Saturday, July 13, 2024

[Link] Fighting Edith Wharton's ghost

by LYZ

The day before a war began, I tried to stalk Edith Wharton through New York. 

I knew the war was coming. Despite assurances from officials quoted in the news and a friend of mine, a reporter, who told me that day that he’d spoken on background with a lot of people who knew things. “It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Putin is just bluffing.” But my brother, who is in the Army, had been deployed weeks before. He was sitting in a tank in another country — he couldn’t tell us where. But I could guess. I imagined my brother sitting there, teetering on the edge of something, ready to fall over into an abyss. And here I was in New York, standing in front of a Starbucks that had once been Edith Wharton’s home.

Wharton was a war novelist and a tireless volunteer. Among many philanthropic activities, she spent World War I in Paris serving as the head of the American Hostels for Refugees, feeding and clothing the people displaced by the conflict. She also oversaw an ambulance brigade and put together an anthology about war The Book of the Homeless. Many of her books are about war and the ensuing loss and devastation. But the eternal war of Wharton’s world that I was most interested in understanding was that of marriage.

Writing about Wharton in 2020, Sarah Blackwood noted that the historical foregrounding of Wharton’s more domestic novels isn't necessary “to establish the novel’s significance. Part of the genius of The Age of Innocence is how it insists that the story of a single, torn wedding dress is not qualitatively different from the story of a torn‑apart world, that novels of manners are as significant a contribution to human knowledge and feeling as are tales about combat.” 

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Thursday, July 11, 2024

35 Books (Almost) Everybody Should Read


If you're a writer and you are familiar with the Google machine, no doubt you've been exposed to at least three or four hundred "Must Read" lists, usually published by either an online lit mag or even a general interest mag like New Yorker or Rolling Stone. And these lists tend to have at least one of two things in common. 

1. They suck. 

2. They all look the same. 

It seems like all these lists also hit the same beats:

  • The Great Gatsby
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Old Man and the Sea
  • 1984
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Moby Dick
  • I Read This in High School and Hated It
  • College Requirement
  • You Name It
  • Etc.
  • Ad Naseum
  • Snoresville
  • Blah, Blah, Blah

Sometimes, many of the often-mentioned authors have much better books just waiting to be discovered. (Fitzgerald's Jazz Age short stories, for example, far outshine his Gatsy if you ask me.) Not only that, a lot of these classics are just plain dated and/or boring (yes, I'm a Literature teacher and I said that!)

So, with that in mind, I figured my list couldn't be any worse. Now, I won't say everybody needs to read all these because that's too big a blanket statement, but I do think most everybody could benefit by including these tomes in your TBR pile. 

I wanted to build a better list, a list that took the last 50 years into account a bit, a list that wasn't just full of dead white guys, a list that, dare I say it, puts those other lists to shame. (Yes, I'm that vain.)

The rules and such: 

  • This list contains a mix of novels, short story collections, graphic novels, and creative non-fiction. 
  • Not only that, it also contains a mix of genres, from literary to sci-fi to pulpy action and even detective stories. 
  • I've only allowed one title per author, but in the case of close seconds, I've put that title in parentheses so you know just how close the race was). 

Without any more ballyhoo, it's time to throw my proverbial hat in the ring and present to you a better list of must-reads.

Let the wonderment begin. Here they are, 35 books you, yes you, need to read. 

Short Story Collections

1. The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House)

Shirley Jackson is the master of the creepy. She can bring it into Gothic structures and into the suburbs. While The Haunting of Hill House is a masterpiece of modern ghost storytelling, it's this collection that tips it out as her best work. Jackson knows her craft, particularly as it relates to making a reader care about slightly odd and broken people who exist just off the edge of normal.

2. Innocent Eréndira, and Other Stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This collection is the master of Magical Realism at his best. In addition to the title story, two of my favorite stories are contained in this volume "Eva Is Inside Her Cat" and "Eyes of a Blue Dog." If all you've read is "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this. Yes, skip the overblown One Hundred Years of Solitude and start with his amazing short stories instead.

