Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Finding Forrester (part 1)

Fantastic cast. Fantastic script. Fantastic filming. It's easy to fall in love with this amazing flick. 

It's Cinderella for the art set. A young guy who'd never get invited to the ball gets his face time with the Prince of Words and learns that he's better than the folks whose approval he was originally seeking, better than he thought he was or could be. 

Let's start with Jamal. When he breaks into William Forrester's apartment, he flees startled, only to find Forrester has edited and critiqued his work. For Jamal, that's the beginning, his origin story, his triggering moment. Someone believed in him and convinced him to believe in himself. We all have them. For me it was a combination of my wife believing in me and an English professor (who also taught writing classes) who saw in me something I didn't think I could do. Based on their confidence in my work, I entered a college short story contest and won first place -- the first time I'd ever thought of entering such a contest. Needless to say, the trigger worked. My origin story was begun. 

"How about 5,000 words on why you should stay the fuck out of my house!" 

We all have our first writing job. Not the first time we write something, but the first time we write something for someone who "ordered" it, who requested it, who assigned the job to us. It's that push the gives us the confidence to keep going, to push ahead beyond that initial belief in us. It may pay. It may not. But it tells us that someone beyond ourselves is interested in our work. 

Ultimate that confidence, that belief is always tested. For some, it's a long lull in publishing opportunities. For others, it watching others get the good gigs and decent sales. For Jamal, it's the accusation of plagiarism. 

"There's a question in your writing suggesting what is it you want to do with your life." 

What drives your writing? How much of your longing can be found in your words? I've covered this in other reviews, but it's an important topic that movies about writers can often miss. Do you want to matter? Do you want to make money? Do you want to show your true self to the world? Do you want to escape into fantasy? Jamal wants to matter, wants people to acknowledge him, wants a place to fit in. That's evident to Forrester from the first time he reads Jamal's work. 

I want to know that I mattered beyond my death. I want my words to outlast me. That's why drives my work. Ideally, I'd love to see just one story studied in the canon of university literature after I'm gone. So, in a lot of ways, Jamal and I are alike. We just want to matter. Now. Later. 

Perhaps this exchange is my favorite part of the film though. 

"What's it feel like?"
Writing something the way you did?"
"Perhaps you'll find out."

That's the goal. Isn't it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Flat and Round: The Character Conundrum

I learned some terms this week that I hadn't learned during my time as a lit major in college. 

Flat Characters: Those who are typically not given any depth in character development, reduced to foils and/or stereotypes as a sort of shorthand for moving the plot along.

Round Characters: Those whose stories, lives, and character are developed in depth so as to make them feel more real in the eyes of readers, typically reserved for main antagonists and protagonists. 

So, as any good student, I think we should talk about it. I gathered the gang together and posed the questions around the table.

What benefits have you seen in your work for using flat characters?

Gordon Dymowski: One of the benefits of "flat characters" is that they can serve as placeholders, "red herrings" or other devices to move the story forward. Although I try to give as much background to any character (even peripheral ones), using "flat" characters provides immediate shortcuts and can help reflect the main characters' actions.

Chris Norton: Flat characters can be fun to write, sometimes you need some keystone cops action; also you just don't always have the time/space in a novel, and especially in a novella or short story, to fill out every character, unless it's a serial or has a limited number of characters.

I always feel pulled out of a story when an author takes the time to tell us all about a person whose only action is something like ringing up someone's groceries.

The benefits of rounded characters are obvious: empathy with the characters, pulling in the readers, etc.

Bobby Nash: I’ve never heard the term before your question, but I have in the past had henchmen who were basically there to e beat up or shot at while the hero worked his or her way up to the villain. These guys are just there to get their ass kicked so I didn’t really flesh them out.

Adrian G. Delgado: Flat characters are great as archetypes. Technically, even a god, especially one tied to a specific pantheon, can be flat as a pancake. "I'm a god of war and I make war. What else is there to know?" The Alchemist in Cohelo's "The Alchemist" is somewhat the same way, in so much that he is there to be used by the author to tell the shepherd's story. Come to think of it, characters can go flat and round out many times. Take Planet Hulk for example. The rest of the Marvel Heroes get reduced to Safety First goody-goods who send bad old hulk to a planet in the first few panels. Crack open any other comic though, suddenly Banner himself is a flat strongman.

Rus Wornom: I LOVE THESE TERMS. My flat characters help the main characters either develop as real people, or they move the action along...or they develop the character of the setting, which can be just as important as a character. For instance, I use flat characters in Ghostflowers to make a party in the woods seem real. They interact with the main characters as they progress to a certain point, not only in the woods but in the story.

John L. Taylor: In my writing, I get good use out of flat characters. As a horror writer, the important thing is to make the reader care about the character's fate. That doesn't mean extensive backstories or long conversations between them, just that the reader bonds with them and it isn't obvious who's going to die/suffer. 

Sean Taylor: Flats for me make perfect foils. I like to tease their backstories but then never deliver, so that they feel more important than they are actually. That way, particularly in a mystery story, they can serve as a kind of next-level red herring. They also make great hench-people for villains for pulp heroes, and hangers-on for the A-level cast in just about any genre. 

What line divides the need to make a character flat or round in your stories? 

