Sunday, July 20, 2014

[Link] This is what happens in your brain when you’re writing

by Gabriella Munoz

A team of neuroscientists has scanned the brains of professional and novice writers when creating a work of fiction to get a glimpse of their creative process.

Researchers led by neuroscientist Martin Lotze from the University of Greifswald in Germany have used functional magnetic resonance (fMIR) scanners to get a sneak peek of what happens in the brains of professional and non-experienced writers when they are working on a story.

Continue reading:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

More Than 150 Pulps to be Auctioned at PulpFest 2014

PulpFest 2014 is very pleased to announce that it will be offering a substantial accumulation of pulp magazines at this year’s Saturday Night Auction, taking place on August 9 at 9:30 PM. Thanks to auctioneer Joseph F. Saine, who acquired this collection from the Boston area, over seventy lots of this year’s auction will be almost entirely devoted to pulp magazines.

Featuring over 150 pulps as well as a few digests and dime novels, the collection ranges from fair condition materials to collectibles in very good or better condition. A wide variety of titles will be offered: Argosy, All-Story Weekly, Amazing Stories, Bill Barnes, Dare-Devil Aces, Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Mystery Magazine, Doc Savage, Frontier Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction, G-8 and His Battle Aces, Horror Stories, Ka-Zar, The Lone Eagle, Operator #5, Pete Rice Western, Pioneer Tales, The Shadow, Speed Adventure Stories, Spicy Adventure Stories, The Spider, Strange Stories, Terror Tales, and others.

For a look at the pulps that will be sold, please visit

So come to Columbus, Ohio from August 7 - 10 for "Summer's Great Pulp Con" and bid on this fine selection of magazines. As always, you'll find also find more details at

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nuggets #17 -- Hemingway's Wisdom

One thing I've learned is that the longer I write and the more I write, the better my early drafts become, but they're still pretty much exactly what Papa Hemingway called 'em. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Talking Byzantium with I.A. Watson

I.A. Watson's new eBook is releasing today. So we figured now was as good a time as any to talk to the prolific author about his new work (and some of his older stuff too). 

So, your new series for Pro Se’s Single Shot Signatures e-books range is out about now. What’s the pitch for your BYZANTIUM series?

Image an alternative history where Christianity never happened. Where Rome fell because of the rise of sorcerer-kings and ancient wyrms. Where mediaeval Europe is a ruin of scattered fiefdoms separated by ghost-haunted forests and bandit-plagued roads. Where the ancient city of Byzantium is the last refuge of civilisation.

Our first five-volume arc, starting with BYZANTIUM: DEAD MEN’S ROAD, tells the story of a caravan wagon train making its way to the big city across that wilderness desolation. Unfortunately they discover themselves in the middle of a civil war, stalked by raiders and a growing undead army, with terrible enemies behind them and traitors within.

And in the best tradition of “beleaguered traveller” stories, almost everyone on the road has a secret.

What made you want to tell a story like that?

Tommy [Hancock, Pro Se Editor in Chief] pointed out that I’d never really developed signature characters of my own as many writers do. I’ve written half a million words or more of Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, plus plenty of stories using other people’s pulp characters, either classics like Richard Knight and Armless O’Neil or new franchises like Blackthorn or Gideon Cain. I’ve never taken the time to develop an ongoing cast all of my own.

And Tommy, diabolic arch-salesman that he is, then suggested his new Single Shot imprint as being the ideal way to fix that.

I decided to look at a fantasy series because I’ve not published that much in the genre. I wanted the fun of imagining and building a world in an alternate history where some things were the same and some were very different from our own past. Dungeons and Dragons meets Wagon Train. Mystical medieval realpolitik interrupted by zombies. Thieves, warriors, princesses, and pagan priests facing a disaster movie. I wanted a disparate bunch of characters pushed together for an extended period of time so they could rub up to each other and secrets could come out.

Did you manage to get your new characters in there, then?

Our story starts as a swashbuckling interfering wanderer joins up with a long-distance caravan because he senses trouble – and fun. The train’s moving out across uncertain territory carrying an imperial army payroll. There’s a royal courier delivering urgent diplomatic messages. There’s a sleazy slaver dragging a bunch of captives to the Byzantium auction block. There’s a very large, very direct Viking security guard with a very large war-axe, and an eccentric humming trail-scout with a pet war-pig. Most significantly from our adventurer’s point of view,  there’s a dazzlingly beautiful lady mage of the Invisible College travelling alone on some mysterious errand pursued by terrible enemies.

You know how disaster movies establish a whole bunch of people of different kinds who then get pushed together when the crisis happens? That’s what I was going for here. The fun is seeing how they interact and who survives.

The main characters were designed to work at least two different ways. The challenge was to use archetypes of the genre – I could tell you the main cast’s Skyrim statistics and their approximate levels – and then make them proper rounded people suitable for a novel.

Is writing fantasy very different from historical adventure like your ROBIN HOOD trilogy, or from detective fiction like the SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE books, or from high space opera SF like BLACKTHORN?

Each form has its own requirements but all have similar needs too. Every story has got to have a hook, compelling characters, an unfolding plot. They must all provide a satisfying reading experience. Of the examples you mention, the mystery stories are the ones that require the most unique approach. I plot those and structure them quite differently to the way I put together the adventure-based material. Sometimes there are diagrams.

I’ve done a bit of each kind of story recently. I’ve turned in my story for CONSULTING DETECTIVE volume 7, plus a different take on Holmes for a forthcoming anthology of Holmes stories without Watson for a different publisher. I’ve completed the most dense, complicated mystery I’ve ever written, “Murder at Barrowbrocks” for a forthcoming anthology of ‘cosy’ detective stories. Writing those is a bit like laying out a jigsaw puzzle. Nothing can be wasted in a fair-play mystery. Even the irrelevant is relevant as a way of obscuring the vital. Every story can be read twice for very different experiences, first time to solve the mystery, the second to see how the author slipped in the clues and to enjoy the characters struggling while we know the awful truth.

I’ve sent off the manuscript for the all-I.A. Watson anthology ROBIN HOOD: FORBIDDEN LEGEND. BLACKTHORN: SPIRES OF MARS is ready to go. Both of those required a sort of free-wheeling action vibe. The key elements were character, interacting with a distinctive environment, against a larger plot. A lot of heroic fiction depends on establishing a compelling narrative and threading the cast through it. There the writing starts with getting all the dominoes lined up, then knocking them down to thrill the reader.

Somewhere between the two extremes is a property like RICHARD KNIGHT: RACE WITH HELL, my forthcoming novella using Donald Keyhoe’s US agent airman detective. The blend there is between solving a mystery and surviving a peril. It’s James Bond with added whodunnit.

With BYZANTIUM, which is structured as stand-alone novellas within an initial five-volume story arc, the writing is most similar to Hood and Blackthorn. Adventure is adventure whether it’s in Sherwood Forest, dystopian future-Mars, or fantasy alternate-Europe. The other challenge was making sure that each book offered a stand-alone story with its own bang, so that folks go away satisfied (and hopefully come back again next time to be satisfied some more).

You intend to return to the Byzantium series, then?

As time allows, I probably will. We’ll see how the initial five novellas do as proof-of-concept. I enjoyed writing them, as evidenced by the fact that I started out expecting to produce a single novella, then proliferated to a trilogy, then ended up with five parts before I could reign myself in. And after all that we still only got the core cast to the city gates! Five volumes called Byzantium, and we’ve not even got inside the walls yet! More work is clearly indicated.


Anything else on the writing desk?

My self-imposed task this summer is to get lots of finished things properly packaged and sent off to publication. Next up is SIR MUMPHREY WILTON AND THE LOST CITY OF MYSTERY, a World War II adventure in the Saturday-matinee tradition of Indiana Jones. A couple of other novels are in the queue after that when time allows.

Next time I sit down to do a long piece will be a full-length Sherlock Holmes novel that’s been commissioned. I need to get some of the clutter cleared so I can get a clear run at that.

Also due out sometime soon-ish is my first non-fiction book, the essay volume WHERE STORIES DWELL. I’m looking forward to that one, even though it did nearly kill the publisher.

I.A Watson’s publications are listed at along with free stories and additional materials.

Nuggets #16 -- Coaxing Stories

Writing takes as long as it takes. Sometimes, stories spew out like a waterfall and I just hang on by my fingertips for the ride. Other times, they need to be coaxed and coddled and all but bribed or beaten out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nuggets #14 -- Literary Subtlety

I can still exercise my literary subtlety from time to time, but never at the expense of comprehension.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nuggets #13 -- A Little Bit Bad

I prefer to write my characters along a continuum rather than a clear line in the sand. My bad guys can be a little good, and my good guys have to be a little bad, or they're just not that interesting to me as a reader or as a writer.

