Friday, December 15, 2017



An innovator in Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions announces an open call for submissions for four books in a new anthology series.

“CITY MYTHOLOGICA,” says Tommy Hancock, “is a concept that’s really so new and different that we’re very excited about it.  The premise is simple to state, but not necessarily so easy to explain.  Essentially, each anthology will focus on a different city.  The stories in the anthology will not only have to be set in the city the book is centered on, but they must be mythological in nature.  That’s the part that some may not understand, but there are cities around the globe that are historic, that have such a rich lineage all their own, that they very much deserve, and some even already have, to a degree, their own myths, tales that explain why events happen or things are a certain way in that city.  Some would say that some cities already have their own pantheon of gods and goddesses.  What CITY MYTHOLOGICA will do simply is make that all true by establishing a mythology for the cities the series focuses on.”

CITY MYTHOLOGICA will be an anthology series focused on applying the concept of mythology to cities.  The intent of the stories should be to build a pantheon of gods and goddesses as well as heroes of mythological proportions for the cities spotlighted AND/OR explain a particular characteristic/aspect/event associated with a city in a way that classic myths of ancient civilizations did.  The intent is NOT to adapt gods of other myths or events from other mythologies into these stories, but rather to create from only what the city has to provide a new mythology specific to its own location.

“We don’t want Zeus as a tycoon,” states Hancock. “Instead, just using this as an example from one of the cities we’re focusing on first, what if W.C. Handy were the god of music?  And understand, we want writers to play with this in their unique way, so they can establish characters as gods and over the top heroes or villains from the get-go, or it can be stories of their ‘ascension’ as it were. We also need just as many stories explaining why something is the way it is in a particular city, but not from a historical perspective as much as a mythological ‘Why is Broadway in New York’ sort of thing.  Sure, the stories can be and should in most cases be based on the city’s history, but beyond that, we are seeking myths.”

The first four cities to be focused on for CITY MYTHOLOGICA are Memphis, Tennessee, New Orleans, Louisiana, New York City, New York, and Chicago, Illinois.  Future books will focus on other American cities as well as cities around the globe.

“We will be very selective,” says Hancock, “with this series. Our hope is to build a mythology for each city that we can then set up as sort of a shared world sort of thing and set stories in those cities in the future, using that mythology to a whole new level.”

Stories for the CITY MYTHOLOGICA series must be 8-10,000 words in length. Those interested in submitting a proposal should contact to request a bible for this project. A proposal of 100-500 words must be submitted to Authors not previously published by Pro Se Productions must submit a writing sample of at least two pages with their proposals. The final deadline for completed stories is 90 days following acceptance of proposals. Payment will be in the form of royalties, the percentage determined by the number of accepted submissions.

CITY MYTHOLOGICA is a part of the Pro Se Open, the company's anthology project, and is scheduled to be published in the 2018-2019 calendar years, depending on submissions and other factors.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Get Your Superhero Fiction On This Christmas!

Are you missing your Christmas fix from iHero Entertainment this year? Then pick up this new seasonal mix of heroic goodness. Just $1!

Now available at Smashwords and coming soon from Amazon,

Enjoy this special collection of holiday stories from the superhero universe of iHero Entertainment and Cyber Age Adventures. Stories feature fan-favorite characters The Grandstander, Ms. Futura, The Boom Machine, and Starlight.

Features the stories:

  • Sin and Error Pining
  • It's Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home
  • Nor Doth He Sleep
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past

Available for Kindle and all ePub readers. And all for a mere buck, a single dollar.

Happy holidays!

Get your copy here:

Nugget #114 -- The Reason

Get serious about making your openings strong. It's important.
It's the reason you get to be the first or last story in an anthology
rather than crammed in the middle somewhere. It's the reason
your novel demands to be taken to the register and then home
rather than returned to the shelf. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Watson Report: Only the Brave Deserve the Fair – the Arthurian Gulf

by I.W. Watson 

One of the firmest tenets of adventure fiction right back to our most ancient myths is that when the hero does his deeds and rescues the damsel, he wins the girl. It is an almost-universal trope, from Perseus with Andromeda to James Bond and his heroine-de-jour. Sometimes the hero lives happily ever after and sometimes happily until breakfast, but until the modern age it has been an unchallenged expectation that the hero should have access to his rescued heroine by right of conquest, whether he avails himself of the privilege or rides off into the sunset leaving her yearning. If he saves her, she has to give him her heart - and possibly other parts.

Our modern perspective has evolved. Against that narrative, historical, and even modern social pressure is an understanding of a woman’s right to choose whom she sleeps with. It isn’t decided by her father, or by treaty, or by trial by combat. It isn’t a necessity to secure a strong provider for her and her children. The bravest and strongest are not necessarily the best life partners – or even the best bed partners.

And yet somewhere in our unquestioned cultural expectations, as expressed in much of our literature, there is still the idea that, to put it bluntly, if the hero saves the heroine from being raped by the villain, she ‘owes’ him that which he stopped the bad guy from taking.

This is never less disguised than in Arthurian literature and the fairy tales it has informed. I’m hard-pressed to think of any major heroine from the Matter of Britain who has not been “won” by a hero through deeds of arms, often with a rescue. Gareth saved his Lynette’s kingdom from the terrible Red Knight who sought her treasure and virtue. Tristan rescued Isolde’s father from shame, and then later Isolde from her husband. Even Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot was pushed finally into adultery after his rescue of her from her would-be ravager Meliagrant. Rescue equals bed and may equal marriage.

This offers a problem for contemporary stories featuring Arthurian material. The heroic rescue is so ingrained in the fabric of it that it is impossible to extract without losing a main flavour of the genre. So any use of the trope has to be sensitive to both the original narrative and to modern sensibilities.

The case in point I’ve been wrestling with today is The Knight of the Lion, a Welsh Arthurian tale of Sir Yvaine le Blanche-Mains (the Fair-Handed), and its European counterpart version by Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain. The first part of the plot centres upon a mysterious magic fountain guarded by a black knight. Anyone who uses the fountain causes a supernatural storm and must then fight the champion. Yvaine’s cousin Colgrevance does this and loses badly, so Yvain determines to try the adventure and avenge him.

