Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My First Public Reading : Noir at the Bar

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was invited to read in Columbus at a Noir at the Bar event.  On Monday, that reading happened.  Here's a full(ish) report along with some grainy (sorry) pictures:

Kealan Patrick Burke (see above) was the first reader, and if we were going by  pedigree should definitely have headlined the thing.  Kealan is a true force of nature.  He's won a bunch of awards, and published more novellas, novels, and short stories than I could in fifty years.  He introduced his story "Visitation Rights" by telling everyone he was about to read the most depressing Christmas story we've ever heard, and he was right.  But man, was it great.  And shockingly, this was only Kealan's third public reading, which considering how great at it he is, is really a crime.  Go HERE to buy something of his.  I just read JACK AND JILL which was twisted and dark, and I know SOUR CANDY is getting rave reviews and was just optioned by a film studio.  So yeah, Kealan's pretty much a jerk, right?  A great guy I need to hangout with more often.

It's hard for me to talk about Josh Penzone with any objectivity.  I've known this guy for almost twenty years when he was my student teacher.  (Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are that they ever allowed me to have a student teacher because that implies being a mentor, and I ain't no mentor.)  Josh currently teaches English in Hilliard, Ohio, and he read a piece written specifically for the Noir event about a woman who is a gifted storyteller, and has to go to great (and dangerous) lengths to tell her best story ever because she knows she can't tell it to just anyone.  It was an amazing performance (with Russian accents!), and it made me wish Penzone would get his priorities in order and write more because he's a truly talented S.O.B.  (Me as mentor: Say it with me, Josh, grading...meh.)  You can buy Josh's short story/novella HERE. Hopefully he'll try to publish the piece he read Monday because yeah, it was great.

You may remember Chris Irvin from a recent interview I did with him.  Or maybe you saw his picture on your local TV news as a suspicious guy hanging around an elementary school.  Either way, he's easy to hate--young, talented as hell, and full of ideas and projects.  Chris set up this event--the 8th he's done--and everything ran perfectly.  Chris's piece was titled "This Ain't Halloween" and you can find it HERE.  Instead of giving you a summary, I'll just say this--a pill addicted Santa and a chain smoking Rudolph.  'nuff said, right?  At something obnoxious like 31 years old, Irvin has nothing but amazing potential which makes him very punchable.  Buy his stuff HERE so you can say you knew him before he got huge.

Yeah, that's me, and yeah, somehow I ended up going last.  Before the show started I was surprised by three former students showing up (how awesome is that?) and my aunt and uncle who live in Columbus.  (I also learned something important that night--take pictures with the people who show up to support you!  I'm such a dumbass.)  I read the first chapter of DON'T GET CAUGHT, and I think it went well.  At least people didn't throw things at me, and that's where I'm setting the bar.  Afterward, I passed out bookmarks and postcards to anyone interested, then talked with people, most of whom asked, "You really have four kids?"  (Yes.  Yes, I do.)  After that, it was BW3's for beer, food, and conversation, then back to my hotel at a time that the next morning my body let me know that I'm much too old to be out past midnight.

Basically, it was a fantastic night and I was honored to be asked to participate.  A special shoutout to Misty Rayburn for her support of all four of us.  You can read her great book blog HERE.

Oh, and here's a great picture someone took of the four of us.  As someone commented on Facebook: "Noir at the Bar?  More like Noir at the Bald."  Awesome.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Conversation with Ingrid Sundberg

I first met Ingrid Sundberg...okay, I don't remember how we met.  Honestly.  It was sometime earlier this year, in some sort of email swap for reasons I can't remember.  But we agreed pretty quickly that joining forces was a good idea, and since then I've read her wonderful ALL WE LEFT BEHIND and done the following interview.  As you'll read in this interview, Ingrid's novel was about as far removed from my life as a novel could be.  That doesn't mean, however, I didn't enjoy the hell out of it, and that goes to show you just how great of a writer Sundberg is.  

