Saturday, June 25, 2022

[Link] Death and Destruction: 5 Evil Gods of the Underworld

by Lara Colrain

Since the dawn of man, there has always been evil. But what is evil exactly, as its definition can be double-sided? Generally, it is described as “the absence of good.” However, evil also signifies the immoral nature of the human condition, where conflict and torment are the true roots of evil. 

Some people believe that evil deities indeed existed—and perhaps still do. In contrast, others regard them as mere intangible manifestations of human fears. Some are evil gods of the underworld, and some exist to torment humanity. In this article, the author has taken the former stance! Read on to learn about five evil gods with spine-chilling backstories that might just keep you up at night.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 24, 2022



With raven feathers and fearful whispers comes a story of aged concerns and buried mysteries in a tale that brings the once Prince of Darkness into conflict with the very essence of life itself! PAN VS. DRACULA by Courtney Milnestein is now available in print and digital formats from Pro Se Productions.

“All hail Dracula! Hail to thee, born of dragons!”
“All hail Dracula! Hail to thee, lord of impalers!”
“All hail Dracula! Hail to thee, favoured prisoner once more!”

War has broken out on the continent! At St. Gilles de Rais Catholic School, the new French madam has grave concerns about the new school term and even graver concerns about two of her missing students. Meanwhile, plagued by the same concerns, Arthur Holmwood and Doctor John Seward find themselves unwitting companions with their old foe, the archfiend, Count Dracula, as the ancient vampire brings dangerous tidings of secret gardens and foreign royalties—the suggestion of an ancient threat from the dawn of time rising once more from dreamless slumber. And this menace might very well wear the face of a forever young child…

PAN VERSUS DRACULA by Courtney Milnestein. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a haunting cover and logo design by Antonino lo Iacono and print formatting by Carol Morris, PAN VS. DRACULA is available from Amazon for only $11.99.

Formatted by Morris, this clash of literary legends is available as an ebook for only 99 cents for a limited time from Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members can read for free!

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2022

Getting Cozy

Let's talk about cozy mysteries for the next writer roundtable. This time I'm looking for you mystery writers, particularly writers of cozy mysteries.

What sets a mystery apart (in your mind) as a cozy?

Marian Allen: A cozy has the murder take place off-stage. The sleuth is an amateur detective or, at a stretch, a private eye. Cozies are lighter than not, and the danger shouldn't be TOO acute, or at least not treated as acute. You should always know the sleuth is going to get out of any danger. An animal involved and NOT KILLED is a plus. 

Lucy Blue: I can't think of a better definition than Marian Allen's. All I would add is that usually the murder victim pretty much deserved what they got -- very rarely do good-hearted people get murdered in a cozy. 

Ernest Russell: So far, I have tried my hand at one murder mystery. It is a locked-room mystery. The detective never leaves their home. All information about the case is brought to the detective.

The mystery has some marks as a cozy, but it isn't. The detective is sociopathic because of PTSD brought on by one of the other characters. And he is employed by NYPD.

If this were truly a cozy, my detective would be brought to the case in some different ways.

A consultant of a police department, a mutual friend of the victim, or my erstwhile amateur detective is a friend/boyfriend-girlfriend/business partner or perhaps a business relationship. Maybe a case of a letter delivered to the wrong address. I've had lots of ideas on how to get my sleuth involved. The thing is there is usually a light-hearted element in a cozy, maybe humorous, maybe not, but light. A librarian who reads the police report and relates the crime to details of different books perhaps, thus solving the mystery by realizing the various plot points lead to one perpetrator. The main thing is to light-hearted and fun.

What's the most fun part about writing cozy mysteries for you?

Marian Allen: The most fun part of writing a cozy for me is the security of knowing good will triumph and my sleuth will survive. Also: Cozies are allowed to be a bit unrealistic. 

Danielle Palli: For me, it’s discovering more about my characters as I go along (and they always manage to surprise me!). If I Didn’t Care is my first cozy mystery, and I wanted to give throwbacks to old-time movies and detective stories (a la the Thin Man and Columbo). So I purposefully added the witty, fast-talking banter between the characters and enjoyed making many of them larger than life, putting them in situations that would never fly in real life. This hopefully provided a fun escape for the reader willing to suspend their beliefs with me for a few hours. The book takes place in 1997 during the tech boom in Manhattan, so for me, it was a stroll down memory lane. Come to think of it, I don’t know that there was any part of it that wasn’t fun!

Ernest Russell: I had a hard time with writing the one mystery. Not eager to try again soon. I worked the story backward. from the victim to the murder method to who had the motive etc. It was one of the hardest things I've written. I need to read a lot more cozy mysteries and get a better feel for the genre and how the clues are sprinkled through the story before I try again. I am far more comfortable with a Race Williams-style story than a cozy.

I was too ambitious and made the one mystery more difficult to write by including an embezzler, who could have been the murderer as one red herring, a second red herring, and then the murderer. Both criminals are caught.

Lucy Blue: I set up a framework of clues to solution before I start writing (working backward from whodunnit and why), but the most fun part is when I discover new clues or better ways to reveal clues as I'm writing, watching the story blossom outward from that framework as it grows. 

How much do the cozy mysteries you write have to pass the "Encyclopedia Brown Test" (all the clues are there and the reader can solve it along with the detective) or pass muster for their adherence to investigative procedure (like a police procedural by Ed McBain, for instance)?

Marian Allen: All the clues must be available to the reader, period, paragraph. 

Lucy Blue: You definitely have to play fair with the reader--no convenient characters we haven't seen before dropping out of the ceiling in the last scene to be the killer. You can have red herrings; you NEED red herrings; the puzzle has to be challenging. But all the pieces need to be there. But as far as "adherence to investigative procedure"? Um, my "detective" is a 21-year-old silent movie actress who dropped out of college her freshman year and whose primary preoccupation other than her work and her fiance is the Charleston. She just happens to be extremely observant with a deep empathy for other people--the same qualities that make her a great actress make her a great detective. And that's one of the things that's great about cozies; you don't have to depend on "realistic" investigative procedure. Unless your detective is in fact a professional detective or law enforcement professional, in which case, yeah, you gotta get it right. 

Danielle Palli: 100/75. I will always play fair by providing the appropriate clues, but I can’t promise I won’t throw in a few red herrings along the way. I want readers to get excited about solving the crime, but the satisfaction comes from having to work at it a little. As far as how honest it needs to be with regards to investigative procedure? For me, it has to be authentic enough not to raise a lot of red flags, with enough wiggle room to be able to put characters into otherwise impossible situations.  

Ernest Russell: "Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All" is where I learned to love mysteries. It was a gift sent to me by my father, who I never met, and I devoured it over and over. If I am reading a cozy this is the style I prefer to read. I am simply confident at this time of my ability to write a good mystery, much less one in that vein.

Other than Agatha Christie, who are the "starter pack" writers for readers wanting to dive into cozy mysteries? Who are the best contemporary cozy writers?

HC Playa: I recently started reading a series called Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus. It feels like a cozy mystery mashed with urban fantasy. She's just a librarian wizard who prefers her books and her tea and her cat's company and her miscreant witch friend just insists on dragging her into his antics and then things get weird and she simply must figure out who/what the threat is... then it's all about how to stop them (which is where you leave the cozy mystery part).

I would not have thought that mashup would work, but so far it has.

The main character is female, has no intentions or desire to be a sleuth, but regularly finds herself in situations where she must investigate or research things. Cozy mystery, yes?

Ernest Russell: A current writer I do like is Victoria Thompson and her Gaslight Mystery series. They have a historical setting. 19th Century New York and they are a darker kind of cozy. She doesn't whitewash the period and while her sleuths are 'good' people. they are products of the time. So much for light cozies. LOL!!

The titles in Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series are good, classic cozies. The descriptions of the meals add a little of that lightness and will make your mouth water too. My partner and I both enjoy them greatly.

Marian Allen: Michael Z. Lewin's mysteries are more cozy than otherwise. One series features a missing persons detective, one features a private eye (not terribly good), and one features a family of detectives in England. One stand-alone is about a homeless man looking for his missing lady friend. Another is about a man who isn't the sharpest crayon in the box trying to figure out what the heck happened and why he's in trouble. Lewin is a brilliant writer!

Lucy Blue: One book I would highly recommend to anybody studying the form is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It uses all the key ingredients of a deductive-reasoning detective plot to tell a much more layered story. The hero detective is an autistic teenager who sets out to find out who murdered his neighbor's dog (yes, it does break that rule, but it does happen off stage before the action of the book starts). And he follows all the same rules as Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes. Plus it's just a really great novel.

Motivational Monday: Making Sense

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Airship Productions Presents The Return of Doc Atlas!


Airship 27 Production is thrilled to present the first in a series of books starring Doc Atlas. Created by Michael A. Black and Ray Lovato as their homage to the classic 30s and 40s characters such as Doc Savage, Jim Anthony etc. In no time at all Doc and his team became huge fan favorites appearing via multiple publishers such as Eclipse Publishing and Crossroads Press. Now at long last, the dynamic trio of Doc, Thomas “Mad Dog” Deagan and Edward “Ace” Assante have found a new home with Airship 27 Production.

In this premier volume they deal with three action-packed cases. From a deadly mystery haunting an ancient Mayan pyramid in Mexico, to Roswell, New Mexico to investigate the supposed crash of a flying saucer. And finally down to the Amazon jungle on the trail of Nazi war criminals in control of a mysterious death-dealing monster. Here is action and adventure in the mold of the classic pulps only with a daring new perspective by two amazing storytellers. This is what New Pulp was made for.

“We are super thrilled to be releasing this first book,” says Airship 27 Production’s Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “It was scheduled for 2018, but the best-laid plans don’t always materialize as we hope. Covid and other variables pushed us back a few yards but the goal post at long last is scored. And the win is all the sweeter.”

Joining the team of Black and Lovato on Airship 27’s new Doc Atlas series is Pulp Factory Award-winning artist Ed Catto. Catto will be providing all the covers and interior illustrations for this dynamic series. He couldn’t be happier. “In all,” Fortier continues, “we’ve put a package together we feel all New Pulp fans are going to relish. Now on to volume two!”



Saturday, June 18, 2022

[Link] Library of Congress Has Digitized 100 Rare and Classic Children’s Books

By Emily Petsko

One hundred rare and vintage children’s books can now be read online for free via the Library of Congress’s website, according to The New York Times. The titles, all of which were published at least a century ago, were digitized in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first national Children’s Book Week.

“Some of these books are hundreds of years old and no child will ever see them except through a glass case, so it is a way to get these books into the hands of children,” Jacqueline Coleburn, the library’s rare book cataloger, told the newspaper.

There are plenty of recognizable titles, including early versions of Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose in Prose, Grimm’s Animal Stories, Red Riding Hood, The Secret Garden, Stories from Hans Andersen, The Story of the Three Little Pigs, and more. All of the books can be viewed as downloadable PDFs or in a text-only format.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 17, 2022

#TheSummerOfSnow is back with Snow Shorts #9: Dead Drop!

Snow’s former handler, Elizabeth Walker returns in an all-new mystery/thriller Snow Short! Are you ready for some brand-new #FreshSnow? #TheSummerOfSnow heats up! BEN Books welcomes author Bernadette Johnson to #TeamSnow with the debut of SNOW SHORTS #9: DEAD DROP. Cover design and portrait are by Jeffrey Hayes of Plasmafire Graphics. Snow Shorts #9 is now available as a $0.99 ebook from BEN Books. You can read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited. Find it here:

About Dead Drop: A body is found at, of all places, a dead drop, and agent Liz Walker must deduce who committed a murder right in Mother’s backyard.

Snow Shorts #9: Dead Drop is available at the following retailers:

Learn more about Snow and find worldwide purchase links at

Learn more about Bernadette Johnson at

Learn more about Jeffrey Hayes and Plasmafire Graphics at

Published by BEN Books.

Snow created by Bobby Nash.

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

#BENBooks #SnowShorts #Snow #AbrahamSnow #FreshSnow

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Movie Reviews for Writers: Horrors of the Black Museum

Horrors of the Black Museum is a grisly little thriller from the 50s that seems to be a lot edgier than what came before, even it if hints at the violence rather than reveals it through gore. It's got the over-the-top craziness of character that much of transitional thrillers had, but it does move into a more grounded sort of mystery rather than the supernatural and or legendary (Bluebeard, etc.) thrillers. 

It's the first of what has been called  Anglo-Amalgamated's "Sadian trilogy," along with Circus of Horrors and Peeping Tom (both of which are amazing crime flicks). These films focused on not just the mystery and the crime, but more so on the sadism and cruelty of the violence (often with sexual undertones). As I said, it's one of the films that transitions from the Hammer supernatural horrors to modern killers and from early Hitchcockian mysteries to a more dramatic and dark crime story that doesn't shy from the crime itself onscreen. 

It's also a film that features crime writer Edmond Bancroft, played by Michael Gough, as the main character. He's covering a recent series of crimes for the paper, and he's collecting them for a new book, based on weapons from Scotland Yard's Black Museum. The Black Museum is a collection of murder weapons and other items used in solved crimes. I won't ruin the plot, but the killer is revealed by the end of the first act, so it's far less about the mystery of who is killing and more about whether or not the killer will get caught. 

Around all that cinematic historicness, it also manages to say quite a bit (mostly in the first act) about writers and the way we treat our preferred genres. 

Yes, my dear fellow creators -- I'm talking about obsession. 

We all know the drill. We're trying to adult for our non-writer friends, and they take a look at our bookshelves or artwork. You're almost safe if you write fantasy and they get lost in all the sword, sandals, and sorcery books you have all over the place. You're in a worse spot if, however, you have a collection of creepy and scary artwork and books about casting spells and how to become a werewolf or where modern-day vampires hang out. It's even worse, though, when you're a crime writer, and you have an encyclopedia of serial killers, a library of true crime, and how-to books about crime scenes and investigating -- and getting away with and planning -- murders. (And let's not even get started about that scary FBI-tagged browser history.)

But enough about me. Let's see what the movie has to say about a writer's obsession.

Early in the film, Bancroft's doctor is treating him for anxiety and increased excitement (blood pressure, etc.). He tells him that his fixation on murder and crime is taking a toll on his body, not just his mind. "You seem to eat, sleep, and drink crime," says Dr. Ballan, but of course, Bancroft shrugs off his concerns. He continues by noting that "After you've written about it, analyzed it, you return to yourself."

I think we all can be like that to a degree, though most likely without the physical affectations (if not, do go see a doctor, please, or change genres). We get deep in the weeds in our work. I still have a thick folder of notes and several books about Jack the Ripper for a novel that is still unfinished. The details recording in those notes are crazy obsessive, don't to photos copies from books, graphic descriptions of the deaths, you name it. It's the kind of thing that I might get in trouble about if my grandmother had ever found it and thumbed through it. 

And I bet I'm not the only one. I know of writers who use a murder board to plot their crimes and mysteries. I know of writers who google how to make bombs and every minutia of assault weapon data as they strive for accuracy in their work. 

It's what causes our significant others to wonder about us. Trust me. I've been there. 

But we know that even all that obsession serves a creative purpose. It's something that the woman who runs the antique shop reminds Bancroft of during one of their encounters.

Aggie: "Not that I want to make you more conceited than you are, Mr. Bancroft. Let me tell you, you have a way with words, you do, especially when it's about murder."
Bancroft: "It's my favorite subject."
Aggie: "Oh, don't I know. I read all your books."

That gory detail, that information about doing so many illegal things, that chemical concoction for doing in a neighbor, it's all part of the process. It's the background stuff that makes our words flow when it's time to write. Whatever it is where researching, it is our "favorite subject" at that moment most often. It's the "why" we have a way with words. 

Now, that's not to say that too much of that obsession can't become a bad thing. Don't lose your touch with the real world, of course. (Cue up the PSA music from afterschool specials here.)

There are two other lesser bits the movie covers that I also want to mention. One is the propensity of writers to end up killing off the doppelgangers of people we know in our work. A friend of mind, several probably, often tells people to be careful or he might kill them in his next novel. Of course, people usually follow that up by asking for that very fate. 

And that's not something new, as observed by Aggie's question when Bancroft first comes to see her at her shop. 

Aggie: "Well, Mr. Bancroft, come to write me off?"
Bancroft: "Not yet. I don't think you're quite vicious enough. Though you do look it."

Then they laugh it off, ignoring the more sinister undertones the conversation takes in the movie. But the conversation itself is all too common for writers. Whether we bring people we know wholesale into our work and stab them or shoot them, or if we just bring little tidbits of character like a way of rolling the eyes or biting on a bottom lips from a friend or acquaintance, we do it all the time. Be care, of you'll end up dead -- in my novel. 

Finally, be prepared for your writing to offend people. It's okay. Nothing will please everyone. Says Bancroft to his assistant: "If you're worth your salt as a writer, you're bound to rub some people the wrong way."

And it's true. Nothing you write -- ever -- will please 100 percent of the people. Nothing you write -- ever -- will even avoid upsetting some of the people. It's just not possible. Thicken your hide. Stiff upper lip and all that. It's okay. 

Don't "obsess" about it. (See what I did there?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Balancing Backlog: When the Well Overflows

Let's talk about balancing ideas and projects. I can't think of a single writer I know who doesn't have ideas that float around in their head to wake them up or keep them up at night -- and typically ideas not related to the current WIP. Oh, what's a poor writer to do?

Are you the type of writer who has a massive backlog of ideas to explore in your stories or the type who deals with one idea at a time and then turns on the idea machine afterward? How do store that backlog, whether digital or on paper?

Marian Allen: I have so many projects already in the pipeline, I don't have the brain capacity to do anything with new ones. EXCEPT! I do Story A Day May every year, and those flashes of ideas are great to prompt daily stories. I also have a big folder with story ideas in it, and, in the rare times when I need something to write, I dig into that. I've used it for many stories.

Jay Requard: Massive backlog. It is currently all in notebooks but I'm transcribing one part to digital after the baby got a hold of it.

Elizabeth Donald: Ideas are fleeting little butterflies that need to be captured in jars before they get away. I keep a folder on my computer titled “Marinade” where I put the stray ideas. They have to sit there and think about what they’ve done, and when I need help I go for a walk through the folder. My first novel is in there, in all its drafts going back to the utterly dreadful high school novella, and there are reasons why it’s never seen the light of day. The next oldest file in there is from 2002 and may not actually be translatable now, but why would I let it get away? If I’m not near my computer when an idea strikes, I will use voice-to-text to stick it in my phone until I can translate it to my Marinade file. If I tried to keep it on paper, I would inevitably lose it, and there goes my Pulitzer.

Bobby Nash: Depends on your idea of massive. There are many ideas tucked away for future use. Some I will never get to, I suspect as new ideas keep working their way into my brain. One of the best things about having these ideas sitting in writer limbo is that sometimes, I realize that two of them are part of the same story and blend them together.

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: I have a backlog of ideas. All of them swarming around in my brain. I keep them in journals or post-it notes that I have stuck all around my desk top. What percentage actually gets done? I don't know, man. if I start keeping score, I'll just get constipated and never do another damn thing. I just keep trucking. If the idea is good enough, it'll last until it's time to get inked.

B. Clay Moore: I have a huge backlog of ideas, and now and then one pops back into my head to either inform a new idea or as the impetus to rework it in a new direction.

John French: I have a legal pad on my desk, with separate pages for each "project". On these pages, I write notes, story and character ideas, etc. Right now I'm about 10-15K away from finishing one with five more warming up in the bullpen waiting to get the call.

Good ol' fashioned notepad.
Ef Deal: When I started writing, I had a character arc that consumed me, and I'm not through with her yet after 35 years. In those pre-computer days, I filled blank books and spiral notebooks and steno pads. I just kept writing. I couldn't stop. She's a rich mine of stories. I've written a lot of flash pieces and other short stories in the meantime, but I keep coming back to her and that universe. I really hope she sees print one day because she's a fantastic badass. When I started this new series The Twins of BellesfĂ©es, I found myself picturing the twins in so many steampunk / paranormal crossover situations I couldn't stop writing. The more I researched the more ideas for novels I got. 

Michael Dean Jackson: Oh, hells, yeah! I have a Word document listing a dream schedule of almost 20 projects, only half a dozen of which have been completed. I have worked on a few of them off and on, I have sketched thumbnails of potential book covers. They're all there in my mind floating around. Every once in a while I grab one and wrestle it to completion (but not as often as I'd like! The Dream Schedule is seeming more and more like a dream the longer it takes to actually get them to completion.)

My unwritten ideas sometimes seem more attractive than the one I'm working on, but they usually behave.

HC Playa: I feel like maybe I'm weird 😂. I hyperfocus on a WIP...maybe. I literally avoid going into that musing headspace of new ideas until I have a rough draft down for whatever I am working on. I don't mind at all doing edits on one while creating another.

Ernest Russell: In my story ideas folder there are 35-40 ideas, from a couple of sentences to a pitch to an outline because I really want to recall where I was going with it. The journal I carry with me has story ideas, notes on current projects, notes from panels and lectures, turn of phrase I heard/saw that I liked. No sketches though, my stick people look sick and trees look more like cotton swabs.

Jonathan Sweet: Definitely a massive backlog. I've done a better job lately of storing them -- I keep a running file on my phone so I can get them down when I think of them. (I tend to find they come up when I'm off doing something else, so my previous goal of "I'll remember them when I get back to my desk" never seemed to work.)

How big a distraction do your unwritten ideas become when you are on another project? How do you balance their demands with those of the primary stories?

Teel James Glenn: I'm pretty good at controlling the 'I've gotta do this' with "I owe this to a publisher'-- the hardest is that I need to have short story 'space' between novels' so they can circulate while the months of working on the next novel...

Ernest Russell: Jot it down. If I can't seem to let go, I'll write a synopsis or an outline to revisit. Then back into the current projects. When I finish a project, if there is nothing pressing, I'll look through the ideas and dust one off.

Starting to get out of hand, huh?
Spencer Moore: I have no “process.” But I have like, a zillion different narrative bits that I’m always fooling with in my head, like an 800-pound Rubic's Cube with about a million different sides… Seriously, I’m locked and loaded for whenever the money guys come a’knockin’.

B. Clay Moore: My last Aftershock book, Miles To Go, combined two different ideas I'd had around forever, and *also* included a scene I'd written 15 years ago for a graphic novel I never finished, based on a real experience.

Jay Requard: I outline my ideas if they have any real pull with me, so once that outline is filed away I go about what I'm working on which is usually 1-2 manuscripts and an editorial project but I'm actually reading again for. Part of the hard answer to your question that might rankle people is psychological: why would an idea bother me when it's the next thing I can do? If you have this idea in your head that there is no real rest in this *life* as an author, then you finish one project and immediately go on to the next. Having that backlog keeps the work going and the chance of making it continue.

Timothy Joe Kirk: Middling, sometimes I've got to make a note right now but can write it and go back.

Jonathan Sweet: They can be a distraction when the writing isn’t going well on my current project. They’re that bright shiny object over there … I try to balance the demands by jotting down notes as those story points come to me and then jumping back over to the current project

Bobby Nash: When something new hits, I jot down some notes to return to later. If it's an idea related to one of the projects in some form of production, I go ahead and start writing it down. Yesterday, oddly enough, I wrote a chapter for the 3rd Sheriff Myers book, which I technically haven't started writing yet. The chapter was so vivid in my mind I went ahead and wrote it. Unusual for me as I don't generally write my first draft out of order, but I knew if I didn't, I would forget it. Or, at least part of it.

Elizabeth Donald: My ideas are never a distraction. Unfortunately, sometimes they grow into fully-fledged stories with plots and twists and characters and all those lovely nuances just waiting for me to hamhandedly put them on the screen. When they reach maturity but I don’t have time to write them, it gets annoying. I was just telling a colleague last week that I have Novel A at the nine-tenths mark with a publisher waiting, Novel B plotted but not written, Collection A half-written and Collection B at the one-quarter mark, and all of these are potentially paying projects, plus a burgeoning master’s thesis. So what’s occupying my mind when I’m two minutes from falling sleep? Novel C, which no one wants and isn’t on anyone’s schedule. Stop it, Novel C! Wait your turn!

Let's be honest, what percentage of your ideas, at least those interesting enough to record for "one day," ever really make it to the forefront of your brain and get worked on as potential stories? How do you prioritize what becomes a valid new project versus what must remain in the "not yet" pile in your inventory of ideas?

Michael Dean Jackson: Honestly, I don't know how many of the dream projects will ever see the light of day. On a good day, I'd say maybe half, but realistically I'd have to say four...maybe five... and only because I have actually taken a stab at writing those

Ef Deal: My head is full of stories all the time, but they don't interfere with my writing. If I get stuck on a piece, I turn to another idea for a bit. Then I see an anthology opening, and five new ideas pop into my head, and I write them.

What do I work on next?
Roger Stegman: From 1997 to 2006, I had more ideas than I could write, so I posted them on bulletin boards. I posted at least an idea a day, and most years I posted from 50 to 400 extra ideas a year. Going through some at one time or another, one or two a month were really good. Most were drivel, but I never knew that until long after it was posted.

Jonathan Sweet: A pretty small percentage. The ideas keep coming because that’s the easy part for me. The unused story idea is the wonderful, perfect, unspoiled nugget. Sitting down and cranking out the stories are always more of a challenge. I’ve accepted that a lot of these ideas will never make it to full story form.

HC Playa: I don't really have extensive notes. I might scribble an outline, some brainstorming plot, and conflict ideas, but I tend to keep it all in my head until I build a world that is too complex. Sometimes I'll get a story started, run into a plot issue and set it aside, but that's the extent of my "idea" log.

Ernest Russell: To date, I've had three accepted and are awaiting publishing. There are perhaps half a dozen with progress made on them. Currently, I have nothing on a deadline. I've been working in collaboration on a novel, I have a sequel to a novella started, and an ongoing story a friend and I share just for the fun of it. Once the first draft of the novel is completed I have a collection I've worked on here and there, I want to concentrate on it. It's the furthest along of my different WIPs. It has the benefit that I already know there is interest in it. Beyond that, Whichever one strikes my interest. When it does, magic happens. Sometimes, nothing happens.

Bobby Nash: I don't know numbers, but there are germs of ideas that will probably never go beyond that unless another idea comes along that adds to that idea. Ideas are always flying at me, but there's more to a good story than just an idea. Sometimes, you have to wait for the right idea and character to meet.

Elizabeth Donald: I’d say maybe 30 percent of my ideas eventually come to fruition, but they may linger in the Marinade file for years. One concept went through five iterations before it morphed into the project that I sold. And really, that last part is what’s key to which ideas become a valid new project and which ideas go to the back of the line. Harlan Ellison once asked me how many stories I had sold, and I flubbed the question because Harlan made me nervous. But it occurred to me later that he didn’t ask how many ideas I’d had, or even how many stories I’d finished to my satisfaction. He asked me how many I had sold. Because when you do this for a living, that’s how you pay the rent. I’ve been told that perhaps I focus too much on the salability of a project, perhaps to the detriment of the art. That’s possibly true, but there’s also a lot of privilege to the idea that we should do art first and market second. When you have the rent paid by other means, maybe you can do art first. But when you feed your family by the written word, you need to prioritize what you can sell and keep your work out where the eyeballs can find it. So call me a craven commercialist, but buy enough of my books so I can go write Novel C, would you? That book won’t shut up.

B. Clay Moore: Just had a new book approved with a publisher, and should be outlining it while waiting on the contract, but another old idea that I'd partially developed with an artist a decade ago jumped up and bit me, and I'm now polishing that to pitch. 

If an idea is good but doesn't fly, I always keep it in the back of my busy brain.

My organization is more like "dis-"

Jay Requard: I would refer to the answer in my second question, but basically if it sticks with me for a bit I finally get to writing it down in an outline. I do have outlines I will never touch in that notebook, but I also sold three stories last year from something I wrote two years ago in it. I'm also proud to say I've completed a number of them as well.

Timothy Joe Kirk: Quite a few, sometimes I find a better way to approach the idea later.

Matt Hiebert: Three novel-length ideas in the background. If I start something I have to finish… at least a first draft. I plan to finish at least two of the novels.

Sunday, June 12, 2022



Come one, come all! Feast your eyes, ears, and more on the most wondrous creatures pulled from myth and legend ever gathered in one place. And in this traveling, almost unexplainable spectacle, the most amazing being is the owner, Matagordia, him…or herself!

MATAGORDIA’S MYTHICAL MENAGERIE is a wondrous mix of magic, mystery, and madness. Beasts, beings, and monsters thought to be fantasy…or fears alone are the featured attraction of this extravaganza. The truth is that humans and the animals we know to exist are not all that exist, and those things, those living things that belong to legend and nightmare, to dream and story…they need a place to be as well. A way to live. And someone to take care of them.

Be it a circus tent in the middle of a Midwestern field in the 19th Century or a small auditorium that somehow suddenly appears in Chicago in the 1930s, Matagordia’s Mythical Menagerie is a place where not only can regular folks see creatures they thought to be made up…but those very beasts aren’t on display as much as they live in a world all their own, one that is more than tent flaps or doors. Where outsiders see a warehouse actually may exist entire landscapes…and then there’s Matagordia, as much mystery and possible myth as the creatures on impossible display.

MATAGORDIA’S MYTHICAL MENAGERIE, an anthology featuring stories by T.N. Goode, Herika Raymer, Kenneth Robkin, Dewayne Dowers, and Paige McMahon with an introduction from concept creator Tommy Hancock. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a mysterious cover and print formatting and logo design by Antonino lo Iacono, MATAGORDIA’S MYTHICAL MENAGERIE is available for 9.99 via Amazon.

Formatted by lo Iaocono and Marzia Marina, this first volume of adventures is available as an ebook for only 99 cents for a limited time from Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members can read for free!

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

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

Saturday, June 11, 2022

[Link] 10 Fascinating Facts About Edith Wharton

By Lucas Aykroyd

In 1921, Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Age of Innocence. This poignant story about 1870s New York society depicts the emotional affair between Newland Archer, a married lawyer, and Countess Ellen Olenska, his wife's enigmatic (and rather scandalous) cousin. The Age of Innocence was serialized in four parts in the Pictorial Review in 1920, and D. Appleton & Company published it in book form before the year was out. Here are some things you might not know about Wharton, a well-traveled Gilded Age socialite who became a literary icon.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 10, 2022



Nobody blows a horn as mean or gets into trouble as dangerous as Johnny Nickle…

Prolific Pulp Author Charles Boeckman gave the world unforgettable tales in the days of the Pulps and through the age of digests and into the modern era as well! And now characters created by Boeckman from the golden age of Pulps live again in new tales written by today's best authors!

CHARLES BOECKMAN PRESENTS JOHNNY NICKLE VOLUME THREE brings one of Boeckman’s most memorable one-shot characters back to life, by arrangement with the Boeckman Family. Two stories written by Lance Roger Axt resurrect the noirish era of 1950s Jazz and all the characters that populate the shadows between the musical notes. Red hot jazz, soul stirring blues, and enough murder and mayhem to make even the most hard boiled horn blower run for cover.


Featuring a stunning retro cover by Adam Shaw and logo design and print formatting by Sean Ali, CHARLES BOECKMAN PRESENTS JOHNNY NICKLE VOLUME THREE is available from Amazon for only $7.99.

Formatted by Antonino lo Iaocono, this two story collection is available as an ebook for only 99 cents for a limited time from Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members can read for free!

CHARLES BOECKMAN PRESENTS JOHNNY NICKLE VOLUMES ONE and TWO are available on Amazon by a title search. 

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

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

Thursday, June 9, 2022

New iHero story from yours truly! The first in at least ten years!

If you missed any of the earlier notices, iHero Entertainment has found new life at That's where new stories in the fan-favorite and award-winning fiction zine (both e-zine and magazine) will be debuting for the foreseeable future. It already features tales by iHero creator Frank Fradella and staff writer Matt Hiebert, and now I've published my first new iHero story to the site -- "Glissando." 

It's right here:

Here's a taste. 

(Language warning for those who care about such things.)

What a fucking job. Pushing a fucking plastic cart around and picking up dog shit and trash for eight hours a day when he should be headlining at least the lower rent bars in the downtown piss holes of the big cities down here in the Southeast. Latex gloves and dog shit. What a fucking job.

He was a fucking rock and roll guitarist. Born and bred. And gifted beyond the ken of mortal men and all that shit.

No. Seriously. Gifted. Gif-fucking-ted. Like a superhero for the rock and roll set. As stupid as it sounds.

“Not all people who are born with super-normal powers can fly or pick up tanks, son,” his dad, a two-bit prick he had called Thomas and never Dad had told him enough times to make it into a mantra. “Some of us have to find more subtle uses for our abilities.”

“Yes, Thomas,” he had said at the time, not really caring. He had been too busy dreaming of costumes and colors.

Thomas Hadensmith was dead now, of course, died a few weeks after he ran off on Tommy and his mom with a little redheaded saxophone player from Memphis. The old man had called her Belle, for Memphis Belle, and he laughed like it was the funniest fucking joke in the world every time he told it. Even when he told it on the day he left.

Read the full story:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Movie Reviews for Writers: Skin Deep

This is clearly Blake Edwards territory. Know that before you go in. It even has a gag with a glow-in-the-dark condom swordfight. But it's so much more than that too, just like a Blake Edwards film. Beneath all the sex jokes it actually has something worthwhile to say. 

Zach, played by John Ritter at his comedy best, is a best-selling writer who has lost 'it' and can't find his muse anymore. Granted, he's too busy looking into the beds of random women and at the bottom of bottles of alcohol. 

The opening scene puts it all right out in front. It doesn't hide anything. Zach is having sex with the woman who is cutting his hair when he is discovered by his mistress, who then is discovered by his wife, Alex. Bam. There it is. Pissed, Alex tosses his typewriter out the window. 

This sets up the single most important bit of dialog in the flick:

Zach: What have you got against my typewriter?
Alex: You used to write on it. Books and plays and movies. Once -- once you wrote a poem on our second anniversary and gave it to me. And you were happy. You exorcised your demons with credible thoughts and good words on that typewriter and your talent turned me on. I really thought we had a chance "until death do us part." And then one day you stopped. You gave up.
Zach: I dried up. It happens to writers.
Alex: Oh, so you bury yourself with the first young female that comes along, in the hopes she's going to magically restore your lost talent? ...
I threw out that typewriter because it represents everything that could have been loving and lasting, and wonderful, and everything that wasn't.

There's so much that can be unpacked from that exchange. 

1. We are at our best as writers when we turn to the words and the stories to find ourselves. 

At the first sign of becoming "dried up," Zach turns away from the work and to the 'other' -- in this case, booze and sex. But it doesn't matter what the other is. It will be different for each of us when we feel that dried-up feeling. For me it's TV. I simply prioritize shows and movies over my writing because suddenly I'm getting more out of them -- or rather, they're not demanding anything of me like the stories do. 

I know, just like you, that what is best for me in these times is to sit in front of that screen or piece of paper and put down some words, any words, and make progress until the joy of writing returns and the broken synapse between my imagination and my active brain is repaired. But I don't. I take the easy way out. I choose the option that doesn't force me to face my dried-up-ness. 

2. We are at our best as writers when we share what we create with those we love.

This could include family or fans. Both are loved, and both are part of a sort of family circle when it comes to writers anyway. We get so much by sharing our work. In fact, just a few words from a fan who likes something we've done (or better yet, are doing currently) can often offset the dried-up feelings just long enough to create again. 

3. We are at our best as writers when our work means something.

Usually, this is when our work means something to us, but in Zach's case (at this point anyway) it is based in what his work meant to his marriage. Don't worry though. Zach will spend the rest of the movie trying to find that for himself again. 

Again, this can mean different things to different authors. For me, my work represents my chance to be remembered. After I'm gone, someone, somewhere will have read my work and remember me, hopefully, remember me as someone who brought them joy for a bit while they read (and if I did a particularly good job, after they finished and the story stayed with them). For some writers I know, that meaning is their own opportunity to escape into fiction from the stresses of reality. For others, it's the need to create the stories they can't find anywhere else. And the list goes on. 

Regardless, the dried-up feeling is one that is common to us as writers. It's the dealing with it, not the running away in the face of it that is crucial. It's a lesson Zach gets from both his therapist and his agent:

Zach: Not being able to screw is as bad as not being able to write.
Psychiatrist: Maybe you should try writing again.
Zach: What the fuck does that mean?
Psychiatrist: I don't know. I'm not the burning bush. I made a suggestion, not a commandment.


Zach: If you think I'm such a failure, why do you keep on representing me?
Sparks: That's like asking a heroin addict why he keeps shooting up. It's because he keeps hoping for that first-time rush, that cherry high, even though he knows he'll never get it again. He's hooked... and he keeps hoping.
Zach: Watch out. I may surprise you.
Sparks: You watch out. I'm beyond surprises.

I love that word -- "surprise" -- that Zach uses. I love it because it's something I find in each story I write. It's something I find every time a story grabs my brain and keeps squeezing until the plot and characters and themes drip out. It's something I find in the kernel moment when a story shifts from a random thought to something that begins to take shape in a way I can't even fathom yet. 

For me, that "surprise" IS the high of writing. It's the drug I chase as I create fiction, as I tell stories. It's to me what C.S. Lewis defined as joy: "“Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.”

It's a lesson Zach isn't ready for at the beginning of the movie when is trying to explain all that is going wrong in his life that is keeping him from producing the very work that will bring him what he is missing. He tells his agent a litany of horrible situations, only to have him respond: "Don't say it, dear boy, write it."

Pow. Right in the gut. 

So, this enjoyable film turns out ot be the adventure of one writer as he loses his joy, searches for it in all the wrong places, and finally has to come to terms with the only real place it ever existed anyway -- in the creation of the work itself. And when you break it down to that level, it's almost an allegory as powerful for writers as Pilgrim's Progress must have been for religious folk. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Hard to Market, But It's Okay

Been in a bookstore lately? They seem to thrive more on marketing books than on books themselves. Outside a few small used bookstores, gone are the days of just grabbing a book a sitting and reading to get to know it, to try out something that grabbed you by either its synopsis or its cover (sometimes you can judge them by those) before you commit to buying it. They've even removed the chairs from most major chains that used to opt for a more library look and feel to appeal to bibliophiles. 

I get. I really do. They have to stay in business in a changing economy. And they have to do that without increasing the costs to maintain a "This isn't a library" standard or using a 1:1 ratio between staff and customers for the best recommendations to lead to sales. So they need shortcuts like "If you liked this author, try this author" or "More books like The Hunger Games" or (my least favorite) "Here are new books by the same old million-selling authors you would look for deep in the store anyway." 

Me, defined by graphic
But it's okay. 

I'm not bitter. (I'm really not.)

In a previous essay, I wrote this, and I still stand behind it:

Publishers and readers look for categories, and not just any categories, but easy to define divisions. Those are easy to sell. A reader wants a mystery for the beach this summer, and bang, a clerk can walk said reader to the mystery section where he or she can be inundated by racks and racks of books by pretty much the same 100 authors. A reader wants a new urban fantasy, and poof, there’s a section for that, not to be confused with either sci-fi or mystery, or even epic fantasy. It’s quickt:.), it’s easy, and it’s basic marketing.

It gets even quicker, easier, and more marketable with series. Publishers love series. Readers love series. Both love them because it means they don’t have to think about what to read next. They don’t have to experiment with authors outside their “I know and love him or her” list unless it’s a strong recommendation by a friend. Series make money for that very reason. Series make careers for that very reason. And smart writers (unlike me) know how to take advantage of that market for series books.

You see, I have learned that the publishing world is a lot like that used bookstore I love to visit. It continues to work because it is built on categories that make people’s choices for them. If you like ___________ then you’ll also like ___________. Don’t feel bad if there’s not a new book by ___________ yet, just read this similar book by ___________ and you’ll be fine.

No risk. No muss. No fuss. 

But also no wonder. No discovery. No adventurous expansion of your reading world. 

Wisdom from a Friend

Recently I had a good friend (one of my best actually) stay with my wife and me for a few weeks while he awaited his move-in date for a new apartment. It was great. We talked about TV and movies and books and writing (when I wasn't sleeping off the end of the school year, that is). One topic that came up a few times in our conversations was a group he was in on social media about how to develop a backlog of books that would sell. 

The end result of those conversations was me usually pushing back against trends and best-seller, copycat, popular fiction (yes, I'm a literary snob, but don't act like you didn't know that already). But it did reinforce for me the kind of writer I am. 

Genres are best served broken.

I'm the kind who is difficult to market in the existing publishing world. This is because of several reasons, all of which make me who I am as a creator. 

First, I can't stand to be restrained to a genre. Just look back at my publishing history, and you'll see super-hero stories, pulp action heroes, hard-boiled detective fiction, literary shorts, zombies and ghoulies and ghosties... you name it. I like to write and read the same way I like my music playlist -- as varied as possible. Just like I love my music jumping from Vivaldi to AC/DC to the Archies, I like my fiction to jump from horror to mystery to pulp. 

Second, I can't stand to copy trends. I was taught once that by the time you spot a trend, it's too late. The world has moved on and is looking for the next one. I was dumb enough to believe that and I still do. 

Third, my stories begin with questions that intrigue me. Not marketing questions, such as "What is selling well now?" or "What are publishers looking for?" Instead, I begin with questions like, "What if rain turned into a human being and developed amnesia?" or "What if a young rocker still reeling from his father's abuse found a way to turn that anger into raw power?" or even "What if Josie and the Pussycats had been a lot darker -- a lot darker?" Then, from these kinds of questions, stories develop and bubble into soup inside my brain, never once thinking about the genre or category ramifications. 

Yeah, I know, totally backward to the way publishing works from the other side of the big desk. 

Things I Value in Fiction

So, yeah. I'm hard to market, and I know it. But I don't just know it. I also welcome it. I love it even. Because it's who I am. 

In spite of that, there are certain things that always manage to wriggle their way into my work like a spider laying eggs in an urban legend's canal.

1. No single genre focus. I mentioned my fascination with multiple genres earlier and a little bit of each of them goes into all of my work. For example, I often get "lessons" from publishers because I tend to be too literary in my pulp stories. Or I tend to be too action-focused in my detective stories. Or when I try to take my super-hero fiction into the dark corners of the human psyche instead of focusing on the good-guy-bad-guy, white-hat-black-hat dichotomy. No matter what genre I am writing at any point, there is always a blender churning beneath the surface mixing and blending the genres and their rules. 

2. No happy endings. Yeah, this is the big one. This is the one that will continue to keep me out of the bestseller list throughout my life. People often remark about the irony of me being an optimist who doesn't believe in happy endings. Well, I'm a firm believer that happiness is what you make it in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. (Now, that doesn't mean that you should strive to get yourself in a better situation, just that your happiness doesn't depend on it.) I also believe that as human beings, we never truly learn from getting what we wanted. That only reinforces our existing desires and beliefs. It's only when we face loss that we listen to the world around us and open up to learn anything new. That's why I'm a huge proponent of the bittersweet ending. The heroine loses her love, only to find she really is strong enough without it. The hero fails but realizes that puts him in a place of even greater opportunity. In Hallmark terms, the city girl finds that the country boy isn't right for he after all, but can return to the city with the lesson learned and move on. That kind of thing. 

Paint with all the colors of the... steps.
3. No series. I'll admit it. I just don't like series books much. I get that they make for easy, continued sales, but I just can't stomach them. The closest I get to a series is a group of stand-alone novels featuring the same character but tied together only very, very, very loosely. You know what I'm talking 'bout -- Easy Rawlins, the 87th Precinct, that sort of thing. You can read 'em in any order and skip as many as you look. They just don't tell one single A-->B-->C story. I love memorable characters though, my work is hopefully filled with those. I don't even mind returning to them to write subsequent adventures. Just look no further than Rick Ruby (The Ruby Files) of the Golden Amazon or my iHero superhero stories for proof of that. But you're not going to mind me writing a series that tells a single epic story. It's just not who I am. 

4. No epic stories. People love epics. But most of the ones I read, I just cant wait to finish and get back to something much smaller in scope. Sure, I enjoyed Lord or the Rings as a kid, but once I read that, why bother with Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time. (It's a generalization, I know, and some people love those characters, but not me, and most epics tend to suffer from the same old problems I hate to read, such as excessive world-building, long passages of description, characters who fall out of the narrative because they were written into book one and then forgotten about, force-fitting plot elements to make things happen because the author demands it, etc.) I much prefer the smaller, human stories. The detective whose case causes him to learn he'll never be able to have the woman he truly loves. The superhero in training who learns that no matter how powerful she becomes, she will still never get out of her sister's shadow. The husband who buys the perfect house only to realize that perfection just might cause is marriage to fall apart. I don't need to change the world in my stories. I just want to see the change in my characters. 

5. There's no such thing as too much symbolism. I love using all the tools in my writer's toolbox, especially symbolism. I prefer it to be subtle, not overt. I'm a huge fan of the colors in Prospero's halls, the green light at the end of Tom and Daisy's deck, the sword salute at the end of The Sun Also Rises. I think these things only improve fiction and only hurt stories when used by people who dont' understand their use. I like fold flags that represent lost loves or partners. I like stacks of books that shed light on the story I'm telling just by virtue of their own plots and characters (recycling symbols, as it were). I like names that have meanings that give my characters more than just something to embroider on their bowling shirt. 

6. No market chasing or trend-chasing. I mentioned this earlier, but I want to reiterate it here and slice it just a little different way. Each of my stories comes to me as a new tale, not something that consciously fits in a box. If it ends up fitting in a box, mostly like by the time I'm done with it, it has so many pointed jags and weird-shaped edges that it no longer fits. When I create a story, I write the story as it unveils in my head, not as it reacts to the goings-on in the world outside my head. This means even if I starting thinking about a teenage wizard when Harry Potter came out, trying to emulate the established "rules" of that series are the last thing on my mind. My teenage wizard will probably end up in Detroit working as an assistant to her private detective aunt who was a former burlesque dancer in her youth. 

The Bottom Line

I guess, for me, it all boils down to this: When I was a young writer (both in age and in the craft) someone I respected told me to write what I wanted to read. Well, that really resonated with me. 

A little of my library
I realized that the writers whose works I genuinely loved to read wrote varied works. You just about can't put any single work by Ray Bradbury beside any other and compare them without getting into themes and symbols, but not plots or stories. Kurt Vonnegut is the same way. So are the works of Flannery O'Connor -- just try to compare Wise Blood and "Everything That Rises Must Converge." Hemingway told war stories, hunting stories, love stories, falling out of love stories, coming of age stories, you name it. Even the single genre works of folks like Ed McBain differ vastly between his 87th Precinct stories and his Matthew Hope tales. C.S. Lewis wrote theology, adult fantasy (Till We Have Faces remains one of my fave fantasy novels), science fiction, and children's fantasies. Even Eudora Welty wrote of both the urban and the rural with equal power and varied technique. 

Something happened along the way in publishing to shift from varied to same, and while many modern writers are okay with that, I guess I just am not. 

But like I said. It's okay. 

I'm not bitter about it. (Honestly, I'm not. Why are you looking at me like that?)