Yvaine fights and defeats the black knight, giving him a mortal wound, of which the
champion dies within a day. So far so good. But in defeating the black knight, Yvaine must now become the new guardian of the magic fountain, inheriting the black knight’s lands, castle, and, um, widow. Countess Laudine, whom Yvaine first spies as she leads her late husband’s funeral procession, is now encouraged and expected to become his mistress or wife in payment for him taking on her husband’s duties.

The medieval source material has no problem with this. Yvaine is drooling over the widowed Countess as soon as he sees her mourning at the funeral, declaring her the love of his life. European version Laudine requires about two scenes of convincing by her maid that she should go to bed with her husband’s killer. Welsh version Laudine is all for it from the start. In both instances she’s married to Yvaine within the week and they are very happy together. After all, Yvaine is clearly a stronger knight that her previous match, so obviously she would love him more. As Laudine’s maid says in Yvain, “I can irrefutably prove to you that he who defeated your lord is better than he was himself. He beat him…” It’s the Arthurian way.

Women have often been considered as property to be given, purchased, stolen, or won. This has sometimes been codified in law, for example in the Indian concept of a "Rakshasa wedding" or the Norman "Danish marriage" where a woman taken as a prisoner of war became a subordinate sexual chattel of a conqueror's household.

Occasionally a wicked stepmother gets in the way of the process and tries to prevent the lady from succeeding her parents. This never ends well for the stepmother.

I once wrote an essay on the medieval concept of raptio, which was a significantly different crime from how we would define modern rape. Though often transcribed as "rape," raptio is having sexual intercourse with a woman without permission of the male who would grant that permission - usually a father, brother, or husband. The legal principle does not distinguish between whether the female consented or not; the point of law is whether her guardian did. By extension of that principle, a husband cannot rape his wife because he has the right to grant himself permission to have sex with her at any time; a right that was only finally overturned in British law in 1991 and became a crime across the whole US in 1993 (except for South Carolina, where there must be “excessive force/violence… of a high and aggravated nature” for it to be illegal).

There were stiff medieval penalties for raptio, but the emphasis of the redress was about compensating the father, brother, or husband of the woman for the value she had lost. The law also encouraged that where possible the rapist should be expected to marry his victim, which placed her and her fortune permanently under his control. This is the actual historical basis for marriages by force majeure, by which kidnapped heiresses were raped into legal subordinate relationships with their assailant – and of fiction where the heroine must be saved from such a fate.

This kind of thinking permeates the story of The Knight of the Fountain and its variants. The authors do not approve of such behaviour, but they expect that it is so customary as to explain motivations of many of the cast.

In addition to Sir Yvaine’s interactions with Countess Laudine there are several other women who are sexually threatened by villains seeking their bodies and fortunes. Wicked Count Alier is turned down by the Lady of Norison, so attacks and conquers her estates one by one until she is helpless to deny him; except that Yvaine shows up. She offers the hero herself and her estates but is politely declined.

An unnamed Baron denies his unnamed daughter to the monstrous giant bandit Harpin of the Mountains, but Harpin captures the Baron’s six sons, slaughters two of them, and will kill the others if the daughter is not surrendered to him – not now for his own lusts, but to “give her over to be the sport of the vilest and lewdest fellows in his house, for he would scorn to take her now for himself… She shall be constantly beset by a thousand lousy and ragged knaves, vacant wretches, and scullery boys, who all shall lay hands on her.” Yvaine arrives to overcome the giant but demurs from the Baron’s offer of his daughter as his reward.

Then Yvaine encounters the town of Pesme Avanture, where two brothers, “the sons of imps” were forcing the local king to surrender to them thirty maidens annually, whom they held in slavery. Three hundred such women were captive, “…such was their poverty, that many of them wore no girdle, and looked slovenly, because so poor; and their garments were torn about their breasts and at the elbows, and their shifts were soiled about their necks. Their necks were thin, and their faces pale with hunger and privation… and they weep, and are unable for some time to do anything or to raise their eyes from the ground, so bowed down they are with woe.”

The Lord of the town seeks Yvaine’s help, offering his own daughter to the knight as reward. “She was not yet sixteen years old, and was so fair and full of grace that the god of Love would have devoted himself entirely to her service, if he had seen her, and would never have made her fall in love with anybody except himself.” says Chrétien de Troyes of her. In the pattern of many fairy tale quests her father tells Yvaine, “He who can defeat the two, who are about to attack you, must by right receive my castle, and all my land, and my daughter as his wife.” Yvaine slays the imps and sends the captive ladies home with all the riches of their captors.

The problem, from a modern writing perspective, is that all these women are effectively objects, not protagonists. They are the winning tokens in a game of capture the flag with some potential rape attached. One feels that the story included them only to show how bad the villain is and how noble the hero. Otherwise sacks of gold would have served much the same narrative purpose.

Not only is it assumed that noble fathers would naturally bestow their (usually virgin) daughters on a great hero, but that the daughters would naturally obey and go to the bed they are sent to. A rare exception is the one out of fifty of the Thespiads who did not want to sleep with Hercules and who remained as the virgin priestess of his temple thereafter. She is unusual enough to be remarked.

Greek myth also gives us the Danaids, the fifty daughters of exiled Egyptian king Daneus, who were forced by treaty after war into marriage with the fifty sons of his brother Aegyplus. By their father’s command they went to their husband’s beds, but as the men slept after satisfying themselves, each wife drew a bodkin and murdered her husband – also at their father’s command. The exception was Hypermnestra, who pleaded with her bridegroom Lyncaus that she remain a maiden and whose wishes Lyncaus respected. Hypermnestra therefore disobeyed her father and spared Lyncaus, and would have been cruelly punished by Daneus except that Aphrodite intervened. The other daughters took new husbands decided by footraces – really – but were punished in Tartarus by having to fill a leaking bath with sieves of water for all eternity. Lyncaus and Hypermnestra had a long, happy life together, ruled Argos, and founded the line of Argive kings, the Danaid dynasty.

The Classical and medieval assumption of patriarchal of husbandly rights to assign women as bedmates probably most manifests in three tropes: the right of conquest/rescue, the “bestowal” as a favour or to form an alliance, and the payment of a debt or ransom-tribute.

