Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Anniversary to my lifelong love -- Lisa Taylor!

From our wedding day
in 1988. Smartest day
of my life, hands down.
Twenty-six years ago, this very minute, Lisa Taylor and I exchanged our vows to love and cherish each other, come what may. In a world where marriages fall apart as often as people's feelings change, we've somehow managed to stay together and grow deeper in love with each passing year.

I credit that to her, of course. She's amazing. 

And in honor my amazing wife and her years of deep love for me, I'm going to repost something here today that I posted previously on Facebook. Lisa, I love you and hope you never wise up and realize you deserve better than me.


I was thinking last night how the nature of true love is to sacrifice yourself for another regardless of your immediate sense of emotions at any given moment. As I thought, I tried to measure my love for Lisa Taylor against that mark.

If I'm honest I've failed that terribly. I've sacrificed a great many things, but not nearly enough. I've got a long way to go in order to fully sacrifice myself for her good, her her needs, for her dreams. All the while, I've never stopped chasing mine.

Now, on one hand I could say that if I stopped chasing my dreams, I would cease to be the person she fell in love with, the person she wants to be with, the person who supplies the ying to her yang (so to speak). I could say that, but at least from my perspective (whether or not it is true is entirely beside the point) it is merely me rationalizing my own selfishness and unwillingness to put aside my dreams for her.

If there's one thing I've held onto during our almost 26 years of marriage, it is my persistent chase for my writing and publishing dreams. Sure, I may have let them sit in the background for a bit from time to time, but the moment I let my guard down, there they were again, driving me to quit one job or pursue some other, regardless of what that might mean for our long-term financial security.

Lisa's dreams are simple. She wants to be secure. And from that security, she would love more than anything to travel to other countries. By now, any 46 year old husband should have been able to take his wife on at least one trip outside the country. But I haven't. We've never had the money (ie, the financial security) from which to take that risk. It's the key thing that I feel like a failure in about our marriage. I often wonder had I never quit my good-paying, corporate job in the religious world, how many trips like that we might have been able to take and how secure our financial footing and future might be today.

But I'll never know. I did what I did to chase my dreams, and to be honest, I doubt very much I'd change that decision even if I could go back in time to have that option.

It's a sticky wicket, as the saying goes. How does someone remain true to who he or she is, and yet still manage to sacrifice all of that which makes us ourselves to enable someone else to pursue all that helps him or her remain true to who he or she is too?

Hopefully, it's a lesson I'm still learning, and maybe one day I'll know how to do that.

But, and this is point of all this relationship rambling, through all of it, Lisa has got this down, far better than I probably ever will. She has, time and time again, set aside her dreams to enable me to pursue mine. As far as I know, she has done this without ever really growing to hate me for it or hold it against me in any deep form of resentment other than a sort of annoyance. She has loved me far better than I have been able to love her.

Her birthday is coming up on the 11th of this month, and if I had it in me, if I weren't such a failure at it, I would give her the greatest gift of all -- the man she deserves, a man who could empty himself completely to pursue the things that are important to her that are at odds with his own desires, the man who could love her the way she has loved me all these years.

But I don't think I'm capable of that yet. I really don't. I still haven't chased my writing dreams far enough yet. Maybe one day I'll see that end, and then we'll travel the world together. Maybe one day she'll wise up and realize she deserves far better than me. But I certainly hope not. I'm still selfish that way.

Lisa, I love you as best I can. And thank you for loving me in a way that far supersedes by own failings.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

[Link] Editing - the Big Questions

by Joe Craig

I've given a draft of my work-in-progress to a trusted brain to read. This will be the first time anybody but me has read any of this story.

I started planning it more than two years ago. I started writing the first draft on January 7th, 2014. I finished the first draft on November 20th and since then I've done some extensive re-writing, but nowhere near enough to be finished.

There's still several weeks of editing and rewriting to be done, but to carry on productively, I need a trusted brain to tell me the answers to some big questions. For example:

Does it make sense?

When you've been working on one story for so long it's very easy to lose sight of what will be clear or obvious to the first time reader and what needs elaboration. But of course, everybody who reads the book will be a first time reader once. So it has to make sense, sentence by sentence and also on a larger scale across the whole plot.

Continue reading:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pro Se Looking for Editors and Formatters

ATTENTION- PRO SE PRODUCTIONS is embarking on a daring mission for the first two months of 2015! In order to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, we are in search of Copy Editors, Content Editors, and Formatters for at least from January 1 through March 1. Although these are not necessarily traditional paying positions, compensation such as unlimited free digital copies of all Pro Se works for Editors as well as a royalty percentage for formatters is available.

If you have experience as an editor or would like to become an editor, email Morgan McKay at

If you are skilled at formatting, please email samples of your work to Tommy Hancock at

Again, we are opening these additional positions for January through March 2015, but the positions can continue on beyond the first two months of the year potentially.

Pro Se Productions has left its mark on Genre Fiction and New Pulp in 2014. Join us on a really wild ride to kick off 2015 like no one ever has before.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

[Link] Pulp Fiction: What’s It All About?

by Paul Bishop

I WAS ASKED the other day to explain what makes pulp storytelling different from other types of fiction. My kneejerk reaction was to claim, it’s hard to define, but I know it when I read it – which does little to answer the question. I’ve since thought a lot about what constitutes the pulp style of storytelling, which engenders both excoriating scorn from critics and fanatical devotion from acolytes.

By now, most readers know the term pulp was coined in reference to the thousands of inexpensive fiction magazines whose heyday spanned the 1920s through the 1950s. Printed on cheap wood pulp paper, the pulps were typically 7 inches by 10 inches in size, 128 pages long, and sported eye grabbing, luridly colored covers, and ragged, untrimmed edges. Today, the original pulps are more often collected for their gaudy covers than for the fluctuating quality of the words in between.

At the height of their popularity there were hundreds of pulp magazine titles gracing the newsstands each week. The demand for stories was as voracious as the pay per word was cheap. To make a living, a writer selling stories to the pulps had to be a word machine, churning out prose for a quarter to a half cent per word. The result of this constant demand was a straightforward, often formulatic, style of writing designed to entertain a vast audience of everyday, hardworking, folks looking for vicarious thrills and chills to escape the humdrum of their daily lives.

The pulps were also a refiner’s fire for many writers who are household names today – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Louis L’Amour, John D. MacDonald, and others. To these men belonged the battered typewriters and hard drinking tropes, which themselves have become a cliché within the public conscious.

There were also giants of the pulp writing field whose names are not as familiar, but whose characters have gone on to become iconic examples of pop culture – Robert E. Howard’s Conan The Barbarian, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Walter B. Gibson’s The Shadow, Lester Dent’s Doc Savage, to name just a few, all started in the pulps. We all know their famous creations, but most would look blank if asked who the creators were.

The downside of the insatiable demand for stories to fill the pages of pulp magazines was it also guaranteed much of what was published was slapdash gruel of little to no lasting impact. It is this explosion of dross that gives pulp dismissing critics a place to hang their clichéd hats. However, the beating heart of the true pulps – the best of the stories and characters born within their pages – has shined for almost a century of popular culture.

Read the full article:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

[Link] Creative writing: when characters are difficult to get on with

by Charlotte Seager

Even authors as seasoned as Stephen King often struggle to fully imagine their inventions and once they have, the relationship can remain very uneasy

Characters don’t always do what you want. Sometimes they cause mischief, take on lives of their own, or even work against you. It’s not just a problem for inexperienced writers: George RR Martin recently admitted it was a struggle to write from Bran’s viewpoint, while Roald Dahl said he got Matilda so “wrong” that when he’d finished his first draft he had to start again from scratch.

