The Nine Hash Marks: when I began developing The Keeper Series in 2015, I figured like The Sanctum Trilogy, I would self-publish it. So as I neared the final chapter of DUTCH, I touched base with my magic friend, Michele Mason Holmberg, that brilliant woman who designed my covers for The Sanctum, and asked her to put something together for DUTCH. I told her I wanted it to be both dark and sexy and I needed a symbol I could use on all three covers. I also mentioned that Juma had nine lives and Dutch had to end each of them. Michele came back a few days later with her dark sexy cover and these babies – the nine hash marks. They’re ominous and full of foreboding and I love them like nothing else. So much that I insisted St Martin’s use them on my covers. So much that they’re tatted on my right inner forearm. They are Dutch and Juma. They are chilling. They are perfect. Thank you Michele. For everything.
Kash Kalish: the soft-spoken Keeper too kind-hearted to keep – is based upon my favorite uncle. In my mind’e eye, Kash is tall and handsome, with a meticulously maintained beard, twinkling mischievous eyes, and a laugh that makes you want to join in on the fun. In other words, my uncle to a tee. Much of my personal life is interwoven in the passages of The Keeper Series, sometimes purposeful – like the first chapter of DUTCH – sometimes by accident, like Kash. It’s probably what every single person who is friends or family with a writer fears, but in the case of Kash, I can say with confidence, were my uncle ever to read his character, I know he’d be proud.
Poochas: my parents are from India. South India to be more precise. Trivandrum and Calicut to be exact. They both speak Malayalam, the language of their state of Kerala. Dutch Mathew and his family live in Kerala, inhabiting the halls of Trivandrum’s Kowdiar Palace with their special brand of fuckery. But I digress because I’m not here to talk about Dutch, but rather Juma and Poochas. I came up with the main premise of The Keeper Series one day while walking up the street in my old neighborhood, thinking to myself how the word for cat in Malayalam is “poocha”, and cats have nine lives, and wow – I could create a character who has nine lives and another character who has to kill her nine times and she can be called a Poocha because it’s a cool name for a character type and a subtle shoutout to my folks and my roots. Soon after, I started plotting and planning and the rest is Keeper Series history. Also, the way my brain works…yeah, there’s that…
Old Scout bourbon: my dark nasty sexy Keeper, Dutch Mathew, lives on a steady diet of sex, cigarettes, and bourbon. Old Scout bourbon, if you’re keeping score, because trust me, he is. I’ve had plenty of folks email and message me, wondering whether Old Scout is real and if so, where can they get some because they want to try it. It is very real, straight out of Appalachia’s Greenbrier County, it is very amazing, and if I could, I would live on the stuff. But since I cannot, I let Dutch do the honors. Distilled by the good folks of Smooth Ambler Spirits, who also make a mean gin, Old Scout is 99 proof perfection and I highly recommend finding out whether a store near you sells it. If they do, go grab some and thank me later. (full disclosure: my girlfriend’s husband is Smooth Ambler’s President of Sales, which means when she visits, we get bottles of all kinds of deliciousness.)
Juma’s name: a few months ago, while thinking about Dutch and Juma and writing The Keeper Series, I experienced a random epiphany about the way my writer’s brain works. I was describing my character, Death, to my publisher, and realized with a start that she is kind of a brown Uma Thurman. Somewhere deep in my brain, I always knew this because every time Death saunters onto the page, I see a brown-skinned Uma in that yellow jump suit and that killer body from Kill Bill. But with her Pulp Fiction hair. Because that hair – gah – I always loved a good bang. Even though Death seems so Uma, I really didn’t put two and two together until that conversation with my publisher. It was then I also realized Juma, as in the name not the character, might be an homage to Uma as well, as in Uma + J. Because for real, I love me some Kill Bill and The Bride. Not quite like my love for Rihanna and her everything, but pretty freaking close. Close enough that Uma is probably all up in my writing without me even knowing it.
Books I and II of The Keeper Series are available now, so grab your copies and get lost in the dark magic that is Dutch and Juma:
HERE for Amazon
HERE for Kobo
HERE for B&N
HERE for iBooks
HERE for Google Play