Monday, November 30, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #339 -- Show, Don't Tell

Show, don't tell. What does it mean to you?

Ooh. Good question. I think it means the same thing to me it means to most genre writers. Let your characters tell the story by doing things and saying things. Don't over-narrate. If your protagonist is a fighter, don't tell me she's a fighter. Make her fight someone -- or many someones. If someone is sad, don't tell me he is sad. Show me what being sad looks likes. Above all, for me at least, it means remove myself from the work as a writer as much as possible, and let the story belong to the characters as they experience and react to it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the released of its newest pulp anthology starring one of the most famous figures in American theatrical history; magician – escape artist supreme, the one and only Harry Houdini!

Houdini began his stage career as a card manipulator.  As his popularity grew, he quickly became known as one of the most colorful stage magicians and escape artists of all time.  Then the movies came knocking and the man people had only read about in the newspapers was suddenly starring on the silver screen captivating audiences with his daring serial exploits.  Harry Houdini was no longer just a magician, he was a bonafide celebrity known around the world.

“I’ve been fascinated with this character since I first heard of him as a child,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “The more I learned it became clear that Houdini, during his own lifetime, evolved into one of the first true international superstars. Once he became a hero of the cinema, his fame and legend were permanently cemented in the hearts of his admirers everywhere.  Wherever he appeared the states, he would attract crowds numbering in the thousands.”

In 1904 Houdini and his manager, Martin Beck, began a world tour starting in London and the adventures grew even more fantastic.  “Although our stories are fictional,” continues Fortier, “we saw his globe-trotting escapes as the perfect backdrop for our writers to whip up fantastic, action packed tales.” From encounters with Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini then battles an evil cult in the catacombs of Paris before heading to Berlin on the famous Nord Express where murder reared its ugly.  These amazing tales are chronicled here by Jim Beard, James Palmer, Ian Watson and Roman Leary.

The cover is by Carl Yonder with gorgeous black and white illustrations by Pedro Cruz and all put together by our award winning Art Director, Rob Davis.  And so Airship 27 Productions is truly excited to present our readers with a brand new look at a truly extraordinary man who was indeed larger life, he was Harry Houdini, Pulp Hero!


Available now from Amazon.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday -- Support Your Favorite Authors!

Here's hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family and you got in a good nap after lunch. But now all that's over and it's Black Friday, so crank up those laptops, open those wallets and support your favorite indie and small pub authors by picking up some copies of their work for gifts (or even gifts for yourself).

Happy reading!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Step By Step

For this week's writers roundtable, let's talk about step-by-step story creation when writing for a themed anthology.

For example, if I were your editor, and I asked you for a story about "insert topic or character here," what would be your process for coming up with a story? Would you begin with the character of the protagonist? Would you begin with a plot? Would you instead immerse yourself in research? What works for you, and why?

Gordon Dymowski: It depends on my familiarity with the topic/character - if it's one that I'm not as familiar with, I always try to immerse myself in research. (If it's a character, I try to read that character "in their natural habitat" - get a sense of *how* a story with that character works). As I'm researching, ideas usually begin floating, and once I begin getting them down on paper (real or virtual), a storyline begins to emerge....and then the *real* fun begins.

Marian Allen: Well, in all honesty, the first thing I would do is see if I already something written that would fit -- or could be made to fit -- the topic. If not, I would cast about and try the topic on my existing characters/worlds to see if any of them would like to do the work. If not (and also meanwhile), I would do what I do for one of those writing exercises where you take a word or phrase and use it to spark a story.

"If this, then that." If the topic is coffee, then what? Anything from the many places coffee is grown and all the landscape and politics and personal stories of the plantation workers, to all the many places coffee is and has been and will be consumed.

How much time do I have for research? Do I already have a couple of good books on the subject? Is the anthology literary, fantasy, mystery, of science fiction? What's the word count? The answers to all these questions will outline my possibilities and contain my musings.

Then comes the time of wandering around staring into space while I, consciously and subconsciously, poke bits around in the soup I call my brain to see what will stick to what else. Eventually, I'll get a notion of a character, a relationship, a conflict, a compelling setting, a story line, a tone, or SOME damn story element that will be the first solid beginning. That particular element might or might not survive the writing process, but, if it gets cut, it'll go in the bits box for possible future use.

Ray Dean: If it's Alt History, I usually like to start with history/technology research. Looking for some odd facts or historical notes. Sometimes it's just something mundane that sparks a 'what if' idea.  If the 'theme' is character centered, like a superhero, werewolf, etc. I start with the central character and build from there. If it is a genre, I look at the elements of the genre. What makes it tick? What elements are the heartbeat of the genre? Once you have the set or the tone of the piece it's time to start asking the 'what if' questions and see who is kicking around in that world. But you really never know what is going to spark an idea. And sometimes you start in with an idea and it fizzles before you've even finished a first draft. Sometimes you change direction with the idea, go back and take a different path in the plot. Starting over with another idea is necessary at times, but that's when it helps to be more of a plotter than a pantser. Outlining ahead of time to make sure you have a solid plan. With themed anthologies it can be a different process each time, a combination of ideas or brainstorming processes. It helps to be open to consider odd ideas or look to unusual sources of inspiration.

Andrew Salmon: For me, I get to know the characters/world I'm working in. Research is the key. Then I grow the plot from the characters.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Do’s and Don’ts of Romance

by Ellie Raine

Romance can be the most intoxicating part of your story. It can also be the most nauseating.

That’s why it’s imperative to pay close attention when crafting a novel, movie, or comic. Even if your story’s central element isn’t romance, you must pay close attention to it. A little romance on the side can be a great improvement, or a great wart on your manuscript’s otherwise handsome nose.

I’ll speak as a reader for a moment. There seems to be a trend with romance (non-erotica) in stories that have the same cringe-worthy beats that I’d like to bring to light.

First: Less is more.

Your characters know their names well enough. While slipping in a few oh, John’s and oh, Jane’s can add an effective conveyance of deep emotion, it lessens the thrill each time it’s said. Less is more. Repeat: less is more. While writing, placing softly spoken names in your manuscript is a strategy game. Add too many all over the pages, and it sucks away any romantic implications you were trying to make. In short, it gets old. It gets wrinkly, smelly, dementia-ridden old.

And from an erotica standpoint, the same advice may apply, though loosely. Sex scenes are awesome, and having a name moaned in the heat of things can get a reader hot and bothered like no tomorrow. HOWEVER, again, saying names too many times can grow bunions on your manuscript’s feet. And don’t get me started on blatantly saying the words ‘penis’ and ‘pussy’ like a thirteen year old. Innuendos are far more effective. Make it a challenge, think of all the colorful names you can give a guy’s juicy squirt-gun or a girl’s moist cavern. Don’t just vomit ‘penis’ every three words.  Tone it down. Less is more.

Second: It’s about what you DON’T say.

For me, as a reader, I want the couple to finally say those three magic words: “I love you”. It’s the focal point of a budding romance, the fireworks finale on New Years Eve; it’s what we’re all waiting for.

So don’t give it to us.

Seriously. If it’s going to be said, keep it to a minimum of one or two moments in the entire manuscript. If you say it too may times, it looses its magic. Again, less is more. It’s the reason we want the romance.

Unless, of course, your characters were together to begin with. That’s a different animal, but even still, overusing the magic words will lessen the magic.

And even though I want to read I love you more than anything in a book, what I really enjoy is to see the love, rather than hear it.

Placing a gentle hand over your lover’s while they stare at the setting sun can just as easily tell us they’re in love than if they’d said it.

Third: We like someone for their virtues. We LOVE them for their flaws.

Good romance is beautiful. GREAT romance has ugly, beloved depth. This one concept is the root of all fantastic romance. If you look back through your manuscript and realize your protagonist’s only reason for being head-over-heels for the love interest is “they’re so pretty”, it’s time to get your nails dirty and dig deeper. Have them notice a few physical flaws in the lover, like pudgy sides, or some acne scars on their face. Show us these characters aren’t perfect Gods (unless they ARE Gods, then by all means, ham up the gorgeous). Show us their battle wounds, their mature wrinkles, their flappy arms. You don’t have to make them hideous, just human.

And that weird, annoying tick they have, where they pick at their bloody fingernails or have a crazed, neat-freak streak? Yeah, your character better be irked by it, and even get frustrated, but by Gods, they’d better love them for it, too. Basically, if they have a trait that got under the protagonist’s skin, but then they walked out of their life, your protagonist will suddenly notice they can’t live without that annoyance.

That’s what they ought to love. That’s what we’ll love about them, too, and love the protagonist for appreciating it. Pretty models in dresses are great for cover art (I’m looking at you, Young Adult) but if there isn’t more reason for the love, then no one cares.

So, romance, however small the amount, can be essential to your story. Pay attention, and steer clear of these detrimental trends.

Originally posted at

Monday, November 23, 2015

Remembering Memphis Comics & Fantasy Convention

This year's con was a lot of fun, and it was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Here's a pictorial recap:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nugget #66 -- One Hero Inspires Another

And that’s the story that I had to tell, how one hero could inspire others to be heroic. How one unselfish man could make a very selfish person do something dangerous in order to save someone else. How one other rather non-adventurous person could become an action hero to try to save the man she loved. And how at the center of all that was the one man who could help foster something amazing in each of them. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

[Link] How to Be a Prolific Writer

by James Scott Bell

Got an email the other day from a writer I met at Bouchercon. We’d chatted a bit about the craft, and he wanted to thank me. He’d just completed his first novel and was raring to go on his second. He wrote, “I’m amazed at how prolific you are.”

That was nice to hear, because when I started out that’s what I wanted to be—prolific. I was 34 years old and hadn’t written much of anything for ten years (I’d been told in college that you can’t learn how to write fiction, and since I couldn’t write fiction—fiction that was any good, anyway––I figured I just didn’t have it). So when I made the decision to finally go for it, even if I failed, I wanted to make up for lost time.

Now, according to traditional standards of the writing life, I am prolific. I’ve produced around fifty books, hundreds of articles, several stories and novellas. I’m happy with my output.

But I’m no Nora Roberts! Seriously, she is amazing. She may not be your cup o’ noodles, but as a highly successful professional writer, there is something awe inspiring about her production. And there are many other writers out there I could point to with the same wonder.

We all have our floors and our ceilings. The trick to the writing life is to get yourself up to the ceiling and stay there. Stay there long enough, and maybe you can blow out that ceiling and put in another story (wordplay intended).

I heard from a young writer recently who said he was having trouble getting started. He has a wife and young child at home, is working long hours, and when he gets some time to himself he is easily distracted by social media, and is too much of a perfectionist to get many words done.

For those who have these sorts of constraints, let me offer some advice on becoming more prolific, for it can be done!

Read the full article:

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #338 -- Brown-Noising

Do you have a certain kind of music that
helps you focus and write? What kind?

I rarely write to music intentionally. Most often, when I do, it's because there's background music playing at Starbucks while I'm writing. Sometimes will put on some soft ambient "chill" music or even jazz, or perhaps piano music that's not too bouncy. But honestly, what is best for me to write to is brown noise. That's right. Not white noise, but the more sedate brown noise. 

And there's a wonderful noise mixer at

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announced the releases of their latest New Pulp thriller – SECRET AGENT X – Vol 5.  The greatest pulp spy of them all returns in this, the action packed fifth volume of brand new Secret Agent X adventures by today’s top New Pulp writers.

Within these pages the Man of a Thousand Faces squares off against a deadly foreign spy in a climatic battle amongst the clouds; faces terror on the high seas as he duels a modern day Captain Nemo and then battles with a beautiful, cunning criminal mastermind.  Here are thrills upon thrills in four brand new tales by J. Walt Layne, Andy Fix, Fred Adams Jr. and Frank Schildiner.

“By far one of our most popular series,” declares Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “Whereas this time around we thought it might be fun to have a cover that would pay homage to the old 50s Men’s Adventure Magazines and so recruited Ingrid Hardy.”  Ingrid Hardy is one of the premier artists of Canada and her water colors have been featured in various magazines and other publications.

Contributing the twelve interior illustrations is Pulp Factory Award winning Art Director Rob Davis.  “In all this is a great looking…and reading package,” Fortier adds.  “Our Secret Agent X fans will not be disappointed.”

Secret Agent X is one of the most popular heroes ever to emerge from the classic pulps.  Now’s he back; a one man army defending the country he loves against all who would threaten her.  This is pulp fiction at its best!

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – Pulp Fiction For A New Generation!

Available from

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ideas Like Bullets -- Bullets from Another Gun Reviews

I began blogging, albeit the history since I began such an exercise of actually committing said process has been spotty, for a number of reasons.  Shameless self promotion by talking about a variety of things was definitely high on the list, as I remember. I also truly wanted an avenue to share ideas that I would have that I would likely never have time to write, to actually offer them to other people.  Opening up my soul and doling out pieces of my private life was not originally on the agenda, but due to events in the last year of my life, that has been added and I have to say it has worked out well for me so far.  Not sure it’s made for interesting reading for you all, however many single digits of readers ‘all’ refers to, but it has proven a good outlet for me.  But amongst all that, there was another reason to strike off into the vast wasteland...or maybe wasted vastland is a better term…of blogging.

Talking about what I read.  Book Reviews.

I read. A lot. Probably one hundred times the amount deemed healthy by any organization that might even pretend to be able to gauge the healthy results and dangerous side effects of such an act.  Not only do I read voraciously, I also enjoy talking about what I have consumed from the page, be it a paper page or a digitally reproduced one.  So, when blogging became something I did, reviews were part and parcel of that.

Turns out, they still are.

Periodically, probably about once a month or so, this space will be filled with Bullets From Another’s Gun: Reviews by Tommy Hancock. And although this will largely be focused on books, there will periodically be salient or savage thoughts on such things as comics, DVDs, TV shows, and the like.  But, yes, to force variety on you from my very own corner of existence, welcome to the return of Bullets from Another’s Gun, with two reviews as follows.


Monsters: Evil Beings, Mythical Beasts, and All Manner of Imaginary Terrors by David D. Gilmore

University of Pennsylvania Press


I am a reader.  I am also a writer.  Being both, it falls to me the glorious and wondrous privilege of reading both fiction and nonfiction works.  Not that being an author is a requirement to do either, but it definitely makes me better at that craft.  Which is why from time to time I review books that aren’t full of fictional over the top heroes and dastardly villains.  Every once in a blue moon, which is a nonfiction fact type occurrence by the way, I will find myself telling tales on a nonfiction tome I have read. 

Monsters: Evil Beings, Mythical Beasts, and All Manner of Imaginary Terrors is a book that holds much promise from just reading the back cover copy and gendering at the table of contents.  It is laid out as a comprehensive study of the belief in Monsters around the world, how we as a race develop our concepts of the monstrous and why we do so.  Most notably, the book holds itself out to be a cursory look at monsters from around the globe, giving readers a peek under the beds and into the shadows of multiple societies and letting us get up close and personal with what scares everyone from Native Americans to Aborigines in Australia and tribes I’ve never heard of in Africa and Antarctica.

On that note, this book succeeds rather well.  From the Wendigo to bunyips, from were-sharks to an ogre named Flaming Teeth, Gilmore lays out a monsterography that definitely got my idea wheels to spinning.  So many works like this one tend to stay safe, to only focus on the monsters that we recognize, the creatures that are at least on the periphery of what we know.  In Monsters,  Gilmore goes beyond the easy and delves into the dark corners of various societies and really pulls the ghoulies and ghosties out for the readers to enjoy and experience.

Where this book loses a few steps, for me, at least, is in its real intent.  Packaged to be something that fans of monsters or even creators like me who are interested in fodder for stories would want to read, Monsters is actually more textbook than anything. It also is a chance for the author to share his thesis on a very specific topic.  This book is not about monsters, but rather about WHY there are monsters.  To that end, Gilmore cites multiple studies, from psychologists and psychiatrists, including Freud, Jung, and others, to an endless array of anthropologists and even archaeologists to show not only why humanity needs to create monsters, but how there seems to a whole host of universal themes that link many of the stories and legends around the world together.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a book that does the above. As a matter of fact, I found some of the facts and studies presented to be interesting.  The issue, however, is that this volume couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to be.  On one hand, it was a well written sort of thumbnail encyclopedia of monsters and scary creatures.  Then, with just a sentence of transition, it became not only an intense study of the origins of such belief, but an overbearing top-heavy-with-citation-and-references term paper.  When it made that transition, it was more cumbersome text book than anything.  And, as for some reason is the wont for such works, the author only spends two paragraphs on the last page actually outlining his theory, and not doing it very well I might add.

THREE OUT OF SIX BULLETS- (For those new to my reviews, I use a six bullet scale, not five stars.  Yeah, it’s mostly to keep with the ‘Gun’ motif, but books with 1-2 bullets sorta stink, 3 is average, read it if you want, 4 is just slightly above that, and 5-6 are pretty much should and have to reads.) If you’re wanting to learn about creatures you’ve never heard of, then this is the book for you. If you truly want to know about why we need to create monsters, this is the book for you.  Its biggest drawback is that it does a horrible job of balancing and blending these two intentional directions it attempts to go.


No Game for a Dame: A Maggie Sullivan Mystery Book 1 by M. Ruth Myers

Tuesday House


It is absolutely no secret that my first love is not only mysteries, but mysteries featuring investigators, usually of the Private type.  It is also, with a little digging of a deductive sort, not hard to determine that I am a particular fan of book series, giving me a chance to see the characters I love show up again and again. So, to trip across anything that purports to be the first in a series about a Private Eye is going to get my attention.

No Game for A Dame not only got my attention, but this book kept it and me on the edge of our respective seats.

Set in Depression Era Dayton, Ohio, No Game for a Dame introduces private investigator Maggie Sullivan.  The daughter of a deceased policemen, Maggie has hung her shingle and handles the cases that private citizens don’t necessarily want the police involved in.  At least, that’s what she’s handling when this book starts.  Hired by the owner of an office supplies distributor to investigate his nephew to determine if he’s in any sort of trouble or perhaps causing trouble for the business, Maggie finds herself in the midst of a mystery that involves or at least borders on including every crime you can imagine.  Extortion, burglary, and, of course, murder.

When a thug who bursts into Maggie’s office winds up dead not long after, she is of course considered a suspect.  Getting at least out of that enough to carry on with her job, Maggie becomes bound and determined to figure out what is going on, as all the loose ends in this tale come together as clear as mud for her.  And she’ll find out the truth, she’s sure of that.  Even though it’ll probably kill her.

No Game for a Dame may simply be the best Private Detective book I have read in a really long time.  Maggie Sullivan nails every prerequisite a strong PI character should have and definitely falls into the hard boiled arena when she needs to.  Having said that, she is not in any way just Phillip Marlowe in a skirt.  M. Ruth Myers makes sure that Maggie is all woman at the same time she is giving Spade and Spenser a run for their money.  And she doesn’t do it in clichéd ways, either.  Maggie Sullivan is a fully rounded character, one who shuffles her thoughts about all aspects of her life, from interacting with the girls in the boarding house she lives in to dealing with the two over protective policemen who act as her surrogate fathers, with the danger that gets thrown at her like bullets.

Another fantastic aspect of this novel is the cast that Maggie comes into contact with.  Not only is the supporting cast that I feel we will see in later novels (and yes, there are more) strong, but all of the characters in this book stand out as well crafted and very much real.  Combine that with the way that Myers makes Depression era Dayton very much a part of the story and No Game for a Dame works in every single way.

SIX OUT OF SIX BULLETS- No Game for a Dame is fully loaded as truly a fantastic PI novel and hits every mark it aims at.