Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

american static

PDB: What’s going on?

Other than signs of the apocalypse flaring up in the headlines every day? I’m out there hitting the circuit, promoting my new novel American Static.

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?

Fuck no! I can’t do it. I think perhaps I could when I was younger, but these days my attention span is terrible. I’ve been known to stuff toilet paper in my ears so I can focus. I see writer’s talking about playlists for their novels, and I think, wow, my playlist is silence. No, actually, mine is the dream of silence. I’ve got barking dogs, loud neighbors, sirens, and squealing tires.

PDB: What makes you laugh?

Just about anything. I’ve had a long history of whistling through the graveyard. Making the horrific hilarious is my favorite coping mechanism.  When they say laughter is the best medicine, they might as well say it’s the best opiate too.

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

Easy, more booze. Even as I write this I’m comforting myself with a medicinal beer.

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Hell of a question to answer honestly. I think right now that’d be L.A.. I’m doing my damnedest to bust into the movie business and it’s the only place to be for that. Christ, a San Franciscan admitting he wants to live in Los Angeles? They might throw me outta this town!

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

I don’t. I feel like a bucket list would only bring me closer to kicking the bucket.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

I’ve got two more novels edited and ready to submit. I guess I have sit down and start another. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve actually done any new writing—as opposed to editing and rewriting. I’m looking forward to getting lost in that world again.

tom pittsPDB: Anything else?

Yes, American Static. Buy it, love it, review it. And thanks, Paul. It’s always a pleasure.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. He is the author of American Static (Down & Out Books) HUSTLE (Down & Out Books) and the novellas Piggyback (Snubnose Press) and Knuckleball (One Eye Press.) Find links to more of his work at:

Short, Sharp Interview: Todd Morr

Todd_Morr_Jesus_cover_CMYKPDB: What’s going on now? 

Just recently moved from Southern California to Central California.  So I’ve been adjusting to life here on the central coast.

PDB: How did you research this book?

Well, most of it takes place in my old hometown of Oceanside, so I knew the locations.  I read up on weapons I’ve never fired and my Dad offered some advice on what hand grenades are like, which I only kind of used.  Really though, I count heavily on my ability to lie to make things believable.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

Captain Cooker, it was the first thing anyone ever published of mine, so that’s hard to beat

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?

I just caught Pulp Fiction again on T.V. and it still kicks ass and If Goodfellas is on I’m watching.  It’s hard to pick a book, Stephen King’s stuff probably made me want to write when I was kid.  Reading Richard Stark ( I know Donald Westlake but all my favorite stuff is under the name Stark), Elmore Leonard, and Robert Parker made me want to write the kind of stuff I do right know.  Same with songs, my favourite song changes all the time.  The Randy Rhoads stuff with Ozzy back in the 80’s inspired me to play guitar, so I guess I’d go with that.  Currently liking Justified and Better Call Saul (I loved Breaking Bad) on the T.V., but if repeat watchings count I’d have to say South Park.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

Yeah.  Oceanside is a big part of Jesus Saves, Satan Invests and Captain Cooker.  The book I just finished takes place in an unnamed mountain town, but all the locations are based on real places.  I think location can be like another character.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Too often, at least once a day.

PDB: What’s next?

I have three short novels more or less done that I’m hoping to find a home for, a sequel to Captain Cooker, a rural home invasion story, and a sci/fi horror thing. More short stories should are on the way as well.

me and my guitarBio: Upon graduating from Adams State College with a degree in fine art Todd Morr decided if he was going to be a starving artist, he preferred playing music and writing.  He lives in Salinas, California with his wife and children.  He has had short stories published in Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter 8, Out of the Gutter Online, The Big Adios, Death Throes Webzine, and in April will have a story in Spelk.  His first novel, Captain Cooker was published by Snubnose Press and his second, Jesus Saves, Satan Invests, is out now from Spanking Pulp Press.  He can be contacted on twitter at @ToddMorr1

Short, Sharp Interview: Patrick Shawn Bagley

bitter water blues 2PDB: What’s going on now?

PSB: I’m writing a horror novel and finishing up two short stories in the same genre. Though I plan to keep writing noir fiction, my roots lie in horror and dark fantasy. I’m also beating into a shape a manuscript for a collection of my crime short stories.

PDB: How did you research this book?

PSB: I conducted hours and hours of online research for the Chicago, New York and Connecticut scenes; learning about the cityscapes, demographics and history of each neighborhood. I wanted my scenes in those places to be as believable as the ones that occur in Maine (where the bulk of the novel is set, and where I’ve lived since 1983). I knew my research had paid off when my former agent, upon reading the completed manuscript, told me she’d assumed I had at some point lived in Chicago and Brooklyn.  But I’ve never been to either place.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

PSB: Bitter Water Blues, because it’s my first published novel. It took me five years to write and revise it.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/book/song/television programme?

PSB: Jaws; Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath; I have a love/hate relationship with TV, but I’m currently enjoying “Deadliest Journeys,” which is a documentary series about how poor and working-class people in the undeveloped world have to struggle and risk their lives just to get from point A to point B in order to make a living. I also like “Key & Peele” on Comedy Central and “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” on BBC America.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

PSB: Absolutely. People are shaped by their environment even as they try manipulating it to suit their needs. I like to think that I use setting as a character. For me, the plot begins to develop only when setting and character are firmly established.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

PSB: I’ve been doing it every morning since the e-book version of Bitter Water Blues was released on January 19. That’s kind of pathetic, I know. For the first ten days, it was in and out of the Kindle Top 100 Noir list. It peaked at #33.

PSBPDB: What’s next?

PSB: The paperback edition of Bitter Water Blues will be out soon. I hope to do some signings and readings in Maine and elsewhere. I might be going to the World Horror Convention as a panelist this May. One of my main goals for 2015 is to get out and meet as many other readers and writers as possible.

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

hustle_tom_pitts (1)PDB: Can you pitch your latest book in 25 words or less?

HUSTLE: Two drug-addicted gay hustlers scheme to extort an elderly client, but the old man turns out to be a criminal defense attorney who is already being blackmailed by someone much more sinister. How’s that?

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Still riding high off my Benjamin Whitmer bender. I read Cry Father and Pike back to back and it left me wishing there was at least one more. I hear he’s working hard at granting my wish (at least that’s the way I like to look at it. Get crackin’, Benjamin!)

Television is tough for me, between work and writing, it’s tough to fit much in. Sad to see Boardwalk go, though. I loved that show.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

You have to be. If you can’t let go and live in the magic of being swept up by a story, how are you going to create that magic yourself? When I was asked this question before, I said it’d be like saying a musician can’t be a fan of music. To love what you do, writing, you have to be a fan of reading, and that takes a certain level of objectivity to reach the willing suspension of disbelief we all crave.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Of course, who wouldn’t? That’s where the big money is at. And the fame. Just about any author who’s considered a household name has had a movie adapted from their work. It’s the sad truth of the writing game. Even famous names like Bukowski, when someone says, who’s that? I say, you know that movie Barfly? And they say, Oh, that guy. When Trouble in the Heartland came out I bragged to folks it included a story by Dennis Lehane. Who? You know, Mystic River? Oh, that guy. The reality, though, is screenwriting is also the same trough everyone else is trying to feed. And I mean everybody. Walk down the street in Hollywood and ask a random person if you can read his screenplay. Dollars to doughnuts he’ll run to his car and fetch you a copy. It’s like a million hobos all chasing the same nickel. And the reality of switching, form-wise, is tough. It’s a much more rigid set of rules than one experiences in fiction. The fonts, the spacing, the attributed dialogue and sparse directions. Cramming all that stuff into 120 pages—making sure the car chase happens here (What? No car chase? Sorry, you’ll have to work one in. Stick it right after the love scene you had no intention of adding.)

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

It depends. The honest answer is probably not enough. If I’m writing from the perspective of the street thug, not much at all. I’ve already spent a decade doing gonzo research on that! But regarding police procedure and legal proceedings, quite a bit more. Luckily, I have a lawyer and an ex-cop in the family to make that a little easier. Mostly it’s the little things, the make of the car, the type of gun, the overpriced binoculars someone is using. That kind of stuff can be sourced from Google, but it’s important to get the details right, because, if they’re on, maybe no one notices, but if there off, it’s a sour note for all to hear. It’s like the backbeat being out of syncopation in a song.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

As a small press guy, it’s invaluable. For a small press author—and most of the big presses too—the onus of promotion is on the writer. That means you must have a social media presence. And any agent will tell you it’s something that presses will look at when they consider signing new talent. That said, I think the golden age of Facebook is passing. I can tell by the number of hits to the Flash Fiction Offensive (we advertise primarily on FB) and I’ve spoken to other online magazine editors who feel the same way. It’s not over, but I think perhaps it’s jumped the shark. The trick with the juggernaut of social media is to adapt and evolve with it. It’s changing and will continue to change. Although I may not be on the edge of change, there’s a lot to be said for a willingness to move with the times.

Tom Pitts Noir@theBar (2)PDB: What’s on the cards for 2015?

I’ve got a novella called Knuckleball that’s been picked up by One Eye Press, it’ll be out on March 24th 2015, I believe. I’m looking forward to seeing it come out. It was the first novella I’d written and it’s definitely different from the other work I have out there. It’s about a Hispanic boy in San Francisco’s Mission District that uses baseball as an escape from the abuse he suffers. When he witnesses the murder of a beloved police officer, his life changes forever.

Gutter Books will also be pushing ahead with some more releases, stay tuned to find out more about that. And of course, The Flash Fiction Offensive is still putting out the best in flash, twice a week.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. His novel, HUSTLE, and his novella, Piggyback, are available from Snubnose Press. He is also acquisitions editor at Gutter Books and co-editor at the Out of the Gutter’s Flash Fiction Offensive. Find links to more of his work at:

Short, Sharp Interview: Jim Wilsky

QoD print cover and back v3 FINAL(2)PDB: Could you tell us a little about Queen Of Diamonds?

Well, Queen of Diamonds is the second book of a trilogy project that Frank Zafiro and I have co-authored together. Our first book was Blood on Blood and we have the continuance of that story in QOD, along with some returning characters to tie things in a bit. In addition though, we have a brand new cast of central characters, a new setting and new plot.

What resulted, was what we felt would work well for the reader. A book that had a totally new feel to it. A different tone. We wanted to have that history of Blood on Blood and past references for sure, but we also felt we needed a fresh start to keep the overall continued story appealing.

The two protagonists, just like the first book, were written first person and in alternating chapters by Frank and I. For some reason, we feel very comfortable writing this way and it just clicks for us. Our two main characters in Queen of Diamonds, Cord Needham and Casey Brunnell, are completely different guys than Jerzy and Mick in almost every way.

Ania, is the key carryover. She is the one constant that did not change in this second book. The enticing, gorgeous siren that continues to ‘carry the ball’ and we feel that she doesn’t disappoint in her irresistible, grifter ways.

PDB: Are you a gambling man yourself?

I’ll admit, I do like the cards. Dice or wheels, not so much. I’ve played some fairly big Casinos and some fairly shitty casinos with ripped fake leather chairs and bad carpeting, but these days I prefer private games with people I know.

A few years back, we had a solid group of boys that all got together about once a month. One of the guys had a small pool house/man cave about thirty yards from his house. Lots of acreage all around. Big doors and windows that were all opened wide on cards night. Fridge, ceiling fan and utilities. So hey, you know, what else could you ask for?

There were some hard and fast rules about betting limits and raises just to keep everyone in the game for as long as possible. There was no apologies heavy drinking, food breaks, playing old music way too loud, say anything you want, act any way you want and playing cards until the sun came up…if you got too much out of line though, the others would straighten your ass out real fast. There were a couple of excellent poker players in that special group. As always the secret to success was skill, odds and luck. It was a kick.

We were all good friends, we knew each other, we knew how the other guy played – or thought we did and there were some great times. It was a window in time though and as everyone’s life changes over time, it’s harder than hell to keep something like that together. I’m amazed we managed to keep it going as long as we did.

And by the way, Texas Hold’em is by far my favorite game. We played by house rules – the dealer would name the game and conditions; Stud, seven card, Indiana, low Chicago, jacks to open, whatever. I’d say over 75% of the time though, we played straight Hold’em.

I will tell you this, Queen of Diamonds is not a poker story. Poker is the vehicle. We wrote this story with that in mind. To read this book you don’t have to know cards all that well, or hell, even like them.

PDB: Is Las Vegas really sin city?

It ain’t Des Moines, Iowa to be sure. The way I look at it, Vegas is like a freshly paved road that will take you straight as an arrow to wherever you want to go. Like the autobahn, there is no speed limit on that road either. Some folks can drive that way, others though have no business being on it, or in it, or around it.    

PDB: Which is the best Oceans 11 film, the Rat Pack or the George Clooney version?


In my mind, I’d probably say the most recent version, which is a departure from my normal opinion that remakes are seldom as good as the original. From the acting perspective alone, the cast for the recent version was spectacular. Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Garcia, Roberts, Gould and on and on. It was slick, sharp and well done.

I mean the The Rat Pack was great so don’t get me wrong, but in general they couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. They were singers, entertainers and extremely popular in whatever they did. They had the Vegas name recognition and connection going but past that? Let’s put it this way, If Sinatra wasn’t the singer he was, would he have ever made a movie that anyone remembers? I just don’t think any of those guys from the original 1960 film have a fraction of the acting talent. You know, I’ve never heard but what do suppose the cast salary total of that 2001 movie was?

PDB: How difficult/ easy is it working with a writing partner compared to working on your own?

I’ll be short on this because I’ve gone into great detail (and on and on) about what it’s like to collaborate on a project with another author before. Some would say boring detail.

I believe that there are challenges and benefits to both. I also believe that it’s almost definitely not for everyone. The writing partner is everything and you have to have some kind of natural rhythm with each other too. It’s a must and that connection, or lack of it, isn’t recognizable until the writing really gets going. Let’s just say I got extremely lucky with a talented veteran like Frank.

The challenge is to be open to change and a flair for diplomacy sometimes. You have to realize this is not your book. It’s a dual ownership. A little like an old style duplex. The front doors are right next to each other. The living space is private but you can see and hear everything going on with the other guy.

The benefit is feeding off each other and waiting for that next chapter to come back to you. It puts fresh energy into your writing and it’s refreshing. There is a definite need and a good kind of pressure, to perform up to a certain standard. You don’t want to disappoint or let down the other guy.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2013?

I’m going to be a big brave boy and finish my first solo novel. I’m also continuing to troll a collection of my short stories around and see if anyone is interested in publishing that. There is probably going to be another project with Frank down the road too – if he’ll have me. I’ve got stories in a few upcoming anthologies, including one in Otto Penzler’s Kwik Krimes, that will hit late summer of this year as well. 

PDB:  Where can people find out more about your work?

Probably the best place is our blog Hardboiled Partners in Crime It has news about books by Frank and I but also try to feature my stand alone work.

I have a sadly neglected personal blog, Word Counts Refreshing it and maintaining it better is on my to do list for the end of 2013. Google + is another outlet I use frequently to keep up with others and also annoy people with my posts as well.

Short, Sharp Interview: Josh Stallings

PDB: Can you pitch ALL THE WILD CHILDREN in 25 words or less?

Crime, glitter-rock, sex, drugs, parenting, guns, summer of love, 1970’s, 50 years, one mad life writ large.  Noir memoir.  Introduction by best mate Tad Williams.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Music: As always The Clash, Pogues. Lately Admiral Fallow (Scottish band) has become my go to for a certain whimsical writing mood.

Books: Storm Giants by Pearce Hansen blew me away.  Abide With Me by Ian Ayris is a stunner, for all of us who grew up in rough, violent worlds.  Wrong Goodbye by Chris F Holm, is out of my genre, but man this cat can write.  Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them. By Julian Sher.   I’ve been reading a lot of devastating interviews with teen street walkers for the 3rd Moses McGuire book.

TV: OK shoot me now, Walking Dead, Justified and Downton Abbey (embarrassing but true).

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Hell yes.  I know a book is great when it shuts down my writer brain and just takes me on a ride.  I am a voracious reader, but only for research, or pleasure.  Good prose makes me grin, bad makes me hurl the book across the room, a habit my Kindle is stopping, much to my wife’s relief.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

all the wild childrenYes and no.  I have spent my professional life in the film industry.  Seen the good the bad and the petty.  I wrote a few films.  The experience was always painful in the end.  I don’t think that is intrinsic in film, just my personal experience.  I also recognize that there are good people are out there and it would be fun to work with them.  So if someone wants to make a Mosses McGuire novel into a movie, bring it on.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Tons and tons and tons.  All the Wild Children I spent fifty years researching.  Ok, it is a memoir so the research was basically living as wild, dangerous and funny a life as I could.  For the crime books I am dogged about first hand interviews, hanging with the players I write about. I don’t do as much research on tech, it’s all about being honest about and for the people of the streets I walk.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you?

Huge, it is where I have met some of my best friends, smart writers and readers willing to share what they know freely.  It has opened doors, but more it has given me a community.  I’m ambiguous about it as a marketing tool.  I think books sell one reader at a time.  Write a book that strikes the right tone and your readers will evangelize for you.  If I want to sell more books then I need to constantly be raising my game.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2013?

All The Wild Children is all consuming at the moment.  Years of hard work and bam it is in the world.  After that I’m balls deep into One More Body (McGuire #3).  I hope to have that out in the fall.  I have a stand alone cooking, it started with a short story in the Feeding Kate anthology.  That may be 2014’s book, unless I win the lotto and can write full time.

Find out more about Josh Stallings here.

Short, Sharp Interview: Eric Beetner.

beetner 1

PDB: Can you pitch The Devil Doesn’t Want Me in 25 words or less?

The Devil Doesn’t Want Me: An aging hit man goes on the run with an unexpected guest after he decides he doesn’t want to kill anymore.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I’m mad I have to wait so damn long for Breaking Bad to come back for the final episodes. Best show on TV. I am loving Boardwalk Empire too. And Justified is great. I enjoy Longmire, though it is much tamer than those other shows.

I don’t get out to enough movies since I have two kids and I write at night. I did see a French thriller called Point Blank recently and that was great. I got out to see Argo and loved it and Seven Psychopaths and I did not.

Books – anything by Snubnose Press or Guilt Edged Mysteries. I’m in a deep hole reading other writers on my publisher(s) so I apologize to the ones I haven’t gotten to yet. Specifically, Piggyback by Tom Pitts on Snubnose was great as was The Subtle Art of Brutality by Ryan Sayles. Bullets Are My Business by Josh K. Stevens on Guilt Edged was a great neo-pulp wild ride.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I think so. It’s hard sometimes. I see it as the measure of a good book. If I get lost in it and don’t over-analyze it, it’s got its hooks in me and that’s a great feeling. If I’m constantly parsing every word, then the writer has lost me.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Oh, yes. I have in the past and hope to again in the future. It’s where my deep down passion lies. I’m a film school grad who works in TV as my day job. TV has come so far I think I’d rather write for TV than for film these days. But hey, if anyone wants to resurrect any of the 16 screenplays on my shelf, be my guest.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?


Ha! Almost none. I’m a lazy bastard and I revel in just making stuff up.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

Very, if only to stay connected to the larger community of other writers. I don’t think it’s that useful as sales tool, but I don’t want to be a salesman anyway. I do it too much already. I just have too much stuff coming out and if I don’t tell people they’d never know. But some of my best friends now are people I’ve met through social media.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2012?

Write more! I left my most recent meeting with my agent having promised him 3 novels in rapid succession. I can’t say no! And everything I was pitching him he liked so I guess that’s good.

Since then (October) I’ve delivered one and am about half way through another.

I have a few new anthologies I’ll be in slated for the new year including Beat To A Pulp: Hardboiled Vol. 2 and Hoods, Hotrods and Hellcats. Plus Kwik Krimes edited by Otto Penzler and Lee from the Crimefactory boys

The book I’m writing now is a sequel to The Devil Doesn’t Want Me but I don’t know if they want it yet. If I sell a bunch more then they won’t be able to resist. So get on that, people.

Eric Beetner blogs here.

Short, Sharp Interview: Heath Lowrance

The blurb: Heath Lowrance’s City of Heretics is a crime novel about an aging con named Crowe, just out of prison and back in Memphis, ready for some payback against the criminals who got him sent up.

Before Crowe can enjoy his revenge, he has to track down a brutal murderer cutting a swath through the city — ultimately leading Crowe to confront a bizarre secret society of serial killers masquerading as a Christian splinter-group.

I interviewed Heath Lowrance.

PDB: Can you pitch City Of Heretics in 25 words or less?

Aging con Crowe slams up against a secret society of killers disguised as a Christian splinter-group. Violence and bloodshed follow, as well as uneasy revelations.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

TV is actually better than the movies lately. I love Hell on Wheels, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, and, for a little comedy, Community.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me—no, not exactly. But knowing something about writing can often make the reading experience richer.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Yeah, but only for the money. PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Usually it’s just fly-by research into the geography of the location, or the pertinent history. With Westerns, of course, there’s a bit more research, but I like to approach Westerns as mythology more than history.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

Without Facebook (and yes, even the dreaded Twitter) it would be almost impossible for me to get word out about my work. The folks who re-tweet or re-post or whatever have made all the difference.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

I have another Gideon Miles novella brewing for David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp, and one more Hawthorne story to round out the year, as well as a couple of short stories here and there. Beyond that, into next year, I’ll be focusing on a third full-length novel (or two!) and more Hawthorne.

BIO: Heath Lowrance is the author of the cult novel THE BASTARD HAND, as well as a short story collection called DIG TEN GRAVES. His other stories have appeared at Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, Chi-Zine, Pulp Metal, The Nautilus Engine, and others. He has been a movie theater manager, a tour guide at Sun Studio, a singer in a punk band, and a regular donor of blood for money. He lives in Lansing, Michigan.

(This interview first appeared at Noir Nation)

Short, Sharp Interview: Ryan Sales

PDB: Can you pitch THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY  in 25 words or less?

Richard Dean Buckner: people need their asses kicked and he does just that. Also, he eats diner food.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

We watch reruns in my house. So, 3rd Rock From The Sun and Cheers.

My 4 year-old boy has a speech delay but sings along to the theme song from Cheers. That is magic and if a childless person doesn’t understand the wonders of parenthood, I’d like to share with them how fulfilled I am whenever I hear my boy do that. I bet that would answer their questions.

The Devil Colony by James Rollins, The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm. I read Evolution Volume 2 by Evolved Publishing. It’s a short story collection with a Brian Panowich story called Sixteen Down. I read one each morning at 4:30 or so before work and I was rather impressed by all but maybe one of the stories. Not that I am a short fiction guru or anything.

I’ve moved on to Joe Clifford’s Choice Cuts and man, that shit is gritty. Please God don’t ever make me a character in one of his stories.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Sure. I think a writer is better off having other writers read their stuff so long as the writer in question desires honest feedback and criticism which will lead to growth and mastery of craft. Sound complicated? Let me try it this way: I’ll write some things which are finished, as in beginning, middle, end. I draft but maybe something still isn’t right. So I send it to another writer for a critique. They might tear it apart. Great. Let me know how I can put a story out there which makes me look like I have some talent instead of being the number one contender for most rejections. Other writers read stories with those goggles on. They dissect for craft. It improves them. And by giving feedback, it improves others.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

I have in the past. For me, it boils down to one word: control. I have heard horror stories from Hollywood writers about how they poured their hearts and souls into a manuscript, pitched it, sold it, bled for it, only to see it get rewritten by eight different screen writers, altered by the director and ad-libbed by the actors until what they had put on paper was molested into a box office bomb. Now, their script may have sucked a big fat one.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Alien, and I guess its script was initially terrible until it was rewritten. A lot. But that experience would sour me beyond belief. I’d love to write a murder/mystery thing for a dinner party. You know, the ones where they pluck a few people from the audience and make them into role players? Sounds goofy, but I’d do it in a heart beat.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Now, a bunch. Before, not so much. I’ve written five novel-length things no one would touch. I bet some of that is because I just made up shit as I went along. But now, I research. The Subtle Art of Brutality, my one published book, is about a former homicide detective turned private eye. If I’m writing about a great cop, I suppose I should know something about being a cop.

My dad is retired PD so his help was invaluable. I wound up making a career change anyways and became the fuzz myself, so later drafts of the book contained more and more real life detail.

I got hurt on the job and was on my ass for three months last year. I wrote a Clash of the Titans meets Ancient Aliens thing and I learned all there was to know about Grecian Hoplites, their diet, life style, topography, the twisted, inbred stories of their gods, etc. Do you know just how much bestiality, polygamy and incest went on in their divinity?

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

Very useful, very important. I have squeezed myself into contact with so many writers by way of social media that my life would be completely different had I not. For instance, I got the gig at Out of the Gutter because of Facebook. Pure and simple.

Joe Clifford sent me a friend request and said pimp your story, so I pimped. One thing led to another and I’ve got a column on THE Out of the Gutter. I’ve gotten to meet Chris F. Holm and Richard Thomas because of social media. Those guys existed in the same ether as Stephen King and Tom Clancy for me–that is, PUBLISHED AUTHORS floating in that unattainable cloud where dudes who sign book deals go and never return to us plebs–and I actually got to speak with them. I was giddy as a school girl when I announced I had signed with Snubnose Press and Richard sent me a congrats. I FB’ed Chris looking for his fan site and instead of redirecting me somewhere else, he sent me a friend request. I may not be special–hell, they might do that with everyone–but I don’t care. Richard has critiqued a story for me and both have given me interviews. And that’s just two of the dudes I’ve met that way.

That’s what social media has done for me as a writer.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2012/13?

Finish the follow-up to my RDB book. I have plans for a noir novella about my home town of Kansas City, Missouri. With it’s history and current violent climate, it fits the noir bill perfectly. I need to draft the poop out of some other things. I’ll be in Crime Factory #12, out sometime in December and I’ve been accepted in Near To The Knuckle’s Kindle anthology which will be out sometime early next year. I’ll keep hammering away at The Noir Affliction.

Also, I’m set to star in a porno. Don’t tell my wife, though.

BIO – Ryan Sayles is the author of The Subtle Art of Brutality, published through Snubnose Press. He is the editor at The Noir Affliction column at Out of the Gutter. His work has appeared at sites such as Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Crime Factory and Beat to a Pulp. He may be contacted at

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

PDB: Can you pitch PIGGYBACK in 25 words or less?

When two girls disappear with a trunk-load of pot, a lovable loser persuades a sociopathic killer to pursue them across California in a violent goose-chase.

Gee, that was 25 words exactly.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

With limited time and a funky schedule, I resort to a lot of catching up with TV on the internet. Oh yeah, all the kids are doing it. Flavor of the week in our house has been late-night sessions with HBO’s Bored to Death. Fun and funny. It’s been out there a while, but I’m always late to the party when it comes to these things. Book-wise I’m reading Joe Clifford’s first draft for his next novel; I’ve been nailed down with a no-disclosure clause that forbids me to discuss it. (But, trust me, it’s good. Joe’s pushing the envelope) Movies? I’m still waiting to see Killing Them Softly.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Of course. We all started with the simple pleasure of reading someone else’s work. We became fans, soaking up the genius of others. I don’t read Cormac McCarthy and think about how I would have written it; I’m lost in his ability with prose. I go again to that magical place, the willing suspension of disbelieve. Now that I think about it, you have to be able to return to that objective state, the state of pure enjoyment. It’s like suggesting a musician can’t be a fan of music. If we couldn’t be objective, we’d be cursed like the fry cook who can no longer enjoy hamburgers.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

With the base-rate for selling a screenplay set at $110,000.00, who wouldn’t be? But the rigid formula and format intimidate me. Cramming in all that interior\exterior stuff, the love interest must arc by page such and such, and don’t go over 120 pages, but don’t go under 100, all seem tough enough, but to then have some suit tell you, “Sorry, but there’s no car chase in here. Give us something with more explosions!” I’m not ready for the cookie cutter yet.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Piggyback  was based on something that happened to a friend of mine who is in that line of work. The trunk load of pot went missing; I just took it from there. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the degenerate lifestyle I lived while I was stung-out on heroin provided me with a worldview that shapes much of what I write about. It’s as though I were a method actor that was lost in a character study for ten years. The most actual research I did for Piggyback was Googling what kind of Mercedes a character would be driving. In the novel I just finished, Hustle, a sleazy tale of two male prostitutes who try to blackmail one of their clients, I did actually talk to a guy that was steeped in that trade for years. The conversation didn’t yield much though, he just told me about some scams and different ways to rip off johns. I was ¾ of the way through the book by the time we sat down and didn’t end up using any of his stories.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

I’m guessing very, but I don’t really know. It seems like it’s an effective way to get the word out there, but I’m never sure how much I’m annoying people. I’m sure I’ve got a load of friends that have blocked me because they’re just tired of hearing about it.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2012/13?

Piggyback  is out on October 29th with Snubnose Press. I’m querying agents for Hustle; I’m going to find that disturbing piece of work a home. I sent it to one agent so far; he had one of the assistants read the first chunk. I received a letter back stating that the characters were way too “unsavory”, which I took as a great compliment. And next year, of course, another novel. Bigger, better, and maybe even more “unsavory.”

Bio : PIGGYBACK will be released by Snubnose Press on October 29th.

Tom Pitts also has a story out in the new Shotgun Honey Anthology, Both Barrels. Got get ‘em both.Links to his published stories can be found at

In addition to writing, working, and surviving, he is also an assistant-editor at Out of the Gutter’s Flash Fiction Offensive.

Short, Sharp Interview: Richard Thomas

PDB: Can you pitch your latest publication in 25 words or less?


I have a story coming out this month in Weird Fiction Review #3, and that’s probably the most recent publication I have. I know, it’s not out yet, but I’m really excited about it. This is with Centipede Press and they do some really amazing work. I also love that the editor (S. T. Joshi) really gets my work. This story, “Flowers for Jessica,” is a dark, strange story, part of the new magical realism I’ve been working on. I wanted something at the center of the story that was built around nostalgia, romance, and love. So when he took this story, I was thrilled, because as dark as it was, I thought it was kind of beautiful, the sentiment, the feeling. Oh, wait, that’s way more than 25 words.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Really loved Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby, these post-apocalyptic stories all centered around birth, children, fables, and deformity. That one still lingers with me. Haven’t seen much in the way of films, but Looper looks really good, trying to make it to that one. On television, it’s a mixed bag. Justified is probably my favorites show, right now.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I think you can only bring your own history to everything you read. So, while you can be objective, it’s all framed in the life you’ve lived, what you’ve seen and done. So, I guess, in many ways, the answer is no. It’s always going to be subjective, right?

