DIG TWO GRAVES (or my rampant fanboying of Eric Beetner continues)

So, at Bouchercon 2015 I picked up some books. Three of those books were by Eric Beetner, you remember him from the other day when I gushed like a schoolgirl over a box of kittens about RUMRUNNERS, his book from 280 Steps.

Well, I read DIG TWO GRAVES, his revenge noir novella from Snubnose Press. It was really freaking good. The main character, Val, is a scumbag, but he is strangely likable, stumbling his way through a half-assed plan to get back at the two folks he feels have set him up to go back to prison. Mayhem ensues as things keep going sideways on Val and he just can’t catch a break. You’ll read this book as quick as you can because you won’t be able to put it down.

Plus you get a back up short story that kicks a lot of ass as well.

Check out the trailer Eric made for it .


dig two graves


When Justified ended it left a hole in my world. I loved the Harlan County full of redneck outlaws and lawmen presented on there. Graham Yost, the showrunner, showed that he gets how to bring crime fiction to the small screen in a way that a lot of folks just don’t.

Well, I have discovered his next project.

RUMRUNNERS by Eric Beetner.

I’m an Eric Beetner fanboy and I have no problem admitting it. I love his writing and have yet to be disappointed in any of his work.  RUMRUNNERS is a great addition to his body of work.  This is a book about outlaw family doing outlaw things for family reasons. It’s got great characters and a plot as fast as a 1969 Roadrunner. It’s a crackerjack of a book.

It’s out through 280 Steps, a crime fiction publisher that’s burning up the roads with some great packaging on their books. Look at this cover.

cover - Rumrunners

And now read what some of the best crime writers are saying about it:

Smokey and the Bandit meets Justified and Fargo in this violent crime-family saga with a sense of humor.

“Buckle up…RUMRUNNERS is a fast and furious read.” -Samuel W. Gailey, author of Deep Winter Meet the McGraws.

They’re not criminals. They’re outlaws. They have made a living by driving anything and everything for the Stanleys, the criminal family who has been employing them for decades. It’s ended with Tucker. He’s gone straight, much to the disappointment of his father, Webb. When Webb vanishes after a job, and with him a truck load of drugs, the Stanleys want their drugs back or their money. With the help from his grandfather, Calvin-the original lead foot-Tucker is about to learn a whole lot about the family business in a crash course that might just get him killed.

“Rumrunners just never lets up. It’s a fuel-injected, mile-a-minute thrill ride. I had a blast.” -Grant Jerkins, author of A Very Simple Crime and Done In One

“Few contemporary writers do justice to the noir tradition the way Eric Beetner does. Others try to emulate and mimic; Beetner just takes the form and cuts his own jagged, raw and utterly readable path. RUMRUNNERS is the latest example of his great storytelling skills, and his uncompromising commitment to the dark, often violent truth at the center of the human heart.” -Gar Anthony Haywood, author of Assume Nothing, Cemetery Road and the Aaron Gunner series

“Beetner is an old school talent, a crime writer’s crime writer like Gil Brewer (although, in my humble opinion, he’s better than Brewer), who writes stuff that is fast and funny and dark all at once.” -Jake Hinkson, author of Hell On Church St. and The Big Ugly



NOIR IN THE HEARTLAND (or how me and Springsteen and a bunch of crime-writing badasses are making a difference)

Pay attention to this one, it’s BIG.

I’m in a new anthology. I know, I know, I’m in a LOT of anthologies, but this one is a bit different. This one is a Crime Fiction anthology being put out by Gutter Books and Zelmer Pulp based on the songs of Bruce Springsteen. All the proceeds go to the Bob Woodruff Foundation which helps our veterans, cause dammit that’s what the Boss would want.

You may ask, WHY is this anthology different? Well, first of all it’s cool as hell, but secondly, it has some HUGE names in it. How huge? DENNIS LEHANE huge. HILARY DAVIDSON huge. Peter Farris, Chris F. Holm, Chuck Wendig, Les Edgerton, and Todd Robinson plus a shit-ton of other awesome authors huge.   Look at the cover:


Ain't it loverly?

