Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Content Is Crap, Not King, and We Prove It with Every Click

Yeah... Riiiiiight.
by Sean Taylor

You hear it all the time: Content is king. But I'm just going to call that out right now as a bunch of BS. In a world where "7 Ways to Get One Million Hits" and "You'll Never Believe What She Does Next" go viral while great content from lots of gifted creators sits in hidden pockets of the Internet ignored, content is nothing at worst, added-value at best.

No. The truth is this -- Content doesn't matter.

Here's another truth: Clickbait is king. It's also queen, prince, princess, and all dukes and duchesses down the line.

And here's another truth for you: Time-wasting is the king's right-hand man.

I'm betting I'm not the only blogger/writer/artist/content creator to feel this way. So feel free to file this post in the "I'm not alone" file when we're done. But for now, let's hear what the ol' schlub has to say.

The Schlub Speaketh

As a blogger who puts lots of time, energy, and love into what I think is a pretty solid blog about genre writing, filled with peer-filled interviews and roundtables, articles about genre topics, submissions opportunities, tutorials, and lots more, I get excited when I look at my stats and see the counts go up.

I own the Internet, schlub.

I know I'm like the schlub with 15 subscribers to his YouTube channel about something substantial while next door the channel about cats winking at each other and the teenager going on an uninformed tirade about politics are breaking the Internet with their 2,000,000+ views.

I value every individual number I see when posts start to get just a few more readers than that previous. And I treasure each share on Facebook, arrow up on Reddit, and RT on Twitter. Because each one of those was someone who liked what I had to share, who found value in it, who felt it added something to his or her day and thought it might just do the same to someone else's day.

It's a different mindset, I think. Coming from a publishing background, I want to give people something meaningful. If not, why publish anything? Ever? To bore readers? To make them dumber?

I'll admit it. Sometimes I've thought about changing over to clickbait headlines for the articles on the blog to see if they make a difference, but I always stop myself because I fear they will, and then the point of what I'm trying to do sort of falls off to the side.

Taylor Swift's Apple Hat

Do I think headlines like these would attract more views?

  • 7 Methods to Become a Best-Selling Author
  • 2 Publishers Who Desperately Want Your Stories
  • Danger: E-Publishers Will Rob You Blind
  • You Wouldn't Believe What They're Publishing Now!

Sure they would. But they wouldn't be honest. Seven methods for me might not work for you, and just what the heck does "best-selling" even mean anymore in a world of manipulable data from Amazon sub-sub-sub-charts? And yes, some sinister e-self-pubbers are still out there, but the POD marketplace has also helped to level the playing field for mid- to low-run presses. And, of course, you can never really believe the kind of crap some publishers are putting out there.

You'll never believe what they click next!
However, we see the success of this crap all the time.

  • 7 Foolproof Ways to Start a Business
  • 10 Looks Beyonce Totally Flaked On
  • These 16 Puppies Will Make you Laugh Till You Pee
  • What He Says Next Will Amaze You!
We all complain about them. All of us who claim to want real content avoid them like cliches and sentences that end with prepositions (or like weak verbs supported by adverbs) -- or so we claim. Somebody is looking at them. Lots and lots of somebodies. Pages of comments run behind these "articles" like the tales of dragons.

Then I look at my little blog and see very few comments. Only a few shares from the actual blog. And that's even when the number of views is going up. Click. Take a peak. Maybe even read it all. Then disappear without so much as a word.

Meanwhile, Taylor Swift's cowboy-hat-shaped bikini has the whole 'net commenting. (The sad part is that some readers are actually going to stop now to search for a picture of Tay-Tay in a cowboy-hat-shaped bikini rather than finish reading this post. But the joke's on them. It doesn't exist. At least I don't think so.)

The Blind Talking to the Mute

You thought I was kidding
about that, didn't you?
It's not apples to apples. I know that. It still makes a serious blogger want to give up some days and just re-post pictures of cats eating oranges and memes about which Harry Potter character my mother-in-law's neighbor's puppy is.

I hope it's that the audience I've chosen to pursue is so busy writing their magnum opuses they barely have time to read an article, much less comment on one. I hope it's that every other writing blog, Facebook group, or Reddit community out there is competing for the same small slice of target audience that I am, and they're already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of writing-related sites.

Even so, it would be nice to have a comment every now and then. Until then, we are the blind talking to the mute, not really knowing if the listener is out there or not.

All this leads me to this little nugget I'm just now trying to wrap my head around. If all this is true, if readers are doing me a favor (instead of me doing them a favor by providing unique, meaningful content) by granting the benevolence to increase my hit count, then what's the point?  If just clicking onto my blog is them being good friends and doing me a solid, so to speak, so they can hurry back to reading spoilers for Batman or watching two pandas splash water at each other, then why do I even keep such a resource online?

I think -- and I'm still struggling with this one, so give me time -- I think I know why. Because I do it for me ultimately. I do it because I want to give something of myself to other writers. Because I think that's something worth doing.

It's just that how does one learn that he's doing something worth doing if the the audience he's doing it for rarely responds with more than a visit? Or is that his answer -- that what he's doing doesn't really matter and the lack of response is the proof?

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

It's a conversation I have regularly with many of my writer friends. The meme is all over the web -- Make a writer happy by leaving a review.

Just "liking" this doesn't count.
The meme itself gets lots and lots of likes, but do the "likers" actually take the effort to go leave a few words about the book?

Rarely, because there are more important things to see, like the photoshopped image of Baywatch stars on the bridge of the Enterprise.

It's why so many groups grow stagnant, so much discussion fades away, why other writers whose perceptions and thoughts I value give up sharing them after 5 or 6 posts. It's not that they don't have anything to say. It's that it's not worth it when the return on the time invested is so close to nil. It's like yelling into a storm at best, or, at worst, speaking into a room full of peers who are all ignoring you. "I tried, Sean," they tell me, "But nobody really seemed to care."

Perhaps it's all a moot point. Perhaps it doesn't really matter as long as I can continue to sell books and short stories and comic books. Or perhaps it's some invasive spirit that creeps into all writers and makes them want to share about the craft but not read what others share about the craft.

I don't know.

All I do know is that if content is still actually king, then somewhere, some-when the definition of content was abducted and replaced with a pauper who, in this case, doesn't even look the part.


Here's a picture of Taylor Swift in a cowboy hat.
I feel bad for teasing you. What can I say?

Monday, January 30, 2017



For years, award winning author Bobby Nash has defined action and adventure with his own unique style of storytelling. Now Nash brings both his talent and imagination to his own digital short story creator’s imprint as a part of Pro Se Productions’ Pro Se Single Shot Signature line- From the Pen of Bobby Nash!

Bobby’s second short story in the series, CRIMSON MOON, takes readers where they have never been before. On the night of the Crimson Moon, the holiest of holidays for things that go bump in the night, something has broken the truce. On this night when all hostilities are suspended, Vanek David, a disgraced Lupin warrior from one of the oldest werewolf families has decided to break with tradition and take the fight to his enemies while their guard is down. The only thing standing in there way is a young vampire named Charity. All she wants to do on this festive night is party, but it appears that fate has other plans for them all. The Crimson Trilogy begins here. CRIMSON MOON From the Pen of Bobby Nash!

Featuring an exciting cover and logo design by Jeffrey Hayes and formatting by Marzia Marina, FROM THE PEN OF BOBBY NASH: CRIMSON MOON is available now for only 99 cents at Amazon 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 directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Pro Se Productions has become known for reviving rare and often forgotten Pulp characters in its PULP OBSCURA imprint since 2012.  Great stories of characters ranging from Armless O’Neil to Senorita Scorpion to Richard Knight have been and continue to be told.  But what about when two of these lost heroes cross paths? What adventure may erupt? What action may ensue?  That is what WHEN LEGENDS MEET: PULP OBSCURA TEAM UP will answer as Pro Se Productions opens a call for submissions for an anthology.

Stories for WHEN LEGENDS MEET must involve a team up between characters that will be listed below.  The team up must consist of only two characters from the list.  The team up must also coincide as best as possible with the character’s established continuity, including what stories are available to the author from the character’s original run as well as new material created by Pro Se Productions.  It can be assumed that these characters live in a shared universe and actions affect all involved.  Continuity editing will be closely watched and considered in the submissions process.

 Characters available for this collection include-


Stories for WHEN LEGENDS MEET: PULP OBSCURA TEAM UP must be 10,000 words in length. A proposal of 100-500 words must be submitted to submissions@prose-press.com. Authors not previously published by Pro Se Productions must submit a writing sample of at least two pages with their proposals. Authors whose proposals are accepted must submit the first four pages of their accepted stories as quickly as possible for review by Pro Se staff. Final deadline for completed stories is 90 days following acceptance of proposals.

WHEN LEGENDS MEET: PULP OBSCURA TEAM UP is a part of the Pro Se Anthology Project, THE PRO SE OPEN, and is scheduled to be published in the 2016-2018 calendar years, depending on submissions and other factors.


1. An upcoming Collection or Imprint with openings is listed in the Pro Se Open.

2. Submissions are accepted following a 2-3 paragraph proposal for the story and at least a two page writing sample if you are a new writer submitting to Pro Se, unless the specific call states otherwise.

3. Submissions will be reviewed and those writers whose proposals are accepted will be given a deadline to complete the story, this deadline being typically 60-90 days.

4. Submissions to the book will be closed when all open slots in the listed work are filled.

5. Editors assigned to these projects will follow up, monitor, and make sure work is being done. Steps will be taken to move the anthology along as planned if work is not being done in a timely manner. 

The Pro Se Open will be updated periodically as to adding new collections and removing ones that have been filled. Some of the collections have story bibles to go with them and are listed so. Email submissions@prose-press.com to request bibles when appropriate.

Friday, January 27, 2017

[Link] Top Ten Trends in Publishing Every Author Needs to Know in 2017

by Chloe

What does 2017 have in store for authors? If you haven’t had a chance to read forecasts and predictions for the coming year, fear not. We have read all of the top articles written by industry professionals and top indie authors so you don’t have to. We also reached out to some of our industry friends to see what their thoughts are. Below we have compiled a list of the top 10 trends in publishing that will impact indie authors the most, with specific takeaways on how you can best navigate them.

1. The Majority of Fiction Sales will Come from eBooks

Data Guy notes in his DBW White Paper that 70% of adult fiction sales were digital last year. It is likely that ebook readership will continue to grow in 2017. More eBook readers means more eBook sales. This means that if you’re writing fiction, promoting your eBooks is a good place to focus in the coming year.

What this means for you: If you are a first-time fiction author, publishing your work as an ebook is an affordable and easy way to enter the market. If you are a published or self-published fiction author, continue to focus your time, resources and budget on driving ebook sales.

Read the full article.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Know-It-Alls Telling Stories: Writers on Omniscient Narrators

For this week's writers roundtable, let's look at the Omniscient Narrator. For years, it was the standard, but now it's fallen out of vogue for Third Person Limited. But why? And should we writerly types be ready to re-embrace this ol' standard?

Do you still write in omniscient POV? If not, when was the last time you did? Why do you keep using it or why did you stop?

Rebekah McAuliffe: While with omniscent POV you can get inside the minds of all of your characters, it can be difficult to keep up with because, again, there are so many characters. At least for me, I feel like first person is where it is much easier to "show, don't tell."

Robert Kennedy:
I can't think of an instance where I've used omniscient narration. In my own writing I tend to tell the story in the First Person. I generally do the Voice that way. That often leads to "I didn't know that this was happening until later…" interjections to the readers. (The only time the Voice has appeared in the third person is in "Voice to a New Generation" that appeared in the first anthology of The Pulptress.)

Jeff Deischer: I always use omniscient. I want to jump around and make each character personal for the reader.

Ron Fortier: Never used it. Always preferred 3rd person…even the few times I wrote 1st person, I purposely avoided the omniscient factor.

Lance Stahlberg: I'm not sure if I've ever written in true third person omniscient. At least, in my mind, I'm always seeing the story through a particular set of eyes, even if that set of eyes changes.

When a friend read my GI JOE Kindle Worlds story, they commented that they normally hated third person omniscient, but I made it work. I think it's because it was actually third person limited, just with multiple third persons.

When you have an ensemble cast, it's hard to stay focused entirely on one character. Most of the breaks would be obvious (separated by ***) but in some scenes, I might have to shift from one set of paragraphs to the next because a hard break would be too jarring to the flow of the action. I'd never bounce back and forth too much, though. If I was focused on a particular character, and wanted to get the thoughts of another, I'd go with visual cues and expressions, not their actual internal dialogue.

Break Mwango: I write in whatever POV I feel suits the style of the story I'm writing, and which suits the characters too. Like, do I want to be able to expose ALL the characters' thoughts and emotions? Or do I want to limit it to just one character in order to possibly deceive the reader into thinking one thing when it's the other thing?

C.E. Martin: For me, I like to tell the story the same as if I'm doing a screenplay. I follow one person around, but don't limit the description for the reader to just what the character I'm following is aware of. Then, at a chapter break or a time break, I like to switch to another perspective, creating a mini cliffhanger with the first part. I think it works well for building suspense and mystery--just like it did in the film Pulp Fiction.

Robert Krog: This is, again, one of those questions I rarely ponder but intuitively answer regularly.  When I first read it, I had to stop and ask myself what point of view I use anyway.  It’s usually third person, sometimes first, and only once second.  I wrote in second, because I was asked to do so.  I normally gravitate to third but occasionally fall into first without really thinking about it.  Which third person do I use though?  It’s a question I don’t usually ask myself.  Looking over my work, it appears that I write in third limited with rare occasions of omniscient.  Most of my work is short fiction from novelette to short story and follow the actions of just one character.  There is sometimes head hopping (a sort of level in between omniscient and limited).  There is often insight into what the characters think and feel on top of what they say and do.  Sometimes, however, there is no precise insight into any one character’s head or heart.  The reader is witness to a scene and the narrator, if he is there, reveals nothing beyond what is witnessed.  The narrator comes across as a very ignorant tour guide, knowing locations, names, and basic relationships.  After that information, the reader and he are in the same boat, witnessing an event as it happens.  

I’m working on a novel that is written in periodic episodes of third omniscient, but in which the all-seeing narrator is primarily interested in relating the story of one, particular character, and the story comes across often as third limited.  The reader, after all, doesn’t have the time and the patience that an omniscient narrator has.  The narrator could go on forever, revealing all, but frankly the reader would never bear it.  The narrator stays chiefly in the head of the main character, but does visit the experiences of others as the story demands.  Who could read a book that delivered all the available information in a story at once?  Who could read a book that revealed every character’s, individual experience separately?

I keep to a fairly tight and near perspective, the then and there, only straying from that from time to time, leaving foreshadowing out or keeping it very subtle.  The omniscient narrator may know a great deal about the world through which he guides the reader, it’s history and geography, but he does not know its future. The ending seems to be mystery to him as well as to the reader.  He can’t give it away.  Anyway, he isn’t telling his story, but someone else’s.  He stays as true as he is able to the story he has taken upon himself to tell.

I think I write this way in order to keep the suspense in the story and to enable to the reader to identify with the characters as much as possible to walk in their shoes.  At times, when I think the story on which I’m working requires greater objectivity, I pull back and write from higher up, so that the reader will be able to witness the events from outside rather than as one inside, holding the main character’s hand or riding around in his head.  I use the methods that seem appropriate to the story.  I don’t consider either one more modern or more old-fashioned or outmoded.

Ellie Raine: I’ve tried writing in omniscient, but every time, I unintentionally slipped into 3rd limited. What can I say? I like not knowing anything outside of what the character sees.

Bev Allen: Interesting and I imagine extraordinarily hard to write if you are going to maintain the reader's interest and not burden them with detail.

Lee Houston Jr.: I'm not sure I have ever intentionally written in the omniscient pov. There have been times proofreading when I've discovered that I either foreshadowed too much or revealed too much too soon in the narrative, but those instances were quickly rewritten long before the final manuscript was submitted for publication.

Bobby Nash: Sure. I guess. Is it sad that I don't really think about it before I start writing? I use the narration to set the scene, tell us what is going on, what people look like, how they are dressed. I do try to stick to the POV of one character at a time per chapter or per section of the chapter. I have been known to head hop a few times here and there though. Whatever works best to tell the story or whatever the publisher/editor will allow.

What do you feel are the strengths of the omniscient POV? What are it's weaknesses?

Ron Fortier:
It has no strengths. It’s weakness is the temptation to foreshadow an event, which is a cheap trick to play on the writer. Example: "Sam left Irene’s little realizing he would never see her again." Stephen King is notorious for this playing God. I hate it.

Bobby Nash: Strengths -- you can get into the heads of multiple characters and see everything from a big picture standpoint.

Weaknesses -- sometimes I have to rephrase things a certain way that would work better if one of the characters was the narrator.

Lee Houston Jr.: If done right, the Omniscient Narrator can serve as an extra character, so to speak, to tell the story from a viewpoint that none of the other characters in your tale/novel have. Done incorrectly, this "extra character" overshadows the main cast so the reader wonders who the book is actually about.

Bev Allen: I see the possibility of creating a rich texture to the descriptive narrative, and the possibility of including subtle layers of visual experience, but do I, as a reader, really need or want that?

Robert Krog: I suppose the strengths and weaknesses of the differing third person points of view depend on the way in which they are implemented and on other factors as well.  One doesn’t want to reveal the end of a mystery at the beginning, generally, and one doesn’t want the reader to think that the narrator knows but isn’t telling, just because he likes to keep the reader in suspense.  Mind you, many readers do like to be kept in suspense, so there is that to consider.  In fact, the main problems with omniscient may be nothing more than reader expectation and writer execution.  Terry Pratchett wrote primarily in omniscient and is a beloved author still read by many, so I’m not ever sure why some today suggest that the omniscient point of view is out of date.  Readers loved the voice of the narrator and didn’t mind that he knew everything and only revealed what he wanted to in the order that he liked.  They liked the manner and order of his revelations and delighted in them.  Is Pratchett’s work already that out of date?  Perhaps what is passing for conventional wisdom on the subject is what is sadly out of touch.

Another more recent best seller using omniscient is the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  Again, I suggest that omniscient not really all that out of vogue anyway.  I think the question with the strength and weaknesses of the omniscient point of view is whether or not the narrator of the story is in and of herself an engaging storyteller telling an engaging story.  This is the question with every other point of view as well.  Are the characters and the story ones that the readers will find engaging?  If the narrator is dull, the story however exciting it should be, will come across as dull as well.  This is why so many people do not read History.  It is not that History is boring, it is that it is told by Historians, and they are, as a lot, not very good storytellers.  Individual Historians do shine through, from time to time.  Thomas Costain comes to mind.  On the other hand, a really good story teller may get away for some time by finding some amusing way of presenting what is essentially a dull event.

Given all that, readers who enjoy the plot most will probably like omniscient better than limited, but no always, whereas readers who enjoy characters more than plot will generally like limited better, since it usually is a more intimate way of telling a story.  These are only strengths and weaknesses depending on reader expectations, and they are not hard and fast rules.  A good, omniscient narrator, who feels for the character whose story is being told will supply the necessary intimacy, I think.  The reader will sympathize with the narrator and therefore with the character in question.

Lance Stahlberg: I am sure there are times when you would want to get in everyone's head at once. This makes me think about a common trope in older comics when you have two characters in the same panel looking at the same thing with opposing thought bubbles over their heads. But this isn't done so much anymore for a reason. It breaks the cardinal rule "show, don't tell".

In the story I'm working on now, I get to cheat because the main character is a telepath. Though not knowing exactly what everyone in a scene is thinking is more interesting to read and a fun challenge to write.

Ellie Raine: The strengths are definitely knowing what everyone and everything is doing/seeing/thinking/feeling. But that in itself feels like a weakness to me; there’s no focus.

Jeff Deischer: I don't think it has a weakness, per se. It's a matter of taste. Some stories -- mysteries particularly -- work very well told first person.

Rebekah McAuliffe: I don't think I've ever written in omniscent POV. First person is just easier for me.

Robert Kennedy: Often the viewpoint is generated by the publisher/producer of the end product. Take the TV show Adam-12, for instance. A number of writers, who have more recently been TV producers, apparently did not like Jack Webb's command that they could show "Only What the Cops See!"

When writing in the third person I tend to mostly stick to the protagonist's POV. Or, to the hero and his team's viewpoint. Sometimes, usually near the end of a story, I jump around like crazy when the "Plan is Coming Together."

As a reader (not as a writer this time) do you enjoy reading the omniscient POV? Why or why not?

Rebekah McAuliffe: As long as it is a good story, and is written well, I don't really care whether it is in omniscent or first person or whatever.

Lee Houston Jr.: No. While you need set ups, introductions, etc. that require a narrator; I want to read what happens next, not be told by "someone" not even involved in the tale what happens.

Bobby Nash: I don't mind as long as I'm enjoying the story

Jeff Deischer: I still like reading it, yeah. That was about all there was when I was growing up (I mean readily given to teens). I don't know when I read my first first-person story but it was probably in my twenties. First person is hard to write well for most people.

Ellie Raine: When I read, I like to feel like I’m experiencing the story, not hearing about it. I feel like omniscient POV (at least for me) solidifies that line between fiction and reality to the point where I don’t believe anything that’s happening in omniscient. But that’s me.

Robert Krog: I enjoy a story that is well told, whatever the point of view.  That inevitably includes the omniscient one.  Having read the works of Terry Pratchett and Susanna Clarke, I can point you to current examples I enjoyed.  I suggest you give them a read and see what you think.

Lance Stahlberg: The reader wants someone or something to follow. If the perspective bounced around too much, it could get confusing quickly. A big part of this could be thanks to movies and TV. People are more visual than ever. We've become conditioned to "see" a story play out from a certain perspective.

Robert Kennedy: If somebody writes well in the Omniscient Narrator style, I have no problem with that.

(For publishers only) Does your company solicit or seek stories in the omniscient pov? Why or why not?

Ron Fortier: Nope, save for rare occasions that demand first person such as our Sherlock Holmes or Quatermain tales, we only want third person. A writer should bring his readers along with him or her in the story’s journey and allow for genuine, organic surprises to them both.

Debra Dixon: I don't actively solicit any particular POV. However, deep limited third (multiple deep limited, too) or first person generally deliver the most immediate, emotional reads. Including the feel of the action in a plot dependent upon battles, fights and fisticuffs.