Historically, many powerful men cemented their relationships with allies, rivals, or key subordinates through marrying their womenfolk off. Many such alliances were “sight unseen” until the bride arrived veiled on her wedding day (Henry VIII wanted to send back his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, saying, “She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported”; their marriage was never consummated and was eventually annulled – Anne outlived Henry and all his other spouses). So there are many actual cases of women being major components of political and financial treaties. Wars and marriages were both extensions of diplomacy.

Likewise, there is precedent for the ‘theft’ of women as casus beli far beyond the legendary Helen of Troy. Some ladies of high value, such as tragic and exploited Mary, Queen of Scots, had lives resembling or worse than Penelope Pitstop (given that Penny was never actually raped into marriage by the Hooded Claw).

And then there is the infamous droit de signeur, the “lord’s right” to bed any woman of his dominion, and the right of prima nocte, “the first night”, where a bride must first yield her virginity to her liege lord before sleeping with her husband. Both these practices are now questioned by modern historians as possible fictions from over-imaginative 18th century writers, but there are legendary examples such as King Conchobar in the Irish Ulster Cycle. Cu Chulainn’s refusal to yield up his new wife Emer to Conchobar brought Ireland to the brink of war that required druidic interference to avert.

Two thousand years of European literature are written on a historical backdrop where women might be trade goods. The best female characters are noted because they are remarkable in demanding agency, in being proactive in a society that discourages such initiative in women. The stand-out Arthurian heroines (in the sense of female heroes) are people like Lynette, who does as much to overcome the evil Red Knight as does Sir
Gareth, the hero she recruits; and for her sharp tongue and quick wits she is dubbed the Damosel Sauvage.

But for every Lynette there are a score of Laudines, whose role is to be sufficiently attractive, helpless, and biddable to encourage a brave strong male to protect her. And thank goodness, nowadays that feels… lacking.

This kind of thinking doesn’t translate well to today’s readership. There’s narrative whiplash, a kind of “Wait, she’s doing what?” response that can break suspension of disbelief worse than an attack of dragons. Yvaine, who is generally treated in the Matter of Britain as one of the fairer-minded and kindly of Arthur’s knights (despite being Morgan le Fay’s only child) does not come out of his sudden acquiring of Laudine well when viewed through modern lenses.

But honestly, it isn’t possible to treat this story today without addressing that whole heroine-winning concept, without offering some plausible emotional progression to explain what is otherwise a very cynical or exploitative transaction. Something must be done. Acknowledging the problem is the first step.

I.A. Watson is a novelist and columnist from Yorkshire, England. Amongst his published works are Labours of Hercules (which covers the Thespiads), Women of Myth, and the essay volume Where Stories Dwell (which has much more to say about this). A full list of his fifty or so works is available at

Sunday, December 10, 2017


One of the most popular new pulp heroes to arrive on the scene in the past decade is Doc Atlas; created by veteran writers Michael A. Black and Ray Lovato.  Created as their homage to the classic 30s and 40s characters such as Doc Savage, Jim Anthony etc. etc. Atlas has appeared in many fast-paced adventures along with his aides, Thomas “Mad Dog” Deagan and Edward “Ace” Assante. These first appearances were offered via such outfits as Eclipse Publishing and Crossroads Press. Hundreds of pulp readers quickly became enthusiastic fans and continue clamor for more stories featuring this dynamic trio. Now they are about to have their wishes realized as Black and Lovato have entered into a partnership with one of the leading New Pulp publishers in the field, Airship 27 Productions.

Airship 27 Productions has been publishing New Pulp anthologies and novels since 2004 and in that time their books have won numerous awards.  Owned and operated by Ron Fortier, Managing Editor, and Rob Davis, Art Director, the company is one of a small group that pioneered the revival of pulp fiction and continues to set the standard in creative, original pulp fiction.

“Ever since meeting Mike Black, I’ve been an ardent fan of his work,” Fortier says. “There’s no pulp genre he hasn’t worked in and his stories are always top notch. Doc Atlas is by far his most popular creation.” Black, over the past few years, has become a regular contributor to the Airship 27 anthologies and eventually convinced Lovato to submit his own works. When the pair offered Fortier a new Doc Atlas short, it sparked an idea he realized was too good to pass up. “Doc Atlas and Airship 27 were made for each other. It seemed only natural to me that our company could provide a home that would allow Mike and Ray the freedom to focus solely on their tales and leave the publishing end to someone else; someone who very much wants to increase their readership in a big – big way.”

Echoing that enthusiasm, Michael Black offered the following.  “My lifelong friend, Ray Lovato, and I are honored to have Doc Atlas become a regular part of Airship 27’s cast of characters. We’ve both admired the work of Ron Fortier and Rob Davis for years, and are eager to join them in creating new pulp adventures for a new generation of readers.”

Beginning in 2018, Airship 27 Productions will produce one Doc Atlas title per year, whether a collection of shorts or full-length novels and be their sole publisher. Further announcements will be forthcoming.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

[Link] Why Some People Like to Read Sex-Free Romance

by Bryn Donovan

Most readers of my blog know that I write some steamy romance. A few of you even know that in the past year, I got a new job editing “sweet romance,” which is the industry term for romance with no sex at all.

I’ve always enjoyed all kinds of romantic stories and movies as a reader and a viewer, so I don’t find it strange at all to work on both. I’m even in the middle of writing a sweet romance right now.

However, I’ve always known that lots of people, particularly people who haven’t read a romance in twenty years, treat steamy romance writers with derision. They make jokes about the goofy euphemisms romance writers supposedly use for sex organs, although almost all romance writers have discarded these in favor of more direct language.

They also behave as though writers of sexy romance must all be bad writers. Most romance writers are women, and there is some sexism at work here: a discomfort with women authoring sexual content instead of being the object in it.

I’ve known all that for years. What I’ve learned in the past year, though, is that plenty of people also deride sex-free romance.

Read the full article:

Friday, December 8, 2017

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS presents MYSTERY MEN ( & Women ) Vol 5

Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to present volume five of MYSTERY MEN ( & Women), their showcase anthology for debuting new pulp heroes created by today’s best action-adventure writers.  This book offers up a trio of amazing characters by today’s finest pulp writers.

Things kick off with a full-length novella.  THE SHRIKE – in “Not That Kind of Girl” by Gene Moyers.  A mysterious female mastermind recruits her agents to combat the forces of evil in this, her first adventure novella.  This is followed by THE NIGHTBREAKER – in “Lost in the Flood” by Thomas Deja.  Straight out of the pages of the Shadow Legion series comes Nocturne city’s masked avenger as he takes on a villain capable of manipulating water.  And finally, we have DOC ATLAS - in “The Death Ray,” by Michael Black & Ray Lovato. Inspired by the likes of Doc Savage and Jim Anthony, Doc Atlas and his teammates must stop a criminal intent on destroying the Statue of Liberty with his deadly new weapon.

“We love producing this series,” claims Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “Sure, it’s great fun doing new stories about the classic pulp heroes, but there is also something special when our writers cut loose in inventing their own unique and colorful characters. In this volume, we truly have three of the best.” Fortier also notes there will be an exciting news release concerning one of the heroes from his company very shortly.

Ted Hammond provides the stunning cover featuring the sexy but deadly Shrike while Art Director Rob Davis delivers twelve amazing black and white interiors.

So time to buckle up and relive the thrill of the pulps in these three outstanding, fast-paced adventures brought to you by today’s stellar pulp writers.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – Pulp Fiction for a New Generation!

Available from Amazon in both paperback & on Kindle here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Natural and Fun: Writers on Sex and Sexuality in Fiction

Okay, gang, we're going to get a little steamy for this week's Writers Roundtable. Let's talk about sex --and not just sex but also sexual characters, or, in other words, characters who have a sex life and inhabit your stories. How do you address it? Where do you draw the line? All right... enough teasing, let's get to the action. 

People are sexual creatures in real life, with a variety of modifiers from hetero- to homo- to a- to poly-. So, as a writer, how do you portray that aspect of characterization in your stories?

Danielle Procter Piper: In my sci-fi series, I have characters that run the gamut aside from pedophiles and necrophiliacs...although in the story I'm getting ready to publish my randiest character--a guy who refuses to be labeled because he does what suits him at the moment, engages in spontaneous intercourse with an alien species...with a fresh corpse involved, although I'm not going to reveal in what way (you'll have to read the story to find out). For the most part, I like to incorporate what's going on with myself at any given moment into my characters to add realism. If one of them suddenly gags and explains, "Backwash," odds are I have just experienced it myself while writing. My characters hiccup, they burp and fart, they lose their train of thought, they get each other's names wrong just like the rest of us. My female characters menstruate, my males experience wet dreams, they may wake up feeling aroused and masturbate--often without forethought from me. I allow moments to happen just as they do in real life. I've even had characters trying to get over colds for no other reason related to the story than the fact that people catch colds. My basic story ideas are loose, and the characters live and breathe and flow around them, so sex does occur. people may call it gratuitous, and to that I say, "You're welcome."

Gordon Dymowski: Part of this is actively cultivating relationships/friendships with queer, poly- and other forms of sexuality. That helps me write more rounded, full-blooded characters with nuance. (Plus, it helps me avoid cliches and create a more diverse range of characters). I also try to discuss the implications/experiences of those characters (great example - look at how Jonathan Kellerman writes Milo Sturgis, a queer cop in Los Angeles).

Bobby Nash: Sex is part of life so it stands to reason that sex is a part of my characters lives as well. That doesn't mean I expose their sex life. As with all writing, step one is get to know your character. That includes knowing if your character is straight, gay, poly, etc. Even though it is not the focus of the story, knowing the character helps define the character's response to questions and situations. As a writer, I want to be as true to the characters as I can.

Bill Craig: I try to not go into too much detail, especially when readers imaginations can make it better for them.

Hilaire Barch: I usually imply sexuality with dialogue and body language, but only if it matters to the story. (Does a character flirt? W/whom? Etc).

Nicholas Ahlhelm: I don't like to hide romantic relationships. I think it's an important part of genre fiction. It's not a feature in every story I've ever written, but I think it's essential to treat human beings like human beings, complete with different backgrounds and choices. Characters come in multiple races, genders, and histories I don't want to shy away from, and the same goes for sexual orientation. I really hate to use terminology however, so I usually let the character's attractions speak for themselves in the story.

John Linwood Grant: I can't say it crops up too often, but not because it bothers me writing about it. It's rarely integral to my tales, and so detailed descriptions would fall into the same category as describing every step of making a meal or going to the toilet - they're also both crucial aspects of life, but if they don't make the story move on or impart something important to the reader, why dwell?

Lucy Blue: Ooh, I may be the wrong writer to ask about this. Because I think the single biggest flaw in alternative worlds writing, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all their progeny, is the prissy, puritanical, and/or barely-pubescent way these stories handle sexuality and sexual relationships. Writers who can describe the live evisceration of Brownie scouts or the rising of a tentacled moon over a distant planet suddenly turn completely terrified and tone deaf when faced with even the suggestion of physical attraction between their characters. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large, no sex, bad sex, or cartoon sex is so much the norm that most of us who write criticism about these genres dismiss any grown-up, straightforward portrayal of relationships within the story as romance -- the literal kiss of death. And I don't see why this has to be. What are we afraid of? People thrown together in high tension situations make connections; if it makes sense for the characters and there's room in the story, why not? If the relationship isn't the focus of the story, I won't put in a lengthy, explicit sex scene. But I won't half-ass or avoid it either.

Anna Grace Carpenter: With all the sex! Hah. Kidding (sort of). But I always like writing about relationships so I tend to show all of them as much as possible within the framework of the story. I find the more personal the characterization, the more real the story feels. And few things are as personal as who we love and how we express that as humans.

Susan H. Roddey: It depends on the situation in the story. Sex is a natural part of than life (I mean come on...procreation and all), but not all instances require the reader to be under the sheets. If your market is raw erotica, then by all means...let the reader smell it. It's a natural part of life so I don't draw unnecessary attention to it unless it becomes an integral part of the story. People are who they are, and sex doesn't define them.

Where do you fall on the spectrum of actually writing characters engaging, ahem, each other -- keep it subtle and just imply it happens, cut away to rain or fireworks like in 1940s movies, or go full coverage for a play by play? Or does it change from story to story? How do you determine where to draw the line, if at all?