Ain’t it loverly?



Cover credit. Hells yes.

And you all know my LOVE for crime fiction. I wrote about it HERE.

So what did I write about? My story is based off the song I’m On Fire. I’ve been listening to that damn song and been haunted by it for decades. It’s a spooky, creepy song full of human darkness. The second I was asked to be part of this by my good buddy Brian Panowich I knew I was writing that song. Got the official and wrote that beauty up in one sitting.

It’s dark. Real fucking dark.

It’s set in a place outside Culvert City, my crime fiction town, in a place called Butcher’s Holler and the time is somewhere around the 40’s.

Here’s what Joe Clifford, the editor, said after reading the piece.

Finally started editing the Springsteen antho. Just read your story “I’m on Fire.” Wow. I mean, just wow . . . 

. . . Got some Knockemstiff in there (which is my favorite short story collection), with just enough tongue-in-cheek nod to the Boss. Really, the perfect story for this collection. Well done, sir. Well fucking done.

I’ll take that. So keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of it going on sale and be ready to enjoy some awesome noir, inspired by an awesome singer, for an awesome cause.

And go LIKE the Facebook page for this anthology HERE

and here is a link to the video.

THE MAN WITH MANY HATS (Guest interview with Stephen Zimmer)

Okay, I met Stephen Zimmer at Con Nooga. He was hella nice and sitting next to him at panels I was struck by his well spoken manner or answering questions.  I wandered by his booth to say hello and discovered he wrote for Seventh Star Press which is a small publisher I had heard of and had been impressed with.

Stephen and I have never had a lot of time to sit and talk with each other, which is sad because I think he would be a blast to hang out with.

He has a new book out SPIRIT OF FIRE so now was the perfect opportunity to have a chit and a chat with him. So here it is folks:

James Ray Tuck Jr: give me just one sec.  alrighty   ready to rock

Stephen Zimmer:  I’m ready here.

James Ray Tuck Jr:  Okay, so it’s been a minute since Fandom Fest, tell everyone what you have been up to, specifically about the new book you have out, also all the other things that keep you one of the busiest men in showbiz.

Stephen Zimmer:   Definitely glad that the Fandom Fest project was completed, that was a big one, as it coincided with the full blog tour and release of my newest book, Spirit of Fire, which is the third in my Fires in Eden series. For those that haven’t read this series, they are epic fantasy with ensemble casts, and this particular installment is a very fast paced one with loads of action and some big revelations for the series as a whole.

I have been busy with doing PR work for the other Seventh Star Press authors, as well as working on developing a couple independent film projects, and keeping a full writing schedule that includes, at the moment, the 4th book of the Rising Dawn Saga, and some short stories from the Chronicles of Ave collection, the Annals of the Rising Dawn collection, and a new horror collection that I am really excited about unveiling.

James Ray Tuck Jr:  Very cool. Now what drew you into wanting to write epic fantasy?

Stephen Zimmer:    Seriously, it goes back to when my mother read me Lord of the Rings, the fully trilogy, when I was about seven. That started the roots, but what I love about epic fantasy is the ease with which it can be intimate at one moment or zoom up to a cosmic level during the course of a story. Of course, that kind of range can cause things to go spinning out of control if you are not careful, but if you balance it right, like writers like Tolkien and George R.R. Martin do, the results are magical. The layers and richness of good epic fantasy can deliver you into a truly immersive reading experience, and I hope that my series has given that to readers.

James Ray Tuck Jr:  So you lean more to the Tolkien side of the road rather than the Robert E. Howard side? More Heavy layered and textured world with large casts of characters rather than the man versus the unnatural with only his sword and the strength of his thews?

