Monday, September 30, 2013

Derrick Ferguson Gets Bit By LEZ VAMPS

See, I had no idea at all there there was even a Lesbian Vampire genre in print or movies. If I had, you can bet your sweet bippy I’d have been all over it in no time at all. Mark Wheatley explains it all in his highly entertaining introduction to LEZ VAMPS but I’ll give you the thumbnail: the short stories in LEZ VAMPS are based upon one of Mr. Wheatley’s paintings. His fans liked it so much a contest was launched to find the best short story based on that painting. And an extraordinary painting it is.  But don’t take my word for itBounce on over to his Facebook page and check 'em out for yourself.

Fortunately for us, the decision was made to collect some of the best entries into a digital anthology that is available for free. And it’s made a believer outta me when it come to the Lesbian Vampire genre.

But the first story “The Adoption” by James Smith wasn’t the one that did it for me. It’s the sort of story that as I was reading it I was way too aware of the fact that I was reading a story. It’s supposed to be humorous, I get that. But the overall effect on me was that of a guy in a bar jabbing you in your ribs with his elbow telling you what he thinks is the funniest joke in the world and you’re sitting there praying he’ll finish so you can get back to watching the ball game and drinking your beer.

“Boundary Dispute” by Cynthia and Mike Arsuaga did sell me on the premise, I’m happy to say and it should have been the first story in the book. This piece is drenched in sensual atmosphere and moodiness. Let’s face it, you give me a story that’s about Lesbian Vampires and I expect my fair share of erotic titillation. This story delivered exactly that.

“Lez Vamps” by Johnda Estep is what I call a Hit The Ground Running Story. It starts off fast and doesn’t let up. Most of it is carried along by dialog which is something I greatly admire in any writer as I feel my own work just doesn’t feel like if it has much meat unless I provide description. But some writers can convey exactly what they want to a reader by the skillful use of dialog and that’s what’s going on here. It’s a nice change up from the previous story which is heavy on description that feels like a heavy cloak wrapping around you. This one bounces back and forth and never slows down from start to finish.

Gordon Dymowski’s “Out There In The Night” is a straightforward story of vampire seduction. Mr. Dymowski tells a story that could easily be the beginning of a novel, if he wishes to take it further. But then again, he doesn’t have to. Between this story and “Boundary Dispute” I was beginning to get the whole thing about Vampire Lesbians…it’s not about sex and it’s really not even about the vampirism. It’s all about the seduction. Like the song says, that’s the hook that keeps you coming back and that’s the hook that kept me reading.

“Theatrics” by Bill Nichols did what I think “The Adoption” was trying to do: be a funny Lesbian Vampire story. The difference is that “Theatrics” actually is funny because Mr. Nichols got out of the way of his story and told the story instead of trying to impress me with how much of a funny guy he is.

“The Prey” by Askshat Sinha is really one that made me sit up and go ‘whoa’ because it started out to be one kind of story and subtly shifted into another so smoothly that I got blindsided and that’s exactly what I think the author was going for. This is the kind of story I read anthologies for and why I love them so much. “The Prey” has a gut punch of an ending I found very satisfying and enjoyable.

“The Undead” by Charles Baird also continues in that theme of seduction that I found I responded to in my favorite stories of this anthology. The sex and the actual vampirism is almost a byproduct of the way that the characters come into vampirism. They want to be seduced and they want to feel the overwhelming emotion of being pursued and seduced.  It’s like a drug and this story as well as “The Prey” and “Out There In The Night” communicates that very well.

“Vampires: A Short Essay” by Russ Rogers didn’t turn my crank at all.  Just like “The Adaption” it’s a story that came across to me as the writer trying to show how how hip and cool and funny he is rather than giving me a story worth my time to read.

There are a couple of poems in this anthology as well: “Night” by Johanda Estep and “Savior In The Tent Of Countess Reynardine” by Steffan Gilbert” that I didn’t review because when it comes down to poetry, I am way outta my league. My appreciation of poetry begins and ends with Dr. Seuss and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But if if you’re a fan and appreciate erotic poetry then by all means, check out the two offerings and maybe you’ll get more out of them than I did.

So should you read LEZ VAMPS? Well, first of all it’s a free read so there’s that to take into account. And most of the stories are pretty good so I’d say Yes. As for me, I’m going to hunt up more movies and stories about this Lesbian Vampires genre apparently you guys have been hiding from me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: NICK AHLHELM

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Nicholas Ahlhelm?

Nicholas Ahlhelm: Man, I’ve been asking that question for years now! The short answer is that I’m a writer, editor and blogger living in Eastern Iowa. I’m a lover of all things superhero and a whole lot of wrestling.

DF: How long have you been writing?

NA: Since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I started the site that would evolve into Metahuman Press back in 2003 and published my first book back in 2008.

DF: For the folks at home who don’t know you, clue us in on your background.

NA: I was born and raised in Iowa and have lived there for most of my life outside brief excursions to St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois. I mainly used my allowance to buy comics, first issues of G.I. Joe and Transformers before jumping into basically every superhero comic I could find on the newsstand. That history shaped what I wanted to do as I reached adulthood and decided to start a serious attempt to become a professional writer.

DF: Writing. Editing. Publishing. Which one is the most difficult and which one gives you the most satisfaction?

NA: Editing is by far the most difficult. The publishing process is complicated, but can be learned, and once you have it down, it remains just a variation on the same theme to usher one book as another. Editing on the other hand can take you anywhere. Some stories require a firm hand while some need a lighter touch. And some writers respond better to one than the other. It can be a hard thing to figure out what works best until you’ve started to know your regular writers a bit.

The most satisfying personally will always be writing. Ushering my own stories from a blank sheet of paper (or at least a blank screen) to a final draft remains astonishing to me. I still sometimes find it amazing I can accomplish it at all. 

DF: What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?

NA: I promise I’m not just saying this because I’m here to talk about it, but the answer is Lightweight. Two and a half stories into the first collection I can already say this is the most solid tale I’ve ever told. The character is strong and the story around him has literally had twenty years of gestation before making it to the page.

DF: You are most definitely a superhero fan to the max. What do superheroes represent to you?

NA: Untapped potential. While conceptually superheroes have been around for seventy something years, they still possess so much room for amazing stories. Years ago it was Steven Grant that I first heard describe superheroes as a setting rather than a genre. By that he meant they were just a trapping layered over sci fi, mystery, historical fiction or whatever. And that has shaped how I’ve seen super powered fiction ever since. This is room to tell new stories and stretch the reality of fiction, no matter the form it takes.

DF: Why are we so fascinated with the concept of superheroes?

NA: I think in many ways, superheroes are the action hero of the twenty-first century. When we can see people in real life doing stuff like parkour and our technology in our phone can do half of what we saw in any 80s sci-fi movie, society needed something bigger in their heroes. And I think because of that, the comic book style superhero rose to prominence for the same reason kids loved them for years: they are larger than life, but still grounded in a level of reality.

DF: Superhero prose fiction is hot right now. You’ve been involved in that genre years before its current popularity. Why is superhero prose popping right now?

NA: I’m not sure if it’s hot now, but it does seem to be the growing market trend. I think the reason is two-fold. Obviously, the popularity of superhero films has a lot to do with it. Superheroes have money potential, even if so many of the comics don’t really realize it.

Secondly, I think that a lot of writers have latched on to the fact that a lot of story potential exists in superheroes, either by expanding the concept into new territory or by subverting it into something else.

DF: Tell us about Metahuman Press.
NA: Metahuman Press is my small press outfit. I’ve been running it for several years, dating back to the first printing of Freedom Patton: A Dangerous Place to Live and the early numbered Pulp Empire volumes. In the last few years, we’ve expanded with a few original novels, but our main focus is still super powered and new pulp anthologies.

DF: Tell us about Lightweight.

NA: LIGHTWEIGHT is my attempt to innovate super powered fiction. Comics have ran character’s lives for decades and decades month in and month out. Lightweight is my attempt to tell a prose storyline through approximately 8000 word chapters, each published as an ebook monthly and collected periodically. The goal is to tell individual tales that will build a greater narrative as they continue, until they form a massive project that truly follows the life of a super powered young man.

Lightweight is the tale of Kevin Mathis, a 17 year old high school senior that suffers from dreams of floating. Only he learns those dreams aren’t just dreams. He finds himself in dangerous situations and feels a compulsion to act. With a costume in place, he becomes Lightweight. But even as he embarks on a career in crime-fighting with the help of his friend Millie, he begins to learn his entire world may be at the center of a centuries old war.

