For Your Consideration…

It’s the yearly Award Eligibility Post!

Don’t you hate it when those ballots show up and you can’t remember everything you read this year? Maybe you’re like me and keep a list. But if you don’t, here are the stories and books of mine published this year, eligible for awards and anthologies and whatnot:

Crime and Mystery:

Bad Boy Boogie, a paperback original.

“Russian Roulette,” in Killing Malmon, an anthology to benefit the MS Society.
“Deadbeat,” in Down & Out Magazine issue one.

Horror and Fantasy:

“Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind,” in Alive in Space and Color: 16 Paintings by Great Artists and the Stories They Inspired, edited by Lawrence Block, from Pegasus Books.
“Little Howl on the Prairie” in BloodBond, from Alban Lake Publishing.
I used to write many more short stories, and I hope to get back to it, but I find it difficult to put down a novel project and pick up again. If you enjoyed these stories, thank you.

The State of the Short Story in Crime Fiction

If you’re a fan of science fiction, fantasy, or horror as well as crime you might notice that there are fewer markets for short fiction for the crime genre than the others. Many come and go, even if they consistently publish stories chosen for yearly awards, they can’t seem to survive.
At SleuthSayers, I interviewed 7 editors of current and defunct crime fiction markets, print and online, about the difficulties, the state of the fandom, and what YOU can do to make a more vibrant scene.
And a reminder, Life During Wartime: 21 Stories by Thomas Pluck is now available for pre-order.  I know I just told you yesterday, but now I have this snazzy image that evokes the song from which the collection gets its title story. Remember to use code 25dob2017 to get 25% off!


Life During Wartime available for pre-order at 25% discount

My story collection LIFE DURING WARTIME is now available for pre-order! It will be published on January 29th 2018 by Down & Out Books. It includes “The Big Snip,” which was chosen for the Best Mystery & Crime Stories 2016, new unpublished stories, the best of Denny the Dent, and “The Last Detail,” a Jay Desmarteaux yarn that picks up directly where Bad Boy Boogie leaves off. Some of these have only been experienced at Noir at the Bar.

It is available at the usual suspects in e-book and print format, but if you order directly from Down & Out Books, they have a 25% off Holiday coupon that’s good for every book in the store. So you could buy Bad Boy Boogie and Life During Wartime for 25%, or Unloaded, or any of the great books in their catalog. (For more Jersey crime fiction I’d recommend Cannibals by Jen Conley)

The 25% off coupon code is 25dob2017

If you’d like signed copies of Bad Boy Boogie, I ship free in the USA. Just reach me with the contact form.

Down & Out Books 25% off Holiday sale, and a Black Friday Boogie signed book deal

When Black Friday comes, I stand down by the door…

At Down & Out Books they’re offering a 25% holiday discount and including the ebook with purchase of every print book!

That includes Bad Boy Boogie, Unloaded, Blood on the Bayou, everything they publish.
Including Down & Out:  The Magazine… Which you should support if you love hardboiled fiction. I have a story in the first issue.

If you would like a signed copy of Bad Boy Boogie or Blade of Dishonor, Email Me. Black Friday only, I am selling them for $16 each shipped in the US, or $30 for two (mix and match). I only have one copy of Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT left, same price. Many stories you can get nowhere else by Ken Bruen, James Reasoner, George Pelecanos, and more.


Learn to use Word and Publish from a Pro

My friend Jaye Manus created all my e-books except the first, Lost Children. She does quality work, and knows Microsoft Word in and out. If you want to know how to best use Word as an author, or use it to self-publish e-books, this is a guide by a pro who is also a good teacher.

via I Finally Did It: WORD FOR THE WISE is now an ebook

RIP Malcolm Young: Tom’s list of AC/DC’s greatest guitar songs

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If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that my favorite band is AC/DC, and has been since I first heard “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” on the radio when I was seven years old. Their rhythm guitarist and founder Malcolm Young died this week from complications of dementia. Rockers from all over paid tribute to him after his death. You don’t see a lot of rhythm guitar these days. It was seen as indulgent, but it build a foundation that gave AC/DC their iconic onslaught of sound.

I’ve expounded on the original lineup’s raw power and outlaw heart. In the States they debuted at CBGB and were as revolutionary at the time as the Ramones, blistering through sets and bringing rock ‘n roll back to its animal roots. They took a lot of ribbing over the years for sophomoric lyrics (which veered into parody after Bon Scott’s death) but Angus Young wore a schoolboy outfit, so that was what they were meant to be. Anyone who says “they made the same album over and over” never listened to the first five, when they developed a rough style that referred to down & out living as much as sex, which is what rock ‘n roll literally means. Over at Andrew Nette’s crime fiction site Pulp Curry, I chose my favorite crime-themed AC/DC songs. Today I’ll share a few overall favorites.

I was less a fan of the Brian Johnson era. Back in Black is their biggest selling album, and it has a handful of great songs- “You Shook Me,” the title track. “Hells Bells” (sic), “Shoot to Thrill,” and “Shake a Leg”, and “Have a Drink on Me,” while the rest of the album tries for Bon’s sly humor but derails into misogyny, with “Given the Dog a Bone” (sic), “What Do You Do For Money Honey.” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You,” which explicitly says “don’t you struggle, don’t you fight, it’s your turn tonight” when Bon never compared women to dogs when he expounded on his love of fellatio, in “Go Down”. My favorite song of his is a love tribute to a big woman, a Tasmanian named Rosie, who he became obsessed with after a one night stand:









Now, I give Bon a lot of credit but every song is written by Young/Young/Scott, and their method was to have the Young brothers jam up a riff and then Bon would alter lyrics from his notebooks to fit the beat. Listen to the guitar solo in this song. Hear Bon’s raw need. I wish someone had interviewed Rosie or tracked her down.

They didn’t exactly turn to frat boy garbage after Johnson came aboard, but they lost their way and never got it back. My favorite underrated album is Flick of the Switch, with songs inspired by westerns, arrests, and cops raiding the stage in Belgium after the crowd refused to leave (based on a concert when Bon was singer). This gives the tiniest bit of credence to the fan conspiracy theory that they cribbed from Bon’s lyric notebooks after he died, and started to go downhill when they ran out of songs. My next book, tentatively titled Death to Hipsters, uses this as a subplot. The main character was told by his cult rockstar mother than he is Bon’s son, and he doesn’t believe her, so I have a lot of fun with my love of the band in that one. I hope you’ll get to read it soon!

“Guns for Hire” off Flick of the Switch got a revival in Iron Man 2, the soundtrack of which serves as a great AC/DC “best of” album. Jon Favreau even dug up the lost Bon single “Cold Hearted Man,” about Leroy Kincaid, an ice cold killer from Bon’s youth. Astute readers will remember the real name of “Okie”, Jay Desmarteaux’s convict mentor, is Leroy Kincaid. A little nod to a great song:


A lesser known great song off Flick of the Switch is “Badlands” which reminds me of Mad Max out in the wastelands:





As for pure guitar work, these are my favorites:

“Shake a Leg,” from Back in Black






“Kicked in the Teeth” from Powerage, one of their best albums.



“Hail Caesar” from Ballbreaker







“Heatseeker” from Blow Up Your Video

This is the tour I saw them on, high school 1989. I was disheartened that Angus no longer mooned the crowd, bowing to censors. He kept boxers on. And the band started going our of their way to not use foul language. I think “Thunderstruck” off The Razor’s Edge was the final nail in the coffin, a nonsensical song written for arenas that made them giants again. Johnson’s voice was gone and the songs did indeed begin to sound all the same.








The less said about “For Those About to Rock” the better. The title track is boring and the rest of the album only gets worse. They did create an amazing rock anthem that pays tribute to the black R&B artists who invented rock ‘n roll, and that song is called “Let There Be Rock.” I’ll leave you with it. It’s light-hearted and fun and still blisters the paint off the walls. Friends who love hardcore and speed metal and act “harder than thou” … sorry, to me that’s like hot sauces made in a lab to have high scoville units but no flavor. There are harder rock tunes (“Brain Shake” off Flick of the Switch is AC/DC’s nod to thrash) but at some point you’re just showing off.

This one’s got heart.




And last but not least, the song I named a book after… for good reason. So much energy. Relentless.

A book signing that will live in infamy…

That time has come when the year is in its last throes and lashes out with its most terrible weapons:
The holidays.
Joy, stress, grief, elation, blessed rest, anxious busyness… they all take a swing at you.
Roll with the punches, my friends. A new year is not far off.

But before it’s over, one more book event. Perhaps the biggest one I’ve ever been part of:

Lawrence Block, SJ Rozan, Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Santlofer, Sarah Weinman, Jill Block, and Gail Levin will attend. And somehow I crashed that party. The Mysterious Bookshop has suggests you RSVP, and if you can’t make it, you can reserve a copy signed by the attendees here.

My story is based on “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind” by Jean-Léon Gérôme, a painting that has haunted me for years. It’s a slight departure for me in that it’s not a crime story, but a creepy tale that plumbs “man”kind’s deepest nightmares. I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, there are stories by Joe Lansdale, David Morrell, Michael Connelly, Nicholas Christopher, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch to tide you over….

So I wish you a wonderful holiday season. If you like a good scare or thrill, I always recommend Cruel Yule, the ThugLit holiday anthology, which is the only place to read my Krampus tale “Letters to Santa” until LIFE DURING WARTIME comes out in January.

Watch out for snowballs! and stay out off the naughty list.