I'm going to cheat and use an online summary of the novel because, as I've mentioned countless times before, I'm terrible at explaining a novel quickly.  But--and here's the most important part--her main male character's named Kurt, so you know the novel is going to be excellent right from the start.

Here's the (copy and pasted) rundown:  When Marion Taylor, the shy bookworm, meets sexy soccer captain Kurt Medford at a party, what seems like a sure thing quickly turns into a total mess. One moment they’re alone in the middle of a lake, igniting sparks of electricity. The next, they’re on dry land, pretending they’ve never met. But rather than the end, that night is the beginning of something real, terrifying, and completely unforgettable for them both.

1.  First off, let the readers know a little about you.  And just to complicate your life a little, you have to use 50 words, no more, no less.

I’m the purple-haired author of ALL WE LEFT BEHIND. I love stories with complexity and emotion, which also (preferably) have characters that make-out. My friends call me the ambassador of awesome, probably because of my super-hero hair and craftiness (my super weapon would be a glue gun), and my ability to make epic baked goods.

2.  The acknowledgments in  ALL WE LEFT BEHIND explains that this started as your thesis project.  Can you give us the history behind that?  Did you write the whole novel in that program?  What’s the story there?

ALL WE LEFT BEHIND actually began years before my thesis project when I was studying screenwriting. The first version of this story was a screenplay. Over time (as I learned how to write) it changed from a drama to a comedy, back to a drama. The plot changed about five times, and eventually I wrote it as novel instead of a screenplay. My adviser at Vermont College read the novel version, and we decided to throw it away and start over. That sounds painful huh? But honestly, it was the most liberating thing I could have done.

Using the character of Marion, who’s been in all my previous drafts, we started from scratch and built a new story that turned into my thesis project. But we did something experimental. I wrote the new draft in non-linear vignettes. It was an exercise in getting me to break all my screenwriting plotting habits and learn to listen to my characters. The new draft was a mess: a pile of fractured bits and pieces without a through line. But under the guidance of my advisers we found the connective tissue and gave it a plot.

Sometimes you have to throw out everything you think you know abut writing to tell a certain story. 

3.  The acknowledgments also say that the character of Marion has been with you a long time.  Care to elaborate?

She’s been with me for over 10 years. She had a story to tell, but I didn’t have the writing chops to do her story justice. When you’re first starting out, so many of your drafts are about learning how to construct a scene, build a plot, develop a character. She was the story I kept re-writing as I learned all those techniques. It took me a long time to discover I had to listen to her - rather than my own authorial agenda. Authors like to think of themselves as Gods moving the chess pieces of their characters and plots around. For me, I had to let that concept go and learn how to be Marion’s best advocate. It wasn’t until I had the writing chops — and the bravery to listen — that I was able to bring what she needed to say to life.

4.  I have to be honest, I’m old.  Like 44, which is ancient.  So while I do teach high school, I’ll admit that I’m not really privy to the private lives of my students, especially those of my female students.  Reading this novel was, therefore, in a way like entering a foreign world.  Marion’s high school experience, and even Kurt’s, weren’t anything like mine, although I was pretty much a boring nerd back then.  But times change, and each generation is different, so I’m curious to know how close is this to a teenage girl’s high school experience?  Is part of this biographical?

No, this isn’t autobiographical at all. But I remember my first romantic encounters being more awkward than they were romantic. I really wanted to be authentic to that. I feel like a lot of love stories teens see on TV are a farce. High-stakes “love at first sight” relationships can make for good drama, but they seldom tell us anything truthful about real relationships.

5.  I’ve read a lot of contemporary YA lately, and yours is definitely the rawest, specifically in regard to it’s openness regarding sexuality.  How did you approach writing those scenes?  Was there any pushback from editors or early readers to reign those scenes in?

I had absolutely no pushback from my editor, agent, or beta readers. I think the rawness is what makes the book stand out. To tamp it down would be like asking Marion to lie about what happened to her. When we talk about something honest, we realize we have to be brave and listen, instead of censor. I’m really lucky to have worked with people who knew that about this book.

