Friday, April 30, 2021

YOUNGPULP! RETURNS ON SCALED WINGS! NANCY A. HANSEN’S ‘COMPANION DRAGONS TALES VOLUME FOUR: LAZLO AT HOME’ NOW AVAILABLE!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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 https://tinyurl.com/2tvvdd49 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 https://tinyurl.com/4eutsmu3

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com

Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

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:

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/contributor/author/john-leister/

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

PUBLIC DOMAIN CHARACTERS: A USER'S GUIDE -- YOU CAN TRY... BUT SHOULD YOU?

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

[Link] WHY CLASSIC CRIME FICTION WAS OBSESSED WITH FASHION

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: https://crimereads.com/why-classic-crime-fiction-was-obsessed-with-fashion/

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: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-pleasures-of-being-read-to?

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.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTION – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

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

PUBLIC DOMAIN CHARACTERS: A USER'S GUIDE -- IF YOU LIKE...

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: https://drpop.org/the-writers-collective-life/

Friday, April 16, 2021

SNOW SHORTS #3: A STRANGER CALLS BY NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

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 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091SCYWYS.

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.

ALSO STILL AVAILABLE:

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.

For more information, visit:

https://linktr.ee/demerytaylor

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers -- Hammett (Guest Review by Derrick Ferguson)

NOTE: I had been emailing with Derrick a little before his death about having him contribute some reviews for the Movie Reviews for Writers section of this blog, and sadly, those reviews will now never happen. I was able however to dig through his Ferguson Theater blog and find this gem to share with you. I have to tell you though, that opening line brought all the tears back. 

============================

I want you guys to do me a favor, okay? If sometime in the future, after I’m dead and gone and somebody, for whatever obscure reason wants to make a fictionalized movie about me and my adventures, make sure they watch HAMMETT first, okay? Because that’s exactly what I would want a fictionalized movie about me to be like.

HAMMETT tells you right from the start that it’s a fictionalized story about Dashiell Hammett, the writer who totally redefined the hard-boiled detective novel in America. He created Sam Spade, The Continental Op and Nick and Nora Charles. His Continental Op novel “Red Harvest” has been cited as the inspiration for movies such as “The Glass Key” “Yojimbo” “A Fistful of Dollars” and “Last Man Standing” as well as my own “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time.” Dashiell Hammett had the benefit of authenticity in his work, having actually worked for The Pinkerton National Detective Agency for about eight years. He claimed that the characters in his stories were all people he actually knew or encountered in his work as a detective. And during the course of the events of this movies we see where he got the inspiration for certain characters in his stories. We also get a damn good mystery yarn to boot.

But when we see Samuel Dashiell Hammett (Frederic Forrest) in this movie, he’s put his Pinkerton days behind him. Suffering from tuberculosis and alcoholism he’s living in San Francisco and has made a reputation for himself as a pulp writer of detective/thriller stories. One night after finishing a story he’s visited by his old Pinkerton partner James Francis Xavier Ryan (Peter Boyle) the guy who taught him everything he knew. Sam’s out of the game but Jimmy calls in an old marker and soon Sam Hammett finds himself helping Jimmy look for a Chinatown whore named Crystal Ling (Lydia Lei.) Jimmy made this out to be a simple missing person case but it’s far from that. Crystal Ling is also being hunted for by pornographic photographer Gary Salt (Jack Nance) and Chinatown ganglord Fong Wei Tau (Michael Tau.) And if that wasn’t enough Police Detective Lt. O’Mara (R.G. Armstrong) strongly suggests that Hammett forgets he ever heard the name Crystal Ling.

Sam would love to leave this whole dirty business alone but Jimmy has gone missing, along with the manuscript of his latest story. Assisted by librarian/sometimes girlfriend, the wonderfully named Kit Conger (Marilu Henner) and the cab driver Eli (Elisha Cook, Jr.) Hammett navigates the convoluted hidden government of San Francisco, run by The Cops, The Crooks and The Big Rich to find out what happened to Jimmy Ryan and the secret of Crystal Ling.

I cannot say enough about how much I love HAMMETT which to me successfully invokes the spirit of classic film noir from the 30’s and 40’s despite being a color movie. And most of it is due to to the outstanding performance of Frederic Forrest who should have won an Academy Award for Best Actor for this movie that year. There are so many touches of Humphrey Bogart in his performance…too many to name but if you watch the movie, you’ll see what I mean. It’s not an imitation, far from it. But you’ll have to see the movie to understand what I mean.

And it’s a writer’s movie in that we see how how in putting together this mystery, Hammett incorporates it into his fiction. We see surrealistic scenes where Hammett’s reality blends with his imagination that I could really identify with because it’s happened to me.

The supporting cast is outstanding with the exception of Marilu Henner who I put in the same class with Robin Givens. They’re actresses who everybody tells me are supposed to be sexy but to me work too hard at being sexy instead of just being sexy. Know what I mean? Lydia Lei is terrific as Crystal Ling and she has a scene with Frederic Forrest that ends up with her saying: “I did such wicked things” and you totally believe his response. David Patrick Kelly as a gunsel is reminiscent of the same character played by Elisha Cook Jr. in “The Maltese Falcon”

In fact, all of the characters in HAMMETT have echoes to characters we’ve seen in other movies based on this great writer’s works and in a way, that’s a large part of the enjoyment of HAMMETT. It’s one of my favorite movies and I’m betting that after you see it that it will be one of yours as well. Enjoy with my heartiest blessings.

Read the original post: https://derricklferguson.com/2012/12/06/hammett/

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Remembering Derrick Ferguson (In His Own Words)


==========================================================

The New Pulp community lost a hero on April 4, 2021. The New Pulp movement lost its soul on April 4, 2020. The independent genre writers world lost its heart on April 4, 2021.

I know it's all en vogue to all but raise writers to sainthood upon their death and rattle off accolades as if they were the second coming of Ray Bradbury incarnate. But trust me, all those are fair statements in regard to Derrick Ferguson.

I've long argued that (bear with me here for a moment) Isaac Asimov was the brains of sci-fi but that Ray Bradbury was its heart. In the same way, Derrick was the heart of the community of independent genre writers, and particularly that of New Pulp. But it wasn't just his writing that put him there and defined it. It was his sort of ambassadorship for the movement, bringing the unrelatable term to the masses with comparisons to movies and other forms or entertainment, his “get started” lists of 100 New Pulp books you need to read, and his action-adventure mindset in regard to everything from his movie reviews to his posts in the Usimi Dero group he ran on Facebook that brought so many like-minded fans together.

How do I know he was the heart? Because unlike other fan groups, Usimi Dero was always a place of positive interaction among so many divergent fans of comics, books, movies, games, etc.

Derrick was also a friend even though we really only every spoke via podcasts or email. We did so many interviews together, and we connected on a level of writer similarities that I often referred to him as my New Pulp brother. We saw New Pulp the same way, along with several other folks. It was a way to rescue action and adventure stories from the traps of the past—whether they were systemic racism in the portrayals, sloppy writing in the structure and plots, or cliched stereotyped that didn't go anywhere in the characterizations in the stories.

I loved that about him. I identified with him because of that. Whenever I had an editor or a publisher basically inform me to simplify it or just “let the hero be the hero,” I could always lean toward Derrick's shared vision for what New Pulp could become beyond the limitations of Classic Pulp.

But lest I wax poetic, I want to let Derrick speak for himself posthumously.

You see, Derrick was very active (in addition to his own prolific writing bench) in my Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action writing blog. So, the best way I could think to honor this patron saint of New Pulp and action-adventure storytelling is simply to go back through many of his comments he made as part of his own interviews or in roundtable interviews.

So, this is Derrick defining himself, his work, and his writing legacy.

May we all be so talented and respected and remembered.



On Becoming a Professional Writer

"I considered myself to be a real professional when I had people seeking me out and offering me money to write for them. I felt like I had turned a corner and had reached a level where people knew my name, had read my work and trusted me enough that they were willing to say; 'Hey, here's a chunk of change... come write something for me.'"


On Blogging

“I only post stuff on my blogs when I have something to say. I really don't see the reason to post stuff just to be posting stuff or to constantly promise readers that "There's some really BIG STUFF in the works!" I know that for me, as a reader, the fourth or fifth time you tell me that there's BIG STUFF in the works I yawn and go away. Wait until you can tell me what the BIG STUFF is and then post it. Most writers I know how a set day that they post every week but I'm just not that organized. Maybe if I were I'd have more books written.”


On New Pulp and Classic Pulp

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

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

“First of all, tell good stories with good characters. That’s the foundation of pulp fiction right there. People will want to read stories about heroic characters fighting impossible odds to do the right thing and protect the innocent no matter what their ethnic background is. Give people quality every time and everything else will follow. There are some people who are not going to read New Pulp no matter what and having heroes of color is not going to change their opinion or reading habits. And that’s okay. There’s a whole lot of other readers out there who will pick up a New Pulp book with interracial characters. And let me just say that New Pulp isn’t looking to replace or be superior to Classic Pulp. It’s an extension and an amplification of Classic Pulp. It’s no more and no less that the tropes of a genre updated for the consumption and entertainment of a modern day audience.”

“I would be blatantly lying if I didn't come right out of the gate and admit that with the creation of both Dillon and Fortune McCall I was actively looking to break new ground in new pulp and show why New Pulp was going to be different from Classic Pulp.”

On Genres and Low-Brow Entertainment

“Whenever I hear/read somebody complain about how they don't like labels and they don’t see why anything has to be labeled…tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re going to take all the labels off the canned foods in your local supermarket and let you guess what’s inside those cans the next time you go shopping.”

“Before I step up on my soapbox and start the pontificating, let me start of by saying that I don’t consider ‘throwaway writing’ to be a bad thing. Robert Heinlein is famous for saying that 90 percent of everything is crap. I think that 90 percent of entertainment is throwaway and disposable. Most people are really just looking for something to entertain and/or distract them from whatever is giving them the grumbles in their life. Of course, the creators of that entertainment hope and pray that it will live on after them. But I find it difficult to believe that the creators of Gomer Pyle, USMC expected or hoped that people would still be watching the show 50 years later.

“I don’t think writers have much of a problem coming up with original and creative protagonists for period piece detective fiction. At least not the ones I’ve read. I think it’s the readers of that particular genre (or any other for that matter) who don’t want the original and creative protagonists. I think the readers are expecting the Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe knock-off because that’s what they know and it’s as comfortable to slip into as those ten-year old jeans they won’t let their spouses throw out, no matter how ragged and holey they get.”

So what should writers avoid when crafting their protagonists? How about getting rid of the alcoholic ex-cop turned private dick still grieving over his marriage and ex-wife? This is one that infects not only period piece detective fiction but modern day detective fiction as well. How about a detective who is actually successful and makes money at his job? One of my favorite things about the “Chinatown” sequel “The Two Jakes” was seeing that Jake Gittes has prospered.


On First Drafts

“I don't a give a poobah's pizzle about any rule of editing or grammar when I'm writing that first draft. I'm telling the story to myself and just letting everything gush out in a white-hot blaze of pure storytelling. I never fix any errors right away. That's what the second and third drafts are for.”


On Creating Art

"You should always strive to tell the best story you can in the best way you can. What I am saying is that there’s madness in sitting down at your keyboard and pronouncing to the world ‘I am going to create art!’”


On Characterization

“Plenty of time characterization is done as my heroes are traveling in vehicles from Point A to Point B,” he says. “Let me provide you with an example from a popular movie: there’s a scene in the movie Silver Streak where Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor are in a stolen fire-engine red Jaguar racing to save Jill Clayburgh from Patrick McGoohan, and they’re exchanging what is some pretty meaningful dialog about their relationship, the situation they’re in and how they’re going to save Jill Clayburgh. It’s a nice scene with characterization but it’s done in a moving car that is taking them from one action scene to the next. The movie slows down to provide us with characterization but the actual plot doesn’t slow down and carries the promise that we’re going to see more action once to get to where we’re going.”

“Writers of pulp knew the secret of having genuine characterization in their work long ago. You can do characterization and have sparkling, meaningful dialog and solid supporting casts and all those things that literary fiction prides itself on in the most action-packed of stories. Here’s the catch: Don’t stop the action to do all that stuff. Let me clarify. Action doesn’t mean that you have to have constant fist-fights, explosions, cliffhangers, the heroes continually escaping fates worse than death or chases and captures. Although if you are writing pulp, I would certainly hope that you do have all that stuff in there. After all, what’s the point of writing pulp if you don’t? It’s like making a ham sandwich without the ham. But in pulp, the plot always has to be going forward. You simply cannot stop the thrust of the plot to indulge in a three page introspective passage when your heroine is supposed to be saving the world.”

“For me, a story begins and ends with character. If the characters aren't interesting and if what they're doing doesn't interest me I don't care how mind-blowing the ideas behind the story is. There are writers who can pull off an idea driven story and I've read many of those over the years but as a rule, those types of stories don't put the sugar in my coffee. I'm more drawn to character driven stories.”

“And the characters don't have to be likable In fact, I'm more intrigued when a writer can present me with an unlikable character and during the course of the story I grow to sympathize with him or her. My DIAMONDBACK novel; “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” was partially an exercise to see if I could write a novel length story where 99% percent of the characters were backstabbing, unrepentant cold-blooded bastards (especially the lead character) and still make them compelling characters you wanted to know more about and find out what happens to them.”

“That's why most of the time when you start to read a story of mine, I'll open with the character doing whatever it is he does best.”


On Sex In Writing

“Like so much else in my writing, I just tend to go with my gut when it comes to writing about sex. I'm not as good at describing sex as I am describing action so when I do have sex scenes I tend to keep them brief and to the point. In my Dillon stories and novels, I give the reader just enough to know that my boy is ready to get it on and then I cut away to the billowing curtains and the fireplace. In my "Madness of Frankenstein" novel and my current "Diamondback" serial running on my Patreon page, the sex scenes are a bit more graphic, nasty and brutal. But that's because I'm writing about nasty, brutal people and the nasty, brutal sex just seemed to fit.”


On Westerns

“See, here’s where I scratch my head when it comes to clichés. Say you write a western. Okay, you’ve got horses and six guns and Indian attacks and schoolmarms. Now is it fair when somebody reads your western and accuses your work of being cliché ridden? When you read in a certain genre, shouldn’t you expect certain tropes of that genre to make an appearance?”

“My love and appreciation of the Western came from my parents, especially my father. He would watch any and all Westerns that came on TV no matter who was in. And back then we only had one TV so if I didn't watch what my parents did, I just didn't watch TV. He didn't have a favorite Western star. He just loved all Westerns. He and I would watch Have Gun Will Travel, The Wild Wild West and Wanted: Dead Or Alive together and my very first grown up movie was The Wild Bunch, which I saw at the tender age of 10 and changed the course of my life forever.”

“What draws me to the Western as a creative person? My gut says it's because you can make a Western as simple or as complicated as you want and nobody will give you any shit about it. The Western is American mythology which is why it'll never go away. Myths just don't go away. They get changed, sure. In the 60's/70's/80's many of the tropes of the Western were adopted by police/crime thrillers and science fiction movies. But we always come back to the Western because there's a purity there, a stripping away of the bullshit that infects our society today and brings us back to basic, core beliefs, traditions and codes of behavior that we've lost but still long for.”


On Strong Villains in Fiction

“I always keep in mind that as far as the villain is concerned, HE'S the hero of his own story. To him he's got a perfect good and sound motivation for doing what he's doing. Even if he knows it's wrong, he thinks his reasons for doing it is right. Two of my favorite villains of all time are Fu Manchu and Doctor Doom. Both are men capable of hideous evil. But they also are men of honor and great benevolence toward their people. They are villains whose complexity springs from the core of their belief that the world would be much better off if they were ruling it. When I write my villains I try to remember that villains are people too. Well, some of 'em, anyway. I think a memorable villain should be as formidable and as resourceful as the hero if not even moreso. Nobody would have remembered St. George if he had slain a waterbug. No, he went out and slew a dragon. That's why James Bond villains such as Dr. No, Goldfinger and Ernst Stavro Blofeld were so memorable. They were all smarter than Bond, had way more money and resources and just by looking at the tale of the tape, Bond should have never stood a chance against them. But he took 'em all down. I think sometimes writers are afraid of making their villains too powerful, too charismatic or too intelligent for fear that they will take over the story or overshadow their hero. I say go for it! Maybe your hero will surprise you yourself at how he rises to the challenge!”

“I think at some point it has to be made clear to the reader exactly WHY the villain wants to take over the world or find the Ark of The Covenant or rob Fort Knox. Motivation is the key to any good villain...hell, any good character, period. Even the secondary characters have to have SOME motivation for why they're doing what they're doing. If the writer knows his characters well, their motivation can't help but come out in the story at some point because the character him or herself will literally demand that they be heard.”

On Diversity in Pulp and Comics

“I think it’s downright ignorant to deny that there is plenty of blatant racism and sexism in Classic Pulp and I’d never suggest that anyone who is coming to Classic Pulp for the first time shouldn’t be mindful of that. But I also think that one has to take into account that these stories were written in a less enlightened time and if you’re going to read Classic Pulp then that has to be taken into account.”

“Now some people say they can’t get past that and that’s cool. Some people honestly can’t separate like that. But I do have a problem when people suggest that Classic Pulp should not be read at all because of the racism and sexism. Classic Pulp isn’t just escapist literature. It’s also a historical record of the popular entertainment medium of that time period. You can’t ignore an entire genre or try to pretend it doesn’t exist because some of the depictions of race makes you uncomfortable or upset.”

“We can’t ignore the racism of the past but neither should we shoulder the burden of it. Those writers did their thing back then and writers of New Pulp are doing their thing today. The only thing we owe the culture at large today is to tell the most entertaining stories we possibly can and provide quality reading that won’t waste a reader’s time or money. That’s got to be first before any other consideration. Everything after that is gravy. That’s not to say if a writer intentionally wants to be more racially diverse in his work he can’t be. I mean, my character Dillon I created because the more I read Classic Pulp the more I felt that a black pulp hero was needed as there simply wasn’t one that I could find. And I tried. Couldn’t find one with a search warrant. But at the end of the day I should hope that people who discover Dillon and read his adventures do so first of all because he’s an interesting character who is living an extraordinary life. His being black adds an extra layer to his character, yes. But he’s got a whole lot of interesting layers as well that have nothing to do with his being black.”

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

“Race-based entertainment is nothing new and shouldn’t be treated as such. It grinds my grits to no end when race based entertainment is challenged. You have those who will make the argument that race based entertainment is in itself racist. Which is flat out bullshit. It’s not racist to want to see heroes and heroines of your own ethnic background in your entertainment whether it be books, movies, comics or television. Black cinema has been with us since the 1920’s. Movies made for black movie goers who went to black movie theaters to see them as they couldn’t go to white theaters. Same thing with Asian cinema. And I don’t see a thing wrong with New Pulp marketing to a specific ethnic group. Every other form of entertainment does it so why shouldn’t we? Especially modern day audiences that welcome and look for ethnic diversity in their entertainment.”


On Cynicism Toward Heroes

“What's holding them back is that we have a generation, possibly two that has grown up with the manufactured angst and drama that infests most comic books today. Like another genre, the daytime soap opera (which comic books actually have the most in common with) comic books are no longer a vehicle for telling interesting stories about interesting characters. Now they are simply vehicles for writers to demonstrate how much they hate superheroes.”

“What's the constant thing you see whenever a pulp hero is revived by DC or Marvel? It's that hated word that will appear in the first paragraph: "relatable." It's always stressed that the pulp hero is being made "human" so that readers will "relate" to him. We're talking about readers who have been raised on Spider-Man who lost more often than he won and spent just as much time agonizing over how he was going to pay the rent as he did worrying about how to beat The Green Goblin. And that's why Spider-Man has his fans because they relate to that. And that's okay. Me, I'd rather relate to Tony Stark who is the smartest guy in the world with his own warehouse of high-tech armor, buys a dozen Ferraris when he's in the mood and babes lined up outside his door since the week before. Or Thor or Superman. That probably says more about my ego than anything else but I digress.”

“My point is that comic book fans are conditioned to reading about characters who don't win no matter what they do. Spider-Man makes a deal with The Devil and his marriage is wiped from existence and those mothercussin' X-Men are still BMW-ing [editor's note: bitch, moan, and whine - it took me a minute too] about how humanity hates them and why can't we all get along and Wonder Woman is still figuring out who she is and what she's supposed to be doing. Because comic book readers think this constantly recycled soap opera crap is drama. But the classic pulp heroes weren't built along those lines and don't subscribe to a whiny "woe is me" philosophy.”

“So now, we give them Doc Savage. The most perfect example of humanity: the smartest and strongest guy on the planet who travels all over the world fighting the forces of evil with his five best pals. Should be simple to do that comic each and every month, right?”

“Nope. Because the comic book fans of today and even worse, the writers throw up that word; "relatable" They insist that a Doc Savage who is written as he's supposed to be written is no good to today's world because he's not "relatable" and he has no flaws and because the writers aren't good enough to work their skills to write Doc the way he's supposed to be written, they tear away everything that makes Doc and his world interesting and then they wonder why nobody wants to read the book.”

“The Shadow doesn't have that problem because he never gets watered down like Doc and The Avenger. After all, The Punisher and characters of his ilk are similar and The Shadow was there before all of them, performing .45 caliber lobotomies before they were born.”

“Me, I'm like Benjy Stone in My Favorite Year when he yells at Alan Swann that he can't use him life-sized; he doesn't need him life-sized. I'm that way with most of my heroes; I don't need them to be 'relatable.' I can't use a Doc Savage who worries about paying the rent or where his next meal is coming from. That's not what I read him for. Like Benjy, I need my heroes as big as I can get them. But not comic book fans. They're used to reading about heroes crushed by life and losing all the time. That why most pulp heroes don't work for them because that's not real to them.


On His Own Legacy

“I don’t know any other way to write a story other than to write it the way that I want to write it and then present it to the Readers At Large and let them make up their mind about what I wrote. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a very original or innovative writer. I also admit that I don’t spend a lot of time burning up my brain cells trying to figure out ways to be original or innovative. I’ve got friends who desperately want to write. Have wanted to write for years. But they haven’t because they refuse to write anything that’s isn’t “totally and completely original.”

“So let’s be honest here: unless you’re a literary genius (And hey, you may be. What do I know?) The chances of you telling a completely original and unique story are very slim. But by no means should that stop you from doing so. But what I am saying is don’t let that stand in your way of having fun telling the most entertaining stories that you can tell until that Thunderbolt of Zeus crashes into your brain and that literary masterpiece comes flowing out of you to amaze the world. You keep on writing. It’ll happen.”

“And the ability to entertain is not to be taken lightly. I don’t get emails of thanks often, but every so often I will get one from somebody who will thank me because they read something I wrote that transported them away from their problems for a couple of hours, and for me, that’s one of the highest compliments that I can be given.”