Online Issue 17: “Living My Best Life”

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This issue begins and ends with mourning. We mark the passing of long-time reviewer and crime fiction enthusiast, Theodore Feit, with his final review.

We’re also reeling with the fresh pain from the news that Evie Swierczynski has passed away after her fight with leukemia. Many years ago, I was hired to travel to Philadelphia and interview Duane Swierczynski for a magazine feature. I got to meet his children and Meredith. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve known Duane for many years, and yet I do not know him and his family well … and yet Duane’s posts over the past several months have made many of us feel as though Evie was a part of our family, because he captured her spirit and shared her with us all.

All I really know today is that their grief is unfathomable. In the days and weeks ahead I’ll be thinking of Duane, Meredith and Parker as they begin the unfathomable journey forward without Evie.

One thing Duane mentioned months ago was that Evie always said, “Living my best life.” For her, it was a statement of sarcasm in response to misfortunes. (DS FB June 7)

May we all cherish the moments we have and truly live our best lives.

Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a list of ways to pay tribute to a loved one’s memory.

Sticking with the Music Theme

Paul D. Brazill’s Supernatural Noir is out in stores now, and he’s sharing his new work’s playlist with us.

Author Interviews

Kelli Owen talks being a Nerdy Klutz, how that impacts her zombie apocalypse plan, and what a vampire story has to do with prejudice.

Brian Lindenmuth chats with Terrence McCauley about writing westerns.

Robert White talks about Thomas Harris, David Lindsey and Martin Cruz Smith, his protagonist’s biggest fear, and how real life events inspired Northtown Eclipse.

When The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale Collide: Barbara Winkes talks about her Dystopian tale, Cypher.

Reviews:

Sandra Ruttan takes a look at In The Galway Silence, the latest Jack Taylor novel by Ken Bruen.

Brian also has a horror review column up, just in time for Halloween.

And, in sad news, the review of The Line by Martin Limon marks Theodore Feit’s final review. Our condolences to Gloria on Ted’s unexpected passing last month. He was a long-standing reviewer who was committed to sharing his love of books, and will be missed.

Actors Wanted

Tom Leins picks the Actors who Could play Joe Rey, the Gunrunner, Slattery and Wila.

To Be Read Features

Wondering what some of your favorite author are reading these days and hoping to crack open soon?

What Do John Verdon, Annette Dashofy, Gwen Floria, Eric Beetner and Kyle Mills Have in Common? JJ Hensley talks recent reads and more.

J.L. Abramo talks about global events that impact his current reading, works by Erik Larson and Bryan Burroughs and his hopes for new Tim O’Brien novels.

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Casting Call: Tom Leins on the Actors who Could play Joe Rey, the Gunrunner, Slattery and Wila

Who should play your protagonist on TV or in a movie? What is it about them that makes them suit the character – attitude, similar characters they’ve played or appearance or something else?

James Norton as Joe Rey

The protagonist of my new book Repetition Kills You (and my previous book Meat Bubbles & Other Stories) is Joe Rey, a cut-price private investigator, who regularly works as muscle-for-hire to make ends meet. Regular readers may recall that Rey has already had the Casting Call treatment, so I won’t go over old ground here, suffice to say, I picked James Norton – based on his performance as Tommy Lee Royce in the tremendous UK crime drama Happy Valley. The intensity that Norton brought to the role was hugely impressive, and while he was involved in some breathtakingly callous scenes, he was also a master manipulator who displayed a real toxic charm.

Repetition Kills You is a literary jigsaw puzzle. The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. Given the sheer number of characters that weave in and out of the various story strands I was spoiled for choice when selecting characters for this feature. They may not be the obvious choices, but these were the ones that elbowed their way into the Casting Call!

Charles Dance as The Gunrunner

The Gunrunner appears in the story ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, when he hires Rey to retrieve his estranged daughter, Shivonne. If you can imagine Charles Dance with a firearm fetish and a floral-patterned rayon shirt, and you are in the right ballpark!

I always enjoy Dance’s imperious tone, and it would work especially well here, as he talks down to Rey – not a man who enjoys being talked down to! Dance was great in Game of Thrones, but it is his stint as Conrad Knox in Season 3 of Strike Back that resonated more strongly with me when casting this particular role.

Casting Call #2 - Tom Leins - Repetition Kills YouMark Bonnar as Slattery

In the Paignton Noir series, Rey encounters a number of increasingly unhinged father figures, ranging from Wet-Look in Meat Bubbles to Cantonese mobster Malcolm Chung in the forthcoming Boneyard Dogs. In Repetition Kills You, Slattery comes closest to filling this role, albeit in a far more innocuous manner. He runs a sleazy, unsuccessful bar on a near-derelict industrial estate, and Rey and he enjoy an uneasy, unspoken friendship.

Mark Bonnar has worked on some of my favourite British TV shows in recent years (Line of Duty, Unforgotten, Catastrophe) – performing vastly different roles each time – and I think he could effortlessly tap into the shifty, defeated quality that Slattery brings to all of his scenes. The crime dramas may have displayed his sinister side, but the excruciating dark comedy in Catastrophe is a good reference point too – not least the scene where he hires a transsexual prostitute.

PJ Harvey as Wila

Wila appears in the story ‘Howl’, which is the longest piece in Repetition Kills You, and one of my favourites. I don’t want to give too much away, but Wila is a Polish lounge singer with a murky – possibly dangerous – past, who Rey is hired to hunt down.

I’m always surprised that PJ Harvey hasn’t done more film work (her sole acting credit seems to be Hal Hartley’s 1998 movie The Book of Life, which I have never seen), as there is no one quite like her out there. In truth, I’m not sure how well a Dorset-does-Polish accent would work, but I think it is important to have a singer in the role, to make it convincing!  

(Trivia: the song Wila sings mid-way through the story was inspired by ‘Dirge’ by Death In Vegas (which had Dot Allison on vocals), rather than a PJ Harvey track, but I’d love some PJ material on the soundtrack, as I’m a big fan.)

Tom Leins also did a casting call for Meat Bubbles & Other Stories.

Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of a trio of novelettes, SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET and SLUG BAIT, and two short story collections, MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Near To The Knuckle) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books). His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction.

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

Online Issue 16

Lots of crime fiction and horror goodness with Eryk Pruitt, Lucy A. Snyder, Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts, plus a resurrected article on doing great bookstore events (with insights from someone who does this for a living!) and thoughts on authors and social media and toxic tropes.

 

First, an important public service announcement:

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Here on Toe Six:

Eryk Pruitt on truth and storytelling, reading bad books and the appeal of writing short stories

Eryk Pruitt talks about the appeal of writing short stories and how the process helps him focus on lean, mean writing, as well as the inspiration he took from a man with Parkinson’s and The Knockout Game.

The Journey to Publication, Axe Throwing and Tough Protagonists: Lucy A. Snyder talks, snakes, spiders and Garden of Eldritch Delights

Your female horror fix is in: Lucy A Snyder’s Garden of Eldritch Delights puts a lot of female protagonists into stories with titles like “The Yellow Death”, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” and “That Which Does Not Kill You” – just in time for Halloween.

Lucy A. Snyder’s Purrbuddy, Monte

Lucy shares about her author assistant, Monte.

Teeth of the Wolf authors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts talk spending eternity with Hermione Granger, Geysercon, fighting zombies with measuring tapes and hair clips and more

Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts talk about whether or not they relate to their characters and who’s tougher. Dan tells us, “Matiu would kick my butt with one hand in his back pocket, and still look chill while he does it.” Plus, Lee and Dan share their casting call for Teeth of the Wolf.

Reviews:

Review: Dead Man Running by Steve Hamilton  Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Review: Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger  Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Bonus:

Flashback Feature: Having a Successful Bookstore Event

Trying to figure out what will work and what won’t? Author Sarah L. Johnson speaks from experience – both as an author and as a bookstore events coordinator.

 

Over at The Big Thrill:

Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? How much value do authors place on social media? This week we’re joined by ITW Members Colin CampbellEllen ByronLee MurraySandra Ruttan and DiAnn Mills as they discuss authors and social media. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along!

What did we all have to say? Check out our thoughts in the comments and chime in with questions or insights. Initially, I’d planned to post a short response about most authors overestimating the value of sites like Facebook for selling books; however, recent events prompted me to expand. The other authors have weighed in as well. If you’re considering how to use social media as an author there’s plenty of food for thought.

And On Twitter:

I don’t need to rehash what was covered in my thoughts at The Big Thrill, so if you want to see what I think about the Caffeine Nights debacle and the Chuck Wendig situation, head on over to the ITW post linked to above.

However, I did see this particular gem on Twitter and thought it was worth sharing:

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And what may be the best book dedication ever goes to Megan Spooner. From her book, Hunted:

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Who would Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts want to see play the protagonists from Teeth of the Wolf?

Fun Fact: Lee says, “Although my mother speaks two dialects of Chinese, I only learned a few basic words, something that makes me sad. And I love the Māori language, but like my Chinese, I only know a few words in te reo Māori (language). Instead, I speak fluent French, a language my Chinese grandfather spoke, and one I taught to my own daughter.”

TEETH OF THE WOLF is a dual protagonist narrative with main characters Penny and Matiu.

Teeth of the WolfScientific consultant Penny Yee has barely drawn breath before Detective Inspector Tanner assigns her another suspicious death, with Matiu tagging along for the ride. That’s fine as long as he stays outside the crime scene tape, but when one of Matiu’s former cronies turns up dead, Penny wonders if her brother might be more than just an innocent bystander. While she’s figuring that out, the entire universe conspires against her, with a cadaver going AWOL, her DNA sequencer spitting the dummy, and the rent due any day. Even the weather has it in for her. But that’s not the worst of it; Penny’s parents have practically announced her nuptials to Craig Tong!

Still spitting the taste of sand from his mouth, Matiu’s back on the case with Penny, and wouldn’t you know it, his big sister is in over her head again, not that she has a clue. There’s a storm brewing dark through the heat-haze on the horizon, and Makere isn’t the only one of Matiu’s friends from another life dogging his steps. Is this all because of what Mārama was trying to tell him earlier? About his heritage?

Meanwhile, Cerberus is only making things worse by losing his rag every time they cross paths with the elusive killer. Can the dog taste the hot sour reek of something trying to push through the veil and run its tongue and teeth across this world? What’s calling them? What has changed? Matiu should probably check that out, if only his probation officer would quit calling…

 

Augusta Xu Holland (Wikipedia photo)Lee/Penny: Scientific consultant to the police, Penny Yee is detail-oriented, risk averse, and highly-strung. Mostly, it’s her brother Matiu, who winds her up with his ridiculous talk of shadowy things from the other side, but her ex-boyfriend Noah Cordell and his mansplainy grandstanding can be equally as annoying. It’s not as if there isn’t enough pressure on her, with Inspector Tanner breathing down her neck with more cases, and Mum and Dad trying to marry her off, she really hasn’t got time to be thinking about who might play her in a movie of her life! Okay, since you insist, if she has to suggest someone, what about stunning New Zealand actress Augusta Xu-Holland? Because of all the actresses Penny’s seen, Xu-Holland is closest to Penny in background. Not only is Xu-Holland a half-Chinese New Zealander, she has a science degree from a local university, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Asian studies. Asian studies! As far as Penny is concerned Xu-Holland is an actress who is going to understand the Yee family dynamic and represent it accurately. You might have seen Xu-Holland appear in The Last Race alongside Ralph Fiennes. Plus, Xu-Holland even has Penny’s hair. It’s uncanny. Like looking in a mirror. 

 

Rob Kipa-Willams IMDb imageDan/Matiu: Does it say something about representation, or maybe my TV watching habits (or lack of both) that I actually had to go away and google that to find someone suitable Especially after I wanted to say Taika Waititi but then thought that nah, we don’t want everyone giggling through the whole movie. “Aw look, it’s blood, bro. Heaps of it.That’s so naff.” But I found this guy, Rob Kipa-Williams, and thought yep, he’ll do. Never seen him act but if he falls through we can always just call Taika, right?

 

TEETH OF THE WOLF is the second book in the Path of Ra supernatural crime-noir series by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray. The first book in the series, HOUNDS OF THE UNDERWORLD was long listed in last year’s Bram Stoker Awards and went on to win Best Novel in New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Check out our interview about TEETH OF THE WOLF here.Check out our interview about TEETH OF THE WOLF here.

lee coverLee Murray is a ten-time winner of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her books include the military thrillers Into the Mist and Into the Sounds, and supernatural crime-noir titles Hounds of the Underworld and Teeth of the Wolf (co-authored with Dan Rabarts). She is proud to have co-edited nine anthologies, one of which, Baby Teeth, won her an Australian Shadows Award in 2014. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Find her at leemurray.info

Dan Rabarts

Dan Rabarts is a New Zealand author & editor, winner of four Sir Julius Vogel Awards and two Australian Shadows Awards. His short stories have appeared in venues such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Together with Lee Murray, he co-writes the Path of Ra series. His first solo novel, Brothers of the Knife, kicks off the grimdark-yet-madcap Children of Bane fantasy series (Omnium Gatherum). Find out more at dan.rabarts.com.

Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.

 

Lee Murray picks the actor to play her protagonist from Into the Sounds

Fun Fact: “One of my great grandmothers was Rebecca Brooker (née Jenner) 1819-1887. The daughter of famous British physician Edward Jenner (inventor of the smallpox vaccine), she was a missionary nurse and a signatory to New Zealand’s famous Treaty of Waitangi. Rebecca Avenue in New Zealand’s Christchurch is named after this famous ancestor.”

Xavier Horan

 

Who would Lee like to see in the lead role of her novels?

For the protagonist of Into the Mist, and now INTO THE SOUNDS, I’d love to see a home-grown actor play the role of Taine McKenna, so my pick would be New Zealand actor Xavier Horan. A personal trainer as well as an accomplished actor with multiple credits, Horan could be Taine McKenna’s brother as you can see from this excerpt from Into the Mist, told from the point of view of Taine’s commanding officer, Major James Arnold:

 

“Go through, Sergeant McKenna,” she said, turning sideways and offering the junior officer her prettiest smile as he stepped into the office.

James could hardly blame her. At thirty-four, Taine McKenna was closer to her age, and with steely eyes from his father’s side and skin liked polished rimu – a legacy from his Māori mother ‒ he was a handsome mongrel. What’s more, the boy had all the power and dexterity of an All Black midfielder, and abdominals to match. James couldn’t even remember the last time he saw his own abs. Today though, McKenna’s musculature was hidden under regulation combat fatigues.

He came to attention before the burnished kauri desk. “Major Arnold.”

James waved away the younger man’s verbal salute as Dawson closed the door. “At ease, McKenna. Take a seat.”

“Boss,” McKenna said, using the SAS diminutive for his commanding officer. He folded his two-metre body into a chair with surprising grace.

James took his seat. “A job for you, McKenna. From Aitkens Street,” he said, referring to the Defence Force head office. Not that there was anything much left to run these days, the force whittled away to the bare bones. The work of short-sighted suits in government – she’ll-be-right types, who thought the country was perfectly safe, simply because it was stuck on the arse-end of the globe…

With his NZDF sense of duty and loyalty, my protagonist, Taine, is also a gifted matakite (seer), imbued with all the spirituality and mysticism this role engenders, and Horan’s portrayal of Rangi in Toa Fraser’s acclaimed film The Dead Lands reflected all of these qualities. In fact, this was Fraser’s vision, the director setting out to create a movie that combined an action film narrative with a deep regard for New Zealand history. As he tells Stuff reporter Siena Yates: “I wanted to tell a story in a way that I imagined our ancestors told stories.” In writing the Taine McKenna adventure series, I hoped to give readers that same experience: a New Zealand action narrative infused with deeper revelations about the complexity and beauty of New Zealand’s cultural heritage.

The Deadlands

Cast of The Deadlands, Xavier Horan far left, director Toa Fraser, far right. (IMDb image)

Check out Lee’s interview about Into the Sounds

and her pictures of her four-legged author assistant, Bella.

Lee-15-Head-BWLee Murray is a ten-time winner of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her books include the military thrillers Into the Mist and Into the Sounds, and supernatural crime-noir titles Hounds of the Underworld and Teeth of the Wolf (co-authored with Dan Rabarts). She is proud to have co-edited nine anthologies, one of which, Baby Teeth, won her an Australian Shadows Award in 2014. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Find her at leemurray.info

Literature® & More: Online Issue 11

I recently had a chance to read and review Literature® by Guillermo Stitch. It’s such a rich book that it’s like an onion, with plenty of layers to peel off. That’s why I have Guillermo answering some pointed questions about the novella and his objectives with it, and I offer some further thoughts on the novel here.

Friends, in response to the review and the growing chorus of praise (here and here) Guillermo tells me Literature® will be available as a free download for three days, starting today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so get thee to its Amazon page or another legit download purchase site and get your copy!

Paul Heatley has also dropped in to talk about An Eye For An Eye and its sequel, Violent By Design, as well as his other upcoming works. Plus, Paul picks out the ideal cast for his An Eye For An Eye series and Richard Godwin lists some tunes suited to his Insincerity protagonist.

Let me say this now…

Literature® is self-published, but don’t let that deter you. The copy is clean. It’s as professionally presented as anything I’ve spent money on in recent years. And on that note, Renee Miller weighs in on self-published authors taking the time to learn their craft, hone their skills and be professional with Being “Indie” Doesn’t Mean We Get To Be Lazy. Here here.

 

Did you miss it?

Talking Tattoos: Angel Colon dropped by to talk about his ink. Others who’ve weighed in on their tattoos? Gerard Brennan, Rob Hart and Chris Holm

Online Issue 10 had interviews, reviews and soundtrack picks for a range of novels, including Terrence McCauley’s The Fairfax Incident and Olen Steinhauer’s The Middleman.

Elsewhere…

Worldcon cornered the market on drama when they left some award nominees off the programming and misidentified someone’s gender. Reports now indicate that the whole program is being redone. Psst, Worldcon, the drama should be in the stories not the convention planning.

A literary agent breaks the news that most people aren’t meant to be authors.

Netflix News

Babylon Berlin has been renewed officially.

And finally…

HBO has given the thumbs up to a Deadwood movie. It’s about time, cocksuckers.

 

How to Get Featured on Toe Six Press

Send an email with your name, book title, release date and a short description with ‘author feature’ in the subject line.

How do I decide? Read on. I’m afraid I have to clarify some objectives. The goal here is to inform and entertain readers. We’re looking for insightful and fun pieces with substance.

The short version? A one-line “feature” doesn’t work for our site.