Monday, March 31, 2014


A leading publisher of Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions proudly announces the debut of its latest title, one that pays homage to classic concepts of science fiction and parallel worlds with a twist that screams New Pulp!  Based on a concept created by Mark Beaulieu, THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING takes readers beyond boundaries to worlds unimagined  - until now!

“It’s amazing,” says Editor in Chief of and Partner in Pro Se Productions Tommy Hancock, “what these writers have done with THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING.  Although the inspiration for this anthology will definitely be apparent to science fiction fans, the assembled authors have worked their own magic.  Each writer has a distinctive style and voice and they bring their own touches to bear on King and the myriad of adventures and universes he spirals through.  The stories in this collection surpass their influences in their opening paragraphs, making Ulysses and company a crew that we can only hope will find their way into the printed word again!”

In this four story collection, Professor Ulysses King and his companions travel the foldspace between alternate realities to thwart nefarious history-twisting plots from his homeworld Olympus. With Amazonian arena-warrior Pandora, out-of-his-depth reporter Jake Gannon, marked-for-death scientist Crystal Lee, and worlds-spanning travel machine NotTA, King faces those who regard humanity as test subjects, cannon fodder, raw material, or mere entertainment. But there are dangers in foldspace of which neither King nor his enemies are yet aware - those who seek absolute control!

In the tradition of Doctor Who and Sliders, THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING collects the talents of Mark Beaulieu, Mark Bousquet, Sean Taylor, and I.A. Watson to forge a new mythology where high adventure, high science, and high strangeness meet. Ulysses King is on his voyages - and each discovery might be his last!

Featuring an out of this world cover by Terry Pavlet, stunning interiors illustrations by Chris Kohler, and stellar cover design and print formatting by Percival Constantine, THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING is now available at Amazon and at Pro Se’s own store at for $12.00.  The novel will be available in a matter of days as an Ebook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

For digital review copies, interviews with the author, or other information concerning this title, please contact Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, Morgan Minor, at

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

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #282 -- Opening Sentences

As a reader, how much do story openings mean to your enjoyment of a book? Does a bad one make you put a book down and stop reading, or are you willing to forgive a bad one and hope a book gets better later?

I always warn people when they ask me to read their book that I'm a pretentious hard-ass about it. Authors I've never read before get a sentence. That's it. Typically if the first sentence doesn't  grab me and refuse to let go, then I'm out. Writers I'm familiar with get a paragraph or a page or two. People who pay me to read (i.e., edit) get all my attention, but I don't necessarily have to enjoy it. *grins*

My buddy and fellow writer, James Tuck, put it this way: "Life's too short to read shitty books."

I happen to agree with him. If a writer can't grab my interest from the get-go, then what makes me assume he or she will be able to rectify that a few more pages into the tale?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Pro Se Productions, a leading publisher of cutting edge Genre Fiction, announces the debut of the follow up volume to one of its most popular titles in 2013. Author Kevin Rodgers thrilled and terrified readers with his debut novel CADAVER ISLAND and now Rodgers returns with the second book in the Cadaver Island Trilogy- THE MASK OF BEELZEBUB!

“It’s quite a feat,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “when a book that could be described in so many ways, could be classified as an apocalyptic thriller, a zombie book, a horror story, catches on with readers of all types. CADAVER ISLAND did just that. Kevin took all these genre tropes and ripped the skin off of them, then stitched them together into a fantastically Frankenstein like epic that fans just can’t get enough of. THE MASK OF BEELZEBUB adds a whole new level of horror to the monstrously tight and fast paced story that is this trilogy. Kevin shows his skill once again to take eccentric, over the top characters and subject them to a world of insanity, impossibility, and fear made real. Fans of CADAVER ISLAND will definitely devour THE MASK OF BEELZEBUB.”

In the year 2212, long after the world was reshaped by seismic cataclysms and polar shifts, Dr. Laurent Stine guides Angelique Bosc and Alexander Blanton into the inner sanctum of a fortress named Thames Keep, which is located on Cadaver Island. Their journey to acquire a battery pack for Angelique’s mechanical heart reaches its final seconds while they are forced to overcome menacing creatures and dangerous obstacles in the fortress’ maze-like interior. Unknown to Dr. Stine, his lover, Persephone, faces her own dilemma: she is abducted from her jail cell, which is located in the village of Kamakura, by a monstrous hellhound named Barghest. Can Dr. Stine defeat his arch-nemesis, Sir Xavier Thames, and obtain a charged battery pack before Angelique’s heart runs out of energy? Will Persephone enter the Stone Throat of the Underworld and succumb to the malevolent will of Beelzebub? New allies, such as King Reginald Bosc and a skilled warrior named Amaya, will escort Dr. Stine into the Underworld to locate Persephone and remove a cursed mask from her face before her soul is lost forever.

THE MASK OF BEELZEBUB is the second installment of a trilogy by author Kevin Rodgers, which expands a post-apocalyptic world where powerful demons, prehistoric beasts, and enormous insects thrive in fiery chasms, subterranean gardens, and giant hives. Dr. Laurent Stine and his allies will explore the depths of the Underworld to defeat the temptations of sin, overcome their inner demons, and resist the will of Corruption.

Now Available on Amazon and at Pro Se’s own store at for $12.00, THE MASK OF BEELZEBUB features a mind blowing cover by Jeff Hayes and logo design and formatting by Percival Constantine. This second book in the Cadaver Island Trilogy will be available soon as an Ebook formatted and designed by Russ Anderson on Amazon and other outlets.

The Future is Here. And it wears THE MASK OF BEELZEBUB. From Pro Se Productions.

For digital review copies, interviews with the author, or other information concerning this title, please contact Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, Morgan Minor, at

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

[Link] 6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys

by Laura DiSilverio

Many authors are guilty of discriminating against their antagonists. Yet, they’re just as important to good stories as the protagonists are. If your antagonist is not fully realized, lacks depth or is a caricature of evil, your story will suffer.

Luckily, transforming your antagonist from a one-dimensional paper doll into a force to be reckoned with—and remembered—is completely possible if you implement a few simple but powerful methods for creating antagonists and expanding their roles. You can build a worthy adversary during the outlining process or beef one up when you revise your already completed draft. It’s never too late.

The antagonist is, quite simply, the person who acts to keep your protagonist from achieving his goals. Note the key words person and acts. I’m using person here as a catchall for a sentient being or creation of any kind that is capable of emotion and has the intellectual ability to plot against your protagonist. Thus, a personified car (as in Stephen King’s Christine) could be an effective antagonist, but an abstraction such as “society” or “Big Pharma” cannot. (More on this later.)

Read the rest:

Friday, March 28, 2014

[Link] 5 Tough Love Rules for Indie Publishing Success

by James Palmer

I’ve already been working on this for a couple of days, and I have a couple of deadlines, so without further ado here are the rules. Feel free to add to, discuss, or just plain ignore these rules as you see fit. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing or self-publishing, your mileage may vary.

The Rules

Rule #1: There Are No Rules. Except these rules:

1. Write good books
2. Make sure they are professionally edited
3. Make sure they have good covers
4. Write more books

No two writers are alike, and no two paths to success are paved with the same color bricks. Every writer who you’ve heard of went a slightly different way, but they all did the above four things.

Rule #2: Define Your Own Success

You probably won’t get rich doing this thing. But what I’ve learned is you don’t have to in order to make a nice living doing what you love. I’ve heard of authors who, while not making six figures a month like Joe Konrath, have been able to leave their crappy jobs. They’re not rolling in dough, but they’re not starving in the streets either. Author Holly Lisle confessed on a recent podcast that she is now comfortably middle class since self-publishing, something she was never able to claim as a traditionally published author. What does success mean to you? Maybe money never enters the equation. Maybe your version of success is not having to go to a job you hate for people you don’t like.

Now I don’t exactly live within my means, because if I did I’d be living under an overpass, but I think I can make it work. And if I can, so can you.

Rule #3: You Still Have to Be Lucky

But here’s the thing about luck: We make our own.

Read more:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Building Fantasy Worlds in Fiction

For this week's writers roundtable, let's look at the idea of world building in fiction -- particularly in fantasy fiction this time. We'll explore world building in horror, pulp, and other genres in subsequent weeks, though, so don't worry. Your favorite genre is coming. But since world building is so important to the fantasy genre, let's start there.

How important is world building to a fantasy novel? What about fantasy short stories?

Jen Mulvihill: World building is not only important as a setting for your story but it also helps to shape and mold your character. A character becomes who and what they are by the world around them and their reactions to that world. If you put a character in an empty box that character is still going to react in someway to the empty box. Fantasy is all about world building because you are creating a place in most cases, that does not exist. You have to build the place in order to take the reader their and find out what and how the character(s) react, hence, creating a story.

Scott Sandridge: World building is very important, regardless of the genre. After all, if there's no overall world/setting for your characters to interact in, then there's not much story there because it'll all be happening in a static void.

Stephanie Osborn: Well, I'm just a tad bit out of genre here, in that I don't regularly write fantasy, but rather hard science fiction. A good bit of what has already been said is true across all genres, though. World building is important -- it is one of the things that lends reality to your story, possibly the biggest thing that lends reality to it. And it doesn't matter the story's length. But in a short story you do have to shorthand it a good bit. 

Logan Masterson: If your fantasy's set in a different world, it must be justified. The world must be an integral part of the story, or all the information it takes to set it up is really just wasted. Long or short form, the world and its features should almost be characters in their own right.

If the setting is more realistic, then it should either be set apart with telling details or interpreted with common threads. The best reason to use our own world in fantasy (call it urban if you like) is resonance.

Conversely, the best reason to build a strange new world is wonder, a sense of newness and possibility.

H. David Blalock: Good fantasy depends heavily on world building. The best architecture constructs a world of balance between opposing forces, with perhaps a referee influence in the middle to arbitrate or aggravate as the story requires. Stereotypes in fantasy literature are usually acceptable (sensitive to current real life issues) and archetypes make world-building skeletal structure more acceptable to the readers.

The traditional method in classic fantasy is the info-dump. Does that still work for modern readers or does it turn them away?

H. David Blalock: Modern readers don't seem to be as patient with the infodump as in the past. This is certainly a product of the visual media's current forays into the fantasy genre. On the other hand, much of what was previously needed to be included in an infodump is now very much more familiar due exactly to the visual media's influence.

K.S. Daniels: Infodumps suck. Period and no excuses. Sure you need to work the world building elements in early, say by the first three chapters, but make it relevant. Show it through a character interacting with this world (this also can be used to create tension!) Philip K Dick's Ubik does this perfectly.

Scott Sandridge: Infodump has always turned me away. Not even Tolkien bothered with infodump, just look at how richly detailed his world and history was when compared to how little of it is shown within the context of his stories minus the attached appendices (which was just added "fluff" for the fans).

Jen Mulvihill: I don't think readers like the info dump unless it is done in such a way that they don't feel like it's an info dump. For instance you would not start the story off info dumping the rather gradually introduce the information through clever conversation or scenes created around the character. 

Stephanie Osborn: Infodumps to me are not about world building, and to some extent are virtually impossible to eliminate in a hard SF story using extrapolations of cutting-edge theory. The majority of my readers are NOT going to be intimately familiar with M theory, and are NOT going to take the time to go look it up while still reading. I have to provide them at least an inkling of what it's about. That said, there are ways to introduce the material that somewhat disguises the infodump aspect. If the reference is a throwaway, an offhand comment, I don't even bother; the reader can pick up the necessaries in the context. Both in terms of world building and character establishment, there are certain shorthands that can be used to help establish the scene/character. There are those writers who say that some of these shorthands should never be used, but I disagree. For example, I do write dialect and accent into my characters where appropriate, though many writers consider that anathema. Why? That alone is a huge writer's shorthand to establishing the character. (E.g. you know right away that a guy with a Brooklyn accent did NOT grow up in California.) The same can be done -- within limits -- for an environment.

If you don't just info-dump, then how do you build a world for your readers?

Stephanie Osborn: The characters react to their environment, even if it is only subconsciously. These reactions are a shorthand to establishing it. Any reference to culture that creates, in the reader's mind, a similarity to an existing culture on Earth becomes a kind of shorthand to establishing the fictional culture. Look how readily Tolkien evokes Atlantis, or Norse/Viking culture, or Celtica, for example. No sooner do you as a reader draw the correlation between the Rohirrim and Viking/Norse culture, than you realize the Rohirrim will not be fighters to trifle with. Likewise in my Displaced Detective Series (okay -- shameless plug), if one of the characters refers to another as a "bloke," you know right away that said character is from a country with strong ties to Great Britain, even if not directly FROM the UK. If he says, "Good day to you," instead of "G'day," you've just eliminated Australia; et cetera ad infinitum ad nauseam. Now, that might seem like character building rather than world building, but it depends on the circumstances, because if this character is typical of his environment/culture, then you've just said a slew of things about that environment/culture. It all kind of blends into the whole.

H. David Blalock: Barring an infodump, usually allowing the main character to build his/her own backstory over the course of the first couple of chapters gives the reader enough information to become involved. Then, as needed, further information can be inserted as the character discovers it themselves.

Scott Sandridge: You build it one scene at a time, through dialogue, character interaction, (brief) descriptions of scenery, etc.

Jen Mulvihill: Slowly introduce your information, that way the reader feels like they have discovered something. Example: in The Lost Daughter of Easa, you don't find out all the information at one time about the Spider Witch but rather, learn a little bit about her throughout the book until near the end you finally get her full history and understand why she is doing what she is doing.

What are the pitfalls to avoid for beginning writers when laying out their new worlds for today's readers?

Scott Sandridge: Don't write a big 10-page long history lesson at the start of the story before you get to the actual start of the actual story.

Jen Mulvihill: Write what you know, read a lot, and finish the book. So many people tell me they are writing a novel but some have either never put pen to paper or they have been writing it for centuries. If you are going to do it, then do it, don't talk about it forever because that does not get the book written. Finish the book then ask now what? Don't put the carriage before the horse.

H. David Blalock: Problems to avoid for newer writers: unpronounceable names, unbelievable character interactions, lack of continuity in backstory versus plot... pretty much anything any writer of any genre might want to avoid.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

[Link] 7 Reasons Writing a Book Makes You a Badass

by Brian Klems

I’ve always been a big nerd. To others it’s been clear for a long time, but I’ve only recently been able to admit it to myself. I mean, the signs were all there: I read a ton. I love playing Boggle. I get upset when others use “who” when they mean “whom.” I don’t own a pocket protector but it wouldn’t shock me if 10 years from now I had one … made out of leather … and embroidered with my initials.

But for one shining moment, one GLORIOUS MOMENT, when I finished writing my book, OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters, I felt like a complete and utter badass. Here’s why.

Read the rest:

Monday, March 24, 2014


Pro Se Productions announces today that Award Winning Pulp Author Chuck Miller’s latest novel, VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES: Book One of the Moriarty, Lord of The Vampires Trilogy is now available as an Ebook.

Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly are a pair of hard working psychic detectives experiencing a run of bad luck. A new detective agency, the Femmes Fatales, is taking most of their business. Things seem to change for the better in the form of a new client named Scudder Moran, a wealthy young man with a unique problem; He has been targeted by the very, very late Professor James Moriarty—the Napoleon of Crime in another century, now Lord of the Vampires!

Vionna and Mary find themselves in the middle of a case where everything is both improbable and impossible. How will they find their way to the truth? Unexpected help arrives in the ghostly person of the Great Detective himself, and they set about unraveling a tangled web of lies and secrecy that reaches deep into each of their lives. Can they find the light before Moriarty unleashes his final, most horrific scheme?

VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES by Chuck Miller (Creator of The Black Centipede) is the first volume in the “Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires” trilogy. With a demonically evocative cover by Jeff Hayes and format and design by Percival Constantine, this is definitely an opening chapter to a trilogy like no other in New Pulp.

VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES is available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, as formatted and designed by Russ Anderson, for only $2.99!

VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES by Chuck Miller. The wildest ride in Genre Fiction from Pro Se Productions.

For digital review copies, interviews with the author, or more information on this title, contact Morgan Minor, Director of Corporate Operations at

Learn more about Pro Se Productions at Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Giving in to the pressure (Letting the meme boss me around)

The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. 

Chuck Dixon
Ray Bradbury
Ernest Hemingway
Zora Neale Hurston
Langston Hughes
Raymond Chandler
Dashiell Hammett
Flannery O'Connor
C.S. Lewis
Steve Seagle
Annie Dillard
Shusako Endo
Robert Heinlein
Ed McBain
T.S. Eliot
Kurt Vonnegut

NOTE: Yes, I know it's sixteen. I had completely thought I put Bradbury in here, so when I edited it to finally include him, I just couldn't take anyone out. Sue me.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Taking Zombies Back to School!

On April 3 next month, I'll be on the campus of University of North Georgia (the Gainesville Campus), sharing my thoughts on writing Zombie Lit. Being the way-cool college it is, UNG offers a course called Zombie Literature, and as part of that course students have to create a zombie tale of some form (movie, short story, etc.). I'll also be doing a reading of one of my zombie short stories for the class.

I did this last year and had a blast, and the students really seemed to enjoy it too.

And until the day I can finally teach literature at the university level (yeah, right), this will certainly do for now.

Grrr. Brains.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners.

The 2014 New Pulp Awards, formerly the Pulp Ark Awards, have announced the winners of its 12 Awards for this year. Nominations were open to the public followed by a period of voting open to any and all voters as well. The Awards will be presented to winners present at the Memphis Hilton during MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday, March 23rd.
newpulpseal_copy1The Winners of the 2014 New Pulp Awards are --

2014 New Pulp Best Novel- Slow Burn by Terrence McCauley (Noir Nation Books)

2014 New Pulp Best Collection/Anthology Award – Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie by Charie D. La Marr (Chupa Cabra House)

2014 New Pulp Best Short Story Award – A Bullet’s All It Takes by Terrence McCauley, The Kennedy Curse (Exeter Press)

2014 New Pulp Best Novella Award – The Scarlet Jaguar by Win Scott Eckert (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Cover Art Award – The Scarlet Jaguar by Mark Sparacio (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Interior Art Award – The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Will Meugniot (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Related Comic – Doc Savage (Dynamite Entertainment)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Magazine – Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Revival – The Avenger (Moonstone Books)

2014 New Pulp Best New Character Award – Gravedigger from the Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Barry Reese.

2014 New Pulp Best Author Award – Terrence McCauley.

2014 New Pulp Best New Author Award – Ralph Angelo, Jr.

Follow for updates in the coming months concerning the 2015 New Pulp Awards.

NOTE: Yes, I announced this earlier, but since the awards are being given out this weekend, I figured it was time to make note of it again.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Opening Salvo -- Grabbing Readers from the First Sentence

Been a long time, but finally it's time for another writer-focused, practical, down to brass tacks (that enough cliches for you?) Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action roundtable interview. This time around let's talk about story openings, and what makes them really zing for readers to keep them going past the first sentence, paragraph, and page. 

As a reader, how much to story openings mean to your enjoyment of a book? Does a bad one make you put a book down and stop reading, or are you willing to forgive a bad one and hope a book gets better later?

Scott Sandridge: When I was younger I was willing to forgive a slow start, but as I got older and more jaded, and finding myself with less time, I became less and less forgiving of stories that don't hook me from the start.

Mark Koch: I am patient with slow or clumsy openings, but it does impact my opinion of the author. Once my disapproval radar is up, it tends to stay in effect. I'll read it, but I am far less likely to trust and pick up another book from the same author. So, I hope it gets better and typically grind it out but become very skeptical and will need much more to turn it around and allow myself to be impressed.

Tamara Lowery: I'll give it a chance, but only so far.

Lance Stahlberg: Conventional wisdom says you have to grab the reader in the first paragraph or they put it down. I give it at least the first few pages. Roughly the amount that Amazon lets you browse for free. That much is enough to give me a reflection of the writer's style, and set the tone of the story. If it doesn't grab me by page, say, 5, there's no point in continuing.

But that's me personally. For the public at large, I do not dismiss the power of first sentences.

I.A. Watson: Story openings are critical when the book or author is an unknown quantity. I'll tolerate a poor or slow start when I trust the writer or have already enjoyed a previous episode in a series. I'm less tolerant when I don't have previous quality assurances. The house is littered with volumes that failed to engage me by page 20.

Do story openings for different genres need to do different things? For example, in traditional fantasy, an world-building info-dump is still considered okay, even though that sort of thing would be heresy in a thriller. Or should story opening follow the same guidelines regardless of the genre?

Mark Koch: Regardless of genre, the opening is where the author introduces his or her style and makes the first connection with the reader. I don't care what you are writing -- unless it is an academic paper I need a reason to care pronto. An entertaining and vigorous introduction is a must.

Lance Stahlberg: I hate world building exposition dumps. Which might be why I've never been too huge a fan of high fantasy.  But even in that genre, all of my favorite books open with something happening. A demon awakening -- opening on the villain will rarely steer you wrong. A ship spotting a dragon. A thief in the middle of a job.

If you're going to open on setting, that setting better be REALLY cool and original. RA Salvatore got away with opening Homeland by waxing poetic about the Underdark because it was the freaking underdark. A setting like that demands a little extra time. But even in that one rare example... he kept it short. Four pages in, we are looking at Menzoberranzan through the eyes of a drow on an urgent mission. It's still exposition, but things are moving.

Very few settings need an introduction like that. By now, we've seen them all. Today's readers are savvy enough that they can fill in the blanks on their own. So bottom line is I'd say they should always follow the same general principals, regardless of whether it has aliens and space travel or orcs and magic. 

I.A. Watson: I'm actually suspicious of fantasy stories that require an infodump start -- especially a prologue infodump start -- because it suggests a lack of writer refinement. Okay, Tolkein could get away with it. Most of us aren't Tolkein.

The only real rule is to grab the reader and keep them reading. If you can do that with a long essay on the socio-political machinations of the dwarves then great.

Allow me also to add a grumpy caution about the opposite of the info-dump problem, the in media res fashion that explains nothing at all for the first 70 pages, counting on the reader's patience to hold out for motives, backstory, and relevance. I'm not usually that patient.

Tamara Lowery: I think it should function similarly regardless of genre. Personally, I think the opener should drag a reader into the story by the eyeballs THEN you can mess with world-building to let them orient themselves in the story.

Dave Brzeski: There's a related thing that I really hate. When the story starts with a POV character, but you're given no physical details whatsoever this character -- sometimes not even the gender. Then, 30 pages in, the author finally drops in an important detail, which almost always clashes with the version your imagination has made up, in the absense of that information. 

Scott Sandridge: A story needs a good hook, regardless of genre. Also, I don't believe in info-dumps. There's plenty of ways to get your world-building information across without long drawn out boring paragraphs going for pages and pages. And most times, the info-dump is often unnecessary, having no relevancy to the story. At the end of the day, it should be about writing a great story, not writing about how awesome your world is.

Do you go back and rewrite your opening many times or are you the type who can't move on until it's nearly perfect?

Scott Sandridge: No matter how much of the story I already know in my head, I can't even start on it until I have the first sentence down right. That's how important I feel that first sentence, first paragraph, first page is. But once that's done, I usually breeze through until I get to the ending...and then I obsess just as much over the ending.

Lance Stahlberg: A little of both. I have had to force myself to move on from an opening scene and come back to it.

The golden rule of action adventures is to open strong. But I actually hate it when books open too strong just for the sake of having an action scene. When I get too deep into a scene without having clue one about the who or why of what's happening, it has the opposite effect on me that the experts claim it should. I like to set the stage and have at least some intro to the characters.

What ends up happening is I write a relatively slow opening scene that does just that. I reread it. Realize it's too slow, then come back with a quick and dirty prelude to better set the tone that the rest of the story will take.

Again, conventional wisdom says to avoid prologues at all cost. But I think they can work really well when kept short, like a page or two at most.

I.A. Watson: Different things I write have different inspirations -- a concept, a piece of dialogue, a twist I want to use, even a title. Quite often it's the opening scene I want to get out of my head onto paper. A number of stories, even a novel, have started out as just a first scene. Of course, some fisrt scenes have stayed there and never progressed to a second.

I always revisit the first scene at the end of the writing process. Since it was probably the first bit I wrote, the story and style might have been refined in the subsequent 100,000 words so it needs checking for tone. It must have page-turning impact, so it needs some extra polish. The danger is that in tinkering I lose that original spark that made it a good scene in the first place.

Tamara Lowery: Rewrites can wait until time for revisions and edits prior to and after submission. Write it once, let it sit, then go back later with a fresh mind.

What makes an story opening effective? What makes you want to keep reading?

Mark Koch: I can be indulged to care with action, or emotion, or intellectual gymnastics. Paint a fun alternate reality or draw up a curious character. Slap something unexpectedly violent across the windshield. But you had better give my mind a toy to play with before it gets bored. Clever prose can do it, but clever storytelling is a better bet.

Lance Stahlberg: Movement. Always be in motion. It doesn't necessarily need to be violent, explosive action. But the reader wants to follow somebody and see events unfold through their eyes right out of the gate.

And humor. Even the most serious story should be presented with healthy doses of humor, and I want to see that up front.

Scott Sandridge: The opening of the story has to get you asking "What's this? what's going on? I need to know more!" It needs to introduce the main protagonist, or at least someone just as important (like the main antagonist), set up the situation, and provide the motivations to get the character going. In a short story that has to be done within the first page or two. In a novel, before the first chapter has ended

I.A. Watson: The reader has to care about or wonder about something or someone. The reader must invest. Either we like - or hate - a character or situation, or we're intrigued by an event.

Think of the start of Ian Banks' The Crow Road -- "It was the day my grandmother exploded." Nobody could avoid reading the next line. And the next, and the next, and it unfolds from there. Think of Lessa's awakening at the start of Anne McCaffery's Dragonflight and how her fantasy world naturally unveils from there.

A word of caution, though. As a seasoned, cynical, critical reader I am very suspicious now of books that start with a prophecy poem. Tolkein nailed it with "One ring to rule them all..." Other prophecies need not apply.

Prologues are a controversial topic too. I've had publishers request them added and others ask them to be deleted. My general rule is that unless you can quantify what value they add, other than making the author look clever on a second read, then they're best left until you are Stephen King popular and can do whatever you like. Use them if there's good reason. Otherwise, go straight for your readers' jugulars and never let go till they wake up buying the sequel.

Tamara Lowery: Interesting character(s); interesting, fun, or emotionally gripping action; and the kind of location you'd like to visit, can relate to, or hope to God is NOT a real place.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

[Link] A Thought on Reviews

by D.A. Adams

 I have no issue with honest criticism, especially from someone who digests the entire book but never connects with it. Everyone has individual tastes, and any author who expects to please everyone will soon have that delusion crushed. As an author, I accept that I am open to a certain level of criticism because my work puts me  in the public eye. People have a right to voice their opinions about products they have purchased, and if those products do not meet their expectations, they have the right to vent. Customer reviews are a fundamental aspect of free market principles, and I embrace them wholeheartedly.

What I have a problem with is someone questioning my integrity and ethics. For those who may not know, fake customer reviews are a real problem on the internet, and there are companies that make a lot of money writing them.

Read more:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shane Berryhill and the Outlaws

If you don't know Shane Berryhill, you're missing out on one of the most down to earth guys I know. He's also one hell of a writer, who likes to hit the convention circuit pretty hard, so you should definitely look him up. Oh, and he's gonna be part of this year's Free Comic Book Day celebration with his new book from 12 Gauge Comics. But enough of me talking about him. Let's go straight to the horse's mouth.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

SHERWOOD, TEXAS, my creator-owned comic with the 12-Gauge Comics team, is a re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend as a modern day biker gang epic with spaghetti western style. The Free Comic Book Day edition drops 5/3/14 with a BOONDOCK SAINTS co-feature. Tell your comics retailer to order “Item Code JAN140051” (Heck, tell them you want the series at large!). You may learn more about the FCBD edition here:

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

Heroes and Villains, I suppose, as my published work to date has been aimed predominately at a younger audience (My first prose novel, CHANCE FORTUNE AND THE OUTLAWS, was a NY Public Library ‘Book for the Teen Age.’ Another novel of mine featuring kaiju and young outsiders, DRAGON ISLAND, was praised by Wired Magazine’s Geek Dad). SHERWOOD, TEXAS certainly has heroes and villains, but—as it’s adult-oriented—I’m enjoying being able to dabble in Game of Thrones style-shades of gray. “Rob Hood” (aka, “Loxley”) may be the hero of the piece, but this first story arc has him engaging in some pretty ruthless behavior (It will be up to the reader to decide if Hood’s actions are warranted or not). And even my villain, “John Prince,” holds his family dear (at least, in his own way).

What would be your dream project?

My dream project? I’ve got about a hundred of them, both in regard to creator-owned stuff and licensed properties (In regard to the latter, check out my Valiant Kindle Worlds story, X-O MANOWAR: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, in which I give Aric the Visigoth is own personal Ragnarok—an ending that may very well also be his/the X-O armor’s beginning: But what would make me happier than anything would to be able to write, create (and direct and produce?!) full-time.

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

To look back is madness.

What inspires you to write? 

Anything and everything. But the truth is, I’m helpless to do otherwise.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Ol’ Stevie King is why I decided to try my hand at writing—or, at least, he was telling the kinds of stories I enjoyed and wanted to emulate. George RR Martin has shown me how to take a character from Point A at the beginning of a chapter and lead them to Point B at the chapter’s end in a way so their motivations are on display/the action has impact. But as far as my nuts and bolts style—when I’m writing prose for adults (and even when I’m not), my favorite is the minimalist, no bullshit style found in a lot of detective fiction (Lean and mean, baby!). Specifically for me, authors like fellow novelist and comics scribe Charlie Huston or James Sallis (I love DRIVE!), John D. McDonald, etc., etc. (I get competitive with myself, trying to paint as big a picture as I can with as few words as possible). When it’s working, I’m able to induce some Bradburyian-style poetry into my work, as well (In all humility).

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

Why? They are two sides of the same coin, and one helps the other. The late Frank Herbert, author of the bestselling DUNE saga, talked about how, when he’d come back and read what he’d written over the course of a week, etc., he’d be unable to tell what he’d written while in the “zone” and what he’d written while he was out of it.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

The second arc of SHERWOOD, TEXAS with 12-Gauge Comics is on deck. Daniel Hillyard--the artist on SHERWOOD’--and I have another creator-owned comics project in development. Further down the road, I’ll be publishing a novel with Ragnarok Publications (check out my story, HEARTLAND, in their KAIJU RISING: AGE OF MONSTERS anthology) called BAD MOJO (Think “Harry Dresden combined with the Dukes of Hazzard”). If you’d like to keep up with me and my work (and I hope you do), you may do so via Facebook, Twitter, and

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Pulp Awards winners announced! Congrats to all the winners!

The 2014 New Pulp Awards, formerly the Pulp Ark Awards, have announced the winners of its 12 Awards for this year.  Nominations were open to the public followed by a period of voting open to any and all voters as well.  The Awards will be presented to winners present at the Memphis Hilton during MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday, March 23rd.

The Winners of the 2014 New Pulp Awards are:

2014 New Pulp Best Novel- Slow Burn by Terrence McCauley (Noir Nation Books)

2014 New Pulp Best Collection/Anthology Award - Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie by Charie D. La Marr (Chupa Cabra House)

2014 New Pulp Best Short Story Award - A Bullet’s All It Takes by Terrence McCauley, The Kennedy Curse (Exeter Press)

2014 New Pulp Best Novella Award - The Scarlet Jaguar by Win Scott Eckert (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Cover Art Award - The Scarlet Jaguar by Mark Sparacio (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Interior Art Award - The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Will Meugniot (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Related Comic - Doc Savage (Dynamite Entertainment)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Magazine - Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Revival - The Avenger (Moonstone Books)

2014 New Pulp Best New Character Award - Gravedigger from the Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Barry Reese.

2014 New Pulp Best Author Award - Terrence McCauley.

2014 New Pulp Best New Author Award - Ralph Angelo, Jr.

Follow for updates in the coming months concerning the 2015 New Pulp Awards.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Moonstone announces Of Monsters and Men!

Finally, I can officially announce the Moonstone project I've been waiting to let you know about...
Moonstone is releasing Of Monsters and Men in July 2014, featuring classic pulp heroes fighting classic monsters -- including my story of Golden Amazon vs. the Hunchback of Notre Dame!

Available in both trade paperback and hardcover:

Of Monsters and Men (trade paperback)
Stories: Matthew Baugh, Tommy Hancock, Sean Taylor, et al
Art: Tom Floyd, David Niehaus
Cover: Fernando Ferriero
200pgs, grayscale, 7” x 10”, squarebound, $14.99
ISBN: 978-1-366814-81-7(51499)

Return of the Originals AND Return of the Monsters!
Nine brand NEW tales of PULP HEROES vs MONSTERS!
The Green Lama, Richard Knight, Captain Future, Green Ghost, Moon Man, Golden Amazon, and more…
Battle demons and monstrosities from out of this world!

Of Monsters and Men (hardcover)
Stories: Matthew Baugh, Tommy Hancock, Sean Taylor, et al
Art: Tom Floyd, David Niehaus
Cover: Fernando Ferriero
300pgs, grayscale, 7” x 10”, squarebound, $24.99
ISBN: 978-1-936814-82-4(52499)

This special HardCover features all the stories in the paperback -- as well as 100 extra pages that reprint the previously published “Domino Lady vs. Mummy,” "Black Bat vs. Dracula," and “Phantom Detective vs. Frankenstein”!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Wayback Machine -- WWY(ou)D

Okay, this next roundtable is for the pulp writers and comic book writers again. Let's go into the wayback machine and talk about changing the industry from the beginning. WWYD (What would YOU do?)

If you could go back in time and change the publishing industry for pulp or comics (because they really do have so much in common, genre-wise), what would you change? What really drives you crazy and irks you about those old books you know and love?

Lee Houston Jr.: I would make sure there were more "contemporary" tales amongst the pulp characters of yesterday. That way,maybe not as many pulp stars from back then would be considered "period pieces" now, and perhaps we'd have more heroes from the past still active today. I would make sure that the original creators followed the practice of other trades and took on apprentices. That way, maybe today we would be still enjoying new adventures of such classics like Ellery Queen, Perry Mason, etc; despite the fact that their original creators have long since left us.

Josh Dahl: Simple change. I would take the current policy of putting the names of the creative team on the cover of the books and put it in place from day 1. More reader awareness that there people making the comics would give those people more importance and respect.

Van Allen Plexico: Creator rights from the beginning.

H. David Blalock: How could you change pulp to improve it? It got its name from the paper on which it was printed, its success from the audience it entertained. I'm not sure I would change anything except to encourage writers to produce more of it. There just isn't enough of it around.

Percival Constantine: The depiction of women, and unfortunately, it's not only a problem of a bygone era. Even today, it's difficult to find strong female characters. There have been recent efforts to change this: Barry Reese has created a very strong female pulp heroine in Gravedigger, and I've attempted it myself with my own New Pulp heroine, Elisa Hill. But far too often, women are depicted as overly-sexualized male fantasies.

Don Thomas:  Tone down the intentional and unintentional racism and misogyny several notches, amp up the sex and violence enough to make the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live's bygone days spontaneously explode.

I.A. Watson: In comics I'd head back to 1962, back when the Marvel Universe was just starting out, and make sure that there was at least one female founder superhero of the magnitude of Spidey, Thor, and Iron Man. That is, a female hero who wasn't someone's girlfriend, lone girl team-mate, sidekick, female version of a male hero, or established villainess reformed by a good man (so not the Invisible Girl, Marvel Girl, the Wasp, She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, or Black Widow). I'd make sure she had her own regular series so she'd be one of the charter Avengers.

Powers? I'd steal the telekenesis that Jean Grey had in the X-Men. That's a "headliner" power if its written right. Let Marvel Girl have some other mutant ability, phasing or teleporting or anything that meant she wasn't a weaker version of Charles Xavier.

Secret ID? Anything that doesn't involve a "girly" career like fashion designer, model, or nurse. I might be okay with her being Top Medical Doctor in the Marvel Universe since Don Blake was the weakest of the original secret IDs and telekenesis has some really useful surgical applications. Let Thor be Sigurd Jarlson and be Top Archeologist, which gives him more reason to find a buried hammer anyway. Or let the headliner female hero be Top Journalist, since Marvel doesn't really have one except Ben Urich.

While I'm at it I'd establish Morgana le Fey as an early and major villain, so that at least one of the top rank of Marvel baddies is female. She needs to be up there with Doom, Magneto, the Red Skull, Kang, the Mandarin etc. There's really no big-league mystic/magic baddie threat for the early Avengers except for their initial clash with Loki (Enchantress was mostly a minion). Morgana's got a different kind of magic and a different modus operandi to Baron Mordo, so she could offer a different brand of threat.

Even now, fifty-odd years on from the founding of the Marvel Universe, Marvel Comics still lacks any female hero with the same stature and prominence as their headliners like Iron Man and Cap. Their closest chances, Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel/Photon, have both been sabotaged at various times. Dazzler isn't going to do it. And She-Hulk will always be the second-strongest one there is, or less.

Things aren't much better over at DC, but at least they have Wonder Woman.

Lee Houston Jr.: While I agree with Ian Watson about Marvel needing a strong female lead hero, I would set my sights on DC and attempt several things, like making sure Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster aren't robbed of Superman, Bill Finger and company get the recognition they deserve on Batman instead of everything being accredited to Bob Kane, and righting whatever other wrongs need to be fixed along the way, like DC not suing Fawcett over the "similarities" between Superman and Captain Marvel that eventually drove the latter company out of business.

When I reach the Silver Age, the first thing I would do is establish the Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America operating on the same Earth from the very start! Hopefully, this would eliminate, or at least lessen, the circumstances and death count of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Once the Justice Society was re-established in the Silver Age, I would revive All Star Comics to give all the Golden Age characters at least some semblance of a home base; rotating JSA adventures with anthology style issues featuring individual characters.

Further more, I would have made Adventure Comics stayed a true anthology no matter what, even if that meant giving Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, along with Supergirl, their own titles much sooner than they ever actually got them.

And Jack Kirby certainly would have been treated better if I ran the company when he was at DC. Then maybe he would have stayed at least long enough to finish his "Fourth World Saga" however he intended it to originally play out.

I would also like to see more genres still available in the comics, like science fiction and westerns.