Monday, July 29, 2013

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #281 -- Recent New Favorites

Who's your favorite golden age pulp character that you discovered relatively recently? -- Jim Beard

For me, these new "faves" came from accepting gigs to write them for anthologies. I knew nothing of them prior to the research required to begin the writing, but felt instantly drawn to the characters as if they were old friends I'd been writing and reading for years.

For prose, they were Armless O'Neil and a certain beauty I can't discuss at the moment. But I really, really (can I add another really and get away with it?) loved writing and reading Armless O'Neil. He was a character I was immediately hooked on and felt like I "got" right off the bat.

To boil him down to his key character is simply this: Take Humphrey Bogart's Charlie Allnut out of The African Queen and give him a hook for a hand, then saddle him with adventures more typical of Allan Quatermain, then shake and pour, voila!

For comics, it would have to be The Blue Lady (whom I wrote in All Star Pulp Comics #1). She grabbed me the same way Armless did. She's a typical old-school pulp supporting lady rather than a heroine at first, but when she receives a ring that gives her the power to beat back guys to a pulp, she does what any other lady of the era would in a comic book and puts on a mask and costume to fight crime.

Even though she was only in three back-up features in Amazing Man Comics in the early 1940s (October '41 - January '42, to be precise) , I felt she needs and deserves more stories --which is something Jim Ritchey and I are currently working on. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rick Ruby is "Celluloid Cool"

I would back up that assertion up by saying there's a celluloid cool about the gumshoe and he makes a seedy den of smoky, sultry jazz his home. Along with that, Ruby is also one sardonic shamus who is always cracking wise; as opposed to  a PI  like Mike Hammer, who broods and has an ultra violent temper.
"Every story a gem..."  is what the tagline reads--and you will find much truth in that shibboleth. -- Whit Howland

The Ruby Files team would like to thank Whit Howland at Huey Dusk’s Lounge and Clown website for their kind review of The Ruby Files Vol. 1. You can read the full review here.

Tell 'em Ruby sent ya.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Michael Vance has been named Marketing Director for Airship 27 publishing.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have such a talented, experienced writer/editor joining our editorial staff,” declared Managing Editor Ron Fortier enthusiastically. “Michael Vance is one of the most respected pros in the literary community, and having him aboard brings that wealth of knowledge and creativity to Airship 27 Productions. Michael’s contributions are clearly going to allow Airship 27 to fly to new heights. Count on it.”

Vance's magazine work has been published in seven countries in magazines including Starlog, Jack & Jill and Star Trek, The Next Generation. He briefly ghosted an internationally syndicated comic strip, and his own strip, Holiday Out that was reprinted as a comic book. Vance also wrote comic book titles including Straw Men, Angel of Death, The Adventures of Captain Nemo, Holiday Out and Bloodtide. He is listed in two reference works, the Who’s Who of American Comic Books and Comic Book Superstars.

His thirty short stories about a fictional town called “Light’s End” were published in more than a dozen magazines, and have been recorded by legendary actor William (Murder She Wrote) Windom.

Vance's published novels include Forbidden Adventure: The History of the American Comics Group, Weird Horror Tales, Weird Horror Tales: The Feasting, Weird Horror Tales: Light End, and Global Star (with Mel Fox and R. A. Jones).

Vance’s weekly comics review column, Suspended Animation, was continuously published for more than twenty years and read by approximately 4,000,000 readers annually.

In his career, he worked in newspapers for twenty-two years as an editor, writer and advertising manager, creating three successful newspaper magazines. He also worked as an advertising copy writer, journalist, historian, graphic designer, in public relations, and as a grant writer. Vance also created the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection housed in the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Paula Valley, Oklahoma, and was a keynote speaker at the Uncanny Adventures of Ookie Cartoonists exhibit at the Oklahoma Historical Museum in Oklahoma City.

Begun in 2004 by comic book creators, Ron Fortier and Rob Davis, Airship 27 Productions is one of the leading companies of the New Pulp Movement; a concentrated effort to keep alive the classic pulp literature of the 30s and 40s while producing newer pulp themed titles by today’s brightest writers and artists. Today the company has over sixty titles, both novels and anthologies, in their ever expanding catalog and all their new titles are available digitally via Amazon’s Kindle. Employing their artistic sensibilities from their experiences in comics, Fortier and Davis has consistently produced the best looking new pulp books on the market today.

The company’s dirigible logo is emblematic of Ron and Rob’s high flying goals; to produce the finest quality books that are always fun to read, again and again.


For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


EDITORS WANTED- Pro Se Productions is currently seeking to expand its editorial staff.  Pro Se maintains two teams of Editors.  These positions are outlined as follows:

CONTENT EDITORS-  Content Editors are assigned to any work Pro Se produces except for the Pro Se Presents Magazine (which has its own editing staff).  Content Editors are required to understand the subject matter/genre/story being told in works assigned to them and to help authors follow parameters for stories, either established by a Bible, if the work is part of a certain imprint, or simply to make sure it meets the qualifications of Genre Fiction.  Content Editors review works assigned to them for continuity issues, plot holes, implausible beginnings, events, and conclusions, as well as any other content problems.   The Content Editor will be the first editor assigned and will work closely with the Author as well as the Director of Corporate Operations in completing the task assigned.  Although deadlines are flexible, Pro Se encourages that 30,000 word books be content edited within 30 days of being assigned to a Content Editor and 60,000 word manuscripts be content edited within 60 days of being assigned.

COPY EDITORS- Copy Editors are assigned to any work Pro Se produces except for the Pro Se Presents Magazine (which has its own editing staff).  Copy Editors are required to review manuscripts after Content Editing is completed.  Copy Editors review manuscripts checking spelling, grammar, sentence construction, and other issues related to presentation and clarity.   The Copy Editor will be the second editor assigned and will work closely with the Author as well as the Director of Corporate Operations in completing the task assigned.  Although deadlines are flexible, Pro Se encourages that 30,000 word books be content edited within 30 days of being assigned to a Content Editor and 30,000 word manuscripts be content edited within 60 days of being assigned.

COMPENSATION- These positions are currently unpaid, although each Editor will receive free digital copies of Pro Se's entire catalog upon request.  Also, Pro Se will provide positive references in the form of letters and/or other form of contact for anyone who serves in either of these positions and performs well.

If interested in either position, email Morgan Minor at to receive a short piece as a test edit. Although experience is not required, it is preferred. Please list any editing experience you have had in your inquiry.  Refer any questions to the same address.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Pro Se Productions once more proves to be a leader in genre fiction with its latest release. A man of the far future plying his dangerous trade like one of the past.  1950s Sensibilities collide explosively with Science Fiction Action and Danger once again as Lee Houston, Jr. follows up his debut 2012 collection with HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: CATCH A RISING STAR!

Thick, red lips were just a shade darker than her crimson skin tone, but both were in striking contrast to her long orange hair. Her eyes appeared to be only irises, as black as a starless corner of the universe resting on a field of white, but that toothy smile was brighter than a supernova. She was dressed in white like everyone else, but her outfit was a sleeveless, short hemmed number at least one size too small, that did everything possible to accent every aspect of her figure.

“Do I have the pleasure of addressing Hugh Monn, the private detective?” asked the older man with an accent I couldn’t place. After all, it’s a pretty big universe and xenology wasn’t one of my strong suits, so I couldn’t identify any of their races or species. Besides, the woman was the only one present any insensitive jerk would call ‘alien’. Outwardly, all the men appeared to be as human as me.

“There’s no pleasure involved from my perspective,” I said, while motioning my head to indicate his traveling companions. -- From Chapter 1 of HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: CATCH A RISING STAR

Hugh Monn, the private detective of the far flung future, is back in his first full length adventure!

In Lee Houston's latest installment of his 1950s style detective in the future, Hugh is hired as a security consultant when actress Ruby Kwartz comes to the island nation of Galveston 2 to record a new vid.  What is supposed to be an easy assignment turns deadly when Monn discovers that everyone around Ruby has a hidden agenda and someone wants to make sure this production will be her last.  Can Hugh Monn catch a rising star before she falls?

"After writing short stories for his first book," states Houston, "I wanted to create longer adventures for Hugh in a second anthology, but CATCH A RISING STAR took on a life of its own and became his first full length novel.  Fans of the private detective in the far flung future not only get more action, adventure, and mystery in this tale; but more Big Louie too."

"We're excited," comments Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Partner and Editor in Chief, "to not only have Hugh back for another adventure, but to see Lee push both himself and this wonderful world he's imagined into a full length novel.   The definitely different mix of Science Fiction with the Detective genre as well as Lee's placing of Hugh somewhere along the center of the Private Eye spectrum makes the concept a fun, exciting one and one that appeals to many types of readers."

As for Hugh Monn's first adventures, Ron Fortier, noted Reviewer, Author, and Publisher stated: "What is particularly refreshing in these tales is that Houston wisely opts not to make his hero a hard-boiled, typically cynical type. Hugh Monn is a genuinely nice guy who likes people and aliens alike and is sincere in trying to make his world a better place for all to live in. He's a good guy I liked meeting and hope to see him again real soon."

HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: CATCH A RISING STAR features an excellent and evocative cover by David L. Russell as well as stunning cover design by Sean E. Ali and e-book formatting by Russ Anderson!  Available in Print at Amazon and from Pro Se's own store for only $15.00!

This stunning addition to Hugh's adventures is also available for $2.99 as an e-book! Available for the Kindle, via the Nook, and at Smashwords in multiple formats!

For More Information on the author, visit his Pro Se page.  For more about Pro Se itself, go to

For interviews, review copies, and questions, contact Morgan Minor, Director of Corporate Operations at

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Airship 27 presents Robin Hood Freedom

Airship 27 Productions' seventh title of the year is out!


Airship 27 Productions is extremely proud to announce the release of I.A. Watson's third Robin Hood adventure novel, "Robin Hood – Freedom's Outlaw."

As depicted in the first two books of this amazing trilogy, King of Sherwood and Arrow of Justice, the upstart outlaw of Sherwood Forest has become a thorn in Prince John's side. All the efforts by his sadistic stooge, the Sheriff of Nottingham, to capture the elusive figure known as Robin Hood have failed.

Now, in this climatic final chapter to I.A. Watson's exciting trilogy, Freedom's Outlaw has Robin's enemy devising a devious scheme to draw him out into the opening by laying siege to the castle of his ally, Sir Richard at the Lee. But the trickster of the greenwoods may just be two steps ahead of them. Meanwhile the Lady Marion uses her royal connections to bring all parties together before the High Nobles Court in London Town where the brash rogue's fate will be decided.

Surrounding all these events is the whispered talk of the appearance of a White Hart in Sherwood Forest, a powerful symbol to the people for whoever captures her will be acknowledged the true King of the Forest.

"I've always loved Robin Hood stories," explains Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor Ron Fortier. "He's such a classic hero figure and it is fun to watch each new generation discover him for the very first time; be it in books, on TV or in the movies. With this particular trilogy, Ian Watson has recaptured the thrills and excitement of this well known saga and made it fresh and new again. No easy task."

Now I.A. Watson brings his stunning, clever and historically based adventure to a rousing, crowd cheering conclusion that will leave all Robin Hood fans applauding. The book features a stunning cover by Pulp Factory Award winner Mike Manley with interior illustrations and book design by fellow PF Award winner, Rob Davis and includes a very special post-essay on the character's role in British history by the author. At last the finale is here and it is one you will never forget!


The book is now available at Create Space –

And should be at Amazon & Kindle within the next few days.

See the Mike Manley cover here (

Friday, July 12, 2013

[Link] A Literary Agent Answers Your Fevered Questions

by Ginger Clark

When an agent has your manuscript on submission, do they recommend working on a sequel (if it’s built that way) or something different?

When is a good time to tell an agent that you have other completed material? In your query, on request, when you’re made an offer or otherwise?

How do you write a good synopsis?

Do literary agents generally consider international submissions, or do they prefer home-grown talent?

What can people do to prepare themselves and make themselves more qualified for internships?

Is the fantasy genre played out? Is there hope for fantasy authors who passionately love the genre and must be published?

To see Ginger's responses, go to:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mine or Yours: The Comic Book Edition

Well, we did this last week with prose writers, so this week let's run the same roundtable -- but instead from the comic book side of the fence.

I chose these writers specifically because not only do they have the goods of writing corporately owned characters (Erik Burnham on TMNT, Ghostbusters, and now Scarlet Spider, Chuck Dixon on Robin, G.I. Joe, Punisher, and nearly everything under the sun, Dan Jolley on Voltron, Vampirella, Angel, and more, and John Jackson Miller of Star Wars and Iron Man) but they also seem to have a lot of fun playing off each other during interviews. You'll see what I mean. Just keep reading.

Do you prefer to write new adventures of existing characters, or would you prefer to create new characters outright?

Chuck Dixon: Both are cool. But that depends on the existing character. I rather take a job at Arby's than write an issue of Firestorm.

Erik Burnham: Shucks, Chuck said exactly what I would. Except having seen my local Arby's, I'd probably opt to write Firestorm.

Chuck Dixon: But with Firestorm there's no free fixin's!

Dan Jolley: Given my love of jamocha shakes, and having spent a year writing Firestorm, yeah, I think I'd work at Arby's.

Erik Burnham: Seriously, I agree with Chuck on this. I really have no preference for one over the other. That sounds like a weak answer, I know, but I'll find a joke for whatever set of circumstances the character I'm writing has to face.

John Jackson Miller: Yeah, they're just different kinds of jobs. In one case, you're free to figure everything out and there's work involved with that; in the other, there's a little research involved. (Which doesn't mean you can't make changes to a character or his or her characterization, but it helps to know what the audience expected before you start moving things around.)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each that you've found?

John Jackson Miller: I agree that doing your own thing has its benefits -- but also, doing someone else's character can be fun if there's a good relationship with the editor and/or licensor and there's something in the character and world that appeals to you.

Chuck Dixon: Again, depends on the character. But most times you can fall back on their history. Plus, being established, they already have an audience prepared to be entertained.

But creating your own characters and universe is like free falling.

Erik Burnham: I suppose the advantages comes down to time. Less people to say yea or nay to any given idea. That can be a big advantage, however.

Dan Jolley: Writing original characters is a much greater risk, definitely, but you get to make up your own rules and you don't have to worry about accidentally duplicating or contradicting a storyline from the 70's. Original characters take it for me by a wide margin.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Watson Report: Magic Swords and Their Makers

by I.A. Watson

Magic weapons are a staple of many fantasy stories because they’re a staple from many myths and legends. They’re engrained into our storytelling DNA – with good reason.

Go back three and a half thousand years or more. In England and Northern Europe, wandering hunter/gatherer tribes are transitioning to herder/farmers. Population has grown so there’s competition for territory. Conflict is inevitable. There is a place for strong warriors. There is a place for powerful weapons.

The best weapon available is the bronze sword; this is the Bronze Age, after all. Bronze is the best technology. A dagger of bronze is more effective and keeps its edge better than a dagger of flint. New techniques are becoming available to increase the reach of those bronze blades, combining the reach of a spear with the versatility of a knife. The first two-foot long bronze swords appeared around 1600 BC. A man with such a weapon had a significant combat advantage. A man with such a weapon could be king.

Then came the discovery: fallen stars contain iron. Not the polluted, difficult to work stuff that could be grubbed from the ground, but pure, elemental stuff given by the gods. Meteor iron could be smelted just like bronze, and it made blades that were slightly stronger and lighter. And then the secret, passed down in guilds from smith father to smith son, making their line so important that their descendants cover the Earth today, making Smith the most common Western name: add a pinch of carbon to the molten iron and it becomes steel!

A thousand years BC where the bronze blade was formerly the pinnacle of technology, iron was the magic metal. A steel sword could slice through even those amazing bronze weapons. A steel sword could pierce boiled leather armour like it wasn’t there.

We know quite a bit about these swords. We’ve still got a lot of them, for a very odd reason.

In Northern Europe you can’t throw an axe-head without hitting archaeology. So we’ve got plenty of evidence of the social and economic phases in the long millennia between the last ice age and the “start of history”. One of the more distinctive emphases was ritual behaviour with rivers.

The oldest names in Britain are the names of the rivers, presumed to be the names of the gods and goddesses to whom each watercourse was sacred. In England, the Don and the Sheaf, the Mersey and the Ouse, the Cam and the Thames all give us a glimpse back to a time when rivers were not only the safest highways but the vital resource for a struggling population: food, transport, security, industry and status all began with a good river location.

It is perhaps not surprising then that there was ritual activity at these rivers. Again and again archaeologists discover deposits of valuable items tossed into the waters, buried in the mud. In some places hundreds of finds have been discovered, with post-holes where wooden walkway platforms were raised over the flood to reach the appropriate sacrifice spot.

Archaeologists love wetlands. For good scientific reasons we won’t go into here, wooden and metal artefacts buried in the right kind of river mud don’t oxidise or rot. We know what the weather was like in England in 3500 BC because we’ve got the tree-ring growth patterns from wood preserved from that era in wetland deposits. And we’ve got hundreds of broken swords from those same deposits.

Hold on, though. Broken magic swords? How magic could they be if they broke in battle? But they didn’t. Nearly all the river sacrifice items are broken; many show signs of deliberate destruction. The swords have been snapped in half. Its tempting to speculate that “killing” these treasures was meant to send them to the afterlife, for the use of gods or ancestors; but our forebears left no instruction on their motives.

Hold on again! Iron weapons were valuable. The Iron Age is named after them but in Northern Europe they were rare right up to the coming of the Roman conquerors. Surely a warrior who broke a coveted near-impossible-to-find magic sword was the most pious of men to offer such a sacrifice?

Well, yes and no. Yes, it showed a massive devotion to the gods. Yes, it showed his generosity and power off to the world. But there’s probably a more pragmatic reason as well: One man can only hold one sword. If you fight an enemy and kill him and take his magic sword as well, then you have two. If you give it to an ally, even a son, then two of you have miracle blades; you have a potential challenger. But if you break the weapon and send it to the gods, you have credit, fame, and a less itchy pair of shoulder-blades.

At least that’s the way the archaeologists and historians like to spin it.

Dipping into myth for a moment, remember that King Arthur received Excalibur after the sword he’d drawn from the stone snapped in battle. Merlin brought him to a river and the Lady of the Lake caused a hand to rise from the water bearing the enchanted weapon. At the end of Arthur’s life, he had his oldest friend Bedevere hurl Excalibur back into a river, whereupon it was caught by that same hand, waved thrice, then taken under the waves again until it was required in a different age.

But what of the men who forged the magic swords? Where did they come from? How did they learn their craft? What became of them after?

The most famous smith in Northern legend is Weyland, (proto-Germanic for “battle-brave”), also called Volundr in the Norse, under which name he stars in the Völundarkviða, one of the poems of the Prose Edda. He also features in Þiðrekssaga, the saga of Theoderic the Great, and in the Old English sagas of Deor, Waldere and Beowulf. His legend is depicted on the Franks Casket and on Ardre image stone VIII. All of these sources are twelfth century AD or later, of course, but they seem to distil the surviving lore of smiths and smithies from an earlier time.

There are a couple of variants about how Weyland got started. In the most prevalent story, he and his two brothers spy upon three bathing swan-maidens. It’s well known that if you catch such a damsel and steal her clothes then she has to stay with you as your wife, and that’s what the three brothers did. Their valkyrie lovers taught them strange lore – including possibly what to do with the big iron missiles that Odin cast down from the heavens on occasion.

After nine years, the women returned to their own lands. Weyland’s brothers went with their wives, but Weyland remained behind with his son. His departing lover, Hervör Alvitr (strange, all-wise creature) leaves him a ring to remember her by. Weyland forged himself a magic sword and became a renowned warrior and smith.

Weyland is credited with casting many magic blades. These include Gram, Sigmund’s sword which Odin broke and was later reforged for Sigurd Sigmundson to slay the dragon Fafnir (Völsunga saga); Ogier the Dane’s Curtana and Roland’s Durandil (Karlamagnus Saga); Mimung, which Weyland forged to fight rival smith Amilias (Thidrekssaga); Hatheloke, the sword of Torrent of Portyngale, (Torrent of Portyngale); and a good number of others. He also created the magic ring of Thorstein Vikingson in the saga of that name. His claim to forging Excalibur/Caliburn is of relatively recent origin.

Enter the villain: King Niðhad in Nerike struck by night, capturing Weyland in his sleep. He had Weyland hamstrung so he could not escape, then imprisoned him on the island of Sævarstöð where he would forge weapons that would make Niðhad unstoppable. Niðhad took Weyland’s sword and wore it as his own. Hervör’s ring was given to the king’s daughter Bodvild.
As all storywriters will know, it is a capital mistake for the bad guy to lock the main character up in a workshop, especially then that main character is the greatest smith of legend, and a man with a grudge.

King Niðhad had two sons. Weyland worked on their enthusiasm and ambition, eventually winning their loyalty against their father. Then he murdered them in his workshop. He converted their skulls into goblets for their unsuspecting father and transformed their eyes into jewels and their teeth into a brooch for their unsuspecting mother. He burned the other remains in his forge as he crafted wings to escape to freedom.

Weyland had also made friends with Princess Bodvild, who visited him often to see the wonders of his workshop. Before he fled he drugged her, raped her, and retrieved his wife’s ring, leaving her pregnant with the child who would later become the hero Viðga.

For the Scandinavians this was a pretty good ending to a revenge saga, and showed Niðhad that he’d messed with the wrong smith.

Of note in our present discussion, however, are the traits that Weyland was attributed in the legend. First off, he was lame. There’s physical evidence – in the form of skeletons – that occasionally Iron Age folks had half their foot deliberately chopped off, including a few folks who, judging by what their bones can tell us about their diet and health, were otherwise of high status. This might simply be a way of non-lethally removing a competing family member from a leadership contest, but there are sufficient traditions about lame smiths (c.f. Hephaestus) for us to at least suspect it was a traditional means of ensuring that a valuable and dangerous resource could be controlled and contained.

Second, we have the idea that smithlore was secret. Niðhad’s sons were fascinated with it, lured in by hopes of learning the mystery through hidden initiation. It seems likely that there were craft secrets passed down by family or guild. After all, the ability to make magic weapons is a sure ticket to as good portion of the hunt-meat.

Third, the smith’s work was art as well as craft. Weyland made rings and jewellery as well as weapons of war. He made tools as well as killing devices. A man who can make a magic sword of star-metal can forge a cunning finger-band of fairy gold.

And fourth, we learn that smiths were dark and dangerous men to cross.

The lore of swords and their makers have come down to us today via many generations of storytelling. Every magical tool, every SF miracle-weapon for that matter, comes from Weyland’s workshop and from those ancient kings breaking their enemies power over their knee before casting it to the gods. Every cunning scientist or technologist who solves the problem and overcomes the brutal adversary by using brains over brawn is a smith at heart.

Now go throw something in a river.

Monday, July 8, 2013

An event to remember -- Charis Taylor's birthday!

Happy birthday today to my grown-up baby girl, the writer on whose merits and fortune I intend to retire, and the child who will surely surpass her father, Charis Taylor!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

ESO and I celebrate H.G. Wells!

I had the joy of taking part in the newest episode of the ESO Podcast, the station was full to the brim with folks celebrating the life and career of “The Father of Speculative Fiction,” “The Patron Saint of Steampunk,” “The Shaper of Things to Come,” “History’s Awesome Outliner,” and “That Strange Gent from Kent,” Herbert George Wells. Showing the Wellsian love along with Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Jennifer Hartshorn, and the award-winning author Bobby Nash are Mark Maddox and myself (two award-winners in their own right), Doctor Q (soon to win an award in something), and Drew Meyer (who should get an award for suffering through The Geek Seat).

Join us for yet another episode of The Earth Station One Podcast we like to call: The World of H.G. Wells at

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mine or Yours: New Characters vs. Existing Characters

"What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine." 

While it may be true in marriage (snicker, snicker), it isn't always the case in authorship and creative control. So, to find out whether writers prefer to create their own characters or work with existing properties, we asked. (We're smart like that... Sometimes.)

Do you prefer to write new adventures of existing characters, or would you prefer to create new characters outright?  

H. David Blalock: Having done both as well, I can't say I prefer either. All in all, I think, pressed to choose, I would go with making a new character. For one thing, I can put my own spin on it without being criticized for "ruining" a classic.

Bobby Nash: I don't look at it as an either/or type of thing. Not all existing characters are created equal. If the choice was between writing The Fantastic Four and creating a new character then I would probably take on the FF. If it were a character that I did not connect with or feel an affinity toward then my answer might be different. Ideally, I like to do both.

Ray Witte: I prefer new adventures for my own characters. Particularly in pulp, which I associate with shorter pieces, having an established personality and universe allows the focus to be on story rather than exposition. Operating in an existing universe is more essential to this than an existing character, as pulp can work very well with characters who are well crafted but shallow. Those types work as long as the universe is tight.

Krista Cagg: Currently I am writing new adventures with existing characters.  I write monthly episodes that come out on Kindle, and the plan was always to have this continue for a while.  There are a lot of questions about the characters that have been left unanswered specifically with this in mind.  Keep 'em coming back for more!

Troy Hickman: I've done both, too, and it can be fun to put a new spin on established characters, provided you don't crap on the fans by deconstructing characters they love. Overall these days I'd say I prefer doing my own characters, as they don't have the unfortunate baggage that so many classic characters have taken on over the last twenty-five years.

Joel Jenkins: My personal preference is writing new characters.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each that you've found? 

Stephanie Osborn: I've done both. The advantages to established characters are that they are already well known, may have an established fandom, and you don't have to spend a lot of time developing them. The advantages to creating your own largely lie in the satisfaction of seeing your own creation come to life and flesh out. There's also no concern over potential copyright infringements.

Joel Jenkins: Existing characters come with built in expectations and in some cases rule books about what you can do with the character and what you can't. Often a writer isn't allowed to change the status quo.  As a writer, I like to have the option to change the status quo, if that's the way the story and the characters lead me.

Krista Cagg: The advantage is that as a writer the characters begin to take on a life of their own, and once I start writing the characters kind of take over.  It sounds like I belong in the looney bin, but sometimes I've had a plot go in an entirely different direction because a character insists on going in that direction.  Fortunately, I've ended up with the plot where I've wanted it so it works out.  Another advantage is I'm learning the characters really well.  I don't have to spend a lot of time wondering if a character would do something and why.  I understand their motivations a lot more.  A disadvantage that I have not run into yet but can see happening is growing bored with the characters.  You just get to a point where there is nothing new, nothing fresh.

Bobby Nash: Existing characters come with baggage and continuity. This can be either an advantage or disadvantage. They also come with established fans who may or may not like what you've done with their favorite characters and are ready to tell you in great detail why your writing sucks. With existing characters there is often an extra approval process as the right's holders sometimes have to sign off on stories beforehand. Sometimes this means you can't tell the story you might want because it doesn't serve the best interest of the characters. On the positive side, you get to work with characters that you might be a fan of and that's usually a lot of fun. A disadvantage is that you don't hold any rights. If they make a movie based on your story you probably aren't in the loop on that unless it's spelled out in your contract.

Creating a new character is a fun experience. In contrast to writing existing characters that already have a fan base, with a new character you have to build that fan base. At the end of the day, however, you own it. Any supplemental rights are yours. If Hollywood or a toy company comes calling then you're the one they talk to about licensing options.

H. David Blalock: In many ways it's nice to be free from the need to develop an existing character, but the limitations are daunting at times. On the other hand, introducing and developing an audience for a new character carries a risk that can be just as difficult.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy birthday, U.S.A.!

It means different things to different people, but it had to start somewhere. Happy birthday to this amazing land of immigrants who are still arguing and working together to create something fair and free in the world.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Aaron Smith -- Man of Midnight, Death, and Galaxies

Apparently Aaron Smith knows what he wants and goes after it. Even his bio on his blog would lead one to believe he's merely a practical man who would rather be writing than wasting time on stuff like bios and writing about writing. But, when asked about his own work, well, he opens up a bit. (Which is all the better for us.)

Want the low-down on what makes him tick? Then read on, my friend. Read on.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest novel, Nobody Dies For Free, was just released by Pro Se Productions. It’s my first spy thriller and features my new character Richard Monroe. Monroe is a CIA agent, recently retired, and looking forward to a peaceful life with the woman he loves. His happiness is destroyed, though, and he gets pulled back into the world of espionage, working in a way that’s even more secretive than his previous experience. He eventually discovers a connection between the mission he’s assigned to and the people responsible for the death of his wife, and sets out to avenge her. Nobody Dies For Free is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  

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

I’m sure there are some themes in my work that I don’t even recognize, but that readers might, since a big part of inspiration comes from the subconscious. But there are some I’m aware of. Many of my characters experience abrupt changes in their lives, with their routines suddenly going from mundane to every exciting. I also seem often to use a variation of the old theme of “boy meets girl,” which becomes, in my case, ordinary boy meets extraordinary girl. In my first novel, Gods and Galaxies, she’s from another galaxy. In one of my more recent works, 100,000 Midnights, she’s a vampire. I guess mystery is a big subject in my work too. When I’m writing detective stories about Sherlock Holmes or my own character Lt. Marcel Picard, or in the spy novel, or even in the upcoming sequel to the vampire book, there’s often a mystery to be solved.

Time is also something that comes up quite often in my work, specifically the different feelings brought on by thinking of different periods of time. I’ve always been fascinated by the way certain places seem to have retained the aura of a past decade, like a diner you come across on a rural road and you can see it hasn’t been remodeled of drastically altered since the fifties, or the way you can walk from room to room in a grandparent’s home and feel like you’re literally traveling forward or backward in time because of the accumulation of stuff that includes relics from every year since the thirties or even before. It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words intellectually, so I guess that’s why it makes its way into my stories so often.

What would be your dream project?

Many of my dream projects are no longer available to even dream about, as I’ve seen some of my favorite fictional worlds become something I’d no longer want to work within. I used to dream of someday writing for Marvel or DC comics, but they just don’t portray their characters in a way that I feel is right anymore. I’m afraid the Star Trek I used to love has bitten the dust too. But one of my big dream projects has already been accomplished. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to write Sherlock Holmes stories, sticking as close as I can to the style of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Four of them have been published so far, in various volumes of Airship 27 Productions’ series Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, and there was also my Dr. Watson novel, Season of Madness, which is obviously Holmes-related.

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

I don’t think I’d change the actual stories much in any of my works. I’ve gotten better at certain areas of my writing style as I’ve written more and more, but I don’t think any of my stuff was ever so bad that I’d want to go back in time and drastically alter it. One thing that does bother me a bit, though, is that I had a tendency to rush my work in my first year or so of seriously writing and this led to some stupid grammatical mistakes making it into the final product a few times. I’d like to make those go away if I could.

What inspires you to write?

A few different things inspire me. Things I see or hear around me in daily life; admiration for the stories told by other writers or filmmakers or artists and the desire to do that too; and, maybe most importantly, the fact that writing is a way to expose myself, my mind, my ideas to the world…and it’s a way that’s easier for me in some ways than just being social, since I’ve always been more of a introverted person. What makes me laugh a bit when I think about it is that this very solitary profession of writing has actually made me more friends than anything I’ve done before in my life! I came into it partly because it was something I could do alone, but it’s introduced me to so many fellow writers, editors, publishers, readers, etc. who I’d miss terribly if they suddenly disappeared from my life. I guess what really inspires me is the fact that something new and surprising is always right around the corner for a writer. You throw yourself into that job and things happen, and you can never predict exactly what you’ll want to do or be asked to do or (hopefully!) be paid to do tomorrow.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Probably more than I’m aware of, as I think everything a writer reads has some form of influence on them. Of the ones that I know for certain had a strong impact on me, I can think of, off the top of my head, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Roger Zelazny, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Stan Lee, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allen Poe. I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more after I’ve finished here and regret leaving them out.

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

It’s an art that becomes a science, but a different science for each individual writer, and a very flexible science. Art because it grows from dreams, scraps of ideas, questions that we feel the need to answer. But it’s a science too because there has to be a method that develops within the writer in order to tell his stories in the most effective way he can. Art is closely related to madness, in some ways; maybe it’s the bright side of insanity! But pure imagination, uncontrolled flights of fancy, can’t form ideas into a product that others can appreciate. So the method, or science, must mold those ideas into something orderly, using words to convey dreams and share them with others. Writing is art first, presented through a necessary science.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

My most recent release, other than Nobody Dies For Free, was Quatermain: The New Adventures, from Airship 27 Productions, which I share with Alan J. Porter, as we each wrote a novella featuring the famous 19th century adventure character Allan Quatermain.

I also have two more novels coming out later this year. In August will be the sequel to 100,000 Midnights, called Across the Midnight Sea. I had a lot of fun revisiting the characters from my first vampire novel.

Then, in October, will be Chicago Fell First, a zombie novel and more of a pure horror story than any I’ve done before. I think it’s a little different, quite a bit darker than anything I’ve had published up to this point.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #280 -- Favorite Comic Book/Super Hero Movies

What is your favorite comic book super hero movie? 

You'd think that would be a simple enough question, right? Well, not for me. I'm still too much of a Lit major to be that easy, you know.

For me, it's more complicated than that.

1. Favorite old-school comic book super hero movie (in other words, the movie that best brings to life the world of classic comic books) -- The Avengers. Honorable mention to Superman, the first Christopher Reeve flick.

2. Favorite Marvel super hero movie (that may or may not diverge drastically from the comics on which their based, but says something about the human condition in a cinematic way) -- X-Men: First Class. Honorable mention to Iron Man (the first one)

3. Favorite DC super hero movie (same criteria as #2) -- Man of Steel. Honorable mention to Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

4. Favorite super hero movie period (not necessarily based on a comic book) -- Unbreakable. Honorable mention to Limitless.

5. Favorite comic book adaptation movie (adapted from an actual comic book or graphic novel) -- Ghost World. Honorable mention to Watchmen.

And there you have it, my complicated answer to what should have been a simple question.