Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

Let's just say first that this Giallo has a very long title that doesn't seem to make sense unless you've seen more of Sergio Martino's work, and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh in particular. Also, it's a fairly typical Eurosleaze that isn't going to be everybody's cup of wine. And did I mention it's inspired by Poe's The Black Cat?

Oliviero Rouvigny is a wash-up writer who hasn't written a word in three years and is sleeping around with a bookstore worker, throwing extravagant orgies with the local hippy commune and abuses his wife, Irina. On top of all that, he's also got a bit of a fetish for his mom's memory as evidenced by his admiration for a dress of hers he still owns and her black cat, Satan, who now lives with him after her death. Anyway, women die and Oliviero becomes the chief suspect, but is he guilty, or is someone setting him up. And then the mystery deepens when his lovely and now grown-up niece arrives and plays games with both Oliviero and Irina. People die, plots twist, fake blood flows, and my brain reminds itself that this is just the way the best Giallos work.

The filming is beautiful. The characters are memorable. The plot twists keep me guessing. And all in all, this long-titled flick is a really nice piece of Eurosleeze if you're a fan of the genre. If not, it won't bring you over to the dark side. 

Now, enough about all that. What can we learn about being writers from this weird little Italian masterpiece?

Two things really stuck out to me as I watched it. 

The first comes when Oliviero is being questioned by the Inspector and is asked if he plans to take a trip anytime soon (the Italian version of "Don't leave town. You're a suspect" I suppose). When the writer responds that he isn't going anywhere, the Inspector says, "A writer's mind does all his wandering."

I too have experienced this. The farthest I've been out of the United States is Calgary, Alberta, Canada. But that never stops me from placing my characters in all kinds of localities all over the world. Off the top of my head, they've been in the Paris Catacombs, Notre Dame, London, and numerous cities I've never set foot in. But my mind does my wandering. I don't need to vacation in those exotic locales (not that I don't WANT to, of course) in order to write about them. As a writer, the best tool in my toolkit is the ability to research and to explore not only the world but also other planets and dimensions and times at my leisure. 

Sure, sometimes I can get bogged down in the details of my wandering mind or even derailed by the rabbit trails I chase as I research, but none of that negates the value of a writer's wandering mind. In fact, it's been truer in my life that those details and rabbit trails can open up new stories later down the line. 

The second is from an exchange between Oliviero and his niece Floriana. It's obvious he's smitten with her and that he and his wife aren't particularly happy together. Irina hints derisively that her husband is often impotent, and Floriana questions both his ability to create as a writer and his ability to perform as a lover: "All the imagination in the world won't help you if you can't get a hard-on." 

Sadly, just like the awful human being in the center of this movie, I have also experienced creative impotence. I dare not call it "writer's block" because I still don't really believe in that. What we often call "writer's block" is usually one of two things -- either laziness to want to push through when the work is more difficult than usual, or a sort of event that locks down much more than just our ability to write. It's more a "life block," a depression, an inability to perform when we face almost anything. 

That said, it truly is like a kind of impotence, I believe. There are times when my writing can't get a "hard-on" to use Floriana's metaphor. And not any or all of my imagination or research or "want to" can make me perform. 

But with the right change in situation, even that can be overcome. After all, if our "hero" (he's really not, he's a right royal bastard, this Oliviero) can overcome his physical impotence to bed not only Irina, but also Floriana, and the bookstore worker, sometimes the right introduction to a new person, a new job, a little more distance to a bad situation, or just a revised point of view thanks to a good cup of coffee and a few days break from the pressures can help us overcome creative impotence. 

But just the creative one, please. Our friend Oliviero wouldn't recommend sleeping around to fix the other kind, especially after his fate in this gritty little Giallo.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Fashion Sense (Writers on character clothing and fashion)

For this week's roundtable, let's talk fashion. No, not your own, but that of your characters.

How much do you use your narrative to draw attention to your characters' clothing choices?

Tom Hutchison: In comics, design is a huge key. In novels far less so. So it depends on what you’re talking about. Design for my comics is super important and we dwell on details and reasons for things to be part of the clothing/equipment/scene etc. there are reasons for everything and it comes through on the page and through the storytelling.

John L. Taylor: I write Dieselpunk fiction and horror in retro settings. Describing the clothing right does a lot when I don't have illustrations to convey a character. In the Dieselpunk example, My protagonist was a working-class hero, a pilot who did mercenary work to care for her orphaned siblings. Things like oil stains, torn patches, and worn flight caps help sell the idea of a hard-fighting rogue with money problems. Conversely, in horror, a character's clothing can both generate a sympathetic mental image or drop subtle hints about motivations. My personal favorite work of my own is a story called "What gasoline won't burn." It's a story set in 1950 in rural Missouri and narrated by a very naïve 8-year-old girl. I described her as looking like something off of a Little Debbie's or raisin box. I had to both sell the reader on the era it was set it (put this way, the plot wouldn't work in a world with cell phones), and the almost cartoonish innocence of the Narrator. People criticized me some over how naïve she was, but that was the source of the horror: her being too sheltered to see what was coming until was too late for her grandparents, while the reader has to follow in dreaded anticipation of the world going to hell around such a poor, sweet, undeserving soul. The other characters' clothing has subtle tells of what role they will play, but the whole effect had to create a sense of looming dread of the inevitable. Without these descriptions, this wouldn't be so effective.

Ernest Russell: Generally, I do this as needed as part of an overall description. If there is need for .ore detail, or it is intrinsic to the character, I add more detail.

Bobby Nash: I make sure the audience knows what the characters are wearing, even if just in generalities ala jeans and a t-shirt or they’re wearing a gray suit. Some characters get more, depending on who they are and if it fits their character’s needs.

John Linwood Grant: What people do with their clothes is sometimes more interesting than the exact nature of the garment/accessory, e.g. someone who goes to great lengths not to spoil their get-up, someone who plays with gloves or a hat as a sign of emotion, or wears clothes that their peers would not have expected.

Hilaire C Smith: I don't like to beat them over the head with a page of detailed description, mind, but clothes are very often a reflection of us as people OR the image we want to project to others. So, I used that with my characters. Sometimes I take that first impression and slowly mold it into something different and sometimes it is exactly who the character is.

Two male characters in my series: (1) long hair, a bit scruffy, but appropriately shaved and buzz cut when reporting for duty.... utilitarian clothes, often dark in color and often carrying weapons.

(2) Pretty male, clean-shaven, hair past shoulders, but GQ model, complete with silk shirts and soft leather pants.

These are very, very different styles, which is also reflected in their temperaments, their choices, etc.

Dale Glaser: For anything set in the vaguely-now, I only use clothing descriptions to reveal character, e.g. a grown man wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon character on it is my show-don't-tell version of getting across he is unserious and immature. 

Bill Craig: In my south Florida mysteries, Guayabera shirts and cargo pants or shorts are standard dress, because you see a lot of them down there. I've recently introduced Rick Marlow's cousin Greg who takes up the title mantle after Rick is nearly killed in an assassination attempt. His style is a bit different due to his background in Special forces and Covert ops in the military, but he also understands the need to blend in with his surroundings. Hardluck Hannigan however wears a bomber jacket, work pants and boots and cotton shirts.

Sean Taylor: It really varies from story to story, but in any case, I do like to at least establish a cursory look at what my characters are wearing. It can say a lot about their character in a sort of shorthand that cuts through so much of the telling that gets in the way of the story. 

Marian Allen: If a character's clothing choices make a difference to the story (one scene casual, one scene formal), I'll put that in. If a character wears a t-shirt, sometimes I'll say what's on it to add to the character. I gave a moderately detailed description of one character's outfit in a mystery because everything hinged on someone who didn't know her well being fooled when she changed outfits with somebody else.

How important are those details for you in establishing character for them?

Dale Glaser: I do lean into it more with stuff set in the recent past, again aiming for show-don't-tell, describing parachute pants and Le Tigre shirts rather than saying "One day in April 1987..." because I lived through it and that's fun for me.  

Bobby Nash: Having written a story or twenty set in the 1920s and up, I try to make sure I have some inkling of the fashion and style of the era when I write. 

Hilaire C Smith: It's a useful tool to paint a picture for the reader. Certain styles can evoke mental images and impressions/assumptions that we want the reader to make, true or not 😏. It's an excellent way to show and not tell.

Ernest Russell: It depends on the story and the characters. I have one who, as part of his persona, wears loud colorful clothing. Descriptions of his suits happen at least once a chapter. Another character, a whaler, you never really see any clothing change.

Sean Taylor: Again, it varies. My sort of "everyperson" stories don't require a lot other than to establish a sense of "muggleness" (khakis, jeans, t-shirt, polo, etc.) But for oddballs and for stories set in a certain period, I usually go into much more detail because the further you are from the current mainstream (at least to me) the more a characters fashion choices help define them. For example a grown man in a Hong Kong Phooey t-shirt gives off a different character vibe than a man the same age in a pair or cargo shorts and bowling shirt. 

John Linwood Grant: I'm a serious minimalist. I might only mention a single aspect of a character’s clothing if any at all. An incongruous jacket, a specific type of hat or boots when relevant. As little as possible. I’m generally put off by character descriptions that read like a shopping and fabrics catalog, or a list of brand names. Mr. Edwin Dry has a bowler hat, and a starched collar; Mamma Lucy has a faded print dress. Captain Redvers Blake is either in uniform, or he isn’t. Usually, that’s it. I once said that my character Justin Margrave was wearing a red silk shirt and a cravat, which was pretty wild for me, and even that was relevant to a viewpoint.

How important is it for you particularly if you're working in period costume (whether 30s gumshoes or Elizabethan vampires)?

Hilaire C Smith: Period stories rely on a cleverly set stage designed to immerse a reader in a different time. Costume is part of that. Now, most readers won't be able to nit-pick small details, but if your 1930's private eye is wearing a t-shirt and jeans, unless he's out doing physical labor or something, it isn't going to feel right. It tosses the reader out of the story. An Elizabethan vampire isn't going to be wearing Vans...unless the story is modern and he's a complete mess of style choices...which would also tell the reader a lot about the character compared to a vampire that has seamlessly blended or another that continues to wear fashions decades or centuries out of date.

I never do lengthy descriptions of clothing, but I often include a description, especially as one character (or the reader) meets another character for the first time.

Marian Allen: Now, when I wrote a Georgian short story, I nearly pulled my hair out learning what different items were called and what one would wear for receiving guests and what for traveling. As with most writing questions, the short answer is: It depends.

John Linwood Grant: People in period costume in their period don't think they're in period costume. 😉 So I try to avoid some of that excess description which only springs from the writer/reader NOT being in the period. 

Dale Glaser: Oddly if it goes much further back I'll use other cultural signifiers like dialogue or people's jobs or whatnot to get across the idea that it's 1921 or 1849, and I'm fine with people assuming they know how people dressed back then and moving on.

Sean Taylor: For me, it's muy importante. I put hours of research on the magic Google device looking up fashions for the time period I'm writing. I want to know it all. What kind of watches did folks where? Were hats preferred or not? That sort of thing. I want to make sure I write the period as authentically as possible. 

Emily Leverett: Oh fashion is SO important in my Eisteddfod Chronicles. Clothes are definitely political and make very specific statements, so the protagonist is careful about how she dresses and chooses attire (like a spiky tiara with a political history) to make a point. After she takes 10 lashes and doesn't get the best medical treatment, she wears a backless dress at a political event to show that she isn't ashamed of what happened. My editor actually commented once that he hadn't thought about fashion being that big of a thing. But clothing and badges are super important to court life.

Bobby Nash: It’s important for some characters. If fashion is important to the character, then that helps establish the character. If not, then it gets mentioned less. The other side of that is having a character that is not fashion-conscious, but then you do a scene where they are in a suit and tie. The other characters are going to remark on it ala “he cleans up nice” or “Damn! You’re wearing a suit!” That’s the sort of thing I hear when I show up wearing nice clothes.

Ernest Russell: Very important. I want my stories to be plausible. How did children dress in the late 19th century? Small details can add an element of reality. Not going to get in the weeds describing the weave and weft of the cloth, but knowing a 1940s French dairy farmer commonly wore a corded vest and pants is a small detail that adds just the right touch of authenticity.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Motivational Monday -- What If?


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Wild Hunt Books Open for Submissions May 4th!


Wild Hunt Books is searching for novella-length manuscripts of between 17,500-40,000 words. 


Wild Hunt Books is searching for novella-length manuscripts of between 17,500-40,000 words. 

Project Aim

As a new publisher our aim is to showcase writing by talented new and emerging authors with the publication of three novellas in 2021/2022. We are accepting submissions by agented and unagented authors. For this list we are focusing on writers of any nationality residing in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and British and Irish authors living abroad. 

Our Flavour

We are looking for novellas that touch the following genres and styles or experiment with any of these forms, motifs and themes. To understand what we like, you can read more here. 

  • Folk Horror
  • Gothic
  • Dark Fiction
  • Folklore & Myth (originals & re-tellings)
  • Liminal spaces & uncanny elements
  • Surreal
  • Unexpected Narrators
  • Ghost Stories
  • Magical Realism
  • Fairytales (originals & re-tellings)

What You Need

A cover letter including your short biography

A synopsis of around 500-1,000 words with a complete plot of your manuscript (this includes all the spoilers). If you need help formulating your synopsis, have a look at Curtis Brown for inspiration and guidance.

The first 10,000 - 12,000 words of your manuscript (please include the title, your name and word count on the first page)

A Note from the Publisher

All writers are welcome and encouraged to submit. As stated, our mission is to identify and champion new and emerging authors. This will be our primary goal. We also highly encourage writers from marginalised communities to submit and welcome writers that identify as women, BAME, disabled, LGBTQ+, low-income, working-class and writers over the age of 50-years-old. Please drop a line if you have any questions or accessibility accommodations. 

We accept submissions from authors who already have at least one book published, but we will be focusing our attention to new authors. 

What We’re Not Looking For

Poetry, Short Story Collections, Memoirs, anthologies, non-fiction, YA, Children’s Fiction, MS outside of the word count (in short, novella-length manuscripts only, please)

Erotica, science fiction, high fantasy (think Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings), low fantasy is less of a priority

Please avoid the topic of Covid-19 as a theme, plot point or anything at all, really

Work sent that is homophobic, racist, bigoted, etc. will be ignored and no correspondence will be engaged

[Link] Streaming TV, Films Drive Surge in Graphic Novel Sales

by Heidi MacDonald

As the number and popularity of such streaming services as Netflix, and Disney+ continue to grow, many of these services have turned to adapting comics and graphic novels which have gone on to become some of their biggest hit shows.

Comics properties that have been adapted range from eccentric indie comics titles–for example, Charles Forsman’s The End of the F****** World on Netflix–to highly promoted superhero franchise series, among them WandaVision on Disney+ and The Boys on Amazon Prime. All of these shows have led to increased graphic novel sales, but along the way publishers have had to adapt and find new strategies to capitalize on their popularity on streaming media.

Among the challenges publishers face is the effort to link book releases to streaming TV shows: these services often don’t publicize broadcast dates until only a few months out. This means that publishers have to guess what the print demand will be, leaving them a narrow window to prepare. This can mean that books will be out of print for months just as demand spikes, unless publishers turn to more costly printers located in North America that can print and ship books to bookstores and comic shops more quickly.

One of the earliest (and most surprising) streaming successes based on a graphic novel was Forsman’s TEOTFW (as it’s called by many publications), the story of a teenage sociopath and a bratty thrill-seeker on a roadtrip, which was initially published as a series of mini-comics before being collected into a book by Fantagraphics. TEOTFW was published just as the streaming wars began heating up in 2017.

Read the full article:

Friday, April 30, 2021



From the skilled hand and wonderfully imaginative mind of author Nancy A. Hansen comes a quartet of adventures featuring one of several creatures from the world of Companion Dragons! A flagship title of Pro Se Productions’ YOUNGPULP! Imprint returns in print and digital format with COMPANION DRAGONS TALES VOLUER FOUR: LAZLO AT HOME!

Lazlo Dragon has begun to settle in as the familiar companion of witch and author Nancy Bittergreen. Along the way, though, there has been a lot to learn about all his new responsibilities, and he sometimes feels overwhelmed. His understanding of the duties he must fulfill don't always quite agree with what he's been told, but Lazlo manages to muddle through somehow. Even when his dragon instincts and youthful inexperience get in the way of doing what he knows is right, his plucky persistence along with his honesty and integrity often win him helpful new friends. Being increasingly trusted on his own, he is learning the hard way that making the right decision is often difficult but ultimately far more rewarding than just doing whatever pleases him the most.

The fourth volume of COMPANION DRAGONS TALES features four brand new tales of Lazlo's adventures in his magical homeplace. He has some challenging situations to face, and rather difficult neighbors to deal with. Yet steadfast Lazlo always works hard to figure things out, even when he'd much rather be off somewhere else having fun. In the long run he proves himself to be both wise and trustworthy, though his judgment is sometimes a bit faulty and that tends to involve him into all sorts of tricky situations.

Return once again to the magical world of The Companion Dragons as Nancy A. Hansen weaves four tales of adventure and madcap merriment with LAZLO AT HOME. From YoungPulp! And Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic cover from Larry Nadolsky and cover design and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, COMPANION DRAGONS TALES VOLUME FOUR: LAZLO AT HOME is available in print at for $9.00.

The fourth book of these terrific fantasy adventures is also available on Kindle formatted by Iacono and Marina for $2.99 at

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to

Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Thursday, April 29, 2021

John Leister and the Resilience of the Human Spirit

John Leister is an author I've discovered recently, and you know me, share and share alike, so let me introduce you to this crime writer as well. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest novel is called Lee Hacklyn Private Investigator and Urban Tiger Team-Up in D.A. Moral.  Lee and sixteen-year-old Tommy Ryder AKA the Urban Tiger (He's like Kick-Ass) join forces to bring down NYC's most powerful drug kingpin.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

About two years ago, I hit emotional bottom and reached out to God.  After that, I began to feel better about myself.  I had a stack of dusty short stories in my bedroom.  I read them and thought, if somebody else wrote these, I'd like them.

That was the beginning.

What inspires you to write?

God expects us to follow our bliss if we can.  Writing is my bliss.  Oh, I'm not pushy about my faith.  Just saying!

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

My stories are old-school, in that there is usually a strongly defined protagonist and strongly defined antagonist.  If my stories have a common theme, then, I'll go with this:  the resilience of the human spirit.

What would be your dream project?

Lee Hacklyn, Netflix series.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Stan Lee, Robert B. Parker, the late Vince Flynn, and CJ Box are some of my faves.  Brian Micheal Bendis, Mark Millar, Kyle Mills, Nelson Demille, as well.

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

Art is never finished, it's abandoned. I have no desire to revisit my stuff.  My mind is always on what I'm writing now.

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

Definitely an art.  What I know about science could fill the eye of a needle.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

For me, the artistic process is just doing it, having a good time while I'm doing it, and never mind second-guessing myself. Life's too short.   If I write something that makes me laugh, I have faith that it will make somebody else laugh, too.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I have a couple of friends online who are professional writers.  They have been nothing but positive and encouraging.  Particularly Bobby Nash and Sean O' Neil. Super nice guys and incredibly prolific.  They are now where I want to be.  Before my corporeal existence ends!

What does literary success look like to you?

If I can support myself and my future wife with my writing, oh, boy, that would be great.  But I would like to add that "success" also comes with the act of doing.  I have 28 books online.  I'm doing this interview.  Honestly, I feel very successful right now!

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Lee Hacklyn 1970s Private Investigator in Radio Silence is the next one.  I'm going to start it tonight with my pen and notepad.  Psyched!

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Tatami

If you haven't watched the anthology series of Asian horror folklore on HBO Max (or on Hulu) called Folklore, you really should. It's a fun diversion from American serial killers and gothic ghost and monster stories. 

Be warned: this review lives smack dab in the middle of Spoilerville. 

Episode #2, "Tatami," explores the family history of a deaf/mute writer named Makoto who is obsessing over a story in which a crime scene (or at least what appears to be -- we're not shown definitely, which adds to the creepiness) is a key element. He spends the night in the location and is struggling with his story about the way some tatami mats seem to hold onto the emotional trauma and not just the happiness that was experienced upon them. (Sort of like the idea of haunted items or the house in The Grudge). He returns home when he learns that his father has died, and then his life falls about when he discovers the family secret that makes a lie of his entire life. 

But enough about the plot. 

As usual for these reviews I want to talk about what this has to say about writers and the writing life. 

There's a scene while Makoto is struggling to get past his opening few sentences, and he requests additional time for his story. His editor asks him why he is struggling so much with this particular story. After all, it doesn't have to be perfect. The readers won't care. Why obsess over it so? Makoto is unable to reply. He doesn't really know why himself. It's just a feeling he can't get past. When he returns to writing during the night, he continues to struggle and ultimately changes his primary question from "Why do we obsess..." to "Why do I obsess..." 

For Makoto, this is a telling change. 

But it's a good question. Why do we as writers obsess about some stories to the point of becoming almost locked down when other stories flow so freely? Why do some stories become so critically important to us that we must micro-edit and over-critique them and still never really be happy? 

For Makoto, it's because there are questions in his own life in regards to his father and the passing from one generation to the next. He can't put those questions into words at the beginning of the story, but they're inside him nonetheless, locking him down and getting in the way of his wordflow. Writing about the memories a family bed holds is difficult because he is struggling with similar issues. 

I think that's a subtle but inspired answer to his question. The stories that really put us through the wringers as writers are most often those that are personal to us, based on something somewhere inside us so real and so true that we may often be unable to perceive it except as a nugget for a story. 

I've experienced this several times in my own winding road of being a storyteller. I've experienced it in poetry and in stories. It's all too often only when I look back on the story (once I'm finally able to finish the damn thing) that I can see its importance. It's all too often only looking back and seeing the themes and tones that weave their way subconsciously into my work that I find the truth the stories were trying to reveal. 

Yeah, I know, it's a whole lot more esoteric than "How to write visceral mob fights" but it's equally important to who I am, and I can only assume, who you are too as a writer. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


by Frank Schildiner 

One of the running themes in the discussion of public domain characters are the technicalities about public domain versus trademark. This is a surprisingly hot button issue for some people, so I will try and explain why the argument is, in my opinion and experience, fairly silly.

There are characters whose stories have fallen into the public domain. This has led some to believe that the characters are openly available to free use. Sorry, this stuff, like life itself, is not that simplistic. Let's walk through an example.

One of my favorite heroes is the original Nick Carter. I’m not interested in his secret agent days and have limited enjoyment of his private eye days. No, my enjoyment is from his earliest days, when Nick was a heroic dime novel detective in the late nineteenth century. Over the years I read many of these stories and found the character among the best adventure protagonists of an interesting era.

With this in mind, I can tell you that his original stories are public domain. They fall well into the legal definition. So, does that mean I can write him free and sell my own Nick Carter tales?

Nope, nyet, non, and a big heck no. What the above means is that if I find a copy of one of his early adventures in the original form, not someone else’s reprint, I can reproduce that story exactly. The story is completely available for sale if I reprint it, but that is where my part ends.

You see Nick Carter, in all his forms, is a trademarked character owned completely by Condé Nast. There are elements of the character they specifically own and you may not use them under any circumstances. To do so will result in swift action by said company starting with a cease and desist letter and followed by a threat of a lawsuit.

Trademarks are less powerful bindings as creative rights, but they do exist. They are the power many big corporations like Disney plan on invoking in the future.

Now we come to the title of this essay… You can try, but should you? Many people who read the above will protest that you, as the fiction writer, can fight for the right to use the character. This occurred when people filed lawsuits fighting for the right to use Sherlock Holmes. This court battle was an interesting one that dragged on for several years.

The result was that much of the World’s Greatest Detective was declared public domain and therefore free to use, even regardless of trademark claims. Certain elements were still held by the Conan Doyle estate, but the majority is open to the public. This was a landmark decision, one in which I benefited recently.

However, we return to the question… You can try, but should you? You do have the right to fight for characters whose stories may or may not fall into the public domain, but is it worth your efforts? Remember that in many of these cases, your character’s trademark rights are held by a big company like Condé Nast. These people have the lawyers and resources to fight for their rights as well as the time to drag out their efforts in the courts.

Now, if you are someone whose bank account can afford the time, cost, and efforts that would go into a lawsuit over a character, you can go for it any time. In the case of Sherlock Holmes, the character is one of the most popular and beloved worldwide. The market was already present even if the win wasn’t assured at the start of the fight. While I adore Nick Carter, the fight would cost me and pretty much anyone else more than the character’s worth. 

This now comes full circle. While a trademark is not as strong or as legally powerful as creative rights, the effort in fighting for your chose piece of fiction may be a climb as unobtainable as a proverbial Mt. Everest. While the climb is possible for some, the cost may be more than most bodies can bear.


Frank Schildiner is a martial arts instructor at Amorosi’s Mixed Martial Arts in New Jersey. He is the writer of the novels, THE QUEST OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE TRIUMPH OF FRANKENSTEIN, NAPOLEON’S VAMPIRE HUNTERS, THE DEVIL PLAGUE OF NAPLES, THE KLAUS PROTOCOL, and IRMA VEP AND THE GREAT BRAIN OF MARS.  Frank is a regular contributor to the fictional series TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN and has been published in FROM BAYOU TO ABYSS: EXAMINING JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER, THE JOY OF JOE, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THUNDER JIM WADE, SECRET AGENT X Volumes 3, 4, 5, 6, THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO: FRONTIER JUSTICE, and THE AVENGER: THE JUSTICE FILES. He resides in New Jersey with his wife Gail who is his top supporter and two cats who are indifferent on the subject.

NOTE: This article was originally posted at Bibliorati. It is reprinted here by permission. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Motivational Monday -- How To Slow Down Your Reader When You Need To

 Have you seen this floating around the various social media sites? 

I don't know about the historic truthfulness of the article, but in practice it truly does bear itself out in most cases. And knowing this is a great way to force your reader to slow down (one of the few ways a writer can manipulate HOW a reader reads a story). Just flop-flip the order. Give 'em a clop-clip-clop instead of a clip-clop. Or maybe a "tocking and ticking of the clock" instead of the "tick-tock of the clock." 

Did you hear the slowing down as you read them because they feel unnatural to your ear? Go ye therefore and do the same. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021


by Via Berkley

Early in my career as a novelist, I received a critical review of my work complaining that I described, in too much detail, the garments worn by my characters. It may have been fair comment. I was in my twenties at the time, a debut crime novelist. My writing instinct was correct, though, if perhaps not my delivery, and twelve books later, I’d like to explain why:

Furnishing the reader with details of the appearance of characters, and perhaps especially their clothes, makes good storytelling sense. More even than the shape of a face, or a glint in the eye, the cut, quality and state of a character’s garments, their footwear, the state of a suit and the quality of a piece of jewellery reveal important details about the history, social class, financial position, personality and in some cases intent of a character. As a mid-century vintage nerd, occasional dressmaker and former fashion model I am well placed on the details of garments, with my interest being particularly focussed on the time period I am currently writing about—post-WWII—so it is entirely appropriate that I have given my new 1946 PI heroine Billie Walker a keen eye for seams and collars, brooches and brogues. But before you disregard this attention to detail as the skewed interest of a female writer, as that early reviewer did, I’d like to point out that this descriptive technique has form with one Raymond Chandler, creator of one that most enduring and observant character, Phillip Marlowe—not a fashion victim but a hardboiled PI. Chandler’s novels are filled with detailed descriptions of bouncers in pink suspenders, authors in white flannel suits and violet scarves, and even speculation on the fashion choices of a man who furnished an office: “The fellow who decorated that room was not a man to let colors scare him. He probably wore a pimento shirt, mulberry slacks, zebra shoes, and vermilion drawers with his initials on them in a nice Mandarin orange.”

Just feast your eyes on this sartorially splendid scene from The Long Goodbye:

“She was slim and quite tall in a white linen tailormade with a black and white polka-dotted scarf around her throat. Her hair was the pale gold of a fairy princess. There was a small hat on it into which the pale gold hair nestled like a bird in its nest. Her eyes were cornflower blue, a rare color, and the lashes were long and almost too pale. She reached the table across the way and was pulling off a white gauntleted glove and the old waiter had the table pulled out in a way no waiter ever will pull a table out for me…”

Marlowe (and his creator) notice the clothes, the hairstyle, the gloves and what they signal about the person wearing them. This is no mere description, not simply the delightful painting of an aesthetic picture, but a type of cheat sheet for every character Marlowe encounters. It’s true that in hard-boiled we are accustomed to descriptions of hard men and femme fatales with faces like angels, but the clothing takes us a necessary step further.

Read the full article:

Saturday, April 24, 2021

[Link]The Pleasures of Being Read To

By John Colapinto

(Editor's Note: An Oldie but a goodie...)

Harold Bloom, the literary critic, once expressed doubt about the audiobook. “Deep reading really demands the inner ear as well as the outer ear,” he told the Times. “You need the whole cognitive process, that part of you which is open to wisdom. You need the text in front of you.” While this is perhaps true for serious literary criticism, it’s manifestly not true when it comes to experiencing a book purely for the pleasure of its characters, setting, dialogue, drama, and the Scheherazadean impulse to know what happens next—which, all apologies to Bloom, is why most people pick up a book in the first place. Homer, after all, was an oral storyteller, as were all “literary artists” who came before him, back to when storytelling, around the primal campfire, would have been invented—grounds for the argument that our brains were first (and thus best?) adapted to absorb long, complex fictions by ear, rather than by eye.

That’s an idea I ran past the neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran (whom I profiled in 2009). Rama answered via e-mail, saying: “Language comprehension and production evolved in connection with HEARING probably 150,000 yrs ago and to some extent is ‘hard wired’; whereas writing is 5000 to 7000 years old—partially going piggyback on the same circuits, but partially involving new brain structures like the left angular gyrus (damage to which disrupts reading writing and arithmetic). So it’s possible LISTENING to speech (including such things as cadence, rhythm and intonation) is more spontaneously comprehensible and linked to emotional brain centers —hence more evocative and natural.” He did add a caveat: “On the other hand reading allows you to pause and reflect and go back to do a second take.” (Though I’d argue that that’s what the rewind button is for.)

I listened to my first audiobook three years ago, when I had to master an interview subject’s massive literary œuvre in a very short time and realized that, to do it, I would have to use every available moment of the day—including those when traditional reading was impossible: walking home after dropping my son at school; jogging; grocery shopping; doing dishes. Since then, I’ve become a habitué of the audiobook section of my local library, renting and illegally ripping “books” to my iPod. I’ve discovered that audiobooks are (among other things) an ideal way to get to know a work that you can’t, for whatever occult reason, bring yourself to read in book form. I’d taken several runs at two late Updike novels, “Seek my Face” and “Terrorist,” and gotten bogged down in both. I have now listened to them as audiobooks and can report that they contain much of Updike’s typical brilliance that I would have missed had I stuck to Bloom’s method of mastering a book.

Read the full article:

Friday, April 23, 2021

Airship 27 Productions Presents FANGS OF THE SEA

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the release of popular pulp writer Fred Adams Jr’s latest horror-thriller Fangs of the Sea.

At the height of the Spanish Inquisition, a large number of the faithful fled Spain and the corrupted church to find a haven and new lives on a chain of small islands south of Cuba. There, under the guidance of their priest, Father Beppo, they established peaceful fishing villages that would sustain them in both body and soul. It was their small piece of earthly heaven.

Then black sails appeared on the horizon, furled from the masts of an unholy ship called Votrelec and captained by Varleck, a vampire pirate. Ever on the hunt for fresh bodies to man his crew of the undead, the blood-hungry monster is delighted when discovering the unprotected islands. He is overconfident in his dark powers. Soon realizes the villagers, under the guidance of the old cleric, have no intention of succumbing to his monstrous will.  And so the endless battle of good versus evil is joined. But who will emerge victorious and who will fall when the seas run red with blood?

“Vampire pirate!” exclaims Airship 27 Production’s Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “What more did we need to know? The second Fred Adams began to relate the plot, I could already envision what he was about to unleash on his army of loyal fans. And of course he delivered far and above what we had imagined. This one is truly unique.”

Art Director Rob Davis provided the black and white interior illustration and the amazing Adam Shaw the creepy beautiful cover. Fans of both vampire and pirate tales can now come together and enjoy what is destined to be a bonafide pulp classic from a master storyteller.


Available now from Amazon in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

My Diversity Soapbox (Or Don't You Throw That "Woke" Shade at Me)

One of the things that bugs me as a writer who aims for diversity in my work is that in the eyes of a lot of folks, any attempt to be diverse and inclusive somehow gets automatically declared as woke or virtue signaling. 

Now to be fair, some are. But not all of it. And not most of it. In fact, among the stuff worth reading or watching, very little of it. 

It's just that there's a predisposition of some people to see anything diverse and intentionally so as woke or virtue signaling so they can then immediately dismiss it as lesser work.

But... They're Trying To Push an Agenda 

To be fair, there are times when people ARE pushing a belief and "agenda-ize" their work, but geez-Louise do I feel like the lady doth protest too much. It's not every one. Hell, it's not even most of them. But they get lumped together by "anti-wokes" all the time. To quote rocker Steve Taylor, "Good, bad, there they go down the same drain."

There are lots of great socially conscious stories with great writing that have at their hearts BOTH strong storytelling and an intentionally socially conscious (or diversity-driven) story. Look no further than the drug issues of classic Spider-Man for some of the best examples of this. Or the race issues of Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Or the new Far Sector comic. Or... well, you get the picture.

The antithesis of that is the trouble that comes when certain groups push back so hard against any progressivism in comics as though "the good ol' days" own those characters and stories outright and modern ideals only serve to turn them into damaged goods. As if "good comics" and progressive ideals don't mix. 

Nowhere does it say that any comics, let alone super hero books, are supposed to only include white, middle-class, straight couples with 2.5 white, straight kids. Nor shouldn't favorite characters change it up from time to time and be replaced with various races or genders. Change has been the single constant in the comics I've read since my childhood, well, at least for the characters who weren't the trademarked faces of the companies. Seems like those are more untouchable (and not in the Elliot Ness sense of the word). 

As most of my favorite heroes are C-listers and below, trust me, they are changed all the time. The designs. The people in the costumes. Their races. Their genders. Their powers and backstories. Why not broaden that to include A- and B-listers as fair game. 

And even then, with DC's multiverse, why not have a black Superman or a trans Batman or a have Nubia take Wonder Woman's spot on the Justice League? Why not? "Because that's not my Superman or Wonder Woman, and you can't take those away from us fans, damn it! You can't push your agenda on me." 

The Way They Used To Be

To be fair, DC and Marvel have tried this from time to time, and often with awful backlash from "fans" who immediately scream about how much they dislike the change. Some manage to stick (like, at least for now, Ms. Marvel and lesbian Harley and Ivy) and some run the scope of a long story arc (Jane Foster female Thor and Falcon-Cap, which was as natural a progression as Dick to Batman, in my opinion). Others are quickly shot down by fans as pandering and disappear from the racks with little to no fanfare. 

It's that "friendly fire" of "I like my comics the way they used to be."

Oh, so you mean the Golden Age? I agree. We should completely reject Hal Jordan and Barry Allen and all the changes that arrived with the Silver Age. 

"No, no. Those changes are okay. Those are the changes that were made for us and we like those heroes." 

Well, if those Silver Age changes were put into place to reflect a more modern sensibility than the 1940s and 1950s, shouldn't we update again to reflect the change in culture and society from the 1960s to the 2020s? Why not a new "Silver" Age change to recreate a new DC Universe in a modern light? What about the changes that need to be made for other generations, more inclusive generations?

"Oh, no. Those characters are established now. We can't mess with them. We updated their backstories and their technology and their timelines instead to keep them fresh. If you want to recreate something beyond that you'll have to just create new characters instead." 

I'm starting to believe Janus or Harvey Dent might be behind this little double standard.

Dropping Some Comic Shop Truth

But maybe it really is about characters and not an aversion to real, modern-cultural change for comics... Sadly, my experience as a comic book shop manager tells me otherwise.

These are actual questions asked/statements said to me when I managed a comic book shop by actual, real, living people:

"Why do they have to put their gays in my comics? They're just comic books." 

Because LGBTQ+ people are part of the real world and they like to see themselves in the pages of entertainment and on TV and movies just like the rest of us.

"They should stop trying to push an agenda on me, man." 

As if having diverse characters, particularly in leading roles, is about pushing an agenda and not just inclusion of all those folks who exist in reality. 

So, what's there to do? Sadly, it's an uphill climb, and I'll tell you why. 

It's because of little hypocritical tendencies like these: 

"I don't mind comic characters that are POC or are LGBTQ+ as long as they don't change my favorite characters. They should just create new characters instead." 

On the surface, that's a safe statement, right? Maybe, if it stood alone in a vacuum. 

If you ever make that first statement and don't support books with new characters, then I won't say that makes you a hypocrite, but it does create a concern to be questioned. It's kind of like saying: "I just want my old favorite characters and if SOMEBODY ELSE wants to support inclusion in comics, well, that's okay, but not at the expense of my favorite key characters who I won't allow to be taken from the spotlight to make room for new characters of diversity, whether by changing them or by sidelining them." 

But unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. The questions continue to indict the asker. 

"Why did they have to make (insert a favorite character) black, gay, etc.?"

"Why are they publishing that book? That's not the (insert favorite team), not the real one. I don't know hardly any of those new characters."

"If people really wanted diversity, they would have bought (insert inclusive character whose solo book died from lack of support), wouldn't they?

That's when the true colors come bleeding out, it seems. 

So, from a long-term fan standpoint, from that perspective, it seems it would be wrong to change or replace characters (either directly as in the new LSH book or N52 Wally West or by new legacy character as with Ms. Marvel).

But apparently, it's also wrong to sideline the favorites to allow for an influx of new characters on a team book that has a better chance of surviving than creating a new character as a solo book lead. 

That seems a bit like wanting to play both sides to relegate diversity to the sidelines, where new books go to die, and then you also get to the last question mentioned above: "See, fans don't really want diversity. That's why those new books don't sell well." 

I only bring all this up because you'd be surprised how often I heard all of those statements when I was managing a comic book store. It's the ultimate "have your cake and eat it too" against diversity in comics. 

They Wouldn't Make Luke Cage White, Would They?

There's a huge difference between being portrayed as white and whiteness being critical to a character's story.

For example, Hal Jordan's whiteness is a factor in his Hard-Traveling Heroes era and he would need to be a white man if that story were told in a film. Maybe Ollie too, as the "outsider" who sees what's going on beneath the radar. But I can't recall, for example, Supergirl's or Deadshot's whiteness ever being intrinsic to her or his story. It's always seemed to me just the "coat of paint" she was created with. And that's what the difference is for me.

That's my beef with the whole "Well, they wouldn't make Luke Cage white" strawman argument. Luke's story is based on his blackness. Changing it would be more than a repaint of the character. Same goes for Black Panther, Black Lightning. 

And that argument doesn't even hold up because we white folks have our ways (thank you, Langston Hughes) of doing that already. Remember black face? Remember white folks playing black folks in movies and being "painted" because they couldn't have white and black actors actually share a scene with each other? 

When a character's race is important to the story or to the character's values or self, then I say don't mess with it or do so only with the greatest respect when adapting the base story. But when it's only important to fans who have read the book and only care about "that particular visual representation" then I'm okay with the changes. 

Ask yourself this: "Is this character important to the history of comics or the history of a particular culture? Is this character or team important to the history of publishing comics or the history of a particular culture? Sometimes they're both. Is Captain America more important to comics history or to white history? Is Luke Cage more important to comics history or black history, or is he important to both because of his culture and race? (For the record, if you say Captain America is more important to white history, then you might be drinking the wrong Kool-Aid. He's important to American history, but America isn't just blonde and white.)

See, there's a huge difference between characters' importance to a race or culture and their importance to the history of publishing alone. If you can't see that difference honestly, you're probably just reacting with straw man arguments because you don't want to sound like a racist. (But guess what... you failed.)

The same argument goes for gender and sexual identity, in my book. "If you would make Alan Scott or Iceman gay, what about if you made Midnighter and Apollo straight?" If you can honestly ask that question you really, really don't understand the idea of representation in art and entertainment. When a group is already underrepresented in media, taking any of the examples away is a step back, not forward. If you want to ask that question and do it with any degree of seriousness, ask it when there is equal representation to serve as a starting point. Until then, we've got a long way to go. 

Who Woke My Inclusion?

What I'm REALLY tired of is the way "woke" and "virtue signaling" are thrown around almost every time someone ventures to be inclusive in their work. I remember when including people was just "inclusion" or "diversity" and they were noble endeavors to pursue, not "wokeness" or "virtue signaling" and suddenly by changing the words they became bad things to do. 

Being inclusive is part of who I am as a writer and a human being, and it's not something I do to try to look like I'm morally superior to anyone. It comes naturally to me as a human being. (Okay, I know that sounds "woke" but bear with me. lol) 

It's something I worked hard at changing about myself to become a better human being from the time I learned about my non-inclusive tendencies in high school and college. 

I don't do it to signal anything about anyone (unless I signal that "hey, I like to a fun story with all kinds of people in it"). I have to do that in a way that's true to the story and the characters and the setting. But if I can do that, then why should folks balk at inclusion as the next intentional piece of that story make-up? 

I firmly believe that folks who react to every little instance of inclusivity or diversity in entertainment with judgments of virtue signaling or wokeness, well, I believe that says a lot more about the one who protests the work rather than the one who created it.

Okay, my soapbox is beginning to groan under the weight of my frustration here, so I'll step down. Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: The Haunting of M.R. James

I suppose it's a common question to ask of writers of ghost stories if they actually believed in the paranormal. Folks like M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Ambrose Bierce become maybe more authentic in the eyes of their readers if they actually believed (good) or experienced (better) a haunting or even several. 

That's the point of this documentary about James. Did he or did he not actually believe in this spooky stuff he wrote? 

I think, however, the question -- regardless of the curiosity of it -- is ultimately pointless. 

Writers aren't supposed to be held to experience. I don't care how many times you hear the axiom "write what you know," it's all ultimately garbage. The truth, at least in my understanding, is to "write what you imagine." Absolutely, do the research. Get your facts right. Be true to your characters. All that good ol' writer stuff holds true. 

But you are never limited by your experience when you write. I believe if you're doing it right, you experience what you write, not the reverse. 

It's perfectly okay to pull from your experience to color your stories. That character quick from your former co-worker would indeed work great added to your protagonist's husband. That time you went to the gorge and the cops found a dead man would be excellent fodder for a murder mystery. But you are never held to the truth of the experience. 

Unless you write non-fiction, and to be honest, you're still not always held to just facts. (If you don't believe me, read Annie Dillard.) 

Aside from that erroneous supposition, this isn't a bad documentary. In looking into James' perception of the paranormal, it covers an area of his life that isn't often opened up in documentaries. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


by Frank Schildiner 

One of the issues that writers face is an inability to fulfill the lifelong desire of writing a character they love. Take me, for example; I am one of the last major fans of the occult work of Dennis Wheatley. My chances of writing his seminal hero, the elderly soldier/magus the Duke de Richleau are, as some of my Southern friends like to say, “slim to none and slim already left town”. Sad fact, but absolutely true. I have also reconciled to the fact that I will also never have the luck of writing the Shadow, John Thunstone, Shang Chi, Daredevil, or Kull the Conqueror.

 However, when examining the world of public domain heroes, you can enjoy a piece of your dream by grabbing some of the pastiche and homage characters that appeared over the years. Here are a few you may wish to consider.

If you like…

1. Doc Savage – One of the most imitated heroes in fiction, Doc Savage has influenced comics, films, and many other areas of media. However, he is basically untouchable and shall remain so for the next few lifetimes. Here are three characters, however, written in the pulp period based on the great adventurer that are available to writers:

a. Jim Anthony – half-Native American, half Irish, manly, strong, brilliant, and wealthy. Jim Anthony is a version of Doc that fought evil world-shaking foes (for his first 10 tales) and enjoyed the company of beautiful women. An excellent alternative. 

b. Thunder Jim Wade – Created by horror writing legend Henry Kuttner, Thunder Jim Wade grew up in an advanced civilization in Africa and even owns his own island. His favorite device is the Thunderbug, a combination plane/tank/sub and he battles evil-doers around the world. Also, he owns his own secret island as a base.

c. Captain Hazzard – Blinded as a child in an explosion, Hazzard developed a form of ESP before surgery restored his eyesight. A genius adventurer with a team of aides, Captain Hazzard only appeared one time in pulps and has received a few revivals since that single appearance. A great deal can be done if you read the first rather poorly written novel and take this Doc Savage pastiche your own direction.

2. The Shadow – The Shadow’s influence upon fictional heroes is probably the only one equal or greater to Doc Savage. Even legendary pulp hero Richard Wentworth, the Spider, emerged from this character’s influence. He did spawn several effective pastiches over the years, though most remain under the control of individuals or companies. Therefore, I will simply give you one that should fulfill your dreams:

a. The Black Bat – Tony Quinn, a crusading District Attorney, has acid thrown in his eyes by a gangster. Blinded, he secretly receives sight again from an experimental procedure that also grants him perfect night vision. Pretending his blindness continued, he dresses in a black costume and battles crime as the Black Bat. This one practically writes itself; the only thing lacking are interesting villains. The Black Bat’s enemies were dull and forgettable, which probably hurt sales. Always remember, his DC comics counterpart’s villains are known throughout the world by non-comic fans. If you create some fantastic enemies, the Black Bat may grant you your dreams of the Shadow.

3. Tarzan – Hero of pulp, films, radio, television and more, Tarzan is probably one of the top five best known fictional heroes in history. Whether people know him from the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, the many films using him in various capacities, or the television series that emerged, people know this archetype. Obviously, Tarzan is as untouchable as the above heroes (and do not listen to those who believe otherwise unless you plan on enriching lawyers), but he has many public domain peers. Here are a few:

a. Polaris of the Snows – Written in 1915 by Charles B. Stilson, Polaris was raised by his father in Antarctica and grew up a giant, blond Tarzan type. After his father passes away, he decides he will find civilization and discover his identity. Of course, he rescues a beautiful woman along the way and discovers a lost civilization in the process. Polaris is a basically forgotten character who has a slightly different direction for his origin.

b. Ki-Gor – Subject of over fifty novels, Ki-Gor is a blond jungle lord who had most of the ideas Burroughs brought in his tales. He possesses a beautiful wife, native friends who he trusts and  who provide good tales (under the better writers), and an Africa replete with lost civilizations, evil adventurers, and weird creatures. You really cannot go wrong with writing Ki-Gor if your dream is to write Tarzan tales.

c. Mowgli – Created by the legendary Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli and his Jungle Book stories are about as much fun as you can have reading fiction. Most know the characters from the Disney animated film (which I happen to adore), but there is so much greater depth to that world than any film can impart. Mowgli, Shere Khan the lame tiger, Bagheera the black panther, Baloo the sloth bear, Kaa the giant python, Mother and Father Wolf…I could go on for days of the rich world Kipling created. Mowgli and his tales are the stuff of dreams and a great choice for any prospective writer. One final note—the character of King Louis is NOT from Kipling. That is a Disney creation (played by musical great Louis Prima), so do not use him in your stories.

This is just a start, but the best plan is to usually start at the top of any list, so Pulp heroes you can write to get the feel of writing the untouchable should be no different.


Frank Schildiner is a martial arts instructor at Amorosi’s Mixed Martial Arts in New Jersey. He is the writer of the novels, THE QUEST OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE TRIUMPH OF FRANKENSTEIN, NAPOLEON’S VAMPIRE HUNTERS, THE DEVIL PLAGUE OF NAPLES, THE KLAUS PROTOCOL, and IRMA VEP AND THE GREAT BRAIN OF MARS.  Frank is a regular contributor to the fictional series TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN and has been published in FROM BAYOU TO ABYSS: EXAMINING JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER, THE JOY OF JOE, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THUNDER JIM WADE, SECRET AGENT X Volumes 3, 4, 5, 6, THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO: FRONTIER JUSTICE, and THE AVENGER: THE JUSTICE FILES. He resides in New Jersey with his wife Gail who is his top supporter and two cats who are indifferent on the subject.

NOTE: This article was originally posted at Bibliorati. It is reprinted here by permission. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

[Link] The Writers Collective Life

by Gary Phillips

If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.
— Stephen King

Writing is not always that dangerous, though for journalists in various parts of the world it is, but it is a lonely business. Writing is counter-intuitive to the idea of the cooperative process. Even if you were copywriter in a busy office, envisioning yourself as a modern day Don Draper, mesmerizing the potential client with your ability at word pictures, selling them on how you’ll sell their doo-dad over martinis at lunch. But eventually you have to bang out the copy, then pass it around to others to get their notes, their edits, their rewrites, picked over, beat up, then handed back to you.

But we all still write alone. We are still the first and final judge on what we compose.

In the old days you stole time from your job and family to write at night or on the weekends to produce the Great American Novel or at least your version of that ideal. If you were a genre writer, maybe you were influenced by the likes of Mr. King who was once so broke that he was living in his car; yet still churning out his stories. Maybe devoted family man, Orrie Hitt, struck a chord as he cranked out his sleaze paperback titles like Naked Flesh and Man-Hungry Female sitting at his kitchen table 12-14 hours a day. Or you might have been inspired by the likes of Ray Bradbury, who wrote Fahrenheit 451 ––his classic sci-fi novel about censorship –– while renting the use of a typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library for a dime each half hour. Total reported expense: $9.80.

All this before the internet, before Amazon, before the marriage between digital printing and a bindery machine. Before it all changed.

Read the full article:

Friday, April 16, 2021


Press Release:

BEN Books is pleased to announce that SNOW SHORTS #3 is now on sale as a $0.99 ebook. You can grab your copy now at

Meet Laura Snow, Abraham Snow's mother, in Snow Shorts #3: A Stranger Calls by author Nicole Givens Kurtz.

Laura Snow (mother of Abraham, Douglas, and Samantha) is enjoying her life. A free spirit, Laura follows her bliss. The journey leads her to Taos, New Mexico where she has created a life for herself away from the dangers her family often finds themselves facing. Or so she thought. Laura is concerned when she starts receiving threatening phone calls and texts. A mysterious someone is stalking her and the threats are escalating. When official channels fail, Laura falls back on old skills she learned years ago from her father-in-law, Archer Snow to protect herself against a dangerous foe who wants her dead.

A Stranger Calls is the 3rd book in the Snow Shorts series. Cover by Jeffrey Hayes of Plasmafire Graphics. Published by BEN Books.


SNOW SHORTS #1: Snow Flies written by award-winning author Bobby Nash!

SNOW SHORTS #2: Thieves' Alley written by award-winning author Gary Phillips!

All Snow Shorts are $.99 ebooks and all are available to read for FREE to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

In #TheSummerOfSnow every day is a #SnowDay!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Daniel Emery Taylor: It's the ADHD

We're going to change things up a bit for this writer interview. We're going to talk with Daniel Emery Taylor, an indie movie producer and scriptwriter. He's still a hardcore genre writer (horror being both a genre and hardcore), albeit in a different format. 

Plus, he's just a straight-up, awesome guy and he worked with Heather Locklear (which is definitely a plus). 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

If you mean actual, completed work that has been brought to fruition, my film It's Just A Game is currently available to view on most of your favorite streaming platforms. It is your standard "bullied girl wishes her tormentor was dead and then gets kidnapped by a theatre cult who wants to use her body to summon the spirit of an ancient witch" tale. Because there are so many of those, right? In all seriousness, I wanted to try to meld different elements together to create a new genre of scary movie - part slasher, part home invasion, part supernatural thriller, part cult horror - a unique film experience. Constructing a linear narrative was not necessarily my prime objective. I just wanted to evoke emotions. Most of the reviews have been very kind, though many of them say something like "I have no idea what was going on but I couldn't stop watching!" And, honestly, I consider that high praise. I've said the same thing about some of my favorite Fulci films.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I suffer from maladaptive daydreaming - I have entire universes in my head and they all demand an exorbitant amount of attention. The only way to exorcise them is to get them out onto the page. I'm being somewhat tongue in cheek, of course, but that isn't too far from the truth. I have always had an overactive imagination and a desire to bring these imaginary people to life via storytelling. I have been writing stories, and later scripts, since the second grade.

What inspires you to write?

Anything. Everything. I know that sounds like a cop out but it's true. Sometimes I will think of something - a scene, a striking visual, a horrific death, whatever - and then my brain immediately goes to work filling in the rest of the story. I could get a random flash of a visual in my head - a beautiful woman, standing on her balcony, staring down at a swirling black fog below. Who is she? Why is she there? What is in the fog? It goes from there. Every story I write begins with the visuals. The story fills in around them.

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

I tend to write a lot about outcasts - which I don't suppose is particularly unique - and the choices they make in light of their hardships. So, someone is bullied as a child - does that make them more likely to become a hero, because they know what it's like to be victimized and they want to save others from the same fate, or do they become a villain, because they want the world to suffer as they did? Really, it could go either way, depending on a variety of other factors. We each have choices to make in life and it is fascinating just how quickly our entire situation can change based solely on our reaction to it. Plus, there is the splendid duplicity of man - the fact that most humans are basically good but also carry within them the potential for the gravest forms of evil. I'm not saying we're just a bad day away from becoming homicidal maniacs ... but I think we would be shocked to discover what we would be able to do given the right set of unfortunate circumstances.

What would be your dream project?

I have a few - the first being a film I would simply call "Yeshua," a historically accurate depiction of the life of the Messiah. Every Jesus movie we watch presents Him solely in the Western European/American presentation, hitting the same story beats (whether they be Biblical or simply based on our own folklore and tradition), giving the same perspective. I would love to write and direct that picture that restore the Jewishness to the Jewish Messiah, the King of Israel. I would love to hear some proper historical context for His teachings on film. As 21st century Americans, we tend to either assume His Words in the abstract and mystical or we try to apply them literally but are absolutely ignorant of the cultural subtext. I think to be able to see His story, in His land, and with His people, would perhaps help people see Him in a different light. Perhaps, they would get a much fuller picture.

The next is much less lofty - I would love to take a crack at Marvel's Man-Thing. I got my acting career started in The Return Of Swamp Thing so I think it would be appropriate to jump the aisle and help bring Swampy's Marvel counterpart to the silver screen. With the MCU now getting into the mystical side of their universe, with the Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange, Agatha Harkness ... the Nexus of All Realities, the Multiverse ... now is the time for a proper Man-Thing film! And there are other Marvel characters I would love to work with - Werewolf By Night, Moon Knight, and, for something silly, Gwenpool.

And, finally, I would love to write and direct a Friday The 13th film. I know there are current legal issues keeping Jason at bay but I think it would be such a fun character to play with. I feel like, with a lot of similar characters, writers want to try to overthink them or reinvent the wheel. Jason X showed us that all you need for a fun, successful picture is just to drop Jason into a new, interesting situation and turn him loose. Imagine, Jason loose in a ski resort in the snow. Jason battling redneck militia men on their private compound in the woods. Jason accidentally gets boxed up and shipped to the Middle East where he ends up killing a bunch of terrorists. Jason in Greenwich. These stories write themselves. How does Jason get to Connecticut? It doesn't matter. We just want to see him wreaking havoc on a yacht or a golf course.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Because, to me, the act of writing and filmmaking tend to become one - since I primarily write screenplays for my own use - the writers that most influence my style are writer/directors. Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Sam Raimi... they each have such a distinct style, gloriously visual, and often chaotic. What I pick up most from these individuals is less about the mechanics of their writing and more about being true to your own vision, telling your own story, and giving the audience something that thrills or intrigues.

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

I would love to remake my film Fat Chance (which the distributor released as Camp Massacre). It was a horror-comedy about a group of overweight guys on a weight loss reality show (like The Biggest Loser) who find themselves stalked by a masked killer. There was a lot of good, funny stuff in the script but a lot of it didn't work. A lot of it definitely doesn't work in 2021. Sometimes things sound much better in your head than in reality. Sometimes you know what the joke is but the audience doesn't. It's a script that was close to my heart and there is enough good there to salvage - though I don't suppose I will.

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

Writing, as we're discussing it, is an art. You can teach the science of writing - the mechanics of it - but you can't teach someone how to tell a story. You can't teach creativity. I have read very beautifully written scripts and stories that were also dreadfully boring and of absolutely no consequence.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Actually doing it. Sometimes, I get so lost in all of the "great" ideas I have (which are mostly trash, I assure you) that I can find it hard to commit to one. I am notorious for getting twenty pages into a script and then jumping to the next thing. It's the ADHD.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I have a couple of folks I let read my scripts while I'm still writing - mostly to see if my story is being properly conveyed. It is good to have folks you trust, who know their stuff, who will give you honest feedback. 

What does success look like to you?

As long as I am telling the stories I want to tell and am able to get them out into the world, so they can find their audience, I consider that a success.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I have about five different things in various stages of the creative process but nothing I can really plug, hahaha.

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