3. Constancia and Other Stories For Virgins, Carlos Fuentes

This is the second-best collection featuring Magical Realism you'll ever read. And Fuentes is a master of the short story. This is a master class in magical realism and includes stories about a man who discovers his life maybe wasn't what he thought he experienced, youths who "adopt" a mannequin and well, get rather intimate with it, and other tales that explore what it means to be human by pitting human reason against inhuman spiritual and supernatural experience. Outside of Marquez, nobody does Magical Realism like Fuentes.

4. Jazz Age Stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald

I know The Great Gatsby is the go-to for Fitzgerald and is considered above and beyond any other THE great American novel. I know that. I teach 11th-grade American Literature. I'm paid to know that. But, for my money, ol' Fitzy's short stories collected in this volume are his true magnum opus. "Bernice Bobs Her  Hair" alone is worth its place on this list, but if you throw in stories like "The Offshore Pirate" and "The Glass-Cut Bowl," this is his superlative work. 

5. Night Shift Stephen King (Cujo)

This book of short stories is responsible for more Stephen King movies than any other of his works. 'Salem's Lot. Lawnmower Man. Sometimes They Come Back. Maximum Overdrive. "Quitter's, Inc" and "The Ledge" from  Cat's Eye. They all came from this collection. But my favorite is the somber, violent, and yet romantic "The Man Who Loved Flowers," and it remains my second favorite King story to this day. In my opinion, Stephen King is an okay novelist but a damn fine short story writer. These quick bites of horror and terror are King at his best. 

6. The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers

Sure, H.P. Lovecraft is usually the go-to guy for otherworldly, esoteric horror. But, if you ask me, Robert W. Chambers out-Lovecrafts him in this collection about a mysterious play that drives those who read it insane. "The Mask" is a particular stand-out, and another of my favorite short stories of all time. The stories in this book will stick with you for a long, long time, particularly those from the opening pages. Chemicals that turn people to stone, ghastly stalkers, creepy painters -- it's all here.

7. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver

If Raymond Chandler wrote about relationships falling apart instead of murder, he'd write this book. Take the terse, straightforward style of the pulps and add a few literary techniques like characterization and talking around things instead of about them, and you have this book, one of the finest short story collections ever, and well worth your time. This is the book that shows how to learn from Hemingway's strengtha without having to copy Hemingway. 

8. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

It is difficult to pick any single short story collection from Bradbury because they are all amazing. This volume is a bit of a departure from the average short story collection because the stories weave in and out of the lives of a town experiencing the seasons. One of the first to combine the novel with the short story effectively, Dandelion Wine is a must-read for any serious reader of short stories.

9. The Ways of White Folks, Langston Hughes

The Ways of White Folks is perhaps the finest volume of stories from the post-slavery United States. Each tale relates the culture shock when blacks and whites try to co-exist in a world that won't let them without shying away from the implications. But best of all, Hughes tells his stories with the ear of a poet, making each tale a feast for the ears and eyes.

10. The Final Martyrs, Shusaku Endo

This is one of the most accessible books that deals with religion you'll ever read (except for maybe Wise Blood below). This collection features the themes of loneliness, nostalgia (and the ultimate emptiness of it), faith, apostasy, spiritual doubt, and sexual longing. It's a thoroughly human and humane work by one of Japan's greatest writers. 


11. The Adventures of Monkey, Arthur Waley

I must have read this book about a hundred times before I was 12 years old. Adapted from Journey to the West, this focuses on Monkey and his hubris to be the god above gods. I couldn't help but admire Monkey in spite of his pride. He was my first exposure to the trickster caricature, long before I read about Ananzi the Spider or Coyote.

12. The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut (Player Piano)

People always tend to default to Slaughterhouse-Five for the best book by Vonnegut, but I continue to believe it's The Sirens of Titan. It's perhaps the most straightforward sci-fi romp the author wrote, and it's both accessible in format and style, far more than so many of his other, more trippy works. The Siren's of Titan is a simple story, actually, about a man on a direct route to his destiny whether he tries to avoid it or not. It actually shares a lot (in terms of plotting) with the story of Jonah from the Old Testament, but don't mistake that was any religious content. Right behind this one for me is another Vonnegut work with a similar theme -- Player Piano (and then we finally get to S-5). 

13. Beloved, Toni Morrison

Beloved is all the right stuff in a novel as far as I'm concerned. Thoroughly literary, it identifies and calls out for cultural change (call it woke, it's okay). Thoroughly a ghost story, it tells of a home haunted by a former slave girl. Thoroughly romantic, it features several relationships that are beautiful, tragic, and optimistic all at once. A freed slave's home is haunted by what could be the ghost of a young slave woman killed to avoid a return to slavery, and that affects everything about the freed slave's family life. At times creepy, at times tragic, at times hopeful, there's a very good reason this novel by Toni Morrison is so, ahem, Beloved.

14. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler (Little Sister)

This is the quintessential Chandler. Period. Sure, all his books are amazing, but this one just lays out what makes the rest of them work so well. Any writer wanting to learn the trade can use this as a textbook for dialogue, pacing, character, action, theme, all the stuff that makes literature work. In this case, watch the movies, sure but read the books, all the books. 

15. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

I'll be honest. I love The Sun Also Rises (best closing line in any book, ever, and I'm looking at you, Gatsby), but when it comes to why I love Ernest Hemingway, it all boils down to this book. This book is why Hemingway continues to top my list of favorite writers year after year after year. Drama? Check. Romance? Yep. Danger? Intrigue? Sure. High-faluting literary art-stuff? Yep. That's there too. The best part of this book is that there are no doves set free to give it a Hollywood ending. That's just for the movie. 

16. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (Mules and Men)

I consider myself fortunate that I get to revisit this book each year with my students. I can't think of a better character study for the pursuit of happiness than Janie as she grows to eventually understand she needs no others to define her but herself. She can be loved and she gave give love, but it must be on her terms. And the way ZNH slings words around?! Holy shit! This is one of the most poeticly heartbreaking and yet life-affirming book I have and will every read.

17. Fat Ollie's Book, Ed McBain

Fat Ollie is a prejudiced, fat cop who ticks all the boxes for "that guy." But that somehow doesn't keep him from being one of the fan faves in Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series. That's a testament to McBain's writing. Trust me. This time out, Fat Ollie has his only copy of his first novel manuscript with him, but it gets stolen. Now he must not only do his job as a cop but also find his missing manuscript so he can prove to the world at large he's more than just a "pretty face" with a badge.

18. Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor

There once was a story about a preacher who walked with rocks in his shoes to create his own type of penance, all the while preaching about "the church without Christ." This is that story. This is about a Flannery O'Connor as a story can get, with memorable characters, even more memorable quirks, and enough moral shortcomings to create a new reason to invoke Old Testament judgments. 

19. Ethan Frome, Eudora Welty

I once wrote an essay comparing this wonderful short novel to Kate Chopin's The Awakening. My take was that the awakening isn't just a feminist feeling. Men can feel it too. Of course, both are written by women, so that has a lot to do with the depth of emotion that Edith Wharton writes into her characters who are trapped in a loveless marriage born of a medical need to stay together. Enter one younger cousin who brings life into a gray world of death, and they begin a journey toward tragedy worthy of Shakespeare's best.

20. Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosely

Picking any single Walter Mosley Easy Rawlins tale for this list is nigh impossible. Rawlins is the African American's Philip Marlowe, but not just that, because he's created from the authenticity of the post-WWII world blacks experienced, he's as much a revolutionary hero as he is a private eye. He crosses the worlds of Pulp, Noir, Hard-Boiled, and Literary Fiction with ease and blends them into a new kind of P.I. Fiction that didn't exist before Mosley. 

21. One-Shot Harry, Gary Phillips

Gary Phillips is my kind of writer, and I'm thrilled to be able to say I've shared a short story collection or two with him. He's a sort of spiritual follow-up to Walter Mosley without being a pastiche, and he has a unique voice among African American pulp writers. In this one, a photographer gets caught up in a mystery during the racial unrest of the early 1960s. Harry is a Korean War vet who just wants to help out a friend, only to be pulled fully into violence and danger. It's also filled with lots of fun historical cameos, so that's a plus that makes it feel very, very real-world. 

22. Money Shot, Christa Faust

This is probably the most recently published book on the list. It's another Hard Case Crime book, and it's the one that introduced me to Christa Faust. It's as gritty as they come and as viscerally raunchy as it needs to be without crossing the line into needing to be sold in a brown paper bag. Angel Dare is a porn actress wrapped up in a murder. The premise is simple and Noir. The storytelling is classic Hard-Boilded Pulp. 

23. I Will Fear No Evil, Robert Heinlein (Job)

Yeah, I know this one is a weird choice for a Heinlein book to include on this list. Most folks who put Stranger in a Strange Land (and to be fair, this covers many of the same themes), but even if I had to choose a different Heinlein, I'd probably choose Job. Still, this one remains my favorite, hands down. The story of a man who gets a second shot at life in the body of his dead secretary, this book crossed so many cultural lines in the sand I'm surprised it was even published. It's as countercultural and straight-up hippy as anything Heinlein wrote, and it's perhaps the most superb M2F transformation book ever written. It's trippy and sexual and goes into several uncomfortable places, but that's what makes it so fantastic.

24. A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs

This book was Star Wars before Star Wars was Star Wars. Seriously. As far as I'm concerned if you read only one Planetary Romance it should be A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Sure, there are some bits in it that stand as identifiers of their time, but none of it reaches a level that interferes with the heroic story of a man shunted to another planet. It's a space isekai that influenced everything from sci-fi movies to animated movies to sci-fi and fantasy books. 

25. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman (American Gods)

Every reader it seems has a favorite Neil Gaiman novel. This one happens to be mine. The thing I've enjoyed about Gaiman's work is his refusal to write series (outside of comic book series) and to create new worlds with each new novel. I've always loved the idea of worlds co-existing, and this one continues that genre of fantasy story better than about all others (including the famous land under London novel). Plus, Door is perhaps the most fascinating character I've come across in modern fiction. (Some readers may have strong opinions about NG now after the allegations against him, so tread wisely.)

26. The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

If I have to explain this one, then you've been sleeping under a rock. This is the quintessential sci-fi comedy romp. It's also where several of our favorite geek sayings come from. "Mostly harmless." "42." "Life, the universe, and everything." "Don't forget your towel." "Don't panic." It's all here. Some novels have filler, but not this one. It doesn't let up with the out-there. 

27. She, A History of Adventure, H. Rider Haggard

This is probably the lowest-brow book you're going to find on this list. Yes, it's a straight-up adventure yarn, and not just that, it's a "men's adventure" yarn that was a dime a dozen back in the early days of 1900s fiction. Still, don't let that deter you. This is a fun romp through the tropes that have stood the test of time for adventure and fantasy writing and sometimes is good to go back and see where the stuff we enjoy nowadays came from. It also features a female antagonist able to wipe the floor with any man who dares to stand against her.

28. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

This is the novel that introduced me to the amazing Amy Tan. I was even fortunate enough to attend a writers' convention at my college where she did a reading from the book. (And yes, that was amazing too.) This book captures the feelings about being American-born in a culture that prides itself on keeping its traditions. How much does the past, and not just your own but that of your family, determine who you are, and how much of that is a person allowed to shape for themselves? The way Tan answers that question is what puts this awesome book on this list.

29. Borderline, Lawrence Block

This is my favorite tale from the former Edgar Award Winner and Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America. It's raw, sensual, gritty, and violent, and that makes it pure Block. Originally published under the pseudonym Don Holliday as Border Lust, it was republished by Hard Case Crime under the current title, Borderline with all credit going to the author's real name. Written like a five-pointed star converging in upon itself, it features five people whose lives are about to intersect in the most dangerous way possible. 

30. Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo

You may have seen Metallica's music video that features footage from the film Johnny Got His Gun, but do yourself a favor and read the book. This is the kind of story you'd expect from someone with the guts to stand up to McCarthyism and even get blacklisted as a screenwriter. Trumbo knocks it out of the park (sorry for the cliche) in this tragic tale of a soldier who loses everything but his life and still manages to lose it all. Trapped in a body without arms, legs, vision, or any ability to communicate with his doctors, our "hero" relives his experience in the war that led to his living lifelessness. It's a downer for sure, but it's probably one of the most important downers you'll ever read. 


31. A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

This may be the most personal book I've ever read. It's also the most religious book on this list -- and that's for a good reason. It's a religious book only in the since of one man's account of his faith (in God, in humanity, in fate, in goodness, in love) falling apart after the death of his wife. It's also the story of a rebuilding and a rejoining with the sand of humanity (to paraphrase John Donne's "No Man Is an Island"). It is a universal story, never a sectarian one. 

32. A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

There is no better natural essayist than Annie Dillard. She has a gift for taking the last breaths of a dying moth, a mottled snakeskin, or any number of other discards and cast-offs from nature that one might find in the woods, and turning them into parables that resonate with all of us. She takes the universal and makes it personal. She is simply the best as what she does. And this book is the proof of that. 

Graphic Novels

33. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis deserves every award it has ever won. It is quite possibly the finest example of autobiography in graphic novel form ever created. Yes, that even includes American Splendor. The author related her own move to the United States in a way that never distances readers of any nationality, race, or faith. You can't read this book without identifying with Marjane Satrapi in her struggles and confusions.

34. American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

Forget about the weird little streaming series. This book ties together Journey to the East and the story of a second-generation Chinese student trying to figure out who he is. Does he keep his family's culture or treat it as trash to be thrown away? Does he embrace Americanism even if it means he ignores generations that have come before him? And just what does the Monkey King have to do with all of this? This is not only fun. It's profound. 

35. Bone, Jeff Smith

Yes. Bone is a fun little fantasy book. Well, not so little. This baby takes two trees per copy, I'd be willing to bet. Yeah, it's massive. But, for all the fun and adventure this fantasy romp contains, it's every bit as complex as anything by Tolkien, Herbert, L'Engle, or Le Guin. Don't let the cute art and easy-to-follow story fool you. This is epic storytelling at its best. You'll be hard-pressed to find any other fantasy book -- prose or graphic novel -- that matches it in quality. 

Saturday, July 6, 2024

[Link] Neil Gaiman accused of sexual assault

by Rachel Johnson, Katie Gunning, and Paul Caruana Galizia

Neil Gaiman has been accused of sexual assault by two women with whom he was in consensual relationships and is the subject of a police complaint in New Zealand. 

Gaiman’s position is that he strongly denies any allegations of non-consensual sex with the women and adds New Zealand police did not take up his offer of assistance over one woman’s complaint in 2022, which, he says, reflects its lack of substance.

However, New Zealand police said it made a “number of attempts to speak to key people as part of this investigation and those efforts remain ongoing”, adding that there are “a number of factors to take into consideration with this case, including locations of all parties”. 

The allegations span two decades and concern young women who came into contact with Gaiman – the 63-year-old bestselling author of The Sandman, Good Omens, and American Gods – as a nanny to his child and as a fan of his writing.