Of course it’s not the characters’ fault. The problem lies with the author. Take Stephen King, who confessed to Neil Gaiman that writing protagonists in blue-collar jobs is more difficult nowadays because his own circumstances have changed. “It is definitely harder,” King said. “When I wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot, I was one step away from manual labour.”

This is also true for characters’ ages, added King. “When you have small children of a certain age, it is easy to write about them because you observe them and you have them in your life all the time. But your kids grow up. It is harder for me to write about this little 12-year-old girl in Dr Sleep than it ever was for me to talk about five-year-old Danny Torrence because I had Joe as a model for Danny. I don’t mean that Joe has the shining like Danny – but I knew who he was, how he played, what he wanted to do and all that stuff.”

For other authors, the difficulty can be a question of tone. When I asked Siri Hustvedt to name the character who made her struggle the most, she chose the narrator of her third novel, What I Loved. “Despite the fact that Leo is 70 (I was in my forties then), a man, a Jew born in Berlin, and an art historian, none of which describes me, I didn’t find it hard writing as an old, Jewish, male art historian,” she says. “I struggled to find the man’s emotional tone, the cadences of his prose.”

Read the full article:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Heri za Kwanzaa!

May your meditations and re-assessments help you become the person you want and need to be!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas -- A Free Holiday Story -- "Nor Doth He Sleep"

Nor Doth He Sleep
By Sean Taylor
An iHero Entertainment Holiday Story

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As the knife bit into the girl’s back, it pierced to the hilt, and a wet, red stream poured from the incision. Red and green lights from the street decorations blinked into the alley, flicking the scene from gray dirt and faded concrete to colorized extravagance and back to gray again The man watching impotently from a few feet away jerked against the two grunts holding his arms, but he couldn’t pull away. His fiancé lay on the ground, face pressed against the pavement, sputtering and coughing through her tears. On her back sat a third thug, a slug of a man in a denim jacket, his wrists all but rolling fat skin back to cover the cuffs as he played with the knife, wiggling it without removing it from the meat a few inches above the girl’s waist.

“Let her go!” he yelled, but in response all he got was a punch in his gut.

The two guys holding him laughed when he gasped to regain his breath.

“Let her go, damn it!”

Another gut punch.

“Or what? You’ll cry?” asked the tallest of the thugs, a white guy with green hair whipped about like a pretty boy in one of those Japanese comic books.

“Or cough up blood?” said the other thug, a squat muscle-head with fat arms stuck to his otherwise fit torso. “Or puke on us?”

Pretty Boy glared at Fat Arms, and he shut up.

“C- Carlos…” the girl stuttered.

“Hang on, Cynthia,” the man said.

All the while, I lay in the corner of the alley, hoping to God they all just go the hell away.

I had done the hero thing before, even worn a fancy-ass costume, well, fancy for my standards. Pretty sure it wouldn’t have even registered on the scale of guys like Pulsar and The Minuteman or chicks like Living Doll or Fishnet Angel.

Hell, I’d even worked with Doll and Angel since we all lived in the same damn city.

And just like the rest of them, I even had a “secret origin,” just like in the comic books. On the way to throw myself from the top of a worn-out building because of a sucky life and broken heart, I got stopped by some crazy woman who touched my arm and then told me the day I was going to die—four days before my 42 birthday. Only, she promised I’d die as a hero, a hero killed by another hero, one of the so called brightest and best of heroes.

And she’d been right… at first. Nothing killed me. Bullets? Sure, I took ‘em and they hurt like hell, but I got better. Take a punch in the face from a super villain who could derail a train? Lost some teeth and a lot of blood, but I healed eventually. Follow a suicide off a roof to cushion his fall at the bottom? Why not? Same shit, different day, as the saying goes.

That was me. The Grandstander, a.k.a., the “I got hurt but I got better” man. Even had my own goddamn room kept ready at the hospital.

Only last June, I turned 43 here in an alley in Cristol City, lost among the forgotten riff raff huddled beneath old newspapers and other trash in the shadows of the alleyway dumpsters. Very much alive. And very much aware that playing the hero could get me killed. Killed very dead.

No longer a hero. Just another man who had finally grown up and realized his own mortality.

So I quit. No going away parties or citywide celebrations of my time behind the mask. Just there one day and gone the next. The papers had run stories for months speculating about what had happened. Eventually they gave up guessing and just didn’t care anymore. No more “What Happened to the Grandstander?” I stayed hidden. Lost. Forgotten. Sleeping away the terror of death. Just the way I wanted it.

If only these punks would shut up and get the hell out of my alley.

Cynthia started screaming, and that set off Carlos, and the guys holding him tossed him back against the wall and wailed punch after punch into his gut and chest. He shut up fast, but they didn’t stop. After about a minute, when they finally figured he had enough, he dropped to his knees between them, struggling to breathe through what had to be several broken ribs.

I recognized the struggle. I’d been there more times than I could remember.

The slug on Cynthia’s back pulled the knife out and slammed it down again, this time into the muscle of her shoulder. Not as much blood, but a lot more noise from the girl. He jerked her head back, exposing the dirty skin of her neck to the night air, and I thought for a moment that he would slash her lithe little throat. Instead, he covered her mouth with his hand, leaving the knife in her shoulder.

“Zip it, baby, and all I’ll take is all your money, cards and the gadgets and shit you bought for Christmas presents.” He laughed. “Needed a new phone anyway. Saw you leaving Radio Shack when we followed you. Hope for your sake you got one of those.”

“Let… Let her go,” Carlos sputtered.

He was rewarded for the effort with a boot in jaw. A bone cracked. Loud.

“If not, maybe you could give me a little something else for Christmas, baby,” the slug said, grinding against her back.

A car drove by the mouth of the alley, and everything stopped just long enough to make out the music rumbling from a passing car. It was Springsteen reminding the city who was coming to town and making sure Clarence had been “real good” this year.

I laughed.

And immediately realized it had been a really, really bad idea.

Five pairs of eyes suddenly turned to look at me. Two pairs begging for help. The other three pairs biding their time to figure out if I was a threat or a witness or simply the same silent alley decoration they normally encountered.

For about a second, I wondered the same thing myself.

The slug ripped the blade from Cynthia’s back and stood up, pushing his blobbish weight to one knee to hold it steady while he pushed up with the other one. He wobbled a bit, but righted himself more easily that I had expected.

“Fuckin’ A,” he said. “Looks like we got some extra trash in this here alley.” He walked toward me.

I pulled my knees toward my chin and started to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I kept singing while he walked all the way to me and crouched in my face. His breath reeked of onions and garlic. I didn’t make eye contact. He just stared, not saying anything, and I kept singing, going over the part where all the reindeer loved him a second time just to take up more time.

“Keep singing, Rudolph,” he said. “And remember you didn’t hear shit.” He flicked the knife at my wrinkled t-shirt collar. “And that way you can live long enough to booze it up again tomorrow.”

I felt the crotch of my pants grow warm and wet.

The slug laughed. “He pissed himself. The bum pissed himself.”

I stopped singing. “I did,” I said. “But not for the reason you think. It’s not you I’m afraid of.”

“A big man all the sudden, huh?” The slug cocked his arm at the elbow, knife in ready position. I grinned so wide he couldn’t miss it. He never should have pulled it away from my neck.

The butt of my palm collided with his chin and something cracked. Before he had fallen backwards all the way to land on his ass, I already saw blood draining from the corners of his eyes. I grabbed his hoodie to keep him steady and pulled him to me as I stood up. At six and a quarter in my shoes, I towered over him. My knee, which would have hit him in the stomach had he been a taller man, instead connected with his already busted jaw, and he went limp against me. I grabbed his shoulders and guided his face past the wet spot on the front of my jeans as he melted into the ground.

By this time, Pretty Boy and Fat Arms had let Carlos go and were running toward me. Pretty Boy held a clip-loaded pistol and was raising it at me. Fat Arms swung a military blade from sling on his thigh.

“Get her the hell out of here!” I yelled to Carlos, and as I hit the last word, Fat Arms was slinging his blade toward my gut. I weaved and dodged, but being a hidden and forgotten drunk had played hell with my reactions, and even though I missed the worst of the cut, the blade did manage to rip through my side and take a few inches of skin with it.

Red blood mixed with the coffee stains and dirt on my shirt, and I knew I’d most likely end up with an infection. Stupid.

“Shit!” I yelled and brought my elbow down on the back of Fat Arms’ head. “That really hurts, you dumbass.”

“Shoot him!” Fat Arms shouted, and sure enough, Pretty Boy aimed his gun at my face and pulled the trigger. But it misfired, and I didn’t waste any time running for the son of a bitch and took him to the ground with a dive that landed me on top of him. Taking what little opportunity I had I bit into his shoulder with the best grip my teeth could muster and ripped away what I could of his skin and muscle there.

Okay, it wasn’t what the Minuteman would have done, but we couldn’t all be the fucking Minuteman, could we?

He screamed, and when I covered my ears, something hit me in the back of my head, sending me onto the concrete. When the stars stopped twinkling and the lights came back on the slug had his fat foot crunched on my left shoulder, and Pretty Boy had his black boot on my right one.

“You’re the bravest fuckin’ hobo I’ve ever seen, but you cost me a few hundred tonight…” The slug looked at Pretty Boy and grinned. “…and possibly and hot piece of ass.”

“I don’t think you’re her type,” I said.

“Can I cut him up, Will?” Fat Arms asked from somewhere off to the right beyond my line of vision.

“Fuck that,” said Will the slug. “This asswipe is gonna eat a bullet.”

“Hope you brought ketchup,” I said.

“Listen, Rudolph,” Will said, still wiping blood from the corners of his eyes. “All you hadda do was keep your trap shut, but no, you had to play the hero and so now we—”

“Play the hero.” I laughed.


Both feet pushed harder on my shoulders and I could feel the rocks on the concrete dig into my back, no doubt making a lovely painful pattern of indentions across my skin.

“You said play the hero.”

“Yeah. So?”

“I did that before.”

“And it’ll be the last thing you ever did, Rudolph.”

“You’re missing the point,” said, keeping them talking instead of letting them think long enough to realize that they should just pull the trigger already. “I used to play the hero. I played the costume. I played the mask. I even played the name. You see, I was only playing at it then because I didn’t think it would really hurt me, not permanently anyway.”

“He’s nuts, Will,” Fat Arms said. “Let me cut him up. Maybe take one of his nuts. That’ll shut him up.”

“But I’m not playing now.” My smiled went flat. “And my name’s not Rudolph.”

* * *

Carlos was still going on about the fight while paramedics loaded his fiancé into the ambulance. He stood behind the doors as Cynthia’s unconscious body was lifted, gurney and all, and rolled in the open doorway. The light from the fire truck and three squad cars gave him a funky purple glow as the 40-something cop took down his statement.

No doubt using lots of capital letters and exclamation points, if he was really getting it just like Carlos was saying it.

“…like a bat outta hell, I tell you. One minute he’s down on the ground with a gun pointing at his face…”

Me, I was waiting my turn on a second gurney, wondering if I’d ever walk again after Pretty Boy has managed to squeeze off two shots through my left thigh. And I was wondering too just how damn long it took a blonde paramedic with thick full lips to find the damn morphine in the back of the ambulance so I could stop hurting long enough to think about how much I wanted to flatten those lips of hers against my own.

In the old days I wouldn’t have let a second thought pass without just leaning up and planting one on her. But in the old days I didn’t smell like booze and the trash I’d been sleeping in. In the old days there had been a nice line of abs that flowed in one smooth line from my chest across my stomach. In the old days, there had been a trendy coarse stubble on my face and not a mangy tangle of knots that hadn’t been shaved or much less brushed in months.

So I lay there.

“…and the next minute, he’s up on his feet and has the fat one up against the wall. Then there’s all this punching and blood, and I’m still dragging Cynthia out of the alley.”

“Yes, sir.” The cop nodded and kept writing.

“Then there are these two gunshots, and I watch him, I mean fucking watch him get shot in the leg twice, but he doesn’t go down. He just keeps on walking toward the dude with the gun, and he takes it from him and just head butts him in the face, and the guy goes down. One head butt and he hits the ground.”


I heard the music from the front of a nearby squad car as I waited. Sounded like Judy Garland singing “O Holy Night,” but not quite Judy Garland singing “O Holy Night” at the same time, you know.

“And the last guy?” the cop asked.

“Hell, he couldn’t get out of the alley fast enough, but even with a shot-up leg, this dude runs, takes off  and runs like fuckin’ Jessie Owens or something and tackles the guy and takes the knife away from him.”


“It was like he’s some kind of, I don’t know, super hero or something.”

Vigilante, I wanted to correct him. Ain’t got no powers, so I can’t be a super hero. Just an idiot in a mask.  A vigilante. But I kept my trap shut. Mostly because I was afraid of what I’d say if the damn paramedic didn’t get the morphine in me soon.

Judy Garland stopped singing, and Louis Armstrong jumped in to take her place. “Zat you, Santa Claus?” he asked. I laughed.

Hell no, I thought. Not Santa Claus, not the Grandstander. Hell, I was barely Larry Moore anymore.

The paramedic returned with a smile and a syringe. I smiled back, mostly with my eyes, because my mouth wouln’t cooperate, and like her eyes lit up they figured out something she’d been wondering about for a while. “Oh my God,” she said. “It’s you.”

“Nah,” I said. “I haven’t been me for a long time.”

“You’re the—”

I shook my head.

Trumpet solo. Drums. Almost a celebration. A big noise anyway.

“You can’t hide it. I know it’s you.”

“Sure, kid. Merry Christmas.” I forced a grin. “So should I kiss you or just bleed to death?”

“What?” she asked with her thick lips.

“Do you think he used to be some kinda super hero?” I heard Carlos ask the cop.

“Don’t know,” the cop answered.

“Don’t tell ‘em,” I whispered to the paramedic as she stuck me with the needle. “Let ‘em guess.”

I decided to kiss her later. If she was lucky.

A Christmas Wish for You!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings to all (and God bless us, everyone! -- thanks, Tiny Tim)


... "That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "that I simply must hear!"
He paused, and the Grinch put a hand to his ear
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow
It started in low ...
... then it started to grow ...

But this--this sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded ...glad!
Every Who down in Whoville,
the tall and the small,
was singing--without any presents at all!
He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming--it came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling:
"How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
He puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before:
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store--
Maybe Christmas--perhaps--means a little bit more."

And what happened then--well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.
And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches--plus two.

-- Dr. Seuss, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. 

-- Matthew 1: 18-25 (KJV)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Favorite Holiday Tales (A Festive Writers Roundtable)

No big fancy topic this week. Just one simple question for everyone to answer. So, here it goes...

What's your favorite holiday story and why?

Mark Holmes: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Conan Doyle. Holmes and Watson follow a clue of a lost hat and a goose to free a wrongly accused plumber of theft. In the spirit of the season Holmes lets the real pathetic thief go. A fun story that has Christmas as it's setting and gives us a glance at a Victorian celebration. The story takes place on "the seventh day of Christmas" The 12 days of Christmas are after Dec. 25th. Something we all have forgotten.

Ellie Raine: Hogfather because of its punny goodness.

Jeff Hewitt: I have to second Hogfather for all the reasons that make it so good, and all those reasons are the book itself. Amazing stuff in there. But especially Death's speech at the end. "Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape."

Marian Allen: Anything by Connie Willis. She writes WONDERFUL Christmas stories!

Stu Thaman: I like to read Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" around Christmas. It is..... uplifting? I don't know why.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: The Hogfather by Sir Terry Pratchett

Katina French: Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's quite possibly the earliest example of "urban fantasy" (there are ghosts & spirits, and it's set in the author's contemporary London).

The Holiday Re-Runs #6 -- A Message from the Author

No bah. No humbug. X's allowed!

You know, it's okay to tell me happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas, even if you're a fellow member of my faith. I'm not going to get in your face about how you're not "keeping Christ in Christmas."

I don't care if you use Xmas either, because I understand the history of the X (and that it precedes both Malcolm and Stan Lee).

I understand that Constantine and his ilk thoroughly mixed the birth of Christ with pagan celebrations to obtain political ends. And if people still continue that today, they're not "not keeping Christ in Christmas" -- they're just continuing the blending that Constantine started all those years ago.

I get that.

If my understanding of the holiday season is about the work of Christ incarnating into humanity in order to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice on humanity's behalf, then nothing you say or refuse to say can change one jot or tittle from that. No dollar sign can attach to it. And you can't wrap it or stuff it on a tree.

I can celebrate Christmas as I understand it without offending you or getting in your face, because the season is not some church-ordained mass evangelism event. Nothing about the season changes how I interact with you on behalf of my faith and what I perceive as your need for salvation from original sin -- I still have the same  mandate to treat everyone, believer and nonbeliever alike, with the same grace, love, forgiveness and understanding that I do every other day.

Just because the word "Christ" is in "Christmas," it does not, nor should it ever, give me carte blanche to hassle you about becoming like me. (I would love for others to find what I've found, but it's not my job to be God's used car salesman or God's Internet spammer.)

I even enjoy the game of Santa Claus and dig the idea of adding a little drummer boy to our legend version of the nativity (as opposed to the real one that smelled like animal crap and was filled with a crying -- not silent -- baby, and didn't have any -- much less three -- wise men drop by until almost two years later).

All this to say, I hope that you have a wonderful time getting together with your friends and family. I hope you take advantage of this time to share some of your wealth with those  less fortunate (trust me, in comparison to the rest of the globe, you ARE bone-idle rich). I hope you experience the love of those around you and share that love with everyone you encounter.

And I hope that, somewhere, in the busy-ness of this season, you find a few moments of peace on earth to contemplate the true and higher peace the angels spoke (not sang) about when they said: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Peace on earth!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Holiday Re-Runs #5 -- Horror for the Holidays

Okay, Mr. Horror Movie fanatic... What are the best holiday-themed
horror flicks to make the season bright?

Ooooh. I'm so glad you asked.

My Personal Faves:
Black Christmas (both versions)
Rare Exports
Jack Frost
Santa's Slay
Silent Night, Bloody Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night

Wind Chill
Tales from the Crypt (1972 version -- go, Joan Collins, go!)
Child's Play
Dead End

A Few I Still Want to See:
Don't Open Till Christmas
Silent Night of the Living Dead
Christmas Evil

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Holiday Re-Runs #4 - Fave Holiday Movies

What are your favorite holiday movies? -- Anonymous

This is going to have to be a list. Sorry.

In no particular order...

Die Hard
The Bishop's Wife
Batman Returns
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Trading Places
Christmas in Connecticut
White Christmas
Holiday Inn
Nightmare Before Christmas
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Muppet Christmas Carol
Santa's Slay
Silent Night, Bloody Night
The Hebrew Hammer
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
Die Hard II
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Edward Scissorhands
Home Alone (only the first one)

And the ones topping the list:
It's A Wonderful Life
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (sue me, it's TV)
The Little Drummer Boy (ditto)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (yep)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Holiday Re-Runs #3 -- Favorite Holiday Stories

What's your favorite holiday fiction? -- Anonymous

Would it be a cop out to say "Gift of the Magi" and "A Christmas Carol"?

Okay, I'll go deeper then.

I honestly don't read a lot of seasonal literature. Don't know why. I've always gotten books for the holidays, but usually just general books that I had requested across the course of the year.

I've always loved the winter fables of Hans Christian Andersen, and if "The Fir Tree" and "The Little Match Girl" count as holiday tales, those two top my list. Oh, and the Sherlock Holmes tale, "The Case of the Blue Carbuncle."

At the risk of seeming self-serving, what I've always preferred is WRITING holiday-themed stories, and of those, my favorites are "Sin and Error Pining" and "It's Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home," both of which appear in my collection Show Me A Hero from New Babel Books.

And I'll be posting a special free holiday tale here as a gift to you on Christmas Day. It's called "Nor Doth He Sleep," and it was the 24-hour tale from iHero Entertainment/Cyber Age Adventures last year.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Holiday Re-Runs #2 -- Holiday Charity

In light of holiday giving, what are your preferred charities you stand behind? 

St. Jude's Childrens Hospital

Fans for Christ - it's okay to be a geek and a person of faith too

Reading Is Fundamental - encourages literacy among people all over the U.S.

Keep the Arts in Schools

Compassion International - provides food, clothing, and education for third world countries

First Book - Helps all children have books of their own.

Habitat for Humanity - provides housing for low-income families

ASPCA - prevent cruelty to animals

More Free Holiday Music -- Unfit for a King (by yours truly)

Unfit for a King
words and music by Sean Taylor

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because here was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (KJV)

Manger straw must have been rough on your newborn skin
Mother’s pain to welcome you
Father’s tears as he holds her hand and hears you cry
The smell of waste was everywhere

Dirty men from nearby fields to greet you
Dirty sheep stumble behind
Mother’s care as she holds you close to feed you
Shepherds leave, the filth remains

You deserved the finest palace in the land
And swaddling clothes of finest string
But when you came you cut through all our twisted values
And revealed this crazy, mixed-up world…
A world unfit for a king

Vagrant child in a city filled with travelers
So unnoticed by them all
Foreign kings bring you your only presents
Your mother treasures all these things

You deserved the finest palace in the land
And swaddling clothes of finest string
But when you came you cut through all our twisted values
And revealed this crazy, mixed-up world…
A world unfit for a king

Play or download:

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Holiday Re-Runs #1 -- Holiday Traditions

What are the holiday traditions that have shaped your life?

Christmas the previous Casa de Taylor, circa 2010.
Well, like most folks I know, my family travels all over the place during the holidays visiting family. We drive to the the four winds to spend time with my family, my wife's family, and to various other parties, activities, and functions that come with the territory when one has three kids in middle and high school.

But for us, the real fun begins on Christmas Eve. Our tradition is to open one present that night while we listen to Christmas music and drink hot wassail (Lisa makes the best wassail!). After the presents, we'll often watch a classic Christmas special (favorites are Rudolph and How the Grinch Stole Christmas). After that, it's time for bed.

On Christmas morning, nobody is allowed to dig into their stockings or gifts until everyone is awake. Usually my teenage daughter Charis is the last human awake. Then we empty the stockings first before breakfast. One thing we've always done is to take turns rather than everyone emptying them all at once. That way the person opening the gift gets all the attention for that time, and then so one (yes, like a board game).

After stockings, we typically have a nice breakfast and clear away the dishes before we actually start opening presents. Once we've back in the living room, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2, and go around the group mentioning all the things we're particularly thankful for during the year. Only after reflecting on what we already appreciate do we dig into the wrapped gifts.

At that point, we takes turns again, opening presents one at a time, in a circle, giving each gift and recipient our full attention. (After all, why spend all the time looking for it if you're not going to enjoy watching it being opened?)

Once all the gifts are done, like everyone else, it's time to solve the puzzles that are the packaging and then a mad scramble for batteries.

Perhaps for me, the most important part of our tradition at the Casa de Taylor is that we take turns with the presents, and do that only after reflecting on the good things we're already thankful for first.

But enough about me, what are your holiday traditions?

Free Christmas Tunes!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Taylorverse!

Here's the gift of free music from my days with the band Nothing Regal. Sure,
 they're available for free streaming anytime, but for the next few days, I'm making them available as free downloads -- just for you.


Christmas Must Be Tonight

So Long Awaited

O Come All You Faithful

We Three Kings

Silent Night

What Child Is This?

Go Tell It On the Mountain

Thursday, December 18, 2014

No S*#t, Sherlock: Publishers Clue Us In About the New Public Domain Detective

Last week writers talked about Holmes, but this week I wanted to continue the discussion from the other side of the editorial desk -- the publishers -- and see what they think the recent decision means for the future stories. So, with that in mind...

Is the move to the public domain for Sherlock Holmes and related characters a good thing ultimately? Or will it forever change (or perhaps mar) all that we know about Holmes that made us love him in the first place? Will the new stuff dilute the core of who Holmes and his cast are?
Ron Fortier (Airship 27 Productions): The thing to understand is that we considered Holmes public domain long before this court ruling and were publishing new stories for almost seven years now.  Note, we were threatened several times by unscrupulous agents claiming rights they clearly did not own but we called their bluff and kept publishing.   Now as to the second part of your question, all the court ruling does is opens the floodgates for all those other publishers we were too afraid to do Holmes stories.  We imagine the number of new Holmes and Watson tales is going to grow being imagining in the coming months.   But we don't see that as having any diluting affect on the property.  Why?  Because, after a hundred years of sustained popularity, it is clearly obvious the appeal of these characters is both universal and eternal.  You simply can never have too many Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson adventures.

Allan Gilbreath (Dark Oak Press): In an earlier time I believe that I would have said it was a good thing. In today's market place with no restraints on the usage of a character, I am not so sure. While, I am sure that there will be some very good work produced that will add the canon of the original, sadly, there will be a lot more work produced that will fall short of the original standards.

Some characters were developed to grow into a universe all their own (i.e. Lovecraft) while others are the way they are because they are the creation of a single mind. As we have seen from movies, the same script read by different actors makes for very different movies. Additional stories from additional minds will diverge from the original standards.

My fear is that a powerful media company such as Disney could actually bury the original by producing a series of products over years in the image that they want.

Lida E. Quillen (Twilight Times Books): I do have concerns that new stories will mar the Sherlock Holmes lore. But then, perhaps readers in general, and Holmes fans in particular, will not purchase, review or otherwise support works that do not carry on the best of the Holmes tradition.

Tommy Hancock (Pro Se Press): I'm not sure that the recent activity concerning Holmes changes anything.  For the most part, everyone was already functioning as if he were in the Public Domain and if any of the recent decisions had altered that, it would be years, if ever, that the uses of Holmes would have been addressed.  And you can't mar Holmes any more (if you assume he has been marred) than he has been in not only some of the 'unofficial' Holmes works, but also a lot of the allowed projects.  Remember that futuristic Holmes cartoon... uh..yeah.   And no, I don't think there's a chance of anything anyone does with Holmes diluting or overshadowing Doyle's work.  Hasn't happened yet.

Do you have plans to embark on new Holmes tales? What criteria do you have to ensure those new tales are true to the Sherlock mythos or is that even an issue for you?

Ron Fortier: Again, nothing has changed with Airship 27 Productions.  We plan on continuing our highly popular series - SHERLOCK HOLMES - CONSULTING DETECTIVE and volume # 7 should be out at the start of 2015.  At the same time, quite a few of our regular writers have come to us with ideas for full length novels and as of today we have three of these in the works.  So there is no end in sight for our doing Holmes & Watson.

It is important to note, the success of the Consulting Detective series is due in large part due to our demanding all stories be done in the traditional Conan Doyle format.  We did not want outlandish fantasy tales with Holmes battling Martians or Vampires etc.  So for the most part, people who pick up any Airship 27 Productions Sherlock Holmes title know they are going to get classic mysteries.  Its a formula that has worked and we've no intention of changing it any time soon.

Lida E. Quillen: New stories should adhere to the Sherlock Holmes canon. That is very important to me.

The manuscripts Stephanie Osborn submitted for the books in the Displaced Detective series are exceptionally well-written, rigorously researched and scientifically plausible. The manner in which Stephanie brought Sherlock Holmes up to speed in a future setting is entirely believable. I would be open to additional works of a similar nature.

Allan Gilbreath: Not at this time. It would take something completely amazing to move me into the storytelling secondary market place. I far prefer original characters or characterizations told by a clear voice. I prefer depth and development to trying to hit a past standard.

Tommy Hancock: We just threw our fedora into the ring with THE ASTONISHING TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES imprint from Pro Se Productions.  The first volume is THE SHRIEKING PITS by Author Nikki Nelson-Hicks.  And as far as our criteria, we want authors to write new stories that can easily fit in the Doyle canon.  Doesn't have to be in the style of Doyle necessarily, but as far as events, happenings, crimes, etc., they need to be an easy fit into canon, as if Doyle himself could have written them. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

[Link] The New World of Writing: Pulp Speed

by Dean Wesley Smith

I’ve mentioned this concept a number of times on my nightly blog and in the Topic of the Night little sections. But since Pulp Speed was almost impossible in the new traditional world, it belongs as a post in this series.

Not at all sure why this idea sort of hits me right. I think because it flies in the face of all the myths. A writer has to have all myths under control to even attempt this. So this post might just make you angry because it hits at belief systems I’m afraid.

The second reason I can’t shake this idea is because for all of my life I have idolized pulp writers. I used to study them and their lives. (And yet, even with all that knowledge, I still spent seven years in the rewriting to death trap. Go figure.)

Many, many of the great writers of the past that we still read and enjoy were pulp writers. And there are many pulp writers working today. More than you might imagine, even through the rough times of the last twenty years in traditional publishing.

Now, right here, before I get started, I’m going to repeat what I always say. No writer is the same as any other writer.

And most writers could never do what I am about to talk about.

Pulp Speed writing is a mind-set for writers who have cleared out damn never every myth and belief taught to them about writing by English teachers. A Pulp Speed writer loves to just tell stories, one right after another. So remember, no writer is the same as another writer. And if this hits you wrong, it might not be for you to even think about in any fashion.

But for others, this might just be the ticket to a bright new future, just to learn this is possible and happening.

Continue reading:

Nugget #32 -- Professional Writing

One can write part time or full time professionally. 
One can write as a sole income or as a supplementary 
income. To call either merely "writing for fun" or "writing 
as a hobby" demeans the effort put into writing sellable 
product and the effort put into trying to sell it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nuggets #31 -- The Jazz of a Femme Fatale

For my money, I prefer, the monkey wrench that a femme fatale brings into the world of the crime story. She’s the literary change in time signature to shift the jazz of the tale from Benny Goodman to Miles Davis. Either one is good, and really good, but one has that something special that makes it a lot spicier to the ears.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #307 -- Give 'Em Your Worst

What do you do when plotting to ensure that a story remains 
balanced so that a hero actually faces a challenge?

I love this question. Why? Because I've always had a theory about plotting, and it always begins with character. When I know the character, then I can ask myself this one, all-encompassing question, upon who's answer I will build my story.

And that question is this: "What's the worst thing that can happen to ____________ ?"

That's where it all begins. Plotting to me is putting your characters in situations that make them not just uncomfortable but direly uncomfortable. This enables me to create situations and antagonists that will genuinely put my protagonists through their paces.

For a standard pulp adventure plot, the easiest way to answer the question is by jumping straight to a powerful villian. But... I like to go at least a little bit deeper than that. For example, in my most recent Rick Ruby mystery, The villain isn't the real "big bad" because the solution to the mystery might put a nail in the coffin of Rick's relationship with Evelyn. So the worst thing that could happen isn't the villain but the chain of events the villain sets off in Rick's personal life. How 'bout another example, this one from my Lance Star story in Volume 3. Lance is a pilot, so the worst thing that can happen is to separate him from his plane, so I trapped him on a private yacht in the middle of the ocean without an airstrip in sight.

For not pulp plots, the same principle applies. The big bad could be a character's hubris. It could be a familial relationship. It could be a storm. The standard archetypes of man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, and man vs. self don't change.

What's the worst thing that can happen to my characters? As a writer it's my job, my responsibility, my obligation to take them there and back again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Pro Se Productions, an innovative publisher of Genre Fiction, proudly announces the latest issue of one of its most popular series in its Pro Se Single Shots Signature line. Jake Istenhegyi, the scarred immigrant shopkeeper turned detective created by Nikki Nelson-Hicks, returns in his second adventure -- Golems, Goons, and Cold Stone Bitches now available for only 99 cents!

“Jake,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of and Partner in Pro Se Productions, “was definitely a popular character in his debut adventure. It’s amazing what Nikki does with these stories. It’s like a mixed stew of genres and styles that somehow coalesce into something well-written, strongly plotted with characters that step off the page. Something both terrifying in a way, while also suspenseful and mystery minded. And definitely cover to cover fun!”

After being forced to put a bullet through the head of his best friend to end his suffering, Jake Istenhegyi is done and he wants to pack his bags and get on the next plane to anywhere but here. Goodbye to New Orleans, goodbye and good riddance to the Odyssey Shop, a business he never wanted anyway, and a big fat goodbye to the detective game that he barely knew how to play anyway! But it just isn't working out that way. A few hard, dirty truths are blocking his way. Like how he has inherited more than just a run down used junk store from his Uncle's sudden death-by-bus, the real business being conducted at the Odyssey Shop...and then there is the naked girl bleeding to death on his staircase.... and all before his first cup of coffee.

Jake Istenhegyi, the Accidental Detective’s second adventure, Golems, Goons, and Cold Stone Bitches, features stunning cover art and logo design by Jeffrey Hayes and digital formatting by Russ Anderson. This Pro Se Single Shot Signature short story is now available for the Kindle on Amazon and via Smashwords in most other formats for only 99 cents. This Pro Se Single Shot will be available via other Ebook websites in coming days.

For more information on this title, contact Morgan Minor, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Saturday, December 13, 2014



An innovative Publisher of cutting edge Genre Fiction and New Pulp, Pro Se Productions announces the release of a short story collection featuring one of the best modern hard boiled private investigators to ever grace a page. Birthed full-blown several years ago in the comics mini-series Angeltown, L.A. private eye Nate Hollis, created by noted Genre Fiction author Gary Phillips, makes the jump to prose in six new short stories in Gary Phillips’ Hollis, P.I.

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Hollis returns in prose from Pro Se Productions,” Phillips said. “Readers are in for some hardboiled thrills as we put the redoubtable private eye through his paces -- from a ritual killing, the hunt for long-hidden swag, attack dogs in the dark, to the machinations of crooked politicians…tough guys and tougher women.”

Gary Phillips has penned short stories for Moonstone’s Kolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook, the Avenger Chronicles, the Green Hornet Casefiles and The Spider: Extreme Prejudice anthologies. His most current novel is Warlord of Willow Ridge. He also has out the eBook novella, The Essex Man: 10 Seconds to Death, a homage to ‘70s era paperback vigilantes. Additionally he is one of the editors for Pro Se's BLACK PULP volume, and any and all follow ups to that collection. In addition to editing and contributing to Hollis, P.I. for Pro Se, he also has for the press stories upcoming in Asian Pulp and Black Pulp II. He recently wrote the graphic novel Big Water, about the fight by a municipality to save its water from privatization; has a steamy story not for kids in 50 Shades of a Fedora; and is editor and contributor to the upcoming Day of the Destroyers, a collection of linked stories wherein Jimmie Flint, Secret Agent X-11 battles to stop internal forces out to overthrow the presidency of FDR during the Great Depression.

New York Times bestseller Juliet Blackwell (the Witchcraft Mystery series), acclaimed up-and-coming crime writer Aaron Philip Clark (A Healthy Fear of Man) new pulp luminaries Derrick Ferguson (Four Bullets for Dillon) and Pulp Ark award winner Bobby Nash join Phillips in penning these new gritty tales. Five stories feature Nate Hollis with a sixth featuring his sometimes ally, bounty hunter Irma Deuce. The streets are mean, but they don’t hold a stick of dynamite to Gary Phillips’ Hollis, P.I.

“PI Nate Hollis,” says T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Famous and the Dead, “originally sprang from the rich imagination of LA-based writer Gary Phillips, but he’s so real and tactile he could climb off the page and buy you a bourbon. Now, four other authors are getting a piece of Nate, too, and this latest collection of Nate stories is wonderful. This is contemporary noir at its best, offering all the familiar pleasures of the genre, but giving them a modern makeover. Yes, this is a violent world that Nate inhabits, but he steers a true and moral course through the layers of deception, skullduggery and sometimes worse that make these stories such high-density entertainment. Nate’s a great character and these stories do him justice and more. “

Gary Phillips’ Hollis P.I., features evocative and action packed cover art and logo design by Jeffrey Hayes. With print formatting by Percival Constantine, the collection is available from Amazon and Pro Se’s own store for $12.00. This modern mystery collection is also available as an eBook for the Kindle and in most formats from Smashwords for only $2.99.
For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Face book at

Friday, December 12, 2014

Storyteller Alley -- We're Looking for a Few Good Authors

Are you an independent or small press published author? Do you consider your book among the best?

We're looking to feature the best independent and small press published authors and titles out there.


Here's what you need to know:

Authors featured on our site must meet the following requirements:

All books featured on our site must already be published or be no more than four weeks out from release. We want readers to be able to buy the books they find on our site! Our current plan is to launch our site on January 15th, so current submissions must meet the four week requirement as of that date.

Have no less than three 5-star reviews or no less than five 4-star reviews from reputable book bloggers and/or reviewers. Reviews must still be visible to the public in order to qualify. These reviews must be posted on sites other than GoodReads or Amazon. Authors will be required to submit links to the reviews.

In the event that the number of public reviews are not available, an author may opt to submit the book for internal evaluation by our site for a fee of $100, however payment for a critique does not guarantee promotion on our site. An internal evauation will be completed by 3 independent readers and written feedback will be provided. Content from our internal evaluations will not be published on our site.

Once an author/title has met our requirements, the author/title will be listed in our showcase and the author will be invited to submit content for one of the following feature categories:

​​Every Great Story Starts With the First Page : This bi-weekly feature will share the first 250-350 words of a featured book. The feature also includes a short author bio, website link, buy link, cover image, and book blurb.​

Where Do Stories Grow: This is a bi-weekly feature that asks writers to create a post describing where they grew up and share how it has had an impact on their life and storytelling. This feature will include a short author bio and website/social media links.

Judge a Book By Its Cover: This weekly feature will showcase 2-3 titles that meet our requirements and have an exceptional cover design. This feature will include a cover image and short synopsis of the book.

Just For Kids: This weekly feature will showcase books written for children. It will feature a book blurb, short author bio, website link, buy link, and cover image.

Distinguished Non-Fiction: This weekly feature is for non-fiction books only. It will feature a book blurb, short excerpt (250 words or less), cover image, author bio, website link, and buy link.

Hot Off the Press: This bi-weekly feature is for books in print for less than 3 months. It must still meet our requirements for review, or be submitted for internal review. This feature will include cover image, book blurb, long excerpt (500-750 words), author bio, website link and buy link.

The Heart Knows: This weekly feature is for romance novels. It will feature a book blurb, short author bio, cover image, short excerpt, website link and buy link.

From the Realm: This weekly feature is for fantasy novels. It will feature a book blurb, short author bio, cover image, short excerpt, website link and buy link.

Improbable Made Possible: This weekly feature is for science fiction novels. It will feature a book blurb, short author bio, cover image, short excerpt, website link and buy link.

​If you think your book is up to snuff AND you meet our requirements AND you are willing to commit to submitting content, please fill out our nifty submission form and we'll be in touch!

Submit at:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So... Sherlock Holmes?

With the news that the big Detective with a capital "D", the granddaddy of all detectives in fiction has finally and it's-about-time become public domain, I figured it was time to honor the fabled clue-finder with his very own roundtable. 

So, it with great gusto that I present the Sherlock Holmes roundtable. 

What makes Sherlock stick around in the imagination of readers while so many of his contemporaries have been all but forgotten?

Stephanie Osborn: I think that Holmes was the first time a writer had ever put together ALL of the different components that comprise a classic detective character. He has intelligence, skill, knowledge, courage, a cool head...yet he also has a great heart, which he tries hard to hide. He also has the flaws without which this übermensch would be insufferable, the very flaws which make him human.

Another character, created much later, and eventually added to Holmes’ family tree, has similar properties, and I like to say, “Sherlock Holmes had the Spock Syndrome before Mr. Spock did.” Simply put, he is the first and ultimate detective character.

John Morgan Neal: He's that damn good. He was a template the likes of which characters such as Batman and Mr. Spock were begat among many others. There is something about it that appeals.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: In no particular order:

  • He is a total badass. He is willing to put himself in harm’s, go undercover and deal with the slime of the underbelly of society and face all sorts of obstacles using his wits and, if needs require it, his fists to solve a mystery and help a client. He is the Big Brother we always wanted to run home to when the neighborhood bully pushed us down and stole our bikes. He is the rogue that works outside the Law and sees that justice is done. He’s not beyond a little B&E to solve a case. He also acts as a shortcut judge and jury, pardoning the criminal if he believes that the perp did the crime for all the right reasons (Devil’s Claw and the murder of Charles Augustus Magnusson come to mind.)  
  • He is simply very good at what he does. He has a superpower, of sorts, but it’s not supernatural or unattainable. When he explains how he figured it all out, it seems so very simple and….well, elementary. He gives the reader hope that they could also sharpen their senses to achieve such powers. This makes him an attractive, attainable superhero.
  • But he is also The Great Other. There is something very otherworldly, something special about him that makes him cut off from humanity. This is where Watson comes in as his link between Him and us. 
  • There is also a strange purity about the character. He is a walking encyclopedia of crime but doesn’t know that the earth goes around the sun. He sees commonplace knowledge as clutter and can’t understand why we would bother learning them. We wonder how someone so smart can be so ignorant! Coupled with his complete disinterest in sex, this just adds to his appeal as someone who is just a touch above and beyond the ordinary mortal.
  • All heroes need flaws and, no, I’m not talking about cocaine; Doyle went on record to say that Holmes was not an addict and only took cocaine to help him deal with the doldrums of depression. Sherlock Holmes’ flaw is one that allows him to be identifiable to people of the 20th and 21st century: existential angst. A very modern problem that people of the 19th century were only beginning to grasp with the arrival of the Industrial age. His mind raged against inactivity and the boring stillness that the bureaucracy and social mores of his time demanded. He is always looking for something to engage his mind, to challenge him….even threaten his life. A bit of an adrenaline junkie. This is a thread that connects him to the readers of the numbing technocratic 21st century.
  • Which leads to another facet that connects Holmes to our own age: his secularism. He shunned superstition and favored science as a Higher Power. To Holmes, anything worth knowing could be verified and quantified and everything else was clutter. By devoting himself to logic and the scientific method, he was able to rise above the hoi polloi and see things as they were not as they merely seemed. His ability to cut through bullshit with a smirk and quick wit is just icing on the cake. 
  • Did I mention he’s a badass?

I.A. Watson: The format of Holmes stories is perfect for detective fiction. We have a brilliant and insightful lead but we only see his thought processes through his companion. This allows us to discover the mystery slowly as the detective reveals it and additionally allows for a narrator commentary and interpretation on the detective himself.

Holmes himself is an eccentric character, not always likeable but always compelling to follow. He has become an archetype by being so distinctive. Watson, acting as everyman and as a reader surrogate, both humanises what would be an otherwise intolerable principal character and drives the plot points along with his questions.

Finally, for modern readers, the Holmes stories are set in the dead centre of an era and place that has become one of the most established venues for fiction, at the heart of Victorian England. Even better than modern tales set in that time, they are steeped with authentic trappings and sensibilities from the period. They have the same allure as would a great Western story written by a genuine pioneer.

Joe Gatch: I believe that it is his reclusive nature and his superior intelligence that makes readers wish to be so memorable.

R.J. Sullivan: I think his success is attributed at least in part to the fact that when the first stories were written, deductive reasoning was not a normal part of police procedure and the stories actually helped make that happen,

Erwin K. Roberts: I first took an interest in Sherlock Holmes before I could read. I listened to some radio adaptations when I was five. "The Speckled Band" really grabbed me, for openers. Unfortunately, the second I heard was "The Final Problem." I remember my mother, or maybe my older sister, assuring me that Holmes somehow climbed out of the Falls.

Over sixty years later I can still recall a few passages from those episodes. Part of why Holmes sticks around is that he is a complete package of well constructed mysteries, with interesting characters. And, as Ian Watson said, Holmes' era has been engraved into the minds of a very large chunk of the planet's population.

His contemporaries, even those with merit, never rose to the level of attention he did. In the same way my contemporaries, who were not comic book fans, may remember Superman and Batman, and to a lesser extent Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. But, few, if any, knew of the existence of of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., (Green) Arrow, or Constantine, and especially Blade, before recent films and TV shows. Holmes survived because he was original, well written, and able to be adapted into other media.

On the other hand, how many people remember Race Williams, the first hard-boiled detective? Not many. That's because guys like Chandler and Hammett came along and did it so much better. Holmes started at the top and has generally remained there.

As a writer, what lessons can you credit to Holmes that you've learned about writing technique and character creation?

Joe Gatch: Doyle shows that backstory isn't always important to enjoying the character...everyone is so hung up on origin stories these days that they forget that lack of origin is part of the mystery surrounding the character.

I.A. Watson: Doyle was a master at using reported narrative. At times we have Doyle telling us what Watson wrote about what Holmes said about an account given by a client at Baker Street, tier upon tier of reportage allowing for all kind of subtle writing tricks and a good deal of reader-fooling obfuscation. There is a lot to pick up on there.

Doyle also demonstrates that sometimes less is more. He does not define every detail of Holmes’ career and background. Indeed, he delights in teasing the gaps, the cases not reported, the detail of character quirks never explained. He imbues his cast with only those characteristics necessary to tell the tale but manages to engage readers with those few sketched lines. It is impressive in a genre where hiding clues in plain sight is a necessary authorial skill that Doyle can manage this with so little extraneous verbage.

Erwin K. Roberts: Watson's narration is one of the reasons I do a lot of my writing in the first person. My occasional forays into private detective stories, plus my New Pulp hero the Voice are first person. Though the narrator may, or may not, be the main character.

John Morgan Neal: Engaging your readers. Bringing them into the method of your heroes and allowing them to sort of be part of the team. Keeping them interested in the mystery.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: The first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the relationship between Watson and Holmes. They complete each other. The Apollonian and the Dionysian. Mind and Heart. Holmes gives Watson the adventure that the old soldier craves and Watson gives Holmes a solid anchor to the baser points of humanity.

But what I always found really interesting is how the stories (except His Last Bow and Lion’s Mane) are told in the POV of Watson. Frankly, Holmes is really in the background, literally in the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles. That is fascinating to me. To have such a prominent protagonist, basically the star of the show, NOT tell the story. It just makes Holmes more intriguing and gives Watson, the foil, more depth.

R.J. Sullivan: Arthur Conan Doyle compared to his contemporaries, is more approachable than many "classic" authors because of his use of plain, to the point, but descriptive language. His prose has survived better than, for instance, Poe or HP Lovecraft, whose use of language tended to get a bit thick at times.

Stephanie Osborn: How utilising the appropriate vernacular can transport the reader into a different place and time; how important proper research and planning is to the construction of a good mystery; how description can set a mood. Digging into the background of a character, and determining how his personal foibles operate, can also make for a more realistic character. For example, many of Holmes’ quirks are likely caused by the side effects of his cocaine usage; Doyle, as an ophthalmologist, was undoubtedly familiar with the drug and its side effects, as one of its first specific uses in medicine was as an anaesthesia for eye surgeries.

Does Holmes still work for contemporary audiences as is, or does he have to be brought lower some way to be less of a "super hero" so modern readers and views can relate to him or perhaps tolerate him?

I.A. Watson: Holmes’ sharpness and lack of tolerance for fools have always endeared him to his audience. He is a grump – but our grump, using his antisocial tendencies for the public good against far nastier adversaries. The harder his clash and the more difficult his work against such foes the better we love the story.

Holmes’ omnipotence is skilfully offset by Watson. As narrator he helps obscure Holmes’ thought processes so we are not bored by the great detective’s instant analyses. As Holmes’ friend, Watson is able to criticise and comment, bringing the genius down to size when required, but also washing our view of Holmes with a warm affection.

One modern feature of Holmes fiction that perhaps even developed before Doyle finished writing his Canon tales is an expectation that Holmes will have an almost-supernatural ability to discern the truth. A modern Holmes author’s challenge is often to keep Holmes’ deductions grounded in the possible rather than indulging in the audience’s expectation of his immediate infallibility.

Erwin K. Roberts: Holmes can work for modern auriences. But not always. I have been more or less indifferent to the current big budget films. Recently I saw a complete DVD set of the Granada / Jeremy Brett TV productions for sale. Now that is the Holmes I want.

I do find it interesting that both contemporary versions of Holmes and Watson, Elementary and Sherlock, have found favor with the general public. I enjoy them both, but for somewhat different reasons. Both respect the original while bringing the concept into the modern world. Both, unlike some past versions, have a strong and intelligent Watson. (Having written Watson without Holmes, that is very important to me.)

John Morgan Neal: Oh heck yeah. Two successful TV shows and two successful movies and all with a bit of a diff take on the character. Sherlock was a 'super hero' in that he had a super human ability to think. But he was always a character with foibles. He was always relatable to a degree. And besides we have Watson for that. I think people are hungry for heroic and amazing characters.

R.J. Sullivan: Contemporary interpretations have given Holmes a sort of high functioning autistic/ sociopathic personality I honestly don't believe the text supports. He had mild quirks, but he was always aware of social noims and aware when he was breaking them. I find the modern interpretation a bit insulting, as if a normal person couldn't possibly simply train themselves to be the most observant man in the room, they have to come up with some sort of way to "relate to" him, (I hate that term, too, as if 21st century readers lack the imagination to put themselves in the place of anyone not in the 21st century).

Stephanie Osborn: Does Holmes still work for contemporary audiences as is, or does he have to be brought lower some way to be less of a "super hero" so modern readers and views can relate to him or perhaps tolerate him?

Judging by the fact that there are currently 3 media franchises (BBC Sherlock, CBS Elementary, Guy Ritchie/RDJ Sherlock Holmes movies), and untold pastiche novels set anywhere from the original Victorian era to the future, as well as uncounted numbers of versions of the collected Doyle stories, I’d say Holmes needs no help.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: Sherlock Holmes is a rogue super brain that uses science and technology to bring down the bad guys? How does that NOT work for today’s audience?

Granted, they dirtied him up for the Robert Downey Jr. movies (the character of Holmes is described as fastidious when it comes to his grooming, like a cat. He might let his flat go to shit but he is always perfectly groomed.), sexed him up for Jonny Lee Miller’s, Elementary (seriously, two whores at once? And all those tattoos?), and gave him a place of the autism spectrum with Cumberbatch’s portrayal in BBC’s Sherlock, still it is not a lowering as more as a molding to fit a modern perspective.

As for tolerating a character who, frankly, has to bring himself down to our level to give us the time of day, yes. He’s a bit acerbic in the stories and they do tweak this up a bit for today’s storytelling but that’s to be expected. Modern audiences LOVE an asshole. We expect it, hell, we even TRUST the asshole more than we do the Sir Galahad, paragon of virtue. We’re always waiting for the cracks in the veneer.

Joe Gatch: Readers should be challenged, not talked down to. Downey's portrayal of Holmes was, however, refreshing and more realistic when you think about it.

What's your favorite Holmes story and why?

Joe Gatch: Always The Hound of the was the first story I read, the first SH movie I watched and it will always be the case I most relate Holmes with

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: In no particular order (and definitely not the ultimate list):

A Study in Scarlet:  Because it’s the beginning and you need to see where Holmes and Watson started to appreciate where they end up.

The Adventure of the Red Headed League, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Adventure of the Dying Detective: Because of the humor and well-paced story telling.

A Scandal in Bohemia and The Adventure of the Yellow Face: Because in the first one he is bested for all the right reasons and in the second he is simply WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and in the end learns a bit of humility

But a few of the best written stories, IMHO, are: The Man with the Twisted Lips, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, The Adventure of the Crooked Man, The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, The Adventure of Black Peter, The Adventure  of the Six Napoleons, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, and the Adventure of the Devil’s Foot.

John Morgan Neal: The Hound of Baskervilles. Holmes only 'horror' story. I like the plot. The setting. Watson getting some stuff to do alone. It works for me in a big way. And I like several of the movies based on it. Including the Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore one.

I.A. Watson: Among the canon stories I am fond of:

 “A Scandal in Bohemia” from the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for its early definition of Holmes’ character and for the inestimable “Woman” Irene Adler; the story is not flawless but is all the more satisfying for that.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, for its brooding atmosphere and the extended role of a heroic and competent Dr Watson.

 “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, for being one of the most Sherlock Holmes-y of all Holmes stories, not least because it also features his brother Mycroft and includes much of the standard “furniture” of Holmes stories.

Of my own Holmes stories in Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective volumes 1-6, I am most fond of volume 5’s “The Abominable Merridew”, perhaps because I had license to use so many elements of the Canon material. It is the Holmes story I have most enjoyed writing. By the way, I just finished my story for volume 8 today.

Of non-Canon-compliant Holmes, I recommend Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald.”

R.J. Sullivan: Hound of the Baskervilles, because it's a longer work and Watson is very involved in it.

Stephanie Osborn: I would be hard-pressed to pick which one of Doyle’s stories is my favorite. I think it would depend on what mood I’m in at the time. But in general, if one put together the two short stories, ‘The Final Problem’ and ‘The Empty House,’ the combined story of Holmes’ presumed death and return probably form my favorite of Doyle’s stories.