Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Anniversary to The Beloved Spouse

 Today The Beloved Spouse™ and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We were actually married November 27, 2009, but we chose that date because it was the day after Thanksgiving. My parents were visiting for the holiday, and The Sole Heir™ was off school. The whole thing was a surprise, with security the NSA would have been proud of. Only the two of us and the celebrant knew what was up.

 

So why not celebrate the event on the actual date? We were both working then, and the day after Thanksgiving was the one day we knew we’d be off. The “reception” was at Famous Dave’s, so that’s where we go every year. (We chose Famous Dave’s because that’s where we met, and both my parents loved it.)

 

Those of you who have been keeping up know I retired this year. It’s reasonable to wonder why we still use the day after Thanksgiving to commemorate the event. We like it. It became yet another quirky thing in a relationship that might not work for anyone else, but we thrive in it. This year is special because on our actual wedding day, we were watching hockey when the celebrant showed up, knocked on the door, and asked if anyone wanted to get married. (There was an elaborate set up, which I can get into another time if you’re interested.) As luck would have it, this year the Penguins are playing the same team they played that day (the Islanders), though it’s not an afternoon game.

 

I’ll conclude with this: Happy anniversary to my Beloved Spouse. No offense to The Sole Heir’s mother (with whom both Corky and I get along famously), but it took me a while to appreciate the value of spending my life with someone who accepted me for exactly who I am and didn’t try to change a thing. (All right, there are 1,275 kitchen rules, but that’s quibbling.) Even TSH’s mom has described TBS as “The love of Dana’s life,” living proof it’s always better late than never.

 

Happy anniversary to the love of my life.

 

(Editor’s note: Needless to say, the day after Thanksgiving has not been referred to as Black Friday here at Castle Schadenfreude since November 26, 2009.)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

What I've Been Watching

 

I don’t keep track of all the movies I watch like I used to. Part of this is because, now that I’m retired, I watch a lot more movies. I don’t want it to become a task, so, in the immortal words of Ray “Bones” Barboni, I say “Fuck that.” Another part, somewhat related, is that since retired people can do whatever they want, keeping track of every movie I see is not something I particularly want to do. Again quoting Mr. Barboni, I say “Fuck that, too.”

 

I have seen some things recently that are worthy of comment, and what else are blogs good for if not to bore your friends with your personal opinions?

 

Cheers. We’re into Season 5 and loving every episode. I’d seen just about all of them when they originally aired, but it’s a delight to go back and see how good this show was through more experienced eyes. I’ve always been a Ted Danson fan, but watching him now, knowing what subtle things to look for, is fascinating. The same applies on a somewhat lesser level to George Wendt. Season 4 is when they made the transition from Coach to Woody, and it’s great fun to see Woody Harrelson get his start, knowing where his career goes from here. The humor holds up well, though some of the attitudes would not pass muster in today’s culture.

 

Killing Them Softly (2012) Based on George V. Higgins’s novel Cogan’s Trade, an unorthodox but highly effective look at life in the underworld. It appears no one outside the crime fiction community cared for this dialog-heavy, character driven adaptation, but that’s okay. (It’s Higgins, dumbasses; what did you expect?) Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini are perfect, and director Andrew Dominik knew how much of Higgins’s book to leave alone. Highly recommended.

 

Cellular (2004) I don’t post unflattering book reviews, but I will for movies. Why the difference? Books have a hard enough time getting traction as it is. Dozens of people vet movies before they get made, and have millions of dollars invested in them. When such a deeply flawed system produces a true stinker, it’s only fair to point it out, as a warning to others that this is dog shit, don’t get any in your eyes. In Cellular, a wholly implausible premise works its way through enough holes for not just a golf course, but a whole resort. We watched it because we’re Jason Statham fans, but he’s not in it much. Even when he is, he has shit material.

 

The Bank Job (2008) I dumped on Jason Statham above, so it’s only fair I point out a movie that surprised me in a positive way. Based on a true story, The Bank Job has Statham front and center as the brains behind a complicated bank robbery that is not what it appears, even to the robbers. A highly entertaining film all around.

 

Official Secrets (2019) Keira Knightley stars as a young MI6 prole who stumbles onto an email that incriminates the American and British governments in blackmailing foreign UN ambassadors on the Security Council into voting for the 2003 war in Iraq. Based on actual events, it’s a chilling story of individual courage, the lengths governments will go to save face, and how even elected officials occasionally buck what’s good for their careers to help a constituent.

 

Goodfellas (1990) The memories of a few scenes are so strong from this film it’s sometimes easy to forget how great it is. (“Get your shine box.” “You think I’m funny?” “Fuck you, pay me.”) The only real criticism I’ve heard of this film is that it glamorizes mob life, but that overlooks the fact director Martin Scorsese tells the story through the eyes of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), whose sole ambition in life was to be a gangster. The more he sees how things work, and the deeper he’s involved, the more the glamor wears away until everything falls apart in the end. Scorsese doesn’t hit you over the head with it, but the ultimate message here is these guys all end up either in prison or dead. In anticipation of the reasonable question, “Did Henry Hill really look at the mob that way?” read the sequel to Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy, Gangsters and Goodfellas, written by Hill himself to describe his life in witness protection. A bigger piece of shit than Henry Hill would be difficult to find.

 

The Many Saints of Newark (2021) I don’t know that it’s a bad movie, but anything that hangs its rep so closely to The Sopranos should have been much better than this.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

An Interview With Weldon Burge, Author of Harvester of Sorrow and Founder of Smart Rhino Publishing

 

I first met Weldon Burge at a Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference several years ago, when the conference was still in the wilds of Hunt Valley MD. After a few panels we noticed that, not only were we always attending the same panels, we tended to end up with one of us sitting directly behind the other. That led to conversation (“Are you stalking me?”) and friendship. Getting to see Weldon is a highlight of every C3 I attend.

 

Weldon’s new book, Harvester of Sorrow drops next week from Suspense Publishing, though that’s not all he had going on, as the interview will show.

 

One Bite at a Time: Howdy, Weldon. It’s good to see you here. What’s the skinny on Harvester of Sorrow?

 

Weldon Burge: Ah, the skinny. Harvester of Sorrow is about a dedicated and insightful police detective, Ezekiel Marrs, who embarks on a race to solve a series of vicious crimes involving murder, kidnapping, tainted cocaine, and voodoo. Marrs and his team of fellow officers must confront two of the most vicious villains they have ever encountered.

 

The novel, published by Suspense Publishing, is the first in a planned series of police procedurals. I’ve written for Suspense Magazine for about a decade, mostly writing author interviews. Submitting the book to Suspense Publishing, an imprint of the magazine, made total sense.

 

I’ve always wanted to write a police procedural, and I’ve always had an interest in voodoo. Combining the two elements as a thriller was my objective when drafting the book—which, by the way, took me more than a decade. Much of what I wrote never made it into the book. Guess that’s common for many novelists.

 

OBAAT: It’s not unusual for thrillers to have supernatural aspects; it is for procedurals. A high-concept description of HoS could be “Law & Order meets Angel Heart.” How did this develop in your mind?

 

WB: Well, I’m a big Ed McBain fan, and one of the first McBain books I read was Ghosts. McBain handled the supernatural elements well in that police procedural. Even Stephen King praised the novel. There are other crime novels with supernatural aspects, but that’s the one that immediately comes to mind. And I loved how McBain defined his characters largely through dialogue. I attempted the same style with Harvester of Sorrow.

 

Law & Order meets Angel Heart. Wow, I’m honored, that’s a pretty accurate description of Harvester of Sorrow now that you mention it. Well, I hope readers will make those comparisons as well. I’ve always been a reader and writer of horror and suspense fiction, so the storyline for the novel was something of a no-brainer for me. The two genres are my playground. To be honest, the genres make for a superb marriage. So, I played it that way as I wrote the book. And I’ve always thought horror and humor are kissing cousins, so there’s a good deal of dark humor in the blend as well. I hope readers will enjoy it.

 

 

OBAAT: The book spans eleven years; I’ve never had the balls to have a story last longer than a few months. How did you keep your threads together when skipping ahead?

 

WB: The beginning of Harvester of Sorrow takes place in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1982 and introduces the main villain, Edouard LeBorg. His story over the following eleven-year time span is basically his history, which is told as the novel’s story progresses. The core of the police procedural elements take place in a six-month period in 1993. Juxtaposing the two threads was relatively easy—I approached them as two stories that complemented each other. The trick was sequencing them at best effect. I think the strategy worked in the polished book.

 

OBAAT: You have multiple irons in the fire, as you’re also the driving force behind Smart Rhino Publications. How did you get into that, and how much of your time does it demand?

 

WB: I’ve always wanted to start a small, independent publishing company that focuses on suspense and horror fiction. Beyond that, there are two major reasons I launched Smart Rhino back in 2012.

 

First, I’m a huge fan of anthologies, like Dark Crimes, Stalkers, Predators, Transgressions, and all those Alfred Hitchcock anthos ages ago. My desire to publish an anthology led to the first Zippered Flesh horror anthology. To date, we’ve published fifteen books, eight of which were anthos.

 

Second, I enjoy collaborating with other writers, especially talented writers who haven’t quite hit the limelight yet. I’m a “pay-it-forward” guy. I appreciate the many folks who have supported me over the years, and helping writers better their careers is a natural ambition of mine because of it. Starting Smart Rhino Publications, especially with the anthologies, provided an opportunity for me to develop venues for those authors. I’ve worked with more than a hundred writers over the years. That means more to me than you know!

 

The Smart Rhino projects demand a great deal of time. I received 120+ submissions for the last anthology, with only twenty-four slots available in the book. I read every story. I also edit and format each book. (I do, however, rely on a cover artist, cover designer, and proofreader for each book.) So, yep, time is always an issue. But I love doing it, so I make the time.

 

OBAAT: Smart Rhino also recently published, Asinine Assassins. Tell us a little about that one.

 

WB: That’s the third in the “Assassins” series of anthologies Smart Rhino has published. The first two, Uncommon Assassins and Insidious Assassins, were straight-up suspense anthologies. Well, with a smattering of dark humor. When pulling together Asinine Assassins, I wanted to go full tilt into darkly humorous and tongue-in-cheek stories—weird and yet suspenseful, even wacko and surreal tales. I mean, there are stories about murderous otters, a vastly different take on Jack the Ripper, a vengeful deer, and a female assassin who is far too hung up on fashion. And that’s just a taste of the twenty-four stories in the collection. I don’t think there is another anthology out there with a similar spirit and focus. It was the most fun yet of the Smart Rhino anthologies I’ve pulled together and edited. The writers took the theme and ran with it, and I’m deeply appreciative of their diverse talents.

 

OBAAT: What’s up next, and what are you working on now?

 

WB: I’m currently about one hundred pages into my next novel, a paranormal mystery. (I guess I can’t get away from that “supernatural” thing.) I’ve played with a dozen or more titles for the book, but none have thrilled me. Regardless, I’m thinking this may be the first in another series. We’ll see.

 

After that, I’ll turn to writing a sequel to Harvester of Sorrow. The next book will have no supernatural elements at all and will pick up where the other novel left off. I like that sense of continuity in a series, and it allows for further character development. Referring again to Ed McBain, his 87th Precinct series began in 1956 and ended in 2006—we’re talking fifty-two books! The continuity he established with his host of characters, over so many decades, was astounding. I hope, as I develop my series, I can accomplish something similar.

 

Thanks, Dana!

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Dietrich Kalteis, Author of Under an Outlaw Moon

 

I met Dietrich Kalteis through mutual friends at Bouchercon several years. It was a fortuitous introduction. In addition to being an outstanding writer, Dieter is as nice a person as you’re going to met, even by Canadian standards. His new book Under an Outlaw Moon, dropped earlier this week from ECW Press, which provided the perfect opportunity to see what he’s been up to.

 

One Bite at a Time: Welcome back, Dietrich. It was great to leave you alone on the blog for your previous visit, though The Beloved Spouse™ commented you left the seat up. What’s the quick and dirty on your new book, Under an Outlaw Moon?

 

Dietrich Kalteis: The novel’s based on the true story of Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson. He’s out for kicks and she longs to feel wanted. When they pull a bank robbery to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, the ensuing fireworks are more than they ever bargained for.

 

OBAAT: Your three most recent books are period pieces: Under an Outlaw Moon and Call Down the Thunder are Depression-era pieces; Cradle of the Deep is late 70s. What is it about times past that’s drawing your attention?

 

DK: The setting comes about depending on the story that I have in mind, wanting the perfect time and place to set the story’s mood. 

 

The seventies was the right for Cradle of the Deep. A woman flees from her gangster boyfriend, running off with the gangster’s ex-chauffeur. Jumping into the front seat of the gangster’s Cadillac, they take off. Of course, there was no GPS, cell phones, or satellite networks back then that would betray them. As the couple races through northern British Columbia, heading to a remote town bordering Alaska, they are being hunted by a stone killer sent by the jilted gangster. The remote setting creates a dead end, and adds to the peril they find themselves in.

 

Call Down the Thunder is the story of a couple who are on the verge of losing everything due to hard times, and they’re pushed to the wall. The bleakness, desolation, and threat of danger surround their life on the struggling farm back in Dustbowl times.

 

While researching that story, I stumbled across the true story of Ben and Stella Mae Dickson, a couple of real-life bank robbers from the same era. I was intrigued by their story and decided it was one that wanted to be told.

 

OBAAT: UaOM is based on a real couple. Is this the first time you’ve done this? What was it about these two outlaws that attracted you?

 

DK: Yes, it’s the first time I’ve written about real people, getting to know them and their story through a lot of research. They weren’t vicious killers, just two young people in the wrong place at the wrong time, landing on the FBI’s most wanted list, and ending in the crosshairs. 

 

OBAAT: I don’t suppose you ever tire of being linked as a writer to Elmore Leonard. (I know I wouldn’t.) In one of our earlier interviews, you cited him and James Ellroy influences. Has that changed, or evolved? If not, are there different things about their writing that influence you now?

 

DK: Every now and then I get the Elmore craving, rereading one of his novels. And I’m still catching up on a couple of Ellroy novels that I haven’t read yet. There are many authors and books that draw me in, and the wonderful thing is there are so many great ones out there. Lately I’ve been reading Walter Mosley, Tim Dorsey, Daniel Woodrell, James Lee Burke, and Reed Farrel Coleman’s Parker books — all of them inspiring.

 

Outside the crime genre I’ve been reading Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Donn Pearce, Saul Bellow, Thomas Berger, Salman Rushdie, and Tom Wolfe to name a few — and all highly recommended.

 

OBAAT: I know you like to make up stories as you go. Have you ever been well into a book and realize you’ve written yourself into a corner? If so, what do you do. (Asking for a friend.)

 

DK: Dear friend of Dana: I don’t usually paint myself into a corner, but I’ve had to back up a few times. It usually starts with a single idea, to which I create the characters I want to see involved, and I write it scene by scene. I’ve balled up my share of paper and reworked chapters and changed direction midstream, but that’s all part of the process, and it’s how I get it to where I want it to be. On a second draft, I usually write a timeline, a way of checking the sequence of events. It’s what works for me.   

 

OBAAT: The standard concluding question: What are you working on now?

 

DK: Right now, I’m shaping a few ideas for a new novel, and I’m at that ‘I don’t know if this will work’ stage. And I have one more complete and set to come out next Spring from ECW Press. It’s called Nobody from Somewhere, a crime tale set in Vancouver in present time. There’s also got another crime story complete and signed after that. And I’ve just sent in a historical novel, based on another true crime story.

 

Many thanks, Dana, for inviting me over. You ask the best questions.

 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Going Down Yonder

 

The Beloved Spouse™ and I have wanted to go to an event at Yonder since it opened. Life (read: covid) conspired to prevent such an excursion until last week. It was worth the wait. (I’ll not get into the fact that we shouldn’t have had to wait so long. Thanks, you unvaccinated assholes.)

 

For those unaware, Yonder – Southern Cocktails and Brew, is a drinking establishment and meeting place in Hillsborough, NC that has been described as Hillsborough’s living room. Owned and operated by Eryk Pruitt and his lovely wife Lana Pierce (of whom Eryk is wholly undeserving), Yonder holds regular musical and literary events, including Noirs at Bars a few times a year. (If you unfamiliar with Noir at the Bar, look it up. This is One Bite at a Time, not fucking Wikipedia.)

 

Last Thursday (October 21) the good people at Yonder (and Eryk) held a special Noir at the Bar to commemorate Halloween by inviting several horror writers along with a top shelf cast of crime authors. The result was the best Noir at the Bar I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a goodly number. (Read at several, and hosted one, too. Yonder’s horror night was still best.)

 

A few general observations before I get specific.

·       Those typically associated with crime all had an element of crime in their stories, the horror writers, not so much.

·       Crime writers tend to tell their stories through dialog; horror writers are typically more narrative-based. This is not a hard and fast rule.

·       I have never been to a Noir at the Bar where the performance level was close to this high. Not only were all the stories outstanding (let’s face it, N@Bs are anthologies, so maintaining a uniform level of quality can be an issue), the readings were uniformly excellent. No one just read; they performed, and they all nailed it.

 

This was among the fastest two-and-a-half hours I ever spent.

 

Everyone deserves credit. I had three beers, so I don’t remember the exact sequence in which everyone read, so here’s the list in alphabetical order.

·       Nathan Ballingrud read the opening of a story about a bookseller who clearly deals more than paperbacks out of the back room. What, we don’t know. I’ve already ordered his book so I can see what happens next.

·       Natalia Barron’s excerpt was as dark as its subterranean setting would suggest, and left everyone wondering where the story would go.

·       Michele Tracy Berger read a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of moving from one fast food employer to another.

·       S.A. Cosby supplied a harrowing tale of the backstory to a horrific shooting binge.

·       Rob Hart told of a new restaurant experience in New York City that will give you pause before going to another potluck dinner.

·       Jamie Mason’s story talked about one supernatural entity rousing itself to fight another, more malevolent one.

·       Katy Munger took the Halloween theme seriously, telling a story that combined laugh out loud humor with a disquieting warning of who can hide in plain sight on Halloween.

·       Eryk Pruitt creeped everyone out with a tale of a side of dom/sub relationships people never think of.

·       Todd Robinson read of redemption and forgiveness after a horrific tragedy.

·       Cadwell Turnbull’s vampire story taught the dark side of eternal life.

 

I’m not a horror guy, so I was unfamiliar with the horror writers who read that night, and was profoundly impressed at the quality of their stories, and writing, compared to what I remembered from my young adulthood, when I read a fair amount of it. A personal re-assessment of the genre may be in order. They were also all new to the Noir at the Bar experience, so it was a treat to see how much fun they had in the company of people who love to write and read.

 

No assessment of the festivities would be complete without mention of the host, Tracey Reynolds. I’ve hosted a Noir at the Bar and can attest that, while it’s not particularly difficult, it’s not something you just roll out of bed and do. One must prepare, and an ability to read an audience and pace the performance is imperative. I’ve never seen anyone do it better than Tracey. (And no one – no one – handles a microphone condom better.)

 

In addition to all the above (like that wasn’t enough), this was an opportunity for The Beloved Spouse™ and me to reconnect with some good friends face-to-face. The trip would have been a success had the reading flopped, just so we could see Eryk, Lana, Todd, and Shawn to trade hugs, news, and insults. I knew Rob Hart slightly from social media, and it was a treat to get to meet him in person, as well.

 

As it was with everyone I met. I made a point of telling the writers I didn’t know beforehand how much I enjoyed their work, and not just because I know how good that feels after such an event. I genuinely did enjoy their stories, and I hope this becomes an annual event at Yonder.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Process Evolves

 

I have long considered first drafts to be the heavy lifting of writing. I enjoy playing with ideas as I put together the outline, and there’s great satisfaction in editing and rewriting, as I can see the raw material of the first draft evolve into what I’d consider an acceptable book.

 

I’m trying something new with the first draft of the next Penns River book (working title The Spread). It’s early on – only a handful of chapters in – but the idea shows great promise, and it’s making the first draft a lot more fun to write.

 

A little background: I used Scrivener for the first drafts of the last couple of books, mainly so I can re-arrange the outline as needed, and to keep notes on the same screen as the chapter I’m working on. For the second draft, I split my screen, with Scrivener on top and Word below, then retype everything. To me, that’s better than trying to edit what I’ve already written, as once it’s on the screen, there’s a certain permanence implied. I talked about this before when discussing how it’s easier to leave one’s darlings along the side of the road than it is to kill them.

 

For The Spread I decided to leverage the idea that I was re-writing the first draft no matter how it went. This first draft is much sketchier. What I know goes in, which is mostly dialog, I write up. Everything else – attributions, narrative, descriptions, action – is condensed into a more or less comprehensive set of notes that I can flesh out when I do the rewrite. The end result is somewhat similar to a screenplay, at least visually:

 

[THEY ROLL UP ON THE HOUSE. MCGINNISS COVERs THE BACK. SISLER AND BOSTON GO TO THE DOOR. AS DOC DOESN’T HAVE HIS VEST ON, SISLER KNOCKS.]

S. Jamal Whitlock!

[WHITLOCK STEPS ONTO STOOP BETWEEN COPS.]

JW. Took ya’ll motherfuckers long enough to get here.

S. Stop right there.

JW. I’m give myself up. [DOC DRAWS HIS WEAPON.] Whoa. Ain’t no need for gun play. I told you I’ze giving up.

[CONFUSION. THE COPS DON’T WANT HIM THAT CLOSE, HANDS OPEN OR NOT. THERE’S SOME TUSSLING WHILE THEY GET THE SITUATION HOW THEY WANT IT. PART OF IT CONSISTS OF THEM TRYING TO GET WHITLOCK INTO THE HOUSE AND HIM TRYING TO STAY ON THE PORCH.]

JW. Motherfuckers! I told you I’m coming out, let me get out and you can cuff me up right here on the stoop.

[DOC HAS HIS GUN DRAWN AND AIMED]

D. put your hands out to the sides with your palms facing me.

 

The idea is not to get bogged down in describing things that are peripheral to the main point of the scene. I’ll make those decisions in the second draft

 

What I don’t know yet, and won’t for a couple or three months, is if this makes the second draft as burdensome as the first draft used to be. I’m betting that it doesn’t. First, much of what I’ll have to describe will have had time to ripen in the back of my mind. I’ll also have the context of what else is to come, so if I want to drop in a telling detail, I’ll already know it’s telling.

 

It may also give me an opportunity to decide something doesn’t need to be said. I’ve noticed George V. Higgins having more of an influence on my writing of late, without me consciously making an effort to allow him to do so. (Unlike how I deliberately added some Joe Wambaugh-esque elements in recent books.) I’m not trying to be Higgins – no one can do that – but if that’s where my voice seems to want to go, I know better than to tell it not to.

 

Like I said, it’s an experiment, and it’s early days. Check back here when I’m halfway through the second draft and see how pissy I am. Or, hopefully, not.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

An Interview With Terrence McCauley

 Terrence McCauley and I have been friends since we shared a panel at the Albany Bouchercon in 2013. He’s an even better person than he is a writer, and he’s a damn fine writer with a range that encompasses crime, thrillers, Westerns, and whatever he puts his mind to that day. He recently accepted a position with Wolfpack Press, a growing force in the industry, which gave me an excuse to catch up with him. (“Excuse” as in “He’s a person I’d interview just to bullshit with him but space doesn’t really allow for that.”)

 

One Bite at a Time: Hi, T-Mac. It’s been a while. It’s good to see you here again. You recently took a position with Wolfpack Publishing. What’s the new gig and how did it come about?

 

Terrence McCauley: It’s always great to hear from you, my friend. I when I reacquired my rights to my previously published books, Wolfpack was interested in breathing new life into them. New covers, a new marketing plan and a chance to add to the existing stories I’ve told. I was impressed with the team they have in place at Wolfpack and told them I’d be happy to help them in any way I could. As we began talking about ideas, we all decided it would be a good idea for me to take on the responsibilities of Director of Public Relations. I did it in the public sector for twenty-five years, so I had a lot of transferable skills that prepared me for the role. They’re a fine bunch of people and I’m honored to be working with them.

 

OBAAT: I’ll confess, Wolfpack was under my radar until I read your hiring announcement. I checked the website and saw authors there who have considerable juice. Tell us a little about the company, such as what its goals are, and how it plans to achieve them.

 

TM: The company was started in 2013 by Mike Bray and L.J. Martin. It has quickly grown into a powerhouse in the publishing industry. They company is proudly built on publishing new and classic western novels and will continue to do so. They have recently expanded into Young Adult titles with their Wise Wolf imprint and Mystery/Crime/Thriller novels through the acquisition of Rough Edges Press.

 

Their goal is simple in all the genres they publish. To give readers the best fiction available for an affordable price in both digital and, in their newer publications, print format.

 

When they announced the acquisition of Rough Edges Press, we sent notices to every writing organization we could think of to let them know we were open for business and eager to give under-represented voices a chance at publication. That commitment was one of the main reasons why I agreed to work for them and I’m excited about the future, both for my work and for the work of all the writers who join us.

 

OBAAT: This is a great opportunity to get your books consolidated under a single umbrella. Was that part of your consideration when taking the job, or was it a serendipitous benefit? Were there any problems with getting the rights?

 

TM: My westerns are still being published by Kensington, where I have a spinoff series coming out next year. Wolfpack acquired all my Terry Quinn, Charlie Doherty and University Series novels. They’re also publishing the new Doherty novel, The Wandering Man, and the new University novel, The Moscow Protocol. I had already signed with them for several weeks before we discussed the possibility of me joining the team. I was lucky that everyone involved agreed that Wolfpack Publishing was a better home for the kinds of novels I’ve written and want to continue to write. So, Kensington is home for my westerns and Wolfpack/Rough Edges Press is home for everything else and I couldn’t be happier. 

 

OBAAT: You write in as many genres as anyone I can think of. What are you working on now?

TM: Right now, I’m finishing up a western novel, then will switch over and write a prequel to Prohibition I’ve tentatively titled The Duke Of New York. It’ll be about Terry Quinn in the days after he joins the Doyle mob and how he helps that mob grow in power and prestige. It’ll take place in the same timeline as The Wandering Man. My goal is to write three books apiece that lead up to the events in Prohibition and Slow Burn respectively.

 

I got the idea for those novels because a lot of people have told me they were interested in Quinn and Charlie’s backstories. The Doherty books are in first-person, so I get to show that world from his jaded perspective. Quinn is third person, but anchored in his point of view, so the reader experiences the story from his place in it.

 

I’ll also continue The University Series with as many books as Wolfpack wants to publish.

 

OBAAT: You recently began both a blog and a podcast, both of which I keep tabs on. (And encourage readers to do the same.) What prompted the decisions to do both, and how is it working out for you? Do you enjoy one more than the other?

 

TM: Both are fun in their own ways. I did it because I realized a lot of people did not know that I write in other genres. Fans of my westerns often suggested I write suspense. I was happy to tell them that I have and show them my other books. That’s why the podcast is interesting for me because I cover my approach to each book I’ve written. I talk about the struggles I faced writing each western and how I overcame it. I plan on doing that with all my books in the hopes that writers can hear it and learn from what I went through as I wrote across genres. No book is written in a bubble, and I think others can learn from what I did right and what I did wrong. The podcast also taught me some new skills, which is always good.

 

The blog allows me to mouth off about topics that are top of mind. I like to discuss something current, such as conventions, then add another topic like protecting yourself as a writer.

 

OBAAT: I looked at your website while preparing for this interview (I do prepare for interviews), and it’s beautiful. I see your name next to the copyright notice, so I have to ask if you did it yourself. (Note to Maddee James: No worries. I have no thoughts of changing web teams.)

 

TM: I had done my original website by myself, but after I left my state job more than a year ago now, I decided to invest in my writing career. I worked with Krista Rolfzen Soukup at The Blue Cottage Agency about ways I could enhance my online presence. She suggested Corey Kretsinger of Midstate Design to build it out. Together, the three of us worked on creating something unique. I wrote the content and created the logo. That much I can take credit for. The rest was a team effort and I recommend Krista and Corey to anyone who’s looking to refine their digital presence.