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Sure. Just have no idea how to do it. I’ve seen screenplays, and it’s very minimalist, where I’m more of a maximalist, so…not sure how THAT will work.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Depends on what I’m writing. I like to sit on an idea for hours, days, weeks. I think about it as I fall asleep. I keep an eye out for things that can contribute to my mental and emotional state. I start grabbing photos off the internet and putting them in a folder. I listen to music that feels right, that creates a mood. If there’s something specific, a moment in history, or some aspect of life, from guns to cooking to prairie life, I’ll do some research. Mostly I try to fake it and use what I do know as the backdrop.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

Very important. I probably wouldn’t have half the success I have now if it wasn’t for the network I’ve built. And FREE! Facebook and Twitter, Goodreads, they all help me connect with people that are into the same things. And I’ve met so many successful authors this way as well.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

Herniated Roots, my collection of neo-noir stories, just came out with Snubnose Press.

My agent is shopping Disintegration, my second book, a mix of Dexter and Falling Down. We’ve gotten really close, but no offer yet. She’s also shopping Four Corners, a collection of four novellas I wrote with Nik Korpon, Axel Taiari, and Caleb J. Ross—it’s so great, those guys are amazing, a kind of Sin City vibe.

The story I mentioned, “Flowers for Jessica” out soon. I’m shopping the stories from my MFA thesis, so I keep hoping one of those will stick soon. I’m teaching a class at Story Studio Chicago on writing dark fiction. And I’m re-writing Transubstantiate as a YA title, in third-person. That should be fun. That, plus I’m still involved writing my Storyville columns at Lit Reactor, book reviews at The Nervous Breakdown, and some pop culture stuff for ManArchy. So, overall, kind of slow.



Short, Sharp Interview: Nik Korpon

PDB : Can you pitch BAR SCARS in 25 words or less?

Bar Scars is about everyday people in Baltimore who are way more fucked up than you ever wanted to know. Watch your pockets and kidneys.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I’m really digging Wyatt by Garry Disher at the moment, and loved Quintessence of Dust (Craig Wallwork), Herniated Roots (Richard Thomas) and a few from Megan Abbott. I’ve got some new Chris Holm, Sam Hawken and Nigel Bird queued up after I finish grading papers.

TV-wise, I just pounded Terriers on rec from Spinetingler Magazine and watched the first season of Boardwalk Empire. Breaking Bad and Mad Men, of course, for very different reasons, though this split-season crap is wicked lame.

Films? Honestly I haven’t watched many films recently. TV has been so good in the last eight years and I’m trying to catch up on stuff I’ve missed (I haven’t had cable in fifteen years.) I also have two jobs and a kid, so it’s rare I have two uninterrupted hours to watch a movie. My wife and I did love The Artist, though, and finally watched Cars. We usually watch Planet Earth or Spaced in lieu of films.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

If the book is good enough, then yes they can, on the first read. Pike made me forget I was reading and totally killed me. That sounds odd, but I think you know what I mean. Afterwards, I went back and analyzed it for the writing, but that first read just pulled me along whether I wanted to go or not.

I think it might be harder for writers to get into books initially because they naturally read critically. I can see the mechanisms in the story if they’re not hidden well enough and it can pull me out of the experience. It also makes me appreciate good books that much more.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

You got something for me?

I’d love to write for TV. I’ve actually been casually investigating it recently. Neil Smith said something about TV shows being novels and films being short stories, which I think it totally accurate. I think the recent elevation of TV writing, coupled with the film industry being inundated with ‘sure-hit’ remakes and other tripe, has opened a lot of writers’ eyes to what can happen on TV. That’d be a dream to do it if I could.

I used to be really into screenwriting but drifted into novels because I have no patience to wait for other people to get their shit together and make the film. Not that novel production is expedient, but at least I’m only responsible for myself. I’ve done a couple short films and they were fun. I wouldn’t mind doing more.

Theatre would be interesting to stretch my legs. I’ve written one one-act play about two incompetent bank robbers for a producer (is that what they’re called?) friend, but she just laughed and patted me on the shoulder.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Enough so that what my characters say is true. Mostly it’s Google Maps street view or looking at what kind of gun would fit into a pocket, maybe what year a certain Orioles player was hitting well so I have a chronological anchor point. My Google history has probably landed me on two dozen watch lists, trying to find what heroin smells like when it’s cooking or what you need to make meth in your dorm room. If I start researching, I tend to fall into the rabbit hole, so I try to keep it as common-sense as possible.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

It’d probably be more useful if I used it more effectively. I’m terrible at self-promotion, so I tend to talk about other writers’ work and hope karma works. It’s an odd thing, too, because I understand that a writer’s platform is really important these days, but at the same time, if you’re a writer, aren’t you supposed to be writing? I’ve gotten better at FaceSpace and Twitter, but I don’t have a lot of free time, so I tend to just write the best fiction I can and hope people find it.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012/13?

I’ll have articles at Elizabeth White’s review site and Andrew Nette’s Pulp Curry in the coming weeks. I just got a note this morning from the Head Hooligan at ThugLit, Todd Robinson, that I’ll have a story in the new issue, which is one of the places I’ve wanted to be since I started writing crime. I’ll be trying to remember to talk about my recent collection Bar Scars but probably lapsing into Back to the Future banter. I have a novel coming out on Perfect Edge Press, but that might not be until 2013. This winter, I’ll also be teaching a class called ‘N is for Noir Fiction’ at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, for any locals.

I have some pokers in some big fires at the moment, but nothing definite. I’m hoping they turn into something good instead of leaving me with blistered hands. If they do pan out, I’m sure people will know because I won’t shut up about them.


Short, Sharp Interview: Joe Clifford

PDB: Can you pitch CHOICE CUTS in 25 words or less?

Fucked up people doing fucked up things, and fucked up things happen.

(Or the clean version)

The exploration of the marginalized, their poor decisions, and then dealing with the mess.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Hilary Davidson’s Damage Done and The Next One to Fall; The Dark Knight Rises, Lawless, Looper; Breaking Bad and Walking Dead

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Good question. I think that is all that is possible. What I mean is, a writer loses the inability to read without dissection, taking apart structure to see how it works, so he/she can imitate the process…for the enjoyment of others. There is no more reading for simple enjoyment. At least not for me. It all has…a purpose now.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Oh, yes. I had the chance to pitch an idea to NBC this year, an update of The Twilight Zone, but, y’know, noir & hardboiled. Nothign happened with that, but I was able to turn a short story into a script. I liked it. My upcoming novel, Wake the Undertaker (Snubnose Press) was written, big dreamer that I am, to be a film. Or at least with cinema in mind. I wrote a lot of the scenes seen through the camera’s eye.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?                        

I had a professor in grad school. Dan Wakefield. Wrote Going All the Way, New York in the Fifties. Older guy, hung around in the Beat days. I asked him once what it was like doing research before the Internet. Like what would you do if you have to knew the per capita income of France. He was, like, “Joe, oh, it was awful. We’d have to go to the library and fill out a card with your question. Then you’d have to give it to the librarian, and she’d get in these metal cages and have to go up to the reference section on the 6th floor, and go through the stacks, find the book on France, write down the answer, get back in the cages…” And I was like, Holy shit. That’s terrifying.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

I call Facebook “The Office.” Since writing is such an isolated activity. I mean, unless you’re one of those jackasses in a coffee shop, you write alone. You need the social interaction, and a place to promote your work (as well as check in on what others are doing). Unfortunately, it can also be a huge distraction. So you need to be disciplined. I think it’s just part of writing in the 21st Century. Certainly beats going to the library and filling out those damn cards.

PDB: What’s in the cards in 2012/13?

Wake the Undertaker (Snubnose) comes out in December. Junkie Love (Vagabondage Press), my semi-autobiographical drug novel comes out early next year. I have my reading series Lip Service West. I am giving several readings throughout the Bay Area in support of these ventures, and am planning a book tour of the East Coast next spring.

Bio: Joe Clifford is the editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive and producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw”reading series in Oakland, CA.  His short story collection, Choice Cuts, is out now, and his hardboiled novel, Wake the Undertaker, will be published later this year (Snubnose Press). His novel, Junkie Love, is slated for 2013 release (Vagabondage Press).Much of Joe’s writing can be found at has been to jail but never prison.

Short, Sharp Interview: Chad Rohrbacher

PDB: Can you pitch KARMA BACKLASH in 25 words or less?

Derby searches for his buddy’s killer while a mob war threatens Toledo. KARMA BACKLASH is also a love story: a violent, bloody, sometimes poetic, love story.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Chris Holms’ THE WRONG GOODBYE and Adam Christopher’s SEVEN WONDERS are my two latest reads. I’ve also been looking at some essays by William Gibson. A few pieces from Beth Kaufka and Steve Weddle have been coming my way, and I have to say, people are in for a treat. Now that I am back in school, a majority of my reading of late revolves around organizational theory and resistance to change. Those are always nail biters…

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?


PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

I received my MFA in screenwriting from Louisiana State University many years ago. I miss it quite a bit. But, you write in the form the story tells you to write in; I imagine I will revisit screenwriting and film in the future. My life seems to cycle like this…

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

More than I ever imagined. Interestingly enough, I actually enjoy the research. Human activity, world history, and science not only spark an idea for a story, but also provide a solid foundation for creating a believable alternate reality.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

Social media today is amazing. I’ve met some fantastic people through the intertubes (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, on-line magazines). I’ve discovered authors I never would have been exposed to in my local establishments, and readers who I now look to for book recommendations.

I’ve also met people who have given me wonderful opportunities in the field. Close to home, Kent, Ron, and Sabrina invited me into the ShotgunHoney Magazine family. Out of the States, Luca Veste and Andrez Bergen encouraged me to get involved with their projects: the charity anthology Off the Record and the Tobacco Stained Sky anthology based on Bergen’s novel, respectively. To be honest, there is not enough space to ever give props to all the wonderful people I’ve come across on the nets. Hopefully, I will be able to pay all the goodwill forward.

Some people are naturals at using social media as a tool to promote their own work. I’m not one of them. Maybe I should invest more time there, but that means less time with the fam, reading, writing, coursework, grading (ugh, grading). I haven’t found that perfect balance yet.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

First, I’m slowly adapting Karma Backlash into a screenplay. Second, I have another crime novella that is absolutely begging to be a novel (you’ll be able to see the characters in a story that is forthcoming in Grift Magazine #2).