Friday, May 31, 2013

Gavage by Chuck Wendig

One day, when Chuck is super duper famous and one of the elite in Hollywood with a series on every major network in every country far and wide, I will be able to tell all my neighbor kids about the time I shared the backseat of a Mercedes with Chuck... while bonding over carsickness. I even brought him gifts for the occasion. And it was spectacular!  Here's a picture of our time together... after the carsickness wore off.  Thanks for being my guest today, Chuck. 


I’m kind of a foodie.

I figure, life is short. Might as well eat well – and not just an “eat for pleasure” kind of a thing but also an “eat for maximum health” thing. See, food is dirty. Its industry is largely corrupt. Organic used to mean something but then lobbying moved the goalposts. Monsanto wants to stick seeds in your farm-dirt that you can’t reproduce from year to year and hey who cares if the stuff is becoming pest-resistant and bred with pesticides in ‘em. Here in Pennyslvania we have fights between Big Dairy and Little Dairy—the little guys won the right a few years ago to sell raw milk long as it’s tested and regulated, and the Big Guys tried suing the Little Folks just for saying that the milk is hormone-free, and now the Big Guys are back with a new governor trying to push Little Dairy back out of the picture again by making their organic raw milk illegal.

Food is full of scary people doing scary things.

And those scary things often result in what’s on our plate.

So, let’s talk about foie gras.

Foie gras is the liver of a duck or goose—particularly a liver that has been fattened.

I’m not a fan of liver, really.

But I love me some foie gras.

It’s like eating some kind of magical meat butter. It’s unctuous and creamy and has a tinge of sweetness to it. It’s an amazing food. It sounds strange and off-putting. It’s not.

However, in some states, you can’t eat the stuff.

Because it’s illegal.

Here’s why: opponents say that it’s cruel. The act of creating foie gras requires gavage, or the force-feeding of ducks and geese, and that sounds pretty horrible. Force-feeding is something we do to prisoners and torture victims. Opponents paint a picture of us shoving food into duck maws as they struggle to escape.

Two things, though:

First, if you’ve ever actually seen gavage, the animals like it. If they’re raised on a humane farm, they’ll run to the act of gavage, not away from it. Ducks aren’t like people. They don’t savor their food. They just want it in their belly.

Second, if you’ve ever paid attention to the way meat is actually produced in this country, it’s rife with acts a thousand times more disgusting than gavage: mutant chickens with three wings and tumors whose corpses end up getting fed to cows or pigs (called “chicken litter”), and pigs are held in cramped containers that during their whole lives never lets them turn around 180 degrees.

Gavage is a distraction. Opponents fight it and then go home and eat a chicken breast from a headless chicken force-grown into an adult chicken in less than half the time it would normally take. A chicken pumped with water, hormones, and antibiotics. A chicken that never saw the sun.

Ah, but! Gavage represented for me a really interesting fictional opportunity—here’s this thing that’s illegal and prized as a delicacy and ironically kept from the people who are willing to pay to keep it ethical. And I wondered, could that open the act up to unethical practices? Could people’s inability to eat foie gras lead them to black market foie gras? Are there crime seeds in forbidden food?

And so, the story of “Gavage” was born.

Hope you check out the collection.

Hope you like it!

Chuck is the author of the published novels: Blackbirds, Mockingbird, Double Dead, Bait Dog, and Dinocalypse Now. He also the author of the soon-to-be-published novels: The Blue Blazes, The Cormorant, Heartland Books 1/2/3, Beyond Dinocalypse, Dinocalypse Forever, Harum Scarum, and Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits.
Much of his writing advice has been collected in various writing- and storytelling-related e-books.
He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, two dogs, and newborn son.
He is likely drunk and untrustworthy.


If I could encourage any writer to start a kid detective series it would be Johnny Shaw.  I found myself grinning and giggling so much while reading about this hard-boiled, fedora-wearing kid detective, Simon Sez, that I finally had to leave my work desk and finish the story in the stairwell just so people would leave me alone and let me read in peace. Let's just say that if Simon Sez had been around in my younger days I would have been offering him bites of my cookies every day of the week... and, no, that's not a euphemism.  I'm thrilled that Simon Sez in the Snickerdoodle Kerfuffle debuts in FEEDING KATE, and I really, really, really, really, really hope to read more detective adventures featuring this truly lovable character. 

Simon Sez in The Snickerdoodle Kerfuffle

I’m not one of those writers that always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t write my first short story at 5 or a picaresque novella at 8 or a trilogy of novels known as “the puberty cycle” at 12. I don’t really remember what I wanted to be. Probably some bastard combination of super-hero, architect, and farmer (Superarchifarmer?). The idea of putting stories down on paper didn’t occur to me until college and even then it was as a screenwriter (and as screenwriting falls somewhere between bumper stickers and greeting cards in terms of literary merit, I’m not even sure that counts).

And while I wasn’t a writer as a kid, I was a voracious reader. I may have grown up on a farm in the middle of the desert, but that house was filled with books. Not a bookcase against the wall in the den, but overflowing with books. I’m talking tonnage. When I packed the books up after my Pop passed away, there were over 10,000 volumes.

And a big part of my early reading other than comic books was mystery series books: Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew (yes, boys read Nancy Drew), Encyclopedia Brown, and The Three Investigators.  This was, of course, before I graduated to Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, another teenager converted by the awesome power of Frank Frazetta.  It took me a while to get back to reading mysteries, but I never forgot a lot of those childhood bookventures.

When I sat down to write a story for FEEDING KATE, I knew that food had to be an integral part of the story. The first idea that jumped in my head was stolen cookies.  Don’t ask me why. Maybe I was hungry. Not too hard-boiled, to be sure. I mean, I have a reputation to uphold (or so I sadly tell myself). Stolen cookies? It sounded like an Encyclopedia Brown story.

But Encyclopedia Brown was too Sherlocky. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were the Poirot and Marple of the teen mystery set. And while the Three Investigators had some edge (their hideout was in a junkyard!), they used their brains too much to be considered badass. Where was Li’l Phil Marlowe or Sammy Spade? Where was the kid who was willing to ask the hard questions, play rough with the boys and rougher with the dames, and at the end of the day, have the grass stains to prove it?

That’s how the hard-boiled kid detective Simon Sez came to be. At eleven, he’s got ten good reasons you shouldn’t mess with him. His fingers when they’re in fists.

FEEDING KATE inspired me. I enjoyed the hell out of writing the story, and I’m considering writing more stories with Simon.  We’ll see.  I did see the titles “The Boy Who Was Not It” and “The Dill Pickle Stickler” written in the margins of some notes. That might be enough to get me started.

But for now, the only place to read “Simon Sez in The Snickerdoodle Kerfuffle” is in the pages of FEEDING KATE.  Simon Sez says buy it.

Johnny Shaw is the author of the novels DOVE SEASON and BIG MARIA. His work has also appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Plots with Guns, and various anthologies.

He is the creator and editor of the online fiction publication BLOOD & TACOS, a loving homage to men’s adventure paperbacks of the 1970′s & 1980′s.

You can find him online at or follow him on Twitter @BloodAndTacos

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just Part of the Job by Holly West

I'm super happy to have the beautiful Holly West as my guest today. The two of us met on Twitter and then met in real life while attending Bouchercon in St. Louis, and I've since had the pleasure of seeing her several times in LA while attending Noir at the Bar (N@B).  She's an amazing writer with several of her short stories being published online and in anthologies, and is currently awaiting the release of the her first novel Diary of Bedlam (working title) in 2014 from Carina Press. I know that she loves a good home improvement project and that she has a great eye for design, but what I didn't know until recently is that she's an accomplished  jewelry designer. Man, the things you learn when you're stalking your friends online. *wink wink*  Holly is a wonderful person... she's full of life and adventure, kind words, warm hugs, and a smile that can brighten the darkest of days. I'm thankful to have her as a friend.

Aaaannd - after reading her guest post today I think we need to plan a Girl's Trip to Disneyland... we can be Mouseketeers together, Holly!  

Just Part of the Job

There haven’t been many of them, but of all the short stories I've written, my contribution to FEEDING KATE is my favorite.

JUST PART OF THE JOB is about a troubled young celebrity named Kate Partridge whose penchant for drugs and alcohol has caught up to her. A tabloid favorite, she’s on probation and can’t get work because the industry she grew up in is fed up with her hijinks. On her way home from a night of heavy partying, she hits a bicyclist on Malibu Canyon. Will she stick around to help him and take the heat or will she run?

Whew, boy. You don’t know the half of it.

The culture of the entertainment industry is pervasive in Los Angeles. Speaking of troubled starlets, the jewelry store where Lindsay Lohan allegedly stole a necklace is located two blocks from my house. It’s not uncommon to happen upon random film shoots and now and then we get notices that filming will be happening on our street. For ten years I lived in the same condo building as a very famous singer/songwriter and my trainer at the gym is an actress. One of our neighbors is a middling reality show producer.

My dog goes to the same veterinarian as Leonard Nimoy’s and Rick Springfield’s pets.

I could go on and on but remember, it’s not as if I’m involved in the “business.” I’m just an average Josephine trying to get her write on. That’s what I mean when I say that celebrity culture is pervasive here—it’s all around you even when you’re completely unconnected to it and not really searching for it. That said, I love a good celebrity sighting (Rick Springfield in the vet’s waiting room? I actually swooned). And obviously, I can drop names with the best of them. I visit regularly, but I draw the line at buying tabloids—somehow reading celebrity gossip online seems less shameful than reading People magazine.

Perhaps shameful is too harsh a word. But I use it because there is a vileness to the celebrity gossip industry; the hounding paparazzi coupled with the antics of attention-starved publicity whores makes for a symbiotic yet toxic combination. My participation, even if it’s only clicking on a link or two, makes me complicit in it. Still, I can’t look away.

I suppose I’ve always had a fascination with celebrity. My grandma had a regularly replenished pile of movie magazines handed down from her sister and every time I’d go to visit, I’d pour over them, mesmerized by the celebrities of the 1970s. Elizabeth Taylor stands out the most for me; back then, the tabloids documented her every move, from who she was sleeping with to how much weight she had gained or lost. By age eight I had all of her husbands memorized (well, the ones she’d had up to that point, at least).

As a kid, I wanted to be a celebrity. I was obsessed with becoming a Mouseketeer, and I absolutely convinced myself that I had what it took to be a star. I even devised a plan to get to LA to audition. I was bitterly disappointed when my parents informed me it was never gonna happen.

It seemed natural, then, that my protagonist in JUST PART OF THE JOB be a former ‘tween star who’d grown up with all the entitlements, ass-kissing, and scrutiny that such celebrity brings. These, coupled with her excessive drug and alcohol use, makes for a rather distorted take on both reality and morality and leads to what I think is a pretty damned good conclusion.

Holly West’s short fiction appears in several anthologies and her debut historical mystery will be published by Carina Press in February 2014. She lives, reads, and writes in Los Angeles, California with her husband, Mick, and dog, Stella. You can find more information about Holly at

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Rewards by Steve Weddle

What can I say about Steve Weddle? Steve is this all-around good guy that seems to have a knack for helping people. He's kind and witty, yet serious enough when he's kidding around to not know if he's really kidding around or not. Intimidatingly kind? Anyway, he's also one hell of a writer.  If I had to describe his writing in one word I'd probably use the word... *thinks super hard* musically hypnotic? Okay, that's two words. But you get the idea. There is music in the words he's writing... or at least you can feel the emotional pulls and pushes of his characters in each story that he tells (and if I had a musical degree I'd compare this to a symphony or something, but I don't so... I won't).  I'm talking about the emotional pull you get when you're reading about the hard-core mobster that tugs at your heart one minute while he's professing his duty to protect children, and then holding your chest and squeezing your eyes shut the next minute as said mobster takes a baseball bat to a child predator with such realism that you find yourself wiping away blood spatter from your face. And, yes, I'm assuming this has happened to all of us... you know, read something so real that you just knew you were actually there witnessing it?

Steve writes like that.

All the time.  

And this "musically hypnotic" writing can be found in the story he was kind enough to contribute to the Feeding Kate anthology. The Rewards is an incredibly realistic and hypnotic tale of a family gathering with one too many awkward moments. Moments I think we can all relate to... cringe-worthy even.   In fact, it's almost like he's pulled a memory from my brain and shared it with the world.  So weird.

Steve pulling memories from my brain...

The Rewards

When my wife said we’d been invited to meet some family and visit the DC zoo, I had no idea how costly a night it would become.

We live close enough to DC that we can toodle in for a day trip to the zoo or the Smithsonians and then toodle our way back home after dark.

Her family connections were staying over in Bethesda, so they thought we all might want to stay in the same hotel, enjoy the pool the night before, have dinner close by. Sounded great.

The hotel has an indoor pool, which is kinda fancy. When I was a kid, we went to a family reunion (some distant family relations) in a Holidome. It was a Holiday Inn, but in a dome. They had indoor pools. And shuffleboard. At which, I must say, I showed considerable sports prowess, as you might expect.

In Bethesda, my wife’s cousin had made reservations for us at the restaurant in the hotel. Which is fine. I didn’t know whether it was Denny’s, as this wasn’t the LaQuinta, but I figured it would be fine.

I’d never eaten at a Morton’s Steakhouse before. I’m more a Western Sizzler kind of guy. Actually, I’m more of a Bonzana fan, but I haven’t seen one of those in a while. Big baked potato and an iceberg salad. Jello cubes in a too-small bowl. An overcooked piece of beef I’d misordered. Ah, Bonanza.

We got to Morton’s and headed for our table. Only, it wasn’t a table. It was a room. The room I describe in the FEEDING KATE story I wrote, “The Rewards.” While much of the story – the in-laws, the psychic assaults, the baby problem – was fictionalized, the setting was pulled from our Morton’s visit fairly whole cloth, as it were. Even the desertion of the women as the check arrived was real-ish.

That setting helped me find the story for “The Rewards,” that terrible awkwardness in the face of family stress, that subterranean conflict cracking through.

I have never paid so much money for future poo-poo in my life. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll never have to again. But I could, without the difficulty faced by the poor guy in my story. If I were a better man, I could tell that the next day I dedicated myself to funding a food bank for the hungry. I didn’t. Instead, the positive that followed is that I spent the entire day at the zoo and never once complained about how expensive their $7 hamburgers were.

Steve Weddle grew up on the Louisiana/Arkansas line, holds an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, and currently works for a newspaper group. He lives with his family in Virginia. His novel COUNTRY HARDBALL will be published by Tyrus Books in November 2013. The book is set for simultaneous release as hardback, paperback, ebook, and audio book.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe by Thomas Pluck

I couldn't help but smile the entire time I read Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe by Thomas Pluck because it was just what I had expected from his character Jay Desmarteaux, and because it also introduced a character we had both talked about in the past, Kate. Well, that and the fact that these two meet up in a cafe sharing the same love of cheeseburgers didn't hurt. And the flirtatious fry sharing was pretty fun to read, too. And did I tell you that Kate gets to wear leather? Well, she does. AND she carries a dagger. I really hope this isn't the last we see of Kate, Pluckster.  She's awesome... and she'd make a great side-kick every now and again for Jay. *wink wink*

Sabrina is one of the most supportive and inspirational people I know. I've written two stories that came about after chatting with her. The first was a challenge to write an opening line on Twitter. That turned into "Shogun Honey," about a samurai who gets mixed up in a battle between a priest and yakuza. The next time, we talked about favorite characters, and somehow "Kate" became a woman on a motorbike with a penchant for leather and knives.

And that was the seed that grew into "Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe," for the Feeding Kate anthology.

Jay Desmarteaux is a recurring character of mine who has appeared in "Gumbo Weather" in Needle Magazine, "The Rock Ridge Ringer," in Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia, and will appear in my novel BURY THE HATCHET. He is an ex-con who spent a quarter century in prison taking the fall for the murder of a brutal high school bully. In some ways he is older than his forty years, and in other ways, he is a lot younger. He had 25 years to hit the weight pile, box in the ring, study in the library, spin gears in the auto shop, and chum it up with lifer outlaws, made men, gangbangers and street thieves.

But we know none of this when we meet him in the story. He is just a man driving a rare hand-built '57 Cadillac Brougham, who witnesses a tragic accident on the highway and becomes embroiled in a gang war between bikers and truckers in the Utah desert. The biker element came from a story a man told me in a diner, about why he had an Iron Cross. He had rescued a Hell's Angel from a bad spill and the biker gave him his cross as a thank you, so if he ever needed help from an Angel, he could ask. I never found out if he ever had to cash that chip in, but the story stuck with me.

And so did the image of Kate that Sabrina and I had come up with. Jay is good at playing both sides against the middle, but I wanted him to meet his match. And he is more than matched with Kate, who became one of my favorite characters. Someone bound by law and principle, but with a wild heart that yearned to be free. Just as Jay is shackled to his young mistakes and fierce desire for elusive justice, he needed a foil. And that was Kate.

And Sabrina being from Utah, I had to set it there. I have only driven through the state on a trip to Burning Man 15 years ago, but the desolate and stunning red desert backdrop cried out for a highway chase. That reminded me of DUEL and the Mad Max films, and it all came from there (that and my time working at the docks, driving my Mini Cooper among the tractor trailers). I remembered a small diner in the town of Echo that we stopped in. It still exists, and the "cafe" is based on my memories there. They don't serve a "Kamikaze Death Burger" but they make good breakfast and cheeseburgers.

I believe there is no food more American than the cheeseburger. The idea of Jay rolling through the desert in an iconic Cadillac in search of burgers and justice to be done made him into a Don Quixote cowboy strutting out of American myth, to me. He was spinning his wheels, no pun intended, until Kate came along and smacked him upside the head, and gave him something to fight for.

Jay's like me, in that way. I'm not happy unless I am working toward something. Once I get there, I need another quest. Even if it's just to try the Kamikaze Death Burger at the Ghost Town cafe.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. His work has appeared in Big Pulp, The Utne Reader, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Blood & Tacos, Burnt Bridge, PANK Magazine, McSweeney's, The Morning News, Beat to a Pulp, and numerous anthologies. He is the editor of Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT. You can find him on the web at and on Twitter as @tommysalami

His novel BLADE OF DISHONOR, an action thriller spanning World War 2 to the present, will appear in 2013 from Beat to a Pulp press.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Addictions by Neliza Drew

Neliza Drew has a pretty good knack for telling stories. Her ability to create interesting characters clearly comes from the wide range of people she's been able to associate with throughout her life, and the people she tells you about in her blog post are the kind that I love to read about.  In fact,  the world needs more characters like Davis, Neliza. So, you know... get on it! I have to say that my only disappointment with Neliza's short story in the Feeding Kate anthology is that it was just that; a short story. 

The story that ended up in Feeding Kate had been in the works, in fits and starts, for months before the crazy idea to do anthology happened on Twitter one morning. At the time, it was more a collection of notes, snippets of dialogue, the sorts of things “writers” build stories out of and I collect in notebooks like a word-hoarder.  Doing the anthology pushed me to actually pretend to be a writer and assemble the word piles into something resembling order.

Laura Benedict was gracious enough to offer her editing support and without her input the thing never would've come together. It would have never found enough structure to call itself a story. She is fantastic and I won’t let anyone tell me differently.

As for the content, the characters, the snippets that eventually found themselves mashed together and forced to play nice? It grew out of characters I’d met and characters I’d built out of random traits and behaviors. It’s always all about characters for me. Rarely does an event or plot come to mind so much as these fully-formed, or close to it, people appear in my head and demand to be acknowledged.

This time, one of the main “people” was a drug dealer who was a combination of a former neighbor’s pot connection from years ago – a guy who sold just enough to buy a canoe – and the vegan speaker who used to do presentations at my school. Merged, this guy I’d never met (only heard about) and this guy I’d seen, but never really talked to became the pot-and-pill dealer.

Davis, on the other hand, has been living in my head so long, she’s like her own person – which can be hard to explain to non-creatives. “Oh, no, there’s an imaginary person who lives in my head. No, I don’t need medication. I’m fine.” Yeah, right. See, I've written several longer “stories” about Davis, but none of them have escaped my computer. Maybe one day. I like her. Well, I like her as long as she lives in my head. If she were real, we’d probably never cross paths and if we did we’d have nothing to say to one another. She’s dangerous and kinetic. I’m a lazy bookworm who lacks coordination.

Her boss, Tom, grew out of a private investigator I met years ago during my brief stint as a receptionist for a bi-polar attorney. Tom’s inspiration was near retirement and used to hang out in the spare office the attorney couldn't seem to fill with anyone else because of his emotional outbursts and emotional abuse. I asked him one day why he hung out in there. He told me he’d been a cop before he retired and he’d already heard it all. It was cheaper than renting an office and it was close to most of his clients, who were all other attorneys.

Come to think about it, Davis was a little inspired by a former stripper who’d been the lawyer’s secretary for a couple of years. She told me one day, after he’d called her a lazy stupid slut, that she’d heard worse and every time she threatened to quit, he offered her a raise. By the time I started there, she was making enough to put one whole check a month into savings and had nearly paid off her condo. “As soon as it’s paid off, I’m out of here.”

Other than that, she had very little in common with Davis, whose past is largely a product of having spent nearly a decade listening to kids in “juvie” tell me about their lives.  Her attitude comes from a place of having been a survivor in a landscape where everyone else was, too, to some extent or another. It’s a fatalism combined with a resourcefulness and stubbornness that expects to go down, but won’t do it without a fight, and probably a long, nasty one.

And by now, I think this post is almost as long as the story and probably not as interesting.

There are, however, much better stories in Feeding Kate and if you haven’t already picked up a copy, you should do so. Not only does it benefit a great cause, but it’s a good way to meet Thomas Pluck’s former-convict, Jay, who I hope you’ll be seeing again. Johnny Shaw’s tale is damn funny yet heartfelt. Stephen Blackmoore’s is the sort of gonzo L.A. story I think we've all come to expect out of him. And Holly West makes being a good employee seem like the creepiest thing ever.

NELIZA DREW has worked with crazy lawyers, crazy boat captains, crazy advertisers, and crazy students. She lives in Florida with her husband and furry minions (okay, they’re cats). When not writing for the dust bunnies in her desk drawer, she’s a delinquent wrangler, awkward martial artist, and infrequent blogger ( She eats a lot of tofu, but makes up for it with booze and swearing.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Jaws of Life by Laura K. Curtis

I'm super happy to have Laura K. Curtis on the blog today.  Not only is she the light of my life... *giggles* she's the tweeter behind the beginning of the Feeding Kate campaign, and a woman I'd love to spend a week walking the streets of New York City with.  Her story, The Jaws of Life, found in the Feeding Kate anthology, has firefighter Kate reminiscing about her first extrication, solving crossword puzzles with an elderly Mr. Simmons in her free time, and redefining what it means to save a life. Laura's post today gives us a small look inside the world of firefighting; the men, the women... the heroes.

When we first started talking about creating Feeding Kate, and my tweet stream was full of talk of jaws, my husband had just been through extrication classes with the local fire department. So naturally, all I could think of was the Jaws of Life (officially known as a Hurst extrication tool). He loves to take classes which is good, because it means that over the years he’s acquired a useful set of skills with the FD. And I am super-glad I don’t have to do it, since the last one he took—pump ops—was all math…and math is definitely not my strong suit!

The Fire Department is a big part of my life. Not only is my husband an engineer and driver for his company, he’s their commissioner as well. And then there’s the fact that I’m treasurer of the Women’s Auxiliary. Which, if you knew me at all, might just make you laugh yourself sick.

Fire departments are all different. In fact, fire companies are all different. In my smallish town, we have four companies: two engine companies, a hook and ladder, and what we refer to as “fire police.” Each of those houses has its own character. People happy in one would likely be miserable in another. And our town’s whole department—while set up similarly to the nearby towns’—is still unique.

Some fire departments in the US—mostly in the big, crowded, urban areas—are full-time, paid departments. Some have members who get paid by the call they make. Some have officers and drivers who get paid by the call. But the fact is that the majority of this country’s firefighters are volunteers. Men and women who train for hours and risk their lives for no financial reward. It’s easy to idolize that. It’s a really big deal. But I have a kind of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the FD. I see how heroic it is that these guys (because our town has no female firefighters) do what they do, but I also see the underside: the frat boy aspects and the occasional drunken antics.

Anyway, I tried to put some of all of that into “The Jaws of Life.” Both the heroic and the not-so-heroic. I hope you enjoy it.

Laura K. Curtis has always done everything backwards. As a child, she was extremely serious, so now that she's chronologically an adult, she feels perfectly justified in acting the fool. She started teaching at age fifteen, then decided to go back to school herself at thirty. And she wrote her first book in first grade. It was released in (notebook) paperback to rave reviews and she's been trying to achieve the same level of acclaim ever since. She lives in Westchester County, NY with her husband and a pack of wild Irish Terriers, which has taught her how easily love can coexist with the desire to kill. Her first novel will be out in November, 2013, from Penguin.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Blackbirds Don't Eat Wax Fruit by Dan O'Shea

I'm super thrilled to have Dan on the blog today. Not only is Dan an incredible writer,  he also has the voice of an... angel. Okay, maybe not an angel angel, but he definitely has a voice that can make your ear tickle with delight. He's the man behind the voice of bad-boy character Oscar Martello, and soon to be the voice behind the audio version of his novel PENANCE.

FEEDING KATE opens with his short story WAX FRUIT, and Dan's post today shares the back story behind the story of Hilary Martin's depressing paranormal-like gift, heartbreaking loss, and sweet revenge. 

Why Blackbirds Don't Eat Wax Fruit

So my story for Feeding Kate… yeah, kinda plagiarized that. Well, not exactly.

Let’s back up. You’ve read Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, right? And Mockingbird?  (Well if you ain’t, you oughta.) See Miriam Black, the protagonist of those books, she’s got this problem. If she touches you, she sees where and how and when you’re gonna die. Which, if you get to thinking about it, would kinda suck.

Thing is, I read Blackbirds and, as much as I loved it, something kept eating at me. Miriam’s reaction to her “gift” was to hit the road, become a drifter. On one level, I get it. She avoids any permanent attachments, so those folks she does touch, well, maybe it hurts less to know all the depressing details of their final breaths if they stay strangers. And besides, sometimes she finds ways to cash in on her knowledge.

Problem is, that’s exactly the opposite of how I’d react. I’d never leave home again, never touch anybody again if I could help it. I’d become a cross between Howard Hughes and Emily Dickenson.  Maybe it’s a matter of personal temperament. Chuck seems a tab extroverted, seems like the sorta guy who’d happily wander the streets pantsless starting random, obscenity-laced conversations with everyone who passes. I’m half way to being Howard Hughes as it is. And not the rich genius part either. The never-leaving-the-hotel, don’t-have-much-use-for-people part.

Which gave me this problem. I had Chuck’s kick-ass death-touching premise rattling around my head, but I had this entirely antithetical take on it, which left me with a story-telling itch I really wanted to scratch. So I dropped the Chuckster a line, asked if he’d mind if I riffed in his sandbox. Chuck graciously gave his permission, and Wax Fruit was the result.

Hilary Martin, my protagonist, seems about as far removed from Miriam Black as she can get. Instead of Miriam’s hellish dysfunctional upbringing, Hilary was raised in a relatively loving home.  And she’s a genius. OK, she’s got her issues, suffers her tragedies, but she’s got a lot going for her that Miriam doesn't  Funny thing though, the story ends up in a place where it just might have if it had featured Miriam. I can almost hear Ms. Black giving out a dark chuckle and saying “Thought you could hide from death bitch? And you think you’re the smart one.”

Anyway, hope you like the story. Hope you like the whole collection, ‘cause it’s pretty fucking hot.

Just like the chick who inspired it. 

Dan O'Shea is the author of PENANCE and the short fiction collection OLD SCHOOL along with the forthcoming novel MAMMON. Dan is represented by Stacia Decker at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. You can find him on the web at

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Alien Cupcakes, Gorillas, and why Magicians Beat Whistleblowers by Clare Toohey

This is quite the interesting post from Clare... I think I've learned more about her personality reading her story "That's a Sweet Invasion, Craig" and preparing this blog post than I have ever learned during our face-to-face conversations at Bouchercon. Believe it or not, I don't think I'd mind bowing down to a "telepathic cupcake as our imperial leader."  Especially if said cupcake leader didn't place a ban on eating cupcakes in general. 

Alien Cupcakes, Gorillas, and why Magicians Beat Whistleblowers wh
y Magicians Beat 

My story for the Feeding Kate anthology was called “That’s a Sweet Invasion, Craig” and features a telepathic alien cupcake appearing here as an advance scout for his persecuted people, or cakes, whatever. Since the fiction collection was to benefit Sabrina’s ability to nosh her favorite goodies, including a cupcake was pretty obvious, but once I got the extraterrestrial notion combined with it in my head, I couldn’t shake loose.

I admit to enjoying lore of the strange and unexplained, and so does my character Gracie, a misanthropic young oddball to whom appears the frosted E.T. In one part of the story, she recaps the “UFO flap” over the skies of Washington D.C. during late July of 1952. That’s real-live history, and thousands of witnesses, FAA radar returns, citizen and Coast Guard sightings up and down the eastern seaboard, and journalistic coverage exist. Here’s a Wikipedia page with background info and more about the official decision to “debunk” in order to calm public anxiety.) 

It shouldn’t be personally threatening or damaging to admit things exist we can’t explain, should it? Science is a process by which we can expand and refine our understanding. We, not to mention the world and universe, are filled with as-yet inexplicable wonders, like yawning as one example. (Did you just yawn reading that? Do you know why?) But this circumstance only makes for open issues, not insults to reason and civilization.

So what about the particular subject of difficult-to-categorize aerial oddities gets people so roiled, so ready to pigeonhole questioners as members of the Tinfoil Hat Brigade, local order #WTF? Well, on this bit, I do have a theory. In the following popular video, viewers are asked to count the number of basketball passes made by one team’s players. While doing that, about half of the viewers will miss seeing something important, and the psychologist who designed the attention-grabbing experiment explains why: 

If we have a limited amount of processing power to decode the world around us into comprehensible pieces, it matters what you’re mentally up for at any given time. If I’m running late to a nerve-wracking appointment, hearing about traffic snarls ahead, then realizing I just forgot something and calculating whether I have time to retrieve it, I won’t see the Invisible Gorilla. Not even if he’s handing out free ice cream. Extraneous things that try to siphon my attention—even a wave hello from a dear friend I didn’t expect to see—are more liable to earn scowls than smiles unless I can force myself from one mental groove and into another.

Now, consider that there are several well-established think tanks concerned with developing public guidelines for what they call extraterrestrial “Post Detection Policy.” 

I’m not arguing that these organizations assume extraterrestrials exist. In fact, they assert there’s no empirical evidence for that conclusion at all. What I am asserting is that there are deep-pocketed people who’ve spent considerable effort to figure out how to handle what would be the Big Daddy of Suddenly Visible Gorilla problems, should it ever occur.

Other people speculate that whatever may be perceived in UFO encounters (and there are many types and classes), it’s existed side-by-side with humans for millennia. They base this notion on ancient myth and representations, from cave art to Renaissance paintings, and the way those dovetail with modern reports of incidents. We didn’t used to know about microorganisms. Just seeing them via microscopy didn’t make them any more inherently dangerous, but new awareness did make some people extremely nervous, even to the point of risking the development of superbugs through overuse of antibiotics and antibacterials. And maybe the way the modern media typically handle stories—that is, with BIG, SCARY OMGs—has something to do with that. I’m not on the side of the Presumed Gorilla Hiders, if such exist, but I can see where the manner of introduction matters.

When you buy a ticket to a spectacular magic show, you’re hoping to be fooled in a dazzling and entertaining way. In fact, you’d feel angry and ripped off if they didn’t succeed in deceiving you. But part of the fun of being fooled is your certainty that is isn’t really supernatural at all. Today’s best magicians know a lot about psychology, physiology, neurology, and the way people are both hard-wired and culturally acclimated to respond, so they’re experts in hiding the gorilla. And when you settle into your seat to enjoy their fictions (or, dare I suggest, even ones on the page), you’re inviting the Invisible Gorilla trick to happen to you. And that welcoming attitude of delight may make all the difference.

When unanticipated situations or truths pop into people’s conscious awareness, perhaps even things that were always present but disregarded or minimized, words come up like “horror” and “nightmare” and “trauma.” Think about the confirmation of an awful family secret everyone suspected. The unpleasantness is frequently compounded with utter “shock” that such an unexpected, and therefore unwelcome, thing could have disrupted the predictable rhythms of life. It’s always just an ordinary day until it isn’t.

I think vampires may have the right idea about needing to be invited in. Look how popular the bloodsucking murderers have become in the cultural consciousness while cattle mutilations and crop circles remain, despite a lot more forensic evidence of their existence, relegated to wackadoos on the fringe. I say forget about trying to push any topic people don’t ask to hear. If they’re not primed, any revelation is pointless and may even be counterproductive.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.” Want to expose something uncomfortable, even awful, and have people thank you, as opposed to pulling out the pitchforks? Tell them first it’s all a lie then make them buy a ticket.

UFO images from

BIO: Despite Clare Toohey’s background in art and music, she gives store-bought greeting cards and plays the ukulele poorly. As a writer, she aspires to genre hack-dom, and as a fan, she appreciates the trashy and inventive. She’s the site editor and manager of, Tweeting @clare2e and blogging more foolishness at P.S. Go Red Sox!

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cakewalk by Chad Eagleton

I know Chad from twitter. It's funny how friendships are made, isn't it? On twitter we grow to know people without really "knowing" them and find ourselves offering words of encouragement on a bad day; medical advice to each other when another in the group is diagnosed with new ailments; our time and our talents, not to mention our money, when others are in need... this list could go on and on. But this, this is how I know Chad. We've offered each other words of encouragement and vented to each other over frustrating medical news, and both of us, no, I'm sure a lot of us, believe that this is how the world should work... all the time, every single day. And for the most part, especially on twitter, the world does work this way.

Our tweet time might be limited, Chad, but I'm thankful I've found you among the chatter. *tweet tweet*

Cakewalk by Chad Eagleton

When I wrote “Cakewalk,” my story in the Feeding Kate anthology, I was revising a section of my Shane Stevens bio, re-writing the chapter on the forgotten crime writer’s fourth novel. In Rat Pack, we accompany four African-American youths on their hunt for the big score during a single New York City night. It’s a slim book, but as sharp as a shiv and twice as deadly. The power of Steven’s only novella comes from his masterful use of perspective. Every encounter between pack and victim(s) or pack and victimizer(s) is marked by misconceptions and misperceptions.

And that’s so often the problem isn’t? So much of the things we do, the things we allow, and the things that get us into trouble comes down to the difference between what’s true and what we think/want to be true. Not only is it a life truism, but, if you can pull it off well, it helps with characterization. And character is king. Character hides the worst plotting and gives the best its resonance.

In “Cakewalk,” a stripper and her security work a private party being thrown for a man newly released from prison. When two youths with a grudge against the party boy raid the shindig, violence ensues. That alone is enough for a certain type of crime story. All the beats are hit: stripper—check, ex-con—check, guns—check, violence—check, a good dose of profanity—check. But I don’t want to write that kind of story. I want to deal with what really leads to moments of trouble and awfulness. I want to know those people—know more than the stripper’s breast size and what model weapons the boys from Bed-Stuy are carrying into Bensonhurst. Anything less, I think is a disservice to the reader, to our art, and to our fellow human beings. Sure I want my work to be entertaining, but if I’m not dealing with something, with people, what’s the point? I could just show you a picture of the scab on my elbow from when I skinned it cleaning the gutters and say, “Nasty, huh?”

Now, here’s the point of this whole thing. When I learned about Sabrina’s jaw trouble and the surgery she needed that, of course, insurance wouldn’t cover, I knew I wanted to help. I’ve probably talked to Sabrina less than any of you reading this post. Sure, when we have spoken, she’s always been nice and, in fact, I challenge you to find a nicer person in the crime community, but nice isn’t it. To me, the whole purpose of our society is to work together, to look out for each other, to provide things—security, comfort, and care—that would be impossible to provide on our own. If society did not function this way, if we weren’t all on this ride together, we’d still be saber-toothed tiger food—assuming our species ever made it out of the caves. The problem is that we forget that. The problem is we forget our connection to people. The problem is we get caught up in...What? Yes, that’s right, confusing what’s true and what we think/want to be true.

Hopefully, someday we’ll all grok that and there will never have to be another benefit anthology for anyone or anything. Until then, I’m glad to help.

You should too.

Chad Eagleton is a two time Watery Grave Invitational finalist. His story “Ghostman on Third” was nominated for the Spinetingler Award. His fiction is available in print and e-book, as well as online at such sites as A Twist of Noir, Bad Things, The Pulp Pusher, Beat To A Pulp, Darkness Before the Dawn, and Shotgun Honey.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Going Back to "The Well" by Chris F. Holm

The very first item I purchased for my Kindle was 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror and Suspense by Chris F. Holm, and boy howdy did it deliver! Since then I've devoured all things written by Chris including the available books in his Collector novels, and his latest short story collection Dead Letters: Stories of Murder and Mayhem. His story The Well, found in the Feeding Kate Anthology is beyond creepy creepy... which is exactly why I love it so. Many thanks for lending this little gem of a story to the Feeding Kate antho, Chris. It's perfect... just like you!

Going Back to "The Well"

It’s a funny thing, being asked to write a blog post about an 800-odd word short story. If I’m not careful, my post will wind up longer than the tale itself.

“The Well,” which centers on a particularly scrappy little girl who has the misfortune of falling down the titular aperture, has the dubious distinction of being one of the creepiest things I’ve ever written. In fact, it’s one of two stories (the other being “A Better Life”) that disturbed me so much as I was writing them, I had to ask my wife if they were too distasteful to submit. She said no, and either she was right or you people are way more twisted than I give you credit for, because most folks who’ve read my short fiction cite one or the other as their favorites. And when I gave Laura her choice of stories for FEEDING KATE, she picked “The Well” in no time flat.
I’m not sure what kind of lesson I should take from that.
The idea for “The Well” hit me all at once – and when it did, it wanted out. That’s rare for me; typically, I have to let a story percolate a while before it decides it’s time for me to write it. Unfortunately, I was at work at the time, so over lunch I sent myself a crazy, stream-of-consciousness e-mail, getting as much of the idea and imagery down as I could.
But when I sat down at the computer that weekend to flesh it out (if those who’ve read it will pardon the pun), something wasn’t right. The more detail I added to the story, the less I liked it. It became too explicit – too graphic. I don't mind pushing boundaries every now and again, but I think that when it comes to writing horror, restraint is a virtue, and I didn't want to cross a line as a writer that I wouldn't be willing to cross as a reader.
That’s when I went back to that initial e-mail. When I reread it, I was struck by something -- my notes had what my attempts to flesh it out had lacked. Subtlety. Ambiguity. Restraint. There was no explicit violence or anything overtly objectionable. Just a pervasive, eerie mood that, either in spite of its brevity or because of it, still managed to creep me out. So I decided to try polishing up my notes rather than starting from scratch, and not long after, I had my first (and to this day, only) work of flash fiction. 800-odd words did what 5,000 couldn't. If only my novels would write so easy…

Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop who passed along his passion for crime fiction. His work has appeared in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He’s been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. His Collector novels, published by Angry Robot books, recast the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp. He lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.