ROACHKILLER Goes into Overdrive

The ebook of my collection of short fiction, Roachkiller and Other Stories, is now available for loan at libraries via Overdrive. The book contains ten short stories, ranging in genre from crime to horror to speculative fiction.

Eva Dolan of Crime Factory said, “Roachkiller is an accomplished debut from an author in full and firm control of his voice. Narvaez is definitely a name to watch.”

And Amazon Customer said, “Too many bad words. DID NOT CARE FOR IT.”

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It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Iniquity: SUNSHINE NOIR

Sunshine Noir CoverDear Fans (both of you),
I’d like to reassure you that I have not been dormant for lo these many months but have actually been scribbling away and getting stories rejected and even accepted. It is just that sometimes the Giant Hand of Publishing moves so, so, so slow. But here’s some news! I’ve a story in the out-this-very-day Sunshine Noir anthology.

The PR line goes: “In these stories, seventeen writers from around the globe tell of dark doings in sunny places.” It’s basically a wink-wink at popular Nordic Noir books, saying “Hey, what’s with all the snow?” and it features a talented cast of writers: Leye Adenle, Annamaria Alfieri, Colin Cotterill, Susan Froetschel, Jason Goodwin, Paul Hardisty, Greg Herren, Tamar Myers. Barbara Nadel, moi, Kwei Quartey, Jeffrey Siger, Michael Stanley, Nick Sweet, Timothy Williams, Robert Wilson, and Ovidia Yu. The ever-lovely Alfieri and ever-stalwart Stanley edited.

My contribution is a story called “Pale Yellow Sun” about a McGuffin gone missing in Puerto Rico (hot enough for ya?), and haughty woman who decides to get it back all by her lonesome. I could’ve written about New York City (and, boy, has this City gotten hotter every year since I was born here) or even Florida (worst sunburn of my life, screw you very much, Florida). But Puerto Rico could always use the attention, and its current troubles kept it very much in my mind. The “Pale Yellow” was inspired by the epidemic of ketamine usage on the island (the drug sometimes comes as a yellow powder). Symbolism! With the setting plus the drug plus my notion of noir, I cobbled a story. I hope you read it. I hope you like it.

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New Story Out in PILGRIMAGE

pilgrimageMy story, “The Unfaithful Ghost,” is in the latest issue of Pilgrimage, in their fear-themed issue (volume 39, issue 3). Thanks to editor/publisher Juan Morales for accepting the story.

I wrote that story about 15 years ago, inspired by my mother’s moving into a retirement village. Back then the story was very different and had a whole other title. It was accepted by a literary journal in Texas. But then the journal went belly up (commerce: the curse of art!), and over the years I sent it out again and again to one rejection after another. Each time I sent it out, I changed it a little, and the story I sent to Pilgrimage is substantially different than the one I originally scribbled.

You can order issues here. And following is an excerpt:

In her small apartment in the Bronx, Emily Flores dreamed of Tyrone Power. Wearing a ten-gallon hat, chaps, and a pencil-thin mustache, the actor slid off his horse. He held a bouquet of impossibly white daisies. “These here are for you, miss,” Power said.
          “I’m no spring chicken,” she told him, “but I look good for my age.” As she took the luminescent flowers, the townspeople cheered.
          The sun beaming behind the actor warmed her, made her face flush — but she felt freezing cold at her back. . . .
          She woke and switched on the lamp and turned to see her ex-husband, Pedro Flores, lying there next to her, naked. He appeared as he did when she met first him, young, handsome, leering.
          “Sonofabumbitch,” she said.
          The odd thing of it was that Pedro had passed away weeks ago. Heart attack. Florida. She had sent flowers. God have him in heaven, she thought and crossed herself.

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A Privilege to Serve

When I was first asked by the Nominating Committee if I wanted to be chapter president of the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter, I was sure they were mistaken. Who me? Someone who had racked up no books in print, no bestsellers, no major awards. I felt the members would look at me and ask, So when is the real president arriving?

But the then-president, Patricia King, a person of boundless charm and generosity, reminded me that awards and best-selling books were not what mattered. MWA is not some elite club for writers rubbing patched elbows; it is an educational, inspirational, inclusive organization (the last, thanks in no small part to Patricia). At our chapter, she underlined this with our unofficial motto: “We help each other to succeed.” So I saw that I could be someone who understands the struggle that many of our members were going through. (And oh how I understand the struggle.) With that — and a good amount of red wine — I was convinced to step forward.

And what a crazy, fun ride it has been. Alas this month marks my last as chapter president. Over these two years, I have been lucky enough to be associated with some wonderful developments at the chapter:

• We launched a new version of The Noose newsletter
• We launched a new website (see: this one), with bio pages for all our members and blog
full of writing advice (and occasional chapter presidential blathering—see: this blog post)
• We launched the new #MWANYWriteIn program where members met for caffeine and creativity
• We’ve had some great speakers—on mystery and music, agents and editors, diversity in crime fiction, fun with forensics
• We went to Woodlawn Cemetery, Sing Sing Correctional Facility, the Brooklyn Book Festival, the Edgar Allan Poe Festival
• We cosponsored CrimeCONN, mingled with members from PEN America, and, to show off our members, we hosted many readings, including one with the Long Island Sisters in Crime

And this was all thanks to the gallant board of directors I was lucky enough to serve with in that time: Scott Adlerberg, Mistina Bates, Laura K. Curtis, Lyndsay Faye, Joseph Goodrich, Ken Isaacson, Patricia King, Katia Lief, Jeff Markowitz, Julia Pomeroy, Suzanne Solomon, Triss Stein, Wallace Stroby, and Kenneth Wishnia.

But wait there’s more! We also had some other amazing volunteers: Bob Daniher, who organizes our library programs in Central Jersey; Juliet Fletcher and Ardi Alspach, who created our MWANYWriteIn Program; Linda M. Frank and Larry Kelter, who helped get us into the Edgar Allan Poe Festival in Riverhead; Rachel Gallagher, who shepherded the Outings; Chris Knopf, who wrangles CrimeCONN; Catherine Maiorisi and Erica Obey, former and current chair of our Mentor Program Committee; Andrew Peck, keeper of our history and sayer of the bylaws; Thelma Straw, who has helped us with ballots year after year; Clare Toohey, who ran our Programs Committee; Tricia Vanderhoof, who’s just begun organizing library events in northern Jersey; Mimi Weisbond, who runs our Library Committee; and Sheila York, our treasure of a treasurer.

I cannot thank these loverly people enough. They made my time as chapter president feel like a shared adventure.

But, most of all, I have to thank the members. I didn’t get to meet all 600+ of them, but I met a heck of a lot of them (and no doubt forgot more names than I remembered—apologies!). I chatted with many, tried to answer questions for as many as I could, made some good friends. It was because of their support, their warmth, their goodwill that I felt like I might have actually been doing something helpful — even if it was just the bad jokes in my speeches.

And this is why I say, even though we have all these programs and events, that the best resource, the best benefit of MWA is the people. Lectures about how to get published and/or get rid of bodies are, of course, important. But it’s the members themselves who have the most knowledge (or know where to get it), who can offer the best advice (and best commiseration), who can tell the best stories, who have the most to share. They are truly how we help each other to succeed.

And now the time has come for me to step back. I will miss the job, but change of personnel is always good for an organization. New ideas, new methods, new jokes. You will love the new president: Laura K. Curtis is friendly, she’s savvy, and she understands what MWA is about. I want also want to congratulate and welcome her as well as the newly elected officers to the board.

I wish all of them and all of our members the best of luck.

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Edgar and I: Teaching in Poe Park

OutsidePPI grew up loving Edgar Allan Poe’s writing, and he became one of my first literary heroes. I knew he had lived in New York City, and a long time ago a friend I was visiting in the Bronx pointed out his cottage. But it was closed that day, and the closest I’d ever come to seeing it since was   through the window of a passing car.

So, I was very happy to when Charlie “Chevere” Vazquez, of the Bronx Writers Center, invited me to teach a series of crime writing workshops in Poe Park, the home of Poe’s cottage. This weekend, I got to the park an hour before the workshop began and waited impatiently for the cottage area to open its gates.  The cottage stands anachronistic against the enclosing brownstones. Stepping inside is, as expected, a kind of time travel. The tour guide on duty, P. Neil Ralley, gave me a brief tour of the kitchen, the living room (what a fireplace!), and the melancholy bedroom in which Poe’s wife died. But I lost track of time and had to run to the workshop.

I went back after the workshop (which went fanastically, by the way, and you should totally come up to the Bronx, enjoy the weather, the wide space of sky above the park, the writing exercises, and then the menagerie of food on Grand Concourse), and Mr. Ralley was kind enough to allow me to return for a full tour. I went upstairs (narrow, small rooms, low ceilings — but I would rent it in a tell-tale heartbeat should it ever become available). Go the the museum’s for more information on the cottage where Poe spent his last years.

The workshop, by the way, is part of the newly formed Bronx Crime and Noir Writers Society and will be held monthly, with Charlie and I alternating as presenters. I’ll be back there in June.

No, it's not a raven.

A real, live bird. No, it’s not a raven.

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Flash! I Won a Flash Contest, Flash Hybrid Noir Contest, I Mean

800px-Bleistift_35fachMy flash fiction story “How To Write Flash Fiction” won Punchnel’s Flash Hybrid Noir Contest. It’s a flash story, which means it’s a very very short story, which means you could probably read it during an elevator ride. Here is an excerpt, which is about 20 percent of  the story:

I am going to tell you how to write flash fiction, even if I have to kill someone to do it. First of all, your first sentence should indicate your genre immediately. Is it horror, science fiction, magical realism, noir? Now Donald Saltpeter, PhD, author of I Am A Literary Writer. I Don’t Do Genre, might say to that, “I am a literary writer. I don’t do genre.”

Click here to read the entire 499-word story.

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A Day at the Cemetery


This way to the crematorium

The New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America spent Sunday in Woodlawn Cemetery (in the BRONX, baby!) with a graveyard experts, best-selling authors,  and a reporter from the New York Times. We even ended up in an article, in which I am quoted. Click here to read.

The daylong writers’ workshop was offered to our members and open to the public, and we hope to make this an annual event.

I’ve always enjoyed cemeteries, and not in terms of researching a place of final repose. Cemeteries are quiet, green, filled with art; in short, parks, albeit, blissfully, ones with no one skateboarding, blasting music, or barbecuing. And so I was very happy when Clare Toohey and Susan Olsen came to the board with the idea of doing this workshop at Woodlawn, where Susan works as director of historical services. I knew it would be a boon for the chapter:  our members get the 411 on cremation and burial as well as advice from big-time writers (Lawrence Block, Hilary Davidson, Lyndsay Faye, and Heather Graham among them),  all with a fantastically and appropriately morbid backdrop. At the same time, I knew that beyond that it would be a fun getaway, day-out-in-nature and quiet, stimulating for me. So I’m very grateful to Clare and Susan for pulling the whole thing together.

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