Tuesday, August 11, 2015

[Link] What makes readers keep turning pages?

by Paul Bishop

IN EPISODIC TELEVISION, you never hear long expositional explanations of character history or incidents from previous episodes. Instead, the action on the screen is so crisp and clear, viewers become invested in the show from the first scene

The same thing needs to happen on the page.

To accomplish this, you need to emulate what occurs in the television world, where staff writers for a show create a macro story arc for the season before creating the micro story arcs for each individual episode.

This way, each individual episode of a show contains all of the beats of the micro arc for the episodes specific storyline, as well as one, two, or three beats needed to progress the storyline of the macro arc.

Continue reading: http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-makes-readers-keep-turning-pages/

Saturday, July 18, 2015



A Publisher of Genre Fiction and New Pulp, Pro Se Productions proudly announces the debut of a new character, one whose roots are firmly planted in the early years of Comic books for inspiration. Author Richard C. White recalls the daring heroines of the Golden Age of adventure with his own character, springing to life in New Pulp prose. The Dark Leopard: Mouse Trap is now available in print and digital formats!

“There is so much,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “to be said for reaching into the past, back to stories that have come before and seeing what modern writers today could do with such concepts. It’s not simply nostalgia. It’s about not only showing a respect for our literary past, but introducing the concepts that drove those stories, that inspired those characters, to modern readers and to find their significance today. With The Dark Leopard: Mouse Trap, Richard harkens back to more than one four color masked maven and definitely adds in his own flair to what is, all in all, a double fisted tale of action and intrigue.”

Rachel Black is known to millions for many reasons—her hit movies, her glamorous lifestyle, and her reputed romances with Hollywood’s leading men. But Rachel also leads a secret life far away from the hot spotlights as the terror of criminals, saboteurs, and spies…because with the donning of a mask and risking of her life, Rachel is The Dark Leopard, Hollywood’s glamorous detective star.

Rachel, her father, Langston Black, and Mark Stone, a journalist and some-time partner with the lovely masked heroine, are in Monaco to make a movie about Nancy Wake, the World War II’s most celebrated British Special Operations agent. It’s the chance of a lifetime for Rachel and she’ll do anything to make the picture successful. However, when things start going wrong on the set, she begins to wonder whether it’s a rival movie company or perhaps something more sinister—something that may call for a certain feline super-hero. Then, a shadow from the past makes Rachel remember the reason she became the Dark Leopard in the first place.

Paying homage to classic Heroines of the Golden Age, Pro Se Productions proudly presents the debut adventures of The Dark Leopard, created by author Richard C. White.

Featuring a stunning cover by Rock Baker and print formatting and logo design by Forrest Bryant, The Dark Leopard: Mouse Trap is available now at Amazon and Pro Se’s own store for 10.00.

The debut of White’s catlike heroine is also available as an eBook, designed and formatted by Bryant for only $2.99 for the Kindle and for most digital formats via Smashwords.

For more information on this title, contact 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, July 17, 2015

[Link] Are writers guilty of whitewashing their novels?

by Paul Bishop

THE NEW BRADLEY COOPER/EMMA STONE FILM, Aloha, has regenerated a long seated controversy over the whitewashing of Hollywood movies. Aloha, a movie filmed in Hawaii about the Hawaiian culture, has no Hawaiians in the cast except for a few very minor roles.

This history of this whitewashing goes back most notably to the 1931 film Charlie Chan Carries On starring Swedish actor Warner Oland as Chan. Oland had also played Fu Manchu in an earlier film. However, the practice of casting white actors in ethnic roles began much earlier.

My own experience with this phenomenon came when I was pitching a script I’d written about the first African-American military pilot, Eugene Jacques Bullard, nicknamed the Black Swallow of Death during his time flying with the Lafayette Escadrille in France. Now keep in mind, this is a true story. At the end of the pitch, the studio executive I was pitching asked – in all seriousness – if I could make the main character white.

The publishing industry has also been accused of whitewashing – portraying ethnic main characters on book covers, especially Young Adult novels, using Caucasian features and very, very light skin tones.

Cultural icons of all sorts have also been subjected to this whitewashing –

Why, for instance, is Jesus, a Jew born in the Middle East, almost always portrayed with extremely Caucasian features and very long hair? I know the specious arguments about the area where he was born being light haired and Caucasian featured, but really? Somehow, I don’t buy it.

I recently found myself thinking about how much of this is consciously or unconsciously done, especially in the case of novelists. I recently finished the manuscript for my new book, Lie Catchers (due for publication in August by Pro Se). The book is fiction, but very much based on my experiences as a detective and interrogator with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Read the full article: http://venturegalleries.com/blog/are-writers-guilty-of-whitewashing-their-novels/

Sunday, July 12, 2015


by Chuck Dixon

I made a partial list below (I’m sure Duane Thomas, Larry Correia and others can add to it) of dumb things I see in novels and comics and movies in the area of firearms. A few of these (for dramatic license) I make myself. But they’re still dumb.


If you’re dumb enough to put a silencer on a revolver then you’ll discover that all the noise you hoped to suppress will escape from around the cylinder. See, an automatic is a sealed system allowing gas to vent only from the end of the barrel. So all your sound is coming from the barrel as well. A revolver is not sealed. There’s a gap twixt the cylinder and the barrel where they meet. This gap allows the cylinder to turn. It also allows gas and noise to escape.


We’ve all seen the scene where on adversary has the drop on another at the end of a gunfight. One guy holds out an automatic to the other guy’s head, says a take away line (“This is where the rubber meets the road, scumbag.”) and then…click. The gun’s empty! Well, when an automatic has fired its last cartridge the slide atop the action locks back. They would both know the gun was empty. At the same time the firing mechanism locks back as well so no “click”. If you need to have a scene like this make sure your character’s armed with a revolver.

Read the full article: http://dixonverse.blogspot.com/2015/05/stupid-gun-mistakes-most-writers-make.html?m=1

Saturday, July 11, 2015



Known as an innovator in Genre and Pulp Fiction, Pro Se Productions lays claim to that title once again with its latest release. From the far out imagination of creator Jim Beard comes a band of musicians and heroes that redefine ‘out of sight’ in a new anthology! Get ready, cats and kittens, for The Lemon Herberts!

“The most wonderful thing,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “about Genre Fiction is just how broad a canvas it offers creators to work on. Add in the application of the Pulp style of writing to a trippy concept that might seem more at home on a Saturday morning TV screen than in an anthology and the writers Jim Beard brought together, and you truly have something unique. The Lemon Herberts is equal parts lunacy, fun, and action, which, in Pro Se’s book, makes for the best stories!”

MADNESS! Beat it, Beatles! Move over, Monkees! Roll it up, Rolling Stones! Here comes the greatest, grooviest, gearest rock-and-roll group of all time: The Lemon Herberts!

Hot on the heels of their chart-topping hit album, Redwing Blackbird’s Summer Solstice Tea Party, the Lemon Herberts launch themselves on their very first world tour – and straight into more danger, more peril, more sheer adventure than they ever bargained for! In six kicky, pulpy, far-out tales, you’ll meet drummer Ellroy, guitarists Honor and Dilly, bassist Ally, and the gorgeously fab Her Majesty – trouble-magnets that even their long-suffering manager, the mysterious Brighton Hawks, can’t hope to contain. Just ask the Lemon Herberts’ legion of screaming fans: they’re wild, they’re wonderful, they’re simply the most!

Herberts’ creator Jim Beard leads a band of groovy authors -- Nathan Meyer, M. H. Norris, Rocko Jerome, Sam Gafford, and Joseph Lamere -- for a New Pulp collection that will have you tapping your toes and humming along as The Lemon Herberts conquer the world, shining their music into hearts both dark and light around the globe!

Featuring an awesome cover by Michael Hegedus and print formatting and logo design by Forrest Bryant, The Lemon Herberts is available now at Amazon and Pro Se’s own store at  for $15.00.

The band’s debut anthology is also available as an EBook, designed and formatted by Bryant for only $2.99 for the Kindle and for most digital formats via Smashwords.

For more information on this title, contact 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, July 10, 2015

[Link] Pulp’s Big Moment: How Emily Brontë met Mickey Spillane

by Louis Menand

Back when people had to leave the house if they wanted to buy something, the biggest problem in the book business was bookstores. There were not enough of them. Bookstores were clustered in big cities, and many were really gift shops with a few select volumes for sale. Publishers sold a lot of their product by mail order and through book clubs, distribution systems that provide pretty much the opposite of what most people consider a fun shopping experience—browsing and impulse buying.

Book publishers back then didn’t always have much interest in books as such. They were experts at merchandising. They manufactured a certain number of titles every year, advertised them, sold as many copies as possible, and then did it all over the next year. Sometimes a book would be reprinted and sold again. Print runs were modest and so, generally, were profits.

Then, one day, there was a revolution. On June 19, 1939, a man named Robert de Graff launched Pocket Books.

Read the full article: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/05/pulps-big-moment

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Going Pro

Welcome to the newest writers roundtable. This week, we're going to talk about what it means to go pro as a writer. So I looked up three of most "pro" pros I could think of, Bill Craig, Derrick Ferguson, and Aaron Smith. 

What does it mean to you to "go pro" as a writer? What are the criteria to consider oneself a professional writer?

Aaron Smith: I started to consider myself a pro when I began to have opportunities to make money with my work, even before the money started to arrive. There was a certain moment when my attitude shifted and writing went from being a hobby to being something I took much more seriously. I think the difference is mainly one of attitude.

Derrick Ferguson: I considered myself to be a real professional when I had people seeking me out and offering me money to write for them. I felt like I had turned a corner and had reached a level where people knew my name, had read my work and trusted me enough that they were willing to say; "hey, here's a chunk of change... come write something for me."

Bill Craig: To me it was when I started making money from the things I was writing. That meant I was reaching people and telling the stories that they wanted to read. The fact that people look for my newest book and are willing to pay for them mean I have arrived as a professional writer. As far as number.

How does a writer make the step from amateur to pro?

Bill Craig: You make the step from amateur to professional when you acquire a fan base that searches your work out.

Aaron Smith: When writing becomes an important part of one's life and that writer works hard at it and treats it like a real job, whether he's able to do it full time or it's just a supplement to his day job income, when one acts professionally, takes the job (and all it's other factors, like promotion and editing and submitting) seriously, and, yes, chases opportunities to profit from it, he's made the jump from amateur to pro.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sean Taylor talks Asian Pulp!

ASIAN PULP Available Now! Find out what Author Sean Taylor's story in the anthology is about and more below!

Sean Taylor is an award-winning writer of stories. He grew up telling lies, and he got pretty good at it, so now he writes them into full-blown adventures for comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. He makes stuff up for money, and he writes it down for fun. He’s a lucky fellow that way. He’s best known for his work on the best-selling Gene Simmons Dominatrix comic book series from IDW Publishing and Simmons Comics Group. He has also written comics for TV properties such as the top-rated Oxygen Network series The Bad Girls Club. His other forays into fiction include such realms as steampunk, pulp, young adult, fantasy, super heroes, sci-fi, and even samurai frogs on horseback (seriously, don’t laugh). However, his favorite contribution to the world will be as the writer/editor who invented the genre and coined the term "Hookerpunk." For more information (and mug shots) visit www.taylorverse.com and his writer’s blog at seanhtaylor.blogspot.com.

“’The Face of the Yuan Gui’,” says Taylor of his tale in the collection, “covers the period in the early 70s when Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants fled communism to the United States. Some unscrupulous types took advantage of their situation to turn escaping immigrants into slaves. Pour a young Chinese woman trying to live up to her family legacy into the mix, add a pinch of classic Eastern ghost stories, wrap it up in a clash of old ideals versus new American notions, and there you have it. “

“I love,” continues Taylor, “to delve into and learn about other cultures and nothing affords me that opportunity like writing a new story. As a history minor in college, perhaps my favorite classes were History of the Vietnam War and the History of Modern Japan. I've been obsessed with Eastern culture, particularly that of China and Japan, for as long as I can remember. I know it probably started because of Kung Fu Theatre on Sunday afternoons when I was a kid, later evolving into the films of Akira Kurosawa, but it's still fun to build off those legends and folk tales and play with those themes and characters in a real time and place in history, particularly in modern history, without resorting to the exploitation that usual accompanies such tales. Well, that and I really like to write about swords.”

As to the significance, if any, that collections like ASIAN PULP might have, Taylor states, “I hope it helps readers and reviewers to reevaluate the role and importance of other cultures in modern pulp fiction in ways that far supersede the traditional "yellow menace" or "pale-skinned beauty" that Eastern characters usually got lumped into. It kind of goes without saying that we as people tend to define things by our own surroundings and culture, and if books like Asian Pulp can cause people to take some steps outside that, then I'll be awfully proud to have been some small part of that.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015



In April 2013, Pro Se Productions released ‘Black Pulp’, a collection of stories written in classic pulp genres featuring lead characters of African descent.  Not only were readers captivated by the cast of characters featured in the book, they also saw the potential of future volumes, both of ‘Black Pulp’, and collections featuring other ethnicities in much the same way. Pro Se Productions proudly announces the release of ‘Asian Pulp’, featuring seventeen of today’s best authors, in both print and digital format.

Leonard Chang, novelist and writer and co-producer of the TV crime drama ‘Justified’, states in his introduction to ‘Asian Pulp’, “The world of pulp fiction was a world that I understood—it was a reaction to trauma, both as art and as catharsis. Personal trauma. Emotional trauma. Physical trauma. National trauma. This is why I responded to it, why I immersed myself in it. And why, whenever I was in a personal and artistic crisis, it saved me. Fiction is a reflection of and commentary on life, and I needed to find a reflection of and commentary on my life.

That there weren't any Asian Americans in the pulp I was reading wasn't a problem (or if there were Asians they tended to be dismissible stereotypes) -- no, not a problem at all, but actually an opportunity. I've always viewed writing as providing myself with more reading material. I write what I can't find out there. Why not have a Korean American act as a private eye, and infuse in his character all the traits I wanted to see but haven't? Why not write about Korean American gangsters, criminals, and detectives? And this is where we, as writers, all began moving toward: writing about people we want to see on the page, in lives and stories that speak to us.”

Following in the tradition of the best selling ‘Black Pulp’, from Today's Best Authors and up and coming writers comes ‘Asian Pulp’ from Pro Se Productions! A collection of stories featuring characters of Asian origin or descent in stories that run the gamut of genre fiction!

Asian Pulp’ includes works from Don Lee, Naomi Hirahara, Kimberly Richardson, Percival Constantine, William F. Wu, Gary Phillips, Calvin McMillin, Mark Finn, Dale Furutani, Steph Cha, Henry Chang, Sean Taylor, Gigi Pandian, Louise Herring-Jones, Alan J. Porter, and David C. Smith. The anthology opens with an introduction from Leonard Chang.

“As an author of color who writes genre fiction,” says Gigi Pandian, “I love finding books where there are diverse characters in exciting stories. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved reading mystery and adventure stories, but characters in the types of stories I enjoy rarely reflect my own ethnic heritage or the diversity around me (my father is an immigrant from India, and I grew up in California). When I became a writer, I naturally created characters that were part of my own life experience.  I enjoyed ‘Black Pulp’, so it was an honor to be invited to contribute a story for this new anthology. ‘Black Pulp’ was first and foremost a great collection of fiction--but I also loved how black writers and characters were brought into the spotlight. I hope ‘Asian Pulp’ does the same thing for Asian writers and characters.”

Mysteries, westerns, stories of crime and noir, and more, all with Asian characters in the lead! Between these covers are 17 tales of action, adventure, and thrills featuring heroes and heroines of a different shade that will appeal to audiences everywhere. ‘Asian Pulp’. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic, evocative cover by Adam Shaw and logo design and print formatting by Sean Ali, ‘Asian Pulp’ is available now at Amazon and Pro Se’s own store for 20.00.

