Stone Discs and Writing for the Love

I was in my local convenience store, flush from “book pub day.” For those of you who aren’t writers, “book pub day” is the day your book comes out, although on this day, my book wasn’t technically “out” yet, but I had gotten my copies in the mail. Long story short, it’s the completion of one process, and the beginning of another process that makes the writing world go ’round. And on this great day, I ran into an old friend, and we chatted up writing – and I gave him a copy, as you tend to be a bit generous on book pub day. And as it is with any creative pursuit, we talk about ‘doing it for the love,’ as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense these days to be doing it for the money.

Now I agreed that it’s really a labor of love, not like it was an insult or anything. Hell, I think that most writers I know realize that a certain amount of love of the art helps us all sleep at night (some of us at our keyboards.) But later, now even, I have to think; how much of the effort, the concentration, the blocks and epiphanies, the anxieties and triumphs that, if any other person caught wind of them, would see them as something minor and insignificant, is done “for the love?” Because people collect stamps and create intricate lace doilies for the love. Is what we do something else?

To say that it’s not wouldn’t be accurate. When I reach in deep and my fingers are tapping words and phrases with the grace of a classical pianist, or the flow of a jazz ensemble, there’s love there. But there’s something deeper. It’s a fundamental understanding of why I write, and I suspect it’s similar for most writers. Why I write is about what purpose I hope my writing serves.

And now, onto stone discs. I found these discs called M-Discs. They’re DVDs; they burn the ones and zeroes into a synthetic mineral layer. So they burn data into rock. Short of snapping them in two, they can hold data for a thousand years. So I think about this, a thousand years. Think of all the things we don’t know about the year 1018. I mean, yeah, we know things. We know “the order of things” around the world, generally. But most people couldn’t read, and writing was a luxury for the clergy. Hell, “English,” as we know it, didn’t exist yet. And yet we are sitting in 2018, reading this, and we all get published every time we hit “post” or “send” and the world literacy rate is close to eighty-seven percent and how many people read when they don’t have to?

I don’t write for the love of it. I write because we owe that archaeologist a thousand years from here something that speaks above and beyond the endless stream of white noise and mind-candy in which we are awash right now. We have a talent, and a drive and patience and we have to use those things to chronicle, witness, lambaste and hyperbolize a time that is moving so fast that the archaeologists might not be looking from a thousand years away, but maybe a hundred, after the bombs drop and the radiation clears.

Maybe we love the craft, or maybe we love the solemn underlying obligation of the art. Maybe we’re just telling histories that haven’t happened yet.


The Interrogation Room with Tom Leins



Firstly, congratulations on the publication of Street Whispers. How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?

Thank you. It was difficult to pick and arrange the stories. They were written at different times, some for publication, some for fun, a couple were lost treasures, so telling a story with the stories—it didn’t immediately lend itself to that. “The Gull Princess,” the first story, was a story that I felt had a ton of heart for its size. And I wanted to think about how people read short story collections. For a reader that’s unfamiliar with your work, you have maybe two stories to hook them in, and that first story’s got to hit. I think they all hit, especially with the crime-noir crowd, but that first story, I needed it to be something that could capture people who read broadly, like people that I encounter in my day-to-day travels. I’m hoping I achieved that.

Do you have a favourite story in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?

I’m torn between “The Gull Princess” and “Rats,” but through sheer weight, I would go with “Rats.” I got into writing to put a focus on people that have become invisible to society: the homeless, the hopeless, the disregarded, the background criminals—basically the weathered people who’ve all but given up on finding a legit place in the world. “Rats” is about the life and death of a homeless man named David, and his friend, who remembers him as he makes his way through the city to make David matter. When I was about ten years old, my mother was active with the homeless rights movement in our area. I was involved in sleep outs and rallies, even getting to the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. This was a time when people were fighting to end homelessness with housing solutions. Soon after that, the focus shifted to a homeless “industry” of sheltering, treatment and managing the homeless on the street, i.e. city ordinances, police actions. I’ve also worked in an SRO for a time, so I’ve seen that battle from both ends. I’ve never myself been homeless, but that’s a matter of ‘any given Sunday’, I guess.

What is the oldest story in the book? How do you think your style has evolved since then?