Nicholas Ahlhelm: It depends quite a bit on what market I'm writing for and what characters I'm writing in the story. If I'm writing a superhero story I'm trying to make suitable for most readers, the sex is implied. If I'm writing an urban fantasy novel where one character is an actual succubus, it's anything but implied. Most of my works fall somewhere in between in that spectrum, but it's completely project based for me.

Kristi Morgan: I think it depends a lot on who your targeted audience is. With YA you have to be careful to just hint and leave it up to the imagination for the most part. But I don't think its something that needs to be ignored. Prude doesn't work.

Bobby Nash: For the most part, I show very little active sex in my novels because sex is not the main focus of the story. I will show characters at the beginning and/or the end of sex and let the reader's imagination fill in the blanks, which I've discovered works well and makes the scenes more steamy to the reader because he or she is bringing in their own sexuality to the story. Now, if I were writing a story where sex was the point or a big plot point, I might be inclined to show more. I play it by ear and show what is right for the story.

James P. Nettles III: Depends on the target audience -- and the genre, but most of mine is off-screen. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell the fight scenes from the love scenes- slipping everywhere, the clash of bodies, exotic tools for the job.

Susan H. Roddey: Most of the sex I write is less explicit and meant to help develop characters emotionally. Giving two characters that intimate connection builds a bond between them. In most cases, it also gives them a weakness. If they're emotionally invested, the reader is better able to relate. Sometimes my writing does tend toward the erotic, but only when the situation calls for it, and I choose those situations VERY carefully.

Frank Fradella: I'm a "pan over to the fireplace" kind of guy unless I'm specifically writing erotica.

Anna Grace Carpenter: It depends on the overall tone of the story. My general (and personal) rule is that if the violence is graphic, the sex is explicit/detailed. If the other “adult” aspects of a story (violence, language) are more subdued so are the physical interactions. But sometimes sex is such an integral part of the character arcs that I might spend more time on it. (In addition to being a mostly universal human experience, there is a metaphorical quality about it in fiction that is hard to pass up – especially with characters who are strong, silent types.)

Ellie Raine: For me, I go on a case-by-case basis, as far as "where to draw the line" and "How to address it". I did a story for a Hookerpunk anthology about Succubi, and sex in that, I felt, was better served by adding the steamy details. Though, in my fantasy series, I don't usually show the scenes themselves up front. Usually for those, I make it more romantic and describe the foreplay and amp up the emotions involved, then classily end right at the moment of contact. I'll probably have a different approach with the next story as well, but for some stories, I don't think sex is even necessary to make it a dynamic work. It really just depends on each story individually.

Derrick Ferguson: Like so much else in my writing, I just tend to go with my gut when it comes to writing about sex. I'm not as good at describing sex as I am describing action so when I do have sex scenes I tend to keep them brief and to the point. In my Dillon stories and novels, I give the reader just enough to know that my boy is ready to get it on and then I cut away to the billowing curtains and the fireplace. In my "Madness of Frankenstein" novel and my current "Diamondback" serial running on my Patreon page, the sex scenes are a bit more graphic, nasty and brutal. But that's because I'm writing about nasty, brutal people and the nasty, brutal sex just seemed to fit.

Gordon Dymowski: I tend to focus on the feelings/emotions rather than the mechanics. Having written two relatively steamy scenes (for AKA THE SINNER - COVER OF NIGHT, "Crossing McCausland" for TALL PULP and "Out There In the Night" for LES VAMPS), I find that it's much easier for me to write implicit than explicit sex. (Plus, it allows the reader to create the scene mentally - if they see a softcore-Cinemax-film-at-2:00-am-with-soft-jazz in their heads, that's cool; if they see hardcore pornography, that's cool as well).

Neen Edwards: Just my opinion as both a writer and a reader: I'm not big on stories revolving around sex. I'm okay with the writer insinuating something is about to happen and go on to the next scene or a brief description of what's going on. A good example of what I'm okay with would be work by Sherrilyn Kenyon. As much as I like Laurel K. Hamilton, I actually stopped reading her books because her plots seem to be revolved around sex. As a writer, I'll go where the story takes me. My characters have a mind of their own.

Bill Craig: It really depends on the book. A writer friend told me that the best love scenes got him aroused while writing...

B.C. Bell: I try to show the character's sexual attraction before and after the sex, and through dialogue, but much like a forties director I tend to focus the camera on the wall during the real event. The danger of a sexless character is that they aren't real, and the reader knows that. One reason Conan and Tarzan have a long shelf-life is that they liked women when other characters didn't. P.S. One of the first pulp stories I ever read climaxed (pardon the pun) with the hero touching a breast. Upon growing up I found that to be extremely silly.

Hilaire Barch: I range from implied, fade to black, to the whole detailed play by play. The genre and target audience often are considered on exactly how much I show. In addition, do I WANT the sex to be front and center or simply something that happens.

Ian Totten: It all depends on the story and characters. For some (such as my trilogy) one of the main characters is very sensual by nature and I only have to touch on the subject. Others, it needs to be more in-depth. I have one with teens where they do it as a way to bond to each other. Being that they're teens I have to attempt keeping it "clean" and go into their emotions during the act rather than explicit action. For someone like a serial killer, there's no emotion on their part and it is written fairly black and white with atmosphere and actions. One I'm working on now, because of the subject matter, will be mostly implied.

Allan Kemp: I wrote a lot of explicit sex scenes in my early stories, but then after I got it out of my system (no pun intended) I scaled it back to where I only do sex scenes if they move the story forward. And sex can move the plot forward just as a fight scene or a chase scene. I also like when sex is implied rather than a detailed tab A into slot B explanation. The stuff people imagine will always be wilder than what I write on the page.

Danielle Procter Piper: How graphic I get with sexual encounters depends on the story. In a short humorous horror story I wrote for a collection, the scene is so brief and sanitized I've had readers tell me it's too bad the two main characters didn't have sex... but they did! Not graphic enough! My sci-fi is famous for its graphic sex, violence, and language, so skirting it almost feels like a let-down, but I'll merely imply it if a well-developed, graphic scene would detract too much from the storyline. How characters react to each other in a sexual moment can tell the reader more about who they are. It definitely adds depth. I have a goody-two-shoes type who seems to get swept up in moments once in a great while, but who also exhibits his playful/naughty side, always paired with compassion for his lover. I have a hard-hitting, world-weary bruiser with an exceptional soft side due to the fact he is also telepathic and can feel what his partner feels--so doing everything his partner desires as they think it heightens the experience for him, doubling his own pleasure while marking him one hell of a lover. Then there's the guy who screws anything that isn't nailed down without consent...the character my readers tell me they love to hate. He's just... Mr. Experiment, push everything to its limits, no holds barred... but draws the line at minors. Their sexual identities are as unique as they are, and if the scene calls for some graphic content, I'm going to drag my readers in deep.

John Bruening: Working on the second novel in a series that will probably span five books altogether. So far, it's been nothing more than the suggestion of a mutual attraction between two co-workers. The relationship is going to progress, but exactly how far and in what way is hard to say at the moment. Whatever happens, I'm fairly certain that what generally happens behind closed doors in real life will remain behind closed doors in the stories. (Hey, we're talking about the 1930s and '40s. People were pretty private and discreet about such things in those days.)

Let's talk about the dangers of writing or not writing sex in contemporary novels. What are the potential pitfalls when you turn up the steam and write erotically? What about the other side... what are the risks if you choose to write about a world where sex is practically nonexistent or ignored? Does a happy medium alleviate those risks (from both sides) or not?

Anna Grace Carpenter: One of the first short stories I sold (a contemporary piece of flash fiction) focused on the moments right before a married couple gets down for some “make-up” sex. And although I didn't use any “naughty words” nearly half the comments on the story referred to it as porn. (There may have been a finger in someone's mouth, but… well. It was a story about reuniting.) Anyway. Right then I knew there was always going to be a risk in portraying a relationship realistically. And I also knew that story wouldn't carry the same weight if I had been more subtle. So, for me, it's always a question of “How real do I want to be?” And then, “Am I willing to lose readers over this scene or plot point?”

Gordon Dymowski: I don't worry about writing sex scenes in my stories because most of the time, my stories don't involve sex. Dealing with different sexual orientation, however, is a different matter...and one that I'm still trying to master.

Danielle Procter Piper: The only "danger" I've encountered with writing sex scenes is running into people who like to throw around the phrase "gratuitous sex". Let me let you in on a little secret... some of the most upstanding, beloved, Bible-thumping people you've ever met are likely into some of the weirdest, wildest, freakiest stuff you've ever heard of, but it's often no more than a fondness for particular types of pornography, and is not something they want getting out about them. Call my sex scenes gratuitous and I'll smirk, wondering just how much you really loved them. I suppose another drawback is over-exciting myself. Is that a drawback? I think it just smokes the scene up further. The reverse, writing stories sans sex, is readers coming up to me winking and smirking to tell me which characters they think should hook up. "Oh, I know it's not that kind of a story, but if you could, you know, maybe a little -- "sentence ends in a giggle fit. I think this is exactly why so much fan-fiction seems to involve characters hooking up even if the pairing seems unlikely in its original form. We all like to fantasize. We like to find the character most like ourselves and pair them with the characters we're most sexually attracted to. My fantasy novel is sex-free. It contains flirting and characters teasing each other about liking each other but goes no further. I wanted to write it as a children's book with themes kids encounter without getting too involved in them. To my dismay, younger audiences seem to prefer my sci-fi.

Nicholas Ahlhelm: I think in contemporary fiction it's very strange to pretend it does not. Some of the most popular books on the market today are either erotica or have heavy erotic elements. Sex should at least be a reality. I'm not saying it's essential to every work obviously, just as romance is not. But trying to write in a way where they're ignored completely feels more like science fiction than any story grounded in reality. The question of how detailed to get I think again should be based on the audience in the writer's head or even the writer as his own audience. I do think there are limits based on genre. I think most urban fantasy readers would be pissed if you cut away before anything happens for example. So the happy medium probably must be based on what you're writing rather than a nebulous point for all or most fiction.

Bill Craig: Donald Hamilton was a master getting it started, cutting away and coming back to the damage done to clothing during the throws of passion. Robert Parker, on the other hand, sometimes when over the top is describing Spenser's athletic sexcapades. It depends on both the writer, the book and the characters involved.

Susan H. Roddey: Society seems to be both more open to and more wary of sex. A happy medium is a good place to start, but how I begin will define the audience you collect. You can't please everyone, so I personally don't try. At this point, most people who read my romance know what they're in for going into it.

Hilaire Barch: I've read books w/o sex -- plenty of them. I've written a story or two w/o sex or romance. The stories weren't served by it. Now, larger tales, at least in my opinion, seem to ask for at least an element of attraction or romance even if no sex ever happens. If we look at our world, most living creatures spend an awfully large chunk of time pursuing mating of some sort. So, the more time, so to speak, we spend with characters, the more I as a reader or author, expect a natural response from the character -- i.e experiencing attraction or desire.

I don't worry about whether someone will have apoplexy over my characters getting it on the elevator ( a real scene I wrote LOL), or if the genders or races or sexualities expressed are the norm. That said, there will ALWAYS be people who don't like it, and as a writer, you have to understand that you can't take that sort of criticism personally.

Bobby Nash: There is always a danger of scaring off a potential reader by writing something they find rude or offensive. When my first novel, EVIL WAYS came out, I was terrified that my mother would read it. There's a scene where the killer does something a bit, well let's just call it pervy and inappropriate. I was really worried about my mom reading that. After she read it, she did comment on the scene, but not how I had expected. She said it made perfect sense for the character to have done that and thought I should have done a little bit more with it to amp up his creepiness factor. The lesson is, never underestimate your audience. Tell the best story you can and see what happens.

How can giving your characters a sex life improve your ability to create more authentic characters and tell stories about them? Or is that not necessary for your work?

Bobby Nash: Sex is a part of life. If I want my characters to be alive, then that is part of it. In what I write, it is rarely the focus, but there are times when I feel the need to focus in on it. On those occasions, I let the characters lead me where we need to go and do what's best for the story.

Bill Craig: Unless it propels the story forward, it is not a necessary plot device. However, in my first Mitch Cooper mystery, there is a lot of chemistry between Cooper and the lady he is trying to find and rescue and they discuss his theories on cosmic sex at the end, leading the reader to figure out exactly what the theories were...

Hilaire Barch: The more characters interact in a realistic, human way, the closer to them we feel. Does Jill like Mr. Tall Dark and boring, or the homely but fascinating inventor? Who Jill picks tells us about her. How she treats a paramour gives us more information. Yes, the same can be done w/o sex or romance, but it's fun built-in conflict (Because what two lovers agree on everything all the time forever and always?)

Anna Grace Carpenter: People interacting with each other drives the majority of what I write. When they do it naked the focus on who they are comes into even sharper detail. Do they make jokes? Are they super-serious? Do they cuddle afterward to try and make the connection and the moment last? Or is it really just a momentary distraction? And a sex life is not the only way to reveal these insights, so for some stories, it's not necessary, but it can be very revealing (and not just because the butt cheeks and body hair are all out in the open on the page). So for me, it tends to add that final polish to the character and helps me ground them in a common experience even if the way they behave is not the way my readers do.

Danielle Procter Piper: As I mentioned, how characters behave during sexual encounters adds another layer of depth to them, making them seem more real, therefore easier to relate to. Sex is actually integral to my sci-fi series, but it wouldn't work in my fantasy story because it's simply not a necessary aspect. I have to bring the realism out of my fantasy characters by putting them in other situations where weakness and vulnerability are pitted against cruelty and strength. The closest thing to sex in that story are encounters with a vampire, and those scenes are meant to remind us of moments when we were manipulated by someone more sophisticated into doing things we weren't yet ready for as juveniles.

Gordon Dymowski: Understanding my character's sexuality helps me create better, more well-rounded characters....but sometimes, leaving intimate moments on the cutting-room floor means a better story. Portraying sex in fiction is like portraying violence - if it fits and makes sense, great, but I don't feel the need to force it in order to sell the sizzle over the steak.

Nicholas Ahlhelm: It completely depends on how much I want to flesh out a character. A lead should probably at least have some reference to it in a full-length novel that features any romantic entanglements. It can be used to develop relationships, mindsets or pretty much other character traits. For me, it's another tool in the character development toolbox.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nugget #113 -- Build a House

If you want to change the world as a writer, write great stories
that change people. If you want to change the world through
activism, go build someone a house, march in a parade, or
work a crisis hotline. If you want to do both, do both,
but don’t confuse storytelling with activism.

By No machine-readable author provided. Simonlo~commonswiki
assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided.
Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

[Link] How to Write your Book Fast

by Clara Ryanne Heart

Does this sound familiar at all? You get a great idea for a book. But between the rest of your responsibilities and taking care of any spontaneous problems that might arise, your great idea ends up taking longer to finish than you wanted. You pound away at the keyboard for what feels like forever, only to see a dismally small gain in word count at the end of the day. Between research, marketing, engaging, and planning, the day simply slips away from you. Then the week. Before you know it, a month has gone by and you're still not as far along with your book as you want to be. You want to be able to write your book fast, but you just can't seem to get there.

Here are a few things you can do to help speed up the process, make the most out of the writing time you have, and write your book fast.

Have a basic plan in place.

There is nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank screen, knowing you have a great idea for a story, but unable to figure out where to start. Having at least a simple plan can help with this. Even if all you do is list out four or five major plot points, those plot points can be used as a roadmap to help guide you to where you want to go. For many of us, myself included, trying to plot out the entire book can be daunting — especially for those of us who like the book to unfold as we write. Detailed outlines can sometimes feel as though they suck the creative process dry. Use only as many plot points as you need.

Read the full article:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

[Link] Plot twist ideas: 7 examples and tips for twists

by Now Novel

A good plot twist adds intrigue, suspense or surprise to a novel. Plot twists are particularly popular in suspense-heavy novels such as murder mysteries, because they prolong suspense-creating questions about cause and identity. Read 7 examples of effective plot twists and what they teach us:

First, a brief plot twist definition

A plot twist is ‘an unexpected development in a book, film, television programme’ (Oxford English Dictionary).

Plot twists are particularly popular in short stories. In many stories they are the main event of the story arc. For example, in Roald Dahl’s classic short story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, Mary Maloney kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. The dark-humoured twist is that Mary serves detectives investigating her husband’s disappearance the evidence.

Authors like O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe perfected the art of the ‘twist-in-the-tale’ story. In these stories, the plot twist (like in Dahl’s story) is the climax. Yet plot twists are also popular in longer narratives.

Here are seven plot twist tips and ideas...

Read the full article:

Friday, December 1, 2017

You might need a Guardian Angel

Got a difficult to buy for teen?  Do they like action?  If so, you might want a Guardian Angel.

When Major Davian, the most decorated soldier in the guardian angel military, is sent to earth to guard seven-year-old Tommy O'Connor, he thinks the assignment is beneath him. However, he soon discovers three alarming and critical facts.

  • The fate of both Davian's world and Earth is tied to Tommy's life.
  • The demonic forces his people have been fighting are intent on possessing the boy.
  • A prophecy most of Davian's people have forgotten indicates that the existence of the child will coincide with the rise of a traitor who will take over Davian's homeland.

Davian is torn between protecting Tommy at all costs and preventing the conspiracy of his fellow soldiers to seize power.

The spiritual forces of legend are massing for war. The elite warriors of the Guardian Angels must act quickly to save those they protect and prepare for combat with their demonic enemies in the third great Battle for the City of Ezzer.


The prophecy Davian's people had forgotten has been fulfilled; Elysia is now slave to a tyrant. His mercenaries, the dreaded Black Guard, kill at will, casting a shadow of terror wherever they tread. Elysia's enemies, the mornachts, have overrun Earth, and the human child prophesied to rid evil from both worlds may not survive their attacks-or impending world war.

Elysia's only hope for freedom lies in Davian. Once a decorated officer, Davian now roams Elysia's outskirts as an escaped fugitive. Armed with only a stolen sword, he and three loyal soldiers vow to somehow return to Elysia through a wilderness full of mornachts, Black Guard, and a nameless evil that slithers in the darkness, watching Davian's every move. For Davian to succeed, he must gather an army and somehow convince the neutral races of dragons, unicorns, and gnomes to help him along the way. The closer Davian gets to Elysia, the more one thought haunts him: To free his countrymen, he must betray his country.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What Are You Thankful For, Writer?

As we head into a holiday season that ranks high on the thankfulness meter, let's take this next Writer Roundtable to be thankful. What or whom are you most thankful for this year as a writer?

Lucy Blue: The space and agency to keep doing it. I might not be making big bucks, but I can write whatever I want however I want, and I have as much power to compete in the marketplace as I have energy and will to keep trying. So yeah, very grateful.

Derrick Ferguson: This past year I came into contact with so many people who have enjoyed my stories and even been influenced and excited enough by them to write their own stories and create their own characters. This past year has shown me that something I've heard most of my life is true; you never know how your actions will influence the actions of others and in turn how they will continue to influence others. This past year has shown me a lot about the spiritual side of writing, something I think I got away from for a while there. Thankfully, I'm getting it back.

J.H. Glaze: My full time writing gig.

Rory Hayfield-Husbands: The feedback I've got from members of my writing group and friends. Without them I would have been more unsure of my own skills but with their encouragement I'm starting to realise what I can do to fix problems.

Gordon Dymowski: The fact that I'm stretching myself in terms of what I write (both length and subject matter) and that I'm actually finding myself enjoying the process more.

Michael Woods: My team and my friends.

Martheus Wade: To be able to have the opportunity to write on a national level one more time.

Bobby Nash: This has not been an easy year, either personally or professionally, but especially on a personal level so being thankful hasn't been as easy as in the past. That said, I am thankful that my Dad's knee replacement went well and he is on the mend. I am thankful that I am here to help take care of him in the wake of my mom's passing and his surgery. It's not easy at times, but I am thankful that I can be here for him and my brother. I am tired but thankful to be here where I am needed.

Matt Hiebert: Spellchekker.

Scott McCullar: This year, I am thankful for the chance to revive my THRILL SEEKER COMICS series with the release of the archive collecting my very first stories. I am thankful for those Kickstarter supporters who contributed to the campaign and who helped successfully make a dream project come true. I just received the books fresh from the printer and they will be going out this next week in the mail to readers and fans. I appreciate the support from family, friends, and readers. I am also thankful for Erik Burnham for being my editor and encouraging me along the way. As a writer, I am also thankful this year that this revival sparked the chance for me to return to writing and drawing after an absence. I’m currently writing and illustrating new comic book stories and webstrips that will debut in the New Year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nugget #112 -- Doc Savage and Oprah Agree

Well-crafted visceral storytelling can reach every kind
of reader, from the Oprah book club zombie to the Doc
Savage collector. After all, even literary readers enjoy
a little gut clench with their cerebral exercise.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

[Link] Story plots: 7 tips to be more original

Clichéd story plots weaken an otherwise good story, a story where characters and settings are vivid. To tell a story that feels original and inventive, it’s key to learn plot clichés to avoid. Yet many original stories do use common tropes. The key is to make famous story types and scenarios your own:

1: Know common plot clichés within your genre

In story plots, clichés are frustrating because they’ve been hollowed out of their dramatic impact through overuse. Dragons that go on rampages overpopulate fantasy worlds. Women in distress who need men to save them overpopulate romance novels.

Here are a few more common plot clichés:

  • The chosen one: A character has been selected for a task but there’s no backstory or explanation why only this person in particular is capable
  • It was all a dream: Strange things happen but turn out to be dreams (often solving plot complications a little too conveniently for the author)
  • Representative of another culture gives clueless protagonist profound wisdom: Another example of a common plot cliché, especially in books from earlier times that either romanticized indigenous people or portrayed them as savages (this example courtesy of Strange Horizons)
  • In each of these examples, there is either a cop-out or an overused trope (a ‘trope’ is a literary device that occurs across multiple novels by various authors).

In the first example, there is nothing to explain what is so special about ‘the chosen one’. J.K. Rowling avoids the cliché of ‘the chosen one’ in Harry Potter by giving Harry a past link to the villain that explains exactly why it is he in particular who must fulfill the challenge.

In the ‘it was all a dream’ plot, there is always a risk of a cop-out. The revelation that characters have been dreaming can seem too trite or tidy an explanation for bizarre or puzzling events.

The third example is a plot point rather than an entire story idea. But it tells something valuable about being original: It’s better (for creative as well as political reasons) not to simply repeat received, dominant ideas. Stereotypes are the footmen of unoriginal stories and dangerous politics. The ‘exotic’ foreigner (or indigenous other) is likely to be just as full of flaws and folly as a protagonist.

Read the full article:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The 9th book in The Pampered Pets Mystery Series is now available!

The Pampered Pets Mysteries, Book 9 
Don't wait to get your paws on it! 

"Such a cute series!" - Polished Nails and Puppy Dog Tales blog

Lights! Camera! Murder!

A star-studded fundraiser to help provide service dogs for wounded warriors sets tongues wagging...about Caro Lamont, pet therapist to the stars.

Caro's ex-husband Geoffrey is spreading rumors about her competence and snuggling up to the biggest stars, including Purple - the temperamental diva, who's the lynchpin of the celebrity line-up. All too soon, Caro is losing clients, her reputation, and patience with Geoffrey's shenanigans.

More trouble is unleashed when the high-strung headliner is found dead and Geoffrey was seen leaving her hotel room. With a potential killer on the loose, Caro is hounded by questions about who had reason to want Purple out of the picture. Though all the evidence points to her ex, Caro believes the police are on the wrong trail.

Even if her sleuthing puts her in the doghouse with Detective Judd Malone, Caro must dig up the truth before the real killer gets away with murder.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nugget #111 -- Writers Are Anythings Writing Anybodies

The good news is that you don’t have to be White, Black, 
Latino, Asian, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Trans, etc. 
to write a greater diversity of characters. You can be an 
anything and still write an anybody. Why? Because 
you’re a writer. It’s the nature of what you do. Period.

By Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic from Windsor, Canada
(This morning we caught a rainbow...) [CC BY 2.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons