North Country Girl Published

voices from the past...-2

Fuzzy is back! North Country Girl is published.

I’ve uploaded the files, and they are slowly making their way to the digital storefronts!  My life has been turned upside down this week, so bear with me on the print release, and updating the books page and all that other stuff.

I hope you will read it.

I hope you enjoy it.

I hope you’ll tell a friend about it.

I hope you’ll leave a fair and honest review.


What I Am Reading – Rich Zahradnik

Rich Zahradnik’s Lights Out Summer won the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original novel in 2018. The main character Coleridge Taylor is a Crime Reporter. Not what I would call a traditional private eye, but he does fit perfectly the PWA definition.  None of that is really important. I only mention, so a reader doesn’t jump into this thinking they’re getting Sam Spade (or Fuzzy Koella, for that matter).

The book is set in 1977 New York. The Summer of Sam, and the NYC blackout, which leds the book its title. The media is in a frenzy over The Story. Son of Sam, a serial killer hunting young lovers throughout the city’s boroughs. Taylor works for a local news wire, and pushed constantly to cover Sam. However, he resist this. Rightfully, arguing that everyone is covering it. Instead he chooses to cover the murder of a young Harlem woman, whose case is buried under the coverage by both the police and press of the serial killings.

Lights Out Summer isn’t quite the action-packed thriller of Hardman, but it’s still hard-boiled. Taylor is no amateur sleuth. And the crime here is street crime conducted by drug dealers and other low-lifes. While it doesn’t have the frenetic action of some hard-boiled novels, it still works the mystery at an excellent pace…and picks up just right when the black out hits the city.

I am thrilled to discover Zahradnik, and I hope you will give him a try, too.

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Why I don’t outline

I love books. And movies. And fictional TV shows. I love stories.

My favorite thing about this writing gig is being the first person to see the stories. It’s like being the person who records a great story for publication, airing, screening, whatever…

You know what I hate?

Spoilers. Knowing what’s going to happen.

That is the easiest way for me to explain why I don’t outline. I don’t want to know what is going to happen. It ruins my enjoyment. I try not to willingly do things I don’t enjoy. Life is too short.

Do I think not outlining is the right way to write?

Nope. It’s one way.

I even enjoy outlining a story. It’s a fun, creative process. I started out as an outliner. I have even done my share of snowflakes!

I’ve never completed anything I’ve outlined, though. I lose interest.


The outline is a spoiler. I had my fun with the story. Now, I have to go back and write it…knowing how it ends? Not fun.

But I did learn something, even when I had an outline, my creative self could not stay on the train tracks. It would run right off those mo-fos, and WOW did some crazy fun stuff happen…however, the pull of the rails followed… not cool.

Now, I sit down and follow the characters around and record. I’m a happier and (IMO) better storyteller. If you’ve read Everything is Broken, I figured out whodunnit (not that I think that is the important thing in the story), when Fuzzy calls Indianapolis. That and the scenes that followed were a blast to write.

My current story? I sat down to write a Western, but Fuzzy was having none of that.

If it all sounds like mystical, woo-woo BS. It’s because it is, except for the BS part. But it works for me, and it means when I’m writing a book…actually writing…I’m also its first reader. I love that.

For the other writers out there, I’d love to hear how you keep the joy in your writing.



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Film Noir Friday – You Only Live Once

(Possible spoilers below)

How have I never seen this film?

A noir purist will likely point out You Only Live Once as proceeding the Film Noir cycle of roughly 1940-1959. It is noir maestro Fritz Lang’s second American film, and if anything it is an argument for pushing the beginning of the noir period back to 1937. I know noir, when I see it, and this is clear-cut noir, and a fantastic film.

Henry Fonda plays an ex-con trying to go straight with his new wife (played by Sylvia Sidney…and look at that top billing all the way back in 1937!). Of course, this is noir, so it’s not as easy as saying I’m getting out of the life. Fonda is wrongly accused of a bank heist, and finds himself on death row. There’s a VERY compelling prison escape… that is so noir I can’t even go there and spoil it…watch it and you tell me. The priest? Fuhgeddaboutit.

The film wraps in pure fashion (which surprised me, quite frankly), and did it at about the 80 min. mark.

In closing, I’ll also point out that there is a lot of prison shots, which always makes for wonderful film noir, chiaroscuro visuals. If you’re a fan of the visual-style, you can’t go wrong here.


What I am Reading – Hardman

Ralph Dennis has a bit of a cult following among fans of hard-boiled crime fiction. I first came to hear of him through an excellent entry on the Hardman series on Paul Bishop’s blog. And I immediately began searching Used Book stores for books in the out of print series.

I go to used bookstores a lot… it’s like an addiction. Yet…

I have never seen a copy of any of them.

Ebay and other online retailers will occasionally post copies for steep prices.

For about the two years I’ve known of the series, I’d pretty come to think of these books as a Golden Ticket.  Then something wonderful happened, Brash Books has gotten permission or rights or whatever to re-publish Dennis’ works. And they’ve started with the first five Hardman books.

My copy of Atlanta Deathwatch arrived on Christmas Eve.

The book includes an excellent introduction by Joe Lansdale, which makes a claim that the Hardman series suffered from the original publisher marketing it as a Men’s Adventure series (ala Mack Bolan The Executioner). The Hardman series was even “numbered” 1-12.  Having read the first book, I can see the problem with that. Dennis’ prose is strong in a leaning toward Chandler way. However, I also see how it gets lumped in with Men’s Adventure (which I personally do not think of as a knock on the books). There is a tendency toward more violent action than you find in the typical Chandler or Ross MacDonald yarn. I think it goes beyond John D. in that regard, too…but it seems a little closer to a McGee story than a Marlowe. This is what my wife would call a “boy book.” Make no mistake about it.

Fortunately, I like “boy books”. One could argue that’s what I just wrote. But how is Atlanta Deathwatch?

It is fantastic. I’ve learned few things live up to the hype. Prior to Atlanta Deathwatch the last thing to live up to the hype was the Solar Eclipse.

Atlanta Deathwatch is the story of Jim Hardman (how’s that for a hard-boiled detective name?), a discharged ex-cop, and his buddy Hump, a former pro football player. Hardman is hired to follow Emily Campbell, a Georgia Tech co-ed who’s grades have tanked. Hardman follows her right into trouble at an African-American bar. The kind of trouble that leaves him pissing blood. Hardman’s no idiot, so he begs off the case. When Emily is found dead shortly thereafter, Hardman is drawn back into the dark underworld of Atlanta’s “Black Mafia.”

And we’ll leave the synopsis at that.

I love the Hardman-Hump relationship. The Black-White buddy thing worked in the Spenser novels…and it works here, too. Which leads me to wonder (and I’ll probably go look), which came first?  Spenser/Hawk or Hardman/Hump.  I generally don’t plan out much of my own stories, but I am fascinated where stuff comes from…and have often wondered whether my Uncle Rod/Fuzzy came from my love Spenser/Hawk (even if Uncle Rod is more like an African-American father figure)?  It certainly didn’t come from Hardman/Hump, but only because I did not know about them.

The pacing is great. I read it over two nights, which seldom happens anymore. Dennis masters the balancing act of providing enough depth, but not burying the reader under needless details.

If you are a fan of “boy books”. Give Hardman #1 – Atlanta Deathwatch a try. I look forward to reading more of Jim Hardman’s adventures.

Thank you Brash Books for bringing  these back!


If you’re interested in seeing what my “boy book” is all about. Give Everything is Broken a try:

It’s follow-up North Country Girl is coming in January 2019.

2019 Writing

Jan 2 – 379 words

Jan 3 –  456 words

2019 Total – 1,566 words


Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to write about 2018. But there is one thing I’ll share.

One of the most pleasing things that has come out of publishing my first book was my son reading it and doing a book report* on it for school. When I was publishing Everything is Broken, I mentioned that hearing my wife talk about my characters like they were real people was probably enough to keep me doing this even without any sales. My son is anxiously awaiting North Country Girl’s publication, because he wants to read it for his next assignment. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that.