As for writing those scenes, I had to learn how to turn my inner critic off. My inner critic kept saying “Your mom is going to read this! You can’t write that.” But this is also a story about silence and not being able to talk about the things that happen to you. I discovered the only way I could be honest would be to write everything that made me feel uncomfortable, and censor nothing. The story came alive when I did that. It’s like it knew I was finally listening.

6.  Most writers don’t write with a specific message in mind, but do you hope for certain takeaways by your readers?

Part of the writing process of ALL WE LEFT BEHIND was to learn how to move away from having a specific message or an author agenda. I was really conscious about NOT telling people what to think or takeaway from this book.

Reading a novel is intimate and personal, and every reader’s relationship with these characters is going to be different and special. I don’t want to invalidate anyones experience by telling them what I want them to takeaway from the book. For me personally, I wrote this book because I wanted to explore the awkwardness and vulnerability of a real high school relationship, one where the characters have to face the true meaning of intimacy. Romantic relationships tread a complex space that is often unspoken and hard to articulate. I think what each reader “takes away” from that unspoken space can only be articulated by each reader individually. Which is awesome. I guess I hope each reader looks into that unspoken space and ask themselves for meaning. 

7.   Okay, speed round time.  5 questions you can answer without any explanation.  Think of it as a chance for your readers to learn things about you they wouldn’t know otherwise.  Here we go:

(1) You’re dictator for the day.  What one book will you force everyone to read?

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. It’s a picture book. See … I’m a nice dictator, I picked something short.

(2) Good news, bad news.  The bad news is you’re dead.  The good news is you now get to know the answer to one mystery of the universe you’ve always wanted to know.  What do you ask?

Are crop circles real? I know they can be hoaxes. But are all of them hoaxes?

(3) Your execution by the state is scheduled for tonight.  What’s your menu for your final meal?

 Grilled cheese and tomato bisque.

(4) The government forces you into a Hunger Games-like competition where you’re forced to fight to the death in Home Depot.  On go, what aisle are you rushing to and what “weapon” are you grabbing?

 Nail gun.

(5) Dinner party!  You can force the attendance of one rocker, one writer, one actor/actress, and one miscellaneous person.  Everyone must currently be alive, and sure, all of your friends are already invited.  Who are you force-inviting?

Katy Perry, Libba Bray, Gary Oldman, and Christoph Waltz.

8.  Great job on the speed round!  And finally, anything else you'd like to add?  The floor is yours!

Thanks for interviewing me Kurt! I hope my fictional Kurt lived up to his name. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My First Public Reading!

My good friend and great writer (though I suppose you could flip those adjectives) Chris Irvin has invited me to participate in a Noir at the Bar event in Columbus next month.  Also reading with me and Chris will be Kealan Patrick Burke and my friend of like a dozen years, Josh Penzone.  I'll be reading something from DON'T GET CAUGHT, but as for what part, I'm not sure yet.  I guess come and see, right?

If you want to read a really awesome and detailed explanation of the event and its history, go read it HERE at Lit Reactor.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Conversation with Chris Irvin

I met Chris Irvin for the first time last year at a writers' retreat, and all you really need to know to understand Chris is that one night while a group of us were walking on a DARK, creepy country road at midnight (these are the types of things that happen on writers' retreats), Chris took his phone out and had it play "Looking for the Magic" from the horror movie You're Next.  That's pretty much the type of guy he is.  Since then, I've read most of everything Chris has written.  Most of his stuff is in the crime genre, but with a clear literary bent to it.  His latest release is a great collection of short stories titled SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE.  He's also writing comics, novels, and was recently a momentary viral star when this post ended up at the top of Reddit's front page.  He's a really good guy, and I was happy when he agreed to let me interview him.  Buy his books!

He gets bonus points for having the same haircut as me!
Me:  So it’s probably best if we start off with who you are, but knowing writers can blather on and on and on about things, I’m giving you exactly 50 words to introduce yourself.  Go!

Chris: I live in Boston with my wife and two sons, though I grew up in the Midwest. I've written two novellas, and a few dozen short stories. I don't sleep (much), and spend the wee hours writing. Two comic miniseries are on submission, and a novel is awaiting a rewrite.

Me: Congratulations on hitting 50 words, exactly.  If nothing else, we know you can operate the Word Count feature in Word, so nice job.

I’ve read FEDERALES, BURN CARDS, and your new collection SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, and I gotta tell you, I find it a little irritating that you’re already this good at such a young-ish age.  What’s your writing history?  How long have you been at it?  What prompted writing for you?

Chris: Well, thank you! Actually, up until recently - turning the *magic* 30 - when it came to writing my age was a source of insecurity. I'm accustom to working with others much older than me in the various jobs I've held - and had zero issues - but when it came to writing it was different. Maybe seeing the output of those in their 40s/50s/60s who write full-time, or the notion that some believe one hasn't experienced enough to write anything of value until their later years. I'm not entirely sure, but I'm over that now...I think.

BUT back to your questions: I drew a lot when I was young. I'd always wanted to write - journaled here and there, outlined a book or two. I stumble upon things occasionally (ex: a gun-filled prohibition-era car chase from 7th grade English that would probably get me in trouble if I were in school today.) In college I ran a pen and paper role-playing group with my roommates. I generated most of the work myself and afterward wrote up the action as quasi-short stories. I think this is part of what gave me the kick to finally write.

When I moved to Boston in 2009 I decided to give it a shot. I don't recall exactly what it was (I really wish I did...) but I looked for writing classes and stumbled upon Grubstreet. I took several night/weekend classes there, a few with LitReactor, lucked into a wonderful writing group, and kept at it. Right after my first NECON in 2012 is when I started getting up in the morning to write before work. It's been a tiring three years, but I'm spurred on by the passionate community around me. It’s inspiring to have friends who are finding great success at various stages of their writing career. A nice reminder that we're all in it for the long haul.

Kurt: Do you remember the first piece you wrote where you had that “THIS! This is how I want to write!  Finally!” moment?  Did it take you long to get there?  Or are you one of those obnoxious people who achieved literary nirvana early on?

Chris: Great question. Yes! I’ll start with mentioning that I thought I had found my voice when I wrote Federales, and in a way I think I did, or was on my way there. That’s not to say FEDERALES or any of my other fiction isn’t “me,” though maybe a snapshot of me at a point in time is more accurate. My writing can be deeply influenced by what I read, and I’ve read quite a bit since then (late 2013.)

When I wrote “Imaginary Drugs” and “Digging Deep,” this past spring I got a strong feeling in my gut that this was it, the kind of story that I wanted to write. All writers experience highs and lows – the ‘this is amazing’ to ‘what was I thinking?’ – and no matter how much I second guessed myself, the feeling stuck. They are two of my favorites in the collection. A story I’m working on now for another project is in the same vein, so I think I’m onto something.

Kurt: So let’s get into it then, shall we?  Because you’ve hit on something that happens in your stories where I think we have philosophical differences.  I usually approach a story to have a beginning, middle, and end.  You, on the other hand, seem to write snapshots, captured moments in time that are captured, but don’t tell a complete story.  Oftentimes we don’t see the fallout of actions that characters take.  Both “Imaginary Drugs” and “Digging Deep” do this, as does BURN CARDS, which you know I wanted to beat you once I finished.  This isn’t a dig on your writing, believe me, and it makes your stories much more literary than most crime stories, but I guess my question is this--How do you approach a story philosophically?  What are you trying to accomplish when you sit down to write about a character or situation?

Chris: "Captured moments in time" is a smart way of describing my short fiction, though I do believe they are complete in that they leave the reader with a character(s) who has reached the end of their moment. A failed attempt at fitting in and the loss of innocence in "Imaginary Drugs." A father with a greater sense of appreciation of his role in "Digging Deep." I suppose it's very slice of life in a way, with less focus on a crime and more on the people and the world around them that are influenced/affected by the crime. Most, if not all of my works begin with images of small moments that grow into a story as I write. I write several pages by hand to get a feel for a story - the tone, where it's heading, etc - this produces a lot of these instants that I'll jot down on the side and insert later - things even as small as the way two characters look at each other, or a color or smell. Bursts of inspiration that I don't want to lose. I'm trying to put the reader in the character's head -- right there in their world, and I think if I can conclude a story with the reader hanging on the last sentence, they already know what eventually might come next, but they don't need to explicitly see it as it's less interesting than what they've read. A boy comes home from camp with the mixed emotions of a teenager. A man returns to his wife and daughter with a renewed appreciation of the world inside his home - where his heart belongs. My favorite stories that have stuck with me don't conclude - they more or less come in and go out with the tide. This quiet (sometimes disquieting) drift is often very melancholy.

Kurt:  That’s a great explanation.   Have you approached your novellas and novel with the same philosophy?  How does this carry over to your comic writing?  And while we’re at it, I suppose you should explain your comics, too.

Chris:  Maybe? It's difficult to recall. I think pieces of each novella developed with the above philosophy in mind, though perhaps with less focus, or more scatterbrained. For example, the first scene of Federales that popped into my head was when the protagonist, Marcos, is standing in front of a mirror in a hospital (quite late in the book). I had a good idea of where I wanted to go, but it would have been too short without flashbacks (which I very much wanted to avoid). So I ended up working my way back from what became the beginning to that moment in the hospital and onto the end. There were a lot of small moments that came about while writing the rest of the book. I typically try not to think too much and just let it flow.

Comics...I could talk about comics for hours, ha. I'm a very visual person and I've been a fan of comics since I was little. When readers pointed out the cinematic/visual elements of my fiction, it pushed me to give comics a shot.

I think my prose philosophy/style carried over to my first comic, Expatriate, and the scripts I wrote. It's about an American white collar criminal who flees the pursuit of law enforcement for Rio de Janeiro. It's a little more action oriented than my prose writing, but I can see the influence. You need much more of a beginning/middle/end structure though, especially with comics running in 4-6 issues arcs these days. I'm much more conscious of pacing and structure. I outline and layout pages at a very detailed level before I write a full script. My other comic projects have (generally) tended to include more fantastical elements and action with a mind for making it fun for an artist to draw. A story can be excellent, but if it doesn't inspire or excite your creative partner then it's not going to go well. 

Time will tell with the novel. It's due for a major rewrite this winter.

Kurt: It sounds like you have a lot of plates spinning currently with short stories, a novel, and comics.  Are you naturally this ADD or do you just multi-task exceptionally well?  How do you handle all of these different types of projects at once without diluting any of them?

Chris: Naturally ADD without a doubt, ha. I make a lot of lists and try to focus on one project at a time though. If I don’t then I get stuck with a dozen different ideas rolling around my head, pulling me in every direction. For example, I finished the collection in June. Took a few weeks off and then wrote another short story that was coming due. After that it was a month of comics. Now I'm back on a short story that's due ASAP before I try and rewrite a novel before the end of the year. Baby steps…

I think it also stems from a desire to get my mind off submissions. I can be a constant email checker when it comes to waiting to hear back on a piece. It's even harder with comics. While there seems to be near infinite outlets for short stories, there are really only five or six publishers of creator-owned comics that can be considered anywhere near widely read. A lot hinges on each pitch. So it helps to keep moving forward, working on new and exciting projects to keep my mind off what I've already got in the bag. Hopefully cutting down on the putzing around!

Kurt:  Here’s a mean question, if you had to choose one of the--shit, what’s the word: mediums?  Genres?--which would you go with and why?

Chris:  One medium…while I love prose – especially short stories – I've got to go with comics. The visual nature is such a hit with me, and writing scripts is a lot of fun. I think I'd write even more if it wasn't for the expensive cost of putting together a book. I can write prose novels all I want and it only costs me my sanity time. But each comic requires pencils/inks, letters, color and design. I have a high standard and I've been fortunate to work with some incredible artists who've been a blast to collaborate with. But it also quickly adds up. Like the prose writing, it's a marathon and I'm in it for the long haul. I'll keep throwing stuff up until something sticks.

Kurt: What do you get out of writing comics you don’t get from writing short stories or novels?

Chris: I love the collaborative aspect of comics. It's inspiring to be co-creating with passionate artists after working "alone" on prose for years. I've been lucky to have had a fantastic writing group and friends I've made over the years who I share drafts (short stories, novels, etc) with, but it's different when co-creating something. I'm also faster at writing comic scripts – from outlining by issue to breaking down pages and actually "writing," it often feels like I've accomplished more than when on the daily grind of trying to reach a word count on a novel. I go back and forth. After Bouchercon last weekend, all I want to do is get back to the novel!

And again – as a visual person – it's incredible to see my scripts come to life. Especially with my creative partners to date – Joe DellaGatta, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Artyom Trakanov – we have great chemistry and it's amazing to see the number of panels/pages that come out how them pictured it in my head or that have surprised me with something even better. Also, regarding short stories and novels - covers are extremely important to me. I absolutely judge a book by its cover. It sets the tone for my reading experience. So working on comics is like dealing with my favorite aspects of books X 1000. It's exciting.

Kurt: You’ve obviously tapped into something “right” based on the reception your work has received, I know that.  Who are the crime writers you’ve gained the most inspiration from?  What is it about those writers’ works that affects you?

Chris: Megan Abbott's Queenpin is a big influence on my work. The way her characters move about a world infused with crime and how their lives are impacted by the decisions they make (or lack thereof). I always go back to Queenpin for Abbott's subtle use of violence. It's lurking around the corner on every page, but the way a single act late in the book explodes is just excellent. I've never read anything else like it. 

More recently, William Boyle and Richard Lange have made a big impression on me. I think both of them can be described as writing 'literary crime' - the more slice of life, characters on the fringe of crime, how crime influences lives, etc. I see some of these elements in my earlier work, but reading both Boyle and Lange really focused my attention on these aspects, revealing what I most desired to write.

Kurt: What are your plans for Safe Inside the Violence?  Will you be doing readings?  Signings?  Con/panel appearances?  Are these things you enjoy doing?

Chris: Bouchercon (the best!) was this past weekend in Raleigh, NC. I brought a couple dozen ARCs and left them out for people to pick up. I think almost all of them were grabbed by readers who are unfamiliar with my work, which is pretty cool. Overall people are excited for the book, more so than the previous two novellas. As for readings/signings/events, here's a quick rundown of those scheduled so far:

11/13 – Launch Party @ Papercuts J.P. (Jamaica Plain, MA)
11/18 – Reading event with Jason Starr @ Brookline Booksmith (Brookline, MA)
11/27 – Signing TBD (Libertyville/Chicago, IL area)
12/21 – Signing TBD (Columbus, OH area)
Jan/Feb – Event TBD (NYC)

I get anxious, but who doesn't? They are fun and I'm happy to do more (hint, hint).  

Kurt: Okay, time for the rapid fire question portion of the interview.  5 questions you probably won’t get elsewhere, that maybe will let your readers know a little more about you.  Explain your answers, don’t explain your answers…it’s up to you.  Here we go: 

You’re in to a Vegas loan shark for $25,000 and she wants her money tomorrow.  You’ve got $25, a snub-nosed .38, and no fear.  What do you do?

Chris: Rob another Vegas loan shark on 'her behalf' for $25,000. Throw it down on black – double up (natch) – pay her off and ride off into the sunset with my $25k while they take each other out.

Kurt: You’ve been set-up and are now on the run from the law for a crime you didn’t commit.  Figure the unstoppable force of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.  Before you can clear your name, you need to go underground.  What’s your plan to disappear?

Chris: Shave my beard and steal your identity.

Kurt: What unsolved mystery must you know the answer to before you die?

Chris: Are there ghosts? Aliens? TELL ME, KURT!

Kurt: Oh no, you’ve got a dead body in your house that you’ll never be able to explain to the police.  How will you dispose of the body?

Chris: Dexter did well with the dumping in the ocean. I'll follow his lead.

Kurt:  Dinner party!  Besides friends and family, you can invite one rocker, writer, actor/actress, and, considering your genre, one felon, all living, of course.  Who are you inviting?

Chris: Oh man. Quickly off the top of my head… Colin Meloy, Denis Johnson, Bruce Willis, and felon…everyone I can think of is a total scumbag, ha! They can stay put.

Kurt:  Nicely done.  And, as always, I’ll give you the last word.

Chris: Thanks so much for the wonderful interview. I hope people check out the collection and give it a shot. It's my favorite work to date – and most personal – so I've got my fingers crossed. Spread the word!

Okay, so this is a great cover, right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Here it is, the cover for DON'T GET CAUGHT!

In fact, here's the full front and back cover of the arc that's being printed at this very moment!

What I love about this, besides its awesomeness, is how Sourcebooks asked for my input throughout the process.  I really think this cover will get people to pick up the book, and the back design and copy will definitely tempt them into buying it.  Or stealing it and sending me food from their garden out of guilt.  Either one.  Thanks to Nicole Komasinski and Marci Senders for all of their amazing work!

Oh, and if you can't read the back copy because the picture didn't magnify, here it is:

When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he has to ask: why him? After all, he’s Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life. He’s Just Max. And his favorite heist movies have taught him this situation calls for Rule #4: Be suspicious. But it’s also his one shot to leave Just Max in the dust...

Yeah, not so much. Max and four fellow students—who also received invites—are standing on the newly defaced water tower when campus security “catches” them. Definitely a setup. And this time, Max has had enough. It’s time for Rule #7: Always get payback.

Ocean’s 11 meets The Breakfast Club in this entertaining, fast- paced debut filled with pranks and cons that will keep readers on their toes, never sure who’s pulling the strings or what’s coming next. 

If you're so inclined, here are some links to pre-ordering the book:


Barnes & Noble


Oh, and if you're a Goodreads member, you can go HERE and click Want to Read.  I'm told that matters.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pre-Order Don't Get Caught!

I should be able to reveal the cover in a couple of weeks, but for now, you can pre-order the book from Amazon.  Yeah, there's no summary, and it looks like a scam as a result, but I promise it's a real book.  No, seriously!

Oh, wait, I just found the back copy of the book right on the Goodreads' site:

Max Cobb is sick of being “Just Max”—the kind of guy whose resume boasts a measly 2.5 GPA and a deep love of heist films. So when an invitation appears in his locker to join the anonymous, untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, Max jumps at the opportunity.

Except that the invite is really a setup, and Max, plus the four other misfits who received similar invitations, are apprehended by school security for defacing the water tower. Max has finally had enough. It’s time for payback. Time to unmask Chaos. Let the prank war begin.

Here's the link to the pre-order:


Barnes & Noble:


Monday, September 21, 2015

Something Old I Rediscovered: The Smuntz Conundrum

I wrote this four years ago for an online blog project centered around the great horror writer Laird Barron.  (If you haven't read his stuff, go HERE and buy something. I recommend one of his short story collections.) The following piece originally went up on my other blog, and once I switched over to Blogger, I thought it was gone forever. Today I found it in a file just sitting there, and after re-reading it, figured I'd throw it up here since it made me laugh.  So here it is, "The Smuntz Conundrum", a story told in pictures.  (Click on each picture to magnify.)