Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A.I. for Writers: Useful Tool or Just a "Tool"

Is A.I. as efficient or effective as it is touted to be? Let's ask the writers!

Have you found it helpful, too much to make it useful, or just a waste of time (potential theft issues aside)? 

Alan J. Porter: I’ve worked on AI platform development in my day job and often write about it and always happy to help educate writers to see beyond the hype.

Brian K Morris: I've used ChatGBT a little and frankly, it reassures me that I'm a better writer than I thought I was. Their text is drier than 077's martinis.

I used an AI to write the back cover copy of my newest novel. I gave it the elements I wanted to see, then told it that the words were going on the back of a paperback. Then I added another element in two subsequent rounds, then gave it a quick edit so it sounded like me.

It helped to unstick my thinking in terms of a complex scenario I'd constructed. It looked at the material in a different way than I did, which was good. Three drafts later, in addition to a final polish by myself, it was ready for prime time. I'd never use it to write my stories, though.

R Alan Siler: I recently wrote a review in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. I've never written a sonnet before, so I used ChatGPT to generate some ideas for me -- some specifically about the thing I was reviewing and some on the more general theme I was going for. None of them were that great (and some of them were structuraly wrong), but it helped me figure out ways to structure my review/sonnet. So what I wrote was 100% me, but the AI was a shortcut to help me get there. I'm sure I would have eventually arrived at approximately the same point regardless, but the AI gave me a map that helped me not wander aimlessly for quite as long.

Jenny Reed: I have not used it and see no reason to. I can write without help, thanks.

However, my housemate, who has always wanted to write stories but believes she is bad at it, has embraced ChatGPT as the way to realize her dreams. It seems to me that she spends way more time explaining what she wants and then tweaking the result to make it nice than she would to just write the thing, but she seems to think she gets a better result than she is capable of without the crutch.

Do note that I said she tweaks it afterwards. And by tweaks, I mean, she extensively edits it. She is apparently capable of editing a start until it's actually decent, but doesn't feel capable of creating from scratch. I guess we all have our mental blocks.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Motivational Monday: Faithfulness


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Sunday Funnies: Career in a Nutshell

I feel like this cartoon may have targeted my entire writing career.



(Thanks for hipping me to it, Cap'n Ron.)


Saturday, September 23, 2023

[Link] The Five Pillars Of Pulp Revival

by Misha Burnett

Opening Note One: There is some difference in meaning between the terms “Pulp Revolution” and “Pulp Revival”. The Revolution, I feel, is concerned with the publishing and distribution of literary works, ways to enhance discoverability and inform readers of the literary movement. Revival, on the other hand, is more concerned with the aspects of the movement itself. The first term is strategic, the second artistic. Being a literary theorist, my work generally concerns the latter term. Also, from a purely emotional standpoint, I prefer the image of people gathering under a tent to sing songs and praise the Lord to the more utilitarian image of crowds rolling a guillotine through the streets.

Opening Note Two: This article should not be taken as either authoritative or definitive. Pulp Revival is, itself, a work in progress, and any analysis of its characteristics is, of essence, incomplete and fluid. Perhaps a few decades hence someone will be able to stand back and get the entire picture so as to be able to codify the movement. At the moment, however, I am in the midst of it and jotting down my observations from, as it were, the trenches.

Opening Note Three: I have deliberately avoided any references to genre in what follows. This is because I don’t think it is significant to the Pulp Aesthetic. The guidelines can apply to Detective Fiction and Westerns just as readily as to Science Fiction or Fantasy. The Pulp era made no such hard distinctions, while some magazines specialized in a particular form of genre fiction, most were open to anything thrilling and exciting. Pirates rubbed elbows with cowboys and spacemen and barbarians from the bygone past in the pages of adventure magazines.

These having been said, this is what I see as the signature characteristics of Pulp Revival.

Read the full article: https://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/the-five-pillars-of-pulp-revival/

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Movie Reviews for Writers: Amuck!

So... What does it take to bring me back to the movie reviews for writers? Of course, another sleazy Giallo thriller. This time it's Silvio Amadio's is-it-a-Giallo-or-isn't-it mystery Amuck! 

Why do so many Giallos feature writers? It almost makes one wonder which has more stories about writers caught up in horrific events -- Stephen King or Giallo? (But that's a question for another day). 

In this fun romp through the murderous halls of a writer's island mansion (see, it's a fantasy, I tell ya), Barbara Bouchet plays Greta Franklin, a secretary/typist hired by a publisher to help novelist Richard Stuart finish his current novel. She's there, however, to investigate the disappearance of her friend Sally Reese, who was the previous secretary/typist. Throw in some sexy parties and no-attachments-needed relationships, along with a murder and a body hidden in a swamp, and it's a fairly typical setup for a thriller. Without the tropes of black gloves and the razor blade POV camera, it's not, however, a typical setup for a Giallo. 

All that aside, you're here for what it has to say about the life of a writer. 

Well, this movie is pure wish fulfillment. It's the kind of thing people who aren't writers like to imagine the life of a famous novelist is like. 

Publishers who foot the bill to give writers assistants aren't common, and to be honest I don't think I've ever heard of that. Maybe it was common in the early 1970s, but I tend to doubt that as well (it is a conceit of the romantic comedy Paris When It Sizzles also, so maybe there is some ancient truth to the idea). Still, it would be nice, huh?

Transcribing a novel into a dictaphone (or the modern equivalent, a speech-to-text file) is something I have tried. However, for me, it's a bit of a challenge. I think I'm one of those writers who thinks better with my fingers than with my mouth. I think that for me literally, the act of typing as the ideas form in my brain helps them form. I do so much going back and correcting in an audio file that I wonder if it would be more trouble than it was worth to try to make sense of my backtracking. 

Plus, I find that I edit a lot as I type. Any typist a publisher might send me would most likely quit because of the frustration I caused him/her/them.

The novelist in question is writing his first thriller. People's reaction to that is the most authentic part of this film. 

They're aghast. Why would you want to do that? You'll kill your career (sure, but pay no attention to covering up a murder). 

It's something I hear from friends who tend to write in a single genre and then want to try their hand at another. "Why would you do that?" fans ask. "As long as you don't stop writing ____________ (fill in the blank with the genre of choice), I guess a one-off is okay."

It makes me glad I never stuck to one genre. But then, publishers don't send assistants to writers like that. And I sure wouldn't mind an assistant like Barbara Bouchet. Just saying.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

[Link] Stepping Into Raymond Chandler’s Shoes Showed Me the Power of Fiction

by Denise Mina

“The Second Murderer” is the first Philip Marlowe book written by a woman. Me.

Marlowe is, of course, the most famous creation of Raymond Chandler, perhaps the most famous of American crime novelists. Reading Chandler was always a guilty pleasure of mine, his vision of 1930s Los Angeles unfolding vividly for me all the way in cold and rainy Glasgow. On the one hand, there is his glorious writing, his blue-collar heroes and the occasional profound observations about the human experience. But there’s also his liberal use of racial slurs, his portrayal of people of color and homosexuals as grotesque caricatures and the fact that his work is suffused with misogyny. It takes a strong stomach to read a story in which a woman needs a slap to calm her down.

Crime fiction was, and is, anti-feminist. That’s why I chose to write it in the first place.

Traditionally, women never had agency in crime fiction, and when I started out I wanted to try to shift the dial, casting in with a movement that already counted such lights as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Talley, Mary Wings and Val McDermid. The way I saw it, crime fiction was the new social novel, wrapped in a genre that already seemed to be reaching a wide audience of largely female readers.

The knock on commercial fiction is that it’s often written so quickly that it tends to simply mirror, for good or ill, the social mores of the time that produced it. Chandler may have been a misogynist, but he definitely lived in misogynist times, and his fiction reflects that. When values change or views become more enlightened, these kind of books tend to age poorly. Sometimes this aging-out happens quite suddenly: How tired the endless copaganda procedurals seem now; how tone-deaf the books that end with the police justifiably shooting a suspect to death. The tsunami of books featuring women with faulty memories cannot be read in the same way since the #MeToo movement or in the context of changing attitudes about sexual violence and child abuse. Overnight, yesterday’s resilient trope seems hopelessly offensive, even dangerous.

Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/26/opinion/raymond-chandler-philip-marlowe-denise-mina.html

Friday, September 15, 2023

HORROR AND HEROICS TAKE OVER REESE UNLIMITED! BARRY REESE’S ‘THE STRAW-MAN BOOK ONE’ DEBUTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Known for his action-packed pulp storytelling, award-winning author Barry Reese brings a new twist to his Reese Unlimited Universe. Sovereign City's borders harbor horror and terror has a new name in THE STRAW-MAN BOOK ONE.

Grove's Folly is a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Sovereign City. Known mostly for its history with the Revolutionary War, most people visit the town for its annual Pumpkin Festival... but something dark and frightening lies beneath the soil of Grove's Folly.

Now that something has awakened, plunging the town into a hellish new reality. Who or what is the Straw-Man and why does this strange cryptid haunt the streets at night? From the mind of award-winning author Barry Reese comes the newest series set in his shared pulp adventure universe.

THE STRAW-MAN BOOK ONE by Barry Reese. From Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions.

With a haunting cover by Luis Filipe and print formatting and logo design by Antonino lo Iacono, THE STRAW-MAN BOOK ONE is available for 9.99 via Amazon.

The first volume in a new series from Barry Reese, THE STRAW-MAN BOOK ONE is also available on Kindle formatted by lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for $2.99. Kindle Unlimited Members can read this exciting tale for free!

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2023

[Link] Wordless

(Originally Posted on December 30, 2021. It's older, but still well worth a read for when you feel the words are broken and just won't make their way to the page.)

----------------------------------------


by Christa Faust

It’s Been A Year. Again. Next year looks to be more of the same and then some. But this isn’t one of those “how about that 2021?” Happy Fucking New Year type of posts.

I want to talk about not talking. Or more specifically, not writing.

Something has happened to me over the past couple of years. Something I can’t seem to put into words. Because that’s the problem. My words. They seem… broken.

We have all been playing this fun (not actually fun) game over the interminable eternity of this Fucking Pandemic. The options may be different on each person’s list, but the underlying multiple choice shuffle is the same.

Why am I like this right now?

Read the full article: https://christafaust.com/wordless/

Friday, September 8, 2023

Unleashed at last! League of Monsters, the new anthology published by Mechanoid Press Publishing is now available!

It Takes Monsters to Fight Monsters! 

Count Dracula. Frankenstein’s Monster. The Werewolf. The Gill Creature. 

You’ve seen various versions of them countless times. But never like this! 

It is the 1950s, and a cadre of Nazis known as the Last Reich are plotting to remake the world in their own horrible image.

Moira Harker, the great-great-granddaughter of Mina Harker and the last living member of a secret group of monster hunters known as the Order of Van Helsing, has brought together history’s most frightening creatures to prevent even greater monsters from taking over the world.

Within these pages you’ll meet: Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, a reluctant werewolf, and a gill creature and his beautiful telepathic handler.

These monsters have joined forces and now travel the globe saving the world from an even greater threat.

Join James Palmer (Monster Earth), Russell Nohelty (Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter), Bobby Nash (the Hunter Houston: Horror Hunter series), Teel James Glenn (A Cowboy in Carpathia: A Bob Howard Adventure), Jessica Nettles (The Children of Menlo Park), and Adrian Delgado as they take you where monsters dwell, inside the… League of Monsters! Cover art by the invincible Mark Maddox, with cover design by the incredible Jeffrey Hayes.

League of Monsters is available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover at the following retailers:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CGJJPPHC

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0CGJJPPHC

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0CGJJPPHC

Don’t be afraid of the dark.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

New submission opportunity -- Remixing Giallo

Attention, all you folks looking for the coolest anthology ever to submit your crazy, creepy, sexy, bloody little stories to. I'm putting together the story collection outlined below. You're officially invited to submit

Giallo Re/Mixed & Re/Imagined
(AKA Sending Argento Into Space)


If you're a fan of Argento, Fulci, Bava, or Martino, you are familiar with the Giallo film genre. But did you know it got its name from yellow mystery books? Of course, the movies took it way past mere mystery into something almost synonymous with “Eurosleaze.”

Black-gloved killers. Sexed-up victims. Blood so red and thick it could never be real. But at its heart, a Giallo thriller was always wrapped up around a twisted murder mystery story that kept viewers guessing until the final blood-drenched scene. 

That's the vibe I'm hoping to recapture here in this anthology. 

Twisted mysteries that have one foot in violence and another in crazyville and bring to mind classics such as Twitch of the Death Nerve, Deep Red, What Have You Done with Solange?, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Stage Fright, Baba Yaga, Tenebre, All the Colors of the Dark, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Blood and Black Lace, and Four Flies on Gray Velvet. (If you haven't watched any of these, please do. They're awesome-tastic, whether you choose to write for this anthology or not. 

The twist on this, though, for this anthology is:

Each story must take the standard tropes of Giallo and put it in a different genre setting.
No two stories can be in the same setting. Wrap your story proposal in the trappings of sci-fi, Western, urban fantasy, summer camp horror, Gothic romance, Dickensian, superheroes, sword and sorcery, planetary romance, 70s urban crime, haunted house ghost story, medical thriller, martial arts, bodice ripper, samurai epic, etc. 

Sound like fun? I thought so. 

The details:
  • Stories must be between 5-7k words.
  • Stories must use the tropes of Giallo (gloves, up-close killings like knives and garotes, no poisoner or sniper types).
  • Stores must be in a setting other than traditional Giallo.
  • Story pitches must be approved before you turn in the story. Someone else may have already claimed the Western you had an idea about.
  • R is welcome. Hard R can be even better. But let's avoid NC-17 or X though. 
  • All characters must be original. No public domain characters or characters from Giallo flicks that would need to be licensed.
  • The best Giallo stories still drop clues like any good mystery, even with all those twists and turns in the plot. 
  • When in doubt, remember that "over the top" is your best friend here. 
  • All stories will be approved by the editor, me. Speed is good, but this isn't first-come, first-served. 
  • If you have questions, please email me for clarification.

Let me see your ideas, and we'll put a super cool book together. 

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

For those of you who were interested in the Giallo-inspired book (Giallo Re/Mixed & Re/Imagined), here's a sample of what I'm looking for when you send your pitches. You can also consider the Samurai epic setting no longer on the board. It's all mine. 

Petals Fallen Off and Scattered So Suddenly
A giallo-style story set in Edo-era Japan
by Sean Taylor

Hisakichi is a ronin who wanders Japan taking jobs as he finds them. Sute is a disgraced geisha already kicked out of her master's chambers and now wanted for the deaths of three of his heirs. If found by the Daimyō's guards, she will be beheaded with barely an afterthought of a trial.  

Having found Sute (whose name means "foundling") weeping over the latest victim), Hisakichi is determined to protect her and vows to buy back her honor by solving the crime and finding the true killer. 

The killer slices the neck of each victim with a kaiken, the weapon of choice for a woman for self-defense, and leaves a scattering of cherry blossoms beside each body (which signifies the idea of mikkaminumanosakura, or sudden change in life). There is also a single bloody koto (gauntlet) left on the other side of the body, the one worn for the murder, which only makes the killing so much more confusing -- a warrior's glove paired with a woman's blade and a ritual flower.

But he's no detective or wise man, so he knows the odds aren't in his favor, even as the killer picks up the pace almost as if to taunt him. Not only that, the woman he has vowed to protect is also hiding a devastating secret from him.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

[Link] 7 Tips for Getting Back to Writing After Summer


by Jenna Avery

Today I’m addressing a question regarding getting back to writing after summertime.

“My kids are starting school again. (Whew! Ack!) Truth be told, it’s been hard to write this summer with so much going on between family vacations and organizing summer camps. How can I regain my momentum after a rocky summer, writing-wise?”


Hey, good question! Many screenwriter-parent types are asking ourselves similar questions right now. Whether you’ve been writing intermittently, or not at all, the good news is that as your kids head to their classrooms, you can tap into the “back-to-school” energy they’ll be experiencing too.

And this is true whether or not you’re a parent. There’s a natural activation energy that arises in the fall and spring in particular, so this is a smart time to revisit your writing practice and give it a refresh if needed.

Even pro writers disrupted by the strike and accustomed to regular writing deadlines might be floundering a bit right now too, even though it’s an excellent time to dust off and work on passion and side spec projects.

Here are some tips to help get you back in the saddle again.

Read the full article: https://scriptmag.com/ask-the-coach/7-tips-for-getting-back-to-writing-after-summer

Friday, September 1, 2023

Flinch Books announces Six-Gun Legends!

Chums, my Flinch Books publishing partner John Bruening and I are back in the saddle with our thirteenth pulp-pounding book, SIX-GUN LEGENDS, now LIVE on Amazon in print and Kindle editions! Lasso the link in the Comments below!

SIX-GUN LEGENDS returns to those thrilling days of yesteryear with stories by ten talented writers: Fred Adams, Terry Alexander, Jim Beard, John C. Bruening, Trevor Holliday, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Terrence McCauley, Will Murray, Christopher Ryan and Duane Spurlock. Each of these storytellers spins a tale of the mystery, mayhem, intrigue, and adventure that inevitably unfold when one of these legendary entities steps out of the collective imagination and into the spotlight with guns blazing.

Cover illustration by Ted Hammond.

Available on Amazon.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

News of the World -- Putting Summer Behind Me

To start off, I realize that my posting has been lax with summer. Honestly, even the past two weeks, I've been mostly just posting the "easy stuff" -- press releases, inspirational quotes from writers, interesting article links, that kind of thing. It's been a few months since I actually posted the "bread and butter" stuff like original articles, interviews, and (one of my favorite regulars) Movie Reviews for Writers. All of that will be returning. 

A Tohru-tastic Christmas memory.

But for me, I guess I just need to get this all off my chest in order to move on with more compelling content. 

My summer sucked. Probably the absolute worst summer of my life. I know I can be prone to exaggeration, but not this time. I'll reduce it to a bullet list:

  • Week 1 -- My mom died unexpectedly.
  • Week 2 -- My cat, Tohru, whom I had kept as a pet for 16 years, died.
  • Two weeks ago  -- My dog, Boomer, my best fur buddy for 16 years, died. 

The thing about each of these is that any one of them would have driven me into grief. But the closeness of them to each other and the order in which they happened, only made the summer that much more painful. As much as I loved my cat and dog, their deaths only made the feelings of my mom's death start to swirl all over again -- this time combined with the memories of my sweet furbabies. 

Boomer, in repose,
and in my reading chair.

So, yeah, I spent pretty much the whole season more than a bit disengaged from the world around me. And that meant everything suffered, relationships, housework, responsibilities, all of it, but for the purpose of this blog, it meant my writing suffered. 

My actual stories.

My writing about writing (such as here on the blog).

My networking with other writers and publishers. 

All of it. 

My home is so quiet now that the sheer enormity of it makes it difficult to write. Gone are the skittering clicks from where Boomer would walk on the tile and linoleum on claws I had forgotten to trim. Gone also are the whining meows while Tohru wandered through the house wondering where her people were. Those things weren't distractions. They weren't annoyances. They were apparently the soundtrack of my life I needed in order to work. And now I have to get used to a new composition and learn how to work with it now. 

It still doesn't seem fair. But as long as I still want to be a writer, fair or not, it simply is what it is. (Though I have always hated that saying.) Que sera, sera. C'est la vie. 

MeMe's house, the best place on earth to write.

I'm still a living, dark-minded swirl of melancholy and memories, but I finally feel like maybe I can put the pen to the page again (at least figuratively, anyway -- I haven't written anything by hand other than a grocery list or a hall pass for one of my students in years). I even visited MeMe's house (where I go to focus when I need a writing retreat) and managed to finish two stories that I owed to my publishers. I didn't get the rest of the stories knocked out like I wanted to, but I considered those two stories a major tick mark in the win column considering my frame of mind. Now, I just need to finish the editing process on them both and send them off for publication. 

Anyway, I feel like words might be coming back to me. As such, I hope this month to finally give you a return to form for the blog. And that means interviews, original articles, movie reviews, the whole enchilada. At least, that's the plan. Hence this more personal post. It's a start. 

Now, we'll just have to see if I'm not misreading my own signals. 

Wouldn't be the first time. 

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

My beautiful mom. whom
I miss very, very much. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

[Link] All Hail the Long-Suffering Cadaver

by Amor Towles

Once at the center of the murder mystery, the cadaver has become increasingly incidental to the action and now figures as little more than a prop.

For over 100 years the cadaver, that unsung hero of murder mysteries, has been accommodating, gracious and generally on time. There is no other figure in crime who has proved more reliable. Since the murder mystery first gained popularity, there have been two world wars, multiple economic crises, dance crazes and moonshots, the advent of radio, cinema, television and the internet. Ideas of right and wrong have evolved, tastes have changed. But through it all, the cadaver has shown up without complaint to do its job. A clock-puncher of the highest order, if you will.

Meanwhile, many of our most revered detectives have proved rather difficult to work with. They have been variously arrogant, antisocial or persnickety. Witnesses have often been skittish or defensive. Many have intentionally sowed confusion through lies of omission or commission springing from their own sins and prejudices.

But decade in and decade out, the cadaver has remembered its lines and hit its mark. This despite the fact that it has borne the brunt of a thousand humiliations. Having been subjected to that most definitive form of violence, it has had to lie undiscovered, often in a cellar or back alley, overnight. Once the police arrive, our cadaver has been poked and prodded, its pockets emptied. After being shuttled to the morgue and laid out on a slab, it has been cut open, unceremoniously. Almost from the moment the corpse is discovered, it has been an object of slander. Family, friends and acquaintances who tended to be complimentary and discreet when our victim was alive are suddenly enumerating personal failings and sharing rumors of infidelity or financial malfeasance. And all of this — the loss of life, the autopsies, the recriminations — the cadaver has suffered in silence, on our behalf.

The cadaver’s unwavering professionalism is all the more admirable given the diminishment of its standing over time. If we look back to the so-called golden age of detective fiction, in the 1920s and ’30s, when the form was reaching its apotheosis in the works of Agatha Christie, the cadaver maintained an almost enviable status. After all, it was the cadaver who set the wheels of a mystery in motion.

The stories of the era tend to begin in a relatively benign and inviting manner. A small assembly of family members or friends might gather for the weekend in a rambling country manor. The setting and circumstances are not that different from what one might expect to find in a play by Chekhov or a novel by Henry James. That is, until, with the scream of a housemaid, the cadaver is discovered. Its sudden appearance sprawled on the study floor with a knife in its back is what transforms the book in our hand, taking us from the realm of domestic drama into that of the whodunit.

But in the golden age, the cadaver didn’t simply get things going. It maintained its position at the center of the story from the moment of its discovery until the denouement. As Hercule Poirot often pointed out, it was the psychology of the victim that was paramount. In life, was the cadaver lascivious? Unscrupulous? Greedy? To understand who had most likely monkeyed with the brakes of her car or poisoned her cup of tea, one first had to understand whom she had loved and whom she had spurned; whom she had enriched and whom she had cheated.

Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/10/books/review/amor-towles-cadaver-murder-mystery.html