Monday, June 18, 2018

#MotivationalMonday -- Crappy Beats Nothing

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.

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,"

"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

Saturday, June 16, 2018


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. 

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


Friday, June 15, 2018



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

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

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,

Tuesday, June 12, 2018



(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

Sunday, June 10, 2018



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

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

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.

Friday, June 8, 2018


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.


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.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Submissions for Alban Lake's Anthology THE CITY IN THE ICE

Reminder post: CLOSING SOON. Alban Lake Publishing call for Lovecraftian fiction for the upcoming "The City in the Ice" anthology. 3000-7500 words, $25/story, deadline June 30, 2018. Details available at


There are very few places left in this world that haven’t been explored, mapped, and inhabited. The majority of the surface of the earth is known down to the millimeter. However, a few mysteries do remain. The depths of the oceans evade discovery simply because of their inaccessibility. Likewise, the icy stretches of the last great continent that continues to resist human knowledge: Antarctica. Recent archeological finds confirm that Antarctica was once at least temperate if not subtropical millennia ago. Various authors have recounted, through their fictions, stories relayed to them by survivors of the few successful forays into the icy continent’s heart. In 1819, the San Telmo, a Spanish ship of the line, was lost off the coast of Antarctica with all 644 aboard. Since then, tales have surfaced in rumor, fiction, and legend about the terrors haunting the vast wasteland surrounding the nether pole of the world.

The place was one of singular wildness, and its aspect brought to my mind the descriptions given by travellers of those dreary regions marking the site of degraded Babylon. Not to speak of the ruins of the disruptured cliff, which formed a chaotic barrier in the vista to the northward, the surface of the ground in every other direction was strewn with huge tumuli, apparently the wreck of some gigantic structures of art; although, in detail, no semblance of art could be detected. Scoria were abundant, and large shapeless blocks of the black granite, intermingled with others of marl, and both granulated with metal. Of vegetation there were no traces whatsoever throughout the whole of the desolate area within sight. Several immense scorpions were seen, and various reptiles not elsewhere to be found in the high latitudes.

from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)

…I beheld a schooner-rigged vessel lying in a sort of cradle of ice, stern-on to the sea. A man bulked out with frozen snow, so as to make his shape as great as a bear, leaned upon the rail with a slight upwards inclination of his head, as though he were in the act of looking fully up to hail me…and the instant I saw him I knew him to be dead. He was the only figure visible. The whole body of the vessel was frosted by the snow into the glassy aspect of the spars and rigging, and the sunshine striking down made a beautiful prismatic picture of the silent ship.

She was a very old craft. The snow had moulded itself upon her and enlarged without spoiling her form. I found her age in the structure of her bows, the headboards of which curved very low round to the top of the stem, forming a kind of well there, the after-part of which was framed by the forecastle bulkhead, after the fashion of ship-building in vogue in the reign of Anne and the first two Georges. Her topmasts were standing, but her jibboom was rigged in. I could find no other evidence of her people having snugged her for these winter quarters, in which she had been manifestly lying for years and years. I traced the outlines of six small cannons covered with snow, but resting with clean-sculptured forms in their white coats; a considerable piece of ordnance aft, and several petararoes or swivel-pieces upon the after-bulwark rails. Gaffs and booms were in their places, and the sails furled upon them. The figuration of the main hatch showed a small square, and there was a companion or hatch-cover abaft the mainmast. There was no trace of a boat. She had a flush or level deck from the well in the bows to a fathom or so past the main-shrouds; it was then broken by a short poop-deck, which went in a great spring or rise to the stern, that was after the pink style, very narrow and tall.
Though I write this description coldly, let it not be supposed that I was not violently agitated and astonished almost into the belief that what I beheld was a mere vision, a phenomenon. The sight of the body I examined did not nearly so greatly astound me as the spectacle of this ice-locked schooner. It was easy to account for the presence of a dead man… But the ship, perfect in all respects, was like a stroke of magic.

from The Frozen Pirate, William Clark Russell (1887)

…we beheld on the distant horizon ahead the spires of a mighty city; and the bearded man said to me: “This is Thalarion, the City of a Thousand Wonders, wherein reside all those mysteries that man has striven in vain to fathom.” And I looked again, at closer range, and saw that the city was greater than any city I had known or dreamed of before. Into the sky the spires of its temples reached, so that no man might behold their peaks; and far back beyond the horizon stretched the grim, grey walls, over which one might spy only a few roofs, weird and ominous, yet adorned with rich friezes and alluring sculptures. I yearned mightily to enter this fascinating yet repellent city, and besought the bearded man to land me at the stone pier by the huge carven gate Akariel; but he gently denied my wish, saying: “Into Thalarion, the City of a Thousand Wonders, many have passed but none returned. Therein walk only daemons and mad things that are no longer men, and the streets are white with the unburied bones of those who have looked upon the eidolon Lathi, that reigns over the city.”

from The White Ship, H.P. Lovecraft (1919)

For this place could be no ordinary city. It must have formed the primary nucleus and center of some archaic and unbelievable chapter of earth’s history whose outward ramifications, recalled only dimly in the most obscure and distorted myths, had vanished utterly amidst the chaos of terrene convulsions long before any human race we know had shambled out of apedom. Here sprawled a Palaeogaean megalopolis compared with which the fabled Atlantis and Lemuria, Commoriom and Uzuldaroum, and Olathoë in the land of Lomar, are recent things of today—not even of yesterday; a megalopolis ranking with such whispered pre-human blasphemies as Valusia, R’lyeh, Ib in the land of Mnar, and the Nameless city of Arabia Deserta. As we flew above that tangle of stark titan towers my imagination sometimes escaped all bounds and roved aimlessly in realms of fantastic associations—even weaving links betwixt this lost world and some of my own wildest dreams concerning the mad horror at the camp.

from At the Mountains of Madness, H. P. Lovecraft (1931)

Ideas that something still lies waiting to be discovered in the wilds of the last continent run rife. We explore the real and unreal in this volume, fiction and fact, as hard as they are to separate in the miasma of mystery that surrounds the City in the Ice.

A (fictional) British polar expedition discovers a rift in the Antarctic ice after a massive earthquake, revealing the ruins of a city designed by something other than humans. A single survivor of the expedition is found wandering the coast by a passing ship, nearly dead and totally insane.

A (fictional) British expedition is sent to determine the fate of the 1900 expedition. None return.

A second (fictional) British expedition is sent to determine the fate of the two previous expeditions. A single survivor relates what was found – a city in the ice, the remains of the previous expeditions – but the survivor is later found dead under mysterious circumstances, the body mutilated almost beyond recognition.

A (fictional) British survey expedition observes what appears to be a glacier of blood pouring into the sea off the Antarctic coast. Investigation reveals a huge cavern entrance. The ship is later found drifting at sea without a crew. The ship’s log indicates a landing party brought back something from the cavern, then the log ends.

A (fictional) Norwegian polar expedition disappears. Some of its dogs make it back to base, covered in a strange substance that causes those who handle them to hallucinate violently.

A (possibly true) secret Nazi expedition, following up on the reports of previous expeditions, ventures into the area and disappears. {based somewhat on Der Fuerher’s want of artifacts or relics to help him rule}

A (possibly true) secret Argentine expedition consisting of German expats and Argentine locals tries to find out what happened to the 1933 group. At the first sight of the city, the Argentines turn back. The Germans go on and disappear.

A (fictional) follow-up German aerial survey loses radio contact as it approaches the site of the city. Operation Highjump (actual event) leads to establishment of American base on continent but suffers extensive casualties. One plane lost “during a blizzard,” December 1946.

A (fictional) United Nations polar aerial survey sights evidence of German 1947 crash, sends out land party to investigate which vanishes.

A (fictional) French-Italian archeological expedition stumbles on information about the previous German expeditions and debates investigating the truth behind the reports. They decide to try but at their base three days later, they hear “a distant noise similar to an unearthly howling” that continues for several days, echoing across the icy landscape. The French decide not to pursue the reports. The Italians decide to go on and do not return.

Satellites find a massive gravitational anomaly in Wilkes Land, indicating a gigantic mass over one kilometer under the ice. (True story!)

While observing the November solar eclipse (actual event), some at (fictional) Jundo Station in Antarctica believe they see what appears to be something falling to earth in the direction of the pole. Investigators sent out from the base hear “strange sounds” and report by radio before disappearing.

Actual increasing global volcanic activity – some hypothesize it indicates subterranean movement, but what kind?

January 10 = a (fictional) Indian research vessel traveling near the epicenter of the earthquake that caused the real disastrous tsunami observes an island rise from the sea. Telescopic observation reveals the possibility of artificial structures on the island but by the time the ship reaches the location, the island has sunk back into the sea.

March 11 = A (fictional) Philippine ship off the coast of Japan sees an island rise from the sea and believes there is evidence of artificial structures on it. Again, the island sinks before it can be further investigated. Cause of Japanese tsunami.

September 30 = Vanuatu island Ambae is evacuated because of volcanic activity (true).


We want to know about the denizens and history of the City in the Ice. Is it a dwelling-place of the Old Ones? Are they still resident or have they abandoned its hoary edifices to the mercilessness of time?

Refer to the timeline. Your submission must fall somewhere therein and mention at least two previous events, whether fictional or actual. There are some other things to remember, things to avoid.

• Sexual content not inherent to the storyline. No pornography.
• Explicit description of torture or sacrifice, human or otherwise. As a plot device, there is a way to present this without resorting to splatter.
• Violence or abuse against a minor, infant to teenager.
• Overuse of profane language. People curse. But not every sentence.
• Hate language against a race, creed, or gender. Against monstrous races and gods, that’s okay.
• Quoting previously published material not in the public domain. This is a legal issue and will not be tolerated at all.


Please be advised, any stories that do not meet these guidelines will be deleted unread

• 3,000 to 10,000 words, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman font.
• First page of manuscript must contain name, mailing address, and word count.
• Email subject line to read “Story submission – [title]” and must contain a short biography (no more than 200 words), previous publications if any, word count and contact information.
• No reprints, simultaneous or multiple submissions.
• No poetry.
• Email submissions in RTF or DOC format only. Absolutely no DOCX files.

Email all submissions to with manuscript as an attachment.
Do not include the story in the body of the email.
Closing date for submissions is 30 June 2018.

Payment will be $25.00 per story, regardless of word count and will be made via PayPal whenever possible. If not, please advise upon receipt of contract as to preferred method. Direct any questions to Looking forward to seeing your work!

Original posting here:

Friday, June 1, 2018

[Link] Every Story in the World Has One of These Six Basic Plots

by Miriam Quick

“My prettiest contribution to the culture” was how the novelist Kurt Vonnegut described his old master’s thesis in anthropology, “which was rejected because it was so simple and looked like too much fun”. The thesis sank without a trace, but Vonnegut continued throughout his life to promote the big idea behind it, which was: “stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper”.

In a 1995 lecture, Vonnegut chalked out various story arcs on a blackboard, plotting how the protagonist’s fortunes change over the course of the narrative on an axis stretching from ‘good’ to ‘ill’. The arcs include ‘man in hole’, in which the main character gets into trouble then gets out again (“people love that story, they never get sick of it!”) and ‘boy gets girl’, in which the protagonist finds something wonderful, loses it, then gets it back again at the end. “There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers”, he remarked. “They are beautiful shapes.”

"Thanks to new text-mining techniques, this has now been done. Professor Matthew Jockers at the University of Nebraska, and later researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab, analysed data from thousands of novels to reveal six basic story types – you could call them archetypes – that form the building blocks for more complex stories. The Vermont researchers describe the six story shapes behind more than 1700 English novels as...

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Questions from a Brave and Stupid Man to a Panel of Women Writers #2: Pseudonyms

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

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

In the previous discussion someone brought up the issue of using a pen name. I figured we could go deeper into that issue this time.

So, today's discussion is this:

Do you find using a pseudonym helpful or a waste of time? Does it matter if you choose one that can be vague as to the gender or can a male one still open doors better than a female name? Or is it a genre specific issue?

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: I wrote it. I want my name on it. But that's my decision. I know people who use a pen name because they don't want their families to know about their work or they have a professional reputation to safeguard. I'm lucky that I don't have anything like that to hide from. I wrote it. That's my name. Deal with it.

Alexandra Christian: I started using a pen name because I was writing steamy romance while teaching 2nd grade. Apparently women are still supposed to be sexless schoolmarms. I write across a few genres, but I haven’t felt the need to come up with new pen names just yet. Or maybe all my writing is inherently sexual.

Ellie Raine: I've heard a lot of women use male pen names to get more sales in certain genres (and men using female pen names for romance) and it sucks that it continually gets them results. I choose to use my female name despite the genre I write because I would rather help break society's expectations of which genders "writer better (you name it) books". I don't know if anything will change from it, but I'd rather not feed the poison and keep the cycle of these assumptions going. The only way minds will be changed is if they consistently SEE that any gender can write any genre well.

Alexandra Christian: I’ve never gotten an agent, but I queried one book a lot and was pretty much told that my book was too sexy for sci-fi and too sci-fi for romance. I often wonder if I’d queried as a nonspecific pen name if I’d have had more success.

Ellie Raine: I had one agent tell me mine was too paranormal and not epic fantasy enough, and another tell me it was too epic fantasy and not paranormal enough. Funny how no one can seem to place these things... I never considered it may be because of the female/male dynamic, but it would be interesting to know if that was a factor.

Lucy Blue: My first publication was a collaboration with another writer, so we came up with a pen name together -- Anne Hathaway-Nayne. (And yes, it was a joke, sort of - we were writing a tie-in for Forever Knight, and Shakespeare was a character.) Then for my first solo publication with Pocket Books, I used a version of my real name, Jayel Wylie (my actual birth name is Jessica Leslie Wylie, which got shortened to JL, which my mother spelled out as Jayel), and I did three book with them under that name. Then my editor asked me to go in a slightly steamier and more fang-y direction with my next book and told me going in I was looking at one of those oh-so-popular torso covers. Because I wanted to write that book but I didn't necessarily want to always write that kind of book forever, I started using Lucy Blue. And that has since become a brand for me as a romance writer. But I'm still not sure if I'll use Lucy Blue or my real name if I do a non-romance book - it's an issue that I'm hoping is going to come up sometime in the next year, and I'll be open to input from my publisher about it then. And yeah, the idea has crossed my mind of being "J.L. Glanville" instead of "Jessica Glanville" because it's gender-neutral. But my writing, romantic or not, is so very woman-centric, I don't think I'd be fooling anybody.

Stephanie Osborn: I wrote one pure romance novel under a pen name, years ago. It didn't sell to a traditional publisher (mostly because said publisher lost it), so I threw it up indie, and occasionally it sells a copy or two.

For my SF, mystery, and popular science, I use my own name. Sometimes I kinda wish I'd used initials or something, 'cause then the SF might sell better, I sometimes think. But hey, it is what it is. I might try initials one of these days with a new series or something, just to see what happens.

Anna Grace Carpenter: I originally started using my initials because folks in real life seemed to have so much trouble remembering my given name and I was genuinely worried that folks would not be able to find my books on the shelf because they would be looking for Mary Grace or Sarah Jane instead of Anna Grace. (Of course, a couple years after I'd started selling short stories, I asked someone to look at a story that kept getting to the final round on the editors desks and then rejected. I sent him the submission formatted copy which had my real name and contact info on the first page. In his return comments the first thing he said was "I think you shouldn't use your real name because it's really too sweet for someone writing zombie stories." So the bias is definitely real.) I do introduce myself by my actual name and not my author name because my intention is not to hide anything, but I'm not rebranding my work at this point unless it's in a drastically different genre.

Nancy Hansen: I've always written under my own name because I'm proud of what I do, and so is my very supportive family. I figure an entire legion of women labored in obscurity before me, having to hide their identity to get recognized for their outstanding work in speculative and genre fiction, and I owe it to them to celebrate the freedom to be myself.

Herika Raymer: To be truthful, I am most likely still considered new to the field. Mostly because, as yet, I have not encountered any preconceptions about my name -- possibly because of how it is spelled. No one wants to 'offend' me (LOL).But I have to agree, if I wrote it I would prefer my name on it. Then again, there are times when I have considered a pen name simply because of my mundane life. Sometimes what you write should not cross over with your mundane identity. (wink wink)

Elizabeth Donald: People were always surprised that I wrote fiction under my own name, which is the same name I use for my 21 years of journalism. They acted like it would negatively impact my reputation as a journalist, but I didn't write anything I would be ashamed of, and quite frankly, most of my day-job colleagues and sources were supportive or amused. I got a little light teasing for writing romance, but nothing like the negative reactions I saw in the horror/SF world for writing romance and ebooks.

Yes, ebooks. I'm old, so my first couple of books came out in the infancy of ebooks, even pre-Kindle. People said, "I'll wait for the real book," and I couldn't use the ebooks as credits. One con even rewrote my submitted bio to call me an aspiring author. And I've spoken before about the negative reaction to paranormal romance encroaching in horror and SF, being dismissed as "vamporn," difficulty getting on horror panels and being stuck on the midnight sex panel - and the eternal, "So why are vampires so sexy?" panel. (I've started requesting NOT to be on those panels, because it was so tedious to say the same things at the same panels every single time.)

Eventually I vowed that if I would ever write more romance, it would be under a pen name and it would not be open. I found it sadly ironic that while the expectation was "romance will hurt your journalism career," it was really "writing romance means no one will take you seriously as a horror writer." It was not what I expected. Cynical colleagues said it was purely a gender thing: romance is a "woman's genre," and thus it was acceptable as long as I didn't venture into the boys' club - that the negative response of horror/SF to romance was really a negative response to women authors. I like to think that they're wrong, but I haven't found solid evidence yet.

I liked writing romance. It made me a better writer in ways that I could detail if I wasn't already far afield of Sean's question. I didn't like some of the genre's "rules," and I didn't fit in very well to readers' expectations. But in the end, I needed to jettison it from my own name in order to rebuild my brand - and to this day, 11 years after writing my last romance under my name, people who are even good friends and longtime readers will introduce me as, "This is Elizabeth Donald, she writes vampire smut." Sigh...

Amanda Niehaus-Hard: I wrote under diferent names for accounting purposes and to separate out some sections of my life from others. When I started out, I was told that sometimes a romance or women's fic publishing house will want to keep your romance "name" separate from other fiction you might write, but I'm not sure that's accurate these days. Someone recently pointed out to me that tenure-track teaching positions usually require some kind of regular publishing credentials and using a different name might complicate things. Again, no idea if that's true but I'm rolling out all new work under one of two iterations of my legal name, which is associated with my university and hopefully any future teaching I might do.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nugget #134 -- Foundations Need Walls

 Story narrative is based in what characters see and 
 hear. There’s almost no way around that. Those are 
 the foundations on which you build the frame. And 
 that’s okay. But remember, nobody lives on just the 
slab. You actually have to put up walls.

By Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas or alternatively © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas,
CC BY-SA 3.0,

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

[Link] How to Develop the Theme of Your Story

by Jerry Jenkins

Without a deeper meaning than just its plot, your story remains a shell of what it could be.

A story with a theme answers, what does this mean?

That’s the kind of a story that resonates with readers and stays with them.

Getting Started: What Is Theme?

Plot is what happens Theme is why it happens. Why you’re telling this story. It’s the message you want readers to take away.

In fact, I urge you to determine why you want to tell a story before you even begin. Know why you’re writing what you’re writing. Don’t just write to write. That’s not a good enough reason to be a writer. Write because you have something to say.

Ask yourself:

What will this story teach my reader about life?

If you write to merely entertain, don’t expect your stuff to be memorable.
Clear Theme Examples

  • Aesop’s Fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" (The danger of overconfidence)
  • George Orwell’s 1984 (The beauty of individual freedom and the danger of absolute power)
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien (Love and mercy overcome evil)
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (Endurance and perseverance know no age)
  • "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry (The timeless beauty of sacrificial love)
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (The dearest things to us are often found at home)

Allowing Theme to Speak for Itself

Resist the urge to explicitly state your theme in the story. That may have worked in a quaint way with Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz, but readers today don’t need the theme writ large. Tell your story and it should explore your theme and make its own point.

Readers are smart.

Subtly weave your theme into a story and trust readers to get it. Don’t rob them of the experience.

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