I started writing seriously in 2000 as “Jim Winter.” And until last year, I fully expected to have a career as a crime fiction author under that name. Over the last few years, I started losing interest in both being Jim Winter and writing crime fiction. It had been a struggle, though I realize now I did not have the time to properly focus on it. But as I entered my final semester as a middle-aged college student, I took stock of what I wanted to do with myself. And Jim wasn’t paying the rent on the headspace he was taking up. I finished Holland Bay and submitted it to an agent, the last hurrah I would have flirting with traditional publishing. If she passed on it, I’d junk the brand and focus on being me, TS Hottle. I was getting sick of switching back and forth between my legal name and one I adopted on the absurd notion that I’d need to protect myself from throngs of devoted readers while checking out the week’s groceries at Kroger.
Well, she passed, and I quit. A couple of people did not take that very well, but it wasn’t their life. It was mine, and I wanted to get on with it. So Jim went into oblivion while I started building the Compact Universe brand and the TS Hottle name.
Over time, it occurred to me that the Winter name had a little bit of brand value. I get a lot of questions about Nick Kepler, especially since I packed him off on a Southwest flight to New Orleans with a reformed call girl to start a new life. Would there be more Keplers? (No. I tried. Gypsy’s Kiss was a struggle, and Nick actually died in earlier drafts.) What about a sequel to Road Rules? (Don’t see it happening, though one character who apparently dies returns in a short story.) What about Holland Bay?
Ah, there’s the rub. I put a lot of work into Holland Bay. I love that book, and so did the people who have seen it. However, it does not fit the traditional publishing mold. So I’m rather glad my would-be agent didn’t take it. For starters, she drove me to do one last rewrite, which makes it a much better book. But also, I don’t want to rewrite it down to two point-of-view characters. It would ruin it. But I do want to share that work and continue the story of the city of Monticello and of Jessica Branson’s long slog from disgraced cop to, if not a hero, at least someone her fellow officers can respect and admire.
And so I’m rebranding. With the help of the talented Jennette Marie Powell, the covers to Kepler will be altered for rerelease to say “TS Hottle writing as Jim Winter.” Let’s not pretend Jim’s a real person anymore. I’ll be reformatting the print editions of the Kepler novels and the collection, Road Rules, and The Compleat Winter over the coming year so that they look a lot more professional. This will be followed by a new collection of shorts and the debut (finally) of Holland Bay. Plus Holland Bay will get a follow-up. If this past year’s police controversies, the political dramas unfolding here in Cincinnati, and tales of human trafficking have shown, Monticello has a lot more to tell us about who we are as a nation.
But for those of you who know me as a science fiction guy and abuser of memes on the Space Opera group on Facebook, fear not. I’m still doing science fiction as me.
I just have to write faster and better to pull all this off.