But let’s reflect on the last assignment. Dylan and I were out walking the dog. He had just finished reading the book, and he asked me about the book’s theme.

Oh brother.

Here’s the thing. I try NOT to start out with a theme, because I feel like it cages the story. As someone who defiantly does not outline, caging the story is exactly what I do not want to do. Of course, high school English teachers do not want to hear any of that.

So, I told my son the truth, but added, “pretty much all of my stories see a couple of themes show up. Those two themes are fatherly love and the tendency of our pasts to have a ripple effect on our presents and futures.”

Dylan nodded his head, “Papi.”

Yep, fatherly love.

But I could see him struggling with the other.

I helped him out, “Pretty much the entire Fuzzy Koella character embodies the second theme. But I don’t set out to tell stories of these themes. It’s just obvious that I am interested in them, and that shows up in the stories.”

“Dad, I think I’m going to go with the theme that’s right in the title.”

Proud papa moment coming.

“We’re all broken in some way, and Fuzzy learns the hard way that you can’t fix everything. Sometimes trying to fix things only makes them worse.”

Yep, fatherly love.

*It’s called something different today, but it’s basically a book report.


If you’re interested in finding out how close Dylan and I got on the themes of Everything is Broken it can be purchased at these fine online retailers:

It can also be ordered by your friendly local bookseller.

2019 Writing

Jan 1 – 731 words

2019 Total – 731 words


A New Year

You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t revisit 2018. I reflected on 2017 last year. I just don’t see the point this year. However, I will layout some goals for 2019.

  • Write 350,000 new words of fiction. (This is a little less than a 100k bump from 2018).
  • Write one book in a genre other than Mystery
  • Read every day at least one of the following
    • A poem
    • An Essay
    • A short story

I hope all of you (friends, readers, curious on-lookers) have a fantastic 2019!

*and take a look at my friend David’s recent post regarding use of pronouns. Food for thought.



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What I’m Reading – Smith’s Monthly

Smith’s Monthly is/was a crazy cool concept by Dean Wesley Smith. It was a literary magazine (currently on hiatus) that was filled with short stories, poems, non-fiction essays, and novels (one per issue) every month by one writer. 70-85k words of fiction published every month…it made to something like 40 issues. And it may pick up again.

I knew nothing of Dean or this magazine when it launched in the fall of 2013, but I became intrigued by it after I discovered Dean’s blog. I like the pulp mindset of production, and this seemed like the pulps resurrected. So, I recently ordered #1.

It is exactly like advertised. A handful of short stories, a couple of starts of serials, an essay of first tee jitters (golf), some poems, and an entire Post-Apocalyptic Romance novel. I enjoyed the shorts a lot, which is saying something because I generally prefer reading longer fiction.  The golf essay was humorous, if only because I felt like I was laughing at myself.  The novel wasn’t my “thing”, but was well written and I believe someone who likes their genre-romance hybrids to tilt more to the romance side would like this a lot more than I did. I liked it, just wasn’t necessarily in my reading ‘wheelhouse.’

The beauty of Smith’s Monthly is that there is a ton of (mostly) new fiction and it touches on every imaginable genre. I find that admirable as both a reader and writer. I look forward to continuing my way through the issues. That’s a lot of reading ahead.


Interesting things About Interesting Links

The links of interest over there to the right —>.

Why are they of interest?  There are a number of reasons.  Here are some:

The Magical Kingdom:  This is the web home of writer L.M. Warren. I know L.M. through a local writing group. I’ve only run into him two or three times, but we get along pretty well…for a couple of socially awkward introverts (okay, so I’m speaking mostly for myself).  Why should you care?  You should care because he’s a damn good writer. If you’ve watched Shrek, and been intrigued by how the creators played with some of the traditional fairy tales, but wish they had gone a whole helluva lot further, a lot darker, with more bite to the social commentary…then L.M.’s your huckleberry.  Now, Shrek is a horrible comparison… L.M.’s work is dark, literary satire at its best. If you know me, you know my sense of humor is a little off… this is turned to 10.

Dean Wesley Smith: Outside of Chris Baty, Dean is probably more responsible for any success I’ve had than anyone. His “attitude” posts have changed my world view even outside of the writing. His Writing Into the Dark is essentially a playbook for my writing process. I learned of Heinlein’s Rules through his blog. Dean rubs some people the wrong way, because he calls bullshit on a lot of beliefs that writers worship. For me, (most of) that myth busting was liberating. The guy also happens to be so giving of his time to help beginning and beyond writers. Even if he pisses you off, if you haven’t visited his site, you owe yourself some time reading through the archives.

Harvey Stanbrough: A modern pulp fictioneer. Harvey reports out on his progress on his writing projects daily, and typically blogs about the writing life daily (in the journal). His “Of Interest” section always links to interesting articles out in the writers’ blog-o-sphere. Harvey has written something like 35 novels in the last 4 years or so, and 100 (?) or so short stories in that time. It is the kind of prolific output I admire, and hope to attain. I haven’t read any of his work yet, but I intend to in the New Year. Why don’t you join me?

Michael LaRonn:  Another prolific pulp fictioneer. Michael holds down a full-time job, and fills up every sliver of free time with writing. His mindset is positive and contagious. I enjoy his podcasts and you tube videos.  He has an excellent video regarding Dean’s Writing into the Dark book. The passage that Michael refers to as a little “hippy” is exactly why I love WITD. It’s also what I love about Michael. If you struggle with negativity about your writing, carving out time in your busy days, fears that you might “not be good enough”, check out Michael. He’s got the antidote.

The Everyday Novelist: A fantastic podcast for Nanowrimo and beyond. The concept of this podcast is taking the idea of Nanowrimo and bringing it forward into the other eleven months. The first 30 in the series will walk you through the thirty days of Nanowrimo…but don’t stop there. There is a lot of great ideas on turning this writing gig into a 365 day a year thing. And importantly, how to do quality work while you are also working on the quantity of work.

Aila Stephens: Another writer I know from the local writing group. Aila writes in a genre outside of my tastes, but I’ve read the excerpts and she’s a quality writer of Women’s Fiction. But that’s not why I’ve linked her here. She also has a fantastic blog. Check out her series on DIY Book Covers.

Paperback Warrior: I love to read. Duh? I write, of course, I love to read. The Paperback Warrior posts regularly on the kind of books I love to read. Pulp, Noir, Detective, Westerns, Men’s Action, Sword & Sorcery…basically, all pulp goodness. The Warrior regularly grows my Mt. To Be Read. I’m not sure if I should thank him for that or not!

Merry Christmas, everyone!



A Christmas Offering – Free Books

I have a couple of dinged up copies of my book Everything is Broken. They came from the printer this way. I think they tried to jam a couple more books into a box that wasn’t large enough. The books are fine, tight bindings, no tears, etc. Just enough creasing to the covers that I wouldn’t feel right selling at full-price. I originally thought of posting them for sale at my cost.  Now, I’ve settled on just offering them up.

All you need to do is request one, either here or on the Facebook Page or Twitter (wherever you see this).  I’ll send them out to the first two respondents (in the United States).

I do ask a couple of things:

  1. Only request if you intend to read it. Seems like a silly request.  But honestly if you just plan to toss it on a shelf, please let a reader claim the book.
  2. If you enjoy it, please tell a reading friend about it or even better let them borrow it.

That’s all. No shipping costs. No sign up for a newsletter list. Just read it, and if you like it tell a friend.

If you don’t manage to “win” one of these, the mighty Zon has discounted paperbacks of Everything is Broken by greater than 40%.  Their decision. So, I have no idea how long this sale will last. On top of that, I believe you can include it in their current promotion $5 off $20 or greater book purchases (obviously only if you purchase other books).  Coupon code for that promotion is: GIFTBOOK18.  The favor of a fair and honest review is requested, if you take Amazon up on this sale.