"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of The Big Reap, The Wrong Goodbye and Dead Harvest.

"Bagley's got the poet's eye, but that doesn't mean everything is prettier in his work. It means the ugly stuff is more vivid. More intense. Like a sudden switch from analog to HD. And that's a trait to very much admire in his work." --Anthony Neil Smith, author of Hogdoggin', Yellow Medicine, The Drummer and Psychosomatic.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Back in the Saddle

So, it’s back out there.

Bitter Water Blues, that is.

For the first time in four years, I have submitted the manuscript of that novel to a publisher. I didn’t think I’d ever send it anywhere again. In fact, I once swore that I wouldn’t.

But now that I’ve had enough time away from Bitter Water Blues, away from the well-meant but misguided influence of my former agent, I’m in love with it again. The writing of Bitter Water Blues took up five years of my life. That was just the first draft.

Then came my own grueling revision process. Then came my agent’s ideas for revision, every time the manuscript got rejected. Seven rejections? Seven re-writes based on each editor’s comments, until the novel was morphed into a thriller. Now, I have nothing against thrillers or those who write them, but I’m not a thriller writer. It just ain’t me.

Bitter Water Blues was conceived as a “down-and-dirty crime novel,” to quote James Patrick Kelly, one of my amazing mentors. Turning it into a thriller was painful. No, it was fucking traumatic. My agent was good at what she did, but she had no understanding of noir.

My panic attacks started around that time, the long autumn of 2009. Coincidence?

And seven rejections? Seven?

As no less an authority than John Connolly told me, seven rejections is nothing. His first novel racked up enough rejection slips to deforest the Amazon basin before it was finally published. So, after venting to Scott Wolven, David Anthony Durham and Jim Kelly, I parted ways with my agent. Yes, I’m dropping a lot of names here, but there a lot of writers for whose assistance and advice I will be forever grateful.

Not long after that, I put Bitter Water Blues into a file and told myself it was time to move on to something else. Five years of writing and two years of re-writing had soured me on that particular novel. I consigned it to “trunk novel” status. I had too many new ideas.

For various reasons, one of which concerns the state of my mental health, I wrote almost nothing from 2009 to 2014. There were a lot of starts and stops with nothing ever getting finished.

Lately, though, inspiration has returned. Both of my daughters are compulsive writers. I see them writing almost every day and it gives me a much-needed push. I’ve also gotten some words of support from Chris F. Holm, Michaela Roessner and John Florio—writers for whom I have tremendous respect.

I’m writing again. I’m working on a horror/crime novel. The process is slow, painful and frustrating, but it still feels good.

So, it’s back out there.

I opened up Bitter Water Blues—my Bitter Water Blues, not the Franken-novel it became—a couple of days ago and started reading. Guess what? I’m in love with it again. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.

And it’s back out there. I submitted it to a small press that specializes in dark crime fiction. Noir is best served by small press. I love small press. I used to work for a small press. Small press is where I always thought Bitter Water Blues belonged. It should never have been submitted to Little, Brown or Scribner’s. Scribner's, for fuck's sake!

What happens next?

Acceptance or rejection, that’s what happens next.

Beyond that, I have no fucking idea. We’ll just have to turn the pages together.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mid-Coast Halloween Reading: Jen Blood, Katherine Silva and Patrick Shawn Bagley

This is going to be an excellent reading with two talented writers, plus...um, me! Two out of three ain't bad, and they're not even charging admission. So if you're in the mid-coast Maine area on October 24, I hope to see you there.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Breath & Shadow

Ability Maine is a nonprofit organization which advocates for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities. They also produce a blogzine called Breath & Shadow, which spotlights writing by many of the people they support. Each issue brings some excellent poetry, nonfiction, flash fiction, short stories, essays and reviews. The Spring 2013 issue features hard-hitting piece of flash fiction by William Ward called "The Jungle." Check it out today. You won't be disappointed. You might even see things from a new perspective.

It's Almost Reapin' Time

As the release date for his third novel (The Big Reap) draws closer, Chris F. Holm reflects on the writing life.

Friday, May 3, 2013

WWEAPD (What Would Edgar Allan Poe Do)?

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the winners of the 2013 Edgar Awards.
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)


The Expats by Chris Pavone (Crown Publishers)


The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted

the Last Days of Old China by Paul French (Penguin Group USA – Penguin Books)

The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics
by James O’Brien (Oxford University Press)


"The Unremarkable Heart" – Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance
by Karin Slaughter (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Mulholland Books)


The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Abrams – Amulet Books)


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Disney Publishing Worldwide - Hyperion)


“A Scandal in Belgravia” – Sherlock, Teleplay by Steven Moffat (BBC/Masterpiece)


"When They Are Done With Us" – Staten Island Noir
by Patricia Smith (Akashic Books)


Ken Follett
Margaret Maron


Oline Cogdill
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, San Diego & Redondo Beach, CA


Akashic Books


(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, May 1, 2013)

The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Start (Maybe)

Here's something I wrote last night, trying to set a mood. I don't where this piece might go, but it feels like an okay start.

Two years working on Elman Luce’s farm and Doyle had never once set foot in the old man’s house.  Now here he was, sitting at the kitchen table across from his boss while Mrs. Luce busied herself with fixing supper.  Doyle took in the cross-stitched Bible verses hung between the windows, the linen calendar, the electric range sitting next to the old wood-fired cook stove, the handmade oven mitts and the linoleum floor—spotless except for small black burns where someone had been careless when emptying the stove of coals and ashes.  It was house so unlike his own; even though he’d been asked in, he felt like an intruder.

Luce stared at the table, rubbing with his thumb at a worn spot in the Formica top.  The old man blew through his nose and pushed himself up from the table, lumbered over to a cupboard from which he took a bottle of whiskey that sat on a high shelf.  The bottle was mostly full.  With his wife scowling at him, Luce poured some into two tumblers and handed one to Doyle.

A cold feeling seeped through Doyle’s guts.  Elman Luce’s stinginess with liquor was just as legendary as Mrs. Luce’s hatred of the stuff. Whatever the old man had to tell Doyle, it wasn’t going to be a joke.