Friday, November 30, 2012

A Stitch in Time: The Return of the Invisible Man Coming Soon!

Here's a teaser/preview of the upcoming book Rick "Phat Daddy" Johnson and I are working on for IDW. This has been one of the most creatively fulfilling projects I think I've ever worked on, and a large part of that is just from working with Rick. He's all nine shades of awesome.


The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#265) -- Vampire Fiction

What are your thoughts about vampire fiction? Is it played out, or still viable?

Not this.
Repeat after me: Anything is viable with the right story.

Do I have that story for vampires? Not on your life. It's not a genre I really "feel" -- at least with the contemporary way of doing it. But I'm not a gothic writer either, so I would really be able to take it back to its Stoker roots.

 Or this.
But it's still obviously very popular. It seems most of urban fantasy is still crawling with the fanged undead, each book trying to outdo the last in an attempt to be the new post-Twilight vamp sensation.

Personally, I'd love to take a stab at something, but I'd  need to find something that cast the whole genre in a new direction, neither the "30 Days of Night" camp nor the "Twilight/Interview with a Vampire" camp. What that would be I have no idea. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Illusion of Change -- The Comics and Pulp Conundrun

In comics and pulp stories, the marketability tends to be in the characters remaining the same, i.e. Batman is Bruce Wayne, The Phantom doesn't lose an arm, Spider-Man remains hapless and downtrodden, Doc Savage doesn't die and pass the name onto an adopted circus acrobat, etc. So, in light of that, we sought out some of the top comics and pulp writers to find out what they had to say about that very thing.

How do you keep characters interesting when you can't provide significant growth and change to let them adapt and mature?

Joe Gentile: I am of the school that likes to keep most of the character intact. We like these characters for a reason, so we see no real need for an overhaul. We want old and new readers of course. What we try to do sometimes is add some "bits' the characters when appropriate. We want to try to make the characters more 3D by personality. And sometimes, we will tweak an ability or skill to help the character stand out more from the pack. Plus, for good measure, we will give some dimension to the supporting cast as well. So, we like to add more than subtrac t... as long as it keeps the integrity of the character.

Erik Burnham: Show them something they haven't seen before and reveal their reactions. ...Or kill them. Hey, they could get better.

Mike Baron: In the case of the Badger, we're rebooting the whole thing.  Since many Badger stories deal in magical realism, this isn't a problem.  Badger readers have learned to expect the unexpected--guest appearances by Elvis, Charles Mingus, Warren Oates and W.C. Fields are common.  Ham is a powerful wizard and brings magic into play.  Since we are debuting Badger to an entirely new generation of readers, Badger is now an Afghani war veteran.  The classic elements remain: his brutal treatment at the hands of his step-father Larry, and all the old characters will reappear but in surprising new roles.

In the case of Nexus, we are merely sticking to the time line.  All readers need to know is that he is a cosmic executioner driven by his dreams to find and destroy mass murderers.  But now he is married and has a son.  It helps that the entire Nexus canon is available from Dark Horse in a series of hardbound volumes and now in a new cheaper omnibus format.

In the case of Batman, there have been so many stories, so many different takes--let's face it.  People who insist on seeing Batman as a real person and embrace his entire history have to realize he would have to be about a hundred Batmans to get them all in.  Comic books are escapism.  The best fiction is escapism.  But in order for us to fully enter into the escape we must believe it's real.  So a story's premise must fit comfortably within the character's personality.  Or within the personality's character.  People will not accept Batman as a callous killer.

I.A. Watson: This depends on the initial character concept. If it's a Harry Potter-type neophyte growing up then it's very hard. There are only so many life lessons to learn. But suppose the character is already fully formed, like Sherlock Holmes; then the fun comes from putting them into new situations and seeing how people react to them. We don;t need Sherlock to discover compassion or tact. We just want to see what happens when he encounters the French ambassador or the self-proclaimed king of thieves.

Lee Houston, Jr.: By developing interesting characters to begin with. After all, just what is it that keeps readers coming back to The Shadow, Spider-man, etc; and not one of the endless zillions of clonish knockoffs?

Jourel Freeman: This exact same question is one that haunts me daily. I feel that to establish a character heavily within a story, readers prefer to have that deep-seeded relationship with serial characters, and so it's best to keep characters consistent for a while. This way, so much can be absorbed before any major chance can be made.

Greg Glick: You put them in interesting plots or locales (James Bond is always a womanizer, it's where he is and who he's up against this time and how he's gonna defeat him that makes it interesting.  And who he's gonna bang this time, without the gun. ;)    In characters meant to adventure forever, you intertwine plot and character.

There's also the fact that, for the most part, many heroes are ALREADY presented as the peak of moral and ethical perfection in their little worlds (such as Superman and Doc Savage) when the adventures BEGIN.  There's no ROOM to grow.  How does a god grow into  a better god?  The Spider may be crazy in our world, but in his he's clearly presented as the most clear-thinking character around:  only HE can take care of the problem, and he knows it.

Marvin Cheveallier: I create a new challenge that will either require another way to take care of the situation outside of what the reader is use to. Sometimes making it hard enough that the character may need a little help to overcome. That way it gives me a chance to put supporting character in the spotlight for a short time. After all, I don't want said character to be the only one with fans.

Why is it important that characters remain the same? Is it for new readers, old readers, or more maintaining the marketability of the property?

Mike Baron: As far as I'm concerned, the First Rule is to entertain,  I would never change the basic nature of my characters because they are what they are and I like them that way.  It's their concepts that intrigue people as well as the writing.  Back to Badger.  We have been going round and round on how to reboot the series and I have written story after story that would have fit seamlessly into the old continuity but did nothing to bring readers up to speed on who Badger is.  Therefore we decided to reboot the whole thing in such a way as to please original fans and excite new ones.  He's still a multiple personality.  I know that the shrinks decided that MPD doesn't exist but they will probably change their minds next week.  And again the week after that.  The workings of the human mind are always fascinating, and the Badger is about psychology as much as anything.  It is also about kung fu and unexpected humor.

Much of the appeal of classic characters is like slipping into a warm bath of anticipation.  We know the characters and it is their character, as well as the narrative voice that draws the reader through the story.  That's why we gobble up series books like Robert Crais' Elvis Cole stories.  We know and like Elvis and he always has exciting adventures.  We want to slip into that frame of heightened expectation.

Erik Burnham: Familiarity SELLS. That's why you'll see "From the Guy Who Did The Special Effects On Jurassic Park" on a movie as a selling point. A lot of people saw Jurassic Park, it had special effects, so... bam. A connection is made, and the movie is no longer 100% unfamiliar. Same with comic characters -- familiarity sells.

Yes, the argument can be made for change (to appease old readers -- like Spider-Man getting married as the audience ages, to name one gripe folks who didn't like that plot point made... or new readers -- see Kyle Rayner... or maintaining the marketability... bringing Tony Stark back from an a teenager to an adult.)

I dunno. I just like writing fun stories.

