My Local – Watchung Booksellers

The death of the independent bookstore has been greatly exaggerated.

Some are having hard times, and some are closing. But imagine my surprise when I walked into my local, the excellent Watchung Booksellers, and found that they will be closing next week.

TO EXPAND.

Now, that’s the kind of news a writer and a book lover finds joyful. I’ve known the bookmongers and proprietors for nearly twenty years, and they run a great shop with a sprawling children’s section, a meaty mystery department, and they’ve had everyone from Jenny Milchman and Dennis Tafoya to the one and only Lawrence Block signing and speaking there. All in a very efficiently used, and to dip into realtor parlance, charming and cozy space.

It’s a small store. I’ve been in smaller bookshops, but I can’t recall them, and I think they’re all in bookstore heaven now. So I am thrilled to see them taking over space from next door and embiggening themselves.

I stopped in to pick up Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, on the urgent recommendation of Matthew Funk, and snagged Night Soldiers by Alan Furst, after hearing about his ambitious series of linked novels set in the run-up to the Second World War. They have impeccable taste- meaning they carry books I love by friends and other authors I admire- and they’ve sold a few copies of the Lost Children Anthology, which is available from them locally and via mail order, if you like supporting indie bookstores.

That’s a Lulu – Grift #1

I neglected to share the purchase link for GRIFT #1, John Kenyon’s new quarterly which includes my short story “Six Feet Under God.”

Here’s where you get Grift #1
It’s now 15% off. Grab it and a couple copies of Needle Magazine, and the Off the Record Anthology by Luca Veste, which contains my story “Freedom Bird” that broke some hearts and made grown men cry.

It has stories and articles by Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Ray Banks, Scott Phillips, Matthew C. Funk, Chris F. Holm, Keith Rawson, Court Merrigan, Alec Cizak, Todd Robinson, Craig McDonald, Jack Bates, and a little plucky plucker named Thomas Pluck.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Grift Magazine – Six Feet Under God

“God is dead, and no one’s doing anything about it. Except me.”
-Kelsey Flinthoof, private dick, in “Six Feet Under God”

That’s from my story in the inaugural issue of GRIFT MAGAZINE by John Kenyon, now available from Lulu Press.
Grift Magazine #1

Not only do you get my postmodern meta-hardboiled tale that begins on Easter Sunday and ends with philosophers, scientists prophets and theologians giving up answers beneath the barrage of Kelsey’s two fists and the blast of his 45.

Buy Grift #1 and you’ll also get fiction from Ken Bruen, Matthew Funk, Keith Rawson, Todd Robinson and Alec Cizak; articles by Lawrence Block, Ray Banks, Scott Phillips, Chris Rhatigan, Julie Morrigan and an interview with Chris Offutt by editor John Kenyon.

It’s a hell of a start to a quarterly, and I’m proud to be in it.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Blood and Tacos!

Johnny Shaw, author of the hilarious and heartfelt fiasco DOVE SEASON, has put together a new quarterly homage to the men’s magazines and pulp novels of the ’70s. Think Remo Williams, the Destroyer. I review an awful ripoff called RAKER, and there is fiction by Matthew Funk, Cameron Ashley, Gary Phillips and Johnny himself.

Blood & Tacos #1 is a buck for Kindle, and I guarantee you will be entertained. Look at that incredible cover by Roxane Patruznick. This one will be a load of retro fun.

 http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B007EW0GHY&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr © 2012 Thomas Pluck I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Nut Up or Shut Up… Goals and Accomplishments

I’m very grateful for an amazing year. I’d like to thank my family and friends, most of all my wife Sarah, for all your support. I’d also like to thank all the writers and readers I’ve met over the last year. I’ve made some great new friends, and got back with some old ones.

I’m far from done with my goals as a writer. But I’ve covered more ground than I ever thought possible in a year. I’m beginning to understand the phrase make your own luck. I used to think it meant fixing the odds, breaking the rules. But all it means is working hard toward your goals. I’ve seen it time and time again with writers I’ve met over the last year. They’ve struggled and kept busting their behinds, and are reaping the rewards of that hard work.

My resolution is to keep on working hard and aiming high. One goal is to complete my first novel and get it published. I have a second book of the Lost Children anthology in the works. The writers have been chosen and you’ll see it next autumn. It will be bigger, with many more voices joining the cause to support The National Association to Protect Children. I’d like to write more short stories and crack some new markets. My goal last year was to get in as many different venues as possible, and this year I am going to concentrate on some big targets such as Alfred Hitchock and Ellery Queen, Hardboiled, The Strand, Shock Totem, and so on. However, a goal is something within your control. Dean Wesley Smith and my friend & personal trainer Peter V. Dell’Orto both have good posts about setting attainable goals. Here are my attainable goals.

1) Write every day. Writing, and getting back to writing, are not daunting tasks. I will set aside more time to write and not follow distractions.
2) I will write the best stories I can and continue to keep them constantly in one editor’s hands or another’s. They will never lie fallow.
3) I will write the best novel I can. I will edit it diligently. I will not rewrite it for rewriting’s sake.
4) I will find the editors and agents of the writers I admire most, who have accepted work most like my own, and I will get my novel in their hands before year’s end.
5) I will not be a slave to my anger and I focus my rage on the page. 
6) I will go to MMA class once per week.
7) I will resume a healthier diet… beer is not a food group.

You set goals and they become accomplishments. Here are my accomplishments of 2011, in vague order. And a few great things that happened that were outside my control, but made me happy.

January.
Completed my first novel, The Garage. Drawer fodder. Currently rewriting it, using the characters and concepts I developed in this 115,000 word monster born of NaNoWriMo 2010.

February.
Wrote my first short stories in ten years.

March.
First story published in ten years, Punk Dad Manifesto, at the Morning News… And was paid for it!
Married my Firecracker, Sarah. Love of my life, who keeps me centered and in line. Had a beautiful wedding and a wonderful time with friends and family, and a relaxing honeymoon with my new wife.

April.
Began writing for flash fiction challenges, met Fiona “McDroll” Johnson online and she told me to submit my work to crime venues. Pointed me to the magnanimous Sandra Seamans, who lists all the markets. I began reading them all, finding many new-to-me writers and all sorts of inspiration. I never forget to thank Fiona Johnson for that first kick in the ass. I wouldn’t be writing the way I do today if it wasn’t for her.
This led to 33 stories accepted in 2011, appearing in anthologies and journals alongside Lawrence Block, Wayne Dundee, Ray Banks, and many, many other writers whose work I admire.

May.
First crime story published in Shotgun Honey, “The Last Sacrament.”
I met Lawrence Block at a signing at Watchung Booksellers. Since then we’ve chatted online and at the Mysterious Bookshop. One of our great living writers and a hell of a guy, it’s always humbling to meet your literary heroes.

June.
Rode on the Star Ledger Munchmobile with Peter Genovese and crew, got my picture in the state newspaper stuffing my face with a sandwich.
Made print in The Utne Reader, when they reprinted Punk Dad Manifesto.

July.
Ron Earl Phillips asked me to be a moderator at Flash Fiction Friday.
My story “A Glutton for Punishment” debuted at Beat to a Pulp, and Lawrence Block not only read it, but commented on it. A few short words that still mean a lot to me. Thanks, Mr. Block.

August.
“Rain Dog” published in Crimespree #43, first crime story in print.
Wrote back and forth with Harlan Ellison, another literary hero and influence, who tells readers not to write to him. But always replies.

September.
Won the First place Bullet Award for my story “Black Eyed Susan,” which was also favorably reviewed by James Reasoner and hardboiled legend Wayne Dundee.
I ask Fiona Johnson to write a fiction cue for Flash Friday and she comes up with the Lost Children Challenge.

October.
Pulp Modern #1 released, putting me twixt the same covers as Lawrence Block.
Made tons of friends in the crime fiction community online and at Bouchercon. Most of all Josh Stallings and Sabrina Ogden, who felt like old friends, but also Glenn Gray, Christa Faust, Matthew Funk, Johnny Shaw and Kent Gowran. We joke that crime writers are the friendliest bunch of murder-minded mothers around, but it really is true. Everyone I met was friendly, from Harlan Coben to Joelle Charbonneau, even when I was a babbling idiot.

