Friday, September 30, 2016

Remembering Shooting Star Comics: Gone But Not Forgotten

Note: As we approach the 15th anniversary of Shooting Star Comics, the indie comics publisher I served as EIC back in the beginning of this century, we've relaunched a website to help archive info and announce new outlets from former SSC members. The following is from that website. Join the Facebook group and share your own memories at

In December 2001, a group of online friends, all aspiring comic book writers, came together to produce a showcase for their talents. As readers who love the medium of comic books, they also had a desire to see their scripts given visual form. Since they were serious about their ambitions in this particular field, they decided to pool their resources, find artists (or in some cases, do the art themselves), and publish their short stories (all of it creator owned, original material) together in one book – and then to send that book out into the world, into the hands of the comic book reading public during the summer of 2002.

These friends are also not the least bit reluctant to acknowledge some of the main influences on their own progress in the medium. As a consequence, they decided to ask a couple of those influences to contribute to the endeavor. Chuck Dixon, whose articles on writing for comic books are almost as good as a writing course, was invited to contribute a Western story. And another of those influences, the legendary Denny O’Neil, was asked to write a foreword for the book. He very graciously agreed. The first issue of SHOOTING STAR COMICS ANTHOLOGY was the result of those efforts.

From 2002 to 2006, Shooting Star Comics expanded and became an independent publisher committed to releasing a wide variety of genres and styles in our books. Including both new talent and longtime legends in the industry, Shooting Star Comics produced a high-quality anthology series for six issues and a variety of one-shots and mini-series.

As the 15th Anniversary approaches, this website will expand in the days to come to document the history of our small independent publishing house and serve as an archive that recognizes the body of work produced. This site will also serve as a present day guide pointing to where you can work of the original creators now.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


A cutting edge Publisher of Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions proudly announces the release of THE NEW DEAL: MASKS AND MUTATIONS.  A collection organized by Sean Taylor, THE NEW DEAL turns the best in New Pulp authors today loose on the concept of super powers in a real world setting at the end of the 1920s.  The anthology is now available in print and digital formats.

“THE NEW DEAL,” explains Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “asks the question ‘What if Super Powers were a thing at one of the most explosive points in our history?’ And this taut, thrilling anthology is most definitely the answer to that.  Each story tackles both the nostalgic view we have of the Golden Age of Comics and Super Heroes as well as the actual ramifications of something like this happening when the world was well on its way to Hell already.  From sentimental to terrifying, THE NEW DEAL: MASKS AND MUTATIONS delivers on every note, pushing readers into a world of fedoras and movie matinees that has so much more hidden under the surface.”

The Jazz Age is over and the Great Depression and Dust Bowl are ravaging across the United States. People need someone to blame. Luckily for a population who needs a scapegoat, the next wave of human evolution has begun, and it couldn’t have chosen a worse time to be born.

Men and women with amazing powers now fly across the sky, turn their skin into gold, and block bullets with their bare hands. Some take to crime. Some hide their powers for their own safety. Some seek the Underground Railroad for safe haven and a new life in Mexico. Some try to fight the good fight and turn the tide of public opinion as heroes. All of them are in the wrong place at the wrong time in a wounded, terrified, and violent country.

In this collection from Pro Se Productions, Sean Taylor, D. Alan Lewis, Lance Stahlberg, Sean Dulaney, Andrea Judy, and Tommy Hancock spin history ’round like a top to create an alternate reality both comfortably familiar and strangely new for readers of action, adventure, and crime stories. THE NEW DEAL: MASKS AND MUTATIONS. From Pro Se Productions

Featuring an amazing cover by Timothy Standish and cover design and print formatting by Antonino Lo Iacono, THE NEW DEAL: MASKS AND MUTATIONS is available now at Amazon and Pro Se’s own store  for 15.00.

This exciting super hero anthology is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Lo Iacono for only $2.99 for the Kindle and for most digital formats via Smashwords.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Apex Publication announces Kentucky Kaiju!

