A Few Made Up Things About Authors

So I’ve got two kicked 11 oz. Starbucks coffees mixing with last night’s chicken ramen noodles to form a gastric concrete below decks. I’m restless and listless and nervous about the possibility of both success and failure, and I’m turning my pockets inside out with regret that I didn’t spend more on the Mega Millions or kept that money and used it to rent a tent at the local park for my book launch.

Hi, I’m a writer. I have a book coming out.

Writers get paid (sometimes) to talk about themselves. Oh, you thought that strong, central character was the product of research and cloth swatches and cologne/perfume samples? Ha! That was us. Not the clumsy ‘us’ that bumped into your cart in the seafood section of Hannaford. And it wasn’t the ‘us’ that called you when our satellite fizzed out during the Super Bowl (Oh, and sorry about that, by the way…) No, you’re reading the ‘us’ that runs through our head after that hour we spent in the DMV. Or the ‘us’ that just hopped off that love/hate roller-coaster we hopped on last summer. Or the ‘us’ that can’t bring back the daughter we lost last year about this time.

Maybe you might think, from what I wrote above, that writers are insecure dreamers. You’d be… fairly accurate. Not everybody, but most I’ve met. In fact, anyone I meet who brags about their writing ability, or their books, I don’t buy it. I’ll take it with a whole ocean floor full of salt. People who are fantastic at expressing themselves don’t have to write. They can just talk. Play tambourine, kumbaya or some shit. Writing, and I mean writing from the deepest part of your heart, is like controlling a full-blast fire hose with no training. Writing a book is like posting a phone full of nudes in your own name, you know, before that was social media currency. It’s tough.

It’s real tough to write, but there’s a huge community of writers that support each other. But we all exist, in this avocation (yes, sadly it’s usually an avocation) for you, dear reader. As sensitive as we are, as tough as it is, only some of the people I know are writing for specific empowerment or therapy. I mean, people do, and that stuff is damn powerful, but we’re mostly doing it for you. We want you to feel what we’re setting up in the plot and the characters. We want your skin to get gooseflesh over here, and we want you choking back a tear on this page, and by the fifth chapter, we want you to feel like you watched a deep, slow-motion papercut. Trust, none of that is for us. It’s for you.

We want you to feel the vibes we spent hours, days, weeks infusing into the many pages of that book on your shelf. And we do this knowing full well that most of the acclaim, praise and reviews are going to go to the few top people who already have a ton, and most of us will never really find out what you thought of it. And yes, we will bitch about that to ourselves. But not to you, because, no matter what you’ve heard, it is an unwritten rule in writing that the customer is always right. And that’s saying something in a subjective domain.

We’re the most ill-equipped hustlers to ever be given a sandwich-board. How many people had heard of James Patterson before he was smiling through his first round of TV commercials? Now he’s king. We’re the chroniclers and preservers of the world in which we live, and our best bet is to treat our books like Vince treats Sham-Wows. And I’m not even complaining, ‘cause I got a damn camera and I just need the right backdrop. It’s just how it is. We gotta sell ourselves. Books can only talk when someone opens them.

So I got a book coming out. And, in true form, if you buy one, I’ll double the offer (with a separate fee that coincidentally is the same amount as a book) for free! Call in the next ten minutes to claim this deal!

Spoiler Alert: Chris Dewildt, “Suburban Dick”

Chris Dewildt - Author Photo
Chris Dewildt

Suburban Dick is about the adventures of Gus Harris, a private investigator (“dick”), caught between the woman he can’t get serious with and the family life he ruined over her. The parents of a missing high school student send Gus on a wild trek through the seedy underbelly of Horton High’s wrestling program. The blood doesn’t stay on the mats.

SA: I’m a big fan of setting in any story. Suburban Dick takes place in a town called Horton. Let’s say I moved there a year ago, right next door to Gus Harris’s crash-pad/office. What do I know about Horton that someone passing by on the highway couldn’t know?

CD: It’s a town full of secrets, but I can’t give any away here. I’ll tell you it’s a fictionalized version of the small town I grew up in, and it’s been the setting for three of my books so far. I’ll also add that it seems to have a strangely high level of low lives and crime. Maybe it’s something in the water?

SA: Gus was a Horton Police officer before becoming a private eye. Was there a case that stuck with him, one that help shaped his investigative approach?

CD: There are two specific cases and they’re both mentioned in the book. One involved a dead girl when Gus was still a kid, it was local news and an innocent guy nearly went down for what in the end was a tragic accident. The media surrounding that case spurred his interest in police work, but also showed him a dark side, the fact that an innocent man was bullied and beaten into confessing to a non- existent crime. It made him aware of a path of least resistance in police work, which he vows to avoid. The second case is the one that ultimately led to his leaving the force and it again has to do with integrity. Gus is pressured by his superiors to look the other way regarding a local politician’s kid, classic nepotism. Gus is new to the force at the time and never really forgives himself for his lack of integrity. Despite his flaws Gus has a deep seated desire for truth and justice.

SA: I think every story has a theme, but that’s my opinion. I sensed a theme of “getting what you want at any cost.” I see it in Coach Hanson (the main baddie) but also in Gus when he needs something. If you were going for a theme, was it this? And what’s your take on having a “line” and having a justification to cross it? Do Gus and Coach Hanson both have a line that they cross?

CD: Without giving too much away, it’s pretty clear that Hanson crossed the line with the Horton wrestlers. Greed is his motivator, but ultimately it’s not the money itself, but the adulation of the community and school. This relates to the theme that I saw emerge which is about protecting what’s valuable, for Hanson obviously he’s protecting both his legacy and his cash cow. Gus on the other hand is protecting his family, his loved ones. There really is no “line” with regards to protecting the people Gus cares about and he demonstrates that a few times in the book.

SA: Another theme I noticed was a real “monster” theme, and you touched into a real fear about performance enhancing drugs. And it ties into the earlier theme I mentioned. What do you think drives a young athlete to dope? Is it just the competitive edge, or is it something else?

CD: Ha! Glad you picked up on the monsters. But as for performance enhancers, yeah, it’s the edge and what comes with it: wins, scholarships, maybe a payday down the line. We live in a culture that puts a very high premium on athletic ability, so it’s really no surprise that people want to give themselves that edge. Then you have the types of parents who get a vicarious thrill living through their kids and of course there’s going to be that cohort that who will put that success before the welfare of their kids.

SA: It definitely feels like Suburban Dick is the first of the “Gus Harris” series. I’m hoping you can get more into Gus’s complicated relationship with the Horton PD. Is there anything you can say about that part of his life to get us tuned in?

CD: I’ve got something happening for Gus but to be honest I’m not sure. I may relocate him. I live in southern Arizona and I have yet to write a book set here so that could be fun. Otherwise we can expect some more of the same. He’ll have ruined another relationship and managed to squander whatever goodwill he’d managed to generate in Suburban Dick. Hopefully, he’ll learn something from it.

 

You can find Suburban Dick at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and from the publisher, Shotgun Honey.

“Jailbreaker in the Briar Patch” Published in Shotgun Honey

It’s always an accomplishment to get a story in Shotgun Honey. With three tough-as-nails editors and a 700-word limit, SH features truly the best of the best. It is an honor that “Jailbreaker in the Briar Patch” made it.

I ran. I ran fast as I could, tripped over my laces and eased my body into forward leaps that turned into junk street somersaults. I ran past Ritchie’s Market, past Harry Dzembo as he held the

Liam Sweeny - Author Photo
Liam Sweeny

broom in his hands, slack-jawed. I heard him ask me what the fuck, but I was gone, man. I turned corners by radar; the blood in my eye sockets made my horizon a magenta mudslide. I went by the sounds of cans and bottles crashing against each other, surest bet I was heading into the bums’ squat. They wouldn’t dare lurk in there, and the cops would call for back-up first. I had some time to camo up.

You can read the rest of it here

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‘Presiding Over the Damned’ is available for Amazon Pre-Order

In the sequel to the Jack LeClere detective series, Presiding Over the Damned, Jack must face his most explosive case… and his most heartbreaking victim.

It is available for Pre-Order from Amazon

From PRLog:

TAMPA, Fla. – May 1, 2018 – PRLog — Down & Out Books is pleased to announce that PRESIDING OVER THE DAMNED, the second Jack LeClere thriller by Liam Sweeny, will be published on August 20, 2018 in trade paperback and ebook formats.

About PRESIDING OVER THE DAMNED …

An arson in New Rhodes reveals the body of Julia Mae Jefferson, an eight-year-old African American girl in the city’s North Central District. Jack LeClere, the top homicide detective in the New Rhodes Police Department, is paired with a new partner for the case, Clyde Burris, a former New York City homicide-turned- New Rhodes PD Internal Affairs detective. Jack and Burris have a mutual distrust of each other, but that’s the least of their worries. In the heat of the ashes of that row-house, the search for a brutal killer awaits.

Presiding Over the Damned Book Cover
Presiding Over the Damned Book Cover

Julia Mae’s world was one of neglect—of a child, and in fact, many of the North Central children—falling through the cracks. Jack and Burris follow her through those cracks and discover an underbelly of abuse and an industry of exploitation in the guise of a daycare center called Mount Vision. Jack and Burris, through their own struggle to build trust in a city where little can be found, find something that even the most cynical activists could never have imagined—a true wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a monster with an SS tattoo and a rebel flag in his window.

To give Julia Mae justice, Jack, Burris and Marcus Ellison must make a temporary peace, and the city must come face-to-face with the fruits of its indifference.

Meet the author …

Liam Sweeny is an author and graphic designer from the Capital Region of New York State. His work has appeared both online and in print, in such periodicals as Spinetingler Magazine, Thuglit, All Due Respect, Pulp Modern and So It Goes: the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. He is the author of the collection Dead Man’s Switch and the first detective thriller in the Jack LeClere series, Welcome Back, Jack.

Celebrating seven years as an independent publisher of award-winning literary and crime fiction, Down & Out Books (https://downandoutbooks.com) is based in Tampa, Florida. For more information about the book, to request a review copy of the book, or to inquire about an interview with the author, contact lance@downandoutbooks.com.

Down With the Sickness

Wow. My God. I quit smoking at the point of a stethoscope, the doctor in the Emergency Room of Samaritan Hospital listened to my death-rattle as I waited for the standard talk, the “you’re going to keep coming in here for this” spiel, to which I’d respond, “Yeah, I know, I know…” But it didn’t come. I figured he just forgot, but that’s not what doctors do… He gave up. He could hear in my death rattle the thousand times I said “Yeah, I know, I know…” to other docs, and how I’d probably be breathing air through a full-filter by the time I hit the parking lot. I had become the hopeless; the damned of the smoking areas.

But I’d had it myself. I think the more people nag you, the more you carry on the bad habit as kick-back. It’s when everyone leaves you alone that the last disapproving voice remains; your own. So, on Christmas Day of 2015, after leaving the ER, I quit. No patch, no gum, just a little fever, chills, a truckload of aggravation and irritation, and staying away from people for a while. I quit, and it’s been over two years, but I know I could always go back. It’s a giant monster that is still capable of swinging through my brochial forest grabbing stands of deadened alveoli.

I smoked approximately eighteen-thousand-and-sixty-seven packs of cigarettes in my life. Packs, not cigs. Packs. I’ll probably catch bronchitis for the rest of my life. I fear going to get a lung cancer screening. I didn’t have to go to the Emergency Room this time, and that’s probably because I quit two years ago.