This historic collection of authors and tales is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Forrest Bryant and available for only $4.99 for the Kindle and for most digital formats via Smashwords.

To request digital copies for review, to interview authors, or for further information on this title, contact 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.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Moonstone Brings Back The Black Bat Prose

Moonstone Books has a new release coming up later this year, The Black Bat Returns. The 270-page prose contains stories of the classic pulp character along with the Green Lama, Golden Amazon and Domino Lady. It includes stories by Ron Fortier, Bobby Nash, Adam L. Garcia, Colin B. Harvey, Sean Taylor, James Palmer, David Boop, David White, and Josh Vogt with a cover by Mike Fyles.

The Black Bat Returns is due out in November 2015.

This one features my team-up tale of the Black Bat and the Golden Amazon!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

[Link] Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language

by Amanda Patterson

Translate emotions into written body language

We are always told to use body language in our writing. Sometimes, it's easier said than written. I decided to create these cheat sheets to help you show a character's state of mind. Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, he may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy. Use these combinations as needed.

The Top Five Tips For Using Body Language

  1. Use body language to add depth to dialogue.
  2. Use it because more than 50% of human communication is non-verbal.
  3. Use it to show how your character's emotions affect his or her actions.
  4. Use it to help you show rather than tell your reader everything.
  5. Use it in moderation. If overused, it can slow your story down.

Read the full article: http://writerswrite.co.za/cheat-sheets-translate-emotions-into-written-body-language

Friday, July 3, 2015

Childhood Inspirations

We all know the axiom that "Writers read," but does that mean they were always avid readers? Let's find out, shall we...

When you were a child, were you an avid reader? Why or why not?

Aaron Smith: I read constantly as a child, mostly because I wasn't the type who fit in well with other kids. I was never really a reader of children's books, except when I was very young. I graduated pretty early to reading classic science fiction (Asimov, Heinlein, Dick, Bradbury), the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and the books my father threw out when he was done with them(he saw paperbacks as disposable, while I most certainly did not! So I rescued them), which included Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the James Bond novels of John Gardner (I caught up on Fleming later). I still enjoy the adult books I read as a child and often go back and reread the Holmes and Bond stories. Yes, I absolutely think it's important for those who grow up to be writers to have read as children. I don't think I'm aware of any of the writers I know not having been avid readers as children. Semi-related to the subject, one thing I don't quite understand is the current subdivisions of books into "children's books," "Young adult," "adult," etc. When I was growing up, there were books for kids and then we graduated to adult literature when we were ready. I don't remember all these phases being so noticeably differentiated back then. But if labeling books in such a way helps writers to sell them and readers to find them, I guess it's ok.

Mandi M. Lynch: Absolutely all the time. Sending me to my room was not a punishment because my books were there. Also, the library was a quarter mile from my house. I was allowed to walk there. Alone by age 10 or 11, with friends possibly sooner.
Ray Dean: I was always a big reader... books were exciting and offered me glimpses of other places and other times. But I really jumped in when my classmates started to tease me because I stuttered. Talking with them was a chore and so I spent more time reading.

Rose Streif: I was very much an avid reader.  So much so that my family (who in fact encouraged it) found it strange.  They would be in the other room playing cards and I would be in my room with my nose in a book.  I couldn't help it, for I was a slightly introverted and imaginative child, and books were heaven to me.  My older sister jump-started me into reading for myself (and reading more complex literature) when I was five: she was reading Black Beauty to me at bedtime, and when she came to the last chapter, she put it down and told me I had to finish it on my own.  Evil, but effective.

Stephanie Osborn: Absolutely. I was such an avid reader that my mom used to punish me for ignoring her when she'd tell me to do something. I eventually managed to convince her that I simply never heard her and she was going to have to ascertain that she got my attention, met her eyes, and that my eyes had a conscious, focused gaze on her, before she told me to do something. Otherwise, I was in some other world and never knew she said anything. Given I also had some somnolent activities at the time, that made sense to her, and we never had another problem with it.

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if avid is the right word or not, but I did read, both books and comics. My parents weren’t overly happy about my reading comics and tried to discourage it as often as possible. That  made me want to read even more comics, of course.

H. David Blalock: I was an avid reader of biographies and histories. I was enchanted with the past more than the future because I grew up during the height of the Cold War and there didn't seem to be much to look forward to at the time.

Angelia Sparrow: I was wild about books from the day I realized the marks were the story. I read voraciously. I loved Thornton W Burgess' animal books and Nancy Drew in early grade school and Edgar Rice Burroughs and JRR Tolkien in later grade school. By Jr High, I had discovered Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison and Tanith Lee and Julian May in high school. I still enjoy some of it. Burgess holds up well. Brian Daley's Han Solo trilogy is still quite good. I think you can't write unless you read. You have to be immersed in words to fall in love with them.

Robert Krog: I was an avid reader as a child. I grew up in a house full of books and readers. I was read to quite a bit when I was young. My mother, my father, and my older siblings (sometimes) all read to me until I was old enough to read on my own. I read voraciously. I read in classes with my novels hidden in my textbooks. I read at home when I should have been doing homework or chores. I read late into the night. I wish I had that much time to read now.

Selah Janel: Always. My mother worked hard to instill a love of story in me from the very beginning. She read to me all the time, and when Reading Rainbow began airing she made it a point for us to visit the library every week and look for every title mentioned on the show. I think between myself and my younger sibling, I’ve probably read a good 75% of the titles mentioned on the show and probably 85-90 percent of the books featured on the show. Most of the time when the flyers for Scholastic and other book clubs came out at school I was allowed to buy at least one book, and Mom used it as a way for us to discuss about things I was interested in and might like to read. I still remember the first book I was ever allowed to check out – There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. Summers were spent living at the library, doing the summer programs, selecting stacks of titles to take on vacation, etc. When I lived in Illinois, the library was actually built into the bottom floor of a house and the librarian lived above it. I was so jealous of that, it was such a homey, magical place. I even accidentally got locked in that building over her lunchtime because I was in the back room reading quietly and not paying attention to the time. As a grew older, My parents used things like the Peanuts comic collections as bribery for me doing my homework, and the Star Wars EU became bribe material when I was a teen and hung out at a fancier library in Indiana. It was always an important part of my upbringing – I was expected to read. We may not always agree with what I liked to read, but I was expected to take an interest in books, and that interest soon developed into an all-encompassing love.

Lee Houston Jr.: I'm still an avid reader. My parents read to me when I was a child. To this day, I can still recite passages from Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss.

Being able to read is an important life skill, regardless of what professional career you eventually choose as an adult. But having a love for literature, which in turn nurtures avid reading; fosters curiosity, the imagination, an eagerness to learn, and a love of live itself.

Erwin K. Roberts: With my family reading tons of stuff to me, most definitely. My family was also a late adopter of TV, first set when I was in the Second Grade. I read lots books and comics. As my reading skills developed I read more advanced material. I went thru just about every science-fiction title available in the children's section of the Kirkwood, Missouri, Public Library and more when available from the St. Louis County Bookmobiles.

Jeff Hewitt: I was a voracious reader as a child. My parents and older sister were, too. There was a TON of reading in my house growing up.

Armand Rosamilia: I was an avid reader. I was punished and had to spend my time in my parent's room to keep me away from my brother so we didn't kill each other.

Chris Kohler: I read all the time as a child, as I had a lot of time on my hands and it kept me from being bored. I enjoyed stuff by Beverly Cleary, Ruth Chew, and Judy Blume (as well as books on geography and dinosaurs) until about age 11 or 12, then I started reading stuff like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I really enjoyed Frederic Brown. I discovered Piers Anthony around age 14 and devoured those for a couple of years, then started getting into Stephen King and L. Ron Hubbard (the Mission Earth books were sort of dope).

Then in college, my recreational reading was Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Card, Clarke, Harrison, and I'm still working on the rest of them. I haven't really revisited books as I read as a kid (although I re-read some of them several times back then).

I'm not a writer, I'm a comic artist/cartoonist. So much of my reading these days is art books, because I want to be inspired and steal their tricks. wink emoticon I would think that prospective writers should be reading all the time for similar reasons.

Kathleen Bradean: I was an avid reader from the moment I learned to read. (4 years old, for the record) I remember the moment it clicked. I was afraid to go to sleep that night because I thought I might forget how. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took my elder sisters' readers and devoured them. Then I read my parent's novels. My third grade teacher put me into detention when I saw James Mitchner's Hawaii on her desk and said "Oh, I read that!" so my mother came down to the school and gave her hell for calling me a liar.

What series or authors did you most enjoy as a child?

Mandi M. Lynch: All of them. Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High (didn't like em as much but I read em all), the Jenny Archer series, the Mandie series... Roald Dahl. Matilda is still my favorite book; I have easily read it 200 times.

Ray Dean: Alcott was my gateway drug... Little Women was the first book I stayed up all night to read. Under my covers, flashlight, the whole bit. I don't think I fooled my great-grandparents who I was staying with that summer. They always encouraged me to read and do well in school.  I read her whole series of books and went on to Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Wrinkle in Time, Narnia, Little House, Boxcar Children, whatever I could get my hands on. It's no wonder I hung out in the library all the time and the school staff that I still talk to were all librarians or archivists.

Rose Streif: I skipped most children's literature when I was a child, because it simply wasn't immersive enough.  Books of that sort did indeed exist, but they were not in our home library.  I read a few of the classics, and then started on Stephen King around the age of nine or ten.  But the "Wham!" moment happened at age eleven, when (at the suggestions of my sister, brother, and father, respectively) I read the trifecta of Watership Down, Johnny Got His Gun, and Animal Farm.  My reading and inner life were never the same after that, and I began writing shortly thereafter and drifting towards fantasy and science fiction.

Stephanie Osborn: My gosh, too many to count, I think. Surprisingly enough, many of the series I read had nothing to do with SF: the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden (and later Tom Swift, which WAS sort of SF), Sherlock Holmes (eventually; I was given Hound of the Baskervilles before I was old enough to deal with the frightening aspects, and that sort of set me back a bit). Film and TV were what first brought me to SF. Then I discovered the Star Trek novelizations in there someplace, but before that I'd discovered the likes of Asimov, Bradbury, a bit of Heinlein, some del Ray, Madeline L'Engle, and more.

But I also did things like sitting down to read a volume of the encyclopedia, cover to cover. I read the dictionary and Mom's etiquette handbook. Anything I could find to read, and from which to learn, I read.

Bobby Nash: In the school library I discovered Encyclopedia Brown then later moved on to reading my Mom’s Reader’s Digests looking for stories. The only one there that stands out in my memory is called The Snowbound Six. I really should look that one up and give it a re-read. After Star Wars, I read Han Solo’s Revenge, which I really enjoyed. From there it was Conan, The Avenger, comics in paperback form, and whatever other paperbacks I could get my hands on. Eventually I discovered Bova, Bradbury, and Asimov.

H. David Blalock: I discovered the works of Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury as a pre-teen and found out there were those who had a better view of the future than the average person. I followed them and the writings of people like Norton, Vance, Van Vogt, Hamilton, Clement, etc. until I stumbled on the writings of Bierce, Machen, Lovecraft, Howard, Ashton Smith and Derleth. My horizons expanded from the past to the future and beyond. There were no series to speak of unless you want to infer that voraciously consuming the works of these writers constitutes a serial involvement with their work.

Robert Krog: I read my Children's Bible, Fly Away at the Airshow, The Little Red Tugboat, Where the Wild Things Are, and a lot of other young children's books early on. Later, I read dictionaries, most of The World Book Encyclopedia, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Door, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Dragon Lance Chronicles, The Pern novels, The Dark Angel Trilogy, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Mysterious Island, The Myth books by Robert Asprin, The High Crusade, The Once and Future King, various collections of Fairy Tales, some Hardy Boys, The Hitchhiker's Guide, and a few novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, such as Pirates of Venus, and Tarzan. At the time, I enjoyed everything I could get my hands on. I was not particularly discriminating.

I read everything I was supposed to read during high school, such as David Copperfield, works by Kipling, etc. I really enjoyed Les Miserable. It and the Lord of the Rings are two I go back to from time to time. They are probably my favorites, though by the time I read Les Miserable, I wasn't really a child anymore. I read the Lord of the Rings in third grade and fourth, as I recall.

Selah Janel: As a little kid I loved nursery rhymes, fairy tales, Beatrix Potter, Nancy Carlson, Stephen Kellog, Tomy dePaola. My reading skills were brushed up on this huge series of picture books my grandparents had – all I remember is they were brightly colored and featured characters like Sam and Jan and the like, and they all had pets, and they liked jam and candy and ham sandwiches a lot. They were really fun, and I read them all a million times, along with things like The Berenstein Bears, Clifford, The Little Witch, etc. As I grew a little bit, I was introduced to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, The Babysitters Club, American Girl books, James Howe, Chronicles of Narnia etc. As a preteen I loved My Teacher is an Alien, Stories from Wayside School, and I secretly read urban legends and the RL Stine titles that were just becoming popular. I’m sure I read a lot of movie novelizations, too, because that was pretty popular in the eighties, as well.

I loved the Reading Rainbow books – The Rain on Kapiti Plain is still one of the most gorgeous things in the world to me and I can still sing you the songs from Abioyo and Mama Don’t Allow. I always asked about the books that were turned into animated specials on CBS and ABC Saturday morning shows. It still saddens me that there are a LOT of books that were read to me by teachers or I devoured as a middle school kid that I just don’t remember the title to, things that were deliciously weird and surely influenced me, but I couldn’t tell you what they are for the life of me.  It was interesting, because even as a teen, I had a much younger sibling so I would read what she was reading because I could get through those books quickly and they were a much-needed break from heavy school reading. Through her I read most of Roald Dahl’s titles, The Bailey School Kids, and things like Ella Enchanted. It was a two-way street, too. From me she started reading Harry Potter and a lot of my books were handed down to her.

Lee Houston Jr.: About the only books I remember from true childhood (before starting school) are Doctor Seuss and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. As I got older and my reading skills and comprehension developed, I discovered comic books. Then in fifth grade, there was a copy of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs in my elementary school library. By the end of that book, there was no turning back. I couldn't stop reading if my life depended on it.

Erwin K. Roberts: Dr. Dolittle was first read to me, then I read more on my own. The library had most of Walter Brooks' (creator of Mr. Ed) Freddy the Pig series which often contained satire of more adult subjects. I never had a chance to discover Edgar Rice Burroughs until the paperback boom. Apparently both libraries I partonized had an unspoken ban on his work. Otis A. Kline did not have such a reputation as ERB. So I discovered the sword & planet genre via his works. I read the Tom Swift JR books and collected them for a few years. Then I got some Tom Senior books and found them much better written. I still have a few of the G&D Lone Ranger novels. My favorite Juvenile series, so-called, was the Rick Brant - Science Adventures. I collected comics all the while. I've been in and out of comics fandom since about 1962.

Jeff Hewitt: Writers MUST read, MUST. It would be like wanting to be a swimmer who refuses to swim laps, or even look at the water until they're in. You read to understand what works, to see how other authors address the difficult nature of writing, to see what doesn't work, and why. In the past, composers copied the works of great masters by hand. In doing so, they were able to see how a symphony or opera fit together, by looking at the individual pieces and fitting them together.

Armand Rosamilia: Dean Koontz was the first author I loved to read. Before that was Hardy Boys books.

Kathleen Bradean: My real first love was mystery novels like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Then I moved on to Agatha Christie and the rest of the adult library offerings in mysteries. After I'd read everything they had, I picked up Dune and became a science fiction fan. I also loved Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas and most of all Jules Vernes - stuff that was for all audiences when written but are considered YA now.

Do you still find that you enjoy children's fiction? Do you still enjoy the works you enjoyed as a child? Why or why not?

Mandi M. Lynch: I still read Matilda. And mid grades and YA. And I nanny a 18-month-old so I read picture books a lot. There are some fabulous books out there like the Llama Llama series and Bug Patrol by Denise Dowling Mortensen.

Ray Dean: Yes! Sometimes it is better than I remember... and sometimes I read it and say. I don't remember that... and wonder if I didn't see it or if I'm just beginning to understand it. Perspective changes as well. Like Jo and the Professor in Little Women. I couldn't believe that Jo didn't marry Laurie! I was bereft and sad for her back then. Reading it as an adult, I understood... boy, did I understand!

Rose Streif: Because I didn't read much children's literature as a child, I still don't. This makes my reading tastes seem incredibly pretentious, when it was really a case of early conditioning.  I'll probably get pilloried for this, but I could never make it through the first Harry Potter book, even though I enjoyed all the films.  Having said that, I still adore all the books I read as a child, because most were meant for adults.  Johnny Got His Gun I've never been able to pick up again, because of the difficult subject matter, but it's an incredible novel and I've never forgotten it.

Stephanie Osborn: I think it depends on the particular fiction. Yes, there are some of those I still read. I'm especially still fond of the Anne of Green Gables books. Since that series covered Anne's entire life, then the lives of her children, I discovered decades ago that there was something in there for me, regardless of age.

I recently got my hands on used books of a complete series of which i'd found a few books in my uncle's childhood collection, and had been fascinated with. It was about a jungle boy and was obviously a riff on the Tarzan books. Well, I got the whole series to read to find out what happened...and was rather shocked to discover how derivative, formulaic, and downright racist they were. It was classic pulp, even to the point of using multiple writers under the same pen name to create the books -- but you could still see the somewhat different styles. I found out what happened to the kid, but then I put 'em away and haven't opened 'em again because the cachet was gone -- the older, wiser, more knowledgeable me just wasn't interested.

Bobby Nash: Sometimes I do enjoy reading books where I may no longer be the target audience. There are some amazing young adult and teen titles out there. Part of me is kind of envious as there wasn’t really a line dedicated to teens when I was that age.

H. David Blalock: I no longer consciously read children's fiction, although I do still enjoy the books I read as a child. Some might say I never really read children's books (if you discount the biographies).

Robert Krog: I enjoy of some and some I do not. I read a lot to my own children and I find that some of the things that pass for children's literature is pure drivel, and others are simple, good stuff. I love rereading Where the Wild Things Are. I can recite it by heart. It isn't long. smile emoticon I also really like rereading The Clown of God by Tomie Depaola. I loved it as a child, though I didn't really understand it, and rediscovered it years later. The first time I read it as an adult, it brought tears to the eyes of myself and my wife.

Some works though, don't stand up to adult scrutiny. In books written for teenagers, the typos stand out, as do the one-dimensional characters, the wooden dialogue, and the poorly developed plots. A lot that is written for teenagers is an insult to their intelligence and helps to dumb them down and wither their interest in reading. I won't name names. Some is all adrenaline, fluff, and poor on plot, theme, character, etc. It's good, maybe, for catching the attention of someone who might not otherwise be a reader, but it isn't what classics are made of. I do have some fond memories of books I simply won't ever read again.

There is an elegance in children's stories sometimes, in stories for little children, a straight forward, unassuming simplicity that is more touching, at times, and more meaningful, at times, than anything that can be found in works written for adults.

Selah Janel: I love children’s fiction. I think it still has a lot to say, because it really gets to the core of issues and feelings. Plus, there’s a comfort factor there, whether it’s a title from my own childhood or something different. If I’m really out of sorts I’ll still check out a BSC or American Girl title, and I’ve read my copy of Heidi forty thousand times. I’ve gone through two collections of Beatrix Potter and all my Little House books have been read to pieces.  A few years ago I went through the books a lot of Disney cartoons were based on (not movie novelizations), and my mind was blown. I also just finished the Bunnicula series, because by time James Howe finished it, I was definitely an adult. I still enjoy most of the titles I loved as a kid, because I’m still, essentially, the same person. There are some titles that have made me cringe to go back to. There are some things nostalgia just can’t blind you to once you grow up. For the most part, though, it’s always a fun trip back in time. If a book is truly well-written, it doesn’t matter what age it’s meant for or what age you read it at. It’s going to give something to you and make you feel something. I’ve gotten more from Heidi and Laura Ingalls as an adult than I ever did as a child, and reading the Reading Rainbow books now makes me really appreciate how beautiful those stories are, as well as how hard it is to express some of those plots and feelings so succinctly. They give me memories from my childhood, little time capsules of moments that I might not recall on my own.

Lee Houston Jr.: The ones from childhood I still remember, yes. Being older and single, I don't really pick up children's literature unless it's in regards to my nieces and nephews. I have read and enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Got involved with that because my sister wanted an opinion on whether or not the books were “safe” for her kids, and finished the series on my own via the public library.

Erwin K. Roberts: There have been any number of books I read to my kids that I've enjoyed, but would not read for myself. However, I still can get a charge out of both Carl Barks & Don Rosa's duck epics. (My kids and I watched the Duck Tales show together. My adult daughter has the DVD's and is looking forward to the new episodes on the way.)

I have not read a Tom Swift Jr book in about forty-five years. But I pull the Rick Brant books out, now and then and truly enjoy them. That speaks strongly to the skills of the main author Hal Goodwin, an island hopping Marine journalist in WW2. He'd usually been where his stories played out. (Anyone remember Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet? That's his work, too.) I also belong to the Rick Brant Yahoo group.

The kids books & comics I still like never talked down to the reader. That's also the reason I can enjoy most of Pixar's films, kids, or no kids. Not to mention the Muppets.

Anybody else remember when Gladstone began publishing Disney comics in the 1980's? They said, in add ition to reprinting good U.S. material, they were bringing in stories published all over the world, with one exception. In the United Kingdom, they said, the local publishers enforced a directive that since no one over ten years old would dream of reading their original stories, absolutely nothing of interest to those over ten would be allowed in their Disney comics. Having downloaded and read a few UK Disney comics, I can tell you that the Suits got their way.

Armand Rosamilia: I rarely read children's fiction. I definitely don't write it.

Kathleen Bradean: I didn't like preachy stuff that was written to be "good" for kids, but I loved well-written YA stuff then and now. I go back to novels I loved as a kid. Some I still like. I didn't like Sherlock Holmes until I read A Scandal in Bohemia. That was the first time I'd ever read a female character who wasn't a good mommy, and I was smitten! Irene Adler still heavily influences the female characters I write. However since I can't view a parallel life where I wasn't a heavy reader as a child, I have no idea if that made me a better writer or not.

Based on your reading history, how important is it for future storytellers to be readers during their childhood?

Mandi M. Lynch: An absolute necessity. We need to start kids on a love of books and reading for reading sake as early as possible. Quit with reading only being over-analytical why is the chair blue type shit. Actually encourage enjoyment. If you're 10 and want to read Asimov or 50 and want to read Harry Potter, then do it. Too many people don't touch books after school. Too many people lack imagination.

Ray Dean:
Literacy is huge! I joke about children's books as gateway drugs, but I guess I'm more serious about it than I want to admit. The books I read showed me it could be done. That you can take a bunch of letters and characters and create worlds!

Rose Streif: I cannot stress how important it is.  And I may get pilloried for this as well, but I believe in a Garbage In, Garbage Out principle: if you read nothing but garbage, you will write nothing but garbage.  And those habits can start early.  Everyone progresses along different lines and may even have barriers to overcome, but you must challenge yourself, or accept challenges.  And that doesn't end with childhood.

Stephanie Osborn: Reading is essential for a writer, at any age. Optimally, I think, the young writer-to-be should be an omnivorous reader; this is when we pick up our foundation of literature. It's when we have TIME to read, ENERGY to read, and it is the best chance we have of absorbing lots of "good stuff" to work into our own writing later, as adults. I've tried to play catch-up on adding some classic literature to my mental library, things that I didn't have access to as a child, and it's much harder now, because I have to make time for it. I simply DID it as a child. But I still read nevertheless, because I get fresh ideas by doing so. I'm exposed to different styles, different ways of utilizing a point of view, and more. And I'm inspired to try 'em out in my own writing, sometimes to good effect.

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if you have to be an avid reader as a child to be an effective storyteller later. Obviously, it helps to be a reader because you’re exposed to a diverse set of storytelling methods and styles, but there’s more to being a writer than being a reader. That said, I like to think my reading choices as a kid helped ignite my interest in mysteries and adventures, which informs much of my writing.

H. David Blalock: Reading is critical to the intellectual development of children. Without it, the imagination is stunted, crippled. In an environment that does more to indoctrinate than educate, learning to read is essential to critical thinking. If you cannot read, you cannot form your own informed opinions of things. Then again, if all you read are books on the best-seller lists, you restrict yourself to the same formula over and over. Children's minds need to be stretched, challenged, encouraged to break boundaries of ideas and concepts. Young minds are the future, and the future must not be limited by the past.

Robert Krog: I'm not saying that it's essential. I've known a few authors whose work is good who have confessed that they read less than was required as children and didn't start reading for pleasure until they were adults. That being said, it can't hurt, and it surely can help. The adults who finally picked up books and found a new love are few and far between, and those whose interest in reading died aborning are as common as flies. Everyone I know who enjoys reading now but didn't as a child wishes that he had read as a child. They think they missed out on something, and they surely did. In some ways though, they get to have a second childhood, so God bless them and their newfound love of books.

Selah Janel: You can’t perform a craft unless you’re experiencing it, and the best way for a true storyteller to learn is from the very beginning. Children’s stories are really good ways to get the very basic mechanics of story: plot development, characters you can relate to, building of tension, etc. They also have a way of connecting with young readers, infusing them with that soul that not all adult titles are really capable of delivering. There needs to be some foundation, some appreciation of story and the written word if a child wants to grow up to write and tell stories of their own, or else they’re probably approaching it for all the wrong reasons. Think of how many childhood memories come from stories: the books you were read at bedtime, the weird things that supposedly happened to a friend’s friend that you were told on the playground, the memories and family legends that your parents and grandparents recalled around a dinner table. Stories of all sorts are important to children because they give them a foundation for the world and their lives, something to hang onto when things get tough or if they need a reference for the way they’re feeling.

Lee Houston Jr.: I feel it is very important. While many claim writing is a teachable subject, in the end you only learn the basics (like subject, noun, verb) and must develop the skills and passion to write on your own. One can learn not only what makes good writing from the books they enjoy, but what creates bad writing from the ones they didn't like.

Erwin K. Roberts: I wanted to be a writer, early on. For comics, not prose. I read bunches of both comics and books. As soon as I had an opportunity, for a reasonable price, I bought a copy of Stan Lee's Secrets Behind the Comics, written the year I was born.

Today I do not think it is as important to just be reading huge numbers of books. Reading books is still very important, but with the various new formats  and delivery systems for entertainment other things have become important, too. Those that think they want to write for non-traditional print and other media should also be looking under the hood of the media they enjoy and want to target.

Jeff Hewitt: By reading, we get a look at the building blocks of effective story telling, and that, in turn, should help us in our practice, art, and love.

Armand Rosamilia: It is so important to be an avid reader as a kid and read everything you can get your hands on you have even a passing interest in. I read mostly nonfiction books now to keep learning, and for future stories.

Kathleen Bradean: Some I don't like as much. But that doesn't change the impact they had on me. Did that influence me as a writer? Maybe.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

[Link] Are You Reading The Wrong Books? What Science Is Saying About Fiction Readers

by Will S.

For most, the love of books starts in childhood. For others, this love blooms later, eventually revealing the vibrant colors of a true bibliophile! But science has started looking into the effects of reading on the brain. They’ve done experiments, ran MRIs, polled, and surveyed, all to what end? Studies have been released in the past several years that have given scientists some interesting data about fiction readers and what type of fiction they should read!

What has science concluded? Studies are showing that readers of fiction are more empathetic towards others. By engaging with a story, readers are temporarily placing themselves in a character’s shoes, therefore, the more stories you read, the more shoes you’ve tried on. It’s a fascinating insight into the world of reading.

Read the full article: http://blog.theliteracysite.com/fiction-readers/#F4bzk7udmaHUPPdC.99

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Nugget #57 -- Mixing Fiction

Mixing the "high ideals" of literary fiction, with 
its focus on characterization, meaningful symbolism, 
and grand themes, and putting those ideals into the 
"common writing" of adventure fiction, likewise, really 
gets me motivated. There's nothing in the rule book 
that says a genre writer should write poorly 
or ignore the history of classic fiction.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Researching Steampunk — And More

By Stephanie Osborn

I’ve spent a good deal of time researching history for my science fiction writing, which is funny, really, because history was my least favorite subject in school. But when you’re writing a story, somehow it takes on a completely different focus, becomes less dry and dusty and more malleable. And I’ve done it quite a lot by now, actually:

  • Burnout (postWWII to the present, military and space)
  • The Fetish (Native American post-European history)
  • “The Bunker,” Dreams of Steam (Victorian era UK and USA)
  • The Displaced Detective Series (Victorian era London)
  • The Adventures of Aemelia Gearheart (as-yet unpublished; Victorian era Europe, Asia Australia, Revolutionary War America)
  • Extraction Point (scientific history, Middle Ages to present)
  • The Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis Series (coming soon; Victorian era worldwide)

For our purposes, let’s focus on the Displaced Detective series. The Displaced Detective series has been described as “Sherlock Holmes meets the X-Files,” in that it is a series of science fiction mysteries in which Sherlock Holmes is yanked from an alternate reality into the modern day and can’t be sent home again. Instead he settles into the 21st century and, together with the chief scientist of the project that brought him there, solves scientifically oriented mysteries. So I had to start with a purely Victorian British man, and compare and contrast his world with a modern American one. It entailed considerable research on the Victorian era, and London specifically.

Building references

Did you know that if you went to Great Britain and got a hotel room on the first floor, you’d need to look for the elevator, or the stairs? That’s right. Their ground floor is our 1st floor.  Their 1st floor is our 2nd floor! In the Victorian era (and in Baker Street!) the ground floor in London would house the servants, kitchen, possibly the water pump (if it was indoors) – and of course, Mrs. Hudson’s living area, as well as possibly a shop of some sort on the street. But the principal, formal living area would be on the first floor and above. We know this is where Holmes’ rooms were, as well as the sitting-room; Watson’s bedroom was on a floor above this, judging by references in the stories.

Also it’s good to know that Baker Street had an Upper (north) end and a Lower (south) end. Upper Baker Street had no numbers, nor any real dwellings, in Victorian days. In fact, it didn’t get numbers until about 1932 or thereabouts. So 221b never really existed in our world. What exists where 221b should be? That’s heavily debated, and the property keeps changing hands, but there is a large block of buildings that started out as a bank headquarters sitting where the number should actually be. The mailing address is heavily debated between the bank and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, a little way farther up Baker Street.

So did the Baker Street Irregulars really exist? As a matter of fact — yes, they did, but not as street urchins. In WWII the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive, an espionage, reconnaissance and surveillance organization that eventually merged into MI6, and with which certain “names” (such as the late Sir Christopher Lee, and the celebrated author Ian Fleming) were reputed to have worked, was located in Lower Baker Street. It took on the nickname of the Baker Street Irregulars, which is not to be confused with the international fan organization of the same name.

Is there an Underground station nearby that Holmes and Watson could have used? Yes, the Baker Street Station, one of the world’s oldest — and which was refurbished and remodeled in recent years so that one part of the station (which connects two Underground lines) is Sherlockian-themed, and the other once again displays its original Victorian styling.

Is there anywhere nearby where Holmes and Watson could have simply strolled, as is mentioned in a couple of the Conan Doyle stories? Yes, Regents Park is at the upper end of Baker Street and is quite large.

What about household furnishings? Well, the ones that would most puzzle us today are actually all still in existence but use different names. The gasogene (aka domestic time bomb) was a seltzer maker. It consisted of two bottles held together with wicker or wire, one containing tartaric acid and sodium bicarbonate which reacted to produce carbon dioxide, and the other containing water. When the handle was depressed, carbonated water emerged for mixing into drinks – when the thing didn’t explode from pressure buildup, that is. The tantalus was simply a liquor cabinet, often portable (in an awkward, bulky sort of way). It contained crystal decanters rather than bottles, with metal labels on chains. The gasogene was typically kept here too. The tantalus was usually kept locked unless it was being used to pour drinks. (No sense in encouraging the hired help to raid the liquor cabinet, you know! Seriously, that would have been one of the rationales behind keeping it locked, in the day.)

Alcohol and Tobacco

If a gentleman were out and about, he might have ale, beer, or stout, typically at a pub. After dinner, or at his club, it was whisky, scotch or brandy, usually with a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. The combination was used because tobacco potentiates any other drug with which it was used, so the host could provide a nice buzz with much less expensive alcohol. (It was also why opium was usually smoked with tobacco in a hookah. An expensive drug, as it was imported, the tobacco enabled the same high with a lesser amount.) Cigarettes were hand-rolled, and there were tricks to handling a pipe: lighting it, keeping it going, and maintaining it are all more difficult than one would think if one hasn’t tried it.

How do I know? I learned to smoke a pipe expressly to be able to write Holmes’ use of it properly. This includes sipping whisky or brandy with it, which resulted in my learning first-hand how well tobacco potentiates the alcohol! I am NOT a heavy drinker, and I have never been so drunk before or since, nor do I wish to be.

There are a myriad of variations on a pipe. Holmes is usually depicted smoking a Meerschaum Calabash pipe, but this dates from the first stage portrayal of Holmes by William Gillette. He found that such a pipe had several useful advantages for stage use:

  • It was heavily curved, and so the bowl stayed out of the way of the face. This both enabled the audience to see the actor better, and the actor’s expressions and emoting to come through as a consequence. (It is sometimes debated how much of Gillette’s ego went into the choice.)
  • It was well balanced, and allowed the actor to speak around it even with it in his mouth, sometimes even without the aid of hands.

In all likelihood, however, Holmes would have smoked a long-stemmed briar pipe.

Then there is something called the dottle. This is the slightly charred, often soggy remains of the bowlful of tobacco left at the bottom after smoking. It can be removed, dried, and smoked, though it is often a bit harsh. Doyle tells us that Holmes had a habit of collecting the dottle from a day’s worth of pipe use, drying it on a corner of the fireplace mantel, then using this as his first-thing-in-the-morning smoke.

Lighting tobacco could be a risky proposition in those days. A smoker would have used a match, a hot coal held awkwardly in fireplace tongs, or possibly the jet of a gas lamp. There WAS the precursor of a modern lighter: the fusee, a kind of a flintlock or flare; it was bulky and dangerous, especially if the smoker possessed a beard.
For emergencies, brandy was used to “revive” a victim, I presume in much the same manner smelling-salts were and are used. Modern well-known liquors were available at the time, such as Glenlivet (a relatively new distillery at the time) and Hennessey, a British brandy as opposed to a French cognac, but it is the same beverage for all intents and purposes. (The difference arises from the requirement that “cognac” be applied only to those products of a certain region of France.) I thought Holmes might be an Anglophile, although possibly not; his grandmother was French (Vernet). Besides, Watson references brandy, not cognac. As a result, I chose Hennessey for my experiments with after-dinner tobacco pipes and brandy.

Clothing and modes of dress
A gentleman's dress varied depending on where he was or where he was going. If he was in the city, his outerwear would include an overcoat, top hat, frock coat, ascot, cane, and possibly spats. But if he were in, or traveling to, the country, he would attire himself in tweeds; a boater, deerstalker or flat cap; and an overcoat, cloak, Inverness cape, or duster-type coat, depending upon weather. All of these would fasten with buttons or hooks & eyes; there were no zippers and no belts. Trousers were held up with suspenders, or “braces” as they were usually called. Jeans were just being invented, and were not used in the UK. The cloth was produced in France (twill de Nimes — “denim”). The first cowboy hats by Stetson in the US had avid competition by Christy's in the UK, who is still a provider to the Crown.
A proper gentleman such as Holmes would be attired from the skin up as follows: vest and pants (these today would be called boxers and undershirt – NOT a t-shirt, but a tank-top style), stockings (socks), a shirt with replaceable collar (ring around the collar? Throw it away and get another), button-up trousers (modern pants, trousers, or slacks, but with a button fly) held up by braces (suspenders), a double-pocketed waistcoat (“WES-kət,” now known as a vest), and if in public or with visitors, a suit-coat of various styles, and a tie of some sort, approximating the modern bow or regular tie, or something even fancier. The tie was often referred to as a cravat. Shoes were leather, usually ankle height, and buttoned up. Note also that some men of the era wore corsets, although there is no evidence that Holmes or Watson did so.
Accessories would include cufflinks and a pocket-watch. The watch was properly placed in one waistcoat pocket; the chain (if the wearer was of sufficient means to afford a long chain) was threaded through a buttonhole in the waistcoat and over to the other pocket. On the other end of the long chain would be some necessary trinket such as a pipe tool (for cleaning and/or tamping one’s pipe) or a jack-knife (pocket knife), and this would be tucked into the waistcoat pocket opposite the pocket-watch. If the wearer could not afford such, then a single swag ran from the waistcoat pocket to hook around one of the waistcoat buttons. In addition, when going out, no London gentleman would be caught dead without his cane (young or old, handicapped or no), kid leather gloves, and silk hat (top hat). Optional accessories included studs instead of shirt buttons, a stick pin for the cravat, spats (to protect expensive leather shoes from the mud on the streets and in the gutters, which not infrequently still contained the contents of chamber pots, at least in certain parts of London), watch fobs, and overcoats and wool scarves in winter.
The only skin which showed on a PROPER Victorian male or female in public – if they were of any station at all – was the skin of the face and upper neck.

Personal hygeine
The era had very little running water. Instead they used pitcher and basin, with water from a pump (often outdoors). There were, of course, no hot showers, but there were clawfoot tubs with water lugged from the ground floor; if heated water was desired, it was heated on a wood or gas stove.

Straight razors and soap with a brush to lather it did for shaving; the “safety razor” had just been invented — the ancestor to the modern razor. In addition, one could get periodic touchups by the corner barber.
Toothbrushes were uncommon but existed, made of natural materials (wood, boar bristle). No toothpaste — they used tooth powder made by their neighborhood chemist (apothecary, pharmacy). This powder ranged from baking soda to powdered pumice and sometimes did as much harm as good. The first commercial deodorant came into being about this time — Mum, later known as Ban, it was a paste or cream applied by the fingers. Colognes, aftershave, personal fragrances, all were compounded at the chemist's. Aftershave was probably no more than a simple alcohol and/or witch hazel blend with possibly fragrance added. For men, bay rum was a popular fragrance of the day; women’s fragrances tended toward the single-note florals.

Non-London Research: Colorado

Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs (~6000ft) pre-white-man were literally areas of springs, some of which are naturally carbonated, all of which are artesian. They were natural winter havens for Native Americans (mostly Utes). Ute Pass (US 24) was used by the Utes to get to the summertime pasturage behind the Front Range, in the high meadows (~9000-10,000ft). Lots of bison were in the area then, at low and high altitudes, so there was plenty of food.
The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (used in book 1, The Arrival) was an ancient Eocene redwood forest valley. A massive volcanic eruption from numerous volcanos in the area (part of the 39-Mile volcanic system) dammed a stream and flooded it, killing the redwoods before “petrifying” (remineralizing) them; it also fossilized insects and animals. When the first settlers came through the area, there was so much petrified wood they had to move it just to make a road, and often took souvenirs with them. There’s very little left now except what is preserved in the Monument. The conjoined Hornbek Homestead, moved to the site from its original location nearby, was a frontier homestead run by Adeline Hornbek. This amazing woman was widowed once, married again, and her second husband Hornbek disappeared, leaving her with a ranch and kids. She made a go of it and had one of the wealthier frontier homes, complete with:

  • glass windows
  • 2 stories
  • 4 bedrooms
  • ornate Victorian furnishings
  • a milk house, chicken house, and stables!

She even ran the local mercantile and was a contemporary of Holmes — or rather, would have been.
Cripple Creek & Victor were gold/silver boomtowns. They sit in the middle of an ancient volcanic crater, where to this day, miners dig into the volcanic neck for ore. (Yes, I’ve been down in one of the gold mines in the area.)

Non-London Research: RAF Bentwaters & RAF Woodbridge

Now we get into WWII history.  RAF Bentwaters & RAF Woodbridge (used in books 3 & 4, The Rendlesham Incident & Endings and Beginnings) were built for emergency landings returning from Germany over the Channel. The ancient Rendlesham Forest is in between the two bases. There was even an accidental German bomber landing there due to an inexperienced crew! They got turned around, lost over the Channel, and thought they were over Nazi Germany. The crew was immediately taken into custody as prisoners of war, and the aircraft was stripped down for secrets.
In the late 20th century they became NATO bases. In late 1980, “England's Roswell” occurred. UFO appearances were documented by base security, and soldiers’ IR night goggles indicated a “hole” in the center of the unidentified object. Under regression hypnosis, a military sergeant indicated the beings were time travelers. There were many explanations, but there was enough there for me to take it and run for The Rendlesham Incident & Endings and Beginnings!

Where Did I Find All That?
Lots of places, really. In most of this research, I found that Google was my bestest friend. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right combination of keywords on which to search, though. It’s definitely worth sitting down with the browser open to your search engine and trying different combinations and permutations of keywords on your subject. Sometimes you need to exercise a bit of discretion on the results; I try to avoid the obviously over-the-top websites — you know the ones I mean — unless, of course, I am actively LOOKING for something over-the-top.
Wikipedia is a surprisingly good jumping-off point. Given my background, education, and experience, I know enough of certain sciences to tell if a Wiki article is “on” or not, and if I can trust it; history and culture, different ball game. However, within certain limits it can give you an overview of your subject (don’t trust political commentary, etc.), and the references at the bottom of the article are invaluable. You can chase reference trees for hours, if you aren’t careful and lose track of time. And learn a lot in the doing. I know, because I have!
Travel is one of my favorite sources of information. I love to travel and explore, and often used business trips as a springboard for exploration. The extensive knowledge of the Colorado Springs area I use in the Displaced Detective books, as being one of the homes of the detectives, is partly because of such business trips, and partly because I had a friend living in the area at the time. It was easy to tack on a weekend to the business trip, taking advantage of my friend’s spare bedroom, and explore the area, sometimes with her, sometimes on my own. There are very few places in Colorado that I mention in the books that I have not visited myself. And I have several future books in the series planned around other locales I have visited as well, such as New Orleans and the Pacific Northwest.
Believe it or not, I’ve been learning to use social media as a really good source of information. For instance, I now have a selection of Facebook groups where, if I’m stuck on a particular detail, I can post a question and have expert historians, keepers of museums, and re-enactors, all providing feedback on the “sticking point” — and I’m soon past it and writing on!

This is just a sample of the information my research has uncovered, as well as how I dug it all out, and I continue to explore history, looking for cool things to work into stories. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I’ve no doubt it will continue to be!

Stephanie Osborn, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, is a veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, with graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several more, including geology and anatomy. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the Cresperian Saga book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” In addition to her writing, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

(© 2013, 2015 Stephanie Osborn)

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #329 -- In Five Years

Where do you hope to be as a writer in 5 years?

I'm going to have to answer this one 2 ways. It all goes back to when I was a corporate chair monkey, and each year, I'd have to turn in my budget along with my realistic goals and my dream (or push) goals. So I'm going to do that here too.

Realistic goals:

1. Having a few novels under my belt, I will be focusing on novel projects and publishing far fewer short stories.

2. I will have at least 4 more comic book projects from reputatable publishers either in the production or already published.

3. I will be a more fit writer physically, and because I was able to take control of my health life, I will find that I'm more able to take control of my writing life (scheduling, persistence, etc.) as well.

Push Goals:

1. I will have in development one novel with a major house, not because I expect to get rich of it, but because it will help me build my platform as a writer from which to increase sales across the board for all my body of work.

2. I will reach a point in my writing career in which I can achieve a sustainable income by writing alone. Not a fancy income, but a sustainable one that alones me to be a full-time writer and keep the bills paid.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

King of the Bastards Preorders Available Now!

Apex Publications
Contact: Lesley Conner, managing editor

King of the Bastards Preorders

Apex Publications is happy to announce that preorders for our next release, King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury, are now open. King of the Bastards is a sword and sorcery/horror novel that brings together characters and mythos from both Shrewsbury and Keene’s popular novels. All preorders receive an exclusive 40 percent off discount code for another Apex product, and free shipping on all domestic orders. The expected release date is July 21st.

King of the Bastards can be preordered on the Apex Publications website.


Rogan has been many things in his life as an adventurer — a barbarian, a thief, a buccaneer, a rogue, a lover, a reaver, and most recently, a king. Now, this prehistoric bane of wizards and tyrants finds himself without a kingdom, lost in a terrifying new world, and fighting for his life against pirates, zombies, and the demonic entity known as Meeble. And even if he defeats his foes, Rogan must still find a way to return home, regain his throne, save his loved ones, and remind everyone why he's the King of the Bastards.

Title: King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury
Preorder dates: June 22, 2015 to July 20, 2015
Release date: July 21, 2015
Price: $15.95 (trade paperback)

BRIAN KEENE is the Bram Stoker and Grand Master award-winning, bestselling author of over forty books, including Darkness on the Edge of Town, Take the Long Way Home, Urban Gothic, Castaways, Kill Whitey, Dark Hollow, Dead Sea, and The Rising trilogy. He’s also written comic books such as The Last Zombie, Doom Patrol, and Dead of Night: Devil Slayer. His work has been translated into many foreign languages. Several of his novels and stories have been developed for film, including Ghoul and The Ties That Bind. In addition to writing, Keene also oversees Maelstrom, his own small press publishing imprint specializing in collectible limited editions via Thunderstorm Books. Keene’s work has been praised in such diverse places as The New York Times, The History Channel, The Howard Stern Show, CNN.com, Publisher’s Weekly, Media Bistro, Fangoria Magazine, and Rue Morgue Magazine. Keene lives in Pennsylvania. You can communicate with him online at www.briankeene.com or on Twitter at @BrianKeene.

STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY lives, works, and writes one day at a time. Over 365 of his short stories have been published in print or digital media since the late 80s along with over 100 of his poems. He writes in the realms of horror and sword & sorcery. His novels include Within, Philistine,Overkill, Hell Billy, Blood & Steel, Thrall, Stronger than Death, Hawg, Thoroughbred, Tormentor, Godforsaken, and the just released Born of Swords.

APEX PUBLICATIONS (www.apexbookcompany.com) is a small press dedicated to publishing exemplary works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Owned and operated by Jason B. Sizemore, Apex publishes the thrice Hugo Award-nominated Apex Magazine. The Apex catalog contains books by genre luminaries such as Damien Angelica Walters, Catherynne M. Valente, and Brian Keene.