Stephen Zimmer:  I do lean more towards the Tolkien side in my writing, but I love Robert E. Howard and some of the characters in the ensembles I have could easily step into one of Howard’s environments. The supernatural does make its presence felt in my series, so it is not entirely on the Tolkien end of the spectrum. But Ave is a thoroughly developed world that serves as fertile ground for the characters that make the main ensemble.

James Ray Tuck Jr:    So there is magic in your world, how does it work?

Stephen Zimmer The magic in my world is a little more present than you would see in a series like A Song of Ice and Fire. There is a cosmic clash going on underneath the events of the Fires in Eden series, so there are supernatural beings that take the stage at times. The Wizards in my series are an actual immortal race that predates humans, and they wield supernatural powers as well. As far as humans go, most magic is concentrated in the Sorcerers that serve The Unifier, who have been given revelations directly from Jebaalos, who is a dark entity who presides over the abyssal realms.

James Ray Tuck Jr:     Sounds very awesome, and there’s more in the series to come?

Stephen Zimmer:  There is a lot more to come, about 4 books remaining in the main series, as well as many more short stories in the Chronicles of Ave, a the collection which is set in the same world, and I have not ruled out doing another series based in Ave. Readers are going to see much more of Ave over the course of the next books, far beyond what is shown on the map included in Spirit of Fire. It helps when Ave features races of flying steeds, which also makes for some exciting aerial combat sequences.

James Ray Tuck Jr:   Flying aerial combat sounds pretty kickass. Okay, now lets shift gears a second and talk about somme of the other hats you are wearing…..Tell me a bit about Seventh Star Publishing and what you do.

Stephen Zimmer:   Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher based in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was the first author to come aboard. I do represent the press officially and am a part of it, with my main capacity being PR and outreach, but there are several other individuals involved. Currently, we have eight authors, two artists, and work with 4 editors. It is not the largest small press out there, but it is one where everyone works together really well.

James Ray Tuck Jr:     I really like the way you guys run. Your books look top notch. What’s the best thing about being with Seventh Star as an author and the best thing about working with them as an employee?

Stephen Zimmer:      Thank you very much, we really try to make every book and author succeed rather than fling twenty titles a month against a wall to see what sticks. One thing I like best about Seventh Star in terms of being an author is that everyone works to make each release the best end product it can be. The editors and artists are very passionate about the work they put their names with and they strive to do their part, and then in the PR phase, where I am one of the individuals involved, we do everything we can to get the word out. The authors are very connected to the editors and artists, in a way that you don’t see at every publisher out there.

In terms of working with Seventh Star in an official capacity, it is the fact that I know we work to do everything to make each author’s series or franchise successful that makes me feel very good about what we do. No author is left behind, and if a title does not get off to a fast start, the focus is on how to find the right avenues for that title rather than shifting priorities elsewhere in the catalog. Sometimes finding the audience for a book or series takes time, or a series needs to be cultivated. I find that sometimes publishers can be impatient with titles that could eventually turn out to be very successful if given the right chance.

James Ray Tuck Jr:     Now You guys are pretty heavy in the fantasy genre, is that the main focus? And when are y’all going to do a kick ass Sword and Sorcery anthology? lol

Stephen Zimmer:   Interesting you mention that! Our next release is a paranormal thriller called Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan, and our newest author is J.L. Mulvihill with her steampunk series Steel Roots.

Following that comes Michael West’s next novel in his Harmony, Indiana franchise, which is horror, and then David Blalock’s next one in the Angelkiller Triad, which is urban fantasy.

Yes, we did have a run of fantasy this spring with Jackie Gamber’s new Leland Dragon series novel Sela, and my new one, Spirit of Fire,and the reissues just before of D.A. Adams’ first two Brotherhood of Dwarves books, but don’t forget Steven Shrewsbury’s Overkill is Sword and Sorcery! Also, my other series, The Rising Dawn Saga, is urban fantasy on an epic scale, and Michael West has another series with us, the Legacy of the Gods, which is urban fantasy.

As far as anthologies go, The End Was Not the End, which is post-apocalyptic tales set in ancient world to medieval settings, it is highly likely that there will be several Sword and Sorcery pieces in it. All of that is up to the editor, Joshua Leet, but I’m sure he’s gotten several submissions in that area. A full-focused Sword and Sorcery anthology is definitely something we’d be interested in doing in the future.

James Ray Tuck Jr:      I’d be in to submit for that! You guys have a ton going on then….it’s great to see good folks doing vital stuff. So you said you were doing some indie filmmaking. Anything you can talk about?

Stephen Zimmer:     I have a very action heavy screenplay, that features a Conan-esque lead character who goes on an Odyssey-style adventure set in the Viking Age, featuring lots of supernatural baddies. I would love to see this be made as a feature, but only if it is done right in terms of production value. That is the foremost project I’m working to develop. We’ll have to see what happens, but it is dark fantasy/sword and sorcery in style all the way.

James Ray Tuck Jr:      Awesome. So anything you want to do in the future? You are so busy doing a ton of kick ass stuff is there anything you just want to do that’s not already in the works?

Stephen Zimmer:   On an artistic level, I would just like to be in a rhythm where I could do a feature film production each year and keep on schedule with my two series and releasing short fiction. I do want to do a space opera series at some point for sure, and I do have some ideas for a YA series sketched out. Possibly something novella length with the Harvey and Solomon steampunk tales I’ve been doing, the first two of which are in the Dreams of Steam I and II anthologies.      (from Kerlak Publishing)

James Ray Tuck Jr:  So how do you like writing in the Steampunk genre? Do you feel like it is still growing or becoming saturated?

Stephen Zimmer:       I really enjoy it, and I feel that as long as you have a compelling plot and good characters you are not limited to any particular genre. I believe it is still growing and also experiencing a big bandwagon effect. Whatever is hot at a given moment goes through this kind of phase, and it will eventually shake out.

I have come to love writing the Harvey and Solomon characters, which all came about as a kind of challenge from Kimberly Richardson at Kerlak Publishing before Dreams of Steam I. I took it on to see how I would fare outside of my comfort zone of fantasy/urban fantasy, and ended up enjoying it a great deal. The stories are very different from my other work.

James Ray Tuck Jr:       I ‘m working on a steampunk novel and enjoying it quite a bit. What’s your favorite part of the world? Do you do a stiffer, Victorian spin? The gadgetry?

Stephen Zimmer:      I don’t want to be too stuck on the gadgetry, nor did I want to get too formal, so Harvey and Solomon’s first adventures have taken place in a Smoky Mountains-style setting, an Alaskan one, and a southwestern one in a third story that has been submitted for consideration at the present moment. All three stories involve tribal people, and mystical elements, which I feel helps me offer some dimensions that go beyond the standard elements. It is definitely a late 1800’s type setting, there are airships, ironclad vessels, things of that nature, but my favorite part is the friendship between Harvey and Solomon and their journeys across this kind of landscape.

James Ray Tuck Jr:    So like a Jeremiah Johnson/ Lewis and Clark kind of story but with steampunk?

Stephen Zimmer:     Yes, only Harvey is a cat, which makes for some interesting twists! LOL

James Ray Tuck Jr:    It sounds like it.
Alright, so that is a good bit of info…now tell everyone where to get your newest and how to keep up with you.

Stephen Zimmer:     As far as my newest, you can still get a limited edition hardcover direct from Seventh Star Press at: http://www.seventhstarpress.com/documents/pre_orders.html

Amazon Kindle version is available, as is the softcover from most online vendors like Amazon, B&N, etc. It is in the Ingram catalog, so any store or library should be able to get it in. .

as far as me, here are my main connecting points:

website: www.stephenzimmer.com
twitter: @sgzimmer
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/AuthorFilmmaker-Stephen-Zimmer/221620254562078

James Ray Tuck Jr:   Awesome. Any final words to the readers out there?

Stephen Zimmer:     Thank you for your time and reading this interview! I appreciate the chance to introduce myself and I love to hear from readers so do not hesitate to reach out to me in the future if you want to ask questions or talk with me about the stories.

