Good evening, Faithful Readers. Today I would like to welcome James Crawford to Type AJ Negative. Sit down, have a glass of your favorite beverage and enjoy our conversation.
AJ: First, tell me a little about Manleigh Cheese.
JC: Manleigh Cheese is the result of friends challenging me to write something other than horror.
AJ: Where did the concept of Manleigh Cheese come from?
JC: Since I live in the Washington, DC area, there’s a thriving food truck scene, and whispers of corruption every day. I thought they could be two tastes that taste great together.
I’m a foodie, and this great little cheese place, Cheesetique opened a few years ago, that was the inspiration for a cheese-based food truck.
AJ: Nice. What type of writer do you consider yourself to be?
AJ: Why dialog-driven as opposed to descriptive or action-based?
JC: I’m a talker, so my characters tend to be. I’m in love with words and communication.
AJ: I’m a talker, as well. Some tell me I never shut-up. As a writer, what do you have to offer the readers?
JC: Hopefully, well drawn characters who exhibit “real” emotions.
AJ: As a writer, do you have a hard time focusing on one story at a time or do your thoughts tend to stay on point throughout a story?
JC: For me, having more than one project running at a time is a pressure valve. I “go there” when I write horror, and a little comedy helps me balance out. A little sci-fi relaxes the humor…and so on.
AJ: My mind tends to go in a thousand directions at one time. I never have just one project or story going on. You are also a painter. What do you paint and is painting the same type of outlet as writing?
JC: Since my living situation changed, I don’t have a workshop for my metal pursuits. Going back to fine art, where I started, is a way to keep that creativity sharp. Yes, it also helps to define a character by drawing him, her, or it.
AJ: Okay, let’s shift gears, what’s your favorite food truck?
JC: I’ve…this is a confession…never eaten at one.
AJ: DOH! I’ve only eaten at three of them and I have loved all of them.
JC: Yeah. I’m a poseur.
AJ: Okay, Mr. Poseur, let’s switch gears again and discuss Permuted Press for a minute or three. How was your initial experience with them?
JC: It was great. I was enthused, and so was Jacob. I felt like I’d succeeded.
AJ: Truthfully, you had. Getting on with Permuted was something I wanted to do at some point, but never actually attempted. Now, I’m glad I didn’t.
JC: I got to watch the crazy up front.
AJ: When you say watch the crazy up front, what do you mean?
JC: The new ownership coming on, and their struggle to turn Permuted into (I’m thinking) some sort of cash cow.
AJ: So, then Permuted switched hands and then things went nuts?
JC: That’s how it seemed to me. Every six months, some new kerfuffle.
AJ: How many books did you put out with Permuted?
JC: My first trilogy is under Permuted, but nothing else will be.
AJ: You left Permuted, but your trilogy is kind of stuck there, right?
JC: I am stuck with them for that trilogy, and have to offer them first opportunity on anything else in that series. Contractual obligation.
AJ: That is crazy. If you could do one thing over, what would it be?
JC: Oooo. Ah. Argh.
AJ: Yeah, I know. Sometimes reflecting back is harder than moving forward.
JC: Aside from voicing my displeasure in a louder voice, and more broadly…not submitting to them in the first place.
AJ: Let’s move on. Manleigh Cheese came out recently, put out by Burning Willow Press. How did you hear about BWP and what has that experience been like?
JC: I knew of Kindra and Sheron from Permuted, and I liked the idea of what they wanted to build. I submitted, and they accepted.
AJ: What was the editorial process like?
JC: Pretty simple. They handed the manuscript to their editor, she made some comments, I corrected a few things, and we were good to go.
AJ: Nice. So, do you prefer your cheese to be mature like in the Cheez-It commercials or immature?
JC: Does it taste good? That’s my qualifier.
AJ: Mature cheese it is!
Okay, time to get serious. I’m a potential reader. Sell me on your book. Why should I buy it?
JC: Do you like urban fantasy, but are tired of the old Sidhe in America thing? Do you like evil evil? None of the gray area stuff? How about characters you can like, and want to have a drink with?
That’s Manleigh Cheese.
AJ: Good answer. Now, sell me on you. If you had to pitch yourself to me (which I’ve had to do with a person face to face before she would buy my books), what would you say?
JC: Honestly, I do my best to be a genuine person. I have a sense of humor, and really enjoy learning who my potential readers are. That’s the best thing about being a “small time” author.
AJ: I like that. I think the person who asked me the same question would like that response.
If you owned a food truck, what would you sell?
JC: I’d try a zombie theme food truck. The burgers might be named for people. Amanda (avocado and other toppings); Bubba (extra bacon)…Guts on a bun. French fingers.
AJ Nice. I like that.
JC: There’s actually a menu for the Manleigh Cheese truck in the book.
AJ: Okay, we need to talk about the Menu a little. That is a great idea
JC: The Bitch Set Me Up cupcake is based on what former DC Mayor Marion Berry said when they arrested him for cocaine.
AJ: Hahaha! That’s great. What is your favorite item on the menu?
JC: I’d be really fond of the Political Puffs.
AJ: That’s the savory cheese puffs made with Manleigh’s own artisan cheddar. It would be four bucks. That’s great.
JC: I had fun with it.
James Crawford’s Manleigh Cheese can be purchased on Amazon. To whet your appetite, enjoy this excerpt:
“Pardon that interruption. My colleague took an interest in your intern.”
A quirk of his perfect lips sent a shiver down Lois Nasen-Hedges’ legs. She hated how gorgeous he was—tall, slim, long black hair, and those piercing emerald eyes—as much as she craved his attention.
“Certainly, Toll. Interruptions happen.” She tried to hide her feelings by smoothing her skirt—if it accidentally enhanced her shapely thighs, so much the better. “Where were we a moment ago?”
“Yes. We were discussing the return of the artifact to me, now that our bargain is completed.” He nodded, each movement carefully measured to increase Ms. Nasen-Hedges’ heartbeat.
“It will take me a few days to retrieve it,” Lois said, ducking her eyes, hoping he wouldn’t catch the lie she was trying to craft.
“A few days will be fine,” Toll crooned, “but I would remind you there are devastating consequences if you decide to break our bargain.”
He smiled at her from the other side of the desk, flashing pointed, pearlescent teeth. The threat was an old one, but effective: cross me, and everyone you hold dear dies, torn limb from limb. As an added bonus, Toll threw in something new (testing threats for effectiveness was his hobby and favorite way to pass the time).
The latest addition to the consequences was how failure to return the artifact would also bring about the destruction of the wall between the spirit world and the material world. Not a small threat—when added to the previously mentioned mayhem involving loved ones—and also a complete and utter lie.
“I don’t believe.” He whispered this time. “The nations you have built would survive the revelation that your reality is not the only one our world supports. We accept that humans exist, but we are myths and nightmares for you—never seen in daylight, or encountered on the street.”
She couldn’t bring herself to get defensive at him for reminding her of the consequences. He was right. Everything would go insane if Joe American had spirits to placate before cracking open a cold one… or if the military’s weapons were outclassed by spells and dark spirits.
It was also enough reason to keep the artifact in the possession of the United States of America. Leverage. Withholding the object of someone’s desire and keeping it beyond their reach was a tried and true method for securing good behavior. Lois Nasen-Hedges didn’t believe herself to be a fool.
Toll might be the sexiest creature in existence, but he was also cunning, manipulative, and powerful enough to break the tenuous balance of power in the normal world. Creatures like this, Lois believed, should to be kept in line through proper management and coercion. Especially when the entity in question was nearly immortal, and a bullet through the brain might not be fatal.
Fairies and supernatural creatures were not what she expected to be dealing with in the halls of government. Little green men were almost to be expected, but she never imagined anything supernatural might be real, or sitting on the other side of her desk.
“I’m pleased we see eye-to-eye on this issue, Toll.” Lois forced a smile, knowing full well she was going to play an incredibly dangerous game. “I would like to propose we meet again a week from today at this address.”
She slid the sheet of paper over the leather surface of her desk. He glanced at it, quirked his lips, and retrieved it with immaculately manicured fingers.
“An old quarry in Marriotsville, Maryland.” He leaned back in the chair, and smiled. “You make interesting choices, Ms. Nasen-Hedges.”
“It is easily secured, and no one will stumble across our transaction,” she paused, “at least, no one who would be missed.”
“As always, I am impressed by your practicality. Next Friday, at the time and location you’ve provided, is satisfactory.”
Toll stood up, bowed, and offered his hand. Lois stood, reached out and placed her hand in his. She gasped when his fingers locked around her palm like slim steel cables. He pulled her over her desk with no effort, leaving only the toes of her expensive loafers touching the floor.
“I want to remind you,” he said, as his honey and briars voice deepened into a growl, “crossing me would go poorly for you. I will skin you alive, and use your flesh to wipe my ass, before I feed you to things you do not wish to imagine.”
She couldn’t speak. His eyes held her attention like his hand held hers: without mercy.
Toll let her hand drop, deftly slitting her palm with the unnaturally sharp edge of his fingernail. Lois Nasen-Hedges gasped as she fell across her desk, eyes focused on the blood dripping from her outstretched hand onto the cream carpet below.
When she looked up, he was already gone, and she was left to wonder if the game she’d begun was worth playing.