Monday, March 23, 2015

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...TOBIAS CHRISTOPHER

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Tobias Christopher?

Tobias Christopher: Well, I born on the wagon of a traveling show, mama had to dance for the money they stole, papa would- oh, wait. Tobias Christopher is a writer, movie watcher and some would say slightly not all there. I kid, no one ever said slightly.

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

TC: I live in Greenwood, Indiana and I currently work in the slave mines of Wal-Mart.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

TC: Mark Waid and Grant Morrison in terms of comics since they were the writers whose stories first really got me into the comic scene with the Flash and JLA. In terms of books, Stephen King and Mark Twain were huge influences, but a really special shout out goes Pat Frank, the writer of Alas, Babylon, who inadvertantly inspired my first foray into fanfiction during an English assignment in high school. We were tasked with writing an alternate ending to the story. Things got insanely dark (my teacher even commented that I might have taken things a bit far) and I started to realize where my passion for storytelling would take me.

DF: Let’s jump right into it: why Fan Fiction?

TC: Because whenever I watch a movie or TV show, or read a book, I almost always ask myself "What if this character did this? Or what kind of adventures would he/she have after this? Or what's that guy in the background's story?" I just love making up new adventures for characters I love, so fanfic just seemed like a natural fit.

DF: How long have you been involved with Fan Fiction?

TC: Officially, since around (how long was that RPG Erik, MC and I were part of? 12- 15 years?) I'm going to say at least 15 years. Unofficially it goes back to high school when I was taking horror movies characters and making up new adventures for the likes of Chucky, Gage Creed, Macauly Culkin's character in the Good Son, etc.

DF: Why should we be reading DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology?

TC: Because DCA offers a place for the pre-New 52 Universe to continue to grow and prosper, and without 99% of the darkness that the actual DC Comics were putting out there even before the New 52.

And MA I believe gives the characters a chance to grow more since we're not shoehorning Wolverine and Spider-Man into every title. The lesser known characters are given a chance to step forward, like Jamie Primas' recently ended Avengers run, which didn't rely on the big guns of the Marvel Universe.

DF: What is your favorite series you’re writing for DC Anthology and why?

TC: Of the two I'm writing for DCA, I'm going to say TEEN TITANS. I'm not very far into the run, but I am enjoying the interactions between certain characters. An upcoming issue (#12) made me realize how much I love having Static as part of the team, and I'm looking forward to telling all the stories I have planned for this group.

DF: What is your favorite series you’re writing for Marvel Anthology and why?

TC: While I love Captain America and Iceman, I'm going to go with ALPHA, the character no one seems to like. In the 10 issues I've written so far, I've grown to love this character like he was my own. Plus I have a huge love of Saturday Morning cartoons, which is a massive influence on how I'm writing this series, so writing Alpha is like writing my own SMC series

DF: Detractors of Fan Fiction claim that those who write it are wasting their time they could be using to write original stories. What’s your response to that?

TC: Haters gonna hate. But seriously, there's nothing saying you can't do both.  You can tell stories about your favorite characters and still make time to build your own universe with your own original characters. I make time to do both, but of course I have no real life to speak of.

DF: What’s the best advice you can give someone wanting to write DC and Marvel Fan Fiction?

TC: Don't be afraid to take chances with your characters, that's what fanfic is basically for. And don't just rely on the huge names, use your stories to help give life to the little guys that barely have any backstory.

DF: Are you more of a DC fan than Marvel? Or vice versa?

TC: I'm more of a Marvel fan these days. I've pretty much given up on DC, they've gotten WAY too dark and serious for my liking.

DF: What’s your opinion of DC and Marvel these days?

TC: I think Marvel still likes to have fun with its characters. I mean, Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck have their own series now, if that doesn't scream 'fun', I don't know what does. As for DC, see my answer in the last question. They're way too dark and serious for me. A universe where guys dress up like bats to punch killer clowns, amazon women fly around with magic lassos, and an alien who can put on a pair of glasses and fool EVERYONE into thinking he's a completely different person shouldn't be steeped in realism in any way whatsoever. I think DC's missed the point of why people read comics.

DF: Is Fan Fiction a viable alternative for those readers dissatisfied with DC and Marvel?

TC: It depends on what you're looking for in fanfic, because there's an insane variety of stories out there. Not just DCA/DCO/MA/MO, but and dozens of others.

DF: Why not just write original superhero fiction?  
TC: I actually have been for the last few years.

I'm currently writing the 4th season, although I am going back through and *remastering* the first three seasons to fix continuity errors and such.

DF: Do you yourself have any aspirations for writing professionally?

TC: I used to, and sometimes I still do, but for me writing's more of a hobby than anything. Maybe someday I'd like to get a book or two out. Lord knows I have plenty of original stories in me for that.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Tobias Christopher like?

TC: A lot more boring than most people would think. Wake up, get ready for work, work for 9 hours, come home, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. Although there is the occassional murder attempt, but I just shrug those off and go on with my day like most people would.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Tobias Christopher?

Tobias Christopher: Well, Tobias Christopher is actually just my pen name, taken from a character from Animorphs (Tobias) and the first name of the actor who played him in the horrible live action t.v. series (Christopher). Beyond that, I know my style of writing isn't suited to everyone's taste, but I hope that those who do read my work do enjoy what they see and hopefully come back for more.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kickin The Willy Bobo With...BEX AARON

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Bex Aaron?

Bex Aaron: That’s a great question! Bex Aaron is actually something of a chameleon – I’m a little bit of everything. A long time ago, when forced to describe myself, I came up with, “I’m a lover, a fighter, a poet, a dreamer, a dork and a smartass…not necessarily in that order.”

Basics: I’m a 32-year old divorcee, who’s completely satisfied with that status. I’m an NBA historian (I seriously know more trivia about NBA/ABA than most guys I know, and I can quote stats like a pro), a Clippers fan, a Buddhist, a rock star, a raging smartass, a Mac junkie, an unapologetic smoker, a bullying survivor, a perfectionist and a master of accents.

If I had my druthers, I’d be Canadian…and green eyed…and at least three inches taller. But I must say, I’ve made peace with myself for the most part. It’s taken me some time to get to this point, so it’s definitely worth heralding.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

BA: I live in Texas, deep in the very heart of it (clap, clap, clap). I’m not enthused about living here. I don’t think I ever have been. I long for colder weather and more progressive thinking.

As for my day job, I’m a legal assistant at a personal injury law firm. My job entails everything from client intakes, setting up insurance claims, gathering medicals, preparing demand packages, negotiating settlements and finalizing cases. It’s riveting stuff. Oh, and the phone never stops ringing. It is a very stimulating environment – there’s never a dull moment, but at times, it can be very stressful, I won’t lie. The key, at least for me, is to take a moment to breathe and to remind myself that (in the words of my boss), that never-ending to-do list is job security!

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.

BA: I’m the only child of a single mother. We were kind of like The Gilmore Girls. I had the cool mom, the mom who not only allowed me to dye my hair pink at 14, she also did the back because I couldn’t reach it! She is still my most steadfast supporter and biggest fan. I’m everything I am today because of my mom, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My mom was the very epitome of what a mother is supposed to be – absolutely nothing ever came ahead of me, and that’s the mother that I someday strive to be.

My life hasn’t really been that interesting. I dropped out of school in 9th grade, went back and got a GED at age 19, got married sometime in my twenties, realized what a profound mistake that was, subsequently divorced and started my life all over. The past few years have been the most turbulent of my life, but they also taught me a lot about myself, and I’ve come out much stronger on the other side of them…which, I guess, is the most anyone can hope for.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

BA: I find that writing is a form of therapy. It’s a way to release some of your pent up tensions, it’s a way to lose yourself in someone else’s misery for a while…it’s very therapeutic. At the same time, though, it can also be very heart-wrenching. I am the writer that gets far too attached to their characters. I talk about them like they’re real people, and I hate the idea of them suffering…which is really ironic, given that I wrote the most miserable group of people you can imagine.

DF: Do you write for yourself or for the readers?

BA: Probably a little bit of both. I write to be read, absolutely, but I also write because I love these crazy people and this crazy world I’ve created. I think the validation trap is so easy to fall into when you are in this position. For me, personally, I’m far more about feedback than sales. I have given away more books than I’ve ever sold, in the hopes that it would generate readership and feedback. I’m a slave to it, which is a double-edged sword. The positive feedback is a great rush, and a wonderful confidence boost…and the sounds of silence devastate me.

DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?

BA: Yes, as long as they are actually making a valid point. Those that criticize only to bring someone else down hold no merit to me. The best critics can balance positive with negative, and offer suggestions for improvement, rather than a laundry list of everything that they hate about your books. I immediately discount anyone that has nothing but negative things to say. There’s just not room in my life for negativity for the mere sake of it. Not anymore.

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

BA: I’d like to reach fans of small town suspense, gripping human drama and lots of layered storytelling. Daytime or primetime soap fans. Those that enjoy a book where there are no easy answers, nor are there any happy endings. Someone who wants to immerse themselves in the messy, unraveling lives of characters that any of us could know. That sort of thing.

Is there any audience for me? Well…I’d sure like to think so. I have found a nice little core of people, who interact with me through my book’s FB page (, so I know there are people out there actually reading these books. I know that audience could always grow, though, and I certainly hope that it does!

DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?

BA: Very important. My best advice to any writer is to know your characters inside and out. Work on your characterization until they feel like real people. I’ve always found that if you invest in them, it pays off. They sort of take over after a while. I’ve learned over time that my characters are much smarter than I am, and that if I just shut up and let them talk, the end result is much more satisfying. This is why I’m not really strict with outlines. I never used to do outlines at all, but I figured if I’m trying to plot a mystery series, it might be in my best interest to have some idea of how I’m going to go about it. Still, I always allow for the characters to improvise. It’s more enjoyable that way and feels more authentic to me…even if it makes the backseat driver in my own novel at times!

DF: Give us an overview of INDEPENDENCE DAY.

BA: INDEPENDENCE DAY is the story of a series of murders taking place in the overheated summer of 1966. Haven Park, Wyoming (fifteen miles east of Laramie) is the perfect picture of Americana. Violent crime doesn’t exist there. Everyone knows everyone else, and there’s a real community atmosphere…but there are also secrets that come to light one by one as more and more people end up dead.

DF: While reading Book One I couldn’t help but think that INDEPENDENCE DAY falls into a genre I like to call The Little Town With Big Secrets Genre. It starts out like “Twin Peaks” what with a surprising and horrifying murder that shocks the entire town. Then we move into “Peyton Place” territory. Are you a fan of soap operas?

BA: First of all, thank you for noticing! I always feel gratified when someone “gets it”, and you totally nailed it! J

I grew up watching soap operas. As I said, my mom was the “cool mom”, so I had my own TV, with no restrictions on what I could watch…of course, we didn’t have cable, so I couldn’t run across anything too risqué. Still, I spent my days watching soap operas and cooking shows, when I was about four or five years old. Funny thing, I can’t cook at all…but that soap opera influence has never left my writing, even after I gave up on the dismal soap genre.

What I strived to do with this book series was emulate a classic soap opera called “The Edge of Night.” For those unfamiliar with daytime, this was a series that premiered in the 1950s, and in the beginning, it was designed to be a daytime version of Perry Mason. It had the elements of mystery and classic soap drama mixed together, and that’s what I was hoping for here.

Now, when I say “classic soap drama”, I do wish to clarify that I do not mean camp, over-the-top antics like one might expect from today’s soap operas. I mean the character-driven human drama that used to be a staple of daytime television. Forbidden love, dark secrets – this sort of thing. I want to make abundantly clear that once someone dies in Haven Park, they stay that way! And nobody has an evil twin! J

DF: Is Haven Park entirely in your imagination or is it a version of someplace you grew up or once lived?

BA: It’s all my imagination, really. I grew up in a fairly small town, but nowhere near that small. I have, however, incorporated elements of my own life into the town. For instance, the church. I grew up in a Baptist church that was not unlike the one depicted in the book. The congregation largely consisted of elderly ladies who liked to backbite and talk about everyone else. There wasn’t much room for progression or change, and unfortunately, they didn’t have a pastor like Brett, who actually wanted to buck tradition and try something new. I quit going there years ago, but I suspect that it’s much the same way I left it. Cycles like that keep repeating themselves, I’ve found.

DF: INDEPENDENCE DAY is a five part story. Why five parts?  Why not write just one huge Stephen King sized doorstop of a book?

BA: INDEPENDENCE DAY actually has roots in webfiction – which, for those initiated, is a genre where one creates a website and serializes their novel, releasing one chapter at a time. The story was originally divided into arcs, consisting of ten chapters an interlude (or, as was the case of arc one, one prologue, ten chapters and two interludes).

I made the decision to remarket the story as a book series in 2011, after trying the webfiction route with little success for two years. At that time, I had two arcs completed and was laboring over the third. I decided to go ahead and release what I had at the time, and the arcs became the books.

The plan is once the story has wrapped up, I’m going to release the complete series as one humongous book, with paperbacks and electronic versions available. I have no idea how big those damned things will be, though, because this is going to be one long story.

DF: Once INDEPENDENCE DAY is done do you plan to do anything else with Haven Park and it’s good citizens?

BA: Absolutely, because I have one hell of a time letting go. My plan was originally do a prequel, but I’ve since scrapped that one. I am planning a sequel now, set 30 years later, in the summer of 1996. It would highlight the characters left standing, and how their lives have changed in the years that have passed. It’s in the very early planning stages, so I can’t really say too much about it, but I think it will be an interesting look at the characters we’ve established in a new, more jaded and even more miserable light…which, of course, is what I’m known for, so it should be fun!

DF: Anything else you’re working on that we should know about?

BA: At this time, no. I tend to be a writer that has a one-track mind. I wish I could work on multiple projects at one time, but I always feel disloyal to them when I do that. I just don’t possess that type of focus…perhaps this is why I just want one child, because I would never want to shaft either of my children because Mommy isn’t good at multi-tasking!

DF: What are your future plans for your writing career?

BA: I want to write as long as the inspiration as there and there are people still willing to read my stories. I’d love to eventually hit it big and see big screen adaptations of my novels – don’t we all want that? I try to be realistic, though. I just want to reach a few people. I want to provide them an escape, a world they can get lost in, and a way to forget about their own lives for a little while. If I can accomplish that, I’ve succeeded.

Derrick Ferguson: What’s A Typical Day In The Life Of Bex Aaron like?

Bex Aaron: Weekdays: Wake up, have coffee, smoke, get dressed, go to work, lose my mind in small increments over the course of the day, come home, unwind and settle into bed with my phone and Netflix. I’m not much of a partier. I’m a very boring old woman, actually…but I like my life, and that’s what counts.

Weekends: Wake up, have coffee, smoke, repeat, listen to Mmmbop (seriously, that is what I’m listening to as I type this), spend time with my mom and labor over my writing. I used to be able to knock out a chapter a weekend, but not so much these days. I need to get back into the habit, especially given that I have a deadline to meet! INDEPENDENCE DAY: Book Four, Dirty Little Secret, is coming on May 1.

Did you see how subtly I snuck that plug in there? I’m so awesome at marketing, as you know. Slick as all hell, I am! J

Monday, March 9, 2015

Progress Report: March 2015

And here we are in a new month and thank you Odin that it’s finally a warm month. Depending on where you live in the great big wonderful country of ours you were probably freezing your <ahem> off this winter. Or maybe you weren't. And if you weren't, I don’t wanna know. The only thing I know is that for three solid months I was cold. I kinda suspect a lot of that is due to the blood thinners I take to prevent my having another pulmonary embolism. Seems like since I’ve been taking them, if the temperature is anything below fifty degrees I feel like I’m freezing. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t like winter. I kinda lead toward that theory myself.

But that’s not what you’ve come here for. You’ve come here to get the latest update on my projects and see if I’ve made any kind of significant progress on them so that it’s worth your time to be reading this. I think I might have a couple of things you might be interested in. So let’s get started, shall we?

I most recently completely work on two Dillon related projects and for once I’m not going to make you go over to the Dillon blog to read about ‘em. That’s because once they get closer to completion then I will be making you go over to the Dillon blog to read about ‘em. But since they’re some distance away from actually being completed, we’ve got time yet.  So we’ll stick here.

The first one is THE SPECIALISTS. It’s a compilation of stories that have been done by Joel Jenkins and I which feature one of his characters; Sly Gantlet teaming up with my character, Dillon. Dillon and Sly Gantlet teaming up together follows in the footsteps of classic pairings such as Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck. Bing Crosby & Bob Hope. Lucille Ball & Vivian Vance. Sylvester Stallone & Kurt Russell. Dillon and Sly Gantlet bite, bark and bicker like an old married couple. But while they do it they also manage to save the world from all manner of evil nogoods. If you don’t know Sly Gantlet then you need to get over to Joel’s Amazon page and get yourself The Gantlet Brothers books. We’re talking about action packed stories filled with guns, girls and explosions so why wouldn’t you want to read them?  I don't have a date on this yet but when I have one, you'll have one, I promise.

And no, this is not the final cover. It's a promotional piece that Joel had made up. But if I know Joel, he's got something in the works even as I speak.

The other Dillon project is actually an old one that is being cleaned up, given a new coat of paint and refurbished. DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL: THE DELUXE EDITION is being presented with a brand new cover by the always sensational Sean E. Ali. There’s also a new introduction written by Russ Anderson, Jr. And an essay by Brent Lambert. 

I tried to resist rewriting as much as I could, I swear. My purpose in editing the book for THE DELUXE EDITION was just to clean up the grammar a bit. Make the whole thing read a bit more smoothly, y’know? So explain to me then how THE DELUXE EDITION ended up being longer than the original version? No lie, y’all. THE DELUXE EDITION is over 100,000 words.

I put a pause in here to give you time to recover. Yeah, 100,000 words is a lot but I assure you that it’s worth it. A lot of people have told me that DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL is the best Dillon adventure they’ve read and trust me that I wouldn’t have added extra words to it if I didn’t think they were needed. 

Okay…what next? Well, you’re still waiting on SEARCH FOR THE BEAST from Pro Se Productions but you’ll have to go nag Tommy Hancock about that. And then there’s still THE RETURN OF FORTUNE McCALL but I’ll wait until next month’s update to go into detail about that bad boy. Until then, enjoy the warm weather and please read some good books and watch some good movies until we get together again.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Progress Report: February 2015

Where does the time go? Here it is February already and it feels like New Year’s Eve was last week.  I suppose that is a true sign of aging when a year appears to go by like that *snaps fingers* Or it could just be that because I stay busy all the time I honestly am not aware of the passing of time. In any case, here I am back with another Progress Report. Here’s where I bring you up to date on what I’ve been doing and assure you that I’m not just laying about watching Netflix and drinking champagne. Although that don’t sound like a bad idea once thought of, now don’t it?

First off, let me direct you to my series of author interviews “Kickin’ The Willy Bobo” in order to inform you that in the coming months that I intend to update many of those interviews since some of them were done two or three years ago and those writers have done an exceptional amount of work since then that you really need to be brought up to date on. So while I’ll be concentrating on doing that but that won’t mean I won’t be doing new interviews. Two gentlemen who I’ve been meaning to interview for the longest time are next on my list: Ron Fortier and Bobby Nash. And if you don’t know who they are by now then you’re definitely in the wrong place.

There’s a brand new Dillon project that I’ve just finished up but in order to read more about that you’ll have to bounce on over to the DILLON blog. See how that works?

I’ve been busy with quite a few things for Pro Se Productions as that mollyfoggin’ Tommy Hancock just won’t leave me alone.  One of those projects you’ll see in February is the first in a series of Single Shots running under the blanket title of TALES OF FORTUNE.

Fortune McCall as you all well know (and if you don’t then what’s wrong with you?) has six faithful companions in adventure who assist him in not only running his floating casino “The Heart of Fortune” but also in nemesising evil as well. THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL got exceptional reviews but one of them stood out as it was from Perry Constantine, a longtime friend and outstanding writer in own right. Perry pointed out that he really didn’t get to know as much about Fortune’s companions as he would have liked. And he was right. Some of  Fortune’s supporting cast didn’t get as much wordage and “screen time” as the others.

But thanks to Pro Se’s Single Shot program I was able to figure a way to give Fortune’s companion the room and wordage necessary to round out their characters. So each one of them will be having their own solo adventure in the TALES OF FORTUNE series. The first one: “For Violent Fires That Soon Burn Out” will feature none other than Fortune’s bodyguard and cousin Tracy Scott. I haven’t yet decided who will get the spotlight next but if you have a suggestion then please feel free to cast it in my general direction.

Last time we got together here I spoke about a special project I had undertaken. Tommy Hancock came to me and asked me to write a novelization of a movie. Now what’s such a big deal about that you may well ask. I mean, novelizations of movies are done all the time. The difference is this: with the blessing of the star/director and the encouragement of Tommy, my novelization was to explore, amplify and extend the story and characters beyond what the movie was. In other words I was given a free hand to indulge myself and go nuts. 

Now we’re not talking about an Academy Award winning movie here. But it was a lot of fun to do as it took me out of my comfort zone and let my stretch my creative muscles in a new direction. You’ll be hearing more about this as the last I heard we were looking for it to be published in March. And what exactly is “It” you ask? The name of it is SEARCH FOR THE BEAST and to give you an idea of what it’s going to be about, check this out:

I think that covers what you can look forward to from me in the immediate months to come. Once I’ve solidified a few things here and there I hope to be able to give you a firm date on the SEBASTIAN RED anthology and a couple of other things I have in the planning stages. Until next time, watch some good movies, read some good books and be good to yourself and others.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

12 Months Later With...Tommy Hancock

It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo Interview with Tommy Hancock. In that time, the flamboyant and outspoken Mr. Hancock has been hard at work doing what he does best: being the spokesman of Pro Se and the public face of New Pulp. So I thought it about time we caught up with him on the anniversary of that first interview and here he is 12 MONTHS LATER…

Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life personally and professionally since we last talked?

Tommy Hancock: Nothing major, other than dealing with a few health issues that seemed to get in the way of creativity and spreading the word of Pro Se some.  But overall things have remained much the same.  Still have a great wife, three kids I totally do not deserve, and enjoying every day - and this has been happening daily for a while- hearing from a writer, artist, or fan about their interest in Pro Se and the work that everyone involved is doing.

DF: How do you feel Pro Se has grown in the past 12 months?

TH: Pro Se won’t stop growing.  Not only are we adding titles and creators right and left, but our numbers on all levels are on an upswing.  More importantly, though, I think Pro Se’s greatest growth has been in its appeal to more readers and different audiences. We spent 2014 laying a lot of groundwork for expanding our readership and, although much of that won’t see fruition until this year, we’re already finding that what we do appeals to an extremely broad base.  Being identified both as a Genre Fiction and a New Pulp Publisher has helped open up several titles that have sat dormant for months, even years to readers, that we always knew were there. And now we are finding them or, in a lot of cases, they are following all the bread crumbs Pro Se’s left in various ways and finding us.

DF: How do you feel that you personally as an editor and publisher have grown in the past year?

TH: As a publisher, I have gained a tremendous amount of focus on just what Pro Se Productions is capable of.  When I started out, I was like a wide eyed kid at a candy store, not only wanting to taste every little thing I could, but working up ideas on how to make it all even better.  I’m still that kid, but I understand what I have the privilege of managing now isn’t candy, but little bits of magic.  Not my magic, I’m not the wizard, I’m just the guy who gets to pull them out of his hat.  And that’s not only a blast, but it’s a responsibility. One that I feel like I understand better than I ever have before. 

It’s also one that all publishers approach in different ways.  Some aren’t big fans of how I do what I do, others have said they think it’s the best way to go.  Me, it’s what works for me.  Pro Se Productions is a publishing company, but we’re a company with intentions, with various plans that all boil down to one mission- getting the best stories out to as many readers as possible.

As an editor, I think I’ve matured as well.  And a lot of that I owe not only to having so much wonderful work that I get to help edit, but to one man.  Joe Gentile, the mad genius behind Moonstone Books, has taught me more in five or six sentences over the last few years concerning editing than any course, seminar or book ever could.

DF: Is the direction Pro Se heading in now the same as it was a year ago?

TH: Yes, most definitely. I think we’ve discussed before that I sort of had a five-year plan for Pro Se from 2011 forward.  It is moving exactly the direction I wanted it to when we started publishing novels and anthologies in 2011.  Could things be better? Well, sure, every book could sell thousands and millions of copies.  But we are heading in what I consider the right direction for what we want to do long term. And that, simply put, is to be around for many years to come and to be a defining voice in New Pulp and Genre Fiction.

DF: Where do you see Pro Se in five years?

TH: Well into the next phase of our plan to be around awhile.   We are building a catalog now and have done quite well at that.  Five years from now, I hope to see us still adding to that catalog, but also to have several properties that readers are just seeing debut now or in the last few years, to have a collection of flagship titles to rival any company out there.  We’ve grown at an amazing speed intentionally and that may level off beginning in the next two to three years, but growth won’t stop.  We’ve been building the house from the ground up so to speak, hopefully in five years we’ll be expanding, adding on bells and whistles to our many rooms.

DF: What’s the best thing about dealing with writers? The worst?

TH: This can be answered with the same answer.  Their excitement about their work.  It is thrilling and invigorating to bask in and be a part of the fire that burns in a writer, or any creator for that matter.  It is one of the major reasons I do this.  

And as for that being the worst thing, let me explain.  Sometimes writers, and being one myself I have been guilty of this, believe that what they have is the best possible work ever and nothing can make it better and the world has to have it now.  And all of those are wonderful emotions and feelings and attachments to have.  But when a work comes to a publisher and the writer cannot let go of those feelings, then it becomes somewhat problematic at times.  I’m proud to say that issues arising because of this have been few and far between at Pro Se. And also, I believe every writer should commit to that passion should stand up for their works.  But there has to be a willingness to compromise when working with a publisher and although most every writer we have understands that, not all do and find their way to self-publishing or other avenues that are just as valid as what we would provide them.

DF: How do you see the New Pulp Community these days? Is it still a community?

TH: I am told on a regular basis that I’m one of the organizers of the New Pulp Movement, and I suppose I am. Not that I invented New Pulp, as I didn’t, or that I was the first to envision the concept, because again I was not. But I did have a hand in organizing several publishers and creators under a unifying ‘New Pulp Movement’ banner of sorts. 

So there’s my answer.  No, I don’t think New Pulp is a community and I really haven’t ever seen it that way.  A community denotes a group of people all existing together and working in concert to better the group as a whole on a consistent, regular basis.  And although New Pulp publishers and creators have done that and continue to do that every day – if one of us succeeds, then all of us float a little bit closer to the top is a concept I believe in – I do not see New Pulp as cohesive conceptual village all having the same goal.   There’s a reason why I suggested calling it ‘The New Pulp Movement.’

Movements move, and hopefully forward.  And not only that, but Movements grow and change and rise and fall…and the people, the movers, they change also.  Sometimes the faces change, other times the place the movers have in the Movement shift for better or worse, but everything in a successful movement continues evolving, expanding, becoming something different.  And just about the time you think it’s matured into one thing, it pushes even harder and is on its way to being something else. That’s what New Pulp is to me.

DF: Do you think that New Pulp will ever have respectability?

TH: It sort of depends on what you mean by that.  I think New Pulp is very highly respected within a particular niche, that being that cadre of fans that identify themselves as New Pulp fans.  Now, there’s at least one other niche that hasn’t always had the highest regard for what we do, but even that has changed in the last few years.  If you mean do I think we’ll ever have the respectability of being considered ‘proper’ literature and completely mainstream, God, I hope not.    

One of the great things about New Pulp, and in a larger sense specific Genre Fiction, is that there’s a roughness to it, a rawness that allows each writer to come at it individually, to put in appropriate elements shared by others, but also to leave a mark on a story, on a genre, on a reader that is uniquely the creator’s own.  I would argue that being mainstream and literary, that that sort of respectability requires creators to give up that edge, that individuality to a large degree.  So, no, in that sense, I hope New Pulp is never respectable.

DF: Are you working on any writing projects of your own?

TH: I have several things that are due, some a long time now, for Pro Se and others.  Thankfully, I have patient publishers and can only hope the readers are as patient.  Running a publishing company, especially one as aggressive as Pro Se has become, takes a lot of time.  Writing has taken a back seat and will have to for a bit longer, probably through March.  But, yes, there’s several things on the burners…and, of course, new ideas brewing as well.

Derrick Ferguson: What is the one thing above all others we should be eagerly looking for from Pro Se in 2015?

Tommy Hancock: The best damn Genre Fiction and New Pulp on the market between the covers of every single book bearing the Pro Se logo.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...RAYMOND EMBRACK

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Raymond Embrack?
Raymond Embrack: Escritor independiente de la ficcion

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
RE: Currently in Los Angeles with years in an unnamed position in an unnamed industry.

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.
RE: Some film, some theater, some science fiction. Nothing much. Planning to start a new background in the future.

DF: How long have you been writing?
RE: Since 1978.

DF: What writers have influenced you?
RE: Harlan Ellison. Ernest Tidyman. James Ellroy. Hunter S. Thompson. Iceberg Slim. Andrew Vachss. Quentin Tarantino. Walter Mosely. Elmore Leonard. Robert B. Parker. Mickey Spillane.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
RE: Never be boring. Leave out the slow parts. Write books that are non-stop pleasure. Write like books have to compete with video games, blockbuster movies, strippers and cocaine.

DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?
RE: Always. But I’m learning the critical instinct to question everything, including my instincts.

DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?
RE: Of my stuff? Your criticism helped me rewrite my first superhero novel. I don’t think a writer can improve without criticism. But that opinion is subject to change too.

DF: Do you crave recognition?
RE: Anything that hard to get deserves to be craved, hunted down, taken, beheaded then eaten. It has taken a long time.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Raymond Embrack?
RE: I write for outlaw bikers and Japanese strippers. I made the mistake of writing the work before defining the audience. Maybe I’ll do better next time.

DF: How do you use social media to promote your writing?
RE: That’s something I’m still figuring out.

DF: One of the things I love about your writing is that it so fearlessly non-PC and for me that’s refreshing. Was that a conscious decision on your part or did your writing just develop that way over time?
RE: Why does the best stuff tend to be anti-PC? It just is. For better or worse I have always gone for that in my writing. To me there’s no point in holding back.

DF: Who is Peter Surf? Where did he come from and why does he make you want to write about him?
RE: Surf has been around since the 1990s. He got his name from the music in “Pulp Fiction”. From there my action hero took shape. Surf is a comedian, a badass, a killer. Surf is not an anti-hero, he is my version of the most interesting man in the world. That is a guy who does all things with swagger. Is he a male fantasy? I can’t pretend he’s a realistic character. The action hero exists to hit that sweet spot just short of the mask & cape.

DF: I love the concept of Blonde City. Where did that come from?
RE: For me there was more escapism value in making up a city than using an existing and probably over-used setting. It gives me way more to play with. This is America’s newest city, one made of sudden wealth, gloss and hype. It only hires policemen who are hot. It gives the homeless lipstick.

DF: Which Peter Surf novel was your favorite to write?
RE: Has to be The Guns of Tony Franciosa. I took it off the market just so I could keep rewriting it.

DF: What is the future of Peter Surf?
RE: He seems a few books short, so more Surf will happen.

DF: Perhaps my favorite book of yours I’ve read so far is EL MOROCCO.  It’s the swingin’ 60s on crack. What was the inspiration for that story and the characters?
RE: The inspiration was John Ridley’s “A Conversation with the Mann” his comedian/swingin’ 60s novel. Had to write my own version, plus I’m a fan of the “Mad Men era.”

DF: How much of a superhero fan are you?
RE: I’m an unfrozen fan. I have to work my way up to “nerd.” Real nerds read and watch everything and know all. After years focused on crime fiction, I’m returning to the thing I started with. I now get that the superhero can be as ambitious a character to write but one even closer to the brain’s pleasure center.

DF: Marvel or DC?

DF: Who are some of your favorite comic book writers?
RE: Howard Chaykin. Alan Moore. Neil Gaiman. Ed Brubaker. Scott Snyder.

DF: Your five favorite superheroes?
RE: Batman. The Hulk. The Black Panther. Rorschach. Black Canary.

DF: Explain the concept behind the AXIS Superhero Novels.
RE: Typically superheroes exist in a world where comic book superheroes never existed. In the AXIS world they exist in this world with its same comic book culture. That is only possible when somehow the reality follows the archetype. I took that premise and fused it with my older sci-fi concept of an alien that takes the form of an Earth city.  That formed the AXIS concept.

I wouldn’t call it “alternate history” more like “alternate present.” In 1970, from nowhere the city of Brutalia appeared in one day. It is the only city where superpowers exist. Outside the city superpowers cease to exist. There, three major organizations are at war, AXIS, the superheroes who seek to keep superpowers from reaching the outside world; the OGD (Order of Global Domination) the supervillains who seek to export superpowers to conquer the outside world; O.U.T.S.I.D.E., superheroes seeking to export superpowers to benefit the outside world.

Oddly enough, I see these characters with the realism I don’t see Peter Surf. These are not anti-heroes or anti-supervillains, they are multidimensional people redefined by gestalt myth made reality. Their superpowers are their career. Both AXIS and the OGD have Washington lobbyists. Like real people, they don’t all automatically invent new super identities, they become existing fictional superheroes, as when one of them attempted to become a real Wonder Woman. The leader of AXIS becomes the (fictional) KM Comics brand superheroes of his teens.

The novels are themselves a process as, from an amnesiac fog, Brutalia, its people, their memory, its mysteries, and the culture around it evolves, mutates, take shape. There is room for years of this to come.

DF: The AXIS Superhero Novels are quite explicit when it comes to sex and violence. Again, was this a conscious decision on your part or did the novels just develop that way over time?
RE: That’s what they are, adult content in comic book terms. The superheroes and supervillains are adults at play with real weapons. The sex and violence are unleashed id. I see the art by Howard Chaykin with splattered heads and “Black Kiss” nymphos.

DF: Are there graphic novels or comic books based on characters from the AXIS Superhero Novels planned for the future?
RE: In 2015 AXIS will start going visual. The plan involves art, graphic comix and novels and animated films. And merch. In the future there will be action figures. Someday, a Taco Bell tie-in.

DF: Have you thought about opening up the AXIS Universe to other writers in a fashion similar to the “Wild Cards” series?
RE: That never occurred to me. I don’t think other writers want a piece of this.

DF: What is the future of the AXIS Universe?
RE: There will be more new superheroes and supervillains. The Carousel will change his name to Spinrax. There will be more like Bag of Green Army Men that take place in the multiverse of KM Comics. I have a thing for steampunk, so I see an AXIS steampunk series.

DF: What are your plans for your writing career? Where is Raymond Embrack going to be five years from now?
RE: Going full time writer. Five years from now: even more full time with extra full time.

DF: What are you working on now?
RE: Planning the next Surf novel and the next AXIS novel, both to write in 2015.

DF: What’s a typical Day in the Life of Raymond Embrack like?
RE: It begins in the compound known as Embrack Wonderland. Report to the day job, which is at home, at a desktop. Maybe lunch at Fat Sal’s. Whistle blows. Return to Wonderland. When an Embrack novel is in production, writing may occur.

DF: Recommend a book, a TV show and a movie.
BOOK: The Storm Giants by Pearce Hansen
TV SHOW: The Pleasure (Playboy TV Latin America)
MOVIE: The Raid 2

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?
Raymond Embrack: This has been boss. Thanks for letting me kick it with you, Derrick.