Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pro Se Productions proudly announces TALES OF THE ROOK!


Reese Unlimited, an Imprint of Pro Se Productions, proudly announces the 
release of TALES OF THE ROOK! The Rook, a character created by Barry Reese,
now lives on in stories written by Reese as well as five other premiere
writers of New Pulp!
 "When The Good Is Swallowed By The Dark...There The Rook Shall Plant His

For years, New Pulp Author Barry Reese has masterfully written the
thrilling adventures of The Rook, a masked Hero of Reese's creation who is
compelled through dark dreams to hunt down and destroy evil wherever it
might hide! Assisted by loyal friends and a vast array of allies from the
annals of Classic and New Pulp as well as Comics of a bygone era, The
Rook's escapades have been a hallmark in the world of New Pulp!

Now, for the first time and under the REESE UNLIMITED imprint, Barry Reese
has invited some of New Pulp's finest authors into The Rook's world to put
their unique spin on the character and tell their own tales...TALES OF THE
ROOK! Featuring stories by Ron Fortier, Bobby Nash, Mike Bullock, Percival
Constantine, Tommy Hancock, and a brand new ROOK tale by Reese himself!

Concerning the popularity of The Rook and his cast of characters, Barry
Reese commented that the concept was still with him, six years after its
debut. In the book's introduction, Reese says, "Others have felt the
siren's call, as well. The Rook has appealed to them to the point where
they agreed to write new stories featuring my hero. I'm flattered and
thrilled to present the results to you. Some of the greatest writers in New
Pulp have crafted their own takes on The Rook and it's a lot of fun to see
where they went when given the chance."

TALES OF THE ROOK also features an explosive cover by Bob Hall, stunning
interior art by George Sellas, and outstanding format and design by Sean
Ali! Ready for the best in New Pulp? Get it today in TALES OF THE ROOK!
From Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions!
Available now on Amazon -
And at!


Pro Se Productions- Puttin' The Monthly Back Into Pulp!
UPDATE: Tales of The Rook tops this week's Amazon Pulp Sales for its debut
has the details.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

HAWK: Hand of the Machine-- now in paperback and on Kindle!

Press Release – For Immediate Release

HAWK: Hand of the Machine-- now in paperback and on Kindle!

White Rocket Books proudly announces the release both in trade paperback and Kindle formats of HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE, a far-future science fiction adventure novel by award-winning author Van Allen Plexico (The Sentinels; Assembled!), set after the invasion and devastation of our galaxy.

Conjuring images of the great adventure-fiction lawmen of literature, from the Lone Ranger to Green Lantern, HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE introduces us to Hawk, an officer in service of the great Machine intellect that protects the survivors of our galaxy.  Awakening naked and screaming in a post-apocalyptic future, he discovers our already-shattered worlds being overrun anew by savage alien invaders—and the Machine strangely silent.  Plunging into action, he finds himself armed with only a few high-tech weapons and a sentient spacecraft with its own hidden agenda.  Now he must discover the truth about the attackers, about himself—and about the other Hands of the Machine.  Do any still live?  If so, will they help him or hinder him?  And, most critically of all:  Is Hawk himself really who he seems, or is he something far worse: the greatest traitor and criminal in all of history?

“HAWK—the character and his setting—came to my mind in almost complete form a few years ago,” says Plexico.  “But with the success of my Sentinels novels, he sort of got pushed to the back burner for a while.  Now White Rocket Books is rectifying that situation.  Hawk is, I’m confident in asserting, far too good of a character to ignore for long.  His story should grab anyone who enjoys the idea of the lone lawman patrolling the lawless expanses of Earth and the depths of space—from the Lone Ranger to Babylon 5’s Rangers to Raylan Givens of Justified—and dealing with all sorts of unsavory menaces.  And then, as the action escalates to truly epic levels, with futuristic armies clashing across alien landscapes, there are the twists,” Plexico adds.  “A whole battle cruiser full of them, before Hawk is done!”

Plexico has been called “truly gifted” (Pulp Fiction Reviews) and “amazingly talented” (Sean Taylor, author of Show Me a Hero).  “Nobody—not even Abnett and Lanning—is doing cosmic superheroes as well as Van Plexico is doing them, period,” adds Barry Reese, award-winning author of Rabbit Heart and creator of the Rook.

Portions of HAWK appeared serialized in the February and March 2012 issues of Pro Se Presents, to general and widespread acclaim.  “One of the leading New Pulp writers of today, and able to bridge nearly any genre,” said publisher Tommy Hancock, “Van brings a special touch to anything he writes and creates.”
White Rocket Books is a leader in the New Pulp movement, publishing exciting action and adventure novels and anthologies since 2005, in both traditional and electronic formats.   White Rocket books have hit the Top 15-by-Genre, have been nominated for many New Pulp awards, and have garnered praise from everyone from Marvel Comics Editor Tom Brevoort to Kirkus Reviews.
On sale as of May 29, 2012, HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE is a $15.95, 6x9 format trade paperback from White Rocket Books, as well as a $2.99 e-book for Amazon Kindle.  (Nook format is coming soon.)

356 pages
ISBN-10: 0615641318
ISBN-13: 978-0-615-64131-7


Pro Se Productions, a leading New Pulp Publisher, announces the latest issue of its award winning magazine! PRO SE PRESENTS 10 is now available and features the fantastic, literally explosive conclusion to Erwin K. Roberts' SONS OF THOR!

Freedom Fights! The Sons of Thor Move Toward Destiny! As nations focus on the growing conflict with Nazi Germany, a devastating mission begins that threatens to unleash a horror that could lay waste to the world. As the Sons of Thor begin their final gambit, is there anyone who can stand against them in the face of certain doom! Find out in the Thrilling Conclusion to THE SONS OF THOR by Erwin K. Roberts featured in Pro Se Presents 10!

Featuring Public Domain Pulp Heroes Against a Menace Like None Before! The Black Bat! Jim Anthony! And More!

Available now on Amazon for $6.00! And Coming Soon as An Ebook! THE SONS OF THOR PART TWO by Erwin K. Roberts, Cover and Design by Sean E. Ali! Get Your Copy Today!

Pro Se Productions- Puttin' The Monthly Back Into Pulp!

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#179) -- Watchmen Prequels

What are you thoughts on the Watchman prequels coming from DC and the whole Alan Moore thing?

Lots of work to do today, but I have to get something off my chest first regarding the Watchman prequels. To all the folks who must constantly jump into any post about it and become rude, please back off and stop making it a personal crusade against the talented creators who are choosing to work on the books. They are workers who have bills to pay and need to keep food on their tables the same way you do.

If you do still feel that way, then I equally ask that you be consistent and quit your day job for the company that screws over the little people on the front lines every day in order increase their own bottom line. I ask that you stop purchasing your phones and tablets from companies that take advantage of propriety technology they (in essence) stole from the true workers who created it.

If you still feel that way, I ask that you stop buying any books, even mine, from your LCS that chooses to stock the books. Be consistent. Even if it means you will no longer have an LCS to go to because it's the only one in your area. Stop buying books from Amazon, because you know they're going to carry them. Same goes for B&N and your local indie book store. And you'd better put back the mayo and paper plates at Wal-Mart, because they're no better.

If you truly want to support Alan Moore, hats off to you. That's great. That's noble. Don't buy the books, but stop being jackasses about it. Nobody likes the vegetarian who makes moo noises while people eat their veal either.

Will I read the books? Yes. I work as a retailer. It's my job. Will I recommend them? Yes, to readers I think will enjoy them. Will I still believe that Alan Moore got screwed over by a legal glitch in the contracts? Yes. Do I believe he's the only one or the last one to ever be in that predicament? Not a chance.

As a writer, would I have taken the gig to write one of them if it had been offered? Yes. Because I too need to keep food on my table, and it would be an opportunity to tell a fun story with characters I enjoy. That's my job.

The bottom line: Be active in fighting bad corporate behavior. But be consistent in the fight. And even while you're doing that, never, ever, ever be a jackass. Nobody like a jackass.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

48 Date Blog Tour Announced and Cover Art Unveiled for Stephen Zimmer's Spirit of Fire

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2012
48 Date Blog Tour Announced and Cover Art Unveiled for Stephen Zimmer's Spirit of Fire
Seventh Star Press is proud to unveil the cover art and illustrations created by award-winning artist Matthew Perry for Spirit of Fire, Book Three of the epic fantasy Fires in Eden Series by award-winning author Stephen Zimmer, as well as announce the dates and sites for the 48 day Spirit of Fire Blog Tour.  A pre-order window for a limited edition hardcover is also open in advance of the book's official release.
(Illustrations by Matthew Perry from the first edition of Spirit of Fire)

The Spirit of Fire Blog Tour is being hosted by Babs Book Bistro, and will feature 50 events over 48 days, beginning May 29th  and running through July 14th. The tour will feature a number of activities, including reviews, video, interviews, podcasts, guest blog posts, and contests/giveaways.

Spirit of Fire is the third title in the Fires in Eden Series, following Crown of Vengeance and Dream of Legends.  Also associated with the epic fantasy series is a growing collection of short stories, the Chronicles of Ave, that have been released on eBook and are part of the Seventh Star Singles catalog.  

In Spirit of Fire, a maelstrom of war engulfs lands resisting the designs of the Unifier to bring about a new order, of a kind that has never existed within Ave.  Battered by a massive invasion force from Gallea, the tribal people of the Five Realms and their Midragardan allies are being driven eastward, towards the sea, while the Saxan lines are wearing down ever thinner on the Plains of Athelney.
Time is running out quickly, as an ancient creature of legend soars through the skies with a brave young Saxan.   They carry the desperate hopes of two realms sorely beset by a voracious enemy. 
Diabolic entities conduct a great hunt, as a malignant darkness deepens across all of Ave.  Exiles from another world must gain refuge, or find themselves ensnared by the long reach of the Unifier.  The very nature of creation itself stands in the balance.
It is a time when the honor and fortitude of many are put to the test, and terrible prices are paid for resisting great evils.  It is also a time of awakening for many, old and young alike, some of whom may yet discover the spirit of fire that lies within.

The third installment in the Fires in Eden series, Spirit of Fire is richly imagined epic fantasy with a diverse ensemble of characters that offers a new world to explore for readers who enjoy large-scale tales along the likes of George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Spirit of Fire will be released in softcover and eBook versions during the first week of June.  The novel is now available for pre-order in a beautiful hardcover edition that is strictly limited to 75 copies.  

The limited hardcover edition will be signed and numbered by Stephen Zimmer and includes a bonus illustration from Matthew Perry not included in other editions.  It will be accompanied by an assortment of collectibles, including a set of glossy art cards, bookmarks, and magnets.  The limited edition hardcovers will also be bundled with the eBook version (provided as a direct ePub file for users with Nooks, iPads, or Sony eReaders, and gifted as a Kindle file for Kindle users).  Those interested in securing one of the 75 limited hardcovers can place a pre-order at: 

The Spirit of Fire Blog Tour Dates and Participants Are As Follows:

June 2   Soliloquy
June 6   Vilutheril Reviews 
June 13  Full Moon Bites
June 14  Stuck in Books
June 16  Watch Play Read
June 17  A Book Vacation
June 18  Eva's Sanctuary
June 21  SpecMusicMuse
June 25  Eden Road Blog
June 25  Ali's Bookshelf (live podcast)
June 26  Workaday Reads
June 27  Bookishly Me 
July 1     Evie Bookish
July 2     Urban Fantasy Reviews
July 3     The Cabin Goddess
July 5     The Speculative Salon
July 6     Ali's Bookshelf
July 7     Bunnys Review
July 8     Bee's Knees Reviews
July 10   Edin Road Radio (live podcast)
July 11   A Few Words
July 12    Bab's Book Bistro
July 13   Alchemy of Scrawl  (live podcast)
July 14    Babs Book Bistro (live podcast)

Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town (part 2)

Continuing our exploration of Richard Hugo's genius, here's another of his essays from The Triggering Town.


Writing Off the Subject
by Victor Hugo   

I often make these remarks to a beginning poetry writing class. You'll never be a poet until you realize that everything I say today and this quarter is wrong. It may be right for me, but it is wrong for you. Every moment, I am, without wanting or trying to, telling you to write like me. But I hope you learn to write like you. In a sense, I hope I don't teach you how to write but how to teach yourself how to write. At all times keep your crap detector on. If I say something that helps, good. If what I say is of no help, let it go. Don't start arguments. They are futile and take us away from our purpose. As Yeats noted, your important arguments are with yourself. If you don't agree with me, don't listen. Think about something else.

When you start to write, you carry to the page one of two attitudes, though you may not be aware of it. One is that all music  must conform to truth. The other, that all truth must conform to music. If you believe the first, you are making your job very  difficult, and you are not only
limiting the writing of poems to something done only by the very witty and clever, such as
Auden, you are weakening the justification for creative writing programs. So you can take that
attitude if you want, but you are jeopardizing my livelihood as well as your chances of writing
a good poem. If the second attitude is right, then I still have a job. Let's pretend it is right
because I need the money. Besides, if you feel truth must conform to music, those of us who
find life bewildering and who don't know what things mean, but love the sounds of words
enough to fight through draft after draft of a poem, can go on writing--try to stop us.

One mark of a beginner is his impulse to push language around to make it accommodate
what he has already conceived to be the truth, or, in some cases, what he has already conceived
to be the form. Even Auden, clever enough at times to make music conform to truth,was fond of
quoting the woman in the Forster novel who said something like, "How do I know what I think
until I see what I've said."

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts
the poem or "causes" the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the
poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the
writing. That's not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject.
The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only have some instinctive feeling
that the poem is done.

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts
down the title: "Autumn Rain." He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain.
Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain
so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning
of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated
to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn't the
subject. You don't know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say
about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it's a good idea to talk about
something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.

Don't be afraid to jump ahead. There are a few people who become more interesting the
longer they stay on a single subject. But most people are like me, I find. The longer they talk
about one subject, the duller they get. Make the subject of the next sentence different from
the subject of the sentence you just put down. Depend on rhythm, tonality, and the music
of language to hold things together. It is impossible to write meaningless sequences.
In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong.
If you take that on faith, you may be foolish, but foolish like a trout.

Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing,
glance over your shoulder, and you'll find there is no reader. Just you and the page. Feel
lonely? Good. Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about
communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone.

To write a poem you must have a streak of arrogance, not in real life I hope. In real life
try to be nice. It will save you a hell of a lot of trouble and give you more time to write.
By arrogance I mean that when you are writing you must assume that the next thing you put
down belongs not for reasons of logic, good sense, or narrative development, but because
you put it there. You, the same person who said that, also said this. The adhesive force
is your way of writing, not sensible connection.

The question is: how to get off the subject, I mean the triggering subject.

Continue reading:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town (part 1)

I've raved about this book before both in panels and here on the blog, and I was thrilled to find the opening essay from the book online for free to share with you. And join us tomorrow for a second essay from the book, "Writing Off the Subject."

This stuff is like gold for the writer's bank account.



 The Triggering Town
by Richard Hugo

You hear me make extreme statements like “don’t communicate” and “there is no reader.” While these state­ments are meant as said, I presume when I make them that you can communicate and can write clear English sentences. I caution against communication because once language exists only to convey information, it is dying.

Let’s take language that exists to communicate—the news story. In a news story the words are there to give you informa­tion about the event. Even if the reporter has a byline, anyone might have written the story, and quite often more than one person has by the time it is printed. Once you have the in­formation, the words seem unimportant. Valéry said they dis­solve, but that’s not quite right. Anyway, he was making a finer distinction, one between poetry and prose that in the reading of English probably no longer applies. That’s why I limited our example to news articles. By understanding the words of a news article you seem to deaden them.

In the news article the relation of the words to the subject (triggering subject since there is no other unless you can pro­vide it) is a strong one. The relation of the words to the writer is so weak that for our purposes it isn’t worth consideration. Since the majority of your reading has been newspapers, you are used to seeing language function this way. When you write a poem these relations must reverse themselves. That is, the relation of the words to the subject must weaken and the rela­tion of the words to the writer (you) must take on strength.

This is probably the hardest thing about writing poems. It may be a problem with every poem, at least for a long time. Somehow you must switch your allegiance from the triggering subject to the words.
Continue reading:

Sunday, May 27, 2012


by Charlie Kenmore

My daughter graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine on Friday, May 11th, 2012 (the 63rd such Commencement). Author James Rollins is also an alumnus, but I digress. The completion of her studies finally allowed her sufficient free time to read her father’s first novel, Earth Angel (which had been collecting magnetic particles on her electronic TBR shelf for over a year). When she finished, she asked me a question as to why Angel acquired control of the Veil, while prior entities who entered the Veil didn’t. Initially, I thought the answer was res ipsa loquitur (literally, “The thing speaks for itself”, a legal term used when the evidence presents a fairly certain conclusion as to liability, such as the negligence of the driver who rear ends a stopped vehicle). The living Angel entered the Veil inadvertently and became a part of it. Other entities entered the Veil through the cessation of their existences. However, since Rachael is a careful reader, but still questioned the matter, at some point I may want to go back in and clarify the issue.

Dammit, Jim. I’m a pantser, not a plotter.
The issue of how Angel acquires her powers is an example of a potential plotting pothole. As a pantser, I frequently have no idea what my characters are going to do until the Muse informs me that they actually are doing something. Accordingly, it is not uncommon for me to have to go back and lay a foundation for a character’s actions that would have been easier to insert the first time through a chapter if only the Muse had warned me the insertion would be needed later. Once the proper foundation is laid, then the reader is more likely to accept subsequent plot developments as res ipsa loquitur.

The same foundational problems can arise with a character’s motivation. I edited a novel wherein the author spent the first chapter establishing a very strong, Type A personality, self-absorbed heroine. The heroine is at the pinnacle of her career, and is about to close a major deal. She enjoys the status and material benefits that her job affords her. Just before this major deal is to close, she gets word that her mother is dying. Several years earlier, the women had a falling out over the heroine’s job, and hadn’t spoken since. Her mother dies, but leaves a package in a safe deposit box with instructions that the heroine is supposed to deliver the package to an individual who lives in another state in a far removed rural location. The heroine drops everything to deliver the package.

Continue reading:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#178) -- Craftsmen & Artists

You've said that there's a difference between writing as a 
science and writing as an art? What do you mean by that?

You know, with the "e" at the end.
I've long believed that anyone can learn the skill set needed to become a writer, but not all who can learn to write (and even write well) have it in them to become an artist with their words and stories.

Anyone who can be taught to do anything else (fix a toilet, change your oil, knit a scarf) can equally learn how to write.For example, non-writers can learn the following skills and become writers:

  • how to plot
  • how to subplot
  • proper grammar
  • spelling
  • research
  • developing characters
  • etc. 

But there are writers who have a special knack and way of seeing and hearing the world around them that allows them to elevate the simple act of writing to something more. For example, they tend to understand intrinsically:

  • the power of word choices
  • how sounds affect readers
  • how to make their characters "real"
  • how stories flow
  • voice and tone as a natural rhythm
  • etc. 

It's doesn't make one a better "writer" than the other. It makes them different kinds of writers. It doesn't mean one is in a better position to be a profitable writer. (I daresay the more of a "writer" than an "artist" a storyteller can be, the better his or her chances for being a financial success in the business.)

I address this more in the article "Two Spectrums of Writers," also posted here on the blog.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Altus Press's Green Lama Vol. 3 Book Launch at the Rubin Museum in NYC!



The Green Lama: The Complete Pulp Adventures Volume 3

Join writer Adam Lance Garcia for the release of The Green Lama: The Complete Pulp Adventures Volume 3 featuring the never-before-reprinted final four original stories by Kendell Foster Crossen and Adam's original canonical novella Case of the Final Column, with new art by pulp illustrator, Mike Fyles.

Wednesday, May 30 6:30 PM


5pm-7pm: Himalayan Happy Hour in the café

6:30pm: Book Launch in the museum colonnade with author

7:00pm: Post-program guided tour of Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet Comics with author

Om! Ma-ni pad-me Hum! The first of its kind, the complete adventures of the Green Lama follows the adventures of Buddhist Jethro Dumont and his aides as they battle the forces of evil in the western world. Written by Kendell Foster Crossen, its non-stop action in the vein of The Shadow! Never completely reprinted before, the series is collected in three volumes. Each volume contains an all-new introduction, focusing on a different aspect of the character's life across several forms of popular media. Volume 3 contains an introduction by radio historian Martin Grams, Jr. and features the final four stories: The Case of the Fugitive Fingerprints, The Case of the Crooked Cane, The Case of the Hollywood Ghost, and The Case of the Beardless Corpse, as well as an all-new epilogue by Adam Lance Garcia and Mike Fyles: The Case of the Final Column.

Adam Lance Garcia, one of the youngest New Pulp writers, exploded onto the scene in 2009 with his first novella Green Lama: Horror in Clay. Written as a gift for his father, Horror in Clay was nominated for Best Short Story in the 2009 Pulp Factory Awards. Adam's follow up novel, Green Lama: Unbound, took away two 2010 Pulp Factory Awards: Best Novel of the Year and Best Interior Art (thanks to the artwork of his frequent collaborator, Mike Fyles).

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Adam was raised on golden age comic books, movie serials, and Star Wars. Adam credits this atypical upbringing to his passion for writing the Green Lama, a character he hopes to introduce a younger generation while staying true to the spirit of the original pulp novels and comics.


150 WEST 17TH STREET, NEW YORK CITY | | 212.620.5000 x344

Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics

Hero, Villain, Yeti features the most complete collection of comics related to Tibet ever assembled, with examples ranging from the 1940s to the present. More than fifty comic books from the Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and the United States reflect on the depiction of Tibet, tracing the historical roots of prevailing perceptions and stereotypes and their visual and narrative evolution over time.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#177) -- Plumber's Block

What are your thoughts about writer's block?

"Imes" understands the legend of the block, eh?
I don't deal with because it doesn't exist, no more than a plumber gets plumber's block. Sure, he or she may hit a problem that requires a new way to fix, but he or she doesn't cop out, go home and call it a "block."

The same should hold true for writers. Address the problem. Start work on a different project. Step away for a moment then return with a new perspective. But don't let it stop the flow of the work.

Just grab a different tool and take another shot.

But but for heaven's sake don't call it a "block" and create a monster out something imaginary.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oozing Cool -- Mat Nastos reviews The Ruby Files

"Sean’s storytelling voice oozes cool and he had me glue to the page for the entire tale...

"If you enjoy the story of a good, old-fashioned gumshoe told with a modern sensibility, then you’ll go head over heels for “Die Giftige Lilie.”
-Mat Nastos, Super Genius

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#176) -- Best New Comics

What are some of the best new current comic books that 
are flying under the radar that readers shouldn't miss?

It's easy to skip over books like these in your rush to pick up Justice League and Avengers vs. X-Men, but you owe it to yourself to grab them and give them a read. 

Resident Alien (Dark Horse) -- A stranded alien ends up playing "Quincy" when he's drafted into serving a small rural town as the town doctor.

Dancer (Image) -- A burned spy and his ballet diva girlfriend are on the run from a highly unlikely assassin. To say more would ruin the big reveal in issue #1.

Saucer Country (Vertigo) -- The governor of New Mexico is running for president to save us from the aliens who abducted her for experimentation, but that's not the easiest platform on which to get elected, especially with a marriage that falling apart, and a political consultant who wants to hang her husband out to dry as the bad guy to garner sympathy votes. 

Thief of Thieves (Image) -- An ace burglar wants out of the business so he can  become the man he never was able to before. But surely he didn't think it's going to be easy, does he? Nah.

 Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios) -- She's not a zombie per se, but she's definitely not alive, nor is she happy with the turn her life/death has taken. Oh, and it seems someone's out to get her.

Trio (IDW) -- John Byrne does traditional superheroes again, this time based on the old game of rock, paper, scissors. More fun than just about any tights and costumes book on the stands at the moment.

Night of 1,000 Wolves (IDW) -- What's worse than one pissed-off werewolf? How 'bout a forest full of them? And they all want to eat your family. Want to see D&D style stories that can rip your face off and laugh about it? This is it.

The New Deadwardians (Vertigo) -- Upstairs, Downstairs with low-class zombies, uppercrust vampires, and norms in the middle ground as the servant class. Great fun and a great detective story to boot.

Saga (Image) -- It's got the same "on the run" vibe as his Y the Last Man book, but with a more space fantasy setting and some of the cutest and yet most disturbing images I've ever seen, particularly in this more recent issue.

If you're not reading these indies, you're missing out on some really amazing stuff. Trust me. It's worth skipping an extra Cap, Wolverine, Spider-Man, or Batman title to try something new and different.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Horror of It All -- Writers on Being Scary with Words

Once again, Mary Shelley
paves the way.
Horror is hard. Let's just get that out of the way first. I have nothing but respect for those writers who can do it well.

So, to find the ins and outs of what makes good horror, well, terrifying, we went straight to the writers who do it well.

How do you define horror as a literary genre?

Paul Mannering: Horror is presenting the reader with the unknown and then taking the what-if question of all fiction and choosing the things that scare us most as the answer to what goes bump in the night.

Ed Erdelac: Anything that causes a sense of dread or unease in the reader.

William D. Prystauk: Horror is my genre of choice, and the one I prefer best for my screenplays. Yet, defining horror is akin to a nightmare due to all of our own perceptions. However, regardless of monsters, gore or the supernatural, what makes horror work is what Freud called “the uncanny”: Where the expected, the norm, is suddenly transformed into something different enough to shake us to our core. It is those expected, taken for granted things, that become something “other” and alter our world as well as our perception. And when the norm is changed, when it becomes something that can strike fear in us, that’s horror.

Selah Janel: For me horror has to deal with fear. There are a million and one ways to handle it, but at the end of the day horror is supposed to explore the dark territory of our minds that we aren't supposed to let out in polite society. It's about exploring the things that ignite that most primal fight or flight instinct in all of us. I don't think that horror stories necessarily have to have downer endings or point at the futility of life or anything like that, just like I don't think they necessarily have to have a lot of blood or 'booga booga' type scares. What they need to do is to make a reader feel unsettled and start to think about the possibilities of what they're reading happening to them. Horror is supposed to make us uncomfortble and unsettled. It's a genre that shows how vulnerable and horrible we can be as people.

G.L. Giles: In a nutshell, I'd define it as  writing, dealing with either the natural or supernatural world, where the emotion of fear and feelings of revulsion are frequently at play to elicit responses from the reader.

Herika R Raymer: Horror as a literary genre are stories that draw out the terror within. My personal favorites are the psychological horrors, the ones that allow the imagination to run. It seems like there is a great deal of splatter gore and the like to try and terrify people -- to me that is just gross. I prefer stories that inspire chills.

Pamela Turner: I think if you look at how horror makes us confront the dark side of our natures, the idea of “good vs. evil” and such, which are common themes in literature, then you can argue horror is a literary genre. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are two classic examples. I remember studying Poe in school, particularly “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” It’s been a while, but I believe we discussed themes of vengeance in regard to Poe’s stories. Then there’s Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which is all the more terrifying because it makes us realize humans may be the worst monsters of all. 

What is it about horror stories that attracted you to writing them?

The stuff of nightmares.
Paul Mannering: Originally it was an excellent cure for depression. You can take all the dark thoughts and feelings and channel them into something that doesn't harm you or anyone else. The adrenaline of it becomes addictive, we love to be scared in a safe way. Now I just like to push the boundaries of what is acceptable and see what kind of reaction I can generate.

Ed Erdelac: The first book I ever read on my own initiative that had no illustrations in it was the novelization of Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives by Simon Hawke. I read it because my friends went on and on about it but my parents paid more attention to what I watched and I couldn't see it. I read it in one sitting. I have no idea if it was well written looking back on it, but some of the descriptive passages stayed with me for years. I had no idea a book could be so visceral and vivid and violent. I started voraciously reading novelizations (mostly by Alan Dean Foster, all of movies I wasn't allowed to see) and then books movies were based off of, which of course led me to Stephen King, and eventually to books and stories that had never been filmed.

William D. Prystauk: Story always dictates genre for me. In that regard, I write the tale and worry about where it fits later. However, since I am a horror geek, and have watched nearly 1,300 horrors to date (yes, I keep a master list), I have a goal as a screenwriter: To take each subgenre and write my own unique tale. For instance, I have explored vampires (the true predatory type, not the ludicrous kind that “sparkle” in the sunlight) in my script RED AGENDA, which won First Place at the International Horror and Science Fiction Film Festival in 2008, my ghost story, RISEN, which took First Place in the Horror Screenplay Contest in 2010, and my cannibal tale RAVENCRAFT, which earned Third Place in the AWS Screenwriting Contest (first for horror). Sadly, my zombie tale won’t be ready this year. Regardless, the dramatic elements always take residence with me, and I just hope to create a compelling story with strong characters that deliver the uncanny. Just as Poe did for me in my youth as well as the early works of Anne Rice. Unlike other genres, in horror something could be lurking around the corner at any moment to alter the tale. That element of suspense always kept me glued to the page, keeps me focused as a writer. And it is my job as a scribe to create suspense, maintain the tension, and deliver the jolts to the audience when they least expect it.

Selah Janel: I personally like that I don't have to focus on making characters particularly nice in the horror genre. It's refreshing to be able to bring up just how petty or selfish people can be, and it's a challenge to do that without turning a character into a caricature. I also like the possibility of including the improbable or impossible -- it gives me a lot of freedom I may not have in more literary genres, while also giving me a huge challenge because even the impossible needs to make some sort of sense in the horror genre. Horror isn't just about being extreme or having monsters or killers - for it to work there has to be reasons for everything. If you can't make a reader believe that something could actually happen or if you can't plunge them into the situation enough to suspend belief, then they're not going to be scared.  And personally, as a mostly-nice-ish person and as a woman, when I write horror I feel like I don't have to care at all what people think about what's going through my head. The people who are going to read these stories not only want crazy, twisted, and perhaps a little socially unacceptable - they expect it. I can take off the kid gloves I feel like I have to wear in my daily life half the time and just go nuts. Any irritation or frustration I'm feeling can directly feed into whatever I'm writing, and it often makes it better. I also feel like writing horror helps me come to grips with that more selfish part of myself in a healthy way. It's a great outlet for the darker emotions. And since I have a mad love of monsters, it's the one place I can express that without people giving me a double-take. I mean sure, I like hearts and flowers and bunnies and kitties, but I also really love slimy disgusting Eldergods, violent vampires, and destructive mutants and horror is a place I can take that love and not be seen as a deranged lunatic.

G.L. Giles: I was first interested in Gothic horror. Poems like Coleridge's "Christabel," and books like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray really held my attention and stimulated my imagination. Furthermore, I ended up writing my Bachelor's Essay, while in college, on the life and works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.  So, American Romanticism became a focal point as well.  As American Romanticism oftentimes focuses on emotional states, fantasy worlds, outcasts, aspects of the sublime (in the awe-inspiring, impressive ways), etc. it is closely aligned with gothic horror.  However, a personal sickness was the catalyst for me to start writing in the what I call horror sub-genre of “fictional vampire literature."  I was first diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) in my early 20s.  I think I was subconsciously, at first, drawn to the vampiric creatures of the night, many of whom couldn't stand much of the sun's rays, because I could relate on some level. Yet, it's also of note that I related most to the "noble beasts" or "noble savages" sort rather than those merely into senseless violence. The only real exception to this is the fact that I do love most zombie lore, which sometimes comes across as senseless, though perhaps in its inception it wasn't with bokors probably running the show. I also loved the catharsis that horror literature can bring about, both for the writer and the reader. My first books were admittedly self-indulgent and half-baked, LOL. Thankfully, my first novella, one with my own primal Napoleon Dynamite-like illustrations, is now out-of-print. I'd only written scholarly essays, for the most part, prior to attempting them, and I’d never studied creative writing. My plotting was poor, and my dialogue was stilted.  It’s also of note that, as I don't like the feeling of being stuck in a genre, I challenged myself to break free by writing a contemporary romance novella with a supernatural subplot last year (recently published under a pseudonym), and I've also written several children's picture books.

Herika R Raymer: The exploration of the human psyche and what still makes people afraid of abandoned places, of being alone, and of strange places -- not to mention fear of the dark. Some people may not be afraid of that anymore, but there are still plenty of people who are terrified of seemingly 'normal' things. They make for great settings.

Pamela Turner: Again, for me, it’s this idea of confronting the dark aspect of our natures. To paraphrase Nietzsche’s quote, how long can we look into the abyss? There’s also a kind of catharsis that comes from being scared, pushed out of our comfort zone. It’s like “Okay, I’ve faced this fear, now I can face another one.” 

So many books these days have elements of horror to augment their primary genre. Are those stories truly horror or not? Can stories borrow (or steal) elements of horror, and if they do, do they become part of the horror field?

Old-school creepy.
Paul Mannering: All stories contain elements of horror. Grimm's fairytales were horror stories, bible stories are filled with horror elements, Shakespeare had horror elements in alot of his work. Stephen King is called a horror writer, but he writes a lot of spec-fiction with a sprinkling of horror in it. It doesn't make them truly horror stories, but it does blur the lines.

What isn't horror is paranormal romance. That is just taking vampires as a sexual metaphor and making it more obvious by entwining it with a romance plot and genre-style.

Ed Erdelac: Game Of Thrones is considered high fantasy, but it definitely has some horror elements - zombies, Lord Of The Rings the orcs catapult severed heads over the wall of Minas Tirith, and there are undead in there - barrow wights and Oathbreakers, etc. Does that make it horror? I believe a book can have horror elements, but in the two preceeding cases the fantasy outweighs the horror. I guess a horror novel is the opposite. The horror overwhelms everything else. But I'm not a horror snob at all. Horror fantasy, horror action, horror comedy, I'm easy.

William D. Prystauk: I love multi-genre anything. Therefore, any author can do as he or she wishes. As for classification purposes, in order for a work to claim it is of a particular genre, it should maintain that particular thread in the piece and not just be a quick, once-and-done scene. And in a novel, one quick scene does not a genre make. However, I doubt there are any rules for this. Let the arguments ensue.

Selah Janel: I think as a genre it's becoming harder to tell what horror is. A lot of bookstores don't even have a shelf dedicated to it anymore - they just list it under fiction. I personally include dark fantasy and sometimes urban fantasy in horror if it has a definitive dark slant to it. If it plunges a reader into a world where they're gripping the book and wondering if the poor protagonist is going to survive because the situation is just freakin' awful, then I will usually cut that title a break. It's getting hard to draw a definite line because even the inclusion of standard horror fair like vampires, zombies, and monsters doesn't necessarily mean that it's a horror title. In general it has to have something in it that's shocking, terrifying, or taps into that primal 'uh-oh' instinct everyone has. Even if it's not a roller coaster of a plot, if it taps into that darker side of life then I feel like it could feasibly belong. That being said, it's still something that you almost have to go title by title on these days. There's less and less of a formula with so many subgenres out there.

G.L. Giles: I'm not sure, so maybe, as "part of the horror field" doesn't mean that all the players are necessarily focused on equally.  Case in point, some horror novels are known for having a romantic subplot, so maybe some romances could be said to have a horror subplot? That way the primary genre is perhaps never called into question.

Herika R Raymer: They may not be true horror, but then again what part of life is not horrific in some way. Makes everyone's life a bit of a horror story, but their lives are not true horror. It just adds spice to the story.

Pamela Turner: Good question. I’m not exactly sure how to answer this. I imagine certain genres or subgenres like science fiction, urban fantasy or paranormal will and can borrow horror elements. Could the movie Alien be considered horror as well as science fiction, for example? It seems like more authors are mixing genres, rather than sticking with a particular one.

Do these books become part of the horror field? I would think if a majority of the book is horror, then yes. But if another genre predominates, then there might be a gray area.

Wish I had a better answer for that. 

How has horror changed since its inception? What have those changes meant for you as a writer in the genre?

The original masters of horror
-- the Brothers Grimm.
Paul Mannering: Horror has become less about the suggestion of terror and gone for the cheap shot of gore and revulsion. Ghost story writers like Blackwood, the weird fiction of Lovecraft, Howard and Derleth, wrote the classic tales if horror because you are left to imagine the worst aspects of what is suggested. And it is the unknown that scares us at a primordial level.

Ed Erdelac: Well, I wouldn't really know. I haven't been around that long and I'm hardly a scholar of the genre to be honest. I read everything, and I write what stories come to me. Sometimes they're horror, but I don't consider myself a horror writer.

William D. Prystauk: The gothic horror of old has not been replaced, but subgenres, such as slashers, have taken over – for now. Today, to continue to capture the mind’s of audience members that crave something new, different and more powerful at every turn, gore and violence often seem to be played up, especially in the brutal “torture porn” market. (I sincerely doubt any of my English students would state that ROSEMARY’S BABY is a horror because no blood is spilled. I can hear the sighs of boredom now.) As a writer, this does not affect me because by the time I finish a script and send it out to producers, the flavor of the month has already changed. Therefore, I focus on stories and characters, and since I’m writing for the ultra-expensive movie market, I hope to create scripts that reflect a low-cost production. Regardless, the one element of horror that has not changed throughout the many decades (from the Grimm’s brothers’ fairy tales to THE CABIN IN THE WOODS) is the fact that most horrors, if not all, are cautionary tales. The stories ultimately conjure fear, and that’s one strong item to keep us all motivated.

Selah Janel: I think in a lot of ways the metaphors have been lost as we've gotten away from the early gothic horror. There's still some of that but people have almost come to expect things to be more graphic or the scare threshhold to be higher. I still feel like horror can be used to shed a lot of light on our general bad behavior and give us a good view into our own fears, insecurities, and personal darkness, but I feel like these days you have to be a lot more obvious about it. And if you include a monster/paranormal element you have to really work to not make it a caricature because the pressure is that you have to make it "evil evil EVIL" to get it away from fantasy stories or paranormal stories that may be more towards the romance or other genres. It's almost ironic because the more people say that they want writers to defy the rules and give them whatever dark ideas lurk in your mind, the more it turns out that they really have a set formula in their head. As a writer that likes to include a lot of elements in my horror, I feel like I'm still finding that mix that works for me. But playing around with what works is a big part of the fun! That being said, I pretty much do what I want at this point and then if it becomes a problem when I'm submitting I'll go back to a manuscript and play around with it again.

G.L. Giles: As societal values changed, so did the horror genre.  Certainly writers like Poe focused more on psychological horror versus gore aplenty.  I have been influenced by writers from many different time periods in the past---from both their works I studied at school and have read on my own. However, I also read and review contemporary books, so I personally nod respectfully to the past while I oftentimes create contemporary fiction which keeps up with what’s popular now, too. Therefore, mine is somewhat soft and psychological at times and then, from time to time, somewhat brutally grotesque (for the short answer).

Herika R Raymer: Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you are talking to, it has become more about gore than fright. Probably in part due to the slasher films. Seems to me that horror should be more about what terrifies rather than what splatters the most. I still adhere to the old formula when I can - write about what horrifies rather than what is gruesome.

Pamela Turner:  I wonder, has horror changed or has how we read/respond to it changed? The writing has certainly become more graphic, although this may be a carryover from Hollywood and the advent of slasher horror films. People aren’t as shocked by gratuitous violence and some may even consider it an essential part of the horror canon.

As for any changes affecting my writing, I can’t say they have. Yet. But maybe that’s because I’m a newcomer to horror writing, even though I grew up reading Lovecraft, King, Blackwood, Poe, etc. I haven’t yet been affected by the trends, criticisms, etc. that other horror writers face.

There's discussion at various conventions about gender and horror. Are writers of a certain gender more or less predisposed to creating horrific horror?

Algernon Blackwood, author of
"The Empty House"
Paul Mannering: I think men and women can write horror with equal impact. Women tend (in my reading experience) to be more subtle, going for a psychological scare rather than the jack-in-the-box monster pop-up.

Ed Erdelac: That might be a loaded question. I was at World Horror Con in Salt Lake City and there seemed to be an even number of female and male horror writers. I admit I've never read a horror novel by a female author. But again, I don't exclusively read horror, so I'd be a poor judge. I suppose Anne Rice is a horror writer, and I enjoyed her Vampire Chronicles. But if you mean horrific horror like serial killer, slasher type may well be. I don't know of any women writing serial killer novels.

William D. Prystauk: Nope. I’ve discovered that just as many women love horror as men – if not more. In fact, I usually discuss the horror genre with an even mix of men and women. Furthermore, most of the horror writers I know are women.

Selah Janel: I think women and men tap into horror in different ways, which is to be expected; our minds work in different ways! At the end of the day we may be afraid of different things, but we all are afraid of something so gender shouldn't matter. From my personal experience I think men are drawn more towards gore or very linear narratives where women tend to be more psychological and circular in their plots - they tend to not be afraid to deviate into a hundred little tangents or subplots that all come back to each other towards the end. I also feel like we're predisposed to be more sadistic...blame it on society or repression, blame it on hormones, blame it on just wanting to write really twisted horror, but some of the really chilling stuff I've read actually ends up being by women. Men may be associated with physical violence but in comparison women can be the Inquisition. 'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson is insane because you really have no clue if there's something supernatural going on or if the protagonist is out of her mind - plus, there are reasons for Eleanor doing what she does. She's so in love with the house and consumed by her experience that it's just freaky. And some of the best splatterpunk I've ever read is by Nancy A. Collins. She's not afraid to step way over the line, but she also ups the squick factor by making all the disgusting stuff happen for a reason. Don't get  me wrong - I love Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, etc. They are definite influences and some of my favorite writers, but I don't think that's all there is.

I have noticed that people are really, truly surprised when I tell them that I write horror. I think it's one of those things that writers will fully admit that there shouldn't be a difference between genders writing this genre, but as a whole it's a genre that tends to be associated with testosterone more than estrogen. I always question why there isn't more of a push to market women horror writers and it's been flat-out told to me by people that a woman's place in horror is as a sex object.  I don't believe that for a moment and it just fuels my desire to write better and better stories.

My biggest frustration is that we seem to be going towards this weird formula that's been influenced by popcorn movies that horror has to have tons of blood and over the top elements and a lot of sex that's derived from like an adolescent mindset. If that's what does it for a reader then that's fine - there's plenty of that, but I refuse to believe that that's all there is. I  even refuse to believe that we've seen all the formulas and ways horror "has" to be yet. I think the more we get away from formulas and admit that there are different ways to access this genre, then we'll see more work from female writers. I don't want to feel like I have to work a certain way to get my work seen because the expectations are getting narrower, despite all the options out there. I don't like to be brushed aside for any reason, especially when I think my ideas are just as good as anyone else's even if they don't fit the x number of gore scenes/token sex or lesbian overtone scene/ narrative formula with the standard plot twist that I've read so much of lately. With women writers I think you have to read longer for a payoff, I think there's definitely an amount of build-up that may or may not happen with male writers and I don't know if that's what ends up working against us or not. But I think we deserve to be given a chance...and by that I mean a chance to show what we do best with horror and not just attempting to fit a current trend or mold that may or may not work for us.

G.L. Giles: Maybe males, but that being said, it was pretty easy for me to create my own works of sometimes grisly horror.  Many readers of Gothic horror were women, but it seems that perhaps due to the sometimes over-the-top gore factor in some works today, there are more male readers now. Fortunately, going by the name G.L. Giles has helped in attracting both male and female readers I believe.  I have many men assume I'm a male just because I write horror and because they can't tell by my initials. I believe that's worked to my advantage in this genre. However, a simple Google search will pull up pictures of me. :)

Herika R Raymer: I do not think so. I have read horror stories from both genders and both have been impressive, or non-impressive, depending on the subject material and presentation. It is about pushing personal limits, not about gender.

Pamela Turner: Possibly. In my crime writing groups, I’ve seen a few who’ve crossed over into writing horror or suspense/thriller. Then again, these writers are used to examining the more deviant side of people’s natures, so it probably wouldn’t be a stretch for them to move into the realm of horror. People who write paranormal and urban fantasy are also ones I would think inclined to writing tales of terror.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#175) -- Triangles Within Triangles

When you write a multi-issue story arc for a comic book series, how do you work in the beginning, middle and end of individual issues against that of the central story's begging, middle and end?

 Well, it looks like this.

Simple, huh? (Just kidding.)

Let's look at it closer.

I learned the basic structure for a single comic book issue from the master -- Chuck Dixon -- which is basically this: three key action sequences tied together by short interludes (when necessary for flow). So, when I do a multi-issue arc, I simply expound on that.

First I look at the full story plot (the red triangle) for the main breaks in the story (rising action, falling action, key conflict that triggers the conclusion, etc.).

Then I break those key plot points (or actions) into the number of issues required for the story (the green triangles). A three issue arc is a piece of cake because it plays right into my evil plan for world domin-- I mean my plan for breaking down a story into its parts.

Let's take an example... Say the story is about an alien who comes to earth, settles into a life of a fashion model, becomes enamored with earth culture and changes sides to stop the pending invasion from her home planet, and her subsequent sacrifice to give her own life to safe the earth. Then the first issue will be about the "before" in which our alien begins to become enamored with earth culture and at the end of the issue decides she must stop the invasion somehow. Issue two will be her failure to do so, and the action that leads to her willingness to give her life to save the earth, thus making the conflict one that actual has impact on the reader and the characters. Then the final issue will chronicle her success and her sacrifice. 

Next I break each issue down into each key scenes (the blue triangles) to convey those story beats and breaks (the blue triangles). And each scene must have its own beginning, middle, and end.

To continue our example, in issue one, we set up the status quo in scene one, create a situation that causes her to rethink her own culture in scene two (perhaps witnessing the good of humanity or something as shallow as finding the best pair of boots on the planet), and then in scene three, she comes to realize she wants to stay and not destroy all the great shopping on earth's malls. 

Then in issue two, we'll have her contact her own planet present the case for earth, then become the target of her superior officer who now considers her a traitor, then have her earthly neighbor help save her from an assassination attempt (which means that we'll need to introduce the neighbor somewhere in issue 1 -- see how that works), and then get word that her plea has been heard and overturned. Not only that, the timetable has been sped up and the invasion begins NOW!

So, now let's turn this into a workshop. You tell me what the third issue will be like. What are the three key scenes and the interlude beats to get you there?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My FandomFest Panel Schedule

If you're going to be at FandomFest in Louisville, KY, June 29-July 1, drop by and enjoy some of the panels and workshops I'm taking part in or leading.


Marketing Independent Graphic Novels and Comics Today

The Effect of Digital Publishing on Graphic Novels and Comics


Beyond the Pow and Zoom (part 1)

Knuckle Sandwiches (Pulp)

5:30 pm
Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels


Beyond the Pow and Zoom (part 2)

Attorney general alleges e-book conspiracy

BOSTON — Alleging that two of the nation’s largest book publishers and Apple Inc. colluded to raise the prices of electronic books and undermine free market competition, Attorney General Martha Coakley joined 33 attorneys general today seeking to file a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York claiming violations of state law and the federal Sherman Antitrust Act.

“Collusion among competitors to raise prices is one of the most fundamental harms prohibited by antitrust law,” Coakley said. “We allege that through their actions the defendants and their co-conspirators collected more than $100 million worth of overcharges from consumers across the country.”

For years, retailers sold e-books through a traditional wholesale distribution model, under which retailers — not publishers — set sales prices. The complaint alleges, however, that Penguin and Macmillan conspired with other publishers and Apple to artificially raise prices by imposing a distribution model in which the publishers set the prices for bestsellers at $12.99 and $14.99.

The complaint further alleges that when Apple prepared to enter the e-book market with the iPad and iBookstore, it agreed with publishers to adopt an agency distribution model as a mechanism to allow them to fix prices. This guaranteed Apple a 30-percent gross margin on the sale of e-books. It also provided the publishers the ability to raise e-book prices.

To enforce the scheme, the publishers and Apple relied on contract terms that allowed the publishers to set the prices of e-books. According to the states’ enforcement action, the coordinated agreement to fix prices resulted in e-book customers paying more than $100 million in overcharges nationwide.

The antitrust action seeks injunctive relief to reverse the effects of the defendants’ anti-competitive conduct as well as damages for customers who paid artificially inflated prices for e-books.

Massachusetts was joined in today’s enforcement action by Texas, Connecticut, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Sixteen of these states filed the original complaint against the same defendants on April 11.

This case is being handled by Michael Franck, Assistant Attorney General, and Helen Hood, paralegal, in Coakley’s Antitrust Division, as well as William Matlack, Chief of the Antitrust Division.

Reposted from this original link.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#174) -- Writing Scary

Any tips for making a horror story actually scary?

Not really.

No. I take that back.

It all depends on what you mean by "scary."

Writing scary is hard. It's really hard, because it takes understanding of the human mind, memories, senses, and universal generalities about the human condition. In a story, you don't have the luxury of visual shorthand to creep readers out like directors do in a scary movie.

Jump scares? Nope. Sorry. The reader controls the pacing. And he or she can skip ahead or backward at will. That clutching crone hand can go backward and forward and be skipped altogether based on the reader's whims.

Graphic visual scares (or gore)? Sorry again. Unless you're most visceral writer ever, written gore falls short.

So, as a writer you're stuck with having to be a psychological and writing genius. But how? While I'm far from an expert on horror, I have written several tales in the genre, and I've learned a few things with each successful telling.

1. Be visceral. But don't mistake visceral for gross. For example, while a limb being removed and force fed to a tied up victim is certainly a compelling image in a story, it may not be as effective as something as simple as a sewing needle being wedged into the soft skin beneath a dry fingernail.

2. Tap into the universal fears. For example, when I wrote "Nymph" for the Gene Simmons House of Horror graphic novel collection (yes, I know that it's not pure prose, but bear with me), I wanted to recreate the sense of being lost in the woods, in a place where you're at the mercy of the natural world. When I was a kid the woods were creepy sometimes, and I had lost that feeling after moving to Atlanta and growing up.

3. Discover the specific, individual fears that make a person tick. For example, in my zombie tale "Posthumous" (from Zombiesque by Daw/Penquin Books), it's not the decaying body of the zombie that makes her creepy. It's her determination to save her marriage, her blind, unwavering determination to do so regardless of the consequences to anyone else.

4. Unleash your horrors on ALL the senses. Don't let just sounds and sights convey your protagonist's woes and horror. Go deeper. Is that smell like the burn ward at a hospital? Does the touch of the killer leave grease and sweat on a victim's neck? Does the hooker's kiss taste like she's been eating rotting meat? Engage all the senses that can convey fear and discomfort.

5. Use sounds that bother the reader, not just the characters. You can make up words that sound like stuff. The official literary term for this is onomatopoeia, and it works because it plays games with the reader's ear, whether they hear the sounds spoken aloud or not. For example, in my steampunk horror tale "Death with a Glint of Bronze" for Dreams of Steam II: Brass and Bolts, I hit the reader right of the bat with the "crick-cracking of the neck bone where it attaches to the top of the spine." But the following sentence continues the idea, simply by using sounds that create a stop and reflow, like restricted breathing might sound: "Then there is the delicious constriction as the breath slowly ceases its movement through the windpipe."

6. Don't try to be "horror movie" scary. Aim for "imagination" scary. Go for the stuff that no movie could ever film, you know, the kind of sick, warped, crazy stuff that could only take shape in someone's imagination as they read. For example, does anyone really know by reading Lovecraft's stories what an elder god truly looks like? We have ideas, but that's all. We have the accepted image that has become synonymous with the tales, but be honest -- does that fully match the horror you imagined in your psyche when you first read the words of HPL's description? On a similar note, isn't your personal nightmare of Lewis Carrol's Jabberwocky far creepier than any of the drawings you've seen of it?

That's all I've got to give you, but if you can even those six things well, you'll never hurt for a job writing truly frightening horror tales.