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

[Link] Let Them Be Morally Flawed: In Defense of Queer Villains in Stories

John Copenhaver on Conflating Queerness with Evil

by John Copenhaver

Queerness and villainy have a long history of being conflated by mainstream entertainment, from Peter Lorre’s effeminate and threatening Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon to the obsessed and manipulative Mrs. Danvers in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca to, more humorously, the violent Lord Humungus from Mad Max, decked out in leather fetish gear, to the many queer-coded Disney villains, such as the Evil (Drag) Queen in Snow White to the preening Jafar in Aladdin.

Originally, these queer-coded antagonists were molded to contrast mainstream heteronormativity; the straight cis-gendered heroes of these stories embody traditional ideas about gender and sexuality. On the surface, the villains aren’t explicitly queer, but they wear a cloak of queerness to imply a harmful false equivalency that being LGBTQ+ is morally dubious or, from another angle, that transgressing gender and sexuality norms indicates innate corruption or, perhaps, a moral weakness leading to greater evil.

If you grew up in the eighties and early nineties, as I did, it was difficult to find any positive queer role models in popular entertainment or books; few of these stories were within easy reach. So hungry were we for queer characters, we zeroed in on the flamboyant queer-coded villains, which despite the intention behind these characters, we embraced long before Disney seized the opportunity to capitalize on their beloved baddies and began franchising their origin stories. In doing so, they filed down their villains’ horns for mass consumption.

At first glance, transforming queer-coded villains into protagonists with rich backstories seems well-intentioned and progressive. This revision of villainy seems to challenge conflating queerness with corruption: “Those vicious villains weren’t evil after all, just misunderstood.”

In truth, Disney is just nudging these queer-coded characters into the circle of conventional morality, not widening the circle. The original vampy evil fairy Maleficent becomes a scorned and brutalized lover and later a protective mother figure. Vicious and glamorous fashionista Cruella becomes a Dickensian goth orphan girl-cum-fashion designer. While these films are entertaining, they don’t embody progress as much as they want us to believe they do.

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Friday, June 21, 2024



Airship 27 Production is thrilled to announce the release of its fifth volume in the Ravenwood series. The classic occult detective, Ravenwood – Stepson of Mystery returns in three brand-new adventures. From Manhattan to Istanbul, the master of the oriental arts, faces the puzzle of a man murdered three times in the same night. Then there is the stage mentalist seeing revenge against those who exposed his twisted mentor. Lastly, Ravenwood comes to the aid of his British manservant, Sterling, who has become the target of a sadistic killer who once served with him in the Great War.

Writers Dexter Fabi, Michael Housel, and Carson Demmans pull out all the stops and they lead readers into the bizarre, ever-wonderous world of magic via the exploits of the great arcane investigator of them all, Ravenwood – Stepson of Mystery.

Artist Sam Salas provides the black and white interiors and Adam Shaw the stunning painted cover.


Available now in paperback and soon on Kindle.


Saturday, June 15, 2024

[Link] Amy Tan Isn’t Perfect

This year’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award winner on getting over perfectionism in writing and the myth that Asians are a “model minority”

By Monica Eng

The Joy Luck Club has become the great Chinese American novel. What were the pros and cons of authoring the first big commercial Chinese American literary hit?

I was cast in the limelight as being some sort of expert about Chinese Americans or immigrants or mothers and daughters. With that limelight comes a responsibility put on me to speak for the community of Asian Americans, or all people in Asia, which is impossible. I had to constantly talk about the fact that Asian Americans are not a homogenous group. We are united by commonalities and needs within communities, but we can be very different in how we conduct our lives.

You’ve dressed up in S&M-style leather to perform with the literacy fundraising supergroup the Rock Bottom Remainders. How did that happen?

I used to sing “Bye Bye Love,” but I don’t have a good voice. After our first concert, our musical director, Al Kooper, said, “I picture Amy wearing leather boots and fishnet stockings, wielding a whip and singing ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.’ ” And I said, “That is such a sexist thing to say,” but I realized this wasn’t about me trying to prove I had a good voice. This was about being funny, because this plays against who most people think I am. I had to go to these leather shops and ask for whips and collars. So part of this song does require me to tell the boys to bend over, and then I get to whip them.

In your latest books and your Netflix documentary [Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir], you talk about your mom’s struggle with mental health and your own struggles. Why is it important to get these topics out in the open — especially in the Asian American community?

My mother was always very open about anything. Anything I said about her was fine. So that kind of openness has been my template in life. I am part of the Pacific Asian Network. It’s like a United Way for different Asian groups that also helps combat stereotypes about Asians as model minorities: the idea that they have no problems, no mental health issues, no children who are overweight, no poverty, no elder abuse. Those are all myths.

Read the full interview:

Friday, June 14, 2024


Airship 27 Production is thrilled to present the greatest pulp hero team up of them all. The threat of World War II looms over the eastern horizon and America prepares for when it will enter battle. When many masters of the occult and magical talismans from around the globe begin disappearing, Intelligence Officer Major Steel fears the Nazis are behind the kidnappings and thefts. He hurriedly enlists the aid of Secret Agent X, Ravenwood Stepson of Mystery, and powerful mage, Ascott Keane. But even their combined powers may not be sufficient and so he is forced to reach out to the devil incarnate himself, the villainous Doctor Satan.

Writer Glen Held delivers a pulse-pounding pulp adventure in the tradition of the thirties classics. While multiple Pulp Factory Award-winning artist Rob Davis provides the stunning cover and the black and white interior illustrations. 


Available now at AmazonAmazon in paperback and soon on Kindle. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

[Link] Beat the Author Blues: How to Manage Writer’s Doubt

by Clayton Noblit

Being an author is hard. There’s no way around it. Some days, the prose will spring onto the page almost without effort. On others, it will be an exercise in stagnation and frustration as you stare at a blank screen in a fit of writer’s doubt. Oh, and the actual writing often isn’t the hard part. Authors and writers often work from a deeply personal place. And, if opening up to a new friend is anxiety-inducing, sharing your writing with the entire world takes it to a new level.

Think running a business is hard? Imagine if the business was based around your imagination being shared with others. This is what an author deals with on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are upsides to being an author. Sharing your creativity can be the most rewarding thing in your life. It’s a chance few will take, but those who do can see great rewards.

Here are a few common issues that authors face, and suggestions on how to overcome them, or put them in perspective.

  • Feeling devastated by a bad review
  • I’m not a real author
  • My writing isn’t good enough
  • The task seems too big
  • I don’t know enough about a subject to write about it

Read the full article:

Friday, June 7, 2024


Hell, Arizona is a flea-bitten two-horse town inhabited mostly by people with nowhere else to go. Drifters, tired worn-out settlers, and lots of outlaws. One of the few ongoing concerns is the brothel operated by Golden Annie. One day a slim, emaciated Englishman in a bowler hat arrives asking if he might be allowed to play her piano situated in the parlor. Surprised by the fellow’s look and demeanor, Annie agrees and is then impressed with his skills on the keys. Enough to hire him on.

And thus Percy Smith becomes Hell’s newest resident. Then a series of unfortunate events leads to his killing a violent customer intent on beating one of the girls. Soon Smith becomes the target of every owlhoot in the territory and unbelievably survives every challenge he encounters until he’s put a half dozen men in Boot Hill. Still puzzled by his true identity, Annie establishes Smith as the town’s new sheriff and soon his reputation begins to grow across the territory. Eventually getting the attention of the meanest, roughest outlaw of them all, Old Bill. Fate has put them on a collision course and it’s anybody’s guess who will survive.

Carson Demmans delivers a one-of-a-kind story that will keep readers guessing as to the Smith’s hidden secret. Artist Sam Salas provides the nine interior illustrations with Adam Shaw the eerie, beautiful cover. Art Director Rob Davis works his book design magic. 


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