Friday, April 18, 2014

Mr. Cizak in All Due Respect #3

Folks, I've been trapped in a torture dungeon known as an MFA program for the last three years.  Enough is enough.  I've finished the degree and returned to writing what I enjoy most--fiction where stuff happens!  I'm honored to have a crime story in the third issue of ALL DUE RESPECT.  Other folks coming to that party include Jake Hinkson, Patti Abbott, and Chris Leek, just to name a few.  If you haven't caught up with the magazine version of ADR, you're missing something very special.  Chris Rhatigan and company have put together an entertaining journal that combines fiction with reviews and interviews.  It's the kind of publication you look for at your local magazine rack and simply can't find.

More news on that later.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pulp Modern #5 and #6 on Kindle

Pulp Modern is once again available on kindle.  Issue Five and Issue Six are at Amazon for 99 cents each.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

So I started my own blog about slasher films...'s the first post.  Anyone interested in contributing an article, let me know on facebook or just leave a message here and I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pulp Modern #8: Drugs

So I've been impressed with the stories that came in for the thieves and liars issue.  It's going to take me a while to get through them.  However, once I announce the release of Pulp Modern #7, I will begin accepting submissions for the next issue.  The theme for #8 is drugs.

There are so many ways to work drugs into a pulp fiction story, I don't think I have to provide any hints or clues.

A few things about drugs:  The U.S. government has rarely messed up anything as spectacularly as its drug policy.  Stories that sound like ABC After School Specials will probably not do well with me.  The deadline will be October 1, 2014.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mr. Cizak's Thesis Reading

So one of the reasons I haven't produced much of the writing I would prefer to be writing over the last three years is that I have been busy earning an enormously useful MFA degree at Minnesota State University.  I will be reading a story from my thesis (which is a collection of related short stories) on March 22.  If you happen to be near Ice Station Zebra, aka, Mankato, stop on in and here me read one of the most innocent little yarns I've ever produced.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Alternate Cover to #6 now available at Amazon

In effort to mimic the comic book industry in the 1990s, here is an alternate cover for PULP MODERN #6.  This cover will be available for about a month, after which the original cover will return.  Why do this?  Better question: Why NOT do this?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The dystopia stories are not coming in.  I guess folks don't care about the destruction of civilization like I do!  Anyway, we'll just move on to the next theme, which is: THIEVES AND LIARS!  If you have a story with a thief in it, or a liar, or both, send it to Pulp Modern by April 1.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Writer's New Year's Resolution

A list of clichés in crime writing recently made its way across Facebook.  I read it over and sighed.  How many of them had I/have I been guilty of?  The one that stung the most was the ‘daddy issues’ cliché.  I was 20,000 words into a novella called Daddy Problems, anxious to pound out the second half.  But, goddammit, that list was correct.  I was well aware of the cliché when I outlined the project and started writing it.  I have always had fun turning clichés upside down and “deconstructing” them according to my 21st century attitude.  I now question, though, whether or not I have just been lazy.

How many movies have announced their villains with dialogue that sounds something like—“Vee half bin vaiting for you Mr. Zo und Zo…”?  It’s Hollywood’s throwaway antagonist, the closet Nazi.  Indicated by a thick, stereotypical German accent.  Hollywood has Krautphobia, and I understand its historical origins.  However, how much longer can the general public be expected to give screenwriters a pass on the complete lack of imagination required to make their villains Nazis?  I find the use of dime store psychology in fiction as the primary source of motivations for characterization to be no different from Tinsel Town’s cut-out Nazis.

Fathers have been vilified since the Frankfurt School cleverly positioned the father as metaphor for oppression.  Artists, particularly male artists, have since become much more sensitive and decided, collectively, to bash their strict dads who had the audacity to provide food and shelter in exchange for the outrageous expectation that their children do something with their lives.  Don’t get me wrong—there are bad fathers.  But they are the exceptions.  And writers have been using them as easy scapegoats for too long.

It is much more challenging to find new motivations for character behavior.  A good, (actually) progressive writer has to do what writers used to do on a regular basis—invent.  Be creative.  Most importantly, be original.  This takes more time to achieve, but the rewards, I’m willing to bet, are unimaginable.

I am taking a vow, at this point, to attempt to motivate my characters in ways that do not fall back on the same, tired ideas that have fueled fiction (not just crime fiction, oh by the way,) for far too long.

Oh yeah, I’ve put Daddy Problems away.  No need to finish it.  The cycle of short stories I’m working on for my MFA thesis deal a little bit with dads and the way they treat their children, but the overriding theme of the entire collection is really about the evolution (or, perhaps devolution) of masculinity in America since World War II.  Whining about daddy problems, I suspect, has a great deal to do with that very neutering of the American male.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My brief best of 2013 list

So folks are making their best of lists for 2013.  I had to host a radio show about books in order to allow an official excuse to take the time to read (and now I'm applying for PhD programs--my own version of AA's definition of insanity...).  The result is that I didn't read nearly as much as I should have.  Here are my favorite three books that I was not in some way involved with (if you don't have the All Due Respect anthology, then you've missed out; Chris Rhatigan just may be the hardest working man in this LUCRATIVE independent publishing business!)--

My favorite book of the year was Country Hardball, by Steve Weddle.  Steve's refusal to tie up every loose end in the collection helped me with my MFA thesis.  Before I read Country Hardball, I was scrambling to make sure I had every character and situation explained.  Realizing that wasn't necessary was liberating.  And, you know, the stories in Steve's book stand on their own and some are emotional knock-outs without being sentimental.  A wonderful trick only the best writers can accomplish.

I'm a fan of originality.  I was lucky enough to read collections by two of the most original writers in this LUCRATIVE independent scene-- David James Keaton's Fish Bites Cop! and Glenn Gray's The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories provided hours of imaginative fiction that generally traveled to the very edge of realism.  Whenever someone says something moronic and defeating like, "There's no original ideas," I send them over to Mr. Keaton or Mr. Glenn's work to have a look at just how many possibilities still exist.

I read a lot of other great books and I apologize if I didn't mention them here.  I wanted to make sure these three books got mentioned in the end-of-the-year discussions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Submission deadline for Pulp Modern #7 is April 1, 2014

So the working title for PULP MODERN #7 is "The Dens of Babylon," from a super-long William Blake poem about Milton (" is Jerusalem, bound in chains, in the dens of Babylon..."). 

The basic idea is: dystopia.  Now's your chance to explore crime in a world where crime is nearly impossible.  Horror and science fiction are, of course, easy to match with dystopian fears.  And if you think westerns don't relate to dystopia, just research the 1800s and see how many utopian disasters sprung up around the U.S.

The deadline is April 1, 2014.  Stories should be between 2000 and 3500 words.  If you've got a longer story, send me an email telling me what it's about and I might make an exception for this issue.  Also, I will look at any non-fiction articles you might have on the subject of dystopia.

Picture courtesy:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy Coup Day! Pulp Modern #6 Now Available!

So the big 50th anniversary of the coup in Dallas is here.  Guess what else is here? PULP MODERN #6!!! Head on over to Amazon and get your copy and put a review up so others feel compelled to take part in the great independent publishing revolution!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Oh the things you'll see in Pulp Modern #6

Things start off grounded in reality.  Sort of.  Joe Clifford sets up the entire issue with a story where things are, appropriately, not at all what they seem.  Sort of like what happened back in 1963.  Then we get some 'straight' realism stories, including a piece by Rob Pierce that (in my humble opinion) should be nominated for a spot in the next Best American Short Stories collection.  Ken Goldman then cranks up the 'what the hell?' factor with his story that leads into Chris Rhatigan's outrageous contribution and a story by a "new" writer named Mav Skye. The whole thing ends with Frank Sonderborg's meditation on presidential assassinations and the car that Kennedy died in.  Hopefully the fiction in Pulp Modern #6 will live up to the fiction in the Warren Report...


I've pushed the deadline for issue seven back to April 1st (no fooling).  The theme is dystopia.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Pulp Modern #6 line-up:

The ghosts of Kennedy and all those half-wit profiteers who engineered his death are smiling.  Here's the line-up for the JFK issue of PULP MODERN:

Terry Alexander
Joe Clifford
Ken Goldman
Ross Peterson
Rob Pierce
Eryk Pruitt
Chris Rhatigan
Mav Skye
Frank Sonderborg

The issue will be available in time for 50th Anniversary celebrations of the day our version of democracy died in this country...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stephen Graham Jones on the Weekly Reader for Halloween

Stephen Graham Jones discusses his book The Last Final Girl on The Weekly Reader tomorrow (October 31...Halloween) at 10:30am (Central Times).  Listen to Jones' theories on the final girl in slasher movies, nudity in slasher movies, hell, slasher movies!  It's Halloween.  It's appropriate.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


At this point, anyone aware of anything relevant in the universe knows that Lou Reed died on Sunday.  I feel it might be appropriate to mention Mr. Reed at No Moral Center.  The influence his music had on my thinking as an artist is immeasurable.  The Velvet Underground taught me that no subject is taboo.  More importantly, that any subject can be turned into mass entertainment.  In many ways, Lou Reed made Noir Rock (I don't know if someone has already coined that term; it's irrelevant, since Mr. Reed actually invented it...).  "Heroin," "Waiting for the Man," "The Grift," these are just a few examples from early on.  His record New York was filled with the sort of imagery we might expect from a grindhouse movie or a crime fiction novel.  Celebrity deaths are often over-sentimentalized.  This is one case, however, where no words or gestures will match the gravity of the artist's contribution to culture, both popular and otherwise.

Theme for Pulp Modern #7: DYSTOPIA

Going through the JFK submissions has been tough.  There have been so many good ones.  For those of you interested in getting started on a story for issue seven of PULP MODERN, here is the theme: Dystopia.  The issue will called "The Dens of Babylon" (from a William Blake poem).  Consider dystopia in the crime genre, science fiction (of course), horror, and westerns (any dystopia set in the wild west, by the way, will go to the front of the line).  Stories should run between 2000 and 4000 words.  Deadline: February 1, 2014

Saturday, October 26, 2013

November 1 Absolute Deadline for Pulp Modern #6

So folks have been asking me for an extension on the deadline for PULP MODERN #6.  The latest I can take a story is November 1.  Also, if you have a non-fiction piece about the Kennedy assassination, let me know, I might be able to find room for it.  Send all questions and submissions here:

Friday, October 25, 2013

John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN turns 35 today!

35 years ago today, the producers of Halloween opened their little movie on a few screens in Kansas City.  Further proof that folks in Kansas City are smarter than they look--without a huge advertising campaign, the film generated word of mouth buzz that started the process of building the film's massive audience.  It's the sort of thing that would never happen today.

I wrote about the first time I saw Halloween in 1981 a few years ago.  Here's that post.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mr. Cizak: Interviewer / Interviewee

So I have been co-hosting the Weekly Reader on KMSU for about a year now.  After having a lot of difficulty with publicists for "literary" writers, I decided to talk with writers who wrote stuff I actually enjoyed reading.  Here are links to the writers (so far):

Hilary Davidson

Steve Weddle

David James Keaton

Frank Bill

Lawrence Block

And I was interviewed by one of the other hosts:

Alec Cizak

And in the future, look for interviews with Stephen Graham Jones, Jess Lourey, and Glenn Gray.

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Pulp Modern #5 Cover

So I got quite a bit of flack for the Pulp Modern #5 cover.  I agree that it wasn't as interesting as past PM covers.  So I changed the fucker.  Here it is:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Radio Interview

Listen to me talk about Manifesto Destination tomorrow on KMSU at 10:30am, Central Time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Thanks to the many folks who purchased Manifesto Destination.  If you haven't gotten a copy yet, don't panic.  You may enter your name at Goodreads and possibly win a free copy!  The book is also available on Kindle for those of you who prefer digital books.

I would like to remind writers out there that the deadline for the next issue of Pulp Modern (your story should be in some way connected to the murder of John Kennedy) is October 1.

If you would like to spend some time reading my responses to interview questions, you may do so here and here.

Thanks.  Have a better one.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Manifesto Destination Now On Sale

This little book of mine has been searching for years for a proper home.  It found one in Full Dark City Press.  If you like Raymond Chandler and Phil K. Dick, you will like this book.  At worst, it's entertaining.  At best, it's a nice warning about wanting society to get too "polite."  Feel free to pick up your copy at Amazon.  It is also available in a kindle edition for those of you who prefer your literature digital.

Friday, September 13, 2013

October 1 Deadline is Approaching!

The JFK stories are rolling in now.  Make sure to get yours in by October 1.

ALSO -- The issue following the JFK issue will focus on dystopia stories.  Crime, horror, sf, even western, if it's possible.  That issue will be called "The Dens of Babylon" (from a William Blake poem) and the deadline will be February 1, 2014.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


It was July, 2001.  I had recently moved to Los Angeles.  I lived in a one-room shithole in the heart of Koreatown.  No kitchen.  Just a microwave and a hotplate and fridge.  I was trying to find an agent to help me get out of a contract with a manager who has consistently won the award for Biggest Scumbag in the Universe every year such an award has been given.
So I lied.

In my letters to potential agents, I claimed to have written a book.  One agency wrote back.  Said they wanted to see that book.  Well, shit.  I had been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler (the mandatory thing to do when one first moves to Los Angeles) and I had been tossing the title, Manifesto Destination, around in my head for several years.

I was also getting used to sobriety.
And extreme poverty (I know, boo-fucking-hoo…).

So I outlined a book and decided I would sit down and write it in a week (I had recently quit a suicide-inducing cubicle job at Ticketmaster, so I had some time).  The first day I sat down to write, a fucking mouse ran across my floor.  I hate rodents.  I know it’s irrational, but I don’t care.  I went to Westwood to hide out at the Mystery Bookstore, look at books I couldn’t afford, and bought some mouse traps on the way home.  What I soon learned was that my apartment (and the building itself) was INFESTED with rodents.
Thus, I spent a week sitting high off the floor (though I still had to sleep on the floor while the little fuckers ran around eating crumbs in the middle of the night—I couldn’t afford a bed) banging out Manifesto Destination as quickly as possible.

I finished the rough draft, did as good a polish as I could on it, and sent it to the agency.
No thanks, they said.

Well, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a science fiction/hardboiled hybrid…
I put the book away for a few years until I ran across an ad from the some kids in Los Feliz putting together an independent press.  They said they’d be thrilled to put out MD and the little book saw its first publication.  They recommended I have someone edit it.  I thought they were crazy.  I still have one copy from that run.  I was crazy for not listening to them.

When the whole kindle thing started, I put the book back out there.  It still needed some more edits and it was formatted like shit for kindle.  So I pulled the damn thing from circulation again.
In 2011, to practice publishing through createspace (so Pulp Modern would look remotely good), I put out a new edition of MD.  This time I went through it several times, cutting out about 3000 words.  The few folks who bought seemed to like it.  Then I pulled it from circulation when a professor at MSU suggested self-publishing was the kiss of death to any writing career.

Of course, that guy is a stale old fuck who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but it scared me bad enough.
Chris Edwards, in the meantime, consistently told me how much he enjoyed the book.  He suggested last spring that he put it out through Full Dark City, his press.  I thought about it a while.  Saw what a great job they did with the All Due Respect anthology, and decided it might not be a bad idea.

That’s an understatement.  The work Chris Edwards and Chris Rhatigan have put in to make this the definitive version of this book is incredible.  Just look at the cover.  Rhatigan went through and made further, line by line edits that will make it an even tighter, smoother read.  I’m so excited by what they’ve done with it that I’ve gotten to work on a follow up novella that will also take place in Indianapolis.

As for the book itself—a whole lot of influences went into it.  The language is pure hardboiled.  An astute reader will pick up what I lifted from Philip K. Dick.  Particularly from A Scanner Darkly, a book that played a huge role in convincing me to sober up when I was younger (in 2001, few people had actually read it, so I felt quite safe in, ah, ‘borrowing’ from Mr. Dick).  It reflects my ongoing distrust of the collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry (no, I am not nor have I ever been a scientologist!).  It is a strangely sentimental book in some ways.  There is a lot of youthful passion in it (I had not yet turned 30 when I wrote it) and a shameless commitment to taking an anti-bullshit stance in a world overflowing with bullshit.  Little did I know that by September of 2001, bullshit would become the national anthem…
So there you have it.  A brief history of Manifesto Destination.  If you take the time to read it, I hope you enjoy it and I encourage you to hang around for the next book.

 A.C. August 22, 2013 


First of all, Uncle B's Drive-In Fiction, the massive, epic collection of novellas that will change your life is now available at Amazon for a staggering price: $11.50.  No excuses.  Buy it.  Read it.  Live it.

Secondly, several interviews I did for the Weekly Reader are now up for your listening pleasure:

Lawrence Block

Frank Bill

and an hour-long interview with the only legitimate heir to PKD, DJK--

David James Keaton

Also, if you're on the facebook, be sure to drop by for the online release party for Manifesto Destination on September 17, 2013.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pulp Modern #6 Suggestions

After discussing the Kennedy assassination theme for the next issue of Pulp Modern with a few people, I’ve decided to be a bit clearer about what I’m looking for:

So you have your basic genres; crimes, horror, fantasy, western, and you have this profound historical event—the murder of John F. Kennedy.  A murder that led to a war that claimed the sanity of three of my uncles (I include this information so people understand why the hell I find the event so damn important).  I’ve come to the conclusion that Oswald participated, knowingly, probably go that headshot, but I cannot account for the shot that caused Kennedy to grab his throat from the front.  Thus, we have the question that will never be answered.

 You don’t have to answer that question.  Just look at the cast of characters—Oswald, Ruby, the mob, the CIA, Cuban nationals, profiteers in the military-industrial complex, etc.,  You can take any of these elements, any angles.

 For instance, I started, but never finished, a story in which Oswald accepts the assignment to kill the president in attempts to gain notoriety (research demonstrated that his whole life was a quest for attention).  He gets the headshot and walks away thinking he will go down in history, without any question, as the killer.  Of course, the hundreds of conspiracies that followed quell that and that was the irony of the story.

 Some possible launching points for stories:

 There’s no blood on Oswald when he gets shot by Ruby.  Was that staged?  Is he still alive (hanging out with Jim Morrison?)?

 How did Ruby ("really") get cancer in prison?

 How about telling the story of one of the other shooters?

 I remember taking a psychology course in college where the professor talked about paranoia, how someone might be convinced aliens killed Kennedy, the assumption being that such a theory is evidence of insanity.  I then, right there in class, made a chart beginning with Nazi involvement with “gray aliens” that led directly to the assassination of Kennedy.

Here’s the biggest challenge: How can a western be crafted from this event? (Good luck with that one—there is an old spaghetti western, I forget the title, that revolved around a political assassination in the old west that was obviously a metaphor for the Kennedy assassination).

Hopefully that helps.

Likeable characters?

An article from Slate recently made its way across Facebook regarding “likeable characters.”   The author of that article questioned why we feel the need to make such characters.  I also discussed this issue recently in an interview with author David James Keaton.  The consensus among those who write non-fishing-with-grandpa-stories is that the drive for likeable characters is irrational and unfounded when the evidence of literature at large is presented.  Richard III, Alex from Clockwork Orange, any protagonist in a Charles Bukowski story, these are all examples of characters who do not pass the likeability test (provided by polite society, polite society itself being a toxic hive of hypocrisy and repression) and yet readers never tire of them.

 I’m on my last year at Minnesota State University, earning an MFA in creative writing (because, goddammit, if you’re a writer in the 21st Century, that’s what you do!).  During this last spring semester, I participated in a workshop where I turned in stories that will be included in my thesis.  Not one of the five stories I presented passed the likeable characters test.  One sensitive little urchin actually wrote on my last story (a charming tale of a badass woman putting a piece of shit nun over her knee and spanking her in a Santa display at a shopping mall), “I hated the main character so much I didn’t want to read the story.”  Now, aside from the fact that that is one of the most terrible comments you can give a writer, I question that person’s inability to set aside his addiction to the Hallmark world of rainbows and lollipops and approach a piece of fiction with an open mind.  I was also attacked, time and again, by the two women in the class who could not separate the world of fiction from the real world.  In one of my stories, an English teacher goes to a porno theater in the 1970s.  He is nearly nabbed by the police in an undercover sting.  One of the women in the class said that she worked at a high school (in a very small, Minnesota town), and that none of the English teachers there would ever go to a porno theater.  Never mind that her comment in no way construed constructive criticism.  The only possible reaction to her thinking is, “Huh?”

 We are coming to a bizarre point in the history of literature where people want realism, but they want a Disneyesque realism where there are no “bad” people.  This is, of course, a contradiction.  You cannot have realism without some dirt.  One of the complaints the women frequently tossed at me was about my inclusion of strippers, porn stars, and hookers in my stories.  Now, those aren’t the only women I write about, but those are the women who catch the attention of the Polite Police.  My question is: Are strippers, hookers, and porno stars, not people as well?  Do they not deserve to have their stories told?  Should fiction create a world where women are not economically compelled to go into the sex industry?  Most importantly, will sweeping these characters under the proverbial rug and pretending they don’t exist do anything to improve the conditions that cause women to pursue these careers?

 These thoughts are on my mind as I work on two major projects—my thesis, which is a collection of inter-connected stories beginning in the 1950s and ending in the early 2000s where we see the American male get weaker while American women get stronger, and ending with a declaration by a young man in the early 2000s to be sensitive to the needs of others without compromising his own needs; and a novella I am writing called Daddy Problems, about a cab driver who tries, with disastrous results, his hand at being a pimp.  I worry that there could be a wall of resistance among editors of journals (where the stories for my thesis will have to first be published if I am to publish the whole collection) simply because they want to sweep “unlikeable” opinions under the rug.  I still remember the turbulent first years of “political correctness,” where nobody was allowed to write about anybody different from themselves (gender or ethnic-wise).  It seems that post-9/11, uber-puritanitcal ‘mainstream’ America is heading for even darker times of what I consider to be flat-out censorship.

 Anybody else have thoughts on these issues?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Pulp Modern #6: The Kennedy Assassination

So after some soul searching and good imitation Japanese food, here's what I am going to do with Pulp Modern:

Pulp Modern will now be a theme-based journal.  Still pulp fiction, only, the stories for each issue, regardless of genre, will revolve around a specific theme or topic.

To begin with, I'd like to invite writers out there to come up with a story related in some way to the murder of John Kennedy.  Stories should be between 2000 and 4000 words.  The deadline is October 1st, 2013.  Payment is one contributor copy.

Beginning with issue six, I will go back to publishing a kindle version as well.

Send your manuscripts to:

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


For the two or three people who actually buy and read this thing, here's the address: