Publisher’s Note: Out of the Deep Freeze

The first big story I wrote as a newspaper reporter was about a cold murder case. I was fascinated by how the case that had gone cold for 23 years had eventually been solved by two detectives. They let me look through all of the investigation files once the court case was closed and a woman had been sentenced to 9 years in prison for killing her husband. She shot him in the back with a 12-guage shotgun early one morning in the shoe repair shop they owned. She put their six-month-old daughter down to sleep in the back office, picked up the shotgun and loaded it, and went into the store to kill her husband.

Then she called the police. Crying, sobbing, and barely understandable, she said her husband had been shot during a robbery. A strange man shot him and fled out the back door into an alley. There was a manhunt and over the ensuing months several suspects were lined up for her to identify, but she never claimed any of them was the guy. The case went cold.

But the key to its solution lay right in the heart of the police department. When the two detectives went back over the files 23 years after the murder, they noticed something missing: an interview with the widow where the detectives confronted her about the disastrous state of the family finances for which her husband held her responsible, and the improbability of anyone choosing to rob a small shoe repair store with a shotgun early on a weekday morning, and then vanishing into thin air. Why hadn’t they grilled her about her story?

Because the lead detective on the case, a star in the department, was having an affair with her. Oops.

Cold cases, whether murder or otherwise, are fascinating partly because they have already defeated the people whose job it was to solve them. Maybe the detective had a giant blind spot, or there just wasn’t any evidence. The colder the case, the tougher to solve. But also, when a case has gone unsolved for a long time, the people involved go on about their lives, sometimes they change, sometimes they reinvent themselves, sometimes they bury secrets so deep even they can’t remember them.

This week WMG is having a special promotion of one of our most popular series: Dean Wesley Smith’s Cold Poker Gang. A small group of retired Las Vegas detectives get together to play poker once a week, eat Kentucky Fried chicken, drink iced tea, and solve cold cases. Oh and indulge in a little romance.

The reader reviews of these novels have been very entertaining, partly because people are so clearly enjoying the books. Here’s a typical review from a reader:

“5 stars: Retirees to the rescue!

Who says retirees have to sit on the porch in a rocking chair? These retired detectives sure do not. Mr. Smith created a great mystery and an underlying story as well. I really liked that cuss words were unnecessary as were gory details. It just goes to show that when you are a great writer, you don’t have to use these. Can’t wait to read more of the adventures of these retirees!”

The series starts with Kill Game, and it is free! The rest of the series (eight novels so far) are lining themselves up for anyone who is ready to get a start on their summer reading.

Dean says he often starts a book by choosing a title. He was a professional poker player so all of the Cold Poker Gang novels have titles that relate to poker: Cold Call, Calling Dead, Bad Beat, Dead Hand, Freezeout, Ace High, and Burn Card. The next novel, Side Pot, has had me wondering what it’s about since he announced it…

I’ll have to wait to find out. In the meantime, play big to win big and get the whole series. You could end up with a royal flush!

Publisher’s Note: Didi and Gogo vs the Demons

I imagine the conversations between my two elderly male cats as sounding like Vladimir and Estragon (Didi and Gogo) from Samuel Becket’s play Waiting for Godot. Didi and Gogo’s dialogue runs along the lines: “Gogo: Let’s go. Didi: We can’t. Gogo: Why not? Didi: We’re waiting for Godot. Gogo: (despairingly). Ah!”

My Ollie and Grayson would no doubt sympathize with Cookie Monster when he called Sesame Street’s production, Waiting for Elmo, “A play so modern and so brilliant it makes absolutely noooo sense to anybody.”

But, really, waiting is as natural to cats as napping. Deep thoughts, likewise. Given the time and a quiet space, cats will solve all problems, mostly by out-waiting them.

Sadly yesterday, the noiseless tenor of Ollie and Grayson’s way was abruptly demolished. It happened like this:

(Ollie, svelt black and white; Grayson, large and gray; both washing up in readiness for their post-breakfast naps.)

(A sound of footsteps outside.)

(They lift their heads in unison.)

Grayson: What was that?

Ollie: What was that? Is someone here?

Grayson: Someone’s here.


Ollie: Who is it?

Grayson: Who?

Ollie: Who?

Grayson: Who knows?

(pause, more footsteps)

Ollie: Let’s go.

(He jumps off the bed where most of these conversations occur. Ollie pauses by the bedroom door. He thinks, “Closet? Kitchen cupboard?” Where to hide? What’s closer, safer? He makes his calculations .)

(Then—all hell breaks loose outside. Banging so loud it hurts the eardrums and knocks a picture off the wall. Men yell to each other and laugh—the brutes! An excruciating wrenching sound, like the Titanic breaking up as it goes down in icy waters. Pounding, pounding—will it never stop? Ollie bolts for the closet. Grayson, fatter and arthritic, looks around helplessly, and then heaves his bulk off the bed and lumbers down the hallway to the “safety” of the kitchen.)

Let us draw a curtain on this tragic scene. It went on all day. The drama did not end well. For cats, anyway. Certain indignities and hurt feelings should be relegated to the dark shadows of unrecorded history.

The new siding for the house looks nice, but boy it makes a lot of noise going up.

At WMG, we are all cat lovers. Cats pop up fairly often in WMG fiction. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about that tiny black familiar, Ruby, so cute and yet so mouthy among others. And this week, Dean Wesley Smith has chosen a cat story to begin the latest issue of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, which comes out April 30.

As always, Pulphouse offers up a smorgasbord of short fiction, some of which tickles you, some knocks you upside the head, and some slaps you on the back with slightly off-color bonhomie. The first story this time is called “The Fur Tsunami,” by the late Kent Patterson. It, like Beckett’s Godot, is an absurdist comedy with tragedy at its core. And it’s about cats. Lots and lots of cats.

This new issue includes stories from Pulphouse favorites such as Patterson, Annie Reed, Kevin J. Anderson and O’Neil De Noux, along with some who are new to this publication, Brenda Carre and Robert J. McCarter.

Here’s the description:

The Cutting Edge of Modern Short Fiction.

A three-time Hugo Award nominated magazine, this issue of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine offers up fifteen fantastic stories by some of the best writers working in modern short fiction. No genre limitations, no topic limitations, just great stories. Attitude, feel, and high quality fiction equals Pulphouse.

“The Fur Tsunami” by Kent Patterson
“Unnatural Law” by J. Steven York
“A Cherub by Any Other Name” by Annie Reed
“PMS and a Hand Grenade” by Brenda Carre
“The Disappearing Neighborhood” by Robert J. McCarter
“Hello Brain, It’s Me” by Ray Vukcevich
“Eye of Newt: A Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. Adventure” by Kevin J. Anderson
“Knock on Wood” by Rob Vagle
“Featuring Martin and Lewis” by O’Neil De Noux
“Double Date” by William Oday
“Sleeping with the Devil” by Kelly Washington
“Upgrade? Up Yours” by Jerry Oltion
“Between” by M. L. Buchman
“The Thousandth Atlas” by Robert Jeschonek
“The Injustice Collector” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Minions at Work: Burn Noticed” by J Steven York

Get this lively issue full of entertaining stories by your favorite authors starting Tuesday, April 30.

Meanwhile, if you could just spare a sympathetic thought for cats; the demons who are replacing the siding on our house will continue their dark rites on Monday.

Publisher’s Note: What on earth has happened to Fate?

I am an opera lover—not a taste that I share with many of my friends. Years ago when the Metropolitan Opera still toured the country every year, I would go and sit night after night alone to experience La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, and Carmen. Opera is really about emotion and music, and particularly in the great tragic operas, it’s about Fate.

The stories themselves could be ripped from today’s headlines: poor young girl dies of tuberculosis after quarreling with her lover; woman commits suicide when her heartless foreign lover deserts her; when a rather naïve soldier falls for a gypsy dancer, he kills her after she leaves him for a famous matador. They could have ended differently; Butterfly blackmails her unfaithful former lover into providing for herself and their child, and becomes a wealthy businesswoman, for example.

But Fate! Fate will not be hoodwinked into prosaic endings. When Carmen turns over her cards and each one says La Mort, death!, she understands quite well that nothing awaits her but doom. (No one tries to comfort her by saying, “Well, everything happens for a reason.”)

All of this came to mind this week as we prepare to release Kristine Grayson’s whimsical trilogy, The Fates. Her Fates are quite different. For one thing, there are three of them, and they can’t agree about much of anything let alone dooming lovers to premature death; for another, Grayson’s Fates do not hide in the background and move people around like chess pieces; they get right into the action and mix themselves and everyone else up. But the biggest difference is that no matter what they do, their endings are always happy. Ever after, in fact.

Tomorrow, The Fates Trilogy; A Fates Universe Omnibus will be available everywhere, and you can read Simply Irresistible, Absolutely Captivated, and Totally Spellbound back to back. One after the other, each one says not La Mort, but L’Amour!

Publisher’s Note: Ode to Joy

Sunday I spent a couple of hours talking to my oldest friend. She is exactly three months younger than I am and we’ve been like sisters our whole lives. We live on opposite coasts, so our main communication these days is very long phone conversations a few times a year.

Sunday, after catching up on life and family, old friends and books, we ended up talking about writing. Our fathers were English professors, so maybe it was natural that we both loved reading books and writing from the time we were little. We wrote stories and poems and plays, performed some of them, too. Because it was fun.

Mina went on to get an MA in English and teach professional writing for many years. I ran off to the theater, filmmaking, and journalism. Neither one of us writing fiction. Every ten years or so I’d painfully crank out a short story. Stash it in the proverbial drawer and go back to real life.

But if you work at WMG for Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith—among all the other wonderful writers who contribute to Fiction River and Pulphouse and participate in workshops—the joy of writing fiction kind of sneaks up on you, slips its little hand in yours and asks you to come out and play.

So I did. And do. For fun.

Kris blogged about her youthful writing adventures last week, and it rang a bell for me. Of course, she and Dean do much more than write for fun. Among other things, they have written a whole series of books on the profession of writing, the WMG Writer’s Guides, and Kris has a magnum opus called The Freelancer’s Survival Guide. Countless people have turned to these books for guidance. And now, just in time for Kris’s Spring Writing Storybundle, we are publishing her latest, Writing With Chronic Illness.

Here’s the description:

In this WMG Writer’s Guide, award-winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch offers words of wisdom for writers who suffer from chronic illnesses and who want to keep working, to improve their craft and spread their creative wings.

A long-time sufferer herself, Rusch reports from the trenches. She tells us her own struggle with health issues and how they challenge her. But none of it actually derailed her career; she worked out ways to keep writing, and in the process became an international bestselling author with hundreds of books in print.

Rusch helps writers customize a plan of action based on the writer’s individual experience. She shows how to increase productivity by developing a positive, and realistic, outlook.

Importantly, Rusch points the way to reclaim the joy of writing, and celebrate success.

The bundle has LOTS more in it, too. Look out for it on Thursday; it includes Dean’s lecture on Carving out Time for Your Writing, Kevin J. Anderson’s The Million Dollar Writing Series Boxed Set, and Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s Killing it on Kobo, and six more wonderful books of information and advice for writers.

And now you see why I mentioned the importance of joy. Even if Dean and Kris didn’t talk, write, and lecture about joy often, anyone paying attention would surely detect that the enjoyment of writing is at the heart of what they do and why they do it. And I’m here to tell you it’s infectious.

My friend Mina said I had inspired her to have some fun writing, too. Maybe we can trade some stories before the next time we talk…see? Infectious.

Publisher’s Note: Traitors and Tradecraft

I love spies. I have since I was a kid. In the mid-1960s I loved equally the blunt and brainy Harriet the Spy and the coolly calculating John Drake, hero of the TV show Secret Agent (Danger Man in the UK). The person I really wished to emulate, though, was Emma Peel. And I tried. I found somewhere a pair of soft ankle-high, zip-up leather boots with rubber soles that I could pad around in to watch and listen without being heard.

But these spies were just the tip of the iceberg for me. I read every book by Alastair MacLean I could get my hands on: The Black Shrike, Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra. Graham Greene, Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum and the classic spies of the Cold War era were meat and drink to me.

And then there was John le Carré.

One balmy summer’s evening in my twenties I sat down under an open window to read Smiley’s People. From six o’clock until eleven I didn’t look up,I was so deep in the treacherous world of George Smiley. The next day I found out there had been a fatal motorcycle accident in front of our house, not twenty feet from where I sat under the open window. I’d heard nothing: crash, police, ambulance—nothing.

Such is the power of the spy story for me.

Imagine my delight when Kristine Kathryn Rusch put together the latest Fiction River Special Edition, and it was called Spies. Did I wait until it was published to read these stories? Of course not! The delectable thing about this anthology for a spy fan like me is that every kind of spy story is here. It’s like a tray of all my favorite foods.

There is always a war going on, of some kind or other. Wars against slavery, racism, greed, power grabs, the Cold War, techno-wars, even a species war. And spies fight in those wars, sometimes with outright violence, but mostly with their brains and, yes, their hearts.

Here’s hoping that as my fellow espionage lovers consume this volume of choice morsels—some of them bitter—no vehicles crash outside your windows to disturb you. Or not.

Speaking of great stories, we at WMG want to send our hearty congratulations to Diana Deverell whose story “Mercy Find Me” from Fiction River: Justice, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has been chosen as a finalist for a Derringer Award. It is the poignant story of a woman who comes to terms with both retribution and mercy, as well as her own failings. Diana says the story came straight from her heart. It sure touched mine.

Pick up Justice, available as an ebook or paperback, read Diana’s story—and then keep reading!