I recently had a sit down with Max Booth III and Lori Michelle to talk about their adventures with Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing (Is this the longest named publisher in the industry?). Anyway, Max and Lori at PMMP have been grafting away since the summer of 2012 releasing a string of quality books that range from crime to horror to fantasy and pretty much everything in between. They also publish a quarterly horror fiction magazine called DARK MOON DIGEST. Issue #23 has recently been released and features 110 pages of bone-chilling horror, plus non-fiction by Jay Wilburn and an excerpt from Bob Pastorella’s excellent weird crime novella MOJO RISING. August 2nd saw the release of a horror anthology from PMMP called LOST SIGNALS. There are some great names included in this release including John C. Foster, James Newman, Mathew M. Bartlett and Damien Angelica Walters. The theme of the anthology is of radiotelegraphy, where in the darkness; sound is your best friend and your worst nightmare.
Lori Michelle is the head honcho for DARK MOON DIGEST and is co-owner of PMMP. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she used to be a ballet dancer and now teaches dance professionally.
Max is a published author himself. His most recent novel ‘HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS’ is a satirical look at the small press and it is a very amusing read. He is also a columnist for LITREACTOR and will be contributing to the new GAMUT project which was recently successfully funded via Kickstarter by Richard Thomas. GAMUT aims to provide readers with some of the very best fiction and non-fiction out there and is scheduled to be up and running early 2017.
BtB: First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To start with – some folks out there might not be familiar with the press. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? What are some of the titles that are currently available and what is/are your most recent release/s?
MB: We publish horror, crime, and science fiction. Also some literary. We are not very restricted, and maybe that’s a bad thing. We’ve published titles like James Dorr’s Bram Stoker nominated story collection, The Tears of Isis, and Rafael Alvarez’s Tales from the Holy Land. Our latest releases are Bob Pastorella’s Mojo Rising, Jessica McHugh’s The Train Derails in Boston, and Kristopher Triana’s The Ruin Season. John C. Foster’s Dead Men (see the fiction reviews section for some more on this) might be one of our more popular titles.
BtB: Why did you decide to become involved in publishing? And what is your goal with PMMP?
MB: I was 18 when we started PMMP. I am no longer quite sure why I thought operating a small press was a good idea. It definitely isn’t and I don’t recommend it. I was a “story editor”for Dark Moon Digest (this was back when it was owned by Stan Swanson of Dark Moon Books), and I felt this hunger to consume more of the publishing world. So, of course starting a small press was a good idea. Surely it would be easy. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha.
My goal, really, is to publish books that I’m not seeing being published elsewhere. Books I wish someone else was publishing so I could buy and read them. Think of me as the Santa Claus of kickass literature, tossing books down your chimney and into the fireplace.
BtB: What have been the highlights of your publishing career thus far?
LM: All of our books are highlights. Getting a book edited, polished, and print ready is an accomplishment for us and for our authors. However, I will say I had a really good time putting together the anthology, Bleed. Working with great horror masters such as William Nolan, Jason V Brock, Gene O’Neill, Mort Castle, and Bentley Little was a thrill.
MB: Selling books to teenagers at conventions is something I always consider a highlight. It makes me happy to see people who are excited to read. Especially really young people. It makes me want to publish forever, which is a dangerous thought.
BtB: What goals do you have with each of your releases? How do you measure whether or not the book has been a success?
MB: I loathe that word—success. It’s unhealthy. “Satisfied” might be a better word, and the answer is I am never satisfied. Life is a cesspool of disappointment. With the release of each title, I can only hope I am doing all I can to get them in front of as many readers as possible. We are not a giant publisher. We’re barely even a small press. We’re a tick on a dog’s asshole looking to be scratched.
BtB: Is this a full-time job? If not-how many hours per week do you spend working on the press?
LM: I call PMMP my third and fourth job. I work full time during the day as a graphic designer for a trophy shop. I also am the dance director for a local baton twirling group. Between my day job, my night job, and my kids, I spend the rest of my free time either working on PMMP stuff or freelancing. I always wish I had more time to devote to the publishing company. There is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done.
MB: I have no idea how many hours I put into the company. I can tell you I get between four and five hours of sleep a day. Usually from 10AM to 3PM. The rest of the day is spent working on PMMP stuff, my own writing, driving my family around like a slave, and working a night job at a local hotel. I never bathe. I don’t know if that’s relevant. I’m very tired.
BtB: There seems to be hundreds of small presses out there all vying for the reader’s attention. How hard is it to get a book noticed in 2016?
LM: You have to be very creative and inventive to get anyone to notice a new book. The book has to garner attention, the cover has to be outstanding, and you have to generate interest for each book in a different way.
MB: It’s difficult. You typically need a lot of money. The book needs to fall into the right hands. People need to be talking about it. It needs to actually be a good book. Most books are very bad. Most writers should not be writers, but that doesn’t stop us from writing. Everything is terrible. It needs to be unique enough to absorb eyeballs. You may not attract much attention by shouting “Look at me!” on a busy sidewalk, but you would definitely increase your odds by first lighting yourself on fire.
BtB: I love the cover art for the books PMMP release. I think it is such an important area when marketing a book. The book needs to look great. How important is the look of the book and what cover artist do you work with?
LM: To me, a book’s cover needs to grab the reader’s attention. It is vital to setting the tone and mood for the whole work. We have several cover artists who we look to for different things. It just depends on the tone of the book. We’re fond of George Cotronis, Matthew Revert, Dyer Wilk , and Luke Spooner.
BtB: Horror and dark fiction is still frowned upon by many. From a fiction perspective; what do you think of its current state?
LM: I actually find that horror is becoming more mainstream. No longer is horror about the guy in the scary mask chasing drunken sexy teenagers at an orgy. I honestly think that people are enjoying horror as an art form simply because it is an escape from the horror of everyday reality. Social media and the internet have brought the atrocities of war, famine, domestic abuse, etc more to our attention. The attack on the World Trade Center broke the American bubble of security and reminded us that we were vulnerable to attack and death. Reading a scary story is safe. If it scares you enough, you can stop reading.
BtB: Let’s talk a little bit about DARK MOON DIGEST. You acquired the magazine from DARK MOON BOOKS in 2015. Why did you decide to add DARK MOON DIGEST to your publishing house and what is it about the magazine you found so appealing that made you want to take ownership?
LM: Max and I actually started working for DARK MOON DIGEST back in June of 2011, him as a story editor and me as the special projects person. I took on learning how to make ebooks and turn all the issues into Kindle and Nook versions. From there, I was the managing editor of DARK ECLIPSE (the month e-magazine we had back then) and in March 2012, the owner asked me to become the managing editor of the print magazine as well. Then in August 2013, I bought half ownership of the magazine.
When the previous owner decided to sell, it was only natural for Max and I to gain full control of the magazine. So while DARK MOON DIGEST is new for Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, it isn’t new to me.
BtB: One thing about PMMP is you guys are anything but predictable. This year alone has seen the release of Vincenzo Bilof’s brutal literary horror book THE VIOLATORS, T. Fox. Dunham’s bizarre road movie novel DESTROYING THE TANGIBLE ILLUSION OF REALITY; OR, SEARCHING FOR ANDY KAUFMAN and Bob Pastorella’s weird crime novella MOJO RISING. When submissions are open what do you guys ask for?
LM: It has to grab our attention and make us want to read it. If we are bored, our readers will be bored.
MB: Something that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. Something that’s going to make me risk hemmorhoids to finish the next chapter on the toilet. Something that gets me excited. Just…something. SOMETHING SOMETHING SOMETHING…something good.
BtB: As I mentioned earlier; one of the releases I really enjoyed is LOST SIGNALS. There are a lot of horror anthologies out there and to stand out I feel that you need a slightly different theme. Ghosts, Vampires, Zombie anthologies have been done to death (pun intended) and so when I heard about this theme of horror transmissions I was keen as mustard. Where did the concept come from, who have you got lined up for it and when can we expect to see it?
MB: The idea was originally inspired by a conversation I had with George Cotronis. I had just finished watching Pontypool on Netflix, and I remarked how any time a horror story involved radio broadcasts, it was always awesome. We got to talking and decided we should put together a collection of radio-themed stories, or edit an anthology written by other people. A few months passed and I decided to go forward with it. George wasn’t available to co-edit, but he did contribute a kickass story. Other authors include the very writer of Pontypool: Tony Burgess. Also: Josh Malerman, Matthew M. Bartlett, Damien Angelica Walters, James Newman, and many other wonderful people…
BtB: There seems to be a real variety of voices in this book. I have read stories by James Newman, David James Keaton and Damien Angelica Walters before. All of them are unique writers in the horror community and it will be very interesting to see what they have come up with.
MB: Thank you. This anthology is something special, and I’m happy to finally share it with the public.
BtB: What else have PMMP got up their literary sleeves for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
MB: Well, June saw the release of Jessica McHugh’s The Train Derails in Boston and Kristopher Triana’s The Ruin Season. In August, we’ll be released the aforementioned Lost Signals anthology along with Jeremiah Israel’s Live On No Evil. Also this year: Quizzleboon by John Oliver Hodges, Gods on the Lam by Christopher David Rosales, Caliban by Ed Kurtz, and Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances by John C. Foster. Plus, our quarterly releases of Dark Moon Digest!
BtB: A couple more things: The GAMUT project is something I am very much looking forward to in 2017. I was happy to see it get fully funded over at Kickstarter. You will be contributing towards GAMUT. Horror fans will really like this I feel. Can you tell the readers a little bit about it?
MB: I was stoked to see Richard achieve his goal. Dude fucking knocked it out of the park. When the magazine launches in 2017, I’ll be writing a monthly humor column about working in customer service. It should tie-in nicely with my latest novel based off my experiences in the hotel industry—which currently does not have a publisher, but I hope it will by next year.
BtB: Thanks Max. One thing I am sure writers who visit the site would like to know. Are PMMP open to submissions? If not, when will you open?
We are not currently open for novel submissions. We probably won’t be until 2017. But if you have something kickass, go ahead and shoot us an email at email@example.com and we’ll hear you out. However, we are always open for flash fiction submissions that we publish in our newsletter—plus, we’re open at Dark Moon Digest.
Find out more about Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing from these handy links: