Saturday, June 23, 2018

THE VIGILANTE WITH TWO BLADES RETURNS-‘AL KATANA II’ NOW AVAILABLE FROM PRO SE PRODUCTIONS



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

E. W. Farnsworth’s Al Katana, Volume I, debuted from Pro Se Productions in 2017 introducing a new kind of superhero, one striking fear into the hearts of the most hardened terrorists and miscreants. The violent vigilane returns in AL KATANA II, available now in paperback, hardcover, and digital formats.

The second volume continues Ritchie Walgreen’s saga as he forges relationships and builds martial arts studios on four continents as fronts for the work he does, along with his various proteges.

Relentlessly pursued by numerous, jealous national intelligence agencies—most notably the American CIA and Israeli Mossad, the man known in urban legend as Al Katana keeps one step ahead of his adversaries while performing his self-given mission to rid the world of heinous crime and corruption.

In a bloody wake of decapitations, Al Katana expands his cadre of admiring ace investigative reporters as well as capitalists looking to make big bucks through selling Al Katana action figures, complete with their Japanese katana swords.

In the press and online the hero’s message grows, the facts and disinformation blending to make Al Katana seem superhuman. Whether legend or psychotic avenger, Al Katana believes his methods are genuinely effective in a world that has lost its soul. Yet, even though he gathers followers daily, others believe he is a monster and intend to end his reign of justified terror. Al Katana Volume II by E. W. Farnsworth. From Pro Se Productions.

With a stunning cover and logo design by Leah Thomas of Black Diamond Designs and print formatting by Marzia Marina and Antonino Lo Iacono, AL KATANA II  is available now at Amazon in paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1720985502/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529247237&sr=1-1 and Pro Se’s own store at www.prose-press.com for 15.00.

This book is also available in hardcover for 29.99 at http://www.lulu.com/content/hardcover-book/al-katana-volume-ii/23010136

The second volume of Al Katana’s bloody adventures is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Lo Iacono and Marina for only $2.99 for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DSY2SCC/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529246465&sr=1-3&refinements=p_27%3AE.+W.+Farnsworth%2Cp_n_feature_browse-bin%3A618073011. This book is also available on Kindle Unlimited, which means Kindle Unlimited Members can read for free.

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

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Ruby Files is one of 60 New Pulp Books to Get Your Started!

Derrick Ferguson, himself no stranger to appearing on lists such as this, has updated his list of 25 New Pulp Books To Get You Started for 2018 and it has now grown to a whopping 60 New Pulp Books To Get You Started. You can read it here: https://fergusonink.com/60-new-pulp-books-to-get-you-started/


There are a lot of great reads on here. If you're looking for a pulpy good read, this list is a good place to start.

I'm honored to have The Ruby Files appear on the list (co-created with Bobby Nash). Thanks, Derrick.

Speaking of, here are some links:

The Ruby Files Vol. 1


The Ruby Files Vol. 2

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Myth Making (A Pulp Factory Discussion)


Writers need myths. Myths are the shorthand we understand that helps stories come to life. As such, when you get us together we talk about them… more often than not.

This article is one such discussion about myths and the making of them over at a pulp writers group I’m a member of. I thought it was particularly interesting in light of what our current understanding of myths says about us culturally, politically, and of course literarily.

Enjoy!


Stuart Hopen:
There’s a world cultural crisis in progress.  Whole cultures are in a state of turmoil over what is actually true and what isn’t.

It’s an old story.  A change in the environment produces a challenge to the culture.  There’s a lag between the effects of the change and the ability of the culture to adapt to it.  The process of adjusting to the change causes conflict within a culture, and/or between cultures.  The old white rabbit of Truth gets caught with the cross-culture cross hares in the cultural cross hairs.

Joseph Campbell conjectured that social instability was caused by the failure of a society to correctly use and connect with myths.  Perhaps that’s what’s going on in the world today.

Myths are useful tools in understanding the nature of truth. They function like software that can be loaded into a culture’s hard drive.  They are the embodiment of the interface between magic and science, materialism and idealism, since they are stories that are understood to be untrue, but by their structure and details are understood to represent intangible truths.  Because the nature of myth is based on contradiction, it is a mental tool for navigating the maze of reality whose essential nature is paradox and contradiction—except for those portions of that are not paradox and contradiction, which is all of it and none of it.

I believe that the world needs a compelling new myth and that the source of the myth might lie with the pulps.  But then, I’m kind of a dreamer.  It comes with the territory, being a writer and into pulps.

I have this notion that in the pulps of the 1930s one finds a sort of mythic and folkloric bedrock for the dominant myths of the contemporary West.

I have my own ideas about what kinds of myths are needed.  I’m willing to share them.  I’d like to start a kind of movement—similar to the folk music revival of the early sixties, promoting positive social change through a revival of interest in the pulps.

Is anyone interested in sharing ideas?

I.A. Watson:
Some interesting thoughts there.

Looking at the main middle-of-20th-century pulp tropes I'd characterise three main strands:

1. The Western—this is about frontiers, about independence and the slow victory of civilisation over savagery, about one person's ability to make a difference. By the time the Western became really popular, the West was tamed, so in some senses its as nostalgic as those stories of today set in Victorian London, actually set in a sort of group-consensus fantasy themed with trapping of the actual era. But it speaks to a readership feeling increasingly powerless in an increasingly impersonal and homogenised society of a different time where values were easier to hold and express.

2. The Crime Story—hard-boiled detectives in mean streets, the one good man in a corrupt world, the tarnished angel who takes the knocks bit comes back plugging. Most of those stories were set in a contemporary world, albeit one that played up the most glamorous or infamous parts of it. Some of the best stories explore personal values in an increasingly corrupt civilisation. Again, there's a lot about the little guy pushing back, or about the lone vigilante accomplishing what the authorities can't do. Some of it is wish fulfillment, but some of it is just "this is how it is but we can try to make it how it should be."

3. The Future Story—science fiction and science fantasy were starting to take hold, allowing some flights of fantasy for readers perhaps starting to shy away from supernatural fantasy but also enabling allegorical discussion of all kinds of issues from racism to imperialism – and plenty of sex. There were plenty of potential utopias with lurking serpents in New Eden and lots of bogeyman "others" coming to take what is ours and destroy our way of life.

One might argue that any or all of those strands are attempt to process and mythologise changes that were then contemporary and which still continue today.

Since then, the Western had somewhat gone out of fashion. There are less people with experience of that country/frontier life and less people who yearn for it. That genre is perhaps now replaced with the Superhero story (about extraordinary people in an ordinary world, often a world that doesn't understand them but desperately needs them).

Much has been written about the parallels between the pantheons of superheroes and the pantheons of myth, but I think one significant difference is that superhero stories, along with many other "brands" of modern storytelling, are owned and moderated for profit by a creator or company. Hence we have less stories with actual endings; there must always be a sequel or spin-off. There is a Death of King Arthur, a Death of Robin Hood, a Death of Hercules, but the Death of Superman, Captain America, or Batman lasts only as long as the next marketing campaign. The ownership of many modern myths by patent and copyright holders probably prevents their universality in the way that previous stories have embedded themselves as common legends.

Sean Taylor:
As a writer who cut his teeth on superhero stories with iHero Entertainment (then Cyber Age Adventures) and comic book writing, I think Ian’s on to something with the superhero idea. He also nails the biggest drawback that keeps them from becoming true myths themselves, and instead relegated to simply retelling the older myths of the Western gods (though those are being patiently infiltrated by the myths of other societies such as those of the East and native cultures—which is a good thing, I should be sure to add, after such a loaded word as "infiltrated").  Being owned property by trademark and copyright holders, usually entities and not individuals, they don’t belong to the collective voice, and thus they can’t be made mythic through the stories the people put onto them. Only what the corporate gatekeepers allow can become canon, and therefore “true fiction.”

We can’t own them ourselves. They’re not ours. Instead we’re allowed to keep telling the story of the only kind of hero we can really believe in, the one who can stand up to those powers (like the corporations who own our myths, our governments, the owner of the local laundry mat who can choose not to serve “those kinds,” etc.).

I.A. Watson:
There's really not as big a difference historically as appears at first. Heroic storytelling has always been somewhat moderated. The people paying the bards and writers dictate the content. Some examples:

* Greek orators telling the stories of Jason and the Argonauts as after-dinner speakers at banquets, adding in the name of their patron's illustrious ancestor to the roster of Argonauts, to the point where Jason's 30-oar ship had 71 oarsmen.

* Various local god and hero stories being recast to star saints on Christian hagiographies.

* Print publishers from Wynkin de Worde onward selecting the materials he believed would sell (profit over scholarship) and making amendments to text for that purpose.

And there have always been "bypasses" to avoid the gatekeepers. Just as today there is-self-publishing, fan-fiction etc., so there have been oral traditions, 'forbidden' books, the explosion of the 18th/19th century unlicensed pamphlet press and Penny Dreadfuls etc.

What has changed in the last century is close-to universal literacy in the West leading to writing being the primary storytelling medium, and then the rise of cinema and TV. Since publishing is costly (still is if you want to reach a mass market) and film-making is very costly, all the old financial and sponsorship gatekeeping is magnified.

Sean Taylor:
Unlike the classic pulp tropes, I think there’s really only one real, “allowed” myth in the public consensus of modernity - particularly in the U.S. - and that’s the myth of the self-made man (or woman nowadays, though it’s origin is most definitely a male character). It’s the one truly pervading myth that drives our reality. Our folk tales are full of them, from Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed to John Henry and the legends built up around and added to the narratives of historical figures like Washington and Lincoln and Stonewall Jackson.

I.A. Watson:
There have always been attempts to monetise tropes and to sanitise contents for a different mass audience.This week I re-read my Robin Hood novel trilogy and it reminded me of how that legend developed. The earliest stories were definitely tavern tales of a peasant outlaw (often said to be from the village of Loxley in Yorkshire) who tweaked the noses of the rich and powerful - subversive, working class, put-one-over-on-our-supposed-betters stuff. The earliest printed stories, preserved in the Child Ballads, are very much about a people's champion, of the people, for the people.

The next development, on the Elizabethan stage, was authored by educated professional writers who were writing for their patrons (who then funded the plays that the masses eventually saw). The big development here was that Robin was now an outlawed nobleman too, the Earl of Huntingdon, who left his estates to be "down with the people" and give them the vital leadership to resist tyranny that they could not possibly possess in their own humorous uneducated way (c.f Spanish nobleman Zorro championing the Mexican peons and many other "white saviour" stories). The Hood legend is appropriated for a different use for a different audience.

Then we have the Victorian sanitisation, cutting out the crude bits, streamlining the narrative to offer a satisfying 'complete' story that can be absorbed into culture as a quaint and nostalgic old folk-cycle. And then the Hollywood era where the myth has been rediscovered and reinterpreted many times (to varying degrees of success).

But for all of that, when someone stands outside the law against overwhelming authority and who redistributes wealth outside the law, we still tend to call them a Robin Hood. His myth has not entirely been appropriated. His trope appears again and again with every good-natured rogue who joins with a band of comrades to thwart authority (from Bo and Luke Duke to Han Solo).

Sean Taylor:
It’s the myth so deeply ingrained in American culture that it is behind both successes and failures. It’s the reason we love Teddy Roosevelt and understand why Hemingway blew his brains out. It gave way to the “heroes” that follow it – such as the man against the world who can only win by standing firm, the existential hero – and the spies (both male and female) who make their own rules in a world where the rules stifle and get in the way, and because they chose their own way, they win, regardless of whether they die at the end or not.

It’s the myth that supersedes all other, and it’s not just behind adventure tales, but also literary fiction. Hemingway’s hero leaves the army for love only to lose that love to illness and death. Jay Gatsby chooses to chase “the American Dream” and redefines himself, only to lose to the establishment of wealth. It’s a failure that leads Sylvia Plath to take her own life in the face of not being able to live up to the idea of the self-made hero. Her heroine in The Bell Jar rejects the idea of the self-made hero, and pays the price for that rejection.

I.A. Watson:
It is a significant and pervasive myth, but not the only one, even in the USA. The "rebel with a cause" Robin Hood thing is distinctive enough. There is also the "King Arthur and His Round Table" stuff, iterated in everything from Doc Savage to the Avengers, and its distinctive sub-theme of the Lost Hero Returning to Set Things Right. There is some crossover with the "Self-Made Man" idea, but not always and not as the core concept.

Sean Taylor:
Speaking of Gatsby, here comes the irony of the idol of the self-made hero. It is propagated by the very class of people who refuses to let others join their society. They can control the thoughts of the masses by helping the masses believe they can become self-made heroes (just like the rich, upper class, etc.) only to learn eventually that those people have walled up the doors and gates behind them so as to no let anyone else into the club. They just want people to believe they can. (Sure, I know, every now and then some rabbit sneaks through a hold in the fence and dons a bow tie and joins the party, but that hole is immediately blocked up again. (Can’t have any more of the rabble coming in, can we?)

I.A. Watson:
I'd go so far as to say that sometimes a rabbit has to be let in, or the fence breaks.

Sean Taylor:
It’s a myth built into the Constitution as a right – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Just don’t set your sights too high. Keep to your place.

Which leads me to the beginnings of the new myth that slowly entering into fiction – the counter to the self-made hero. This new hero either tries and fails or rejects the old myth and is able to redefine what happiness, liberty, and life actually mean in the fabric of his or her own life – reality be damned. These heroes set their sights on something higher than a traditional hero’s reward. They do their thing to pull together a family, or to save the world in a way that no one can ever know, or to raise a child, or in the case of my own Rick Ruby, to maintain a status quo that allows him fleeting tastes of real, genuine – impossible to hang on to – love. He doesn’t want to improve his status, just live within it in a way that allows him some, albeit fleeting, happiness.

I.A. Watson:
I suspect that Campbell's idea that every story type also includes its opposite - Boy Loses Girl, Man Does Not Learn a Lesson etc. is valid here. Tragedies often pivot on one subversion of a concept, one fatal flaw that denies the protagonist happiness and a future. Sometimes that flaw is in the circumstance of the story, and since circumstance - plot - in stories derives from the myth-type it is using, subverting or flipping that myth-type is what causes the character's downfall.

In other words, if the author decided that the premise of that kind of story doesn't work, then that character's event-line will morph accordingly. It's as if suddenly real-world physics caught up with Batman and he could no longer dodge a spray of machine-gun bullets.

Sean Taylor:
Sure, but it seems to me that one prevails while the other is considered subversive of “counter” rather than mythic.

I.A. Watson:
It's certainly true of superheroes and pulp heroes. "One man can make a difference."

Just borrowing the incarnations of the story-form that we see in our major current comic book heroes:

The Avengers/Justice League - a Varsity of heroes banded together against the greatest of threats; the "best of the best" aspect has been vitiated by multiple teams with massive line-ups now, but up till 1988 neither team had topped 20 members ever. The reader hook here was to identify with a band of heroes who interacted at the highest echelons of herodom, to be in the locker room with the elite.

Sean Taylor:
The oldest and most tied to the original myths, I’d say. This is your gods of Olympus, your gathered heroes of Valhalla.

I.A. Watson:
I can't actually think of many stories where pantheons gathered together for a "mission", or indeed where more than a couple of gods (e.g.Thor and Loki) head off for an adventure together. The first big Greek myth team-ups were the heroes, for Jason's All-Star Argonauts and for Team Hercules.

Sean Taylor:
I'll have to concede that. But that group of characters created the archetypes to later form an actual team. Grant Morrison even used the Greek/Roman pantheon for his version of the Justice League when he was writing the comic book. Per Morrison:

Superman - Zeus
Wonder Woman - Hera
Batman - Hades
Flash - Hermes
Aquaman - Poseidon
Green Lantern - Apollo
Orion - Ares
Oracle - Athena
Huntress - Artemis
Steel - Hephaestus
Zauriel - Aphrodite
Plastic Man - Dionysus
Barda - Demeter

I.A. Watson:
The X-Men - outcast misunderstood outlaws prove themselves to be heroes better than all the people who look down on them; a powerful story dating back at least as far as the heroes of the Water Margins, speaking to every reader who feels him or herself excluded because they are different. But in these stories different = special and individuality is good.

Sean Taylor:
What stories and legends do you know to support this pre-comics? Robin Hood was an outlaw and outcast, but not because of his differences, instead because of monarchist greed, so that's probably not the same thing.

I.A. Watson:
We might have to look to fairy stories, where an Ugly Duckling becomes a Swan, a Cinders-girl becomes a princess etc., or to some Irish myths where heroes are given great handicaps at birth which they must overcome to gain their destiny (for example, not being allowed a name, to hold any weapon not given by one's mother - who won't grant one - and not being allowed to marry any wife born of woman). But I admit that those are all individual stories and may be more about desired qualities not being recognised (the Loathly Lady trope). Nor are any of them groups.

Outcast bands are a pretty old tale, though. It's not just the rich and powerful that tell each other stories.

Batman - an extraordinary individual responds to tragedy by becoming a guardian and avenger through his own personal qualities and efforts. He solves problems by being physically, intellectually, and morally superior. He is right by virtue of being better than a failing law enforcement system.

Superman - an extraordinary individual with remarkable abilities becomes the greatest hero of his age, but hides his brilliance in a mundane mortal identity; only the reader is on on the secret. The secret identity twist is a relatively new part of the story-form for heroes (starting in modern literature with the Scarlet Pimpernel as best I can tell, although it might have been drawn from the "Ruritanian prince' literature of the mid-Victorian era), but it is a separate and potent element, about "if only they knew who I really was..." which also speaks to a shy, overlooked, or bullied reader.

Spider-Man - a hard-luck hero does the right thing even when fate dumps on him for doing it; secret identity, real-life hassles of school, job, and relationships, and stories that juxtapose the hero's basic decency with the fantastic villainy of his rogues gallery and the mundane venality of JJJ. The reader is encouraged to identify with "Hard Luck Parker"because we too have our Flash Thompsons, our Jolly Jonahs, and our Aunt Mays.

Sean Taylor:
Of them all, this seems the most recent development in myth making. Prior ages always seemed to laud the demigods or brightest and best. Are their old, ancient examples of this type of hero?

I.A. Watson:
I think this sort of story works best with our modern serial-form. Everyone wants Peter to win, but then his story is over. Hence the MJ-marriage being continually rewritten. Older stories often feature a hero or heroine being misunderstood, wrongly accused, suffering for doing right etc., but they are either presented as tragedies or they have a conclusion where the hero's virtue is recognised and rewarded at last. You're right that there aren't any really good ancient examples. Perhaps Anderson's Little Mermaid was one of the earliest?

Cutting across these incarnations and their variations are some other circumstances that also depend upon the extraordinary individual:

The Official Hero - that's Captain America, Superman shaking the President's hand, the Avengers A1 Priority Clearance Card etc; patriotism was still major a thing when many of these characters were moulded.

The Rich Dilettante - the hero is a millionaire playboy, collector, amateur criminologist etc., although he may hide his expertise in a secret identity. He has every reason to enjoy his lifestyle and not care about others, but because he is a superior man he eschews the rewards of his wealth and station to fight evil.

Sean Taylor:
If anything, the cynic in me holds this one up as the ultimate prooftext for corporate overlords having their own Mary Sue. Except, when that millionaire resists and fights against the corporate structure and culture. While Luthor is closer to the example for this, Tony Stark is partly there, while Bruce Wayne is the in-disguise Robin Hood who has infiltrated the castle (so to speak).

I.A. Watson:
An assumption of this archetype is that it takes one to know one. Only a wealthy billionaire can take on another one, only the superior-born or proved men could possibly overcome the problems that normal proles could not tackle; in older stories, the disguised lord who goes amongst the peasants ha the education, training, breeding, and natural leadership to help them to happiness they cold not achieve alone because only he can show them how to fight people who have skills like his.

It's the sort of thinking behind "the White Man's Burden", that those with advantages of intellect, education, and moral superiority have a noblesse oblige responsibility for those lacking it.Although that's an unpleasant concept these days, with racist, sexist, and elitist undertones, it did inform Western culture during our great period of expansionism (including the settling of the Americas) and it is irrevocably embedded into our heroic and superheroic myths - "with great power comes great responsibility,"

I.A. Watson:
The Chosen One - by birth or circumstance the hero has been given a destiny, and must now choose to take up a duty; e.g. Green Lantern, Namor, Black Panther, Dr Strange

The Alien - the strange visitor from elsewhere brings something that is missing from our culture; e.g. Wonder Woman, Thor

The World Expert - the hero is #1 in some field of science or academic study that informs their heroic exploits; e.g. Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Tony Stark, Carter Hall.

Sean Taylor:
Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, or even John Henry, if counting track laying as a skill to be #1 in.

I.A. Watson:
The Saviour of Another Culture - the hero is from our culture but the qualities he brings prove invaluable in another culture where he becomes pre-eminent; e.g. Ka-Zar (copying Tarzan), Adam Strange (copying John Carter), Iron Fist

The Monster - our hero must master his demonic side to do good; e.g. the Hulk, the Demon Etrigan, Ghost Rider, anybody with a cursed magic item/weapon

Sean Taylor:
Mary Shelley was key in getting us to view the monster sympathetically, but it wasn't until not so long ago (mid 20th century) we were able to cast the monster as the hero. A major step in that development was Phantom of the Opera, but perhaps the earliest story to go all the way with it would be the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Regarding them all, as a cynic, I’d argue that those have become easy marketing stereotypes rather than mythic ideals. Those have become the shorthand for getting readers onboard without having to do more complex character development.

I.A. Watson:
Caliban?

For that matter, Hercules was a huge rage-monster who slaughtered his own children and nephews when he lost control, but form whom listeners continued to have sympathy as he tried to atone for his crimes. Or, if you want to have a sympathetic monster before even that, look to the Death of Enkidu.

Stuart Hopen:
Thanks for sharing your input.  Ian provided a useful reminder that the appropriation and exploitation of myth is a process as eternal as the myths themselves.  And I think you're right, Sean, that the veneration of the individual is a myth that has become so dominant, people are losing sight of the countervailing nuances and complexities that are part of a healthy culture. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Nugget #137 -- Thank You, Pocahontas!


I want to paint with all the colors of the wind (thank you, Pocahontas!). I want to master all of the Lantern rings, from green to black. I want to write like the writers who influenced me, not because I want to be a clone of them, but because they created the same kinds of stories I want to be able to tell... a little bit of whatever the hell they wanted to tell at the time. They didn't get locked into markets, and even if that's the way the industry works today, I won't do it. I can't do it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

[Link] An Argument for Writing Short Stories

by Emily Harstone

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.’ — Ray Bradbury

“A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.”
— David Sedaris

Writers who are serious about improving and developing their craft should write short stories and get editorial feedback on them, even if they are never planning on publishing these short stories. Short stories are one of the best ways to hone your craft as a writer.

When I teach creative writing courses one of the assignments is always to write a short story. Over the years I have discovered that students are more and more reluctant to do this. Instead they submit novel excerpts disguised as short stories.These classes have a workshop component, which means that every student has a chance to receive feedback from all the other students in a discussion about their short story.

If the short story is actually a novel excerpt the feedback they receive will not be as insightful, because the story is not self contained. Writers get much better, more helpful feedback on short stories, because all of the information they contain is easier to read, understand, and dissect, even in short periods of time.  However when I point this out in the first class, a couple of them protest. They don’t know why anyone would write a short story, because no one reads them anymore. They are not publishable.

Read the full article: https://www.authorspublish.com/an-argument-for-writing-short-stories/

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Enjoy More Shorts for Summer: The Stone Maiden and Other Tales by Robert Krog

From sorcerers to space captains, from common criminals to common housewives, this collection contains the stories of a variety of characters from a diversity of genres. Fans of adventure, suspense, humor, horror, fantasy, and science fiction will find tales to treasure. Every story invites the reader into a world where things are not always what they seem, where events do not always turn out as one expects.

http://darkoakpress.com/stonemaiden.html

The Stone Maiden
 "a creature protected beyond use."
"I remember the days when I did things."


*Gilbames the Unwise
"Came the Dark One, the Great Troll from the Northern Waste,"

*Acantha
"Why did you not take his foot like you took her arm?"

*The Hand of Darden
"Apprentice, heed my direction, walk carefully away from the light."

*I Would Have My Bones in the Earth Facing North
"slain him, butchered him, and preserved him for later meals."

*Nothing to Lose is Nearly Enough
"It takes ten days in the chamber to turn a physically fit man who is willing to give up the possibility of procreation into a steel-skinned warrior."

*The Three Epiphanies of Seqeranc
"That is what the stones tell me. Be on your way."

*A Fifty-Five Gallon Drum
"By the brilliant point of light coming from the tip of the welder, she saw a tiny, rotund form working away at some concave contraption."

*Tell Me Your Dreams
"You murder me so gently."

*The Fortunate Few
"You can't escape the Dead King," She clucked comfortingly to him as she dragged him into a dank, dark, stinking room

http://www.darkoakpress.com/

Saturday, June 16, 2018

MEL ODOM WINS TWO WESTERN AWARDS!


Oklahoma based New Pulp writer Mel Odom recently won two Western Fictioneers award. The first was for Best Western Novel, “Pecos Undertaker” under his penname Colby Jackson and the second for Best Western Short Story, “The Train Robbery,” from “Bass Reeves – Frontier Lawman Vol II” from Airship 27 Productions. 

Details can be found here. https://westernfictioneers.blogspot.com/2018/06/western-fictioneers-announces-8th.html 

All of us at Airship 27 Productions congratulate Mel on these well deserved awards.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Friday, June 15, 2018

D. W. GILLESPIE’S ‘HANDMADE MONSTERS’ DEBUTS!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monsters are everywhere, if you know where to look... And Pro Se Productions has a terrifying collection of them from Author D. W. Gillespie. HANDMADE MONSTERS is set for release in print and digital formats on June 12 and digital copies are available now for pre-order.

A lonely housewife finds a monster hiding in a hole in her closet. A family finds one inside the burned out husk of an old tree. A young girl finds yet another in the form of a baby unlike any she's ever seen. But the worst of all are the monsters hiding inside us, always there, waiting to be set free.

Collected from over five years of writing, D.W. Gillespie's collection of 13 dark tales features a mix of previously published and never before seen stories. From the gruesome to the surreal, HANDMADE MONSTERS is for anyone who might have their own monster hiding away inside. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic cover and formatting by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, HANDMADE MONSTERS is available at Amazon NOW for Kindle for $2.99.

A long time fan of all things dark and spooky, D.W. Gillespie began writing monstrous stories while still in grade school. At one point, his mother asked the doctor if there was anything she should be concerned about, and he assured her that some kids just like stories about decapitations. He's been writing on and off for over a decade, quietly building a body of work that includes horror and dark sci-fi. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two kids, all three of which give him an endless supply of things to write about.

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

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Urban, High, Low, or Something Else? Writers on Fantasy...

For our newest writer's roundtable, let's look at the fantastic.

Although the genres are blending and the publishing categories seem to shift, what are the key differences between general fantasy, high fantasy, urban fantasy, and magical realism?

John Linwood Grant: Magical realism I'd probably set aside, as more akin to various 'liminal' and 'weird fiction' labels. It's an area where stories can be most strange, but would not be immediately recognizable to many who would describe themselves as 'fantasy fans' Sadly for this question, that's my main area a lot of the time. I might distinguish between secondary world fantasy and historical fantasy - the former not relying directly on certain aspects of human history, biology or geography; the latter being closely linked to re-imaginings of various cultures and societies of the past. With magic. Or dragons. Etc. There's also mock-secondary world fantasy, which relies on stuff we know but pretends to be different and just sticks extra moons in the sky. Urban fantasy is a thing of many faces, from teens with magic fingers to slavering werewolves in Chicago. Hugely variable.

Ian Totten: I suppose it depends on what you're going for when it comes to genre specific fantasy. I always thought of high fantasy as being in the vein of LOTR or The Sword of Truth series. My own series is labeled dark fantasy, but I recently had a reader tell me they thought of it as high fantasy so I guess it's subjective to the individual. As for the other sub-genres, I admit to knowing little about them.

Hilaire Barch: I think the others covered the definition, but I'd like to add that each one has a certain feel to it. The pacing of the story and the rhythm of the prose differs among those. You can blend and mix, etc which changes things, but if it carries the label certain expectations are attached.

High fantasy need not have elves and orcs (think Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series, or the King Arthur stories), but there's often epic games of power, highly descriptive prose, and often much history or lore given to the reader.

Urban fantasy carries a grit to it, with faster-paced action and lore or history thrown in on a need-to-know basis, and as mentioned has a lot of variance.

Magic realism can blend with the others or be it's own thing.

The genre cubby hole matters for marketing. Once upon a time I simply wrote the story. I don't write to the market, but I did become cognizant of that feel/pacing I mentioned. If I want my story to be a high fantasy, even if blended, it needs to feel and read as one.

Do these differences even matter anymore? Why or why not?

John Linwood Grant: Do the labels matter? Yes, for publishers and authors wanting to tap into existing markets. Large chunks of the reading public are conservative in their buying, selecting genres and sub-genres where they anticipate a well-matched return for their bucks, either as comfort reads or as sharing elements with other books in the area which they like. And many of those chunks are loyal to a concept of 'fantasy' or crime' or 'western' - whatever. If they want wild magickal adventures and stirring battles, they don't necessarily want to read about an oppressed kid in Lagos who discovers he can feel the spirits of the trees as he confronts his abusive family. Thought they probably should, for the experience. ;)

Ian Totten: When writing though I tend to enjoy whatever the genre for the story is and will blend them at will. An example would be mixing magic into a real world story. Not enough to make it hokey, but enough to invoke a sense of curiosity and wonder.

Derrick Ferguson: Whenever I hear/read somebody complain about how they don't like labels and they don’t see why anything has to be labeled…tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re going to take all the labels off the canned foods in your local supermarket and let you guess what’s inside those cans the next time you go shopping.

Danielle Procter Piper: Pretty sure the only people really concerned about pigeonholing books into genres are publishers, marketers, and booksellers who seem unable to figure out how to tell people about them otherwise. I don't write for market. I write the stuff I'd like to read. Life isn't a genre, so I'm not going to tweak my stories to fit someone else's idea of what the lives of my characters should be called. It's not my fault if someone who stands to make money off what I do and probably never read any of it can't decide what color carrot to wave before the noses of his or her target audience... if they can even figure out who that target audience is. Many of the greatest things in life defy labels. We see the greatness, the genius, and wonder of things better when they're new, original, fresh, and unexpected. Some desk jockey in marketing can't figure out how to sell that... might explain why he lacks the imagination to be a writer.

John Linwood Grant: I do predict that people will announce high fantasy is dead, that grimdark has had its day, that urban fantasy is written-out and much more. And mainstream authors will write fantasy but insist that it's magical realism or liminal literature. After those shocking revelations, people will go on writing and reading whatever appeals to them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Nugget #136 -- For the Love of God, Why?


If you don't love words enough to read them,
then why in God's name would you want to
do the more difficult task of writing them?
By Onderwijsgek - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19494586

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NOMINEES FOR THE 2018 MANLY WADE WELLMAN AWARD ANNOUNCED!

ANNOUNCING THE NOMINEES FOR THE 2018 MANLY WADE WELLMAN AWARD



(Durham, NC) The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation is proud to announce the nominees for the 2018 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy. These nominees are the result of voter selection from the final eligibility list through the nominations process, presented in alphabetical order by author last name:

  • Frost & Filigree by Natania Barron (Falstaff Books)
  • Amazing Grace by John G. Hartness (Falstaff Books)
  • The Stravinsky Intrigue by Darin Kennedy (Curiosity Quills Press)
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • Scourge by Gail Z. Martin (Solaris)

The Manly Wade Wellman Award was founded in 2013 to recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy novels written by North Carolina authors. The 2018 award, voted on by the combined membership of North Carolina science fiction and fantasy conventions (illogiCon, ConCarolinas, and ConGregate), covers novels published in 2017. Nominations open at illogiCon in January and the nominees are announced at ConCarolinas in June ahead of the final voting round, with the award being presented at ConGregate in July.

The award is named for long-time North Carolina author Manly Wade Wellman with the permission of his estate.

Learn more at http://ncsff.org.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

ALIENS… AND THE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL! FOR 99 CENTS! ‘ALL SHOOK UP’ DEBUTS AS SINGLE SHOT FROM PRO SE PRODUCTIONS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pro Se Productions, known for bringing readers cutting edge tales they didn't even know they wanted to read, does so once again with its latest Pro Se Single Shot -- ALL SHOOK UP! by M. Hadley!

Fitting the description of Psychedelic Pulp (a genre named by Pro Se based on the works of BLACK CENTIPEDE Author Chuck Miller), ALL SHOOK UP! is a fast and frantic ride back in time in rock 'n' roll history reimagining the King himself. Get ready to discover what Elvis' true purpose was while making women faint and shaking his pelvis! It might have been...protecting the Earth from invasion!

Imaginative and over the top quirky, ALL SHOOK UP! is a fun and exciting 'what if' that never could have happened... but what if it did?

ALL SHOOK UP! by M. Hadley. Only 99 cents from Pro Se Productions!

Featuring an over the top cover and digital formatting by Antoninio Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, ALL SHOOK UP! is available now at Amazon for the Kindle

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

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

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Summer is for Short Stories! Highlighting Moonlight Sonata!

Let's get your Summer reading season started right!

Moonlight Sonata
by Elizabeth Donald

These are the dark, ethereal stories of Moonlight Sonata. Tales bound to disturb your sleep and chill your heart; a new collection from the award-winning author of Setting Suns and Nocturne Infernum, Elizabeth Donald.

All that can kill you is what you carry with you:

  • Imagine a haunted church, where the ground has turned sour and something walks in the shadows at night to the mournful hymns.
  • A silent covered bridge that no one dares to cross.
  • Angry spirits that cry out from beneath the ground of a cemetery that will not lie still.
  • An ageless man bound in love to a mortal woman, forever moving, forever haunted.
  • A police officer chasing a suspect into the woods - and suspects they are no longer alone.
  • A woman preparing to leave her husband, watched by unseen eyes in the corner of the room.
  • A voice that can speak only through a radio, a voice from beyond death itself.
  • A man haunted by an ageless face that brings tragedy to his life whenever it appears.
  • A girl whose imagination carries her beyond the point of no return in a future where dreams become reality - and so do nightmares.

http://www.darkoakpress.com/sonata.html

Friday, June 8, 2018

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS DANG – FIST OF THE WANDERER

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the release of Barbara Doran’s latest action adventure pulp thriller; Wu Dang – Fist of the Wanderer.

1848 Shanghai. Chinese martial arts master, Yi Xiao, is summoned before his grandmother, Madam Lang. His lookalike cousin, Yi Shu, is next in line to throne and must reach his dying father to rightfully claim the title of emperor. But an army of assassins is on the hunt for the prince. It is Madam Lang’s plan to convince them Yi Xiao is the royal heir and have him flee the country; destination San Francisco.

And so Xiao embarks on his journey aboard an American schooner piloted by a Captain Burton. But before setting out, he is discovered by a lovely young girl named Gan Han who knows his true identity. She is a master of her family’s Lotus Blossom fighting technique is obsessed with fighting Xiao to prove its superiority over his own style. In the end, he is forced to bring her along, though he adamantly refuses to fight with her. All Xiao seeks is spiritual contentment in achieving his Doa.

Once again Barbara Doran weaves a fanciful adventure merging two different cultures against a unique moment in American history. Hawaiian based Gary Kato provides the interior illustrations and Art Director Rob Davis the cover to this fast paced adventure. Wu Dan – Fist of the Wanderer is an adventure filled with danger, comedy and magic you soon won’t forget.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Now available at Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

How Much Do Writers Read?


Authors, how many books do you read per month? 
How much is fiction and how much is nonfiction?

Selah Janel: Depends on the month, reason, format, etc. If it's for graphic novels or manga, I can burn through like 20 volumes easy if I'm not doing much else in my off time. Or if I'm doing other stuff, probably half that. Novels or nonfiction, depends. Anywhere from 3-7 again, depending on how I'm using free time. I'm also reading a lot of genre and lit magazines right now, too, and those numbers are somewhere in the middle. For May I think I did probably 7 manga volumes, 5-7 graphic novel volumes, I'm finishing up a novel, one nonfiction, and two genre magazines.

Connor Boyle: I average 3 novels a month with several short stories in between.

Ernest Russell: It varies. 2-3 fiction and nonfiction; it depends on any research I may be doing.

Ellie Raine: I'm a slow reader, and it depends if I'm writing that week, etc. If I'm reading, I can't write my own stuff. if I'm writing my own stuff, I can't read other works--or else I'll never get the work done. When I'm at a good stopping point in writing is pretty much the only time I get to read, and I'll try to read it ALL before going back to work if I can. It's a really erratic and slow process, but it's how I get the work done while finding time to read as well.

Bill Craig: 17-20 books a month, mainly fiction but once in a while I'll read non-fiction.

Amanda Niehaus-Hard: My goal now is one fiction a week (so 4 a month), 1 non-fiction a month, and 1 poetry volume or a complete literary journal every two weeks (can be a re-read). I end up reading about one short story from an anthology every night, so sometimes I read one collection a month or one every 6 weeks. But we homeschool, so I have to read a ton of stuff for the kiddo, and I don't have goals for that beyond "keep up with his interests." lol.

Robert Krog: I usually read a chapter a night to the children from some classic novel or the other, so that’s one. I’ll finish a nonfiction work for myself and frequently a novel as well. Then, I’ll be rereading certain parts of other works at the same time. At least 4, I guess, volume wise.

Ron Fortier: At least 3 a month. All fiction. I like most genres, a la sci-fi, mystery or adventure. Will occasionally re-read what I consider classics, i.e. Burroughs, Heinlein or Herbert.

Mark Lee: 2-3 a month. A mix of classic and contemporary. Mostly nonfiction but I love me a good epic fantasy.

Kevin Noel Olson: At a normal pace, one or two a week. Lately, so much of my reading goes into reading and re-reading research material it's difficult to gauge. Also, I have about 5 books going at once, one of them being a ponderous book of around 1200 pages. Not to mention comic books, so I won't mention them.

Jana Oliver: 20+, the majority of which are fiction. I read fast. Only a rare, rare few make the Keeper Shelf. I'm an omnivore apparently. When I'm working on my own books, someone's else's shuts down the internal "chatter."

Barry Reese: About 6-7 a month, usually 1-2 nonfiction and the others are fiction.

Derrick Ferguson: I would say three a month. I'm a terrible backslider. I remember when I would read three in a week.

Bobby Nash: It varies. All fiction.

Janice Elliott Howard: I read fiction. 4-5 books a month and non-fiction 2-3 books a month. I write only 10-15 days out of the month.

Angie Gallion Lovell: I read 3-4 books month when I’m not writing. Mostly contemporary and fiction.

Greg Goode: Sometimes one or two a month, sometimes several a day. Nonfiction:fiction :: 80:20

Rob Cerio: Depends if you count graphic novels. Without, 1. With, about 7.

Jason Waltman: One or two mostly sci-fiction, dark modern fantasy or new pulp. I not counting any role-playing game book because they're work-related.

Brian K. Morris: My reading schedule involves an average of five a month, usually 3 fiction, 2 non-fiction (often to do with publishing because I can always stand to be a lot smarter than I am).

Marlin Williams: As of lately, about two. All of it is fiction. It's a fifty-fifty mix between contemporary and classic. I just finished reading Ravenwood Stepson of Mystery collection of short stories by Frederick C Davis.

Danielle Procter Piper: I read a lot less because I'm a lot busier now. I've been reading mostly nonfiction the past few years, but I make time for the newest Agent Pendergast novels and Serge Storms.

Andrew Salmon: 10-15. Getting the Eby Stokes series launched, it's been more research than fiction and the fiction is usually tied to Eby's genre. Still I try to squeeze in some fun reading though.

Neen Edwards: I read all fiction... depends how much per month. Last month I read 17 I think. This month, I'm on my fourth book because I'm doing a review for someone and I have no clue what's going on in the book.

Matt Hiebert: Just two or three and a few short stories (which puts me somewhere close to last in this crowd).

Ed Catto: About one and half books a month lately.

Perry Constantine: Before, about one or two a month. But lately, due to all the sales that have been on ComiXology, I'm pretty much only reading graphic novels and TPBs. Lately when I do read a book or prose story, it's usually non-fiction or it's something I'm reading to teach in my lit class.

Nicholas Ahlhelm: I spend as much time with comics and graphic novels as the pictureless kind of books. I usually read somewhere between two and four prose works and probably a dozen graphic novels (at least) in a given month.

Jenny Reed: It varies wildly how many I read. Mostly fiction over time, but the percentages vary wildly from month to month, too. Both classic and contemporary.

Tom Hutchison: I haven't read a book in years. If I read it's a comic or more likely reference for whatever I'm writing at the time.

Adam Garcia: Depending on the length of the book, amount of free time I have, etc. 1 - 4 books a month, mostly contemporary with some classics sprinkled in.

Stuart Hopen: I'm all over the place. Typically I'll read five or six books concurrently unless something really grabs my interest, and then I'll put everything else down. I read fiction and nonfiction, but more of the former. And everything from golden age comics and pulps to Joyce and Shakespeare. Currently, I'm reading Infinite Jest, Will Durant's Story of Civilization, Foucault's Madness and Civilization, and Mike Cary's The Unwritten.

Lee Houston Junior: At least two library books a month and whatever I accomplish every night on the Kindle before I go to bed, so I'd say a monthly average of about 5 or 6 easy. The genres vary between books because I like variety, but mainly sci-fi, fantasy, detective/mystery with other stuff thrown in from time to time.

Trina Robbins: Typically 1 -4 books per month, depending on the length and how hard./easy to read. Heavier on the fiction than the non fiction, but I'm always reading. As soon as I finish a book, I start another one. Currently reading William Gibson's The Peripheral, and that man is hell to read, so it takes me longer than most writers because I have to keep going back and rereading parts so I can figure out what the hell he's talking about.

Van Allen Plexico: I have stacks of books all over the house, not counting the ones on my various bookcases, and am always reading from different books depending on what I’m in the mood for that moment. So it’s hard to quantify it. 1-2 dozen probably. They run probably half and half fiction and nonfiction. I also have tons of comics from the 1970s on my iPad and read them all the time.

Steve Ekstrom: It varies... I just don't stop reading and/ or writing. I rarely lean into any classic literature but when I do it's like a headlong deep dive into something really dense.

Keith M. Weller: Four to 5 books a month, all depends on what I'm in the mood for.

Kalesjha Madsø: Depends on length of the books, but around 8 to 10 a month. I read high fantasy mostly.

Bethany Hoeflich: 20-40 books a month. Maybe 4 or 5 nonfiction and the rest fiction. They are a mix of genres from fantasy and sci-fi to romance and horror. And most are contemporary. I like to stay up to date with the trends in fiction.

Gael Figueroa: 3-6 depending.. split between non-fiction and fiction.

Goalie Benkers: About two to four. I prefer sci-fi and fantasy but I read everything. Just finished Jane Eyre and really loved it. I'm still in awe of the writing style; very complex and deep. Right now I'm reading a mystery thriller. It's not bad.

Brett Kihlmire: Depends on the length and available time. I've read 14 of varying size since the start of the year. I'm halfway through a 300-page Star Wars novel right now.

Barbara Goode Bodnar: Around 10. Lot of mystery, biographies.

Gabi Balend: I honestly don't read a lot of published books anymore. I mostly read fanfiction stories these days (there are a lot of really well-written ones out there if you know where to look). I honestly couldn't tell you how many I read every month - I don't keep track of my reading like that. In the past, I primarily read science fiction and fantasy, although I did enjoy nonfiction science books as well (Cosmos, A Brief History of Time, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, etc.).

Demetra Had: One per week is my standard for fiction. Last month was crazy, I've read 12. I don't read non-fiction anymore, instead, I listen to audio books while doing other things to save time ... At least one non-fiction audiobook per month

Marianne Reese: 5-10 all genres. I like to read and support indie authors so I make sure I read several indie books a month. I do, however, read traditionally published authors, too.

Michael Grant: 1-10. All fiction. Mostly contemporary.

Eileen Troemel: It varies... I read anything. I read Audacity, which is a biography poetry book -- the author wrote poems to describe a Russian's work in the union -- early Russian refugee... and Quiet which is an interesting study of introverts. I've also read JD Robb, Anne McCaffrey, Kathy Lyons, Anne Bishop, Rebecca Zanetti... and a whole bunch more. My reading is sporadic -- when I feel like it I read.

Joe Noble: About 50 books a year on average, changes from month to month how many I get through.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Nugget #135 -- For Crying Out Loud, Do It Already!


That "great idea" you're so concerned someone 
is going to steal... someone has most likely already 
thought of it. Someone has most likely already written 
it and and some publisher has most likely already 
published it. The only thing about it that's really 
"yours" is the way you choose to tell it, so write it, 
draw it, audio it, or turn it into a movie, 
but stop just talking about it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Not Fitting in at the Bookstore -- And What It Taught Me About Who I Am as a Writer

I love used bookstores. Most of my ever-growing library comes either from online discounters or used bookstores. Even so, with all that love (I can spend hours wandering in a single, skinny store in a low-rent shopping center), I still always have the hardest time at used bookstores. The stuff I'm looking for to fill in gaps in my collections... Well, I never know where to look for it.

Is Vonnegut going to be with the sci-fi books or with classics? Sure, I can find Heinlein with sci-fi, but not so much Bradbury. He might be in with literary collections or classics, but seldom sci-fi, even though that was his bread and butter.

And let's talk about more contemporary writers like Gaiman. The man writes the heck out of fantasy, but good luck finding his books anywhere other than general fiction or literary.

And when I'm trying to fill in Hammett and Chandler, do I look under mysteries with Sue Grafton, et al, or do I hope for the best in classics, or just go straight to the desk and ask for the rare book room even though I'm not looking for the pricey versions, just beat-up paperback reprints?

Does anybody else have this problem?

I posted these words the other day on my social media feeds mainly just venting after going to visit a new used bookstore (Did I mention how much I love used bookstores yet? Because I really do. I can spend hours there in spite of my issue mentioned above.)

Only the idea wormed its way into my brain and grabbed hold of my thoughts and wouldn't let go. And it got me thinking about how that same issue related to who I am as a writer. Sure, I write genres, from action and adventure to sci-fi and horror (but no epic fantasy, sorry, not my bag), but I've never felt defined by those genres any more than I have by my content. And trust me, my content has varied from super heroes to monsters to hard-boiled gumshoes to planetary adventurers.

What Publishers Want

Publishers and readers look for categories, and not just any categories, but easy to define divisions. Those are easy to sell. A reader wants a mystery for the beach this summer, and bang, a clerk can walk said reader to the mystery section where he or she can be inundated by racks and racks of books by pretty much the same 100 authors. A reader wants a new urban fantasy, and poof, there’s a section for that, not to be confused with either sci-fi or mystery, or even epic fantasy. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s basic marketing.

It gets even quicker, easier, and more marketable with series. Publishers love series. Readers love series. Both love them because it means they don’t have to think about what to read next. They don’t have to experiment with authors outside their “I know and love him or her” list unless it’s a strong recommendation by a friend. Series make money for that very reason. Series make careers for that very reason. And smart writers (unlike me) know how to take advantage of that market for series books.

You see, I have learned that the publishing world is a lot like that used bookstore I love to visit. It continues to work because it is built on categories that make people’s choices for them. If you like ___________ then you’ll also like ___________. Don’t feel bad if there’s not a new book by ___________ yet, just read this similar book by ___________ and you’ll be fine.

The Spanner in the Works

I can’t write like that. Hell, I can’t even read like that. I love the authors I love because their works are so vastly different from each another. There are worlds between Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and R is for Rocket. Vonnegut only wrote one Player Piano, only one Sirens of Titan, and both of those are on the other side of Crazytown from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and Slaughterhouse Five. Even Heinlein, while staying firmly inside the structure and settings of sci-fi, ranged from one end to the other with his diverse styles than covered the gamut from Starship Troopers to Job to For Us the Living to Stranger in a Stange Land and I Will Fear No Evil. I’ll have to acquiesce to the standard with Hammett and Chandler, but even those two diverged from their “series” from time to time.

I grew up on this kind of writing. Of the novels I’ve read, very few are parts of series. And even fewer fit easily into one genre. Most overlap between genres like the choreography of a Three Musketeers sword fight overlaps settings. One foot here in the foyer, then here in the dining room, then a hop to the stairwell and a step into the ballroom for another strike. 

The stuff I’ve always enjoyed most doesn’t fit into easy categories or series. At best, Kilgore Trout shows up in a few of Vonnegut’s novels, but not as the main character except in one. Even The Martian Chronicles isn’t a complete novel, but a series of related short stories with differing protagonists. Gaiman’s Sandman comics are the only true series work he’s done. The rest interrelate only in the trappings and table dressings, much like those of Stephen King’s fictional city of Derry.

Nor do I want to write like that. I want to paint with all the colors of the wind (thank you, Pocahontas!). I want to master all of the Lantern rings, from green to black. I want to write like the writers who influenced me, not because I want to be a clone of them, but because they created the same kinds of stories I want to be able to tell... a little bit of whatever the hell they wanted to tell at the time. They didn't get locked into markets, and even if that's the way the industry works today, I won't do it. I can't do it. It'd be like putting a part of me in a box and shoving it under the bed or in the top of the closet to ignore.

Maybe the business doesn't work the same way it did for them anymore, but it doesn't change who I am, who they helped make me as a creator of stories.

Outside the Genre Lines

I pity the reader looking for my stuff in a bookstore setup. It’s not as easy as going to the fantasy section and seeing a huge row of similar works all by George R.R. Martin (and not just because I’m not that popular). Nor can you waltz to the sci-fi section and find all my books together like Heinlein’s or Frank Herbert’s.

No. You have to go to the action section, the horror section, and sci-fi section, etc. and find maybe one each in these genre classifications. Because I love to write everything. I cherish that freedom. I think if I had to get stuck in a single genre because I was writing a successful series and having to revisit all the same characters over and over again, I’d be miserable as a writer. Sure, I might be a lot more successful and maybe even have more money if I pulled a Sue Grafton or a Craig Johnson. But, at best, I might be able to do a Walter Mosley and have to finish a series to start another when I felt it had run its course (I miss you, Easy.) But most likely, even that is beyond me, and I’ll continue to jump around in obscurity from monsters to private dicks with all the wild abandon of a child coloring outside the lines in his first “I Went to the Zoo” coloring book.

If I had to single it out, I think the one thing that defines me as a writer would be voice. It’s the “who I am” as a writer that links my books and stories together. There’s a way I tell stories that comes across (at least I hope) to let you know you’re reading works by the same author.

A caveat: At no point to I intend to slight the work of series or genre-specific writers as a lesser quality or more low-brow kind of writing. If anything, it’s a lot smarter than what I’m doing. It’s just not what I’m created to write. I’ve got a wandering spirit that resists today’s “rules” of marketing. There’s still enough Hemingway and Carver and Fitzgerald in me to screw up the “what I’m supposed to do” of genre writing and convince me that I can do it all.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” wrote Robert Frost, and I think I finally understand how his way-over-quoted poem relates to my writing life. It means that when faced with the options of doing things the easier, more profitable, more marketable, industry-standard way, I dug in my heels, became obstinate, stuck to my guns, and walked clearly and steadfastly in the other direction.

And I’m cool with that.

Well, I never said I was smart.