Sunday, May 20, 2018

[Link] I do believe in -isms

by Dale Glaser

I signed a contract today to have a short story published as a standalone electronic unit. This is my first foray into that particular distribution model, so I’m really intrigued to see how it all goes. Many more details and reflections about the story will come as it gets closer to release, but for now the only hint I will offer is this: it’s an original superhero story, another first for me in terms of semi-pro publishing, which is nothing short of remarkable considering the sheer percentage of my life for which I’ve been obsessed with superheroes and comic books. Somewhere north of 90%, at least.

Since I’m not going to talk much more about the story itself here, I thought I’d take the opportunity to dissect a couple of questions of terminology. What exactly is a superhero? What, for that matter, is a hero?

Let’s start with the second part first. It’s a little easier to get a handle on the concept of heroism because it’s a real thing in the real world; superheroes are idealized fictional constructs, but there are living, breathing heroes all around us. And yet attempting to define heroism can be surprisingly controversial! Still, semantic arguments that reveal more about the arguer’s worldview than the objective truth aside, the basic nature of heroism is fairly simple and straightforward. A hero risks or sacrifices some aspect of himself or herself for the benefit of someone else.

Note there’s nothing in there about nobility or respectability, and whether or not we should all aspire to living that way. Of course people, myself included, tend in casual conversation to use hero and idol interchangeably sometimes. If you look up to someone, and want to be like them, you call them a personal hero. And that could very well include someone who is perfectly described by my definition above. But it could also include someone who has accomplished something you want to accomplish. A kid playing guitar could point to Jimi Hendrix as a hero, or I could say Stephen King is mine, but that’s a bit outside of what we’re talking about here.

It may be a fair question to ask how much a person has to risk and how much they have to help someone before they can rightfully be called a hero. When we say that soldiers or police officers or firefighters are the real heroes, we’re acknowledging that getting shot at or running into a burning building unquestionably puts their physical safety, and quite possibly their very life, on the line. Nobody can give more than that. And by and large those same people are doing what they do in order to save someone else from an untimely demise. Very little gets as much instant, unchallenged respect as saving lives.

Read the full article:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

[Link] Teaching Creativity & Structure in Writing

by Laurisa Reyes

When it comes to writing well, two things are essential: creativity and structure. These work side by side to construct any piece of good writing, be it a poem, a story, an essay, or an instruction manual.

Let’s begin with structure. Structure isn’t so much the shape or the organization of the writing as it is the rules that govern how we write. It includes spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, as well as things like thesis statements, plot progression, argumentation methods, poetic patterns, and so forth. Structure is HOW words are put together and HOW they function within a sentence, a paragraph, stanza, or so on. Without structure, things simply don’t make a lot of sense. Also, the rules that form the structure of writing apply the same to everyone.

Creativity, on the other hand, is the freedom to sculpt language the way an artist sculpts a work of art. Every individual creates his/her own style of expression and language patterns. Each person is capable of tapping into his/her imagination to craft a unique written work. The possibilities are truly endless. New songs, poems, stories, news articles, and books are brought into existence by the thousands every single day. In fact, it is practically impossible for two people to write the same story or poem — unless they intentionally copy each other.

In order to write well, which means to express one’s ideas in a way that they can effectively communicate those ideas to others, kids need both the rules that govern good writing and the freedom to explore their own imaginations. To focus solely on spelling and grammar and such is boring and can discourage the budding writer who may struggle to learn those concepts.

Likewise, to allow unfettered freedom without also teaching structure gives kids a false sense of confidence and dooms them to mediocrity in a world where employers and college professors expect quality writing skills.

Read the full article:

Friday, May 18, 2018


Airship 27 Productions is proud to present the very first full length Purple Scar novel written by New Pulp author, Gene Moyers.

A hooded man suddenly appears on the streets of Akelton carrying a strange device strapped to his back. Affixed to it is a nozzle from which enveloping black fog spews forth quickly swallowing everything in its path; to include men, women in children. And just like that the city is thrown into panic as the mysterious villain begins popping up all over the city wielding his eerie weapon.

Realizing he is facing a supernatural threat, Captain Dan Griffin enlists the aid of the city’s own gruesome crime fighter, the Purple Scar. Secretly plastic surgeon Doctor Miles Murdoch, the Scar, with the aid of his nurse Dale Jordan and ally Tommy Pedlar, is quickly on the hunt for the mastermind behind the fog of terror. For in the first time in his vigilante career, the Purple Scar is battling an evil scientific genius whose purposes can only herald doom and bloodshed. It is a battle he cannot afford to lose.

Having contributed short stories to the two previous volumes in this series, Moyers took the next step in writing a novel featuring the Haunted Horror.  “We see it often enough,” says Airship 27 Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “Every now and then a New Pulp writer will develop a special affinity for a golden age character. Moyers seemed to have fixated on the uniqueness of the Scar’s persona. More than just a run-of-the-mill avenger type, the Purple Scar stories infused a generous portion of horror along with their suspense. It was this added element that fascinated Moyers and eventually inspired him to write The Black Fog. And we couldn’t be any happier.”

Joining Moyers on the project were two amazing artists. Former Pulp Factory Award winner Chris Kohler provided the 9 black and white interior illustrations while British painter Graham Hill the eerie colorful cover depicting the gruesome Scar.  Art Director Rob Davis brought it all together to produce one of Airship 27 Productions’ most spectacular titles. If you think you know the Purple Scar, think again.


Now available from Amazon in both paperback and on Kindle.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Questions from a Brave and Stupid Man to a Panel of Women Writers #1: Because Asking Honest Questions Is the Best Starting Point, I Was Told

Being a white man, I willingly acknowledge I have blind spots, things that while they don't register to me like they perhaps should are things well worth my time and thought and important for me to know and understand in order to a member of a community of diverse writers.

That said, I've assembled an all-female panel of writers to be my teachers.

Today's discussion is this: 

Are there issues in the writing and publishing community common to women that aren't typically experienced by men? What are they, and are they merely irksome or downright systemic?

Alexandra Christian
Alexandra Christian: I think all us chick genre writers have experienced the “girls can’t write horror/sci-fi/fantasy/pulp.” Or “girl’s put too much kissy stuff” are “too emotional.”

Lisa Matthews Collins: I could go on ad nauseam about that topic. :/

Alexandra Christian: And I like kissy stuff (obviously) but good stories don’t have to be devoid of relationships (kissy stuff).

Elizabeth Donald: Oh my god yes this. Nowhere was it more obvious than when I switched from writing vampire thrillers - which were dismissed condescendingly as "vamporn" - to writing zombie action-horror. "That's kind of a guy thing," I was told, and while they were half-kidding, in almost every case I was the sole woman on the zombie panel if I could get on the panel at all. The stereotypes of What Women Write and What Men Write persist.

Lucy Blue: I will never understand why a dude, reader or writer, who is perfectly enthusiastic about a detailed description of the bare-handed evisceration of a toddler by a monster, alien, or zombie gets entirely skeeved out by an even remotely realistic love scene. I can see it now, a new trend in splatterpunk - 'this one is REALLY scary - they talk about their FEELINGS!!' ;)

Elizabeth Donald: I've been to cons. I know sffh fans like sex. :) And yet when I did my first Dragoncon, I was with my then-publisher Ellora's Cave handing out cover cards at my booth for my first novel, an erotic vampire thriller about a serial killer tearing out throats near a vampire-run sex club. A man looked at the description on the back of the cover card, looked at me and said, "The only difference between this stuff and Penthouse Forum is the words, 'I never thought this would happen to me.'" Then he walked about five feet away and threw my cover card on the ground, in my full view. I wanted to yell after him, "That shit cost me money, asshole." Or possibly do something antisocial to him. I did neither, because I was mellower then. :)

Stephanie Osborn: I've had that happen a few times. My response is generally, "I try to write realistic characters with realistic relationships. Are you in a long-term relationship?"

(if yes) "Then you get what I mean."
(if no) "Do you WANT to be in one? Then you get what I mean."

Lisa Matthews Collins
Lisa Matthews Collins: I have had this experience twice...told that I needed to go write another genre because as a girl I didn't know enough science and math to write hard science fiction. Both times by 50+ year-old white men.

Elizabeth Donald: Sara Harvey can talk about being on a panel with a male author who opined that women can't write science fiction. He said it outright; I've been on panels where they obfuscated it behind vocabulary: "The language of science fiction is different than the language of romance, they don't blend well."

Stephanie Osborn: I do occasionally encounter people who don't know my background who try to explain the science to me. Until they find out what I used to do. [Editor's note: Stephanie is actually a rocket scientist.] Then they tend to disappear pretty soon quick.

Anna Grace Carpenter: Male characters are seen as the default, so men writing male characters is part of the norm, but when women focus on female characters (or things perceived to be female "interests") it's shunted into niche categories. (I had a dude at a convention back in January try to convince me that I could not possibly have written my books for him because the narrator was a woman, therefore it must be a book for women, not men.) Because men are the default, when a male author writes "outside his lane" so to speak, whether it's writing female characters or in a "woman's genre" it's usually regarded and brave and insightful, while women writing in genres perceived as "men's genres" are chasing trends or playing the gender card or whatever the current phrase is to indicate that women don't really belong in that space. Also, men can write characters that are either completely perfect or so very ordinary they shouldn't succeed in saving the world, and they won't be labeled as "wish-fullfilment" or "self-insertion" but women writing characters that are competent and skilled are frequently damned by accusations of "Mary Sue" characters.

While it would be nice to think these things are really just annoyances, they directly impact access to reviewers (or rather, how many female authors are reviewed each year), general exposure for their work, and ultimately sales numbers. (Let's not forget that a survey of top-market book reviews a couple of years ago revealed that dead male authors still received more critical attention than living female authors.)

Elizabeth Donald
Elizabeth Donald: There's another aspect of that "male character is the default" that I think is going to take at least another generation to work out. The initial experience of the reader is one of identification, of compassion in the original sense, the ability to identify with the main character and empathize with his or her plight. For the vast majority of English-language literature, male characters were the default, as written by male writers. Women grew up reading those stories, and learned to identify with male protagonists and their sideline girlfriends as well. We learned how to relate to a character different from us, because we didn't have much of a choice. I didn't grow up with Buffy or Katniss; I had Nancy Drew, who kept needing to be saved.

Men didn't have the same identification experience, because most of what they read had Someone Like Them at the center of the story. They didn't have to stretch to identify with a female protagonist written by a woman, because that didn't exist all that much. Without that practice as a young person, without learning that empathy and identification with someone Other, their experiences in fiction were different than ours - and I leave it to others to say how much that affected them in real life as well.

Sadly, we're continuing this today. We still have children's movies aimed at girls or boys, separate toy sections where girls are expected to buy girl dolls and boys "action figures." We see children's entertainment retitled because we think boys won't see a movie with a girl as the main character, defying the entire history of Disney. :) There are parents beginning to read stories about girls to their boy children (vice versa has never been a problem), and I think that will make a big difference going forward.

Anna Grace Carpenter: I cried the first time I read "Dealing with Dragons" by Patricia Wrede because it was the first time I'd found a book that really seemed to feature a character I understood at a gut level. (And there are a lot of other "YA" books from my childhood that I love, but there was something deep in finding a character who reacted like I did, who had similar goals. Something I think a lot of men never have to contend with because so much of fiction is about male experiences.)

Lucy Blue
Lucy Blue: If you're a woman, the assumption is ALWAYS that you write "women's fiction," and "women's fiction" is always assumed to either be romance, True-Story/Lifetime-style trauma fiction (usually with a romantic element), or menopausal tales of triumph (usually with an erotic element). But you know who leaps to that conclusion fastest and makes the biggest stink-face about it? Other women writers in horror, science fiction, fantasy, and pulp--not all, of course, but some. I don't know whether they're so bruised and battered from running that gauntlet themselves that it's made them brutal or they feel like they had to go through it so damn it every other woman should have to go through it, too, or that they want to make sure that the other boys in their genre know they ain't no stupid girly-girl--I suspect it's a little bit of all of these, depending on the woman writer in question. And just like with writers of color, female writers are continually being asked by male writers in traditionally dude-centric genres how to write women better. Sometimes it's a genuinely respectful and heartfelt question posed so that the male writer in question can make the female characters in the stories he already writes better--this panel being a shining example. But sometimes it's a dude writer wanting to cash in on what he thinks is that sweet, sweet romance-infused market of chick readers by writing one more urban fantasy novel with a female heroine with her big boobs barely contained in her dirty tank top on the cover. He wants to be able to say when some other woman accuses him of writing a male fantasy of female empowerment, "that's not possible! I asked three different women what women are like!"

Elizabeth Donald: I have no studies to back it up, but when I began, nearly all my acceptances were from female editors and rejections from male editors. This began to change, however, when I got out ini the con circuit and made contacts among male editors and publishers. They got to know me, and my work, and then they came to me with opportunities or were open to my pitches. It's worth noting that "exposure" at cons is often at the whim of con organizers, so if a con is not particularly 'woke,' you'll find all women on the midnight sex panel and "why are vampires so hot?" and all men on "how to kill a zombie: gun or sword?" I know which panel I'd rather be on, but it's taken some doing.

For the record, those male editors have been almost all delights to work with, and I'd consider them all fairly open-minded, cosmopolitan folk. So I don't know how much of it is simply "we publish the people we know" (which is its own problem), and how much is, "A woman wrote zombies? Is it a romance?"

Ellie Raine: There have been a LOT of times when I tell someone I've written a book, they automatically assume it's romance. Even if I say it's fantasy, they think "fantasy romance". I've gotten into an argument with one man who insisted that women writers always use too much "emotions" compared to male writers, even though William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Nikolas Sparks, Brandon Sanderson, James Patterson, George RR Martin, Neal Gaiman, and just about EVERY popular/GOOD author focuses on the character's emotions (which is pretty damn crucial to good story telling) and includes either a romance line or (in Martin's case) more sex scenes than 50 shades of Grey.

Stephanie Osborn
Regarding more industry culture, I've stopped going to formal writing conferences as much because I was tired of showing up for workshops just to have random guys initiate conversations to give me unsolicited advice about how to finish my first novel (even though I had three finished, but they didn't bother asking me first), how to get a publisher to notice you (which I'd already done, but they didn't bother asking), and how to find a man who would stay with me for a long time and eventually marry (even though I was already married and was wearing a wedding ring) and--the kicker--how to navigate high school (even though I was well into my twenties, but they didn't bother asking). It was weird how MANY men(usually into their 40s and up, and--for some reason--all wrote Literary and kept telling you how much better It was compared to fantasy and that I should switch to that if I REALLY wanted to improve my writing) gave the exact same theme of advice, and all of them assumed they knew my age, my relationship status, and my writing level without asking a damn thing. Fan Conventions are WAY better than conferences with this, no one has ever assumed they knew anything about me there and even the people who wrote literary there are chill and engaging. Basically, my experience with formal conference culture is that a LOT of people are there to make themselves feel better about how they've been going to these things for decades yet still haven't gotten a book deal with a publisher (all the men in question informed me they weren't published yet or even self published when I asked them). I don't know, I expect people to have actually gone through the publishing experience either trad or self before they feel free to offer advice on it without anyone asking them in the first place.

Lisa Matthews Collins: I was told I needed to go back to writing female lead POVs in my stories because who would want to read a male protagonist written by a girl?!

Elizabeth Donald: Oh lord... my husband writes horror romance, I write action SF and dark horror. Everyone assumes it's the other way around. He writes romantic happy endings; my books end in funerals.

Lisa Matthews Collins: This is an old thing that is still an issue... being judged by your name...not on any merit of storytelling expertise. I took a gamble on writing science fiction and pulp under my name Lisa M. Collins and not going with the safer route of L.M. Collins. Sadly, it took me awhile to make the decision to go with my name because Lisa is a girl's name.

Lucy Blue: And it's a double-edged sword. If you use your real, apparently feminine name, you get pre-judged. If you use your initials or a more apparently gender-neutral pseudonym, then when people find out you're a woman, you cheated.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: It's the presumption that, because I have a vagina, I must write "girly horror." That I can't get deep and dirty with it. Once, at a writers' critique group, I submitted a piece and this guy kept saying, "You wrote this? YOU did. YOU?" Yeah, fucker. Me. I really never understand this idea that women can't GET horror. Sweetie, our lives are a horror show. We are a walking chemistry experiment that can explode at any moment. Body horror was MADE for us.

Anna Grace Carpenter
Anna Grace Carpenter: I had an editor tell me I really knew how to write action sequences to the point that he was "recommending them to folks I meet". (And, sure, he meant it as a compliment. But it's not the first time I've heard similar and there is *always* an undertone of "You do this really well for a girl.")

Elizabeth Donald:  I got that one once from an editor. "You write action a lot better than I expected." Thanks? 

I got a lot of criticism for my first zombie book, in which my protagonist is a former Marine paramilitary zombie fighter heading a group of ne'er-do-wells fighting paranormal threats. The criticism? "She swears too much." She's a goddamn fucking Marine zombie fighter, is she supposed to say "oh phooey, they're chewing his face off"? And each time I heard it - every single one from a man - I had to breathe deep and NOT say, "If she was played by Jason Statham and directed by Quentin Tarantino, you wouldn't blink at her use of the word 'fuck.'"

Lucy Blue: Oh yeah, I've heard the "she's not ladylike enough!" comment from everybody from my mom to editors to reviewers on Amazon.

Amanda Niehaus-Hard: My experience is different, but I write under different names, in different genres and categories, and for different age-range audiences, so I've seen prejudice of all sorts, but haven't specifically been a target.

I found it interesting to read Ellie's comments, because my personal experience has been pretty much 180 degrees the other way from hers, as I mostly go to book festivals and writers conferences now (as opposed to conventions) and I've felt MORE accepted at those festivals -- but that's of course only my own experience. I really want to respond to some of what she posted because I think there's a LOT of problems in the conference (and convention) culture that is part of why I think they’re failing financially.

Ellie wrote: “Basically, my experience with formal conference culture is that a LOT of people are there to make themselves feel better about how they've been going to these things for decades yet still haven't gotten a book deal with a publisher.”

Ellie Raine
I don’t get into discussions with people like that any more, but I’ve seen them, and I notice the same ones show up for the same conferences every year, and when they workshop, they workshop the SAME DAMN STORY they’ve been workshopping for a decade! This is an issue that conference organizers need to be aware of and need to do something about. The way workshops usually go is first to pay, first on the list, and they REALLY need to be juried or something, if only to keep the approximate “skill level” the same, so all participants are at the same level and are getting (and expect) the same level of critical attention. If you’re a multiple award-winning novelist, you shouldn’t be in a workshop group with short story writers who are just breaking into the paying quarterlies. If you just started writing last week, you shouldn’t be in a workshop with people who are already selling work and looking at crafting a story collection.

Most general conferences, with the exception of the popular fiction conferences like those done by Writers Digest, are focused around literary fiction, so that whole “literary is superior” canard is ever-present. I honestly think SOME of that bias is starting to fade, as so-called literary authors are experimenting with non-realistic fiction, or fantasy/SF situations. The bigger writing programs are turning out more authors who experiment with non-traditional situations, so when the Iowa grads from 2010 to now start getting the high profile university jobs, I suspect we’ll see a shift away from dismissing genre (or they’ll just claim they do it better.) But either way, I see the snark becoming more about the work itself and less about the shelf category.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks
Ellie wrote: “I don't know, I expect people to have actually gone through the publishing experience either traditional or self before they feel free to offer advice on it without anyone asking them in the first place.”

This is essentially why I stopped going to fan conventions except for a select few that I just attend for fun. I’ve been going to conventions since the mid 1980s, when the scene was COMPLETELY different, and cons were both fun AND a way to get into the business of publishing. The panels were either professionally oriented (how to get an agent with people who had actual agents, or science topics with actual scientists) or they were fan-run and fun, discussing stuff like the sociology of Star Trek.

What I’ve seen of conventions lately is a lot of non-experts talking over actual experts (as in people who actually work as scientists for NASA) or people with no experience in “traditional” publishing sitting on panels about agent queries just so they can advertise their books. (I'm certainly not against self-publishing, as I've self-pubbed some educational materials, but that doesn't make me an expert on the industry.)

It’s only in the self-publishing and micro-press arena that I’ve EVER taken any slack over being female and writing horror, SF, thrillers, romance, YA, lit fic, whatever. My experience with so-called “traditional” publishers (and writers who are published that way) has been nothing but stellar and professional. (Again this is just my experience, and I’m sure it doesn’t echo everyone’s experience.) I could have just gotten lucky and surrounded myself with amazing people, but I can say I’ve never been harassed, dismissed, not taken seriously, or had any real negative experience with anybody in the professional horror community, the SF community, the thriller writers, and the pulp writers community. Pulp writers have embraced me and supported me, and people like Phil Athans and Sean and Tommy and the gang over at Pro Se have been incredibly supportive and encouraging. I have no idea what’s said behind my back, but to my face everyone has been professional and respectful.

The small-press horror community is two-sided. One the one side I’ve had wonderful experiences with people and presses whose work I read and enjoy. I have been treated like gold by my small press publishers and those who publish my friends and whose work I read regularly. On the other side are, frankly, people who can’t write well, and throw together anthologies just to publish their own work. Some of those people have been dismissive of me, but I don’t read their work and I dismiss them as well, so it’s even. The only group I’ve seen overt hostility from is a Bizarro press that I will NEVER buy from again and won’t recommend or review any of their work, let alone submit to them.

Amanda Niehaus-Hard
I haven’t had the same issues as other women in genre – probably because I’ve listened to a lot of their stories and avoided the people and groups they’ve warned others about. Cons nowadays take harassment seriously, because women in genre have demanded they do, so I’ve benefited from that and haven’t experienced harassment as a guest or an attendee. I appreciate that it’s people like you, Sean, who have helped create a more supportive and inclusive environment for women in genre fiction and in fandom, by keeping the conversation going.

Ellie Raine: I'm 100 percent behind the jurying idea for workshops. We don't have freshman undergrads mixed in the same advanced classes as grad students (unless certain exceptions apply), so this solution makes way more sense.


Editor's Note: The panel includes women of various races/sexuality. The authors above were the ones able to respond by the deadline for this discussion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nugget #132 -- The Long and Short of Writing a Novel

 If you want to write a novel, start by writing 

a novel. Hell, write two or three of 'em, then
when you get that strong, ready-to-show novel,
shop it around. But don’t write a short story 
for practice if you really want to write a novel.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What To Do for Writer's Block

by William H. Coles

All literary fiction writers have problems with productivity related to ability and individual writing strategies. Writer’s block is a common term but it really doesn’t define a specific problem or suggest a consistent or dependable way to solve and proceed. The symptoms can be devastating—staring at a blank screen or page jilted by inspiration with quashed creativity. Here are famous authors’ solutions that might just squiggle your own path, for better or worse, to recovery.
  • Maya Angelou: “Writing is like any art or sport. Practice makes perfect. Inspiration will only come if you push yourself to keep putting pen to paper." 
  • Neil Gaiman: “Put it [your writing] aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it.” 
  • Mark Twain: “Outline, outline, outline!” In essence, break your “complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks,” and then start on the first one. 
  • Ernest Hemingway: “... keep some inspiration in reserve. “Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day.” Let your subconscious work all the time. “But if you think about it . . . you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” 
  • Hilary Mantel: “... clear your mind... because your mind is overwhelmed by... thoughts... that are crowding your brain. You need to create a space for your inspiration to fill.” (For detail, see Nicole Bianchi)

You’ll have to judge which and how many strategies might work for you, but here are some thoughts on creativity and desire that may help.

Acclaimed award-winning novel (William Faulkner Creative
Writing Competition) McDOWELL by William H Coles
So, resolving “writer’s block” is more than just the need to plug in your nonfunctioning computer or routinely do hundreds of undisciplined “writing crunches”... or, for that matter, to stop thinking. Consider that inability to create may be a symptom of who you are as a writer and what level of accomplishment you’ve achieved. Are you writing for excellence in creating fiction story as an art form or are you writing to be published to convince others you are an author? And are you intensely dedicated to the life-long learning of writing literary fiction and storytelling, and analyzing (not copying) the great stories you admire that have lasted as art forms? And are you objectively conscious of the immediate effect of your emotional and/or psychological states on your productivity?

If you can believe life’s minicrisies or drained physical or mental energy contribute to difficulty in generating innovative creativity, don’t be hard on yourself by blaming your troubles on a lack of ability and determination, but accept that the individual, day to day process and success of creative writing is always in flux. To weather the inevitable breakdowns that seem to affect all of us, you might try this type of thinking.

Finding a solution to loss of creative productive fiction that is personally satisfying and artistically accepted takes years to develop, like what a professional classic pianist must go through to practice superb technic and perfect performance to create individuality in interpretation and sound, and learn from extensive analysis of other artists how to generate an admirable career.

So, as authors, we must respond to the often inevitable expected downtime in our creativity by thankfully savoring our “writer’s block” writing time to study: writing of craft, developing clear effective prose, analyzing secrets of other writers, improving story structure and character-based dramatic plots, and always looking to other nonwriting personal-skills that require: concentration, mental and physical coordination, focus of attention on individual thinking and skill improvements, and that accumulatively produce synergistic success in reaching goals. It is true, writers achieve success in what we do as well as how we recover from obstacles by delicate adjustments of who we are and truthful self-awareness.

Make sense? Your comments would be appreciated. How do you respond to “writer’s block”? How do you use breakdown-time resulting from loss of productive, creative storytelling?

Respond at the original post.


Thirty-four award-winning fiction stories by William H. Coles:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

[Link] The Eternal Question: What Should I Write?

by Chuck Wendig

One of the questions I get most frequently over email is this:

What should I write?

The question presumably meaning, what kind of thing should I write? What genre? What story? Maybe it’s the first thing you’re ever going to write. Maybe it’s just the next thing in a long line of written things.

And the answer to this question is simple.

That answer is:

How the fuck should I know?

I mean, I’m not you. At least, not until I get my SOUL TRANSPLANT HELMET working, but that’s at least five years off — maybe seven if Elon doesn’t call me back (seriously, Elon, get your shit together, gimme a ring, Musk). Because I am (presently) not you, I have no idea what you should write. Because the advice of what to write is not a thing that has an easy answer — or, really, any answer. You want the answer to be something concrete, something that is the result of plugging variables in and punching the CALCULATE STORY button, but no such thing exists. You can’t “run the numbers” and end up with the perfect answer (“Ah! I should write — let’s see, mumble mumble, carry the three, put the DNA on the slide, shake the shoebox with the cat inside of it, et voila — I should write The Terminator meets The Gilmore Girls as if written by Mary Shelley. Bestseller status, here I come.”)

It doesn’t work like that.

But what I can do is tell you how I come to terms with what I should write next. Because this isn’t a question just some writers have — it’s a question that plagues us all, I think. It plagues us at the start. It plagues us throughout our career. It plagues n00bs, midlisters, even bestsellers. It plagues traditionally-published authors and indie authors. It is a question I ask myself even as I’m writing one thing because I always need to know what’s next? And what’s next after that? If this book is successful, what else can I write in that vein? If it tanks, how do I move to an adjacent track that still makes sense? Where am I? Why am I wearing pants? Is this a curse? Did I spit in the Pants God’s eye? WHY HAS THOU FORSAKEN ME, OH PANTSLESS PANTHEON

Ahem, sorry.

Here is what I do to determine what I’m gonna write next.

Read the full article:

Saturday, May 12, 2018

[Link] What do I bring to conventions?

by Andrea Judy

Getting ready for conventions is always a little hectic. There’s a panic of what to bring, what to pack and what to leave at home. So a few months back, I made a list to help me get my stuff together! I thought other people might find that helpful so I’m going to share it here! Let me know if there’s anything you bring that I’ve not listed here.

Foods (Protein bars, water flavor (I like the mio coffee ones for caffeine fixes on the cheap), fruit, sweets, crackers, shareables!) I try to always make sure I have some at least semi-healthy stuff and that I have enough to share with my fellow vendors.

Business cards, post cards for table

Table cloth and decor

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Friday, May 11, 2018


Airship 27 Productions once again sets sails with author Nancy Hansen in the next thrilling chapter featuring Jezebel Johnston, Pirate Queen.

With Emile Gagnon’s Sea Witch laid up in the French port of Fort Royale for minor repairs, Jezebel Johnston and young Zachary Spencer go into town to trade with the local merchants. While there, they come to the attention of an unscrupulous smuggler named Luc Charbonneau who cleverly manipulates them into being blamed for thievery committed by his own gang. But before he can rally an impromptu lynch party, they are rescued by Captain Ancel Thibodeaux, the real authority on the small West Antilles island.

Thibodeaux is fascinated by the beautiful Jezebel and pressures her and Zachary into joining the crew of his own pirate ship, Mourning Star. Having no other recourse, the two agree and the wily French buccaneer sets about tutoring the lovely mulatto into being part of his elaborate scheme to sail across the Atlantic and raid the rich Barbary Coast.

“Who doesn’t like a rousing pirate yarn?” asks Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “The Jezebel Johnston series is both historically accurate and filled with enough action and adventure to fill a dozen such books.”   

Once again writer Nancy Hansen unfurls the sails of her imagination in this, the fourth chapter in the saga of Jezebel Johnston as she navigates the dangerous waters of rogues, brigands and scalawags on her way to becoming the greatest pirate of them all!

The book features 12 black and white interior illustrations by Art Director Rob Davis and a gorgeous cover painting by Ted Hammond.


Available now in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

To Your Health, Writer! -- #1 The Main Thing

"One of us! One of us!
With Ashly Mixon  
(The "Nerdapist")

Hey there, blog readers. I want you to meet someone very special to me, a very good friend who has a heart for helping out nerds and geeks like us (because, although you don't have to be one to be a writer, it helps). Ashly Mixon is a professional massage therapist/corrective exercise specialist, and we're going to be talking with her regularly here at the blog to see what we writers who sit at computers for long periods of time can do to be more proactive about our health, particularly our muscular health.

Thanks to Ashly for agreeing to become our official "nerdapist" (therapist for nerds).

Let's start at the top for this first column. 

What is the most important issue writers and other nerds who sit at computers for long periods of time need to be concerned about and what can we/they (because I'm one) do to fix it?

It's difficult to choose just one, because there are a number of overly common pathologies associated with prolonged periods of sitting and/or computer work, but I think I'd have to go with Janda's upper crossed syndrome, which is a postural distortion we see in everyone - not just desk workers. With upper crossed syndrome, the affected individual has a forward and and rounded (forward) shoulders. This distortion is the culprit for numerous everyday complaints, such as headaches, tension in the shoulders, rotator cuff injuries, shoulder impingements, upper back tension between the shoulder blades, and an exaggerated curve in the thoracic spine to name a few. Sitting in chairs with a back on them to support you  is the primary cause of this distortion, while the actual act of working on a computer tends to more exacerbate the issue than actually cause it.

Ever heard the saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it"? That saying doesn't pertain to educational lessons solely, but your muscles as well - especially as we age. Did you know that as early as your thirties you start to lose your muscle mass if you aren't actively challenging them? By allowing the chair to hold you upright, you're not engaging your core to do its job, so you begin to lose that connection between the muscle and the nervous system, and those muscles become inhibited. This is why trainers preach strengthening of your core, even while you're rolling your eyes because you've heard it so often. Without the core to fight against gravity and hold you up the way it's designed to, your upper body will start to slump forward. This results in a muscular imbalance called altered reciprocal inhibition, where (without getting overly technical) the muscles in your chest, the front of your neck, and the base of your skull become chronically shortened, while the muscles in the back of the neck and shoulders, as well as those in the upper back chronically lengthened.

This is what creates a lot of those issues I mentioned earlier. The chronically lengthened tissues are very stressed, which to you feels like tension or pain. To correct this issue, you must correct the imbalances. To do so, we use corrective exercise in 3 steps (technically there are 4 steps, but a trainer or Corrective Exercise Specialist is needed, whereas the first 3 can be done on your own).

Step 1 is probably of the most important, yet most overlooked steps, which is inhibition the overactive tissues (which are the ones doing the pulling, not the ones being pulled). For this step, you use a self-myofascial release tool such as a foam roller or tennis ball to locate tender points in the muscles that need to be released. A foam roller is a good tool for the larger muscle groups, such as those in the leg. For smaller muscles, however, the tennis ball is going to be the most effective. When you locate a tender point, apply gentle pressure (on a scale of 1-10, don't go above a 5), and hold either until the tender point releases or for a period of about two minutes at the most. If the tender point doesn't release after that amount of time, move to the next one. You want to repeat this process throughout the length of the muscle you're inhibiting, then you move on to the next step.

Step 2 is lengthening of the shortened tissues. Now that the overactive muscles have been inhibited, it's time to stretch them. **Please do not stretch the already lengthened tissues, such as those in the upper back. This could lead to a potential strain or sprain.** If you're unsure about how to stretch the muscles, a bodyworker can help you, or you could also do a simple web search. As you go into your stretch, stop when you get to what we call the "soft end-feel," which is that first bit of resistance you get from the muscle when it senses it's being stretched. Hold your stretch for at least 30 seconds, but ideally until you feel that release where you can increase your stretch slightly, but stop after that and repeat with the next muscle, such as the pecs. Many people, including other professionals, usually jump right to this step and ignore the first altogether. This is not recommended, because without first releasing the tender points, your stretch can't be as effective. Think of your shortened, overactive muscle as a handkerchief, and the tender points are knots in your handkerchief. If you jump right into the stretch, not only are you not going to achieve the desired stretch, you could potentially create a tear in the fibers around those knots. So please don't neglect step 1!

Another overly neglected, but much-needed step is step 3: strengthening of the lengthened, underactive muscles. All the stretching in the world won't correct your muscular imbalances alone. Your muscles know how to do one thing: pull. Re-train those lengthened tissues on how to do their job by strengthening them. Just as with stretching, if you're unsure about how to strengthen your muscles, a trainer or CES like myself can help you, or a web search, but be cautious when searching the web! With this step, it's best to have a prescribed exercise from a professional to prevent potential injury.

Following these 3 steps will correct your muscular imbalances, thus improving your posture. Proper posture isn't just about looking pretty; it's primarily about having healthy joints that function optimally, which is the best way to prevent those oh-so-common aches and pains.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Nugget #131 -- Discomfort and Dread

The key to writing horror, as least as I see it 
(and you’ll find as many different takes on 
this as you can find authors, I’m sure), is to 
camp out in the concepts of discomfort and 
dread. You’re not going to surprise scare a 
reader. You’re going to slowly overwhelm 
them with several smaller “uneases” that 
become a full-blown “creepy” and finally 
if you’ve done your job right, all-out dread.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Comics Don't Suck. We Suck.

I saw a post the other day in a group and wanted to comment on it.

(I'm entitled! I'm entitled! Teehee.)

Someone lamented that we should keep comics out of manga and manga out of comics. Other than "manga" meaning "comics" in Japan, even if you divide them into two separate things, I still have to disagree.

It's just the old fanboy sense of entitlement that "nothing should ever change" repackaged in an anti-east sentiment.

It's the sense of entitlement that comics were made for me and me only and if other new readers want to enjoy them, they can enjoy my favorite style of art or my favorite versions of the characters.

It's the sense of entitlement that all comics should still look as if they were drawn by Ditko and Kirby, or at least by those who draw just like them.

It's that sense of entitlement that modern comics suck and old  (defined by whether you are a Silver Ager" or a "Bronze Ager" typically) comics are masterpieces. It's gotten to the point that far too many blogs and articles online use headlines like "Ten Comics that Don't Suck" or "Looking for Comic Books that Don't Suck?" simply because of the old-timer zeitgeist around this sentiment.

I ran into this mindset all the time when I worked at the comic book store. Older, long-term fans very vocally resented the changes made to their favorite book's character or art style, no matter how many new readers it may be pulling in to keep said character or title selling and alive in the market. Almost as if we'd rather see a book fail than change (as long as it stayed the way we liked it).

And let's be honest, the fail-scale for comics is a different world now than in the "good ol' days" because there's so much more immediate competition for the newer generation's time. But that's an argument for another time.

The trouble with our cast in iron disapproval of the new is that it doesn't take into account the constantly changing nature of art. Art, by its very nature, is re-interpreted by each successive generation, and it's our job as old-timers to adjust, not to make sure new readers succumb to our interpretations.

By art, I mean both visual and the story itself. Things change.

For example, viewers (to use a movie example) need more from a sci-fi flick now than Rocket X-M. They demand a more character-driven story, more research, etc. It doesn't mean we can't still enjoy Rocketship X-M, but the industry were to make something similar today, it would have to adapt to modern film and story standards.

It's the same reason that a lot of the story types we enjoyed in the '60s and '70s just don't hold up for a modern audience. (Cue the "Oh, no! Lois is about fight Lana about marrying Superman again, and this time she's got ___________!" headline for the cover.)

Besides without changing styles, we wouldn't have many of my favorite artists from comics, such as: Mike Apparo, Cliff Chiang, Mike Allred, Dave Gibbons, Jeffrey Moy, John Paul Leon, Tony Shasteen, Denys Cowan, or Dave McKean.

Besides, you probably didn't complain when you were a kid that Silver Age comics had a different style than Golden age comics, I'm willing to bet. Why not? Because you were the target audience. They changed comics -- gasp! -- for YOU! (So why shouldn't they do it again?)

Does that mean all comic book art should look like it's inspired by manga? I'd prefer not, no more than I think all comic book art should be inspired by Kirby or Eisner (as monumental to the medium as they were and are).

But, guess what? It's not my world anymore. It belongs to the new generations, and the work of my generation is still out there for me to enjoy WHILE I also dip my toe into the new stuff and find what I still like and perhaps don't like.

I think it gets down to the Boomers. That's the first generation to be in a real position of power to keep the world the way they liked it and not allow the next generation to really affect much change. Sadly, I think a lot of that mindset transferred over into the arts. But I could be wrong. I'm not a cultural anthropologist after all.

So, to summarize, let's all stop our bellyaching about if our favorite person behind the costume is still the same because, we all know that thanks to the established licenses, those will always revert, and let's just try to be a little more open to the way comics are changing.

Because I'll tell you this straight-up -- Comics don't suck now any more than they sucked then, which is to say, some suck and some don't. Comics today are as good and in some cases far better than the stuff we oldsters remember through the hazy gaze of nostalgia. Some of the best stuff ever published in the medium has been published in the past five years -- yes, even better than that favorite LSH or F4 story we remember so fondly.

Party on, dudes, and be excellent to each other.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

[Link] Six Tips to Help Save Yourself from Poor Computer Posture

by Cameron Summerson

Sitting is killing you. Sitting on its own isn’t inherently bad, but if you work at a computer, sitting for hours every day is ultimately hard on your body. Here are some simple tips you can do to help, though.

While sitting all the time is considered generally bad for your health, one of the first things to go is your posture. Sitting all the time decreases core strength, which in turn makes you slouch. That’s terrible for your back, shoulders, and neck, causing pain and generally making you more unhealthy. And as you lose that core strength, the slouching gets even worse. Fortunately, this isn’t irreversible, and there are things you can start doing today to make things better.

Set Your Monitor Height Correctly (and At the Proper Distance)

This may come as a shocker, but having your monitor too low is awful for your posture—yeah, we’re talking to you, full-time laptop users. The top of your monitor should be level with your eyes (when you’re sitting up straight), so you’re always looking forward and never down. With the top of the monitor at eye level, you can keep your head straight and use your eyes to see the rest of the screen.

But if you’re using a laptop, you’re probably always looking down. On a short term basis, this isn’t necessarily doing any damage. But if you’re a full time laptop user, this can be terrible for your posture—especially your neck. It can cause constant neck and back pain, headaches, and more.

So if you’re a laptop-all-the-time kind of user, we highly recommend getting an external monitor when using your laptop at a desk.

And on the subject of monitors, the distance between you and your display is also important. Generally, if you sit in your regular typing position, you should be able to stretch your hand out and just touch your monitor without stretching too much. Somewhere around 20-24 inches is pretty good. Further away and you’re not only straining your eyes, you’re more likely to incline your head forward to see well.

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

[Link] Why Write Horror?

by GW Thomas

Why write horror? Why not the socially more accepted Science Fiction or Fantasy, in which the reader experiences wonder and the heights of imagination? Why not the even safer Mystery or Western? Literary forms so conventionalized you don’t have to worry about stepping on toes. Go to even greater lengths and write “mainstream” fiction, in which you can just report the obvious and not stimulate much of anything new.

That word “stimulate” is interesting. Because that’s what good horror does, it stimulates parts of the brain many of us would rather never experience directly. The terror of a car crash, a shark attack, physical assault by an armed assailant, etc. This is also why some people think horror is “sick”, “twisted” or “perverse”. To them, stimulating feelings of terror or revulsion or any of the subtler shades of horror, are to be avoided, not explored. For them, the romantic ideals of the Western hero, the blushing heroine, the stalwart detective or any other “stablizer”. Stories can lull the terrors away as easily as they can provide them. For others, fiction itself is a dirty word and only DIY manuals can provide the tranquilizer.

But the horror fan is another creature altogether. This person, surprisingly more often female than male (60/40), seeks out stimulation to the Limbic System, the fight-or-flight center of the brain. Not in trauma-inducing volumes but in a slow IV drip with occasional lightning bolt zaps known as horror fiction. Why? Are these people deranged? I think not. If anything, the other seems more likely. Unlike your Mystery novel junkie or Romantic Comedy self-medicator, the horror fan can handle a much more rigorous course. Like the adrenaline-junkie who sky-dives or bungy-jumps, the horror fan is looking for the next challenge. If you don’t believe me, simply read some Victorian horror fiction and see what frightened our great-grand-fathers. Pretty tame by today’s standard. And that is because unlike other genres, horror pushes that envelope in a constant evolution. The Western or Mystery doesn’t evolve on an emotional level. Horror changes. And change scares some people.

The horror thrill is an attempt to tame the untameable, to tap into the Great God Pan (to use a Machenism). This frisson is close to sexual arousal, fueling the accusations of degenerate misconduct. Sex frightens some people; horror likewise. But horror need not explore these fears directly. Can you imagine a more asexual character than H. P. Lovecraft? And yet his fiction is a Freudian smorgasbord of tentacles, old families cross-breeding with non-humans and other sex taboos.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Da-da-da-da-da-da, today's my birthday!

So I'm taking today off. But here are some great birthday songs to keep you entertained.

(Okay, maybe I'm not the president...)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

[Link] Character development: 9 tips for convincing arcs

by Now Novel

How characters grow and change, reach their goals or fail to, keeps us interested. In stories, character development is crucial:  If all your characters stay unchanged, even through extreme circumstances, your novel will feel two-dimensional. Developing your characters makes them ring true.

Here are 9 steps to creating satisfying character arcs:

1: Decide characters’ goals and motivations
2: Plan external obstacles your characters will face
3: Plan internal obstacles too
4: Give main characters foils
5: Include reversals that move character development
6: Develop characters using action and dialogue
7: Let your characters surprise you and your readers
8: Discover how your characters respond to challenges
9: Compensate for a flat character arc in others

Let’s explore each of these steps further...

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

From the "Ideas Just Never Flowing" File -- Gho-Gho-Girl

Now I'm going to have to actually write this story one day.

Su Li Chiang was born to immigrant parents in 1871. In 1892, she died along with her parents in a fire started by anti-Chinese "patriots."

In 1967, her spirit was summoned by a group of hippies on the run from demon-worshipping killers. They needed a spirit to become their protector.

Su Li "Suzie" Chiang is no longer alive, but that won't keep her from protecting her new hippy friends as Gho-Gho-Girl!

#seewhatididthere #ghoghonotgogo #itslikeghost #bootsnotincluded #canyoudancetheswim #perhapsakickstarterisinorder