess the theme of the panel's titles would have been fun if the titles they chose (all names of episodes from The Streets of San Francisco) had something - anything - to do with the topic at hand. It made it hard to find and/or choose what I wanted to attend. But there was some great stuff. Too much, really. I had to miss out on many panels since there were 7-8 to choose from at any given time.

Of course Bouchercon is a social gathering above all else. A big party. The highlight for me was getting to meet several of my cronies from the online world in the flesh. I knew them immediately when I saw Jason Duke, Jimmy Callaway, Matt Funk and Cameron Ashley all clumped together. Add in Kieran Shea, Greg Bardsley, Dan O'Shea, Aldo Calcagno breezing in for the last day and my Film Noir Foundation brother-in-arms Vince Keenan and my weekend was made. It felt a little like a reunion with people I hadn't actually gone to school with but who are better than most people I did. I had some great talks about books, some playful joking around (a very funny batch of cats) including my favorite inscription I've ever been able to write in one of my books (to Cam), and these friends I'd never met gave a sense of comfort and belonging I don't normally experience at this type of event. I'm too quick to retreat to my room or be a wallflower and these guys helped tremendously to keep me out and social and meeting people.

Man, what else? Some little thoughts that come to mind are that Hilary Davidson is truly as kind and generous in person as she appears and seeing her navigate the crowd soaking in praise for her work seemed justifiably deserved. Stacia Decker is awesome. Glad to be even a little bit in her glow as she goes out and hocks those anthologies. At the risk of objectifying anyone I was privy to confessions of book-crushes on Megan Abbott (I won't say who) and the stunning-in-person Alafair Burke (who became the 100th person to tell me I look like Will Arnett). If there is any sort of vote after the fact I pick Christa Faust's green silk dress as my favorite.
My sister continues to make an impression on writers as Laura Caldwell, Jamie Freveletti and Marcus Sakey all remembered her fondly from their recent meetings. How long before she attends a B-Con? Come on Gretchen! Come to St. Louis. She'd be a great asset to me since she could do all the drinking I don't do - she might even be able to give Callaway a run for his money.

I had a few self-gratifying moments when people actually knew who I was. One woman even blurted out, "You wrote my favorite short story in crimefactory!" Now, of course, I don't remember her name and that makes me look like a dick but I met about 500 people over the past 72 hours so sue me.

So, like everyone else, I had a great time. As usual I didn't take any photos because I'm too busy trying to be in the moment and I'm too timid to ask. Some do exist (wait for the next issue of Plots With Guns to see the best one) If anyone has me in a picture let me know. I need to get better at that stuff.
So congrats to all the winners of awards, fair travels to Cameron on the rest of his US tour, wish I could go to NoirCon but I'm looking forward to St. Louis.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Heading North

I leave for my first Bouchercon on Thursday. I'm expecting a fun, fast and busy as hell time. I have a "continuous conversation" panel on Saturday from 3-4 with a book signing at 5:30. We'll see if anyone shows up.
I'm most excited to see friends, authors I admire and to meet so many of the writers and bloggers I know only in the cyber world.
If I know you, but don't know you, look for me.
Once I'm back it's only two short weeks until the Men of Mystery conference. That should be fun too.

In book news: Borrowed Trouble, the sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head, is slated for a Feb 1 2011 release. We've alreayd gotten some great blurbs and the cover art is pretty damn cool if I do say so (did it myself) I'm trying to hold back and wait until all our ducks are in a row to really push it but I can't keep it in any longer. Hopefully B-Con will be a good place to spread the word and talk up the next book after that.
2011 look like an exciting year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hitting the streets

The street date is set for Discount Noir , the anthology I am proud to have a piece in. October 19. Some amazing authors contributed flash fiction works all centered around big box discount stores in the tradition of Wal Mart. 
It will be an ebook and it is listed super cheap - only $4.49. I really dig the cover. Wish it was going to be a real book but oh well. Better get used to it.

The full list of authors is still mind blowing to me:
Patricia Abbott, Sophie Littlefield, Kieran Shea, Chad Eagleton, Ed Gorman, Cormac Brown, Fleur Bradley, Alan Griffiths, Laura Benedict, Garnett Elliot, Eric Beetner, Jack Bates,
Bill Crider, Loren Eaton, John DuMond, John McFetridge, Toni McGee Causey, Jeff Vande Zande, James Reasoner, Kyle Minor, Randy Rohn, Todd Mason, Byron Quertermous, Sandra Scoppettone, Stephen D. Rogers, Steve Weddle, Evan Lewis, Daniel B. O’Shea, Sandra Seamans, Albert Tucher, Donna Moore, John Weagly, Keith Rawson, Gerald So, Dave Zeltserman, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, Jay Stringer, Anne Frasier, Kathleen A. Ryan,
Eric Peterson, Chris Grabenstein and J.T. Ellison

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Keep watching the horizon

News is a-comin'. Ducks are being aligned in rows. People are responding to requests. Deliveries are being made.
Start warming up the presses . . .

Friday, September 17, 2010

October events

Bouchercon is fast approaching and I am so excited to attend my first. I'll be making the drive up to San Francisco and looking forward to meeting people, seeing friends and attending panels all weekend long. No word yet on whether I will be speaking on any panels but it's fine if I don't. Next year in St. Louis, though, I OWN that convention!

Also coming up on October 30th is the Men of Mystery one-day conference in Irvine. I'm really looking forward to this one too. It was an honor to be asked to join and I am really looking forward to meeting some authors and hearing what they have to say. I've been meaning to pick up Savages by Don Winslow and Strip by Thomas Perry but I was waiting for paperback until I saw they will be there. I might have to suck it up and get signed copies.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I was thrilled this past week to get the news that I have joined the client ranks of agent David Hale Smith. I could not be more excited about this because I know David shares my same taste judging by his client list. Victor Gischler, Duane Swierczynski, Reed Farrel Coleman, Michael Koryta, Derek Nikitas, Sean Doolittle, Teresa Schwegel, Vicki Hendricks, Gary Phillips, Stefanie Pintoff, Tom Piccirilli. I mean, holy crap, right?

Time to bunker down and earn this. Do the work. Put in the hours. Write like hell. Of course I'm still grinning every time I think about it. Dare I say the best part were the congratulations cookies my wife made? That woman can bake!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Good Week

It's been a good week, writing-wise. I am a mere two chapters away from final edits on Borrowed Trouble. I should have finished last night but I was procrastinating and filled the time finishing my two stories for A Twist of Noir's 600-700 assignments . I even did audio recordings of both. (Told you I was procrastinating)

Once again Deborah J. Ledford's edits have made me appear much more competent than I am and have helped (hopefully) to break more bad habits.

The news broke that Discount Noir  has sold as an ebook. It is a fantastic lineup that I am so very proud to be a part of. Then I was invited to participate in another anthology. It is so great to be invited to the party rather than stick a foot in the door and ask to be let in.

I like having this many little things going at once. Gives the feeling of forward momentum, which I seem to seek in my life. My wife wishes I were more of a sit still on the beach kind of guy but that is just not me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

80 stories/80 authors all in one

Michael J. Solender runs the blog Not From here, are you? which is always a great stop for flash fiction and other things. He put out a challenge to come up with a story about summer in only 100 words, no more and no less. It's tough to tell an entire story in that few words but more than 100 writers took up the challenge and now Michael has complied the top 80 into an e-chapbook available for download (free, of course).
Download it HERE and read on as the summer wraps up. My story, Don't Think Too Hard About It, appears on page 22. I'm proud to say it was chosen for a Special Jury Award among the entries.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New blurb

It's never too late for a blurb on a book, even if it's been out for 9 months. Author Stephen Jay Schwartz was impressed enough to write up this little ditty:

"A powerful tale of vengeance, rife with pounding action and colorful, complex characters. One Too Many Blows to the Head is a first-round knock-out!”
Stephen Jay Schwartz, LA Times best-selling author of 

Not too bad considering Boulevard is a heck of a read. The sequel, Beat, is out at the end of September and it sounds like the action surrounding Detective Hayden Glass is being ratcheted up even more so look out for that. Stephen will be signing at the Myster Bookstore on Sept. 30th and holding a launch party the Thursday night that Bouchercon starts up in San Francisco.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New story up

I entered the Title Fights last round. It's an interesting concept. They throw out a theme of titles, this time around it was Jimi Hendrix song titles, you enter, they assign you one and that's all the inspiration you get. The title I drew was Dolly Dagger. Needless to say I was psyched. I had never heard the song (not a big 60s music fan) so I ran with it totally uninfluenced by anything but the title.
I was pleased with the outcome but reading it back on the site I noticed a typo and it makes me crazy that I can't proof my own crap better than that. It's amateur hour and I should be better. I get too caught up with too many projects and I don't focus enough and it makes me angry at myself. Not a big deal in the long run but if I want to be taken seriously I need to present myself seriously. Any excuse to beat myself up, I guess. I got plenty of 'em.

Speaking of being too busy, I just finished a short-ish work. Novella length. No idea why. I have one outlet to submit it to but it may have been only an exercise and the only way to get the idea out of my head.
I'm also joining a group of writers from my publishing company who will be doing a mystery novel in blog form over the next year featuring seven different writers all contributing to the story. It's at the very start but it should prove to be an interesting experiment indeed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A winner! (and other junk)

I can't even seem to post when it's good news but I am very excited and honored to have my story, My Asshole Brother chosen as the top seed in Jason Duke's Red Hot writing contest. Duke is a hell of writer and can be heard doing an amped up SFX-laden reading of his own Phoenix Nightlife over at He pulls no punches.
It was quite a crop of stories so I am really proud to have made the cut. The good news is that it got my writing out in front of some influential people which is always a good thing. It is TBD what comes of it but at least getting the name out there is a plus.
The story, while already available online, will be published in issue #5 of Crimefactory. Another honor, indeed.

We have sent off Borrowed Trouble, the sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head, off to the editor so we'll see just what an alarming number of errors can slip through even four editing passes by Jennifer and I.  News of publication is still a question mark. You'll know when we know.

I'm almost done with a project of mine I've wanted to do for a while. I'm sure nothing will come of it but it's been fun to write. At the very least if no one wants it I'll post it here or it may make my first foray into Kindle-only publishing which, according to some, I am an idiot if I don't do it and I'll be raking in the cash hand over fist. Doubtful.

There's a new collaborative book project I just signed on for that sounds like a real hoot. More on that as it comes along but it is going to be an ongoing novel written online with a new chapter each week until it concludes at which point it will be published as a book. Jen and I are writing together again so we'll have one chapter ever 6 or 7 weeks. It's still in the infancy stages but it's going to be a blast.

Finally, on another note, something I wanted to post about but wasn't sure how. The other day I made a life goal happen for someone. It was something that has been discussed for a long time, joked about, but I finally made it happen. That individual was very happy as was I. Is it bad that the main reason I did it was that I don't know how much longer this individual will be with us? It made me wish I'd done it years earlier but then it wouldn't have been such an event. It was a really small gesture, it's a silly thing in the end but it made me think and reflect. It seems like the kind of thing a better writer would be able to turn into a story. Maybe I'm too close to it. Maybe it would just be one of those stories where the plot is in between the lines. Maybe it's just a private moment that wouldn't mean anything to anyone but me. Either way, I'm glad I did. I know she was happy. I hope we have much more time with her and I can do it again. If not, it is just one of hundreds of memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Round up

I know I seem to start every post with, "It's been a while..." but my excuse is I've been writing, so there.
Here's the round up. Just finished The Cold Kiss by John Rector and it blew me away. This book was so up my alley! A simple story simply told. It unfolds in almost real time with completely relatable characters in a completely messed up situation. I tore through it on my lunch hours and, faced with the prospect of waiting until Monday to finish, I brought it home and polished it off after I put the girls to bed. Highly recommended! And just in time. I came off three duds in a row then this breath of cold air hit me.

Next, I seem to have made my way to the finals in Jason Duke's Red Hot writing contest with my story My Asshole Brother (see link in the list to the right) I am very honored to make the cut to the final two seeing as the judging panel was a prestigious list of writers and agents whom I respect. Fingers crossed for the win. The other story selected, by Michael J. Solender is a cracker too. Tough choice Duke has on his hands.  Oh and Duke's version of Phoenix Nightlife is up to pt 3. Good stuff.

I finished my final draft of the sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head, titled Borrowed Trouble. Now it is in Jennifer's hands and she'll let me know what she thinks of my half. Her half is brilliant so I hope I can keep up. She dropped a few brilliant lines in her stuff. The book rocks (I think) and next step is figuring out what to do with it. Stay tuned.

I have to mention (honesty I keep thinking, "oh that would make a good blog post" then I get caught up at work or two kids and never get to it) but I have to say thanks to the many authors who donated books for my little sister's charity auction. All I did was put it out on Facebook and in no time I had over a dozen signed editions for the auction from Brett Battles, Kelli Stanley, Gary Phillips, Sophie Littlefield, Rebecca Cantrell, Gar Anthony Haywood, Stephen Jay Schwartz and Marcus Sakey (and me and Jennifer of course). At every stage I have been blown away by how kind and generous and giving the crime writing community has been.
Just this week I've been asking a lot of advice of some of my writer friends with much more experience than I and everyone has been so kind about giving up free advice. It does not go unnoticed, even if all I can do is buy your books but then the real winner is me again.

I am vowing to make a stronger push to get myself (and the books) out there in preparation for the sequel to come out. I've got Bouchercon coming up in October as well as the day-long Men of Mystery on Oct 30th but I am going to try harder to get in to book stores I haven't made any headway with. I need to stop being so shy because no one is going to do it for me.

I do have other things that are almost like real blog posts which I will save and try not to wait another month and a half between posts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I write like Ian Fleming. According to this website anyway. Kind of a cool little time waster.
Having never read a word of his stuff, but having seen all the movies, I'll just take it on faith that millions of book sales are in my future.

I write like
Ian Fleming
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


We're fixing some stuff in the sequel. It is an interesting thing to go through with someone else. For One Too many Blows To The Head we really didn't alter any plot points, locations or anything you'd call significant. For this one we've made some course corrections that ripple down the line and require minor fixes in several chapters. Some of it could be described as major but the integrity of the plot and the character's motivations remain the same so I don't consider it very major. Nor would I call anything a 'problem'.
Revising on my own is relatively drama-free but doing it with a partner presents a whole different set of challenges. Challenges, I am happy to report, Jennifer and I have once again met and handled easily and with no quarrel. The hardest part is keeping the consistency between us. Little things have come up like how badly someone's injury was from one chapter to another (and we've got lots of injuries in this one) to simple stuff like what color car someone is driving to minor character names.
This is the real work in writing. It still beats a real job.