Saturday, December 30, 2017

[Link] World building tips: Writing engaging settings

by NowNovel

World building tips often focus on fantastical genres such as fantasy and sci-fi because they entail creating worlds wholly other to our own. Yet it’s important to create an immersive, interesting and credible setting, whatever your genre. To create an entire fictional world, one to rival Westeros, Hogwarts (or Dickens’ London), read these world building tips and cautions:

1: Make a checklist of world-building details you want to include

We believe in our favourite authors’ invented worlds because there is enough detail and specificity to make them real. Legions of younger and older readers fell in love with Rowling’s Hogwarts, for example, because (in part) they could imagine her setting to its edges. Readers could picture the castle from the long tables and floating candles of its dining hall to its outer, more dangerous limits. The nearby ‘Forbidden Forest’, for example, or the menacing vegetation and grounds feature that is the unpredictable, thrashing ‘Whomping Willow’.

Great fictional worlds, like this one, have contrasts, details, atmospheres. The vaults of Rowling’s crypt-like bank, Gringotts, for example, have a different tone and mood to her student-filled castle.

Make a checklist of details you want to include in your novel’s world, whether you’re evoking a magical setting like Hogwarts or a real one like modern-day Paris.

Items you can include in your checklist...

Read the full article:

Friday, December 29, 2017



Pro Se Productions Presents the Future of Digital Storytelling -- THE PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK.

Each week, a new 'episode' of one of four rotating series will be released as a digital ebook for your reading pleasure. From Espionage to Supernatural, From Crime To Suspense, each week readers can find what they need in the PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK.

AKA THE SINNER: Episode Two-THE GAMES OF DYING MEN by Kevin Beckett.

A woman far from her native homeland or her adopted home comes seeking a brother out to put right a wrong. A wrong that has placed her entire village in danger. Not finding her brother, she discovers herself to be a fugitive and a mark with a bounty on her head. Mix in a Russian madman, a down and outer wanting to get back in the good graces of his Family, and maniacal money men and you have a high stakes game that only a certain kind of man can play and hope to win...a Sinner.

AKA THE SINNER: THE GAMES OF DYING MEN by Kevin Beckett. Concept created by Tommy Hancock. Featuring a stunning cover, formatting, and logo design by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina is available for only $1.49.  This episode is a part of Kindle Unlimited, so KU Members can read it for Free!

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

[Link] Plan to Get Organized in 2017- and Succeed!

Editor's Note: Want to get more writing done in 2018? Then get organized. Organizing the non-writing part of your life will help you make more time to do the stuff you love -- creating great characters and stories! If I could add one tip to this, I would add this tidbit I learned during my time as an office desk-jockey... It's called the 2-minute rule, and basically, it means that if a task pops up and you can take care of it in two minutes or less, then do it and get it out of your life and out of your head. If you can't, or if you can't stop at that moment to take care of it, then put it on a list to do IMMEDIATELY after you finish what is keeping you from it now. 


Hmmm. Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten “decluttering” and “getting organized” confused with each other. Look, I love decluttering probably more than anyone you know, but there is no prize for the one who purges the most toys, clothes, papers, and whatever is hiding in the basement. A 30-day plan to declutter your house might be helpful, but it doesn’t get you organized. Throwing away 75% of your clothes will definitely free up space, but it’s just as likely to lead to a buying binge as it is to bring joy.

What makes for a life that is organized? Like everything worth doing, the answer is simple, but perhaps not easy.

An organized life comes from lots of small daily choices made consistently.

So let’s not do another 30-DAY ASSAULT OF ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL THINGS TO DO EACH DAY OR YOU ARE AN ORGANIZING FAILURE. Isn’t that what it feels like? Let me offer another approach…

Read the full article:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nugget #116 -- Making Sense of the Human Condition

Let’s look at myths and legends. They tried
to explain the world, to put people in a place
that made some kind of sense. They tried to
uncover some truth about the human
condition. That’s my calling as a writer
and my understanding of the craft.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the release of the third book in writer Barbara Doran’s fantasy adventure series; “Tales of the Golden Dragon.”

As the Feast of Hungry Ghosts begins in the northwest port city of Strikersport, monsters and actual ghosts begin appearing throughout the city causing all manner of chaos. Thus the city’s twin protectors, Dragon and Tiger, enter the fray and set about uncovering the reason behind the sudden appearances.

Their revelations lead back in time to a horrendous massacre in the village of Batsu, a province of the magical kingdom of Khaitan.  Have agents of ancient deities come to Strikersports to wreak vengeance on the guilty? And if so, what is the magical artifact and its connection to an animated shi shi lion roaming free through the city.

“This is series is catching fire with our fans,” reports Airship 27 Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “Having a heavy Chinese influence in mixing magic and martial arts, these books capture the thrills of all those classic Kung Fu thrillers.” Hawaiian based artist Gary Kato provides the interior illustrations while Art Director Rob Davis our colorful cover.”

Once again Barbara Doran spins a tale of imaginative fantasy filled with colorful heroes, villains and oriental gods wielding amazing powers. It is a frenetic, pulp actioner fans will not be able to put to down.


Available from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Happy Holidays Re-Runs

We've got several years of holiday-themed posts in our history here at Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action, so this year we decided to create a special re-run post of some of our favorites -- just because we love you and want you to have some good times and fun seasonal memories. 


What's your favorite Christmas story? Why?

Well, like in most things I can't pinpoint down to a single favorite, so I'll have to do a list of my top three.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

I tell my family and friends all the time this is the second greatest redemptive story for the holidays. Everything in this story hinges on the moment when every Who down in Whoville (the tall and the small) comes out to sing the joy of Christmas in spite of their missing tinsel and presents. (Which incidentally is why I don't like the live-action movie version. It totally changes the mood Ted Geisel was aiming for.)

2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

One of the most beautiful, most sacrificing love stories ever told. Period. The first time I read this I felt sad that the lovers would lose their cherished possession, but each reading since makes me happy for them to have found such love for each other that values the stuff so little ultimately in order to focus on the loved one instead.

3. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

There's a tragic beauty to this incredibly sad story. If I can ever capture the pathos of tragedy in a story as well as Anderson does in this tale, I'll not have written a single word in vain.

For more fun Christmas tales, visit:

In light of holiday giving, what
are your preferred charities?

St. Jude's Childrens Hospital

Fans for Christ - it's okay to be a geek and a person of faith too

Reading Is Fundamental - encourages literacy among people all over the U.S.

Keep the Arts in Schools

Compassion International - provides food, clothing, and education for third world countries

First Book - Helps all children have books of their own.

Habitat for Humanity - provides housing for low-income families

ASPCA - prevent cruelty to animals

What are your favorite holiday movies?

In no particular order...

Die Hard
The Bishop's Wife
Batman Returns
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Trading Places
Christmas in Connecticut
White Christmas
Holiday Inn
Nightmare Before Christmas
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Muppet Christmas Carol
Santa's Slay
Silent Night, Bloody Night
The Hebrew Hammer
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
Die Hard II
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Edward Scissorhands

Home Alone (only the first one)

And the ones topping the list:
It's A Wonderful Life
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (sue me, it's TV)
The Little Drummer Boy (ditto)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (yep)
A Charlie Brown Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings to all (and God bless us, everyone! -- thanks, Tiny Tim)

... "That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "that I simply must hear!"
He paused, and the Grinch put a hand to his ear
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow
It started in low ...
... then it started to grow ...

But this--this sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded ...glad!
Every Who down in Whoville,
the tall and the small,
was singing--without any presents at all!
He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming--it came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling:
"How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
He puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before:
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store--
Maybe Christmas--perhaps--means a little bit more."

And what happened then--well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.
And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches--plus two.

-- Dr. Seuss, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. 

-- Matthew 1: 18-25 (KJV)

What are the holiday traditions that have shaped your life?

Christmas the previous Casa de Taylor, circa 2010.
Well, like most folks I know, my family travels all over the place during the holidays visiting family. We drive to the four winds to spend time with my family, my wife's family, and to various other parties, activities, and functions that come with the territory when one has three kids in middle and high school.

But for us, the real fun begins on Christmas Eve. Our tradition is to open one present that night while we listen to Christmas music and drink hot wassail (Lisa makes the best wassail!). After the presents, we'll often watch a classic Christmas special (favorites are Rudolph and How the Grinch Stole Christmas). After that, it's time for bed.

On Christmas morning, nobody is allowed to dig into their stockings or gifts until everyone is awake. Usually my teenage daughter Charis is the last human awake. Then we empty the stockings first before breakfast. One thing we've always done is to take turns rather than everyone emptying them all at once. That way the person opening the gift gets all the attention for that time, and then so one (yes, like a board game).

After stockings, we typically have a nice breakfast and clear away the dishes before we actually start opening presents. Once we've back in the living room, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2, and go around the group mentioning all the things we're particularly thankful for during the year. Only after reflecting on what we already appreciate do we dig into the wrapped gifts.

At that point, we takes turns again, opening presents one at a time, in a circle, giving each gift and recipient our full attention. (After all, why spend all the time looking for it if you're not going to enjoy watching it being opened?)

Once all the gifts are done, like everyone else, it's time to solve the puzzles that are the packaging and then a mad scramble for batteries.

Perhaps for me, the most important part of our tradition at the Casa de Taylor is that we take turns with the presents, and do that only after reflecting on the good things we're already thankful for first.

But enough about me, what are your holiday traditions?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Have Yourself A Very Regency Christmas! New Releases From Virginia Brown and Sharon Sobel!

We Hope You Have A Very Regency Christmas!

The Once Upon A Regency Christmas Duet Books by Virginia Brown and Sharon Sobel are now available!

Don't forget to sign up for updates on your favorite authors!

Mistletoe Magic by Virginia Brown
This Christmas will change everything!

Sinfully handsome, wrongfully accused, he is offered money and respectability in exchange for his freedom...

Nicholas Hawkely, second son of a duke, newly resigned Captain of HMS Renown, finds his recent betrothal to the spinster daughter of a wealthy banker most inconvenient. After ten years of fighting Napoléon, he has dreams of traveling the world on new adventures, not marrying a woman chosen by his father.

Jilted spinster, reluctant heiress, she wants only a quiet life with no complications...

Charlotte St. John prefers quiet pleasures such as riding through the park and birdwatching rather than dances, soirées, or an arranged marriage. Horrified that her father has chosen the disgraced son of a duke to be her husband, she escapes the city for a peaceful Christmas at the Sussex country home of a friend.

But in fleeing their fates, they run right into them when, days later, they both find themselves at the same country estate, trapped by a blizzard, celebrating the yuletide season. And they quickly learn not to underestimate the power of mistletoe...and Christmas miracles.


Under a Christmas Sky by Sharon Sobel
Crashing through the snow...

Julia, the newly widowed Lady Leighton Kingswood, is hardly in the mood for the holidays. But thanks to the persistence of Julia's sister-in-law, Lady Laurentia Howard, she soon finds herself braving the dreadful weather to venture out to the Howard estate to celebrate Christmas. She's hoping for a peaceful interlude...until the coach crashes and the driver disappears, leaving her for dead.

The horrid weather is making Willem Wakefield wish he were still in the East Indies. But he's on a diplomatic mission to deliver some important documents to Princess Charlotte, who'll be attending the Howard's Yuletide celebration. Except on the way there, he comes across an overturned carriage and finds a beautiful woman on the verge of freezing to death. Once he has her safely in his coach, he realizes his only option is to take her to the Howard estate with him.

But it isn't long before he realizes that he'd like nothing more than to keep his Lady Frost all to himself. And for much longer than just the holidays...


Friday, December 22, 2017



Pro Se Productions Presents the Latest Episode of the Future of Digital Storytelling-THE PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK.

Each week, a new 'episode' of one of four rotating series will be released as a digital ebook for your reading pleasure. From Espionage to Supernatural, From Crime To Suspense, each week readers can find what they need in the PRO SE THRILLER OF THE WEEK.

The Out-Of-Timers: Episode Two-FEVER by DAVIDE MANA

Three people, each an expert in their respective fields, and near masters in many things. For different reasons, they are considered to be not long for this world, living on borrowed time. They each have also been known to be risk takers, daredevils of a sort, so even without their own individual issues, they could, at any minute, put themselves in situations that could take them out. They are brought together as a group by a man known only as Mister Davies to form the most unique of teams. Working both on individual missions and as a group, The Out-Of-Timers are sent on jobs to basically confront evil, help those who need it, and save the world.

Deadly Diseases in a Designer World!

A relief hospital is attacked in Africa, its staff massacred. The mysterious Mister Davies puts his three best operatives into play to determine if terrorism, rebellion, or something more sinister is at play. Between globe-spanning espionage, death-defying action, and stunning, horrifying science, the aged spy, the terminally ill scientist, and the marked ex-cop uncover something that they've never seen. A plot that may mean the entire world is Out of Time.

THE OUT-OF-TIMERS: FEVER by Davide Mana. Concept created by Tommy Hancock.

Featuring a thrilling cover, logo design, and formatting by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, THE OUT-OF-TIMERS: FEVER is available now at Amazon for only $1.49.  And this episode is a part of Kindle Unlimited, so KU Members can read it for Free!

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Writing Holiday Fiction

Let's get seasonal, all you writerly girls and boys. This week we're going to look at what goes into writing great holiday stories.

What makes seasonal-themed fiction popular?

Lucy Blue: I think seasonal fiction is popular for the same reason some people start listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween. Readers want to cocoon themselves in that warm, fuzzy holiday feeling, and publishers are more than happy to feed that to make a buck. And writers are as susceptible as readers. The first time I see those Hershey's Kisses playing handbells or hear Nat "King" Cole, I want to drop every other project and write a Christmas story. Sadly, that's only about six months to a year too late to effectively publish, but never mind - so far, Christmas always comes back around.

Alexandra Christian: Even kids want to write and read about Christmas. When I taught 2nd grade, my kids would write and read Christmas stories well into March.

Mandi Lynch: When you're in the spirit, you're in the spirit. Alternatively, when you're buried under 14 feet of snow, the last thing you want to read about is somebody sweltering in the hot July sun.

Selah Janel: I think it has certain themes, tropes, and archetypes in a way that a lot of people relate to. Everyone has some sort of relationship with the holiday, good or bad, included or excluded. At times holiday fiction can be a comfort during a stressful time, at the extreme, some types can be an anesthetic. Because the go-to is cozy holiday stories, it's also ripe for subversion in the dark fiction genres, too, because that inversion can be really jarring.

Sean Taylor: Seasonal fiction taps into the general positive vibe of the holidays. It is able to reinforce those happy thoughts of holidays past and, if done well, cause the reader to reflect on something else to make their season a little more exciting, or spicy, or romantic, or action-packed, or just plain on more filled with warm fuzzies.

Do you find it to be as good as "regular" fiction, or does it tend to be mere marketing and/or sentimentalism?

Sean Taylor: I'm a bit of a snob, so I tend to find a lot of holiday stories to be melodramatic drizzle designed to cater to the easy plots and tired tropes of either love lost and rediscovered just in time for the holidays or to the Christmas Carol model of someone learns the "true meaning" (insert the author's personal definition of that here) and makes a permanent change for the better. I don't, however, find some truly enjoyable -- even to my snobbish tastes -- holidays tales.

Selah Janel: Depends. I've read enough to be able to tell when it's hitting an obvious formula. There are tons of bland or plain not great holiday fiction out there, but that doesn't mean they don't speak to someone. When it's done super well, whether it's because of well-developed characters, use of obscure folklore (because this time of year is FULL of it), or just really taking a chance on an unconventional plot choice (and doing it well), holiday fiction can strike a chord in people and be really exceptional.

Mandi Lynch: Depends. I've found both - but then again, I find good and bad in all genres. Depends on who writes the story.

Lucy Blue: Some genres lend themselves more to holiday stories than others, and their publishers quite obviously know it--the mainstream romance Christmas cowboys start riding onto the shelf at Wal-Mart by mid-October. But my hubs played a Christmas-themed DLC mission for Hitman last weekend, so no genre or format is entirely immune. I think a lot of them ARE callous cash grabs, playing on our sentiment or feeding our contempt. The overarching theme to almost every holiday romance is "You don't have to be alone at Christmas." The overarching theme to almost every holiday horror or pulp story is "You're smart to hate Christmas." The overarching theme to almost every science fiction holiday story is "Christmas is an illusion." As readers, we look to these stories not so much for originality or art but to find confirmation of our own feelings about the holidays. And as writers, we do the exact same thing. I don't think this makes these stories worse than "regular" fiction; they just have a somewhat different purpose. But because of that, they aren't nearly as effective in July. (There are many, many notable exceptions, of course.)

What makes for bad or mediocre holiday fiction?

Mandi M. Lynch: A story that's too worried about the pretty to worry about the storyline. It's fine that you want to describe all 42947 ornaments on the tree, but there needs to be something beyond, too.

Sean Taylor: Tired tropes. More Christmas Carol redunits. Anything that is satisfied with the low-hanging fruit of just warm fuzzies. A lack of surprise for the reader. And most of all, anything so steeped in sentimentalism that it requires more suspension of disbelief than an episode of Gumby.

Selah Janel: For me, if it's supposed to romance or a cozy read, it's bad if I can figure out the plot immediately, if the characters are cardboard audience-inserts, or if it tries so hard to be holiday that it breaks from reality. A lot of anthology Christmas reads are this way for me - maybe ok once but they fall apart on repeat reads. In the case of horror or even romance, if people try to be too out there or too clever-clever without backing up the idea with great plot elements and characters, it's just as lame. Everyone has done evil Santa, so if you make that choice you'd better give me a fantastic reason for it and a gripping plot arc. Every conceivable type of holiday romance has been done so if you go too out there, there'd better be some balance with the Christmas crazytown. The old legends work whether they're medieval or from different countries or what have you because they're short narratives. The moment you build on that with any holiday story, you need to be able to do it with some substance or else it's sugary icing with no Christmas cookie underneath.

I've had mixed reactions to my title Holly and Ivy, but my intent was to show the good AND bad of the season. People struggle that time of year, just like any other. People still hurt, they still die, but there's also family and relationships and hopefully some comfort, as well. There's magic, romance, holiday cozy rituals, and some faeries, but at its heart, it's about the choices the main character has to make and how she tries to grow and do the right thing, just like so many of us do. It's about trying to find the bright spots when things are shadowing the season, and I hope that's something that people can identify with, because it's definitely something I face every year.

What elevates holiday fiction into something that still stands beyond the season?

Ryan Cummins: I'm going to use one of my favorite films here as an example, DIE HARD. People argue it's relevancy in the holiday genre constantly but what I love about this film is that it has a great story that just so happens to take place during the holidays. Would it have worked just as well if it was set during Labor Day? Probably, but the fact that they used the Christmas as a seasoning instead of the main course is what gives the story its charm. That's why no one ever debates whether DIE HARD 4 is a Fourth of July movie or not. As long as what is at the center of the story has an emotional pull for the audience, its place on the calendar should be of little consequence.

Mandi M. Lynch: A story where the main issue could fit without a holiday. Blaire could just as soon bring Enrique home in April, it would still make a story. Luther could still want to keep within his budget. Frohmeyer will still be an overbearing neighbor in summer.

Selah Janel: For me, if it connects with my actual life experience. I love On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts because I know women like those characters. I grew up with similar traditions. I've seen that clash of wills. Likewise, I like the graphic novel Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol because it takes a gimmick but makes it make sense without going completely off the rails and destroying the original story. In both cases, you actually come to empathize with the characters and identify with the familiar holiday rituals.

Sean Taylor: Personally, I think the best holiday fiction uses the holiday itself as setting more than marketing or moral. It should have something to say about the people celebrating the season rather than merely becoming more "true meaning of Christmas" propaganda. The characters need to be fully realized people, not just Colorforms stuck into the same old manger scene rediscovery or "Scrooge learns his lesson" fable. Regardless of the time period in which they are set, they should say something true and honest and meaningful to modern readers. They should get beyond marketing and be good stories... period.

Case in point, I can watch It's a Wonderful Life anytime during the year, as well as Gremlins and Die Hard, and even Scrooged, but not The Bells of Saint Mary's, Christmas in Connecticut, or any of the Hallmark seasonal movies. Why? It's the difference between being steeped in sentimentalism and using the season as a springboard to tell a genuinely human story.

And yes, mentioning Scrooged sounds like I'm disagreeing with my own criteria, but that movie transcends it's typical Christmas Carol plot in so, so many ways.

From my own work, I tend to use the holidays to let my characters reflect, but not in the traditional sense. I've had them have to figure out the true nature of being a hero while dying during the holidays, rediscover the spark that died long ago because of a robbery and a captive's life in danger, and deal with the life choices that led to going from superhero to street bum (and was it worth it?) -- and that's a far cry from your visits with family in the snow-capped mountains or your big-city lawyer discovers the true meaning of Christmas in the idealized, pastoral setting where his car broke down. But, to each his or her own.

Lucy Blue: My own holiday-themed writing usually comes from something silly. For example, the one and only Hallmark-Channel-ready, contemporary holiday romance I've ever written in my life, Jane's Billionaire Christmas, came about as I was watching a Southpark Christmas episode with my digital artist/writer husband. We were discussing how obviously the guys who make Southpark have some female influence in their lives--every once in a while, Stan's girlfriend, Wendy, comes out with a monologue that Justin swears I wrote. ;) And as we were watching, I was thinking, geez, what WOULD it be like to be in a relationship with the brain that came up with Cartman? Laws, can you imagine taking that guy home to meet your parents at Christmas? And out of that came a Christmas story that is very sentimental and romantic and smooshy, but also, I hope, very funny.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nugget #115 -- Shades of Research

Like with so many issues we writers face, it comes down
to research. If you don’t know the truth of the time period
you plan to write, then look it up. Find out the hues of
that world. Then paint with all those shades.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

[Link] Famous characters teach us about characterization

From Anna Karenina to Jon Snow, Don Quixote to Harry Potter, famous characters from fiction worm their way under our skin. Here are lessons from several memorable characters in classic and modern novels:

1. Give characters internal and external conflicts

Most famous characters from books have this in common: They grapple with internal and external conflict.

Internal struggle might stem from difficult decisions or else the lingering psychological effects of past experiences. Characters also face external conflicts, from defeating villains to overcoming harsh, unforgiving environments.

Take, for example, the fictional character Jon Snow from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series (the source material for HBO’s A Game of Thrones).

Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, has limited prospects given the negative social status of being born out of wedlock. This is a typical issue for characters in fiction set in medieval and other earlier times involving nobility. (Illegitimacy is an important plot thread in Shakespeare’s King Lear, for example.)

Snow’s backstory shapes the character’s internal conflict. He is constantly reminded of his ‘illegitimate’ status, making him an outsider.

Besides the internal conflict this yields, it also launches external conflict. Jon’s father’s wife, Catelyn, for example, resents him because he is a living reminder of Ned’s infidelity. Together, internal and external conflict make Jon a sympathetic character, since he faces adversity through no fault of his own.

Internal and external conflicts advance plot. Jon joins the Night’s Watch that guards the borders to the north of Winterfell fortress. His decision is driven, in part, by the desire to escape the limitations imposed by his birth status. Jon Snow’s arc shows how internal and external conflict can shape a character’s psychology and choices.

Read the full article:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

SECRET AGENT X -- First Ever Comic Book Adventure

Redbud Studio is proud to announce the release of the first ever Secret Agent X comic book adventure.  Written by Ron Fortier, this 29 pg black and white original story is fully illustrated by Rob Davis who also delivered the stunning cover. “Race Against the Devil,” has the Man of a Thousand Faces combating an elite unit of Nazis saboteurs plotting to assassinate a foreign ambassador visiting the US.  As a special bonus, this special one shot also includes a two page essay by pulp writer Frank Schildiner on the appeal of this classic pulp hero.

Published via Barry Gregory’s Ka-Blam, the book is now available at their on-line store, Indy Planet.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Great Action Makes A Great Gift!

Dragons Reign Supreme

Mankind had no place in a world where dragons reign supreme. In fact, they were considered little more than a distraction for the young or bored, insignificant insects to be manipulated for entertainment or destroyed as pests. All that changed when Thytira, one of the greatest mages of dragonkind, discovered that the magic of man may have merit after all. After living among humanity for centuries to learn their lore and increase his own power, he emerged as the most powerful dragon of his generation. But all knowledge has a price, and years spent among mankind cursed Thytira with the greatest liability a dragon can have: a conscience.

Now as war drums sound and a new, terrifying threat arises from humanity, Thytira alone stands between the wrath of dragonkind and the total destruction of humanity. However, the fate of men and dragon alike may ultimately depend upon the decisions of a young woman who long ago denied the birthright of her race. But that is only if Thytira can find her …

Living Legends

Creiton’s Swords were legends in their own lifetimes. The tales of Duke Creiton’s personal guard were known in every tavern and alehouse, but for Bryant they were just stories. He had no time for stories. It was all he could do to carve a place for himself among the guard of Bren while coming to terms with guilt for the family he’d left behind. But then the bells of Bren pealed out the warning of war, and there was only time for survival.

Bryant’s first taste of battle was nothing like the ballads. He saw no glory or honor in the butchery, and instead of riches there was only terror and ignoble death. But as he buried his closest friend, Bryant made a simple promise that would change his life. Never again would he stand idly by when he had the power to act. Never again would he hide behind the lie of helplessness. And when his first act on that promise led to saving a powerful nobleman’s life, Bryant found he’d started down a road with no way back. For Bryant had gained the attention of Creiton’s Swords, and no one who did that was ever the same again…

Friday, December 15, 2017



An innovator in Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions announces an open call for submissions for four books in a new anthology series.

“CITY MYTHOLOGICA,” says Tommy Hancock, “is a concept that’s really so new and different that we’re very excited about it.  The premise is simple to state, but not necessarily so easy to explain.  Essentially, each anthology will focus on a different city.  The stories in the anthology will not only have to be set in the city the book is centered on, but they must be mythological in nature.  That’s the part that some may not understand, but there are cities around the globe that are historic, that have such a rich lineage all their own, that they very much deserve, and some even already have, to a degree, their own myths, tales that explain why events happen or things are a certain way in that city.  Some would say that some cities already have their own pantheon of gods and goddesses.  What CITY MYTHOLOGICA will do simply is make that all true by establishing a mythology for the cities the series focuses on.”

CITY MYTHOLOGICA will be an anthology series focused on applying the concept of mythology to cities.  The intent of the stories should be to build a pantheon of gods and goddesses as well as heroes of mythological proportions for the cities spotlighted AND/OR explain a particular characteristic/aspect/event associated with a city in a way that classic myths of ancient civilizations did.  The intent is NOT to adapt gods of other myths or events from other mythologies into these stories, but rather to create from only what the city has to provide a new mythology specific to its own location.

“We don’t want Zeus as a tycoon,” states Hancock. “Instead, just using this as an example from one of the cities we’re focusing on first, what if W.C. Handy were the god of music?  And understand, we want writers to play with this in their unique way, so they can establish characters as gods and over the top heroes or villains from the get-go, or it can be stories of their ‘ascension’ as it were. We also need just as many stories explaining why something is the way it is in a particular city, but not from a historical perspective as much as a mythological ‘Why is Broadway in New York’ sort of thing.  Sure, the stories can be and should in most cases be based on the city’s history, but beyond that, we are seeking myths.”

The first four cities to be focused on for CITY MYTHOLOGICA are Memphis, Tennessee, New Orleans, Louisiana, New York City, New York, and Chicago, Illinois.  Future books will focus on other American cities as well as cities around the globe.

“We will be very selective,” says Hancock, “with this series. Our hope is to build a mythology for each city that we can then set up as sort of a shared world sort of thing and set stories in those cities in the future, using that mythology to a whole new level.”

Stories for the CITY MYTHOLOGICA series must be 8-10,000 words in length. Those interested in submitting a proposal should contact to request a bible for this project. A proposal of 100-500 words must be submitted to Authors not previously published by Pro Se Productions must submit a writing sample of at least two pages with their proposals. The final deadline for completed stories is 90 days following acceptance of proposals. Payment will be in the form of royalties, the percentage determined by the number of accepted submissions.

CITY MYTHOLOGICA is a part of the Pro Se Open, the company's anthology project, and is scheduled to be published in the 2018-2019 calendar years, depending on submissions and other factors.

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

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Get Your Superhero Fiction On This Christmas!

Are you missing your Christmas fix from iHero Entertainment this year? Then pick up this new seasonal mix of heroic goodness. Just $1!

Now available at Smashwords and coming soon from Amazon,

Enjoy this special collection of holiday stories from the superhero universe of iHero Entertainment and Cyber Age Adventures. Stories feature fan-favorite characters The Grandstander, Ms. Futura, The Boom Machine, and Starlight.

Features the stories:

  • Sin and Error Pining
  • It's Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home
  • Nor Doth He Sleep
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past

Available for Kindle and all ePub readers. And all for a mere buck, a single dollar.

Happy holidays!

Get your copy here:

Nugget #114 -- The Reason

Get serious about making your openings strong. It's important.
It's the reason you get to be the first or last story in an anthology
rather than crammed in the middle somewhere. It's the reason
your novel demands to be taken to the register and then home
rather than returned to the shelf. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Watson Report: Only the Brave Deserve the Fair – the Arthurian Gulf

by I.W. Watson 

One of the firmest tenets of adventure fiction right back to our most ancient myths is that when the hero does his deeds and rescues the damsel, he wins the girl. It is an almost-universal trope, from Perseus with Andromeda to James Bond and his heroine-de-jour. Sometimes the hero lives happily ever after and sometimes happily until breakfast, but until the modern age it has been an unchallenged expectation that the hero should have access to his rescued heroine by right of conquest, whether he avails himself of the privilege or rides off into the sunset leaving her yearning. If he saves her, she has to give him her heart - and possibly other parts.

Our modern perspective has evolved. Against that narrative, historical, and even modern social pressure is an understanding of a woman’s right to choose whom she sleeps with. It isn’t decided by her father, or by treaty, or by trial by combat. It isn’t a necessity to secure a strong provider for her and her children. The bravest and strongest are not necessarily the best life partners – or even the best bed partners.

And yet somewhere in our unquestioned cultural expectations, as expressed in much of our literature, there is still the idea that, to put it bluntly, if the hero saves the heroine from being raped by the villain, she ‘owes’ him that which he stopped the bad guy from taking.

This is never less disguised than in Arthurian literature and the fairy tales it has informed. I’m hard-pressed to think of any major heroine from the Matter of Britain who has not been “won” by a hero through deeds of arms, often with a rescue. Gareth saved his Lynette’s kingdom from the terrible Red Knight who sought her treasure and virtue. Tristan rescued Isolde’s father from shame, and then later Isolde from her husband. Even Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot was pushed finally into adultery after his rescue of her from her would-be ravager Meliagrant. Rescue equals bed and may equal marriage.

This offers a problem for contemporary stories featuring Arthurian material. The heroic rescue is so ingrained in the fabric of it that it is impossible to extract without losing a main flavour of the genre. So any use of the trope has to be sensitive to both the original narrative and to modern sensibilities.

The case in point I’ve been wrestling with today is The Knight of the Lion, a Welsh Arthurian tale of Sir Yvaine le Blanche-Mains (the Fair-Handed), and its European counterpart version by Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain. The first part of the plot centres upon a mysterious magic fountain guarded by a black knight. Anyone who uses the fountain causes a supernatural storm and must then fight the champion. Yvaine’s cousin Colgrevance does this and loses badly, so Yvain determines to try the adventure and avenge him.

Yvaine fights and defeats the black knight, giving him a mortal wound, of which the
champion dies within a day. So far so good. But in defeating the black knight, Yvaine must now become the new guardian of the magic fountain, inheriting the black knight’s lands, castle, and, um, widow. Countess Laudine, whom Yvaine first spies as she leads her late husband’s funeral procession, is now encouraged and expected to become his mistress or wife in payment for him taking on her husband’s duties.

The medieval source material has no problem with this. Yvaine is drooling over the widowed Countess as soon as he sees her mourning at the funeral, declaring her the love of his life. European version Laudine requires about two scenes of convincing by her maid that she should go to bed with her husband’s killer. Welsh version Laudine is all for it from the start. In both instances she’s married to Yvaine within the week and they are very happy together. After all, Yvaine is clearly a stronger knight that her previous match, so obviously she would love him more. As Laudine’s maid says in Yvain, “I can irrefutably prove to you that he who defeated your lord is better than he was himself. He beat him…” It’s the Arthurian way.

Women have often been considered as property to be given, purchased, stolen, or won. This has sometimes been codified in law, for example in the Indian concept of a "Rakshasa wedding" or the Norman "Danish marriage" where a woman taken as a prisoner of war became a subordinate sexual chattel of a conqueror's household.

Occasionally a wicked stepmother gets in the way of the process and tries to prevent the lady from succeeding her parents. This never ends well for the stepmother.

I once wrote an essay on the medieval concept of raptio, which was a significantly different crime from how we would define modern rape. Though often transcribed as "rape," raptio is having sexual intercourse with a woman without permission of the male who would grant that permission - usually a father, brother, or husband. The legal principle does not distinguish between whether the female consented or not; the point of law is whether her guardian did. By extension of that principle, a husband cannot rape his wife because he has the right to grant himself permission to have sex with her at any time; a right that was only finally overturned in British law in 1991 and became a crime across the whole US in 1993 (except for South Carolina, where there must be “excessive force/violence… of a high and aggravated nature” for it to be illegal).

There were stiff medieval penalties for raptio, but the emphasis of the redress was about compensating the father, brother, or husband of the woman for the value she had lost. The law also encouraged that where possible the rapist should be expected to marry his victim, which placed her and her fortune permanently under his control. This is the actual historical basis for marriages by force majeure, by which kidnapped heiresses were raped into legal subordinate relationships with their assailant – and of fiction where the heroine must be saved from such a fate.

This kind of thinking permeates the story of The Knight of the Fountain and its variants. The authors do not approve of such behaviour, but they expect that it is so customary as to explain motivations of many of the cast.

In addition to Sir Yvaine’s interactions with Countess Laudine there are several other women who are sexually threatened by villains seeking their bodies and fortunes. Wicked Count Alier is turned down by the Lady of Norison, so attacks and conquers her estates one by one until she is helpless to deny him; except that Yvaine shows up. She offers the hero herself and her estates but is politely declined.

An unnamed Baron denies his unnamed daughter to the monstrous giant bandit Harpin of the Mountains, but Harpin captures the Baron’s six sons, slaughters two of them, and will kill the others if the daughter is not surrendered to him – not now for his own lusts, but to “give her over to be the sport of the vilest and lewdest fellows in his house, for he would scorn to take her now for himself… She shall be constantly beset by a thousand lousy and ragged knaves, vacant wretches, and scullery boys, who all shall lay hands on her.” Yvaine arrives to overcome the giant but demurs from the Baron’s offer of his daughter as his reward.

Then Yvaine encounters the town of Pesme Avanture, where two brothers, “the sons of imps” were forcing the local king to surrender to them thirty maidens annually, whom they held in slavery. Three hundred such women were captive, “…such was their poverty, that many of them wore no girdle, and looked slovenly, because so poor; and their garments were torn about their breasts and at the elbows, and their shifts were soiled about their necks. Their necks were thin, and their faces pale with hunger and privation… and they weep, and are unable for some time to do anything or to raise their eyes from the ground, so bowed down they are with woe.”

The Lord of the town seeks Yvaine’s help, offering his own daughter to the knight as reward. “She was not yet sixteen years old, and was so fair and full of grace that the god of Love would have devoted himself entirely to her service, if he had seen her, and would never have made her fall in love with anybody except himself.” says Chrétien de Troyes of her. In the pattern of many fairy tale quests her father tells Yvaine, “He who can defeat the two, who are about to attack you, must by right receive my castle, and all my land, and my daughter as his wife.” Yvaine slays the imps and sends the captive ladies home with all the riches of their captors.

The problem, from a modern writing perspective, is that all these women are effectively objects, not protagonists. They are the winning tokens in a game of capture the flag with some potential rape attached. One feels that the story included them only to show how bad the villain is and how noble the hero. Otherwise sacks of gold would have served much the same narrative purpose.

Not only is it assumed that noble fathers would naturally bestow their (usually virgin) daughters on a great hero, but that the daughters would naturally obey and go to the bed they are sent to. A rare exception is the one out of fifty of the Thespiads who did not want to sleep with Hercules and who remained as the virgin priestess of his temple thereafter. She is unusual enough to be remarked.

Greek myth also gives us the Danaids, the fifty daughters of exiled Egyptian king Daneus, who were forced by treaty after war into marriage with the fifty sons of his brother Aegyplus. By their father’s command they went to their husband’s beds, but as the men slept after satisfying themselves, each wife drew a bodkin and murdered her husband – also at their father’s command. The exception was Hypermnestra, who pleaded with her bridegroom Lyncaus that she remain a maiden and whose wishes Lyncaus respected. Hypermnestra therefore disobeyed her father and spared Lyncaus, and would have been cruelly punished by Daneus except that Aphrodite intervened. The other daughters took new husbands decided by footraces – really – but were punished in Tartarus by having to fill a leaking bath with sieves of water for all eternity. Lyncaus and Hypermnestra had a long, happy life together, ruled Argos, and founded the line of Argive kings, the Danaid dynasty.

The Classical and medieval assumption of patriarchal of husbandly rights to assign women as bedmates probably most manifests in three tropes: the right of conquest/rescue, the “bestowal” as a favour or to form an alliance, and the payment of a debt or ransom-tribute.

Historically, many powerful men cemented their relationships with allies, rivals, or key subordinates through marrying their womenfolk off. Many such alliances were “sight unseen” until the bride arrived veiled on her wedding day (Henry VIII wanted to send back his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, saying, “She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported”; their marriage was never consummated and was eventually annulled – Anne outlived Henry and all his other spouses). So there are many actual cases of women being major components of political and financial treaties. Wars and marriages were both extensions of diplomacy.

Likewise, there is precedent for the ‘theft’ of women as casus beli far beyond the legendary Helen of Troy. Some ladies of high value, such as tragic and exploited Mary, Queen of Scots, had lives resembling or worse than Penelope Pitstop (given that Penny was never actually raped into marriage by the Hooded Claw).

And then there is the infamous droit de signeur, the “lord’s right” to bed any woman of his dominion, and the right of prima nocte, “the first night”, where a bride must first yield her virginity to her liege lord before sleeping with her husband. Both these practices are now questioned by modern historians as possible fictions from over-imaginative 18th century writers, but there are legendary examples such as King Conchobar in the Irish Ulster Cycle. Cu Chulainn’s refusal to yield up his new wife Emer to Conchobar brought Ireland to the brink of war that required druidic interference to avert.

Two thousand years of European literature are written on a historical backdrop where women might be trade goods. The best female characters are noted because they are remarkable in demanding agency, in being proactive in a society that discourages such initiative in women. The stand-out Arthurian heroines (in the sense of female heroes) are people like Lynette, who does as much to overcome the evil Red Knight as does Sir
Gareth, the hero she recruits; and for her sharp tongue and quick wits she is dubbed the Damosel Sauvage.

But for every Lynette there are a score of Laudines, whose role is to be sufficiently attractive, helpless, and biddable to encourage a brave strong male to protect her. And thank goodness, nowadays that feels… lacking.

This kind of thinking doesn’t translate well to today’s readership. There’s narrative whiplash, a kind of “Wait, she’s doing what?” response that can break suspension of disbelief worse than an attack of dragons. Yvaine, who is generally treated in the Matter of Britain as one of the fairer-minded and kindly of Arthur’s knights (despite being Morgan le Fay’s only child) does not come out of his sudden acquiring of Laudine well when viewed through modern lenses.

But honestly, it isn’t possible to treat this story today without addressing that whole heroine-winning concept, without offering some plausible emotional progression to explain what is otherwise a very cynical or exploitative transaction. Something must be done. Acknowledging the problem is the first step.

I.A. Watson is a novelist and columnist from Yorkshire, England. Amongst his published works are Labours of Hercules (which covers the Thespiads), Women of Myth, and the essay volume Where Stories Dwell (which has much more to say about this). A full list of his fifty or so works is available at