James Ray Tuck Jr: Excellent… thanks a bunch mang

See? Go pick up Stephen’s stuff.

HEAD DOWN, MAKE WORDS (or how JA Konrath and Barry Eisler convinced me to write more)

Hello, hello.

This is not a blog about Amazon, Konrath, or self-publishing.  That blog is coming, but it is not todays.

Today I here to contemplate productivity.

Basically I have found myself, after book one of the Deacon Chalk series hit the bookstores, under the gun as far as deadline. Book 3 and e-novella 3 are due at the end of April.  I have been working diligently, making words, which is why we have had a few guests round these parts lately.  I have been plugging away.  I am now on track to finish in the allotted time which means that I will have written, and revised, roughly 100,000 words in about 2 months.

I have been able to accomplish this because I have a fairly clear idea where the story is going and coffee.

But this makes me realize that I need to be doing close to this level of production regularly. It’s not been a strain or a real struggle.

At close to that pace I could write 3+ novels a year.

Or have 5 novellas in 2 months.

I could build a nice sized catalog of stories in a short time.

Regardless of what I decide to do with pursuing publisher or indie publishing there is no question that the more material you have in the marketplace, the more money you make.

So I must write more because, by God I can. It’s not like I don’t have a list of story ideas as long as my gorilla style, freakishly long arm.

Maybe I will invest in Caf’e Bustello, the best damn coffee in the world….or at Walmart anyways.

WHEN SPIES GROW UP THEY STILL PLAY WITH THEIR TOYS (an interview with thriller author Chuck Barrett)

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Chuck at the Dahlonega Literary Festival in 2011. I had a great time, met some great folks, hung out with folks I knew, and had a blast. Chuck was one of the guys I talked to several times that weekend and have kept in touch with. He’s a helluva nice guy and a fellow International Thriller Writers member with me!

He just put out the 2nd book in his Jake Pendleton series, called The Toymaker, and I thought it would be nice to sit down and chat with him a bit.

So here goes:

  1. Your second book just hit the shelves. Give us a sum up of what’s going on in Jake Pendleton’s life in book 2.

Jake Pendleton finds himself embroiled again in a battle to thwart a terrorist’s evil purpose as he is propelled through deserts, explosions, gun battles and boat chases. Tormented by an unseen nemesis and his own embattled psyche, Jake must accept the help of a little known ally to the US Government and learn painful, but liberating lessons from The Toymaker, a secretive developer of spy toys and advanced technology.

2) Tell me about the Toymaker. I heard he is a real guy and I want to know if he is working for us or for the highest bidder!

Indeed he is a real man. And real-life Toymaker is as characterized in the book. I met him by happenstance on vacation in Utah in 2010. As we got to know each other, I realized he was dropping some of those buzz words I was used to hearing after years of reading spy thrillers. So, finally I just asked him if he made toys for spies. That was when I really got to know the true nature of his business. He invited me to his U.S. Factory to see some of the things he makes and has made. It was pretty cool to say the least. As far as who he works for—the real Toymaker is a true patriot. He’s served this country since the 1950’s. Any foreign entities he’s supplied ‘toys’ to have been at the behest or under contract through our government. For instance, the copper tents and TEMPEST setup was sold to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. He’s had dealings with Mossad, Great Britain, as well as a few others. He’s not a highest bidder kind of guy. He’s a man of strong ethics and values and patriotism.

3) What do you think about the high number of J names in the thriller genre? How did you come up with the name for your character?

I don’t guess I ever really thought about until I read this question…probably because the protagonists in the most of the book I read are names like Mitch, Scot, Cotton, Myron, Michelle, Sean, and Oliver. Well, there is Jack Reacher, I guess there’s a J. I have noticed after looking into it that there are a lot of “J” named protagonists. I figure it’s probably just a phase…not unlike how baby names grow in and out of popularity over the years. But my main character will be around for many more thrillers so I guess I’ll keep adding to it. I came up with the name Jake by nothing more than putting together names until I found one that sounded like I’d want him as a main character…much like Gregg Kaplan or Elmore Wiley, or Francesca Catanzaro. They have a place and the name bears some significance in the story…even it’s its subliminal. There are some names where the name itself tends to sound ‘good guy.’ Conversely, there are names that just ring ‘villain.’ The reader will almost instinctively know which is which just by the name.

4) How did you go about getting published and what is your one piece of advice to the budding thriller writer out there?

My books are independently published. After years of frustration with dealing with the traditional publishing brick wall and the total lack of respect for authors, I figured there had to be a better way. And there is another way. As you know, the options for publishing today are many and none of them should be ruled out. Regardless of how you’re published—traditional, self, vanity…whatever—the number one rule is write a good book. Bottom line is a good story, written well, will sell. If you know you have a good, well-written story then explore ALL your options and don’t rule out anything until you’ve weighed them against each other.

5) Give me a list of the last five books you read (not for research, for fun).

Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich
Echo Park by Michael Connelly
Supreme justice by Phillip Margolin (who also endorsed The Toymaker)
The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry (who also endorsed The Savannah Project)
Full Black by Brad Thor

And I’m currently reading The Sixth Man by David Baldacci. Adding to my enjoyment was Frozen Past by Richard C Hale, who is a friend and just independently published his second thriller. Richard is an author to keep an eye on.

6) Hollywood came calling they want to know who you cast in the movie of The Toymaker.

Not an easy question to answer…but I’ll try anyway.
Jake Pendleton: Chris Hemsworth (Clean shaven and lighter hair)
Gregg Kaplan: Karl Urban (always with a 5 o’clock shadow)
Elmore Wiley (The Toymaker): Very difficult—Maybe Donald Sutherland because of his ability to eloquently portray eccentric characters.
Kyli Wullenweber: This one would require more thought. What started out to be a small character role ended up being major. I wouldn’t want to get this one wrong!

7) What’s next in your plan for world domination?

The 3rd Jake Pendleton thriller is in the works and is scheduled to be out by year’s end. At that point I’m tentatively planning on the first of the Gregg Kaplan stories. The two series, Jake Pendleton and Gregg Kaplan, will be distinctly different in flavor. The Jake Pendleton series will lend more toward suspense and intrigue whereas the Gregg Kaplan series will be more of a true mystery. But, as with most plans, that might change as well.

Click the book covers to read more about them and to get a link to buy.

Go support Chuck, cause he kicks mucho ass!


Loyals and True Believers,

Y’all know I am in a crime mood lately. I think I am gearing up to write the next novel which will NOT be a Deacon Chalk book. (Never fear, there will be much more Deacon, but after 3 novels and 3 novellas, I am ready for a break. lol) So I have been looking at some of my favorite artists who paint the canvas in tones of crime, noir, and hardboiled. I figured I would share some of them with you.

(Disclaimer: none of this art is mine. It is owned by the artist or their representative. This blog is merely for promotional use  only and should in no way be taken as a statement of ownership.)

Okay, first, here  is a guy whose stuff I admire. He gives a very classical feel to a very pulp/noir set of subject matter.


You can see he has a helluva eye and a helluva style.

Go HERE to see more and get some art!

Next up is a lady named Niagara.

Whatta dame. I have been in love with this ladies artwork for YEARS. It has a noir edge mixed with a 60’s pop art sensibility.

Niagara can be found HERE. Go buy her stuff.

And now the king of crime art. He made it cool using just two colors, black and white. His comic book SIN CITY captured the boiled down essence of the hard-boiled. The one, the only Frank Miller.

Go HERE to buy some SIN CITY swag.

And there you go. You might just see some noir artwork from yours truly soon. I am working on a short story collection of crime fiction called HIRED GUN that I think I am going to self publish. If I make it happen then I believe I am going to make some artwork to go with it.

Trust me, you will be the first to know.