Sunday, December 10, 2017


One of the most popular new pulp heroes to arrive on the scene in the past decade is Doc Atlas; created by veteran writers Michael A. Black and Ray Lovato.  Created as their homage to the classic 30s and 40s characters such as Doc Savage, Jim Anthony etc. etc. Atlas has appeared in many fast-paced adventures along with his aides, Thomas “Mad Dog” Deagan and Edward “Ace” Assante. These first appearances were offered via such outfits as Eclipse Publishing and Crossroads Press. Hundreds of pulp readers quickly became enthusiastic fans and continue clamor for more stories featuring this dynamic trio. Now they are about to have their wishes realized as Black and Lovato have entered into a partnership with one of the leading New Pulp publishers in the field, Airship 27 Productions.

Airship 27 Productions has been publishing New Pulp anthologies and novels since 2004 and in that time their books have won numerous awards.  Owned and operated by Ron Fortier, Managing Editor, and Rob Davis, Art Director, the company is one of a small group that pioneered the revival of pulp fiction and continues to set the standard in creative, original pulp fiction.

“Ever since meeting Mike Black, I’ve been an ardent fan of his work,” Fortier says. “There’s no pulp genre he hasn’t worked in and his stories are always top notch. Doc Atlas is by far his most popular creation.” Black, over the past few years, has become a regular contributor to the Airship 27 anthologies and eventually convinced Lovato to submit his own works. When the pair offered Fortier a new Doc Atlas short, it sparked an idea he realized was too good to pass up. “Doc Atlas and Airship 27 were made for each other. It seemed only natural to me that our company could provide a home that would allow Mike and Ray the freedom to focus solely on their tales and leave the publishing end to someone else; someone who very much wants to increase their readership in a big – big way.”

Echoing that enthusiasm, Michael Black offered the following.  “My lifelong friend, Ray Lovato, and I are honored to have Doc Atlas become a regular part of Airship 27’s cast of characters. We’ve both admired the work of Ron Fortier and Rob Davis for years, and are eager to join them in creating new pulp adventures for a new generation of readers.”

Beginning in 2018, Airship 27 Productions will produce one Doc Atlas title per year, whether a collection of shorts or full-length novels and be their sole publisher. Further announcements will be forthcoming.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

[Link] Why Some People Like to Read Sex-Free Romance

by Bryn Donovan

Most readers of my blog know that I write some steamy romance. A few of you even know that in the past year, I got a new job editing “sweet romance,” which is the industry term for romance with no sex at all.

I’ve always enjoyed all kinds of romantic stories and movies as a reader and a viewer, so I don’t find it strange at all to work on both. I’m even in the middle of writing a sweet romance right now.

However, I’ve always known that lots of people, particularly people who haven’t read a romance in twenty years, treat steamy romance writers with derision. They make jokes about the goofy euphemisms romance writers supposedly use for sex organs, although almost all romance writers have discarded these in favor of more direct language.

They also behave as though writers of sexy romance must all be bad writers. Most romance writers are women, and there is some sexism at work here: a discomfort with women authoring sexual content instead of being the object in it.

I’ve known all that for years. What I’ve learned in the past year, though, is that plenty of people also deride sex-free romance.

Read the full article:

Friday, December 8, 2017

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS presents MYSTERY MEN ( & Women ) Vol 5

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to present volume five of MYSTERY MEN ( & Women), their showcase anthology for debuting new pulp heroes created by today’s best action-adventure writers.  This book offers up a trio of amazing characters by today’s finest pulp writers.

Things kick off with a full-length novella.  THE SHRIKE – in “Not That Kind of Girl” by Gene Moyers.  A mysterious female mastermind recruits her agents to combat the forces of evil in this, her first adventure novella.  This is followed by THE NIGHTBREAKER – in “Lost in the Flood” by Thomas Deja.  Straight out of the pages of the Shadow Legion series comes Nocturne city’s masked avenger as he takes on a villain capable of manipulating water.  And finally, we have DOC ATLAS - in “The Death Ray,” by Michael Black & Ray Lovato. Inspired by the likes of Doc Savage and Jim Anthony, Doc Atlas and his teammates must stop a criminal intent on destroying the Statue of Liberty with his deadly new weapon.

“We love producing this series,” claims Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “Sure, it’s great fun doing new stories about the classic pulp heroes, but there is also something special when our writers cut loose in inventing their own unique and colorful characters. In this volume, we truly have three of the best.” Fortier also notes there will be an exciting news release concerning one of the heroes from his company very shortly.

Ted Hammond provides the stunning cover featuring the sexy but deadly Shrike while Art Director Rob Davis delivers twelve amazing black and white interiors.

So time to buckle up and relive the thrill of the pulps in these three outstanding, fast-paced adventures brought to you by today’s stellar pulp writers.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – Pulp Fiction for a New Generation!

Available from Amazon in both paperback & on Kindle here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Natural and Fun: Writers on Sex and Sexuality in Fiction

Okay, gang, we're going to get a little steamy for this week's Writers Roundtable. Let's talk about sex --and not just sex but also sexual characters, or, in other words, characters who have a sex life and inhabit your stories. How do you address it? Where do you draw the line? All right... enough teasing, let's get to the action. 

People are sexual creatures in real life, with a variety of modifiers from hetero- to homo- to a- to poly-. So, as a writer, how do you portray that aspect of characterization in your stories?

Danielle Procter Piper: In my sci-fi series, I have characters that run the gamut aside from pedophiles and necrophiliacs...although in the story I'm getting ready to publish my randiest character--a guy who refuses to be labeled because he does what suits him at the moment, engages in spontaneous intercourse with an alien species...with a fresh corpse involved, although I'm not going to reveal in what way (you'll have to read the story to find out). For the most part, I like to incorporate what's going on with myself at any given moment into my characters to add realism. If one of them suddenly gags and explains, "Backwash," odds are I have just experienced it myself while writing. My characters hiccup, they burp and fart, they lose their train of thought, they get each other's names wrong just like the rest of us. My female characters menstruate, my males experience wet dreams, they may wake up feeling aroused and masturbate--often without forethought from me. I allow moments to happen just as they do in real life. I've even had characters trying to get over colds for no other reason related to the story than the fact that people catch colds. My basic story ideas are loose, and the characters live and breathe and flow around them, so sex does occur. people may call it gratuitous, and to that I say, "You're welcome."

Gordon Dymowski: Part of this is actively cultivating relationships/friendships with queer, poly- and other forms of sexuality. That helps me write more rounded, full-blooded characters with nuance. (Plus, it helps me avoid cliches and create a more diverse range of characters). I also try to discuss the implications/experiences of those characters (great example - look at how Jonathan Kellerman writes Milo Sturgis, a queer cop in Los Angeles).

Bobby Nash: Sex is part of life so it stands to reason that sex is a part of my characters lives as well. That doesn't mean I expose their sex life. As with all writing, step one is get to know your character. That includes knowing if your character is straight, gay, poly, etc. Even though it is not the focus of the story, knowing the character helps define the character's response to questions and situations. As a writer, I want to be as true to the characters as I can.

Bill Craig: I try to not go into too much detail, especially when readers imaginations can make it better for them.

Hilaire Barch: I usually imply sexuality with dialogue and body language, but only if it matters to the story. (Does a character flirt? W/whom? Etc).

Nicholas Ahlhelm: I don't like to hide romantic relationships. I think it's an important part of genre fiction. It's not a feature in every story I've ever written, but I think it's essential to treat human beings like human beings, complete with different backgrounds and choices. Characters come in multiple races, genders, and histories I don't want to shy away from, and the same goes for sexual orientation. I really hate to use terminology however, so I usually let the character's attractions speak for themselves in the story.

John Linwood Grant: I can't say it crops up too often, but not because it bothers me writing about it. It's rarely integral to my tales, and so detailed descriptions would fall into the same category as describing every step of making a meal or going to the toilet - they're also both crucial aspects of life, but if they don't make the story move on or impart something important to the reader, why dwell?

Lucy Blue: Ooh, I may be the wrong writer to ask about this. Because I think the single biggest flaw in alternative worlds writing, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all their progeny, is the prissy, puritanical, and/or barely-pubescent way these stories handle sexuality and sexual relationships. Writers who can describe the live evisceration of Brownie scouts or the rising of a tentacled moon over a distant planet suddenly turn completely terrified and tone deaf when faced with even the suggestion of physical attraction between their characters. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large, no sex, bad sex, or cartoon sex is so much the norm that most of us who write criticism about these genres dismiss any grown-up, straightforward portrayal of relationships within the story as romance -- the literal kiss of death. And I don't see why this has to be. What are we afraid of? People thrown together in high tension situations make connections; if it makes sense for the characters and there's room in the story, why not? If the relationship isn't the focus of the story, I won't put in a lengthy, explicit sex scene. But I won't half-ass or avoid it either.

Anna Grace Carpenter: With all the sex! Hah. Kidding (sort of). But I always like writing about relationships so I tend to show all of them as much as possible within the framework of the story. I find the more personal the characterization, the more real the story feels. And few things are as personal as who we love and how we express that as humans.

Susan H. Roddey: It depends on the situation in the story. Sex is a natural part of than life (I mean come on...procreation and all), but not all instances require the reader to be under the sheets. If your market is raw erotica, then by all means...let the reader smell it. It's a natural part of life so I don't draw unnecessary attention to it unless it becomes an integral part of the story. People are who they are, and sex doesn't define them.

Where do you fall on the spectrum of actually writing characters engaging, ahem, each other -- keep it subtle and just imply it happens, cut away to rain or fireworks like in 1940s movies, or go full coverage for a play by play? Or does it change from story to story? How do you determine where to draw the line, if at all?

Nicholas Ahlhelm: It depends quite a bit on what market I'm writing for and what characters I'm writing in the story. If I'm writing a superhero story I'm trying to make suitable for most readers, the sex is implied. If I'm writing an urban fantasy novel where one character is an actual succubus, it's anything but implied. Most of my works fall somewhere in between in that spectrum, but it's completely project based for me.

Kristi Morgan: I think it depends a lot on who your targeted audience is. With YA you have to be careful to just hint and leave it up to the imagination for the most part. But I don't think its something that needs to be ignored. Prude doesn't work.

Bobby Nash: For the most part, I show very little active sex in my novels because sex is not the main focus of the story. I will show characters at the beginning and/or the end of sex and let the reader's imagination fill in the blanks, which I've discovered works well and makes the scenes more steamy to the reader because he or she is bringing in their own sexuality to the story. Now, if I were writing a story where sex was the point or a big plot point, I might be inclined to show more. I play it by ear and show what is right for the story.

James P. Nettles III: Depends on the target audience -- and the genre, but most of mine is off-screen. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell the fight scenes from the love scenes- slipping everywhere, the clash of bodies, exotic tools for the job.

Susan H. Roddey: Most of the sex I write is less explicit and meant to help develop characters emotionally. Giving two characters that intimate connection builds a bond between them. In most cases, it also gives them a weakness. If they're emotionally invested, the reader is better able to relate. Sometimes my writing does tend toward the erotic, but only when the situation calls for it, and I choose those situations VERY carefully.

Frank Fradella: I'm a "pan over to the fireplace" kind of guy unless I'm specifically writing erotica.

Anna Grace Carpenter: It depends on the overall tone of the story. My general (and personal) rule is that if the violence is graphic, the sex is explicit/detailed. If the other “adult” aspects of a story (violence, language) are more subdued so are the physical interactions. But sometimes sex is such an integral part of the character arcs that I might spend more time on it. (In addition to being a mostly universal human experience, there is a metaphorical quality about it in fiction that is hard to pass up – especially with characters who are strong, silent types.)

Ellie Raine: For me, I go on a case-by-case basis, as far as "where to draw the line" and "How to address it". I did a story for a Hookerpunk anthology about Succubi, and sex in that, I felt, was better served by adding the steamy details. Though, in my fantasy series, I don't usually show the scenes themselves up front. Usually for those, I make it more romantic and describe the foreplay and amp up the emotions involved, then classily end right at the moment of contact. I'll probably have a different approach with the next story as well, but for some stories, I don't think sex is even necessary to make it a dynamic work. It really just depends on each story individually.

Derrick Ferguson: Like so much else in my writing, I just tend to go with my gut when it comes to writing about sex. I'm not as good at describing sex as I am describing action so when I do have sex scenes I tend to keep them brief and to the point. In my Dillon stories and novels, I give the reader just enough to know that my boy is ready to get it on and then I cut away to the billowing curtains and the fireplace. In my "Madness of Frankenstein" novel and my current "Diamondback" serial running on my Patreon page, the sex scenes are a bit more graphic, nasty and brutal. But that's because I'm writing about nasty, brutal people and the nasty, brutal sex just seemed to fit.

Gordon Dymowski: I tend to focus on the feelings/emotions rather than the mechanics. Having written two relatively steamy scenes (for AKA THE SINNER - COVER OF NIGHT, "Crossing McCausland" for TALL PULP and "Out There In the Night" for LES VAMPS), I find that it's much easier for me to write implicit than explicit sex. (Plus, it allows the reader to create the scene mentally - if they see a softcore-Cinemax-film-at-2:00-am-with-soft-jazz in their heads, that's cool; if they see hardcore pornography, that's cool as well).

Neen Edwards: Just my opinion as both a writer and a reader: I'm not big on stories revolving around sex. I'm okay with the writer insinuating something is about to happen and go on to the next scene or a brief description of what's going on. A good example of what I'm okay with would be work by Sherrilyn Kenyon. As much as I like Laurel K. Hamilton, I actually stopped reading her books because her plots seem to be revolved around sex. As a writer, I'll go where the story takes me. My characters have a mind of their own.

Bill Craig: It really depends on the book. A writer friend told me that the best love scenes got him aroused while writing...

B.C. Bell: I try to show the character's sexual attraction before and after the sex, and through dialogue, but much like a forties director I tend to focus the camera on the wall during the real event. The danger of a sexless character is that they aren't real, and the reader knows that. One reason Conan and Tarzan have a long shelf-life is that they liked women when other characters didn't. P.S. One of the first pulp stories I ever read climaxed (pardon the pun) with the hero touching a breast. Upon growing up I found that to be extremely silly.

Hilaire Barch: I range from implied, fade to black, to the whole detailed play by play. The genre and target audience often are considered on exactly how much I show. In addition, do I WANT the sex to be front and center or simply something that happens.

Ian Totten: It all depends on the story and characters. For some (such as my trilogy) one of the main characters is very sensual by nature and I only have to touch on the subject. Others, it needs to be more in-depth. I have one with teens where they do it as a way to bond to each other. Being that they're teens I have to attempt keeping it "clean" and go into their emotions during the act rather than explicit action. For someone like a serial killer, there's no emotion on their part and it is written fairly black and white with atmosphere and actions. One I'm working on now, because of the subject matter, will be mostly implied.

Allan Kemp: I wrote a lot of explicit sex scenes in my early stories, but then after I got it out of my system (no pun intended) I scaled it back to where I only do sex scenes if they move the story forward. And sex can move the plot forward just as a fight scene or a chase scene. I also like when sex is implied rather than a detailed tab A into slot B explanation. The stuff people imagine will always be wilder than what I write on the page.

Danielle Procter Piper: How graphic I get with sexual encounters depends on the story. In a short humorous horror story I wrote for a collection, the scene is so brief and sanitized I've had readers tell me it's too bad the two main characters didn't have sex... but they did! Not graphic enough! My sci-fi is famous for its graphic sex, violence, and language, so skirting it almost feels like a let-down, but I'll merely imply it if a well-developed, graphic scene would detract too much from the storyline. How characters react to each other in a sexual moment can tell the reader more about who they are. It definitely adds depth. I have a goody-two-shoes type who seems to get swept up in moments once in a great while, but who also exhibits his playful/naughty side, always paired with compassion for his lover. I have a hard-hitting, world-weary bruiser with an exceptional soft side due to the fact he is also telepathic and can feel what his partner feels--so doing everything his partner desires as they think it heightens the experience for him, doubling his own pleasure while marking him one hell of a lover. Then there's the guy who screws anything that isn't nailed down without consent...the character my readers tell me they love to hate. He's just... Mr. Experiment, push everything to its limits, no holds barred... but draws the line at minors. Their sexual identities are as unique as they are, and if the scene calls for some graphic content, I'm going to drag my readers in deep.

John Bruening: Working on the second novel in a series that will probably span five books altogether. So far, it's been nothing more than the suggestion of a mutual attraction between two co-workers. The relationship is going to progress, but exactly how far and in what way is hard to say at the moment. Whatever happens, I'm fairly certain that what generally happens behind closed doors in real life will remain behind closed doors in the stories. (Hey, we're talking about the 1930s and '40s. People were pretty private and discreet about such things in those days.)

Let's talk about the dangers of writing or not writing sex in contemporary novels. What are the potential pitfalls when you turn up the steam and write erotically? What about the other side... what are the risks if you choose to write about a world where sex is practically nonexistent or ignored? Does a happy medium alleviate those risks (from both sides) or not?

Anna Grace Carpenter: One of the first short stories I sold (a contemporary piece of flash fiction) focused on the moments right before a married couple gets down for some “make-up” sex. And although I didn't use any “naughty words” nearly half the comments on the story referred to it as porn. (There may have been a finger in someone's mouth, but… well. It was a story about reuniting.) Anyway. Right then I knew there was always going to be a risk in portraying a relationship realistically. And I also knew that story wouldn't carry the same weight if I had been more subtle. So, for me, it's always a question of “How real do I want to be?” And then, “Am I willing to lose readers over this scene or plot point?”

Gordon Dymowski: I don't worry about writing sex scenes in my stories because most of the time, my stories don't involve sex. Dealing with different sexual orientation, however, is a different matter...and one that I'm still trying to master.

Danielle Procter Piper: The only "danger" I've encountered with writing sex scenes is running into people who like to throw around the phrase "gratuitous sex". Let me let you in on a little secret... some of the most upstanding, beloved, Bible-thumping people you've ever met are likely into some of the weirdest, wildest, freakiest stuff you've ever heard of, but it's often no more than a fondness for particular types of pornography, and is not something they want getting out about them. Call my sex scenes gratuitous and I'll smirk, wondering just how much you really loved them. I suppose another drawback is over-exciting myself. Is that a drawback? I think it just smokes the scene up further. The reverse, writing stories sans sex, is readers coming up to me winking and smirking to tell me which characters they think should hook up. "Oh, I know it's not that kind of a story, but if you could, you know, maybe a little -- "sentence ends in a giggle fit. I think this is exactly why so much fan-fiction seems to involve characters hooking up even if the pairing seems unlikely in its original form. We all like to fantasize. We like to find the character most like ourselves and pair them with the characters we're most sexually attracted to. My fantasy novel is sex-free. It contains flirting and characters teasing each other about liking each other but goes no further. I wanted to write it as a children's book with themes kids encounter without getting too involved in them. To my dismay, younger audiences seem to prefer my sci-fi.

Nicholas Ahlhelm: I think in contemporary fiction it's very strange to pretend it does not. Some of the most popular books on the market today are either erotica or have heavy erotic elements. Sex should at least be a reality. I'm not saying it's essential to every work obviously, just as romance is not. But trying to write in a way where they're ignored completely feels more like science fiction than any story grounded in reality. The question of how detailed to get I think again should be based on the audience in the writer's head or even the writer as his own audience. I do think there are limits based on genre. I think most urban fantasy readers would be pissed if you cut away before anything happens for example. So the happy medium probably must be based on what you're writing rather than a nebulous point for all or most fiction.

Bill Craig: Donald Hamilton was a master getting it started, cutting away and coming back to the damage done to clothing during the throws of passion. Robert Parker, on the other hand, sometimes when over the top is describing Spenser's athletic sexcapades. It depends on both the writer, the book and the characters involved.

Susan H. Roddey: Society seems to be both more open to and more wary of sex. A happy medium is a good place to start, but how I begin will define the audience you collect. You can't please everyone, so I personally don't try. At this point, most people who read my romance know what they're in for going into it.

Hilaire Barch: I've read books w/o sex -- plenty of them. I've written a story or two w/o sex or romance. The stories weren't served by it. Now, larger tales, at least in my opinion, seem to ask for at least an element of attraction or romance even if no sex ever happens. If we look at our world, most living creatures spend an awfully large chunk of time pursuing mating of some sort. So, the more time, so to speak, we spend with characters, the more I as a reader or author, expect a natural response from the character -- i.e experiencing attraction or desire.

I don't worry about whether someone will have apoplexy over my characters getting it on the elevator ( a real scene I wrote LOL), or if the genders or races or sexualities expressed are the norm. That said, there will ALWAYS be people who don't like it, and as a writer, you have to understand that you can't take that sort of criticism personally.

Bobby Nash: There is always a danger of scaring off a potential reader by writing something they find rude or offensive. When my first novel, EVIL WAYS came out, I was terrified that my mother would read it. There's a scene where the killer does something a bit, well let's just call it pervy and inappropriate. I was really worried about my mom reading that. After she read it, she did comment on the scene, but not how I had expected. She said it made perfect sense for the character to have done that and thought I should have done a little bit more with it to amp up his creepiness factor. The lesson is, never underestimate your audience. Tell the best story you can and see what happens.

How can giving your characters a sex life improve your ability to create more authentic characters and tell stories about them? Or is that not necessary for your work?

Bobby Nash: Sex is a part of life. If I want my characters to be alive, then that is part of it. In what I write, it is rarely the focus, but there are times when I feel the need to focus in on it. On those occasions, I let the characters lead me where we need to go and do what's best for the story.

Bill Craig: Unless it propels the story forward, it is not a necessary plot device. However, in my first Mitch Cooper mystery, there is a lot of chemistry between Cooper and the lady he is trying to find and rescue and they discuss his theories on cosmic sex at the end, leading the reader to figure out exactly what the theories were...

Hilaire Barch: The more characters interact in a realistic, human way, the closer to them we feel. Does Jill like Mr. Tall Dark and boring, or the homely but fascinating inventor? Who Jill picks tells us about her. How she treats a paramour gives us more information. Yes, the same can be done w/o sex or romance, but it's fun built-in conflict (Because what two lovers agree on everything all the time forever and always?)

Anna Grace Carpenter: People interacting with each other drives the majority of what I write. When they do it naked the focus on who they are comes into even sharper detail. Do they make jokes? Are they super-serious? Do they cuddle afterward to try and make the connection and the moment last? Or is it really just a momentary distraction? And a sex life is not the only way to reveal these insights, so for some stories, it's not necessary, but it can be very revealing (and not just because the butt cheeks and body hair are all out in the open on the page). So for me, it tends to add that final polish to the character and helps me ground them in a common experience even if the way they behave is not the way my readers do.

Danielle Procter Piper: As I mentioned, how characters behave during sexual encounters adds another layer of depth to them, making them seem more real, therefore easier to relate to. Sex is actually integral to my sci-fi series, but it wouldn't work in my fantasy story because it's simply not a necessary aspect. I have to bring the realism out of my fantasy characters by putting them in other situations where weakness and vulnerability are pitted against cruelty and strength. The closest thing to sex in that story are encounters with a vampire, and those scenes are meant to remind us of moments when we were manipulated by someone more sophisticated into doing things we weren't yet ready for as juveniles.

Gordon Dymowski: Understanding my character's sexuality helps me create better, more well-rounded characters....but sometimes, leaving intimate moments on the cutting-room floor means a better story. Portraying sex in fiction is like portraying violence - if it fits and makes sense, great, but I don't feel the need to force it in order to sell the sizzle over the steak.

Nicholas Ahlhelm: It completely depends on how much I want to flesh out a character. A lead should probably at least have some reference to it in a full-length novel that features any romantic entanglements. It can be used to develop relationships, mindsets or pretty much other character traits. For me, it's another tool in the character development toolbox.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nugget #113 -- Build a House

If you want to change the world as a writer, write great stories
that change people. If you want to change the world through
activism, go build someone a house, march in a parade, or
work a crisis hotline. If you want to do both, do both,
but don’t confuse storytelling with activism.

By No machine-readable author provided. Simonlo~commonswiki
assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided.
Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

[Link] How to Write your Book Fast

by Clara Ryanne Heart

Does this sound familiar at all? You get a great idea for a book. But between the rest of your responsibilities and taking care of any spontaneous problems that might arise, your great idea ends up taking longer to finish than you wanted. You pound away at the keyboard for what feels like forever, only to see a dismally small gain in word count at the end of the day. Between research, marketing, engaging, and planning, the day simply slips away from you. Then the week. Before you know it, a month has gone by and you're still not as far along with your book as you want to be. You want to be able to write your book fast, but you just can't seem to get there.

Here are a few things you can do to help speed up the process, make the most out of the writing time you have, and write your book fast.

Have a basic plan in place.

There is nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank screen, knowing you have a great idea for a story, but unable to figure out where to start. Having at least a simple plan can help with this. Even if all you do is list out four or five major plot points, those plot points can be used as a roadmap to help guide you to where you want to go. For many of us, myself included, trying to plot out the entire book can be daunting — especially for those of us who like the book to unfold as we write. Detailed outlines can sometimes feel as though they suck the creative process dry. Use only as many plot points as you need.

Read the full article:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

[Link] Plot twist ideas: 7 examples and tips for twists

by Now Novel

A good plot twist adds intrigue, suspense or surprise to a novel. Plot twists are particularly popular in suspense-heavy novels such as murder mysteries, because they prolong suspense-creating questions about cause and identity. Read 7 examples of effective plot twists and what they teach us:

First, a brief plot twist definition

A plot twist is ‘an unexpected development in a book, film, television programme’ (Oxford English Dictionary).

Plot twists are particularly popular in short stories. In many stories they are the main event of the story arc. For example, in Roald Dahl’s classic short story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, Mary Maloney kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. The dark-humoured twist is that Mary serves detectives investigating her husband’s disappearance the evidence.

Authors like O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe perfected the art of the ‘twist-in-the-tale’ story. In these stories, the plot twist (like in Dahl’s story) is the climax. Yet plot twists are also popular in longer narratives.

Here are seven plot twist tips and ideas...

Read the full article:

Friday, December 1, 2017

You might need a Guardian Angel

Got a difficult to buy for teen?  Do they like action?  If so, you might want a Guardian Angel.

When Major Davian, the most decorated soldier in the guardian angel military, is sent to earth to guard seven-year-old Tommy O'Connor, he thinks the assignment is beneath him. However, he soon discovers three alarming and critical facts.

  • The fate of both Davian's world and Earth is tied to Tommy's life.
  • The demonic forces his people have been fighting are intent on possessing the boy.
  • A prophecy most of Davian's people have forgotten indicates that the existence of the child will coincide with the rise of a traitor who will take over Davian's homeland.

Davian is torn between protecting Tommy at all costs and preventing the conspiracy of his fellow soldiers to seize power.

The spiritual forces of legend are massing for war. The elite warriors of the Guardian Angels must act quickly to save those they protect and prepare for combat with their demonic enemies in the third great Battle for the City of Ezzer.


The prophecy Davian's people had forgotten has been fulfilled; Elysia is now slave to a tyrant. His mercenaries, the dreaded Black Guard, kill at will, casting a shadow of terror wherever they tread. Elysia's enemies, the mornachts, have overrun Earth, and the human child prophesied to rid evil from both worlds may not survive their attacks-or impending world war.

Elysia's only hope for freedom lies in Davian. Once a decorated officer, Davian now roams Elysia's outskirts as an escaped fugitive. Armed with only a stolen sword, he and three loyal soldiers vow to somehow return to Elysia through a wilderness full of mornachts, Black Guard, and a nameless evil that slithers in the darkness, watching Davian's every move. For Davian to succeed, he must gather an army and somehow convince the neutral races of dragons, unicorns, and gnomes to help him along the way. The closer Davian gets to Elysia, the more one thought haunts him: To free his countrymen, he must betray his country.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What Are You Thankful For, Writer?

As we head into a holiday season that ranks high on the thankfulness meter, let's take this next Writer Roundtable to be thankful. What or whom are you most thankful for this year as a writer?

Lucy Blue: The space and agency to keep doing it. I might not be making big bucks, but I can write whatever I want however I want, and I have as much power to compete in the marketplace as I have energy and will to keep trying. So yeah, very grateful.

Derrick Ferguson: This past year I came into contact with so many people who have enjoyed my stories and even been influenced and excited enough by them to write their own stories and create their own characters. This past year has shown me that something I've heard most of my life is true; you never know how your actions will influence the actions of others and in turn how they will continue to influence others. This past year has shown me a lot about the spiritual side of writing, something I think I got away from for a while there. Thankfully, I'm getting it back.

J.H. Glaze: My full time writing gig.

Rory Hayfield-Husbands: The feedback I've got from members of my writing group and friends. Without them I would have been more unsure of my own skills but with their encouragement I'm starting to realise what I can do to fix problems.

Gordon Dymowski: The fact that I'm stretching myself in terms of what I write (both length and subject matter) and that I'm actually finding myself enjoying the process more.

Michael Woods: My team and my friends.

Martheus Wade: To be able to have the opportunity to write on a national level one more time.

Bobby Nash: This has not been an easy year, either personally or professionally, but especially on a personal level so being thankful hasn't been as easy as in the past. That said, I am thankful that my Dad's knee replacement went well and he is on the mend. I am thankful that I am here to help take care of him in the wake of my mom's passing and his surgery. It's not easy at times, but I am thankful that I can be here for him and my brother. I am tired but thankful to be here where I am needed.

Matt Hiebert: Spellchekker.

Scott McCullar: This year, I am thankful for the chance to revive my THRILL SEEKER COMICS series with the release of the archive collecting my very first stories. I am thankful for those Kickstarter supporters who contributed to the campaign and who helped successfully make a dream project come true. I just received the books fresh from the printer and they will be going out this next week in the mail to readers and fans. I appreciate the support from family, friends, and readers. I am also thankful for Erik Burnham for being my editor and encouraging me along the way. As a writer, I am also thankful this year that this revival sparked the chance for me to return to writing and drawing after an absence. I’m currently writing and illustrating new comic book stories and webstrips that will debut in the New Year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nugget #112 -- Doc Savage and Oprah Agree

Well-crafted visceral storytelling can reach every kind
of reader, from the Oprah book club zombie to the Doc
Savage collector. After all, even literary readers enjoy
a little gut clench with their cerebral exercise.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

[Link] Story plots: 7 tips to be more original

Clichéd story plots weaken an otherwise good story, a story where characters and settings are vivid. To tell a story that feels original and inventive, it’s key to learn plot clichés to avoid. Yet many original stories do use common tropes. The key is to make famous story types and scenarios your own:

1: Know common plot clichés within your genre

In story plots, clichés are frustrating because they’ve been hollowed out of their dramatic impact through overuse. Dragons that go on rampages overpopulate fantasy worlds. Women in distress who need men to save them overpopulate romance novels.

Here are a few more common plot clichés:

  • The chosen one: A character has been selected for a task but there’s no backstory or explanation why only this person in particular is capable
  • It was all a dream: Strange things happen but turn out to be dreams (often solving plot complications a little too conveniently for the author)
  • Representative of another culture gives clueless protagonist profound wisdom: Another example of a common plot cliché, especially in books from earlier times that either romanticized indigenous people or portrayed them as savages (this example courtesy of Strange Horizons)
  • In each of these examples, there is either a cop-out or an overused trope (a ‘trope’ is a literary device that occurs across multiple novels by various authors).

In the first example, there is nothing to explain what is so special about ‘the chosen one’. J.K. Rowling avoids the cliché of ‘the chosen one’ in Harry Potter by giving Harry a past link to the villain that explains exactly why it is he in particular who must fulfill the challenge.

In the ‘it was all a dream’ plot, there is always a risk of a cop-out. The revelation that characters have been dreaming can seem too trite or tidy an explanation for bizarre or puzzling events.

The third example is a plot point rather than an entire story idea. But it tells something valuable about being original: It’s better (for creative as well as political reasons) not to simply repeat received, dominant ideas. Stereotypes are the footmen of unoriginal stories and dangerous politics. The ‘exotic’ foreigner (or indigenous other) is likely to be just as full of flaws and folly as a protagonist.

Read the full article:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The 9th book in The Pampered Pets Mystery Series is now available!

The Pampered Pets Mysteries, Book 9 
Don't wait to get your paws on it! 

"Such a cute series!" - Polished Nails and Puppy Dog Tales blog

Lights! Camera! Murder!

A star-studded fundraiser to help provide service dogs for wounded warriors sets tongues wagging...about Caro Lamont, pet therapist to the stars.

Caro's ex-husband Geoffrey is spreading rumors about her competence and snuggling up to the biggest stars, including Purple - the temperamental diva, who's the lynchpin of the celebrity line-up. All too soon, Caro is losing clients, her reputation, and patience with Geoffrey's shenanigans.

More trouble is unleashed when the high-strung headliner is found dead and Geoffrey was seen leaving her hotel room. With a potential killer on the loose, Caro is hounded by questions about who had reason to want Purple out of the picture. Though all the evidence points to her ex, Caro believes the police are on the wrong trail.

Even if her sleuthing puts her in the doghouse with Detective Judd Malone, Caro must dig up the truth before the real killer gets away with murder.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nugget #111 -- Writers Are Anythings Writing Anybodies

The good news is that you don’t have to be White, Black, 
Latino, Asian, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Trans, etc. 
to write a greater diversity of characters. You can be an 
anything and still write an anybody. Why? Because 
you’re a writer. It’s the nature of what you do. Period.

By Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic from Windsor, Canada
(This morning we caught a rainbow...) [CC BY 2.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

[Link] Dialogue: 4 Ways it Goes Wrong

by Darcy Pattison

Dialogue is an essential part of fiction, the way an author shows a character through what s/he says. And it’s so easy to get it wrong. Here are some ways dialogue goes wrong and what to do about it.

Trivial. When characters talk to each other, the reader doesn’t need to listen to the trivial, or unimportant, things we all say to each other. We ask about the weather, chat about the inconsequential details of our days, or just generally avoid talking about anything of substance. That type of dialogue clogs your storytelling and drags down the pace. Cut the trivial and only leave the meat of the discussion.

Read the full article:

Monday, November 20, 2017

My Newest Hits Stores in December! Golden Amazon from Moonstone Books!

My newest hits stores soon. Have you ordered your copy? I'm thrilled to be sharing this volume to bring to the public some of the last work from the late Howard Hopkins, pulpster extraordinaire.

(W) Sean Taylor, Howard Hopkins
(CA) Jason Schaufele

The Golden Amazon is truly a wild character in the field of hero pulp, as not only is she one of the few female leads, but she literally is waiting for the time when she can rule the world! She is a fierce ruthless warrior who does not brook fools, and is constantly fighting the battle within of her two personalities. She has great abilities, but does not understand where they came from, nor can she trust her memories of where she came from.   The great author Howard Hopkins was a master of pulp fiction, and we are proud to have unearthed new stories all about The Golden Amazon!

In Shops: Dec 27, 2017
SRP: $11.95

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Pro Se Productions, known for both cutting-edge modern fiction and harkening back to classic genres, announces the release of its military-themed anthology -- PULP AT WAR!

War is frightening and often ugly. But heroes are forged on the battlefield. Action and adventure are not simply stories, but the very words men and women fighting for their beliefs, their countries, or just to stay alive live by every single day. Bullets flying and bombs blasting, PULP AT WAR takes one of the most popular genres of action tales, the war story, and through the pens of J. Walt Layne, Rob Mancebo, and Teel James Glenn, brings it to two-fisted, kill or be killed life.

PULP AT WAR. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a stunning cover by Larry Nadolsky and logo design and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, PULP AT WAR is available now on Amazon at for 9.99.

This action-packed collection is also available on Kindle formatted by Marina and lo Iacono for $2.99 at  It is also available on Kindle Unlimited and KU Members get to read it for Free!

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Six-Gun Terrors Volume 3: The Slithering Terror

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the third volume in author Fred Adams Jr.’s weird western series, SIX-GUN TERRORS – The Slithering Terror.

When a plague of rattlesnakes descends on parts of the frontier, striking terror in the hearts of local farmers and ranchers, General Sherman, representing the federal government, once again seeks out the services of his two most reliable scouts, cow-punchers Durken and McFee. Content with their current occupation working for cattle baron Homer Eldridge, the ex-Union scouts are reluctant to answer the General’s summons. Such past missions have led them straight into encounters for the supernatural in truly horrific ways.

This new assignment is no different, as the two must lead a cavalry company into the heart of Indian Territory seemingly infested with poisonous reptiles. Their primary goal: discover the reason for this plague and whether it is merely nature gone wild or something a great deal more sinister.

“This is one of the most original weird western series on the market today,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “The bizarre adventures of Durken and McFee are really creepy good fun, giving us a nice dose of traditional western melodrama with the proper infusion of blood-curdling horror.”

Author Fred Adams Jr. once again blends authentic western action with gut-wrenching horror as he weaves a twisted, nightmarish tale of slithering terror that will keep readers up late at night. Artist Art Cooper provides the interior illustrations with Ted Hammond creating the beautiful horrific cover in the classic pulp vein. This is another great chapter in a weird western series quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Available from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Friday, November 17, 2017


For Immediate Release

Pro Se Productions Presents the First Episode of the Future of Digital Storytelling - THE PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK.

Each week, a new 'episode' of one of four rotating series will be released as a digital ebook for your reading pleasure. From Espionage to Supernatural, From Crime To Suspense, each week readers can find what they need in the PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK.

“PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “is a marriage of prose storytelling with a model that has worked for decades, first in radio, then in tv and even in comic books.  Regularly scheduled ‘episodes’ of stories released once a week, spotlighting four different series.  Ebooks allow for publishers to do so many unique things, and Pro Se intends to take full advantage of that, setting up our own network of sorts with scheduled ‘programming’ that will appeal to fans of all types and create an excitement for all the stories to come.  We are very excited to kick this concept off with PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK and have so much more to come.”

The first episode of the PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK is HARRIDAN.  A successful internet news reporter, the adventurous and somewhat antisocial Harridan, finds herself returning home to Memphis, Tennessee. Left there by parents she never knew with the enigmatic Aunt Belle LaForge, Harridan grew up with a particular gift, curse, or problem, depending on her viewpoint. Harridan, from the day she started puberty, attracted odd types of people. And happenings. And events. All of the occult nature, and all things most others do not believe. Now, as an adult, Harridan is a purveyor of news that most outlets won’t cover, and still she can’t escape the strangeness that seems to follow her around…or the monsters trying to kill her.

Shopping in one of Memphis' most unique shops, Harridan's latest story stumbles through the door - in handcuffs. Helping a friend's nephew quickly spirals into something dark and sinister as Harridan uncovers a plot that not only threatens human lives, but also may mean the summoning of something hellish. Author John A. McColley brings this unique purveyor of paranormal news, created by Tommy Hancock, to life in her first adventure as the premiere episode of the PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK. Journey to a Memphis that is hidden in its own shadows and secrets in HARRIDAN: SACRIFICIAL LAMB.

Featuring a fantastic cover as well as digital formatting and logo design by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, HARRIDAN: SACRIFICIAL LAMB is available for only $1.49 at  The PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK is also on Kindle Unlimited, meaning members can get each episode for free.

For interviews with the author or creator, contact Kristi King-Morgan at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Thursday, November 16, 2017

[Link] The Women of Men's Adventure

by Paul Bishop

The paperback original men’s adventure and western series of the seventies and eighties provided a fertile proving ground for dozens of authors—some of whom wrote hundreds of books in the near uncountable number of series which proliferated during the time period. The huge majority of the writers of these action-oriented, violence dripping, sex-soaked series filled with lone wolf vigilantes, elite military teams, shoot first cops, lusty international spies, billionaire adventurers, and the many other variations had one thing in common—they were males. While they weren’t necessarily as hairy-chested, muscular, or quick-triggered as their fictional creations, they were certainly toiling in the traditionally male written, testosterone filled, genre.

While the low rent end of Hemmingway Street was customarily male, there were a surprising number of women writers who embraced the macho guidelines of the genre—matching their male counterparts bullet for bullet, violence for violence, and sexual kink for sexual fetish. They infiltrated the genre seamlessly, proven by the fact no men’s adventure series reader ever stopped reading the latest installment, outraged because, “Hey! This was written by a broad!”

Fortunately, a number of women writers who braved the world of men’s action-adventure paperback series were willing to share their experiences…

Read the full article:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nugget #110 -- Viva la Storylution!

Most every great piece of fiction that 
has helped to create change in the world 
has been an aftereffect of the story the
writer wanted to tell. It began with 
story, not with revolution.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

[Link] Writing Dialogue: 50 Things Your Characters Can Do WHILE They Talk

by Bryn Donovan

In the wonderful movie Warrior, a science teacher who moonlights as a fighter talks with his wife late at night while he repairs his girls’ dollhouse furniture. This is a brilliant action that tells you so much about the kind of guy he is, and it makes their conversation about bad financial news all the more compelling.

In fiction, giving your characters something to do while they talk can also add more depth or interest to the conversation. Additionally, it opens up new ways for them to express themselves through movement and body gestures. If someone’s having an argument while he unloads the dishwasher, he might bang the pots and pans around. If she’s jogging with a friend who tells her something shocking, she might stop in her tracks.

If all the conversations in your story consist of people sitting and looking at one another, you might want to mix it up. Here are a bunch of things your characters could be doing while they’re talking. In some cases, maybe only one person is doing the action, while in other cases, both or all of the characters may be doing it.

Some actions may underscore the conversation, and others may provide an ironic contrast to it. I made most of these things pretty normal and everyday, but some of them are more unusual. The list will probably make you think of a lot more things that could work for your characters or your story.

Read the full article:

Sunday, November 12, 2017



She was one of America’s greatest heroes in its darkest days… She is now the world’s most powerful and alluring sorceress…. And She is working her magic in prose in the debut of her first digest novel-NIGHTVEIL: THE QUIET GIRLS!

By arrangement with AC Comics and Nightveil Media, Pro Se Productions brings Nightveil- and the AC Comics Universe- to life in prose! One of the longest lasting independent comic innovators, AC Comics breathed new life into super hero tales by reaching into the Past to blast into the Future! Now Pro Se Productions ushers in a new chapter with its AC COMICS Imprint, debuting with NIGHTVEIL!

“This,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “has been a long time coming and, now that this first digest novel is here, there is so much more ahead, not just for Nightveil but for nearly the entire AC Comics pantheon.  Bill Black and everyone at AC that we’ve worked with on this have not only been phenomenal, but they add a whole new energy to what we do, in a very positive way.  And Barry, the architect really of this relationship between companies, was the perfect and only choice to pen the first work of many to come.  Fan favorite characters. New adventures in prose. This is what Pro Se is all about!”

A mystery spanning decades rears its head in the modern day, plunging Nightveil on a globetrotting adventure that poses a threat not only to her immortal soul but to all life on planet Earth! Will her magic be enough to save the world again? Find out in NIGHTVEIL: THE QUIET GIRLS by award-winning author Barry Reese! From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a stunning cover by John Nadeau, a Blue Bulleteer interior image by Bill Black, logo design by AC Comics, and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, NIGHTVEIL: THE QUIET GIRLS is available now at Amazon at and Pro Se’s own store at for 9.99.

The first entry in the Pro Se/AC Comics collaboration is also available as an Ebook designed and formatted by lo Iacono and Marina and available for only $2.99 for the Kindle at The ebook is also available for free via Kindle Unlimited for members.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook

Saturday, November 11, 2017

New Release! Return To Easa

Death Is Not Predictable.

By J. L. Mulvihill

Death is losing its hold in the land of Authora. As the dead rise and sleepers awake, the weaving of webs begins and the lines blur between the two worlds as memories fade from one to another. Elsie Lind is slowly remembering and regaining her past, but in doing so, she has become an outlaw and now the most coveted woman in Authora. As word of her return spreads throughout the land, a change has come and not even the dead will rest. The Spider Witch, now free of her prison, will not be deterred from her plans. She will stop at nothing to secure Elsie as a means to her own power. But, who else seeks the benefit of the heir to the throne of Easa? A benefit such as being able to control the dragons could make grand plans more than possible. What evil awaits? What plans have been set in motion?

Who will Return to Easa?

Friday, November 10, 2017


Airship 27 Productions is proud to present the 10th Volume in its best-selling mystery anthology series, Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective.

According to the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, while battling his arch foe, Prof. Moriarty, was lost in the Falls at Reichenback and presumed dead, though his body was never recovered. Upon his return to London four years later, Holmes informs Dr. Watson that he had been traveling Europe and the Far East under the disguise of a Norwegian named Sigerson. Now, in a novella-length adventure, I.A. Watson delves deeper into those missing years, revealing who it was that accompanied the Great Detective during those missing years.

This is one of four brand new stories that fill this 10th volume of Airship 27 Productions’ best selling series. Writers Aaron Smith and Greg Hatcher offer up their own unique tales; among these a clever burglar who robs from the rich while they attend a theater performance and in another, Holmes and Watson come to the aid of former Baker Street Irregular accused of murder.

“I’d like to believe the reason this series is so popular with our readers is because we are devoted to only doing Conan Doyle style mysteries,” says Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “Over the years there have been lots of wild and crazy Sherlock Holmes stories pitting him against all manner of fanciful monsters, aliens and who knows what else. Whereas loyal Holmes fans, for the most part, cherish the old style adventures as Doyle wrote them; a mystery with all the clues narrated by Dr. Watson and in the finale solved by the Great Detective. This is what our readers want and this is what we are dedicated to bringing them. Old fashion tales.”

Once again three of the finest New Pulp writers breathe life into Conan Doyle’s classic characters and spin exciting, suspenseful tales of mystery and intrigue. As ever award-winning Art Director Rob Davis provides the beautiful interior illustrations and Graham Hill delivers a truly marvelous cover painting of Holmes at rest in his 221 B sanctum. So, dear readers, sit back, pour yourselves a brandy and prepare to enjoy a truly wonderful collection of stories starring the one and only Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective.


Available now from Amazon in both paperback and soon on Kindle.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My City or Your City -- Choosing and Creating Your Setting

Time for a new Writers Roundtable. This time we're going to talk about setting, in particular choosing a city for your setting in genre works. I've gathered input from horror, action, comic book, romance, etc. writers for this one because each slices this topic a bit differently.

Two special notes about this one: 

1. I do believe this is our largest roundtable yet. (So stick with it, as there's a lot of good stuff in it.)

2. We'd like to issue a special welcome to comics scribe extraordinaire Brian Augustyn for his first appearance here on the blog.  

Now, on to the fun and roundtabling...

Do you prefer to use existing cities and landmarks or create your own for your genre fiction? Why?

Scott McCullar: I actually prefer creating my own city for fictional comics – especially those in fictional realms with superheroes in costume and pulp action mystery men. I like the freedom of creating thrilling locations of my own to serve my story’s needs and to allow it to populate in the imagination of readers and myself.

I credit DC Comics with my interest because of their fictional locales such as Gotham City, Metropolis, Star City, and more. As well as characters like Dick Tracy and “The City” where he protects or The Spirit’s Central City.

Bobby Nash: Most of the time, I use what's already there, especially when setting a story in a major city like Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, places like that. There's a lot of latitude in using an existing major city. With smaller towns, I created one of my own for my novel Evil Ways with Sommersville, Georgia. I revisited Sommersville again in Deadly Games! and a recent book in my Snow series revealed that the title character and is friends grew up there as well. For 2018, I am planning a return visit to Sommersville, not only in Evil Intent, but in a series of stories led by Sommersville Sheriff Tom Myers. Sometimes creating your own place pays off.

Danielle Procter Piper: If my characters are in a large city, I prefer to use one that exists because everyone already has some idea of the place, so I don't have to spend much time describing it. When my characters are in New York City, everybody has a preconceived notion about the place even if they've never been there. I have one from Boston, and even if you don't know much about Boston, you know it's a large American city, old, historic, with seedy areas, and near water. It's like animals--if a character rides a horse, you should already have a preconceived notion about horses even if you've never seen one in person. If I'm writing sci-fi and invent a creature that serves a horse-like function, then I have to spend more time describing it and developing behavior for it so you know what I'm talking about. New York and Boston are familiar animals. In my first published book I have characters interacting just outside the fictional town of Snakebite, Montana. You needn't know much about Snakebite, but just the name implies it's probably dry, dusty, small, and somewhat unpleasant. So, small towns are easy to make up and craft to better fit your story. In my New York, some aspects of the City have been altered to suit my desires, but I do look up streets and landmarks to give the stories I write that are set there some adding a pinch of truth to lies makes them more believable. I simply try to make my small, fictional towns seem believable by basing them on personal experiences with small towns.

Michelle Brundage Weston: I prefer to create my own cities and landmarks. It makes it much easier to write action. I'm working on an urban fantasy pulp right now that takes place in NOLA and it's hell to write. Having to make sure your characters are going in the right direction on a one-way street is another layer of research.

Brian Augustyn: In comics, the tradition has been to use fictional stand-ins for real cities; Metropolis is Manhattan (above 42nd Street) and Gotham is Manhattan (below 42nd St.), Central City is Chicago, etc. At Marvel, even though they use New York, it was so stylized as to be effectively fictional. The benefits of this is that the creators are free to decide how the city looks, works, feels, etc -- we can even utterly destroy the city, without readers wondering why it doesn't reflect the fact that thr real counterpart city wasn't vaporized when the big summer crossover allowed the aliens to zap Portland to dust. Or at least to have the freedom we have to affect a fictional locale.

Aaron Smith: For big cities, I almost always use real ones. For small towns, I almost always make up my own, or, in the case of one series of novels, thinly disguise real towns from the area I grew up in, so that based on the names and descriptions, readers who happen to be from the same area will likely be able to figure out what towns I'm using.

David Ellis: I've mostly created my own settings. Mostly the self-created settings were so that I didn't have to be beholden to whatever an existing setting did or didn't have, but that's changed in more recent years as I've gotten more into doing research. That research (even if it's brief and not particularly extensive) will often uncover neat tidbits that I wouldn't have thought to include otherwise, so even if I'm dealing with a self-created setting, I'll pick one or more real-life analogs and work in details from that.

Bill Craig: I love South Florida because there is such diversity in each of the cities. Miami has a particular flavor that is far different than the zaniness of Key West. Tampa also has its own flavor and energy. Scorpion Cay, while my own creation, fits right into the south Florida mystique.

Tuttle E. Tejas: I love the romance in names, in imagery that city-names evoke. Eric Pete always makes up his cities/landmarks so he can write them to order--but he seldom names the city. It steals all the romance out of it.

Perry Constantine: I tend to use existing cities and landmarks but I've also created my own. It all depends on the kind of story being told.

Hilaire Barch: I've written both and done a hybrid of sorts in some pieces. I've created towns (urban fantasy, sci-fi, and a WIP Western romance), but had to decide where they were located on a real map, b/c geography played a part in plot construction. I've built entire fictitious worlds (sci-fi) with megalithic cities where anything goes, and I've used real places(sci-fi).

Ryan Cummins: To me it depends on the cities importance to the story. I have written several stories from different genres without ever mentioning the name or location of the city. I believe the cities relevance to my story can be just as impactful, if not more, visually as it can be narratively. Obviously, in a novel, this wouldn't be the case but as far as comic books go I don't much think it matters whether real or fictional.

Edward Ainsworth: I have always used existing settings. In the great tradition of Urban Fantasy, using an existing city with either a previously unknown element hiding underneath or utilizing Contrastive Banality, it can bring out something really interesting in the structure of the real place - a layer you don't always see when you walk through it.

Tobias Christopher: Nine times out of 10 I'll use my hometown of Indianapolis, mostly because I rarely see stories set in Indiana, and I feel like there's a fair amount to work with here.

PJ Lozito: I have to use real locations. I could never make up interesting, realistic geography. Also, it's good to put myself under the constraints of reality. I even consulted with a real pilot about flight time in a real city.

Robert Freese: I prefer my own city so I'm not locked into an existing geography. As the story evolves, if I need a subway or park with a Ferris wheel or whatever, I create it. I tend to not give my cities names, so readers from everywhere can decide for themselves if it's N.Y., L.A., Atlanta or Bumfuk.

Bertram Gibbs: I have used both in my stories, but prefer using existing locations. The geography and landscape is already set, which the readers recognize, versus create and map out a spot. In that, I have to build points of reference and follow them, which could change, based on the angle the characters see them from.

Don Mancha: I like making my own cities and peppering them with stuff from all over the world. Cause I'm a control freak.

Alex Washoe: Depends on the story. I've written real locations and made up ones. I tend to use some version of Seattle in a lot of my stories -- either openly or thinly disguised -- just because it's here and I know it well. But I'm currently researching Wyoming.

James P. Nettles III: I use real, large cities, mostly out of a love of destroying LA, but they give a good reference. I make up the small towns, lest I convince someone their neighbor is a creature of the night. For my heavier sci-fi and some thrillers, they are purely fictional.

Mark Halegua: I have a couple of characters set in various parts of NY city. Red Badge is set in a mid-country small city. The setting for the two unnamed characters was important since one of them, Kurt Kinnison, is a Pan Am security/Private (?) detective. The other, I won't name for the moment, is also a writer and lives in Manhattan. I like both since I'm able to get a feel for both locations in the 30s. Red Badge came before either of these two, and I felt a need to place him in a setting that, other than the general location of mid country, wouldn't be associated with any current city./ I even named it Central City - generic enough (yes, I know that's where Barry Allen Flash works, but not for a few years).

What are the advantages of using existing locations? The disadvantages?

Brian Augustyn: When I write prose, much of which is hard-boiled crime fiction, I prefer to use actual settings, largely because such use adds to the verisimilitude that keeps a suspense story immediate and realistic. I think that in a story about an advertising executive being wrongly stalked by an assassin, the reader may be yanked out of the story when it's mentioned that heads to Liberty station to catch a train out of New Holland, the Big Orange. A few writers have pulled that off, most notably Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) whose 87th Precinct cop-mysteries were set in a fictional Manhattan known as Isola. HE made it work.

I guess that a writer could avoid naming the city and simply allude to it without being specific, ("The off-duty cop turned down the street where the beloved ancient ballpark lay. He remembered with a smile how he came here as a kid to cheer on his team; lovable losers back then; a subject for ages to a mythic curse put on the little bandbox, supposedly by the Bambino himself. Several world Series wins lately had busted that myth to bits...") but ultimately you work too hard I think to justify the ability to write about a corrupt politician in a mythical Boston.

Tobias Christopher: Disadvantage: Not being able to accurately put into words the visuals that I see. Advantage: Being able to actually cause massive property damage without actually Michael Baying the hell out of it.

Edward Ainsworth: The disadvantages of using real places, is that if you're using a big City, like London, or Birmingham, Manchester of Canterbury, they're massive sprawling things that change regularly (London less so, to be honest). The advantage is that they're ready-made with a rich cultural history. I'm not going to pretend that I can make something like Bas-Lag with my own stories straight up, so having London to draw on makes it fun and also gives you a greater sense of realism to work with.

Don Mancha: The main advantage of an existing location is that it exists. The layout of the location and its culture are already established. Since you don't have to work on setting you can point your attention to other parts of your story.

This could be disadvantageous if you make a mistake geographically or culturally, and a local calls you out for it.

Scott McCullar: I think the advantage of using a real locale is that there is a built-in familiarity and it could be researched and both the history and the details of that real place add to the realism of a fictional story feeling “more realistic” as if it could possibly take place right here. A disadvantage may be that all that I wrote above could, in fact, play just the opposite in the type of a story one would want to tell.

I think about all the times I’ve seen in movies the White House or Eiffel Tower blow up. Or count the many many many times that the Golden Gate Bridge is or is almost destroyed during some climatic event – whether it is with the X-Men, Planet of the Apes, James Bond, Superman, mega-earthquake, Godzilla or some other alien or underwater giant space creature break the structure.

I guess that is supposed to shock an audience that there is danger in our reality.

Bobby Nash: Existing locations means there are people who will know them and will tell you when/if you get any details wrong. That was why I created Sommersville instead of using the existing city of Winder in Evil Ways. Winder did not have all of the locales I needed for my story so I created a new town where I could populate it as I saw fit for the needs of my story. I did not want the disadvantage of adding things to an existing town that weren't there and being called out for it. It was simpler to create my own. In the long run, it has paid off as I have revisited Sommersvile a few times now.

Bertram Gibbs: As said, the advantage is the readers will be familiar with the location. There are few disadvantages for me and the story.

Michelle Brundage Weston: The advantages: you already have a map. The disadvantages: you already have a map. Also, timing is critical. If your characters only have one hour to make it across town, they could be screwed depending on the city. In MB's made-up city, I don't have to worry how long it will take them.

Tuttle E. Tejas: Advantages of real cities: People who have never been to either, will have definite and geometrically opposed ideas between Honolulu and Detroit. Cities like Baltimore or New Orleans are characters of themselves and will (with minimum research for the non-resident) inspire/shape the story.

Disadvantages: You have to write around the city e.g. If you have Hero Man move from point a to point b in 20 minutes, in L.A. on a Friday, at 16:45 on the 405 the fans will call BS.

Hilaire Barch: The problem with real places is that you might include details that don't exist by the time the book hits print. Maybe you don't get it quite right and someone will wonder. With real places, it's better to merely drop a few details unless you are intimately familiar with the location.

Aaron Smith: The advantage to using existing cities is that readers will already have a sense of what they look/feel like. The disadvantage is that research has to be done!

Bill Craig: The advantages of using existing locations is that it can make people feel that they are part of the story, because much of the time, they may have been to a particular place and it brings those memories of their own experiences there. The disadvantage is if you get a detail wrong, you will get called on it every time, and "artistic license" is not something a reader will let you get by with.

Perry Constantine: The advantage of using an existing location is thanks to Google Maps, you can easily reference locations, streets, landmarks, etc. Of course, the downside is that if you personally haven't spent a lot of time there, you may not quite be aware of the little things locals might know. For example, if your character is using public transit and you choose a route you found on Google Maps, locals might scoff about how that's actually not a convenient route. You also might miss out on the personality of the city or not know about certain neighborhoods.

Danielle Procter Piper: Existing locations are great because there's less thought put into them--just research if necessary to get things right. I see no disadvantages because if you're writing fiction, people expect you to enhance or embellish things at least a little. I guess the only disadvantage could be over-use of a location. New York City falls into that category. that's precisely why I have another fictional character operate out of Boston.

What are the advantages of creating your own locations? The disadvantages?

Robert Freese: The downfall to using my own city is sloppy writing. You can write in too much convenient stuff for your characters and then you run the risk of losing your reader. Using recognizable landmarks, for me, is exploitable for cheap thrills; zombies in the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland, psychos living in the Statue of Liberty, whatever. That's fun.

Danielle Procter Piper: When I create my own locations, I can have as much fun with them as I like, so long as they remain believable enough that they don't disrupt the story. The disadvantage is that I must sometimes create maps so travel times and such seem realistic--an issue I believe they're having more and more with the Game Of Thrones TV show at the moment. Just glad I'm also an artist!

Bill Craig: Scorpion Cay is my own creation and I have been asked many times where it is located. My thought is that it is near Duck Key and can only be reached by a special ferry that runs between the two islands several times a day. The big disadvantage is that after 12 books in the Decker P.I. series, people want to actually go see Scorpion Cay.

Perry Constantine: The advantages of creating your own location is that you have no limitations. You want a gothic skyline? Go for it. You want tons of bridges? No problem. You want mountains within walking distance? Nothing stopping you. The disadvantage is you have no limitations and it can be difficult to keep track of stuff you've already established.

Hilaire Barch: In fictional places, you have to paint a more detailed picture unless the setting simply isn't important to the story.

Aaron Smith: The advantage to using fictional towns is that you can mold the place to be whatever you want it to be. The only disadvantage I've ever encountered was when I put a lot of work into creating a small town in Illinois only to later discover that there was already a town of that name but on the opposite end of the state. No big deal, really, I just had to change the name.

Tuttle E. Tejas: Advantages of creating your own locations: You want mountains, oceans, rivers, and deserts (oh, my) all in the same city? You got it.

Disadvantages? You have to use a light touch or go all-in and create a map. Same with a sense of place -- either lightly, hang the barest frame of place or wrap your character up in it, a la Elric or Phèdre nó Delaunay. Of course, both those characters are fantasy--where I think it is easier. But then Richard Stark did well with made-up locations in his contemporary crime stories, too.

David Ellis: If I'm writing stories about a real city or location, I like to use existing landmarks, street names, whatever I can use to convey the setting. I used to be a lot more vague with that sort of thing, but it led to uninteresting setting descriptions. Once I discovered that Google Maps/Earth existed, that really helped engage my imagination and helped with the research. Even so, I'm fine with completely made-up environments; it just means I have to describe them as if they were real places. So the advantages of existing locations is that there's existing reference material and neat details to draw from; the disadvantage is that the setting becomes lifeless without that reference material.

Michelle Brundage Weston: Creating your own locations gives you the freedom to put whatever you need wherever you need it. Unfortunately, you will have to create a lot of things. With action, location and such matters. With other genres, you might be able to get away with it.

David Herring: I have struggled with this issue in my own writing ad nauseam.

On one hand, using a real-life city adds more of a cultural and personal touch to your story. It also is instantly recognizable to the reader and better helps them connect to the setting.

On the other hand, creating a fictional city grants the author vast creative freedom to come up with there own cultural sandbox.

The best solution I've found is what I call "meeting myself in the middle." What that means is, from a variety of factors I came up with a real-world region (or state) of the country I wanted my city based in. Next, I picked out a small (or ghost) town and reimagined it as a fictional major metropolis.

As the godfather himself, Stan Lee once stated. The reason all the Marvel heroes are from New York is that he was born and raised in New York and he knows New York. He's just writing what he knows. While it sounds so simple and cliche, it really is the best thing a writer can do because it will instantly give your story credibility.

Bertram Gibbs: You can set up the moods within the location. A bustling cityscape versus a small town. The people who populate each has a certain way of thinking. Small towns would be more laid-back, while cities are more rushed. So, the mood/tempo of the cities/locations can and should be used in describing the characters and their motivations.

Bobby Nash: I can add or take away whatever I need for my fictional town. Need a rock quarry? No problem. Need a river? No problem. It helps. The downside is that I have to keep up with all of it because it's not a real place I can simply revisit. I have to keep track of what is there and what isn't. In Evil Ways, one of the things I mentioned was how the area was changing as new development was moving into the area. When we pick up with Evil Intent and the Sheriff Myers series, a few years have passed and we can see those changes. Sommersville is growing and changing, not always for the better.

Tobias Christopher: Advantage: Sky's the limit on creating your own world. I mean, imagine a world where there's a video store on every corner and zero Starbucks. Disadvantage: Depending on the realism level of the story, you probably couldn't have hidden mechas hidden throughout the town in weird locations.

Don Mancha: When you make your own location it's up to you to create everything. Which is excellent if you don't want to be held down by the restraints of reality.

The big problem though is that you literally have to create everything. That takes time, and an understanding of the impact of setting on the story, which takes hard work.

Edward Ainsworth: Creating your own locations are fabulous, but, sometimes when you're going for something like UF, then the locating being real allows you to create layers on top. Whereas something brand new, like say trying to build a Gotham, is much more fluid and it is easier for readers to get lost unless you build up a really vivid, well thought out, structured city. And while we're all good writers and stuff, city planning ain't something we're great at I'd imagine.

Sytse Algera: I prefer real locations, especially when the artist is great at the detailed stuff. A disadvantage is that the artist must be able to pull it off. I only did contemporary thrillers here in Europe so far. Our series is now known for the cities we use, and we use the fact in advertising.

Scott McCullar: I may be jumping ahead to your next question, but I like to think that a “make believe” city or imaginary location is a character in the story unto itself. It can be a far far away planet but somewhere close to home… an island where dinosaurs still live, a city where your crimefighter protects its citizens, or whatever it needs to be to serve the purpose of the imaginary story.

How much does your location, whether existing or created, become a character in its own right in your fiction?

Michelle Brundage Weston: It can be a character. Lord of the Rings is a good example. With action/pulp, however, the focus is more on the action. I do try to ramp up the "ooh shiny" with the more exotic type locations. (As in, the bayou outside of NOLA would be more of a character...)

Bertram Gibbs: I like using New York. To me, the city is a character all its own and the individuals who inhabit it are the city's subconscious.

Bobby Nash: Sommersville absolutely has a feel of its own that makes it just as important as any other character in the book. The town and county has its own unique feel, it's own rhythm that will hopefully make it feel different from other fictional locations. The same is true of existing locations. Los Angeles needs to feel like Los Angeles, Atlanta has to feel like Atlanta, that sort of thing.

Brian Augustyn: Many writers like to feature their cities as characters, Chandler's LA, Parker's Boston, Paretsky's Chicago, etc. al, and a real city works better, plays more intimately and believable. That works for me as well.

Hilaire Barch: For most of my stories, the setting is quite often simply where things happen, but I have read plenty of stories where the place is as much a part of the story as the characters. If you want it to be, you have to breathe as much life into it as any of your characters.

Scott McCullar: Yes, Gotham City is as much a character as is Batman.

For me, I have a few fictional locations in my THRILL SEEKER COMICS universe with the stories that I tell. While it is a globetrotting world these characters travel around, I do have a “base of operations” for my main characters that serves as home port. The most prominent center of my fictional stories take place in a thrilling location called St. François de Port and is located on the Mississippi River between Memphis and New Orleans where Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana all touch on the map. The real location of Yazoo City would be just to the east. My fictional city in the Deep South is where my pulp character Yellow Jacket: Man of Mystery™ lurks when not on the run or gallivanting around on a mission or case.

I really wanted to write a story about a character from the South. Hardly any comic book heroes were from there that I was reading in mainstream comics.

I developed a rich history for St. François de Port that ties into true history with the founding by the French in 1719 and later falling into the hands of the Spanish and Hernando de Soto exploring. There are bluffs and Native American tribes and a pyramid there that were lost. Later a Spanish Fort. As time went by, it was a major site of a Civil War battle. Riverboat pirates and the road to a Texarkana town called Deadman’s Gulch where I can tell Westerns. I could go on and on, but I do have a rich history of this city that I will explore in future stories.

One thing I like about my fictional city is that I can blend Memphis and New Orleans to a certain degree in my location. A rich history where both blues and jazz prosper. It is a riverboat city. A religious city. An ancient city. A modern metropolis now. To the north are the cotton fields and Delta. BBQ. Juke Joints. To the south are the swamps filled with alligators and voodoo spirits.

It can be whatever I need it to be.

Yeah, I love fictional cities.

Danielle Procter Piper: I won't call the locations in my stories characters, but let's use cooking terms to describe them. My main characters are the meat of my stories, so the location would be the cooking vessel., possibly even some of the flavoring because they do help define the layout of a story, and can influence the characters the same way we form assumptions about people from New York City in general versus people from Los Angeles in general. So, the pot, the heat source, maybe even some of the spices, but my stories are meat-driven with lesser characters being the veggies and sauce. Does that make sense? Sometimes the container the food is cooked in or the way it's cooked is integral to the finished dish, but it's the taste, the texture, and even the nutritional value that make a meal worth returning to.

Robert Freese: In my one novel, I made the movie theater, not necessarily the city it was in, a major character in the story. Readers told me it was upsetting when it burned down at the climax. I think because I created a kind of theater that existed years ago, readers had a connection to it, and it became a real place within the story.

Bill Craig: Key West and Tampa both are major characters in the Marlow mysteries and the Rebeka McCabe mysteries. They are not only the backdrop, but they provide a rich texture to the story, just as San Diego does in my Mitch Cooper series.

Richard Laswell: Much of my fiction is based on very specific locations, a house, a cabin, a spaceship, etc. I rarely write locations more than background unless it is needed.

Tuttle E. Tejas: How much does location become a character in it's own right? Boston is probably Spenser's closest friend in Robert B. Parker's novels. The same is true of Kerney's New Mexico in Michael McGarrity's novels. Cynosure is both lover and antagonist to John Gaunt in Grimjack. My own character only feels safe in his own city and I do my best to give Houston a voice equal to my protag--without writing a travelogue.

I didn't give RJS for Green Arrow until Mike Grell moved him from Star City (or wherever the hell he was) to Seattle.

Don Mancha: The bulk of my most recent story takes place in a basement, it's walls are gradually covered in newspaper clippings and research by the main character. The basement hasn't changed structurally but aesthetically it's taking on the traits of the person living in it. And that's all a good setting is, an expression of the people that live within it.

Tobias Christopher: Depends on the story. Omega Guardians, for example, the old Union Station in Downtown Indy was starting to become a character in itself until it was demolished towards the end of Season 2.

Aaron Smith: The extent to which the location becomes a character in its own right varies widely depending on the nature of the story. Sometimes it's just convenient to place the story there, while other times it feels as if the story couldn't be set anywhere else and still have the same soul.

Edward Ainsworth: London is, very, very much it's own character. Always has been and always will be. Be it as an entity of its own expression, or with an element of humanity embedded within it. Smaller Cities that I've used, like Cambridge, or Canterbury, have their own charm and vibe and that infects stories on multiple levels.

David Ellis: It's a matter of how the setting interacts with the characters. New York City is a character in a lot of superhero fiction because dense skyscrapers make for great backgrounds (Spider-Man, in particular, uses them for locomotion in a unique way that makes his life more difficult when he's away from them). All the details that make New York a character in real life can show up in a superhero story and enhance the setting.  I've also created entirely made-up worlds for my own fiction or roleplaying games, and the way the characters interact with the setting and vice verse make for a symbiosis between the two.

Perry Constantine: It depends on the story, really. In some of my series, the books jump from location to location, so it's really only there for window dressing. But in other series where a firmly established city is used as the main setting, then it definitely becomes a character in its own right. Chicago and Osaka are both huge influences on the Luther Cross and Kyoko Nakamura series.