Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Playhouse

Be warned. Playhouse is a slow-burn haunted castle story. In fact, I'd say it's a very slow burn. Luckily, that's right in my wheel house, so I loved it. It's eerily similar in tone and theme to the far superior film by Kubrick, The Shining, based on King's novel. But, in spite of any shortcomings in the film itself (which I thought were minimal though plenty of folks felt differently, as you can check on the Rotten Tomatoes site) it had a particular exchange at the beginning of Act II I think has a lot to say about the writing process, at least in the way I embrace that process. 

The plot, for context -- Jack and his daughter Bee have bought a Scottish castle (it's beautiful) and Jack is determined to write an interactive play based on the castle's supernatural legend that will take guests through the castle and bring him bags and bags of cash. Just down the road lives Jenny, the granddaughter of the women who actually was a part of the story that became legend. She wants Jack to abandon his idea for the sake of her family's rest and memories. 

Jack invites Jenny and her husband Callum to dinner, where they have an exchange in which Callum compares people's lives to a wheelie bin (rubbish bin). We just want to put that stuff away and get it out of our minds, but that's where Callum thinks we're all doing it wrong.

He says, "We need to look closely at what's in the rubbish, go through it and find what's in there that might be..." 
"Rubbish," Jenny replies. 
"No. Useful." 
A few seconds later, Callum continues: "Take Jack. Jack's got his own troubles, his own rubbish. You're a writer, I imagine you use it to write. Can't write without reflection, some self examination, can you?" 
"Oh, you can," Jack responds, clearly in love with his own wit and delivery.

"Well, you can," Callum counters, "but it wouldn't be any good, would it? All you have to do is you have to go back to your life, examine your rubbish and turn it into fuel."

As a writer, I love this exchange. It's why even though Callum isn't much of writer (though he fancies himself a playwright later in the film), it shows that he understands the truth of what a writer pulls from better than the previously published -- notoriously so -- and best-selling Jack does. 

All that so-call rubbish, all that discarded psyche waste, that's where some of our best ideas come from. Maybe not even as stories, though sometimes they do, but particularly as drive, nuggets, little kernels that will pop their way into plots and characters if we go back to those wheelie bins every once in a while and face our true selves. 

But fiction is supposed to be an escape, I hear all the time, and that's often true. But only for the reader. The reader has the freedom to use our work as escape. We writers don't get that luxury. We go deep and figure out who we are as we work. 

I hear other writers tell me that they never approached writing themes and tones and undercurrents consciously or intentionally, but as they look back, they see them there, all over the work like fingerprints anyway. 

There's no hiding it. 

That stuff we may not willingly face makes itself known in our stories whether we welcome it or not. Characters act in certain ways. Plots lean toward darkness or light or melancholy or joy. Themes like sacrifice and heroism and even failed redemption beat their way to the surface and make us face them. 

It's the DNA of writing. And Callum had the guts to face it. Jack didn't, and, well, watch the movie and see what happened because of that failure on his part. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Public Domain Characters: A User's Guide -- THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

by Frank Schildiner

One of the best Western films ever was “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, a true classic in every sense of the word. It also exists as a wonderful metaphor in many areas. Today we will take that concept into the world of public domain characters, specifically starting with some fantastic characters who are ripe for continued tales.

“The Good…”

Many of these characters have received stories in recent years, but that should not hold anyone back. Every writer adds their own view to a concept.

1. Sherlock Holmes – Holmes has been and probably always will be the World’s Greatest Detective. In recent years we’ve seen him elderly (the film Mr. Holmes), modern and sociopathic (Benedict Cumberbatch), scruffy and strange (Robert Downey Jr.), but always a genius with a cast of characters over a century old. We’ve even read him as the villain in a Lovecraftian world where the rulers of the world are Elder Gods and Professor Moriarty is a protagonist (Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald). If you keep to the basic formula, you can add your own spin to this legendary figure in literature. 

2. The Black Bat – Created virtually at the same time as his far more famous counterpart, DC’s Batman, the Black Bat is a concept ripe for a writer seeking an action-adventure hero. Blinded by a gangster who threw acid in his eyes, District Attorney Tony Quinn received a secret operation that restored his eyesight and made him capable of seeing in the dark. Disguising himself in black, he became the Black Bat, a hero secretly who fought evil while feigning blindness publicly. Sadly, the original writers of this great concept never gave the Bat a worthwhile menace. Instead he fought ordinary gangsters while Batman’s rogue’s gallery enticed readers of all ages. Giving the Black Bat some worthwhile foes would certainly enhance his standing and could lead to some fun adventures.

3. The Black Terror – Defunct comic company Nedor Comics had only a few concepts worth reading. By far the best, at least in my opinion, was the Black Terror aka Bob Benton. Dressed in a black costume with the skull and crossbones on his chest, the Black Terror has appeared in stories written by comic legend Alan Moore! There’s plenty of room for great tales using this hero in his original setting or even modern day.

4. Doctor Omega – Created in 1906 by French writer Arnould Galopin, Dr. Omega is an elderly, tough, brilliant, irascible genius who builds a spaceship that takes him, his neighbor, and his assistant Fred, to Mars. Resembling the First Doctor from the Doctor Who television series (William Hartnell for those of you whose knowledge of Who begins in recent days), Omega could grant a writer their best chance of creating a universe traveling sci-fi hero. Obviously, you should avoid using Daleks, Weeping Angels, and Cybermen, but this is a great chance to indulge yourself with few restrictions. Reprints of the originals are available on Kindle and Nook, so research should be easy enough.

5. Frank Reade Jr. – Steampunk enthralls many readers these days and there’s even a huge fashion movement with this as its basis. Frank Reade and later his son Frank Reade Junior were the embodiment of this concept long before it was a style. Written between 1892-1893, Frank Reade Jr. lives in a world of steam powered robots, airships, and early submersibles written in the United States in the Victorian era. If you dream of writing a steampunk adventure, Frank Reade or Frank Reade Jr. are a good starting point for any writer.

6. Jim Anthony – The massive success of Doc Savage inspired many imitators in that period, one of the best being Jim Anthony, Super Detective. Half Native American and half Irish, Anthony was a doctor, expert in dozens of areas of science, and a multimillionaire who devoted himself to tracking down criminals. Unlike Doc Savage, he liked the ladies and his stories were known as “spicy”; meaning a greater degree of sex and violence occurred in the pages. You definitely can’t go wrong with a hero who has the mind of Steven Hawking and the physique of Steve Reeves.

7. Fantômas – Want to write the bad guy in the main role in your story? Look no further than this character, the first true supervillain. Originally written between 1915-1963, Fantômas is a fiendish master of disguise with a love for sadistic methods of murder. Victims of this infamous super criminal died due to rooms that fill with sand, plague infested rats, and other evil plots. Chased by Inspector Juve, this character is the subject of films, plays, comics, and over forty novels. 

8. Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder – Interested in an occult hero? Want to indulge your need for fighting the supernatural? Then you should read up on Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by legendary weird fiction master William Hope Hodgson. Carnacki is a London based detective whose work often results in a paranormal cause for the crime or problem at hand. Utilizing scientific methods as well as old folklore-based wisdom in his cases, the tales vary from real occult danger to human fakery. The original stories are still a genuine delight and several writers have written new cases for this mostly forgotten hero.

As always, beware that you do not utilize new elements added by modern writers; their material is legally protected. Taking such concepts and ideas from current authors could result in legal issues best avoided at all cost. 

Despite that warning, there are many great characters beyond those I listed above. Take the time and look around. Just make sure they’re in the public domain first!  

“The Bad…”

Do remember that these are my opinion only. If your viewpoint is different, that is fine. I will state my reason for each and leave you to each of your own opinions. If you prove me wrong, I will be the first to hail you as doing so; though I would be very surprised too. I have experimented with more than one of these concepts and learned a great deal.

1. The Phantom Detective – The third longest running pulp hero character, the Phantom Detective was always a pretty poor attempt at a hero at best. He embodies the clichés of the period and was wildly uneven. Even his name is a misnomer; while the series is called “The Phantom Detective”, he is only called “The Phantom” in his series. The character is a rich guy who, after World War One, decides he will use his skills at fighting crime. He becomes an expert in disguise (as one does), as well as a criminologist and becomes accepted by law enforcement agencies worldwide. Oh, the police summon him through a red beacon at the top of a roof when they need his aid. If that sounds like Batman’s Bat Signal, you have now learned the inspiration. Otherwise, the Phantom Detective was simply a blah, boring, fairly routine series with rare moments of middle grade writing. The concept of a rich guy who solves crime is, by this point and time, a complete cliché to readers. Having read a bunch of Phantom Detective novels, I can assure you they were dreary. This one is best left to history.

2. Alarune – Oh boy, this one is a truly painful concept. Created by the repulsive Nazi sympathizer Hanns Heinz Ewers, the concept is one that demonstrate true misogyny. Professor Ten Bricken artificially inseminates a woman with Mandrake root which apparently emerges when a hanged man ejaculates as he dies. The result was Alarune, a woman who lacks a soul, is sexually voracious, and indulges in perverse affairs throughout her life. Made into seven movies, the character is truly repugnant. I tried using Ten Bricken and Alarune once in a story and I basically stripped the characters down to name only. This was the only way I could use him as a mad biologist helping the main villain. Had I used the true version of Alarune, I doubt any publisher would employ me again. Let this one die, folks. We are better than the mad concepts of a Nazi writer who tried mitigating their racial theories by considering himself still a decent human being. Alarune comes off as backward and horrific in modern days. 

3. Crimson Mask/Purple Scar – I include two as one because they are copies of better concepts without the skill or interesting writing. Also, they are so interchangeable, they almost bore me considering them as concepts. The Crimson Mask is a pharmacist whose police officer dad died at the hands of criminals. The Purple Scar is a man whose police officer brother died at the hands of criminals. Each took on masks based on the dead faces of their killed family member and became experts in fighting, criminology, and so on and on. These characters were bad imitations of the Shadow and Spider with villains so remarkably colorless I doubt even their writers remembered their names. If a writer decides they must recreate a famous concept, that’s fine. However, they should endeavor to do so with some finesse and cleverness. The Crimson Mask and the Purple Scar are such clear examples of bland writing that some consider the true representation of pulp. Maybe someone can add some flair to the pair, but I find the duo painful.

4. Kwa of the Jungle – Jungle hero pulp was a common concept because Tarzan was a legend that crossed well beyond his literary roots. Many popped up over the years, but Kwa was one of the silliest and least enjoyable. An orphan surviving a plane crash, young Nathaniel Rahan is adopted and raised in the jungle by a hidden race of chimpanzees. Yes, talking chimps. They name him, “Kwa the Golden One” and he protects the jungles from spider men and other odd creatures. The character was a poor rewrite of Tarzan, Mowgli, and even the less skilled Ki-Gor pulps. Don’t get me wrong, I love jungle/Wildman pulps, but Kwa was just a pale concept that did not even deserve his six stories. For those wanting to write a wild man hero, consider Polaris of the Snows or Ki-Gor. Kwa is best left in the dustbin of history.

5. Lovecraftian rewrites – I happen to adore cosmic horror and there are many writers, such as Peter Rawlik and Robert M. Price, whose work are genuine pleasures. What I am referring to is the habit some writers have of attempting a recreation of the style of H.P. Lovecraft. The result is often turgid, painful, purple prose that is in no way readable. Writers who must write in Lovecraft’s universe, do so with joy, but in a style and voice that is theirs, not an imitation of the concept’s creator. There was only one H.P. Lovecraft and the universe will not accept a second. Become the first “you” and take his concepts your own direction. 

“And the Ugly…”

Do remember that this is my opinion only. If your viewpoint is different, that is fine. I will state my reason for each and leave it up to each reader in formulating their own opinions. However, the “Ugly” is a more conceptual basis, a piece of advice for writers regarding some of the areas of pulps and comics best left buried in the past.

1. Bulldog Drummond aka the Reformed Racist - H. C. McNeile under the penname “Sapper” created a square-jawed tough hero who fought for all that was good and strong in the minds of the British. He was also virulently racist, an anti-Semite, anti-anyone non-English, and so conservative his values were probably formed by William the Conqueror. The main character in numerous books, films, radio shows, and even plays over the years, Bulldog’s disgusting tendencies toward repulsive behavior received cleansing from many writers. To some readers, Bulldog Drummond is a typical strong hero…until you read his original stories. There you find a hideous approximation of a heroic figure by someone who looked down on most of the world. I give major credit to Alan Moore and Kim Newman, two magnificent writers who used this character and did not wash away the truth in their pages. Readers let this guy, and any other similar race-baiting protagonists, be otherwise forgotten. These values were wrong then and worse now.

2. Wu Fang/Yellow Peril villains – Want to feel really uncomfortable? Try reading some of the Yellow Peril pulps like The Mysterious Wu Fang or Dr. Yen Sin. Yellow peril pulps are a product of pure xenophobia and are completely horrific attacks on a race of people. These tales usually involve an evil mandarin who plans on destroying white people using evil assassins with mysterious poison darts, creepy insects, and advanced scientific devices that could make them trillionaires should they create a company marketing them worldwide. Often a woman is in peril and has her clothing torn off so that “barbaric” “alien” men can gaze upon the perfect flesh…ugh, just writing that crud makes me feel the need for a shower. These stories are purely grotesque and are best left as history. Now, I am not saying Asian people cannot be villains. Madame Atomos, a villainess from French pulps, was a great series and made for exciting tales. However, that one is a rarity and there are very few others worthy of such respect.

3. “The One Good Nazi” – There are few areas of literature that so disgust me as this trope, one that was overused massively by many writers in the 1960s through the early 1990s. This character is often a cynical Army officer who received wounds in the war and despises the SS and Gestapo. He is often a soldier and German first and never really a Nazi. I could go on at length, but you get the point. This concept is utter trash and an insult to the millions of men, women, and children who died at the hands of the Third Reich. By continuing the cliché, you are ignoring the death camps, bombings of cities and literally thousands of horrors of the Nazi regime. Please, please, please, stop it. Nazis are useful as villains but stop normalizing them in fiction. Millions died in World War Two and that must never be forgotten.

4. The Savior – In the worlds of fantasy and science fiction, this idea appeared quite often in the past. A hero or heroine is born with a birthmark, on a specific day, cursed by an evil witch…or one of hundreds of variations in this setup. The protagonist is reputed as the only person capable of defeating the evil and bringing happiness and light back into the world…sorry, threw up in my mouth a little. When you write this as the basis of your story, you are effectively pre-plotting the ending. It is rare, such as in the case of Harry Potter, that differences emerge, and an effective tale emerges. Often, this is lazy writing and your hero/heroine is now basically unkillable. Also, why is this the only answer in solving the many problems of your world? In our world there are billions of people. Are you really telling me a second person with your comet shaped birthmark or whatever never appeared? It just doesn’t fly anymore, and the readers deserve better.

5. Poor pastiches – I get it, you are dying for a chance to write Doc Savage, the Shadow, Batman, Millie the Model, or whoever, but you cannot afford the licensing fees. Therefore, you create your own and call her Mollie the Model and her sidekick Doc Ravage…are you beginning to see my point? Pastiches can be a true joy for the reader, a unique direction for a character. I have written a Doc Savage version, a pulp hero called Thunder Jim Wade, for example. The trick is in creating something different. If I want Doc Savage, I will pick up a Lester Dent or Will Murray novel from my collection. I don’t need a near clone called “Doc Metal, the Man of Gold” or whatever. Give the reader something different and unique. Use your imagination and expand the concept to something enjoyable we have not seen a thousand times in the past. The reader will appreciate your efforts and you will get a sense of accomplishment that a “Molly the Model” cannot grant you in this life.

And that, gentle readers, is ‘The Ugly’…


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, March 29, 2021

Motivational Monday: 10 Tips from Jordan Peele

 Note: I know this says specifically "screenwriting" tips, but a story is just a story, and I think this applies quite well to novels and short stories as well. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Great Poetry and Bob Dylan

There is no great religious poetry that does not raise – as
crucial to its 
enterprise – the question of whether it is open
to the 
charge of blasphemy, even as there is no great
erotic art that does not raise the question 
of whether
it is open to the charge of pornography.

– Christopher Ricks, Bob Dylan’s Vision of Sin

Saturday, March 27, 2021

[Link] Books and Those Who Read Them Are the Real Endangered Species

By Jeff Minick

In the February 2021 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Professor Mark Brennan declares, “My students look at me in amazement when I tell them I read 8 to 10 hours per day. I look at them in amazement when they tell me they play video games 16 hours straight.” Brennan then went on to wonder if his book reading habits qualify him for “endangered species” status.

Two weeks after I read these words, my sister, her husband, and my friend John came to celebrate my birthday with me. All of us are over 60 years old.

During the several days that they were here, I offered them a DVD player and some movies I own for their amusement, but they rebuffed me each time, saying they preferred to read the books they’d brought with them or something from my personal library. For three to five hours every day of their visit, they sat with a book in hand, absorbed and whisked away by the story. When I passed through the room while they were reading, I realized once again that few sights move me more deeply than a human being engrossed in a book.

But are readers like these becoming “an endangered species?”

Maybe not endangered, but the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has reported our reading habits are waning.

Read the full article:

Friday, March 26, 2021



Return to the City of Ashes . . . and prepare for War! Pro Se Productions proudly announces author Kimberly Richardson’s next chapter in her groundbreaking trilogy.  ORDER OF THE BLACK SILK TWO: THE COMING OF WAR is now available in print and digital formats from the author’s imprint KIMBERLY RICHARDSON’S PULP GOTHIC!

“It’s not often,” says Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Productions Editor in Chief, “that a Publisher gets the chance to handle the introduction of a new subgenre to readers. Pro Se was privileged to do that when we released Kimberly’s first book in this trilogy, ORDER OF THE BLACK SILK. Her blending of horror, gothic tropes, fantasy, and straight up super heroics makes this series one of the most innovative tales out there. And she doesn’t hold back on taking to a whole other level in THE COMING OF WAR, not even a little!”

Now that sisters Famine and Pestilence are prisoners of their elder brother, Death, their brother War has decided to wreak havoc upon Cinis. The Order of the Black Silk, the five former generals of Pestilence, prepare themselves for what will be an ordeal unlike any they have ever encountered!

Hidden truths shall be revealed, an old romance blossoms once more, and a man becomes a hero of the Dead!

Order of the Black Silk II: The Coming of War is the second book in the Black Silk Trilogy by Kimberly B. Richardson. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a haunting cover from Jason Wren and cover design and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, ORDER OF THE BLACK SILK TWO: THE COMING OF WAR is available in print at for $7.99.

The second book in this amazing trilogy 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, March 25, 2021

Mike Bullock: Writing the Thousand Words (and more)

My first encounter with Mike Bullock was his wonderful fantasy comic book Lions, Tigers, and Bears. But it's time to discover what he's been up to lately. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My first full-length sword & sorcery novel, Runemaster: Shield Maiden's Blade just dropped from Airship 27. It's been a long time coming and was so much fun to complete, it's almost surreal to have copies on my desk finally. Ron Fortier approached me about doing a book for Airship back in 2010 and soon after I started and wrote the first 10,000 words for the book. Well, life got in the way and I wasn't able to write the final 50k words until last Fall. 

The story follows Skarl Kirwall, born during the Last Great War, he was destined to lead his clan as the next Runemaster. Betrayed by a clansman, Skarl is banished from his village, only to learn of its destruction at the hands of their bitter enemies, the Ysling clan. Mourning his father’s death, he discovers his beloved Lacina is still alive, but taken by the bloodthirsty Yslings as a sacrifice to their god, Ysfang, the world serpent. Now, Skarl must pursue his lost love across the frozen wastes of Njordica and save her from the slathering jaws of the serpent god and in the process, take his rightful place as the next Runemaster.

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

As a kid, I was raised with my brother and two cousins until I hit elementary school. The three of them all got into drawing when I was four years old, but try as I might I could not draw a recognizable stick figure. One morning, I complained to my aunt that they were all drawing and I couldn't and she told me "Well, they say a picture's worth a thousand words, so if you can't draw the picture you better learn to write the thousand words." I took that at face value and went back in the other room and wrote my first story, with exactly one thousand words. (haha) The rest is history. 

What inspires you to write?

Anything imaginative. I think imagination is its own fuel, so when I see something creative, it sparks a fire in me. Going back to my childhood, as I grew older through the elementary and high school years, I spent a lot of time alone. Left to my own devices, back in the days when kids didn't have a million options for entertainment like they do now, I was forced to dream up ways to entertain myself. From creating games, to imagining far off worlds, conjuring new characters, places and conflicts just became something I did, spurred on by an intense fear of boredom. 

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

Personal loss and broken families seem to come up a lot...

What would be your dream project?

Honestly, while I love a lot of IPs created by others (John Carter, Conan, Batman, Moon Knight, Silver Surfer, ROM, Micronauts, Star Wars, etc...) my dream revolves around having my own version of something like Pixar, where I could create all sorts of things and bring them to life with unlimited resources. Taking my Lions, Tigers and Bears graphic novel series to the big and small screens, seeing Runemaster done as a video game, just having the ability to tell fantastical stories in a wide variety of mediums. 

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard had the biggest impact on my pulp writing, while the old Rankin/Bass stop motion movies of the 60s and 70s inspired my all-ages writing. There are also particular books that hooked me and stuck with me over the years, such as The Phantom Tollbooth and the Flash Gordon book series from ACE in the 70s. 

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

I took a shot at re-imagining the Black Bat over at Moonstone Books years ago and the existing fan base didn't much care for it. In hindsight, I think we should have established the original character in the Moonstone pulp universe first, then brought the re-imagined version in later on. Sort of eased folks into it instead of driving it right out of the gate. 

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

While there's certainly a scientific craft to it, but I think it's more art, for sure. You can hit all the scientific marks of great storytelling and not invoke feelings in the reader. Conversely, a total hot mess of structure/theory can still trigger an emotional response. This is why you hear the word "lifeless" used to describe stories occasionally in reviews. A story is worthless if it doesn't make the reader feel something. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Landing the plane. I'll often psyche myself out with the ending of a tale, thinking it has to be a mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting, life-altering revelation. In reality, it just has to be a satisfying conclusion to the tensions created in the story. 

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

A big part of it is inspiration. Guys like Joe Gentile, Bobby Nash, Barry Reese, Ron Marz, JM DeMatteis and others have all inspired me to no end with their work, but also poured wisdom, knowledge and encouragement into me over the years to help make my work better. I wouldn't be the writer I am without those guys and their inspiration and advice. 

What does literary success look like to you?

Having the work enjoyed by the audience. To clarify, I don't create to please anyone but myself - I write stories (and songs) I want to read (and hear). However, when I do that and others enjoy it too, then it feels like I did my job well. 

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I'm working on a handful of things for Moonstone at the moment, including a dream gig with a well established property. Just wrapped up the first story yesterday, as a matter of fact. Along with that, I completed a tale featuring Gladiator, Golden Amazon and my own character, Death Angel at the end of 2020. Coming up we're introducing a few more of my original characters, The Red Widow, Lady Judex and others as well. 

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: They Live Inside Us

This review contains serious spoilers near the end. You've been warned. 

This little new horror gem might not be everyone's cup of tea (or red dyed corn syrup) but it's a pretty spry little thriller about widowed screenwriter Jake who feels all the ideas for good horror have been done to death and he therefore takes his daughter Dani to a famous haunted house (The Booth House) to get inspired for ideas for his new screenplay. That sounds like such a typical, paint by numbers horror movie, but trust me, this one says a lot more than just slash, stab, slash. It's also a feature film the director made based on a previous short (with the same title) he had created for his anthology The Witching Season.

The first lesson for writers in They Live Inside Us is that we all fear facing that empty page. When the ideas all seem done before and nothing is flowing, all that white space (either on screen on on actual paper) can be daunting. Jake fights that by having a notebook of movie monsters to stimulate ideas and what-ifs to at least get him writing. Some of us have notebooks of starting points and previous ideas and even sentence prompts, but having SOMETHING handy never hurts. 

The second lesson is that grief can affect your writing, and that's okay. Let it do its work in  you. I've covered grief for writers in my review of Shadowlands, so I won't repeat that here. (Just click the link to read that review.)

Next we cover what I feel is the main point of this awesome little film. As writers, we write what we want. Not we write what we want to, but we write what it is we actually want to either possess or to experience somewhere deep within us. Each one of Jake's potential plots feature a desperate woman who has lost her child, frantically running from various horror movie cliché killers (clowns, masked psychos, supernatural scarecrows, etc.). In the end, the woman is revealed to be his lost wife, and his child is revealed to be lost as well. Jake himself is revealed to be a ghost as well, going through his own loop of purgatory, and his plots are revealing the yearnings of his heart. 

He wants his family back together again, but he can't see them rightly because his own spirit isn't ready to face the truth yet. I won't reveal what that truth is (I'll save one spoiler left for you to discover on your own). 

Finally, I think the title, while taken at face value absolutely refers to the fact that the ghosts live inside the house, also doubles as a description of Jake the writer -- just as the ghosts of him, his wife, and his child live inside the Booth House, the stories that help him discover who he is and what he's ultimately looking for also live inside him. Fancy, deep stuff for an indie ghost story indeed. 

As a horror thriller, this one hits on all cylinders, and as a movie for writers, it's works very well too and packs a lot of punch. I'd highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

New and Classic: The Pulp Conundrum

New Pulp is a term accepted/embraced  by lots of writers today, from Chuck Wendig to Adam Christopher, and among the new publishers that identify with that marketing/genre terminology. But what does it mean? This week on the blog, we go straight to the sources to find out how the classic and the new compare.

Other than the one being old and the other being new (in terms of the historical timeline), what are the chief differences between classic pulp and New Pulp?

Gordon Dymowski: I think the main difference between "classic" Pulp and new Pulp is perspective. Many classic Pulp tales were written specifically for immediate publication and reflected the values of their times. New Pulp, however, manages to reflect current values while staying true to the original spirit of classic Pulp. It also helps that New Pulp tends to be better written and edited, and can incorporate influences that were not available back in the classic Pulp era. We have a more complex understanding of certain issues and tropes when writing (gender representation, racial stereotypes, and others).

Gary Phillips: To be brief, New Pulp certainly has switched up the POV. People of Color in the background are now in the foreground. Too, more women are in the Pat Savage mold. Also more inclusive of actual events from then. 

Ron Fortier: The truth of the matter is 90 percent of Old Pulp was badly written. Not that we still don't love it, but the fact remains the majority of people before the 1040s only had a grade school education at best. Their knowledge of literature and grammar was limited and when pulps first burst onto the scene by the mid-20s, the editor's primary job was to fill pages and to that end they accepted whatever was sent to them. Period. Thus the dreg and why a pencil salesman named Edgar Rice Burroughs could read an issue of "Argosy" and say it was junk and "I can write better than this." Today we live an overly educated society, whether that is a good or bad thing is not for me to say. But what I do realize is that writing today, across the board is a hell of a lot better and even the weakest amateur at it can outshine what was done in the past. So New Pulp is elevated prose by all standards and it shows in the remarkable talents who write it today. 

Nancy Hansen: To me what New Pulp means is stories told in the fast paced and adventuresome manner as the classic era pulps, but with an eye toward the current reading market's larger diversity and some sensitivity toward being more inclusive.  

Sean Taylor: The coolest part of New Pulp for me is that I can have the freedom to be a little more "literary" than the original pulp writers had license to be. I get to actually use the full writers toolbox with real characterization and more than the two-dimensional good guys in white hats (or black fedoras) that were so popular at the time. Also, I can flex my symbolism muscles a little from time to time and play around with things like POV. I don't think that's a limitation of those earlier writers' abilities for the most part (though maybe for a rare few just like for a few New Pulpers too -- that's just the nature of the beast) but instead I think it's a facet of the changing audience for pulp action stories. Readers are used to and expect a deeper story than "Black Bat shoots gang leader." Again, not that those stories aren't fun -- they just aren't what most modern readers are looking for anymore.

Not only that, but as Gary and Gordon mentioned, New Pulp isn't trapped by the same cultural mores and values, and that means New Pulp stories can look into the darker shadows of pulp storytelling  and  previously ignored cultures within pulp pages to say something a little deeper and a lot more enlightened. 

What are the commonalities between them?

Gary Phillips: I'd venture the commonality is still derring-do and larger than life characters.

Nancy Hansen: The big commonalities are in the pacing of the stories with the emphasis on action/adventure and the genres that make that work. The major difference besides the more inclusive atmosphere of characters from diverse backgrounds are that the characters are often more fleshed out. At least that's my take on it. 

Ron Fortier: Those are the set pieces required in any story to be called pulp and that means tons of action/adventure, colorful heroes, dastardly villains, exotic locales. That is evidence in the fact that pulp writers like Max Allan Collins, Stephen King and the late Clive Cussler can make the NYT bestseller lists time after time. Why, because today New Pulp is great story telling and finally accepted by the literary community, not only the masses back in the day.

Sean Taylor:
What's that saying? The more things change... That's certainly true for pulp style storytelling. Both classic and new are more direct narratively, more focused on action, and start with caricatures and stereotypes for their broad stroke story beats. And there's still that some of "slam-bang" delivery that doesn't spend pages on what the mountains look like. (I'm looking at you Tolkien.) And the characters are still going to be initially based on stereotypes -- at least before the New Pulp writer either starts to adapt that stereotype with characterization.

Gordon Dymowski: Both have a strong sense of narrative drive with short, punchy sentences. They also share an emotional immediacy and *drive* (it's hard *not* to get caught up in a story) with vivid characters and higher stakes. Although both types of Pulp can sometimes strive towards more literary efforts, both use down-to-earth language to tell their stories.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

[Link] Author Patti Callahan Henry Talks About Having that Lightbulb Moment—and Doing Something About It

Several years ago, I sat down at my desk with an idea for a novel. I had heard about a shipwreck that happened years ago off the coast of North Carolina, and I was intrigued by its story. I learned that on a balmy June morning in 1838, the luxury steamship Pulaski set sail from Savannah, Ga., with a promise of only one night at sea until they reached the North.

But we all know that life can be irrevocably altered in an instant, and for those passengers it was. The elegant ship exploded in the middle of the night, taking 128 passengers and crew members with it to the bottom of the sea.

They called it “the Titanic of the South.”

My interest was piqued. But I also had my doubts. Was this my story to tell? Was it my time to tell it? Was the fate of the passengers tied into my own fate to write about them?

We do this a lot, don’t we? We approach things and wonder, “Is this meant to be? Should I invest my life and time to this?” We step close and then back away and then peek at it again. We look for signs, wondering if fate has something in store for us or if we should walk away.

I was curious enough to at least get started on the novel. I began my research, played around with an outline of the disastrous night and kept my eye out for the story that would take me into the untold parts of the ship’s history.

But still, I was stuck, feeling as lost as the ship itself as I waited for some sort of indication that I was on the right path.

Read the full article:

Friday, March 19, 2021

Airship 27 Productions Presents The Incunabulum of Sherlock Holmes

In 2009 Airship 27 Production launched its series of brand new Sherlock Holmes adventures titled “Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective.” Among the contributors was a British writer named I.A. Watson. Considered a good omen by the publishers to have Watson on board, that first volume became a huge success; as did the subsequent sequels.

In the past 12 years I.A. Watson’s Holmes tales have appeared in dozens of anthologies with various publishers much to delight of his fans. He is well versed in the original Conan Doyle Canon and his stories are magnificently annotated. 

In this new collection aptly called The Incunabulum of Sherlock Holmes, I.A. Watson delivers six imaginative stories exploring the many facets of the Great Detective and his loyal companion. Each is a rare gem chronicled by a master storyteller. We advise you make yourself comfortable, brew some tea and get ready for a wonderful reading experience as only a Watson can provide. Yes, dear readers, once again, the game is afoot.

Art and book design by Pulp Factory Award winning artist Rob Davis.


Available now from Amazon in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The ABC (Plots) of Ongoing Storytelling

Writing an ongoing story is a different animal than writing a stand-alone novel or short story. And it's not as simple as "What's the next big story?" How do you keep your whole cast of characters involved, including supporting cast? How do you build up to new stories without just pulling them out of the air? And how do you keep readers wanting to stick with every new story, whether novel in a series, comic book issue, or sequence of short stories? 

Well, it's as difficult at ABC. 

Wait, don't I mean as easy as ABC? Oh, I wish I did. 

This is one of the toughest lessons any writer can devote himself, herself, or themself to. This is the kind of narrative goodness that keeps a series from being one stand-alone after the other that allows readers to skip out on a few steps (losing you cash from book and comic sales). This is the art part that makes readers have to stick around for the long haul. 

The best ongoing narratives have done this well for years without every showing off the mechanics off it. (Perhaps that's why so many folks are unaware of this type of storytelling, because it was so invisible to the reader/viewer.)

Soap operas. 

Yes, those soap operas. 

But we'll get in to that shortly. Let's get to a few definitions for now:

A Plot -- your main narrative story for the current book or issue or episode

B Plot -- the secondary, just below the surface plot that can and should complicate the A Plot (and in some cases become the new A Plot for the next book or issue or episode)

C Plot -- the more subtle, often reserved for the support cast story that can keep your minor characters busy will still having some bearing on future A Plots or even interactions with the current A Plot. 

Got those definitions? Good. Let's get down to brass tacks. 

Do I really need B and C Plots?

The simple answer is no, you don't. James Bond has gone on for years without B and C Plots that unify the series. So have pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow. 

But, more and more, contemporary series are looking to unify their novels with multi-layered plots that form the glue between books. (Look no further than the ongoing romance between Hermione and Ron in Harry Potter or the build up to the season finale in shows like Wayward Pines and In the Dark. And if you're looking to write an ongoing comic, then it's a skill you'll definitely need to master. (Peter David's legendary run on Hulk and Aquaman are prime examples of this kind of storytelling done super-effectively.)

A typical example from the past has been to let the B plot graduate to the next A plot when that one resolves (for example, at the end of the novel or comic book issue or arc). Then the C plot graduates to a new B plot. And finally a new C plot is introduced. 

For example, P.I. Samantha finds the killer (A plot), but her new lover (B plot) is found beside a dead body, and she must determine and prove her innocence. Meanwhile, that pesky noise she heard on her phone line (C plot) does indeed turn out to be a wire tap that she must look into while trying to save her lover. And so on and so forth. 

But, as I said, that's just the typical pattern of the past. Many modern writers are switching up this paint by numbers formula by doing all kinds of cool change-ups. 

  • Letting the C plot skip the B plot and letting the B plot simmer for another issue, arc, or novel.
  • Having the C plot resolve along with the A plot and introducing a new one for the next story. 
  • Bumping the B down to a C to create a sort of "plot red herring." 

However, a failure to be consciously aware of and intentionally working your varying plot levels can and will cause your stories to seem disjointed, linked only by a consistency of character, but not story. That doesn't mean your books won't sell -- look no further than 007 or thousands of pages of pulp stories. 

But, if you want to give your readers a special reason to keep reading, it's perhaps best not to expect to come fresh each time. A caveat, just like with classic comic writing, you'll need to be able recap in a subtle way to bring new readers up to date, but if you can do that while giving your ongoing readers an enhanced story experience, then that's a win-win for both you and the regular reader. 

A strong example of this is Kim Harrison's The Hollows series. The romantic subplots weave from novel to novel, and characters who were allies can become enemies and back again. Any reader can begin with any novel, but the reader who began at the first will have a deeper immersive experience into the lives of the character her, she, or they have come to know (and maybe even love).

What if I'm not the only writer on a series?

Well, I'm glad you asked. That's when a strong story bible comes into play. My best stories written for others have been those properties that provided a detailed story bible for me to build from. 

A detailed story bible includes (at the very least):

  • the biographical history and likes dislikes of the main character
  • the biographical history and likes/dislikes of the key secondary characters
  • a cursory look at the history of the tertiary characters as it pertains to the main character (and possible key secondary characters)
  • key regular locations and how they relate to the key characters
  • any ongoing relationship entanglements, romantic or platonic
  • any ongoing traumas or issues in the lives of the main and key secondary characters for contributing writers to build from

Now, that's just a start. And to be fair, I've received story bibles with all this and much more than I would ever need, but I've also received story bibles with hardly anything I really needed other than a description of the character and choice or weapons. 

But, hopefully, can see how a detailed story bible can help keep all contributing writers working together to tell the same ongoing story instead of separate, unrelated "Elsewords" tales. 

So, don't be afraid to ask for a story bible. And be a bit leary of anyone who doesn't have one handy (unless there is already a strong body of work to show off this info). 

Examples from my work 

Rather than just talking out of my... um, hat, I'll provide few examples from my own stories. 

When I wrote for Lance Star Sky Ranger 4, it was a character I didn't not know or own, so I grew dependent on the info I could get from Bobby Nash, who owned the character. Thankfully, Bobby provided lots of detailed story info, and was open to me bringing in new elements into the work. He allowed me to introduce a femme fatale into Lance's narrative, and each story I've written with Lance, I've included her because they have an ongoing story together the other writers can also reference. Each story builds on the subplot introduced in the first story where I make it clear that she has her eyes set on Lance. Eventually, Monique San Diablo's grandchild will feature in some of the new contemporary based stories I'm working on. 

Rick Ruby of The Ruby Files has one of the most detailed story bibles I've ever put together, because Rick's world is so "nexus-y." He is the intersecting point of so many worlds that it required more detail to keep it straight. In that story bible, Bobby Nash (Rick's co-creator) and I outlined his relationships with the four women in his life (an informant, a society girl trying to get him to settle down, his secretary, and his true love than can never be thanks to race relations in the 1930s), and his past with the police and those on the other side of the law. That way, each writer who has fully read the story bible can come in anywhere and build on those stories. On way Bobby and I keep those stories fluid but locked is by (1) only allowing the two of us to make major changes and (2) keeping the story bible updated as significant changes occur.

Fishnet Angel is the closest prose example to ongoing comic book scripting I have (other than my actual comic book scripting of course). In her first story, I introduce Andi (FA's girlfriend). When Mark has to become Fishnet Angel in order to save her, the real story begins. In the second Fishnet Angel tale, Mark (now Marcia) and Andi are having some issues, and he's tired of being treated like the super heroine he now is. Letting that build from an C-plot to and B-plot occurs in the third story, where Fishnet Angel is captured by a villain and must determine how to save Andi again in spite of their clearly crumbling relationship. To fulfill a prophecy, the hero discovers that she is pregnant by a fellow deity from the time she was kidnapped. The next story jumps to the future where FA is visiting a former friend turned priest to get some kind of closure and determine who he/she is now after all this. The next story jumps to the future, after she has given her child to Andi and her new husband to raise as their own in order to prevent the prophecy from coming true. Rife and B and C plots, I tell you. 

Putting it all together

Let's put all this into practice in a real world example. We'll make a quick, little "Mad Libs" here to help us:

Book One

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Jeannie Davenport, a retired investigative journalist

Regular Cast: Doug Davenport, her ex-husband; Granger Hoffner, her "assistant" helping her re-organize all the mess left over after the divorce; Sophia Albright, her grand-daughter who is pursuing her own career in journalism

A-Plot: Granger finds the dead body of his landlord in his apartment and needs Jeannie's help to prove his innocence. 

B-Plot: Doug is ramping up a new lawsuit to get more money since she was always the primary breadwinner in their family. 

C-Plot: Sophia thinks there's something creepy at her college with the trustees in charge of scholarship funding. 

Obviously the bulk of the plot and the action will be centered around Jeannie looking for clues and trying to prove Granger's innocence and find the real killer. In the middle of all that, once the killer finds out she's onto him/her/they, he/she/they begin to target Jeannie and those near her. 

While all this is going on, Jeannie gets called into her attorney's office to learn that Doug is opening a suit to get more money from her. He's not happy with the settlement as is. This further complicates her life and add even more stress to her as a target. 

Meanwhile, just every now and then, we see small conversations between Sophia and and Jeannie where Sophia is asking for advice about how to proceed to look into improprieties regarding scholarship mismanagement. 

In the end, Jeannie solves the mystery. The true killer is revealed, and everyone is safe. But, it looks like Doug's case is stronger than Jeannie could have guessed, and she could be looking at a large loss. 

Book Two

Regular Cast: Introducing Brad Trent, Sophia's new boyfriend from college

A-Plot: While at court for a pre-hearing on the suit, Jeannie runs into a friend who is working for the opposing attorney. Two days later, the friend is found dead. Her lover wants to get Jeannie to look into the murder because she thinks someone at the law firm did it. But she must remain secretive or it could affect her defense if it is learned she's investigating the opposing firm for murder.

B-Plot: Sophia enlists the aid of her new boyfriend, Brad, who is at college on a basketball scholarship. Brad agrees to help her. 

C-Plot: Doug learns he has cancer and must soon enter chemo. 

Obviously the bulk of the plot will be Jeannie, Granger, and Sophia sneaking around to look for clues and keep anyone from finding out. But the more Sophia and Brad look into the scholarship mishandling, the more it looks like someone is using the funds to launder money. Meanwhile, Doug's sickness is causing him to reconsider his anger toward Jeannie because he will need her since she's still the closest "family" he has. 

Jeannie solves the crime. The court case about the divorce is pushed until after Doug's chemo. But Brad and Sophia have started to receive threats. Doug has his first chemo with Jeannie (she's a saint, I tell you) by his side. 

Book Three

The former C-Plot from Book 1 finally graduates. Brad is run off the road and lies in a coma. Jeannie, Sophia, and Granger believe it was attempted murder and investigate. Doug's chemo makes him rely on Jeannie even more, and the two feel they are becoming close again (though she fears it's just his weakness and need for her). 

And so on, and so forth. But you get the point. 

Got it?

There you have it, but as I said at the beginning, it's not easy -- it's difficult. It's difficult because these aren't just plug and play subplots. Your readers will see anything that doesn't feel important quicker than you can write it, and they'll wonder why you're ignoring the real story of your novel, comic, or series of novellas. And you'll also have to make it feel natural in the scope of the main story. It's a great way to give your minor cast members something crucial to do before the B or C plots actually find your main character(s). 

I've long said that writing and storytelling is more art than science, and it's just these kind of skills that have convinced me of that. But never fear. With practice and with reading authors who manage their subplots well, keep at it and you'll be a master of that art before you know it. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Authors Anonymous

I really wasn't expecting a lot from this flick. It wasn't any of the actors or even the plot synopsis. It was the whole idea of doing a comedy about a writers group without resorting to overdrawn caricatures. 

Luckily, as close as this actually gets to that kind of portrayal, it luckily just manages to just avoid it. 

But, we're all here to see what this movie says about the writing life. And those lessons are plentiful. 

The primary takeaway from this flick concerns writers groups. I've been in several and the stereotypes are all there: the diva, the "serious" artiste, the wannabe, the all talk, etc. It also covers, in detail (as part of the main plot) the jealousy that happens in such a group as one or others find success and the tendency for others to try to ride the successful member(s) coattails. I too have experienced this on both sides, having folks ride mine while I was writing for Gene Simmons and being jealous of the success of good friends whose success surpassed mine when that gig ended. The best way to avoid this, in my experience, is to build a better network that extends beyond just the members of your writers group. 

As pertinent as that message is in this film, the one that really hit home for me is about the nature of actually getting published. This movie demonstrates three key points almost perfectly in spite of the wink-and-a-nod, laugh-track type of humor. They are thus:

  1. It takes more than mere talent. You also need a network and the diligence to put in the work (see next point).

  2. Nothing happens until you put words on paper. (Or in a digital file.) You could be the finest author alive but you'll never get published until you have something to show to an agent or a company rep. 

  3. There are multiple paths to getting published, ranging from self-pubbing to agents to the big pubbers. And all are valid, though the payment and prestige will differ among them. 

The final point I picked up from this flick is perhaps the most important for writers. There are different approaches to putting words into stories. You can be a lit major and have an amazing academic understanding of the art form and the masters of it. Or you could conversely be a more experiential writer who pulls from personal experience and couldn't name a single O. Henry award winner without looking it up on Google. 

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, the goals tend to be the same -- get out of your head. Don't psyche yourself up without putting in the work. Don't psyche yourself out so you doubt yourself and develop imposter syndrome. Don't psyche yourself out by demanding perfection. Just get out of you head and tell your damn story. 

So, I guess I liked this little writer's group mockumentary a good bit more than I thought, huh? 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Why Do You Write... Horror?

Just one question this week, folks. And it's for the horror writers.

Why Do You Write... Horror?

Nikki Nelson-Hicks:

I have a theory that writers write because they subconsciously want to save...or kill...someone over and over again. As for me, horror gives me a way to not only be an agent of Nemesis and give justice to people who are wronged but it also gives me the opportunity to see the crime from the other side when I dive into the antagonist's POV. While this makes me more empathetic, it doesn't do much for my anxiety.

Also, it's just a lot of fun. I love monsters and ghost stories.

Nicole Givens Kurtz:

I write horror to engage in stories and emotions that are often viewed as negative when displayed in real life. Horror gives me permission to be angry, to be vengeful and to be afraid. When I write horror, I am free to run the gambit of emotions without fear of reproach. Writing horror for me is freedom to be truly creative.

Selah Janel:

I think it’s natural to seek a catharsis that we might not get in real life, especially during times of stress and chaos. It doesn’t even have to have a happy ending - being able to immerse myself in a story where I control the outcome and can explore terrifying possibilities is a powerful position to be in. I’ve always been intrigued by the fear and intrigue that warred inside me any time I read or watched something in the horror genre. As a kid, it freaked me out, but as an adult there’s a certain freedom in being able to toy with plot elements that delve into the darker parts of the psyche. With so many sub genres, there’s a lot of fun to be had and a lot of topics to explore. Horror naturally puts a reader in a point of view situation, so there’s also the chance to explore empathy for people who aren’t in my situation. There’s a lot of freedom in the horror genre and sub genres, and a lot of power over terrible things in a controlled environment.

Bill Craig:

For me, turning to the horror genre was a natural extension from writing mysteries. There are many ways to explore the supernatural and the various forms of race/species available in those things that go bump in the night.

Sean Taylor:

I write horror for the same reasons I write super heroes. I write horror for the same reasons I write new pulp. It's all about finding the right story to put my characters through hell.

Horror has always been, at least for me, a way of pushing my characters. I believe that the best way to create a compelling story is to make your characters face the worst thing that can happen to them -- whether romantically, philosophically, emotionally, or physically. That's why for me the best horror has always had more at stake than mere death or dismemberment or gore. It operates on a deeper level at a higher kind of loss. Losing to the spirit, zombie, creature, etc. must always mean losing something of the character's self -- a chance to make things right with someone, the opportunity to finally become someone important, that one last break to talk to your parents before you die. If the only thing they have to lose is their lives, then ultimately (at least for horror stories) there's not enough at stake.

Ralph Wheat:

I enjoy writing horror for the simple fact I like to scare myself and others. Creating characters is fun and intriguing. Breathing life into beings that came from my demented mind, a story from stray thoughts, interesting stories I happen to click to on tv, cable, or an article in the paper ( and yes, I still read those) and a germ of a idea germinated into a spark for a short story. As a matter of fact, an idea I was ruminating about lately, brightened to a fiery glow of creative fire as I riding in a car by a cemetery. Suddenly, I had the framework for a terrifying horror story. I wanted to do for my character, Malcolm Hellbourne, Occult Detective. I've written a few short stories with him. First time I introduced him to a select few, is when in my technology school for computer programming had a school paper. They wanted the students to submit a story and I did. The students and faculty loved it. That's when I knew I could write. Then when I worked at the World Trade Center, before its tragic end, I put a couple of his shorts together and sold them on the Commodities Exchange's Floor for $2. I made $50 bucks! Also, I found myself elated, full of pride and respected. Here were grown men and women reading my stories, some of them acting out some of Malcolm's hand gestures to perform spells doing them in real-life. Brought a smile to my face. And many, saying they enjoyed very much, wanted more stories. Later, I found out since I sold my work, I was a published author. I finally, brought all the stories of Malcolm in one series and hopefully soon to get it published. So horror stories are good for the heart rate and keep you up late at night.

Robert Freese:

Why do I write horror? I write more than just horror, but with horror I feel a real connection. Horror movies were huge when I was a kid and I just gravitated toward them. Fangoria magazine opened a world of horror movies as well as horror novels. At the time, Stephen King was insanely popular, but I read guys like John Russo, Richard Laymon, Gary Brandner, Guy Smith, James Herbert. Horror is like the coolest club to belong to.  I am currently writing a new horror novel and I'm having a ball. I get to revisit a wonderful world where anything can happen. I don't want to explore man's heart of darkness or any of that jazz. I enjoy writing what I call "drive-in horror," horror stories that works like a Roger Corman drive-in horror movie. You can use a horror story to tell a bigger story, give the characters real depth. I also see it as a challenge to use words like magic tricks. Robert Bloch did that with his twist endings. How can you seem to show something to your reader and then flip it and give them a little jolt? I love that. When I write other stuff I tend to always write one character who is a fan of horror movies and novels, just so I can still play in that world a bit. I think at this point it's in my blood.

Bobby Nash:
I like to do the spooky from time to time. It's fun writing scares.

DK Perlmutter:

In my case, it's to follow the advice of my idol of G.K. Chesterton, who said the purpose of fairy tales was not to tell people that dragons exist, but that they could be killed.

Daniel Emery Taylor: 

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.

James Quinn: 

I wouldn’t consider myself a horror writer to anyone’s imagination, but not because I don’t like horror I just don’t want to put into a genre-box that many writers like Stephen King have struggled with. Had I been asked a few years ago about the horror genre, I’d say I wasn’t all that into it but considering all the horror movies I’ve enjoyed watching and the Stephen King titles I’ve read, I realized that I liked the genre more than I’m aware of. Why is horror so fascinating to me? 

To clear the air, I want to be fully honest and say I am not what most would consider a professional writer. I’ve just last year begun writing my first novel, I’ve only had 6 poems published on literary websites and literary journals, and I am currently running a geek-centered blog site of my own construction. I am by no means a “professional” on the status of most well-known and established authors. However, I do still write, and I am on the road to becoming what I would to imagine a…. black Harlan Ellison. A genre-fiction writer of the ages!

With that bit of honest professionalism out of the way for context, I do write continuously and the projects I’ve written so far that have been published and just written have been horror related. My first love is always going to be science-fiction, a genre that imagines humanities future in whatever good or bad form that takes, and my second is superhero comics. Is it possible to even have a third love? Horror, although I don’t speak on it all the time has always creeped up in my work so far. The first short story that I ever tried to professionally publish was a horror story about a woman being haunted by the spirit of her dead daughter in hell. The first poem I had ever gotten published is called “Smoke-Town Zombies” and is about a shy black kid that slowly decays mentally and physically into a zombie. Even the first script I had written was based on that previously mentioned horror poem. In November of 2020, I had started working on my first novel which is going to be a horror story. Despite considering horror a third favorite genre, I’ve certainly found myself coming back to the genre time after time. 

Why do I write horror? Why do I write science fiction sometimes? Science fiction is a genre I look to envision a future for myself and the world around me. The future might be taken over by robots, or we might be enslaved by an alien race in the future, but there’s still a future, nonetheless. Superhero comics are power fantasies that inspire me to envision better and more helpful versions of myself. But what about horror? Horror, as I consume it, investigates our darker halves and evil intentions so that we’re aware of the awful things we’re capable. The best horror fiction is always an exploration of our fears and how those fears shape into monsters or shape us into monsters. Fear is a driving force in all our lives, and it leads me into the driving force behind my fear: my identity. 

As a queer African American, I live in a country/world that is always working against me; that’s not to say that I specifically am facing any hardships currently, but as a race in this country it’s hard to not conclude that black bodies are always targets for hate.  I live in Louisville, Kentucky and when I had started writing my horror novel last year (currently we’re in the editing and re-structuring phase) we had several major protests during the summer concerning the murder of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department. Despite the angry chants, the protests, the looting downtown, the threats to destroy the city, despite the cries for justice against a woman that didn’t deserve to have her life taken away, Kentucky law opted to not arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor. To add insult to injury, Kentucky senate passed a bill that would make illegal for anyone to insult cops which was also met by protest. The state and the overall United States have made themselves clear about how they feel about black lives: they don’t care. By not arresting the cops that killed Breonna Taylor, Kentucky sent out the message that the police can come into any black person’s house, kill them, and not face any punishment for it. Not to mention the other countless black lives that have been lost the to the American Police force. America has always had black bodies in a state of fear, and even though I’m one of the few black people to be privileged enough so far to avoid these obstacles, but that’s not the reality for a lot of people that look like me or identify as I do.

The world is a horror story for black people, from our history down to the current events on the news through the African diaspora. Black bodies are always in a state of danger. When I write horror, I tend to write from this perspective. As a writer I believe fiction is the ultimate way for those to gain empathy and sympathy from people who are different from you; to gain a perspective one might not have previously had. It’s why I love writing and consuming fiction; it holds a mirror to us to reveal human truths. If I can make others understand the fear of black people through my horror stories, maybe others will understand why so many of us hate this country and want to dismantle it for a better one. Or at least I hope so.