Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked

You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, the crowdsourced funding site. Most commonly used to generate revenue and interest in media projects such as indie films, albums and books, it has also been used to fund everything from designing parks, building better earbuds, flashlights and other gadgets to a bluetooth wristwatch that puts your smartphone apps on your wrist.

Recently I’ve seen many authors use it, some to great success. The biggest one I’ve seen recently (and one I contributed to) was for Dinocalypse Now, a role-playing game universe. They surpassed their goals so superfluously that backers will be getting over a half dozen e-books by various authors for their donation. They had a huge audience, and writers with large fanbases, such as Chuck Wendig behind them.

Other friends have kicked off campaigns, and some are a great deal. When it is tiered like a pre-order, and you get the e-book for the same price as you’d pay when it was released, it’s very easy to jump in and support an author whose work you know you enjoy. Those are my favorites, and I usually end up buying a higher level goodie, like the very cool Ace Double paperback of Butch Fatale that Christa Faust is offering for her campaign: Butch Fatale 2: The Big Sister

Other writers have been just as successful, asking you to pony up $10 or more for an e-book that will go on sale for $4.99, and more power to them. Personally, I don’t want my readers and supporters to pay extra for me to write a book. I’d prefer to think of it as a true advance. How well this works, remains to be seen. The books haven’t been written yet. I trust professional writers like Ms. Faust and Mr. Wendig to provide quality reading on deadline. They’ve done it for years, and there’s no reason to expect them not to keep kicking ass.

I’m not sure I’d be so willing to pony up for a first novel or novella by someone without a proven track record. I’m not being self-effacing here, but having self-published and edited an anthology, if I used Kickstarter to fund my own story collection, I would keep the price very low. (Self-publishing is work, but it doesn’t require cash up front. That’s one reason everyone is self-publishing.)

What do you think?

American Me

I watched this excellent movie the other night. Released in 1992, starring Edward J. Olmos, it is a daring portrayal of the inception of the Mexican Mafia from prison gang to street presence.

The movie begins with the ’40s Zoot Suit Riots, which to put simply, began with wartime racial hysteria and a hatred between soldiers and zoot suiters who flouted the rationing laws by tailoring flashy suits. Montoya Santana is literally a child of the riots, conceived during them after his parents are beaten and savaged by soldiers on leave in Los Angeles. The brutal beatdown turns his father bitter, and this poisons Montoya’s childhood. He runs with friends in a makeshift gang, and after a failed rumble, he and his pal J.D. break into a shop to hide, and are wounded by the owner.

Sent to juvie, Montoya is raped by a bigger prisoner on his first night, in a painful to watch scene. He immediately avenges himself, gaining a twenty year adult sentence, and an iron clad rep that brings him followers, and cements his presence as a gang leader when he is transferred to Folsom. Between the Aryan Brotherhood and the Black Guerillas, he builds his own gang, the Mexican Mafia, to protect other Latinos at first, then it becomes a full fledged criminal enterprise.

When he is released, he is faced with a world that has changed. He’s never been with a girl. He’s never driven a car. When he meets a beautiful neighborhood woman named Esperanza, he feels as innocent as the boy he was before prison, and she falls in love with that side of him, unaware that he commands La Eme, the Mexican Mafia. The Italian mafia runs drugs in their community; he moves to take it over, and in a brilliant and shocking scene, Olmos juxtaposes Montoya’s love scene with Esperanza with the rape and murder of a mafia don’s son in prison.  Montoya has never made love to a woman, and once he is excited, he flips her over to take her like a jock would a prison punk, until she slaps and pushes him away.

It is very hard to watch, and three consultants to the film were later murdered for disrespecting the machismo and ethics of the Mexican Mafia, by contributing to this film. By not shying from the foundation of brutality that creates a man who can lead a murderous gang, Olmos does what Scorcese, David Chase, and other directors who’ve portrayed crime bosses were afraid to do. Show the monsters they really are, instead of feeding the glorification we give them.

While the movie gets confusing in the third act, it follows fact and makes Montoya almost a tragic and symbolic figure for the rebellion against hatred of his people. While he can never be called a hero, when thrown in the “animal factory” of prison he did what he needed to survive, protected his friends, and attempted to move from gangster to liberator, only to die before his redemption could begin. This is one of the best gang movies of the ’90s, and is still powerful today.


Final day of the raffle – mail your receipts!

Today is the final day to buy Lost Children: A Charity Anthology to Benefit PROTECT and Children 1st and be entered into the raffle to win 1 of 3 signed first edition Lawrence Block books, donated generously by Seamus Bellamy.

Anyone who buys the anthology, either for Kindle or in paperback, is entered to win WHEN THEY EMAIL ME the Amazon or Createspace receipt to this address:

According to the sales figures, we have at least seven buyers who didn’t send me an email to enter. You have to be in it to win it, so please do so. The winners will be announced on Monday.

Noir Nation #2 is coming…

I’m proud to announce that my story “Tiger Mother” will appear in Noir Nation #2, the international journal of crime fiction, among some very fine company. I wrote “Tiger Mother” for Patti Abbott’s challenge last year to support a Harlem food co-op.

While you’re waiting, check out Noir Nation #1:

Noir Nation: International Journal of Crime Fiction

Review: American Gods

American Gods: A Novel


I have a bad habit of not reading lauded books until a decade later. (I also tend to not watch beloved TV dramas until their final season ends). This is one I regret putting off for so long. For a bookworm who nestled in the pantheons of every mythology as a child, this book is a true treasure, and a fantastic story besides. I like circles. I like the old stories, which circle back on themselves, showing us what was there all along. Neil Gaiman does this with several looping rings, juggling them like the master grifters he describes. You see it coming, but his distractions are deft and satisfying. As a writer, you often find it difficult to truly enjoy a book purely as a reader. You’ve seen the innards, and they are unpleasant. When you read a masterful storyteller, the mechanics are so smooth, you don’t mind. This is that kind of magical story, and one I wish I’d read ten years ago, and savored it since.

Tingle your spine for under a buck

The folks at Snubnose Press have lowered all their e-book prices to 99 cents for the month of June. That includes Spinetingler Magazine’s Winter 2011 edition, which includes my story “Two to Tango.”

The polarizing story of a county judge who gives a rapist a lenient sentence and is confronted by the victim, this is the only place to read it. And for a buck, you get stories by Patricia Abbott, Mike Miner, Albert Tucher, and Court Merrigan and more:


Black Light Marker by Sam Wiebe
Two to Tango by Thomas Pluck
Boss by Dan Luft
Paul Little Learns the Art of Prison Sink Voodoo by Aaron Philip Clark
Under the Tree of Life S. M. Harding

A Straight Face by Court Merrigan
Breaking and Entering by Mike Miner
Lambs of God by Patti Abbott
Two and a Half Miles by WD County
The Last Hit by Liam Sweeny
Grind by Chad Haskins
Showtime by Albert Tucher
Cosmo in the Mourning by Gary Clifton
Moonshine by Seth Sherwood

In the Mouths of Insects by Shelly Wass
A Puppet’s Soul by Joseph Swope
Jessie’s Toothbrush by Michael Spohr

Spinetingler Magazine: Winter 2012 Issue

Guest Plucker: Craig Wallwork

I met Craig Wallwork on Twitter. As you’ll find from his guest spot, Craig writes stories that are delightfully off kilter. His collection The Quintessence of Dust begins with the chilling tale “Night Holds a Scythe,” where a father and daughter face an apocalypse where sleep brings death. It is free on Smashwords, and if apocalypse isn’t your game, read on… the stories vary far and wide in scope, but the writing is on the level and solid as granite:
Every story is based on truth.  Any writer that says differently is lying, or a thief.  In my case, I have practiced the art of turning truth into fiction to avoid dealing with its severity or consequence.  Quintessence of Dust is my way of dodging bullets, and at times, living in denial.
There is no secret to this practice.  It happens quite naturally.  I once suffered from chronic constipation one Christmas.  I put it down to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and not rehydrating my system.  New Years day I end up spending way too much time, and putting too much effort, into a visit to the toilet.  The result of which ended with me making an appointment with my doctor and him talking about a technique that involved eight fingers and a rubber glove.  The basis of this became Anal Twine.  The aforementioned method is not regularly practiced, don’t worry, but it did amuse me.  It was enough of a kernel for me to venture further into the hole (figuratively speaking) where a man who, suffering with anal fissure, discovers a bit of twine hanging from his rectum which, when pulled, removes his short term memory.  Writing that story took my mind of the pain and discomfort I was enduring at the time, more so than the cream I had been prescribed.
Likewise, I was diagnosed with a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).  It is where tiny fragments of debris in the inner ear labyrinth cause short episodes of vertigo when you move your head in certain directions.  Some days it would floor me.  I’d try and get out bed and it would feel like the invisible man had pushed me over.  It dissipates over time as the fragments become lodged in the inner ear, but during the episodes, it’s terrible.  About the same time I heard the term Gutterball, a ten-pin bowling reference that describes where the bowling ball drifts into one of the gutters before it reaches the pins.  I thought it quite an apt analogy for my condition.  But to write a story about this seemed too mundane.  So I asked myself, why would a person veer to one side or get dizzy?  If it was an inner ear problem, then what could be floating around in there instead of calcium deposits?  This led to the protag, Milton Ball, discovering a strange and wonderful truth to why he suffering with BBPV, a truth which pushes the boundaries of reality and brings meaning to his life.
This theme continues in other stories within the collection; A Neck That is Not Thicktells the tale of a man who believes all his bad luck, and all the atrocities he has experienced in life, can be attributed to having a thin neck, so much so he considers hanging himself, his ultimate quandary being how big the noose will have to be.  Next time you see a picture of me, check out my neck.  Night Holds a Scythe is the story of a father chasing the sun to try and keep his three old daughter alive after a strange illness takes over the world whereby to fall asleep means death.  I have a three year old daughter and one of my worse fears was her dying in her sleep.  I once took a coach trip from Middleborough University to Manchester and fell in love with a girl sat next to me, even though I only saw her arm throughout the whole trip.  The basis of this became Morning Birdsong and the Hell Demons.  180 Degrees Shy of Heaven is a story about a person I know, and how the famine of sex in his marriage led to much hilarity in the office.  Skin was loosely based on my morbid fascination to be submerged underwater, the experience being compared, you might say, to returning to the womb. Men of Blood, a story about a Minotaur living in today’s society, was probably the most personal of all the stories, and recounts the life I had while sharing a house with one of my friends, a person I saw as a much stronger character than I.  And the list goes on.
My truths are so deeply buried in the fabric of these stories that to speak so candidly about them would have been too hard a process to undertake.  Issues of regret, acceptance, love and remorse are so delicate that handled without care or proficiency would do each an injustice.  Therefore, I place these issues within absurd and strange worlds where zoophiles falls in love with a talking camels, a man faces his sins while the devil’s breath is upon his shoulder, and infidelity manifests itself in the art of chocolate making.
They say truth is stranger than fiction.  After reading Quintessence of Dust you may disagree.
Quintessence of Dust is available to buy from KUBOA in paperback for $2.95:
Or you can download an e-version for free via Smashwords:
Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels To Die Upon a Kiss, and The Sound of Loneliness.  He lives in West Yorkshire, England with his wife, daughter and two chickens.  Find out more about him via his website:

© 2012 Thomas Pluck

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