Monday, June 30, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #292 -- What is a writer?

What is a writer? What isn't?
(from a post on The Greenwich Set group)

Someone posed on a writers' group posed the question: What constitutes a writer? What are the qualifications?

Several people had commented, and some of the responses really smacked to me of the elitism that is so often prevalent among the writing set, so, of course, I simply HAD to comment.

I had this to say:

"The word 'writer' is a generic word, like dog. Within that word, one can be a boxer, a poodle or a terrier. Within the word "writer" one can be a journalist, a novelist, blogger, a nonfiction writer, etc.

"And even a scholar (there was a reference in one of the responses that a scholar who wrote about his subject matter wasn't a writer per se, but a scholar who used the tool of writing to get his points across) must learn to be a writer in order to communicate effective with the written (or typed) word.

"To be a writer is simply to be a communicator who uses the tool of the written or typed word. To apply any qualifiers to it that start taking that simple concept into snobbery or division is only revealing something about the person saying it, not about the act of being a writer in the first place.

"To say that someone who writes cereal box copy, fortune cookies, greeting cards, short stories, how-to books, etc. is not a writer is simply snobbery on the part of the one who holds that view. All of them work equally hard on the craft, learning different sets of tools for different outcomes and publishing options, and all must learn to be clear and concise and communicative.

In short, all must write.

"For me, I always use a clarification word before the word 'writer.' For example, by day I used to be a marcom and copy writer. On the side, I'm was also (and still am) a comic book and graphic novel writer, and a short story writer. But all of them are writers.

"What I do take issue with, however, are the people who hire ghostwriters for their books (most commonly done for so-called 'autobiographies' and business books and books by religious leaders, it seems) and them still have the audacity to refer to themselves as the writer. They are compilers, at best, instigating catalysts most typically."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Airship 27 Announces More Gaslight Mysteries

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the release of SHERLOCK HOLMES – CONSULTING DETECTIVE, Vol 6.   Here is another quintet of traditional Sherlock Holmes mysteries written in the style of his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes, arguably the greatest fictional character ever created, returns along with his faithful friend, Dr. Watson, in five brand new stories pitting his deductive skills against all manner of gaslight villainy.

A man awakens in a sanitarium claiming to be Dr. John Watson. A young student is charged with the murder of his famous professor. A Paris gang of jewel thieves brings the Great Detective to the City of Lights. Murder in a London opium den unlocks the evil lurking within the estate of a prestigious British family and the ghost of Dr. Moriarty may have risen from the grave to challenge his Baker Street rival one final time.

These are the baffling cases documented here by writers Ian Watson, Michael A. Black, Alan J. Porter and Greg Hatcher; all guaranteed to keep Holmes fans intrigued and entertained from the first tale to the last.

“This continues to be our best selling series,” declares Airship 27 Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “The previous five volumes have all been hugely successful and still continue to be among the top mystery anthology sales at Amazon.” In explaining the reason behind the overwhelming popularity of the series, Fortier credits the traditional format. “All of the stories featured in our books are done in the Conan Doyle style. There are no Martian invaders, no vampire scourges; just good old fashion Victorian mysteries as narrated by the unflappable Dr.Watson with the Great Detective employing his deductive skills to their utmost.”

This sixth entry again features interior illustrations by Pulp Factory Award winning artist, Rob Davis, with a stunning cover by artist Pat Carabjal that depicts both Holmes and Watson and the notorious Irene Adler as modeled by Brazilian actress Irene Huber.

And so the fog rolls in off the Thames, the clip-clop of Hansom cabs passes by and suddenly a shrill scream cuts through the night. Once again the game is afoot!


Available from Amazon in both hard copy and on Kindle.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Pro Se Productions, a leading publisher of Genre Fiction and New Pulp, announces the opening of a call for submissions to an anthology featuring stories focused on an aspect of history that has captured the attention of creators and readers for centuries- VIKINGS!

“There are few more colorful characters in the world’s past,” says Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Productions Editor in Chief and Partner in the company, “than the warriors and explorers known as The Vikings. Whether or not they are forging and forcing their way into new lands or battling for the honor to eternally fight and feast in Valhalla, there’s always been a fascination with Vikings. And in recent decades, that fascination has gone beyond the simple ‘fight for the Gods’ idea and looked at how the society functioned, the roles played by all, and how everything from weather to religion affected them. Although Odin and Loki won’t be traipsing through the tales in VIKINGS!, the stories we want for this collection have a wide range to play in just utilizing what we know or suspect about these paradoxical people from history.”

VIKINGS! will feature stories set in the time period in which Vikings flourished and fought. Stories must be grounded in reality, that meaning that although the characters within may believe they are working for the Gods or at the mercy of demonic beasts, that no such creatures or magic items or supernatural occurrences appear in the tale. Tales are not restricted, however, to the traditional concept of Vikings, but instead are open to utilize any aspect of that society while maintaining a pulpy, fast pace and an appropriate level of action.

Stories for VIKINGS! must be 10,000 words in length. A proposal of 100-500 words must be submitted to Authors not previously published by Pro Se Productions must submit a writing sample of at least two pages with their proposals. Authors whose proposals are accepted must submit the first four pages of their accepted stories as quickly as possible for review by Pro Se staff. Final deadline for completed stories is 90 days following acceptance of proposals.

VIKINGS! scheduled for publication in 2015 by Pro Se Productions.

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

For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Friday, June 27, 2014

[Link] Most Common Writing Mistakes: Choppy Prose

by K.M. Weiland

A lean, lyrical style is an art form all its own. Just ask Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy. But authors need to be aware of the difference between lean prose and choppy prose—and learn to avoid the latter.

Reading choppy prose is like driving on a washboard road. It might be ever so slightly exciting at first, but it quickly becomes irritating and exhausting. The constant jarring of incomplete thoughts and abrupt punctuation prevents readers from sinking into a story. You may be striving for simplicity, but sometimes that very lack of sophistication in sentence structure can end up confusing readers.

Continue reading:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hot Lead and Dead Steel? What about Westerns?

We're talking Westerns today, folks. So mosey on up to the table and let's find out why they're out of vogue and what keeps creators working on them anyway. 

What is it about the Western genre that drew you to it as a creative person?

Erwin K. Roberts: When you are, like me, an early U.S. baby boomer, you grew up immersed in westerns. They came at you on the radio, followed by TV as soon as your family bought that first set. "B" westerns were on the way out in Hollywood, but "A" westerns would sill be common for quite some time. Western comics came from just about every surviving comics publisher. Most of the last surviving pulps were westerns. (Ranch Romances ended in 1971.) Mixed in were Easterns featuring folks like DC Comics' Tomahawk. Plus, for over fifty years, Northerns like Challenge of the Yukon (SGT Preston) and Zane Grey's King of the Royal Mounted were very popular.

Nowadays, westerns are more popular in places like Australia, than the United States. And, to an extent, I miss them. That's just one of the reasons I jumped on to Airship 27's Masked Rider wagon train. I had a (pun intended) blast writing "Thunder at Devil's Tower." The research about that area fascinated me. I got to play with any number of western stereotypes. I turned one or two on their ears.

These days the western often gets mashed up with other genre. Cowboys & Aliens did not even come close to inventing that concept. About 1953 Shadow author Walter B. Gibson created and wrote six issues of Space Western for Charlton Comics a year or two before Dell launched Turok, Son of Stone. The hybrid possibilities are endless.

Ray Dean: Everything... wide open spaces... raw conflict, survival, high emotion, and the paradox that so many went to the 'West' for a new start.. and then they get there and the same old prejudices are in place or if your 'past' comes back to haunt you... you're done. There so much to love/hate/revel in about the "Old West.'

Bill Craig: It was a simpler time, heroes and villains were very black and white in the distinctions.

Derrick Ferguson: My love and appreciation of the Western came from my parents, especially my father. He would watch any and all Westerns that came on TV no matter who was in. And back then we only had one TV so if I didn't watch what my parents did, I just didn't watch TV. He didn't have a favorite Western star. He just loved all Westerns. He and I would watch Have Gun Will Travel, The Wild Wild West and Wanted: Dead Or Alive together and my very first grown up movie was The Wild Bunch, which I saw at the tender age of 10 and changed the course of my life forever.

What draws me to the Western as a creative person? My gut says it's because you can make a Western as simple or as complicated as you want and nobody will give you any shit about it. The Western is American mythology which is why it'll never go away. Myths just don't go away. They get changed, sure. In the 60's/70's/80's many of the tropes of the Western were adopted by police/crime thrillers and science fiction movies. But we always come back to the Western because there's a purity there, a stripping away of the bullshit that infects our society today and brings us back to basic, core beliefs, traditions and codes of behavior that we've lost but still long for.

Lee Houston Jr.: Westerns represent a more simpler time in both literature and history. Where you could tell the heroes from the villains, and not just by what colored hats they wore. It was a period where hard work and honesty were their own rewards for most folks.

Aaron Smith: I’ve never really considered myself a fan of the Western genre. Yes, I watched Bonanza and Gunsmoke reruns as a kid, but I never sought out Westerns on purpose. If I made a list of my 20 or so favorite movies, the only western on it would be The Searchers. The only reason I’ve written a western story and had it published was because I was once asked to write one for an anthology. I like some Westerns, but have never consciously wanted to write them. I like good stories and if I happen to have an idea for a story that works best as a Western, I’ll write it, but that particular genre is not something I’m specifically drawn to.

What are the key elements of an effective Western story?

Erwin K. Roberts: They are pretty much the same as any good adventure story. Look at it this way: The Seven Samurai became a very successful western as The Magnificent Seven. Then, in the aftermath of Star Wars, the plot got recycled yet again in outer space with George Peppard, John Boy, and Robert Vaughn reprising his The Magnificent 7 role. (Battle Beyond the Stars).

Derrick Ferguson: Being set in the West helps. I think the untamed frontier is just as much a character in a Western as any of the humans. Sergio Leone understood this and used it to great advantage as his American West is as much of a fantastic realm as Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age. Cowboys. Indians. Schoolma'arms. Gunslingers. Gamblers. Hookers with a heart of gold. Greedy land-grabbing cattle barons. Rustlers. Showdowns at high noon in the middle of Main Street. Sheriffs. Owlhoots. Barroom brawls. Cattle stampedes. And I think that there’s a certain heroic element that has to be in play. The good ol’ fashioned “A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do”

The last I really think is important because the Western is a genre where we can still read about heroes being heroes simply because you have rugged men and nurturing women doing The Right Thing simply because it is the The Right Thing and bringing. Law and Order to a ferociously savage and chaotic land.

Aaron Smith: The key elements of an effective western are the time period, setting, and archetypes specific to the genre, which are obvious, but a good story that’s a western needs the same key elements as any good story whether it’s science fiction, or a Victorian period piece or a Game of Thrones type fantasy epic: good characters, believable motivations, suspense, drama, etc.

Ray Dean: CONFLICT, CONFLICT, CONFLICT. One person rubbin' up against another and causin' friction... ranchers against farmers, cattlemen against sheep farmers, soiled doves against proper womenfolk. There's a wealth of conflict in a world where people are trying to make a living and get what they want. Sounds like any other genre? I don't know really.. Maybe it's just how I see it in my head... the dust, the boarded walkways and false fronts... lone men on horseback riding into a town full of people that might want him dead... It all works for me.

Bill Craig: Keys elements are cowboys, horses and guns, and a pretty gal in distress.

Lee Houston Jr.: There are no 'shades of grey' in a western and justice was always triumphant in the end.

Is there really any hope at making the Western story popular again, or has the world moved on?

Derrick Ferguson: I think that in print The Western is still as popular as it ever was. There’s a British publisher of Westerns, BLACK HORSE WESTERNS that started in the 1960’s and is still going strong to this day Here’s a link if anybody reading this is interested in submitting to them or just reading their books:

As for movies and TV: I think we’ve just got to accept that The Western has had it’s heyday on TV and that’s that. We may get the occasional mini-series like Lonesome Dove or Broken Trail but that’s it. As for theatrical films, it’s all about superheroes now so I’m not holding my breath there.

Aaron Smith: I don’t think the Western will ever be as popular as it was from the 30s to the 60s when TV, film, books, and comics were full of westerns, but I think the western will always have a place, however small, in fiction because the old west is just as valid a setting for a good story as space or the jungle or Holmes’ London or modern San Francisco or whatever.

Erwin K. Roberts: The western has become sort of a cottage industry. Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott and more recently Kevin Sorbo make westerns from time to time. Westerns seem to be a bit more regularly published in the UK and Down Under than in the U.S. of A. Perhaps something, somewhere, will catch fire again, like the 1960's Spaghetti Westerns. But if all the general public sees for westerns are things like the Lone Ranger film, there is not much hope.

Lee Houston Jr.: The basic tenets of a good western, as listed in my two previous answers, are evident in a lot of stories today. As for a revival, there is still an active, but small, western genre with authors like William Johnstone and Robert Knott, who is carrying on Robert B. Parker's Cole and Hitch westerns. However, the typical western deals with a specific time period, so the best bet for a revival will probably be with licensed material from the days of The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke; Have Gun, Will Travel; The Wild, Wild, West; Bonanza; etc. Hopefully the next attempt will be handled better and be more successful than past efforts.

Ray Dean: I don't think it has... Open Range, Crossfire Trail, the Love Comes Softly Series, Purgatory, Appaloosa... a number of well-received Western miniseries and movies have been made... Tombstone was another great one... I think the long sweeping visuals of open land, cacti, tumbleweeds.. those images are part of our american heritage... and I think some part of our culture will be attached to the 'Western.'

Look at Firefly, with its space cowboys... the show Defiance with some Western elements... shows like Supernatural have western settings, backstories, and episodes. Perhaps it just comes down to what 'new stories' can be set and written and produced in that genre to help keep it alive for generations to come. Don't forget to introduce the 'next generations' to the genre! My son (17) loves watching the 'old' Western films with me (El Dorado, Rio Bravo...)

Bill Craig: Westerns are gaining in popularity again because people are so fed up with the inhumanity they see around them on a daily basis. I enjoy reading them, and I enjoy writing them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nugget #10 -- A Hard Break From Reality

Sometimes the thing we don't want to hear as creators is
that chasing our dreams can require a hard break from
what other people consider reality. It can mean stepping
out into the unknown to chase something that can't be
easily grasped, or something that can't provide
a regular paycheck or can't provide the kind
of security our parents sent us
to college to achieve.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Olympian Heights of Amy Strickland

I met Amy Strickland just this past month during the ever-amazing Alabama Phoenix Festival convention. Needless to say, I was stricken (no pun intended... maybe) by her prose and felt the need to share this talented writer work with my own circle of friends, fans, and stalkers. 

So, without any further nonsense from me, here's Amy.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My current project is a comic adaptation of my novel series, Olympia Heights. I’ve been working with an artist—who also happens to be my brother—for the last six months to create character designs and develop a style. We plan to launch the project on Kickstarter in October to pay for his art. Olympia Heights is a series about a group of teenagers in Miami, FL who find out that they ARE the Greek Gods reborn into human teenage bodies. As they manifest powers and navigate high school drama, they have to figure out who they are, why they are here, and fight off attacks from vengeful titans. Think Smallville meets Glee for the tone. You know, season one before Glee fell apart.

You can get an email when the comic project launches by signing up here:

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

The novels often approached the same kinds of things you see in most Young Adult series. It’s a coming-of-age story, but in this case it’s the Greek Gods who behaved like teenagers in their ancient pasts. They’re learning to be modern leaders and learning to be responsible patriarchs for the mortals, rather than self-centered gods.

What would be your dream project?

I feel like doing an Olympia Heights comic is already there. I guess a TV series would be a dream.

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

In a way, the Olympia Heights comic is that do-over. The old novels took a very Greco-Roman approach to the mythology. I’m excited to get a chance to stick closer to my Greek sources for this comic. It’s a slightly different worldview.

What inspires you to write?

I love mythology, and that inspires me whether its fairy tales, Greek gods, or Cthulhu. I love that postmodern  idea of taking something we think we know and telling a different story.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

I read a lot of Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling. They’ve definitely had the most formative influence. Also, I have to say, my old text-based role-playing buddies, especially Lindsay and Missy. I spent thousands of hours writing with these ladies, telling stories back and forth, and all those hours—well over 10,000 hours, probably double that—gave me the skills and experience I use to write from today.

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

I probably rank it further on the science side of the scale than most. Language is a traditional “left-brain” skill, even if that whole division of the brain is a highly simplified misunderstanding. There is an art to how you arrange the words, and the stories you shape have a lot to do with creativity, even if they are logic puzzles. The best stories are driven by well-shaped characters making decisions that are realistic for their development. That said, I’m an outliner, and that makes this more of a science.

Most of all, I think the important thing for aspiring writers to remember is that writing is a skill. Whether it’s a creative skill or a logical one, that means one thing. Inspiration is a crutch, and it blinds us to the flaws of our work. Skills can be practiced and trained, and even when you don’t “feel like it,” you have to push through. Some of my best writing comes from times when I was sure I was writing crap because I had to drag myself to do it.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?  

I have a steampunk series. The sequel is coming out this fall. Rescue OR, Royer Goldhawk’s Remarkable Journal is book one. You can grab it on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and paperback.

For more information, visit Amy online:

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #291 -- Famous Last Words (Personalized)

What are you favorite closing lines and endings from you're own work?

"She scrolled down and began to compare the two."
-- "Posthumous," Zombiesque

"Rick let go of the crutch and fell back onto her bed.
"'Oh boy. I should've tried harder to get killed.'
"'Like I'd let you get off that easy.'"
-- "Die Giftig Lilie," The Ruby Files Volume 1

"He locked his eyes on the doorway and walked toward it, then through it, then disappeared into the Ethiopian dust."
-- "There's Always a Woman Involved," Blood-Price of the Missionary's Gold, The New Adventures of Armless O'Neil

"The air above her rippled and spoke in the hateful voice of her half-sister, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall...'"
-- "The Fairest of Them All: A Symphony of Revenge," Classics Mutilated

"As she closed her eyes, the room faded to a blur, and within moments her world consisted of the sweat-soaked, dirty cotton of Kayla's dress, then even that faded away and there was nothing but the sound of Kayla's labored breathing, then moments later, even that disappeared."
-- "Come and Get Your Love," Tales of the Rook Volume Two

"Maybe this was his last foolish joke.
"My husband was a fool. And God help me, now I am."
-- "Foolish Notions," Show Me a Hero

"There wasn't a single damn dove around for miles."
-- "Farewell," Show Me a Hero

"'He wasn't fast enough,' I repeated. Then I let myself fall asleep."
-- "Limits," Show Me a Hero

"And he could make the fire dance."
-- "Angels of Our Better Nature," Show Me a Hero

Sunday, June 22, 2014

[Link] The Difference Between Good Writers and Bad Writers

by Jeff Goins

The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.

Continue reading:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Airship 27 announces THE MASKED RIDER in Wild West Tales Vol II

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to put on its spurs and chaps to announce the release of its second Masked Rider anthology; THE MASKED RIDER – Wild West Tales Vol. II

After the bloody City War ended, the rugged landscape that was the frontier west was soon flooded by all manner of immigrants; from cowboys, pioneer settlers and an all manner of outlaws.  In their path the various Indian tribes desperate to save their lands.  Soon the mountains, plains and valleys echoed with the sounds of gunfire and bloodshed flowed like rivers in these lawless territories.

Then a masked man appeared on the scene, his twin Colts barking out justice.  He and his Yaqui partner, Blue Hawk, rode these endless trails protecting law and order wherever they went.  He was known as the Masked Rider and now he returns in three brand new gun-blazing adventures by writers Erwin K. Roberts, Bill Craig and Roman Leary.

“Our first volume was a mix of western heroes, both real and fictional,” elaborates Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier.  “This time our writers all wanted to write about this classic western pulp hero and we had no problems with that whatsoever.  He’s a great character to write.”  A popular figure in the days of the original pulps, the Masked Rider was one of the few that actually made it to the comics and appeared in his own title for many years.

This book features twelve interior illustrations by commercial artist, and teacher, Tom Rubalcava with a pulp inspired cover painting by Andy Fish, a self-confessed Masked Rider fan.

So now it’s time to saddle up, pulp readers, for classic western action as only the Masked Rider can deliver.


Available from –

And on Kindle –

Friday, June 20, 2014


Over on his blog, author Derrick Ferguson, along with Lucas Garrett, Barry Reese, and Andrew Salmon, compiled a list of good intro books to the world of New Pulp.

This is a nice list the guys put together. I'm honored to have The Ruby Files, which I co-created with Bobby Nash, listed.

You can read the full list of the 25 New Pulp Books To Get You Started here.

Learn more about The Ruby Files here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Cover Story -- What Makes Book Covers Work?

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a book cover had better be worth about a hundred thousand. So, what makes a book cover effective? Let's find out from several key artists and publishers who work on them. 


It's been said a lot that faces sell a cover. In your experience, do faces tend to enable stronger sales, and does it matter how large the faces are on the cover?

Jeff Parker: I like design-y covers most of the time, conceptual stuff like Dave Johnson does. I think the way books are racked together in a big mass with other images, something a bit simpler and bold with images and color choices stands out better and has a chance to be seen.

Frank Fradella: Yes, faces sell a cover. Faces sell everything. I can take two slices of an orange and a whole banana and lay them on a table and what you'll see are two eyes and a mouth — a face. We see faces everywhere; we subconsciously LOOK for faces everywhere. The best cover won't just be a face, but you want that human connection.

Logan Masterson: There's a lot to consider here. Faces are great, especially for romance, paranormal, and character-themed properties, but they aren't the definitive answer. Neither is the inclusion of action definitive. To see what works, check out the original Wolverine limited series #1 cover: Face, beckoning "action," tremendously effective. But also, the Kitty Pryde/Wolverine Wanted cover, more action, more faces, but with less emphasis. The emphasis is on the framing. Personally, I think that illustrated covers trump photo covers every time. I tend to avoid fiction with photo covers.

Aaron Meade: I can only chime in on the action/adventure/superhero genre' from my point of view. That said... Faces are ok on covers depending on how they are used to portray what the story inside is about. It depends on the artists vision and storytelling abilities. I always LOVED the use of a ROLL CALL on superhero team books that bordered the cover itself. That said, you don't want to over use it or any technique.

Jenny Reed: The first rule of thumb is that the cover must be interesting to look at. People must see the cover and start imagining what's inside. While showing people isn't necessarily required (depending on the genre), any people who do show up must be doing something interesting. A face staring into space isn't particularly interesting - unless there's something really strange about the face.

What about action covers? Do they work well for contemporary fiction, or are they best used for adventure novels and comics?

Jenny Reed: Cover art trends change rapidly. What counts as a great cover today, is a lousy cover five years from now (and vice versa). It's hard to keep up. Also, cover art expectations vary widely from genre to genre. For example, romance covers generally want to see something implying romance - a couple kissing, a hot guy in a sexy pose, a girl in a prom dress, or something along those lines. However, a romance cover would not sell a science fiction book, or a sports book, or your typical action comic book.

Frank Fradella: The answer is between the pages. If there's a lot of action inside, then the cover should speak to the audience who likes that in a book.

Aaron Meade: I think the more action you can portray on any cover of any genre' will be better than dull no action covers.

Logan Masterson: As for the general keys, I think there are three.

  1. Tone. The cover's got to carry the tone of the book, whether that's bright and brilliant action or deep, dark mystery.
  2. Design. Attractive, appropriate fonts that contrast or accent the cover illustration, placed to accent the image and balance the overall effect.
  3. Professionalism. The cover needs to be pro. It shouldn't look like something desktop published in 1996. It shouldn't be jammed up with text, or too many logos, or any of that stuff. The elements should be integrated attractively, and the illo itself needs to be high-quality and appropriate. 

What are the most important things to keep in mind when designing a successful book cover or a successful comic book cover?

Ruth de Jauregui: Your type treatment. Scrawny little letters that fade into the cover image are just not as effective as something that the buyer can actually read. Also, look at the size of the cover on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other website. Can the buyer see it? Can they read the type? Does the cover "read" as a romance, science fiction, fantasy, action story? Consider your audience too. A half naked woman on the front of a YA urban fantasy may look pretty, but it's not appropriate for the audience. Also, last but not least -- actually LOOK at the dang main character. If he/she is described as dark complected with natural hair, don't put a dang blonde on the cover. It's inaccurate and offensive and buyers like me notice these things. I might still buy the book, but I'll talk mess about that cover forever.

Logan Masterson: As a former website designer and illustrator, one picks up the little details that others miss. It's not some unquantifiable mystery -- it's the proper alignment of elements, colors, and content.

Aaron Meade: Most important in art a synopsis of what the reader is about to read. Show THE most exciting and enticing portion of the interior story. Galvanize the readers eyes so they will gravitate to your book over all the others.

Frank Fradella: Color, contrast, composition. Beautiful women never hurt. Go look at Frazetta and keep looking. It's all there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting to Know... Ulysses King (and Mark Beaulieu)

Tell us a bit about the creation of Ulysses King.

I started watching the classic Doctor Who serials and I began with Hartnell to see the beginning of the series.  I really liked the big ideas they had in those stories.  The special effects would often let the stories down, but if you could see past the low budget, you could see they had some really great ideas.  While working my way through Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, and Baker I started to really want to write those kinds of stories.  This was the impetus for Ulysses King.  However, I didn’t want to deal with time travel.  It could get too messy.  I also wanted a set of companions closer to what Hartnell had with Ian, Barbara, and Susan. I didn’t want to have those specific characters types, but I thought it was a pretty good starting point to have 4 people who served different roles. The know-it-all, a fighter, a scientist, and then Jake is along for the ride to be the guy that needs everything explained to him. 

Since I had ruled out time travel, I figured it could be more fun to go with alternate realities. This allows us to see any type of world the writer wants. For example, I’ve written 3 stories where the characters have traveled to a world that has lizard men, another where the Japanese took over the world after World War II, and an old west where the Aztecs are fighting a war in North America against the United States of America.   For the last two, I wanted to have a Godzilla-like creature fight Dr. Who and in the second I wanted werewolves in the old west.

I should mention I’m a big fan of alternate history literature.  I really liked Eric Flint’s 1632 and his 1812 books.  And even though I think the 1632 series loses something as it progresses, that first book is a great read. I’ve also enjoyed a number of Harry Turtledove’s books.  Thus, bringing in alternate realities plays to one of my interests.

Once I got to the alternate realities idea, I needed to flesh things out. The characters were set pretty quickly, and I’ll discuss that for question 2.  The toughest part was creating a ship like the TARDIS. How were they going to travel from reality to reality?  I had asked some friends what would be inconspicuous in today’s world and initially their ship was going to be an ATM or vending machine, but that never really grabbed me.  Ian Watson (who writes the great “Absolute Control” story in volume 1) recommended an antique store.  That seemed perfect to me. We could switch the knick knacks out based on what world they were on.  And it’s quirky. 

 Can you please fill us in on King's cast and crew?

Ulysses King is an Olympian. Olympus is the original Earth. He’s a professor from Olympus that ran the dissertation projects where students would study the effects of various factors on different worlds.  In simpler terms, each of the alternate realities is really a dissertation project.  Ulysses King created many of these worlds himself.  He’s currently on the run from Olympus because he has created a device, NotTA, that can carry more than one person at a time through foldspace to any point on any world.  Prior to NotTA’s creation, the Olympians either had to use Ascension Gates that can only connect one point of each reality to another and require large amounts of power or PDAs (Personal Delivery through Ascension) to travel from one world to another.  PDAs can only carry one person and some technologies don’t travel well through this method.

Ulysses also carries a green glass tuning fork that allows him to transfer commands between his mind and his PDA.  PDAs can do much more than simply help you travel and they look like electronic tablets (think iPad).

Pandora is our fighter.  While working out this character, I wanted someone like Emma Peel from the BBC Avengers.  She’s cold and has a dark sense of humor.  I’ve also thought Steed and Peel were sociopaths since they joke around the dead bodies of their former friends.  While Pandora isn’t a sociopath, having been brought up on an arena world she knows life is short and intends to fully enjoy it.  She has a sense of humor that the other characters don’t always get and is often times inappropriate.  She considers herself King’s bodyguard. Pandora feels she owes Ulysses a debt that needs to be repaid.  Ulysses is just happy to have her around, but doesn’t argue with her about her motivations.

Crystal was targeted for assassination in the first story (“Fire From Above’) by another Olympian named Darwin.  She gets saved, but due to the invention she had created, with the help of Darwin, she can’t go back to her original world for fear of being killed.  She’s a reluctant traveler.  She’ll lose herself in the moment and while working on technology, but she can be a bit petulant.  She’s also a prude as is very evident in Mark Bousquet’s story. 

Jake is a reporter that was going to interview Crystal about her invention.  He comes along because his life basically sucks and he sees this as his chance to do something worthwhile.  He’s a bit of an irritant to Ulysses and often questions Professor King concerning his attitudes toward other realities.  Crystal does this too, but Jake does it more.  Jake goes from schmuck to heroic and back to schmuck. 

What would be your vision for how King fits into the pantheon of pulp sci-fi?

This is a tough question for me since I’ve not read a ton of pulp.  Barry Reese’s The Rook got me reading new pulp.  While I’ve read John Carter, Conan, and Tarzan books, I haven’t read a ton of old pulp.  Though as a kid, Tarzan of the Apes changed the way I read books.  I only wanted good action stories. 

The above is an attempt to bail me out if I word this wrong. I’d say it fits in nicely with old style science fiction stories.  I think the plot drives most of the stories, but character development does happen.  This is particularly true for Crystal who doesn’t yet realize she’s not the first Crystal Lee to travel with Ulysses King. 

I also think Dr. Who and Sliders (though I’ve only seen a few episodes of Sliders and when they aired so I’m going by very limited memory here) have pulp elements and these stories fit nicely into a combo of those two genres.  

How did you pick the writers for the book?

Ian Watson and Mark Bousquet are people I’ve known for about 2 decades and they helped me create the concept.  They were both no brainers.  I was happy they were both interested.  While I’m supposed to be shilling my book here, if you haven’t read Mark Bousquet’s DREAMER’S SYNDROME, get it.  It’s excellent.  Now let me get back on topic, both are Dr. Who fans so having them write stories was a blessing.

Sean Taylor came along out of the blue.  I had answered some questions about my Blackthorn (White Rocket Books, e-book only) story and I mentioned I was in the early stages of this project and Sean said he wanted in.  I said yes. 

What can you tell us about the stories in this first volume?

“Fire From Above” by me introduces the characters and starts with the assassination attempt on Crystal Lee.  After that we get our first glimpse of Chancellor Darwin who believes in a survival of the fittest strategy.  He’s dropping asteroids on a lizard man planet.  I wanted to start with lizard men since it would immediately show the readers that we weren’t limited to human history.  Plus, The Silurians is the best Pertwee serial.  So this is my nod to that serial though the stories have nothing to do with each other.

“Her Troy to Burn” by Sean Taylor revolves around a civil war between two Olympian factions: the Darwinists and the Helpers.  It’s a really fun story where we get our first glimpse of how the different factions fight things out on other worlds (using what they consider to be lesser beings to do their dirty work of course). The characters get caught between two factions and meet a princess and a rebel that want to change the world.  There’s something special about the princess, but I’ll let you read the story.

“Absolute Control” by I.A. Watson introduces a faction that the Olympians don’t know exists.  The Controllers are basically our Daleks, but they’re undead, robotic, insect men.  Their mad creator wants to use them to control all of reality.  Ulysses King and company aren’t aware of this faction and thus are caught off guard by their appearance.  This story also provides some nice backstory for Pandora and Jake.  This was the first Ulysses King story I saw that wasn’t written by me and it blew me away. 

“The Nesting Dolls of Nova 6” by Mark Bousquet brings in the Hedonists.  This is a tougher one to explain without ruining it, but the Hedonists have set themselves up as gods on this planet and have set up a warped set of commandments.  This is the only story that doesn’t take place on an alternate Earth.  Nova 6 is another planet, thus it’s more advanced than the Earth Jake and Crystal come from.  I think the strength of this story is the dialogue between the characters and there’s some really important material for volume 2 in this story.  The plot is great, but Mark really nails the fun you can have with the interactions between the characters.  A very good job by Mark Bousquet.

What does the future hold for Ulysses King and his traveling companions?

In the more immediate future, Pro Se should be publishing the story “Dinosaurs and Nukes Don’t Mix” as a single shot.  This is basically my attempt to write a Godzilla vs Dr. Who story. 
In the fall, my story “Monsters in the Monastery” should be coming out in a werewolf anthology from Metahuman Press.  This is the story with the werewolves in the old west.

2015 will see the second volume of Ulysses King.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Since I don’t have any of my own stuff to plug except the e-book version of Blackthorn ( I figure I’ll use this to shill books for my co-authors:

Ian Watson (who writes as I.A. Watson) has done a number of things, but I think I’ll push his Robin Hood books since that’s the first thing that comes to mind.  Here’s the link to the first one:

Sean Taylor’s done a number of things and here’s one I think of first when I think of his work:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nugget #9 -- Two Perspectives

As I see it, there are primarily two perspectives on writing – the practical perspective and the spiritual perspective. Most of us 
fall somewhere on the number line between them, 
but we tend to favor one over the other.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #290 -- Famous Last Words (Short Stories)

What are you favorite closing lines and endings from short stories?

“Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. “It’s no real pleasure in life.”
-- Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man Is Hard To Find"

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.
-- Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery"

"I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark."
--Ramond Carver, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love"

"Beyond this was only darkness... unknowing and unknown."
-- Ryunosuke Akutagawa, "Rashomon

"There was a sound of thunder."
-- Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder"

"He was sobbing violently now. 'We've crucified the Son of God, and we're going to do it next tour, and the next and the next...'
"'For ever and ever, time without end, amen,' finished Harry, humbly."
-- Gary Killworth, 'Let's Go to Golgotha"

Then suddenly I comprehended, and sprang through the hall-way to the marble-room. The doors flew open, the sunlight streamed into my face, and through it, in a heavenly glory, the " Madonna " smiled, as Genevifeve lifted her flushed face from her marble couch and opened her sleepy eyes.
-- Robert Chambers, "The Mask"

"Outside the tent the hyena made the same strange noise that had awakened her. But she did not hear him for the beating of her heart."
-- Ernest Hemingway, "The Snows of Kilimanjero"

"The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!"
-- H.P. Lovecraft, "Dagon"

"You needn’t ask how Wilbur called it out of the air. He didn’t call it out. It was his twin brother, but it looked more like the father than he did.”
-- H.P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror

"Only then did she understand that three thousand years had passed since the day she had had a desire to eat the first orange."
-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "Eva Is Inside Her Cat"

"She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea."
-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"

"I was glad when she left-even though she didn't bother to tell me goodbye."
-- Raymond Chandler, "Trouble Is My Business

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sign Up for the Pro Se Newsletter

Pulp Fans and Supporters, Please spread this post far and wide! Help me get the word out about Pro Se's latest way to let everyone know what great work the Pro Se team of creators and staff are producing every single day!

Pro Se Productions, a leading Publisher of Genre Fiction and New Pulp, announces the debut of PRO SE PRESENTS: THE NEWSLETTER. The newsletter, released every two weeks, will carry all the latest information, updates, and releases from Pro Se Productions. New books, books that are coming soon, Authors and Artists joining Pro Se, and so much more will be covered in the pages of PRO SE PRESENTS: THE NEWSLETTER. If interested in receiving our newsletter in your mail every two weeks, please follow the link and subscribe!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

[Link] Raymond Chandler, "The Simple Art of Murder"(1950)

Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic. Old-fashioned novels which now seem stilted and artificial to the point of burlesque did not appear that way to the people who first read them. Writers like Fielding and Smollett could seem realistic in the modern sense because they dealt largely with uninhibited characters, many of whom were about two jumps ahead of the police, but Jane Austen’s chronicles of highly inhibited people against a background of rural gentility seem real enough psychologically. There is plenty of that kind of social and emotional hypocrisy around today. Add to it a liberal dose of intellectual pretentiousness and you get the tone of the book page in your daily paper and the earnest and fatuous atmosphere breathed by discussion groups in little clubs. These are the people who make bestsellers, which are promotional jobs based on a sort of indirect snob-appeal, carefully escorted by the trained seals of the critical fraternity, and lovingly tended and watered by certain much too powerful pressure groups whose business is selling books, although they would like you to think they are fostering culture. Just get a little behind in your payments and you will find out how idealistic they are.

The detective story for a variety of reasons can seldom be promoted. It is usually about murder and hence lacks the element of uplift. Murder, which is a frustration of the individual and hence a frustration of the race, may have, and in fact has, a good deal of sociological implication. But it has been going on too long for it to be news. If the mystery novel is at all realistic (which it very seldom is) it is written in a certain spirit of detachment; otherwise nobody but a psychopath would want to write it or read it. The murder novel has also a depressing way of minding its own business, solving its own problems and answering its own questions. There is nothing left to discuss, except whether it was well enough written to be good fiction, and the people who make up the half-million sales wouldn’t know that anyway. The detection of quality in writing is difficult enough even for those who make a career of the job, without paying too much attention to the matter of advance sales.

The detective story (perhaps I had better call it that, since the English formula still dominates the trade) has to find its public by a slow process of distillation. That it does do this, and holds on thereafter with such tenacity, is a fact; the reasons for it are a study for more patient minds than mine. Nor is it any part of my thesis to maintain that it is a vital and significant form of art. There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that. The growth of populations has in no way increased the amount; it has merely increased the adeptness with which substitutes can be produced and packaged.

Yet the detective story, even in its most conventional form, is difficult to write well.

Continue reading:

Friday, June 13, 2014


An innovative Publisher of Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions announces the release of one of its most interesting collections yet. Multiple genres get the Pulp treatment in stories of three thousand words or less in Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp.

“Flash Fiction,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “is a rather ‘flashy’ term for what has also been called the short-short story. Although we usually are looking for longer tales, it’s an interesting proposition to see if Pulp authors can deliver the same thrills and chills in a much shorter format. Rat-A-Tat is definitely proof that not only can it be done, but the crew of authors we wrangled into doing it for this collection deliver with both barrels in every single story. Variety abounds in the pages of this multifaceted anthology of flash fiction done right.”

Like Bullets from a Tommy Gun, Pro Se Productions delivers Pulp like no one else in Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp!

Today’s best Genre Fiction authors pull their fedoras down tight, charge their laser blasters, and barrel full speed ahead into Rat-A-Tat. This collection features short short fiction designed to illicit the same emotions, the same edge of the seat thrill, the same action and adventure as classic Pulp stories and New Pulp novels. Thrill to Pulp delivered in quick, sharp blasts from a rogues’ gallery of authors:

Russ Anderson, Jr. Ralph L. Angelo, Jr.
Mark Gelineau David White
Jaime Hudson Philip Leibfried
Nick C. Piers Teel James Glenn
Joel Jenkins James Bojaciuk
Edward J. Indovina James Hopwood
Adam Lance Garcia Logan L. Masterson
Kevin Rodgers H. David Blalock
A. Stuart Williams James Kinley
Ken Janssens Mark Bousquet

Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp featuring an atmospheric cover by David L. Russell and cover design and print formatting by Percival Constantine is now available in print on Amazon for $12.00. The collection of flash pulp fiction is also available as an eBook designed and formatted by Russ Anderson on Kindle exclusively for only $2.99.

For more information on this title, interviews with the authors, or digital copies for review, contact Morgan Minor, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Butt End of the Book -- Ending a Story

Everybody always talks about story openings, but what about the opposite end of the work -- what about story endings? What makes those work? Let's talk about it.

Let's start with an easy one. Tell me your favorite story ending and why it works for you, why you find it memorable.

H. David Blalock: My favorite story ending? I don't think I have a single favorite. Endings do several things for a story. Tell a moral, provoke an emotion, teach a lesson, pull things together in the way most satisfying to the writer but not necessarily for the reader.

Herika Raymer: Choosing a favorite story ending is difficult. Though the one that came to mind when I read this was the ending of Travellor In Black by John Brunner. I always enjoy it when there is an unexpected twist. Not one out of the blue, but one suspected but cannot be proven/disproven until the end. There have been a lot of predictable endings, and those are naturally appropriate but sometimes a little "where did that come from" or "I knew it!" is refreshing.

James Layne: In "Once Upon A Time" tales the guy gets the girl and slays the dragon. In action stories the hero lives to fight another day, I assume bodice rippers end with something climactic, but the endings that I like best are those that either leave you wanting  for more, or when you read the last line and realize that the entire 268 previous pages were nothing but setup for a marvelous one liner such as in Zalazney's A Night In the Lonesome October - Jack and Jill ran down the hill  and Grey and I came after...

Ray Dean: How about I go opposite... the WORST ending ever... Stephen R Donaldson's Mirror of Her Dreams. 654 pages to find out that ... continued in part 2. Over a year and a half later when the second part came out I had to reread part 1 to get up to speed... it just wasn't the same. Where I had been on the edge of my seat to find out what's next... I was now... sigh.

Jason Henderson: When I thought about this question, several answers came to mind but a favorite would be the end of To Kill a Mockingbird. After all the excitement we get a short chapter that shows a gentle scene of the family - Jem, Scout and Atticus, as Atticus reads them a story and puts the children to bed. We get a lot right at the end -- a story-within-a-story with a moral that echoes the story of the whole novel, a gentle moment, and for the reader, a return to the world of our own - the characters literally go to sleep. I'm left entranced and feeling privileged to have spent time with the characters.

Lee Houston Jr.: My favorite story ending (to date) unfortunately has yet to be released, so I'm not sure I can talk about it in great detail right now. I will say that the short story is scheduled to be published by Airship 27, and that the twist ending has a very big surprise for even the most casual pulp (or movie) fan.

Cam Crowder: It's kind of a tossup to be honest. But, if I had to pick, I think I'd go with Caliban's Hour by Tad Williams. It was the first time as a kid that I read a book that left me actively guessing after the book was closed.

The whole premise of the book was Caliban finding the woman who betrayed him years prior and making her pay. But, after he tells her his story, the woman's daughter storms in and offers to leave with Caliban in order to spare her mother. Caliban says that he'll take care of the girl, but also openly says that he could be lying if he's truly the monster he's been called all these years. The most fascinating part about the ending was the way he leaves everything in the hands of the woman he'd been intending to kill for the whole book, telling her that, if she believes him, she'll wait until the candle in the room goes out before calling the guards.

It's an ending that still gives me chills to this day when I read the book.

I.A. Watson: There are three kinds of endings I find effective. The first is the "they all return home changed" end. Think of the last couple of chapters of Lord of the Rings, where four kick-ass Hobbits get back to the Shire, Frodo stomps Saruman, and we see how the adventure is going to shape everyone's lives thereafter.

Then there's the big-last-clash type of ending, which ties together everything that's come before. There are revelations, betrayals, major moral choices, possibly a countdown, probably things exploding. I try for these in my pulp fiction writing, especially at the close of my Robin Hood trilogy and in Blackthorn: Dynasty of Mars.

Lastly there's the sense-of-destiny ending. King Arthur takes his place at the Round Table - or heads away in a boat for Avalon, to await the day of his return. It's the moment when the protagonist we've watched struggle for 500 pages comes into his own. This ending sometimes but not always involves a romance, and sometimes but not always sets up a sequel.

What is the purpose of a good and effective story ending? How does that purpose differ from the opening of a story? Which, if either, if more important to the work?

H. David Blalock: A good ending should at least finish the story in a way that lets the reader see there is nothing left to tell. Unless you have the prestige of a Hitchcock or a very forgiving readership, all plotlines should be resolved. All questions should be answered. All conflicts should be resolved. One way or the other.

Herika Raymer: An effective story ending resolves all threads laid out in the story. Even if the thread is not tied up the way the reader would prefer, at least it is addressed. To me that is an effective ending - what threads were put out there and how can they be resolved?

James Layne: An over simplified answer would be that one is just as important as the other for the same reason, gaining enough of the reader's trust to get them to buy the next book... But from a story telling standpoint to me at least, the beginning is about kicking the door in and exposing what is on the other side. Endings, well not every story has a happy ending and life even in fiction isn't always neat and tidy. For me the ending is resolution of a problem and not about packaging it neatly for the evening news. I seem to do better with the endings to novels than with my short stories. I have trouble because endings require setup and sometimes its a challenge for me in shorter word counts... Boiled down, "The beginning sells this book, the ending sells the next one."

Ray Dean: An opening is supposed to set you down in the middle of the action, sweep you up in the story. The ending should be satisfying. Something that makes you feel the journey was worth it. And hopefully, it also instills excitement in you for the world you've just explored. Hope that you'll have other adventures in the same universe. Both are important... bookends.

Lee Houston Jr.: The opening should draw the reader into your tale and make them want to find out what happens next. The ending should at least have the reader satisfied, if not excited, that they did spend the time to read your story. Both are equally vital to the overall work.

Cam Crowder: The opening is more important for drawing the reader in, but the ending is what they're going to remember.

That said, I've seen a million-and-three different types of endings in my lifetime, and only a few of them stood out as wrong. I know people sometimes hate it when a book's last chapters move at light speed and the story ends leaving them with more questions than they had when they started. Personally, I like that, but it's not for everyone.

I also think that a good opening is more universal than a good ending. Most people like for their books to open with a hook to draw them in, whereas endings are very diverse, depending on the audience you're trying to reach.

Jason Henderson: The opening of a story performs the critical function of getting you, the reader, to read the whole first page and then turn that page. The rest is optional. The closing of a story performs the critical function of making you glad you read all the way to the end - a tougher job and one that books often fail. To me the opening is important for a very narrow purpose: getting you to decide in a split second whether to keep reading. (That's why I try to begin my adventure novels in media res, with the main character, say, falling out of an airplane. But even if you don't start with action, even if it's a dialogue scene in someone's drawing room, the opening has one job: keep you from putting the book back down.

An ending, on the other hand, has to make you feel like you were not wrong to keep reading -- to satisfy you and with any luck leave you with a visceral thrill, hairs standing on your arms. The opening can be a carnival barker and promise anything at all; the closing must sell you on the value of what you've read, and be right about it.

Shane Moore: I prefer the emotional ending to the big reveal. I want the reader moved insomuch they have a real emotional reaction. In order to achieve this, it forces me to write and develop a story the reader is fully invested in.

I.A. Watson: A good opening lays out the themes for the book, piques reader interest, sucks readers in. it;s most basic job is to get someone to turn to page 2, but it can and should do a lot more than that. A good ending affirms the whole experience, making the reader glad he or she purchased the work. The opening might determine whether the book gets read; the ending determines whether it gets read again, and loaned out, and recommended to friends, and given five-star reviews.

An ending needs to tie up plots, themes, personal character arcs, and any outstanding business. There's a slightly different answer for endings on ongoing series, which may carry over some elements, but in both cases there had to be a sense of closure. Think how many fan-favourite TV series have dropped from grace through poor endings (hello, Lost, Twin Peaks, even How I Met Your Mother). Books, which are usually longer-term commitments to experience and require a deeper cognitive function, demand even more rigorous levels of sense-of-completion.

Endings are more important in terms of literary quality. A book's reputation might survive a bad start. It won't survive a bad end.

What are the key elements of an effective ending paragraph or line? What makes them effective?

H. David Blalock: The ending is the most important part of the story, as just about any writer can tell you. It's easy to create conflict, to build characters, to populate plots. It's only the best writers who can bring everything together, meld it into a unified whole, and present it in an entertaining and acceptable way when the final paragraph passes under the reader's eye. Editors look at the opening to see if they should further consider a work for publication, but even if you pass the first hurdle, if you can't write an ending that tells the editor you know not only how to tell a story, but how to satisfy the reader.

Herika Raymer: Depending on how the paragraph or line is being used, how it is phrased. If you are using it to lead into the next sentence or chapter, be sure it leaves a sense of what is to come. If it is meant as a closure, have a feeling of finality to it.

James Layne: Resolution of a problem. Recovery of the McGuffin. Rescue of the damsel in distress. These are the purposes of the ending. If there is not an adequate and justified reason for the release of dramatic tension then give me something I can sink my teeth into. IF you can't do that then you better hit me with one heckuva good joke. The ending is the money shot, it is where your reader feels the value proposition... The most effective endings give you resolution, but  they also tease you with things that happen just outside the field of vision or earshot. Your reader has lived and died with your characters, they require justice for those with whom they've bled and cried. A happy ending is nice in the given circumstance, but the right ending is everything.

Ray Dean: Hmm.. perhaps an ending should be like a sleeve - (keep in mind I sew) - where a sleeve should end with an appropriate edge, line, or decoration. Something that complements the sleeve that led up to it. Some sleeves have a frilly edge, or a clean line of pin-tucks with a decorative button, or a light and airy froth. but if it contradicts the rest of the sleeve or the garment that it is worth with, it ruins the whole thing. Yeah, that may not work in everyone's mind, but that's how it is in mine.

Lee Houston Jr.: Somehow, those last words should summarize and impart the overall essence of the story, at least from the point of view of whoever says them, without revealing the outcome of the tale in case a copy should be looked over by the browser who glances at the last page of the print copy first.

Cam Crowder: For me personally, I like for the last line to keep me asking questions. I want to continue living in that world long after the last page is turned. Any book that can give me that, I consider effective.

But, again, the effectiveness of any ending line depends on the reader entirely. Some people don't care what it is as long as they get closure, others (like me) want some more things to think about.

And it's important to remember that your ending, whatever it might be, will define the story you're trying to tell. So it's best to make sure it's a definition you can live with. You want it to be as memorable as possible.

Jason Henderson: The ending paragraph or line doesn't have to be a clever line or joke; doesn't have to be the best line in the book. It just has to make you satisfied that you read it. So some final lines are not memorable per se - To Kill a Mockingbird's is: "He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

And you can't match the angry cool at the end of Casino Royale: "Yes, dammit, I said 'was.' The bitch is dead now."

Nor the chillingly taciturn final line from 1984: "I love Big Brother."

The final line of Frankenstein is: "He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance." I like that one; it's another pure close, the monster drifting "into the distance, like someone waving from the back of a train. Plus it's alliterative. Well done, Mary.

And the final line of Wuthering Heights is so good that it makes me cry even years after I remember the scene that ends it very well at all: "I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

So there it is: openings have to drag you in. The ending has to send you away feeling you were right to be dragged.

I.A. Watson: I've written a whole chapter on this for my forthcoming essay book Where Stories Dwell so I won't spoil that here - it's the last chapter in there, naturally. I'll briefly comment on some of my favourite tricks for closing lines:
1.    Final paragraph revelation: Rosebud was his sled!
2.    Underlining a theme or moral: "Next time, kids, maybe don't hold your frat party in the abandoned asylum, huh?"
3.    The hero gets his reward. "Sure, you're very clever. Now shut up about the case, get over here, and kiss me." "A point well made."
4.    Hook right back to the opening lines and offer some circularity or progression.