Thursday, November 27, 2014

Anti-Heroes: Why?

For this next roundtable, we're going to talk about anti-heroes. Stuck somewhere on the gray part of the number line between good guys and bad guys, they're all but taken over the world of fiction, from books to movies to comics. 

What makes anti-heroes so popular? Is it something cultural or just readers getting tired of black and white good guys and bad guys?

Marian Allen: Anti-heroes are (IMO) the lazy person's hero. They have few limits and few scruples, they're no better than the bad guys; they're just OUR asshats, not THOSE FOLKS' asshats. You don't have to feel inferior to an antihero or worry that their self-imposed standards will put them at a disadvantage. They're certainly more realistic than the White Hats of 50's children's television, say.

H. David Blalock: I believe anti-heroes seem to have become popular about the same time as the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s. I think they were the media reflecting that for the baby boomer generation which was becoming the largest marketable demographic. Using the noir detective as a base (Spade, Marlowe, etc) they combined the atmosphere of the "new age" image of mysticism and magic to darken the hero, throw him closer to the center of the spectrum. In my opinion, the anti-hero was created to give voice to an audience more involved with the outside world, less isolated politically and socially, more attuned to the nastiness that is real life and unwilling -- or unable -- to separate their entertainment from that immersion.

Terri Smiles: The truly good guys are challenging for most people because a truly "good" guy calls out our own failings to be that kind of person. Anti-heroes, on the other hand, show the function of those who are often more flawed than we are ourselves, often resulting in some societal good, even if that was not the character's motivation or goal. Thus, we are comforted by anti-heroes being like us - and in particular, being redeemable in at least a limited way.

Peter Welmerink: Anti-hero characters are popular because they are most like you and me. They are not the hero standing atop the building, fists at hips, chest thrust out, hero and master of all their domain. Anti-heroes are not the villain below the city streets, rolling their eager hands over and over and snickering mischievously. Anti-heroes are the you and me peeps, standing on the sidewalk between both, trying to determine up or down.

Katina French: I think part of the popularity of antiheroes right now is the cathartic aspect of a protagonist who doesn't hold back in exacting vengeance or justice. While it's tempting to think of them as a new invention, prior to the Comics Code Authority and other censorship movements in the early 20th century, pulp heroes were much darker. The current trend feels like a rebalancing away from the forced naivete of some earlier generations.

Who are some of the contemporary characters who best define the concept of anti-hero from prose fiction?

H. David Blalock: Currently, nearly every "hero" in fiction can be defined as an anti-hero because they all have serious flaws (Sherlock Holmes, Harry Dresden, etc). Some are even blatantly villains (e.g. Dexter Morgan, Walter White, etc). It's increasingly difficult to separate the good guys from the bad because they are increasingly becoming one and the same -- a statement on a society that has learned the ugly lesson to "trust no one".

Terri Smiles: Examples of current anti-heroes are Elphaba from Wicked, Artemis Fowl from that series.

Logan Masterson: The King of Antiheroes is Thomas Covenant. What makes him so effective? The first thing is the scope of his responsibility. The second thing is that he's a very real person. He's a bitter, furious, damaged human being. Combining those elements makes for an amazing character arc. There are similarities with Londo Mollari.

Marian Allen: The hard-boiled PI is the classic anti-hero. Sword-and-sorcery heroes. Steampunk/cyberpunk rebels against a corrupt establishment. Gillian Phillips' fairy rebels.

Katina French: Scott Lynch's Locke Lamora is a very good example of the type in current prose fiction. Patrick Weekes' Isafesira de Lochenville in his Rogues of the Republic series is also a good example (who isn't a white male). "Lovable rogues" are a more lighthearted example of an antihero. In that sense, we've had them since Robin Hood.

What advice do you have for writers looking to create memorable anti-heroes for their fiction?

Peter Welmerink: My advice to writers looking to create memorable anti-heroes for their fiction is MAKE THEM HUMAN, well, give them normal traits, the good, the bad and the ugly, tragedies and triumphs...you know, that normal folk have. Then throw them into a unique situation that really tests their morality, pushes them to perhaps make bad decisions that bring them down low to an almost villainous level where they need to do something to bring themselves back up to their normal playing field or slightly above to be the hero in the end.

Katina French: Brandon Sanderson offered up the idea of "the character sliding scale" in an episode of Writing Excuses. It suggested that your protagonist has three characteristics -- competence, proactivity, and sympathy. You can lower one of these (in the case of an antihero, probably sympathy) and raise the others, and readers will still invest in your character.

Terri Smiles: They need to be driven by motives that are not "good" ones even if their acts are good (think the BBC's Sherlock Holmes - he's not solving crimes to protect the public), but the anti-heroes that I prefer, experience a hidden pleasure when their actions help others.

H. David Blalock: The best way to create a memorable hero for today's audience is to figure out what the hero must do to save the day then make it impossible for him to do it without compromising himself in some way. That, more than anything else, is what people seem to want: a way to pull down the hero to a human level. People are afraid of the absolute values of Captain America because they no longer see life as positive and negative. They want Don Draper because they see their lives as convoluted and difficult as his.

Marian Allen: Make a clear and important difference between your anti-hero and the bad guys. If your anti-hero is no better than the villain, I have nothing to invest in him or her.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nugget #28 -- Interchangeable Plots and Characters


Plot should always be about character. Character should 
always help direct the plot. If you find that you can 
use characters interchangeably in your plots, then 
perhaps you don’t know your characters well enough.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SAIL ABOARD THE BLUE NYMPH

Airship 27 Productions is excited to announce the release of the fourth volume in their best-selling fantasy adventure series, SINBAD – The New Voyages.

They are the most daring, courageous, fool hardy crew ever assembled under one flag. Chief among them are Henri Delacrois, the French archer, Ralf Gunarson, the blonde Viking giant, the lovely but deadly female Samurai  Tishimi Osara, Omar the cantankerous first mate and Haroun, the eagle-eyed youth who mans the towering crow’s nest of the magnificent Blue Nymph.  All pledged to follow their captain, the most famous seagoing adventurer of all time, Sinbad El Ari.

Now they return in four brand new fantasy tales by Joe Bonadonna, Ralph L. Angelo, Jeff Fournier and I.A. Watson.  Thrills and danger await on colorful exotic shores as the crew of the Blue Nymph search for the Golden Fleece, battle a Scorpion God and Sinbad alone must defeat an evil djin in a game of chess for the life of a beautiful princess.  Here are epic tales worthy of this legendary hero, Sinbad the Sailor!

“It is clear our readers can’t get enough of this character,” declares Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier.  “The minute we release a new title there is already a demand for more and we are only too happy to oblige our Sinbad fans.”  Volume 4 is illustrated by a fantastic new artist, Phil Cho, and sports a gorgeous cover by the amazing Pat Carabjal.  All wrapped in the design genius of Art Director Rob Davis.

If you have a fantasy fan in your family, this is the series you need to introduce them to.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now at Amazon in hard copy and on Kindle.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #304 -- Why I Write (Revised and Made Honest)

What's the real reason you write?

The real reason I write is perhaps more existential than esoteric, I suppose. It has more in common with Hemingway's hero of mere endurance than with a romantic notion of being a conduit for fictional tales.

I write because I am vain enough to believe that not only do my words and my stories have meaning and importance and value now, but also will have meaning and importance and value to future generations. Writing is not just an act of creative indulgence but an act of profound pride. I own up to that.

Enough of that esoteric "I write because I have to, because these stories need an outlet and won't tell themselves" crap. I write because I plan to leave something of myself in a real, physical sense when I am gone from this world. I write because I believe that I mattered, and that I will continue to matter after I'm dead.

I write to prove to the world I was, am, and will continue to be here.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Frank Fradella on "Don't Suck"

Back in 1999, I started an online magazine for superhero fiction that was, in those heady days of the internet’s infancy, the first and only one of its kind. The magazine went on to do great things, including winning the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize in their first ever Zine Publishing Awards, and landed me a gig on their Zine Advisory Board, helping to shape the future of electronic publishing.

It also — and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here — launched a few careers, including my own. Just a year later I would go on to sign a six-book deal and a few of the fine folks who saw publication in our digital pages are now doing fine, fine works for much larger houses.

Today, Sean Taylor, one of my right hand men, and the first to truly believe in what I was doing, wrote a post about two simple words I had included as a rider in our submission guidelines.

Don’t suck.

That was it. That simple. The rest of the sub guides were what you’d expect — story length, format, style notes, don’t blow up Cleveland. You know. The usual.

But those two words added at the end were simple. I wasn't being funny. I wasn't being coy. I was receiving dozens of submissions every week and every story I bought came out of my pocket. And I bought every single good story that came my way.

Read the full article: https://medium.com/@frankfradella/dont-suck-a0c728b77ac8

Friday, November 21, 2014

[Link] Inside the Box (People don’t actually like creativity.)

By Jessica Olien

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

“We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,” says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity.

Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.

Read the full article: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/12/creativity_is_rejected_teachers_and_bosses_don_t_value_out_of_the_box_thinking.html?wpsrc=sh_all_mob_tw_bot

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nugget #27 -- Fill in the Blank Storytelling


It's uncanny how many comic book stories start with the idea of "How cool would it be if __fill in the blank__ fought __fill in the blank__? Wouldn't that be awesome?" With a market driven by fans who demand "dream battles" between immensely popular characters, that kind of story sells books and keeps fans happy -- but it doesn't necessarily make for a fulfilling reading experience.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Iscah -- "I don't regret failing."

Here's the next interview in my "Cool People I Met at Imaginarium" series. This week I'd like you to meet Iscah. She's a talented author who has a body of work you really should check out for yourself. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Seventh Night is a romantic, comic, action, adventure fantasy.  It's sort of a family novel.  Full length adult reading level, but clean enough anyone 10 and up can enjoy it.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Doing right in the face adversity may cover it in broad terms though I think there are several complexities surrounding that theme.  With Seventh Night there's sort of a struggle between private desires and public responsibilities.  Neither being necessarily wrong, but striking the balance between the two can be difficult.

What would be your dream project?

Having creative control over a film version of Seventh Night.  My educational background is in video production, so getting to merge my multimedia loves would be fun.  (Not saying I'd be director or producer, just want veto power in certain areas.)

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Thankfully or regretfully, something that never finished.  I attempted to do a film in college and did everything in completely the wrong order.  I don't regret failing.  Trying and failing is part of the learning process.  I do deeply regret not calling everyone I tried to involve once I realized the project was not happening.  Part of me kept hoping I could make it work, and by the time I had accepted it wasn't going to happen, I either lost the numbers I needed or was too embarrassed to make the calls.  Frankly neither of those things is acceptable.

If I could fix it with a time machine, I'd be a lot more organized.  Start with a well hammered script rather than a concept.  Put funding together before attempting to cast, etc.

What inspires you to write?

The attempt to leave something of value behind.  Not so much to be remembered as an individual, but to improve the world somehow, even if in a small way.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Pretty much every writer I've read.  I like to study styles and techniques.  I consider style a tool rather than a signature.  Timothy Zahn, Charles Dickens, Lemony Snicket, J.K. Rowling, Nabokov, Dr  Seuss, Hans Christian Anderson, Jules Verne, and Eth Clifford are some of my favorites.  Good style can be overt or practically invisible.  It really depends on what the story calls for.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

It's both.  We have the symbols with phonetic and psychological significance.  We combine them in such a way to stimulate neurons in the brain.  We rely on cultural, sociological, and educational bases of knowledge... and yet, we challenge them, rearrange them, experiment but rarely with scientific precision.  And if we're lucky make art worth analyzing but impossible to fully dissect in scientific terms.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I am working on a set of four prequel stories to Seventh Night called Before the Fairytale.  I have just started (as of November 2014) posting the third one as a free weekly serial.  The first two The Girl With No Name and Horse Feathers are finished.  The Girl With No Name is now out as an ebook and hopefully soon as a paperback.  Horse Feathers is down for additional editing, but with a little luck will be out for sale early in 2015.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #303 -- World Building in Action Stories

How important is world building to an adventure story?

World building means different things to different writers, I believe. To me, it means simply creating a believable setting in which a story can take place. In that sense, world building is paramount, crucial, and a story can only suffer in its absence.

However, applying world building to an adventure story must follow different rules from the ones established in turn of the century literature or epic fantasy, I think. In those kinds of stories, readers are often looking for a more verbose sense of writing style or a "grander" way to telling and/or showing the tale. But in adventure writing, readers don't want a lot of description of place and the symbolism of a particular color of curtains to get in the way of the more quickly moving action.

But, the little details you choose as a writer can and will make the setting more real, and should. If a setting feels generic, I know that I've failed as a writer. A reader almost needs to be able to smell the smoke from the Jazz club or feel the desolate rocky surfaces of the lost valley in order to really emote during reading.

Perhaps three of the best examples of setting made real through details are:

  1. Philip Marlowe's Los Angeles. Sure, it's a real place already, but it feels more real when Chandler writes it.
  2. Gotham City. I'm convinced that place is completely real. It HAS to be. 
  3. Opal City from the pages of James Robinson's Starman series -- masterfully skilled world building in that one. Jack Knight wouldn't be Jack Knight if he lived any other place.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

PRO SE PRODUCTIONS REVEALS COVER FOR FIRST ENTRY IN NEW SERIES -- THE ASTONISHING TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE SHRIEKING PITS


Known for both original innovative characters as well as bringing new adventures to classic creations, Pro Se Productions reveals its first entry into tales about the world’s most famous detective. The Astonishing Tales of Sherlock Holmes will feature new digest novels and full length works about Holmes and Watson in a style both respective Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work and reflecting the skill of individual modern writers.

“Ever since Pro Se began publishing,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of and Partner in Pro Se Productions, “a month, sometimes even a week hasn’t gone by without someone emailing or asking, ‘So, when will Pro Se do a Holmes book?’ And from the beginning, we steered clear of pursuing Holmes tales for a few reasons. First, several publishers of various sizes were already producing new stories of the famous detective, both hewing to Doyle’s style and taking Holmes to brand new places. Also, we were very interested in making sure we had the right tales for Holmes as well as the best creators to leave their mark on the legend. And Holmes has shown up in a supporting capacity in a few of our books, even as a ghost. But now, everything has sort of come together in a perfect storm for Pro Se, in terms of what we wanted before throwing our deerstalker into the ring, as it were. And that is why we are proud to announce The Astonishing Tales of Sherlock Holmes!”

The new line of stories from Pro Se Productions will feature only digest novel or novel length Holmes adventures (Digest novels-30 thousand words, novel- 60 thousand words). The first work in the series will be The Astonishing Tales of Sherlock Holmes: The Shrieking Pits by author Nikki Nelson-Hicks and will be available in the coming weeks from Pro Se Productions.

Artist Jeff Hayes created the wonderfully rendered cover for The Shrieking Pits. Evoking classic images of the Detective and his partner, the cover also hints at the adventure and mystery that Holmes and Watson will encounter, again balancing aspects of both classic tales and new influences.

Jeff Hayes was born and raised in Austin, Texas where he continues to live and work today. He began his graphic design career working as a pen and ink illustrator for a role-playing and strategic gaming company and work several years as a commercial illustrator for a retail grocery chain. In 1989, he changed careers and has served as a law enforcement officer for over 25-years. During this time he has continued working as a part-time illustrator and graphic designer, focusing primarily on audio, television, and film entertainment promotions. A fan of diverse subject matter, his core interests remains science fiction, fantasy, western, and not surprising - crime dramas. Most recently, Hayes has provided hundreds of illustrations for audio drama promotions, covering a wide variety of classical and contemporary subjects. Examples of his artwork can be found on his website at www.plasmafiregraphics.com.

The Astonishing Tales of Sherlock Holmes: The Shrieking Pits by Nikki Nelson- Hicks will be available very soon from Pro Se Productions.

For more information on this series or interviews with the creators, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Deadline Getting Close on The Haunted City 2014 Short Story Contest


Doubleday and Blumhouse Books invite you to submit your short story, on the theme of urban horror, for inclusion in The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City.

Your story:
- Must fit the theme of urban horror.
- Must be less than 2000 words.
- Must be your original work.
- Must be written in English.

Once submissions close, on December 1, Doubleday and Blumhouse will select six finalists.

Final stories will be posted on the Blumhouse Books and Knopf Doubleday websites and social media, where fans can vote on their favorite story. Voting will be open for a period of two weeks after finalists are announced and stories are posted.

The winning story will be announced on or around January 1, 2015 and will be included in the e-book and print editions of The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City.

Read and apply: http://knopfdoubleday.com/the-haunted-city-2014-short-story-contest-rules/

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Language Barrier -- Tolkien Did It, So It's Okay, Right?

There's a well established literary history of writers making up words and creating new ways of communicating verbally, from the poetry of e.e. cummings and the plays of Shakespeare to the fantasy and sci-fi of classic and contemporary authors. But why and how?

Why create a new language for your story? What's wrong with the existing ones?

H. David Blalock: Precedent. The most successful fantasy stories have all contained "new languages." Tolkien intended to show how a totally new language could be built into a world with its own identity. Before him, men like Lovecraft, Ashton Smith, even Howard had already looked for ways to get around calling their otherworldly heroes and villains something more exotic than "Dave" and "Steve."

Percival Constantine: I personally don't see it as being necessary. When I read Fellowship, I skipped over most of the parts in Elvish (and the songs, and the overly verbose passages—I was not a fan). As a writer, I know I'm going to have to provide a translation for those passages anyway, so I just don't see much of the point. I know there are those who feel it adds some additional flavor to the story, but I'm not one of them.

What are the pitfalls of creating a made-up language for the world of your story?

Percival Constantine: I've done a bit (emphasis on "a bit") of linguistic studying and I think I know enough to say this: if you don't know what you're doing, don't create a whole language. Tolkien was not only proficient in a number of languages but also a professor of linguistics and definitely knew his stuff. Dropping in the occasional word here and there for flavor is one thing, but creating an entire language is something completely different.

H. David Blalock: Invariably, fantastic names will run into pronunciation problems. The readability of the story is often crippled when the main character's name is hobbled with a lack or plethora of vowels, too many hyphens or apostrophes, or is just plain incomprehensible. Likewise for the language. The readers should be able to pronounce the words in their heads even if they get tongue-tied trying them out loud.

How do you go about the process of inventing new words and new ways of speaking? Do you build from existing language or start from scratch?

Jeremy Hicks: I find that it is much easier to adapt an existing language that is not heard commonly. Or seen in most forms of media. Anthropologists and linguists have been assembling extensive dictionaries and translations on most remote, dying, or dead languages, so you might as well put them to use for flavor. But do it systemically and judiciously. And like Perry said, preferably sparingly.

H. David Blalock: I try to use a language already in use as a basis. Not being a philologist, I don't have the expertise or the inclination to go through the agony Tolkien must have endured. My favorites to use are Norse, German, and Chinese. They can be twisted into some wonderfully bizarre, mind-bending names and terms.

Percival Constantine: I personally don't. I'll sometimes have a character who speaks in a manner that's strange (such as Liran in SoulQuest), but for the most part, I think you're better off focusing on the character development first.

NOTE: Here's a particularly helpful guide online to creating your own fictional language.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nugget s #26 -- Re-Finding Nemo


There are some stories that I will go back to again and find 
that I enjoy very much. I learned this from doing public 
readings. It always surprised me that I often enjoyed the 
story more through the act of sharing it aloud with others.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

[Link] In Defense of "Write What You Know"

In lieu of another personal interview this week, I thought I'd instead share this practical, helpful article from a fellow writer. I think you'll find your time reading it well spent. 

====================

by Lucy Blue

In a recent writers roundtable over at comic and fiction writer Sean H. Taylor’s blog (Bad Girls, Good Guys and Two-Fisted Action, and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out), we talked about the best and worst advice we’ve ever received as writers. More than half of us piled on the hate for that cursed pearl so loved by high school creative writing teachers everywhere: Write What You Know. What a load of crap, we agreed. How boring would fiction be if writers only ever wrote what they know? There’d be no science fiction, no fantasy, no horror that didn’t make you cry and throw up, and very little romance of the slightest interest to anybody but the parties involved. I was part of the lynch mob, I freely admit. I think this idea of writing what you know has produced more soggy, self-indulgent crap calling itself story than any concept ever devised with the possible exception of “why do vampires have to be so mean?” Most of us in the roundtable write speculative fiction of one kind or another, and we rejected this nonsense out of hand. “Write what you know,” indeed.  But now that I think more about it, I’m not so sure we were right.

After all, the advice isn’t, “Write ONLY what you know.” Very few of us have autobiographies that the average reader would find enthralling, no matter how artfully we might present them. There are exceptions, of course, and different readers will always be interested in and inspired by different things. But anybody who has a friend or cousin who posts every breath they take, every move they make, every leaf they rake to Facebook knows what I’m talking about. That being said, we all of us have our moments, and for writers those moments “recollected in tranquillity” (to borrow a phrase from Wordsworth just this once and never again, I promise) are what bring our stories to life and make them uniquely ours. Isaac Asimov presumably was not a robot, nor did he own one. But after reading the Foundation trilogy, I’m pretty sure he spent a fair amount of time is some situation which caused him to consider the need for and dangers inherent in altruism and the search for identity in plain, old, ordinary humans.

Continue reading: http://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/in-defense-of-write-what-you-know/

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #302 -- Don't Suck!

If a writing mentor were to tell you "don't suck," what would you understand that to mean?

Well, considering one of my writing mentors actually told me that, I guess this is more than mere speculation.

When I got that advice, at first I felt it was like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. It was too loose, too gooey, so formless that it didn't really mean anything at all. But without realizing it, those two annoying words had already done their damage and wormed their way into my mental operating system like a computer virus.

Each story I'd write after that, I'd find myself asking, "Is this the best I can do? Does it suck? Why does it suck? What do I need to do to make it not suck?" And so on...

So I guess for me, "Don't suck" was more a motivation than a technique. It was the underlying drive that made me examine my work to learn and recognize what sucked and what worked. In essence, by not meaning anything at all, it ended up meaning everything. "Don't suck" forced me to discover for myself what made writing effective and what made it defective.

So, in one sense, yes, it's like telling an apprentice to "Do better" without actually offering any practical advice on how to improve his or her technique and skills. Pointless. But in another sense, it's like dangling the possibility of being fired in front of an apprentice unless he or she takes the initiative to be responsible for his or her own career. Worth everything.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

[Link] “Dude, you suck!”

by Tony Acree

In life, and especially in writing, you can’t please everyone. In fact, when it comes to writing fiction, I’m a firm believer if you haven’t pissed off someone, you’re not taking enough chances.

But how do you handle it when you get that first bad review? Or even worse, you aren’t getting any reviews at all? Well, let’s take a moment and talk about both those situations.

When your novel makes it into print, you want people to take a chance and read it. Reviews are one way to convince the wary book reader to part with his or her hard earned cash. It goes without saying you can badger your friends and family into reviewing your book. But how to get others to do so?

Read the full article: http://cbryanbrown.net/guest-post-dude-you-suck-by-tony-acree/

Saturday, November 8, 2014

INNOVATIVE GENRE FICTION AND NEW PULP PUBLISHER ESTABLISHES AGGRESSIVE MISSION AND SCHEDULE FOR 2015 FORWARD


For Immediate Release

Pro Se Productions, a publishing house based in Batesville, Arkansas, announced today plans for future projects and a more streamlined focus in its overall mission.

Established in 2010, Pro Se Productions entered into publishing focusing on a style of fiction that would come to be known by many as ‘New Pulp’. Inspired by the usually fast paced, plot centric tales peopled with larger than life characters published in Pulp magazines of the early 20th Century, New Pulp as a style pays homage to classic Pulp, but also often brings a modern relevance as well as other aspects to new works. Although not the first publisher focusing on New Pulp, Pro Se quickly established itself as a leader in the niche market that existed for stories of this type.



Since its inception, Pro Se Productions has published over 150 individual titles, either in print, digitally, or both. Pro Se is known for publishing a variety of authors and artists, from previously unpublished creators to New York Times bestselling authors. The company has also established several different imprints, including author centered lines, an imprint focused on genre fiction for young readers, a nonfiction/academic imprint both studying New Pulp and offering facts and resource materials for fans and authors, and others. One of Pro Se’s newest and strongest innovations has been the development of the Pro Se Single Shot and Pro Se Single Shot Signature lines, providing digital only short fiction – stand alone stories as well as series, serialized novels, and author focused imprints – for 99 cents each.

As a New Pulp publisher, Pro Se has thrown a wide net regarding the stories it accepts and publishes, carrying representatives of multiple genres in its catalog. In doing this, Pro Se has become identified as a Publisher of Genre Fiction as well.

“Pro Se Productions,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se, “is most definitely a publisher of New Pulp. The company is also considered a Genre Fiction publisher as well. The two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. The bottom line and Pro Se’s mission from here on out is really simple. We intend to publish quality Genre Fiction, the best of the best, and a fair share of what we publish will be action adventure oriented, regardless of genre, and will appeal to not only New Pulp fans hopefully, but classic Pulp fans, heroic fiction fans, and overall just fans in general.”

“Pro Se,” continues Hancock, “intends to take the type of works we publish, both past and future, not only to the audience we know exists for them, but to new fans, to markets most New Pulp or general Genre Fiction publishers have yet to tap. We’ll be focusing on genre specific markets for the books that fit in them, but we also intend to introduce fan bases that didn’t know they already enjoyed the sort of work that writers and artists who create for Pro Se produce. The diversity Pro Se already has in our library is a good platform from which to grow. And that won’t simply be done just because we want it to be. In the coming months, Pro Se will be experimenting with different ways of packaging current and future works as well as innovations in distribution and promotion. We’ve spent the last four years building a company that we are proud of. Now it’s time to show as much of the world as possible why they should be, as readers, a part of what Pro Se is doing.”

One major area of focus for Pro Se in the immediate future is the Pro Se Single Shot and Single Shot Signature lines. “The thing,” says Hancock, “about getting what a company publishes into the hands of as many fans as possible is that it has to be accessible and affordable. The Pro Se digital singles most definitely qualify in both ways and also feature some of the best writers in Genre Fiction today. We’ve also structured the lines in such a way that, within the next two months, we will be making several announcements related to various ways to access the Single Shots, potentially at even a better price than currently. Much like classic Pulp magazines of the past, the Pro Se Single Shot lines have the potential to be the gateway for new fans into Genre Fiction and perhaps the strongest arm of Pro Se in the future.”

Pro Se Productions is committing to an aggressive schedule in 2015 and beyond. Known for publishing up to four books or more a month in the last 18 months, Pro Se has no plans to slow down. The company is no longer taking unsolicited submissions until January 1, 2016. The purpose of this is to focus on the myriad of works already scheduled for 2015, a lineup that is impressive, to say the least.

“To list everything,” says Hancock, “would take pages and pages. We will be transparent in coming months, making multiple announcements about projects and events. Pro Se Productions is proud to say, though, that we will be bringing fans not only the best authors we already publish, but new names as well. Some they may recognize, such as John Lutz, Robert Randisi, and Richard Lee Byers, and others may be new to them, like Charlotte Knox, Raymond Masters, and Spencer Loeb. H. David Blalock will have a collection of short stories published by Pro Se Productions. Author Paul Bishop is developing a new series of crime fiction and Pro Se is proud to be the home for it. Van Allen Plexico will also have a much stronger and welcome presence with Pro Se in 2015 and beyond. New Pulp concepts, like Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon, will receive the academic treatment in our PulpStudies imprint.”

“Pro Se will also continue to bring the best of classic fiction back in new stories, something that we have been doing already in our Pulp Obscura imprint. Beginning in 2015, Pro Se will have a new imprint focused on bringing classic public domain characters back to life in new stories as well as continuing to do so through Pulp Obscura. Pro Se will also continue to work with companies like Heroic Publishing and creators like Barry Reese and Gary Phillips and publish licensed works for them as well as others to be announced later.”

“Most assuredly,” guarantees Hancock, “we will also continue to bring you the best authors in Genre Fiction, as we have been doing for four years. More work from Nancy Hansen, Logan L. Masterson, Kevin Rodgers, Lee Houston, Jr., and other Pro Se stalwarts is definitely on the way. Put simply, Pro Se Productions will continue to produce the best fiction in multiple genres from quality creators possible.”

For more information on this article or Pro Se in general, email Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Friday, November 7, 2014

[Link] Transrealism: the first major literary movement of the 21st century?

by Damien Walter

It’s not science fiction, it’s not realism, but hovers in the unsettling zone in between. From Philip K Dick to Stephen King, Damien Walter takes a tour through transrealism, the emerging genre aiming to kill off ‘consensus reality’

A Scanner Darkly is one of Philip K Dick’s most famous but also most divisive novels. Written in 1973 but not published until 1977, it marks the boundary between PKD’s mid-career novels that were clearly works of science fiction, including The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and his late-career work that had arguably left that genre behind. Like VALIS and The Divine Invasion that followed it, A Scanner Darkly was two stories collided into one – a roughly science-fictional premise built around a mind-destroying drug, and a grittily realistic autobiographical depiction of PKD’s time living among drug addicts.

It is also, in the thinking of writer, critic and mathematician Rudy Rucker, the first work of a literary movement he would name “transrealism” in his 1983 essay "A Transrealist Manifesto." Three decades later, Rucker’s essay has as much relevance to contemporary literature as ever. But while Rucker was writing at a time when science fiction and mainstream literature appeared starkly divided, today the two are increasingly hard to separate. It seems that here in the early 21st century, the literary movement Rucker called for is finally reaching its fruition.

Transrealism argues for an approach to writing novels routed first and foremost in reality. It rejects artificial constructs like plot and archetypal characters, in favour of real events and people, drawn directly from the author’s experience. But through this realist tapestry, the author threads a singular, impossibly fantastic idea, often one drawn from the playbook of science fiction, fantasy and horror. So the transrealist author who creates a detailed and realistic depiction of American high-school life will then shatter it open with the discovery of an alien flying saucer that confers super-powers on an otherwise ordinary young man.

Read the full article: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/oct/24/transrealism-first-major-literary-movement-21st-century

Thursday, November 6, 2014

[Link] Badass Women of the Pulp Era

by Jess Nevins

The pulps of the world were full of tough men. The iconic pulp characters — the Shadow, Doc Savage, Tarzan — are all men, and the common perception of the pulps is that they were written by male writers, about male characters, for male readers.

However, the pulps were more progressive than mainstream fiction (and film and comic strips, etc.) in a number of respects, including and especially the number of formidable female characters who appeared in them. Even excluding those characters whose writers forced them into marriage and respectability, the list of Women Badder Than You is long. Here are 14 of the most badass fictional women to appear during the pulp era. Excluded are the best-known female badasses: Isaac Asimov's Susan Calvin, C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry, John Russell Fearn's Golden Amazon, and Lester Dent's Pat Savage. You already know them. Here are some you don't - but you should.

Read the full article: http://io9.com/5802941/badass-women-of-the-pulp-era