Friday, December 28, 2018


Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to present “Mark Justice’s The Dead Sheriff – Cannibals & Bloodsuckers.”

Before his death in February 2016, radio personality turned pulp writer, Mark Justice wrote “The Dead Sheriff,” a weird western that merged his love of both horror fiction and cowboy movies. Last year Airship 27 Productions proudly produced a new edition of that one and only book. Later, it was learned that Mark had actually begun a second book featuring the creepy lawman and his Indian companion, Sam. After reading the partial manuscript, fellow pulp scribe Ron Fortier volunteered to complete the tale with Mark’s widow, Norma Kay Justice, giving her approval.

“It’s always intimidating to pick up a story from another writer,” Fortier confesses. “At first I’d thought I would find someone else to take the job and I’d merely edit. Instead, while reading through Mark’s original section, it became all to clear to me that we shared the same kind of quirky black humor. In the end, I knew it would be up to me to finish this over-the-top adventure. Now I leave it to Mark’s fans to say if I got it right.”

Starting only months after the conclusion of their first adventure, Sam and journalist, Richard O’Malley, along with the Dead Sheriff, find themselves battling twisted cannibal brothers, a traveling bordello of vampire prostitutes and a demon from hell. Can even the Dead Sheriff survive this Trio of Terror?  Returning to the series were artists Zachary Brunner (cover) and Art Cooper (interior illustrations) with Art Director Rob Davis on book design. This new book also features a special post-script by Mrs. Norma Kay Justice.

So get ready to saddle up for some truly wild and hair raising adventure, pulp fans, as the Dead Sheriff rides again!


Available now at Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Holiday Re-Runs -- Favorite Holiday Movies

What are your favorite holiday movies? -- Anonymous

This is going to have to be a list. Sorry.

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:
Rare Exports
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
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Holiday Re-Runs -- Favorite Holiday Stories?

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 incidently 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 every 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:

Friday, December 21, 2018



From out of the Wild West, gun on his hip, song on his lips, returns a historic hero of the silver screen in brand new stories. THE ADVENTURES OF THE BRONZE BUCKAROO is now available in print and digital formats from Pro Se Productions.

Portrayed by singer/actor Herb Jeffries, The Bronze Buckaroo, Bob Blake, appeared on screens in 1939 as the first African American singing cowboy. Cast in the mold of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, The Buckaroos’ films had one major difference. They sported largely African American casts and were produced by African American companies. With four films usually listed as the Buckaroo’s legacy, this truly great moment in cinema history has been largely forgotten, except for film experts and fans of great stories. THE ADVENTURES OF THE BRONZE BUCKAROO features Robert J. Randisi, John Lutz, Gary Phillips, Christopher Alan Chambers, Frankie Y. Bailey, Michael Gonzales, and Percy Spurlark Parker, each giving their own take on the most unique Singing Cowboy to ever ride into a theater! Load your sixguns, saddle up, and get ready to charge into two-fisted matinee movie action with THE ADVENTURES OF THE BRONZE BUCKAROO!

With a rip-roaring cover and logo design by Jeffrey Hayes and print formatting by Marzia Marina and Antonino Lo Iacono, THE ADVENTURES OF THE BRONZE BUCKAROO is available now at Amazon and Pro Se’s own store for 11.99.

This unique anthology celebrating one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Lo Iacono and Marina for only $2.99 for the Kindle. The book is also available on Kindle Unlimited, which means Kindle Unlimited Members can read 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 20, 2018

Writing Holiday-Themed Fiction: What Works and What Doesn't?

Okay, writerly types, I've decided that in spite of my busy schedule this season, we are NOT going to let the holidays slide by without at least ONE writer's roundtable for the blog. 

It's as open-ended as questions can come...

What makes a holiday story work?

(If you need to be specific, you can tell me whether or not it needs a "moral" or it must be drenched in holiday decor or can be peripherally Christmas -- like Die Hard. Your call.)

I.A. Watson: New Year is probably the most popular specific time of year for pulp fiction. That’s when Honest Jack Action huddles in the corner of a smoky bar, lost in the booze and the past, almost oblivious of the classy dame shimmying towards him. It’s exactly when Dr Destructo intends to set off his Mindworm Devices to conquer the Earth. It’s when Vic Valiant has to chase the villain across the snowy rooftops while Big Ben tolls midnight and the fuses burn down around the Commissioner’s daughter.

Christmas is a competitor too, because it’s fun to juxtapose those warm log fires and yellow-lit interiors with the bleak blizzard outside, and dark deeds seem that much darker against a cosy yuletide backdrop. But even Christmas can’t match the pulpy power of the year ending and a new one starting for good or ill.

Most stories set on Earth either ignore the season or generalise. Maybe the weather had to be bad for plot reasons, or there’s a specific season for a pathetic fallacy; falling leaves are excellent for that, and so is frozen earth (especially round graves). But I’m hard pressed to think of any story that takes place on New Year’s Eve or at Christmas by accident.

That’s because fiction has to be more believable than real life, and because writers need to focus their readers on only those things relevant for the story they have to tell. In the same way that the hero doesn’t bump into a neighbour who’s on his way to the laundry and get into a chat about his maiden aunt’s lumbago unless it fiendishly turns out to be somehow plot-relevant in the end, so remarkable weather and notable times of day distract from the story and are thus omitted.

For example, how would “Farewell, My Lovely” been improved by Christmas trees? In what way would “The Problem at Thor Bridge” have been bettered by occurring at New Year? Any stories accidentally happening at Easter, Hallowe’en, or any solstice or equinox are simply impossible.

That’s because some holidays and some extreme weather forms are so distinctive that they have a narrative pull all of their own. New Year’s Eve can never be a neutral backdrop. The characters simply have to react to it or seem unrealistic. Unless the hero spends a moment with his old regrets or the villain is motivated by a burning resolution to wreak vengeance before the calendar turns, the time seems like a distraction, a nagging plot thread that doesn’t fit. If it’s New Year, or Christmas, or thunder storming, or blizzarding, or a heatwave then it has to either be plot relevant or mood-setting. Literary convention insists on no less.

On the other hand, stories that do avail themselves of readers’ expectations of an intimate family Christmas or of the countdown to the next millennium have a powerful tool. The problem is it’s a much-used tool. If the writer wants to present a Christmas ghost story then the Ghost of Dickens Past peers over his shoulder. Any fictional teens who decide to spend a night making out in the old abandoned mansion on Hallowe’en must beware cliché as much as the mad old groundkeeper. And archvillains about to launch the New World Order as the year turns had better book their place in the rota early, because there’ll be a queue.

As the new year approaches, we ignore the fact that our calendar is somewhat arbitrary and take the opportunity to reflect upon joys, sorrows, and sins past, upon achievements and failures, upon lost friends and precious memories. We’re also drawn to the future, to hopes or fears for the days ahead, to new resolutions, to changes that the coming days must mark. New Year is a birthday that the whole world shares, with similar celebrations and self-analysis. And so it is for our characters, with all the dramatic potential that offers. A writer’s challenge is to use the setting as skilfully as any other pulp trope – the driving rain, the teeming railway platform, the unrelenting desert heat, the funeral of a friend etc – and make that countdown… count.

Let the world tremble. The hour comes!

Sarah Lucy Beach: The holiday needs to be inherent in the story in some fashion. Die Hard works because the setting constantly reminds us of the pending holiday. And spending Christmas with his wife and kids is McClane's driving motivation.

Whereas even though the opening of Jurassic World indicates the movie takes place during the Christmas holiday, there is absolutely nothing in the story that requires it to be that season, not in character motivation or in anything they say or do.

It's not so much that a holiday movie has to have a "moral", but rather that the story ought to reflect the nature of the holiday involved, whether it's Christmas, Halloween, or Arbor Day.

Another story that does a good job of weaving the holiday into the story is Coco (using the Mexican Day of the Dead).

Jennifer M. Contino: I have to feel a little choked up at the end with warm and fuzzies.

Andy Sheehan: I've written two Christmas stories and they both carried the same theme: reconnection with loved ones. Die Hard (the greatest Christmas movie ever) has the same theme. You can't have a Christmas movie with the protagonist riding off alone into the sunset.

Curtis Dumal: I'd say most have a character who doesn't like people or Christmas and is generally misunderstood.

Jamais Jochim: It just needs to be tied to the holiday. Batman Returns happens during Christmas, but nothing really ties it to the holiday. On the other hand, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a holiday not just because of Rudolph's job, but also because it ties into the family aspect of Christmas.

Otherwise, there really is no prerequisite for it...

Ron Fortier: I can't answer that question without first stating, I'm a Christian and I believe with all my heart and soul that Jesus came into this world to save us all. That is why we celebrate that holiday.  Now once anyone understands that narrative, it becomes easy to see how it has so many different elements and each can be the focus of the story.  "A Christmas Carol" is all about redemption and understanding what is important in life.  "A Wonderful Life" is about the value every good person in this world and to never forget that simple fact. "A Christmas Story" is about nostalgia for days when families enjoyed the season with all its hectic activity so that at the end, it was about being gathered together on Christmas morning with those you loved the most.

I'm sure you'll get lots of different answers, but honestly, unless it has to do with Christmas, with children, with Santa, with magic, with love and forgiveness and above all else, hope.  It's not a Christmas story.

Heather A. Titus: To me, there’s always a faint wonder and magic around Christmas time. I get a glowing, joyful feeling every time I see a tastefully decorated tree, or Christmas lights, and when my family gathers for hot drinks and cookies. If a holiday story can successfully capture that joy, it’s a win for me.

Stephanie Osborn: I think there needs to be a core focus on the holiday by at least one of the characters, and if there is angst to be had because of the holiday, that ups the ante.

For instance, one of my Division One books is set at Christmas, and one of the two main characters is torn between anticipation and dread -- Christmas was always important to her family, but around a decade or so before the story, her family was killed (murdered) the day before Christmas Eve. She tries to keep up family traditions (given that she's the only survivor by dint of being targeted by the perp to cause max pain), and in fact jumps into celebrating with both feet, but it's hard, because everything she does therefore reminds her of them, and of her losses. Meanwhile, her partner (it's an SF galactic buddy-cop kind of series) has his own issues with the holiday and his personal losses, and as he puts it, while he observes it, he no longer celebrates it. Which, in turn, leads to additional angst for them both, as their respective approaches to the holiday conflict: she wants him to participate in her celebration, he wants to be left alone to grieve his own losses.

So there are actually three different levels of angst over the holiday, between the two protagonists. And all of that is secondary to the main conflict of the book, which is that there is a mole in the agency, but many of the agents think that mole is the female protagonist.

This all seems to end up causing the reader to seriously empathize with the characters, who have thereby become very human, very real people, to opposed to cardboard characters.

Kessie Carroll: I've written exactly one Christmas story, and it was about reconciliation and healing. I had a reader tell me that it was a wonderful picture of grace. I went for the feels, man. All about the feels.

Tom Groh: A conflict which the reader can identify with which is at odds with the overall *spirit of the season... conflict makes story.

Mary Ann Back: I'd have to agree. A story in which a troubled soul finds truth of some sort in the meaning of the season.

Susan Staneslow Olesen: Egads. The Christmas stories that come through the library make me want to retch. I prefer the Die Hard type -- a regular story that takes place at Christmas. I prefer the Christmas stories of James Herriot. Those ghastly, saccharine, diabetes-inducing "inspirational" Xmas romances make me want to scream. I just want a good story, not Lifetime Channel milk of magnesia. "Accidental" stories that take place during the holidays are far more realistic and inspirational than forced tripe.

Davide Mana: A good holiday story, to me, has to check two different boxes.

First check, it has to acknowledge the shared narrative of the holiday -- like, Thanksgiving/family reunions, Christmas/good will etc. While the common elements of the narrative must be there, they do not necessarily have to be front stage (Die Hard is a good example: John McClane is meeting his wife for the holidays, possibly to try and find a way to solve their differences, hence the good will etc.; in a different genre, in Trains Planes, Automobiles, the main character wants to get home and be with his family.) We've all been there, we all can relate, or at least we know that's what's supposed to be. The status quo.

The second check, the story must subvert or flip somehow the shared narrative, introducing an extraneous element (John McClane is on a goodwill mission to bury the hatchet with his lady, instead he gets a building full of terrorists; Steve Martin in Trains Planes Automobiles is lost, away from home, and saddled with a guy he can't stand, and the clock is ticking). The status quo is questioned, menaced, or just plain ignored.

The trick at this point is weaving the two elements together so that thy play against the other. The story pulls us in because we know what's expected of the season's festivities, and then our expectation is subverted, the goal is no longer the original goal. The traditional narrative can be completely derailed (in Die Hard, we end with John's wife punching a guy in the face - not much in terms of goodwill), or reinforced by the ending (in Trains etc, family is extended, people share the holiday). Both choices run the risk of either resulting cheesy or contrived, or too cynical.

But if the storyteller knows how to play his cards, we'll get hooked, and we'll end up associating that particular story to that particular celebration, even if there's lots of explosions, people killed and not a Santa Claus in sight.

Perry Constantine: Nothing. Holiday stories suck.

Tobias Christopher: I like my holiday stories with a twist. Like writing a Dragonball Z parody, only the search is for the 7 magic orbs that can summon Santa for one Christmas wish. The usual holiday clichés are fine, but you have to have fun with them or turn them on their ear.

Erwin K. Roberts: A good story may be built around the Christmas season without really being about Christmas. Case in point Hal Goodwin's The Egyptian Cat Mystery, one of the Rick Brant Science-Adventure series.

Rick and Scotty, who are high school students, go to Egypt on their holiday break to help troubleshoot a new radio-telescope with weird problems. They get into all kinds of trouble. The mystery partly revolves around the question, "Do Egyptian Post Men work extra hard around Christmas?"

Fine story, but only partly related to any holiday. On the other hand, the film Die Hard is heavily related to Christmas Celebrations. Certainly more so than some of the so-called X-mas songs like the one about a guy who gets dumped by his girl on December 26th. Or the guy who runs into his former love on 12-24, but could just as easily be New Years Day, or Labor Day, etc.

I'm not too likely to try a holiday-themed story without having an idea that could only happen on, or around, that specific part of the calendar.

C.E. Martin: I think Robert has the right idea... to be a holiday story, it needs to be a story that couldn't be told without the holiday -- that is, the holiday, or something commonly associated with it, is central to the theme.

Alex Andrew: It would be, in my opinion, a story about characters who are opposite any other time, but they come together in a way that wasn't before, and may not come again, the holidays make it so.

Nancy Hansen:  I had a holiday story in the December 2011 issue of Pro Se Presents. In Of Saints and Angels, I went with a tale about a notorious road agent in a pseudo-1700s setting who returns to her roots to spread a bit of holiday cheer while dodging the men hunting her down. What makes it work is the sentiment of the holiday became an integral part of the mix. The title tips you off that something reverent is included, though it's a pun of sorts based on character names and nicknames. While there's enough action included to please the pulp fans, it also has that rather heartwarming feel that you expect of a holiday story, as you get the see the whys and wherefores behind what lead the main character into the outlaw life she now embraces. The holiday is the backdrop, and that kind of end-of-year reminiscing and catching-up people do is a big part of the tale.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Your Writing Time Shouldn't Just Be Leftovers: 5 Tips for Getting Writing Done During the Holidays!

Family get-togethers... But I just want to write...
by Sean Taylor

If you've been writing for any length of time, you know already how difficult it can be to create those magical blocks of time to commit to the actual task of sitting in front of the keyboard and writing. Particularly if you don't do it full-time, and you have to eke out moments of uninterrupted keyboard (or notepad for you Luddites) time.

But then.


B. A. Freakin' M.

Your writing train gets stopped cold by a herd of reindeer that won't move from the tracks. It's the holidays.

And all that little bit of leftover time for creating worlds and heroes and lovers and dragons and magic and dreams suddenly fills up with family events, shopping for gifts, and what feels like a million other things. And what's worse, it's time taken up by good things, so you can feel guilty about still wanting that time with the imaginary when there are so many, once a year good things that need doing. After all, you can get back the desk after New Year's Day, right? That's what resolutions are for, you know.

Bah humbug.

I choose to get grumpy and sulk (at least inside) about how little time I have to write. But how do I fix that and still make time to do that writing thing that we feel so called to do?

The following are only suggestions, and feel free to love them, ignore them, adapt them, or mix and match them with your own. The important thing is that you write... yes, even during the holidays.

School parties for the kids... But my story needs an ending...
1. Express to your family how important your calling to write is. Explain that regard of how much or how little you make from it, it's not a hobby. It's a drive. It's part of who you are. And just like you wouldn't dare ask your mom to step out of the kitchen and not make date-nut balls for the neighbors, you also wouldn't dare not take the time to do the thing that makes you, well, you.

2. Be portable. If you have to do a lot of traveling, take a laptop. Or get a Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smartphone. If you have to, write longhand on a notepad or in a notebook. However you do it, write.

3. Take advantage of mornings and evenings. If the family chooses to sleep in during the holidays, get up early, put on a pot of coffee or tea, and use the alone time to put words to paper. Even if it means you have to change your schedule. If they rise early and go to bed early, then flip that plan over to the darker times of evening. Instead of resting in front of the TV or binging Netflix, get in front of your small screen and tell the stories bottled up inside you.

4. If you don't have an inner ear problem or a queasy stomach, use the traveling office and let your significant other drive. (For the record, the traveling office is the passenger seat in your car.) Those hours driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house don't have to be lost.

5. Ask for a "Christmas present" of a block of undisturbed hours as one of your gifts during the holidays. You'll save a loved one some money AND pick up some time to put your characters through their paces.

So that's it. And don't worry about your plot notes getting lost. Just hide 'em under the fruitcake. Nobody will ever find them there.

Sunday, December 16, 2018



Sometimes you run into people who change your life for the best even while at their worst, regardless of what star you are circling. Those people are called Bartenders and Pro Se Productions proudly presents an out of this world universe spanning collection featuring stories of the men, women, and beings that man the taverns and pubs on every backwater world and upscale utopia in outer space and beyond. TALES OF THE INTERSTELLAR BARTENDERS GUILD is now available in print and digital formats.

The Future. Humanity has spread through the galaxy, along with innumerable other races and creatures. In the thousands of solar systems that men have reached you’ll find monarchies, dictatorships, anarchies, utopia, dystopia, and utter chaos. But one slightly stumbling thread weaves through every world, every society– The Interstellar Bartenders Guild. As man took the leap out it seems that bartenders had something to do with it. These are stories of how they provided the shove for said leap. There are fistfights, love and lust, exotic bars, drunks, and a Guild Master with a mystery. Most of all you’ll find people- good, bad, lost, found, and somewhere in the middle. Mankind has grasped the stars but the problems that have been around since a thousand year ago are still with them a thousand years from now. Good thing they have the Bartenders of the Guild to help them solve their problems.

Featuring a terrific cover by Antonino Lo Iacono and print formatting and logo design by Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, TALES OF THE INTERSTELLAR BARTENDERS GUILD is available in print at and on Pro Se’s own store at for $17.99.

This exciting adventure into mixed drinks and science fiction is also available as an eBook formatted by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for the Kindle at for only $3.99. The book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, contact Kristi Morgan, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Give my friend John hope for the holidays!

I have a friend with Crohn's who is just trying to stay alive while the rest of us are enjoying the holidays. If you follow John online only by reading his comments on my page, you'd never see it because he's such a joker. But underneath those jokes, he needs our love and help. Crohn's care is near and dear to me, as my mom also has it. Luckily, my mom has my dad and my family and good insurance to help her. My friend John doesn't have that network or safety net.

If it helps you support John, every dollar I make from this ebook during the rest of December and January will be donated to his care fund. Get it for yourself. Give it as a gift. But most of all, help my friend stay alive.

Buy the book:

Or you can skip the book and donate directly:

Please help him out if you can.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2018

The forecast calls for SNOW in Hardcover! (New from BEN Books)


BEN Books is proud to announce the hardcover edition of SNOW Series 1., Vol. 1 by award-winning author Bobby Nash is now available for purchase online. SNOW Series 1., Vol. 1 collects the first 3 SNOW stories [SNOW FALLS, SNOW STORM, and SNOW DRIVE] together for the first time in hardcover thanks to a partnership between BEN Books and You can purchase the HC edition here.

SNOW Series 1., Vol. 1 is also available in paperback at Amazon. Read it FREE on Kindle with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Learn more about SNOW:

Learn more about Bobby Nash:

Learn more about BEN Books:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Watson Report: The Medieval Final Girl

I.A. Watson
by I.A. Watson 

The slasher horror tradition of a monster preying on young women until the last one somehow manages to destroy him is a lot older than schlock cinema.

I refer you to Child’s Ballads, collected in the 19th century but containing folklore going well back into the Middle Ages. It is from Child’s work that we have the oldest known Robin Hood stories, and ballad #4 is a prime example of the sort of predator vs. girl victim story that was a very popular strand of balladeering.

The song is most often called The Outlandish Knight (literally a knight from the outlands, the debatable and turbulent border between England and Scotland where reavers preyed), but it appears in many other forms across Europe, including the English ballads May Colvin or False Sir John, Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight, The Gowans Sae Gae, Pretty Polly, and The Water o’ Wearie's Well. Possibly the oldest version is the Dutch folk tale of Heer Halewijn, dated back at least to the 13th century.

Here is the Child version, with interjected comments from me:

    An Outlandish knight came from the North lands,
    And he came a wooing to me;
    He told me he'd take me unto the North lands,
    And there he would marry me. 

There’s a load of medieval romance stories where a mysterious stranger turns up to sweep a young girl off her feet (and into bed). Quite a lot of them don’t end well (c.f. Little Red Riding Hood)

    'Come, fetch me some of your father's gold,
    And some of your mother's fee;
    And two of the best nags out of the stable,
    Where they stand thirty and three.'
    She fetched him some of her father's gold,
    And some of the mother's fee;
    And two of the best nags out of the stable,
    Where they stood thirty and three.
    She mounted her on her milk-white steed,
    He on the dapple grey;
    They rode till they came unto the sea side,
    Three hours before it was day.

Medieval stories of this kind often had cautionary tales woven in, like “wolves may lurk in many guise”. “Beware strangers who encourage you to elope with them and your parents’ money and goods” is right there in the bullseye.

    'Light off, light off thy milk-white steed,
    And deliver it unto me;
    Six pretty maids have I drowned here,
    And thou the seventh shall be.

Yes, he’s a mass-murderer.

This ballad also strays into Bluebeard-type tropes of a husband or lover who disposes of his partner. There is an undercurrent of sexual violence and sexual marital violence in many old folk stories. Perhaps that’s not surprising since European law allowed a man to have sex with his wife at any time he chose, regardless of her consent (a law which was repealed in the UK in the 1970s!); it was legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife, and it was hard for him to be convicted of assault if he claimed he was simply enforcing his conjugal rights.

    'Pull off, pull off thy silken gown,
    And deliver it unto me,
    Methinks it looks too rich and too gay
    To rot in the salt sea.
    'Pull off, pull of thy silken stays,
    And deliver them unto me;
    Methinks they are too fine and gay
    To rot in the salt sea.
    'Pull off, pull off thy Holland smock,
    And deliver it unto me;
    Methinks it looks too rich and gay,
    To rot in the salt sea.'

The victim having to strip is another common element of ballads. We see it again in the traditional versions of Red Riding Hood, where the wolf commands her to take off her garments one by one and throw them in the fire, since she “won’t need them anymore.”

    'If I must pull off my Holland smock,
    Pray turn thy back unto me,
    For it is not fitting that such a ruffian
    A naked woman should see.'

Perhaps she should relieve him of his "sword."
Now we come to the turning point, the equivalent of those movie scenes where a female protagonist uses her gender against her captor. In some variants of this folktale it is the man who removes his garments so as not to ruin them with bloodstains, and turns his back to do so.

    He turned his back towards her,
    And viewed the leaves so green;
    She catched him round the middle so small,
    And tumbled him into the stream.

It’s interesting that in a culture where the heroes were usually male and the heroines were mostly there to be rescued by them there is a whole subculture of women menaced by men who then rescue themselves.

    He dropped high, and he dropped low,
    Until he came to the side, -
    'Catch hold of my hand, my pretty maiden,
    And I will make you my bride.'

In many of the corpus of medieval tales of unfaithful male spouses, or indifferent lovers who have impregnated a girl and then fled, or greedy conmen who have moved on to richer prey, at the point where the abused heroine finally gets the better of her tormentor he undergoes a change of heart, begs her forgiveness, and amends his ways. Most modern readers would probably prefer the heroine to kick him in the balls.

    'Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man,
    Lie there instead of me;
    Six pretty maids have you drowned here,
    And the seventh has drowned thee.'

Here’s the payoff on this most popular version, though. She wins, he dies. Take that Freddy and Jason!

    She mounted on her milk-white steed,
    And led the dapple grey,
    She rode till she came to her own father's hall,
    Three hours before it was day.

That’s the main action, but now we come to a strange codicil. Sometimes in these stories the heroine heads home and nobody ever realises that she has had an adventure. It is an entirely private matter that she attempted elopement, faced betrayal, survived a murder attempt, and killed her tormentor. There’s something cultural in there, but I can’t quite fathom what.

    The parrot being in the window so high,
    Hearing the lady, did say,
'    I'm afraid that some ruffian has led you astray,
    That you have tarried so long away.'
    'Don't prittle nor prattle, my pretty parrot,
    Nor tell no tales of me;
    Thy cage shall be made of the glittering gold,
    Although it is made of a tree.'

 And then we have the bargaining with some creature to keep the whole ordeal secret.

    The king being in the chamber so high,
    And hearing the parrot, did say,
    'What ails you, what ails you, my pretty parrot,
    That you prattle so long before day?'
    'It's no laughing matter,' the parrot did say,
    'But so loudly I call unto thee;
    For the cats have got into the window so high,
    And I'm afraid they will have me.'
    'Well turned, well turned, my pretty parrot,
    Well turned, well turned for me;
    Thy cage shall be made of the glittering gold,
    And the door of the best ivory.'

There is a whole class of medieval tales about young women overcoming murderous suitors, and another about young women seduced by villains and brought to a bad end. The association we often see in horror films where having sex seems to always lead to dying in some horrible manner leads back to this puritanical idea that the non-virgin is more likely to die and deserve it than the chaste girl. Seduction as a precursor to death manifests in many of the oldest fairy tales (again, Red Riding Hood) and we still see the idea today in vampire movies.

The ‘final girl’ facing down the serial killer is a lot older story than we might think.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Two Free Holiday Albums from Me to You!

As the sharing of holiday gifts continues, I'm thrilled to be able to share these two albums with you as free digital downloads. Blue Mercy Cafe is my catch-all "band" name for stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else, and Nothing Regal is the band I played with prior to The Bigger Issues and 22FIVE. 

Enjoy and happy holidays!


Start All Over (The Christmas EP)
Blue Mercy Cafe/Sean Taylor

1. So Long Awaited (Featuring Nothing Regal)
2. Unfit for a King
3. Christmas Must Be Tonight (The Band cover featuring Nothing Regal)
4. O Come All Ye Faithful (featuring Nothing Regal)

Get your free download here:


All Because of You
Nothing Regal

1. Christmas Time All Year Long
2. Angels We Have Heard on High
3.We Three Kings
4. My Favorite Things
5. What Child Is This?
6. Joy To The World
7. Do You Hear What I Hear?
8. All Because Of You
9. Silent Night
10. So Long Awaited
11, Go Tell It On The Mountain
12. Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

Get your free download here:

Sunday, December 9, 2018



Award-winning author Gary Phillips put his own mark on the Private Eye genre with his creation of Nate Hollis. Originally a comic character, Nate made the transition to prose and to Pro Se Productions in HOLLIS, P.I. Hollis returns in a brand new collection set to debut December 13. GARY PHILLIPS’ HOLLIS FOR HIRE is now available for pre-order in digital format.

New York Times bestseller Sara Paretsky, Edgar winner Naomi Hirahara, Deadly Ink nominee Sarah M. Chen, hardboiled adept Scott Adlerberg, and new pulpster Phillip Drayer Duncan along with Hollis’ creator and Anthony Award Winner Gary Phillips (Black Pulp, Peepland) deliver tales of a P.I. who Kevin Burton Smith in Mystery Scene magazine called “Slick as spit, big-shouldered Hollis walks the walk and talks the talk…” This edition also includes two previously published Hollis stories by Phillips, “King Cow” and “Hollywood Killer.”

GARY PHILLIPS’ HOLLIS FOR HIRE, featuring a great cover by Jeffrey Hayes and digital formatting by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, is available for pre-order in ebook format for $2.99 at

Both the print and digital copies will be available on December 13th, 2018 via Amazon and the Pro Se store at

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Free Holiday Short Story -- "Nor Doth He Sleep"

Nor Doth He Sleep
By Sean Taylor
An iHero Entertainment Holiday Story

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As the knife bit into the girl’s back, it pierced to the hilt, and a wet, red stream poured from the incision. Red and green lights from the street decorations blinked into the alley, flicking the scene from gray dirt and faded concrete to colorized extravagance and back to gray again The man watching impotently from a few feet away jerked against the two grunts holding his arms, but he couldn’t pull away. His fiancé lay on the ground, face pressed against the pavement, sputtering and coughing through her tears. On her back sat a third thug, a slug of a man in a denim jacket, his wrists all but rolling fat skin back to cover the cuffs as he played with the knife, wiggling it without removing it from the meat a few inches above the girl’s waist.

“Let her go!” he yelled, but in response all he got was a punch in his gut.

The two guys holding him laughed when he gasped to regain his breath.

“Let her go, damn it!”

Another gut punch.

“Or what? You’ll cry?” asked the tallest of the thugs, a white guy with green hair whipped about like a pretty boy in one of those Japanese comic books.

“Or cough up blood?” said the other thug, a squat muscle-head with fat arms stuck to his otherwise fit torso. “Or puke on us?”

Pretty Boy glared at Fat Arms, and he shut up.

“C- Carlos…” the girl stuttered.

“Hang on, Cynthia,” the man said.

All the while, I lay in the corner of the alley, hoping to God they all just go the hell away.

I had done the hero thing before, even worn a fancy-ass costume, well, fancy for my standards. Pretty sure it wouldn’t have even registered on the scale of guys like Pulsar and The Minuteman or chicks like Living Doll or Fishnet Angel.

Hell, I’d even worked with Doll and Angel since we all lived in the same damn city.

And just like the rest of them, I even had a “secret origin,” just like in the comic books. On the way to throw myself from the top of a worn-out building because of a sucky life and broken heart, I got stopped by some crazy woman who touched my arm and then told me the day I was going to die—four days before my 42 birthday. Only, she promised I’d die as a hero, a hero killed by another hero, one of the so called brightest and best of heroes.

And she’d been right… at first. Nothing killed me. Bullets? Sure, I took ‘em and they hurt like hell, but I got better. Take a punch in the face from a super villain who could derail a train? Lost some teeth and a lot of blood, but I healed eventually. Follow a suicide off a roof to cushion his fall at the bottom? Why not? Same shit, different day, as the saying goes.

That was me. The Grandstander, a.k.a., the “I got hurt but I got better” man. Even had my own goddamn room kept ready at the hospital.

Only last June, I turned 43 here in an alley in Cristol City, lost among the forgotten riff raff huddled beneath old newspapers and other trash in the shadows of the alleyway dumpsters. Very much alive. And very much aware that playing the hero could get me killed. Killed very dead.

No longer a hero. Just another man who had finally grown up and realized his own mortality.

So I quit. No going away parties or citywide celebrations of my time behind the mask. Just there one day and gone the next. The papers had run stories for months speculating about what had happened. Eventually they gave up guessing and just didn’t care anymore. No more “What Happened to the Grandstander?” I stayed hidden. Lost. Forgotten. Sleeping away the terror of death. Just the way I wanted it.

If only these punks would shut up and get the hell out of my alley.

Cynthia started screaming, and that set off Carlos, and the guys holding him tossed him back against the wall and wailed punch after punch into his gut and chest. He shut up fast, but they didn’t stop. After about a minute, when they finally figured he had enough, he dropped to his knees between them, struggling to breathe through what had to be several broken ribs.

I recognized the struggle. I’d been there more times than I could remember.

The slug on Cynthia’s back pulled the knife out and slammed it down again, this time into the muscle of her shoulder. Not as much blood, but a lot more noise from the girl. He jerked her head back, exposing the dirty skin of her neck to the night air, and I thought for a moment that he would slash her lithe little throat. Instead, he covered her mouth with his hand, leaving the knife in her shoulder.

“Zip it, baby, and all I’ll take is all your money, cards and the gadgets and shit you bought for Christmas presents.” He laughed. “Needed a new phone anyway. Saw you leaving Radio Shack when we followed you. Hope for your sake you got one of those.”

“Let… Let her go,” Carlos sputtered.

He was rewarded for the effort with a boot in jaw. A bone cracked. Loud.

“If not, maybe you could give me a little something else for Christmas, baby,” the slug said, grinding against her back.

A car drove by the mouth of the alley, and everything stopped just long enough to make out the music rumbling from a passing car. It was Springsteen reminding the city who was coming to town and making sure Clarence had been “real good” this year.

I laughed.

And immediately realized it had been a really, really bad idea.

Five pairs of eyes suddenly turned to look at me. Two pairs begging for help. The other three pairs biding their time to figure out if I was a threat or a witness or simply the same silent alley decoration they normally encountered.

For about a second, I wondered the same thing myself.

The slug ripped the blade from Cynthia’s back and stood up, pushing his blobbish weight to one knee to hold it steady while he pushed up with the other one. He wobbled a bit, but righted himself more easily that I had expected.

“Fuckin’ A,” he said. “Looks like we got some extra trash in this here alley.” He walked toward me.

I pulled my knees toward my chin and started to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I kept singing while he walked all the way to me and crouched in my face. His breath reeked of onions and garlic. I didn’t make eye contact. He just stared, not saying anything, and I kept singing, going over the part where all the reindeer loved him a second time just to take up more time.

“Keep singing, Rudolph,” he said. “And remember you didn’t hear shit.” He flicked the knife at my wrinkled t-shirt collar. “And that way you can live long enough to booze it up again tomorrow.”

I felt the crotch of my pants grow warm and wet.

The slug laughed. “He pissed himself. The bum pissed himself.”

I stopped singing. “I did,” I said. “But not for the reason you think. It’s not you I’m afraid of.”

“A big man all the sudden, huh?” The slug cocked his arm at the elbow, knife in ready position. I grinned so wide he couldn’t miss it. He never should have pulled it away from my neck.

The butt of my palm collided with his chin and something cracked. Before he had fallen backwards all the way to land on his ass, I already saw blood draining from the corners of his eyes. I grabbed his hoodie to keep him steady and pulled him to me as I stood up. At six and a quarter in my shoes, I towered over him. My knee, which would have hit him in the stomach had he been a taller man, instead connected with his already busted jaw, and he went limp against me. I grabbed his shoulders and guided his face past the wet spot on the front of my jeans as he melted into the ground.

By this time, Pretty Boy and Fat Arms had let Carlos go and were running toward me. Pretty Boy held a clip-loaded pistol and was raising it at me. Fat Arms swung a military blade from sling on his thigh.

“Get her the hell out of here!” I yelled to Carlos, and as I hit the last word, Fat Arms was slinging his blade toward my gut. I weaved and dodged, but being a hidden and forgotten drunk had played hell with my reactions, and even though I missed the worst of the cut, the blade did manage to rip through my side and take a few inches of skin with it.

Red blood mixed with the coffee stains and dirt on my shirt, and I knew I’d most likely end up with an infection. Stupid.

“Shit!” I yelled and brought my elbow down on the back of Fat Arms’ head. “That really hurts, you dumbass.”

“Shoot him!” Fat Arms shouted, and sure enough, Pretty Boy aimed his gun at my face and pulled the trigger. But it misfired, and I didn’t waste any time running for the son of a bitch and took him to the ground with a dive that landed me on top of him. Taking what little opportunity I had I bit into his shoulder with the best grip my teeth could muster and ripped away what I could of his skin and muscle there.

Okay, it wasn’t what the Minuteman would have done, but we couldn’t all be the fucking Minuteman, could we?

He screamed, and when I covered my ears, something hit me in the back of my head, sending me onto the concrete. When the stars stopped twinkling and the lights came back on the slug had his fat foot crunched on my left shoulder, and Pretty Boy had his black boot on my right one.

“You’re the bravest fuckin’ hobo I’ve ever seen, but you cost me a few hundred tonight…” The slug looked at Pretty Boy and grinned. “…and possibly and hot piece of ass.”

“I don’t think you’re her type,” I said.

“Can I cut him up, Will?” Fat Arms asked from somewhere off to the right beyond my line of vision.

“Fuck that,” said Will the slug. “This asswipe is gonna eat a bullet.”

“Hope you brought ketchup,” I said.

“Listen, Rudolph,” Will said, still wiping blood from the corners of his eyes. “All you hadda do was keep your trap shut, but no, you had to play the hero and so now we—”

“Play the hero.” I laughed.


Both feet pushed harder on my shoulders and I could feel the rocks on the concrete dig into my back, no doubt making a lovely painful pattern of indentions across my skin.

“You said play the hero.”

“Yeah. So?”

“I did that before.”

“And it’ll be the last thing you ever did, Rudolph.”

“You’re missing the point,” said, keeping them talking instead of letting them think long enough to realize that they should just pull the trigger already. “I used to play the hero. I played the costume. I played the mask. I even played the name. You see, I was only playing at it then because I didn’t think it would really hurt me, not permanently anyway.”

“He’s nuts, Will,” Fat Arms said. “Let me cut him up. Maybe take one of his nuts. That’ll shut him up.”

“But I’m not playing now.” My smiled went flat. “And my name’s not Rudolph.”

* * *

Carlos was still going on about the fight while paramedics loaded his fiancé into the ambulance. He stood behind the doors as Cynthia’s unconscious body was lifted, gurney and all, and rolled in the open doorway. The light from the fire truck and three squad cars gave him a funky purple glow as the 40-something cop took down his statement.

No doubt using lots of capital letters and exclamation points, if he was really getting it just like Carlos was saying it.

“…like a bat outta hell, I tell you. One minute he’s down on the ground with a gun pointing at his face…”

Me, I was waiting my turn on a second gurney, wondering if I’d ever walk again after Pretty Boy has managed to squeeze off two shots through my left thigh. And I was wondering too just how damn long it took a blonde paramedic with thick full lips to find the damn morphine in the back of the ambulance so I could stop hurting long enough to think about how much I wanted to flatten those lips of hers against my own.

In the old days I wouldn’t have let a second thought pass without just leaning up and planting one on her. But in the old days I didn’t smell like booze and the trash I’d been sleeping in. In the old days there had been a nice line of abs that flowed in one smooth line from my chest across my stomach. In the old days, there had been a trendy coarse stubble on my face and not a mangy tangle of knots that hadn’t been shaved or much less brushed in months.

So I lay there.

“…and the next minute, he’s up on his feet and has the fat one up against the wall. Then there’s all this punching and blood, and I’m still dragging Cynthia out of the alley.”

“Yes, sir.” The cop nodded and kept writing.

“Then there are these two gunshots, and I watch him, I mean fucking watch him get shot in the leg twice, but he doesn’t go down. He just keeps on walking toward the dude with the gun, and he takes it from him and just head butts him in the face, and the guy goes down. One head butt and he hits the ground.”


I heard the music from the front of a nearby squad car as I waited. Sounded like Judy Garland singing “O Holy Night,” but not quite Judy Garland singing “O Holy Night” at the same time, you know.

“And the last guy?” the cop asked.

“Hell, he couldn’t get out of the alley fast enough, but even with a shot-up leg, this dude runs, takes off  and runs like fuckin’ Jessie Owens or something and tackles the guy and takes the knife away from him.”


“It was like he’s some kind of, I don’t know, super hero or something.”

Vigilante, I wanted to correct him. Ain’t got no powers, so I can’t be a super hero. Just an idiot in a mask.  A vigilante. But I kept my trap shut. Mostly because I was afraid of what I’d say if the damn paramedic didn’t get the morphine in me soon.

Judy Garland stopped singing, and Louis Armstrong jumped in to take her place. “Zat you, Santa Claus?” he asked. I laughed.

Hell no, I thought. Not Santa Claus, not the Grandstander. Hell, I was barely Larry Moore anymore.

The paramedic returned with a smile and a syringe. I smiled back, mostly with my eyes, because my mouth wouln’t cooperate, and like her eyes lit up they figured out something she’d been wondering about for a while. “Oh my God,” she said. “It’s you.”

“Nah,” I said. “I haven’t been me for a long time.”

“You’re the—”

I shook my head.

Trumpet solo. Drums. Almost a celebration. A big noise anyway.

“You can’t hide it. I know it’s you.”

“Sure, kid. Merry Christmas.” I forced a grin. “So should I kiss you or just bleed to death?”

“What?” she asked with her thick lips.

“Do you think he used to be some kinda super hero?” I heard Carlos ask the cop.

“Don’t know,” the cop answered.

“Don’t tell ‘em,” I whispered to the paramedic as she stuck me with the needle. “Let ‘em guess.”

I decided to kiss her later. If she was lucky.

(c) Sean Taylor

Friday, December 7, 2018



Where Magic and Science collide. Where Aliens and Fae and Humans coexist and battle. A world like no other thrives, dies, and battles on in the third book in HC Playa’s CROSSROADS OF FATE series-REDEMPTION from Pro Se Productions.

A single instinctive act and Mh’airi’s world changes forever. The last of the Dédanaan, she protects humans from the monsters they didn’t know existed. She keeps to the shadows, knowing she can never really be a part of the human world. Now she has saved Finn, a Fae prince. Has she spared a monster or saved a man? Judgement must wait, for when Finn returns them to their proper place in time they find war raging between humanity and the monsters Mh’airi has spent her life fighting. On all sides humanity faces threats. No longer safely hidden in the shadows, Mh’airi finds herself in the center of Fae court intrigue. Her loyalties are tested as the Tuatha De’ Danann and the not-so-dead Dédanaan take sides along old battle lines placing Earth and humanity in the crossfire. Mh’airi must choose her path, for herself, and for the sake of Earth. REDEMPTION by HC Playa. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a stunning cover by Antonino Lo Iacono and print formatting and logo design by Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, CROSSROADS OF FATE: REDEMPTION is available in print at and on Pro Se’s own store at for $14.99.

The third book in Playa’s fascinating science fiction/fantasy hybrid series is also available as an eBook formatted by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for the Kindle at for only $2.99. The book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.

The first book, DAUGHTER OF DESTINY and the second volume, BETRAYALS, in the CROSSROADS OF FATE series are also available on Amazon in digital and print formats.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, contact Kristi Morgan, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

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