Friday, December 5, 2014

PulpWork Christmas Special 2014 (Volume 4)


Herein, you’ll find a septet of holiday tales in which the poor characters come to grisly, gory, and sometimes gruesome ends. Pay close attention, and learn from their fates, so that you might not make the same mistakes as they. 

You may find it safer to eschew the holiday tradition of the Christmas tree, for at least two stories in the coming pages warn of coniferous killers of the most sinister variety. Just when you’re getting comfortable with the idea of deadly flora, Josh Reynolds and Joel Jenkins turn things topsy turvy by swapping characters. Jenkins tries his hand at a tale of the British Royal Occultist, Charles St. Cyprian and his intrepid and sometimes bloodthirsty apprentice Ebe Gallowglass—both characters created by Reynolds. Not to be outdone, Josh Reynolds borrows Jenkin’s Native American gunfighter, Lone Crow, and teams him up with St. Cyprian and Gallowglass as they hunt down a wendigo in the Canadian wilds. 

You’ll also find masterful and unnerving Christmas tales by Robert Mancebo and Thomas Deja. 

Then Derrick Ferguson treats us to a full-blown novella, in which the global instigator, known only as Dillon, takes on the malign entity called the Krampus--drawn from one of the most malign Christmas legends ever recited to frightened, shivering children.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...TRACY ANGELINA EVANS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Tracy Angelina Evans?

Tracy Angelina Evans: That kid you saw get picked on at school, but never really paid much attention to, ‘cos she seemed to strive for invisibility.



DF: Where do you reside and what do you do to keep yourself in cheese and crackers?

TAE: After “serving time” in South Carolina for almost 33 years, I am now residing in San Diego. Cheese and crackers are in abundance, since seven of her roommates are birds.

DF: Tell us something about your background.

TAE: I was born in Asheville, NC in 1967, but moved to  Duncan, SC at the age of 13.  My entire family were artists of some sort, but most were in love with writing or music.

DF: How long have you been writing? 

TAE: Between the ages of 4 and 7.  I was told by my paternal grandmother to go draw flies. Taking her literally, I began to draw flies, then flies in spider webs, and then I had to give a reason why they ended up in such a horrible position.  The writing of such a terrible tragedy was my first attempt.

DF: What are your influences? 

TAE: Music is my primary influence.  As for writers, Clive Barker is at the top.  His work is what eased me into the idea I’d always wanted to share:  The Monster Is the Beautiful One. Tolkien’s obsession with language is what drew me to him. Others include Carl Jung, Stephen King, Salvador Dali, Leonard Wolf (in particular), Russell Hoban, historical mysteries about the Cathars, the Great Mortality, the Dyatlov Pass, and a variety of “expert” books on Shamanism, prophecy, divine madness, and alchemy.

DF: What is your philosophy of writing? 

TAE: It’s kind of Quantum theory, I guess, since I lean toward the science that thought cannot happen without having happened before or happened in complete reverse.  That would certainly explain the similarities of Vampires from one culture to another.  But, to take it a step further, your mere thought of a thing brings it into existence.  It may seem to be fantasy to you, but in some spot in the multiverse, someone if fighting a real fight, and probably losing, against a spectre calling himself Cadmus.  Probable?  Don’t know.  Possible?  Maybe.  I’m not a Physicist.  The Vampire books I’ve written aren’t typical horror fair; rather, I consider recycled Faery stories, and folklore from around the world, with the added luxuries of electricity and social media.  Trying to combine the ancient and the modern is why I never give an actual time that anything in the books happened.  Also, I deliberately moved around the dates of actual events in our reality, so it would be difficult to place the narrative of the story with a calendar of any sort.

DF: What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

TAE: Both!  No, it really depends on what the story is wanting.  If I can outline it, I try to remain to true to that, in typical Virgo fashion.  But there are many times where I’ve seen the story go off the rail and refuse to budge.  This can be rather painful, especially when it involves Cadmus Pariah being needlessly cruel.  One of my editors, Jill Rosenburg, gave me the title of “method writer,” because I tend to go too deep, feel too much, and leave with wounds that may not heal.

DF: How do you use social media to promote your writing? What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Tracy Angelina Evans?

TAE: I try to mention it and sample it as often as possible, everywhere I linger online, and do so in all social formats all at once, or at least close to it.  Our Internet is no longer a giant web, or an endless sea, it’s grown to the proportion of universe itself; as a result most everything gets lost in the miasma.  The more a worf, a phrase, or hashtag comes closer to the surface, the more like it will be to get noticed. 

Anyone who grows weary of Hemingway’s Iceberg Style of writing may enjoy these.  Those interested in Vampires, not so much the American version, but the earlier European version may appreciate this.  George Gordon Lord Byron’s groupies may also love Thiyennen.  Folks who like to read a book or story, then get to say near the end, “So this is why that happened!  Well, hootdang!”

So, yeah, I’d like to think I had an audience.  That would be great!  But I have no such delusion I will ever be a subject at the dinner table.  That’s okay.  The books were as much for my own understanding of the Great Ineffable as they are for others’ enjoyment, horror, or WTF moments.

DF: Two more questions before we get to discussing your trilogy. First; why the obsession with Shriekback and where did it begin?

TAE: Oh, where there is a story and a half for you.  I’d heard the name of the band over the years but growing up on the buckle of the Bible Belt with few record stores around, and even less money with which to buy them, I remained tight to my Electric Light Orchestra roots.  It was only until after cable finally made its way to my area that I finally got to see MTV, before it became the joke it is today.  I began collecting music videos, a lot of which would be more prevalent at night.  Since I was working 1st Shift at BMG, I would ask Aunt Tudi is she’d put my tape on record before she went to bed.   One night, after taping the Cure’s ‘Lullaby,’ which I been dying to have, she decided to leave the tape recording as she watched the video.

When I got up the next morning, she told me she got the vid I had wanted, but she also had a video I may be interested in, because it looked a little like “that Fellini movie you like so much.”  She was referring to Satyricon.    So ‘Nemesis’ was the first song I intentionally heard by the band.  It turned out years later, that I’d been listening to them four years before I saw ‘Nemesis,’ because one of my first VHS movies was the first Hannibal movie, Manhunter.  

  

It turned out that their music would have a large part in creating the essence with which I wanted to blanket the stories.  Between European Classical (mostly Czech in nature), Romani music, South African music, Klezmer, and Shriekback, I had before me a musical Nirvana I really couldn’t explain.  But I can say that the ebb and flow of The Relics are very closely tied to Shriekback’s songs.  That’s the primary reason a portion of their lyrics are offered as each chapters’ lean-in.

DF: And what are The Tim Roth Tutorials?

TAE: I started the Tim Roth Tutorials as a way of dipping my foot in the video-making process, because I wanted to create lyric videos for Illuminati’s songs, which have so far only been released once via the Shriekback Digital Conspiracy back in the early 2000s.  I didn’t know diddly about WSFTP, so this was practice for me.  Then it got some attention of some of Tim Roth’s “Hooligans” – his fans – who wanted more tutorials.  I think I have around 200 now?  I don’t know.  When I switched to Mac, I’ve been trying to learn iMovie, so I can continue them, ‘cos it’s a fun hobby, and some folk seem to like them.




DF: Why write about vampires?

TAE: I write about Vampires because I was raised on a steady media diet of vampirism, thanks to watching ‘Dark Shadows’ in my playpen whilst the mother unit toodled about.  Then came Shock Theatre on Saturdays, followed by reruns of the original ‘Star Trek.’  Being an only child, Vampires and space men became my siblings.  During college, I decided to study Vampiric origins and discovered that every culture describes almost the same thing, when asked about Vampires.  The great thing about 30 Days of Night is that it’s the most accurate account of Vampires, according to folklore.  Even if they are accurate, they still aren’t my favourite.  Neither is the modern, buddy-buddy attitude so many have to day.  Vampires do not sparkle. 

Honestly, though, I think I write about Vampires for the same reason many others do, if I may make such a bold assumption:  I write them because they allow me to be something on paper what I can never be in “reality.”  Going to that place where philosophy is uttered whilst a mage-like individual carefully vivisects his victim, because death would just ruin the moment, frees me to be kinder in real life, whatever that may be.

And then there’s this whole legendary vibe, where Vampires come into a story that has nothing to do with them and, if you read between the lines, you can almost sense how some of the earlier legends manifested.  Some of the greatest moments of archetypal panic are of the Great Mortality, heavenly events (that we can now explain), even crib death.  I believe everything is cyclic, and I believe in the ability to create Tulpas, and when enough energy is focused on one thing or belief, that thing acquires power.

DF: Do you think that popular culture is oversaturated with vampires? 

TAE: More often than not, considering the Twilight franchise.  But we humans, as a whole, prefer the presence of thought forms in our lives.  They’re familiar, they answer questions, especially about ourselves.  As such, every generation experiences a saturation of sorts.  We need it, to carry on the stories, satiate the monster with the blood of our imaginations.  It would be a much more depressing world, if we weren’t afforded that tinge of possibility that the succubus is right around the corner.

DF: What makes your vampires and your conception of vampires different from those we’ve seen recently in books, movies and television?

TAE: Well, they all owe their existence to a race that inhabited the planet before humans ever walked the surface.  So the first ten Vampires were of alien origin.  There is a science-fiction feel to the books, as a result, as well as a mythic/legendary vibe, especially in the second book, The Blood CrownVampires are mostly just like us, some can even withstand the sun.  Believe it or not, not all traditional Vampires would perish by sunlight.  One, called vrykolokas, from Greek legend, would often go to his job after he’d died, and go home to his family.  There were just those inconvenient times of drinking so much blood, he’d turn ruddy and look like a barrel.  That gave him the name “drum-like” – vrykolakas.  I haven’t been reading or watching much Vampire media in years, because I tend to soak things up and I don’t want to inadvertently steal something from someone else.

DF: Give us an overview of The Vampire Relics Trilogy.

TAE: The Vampire Relics Trilogy concerns three sacred objects that hold the entire nation of Vampires (the Great Hive) sway.  Each book is named for a relic and, even though it is the relics that drive the story, it is how the character behaves during and after the hunt.  More about the origins of the relics, the Vampires, and their maker comes to light with each book.

DF: Did you conceive of The Vampire Relics as a trilogy right from the start? And if not, when did you know it was going to be a trilogy?

TAE: The Chalice was supposed to be one book, ending with the imprisonment of then-villain Kelat.  At that time, in 1987, it was my attempt to come to grips with the idea of “soul mates,” how so many people find a kind of psychic completion when they meet that one, the one who finishes your sentences or shares memories of things that never happened to either of us.  This was when I started reading A Dream of Dracula by Leonard Wolf and Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.  Those books, combined with my life-long fascination with Arthurian legends, along with learning about “alternative” religions, where a cup was the most sacred of tools to have on an altar, because the cup represented the feminine force, life, and immortality.  I left it open-ended, not because I was planning on writing another book, but because I thought I might one day revisit those characters.



When I wrote a little drabble on my Live Journal about Cadmus interrupting Kelat as she meditated in what she thought was a secret temple, that gave rise to the second book of the Relics, The Blood Crown.

DF: Is it accurate to say that The Vampire Relics began with Cadmus Pariah? Who is Cadmus Pariah and why does he fascinate you so?

TAE: The stories that came to light in the three books were, some of them, decades old.  In the first bones of the story, Kelat was the antagonist, the image of beautiful evil so reviled by her hero brother Thiyennen, who happened to be a Vampire himself.  Character-building and story construction began in 1987.  I knew what I wanted to tell, but I didn’t know how I could tell it.  Also, I was very uncomfortable making Kelat out to be the antagonist, based upon all I’d then read about Goddess worship and attempts of the patristic tribes to wash any shred of history she had from human brains then and forever.  I wanted to mart of campaign.  But I was without a villain again, so the story and its mythologies lay dormant for almost three years.  When I listened to ‘Deeply Lined Up’ by Shriekback in 1990 that was the last straw.  It was that song that gave birth to the Pariah.



But it’s Rob Dougan’s ‘Clubbed to Death’ that has consistently aided in defining the character.  That piece possesses a quiet menace that is only magnified by the piano solo.  It’s a song of one-ness and alone-ness, and being perfectly all right with both states.  Almost everyone believes that Cadmus was born from one inspiration.  True to his nature in the books, he has several parents, and belongs to none of them.  

DF: You’ve taken great pains to create an entire mythology for your trilogy. How difficult is it to create a universe?

TAE: A lot of the mythology I used in The Vampire Relics is material I could never make fit into a proper book, and I perceive that “over” story to still be telling else.  The mythology was there so the trilogy could be born. 

DF: Which book was the most fun and easiest to write? Which one was the hardest?

TAE: The Blood Crown was the most fun, but the parts about what Cadmus does to Faust weren’t very fun at all.  Otherwise, it was a joy, because I got to study Orphaeus and Cadmus much more intimately than before.  Their travels, to me, took on a Hope/Crosby vibe, so that was a great deal of fun.

The Chalice was the first, and it was the one that hibernated for the coming of the Shrieks into my life.  After that, it was written pretty fast. The Augury of Gideon has been most difficult, because “real life” was taking up not only my time, but challenging the belief system from whence the books came.  There were some days I struggled with not blurting out what Gideon’s augury really was.



DF: I know you have a deep interest in conspiracy theories. How much of that went into and/or influence you while writing The Vampire Relics?

TAE: The back-story of the Apostate came almost wholly from the arcane legends of ‘The Brotherhood of the Snake’, the Cathars, and the Knights Templar.  The man, the human, who brought the curse of blood down on the ten Tarmi, was in the Brotherhood of the Snake, and a student at the Tarmian college of Khemeth.  As you can see from just that, conspiracy theories and ancient aliens take up a lot of my time.

DF: What have you got planned next? And where do you see your writing career five years from now?

TAE: Right now, I’m writing what I think will be a standalone book.  It will feature Cadmus, of course, as well as Orphaeus,Rebekah, and Mephistopheles.  It’ll introduce Cadmus’ rival, Flint.  The working title is TAE: The back-story of the Apostate came almost wholly from the arcane legends of ‘The Brotherhood of the Snake’, the Cathars, and the Knights Templar.  The man, the human, who brought the curse of blood down on the ten Tarmi, was in the Brotherhood of the Snake, and a student at the Tarmian college of Khemeth.  As you can see from just that, conspiracy theories and ancient aliens take up a lot of my time.

DF: What have you got planned next? And where do you see your writing career five years from now?

TAE: Right now, I’m writing what I think will be a standalone book.  It will feature Cadmus, of course, as well as Orphaeus, Rebekah, and Mephistopheles.  It’ll introduce Cadmus’ rival, Flint.  The working title is The Harming Tree, which actually exists, and was a musical instrument of sorts made by Barry Andrews. which actually exists.




DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Tracy Angelina Evans like?

TAE: Get up, if I ever got down.  Get down, no matter what state you’re in.  Getting down is never a bad thing.  Attempt breakfast.  Clean the cat box.  Follow cookie crumbs and connect dots ~ kind of a synchronistic Yoga to help with sanity-management.  Research, research, research.  Promote, promote, promote (not me).  Read the latest news and let the anger flow through me.  Read the latest in space and physics news, and let the wonder flow through me.  Try to respond to all communications.  Then write, to music.  If there’s no music, there is no writing.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Tracy Angelina Evans: Everything you ever imagined might be in that scary closet in your is, is.  And it’s your fault for imagining it, in the first place.  Rest well, tonight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...TOI THOMAS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Toi Thomas?

Toi Thomas: I am a big kid, a scared little mouse, a super hero, and a number of other things when I let my imagination soar. At the very core of me, I’m a God fearing wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend; my family means a lot to me. But for the most part, people know me as a teacher, writer, blogger, comic book lover, music lover, and movie lover. 




DF: Where do you reside and what do you do for a living?

TT: I live in what most people know as the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, formerly the Tidewater area. I live in a nice little city called Chesapeake which is located right in the middle of all the action. It’s just down the road from all the high life and tourism of Virginia Beach and the night life and commerce of Norfolk. I currently work as a special education teacher’s assistant and use my spare time to take on other interests and challenges.

DF: Tell us something about your background.

TT: I was born and raised in Texas so there’s part of me that still belongs to the southern mid-west and the good and bad that comes with that. All my life I’ve been a bit adrift. Everyone who’s spoken to me on a frequent basis will tell you that I seemed to have been born in the wrong time because of my maturity and my appreciation and affinity for things of the past.

DF: What are your influences?  

TT: I am influenced by life. Everything I come in contact with and am exposed to influences me in one way or another. While there’s no denying the confidence that facts and relative truths can offer, I often find that the challenge of fiction makes more of an impact on my perceptions. I like knowing, figuring out, and or determining for myself just where fact and fiction collide.

DF: Which do you like better: writing fiction or reviewing movies and books?

TT: This is a tough question; it’s almost not fair. I like all these so much. Writing fiction is a creative process that breaks you down and tests your limits. Reviewing books and movies dares you to speak your mind and leaves your opinions vulnerable to challenge and critique themselves. I guess if I was forced to only dedicate my time to one, I’d choose writing fiction. I don’t think I could give up my habit of creative expression.

DF: What is your philosophy of writing?

TT: Most writers would probably look at my philosophy as self-torture, but it’s the way I work. I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to limit myself to specific genres, techniques, and tropes. I write what comes to me, but I also keep notes of inspiration that often lead to the intentional development of a story. I have a very methodical approach to my writing process, but my philosophy is quite loose and unstructured.

DF: How have you grown as a writer from five years ago to right now?

TT:  I still have much more growing to do. I never set out to become a writer, but it just became who I am. If I had known this was I path I would travel someday, I would have prepared better. I would have taken more classes and immersed myself in the writing and publishing culture during my youth when I was embracing classic films and literature.

DF: Tell us how you created the ETERNAL CURSE series

TT: The series started out as self-therapy, though I didn’t know it at the time. I had a reoccurring dream that I decided to start taking notes on and write out, but I couldn’t always remember what I wrote. That’s where my creativity was sparked. 

Something compelled me to fill in the blanks of this dream and create this story and the characters. The whole process was time consuming and calming during a time in my life when I was going through some social, emotional, financial, and other personal struggles. Writing the first book in this series saved my life and when it was done, I knew I needed to keep it going. There was still so much more to share.

DF: Tell us about GIOVANNI’S ANGEL

TT: Giovanni’s Angel is a subheading or installment title. The whole first book is centered on the understanding of who or what is Giovanni’s Angel. Many different answers have been concluded about what the title actually means and like leaving it open a bit so readers can decide for themselves what Giovanni’s Angel really is. I will tell you that what most people quickly figure out is that while Giovanni is the hero and star of this series, the first book isn’t truly about him. It’s about another character’s discovery of him.


DF: What are your future plans for the series?

TT: I’m working to release the second book in the series by 2016 at the latest, but hopefully sooner. There is already a manuscript in the works for a third book and I’m looking and thinking of ways to diversify the book’s reach. I have dreams of doing a graphic novel, but at this point they are just dreams.

DF: You have your own YouTube video channel where you read excerpts from books you like, review movies or just goof around having fun. How did that start?

Well the truth is, I just got tired of not sharing some of the other crazy stuff that goes on in my head and thought that the visual media would be a good way to let it all out. There’s only so much I can share on my blog that won’t scare people away, so I figured this might be a good way to attract a different kind of audience. I was actually hoping to work with and promote some authors along the way, but apparently authors are camera shy.

When it comes to my content and my line-up, I decided that I need some original TV-like content or shows people could hopefully get into. I’m small potatoes now, but one day someone will get a greeting card covered in glitter and will go to You Tube looking for solace, where they’ll find a video of me ranting about why I hate glitter…Hey, a girl’s gotta dream.

DF: You’re a writer I admire for the way you’re using social media to aid your writing career. Why don’t more writers use social media to be…well…social?

TT: That’s a very good question and I wish I had an answer. I’ve tried to reach out to the writing community, but it seems that anything that veers too far from actual writing is looked upon as “sketchy” and or “gimmicky”. I guess some writers don’t feel they need to be social outside of their blogs. If they have a pretty big and loyal following I can’t argue with them, but it just seems like there are opportunities slipping away.

Another dream, or perhaps fantasy, I have is that there would be an emerging writer community on You Tube with its own shows, content, and fan-base. It’s not likely to happen at the current rate. I have this philosophy that “authors are just as important to the world of entertainment as music groups and movie stars”, but unfortunately there’s not enough of them out there acting like rock stars. I think they are all waiting to become New York Times Bestsellers first.

DF: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

TT: Definitely a plotter. I have been jokingly called “O.C.D.” by some, but I’m really not that bad. I just believe in always having a plan whether it be for a road trip or my next book.

DF: You’re quite the comic book geek as well. What comic books are you currently reading?

TT: I’m currently reading some back issues of Guardians of the Galaxy, The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles graphic novel, before the turtles had different colors and distinct personalities, and I’m also reading some Martian Manhunter.

DF: Name your three favorite comic book characters.

TT: Batman is my number one. Hulk is my number two. I have a tie for number three between Wonder Woman and Storm, but Storm- Princess of the Amazons from the Amalgam Universe is pretty sweet (She a mix of Storm and Wonder Woman.) I’m mostly a DC fan in terms of comic books, but in audio visual media it’s hard not to give Marvel the credit they are due.

DF: You ever thought of creating/writing comic books yourself?

TT: All the time; sometimes it keeps me up at night, but I don’t have the sketching talent for it and need training to developing good panel story plotting.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Toi Thomas?

TT: This is also a good question. I think my writing philosophy is holding me back a bit. I think there are definitive audiences for my individual works but as a whole, they are contradictory and confusing to consumers who just want to read a good book with no hassle.

I’m currently considering taking on some pen names to distinguish and promote my varied works to genre specific markets. It’s all a work in process.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Toi Thomas like?

TT: Sweet question; I like the way you’ve honed in on one of my monthly blog posts. A Day in My Life is not very exciting. I have a day job that is challenging and never boring. When I come home, my life becomes a balancing act. I scramble each day to find time to write, blog, read, exercise, cook, and spend time with my best friend (this dude I picked up ten years ago who likes to call himself my husband). For the most part, I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I like my struggles, but if I could opt out of my day job I totally would.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Toi Thomas: I don’t think there’s anything else I need to share though I could go on talking about myself if I felt like it. It’s a good thing I don’t feel like it most of the time. I’d rather talk about someone else, a good book, or a good movie. I am working to release a new book outside my Eternal Curse series in the months to come and will be starting my marketing strategy soon. 

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this lovely interview. It has been a pleasure.

  
Website: etoithomas.com
#thetoiboxofwords
Google+: Toinette "Toi" Thomas
New email list: author@etoithomas.com



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From The "In Wonder I Wander" File...

If you've been reading BLOOD & INK on a regular basis (and if not, they whyain'tcha?) Then you'll have noticed that from time to time I'll post something here that has been written by one of the most extraordinary and talented artists it's been my pleasure to work with, Sean E. Ali. 

He designed and created the cover of the 10th Anniversary Edition of "Dillon and The Voice of Odin" and he's become acclaimed in the New Pulp community for his outstanding cover design work for Pro Se Productions.

Recently I asked Sean to create a promotional piece for my upcoming "The Return of Fortune McCall" and I loved it so much I wanted it to be the cover. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. But the piece he did is so evocative and so much captures the spirit of Fortune McCall that I just could not let it be shown.