Kellie Austin: I honestly don't think of characters in those projections. Flat or round-based characters start out for me as all being "Round". I'm very detailed oriented when I write and am constantly world-building. When I'm done with my book or story, I always go back and omit much information regarding some of the characters used, whether they are primary or supporting. Then I place the once rounded characters into the "flat" position until I can re-insert the back story in future stories. Some characters stay in the rounded section as they are the main hero(s). I find creating a character to move the plot along is worthwhile, and I can always use them again later when I need them. If I write a short story, then my characters are most usually always to be flat based as I have problems writing under restraint of words. So, I usually write more action, knowing that as my stories continue, I can begin transforming them into fully rounded characters to accompany the story I began with.

Adrian G. Delgado: If I have no reason to believe that either the reader or the MC or the character holding the point of view needs to see all the nuance of a character's life, they stay flat. If, however, this humanity needs to be discovered in the course of the story, I'll pump the air pump to it.

Bobby Nash: I like to give my characters some kind of identity. Even the henchmen and the like I write these days, I try to at least give them a name or something so they aren’t just a henchman.

Austin S. Camacho: Mysteries often have large casts - drivers, servants, people you get one important bit of info from, etc. Flat characters are a short-hand for readers: "the cab driver is not important to the plot - not a suspect." the better developed a character is, the more the reader expects them to have an important role.

Bill Craig: I agree with Austin. As you know, I love writing ensemble casts, so I try to develop the flat characters as well, just to make them important to the main characters. In the way I build characters, even the less important ones, I want them to be someone that the readers can relate to.

Jonathan Sweet: Like some others have said, my flat characters are usually shortcuts. I figure that if a nameless henchman is going to be offed by the hero, why give him a back story? On the other hand, I do like to give backstories even to minor characters. For example, in Enter the Jackal, I have Ole Karlsson, a cemetery caretaker that finds the first victim of a killer. Adding details about his feelings about the job, the fact that he's hungover from the night before, that he has a dog -- they help round out the character and maybe make us care a little bit about him.

John L. Taylor: In that respect, ALL characters are somewhat flat, including the POV character, based on archetypes with one or two quirks who the reader can empathize with. That distance between the reader and characters helps elevate the horror because the element of the unknown extends to the characters. None is so developed that they couldn't be a secret part of the threat to the protagonist. We don't know them that well to rule them out. We can't guarantee they won't survive. It's the archetype that needs to be compelling, and the plot that subverts that expectation.

Gordon Dymowski: Part of what I do for "rounded" characters is giving them more of a background and provide some motivation as to the "why" of their actions. Many writers create extensive biographies for their main characters; I usually think more of informal "backstories" that stay in my head when I'm writing them. (It also provides authenticity for character actions - having someone who has a history of stealing look longingly at a diamond, for example, makes more sense than having someone who is just "background", so to speak).

Mark Barnard: I always feel that even giving a character with a brief appearance some quirk to set them off adds depth to a story. It may be like describing a brick wall in the background as red and ivied, but for me it's part of the whole.

Rus Wornom: There is no line between flat characters and round characters. Writers don't write while distinguishing characters in that fashion. We develop spear carriers as much as is needed for the story...and sometimes those minor spear carriers become more important than we initially believe.

Sean Taylor: Quite often, a flat will make the jump to a round in my work, as I need to develop a background character because suddenly the story feels like it needs that character. It's more a "vibe and feel" thing though, rather than any kind of rule, at least for me. 

Show us an example of your characters, both flat and round, that you consider successful and effective -- and why you wrote them that way. 

Bobby Nash: Abraham Snow is a rounded character. The unnamed guard Domino Lady knocks out when breaking into a bad guy’s stronghold is flat.

Chris Norton: Flat characters I've written, who first comes to mind are Uther Pendragon's knights in the 2nd season of Young Merlin. Comedy relief, so they could be dispatcjed without hurting the audience, and to make the heroes look better,

Rounded characters, I'd like to think that most of them are, but probably the American Pride Superheroes, 3rd Generation of Militant Mechanical Men, The Demon detectives, and the heroes of Young Merlin all slowly get fleshed out, while the title characters of Hell's Angel and Sword (The Armorer Duke) in Hell Horror are the most fleshed out, but they also started out very two dimensional when I was writing their bios for personal use (HA about 12pp, Sword about 8pp) but even then, just following their adventures (or the ones I'd plotted out before writing them) gave them depth and personality.

Stuart Hopen: Here's a passage from one of my books, Twilight Patrol #5, where one of my characters wrestles with the problem of whether to be flat or round, which in some sense all of do, in life: 

Wootin had been brought here by yet another summons from Cassiopeia, the Queen of Cassiopeia. He was getting used to this business. It was getting to be a routine, almost mundane, though her perennial protestations of urgency and impending doom never proved to be unfounded. And yet there was something different in the way she spoke to him this time. For once, she phrased her requirements as a request, rather than a command, and she prefaced her entreaty with concern that he might have competing priorities. There was a subdued undercurrent of feminine hysteria in her voice, a hint of weakness he’d never heard before, and an uncharacteristic acknowledgement that obedience on his part was not taken for granted. Maybe she really believed she was dying, as Congrieve had reported, dying, along with the rest of her old world order. Perhaps her new affectation was part of the way she was coming to terms with these developments.

“Consider the nature of our foes,” she said. “Consider what has happened before. This is so much the worse than the horrors we’ve already seen.”

Wootin wondered what could shake the unshakable Queen. His curiosity had been piqued. He marveled at her masterful self-negating offer of a choice, and yet it gave him pause. He had the nagging sense that he’d been somehow tricked, and pressed into the service of some folkloric pattern. He questioned what enchantment or post hypnotic suggestion had so unmanned his free-will and condemned him to the role of a mere character, ruled by the laws of fairytales. He felt that way more often than he cared to admit, as if he were an unreal person in an unreal setting. There were other occasions, albeit far more rare, when he felt the opposite way, wholly alive and authentic. These rare occasions might happen during moments of intense concentration—in the midst of composing poetry or mortal aerial combat—and he would lose his individuality altogether, merging himself into a vast design of being that manifested itself through himself, somehow miraculously producing results that were far superior to that which he’d otherwise be capable. Wootin wondered whether these phenomena, though seemingly distinct and contrary in nature, might be inseparable aspects of one another. There was little doubt in his mind that his friend Hollister Congrieve played a role in these patterns and conventions. He knew Congrieve had already been conscripted into this new mission." I try to take a holistic approach to my writing, that character development, plot, theme, and philosophy, or world view are not separate elements, but all flow from one another, and all have to be integrated and balanced.

Sean Taylor: One of my favorite flats is Broomstick from the Rick Ruby stories. He started out as little more than the guy behind the bar who had a shotgun at the ready if he was needed. But over the course of several stories, he can getting more and more real, until the point when I wanted to write a story honoring the late Derrick Ferguson, I needed Broomstick to be more round and real for his own funeral. His death made him more round, as people honored his life. 

Gordon Dymowski: Some "rounded" characters I've written include Joe Magarac in Pro Se's TALL PULP - taking a mythic/folklore character and giving him dimension was not easy. Much of it involved both researching Magarac's "mythos" and integrating my own family background (my great-grandparents came to this country from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century) into the character. What could have easily been a one-dimensional strongman turned into a more nuanced character. (I also took a similar approach to writing the main character in "A Town Called Malice" for THE MASKED RIDER VOL 3. The original Masked Rider pulps hinted that his "civilian identity" of Wayne Morgan was also a ruse; I simply had the character make slightly ambiguous and off-handed remarks that suggested a possible origin...but just left it there for the reader to conclude).

One example of a "flat character" would be the antagonist of "In the Frame" in Pro Se's HOLLYWOOD PULP. Without spoiling, it takes a well-worn cliche and gives a greater context for *why* that person would do what they did. (I must admit that I take pride in making both Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton pulp heroes in their own right in this story).

Adrian G. Delgado: For me, I have made flat victims, mooks, villains, you name it. I let my characters discover the roundness of their fellow man naturally: a pancake flat crime victim naturally gets pretty round as the detective learns more about her.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

[Link[ ‘If publishers become afraid, we’re in trouble’: publishing’s cancel culture debate boils over

Publishing staff, in rows over authors from Mike Pence to Woody Allen, are voicing their reluctance to work on books they deem hateful. But is this really ‘younger refuseniks’, or a much older debate?

by Alison Flood

In the 1960s, Simon & Schuster’s co-founder Max Schuster was facing a dilemma. Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and armaments minister, had written a memoir providing new insights into the workings of Nazi leadership. As Michael Korda, Schuster’s editor-in-chief, recounted in his memoir Another Life, Schuster knew it would be a huge success. “There is only one problem,” he said, “and it’s this: I do not want to see Albert Speer’s name and mine on the same book.”

In the liberal industry of publishing, the tension that exists between profit and morality is nothing new, whether it’s Schuster turning down Speer (the book was finally published by Macmillan), or the UK government introducing legislation to prevent criminals making money from writing about their crimes.

But the debate over what should be published has reached a fever pitch. Publishing staff who feel uncomfortable about working on certain titles are speaking out more often and more loudly, through open letters and on social media.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 25, 2021


For Immediate Release

Trepidatio Publishing
286 pp
PB and e-format
7th July 2021

Where All is Night, and Starless gathers seventeen unsettling stories of our fears and weaknesses, and of our often unreliable strengths: stories of monstrosity and the occasional hope, deliberately themed across three aspects of weird fiction. The section ‘On Mythos’ covers re-interpretations and subversions of themes from H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythos; ‘On Mysteries’ looks into strange transformations, and ‘On Myth’ delves into the realms of folklore and folk horror, each with a dark twist. From the churning hell of World War One to the quiet English suburbs, from contemporary Alaska to colonial Africa, these are weird tales of the decisions we make when faced with something strange, with turns wry, ironic, and dark. Some horrors are found not outside, but in the mirror before us.

“A cornucopia of dark delights, this collection is highly imaginative, extremely well written, and a delight to read. Weird fiction at its finest!” – Tim Waggoner, Bram Stoker Award Winner and author of Your Turn to Suffer

“With ‘Where all is Night, and Starless’, Grant has crafted a far-reaching collection, imbued with beautifully deft prose, where dark humour, melancholy and ghoulishness effortlessly share the same space as though in cosmic alignment with the fates. A truly magnificent achievement by an incredibly gifted wordsmith.” – Dave Jeffery, author of A Quiet Apocalypse and Cathedral.

John Linwood Grant is a professional writer/editor from Yorkshire, UK, with some seventy short stories published during the last few years in magazines and several award-winning anthologies, plus a novel, novella and two collections. He writes dark contemporary fiction and period supernatural tales. He is also the editor of Occult Detective Magazine and various anthologies, and can be found on FB and at his eclectic website

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Danielle Palli: Mindfulness and Meditation

Danielle Palli won her first creative writing award at the age of six, and by age fifteen, she had already been published in the Writer’s Journal. She is the author of the Acting Out Yoga series for children, and the Data Collectors Sci-Fi trilogy for adults. She also writes, teaches, and publishes online courses about mindfulness, intuition, and spirituality, and works as a multimedia specialist, voiceover artist, podcast host, and positive psychology-based wellbeing coach.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I'm currently wrapping up the third book in The Data Collectors Sci-Fi trilogy. Between the Layers will hopefully be available in June. The story follows Lucene Jones and a team of genetically modified Data Collectors initially sent to Earth to determine what is causing the near extinction of humans as a species. Meanwhile, special interest groups would rather see us die off sooner rather than later, as Earth is prime intergalactic real estate. While the first book is set primarily on Earth, Breach of Contract (book #2) and Between the Layers (book #3) take place on the Earth-like planet, Erde (Yes, I am aware this is the German word for "Earth"). Known as the Peace-Keepers, Erde has evolved as species and enjoyed more than 100 years of peace…until now. 

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

From the time I can remember (around four or five years old), I have always wanted to write (or become a crime-solving detective with supernatural powers – it was a toss-up). But I credit my older sister for fostering my interest in reading and writing. I was really shy and insecure as a child in school, and she's the first person who taught me how to read and write. She'd also read to my siblings and me regularly, and she'd use character voices too. When she read us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we always knew whether she was Grandpa Joe, Grandpa George, or Grandma Josephine because her voices were so good. When she was a teenager, one of her first jobs was in a bookstore, and she'd often bring me Beverly Cleary books to read as a kid. She wanted to become a writer, and who doesn't want to be like their big sister? 

What inspires you to write?

I think it's a combination of having an overactive imagination and life lessons to share. I'll often awaken at 3 am with a topic in my head, and it will nag me until I get up and write it down – or at least let it tumble around my brain for a bit before I fall back to sleep. The next morning, I have to write. Sometimes, I'm writing an article related to personal growth. Other times, it's a fiction novel that, hopefully, entertains and offers a few philosophical nuggets to think about. 

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

The biggest theme is mindfulness and meditation. You'll find elements of that in my kid's yoga books, novels, articles, and programs. For me, developing a meditation practice changed my life in profound ways. That may sound odd to many people, but I believe it is one of the quickest ways to physical, emotional, and mental health. The other primary theme is environmental awareness. Just as I support people protecting their internal environment, I believe we have a responsibility to protect the world around us. 

What would be your dream project?

I would love to see The Data Collectors series turned into an anime series next. I enjoy stretching my writing limits and growing with the craft, so it would be so exciting to write and work with experienced scriptwriters as part of an entire production team, people who have the budget and know-how to bring the story to life. I'd also want to be able to voice a few of the characters.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

This is a tricky question for me to answer since, these days, much of what I read is positive-psychology-related non-fiction that supports my coaching practice. And, I never thought I would write a sci-fi series. I thought my first book would be a cozy novel, but the characters kept nagging me until I wrote The Data Collectors. I will say that readers have noted that my work has comedic elements like Douglas Adams and Erma Bombeck, both of whom I read as a teenager. I also admire the works of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman because they push the limits of fantasy and world-building and create unique characters that defy reality. Whenever I start to pigeonhole myself into one way of writing or developing a story, I think of their work and ask myself, "how can I stretch a little further?" 

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

I had so much fun narrating the female character voices for the audiobook version Breach of Contract and have plans to do that for the third book as well. Audio engineer and narrator Graham Mack did a brilliant job on the first Data Collectors book without my input. But, for consistency, I would – at some point – love to record the female voices and have me stitched into the first audiobook so that the entire audio series is multicast. 

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

I guess it depends on what you're writing. If it's an academic or technical piece, it lends itself to science and practicality. If it's fiction, you can really push the boundaries, and the shift is more toward artistry. That said, you still need the discipline to research, write, edit, revise, proof again, produce, and market and promote. For simplicity, I would argue that it's 60/40 split one way or the other, depending on the genre and content. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

I have a running list of more than a dozen projects I would like to accomplish … right now. For me, the difficulty is reminding myself that it doesn't all need to happen at once. My latest affirmation when I find myself working incessantly without taking a day off is, "you have all the time in the world." 

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

I would say that most of my friends are adjacent to writers vs. necessarily being writers themselves (though my publisher, Cindy Readnower, is also a successful writer and editor). These are the publishers, beta readers, artists, editors, and audio-video producers that support me and my projects. For the longest time, I had to perform every role because I simply didn't have the finances that would allow me to hire support. But over time, and working my butt off, I built up a modest production budget by focusing on the skills that I'm best at so I could eventually bring in experts in varied fields who could help me. I am so grateful to have that support because trying to go it alone is pretty darn exhausting. 

What does literary success look like to you?

I believe success is ongoing. I was fortunate to have launched my freelance writing career in 2006 as a journalist and publicist, writing on various topics and then moving on to creating multimedia content and educational programming. Novel-writing is a new experience for me, and I celebrate the success of writing three books in a year while maintaining two separate careers in writing and coaching. I love my characters and stories independent of what anyone else thinks. So to me, that's another little win. Next, I would, of course, love to become a New York Times best-selling author and have my books translated into more than a dozen languages, and then be made into an animated series, graphic novels, and movies. But overall, I get to wake up every day doing work that I love, and that's the ultimate success.  

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Thank you for asking! I would love to have people read and review The Data Collectors series. The first two are currently available in print, ebook, and audio formats. 

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Wow. This one was a bizarre film. But, let's face it, that's exactly what we've been taught to expect from Simon Pegg. In this flick, Pegg plays a children's storybook writer turned crime writer who is also a paranoiac whose research causes him to see Victorian serial killers in every shadow. 

Of course, this one is filled with gags, such as Pegg gluing a knife to his hand, burning his underwear and socks in the oven, diving around in his flat in his tighty whiteys, etc. 

But in the midst of all that zaniness, there are quite a few things to look at that concern the writing life. 

The first is that it's easy to get pigeonholed in the publishing business. At one point, when his agent asks him for another Harold the Hedgehog book that she could sell easily, he tells her (expletives deleted here) that Harold is dead. He really wants to move beyond Harold and his other cute storybook characters and tell a story with (in his mind) more substance, more to say. 

Of course, he continues to be haunted by Harold among his Victorian killer visions and his attempts to come to terms with his own abandonment as a child. Ultimately, he learns that Harold still has a lot to say to him and to his life as a writer. 

Next, he learns that while research is incredibly helpful and a much-needed skill for authors, it can also be debilitating and a huge stop sign in the middle of the actual writing. Of course, not all of us will internalize our research into waking nightmares of Victorian murderers, but I'm sure we've all experienced that moment when research sends is down the rabbit holes of click, then click, then click, then "Wait! What the hell was I looking for in the first place, and how did I end up learning about the chemical symbols for the fibers in socks from the 1920s?" 

Research is dangerous, especially to folks who are easily distracted by new possible story ideas and factoids that might, maybe, possibly, off-chance make it either into a story or even create a new story from scratch later. 

The last point made, and perhaps the one the movie puts the most time into driving home to viewers is that while we often want to fragment ourselves into children's writer or crime fiction writer (or in my case horror writer or pulp writer or superhero writer or literary writer) the truth is that we need to integrate all those things. I won't reveal the ending because it's truly inspired the way Pegg's "selves" work together to... Well, you'll just have to see. It's awesome. 

But at any rate, don't pit one writing self inside you against another. Integrate, baby. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

H. David Blalock: My Hand Is in Everything

H. David Blalock has been writing speculative fiction for nearly 50 years. His work has appeared in novels, novellas, stories, articles, anthologies, reviews, and commentary both in print and online. Since 1996, his fiction has appeared in over two dozen magazines. He is currently the lead editor of parABnormal Magazine from Hiraeth Publishing. His work continues to appear on a regular basis through multiple publishing houses.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I was just honored to have a story of mine titled “Green Leaf” published by Dingbat Press in the anthology Standing Fast, the latest of William Alan Webb's The Last Brigade series of books. It's an account of a fictional invasion of the Republic of Panama by the Chinese. I lived in Panama for seven years, so this story ran very close to what I expect might really happen, and not that long from now, with or without the collapse on which the rest of Webb's series is based.

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

It's hard to say. I've been writing since I was little and always wanted to share my work with others. I have always liked stories – hearing them, telling them, and watching them on television and the big screen.

What inspires you to write? 

You mean, where do I get my ideas? That's a novel way of asking. Observing people, mostly, although I do like the typical asking “what if?” 

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

I like to explore different ideas in different ways. My hand is in everything from detective fiction (my Velvet Wasp novellas) to high fantasy (my Thran Chronicles), science fiction and horror (my Angelkiller books and dozens of shorts stories). You might say I revisit whatever my muse seems to find interesting at the time.

What would be your dream project? 

Don't have one, really. I've been writing for 50 years and been there, done that. My favorite of my short stories was “To Our Brothers.” written when our kids grew up and left us with an empty nest. My favorite of my novels was the Angelkiller series, a summation of what I expect I would have seen had my own life and the world gone just a tad differently.

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

Heinlein, of course, since I first read Red Planet at the age of 12. Lovecraft and his cosmic horror captured my imagination, pushing me toward more psychological horror writing than the visceral horror so popular today. Bradbury's Martian Chronicles made me learn how to see things from a different perspective. A.E. Van Vogt, Jack Vance, Edmund Hamilton, Clifford Simak, Damon Knight, Phillip K. Dick – they all had an influence, and I have worked hard to live up to the master standard they defined.

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

Not really. What mistakes I made were honest and improving on an honest mistake is dishonest at best, a new mistake at worst. 

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

There is art and science to writing. As a writer, I partake in the art. As an editor, I use science. Writing is mostly intuition and imagination. Editing is mostly critical thinking and marketing. A professional writer eyes both when crafting.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

Getting started and getting finished. And the part there in the middle. Art is hard. Hard on the artist, hard on the editor. There's nothing automatic about it.

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

When we were running the Imagicopter project a few years ago, it was wonderful being able to be around other writers, share in their successes and failures. Talking about writing is cathartic and heart-breaking at the same time, but the process does help you better understand your own ability.

What does literary success look like to you? 

Finishing a piece and being able to say it feels finished. Some people, I guess a lot of people, think literary success hinges on publication and I can understand that. 

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

Some editing projects and the odd short story or two, but nothing I can talk about right now. Contracts and stuff.

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

[Link] Famous Writers From John Steinbeck to Maya Angelou All Swore By This Weird Productivity Trick. You Should Steal It

These literary greats solved the riddle of work-from-home productivity decades before the rest of us.

by Jessica Stillman

John Steinbeck may have won a Nobel Prize but he still preferred to write at an unstable little desk on his fishing boat. Another giant of American letters, Maya Angelou, liked to rent out hotel rooms and write perched on the bed. Peter Benchley, who wrote Jaws, outdid both of them -- he penned the thriller from the clanging back room of a furnace factory. 

All of which might make you conclude that writers are a bunch of odd ducks. That might be true, but according to a thoughtful recent New Yorker piece from best-selling author and Georgetown professor Cal Newport, that's the wrong lesson for less literary types to take from these writers' unusual approach to productivity. 

Newport insists that decades before our recent switch to remote work these authors discovered something many of us are going to learn in the coming months and years: Working close to home beats actually working at home. 

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Airship 27 Productions Presents C.O. Jones – Hometown U.S.A.

Airship 27 Production is thrilled to announce the release of the fourth installment of writer Fred Adams Jr.’s action-packed C.O. Jones series.

When things in L.A. get a little too hot for C.O. Jones, a change of scenery is in order and he’s only to happy to return to Brownsville, PA at the summons of his old boss, Mobster Skitch Mottola.   Several unknown men have attacked local businesses to include a half-hearted attempt on the bank. All the incidents seem random and unconnected, but Skitch believes another gang is attempting to surreptitiously take over his territory by causing criminal mischief. He wants Jones to find out who they are, who they work for, and how to stop them.

It seems simple enough until Jones recognizes the attacks perpetrated by these mystery men are all familiar military tactics and he comes to the startling conclusion that the group they are dealing with is made up of war veterans. Now things are really going to get complicated.

Airship 27 Production’s Art Director Rob Davis provides the cover and interior illustrations.


Available now from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Jim Beard: Why Can’t It Just Happen by Osmosis or Something?

Jim Beard pounds out adventure fiction with classic pulp style and flair. A native Toledoan, he was introduced to comic books at an early age by his father, who passed on to him a love for the medium and the pulp characters who preceded it. After decades of reading, collecting and dissecting comics, Jim became a published writer when he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. Since that time he's written official Spider-Man, X-Files, and Planet of the Apes prose fiction, Star Wars and Ghostbusters comic stories, and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. Jim is also the co-publisher at Flinch Books, a small-press pulp house.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My friend John Bruening and I just published our tenth book through our Flinch House imprint. It’s called OCCUPIED PULP and features six tales set in post-war Europe and Japan during the Allied occupation. We’re so proud of it it’s not funny.

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

I wanted to be an artist, even went to school for it, but I found out I didn’t have the drive to make it work. I’d always loved creative writing since I was a small kid, and when I realized there was this community of people reviving and refreshing the classic style of pulp fiction, I jumped in, found I could do it, and have never looked back. So, failure at one thing can sometimes open up doors somewhere else.

What inspires you to write?

Very little! But seriously, just about everything. I get ideas from everywhere, from just about anything I can be doing. I’ve been blessed with never running dry of ideas—I got a million of ‘em!—but the hard part for me is the actual writing. True story. It’s like pulling teeth. I’d almost rather be the idea guy and hand concepts off to others to do all the dirty work.

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

An odd one is hubris. It showed up in a lot of my earlier writing and stories. I don’t know why. I’m also very fond of the idea of a team of characters and the dynamics between each member. That harkens back to my love of comic books and groups like the Fantastic Four, the Justice League, and the Avengers. I’ve found I’m always coming up with teams. Even when it’s a supposed solo character, I tend to want to surround them with partners or similar.

What would be your dream project?

Very easy: An original prose novel based on the 1966 BATMAN TV series. Sadly, no one will let me do it.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Lester Dent, of course, and in some ways Norvell Page. One of my most favorite writers is Ray Bradbury, but I’m kind of the anti-Ray Bradbury in my own writing, just about the complete opposite of him. He was a poet. I’m a hack-and-slasher.

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

My Spider-Man novel, definitely. The highest-profile thing I’ve ever done, and the one I’m almost too embarrassed to even acknowledge. It was ****ed up even as it was being written, and so edited in committee that I can only look back on it in frustration. For one thing, what was published was an uncorrected proof, so there are a boatload of typos. Beyond that, there are whole sections that were excised and I would like to restore.

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

Hate to come down in the middle, but it’s both. Or it can be both. There’s a kind of science involved with the rules of the language and all, but there’s also an art to how you can take those building blocks and string them together and create worlds. Kind of cool.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Writing! I mean it—just sitting down and banging out words and paragraphs and pages each and every day makes me want to run for the hills. Like I said before; I got the ideas, it’s making something out of them in book-form that nearly kills me each and every time. Why can’t it just happen by osmosis or something?

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

No, those ****ers are my demons! I hate them! They make me so jealous because they’re so cool and, well, I’m me! Otherwise, they often inspire me…when they’re not kicking my ass with the fifty-million books they put out every year.

What does literary success look like to you?

Golly. Sales? Hate to sound so capitalistic—well, no I don’t, but you dig it, I’m sure. Sales are nice, but when all is said and done, I could get by with the knowledge that someone, somewhere has read my stuff. They don’t even have to necessarily enjoy it, but it’d be nice to know I’m not writing and publishing in a vacuum. Success would mean one or two people recognizing my name. Isn’t that sort of pathetic?

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Yeah, I have my very first epic fantasy novel coming out this summer, and I’m working on the second of my D.C. Jones books, which are pastiches of the 1970s GI Joe Adventure Team toys. Pretty excited about both of those.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: House

"Ding, dong. You're dead." Let me just start by saying when I was a kid, this movie scared the crap out of me. But it also made me laugh, and that's the one-two punch of most great horror flicks. Set you up, then get your good. That said, I think it's also the mark of great films about authors. Distract you with something or someone (or both) interesting to watch, and then slip a little something meaningful about the craft and/or the writing life into the mix. 

And House certainly does that before it goes full-on adventure and excitement in the second act. But just what does it actually say? I'm glad you asked. 

First, we as writers don't get to define our audience. Sure, we can write to a target type and we can visualize our ideal reader as we create, but ultimately we have very little say in who reads, likes, dislikes, goes super-fan, or loses their shit about out work. Once the story is out there, it's out there, and it's fair game for anyone to react to. 

Roger (William Katt) learns that at a signing early in the film. There's a long line of "weirdos" played for laughs whom the more serious Roger really, really can't identify with and he asked his agent, "Who are these people?" The agent responds, "They're your fans." 

The trouble is they don't look like he imagined. They don't act like he imagined. They are as "cool" as he imagined. Or they are way too mainstream to be "real" fans. The whys and what-nots don't matter. Only the preconceived perception does. 

The lesson? Don't think you're better than your fans and readers. They're the reason you can do what you do professionally, whether as a side gig or as a main career. In the words of The Human League, "[they] picked you up, [they] shook up, and turned you around, and [they] can put you back there too."

But wait! There's more!

Our poor Roger also learns the terrifying lesson that there are some stories that are so important to who we are, so crucial to our growth as not just writers but often human beings as well, that they will stymie us to no end and simply refuse to spill out of our brains onto the page. 

Roger believes that his story is about his time in Viet Nam, but it's not. That's just the red herring, the false Moby Dick he's chasing. His real story is the mystery of what happened to his son. Sure, the two tales, the surface story and the deeper one, end up coinciding, as they often do, but he can't move forward until he wraps his mind around the deeper one. 

Most of us, I feel, can relate. We all have that "white whale" story we chase that just doesn't want to come out, and we don't know how to figure out why it refuses to get with the program like all the other stories. Sometimes when you can't get that werewolf story to work it may have nothing to do with lycanthropy -- it may be more about your relationships at work. Sometimes that stubborn detective mystery that doesn't flow might be more about an ailing parent. The trouble is there's often no way to know until you're on the other side of it. 

Deep, right? Sadly so, and also sadly true. So endure. Take care of yourself. Work on a different story until things loosen up and you can dig deeper at your own pace. 

And to think, we can learn that lesson courtesy of the Greatest American Hero.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

James Palmer -- A Man at Loose Ends Gone To Writing

James Palmer is an award-nominated author of science fiction and pulp adventure. A recovering comic book addict, James lives in the wilds of Northeast Georgia with his wife, daughter, three dogs, and a metric ton of books.

Tell us a bit about your latest work. 

I always have a lot of irons in the fire. I'm writing a follow-up novella to my series in the Shadow Council Archives series from Falstaff Books, this time starring Allan Quatermain. I just wrote a story I'm shopping around in a Lovecraftian space opera world I'm developing, and plotting a story about Dragon Con. I wrote a space fantasy novella in the vein of Roger Zelazny's Amber and Van Allen Plexico's Lucian about a god-like planet conquerer with amnesia. in 2019 I adapted the late Jerry Pournelle novel Exiles to Glory into a one-hour audio drama for the Atlanta Radio Theater Company. They plan to stream it at virtual LibertyCon this year. I also wrote a comic book for Lucky Comics. Recently I edited War on Monster Earth, the third and final volume in a trilogy of anthologies in which the Cold War is fought with giant monsters instead of the threat of nuclear weapons. 

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

I don't know that it was any one thing. I've always wanted to create and get paid to use my imagination. When I was a kid I wanted to be a movie producer, without having any inkling of what a movie producer does or is. Sometime early on in my high school years, I decided I wanted to write after I started reading Stephen King. I wanted to write something that made someone feel like King's books and stories made me feel.

Alfred Bester once said, "Put any man at loose ends and he invariable goes to writing." I've had a lot of odd jobs and dead-end jobs over the years, but there was always something in me that made me believe I was superior to my circumstances, that if I just got out of my own way long enough I could really do it. 

What inspires you to write? 

Everything. Other books and writers. A snippet of science news. Sometimes I combine two or more ideas that have been nagging me into something new. Reading (or rereading) great writers like Robert E. Howard, Harlan Ellison, and Ray Bradbury, even a trip to the book store makes me want to run to the keyboard.

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

I use a lot of Lovecraftian themes in my work, the idea that we are just small specks fighting over a dust mote in one forgotten corner of an indifferent universe. I like to play with time travel. But most of all I like the idea of the reluctant hero, someone who isn't equipped to lead the charge but does it anyway and figures it out by the end of the story. 

What would be your dream project? 

I would love to write a Marvel comic. I don't know which title. Probably the Silver Surfer

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

A lot of writers have influenced me in different ways, including the above-mentioned. I try not to copy any one writer's style. Lovecraft's cosmology has influenced a number of my works and continues to do so. I love the idea of species and races that are far older than us and turned to dust before we came down out of the trees, but not before leaving behind their mysterious and often dangerous engineering projects for us to stumble upon. 

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

My first full novel, Star Swarm. It has a number of structural problems that stem from the jumbled way it was written. If I had it to do over I'd probably burn it down to the ground and start over. 

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

The line between art and craft is a blurry one. Every writer comes at it differently, with a different set of skills. He may be naturally good at structuring plot or creating rich characters. Everything else he or she has to learn. In a word, I think it's both. But those elements are different for every writer at different stages of their growth as a writer. Or maybe I'm just flat-out wrong. Who knows?

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

The planning stage of a new project, and getting out of my own way long enough to finish the thing. 

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

I consider myself lucky to know so many creative people, not just writers but visual artists as well. Their successes buoy my spirits and their struggles give me insights into my own. They make me want to be a better writer so that I will work hard to become one. 

What does literary success look like to you? 

I've never really chased literary success, though I would certainly accept an award or two if one were tossed my way. I want to reach readers and sell my books and stories to as many people as possible. Success to me would be to write full time.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

I have a current project, War for Monster Earth, the third and final volume in the Monster Earth anthology series. It's about a world where the Cold War was fought with giant monsters instead of the threat of nuclear weapons, and features stories by talented folks Jim Beard, Teel James Glenn, Nancy Hansen, Desmond Reddick, John C. Bruening, and Russell Nohelty, with cover art by the dynamite Jeffrey Hayes. You can check out the entire series here.

I'm also trying to guide people over to my Patreon, where I'm going to be serializing some novellas and stories. Readers can get full access for as little as $1 per month. You can check it out at

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

[link] Fandom, Entitlement and the Alt-Right

Well… no evil except casual racism and misogyny, but still….
by Jim MacQuarrie

As a kid, my favorite superheroes were the Flash and Green Lantern. The Flash, because his real power wasn’t super-speed; his speed was a tool he used, but his real power was that he was smart – he outsmarted his opponents. He knew more about scientific principles than they did and he applied his knowledge in clever and creative ways to solve problems that he couldn’t outrun. As a puny little kid who read too much and knew too much random stuff, that resonated with me.

My other favorite, Green Lantern, worked on two levels (three if you count the fantastic art by Gil Kane). First, he had a ring that was functionally magic; if he could think of it, the ring could do it. Second, and more importantly, the ring ran on willpower. He had to bring resolve to the fight, to dig in and hold on and never give up, because if he didn’t, the ring would fail. He kept that willpower up through something completely unique to comics: his daily oath. When he charged up his ring by pressing it to its power battery, he would recite the pledge I quoted at the top. Some writers suggested that he said it as a way of timing the process; the length of time it took to recite the oath was how long it took to charge the ring for another 24 hours. But he could just as easily have sung “I’m a Little Teapot” if it was just about timing. It’s so much more than that.

As I said, the Green Lantern Oath is unique in comics. Superman had a mission statement (“fighting a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way”); Spider-Man had an aphorism (“with great power must also come great responsibility”); Batman had a promise (“I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals”); and Captain America had several thick volumes of inspiring speeches on the nature of freedom and the responsibility to defend it. But only Green Lantern had an ongoing, present-tense pledge that he recited daily.

When my son was a Boy Scout, I found that the Scout Oath and Law were the best thing anyone ever gave a parent. Suddenly I had a checklist of ideals and standards that he promised to uphold, principles he publicly raised his hand and swore to every Monday night, and I held him to them. “A Scout is clean,” I’d say while pointing at a mess he’d made. “A Scout is helpful,” “a Scout is courteous,” and so on, and I believe the reminders about who he was and what he’d promised to become helped to make him the good, kind and decent man he is today.

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Friday, June 11, 2021




Pro Se Productions proudly announces that an anthology years in the making is available in print and digital formats. Originally conceived as a comic concept and appearing in the Shooting Star Comics lineup, this modern pulp hero and her team of adventurers live again in a massive collection of tales from some of today’s best writers-AYM GERONIMO AND THE POSTMODERN PIONEERS: TALL TALES!

Headquartered in the Wonder Wall, a complex carved from a side of the Grand Canyon. the PostModern Pioneers travel to all corners of the globe and undertake dangerous deeds, discover the unknown, defy disasters, and defeat the diabolical using the advanced tools of technology forged by the brilliant mind of Ms. Geronimo and the prodigious skills of her comrades.

With a Preface by Chuck Dixon and all story introductions and character biographies written by AYM Co-Creator J. Morgan Neal, these modern-day tall tales are told by Sean Burnham, Rebecca Upson, Diane Colchamiro, Neil Sarver, Scott E. Hileman, Cliff Roberts, Sarah Beach, Corrina Lawson, Brenda Roberts, Danny Donovan, John David Bock, Bobby Nash, Sean Taylor, Scott McCullar, Tommy Hancock, and Eric Burnham.


Featuring a stunning cover by Co-Creator Todd Fox and cover design and print formatting by Sean Ali, TALL TALES is available in print at for $15.99.

This pulpy anthology is also available on Kindle formatted by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for $2.99 at Kindle Unlimited Members can read these PostModern Pioneering adventures for free!

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

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