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Thursday, August 11, 2011


I finally got around to starting my new short story, Nix Verrida.  (In case you missed it, you can read about the impetus here:, title slightly changed).  Should be a good one.  I am hoping to crack the upper tier with it.  

There isn't a whole lot of reward with short stories.  You don't get paid.  You rarely get a book deal out of it (although a couple ex-classmates of mine have). And in many ways they are actually harder than writing a novel.  So in short, you've got a lot of work, for next to no reward.  Kind of like the writing profession itself, only suckier.  But there is some payback.  Just comes in spurts and fits.  The biggest reward, you are told as you start out, must be the work itself.  And in a way that's true.  As an artist of any kind, you have to take great solace in a job well done. But on the other hand, it's sorta a load of shit. Because, yeah, you feel good turning a clever phrase, delivering that knock-out final line, but writers, for the most part, have big, black empty holes inside themselves that need to be filled with validation and acceptance, which creates an interesting juxtaposition: individuals in more dire need of a hug than any other faction of society in a field dominated by degrees of rejection.  But don't let me speak for you.  You might be one of those confident, self-assured writers who doesn't need the acceptance of strangers to make you feel worthwhile, and if that's the case, seriously, God bless you.  Keep at it, best of luck, and I hope to see your work in the bookstores someday.  But me, I'm a goddamn vacuous ball of need.  But validation does come and it will keep you going.  Think of it like fuel for the writing engine.  And yesterday, brother, I was running low, the gears sputtering (like when Justine ran out of gas a couple weeks ago, late at night, in East Oakland, a scary scene).  I was limping, didn't see a filling station in sight, and we'll stop there with this marginally entertaining conceit.  

Then I found this:

Todd Robinson is the editor of Thuglit, whose praises I've sung often.  The magazine is currently on hiatus, but I was published in it three times, in fact with three of my favorite stories I've ever written.  You can find everything Thuglit at  And I hope they come back soon. Because I fucking love that magazine.  But this isn't another post about my love of Thuglit.  Well, maybe it is, but in a different way.  

That above link is for an interview Todd gave with Spinetingler back in April. I'd been putting off starting Nix Verrida, because starting a first draft sucks balls, and was checking what my favorite writers are up to these days. There's a whole glut of new noir writers (guys like Todd, Matthew Funk, Mckay Williams, Frank Bill, Keith Rawson, and if I've omitted your name here, it's just an oversight, because there are at least half a dozen more of these guys who are writing kick-ass, cold-cocked crime/noir fiction, with work peppering the best noir ezines (Shotgun Honey, Dirty Noir, Needle, Crimefactory, etc.)  

Anyway, the interview.  So I'm reading it and you should do the same, because it's pretty fucking insightful, but if you're pressed for time, or just lazy, toward the bottom, they ask Todd this: 

Who is the best short story writer that people haven’t gotten hip to yet?
Another tough one. Again, with all the guys I got to read in Thuglit…
Here’s a short list: Frank BillJordan Harper, Justin Porter, Matt FunkJedidiah Ayres, Joe Clifford (italics mine). All guys with whom I worked with on Thuglit, all bookless but for Frank Bill (although that might be changing soon for a couple of those names). Whenever I got a submission from any of them, I’d get excited. Even if it wasn’t a story that made the cut, it was always an interesting read.

You know how cool that was?  Seeing my name like that?  I've been getting my ass handed to me on this book, and yeah, my short stories have been getting taken at a dizzying clip--but that was, like, two weeks ago.  My car don't run on fuel that's two weeks old.  Gaps in validation is spread out like dog years.  And I joke a lot on this blog about what a needy mutherfucker I am, because that's what I'm supposed to do as a writer, mine my depths, shine unflattering lights and all, and I don't think people want to read about how well-adjusted and happy I am.  But it's not like I lie in a quivering ball in my bathroom.  I bitch, and I complain, but by and large, I am like (most of) the rest of you.  Sort of.  I get through my day, and I try to be a good dad, and I do my best to keep my demons at bay, even if it isn't always pretty.  Still, getting unexpected props from a writer and editor you respect?  Fuck, man, I started cranking out Nix Verrida on the fumes alone.  

So I'd like to return the plug, although I don't think we get quite the traffic Spinetingler does.  You can click on the ST link of his name and get some stories (although Pulp Pusher, sadly, is no more).  And here is Todd's latest in Shotgun Honey (, which earned him a much-deserved Bullet Award.  And as always, I strongly encourage you to check out Thuglit or one of its various awesome anthologies (  I know Todd and his agent are currently pushing his novel, The Hard Bounce, and I'm banking that will be out soon.

And I'd like to thank Todd for doing a brother a solid.  The guy has been one of my biggest advocates, publishing my stories, blurbing my novel, and putting me on par with some truly amazing and talented writers.

See?  I can be fucking gracious and positive.

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At August 11, 2011 at 10:19 AM , Blogger DSobczak said...

Joe, that is really cool and am happy for you. Writers that aren't the only ones that can use a pat on the back from time to time. It is sad that so many managers mention that they need to give more positive feedback but they don't practice what they preach. It seems that the negative is always magnified.

Anyway, congrats on this mention and hopefully it moves things along for you in a positive direction.

At August 11, 2011 at 10:22 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Yeah, it would make sense other professionals need validation too. (Did I mention writers are also ridiculously self-abssorbed?)

At August 11, 2011 at 10:43 AM , Blogger Ron Earl Phillips said...

You'd make my short list too. ;)

I read that back then, but sadly half of his recommendations weren't on my radar yet. Thanks to the more venues opening up I'm being acquainted with writers who were only names.

At August 11, 2011 at 10:57 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Well, Ron, seeing how it's guys like you who are providing said v enues--right back at ya, brother! We all appreciate it!


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