Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: MAT NASTOS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Mat Nastos?

Mat Nastos: I like to think of myself as the world's greatest living professional nerd. I'm also a novelist, comic book artist and television writer.

DF: You’ve got a very distinctive name. What is its origin?

MN: Nastos is a Greek name. My grandfather came over from Greece in the early 20th Century. He snuck in because, at the time, Greek immigration into the US was very limited and there was a lot of prejudice going on against them. Immigration by those of Greek decent was actually the most regulated by the US until the 1970s when the ban was lifted. He had to join the US Army during the First World War in order to become a citizen.

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

MN: I live just outside of Los Angeles in a small town called Covina. 
What do I do for a living? Well, my business card says "super genius" and I think that is the best description for it. For the past 7 years I've been a professional writer for film and television. Now I'm adding "author" to the mix.

DF: Give us the straight skinny on your background.

MN: I've been a nerd since I was a kid growing up in Hawaii. I started and ran the first comic book conventions in the Islands. After that, I pursued my love of comics and art by going to the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey and then the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. While at SVA, I became assistant to Joe Orlando in the Special Projects office at DC before getting picked up to draw Elfquest for Warp Graphics.

Throughout the 90s I went back and forth between drawing/inking comics (Spectacular Spider-man, Thor, Man of Steel and some others) and storyboarding for film and television. I did a ton of work for Roger Corman, as well as on just about every science fiction show on TV outside of Star Trek -- things like MANTIS, Highlander, Space: Above & Beyond, Babylon 5, First Wave, Farscape, Sliders, and a bunch of others. In there somewhere, I art directed and produced on a couple of video games.

In 2001, I moved in to writing and directing for film, doing a few low budget horror flicks, before moving on work for Disney TVA on a number of shows, including Emperor's New School and Phineas & Ferb. During this time, I went back to school to get my master's degree in marketing.

Now I make up stories and publish them as novels.

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

MN: Honestly, the 12 year old me would be surprised and maybe a little disappointed. At 12 I thought I'd be drawing comics forever -- specifically Elfquest comics. That was my goal in life for the first 25 years of my life: drawing comics. Writing never once entered my mind as a kid.

Luckily, I was able to live out my dream at a pretty early age: I was working for DC while I was still in school and drawing Elfquest by the time I graduated. By the end of the 90s I was hanging out and working in the Marvel and DC bullpens drawing comics. For a life-long fanboy it was amazing.

As I got older, what I wanted to do changed. I was able to do a lot of work in film/TV as a storyboard artist and director. That opened writing up to me and I've been having a blast ever since.

DF: Before we start talking about the Malcolm Weir books, we should talk about the earlier short stories and novelette you self-published. Was this a way of getting your feet wet in the field of self-publishing?

MN: Totally. I'd been drawn to the new world of e-book publishing because of my experience doing Internet marketing work for a number of companies (and on my own sites) mixed with my desire to tell stories. While I very much enjoy writing for TV and film, I wanted to do something I had more control over...something simpler to get out in a pure form. Since I had never written something as significant as a novel before, I thought my best bet was to try things out in smaller bites with short stories and novellas. Doing that first gave me a lot more confidence when it came to sitting down to tackle a full-length novel AND it gave me the experience I'd need to make sure the work I produced actually sold well enough to earn a living with.

DF: You’ve been around for a long time. Why now to start writing novels?

MN: Freedom. I've worked in comics, film, TV and video games professionally since the early 90s. The downside for working on a team is the loss of control and forced compromise. Collaboration is great, but sometimes a creator just wants to get what they see in their head out to fans in as "pure" a form as possible. Since I've never warmed up to working with myself as an artist/writer (the writer thinks the artist side is flakey, and the artist side thinks the writer in me is an douche bag), that left me with novels.

I love the ability to tell a story on my own and to stand or fall based on my own merits. There are no excuses or safety nets when you do that, and it's really exhilarating. I still love comics and filmmaking, but the storyteller in me is addicted to novels.

DF: What I like about your writing is that you’re not afraid to cherry pick from a variety of genres and mash ‘em up in the same story. Is this stylistically deliberate or do your stories just come out of your subconscious that way?

MN: As a marketing person I love genres. They are an excellent way to target your audience and to get sales.

As a storyteller I find them repellent. They are artificial and limiting. One of the best things about storytellers from the early part of the 20th century (comics, prose, film, whatever) is the lack of adherence to genre. The compartmentalization of fiction wasn't as clearly defined yet and it allowed creators to be more free. I love that freedom and the ability to tell whatever kind of story I want, with whatever kinds of elements I want.

It was one of the things that had originally attracted me to the idea of "New Pulp" when I first heard about it a few years back. Unfortunately, the reality of the movement itself turned out to be very different. It turned out to be very limited and controlling in terms of acceptance.

DF: When New Pulp first came on the scene you had some very definite things to say about it that were controversial to say the least. Have your opinions changed or been modified since then?

MN: No, my thoughts on the New Pulp movement are still the same as they were back then. The movement is run by guys who have no idea how to market and sell material, especially online. The majority of the material is being sold to a very small crowd of 400 hardcore fans or less.

The sad part is, a lot of the work being generated by New Pulp authors has the potential to go a lot wider, but it is being held back by association with the "movement" itself. If all a publisher is doing is promoting the work to the same minuscule market over and over without attempting to grow or expand their brand (more than likely because they don't know how to properly market), then that publisher is working in opposition to the best interests of the authors they represent. Those authors would do better to go out on their own and self-publish.

So, no, my opinions haven't changed. New Pulp is a mess that is shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis. However, and I've said this many times, there is a lot of material being held back inside the movement that has potential to break out and do well. In fact, a lot of what I read is from New Pulp authors like Barry Reese, Bobby Nash, Van Allen Plexico, Perry Constantine and Adam Garcia. I'd love to see the New Pulp publishers step up their game and grow the market because the material deserves it.

DF: Do you consider what you write to be New Pulp?

MN: I go back and forth on whether or not what I'm doing is "New Pulp." I'd say it is pulp-inspired for sure. Some of the biggest influences on the way I tell a story were the mass market paperbacks of the 70s and the 80s. I grew up devouring hundreds of those books--everything from science fiction to fantasy to westerns to adventure novels. Whatever I could get my hands on, I read.

I'm going to say something here that will probably get me lambasted by the New Pulp crowd, but I think what I write is a lot closer to living up to the spirit of what pulp was back in the golden age. In my head, I'm writing popular style material that is acceptable to as wide an audience as possible. The Weir Codex books (The Cestus Concern and The Cestus Contract) are the written versions of summer blockbusters and that is very much at the heart of what the original pulps were, not material written for a very tiny audience and confined to a very tiny set of rules. The New Pulp movement has become the exact opposite of what the original pulps were. It's closed off, confined and limited.

If you asked me to define my work in relation to New Pulp I'd call it "Pulp-Inspired."

DF: Now let’s talk about THE CESTUS CONCERN. I describe it as “the best 1980’s action movie you’re going to read.” How would you describe it?

MN: How would I describe "The Cestus Concern?" By stealing your description and taking credit for it! Really, you put into words exactly what I wanted to do with the books. I wanted to write a novel that felt like a 1980s/1990s style action flick. Of course, that goes back to what "pulp" is for me. I wanted something exciting, fun and over-the-top.

I just wrote what I love and what I enjoy reading. Bullets, blood, bombs and blades!

DF: You’ve got a very cinematic writing style. As I was reading the book I visualized the action as if it were a movie. How did you develop that style of writing?

MN: I call it the art of writing without knowing how to writing. :D
All of my training in writing has been on the job. When I first started, it was for a film that Shoreline Entertainment needed written quickly (and cheaply). I just sort of jumped in with both feet and lucked out to have done well enough to keep getting work.

It was the same for prose. Writing prose wasn't something I had ever really done before a few years back. I just took what I had learned writing for comics and film/TV and tried to force it into my prose work. Some people would describe it as "ham-fisted" more than "cinematic." Since most of what I'm writing is heavily action oriented I focus on trying to make that stuff as clear as possible. All I do is try to get down onto paper what I see going on in my head when I map out a scene. Most of the time I feel like I'm over-writing a screenplay instead of writing prose.

DF: Did you think about doing THE CESTUS CONCERN as a screenplay or comic book before writing the novel?

MN: Sort of. The basic ideas for The Cestus Concern began life as a pitch I put together for an old Extreme Studios/Image Comics character called "Cybrid." The character was an obscure character created by Rob Liefeld back in the 90s who only popped up a handful of times. Since Cybrid was essentially a blank canvas to work it (he was a pretty generic mid-90s Wolverine clone -- one of about 100 that popped up around the time), using him allowed me to play with all of the things I wanted to write and pull in all of my influences (the work of Shotaro Ishinomori being one of the biggest).

Rob loved the pitch and gave it the nod to put together as a new series. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), as I was writing the comic I found there really wasn't much to Cybrid and what I was creating was essentially a completely new, completely unique entity. With this new character and new story in hand, I pulled the project and set about fleshing out the material in a format that I would have complete control over: a novel.

For me, the control an author has when writing a novel is fantastic. There's no more putting up with all the hassles and compromises that I deal with in my film/TV work, and there were none of the issues a writer runs into when working with a co-creator in comics. That freedom was amazing and very addictive.


MN: The Cestus Contract takes Malcolm Weir to New York City in search of the people behind what had happened to him in Project Hardwired. He's got an insane amount of data stored on the nanotech running through his veins with no access to it. On top of that, with the destruction of the Abraxas Array in the first book, Mal's beginning to lose control of himself and his cybernetics. He needs someone to help him get it all sorted...but the government isn't ready to help the rogue cyborg and they're not about to let their investment just walk away.

The story is all about control -- Mal's control of himself and the government's control over everyone.

It's also about elaborate fights, explosions, and enough action to blow the hair right off your head!

DF: How many Malcolm Weir adventures can we expect to see?

MN: As long as I can keep coming up with action that tops what I've done before, I'll keep writing! Right now I have 4 novels total outlined (two more after The Cestus Contract). That will take readers through the main story-line I started in the first book -- dealing with what happened to Mal in Kabul and who was responsible for it all. Beyond that I have a few more ideas, but it'll all depend on how much fun I have doing the books and how much the fans like what I do. Right now I'm having a fantastic time writing about Mal, Zuz and the Nissan Cube!

DF: You’re writing a comic book as well that is being drawn by none other than Rob Liefeld. How did that come about?

MN: Yes, I'm scripting the new Brigade series for Rob. He held a Kickstarter so that he could give away 100,000 copies of the book in hopes of bringing new (and old) readers to comics. The short version of how I became involved is that Rob checked out my first novel and enjoyed it enough to give me a really fantastic quote for it. I think he responded to the level of action and adventure in there, along with the humor. The book seems to resonate well with fans of 90s Image comics.

The longer version is that we had been talking about doing something together for a couple of years and this seemed to be a good fit. The audience I've built with my work (prose, TV and film) compliments his audience and the work he does. It also doesn't hurt that we're friends and share a lot of the same comic book loves.

DF: Comic book fans are split right down the middle when it comes to Rob Liefeld. They either love him or hate him. Does any of that matter to you?

MN: What comic fans think of Rob (good or bad) doesn't really impact me at all. The truth of the matter is that Rob has a love of comics and pop culture that is similar to mine. We're both Byrne and Perez fanatics. We both grew up reading and loving the same books -- X-Men, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans...and just about everything else in the 70s and 80s. His truly loves comics and it's easy to get inspired when you work with someone like that.

The funny thing is, I didn't read much of his work in the 90s -- I do remember reading and enjoying Hawk & Dove in the 80s, as well as seeing his pieces in DC's Who's Who and the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. I was working as Joe Orlando's assistant when Image started taking off and reading Image was frowned upon in the offices. Keep in mind, DC was #3 at that point and the Image stuff was blowing us out of the water in terms of sales and fan interest.

I didn't pay any attention to that material until a couple of years ago when I was reading through it all in an attempt to find something cool to pitch as a new series. When I did, I found tons of really cool ideas in the work -- I'm not sure there was a lot of realized potential in the work, but there were a lot of sparks that got my mind churning with stories.

With all that being said, I don't see the issues people have with his work. To me, he's like Jack Kirby -- neither one is a realistic style illustrator. They're cartoonists who deal with getting excitement onto the page. Rob did that better than almost anyone and it made him one of the most successful comic creators of all time. When you add in the fact that he's a genuinely nice guy with a monster affection for the comic medium, it's hard to understand the nearly fanatical rage some fans have against him.

DF: What’s A Day In The Life of Mat Nastos like?

MN: It is an exercising in doing whatever I can to avoid growing up. I usually start writing very early in the morning before my family wakes up and write until about 12:30. Then I spend time with my wife and kids. The evening is filled with karate, the gym and more writing. Every so often I'm forced to make the run into LA to do thing TV thing, but I try and avoid it as much as possible.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Mat Nastos: My new novel, The Cestus Contract, is out now. It is the sequel to my first book and is filled with a lot of the same kind of over-the-top action that readers seemed to dig. You can find out more on my website at or the publishing site

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

16 Months Later With MARK BOUSQUET

It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo interview with Mark so I thought it about time we caught up with what he’s all about and what he’s doing 16 MONTHS LATER…

Derrick Ferguson: Any major changes in your life since we last talked?

Mark Bousquet: Nope. Life is going well. I love living in Reno and I love my job. There's some uncertainty lurking on the horizon - my contract is up in June and won't be renewed for various departmental regulations (basically, a person is only allowed to hold my position for 3 years and then they have to leave - it doesn't matter how good or poor they have performed the position) so I don't know where I'll be living or what I'll be doing seven months from now, but that will take care of itself when the time comes. Maybe I'll still be in academics, or maybe I won't, but that's a question for the future. Right now, I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing where I'm doing it.

DF: How’s Darwin doing?

MB: He loves living in Reno even more than I do. Reno sits at the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and we live far enough away from downtown that we're in the hills almost every day. He couldn't ask for a better situation. I hope wherever we end up has the hiking possibilities it does here. Even after almost 2.5 years here we're still finding new paths and trails to hike within an hour's walk of our front door. He'll be 7 in December but whenever we head outside he's still as active as a pup.

DF: As a writer, in what ways do you feel you’ve grown and developed?

MB: I think I've developed a better sense of layering my stories and grown more comfortable with letting the story dictate itself instead of forcing it into a pre-determined box. THE HAUNTING OF KRAKEN MOOR was a huge positive in this regard. That novel (which takes place in the Gunfighter Gothic universe, though on the other side of the Atlantic) introduced a whole lotta new firsts for me: first horror novel, first first-person novel, first time writing as a female character, first time structuring the novel as a journal. I wrote the novel in "real time" as much as possible. Which is to say that even though the story is taking place in 1864, I wrote the January 1 entry on January 1 and so on. I even tried to match the time of day as much as possible. It was a fascinating experiment, given that writing in a journal is completely different act than writing a story, so there are moments in the book where the reader is frustrated by Beatrice's reluctance to include certain details, or her unwillingness to see every subplot through to the end, or her being contradictory. All of these elements are very human, I think, but it's not a standard way to write a novel.

I found it very liberating, and that led to two of my best pieces: "Why Grant Jannen Can'tHave Sex," available for free at my Atomic Anxiety site  and "The Pretty Girl with the Ugly Name," published in the PsychopompPunk Special from Artifice Comics. Both of these works show off a new narrative voice for me. Usually, I favor keeping the "me" parts of writing simple and neutral and I let the characters provide all the personality, but in these two pieces, just as in KRAKEN MOOR, I'm letting the author have a bit more say about the story's style.

DF: Have any of your attitudes about your work or your style of writing changed completely or modified in any way?

MB: I think all of us who write and publish in the Print on Demand area go through the cauldron when it comes to sales. There have been times when I've been really focused on how many copies I sell. Right now, though, I'm at the opposite end. I'm back where I started, just trying to tell the best stories I can in my own voice and letting the sales fall where they may. Finding a creative outlet with the various Artifice Comics publications (of which my contributions are all prose and not comics) has been a huge blessing. When I look at KRAKEN MOOR, "Grant Jannen," and "Pretty Girl," I can see a different voice than I usually use emerging and that's exciting. It's just more arrows in the quiver.

DF: In what direction do you think your work is heading in now as opposed to 16 months ago? Or is it going in the same direction?

MB: It's a much darker direction now than it was 16 months ago. KRAKEN MOOR stars a runaway American girl who goes to work at a castle estate in England where demons torture, kill, and sex everyone they can. There's nothing fun in that story. People die. People have sex with werewolves who turn around and eviscerate them. People make huge sacrifices.

The answer to the title of "Why Grant Jannen Can't Have Sex" is because he has the power to make people do what he wants. He's not aware of it for a very long time, but I wanted to examine the idea of what happens to a man when he finds out that all of the women he's ever had sex with only did so because of his superpower of influence. And if you can't stop your power, then how can you actually ever have sex again without knowing you might actually be getting someone to do something they wouldn't normally do? Check out the opening to the story, and you can see an example of a different voice than I usually use:

"By the time Grant was 24 years old, he had raped 47 women.
None of these rapes occurred in dark alleys. None of them involved stalking. Or violence. No woman had ever bit him or clawed him or struggled with him. No woman had ever said No. No woman had ever said Stop. No woman had ever complained in any way. There were no files on him in police stations, save for a marijuana bust last winter. Neither the state of New Hampshire, where he was born, nor the state of Minnesota, where he went to college, nor the state of Montana, where he now lives, nor the federal government of the United States considered Grant to be anything except an upstanding citizen who paid his taxes, always voted, had never married, and liked to travel alone.

Grant liked to travel alone because that had prevented him from raping anyone.

Two years, eight months, and a pocket full of days for change had passed since he raped Martha Teagarden. She did not complain. She does not regret what happened. She still calls every now and then.”

Not happy fun time.

I'm also writing less reviews but more travel writing which is a genre I very much enjoy working in.

DF: Update us on GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC: BLOOD OF THE UNIVERSE. What has been the feedback on that? Do you have a sequel in the works?

MB: Feedback has been very positive on GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC, which is good because Hanna and Jill are two of my favorite creations and I plan on releasing two or even three GOTHIC collections in 2014. I love how flawed they are - they fight, they bicker, they're grown-ups who sometimes still act like they did when they were kids, and they make plenty of mistakes. Yet, through it all, they can give each other crap in even the most ridiculous circumstances. I love that.

They have a complicated history - while they grew up in the same house, Jill is the merchant's daughter while Hanna was a servant's daughter. They got in all sorts of mischief, and Hanna eventually fell in love with Jill, and Jill returned that love only when it was convenient for her. Now, they're partners and on the same level and that allows for a whole lot of fun exchanges.

The sequel to BLOOD is done. It's called UNDER ZEPPELIN SKIES and it picks up where BLOOD left off, with Hanna and Jill on a zeppelin undergoing a zombie outbreak. 

There are four short stories (maybe 6 if I decide to include two reprints). As much as I love Hanna and Jill, ZEPPELIN was a hard book to write because the story kept spinning away from me. Or rather, the tone kept spinning away from me. It's a weird western, but it kept wanting to be ridiculous and fun, too, and it took a while for me to let it be what it wanted to be, which was to pepper UNFORGIVEN with a good heavy dose of BRISCO COUNTY, JR. The first story, "Waltzing Zombies Prefer Dixie," gives a bit of a different spin on the zombie story, as post-Civil War Confederates release a virus aboard a zeppelin that turns supporters of the Northern cause into zombies. People can slow, retard, or even stop that virus by acting in a pro-Confederate manner. People on board were pro-Union and the zombie infestation puts those ideals to the test. 

The other stories are "The Vampires of Jesus Christ," "Colorado Kaiju," and "Demon Winter," and I kept going back and forth between making ZEPPELIN a novel or a collection. There's an overall story of Jill and Hanna tracking down Jill's ex-fiance, but in the end I decided to go the short story route and minimize Dotson's direct involvement until the final story.

I have also just released a Kindle exclusive short story entitled "Thanksgiving at theHouse of Absinthe & Steam," which has Hanna and Jill fighting the weird in London. It's a very dark story but Hanna and Jill keep things fun - for the reader and for me. They're far from perfect, and end up getting drunk alongside the woman they're supposed to protect and one of them ends up getting buried alive. The story takes place after ZEPPELIN, yet is going to be published first, but it's designed to work as a stand-alone story. Eventually, "House of Absinthe" will wind up in GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC VOLUME 2: EUROPEAN HOLIDAY. It's interesting to me that the further I take Hanna and Jill away from the "western," the "weird" increases.

DF: I really loved THE HAUNTING OF KRAKEN MOOR. In what wonderfully diseased recess of your mind did that story come from and are you going to write any more stories in that style?

MB: First, thanks. KRAKEN MOOR has been a huge influence on GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC; the darker direction of "The House of Absinthe & Steam" is because of KRAKEN MOOR. In fact, the final story of ZEPPELIN is a sequel of sorts to KRAKEN MOOR, as it takes Hanna and Jill into the castle.

As to where it came from - I was sitting in my apartment last New Year's Eve, and around 1 or 2 PM I decided I wanted to do something new. I like being able to look at my bookshelf and say, "That's my western, that's my kids' book, that's my cosmic pulp, that's my urban fantasy," and I realized I couldn't point at anything and say, "That's my horror novel." I decided to take a bunch of the various things I wanted to try (horror, first person narration, writing in a woman's voice, etc.) and put them together. When I wrote the first entry, I had no real idea of what the story was going to be other than there was going to be a young American woman working in a haunted castle. From there, I let things progress rather organically. I was writing and posting the story online nearly every single day, so there was no time to go back and change things (though I did relent on this point a time or two) - most everything had to be done on the fly and I let my own reader response guide me. If I felt the story was getting a little boring, I introduced something exciting. Because I wanted a creepy horror story, that usually involved demonic sex. There are a few moments in the novel where this gets away from me, but on the whole I am tremendously pleased with how it turned out and I think it's my best full-length work.

DF: And then you can switch gears and do children’s books that are equally as imaginative and captivating to read such as STUFFED ANIMALS FOR HIRE and ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE. Do you have to consciously switch on a part of your brain to write children’s books or does it all come from the same place?

MB: Honestly, one is therapy for the other. When I spend too much time writing dark stories, it's nice to be able to go write some bright, shiny kids' stories for a while, and vice versa. As an academic, one of the things I look for are the intertextual connections between books. You can take any two stories and see what one says about the other one, and I like to do that when I'm writing. So if I'm writing a western, I'm not watching or reading other westerns. I'm watching Hercule Poirot movies, and when I write a detective story, I'm not watching POIROT, but I might be watching a bunch of spaghetti westerns. When I go write a detective story (as Idid for Artifice's Halloween special, resurrecting my old, briefly seenFrontier Publishing stomping grounds, Chalifax, the City of Dying Magic ) I knew I was going to hear Agatha Christie and David Suchet and Hugh Fraser anyway, so watching other genres helps me make sure I'm doing more than aping their style.

DF: I think it’s really exciting that you have opened up the DREAMER’S SYNDROME universe to other writers. Can you first explain DREAMER’S SYNDROME to those not familiar with the concept?

MB: Sure thing. God goes into hiding and sends an order back to the angels to remake the world so that everyone is transformed, overnight, into their childhood dream. If you wanted to be a pirate, you're a pirate. If you wanted to be an astronaut, you're an astronaut. The world is transformed, too, so the modern American southwest is largely reconfigured as the Wild West and New York is remade as a place for superheroes.

DF: Why did you decide to open it up to other writers?

MB: Over on Facebook, Greg Rosa asked when I was going to do it. I said, "I'd do it right now if there was interest" and he assured me he could line up a handful of writers to participate and between his writers and those responding to the Call for Proposals it looks like there might be enough for two collections. There's still time to submit, too, so if anyone out there is moved, send me a proposal. The majority of submissions, so far, are from people with very few publications and that's very exciting.

DF: You’ve taken a break from writing movie reviews. Can you tell us why and will there be another collection of your movie reviews coming?

MB: There's 700-800 reviews at Atomic Anxiety and I was getting burned out. I love writing DOCTOR WHO reviews and when I couldn't bring myself to keep up with the latest season (which I really liked), I knew it was time to step back for awhile. I've got enough reviews for a solid sci-fi collection, but there such a random collection of movie reviews, I'm wondering how to arrange them, and if I should wait until I get a few more classics reviewed. I've got the Marvel Comics on Film book out and it covers every Marvel movie I could watch through last year's AVENGERS (including the old '70s TV movies, of which DOCTOR STRANGE is a real standout). I'd like to go ahead and tackle DC's movies, at some point, too.

DF: Hollywood calls you up and says that they’re going to spend $500 million 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?

MB: Man, I've been pondering this question all week and I'm still not sure. I'm tempted to offer up combinations of GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC and J.T. Petty (director of the excellent and largely unseen THE BURROWERS) or DREAMER'S SYNDROME and Joe Cornish (director of the excellent and largely unseen ATTACK THE BLOCK or HARPSICHORD & THE WORMHOLE WITCHES and Matt Reeves (director of CLOVERFIELD) or STUFFED ANIMALS FOR HIRE (which is basically The A-Team for kids) and Gore Verbinski, but I think if we're gonna roll with a big budget, I'd pair ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE with Andrew Stanton. I think Stanton has demonstrated a fine ability to balance good humor with big emotions, and that's what THE FIVE is about.

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

MB: Movie: THE HOBBIT. We live in such a jaded age that people can't wait to turn on the things tomorrow that they loved yesterday. There's a certain segment of fandom that seems to be in a race to declare something awful. It's like there's a whole tribe of Dennis Millers, always with a cynical, snarky putdown at the ready. I get not liking a movie, but I do not understand when people decide to mount their own personal campaign against a movie whose only crime is that other people like it. THE HOBBIT is a big, fun movie. Is it as good as the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy? No, but that doesn't mean it ain't a really good film.

Book: I'm reading two books right now that are both fantastic: David Shoemaker's THE SQUARED CIRCLE, a history of professional wrestling, and Hal Needham's STUNTMAN!, an autobiography of his time in Hollywood. I'm in the beginning stages of both, but Needham's story is told very conversationally. I feel like he's sitting with me at a bar and telling stories about John Wayne and Burt Reynolds. I've been enjoying Shoemaker's writing on wrestling for years (he was the author of the "Dead Wrestler of the Week" feature at Deadspin, and he now writes for Grantland) and SQUARED CIRCLE sees him at the top of his game; he has a unique talent to always talk about the present in the context of the past that gives his writing some real power.

TV Show: MISS FISHER'S MURDER MYSTERIES. Netflix has finally started streaming POIROT, but they only have the first 6 seasons, which I devoured in a couple weeks. I went looking for another mystery to fill the void and stumbled onto FISHER'S. It's set in post-WWI Australia, and it's one of those shows where they set it in the past but fill it with a whole bunch of modern sensibilities. It's nothing deep, but like POIROT it's a whole lot of fun watching Phryne Fisher solve some really nasty crimes.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Mark Bousquet: Until the end of 2013, anyone who wants a free .pdf copy of "Thanksgiving at the House of Absinthe & Steam" can have one by sending me an email at No strings attached - you don't have to write a review and you won't be put on a mailing list. 2014 is going to be a big year for GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC (time willing, I'm going to try and get Hanna and Jill in as many different anthologies as would be appropriate) and I think "House of Absinthe" is a really good intro into this world. Volume 1 will be out in late January or early February, so now is a good time to jump on board.

ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE: THE CHRISTMAS ENGINE will be out before Christmas, so anyone looking for a fun book for kids might find it to their liking.

I'm on the web at my personal website (, my review site (, and on Twitter (@mark_bousquet), and all my published works can be found at my Author Central site (

That covers it. Thanks, as always, for the chat, Derrick.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Derrick Ferguson Gets Stung By SKORPIO

File Size: 1534 KB
Print Length: 337 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: WordFire Press (October 14, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

If you’re as well read as I think you are (and you must be…why else are you reading book reviews? You’re looking for something good to read, right?) then you should have some familiarity with the name Mike Baron. Mr. Baron first landed on my radar when I discovered his innovative science fiction comic book “Nexus” which he co-created with Mike Rude. Much like other great comic book pairings like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers or Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon, the two of them made magic together and if you haven’t read “Nexus” yet then you should correct that at your earliest opportunity.

Mr. Baron has also written many other comic book titles but in recent years he’s been working in prose, writing some really compelling novels such as “Helmet Head” which I really enjoyed. That’s a book you really ought to pick up as it reads like the lost novelization of a John Carpenter movie. Yeah, it’s that good.

SKORPIO is almost as good. It’s not a roller coaster ride like “Helmet Head’ which reads like a runaway train going downhill from start to finish. Mr. Baron takes his time setting up the situation and the characters before he gets to the guts of his story but I appreciate a writer who has the confidence to take his time to take us where we need to go so he can most effectively deliver the goods later on and yeah, SKORPIO delivers.

Vaughan Beadles is a Professor of Anthropology at Creighton University in Illinois where he enjoys a near rock star status. He’s too handsome for his own good with a gorgeous wife and beautiful baby boy. Beadles is riding high due to his acquisition of relics belonging to a previously lost Southwestern Indian tribe, the Azuma. But all that comes to a screeching halt when Beadles is framed for stealing some of the artifacts. And if that wasn’t enough, one of his students dies from a scorpion sting that he got when Beadles lets the kid get an unauthorized sneak peek at the artifacts.

His life rapidly falls into ruin. His wife leaves him, he loses his job and all of his money goes toward his legal fees. The only way Beadles can see to salvage his life is to find where the Azuma actually lived and prove his theories to be true. In his quest to find the birthplace, Beadles runs into a truly amazing diverse cast of characters. Some of them you’ll wonder what the hell they’re doing in the book but trust me, part of the enjoyment of reading SKORPIO is seeing just how Mike Baron pulls all of these characters together and makes them integral components of the story.

It takes a while for the title character to show up but when it does it’s worth the wait. Skorpio is a vengeful ghost of hideous power who appears in the sunlight, which is a nice twist as ghosts are usually associated with the nighttime. I also liked Mr. Baron’s choice of protagonist. Vaughan Beadles isn’t exactly squeaky clean in his dealings and he’s a bit of an opportunist, always actively looking for an angle to advance his career and fatten his bank account.

In fact, most of the characters in SKORPIO are a little more on the gray side than you might expect but I enjoyed that as it gave the book an unpredictability I found refreshing. There’s never any way to tell what these characters are going to do or say and for me, that’s always welcome in my fiction.

Mike Baron’s prose is as uncomplicated and straightforward as the word “No.”  He doesn’t go in for flowery purple prose. He’s a born storyteller who is concerned with only one thing: telling you a good story. He’s not interested in showing off his vocabulary or trying to impress you with his cleverness in turning a pithy phrase. He just wants you to have a good time and I certainly did have a good time reading SKORPIO

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: ANDREA JUDY

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Andrea Judy?

Andrea Judy: Someone recently called me a pulp pixie and I like the sound of that. I’m fresh out of grad school and obsessed with pop culture.

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

AJ: I work for a large university in Atlanta, GA where I manage social media accounts, pay the bills, and generally keep the office running smoothly. My coworkers are pretty much the most awesome people ever, and we nerd out on a regular basis.

DF: How long have you been writing?

AJ: Forever? I’ve been writing since I learned how to put the pencil to paper and form coherent sentences, but I’ve been telling stories since I could talk.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

AJ: Peter S. Beagle and “The Last Unicorn” was one of my favorite things as a child, and I think that has helped keep a sense of fantasy and wonder in me even as an adult. I also loved the  Jim Hensen movies “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth” played on repeat at all times through my childhood.

Other writers that influence me are Neil Gaiman, Kelly Sue Deconnick, and Lisa Mannetti.

DF: What do you think about New Pulp? Is it here to stay?

AJ: I think it’s absolutely here to stay. Fast-paced, fun adventurous stories are something that world needs and that people want. Whether the name of New Pulp will stick with the genre or not, I’m not sure. I’m of the belief that pulp is the style of the writing and story, not the name of the genre or movement as a whole.

DF: What’s the best advice you can give someone who wants to write New Pulp?

AJ: The same advice I’d give any upcoming writer. FINISH WHAT YOU START. You can’t sell a story until it’s done, and you can’t rewrite something until it’s been written. It’s so easy to get caught up in talking about writing, in plotting, researching, planning, etc. Butt in char and fingers on keyboard (or writing by pen and pencil if that’s your thing) are the most important things that a new writer can learn.

DF: How did you develop the character of The Bone Queen?

AJ: I’ve always had a morbid obsession with graveyards and things that go bump in the night, so when I was tasked with creating a story for The Pulptress, I knew that I wanted something dark.

A few years ago, I studied in Paris, and visited the catacombs several times. I stayed fascinated by them, and by Paris, long after my return home, and The Pulptress seemed a perfect fit. I also wanted to put her in a place where guns weren’t the norm, and the world was a little bit different than here in America.

The Bone Queen came about because I needed someone equal to The Pulptress, someone that could be her shadow. I love spooky, supernatural things so I dove right in to giving The Bone Queen the ability to rise the dead by eating their bones and never looked back.

DF: When she made her first appearance in “The Pulptress” did you know you were going to write a novel about her?

AJ: I had no idea there would ever be a stand-alone work about her! In fact I wasn’t even sure there’d be a story in “The Pulptress!”

A little known fact is that my story in “The Pulptress” was written from scratch at the eleventh hour. My computer corrupted and I lost everything I had from the story and had to start over right at the deadline. I was so focused on making sure the story was sharp (and done!) that I never entertained the possibility of doing more with her. Luckily, the new version worked much better than the lost drafts (and was much better for Paulette and Pascal) and as soon as it was turned in and off for edits, I took a nice long nap before I even entertained the possibility of doing anything else.

After “The Pulptress” released, there was a lot of interest in her, and the story was really popular. Eventually I was approached about doing an origin story for her. I jumped at the chance. I adore villains and I think there’s a distinct lack of lady villains so getting the chance to explore where she came from was an incredible opportunity.

DF: Tell us about the novel itself. What is THE BONE QUEEN about?

AJ: The Bone Queen is about where this villain came from and how she gained her powers. It follows Renata, a devotee of the goddess of death, and her band of survivors as they struggle through Black Plague ravaged France. The dead are rising and going to war, and the living are barely scraping by. Renata vows to find the person responsible for this abomination against death and sets onto a path that explores just how much she’s willing to give up to achieve that goal.

DF: Tell us about your future plans for The Bone Queen.

AJ: The Bone Queen will be making another appearance in my second digest novel with Pro Se which will throw The Pulptress and The Bone Queen into battle once again. I’m very excited about this story and can’t wait for everyone to see it!

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

AJ: I have a superhero story coming out in “Capes and Clockwork”, a steampunk superhero anthology that will be out soon. It’s about a female detective whose left arm can turn into anything she’s touched, and her hunt for a killer who freezes people from the inside out.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience out there for Andrea Judy?

AJ: I think my audience is anyone who enjoys a good, fast-paced story with a bit of darkness to it. I rarely write with a specific audience in mind. I write to tell an awesome story!

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Andrea Judy like?

AJ: Hm... typical… Usually I’m up by 5:30. I work out, and then goof around on the Internet, schedule posts on social media, and read my favorite webcomics before going to work.

I’m lucky that I get to read during my commute so I usually am reading some new book. It’s awesome because this way I can go through 2-3 books a week just by reading on the train.

During lunch I try to write or work on something but it doesn’t always pan out that way. When I get home, I sit down and write at least 750 words before I eat. After that I write, edit, read, watch a movie or play video games.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Andrea Judy?

Andrea Judy: A fun fact is that I’m very short. I’m under five feet tall and I think a lot of my friends are convinced I am actually a pixie and not a human at all.

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