Monday, June 14, 2021

Motivational Mondays -- A Genuine Escape


Sunday, June 13, 2021

You Should Be Writing (Thanks, Sean Ali)


Saturday, June 12, 2021

[link] Fandom, Entitlement and the Alt-Right

Well… no evil except casual racism and misogyny, but still….
by Jim MacQuarrie

As a kid, my favorite superheroes were the Flash and Green Lantern. The Flash, because his real power wasn’t super-speed; his speed was a tool he used, but his real power was that he was smart – he outsmarted his opponents. He knew more about scientific principles than they did and he applied his knowledge in clever and creative ways to solve problems that he couldn’t outrun. As a puny little kid who read too much and knew too much random stuff, that resonated with me.

My other favorite, Green Lantern, worked on two levels (three if you count the fantastic art by Gil Kane). First, he had a ring that was functionally magic; if he could think of it, the ring could do it. Second, and more importantly, the ring ran on willpower. He had to bring resolve to the fight, to dig in and hold on and never give up, because if he didn’t, the ring would fail. He kept that willpower up through something completely unique to comics: his daily oath. When he charged up his ring by pressing it to its power battery, he would recite the pledge I quoted at the top. Some writers suggested that he said it as a way of timing the process; the length of time it took to recite the oath was how long it took to charge the ring for another 24 hours. But he could just as easily have sung “I’m a Little Teapot” if it was just about timing. It’s so much more than that.

As I said, the Green Lantern Oath is unique in comics. Superman had a mission statement (“fighting a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way”); Spider-Man had an aphorism (“with great power must also come great responsibility”); Batman had a promise (“I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals”); and Captain America had several thick volumes of inspiring speeches on the nature of freedom and the responsibility to defend it. But only Green Lantern had an ongoing, present-tense pledge that he recited daily.

When my son was a Boy Scout, I found that the Scout Oath and Law were the best thing anyone ever gave a parent. Suddenly I had a checklist of ideals and standards that he promised to uphold, principles he publicly raised his hand and swore to every Monday night, and I held him to them. “A Scout is clean,” I’d say while pointing at a mess he’d made. “A Scout is helpful,” “a Scout is courteous,” and so on, and I believe the reminders about who he was and what he’d promised to become helped to make him the good, kind and decent man he is today.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 11, 2021




Pro Se Productions proudly announces that an anthology years in the making is available in print and digital formats. Originally conceived as a comic concept and appearing in the Shooting Star Comics lineup, this modern pulp hero and her team of adventurers live again in a massive collection of tales from some of today’s best writers-AYM GERONIMO AND THE POSTMODERN PIONEERS: TALL TALES!

Headquartered in the Wonder Wall, a complex carved from a side of the Grand Canyon. the PostModern Pioneers travel to all corners of the globe and undertake dangerous deeds, discover the unknown, defy disasters, and defeat the diabolical using the advanced tools of technology forged by the brilliant mind of Ms. Geronimo and the prodigious skills of her comrades.

With a Preface by Chuck Dixon and all story introductions and character biographies written by AYM Co-Creator J. Morgan Neal, these modern-day tall tales are told by Sean Burnham, Rebecca Upson, Diane Colchamiro, Neil Sarver, Scott E. Hileman, Cliff Roberts, Sarah Beach, Corrina Lawson, Brenda Roberts, Danny Donovan, John David Bock, Bobby Nash, Sean Taylor, Scott McCullar, Tommy Hancock, and Eric Burnham.


Featuring a stunning cover by Co-Creator Todd Fox and cover design and print formatting by Sean Ali, TALL TALES is available in print at for $15.99.

This pulpy anthology is also available on Kindle formatted by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for $2.99 at Kindle Unlimited Members can read these PostModern Pioneering adventures for free!

For more information on this title, interviews with the creators and authors, or digital copies for review, email

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

John L. Taylor: All Art Is Science

John L. Taylor is a recent find from my Facebook friends list. It only seemed fair that you meet him too. I"m just an "a'right, a'right" guy like that. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest work is a self-published collection of poetry and flash fiction called Liber Dulcis Dolorum: The Book of Sweet Sorrows. Its contents are horror and pulp fantasy themed in a vein like Clark Ashton-Smith and features my own Illustrations. It will be available in June as a physical book, With electronic editions coming this summer. 

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

This is complicated, but at the end of high school I realized (and by realized, I mean was informed by career counselors) That my math skills weren't good enough to get me into college for the career in science I was pursuing. Their computer job assessment was that I would be best suited to do car repossessions for the IRS. I literally looked up from the paper and said "** this, I'm doing comics." I learned to draw and had some minor exposure as a newspaper cartoonist in rural Kansas, but couldn't get a break in comics after eight years. People did tell me I was a gifted speaker and storyteller, so I took a correspondence course in creative writing. Afterward, I had some essays and op-ed column's run and won a $250 prize from the Marquette monthly's annual short story contest. But I didn't like the literary fiction style. I grew up reading authors like Edgar  Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and various other pulp authors. In 2014, began writing neo Pulp pieces and had greater success getting published. It's not profitable, but I enjoy it 

What inspires you to write?

A mix of dreamlike fantasy and real-life pain. I'm on the Autism spectrum and was beat to hell by other kids when I was young. My retreat was books of both pulp fiction and books on the paranormal, occult, and science. Dark, pulp fantasy is my comfort zone and I write both for the joy of storytelling some degree of catharsis 

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Many of my themes are opposites, ironically. For adventure, I liken themes of heroes fighting for the people they love against impossible odds. Horror, I do cosmic and body horror with a strong sense of impending doom. See, my family was always close-knit, but very sick. I spent far too much of my life at hospitals and nursing homes. That medical suffering had a great influence on my horror writing. I also love Egyptian, Middle Eastern, and Semitic mythology. I return to those themes constantly. Those cultures aren't well known to modern readers, and increase the sense of the unknown and ancient, as well as a good introduce my readers to near eastern philosophy. 

What would be your dream project?

My dream project would be to write a screenplay for an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft work or remake a cheap 70's movie with a pulp twist. I've not written a screenplay before, but my first writings were comic scripts in screenplay format. I'd love the challenge! Oddly, not many pulp authors did. 

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Most of my influences were literary fiction types like Steinbeck, Hemmingway, and Ray Bradbury (Bradbury is still my favorite author). Some of Lovecraft rubbed off on me in reverse, I hate going adjective happy in descriptions. But if I had a pulp influence, it would be Robert E. Howard. That go-for-the-throat intensity he had -- powerful! 

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

For a do-over, my novella The Rocket Molly Syndicate. When it was being edited, I was asked to make the changes of four beta readers. Those changes pushed the word count to over 12,000 on an anthology that had a stated word count of 8,000. since the changes weren't all my idea, the editors allowed it, but I wound up cutting a scene of character development that made the ending make more sense. I'd edit it to be about six pages longer to fit it in. 

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Is writing an art or science? All art IS science. Writing is to me a trade like any other, learning to engineer sentences. I see drawing like that, too. People often compliment me on only taking three art lessons in my life,  and say they "don't have a natural talent." My answer is: neither do I, because in my mind natural talent doesn't exist only dedication to the craft. I have a disability that affects my fine motor skills. I couldn't tie my own shoes till I was 27, you still don't want to see me play a video game. But I can draw because I put in the effort to compensate for my shortcomings and learn how. Writing was no different. There are principles of grammar, theme, dialogue, and plot that are like a kitchen recipe. Learn to use them and the story inside you comes out. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Time. I do most of my work at night when any other priorities are done with. I don't really sleep at night,  my wife is on me about that all the time. Otherwise, it's more like how do I get the process to stop? I get ideas everywhere, every day, more than I can express. 

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I'm a member of the Marquette Poet's Circle in Marquette, MI. We do regular online open mic events and writing workshops for all written forms. I get free beta readers for some of my short works, both fiction and poetry, and they will promote their member's work for free on their Facebook page. When the Circle did their five-year anthology, I had three pieces run, one was a Pulp Sword and Sorcery poem that was actually compared to Robert E. Howard's style in local magazines. Have a pool of creative people with different voices who believe in each other is an amazing thing 

What does literary success look like to you?

Success to me is connecting with a broad audience. My writings will likely not be highly profitable in my lifetime, but If I was in this for the money, I'd have quit years ago. I want to write someone's favorite story. The one that sticks with them for a lifetime. Staying power is big for me, too. I want to leave something behind when I'm gone that can express my take on themes I cared about for decades to come. I mentioned before I was beaten up a lot as a kid. If those bullies have to someday help their grandkids write a book report on my works, I'll call it even...  

For more information, visit:

That's my online visual arts portfolio and new home of my writings. Some content may be NSFW, but that's my creative hub.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Paris When It Sizzles (part 2)


Yes, I know this is the first movie I've done a second review for. But, trust me, there's just so much to unpack in this classic rom-com. Really. 

The bulk of the movie and the biggest lesson for writers is the one covered in the previous review -- Getting the story out of your head and onto the page is the real work of the writer, and it's also the hard work of the writer. You can't sell what you haven't created yet. An idea is just an idea. A story exists only in a readable format. 

However, that key motiff aside, Paris When It Sizzles has a few other treats in store for us when we examine it. 

A writer's life is a lonely one. In the midst of trying to seduce Audrey Hepburn, William Holden does manage to get one thing honest. Of course, he's just playing it up to tease Hepburn's sensitivities, but it's indicative of Holden's acting that the character is able to convey a subtlety that gives away the truth of his statement. You can't help but see a sort of sadness in his expression as he says the words, and that's why it really plays with Hepburn's feelings. And it's true. No matter how much we may surround ourselves with friends and family, or even other writers when it gets down to it, the thing that takes up the bulk of our lives pulls us away from others and builds the walls to keep us focused on the work. 

The second treat is this one: My Fair Lady is Frankenstein. Or let's put it a different way. There are no original ideas so get over yourself. Just like My Fair Lady is an upper-crust re-telling of Frankenstein and A Thousand Acres (Jane Smiley) is just a farmland re-telling of King Lear, whatever great and original idea you think you have is just your own way of rehashing something that has already been done. (And bought the t-shirt.) But that's okay. Accept it and tell the story you feel you need to tell. Good writers borrow and great writers steal as the axiom goes. So steal to your heart's content. 

Finally, and this one is super important to writers in the genres of adventure or romance or mystery or horror, or -- let's face it -- any genre (and that includes all you fancy pants literary authors who stopped calling yourself writers years ago), learn how to turn your story around when it needs a change. Holden is "coaching" Hepburn and tells her about "switches" -- that part of a story when a sudden change happens to shuffle up the character's status. Then he hits the next one, switches on switches. And so on and so forth, until Audrey Hepburn (admittedly a little drunk at this point in the film) informs the master screenwriter that great stories are simply switches on switches on switches on switches on switches on switches. 

And, by God, she's right! The best stories are those that keep characters moving and growing and changing and learning (which also means the reader is doing all those things as well). Thanks to movies like The Sixth Sense, we're accustomed now to the one BIG SWITCH, so much so that we tend to forget the importance of all the small switches that actually form the story itself. That moment when Rebecca questions the motives of her husband and Manderley. That moment when Lucky in Them realizes ghosts are real and her kids are actually in danger as much from them as from the world outside their door. That moment when Carl Good (Murder Doll) starts to question which woman is being honest with him and which is trying to have him killed. Those are the moments that lead to other moments that lead to other moments that make a story captivating to readers. 

So, yes, Paris When It Sizzles has a lot more to say about the writing life that I remembered it having, and I think most writers would benefit from giving this classic screwball rom-com another (or at least a first) viewing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Harding McFadden: All My Songs Are Protest Songs

Harding McFadden is a Pennsylvania-based scribbler. He is the writer of two Young Adult adventure books, The Great First Impressions Trip and The Children's War (with Chester Haas), a collection of his short fiction, The Judas Hymn, and is a regular contributor to The Libertarian Enterprise online magazine. When not writing, he is reading, and spending as much time as possible with his long-suffering family. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Tons of short stories. I mean tons. Much as I enjoy the heartburn-inducing loveliness of writing a book, even a short one, I find that I’m most at home working on shorter stuff. As such, I’ve got about a half dozen things outlined and ready to be written, to submit with fingers crossed to various anthologies and magazines, as well as another dozen or so either getting written or on the back burner for when my brain is ready to kick them out. Whatever the case or genre, I have a great, good time getting words down on paper. 

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

No specific thing that I can recall. I guess I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. When I was a kid, my cousin took my to the local comic shop and I picked some stuff up, and just fell in. It started me on the road to reading just about anything that could keep my interest. Eventually, I decided to give it a try. My first story was a dreadful little thing called Iron Wreckage, a horrible mess with dragons and knights and robots and God only knows what else. I hope I’ve gotten better since then, but I’ll leave it up to the folks who read my stuff to be the judges. At this point, I write things that I hope my kids will enjoy. They’ve been kind so far, but smart tikes that they are, they’ll move on from my stuff in favor of better horizons. 

What inspires you to write?

Life. Everything that I see or experience or read about gets hodgepodged in my head until its well blended and ready for me to write it. There are scenes in some of my stories that, while they didn’t come exactly from reality, were still influenced by that reality. In the book The Great First Impressions Trip, there’s a death scene that was very hard to write. I’ve never been in the exact situation as the witness in that scene, but as the words were coming out of me I couldn’t shake the feelings that had engulfed me at the death of a particularly close relative. As such, trying to reread the scene now, it chokes me up.  

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Faith. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Fighting for what you feel is right, regardless of odds and repercussions. I saw an interview with Bob Dylan years ago where he said that all his songs are protest songs. I feel pretty much the same way. I have a defined sense of right and wrong, and addressing both is a very big motivating factor in most things that I write. I try to be a nice guy, and in general I try not to let my stuff get bogged down in preaching, but anyone who’s read my longer stuff knows where I stand on things. 

What would be your dream project?

I don’t have an answer for this. Anything that I write and don’t hate is a dream come true. I suppose a dream project would be something that could be seen only in retrospect: something that I write, that one of my kids thinks is the greatest thing ever written. That’d be beyond cool.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Heinlein, first and foremost. His work did more than change my take on storytelling, it changed my life, set it on a path that I’ve tried never to diverge from. Bradbury would be another. I’ve been accused of writing with flowery prose. I don’t see it, but whatever. If it’s true, it’s because of the countless hours that I’ve spent, and still spend, reading Bradbury’s beautiful, poetic words. Add to that personal giants like L. Neil Smith, Victor Koman, Herman Wouk, and recent discoveries like Bill Webb, and you can get a feel for where my brain’s at. And I’d be crap if I didn’t add Chuck Dixon and Mike Baron to this list. I’ve never read any other writers whose sole goal seems to be pure entertainment. Every word is a joy. Second to none. 

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Sad to admit it, but the first book, The Children’s War. I still like it, and I’m proud that we managed to get it done, but there are a lot of places where I look at it, and think, “Wow, I could have done that better.” That being said, I still enjoy it, but I’m my own worst critic: all I see are the worts. Something that I did manage to change for the better would be a short story, “Casual Blasphemies,” published in The Idolaters of Cthulhu a few years back. The thing was written in a rush, so there was no time to revise or smooth out. When I read it in the collection, I was practically reading it for the first time. It trucked along just fine, until a paragraph in the center ruined it for me. Before and after that paragraph the story was quiet, kind of subtle. I still enjoy the atmosphere. But that one paragraph was too graphic for the story it was in, and as such ticked me off. When I was putting together the collection of my shorter stuff, The Judas Hymn, I chucked the paragraph and put in something quieter. Managed to save the whole story for me, even if it did drop about 100 words from the manuscript. 

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Neither, and both. Saying that it’s an art feels like making it something mystical or magical; likewise saying that it’s a science is just too dry. In truth, it’s a job. Whether you’re selling or not, you’re writing to get a point across. You sit down at your typewriter or computer or pad of paper, and you empty your mind out on it. Take it seriously, by all means, but don’t attempt to make it into something God-like, or make yourself out to be the Einstein of fiction. Do your job, do it well, but never make the mistake of thinking that you’ll be that one in a hundred million folks whose words can change someone’s world. You’re a guide: be a good one.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Getting it done. I write a bit every day. Hardly ever more than 1,000 words a day, but at least that many. If I try to force it, everything turns to crap. To avoid this, I’ll think about what I want to write for hours, getting my thousand-sh words down in my head to just about what I want, then typing them up. If I get more than that, the more’s the better. Sometimes things explode unexpectedly. A few weeks back, I managed to get a short story that I’d co-written with my oldest into the upcoming issue of Airship 27’s Mystery Man (& Women). There were many technical delays, so much so that I was finishing the thing up months after I’d wanted. Though in those months, I’d managed to flesh out the story in my head to the point of knocking out the final 10,000 words in about two days. I haven’t been that productive since I was 18, and a terrible, hallucinatory flue allowed me to get 20,000 words in two days. Unsellable garbage, but it was there. 

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

Honestly, I’ve only got one friend who’s also a writer: Chester Haas, who wrote The Children’s War with me. We ship stories back and forth, but that’s about it. Facebook and other social media outlets have allowed me to come into contact with other folks that I read, but that’s different. With them, it’s more along the lines of reading something they’ve written, and thinking to myself, “Dang, that was good!” Then I get back to my own stuff, and hope that someone, somewhere will have the same kind of reaction that I just did, only about my words.

What does literary success look like to you?

Being able to live comfortably off my writing income. That’s it. No world fame or large contracts, or anything like that. Just making enough cash from what I write to sustain comfortably. That’d be nice.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Sure: as previously stated, I’ve got a new short coming out in Mystery Men (& Women) #7. I’m more excited about it than about anything other than that first sale. It’s my daughter’s first published story, and I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she gets to hold a copy in her hands. I couldn’t be prouder. 

For more information, visit: 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

[LInk] Writer Needs: An Island, a Tower, and a Cat

by Dana Mentink

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Um, bleed, Mr. Hemingway? Those are not words that inspire the creative spirit. Granted, we all aren’t penning Nobel Prize-worthy fiction, but there must be something the aspiring writer can take away from the life of this literary icon, aside from the need to give up a pint or two of our life’s blood.

When I think of Hemingway, it takes me to a tropical island which is deeply entwined with my own family’s experience. Instead of bleeding onto the page, let’s take a little jaunt over to Cuba, climb up a tower, and hang out with some cats, why don’t we? Here’s the first inspiration from Hemingway’s tropical lifestyle.

Find yourself an island. Lovingly known as ‘Papa’ to the Cuban people, Hemingway moved to the island in 1940 and stayed there for twenty years. My father and mother both shared the same island home. Dad’s father, born in Guantanamo, moved the family from Central Ermita to Matahambre to Santa Lucia as his work shifted from the sugar mills to the copper mine. Like Hemingway, my parents basked in the exceptional warmth of the Cuban people, the beauty of a Caribbean paradise. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect locale for a writer to pen that magnum opus?

But nothing is perfect, is it? Suddenly there was Castro and the beautiful things were stripped away until all that was left for my father’s family was the contents of their suitcases as they fled the revolution, my mother’s side having escaped a bit earlier. Hemingway left his island home too, never to return, dying by his own hand in Idaho a year later.

So what if that idyllic writing locale is not to be? Then we must find a more mundane place for our dreams and stories. For my parents, it led them to the golden California sunshine. This noisy suburbia is home for me too, no sand, no surf, just traffic and leaf blowers, but the words get written just the same. No island, no problem. Life is a series of adjustments, after all.

Read the full article:

Saturday, June 5, 2021

[Link] Yes, Steinbeck Wrote a Werewolf Novel. Don’t Expect to Read It.

A scholar of American literature at Stanford says it’s worth publishing. The agents representing the Steinbeck estate strongly disagree. 

by Heather Murphy

Nine years before John Steinbeck published his Pulitzer Prize-winning historical masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath,” he was working on a lighthearted detective novel featuring a werewolf.

The manuscript, “Murder at Full Moon,” was completed in 1930 but was never published. A single copy has been sitting, mostly forgotten, in an archive in Texas since 1969. It includes drawings by Steinbeck himself.

A scholar of American literature at Stanford University is pushing for the book to be published, but the agents for Steinbeck’s estate vehemently refused this week, after the effort was featured in The Guardian.

The professor, Gavin Jones, is undeterred. He dug “Murder at Full Moon” out of the archive at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin while working on a book about Steinbeck. “I’d love to see it published,” he said.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 4, 2021




Known for her unique work in various genres, author Kimberly Richardson invites other authors into a corner of her imagination with an open submission call for PURGATORY, an anthology to be a part of KIMBERLY RICHARDSON’S PULP GOTHIC author imprint with Pro Se Productions.

Dr. Wellington Stanford IV is the new head doctor assigned to Purgatory, a mental institution located in a small town in England named Wytchewood during the late Victorian/Early Edwardian era. The Doctor arrives to Purgatory and notices that all is not what it seems: patients are dressed in clothing from all periods of time (Ancient, Medieval, even futuristic) and they tell him that they were not meant to be at the facility. Also, the town area appears to be in a perpetual state of Summer turning to Autumn. The leaves that fall to the ground one day are found to be on the trees the next day. None of the patients ever have visitors.

There are nine nurses and they keep to themselves when they are not taking care of the patients. They range in age and size, yet they all share one thing in common - they all have brilliant blue eyes. When one of them looks at someone, that person feels something tugging deep within them. One patient ranted that the nurses were witches who met outside in the night to plan their activities. Dr. Stanford believes none of it, since he is a man of reason and science. However, the Doctor does hear the sound of a flute every night.

The patients suddenly appear at the entrance with no baggage, yet they have a look of terror and wonder when the doors to Purgatory suddenly appear before them. The patients are male and female, with some children as well, though it’s the children that look the most haunted.

Are You ready to enter Purgatory?

Writers wanting to make proposals should request the anthology bible by email to Proposals should be a minimum of three paragraphs and should be written outlining the full story. This anthology is designed for six stories, each story being 5,000 words in length. If the proposal is accepted, the story will be due within 90 days of acceptance. With that being said, the volume WILL NOT BE SUBMITTED FOR EDITING OR SCHEDULED FOR PUBLISHING until the volume is full based on number of accepted proposals, not completed stories. Payment will be royalty-based.

Check out Pro Se Productions at Follow Pro Se on Facebook at

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Getting to Know... Austin S. Camacho

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My most recent novel, The Wrong Kind, is the seventh starring African-American private eye, Hannibal Jones. In it, a distraught woman hires Jones to track down her daughter who has run away, trying to escape the homeless shelter life her mother has come to accept. No sooner has Hannibal found Connie Blanco than he finds himself entwined in a gang war and a murder. The corpse is barely cold before a second murder follows and Hannibal finds himself entangled in a complex plot, and the mastermind is NONE of the people you suspect.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

Funny story. I’m a lifelong mystery fan. One day I was reading a novel and halfway thru it I knew everything that was going to happen. I commented aloud, “I could do better than this!” My wife gave me that look and said, “sure you could.” That debate became a challenge, and I actually set out to write a book to prove her wrong. The result was The Troubleshooter.

What inspires you to write?

Two things. First, every time I watch the news I play this “what if” game where I look at the story and think of an alternate set of facts that would result in the same evidence we see. (Cop publicly kills a citizen – but maybe he was paid to kill him cuz the citizen is really a spy... OR maybe someone has the cop’s family hostage forcing him to do this… OR…) The other thing is, I read other authors and think, “I want to learn to be THIS good!”

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Mysteries are all about motivations. I like to explore what drives rich people do to what they do, as opposed to what drives the rest of us. I like to look at life for outsiders (Hannibal is mixed race so he doesn’t really fit in anywhere.) And I like to look at good things that might look like bad things. (For example, Hannibal thinks he’s chivalrous but others may see him as chauvinist.)

What would be your dream project?

I would love to work on a screenplay - with an experienced screenwriter – to create a Hannibal Jones TV show starring Shemar Moore.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Raymond Chandler’s prose. Ross MacDonald for plots. Elmore Leonard for characters. Walter Mosley for social context.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

When I re-read my first novel, The Troubleshooter, there are places where I cringe at word choices, transitions, some of the dialog feels dated… my more recent work is just smoother. And I know the characters better. I’d go back and totally rewrite it.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Storytelling is an art form, yes, but writing is primarily about technique. Talent is all you need to come up with a good story, but TELLING a story well, that’s a craft you have to hone with study and practice, and reading the greats to figure out how they made you react the way they wanted to. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The hardest part for me is pacing. When events are racing I want to race. And when I have an important clue to drop, I need to surround it with distractions. You can’t skip over the quiet times and you can’t rush thru the exciting times. To create suspense you have to hold back when you want to jump ahead. All of that is very hard.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

Two ways. First, I’m part of a very talented critique group. Targeted critique from writers I consider my peers or betters is invaluable. Also, other authors give me much-needed inspiration. When I attend a conference and am surrounded by authors it recharges my batteries and drives me back to the keyboard. I helped start the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con primarily for the networking and fellowship it provides. 

What does literary success look like to you?

True success would come in three parts. 1. A hundred thousand people reading one of my novels. 2. Authors I admire telling me they like my work (this one I’ve got.) 3. Seeing any of my characters on the screen. 

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Although my agent is currently shopping a novel with a new character, a female urban assassin, and I’m working on the next Hannibal Jones mystery, my focus is really on the 8th Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con in September. A 3-day affair with Hank Phillippi Ryan and Sherrilyn Kenyon as keynotes, this thing has a lot of moving parts but If you’re a writer or an avid reader, you should make plans to be there this year! (

For more information, visit:

Readers can learn more about my work on my website or check me out on Facebook.  And everyone is welcome to send me a note or ask questions at especially if you’d like to join a meeting of your book club – I can be anywhere through Zoom.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Paris When It Sizzles

There's a huge difference between the story in your head pre-formed and the actual work of getting it down onto paper or in a digital file. That's the premise this screwball comedy with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden is based on. 

Holden is a screenwriter down to the wire with only days to turn in a full 138-page script he hasn't even started writing other than seeing a vague outline of a story in his head called The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower. Audrey Hepburn is his typist who is both bewildered and entranced by the way Holden approaches his craft (or avoids the business end of it in particular). As Holden creates the story, and then re-creates it over and over, the scene plays out as described featuring Tony Curtis as the foil boyfriend for Hepburn's leading lady. As the story grows and changes, the romance blossoms (because this is old-school Hollywood after all). And there's your plot. 

But you know from my reviews, that's not what I looking into here. 

So, just what does Paris When It Sizzles actually have to say about writing via this zany rom-com from the bygone days of Hollywood's classic flicks?

I think the movie lays out it premise clearly in the scene where Holden and Hepburn meet. After a little bit of flirty wit between the two, she asked point-blank where is the script she is supposed to type for him. He immediately grabs a stack of blank paper and proceeds to place plain, white sheets all over the flat, one at a time, as he describes scene after scene: opening scene, a girl in black on the Eiffel Tower, the girl and the man meet, they fall in love, then BAM!, tension when an obstacle occurs, the girl leaves, the whole romance shifts to the other foot, a cat drenched in the rain, and then the studio-rent-paying, popcorn selling kiss before the movies fades out. 

While the sudden kiss leaves Hepburn fluttering, she's not fooled by his act of literary bravado. Instead, she gathers her wits, and basically says, "So you haven't actually written any of it?"

To which, Holden describes his normal process of drinking and partying and gambling 98 percent of his contracted time away and then banging out a script in the last few days, one that he's ultimately unhappy with, but lets the paycheck soothe his unsatisfied writer's conscience. 

This is where the relationship between the two really shines. The imagined stories tell the real plot of a budding romance, hidden between spies, vampires, the Old West, almost anything the viewer could imagine. This is where the hard work of writing the script is done, one idea after another, editing and re-editing, throwing ideas away and replacing them with other (sometimes better, sometimes not) ideas. And this is the "moral" for us as writers when we watch this fun little flick -- ideas are gold, but getting them out, that's where the story actually happens. The hard work, the writing things down, the knocking around of ideas (sometimes even off another person), that stuff is platinum to an idea's gold. 

Even for lazy writers who waste 98 percent of their schedule. (Maybe especially so.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Don't Tell the Truth -- The Key to Intriguing Stories

For our next roundtable, let's talk about the importance of lying to your readers. No, no you as a writer, but your characters lying. 

Perhaps the easiest genre to realize that some of your characters (or maybe all) need to be untruthful is the mystery genre, whether hard-boiled, cozy, procedural, urban fantasy, whatever. All genres, however, can benefit from dishonest characters, from Victorian adventure (think about Dicken's characters) to romantic leads the reader is supposed to root for? Why are dishonest characters so necessary?

Raymond Embrack: I am liking making the hero a liar to add imperfections. And when he is caught in a lie he goes "Clearly I lied. Bullshit is a tool for experts."

Marian Allen: Dishonest characters add another obstacle to the characters' journey through the story arc and another source of conflict/tension. The most intense way to handle this is to have the reader know something another character doesn't know. Prime example: in Breaking Bad, when Walt skirts around telling Jesse about Jane. The viewer is in agony, yelling at the screen, "Don't! Don't tell!"

Gordon Dymowski: Dishonest characters provide great complications to a story. Regardless of genre, having someone either hold the cards close to their chest and/or being outright deceptive provides a greater opportunity for storytelling. If every character in a story were completely honest, most stories would simply be laundry lists of events. Dishonesty provides for richer storytelling and greater potential for building atmosphere.

Sean Taylor: For me, dishonest characters are a must, as everyone my MCs encounter is out for something and they tend to keep that something close to the vest, as the saying goes. Nobody dishes out all the info in a first pass, and that's what keeps my protagonists having to search for what's really happening in the story. Anything less would be boring for the reader. 

John French: In the first story in one of my first books (Past Sins) the CSI narrator is told "Everyone lies). Even the one character who does not lie manages to shade things by telling literal truths. The thing is, to me at least, that it is important that the writers not lie to their readers. They can omit, they can distract, but they can't tell them and out and out lie. And therein lies the writing.

What are some efficient and effective ways to work dishonesty into the mouths of your characters, both those readers aren't supposed to like and those they are supposed to really love? 

Gordon Dymowski: One way of establishing a character's dishonesty is by establishing inconsistencies between what they say and what happens - in Columbo, the title character never breaks the case with an insight; it's by pointing out the inconsistencies with a slightly annoying sense of detail. (Or the "just one more thing" factor). Another is through showing how distorted a character's thinking has become - many of Jim Thompson's novels (like THE KILLER INSIDE ME or SAVAGE NIGHT) provide both the lead character's perspective as well as how that perspective may be slightly skewed in the wrong direction.

Marian Allen: If you tell your story in third person, you can show characters experience things, then let them lie or omit important things. If it's first person, you can give them a "tell" that lets your point-of-view character know they're being dishonest, or have what they say contradict what somebody else says. There's also the case of characters who leave things out because they don't think it's important or assume somebody else has told or that the person they're talking to already knows. (House: "Everybody lies.")

Sean Taylor: Having little things change in the repeating of a story or subtle details be different from person to person. That's a trick I learned from Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books. It's not the big lies that usually get people caught. It's the little ones that they can't keep all the moving parts straight about. 

The reverse downside to dishonest characters being suddenly found out or admitting their lies can be that the reader feels cheated (particularly in a mystery). The more natural it fits the character, the better. What are some tidbits you're learned to keep readers from feeling cheated at a sudden discovery or lie found out?

Marian Allen: You have to lay the groundwork. You have to let the reader know the situation and characters so well that, when a revelation comes, the reader goes, "WHAT? WHAT? ...Oh, of COURSE A would lie about that to B!" Or, "Naturally, she was lying. She couldn't tell the truth if you paid her to."

Gordon Dymowski: Shading a lie with some elements of truth can help ease the reader into accepting that a character has been dishonest. Avoiding the cliches of the "big reveal" (Non-spoiler: read THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD for an example of how *not* to do this) can make accepting the truth easier. In my novella "A Town Called Malice" for MASKED RIDER VOL. 3, I hid the 'big reveal" beneath layers of duplicity, as well as by focusing on an "obvious" antagonist to hamper the story. (Both the obvious and 'real' antagonists were dishonest; one just served as a kind of MacGuffin)

John French: (To paraphrase) There are lies. There are damned lies. And there is misdirection. In fiction, just as in real life, people lie., especially in mystery fiction. Suspects lie to the police, police lie to suspects, etc. I think the key is to let the reader know when someone MIGHT be lying. 

Sean Taylor: Like I said earlier, drop in enough hints through either characterization (i.e., you expect this lout to lie simply because he's a lout) or through subtle details changing in a character's story. Of course, you can always flip this too and have the lout be completely honest against type. 

Emily Leverett: I think readers have to know the lie was spottable. I mean, it can't just be "and then this totally surprising thing is revealed, that there was no way to even guess at happening!" That leaves us feeling cheated. I think one of the best examples is still the Sixth Sense. You're given everything you need to know--even told straight up--what's going on, and most people (me included) are good little movie watchers, and fill in all the blanks, but we fill them in incorrectly, because the film knows how most folks watch movies, and holds that against them. The main character isn't quite lying--except in the sense that he's lying to himself and refusing to acknowledge that he's dead. There are SO MANY chances for the audience to figure it out.

Sunday, May 30, 2021


by Eileen Gonzalez

“Sometimes, it’s nice to watch something simplistic,” a relative of mine remarked after we had rewatched The Harvey Girls, a 1946 movie musical starring Judy Garland. This comment caught me by surprise, because I didn’t view The Harvey Girls as simplistic at all. Its emphasis on marriage as a (good) woman’s ultimate goal, its villainous depiction of women who are not as devout and virginal as the Harvey Girls, and its reverse Grease ending all promote a particular kind of message that was sanitized and approved by a particular kind of person for a particular kind of audience.

I could go on about the social messages in classic Hollywood musicals, but since this is Book Riot and not Movie Riot (for the record, I would totally write for Movie Riot, too), let’s shift the conversation to another medium that people often think of as “simplistic.”

In some ways, comic books have gotten progressively more complex since they first assumed modern form in the late 1930s. They learned to tackle more serious subject matter and built up an ever larger, ever more convoluted continuity. In the ’60s, if I said I read X-Men comics, you’d know immediately which book I meant: X-Men. Now, I could mean X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force, X-Men Gold, X-Men Blue, New Mutants, and probably some other teams I’m forgetting. Meanwhile, if I try to find a particular Hawkeye comic, I am confronted with Hawkeye, All-New Hawkeye, the other All-New Hawkeye, the other Hawkeye…you get the picture.

So, yes, the comic book industry was more straightforward back then. So were the comics. But they are simplistic in the same way The Harvey Girls is: lots of bright colors and fluff to make the social norms go down.

Whenever a hero meets an alien race, that race is generally either monstrous or white people. The Skrulls and the Kree, Marvel’s best-known alien rivalry, exemplify this. The Skrulls are lizard-like creatures with pointed ears and green skin; the Kree look like suburban dads in Star Trek cosplay. Earth’s future was depicted in the same way: when Superboy travels to the far future with the Legion of Super-Heroes for the first time, they meet nothing but white people and generally act like this is an episode of Leave It to Beaver. They even take him to an easily recognizable ice cream parlor, for crying out loud.

Read the full article:

Saturday, May 29, 2021


by Jack Mackenzie

Hey. Get in. We’re going for a ride.

No, don’t worry. We’re not going far. I’ll have you back before dinner.

So, I hear you’re writing a book? What’s it about? No, wait… don’t tell me… No. Really. Don’t tell me. Don’t care. I got my own books to write.

What I want to do is give you some straight talk about writing a book in this day and age. You’re probably not going to like it but you need to know it.

The first thing that you have to know is that no one wants to read your crappy book.

Mean? You think I’m being mean? I’m trying to help you. Sit back and listen for a minute, will you?

First off, here are the cold hard facts. It’s estimated that fewer than 1000 fiction writers in North America make a living from their writing. And I’m being generous at 1000. I’ve read some estimates that put that number at only 300. That’s out of around 45,000 writers and authors working in the United States alone. That’s .6 percent… not six percent but POINT six percent… less than 1 percent… of all writers.

Ahh, what the heck! I’m feeling generous. If the number actually is 1000 writers making a living at writing, that’s 2%.

Well, Okay, you have a better chance of making a living as a writer than winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning, true, but, those are still some slim odds.

Yes, I know, there was a time when writers who churned out short novels on a regular basis could make a living Not a great living, to be sure, and, yes, they would occasionally have to churn out some cheap porn novels under a pseudonym to make ends meet.

You think I’m joking? Have you ever heard of Loren Beauchamp? She was the author of such sleazy paperbacks as Campus Sex Club, Unwilling Sinner, and Strange Delights. She was also the pseudonym of science fiction author Robert Silverberg. I kid you not! Look it up.

My point is that it has never been easy making a living as a writer. Few authors could do it, even in the so-called “Golden Age” of the paperbacks after the death of the pulp magazines. They needed day jobs or, like Mr. Silverberg, they needed to wear a mask and turn to the dark side.

Read the full article:

Friday, May 28, 2021




Words mean nothing in a land where bullets fly and red blood flows. And even bullets don’t kill like the red sun does. Author E. W. Farnsworth returns to the wild west with his latest story collection from Pro Se Press-DESERT SUN RED BLOOD II, available now in print and digital formats.

Ben Dauber continues to fight his way through the west as a reporter, taking on injustice and evil from all sides. The sinister machinations of the railroad combine, Dauber finds, extend to the highest levels of American government. Fortunately, Naud Dauber, Ben’s wealthy mother, can help when powerful figures try to silence the young reporter on the fast track to modernize the frontier press. Gunfights, fisticuffs, ambushes, bushwhacks, skirmishes and intrigue erupt on both sides of the Indian Wars. Action rides hard from Mexico to the Rocky Mountains across the west in Desert Sun, Red Blood Volume Two by author E. W. Farnsworth. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic cover, cover design and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, DESERT SUN RED BLOOD II is available in print at for $12.99.

The second book in this western series is also available on Kindle formatted by Iacono and Marina for $2.99 at Kindle Unlimited Members can read Farnsworth’s latest stories for free!

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Teel James Glenn and the Wonderful Balderdash

Teel James Glenn is one of those folks who has done about everything creative. I mean, the dude has all the following in his CV: Author, Actor, Stuntman, Stunt Choreography. So, take a like like that, dump into out of his brain and into a word processor, and what you get is some of the finest fiction out today. So, it was only right that he got his time in the hot seat here at the blog. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

The Chronicles of the Skullmask is out in May from Bold Venture Press.

It is a collection of tales about an occult item— the Skullmask— that shows up when a person has suffered some horrible loss or injustice. The Skullmask gives them the opportunity for ‘Just Vengeance’ then disappears… So the Skullmask is really many people —passing from victim to victim to allow them to be the hero in their own story.

The stories are written in the tradition of the shudder pulps but span the gamut from western to military, to gangster to voodoo stories all with a horror/adventure tint.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I was a sickly child, however, and books and old films were the things that allowed me to escape and gave me hope and that fueled my imagination to daydream. I just never stopped.

I have always been a storyteller in every profession I’ve had from actor to teacher, stuntman, haunted house barker to illustrator so it has always been with me. 

What inspires you to write?

Honestly, I could not tell you exactly —I just know that when I create characters I have a desire to experience their adventures vicariously—I often think I am just writing down their lives even more than telling a story.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Honor, friendship. Many of my characters are struggling with personal issues but comrades always help. I also tend to write characters doing the right thing because it is the right thing—no for the ‘anti-hero’ self-help reasons of so much modern fiction.

What would be your dream project?

That is so hard to answer— there are so many of the literary icons that inspired me that I once dreamed of writing—Conan, Tarzan, John Carter, The Phantom, Zorro, Doc Savage—but they are now being written by others. Somehow that makes them less of a dream (but yes—I would still jump at the chance—lol).

My fantasy series The Chronicles of Altiva is finally coming into print again after a long hiatus and in many ways, they have been where my heart lies…

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

The ’trinity is Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Robert E. Howard. But close on them are Peter O’Donnell, Mickey Spillane, Dashiel Hammett, Richard Matheson, and Poe were all there for me and stay with me still…

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

There are a couple of books I am still fighting to get right back from zombie companies that I’d like to breathe new life into but I always think my next story will be the better one— 

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Edgar Rice Burroughs described what he did as “Wonderful balderdash” and I aspire to that— I want it to be exciting and fun, with maybe a smidge of positive message in it. I think if you carry your message too heavily it kills the joy (even the scary stuff). Stories can change people, inspire them, motivate them—give them comfort. I hope to do all that because the stories I read in my youth did that for me.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Deciding which project to do next— because I write in so many genres I keep it fresh by switching up stories it sometimes takes a day or two of sort of staring at the screen for my inner storyteller to get movement in the right direction.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I have a prime beta reader who herself is a very good writer and editor and a weekly writing group I attend online. Between these members of my ‘tribe/writing family’, they have improved me and allowed me to grow as a writer enormously. Their feedback and insights allow me to improve exponentially as a writer. 

What is wonderful is that they ‘get me’ and don’t try to change what I do— they help it become more my voice—more cleanly worded and deeply realized. I can not say enough about Carol, Nancy, Lee, Jamie, and Wayne enough. Any success I ever have going forward I will always owe some of it to them.

What does literary success look like to you?

Knowing I can keep writing and that what I write reaches people and matters to them. Oodles of money would not hurt, but really just knowing my stories have homes— preferably before I even write them (as in selling them to a publisher on an outline or synopsis)— would make me feel pretty special.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

The first book in my Jon Shadows series Killing Shadows just came out from Airship27 Productions. It is a thriller series about a modern-day adventurer in the mold of The Saint but with a martial arts twist. A second will be out by the end of the year and I hope there will be more to come.

And the sequel to A Cowboy in Carpathia from Pro Se Production (which just won the Pulp Factory Best Novel award) is on the way also later this year. 

For more information, visit:

My website is and my books are on Amazon and elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Stories We Tell

While technically Stories We Tell isn't a movie about a writer (instead an actor), it is 100 percent a movie about storytelling, and that is part and parcel of the writer's craft. 

In this amazing documentary Sarah Polley tries to make sense of her family history in a sort of Rashomon style by interview, well, more like interrogating her family and letting viewers settle the "mystery" of it all in their own minds, sort of like Poirot not having the big reveal scene. And it works. Tremendously. 

The movie begins with this quote from Margaret Atwood: 

"When you're in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all but rather a confusion, a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood, like a house in a whirlwind or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard are powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all, when you're telling it to yourself or someone else."

The opening scene itself is a bit of a reveal as well, as Polley's dad, Michael, walks very slowly upstairs to record his own voice-over for the film. The things he reveals make almost no sense until the unfolding of the film itself, and that's completely intentional. 

If the theme of Stories We Tell is anything, it's this:

Stories don't make sense at the beginning. They only make sense in the act of telling and in the act of looking back, and even then, it's all pieces and parts (thank you Rashomon) and open to interpretation. 

The same holds true for my work and yours. As writers, no one story tells the full scope of our work. No one novel can be condensed into our quintessential piece. That's the work of reviewers and scholars to decide and argue about. Not ours. 

Just as Polley's story only makes any semblance of sense in total by looking back, our stories only tell who we are as writers by looking back and seeing how they all mess together as a sort of literary DNA. And that's okay because that means that story we really feel we flubbed big time doesn't ultimately matter. It's just a single strand of our story. But it also means that the big story we love so much doesn't hold any additional weight in our ultimate story either. It too is just a single strand. 

Another item from the film that caught me was this bit from Polley's sister, Sarah: 

"I guess I have this instinct of who cares about our family... but I think it is interesting to look at this one thing that happened and how it's refracted in so many different ways."

I can't tell you how often I hear writers question their work by saying something along these lines: "I don't know why this would be interesting to anyone, but..." In other words, "Who cares about our family?" And again, the trick is to remember that no individual strand is the measuring stick of your body of work. It's the sum total of the work, i.e., "how it's refracted in so many different ways."

If we only accepted C.S. Lewis as "that Narnia guy" we wouldn't have his Till We Have Faces or A Grief Observed. If we only accepted Ed McBain as the 87 Precinct writer, we wouldn't have Matthew Hope. Sure, the publishers will always tell you to produce more of that one line that sells (and it's never a bad thing to get more Easy Rawlins, of course), but that's never the only strand in a writer's body of work, nor should it be.