Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nuggets #6 -- Editors

When you get an editor, you aren't looking for a friend
or a cheerleader. You're looking for someone to do
the hard work of making your work stronger. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Imaginative Faith: The Works of H. David Blalock

H. David Blalock is one of the nicest writers you'll ever meet. Seriously. No fooling. But dark. Good Lord, the man can enter some of the creepy, scary corners of the human soul. But thankfully he doesn't stop there. Don't believe me? Then listen to him tell you about it.

Tell us a bit about your latest work. 

My latest novel, Doom Angel, just appeared from Seventh Star Press in March. It's the last book in the Angelkiller Triad and completes the story begun in Angelkiller (Seventh Star Press, 2011) and Traitor Angel (Seventh Star Press, 2012). In that series I wanted to address the ancient question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The premise is that, in the war between the angels, the Dark won and has convinced mankind they were actually in the right. The books concentrate on a resistance cell trying to bring the truth to humanity and break the hold of the evil angels.

Besides Doom Angel, I have had several recent publications, including short stories from Pro Se Press (The New Adventures of Foster Fade, 2014), Hermit Studios (Denmark) Press (NovoPulp 2013/2014 Anthology), and Seventh Star Press' second Southern Haunts anthology.

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

I write in a variety of genres but I think all of my work concentrates on the most fundamental human emotions: fear and its opponent, courage. I think that the entire gamut of the human experience is contained between those two extremes and every other emotion is based, to some degree, in one or other of those two. The conflict, internal and external, between those factors is what drives just about every story I write and, to a great extent, every story ever written by anyone.

What would be your dream project? 

I'm not sure I can define that in a single project. My dream and goal is to write something that, centuries from now, will be timely enough and powerful enough to evoke an emotional connection with the reader even then. My independent work, in other words the work not done for a story or novel contract, is centered around this target. Of course, I'm not likely to know if I have succeeded, but the idea that I might do so keeps me trying.

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

My first fantasy series, The Thran Chronicles, was begun in 1973 and completed in six volumes in 1994. It amounted to about a million words and constituted a plain exhibition of the development of my style and skill as a writer. The Chronicles were rewritten into two volumes which appeared from Sam's Dot Publishing under the titles Ascendant (2010) and Emperor (2011). Much of the detail was, of course, lost in the rewrite and I believe I made some bad decisions in determining what to omit. I think the story deserves a better, more sophisticated retelling and sometime in future will probably try my hand at doing just that.

What inspires you to write? 

As a writer yourself, you must know that's one of those questions that doesn't have a definite answer. Writers, myself included, are inspired by any number of things. Our own experiences form a basis for our inspiration, but the stories of others and how they affect us, the observation of the events of today and yesterday, the antics of children and animals -- so many things can inspire. In my opinion, any writer who can answer that question with one factor needs to more closely examine the world around them.

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

The biggest influences on my work were the writers of the first sixty years of the 20th century. From Wells and Burroughs to Heinlein and Bradbury, the fantastic fiction of the technological awakening defined how I approach my writing. Their vision and imaginative faith in the innovative spirit of mankind have been the kind of work I have attempted to emulate all my life. My work has been compared to Poe and Eddings, quite an eclectic parallel, but I will never be content until someone looks at my work and sees the soul of A. E. Van Vogt, the imagination of Clark Ashton Smith, or the voice of Jack Vance there.

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

I hope my work leans constantly toward the art side of that dichotomy. In my mind, the science side has lost its ability to invent. Science has increasingly become a statement without any emotional component, whereas art is almost completely emotional in its relationship to the audience. Scientific data is objective, interpreted the same way by every person who interacts with it. Art, on the other hand, is always personally interpreted and either appeals or repulses depending on the individual. I deliberately write my independent work with that in mind.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

Well, I'm currently working on a new series for Pro Se Press to appear in their Pro Se Signature line beginning in August, a story for Dark Oak Press' next Dreams of Steam anthology, and another for their Intergalactic Bartender anthology. I'm expecting my short story "Object in the Sand" to appear in Nomadic Delirium Press' Martian Wave 2014 magazine issue and one or two stories from Pro Se Press in their upcoming RAT-A-TAT! Short Blasts of Pulp! Anthology. With any luck, they will also come out with a collection of my short stories sometime later this year or next. One thing's for sure, I'm staying busy, which is fine with me.

Check out H. David Blalock at the following links:


Monday, April 28, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #286 -- Story Openings and Rewrites

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?

Typically I have to get my opening just right before I'm able to move on. I sometimes spend hours on the first sentence or first paragraph alone. There's so much riding on that bit for my story. It sets the tone and the feel and the whole "attitude" for each word to follow, so without it right or at least close to right, nothing else I follow it with will feel right either -- but that's probably just me. Other writers will tell you differently, to knock it out now and go fix it later, but I just can't work that way for my openings. It's like they lock me up until they get all the attention they need from me.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Hugo Awards Go Retro to 1939

In a move that could be something from an old sci-fi pulp, the Hugo Awards announced the finalists for a great blast from the past year -- 1939!

Best Novel (208 nominating ballots)
  • Carson of Venus, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Argosy, February 1938)
  • Galactic Patrol, E. E. Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938)
  • The Legion of Time, Jack Williamson (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
  • Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis (The Bodley Head)
  • The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White (Collins)
Best Novella (125 nominating ballots)
  • Anthem, Ayn Rand (Cassell)
  • “A Matter of Form”, H. L. Gold (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
  • “Sleepers of Mars”, John Beynon [John Wyndham] (Tales of Wonder, March 1938)
  • “The Time Trap”, Henry Kuttner (Marvel Science Stories, November 1938)
  • “Who Goes There?”, Don A Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938)
Best Novelette (80 nominating ballots)
  • “Dead Knowledge”, Don A. Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Stories, January 1938)
  • “Hollywood on the Moon”, Henry Kuttner (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1938)
  • “Pigeons From Hell”, Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, May 1938)
  • “Rule 18”, Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
  • “Werewoman”, C. L. Moore (Leaves #2, Winter 1938)
Best Short Story (108 nominating ballots)
  • “The Faithful”, Lester del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
  • “Helen O’Loy”, Lester del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
  • “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, Ray Bradbury (Imagination!, January 1938)
  • “How We Went to Mars”, Arthur C. Clarke (Amateur Science Stories, March 1938)
  • “Hyperpilosity”, L. Sprague de Camp (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (137 nominating ballots)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Written & Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS)
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Written & Directed by Orson Welles (The Campbell Playhouse, CBS)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. Written by Orson Welles and John Houseman; Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS)
  • R. U. R. by Karel Čapek. Produced by Jan Bussell (BBC)
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Written by Howard Koch & Anne Froelick; Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS)
Best Editor, Short Form (99 nominating ballots)
  • John W. Campbell
  • Walter H. Gillings
  • Raymond A. Palmer
  • Mort Weisinger
  • Farnsworth Wright
Best Professional Artist (86 nominating ballots)
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Virgil Finlay
  • Frank R. Paul
  • Alex Schomburg
  • H. W. Wesso
Best Fanzine (42 nominating ballots)
  • Fantascience Digest edited by Robert A. Madle
  • Fantasy News edited by James V. Taurasi
  • Imagination! edited by Forrest J Ackerman, Morojo, and T. Bruce Yerke
  • Novae Terrae edited by Maurice K. Hanson
  • Tomorrow edited by Douglas W. F. Mayer
Best Fan Writer (50 nominating ballots)
  • Forrest J Ackerman
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker
  • Harry Warner, Jr.
  • Donald A. Wollheim

See the original link:

Saturday, April 26, 2014


One of the most popular characters in the New Pulp Movement comes to life a whole new way, thanks to Pro Se Productions, a leading Publisher in cutting edge Genre Fiction.  In conjunction with Pulpwork Press, an independent publishing house responsible for fantastic genre works ranging from guitar pulp to the weird western and beyond, Pro Se Productions proudly presents YOUNG DILLON IN THE HALLS OF SHAMBALLAH.

Dillon.  A character created by noted Award Winning New Pulp Author Derrick Ferguson and a name that means many thing to many people. Adventurer. Hero. Rogue. Nemesis. Friend.

But even a man who is a legend in his own time started somewhere.  Even Dillon was young once. And now the story of Young Dillon begins as a part of Pro Se’s Youngpulp! imprint.

“You don’t talk about New Pulp,” Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Production stated, “and not discuss Dillon.  Not only has Derrick breathed life into a hero cast in the classic ‘all man, all adventure’ mold, but also he’s created a character with history, passion, and his own unique aspects.   Dillon has his own swagger and style and, although it reminds a reader of other characters, Derrick makes it all Dillon.   And now, with YOUNG DILLON, readers get to see the boy that grows into the man we all clamor for new stories about.  It’s really exciting to have Derrick bring the world of Dillon to our YoungPulp! line.   With its focus on introducing younger readers to the excitement of adventure Pulp like fiction, YoungPulp! is the perfect venue to tell the stories of Dillon’s early adventures.”

YOUNG DILLON IN THE HALLS OF SHAMBALLAH pulls back the curtain on the past of a modern day hero. Many are the legends that have been told about Dillon, but none are stranger than the whispers of his having been raised in the mythical and eternal city of Shamballah and his training by those deadliest of adepts in the martial arts, the Warmasters of Liguria.

Now, at last, the true story behind those legends can be told.

This is a story of a Dillon and the events and people who would forge him into the man we know.  This is a story of a Dillon in the days before his feet were set on the path that would lead him to the wildest adventures of them all.  And it is itself an incredible adventure in its own right.  This is the story of YOUNG DILLON IN THE HALLS OF SHAMBALLAH. And, once you’ve read it, you and Dillon will never be the same.

YOUNG DILLON IN THE HALLS OF SHAMBALLAH,  featuring an introduction by well known author Gary Philips, and a terrific cover by Sean E. Ali with logo and design work by Percival Constantine is now available on Amazon and at the Pro Se Store at for $9.00. The digest novel is also available as an Ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and for $2.99.

For interviews with the author or the staff involved with the book or for more information concerning YoungPulp! contact Morgan Minor, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

To learn more about Pulpwork Press, go to

Discover Pro Se Productions at and like Pro Se on Facebook at

Friday, April 25, 2014

[Link] Why I hate the term "Genre Fiction"

by K.S. Daniels

People in the literary scene like to throw around the phrase "Genre Fiction". When they do this, its usually in the context of "Oh, but that's genre fiction" (you'll have to imagine the condescending tone for yourself). You see, the term is an insult. Any novel that isn't, according to some literary or academic snob, high-art (definition in a bit) is garbage or smut. Its genre fiction.

Read the rest:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What's My Motivation?

For this week's roundtable, let's talk motivation. Writers write, as the cliche goes, but why do they write? For money, for the sheer joy of it, to be famous? Anyone who lives the live of an author will tell you that sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint exactly why someone would choose to do this crazy, solitary line of work. But don't just take my word for it.

Why did you start writing?

Erwin K. Roberts: I think the desire is in my blood. I come from a very creative oriented family. As early as I can remember I helped with gardening, went into fabric stores to get sewing materials, and more. Maybe it was genetics, or maybe nurture, or both.

I've always wanted to create stories, even just when playing with my friends we would act out alternate versions of scenes from radio & TV shows plus movies. By middle school I wanted to write comic books professionally. The idea of doing prose stories came later.

H. David Blalock: I started writing because I wanted to see if I could emulate the writers I enjoyed reading. There was only so much work they had left behind (most had passed on) and I felt there was a lot more to be written about the ideas they had begun to address.

Ralph Angelo: Because I had stories to tell.

Bobby Nash: As a kid, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I started writing so I would have something to draw. The more stories I wrote, the more fun I had coming up with characters and stories and eventually the art fell away and I focused on writing.

Lee Houston Jr.:  I was a reader long before I figured out what a writer/author was. But by the time I read my first all prose (no illustrations) book in 5th grade --ERB's A Princess of Mars --I could not picture myself doing anything else in life.

John Morgan Neal: Because I don't have any other talents or skills. Some may argue that I don't have any. :) But yeah, it was the inspiration from my favorite comic book, science fiction, horror and etc writers that I wanted to do what they did. And because I am too chickenshit of pain to have become a pro wrestler.

John R. White: I started In High school, but never had support or encourament. After my divorce in 2004 I restarted my writing, and in 2010 began writing steampunk.

Bill Craig: I started writing because I was driven to do it. I have a deep-seated need to tell these stories.

Ashton Adams: Because I couldn't draw. But then I realized that I only wanted to draw to tell the story. The way my mind works in creating a story is very visual so I assumed that I was supposed to be drawing or filming. But it writing is what I was supposed to be doing all along.

Do you write because you enjoy the act of writing or do you write to 'have written'? Why?

John R. White: I write because it fills a missing hole, and is something that I find fulfilling and enjoyable.

Bill Craig:  I write because I cannot not write. In many ways it is almost a physical addiction to produce stories via the written word.

Ashton Adams: I hate starting to write. I hate staring at a blank screen to be filled. But once I jump in I can't stop and it is exhilarating. Very few things are as fulfilling as creating a world and characters. Hmmmm....maybe I have a god complex.

John Morgan Neal: Are you kidding? There are parts of writing I abhor. The only part I truly love is the story telling. That part where the energy crackles around the brain and shoots down to my hands with Kirby dots galore.

Erwin K. Roberts: Personally, I do not see why anybody, except in a professional "publish or perish" situation, would write just so they could say they have. Folks in our circles who are making their living by writing, like Bobby Nash for example, do have to write to live. That's totally different, in my opinion.

Bobby Nash: A little of both, actually. I love to write and I like it that there are books out there with my name on them. I started writing because I loved it. I still do, although these days, writing is also a job for me so I have to go at it as a job. By that, I mean that I have deadlines, contracts, and obligations that I have to meet. Sometimes I have to set aside the personal project I’m in the mood to work on so I can finish up a deadline. Before I started writing professionally, I worked on projects as the muse hit me. That’s not always an option these days.

Ralph Angelo: I write because these stories are bursting out of my head all the time and they have to go somewhere. So basically I enjoy the act of writing

H. David Blalock: I continue to write both because I enjoy writing itself and because I enjoy sharing the stories. When I expound on an idea in a story, I am expanding my own understanding while hopefully offering the reader an opportunity to share that new understanding.

Lee Houston Jr.: The act of writing is my passion. I take great pride in my creations, to the point of thinking of them as my surrogate children, so to speak.

What do you hope to accomplish in your body of written work?

John Morgan Neal: To be as famous as Elvis and to have Bill Gates Money. Failing that I'll be happy to just entertain enough people to be able to feed, clothe, and house myself. And buy my dog Bones a platinum dog bowl.

Bobby Nash: In the long run, I hope to have entertained readers and maybe create a character or two that continues on long after I’ve left this earth. In the short run, entertaining readers is still important, but I also have to pay bills like everyone else and I love it when writing allows me to pay them.

Lee Houston Jr.: I hope to entertain, and maybe even enlighten the reader whenever possible. While I certainly am not getting rich writing, I love what I'm doing and doing what I love and who knows? Maybe some day I'll be somebody's favorite author who inspires them to be creative.

Bill Craig: What do I hope to accomplish? I want to entertain and maybe make someone stop and think about an issue in a way they might not previously have considered.

H. David Blalock: More than anything else, I want to evoke an emotional response in my reader. I want to make them love or hate the characters, to be enchanted or repulsed by their actions, to find in the story something to add to their personal life experience. To me, that is the critical connection between writer and reader.

Ralph Angelo: I hope to entertain. That is it. No motivation beyond that. I want the reader to sit back and have a good, exciting time, and I want them to come back for more. No, rather I want them to want to come back for more.

John R. White: To make people smile.

Ashton Adams:  I simply want to entertain. If something more profound happens then great but I think just the simple act of bringing enjoyment to another person can be trivialized in pursuit of loftier goals sometimes.

Erwin K. Roberts: Entertain people and, in a way, entertain myself during the crafting of stories. Making a bit of money at it, in my case, is icing on the cake.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nuggets #5 -- I Write Because...

I write to have published a body of work that stays behind me
and that I can look back on and feel proud of and know
that in some small way to some readers, I mattered. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Art: Mark Wheatley

Art: Mark Wheatley
THIS THURSDAY - The Ruby Files’ cover artist, Mark Wheatley's artwork will be featured on THE MILLERS on CBS, directly following THE BIG BANG THEORY, 8:30/7:30c. You will believe Beau Bridges is a super hero! Don't miss it! Over 60 of Mark's illustrations will be used in the episode! You should check it out.

Learn more about The Millers here.

Logan Masterson: "Springing" into New Ventures

When you think of a writer of dark fiction, Logan L. Masterson looks the part. He's got that look, down to an art. But don't be fooled. Logan's work is filled with lots more than just darkness, and you should seriously get to know him and his work. 

You'll thank me. Trust me on that.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Aside from some short stories in the Steampunk and horror genres, I’m really excited to get the final edits back on my first book, Ravencroft Springs. It’s a supernatural suspense novella set in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee, the first of a Southern Gothic trilogy. I’m so stoked to see it in print, and to hear what readers think of it.

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

I write genre fiction, speculative stuff, so the central theme is the old question, “what if?” Within that wide boundary, I like to examine human nature, our place in the universe, and the progression of relationships. Those are the big topics, of course, and individual works take on specific aspects. My long in-progress epic adventure fantasy seems like a good romp through mystic realms, but it’s really a story about betrayal and forgiveness.

What would be your dream project?

My dream project. I have no idea. One that pays the bills? One that receives some critical acclaim, maybe wins a little award somewhere? I don’t like licensed work, preferring to blaze my own trail, so I guess there’s an ideal project for me, but I just haven’t found it yet.

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

My twenties? Seriously, though, my twenties. I have only begun publishing in fiction, and I guess I don’t have the perspective yet to offer a good answer, but for now, “everything.” Will do. I see flaws in every sentence, every scene, every transition.

What inspires you to write?

I’ll be perfectly honest here, I’m not much good at anything else. I’ve been a dilettante, which is the death knell for most artists. Writing, though, is the one discipline in which divided attention can be a benefit. When you make up worlds for a living, it’s good to know a little bit about everything.

More telling may be the reason I’m good at it. It’s the one thing I really love. Stories are magic. They can change lives at best and make us forget our troubles a while at worst. What better thing could I be doing?

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Wow. All of them. The heaviest influences probably come from Tolkien and Lovecraft, who I reread consistently. The next tier would probably be Neil Gaiman, Raymond E. Feist, Charles Dickens, Stephen King. After that are folks I read pretty widely, but not quite as rabidly. Stephen R. Donaldson, Lois McMaster-Bujold, Asimov, Doc Smith, Moorcock, and lots of comic book writers! Comics are a great way of telling stories. Some of the best are Alan Moore, J. Michael Straczynski, Chris Claremont and Garth Ennis.

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

This whole question is spurious. Anyone who practices art seriously knows there’s a science to it, regardless of the media or format. There can be a difference between them, but it’s more like the difference between a Honda Accord and a Porsche 918 than between a car and a jet plane. What makes the Mona Lisa and a mid-century cigarette ad different? Placement and passion. People like Ursula K. LeGuin and Alex Bledsoe write with just as much resonance and relevance as the literary darlings, but they don’t get the credit because high-brow academics consider their genres inferior. It’s not the genre, it’s the story.

And it’s not whether it’s an art or a science, or that there’s a continuum between those. The science is skill. It’s learned application of specific techniques to achieve certain effects. Art is wisdom, and its power lies in choosing the effect.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

You betcha! I’ve just finished the second story in my steampunk universe. It’s really springpunk, but I’ll make you read it to find out what that means. I’m just about done with a short story set in the past of Ravencroft Springs, which I hope will be accepted into an anthology from Chaosium.

Then there’s my upcoming Pro Se Signature Series, an eight story epic fantasy tentatively called The Canticle of Ordrass: Wheel of the Year. It will be an interesting examination of religion and persecution in a setting where God not only exists, but has competition. What’s more, the Powers are active forces in the world, working through their worshippers to achieve sometimes unknowable ends. It’s very closely tied into my own world view, of course, so there are a lot of progressive and pagan themes to it, which I hope will strike a lot of chords.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #285 -- Cliffhanger Novels

What are your thoughts about leaving a novel with a cliff hanger ending? (Thanks to Ralph Angelo for today's question.)

 As a reader it really ticks me off.

But then again, I also don't buy long fantasy or sci-fi series that can't tell a single story in a single book. And for the record, I still get irritated by Empire Strikes Back for the same reason, so it's completely possible I'm not your target audience.

I do however love book series that are based on a character and each book is a stand-alone or builds on elements from the previous books, but a series that has to split a single story over multiple books... No thank you very much.

I have a pretty strong opinion on this, obviously.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A little scheduling and calendaring, if you will forgive the intrusion...

First of all, hi, and thanks for being a regular or new reader of the Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action writing blog.

No doubt you've noticed that after a fairly lengthy hiatus I'm back and posting regularly again. Because of that, I just wanted to let everyone know what the current proposed schedule of content is so you can tune in to the stuff that really matters to you. (Of course, I'd prefer that you still check out the blog "every damn day" as Samuel Jackson put it so eloquently before Capital One re-edited the commercial.)

  • Monday: The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (each week a new question)
  • Tuesday: an interview with a writer in my network or someone I've gone out on a limb to track down
  • Wednesday: Nuggets (little blurbs about writing -- think of them as the text versions of the motivational posters with cats hanging onto stuff or butterflies fluttering above a field)
  • Thursday: a new roundtable interview on a writing-focused topic
  • Friday-Sunday: helpful links, writing tips from other sites, and press releases for books I think you'll enjoy

Hope this helps.

Keep reading and thanks again for following the blog. You rock mightily. I mean it. Each and every one of you. Well, except for that one guy. You know who you are. Nah. Just kidding. You rock too.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My new interview for Lance Star's "Die Like a Man"!

Bobby Nash, the mastermind behind the Lance Star series of action novellas, was kind enough to interview me about my story "Die Like a Man" from the newest volume of tales. So, if you'd be so kind as to drop by and check it out, I'm sure we'd all appreciate it. Thanks.

Friday, April 18, 2014


New Pulp Publisher, Airship 27 Productions announced today that all four volumes of the wildly popular pulp anthology series, Lance StarSky Ranger are once again available on ebook for Kindle and are available for purchase on Amazon.

LANCE STAR: SKY RANGER VOL. 1 can be purchased at the following:
Amazon (Kindle)
Airship 27 Hangar (ebook)
Amazon (paperback)
Barnes and Noble (paperback)
Powell's Books (paperback)
Mighty Ape NZ (paperback)

LANCE STAR: SKY RANGER VOL. 2 can be purchased at the following:
Amazon (Kindle)
Airship 27 Hangar (ebook)
Amazon (paperback)
Barnes and Noble (paperback)
Mighty Ape NZ (paperback)

LANCE STAR: SKY RANGER VOL. 3 can be purchased at the following:
Amazon (Kindle)
Airship 27 Hangar (ebook)
Amazon (paperback)
Barnes and Noble (paperback)
Powell's Books (paperback)
LANCE STAR: SKY RANGER VOL. 4 can be purchased at the following:
Amazon (Kindle)
Airship 27 Hangar (ebook)
Amazon (paperback)
Barnes and Noble (paperback)
CreateSpace (paperback)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

[Link] Hollywood and the Language of Violence

by Frank Fradella

NOTE: Frank's a long-time writer/editor friend who missed the window to join the roundtable about writing violence, but he did spend some time thinking about the topic and whipped up this simply amazing article about how violence is a language all its own. So, of course, I felt the need to share this with you. You really owe it to yourself to read this piece. It's that good. 

I was 10 years old the first time someone threw a fist at my face without the intention of striking me. (I’d faced my fair share of those who wanted to pummel me up until then.) Still, I flinched. It would take a while to separate these actions in the dojo from the real-world encounters where blood had been spilled and bones broken.

At 10 years old, I was years away from looking at violence as a language. Karate and kung fu were actions. Tools. A way to stop the bullies on San Juan Drive from making my school days hell. But after a hundred punches aimed at my head, after a thousand, after ten thousand, I had achieved a level of desensitization that allowed me to see each attack as a statement waiting for my response. The outstretched arm with the clenched fist at the end is a weapon, yes, but with experience you also begin to realize it’s a target. One can block or evade a punch, certainly. That’s a reasonable response, though it does allow for the attacker the freedom to attack again. But to control the arm in flight, to divert its force, to bend it back upon itself, to — yes — even break it, changes the tone of the conversation entirely.

To those who have been a victim of violence, it’s anything but honorable or logical. It’s brutality, pure and simple. But for those who have spent a goodly portion of their lives in the minutia of it, in its discipline, in its philosophy and path, we set our feet on the roads walked by samurai and Spartans alike. There are many ways to speak who we are to the world we live in. This is but one of them, and not a bad one at that.

Anything is language if it can be defined and replicated and used to communicate ideas and resolve conflict. The initial pleasantries we exchange in polite conversation — the “how are yous” and the “I’m fines” — are all tossed out thoughtlessly in those first breaths like the opening chess moves between competent players. Language is pattern. Communication. Violence, with its opening volley of snapped jabs and familiar stances is just setting the stage for the conversation that is to follow.

Continue reading:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nuggets #4 -- Time Changes

I looked back over some of my early stories and found that they 
were the work of  different writer than the one I had become in 
the years between writing them and  re-discovering them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #284 -- World-Building in Short Fiction

How important is world building to a shorter work like a novella or short story?

I know some folks will disagree with me on this one, but I honestly believe that world building is just as important to a short work as it is to a long one. There's no precedent I'm aware of that dictates that a story must be in a less fully realized world just because it's shorter than an epic fantasy.

However, I believe that you have to accomplish that world building in more subtle ways when word count is at a premium.

For example, details need to work their way into your dialog or narrative without getting two preoccupied with wasting lots of words on them. That will mean that you'll have to use each detail as a rifle bullet rather than a shotgun blast.

You know what? I changed my mind. I don't think it's different at all. I think both long and short works should be using world-building details that way rather than drafting long Tolkien- or Donaldson-style descriptions of politics or the geography of a setting. Everything should support and tighten the story itself, rather than pull a reader out of it, even -- no, especially -- key information.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lance Star Takes to the Skies Again in an Exciting New Volume of Stories!

Airship 27 Productions announces the release of its newest pulp anthology.  Rev up those Pratt-Whitney engines, pull back on the stick and prepare for take-off, as LANCE STAR – SKY RANGER gets ready to soar into the clouds in this, his fourth volume of high flying adventures.

Once again its time to join America’s aviation ace, Lance Star and his faithful team; Buck Tellonger, Cy Hawkins, Jim Nolan and Red Davis as they fly into four brand new hair-raising tales.  From discovering a hidden Nazis base on lost South Seas Island inhabited by prehistoric monsters to foiling an assassination attempt on President Roosevelt, the Sky Rangers travel globe tackling danger wherever they go.

The Lance Star – Sky Ranger series follows in the grand tradition of popular pulp favorites and Dusty Ayers, Bill Barnes, G-8 & His Flying Aces and dozens of other winged warriors of the clouds.

“When you’re company name is Airship 27 Productions,” says Managing Editor Ron Fortier, “you’d better believe we have a real love of flying heroes and Lance Star-Sky Ranger is at the top of that list.”

So goose your fuel lines, spin the props of your Skybolts and Skeeter and prepare yourself for classic pulp action.  Writers Bobby Nash, Sean Taylor, Andrew Salmon and Jim Beard have delivered a quartet of fast paced, high soaring stories to keep you buckled up tight.

This volume features a cover by popular graphic artist, Felipe Echavarria with interior illustrations by Warbirds of Mars’ own Scott “Doc” Vaughn.


Friday, April 11, 2014

[Link] Beauology 101: I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar… And Write It Correctly

by Beau Smith

Comic books have been around for more than 75 years, in that time we’ve seen women characters go from girlfriends, mothers, and the ever popular damsel-in-distress to super powered heroines dressed like Las Vegas strippers…AND girlfriends, mothers and the ever popular damsel-in-distress. After nearly seven decades, the comic book business is still run mostly by men, written and drawn mostly by men, and still read…mostly by men.

Yes, there are more female readers now than there have ever been, but still not enough to equal the domination of males in and around comic books. Personally, and with regrets, I don’t think that’s going to change much in the next 75 years. I think that for a few reasons. One, I think comic books will always be seen as a “man thing” much like being a mechanic, hunting, fishing, and bottling up your emotions like it was a fine wine. Two, publishers need to stop stereotyping female creators to only books that feature females as well as having men just write “tough guy” books. Variety is the spice of life, it’s time to change the ingredients.

Continue reading:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Violence and Gore -- Write Less or Write More?

For our newest writers roundtable, we're going to look at writing scenes of violence and gore. Getting a violent and/or gory scene right isn't easy, and to find out how to do it, we're going to have some of the best writers of violent action I know teach us how to do it. 

Yep. This roundtable has all of it.
Well, except drugs. Don't do drugs, kids.
Drugs are bad. And stay in school. 
When and why is violence necessary in a good piece of fiction?

L. Andrew Cooper: I am not shy about saying that much (but not all) of my fiction both is about and is violence, so you might as well ask, is the kind of fiction I write necessary? I think so--violent fiction, and violence in fiction, not only safely allows readers to experience, or approach experiencing, one of the greatest (and most unpleasant) extremes of living and dying but also to reflect on how such experiences profoundly shape both individuals (our characters) and history (reflected in our stories). So violence is necessary in a good piece of fiction when violence appears in ways that make people scared of it, laugh at it, criticize it, or otherwise engage.

James Tuck: Violence is often necessary as a way to literally drive your character or plot forward. Characters react to stimulus and violence is a stimulus that makes them have no choice but to change.

Lance Stahlberg: I can't speak to “any” good piece of fiction. But people who pick up an action adventure or crime novel are looking to be immersed in a gritty world where the only way that the hero is only likely to overcome their obstacles is with their fists or a gun. Violence is an inescapable element of the genre.

I.A. Watson: Narrative fiction almost always requires a climax. Climax is almost always as a result of a problem or conflict. Problems and conflicts are often resolved via action, and one for of action is violence. Violence can be catharsis, and including it in a story sometimes has that effect too. It can be shocking, and that's another effect writers may want to have. So many climaxes are violent.

Violence can also establish threat, set a tone, elicit reader emotional reaction, and grab reader attention at any time in a story. Like all the other narrative choices available, it should be used at the right time in the right way for best effect.

J.H.. Glaze: Violence is a necessary plot device in genre based material to drive the plot and introduce conflict that can later be resolved,. Often the resolution to the conflict involves some type of violence.

Bill Craig: Violent action in the opening of a book can set the pace and quickly draw the reader in, and lead to more exciting action sequences.

Lee Houston Jr.: I personally feel, as both a reader and a writer, that violence should only be representative of just how evil the villain(s) of the story are. Without violence and the villains who create it, the heroes of our tales would have less to do each adventure. Yet we must remember that some people read for the escapism fiction gives them from the troubles and stress of the real world, and respond accordingly.

Name your weapon of choice. We'll write them all. 

How do you convey violence in your writing in a way that makes it resonate with readers and truly affect them?

Lance Stahlberg: Too much violence, just for the sake of violence, loses its effectiveness. Like any element of the story, it has to have a purpose. Maybe that point is just to illustrate that the situation is dangerous or the enemy is brutal. Or maybe it gives some insight into the character by how they react to it. I think it's important not to ignore the effect that that violence has an on the characters involved, beyond the obvious. The person who dished out a beating, or killed someone, is just as permanently effected as the victim. So are any witnesses. I think that fantasy novels miss that especially.

Acts of violence should not be casual if the character is supposed to be a normal, healthy, tax paying citizen. Nor should they necessarily be angsty hand-wringing events if your character is a hardened thug. Either scenario should present something interesting for the reader.

J.H.. Glaze: I try to convey the violence in one of two ways, a simmering, brooding violence that is built up over a period of time in the story. This would usually be used in a crime of passion. Or a random act of violence often perpetrated by a creature of some kind and is spontaneous and comes out of nowhere. It is the evil jumping out of the shadows and adds a shock value.

Bill Craig: When I write a violent action sequence, I try to make the reader feel the impact as much as possible. Here's an example from my new spy series Caribe:

"Nick stood, smiling like they were old friends. As soon as they were close enough, he snatched his beer bottle from the table and broke it across the nearest man’s face. As he cried out in both pain and surprise, Nick launched a kick to the second man’s groin that lifted him into the air. As he dropped to the marble floor, Nick snapped a punch into the first man’s broken nose that dropped him to the floor.
"Nick hurried across the courtyard and out the door. Once on the street, Storm pulled a white baseball cap out of his back pocket and pulled it onto his head. The sunglasses came off and went into his shirt pocket. His appearance was changed enough to throw off and description that the two men or Melendez could give of him."

I.A. Watson: I like the reader to have a dog in the fight, by which I mean there has to be a reason for the reader to care about what's happening. So I like to establish the reason for the violence so they know who to root for or against. If the baddie or monster's going to win this violent encounter I want the readers to care that he won, so that they;re rooting against him and taking him seriously next fight along.

Good fights have to be storyboarded like mini-stories in their own right. Violence has to be described as coherently and literately as anything else in the tale. It requires at least as much skill and technique as love scenes or back story exposition.

Violence doesn't have to mean fighting, either. A villain beating up a helpless old man tied to his chair can be pretty violent - and you bet the readers will care about our hero catching up with the bad guy after. Nor does it have to be physical. The bad guy slowly pulling the arms and legs off a captive child's beloved doll in front of her then popping the toy's eyes and stamping on them out can be just as horrifying because it's emotionally violent.

Violence can have various tones. It can be intense and brutal, it can be freewheeling and swashbuckling, it can even be humorous sometimes. It works best when it's pitched to serve the story.

L. Andrew Cooper: As for how I convey violence, I have to ask, what kind? Psychological? Physical? Social? Systemic? Psychological violence tends to appear best in dialogue or descriptions of reactions that tell readers more about characters than characters have figured out about themselves (or vice versa --interactions that begin to hint at larger psychological twists yet to be mapped). Physical violence can appear in all shapes and sizes. More on that in a moment. Social violence manipulates scenarios to play on larger social fears rooted in demographic/political concerns, which can range from standard scenarios involving victimizing people who are already at a disadvantage (Leatherface cuts through the guy in a wheelchair) to more specific, quasi-allegorical violence, like the violence that begins the TV reboot of Battlestar Galactica. As for systemic violence, that tends to involve concerns about large systems designed to destroy us... we're in conspiracy territory... to unfold such violence, you tend to need massive narrative, such as, say, the Cthulhu Mythos or what I'm doing in my own rather conspiratorial novels.

James Tuck: Violence is necessary for its careful use of sensory and physical cues that jar the impact into the reader's mind. It's one thing to have someone get punched. It's another for them to be punched so hard it made their spleen flop against their pancreas.

Lee Houston Jr.: I always go more for portraying the emotional impact of a violent situation than dwelling on the physical damage that might occur.

So does this interview.
Now for the obvious question... To gore or not to gore when writing violent scenes? How much is too much? How much is needed? Or is it just a cop-out used by lazy writers?

James Tuck: Gore is fine as long as it's applied in a logical (for the rules of the story) way... people don't have buckets of blood inside them.. shotguns don't rip people in half... etc. But used artfully, gore can really drive home the actual ramifications of violence being used or received.

Lee Houston Jr.: Unfortunately, there are times when it is painfully obvious that we live within a violent world. The nightly news proves that. However, I never dwell upon the specific details of a violent act, for I do not need to gross out neither the readers or myself. You acknowledge the violent act(s), set the hero(es) upon the villain(s) trail, and go on with the story.

I.A. Watson: Gore is another tool in the kit. It's a specialized tool, like graphic sex and obscene language, but like those things it can have a big impact when its used right. The problem comes when it gets dropped into the middle of an otherwise less explicit story. Nobody expects a full-on three way sex scene in Harry Potter (except on certain very specialized websites) because it would be inappropriate to the tone and effect of the story. On the other hand, James Bond can get genital electrode torture without his readership offering more than a reflex wince of sympathy. So it's about horses for courses.

I tend to reserve graphic descriptions for very special occasions, when I want the reader to be horrified by what has happened. Even then I think less is more. Prose can't compete with movies for splatter effects. It can outdo the best 3D VFX in the world when it gets inside a reader's head and turns their own imagination to supplying the detail. With every respect to H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James is scarier.

Bill Craig: You want to use enough to paint the proper picture but no go overboard. Say you are writing a story dealing with a serial killer, then yeah more gore may be needed than say in a western, unless your character is being tortured by Apaches or Comanches. But in say your average mystery, usually a body laying in a pool of blood is graphic enough.

L. Andrew Cooper: Gore. Lots of lazy writers use it. A few great writers use it. Then again, we only get a few truly great writers per region per generation. I get tired of people who think we're reaching "all-time-lows" or whatever of gore and sexualized violence. I want to tell such people to go read the complete works of the Marquis de Sade, look at the dates when they were first published, look at the dates on their smarmy phones, and then, brutalized as they are by having read thousands of pages of intentionally unreadable prose that I could never get through, they can realize that nothing has changed in hundreds of years and they can go, well, politely walk to the end of a pier and decide for themselves.

Seriously, though, gore is and long has been a serious art. You can use it it to brutalize audiences into forms of thought they could not achieve otherwise. You can use it to create forms of the sublime and forms of the beautiful only available by tapping into all the cultural weight we attach to images of the human insides, the blood, the guts, the things we're never supposed to see. Our job as artists is not only to show what people are not supposed to see, but show it in ways that challenge the way they were looking in the first place.

Lance Stahlberg: There are scads of movies and comics out there that I just call “violence porn”. Again, it's violence just for the sake of violence. If the scene is just an excuse to describe gore, why do I care? Unless you are specifically writing a horror or something aimed at fans who are really into gruesome or macabre subject matter, then well, yeah. Have at it.

In the action adventure world, gore can be effective, so long as it's not thrown around so much that it loses any shock value it's meant to have. Perhaps you need to establish just how brutal a character can be, or you need to drive home the very real threat a character is facing. I have a scene in a novella that's about to be released where we see a sharp contrast between how our hero was introduced, and what she's truly capable of.

J.H.. Glaze: I like gore, but since most of today's readers are women, I try to only use a lot of it when it is needed, and when I think the reader can accept it. A 'nice' person in the story who dies may get eaten by a creature, but at the point of attack, I turn the story camera away and focus on other action. Whereas a BAD person may get the top of their head bitten off and I will describe the curvature of the eyeballs poking above the jagged edge of their separated skull. If I set the character up just right, people will cheer at the gore in that scene. As far as it being a cop out, it depends on the story surrounding it, and really, I believe heavy gore has a very limited audience in the reading community so there is no real reason to be off the charts. Sometimes the best bits are the ones you can hear and not see.

Oh no! It can't be almost over!
What are some tips and tools to help new writers master the art of writing violence in their work?

L. Andrew Cooper: Remember that "violence" is an extremely broad range of experiences and emotions, not all of them necessarily bad. I've read hundreds of descriptions of intestines dangling in various ways. Don't overestimate the power of shock or the ability of violence to galvanize your writing by itself. Violence is the collision of characters, events, descriptions--if you're into that sort of thing (I am), you earn the luscious descriptions of the taboo by embedding them in contexts that actually MAKE them taboo.

Lance Stahlberg: Same advice applies to any tool. In all things, moderation. Don't overdo it. When writing a scene, ask yourself how realistic it is. There can be a fine line between brutal and parody. If the level of violence gets so absurd it feels like a Troma movie, might want to scale back.
Also keep pacing in mind. If you spend too much page space describing the violence, there might not be enough room for the action to move forward. The story always comes first.

Lee Houston Jr.:  First and foremost (in my mind), the hero(es) should NEVER stoop to the villains' level! Otherwise, why are they the hero(es) of your story? Otherwise, how I handle violent situations in my creative works is reflected in my answers to your first three questions, and any other writer is welcome to do with my advice as they see fit.

J.H.. Glaze: A tip for new writers - build a scene that will contain violence, slowly. Take the story in a direction where violence is inevitable, but the character tries to avoid it at all costs. That results in a climax to the scene that can be referred to as pulse pounding and edge of seat. Make sure you have developed the readers relationship with the character so they give a shit before they get killed or injured, I like the thrill of making my reader like a character at first, but by the time they get taken out, the reader is actually cheering for them to die.

James Tuck: Don't flinch. If you are going to write it then sit your ass down and fucking write it. No off page coward moves. Don't be a punk.

I.A. Watson: Set the scene well. If the hero's going to grab up a chair and smash the bad guy with it, establish the chair is in the room before the fight starts, or at least that it;s the kind of room that has chairs in it. If there's a cliff edge let's hear about it beforehand.

Establish the reason for the fight. Give the readers something to care about.

Consider multiple perils. A punch-up's great. A punch-up in a burning barn is better. A punch-up in a burning barn with the baby screaming in his pram near the smoldering haystack is better yet.

Use shorter sentences than normal. It has more punch. Then vary with a lengthier, more descriptive sentence. Then toss in a line of dialogue. Then a "wide-shot" description of some associated event - people racing away from the gunfire say. Then back to short, sharp descriptions.

Avoid cliche. There are a lot of violence cliches. Try not to rely on jackhammer fists, lightning-fast punches, or reeling heads. Find new descriptions. Keep it fresh.

Pitch your level of graphic-ness to the kind of fight scene you want. No point doing Indiana Jones-style fight descriptions if you're going to interrupt the derring-do with detailed information about the splattered vitreous humor from the pencil jabbed in the cop's eye. Likewise, body horror stories can be let down by common cliche like "spurting fountains."

The fight needs to have events in it, with twists and turns just like a full story. You can even get plot revelations and character development moments in there! It's a mini-three act drama in its own right, with set-up, follow-on, and pay-off.

Bill Craig: Watch a lot of movies, see how they handle the gore. Slasher movies go over the top, but study the way the cinema stages the gore, you can learn a lot and can incorporate it into your writing.