And I also felt that Sean's story behind the creation of the illustration should be re-posted here. He's already posted it on Facebook but it hopefully will be seen by a wider audience here.

And since I've run my mouth far too much already, I now turn the floor over to Mr. Ali...


                                          #


Yesterday, I showed a piece of art to a writer who asked me to do a promo piece for his upcoming book.

The piece was something I started over a year ago, and it was, remarkably the last thing I got done before becoming seriously ill...

Yeah, you folks missed that episode, but only because I didn't tell you.

It was the kind of ill where you start wondering if maybe you should've done the things you said you were going to do, because you may not be here to do them in another week situations...

I lost my voice, was flat on my back, had a lingering cough that sent me to a doctor for answers and as I sat there listening to how I would weather this storm, I also heard about how if I didn't take better care of myself, this could be the beginning of one really long series of storms...

Since I'm not a complete idiot (in theory), I took his advice, dropped everything I was doing and started making changes, exercising and all that good stuff...

And, so far, those changes seem to be moving me in a positive direction. Which is why finding this piece is a little ironic. It was the last thing I started on the tail end of what had to be the mother of overextending myself to well past the point of burnout into the happy land of I just don't give a damn anymore.

Mostly because when a doctor says you're overdoing it, you get to choose if it's going to be you surviving or everything else taking you out for good...

And if that's the case, I'll be damned if I let go of life because I can't let go of other stuff...

But I finished this piece at long last, sent it off to the author, he went over the moon and wanted it for a cover...

...and it got shot down.

I forget the specifics, once a job is dead, it's dead, and you put it in the rearview. But I was actually kind of glad it went down that way. It was something I hadn't let go of from the last time around, and I felt compelled to finish it.

Now, here's the funny thing, I went back to the piece, which I fully intended to delete, and said, "Now that it's not a job, how would you fix this on a second pass?"

And it became something I did to wind down and start getting my chops back instead of me looking at a clock or a calendar. I had fun doing the work again, which is something I hadn't been able to say in a really long time.

Since the character, Fortune McCall, belongs to Derrick Ferguson and is published by Pro Se, this is in no way an official promo piece, it's just me doing a before and after for the fun of it...

And really, wasn't that the whole reason we got in the game to begin with?

This image is where I started, 



And this image is where I ended up...


I'm kind of glad it got shot down because I'd have never looked at it again...

...and I would've missed unexplored possibilities...

In fact, outside of the author, who'll probably want a copy, this piece is pretty much off the table in any way shape or form as far as I know, so don't ask me when it's coming who's on it or anything else, because I honestly don't know...

...which, isn't nearly as nail biting a situation as it once was for me...

I've let it go.

I may not be where I once was, but I'm glad I've gotten where I need to be...

...and from here, it only gets better.

Be good to yourselves and each other...





Friday, October 31, 2014

The Madness of Frankenstein

FRANKENSTEIN

A name that conjures up images of terrors unimaginable.

FRANKENSTEIN

Feared. Hated. Hunted. Cursed. Worshipped. Damned.

FRANKENSTEIN

Once again pursuing his horrifying dream of creating a new race of humans and of mastering the secrets of Life and Death, Dr. Frankenstein seeks to not only to dominate Science but Sorcery as well.

THE MADNESS OF FRANKENSTEIN

It will infect and infest the souls of all who come into contact with Frankenstein. Pray it does not take hold of you.



THE MADNESS OF FRANKENSTEIN is now available as an Ebook from Amazon for just $2.99!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With FRANK BYRNS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Frank Byrns?

Frank Byrns: Let's find out together!



DF: Where do you live and what do you do the keep the repo men from your door?

FB: I live in Maryland, just about halfway between Washington and Baltimore. We move frequently to keep the repo men from our door. (The first sentence of this answer won't help in that regard.) Or, alternately, I work in the exciting world of third party logistics.

DF: Tell us something about your background.

FB: I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, went to school at Wake Forest University (Go Deacs!), lived in Arizona for a bit as the husband of an itinerant grad student, then settled down in the DMV region almost fifteen years ago. I worked for a while in retail management for a series of professional sports teams, then worked almost ten years for the Smithsonian Institution.

DF: How long have you been writing?

FB: All my life, I guess? I have a whole stack of Robin Hood stories I wrote in second grade, and some GI Joe stories from third grade that are only slightly worse. But I've been writing seriously (as in occasionally for money) for the last ten years or so.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
FB: I like to show and not tell, but even more importantly, I like to say and not tell. But those are the same things, you're thinking, and you might be right. I like for the characters to say things, rather than the narrator to tell things. I think one of my strongest suits as a writer is that I write pretty good dialogue, and you can reveal a lot of character through dialogue. If it's done right -- done wrong, it can be pretty terrible. So it's a balancing act, without turning into Basil Exposition. I like it when characters say one thing but mean another, and that's all pretty clear to the reader. That's the sweet spot.

I've written stories that are all dialogue, without even so much as a single dialogue tag, and I think they turned out pretty well. (And on the subject of dialogue tags: it's SAID. Always SAID. SAID, SAID, SAID. Nothing else. Let the words the character says tell you how they said them.)

I'm also not a big fan of a lot of flowery description or language. The language gets in the way of the story, and the description gets in the way of the reader's imagination. But I could read James Lee Burke describe the way a swamp smells for five pages, so I dunno. Your mileage may vary.

DF: What audience are your trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience out there for Frank Byrns?

FB: I have to hope so, right? Otherwise, why bother?
I do write a lot of stuff that lands in a weird gray area; they are superhero stories enjoyed by people who don't always like superhero stories, and at the same time, people that like traditional superhero stories may not like my stuff because of the tone and the pace and the occasional lack of action (sometimes I write thrilling stories about a conversation between two people sitting on a roof, things like that). I've tried forcing some action scenes into stories, but they feel exactly that -- forced. So I take them right back out.

I don't know -- I guess people who prefer the human side of superhuman. Something like that.

I write stories with supervillains that worry that their kids are turning out just like them. (Don't we all?)  Parents who are afraid to let their superhero children out into the world alone. (Aren't we all?) Parents who still love their supervillain children, even after everything. (Don't we all?) I'm sensing a trend here....



DF: Before we get into ADONIS MORGAN: NOBODY SPECIAL, let’s talk a bit about the superhero prose genre and your place in it. The most obvious question being: why write superhero prose stories?

FB: I started writing superhero prose superhero stories a little over ten years ago, and when I did, I didn't know if there was anyone else out there doing the same thing. I naturally assumed that there were -- I'm not that original -- but I didn't know them or how to find them. Kurt Busiek's work on Marvels and Astro City was a big influence that I was reading at the time. I thought those books somehow made superheroes more real and more wondrous at the same time by making a crucial distinction: instead of showing us what it would be like it superheroes lived in our world, what would it be like if we lived in theirs? They weren't realistic, obviously, but the human emotion in the stories was real, and that really appealed to me as a reader, and eventually, as a writer. 


Gradually, I stumbled across other folks doing the same thing -- Frank Fradella and Sean Taylor and Tom Waltz at iHero / Cyber Age Adventures, Matt Hiebert at Superhero Fiction, and later, Nick Ahlhelm at Metahuman Press. Then, of course, I threw my own hat in the ring by publishing A Thousand Faces: the Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction. I started that in 2007, and it ran for 14 issues before I shut it down. I tried to publish the kinds of superhero stories I like to read, things a little more thoughtful and a little less actionful. Through that experience, I met a lot of other superhero writers who have also become friends: T Mike McCurley, Hg, Andrew Salmon, Josh Reynolds, Van Allen Plexico, Rob Rogers, Ian Healy -- a lot of names that will sound familiar to fans of the New Pulp movement. It's been interesting to see superhero fiction get folded under this much larger tent of late -- I'm excited to see where it goes from here.



DF: When did your love of superheroes begin? And what is it about superheroes that speak to all of us?

FB: I can't remember a time when I didn't love superheroes. I read tons of comics as a kid -- my favorite was GI Joe, but that got me into other stuff, Captain America and The Avengers, specifically. I watched Superfriends and the old Adam West Batman, all of the usual touchstones. I went away from superheroes for a while in high school through college, but got back into it with Astro City. I love that book. That, and Bendis' run on Daredevil are what got me back into comics.

I think the chance to put on a mask and be someone else for a while really appeals to a lot of people. To live outside the law -- on either side of it, really, when you get down to it -- and not have to rely on anyone else than your own awesome ability? To be able to fly? Men have dreamed about flying since the first time they saw a bird. How could that not speak to every one of us?

DF: The main drawback of superhero prose is that you don’t have an artist assisting in the storytelling. Is that a drawback for you? Or have you found a way to make that work in your favor?

FB: Nope -- not a drawback to me at all. You have to approach it like writing any other story. You're not writing a comic book without pictures, you're writing a story about superheroes. Comic books are not a genre, they're a medium, but the two (superheroes and comics) are so endlessly conflated, it's very hard to separate. A great mystery story wouldn't work better as a comic book; some probably would, but some work better as movies, too.

Here's what I mean: I looooooooove the movie Unbreakable. I still claim it to be the best superhero movie ever made. But I think it would be hard to tell that story in a comic format. But certain kinds of superhero stories only really work as comics. I can't imagine a Grant Morrison comic as a novel. Those DC novels they produced in the past few years -- Infinity Crisis, 52, etc. -- adapting their big event comics? I didn't think they were very good.

When I was working with Pro Se Press on the cover design for Nobody Special, it was really hard for me. I don't think about the Adonis stories visually at all. I had names for some of the bad guys -- had to call them something -- but costumes? Nothing. I barely know what Adonis looks like, and I've been writing these stories off and on for ten years. Some of them I don't even know what their powers are. I know that's a weird way to approach a superhero story, but that's how I'm wired, I guess.

DF: Tell us about ADONIS MORGAN: NOBODY SPECIAL.

FB: Nobody Special is a collection of five stories featuring the guy who has turned out to be my most popular character, Adonis Morgan. He's a guy who used to be a superhero, but to use his own phrase, "it didn't take." Something happened a few years ago that caused him to hang up the cape and mask and the whole bit -- but just exactly what happened is up in the air. (Either I don't know or I ain't saying, your mileage may vary.) But at any rate, he just can't quite shake his past.



So five stories, one set in each of the past five years. There's "Hollywood Ending", the first Adonis story I wrote over ten years ago (it's a reprint, but it's sort of the origin story, so I thought I should include it here), with Adonis working in LA as a movie stuntman and actor. The second one, "Red Carpet Blues", picks up about a year later, and he's working as a limo driver. The third, "April Fools", excerpts the Adonis segments from a mosaic novella I wrote a few years back called "Friday". Adonis is driving a cab in this one, as he is in the fourth story, "Walking After Midnight", set a year or so later. The fifth and final story in this book, "A Foregone Conclusion", is one I'm very proud of, and might be my favorite of anything I've ever written. In this one, Adonis gets hired on as part of a protection detail for a political candidate's wife.

Adonis is a guy who says he's done playing the hero, who says he just wants to keep his head down and out of the way, who says he just wants to be left alone. But somehow, he just can't stop himself from doing the right thing. Someone once described him as an extraordinary man trying to live an ordinary life, and I really like that. Kinda the opposite of most of us, I guess.

He's a guy who doesn't talk much, and when pressed, favors cryptic non-answers. Which can prove difficult for me from time to time, since as I mentioned, I really like to reveal character through dialogue. I try to reveal his character through the avoidance of dialogue, I guess? It can be tricky, but I think it works.

"Walking After Midnight", the fourth story in the book, has a POV that shifts through several characters, none of whom are Adonis. He's just this figure, lurking in the edge of their lives. He gets a little dialogue with some of them, but the story's not about him. But at the same time, it's all about him.

I tried something a little different in "A Foregone Conclusion" -- it's a first person narrative, told from Adonis' point of view. I was a bit worried it would be a bit jarring coming along after the other four third person narratives, but I think it works.

DF: What was the inspiration for the character of Adonis Morgan?

FB: He sort of emerged fully formed from this stew of ideas and influences swirling around in my head for years. I've always liked the idea of people who peaked early in life, and things would never be that good again, but still have to play out the string, so to speak. I also like playing with the idea that just because you were born to do something (call it destiny, genetics, whatever you'd like) doesn't mean you want to or have to or are even any good at it. What if you don't want to be whatever it is that the universe demands you become? 

So if you are super strong and super fast and bulletproof, does that necessarily mean you're a superhero? And even if you've got all those things, what if you try it and you're no good at it? Or you hate it? And if you have enough of a moral compass that you don't become a supervillain, what then?

DF: Will we be seeing more of Adonis Morgan?

FB: I'm sure. I don't do a lot of recurring characters in my stories; the main character from one story may float through the margins of another story, but there are only a few I've returned to over the years. I never planned to go back to Adonis after "Hollywood Ending"; that one ends in a pretty dark place for him. The last line of the story is "Now what?" and I liked that. But the question demanded to be answered, I guess. 

I wrote another one a year or so later called "Barflies" (not included in Nobody Special but available online in a few places) that was originally supposed to be about a bar where metahumans hung out in their off hours. There are a few blink and you'll miss them cameos in there from other stories, and at some point, I needed a cabbie. And the first thought in my head was that that is the now what? for Adonis. One of my writerly friends, T. Mike McCurley (read Firedrake, it's great!!!) emailed me after reading and said that it was good to see Adonis again after "Hollywood Ending", and that he had been afraid Adonis had been lost forever. That really stuck with me, and I thought that maybe I was on to something. Before long, he started popping up in other story ideas.

I've got an Adonis novel I've been working on off and on for a while (he's driving a cab in a small North Carolina beach town as a massive hurricane bears down on the island); I've got a couple of other stories percolating in various stages.
You'll see him again soon, I'm sure.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Frank Byrns like?

FB: Working the pay job, coaching sports after school with the kids, homework / dinner / bed, maybe say hi to my wife before I try and steal some time to write before I fall asleep? Lather, rinse, repeat. Exciting stuff, I know....

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Frank Byrns: God help anyone who's read this far, so I'll just wrap it with the news that Adonis Morgan: Nobody Special is available in print and ebook format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and wherever fine books are sold! Ask for it by name!

Thanks, Derrick!