If you're wondering why it's been so long between posts, it's because we've been busy. I said that before, but it's still true. Last year was slow in terms of publication, but productive for our own writing.
We jump-started 2017 with the launch of our novel, Murder on the Mullet Express, and have spent the last two months working on guest posts, interviews, and other promotional activities. We're also hitting the book fairs. That's what you do when you write a book and want it to sell: you get out there and peddle it.
We'll be spending the next two weekends at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival in Fort Meyers and the Venice Book Fair. After that, we'll have a little more time to get Strangely Funny IV to press. We're currently contacting authors about their stories. Once that's done, things with the book should move along nicely.
Other plans for the future: We have at least one single-author collection we'll be publishing this year, and probably one other book once we decide between several other attractive selections.
I'd like to do another anthology, but it may not come to pass. There's only so many books we can do in a year, and we want to spend more time in 2017 focusing on the promotion of all the press' books.
Here at last!
"MURDER ON THE MULLET EXPRESS is an action-packed crime caper set during the Florida Land Boom, as bootleggers, mobsters and grifters galore feed on the dreams of sun-seekers. Teddy and Cornelia, well-nigh unshockable after their WWI tours of nursing duty, are at full stretch as it is - wrangling their eccentric Uncle Percy, when a murder hijacks their trip and throws them in at the deep end. Truly original and tremendous fun with a big heart. Make that two big hearts."
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Someone tried to break into Uncle Percival’s room. Teddy is hung over.
The three of them sat at a small table for breakfast. Cornelia was grateful that none of the other hotel guests had joined them. They needed to figure out who was interested in her uncle and why.
Professor Pettijohn began to order sausage with his eggs.
"That's not a good idea." She indicated Teddy, who was greener than the palm fronds. He wisely switched to bacon.
Cornelia ordered orange juice, eggs, and grits.
Teddy ordered coffee and a bag of ice.
After the waitress left, Cornelia lowered her voice. “Why would someone want to break into your room?”
Pettijohn shrugged. “I brought cash for a down payment. Maybe they wanted it.”
“A number of other people here have cash, too. Probably some brought more than you did, especially the ones in that fancy new hotel. Why you?”
“Maybe they have a list, and it was my turn.”
“I don’t think that’s it. If I were that sort of crook, I would break into a binder boy’s room, not yours,” Cornelia said.
“They wanted to start small?”
She gave him a disgusted look. "Will you please take this seriously?"
The waitress arrived with the coffee and orange juice. She also had a bag of ice on her tray. She handed it to Teddy, who lifted her broad-brimmed hat long enough to tuck it inside.
“There’s my camera,” the professor said. “It’s valuable.”
“Most of the visitors can afford one of their own. If they can afford a winter home in Florida, they can afford a camera. Even one as nice as yours.”
“Perhaps it’s a pair of locals. Men in need of money, and ones who don’t have a car. It’s a fair walk to the new hotel.”
“So, now you’re suggesting they picked you because they were lazy?”
Teddy’s voice, acidic, broke in. “Figure out who they were first. If you know the who, the why might solve itself.”
“Good suggestion,” the professor said.
“I need out of the sunlight,” she replied. “I thought I’d hurry the two of you along.”
“How will we identify these people? What did you see, Corny?”
Cornelia winced at the use of the nickname. “Very little. One was average size, the other was huge. That’s about all I could tell.”
“But you heard their voices.”
“So, we match the voices to the people,” he said. “I think we should do some socializing with my potential neighbors today.”
“Speak more quietly,” Teddy muttered. “I have a fat head.”
The professor ignored her. “Should we begin with the people on our floor?” he asked his niece.
“No,” Cornelia said, “I don’t think they’re staying or working at this hotel. We’ve eaten here every day. I know every voice by now. These men were strangers.”
Gareth Barsby is a graduate of the University of Chester, where he studied Creative Writing and Journalism, but for most of his life, he has used writing to explore weird new worlds. He has a blog where he puts up his written work - myweirdwriting.wordpress.com – has self-published three books – The Werewolf Asylum, Barking Benjamin and Mr. Movie-Maker – and has submitted short stories to several publications.
1. Santa as an agent of Purgatory is a new wrinkle. How did you come up with the idea for Reindeer?
Reindeer is meant as a love letter to my favourite Christmas stories from childhood, and it came about through thoughts on them. Like, I was thinking about the fact that the two most prominent Christmas stories are stories about Santa Claus and Christmas Carol spin-offs, despite the fact that the former is about candy canes and happy elves while the latter is about ghosts and graveyards, and I thought about if there was still a chance these Christmas characters could still be real, even though we now know it was our parents that were giving us our gifts. No-one’s found Santa at the North Pole but he could exist in another plane of reality. Santa doesn’t give people Christmas presents on this plane of reality, but what’s to say he doesn’t on another plane?
So I thought Santa living in Purgatory would allow me to write a story where he could be real yet have people in the “real world” not believe in him, and would allow him, his elves, his reindeer and Toyland to better co-exist with the undead characters of A Christmas Carol. It would also mean putting familiar characters into a new world, which I thought would be a good challenge.
2. Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Did you sit down with cocoa and a candy cane, for example, to write Reindeer? Play holiday carols as you typed away?
Well, replace “cocoa” with “a tonne of coffee” and “a candy cane” with “even more coffee”, and the second sentence is accurate. I did play some music to help immerse myself; not necessarily always holiday carols, but music that I felt evoked Purgatory so I could feel like I was there with Randall. The writing process was mostly just sitting myself down and typing out the story.
3. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoy writing fantasy stories because I find it fun creating a world and its “rules”, so what was probably the most fun thing about Reindeer was creating my own vision of the afterlife. That and creating a new adventure for my favourite Christmas characters.
4. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor and how is that reflected in your work?
I’m not sure I can choose just one mentor. Stephen King’s On Writing was a big help for me and so was How Not To Write A Novel. I’ve been influenced by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and Lewis Carroll and Gregory Maguire, and I don’t know which has influenced me the most. Stephen King said to be a writer you have to write a lot and read a lot, and I think that in a way, everything I’ve read has had a little influence on my writing.
5. What is your current project and can you share a little of it with us?
I have no major projects at the moment, but I do still write short stories and poems from time to time, and I, of course, put them up on my blog.
6. You're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
I enjoy reading all sorts of things. I especially like horror, like Thomas Harris’ Hannibal books, and retellings of older stories (recently finished Christina Henry’s Alice). I also like reading poetry, especially humorous poems like those by Edward Lear.
7. What would you like most for Christmas?
Presenting our first Christmas novel: Reindeer by Gareth Barsby! This isn't like other Christmas stories, though, which usually leave you in a diabetic coma. Is it a mystery? Well, there is a criminal conspiracy. Is it horror? There's a scary ghost, and a lot of dead people. Is it a metaphysical fantasy? Um... probably.
Santa Claus never lived at the North Pole; he lives and operates in Purgatory. He brings presents to those that have not yet ascended to Heaven in order to give them hope. His elves and reindeer are the spirits of those who died during Christmas.
Meet his newest recruit, Randall, a Christmas-loving human turned into a confused and curious reindeer. It’s bad enough for Randall that he now has to live in a world where happiness and saccharine is forced onto him daily, but then he learns that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has history with Santa, and a crooked man is practicing necromancy so as to ruin Santa’s operation.
Can Randall thwart the evil plan and save the holiday he loves?
To find out, visit Amazon, or enter the giveaway below!
Mystery and Horror, LLC, is an indie press interested in what the name suggests.
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