Monday, April 30, 2012

Singing the glory of Selah Janel

Selah Janel has a name that's a lot like her work, it just rolls right off the tongue. I met her through the wonder that is Facebook, and I've learned since that day to really appreciate her gift of telling stories.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My most recent release is The Other Man. It’s an unusual turn for me in that it’s a straight contemporary piece, but it’s still filled with the plot twists and little interactions that I like. Release info and purchase links can be found at my blog. Here’s the blurb:

All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a typical loving family. Instead he has a menial job, a small apartment, and children that remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. To add insult to injury, he’s well aware that he’s not the only man that inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. But how can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful dinner conversation when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life may never be the same.

I’m also offering a free read through No Boundaries Press called On Fire. It’s a short piece that explores an unnamed DJ who finds that he’s lost his gift and is bound to the music he spins. Both are struggling through their last gasps at life and he has to follow the path that’s probably inevitable for him. That one can be downloaded for free at the storefront at

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

I find myself always trying to explore the magical and weird possibilities in the everyday. There’s so much amazing stuff that we gloss over in our daily lives, and it always gets me wondering ‘what if?’ I also really love visiting themes of music and relationships; the only difference is my stories usually involve vampires or faeries or other surreal elements along with the normal ones. I personally feel like fantasy and horror are great metaphors for the emotions everyone feels. There are certain books and films that everyone just seem to get because they tap into universal feelings. I love that genres like horror and fantasy can be the great equalizers when they works well. There’s probably a good part of my mind and heart that exists in another world, because I can look at the same everyday setting that my neighbors and friends look at and find something totally different there to work with.

I’m also a huge fan of strong women characters and with the longer projects I’m currently working on I’m really trying to let my female protagonists have some depth and not exist just for one particular emotion or conflict. There are so many nuances and little emotions and things that can be used, and no real person resorts to just one, so why should a girl on a page?

What would be your dream project?

I’ve got a series of novels that I’m developing that I’m really excited to seriously start writing. They involve a lot of things I’m really passionate about, take place in a small Midwest town, and really blur the lines between the old stories of legend and myth and the everyday. I’ve got the histories and stories of several different mythical species that make up this town all in my head and my hope is that it gels together with the modern aspects of day-to-day living.

But if we’re shooting for the moon… I have this horribly intense love of watching anthology movies and TV shows like The Twilight Zone and the Amicus horror movies. Even the old EC and Creepy comics - I love those! I would love to work on developing something like that. No matter how many there have been  or how successful they’ve been I still feel there’s a lot of room to do some really awesome things there. Even in manga that sort of thing has become a staple with titles like the fabulous Pet Shop of Horrors series. In some ways the episodic crime dramas have kind of taken the place of this sort of thing, but I really would love to do something new in that area. I also really love comics, manga, and graphic novels. My drawing skills are limited to costume designs, but I’d love to develop stories for that medium, as well, because it really opens door as to what an writer can do. There are stories that I’ve read in the visual forms that would never work as novels, or at the very least the characters in comics are allowed to be rougher and be messier in the ways they explore their emotions.

And if we’re really dreaming big I’d fall on my face to do anything with Henson Studios. Films like The Dark Crystal, The Storyteller series, and Labyrinth broke my mind and heart open as a kid and really got me thinking about what was possible. I’d love to do that kind of story-telling.

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

My first e-book release, Mooner, involved a lot of historical lumberjack slang. I worked really hard to incorporate the definitions and intentions within the text of the story, but I realized after it was published that I probably should have included a glossary to make life easier on people. I do have one up at my blog, but if I had to do it again I would have made it part of the release.

What inspires you to write?

There’s so much possibility in the everyday and a lot of it gets ignored. I don’t know if it’s just a coping mechanism for me, or if I’m just wired to think about things sideways, but I always have these little ‘what-if’ ideas come at me. As good as technology and progression is, sometimes I think it’s become an anesthetic and people don’t see just how awesome the little things that make up a life are. Stories are so powerful, anyway. I was always influenced by books and stories I was told as a kid, and I think it’s  awesome to be able to potentially do that for others.

The genres I write could offer women a great chance to show all sides of our emotions and create some really great characters that are outside of expectations. I write a column for Fandom Scene about women in genre fiction and film, but eventually I want to turn my thoughts into more than that. I feel like if we understand where these characters are coming from and why they were written that way, we can begin to create different kinds characters and really stretch fantasy and horror beyond the typical formulas. I’m sure it all sounds really idealistic and ridiculous, but I firmly believe that it’s better to think something’s possible and go for it than sit around assuming it can’t happen.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Ray Bradbury, hands down. No matter how far-fetched the situation, he always finds the emotional truth. It doesn’t matter if his sci-fi isn’t “hard” or if his horror is light compared to the graphic trends of today – they affect me as a reader because they’re so easy to relate to. He’s also written some beautifully graceful stories like Hopscotch and A Medicine for Melancholy. Plus, his descriptions are just gorgeous.

I also really love Neil Gaiman and how he blends contemporary tales with mythological or folk tale elements. And his humor is just so fabulous; it adds another layer to his work because he doesn’t take himself too seriously. You can tell he’s always really into whatever story he’s writing. Growing up I was always intrigued by Madeline L’Engle. She wrote some really bold things and stuck to her guns all throughout her career. It doesn’t really matter if one agrees with her personal philosophy; her books are incredibly diverse and imaginative, but somehow always believable.

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

I think you do need to learn tips and tricks, but I don’t think there’s a set formula. As books turn into franchises it seems like a lot of people want to believe that if you hit the hot new trend and follow certain patterns, that it’ll equal a bestseller and that’s just not the case. As a reader I don’t mesh well with books that are obviously trying too hard or trying to hit a certain rhythm. I want to read things by people who truly love the things they’re writing about and have enough respect for their audience to craft a really good story. I suppose that would land me more on the art side.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

I’m working on edits for my next release, In the Red. It’s a re-interpretation of the Andersen fairy tale "The Red Shoes" that takes some of the themes and puts them into a modern world of rock n’ roll and dark magic. Being able to combine my love of fairy tales with my love of rock urban legends is a lot of fun. It’s a story that’s been on my hard drive for years and I’ve finally find the right combination of all the components and the right outlet for it.

And people can read about my thoughts on gender and genre on Fandom Scene. I’m covering urban fantasy right now, and I plan to move towards more traditional examples of fantasy, and eventually horror. With every new title I’m diving into I’m finding that some of my assumptions were well-founded, and others weren’t, so it’s as much of a journey for me as it is for my readers.

I can usually be found hanging out in the following places:


Fandom Scene Blog:

Facebook Author Page:


The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#156) -- Open Source vs. Commercial

Which software do you prefer to use for your writing and layout 
when you are writing or editing or putting a book together?

I am a huge fan of open source software and I prefer to use it whenever a useful tool is an option available for me. Some of my favorites are:
Open Office

That said, I have yet to find a suitable open source replacement for layout that can go toe-to-toe with InDesign. The day someone makes it available, that'll be the day I stop using InDesign.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pulp Ark Mad Libs

While out at Pulp Ark this past weekend, Macedonia Films put together a video Mad Libs featuring the guests of the con. I think it turned out to be a lot of fun.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#155) -- E-Book Prices

How much is too much for an e-book? 

For me, for an average book of fiction, 2.99 is the magic number. I'll go as high as 4.99 for something that is only available in hardback and won't be in paperback for a long time. But an e-book should never be higher than a mass market paperback. That's just crazy. If I'm paying 9.99 for an e-book, it had better be for a textbook or some 50.00 or more volume of something that would make it worth it. I think 20 percent of the hardcover is a fair e-book price. (Particularly considering how expensively new hardcovers are priced nowadays.) But maybe that's just me. Your digital mileage may vary.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Interview at the Gateway Book Blog

I'm interviewed over at Alexx Mom Cat's Gateway Book Blog.

Check it out. (And learn about how I lost a hot date because I lost a fight with an elevator shaft. Seriously.)

Read the interview:

NOTE: For the record, the link to my interview if PG. The warning comes only because not all of Mom Cat's topics are always SFW.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#154) -- Me Llamo "Author"

I was recently on a panel at a convention with several writers. Each of them introduced themselves as “a dark urban fantasy author” or “a hard science fiction writer” or “a pulp writer.” This got me wondering about how we as writers present ourselves to readers. How do you introduce yourself on a panel at a convention, for instance? What type of label do you attach to yourself as a writer? Or do you attach a label? (Question courtesy of Table Talk)

I just call myself a writer. Occasionally, depending on the venue, I may introduce myself as a comic book writer or a pulp or action writer.

Bobby Nash gets a kick out of the fact that I used to introduce myself (all in one breath) as "Hi, I'm Sean Taylor, writer of Gene Simmons Dominatrix" as if my name was tied to Gene's apron strings.

But now my writing life is so varied, I'm perfectly fine with just being a writer. Or sometimes a writer of stuff.

I have friends who call themselves "urban fantasy novelists" or "supernatural romance authors" and so on, but for me, I don't want to get stuck writing one type of genre and pigeonhole my career into it. So, for now, whether it's the best marketing decision or not, I'm just a plain ol' writer, and I'm happy with that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Best New Writer" Pulp Ark 2012

An honor I shared with Chuck Miller this year. 

This is me accepting my award from Allan Gilbreath of Kerlak Publishing.

And this is a close up of the award and happy me for receiving it. 

And here I am with my fellow winner, Chuck Miller.

Shock Till You Drop Reviews Zombies vs. Robots: This Means War

by Spencer Perry

We talk about zombies a lot here at Shock. It's just a part of the job. Not that I'm complaining. Zombies are one of the reasons I got into what I do now I love the little critters. As it's been said before we're in an era now where the is an abundance of zombie media. They've become the new hot commodity for the masses. It's almost like zombies are so prevalent in our culture that creators think just because their story is about zombies means that it will be successful, not the case.

How do you take a concept (in this case, the living dead) and make it different from all the others? Well, there are of course several answers to this question, just ask any writer, but a few years back Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood came up with an answer to that question: Robots.

Their popular series - Zombies vs. Robots - was pretty groundbreaking in its treatment of the zombie genre as well as redefining the role of robots in fiction. They continued the series in comic form a few more times, but now we're getting a taste of that world from a different lens. IDW has brought to us a collection of short stories fitting under the banner of Zombies vs. Robots in their newest prose anthology Zombies vs. Robots: This Means War In this collection we're given short stories by eleven genre writers and art work bridging the tales by Fabio Listrani.

I like it when really creative people tackle a widely popular genre. When they do this they're able to pick apart the things that people like about this genre, dissect that, learn how it works and why people like it. Then they can reapply it with other tricks and turn something that we think we know all about into an entirely unique adventure that we never expected. This is the experience I found these writers had to have played with while I was devouring these stories.

The prospect of robots fighting zombies is a wide one, I think, because there can be so many different types of both. This is the thing I noticed first while reading the stories - all of the different robots that I would have never thought about if given the prompt of "zombies versus robots."

Sometimes, as fans of the genre we want something to wet our appetites. Just enough to tide us over for a few minutes or so, maybe we don't have the time to indulge in an entire film. This is the exact remedy that your horror fan bloodlust has been waiting for. While some stories are longer than others, some have genius amounts of subtext, and some are just thrilling adventures. There's a story in here that you will love and once you find that one you're set for the rest of the book. After you fall in love with the idea of the series for the first time through one great story the door to the rest of them is opened up wide for you.

There are four factors for this collection that I must really gloat about. The first being the gorgeous art by Fabio Listrani. He has created some great pieces into the world of Zombies vs. Robots and a few interesting parodies of already famous art but under the scope of zombies and robots.

The second factor is the talent that is inside the web of authors. Norman Prentiss, Rachel Swirsky, Nancy A. Collins, Nicholas Kaufmann, Sean Taylor and Brea Grant just to name a few. The third great thing about this anthology is how you need not have read the original series Zombies vs. Robots to understand the stories. You also don't have to read any of the other stories to get the one that you've decided to read. But the thing about this collection that gets me excited is located on the spine of the book where it says "#1."

This I can only hope means we've got more war coming to us.

Pick up your own copy here.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#153) -- Name Your Poison

As a writer, what's your poison? Novels, collections of your own shorts, or shared anthologies? What are your preferences, and why? (Thanks to Jim Beard for the question.)

You have bought my short
story collection, right?
I got my start on short stories, and I'll always be partial to them, I think. I still like the definition I learned in my writing classes in college (learning under the tutelage of a working writer, not just a "those who can't, teach" type) that writing a novel is like throwing paint at a wall and seeing what sticks, but that in a short story, with space at a premium, it must be carefully crafted by precise strokes of paint.

I have recently gotten into writing longer stories of 15,000 words, and I plan to tackle a novel or three over the next year or so, but my first love will always be short stories. I just love the immediacy of them, the way characters and style must hit hard and fast to win over the reader without having the luxury of "it really picks up after chapter three" that I often hear when people describe some of their favorite novels to me.

I also love (as my second favorite) writing comic book scripts. It's such a different way of telling a story to an audience of one (the artist) in hopes that what you describe, what you see in your head, and what the artist interprets all match up for the finished product. It's a beautiful, messy, terrifying sequence of possibilities that can drive you crazy as a writer, but in a good way.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

[Link] Table Talk: Label Me This

This week, New Pulp authors Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock return to the table to discuss labels and untapped genres.

Question (Bobby): I was recently on a panel at a convention with several writers. Each of them introduced themselves as “a dark urban fantasy author” or “a hard science fiction writer” or “a pulp writer.” This got me wondering about how we as writers present ourselves to readers. How do you introduce yourself on a panel at a convention, for instance? What type of label do you attach to yourself as a writer? Or do you attach a label?

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[Link] Help Jonah Hex co-creator with massive post-stroke medical bills

By Trent Moore, Source:

Sad news, comic fans: Jonah Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga is in bad health following a stroke, and he’s dealing with some mounting medical bills to boot. But you can help.

DeZuniga is currently in the Philippines after a stroke caused brain damage and swelling. A procedure to try and help the swelling seems to have exacerbated the problems, and his wife Tina says things are looking very critical.

“The stroke damaged the brain. It has bleeding inside and they need to open up the brain but with so much medication they were able to stop the bleeding but the brain was swollen so they need to take the pressure out so they need to insert a tube to release the pressure but since I don’t want them to open up it created an hernia,” she said in a post via Comic Art Community. “His condition is so unstable. He got infection that they need to treat, his pneumonia, need to be watched because he’s having problem breathing and blood pressure on top of the heart. With too much medications his stomach bleeds. One on top of the other.”

To make matters worse, DeZuniga has no insurance, and his hospital stay is costing approximately $1,500 per day, not to mention medication. Information on making a donation via PayPal to help with expenses can be found by emailing For more updates on DeZuniga, follow along at Comic Art Community.

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The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#152) -- Mystery Stories

Since you write the adventures of a pulp detective, what's your favorite and least favorite kind of mystery story?

I love a good mystery story, but, that said, I really am not at all fond of what's called a "cozy" mystery. What's a cozy? Mrs. Marple and her ilk. Sweet little old ladies or polite Belgium gentlemen who solve bloodless mysteries without ever really having to face genuine danger along their path to finding the killer. They seem more an exercise in intelligence (like a puzzle) than in action or crime-stopping.

What I really enjoy reading when I want a mystery is either a good police procedural like the amazing 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain or something pulpy and gritty (noir-ish) like the Raymond Chandler private eye tales and the ones being published by Hard Case Crime. In both of these types, not only do we get the inside scoop on the brains of the poor saps stuck with solving the crimes, but also that immediate sense of danger and life-threatening risk along with some mud to wallow through along the way.

For the record, I also enjoy some of the supernatural detective fiction as well, particularly Jim Butcher's Dresden books and Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Free Comic Book Day at Galactic Quest Comics!

Who do you call this May 5? (All together now) Ghoooooostbusters!
Galactic Quest welcomes the Ghostbusters to Free Comic Book Day!

Buford, GA—Come for the free comics; stay for the Ghostbusters. That’s this year’s big news for Free Comic Book Day at Galactic Quest in Buford, Ga. The store will host the Georgia Ghostbusters and the Ecto-1G, a Dodge Magnum tripped out for paranormal adventures.

“We’re going big with our Ghostbusters theme this year,” said store owner Kyle Puttkammer. “We’re looking forward to an amazing turnout and we really want to give back to all the readers and fans who’ve been so generous with their patronage.”

The Georgia Ghostbusters are a group of Ghostbusters fans located all over the state of Georgia. They've taken their love of a classic comedy, a passion for building prop replicas and costuming, and have coupled it all with a desire to give something back by helping with charity events.

In addition to the Georgia Ghostbusters, and keeping with the ghosts and ghoulies theme, the store will also feature Sonya Thompson and Larry Mainland, who are zombies from AMC’s hit television show The Walking Dead.

The event will also feature the music of The South East Yukers, The Vancouver Project, and No Comment. Also featured are the following comic book creators: Bryan Mon of Tuff-Girl, Peter Culter & Mike Gordon of Tiki Zombie, and Sean Taylor of IDW.

Free Comic Book Day is a single day - the first Saturday in May each year - when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores. One of the goals of Free Comic Book Day is to reach out to those individuals unfamiliar with the comic book specialty market, not to mention a comic book shop. So, every year those behind Free Comic Book Day launch a massive promotional campaign that heralds the event and spreads the good word of comics to potential readers everywhere.

For more information about the event, contact Galactic Quest online at or call the Buford store at 770-614-4804.

Michael D'Ambrosio -- Fractured but Never Broken

Michael D'Ambrosio wears a red shirt like nobody's business -- and an awesome cabby hat -- but that isn't why you need to meet him. You need to meet him because his work is just plain smart and fun to read. He's written a little bit of everything, being a sort of literary jack of all trades, but without being just a dabbler in any genre.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest novel, Galaxy of the Damned, was just released in March from Helm Publishing and is the fourth and final book in my Space Frontiers series. This series is classic space opera from the molds of Star Wars and Star Trek with two very intriguing and lovable lead characters in Will and Shanna. Their adventures are an emotional roller coaster as they find ways to turn a galactic war upside-down with their antics.

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

There is always a good versus evil theme in my novels along with a strong theme of survival. I like to put my characters through hell, both physically and mentally. I enjoy writing about futuristic science fiction subjects with a twist of horror, fantasy and dysfunctional romance.

What would be your dream project?

My dream project would be to write a futuristic action series with Jerry Bruckheimer as the producer. Jerry has a knack for bringing out the best in anyone who works for or with him.

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

If I could go back and redo one project, it would be my Fractured Time trilogy. Since I started into developing a TV series, I’ve come up with so many new ideas, some which have become episodes in the series. I could easily turn the trilogy into a six or seven book series.

What inspires you to write?

Escapism is my main motivation for writing. After doing several tours of duty in the Middle East, our day-to-day problems seem pretty pathetic to those in war-torn countries.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Laurel K. Hamilton (Anita Black: Vampire Hunter) and Storm Constantine (Wraethu series) have had a big influence on how I develop my characters. They are awesome with how they transition their characters over the course of a story. Terry Brooks is another great writer who has influenced me with his vision and creativity. Just read one of his books and you’ll see what I mean.

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

My writing falls more in line with science in fiction. Thanks to my technical backgrounds, both in the military and the power industry, I like to give my readers a taste of what some of our technology could be in the future without giving them a physics lesson. Unfortunately, modern science is changing so fast that it’s difficult to show the future when it quickly becomes the past. What’s a writer to do?

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

Princess Pain will be my next novel sometime in the future. It’s a futuristic action story about Marina, the daughter of Will and Shanna from Space Frontiers, at thirty years of age. She is a real piece of work thanks to her parents’ fate at the end of Galaxy of the Damned. I’ve already written a screenplay for this but the novel will give me an opportunity to really get into her head and have some fun with this psychotic young lady.

I’ve also completed a few sort stories that you may see appear in anthologies soon. One is titled “Perseus Meets Charlie Harper” and will be released in an anthology from Fortress Publishing called TV Gods next year at BaltiCon. Another is “A Night with Edgar Allan Poe” which will be in an anthology called Center of the Bar from AZ Publishing. A release date has not been set as stories from other authors are still being collected. I’ll have details on these and other projects on my website at Thanks, Sean, for having my on your blog.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#151) -- How Bad/How Good

How bad can a good guy be and still be a good guy? 

The Battle Royale kids... Heroes or Villains? You decide.
As bad as he needs to be to do the right thing.

I'm not saying that we need to rewrite morality so that two wrongs make a right, or accept that the ends justify the means. What I am saying is that, as that hero defines himself, he must be willing to do what needs to be done to undergo his quest to accomplish the greater good.

Getting his or her hands dirty won't make the character the most moral good guy, but if the driving force is to do good and to sacrifice his or her own good for the good of others, then no matter how close the character may be to the line between good and bad, he or she is still on the "safe" side.

Those are my moral judgments on this matter anyway. Your gavel might bang differently.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

[Link] Raymond Chandler, "The Simple Art of Murder" (1950)

Editor's Note: This is perhaps the single finest essay on the art of writing pulp detectives, and I'm thrilled to have found it available online. Enjoy! -- ST

Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic. Old-fashioned novels which now seem stilted and artificial to the point of burlesque did not appear that way to the people who first read them. Writers like Fielding and Smollett could seem realistic in the modern sense because they dealt largely with uninhibited characters, many of whom were about two jumps ahead of the police, but Jane Austen’s chronicles of highly inhibited people against a background of rural gentility seem real enough psychologically. There is plenty of that kind of social and emotional hypocrisy around today. Add to it a liberal dose of intellectual pretentiousness and you get the tone of the book page in your daily paper and the earnest and fatuous atmosphere breathed by discussion groups in little clubs. These are the people who make bestsellers, which are promotional jobs based on a sort of indirect snob-appeal, carefully escorted by the trained seals of the critical fraternity, and lovingly tended and watered by certain much too powerful pressure groups whose business is selling books, although they would like you to think they are fostering culture. Just get a little behind in your payments and you will find out how idealistic they are.

The detective story for a variety of reasons can seldom be promoted. It is usually about murder and hence lacks the element of uplift. Murder, which is a frustration of the individual and hence a frustration of the race, may have, and in fact has, a good deal of sociological implication. But it has been going on too long for it to be news. If the mystery novel is at all realistic (which it very seldom is) it is written in a certain spirit of detachment; otherwise nobody but a psychopath would want to write it or read it. The murder novel has also a depressing way of minding its own business, solving its own problems and answering its own questions. There is nothing left to discuss, except whether it was well enough written to be good fiction, and the people who make up the half-million sales wouldn’t know that anyway. The detection of quality in writing is difficult enough even for those who make a career of the job, without paying too much attention to the matter of advance sales.

The detective story (perhaps I had better call it that, since the English formula still dominates the trade) has to find its public by a slow process of distillation. That it does do this, and holds on thereafter with such tenacity, is a fact; the reasons for it are a study for more patient minds than mine. Nor is it any part of my thesis to maintain that it is a vital and significant form of art. There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that. The growth of populations has in no way increased the amount; it has merely increased the adeptness with which substitutes can be produced and packaged.

Yet the detective story, even in its most conventional form, is difficult to write well. Good specimens of the art are much rarer than good serious novels. Rather second-rate items outlast most of the high velocity fiction, and a great many that should never have been born simply refuse to die at all. They are as durable as the statues in public parks and just about that dull. This is very annoying to people of what is called discernment. They do not like it that penetrating and important works of fiction of a few years back stand on their special shelf in the library marked "Best-Sellers of Yesteryear," and nobody goes near them but an occasional shortsighted customer who bends down, peers briefly and hurries away; while old ladies jostle each other at the mystery shelf to grab off some item of the same vintage with a title like The Triple Petunia Murder Case, or Inspector Pinchbottle to the Rescue. They do not like it that "really important books" get dusty on the reprint counter, while Death Wears Yellow Garters is put out in editions of fifty or one hundred thousand copies on the news-stands of the country, and is obviously not there just to say goodbye.

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The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#150) -- Pulled into Another World

Out of all of the classic ways to get pulled into another world, which is your favorite? Accidentally walking through a magic portal (rabbit holes, wardrobes, mirrors), being summoned there by something on the other side (magic, teleporter, whatever), or you wake up and find out that it wasn't real at all (dream, coma, drug-induced hallucination)? Or some other way I haven't thought of?

What an excellent question. Most of the stories I read as a child -- Alice in Wonderland, Flatland, and The Chronicles of Narnia among them -- were escapist, not just in the sense of the reader escaping mundane reality, but of the protagonist ending up in some sort of other dimension or world.

Many of my favorites that I discovered as an adult fit that mold as well -- Phantastes, Lillith, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and even A Princess of Mars.

My two favorites would be some form of portal -- and I'm partial to wardrobes and mirrors -- and just waking up in the new place like Thomas Covenant and John Carter.

Why? Because in both settings, they quickly get the method over with so the writer can get on with the actual story. I know some readers who love to get all the technicalities of the method perfect so that the "reality" of the method is solid, but honestly, in a story about traveling to a "magical" dimension, that's just not very important to me as a writer or as a reader. I want to get from point A to point B so that the characters can get on with their discoveries and adventures.

That's just my opinion. Your magical clock door may lead you to different opinion.

Thanks to Sarah White for today's question.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Ruby Files climbs back into the Top 10!

Rick Ruby rockets back into the top 10 new pulp books at Amazon with one of his best weeks yet. Thanks to all of you who have purchased a copy and a great big "Whatareyouwaitingfor?" to the rest of you.

To purchase a copy of your very own, click :

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David Boop: Blinding Us with Brilliance

David Boop is not only a fantastic writer, but he also has one of the most fun names you can ever say aloud. Try it. It's fun.

And so is David.

Maybe that's what I like and respect so much about him and his work -- that fun that he interjects and injects into it.

And I think once you get to know him, you'll agree.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I’ve been cranking out short stories of late. Last year was a good year with both my first non-genre mystery (“Kelly” in Bête Noire Issue #2) and my first media tie-in (“The Wet and the Wicked” in The Green Hornet Casefiles.) I also had my first reprint in How the West was Weird Vol 2. Good year for firsts. This year I’m seeing both my first children’s book, The Three Inventors Sneebury, come out from Fairypunk Press, and my first zombie story, “Like a Bee in the Heart” appear in Undead Tales Vol 2. Finally, I have several weird western stories coming this spring, both original and reprint. There’s a piece in Low Noon and one in Penny Dread Tales Vol 2. I seem to be big in second volumes. LOL!

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

I loved flawed heroes. Not just your normal hubris, but crippling issues. Noel R. Glass, the protagonist from my novel She Murdered Me with Science, is gutted by guilt from an experiment that had tragic results. The reader meets him just as he’s just starting to put this behind him and move on, only to have someone walk through the door and tell him his culpability was a lie and that he’d been framed. Other protagonists have issues like Oedipus complexes, borderline pedophilia, grief, arrogance, apathy and greed. Of course, these become redemption tales, ultimately. I love a story where the hero has to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and find that last reserve of strength to succeed. I like twists, taking the reader somewhere they don’t expect. I want them to discover the reward for success is not what the protagonist, or reader, had in mind.

What would be your dream project?

Working with George R. R. Martin on Wildcards, or Lucasbooks on an Indiana Jones project. I’ve had a Dr. Jones story for years; outlined and everything. I got it in front of an editor once, but it was an off time for Indy. Maybe if they do another movie...

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

The great thing about reprints is I’ve fixed several glaring errors in my earlier writing. The first two stories I ever sold were reprinted within the last year, and now both are tighter. I wonder about my novel sometimes, but honestly, other than a few missed typos, I think it still holds true. If I ever sell the other two books in the series, maybe an editor will want me to go back over it, but I’m not sure I would change anything (That being said, I want to put in some new lines to foreshadow the second book.)

What inspires you to write?

I’m an insomniac. Ideas come into my head and won’t let me sleep until I get something down on paper. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write in a lifetime. Comics, children’s books, screenplays, novels, shorts, novellas, YAs. If someone would pay me to, I could write all day, every day, and be a happy man. My ideas come from dreams, from conversations, even from blog posts. I get invites with topics/themes. Music. TV. My son. Researching another topic and hitting upon a thread. Everything inspires me.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Rex Stout has been a huge influence. Alan Dean Foster. Jack L. Chalker. Mike Stackpole. Kevin J. Anderson. Robert Lynn Asprin. Janet Evanovich. The last two really taught me how to do humor effectively in prose.

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

My wordsmithing is horrible. I need so much editing it’s insane. I’m definitely a storyteller first and a writer second. That being said, my craft has improved greatly over the last couple of years. I’m also back in school, again, to finish my creative writing degree. I’m hoping to see a big improvement over the next couple of years.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Fairypunk is going to be huge! There are top names signed up to do this project. I’m one of the earlier releases, so it won’t seem big at first, but then neither did Harry Potter when it first came out. The idea is to take old fairytales and re-envision them in a Steampunk setting. My story is a retelling of “The Three Billygoats Gruff” called The Three Inventors Sneebury. It’s about a family of inventors facing a land pirate who controls the drawbridge into town. If seen some preliminary art for it, and it’s amazing! I’m also taking to summer to finish some novels I started. I have the follow-up to my first novel called Murdered in a Mechanical World (and I’m a Mechanical Girl!), a paranormal police procedural called The Blood Vineyard, and a yet unannounced YA I’m coauthoring with a well-respected fantasy author. Until then, I’m just finishing up obligations to anthologies, including three more weird westerns, and waiting to hear from those I’ve already sent out.


To learn more about David and his work, visit his website at

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#149) -- Illustrations in Pulp

Which do you prefer as a reader -- illustrated pulp stories or those without illustrations?

Rob Moran, the RIGHT artist for The Ruby Files.
This one's a toss up for me.

If the illustrations fit the tone of the work, I prefer illustrations. If they are there purely because the publisher expected the book to have illustrations and the art seems to be anachronistic to the stories, the I'd prefer not to have art in the book at all.

But, in general, I prefer my pulp stories to have art, when it's the right art.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Free Short Story -- The Other, as Just as Fair

The Other, as Just as Fair
By Sean Taylor

“And sorry I could not travel both…”
-- Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Twelve miles to go. Eight to the city limits then another four to Alan’s apartment.

Allison Reisner pulled her rented Maxima onto the shoulder of Highway 76 and stopped the car. Without turning off the ignition, she drummed the fingers of the right hand on the steering wheel, then ran them through her hair, tugging softly on a handful of thick, short, sandy blonde tangles, and letting out a loud sigh.

“Damn,” she said to the deejay droning on about the Colorado dryness. “Damn, damn, damn,” she said again and pushed the button to change the station to the blandest, most forgettable smooth jazz she could find. “What am I doing here?”

She knew she could take Jared and Joshua back by force. She had the power. Nature or God or Fate or Whatever had seen to that. Whatever force had or power or person had given her super powers has dropped into her lap all she needed to rip the ambient moisture from her Alan’s body and render him unconscious, then take her children back into her arms, load them into the car and just keep driving out of her ex-husband’s reach for as long as her money held out.

There was nothing he could do to stop her.

Except remind her that she was a hero. That she had made “that choice” almost a year ago. That her own chosen code of right and wrong, of self-limiting, was the very thing that would ensure his continued, legal theft of her children that he had never carried inside him, for whom he had done little more to sustain than spare a few minutes before bed, roll over to her side of the mattress, and donate the raw materials needed to aid in their creation.

“Trust me. We’ll win this eventually,” her attorney, Donald Winder, had told her repeatedly. “Even with the loss in a state court, we can appeal. Just don’t do anything stupid. Please, just wait.” Then he’d grab her hands and make her look him in the eyes and add. “For the kids’ sake, okay.”

He’d definitely call this stupid, she knew, crossing the state to see Alan and the boys in spite of the no contact clause. And maybe it was. But Donald wasn’t a mother. He couldn’t feel the raw instinct that compelled her to fight for her young. If it was stupid, it wasn’t her fault she was acting the fool. It was a natural, instinctual stupidity that drove her.

She checked her watch, staring for nearly a minute as the dolphin hands click-clicked around the ocean-painted face. Four fifty-seven a.m. Yellow wrapping paper with Mother Goose on it. And a powder-blue bow. Jared had even helped her unwrap the Mother’s Day gift three years ago to reveal the cheap, tourist-shop watch he and Joshua had picked out with Alan’s money.

“It won’t do any good, you stupid idiot,” she said, listening as the jazz underscored her voice. “If you’re not going to take them, you’re just wasting your time and money driving out here.”

She reached for the duffel bag in the passenger seat and thought of putting on the costume hidden inside it. Another night as Ambient Sky to impress the local law enforcement and drum up sympathy for her plight. But she decided against it, shoving the bag into the passenger side floor. No. She had come to see the boys, not to play the hero.

After testing the shift to make sure the car was in park, she pushed open the door and stepped out into the arid morning. No hint of the coming day lurked beyond the horizon. Only the Denver lights from the incandescent heap of 24-hour convenience stores and lit-up high-rise office buildings cut a slice out of the darkness.

She leaned against the car, the door open and intruding into the empty interstate, and grabbed a cigarette from the pack of Slims in her pocket, and ignited it with the cheap lighter she’d picked up an hour or so back at the Quik-Stop Shop. What would Alan think of that, she wondered, and the thought brought a smile. He’d think she was losing it. That’s what he’d think. Eleven years without a cigarette, all without the help of a patch or medication -- just pure human determination to quit and not endanger her children they were trying to conceive -- and then after just four months without the boys she was back up to a half a pack a day.

“I can’t do this!” she shouted, tossing the cigarette onto the ground. She looked into the sky and glared. “I’m doing the right thing here. I am. I know I am.”

Stars blinked overhead, but said nothing. Allison squatted to retrieve the cigarette then brushed it off. “Fine. Be that way then.” Jerking the lighter from her jeans pocket, she quickly re-ignited the undamaged smoke stick, as Alan had called them. As she returned the lighter to her pocket, her watch beeped twice, signaling the changing hour. She took two long drags of smoke and closed her eyes.

“I guess it’s now or never, hero.”

She grabbed the cell phone from her waist, flipped it open, and said, “The jerk’s house.” The phone beeped its obedience and dialed the ten numbers to reach Alan.

“Hello,” he mumbled after a few rings.

She didn’t respond. She could hang up and let him think it was a prank or a wrong number. Just get back in the care, turn around, and take Donald’s advise.


One last puff. She spit the cigarette onto the highway.

“Anybody there?”


He didn’t respond.


She heard him sigh loudly enough to come through the line.

“You’re not supposed to call here,” he said.

“I need to talk with you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“But I really --”

“You’re not supposed to call here, Allison.” She made out a long, deep breath. “You’re already violating the ruling as it is.”

“They’re my kids, Alan.”

He paused.

“Alan, please.”

“Then do what’s best for them.”

“Please. I’m here. Just outside of Denver. I need to see you.”

“You’re here?”

“Yes. I’m pulled off of 76 here.”

“I’m not going to let you see them. Not now. I can’t.”



“God, Alan. I’m smoking again.”


“Yeah. Smoking.”


“You have to ask?”

Another pause. And another sigh. “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t easy for you. But…” He let the words trail off, unsaid.

“They’re my boys, Alan.”


“At least you come see me then, face to face.”


“Yes, now.” Allison wiped her face. It had grown thick with beaded sweat. But not from the summer morning, she knew. “Please, before I do something stupid.”


“Nothing like that, but it’s killing me to be so close and know I can’t see them.”

“Hang on.”

She heard Jared’s voice faintly ask who was on the phone. “Nobody,” Alan said. “Just a friend of daddy’s, okay.”


“Hang on.”


There was a clunk, like the phone being dropped against the nightstand, then hushed voices as Alan ushered Jared from the room. Almost two minutes later, Alan returned.

“What was that crap?”

“I just --”

“I know what you were trying to do, Allison. Do you realize how much trouble you’d be in simply for talking to them?”

“You don’t have to tell.”

“I requested the ‘no contact’ clause, honey. I’m the last person who’d keep that a secret.”

“Are you going to meet me?”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“I shouldn’t.”

“You called me ‘honey’ again. I know it was a slip. But you did say it.”

She waited for him to speak. In the silence, she grabbed another cigarette and hung it limply from her lips, not lighting it, just enjoying the feel of it dangling and bouncing as each breath moved her lips slightly.

A light approached from up the highway, the hum of a car growing louder as it drew closer. It sped by without a second look from the driver and disappeared in a fading red glow toward Denver.

“There’s a place, a breakfast cafe on 14th and Rosewood, called Bernson’s. I’ll meet you there at six. I’ll give you twenty minutes, but after that, you turn around and go back home, okay?”

“Bernson’s. Six o’clock. Got it.”

“Right home. Okay?”

“Thank you, Alan.”

* * *

She arrived at 5:30 and took a booth in the corner, facing the door, but as far away as possible. She just needed time to read his face as he approached.

The Regency surprised her with its faux-café trimming, Continental-style breakfast buffet, and daunting list of coffee choices. Not at all the kind of place her Alan would have chosen. Busy, but not full, it catered mostly to business types who didn’t wear coats and ties, though they and the staff seemed friendly enough for that time of morning. She laughed. So, the high-strung lawyer was reinventing himself in his new city. It wasn’t just her after all.

After the long drive, she really wanted a scattered sampling from the buffet, but she hadn’t driven all night simply to eat out. And she couldn’t be distracted, so instead she ordered a black decaf and a bagel with butter while she watched the door and waited for Alan to arrive.

She checked her watch when she saw him pass in the window. Five forty-eight. As punctual as usual. On time meant ten minutes early for him. Anytime within fifteen minutes after starting time had always been okay for her. But even that had caused only infrequent arguments Not the bills, not sex, not in-laws. Only her eventual admission that she had super powers and had kept them hidden since they dated in high school, followed by her proposal that she take the time to finally see if she could put her gift to good use now that the boys were older. Only that had succeeded in driving them apart when no other marital pitfall had stood fast.

He smiled and sighed when he saw her. She returned the smile and waved him over, then shoved the duffel bag beside her against the wall and dropped her purse on top of it.

“You’ve cut your hair,” he said as he joined her at the booth, sliding onto the plastic seat. “Nice.”

She nodded. “It kept getting in the way. Once I figured out the bad guys were always going for it to jerk my head around, I decided it was safer without it.”

He grinned. “But you always hated short hair.”

“Still do. But some sacrifices are worth it, I guess.”

The waitress came over to refill her coffee and take Alan’s order. She winked at Allison as if to give the universal sign for “hold on to this one, honey, he’s cute” and then scribbled his order for the buffet and a caramel latte on her notepad and left for the kitchen.

“How ’bout you?” Allison asked. “I notice you’re getting some gray on the sides there.”

“Yeah. Rough year. You?”

She ran her fingers through her cropped hair. “Only my hairdresser knows for sure. Can’t let down my peers by showing the gray in public, not a woman anyway.”

Alan grabbed the salt shaker and passed it from hand to hand absently. “I suppose.”

She let the lull hang and took a long draw of the fresh coffee.

“Listen, Allison,” he said, setting down the salt shaker between them.

“Uh-huh?” she asked, warming her hands around the cup.

“When are you going to stop this playing around with the costumes? The boys still need a mother.”

She put down the cup. “I’m not playing around, Alan. I am a superhero. And thanks to you and the case, I’m even outed as one.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Two nights ago, I kept a woman from getting mugged. And last week, I saved a van of retirees from a carjacker.” Her breaths quickened, her excitement rising with each memory. “And on the way here, I stopped another superpowered villain, some guy who could paralyze people with a touch. Stiller or Sleeper or something like that.”

“And that’s more important than being a mother?”

“God, Alan, you make it sound like I have to reject my kids in order to even think about being anything other than just a mom. Lots of women work outside the home, you know.”

“It’s not like you took a job heading up a marketing department or running an office somewhere, Allison. This isn’t about you working, and you know it. It’s about what you chose to do.”

“And what if I had decided to become a cop instead?”

“Police officers can clock out, honey. They don’t usually have costumed grudge matches chasing down the people they love.”

“Neither do all --” she started but stopped when the waitress returned with Alan’s latte.

“Anything else I can get for you two now?” she asked.

Alan asked for a check. The waitress looked at him, then Allison, then at the table and frowned. “Aren’t you going to eat?” she asked.

“No. I’ve got somewhere I need to be. Just the check, please.”

The woman sighed. “Sure, both on one, or separate?”

“Separate,” he said.

The woman, whom Allison now took the time to notice was a dark-haired lady, slightly overweight and in her mid-forties at least, shook her head slightly toward her. I know, Allison thought. Tell me about it.

“This was a really bad idea. I should have known better.”


“No. I should realize that neither one of us is going to change our minds. It’s better if you learn to move on.”

The waitress, whose nameplate read “Margo,” tore two slips of paper from her pad and put one in front of Alan and the other in the center of the table beside the salt shaker. Allison took hers and flipped it over.

“I can’t move on. They’re my kids, damn it.”

“I know. But they’re my kids too. And I’m going to do whatever I have to do to keep them safe.”

“Pay whenever your ready,” Margo said, and walked away.

Allison dug through her purse for her wallet, then pulled it out and grabbed a ten dollar bill and laid it on top of the bill. “And you think I won’t?”

“I think you’re not.”

“That’s not fair.”

“I think you’re too caught up in reliving some glory days you wished you’d have tried when we were younger. That’s what I think. I think you are so wrapped up in your costume these days that you can’t honestly know what’s best for Joshua and Jared.”

She laughed and reached into the bag at her side and pulled out the carefully folded costume and put it on the table between them, knocking over the salt. “So this is my red convertible and cheap, twenty-year-old blonde?” She laughed again. “Sometimes you are so stupid.”

Alan stood up. “You brought it with you?” He fished in his wallet for some bills and put a few on the table. “And I’m the one who’s stupid?”

“I could just take them, you know,” she said, beginning to cry.

“I know.”

“I could.”

“But you won’t.”

“God, I want to,” she said, using the cuff of her costume to wipe the tears away.

“I’m not an ogre, Allison. I’m just a dad. I only want my boys to be safe. Go home.”

She put down the costume. “I can’t. I’m a mom. My home is to be where Jared and Joshua are. And you’ve taken that away from me.”

Alan shook his head. “It’s too late anyway. Now that the word is out about you in the papers, we couldn’t start over even if we both wanted to. There’d always be some costume wanting to prove something.”

“Not…” she started, but let the words fade. There was nothing more to say anyway.

He sighed. “Go home, Allison. Go be a hero. Go do whatever you want to. No one’s stopping you. Go save the freaking planet if you get the chance. Just leave our boys out of it.”

Without another word, Alan turned to headed for the exit. Allison watched, wanting to jerk the moisture from his body, to pull it away slowly, first making him fall, then watching, standing over him as his skin grew dry and began to peel, then gloat as his soul left his dusty body to crumble.

“The body is mostly water,” she shouted.

He stopped. Turned. Glared. Then softened, and she saw something worse than his anger or hatred. His pity.

“Goodbye, Allison. I’ll tell the boys you said hello.”

And he left.

She sat still, no tears left, holding the costume for a few minutes as Alan passed by the window -- taking special effort, it appeared, not to look inside at her -- and walked from her line of sight and out of her life. Forever, if he had his way.

She knew Bernson’s was quiet. She knew it had grown quiet because of her and Alan. And she knew that everyone inside had to know by now what had just happened, who she was, and the choice she had made. But she didn’t care.

Margo returned and told her to keep her money, that she’d pick this one up, that “us moms have to stick together” and then patted her on the shoulders and asked if she was going to be all right. She only grunted an answer, not sure herself if it was yes or no, but it satisfied Margo, who shoved the check back in her apron and cleared the dishes away with a wider smile than before.

As Margo walked away with the dirty dishes, Allison crammed the costume back into the bag, zipped it shut, and grabbed the bag and her purse. She passed Margo on the way to the door, who asked again, “You sure you’re gonna be okay?”

“Why can’t we ever have both?” she mumbled, stopping to look down at Margo’s face and eyes.

“We only have so much love to give.”

Allison forced a smile. “But I do --”

Margo nodded. “I know. I know.”

The tiny bell hanging from the handle sang as she opened the glass double doors to go outside, but she never heard them.

© 2002 Sean Taylor


This story is taken from the collection Show Me a Hero, publishing by New Babel Books.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#148) -- Re-Imagining Old Characters

When re-imagining an existing character, what role does the writer 
have in trying to find balance for both new and old audiences?

The role of the writer, whether creating new characters or writing those who already exist, doesn't change. His or her job is to make a reader care enough about the characters to keep reading until the end, and in the case of series books, be so enthralled the he or she will want to pick up the next volume. That's the contract with the reader. Period. Fail at this and it doesn't matter how much the character is like he or she used to be.

Now, that said, when dealing with the task of re-imagining a character, my belief is this: You have a responsibility not to tarnish the legacy of the original while taking it to new readers in a way that rings true to the basic, core understanding of that character.

What does that mean?

To me, that means that if your hero is a genuinely heroic character and your re-imagining is a darker character struggling with being heroic but wanting to ultimately, you're treating the property with respect. If, however, you write the character as a phony who only pretends to be heroic for some ulterior nasty reason, then you're altering the core and only keeping the name of the character.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Exploring the Darkness with James A. Moore

When James A. Moore handed me a copy of his book SMILE NO MORE I treated it every other book that a fellow writer hands me. I tossed it in my passenger seat to read first paragraph when I got home, expecting that to be the last time I ever opened the book. I even e-mailed him later to tell him so.

You see, I'm a difficult reader to please. Writers get one paragraph to grab me. It's like my friend James Tuck said at Connooga this year, "Life's to short to waste reading shitty books."

But let's get this straight. SMILE NO MORE wouldn't let me put it down. Trust me. I tried. It grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

And that's why you need to get to know James A. Moore.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Currently I'm working on a couple of projects. First, I'm writing away on BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND. Christopher Golden and yours truly teamed up a while back to write BLOODSTAINED OZ and have been working on the two sequels for a while now. WONDERLAND is almost finished on the first draft. I'm also currently working on a trilogy of dark fantasy novels, tentatively called the SEVEN FORGES trilogy and, of course on a few YA titles and on a sequel to DEEPER and well, really, I'm working on a lot of stuff. I like to keep busy.

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

I try hard NOT to revisit too much, actually. But I'd have to say one of my favorite recurring themes is simply violent upheaval. I love watching what happens when a seemingly ordered world is altered without warning.

What would be your dream project?

I would dearly love to do a regular horror comic or a dark hero comic book. I'm very, very fond of the old supernatural titles that Marvel and DC comics did and would love to explore those settings. For DC I'd love to write a CREEPER comic. Yeah. I'm a comic book geek.

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

All of them. I'd love to write them all again. Not because I could make them better so much as I'd simply make them different. The thing is, I made myself a promise a while back to leave my older projects alone. i think there's always a temptation to rewrite everything, you know? And I promised myself that I wouldn't because I think that's cheating. Bloodletting Books is currently reissuing all of my books with the recurring character Jonathan Crowley, and I decided to let them come out as is, with the exception of minor edits for grammatical correction, because as awkward and as clumsy as some of the writing seems to me now, it was what I wanted to say when I wrote them. Believe me, there are parts of UNDER THE OVERTREE that I would gleefully rewrite until they were unrecognizable, but that's not fair, I think. Han shot first and I don't want to alter that until suddenly Greedo is the trigger happy one.

What inspires you to write?

I absolutely love writing. I love telling stories. On a cynical day I might tell you that the need to pay my bills inspires my writing, but the truth is I'd do even if I never got paid. It's how I try to make sense of the world, I guess. It's also just a lot of fun.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

All of them. Every last one that I've read. Some for better, some for worse, but I think all of them have their impact. That said, the ones I enjoy the most and who I suspect influence me the most are half the writers in comics over the last several decades, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Christopher Golden, Stephen King, F.Paul Wilson, Edgar Allan Poe, Fritz Leiber, Robert Aspirin, Richard Mattheson, Harlan Ellison, Peter Straub, Isaac Asimov, Clifford D. Simak, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander and a few dozen more. Seriously. I'm a voracious reader.

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

I'm for the art part of the equation. If writing were a science, anyone could apply that science and make a great novel. Science is a direct and quantifiable thing. Writing is not. You have storytellers, who can capture you with the tale they tell and make you empathize with their characters and you have wordsmiths who can mesmerize with the skillful application of words in exactly the right poetic order, and I don't think either of those is something you can learn in a book or even from a teacher. You can learn formats, yes, but the actual act of creating something with your writing? That's art. At least it is for me. I am trying to master that art, like every other writer out there. Personally, i think I have a long ways to go before I can match up with some of the greats, but I also tend to think I've at least got a little rudimentary talent.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I'm working in a couple of really cool anthologies for IDW, including V WARS, edited by Jonathan Maberry, and the Zombies Versus Robots anthology THIS MEANS WAR. I think both of those are going to be a lot of fun. Also, i'm about to release the vast majority of my novels in e-book formats over the course of the next year, which means that some of my books that have only been available in rather expensive limited editions are about to be available at an affordable price for the first time. That makes me very happy. Chief among them are CHERRY HILL and SMILE NO MORE, neither of which have ever been available in a mass market format. And of course, people can get regular updates at my website:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#147) -- Comic Book Completeness

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

The same thing that determines the completeness of any story in any publishing format -- does it have a beginning, a middle, and and end, and does the central character experience change or growth, or at least the opportunity to change or grow (and refuses)?

This is the basic standard for any story. And it can be done in 4 pages, 8 pages, 22 pages, 4 issues, 6 issues, or 100 issues, but that's the concrete you mix to set a story.

What isn't a complete story, again in any format, from TV to comics to books, is a soap opera-like meandering in and out of the lives of characters without any real plot development or growth arc for the character(s) going through the experience.

(Yes, massive, marketing-driven crossovers, I'm talking about you.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

[Link] New Pulp Fiction for Our New Hard Times

by David C. Smith

Pulp fiction is back — in print, online, in ebooks, and on iPads. Tough guys, tough women, tough prose, action and more action, blood and thunder, heroes and villains presented unapologetically as heroes and villains.

And why not? Why not have as much blood and thunder as we can handle right now, given that the last time we saw this much imaginative raw prose in the hands of readers, we were in the hard times of the early 1930s?

Fans of the original old, tough, wild pulp stories have always been here, collecting the magazines when they found them at garage sales or at science fiction conventions. But after the heyday of these magazines in the 1930s and 1940s, popular fiction in the 1950s and 1960s changed and moved on to paperbacks and digest zines and television shows.

By then, though, pulp had lost some of its edge. In the postwar boom, it became less than it had been, in the same way that the antics of rough early vaudeville, for example, changed as the routines moved to radio and then to early television and then to sitcoms.

The early 1970s saw a boom in nostalgia for the real stuff from the 1920s and 1930s — just in time for the very serious recession then. That’s when you found remaindered copies everywhere of Tony Goodstone’s big old coffee table book The Pulps, still the best introduction to the popular fiction of hard times and war time. Tons of great stories were brought back, and Bette Midler’s Songs for the New Depression sold right alongside paperback reprints of the Shadow and Doc Savage and Max Brand.

We’re back there now. We’re in the Lesser Depression, as Paul Krugman has identified it. And just as in the hard times of the early 1970s and the very hard times of the early 1930s, pulp fiction is here to fulfill its commitment to giving us outlandish, big top entertainment.

But the new pulp isn’t just a resurgence of interest in historic magazines and writers. In the same way that the latest technology of the 1920s and 1930s allowed publishers to invest in the quick, immediate-feedback production of The Shadow and Spicy Detective Stories in the cheap-paper magazine format, our latest technology — the Internet and print-on-demand publishing — has created a new generation of young writers who are writing pulp fiction, and they are servicing an audience that is growing by leaps and bounds.

Talent follows technology — so the new pulp era is happening right under the noses of — and almost out of sight of — the legacy publishers still stuck in the chain bookstore model of a generation or more ago.

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The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#146) -- Pulpiest Comic Writers

Which contemporary comic book writers (the past 20 years) best exemplify the spirit of pulps?

Don't mess with Beau. He'll shoot you.
It's short list.

Chuck Dixon
Beau Smith
James Robinson
Ron Fortier
Garth Ennis
Christopher Mills