Sunday, May 30, 2021

[Link] SIMPLY COMPLICATED, OR WHY COMICS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM

by Eileen Gonzalez

“Sometimes, it’s nice to watch something simplistic,” a relative of mine remarked after we had rewatched The Harvey Girls, a 1946 movie musical starring Judy Garland. This comment caught me by surprise, because I didn’t view The Harvey Girls as simplistic at all. Its emphasis on marriage as a (good) woman’s ultimate goal, its villainous depiction of women who are not as devout and virginal as the Harvey Girls, and its reverse Grease ending all promote a particular kind of message that was sanitized and approved by a particular kind of person for a particular kind of audience.

I could go on about the social messages in classic Hollywood musicals, but since this is Book Riot and not Movie Riot (for the record, I would totally write for Movie Riot, too), let’s shift the conversation to another medium that people often think of as “simplistic.”

In some ways, comic books have gotten progressively more complex since they first assumed modern form in the late 1930s. They learned to tackle more serious subject matter and built up an ever larger, ever more convoluted continuity. In the ’60s, if I said I read X-Men comics, you’d know immediately which book I meant: X-Men. Now, I could mean X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force, X-Men Gold, X-Men Blue, New Mutants, and probably some other teams I’m forgetting. Meanwhile, if I try to find a particular Hawkeye comic, I am confronted with Hawkeye, All-New Hawkeye, the other All-New Hawkeye, the other Hawkeye…you get the picture.

So, yes, the comic book industry was more straightforward back then. So were the comics. But they are simplistic in the same way The Harvey Girls is: lots of bright colors and fluff to make the social norms go down.

Whenever a hero meets an alien race, that race is generally either monstrous or white people. The Skrulls and the Kree, Marvel’s best-known alien rivalry, exemplify this. The Skrulls are lizard-like creatures with pointed ears and green skin; the Kree look like suburban dads in Star Trek cosplay. Earth’s future was depicted in the same way: when Superboy travels to the far future with the Legion of Super-Heroes for the first time, they meet nothing but white people and generally act like this is an episode of Leave It to Beaver. They even take him to an easily recognizable ice cream parlor, for crying out loud.

Read the full article: https://bookriot.com/simplistic-comics/

Saturday, May 29, 2021

[Link] NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOUR CRAPPY BOOK

by Jack Mackenzie

Hey. Get in. We’re going for a ride.

No, don’t worry. We’re not going far. I’ll have you back before dinner.

So, I hear you’re writing a book? What’s it about? No, wait… don’t tell me… No. Really. Don’t tell me. Don’t care. I got my own books to write.

What I want to do is give you some straight talk about writing a book in this day and age. You’re probably not going to like it but you need to know it.

The first thing that you have to know is that no one wants to read your crappy book.

Mean? You think I’m being mean? I’m trying to help you. Sit back and listen for a minute, will you?

First off, here are the cold hard facts. It’s estimated that fewer than 1000 fiction writers in North America make a living from their writing. And I’m being generous at 1000. I’ve read some estimates that put that number at only 300. That’s out of around 45,000 writers and authors working in the United States alone. That’s .6 percent… not six percent but POINT six percent… less than 1 percent… of all writers.

Ahh, what the heck! I’m feeling generous. If the number actually is 1000 writers making a living at writing, that’s 2%.

Well, Okay, you have a better chance of making a living as a writer than winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning, true, but, those are still some slim odds.

Yes, I know, there was a time when writers who churned out short novels on a regular basis could make a living Not a great living, to be sure, and, yes, they would occasionally have to churn out some cheap porn novels under a pseudonym to make ends meet.

You think I’m joking? Have you ever heard of Loren Beauchamp? She was the author of such sleazy paperbacks as Campus Sex Club, Unwilling Sinner, and Strange Delights. She was also the pseudonym of science fiction author Robert Silverberg. I kid you not! Look it up.

My point is that it has never been easy making a living as a writer. Few authors could do it, even in the so-called “Golden Age” of the paperbacks after the death of the pulp magazines. They needed day jobs or, like Mr. Silverberg, they needed to wear a mask and turn to the dark side.

Read the full article: https://esonetwork.com/no-one-wants-to-read-your-crappy-book/

Friday, May 28, 2021

AUTHOR E.W. FARNSWORTH RETURNS TO LIVING AND DYING IN THE WEST-DESERT SUN RED BLOOD II’ NOW AVAILABLE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUTHOR E.W. FARNSWORTH RETURNS TO LIVING AND DYING IN THE WEST-DESERT SUN RED BLOOD II’ NOW AVAILABLE

Words mean nothing in a land where bullets fly and red blood flows. And even bullets don’t kill like the red sun does. Author E. W. Farnsworth returns to the wild west with his latest story collection from Pro Se Press-DESERT SUN RED BLOOD II, available now in print and digital formats.

Ben Dauber continues to fight his way through the west as a reporter, taking on injustice and evil from all sides. The sinister machinations of the railroad combine, Dauber finds, extend to the highest levels of American government. Fortunately, Naud Dauber, Ben’s wealthy mother, can help when powerful figures try to silence the young reporter on the fast track to modernize the frontier press. Gunfights, fisticuffs, ambushes, bushwhacks, skirmishes and intrigue erupt on both sides of the Indian Wars. Action rides hard from Mexico to the Rocky Mountains across the west in Desert Sun, Red Blood Volume Two by author E. W. Farnsworth. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic cover, cover design and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, DESERT SUN RED BLOOD II is available in print at https://tinyurl.com/x8kup6k4 for $12.99.

The second book in this western series is also available on Kindle formatted by Iacono and Marina for $2.99 at https://tinyurl.com/sjprc3b4. Kindle Unlimited Members can read Farnsworth’s latest stories for free!

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, May 27, 2021

Teel James Glenn and the Wonderful Balderdash

Teel James Glenn is one of those folks who has done about everything creative. I mean, the dude has all the following in his CV: Author, Actor, Stuntman, Stunt Choreography. So, take a like like that, dump into out of his brain and into a word processor, and what you get is some of the finest fiction out today. So, it was only right that he got his time in the hot seat here at the blog. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

The Chronicles of the Skullmask is out in May from Bold Venture Press.

It is a collection of tales about an occult item— the Skullmask— that shows up when a person has suffered some horrible loss or injustice. The Skullmask gives them the opportunity for ‘Just Vengeance’ then disappears… So the Skullmask is really many people —passing from victim to victim to allow them to be the hero in their own story.

The stories are written in the tradition of the shudder pulps but span the gamut from western to military, to gangster to voodoo stories all with a horror/adventure tint.

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

I was a sickly child, however, and books and old films were the things that allowed me to escape and gave me hope and that fueled my imagination to daydream. I just never stopped.

I have always been a storyteller in every profession I’ve had from actor to teacher, stuntman, haunted house barker to illustrator so it has always been with me. 

What inspires you to write?

Honestly, I could not tell you exactly —I just know that when I create characters I have a desire to experience their adventures vicariously—I often think I am just writing down their lives even more than telling a story.

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

Honor, friendship. Many of my characters are struggling with personal issues but comrades always help. I also tend to write characters doing the right thing because it is the right thing—no for the ‘anti-hero’ self-help reasons of so much modern fiction.

What would be your dream project?

That is so hard to answer— there are so many of the literary icons that inspired me that I once dreamed of writing—Conan, Tarzan, John Carter, The Phantom, Zorro, Doc Savage—but they are now being written by others. Somehow that makes them less of a dream (but yes—I would still jump at the chance—lol).

My fantasy series The Chronicles of Altiva is finally coming into print again after a long hiatus and in many ways, they have been where my heart lies…

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

The ’trinity is Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Robert E. Howard. But close on them are Peter O’Donnell, Mickey Spillane, Dashiel Hammett, Richard Matheson, and Poe were all there for me and stay with me still…

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

There are a couple of books I am still fighting to get right back from zombie companies that I’d like to breathe new life into but I always think my next story will be the better one— 

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

Edgar Rice Burroughs described what he did as “Wonderful balderdash” and I aspire to that— I want it to be exciting and fun, with maybe a smidge of positive message in it. I think if you carry your message too heavily it kills the joy (even the scary stuff). Stories can change people, inspire them, motivate them—give them comfort. I hope to do all that because the stories I read in my youth did that for me.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Deciding which project to do next— because I write in so many genres I keep it fresh by switching up stories it sometimes takes a day or two of sort of staring at the screen for my inner storyteller to get movement in the right direction.

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

I have a prime beta reader who herself is a very good writer and editor and a weekly writing group I attend online. Between these members of my ‘tribe/writing family’, they have improved me and allowed me to grow as a writer enormously. Their feedback and insights allow me to improve exponentially as a writer. 

What is wonderful is that they ‘get me’ and don’t try to change what I do— they help it become more my voice—more cleanly worded and deeply realized. I can not say enough about Carol, Nancy, Lee, Jamie, and Wayne enough. Any success I ever have going forward I will always owe some of it to them.

What does literary success look like to you?

Knowing I can keep writing and that what I write reaches people and matters to them. Oodles of money would not hurt, but really just knowing my stories have homes— preferably before I even write them (as in selling them to a publisher on an outline or synopsis)— would make me feel pretty special.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

The first book in my Jon Shadows series Killing Shadows just came out from Airship27 Productions. It is a thriller series about a modern-day adventurer in the mold of The Saint but with a martial arts twist. A second will be out by the end of the year and I hope there will be more to come.

And the sequel to A Cowboy in Carpathia from Pro Se Production (which just won the Pulp Factory Best Novel award) is on the way also later this year. 

For more information, visit:

My website is TheUrbanSwashbuckler.com and my books are on Amazon and elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Stories We Tell


While technically Stories We Tell isn't a movie about a writer (instead an actor), it is 100 percent a movie about storytelling, and that is part and parcel of the writer's craft. 

In this amazing documentary Sarah Polley tries to make sense of her family history in a sort of Rashomon style by interview, well, more like interrogating her family and letting viewers settle the "mystery" of it all in their own minds, sort of like Poirot not having the big reveal scene. And it works. Tremendously. 

The movie begins with this quote from Margaret Atwood: 

"When you're in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all but rather a confusion, a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood, like a house in a whirlwind or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard are powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all, when you're telling it to yourself or someone else."

The opening scene itself is a bit of a reveal as well, as Polley's dad, Michael, walks very slowly upstairs to record his own voice-over for the film. The things he reveals make almost no sense until the unfolding of the film itself, and that's completely intentional. 

If the theme of Stories We Tell is anything, it's this:

Stories don't make sense at the beginning. They only make sense in the act of telling and in the act of looking back, and even then, it's all pieces and parts (thank you Rashomon) and open to interpretation. 

The same holds true for my work and yours. As writers, no one story tells the full scope of our work. No one novel can be condensed into our quintessential piece. That's the work of reviewers and scholars to decide and argue about. Not ours. 

Just as Polley's story only makes any semblance of sense in total by looking back, our stories only tell who we are as writers by looking back and seeing how they all mess together as a sort of literary DNA. And that's okay because that means that story we really feel we flubbed big time doesn't ultimately matter. It's just a single strand of our story. But it also means that the big story we love so much doesn't hold any additional weight in our ultimate story either. It too is just a single strand. 

Another item from the film that caught me was this bit from Polley's sister, Sarah: 

"I guess I have this instinct of who cares about our family... but I think it is interesting to look at this one thing that happened and how it's refracted in so many different ways."

I can't tell you how often I hear writers question their work by saying something along these lines: "I don't know why this would be interesting to anyone, but..." In other words, "Who cares about our family?" And again, the trick is to remember that no individual strand is the measuring stick of your body of work. It's the sum total of the work, i.e., "how it's refracted in so many different ways."

If we only accepted C.S. Lewis as "that Narnia guy" we wouldn't have his Till We Have Faces or A Grief Observed. If we only accepted Ed McBain as the 87 Precinct writer, we wouldn't have Matthew Hope. Sure, the publishers will always tell you to produce more of that one line that sells (and it's never a bad thing to get more Easy Rawlins, of course), but that's never the only strand in a writer's body of work, nor should it be. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Robert Krog -- Why Shouldn't I Write Them Too?


Robert Krog is my nemesis. Don't ask because neither of us really know why. It just started as a "Khaaaaaan!" gag ("Krooooooog!") at a con and it just stuck. That's how awesome a person my nemesis is. But he's also a truly gifted writer of the first rate. Seriously. 

Enjoy!

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I just finished a novel, titled Shank, for Chris Kennedy Publishing. It's in their new imprint, Hit World, which is an alternate reality in which murder for hire is legal. Gordon Shaw, nicknamed "Shank," is a shooter, a professional hitman working for Life Enders Inc. He's a little bored, very confident, and looking for a challenge. He eventually gets one. The novel also follows a few characters connected to Shaw's story by being either his victims or their family members; a broke college student short on morals, a housewife with a magical gift for keeping others from harm, a writer with an invisible friend, and so on.

Hit World is an interesting concept, containing elements of Noir, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. I'm grateful to fellow writers William Alan Webb and Larry Hoy for letting me participate in it.  Shank will be my first published novel. 

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

I was in middle school, reading a lot, and starting to get a little cocky in my opinions. I read some pretty boring stories in a language arts class and told myself, "I could write a better story than that." The idea took hold of me. I loved reading. I loved thinking about stories. Most of the playing I did with my friends involved a childish version of what is now called Live Action Role Playing. I was acting out stories. Why shouldn't I write them too?

What inspires you to write?

My interests in fiction and History, my faith, my daydreams. These things. 

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

I come back to redemption time and time again, as well as youthful bravado and the mistakes that follow it. I've made plenty of mistakes and needed to make up for them generally. 

What would be your dream project?

I have several. I'll tell you one. I'd like to go back to graduate school, get that doctorate in Egyptology I stopped short of pursuing, and write a really convincing tomb autobiography but at the length of a short novel and in Middle Egyptian. 

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

I don't know. I'd like to think C. S. Lewis and Tolkien, but frankly I don't think I write like either of them. I honestly don't know who I write like, and I make no effort to emulate any particular writer.

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

Almost all of them. Whenever I read a previous work of my own, I think to myself, "Why did I use that phrasing? Wasn't it clumsy or pretentious or bland? Oh, what a cliched plot device. Why'd I do that?"  I'm one of my own worst critics.

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

It's an art. So much of what we call good writing is based on subjective criteria. It's not measurable or verifiable. A story's reception depends on the mood and prior knowledge of the one reading it. Trying to gauge how an audience will react to a story is a judgment call, an educated guess, but still a guess, based as much on intuition as on marketing. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Catching all the typos, redundant words, and bad phrasing before sending it to the editor or publisher. I can find someone else's mistakes much more easily than my own. I know what I meant to write, and I see the words I meant to write rather than the words my fingers actually typed.

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

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Objective criticism is a difficult thing for a writer to give. We tend to fall back on rules that don't really mean as much as we think they do, rules we don't follow ourselves but repeat to others as if they came from a gospel. Think about Stephen King's no adverbs rule. He lets them slip in now and then. 

There is a temptation to tell another writer to do his book the exact same way I would do it. That's a mistake. When we can step out of ourselves, admit our limitations, admire another's writing for being what it is, then we are able to help each other find and increase our strengths.

What does literary success look like to you?

Success is at least being read and appreciated by others as a writer. 

Making a living being read and having my work appreciated is even better. I'd love to make a living doing this.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Shank comes out in June, if everything works out right. I'm working on the sequel to it with another writer. The sequel is tentatively titled, The Flayed Man. 

For more information, visit:  

A Bonus Teaser from Hazards and Harrows:

I'm not sure I'm allowed to tease Shank just yet, so here's a sample from my last collection of short stories, Hazards and Harrows.

See How Clever We Are

Frank, the iron alligator, clanked into the arboretum, stopped with his tail still partly outside, and rolled his eyes over to regard Elizabeth at length where she sat on a bench, book in hand. She looked up and smiled at him, and he said nothing.

Finally, she asked, “Frank?”

He opened his jaws, showing off his rows of teeth, and said, “When they are dead, and their hold over us is gone, I will eat you. I will let the dogs eat their corpses, but the fresh meat of you, I reserve for myself.” Then he backed out the door, turned around, and clanked away down the gravel path.

Elizabeth sat on the bench, feeling nerveless. The book slipped from her hands. She had heard correctly—there was no mistaking it—but she had not been expecting it. Twenty-two years of life spent mostly on the island, living peacefully with her parents and their mechano-alchemical constructs had not prepared her for death threats. She sat in stunned silence and stared out the door, listening to the whirring and clanking that Frank made as he walked away down the path.

Donald, the tin monkey, swung down from the tree above her head and landed beside her on the bench. She did not turn to look at him.

“I told you so,” said Donald. “I told you they were plotting against you.”

Trembling, she bent, smoothed her apron and dress, and picked up her book. She had to swallow before she found her voice. “So you did, but I thought it was just another of your bizarre jokes. You’ve always been one for tales.”

He gave a monkey laugh.

“Is it all of them?” she asked.

“Not all, but most.”

“Why, what wrong have we ever done them?” She looked at him, searching his intricate and expressive face for answers. He shrugged elaborately and held his hands out, shaking his head, the many gears involved whirring and clicking.

“I must check on mother and father,” she declared and got up. Donald hopped up to her shoulder and rode along, stroking her blonde hair as was his habit. She kept an eye out for the others as she went into the house. The dogs were playing a clanging game of tag in the courtyard between the house and the landing strip. Just an hour ago she had been throwing sticks and balls for them to chase or catch. Now, she went the long way around to avoid them. Anatole, the aluminum soldier, was standing guard at the front door, as usual, using a cloth to polish a spot on his chest. He faced east, on lookout for the airship that was so long overdue. Her brother, John, had left two months ago to bring Dr. Thompson back from the states.

Elizabeth stopped at the corner of the house and asked the monkey, “Is he one of them?”

“No,” said the monkey, “he hasn’t joined them.”

She breathed a sigh of relief and went quickly to the door. The soldier put the cloth in his belt and stood at attention.

“Anatole,” she said, “would you please accompany me to see my parents?”

He turned to her, the gears in his face working out the difficult smile it had taken him a year to master, and said, “Of course.”

She smiled back and went into the house. He clanked down the hall after her to the infirmary, where Henry and Janice Spencer were attached via the ingenious tubes invented by London’s, late, forgotten Dr. Latta to the machines that kept them alive. Anatole clanked ahead and opened the door for her but did not enter. The echo in the infirmary was very loud, and all the constructs, except the maid, were under orders to keep out.

“Keep the door open, please, Anatole,” she said, and he did, waiting quietly with his right hand holding the rifle on his shoulder, and his left on his sword hilt.

Henry was asleep on the bed. A brass snake head and a screwdriver rested on his chest. His hands were limp at his sides, slightly upturned. Janice was sitting at her desk, her head resting on her arms. Before her were test tubes and jars. From one, wisps of steam were still rising lazily into the air. The place smelled of antiseptics and whatever acrid substance it was on which she had been working. Wishing she didn’t have to wake them and wondering if she’d even be able to make them understand, Elizabeth walked over and gently shook her mother on one shoulder.

“Mother?”

The old woman roused quickly and lifted her head. She blinked at her daughter vaguely and smiled. Elizabeth wondered at such a day, on which her life was threatened, and so many smiles followed quickly after.

“Hello, dear girl,” said Janice, “it’s so nice of you to drop in.”

Elizabeth pulled her father’s chair over and sat down beside her. “Mother,” she began, but the old woman interrupted her at once.

“Maybe we should go out on the balcony and have some wine while we talk.” She got up to go, but Elizabeth restrained her gently.

“Mother, the I.V.”

“Oh, my, yes, I do seem to be attached to the room,” she laughed and sat back down, “Why don’t you go and get us some wine.”

“Maybe in a few minutes; first we need to talk.”

“About what, dear?” Janice asked. Her smile, surrounded by a crazy halo of silver hair, almost made Elizabeth forget why she had come in her desire to get a brush. She pressed on. “There’s something wrong with some of the constructs. Frank threatened me, and I think you need to know. Please focus.”

“All right, dear, I’m focused. Go on.”

“He said that… after you die, he’s going to eat me.”

Janice pondered things for a moment and asked, “Now, who is Frank?”

She’d been afraid of this, but she tried anyway. “Frank is the alligator, the first construct you and Father made after we came to the island. We’ve had him for twelve years.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful!” said Janice, clapping her hands together then jabbing a finger at Donald.

“This is Donald,” sighed Elizabeth, “He came just after Frank, but before Clancy.” The thought of the bronze tiger wanting to eat her gave her shivers. Where was he?

Janice turned in her seat and shouted across the room to Henry, “Oh, Henry, dear, look this way and see how clever we are. We’ve made this wonderful, tin monkey.”

Henry snorted in his sleep.

“Wake up, Henry, I want you to see this.”

Gently, Elizabeth reached over and caught her mother by the chin, turning it so they faced each other. “Mother, you need to focus. Please remember that Frank says he’s going to eat me.”

“Don’t be silly, dear. Constructs can’t eat.”

“But they can chew if they have mouths, and Frank has a lot of mouth.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Good, now I need you to think about what might have gone wrong with the constructs to make them want to eat us.”

“Oh, that Frank,” said Janice, suddenly, “The alligator. We made him just after arriving.”

“Yes, that Frank.”

Janice reached over and patted her daughter’s cheek. “Frank is a good boy, dear, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Elizabeth sighed, held her mother’s hand, patted it gently, and said, “I’ll go get that wine now.”

“Wine!” said Janice. “That’s a wonderful idea. I should have thought of that, myself. Do let’s go.” She rose from her chair.

“No, mother, you’re attached to the machine by those tubes. You need the fluids, remember?”

“Oh, look at that,” said Janice. “It’s just like Dr. Latta’s Cholera curing contraption. How exciting.”

“You sit here, Mother. I’ll be back.”

She left the room, and Anatole closed the door quietly. He immediately got out the cloth and went after the spot on his chest again.

“I’ll try Father in a bit, I suppose, but it’s most likely up to us to figure it out,” she said to them.

“It’s a predicament,” said Donald, still stroking her hair.

“Yes, quite,” said Anatole.

“You’ll protect me now the way you did against the pirates last year, won’t you Anatole? You won’t let Frank or Jones or even Clancy eat me will, will you?

“Well,” said the aluminum soldier, “this is unfortunate.” He tucked the cloth away.

She nodded her agreement, waiting for more.

“It’s too soon, you see. I’m not quite ready, but I guess he has forced the issue.”

“Who? Frank?” she asked, perplexed.

“Yes, Frank. He’s very devious, very canny as Henry would say. It’s just like him to force the issue this way.”

“Did you already know about the plot?” she asked. She gripped Donald’s tale.

Anatole’s facial gears whirred as he smiled the broad smile he had fought so hard to master. He got down on one knee and extended a hand, “I will protect you, Elizabeth because I love you. You have only to consent to be my wife.”

She felt faint. She bit her lip.

Anatole knelt before her, waiting.

Finally, she said, “I don’t even know how that could be.”

“Love,” he assured her, “will light the way.”

The story continues in the collection, Hazards and Harrows.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

[Link] The Crime Writer Who Went Down With The Titanic

By Harry Pearson

Jacques Futrelle was lost to tragedy, but his captivating works live on.

When the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on April 12, 1912, the luxury liner took with it one of the greatest early US detective writers—Jacques Futrelle. Futrelle had just turned 37 when he ordered his wife May to take her place on one of the lifeboats putting out from the stricken ocean liner. He assured her that he would survive. The last May saw of her husband, he was standing next to Jacob Astor, smoking a cigarette. His body was never recovered.

"Jacques is dead, but he died like a hero, that I know," May would tell the New York Times a few weeks later. A gifted writer herself, May would complete Futrelle’s novel My Lady’s Garter and publish it with a moving dedication to her late husband. It marked the sad, sudden end of what might have been one of the brightest careers in American crime fiction.

Born in Pike County, Georgia in 1875, Jacques Futrelle began working as a reporter on the Atlanta Journal when still a teenager. He married May Peel in 1895. After spells as a war correspondent in Cuba for the New York Herald and as a theatre manager in Richmond, Virginia, Jacques, May, and their two children settled in Scituate, Massachusetts. Futrelle began writing short stories for the Boston American

Futrelle had been an admirer of Sherlock Holmes from the master consulting detective’s debut in A Study in Scarlet. He decided to create an American Holmes in the form of Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., etc, etc.  This brilliant scientist is also known as The Thinking Machine, a nickname given to him by a Russian chess grandmaster he defeated despite having only learned how to play the game a few hours before the contest.

In a neat tribute to Holmes’ celebrated observation, “There is a scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life”, Futrelle titled one of Van Dusen’s earliest cases—the investigation of homicide in a New York apartment block—The Scarlet Thread.

Van Dusen made his first appearance in the Boston American in the late Fall of 1905. The tale, serialized over six weeks, would become one of the most celebrated fictional crime stories of all time, The Problem of Cell 13. In it, the brilliant scientist vindicates his pronouncement that “Nothing is impossible! The human mind can do anything,” by breaking out of the maximum-security Chisholm Prison to win a small bet.

Read the full article: https://murder-mayhem.com/jacques-futrelle

Saturday, May 22, 2021

[Link] American Masters: Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

The story of the author whose first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Tan firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today.

Watch the video story: https://video.kqed.org/video/amy-tan-unintended-memoir-nwt3tq/

Friday, May 21, 2021

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTION PRESENTS THE SILVER PENTACLE

Airship 27 Production is thrilled to announce the release of writer Nancy Hansen’s newest fantasy saga.

In the far distant future the Earth has long been abandoned with the majority of mankind traveling to the stars to discover new worlds. Whereas old hatreds continue to fester among those who remain until a global nuclear war lays waste to everything. Hundreds of years later a demigod named Jordyn Orian descends on what remains to discover new human enclaves have sprung up among which are men and women possessing strange, supernatural abilities.

One of these is the young fire-starter Alita Kalama and together they battle the Angel of Death in the ruins of a once great Metropolis. Later they join forces with a lovely Wind Shaper to take on a merciless sea pirate known as Crazy Katy. 

“The old phrase about throwing everything into the mix including the kitchen sink was the reaction I had when reading this book,” reports Airship 27’s Managing Editor Ron Fortier. “Nancy Hansen is a treasure to the New Pulp community and her work is always fresh, exciting and above all else original. ‘Silver Pentacle’ is nothing like her previous works and we are very excited to be bringing it to her legions of readers.”

Master Storyteller Nancy Hansen launches her most imaginative series yet in “The Silver Pentacle.” These are fantastic tales from a time and place lost to the future.

Colorado-based artist Guy Davis provides both the interior illustrations and the painted cover, while book design was handled by Art Director Rob Davis. 

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Justin Gray: Wider Nets, Mixed Bags, and Creative Freedom

I've known Justin Gray for a long time. Like, I'm old and stuff, but I've known this guy since way back in my Cyber Age Adventures Days. Like I said, a long time. He had the goods then, and history has proven that he still has them now. Whether you know Justin from his prose or comics work, I figured it was long past time he sat in the hot seat here at the blog. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work. 

I am currently working on multiple creator-owned and self-publishing ventures including Spicy Pulp Comics, an adult-themed sci-fi fantasy anthology, Standstill a survival horror comic that takes place after a global pandemic paralyzes most of humanity, and a five-issue miniseries called Billy the Kit about a tornado god killing rabbit in the old west. 

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

I think I’m kind of a clichĂ© in many ways, shy kid, broken home, rich fantasy life, the same ingredients that make serial killers only I wanted to tell stories. Some of it might be in reaction to feeling helpless as a kid, wanting to have control of the world around you when you’re young is an interesting struggle. I wanted to escape reality quite a bit and first found that escape in comics. Unfortunately, I am not a good enough artist to illustrate what I see in my head. As a result, I turned to writing. 

What inspires you to write? 

Almost everything can impact me that way, but inspiration is fleeting and fickle and unpredictable, so what I do is set aside the same time every day to write. This lets my brain know it is time to shift into a specific mindset. Not every day is productive, but I know if I sit down and make a habit of it then I am more likely over time to be productive. Real life is always a great source of inspiration, but I also draw it from books, music, and films. 

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

I am fascinated by many things and tackle many genres. One thing that stands out is what happens when the structure of society is stripped away, and people are free to make moral choices without social watchdogs. I like confronting horror in human behavior, with a book like Standstill where there are only the rules, we place upon ourselves and what we can live within our choices be they good or bad. I also like escapist fantasy where the only point is to go somewhere impossible and do impossible things. 

What would be your dream project? 

Fortunately, in the last few years of doing my own work has been the dream. At this point it is less about writing what interests me which I’m so lucky I can do because of Kickstarter, but I would like to reach a wider audience and at a level where I can focus exclusively on being creative. 

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

The answer to this is an ever-evolving list involving literary greats, songwriters, and contemporary writers in and out of comics. I’m always very excited to see someone innovative doing things within any given medium. A lot of non-superhero comics over the last couple of decades have been enamored with TV and film as an endgame. I get it, I’ve been there, honestly, there a lot more money outside of comics, but there is something to be said about maintaining the integrity of comics as what they are. I try to approach each book differently and apply a different tone and voice to them. It doesn’t always work that way, but I try, nonetheless. 

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

Looking back is very difficult for me. I tend to want to keep moving forward rather than revisiting material from the past. I can certainly reexamine past work and be honest in my assessment that it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be or that it could be greatly improved. For example, Random Acts of Violence was adapted as a film, but it was also 10 years after it had been written and there are several things I would have changed and done differently. If the film didn’t exist it is unlikely, I would have reread the comic. When I did I saw plenty of opportunities to take it in a more compelling direction and some of that is a result of what Jay Baruchel did in the film. 

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

That is an interesting question. I think of writing as a craft something you build with very specific tools. You are an architect of the imagination building worlds that can be viewed through many sets of eyes and many different personalities. It is my hope to get into people’s heads and take them somewhere that causes an emotional reaction of some kind. I guess you could say there is a science to it and an art to it. Science to me is more formulaic and art is more subjective. Somewhere in there, I look for the most organic way to reach the reader. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

It varies. There are days where I have this uncontrollable dread, a panic that whatever I am doing is both terrible and a complete waste of my life. This is a thing that is so unsettling I immediately must shut it down or it will grow out of control. The creative process itself is enjoyable because if I hit a wall or feel empty on one project, I am almost always working on something else that is completely different in one and style. This gives one project room to breathe. The most difficult is 75% of what I do is not creative it is building graphics, packaging, and shipping products, wrangling projects, artists, colorists, making sure I’m in contact with the people that read and support my work. I might sit down and write every day during the creative process, but when that is done, I know I have at least 3 months of production ahead of me before that writing is realized in its final form. 

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

I spent several years collaborating with Jimmy Palmiotti and that was a great experience where I learned a lot about making comics. We had a very symbiotic relationship. Darwyn Cooke and Garth Ennis gave me a lot of insight into the creative process from a perspective of just being friends which is different from being collaborators. Although I did obviously collaborate with Darwyn on a few projects. Deconstructing other people’s work is invaluable regardless of if they’re friends or not. For me though, I don’t maintain a lot of industry friendships, most of my circle is outside of any kind of entertainment so I see the consumer side more often than the creative side. 

What does literary success look like to you? 

I have been incredibly lucky and have tried to capitalize on opportunities that came my way. Being able to do what I want successfully both in a creative and a financial sense is the dream. There was a time when I wanted to cast a wider net, but experiences with Hollywood and larger entertainment corporations have been a mixed bag. I would have answered this question differently 10 years ago and now having creative freedom is one of the major requirements. 

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

In June I hope to launch a Kickstarter for issues 5 and 6 of Standstill, a book that I’m very passionate about, one where I collaborate with artist Branko Jovanovic to make this a unique reading experience. I like that it is just the two of us working together it makes for a very tight and symbiotic experience. I am also working toward the sixth issue of Spicy Pulp and will be launching a new book called Bloody Pulp, which is a horror and supernatural comic for adults. At some point this fall Blue Juice Comics will be publishing the Billy the Kit miniseries across 5 months leading to a trade paperback in 2022. 

For more information, visit: 

http://www.jvgray.com

https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/jvgray

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: An American Ghost Story


Oh, look! It's another movie in which a writer decides to stay in a haunted house for inspiration. Okay, sarcasm aside, this was a creepy little story about a writer named Paul who wants to become part of the story of a house where a family was murdered. He wants his own experiences in the house and wants to catalog them in a book. Same old, same old, right? Well, this low-budget gem actually manages to make bedsheet ghosts creepy. I know... Right?!

All that aside, let's see what Paul and his experiences have to tell us about the writing life. 

About 16 minutes in, Paul and his girlfriend are lying in bed and she asks him point-blank why the story of "this house" is so important to him. He responds blithely that it's a good time in the industry, paranormal books are hot. But Stella, she's a smart cookie, and she sees through all that noise right away, so she presses the point. "What's driving you?" she asks. He kids a little more, but she won't let go, and eventually, he actually goes deeper and answers honestly: 

"I want to prove to myself that I can actually finish something I start. I'm thirty. I'm a part-time ad writer for a newspaper. My biggest accomplishment has been writing an obituary." 

Days later, when the activity in the house really gets going, Stella has had enough and she's moving out, begging Paul to come with her, but he refuses, claiming that if he leaves, then this will be just another thing he started and didn't finish.

I get that. I really, totally get that. I can't tell you how many times I've started projects that peter off and lay unfulfilled by the wayside on my road of good intentions. I've started and never finished several novels, two of which are more than halfway done. And I have a backlog of stories that I was "so excited" about that lie tangled in the weeds with those novels. Just ask the book editors who helped sell me on doing said stories. 

I could, and I often do, beat myself up about those unfulfilled stories, but then I have to remind myself that I may not have done those novels, but I do have two large collections of short stories (one horror and one of superheroes). I may have a litter basket filled with unfinished novellas and novelettes, but I have a six-issue comic book mini-series published by IDW. I may have a notebook full of beginnings without endings, but I have more than 30 anthologies that have my finished short stories in them. 

When I focus on the unfinished and find more reasons to label myself a failure, I tend to miss all the really cool stuff that makes me a success as a writer. 

And really, I'm more of a short story writer than a novelist, and I'm cool with that. Most of the time, anyway, except when I compare myself to other writers I consider more successful and prolific.

Still, all that said, that little voice that says "finish what you start" is a good little cricket to listen to, by Jiminy. (See what I did there?) Way too often I need that push to stay on task. And that's okay. As long as it's a push to finish and not a push off the deep end into despondency.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Gail Simone: Easy To Get Down on Yourself

See folks? It's not just you. Even the greats and the gifteds like the amazing Gail Simone (FacebookTwitter) get the feels of imposter syndrome or the downs and sads in a creative career. So hang in there.

-----------------------------------

A little story about perspective.

It's no secret that making comics has always been my dream career. It was a dream so big, I learned not to speak it aloud because I knew people would be derisive or dismissive or both. I listened to those people for a long time, so much so that I got a completely different career and ended up owning a beauty salon instead of writing stories about guys in capes punching each other.

I was pretty sure my dream was no more likely than becoming a starship captain, so I made a good, less dream-filled life and was okay with it, mostly. 

Through a bizarre set of circumstances I ended up with that dream career coming true. I am endlessly grateful. I kid you not, I feel that gratitude every day, you have probably seen me express it here many times. I never wanted to write comics as a stepping stone to anything else...to me, comics were the destination. 

And I still love it, I might love it more than ever. The editors you get to work with, the artists, the retailers and readers...traveling around the world talking to all these people, it's magic, it's my favorite thing. Trying to be a good caretaker to characters who made life SO much more bearable as a kid, it's a joy and privilege. 

But life has taken a weird turn and a lot of opportunities have come to me that are very long-form projects, in other media. And I love a challenge, and I wanted to try them out.  So I am still working with a lot of characters I have loved forever, but now a lot of it is in film, tv, games, and prose. 

I have to say, the welcome I have received in those fields is amazing. But I can't really talk about it yet.

And that's the problem, some of this stuff takes a year or more, and you can't TALK about it, and if you're used to having multiple comics coming out every month, you're ALWAYS talking about what's coming up instead of waiting for a window months and months away. I kind of miss it. 

And I miss making comics, even the comics I AM making are mostly either very short or VERY long in the process. But I just love comics, I always will.

So I got a box of comps from a major publisher and I didn't really have anything in it, except a short story in a nice anthology book. And I was kind of mopey and feeling a bit sorry for myself because I'm so used to having new comics come out every month and that hasn't been the case while working on this other stuff.

Hubby asked what was wrong (normally I love opening the comp box) and I moped a mopey mopester response..."I don't have any comics in this box, I have been working my butt off and it seems like I haven't done anything in a year (even I knew this wasn't true, but this stuff all takes SO much longer than a monthly comic that it kind of felt that way)." 

I must have had a pitiful look on my face because hubby looked at me like I had a head injury. "Are you KIDDING?" he asked.

Then he started listing off some of the things I have done in the past year and I had not really put it all together like that. Turns out that I had a year to be proud of, in some ways.  This isn't boasting, it's just about how easy to get down on yourself if you head in that direction.

So, in 2020, here's some stuff I did:

I took a train to Chicago for a convention, something I've wanted to do my entire life. 

I am writing my first novel for one of the most prestigious literary agents in the country, and it's just going beautifully.

I worked on the Red Sonja movie script and production with the fabulous and brilliant Joey Soloway.

I wrote the intro for an upcoming Triple-A game from one of the biggest video game companies in the world.

I am developing tv, film, and game projects with some of the most fantastic and talented people I've ever met. 

I am doing fantasy comics with the lovely people at Hit Point Press.

In the past six weeks, I've had two a-list directors call me saying they want to work with me.

But even MORE important to me...

I built and maintained a huge garden with lots of delicious, healthy fruits and vegetables. Despite being born on a farm, I have never had a successful garden before.

I started a fun, joyful exercise program (including Beat Saber!) that actually is a pleasure to do and makes me happy.

I helped raise thousands for comic shops during the #Creators4Comics event.  I also packed up big boxes of high-quality new graphic novels to donate to local comic shops.

I wrote (with Jim Calafiore illustrating) a benefit book about a real-life little hero, a three year old Navajo boy who loved Batman who was tragically killed by a distracted driver. It's called ZAADII: THE LEGEND OF Z-HAWK, and it meant so much to me, and to his family. You can read the story here:  https://www.travelers.com/.../zaadiis-unfinished-story

Perhaps the thing I am proudest of, I conceived and spearheaded (with an astounding team of volunteers and the ridiculous generosity of the entire comics industry) a 100% twitter-driven benefit that in two (sleepless) weeks raised over $328,000 for black support organizations. Artists like Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Greg Hildebrandt, Denys Cowan, and so, so many more donated their beautiful art to raise money. I will be forever grateful and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever been part of. 

And just a few days after THAT I had an idea for a comics bundle with the nice folks and Humble Bundle, and again with a great team, we raised ANOTHER $75,000 for black support causes.

The point of this is two-fold...

First, marry the right person. 🙂  LOVE YOU, ROCKETSPOUSE!

Second, this has been a weird year. If you looked back and thought, 'Oh, I haven't accomplished what I'd hoped...' do me a favor.

CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK, IT'S A PANDEMIC.

Maybe I didn't have many comics in the box. Maybe you didn't learn to play the violin. Maybe we didn't learn French.

I bet you STILL did a lot more than you give yourself credit for. 

If you got up and made your kids breakfast. 

If you took care of your own physical and mental health as best you could.

If you did video schooling.

If you helped others.

If you loved someone. 

If you rescued an animal.

If you donated time or money to a good cause or to someone in need.

If you crafted, sang, talked a friend through a bad patch, if you tried new making new dishes, if you cheered someone up.

All those things count. They all go big on the LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS FOR 2020 WHEN IT SEEMED LIKE THE WORLD WAS ON FIRE.

Give yourself a break, pat yourself on the back for what you COULD accomplish.

It really is a matter of perspective and most of us tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. We cut others slack and keep our own leashes SO TIGHT. 

I say, shine a light on what you did that was positive, for you or for others. 

I love ya, I am glad you're out there. 

Keep it up.

P.S. I know I am very fortunate, just was missing making comics a bit!  Hope to do more soon!

-----------------------------------

Editor's Note: Reposted here by permission of Gail Simone. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Bobby Nash Is a Busy Boy! (Multiple Releases Abound!)

SNOW SHORTS #4: SNOW AMBITION

Abraham Snow is back! SNOW AMBITION now available!

BEN Books welcomes author Brian K. Morris to #TeamSnow with the debut of SNOW SHORTS #4: SNOW AMBITION.

When an ex-flunky devises an insane scheme to get back on the good side of crime lord Miguel Ortega, he finds James Sheppard who could make the plan succeed. Unfortunately, Sheppard is really Abraham Snow, to say nothing of allegedly being dead.

If Snow walks away from the plan, his family could die. If he goes along with the scheme, he could die, this time for real. Ambition can be a real killer.

Snow Shorts #4: Snow Ambition is available as a $0.99 ebook at the following retailers:

Find more worldwide links at www.abrahamsnow.com

Remember, in #TheSummerofSnow every day is a #SnowDay!

#BENBooks #SnowShorts #Snow #AbrahamSnow #FreshSnow

Interview requests, press materials, and review copies can be requested by contacting Bobby Nash via BEN Books at bobby@bobbynash.com


PULP REALITY #2
(Featuring SNOW CHASE, a new Snow Short)

Are you ready for some #FreshSnow? #TheSummerOfSnow continues in Pulp Reality #2 - A Pulp Adventure Magazine! Now On Sale!

Stormgate Press Presents: Ten new short stories from today’s leading authors and illustrators in the New Pulp genre. Packed with Pirates, Private Eyes, Aliens, automatons, villains and vigilantes. High adventure, wondrous fantasy, mysterious horror and startling science fiction await you. Be transported to astonishing places and travel to amazing times in the Golden Age, Pulp Style. This is Pulp Reality 2.

About Snow Chase by Bobby Nash: Archer and Abraham Snow are back in action! At a secluded mountain resort, someone is targeting one of Snow Security's clients. Can Snow catch the assassin in time? Find out in SNOW CHASE by Bobby Nash with illustration by Clayton Murwin. #Snow

Pulp Reality #2 is available at the following retailers:

Learn more about #Snow at www.abrahamsnow.com


DOMINO LADY THREESOME
IN COMIC SHOPS!

It's full-out action, adventure, romance and intrigue, as pulpdom's blonde bombshell avenger returns! When just one hero isn't enough, Domino Lady and her companions come together to: thwart a killer, stop a nefarious Nazi plot, uncover mysterious happenings on a Hollywood set, investigate the death of a woman dressed like Domino Lady, and enjoy a night out on the town where murder and mayhem ensue! Guest-starring Golden Amazon, The Veil, Bulletgirl, Woman in Red, Dara the Viking Girl, and Spitfire Sanders! Includes the previously released issues 1 and 2 by Nancy Holder and Bobby Nash plus 3 unpublished stories written by Bobby Nash. In Shops: May 5, 2021

Also available for pre-order at http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=1241

  • Domino Lady: Threesome
  • Written by Bobby Nash and Nancy Holder.
  • Art by Marco Santiago, Wendell Cavalcanti, Sergio Ibañez, and Jordi Perez.
  • Cover Art by Glen Fernandez.
  • Published by Moonstone Books
  • IN STORES MAY 5, 2021!  


GET READY FOR A SUMMER OF EVIL...

BEN Books and author Bobby Nash are thrilled to announce that Mark G. Bielecki has signed on to narrate the audiobooks for the EVIL WAYS and EVIL INTENT thriller novels featuring FBI Special Agent Harold Palmer. "Mark is an excellent narrator and has a tremendous voice that will bring Harold Palmer and company to life. I'm excited to hear it," says Bobby Nash about the project. "Evil Ways was my first published novel and the start of the BEN Books crime/thriller universe. Welcome to Team Evil, Mark."

Bobby and Mark also collaborated on the audio for Fightcard: Barefoot Bones, which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/Fight-Card-Barefoot-Bones-Book/dp/B08QSNLZH6 

It is also available in paperback and ebook here: https://www.amazon.com/Fight-Card-Barefoot-Bones-20/dp/1492827479 Read it free with Kindle Unlimited.

EVIL WAYS is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook. You can read it free with Kindle Unlimited. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Evil-Ways-Harold-Palmer-Thriller/dp/1480253456

EVIL INTENT is currently being serialized at www.patreon.com/bobbynash and will release later in 2021 in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio.

Keep watching www.ben-books.com and www.bobbynash.com for updates.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Alfred Hitchcock: The Rules of Visual Storytelling

Because anything Hitch had to say about storytelling is good for writers to know. 

From the page:

"Alfred Hitchcock was perhaps the greatest cinematic storyteller of the 20th century.  His films created a visual language which have influenced virtually every director since.  

"In this video essay I examine how Hitchcock tells the story through his use of the camera to tell stories cinematically.  In particular I focus on his thoughtful use of long shots and close-ups to convey plot and emotion visually.  I take in many of his best films, from Strangers on a Train, through to Vertigo and Psycho, to examine how he uses many of these techniques."

Friday, May 14, 2021

Get all 4 Finnegan Family Supernatural Hunter novellas in one gorgeous book!

If Sam Winchester was the illustrated lady in a traveling sideshow in the 1900s, he'd be Hazel Finnegan.

Hazel has a power, and with that power, a responsibility. She hunts down the things that go bump in the night, and once she kills them, traps them into her skin via magical tattoo transference. Then she can call upon the monsters she's vanquished to help her take out other baddies. But she might be in over her head this time.

Her father is missing, and she and her brother are desperate to find him. But they also have a traveling sideshow to run, locals to placate, competing shows to handle, travel to coordinate, and monsters to slay.

Now Hazel needs to find out where her father has gone, who took him and why, and what it means for the future of her sideshow, her family, and just maybe the world. And time is running out.

Shadows & Sideshows collects the first four novellas of the Finnegan Family Supernatural Hunters, a new historical fantasy series from author Judy Black, set in the world of Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter.

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Sideshows-Finnegan-Supernatural-Hunters-ebook/dp/B086M4ZVJ2?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

John French -- The Replication of Results

John French is a retired crime scene supervisor with forty years' experience. He has seen more than his share of murders, shootings, and serious assaults. As a break from the realities of his job, he started writing science fiction, pulp, horror, fantasy, and, of course, crime fiction.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest book is When the Moon Shines. It’s published by Systema Paradoxa, an imprint of eSpec Books. It’s the first in a series of novellas each featuring different cryptids. Mine takes place during the Prohibition era and features two Maryland cryptids – the snallygaster and the dwayyo that are drawn into a gang war. 

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

I had good teachers in high school who taught me to appreciate literature and exposed me to all sorts of stories including science fiction, mystery, and horror. From this I learned to appreciate Doyle, Poe, Bradbury. This carried over into college. But it wasn’t until I had been a crime scene investigator for the Baltimore Police Department for quite a few years that I came up with an idea for, what else, a crime story that I started to write. Once I had a few stories published I found I couldn’t stop.

What inspires you to write?

The fact that there are people out there who appreciate my work and buy my books. That, and the figurative voices in my head that demand I tell their stories. 

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

It wasn’t intentional but I soon found that the principle of redemption runs through my work. A CSI turned private investigator who once did something wrong and works to make up for it (Past Sins). A BPD detective whose job it is to hunt monsters who steal souls from the Devil (Here There Be Monsters, Monsters Among Us). A gentleman adventurer who is trying to reform a demon he accidentally summoned from Hell (The Magic of Simon Tombs). It’s one thing to defeat the bad guys. It’s another thing to redeem them.

What would be your dream project?

I’d like it very much if James Patterson called me up to tell me that he feels I’d be a better choice than he to revive The Shadow or at least to collaborate with him in reviving the character.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Carroll John Daly, Raymond Chandler, Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter B. Gibson to start but the biggest influence was C. J. Henderson. He was a friend and mentor who read everything I wrote and would not let me get away with anything and got me into writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror. He passed away back in 2014 but his is one of the voices in my head when I sit down to write.

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

I trained as a scientist. I have a biology degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. My first job after college was working in a quality assurance lab after which I spent 40+ years in forensic science. Science has rules that must be followed. When two or more scientists work on the same thing they usually get the same result (although conclusions may vary). Science relies on the replication of results. Writing fiction is none of these. May the good sisters of Our Lady of Pompei forgive, but the rules of writing, unlike those of science, are not hard and fast but are made to be played with, expanded upon, and twisted according to the author’s whim to create good stories. (May my editors also forgive me. However, they are usually more unforgiving than the good sisters.) As far as replication of results, give ten writers the same plot and the same characters and you will get ten different stories most of which will set in different genres and eras.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Getting my butt in the chair to start writing.

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

Some review my work and tell me what I did right and what I did wrong and how I can make the former better and fix the latter. Others just by being better than me and making me write better to keep up.

What does literary success look like to you?

Would I like a movie deal? Yes. Would I like a six-figure advance? Hell, yes! But to me literary success is a publisher willing to take a chance on something I wrote. It’s books with my name on the front cover. It’s the person who comes up to me at a convention and tells me how much they liked my book and asks if I have anything new.

Any upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I have a sequel to Past Sins called Mortal Sins coming out from Padwolf Publishing in the Fall. Likewise (also through Padwolf) I have two novels in Patrick Thomas’s forthcoming Agents of the Abyss series, the first of which should also be out this fall. And on the editing side, I’ve been editing cryptid novellas for Systema Paradoxa, which plans to issue four books a year. I’m also editing an anthology with Danielle Ackley-McPhail called Devilish and Devine which will be published by eSpec Books

For more information:

No website I’m afraid. But my books are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as my books’ publishers. I’m on Facebook and my email is jfrenchfam@aol.com if anyone has any questions, comments, or offers of six-figure advances and/or movie deals.