Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Fish

While working on the Springsteen-inspired noir collection with Gutter Books, we figured we'd be idiots not to capitalize on that tidal wave and release a ZP noir collection all our own. The result is Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In... The Face, a gritty kick to the junk filled with no holds barred crime fiction. New Jersey-based photographer Mark Krajnak is contributing photos to both the Springsteen collection and MISJSYITF for added art and depth. Look for it soon.

On top of that, we've added brothers to the fold. Yes. ZP just got more robust. That means more distinct narrative voicing, two additional stories to each volume and two more cuddly, precious guys to love as much your heart can allow.

Gareth Spark, one of England's leading noir voices and all-around hard-hitting presence, initially came on as a guest for MISJSYITF and we loved him so much we asked him to stick around permanently.

Benoit Lelievre, eloquent but brutal mastermind behind the website Dead End Follies and several hardcore fiction pieces, had the hunger we need to keep us pushing forward towards new heights.

There really wasn't even any discussion about these two dudes. Something just clicked. It was right. It was an easy, natural fit. And we are stronger because of it.

Join us in welcoming these two fellas to the band. Get ready for the quiet to go away. We're back.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tuning In To Radio Nowhere

When I was invited to contribute a story to TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND, I had a terrible secret I had to admit to everyone. I was not a fan of Bruce Springsteen. I didn't know his songs well enough to have a favorite I wanted to use as inspiration. Sure I could sing 'I'm On Fire' like every good kid from the 80s could (listen to Top 40 stations long enough, you could memorize almost anything), but I never bothered to search out more of his music. Springsteen was dropped into a category along with Dire Straits and U2 as bands I respect, but subjectively didn't like.

My wife had always told me 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' is a great album, full of bleak urban textures and noir themes, but at every mention of Bruce Springsteen's music, all I hear playing in my head is his cover of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. It was nothing I'd want to listen to. Bruce Springsteen? Yeah, yeah. I smile and nod and go back to listening to the overproduced dark techno droning test patterns I call music.

So when the guys here at Zelmer Pulp got serious about this Springsteen anthology, they had to spoon feed some titles to me. Whatever. I'll try to make it work. Once I started reading his lyrics, I started to understand why they were fans.

The desperate longing to become someone better in a world designed to crush your soul, or struggling through a shit job just to keep your family together—these are just a couple of the themes I found in his lyrics, themes that I had already been exploring in other writing projects.

Brian Panowich recommended 'Radio Nowhere' for me—a trucker rolling down the backroads of America trying to keep awake by listening to the crap on the radio, his only constant thought is of the good woman waiting for him at home. The song had a kind of bleakness to it. Driving alone on a dark highway with only thin threads of communication connecting you to the world around you was a theme that spoke to me. If you haven't already figured it out from my other contributions, I write a lot of science fiction. The next step seemed completely natural—I'll write a story about a space trucker.

So few people listen to the radio anymore. It's just the way technology is evolving the way people listen to music. Technology is also changing the way people interact. My niece has noticed that all the kids in her school are socially inept because their faces are permanently planted in phones or other devices. She held out her hand to introduce herself to a new classmate, and they looked at her like she was an alien. Technology is changing people, and the most common denominator means change not for the better.

Yes, I write science fiction, but it took me five years to upgrade my phone. It took me another two years to install an app into it. Technology is a tool I use as a means to express myself, not as the means to express myself. People have learned how to hide within their technology, behind virtual identities every day, and I wanted to explore what that world might be like if taken to extremes.

My contribution to TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND takes the original premise of Springsteen's song—a long-haul trucker—but instead of racing home to meet his baby, my character is racing toward oblivion. He uses technology to hide from the world.

After a few drafts, the other contributions started pouring in, and I started to get nervous. I didn't want to be the only freak at the picnic. Everyone was writing straight-up noir. And when Joe Clifford announced that Dennis Lehane submitted a story, I experienced a moment of profound existential angst. I re-read my story twelve or thirteen more times, changing a few words here and there and milking assurances from Joe and the Zelmer crew that they weren't just being nice to me, keeping my gothy space story in this crime noir collection just because I know how to move stuff around in photoshop.

Surrounded by so much talent is intimidating. I've read more than half of the contributions so far, and I am still shaking my head, wondering how I got embedded with this spectacular crew. I can't speculate how well the book will do, but I do know that it feels like a strong foothold into that rock cliff called 'legitimacy'.

Huh. The desperate longing to become someone better in a world designed to crush your soul. That's one of Bruce's themes. That's also what it's like being a writer. It can seem like an exercise in futility, but sometimes, you finish that long drive and get home to your baby. Sometimes, the deal goes right. Sometimes, you get to be in the same book as your heroes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lights Out Tonight...

Zelmer Pulp and Gutter Books Set to Release
A collection of stories inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen
Zelmer Pulp, a group of fearless, genre-bending writers, and Gutter Books, renowned publisher in the noir/crime field, has taken an all-star roster of twenty-two established and up-and-coming authors and entrusted them with one simple mission: use a Springsteen song title to craft a piece of kick-ass pulp fiction. And the results are staggering, running the gamut from gritty, shoot ’em out hardboiled capers, to the perils of isolation in the cold vacuum of space. Each story is a touching portrait on the plight of the downtrodden, in the rich tradition of the Boss himself.

Bruce Springsteen’s music has always spoken to the heart, conveying the trials of marginalized, the put-upon, the losers who need just that one lucky break to turn it all around. Which so rarely comes. Ask anyone to name a favorite Springsteen song, and your answer will be as varied as his storied career. Bruce Springsteen is a storyteller, first and foremost, his lyrical acumen a cut above the rest. His empathy and understanding toward the wide-eye dreamers and ne’er-do-wells has garnered him a legion of devoted fans from around the world. And the pairing with crime fiction is a natural one. In each case, the writer understands the crushing weight of wanting more, and the burden of insufficient tools to make those dreams come true. We were amazed at the overwhelming desire to participate in this project.
Anchoring the collection is New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane. Also featured are Steve Weddle, Hilary Davidson, Chris F. Holm, Todd Robinson, and Peter Farris. Their work, along with sixteen other authors will be available this summer in both print and eBook format.
Zelmer Pulp was formed in 2012 by authors Brian Panowich and Ryan Sayles. Their vision of a fearless, pulp-style rehash book series has led to several collections of genre-based fiction. Gutter Books is the publishing wing of Out of the Gutter, a pillar in the noir fiction community. Chris Leek, a member of Zelmer Pulp and Gutter Books editor Joe Clifford—both dedicated fans of Springsteen—conceived the collection as the ultimate way to thank the Boss for what his music has meant to their lives, both personally and professionally.

A portion of the net proceeds will be donated to The Bob Woodruff Foundation, which benefits wounded veterans.