I think “The Ninth Step” is the oldest one, yeah, “Ninth Step.” It’s a story about an alcoholic coming to terms with his past, but with a twist. And that where I think I’m a different writer now than I was then. I used to pride myself on coming up with interesting twists. Whether it would be a full-on plot twist or just a turn of phrase at the end, I loved getting people to think one thing, and flip them around a hundred-and-eighty-degrees to show them what was happening while they were watching the left hand. I still like this, I think it’s fun, and if anything, I try to build upon the foundation I’ve built when I write one of those stories now. But I’ve been going down the path of slowing down the frenetic pace of action and focusing on the essence of a dramatic moment or moments, the intense focus on a person, giving my readers a mind’s-ride through very tough situations. I think this is where the first story, “The Gull Princess” is at.

See more at the original article.

‘Street Whispers: Stories’

Street Whispers: Stories51Gom7pnvbL is now available for pre-order on Amazon, and at many other on-line retailers. Its official release date is February 23rd, 2018.

“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. Here’s a trip led by fat slobs in smoky, vomit-stained cabs, heading to the oasis of the strip club on a street lined with rusted out factories, ventilated with beer cans and rocks. No heroes and villains in these pages, just shades of grey and characters making choices between bad and worse.

“Tales of woe and macabre, the profane and ordinary dance with each other in a building where the forgotten stay, passing their street whispers like bottles from the bottom shelf.”

The collection, published by All Due Respect Books, contains a mix of very short, “flash fiction” pieces mixed with longer short fiction, contains both previously published works and never-published works. It is a departure from Sweeny’s previous collection, Dead Man’s Switch, which focused on more fantastical tales of straight crime. This work speaks more as a character study on the “invisibles” of society.

‘Betrayed’ Anthology features Liam Sweeny’s ‘How to Not Find Someone in Houston’


“Spanning from heartbreaking to heartwarming, BETRAYED shines a bright light on the beauty and strength of the human spirit.  Prepare yourself for deep emotions and stories that will stay with you long after you leave the pages.”

 K.J. Howe, author of THE FREEDOM BROKER

​”An impressive collection of stories about crime survivors​ who’ve been up against the wall, survived, and triumphed over people and forces who wanted to crush them. What really moved me, aside from the great writing, was the absence of self-pity and victimhood. Each story is clear-eyed, nuanced, and captivating. Do yourself a favor and make time to read BETRAYED.”​

Libby Fischer Hellmann, Award-winning author and Editor of Chicago Blues.

“Moving. compelling, well-written, buy this book!”

NYT best selling author, Lori Wilde​

“I read this gritty and well-crafted collection in one sitting because I couldn’t turn away. These stories, as much about courage and strength as about betrayal, explore the darkest corners of the human heart, leaving room for the transformative power of love and hope. Highly recommended.”

Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author

“Some anthologies are too important not to be published. BETRAYED is one of them. It’s about the enemy among us. In the house next to you. At the desk next to you. Maybe much closer. It’s about darkness. It’s about outrage. It’s about hope.”

David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Protector

‘The Last Hit’ Appears in ‘Waiting to Be Forgotten’, a Replacements Tribute Anthology

From Amazon:


The Replacements sang about the bittersweet fruit of life. Love. Loss. Ambition. Failure. They showed us the highs of the party, and the lows of the harrowing hangover. The Mats wrote about people who dared to be, and ended up aching for it. They were square pegs in the round hole of the world, and for their fans, they connected like no other band. Twenty-five crime writers take to the page to honor their misfit heroes with a series of stories about the sad, the twisted, the beat down, and the darkness that looms just beyond the periphery. Each tale is inspired by a Replacements song, and each story is just as unique and heartbreaking as its inspiration. Get in the van and ride to the next town with this rare tribute to a rarer musical phenomenon.

Liam Sweeny’s title, “The Last,” is a forlorn tale about a street boss’s “sin eater” who finds his lost love in the arms of a sin and has a tough decision to make. Edited by Jay Stringer, it features such authors as S.W. Lauden, Ed Kurtz, Alex Segura, Johnny Shaw, Jen Conley, Angel Luis Colón, Eric Beetner, Tom Leins and Josh Stallings.

Waiting to Be Forgotten can be found here.

Author of Mystery, Crime & Noir