As a kid, I never thought that middle age would be like this. Hell, I never thought middle age would be. I told my Physics teacher, Mr. Parisi (oddly enough, in a smoking cessation class,) when he asked what I thought was going to happen when I was forty, that I hoped to be dead by then, and he said, wait till you’re thirty-night and think that. Boy, shit, wasn’t he right as rain when I turned thirty-nine. I owe him a beer one of these days.

When we’re kids, we act like middle age don’t exist, and for a small few beloved, it never does, but for the rest of us, we wake up and one day the big 4-0 is a date you can glance at on the kitchen calendar and the kids at the store call you ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ un-ironically. You’re not dressing up to look “new” any more; you’re just trying to match that good picture you took five years ago, the one you didn’t pay a second mind to then, but it’s one of the few you have left.

So, with all of this rant, my birthday is in three days, and my lungs are butter. I couldn’t blow out a cake with the right amount of candles. My parents are deep-cooking a slap of corned beef – all day, with cabbage and soda bread – and maybe I’ll be able to taste it. I may actually be sick over three Nor’easters. I love Nor’easters, and I’ve had to love from afar.

The moral of the story? Buy my book. I need Luden’s. Also, if you’re young, and you think you won’t outlive the consequences of your shitty decisions, you probably will. Moderation is your friend. Take it out with you when you go partying. Ain’t nothing sadder than a cat that used to hang.

 

ADR Talks With Liam Sweeny, Author of Street Whispers

Liam Sweeny is the author of Street Whispers, a short story collection out today. It’s an eclectic collection of pulp, grit and noir stories inspired by the Capital Region of New York, a rust-belt crossroads in the shadow of the city that never sleeps.

ADR: The stories in your collection mostly take place in the Capital Region of New York state, nearby to Albany and Troy for those unfamiliar with the area. Are there any other authors writing about this region? Why do you find that the region is a good setting for crime fiction?  

LS: I live in the city of Cohoes, which is north of Albany, across the Hudson River northwest of the Troy city center. The area was written about famously by the author William Kennedy in the books Ironweed, Legs, possibly others, I’m not sure. Caleb Carr, author of the Alienist series, lives in Rensselaer County, Troy’s county, and he wrote the book Surrender New York, a story that takes place in a fictionalized version of Rensselaer County. James Howard Kuntzler’s World Made by Hand dystopian series takes place in a fictionalized city just north of here. And there was the movie The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendez was about, and shot in and around the Capital Region city of Schenectady.

The Capital District is a very old place. Albany, in its incarnations, has been around for four hundred years. It was a fort, a Dutch trading post, a barrier to the British conquest of New England (the capital district includes Saratoga.) The Continental Army set up camp in my back yard, quite literally. And later, with the construction of the Erie Canal, this area boomed, and was home to many firsts, specifically in industrialization. Troy was the first steel capital before Pittsburgh, and Cohoes was the home of the first industrial textile mill.  Troy also had a few cultural claims to fame, the “Home of Uncle Sam,” and the home of “The Night Before Christmas,” and it’s a mark of belonging in Troy to know the story of meatpacker Sam Wilson and the Troy Sentinel newspaper article in 1823.

It boomed and it busted, and is struggling to boom again, to hide the scars of vacant concrete factories and the curbside litter that speaks to the dissolution of neighborhoods that, at one time, took care of their streets. We have nanotech and polytech and, I think, seven or eight colleges, and we have people working three jobs to afford a studio apartment, basic bills and food for the week. And that’s something that’s happening everywhere. But people here still wake up each morning with pride that they live in what could rightfully be considered a cradle of America.

As one last note, this area is the intersection of the Interstates 90 and 87, which make it a crossroads of the Northeast. We get enough drift from that to keep things interesting.

ADR: Which other short story writers did you consider influential on your work? Who else are you reading in crime fiction right now?

LS: I was named after Liam O’Flaherty, and I was exposed to some of his stories at an early age. I mean, they’re dark as hell. Grit like a sanding belt, and they opened my eyes up to the period in Ireland that he wrote about. It was one of the first times I was awakened from the fictions we have in this country to a new reality: The Ireland of shamrocks and leprechauns to the one of stark Catholicism and the visceral sacrifice of a man to cold industry. Kurt Vonnegut was another influence, I mean, not the same as O’Flaherty, but I liked his ability to dash your expectations of a character’s moral standing. He showed the fragility of judgmentalism. In my time of coming out with plot twists in short stories, I could always feel that groove. Also, Steve Weddle, and his book Country Hardball, showed me a side of country life that resonated with the fact that deep country is only ten miles out in any direction from here, and made me want to set stories in some of the outlying towns.

Right now, I just finished Joe Clifford’s Broken Ground, which isn’t out yet, but is in the Jay Porter series that I’ve been following faithfully. I also just finished Eryk Pruitt’s What We Reckon, which was an incredible standalone, and I hope he follows that up. I’m currently reading Tom Pitts, American Static, and am just getting into Jen Conley’s Cannibals. I’m waiting for Ryan Sayles’s Albatross. I am thinking of re-reading Les Edgerton’s Death of Tarpons, which may not specifically qualify as crime fiction, but it is told by a master of the genre, so I’ll count it.

Read the rest of the article on All Due Respect

My Book Launch and the Back to the Eighties Night Party

DSC_0018(1)Yesterday was Pub Day for my new collection of short stories, Street Whispers (which you can now buy here.) And of course, part of the whole fun of having a Pub Day is having a book launch, typically done in a book store, sometimes in a writer-friendly coffee shop or bar. My last book launch was in a bar, and it wasn’t a big draw, though being asked to sign a patron’s breasts was “of note.”

Auditioning ActAnyway, Phil Sawyer, good friend and undeclared ambassador of the Capital Region, owns Auditioning Act Entertainment DJ Service, an interactive audio-video extravaganza that can just show up anywhere and unleash the rhythm and the blues, the jazz and the funk, the laser lights and the video stars. Well it just so happened that he was throwing the Back to the Eighties Night party at the Ukranian-American Citizen’s Club on my home island, in my hometown of Cohoes, and he said to me, “Sween, throw your book launch there! Chuck books at people. Draw dirty pictures of ’em on the title pages. Go nuts, do whatever the hell ya want, kid!”

Now, Phil’s a good friend, and I gave him a couple of fictional shout-outs in the book, so I was down with that idea. And I’m glad I did. This party was amazing. I mean, just hordes of mullets, motorcycle jackets, oversized rock T-shirts, leggings, and Aquanet coiffures rekindling the flames of rebellion against a backdrop of raw, winner-take-all Wall Street greed. The rockers, the misfits, the kids smoking around the corner of their high-schools, planning for the kegger on the tracks later on that night.

Phil had shit locked down, too. I can’t think of too many fine-ass eighties songs I didn’t have imprinted on my mind in that spot where I keep the voice of Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The laser show was nuts; hell, I was abandoning IMG_1202my post here and there just to bathe in it a little bit. There were four bartenders and a revolving door of thirsty people fifty deep. Seriously, though, little Rubik’s cubes flying through the air, a smiley-face beach ball making its rounds foot-to-foot, unplugged microphones on stands with bandannas tied to them court people singing anyway cause it was all good. No cops called, but who’s to say they weren’t there? Everybody was there.

So yeah, I sold some books. I didn’t sign breasts, but I think that’s a one-off thing. Plus I wasn’t equipped with a Sharpie, or telling anybody I would. But I sold some books, and got to hang out with a ton of great people. I do have some books left, so if anyone local is reading this, I’ve got a few I can sign and send. But all in all, I am always going to try to launch my books inside a cool party when I can. And AAEDJS is number one on my speed dial for that.

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Author of Mystery, Crime & Noir