This Week's Posts Are Brought To You By... Nuggets

Since several folks have mentioned to me how much they enjoy the short, inspirational "Nuggets" posts, I'm dedicating this entire week of posting to them. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

[Link] Taking the Mystery Out of Writing Mysteries

By Dennis Palumbo

If you saw the season-ending episode of Monk, do you remember the clue that helped catch the killer?

Me, neither.

In the recent thriller Fractured, what was the mistake Anthony Hopkins made that proved he killed his wife?

You got me.

My point, and I do have one, is that often writers think the most important aspect of a good mystery is the ingenuity of the crime, the unraveling of the clues. Which is why many writers are scared to death of even trying to write a mystery or thriller.

Fear no more.

Yes, viewers of mysteries and thrillers like tightly-plotted narratives, clever red herrings, and a certain element of surprise. And you should always strive to weave as many of these aspects into your whodunit or crime story as possible.

But these factors are not what makes a mystery - any mystery - memorable. Think of TV's The Rockford Files, or The Closer. Think of films like Chinatown and Silence of the Lambs. As best-selling crime author Michael Connelly wrote, "The best mysteries are about the mystery of character."

Continue reading:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Down and Dirty Feature Article List

Geez. That's a bunch of articles. Maybe we need to compile some of this stuff into a book. It would certainly make one heck of a thick, heavy doorstop, that's for sure.

As always, if you're looking for an article about a particular topic, please feel free to use the handy-dandy tags running down the right side of the blog below the links.

Roundtable Interviews:

The OP Hero -- Balancing Plot and Character

Hot Lead and Dead Steel? What about Westerns?

The Cover Story -- What Makes Book Covers Work?

The Butt End of the Book -- Ending a Story

What's My Motivation?

Violence and Gore -- Write Less or Write More?

Fictional World Building in Action/Adventure Stories

Building Fantasy Worlds in Fiction

The Opening Salvo -- Grabbing Readers from the First Sentence

The Wayback Machine -- WWY(ou)D

Mine or Yours: The Comic Book Edition

Mine or Yours: New Characters vs. Existing Characters

Pulps and Race -- A Writer's Roundtable

Filling Your Basket With Literary Easter Eggs

Dream Up the Next DC JLA Event -- A Fan Roundtable

Going Public About the Public Domain

Is Writing Really Re-Writing?

Plotting and Pantsing: A Writers' Roundtable

Marrying Plot and Character

Bibbity, Bloggity, Boo -- Writers Who Blog

The Illusion of Change -- The Comics and Pulp Conundrun

Bullets vs. Bonding -- Balancing action and characterization in pulp fiction

Can White Men Jump? Writing Other Races and Genders Than Your Own

Tales to Keep You In... Suspense!

What makes a horror book scary?

Words and Art: Finding the Right Blend in Comic Book Scriptwriting

Killing or Kissing the Muse -- Writers on Finding Inspiration

Breaking New Ground in New Pulp

We're Here To Pump Your Characters Up

The Hero's Journey -- To Campbell Or Not To Campbell

Getting Under the Hero's Skin -- Writers on Villains

Getting the First and Last Word -- Story Openings and Endings

Re-Writing the Old Familiar

The Horror of It All -- Writers on Being Scary with Words

Science Fiction, Space Fantasy, and the World of Speculative Storytelling

Making the Fantasy Fantastic

The Story Behind Urban Fantasy

Why Do You Write... Pulp?

Pulp with Pictures

Looking Out for Number One... or Is That Number Two? Writing for Yourself or For the Fans?

Hey You, Open the Book! -- What Makes an Effective Cover?

How Epic is Epic? -- Working with "Epic" Storylines

Everything Old is New Again... Too New

Childhood Books and Movies: When You Can't Go Home Again

Straight Talk About Origin Stories

An Issue Too Long? How Long Should a "Typical" Comic Book Arc Be?

Comics to Prose: From Four Colors to Black Text

Pulps to Comics: A Bridge or a Chasm?

Running on Feet of Clay -- How Bad Can a Hero Be and Still Be a Good Guy?

How Dangerous a Mask Can Be -- The Fascination with the Masked Hero in Pulps

A Walk on the Dark Side: Writing Believable Villains

The Pulp Writers and Fans Roundtable About Comic Books

Genre-Bending: How Pure Should Pulp Fiction Be?

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow—In What Time Period Does Pulp Fit Best?

Type. Type. (Stereo)Type: Taming the Familiar Beast

Bullets vs. Bonding -- Balancing action and characterization in pulp fiction

Writing Pet Peeves: A Roundtable

Individual Interviews:

Talking Westerns with Beau Smith
Link TK

John Durden: Throwing Words in Glass Castles

The Olympian Heights of Amy Strickland

Getting to Know... Ulysses King (and Mark Beauli

John McGuire -- Following the Dark with John McGuire

David Wright -- Maybe His Brother's Keeper After All

Revisting Comic Book Arc Length -- Shane Berryhill

This Man Likes Michael Bay -- The Josh Mason Story

Imaginative Faith: The Works of H. David Blalock

Logan Masterson: "Springing" into New Ventures

L. Andrew Cooper: The Extreme Side of Horror

Jeremy Hicks: Cycling the Ages But Not Grinding it Out

Shane Berryhill and the Outlaws

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

Meet Cam Crowder, the Runty Little Ginger

The Wizard Finds His Path: An Interview with Richard Lee Byers

Mark Bousquet: The Dreamer of Kraken Moor

Heretical in Hindsight, The Work of Andrew Toy

Meet K.S. Daniels

Getting To Know... Pamela Turner

Hunting Fate: Getting to Know Rachel Hunter

Scott Mallory and the Cupcake Monster

Steven Cumming: "Cute that Kicks Butt"

The Powerful Press of Lance Stahlberg

The Queen of Blüd: The Devin Grayson Interview

Open the Storm Gates: Don Gates Talks Challenger Storm

Michael D'Ambrosio -- Fractured but Never Broken

David Boop: Blinding Us with Brilliance

Exploring the Darkness with James A. Moore

Oh the Horror... of Robert Freese

Getting to know the man behind the man in (no) tights -- Ian Watson

Digging Up the Deadly With Bobby Nash

It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's Van Allen Plexico!

Cowboys, and Pirates, and Cannibals, Oh Ed Erdelac!

Getting to know the Air Chief... Ron Fortier!

Prose and Bullets with Tommy Hancock!

Monsters and Bullets: Getting to Know Perry Constantine

Houston, We Don't Have a Problem -- Catching Up with Lee Houston Jr.

Wheelin' and Dillon with Derrick Ferguson

The Weird Tale of Michael Vance

Shelagh Watkins' Writing Machine

Murder on Her Mind -- The World of Krystal Rollins

Reese's Pieces... The Fictional World of Barry Reese

D. A. Adams and the (Lot More Than Seven) Dwarves

Visionary, Editor, Writer, Storyteller -- Allan Gilbreath

Chuck Dixon: The Best Damn Comic Book Writer Ever

Artfully Rendered -- Mike Henderson

Nancy Hansen's Way

Alan Lewis' Bloody Garden

A Punch and a Jab with Paul Bishop

Ed Crandell's Wild, Weird West

To the Point -- A Quick Chat with William D. Prystauk

Chuck Miller's One Hundred Legs of Death

James R. Tuck -- The Man Behind the Deacon

James Palmer and the Love for the Stories

Other Featured Articles:

The Watson Report: Magic Swords and Their Makers

The Watson Report: Behind Every Good Man -- Thoughts on Pulp Heroines

The Watson Report: Change and Growth for Characters in Pulp and Comics

The Watson Report: The First Whodunnit? (Part Two)

The Watson Report: The First Whodunnit? (Part One)

The Watson Report: Getting to know Aria, a Princess of Mars (no relation to that Thoris woman)

The Watson Report: The Baffling Story of Spring-Heeled Jack

The Watson Report: Starting a Story

Remembering Ray Bradbury

Plotting in the Context of a Series

How to Evoke a Feeling of Dread in Writing Horror

The 30 Best Graphic Novels Ever (Final Collected Version)

The Iron Man Cometh?

The Grandchildren of Pulp (Or, How I Learned That Pulp Never Really Died) -- part 2

The Grandchildren of Pulp (Or, How I Learned That Pulp Never Really Died) -- part 1

Femme Fatales—An Obsession Dissected

The Cover Story -- Pulps Should Shock and Grab You!

How Bad Guys Die by I.A. Watson

The Twitter Writing Tips Sessions

On Heriones by I.A. Watson

There’s No Place Like Home – When Being Likeable Was Enough by Selah Janel

Friday, July 11, 2014


In October, 2013, LIBERTY GIRL by Barry Reese debuted from Pro Se Productions. This digest novel was the first work from Pro Se to feature characters licensed from Heroic Publishing, a force in independent comics since the mid 1980s. Pro Se recently announced a second LIBERTY GIRL book, an anthology, to be in progress and today opened calls for a multi author anthology featuring another of Heroic’s best known characters-Flare.

“Flare,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of and Partner in Pro Se Productions, “is a character that is almost as Pulpy in a lot of ways as she is a straight up Super Hero concept. You have a stunning young woman who is actually the result of Nazi experimentation and was originally created to destroy America’s heroes, but rebelled and became a hero herself. Throw into that the over the top villains she’s faced along with the myriad of mythological mayhem and there is all sorts of potential for great genre mashup fiction in the best New Pulp style. And that’s what we want this to be- a fun roller coaster ride of excitement and thrills with Flare leading the way.”

Stories for the FLARE Anthology must be 10,000 words in length and must adhere to the continuity established for Flare by Heroic Publishing. A biography on the character is available at Also, over five hundred pages of a webcomic featuring Flare is available as well at

A proposal of 100-500 words must be submitted to no later than August 15th, 2014. Authors not previously published by Pro Se Productions must submit a writing sample of at least two pages with their proposals. Both Heroic Publishing and Pro Se Productions will approve these proposals before acceptance. Final deadline for completed stories is 60 days following acceptance of proposals.

FLARE is scheduled for publication in late 2014 from Pro Se Productions.

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

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Talking Westerns with Beau Smith

A few weeks ago, I hosted a roundtable interview here about writing Westerns. Well, the master of them, Beau Smith, was unable to take part, but he did shoot me some words of wisdom about the genre, and I figured I'd share those with you hombres now. So, listen up, ya hear?

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

The western genre has been ingrained in me since childhood.  When I was very young, westerns were THE genre on TV as well as film.  It was the Go-To place for a male audience no matter what the age. Like comic books, I was drawn to westerns by powers I couldn’t control.  I studied the history of the old west from childhood on to the present. A part of what has always appealed to me was the mythological old west had a true code, almost black and white. Like the bible, it was true good vs true evil. At least that’s the way the mythological west that we’ve created has been.  The true historical west was a little more complicated, like today, with politics, alliances, and a gray area that had people jumping from the law & order side of the fence to that of the outlaw and back on a regular basis. I’ve always been drawn to do my best to combine the myth and the fact to make the genre even more entertaining.  I love doing research and this way I can have the best of both worlds when it comes to creating a western.

What are the key
elements of an
effective Western story?

Likable characters.  Even the bad guys have to have some sort of likability or you can’t get riled up enough to really hate them, if that makes sense.  It’s not so much a character is bad , but they have made bad choices and are good with doing so.  THAT makes them a bad guy.  A good guy wants and is driven to do what’s right.  He may have to bend the moral rules a bit, but he knows where to back off and not break them completely.  A bad guy will do this and know that he is doing it. You also must have a compelling situation to put these characters in so that the reader’s emotional investment in the characters wlll be sustained and paid off to the end of the conflict.

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

I can’t really say that the western will ever see the same kind of popularity it did when I was growing up, at least not in my lifetime.  I’d love to be surprised, but the chances are slim. I think there will always be westerns because they are our country’s mythology.  The western theme that I mentioned above will always show up in other stories and genres, be they sci-fi, horror, crime and even straight drama.  So in a way, the western will always be with us.  That’s better than not having it at all.  With my 200 PEOPLE TO KILL that I’m doing at Dark Horse Comics, I hope to give the readers their needed fix of a western from what I think is a most interesting time in the west, 1917.  You have all the change to modern technology, airplanes, gas bombs, machine guns and changing politics conflicting with the old ways of the west.  I can’t think of a more interesting story telling landscape.

For more info about Beau and his work go to:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Nuggets #12 -- Worthwhile Struggle

The most important and essential way to make characters interesting and appealing to a reader is to give them a strong and compelling story arc that takes them through a worthwhile struggle and change, even if they ultimately fail. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

John Durden: Throwing Words in Glass Castles

I had the luxury and good fortune to meet several new favorite writers at this year's Alabama Phoenix Festival, and John Durden is one you should definitely keep an eye on. So, without any prevaricating about the bush (15 extra geek points if you can name the reference), let's have him say hello.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest work Melatonin is the story of two protagonists who live in very different worlds, one living a very mundane and miserable life with one bad event after another, and the other living a magical and exciting life exploring a giant glass castle full of dark and mysterious secrets. Slowly and unexpectedly throughout the novel a demon shows up and starts meddling with their lives and making things take a turn for the worst, leaving them to make a decision that could change every aspect of their lives.

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

The story tends to revolve around the evils that are present in the character's everyday lives that have now taken on a physical form. It deals with every day circumstances that could potentially be resolved if the character takes the right steps to change their actions, but focuses on what happens when they do not. At the same time, it looks at some of the more evidently evil qualities of the demon and gives the reader something to compare the more quieted evils to.

What would be your dream project?

I would love for one of my works or a series of works to become something of a reality on the big screen. I realize that in doing that the works may not be entirely represented as they are in the book(s), but it would be pretty awesome to see my characters portrayed by actors, or voice actors even. I'm not opposed to an animated series either. I would like to work directly with those involved with the project in order to ensure that at least capture the important qualities of each characters.

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

Melatonin is my first public project and I am as of this writing working to improve the quality of my work. I pushed it out onto the market rather quickly which means I didn't take a lot of time to polish it in the ways I needed to. It helped that some of my writer friends were quick to comment and point out the flaws that they saw in the book and give me some helpful tips to make it shine and better tell the story the way I want it to be told. I'll be editing a lot of dialogue and making some parts of the book more clear and fleshed out than I have in the first draft. Even though I know there are quite a few flaws in the book, it's still encouraging to know that there are those out there who still enjoyed it for what it was in the beginning.

What inspires you to write?

The first time someone asked me this question, I thought it was a very odd question to ask. I had always thought the answer was universal. What inspires anyone to write? It's that little voice in the back of their head throwing out ideas and nagging at them to pen anything and everything that comes to mind. It wasn't until that voice died out for a while and later returned before I truly realized why I am inspired to write. It's because I love to read. For me, it's more than trying to make millions, though I am not opposed to that. It's about loving what I do. It's about entertaining myself first and then sharing it with the world. As my characters learn and grow I follow them on their journey to enlightenment, disappointment, and closure. It's all about the thrill.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

My style and technique are all original. That is what I wish I could say, but then again I would have no inspiration if the authors that I read didn't influence me. Stephen King is a huge perpetrator when it comes to not having a line that I won't cross. He never cared and let his characters tell the story regardless of what he told you about. That's what makes his works interesting. The ideas for demons and fantasy come from Dan Wells whose serial killer trilogy kept me restless for days as I plowed through every chapter in one sitting. There are various other authors and their one shot thrillers that have made my thought process go through twists and turns throughout like Gary Braver's Ghost Writer where the story Geoffrey Dane is ghostwriting the ending for is a reflection of his own life. The ending is marvelous, but I won't ruin it for anyone that hasn't read it.

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

This question has plagued me for quite some time now. For me personally, I feel it is more of an art than a science. However, when I think about how I write, I can see the formula even though I don't plan a majority of it out. There are still definitive marks of beginning, middle climax, and end throughout all that I write. As for now I believe there has to be some science in it for it to make sense. The thought has to formulated enough as to give the reader something real to grasp. However, the actual content is an art with a sort of magic to it. This reminds me of the many discussions I have had with my best writer friend over the existence of magic. We cannot agree on magic existing in the real world as he so brilliantly deduces, but we can agree that in the spectrum of the fiction, it must be evident and is a definitive quality that a book must have in order to captivate an audience.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Right now I am working on revisions for Melatonin, but afterward I am working on a series of short stories with another author whose book I have just finished publishing that should be available in the coming weeks. She is a brilliant author with a lot of promise and soon you can check out Shelley Churchwell's breakthrough novel Water Kisses on Amazon. One of my favorite shorts is one I am currently writing called "Mantis Man," which is about a human-sized mutant preying mantis as seen through the perspective of various people, some who survive and others who aren't so fortunate. After that there's book two of the Joel Black Series after Melatonin is revised. I haven't decided on a title yet, but the working title is The Life and Times of Andy Glass. There are many other projects I have in mind as well including a new novel based on a true story about an ex-CIA trained torturer in Honduras by the name of Jose Barrera.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #293 -- New Pulp, Right and Wrong

What is New Pulp doing right? What is New Pulp doing wrong?

Doing right? Consistently bringing new authors to readers, even if the pool is smaller than we'd like it to be. Keeping great characters alive and reviving them in some cases.

Doing wrong? Relying so heavily on nostalgia. Refusing to grow and accept the expansion of pulp that went into hard-boilded into Noir into spy thrillers into etc. Instead of retreading, we should be using the vibe of pulp and going new places with our prose, our characters, our stories, our tone, our very how and why were are publishing pulp. Embrace the action-packed, tight story-telling and get rid of the nostalgic baggage.

I believe pulp should embrace the kind of storytelling it used to, from horror to crime to costumed vigilante to sci-fi. But our sense of nostalgia is giving us publishers who refuse to do anything that doesn't meet a fairly strict definition of "pulp" that limits it to the costumed vigilante or some other kind of vigilante (jungle, etc.). Where are the freaky horror tales? Where are the Bradbury-esque and Asimov-esque sci-fi adventures that don't feature swash-buckling space heroes? Where are hard-core crime thrillers where good and bad get mixed up and the heroes are as dark as the villains they have to take down? And why are publishers not running the gamut of what pulp can be (in any era, not just the old days) and embracing all kinds of story-telling. Granted, a very few publishers of pulp have opened themselves up to the wider definition, but so many still limit themselves and their writers with a purely nostalgic line of clear cut good guys in masks vs. clear cut cookie cutter bad guys.

Of course, the reason a lot of New Pulp publishers focus on the vigilante fiction could be that every other pulpy genre (horror, thrillers, sci-fi, etc.) has "grown into its own and already has an outlet in the publishing world at large, so "new pulp" is getting relegated to that kind of vigilante story in the eyes of a lot of publishing and reading folks, because that kind of story has nowhere else to go but to New Pulp publishers.

So I guess I should change my "doing wrong" to this: What New Pulp is doing wrong currently is not being able to claim and build on the audience based on the genres that fall outside the masked vigilante to increase the audience throughput into all kinds of New Pulp work. In other words, we could be a uniting force for lots of genre fiction instead of bickering about what is and isn't pulp.

Of course your mileage may vary. Just my opinion.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


An innovative independent Publisher of Genre Fiction and New Pulp, Pro Se Productions announces the latest digital release in its Pro Se Single Shots line. This standalone tale by Author R. P. Steeves takes readers into a past full of monsters, magic, and men with amazing abilities. One man, in particular, burns brighter than anyone can imagine. Discover why in Fire in the Library.

A man named Pur Fotia has a secret—but one he can never tell. Marked for greatness, He can summon fire to envelop his body so that he can fly through the air, and does so when he is summoned to the great Library of Alexandria. Landing in hiding and venturing out into the city, he comes across screaming patrons and finds a monster on the other end who is killing and razing the bathhouses. From here, Pur makes his way into adventure and to the center of a dark conspiracy that no one may survive.

Fire In The Library features cover art and design By Jeffrey Hayes and digital formatting by Russ Anderson. This Single Shot is Available for 99 cents at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and

For review copies of this story, interviews with the author, or more information on this title, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bad Moon Rising

The latest book in THE GOLDEN AGE series, Bad Moon Rising, is now available (Createspace, Amazon). This volume stars Major Wonder (formerly Wonderman),the Auric Universe's more light-hearted superhero. It adapts that character’s stories from his 1940s series into six independent but interrelated short stories of science fiction, horror, and pulp superheroics, and includes the usual background material at the back of the book With an introduction by Dr. Art Sippo.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The OP Hero -- Balancing Plot and Character

Action heroes in fiction are supposed to be stronger, faster, smarter ,and far more interesting that you and me, right? Doc Savage, Indiana Jones, Batman, the list goes on. So how do you build a story with a problem that they can't just solve in two seconds flat? 

When is a heroic character completely OP (overpowered) for a story?

Kevin Chandler: Generally a character is too much for a story when problems seem too easy to figure out or when the character already demonstrated an ability or item that could solve a problem too easily or quickly.

Perry Constantine: A character becomes completely overpowered when the story can no longer challenge the character.

Michael Norwitz: If you have to have a character act like an idiot in order for the story to proceed, he is OP. The challenge is to come up with challenges which can't simply be solved by the application of brute force. Admittedly, the closer you get to the Weisinger-era Superman (the one who could juggle planets and was also a scientific genius), the more difficult that is.

Paul Newman: If your hero is too powerful for the story you are doing, then you need to think of a more interesting story.

Sil Coloridium: The most obvious answer would be equally strong antagonists and allies. But that alone isn't enough in my opinion, so let's see what else there is. Everyone has a weakness; even the strongest of us have faults, superhuman or not. Superman's is kryptonite for example. Find the Achilles' Heel in your character. Remember it doesn't have to be physical, it can be an emotional attachment to someone or something or any kind of moral decision (saving/sacrificing one vs. many) and anything else that you can think of.

Brian Woodman: When there is no longer a reasonable concern for a character's safety, he is overpowered.

Lee Houston Jr.: When the "challenge" before them is actually no challenge at all. While a character may not start out that way, there comes a point in time where stories risk having developed to the point that the hero can do practically anything, so the writer(s) and/or editor(s) need a weakness to make the star more believable; like creating kryptonite for Superman.

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

Sil Coloridium: Inner conflict and beliefs. The bottom-line of your character. Batman chooses not to kill, but this can obviously turn against him. This can be considered a weakness, but it also shows strength of character.

High stakes. Personal or worldwide. Stakes so high that they even pose a challenge to the hero. Multiple ones at the same time if necessary. You can find a bunch of cliches in this section, but they are cliches because they work.

What does your character want to achieve? Make it hard for him to get. Again they don't all have to be physical, they can be social, financial even (who says he has to be filthy rich?), emotional, mental. Maybe the girl he wants isn't into men, or maybe she's a really strict nun.

Brian Woodman: Use a mystery to keep an OP character guessing.

Lee Houston Jr.: The challenge must be solvable using the hero's established skills set, yet involve more than just using brute strength to save the day. The hero could go up against a villain they have never faced before, or be somewhere other than their home turf. Maybe having previous villains combine forces, then the hero must decide which of two situations is the higher priority to be dealt with first.

Kevin Chandler: There are a few easy fixes here, the first being go back to the part where they use the ability or item and preface why they may not be able to do or use it. In the case of items you can say it only has enough power for one use, or have it break after being used without preface, Similarly you can have it short out or break when they try to use it again, even if they fix it or recharge it later it relieves the problem of being OP.

This is similarly true with powers because for most characters powers take a toll I've seen some comics show Superman struggle with great weights or get tried after breaking through too many layers of material. This again is a bit of preface work, showing the character get tired or be some how physically and or mentally effected by the use of a power under great strain, Again later they can try to use their power and fail due to exhaustion or something of that nature and or it can serve as a plot device where they have to overcome their limits to save everyone maybe even end up trapped or possibly hurt afterwards, of course as the hero they will be fine, unless you're going for something darker which can be really great if done correctly.

Also as I suggested before setting up a sort of rule book for your universe can help. I set up my characters and worlds with sort of D&D logic, where everything requires a certain STR or INT or something of that nature to do it and there is always a chance of failing.

Perry Constantine:  I hear this a lot in regards to Superman. "He's too powerful, nothing can pose a threat to him." Threats and challenges aren't only physical, though. They're also emotional. A physical challenge is one thing, but it becomes a serious threat when it also challenges the character on other levels beyond the physical. The reason why the Joker is Batman's greatest enemy isn't because he's the most powerful of Batman's rogues, it's because he's the one who challenges Batman the most on levels beyond the physical.

Paul Newman: This isn't really character vs plot. Usually in writing, character is about the emotional side of a person. This is simply a question of when you have someone with super-powers how do you find a compelling antagonist for them. So really it is balancing plot with plot.

In regards to using characters (such as public domain heroes or characters assigned by a publisher) that are already established as being the unstoppable hero whom the readers already expect to come out on top at the end of the story, how do you keep up the tension and suspense so readers have an exciting journey?

Kevin Chandler: Exploiting weakness is another good idea. This is a somewhat darker path, but tragedy is the great equalizer, it can be a source of rage and or self-doubt making the hero question himself and his path while the villain gets away or even turns the hero evil for a time, until thhe or she realizes that so and so wouldn't want it to be like this and the hero takes revenge at the last minute.

Lee Houston Jr.: It is not always a question of physical peril or danger. Moral dilemmas and dramatic situations are just as important as physical action within a story.

Perry Constantine: You have to make the threat bigger than the hero, something that seems impossible for them to go up against. But again, that doesn't always mean physical, you can also have emotional threats in there. And they don't always have to come from the villain, either. A B-plot could deal with a personal crisis the hero is facing that throws him or her off his game.

Brian Woodman: Put innocent bystanders or friends of the hero in a tight spot.

Sil Coloridium: Just because the hero is OP, doesn't mean he's perfect. There is always something to learn, and the hero needs to learn something in your story. Indiana Jones learned to have faith (in Raiders of the lost ark). Superman had to learn how to control his powers.

Avoid perfection. This is more of sum up of the rest than an actual method, but it still needs to be said. Perfection is as far as you can go from an interesting character. It makes him/her hard to understand and difficult, if not impossible to relate to and this will only lead to readers who won't give a damn about him. And you want your readers to care.