The Patchworks

The next school shooting is inevitable. Unless one government intern can make a miracle of his odd jobs.

‘God Saves & Satan Invests’; Shepard Fairey

Gabriel Dunne’s D.C. internship has him tracking gun violence in America. But before he can start, Gabriel’s boss tasks him with planning her wedding; Parker wants help seducing their fellow intern; security chief Hubbard hounds him about expired passwords; the shredder guy needs saving from his deadly machine; and Congress threatens a government shutdown that’ll send them all packing. When a colleague is victimized by just the kind of violence their office exists to prevent, these ordinary bureaucrats must rally, or become statistics in America’s next mad shooting spree.

The Patchworks, due out September 2017 from Moonshine Cove Publishing. Will America realize sensible gun legislation before then?


My first novel (Two Pumps for the Body Man, 2016) did for American diplomacy and the War on Terror what Catch-22 did for military logic in World War II: The enemy can’t kill us if our institutions kill us first. The Patchworks examines American gun culture with a similar black humor.

Coming Out Ahead

I just bought a dozen Cadbury Creme Eggs at nine cents apiece. $0.09!

Now, to Malta!

“I don’t buy eggs from Malta,” he confessed… “I buy them in Sicily at one cent apiece and transfer them to Malta secretly at four and a half cents apiece in order to get the price of eggs up to seven cents when people come to Malta looking for them…”

“Then you do make a profit for yourself,” Yossarian declared.

“Of course I do. But it all goes to the syndicate. And everybody has a share. Don’t you understand? It’s exactly what happens with those plum tomatoes I sell to Colonel Cathcart.”

Buy,” Yossarian corrected him. “You don’t sell plum tomatoes to Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. You buy plum tomatoes from them.”

“No, sell,” Milo corrected Yossarian. “I distribute my plum tomatoes in markets all over Pianosa under an assumed name so that Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn can buy them up from me under their assumed names at four cents apiece and sell them back to me the next day at five cents apiece. They make a profit of one cent apiece, I make a profit of three and a half cents apiece, and everybody comes out ahead.”

World Book Day

On Earth Day I pollute. On World Book Day I watch movies.

If I list my favorites, it becomes clear that most actually started out as novels—even Cool Hand Luke (Donn Pearce, ’65) and Midnight Cowboy (James Leo Herlihy, same year).

Easy Rider (’69) is the exception.

Miles of Fun, Miles of Files

Paul Panepinto is bored at work. How could he not be? He’s a painter trapped by lapsed policies, cold chocolate in a Federal Funding mug, and long stints of muzak while on hold with Mortgage Depot. Also there are his smarmy daydreams of ‘better times’ with Suzanne Biedertyme to get him through the monotony.

Panepinto works in insurance.

As with most of the office hacks in Michael J. Sahno’s Miles of Files, Panepinto’s silver lining is that he works for not just any insurance company, but for Flambet Insurance. As the name suggests, the place is about to go up in flames.

Enter Graham Woodcock, the British second-in-command to Flambet’s witless heir, James. Woodcock’s embezzling from the company IRA through the phony accounts of non-existent employees Dolores Buenas and Philip Banks.

When Panepinto stumbles across the accounts with a few errant keystrokes, the novel’s central thread is set. Miles of Files is on its way to being a literary PI story focused more on the innocent and the victimized than on the PI or the crook.

Continue reading Miles of Fun, Miles of Files

Guest Post–Michael J. Sahno

Today I turn over this space to author and book marketing consultant Michael J. Sahno. Congratulations to Michael on today’s re-launch of the novel, Miles of FilesCheck back in later for a review.

Marketing for Indie Authors

Before I started my own publishing and consulting firm, I spent about 15 years working full time as a writer. The job I had was marketing writing. What that meant is that I had to market, or advertise, to readers. I still do this type of work through my own company. Articles I’ve written have appeared in Fortune, Money, Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur, and Woman’s Day.

If you’re an indie author, you are the Marketing Department for your company. So you have to know how to do more than just write a book and call it a day. You have to do (or hire someone to do) the marketing for your book. Unless it’s a children’s book, i.e., mostly illustrations, you’ll need content for that marketing. Continue reading Guest Post–Michael J. Sahno

Crook v Crook v Crooked Cop

nothingHardboiled noir fans: Bob Truluck delivers a lot more than promised in The Big Nothing. That’s no backhanded compliment.

The promise includes a vicious series of showdowns, a coterie of sadists and pervs, and a few well-intentioned rubes caught up in a game bigger than the pile they’re after.

The cast of criminals and dirty cops range from two common thieves of dubious mutual allegiance to a pair of sophisticated professionals with international pedigree and wild libidos. There’s the shifty lawyer and his boy-toy lover who play-act sex games of Russian Kapow, and a mothballed old crook bringing up the rear with his neophyte hacker.

Middle of them all is the sad-sack FBI gumshoe and his mysterious handler, who may or may not be running the game: ‘Milky wasn’t even sure what the guy was, if he was armed services, Special Forces, DEA, Secret Service or a fucking spook. Milky’d been led to believe the latter, but found out if you called the CIA joint in Virginia they’d say they didn’t know anyone by that name.’ Continue reading Crook v Crook v Crooked Cop

I’d Rather Be Writing (or maybe talking about it)

ferns

The American Foreign Service Association filmed a few short clips featuring my reflections on Two Pumps for the Body Man, the inspiration behind the novel, and my thoughts on the writing process. It isn’t exactly Zack Galifianakis Between Two Ferns (more like Some Guy and Bamboo) but I hope viewers will enjoy it when it becomes available.

afsaWhile the footage gets some much-needed editing, I thought I’d share the text of one short segment now. Here’s how I framed my thoughts on the novel writing process (because I’m a writer and not a TV personality, the film version is unlikely to measure up to the prepared remarks).


My novels get written in one of two ways. There’s the linear way, from start to finish, and then there’s the other way. The linear way itself takes two forms: either I’ve laid out some kind of synopsis or outline from the very beginning and tracked closely to it, or I’ve freewheeled it chapter by chapter, letting the story find its own way into the world. The linear model seems to be neater, quicker, and more coherent—but not necessarily the most satisfying.

The other way, the way Two Pumps was written, was like working on a jigsaw puzzle, with pieces scattered all over the floor and the house and moved from house to house and country to country over the ten years it took to complete and publish. The job was to join disparate episodes, to shave this piece and build that one, to seek and identify episodes from years ago and connect them seamlessly to material written last night. The process was slow, cumbersome, and the trajectory of the narrative—even the primary point of view—didn’t emerge until years later.

Though tedious, and sometimes self-defeating—two steps forward, three steps back—the process was rewarding.

My only other thought on the novel writing process is that it’s as much about sitting down with pen and paper or keyboard and monitor as it is about state of mind. For me the so-called process is really a reaction—both inherent and trained through discipline—to experience. Do the people, places, events, details, etc., reach you only in the moment and as part of the world in which they actually occur? Or do they come at you with a richer, displaced value, something best discovered later on, in the attic?

The state of mind more fit for the novelist is the latter.

Beyond all that, the writing process is simply a numbers game: how many minutes and hours can you make yourself do it? But as my oldest fan tells me, that’s a question of discipline. Not process.

Two Pumps for the Librarian

Six months back, guy walks into the library. Hands over his Foreign Service novel.

“Here ya go.”
“What’s this?”
“It’s a book. Go ahead. Put it on the shelf.”
“Not so fast, sonny. Two Pumps for the Body Man? Sounds dirty.”
“You don’t want this novel for your patrons?”
“We want four copies of that novel for our patrons. And it must pass a review.”
“A review?”Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.13.53 AM
“You know. To keep out the funky shit.”
“Did you just cuss in the library?”
“Sir, I must ask you to keep your voice down. And please fill out this form to submit your book for review.”
“It’s a pretty funky book.”
“Funky how?”
“Terrorism. Foot fetishism. It mocks Dick Cheney. It’s a farce and a fiasco all in one.”
“Sounds great. Can’t wait to add it to the collection!”
“How soon will that be?”

It’s been a long wait. But I’m glad to say Two Pumps for the Body Man is finally part of the Fairfax County Library collection! Put it on your reading list today!

2 Pumps hi rezJeff Mutton walks the diplomatic beat protecting American officials in Saudi Arabia. An expert with guns and knives, grenades and rockets, he’s survived assaults and sieges, stabbings and chokeholds, car bombs, carjackings, criminal hits, and countless other enemy threats. But instinct tells Mutton the menace he now faces dwarfs all these killers combined. The fool!—his foot fetish has him in hot water again.

Part soft-boiled noir, part literary satire, Two Pumps for the Body Man is an unserious look at a serious situation, a grim reminder that no matter how high the barricade, how sharp the razor wire, there is no front line to the War on Terror. And the enemy is everywhere, even within.

The Literary Excellence, III

My nominations for The Stephen T. Colbert Award for The Literary Excellence continue. Boy, this effort is really lifting my mood!

pc-group-chevy-chase-4

In Preston Lang’s The Sin Tax a female baddy flashes her gun at a male ex-con baddy: “You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a carry permit in New York. It’s insane. But once they give you one, they’re basically saying they want you to shoot somebody.”

So many major issues from the campaign! Taxes—somebody didn’t pay them. Crime—somebody’s still wriggling on the hook over them. Boy v Girl. Threats of violence. It’s all here.

So, is Janet serious? To protagonist Mark she’s serious as a heart attack:

It was a real gun, small and cold, looking like the smartest guy in the room.

Probably a lot smarter than The Orange One, anyway.

There’s lots of Lang’s best ‘Who’s Hustling Who’ in The Sin Tax, a quest for money, smokes, and—less important—absolution. The petty take’s what matters. Watch it grow from 10’s to 100’s to ever bigger digits. Bigger as in life and death:

Only a psychotic individual would kill a man to make a point to someone as unimportant as Mark… once you erase a man as a form of communication to someone who isn’t even valuable to himself, there’s something very cold running inside of you.

To each his own vendetta in The Sin Tax, where even the winners get a taste the barrel. Let’s just hope our Republic can avoid the same fate.

Anyone who missed Lang’s first two crime paperbacks, The Carrier and The Blind Rooster, ought to jump right in and read The Sin Tax. Hard, straight writing. Contemporary plot. All the author’s wry and unobtrusive observation of human habit.


“Heroes, by buying and reading this book, you’ve proven you get it–and are therefore now members of the nominating committee for The Stephen T. Colbert Award for The Literary Excellence.” Use the medallions below to nominate any book that you feel embodies the values of the Colbert Nation.”

Previous nominees for 2016:

Sterling Johnson—English as a Second F*cking Language
Ted Prokash—The Brothers Connolly

The Literary Excellence, II

pc-group-chevy-chase-5My nominations for The Stephen T. Colbert Award for The Literary Excellence continue.

Writers, friends, and fellow bureaucrats looking for the most eloquent way to describe their mood this past week should look no further than Sterling Johnson’s masterpiece of contemporary literature: English as a Second F*cking Language.

This gem, in the shape of Strunk & White’s classic treatise on grammar, is far more than just a list of great cuss words. It provides far more than easy to follow instructions on how to swear, properly. It also categorizes the Need to KnowNice to Know, and Forget Its when finding colorful ways of expressing yourself. The book itself falls into the category of Need to Have, with brilliant examples of usage on every page:

“I shit a brick” (See the IDIOMS section).
“I shit a porcupine” (See a good proctologist).

Wake up, America. These are the times we live in. English as a Second F*cking Language will help you bone up on authentic cussing in English so as not to be misidentified and targeted for deportation.


“Heroes, by buying and reading this book, you’ve proven you get it–and are therefore now members of the nominating committee for The Stephen T. Colbert Award for The Literary Excellence.” Use the medallions below to nominate any book that you feel embodies the values of the Colbert Nation.”

Previous nominee for 2016: Ted Prokash, The Brothers Connolly