Monday, February 27, 2017

Exercising my "Write Brain" with Retta Bodhaine

I contribute a little advice along with several other creatives from the works of words, music, drama, and film. Well worth a look.

Thanks to the always lovely and talented Retta Bodhaine for inviting me to take part.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Airship 27 Productions, in association with Radio Archives, is thrilled to announce that veteran voice actor George Kuch will be reading “Holmes & Houdini” by author, I.A. Watson.  A veteran of 30 years theater experience, Kuch joined the AFTRA union around 2008 and did much background and stand-in work for TV shows filmed in the New York/New Jersey area.

Although steady work, there was little for the actor in creative satisfaction. He was looking for something in which he could utilize his acting skills. Thus he attended an AFTRA seminar on audiobook narration and was immediately intrigued by the possibilities inherent in such work.  “I would be able to act all the roles in a story,” he recalls vividly. “Success would be determined by my ability to tell a story alone using the experiences and knowledge I’d gained from the stage in a completely new direction.”

Kuch sought out advice from professional audiobook narrators and was subsequently coached by Paul Alan Rueben, one of the finest directors of audiobooks. Thus prepared, he launched his new career in 2011 and has since narrated over 100 audiobooks.

Being a long time fan of Sherlock Holmes, Kuch was thrilled when the opportunity arose to narrate new Holmes adventures for both Pro Se Press & Airship 27 Productions.  “I was asked if I had any interest in narrating some of the Sherlock Holmes anthologies and I jumped at the chance. I have now completed 8 anthologies and 4 stand-alone Holmes novels with still more to be done.”

“Our readers love George’s readings,” says Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “Whereas I.A. Watson’s novel was a special project, teaming the Great Detective with famous magician Harry Houdini. Knowing that it this book is now in George’s capable hands, tells me this is going to be one fantastic audiobook our fans will not want to miss.”

All Airship 27 titles are produced via Radio Archives and sold at Amazon on the same pages as the books and kindle versions. Further announcements will be made when the audibook is officially on sale.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

CREEPY new book from Elizabeth Donald!

All that can kill you is what you carry with you.

Imagine a haunted church, where the ground has turned sour and something walks in the shadows to the mournful hymns.

A silent covered bridge that no one dare cross, and the couple lost on the other side.

Angry spirits crying out beneath the ground of a cemetery that will not lie still.

An ageless man bound in love to a mortal woman, forever moving, forever haunted.

A police officer chasing a suspect into the woods - and suspects they are no longer alone.

A woman preparing to leave her husband, with watchful eyes in the corner of the room.

A voice that can speak only through a radio, a voice from beyond death itself.

A man haunted by an ageless face that brings tragedy to his life whenever it appears.

A girl whose imagination carries her beyond the point of no return in a future where dreams become reality - and so do nightmares.

These are the dark, ethereal songs of Moonlight Sonata, stories bound to disturb your sleep and chill your heart. A new collection from the award-winning author of Setting Suns and Nocturne Infernum, Elizabeth Donald has been called “a storytelling ability to rival that of Stephen King."

Released February 2017 from Dark Oak Press. Check out a FREE excerpt!

Trade paperback $15
Hardback $30
eBook $4.99

Buy it now at these fine booksellers:
Dark Oak Press
Literary Underworld
Barnes and Noble
Or your local bookstore!

And a special discount just for newsletter subscribers: Use the code MS2016A for an extra 10 percent off! Offer good only at the Literary Underworld.

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She is married to author Jim Gillentine, and their family lives in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she… has no spare time. Find out more about her at

Friday, February 24, 2017

[Link] The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing Skills

by James Hicks

Words are hard.

Whether you’re a published author or just getting started with blogging, it’s not always easy to string words together in a way that makes sense, sounds good, and makes the reader feel something.

But every marketer should be able to write — and, more importantly, every marketer can write. It’s just a matter of finding the writing environment that works best for you, expanding your vocabulary, asking for feedback (and listening to it), and practicing.

Luckily, there are a slew of great tools you can use to help improve your writing. Check out the list below, and feel free to add the most helpful ones you use in the comment section.

The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing

1) Daily Page

“Writer’s block is a comforting lie we tell ourselves so we can stop writing and go do other, more pleasurable things,” said Beth Dunn, HubSpot’s UX writer and editor. “If your fingers still work, you can write. Sit down at the same time every day and start typing.”

Want to get into the habit of writing every day, but don’t know what to write about? Daily Page emails you a writing prompt every morning, and you have the rest of the day to write your response. Once you’ve written your response to the prompt, you can either share it or keep it private.

2) 750 Words

Another way to practice your writing is to do a “brain dump” exercise using a tool like 750 Words. “Brain dumping” means getting all that stuff in your head down on paper — without having to worry about incomplete ideas, tangents, and private stuff.

It’s not blogging or status updating — it’s just you, writing whatever you want on a totally private account, without ever having to title your content or tag topics or share with your friends.

What it does do is track your word count so you’re sure to write 750 words (about three pages of writing). Plus, it’s gamified, which makes it kind of fun: You get a point for writing anything at all, two points for writing 750 words or more, and more points if you write consistently. And every time you write, it’ll give you some cool statistics on how much time you spent writing, the feelings and themes of your words, and so on.

Read the full article:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I get SMACKED by Bibliorati!

by Tommy Hancock

Before we walk into the interrogation room that is The Smack, single light bulb hanging from the ceiling swinging back and forth and all, an administrative note.  These interviews will alternate at times in style.  Some will be, as was the debut last week, done in a more newspaper story, article style.  Others, just because of the spirit of the question and the one providing the answers, simply demand to be presented in their raw interrogation like form.  The style for every interview is chosen on what will serve the information and the interviewee best.  With that in mind, step inside the dungy green/gray room with this week’s suspect and enjoy as writer Sean Taylor Gets SMACKED!

First, tell readers about yourself personally.

I’m a father of three awesome kids ranging from 18-21, one girl and two boys, Charis, Evan, and Jack. Charis is the first to follow in my footsteps as a writer, with both a comic book story and a pulp short story to her credit as of now. My wife, Lisa, is a beautiful and multilingual woman who teaches both Spanish and French for one of the local high schools. I grew up reading illustrated classics (the abridged kind with a drawing on every other page) before reading the originals, and also gorging myself on comics ranging from Legion of Super Heroes to Ghosts and The House of Mystery. I hate long walks on the beach, but I love playing my guitar around a bonfire. I’ve also been in bands for years and even played onstage once with Kansas’ Kerry Livgren and several times with the Newsboys. My most embarrassing memory is of having to cancel a date because I fell down an elevator shaft while in college. And no, the girl didn’t believe me until I showed her my swollen leg and ankle a day or two later.

Read the full interview:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nugget #92 -- The Best Monsters

People make the best monsters in fiction. You don't need
claws and fangs to bring on the evil, creepy, or scary. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

As Close to Perfect as Possible: 5 Tips for Becoming More Effective Self-Editors


by Sean Taylor

As an editor, I receive manuscripts in all conditions -- a few that are well edited, a few in just plain awful shape, and the bulk of them generally in decent shape but still needing (Shall we say?) a little love in the editing department. Of those, most are really fun stories that require a stronger self-edit. 

No need to pull your hair out. You can do this.

Most writers can endure through the perils of creating their stories, persevering during writer’s block and overcoming blank computer screens, nimbly navigating the twists and traps of grammar and usage, and deftly capturing the intricacies of dialog. But many seem to have missed out on mastering one of the most important skills needed in any style or genre of writing -- editing themselves. 

If, as the axiom goes, writing is rewriting, then editing is as much part of the creation of stories as telling the tale itself. 

But how does one become a better, more practiced editor of his or her own work?

What I’m about to give you is not an exhaustive exploration of the subject, but it will provide several exercises to help you find and cut out mistakes from your own drafts, from first to final. 

Want to avoid this? Try these tips.

The List

1. Slow down. 

The biggest trouble with self-editing is that (as the writer) your brain already knows what you want to say. So when you read over your draft to fix problems, too often your eyes miss the problems on the page and instead listen to your brain’s intentions. It’s how you manage to ignore missing words that you read as if they are there after all and misspelled words that seem perfectly right in your head. 

The first step to becoming a better editor of your work is to slow down and read each word rather than just each phrase or idea. 

2. Read aloud. 

Repeat after me: My ears are better proofreaders than my eyes. It’s a concept I’ve proven over and over again in my own work. When I read a story aloud, I catch far more mistakes than simply reading the words silently in my head. 

In those cases when you can't speak aloud, it’s still helpful to mouth the words even without speaking audibly. That not only slows you down; it also forces your mind to focus on each word as you mouth it. 

Does your prose look like this when you edit?

3. Embrace white space. 

Before you print out your manuscript, make that typeface a little bigger. Put some space between those lines of ink. Double space. Narrow the margins. A better balance between white space and ink space can help you single out words better than when those words are all crammed tightly onto the page to save paper. 

4. Read backwards. 

People think I’ve lost it when I tell them this one. Read backwards. Yes. Read. Back. Wards. Start at the last bit of punctuation and work your way back to the initial capital letter that begins your story or essay. 


Because it forces your brain to acknowledge words as words and not as the concepts and phrase linking that cluster them together as ideas. Ideas are where your mind fills in blanks and makes assumptions. Words taken at face value are harder to mistake for anything other than what they actually are. 

This trick is perhaps the single most helpful method for finding misspellings and incorrect word choices, such as “if” for “is” or “up” for “us” -- those sort of common mistakes that slip through from draft to draft. 

5. Put some time between finishing the draft and editing it. 

The more time you can spend away from your recent draft, the more its assumptions will fade from your immediate thoughts. Anything that can fill your brain with other thoughts and stories and patterns can only help you better edit the document when you return to it. The longer the document, the more time you should put the manuscript aside, I believe. 

But in those cases when you can’t set it aside for more than perhaps an hour or so for lunch or dinner or fifteen minutes, it’s best to use the time away for something else. Read a short story or a chapter of a book. Read the newspaper.  Watch a subtitled movie. Make your brain refocus onto something else that puts different sequences of words into your short term memory and drives out that creation you’ve been making. That way, when you return, the work has become something new, and therefore something you can't just buzz through or read on autopilot. 

Learning to cut words is also a needed editing skill.

These are just a few of the tips I’ve found useful for editing my work. What I’ve discovered is that when I take the time to do these things (at least one or two of them in tandem) my finished drafts usually require far less editing from my publishers -- and whatever makes my publishers happy means they’re far more ready to work with me next time.

Give them a try and see if they help you become a more effective editor of your work. 

And please, share your tips for self-editing below in the comments. I’d love to see what works for you.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Airship 27 Productions announces the second volume in Thomas Deja’s ongoing saga of modern day superheroes begun in “Shadow Legion – New Roads to Hell.”

“The first book served to introduce us to these amazing characters,” explains Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “Thomas Deja’s imagination is firing on all cylinders as he whips up unique, diverse heroes, each with his or her own deadly challenges as is evidenced in this second outing.”

The superheroes of Nocturne, Florida, known as the Shadow Legion, are back but this time each is going solo.  In a quartet of new adventures, each must confront weird and bizarre threats to their city and its people.

The blind Ferryman, who communes with ghosts, must save an innocent child from an eternal nightmare while the battling Nightbreaker confronts an old foe from his past with the ability to rain down death and destruction on the city.  Meanwhile the Black Talon is kidnapped by a powerful necromancer whose obsession is to destroy all superheroes. And finally the beautiful Dreamcatcher must ally herself with a bizarre living rag-doll in her search for a maniacal fiend.

Adding to the fun of this volume are 12 black and white interior illustrations by Canadian artist Vincent Marchesano. His first work for Airship 27, while the cover is provided by the always amazing Zachary Brunner. Art Director Rob Davis adds his designing touch and voila, a terrific new chapter in superhero pulps is ready to entertain our loyal fans.

Here are four fast paced adventures chronicling the exploits of amazing heroes in their eternal battle with the forces of darkness.  The Shadow Legion fights on.


Available now from Amazon and soon on Kindle.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


In 2015, Airship 27 Productions released “The Amazing Harry Houdini,” a collection four brand new adventures featuring the famous showman. The volume contained stories by Roman Leary, Jim Beard, I.A. Watson and James Palmer. Now, Ian Watson delivers a full length novel sequel to that title with his, “Holmes & Houdini.”

They call themselves the Far Edge Club, a mysterious cabal of rich, sadistic hedonists who live only to create pain and fear in others.   Only one man has ever bested their perverted schemes, the world renowned magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini.   Now London will become the stage for their final confrontation.

The Club has recruited an army of killers in their maddened goal to destroy Houdini. But they are unaware he is not without his own allies.   Joining the fray at the American’s side is none other than the great detective of Baker St, Sherlock Holmes, and his loyal companion, Dr. Watson.   Together these exceptional heroes will battle an insidious evil and attempt to solve the mystery of the Ghost Mask of L’Inconnu.

“We’ve been waiting almost an entire year to get this out,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor Ron Fortier.   “15 copies of a limited edition collectors edition sold out on the first day at this year’s PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio. It sported a variant cover by Art Director Rob Davis.   Now we have artist Chad Hardin’s wonderful cover and can at last get this book out to all our anxious fans.”   Davis, as he always does with all Holmes titles at Airship 27, provided the black and white interior illustrations and book design.

Writer I.A. Watson has delivered an incredible adventure mystery that will keep readers up till the wee hours of the night.   “Homes & Houdini” is New Pulp fiction at its finest.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS Presents Jezebel Johnston Queen of Anarchy

The adventures continues as Airship 27 Productions continues Nancy Hansen’s exciting pirate saga featuring the mulatto runaway, Jezebel Johnston.

Having survived the sinking of the British privateer, Devil’s Handmaid, by a Spanish warship employing an ancient weapon, the disguised Jezebel Johnston, and a few of her compatriots are rescued by a flotilla of French vessels. Their commander is the ruthless and sadistic Captain Lucien Levesque. Having witnessed the fiery destruction of British ship, Levesque is obsessed with hunting down the Spanish galleon and obtaining the secret of the Greek Fire they possess. To do this, he will scour the surrounding islands until his prey is found.

Meanwhile, Jez, and her lover, Walter Armitage, find themselves pressed into service aboard different ships in Levesque’s tiny fleet where they must endure daily hardships to stay alive.  At the same time she comes under the attention of the Queen of Anarchy’s handsome but fierce quartermaster, Mister Blanchette.  What is his interest in the young mulatto sailor and why are Jezebel’s own feelings confused when near the blond haired rogue?

“Nancy Hansen’s JEZEBEL JOHNSTON – Devil’s Handmaid, only served to set the table,” explains Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “With book two, Queen of Anarchy, the story picks up the pace as young Jezebel encounters countless new threats in her newly chosen role as a buccaneer. The action is not stop and culminates as yet another canon firing, swashbuckling high seas battle. Fair warning, this second chapter the saga ends on a cliffhanger, that will resume in book three, Sea Witch.”

Award winning Airship 27 Art Director provides both the interior illustrations and the colorful cover to this old fashion adventure. Fans of the first book have been most anxious for this sequel and they won’t be disappointed. Writer Nancy Hansen unleashes the second chapter in her bold new pirate series starring the brave and beautiful Jezebel Johnson, the true Queen of Anarchy!


Available now at Amazon and soon on Kindle.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Gene Simmons' Dominatrix is back in print! Get your orders in!

Formerly with IDW Publishing and now being reprinted by Arcana Studios, Gene Simmons' Dominatrix will be in stores April 19, 2017. But you'll need to pre-order it this month at your local comic book store to ensure you get your copy.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Looking for Writing Prompts?

Are you stumped or struggling with writer's block and need some writing prompts to kick-start you inner fire again? Writer's Digest has a list here that should get your going again in no-time flat.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nugget #91 -- Living, Breathing, Growing Language

I love language. I love the etymology of words that haven't 
changed in hundreds of years, and I equally love the 
constant changing and updating of language that keeps 
English a sort of living, breathing, growing thing.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What Should You Take into Account When Coming Up with a Protagonist?

by Lucy Adams

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a pen wizard? If you’re on that way, you might know that one of the most effective tricks to get the attention of the audience is a well-thought, well-described protagonist. But is that easy to satisfy the sophisticated reader?

Indeed, the more information about the main character you have before writing the story, the easier it is to disclose his traits and make him like a real living person with goals and dreams, habits and eccentricities, clothing style and taste.

Today, I want to share with you a list of items that in my opinion provide a complete disclose of the character, both physically and spiritually. Of course, if you’re writing a short story, you may remove some items; but if you’re working on a novel, this list will be uniquely useful to you! Moreover, you can use it not only for the protagonist but also for some (or even all) supporting roles.

So what should you take into account?

  1. Intelligence. Show how the hero makes decisions. He can be quick-tempered or indecisive, cunning or frankly stupid – it all depends on the story. However, no matter what line you choose, try to disclose the hero’s way of thinking. By this, you’ll give the reader the opportunity to anticipate the subsequent actions of the character, which will make him love the story even more!
  2. Physiology. Health, age, abnormalities, diseases – all these are important factors that may affect the storyline. You may use the physical features of the protagonist to make him special; for example, blind people always have keen hearing, etc.
  3. Social status. Very often, the origin serves as the base on which the whole story builds. Make your hero wealthy or poor, a world start or unrecognized genius – and then play on contrast, changing his position in society.
  4. Talent. That what distinguishes the protagonist from others: an artist, a crook, a sportsman, etc. The talent may or may not coincide with his work. Until you come up with the name of the main character, stick to the identification of his talent: a student, a baker, businessman, etc. It’s very convenient for you as a writer. Include hobbies and passions as well. Everyone has some hobby – even lying on a couch all day long is quite a noticeable feature that characterizes the protagonist.
  5. Family and sexual life. If you build your story around human relationships, be sure to describe the character’s family (wife, parents, children) and relationship on the side if they are.
  6. Education. Very often it happens that the hero is self-taught and hasn’t finished any educational programs or universities. Again, here his natural talent comes.
  7. Fears. You can use fears as small strokes or build on them a psychological thriller. After all, the hero in the conflict must be confronted with the most severe fears, right?
  8. Credo. This can be a very bright hallmark, if the main character, for example, does everything in defiance.

Also, do not forget that you need to clearly state the goals of each the main character, namely what he wants in general (a cross-cutting task for the whole text) and specific (consecutive series of desires from scene to scene). If you and the reader understand the aims and motives of the characters, there is an emotional evaluation, and ideally empathy.

Very often we read stories in which it is unclear what motives guide the hero, which creates a silly impression that all that happens is a cheap show in which the author stands behind the screen and pulls the strings. That’s why try to show the reader the main goal of the hero as soon as possible. It can be a struggle with an antagonist, saving his life, revenge, desire to find his beloved, etc. I advise you to think about this moment.

I hope my notes will help you in the creation of believable images in your works.


Bio: Lucy Adams is a blogger from one of the best essay writing services from UK. This responsive woman never refuses to cover intriguing topics so that you can always share your craziest ideas. Feel free to message Lucy with a list of themes, and let her choose the best one or a few ones. By the way, the research from Lucy is free!

Monday, February 13, 2017 is looking for writers! is up and running and seems to be a hit!

Do you want to be a part of this great team bringing Readers and Those Who Write For Them Together?

We need more contributors! You can do reviews, interviews, or articles on a broad topic relating to literature/books/reading. Not all three in your weekly column, but one of those three in your column. Yes, Weekly:)

Minimum length is 500 words, maximum 2,000 words.

If you're interested, email with your idea for a weekly column. We have three slots open currently, but can take as many as ten additional contributors. This is not currently a paying venture, but if you would like to be a part of what we're doing with your own column, please let us know!

Sunday, February 12, 2017



Featuring a new strange protagonist from one story to the next, Joshua Reynolds’ WEIRD HEROES held a unique place amongst the Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series. Now, this fantastic series concludes with a tale of horror and dashing daring do featuring one of Reynold’s most popular characters!

Ride along with Royal Occultist Charles St. Cyprian and his able bodied companion, Ebe Gallowglass, as they confront the secrets of THE BLACK BROTHERHOOD!

Featuring an intriguing cover and logo design by Jeffrey Hayes, and formatting by Marzia Marina, WEIRD HEROES: THE BLACK BROTHERHOOD 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

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

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Vampires for Valentines: Dark Oak releases The Cabin By Linda DeLeon

The bodies are adding up,
but the clues aren't...

"The place was perfect. It was far enough from town to be in the middle of nowhere and close enough he could return to his home so that no one would miss him. Walking back outside, he surveyed his surroundings. Not far from the back of the house was a murky swamp. He smiled. In case of emergency, it would serve as the perfect place to dispose of an unwanted body."

Young healthy men and women are dying mysteriously after being found non-responsive at different places around town. No matter what the ER team tries to save them, they fail. The only clues left on the bodies are minor scratches and small puncture wounds. Detective Mason knows that he is on the trail of a careful yet bizarre serial killer. He has followed the deaths and clues from city to city. Now, with the help of a nurse, he may finally be closing in on the killer if he can control his own dark secret before more bodies come in drained of blood.

Only a vampire needs that much blood.

For more information:

Friday, February 10, 2017

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read

by Andrew Shaffer / Illustration by Thomas Allen

Half a century before e-books turned publishing upside down, a different format threatened to destroy the industry.

Here’s a little perspective: In 1939, gas cost 10 cents a gallon at the pump. A movie ticket set you back 20 cents. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the year’s bestselling hardcover book, was $2.75. For a nation suffering 20 percent unemployment, books were an impossible expense.

But in just one day, Robert de Graff changed that. On June 19, 1939, the tall, dynamic entrepreneur took out a bold, full-page ad in The New York Times: OUT TODAY—THE NEW POCKET BOOKS THAT MAY TRANSFORM NEW YORK’S READING HABITS.

The ad was timed to coincide with the debut of his newest endeavor, an imprint called Pocket Books. Starting with a test run of 10 titles, which included classics as well as modern hits, de Graff planned to unleash tote-able paperbacks on the American market. But it wasn’t just the softcover format that was revolutionary: De Graff was pricing his Pocket Books at a mere 25 cents.

Despite its audacity, de Graff’s ad wasn’t brazen enough for his taste. A former publishing exec who’d cut his teeth running imprints for Doubleday, de Graff wanted the ad to read THE NEW POCKET BOOKS THAT WILL TRANSFORM NEW YORK’S READING HABITS. His business partners at Simon & Schuster were less confident and forced the edit. Even though some European publishers were making waves with paperbacks—Penguin in England and Albatross in Germany—New York publishers didn’t think the cheap, flimsy books would translate to the American market.

They were wrong. It took just a week for Pocket Books to sell out its initial 100,000 copy run. Despite industry skepticism, paperbacks were about to transform America’s relationship with reading forever.

Read the full article:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Changing Face(s) of Pulp: Does New Pulp Make Heroes for Every Reader?


It’s often said about TV shows and movies: “The heroes never looked like me. I just never felt represented.” Books without pictures didn’t have the problem to the same extent, but it’s no surprise that the classic pulp tales that inspired New Pulp were by and large a very white, very male place to be. But with new heroes like those in Asian Pulp and Black Pulp, Dillon, and others, pulps' colors are changing, and readers are finding more and more heroes they can identify with.

How important is it that pulp stories become more reflective of society -- even when the stories are set in times past?

Perry Constantine: I think it's very important. Representation matters. Think of that little black boy who went up to President Obama with awe in his eyes and asked in such a quiet voice, "I want to know if my hair is just like yours" and then the President bent over and asked him to touch it. Can you imagine how important that must have felt for that child? Can you imagine how it must have felt for his parents who never had a figure like that? The same is true for fiction as well. It can help shape our morals and our ethics. I was recently contacted by a woman who read the description of my new novel, FALLEN IDOL. It's set in Japan and the protagonist is a female private eye named Kyoko. The woman told me, "I had to buy it right away because my step-daughter's name is Kyoko and I couldn't wait to show it to her."

Derrick Ferguson: As New Pulp writers we're trying to emulate the fantastic fun and rip-roaring action of Classic Pulp. But without the mistakes of Classic Pulp. Those stories that we love so much were written for another time, one that we like to think was less enlightened (although I look around at the United States today and I ain't all that sure of that) less tolerant and less understanding.

Gordon Dymowski: It's very important - we're much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about certain social aspects. Nothing is written in a vacuum, and writers have a responsibility for reflecting current social norms and behaviors. Even if we're writing about something that happened in the past, we have use our current perspective to inform how we present the past. "Cowboys and Indians" might be a great concept for a ten-year-old to have, but it reeks as slightly awkward when you're older.

It's not an easy job marrying a style of writing that most readers today are unfamiliar with and yet try to stay true to the cultural changes that have taken place in the intervening years but that's part of the challenge of making New Pulp work and bringing it to the masses to read and enjoy. But as writers we wouldn't be honest if we didn't acknowledge the society we live in now and do our best to represent that society today.

As for writing New Pulp stories that are set in the past...I myself believe that writers have to be faithful to the time period they're writing in. It doesn't work to try and write 1930s characters but have them voicing modern day attitudes and opinions. In my character of Fortune McCall who lives and works in the 1930s he's a black man of extraordinary wealth and influence but even so, he's still a black man and there are still lines he can't cross. That's not to say he doesn't have the brains to work around those lines but that's the fun of writing a black adventurer in the 1930s. It's not only possible but essential for New Pulp writers who write stories set in the 1930s/40s/50s/Whenever to shine a new light on multiculturalism and portray characters of different races, religious affiliations and sexual preferences in as honest as possible in a way that they couldn't have been portrayed back in the heyday of Classic Pulp. But still keeping an eye on the fact that you can't take a man or woman from 2017 and drop them back in 1937 and think you're striking a blow for Political Correctness and leveling the playing field by making up for all the racist/sexist/intolerant fiction written in the past. Because Political Correctness didn't exist back then.

Characters still have to be written as being true to the time period they live in. That's not to say you can't have characters push the envelope. Of course they should. Otherwise why bother writing about them? But put some thought into it and do your homework.

Let’s compare classic and new. How receptive are readers to these multicultural protagonists? Or does the new still lag behind the classic heroes in general popularity?

Gordon Dymowski: I think that there's still a general lack of awareness about New Pulp among those outside our usual circles. I once had to berate someone in a conversation because he felt that Hollywood was "spending too much time making movies about stuff that nobody knows" Doc Savage and John Carter. I think there's a general willingness to accept characters of color who have a slightly pulpy flavor (say, Dennis Dun in Big Trouble in Little China or Taimak in The Last Dragon), but I think there's a general lack of awareness about classic pulp for newer audiences...

And I think that, even in New Pulp circles, there's still a reluctance to accept multicultural characters -- witness how many pulp fans complained about Dwayne Johnson being cast as Doc Savage, and that Chris Hemsworth should have been cast....without realizing that Chris Hemsworth doesn't open movies unless they're made by Marvel. I don't think a lot of pulp fans really notice cultural differences unless they're done to "major" characters.

All in all, I think readers are receptive to multicultural characters when they're well-written. When there's an effort to go beyond obvious stereotypes and create well-rounded characters who are informed by their immediate culture. (Think Walter Moseley's Easy Rawlins).

Derrick Ferguson: Well, what readers are we talking about? My perception and experience is that fans of Classic Pulp have no use or need for New Pulp in any way, shape or form. But that's okay. New Pulp deserves and needs new readers that are eager for new heroes that represent them no matter what their race, age or gender may be told in a breathless prose that doesn't give them a chance to catch their breath. And those readers are out there. I hear from them (occasionally) on Facebook, Twitter and by email. I myself think that New Pulp has produced characters that can stand beside Classic Pulp heroes with no shame at all. And readers who don't know anything about Classic Pulp characters have embraced the idea/concept of these multicultural protagonists if the popularity of "Black Pulp" and "Asian Pulp" is an accurate measure of their enjoyment

Perry Constantine: I think there's still lag. As unfortunate as it is, the market is still over-saturated with white dudes as the heroes and that's in large part because that's what readers are buying. Hollywood is slowly starting to realize that they can make movies that don't just focus on white dudes, but it's something they're still slow to come to grips with.

Why have new characters of various races been successful in pulp without all the noise that comics are getting when they interject new multicultural heroes into the mix?

Derrick Ferguson: Because comics are surviving now by being a sideshow act. It's not enough to just tell good stories with good art (I'm talking about Marvel and DC here). There's a respectable number of independent comic creators who are producing excellent comic books with multicultural heroes and heroines. It's only Marvel and DC who still treat it as if they're breaking the Internet when they announce they've got a new black hero, a new Latina heroine, a new gay and/or lesbian hero. When I created Dillon and Fortune McCall and Sebastain Red I knew full well it was going to take years for them to catch on. And Dillon's been around for 15 years now and I'll still get emails from new readers who inform me that they never bothered with the character before because they thought; "it was some blaxploitation thing." And I think that's the mindset of writers: we're marathoners who realize that we have to put in the time and work to get readers to turn their heads in our direction. And I think that after a floundering around period we're finally starting to learn how to make The Internet work for us. There's a whole lot of other writers who have mastered that and did it years ago. Especially the Romance and Street Lit writers.

Perry Constantine: Depends on how you define success. One of the reasons I've stopped my pulpier series is because the market is still extremely small. So I'm not so sure I would say that they've actually been successful. But as for why there's not as much noise, I think it's because there isn't as big of a readership as comics. There's no big pulp news sites along the lines of CBR or Newsarama where these things grab headlines. If you're a pulp reader and you hate the idea of minority pulp characters, there's so much other material out there so you can easily ignore it without getting headlines popping up in your news sites.

Gordon Dymowski: I call major league shenanigans on this are you defining successful?

Because most of the fanfare around comics injecting new multicultural heroes (especially Marvel) has been due more to changes in their readership than in any kind of "noise". And reader feedback has relied on the complaint that "diversity is being forced upon them". My advice - look out the window. Actually drive ten to fifteen minutes outside of your neighborhood - we're living in a multicultural society.

I think comics are better at it because there's a greater receptiveness towards multicultural efforts. When I read a fellow pulp fan declare "Yellow Peril, baby!" in a similarly-themed conversation, that is a huge red flag for some fans' unwillingness to let go of nostalgia. (And yes, it actually did happen).  I think it also means bringing in more diverse writers - Pro Se's Black Pulp and Asian Pulp are great first steps, but if we want more diverse pulp books, we need to encourage more diverse pulp writers. Because having those perspectives means a wider storytelling palette, which then means more opportunities for great stories.

But comics are not "less successful" than pulp - they're just making more of an effort towards inclusion.

We’ve seen racial changes with New Pulp, but what about in terms of other societal changes such as gender and sexual identity? How ready do you feel New Pulp is to reflect those evolving cultural identities?

Gordon Dymowski: I think gender/sexual identity issues are coming along a lot more slowly, but only because those issues are more nuanced. We've made huge strides - Barry Reese's work with a character in his Lazarus Grey series is light-years beyond Mickey Spillane's infamous revelation in Vengeance is Mine.  Trying to encapsulate that experience - or any experience of the "other", to use more academic terms - is very difficult within a pulp milieu. It means being more empathetic and sensitive, and given some of the more culturally conservative aspects of New Pulp... I think it's going to take awhile.

It will take authors working hard, doing the work of actually meeting and understanding those other perspectives, and not using them as just another category. (Or "the Captain Planet approach", to put it simply). Pulp has always reflected its times, and right now, we're at a time when previously marginalized groups are standing up and claiming their voice.

We need to welcome those voices as authors in the New Pulp movement...because then we'll be on our way to becoming more inclusive and representative of our audience.

Perry Constantine: There's representation of different genders and sexual identities as well. I think there are more than a few female pulp characters these days who are getting their own stories. As far as sexuality, that's been a little less touched on. I know Adam Lance Garcia and Barry Reese have both written gay characters, but I can't think of many more examples. But I don't think "is New Pulp ready for that?" is really the question we should be asking. Was comics ready for a black superhero? Was it ready for a gay one? A Muslim one? A lot of people at the time would have said no. Instead of asking "is New Pulp ready for this," writers should be asking themselves, "why not do this?"

Derrick Ferguson: New Pulp is more than ready. The talent is there and I'm optimistic enough to believe that the audience is there as well. It's only a matter of New Pulp being able to crack that wall that's holding it back from being known by the mainstream.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Publish, Self-Publish or Perish

by C. Hofsetz

 In academia there’s a saying: publish or perish. If you don’t publish often enough, you won’t be successful, you won’t achieve recognition or tenure and before you know you are writing a paper about booty calls.

Professors are measured by where they publish, how often and the number of citations, and not just the quality of the work. That creates a publishing industry that feeds on the despair of people trying to stay relevant and, as a result, quantity trumps quality. Sounds familiar?

I’ve been a software engineer and out of academia for a decade, and although I did have fun teaching and doing research, I’m glad I don’t have that pressure to publish anymore.

But then I wrote a book. Goddamn it!

Writing the first draft of a novel isn’t easy, but it’s only the first step of many. Publishing is a big funnel ahead of you with dead ends everywhere. Finishing a novel is a herculean task, but Hercules had twelve labors, and you just completed the first one.

You’ll publish my book or else!
My Strategy

But I’m a special snowflake and not at all like the other wannabe writers out there. Also, I have a plan! And since I’m generous, I’m sharing it with you:

  • Keep editing book.
  • Query agents.
  • Go to 1 until you give up.
  • Self-publish it.

Awesome, right? I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw up from the floor before continuing. You can thank me later. I accept all major credit cards and money orders.

Well, guess what? Everyone else has the exact same idea. The publishing funnel is the same one regardless where you start, although there are few shortcuts (e.g. you’re a celebrity, rich or you steal a couple of boats and airplanes*).

The actual timeline is a little more complicated than that:

After you finish and iterate your first drafts, you start sending queries (A) until you hit the jackpot, find an agent and become the next J.K. Rowling (B)–all published writers are rich, right? Most of us, though, don’t get anything close to an offer and we eventually panic and start submitting directly to publishers (C – I’m still not there, but close). Finally, we eventually give up and self-publish (F) or we let our novel, our dreams and our self-esteem die in a puff of nothingness (G).

Note: if you do want to be the next J. K. Rowling, there’s a how-to guide for that. Really, what are you waiting for?

Is My Book Ready?

In case you just finished your first draft the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Ernest Hemingway allegedly said that the first draft of anything is shit.

Based on my tiny experience in writing, it’s my belief that a collection of pages becomes a book only after several revisions. The first draft is only the scaffold. This is true even for blogs, but we don’t have much time to iterate on those. Sorry about that!

I see discarded drafts everywhere!
For instance, the big twist at the end of Sixth Sense wasn’t part of the first script. In fact, the movie was supposed to be about a kid who saw the victims of a serial killer. M. Night Shyamalan rewrote the script from scratch ten times, and only in the fifth revision he wrote the big twist (I’m trying not to spoil it here).

But what if you already did several rewrites, and you’ve been working on your book for more than a year? Is your novel finally ready?

Well, the answer here is simple: have you published it already? If not, you’re not ready.

*Based on Shit Rough Drafts Does “The Great Gatsby”

You’re going to be editing it until the printers are spitting out your novel, and probably even after that.

Traditional Publishing

It’s hard to get in traditional publishing, and even having thousands of followers on twitter or other social media platform (not my case yet), it doesn’t mean you’ll get an agent. Your book has to be as good as it can be, and you have to be lucky. According to querytracker.net less than 10% of the queries result in requests, and requests are not offers of representation.

Source: Data as of 1/22/2017

But wait, there’s more! Or, actually, less. Yes, it’s a numbers game, but the numbers are not that large. The genre of my current unagented novel is Science Fiction. Using as a source, we find 1517 agents (as of 1/22/2017). 1193 of those are in the United States, 907 are open to queries and only 146 (about 10%) are accepting Science Fiction submissions:

Worse, some places have more than one agent looking for Science Fiction, and in most cases if one already rejected yours, you won’t be able to submit it to another one in the same agency: some share the same input query, others explicitly tell you that one ‘no’ means ‘no’ for everyone there (some say to submit to the other agents anyway, arguing that the other agent won’t even remember it, and the worst that can happen is some strangers are mad at you. I wouldn’t do it, though. My skin is not that thick.)

No wonder so many books fall through the cracks.


I’m not going to talk about the several skills you need to self-publish. It’s another set of herculean tasks that’ll take you away from writing, and it’s well documented on the internet. The question here is *if* you should self-publish.

Recently, I had a chat at that started as an innocuous question about publishing my first chapters online, but soon it became a soul-searching thread if I should be a blogger, self-publish my novel or query agents. I’ve been at this for about a year now, and some people took almost a decade to get an agent. I met someone at a PNWA writing conference that was trying to publish for 30 years.


Clearly there are marketable books that are shunned by agents, either because of the sheer number of submissions–so they can focus on the best ones out there–or because the book is considered bad by traditional standards. Take The Martian, for example. It uses both 1st and 3rd person, past and present tense and it’s riddled with expletives. It was rejected by agents several times, and he decided to publish it first as a web serial, and later as a free e-book on his website.

Also, consider B.V. Larson. He has more than 63 self-published books, many of which are considered brain candy. Some even say that Steel World is a wannabe Starship Troopers. But readers love his books, and most of his work is also available in audio format.

I’m not saying that my (or your) novel is a diamond in the rough, or that it in any way compares to best sellers. The point is that even books which would eventually be successful are often rejected.

And it’s not the agents’ fault; in their places, we would do the same thing. Many of them go through more than a hundred queries per day, and a well-written query does not necessarily mean the novel is any good–and vice-versa.

Moreover, self-publishing (also called indie publishing) is skyrocketing in the last years, while traditional publishing is losing ground. The chart below illustrates how Amazon Published and Indie Published is taking over. The stigma of self-publishing (sometimes called vanity press in a derogatory way) is slowly vanishing.

The downside of self-publishing is that readers never know if a book is decent, or if it was even edited, and this can scare people off from reading them. Some say it’s a mass of mediocrity. So if you take this path do your homework, edit your book and make your story be the best that it can be. Don’t take shortcuts.

The Secret to Publishing

Everyone wants to know the secret to publishing, preferable through an agent.

Do you want to know what is it? Well, me too. I have no idea. As of this blog post, my book is unagented, and I’m at least a year away from self-publishing if it comes to that. Thanks for reading this and please don’t go away!

People say that if you write a good book it’ll be published, and maybe that’s true. But we’ve read so many bad books that are published, and our novels are hopefully somewhere in between To Kill A Mockingbird and the worst-ranked books on Amazon. How did they do it?

As I said, I don’t have the answers. I wish! What I can say, though, is to be patient. Sure, you can self-publish and even have misleading reviews on your back cover. That’s easier to achieve.

No, you should not have misleading reviews on your back cover!
But as anything in life, you need the following to succeed:

  1. Hard work
  2. Perseverance
  3. A bit of luck

Damn. That’s cheesy and cliché. But it is what it is. The truth is most of us will never be famous authors, but if at least a handful of people read and like our work, it’s already awesome.

Anyway, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.  Please kill me if I say anything like you miss 100% of the queries you don’t send.



Thanks for my lovely daughter for the stick figures!

*Yes, I’m aware that he technically didn’t write the books. But he’s planning to write his own version of events!


C. Hofsetz accidentally wrote a book before he even learned how to write. The novel is awesome (according to him), but the book itself was awful. Now he’s slowly fixing it as he learns the tools of the craft. Check out his blog here. Originally from Brazil, where he was a professor of Computer Science, he has been a software engineer for Microsoft Office since 2007, and tracking changes of his first work-in-progress novel in Microsoft Word since the end of 2015.