Apex Publications has joined forces with Justin Stewart, Tressina Bowling, and Shawn Pryor to bring you a book unlike anything we have done before.

Coming this October, Kentucky Kaiju!

Kentucky Kaiju is part art book, part monster manual; combining the two to create the ultimate field guide to the kaiju of the bluegrass state. From 29 foot beavers roaming the forests of Black Gold, KY, to thunderous trees walking Thousandsticks, to a gigantic robot that fell from another galaxy to Future City, KY, this book has it all. Though photographic evidence of kaiju is rare, each one presented in this guide has been artistically rendered by Justin Stewart and Tressina Bowling, with descriptions of their creation, location, and proclivity to violence penned by Shawn Pryor.

Kentucky Kaiju lets you travel deep into the hills of Kentucky and uncover all of its monsters without ever leaving the safety of your home.

Whether you’re a diehard Apex fan, love monster manuals that fill your imagination with new kaiju, or enjoy stellar artwork, this is a book you will want on your bookshelf. Lucky for you, you can preorder your copy now ( and get in on an amazing deal!

Retail price: $14.95 (paperback)
Preorder price: $11.95
ISBN: 978-1-937009-45-8
104 pages

In addition to saving $3 off the MSRP, all preorders are eligible for free domestic shipping and will include a limited edition postcard featuring a kaiju by Chloe Teets that is not available in the book.

You can preorder your copy of Kentucky Kaiju at

"Kentucky Kaiju will make you want to leap right inside your favorite armored robot exoskeleton and go on a moster-jammed southern gothic safari."

"Kentucky Kaiju is what happens when imagination is allowed to run totally amok! You'll love every minute spent poring over the glorious artwork and meeting monsters with insanely clever names like Komodo Supremis! A new favorite on every page!"

"Kentucky Kaiju is an awesome cross between The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, 'Godzilla' flicks and Shadow of the Colossus! It's a must have for prospective monster hunters, crypto-zoologists and Dungeon Masters everywhere!"
—Ted Lange, WARP ZONE

"Beautifully illustrated and hilariously inventive, Kentucky Kaiju takes you back to a childhood spent wandering around in the woods looking for monsters. Just be glad you found them in this book and not out there."

APEX PUBLICATIONS ( is a small press dedicated to publishing exemplary works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Owned and operated by Jason B. Sizemore, Apex publishes the thrice Hugo Award-nominated Apex Magazine. The Apex catalog contains books by genre luminaries such as Damien Angelica Walters, Catherynne M. Valente, and Brian Keene.

Apex Publications
Contact: Lesley Conner, Managing Editor

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Drew Demands: A Q&A with Drew Geraci

I first discovered Drew Geraci's work as a comic artist. I fell in love with his ability to ink a page and make a penciller's work even more... well... more true to the penciller's vision. It reminded me a lot of what a good editor does for a book. So, imagine my surprise when it turned out he's also a gifted storyteller as a writer. A writer of what, you ask. I'll let him tell you himself in this special interview with the man himself. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

The Demands Book Two: B-Sides, available exclusively on Amazon, kindle and paperback.

It’s my second prose novel in The Demands series. The series is named after a fictional band from the Pittsburgh area. The Demands unknowingly perform at bars owned by the Russian Mob and, through a series of mishaps, have become entrenched in a situation that endangers the band members’ lives.

These aren’t Kung Fu superheroes, they’re just ordinary musicians who have high aspirations to bring back the aggro hard guitar power chord sound to the mainstream, which has currently surrendered to pre-packaged, committee-authored, formulaic pop songs.

In Book Two, which takes place two months after Book One, the band has split up, as each individual member has had a different reaction to this nightmarish shared experience of barely escaping the mob. Some members stay, some leave, but the founder and guitarist Laney Kilburn (the main character) wants to carry on. She’s almost 23 and at that age, has that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” attitude.

Convinced the mob has fled after a federal clampdown, this new version of The Demands works hard to build back their following. But there’s a power vacuum in the mob that will create new problems for the band. They personally knew some of the incarcerated mobsters and the FBI has taken an interest in them, particularly Laney, so the band is stuck between both sides. They stay together because at present, there doesn’t seem to be much choice in the matter. But Laney is determined not to let these outside forces dictate her life, but knows it will take time and test her willpower and stamina.

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

Risk-taking. Abandoning the safe paths in life, making sacrifices and taking risks.
Ambition- The band members’ rule is that they have to quit their day jobs and eke out a living solely based on music. They have a major downgrade in their lifestyle but want to build it up by being a national band, against all odds. You’ll find that even members in the mob have their own personal ambitions for power plays.

Guilt – Guilt over some of the compromises that the band members don’t see coming. Guilt over friendships that are either diminished or lost entirely due to this single-minded drive to be the best band in the world. Guilt over ‘deal with the devil’ situations. I grew up Catholic. Say no more.

Personal agendas – Each member has their own reason for joining. Laney has been an outsider ‘weird’ girl all her life so she want to be somebody through her love for rock n’ roll. Another member just likes to party. Another is the eldest of the herd, 35, which, in national rock act terms, is downright ancient. It’s his one last shot at greatness.

What would be your dream project?

A TV show based on The Demands book series. Long-form like Sopranos or Breaking Bad. That kind of edge. Not The Monkees, although I have a soft spot for them since I was a child.

It would contain lots of material I’ve barely explored in my current and upcoming novels that can be expanded. Lots of grist for the mill. I have many large and small plot points I can continuously unravel. Since I first came up with the concept, one idea would lead to another. In my mind, it’s like the old “choose your own ending” books in my mind. But each book will have a different ending that leaves Easter eggs to follow in the next volume. I have a ton of notes, enough for at least four more novels and I may not stop there. So I could easily whip out some TV episodes if needed (TV/Movie execs –I’m here in Atlanta, where everything is being filmed so hit me on the cell!)

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

I’d probably go back to The Demands Book One, where I leaned a bit too much on exposition, telling the readers the events, rather than having them unfold with integrated dialogue. Many have told me that it’s still a good read with some harsh zingers in the conversations and situations, but some chapters I wrote like a court reporter. I’ve corrected that first-author clumsiness in Book Two. For a while I wanted to meddle in fixing Book One, but my editor tells me to press on, or I’d be spinning my wheels and obsess over things that will never be perfection in my mind.

What inspires you to write?

I’ve always wanted to write, but I think I finally found the concept that made me to commit to it: The germ of the idea for The Demands was my frustration that rock music was rapidly fading from the mainstream once conglomerates cracked the code on what music will sell the most. Beautiful people singing other’s songs assembled by committee. Simple repetitive songs that creates the earworm that everybody can remember, like it or not. When the boy bands and Britney Spears came on the scene I thought it would be a passing phase, but here we are, fifteen years later and we get Katy Perry and more of the same.

And a large part of it is therapy for me, plus my love for loud, rock music. I’ve been writing and drawing my own comics since I was seven, but as time passed, I focused on the art aspect, being a freelancer for DC and Marvel comics. I continued writing here and there for myself, other than how-to articles for Sketch Magazine. But until now, I was dissatisfied with my attempts of science fiction and the like. I wanted to start with a clean slate and keep my stories Earth-bound. At this point, I’m compelled to write.

In the mid-2000s there was an explosion of great Grrl! Bands like the Dollyrots, Sahara Hotnights, The Fondas and more I thought were really going to bring back the garage guitar-oriented music to the mainstream. Sadly that was not to be. Similarly, there were a lot of great, loud Swedish rock bands that I thought would create a Swedish Invasion. But no, again. That’s pretty much how I came up with the misfits that populate The Demands’ line-up. A group of aspiring rock musicians who have the conceit of youth to think they will be the second coming of rock and roll. There will be some triumphs and some huge mistakes. Being a successful rock a band in 2016 is nigh-impossible. First, due to the internet and Youtube, the global competition is harder before. Second, good rock music isn’t sanitized for your protection. In the 1990s, you had acts like Marilyn Manson horrifying the parents but spoke to the misfits who were too shy but needed that aggro outlet.

Back to what inspires me: I may see or hear a turn of phrase that triggers something in me, and I’ll springboard from that to a place that my imagination takes me, lots of times good, lots of times evil, because it makes for good fiction.

Or I’ll study people. I may be sitting at a coffee shop, watching a person alone reading a paper, and build an entire background around him, and add some dark aspects or personality quirks, without saying word one to him. I spent my whole life daydreaming. At 50, I think I know how to channel that daydreaming into solid stories.
Also, it’s good to small talk with strangers and find out what they do for a living. It often gives you ammo for a scene in a book. If not immediately, I write it down, and save it for future volumes. I learned how a paramedic would handle a heroin overdose by speaking to a paramedic. Better than Google. But it doesn’t always work. Some people have lived boring lives, and even that could be used, in contrast to any madness I come up in my books.

Sometimes I just daydream while waiting in a line, slip to my writing-mode. I come up with the way to for a reason a character would have done this one thing while standing in line at the post office. It passes the time.

Lots of disturbing and/or amusing things I’ve personally experienced or witnessed first-hand.  I’ll add my slant.

Also - I am fascinated with the trajectory of rock bands. Example: A lead singer goes solo. Sometimes the band gets a bigger audience with the new singer, sometimes the singer excels on his own and his old bandmates either flounder or break up.
Like comic books, pop and rock music has been a passion that I’ve followed and absorbed, much more than TV or movies for whatever reason. Once I was headed towards puberty, I’d listen closer to songs that most people simply enjoy on the surface, whether it be hard rock songs, happy songs, sad songs, love songs, party songs. You’re a musician so you know where I’m coming from. I also read a lot of rock bios, music mags and watching many rockumentaries, growing up and retain most of it and sometimes I’ll think: “If this person took a different path, would he or she be better off, or worse?”

As for the mob stuff, I added that to give the book series a fresh spin. Not just a ‘battle of the bands’ story that’s been played to death, but actually dealing with death. I’ve absorbed crime fiction and, again, my imagination brings about horrifying things that even freak me out. The cringe factor, parts I write, then say: “Maybe I’ll delete this” – THEN I realize I got a reaction out of myself. I’ve got some dark shit in my noggin.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Songwriters more than anything. I’m far more influenced by song lyrics that touch me deeply because the get my mind working. Sort of a sports drink of ideas. Some songs are heartbreaking, but vague enough that that prompt me to make up a scene that springs to mind. Not the ‘storytelling songs” that were big in the 1970s, because that’s pointless and would be lazy writing on my part.

There is a song by Neil Finn that has a beautiful arrangement and the lyrics have a sense of longing that’s not fully articulated on purpose. Its’ written in vague, broad terms, but upon listening, I created a part Laney’s background in Book One.  I’m probably misinterpreting the song entirely, but it doesn’t matter. It got me thinking in broad strokes, how to springboard new ideas. And I absolutely love wordplay of rock songs, the better songs. Not the preachy ones but the ones that strike a chord in me but maybe not to others.

Also, the humble beginnings of successful bands fascinate me the most. I have no interest in rehashing someone else’s life story, but I can imagine what I would do in their situations, or how another person would

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

I strongly believe that it is 50/50. It always starts as a hobby. But when you choose the path to make it a career, that’s when the science kicks in. You suck at the beginning, then as time passes, and you begin observing things around you, you build up a storage of material.

Many of the situations in Book One are ones that I personally experienced or witnessed or overheard and I have a strong memory that goes back decades. So I fill the story with fiction that I think readers would find entertaining, so it’s not a dry recollection of events. Every so often, if you keep at writing, you reach new plateaus and it gives you confidence to carry on.


If you have the initiative or interest in writing, that’s where the art comes in, whether it’s crappy art or not. But the science kicks in when you take it seriously and reverse-engineer what things entertain you and distill the aspects you feel fit your style the best. In doing this science, you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

A major threshold/plateau is self-editing. You may have scene or a line that you are completely, absolutely 100% in love with, but may have to be delete if you are honest with yourself and assess that it really doesn’t fit. That is a major breakthrough because many new writers fall in love with every word and excuse the cumbersome parts as “my style” when you haven’t even established what your style is yet.

  1. Delete it if it doesn’t ring true or
  2. It detracts from the story too much. Think of it as a family member who tries to relate a story and digresses to areas that really don’t finish the story.
  3. You have to make your writing not read like its’ only writing. You have to draw the reader into your world. Right what you love, but remember to be clear enough that a stranger would be compelled to continue reading.
  4. You cannot count for an honest appraisal of your work from your friends and family because they will tell you everything you do is great, of course. You have to craft a story strong enough to make a total stranger part with their money and their time, considering the countless entertainment options out there.

And that’s that.

Any other projects you would like to plug?

Well, any minute now, The Demands Book Two: B-Sides will be available for pre-order on Amazon and available to order a few weeks after.

Once Book Two is out, I will be making an audio book of Book One. I’ve made a connection with a terrific voice-over talent. He sent me a sample of the first chapter, and after multiple hearings over the course of a month, I decided I liked what I heard. The last few times I heard it, I pretended that I was listening to someone else’s book, to experience what an impartial stranger would hear. That will be coming out a few months after Book Two. My initial game plan is to release an audio book while the previous one is still in Kindle/print. When Book Three is out, Book Two will be an audio book. Only because it’s a new venture and doing both at the same time could very easily screw up if I publish one that is not the last version. At time goes on, the latest book will be available with the audio book.

Also, since I come from a 20-year career as a comic book career, I still want to play in the sandbox by publishing a short story based on The Demands Book Series. This short story will be all-new, essential reading for people who enjoy my book series. It’s a standalone chapter that will later be reprinted in the following prose book in the back. But again, the comic will be a year before the next year, so if you enjoy the series and want an extra chapter, the comic book will fill that void.

I’m planning on a short story in comic book form for an anthology, most likely Neo-Charton, a revival of a comic company that ceased publication in the early 1980s.

It will be a chapter solely based on Laney, the lead character and leader of The Demands. The story will read independent of the prose book series and will fit anywhere in the book series continuity.

A teaser chapter at

I’m also doing plenty of art commissions just to keep my hand in it. I won’t ever allow my art skills to atrophy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

[Link] What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears

by Sarah Begley 

For as long as humans have printed books, censors have argued over their content and tried to limit some books’ distribution. But the reasons for challenging literature change over time, and as Banned Book Week begins on Sept. 25, it’s clear that public discomfort with particular ideas has evolved rapidly even in the last 20 years.

When the American Library Association started keeping a database of challenged books in the early ’90s, the reasons cited were fairly straightforward, according to James LaRue, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “‘Don’t like the language,’ or ‘There’s too much sex’—they’d tend to fall into those two categories,” he says. Some books are still challenged for those reasons—Fifty Shades of Grey is a common example. But there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities,” LaRue says. “It seems like that shift is very clear.”

The ALA’s list of the 10 most challenged books in 2015 bears this out: it includes I Am Jazz and Beyond Magenta, about young transgender people; Fun Home and Two Boys Kissing, which deal with homosexuality; Habibi and Nasreen’s Secret School, which feature Muslim characters; and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, which was cited for “atheism.” In contrast, the top 10 most-challenged books of 2001 were more straightforwardly banned for strong language, sexual content and drugs, like The Chocolate War and Go Ask Alice.

Read the full article: