my latest – over the wall


Earlier this week, my latest true crime short, Over the Wall: The True Story of the 1947 Escape from Holmesburg Prison was released on Kindle. Here’s a synopsis:

In 1945, twelve inmates tunneled out of Pennsylvania’s Eastern State Penitentiary. Within weeks, the escapees were all rounded up.

Barely two years later, four of the Eastern State “Tunnel Rats,” including bank robber Willie Sutton and mob hitman Fred “The Angel” Tenuto, made a daring escape from Holmesburg Prison. This time, rounding up all the fugitives wouldn’t be quite so easy.

It’s only 99 cents, or you can read it free if you have kindle unlimited. It’s a sequel of sorts to Under the Wall.

the eastern state penitentiary tunnel escape – 70th anniversary

In keeping with my recent policy of being asleep at the wheel on this blog, I managed to miss the 70th anniversary of the 1945 tunnel escape from Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. For the record, the breakout happened on April 3, 1945. You’d think I’d have remembered to do a This Day in Crime History post about it, especially since I wrote and published a true crime short story about the escape.


Here’s the book description from Amazon:

In 1945, twelve inmates, including notorious bank robber Willie Sutton and mob trigger-man Frederick “The Angel” Tenuto, escaped from Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia through a one hundred foot tunnel. Some would be captured quickly. Others would not go down so easily.

Under the Wall is a true crime short story. Approximate length: 5,000 words (about 20 printed pages)

If you’re interested in learning the whole story, you can buy Under the Wall for the low, low price of 99 cents. It’s available at the following ebook retailers:




Barnes & Noble


happy new year


Happy New Year, everybody. My New Year’s Eve was pretty low key. I spent the evening at home, watching a movie and surfing the internet. Exciting, right? I haven’t really made any concrete resolutions for the new year. I do intend to put more effort into writing. Last year I managed to finish my first novel, write a novella, write a 9k word short story and finish a short story I’d started years earlier, so I’m hoping to be on the right track here.

On the non-writing front, 2013 was a pretty crappy year for me. In fact, the last four years have really sucked. I’m really hoping for some improvement this year. I know that things could always be worse. But things also have the potential to get better, and I’m really ready for some better right about now.

I hope you all have a great day and a great 2014. And if I haven’t said it before, I’d just like you to know that I appreciate all of you who visit my blog, “like” my posts, and leave comments. It’s good to know someone out there is reading my drivel.  😀

Photo: New Year’s Eve 2006, Sidney, Australia. Photo taken by Rob Chandler.

something to cross off my bucket list


As I’ve alluded to in a couple of previous posts, I’ve been busy with a major writing project. Long story short (pun partially intended), at 9:57 pm on Monday night, I completed my first novel. Now, I’ve written short stories before. Some of them are (or have been) published in various online venues. One was included in an ebook anthology from Untreed Reads. And there are still a few sitting on my hard drive, yet to be seen by the reading public. But a novel? Well, I’d started a few of those, but never finished. Never even got halfway finished. In fact, I don’t think I ever got past the 10% completed mark on any of them. So, needless to say, this was a big deal for me.

A little history: I started this novel in December 2010. That’s when the file containing the manuscript was created. True to form, I didn’t get very far with it before quitting. Sometime last year, I got it in my head that I needed to get my ass in gear and get to work on it. So in the spring of 2012, I started in on it again. I tried to write some every day. Some days were better than others. By the fall, I was just past halfway done when I realized that I hated this book. It sucked. Best to not waste any more time on it. So I tossed it aside and went to work on… nothing.

This spring I was reading an article by some novelist in which he stated that he always reaches a point where he hates every novel he writes. But he just powers through and gets it done anyway. So I figured it was time to go back to work. To that end, every day I’d open the file containing my manuscript. Some days I worked on it. Most, not at all. Pathetic.

A few months back, I was reading writer Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, when I saw a post wherein he announced his intention to blog his experiences writing a novel. He’d post his progress every day so we could all see how he goes about his business. The target length of the novel was 70k words. His time frame: 10 days. Yeah, you read that right, he planned to write a 280 page novel in 10 days. Then he went and did exactly what he was going to do. I was impressed.

So I got my novel out and started pecking away at it. If Mr. Smith could do 7k words a day, I could at least write… some. But it was a slow slog. Then, earlier this summer, Mr. Smith did it again. This time he was going to blog his writing progress on a daily basis for the next year, starting on August 1st.

I decided it was time I was more goal-oriented in my writing. So I set a daily writing goal of 1000 words a day on work days and 2000 words a day on days off. A few times I came up short. Most days I hit my target. Often times, I exceeded it. Sometimes by a lot. From the beginning of August until typing “The End” on Monday night, I wrote about 28k words. Total word count is just shy of 75k. And I wrote more than a third of that in 19 days. While holding down a full time job. For all I know, the book is complete crap. But I finished, dammit!

Okay, now a bit about the book. It’s a heist story. It’s told in first person with a criminal protagonist. Think Richard Stark’s Parker, as written by Jim Thompson. As I mentioned above, it clocked in at just under 75k words, which translates to about 300 pages.

What I have now is a first draft. I wrote it over such a long period of time, I’m certain there are a number of problems with it. There are probably some inconsistencies. And some themes that were important to me in the beginning fell by the wayside later in the book. Plus, there are probably the usual spelling, punctuation and grammar error, not to mention overused words and phrases. So there is more work to be done. But not yet. I’m going to let some time pass before I look at it again. That way I’ll have a fresh perspective on it. In the meantime, I have some other projects to work on.

rip, elmore leonard


Sad news today, author Elmore Leonard died this morning of complications from a stroke. The news first broke on his official Facebook page, which is run by his researcher Gregg Sutter. He was 87 years old.

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that Mr. Leonard is one of my favorite authors. In fact, Elmore Leonard and the late Donald E. Westlake are my all-time favorite authors (Mr. Westlake passed away in 2008). Some of my favorite movies — Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, and Out of Sight — were based on his books, as is Justified, one of the best shows on TV.

Beyond just writing great books (as if if that wasn’t enough), Elmore Leonard is the reason I read — and write* — crime fiction. Once upon a time, I mostly read spy novels and military techno-thrillers. Sometime in the early 90s, I got tired of that and gave up reading fiction. Yup, you read that right. For the better part of a decade, I was one of those guys who said “I don’t read fiction” (emphasis on that last word to emphasize douche-y air of superiority).

Fast forward to 2002. The 9/11 attacks had happened a few months earlier. As a member of the Air National Guard, I was mobilized and deployed… to Florida. Yeah, go figure. Anyway, I was down there working on the homeland defense mission. I had a pretty cushy existence compared to folks who were getting sent of Afghanistan. A room to myself. A rental car. And a beautiful schedule that had me working 12 hour shifts, 3 days on, 3 off. Lots of time off to enjoy the Sunshine State.

The problem is that I was alone. I was an augmentee in an existing unit. Oh, I worked with people every day, but they were all permanently stationed there. At the end of the duty day, they all went home to their families. I went back to my room. So I spent a lot of my time watching movies. But you can only watch so many movies. And I had to eat out a lot. Eating out alone bores the hell out of me. Unless I have something to read. So I decided to return to reading fiction.

Going back to techno-thrillers didn’t appeal to me. I got enough of the military at work. So I gave crime fiction a try. And what better crime fiction author to read than the man who inspired some of my favorite movies. So I went to the library and checked out Killshot, by Elmore Leonard. I chose that title because it hadn’t (at that time) been the basis for a movie. I wanted to read something I wouldn’t be comparing to a movie.

Long story short, I loved it. I followed up with Freaky Deaky (my personal favorite), Pagan Babies, Get Shorty, and Riding the Rap (the second Raylan Givens novel). I’ve since read many more. I haven’t read all of his novels yet, but I plan to.

Thank you, Mr. Leonard, for the entertainment you have brought to millions of people. You will be missed.


*I know, some of you are scratching your heads and saying, “Writing, he writes crime fiction? First I heard o’ that.” Others among you are scratching your heads and saying, “Yeah, he did used to write. What happened?” All I can say is that after an extended period of laziness, I have been busy writing me some crime fiction. In fact, I’ve been pretty busy in August. More on that tomorrow.

we now return you to our regularly scheduled programming… sort of

Boldt Castle on Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY
Boldt Castle on Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY

I took a few days vacation last week and went north to visit family. I got back on Monday, but blogging has been put on the back burner. In addition to the vacation, I’ve also been involved in a major writing project that’s been eating up much of my spare time. I’m hoping to be back on schedule with my regular blog features tonight. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Boldt Castle I took on Sunday.