Goodbye, Harlan.

Dear Mr Ellison,

I cannot conceal my annoyance that you have gone.

We lost a giant.

That’s not meant as a joke, though Mr. Ellison bore the brunt of cruel nerds who mocked his stature at every turn. The only time I met him was at ICON, held in Stony Brook College, when fans were begging for Simon & Simon to be kept on the air, and demanding a sequel to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, when they weren’t mocking Harlan on stage for being short. I think that was the last science fiction convention I went to, and it will remain so. The fandom is venomous, like a snake. A small part will kill you, while the rest can be amazing and beautiful… but I digress. I saw how ugly people could be. He was generous and gracious to me, he signed every book and shirt and record that I bought, and I shook his hand, a hard and knobby workman’s hand, odd for a writer. A fighter’s hand.

And boy, could be fight.

And damn, could he write.

If you haven’t read him, Deathbird Stories is my favorite. That and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. You can get the collection The Top of the Volcano for a taste of his very best stories, too. Angry Candy is damn fine, as well.

We spoke on the phone briefly, when I asked him to contribute his stunning, award-winning story “Croatoan” as a reprint in Protectors 2: Heroes. He called me out of the blue, we had been corresponding by letters with the contracts, and he wanted to know who he was dealing with. We chatted for a while, he was 82 years old and sharp and snappy as always. “Hey, kiddo! It’s Harlan Ellison.”

To me, that was my “made it” moment, which most of us have, no matter how silly they are. Harlan Ellison called me.

In 1989, when I wrote Mr Ellison the infamous letter–which was showcased on Letters of Note, Flavorwire, and got me a gig writing an introduction to a Gerald Kersch collection, a writer whose work I was introduced to through Harlan–I must confess, I looked up his phone number and called it, after I mailed the letter. To apologize. He asked fans not to write, because he felt compelled to answer all correspondence–typed, by hand! imagine that now in a day when publishing professionals can’t be arsed to fire off form emails–and after I dropped my letter in the mailbox, I felt guilty. So why not bother him more, with a call?

I confess, he answered. And I was a coward, I hung up.

I prank called my literary hero. So I really deserved that letter, which makes me laugh to this day. He loved it. Being Harlan. Even stars burn out, and he had the energy of several. I’m glad I was alive to see his light, to shake his hand, to hear his voice. I’ll always be proud to have published his reprint. And yes, I put my story afterward. I didn’t want anyone else to have to follow him.

All a writer has is time and a portion of talent.

Thank you, Harlan, for sharing your time and talent with me. I’ll pay you tribute by using both my time and talent to the best of my ability.

Harlan Ellison letter

Anthony! Ant’nee! Ant! Tony! Tone! Tee!!!

That’s Italian mother for “Anthony.” You’re welcome.

And thank YOU and everyone who nominated Bad Boy Boogie for an Anthony Award for best paperback original! The good folks running Bouchercon this year in St. Petersburg Florida announced this year’s nominees, and you can read them all here at the 2018 Anthony Awards site.

I’m thrilled that my first Jay Desmarteaux crime novel was nominated, and it’s in great company:

Dcrx7g3XkAIWqeX.jpg

Honored to be nominated with Lori Rader-Day, Nadine Nettman, James W. Ziskin, and Eryk Pruitt! The winner will be announced on Saturday September 8th at the convention.

This is my second nomination, Protectors 2: Heroes was nominated for best anthology in 2016, but there were so many great authors in that one, the honor was shared. And so is this one. My publisher Down & Out Books and editor Chris Rhatigan helped me get the book into fighting shape, and early readers Holly West, Elizabeth Kracht, Lynn Beighley, and others all had a hand. Thank you all, and thank you readers for your great reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, for spreading the word, and everyone who put Boogie on their Anthony ballot!

I’m hard at work on Jay #2, Riff Raff, set in the wilds of Louisiana, and this will kick me in the pants to get it done a little more quickly.

Congratulations to all the nominees. Here are a few I’m especially happy to see:

Jen Conley and Hilary Davidson for their short stories. They are both two of my favorite writers to read, and spin a great story. Special congratulations to Susanna Calkins, whose first published story was nominated! Alex Segura and Joe Clifford for their Bill Crider award nominations for best novels in a series, they’ve created great characters we love to follow. Dan & Kate Malmon for their best anthology nom for Killing Malmon, which was a hilarious theme and inspired so many great stories. Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden of Writer Types Podcast, my fellow damaged writers at Do Some Damage, the folks at Jungle Red Writers, and Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books for creating great online content. Jordan Harper, Kristen Lepionka, and Christopher Irvin for their best first novel nominations. This is always a tough category and they wrote their hearts out. She Rides Shotgun was one of my favorite recent crime novels, and deserves the Edgar it nabbed. Attica Locke and Don Winslow for best novel. Bluebird, Bluebird and The Force were both great reads.

There are folks I nominated who didn’t make the top five, it seems, and that’s rough for everyone. I had given up on this one, and woke up to a surprise. Want proof? I wrote about Awards Season Depressive Disorder at Do Some Damage. It’s still something to keep in mind, even if I am a firm believer in the “it’s an honor to be nominated” mantra. It is an honor.

Keep writing the books you want to see, and you can’t lose.

 

Writing at the End of the World, and Where I’ll Be…

Over at SleuthSayers, I write about how we write in an age of chaos and fear. Dance Band on the Titanic, at SleuthSayers.

Had a good time at Brooklyn Book Festival, and I can’t wait for the next one. There’s just a great atmosphere there, hipsters and haredim and old-school Brooklyn weirdos all mashed together in a sea of books! I met Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn. We first corresponded in 1994 when I reviewed his noir/SF dystopia Gun, With Occasional Music on the nascent internet, and he sent me a broadsheet from Moe’s Books with a short-short story called “Hardboiled Coda” in thanks. I still keep it on my desk. But if you missed me there, here’s where I’ll be in October and November:

On October 7th at 7pm, it’s Noir at the Bar DC at the Wonderland Ballroom. Host Ed Aymar is running the show and giving away a SWORD to the audience favorite, so I’m gonna bring my A-game (A stands for “ass.” So I’ll be using my whole ass instead of half-assing it). There can be only one! What a great lineup, and a terrifying, Hieronymous Bosch inspired poster for the event.

The week after that I’ll be in Toronto for Bouchercon, from Wednesday 10/11 until Sunday. On Wednes, I’ll be reading at Noir at the Bar Bouchercon at 9pm. It’s at pin
Rivoli, 332 Queen Street West, and a bunch of great writers will be kicking off the International crime fiction convention. On Friday I’m moderating the panel Beautiful Brutality, with Chris Holm, Bryon Quertermous, E. C. Diskin, Amy Stuart, and Sara Jayne Townsend. Other than that I’ll be free to schmooze and booze with y’all! And Firecracker’s coming with me, to bring the Southern sass.

Closer to home, I’ll be reading at Noir at the Bar Asbury Park on Sunday 10/29 at 6:00PM at Capitolines bar, with Jen Conley and many others, including Dennis Tafoya and Wallace Stroby! Jersey can bring the crime…

and lastly I’ll be at Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee on November 4th. I’m honored to be one of the invited guests, and look forward to chumming it up with the mighty Jordans and the crime fiction fans of the north, eating squeaky cheese curds, wrestling a hodag, and so on.

Tough Guys Dance: Chatting with Alex Segura

My friend Alex Segura invited me to chat crime fiction and our latest novels at Criminal Element. Alex is the author of the Pete Fernandez PI Miami mysteries, and he also writes comics, including Archie Meets KISS. He’s a great guy you should check out his series.

He asked me about what inspired Bad Boy Boogie.”I knew where I belonged, and it wasn’t Mayberry.”

A Dangerous Dance: A Conversation with Alex Segura & Thomas Pluck

pluck-segura

The Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need

write.

oh, and you should read a lot, too.

Just write, really. If you need encouragement, business advice, or criticism of your work, that’s something else entirely. I’m only being somewhat facetious here. If you write, you’re a “real writer.” You’re not going to find magic on a blog or a Twitter account. And why take advice from someone like me who’s been in the biz for only a few years? It makes no sense. How about a pro who knows both traditional, “indie” and hybrid?

For practical writing advice and some business advice, I usually recommend Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, but he recently updated Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel (the original didn’t have the pixels). LB began sending out stories, then wrote speedily under pseudonyms, then wrote stand-alones under his own name, then wrote series, improving all the while, until his series characters kicked off. He certainly was born with innate talent and has spent years honing his skill, so don’t expect to emulate his success; but you can emulate his hard work, and that often bears tasty fruit. (In fact, he may have written Tasty Fruit under a pseudonym. He keeps finding erotic books he wrote back when). The point is, LB has been out on the cutting edge of the writing scene for at least fifty years. His advice is up to date and practical.

If you don’t write as much as you’d like, or if you feel daunted, I might suggest Stephen King’s On Writing. But he began 50 years ago and hit it big on his first try, so his business acumen is not relevant to most of us. His writing advice however, is spot on.

If you find yourself “blocked” often, I won’t judge. You don’t have to write every day. You know who told me that? LB. On his Write For Your Life audio mp3. The book is worthwhile, too. If you want strong exercises that will break blocks and keep them from recurring, Jerrold Mundis literally wrote the book on it: Break Writers Block Now!

I get stressed when  I think that I have to write or edit every day. It is counterproductive. But if I don’t think about it, I usually write or edit every evening after dinner and before I allow myself time to read or watch television. That works for me. The thing is, there’s no one way. Anyone who tells you different is selling you their books on how to write.

beyond copacetic

If you haven’t read my review of James Lee Burke’s The Jealous Kind, it’s one of his best. You know who read it? Mr Burke himself. It’s an honor to hear from a literary hero of mine. He commented on my Books page.

2016-09-07 15_03_06-Thomas Pluck _ unflinching fiction with heart.jpg

Thrillerfest Finale: Debut Authors and Awards

My post on Thrillerfest day two, featuring the debut authors breakfast and the Thriller Awards, is up at Criminal Element.

megan-abbott-thriller-awards-2015