Monday, December 23, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: JOSHUA REYNOLDS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Joshua Reynolds?

Joshua Reynolds: I'm a literary mercenary with a modest level of talent and more-than-modest level of self-confidence. I'm a hack, a penmonkey, an ink-stained wretch, a word-dribbler.

I am, in other words, a freelance writer.

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

JR: I currently reside in the city of Sheffield, which is in the north of England and, as oh-so subtly hinted at by my previous answer, I write for a living. 

DF: Share some of your personal background with us.

JR: I was once bitten by a rattlesnake.

It died.

DF: Access the memories of the 12 year old Josh Reynolds. Are you right now doing what the 12 year old Josh Reynolds dreamed of doing?

JR: Insomuch as it doesn't involve reigning over my own country like a power-mad dictator, I would say no. This was like three, maybe four down the list from that particular dream.

Definitely in the top fifteen, though.

DF: What is your philosophy of writing?

JR: I dunno...quantity has a quality all its own? No, but seriously, my philosophy is hard to put into words. Polite words, I mean. It mostly involves cursing and throwing papers up in the air, and having men with guns come through doors every two thousand words or so.

DF: How would you describe your style?

JR: Gratuitous? I don't know really. I think that's one of those questions you have to ask somebody who's not me to get a good answer.
The thing is, I don't think about it much. Writing is a job, and it's one I've gotten mostly adept at. But beyond that, I don't think about it in terms of style or philosophies or anything like that. I sit down, I write, I submit, I move on to the next thing. If something works, I repeat it until it stops working. If it doesn't work, I discard it and come up with something new.

Hey, maybe that's my answer to both this question and the previous one! My philosophy and my style is 'whatever works'.

DF: You’ve written an hellacious amount of short stories. Obviously you like the short story. Why?

JR: It is, in my opinion, one of the most efficient and effective ways of delivering an entertaining story. A short story forces you to pare and tweak and chisel at everything that isn't story. Books and novellas can take their time, they can have flabby bits and tangents and bits of business that add to characterization and the setting. But short stories have to get to the point--whatever that point might be--very quickly. You have to establish characters, plot and setting right from page one, paragraph one, sentence one.

DF: Exactly how many short stories have you written and if you had to pick three as your best, which ones would they be?

JR: Written, or had published? If it's the latter, almost two hundred. If it's the former...three, maybe three-hundred and fifty? I write between sixteen and twenty five a year, on average, these days.

As far as three of the best...the first is maybe "Just an Old Fashioned Love Song", which was published in 2007 in a magazine called Not One of Us. It's got a weird, funky rhythm to it that I've only managed to replicate once or twice since.

Second would be "Corn Wolf", which appeared in a 2010 issue of Necrotic Tissue. It's a straight-edge horror story, with Jamesian wallop to the rural horror twist. It's got one of my usual tricks--something horrible moving through something innocuous in a disturbing fashion--and a fairly nasty climax, which make it one of my more effective stories.

Third would have to be "Bultungin", which was published in 2013 in the anthology Shapeshifters. I think this is one of my better ones because I went outside of my comfort zone with it. Not necessarily in terms of plot, but in terms of setting and characters. Plus...were-hyenas. Hard to top that.   

DF: Some of my favorite stories of yours are an insane mash-up of horror, steampunk, pulp action adventure and historical fiction. Do you ever worry that your work cannot be easily classified or labeled?

JR: Nah. If it sells, it doesn't matter to me how it's labeled and if it doesn't sell...well it's moot, ain't it?

DF: I’m a big fan of your Mr. Brass stories. How did you give birth to the character?

JR: I wanted to write something steampunk-y, so I decided to go all in from the get-go. A brass robot-man punching out characters from Victorian literature seemed fairly steampunk.

Granted, what I considered steampunk at that point was 'like that Alan Moore thing, only less subtle'.

DF: Do you plan on writing a Mr. Brass novel or do you feel the character is more suited to short stories?

JR: If someone offered me the right terms, I'd whip up a novel in a heartbeat. But as that has yet to occur, I think I'll be sticking with short stories for the time being.

DF: In the New Pulp community whenever Jim Anthony, Super Detective is mentioned, your name is sure to be mentioned as well. How did you come to write Jim Anthony and why do you think you understand the character and his world so well?

JR: When I was first invited to submit something to Airship 27 several years ago, Ron Fortier was kind enough to send me a list of public domain pulp characters. The write-up of Jim Anthony on that list began, I think, with the phrase 'second-rate Doc Savage clone', and that immediately caught my attention. More for the Doc part than the second-rate bit.

Thing is, I've always wanted to write Doc Savage. It's on my bucket-list. And, frankly, I think Jim Anthony is as close as I'll get. Which is no bad thing. The Super-Detective is a fun character, with as much going for him as Doc, at least from the point of view of a writer. Jim Anthony is a very human character. He's passionate, opinionated, arrogant and lusty. He gets angry and depressed and frightened. And he can punch supervillains. What's not to like?

DF: Can we expect more Jim Anthony adventures?

JR: I'm actually in the process of writing a sequel to my last novel with the character, Death's Head Cloud, right now. The working title is Red Shambhala, and it sees Jim and co. face off against a murderous Russian aristocrat as they hunt for a treasure hidden in the wilds of Mongolia.

So the short answer would be 'yes'.

DF: You’ve written several novels for the prestigious Black Library. How did you get a contract to write for them and what advice can you offer to those who would like to write for them?

JR: I got the first contract the old fashioned way. I submitted a proposal, the commissioning editor liked it and I got offered a contract. As to advice, the best I can think of is, quite simply, write something else. Black Library rarely hire first-time writers, and my resume played a large part in getting me that first offer.

DF: I really enjoyed KNIGHT OF THE BLAZING SUN. Where’d you come up with that story?

JR: It evolved naturally out of my interest in real-world knightly orders like the Templars, and how they functioned. It was really just a matter of taking that interest and figuring out how to explore it through the lens of the Warhammer Fantasy universe.

DF: For those who don’t know, tell us who Gotrex & Felix are.

JR: Gotrek & Felix are Black Library's oldest and, perhaps, best-loved franchise. Created almost twenty years ago by veteran fantasy writer Bill King, Gotrek is a dwarf warrior determined to find a fitting doom, in order to expunge some heretofore unrevealed sin. Felix is a human poet who, after a being rescued by Gotrek, is honour-bound to follow him on his adventures and record his eventual demise.

I've written two novels about the duo--Road of Skulls in 2013 and The Serpent Queen which will be released in 2014--as well as a novella and a number of short stories.

DF: Can you tell us about any future novels you’ll be writing for Black Library?

JR: Unfortunately, I can't. They'd send somebody by my house to break my thumbs if I mentioned anything. Suffice to say, I'm writing at least two more novels for them. After that...who can say?

DF: A particular type of fictional hero that you have demonstrated a huge love for is that of The Occult Investigator or Psychic Detective. Where does that come from?

JR: Mostly it comes from a love of the central concept behind such a character--someone who fights monsters. A person who faces off against every nightmarish horror the Outer Dark can produce as a matter of professional and personal responsibility. Like the detectives of Conan Doyle, Chandler and Christie, the occult detective seeks to bring the monsters to justice, only in the latter's case, the monster isn't a poisoner or a blackmailer, but a werewolf or a vampire or a gibbering horror. And that's something I just plain dig.

DF: Who is The Royal Occultist and what is his job?

JR: The Royal Occultist is the man--or woman--who stands between the British Empire and its occult enemies, be they foreign, domestic, human, demonic or some form of worm of unusual size. If there are satyrs running amok in Somerset or werewolves in Wolverhampton, the Royal Occultist will be there to see them off.

The current Royal Occultist is Charles St. Cyprian, who's best described as Rudolph Valentino by way of Bertie Wooster. In the same vein, his assistant, Ebe Gallowglass, is Louise Brooks by way of Emma Peel. St. Cyprian is the brains and Gallowglass is the muscle; he likes to talk things out, and she likes to shoot things until they die.

Together, they defend the British Empire of the 1920s against a variety of gribbly monsters, secret societies and eldritch occurrences.


JR: The Whitechapel Demon is the first book in Emby Press' 'The Adventures of the Royal Occultist' series. It sees Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass go up against a secret society of murderists and an otherdimensional doppelganger of one of history's most notorious killers. The book serves as an introduction to the world of the Royal Occultist as well as delivering an exciting adventure for new readers and old fans alike to enjoy.

DF: Can we expect to see future adventures of Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass? Please say yes.

JR: Definitely. Next year will see the release of The Jade Suit of Death, the follow up to The Whitechapel Demon. There are also a half dozen short stories waiting to appear in the pages of forthcoming anthologies and magazines, and two more audio productions in the works. Too, there may be a collection of short stories forthcoming from a well-known New Pulp publisher.

DF: What’s a Day In The Life of Joshua Reynolds like?

JR: Very boring, actually. I get up, I eat breakfast, drink some coffee, and get to work around eight, eight-thirty in the morning. I work on whatever project has the closest deadline until twelve, break for lunch and a coffee until one, and then work on a second project, or answer emails, mail contracts and invoices, run errands and/or update my blog until five or six. I generally try and get some more writing in between seven and midnight most nights.
Like I said, not very interesting.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Joshua Reynolds: The best present you can get an author, besides buying one of their books, is taking the time to leave a review somewhere. So, if you've read something, please consider taking a few minutes to review it on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords or wherever. I, and most every other author out there, would appreciate it immensely. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

17 Months Later With: VALJEANNE JEFFERS

It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo interview with Valjeanne so I thought it about time we caught up with what she’s all about and what she’s doing 17 MONTHS LATER…

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

Valjeanne Jeffers: Actually, yes. Im pleased to announce that my new grand-baby, Kyle Toussaint will arrive in December of 2013. My first grand-baby, Logan Alexander, turned four this year; and he is a continual source of joy in my journey.

Ive been published in two anthologies, which were just released this year: Griots: Sisters of the Spear, and Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction Volume II. And Im releasing two new novels, Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective.

Colony: Ascension, is a spin-off of my earlier short stories, “Colony” and “Probe.” It is a full-length novel about an apocalyptic, dying Earth. . .and what becomes of it. In the year 2045, Earths leaders are hell-bent on colonizing new planets. But an alien species has its own agenda, its own ideas, about what the future of Earth should hold. Heres a short excerpt from Colony: Ascension.

Earth’s atmosphere was polluted. The weather was a miasma of storms, heat waves and solar flares; shifting from twenty to ninety degrees within the space of a day. Mutated animals roamed the streets. Those without jobs, panhandled and squatted in alleys and deserted building. When their rationed water was gone, they used homemade filters. They ate rats, insects, dogs—anything they could find. Some had even become cannibals. Those with jobs lived under the Domes.

I thought Id be finished with both novels by the end of the year, but they wont be ready until sometime in 2014. Quinton Veal, my cover artist and fiancée, is releasing his fourth book, Fire and Desire, in 2014which is also a very big deal for me.

I have two audio books, too, which are coming out soon (both narrated by voice actress Darla Middlebrook). The audio book of my first novel, Immortal, will be released on December 31, 2013. The audio of the second novel of my series, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, will be out in March 2014.

DF: How do you feel your writing has developed since we last talked?

VJ: As writers we are always developing, always growing. When I wrote my first novel, it was more fun than work. I would slip into my characters’ world during the day, like a beautiful waking dream. Even when I wasn’t writing, my characters were never far from my mind.

Now, as a more seasoned author, I’m still just as consumed with my writing. But I have to remind myself to have fun. Writing is hard work. But authors also have to enjoy themselves. That’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. Especially when you have self-imposed deadlines and quotas to meet.

I have to remind myself, too, to slip into my characters’ skin; to let let them evolve emotionally and connect with them emotionally. In this way my characters become “spirits who walk across the page,” rather than chess pieces I’m pushing across a book. I enjoy them, love them, and so do my readers.

DF: In what direction do you think your work is heading now as opposed to seventeen months ago? Or is it heading in the same direction?

VJ: I believe that in last year or so, I’ve learned to take my time—to not rush my writing. I’d venture to say that I’ve actually developed more patience, which is no mean feat for me. Anyone who knows me well, will tell you patience is not my strong suit. But I am learning.

DF: Tell us about Mona Livelong.

VJ: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective is a new series, in which I introduce Mona Livelong, a seasoned detective who is takes on a case, “The Case of the Angry Ghost”, of a family haunted by an angry poltergeist, an evil spirit if you will. Mona grudgingly takes the job, and finds herself swept up into a dangerous plot to turn North America on its head. But she’s “sharp as a mosquito’s tweeter,” as one of my characters describes her, and gifted with preternatural abilities.

In “The Case of the Angry Ghost” the first novel of the Mona Livelong series, I introduce my readers to a whole new cast of characters: Mona, the darkly beautiful sorceress and sleuth; her on-again/off-again lover, Curtis Dubois, a Haitian detective; his partner and best friend, Harold Polanski.  And a charming Southern gambler, who also happens to be a ghost, “Larry Junebug Walker.”

Here’s a short excerpt:

Mona turned the crank on her steam-powered auto and trailed Bouvier, traveling east to Bourbon one of her town, Clearwater’s, Black communities. The home was a freshly painted, two-story, bone-white house with a wraparound porch complete with swing, and roses blooming in the yard.

The moment she stepped out of her auto, she felt it. Negative energy surrounded the house. In the second-story window, Mona saw the silhouette of woman. And she knew she wasnt human. Broke as she was, Mona was starting to think this was a bad idea. Vengeful spirits were among her least favorite preternatural beings. They couldn’t be trusted.

Sneaky, unreliable hants. Like this one, being quiet until these folks moved in and then raising all this hell. She’d known them to lay low for weeks at a time, sometimes years, lulling folks into a false sense of security. Only to attack the new owners of the house later.

This is a new series I hope my readers will love, as much as they love my Immortal series. But it is detour off the beaten path for me. Mona Livelong is a detective novel, and a horror/steamfunk book, with shades of Voudon.

In writing a horror novel, I deliberately steered away from my comfort zone. Those who are familiar with my writing will tell you that I like to mix genres. But this was the first time that I’ve gone out my way to scare my readers. I hope they enjoy it.

DF: You’ve got a story in Griots II. Tell us about it.

VJ: Griots: Sisters of the Spear (edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis) is the second volume of the Griots Anthology series; and my short story, “The Sickness” is included in it. In “The Sickness”, the journey of Nandi, a young West African woman, continues. Nandi is also the heroine of “Awakening”, my story which was published in Griots: A Sword and Sword Anthology. She is a warrior who has taken control of her own destiny— with a little supernatural help from her friends.

This anthology features some exceptional writers; including the man himself, Charles Saunders, Carole McDonnell, Ronald Jones, and Joe Bonadonna. It is a pleasure and an honor to be listed among them.

DF: Tell us about Steamfunk and your place in the genre.

VJ: Steamfunk is a sub-genre in which Steampunk is written from an African American’s, really any person of color’s worldview.  This genre gives me an opportunity to be creative with gizmos and gadgets, as well as to tie them to other plot mechanisms; such as (as one of readers described it) environmental racism. And when writing within this genre the author is automatically creating an alternative universe—which I love.

I found my niche in Steamfunk back in 2011, when I wrote The Switch. In the beginning, The Switch was an open-ended short story that I really enjoyed writing, but had no intentions of continuing. But, at the urging of my oldest son, Toussaint, I revisited it and developed it into a full novel: The Switch II: Clockwork: which includes The Switch as a Prologue and The Switch II as the Conclusion.

The Switch: Book I, was later published in the Steamfunk! anthology. It was also nominated the 2013 E-festival of Words for Best Novella Award. Since 2011, I’ve become very comfortable with Steamfunk. I’ve written two more short stories, “Mocha Faeryland” and “Outcasts”, a story of an alternate Haiti and Toussaint L’Overture’s revolution. And then, of course, there’s Mona Livelong.

DF: Where do you see Valjeanne Jeffers in five years?

VJ: In five years, Quinton and I plan to edit and release at least one SF/Fantasy anthology. I also plan to write four more novels, and connect with more of my wonderful readers, so that I go on to become a bestselling author.

DF: Hollywood calls and says that they’re going to give you 500 million dollars to make a movie out of one of your books and let you pick the director. Which book do you let them have and which director do you choose?

VJ: I don’t even have to think about it. Immortal. Not only is the first novel, of my first series, very near and dear to my heart, I believe that Immortal would make a dynamite movie. The special effects alone would be off the chain.

The director? Also a no-brainer. I’d pick filmmaker/director M. Asli Dukan, who is writing and directing a film documentary of Black Speculative Fiction, entitled “Invisible Universe”. I’m very, very honored to be listed among the authors of the “Invisible Universe.”

DF: Recommend a movie, a book and a TV show.

VJ: I’d recommend “Sugar Hill”, a Blaxploitation Horror classic about a young woman, Diane Hill, who avenges her lover’s death with the help of a powerful Voudon Loa. For books, how could I pass up a chance to recommend The Switch II: Clockwork? It’s got science fiction, time-travel, Steamfunk and even a little erotica. What’s not to love?

For TV shows, my all-time favorite is “Supernatural”—a horror series. This show features deep, subtle commentary about life, from some very likable characters. It even manages to be funny. “Supernatural” also has one of the best rock soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening too.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Valjeanne Jeffers: Readers can preview or publish my books at:

I’d like to thank Derrick Ferguson, Author Extraordinaire, for taking the time to interview me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: CHUCK MILLER

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Chuck Miller?

Chuck Miller: Someone who can make the best of a bad situation, and the worst of a good one.

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

CM: I live in Norman, Oklahoma, and I have worked as a paralegal and in various capacities with a couple of different newspapers.

DF: Give us as much about your background as you’re legally able to tell us.

CM: Let me think a minute and see what isn't prohibited by the court order...

I was born in Ohio, and moved to Alabama when I was 10. I've got a BA in creative writing from the University of South Alabama, the only one that's ever been awarded from there. It was when I graduated, anyhow, and it may still be. They didn't offer creative writing as a degree major, but the chair of the English department decided that since I had been there for 11 years and none of us were getting any younger, they could go ahead and make an exception.

A few years ago, I was in a serious accident-- several broken bones, a collapsed lung, and other things. My recuperation was slow. That left me with a lot of time on my hands, and a glaring reminder of my own mortality to go with it. I decided that if I was ever going to get serious about writing, it was time to do it. That's sort of what brought this whole thing on.

DF: What is your philosophy about writing?

CM: The narrative voice is the most important thing. Whatever I might have to say, nobody's going to know about, unless I give them reason to enjoy it and engage with it.

DF: I describe your style of writing as what I imagine David Lynch would be writing if he were a New Pulp writer. How would you describe it?

CM: That's pretty good. I don't really know what I'd call it. I knew I wanted to do something different, something that hadn't been seen before, so I just kind of let my imagination wander. I bring a lot of different influences into it, and I can't name any particular one that stands out above the others. I draw on pulps, comics, and classic mysteries, as well as a few things you don't usually see in this genre, I think. Lots of movies. Writers like William S. Burroughs, Flannery O'Connor, Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Lansdale, Walter Mosley, Rex Stout, and quite a few more. "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," various sitcoms, and Little Lulu comics. I'm serious about that. The influence of John Stanley's Lulu stories is profound, particularly in the Vionna Valis & Mary Jane Kelly stories, but it's present with the Centipede as well, in the way some of the characters interact with one another.

DF: I first came across your website featuring THE BLACK CENTIPEDE a couple of years before your brought the character to Pro Se. When did you first create The Black Centipede and his universe?

CM: The whole thing started about twenty years ago. Some friends of mine and I wanted to do our own comic books, and I came up with several characters and situations. That whole thing never got off the ground. A few years later, I revived the idea and wrote a script. That was The Optimist, the story of Jack Christian, a former kid sidekick to a deceased superhero. That never went anywhere, either, but I held on to all the notes I made about the characters. The Black Centipede was originally conceived as a minor character in that series, a weird holdover from the age of the pulp heroes. What I had in mind was a sort of cross between William S. Burroughs and the Shadow.

More time passed, and when I finally decided to get serious about the writing, I naturally wondered what the heck I was going to write about. So I dug into my old notes and turned The Optimist into a short novel. I had no idea what to do with it, so I just posted it online for anybody to read for free. Very few did. A friend of mine suggested that people might be more likely to read a short story online than a whole novel, so I decided to give that a try. The main character didn't really lend himself to that, though, so I picked one of the supporting cast-- The Black Centipede. I did a short story called "Wisconsin Death Trip," in which our hero becomes embroiled in some bizarre events surrounding a peculiar little man named Ed Gein.

I was pleased with it, so I did some more, and posted them as well. The next one I did was a Black Centipede novella called Gasp, Choke, Good Lord! It's a tribute to the old EC horror comics, and the historical guest stars are Dr. Frederic Wertham and William M. Gaines. That one is still free and can be seen here:

Then I did one featuring Vionna Valis and Mary Kelly. The stuff accumulated on my blog and people started paying attention to it. One of them was Tommy Hancock at Pro Se. He asked me if I thought I was ready to do a whole novel for them. I wasn't sure, but I said I was, and I did. That was Creeping Dawn: The Rise of the Black Centipede.

It was well-received, as was the follow-up, Blood of the Centipede. Both of them garnered a lot of positive reviews and comments, and I am now striving to bring The Centipede to the attention of even more readers in the wider world. I know there is a vast potential audience out there, and I'd love to connect with them and take a little of their money now and again. I think it's a good deal for both parties. Of course, it's always been more about ego than money with me, but money can do an ego a powerful lot of good. It's a tangible expression of admiration. I am working on totally revamping The Optimist for Pro Se.

DF: Who is The Black Centipede?

CM: The way I really see him is that he is me, if all restraints were removed. He behaves the way I would if I could get away with it. In some ways, he's kind of a shallow character-- he never indulges in self-doubt or self-recrimination. He is absolutely certain of himself at all times, and if he does make a mistake, he quickly corrects it and dismisses it from his mind.  He would rather die than pass up an opportunity to make a smart remark to someone. Frankly, he's more than a little unbalanced, but through sheer moxie he forces the world to accept him on his own terms. The former is certainly true of me, though the latter has been very problematical. So the Centipede is my fantasy-fulfillment in that regard. All of my major characters have been cobbled together out of bits and pieces I found lying around in my psyche. Jack Christian is closer to me as I actually am, while Vionna Valis could be called the "inner child," if you use terms like that. It's all psycho-drama, to a degree.

DF: The universe of The Black Centipede is populated with many colorful characters. Tell us about them.

CM: I have two other series that are part of my work for Pro Se Press, and both of them splinter off of The Optimist. Doctor Unknown Junior, the daughter of the Centipede's old sorcerer pal Doctor Unknown, has appeared in an issue of Pro Se Presents, and a novel is in the works. The first installment of The Incredible Adventures of Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly will be out in the near future. I've seen the cover art, and I'm impressed. "Vionna and the Vampires" is also the first part of the "Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires" trilogy, which will continue in Black Centipede Confidential and the first Doctor Unknown Junior novel, The Return of Little Precious.

Vionna is a quirky and eccentric young woman whose past is something of a mystery. Mary Jane Kelly was, as some people will be aware, the last known victim of Jack the Ripper in 1888. She was resurrected in The Optimist, and ended up forming a partnership with Vionna. Together, they are the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee Psychic Detective Agency, specializing in unusual investigations involving paranormal phenomena.

Dr. Dana Marie Laveau Unknown, PhD, a/k/a Doctor Unknown Junior is a very powerful and nearsighted sorceress. She functions in the same capacity as pretty much any good-guy magic-user in the comics, defending the earth against all manner of supernatural threats. During the events recounted in The Optimist, she sustains a serious psychic injury and finds herself seriously de-powered. Jack Christian has become her assistant for the duration, and serves as her "Watson," producing first-person accounts of her adventures. Actually, he's more like Archie Goodwin than Watson. There are some personality clashes that go on between them, but they're working those out.

DF: What are your future plans for The Black Centipede?

CM: I'd like to keep him going for as long as I can. I have more than enough ideas to last for the remainder of my life and then some. He's been active for more than 80 years, so there's a lot to work with. I've been doing the novels in chronological order, and the third one only goes up to the end of 1933. I have a rather sketchy history worked out for him from then until the present day, and I may start skipping forward a lot more in the books. A major turning point in his life comes in 1972, when he falls from grace with a huge thud, and ends up becoming a wanted criminal once again. His long-standing feud with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover reaches a crisis point when the Centipede is accused of murdering him. Nixon is also an antagonist, and the Centipede goes underground to wage a covert war, which culminates in the Watergate scandal. That's all I have for that at present. At the rate I'm going, I won't have to worry about it until I'm 100.

DF: You seem to get a real kick out of mixing historical figures in with your fiction. Where does that come from?

CM: I've always been interested in history, and I really got a big kick out of Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld novels, in which everyone who ever lived was transported to this mysterious alien world. Various historical figures mix freely and have adventures as they try to unravel the riddle of the Riverworld. I also enjoyed Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, where  "real" history is usurped and overlaid with this alien invasion scenario. So I thought about the kind of people someone like The Black Centipede would be likely to come into contact with.

I figured he'd have to have some excellent PR in order to avoid being arrested any time he showed himself in public, so I hooked him up with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst is a rather shady character anyhow, and through a liberal application of bribes and wildly distorted news stories, he has made The Centipede into one of America's most beloved heroes. I also put him together with Amelia Earhart, whom I've always admired. She tries to act as a sort of moral compass for The Centipede, dissuading him from giving in to his more violent impulses-- sometimes through reasoning or nagging, sometimes at gunpoint, as she does during their first encounter in Blood of the Centipede. They form a sort of unofficial partnership. 

Amelia returns in the next book, Black Centipede Confidential, along with two new supporting cast members that I snatched out of the Public Domain: Gregor Samsa, the giant verminous protagonist from Franz Kafka's “The Metamorphosis”, and J. Alfred Prufrock, from the poem by T.S. Eliot. These two actually show up in the ongoing web serial, The Return of Doctor Reverso, as does another major new character, the faceless Russian assassin called Anonymoushka. She has quite a history, including some very interesting parentage, which is revealed in Confidential.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is the main historical guest star in the next novel, along with his wife, Zelda. Frank Nitti, who was a major character in Creeping Dawn, returns, as does Hearst. Lester Dent and Walter B. Gibson are also on hand, helping The Centipede bring down Professor James Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires. A certain beekeeper who lives on the Sussex Downs also plays a part in the proceedings. I won't give away any of the plot, except to mention that Moriarty's nefarious organization, the Order of the Sunless Circle, includes such luminaries as John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Dr. Hawley Crippen, Stagger Lee, Pretty Boy Floyd, Doctor Herbert West, the Bell Witch and the Loch Ness Monster.

I'm also interested in crime history, so there's a lot of that. The Centipede's origin involves Lizzie Borden, and Jack the Ripper is a recurring character in the series. In fact, his arch-enemy (I call her that, though I've never shown them fighting-- usually quite the opposite), "Bloody" Mary Jane Gallows is the supernaturally-generated daughter of Lizzie and the Ripper. Mary Jane has become a much more sympathetic character than I originally intended for her to be, and appears as more friend than foe. But I've come up with a gimmick in Confidential that will give us the best of both worlds, and allow her to realize her full potential in both directions. That's all I'll say about that for now.

DF: You’ve recently introduced a new character, The Bay Phantom. What’s his deal?

CM: A couple years ago, I wrote a short story for a magazine that ended up never being published. It involved a 94-year-old former masked hero called The Bay Phantom, and what happens to him when his arch-nemesis, the 98-year-old Doctor Piranha, is released after spending 75 years in prison. It was a comedy with a fairly heartwarming ending. The publication I was writing it for had a sort of nautical theme, so I put the Phantom in a seaport town-- Mobile, Alabama, where I lived for many years. Janie Colson is an original character I salvaged from a fan fiction thing I did years ago. (The father whose name she never mentions is Carl Kolchak) It's too bad I can't use her in the current project, because I'm very fond of her. Of course, there's always time travel... As I say, that fell through, and the story languished. Eventually, I got the idea to do the same thing I did with The Black Centipede--go back in time to the character's heyday and present tales of some of his early experiences.
If you're interested, the original story can be enjoyed (or not) for free at this link:

I'm working now on the first novel. I don't have a title yet. This is completely separate from The Black Centipede's world, and I'm working with a different publisher. The Phantom is almost the polar opposite of The Centipede, in fact-- very prim and strait-laced, he doesn't even say "damn" or "hell," and he gets rather pedantic at times, but he has an extremely dry sense of humor. I've been putting together a supporting cast, and it has four members so far, individuals who aid The Phantom in one way or another. 

The most important of these is Mirabelle Darcy, one of the nine most intelligent human beings in the world. I don't really know what that means, or who the other eight are-- the phrase just popped into my head and I liked the way it sounded. Her early years were not easy for her. Growing up black in the Deep South of the 1920s and 30s, she had to hide her light under a bushel to avoid trouble. But Joe Perrone-- The Bay Phantom-- had enough sense to appreciate her potential. By day, she is Perrone's housekeeper; by night, she is The Bay Phantom's most trusted confidante-- his "Alfred," and sometimes his "Kato" as well. In her spare time, she builds electron microscopes and helps Sigmund Freud fine-tune the science of psychoanalysis.

The Phantom has an excruciatingly strict moral code, and is a little bit naive about how the world really works. Mirabelle and his other helpers often do underhanded and illegal things behind his back to help him solve his cases. While there are not many overtly occult elements in the story, The Phantom does have a keen interest in unexplained phenomena, and is good friends with Charles Fort. The house he buys in Mobile to use as a headquarters is haunted by at least four ghosts, one of whom claims to be the emperor Caligula. In the first novel, The Bay Phantom faces a couple of bizarre criminals called the Werewolf and the Black Embalmer-- and the shadowy mastermind who pulls their strings. One thing this series has in common with The Black Centipede is the fact that virtually nothing is what it seems to be, and anything can happen.

DF: What’s A Day In The Life of Chuck Miller like?

CM: I usually rise at about one in the afternoon-- or later, depending on the extent of the previous night's hedonistic excesses-- and breakfast on caviar and champagne. Then it's off to the links for a few holes of golf and a few more martinis. After a late lunch at the Drones Club, I may take in an opera or a Broadway show.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Chuck Miller: I just had a Sherlock Holmes story published in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Vol. 5 from Airship 27, and I was very pleased about that, because it's been an ambition of mine for a while.
Just stay tuned, because I've got a lot going on in the coming year. I would like to encourage everyone to visit my blog or connect with me on Facebook:

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BERTRAM GIBBS

DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs? Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of ...