Tommy Hancock: I don't discriminate.

Joe Gentile: We do not ask for specific POVs, however, that being said, sometimes when working with licenses, they will prefer a POV type.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Want To Be a Time Machine

by Sean Taylor

I'm currently listing to the audio book of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine on my drive to and from work. I must admit it took me longer to get engrossed in it than a Bradbury usually does. I kept waiting for something, well, outside of the normal to happen. Aliens show up to kidnap the Green Machine. A circus with a sinister showman gives Doug and Tom the stink-eye. Charlie turns on his parents and feeds them to the lions on a virtual reality veldt.

But, in spite of the lack of typical Bradbury action, I stuck with it. And danged it if didn't pull me in despite my preconceptions as to what a Bradbury story should be.

Now, why do I bring this up? Because I'm thinking about the power of story. You read that correctly. Story. Not Stories. The collective singular whole.

All of the stuff that is classic Bradbury is there... the struggle between nostalgia and the future, people's love/hate relationships with technology, the true fiction of the imagination. But above all in Dandelion Wine is Bradbury's eye for history and the knowledge that whatever the present is, it too will soon become that lists of facts we know as history.

So, what I see mostly in this book (and this is the point of why I'm writing) is the dichotomy between history as a bunch of memorized or recorded facts and history as a living, breathing story.

Ray Bradbury knew about the power of story.

That's why Colonel Freeleigh wasn't just an old man boring kids with old memories. He was a time machine into the past. And the boys were smart enough to realize that. That's why when he died, Doug exclaimed that not only had one man died, but that the whole Civil War had died, Honest Abe had died, at least to him and his playmates.

But, you may interject, facts are true, and stories are merely the storyteller's interpretations of the events. Well, one might argue (and many do as I learned as a History minor in college) that even the facts are the interpretations of those who managed to wrest control from others in order to write the text books and the news and reports of the time.

I, on the other hand, argue quite a different point.

Facts are dead. Facts are little lumps of truth that decay and rot and do nothing on their own but start off dead and continue to get deader everyday. Stories are the miracle that brings facts to life. Stories are the exotic elixir that restore vim and vigor to the bones and rotted muscle of facts and makes them dance and shoot and jump onto trains and fly airplanes and drop bombs and date your grandmother when she was younger and prettier than even you are now. Ultimately, stories are the life facts need in order to matter.

Facts need stories.

But for stories you have to look deeper than just the facts (ma'am).

Looking for stories is what led me to ask my MeMe about my mom as a kid, to ask her about what attracted her to my Papa when they started dating, to ask about when the brothers build the house she lived in, to ask about the drug store I saw in old family photos.

Stories are why I started to research the U.S.S. Zeilin, the ship my Granddaddy Thigpen served on in WWII in the South Pacific. Stories are why I love the old guitar my Granddaddy Taylor gave me when he died. It's full of stories that only he and I shared in his back office, playing and tuning that ol' six string.

Stories are, and I really don't think I can overstate this -- stories are the very things that make facts stick around. Stories are history. They only become mere facts after the stories are forgotten. They only become stale and rote memory when the stories are no longer told. Then they remain as the dates and epitaphs on the graves where the stories lie buried.

History is our combined story. But it's also your story. It's also my story.

History is why I tell the same stories over and over again when my family drives through Swainsboro where I grew up. I tell about how the old high school is gone now, but there, right there, was the hallway where my friends and I shoved a dead frog into a girl's locker. And that place -- follow my fingers, see where I'm pointing -- that's where the classroom was where Todd Jeter made our one neck-less teacher (a birth defect, I believe) snap around his shoulders and everything down to his waist by slamming his book on the desk. (The poor man couldn't just turn his head, not without a neck.) When we drive a mile further, I mention the library where one of my earliest girlfriends Christie and I used to kiss in one of the aisles, and my brother and our friends would play Bloody Mary in the men's bathroom with the lights out. I drive through the other side of town and mention the day I thought my mom was going to beat the crap out of me because I wandered for a full day with friends after a bomb threat got school dismissed for the day and didn't call her until the evening to let her know I was okay and where I was.

Some would be inclined to dismiss it all as nostalgia. But it's not. It's history.

Sure, I don't have a story from Pearl Harbor, but someone does. I don't have a story from the Civil Rights marches, but somewhere in my circle of friends I know there must be one who does (or has a parent who does). But history happened all around me too, and not just with frogs and Bloody Mary and neck-less teachers. Where was I, and what was I doing when the space shuttle blew up, and what did I learn from it? Where was I when John Lennon was shot? What about on 9-11 when the towers fell? I was alive, damn it, and I have a story. I'm a part of that history.

I'm a part of history, period. My story is my history. It's important. It's a collection of  the facts that make me who I am. It's the binding that holds the stories that make those facts mean something real. It's me. And it's important that I pass "me" down through time just like it's important that you pass "you" down through time. You see, I want to be a time machine too, just like Colonel Freeleigh.

I only need someone to listen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Practicing Writing -- Check Out This Resource!

Here's a resource you really should check out:

Erika Dreifus -- Practicing Writing

Erika Dreifus is the author of Quiet Americans, a short-story collection that is largely inspired by the histories and experiences of her paternal grandparents, German Jews who escaped Nazi persecution and immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. Erika earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, where she taught history, literature, and writing for several years. Currently, she lives in New York City, where she works as Media Editor for Fig Tree Books.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Belle Books Introduces Stone Cold Bastards by Jake Bible

"Keep dwelling in the past and you won't see the present."
-- Jake Bible, Parkway To Hell

Stone Cold Bastards, by our newest author, Jake Bible, is now available for pre-order!
Only a rag-tag team of gargoyles stands between humanity and extinction.

Hell has released its ravening horde of demons, leaving most of humanity a puke-spewing, head-spinning mess of possession.

Humanity's last hope? A team of misfit gargoyles - including a cigar chomping, hard-ass grotesque - come alive and ready for battle during the End of Days. They guard the last cathedral-turned-sanctuary atop a bald knoll in the North Carolina mountains.

Gargoyle protection grudgingly extends to any human who can make it inside the sanctuary, but the power of the stonecutter blood magic, which protects the sanctuary, may not be enough when a rogue grotesque and his badly-wounded ward arrive.

All the hounds of hell are on their heels. The last sanctuary is about to fall.

About Jake Bible

Born Jacob David Bible pre-Microsoft in Bellevue, WA, Jake was whisked away to the Beaver State when he was three and raised fundamentalist pagan. Fed a steady diet of Doritos, Fritos Bean Dip and Chinese herbal tonics, Jake had so many vivid hallucinations that he was writing and binding his own books by fifth grade. True story.

He grew up fascinated with the speculative and the macabre. He spent many summers on his grandparent's lake reading a leather bound, Franklin Library Edition of The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. No, it wasn't a haunted book. And, no, it wasn't a haunted lake. Yes, his grandparents were actually re-animated corpses that had been accidentally murdered and then raised from the dead when a cocktail party got just a little out of hand. And they drank gin and tonics. True story.

Bram Stoker Award nominated-novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake has entertained thousands with his horror and sci/fi tales. He reaches audiences of all ages with his uncanny ability to write a wide range of characters and genres. Jake is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series set in Asheville, NC, the bestselling Salvage Merc One, the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash) and the Mega series for Severed Press, as well as the YA zombie novel, Little Dead Man, the Teen horror novel, Intentional Haunting, the middle grade scifi/horror ScareScapes series, and the Reign of Four series, which he calls "medieval space fiction", for Permuted Press. As of 2017, he also publishes with Bell Bridge Books and will be releasing three books, starting with Stone Cold Bastards.

Jake currently lives in the Asheville, NC area with his wife, two kids, and two dogs. And although he writes about zombies and cannibals, Jake does not eat of the flesh himself (that means he's a vegetarian, son. I say, I say, stop bein' so dense, ya hear?). But, he will eat the non-homicidal animal foodstuffs because pizza is it's own food group and soy cheese just ain't gonna cut it.

True story.

For more information: https://jakebible.com/

Friday, January 20, 2017

Vampires for Valentines -- Crimson Shadows By Trisha Baker

Mikal Baldevar -- The legendary living Philosopher's Stone and a murderous sociopath!

Simon Baldevar and Meghann O'Neill have twins, Elizabeth and Mikal. Elizabeth is a mortal, loving, and normal child while Mikal is his father's son. Simon and Meghann separated in order to keep their children safe; he to an isolated Highland island with their vampiric son and Meghann to New York to raise their human daughter.

Eighteen years later, despite Simon's best efforts to raise his son, there are serious issues. In fact, Mikal has absolutely no sense of right or wrong, nor any sense of pleasure or pain. He's a true sociopath in every sense of the word. To Simon's dismay, Mikal leaves home on a murderous rampage.

Simon originally got Meghann pregnant to produce the legendary living philosopher's stone, knowing that his vampire child would possess powers that other vampires could only dream of, including the most fearful of all, Mikal is able to walk in daylight. Now, Simon Baldevar is faced with the most horrifying of choices; be a loving father or a ruthless killer. Either way, he must face what he has unleashed upon the world.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pushing Your Genre Boundaries -- Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

This week, let's talk about jumping into a new genre from the one you're most comfortable with.

Think back to the first time you wrote in a genre other than you're favorite, did it rattle you at all? How did you prepare for the new experience?

Bobby Nash: I love the challenge of playing in a new genre or mixing genres in a way I haven't attempted before. Each story offers up a a challenge. When I wrote Lance Star: Sky Ranger for the first time, it was new for me writing this type of action/adventure story and my first time getting into the head of pilot characters. When I moved over to Domino Lady, even though it was still a pulp story, it was a different kind of character and story so those same kind of challenges were there. Then, one day, I got the chance to write a western. It was a little nerve-wracking, but it was also fun to scratch that particular creative itch. So, maybe a little rattled, but just a little. No real preparation other than researching where needed, but that happens no matter what genre I'm writing.

Lucy Blue: I've always written for myself in various genres, but the first time I consciously wrote for publication in a genre that wasn't romance was a noir story (or pulp story?), and I was a little self-conscious. I went back and read a couple of noir classics that I knew well and a couple of new things in the genre I'd never read before, just to get the taste of it in my mouth, if that makes any sense.

Lee Houston Jr.: No, because even when you're tackling what you might think is just 1 specific genre when creating a tale, you always bring elements from others (action, drama, etc) into your story whether you're consciously aware of doing so or not. 

L. Andrew Cooper: I’ve been writing in different genres since I was a kid, so I remember adventure (a choose-your-own-adventure with kidnapping and a plane wreck on a desert island! –second grade) and horror (ghost child kills parents –third grade) and sci-fi (genetically engineered antichrist –eighth grade)… and my first novel, at 18, was experimental literary (don’t even ask). If I can immerse myself and get a genre’s feeling, I’m ready for the experience. I don’t get the feeling of romantic comedy or—from the storytelling perspective—happy porn. I couldn’t write it. I tried porn. Embarrassing fail.

Bill Craig: It didn't because it was a genre that I loved to read. Preparation was getting the character just right.

Hilaire Barch: Yes! I am used to happy endings. Dark fantasy/horror were hard. I wrote in lieu of therapy.

Nancy Hansen: Rattle me? No, but I was a bit nervous about getting it right. First time was PI fiction, and Tommy Hancock tossed me an idea that I said no to, and then went ahead and did it —- my way. That idea transformed into The Keener Eye. Second time I got myself involved in writing a western, which is something I'd never tackled before. Because that was a 'write like the original author' scenario, I had to do my research. I had never even read a western. I think the story I did for Senorita Scorpion turned out pretty well, but I had doubts all along the way. Now I'm writing a pirate series...

Danielle Procter Piper: As a kid, I wrote mysteries (or tried to). As a teen, I broadened into sci-fi and fantasy. Basically, I followed the rule; write what you'd like to read. I love humorous horror, so that was not a stretch. I was encouraged to write erotica because it apparently sells well. I learned I'm no good at erotica because I tend to make everything I write funny or horrific. I can write some steamy sex scenes for my sci-fi, but a whole book surrounding sex... it just feels goofy to me. I guess because I've never felt sexy -- only goofy. It was recently suggested that I try my hand at writing a western. I do own a few western DVDs, but I've never read any, so without a sci-fi or fantasy twist, I doubt it will happen. Writing genres I'm naturally drawn to is a piece o'cake.

Robert Krog: My default setting for writing is Fantasy.   It’s not precisely my favorite to write, but most of my favorite books to read are Fantasy.  That being stated, I’ve rarely had trouble working in a new genre.  The first time I was required to write something not in a genre to which I had gravitated of my own interest was, I was asked to write a Steampunk story.  At that time, I had only heard of Steampunk and didn’t really know what it was.  I wasn’t rattled, but I was perplexed.  After doing some careful research, I discovered that Steampunk is mostly about setting and technology and is often a hybrid subgenre, from there it was easy.  I read a few well-known examples and a few obscure samples of the genre to get a feel for the setting and then went a told a story that met

I have had a more difficult experience in writing a piece of Historical Fiction.  I trained as an Egyptologist in graduate school and have always wanted but always been leery of writing a story set in Ancient Egypt.  I recently did so at last, and it was a difficult process due to my own concerns about getting the facts right and capturing the spirit of the times.  I’m still not sure I did the job properly, and I don’t think I’ll try it again any time soon unless I have a lot more time to brush up on the subject matter. 

Ellie Raine: I started on a detective story that was more or less intended to be a straight murder mystery… yeah, that didn’t go over so well with my fantasy-tuned attention span. I got so bored with the straight detective story (most likely because I’m just not that great at it) that I contacted my publisher and asked “Just HOW paranormal can I go with this?”. He said “go crazy”. So, I rewrote the story into a paranormal noir until I found it fun. And it was. I regret nothing… *maniacal laughter*

Retta Bodhaine: I've started out on missions to write either horror or mystery, but have yet to complete one. It's still something I'm working towards, but the main reason I want to accomplish this is to push my own boundaries. I think it will help me grow as a writer to wander outside of my comfort zones.

When branching out into a new genre, has the new one ever become your new favorite, even to the point of taking the place of your previous "go-to genre"?

 L. Andrew Cooper: Awhile ago I started playing with poetry and haven’t been able to stop—not a genre, exactly, but it’s a go-to form these days instead of prose. I’m still a horror guy, though, and novels are happening. I’ve got a sonnet cycle coming out that’s a superhero horror story, also kind of autobiographical. It’s weird. 

Lee Houston Jr.: No. While I do have my favorites (superheroes, sci-fi, mysteries, and fantasy) I like variety. The one genre I probably would never tackle is modern horror because by today's definition of it, horror is more blood, guts, and violence than suspense and dread from back in the days of Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Senior or Junior, Boris, Karloff, Vincent Price, etc.  

Danielle Procter Piper: When I published my first fantasy a few years ago, I found writing it rather freeing as I was not constrained by either science or history. The problem I had was keeping myself reigned in so I didn't add too many fantasy elements that I had no intention of explaining better or tying off neatly by the story's end. I also have to control myself when I write horror. I have really freaked a few people out by "going too far". I thought that was the point, but perhaps not if it disturbs readers so much they don't really want to read your stuff again.

Hilaire Barch:
So far, no. I think it's made me a better writer though.

Bill Craig:
Mystery writing became my new favorite genre to work in, because it let me take the plot pieces like they were a puzzle and build the story around them until I had a good solid book.

Robert Krog: I haven’t found a new favorite, much less a new default genre for my writing.  I’m most comfortable with Fantasy to this day, but I enjoy telling stories regardless, and I rarely think of what I write as genre anyway. Stories are about people, genre is mostly window dressing, so far as I can tell. 

Bobby Nash: Before writing my first pulp story, I had been writing mystery/thrillers and comic books. Once I worked on Lance Star: Sky Ranger and Domino Lady stories, I was hooked on writing pulpy adventures and I write pulpy stories more often than most types.

Lucy Blue: I adored the experience of writing outside romance and have been doing more and more of that, and I have written a couple of other noir things since that felt amazing. I haven't really picked a new favorite genre yet, but the experience of that initial branching out has been a huge deal in helping me rediscover who I want to be as a writer.

What advice would you offer for new writers looking to broaden their horizons into new genres?

Lucy Blue: Pick a new genre that you genuinely love as a reader, not just the hot new thing; read lots of it and learn the tone and language and commonplaces; then write YOUR story. Know the rules well enough to break them in a way that makes sense within the context of the genre. Don't try to bait and switch an editor, calling your book one genre that they've asked for when you know in your heart it's really more something else.

Retta Bodhaine: As a part of my quest I have taken to reading many instructional books and delving back into those genres for my pleasure reading too. I am currently reading How to Write Crime Fiction by Sarah Williams and re-familiarizing myself with some of my favorite Poe.

Bobby Nash: Do it. If you have an idea for a story or a passion to try a genre, do it. You might fail. You might succeed. You might discover that publishers have pigeon-holed you into one type of writer and will have to pitch it under a pen name. You can learn a lot about yourself as a writer by getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.

Robert Krog: Despite what I stated about window dressing, stories set in other, real cultures, past or present, do need to be well-researched and do present intellectual challenges to the author if he wishes his stories to be accurate and well-received by those in the know about the setting.  Do your research, and even if you are making it all up, be sure to keep your story internally consistent.  If it doesn’t follow its own logic, you are cheating, and the reader will catch you.  If it is set in a real-world culture, you will turn off readers who know better than you do when you make a mistake by using customs or technologies not associated with the time and/or place.

Danielle Procter Piper: The advice I'll give new writers is to go ahead and have fun, be adventurous. You'll know while you're writing a story if it feels right or not. The best thing you can do is find total strangers to review your work. They won't lie to you. And never take their criticism personally. You'll never know where your weaknesses are until several strangers have picked out the same fault. Book stores want you to write within a genre just so they know where to shelve your work. Publishers want you to write within a specific genre so they know how to promote your work. You can try to please them, or you can choose to please yourself and write whatever you like. Little hint: If you're good enough, no one will care what you're trying to do with your writing, so write what makes you happy.

Bill Craig: Don't be afraid to write outside your comfort zone. You will be surprised at how it opens you up to new ideas.

Hilaire Barch: Don't discount any genre until you've given it a shot. All have different writing aspects that even if the piece never sees the light of day, can help you improve your craft.

L. Andrew Cooper: A genre is built primarily on readers’ expectations and secondarily on historical conventions. Know both—screw with both, sure, but know both, and then have fun. Genres are full of little seeds to plant in your own stories. Cultivate them however you like.

Lee Houston Jr.: READ MORE! Broaden your mind and increase your horizons at the same time. You might enjoy something new that you were unaware existed, and at least experiencing other genres will help you down the road when you least expect it.

Nancy Hansen: Sword & Sorcery\Epic\Heroic Fantasy will always be my favorite genre, but it's good to be able to write other stuff. It opens up new markets. I've even done some horror now. I'm a better writer all round for branching out. I also read more diverse genres than I used to. So I'd say do your homework, read within any genre you're interested, both well done work and sloppy stuff, old and new. Then get out of your comfort zone and start dipping your toes in a new area of fiction. It's good for you and will broaden your appeal as an author. Learning to write stuff like westerns and pirate tales is like learning a new language. You start out overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge you need, but over time it begins to make sense, and before you know it, you're explaining things to other people. Just stick with it and you'll eventually be fluent enough in the lingo to write it well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nugget #88 -- The Right Word

The right word will do things a good word won't. It will 
say something about the character of the person saying or 
thinking it. It will bring with it the baggage of years of 
cultural context to say more than your mere word count ever 
could. It will sing rather than simply hum. It will make an 
idea stick to the brain rather than just "get the job done."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Update Your Links

Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action now has a new, easy to remember, direct website address:


Be sure to update your links accordingly.

[Link] An interview with Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark)

Note: Here's an oldie but a goodie,
as the saying goes.


by Paul Kane

Donald Westlake has also been associated with the cinema. “The Hunter,” one of the Parker novels written under the name of Richard Stark, has been made into a film four times. His screenplay for Stephen Frears’ 1990 film “The Grifters,” still the best screen adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel, was nominated for an Oscar.

I interviewed Donald Westlake in December 2006, following the publication of his latest Parker novel, “Ask the Parrot.” Here is how it turned out.

Paul Kane: Do you see yourself as a crime writer or simply a writer, period?

Donald Westlake: I began by writing everything, genre, slices of life, whatever. Over the course of time, it was mostly mystery stories (followed by sci-fi and humor) that got accepted, and you tend to go where you’re liked. Through the sixties, I said I was a writer disguised as a mystery writer, but then I looked at my back trail and said, okay, I’m a mystery writer.

I began by writing everything, genre, slices of life, whatever. Over the course of time, it was mostly mystery stories (followed by sci-fi and humor) that got accepted, and you tend to go where you’re liked. Through the sixties, I said I was a writer disguised as a mystery writer, but then I looked at my back trail and said, okay, I’m a mystery writer.

PK: What can you do in crime fiction that you can’t do in a straight literary novel? What possibilities does the genre offer you?

DW: I don’t think the distinction between genre and literary fiction is useful. We’re all working with the same two things, story and language, and if you fail with either of those it doesn’t matter what label you put on it.

Read the full article: http://www.compulsivereader.com/2006/12/30/an-interview-with-donald-westlake-aka-richard-stark/

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize

The Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize is an annual award for adventure writing.

This award is split into two separate categories – a prize for the best published adventure novel of the previous calendar year and a prize for the best unpublished adventure manuscript submitted for consideration.

The winner of the prize for a published novel will receive £10,000. The winner of the prize for an unpublished manuscript will be offered the Writer’s Adventure Research Award. The award is an exceptional opportunity in the form of a £5,000 grant, enabling the winner to travel to undertake invaluable research for their next story. They will also be offered guidance from Wilbur’s literary agents at Tibor Jones & Associates.


Entries for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize must meet the following criteria:

Published Work

  1. Entries can be submitted from the 31st of October 2016 until the 23rd of January 2017. Any novel submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for entry.
  2. The competition is open to writers of any nationality writing in English.
  3. Entrants may submit multiple works as long as they were all published between the 1st of January 2016 and the 1st of January 2017.
  4. The work in question must have been published by a recognised trade publisher.
  5. Entrants must submit two copies of the completed novel, as well as a covering letter explaining why the work qualifies as adventure writing (using the definition provided here), to the following address: The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation, 2-6 Atlantic Road, 2nd Floor, London, SW9 8HY.
  6. We reserve the right to disqualify any entry if we have reasonable grounds to believe that the entrant has breached any of these rules.
  7. We cannot accept any responsibility for any damage, loss, injury or disappointment suffered by any entrant entering the competition.
  8. We will act in accordance with current UK data protection legislation in relation to your personal data. All personal data entered is secure.
  9. We reserve the right to amend these rules where it is deemed necessary to do so or where circumstances are beyond our control. We reserve the right to not award the first prize, where circumstances are beyond our control, or if the judges’ overall verdict is that the level of entries is not up to the required standard.
  10. Submission of entry is taken to be an unqualified acceptance of these rules.
  11. The shortlist will be announced in April 2017.

Unpublished Work

  • Entries can be submitted from the 31st of October 2016 until the 23rd of January 2017. Any manuscript submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for entry.
  • The competition is open to writers of any nationality writing in English.
  • You may enter multiple works but novels will be considered as separate entries, so each completed manuscript must be accompanied by its own covering letter, explaining why the work qualifies as adventure writing (using the definition provided here), a synopsis and a copy of your CV.
  • All submissions must be made via email (submissions@wilbur-niso-smithfoundation.org).
  • Submissions must exceed 50,000 words in length.
  • Self-published e-books are eligible, but manuscripts that have been published in any other format are not.
  • If you enter your novel in other competitions and you win, please notify us and withdraw your submission.
  • Entrants must not be represented by a literary agent.
  • We reserve the right to disqualify any entry if we have reasonable grounds to believe that the entrant has breached any of these rules.
  • We cannot accept any responsibility for any damage, loss, injury or disappointment suffered by any entrant entering the competition.
  • We will act in accordance with current UK data protection legislation in relation to your personal data. All personal data entered is secure.
  • We reserve the right to amend these rules where it is deemed necessary to do so or where circumstances are beyond our control. We reserve the right to not award the first prize, where circumstances are beyond our control, or if the judges’ overall verdict is that the level of entries is not up to the required standard for publication.
  • Submission of entry is taken to be an unqualified acceptance of these rules.
  • The shortlist will be announced in April 2017.

For more information: http://www.wilbur-niso-smithfoundation.org/index.php?p=awards/adventure-writing-prize

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Chromosphere Press Announces the Latest from Stephanie Osborn!

2 JANUARY 2017

Stephanie Osborn, aka the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, former rocket scientist and author of acclaimed science fiction mysteries, goes back to the urban legend of the unique group of men and women who show up at UFO sightings, alien abductions, etc. and make things...disappear...to craft her vision of the universe we don't know about. Her new series, Division One, chronicles this universe through the eyes of recruit Megan McAllister, aka Omega, and her experienced partner, Echo, as they handle everything from lost alien children to extraterrestrial assassination attempts and more.

Dr. Megan McAllister was already a pretty unique human — NASA astronaut, professional astronomer, polymath — when she encountered the man in the black Suit that night in west Texas. What Division One Agent Echo didn't know, when he recruited her to the Agency, was that she was even more special.

But he'd find out, soon enough.

Award-winning author Osborn is a 20+-year space program veteran, with multiple STEM degrees. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 30 books. She currently writes the critically-acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and the Gentleman Aegis Series, whose first book was a Silver Falchion winner. She “pays it forward” through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, and working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank. Osborn’s website is http://www.stephanie-osborn.com.

Division One series Book One, Alpha and Omega, will be released in ebook formats on 10 January, 2017, and in trade paperback format on 24 January. Additional installments in the ongoing series are anticipated later this year.

978-0-9982888-0-2 (ebook)
978-0-9982888-1-9 (print)

The ebooks are available for preorder at:
Amazon (Kindle): https://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Omega-Division-Stephanie-Osborn-ebook/dp/B01MXNQTFJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483394401&sr=1-1

Barnes-Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alpha-and-omega-stephanie-osborn/1125168253?ean=9780998288802

Other formats, and trade paper, will be available from your favorite bookseller!

Friday, January 13, 2017


Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the release of the second in writer R.A. Jones’ western series featuring Jason Mankiller. During the Civil War, the young Union soldier had a tattoo painted on his left check; that of blood drops falling from the corner of his eyes. Since that time, earning his reputation as a bounty hunter, he is known on the Texas frontier as The Man Who Cries Blood.

In this second tale, Mankiller is on the trail of three vicious Comancheros who have been stirring up trouble between the Comanche and the white settlers of Fort Rogers. Even though the skilled hunter has the friendship of the notorious half-breed Comanche Chief, Quanah Parker, it is still left to him to find the renegades and prevent more bloodshed.

“When R.A. first approached us about doing this series, we were delighted,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “He wanted to do a straight up, old fashion western adventure. No fantasy elements, no weird western label. Just a classic tale of the old west during the years after the Civil War when America was attempting to heal its wound and rededicate itself to its manifest destiny.”

With the help of interior illustrator Chris Kohler and cover painter, Adam Shaw, writer R.A. Jones once again weaves a thrilled packed adventure set against the backdrop of the Texas frontier and brings to life the pioneer men and women who crossed a vast wilderness to create a new chapter in American history. Comanche Blood is a part of their story.


Available now at Amazon and soon on Kindle.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Writing Redemptive Stories

by Sean Taylor

Every reader, it seems, loves to cheer for the underdog—but not just for the physical underdog, the weak and small David dwarfed by the monstrous Goliath. Readers also seem to have a place in their hearts for the moral underdog, the failed and fallen character (in both senses of the word, the individual and that individual's choices and nature) who seeks a resolution or a reinstatement of his or her innocence or at the very least a return to a place of balance between his or her good and evil natures.

In fact, it has perhaps become a staple in the modern adventure story. For every Luke Skywalker trying to to the right thing there stands a Darth Vader who must be saved from the evil within himself. For every Superman with midwest values of right and wrong, there's a Batman of the urban sprawl who must learn to balance violence, judgment, and compassion.

Now when it comes to writing redemptive stories there are two main approaches a writer can use. The first is what I'll call the “Religious Approach.” The second, which is far more common, is what I'll call the “Bootstrap Approach”—based on the maxim about people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

The Religious Approach

Writers who use this way of looking at redemptive stories tend to create characters who require the help from someone of something greater than themselves to either trigger or complete their restoration. In the Narnia books, the Pevensie children can't defeat the Snow Queen without the work of Aslan. Nor can Frodo (who struggles with the “sin” the one ring forces him to acknowledge and struggle against) make his way to Mount Doom to destroy the ring without the assistance of Gandalf (either white or gray). Nor can the narrator of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane save himself. His saving requires the sacrificial work of Lettie Hempstock.

If it helps, think of this version as the Billy Graham version:  “I discovered I was bad or needed change, and ____________ helped me achieve it.”

Writers of this camp tend to come from a background of religion, and draw from that theological upbringing. Without getting into too deep a catechism, the bottom line connecting all Christian sects is that humankind is fallen (or evil) and that it requires the righteousness of someone not fallen to substitute or count in its place.

In the world of comics, several of the best Sandman stories by Neil Gaiman are of this type. Morpheus' world is filled with victims, villains, stand-abouts, and heroes who try to do and be better, only to require the Lord of Dream's help to get there.

One of my favorite twists on this type of tale comes when instead of a mighty creature like Aslan having the saving grace (so to speak), it is instead the small, seemingly unmighty creature or character who provides the innocence required to trigger the fallen character's redemption, playing off the literary riff in the Bible of the Lion that is also the Lamb. Examples of this include the aforementioned Lord of the Rings—even with the mighty works of Gandalf and Aragorn, it's really the brotherly support of Samwise that strengthens Frodo and saves him from his own desires to keep the ring.

Other notable works in the religious approach include Les Miserables, Wise Blood, Crime and Punishment, and A Christmas Carol.

The Bootstrap Approach

As I mentioned before, this approach is far more common in contemporary fiction, no doubt beginning with the Age of Reason and coming most recently from the 19th Century push toward the philosophy called Humanism (in short, man is dependent on and reports to himself ultimately). As such, writers (and philosophers, although this isn't that sort of column) began to introduce more characters who were the authors and finishers of their own inner change toward restoration or innocence.

If it helps, think of this version as the Oprah Winfrey version: “I decided I needed to be a better person, and this is what I did about it.”

Perhaps my favorite example of this is Han Solo. Why does he turn around and help the Rebels destroy the Death Star? Simply because he chooses to. He makes a decision to be a better person, damn the consequences, and he does it. He needs no help from the Force.

Another is Damien Karras in Blatty's The Exorcist. Karras is driven by grief and loss of faith to be a stronger man. Unfortunately, his opposition is the Devil, but even against such odds, it's not God who drives him. It's a personal desire and drive to be stronger (some might say worthy) in spite of his lack of faith.

From the world of comics, I recommend Punk Rock Jesus as one of the best of this type story. Thomas McKeal, a former IRA type with a list of regrets and deaths in his wake, gets a shot at being the bodyguard for a clone of Christ. It's the ultimate bootstrap pull, right in front of “Jesus” himself, but doing it for him not because of him.

Such changes in nature can be linked to several catalysts:

  • New love (a particularly obvious one)
  • A new group of influencers (for example, Han Solo's sudden heroic band, more than he'd care to admit).
  • An injury
  • Sometimes just a well-thought out change in POV
  • Grief from personal loss
  • Prophecy (The Once and Future King)
  • A sudden change in situation, such as location (Coraline)
  • Revenge turned into forgiveness (The Man in the Iron Mask)
  • Comparison to another generation (Catcher in the Rye)
  • The list is almost endless

Other notable works in the bootstrap approach include The Shawshank Redemption, Blade Runner (the movie portrays this perhaps better than the book, I think as Deckard learns his own flaws and seeks to understand and change), The Outsiders, and the Harry Potter series (particularly if viewed from the story of Snape).

Failed Redemption

There's one last thing we need to examine as we discuss redemptive stories, and that's the failed redemption.

In this version, no matter whether the change is prompted by a religious, inner zeal or an outer change, whether influenced by outside help or inner will, a character makes every effort to be better (as he or she defines that, of course), but ultimately fails.

The quintessential “great American novel”—The Great Gatsby—is perhaps my favorite failed redemption story. Jay Gatsby creates a set of criteria for his change and success as a new person, only to find how wrong he was, and the very things he pursued end up destroying him utterly.

Some well-known works with redemptive failures include Ethan Frome, the Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series by Stephen Donaldson, Plath's The Bell Jar, and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Some might even include The Awakening by Kate Chopin on this list, though it can be argued that the heroine doesn't fail, but becomes someone the world isn't ready for yet.

Putting It All Together Into a Process

Okay, Sean. That's all well and good. Thanks for the background lesson on books and films with redemptive themes. But what do I really need to do to tell better redemptive stories?

I get it. We're in a generation of bullet lists and step-by-step processes, so I'll try to make it as USA Today as I can for all of us.

1. Your character (or multiple characters) must face the truth about himself or herself. He or she must, for some reason (see the list above) see beneath the surface to the flawed, failed creature shriveled there.

2. Your character must want to change for the better, however it is that he or she (or it) defines better. Whether the criteria are religious or personal, true or false, your character must begin on the path toward betterment. Sometimes this will be physical (as in an action novel) or psychological (in something less genre).

3. The road must be fraught with obstacles. As with any good fiction, something must get in the way of your protagonist getting what he or she wants. It can be a balrog on the bridge or a husband who wants a trophy wife (Their Eyes Were Watching God) or an dying father (Jane Smiley's 1000 Acres), but it must be something.

4. Small victories lead to great confidence. Edna Pontellier moves out on her own (The Awakening). Thomas Covenant is able to make the ring glow by himself. Luke Skywalker finally listens to the Force and blocks a laser blast while blindfolded. If you could warn your characters, this is when you would want to tell them to be careful, that pride comes before a fall.

5. New confidence leads to overconfidence, which becomes a new “sin” to be dealt with. C.S. Lewis wrote about this often, particularly when he mentioned the small goods that get in the way of the great good. Spider-man gets control of his life (or so he thinks) financially, only to have his plans disrupted and lead to Uncle Ben's death.

6. Your character must face the truth about his or her nature again. This new “sin” reveals the depth of wrongness inside to be even deeper and more troubling that the character though back in step one. This is that moment when Rick Hunter realizes he's not a hero after all (Robotech reference for those who didn't know), and when the monster created by Victor Frankenstein realizes that in spite of his desire to be better than his creator, he is perhaps just a monster after all. The closer a character gets to his or her redemptive goal, the more subtle and deeply entrenched the wrongs inside him or her become (or were there all along but can finally be seen). The problem may not have been sleeping around after all, but that was just a symptom of the of the true moral failing—for example, wanting to be known as the great lover without earning it by truly loving.

7. Rinse and repeat as needed. You know the cycle. Keep it going until your antagonist is either beaten down to the gooey human pulp you want for the story or built up from lesson after lesson until he or she practically gleams gold. Then, and only then, do you really sock it to him or her.

8. You character faces his or her moment of truth. This is where the crap hits the fan. It's all or nothing. Either all the growth up to this point comes to fruition, or it gets left off to the side of the road in the biggest moral failing in your character's life. This is when Carol Fry realizes at the point of a beast's stinger that she's not the hero, but Riddick is. This is the moment when Rorschach comes to terms with the facts—all he has done is for naught. The world will never let the little guy win. Best just to carry on and get murdered by your friends.This is when little Frodo drops either the ring or himself into the flames of Mount Doom.

9. Your character faces the aftermath. This will typically end in a brand new journey toward redemption or (perhaps the harder story to craft) a resolving to accept the truth about oneself and come to terms with being a lesser person in one's own eyes. Dr. Manhattan “unmakes” Rorschach, then leaves to contemplate the moralities of life... elsewhere. Riddick flies the survivors to safety, wondering if he's worthy of Fry's sacrifice after all. Deckard takes Rachael away—presumably to temporary safety and limited happy ever afters. Excalibur is returned to the Lady of the Lake. Karras leaps through the window to take the demon with him, away from little Regan. Edna Pontellier walks into the ocean to die. Luke Skywalker gives his father an honored death and sees his redeemed Force ghost.


None of this is necessary for your story, however. Not all tales are redemptive ones. Or even failed redemptions. There are plenty of stories out there with characters who couldn't care less about becoming better people. Hammett's Sam Spade, for example, is perfectly happy being the unhappy schlup with zero interest in examining the moral side of his choices. The same goes for Hemingway's existential heroes. All they're concerned with is simply surviving. He who makes it to the end of breath wins.

Still, although you don't need to weave a redemptive story into your fiction, it never hurts to have something redemptive going on—even in a subplot. This is particularly true for pulpy writers who focus on the action and less on the nature of their characters. So what if the hero isn't looking to better himself or herself. Perhaps the client or the victim in distress is, and the hero is that person's only hope. Sometimes telling the story from the POV of the “other” rather than the one looking for innocence or redemption can be the more compelling story.