Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cowboys, and Pirates, and Cannibals -- Oh Ed Erdelac!

Ed Erdelac has been attached to Lucasfilm and westerns and vampire pirates. Who wouldn't be curious about him with a resume like that? So, it was only natural that we hit him up and set out to pick him brain about his work and writing history.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I’m hard at work on the fourth and final book in my weird western series, Merkabah Rider, which is about a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers across the haunted Southwest of the 1880’s. The long plotting is finally coming to fruition, with elements of the Lovecraftian mythos that were hinted of in the early volumes coming to the fore in this one. I’m planning a proper sendoff for the Rider, a straight novel as opposed to the sequential novella ‘collections’ of the previous installments, and illustrated by an extremely talented artist to boot. It’s tentatively titled (and this is the first time I’m announcing this, so hopefully I don’t jinx it) Once Upon A Time In The Weird West.

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

Two themes I keep coming back to in my work are the ideas of responsibility and faith. Not necessarily religious faith, though I do explore that in some of my stuff, but personal belief in oneself, God, the abilities of another, the way you perceive the world to be, whatever. When I say responsibility, I mean owning up to one’s actions, stepping up and taking the heat if you know you deserve it, or going to bat if nobody else will.

What would be your dream project?

I wrote, produced, and directed and independent western called Meaner Than Hell back in 2009. Though it was a draining and humbling experience, I think I’d like to see my writing on the screen again as it’s an extremely rewarding feeling when it comes off right. My dream project in terms of that changes with everything I write, but currently it’s a comedy about kids in the 80’s playing fantasy roleplaying games, set to a mostly Manowar soundtrack, with the in-game fantasies portrayed as kick ass Ralph Bakshi style animated sequences. Call me, Hollywood (actually I prefer email).

Speaking about other properties I’d like to work on, my first professional job was writing a boxing/espionage story set in the Star Wars universe for Lucasfilm. I would love to do more Star Wars work in the future. A novel, an anthology, or teleplays for the forthcoming live action show – it’s set in my favorite era, between Episodes III and IV. I could write the hell out of that.

Mainly I’d just like to support my family doing what I do best. So I guess my dream project is whatever pulls that off.

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

I wrote a pirate horror adventure novella called Red Sails which I really had a lot of fun with. It was about a vampire sea captain who commanded a ship of werewolves. Every full moon they sink a ship and turn the heartiest of the captives loose on a tropical island inhabited by a cannibal tribe who worships them as visiting gods. In the story, a British marine, Dominican priest, and a cannibal woman team up to turn the tables on them. It was released solely as an ebook and the publisher didn’t do much to get behind it. Now that my relationship with that publisher has ended I would like to at some point re-release it, maybe packaged with a couple of other stories using those characters, maybe illustrated to really tout it. I hope to take a crack at it when Merkabah Rider is in the can.

What inspires you to write?

Damn near everything I read, see, or hear about. Also the constant threat of poverty.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Robert E. Howard, Richard Matheson, Ambrose Bierce, Joe R. Lansdale, Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, Alan Moore, Patrick O’Brian, Shakespeare, William Blake, Walter Gibson, Stephen King…there’s a little bit of all of them in me, or I like to think there is.

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

I hate to call it an art ‘cause I think that word gets used too much nowadays, like hero. Not everybody’s a hero, not everything constitutes an art. To me though, it’s definitely not a science. It’s a very instinctual process for me. I don’t do a lot of complex plotting or outlining. Characters do things I didn’t plan for them to do. I really believe what I write comes from somewhere outside of me. I’m just recording it as it happened somewhere out there. It’s a kind of meditative process. I just ruminate on stories until the fuzzy parts come into focus. If that’s science, it’s the tinfoil on your head kind I guess, so I’d lean towards art.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I’m appearing in a couple of really cool anthologies. Dark Moon Books is publishing a charity anthology called Slices of Flesh, and my story The Wrath of Benjo is tail end Charlie in that. Around the same time is editor Lincoln Crisler’s dark superhero anthology Corrupts Absolutely? from Damnation Books, the folks that put out Merkabah Rider. I’ve got a Bigfoot weird western popping up in an anthology by the king of sasquatches himself, Eric S. Brown, and finally in June or so I’m one of four writers (Tim Marquitz, Malon Edwards and Lincoln Crisler) showcased in a novella collection called Four In The Morning with the loose common theme of age. My own entry is called Gully Gods, and it’s a big left turn for me in terms of style – a first person horror story set in Chicago involving street gangs and African child soldiers. I’m curious to see what people think of that one. Finally, I’m working on a weird western/steampunk RPG with my buddy Jeff Carter for Heroic Journey Publishing. But that’s a long way down the line yet.

For more information about Ed and his work, visit

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#95) -- iHero Memories

How did you come up with the idea for the character 
Ms. Futura from the iHero story "Sin and Error Pining"?

The notion of the character came before the actual character herself. What do I mean by that?

Well, I wanted to create a character to throw away in the sense that she was going to be a one-note bit player, not to be seen again.

You see, I wanted to explore the idea of what makes a hero heroic. I've always believed that it's not the powers or costumes or white hats -- it's the consistent ethic of self-sacrifice that defines the hero. (At least that's the way I see it. Your mileage my vary.)

So I wanted a character who didn't even make it to the end of her origin. She'd learn the hard way that sometimes that act of sacrifice happens the first time out of blocks, and sometimes even before the beginning of a hero's "Year One" story.

Having that, it was a matter (or so I thought) of just painting by the numbers to fill in the blanks and finish the story.

But... (There's always a but, right?)

I sort of fell in love with the character. I looked for every opportunity to save her. I really did. I tried every story nook and story cranny to find her a safe place for her to to survive the tale.

Only, to do so would mean she ceased to be a hero.

So I resigned her to her fate and threw her lifeless corpse to the dogs. All for the best. Or at least I keep telling myself that. I really do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[Link] Forbes Among 30 Companies Ditching Human Writers For Computer-Generated Content

by Rob W. Hart

It wasn't enough that computers have eliminated the need for assembly line workers and bank tellers and that lady who used to check me out at the grocery store before she got replaced by a scanning kiosk. Now they're coming for the writers.

Narrative Science uses data sources to create stories in multiple formats, including long-form stories, headlines, tweets and industry reports. I'm not even kidding about this. Here's a report from Forbes...
Continue reading:


by James Tuck

I know this isn't a writing blog, it's a blog by writers and I think more than a few of y'all are writers yourselves.

So while this may be a bit short it will be an actual writing technique post.

Writing sex scenes.

Now, I'm not going to go into the specific tips and tricks such as pay attention to all the senses in the act of instead of focusing on just the sights and the sounds. Or using clever fresh words to describe things. (Slick being one of my faves) Or how using a lot of soft sounding words such as slick will make the scene flow. S sounds, C sounds, Z sounds roll off the tongue like....well, that's about enough of that. lol

I'm not even going to talk to you about varying the tempo of your sentence structure so that longer sentences build the tension, making it climb, building pressure as the sensations are spilled out onto the page for the eye to watch until you switch. Using shorter and shorter sentences. Quickening the pace. Moving faster. Doing. The. Deed.

Nope. Today I am going to speak, really quickly, on making the sex scene matter.

Continue reading:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#94) -- Favorite Reader's Moment

What has been your favorite moment not as a writer, 
but instead as a reader and fan or other writers?

This one is probably the easiest question I've ever had to answer (other than telling a certain Lisa Evans -- at the time -- "I do" that is).

Hands down it's the time I met Ray Bradbury at my very first Dragon*Con. I waited in like for what seemed like an eternity, watching as fan after fan got to say hello (barely), get a book signed, then be ushered away by the attendants. When the hour passed and I finally stood across the table from the great Bradbury, I told him what an honor it was to meet him, handed him a bedraggled mass market paperback copy of The Illustrated Man (because I couldn't find my copy of The Martian Chronicles at the time), and as he signed it, I told him I wished I'd brought my reprint of the "Mr. Electrico" article for him to sign instead.

He stopped writing. His eyes locked on to the ceiling in thought. Then he cocked his head to the side and told me that he had no idea where his copy of that article was either, that it was somewhere in a box in his basement, and he hadn't thought about even looking for it in ages. But he said he needed to do that now that it was on his mind.

About this point, the attendants politely let me know I was taking too much time with him, and he looked at me, said thanks for reminding him about "Mr. Electrico" and quickly finished scribbling his signature and handed me back my book.

After that, I walked on clouds for the rest of the week.

Here's a link to a 2001 recollection of "Mr. Electrico" from the reigning prince of sci-fi himself.

Monday, February 27, 2012

[Link] Ron Fortier reviews Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars

Why on earth would a writer/editor like Van Plexico want to take a 1980 Saturday morning cartoon television show and meld it with a classic Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy series? The answer to that perplexing question is found in this book, which by the way, is the result of that odd pairing.  In the introduction, Plexico tells of his love for an old Jack Kirby created TV series called “Thundarr the Barbarian” and how, for whatever twists of the muses, it seemed to plague his thoughts over the years.  Enough so that he decided to one day do something with the concept, adding a new and fresh spin to the plot.  It would be another few years for that final element of this eclectic brew would reveal itself to him when one day he started thinking of Burroughs legendary Martian series. 

Continue reading:

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Van Allen Plexico!

Van Allen Plexico knows genre writing. And he knows that genre isn't a dirty word in writing circles. From space adventure to superhero epics to football nonfiction, Van's done it all.

Needless to say, it's an honor he set aside a few minutes to chat with us here at Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action.

(And congrats to Van on his win in the Pulp Ark Awards Best New Pulp Character category with Blackthorn.)

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Just putting the finishing touches on HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE, a 105,000-word Military SF Action Pulp novel. It's the story of Hawk, a sort of "US Marshall in Space," who awakens naked and with no memories, in a space station being assaulted by horrifying hordes of alien creatures. From square one he's on the run, trying to figure out what in the world is going on while fighting for his life--and for the galaxy! The novel will be out from White Rocket sometime this summer. PRO SE PRESENTS will be running a two-part story that kicks the thing off, starting this month.

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

Identity, duty, and memory. How the role you play in life defines who you are as a person. My best characters-- Lucian, Ultraa, Hawk, Vanadium-- all reflect this search for understanding and acceptance of who they are trying to be, vs who they actually are inside.

What would be your dream project?

To write a 20-volume superhero space opera saga with dozens of major characters and vast battles and aliens and androids and gods and cosmic beings and regular humans, all mixed together amidst vast carnage, and presented alongside deep introspection and character development and evolution. And, hey--I'm doing it and it's called the Sentinels novels!

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

Every time the first volume of the Sentinels series has been reprinted or published by a different publisher or included in an omnibus or hardcover, I've rewritten or at least tweaked some portion of it. It's the introduction to the whole series so I want it to be the best it can be, and I've never been entirely happy with it--which I suppose is natural, because most everyone who's read it liked it a lot and most of them kept reading the rest of the books. Whew.

What inspires you to write?

Reading, mainly. Movies and TV, too, and comics. But mostly just walking through any section of Barnes and Noble and just looking at the books there will get my blood pumping and send me hurrying home to the keyboard. And of course receiving feedback from readers always makes you know it was worth it--that someone else enjoyed your work, too.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Roger Zelazny is my lord and master. He died of cancer in 1995 and how I wish I could have met him. His work is overwhelmingly the major influence on my writing. My novel, LUCIAN: DARK GOD'S HOMECOMING, was written mainly as my homage to just how much he influenced me--right down to the poetic language (I tried!) and first-person POV from a shady and unreliable protagonist.

Jim Starlin had a massive impact on how I think in "cosmic" terms, with vast empires and themes of life and death and the mystic side of all of that. Kirby did, too, but probably more Starlin than Kirby. Just the "flavor" of Starlin's writing-- his characters with their anguished soul-searching and conflicted natures--that really shaped my work.

Lately it's been Dan Abnett (of the Warhammer 40K novels and comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova) that has helped me to get a nice handle on how to write even better action scenes and strange, outlandish settings and battles. He's so good at that stuff.

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

Oh, I probably come down about 50/50. You have to get the "science" part pretty much down. Of course, there are always new things to learn, and I'm always looking stuff up, along the lines of grammar and style and structure and the like, so it's a continual process. The "art" part is, I suppose, partly your own natural talent and partly the impact of various influences upon you. Whatever "art" dwells within my writing is a direct result of spending a lifetime reading and re-reading Zelazny and Starlin and Herbert and Tolkien and Varley and Niven and Howard and on and on, absorbing the parts that seem to me to work the best and sound the best.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?  

Two fairly new ones: my highly acclaimed LUCIAN novel (mentioned above) has just come out in a new paperback edition from White Rocket Books, now at a much lower price than before, along with a Kindle edition. And a project you know all about, on account of you have a great story in it, is BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS, an adventure anthology which came out at the end of the year. If you like JOHN CARTER or THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN, this book is for you! Action and adventure with a warrior, a sorceress, and a savage beast-man in a post-apocalyptic Mars! I wrote the origin story and several other very talented writers continued the saga. It's been nominated for an astonishing SEVEN PulpArk Awards. Everyone should check this book out asap!

Learn more about Van and his work at: and

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#93) -- Different Strokes

What are some of the specific differences you mean when you say that you
write differently for pulp and action stories than for literary fiction?

Now that I'm primarily writing more action-focused fiction, I've noticed that I have to be more creative with the ways I establish character. Long internal  monologs are no longer something I have access to in my toolkit for the most part.

Neither are the multitudes of subtle symbols sprinkled through the prose. In contemporary action stories, all those things typically need to be brought to the surface more literally. Sure, I can still exercise my literary subtlety from time to time, but never at the expense of comprehension. As much as I'd love to have classrooms digging for those symbols and character bits, that's not likely for the pulp field, sad to say.

Another big difference is the conflicts the protagonists face. In my early literary work, the conflicts tended to be more emotional than physical, with personal growth or failure at stake rather than the life and death of the sidekick or love interest.

There are obviously more, but these are the ones that come to mind at the moment.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions and Pulp Ark Coordinator, announces that voting has closed for the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards, the first awards given in association with this inaugural Pulp creators' conference/convention.

The Winners of the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards are: (stuff I'm involved with highlighted in yellow boldface)

BEST NOVEL-Yesteryear by Tommy Hancock (Pro Se Productions)

BEST COLLECTION/ANTHOLOGY-Four Bullets for Dillon (Pulpwork Press)

BEST SHORT STORY- The Devil’s Workmen by Barry Reese-The Avenger: The Justice Inc Files (Moonstone)

BEST COVER ART-Hugh Monn, Private Detective-by David Russell (Pro Se Productions)

BEST INTERIOR ART-The Adventures of Lazarus Gray-George Sellas (Pro Se Productions)

BEST PULP RELATED COMIC-All Star Pulp Comics #1 (Airship 27 Productions) 
I wrote "Slave To No Man" for this one with Jim Ritchey III on art.

BEST PULP MAGAZINE-Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)
My story "Death Imitates Art" appeared in issue #1.

BEST PULP REVIVAL-The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage by Will Murray (Altus Press)

BEST NEW PULP CHARACTER- John Blackthorn Created by Van Allen Plexico (White Rocket Books)
My story "City of Relics" appeared in this collection. 

BEST AUTHOR-Teel James Glenn

BEST NEW WRITER-TIE Sean Taylor And Chuck Miller


The awards, 8X10 engraved wooden plaques, will be awarded in the middle of Pulp Ark, the evening of Saturday, April 21, 2012. Hancock stated that all winners as well as nominees are encouraged to attend, but any winners who could not would receive their awards by mail. Pulp Ark thanks all who nominated, all who voted, and congratulations to all the nominees and especially to the winners of the Pulp Ark 2012 Awards!

For any questions concerning Pulp Ark, contact Hancock at or follow Pulp Ark news at

The truth about pulp writers...

Yeah, I know. It's a Facebook meme, but it was apropos, so I'm posting it here because I thought all you super-swell regular readers would get a kick out of it. (Created by Van Allen Plexico.)

Rick Ruby opens the case files... very, very soon!

Just a heads up that I've sent my proofread and edited PDF proof back to the editor so that The Ruby Files from Airship 27 Productions (created by Bobby Nash and me) can go to the printer. When the book is available online to order, I'll let you know.

But if you're a fan of hard-boiled detective fiction, and still yammering away for some action-focused, dame-loving, mystery-solving, bad-guy-shooting stories of a seriously flawed private eye, you're going to want to get your hands on this one. Trust me.

Features stories by Bobby Nash, William Maynard, Andrew Salmon, and me. Cover art by Mark Wheatley. Interior art by Rob Moran.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#92) -- Window to My Soul

What has your writing revealed to you about yourself that you perhaps weren't already aware of?

For starters, it revealed that I'm a lazy cuss, but I already knew that. If I only had someone standing over me with a whip (no, not like that, ya pervs) to make me write instead of watching Netflix, I'd get a heck of a lot more words shoved into my word counts.

What I didn't know though that my work has revealed to me is that I'm not as naively optimistic a person at my core as I portray on the outside. I may act like I don't have a care in the world beyond hitting my next deadline, but my stories show something else entirely. They show people who have problems that force them to grow. They show people who learn important things about life only by loss. They show endings that are far more often bittersweet than happy.

Which is weird, if you ask anyone who knows me as a friend, because I never tend to act that way in real life. Maybe I sublimate that important stuff and it's only recourse is to come out in my work. Maybe. I don't know. My hour on the couch is up and I can't afford another one this week.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Watson Report: On Heroines

by I.A Watson

Pulp is a very traditional storytelling form. It has deep roots, right back to the “penny dreadful” broadsheets, the popular middle ages ballads, and the bardic tales. It paints with broad strokes, intending to make the reader feel as well as think about its stories. Pulp can be a style, a genre, or a theme; but it’s always an experience.

There are some experiences which go deep to our human cores. Death, violence, and sex are about as fundamental as it gets in human experience, so naturally those things are prevalent in much fiction and almost always in pulp fiction. These are the things that get our hearts thumping – and keep readers turning the pages!

It’s been argued that there are really only three stories, and that they sum up every plot for every piece of fiction: A Man Goes on a Journey; A Man Learns a Lesson (or fails to); and Boy Meets Girl (or loses girl etc.). Fiction certainly devotes a substantial amount of time to telling stories of men and women relating romantically, not least because that’s something that attracts an audience and makes the reader care about and pull for the protagonists.

So many pulp stories include a female character who is a potential romance or sex interest. She might be a virginal good girl menaced by her wicked uncle, or a sinful bad girl seeking to manipulate our hero for her own devious ends, but she’s prevalent in all kinds of variations; not just a female character, a female character with a relationship or potential relationship with the protagonist.

That’s the sense in which I’m using the term heroine in this article. Sometimes heroine can simply mean the proper feminine of hero, the protagonist to whom the story happens; here I’m using the other definition, that of the female story lead with whom the hero must associate and who is often part of the hero’s heroic mission.

Prior to our modern liberated era there was a general assumption that most female characters would be less capable of dealing with threat than male characters. If there’s a plucky heroine, that’s considered remarkable. She’s exceptional, not the norm.

Reflecting societal attitudes, and perhaps a practical acknowledgement that when violence is involved women are at a physical disadvantage, the assumption has been that the female lead has eventually required some kind of help from the male lead. Let’s not shy away from the truth that many pulp stories, especially older ones, hold this to be true.

Pulp can be a very honest storytelling style though, because that hero-saves-heroine trope goes way back in our society. It’s probably engraved in our DNA. There is a very primal instinct in males to protect females from other males. It’s probably about ensuring that our seed fertilises the woman rather than any other, but it’s a very old urge. Protect the women and the children.

We’ve been telling stories about heroes who turn up to save the girl, often from death or a fate worse than death (impregnation by anyone other than the hero), for a very long time. How many fairy-tale princess and forest maidens are saved in the end by a handsome prince or burly woodsman or likely lad? How many of our ancient myths include a damsel in distress being rescued (hi, Andromeda, Deineira, Sita)? From the Princess of Sana’a (Arabian Nights) to Canace (Chaucer’s “A Knight’s Tale”), from St George and the Dragon to Van Helsing’s vampire hunters, the damsel in distress is hammered into our worldview as soon as we open a book.

Another very old assumption goes with that. When the hero rescues the heroine, she will fall in love with him. They’ll marry and live happily ever after; or at least they’ll have sex. Many older sources don’t even question that her hero is entitled to the virginity he’s just saved. To the hero the spoils. Only the brave deserve the fair.

We know, in our post-modern cynical diagnostic world, that the ability to kill ogres with a sword doesn’t necessarily make one a perfect boyfriend – although a very useful one for an ogre-prone princess, I suppose. We know that men, however heroic and blood-stained, do not automatically qualify for a thank-you bedroom session. But when we allow ourselves to be drawn into the realm of fiction our expectations subtly change; our perceptions and values are dragged again into a world where the hero and heroine do find themselves compatible and attracted, and where a happy ending or a tragic loss are the two most likely outcomes.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of stories that subvert these expectations. The most common is the one where the heroine turns out to be the villain after all. But these subversions only work because the expectation of how things should go is so ingrained into our reading experience.

Given that most pulp fiction was originally published to earn a living, its not surprising that it caters to the things that will most part a reader from his purchase money. Look at the covers of many old pulp magazines. A good percentage of them feature scantily-clad or naked women; that always sells. Of these, about half also feature the woman in bondage or immediate peril, requiring rescue or facing imminent destruction or ravishment. In about half of these the hero is also present, striving to save her.

Now go to the artistic depiction of heroines throughout history, back through the portraits of the Renaissance, the woodcuts of the Middle Ages, to the friezes and pottery of the Hellenistic period. See if the percentage of nudity, bondage, imminent peril and heroic rescuers is much different.

So what does this tell us? And what does it mean for modern writers and modern readers of pulp fiction?

Well, first off, it tells us that fundamental differences between men and women sometimes leak past our modern conceptions of equality meaning uniformity. Fortunately I think society is past the days when gender equality meant that women should be just like men, so its not too hard for us to recognise that the sexes are physically different and that they have historically played different social roles. But when we settle into the world of fiction and fantasy, the masks come off and we allow ourselves a more guilt-free experience of the contrasts.

Second, it means that we have to buy in to the romanticised, sexualised way that men and women relate in fiction. In the same way as we allow that a protagonist may be more heroic, a better fighter, a smarter thinker as part of our suspension of disbelief, we have to allow his heroine to be more beautiful, more charming, and more available than we would give credence in “real life.” That we consistently do make these allowances suggests how much we enjoy visiting worlds where heroes get the girl.

But because modern audiences tend to be more sophisticated and come to their reading with modern understandings of gender and morality, contemporary pulp writers have to be cleverer and subtler in how they apply the ancient tropes. Readers are still interested in boy-meets-girl, but they want another reason for why our protagonists hop into bed together at the end than “Oh thank you for saving me, my big strong hero!”

There are certain older assumptions and attitudes which writers can no longer get away with – thankfully. Depicting a member of a minority race as naturally less intelligent or moral than another might have been acceptable in 1920; now even stories set in that time that accurately depict discrimination of that era had better not try and suggest the view was justified. Likewise, the era when a hero could push a girl down on the bed, tear her clothes off, and ravish her until her protests end and she becomes an acquiescent passionate lover are past; now we call that rape.

But just because there are pitfalls, that’s no reason for pulp writers or readers to shy away from one of the fundamental pillars of the genre. Boys still meet girls every day. People who are in trouble should be helped. Adversity forms strong bonds of fellowship, and sometimes of romance. All of these make for potent, visceral stories.

Heroes, of whatever gender, have to be heroic. Heroes rescue people. Heroines (also of whatever gender) tend to get into trouble; the best of them get into trouble because they’re doing the right thing (c.f. snoopy reporter, princess defending her people, whore with a heart of gold). If the heroine has our sympathy, respect, or admiration then we’re even more engaged rooting for our hero to get to her.

Pulp has traditions. Heroines are part of it. Go save one today.


I.A Watson’s homepage.

Rescue Me” a short piece of humorous fiction by I.A. Watson on this topic.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#91) -- Writer's Superstitions

Do you have "superstitions" or habits you must follow in order to write? 

Not really.

Unless you count the fact that I believe I write more effectively while at Starbucks when nursing an iced grande coffee in a venti cup with two pumps of sugar-free vanilla and extra nonfat milk to the top of the cup.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just a heads up... new interviews coming!

In the coming weeks, we'll have a lot more one-on-one interviews with pulp, action, and comics creators like the amazing Martin Powell, Barry Reese, Ron Fortier, Mike Henderson, Tommy Hancock, Van Allen Plexico, Paul Bishop, and others.

But never fear. We're not going to cut back on any of our roundtable interviews of the week either. We'll still hit one of those each week. Consider the one-on-one chats a bonus, our way of saying thanks for all your incredible support for the blog. 

So keep following, and if you haven't subscribed or joined the blog, now would be an excellent time to do so. Because you really don't want to miss this. Trust me.




Pro Se Productions, a leading Publisher of New Pulp, proudly announces its latest release, a three story collection crafted by a Trio of Top Talents, all about a Supermarket Tabloid where all the Stories within its pages are true! GLOBAL STAR delivers tongue in cheek pulpy goodness, satirical wit, and more weirdness than you can shake an alien cabana boy at, all thanks to the wonderful storytelling skills of R. A. Jones, Mel Odom, and Michael Vance.

Want to fly headlong into Alien Abductions? Ready to hunt Mysterious Monsters in the Bowels of Your City? Curious about what Elvis has been up to since He Got Laid Off? Find the Story Behind the Stories, the Truth too True To Print in the GLOBAL STAR! Jones, Vance, and Odom relate the exploits of the finest editors, colorful reporters, and raucous staffers working on the world's one tabloid where every word is true! Follow these pen and paper pushers as they go anywhere, do anything, and stop at nothing to bring you the news that makes the Global Star the greatest newspaper on-and off- Earth! Get the whole story in this tongue in cheek satire riddled New Pulp funfest from Pro Se- GLOBAL STAR Is the paper for the best news you’d never believe!

GLOBAL STAR, with fantastic cover and interior design by Sean E. Ali, is available via Amazon as well as Pro Se’s own site ( for $12.00 in print and can be snatched up from Amazon for the Kindle, Barnes and Noble for the Nook, and in various and sundry digital formats from for $2.99! Don’t wait for the werewolves to babysit your babies born with bowling balls in their stomachs! Read all about that and more now in GLOBAL STAR, the latest book from Pro Se Productions!

For Author information and interviews or any further press release information, please contact and find Pro Se at!

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#90) -- Action Scenes

What advice do you have for writing compelling action scenes?

We actually covered some of this in panels at Con Nooga this past weekend so it's fresh on my mind.

1. I've found that when you vary your sentence lengths during action scenes, particularly when you shorten your sentences or make them choppy even, you increase the speed of reading and the pace of the action.

2. Pay attention to the sounds in your sentences. Hard sounds, like K and P and D sounds, slow down the reading while softer sounds, such as C and S and Z sounds keep the speed of reading fast.

3. Choose your details sparingly. Don't bog down the action with long descriptions of Stephen Donaldson's mountain ranges when you need the details instead that focus on the blood, the punches, and the movement. The same holds true for your internal monolog. Unless your character is a contemplative monk who explores the spiritual even in his fighting, he's not going to have long, thoughtful ponderings during an action scene.

4. Ask yourself: "What would Chuck Dixon or Beau Smith do?"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Issue Too Long? How Long Should a "Typical" Comic Book Arc Be?

This week's roundtable discussion comes from a reader who wrote in with the following:

If I can suggest a question for your question of the day -- How long should a 'typical' comic book story arc be? I ask for various reasons but the main one is that it used to take an issue or two to tell an origin story and I've read several new titles that are on issue 6 and not sure if they've finished any origin story arcs yet.

I loved the question and thought it would be a great one, particularly for those of us who have experience in comic book writing. However, acknowledging the variation of questions included in that one, I broke it down into its pieces.

What determines the completeness of a comic book story arc of any length?

Erik Burnham: A "typical" arc, I think, should run anywhere between 60-120 pages. So long as someone doesn't try to make a 60 page story into a 120 page story, I think we're golden. But 6 issues/120 pp is the outside of where I'd like to see for a typical arc. Longer stories can be done, but then those would be atypical.

Chuck Dixon: The easy, and obvious, answer is a story with a beginning, middle and end. And the end must come to a satisfactory conclusion either through a change in status quo, an emotional catharsis, a resolved conflict or a major reveal. In the best case scenario an arc should either create a new character or show a character growing or changing in some way. In comics, it’s okay to leave a few dangling plot threads to be picked up in the next arc. But NEVER leave the reader feeling as if the purpose of the arc was only to build to the next one. It’s okay to leave the reader wanting more but wrong to leave them feeling as though you gave them less than they expected.

Bobby Nash: Usually, it's the editor or publisher who sets the length. When creating my own stories I generally try to stick close to industry norms. Graphic novels can be 40, 66, 80, or 100 pages depending ont he needs of the story. Standard comic stories tend to be 22 or 28 pages.

Lee Houston Jr.: For a story to be complete, it must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Granted, not all of a series ongoing subplots have to be addressed in any one specific arc, for many serve as springboards for future stories. But at the very least, the ones pertaining to the specific story in progress must be addressed and resolved, even if they result in new subplots for future arcs themselves. 

How do you work in the beginning, middle and end of individual issues against that of the central story's begging, middle and end?

Martheus Wade: I'm not average in this as I don't write issues. Writing trades allow me to block my stores according to story beats inside of a 70-80 page story. I started by knowing my ending of the story and work backward.

Chuck Dixon: Action. The simplest thing is to provide a solid action set piece in each part of your story. A reveal about a character or situation is also a good tentpole for an individual issue. “My girlfriend is from the Moon!” kind of reveal. But each issue should have something that makes it stand out as a unique reading experience. As, Andy Schmidt, my former GI Joe editor put it, each issue should have a “oh, that’s the one where Captain Skidmark found out his parents are dead” element to it. Or, I’m parphrasing him, anyway. Captain Skidmark is all mine, baby!

Lee Houston Jr.: But although I've heard the "writing to the trades" claim, the creative teams on any comic book should remember to treat each issue as just one chapter of an ongoing saga. "The never ending battle," etc. Sure, some of those chapters later get collected into a trade paperback or a hardcover, depending upon the popularity of the title and/or the creative team involved. Yet those on the other side of the page producing the comic books have to remember that a lot of people (like me) still acquire their issues monthly, especially now with the big push to promote comics in the digital realm.

Bobby Nash: I plan for that in the plot. If I'm writing a story that I know will cover multiple issues then I try to end each issue on a cliffhanger. I like cliffhangers. I wish we had more of them in comics these days. I work in the beginning, middle and end of individual issues the same way I do the overall story. I plan out my plot.

How is plotting different when you're already given a length for an arc and you must either (a) fill it or (b) cut to fit it?

Chuck Dixon: Plotting should be organic. In comics you have to think visual action first. Always trim your plot before you cut action. If you don’t have room for the action in your assigned arc then you have too much plot. Simplify your through-story and make your characters motivations more pure. None of this computer program format or Joseph Campell structure crap.

Bobby Nash: When you know you have a set number of pages to fill then you plot accordingly. Sometimes that means cuts have to be made or additional material has to be added. The later is easier, of course. It's part of the job. You just dive in and do what needs to be done to meet your publisher's expectations by your deadline.

John Morgan Neal: There's nothing worst than a story that is drug out to fill time or space.

Ken Janssens: It always depends if you are working for someone else or yourself. If you are working for yourself, you let the story itself determine how long it should be. If you are working for someone else (as a fill-in arc and not your own book), then they will likely give you an issue count for the arc. Sometimes your idea comes out of that constraint. If you already had your story in mind, then you will have to either lengthen or shorten your story. The best way to do that (I've found) is to figure the main points and themes then space them throughout the numbers of issues for which you have to write. Then you take the secondary plot points and scenes, placing them in between the main ones.  For the individual issues of arcs, they should all have beginning, middle, and ends, but since it won't be for the whole plot, those should be of theme, character, character path, or end just with sheer cliffhangers.


To follow the works of these fine creators who took part in this roundtable, simply look at the list of Heavy Hitters links on the right side of this page. 

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#89) -- Most Interesting Research

What's the most interesting thing you've learned recently while researching for a story?

Every time I research for a story I tend to learn something interesting, but the most fascinating tidbit I've picked up recently is from researching pre-WWII planes for my Lance Star comic book story for All-Star Pulp Comics #2 to be published by Redbud Studios and Airship 27 Productions.

You see, back when I was a preteen, I had a stepfather for a few years who was a pilot, and during that time, I had a strong fascination with airplanes. Well, when I started researching war planes and stunt planes from the 1930s, all that youthful fascination came rushing back to me.

And I also learned about the Russian Yakovlev UT-1, a very, very cool airplane of the time period. 

I always love the research phase of my writing, in part because I'm a history minor and a history nut, and my research is typically far more intriguing than my actually history classes (weapons, planes, poisons, and serial killers just sadly weren't in our curriculum as KSU). I always find some tidbit that makes me almost squeal with childish delight at some new knowledge learned. Like in kid in a candy store, I tell ya.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[Link] Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

By The Beat

Even as the economy shows fitful signs of flickering back to life, the comics economy, which was “too small to fail” to really take much of a hit during the Great Recession, is still puddling along, under-capitalized, under-recognized, and with even the greatest cartoonists prone to spells of belt tightening. Comics have been traditionally immune to the effects of a recession—”cheap entertainment does well in bad times!” we’ve heard time and again—but the corollary is also true: Economic boom times rarely touch comics.

During the late ’90s and the first boom, one of the greatest eras of general prosperity in American history, comics were going through their WORST slump since the end of newsstand distribution, with sales numbers so low executives were crying over them. And then, paradoxically, comics began to do better even during the mini-recession following 9/11 and the end of the bubble.

During the recent real estate bubble/stock market boom, quite a few cartoonists bought homes that would never have been available before—and some have lost them, sadly—but most comickers we know were sticking with comics instead of going into hedge funds and condo flipping. A lot of money flooded into comics in the end of the last boom, but the tide has been slowly going out.

But now it’s gone out. And people are wondering when it will come in again.

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The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#88) -- Story Arcs

How long should a 'typical' comic book story arc be? I ask for various reasons but the main one is that it used to take an issue or two to tell an origin story and I think DCnU is on issue 6's and not sure if they've finished any origin story arcs yet.

For starters, I don't believe that anymore there is such a thing as a typical comic book arc. The days of the single issue story are most likely long behind us. The marketing opportunities that have come with the trade collection and the graphic novel (which are not the same thing) have perhaps forever changed the playing field.

However, I don't believe that should change the nature of both a story arc and an individual issue having a solid beginning, middle and end. I'm still a big fan of good stories, regardless of them being eight pages, ten pages, three issues, four issues or six, just as long as they clearly pace themselves in a way that keeps me reading and give me a solid sense of beginning, middle and end.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ERB Inc. Sues Dynamite Entertainment Over John Carter and Tarzan

The family-owned company that holds the existing rights to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs has sued Dynamite Entertainment and Dynamic Forces, accusing the publisher and collectibles producer of trademark infringement and unfair competition with the release of "Lord of the Jungle" and "Warlord of Mars" comics.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in New York City and first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. claims the comics were published without authorization after Dynamite Entertainment President Nick Barrucci was told that Dark Horse held the licenses for the "Tarzan" and "John Carter of Mars" novels. The complaint insists the comics "Lord of the Jungle," "Warlord of Mars," "Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris" and "Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom" are likely to "deceive, mislead and confuse the public" about the source or sponsorship of the content, causing "irreparable injury" to ERB Inc.

Established in 1923 by Burroughs and now primarily owned by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, ERB Inc. owns the trademarks to "Tarzan" and "John Carter of Mars," as well as the common law rights in the "Tarzan Lord of the Jungle," "Dejah Thoris" and "Barsoom" marks. Although Burroughs' earlier works, like "Tarzan of the Apes, "The Return of Tarzan," "A Princess of Mars" and "The Warlord of Mars," have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, the complaint notes that they remain under copyright protection in the United Kingdom.

Presumably to bolster its claim of "irreparable injury," ERB Inc. takes specific issue with some of the covers and interior art for "Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris," insisting they "border on (and in some cases are) pornographic": "On some covers -- covers which defendants refer to as "Risque Nude" exclusive covers -- Dejah Thoris appears topless."

The lawsuit doesn't specify damages, but seeks the recall of the comics distributed in the United Kingdom, and the surrender of profits from the infringing works.

(Originally posted on Comic Book Resources)

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#87) -- Greatest Peer Moments

What is your favorite peer memory from a convention?

Yes, I'm standing in a chair. He's THAT tall.
I'd have to say my all-time favorite peer moment came when someone I didn't consider myself remotely a peer to actually treated me as a peer. The saint in question? The amazingly talented and superb human being Mr. Dwayne McDuffie.

It was during the New York Comic Con a few years ago, and although I had emailed with Dwayne a few times on the Milestone mailing list and met him in person a few years prior at San Diego Comicon, when I passed by him in the aisle on the way to the guest area, I said hello, and he actually remembered me and called me by name, then walked with me inside the closed-off area and invited me to sit with him. Before going into his own resume of current projects, he asked me about mine. I told him about the Gene Simmons work with IDW and some other, more minor projects, then asked him about his own. He shared with me about Ben 10 and Justice League, smiling like a big kid, and we sat and talked for close to 15 minutes before I needed to go to an appointment at a booth.

Dwayne was one of the first pros to treat me like a fellow pro, and it made a mark on me. I can only hope to be the same kind of superb human being that he modeled to me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

So Human, So Flawed, So Fragile, So Authentic -- A review of Show Me A Hero

Got an awesome review from author Michael Vance for my Show Me A Hero collection from New Babel Books!


I diligently tried to find any contact information on any of them – for example, The Fool, Glitter, Double Shot, Tobit’s Angel, or Fishnet Angel – and found nothing.

I would have loved to talk to some of them, face to face, but it was almost as if they didn’t live in this world, my world, the real world. But the world they live in is so authentic that it can’t be an alternate universe or a dream.

I wanted to find them.  They were each so compelling.

I just read about them and others in a real page-turning collection of short stories, news releases, and essays published by New Babel that was written by Sean Taylor. Show Me A Hero was the title of what has to be 514 pages of non-fiction. Yes, each had an exaggerated gift – one was little more than a collection of light ‘bubbles’—but they were so human, so flawed, so fragile in many ways despite their enhanced powers. They suffered heartbreak and celebrated joy. They gained lovers and lost to death. They cried. Laughed. All of that human stuff.

And they fought like heroes. Superheroes.

So, I’m left with only two conclusions. They live somewhere, on some level. And, if the principal purposes of any book are entertainment, enlightenment, or education, then Show Me A Hero is entertainment at its best.

It’s the real deal. 

Show Me A Hero by Sean Taylor/514 pages from New Babel Books.

Review by Michael Vance, author of Weird Horror Tales, Weird Horror Tales: The Feasting, and Weird Horror Tales: Light's End, now available at For electronic version, go to:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#86) -- After Conventions

What's the best part about coming back home after a convention?

The family-correct response would be, of course, getting to see my family again after a weekend away, but more often than not, the truth is this: The best part about coming back home after a convention is getting a good night's sleep in my own bed.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

[Link] Why You Should Throw Away Your To-Do List

by Walter Chen

I’ve never been good at to-do lists. For me, a to-do list is more a theoretical approach than an actual tool. No matter how many times I’ve tried to put a daily to-do list into practice, it never becomes routine.

They’re too easy to ignore. They nag me only just enough to be annoying, not enough to help me to get stuff done. They put me in a grumpy mood.

Simply put, they don’t give me no satisfaction. I can see that there are just more items to get to, but I know that they’re never really going to stop. Life becomes a big monstrous hydra of tasks, where you cut off one head, cross off one item, and two more pop out.

Keep a “Done List”

Instead of a to-do list, I keep a done list. Every day, when I’m winding down my day, I do a quick mental scan of my day and write down what I got done. It may seem counterintuitive, but it helps me plan out my day, and gets me amped to kick butt and get stuff done.

How can things that are done be a productivity tool and why is this more powerful than a to-do list? It comes down to concreteness. All that stuff on your Done List? They’re done!

It’s a record of real results, not intangible goals or wishful thinking. And those results bring all sorts of positive feelings and energy because you’ve achieved something and you want to keep achieving something. You’ll find yourself riding that motivational wave of positivity to get stuff done the next day and the next and the next.

And if you fall off your board? That’s okay, just catch that next wave.

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What do you think? Would a "Done" list make you more productive, or is it an affront to hard-working, organized writers everywhere?

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#85) -- Most Memorable Fan Moment

What's your most fond memory of meeting a fan?

This one is easy only because it happened yesterday. Prior to that, I would have been sorting through all sorts of great memories of meeting fans and trying to prioritize them.

What happened yesterday is this: A guy came up to my table at Con Nooga, and waited patiently while I was talking to some other folks who were buying a book. He wasn't looking over the books and other merchandise, so my first thought was that he was a podcaster or someone with the convention. I said hello and gave him the "Please feel free to take a look at the books" line, and he continued waiting, not looking over the books. Well, when the couple left, I said hello again and he reached out his hand.

I'm paraphrasing here only because I've slept and the exact words have fallen out of my brain during the night.

"I just want to shake you hand and tell you thank you," he said.

"For what?" I ask, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"A few years ago, at this con, I stopped by and asked you for some advice on doing a comic, and you were the first guy to actually help me out and talk with me about it. And today, my friend and I are doing a web comic and we're actually set up on the next aisle with our print book and other merchandise featuring the characters. So I just wanted to say thank you because you were really helpful and you're one of the reasons we're here as creators today."

Needless to say, I was both humbled and beaming at the same moment.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

[Link] Wise Words from Beau Smith

by Beau Smith

"What can you do to make sure your career doesn't fade away? First and foremost as a creator, you have to always…ALWAYS produce the best work you can and produce it on time. That, along with networking, marketing yourself and honing the actual craft of writing/drawing comic books will put you where you need to be to maybe overcome some of the hurdles I've talked about in this edition of Busted Knuckles. If it doesn't, then you'll always know YOU did YOUR best and you won't serve yourself sour grapes, you'll fill your plate with dignity instead."

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The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#84) -- Heroes and Tragedy

Why did you choose the quote "Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy" by F. Scott Fitzgerald for your book Show Me A Hero? Isn't that kind of depressing?

I don't think of it as depressing at all. I see it as a natural outcome of anyone's choice to sacrifice himself or herself for the good of others. And to clarify, it's only seen as a tragedy by those outside the choice itself. To the one who chooses, the experience is not one of tragedy but of triumph.

I also believe that, as humans, we tend not to learn much from moments of pleasure, but more from times of pain. And that's weird, I know, because if you know me personally, you'd know I'm a very optimistic person.

Go figure.

Friday, February 17, 2012

RIP John Severin

Longtime comics artist John Severin, whose career spanned nearly 80 years, died Sunday, Feb. 12, in Denver, Colorado. He was 90.

According to Mark Evanier, Severin, who was born in Jersey City, N.J., began drawing early in life and had work published when he was 10. His attendance at the High School of Music and Art in New York led to friendships with such creators as Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Al Jaffee, and Al Feldstein. The five would go on to work at E.C. Comics, where Severin, with an attention to detail admired by editor, writer, and artist Kurtzman, concentrated on such war titles as Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. Severin’s work also appeared in the first issue of Mad and, later, he was a star at Mad competitor, Cracked.

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See you at Con Nooga this weekend!

Just a reminder to look for me and say hello if you attend Con Nooga this weekend. You can find me either at my table hawking books and signing like a madman or sharing my stories at any of the following panels:

Authors and Editors Meet and Greet
Location: Finley Lecture Hall (Finley Lecture Hall)
Day & Time:  7:00 PM Friday - 8:00 PM Friday

Steampunk: What is it and latest in genre
Location: American Car (American Car)
Day & Time: 10:00 PM Friday - 11:00 PM Friday

Writing Hooks! Opening Lines to Hook Readers
Location: Crystal Room (Crystal Room)
Day & Time: 10:00 AM Saturday - 11:00 AM Saturday

Discussion Panel: The Writing Life - what it takes
Location: Crystal Room (Crystal Room)
Day & Time:  1:00 PM Saturday - 2:00 PM Saturday

The delight is in the details.  Adding imagery
Location: Crystal Room (Crystal Room)
Day & Time: 11:00 AM Sunday - Noon Sunday