I.A. Watson: In some cases the situation is the appeal. Secret identity characters are fun because no-one knows that Don Diego del Vega is secretly a masked hero. We share the joke with him. Remember when Superman stories ended with him winking to the reader as Lois was baffled again? In other stories the presenting problem defines the series. If the rebels defeat the terrible dictator then the driver of that series is over. If our hero ever truly avengers the murder of his fiancee and finds true love again then the drama is done.

Of course, in many cases its because fans of older stories who now have turns as creators themselves want to write the character as they first fell in love with him, in the situation they best enjoyed his tales. Since many "accretions" to stories move characters away from the concept that first made them popular writers often feel justified in contriving a return to original circumstances or a reasonable facimile thereof.

Publishers get to cash in two ways. "Everything changes" sells. "Back to basics" sells later. Then everything can change again.

Greg Glick: Frankly, I'd say marketability.   For example, there was an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation in which a parallel universe was created where the Federation was at war with the Klingons.  Someone pointed out, in a real war, characters like Riker would be given their own commands and starships, and wouldn't be serving on the Enterprise.  But fans want to keep seeing their heroes even if it doesn't make sense.  If a favorite character vanishes, the ratings go down.  Same with presenting character "relationships."  As long as Ross and Rachel are dancing around each other sexually, the ratings hold and profits continue.  The moment they "get together" or permanently don't, the reason for their existence is done--and so is their marketability.

Marvin Cheveallier: Most readers don't like major change to the story they already love. I think some writers fear that they may chase off some readers as well because the character went an unexpected direction for them. Other fans my see it as an improvement so it is a gamble for the writer. I don't fear such a change as it is my story and I enjoy the drama. Readers will just have to expect that of me, however there are still some character that I just love the part they play and wouldn't want to change them for any reason as they offer me too many doors in the story that I could open.

Lee Houston, Jr.: Basically, all of the above. Old readers get used to the writer(s) maintaining somewhat of a status quo, which gets new readers curious as to what is going on, and gives the marketeers selling points they can rely on from one new release to the next.

Si Mon: To see how marketability can be sustained while constantly developing characters, we only need to look at some of the comics from Japan, such as Dragonball, One Piece and Naruto. All of these have seen their protagonists grow from childhood into adulthood, their characters, relationships and abilities constantly evolving. All of them have also been phenomenally successful. The inability of Marvel and DC to move away from maintaining the status quo and allow their characters to change just shows what tired old dinosaurs these companies are. Interestingly, having said that, both Marvel and DC have enjoyed a massive amount of revenue from films such as the Batman and Spiderman series, which have been immense levy successful. one of the coon characteristics of these films is that their stories have been built around the development and growth of the central characters. Not one of them has left their protagonist as we found them.

Jourel Freeman: I look at how Avengers characters are seemingly ageless while we've seen the X-Men grow up from teens to militants and so on. This shows both how much it matters and how much it doesn't. It even shows both trends can co-exist in one continuous world. I guess the art lies in when and where to contort the time to where the story flows at a pace that keeps old and new readers going, while introducing new elements into the mix so that change can be mad more dynamically.

How do you know you've gone to far when writing a character that shouldn't change significantly? When do you go beyond what Stan Lee called the "illusion of change"?

Mike Baron: I trust my ear to tell me.  I read and re-read what I've written.  I ask myself, if I were telling this story to someone in a bar, would they follow me?  That's why it's important not to jump the shark.

Erik Burnham: If someone has to do a lot of work to either ignore or rewrite what I've done, I may have gone too far. Arguably.

Greg Glick: At the core of each character is a certain "soul", if you will, that cannot be bent.  Sometimes it is hard to define, but it is there.  And when it is broken, you know.  Usually by having a character do something you as reader know instinctively he would never do.  SPider Man selling his marriage to a demon is an example.  The Elongated Man losing his wife in an attempt to "darken" the character is another.  EM is, and has always been, light-hearted in nature, and to try and blacken him up violates him.

Marvin Cheveallier: When I get a lot of hate mail.

Lee Houston, Jr.: The obvious points would be by killing or altering the character in some drastic way, like giving him/her a new costume or sidekick.The illusion of change would be things like a temporary depowering or growing a mustache, or changing hair color if they had to go somewhere in disguise.

Jourel Freeman: The challenge for me would be HOW the continuity will work in the beginning, i.e., if in the beginning I want to create a world where superheroes have been around for, say, 25 years, and now you have to create the FEEL of an established world, and start from there.

I.A. Watson: Some situations break the paradigm. Once Peter Parker is happy, rich, married, his secret known and he publicly feted for his heroism, the distinctive things that made the Spider-Man series what is was are gone.

I'd like to give a special mention to those character-destroying storylines that pollute a hero forever after, requiring more radical rebooting than is usually credible. Green Lantern committing genocide, Iron Man's actions during Marvel's Civil War, any character that turns to murder, torture, or rape, become more or less lost causes unless its proven that it wasn't really them.

Kurt Busiek reflected once that writers should only make permanent changes if what they put in place is at least as robust as what they destroy. Do you agree? How can you know you're doing it right?

Erik Burnham: I do agree. And I figure I'm doing it right if there's no lightning from the heavens striking me down.

Mike Baron: Kurt is right.  Every writer must write to please himself first and foremost.  If I don't entertain myself I will not entertain others.

Greg Glick: Agreed -- but darned if I know how I would know I was doing it right!  The fans would have to tell me!

Lee Houston, Jr.: I totally agree with Kurt Busiek, although it should be the readers who ultimately decide if the changes are correct and not some editorial or boardroom committee.

With all that said, characters need to grow and expand as much as they can within their adventures, for their readers are certainly not exactly the same from one day to the next. Being an avid reader for decades now, I could definitely talk about this subject for more than just a few quick answers to this roundtable, but we would need the proper forum than just a brief Q&A to cover this adequately.

Jourel Freeman: I agree that a major change should be the catylyst to more change. Not in the way Marvel has been doing it for the past 10 years (Civil War, Secret Invasion, Messiah Complex, etc.), but in terms that show growth in both the story and the involving characters. Showing how major elements effect a story/character(s) is always a good way to go in my book (no pun intended) . The way you see if it is right for you is "Listen to the character." The readers may hate the direction you're taking a character, but one never knows how far you can turn a character inside-out and make a whole new direction out of pushing the limits.

Marvin Cheveallier: I fully agree. I really don't think one knows if they are doing it right until they get feedback. I think one way of knowing you have it right it is you have plans of reverting that character or presenting the change as an imposter or some kind of mental problem (or possessed) that gets resolved later. Now if that character is only getting stronger that is another story. However as a writer I think one has to be careful of not making characters too strong as it makes writing harder in the future. It is hard to create drama and clashing if a character can destroy anything with a snap of his fingers. You then take away your links to making it interesting.

I.A. Watson: It's a long time ago now, but I recall Busiek illustrating this by describing his proposal for a new Spider-Man series after the Ben Riley Spider-Clone debacle. It wasn't picked up. John Byrne was hired to do a run instead, starting with a modified Year One origin series that explained why Norman Osborn and Flint Marko had the same hairstyle.

I apologise if I'm grossly caricaturing Busiek's actual pitch; I'm reportng this from long memory. At that time, (as best I recall) Aunt May was dead, MJ had divorced Peter after he'd hit her (or was thought dead, I forget which), and Parker had been missing for some time. Busiek's plotline had JJJ discovering a badly-beaten Peter in circumstances that had Jonah decide to take care of the boy, perhaps even adopting him. JJJ effectively took over the Aunt May role, becoming as attached to Peter as he hated Spidey. Peter got a new flat, though he had some trouble with his landlord and occasional friend Flash Thompson. I think there was a Stacy cousin in there too to add some romantic tension. Effectively, Busiek found new relationship links to replace many that had been burned away by some poor storytelling choices beforehand. That seems to me to be a fair representation of moving things on while respecing the fundamental concepts of the series.

An actual example of such a change "done right" might be Justice League headquarters. After Mount Justice came the JLA satellite, then the embassy phase, and then the Watchtower. Let's try and forget Detroit. Each base fed a different kind of story for a different kind of team, but each felt right for its era. Another substitution that worked back in the Michelnie-era Iron Man period was the replacement of the relatively one-dimensional Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts with James Rhodes and Bethany McCabe (and the wonderfully fierce PA Mrs Arbogast). Rhodey and Beth brought rather more to the party than their predecessors and were key parts of that excellent run.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#264) -- Reading Short Stories

Which do you prefer to read, novels or short stories?

Short stories.

I've been a fan of short stories since I was in high school. I think they're an amazing art form that forces writers to condense all the fat that can fill up a novel. Granted, when I'm reading for elaborate plots and such, a novel is really the best way to go (although, the pulps managed to do that in novellas and novelettes too). But when I want to really get to know the characters I'm reading, and experience the full spectrum of what words can do in fiction, I go to short stories.

I only wish they weren't such a dying market. 

“Short fiction seems more targeted - hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it's a lot smokier and less defined.” ― Paolo Bacigalupi

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.” ― Lorrie Moore

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” -― Edgar Allan Poe

“A short story is a different thing all together - a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.” ― Stephen King

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Airship 27 and Fight Card Team Up for a One-Two Punch of Pulp Goodness!

Terry Quinn was an enforcer for the Irish Mob in New York during the 1930s.  One of the toughest and the best.  But before he donned a trench-coat and fedora, before his life took the deadly detour leading him deep into the underworld, Quinn was an up and coming heavy weight boxer with a good chance at the title.

Created by author Terrence McCauley, Quinn’s story is about to unfold from two of today’s most popular pulp publishers, Airship 27 Productions and Fight Card.

Initially McCauley submitted his full length crime novel, “Prohibition,” to Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor Ron Fortier.  “It’s a tough, gritty fast paced gangster book,” related Fortier, “that reminded me of those classic black and white Warner Brothers movies of the 30s and 40s.  After reading the first few chapters, it was a done deal that we were going to publish this.”

“Prohibition,” by Terrence McCauley will be released by Airship 27 Productions in December.  The book will feature a cover and nine interior illustrations by artist Rob Moran, a creator noted for his noir inspired art with book design by Art Director Rob Davis.

But McCauley was far from done with Quinn.  As a writer, he was intrigued by Quinn’s backstory- how he became the man the underworld fears.  For this early story, set in Quinn’s days in the boxing ring,  McCauley believed he knew the perfect target for such a story - the Fight Card series created by Paul Bishop and Mel Odom.  Each month since January 2012, the Fight Card series has published a new novelette from some of the finest action scribes in the field of New Pulp - all writing under shared pseudonym of Jack Tunney.  Each tale in the Fight Card series features a hard-hitting melodrama centered in the world of boxing inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘30s and 40s  - such as Fight Stories Magazine and Robert E.Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.

Upon receiving McCauley’s inquiry, Bishop quickly approved it.  “I have been constantly amazed at the varied stories the Fight Card series has produced,” Bishop said, “And Terrence’s story featuring the origins of his Quinn character was another completely unique take on the mythology of boxing noir.”

McCauley’s tale of Quinn’s boxing days, “Fight Card: Against The Ropes,” will be published in January or Februrary of 2013.

As for McCauley, he couldn’t be happier.  “Even before Airship 27 agreed to publish Prohibition, I'd always envisioned my Terry Quinn character to be part of a larger body of work than just one book. That's why I was honored when Fight Card gave me the opportunity to tell of Quinn's beginnings with Fight Card:Against The Ropes. I'm honored that Quinn has found homes with both Airship 27 and Fight Card.  He’s also been featured in earlier short stories that have appeared in a variety anthologies.”

Airship 27 Productions and Fight Card are set to deliver a solid one-two punch knock-out that will have New Pulp fans cheering!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Open Submissions for Glass Page Books!

Glass Page Books is hosting a Streampunk Anthology Short Story Call for two upcoming Anthologies:  Airship Kids and The Clockwork of Crime.  

This genre is open; no agent is required.

Contact Acquisitions Editor, Alan Lewis, at

The Clockwork of Crime

The Clockwork of Crime will be a collection of crime/mystery stories set in a steampunk setting.  P.I. noir, police procedurals, Vitorian Holmes-styled detective stories are all welcome.   We are looking for well-developed characters of your own creation, not steampunk'd versions of existing characters.  The heroes and villains are to be of your own creation.  Please double-check to insure that you do not use names of existing, trademarked characters.

We are looking for short fiction between 3,000 and 10,000 words.
Deadline for entry is April 1, 2013.

    We ask for first publishing rights, the right to use the story for as long as there is demand for the books in print, digital and audio format, the right to edit each story for errors, and the right to utilize excerpts and the author's name for promotion.  Authors will keep all other rights and can republish the story once the anthology has been in print for twelve months.

Your Take:
    As payment for an accepted story, you will receive a print copy of the finished anthology.  In addition, accepted authors will be able to order copies of the book at 30% off of the cover price and have their names and links displayed on our website.

How and what to send: 
    Send a cover letter including your contact information, publishing history, and a short synopsis in the body of the email.  Attach the submission in rich text format as an rtf file.  The text must be 12 point Times New Roman with single line spacing and one inch margins.  Please place a single space (not multiple spaces) between sentences and a hard break for paragraphs.  Separate scene breaks by a hard break, centered asterisks (***) and a hard break.

Please do not send multiple or simultaneous submissions.

Both the subject line and rtf file should be:

Airship Kids

Airship Kids will be a collection of Steampunk Bedtime Stories written for young and middle-grade children.  Some, if not all stories will be illlustrated.  As the name of the anthology suggests, all of the stories should feature a child or young adult living in an airship in some form or fashion.

We are looking for short fiction between 1,000 and 3,000 words.
Deadline for entry is April 1, 2013.

    We ask for first publishing rights, the right to use the story for as long as there is demand for the books in print, digital and audio format, the right to edit each story for errors, and the right to utilize excerpts and the author's name for promotion.  Authors will keep all other rights and can republish the story once the anthology has been in print for twelve months.

Your Take:
    As payment for an accepted story, you will receive a print copy of the finished anthology.  In addition, accepted authors will be able to order copies of the book at 30% off of the cover price and have their names and links displayed on our website.

How and what to send: 
    Send a cover letter including your contact information, publishing history, and a short synopsis in the body of the email.  Attach the submission in rich text format as an rtf file.  The text must be 12 point Times New Roman with single line spacing and one inch margins.  Please place a single space (not multiple spaces) between sentences and a hard break for paragraphs.  Seperate scene breaks by a hard break, centered asterisks (***) and a hard break. 

Please do not send multiple or simultaneous submissions. 

Both the subject line and rtf file should be:

For more information, visit 

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#263) -- Manga vs. Mainstream

You've written for both manga and mainstream comics. 
How is scripting different for those two formats?

Excellent question. I haven't had a lot of experience with manga, but right off the bat I can tell you that when you script for it you don't have as many panels per page. If a typical mainstream comic runs from 4-7 panels, then a manga runs between 2-4. That's just an estimate. Obviously storytelling will always trump formulas.

Also, when I script for mainstream comics, I often include detailed descriptions of backgrounds and setting, while in manga, typically there's not as much detail in those areas, so I have to focus more on the action and the faces and body language of the characters.

Also, dialog -- I can get away with overdoing it sometimes in mainstream comics (but not all the time). However, in manga, less isn't just more, less is all you get.

Those are just a few things off the top of my head. Remember, though, as I write more manga, I'll learn more and some of these may change.

ADDENDUM: My friend, the manga artist Steven Cummings, has correctly identified the criteria I put forth as being more specifically for a certain type of manga called Shojo, which is most most common type found here in the U.S., and the type I'm most familiar with. (See, I'm learning already.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Watson Report: Change and Growth for Characters in Pulp and Comics

by I.A.  Watson

Stan Lee argued that comics required series not to change but to have the illusion of change.

I agree that might be the case for those series which are intended to be ongoing forever. Series like Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man have publishing histories older than many of their readers. Most modern fans will not have read anything like the bulk of previous stories. Only the major milestones, like the death of Gwen Stacy, have filtered through the years to significantly impact on the canon. For the rest, the same problems in different guises recur again and again - secret identity conflicts, returning villains, supporting cast problems - and when they're done right they can still be entertaining.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Long before the rise of the comic book, the weekly periodical story filled much the same niche. In the UK, magazines like The Magnet (1908-1940, 1,683 issues) featured ongoing series with many similarities to the comic-book. The Magnet was notable for Frank Richards'  Greyfriars School stories, adventure yarns featuring the original "famous five" schoolboys and their comedy relief Billy Bunter, "the fat owl of the Remove" [that's the lower 4th form, the 14 year olds for those not from British public schools’ in the US they’d be 8th graders]. Frank Richards is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most prolific author. Richards produced about 100 million published words in his lifetime under a variety of pseudonyms (his actual name was Charles Hamilton). Amongst many other works, he turned out a 30,000 word Greyfriars novella a week for over thirty years, then continued his stories in novel form for twenty years more - and at the end of that time the schoolboys were still 14, still in the Remove, and still interacting in much the same way as they had before World War 1. Harry Wharton and his chums make Franklin Richards (from the Fantastic Four; no relation) look like a real fast grower.

Frank Richards knew that his audience was constantly turning over. His main readership was boys aged between eleven and sixteen, so every five years or so he had a virtually new audience for his tales. The details of the stories changed because they were always contemporary. When World War 1 started, the schoolboys fought sinister agents of the Kaiser. During World War 2 they thwarted Hitler's spies. Compare this with Iron Man's various exploits, from the much-revised war in which he was originally injured, once Korea, then Viet Nam, now Afghanistan, and from his early commie-busting adventures to his contemporary anti-terrorist exploits. Comics have traditionally had a similar expectation of a limited-duration audience and a readership turnover.

But the same thing happened with Greyfriars as happened with superhero comics: some readers grew up but continued to read. Later in Richards' career his readership balance changed, with adult fans of the series supporting his novel releases. A fan club even produced facsimile editions of the original Magnet issues - 100 volumes in all, with even the original advertisement pages lovingly replicated. Again, compare to the hardcover deluxe collector's editions of classic comics that we see now with a high price tag. Greyfriars fans revelled in trivia discussions and obsessed over continuity (which, if the eternal 15-year-old-ness is overlooked, is remarkably good, given that a single writer steered the series over fifty years). Adult comics fans likewise obsess over reconciling discontinuities between older obscure events and new information; comics fans are often better informed about the characters than modern writers.

Event-driven comics

 The never-changing nature of ongoing comics means that changes which were meant to be permanent once had a major impact. At first these were "imaginary stories" - imagine if Superman married Lois Lane and they had a Superbaby! Later, memorable events were enshrined in "continuity"; who can forget the paradigm-changing Wedding of Reed and Sue? Still later, probably around the time of Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, publishers realised that "big events" - and big meant future-comics-changing - sold. "This issue - someone dies!" became the key to reviving flagging market sales. Later still, "going dark and gritty" - equated with "more realistic" through some very shoddy logic - was considered an effective creative choice.

In fact change became a necessary sales tool. "Why read this issue? Nothing changes?" has become a common criticism of some comics, and especially of crossover events. The escalation of shock and trauma required to produce a sensation amongst an increasingly blasé and cynical readership has lead to character deaths (and subsequent character resurrections), to infidelities, to new characters taking on the identities of older ones, to heroes turning evil, to rape, incest, and probably cannibalism. To be fair, the characters are only doing to each other what their publishers and hired creators are doing to them!

Yet even in these event-driven traumatic days for comics, the illusion of change is there more than the reality of change. Captain America died and got real-world news coverage - but he's back now. Same with Batman – but he returned as a franchise. Asgard was destroyed - but now its better. Some heroes that did bad things were actually Skrulls, or mind controlled, or did them on numbered Earths that have now been erased or merged. Bucky Barnes and Jason Todd are alive, albeit changed and darkened to "coolness". Reality gets altered by the Devil, or the Anti-Monitor, or John Byrne, or Mark Millar, or whatever terrible menace to our heroes' wellbeing sells comics this month. And the change was illusory.

This cycle of apparent change, of life and death and reshuffling the pieces on the board, of the most-terrible-ever return of the Joker or Doctor Doom or Magneto, works pretty well for those new readers in their five-year reading span who haven't seen the previous most-terrible-ever return (remember the Doom who wore a flesh-mask of his true love Valeria?). But for that large segment of adult fans with longer memories there is definite trauma-event fatigue. The illusion of change is worn too thin. Eventually the magic is gone.

I recall Kurt Busiek [Astro City, Avengers] reflecting once that writers should only make permanent changes if what they put in place is at least as robust as what they destroy. You want to kill off Nick Fury? Come up with someone at least as compelling to do his job. Maria Hill and G.W. Bridge need not apply. You want to marry off Peter Parker? You'd better have a damn good game plan for how that might work.

Most stories have natural conclusions. Comics are a modern iteration of old legends, and in most of the greatest legends the heroes reach an end; either they get the girl, settle down, and live happily ever after or else they have a heroic passing - c.f. Hercules, King Arthur, Robin Hood. One reason that married superheroes struggle to find engaging ongoing storylines is that in our culture we view marriage as the ending of the "adventure" period; what comes after is the reward, the settled time of enjoying love and children. So unless your series is about a family unit who face adventure (the Fantastic Four is the rare and best example) then your comic book is going to struggle once the hero and heroine have reached what we instinctively feel should be a rest point.

When comics allow events to progress in certain directions - marriage and death are two of them - then either they move towards a proper conclusion, or more likely they have to take extraordinary and usually incredible efforts to backtrack. The recent Spider-Man change and the rebooting of now-single Superman are good examples.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#262) -- Rattling the Cages of Your Memories

What's the most horrific thing you've discovered while you kicked the dust and rattled the cages of your own memories -- which you've gone on to use in writing?

One thing I regularly learn more about myself when I write (and reinforce the knowledge of when I write) is the depth of my own depravity. Seriously, no saint could dream up some of the crazy stuff I think up. Hookerpunk? I don't think so. Total Fubar (my newest comic pitch that has been picked up, more to come as it develops)? Not on your life. I'd be drummed out of the local church and probably my family too for some of this stuff.

On a deeper level though, I think the thing I tend to learn more about me as I write is just how much growing up the child of divorce affected me. I remember when I wrote the story "Erosion" (originally published in O' Georgia, currently collected in Gomer and Other Early Works), I surprised even myself when the last line spilled out onto the computer screen: "He was a much smaller man that I had realized." It was almost cathartic. I hadn't realized myself the depth of loss I had been feeling having grown up without a regular father around (I had a few step-fathers, but not a steady ongoing dad, until I was 15). I think, in many ways, writing that story helped me deal with my feelings about that loss (regardless of blame), and move on to actually begin being able to have a real relationship with both my dads (my step-dad of more than half my life now and my natural father who sired me). I'm luckier by far because of that, but dealing with it within the confines of that story wasn't easy or fun.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pro Se Productions Announces "Write to the Cover" With Adam Shaw!

Pro Se Productions, a publisher of Heroic Fiction and New Pulp, announces a different sort of project for 2013 as well as adding a new artist to its already top notch team of cover creators.

"It's always great," Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, states, "when you come across tremendously talented people who not only are good at what they do, but have a passion for Pulp. That's Adam Shaw to a T."

Shaw, an artist living in Memphis, Tennessee, met Hancock at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention in early November and expressed an interest in providing covers for upcoming Pro Se titles. "I was immediately impressed with his work," Hancock stated, "and glad to be able to arrange for Adam to be a part of the great books Pro Se has coming up. I was also quite taken with one particular image that Adam showed me from his portfolio. An image that just screams for a story."

With Shaw's permission, Pro Se Productions announces what could be the first in a new series of imprints. Tentatively under the title of 'Write To The Cover', the submission process for this digest anthology is simple enough.

1. The story must be based on the following image created by Adam Shaw. This scene MUST be included in the story.

2. The story must be 5,000 minimum to 10,000 maximum words. A 1-3 paragraph proposal must be submitted to by December 10th, 2012 to be considered.

3. If accepted, submitted stories will be given a first come, first print deadline. When a total of 30,000 words has been received, then the digest will go to publication. Any other stories received after 30,000 words will go into a second digest, if required.

4. Pay for this anthology will be royalty based and percentages will be discussed with accepted writers. Please note that Pro Se pays agreed upon percentages on every dollar made from the sale of its books.

Any questions or comments as well as proposals for the 'Write To The Cover' Digest based on the art work of Adam Shaw should be emailed to And stay tuned for further announcements very soon concerning books featuring Adam Shaw's Pulp themed artwork.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Night Beat Goes Audio!

FINALLY IT CAN BE REVEALED! A long-term project that has been underwraps from Radio Archives is available in TWO formats! Already known for producing quality Ebooks and Audiobooks of classic Pulp tales, Radio Archives has just released its first collection of new tales based on an Old Time Radio Program!

In 1950, NBC began broadcasting Nightbeat, considered one of the finest shows of its time. The show featured Randy Stone, a reporter who covered the night beat for the Chicago Star with a unique blend of wit, compassion and toughness.

Radio Archives invites you to return to the streets of Randy Stone's Chicago in Nightbeat: Night Stories. Six brand new Nightbeat stories are now available in both Ebook and Audiobook format. Authors Howard Hopkins, William Patrick Murray, Paul Bishop, Bobby Nash, Tommy Hancock, and Mark Squirek breathe new life into Randy Stone, bringing the nostalgic noir feel of the radio series fans have enjoyed for over sixty years to newly written tales that capture the true essence of Nightbeat.

A mystery involving a puzzle. A mad killer strangling women. A young boy on the wrong road. An old flame threatening to burn again. Blood and Conspiracy in the boxing ring. The murder of a reporter. And at the center of every tale, Randy Stone. This nostalgic newly written collection issued for your reading pleasure in electronic format also features a cover by Douglas Klauba.

This Collection includes:

  • Introduction by Tommy Hancock
  • Strangler by Howard Hopkins
  • The Chicago Punch by Paul Bishop
  • Puzzle in Purple by Will Murray
  • Down Addison Road by Mark Squirek
  • Lucky by Tommy Hancock
  • The One That Got Away by Bobby Nash

Step into the world that comes alive when the sun sets with Nightbeat: Night Stories. eBook only $4.99. And the Audiobook also available voiced by veteran Actor Michael C. Gwynne, $23.98 for CDS, $12.99 as a digital download! Six Hours of New Stories based on a Classic Concept!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Evil’s coming... Don’t look back!

BEN Books is pleased to announce that the re-release version of author
Bobby Nash’s debut novel, EVIL WAYS is now available for purchase 
in paperback and ebook formats.

Originally released in 2005 as a paperback (followed by a limited
hardcover edition a few years later), Evil Ways was the first
published novel for author Bobby Nash. “There was a feeling of joy I
just can’t explain,” said Nash of holding those initial copies of his
first published novel back in September of 2005. “I was so excited. I
smiled for a week. It was thrilling,” adds Nash. “With this
re-release, I’m excited to get the book back in the hands of readers.
Even more exciting is launching Evil Ways as an ebook for the first

As for the future of the characters, Nash announced that the second
book in the Harold Palmer Thriller Series, titled Evil Intent, is
underway for a 2013 release. “From there, hopefully we get to do a
book three, then four, and so on,” Nash added, smiling at the prospect
of seeing his characters continue. “With both The Harold Palmer
Thrillers and The John Bartlett/Benjamin West Thrillers (Book 1:
Deadly Games! is available now), not to mention my other writing
projects, it looks like I’ve got a lot of writing ahead of me.”

About Evil Ways:

FBI Agent Harold Palmer needed a relaxing vacation. All he wanted was
to travel to Sommersville, Georgia to visit his brother, newspaper
publisher and reporter, Franklin Palmer. He should have known better.

The graduating class of 2002 have returned to Sommersville for their
ten year high school reunion, timed to coincide with the annual
Sommersville Autumn Festival.  Classmates coming from all over to
reconnect, retell old stories, and have a great time reminiscing.

The discovery of a brutally murdered young lady with a connection to
the local police, coupled with a rowdy high school reunion and the
annual Autumn Festival has Sommersville Sheriff Tom Myers and his
deputies overwhelmed.

Agent Palmer finds himself on the trail of a killer who preys on the
fears of his victims. His next targets are the unsuspecting members of
the reunited class of ‘02.

They should fear his EVIL WAYS.

This re-release edition of Evil Ways by Author Bobby Nash kicks off
the beginning of a new series of suspense thrillers starring FBI
Special Agent Harold Palmer.

It all starts here.

Evil Ways was Bobby Nash's first published novel. He is excited to
have it once again in print. Currently, he is busy working on Harold
Palmer’s next adventure, Evil Intent, to be published in 2013.

EVIL WAYS can be purchased in paperback and ebook at the following:

BEN Books estore paperback -

Amazon paperback -

Amazon (Kindle) ebook -

Barnes and Noble (Nook) ebook -

Smashwords ebook (multiple formats, Kindle, Nook, etc.) -

DriveThru Fiction ebook -

Harold Palmer will return in Evil Intent.

Bobby Nash’s Deadly Games! is also available. Although not part of the
Harold Palmer Thriller series, characters and locations that appear in
Evil Ways also appear in Deadly Games! Learn more about Deadly Games!

Monday, November 19, 2012



Airship 27 Productions is excited to announce the release of their third MYSTERY MEN (& Women) anthology celebrating the creations of brand new pulp heroes to follow in the steps of the classic avengers of old.  Managing Editor, Ron Fortier explains it this way, “After doing new stories of classic pulp heroes for nearly four years, many of our writers starting getting the itch to invent their own original pulp characters.  This anthology series addresses that need and has been a huge hit with all our readers.”

As in the first two volumes in this series, a quartet of today’s most ambitious pulp writers put on their creative caps and have whipped up four thrilling brand new pulp adventures crammed with wall-to-wall action. In MYSTERY MEN (& Women) Vol III we get to meet three brand new characters and have the pleasure of enjoying the return of a familiar character from volume two.

THE SKEIN - A black veteran of World War One returns home to the bayou country only confront an evil practitioner of the voodoo magic is turning living people into lifeless zombies.  Donning his old doughboy uniform and a gasmask, the Skein is born to protect the innocent and defeat the wicked, written and created by Kevin Noel Olson

THE BROWN RECLUSE – Next, in the grand tradition of the old pulp magazines comes a new series that focuses not on the stalwart heroes of the tale but rather on its dastardly villain.  A mad scientist whose genius is capable of inventing the most bizarre weapons, the Brown Recluse has but one goal in mind, the complete domination of all mankind under his heel. He is the invention of writer by Greg Gick

KIRI - A beautiful female samurai comes to New York in the early 1930s employed as the personal aid to a newspaper business woman wanting to clean up the city from vice and corruption.  Along the way, Kiri stumbles on a white slavery ring connected to a former ally who murdered her teacher back in Japan.  Suddenly her mission becomes that of personal vengeance and before it is over blood will be spilled.  Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to welcome gifted writer Curt Ferlund to our ranks and premier this truly wonderful new pulp hero.

MONGREL (Chapter Two) – And lastly the saga of the modern day action hero, Mongrel, continues in this second chapter picking up where the first ended.  There is a conspiracy to destroy Mongrel’s family, the owners of a multi-faceted high tech communications empire.  Using disguised, sophisticated cyborg assassins, the enemy strikes from the shadows.  This is Airship 27 Productions’ first on-going chapter serial and is presented by the creator of Dillon, the one and only Derrick Ferguson.

Airship 27 Productions’ 14th title of the year features a stunning cover by artist Marco Turini with interior illustrations and designs by Art Director Rob Davis.  Here once more are four fast-paced, colorful heroes created in the spirit of the golden age pulp avengers and brought to you by the publisher where adventure reigns.  Airship 27 Productions.  PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Now Available at Create Space – (
Within 7 to 10 days at Amazon & Kindle.

As a PDF Digital Download Now at our Website.

And in two weeks as a POD from – (

Saturday, November 17, 2012

[Link] Why Some People Hate Ebooks; and Why I Love Them

by Jeremy Greenfield

There are some people out there who are frustrated with ebooks. Dylan Love of Business Insider, for one, who published an article yesterday titled “Why I Hate E-Books“.

The ebook revolution is exciting and certainly has been profitable for the book business as a whole, but publishers and booksellers should hear what Love (and others like him) has to say. Here’s why he hates ebooks:

1. “E-books cost too much.” In his piece, he pointed out an example of how an ebook edition of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (Random House) is more expensive than a paperback edition — when you order it with Amazon Prime, which offers free shipping, that is.

This is a gripe that should be familiar to the ebook business. Love isn’t alone. I spoke with a number of consumers in April who were mostly upset about the price of ebooks because the perception was that they cost little to produce and distribute. There have been other media reports that point out similar price discrepancies to what Love pointed out, citing consumer dissatisfaction and confusion.

Love suggests that all ebooks should be under $10. I’m not sure where he came up with that number, but it seems to be the consensus among his set.

Continue reading:

Radio Silence

Sorry for the lag in posting. Been dealing with the post-con deadlines and post-con crud. Regular posting will resume next week.

Thanks for your patience.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pro Se Productions Announces The Rook Volume One Special Edition Ebook!

Pro Se Productions, a cutting edge Publisher of Heroic Fiction and New Pulp, is proud to announce the perfect jumping-on point for fans of adventure – The Rook Volume One Special Edition!

Created by author Barry Reese, The Rook has become one of the most famous New Pulp heroes. Originally published by Wild Cat Books, The Rook joined Pro Se prior to the release of Volume Six. Now Pro Se begins the process of bringing books 1-5 back into print.

"I'm thrilled,” said Reese, “to have The Rook Volume One back in print. This is the book that kicks off the entire series and is really the beginning of my greater interconnected pulp universe. The work that was done on the book has left it significantly improved - the editing is much tighter now, Sean Ali knocked it out of the park on the design aspect and George Sellas brought out the big guns with his artwork. Max Davies has been living with me for nearly a decade now.. and he's never looked better!"

“It’s our honor,” stated Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se, “to not only have Barry as a major part of our lineup, but also to have the opportunity to really put our brand on the whole Rook franchise from the start.  This volume is the first of making sure that The Rook’s entire written history has a classic, uniform look.  One that will be a great literary and visual addition to any bookshelf.”

With a beautiful new cover and four interior pieces by George Sellas, The Rook Volume One Special Edition has been completely re-edited and gorgeously packaged by Pro Se designer Sean Ali.
THE ROOK VOLUME ONE SPECIAL EDITION is available at Pro Se's Createspace store.

Get your copy from Amazon.

Get your ebook copy at Amazon for the Kindle at for $4.99!

Get your ebook copy in multiple formats from Smashwords at for $4.99!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bullets vs. Bonding -- Balancing action and characterization in pulp fiction


Or bonding?

 Anyone who is a fan of the genre knows how much pulp is defined by the action-oriented plots. That's a given. We get it, and we've beat that dead horse so hard it already got back up for a few hard-boiled western sequel novels.


Is there room for the characterization that is so often maligned in this fast-paced genre?

And if not, what separates the Angel Dares (from Christa Faust's Money Shot and Choke Hold) from the Lance Stars (from Bobby Nash's Lance Star: Sky Ranger anthologies) from the Rook (from Barry Reese's series). Without character development, wouldn't all these two-fisted, bullet-evading heroes and heroines just be generic replicas of other archetypes?

Well, to go straight to the horses' mouths, I asked several of New Pulp's leading creators.

Why is (or isn't) characterization important in pulp fiction?

Bill Craig: Characterization is very important in Pulp. You need characters that the reader can either A. Identify with, or B. care about.  With Hardluck Hannigan, he is an easy character for people to do both with, because who hasn't had runs of exceptionally bad luck?  And as a result they can relate, but people also get concerned for him and his merry band and the relationships between them.

Mark Halegua: Characterization is important in a pulp story, but action and fast pace are more important. 

Ian Watson: If I'm honest I don't usually set out to write pulp fiction, unless that's the brief (as when I'm asked to write an existing character in the style of their original stories). Making it "pulp" comes way down the list of my priorities, after enjoying writing it, telling a good story, engaging readers, doing something original, using language properly etc. If the end product meets somebody's definition of pulp thereafter then so be it. Fortunately my natural style tends to favour the characteristics defined nowadays as pulp fiction.

Writing good and proper characterisation comes way above writing something to fit the pulp definition in my book(s).

But I'd argue that pulp is mostly about dragging a visceral, emotional investment and response from readers. It's page-turning, edge-of-your seat stuff designed to get you to buy the next installment. It's written to make you laugh, cry, shiver, cheer, boo, whatever. If it's grabbing you and dragging you along at 1000 mph and making your pulse increase then it's probably pulp. To that end we use all kinds of plot devices and literary techniques, from innocent-in-peril and blackhearted-villain-must-not-triumph through to compressed language narratives and rollercoaster shock plotting. And we use characterisation.

Characterisation, as others have argued, makes the reader care about the situation. We care for the innocent in peril. We despise the blackhearted villain who must not triumph, even when we see nuanced motivation from his tragic flaws and shattered past. It's a principal tool for grabbing reader attention, for twisting the heartstings, ramping up the tension, magnifying the fun. And never underestimate the value of banter in making a pulp story zing along.

Like many of Marvel's early characters, Dr Doom would be a fine pulp villain. What puts him on the cusp between the traditional pulp science-baddie with a death ray and a new pulp enemy with a twisted past informing his villainy are his love for his kingdom, Latveria, his torment over his mother's soul, his sense of honour and obligation that makes his word his bond even to his adversaries, and his grandiose sensibilities. That's a vein of characterisation that magnifies his pulpiness, not diminishes it. 

Nancy Hansen: I don't think I've ever written an appealing story that had main characters I didn't invest some effort into creating. It doesn't matter what I'm writing, the important people in the story have to resonate with me in some way. Even the villainous types have to be strongly delineated and have motives I can understand. Good characterization makes the story unforgettable, as we tend to live vicariously through their adventures.

How much character development is too much in pulp fiction?

Bill Craig: When the character does so much soul-searching or philosophizing that it bogs down the plot, that is too much.  Sure, Hannigan worries about his actions, but it is because he knows that as a leader, what he does can affect the group for better or worse. Perhaps I should say he realizes that there will be consequences.  That was a lesson he learned early and fast in his career.

Mark Halegua
: Characterization tends to slow the pace of stories, so it's done at a superficial level.  Good guy vs bad guy.  A few mentions here and there about why they are good and bad and then the action takes hold. 

Ian Watson: Amongst the literary shifts that have happened in the last five hundred years, and even in the century since the start of pulp's golden age, is the expectation of readers to understand why characters behave as they do. In retelling some of King Arthur's stories for modern readers I've had to fill in the gaps that Sir Thomas Malory and his contemporaries didn't feel the need to address, the whys to go along with the what various characters do. These days "he did it because he was bad" or "she fell into his arms because he'd rescued her" don't always cut it. Our audience expects a little more motivation - and that comes from characterisation.

 Like many other elements of pulp, characterisation can be abbreviated, stylised, and codified. It can be "off the shelf" stereotype motivations for the whore with the heart of gold who a man done wrong or a world-weary wanderer blowing into town with a dark past and a holster-ful of trouble, but its still a fundamental part of the writing genre. Like other elements of the pulp toolkit it can be minimised or excluded, but for most of us in most of our stories, anything from a dash to a huge helping of characterisation forms a valuable ingredient of what we serve up.

Nancy Hansen: When it gets to be too much is when the story gets lost in the details. In pulp, you need a plot that moves quickly. Things need to happen, it has to be exciting, and adventurous. If you slow that rapid-fire action down too far because a character is having a navel-examining moment of introspection that lasts through six paragraphs, you killed the story and ultimately the reader's interest.
Bill Craig, author of The Jack Riley Adventures: Valley of Death, Mayan Gold, Dead Run, Pirate's Blood, The Child Stealers, and The Mummy's Tomb; as well as numerous other stories. (See link on the right under Heavy Hitters.)

Mark Halegua, creator and writer of the Red Badge in Mystery Men (and Women).  

Ian Watson, author of numerous novels of SF, Fantasy, and Horror followed, and 9 story collections. His stories have been finalists for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and widely anthologised.

Nancy Hansen, staff writer and editor at Pro Se Productions.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#261) -- Reading Short Stories

Which do you prefer to read, novels or short stories?

Short stories.

I've been a fan of short stories since I was in high school. I think they're an amazing art form that forces writers to condense all the fat that can fill up a novel. Granted, when I'm reading for elaborate plots and such, a novel is really the best way to go (although, the pulps managed to do that in novellas and novelettes too). But when I want to really get to know the characters I'm reading, and experience the full spectrum of what words can do in fiction, I go to short stories.

I only wish they weren't such a dying market. 

“Short fiction seems more targeted - hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it's a lot smokier and less defined.” ― Paolo Bacigalupi

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.” ― Lorrie Moore

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” -― Edgar Allan Poe

“A short story is a different thing all together - a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.” ― Stephen King

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

[Link] “What if nobody likes it?”: On Writing and Self-Doubt

by Brian Keene

Last week on Twitter, Steve Melnick asked me if I had any advice regarding writer’s block based on a lack of confidence. His concern that people might not like his writing was preventing him from writing. I told him I did have advice, but it wasn’t something that would fit into a Tweet, so I’d write a Blog entry instead. So I have.

I should start by recapping my assertion that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Writer’s block is a convenient term we use simply because “I don’t feel like writing” sounds less palatable.

I used to work in a foundry, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and books were still sold in bookstores. I held many positions at that foundry, one of which was operating a mold making machine. During my daily eight-hour shift, I was expected to make a certain number of molds. If I completed this task, I got a paycheck at the end of the week. If I didn’t complete this task, then I got fired and had to find another job.

I’ve always approached writing the same way. Whether I’ve got an hour to write each day or eight hours each day, I’ve always envisioned my words as part of the assembly line. I have to produce X amount of them each day, or I’ll get fired and have to find another job. And since I haven’t had another job in over 15 years, I’m pretty sure I’d have trouble getting hired somewhere else, so it’s doubly important I keep this writing gig.

Continue reading:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#260) -- Why Redemptive Stories?

Why do you love redemptive stories so much?

The simple answer? Because of my faith. As a Christian believer (albeit one on the outskirts and fringes of the Christian subculture), I'm a sucker for a story about someone being changed for the better.

The Squadron Supreme
The writer answer? Because at their core, stories are about the growth and changing of people, and what's a better or bigger change than a redemptive one? The same could also be said of a "fall" story, in which a character does the opposite and goes bad due to situations and choices. Two of the greatest are Darth Vader and Faust in Michael Oeming's new Dark Horse series The Victories. But who gets left with a good feeling after that kind of tale?

Some of my favorite redemptive stories in comics include:

  • The Thunderbolts initial run
  • The Sandman in the various Spider-Man books (before he was turned bad again)
  • Heatwave in Superboy (yes, the Flash villain)
  • Moloch in Watchmen
  • Thief of Thieves
  • Saga
  • Squadron Supreme (the folly of forced "redemption," kind of like Fundamentalist politicos trying to enforce Christian moral stances in gray areas)
  • House of Secrets (the Steve Seagle Vertigo run)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

[Link] The World Doesn’t Stop Because You Published a Book: Eight Important Things I Learned While Promoting KINGDOM

by Anderson O'Donnell

Just in time for Devil’s Night (dystopian fiction sprung to life) here’s the final guest post on KINGDOM’s October blog tour. While the tour runs through November first, today is my final guest post, so I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned, both through my own experience, and observing the actions of other authors. I’m not an authority on self-publishing/promoting—not by a long shot.

  1. Be Polite, or The World Doesn’t Stop Because You Published a Book.
  2. Be Prepare to Spend Some Money.
  3. Give Back to the Community.
  4. Hire a Professional Blog Tour Company.
  5. Don’t Waste Time and Money Chasing Traditional “Big” Media Coverage.
  6. Don’t Use Family and Overly Effusive Friends to Promote Your Work.
  7. Even if Your Book Doesn’t Suck, Someone Will Think it Does. And that’s a Good Thing!
  8. Acknowledge Those Who Contribute to Your Success.

Continue reading:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#259) -- The Writing Career

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes. I see writing as a career. However, it doesn't always agree with me on that point.

To be honest, as much as I'd love to see writing as a self-sustaining career, more often than not, it's a career interwoven with other jobs when the pickin' gets slim (particularly between royalty checks). The goal is to continue to build my network and make contacts so that I can attain that level of self-sustaining career that so many others have.

But I'm convinced that in the world of pulp and comics writing, that's becoming more the exception than the rule.

Is it my career? Heck yeah. Is it a bumpy career filled with terrifying moments? Sadly, equally so.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monster Earth Coming Soon!

Contact: James Palmer


Monster Earth Coming Soon!

Atlanta, GA—James Palmer, editor and publisher of Mechanoid Press, an independent publishing imprint specializing in New Pulp, science fiction, and more, is proud to announce the upcoming release of its first anthology MONSTER EARTH.

MONSTER EARTH harkens back to the classic giant monsters of yesteryear like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and King Kong, while focusing on the human element and what it would be like to live in such a world where giant monsters terrorize the Earth.

"There have been a few other giant monster anthologies over the years," says Palmer. "But our book is going to be a bit different. It has a unifying concept, as well as a solid pulp style of storytelling."

Developed by MONSTER EARTH co-editor Jim Beard (writer, Captain Action and the Riddle of the Glowing Men), each story in the book takes place in a different decade of the 20th century, which leads to a Cold War fought with giant monsters rather than the threat of nuclear weapons.

"I really wanted all the stories to have an underlying thread that weaves between them all the stories, and Jim really came up with a winner."

The stories in MONSTER EARTH have a strong human angle as well.

"Focusing in on the human beings living in this world is important to me," says Palmer. "The monsters are like forces of nature, with the humans trying to control them. But don’t worry, these aren't just regular human interest stories with a monster thrown in for window dressing. There are plenty of great monster battles and more than enough citywide destruction to please the most discerning kaiju fan – and anyone who loves a good tale.

Palmer and Beard have assembled a great line-up of New Pulp all-stars to give us their visions of a world ruled by giant monsters. MONSTER EARTH will include stories by I.A. Watson (Sherlock Holmes, Blackthorn: Dynasty of Mars), Ed Erdelac (The Merkabah Rider), Nancy Hansen, and newcomer Jeff McGinnis. Beard and Palmer will also provide stories, and there will be a free online bonus tale by Jeff McGinnis coming out shortly before the book's release.

MONSTER EARTH is slated for a Christmas release, and will be available in print and ebook formats.

For more information and updates, including a preview of the cover and table of contents when they are finalized, go to and sign up for our FREE newsletter.

About Mechanoid Press

Mechanoid Press is a new imprint specializing in science fiction, New Pulp, and steampunk ebooks and anthologies. For more, visit or follow the robot revolution on Twitter: You can also like Mechanoid Press on Facebook.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#258) -- Negative Feedback

How do you take negative feedback from a story and have you ever agreed with negative feedback?

I cry and scream and throw a hissy fit usually.

Of course not, but sometimes I'd love to.

Any feedback is good feedback, I feel. Like so many others writers have said before, if anyone cares enough about my work to get in touch with me about it, that's a win, whether they praise it or criticize it.

Have I ever agreed with it? Occasionally, but not to the extend of the one making the criticism. For example, when I was writing Gene Simmons Dominatrix (no apostrophe, I know, not my call), several reviewers lamented the T&A factor of the book taking such a forefront. Well, I would have preferred less of that as well as a writer, freeing me to delve into character and plot, but those were the parameters I was given to write. If someone is paying you to write a sonnet, be a professional and don't try to write an epic narrative of rhyming couplets. Luckily, as the book progressed, we were able to move beyond that stereotype bad girl image of the book and really hit the stuff the writer in my wanted to focus on. But had I started it that way, well, for one thing, I wouldn't have kept the job. So it's a matter of doing your job regardless of both the positive and negative feedback.