Visited Italy with Sarah, experienced the ruins of Pompeii, the bustle of Napoli, the decadence of Capri, the old and new of Rome, and spent time with our friends David and Courtney. Everyone needs a break, and someday I’ll write about a chase through Pozzuoli between a tourist and the Gomorra to write this off as research. Hell, my honeymoon trip inspired my longest short story, “White People Problems,” which will be at All Due Respect this year, and be expanded into a novel … eventually. I really want to introduce you to Bobby and the Five Stages of Grief… you’ll get a taste soon at ADR.

November.
Published Lost Children: a Charity Anthology to support PROTECT, and spoke to Executive Director  Grier Weeks about the project.
Corresponded with another hero, of mine, Andrew Vachss. We’d written before, but never so often. A pat on the shoulder from a veteran warrior in the fight against child abuse and exploitation, who became a lawyer and an incredible writer to fight this fight… well, it means more than I feel comfortable sharing.

December.
I deadlifted 555lbs and I benched 260lbs. I pursue goals other than writing. I added 60lbs to my deadlift and began benching again after tearing both my rotator cuffs two years ago. I surpassed my old record of 250 on the bench. All by adding 5lbs a month using the 5/3/1 lifting regimen. A slog, but with great results. Last year I was deadlifting 400lbs for 10 reps. Now I’m lifting 510lbs for 5. And I stopped a falling refrigerator with my chin.

I’ll diverge because it amuses me. Pulp queen Christa Faust got a kick out of me crowing about my personal record and said we should fight crime as Max Deadlift and Pixie Cockpunch. We shall see. She’s a busy writer with a lot of irons in the fire, but I just might suggest a collaboration…

I made quite a few best-of lists for short story. According to the readers, my best stories are Black-Eyed Susan, Shogun Honey, Candle, The Forest for the Trees, Junkyard Dog, and Legacy of Brutality.

We sold 150 copies of the Lost Children Anthology in 2 months.

It’s been a hell of a year. I’m sure I’ve missed some. And I could have expended as many words thanking everyone by name. Thank you for reading, and spreading the word. Writing is the most solitary art. The feedback is delayed and muted, so when someone takes the time to tell you they liked what you wrote, it has great effect, no matter how we try to make our response as cool as can be.

So, don’t make resolutions. They sound like U.N. agenda items, and we know how useful they are, with China and the Sudan on the human rights committee. Set realistic and attainable goals, with milestones and measurable markers of success. “Eat better” means little. “Don’t go back for seconds, and do not snack after dinner, and walk 30 minutes a day” is controllable, and will guarantee results. Eight years ago I weighed nearly 400 pounds. I began by walking an hour a night, and not eating bread and sweets. A year later I’d lost 140 pounds. Every day adds up. If you fail, get up immediately… don’t give up. What’s one day of missing your targets out of 366? Nothing. A pittance.

Here’s wishing you all a happy new year… now get to work on making it that way. 

We got the Funk

Here’s what Matthew Funk has to say about my story “Junkyard Dog,” which he chose in his top 5 at Chris Rhatigan’s DEATH BY KILLING “Five You Can’t Miss” series:

“Keeping you in the action while transcending time and place, JUNKYARD DOG assembles a complete character from a scattered history of violence. The worse it gets, the more you care. And Thomas Pluck knows how to make it get real damn bad.” –Matthew C. Funk

Thank you Matt, for choosing my story and for such kind, kind words… from a writer with similar drives, to show the brutality we ignore every day, that means a hell of a lot.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Grift Magazine

John Kenyon has a spiffy new crime site on the web called Grift Magazine. He has begun a weekly flash fiction feature. Last week it opened with Matthew Funk’s powerful “The Town They Earned,” and this week I’m honored to follow in Matt’s impressive footsteps. Check out the site; I hope you enjoy the tale, but bookmark the page or subscribe to the RSS feed, because great things will be happening here. And writers, John is looking for you to flash him some good fiction.

To my U.K. friends- this is my first story set on your side of the ocean; I hope you like it.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck