Monday, March 23, 2015

CROOKED ROADS -- The Stories Behind the Stories vol three

The last group of stories begins with "A Matter of Time," a flash fiction piece inspired by a horrific moment I encountered at the 24 hour Internet cafe on the corner of Normandie and Wilshire, way back in the early 2000s. I sat down at a computer, put my card in, and when the screen came up, it was filled with child porn images. I looked around for who might have been using the computer before me, but couldn't find him or her. I thought about what I might do if I actually caught someone looking at that shit. My thoughts weren't too pleasant. The inspiration for the character in the story who gets followed by the protagonist came from this asshole who started threatening me in my own damn neighborhood in Koreatown. He had all these peace stickers on his backpack and was talking about how I needed to get out of his neighborhood. I told him, "I pay rent here too, motherfucker," and that pretty much shut him up. Lesson for those who don't know -- fuck with a writer, you will end up looking stupid in an obscure piece of fiction somewhere down the road!

Next up is "Methamphetamine and a Shotgun," the story that kicked off the All Due Respect blog. It's an homage, I guess, to an old Chester Himes story called "Marihuana and a Pistol." Fans of The Searchers will get a kick out of the names of the characters in the story. It's hallucinogenic and seems to have fans and haters (I've gotten multiple hate emails over the story, not sure why).

"Little People" follows. It's another story folks seem to love or hate. It's one of the first stories I wrote where I tampered with the narrative structure (just a little bit in this one). The initial inspiration came from this douchebag I used to work with at Markey's Audio/Video in Indianapolis, way back in the 90s. His name was Don, he was a frat boy from Ball State, and he constantly harped on how he thought "midgets" were "inherently funny." I'm not a PC-type of person, but I didn't need to be reminded of his opinion every day.

The next story is "A Moral Majority," which is set in the fictional town of Haggard, Indiana, in the late 1960s (probably, chronologically, just before "State Road 53" takes place). The title is, of course, a joke of sorts. I've always been fascinated by how quickly the powers that be squashed any social progress made in the 60s and 70s in the 80s. Like, overnight. Now, I refuse to label myself a conservative or a liberal (I'm probably a Classical Liberal, when pressed to identify politically), but I do find it curious that the most vocal conservatives often tend to get caught doing precisely what they're preaching against. That's what drove me to write this story.

The collection ends with "The Ralphs at Third and Vermont." This story was written during my dark period last year when I was being persecuted at Minnesota State University for teaching a Kurt Vonnegut story that made the English department chair nervous. When I lived in Koreatown, on several occasions, homeless guys I'd spoken with at the 7-11, or Ralphs, or the Hollywood Video on Western and Wilshire, or other places, were burned alive by rich kids who didn't live in the area. I have no idea why these assholes would do this kind of shit. In my furious state of mind last year, I came up with the narrative for this story, tying the riots of '92 into it along with the Vietnam War, which is relevant since a great number of the older homeless guys in L.A. are Vietnam vets.

So there it is. The book will be available on May 15. I'm putting together an appearance in Indianapolis right now. I might also have a release party in Florida, I don't know yet. Regardless, please buy a copy, review it, even if you hate it, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CROOKED ROADS -- The Stories Behind the Stories vol two

The next set of stories in the book starts with "Spare Change," which was called "Diseases From Loving" when it was published back in 2009. It's fairly standard noir stuff--pissed off wife, strange man in a bar who thinks he can save her from making a mistake, etc.-- very brief and, I think, has a nice, touching conclusion, which is a rare thing for me.

That's followed by "State Road 53," a story I once described to a French dentist who claimed she loved literature. When I finished explaining the story to her, she said, "That sounds like a novel!" That's either a good or a bad comment, I don't know. "State Road 53" was one of several stories I wrote with the intention of someday having a story cycle about the fictional town of Haggard, Indiana. Someday I may still complete that cycle, who knows?

"Patience," the next story in the collection, is a little Twilight Zone-esque yarn about a police officer and a girl named Patience. I wrote it back in 2008 after hearing a colleague of mine in L.A. talk about his youth in the city, how he often saw police officers taking advantage of women in alleys and other discreet locations.

The story behind "Katy Too," which follows "Patience," can actually be found here.

And the last story in this cycle is "My Kind of Town," the only story I've ever had at Thuglit. It's almost a soap opera. It's the first actual story I wrote about Haggard, Indiana, and I think it harbors some of my dislike for Chicago, a city I always have bad luck in.

I'll finish up this series in a couple of days...

Monday, March 16, 2015

CROOKED ROADS -- The Stories Behind the Stories vol one

So I thought I'd write a few posts about how the stories in CROOKED ROADS came into existence. Here's the first one.

The collection begins with "The Space Between." Those who know me well know that I'm not partial to writing fiction in the present tense. This story, however, is not only in the present tense, it's also written in second person. It was written, originally, as an experiment while I was held captive by an MFA cult in Mankato, Minnesota. Mankato is a city filled with angry white dudes. They're so angry they drive around town all the time shouting horrible things at people walking on the street. I would always challenge them to step out of their cars/trucks and say those terrible things to my face. Never had a taker. Surprise, surprise. I once saw a group of young white guys shout at a homeless man. Real classy. I started thinking about all the slights you get in life, all the breaks that don't go your way, and how that makes someone become a horrible person. I chose the story as the lead-in because it's quick, it's unusually written (for me), and I think it sort of explains how people end up making the wrong decisions that most of the characters in the rest of the stories unfortunately make.

The next story is "Columbus Day," which was written during one of the darkest times of my life. It's based on a joke I once told about Columbus Day -- For Columbus Day, white families cross the street and break into their neighbors' houses and pretend it's theirs.  Since I lived in Minnesota at the time, I thought I'd give everything a twist and make it some nice yuppies who get invaded by the descendants of Columbus' original victims (I'm not a huge anti-Columbus person, but I'm not going to pretend for a second his 'discovery' of America didn't have some awful consequences for a whole lot of people). It's a very violent, nasty story. I put it second to basically allow the squeamish to bow out of reading the rest of the collection. I don't want someone wasting that much time of his or her life if the end result is just going to be, "I don't like stories like this..."

That bit of nastiness is followed by "No Hard Feelings," a lighter-hearted story about an unfortunate meeting between two dimwits in northern Indiana, a region I like to write about because a lot of my family is from there and it's part of the Rustbelt, which has taken hit after economic hit for the last forty years. I think it's somewhat humorous and tragic at the same time. I like to call this sort of story "brutal comedy."

"American Chivalry" comes next. It's a story I worked on for a few years before finally sending it out. It's about a guy I knew in Koreatown in L.A. He was homeless because of his drinking. He was a very smart guy who'd had a lot of tough breaks in life. Every now and then he'd disappear from the streets and I'd worry something bad might have happened, but then he'd turn up again and tell me about a job he'd been offered, how hard he tried to make it work, and how the bottle wouldn't leave him alone.

The first group of stories ends with "Dumb Shit," a story written in dialect (something that annoys the shit out of the literary crowd and, therefore, is great fun to write). It's a thinly veiled counter-argument to the idea that Mexicans are "taking our jobs." I also borrowed from my experience as a teacher at Crenshaw high school. One of my students was treated the way the Mexican in the story is (my student was a Crip who pissed off some Bloods from Dorsey and paid a horrific price for it). While the student was not a particularly good student in terms of doing homework and studying, he was very mellow in class and never gave me any hassle when I'd ask him to take his seat (he would occasionally just get up and walk around). When my other students told me what had happened to him, I was so devastated I began looking for a new job.

I will continue discussing the stories tomorrow or the day after.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

CROOKED ROADS -- Coming May 15

I'm very excited about my short story collection Crooked Roads, which is scheduled to be released on May 15. I went through the two dozen or so crime stories I've had published since 2009 and chose what I think are the best fifteen. Three flash pieces and twelve 'normal' short stories. They tend to take place in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, or the fictional town of Haggard, Indiana. 

When Chris Rhatigan asked me to put this collection together, he said not to worry about having any theme or anything else tying the stories together (aside from being crime tales). That was liberating. In the last five years I've written two theses for both my masters and my mfa and for both projects I wrote inter-connected short stories. It was a pain the ass and I'm not sure either attempt really works. For Crooked Roads, I just placed the stories in an order I felt was logical. Over-analytical folks might find some thread running through them. Most folks, hopefully, will just dig on a natural rhythm between the stories. However you take your entertainment, I'm confident all readers will get a kick out of this collection (with the possible exception of people who don't like profanity or violence or sex. You know, fucking puritans!!!)

Many thanks to Mr. Rhatigan and the rest of the All Due Respect crew for taking this project on.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

So I just finished reading Tom Pitts' new novella, Knuckleball.  It's a quick read that manages to pack a lot of information in its limited space. We are thoroughly introduced to a handful of characters whose lives will unfortunately intertwine as a result of a tragic shooting. The drama of solving the murder of a police officer unfolds and is then brought to what seems to be a satisfactory conclusion. Except, of course, this is not a glossy version of reality. This is the kind of fiction where truth intrudes more than it ever could in non-fiction. The novella ends on an ambiguous note appropriate to the tone of the entire story. Justice has many faces, and sometimes, those faces don't fit so well within the parameters of the law. If you're like me, if you can't stand tidy endings where little birds land on a windowsill and sing zippety-fucking-doo-dah, you'll enjoy Knuckleball.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Payment for Grindhouse Fiction

So for some reason, Blogspot won't let me comment on my own fucking blog. Someone asked about rates for GRINDHOUSE FICTION, here's the deal: We're doing the commie, profit-sharing method. Everybody involved gets an equal cut of the gross profits for a year. After the first year, any profits will go toward the production of future issues.

This is based on my experiences with PULP MODERN. When PM started, I came up with the profit-sharing idea. I made the mistake of writing into the contracts that PM would go out of print after a year simply because I couldn't imagine dividing pennies on a back issue five years down the road. The result is that nobody can get the first four issues of PM now, which has led to some harsh criticism of yours truly. After a year, profits on a particular book die down to almost nothing, so it seems best to put whatever profits come in toward the project itself.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

More details on Grindhouse Fiction

So Craig T. McNeeley, co-editor of the new GRINDHOUSE FICTION series, has all the details you need:

Remember back when this country was free and you could go and see a triple feature of Charles Bronson delivering justice on the big screen like God intended?

We do too.

We are seeking a few good men and women for new anthologies of Grindhouse Fiction. Novellas inspired by films such as Escape From New York, The Exterminator, Don't Answer The Phone, I Eat Your Flesh, I Drink Your Blood, I Spit On Your Grave, and many more. We want you Dirty Marys and you Crazy Larrys. Let freedom ring.

Here's what you've gotta do: send a query letter to doublelifepress (at) gmail (dot) com by April Fool's Day with a synopsis of your novella. If we like what you've got, we'll ask for the rest. Make sure your submissions are 15-20,000 words in length and don't forget the popcorn.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Grindhouse Fiction

So Uncle B's Drive-in didn't quite make it. That doesn't mean there isn't a home for low-budget fiction. Craig T. McNeeley and I are putting together a new project called GRINDHOUSE FICTION. Each issue will contain three novellas, roughly 15 to 20 thousand words. We will have a call shortly for queries, so start thinking up some grimy, sleazy fiction that cuts through the veneer of all that fancy shit the tea and biscuit crowd consumes in effort to avoid facing the real world, and get that shit written! First issue is scheduled to be released on July 4, 2015, and the deadline for queries will be April 1, 2015. More information on the way...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

R.I.P. Uncle B's Drive-in

Uncle B’s Drive-in Fiction is, like so many drive-in venues, closed for good. No longer in print. I’ve done what I can to keep this problem child alive and nothing seems to help. I believe it suffered the same fate as the Grindhouse movie from a few years back. Too much for one volume. I sent copies to reviewers who thanked me kindly and then never reviewed the book. Even if they hated it, they could have said so. I suspect that reading the entire thing was a daunting task and most of them said ‘fuck it,’ threw it in the garbage, and moved on.

And what a shame that nobody gave this book a chance. Matt Funk’s contribution won an award. David James Keaton’s contribution eventually morphed into The Last Projector. It also had ace stories from Garnett Elliott and Jimmy Callaway.

I supposed the lesson learned is, don’t weigh down a reader with too much at once. If I had to do it all over again, I’d easily limit the stories to between 5000 and 10,000 words and maybe cut the number of writers down to three. Oh well. You can get copies of the book for dirt cheap at Amazon.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Big News at Pulp Modern

So I've been reading essays by that old prick Harlan Ellison. I am reminded of why I started PULP MODERN in the first place--to provide a journal for pulp writers where there were some form of payment. The communist, 'let's share in the profits' thing didn't work. I've been giving contributor copies since I stopped the initial payment plan. I'm losing money in the process. Putting Pulp Modern out is a labor of love at this point, but I'd like to try, once again, to raise its status ever-so-slightly by offering payment.

While I don't have the resources other journals do, I will now pay 1/4 a cent per word for stories.

Merry Christmas, sort of.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

PULP MODERN #8 Now on kindle

So the new issue of Pulp Modern is available on kindle at Amazon. This edition is better than previous kindle issues of PM, hence, it costs about two bucks more than usual.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Far out! PULP MODERN #8 is now available!

Get your fix of the latest issue of the best pulp fiction journal in the known universe. PULP MODERN #8 is now available in print (kindle version coming right quick).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, your Pulp Modern #8 line up:

Not since the first issue of Pulp Modern have I had such a tough time choosing which stories to include. There were literally dozens of choices of amazing material. I had to pass on a lot of great stories. Here's the line up for issue number eight, which is all about America's third favorite past time, drugs:

Grigori Black
Richard Godwin
Paul Handley
Daniel Nathan Horn
Dan McCarthy
Emily McNeeley
Joseph S. Pete
Tom Pitts
Eryk Pruitt
Mav Skye

Look for issue eight in early December. I'm going to put the appropriate care in the kindle version and release it roughly the same time, though it will be a bit more expensive than usual (2.99 instead of .99).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crooked Roads, Spring 2015

So I didn't have to be that guy who announces what he can't announce for too long.  I found out today the folks at All Due Respect have already made an announcement.  Check it out here.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Long time no post.  Stuff has happened.  Here's what it is:

This week, Profane #1 was released.  This is a journal put together by Patrick Chambers and Jake Little.  They're soldiers in the war on stupidity (with regards to free speech) and publish fiction and poetry (and "creative non-fiction") that doesn't adhere to the oppressive "standards" of the Polite Police.  The first issue includes my short story "Trouble at the Renoir," about a high school teacher trying to enjoy an adult film at a porno theater in the 1970s.  Hilarity and danger ensue.

While it's been out for some time, you should know that I also have work in the first issue of Dark Corners.  This is a pulp journal put out by Craig and Emily McNeely (I apologize if I fail to mention others working behind the scenes there).  It includes my short story "Columbus Day," which is a joyful romp through the Minnesota countryside with some meth junkies and a couple of yuppies.  Fun for the whole family.

I continue to work on editing my film Kato Therapy.  It goes slow, but it goes.  It is what it is, low-budget, but, goddammit, the story makes sense, nobody's hanging over my shoulder telling me to change shit so that the story doesn't make sense, and, most important, my girlfriend, who is my toughest critic, watched the first seven minutes and said she was impressed.

I hate to be that person who says, 'I got news, but I can't tell you!' However, I got news, and I can't tell you!

Finally, don't forget the theme for the next issue of Pulp Modern is 'dangerous women.'

I'm just about finished putting together Pulp Modern #8.  Look for it in December.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

PULP MODERN #9: Dangerous Women

So the deadline for issue 8 has passed.  I'll be picking through the last two dozen submissions this weekend.  I can already announce that the drug issue will be plus-sized.  So many good stories (a lot of stories I had to pass on even though I enjoyed them).  It's going to be a big, strange trip.

That leads us to issue 9.  The theme is: Dangerous Women.  Be they in crime, horror, science fiction, or westerns, I want to see women shaking up the status quo and raising hell.  I also want to see more women contribute stories to Pulp Modern.  There are many ways for women to be dangerous, the femme fatale is just one.  Get creative, get subversive, get writing!

Deadline for issue 9: June 1, 2015

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pulp Modern Deadline Approaches!

Remember, the deadline for issue 8 of Pulp Modern is OCTOBER 1, 2014.

The theme is drugs.  If you have not heard from me yet and you submitted a story, that means you have survived the first round of cuts.  Congrats!

I have not received any westerns that deal with the subject of drugs.  They took drugs in the old west, remember?  That's when Uncle Sam still trusted you to make personal decisions about your own body.

I am still trying to decide what the theme of issue 9 will be.  Anyone who makes a suggestion I decide to use will get a free copy of issue 8 and 9.

(photo courtesy of

Monday, August 4, 2014

Seven Year Itch

So I gotta make a movie every seven years.  A feature-length movie, that is.  My first two films sucked, mostly because there were money people standing over my shoulders making changes I didn't approve of and, surprise surprise, caused the movies to fail one way or another.  I know what mistakes I made on those pictures, I'm not blaming any one person, but after the second fiasco, it became clear to me that I needed to not only be the writer and director, but the executive producer (i.e., money person) as well in order to get a coherent, cohesive feature film made.  I finally achieved that this summer (seven years after the second film, which was shot seven years after the first).  It will take me a year to edit and polish this new movie, but it will be worth the wait.

One of the biggest mistakes I made back in 2000 was letting someone else produce Mr. Id, my first feature film.  My original intention had been to shoot it on video and cut it with equipment I had access to at my job.  Then I let someone talk me into letting them produce it for several hundred thousand dollars.  The movie was doomed from that point on.  For the second film, Beverly Hills Massacre, I asked a colleague at Crenshaw High School to produce the film for 10,000 dollars.  I said it could be done that cheaply.  Initially, my colleague believed me, raised about ten grand, and then started listening to idiots in Hollywood who told him the film would never be distributed without a "name" attached to it.  Doom.

So, after chatting with Pablo D'Stair on Facebook (Pablo made a film for about zero dollars that is now going to play at the Munich Underground Film Festival), I decided to shoot a feature film on my little Canon ZR600 dv camera.  Lots of folks think it's crazy.  Whatever.  I shot the film, it's "in the can," as they say, and now I will spend a year in post production.  This time around, I didn't worry about money, I didn't worry about all the shit that folks in L.A. worry about with regard to making a movie.  That purity of action, I believe, will result in a film that actually makes sense.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This was not called a comeback. It was called unretirement.

So I haven't been as active here the last month or so.  The image explains why.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mr. Cizak's story at LitReactor

So LitReactor is having a crime fiction contest.  You can go there and read stories and rate them and comment on them.  I've entered a story called "The Ralph's at Third and Vermont."  This story seems to fall into a style I've developed since finishing the MFA program where I put disparate moments together and let the reader figure out why they're related.  I find it interesting that my genre (vs. literary) fiction leaves much more space for experimentation (in the MFA program, the only experimenting seems to be messing with verb tense and POV) than so-called literary fiction.  Anyway, it's good to be writing the kind of fiction I prefer to write without fear of some MFA literafia cult descending on me and calling me worthless for writing fiction where stuff actually happens.

But enough about my work, let's talk about me.  Just kidding.  Please follow this link and read and rate my story.  Even if you don't like it, feedback is always a good thing.  Thanks.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


So, after a spring and early summer of battling the most psychotic bureaucrats I've ever encountered, I've managed to put this issue together.  And let me tell you, it's a doozy.  There's refined fiction, raunchy fiction, sentimental fiction, and even a little bit of the stuff that might make you angry when you read it.  A salad bar of pulp fiction for you to read on the beach or in your cubicle or in a factory or wherever you'll be spending the next few weeks.  Please get your copy now and let the writers know what a fantastic job they've done.  As always, I truly believe Pulp Modern just gets better and better with each issue and this one lives up to that expectation.

PULP MODERN #7: THIEVES AND LIARS on sale at Amazon.

P.S. -- Mr. Cizak: 1 Psychotic Bureaucrats: 0

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mr. Cizak at the Flash Fiction Offensive

Good news this morning--I received word from Shotgun Honey that a very bizarre piece I wrote has been accepted there.  In the meantime, however, feel free to stop by The Flash Fiction Offensive / Out of the Gutter Online and give a quick read to my story HAPPY THOUGHTS.  It's a nice shot of dystopian "paranoia" for your Monday morning!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pulp Modern #7 is on the way

With evil bureaucrats and insane, hyper-sensitive morons doing everything they can to destroy me, I somehow managed to put together PULP MODERN #7! But make no mistake, the stars are the contributing writers, which include PM regulars such as Chris Rhatigan, Richard Godwin, Edward A. Grainger, and Mike Sheedy as well as some stunning work by first time PM writers such as Ken Miller, Gerald So, and Patrick Chambers.  Thieves and liars.  Should be available by next week (with a kindle edition showing up some time later).

Friday, June 13, 2014

"We're pregnant"

So Mila Kunis has decided men shouldn't say "we're pregnant" when their wives or girlfriends are expecting a baby.  What would sound better?  "She's pregnant," like she did it all by herself?  My girlfriend told me she'd slug me if I said something like that.

But, whatever.

This points to a larger problem I've noticed in modern America.  Figurative language is dying.  That's bad news for writers.  What Mila Kunis is either too dense, too stupid, or simply too young and ignorant to understand, is that a man saying "we're pregnant" when his wife/girlfriend is pregnant is simply a figurative phrase with no ill intentions.  Now, cultural critics and other bored, upper-class (generally) white folks will say that buried somewhere in there is some nefarious double-meaning, or some such shit.  After five years of graduate school, I'm convinced all that shit is exactly that: shit.  Bullshit, to be more precise.  In the case of "we're pregnant," it's a matter of the man showing solidarity with his wife/girlfriend.  How the fuck anybody could consider that a problem is beyond imagination.

Then again, look around this country.  Crazy and stupid have gotten together and created the most dangerously uninformed generation ever.

I weep for the future.

Now, back to my writing, for which I make no apologies should I use a phrase, metaphor, or simile, that dummies like Mila Kunis don't have the brains to comprehend.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Get Your Mr. Cizak Fix

To recap, here are the latest places you can sample the kind of fiction I prefer to write (you know, stories, where something happens, etc.).

If you have not read Sugar Cookie's at PULP METAL, please do so and comment.  It's a period piece, which is a joke I've attached to it since it takes place in the 1960s and involves menstrual blood.  Don't read it while you eat, by the way.

"Little People," a story where I actually demonstrate some empathy for the victim, can be found in the amazing new issue of ALL DUE RESPECT.  In addition to some fine fiction by some outstanding writers, there are interviews and book reviews, making ADR one of the very best journals out there.

Finally, if you haven't done so, head on over to BEAT TO A PULP and catch my latest Haggard, Indiana story, No Hard Feelings.

I write these stories to entertain readers, so please, entertain yourselves!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Sugar Cookie's" at Pulp Metal

Many thanks to the folks at Pulp Metal for publishing my story "Sugar Cookie's."  It's a period piece, all puns intended.  Feel free to stop by, give it a read, and leave a comment.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I've already read this thing on Kindle.  Never mind that I have a story in this issue.  There's a host of great fiction, some amazing interviews (including an interview with Mr. David Cranmer), and reviews pointing you to other books you should be reading.  This one's a classic, all involved in the production of it should be proud of themselves.  You may now (and should now) get your paperback version at Amazon.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ALL DUE RESPECT #3 Available on Kindle

An all-star lineup for All Due Respect #3 (and a story by me as well).  If you've got a Kindle and a desire to read the best crime fiction out there, make sure you get a copy of this one.

New Journal: Dark Corners

Craig T. McNeely and a few others are putting together a new pulp journal called Dark Corners.  One more place to send your fiction!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Talking Atmosphere at Johnny Got His Chainsaw

I discuss the importance of atmosphere in a slasher movie at Johnny Got His Chainsaw.