Showing posts with label Pro Se Press. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pro Se Press. Show all posts

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:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: NANCY HANSEN

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Nancy Hansen?
Nancy Hansen: That’s a tough question to answer simply because I’m a lot of different things all rolled into one messy package. I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. I live on an old farm out in the country. I’m a writer, editor, avid reader, gardener, crafter, amateur naturalist. I like to haunt flea markets, thrift shops, and yard sales looking for more things to clutter my house. I have a lifelong fascination with pre-industrial culture, mythology, and the occult. I love dogs and cats, kids, and all kinds of interesting little critters with fur, feathers, and scales. I can hold a tune and bang on a 12 string guitar. I cook, and my cookie baking is legendary around these parts. I have waaaay too much yarn and not enough time to crochet things from it. About the only thing I don’t do anymore is have is an actual day job.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the government you do for a living?
NH: I currently reside in beautiful, rural Eastern Conneticut, in one of the last agricultural and open woodland areas in this part of the state. I’ve been fortunate not to have to work outside the home for many years. I was a stay-at-home mom for my boys growing up, and my mother lived with us, so I had enough time and helping hands to pursue interests and hobbies that might turn into a later life career. Writing was one of those. Right now, the IRS knows I am a writer, because I actually got to claim royalties on one tax return.

DF: How long have you been writing?
NH: There are two answers to that question.
#1) All my life; because I’ve always had a love affair with the written word, and I’m a natural born story teller. I was that kid in school who didn’t mind book reports, essay questions, and term papers because I knew I’d find something interesting to say. I read a lot, and after a while you develop a style of writing you prefer, so I guess the progression to writer was a natural thing. I’ve kept journals and written 8 page letters to people.

#2) I started writing with the intention of getting published sometime in the late 80s, when my boys were elementary school age. I had tried music, marketing my artwork (I dabble) and a craft supply business before I settled on writing as the best fit with my lifestyle and temperament. I’m very much a creative maniac ‘behind the scenes’ sort of person, so sequestering myself away somewhere that I could let my weird imagination roam freely was very appealing. It also fit my home life the best, because while I was learning the trade, I could still be there for the family. Writing has no set hours, you can work any time of the day or night, and I did, burning that candle on both ends. I’ve had my mind fixed solidly on fantasy fiction since the mid-90s and switched my style from mainstream to pulp back in 2010, when Pro Se came along.

DF: What’s the best advice you can give a woman wanting to write Pulp?
NH: Actually, I don’t think there’s any gender difference when it comes to the actual writing, because it’s pretty open and welcoming field right now within all the indie publishing companies. So this applies to anyone who wants to write pulp. First off, don’t be the least bit intimidated by what you perceive pulp to be, because it’s a lot less mysterious than you’d think. It’s a particular technique of writing action adventure/heroic fiction with a fast pace that has permeated all pop culture media. It can be learned, and whatever you want to write can be adapted to it. Read some pulp—both classic and modern—to become acquainted with how it works. Sit in on some discussions or panels, and simply ask a few questions. Don’t be shy, because most people in this indie part of the industry are very generous with their time and expertise, and we are often available on social networking sites. You can learn a lot just by lurking, because we all love to talk about what we do and why.

DF: What’s the best thing about writing Fantasy?
NH: Fantasy has always appealed to me as a reader, because it so successfully takes me out of this world, into one where I can relive my childhood imagination vacations. I started writing it, because I hungered for more of the kind of stories I loved, and decided I would just have to create them myself. I am somewhat of an idea mill, and my mind likes to run away somewhere and play hooky for a while, so having a legitimate reason to be woolgathering makes me seem a lot less eccentric. My kids always patiently explained to their friends that mom is a writer, like its some kind of paranormal status, and I suppose it is. My family has always been very supportive. These days, if I’m walking around in tee shirts with dragons and wizards on them, mumbling to myself about swords and casting spells, nobody in my household thinks twice about it.

DF: Tell us about Pro Se Press and what you do there.
NH: I started out with Pro Se back in April 2010 as a staff writer. My dear friend Lee Houston Jr. got his foot in the door by the recommendation of another writing pal, and I begged him to share my name with Tommy Hancock, who’s always been the Pro Se front man. I sent Tommy two audition pieces (Masquerra and The Storm Lord & The Song of Heroes: Lori’s Lament) and not only did he like them, but he published them both and asked if I had more. That opened the floodgates on my files as well as new ideas, and started a year long barrage of stories old and new. As I went along, I learned to adapt what I had been doing to the pulp style, and never looked back.

Currently, I am still a regular contributor to Pro Se Presents, as well as have my own imprint, HANSEN’S WAY, which carries the bulk of my Terran World fantasy stories. I’ve written for the Pulp Obscura collaboration anthologies with Altus Press, and I’ve been tapped for other in-house anthologies as well. I write far more than sword & sorcery fantasy these days; I’ve dipped my toes in a lot of other pulpy sub-genres.

I started editing for Pro Se when we had the larger format magazines, where I handled Peculiar Adventures. I got a battlefield promotion of sorts after we started printing novels and the manuscripts began pouring in faster than Tommy could dedicate his normal 40-hour days to them. I am now Assistant Editor, which sounds very impressive but really means I fill in wherever I can, mostly editing book manuscripts. Other than that, I’m sort of an unofficial ambassador and sounding board, because I like chatting with people about what Pro Se is and what we do.

DF: Why do you have your own imprint there?
NH: They asked me nicely, and I said sure. LOL! Seriously, I had so much material written in this one particular fantasy world I created—five separate series with dedicated characters and settings so far—it just made more sense to move it out of the mainstream submissions and into a sideline. It also helps to have those short stories out of the magazines, leaving more room for other submissions, as well as for me to experiment with different genres.

DF: What’s your theory on writing Fantasy and how did you modify and/or adapt your style of writing Fantasy to Pulp?
NH:Fantasy runs the gamut, because the only unifying factor is a world based on some sort of mythological, magical, or occult concept rather than hard science and technology, or a recognizable modern or historical backdrop. It also adapts well to crossing-over with other genres like horror, westerns, mystery, science fiction, etc. So it’s really a wide-open field, which I enjoy immensely, as I have plenty of space to play with ideas.

As far as writing pulp fantasy, what I had to learn right off is that it’s absolutely vital to ramp up the pacing. I came into this as a mainstream-targeted writer, so my novels were ponderous and slow moving, and my short stories were not as action-packed as they needed to be. I can’t stress the pacing enough; the breathless action and endless adventure is what makes pulp… well, pulpy. I didn’t have a strong background in pulp like most of my peers, so this was kind of a ‘learn as you go’ experience for me. Once I understood how it works—and a lot of that came from the editing I was doing at the time—I found out it’s not as daunting as I thought.

Over the last couple years I’ve learned to adapt my perception of what diehard sword & sorcery fantasy readers expect to what pulp fans crave, with reasonable success. It requires straddling a line between telling an energetic tale with plenty of things going on, and still retaining the tried and true hero’s quest in a big world backdrop with lush details. Yes, it can be done, though it takes a lot of forethought, and every word has to count. I’ve fallen so in love with the smaller size and higher action and adventure aspects of the pulp stories, I don’t think I’d want to go back to writing the big doorstop books.

DF:Do you enjoy editing?
NH:I’ll answer that with a qualified yes. I do enjoy editing more when I am working on someone else’s manuscript, because I get to read a lot of kewl stuff! I’ve always liked working with new writers, so I’ll often get things that need some extra TLC, because I have the time and patience to work closely with an author to get the very best out of their brainchild. It’s been a very positive experience for me, and nothing makes me smile more than helping someone previously unpublished get their first book in print. It’s like seeing Christmas morning through your kid’s eyes, and remembering how that felt…

I like editing my own stuff a lot less, but it’s one of those dirty little jobs of writing you absolutely must do. I tell other authors I get edited too, and not just by me. Nobody is perfect, and I absolutely require a second set of eyes that makes sure my prose is readable. It’s easier for me to see problems with someone else’s manuscript than in my own, because I’ve read it over so many times, my brain tends to skip the problem areas.
That said, editing is a lot of work, so I prefer to intersperse it with actual writing whenever that’s feasible. I get burned out after a long manuscript edit, and long to start tapping those keys and making stories again.

DF:What can we expect from Nancy Hansen in 2013?
NH:More of the same, and more new stuff too. My sequel to FORTUNE’S PAWN, titled PROPHECY’S GAMBIT; is due out very soon from Pro Se Press. 

I have a brand new anthology collection for the imprint written and in editing right now, and another novel in progress with a second on the back burner—that second novel will be the third in the series started by FORTUNE’S PAWN. I’ve already contributed a short story to Pro Se’s TALL PULP anthology, featuring a local Connecticut legend; not sure if that will be out this year or not. I still have those two previous Pulp Obscura tales awaiting publication and expect to be involved with at least a couple others this year. 

I think you’ll see my name popping up in a couple other popular Pro Se titles. As far as Pro Se Presents, I’ve committed to continuing my Silver Pentacle, Song of Heroes, and The Keener Eye series, and along with stories already submitted and accepted that have yet to see print, I promised to write at least one more new tale for each of those ongoing titles. Now and then a standalone story will suggest itself, so I won’t rule that out either. I have a pirate yarn I’ve been mulling over that looks to be at least a novella in length. I also have something interesting coming up for the younger pulp fans that I can’t discuss right now, so stay tuned; because this is something both Pro Se and I are very excited about, and over time, it involves the collaborative efforts of two other long time writing pals.

I expect I’ll be doing more editing for Pro Se as well.
You’re going to see my name on titles by other publishers as well. I’ve already done one story for the inaugural volume of Airship 27’s SINBAD, THE NEW VOYAGES, and I’d love to do another. Once I have the time, that and perhaps another AS27 anthology might be getting a submission from me. 

I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of Mechanoid Press’ first MONSTER EARTH anthology, in which I have a story as well. Definitely would love to do another of those!

Other than that, I am open to any and all suggestions. I’m finally at the point where I’ve had to turn down some work because of lack of time. It’s a good place to be.

DF:What’s a typical Day In The Life of Nancy Hansen like?
NH: My days vary quite a bit depending on who is home and what’s on the agenda here, where we are renovating and most of the work is being done by family in our ‘spare’ time. Right now, my so-called office is in one end of the open dining room, right off the kitchen and in heart of the home, so I am front and center for everything that goes on. It gets chaotic. Most days I get up in the AM, schlep around online during breakfast and feeding the dog, making my email and social network rounds, Sometime around midmorning to noon, I get down to the heavy duty work of writing or editing. While I am at work, I try and stay offline except for research and, or maybe a quick weather check. I don’t game or get tied up in anything non-writing related, though now and then I might go off on a research tangent. That said, the phone rings, people stop by, I have to handle household chores or take the dog out.

Lunch is almost always at the desk, because I don’t want to lose my working mojo. I pick an ending time for the day depending on how things have been going and whether my eyes are too tired to continue (I have poor eyesight), who’s cooking, and whether I have anything else to do before bedtime. The evening hours are for going back to email and updating my online status, and maybe a bit of online TV, since we don’t have cable TV set up here yet. I have a lot of late nights when I’m busy catching up on some research or writing, maybe chatting online with other writers or fans. This is an all older adult household, so there’s no longer the regular chaos of kids running around making a racket, other than on holidays and special occasions.

So it’s me and the keyboard a good part of the day at least 5 times a week, and often all 7 days if we’re having a quieter weekend. Depending on the time of year, I might spend time out in the garden, or working on holiday projects, cooking, or at some other project. I am never one to sit idle and do nothing, I always have some project in my hands, even when I’m watching a movie. Now and then, I take time off for appointments, to go shopping, run errands and so on, but I try and cluster as much of that into one day as I can manage. Not being able to drive because of my eyesight, I have to depend on a ride, so I make the most of every outing.

On the noisiest construction days, when people are in and out and I might have to move around a lot, or on days when my elderly and chatty mom comes for a visit, unless I have a pressing deadline, I will set writing or editing aside and focus on housework or chores. I’ve learned to be flexible, because working from home means you are bound to get interrupted. The time gets made up somewhere else. I meet most of my deadlines regardless.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Nancy Hansen?
Nancy Hansen: Hmmm, tough question to answer. Let’s see…

I currently write a column for the New Pulp site called So...Why Pulp? where I open my brain and let things fall onto the page every other week. I have a passion for very dark but not very sweet chocolate, tuna salad, good coffee, fresh baked bread, and pecans. I collect fantasy figurines and odds and ends of swords, bows, knives and other medieval-type weaponry. 

I’m dying to go to the UK and other European countries and tour castles, barrow graves, standing stones, and other sites that catch my fancy. I have an awful lot of houseplants and try very hard to remember to water them regularly. I’m bossy with an explosive temper, but it blows over quickly and I always try to remain tactful. I love a good laugh, even at my own expense. I tend to get obsessive about whatever my current interest of the moment is. And I do all this without the benefit of caffeine, which my system can no longer tolerate.

I will definitely be at Pulp Ark 2013, so if you want to come meet me, come looking for me at the Pro Se table. I hear we’re going to be very busy, but I’m the short & round woman with the long walnut brown hair going silver, the weird fantasy tee shirts, and green eyes behind thick glasses. I love meeting new people!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Publication Date: Oct 27 2011
ISBN/EAN13: 1466481900 / 9781466481909
Page Count: 184
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Short Stories

The hard-boiled private eye genre is one I dearly love.  The trench-coated shamus with a cigarette dangling from his lip, .45 automatic or .38 revolver in a well-worn shoulder holster, fedora pulled down low over his forehead, the faithful gum-chewing secretary and even more faithful fifth of scotch in the desk drawer…it’s a genre I never get enough of.  And since television and movies have apparently abandoned the P.I. it’s up to writers like Lee Houston, Jr. and books like HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE to give me my fix.

Let me explain; even though Hugh Monn lives and works on the far distant planet of Frontera interacting with many different species and using advanced technology, the tone and feel of the character and the eight stories in the book are pure 1950’s.  Lee drops in a mention here and there of some bit of sci-fi such as a character having green or purple skin or Hugh’s weapon of choice being a Nuke 653 Rechargeable but that’s just throwaways Lee lobs at us once in a while to remind us that we’re not on Earth.  But he doesn’t go into any real detail as to how this future civilization operates or how the technology works.  When the subject of detective stories crossed with science fiction comes up, I usually mention Larry Niven’s stories and novels about Gil The Arm or Roger Zelazny’s “My Name Is Legion” since in those stories, the science fiction is integral to the story.  Take out the science fiction and you wouldn’t have a story.  Not so with Lee’s Hugh Monn stories.  They could easily have been set in 1950’s Los Angeles or New York with a little rewriting.  But I digress…let’s take HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE for what it is, not for what it isn’t.

Hugh Monn is a Human and yes, he freely admits to his clients that his name is a gag.  But one he prefers to use as he’s got some pretty big secrets in his past he’d prefer to keep to himself.  As a detective, Hugh is capable, sharp, principled and dogged in his determination to solve his cases and get to the truth.  Hugh isn’t a pain-in-the-ass who rebels against authority and isn’t a lone wolf who doesn’t play by the rules.  Matter of fact, Hugh conducts himself as a total professional.  He doesn’t shoot when he doesn’t have to, he’s polite to everybody he meets and he co-operates with the authorities.  In particular, Lawbot 714 who he runs into in a couple of stories and who I wouldn’t mind seeing become a regular if Lee gives us more Hugh Monn cases.  He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, he likes kids; he holds open the doors for old ladies.  I think you can tell where I’m going with this.  Hugh’s a fine detective but as a character I found myself wishing that once in a while he’d haul off and slug a suspect for no good reason other than he doesn’t like the fact the guy has eight eyes.  Hugh could stand to be a little rougher and not so polite.

The story “Shortages” is a good example of how Hugh Monn solves a case using his understanding of both humans and aliens and his powers of observation.  It also introduces the character of Big Louie, a Primoid.  Big Louie is the main suspect in a series of thefts being committed at a high security pier.  It’s a pretty good locked room mystery and the relationship between Hugh and Big Louie is the primary attraction in this story, as in “At What Price Gloria?”  Hugh and Big Louie have to rescue Big Louie’s wife Gloria and stop an assassination attempt.  I only wish more of the stories had been as suspenseful as this one.  In some of them, the mystery really isn’t that hard to figure out as there’s a lack of suspects so the solution comes down to either being this one or that one.  And I never got a sense of Hugh being in any real danger in any of these stories.  But Lee should be commended for trying different types of stories such as “For The Benefit of Master Tyke” which hinges more on the healing of a family than the solving of any real crime.  I picked up halfway through “Where Can I Get A Witness?” is intended as a homage to the 1944 film noir “Laura” and I enjoyed it until the very last paragraph where it felt to me as if the writer had stepped in to give his opinion of his own story and didn’t allow his character to do so.

So should you read HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE?  As a first book from a new writer, I’m inclined to give Lee a pat on the back.  There’s a lot to like in his writing style.  He does know how to keep a story moving but he shouldn’t shy away from rolling in the dirt and giving his characters some sharp edges.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Hugh Monn tackle some more cases but I also wouldn’t mind seeing Lee Houston, Jr. strip away the political correctness and explore the real darkness of Frontera.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Heart of Fortune #3

By now, thanks to the relentless huckstering of myself and Tommy Hancock you should know all about THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL.  It’s a special book in a lot of ways.  I’ve written other stuff for Pro Se previous to this but this one here is a major deal. 

For one, it’s my contribution to The Sovereign City Project which so far has been represented by Barry Reese and Lazarus Gray.  And represented quite well, if I may say so.  Tommy’s Doc Daye is waiting in the wings for his turn in the spotlight and if plans go the way they’re supposed to, there will be an epic crossover featuring all three characters in one dynamite story.  When that will happen I can’t say as yet but rest assured that when I know, you’ll know.

So what stories are between the covers of THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL?  I thought you’d never ask.  Attend:

“The Scarlet Courtesan of Sovereign City” introduces Fortune McCall and his cohorts to Sovereign City and vice versa as Fortune searches the city, hunting for a beautiful friend of his who is working for the British government.  This friend has run afoul of some unsavory characters who are up to some decidedly dangerous business.

“The Day of The Silent Death” has Fortune trying to track down a killer who possesses a method of killing hundreds, possibly thousands within seconds without a sound or warning.

“The Magic of Madness” involves a husband and wife team of magicians who have incurred the wrath of a secret society and only Fortune McCall has a chance of saving them.

“The Gold of Box 850” has Fortune McCall once again getting caught up in British espionage.  But this time he’s got a reason; five million dollars’ worth of gold is up for grabs.  Unfortunately, he’s not the only one looking for it.

And I have to bring your attention to the simply stunning design work done by Sean E. Ali, Pro Se’s Art Director.  So far I’ve been blessed with truly amazing artwork on the covers of my books but the cover of THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL is on another level altogether.  He designed it and the actual cover was done by David L. Russell based on an illustration done by Peter Cooper.  Here, take a look for yourself:

THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE MCCALL is available at or through Pro Se’s  It's also available in various E-book formats from Smashwords.
            Paperback: 158 pages
            Publisher: Pro Se Press
            ISBN-10: 1468112562
            ISBN-13: 978-1468112566

So that’s enough of my beating you over the head about the book.  I consider your arm to have been sufficiently twisted and I return it to you with my blessings.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Heart of Fortune #1

Welcome back.  Hope you’ve been enjoying the discussions we’ve been having so far as much as I have.  Our next one is going to take us from Sebastian Red’s mystical Wild West for a bit.  But don’t worry; we’ll be going back there soon enough.  It’s just that I thought you’d appreciate some insight into the current project I’m working on so let’s go visit 1933 and Sovereign City, the current home of Doc Daye, Lazarus Grey and Fortune McCall

Fortune McCall is a character who, like most of my characters has been around for a long, loooong time.  More than ten years in fact.  He first found life in a fanfiction series I wrote for DC Legends entitled “Blackhawk International” where I created a 21st Century team of Blackhawks and Fortune McCall was handpicked to head up a new team by the original Blackhawk, now aged and running a worldwide multi-billion corporation.

It didn’t take me long to realize that Fortune and his team had far more potential as original creations so I requested that story be removed from the site and reworked the character.  He was still set in the 21st Century but now he was an independent adventurer, sailing around the world on his luxury gambling ship, The Heart of Fortune and still assisted by his team of six close friends, all specialists in their fields. 

And now that I had set him firmly in what my friends laughingly refer to as The Fergoverse, I reworked his background: Fortune McCall is a prince of the North African country of Khusra which I’ve mentioned in a couple of Dillon stories.  As a prince he has enjoyed a spectacularly diverse education in America, Switzerland, England and France in disciplines both academic and martial.  Equally at home in a laboratory, a classroom or a dojo, Fortune (I haven’t revealed his true name yet) is equally dangerous in a boardroom or a battlefield.

You see, his father wanted all of his sons and heirs to be equally capable of taking over as king so he never favored one over the other, making sure they all received the same education and training.  However, tradition must be observed and the line of succession goes from oldest to youngest.  And guess who the youngest is?  Yep.  Fortune.  He’s the youngest of eight brothers.

Now, while some may find this a sucky situation, Fortune saw it as a wonderful opportunity.  Enjoying considerable wealth as a Prince of Khusra, he didn’t have to worry about money.  And since there are seven potential kings, the chances of him ever having to rule were slim to none.  He could therefore enjoy all the benefits of his royal birth with none of the responsibilities.

So Fortune has his gambling ship built, takes on a whole mess’a his people to crew and work the ship and with his friends set off on adventure galore.  As a huge fan of Marvel Comics’ The Black Panther, I envisioned Fortune McCall as a seafaring T’Challa, not bound to any one country.  I could do one story with him in Italy fighting The Decided Ones and then in the next he could be in Australia hunting down packs of mutated dingoes roaming the streets of Perth. 

Cackling wildly, I set about writing a Fortune McCall novel and got about 16000 words into the sucker when I got an invitation from Tommy Hancock.  And that’s a name you’re going to hear a lot as we get deeper into this tale.  So let me give you a brief background on this chap:

Tommy Hancock is a writer, living in Arkansas who I’ve known for a good 15, 16 years, now.  We only met face-to-face for the first time at Pulp Ark but online we’ve collaborated on many a project and stayed up late many a night chatting on IM about characters, stories and ideas.  In recent years Tommy has really made a name for himself as the spokesman and spearhead of The New Pulp Movement.  But for our purposes here, we’re more concerned with his status as a publisher and editor.

Tommy and his partner run Pro Se Press which is creating quite the respectable reputation as a publisher of quality New Pulp fiction and Tommy also is largely responsible for the previously mentioned Pulp Ark. 

The first thing you have to understand about Tommy Hancock is that he gets more ideas in a week than the average person has in a month.  Even if he lived another 77 years he’d never be able to give adequate wordage to all the characters, concepts and stories packing the inside of his already full-to-busting brain.

One of these ideas is The Sovereign City Project.  Tommy contacted Barry Reese and myself and asked us to each create a character for this city, which would be a shared environment between the three of us.  The idea being that we’d lay the groundwork and foundation for Sovereign City and then after a year, the Project would be thrown open to other writers. 

Now, I originally had no idea of placing Fortune McCall into this as I already had other plans in mind for the character, including a team-up with Dillon and indeed, pitched Tommy another character who was more or less a Shadow-analog to compliment Barry’s Lazarus Gray (an analog to The Avenger) and Tommy’s Doc Daye (a Doc Savage analog)

Tommy contacted me after reading my initial pitch and said that while he loved the character, he was puzzled as to why I hadn’t created a black character.  Yeah, that’s right; the character I had pitched to Tommy was a white one.

My thing was this: at the time I’d never written a pulp character in the 1930’s.  Since then, that’s changed (Details Later) and to be brutally honest, I wasn’t confident in my ability to credibly create and portray a black adventurer in the 1930’s.  Given the climate, the culture, the racial issues…I admit it, I folded like Robert Duran in the seventh round of the Duran/Leonard rematch because I didn’t think I could pull it off.

However, Tommy had a little more confidence than I did…and we’ll talk about that the next time we get together.

Until then, feast your eyes on this: the artist is the infinitely talented Peter Cooper and I consider it the definitive look of Fortune McCall.  I dunno if you can but I see a lot of Eisner and Simonson in there.  And yeah, there will be more about Peter later on as well.

As always, thank you for your time and kind attention.  Go read something good and I'll talk to you soon.

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 ...