DF: Why Kickstarter?

NA: My goal with taking Lightweight to Kickstarter is two-fold. I wanted to make sure my cover artist Brent Sprecher, a veteran of the gaming world, gets paid a professional salary for his cover work.

At the same time, I also needed to prove that the concept had enough power to draw in fans of superheroes. My plan is to dedicate a significant portion of my life to Lightweight in the future. I want to make sure I can find a market for monthly super powered prose before I dive into it feet first.

DF: There’s a plethora of Kickstarter projects so why should the good folks at home throw their support behind Lightweight?

NA:While Kickstarter is always filled with great projects (which I spotlight every Monday in fact on my blog), this is the first time anyone truly attempted a monthly ongoing superhero prose story, at least outside fan fiction sites. My plan is to keep Lightweight going for years to come. I have plots for nearly three years of stories with outlines for nearly five more. But without proof of concept, they may never see light of day.

DF: What’s the future of Metahuman Press and Lightweight?

NA: Metahuman Press has several projects coming in the near future. Supernatural West, I Was A Teenage Metahuman and the second volume of Modern Gods are all in some stage of the production process with several more books to follow through the end of the year and the beginning of the next.

The future of Lightweight is in the hands of the people out there. If you’re a fan of superheroes, support the project on Kickstarter. It could be years before I attempt a project of this scope again should the Kickstarter not succeed.

DF: What’s the future of Nicholas Ahlhelm?

NA: A lot more writing. I have a “Fight Card” novel I’ve been ushering into publishable form in the last few weeks, followed by a half dozen short stories for various Airship 27 and Metahuman Press anthologies. Of course, I’ve already got my annual Nanowrimo project in the development stages for this November, a huge tale that will serve as a back story for Lightweight.

And of course, if Lightweight is successful on Kickstarter, a whole heck of a lot more writing for him. Here’s hoping I get to tell my complete tale of Kevin Mathis and company over the next several years.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Nick Ahlhelm: I just want to thank all the backers that have supported the project so far and will do so in the days ahead. Nothing makes a writer’s heart happier than knowing someone is reading his work and wants to read more.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Yes, It's Three Months Late (Not That Anybody Knew It Was Due In The First Place)

I actually was supposed to have this thing written months ago, y’know.  I mean, BROOKLYN BEATDOWN has been in print for about three months now.  And Paul Bishop had mentioned to me prior to the book’s due date that he’d like to have a short essay from me on the how and why I wrote this particular FIGHT CARD novel as it’s a first for the series; the first FIGHT CARD to feature an African-American protagonist.

So why didn’t I write the thing when I was supposed to? Didn’t I take it seriously? Well, of course I did. There are other African-American writers Paul could have gone to. Writers who easily leave me in the dust when they stomp on the pedal and get their word engines cranked up to where she’ll run like that black Trans Am from “Smokey and The Bandit.” No, I took it very seriously that Paul came to me and asked me to contribute a book to an excellent series of novels that certainly didn’t need me to help it.

Maybe I’m just lazy? Hardly. I think my output proves that despite all other evidence to the contrary, I’m not a lazy guy.  Not when it comes to writing at least.  So what was the holdup? To be honest; I felt like a fraud much of the time while writing BROOKLYN BEATDOWN.  Really.  I mean, I’ve got no boxing background at all. I’ve been in some fights in my time.  You didn’t grow up in Bed-Stuy during the 1970’s without getting into a fight on occasion. But that hardly qualifies me as a boxing expert. And prior to doing research for this book I hadn't watched a boxing match in quite some time.

I was a big fight fan during the 1970’s and 80’s, though.  Thanks to my father.  And I feel very lucky to have grown up during a time when boxing was so vibrant and alive with such personalities such as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler. And this was during the glory days of ABC’s Wide World of Sports which would show a lot of boxing matches on Saturday afternoon. This was before the rise of cable which jumped on sports programming, boxing especially and took it away from the networks.  So I got to see a lot of these classic boxers do their thing during their glory days. But what I always took away from them was not only their phenomenal skill but their larger-than-life personalities.

That was my hook for the character of Levi Kimbro. I wanted him to be a personality with dreams and hopes and ambitions outside of the ring.  The ring wasn’t his life. It was a tool to get where he wanted to go in life. The clincher was that everybody else except for Levi knew that being in the ring was the thing he’s best suited for. So that was my inspiration for Levi. As for the rest, I watched a lot of boxing matches on YouTube and Warner Brothers fight films I borrowed from the library. In my head I saw BROOKLYN BEATDOWN as being a homage to not only those great old Warner Brothers fight films but also blaxploitation films of the 70’s. I doubted my ability to pull it off but I hiked up my pants and took my best shot at it.

But again, that specter of being a fraud nagged at me. What business did I have writing a boxing novel? But then again, I write novels about mercenary adventurers, spies, superheroes and supernatural gunslingers and never lose any sleep over it. So why was I chewing my toenails about this particular book?

In my gut I knew why: for the first time in my career I was being asked by a professional writer/editor to deliver a book about real people in a real world. No falling back on tricks like bringing in fantastic superweapons, diabolical supervillains or mythical martial arts. In the popular vernacular: I had to keep it real.

And I guess that’s why I didn’t get around to writing this when it was supposed to be written: I didn’t feel as if I had kept it real. I felt like I had made it all up. And that’s when it it hit me:  That’s what you do anyway, stupid. You make up stories. The good news is that you make up stories people like to read. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

And so I wrote BROOKLYN BEATDOWN and it was published and apparently a few of you think it’s a good story and that’s all that matters.  Still doesn’t explain why I didn’t write this essay when I was supposed to write it.

Maybe I am lazy.

Keepin' Stuff Straight

Hey, there!  Welcome back and thank you for stopping by once again to see what’s going on in my precious little corner of the world. This time I hope to clarify the purpose of the collection of blogs and Facebook pages I have or am affiliated with as some people have emailed me or contacted me via Skype or IM to ask me exactly how many blogs/FB pages I have and why I have ‘em. So without any more delay...

First there’s my Personal Facebook Page. I used to just dump everything here but I found that after a while even I was getting confused as to what was posted on there and when and why and important stuff like new book releases and movie reviews was getting mixed up with personal stuff and whatnot and it just got to be an unholy mess (is there such a thing a holy mess?)  So gradually I’ve been steering my personal FB page back to what it should be: a personal page. Oh, you’ll see announcements about new books I’ve got coming out and new movie reviews and such as those spheres of interest tend to overlap but I’m going to try and keep my FB personal page personal.  At least that’s the idea.  Moving on…

Usimi Dero.  This Facebook page is named after the birthplace of my most popular character, Dillon.  This is where I’m going to steer most of of my writing business/interests to.  Slowly but surely, but yonder lies The Promised Land and we’ll all get there eventually, I promise. The emphasis here is not only promotion about my work but that of others. So if you’ve got something you’d like to promote, (within reason of course) feel free to sign up. Discussions about anything and everything to do with writing is also encouraged. Digressions into other topics are not only welcome but encouraged.

The Better In The Dark Facebook page is one I administrate/maintain along with Thomas Deja, my On Air Partner, Our Musical Director Kelen Conley and Our Webmaster Kelly Logue. It’s the main method of communication by which Tom and I stay in contact with those with those who listen to and enjoy our podcast, Better In The Dark.  Here’s where I dump all my movie reviews, old and new and where we discuss movies, TV shows, animation, pop culture and a whole buncha other stuff along with our 193 members. If you like movies then this is the place to be.  We’ve got a wonderful and knowledgeable crew of movie fans and I can guarantee you’ll not only be entertained but educated as well.  

And finally the Dillon Facebook page page is alive and well. I actually began that because it was suggested to me by some pretty influential people whose opinion I trust and value me that Dillon should have his own FB. Hey, it doesn’t cost me a thing to maintain and so far it’s been fun interacting with folks who have read the books.

That covers the Facebook pages. Now mind you, I’m not that much of an egomaniac that I expect you to be interested in or join with up with all of ‘em. But if you’re interested in what I do, now you know which ones cover which particular aspect of my career.  Okay? Okay.  We continue onto the blogs…

BLOOD & INK is where you are now. Here is where I cover everything that isn’t Dillon or movie related.  Here’s where I  do the essay thing when I'm in the mood, throw in book reviews now and then, provide you with updates on what I’m working on or what I’ve got coming up.  I also do a series of interviews with writers, artists and various creative types I call “Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…” mainly I do ‘em as a sneaky way of getting to know more about people I’m interested in.  And there are a lot of folks I know who are doing some serious cool stuff I want to share with you and others.

The DILLON blog has in-depth information on Dillon and his universe.  There are essays written by talented writers such as Percival Constantine and Brent Lambert, reviews of the various books and stories, behind the scenes stuff.  In short, if you’re at all interested in Dillon, this is where you should be. I regularly add to pages such as the Casting Call where I indulge in casting actors as the various characters and pretty soon I’ll be putting up a comprehensive chronology of the order in which the stories and novels should be read.

THE FERGUSON THEATER is where I house all my movies reviews.  I think I’m up to around 400 now.  Or pretty close to that in any rate.  Why movie reviews? Well, people constantly ask me my opinions of movies so I figured if I started writing reviews I could just simply point them to the review. It’s also good for me as a writer, I think. Writing reviews of movies (and books) are an exercise in taking apart a story and finding out what makes it click for me. Taking apart the stories of others helps me take apart my own stories and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.  It’s also just a lot of fun to write about movies.  And if you do drop by to check out my reviews and find them fun and informative there’s a handy dandy Paypal link (“Tip Jar”) by which you can demonstrate your appreciation with filthy lucre.

And PULPWORK PRESS is the imprint under which most of my work has appeared in print. So it's someplace you need to bookmark and stop by there for information on where to purchase not only my books but those written by my extraordinarily talented partners, Joel JenkinsJoshua Reynolds, the aforementioned Percival Constantine and Russ Anderson,

And I leave you with my second favorite quote from my twenty-first favorite book just because it’s my blog and I can. Until we get together again, read some good books, watch some good movies and get plenty of rest.  Peace!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: THOMAS DEJA

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Thomas Deja?

Thomas Deja: You know who I am, you....
Oh.  For the readers.
I’m a lifelong New York resident, author, and podcast celebrity. 
That sounds really arrogant, doesn’t it?

DF: Where do you live and what do you do?
TD: For the last 23 years, I have resided in Ridgewood, on the Brooklyn/Queens border.  This seems to be my destiny, as I’ve lived in Highland Park, Brooklyn and Woodhaven, Queens--both on the border--during my youth.  As for what I do, these days it’s mainly struggle for existence.

DF: For those folks who don’t know you, give us a brief history of your background.
TD: Born in Brooklyn.  Moved with my mother after her divorce to Queens.  Went to Hunter College in the 80's and studied Media--and oddly enough, only just recently got the degree I earned there.  Was a freelance consultant and temp during the 90‘s.  Have been writing since I was eleven, and a professional one (i.e. have been given a check for the privlege of publishing same) for almost twenty-five years off and on.  And now...novelist.

DF:One question I get asked all the time is where and how did we meet. What’s your version?
TD: Here’s how I remember it.
When I was writing Daredevil for Bill K’Tepi’s MARVEL: YEAR TWO site, I received a fan letter from you praising me for the references I made to Stu Hart’s Dungeon and Derek Flint.  We conversed through email back and forth and somehow discovered that a) we shared a lot of commonalities and b) we were a matter of miles from each other.  One of us gave the other a phone number, and we started talking, which led to me inviting you to the Horror Writers Association of New York’s private screening of Hellboy--where we sat with F. Paul Wilson, who I did not know you were a major fan of--and our friendship has grown since then. 

DF: How long have you been writing?
TD: At the risk of being a cliché, almost my whole life.  I used to attach a bunch of looseleaf paper sandwiched between construction paper together with brass fasteners and write ‘books’ which invariably featured different imitations of giant monsters beating each other into paste, although I also recall a series featuring a masked detective called ‘The Curlew’ and one that pitted Frankenstein’s Monster against The Creature of The Black Lagoon.
As far as professionally, I began placing pieces in the seminal Brooklyn-based satire-and-stuff ‘zine Inside Joke in the very late 80‘s.  This led to my placing about three dozen stories in various small press magazines like After Hours, Rictus and Not One Of Us, and, after some bumps along the way, where I am now.

DF: What do you love most about writing?
TD: I had a friend once who would tell anyone who met me that I was ‘so bardic’...and I guess that’s true.  I write because I am compelled to tell stories, and publishing them in little booklets and online sites for cash means you’re not just a crazy person boring those around you with tales of the folks in your head.  And when I connect with people, let them feel what I felt when I let those voices out, that’s the greatest feeling.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
TD: I once interviewed Ben Manilla, a local morning DJ, for my college newspaper, and he told me there’s only one reason to be a writer--because when you look in the mirror and ask yourself ‘what do you want to be when you grow up,' you can think of no other thing to be.'
There are two other things I hold very dear to me regarding writing.  One is that if you write to move yourself, you will move others.  All too often, I read novels that come off as nothing more than script treatments that we’ve been asked to pay for, stories that are written because they feature what will sell, not what they’re passionate about.  Those stories end up having no soul.  You need to put something of yourself in what you write to truly make a connection with your reader, and I try my best to do so every day.
The other thing is that the ability to write is a muscle; you have to build it up, you have to maintain it, and if you don’t, you lose it.  You have to write every day, you have to constantly seek out new stories to tell in your head.  If you start recycling other tales, or telling other people’s stories under your name...well, you’ve misplaced your drive.

DF: You used to work for FANGORIA magazine. What did you do for them and how was it working for them?
TD: Considering that I ended up working for them by accident, quite a lot.  I started working there as the writer of their Episode Guides for The X-Files--the guy they originally assigned flaked out on them on the day my friend, and Fangoria editor, Michael Gingold and I were having lunch, and I said ‘I’ll do it’--but I also ended up doing book and movie reviews, author profiles and even briefly edited their online literary magazine for a while.
I had my disagreements with the magazine at times, and there were some hairy moments (some X-Files fans were so scary I wrote a story, ‘Baron Wyvern Wants Your Love,' as an act of catharsis), but for most of the almost twenty years and three owners I was with them they were great employers.  There was a stretch of about ten years where I didn’t have something in the magazine proper.  It was only until that growing belief that paying freelancers was optional that I had to stop working for them.  Trust me, if it wasn’t for that, I’d still be cranking out book reviews.

DF: You were involved in writing Marvel and DC fan fiction for many years. Why fan fiction?
TD: Because I went through something traumatic in 2000, and I couldn’t write the horror fiction I was known for at the time.  When Bill K’Tepi, who coordinated a pair of PBeM games I participated in, decided to start DC: YEAR ONE (and later MARVEL: YEAR ONE), he asked me to take on Green Lantern in one and Daredevil in the other, and I’m glad I did.  Those years when I did fanfic kept those writing muscles supple during that time when my muse had crawled into a closet and cried herself into a coma. It also helped that I received some positive reinforcement, particularly due to my lesser known series such as THE SWORDSMAN and BIRDS OF PREY, that kept me from abandoning my craft thoroughly in the midst of my angst.
Plus it led me to contacts that led to my return to original fiction several years down the line...including yourself.  If it wasn’t for my years in the Fanfic mines, I wouldn’t have created Don Cuevo--who began as a character in BIRDS OF PREY--or ONYX REVOLVER, which led to the creation of The Chimera Falls Universe.
DF: Tell us about The Shadow Legion. Who are they and why do they exist?
TD: The Shadow Legion grew out of my frustration with super-hero comics as a whole, comics in general, and DC’s ‘New 52‘ specifically.  It was the news of DC’s total line-wide reboot, and the anger than it engendered in me, that prompted me to write up a fanfiction proposal where I renovated a number of DC characters suggested to me by my friends.  When I finished the proposal, however, I discovered that the characters had strayed so far from those characters’ original conception I might as well make them original characters...which led to me sending the proposal out to some of my writer friends, which led to Ron Fortier of Airship 27 to name those characters 'The Shadow Legion’ and offered to publish their adventures.
As for what the Legion are in the context of NEW ROADS TO HELL....they’re a quartet of mystery men who find themselves charged with the protection of Nocturne, The City That Lives By Night.  As readers will learn, Nocturne is something of a nexus for supernatural activity, and something is growing within its city limits that has attracted the likes of Black Talon and Dreamcatcher to its shores.

DF:Tell us about NEW ROADS TO HELL.
TD: NEW ROADS TO HELL is the first book in the Shadow Legion trilogy.  My hope is that the trilogy, and the ancillary CASEBOOKS, will provide a history of the heroic history of Nocturne before we hit the present day.  It formally brings all four of our heroes together, provides origins for two of them, and debuts what many of the people who read the book so far feel is its breakout character...namely, the Girl With The Talent For Murder, Rose Red.  And when she decides that triggering a race war is just what’s needed to give her control of Nocturne’s underworld, well....

DF: You’ve created an entire original superhero universe. How did you do it and what advice would you give to aspiring godlings who want to create their own universe?
TD: I did it by starting small.  People forget that Marvel and (especially) DC didn’t start out with a universe; their individual comics started weaving in and out of each other naturally until they became a coherent shared world.  That’s what later attempts at creating a universe like Dark Horse’s Comics Greatest World failed--they forced it, presenting their universe as fully formed.
Advice?  Know what you want going in and grow it slowly.  I knew the kind of stories I wanted to tell, I knew the characters I needed, I knew the events I wanted in the initial trilogy and I started building my own world from there.  I also planted seeds that could potentially lead to more of this universe, but I’m not going to feel compelled to elucidate them until a story comes along.  A lot of the coolness of the Marvel Universe was the way Stan, Jack and Steve hinted at a greater tapestry without requiring us to learn everything.  That’s the sort of feel I want to capture in The Shadow Legion and its ancillary stories.

DF: Prose superhero stories is a genre that is growing in popularity. To what do you attribute this to?
TD: I think Prose Superhero Fiction is growing in popularity for the same reason New Pulp Fiction and Superhero Movies are popular--there’s a large base of readers who have a taste for action-oriented, colorful, over-the-top adventure with a strong moral center who are no longer being serviced by superhero comics.  They still want to read about dashing heroes and dastardly villains in crazy costumes without having one tear the head off another one.  Hell, they want to escape from the tough times we’re living through, and if they can’t get it through Marvel or DC, they’ll get it through Van Allen Plaxico’s Sentinels, or Lee Houston Jr.’s Alpha, or my own stuff.
I just hope those readers enjoy my admittedly blood-splattered baby and want to see it grow in future collections and novels.

DF: Tell us about your future plans for The Shadow Legion.
TD: Well, the next thing you’ll see is ‘A Waltz In Scarlet,' a novella featuring The Ferryman and Dreamcatcher that’ll appear in Airship 27‘s Mystery Men And Women V. 4. When we last see Ferryman, he’s...a little disconnected from his humanity, and in the story we see what happens when his abilities bring him into contact with his human emotions.  Plus, there’s a big ol’ scary new menace.
That novella will be collected in The Shadow Legion Casebook V. 1If NEW ROADS TO HELL is a graphic novel collecting a major Shadow Legion storyline, the Casebooks (there’ll be one appearing between each novel) represent one of those plastic bags of comics you’d find in Walmart with random issues of each Legionnaire’s solo series.  I already have three of the novellas, featuring Ferryman, Black Talon and Nightbreaker, in the can, so the collection may come out sooner than later.
After the first Casebook will be the second novel, which takes place in 1966.  If New Roads were Nightbreaker’s and Ferryman’s story, then the next novel will focus on Black Talon and his relationship with Dreamcatcher.  There were some things revealed about the price the Talon pays for his powers, and we’re going to explore how that shakes out, and why his ‘patrons’ in the Circle of Life are so approving of his choice of mate.  I hope that, just as New Roads was reflective of the Golden Age of Comics, the new novel will reflect the Silver Age, as a more science-fictiony menace rises to wage war on humanity and the Legion and its new allies.

DF: Any other projects you’ve got in the works you can tell us about?
TD: I think I can safely say that my pair of Western Heroes--the frontier exorcist Don Cuevo and the steampunk scientist Doc Thunder--will make appearances soon through Pulpwork Press’ third volume of How The West Was Weird and this year’s Christmas Annual respectively.  There’s a novella for Monster Earth 2There’s some stuff I can’t talk about just yet--including another novel that’s in the Chimera Falls Universe, but has a more science-fiction-y bent to it.  So yeah, I’ll be pretty busy.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?
Thomas Deja: If you buy my book, I’ll be your friend.  You buy enough of them, we’ll have cake.
Hard to believe I’m still single, huh?

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 ...