Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…MARK BOUSQUET

Derrick Ferguson: We haven’t done one of these in years so we have to get the obligatory introductory stuff outta the way: Who is Mark Bousquet and why are you being interviewed here?

Mark Bousquet:  I was tempted to go back and grab whatever I wrote for an introduction to the last time we did that and just paste it here, but I suppose that would be cheating, eh? Who I am is a writer. Why I’m being interviewed here is because I’m a published writer.

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As we do this interview in mid-2019, I’ve recently relaunched my Gunfighter Gothic series in six new shiny editions, and just released THE MASKS OF SATURDAY MORNING, which is the first Spooky Lemon Mystery.

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

MB: I’m as Assistant Teaching Professor at Syracuse University, teaching writing. Not the fun writing that we’re gonna talk about in this interview, but the obligatory writing classes that students are forced to take. I try to make it fun and try to open up the student’s eyes as to what “writing” is: it’s not just the 5-paragraph research or opinion essays they likely got burned out on in high school. I try to give them assignments that have them create visual projects like comic books or infographics and “beyond writing” projects like podcasts and documentaries, where writing is a tool to get you to the end product.

I’ve recently moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, so I’ll be looking at a 2-hour commute to and from work this fall. That sounds rough, but the nice thing about teaching college is that I’ll be able to work from home 2 or 3 days each week.

DF: How’s Darwin doing these days? What is he up to?

MB: Darwin is still going strong. He’s 12 and a half years old now, and while he can be an old man inside, he’s still his old energetic puppy dog self when we’re outside. Moving to a new city means everything is new to him and he loves little more than going someplace new. We’ve got a nice public park that we walk in most mornings that always gets his day started right.

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DF: You’re still writing but it seems as if your output has decreased. Why is that?

MB: A combination of factors. My current job is way more intensive than my previous jobs, so there’s less time to write, and I found that when I made time to sit down, the stories just weren’t flowing like they used to. Some of that was because the job was leaving my brain extra tired, but it was also because I didn’t know who I was as a writer, anymore. I got myself into trouble by creating series instead of stand-alone stories and so even in creating something new, I was adding another brick onto my back, committing me to writing some future project. I needed to take some time to clear the decks and while that’s an ongoing process, I feel good about putting an editing shine to the Gunfighter Gothic books.

I’ll write more Gunfighter Gothic stories but it’s also good, as is. I haven’t left anyone hanging. I need to do the same for ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE and STUFFED ANIMALS FOR HIRE, two kids’ series that each have 2 books published but need to have a third to close those stories off.

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DF: In what direction do you see your writing career going?

MB:  A greater balance between writing things that I’ll publish through Space Buggy Press and submissions to outside presses. I like having the control over a project that Space Buggy affords me, but I also like to be challenged by trying to write for different editors and publications.

DF: You wrote some of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read. Why did you stop? And are you ever going to start writing them again?

MB: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say! I stopped because it was taking up too much of my writing time. When I was really cranking out the reviews, I was living in a new city, with only a few friends, no social life to speak of, and no car. I spent most of my time between walking Darwin and working. I didn’t have cable. I was doing Netflix by mail. So I had enough time to write creatively and write reviews and do some travel writing, but as the workload increased, as I bought a car, and entered into a fantastic relationship, there just wasn’t the time to produce the same amount of words. Something had to give and it was writing reviews. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to writing them full-time, but I still love talking about movies and TV shows.

DF: Speaking of movies, what are some of your favorite movies you’ve seen in 2019 so far?

MB:  With the move, I haven’t watched as many movies this year as I normally do and I don’t have any lesser-known gems to herald. In fact, looking at the Top 50 films of 2019 through mid-July, I’ve only seen seven of them: “Avengers: Endgame” (loved it), “Captain Marvel” (liked it), “John Wick 3” (liked it), “Shazam” (blah), “Godzilla: King of Monsters” (loved it), “Alita: Battle Angel” (awful), and “Fighting with My Family” (pleasant enough).

I have spent more time reading for fun this year than I have in recent years. I’ve just worked through a run of Robert Parker (Pale Kings and Princes), Ace Atkins (The Redeemers), Clive Cussler (The Chase), Ace Atkins writing as Robert Parker (Lullaby), and I’m currently reading Jo Nesbo’s The Devil’s Star.

These were not random choices. Between February and a week or so ago, I binged all 20 seasons of “Midsomer Murders”, which is the kind of detective show that’s cozy instead of hard-boiled. I got the idea that I wanted to write a cozy mystery set in Middle Earth but as I started to develop that idea, I realized that I already had a main cozy character in Spooky Lemon. I also had a novel finished that had been sitting on my computer for years. When I started self-publishing, I let too many books out too quickly but in recent years, I’ve held on to them too long, tinkering endlessly with them.

I decided to get Spooky out and work on that as my cozy and then take that other character and keep it in a fantasy setting, but write it more like a crime novel than a cozy mystery. I devoured the Robert Parker Spenser books as a teenager, so I started there and reread Pale Kings and Princes (I chose it for the simple fact that it was the oldest Spenser book my local library had on the shelves). Then I read Ace Atkins’ The Redeemers because I knew he’d written a bunch of Spenser novels. Then I took The Chase off of my shelf to read Clive Cussler’s historical pulp before coming to Lullaby, to see how Atkins adapted his style to Parker’s Spenser universe. And now I’m reading Nesbo, for a touch of non-American crime.

I noticed several things that have helped inform me about my current WIP. For instance, in the Spenser novels, the focus is always on Spenser. Atkins doesn’t put that weight on Quinn Colson, and in Redeemers, he spends nearly as much time with the bad guys as he does his main character. Cussler spends the bulk of his time with Isaac Bell, but isn’t afraid to leave him out of chapters and spend time with the bad guys and (to a lesser extent) secondary characters. Atkins’ Spenser book is written in the Parker mold — in other words, it’s not Ace Atkins’ take on Spenser, it’s Atkins channeling Parker’s take.

Who to spend time with is a critical decision because it will inform what kind of crime book you’re writing. In the Colson and Bell stories, there is no mystery, at all. We know who the bad guys are. And the main characters quickly figure out who the bad guys are, too. They might not have all the pieces to the puzzle, but they can see what the puzzle is gonna look like when it’s finished. They aren’t mysteries, at all. They’re pursuits. (With a healthy dash of subplots about the protagonists’ personal lives thrown in, too.) With the Spenser stories, there is a mystery to solve, but the emphasis isn’t on solving the crime nearly as much as it is simply hanging out with Spenser and Hawk and Susan. There’s a case to solve, but I’m always amazed how much time is devoted to following Spenser doing ordinary things: making dinner, sitting in his car on a stakeout, talking with Susan, driving around Boston.

The treatment of the protagonists’ masculinity was also telling. Spenser is completely comfortable with who he is. Colson knows who he is, but isn’t entirely comfortable with it. Isaac Bell is almost comically old school masculine. Nesbo’s Harry Hole is an emotional and physical wreck.

The same goes for the style of prose: Parker is quick and light. Cussler drowns in historical detail. Nesbo is as much literary as he is case-focused. Atkins sits somewhere in the middle, writing a contemporary western inside William Faulkner’s South.

With all this swirling in my head, I sat down to bring my character to life. All I really had was an idea for an opening scene. I knew how the scene would start (“A number of years ago, a green-skinned man walked out of the Wilds to stand before the King.”) and I knew how it would end (“The green man said, ‘I want to be a cop.'”). But that was it. I didn’t know what else would happen and I didn’t know what kind of story he would be in, but I kinda thought I wanted to do a “fantasy western.” But I wasn’t sure.

So I sat down and churned out 2,500 words to find out. I lost the character’s cozy first name (Aldous) and gained a more western name (Bridger). I came up with a basic plot. I gave him deputies and a witch for a pathologist. I built him a world to work in that’s more Scandinavian than Deadwood. I think I know that I want to write a crime story that’s more mystery than pursuit, but I also want to spend time away from the main character.

I think.

But that’s what the first draft is for, ain’t it?

DF: What are you working on now?

MB: The Sheriff Bridger Skunk fantasy crime book is where I’m living at the laptop most, but I’m also plotting out the second Spooky Lemon mystery in journals and working through the details of the long-promised World War II book, BLACK RHINOS.

DF: Can we expect to see more of AMERICAN HERCULES?

MB: Yes, but not as the stand-alone episodes that I published last time. I’ll finish off the modern spin on Hercules’ labors as individual episodes, but I’ll just release them all in one collection instead of dropping them one at a time.

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DF: Do you have any more children’s books planned?

MB:  I’ve been trying to write the follow-up to THE BEAR AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS for a good two years and can’t seem to settle on a story that I like, so that’s back-burnered at the moment. I would like to get one kids book out in time for Christmas, but whether it will be the sequel to BEAR or an ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE book or STUFFED ANIMALS FOR HIRE book, I can’t say. I’m hoping one of those stories grabs me and demands to be written.

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DF: What can we expect to see from Mark Bousquet in 2019?

MB: I don’t know if I’ll have another novel published this year, but I’ll be writing like mad behind the scenes.

I’d like to do more travel writing, too, but even working on 4 – 6 hours of sleep a night, there’s only so much time in the day.

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DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Mark Bousquet like?

MB: I used to be the kind of writer who did his best work between midnight and 4 AM, but now my best work seems to come in the 6 AM to Whenever I Take Darwin For a Walk AM or late afternoon. So, it’s usually get up around 6, write, go for a hike with Darwin, breakfast, work stuff, lunch work stuff, errands, reading or writing, dinner, reading or writing, and spend as much time with the partner as possible.

That’ll change once the fall semester starts up again, but for now, I’ve got time to write and I’m taking advantage of it.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Mark Bousquet: ‘ve got a website at themarkbousquet.com where people can sign up for my free newsletters: one for my kids work and another for my genre work. Signing up for each of them gets people a free digital novel as thanks.

I think that covers it! Thanks, Derrick!

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Kickin The Willy Bobo With…LUCAS GARRETT

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Derrick Ferguson: It has been a really long time since we’ve done this so we have to bring folks up to speed. Let’s start off with The Basics: Who is Lucas Garrett? Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

Lucas Garrett: I am a 40-year-old Marine Corps veteran with over twenty years of experience in the security industry, and one year of experience in building engineering. I currently reside in the Lawrenceville, Georgia area where I have lived for close to 9 years. I am a security professional working in the Midtown Atlanta area for a notable security company for the last 8 years.

My personal interests include all things pulp fiction (anything considered Classic Pulp and New Pulp), superhero comic books and movies, action flicks. I am an Afrofunk, Steamfunk, and Cyberfunk book collector. I highly recommend Dark Universe by Milton Davis and Gene Peterson.

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I love cutting edge science fiction books like “Killing Time” and “The Labyrinth Key,” television showsFringe” “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13” and movies like “Dark City”, “The Thirteenth Floor” and “The Matrix.”

I’m a fan of Tokusatsu series like Go Go Sentai Boukenger and Kamen Rider Black, and I love Mecha and mature anime series like Mobile Suit Gundam 0079, Guyver, and Golgo 13.

Most importantly, I look for crossovers found in various forms of literature, television shows, movies, cartoons, anime, and video games.

DF: You are an astoundingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic fan of Comic Books/Movies/Science Fiction/Classic Pulp/New Pulp/The Wold Newton Universe. How did your interest in all things fun and fantastic come from?

LG: My love of reading goes back to the sixth grade when I read Isaac Asimov’s “The Foundation”. That book did a lot to open my eyes to the imaginative worlds of literature and possible sciences on the horizon.

And I also had my love of superhero and action comics like Ron Fortier’s and Jeff Butler’s The Green Hornet comic book series for the now defunct NOW Comics line, as well as “Classic XMen” that reprinted old issues from Uncanny X-Men for Marvel Comics.

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I still remember when Nick Fury disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D. and Steve Rogers became Captain America again back in the late 1980s. And I remember when Bruce Wayne met Tim Drake after the tragic events of Death In The Family that saw the apparent death of Jason Todd and his mother at the hands of The Joker around the same time.

All of these characters and their stories helped to shaped my young mind.

And by the time Chris Claremont and Jim Lee revamped the X-Men in 1991 that many have come to remember and revere, I was all in.

And in 1992, I was introduced to Black Panther, the Warrior King of Wakanda, and member of The Avengers, when I saw his profile on one of the Marvel Comics trading cards my brothers and I collected in the early 1990s. And I found my hero. King of the most technologically advanced society on Earth in the Marvel 616 Universe. Yes, I was definitely all in.

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And I stayed in for 18 years.

I took my first hiatus from mainstream superhero comics around the time Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum concluded, and came back in 2010, for six years, with the release of Cable and X-Force. My current hiatus is in response to Nick Spencer’s Steve Rogers Captain America #1 and Ta Nehisi Coates run on Black Panther. You don’t make Steve Rogers a member of Hydra and you don’t turn Wakanda into Rwanda. Two big no-no’s in my book.

Now I just keep up with the latest shenanigans and story-arcs that are “so original and so edgy” from online articles that I read, and whatever praise or rants my friends post on Facebook and Instagram.

Nevertheless, there are three books that I consider required reading, and I highly recommend finding, if you want to understand the evolution of superhero comics: Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.

And it was around the time of the release of Planetary that I realized that there was more to the modern mythology I had been reading and watching. There were stories yet to be uncovered that led to the creation of the stories I grew to love.

And as time went by, I became aware of the Wold Newton Family and Wold Newton Universe initially through websites articles by Jess Nevins, that led me to the Philip Jose’ Farmer Wold Newton Universe website ran by Win Scott Eckert. The Wold Newton Family concept was developed by the late great science fiction writer, Philip Jose’ Farmer back in 1972 and 1973 when he wrote Tarzan Alive: The Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973).

The premise of this concept concerns the real-life exploits of the men who would inspire the fictional Lord of Apes and the Man of Bronze.

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And here’s the thing: these men were part of an illustrious family of heroes and villains descended from a group of noteworthy historical characters who happened to be riding in two carriages in Wold Newton, East Riding, Yorkshire, England on Friday, December 13, 1795, when a bizarre event occurred that would have lasting effects for the world of literature and popular fiction.

I went in depth in my last interview, however, I would much rather have new readers find and read these books than spoil them.

Trust me, for anyone who is a fan of fictional biographies, and television series like “The X Files”, The Pretender” and Heroes, and if they are a fan of crossovers, they owe it to themselves to read these two books, and then seek out other books in the Wold Newton series.

Part of the fun is the hunt for these books and seeing how they connect to one another. You will not be disappointed.

DF: You hit the lottery and win $100 million. What’s the one movie you would make and why?

LG: Planetary.

Because it’s long overdue. And the movie will shake things up a bit. However, it will need a director like Zack Snyder, Matthew Vaughn, or Christopher Nolan to make Planetary work on the big screen or small screen.

A lot of new directors and producers will find a lot in Planetary to be problematic from their point of view. They will not have the stomach for it.

And I would have the films stream on Amazon Prime or Google Play as a series of six 90-minute films. The scope of Planetary is too big to contain in the theaters. At least, for what I would do with that particular project. And I would have Warren Ellis and John Cassaday as Executive Producers on the film series.

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I even have my own fan casting for the film if it is ever made. You can find my fan cast on my Facebook page or in the Comics on Screen Facebook group.

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. and Hollywood would need to strike the iron while it’s hot. The actors I have chosen the project are not getting any younger. And the superhero comic movie bubble is bound to burst in the near future. Many don’t want to believe it, but it’s coming. That train will not be late. So, for now, it’s best to get out as much superhero live action content as possible. Because it will be on the decline sooner than many think.

DF: What are your favorite Comic Books; past and present.

LG: Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday remains my favorite comic book series of all-time, with the recent run of The Ultimates by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort, and the always on hiatus S.H.I.E.L.D. (2011) series by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver coming in as the second and third tier series I love to read. Right now, Mark Millar’s Prodigy series might be joining that exemplary group of excellent comic book series. The jury is still out. But it’s looking like it might be.

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DF: You’ve been reading Comic Books for a long time. What’s wrong with them? How can we fix them? And does the Comic Book industry as a whole have a future?

LG: To be frank, half-ass political posturing and pandering, and the need to reboot comic book universes are becoming the death nails for superhero comic book industry at the moment.

The writer’s personal political agenda should service the story, not the other way around, as it currently is. And right now, that’s a lot of comics these days. Furthermore, I don’t think that these writers actually care for the characters they are writing about.

And sadly, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. The current crop of writers and artists are riding the wave of outrage culture, and the bandwagon they are riding on has been losing traction and is about to go over a cliff. And instead of fixing the mess they started, they reboot.

That’s why I hate trends. And I hate to say it, but it needs to be allowed to go on until it’s no longer a thing. When the readers become completely immune to these trends, then matters will correct themselves. But we aren’t out the woods yet. We have a way to go before we are in the clear. But we will get there.

The future of comic book publishing resides with the independent publishers.

Disney is going to eventually shut down publishing at Marvel Comics, and Warner Bros. will follow suit with DC Comics. And it will happen in the next few years. It’s no longer profitable for Disney and WB to keep their comic book publishing divisions going. They are losing revenue yearly, and from a financial standpoint, it is better for Disney and Warner Bros. to maintain control of the licensing for their catalog of characters than to continue publishing comics that are being bought by retailers who are having a hard time selling those comics to readers at the price tags they are currently selling them at.

That’s why smart readers, like myself, wait for the trade paperbacks of the series that interest us.

DF: Why does it seem that the Comic Book industry and Hollywood has such a problem getting Classic Pulp right?

LG: It comes down to present day prejudicial mindsets about Classic Pulp.

Some of these mindsets are justified, while others border on juvenile.

There’s a rugged no-nonsense masculinity that Classic Pulp has that, for the most part, has little traction with current generation. Some get it, while others will not only not get it, but will refuse to even look at it.

Mostly, because if it hasn’t been a thing for the last forty years, then why bother looking at it? It’s a sad way of looking at pop culture enthusiasm, or lack thereof, but that’s the world we live in at the moment. And that’s why we had a Doc Savage film planned by Shane Black who had Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the actor who would have played Doc Savage, thinking that Doc Savage is a “weirdo.” Apparently, Shane Black and Dwayne Johnson don’t understand The Man of Bronze or the world he and his colleagues inhabit.

Therefore, what they can’t relate to, they lampoon. Because lampooning is allowed and encouraged. That seems to be acceptable behavior in Hollywood for some reason. Just look at the recent Sherlock Holmes film with Will Ferrell, The Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp, or The Green Hornet film with Seth Rogen. There’s definitely a pattern.

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DF: Do you think that New Pulp is doing a good job in terms of addressing issues of race, sexism and stereotypes that Classic Pulp gets criticized for?

LG: In my opinion, New Pulp is the avenger and saving grace of Classic Pulp, cleaning up the outdated customs, practices, and prejudices that gave birth to that genre, all the while providing more depth and gravitas to Classic Pulp. Especially when you look at anthology series like Black Pulp and Asian Pulp.

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People of color were more than racial stereotypes seen as either servants, savages, or nefarious. We were adventurers, explorers, inventors, detectives, soldiers, sailors, and spies. We were there when America and the world needed us. But very few back then were mindful or brave enough to translate real life heroism as pulp adventure fiction for the people to read. Finding a Black Pulp hero back then was like finding a needle in a field of haystacks. Good luck finding one.

These anthologies redress those issues and correctly brings them to light, and inspired the creation of Pulp heroes and adventurers who could have stood shoulder to shoulder with Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Shadow, The Spider, G-8, Operator #5, and Secret Agent X back in the Golden Age of the Pulps. No joke. I am very serious.

And some of the strong female characters I have read come from New Pulp. They are not to be underestimated. Do so at your own peril.

My advice to new readers is to search online for New Pulp books, read and enjoy these books, and go back and read the book series that made up Classic Pulp. And include international titles as well so that you understand the world of Classic Pulp. America wasn’t the only country producing pulps back then. France and Germany were big on pulp literature for a while before the Second World War.

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DF: Where do you see New Pulp right now? And where should it be going?

LG: New Pulp is in Phase 3 of its development. This is an important time for the genre and the movement that brought it into existence. Where it goes next is the key.

In order for New Pulp to thrive in the new age, New Pulp needs to expand into graphic novels, comic books, video games, and tabletop RPG’s. Continue to publishing amazing stories, however, the future of New Pulp will be boundless and have a lasting impact when it branches out into these markets.

And now is the best time to start this transition.

DF: I’m still waiting to see your name on a book/novel. Are you working on anything now? What are your plans (if any) for a writing career?

LG: Projects are in the incubation phase right now.

But it’s not over. Not by a longshot.

I’m working on something that combines my love of espionage pulp, spypunk, cyberpunk, Tokasatsu armored heroes and villains, and Mecha. And it will all be set twenty-five years from now.

It’s a Hail Mary opportunity. But it’s one I have to take. And it’s a story I have to write. Now I have to make the time to truly start and finish it. And that is why, other than sending Birthday greetings, and prayers for those in need, my time on social media will be limited substantially very soon.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Lucas Garrett like?

LG: Mostly working, there’s a lot of hours to go around at my worksite because someone either got fired, quit, or had to take medical leave for personal or family medical emergencies.

What free time I have is spent writing, editing, researching, and assembling Mecha plastic model kits for frame of reference, 111and Facebook. I’m about to use Facebook a lot less. It’s a time waster. As much as I love using it, that’s what it is.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Lucas Garrett:  I  think that about covers it.

You can check out my WordPress website: Luc’s Speculations – https://garrettluc.wordpress.com/ for my fan fiction head canon crossover theories and analysis. And like my writing, I need to post something new in the very near future.

And you can find me on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks again for interviewing me, Derrick. I appreciate your friendship and support.

 

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…TIMOTHY MAYER

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Derrick Ferguson: Who is Timothy Mayer?

Timothy Mayer: I’m a 61-year-old business owner, novelist, freelance writer, seeker of adventure, husband, father, former armored combat fighter, ex-chemist (or did I play one on TV?), former Zine publisher, past film society organizer, one-time saxophonist in a rock band, expert on obscure cinema, and did I miss anything?

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS that it is you do for a living?

TM: I live 35 klicks up the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia. I was sent here for my sins, but the place grew on me over the years. I list myself as a chemist for tax purposes because I formulated the resins my company sells.

DF: How would you describe your style of writing?

TM: Direct. I like to get into the plot right away. No reason for long, meandering openings. These days, the reader wants to know in the first sentence why he or she should buy the book.

DF: How long have you been writing?

TM: Professionally? For the past five years. As something I liked to do? Since I was 12.

DF: Have you found an audience yet? If so, how did you do it? If not, why haven’t you?

TM: I’m still working on that one. I think my Code Name Wolfgirl books are a step in the right direction. At least the letters I’ve received from the readers indicate it.

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DF: I would say you enjoy writing in a variety of genres. Do you agree?

TM: Definitely. I’ve written in noir mystery, science fiction, epic fantasy, post-apocalypse, and horror.

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DF: What keeps you motivated to write?

TM: The knowledge that I’ll be paid when I turn the work into the publisher

DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?

TM: I work on my yard, read, hike, hang out with some local friends, and read some more. I’m a big reader, always have been.

DF: What is the one novel or story that you would recommend to anyone who doesn’t know a thing about you or your work for them to start on?

TM: Wolf Mountain. It’s the first in a trilogy that I wrote two years ago. Charted on Amazon, too. I was hired to write a litRPG series and this one was the flag ship. I’d wanted to write that book for years. This was my excuse to do it.

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DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.

TM: Get it done. Nobody cares about your inner torment or lack of motivation. Grind that sucker out because you can’t edit a blank screen.

DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Timothy Mayer like?

TM: I get up, read the news, take care of whatever I need to do for my business, and then I hit the keys. I’ll go to a coffee shop, buy some java, plug in my ear buds and start to work. My goal is always to generate 5000 words a day when I’m working on a novel.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Timothy Mayer: Find someone who’ll pay you to write. Knowing that the green will be transferred to your bank account for something you wrote is a wonderful feeling. But don’t sell yourself short. Make sure you get your name on the work. It’s alright to play Casper the Friendly Ghostwriter at the beginning for peanuts, but you need to make decent coin to survive in this world.

Want to read Timothy’s stories? I sure hope so, otherwise I’ve put in a lot of work on this interview for nothing. Go HERE to peruse Timothy’s Amazon page.

You Say You Know I Have A Patreon Site But You Don’t Know If You Want To Be A Patron Of Mine? Is THAT What’s Troubling You?

I suppose that out of the many reasons that I’m not yet rich and famous, the fact that I’m notorious lousy at promotion is either #1 or #2. I seem to have this unreasonable faith/belief that those who want to find my work will find it, one way or another. That includes my Patreon site. And while you may know I have one you may not know exactly what content is available to you there and if it would be worth your time and money. Okay, we can take care of that right now and hopefully the information I’m about to impart to you will assist you in making an informed decision as to you becoming a Patron of mine or not.

Let’s start with the crown jewel of the lot, shall we? I always have a brand-new Dillon adventure serial running as the main attraction and the one currently going full steam is Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde. I beg your kind indulgence for a few minutes while I go into the backstory of this one:

Remember when the SyFy Channel was doing all those weird monster movies with outlandish creatures fighting each other? Like “Dinocroc Vs. Supergator”? “Piranaconda Vs. Frankenfish”? “MegaPython Vs. OctoShark”? Don’t front. You know you watched them. And if I can ‘fess up to watching them, you can. Anyway, I’m watching one of these movies one night with my wife and as I often do, I say; “I could write a better movie than that” And Patricia responded as she always does; “So why don’t you?”

And I did plan on doing one. I even had a title for it; “Flying Great White Shark Vs. Albino Amphibian White Tiger.” But outside of jotting down notes and characters sketches, I never got past the planning stages. One thing I did know that I wanted to have in the story was a mad scientist. And I wanted him to be black. I absolutely love mad scientists and since there were no great black mad scientists in popular fiction, I decided to create one in the grand tradition of Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing version, natch) and Dr. Fu Manchu. I would model his physical appearance, demeanor and voice on the Great, Great Man, William Marshall and in further tribute, name my mad scientist Dr. William Mamuwalde (students, fans and scholars of Blaxploitation will know where the Mamuwalde name comes from) Clear so far? Okay. We move on.

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The idea for “Flying Great White Shark Vs. Albino Amphibian White Tiger” stayed in my notebooks and subconscious for an obscenely long time, lemme tell you. The concept of Dr. Mamuwalde was one that wouldn’t go away and in my development of the character he gained a son who is a master of over 100 Martial Arts since because Dr. Mamuwalde was in part a homage to Dr. Fu Manchu then he needed a son who is a homage to Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. He also gained a nagging, shrewish, alcoholic wife always scheming behind her husband’s back to sell his inventions on the black market simply because the idea of a mad scientist with a nagging wife tickled the hell outta me.

But still, I just could not find the right story for Dr. Mamuwalde to make his debut. The problem was I was not happy with none of the protagonists for the story I had in mind. None of them were formidable enough to present a challenge to the character I conceived and I definitely wanted to have Dr. Mamuwalde to have a worthy challenge to his intellect and his talents. I knew I wanted to have a film crew stumble upon his island (in homage/tribute to 1933’s “King Kong”) but the characters that presented themselves to me didn’t turn my crank. They weren’t alive. They weren’t vital.

Until I happened to re-read “Dillon and The Bad Ass Belt Buckle.” One of the major characters in the story is Jenise Casile, an actress who has won an Academy Award and when Dillon meets her, she is in the middle of filming an epic science fiction trilogy directed by the eccentric director/producer Rigoberto Orr. Dillon and his partner Eli Creed have been hired to rescue Jenise from kidnappers and that’s all I’ll tell you about the story. You wanna know more, go read it.

Anyway, switches clicked in my brain and I realized that I could marry Jenise, Rigoberto and their current film project with my Dr. Mamuwalde character. In addition, by throwing Dillon in the mix I could satisfy my desire to have Dr. Mamuwalde go up against a foe worthy of him. And what better way for a character in my universe to make his debut by going toe-to-toe with Dillon?

There’s some other things thrown into the mix of the story such as Dr. Mamuwalde experimenting with African Cryptids which came out of when I had planned on doing “The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” as an “Island of Dr. Moreau” homage for the “Cryptid Clash” project my good buddy Josh Reynolds is associated with and briefly talked me into it. And yes…that most definitely is a whole other story.

But once I got Dr. Mamuwalde, Dillon, Jenise and Rigoberto and the whole idea of Dillon rescuing a film crew from a war zone where they were trying to shoot authentic footage and then finding themselves the captives in a “Dr. Moreau” like situation in my brain…everything just sorta fell into place. And this now concludes my long winded Behind The Scenes of Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde

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One Night in Denbrook is a work in progress going back to 2009. The origins of the story are mainly because I wanted to see if I could do a prose version of a 1980s Action Movie. That’s all. My aspirations as a writer on this particular piece really don’t go any further than trying to put a movie on paper. Most of you who have been following me for a while and know that I usually say that I consider myself a frustrated film director so One Night in Denbrook is my shot at writing a story visual as I possibly could, throwing in all kinds of off-the-wall characters and situations.

The plot is simple: Denbrook’s criminal element is hunting for the heart of Toulon The Magician, Denbrook’s #1 crime lord and one of the main characters of “Diamondback” Some characters who appear in Diamondback also appear in this one as the events of One Night in Denbrook take place about a year before the events of “Diamondback.” The heart of Toulon falls into the hands of one J. Cadwallander, a cab driver who turns out to have an eclectic and incredibly lethal skill set that no respectable cab driver should have and he spends one wild night trying to stay alive while everybody and their mother is trying to kill him for the heart.

The city of Denbrook was created by one of the most imaginative and creative writers I know. Mike McGee is flat out brilliant. That’s the best I can say about him. I truly appreciate the fact that he created the city of Denbrook and then just turned it over to a bunch of writers to use as we please.

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Shadows Over Cymande takes place in another city, one in South Carolina. And it’s something of an experiment as in this one I’m trying to mash-up my love of Soap Operas with a genre that I personally call The Little Town With A Big Secret. You know what I mean if I mention fictional towns such as Peyton Place, Collinsport and Twin Peaks. These are towns that on the surface seem like such happy, idyllic places to live and raise a family. But strangers come to each one of these towns and discover that they all have frightening, hair-raising subcultures and dark underworlds of crime, madness and even the supernatural.

In Shadows Over Cymande just such a stranger comes to Cymande in response to a very lucrative job offer. Alexandrea Ainsley thinks that Cymande is just another sleepy Southern town but she soon discovers it is home to two enormously wealthy and influential black families; the Jalmaris and the Redferns. Two families who have roots and rivalries going back to The Civil War and maybe even before then.

Growing up I got hooked on Soap Operas such as “All My Children” “One Life To Live” “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital” especially during that period in the 1980s when “General Hospital” was a batshit insane daily cliffhanging pulp adventure serial. And of course, I loved “Dark Shadows” which is without a doubt the greatest Soap Opera ever. I wanted to see if I could take the elements of the Soap Opera and throw in horror, science fiction, pulp, black humor/comedy and even vintage 1980s Grindhouse and see if I could make it work. Do I succeed? There’s only one way for you to find out.

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So that’s it. That’s what up there right now. From time to time I throw up a short story I dig out of my digital files just as a treat and from time to time I offer a freebie just for the fun of it. By all means, if there’s something I can do that would entice you to sign up and become a Patron of mine, by all means let me know here or by email: DerrickFerguson@gmail.com

And RIGHT HERE is the link that will take you directly to my Patreon page. There’s another link here somewhere right to the right but why aggravate you by making you look all over the joint for it?

As always, I thank you for your time and kind patience. Blessings on you, your household and all that live there and I’ll talk to you again soon.

 

Three More Examples of Today’s New Pulp

Hopefully you will have read my previous article where I presented three examples of what I consider to be prime examples of New Pulp in today’s popular media. You didn’t? Pfui. Don’t worry. I gotcha. Go here and check it out. I’ll go get myself a sandwich and a Coke while you do that.

You done? Cool. I can continue then. My purpose with these articles is to hopefully show  that the Pulp tradition never really went away and is alive and well. It’s just that the tropes of Pulp have been conscripted by Action Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction and many other genres. But there’s New Pulp aplenty all around. You just have to look for it:

CONGO: This is one of the most spectacular examples of New Pulp. And when I say spectacular I’m talking about the sheer audacity of the story which is primarily a jungle adventure with a diverse and eccentric band of explorers looking for The Lost City of Zinj and the diamond mines located there. It’s a strictly 1930’s plot successfully transplanted to the 1990’s and enhanced with modern day technology.

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The movie is directed by Frank Marshall, who frequently collaborated with Steven Spielberg and written by John Patrick Shanley. It’s based on the novel by Michael Crichton but take it from me, the movie is way better than the novel. Which is the case with most of Crichton’s novels. Probably because Crichton really wasn’t interested in characterization. Crichton was more interested in the technology and the effects of science going wrong. But CONGO is the stuff of Saturday afternoon cliffhangers way more than most of his other stuff and that’s what Marshall and Shanley wisely decided to focus on. ‘Cause trust me, this movie moves. There’s enough fights, captures, escapes, close shaves with death and breathtaking action to give Lester Dent on his best day a run for his money.

That’s not to say they throw out the technology entirely. One of Our Heroes is Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh) a primatologist who has taught a gorilla named Amy how to speak using sign language. Her sign language is translated into digital speech by means of a special backpack and glove. Peter decides to return her to Africa and is funded in this endeavor by Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry) a shady character who has led unsuccessful expeditions to Zinj in the past and thinks that Amy may be the key to this one being successful.

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Also joining the expedition is Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney) a communications expert who needs to get to the Congo to find her fiancé (Bruce Campbell) who was looking for a rare blue diamond that can only be found near volcanoes. Guess where the Lost City of Zinj just happens to be in the neighborhood of?

Along with The Great White Hunter Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson) And yes, I do know he’s black. But that’s how he always introduces himself and it leads to one of the movie’s funniest lines later on, they set off to find the Lost City of Zinj which is guarded by killer gorillas.

There’s no adequate way I can tell you just how much sheer fun CONGO is. Just let me say that if you don’t want to see a movie where Laura Linney is blasting away with a laser at killer gorillas while fleeing from an exploding volcano, then we obviously have nothing in common.

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DIRK PITT: Described by his creator, Clive Cussler as a modern day homage to Doc Savage, I’ve always admired Cussler’s unashamed love of Classic Pulp and his enthusiasm for it. A good case could be made that Cussler was writing New Pulp long before the title was ever coined. He’s certainly the most successful at it and the character of Dirk Pitt is by now as well-known as Doc Savage and James Bond, another fictional grandfather of Pitt’s.

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So far there have been 25 Dirk Pitt novels written. The last 8 Cussler co-wrote with his son Dirk. No mystery there who he was named after.

When it comes to branding Dirk Pitt as New Pulp one has only to check out a few of the novels to see that he comes by that legitimately. Despite working as marine engineer for the National Underwater and Marine Agency, in every novel Pitt finds himself battling megalomaniacal supervillains with world conquering schemes that would wring gasps of envy from Fu Manchu or Ernst Stavro Blofeld. In the course of his adventures Pitt has recovered Captain Nemo’s ‘Nautilus’, raised the ‘Titanic’, discovers the existence of a secret base on the moon, finds Atlantis, stops a plot by a race of genetic supermen to destroy civilization and create a Nazi empire… need I go on?

Dirk Pitt hasn’t had much success outside of the novels. He’s been in two movies so far. He was played by Richard Jordan in 1980’s RAISE THE TITANIC! which you should avoid as if it were Ebola.

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But 2005’s SAHARA with Matthew McConaughey as Pitt and Steve Zahn as his sidekick Al Giordino is way better and even though Cussler was very unhappy with the movie I think it’s a lot of fun and great Saturday afternoon entertainment. Only thing I can complain about it is that McConaughey and Penelope Cruz have zero chemistry together on screen.

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THE SIMPSONS Episode #150: “RAGING ABE SIMPSON AND HIS GRUMBLING GRANDSON IN ‘THE CURSE OF THE FLYING HELLFISH’”

Written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Jeffrey Lynch this is not only an hilarious SIMPSONS episode but an outstanding pulp action adventure story as well. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw an episode of an animated show where the plot hinged on Nazi art treasures and a tontine?

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We find out in this episode that Abraham J. Simpson was the commanding officer of “The Flying Hellfish”, a gung-ho infantry squad in WWII whose members included the fathers of Chief Clancy Wiggum, Seymour Skinner and Barney Gumble. The laziest and most cowardly member of the squad is Corporal Montgomery Burns.

During the final days of WWII, The Flying Hellfish take a German castle and discover it’s full of priceless artwork. Through quick talking, Burns convinces the others to enter into a tontine. Upon the death of the others, the treasure, now called The Hellfish Bonanza goes to the last survivor.

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Burns and Abe Simpson are the last two survivors and Burns hires Fernando Vidal, the world’s most devious assassin to kill Abe. Naturally pissed off by this, Abe, with the help of his grandson Bartholomew J. Simpson determines to go get the Hellfish Bonanza before Burns gets his hands on it.

From start to finish this is a delightful episode that plays out like a miniature summer action movie. And it’s downright touching how Bart and Abe bond together while on this wild treasure hunt and see Bart gain a new found respect for his grandfather who he had previously only thought to be a nutty old coot.

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That’s three more examples of New Pulp for you and I hope you enjoyed them. If any more occur to me, you’ll be the first to know. Peace!

From The “Making An Impression” File by Sean E. Ali

So, FINALLY, Tommy Hancock over at Pro Se has done his reveal of three author imprints where I got to do the initial logo designs…

The plan was to reveal them over the weekend at the convention that hosts the annual Pulp Factory Awards in Chicago.

Not that I’ve ever been, but I’ve won one to my complete surprise.

So the three authors involved with this part of the reveal were Kimberly RichardsonFrank Schildiner and my good friend and partner-in-virtual crime Derrick Ferguson. All three are authors in something called “New Pulp” but really that’s kind of a narrow definition of their particular brands of storytelling. All three are well regarded, they’re unique in their own rights, they all have their followings who eagerly await their latest projects and all of them have happened to be offered a chance to exercise their prodigious imaginations under their own brands with Pro Se.

And lucky me, I get to contribute by building the first part of that brand with these imprint logos…

So, though you’re probably not asking, how does that work? Well I’m glad you didn’t ask, let me tell you the intricate planning that went into each one of these and the meticulous work we in the independent publishing game go through to make our talent shine…

Last weekend, Tommy hits me up on Facebook with no warning whatsoever and says he needs some author imprint logos for this show in Chicago: “can you do it?” I ask for details because obviously I’m just getting to a party already in progress, and he kicks out the rough ideas for Kimberly and Frank…

…which, BTW, for a guy so full of ideas and stories and plans was woefully light on details just generalities, and he turns me loose after I inform him I’ll talk to Derrick who had already contacted me. Derrick and I do all our stuff more like a couple of guys shooting the breeze on the front stoop on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah we work, it’s just more of a relaxed thing where we kick back and chat and at some point we, usually accidentally, hit on the right thing. I love our process because when we do chop it up, I never fail to end our conversation without a smile at the end and at least two good belly laughs from the soul.

Which is pretty much how his brand POWER PLAY! was done. I, in the course of our discussion run an idea of what I’d like to use as his look and he shows me the very thing I had in mind, which in an odd bit of coincidence was sitting on his desk: a gold clenched fist with that 1960s/70s Soul Brother/grindhouse film vibe as the logo. In my head, what you see as the POWER PLAY! logo was a black light velveteen poster stuck to a ceiling between some mirror tiles with a fish net full of fake starfish.

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It was the 70s, you had to be there.

So he was easy and POWER PLAY! was done in one. There are colored variants and, as a last minute thing, I added the tag line “Old School New Pulp” which is what Derrick does. He’s got an updated Men’s Adventure/Action Hero/Thriller feel to a lot of his projects, so it felt right.

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Now Kimberly’s came with the most detail from Tommy. Crossed guns, gothic mansion, emboss this, something something that…

So I did that first and like an old “Men On Film” sketch: “Hated it!” It didn’t matter how many ways I crossed the 20 pistols I put together, none of them looked right. So instead I went to work on the manor house bit and abandoned the guns. Nice… but generic. The house was sitting on a cliff, so I pulled the cliff, threw in a really basic shield, colored it all black… better, but still needed something. I uncrossed the guns, used them as a frame and was there.

But then I wanted to make it hers. Any schmuck could build a lady a house but it needs to be HER house. So I took a look at the lady I was building the house for since I’ve never had the pleasure IRL or online of getting to know her. First thing I noticed, which is the first thing I notice about a lot of women in photos, were her eyes…

…that, kids was the hook, she’s got great eyes. I stared at those eyes and attempted to be as accurate as I could be despite simplifying them for an illustration. Stared at them for so long, I think I owe her dinner and one failed rom-com running through the airport scene. I tossed an oversized moon in the background added the eyes and I was in love…

…with the final product.

So PULP GOTHIC gave me the Lady of the House, a touch of Stephen King in the mansion, got the guns in and it all was an echo of the old paperbacks that used to come with the mapback covers telling you about the location of the story.

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Last, but not least, came Frank Schildiner. His was done first, I really didn’t like it but I took Tommy’s rough idea too literal. Frank and I aren’t online running buddies, but he and I enjoy decent fight techniques, he’s a martial artist and instructor (in addition to being an author) and I’m immensely impressed by his focus and skill. Unfortunately the logo I came up with didn’t really reflect Frank or his work. It was sort of a hero shot that reminded me of a rejected logo for the old fitness guru Jack LaLanne. It was passable, but it wasn’t Frank. As Friday rolled around I still wasn’t happy with it and it’s hard to put out something I’m not in love with as I send it out. Tommy’s looking for logos and I’m one short. But it was also something Tommy said that sparked an image early on: “Frank’s work goes everywhere.” The image that invoked was pure Jack “The King” Kirby. If you don’t know Jack and his work in changing the face of comics as we know them with Stan Lee…

…move out of that cave so I can get you some help.

So the image I came up with was a complete re-do which is inspired by guys like Kirby and the late Darwyn Cooke and we had something worthy of Frank in particular and his work in general.

And I FINALLY learned how to DIY the famous “Kirby Krackle”…

…yeah, whatever, it’s a big deal to me.

So SCHILDINER’S WORLDS final look is probably more due to Tommy’s summation of Frank’s work than anything else. I had the image in my head, but thought I had to do the other thing based on his explanation of what he said the look should be.

So I did what he said over what he asked.

I submitted both though, as I did with the manor only version of PULP GOTHIC, because you should give a guy options…

I’m glad he chose the ones he did.

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Bet you’re wondering where that planning aspect went that I mentioned at the start, right?

Tommy and I refer to this as the “Butch and Sundance”…

If you’ve ever seen how BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID ends for them, you’ll get it.

Sometimes we just have to take a leap, man…

So, if you follow these folks and missed Tommy’s press releases…

…big things are coming from some of your favorite folks…

Get ready to have your minds blown.

The rest of you, as you were…

…and move out of that cave so I can get you help.

Be good to yourselves and each other.

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…VALJEANNE JEFFERS

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been quite a while since we’ve done this so for the benefit of those who don’t know you (and shame on them!) who is Valjeanne Jeffers?

Valjeanne Jeffers: Greetings sweet readers and authors. I’m the author of nine books, including my most popular Immortal series and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective series, as well as one nonfiction book, The Story of Eve, which has only been published as articles. I also co-edited, with Quinton Veal, Scierogenous: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy (Volumes I and II). I’ve been published in a number of anthologies, including: The Bright Empire, Fitting In, Black Magic Women, Luminescent Threads, Sycorax’s Daughters and Blerdrotica (in press).

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DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do?

VJ: I live in Alabama and I work as a teacher and literary editor. I love editing because I get to read wonderful books, mostly speculative fiction, for free.

DF: So how has the writing thing been going for you since we last talked? You’ve been a busy young lady.

VJ: I wish everything went as smoothly as my writing. There are always marketing headaches when you’re an Indie author. Right now, I’m working on getting all of my books on Barnes & Nobel’s site, and ultimately into their physical stores. I’m hoping that this will be a game changer for my book sales.

DF: Is writing getting easier or harder? Have you made any major changes or adjustments in how you work, where your work or the hours that you work?

VJ: I have to balance my writing with my work schedule, and that part is easier since I now set my own hours. I’ve also found my voice and a ton of support from my writing circle, so I don’t doubt myself as much as I used to. We writers are quirky folks, and it has been so beautiful to find my niche among them.

Yet, writing a book, for me, is like starting journey where you have a general idea of your destination, and no idea how you’re going to get there. It’s like that for me every time. That’s the difficult part. In my latest novel, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III, I tackled some issues that were very close to home, and this too made it harder. But I can see my way to the conclusion of my latest journey.

DF: You’ve been doing this for a goodly amount of time now. Have you found your audience? Or have they found you?

VJ: I believe that I have found my audience. Yet a writer’s work is never done when it comes to discovering new readers. I’m working really hard on getting my books into brick and mortar stores and attending events where I can meet and greet folks. Also, cons and author signings are a lot of fun.

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DF: What are your thoughts on the role and direction of African-American Speculative Fiction written by Women of Color in the past five years?

VJ: I started this journey back in 2007. When I first began writing and reading the only black female authors I knew were: Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson. Since then, black women have made tremendous strides as authors, directors and filmmakers. I’m one of the contributing screenwriters for the “7Magpies” horror anthology film, spearheaded by producer and creator, Lucy Cruell. Lucy decided to bring together me, Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Linda D Addison, and Paula Ashe together as screenwriters to make this project happen, as well as several female directors, including Rae Dawn Chong. This film project has been in the works for a while, but hopefully we’ll see the finished product soon.

DF: I’ve noticed in the past few years you’ve been writing in the genre of Erotic Science Fiction which I didn’t know was a genre until I read some of your stories. Is this a genre we should all be reading?

VJ: I’ve co-edited Scierogenous I and II, and some of the writers in my circle write erotic science fiction, most notably Sumiko Saulson, Quinton Veal and Penelope Flynn. So, I believe that erotic science fiction may be ascending from sub-genre to full-fledged genre status. It ain’t for the faint of heart, but a lot of folks dig it.

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I have a mix-media approach to writing: I write horror, science fiction and fantasy and I adore them all. Derrick, you once referred to my writing style as imaginatively experimental and I love this description. Yet, I don’t consider myself to be an erotic writer. I think of myself as someone who writes stories and novels with erotic elements. Author Milton Davis, when I posed this question to him, told me that if I removed all of the erotic elements from my stories, they would still be solid stories. But, if folks describe me as a writer of erotica, that’s cool. Often, it’s your readers who define your work according to how it moves them. As a case in point, I didn’t consider myself to be a horror writer, until Sumiko Saulson included my Immortal series in “60 Black Women in Horror Fiction” (she has since updated this volume to include 100 writers). I was blown away! And so, I took on the cap of “horror writer” and ran with it. Now, my most popular series is Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, a horror/steamfunk series.

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DF: You are a highly prominent and respected female African-American Speculative Fiction writer. At least I think so. But where do you see your place on the field? What position do you hold?

VJ: I graciously accept both titles. I believe that I have reached the point in my writing career where I am both a well-known and respected author. But there are shoulders that I’ve stood on to reach this point in my writing journey, most notably Octavia Butler. Octavia has always been my writing mentor, although I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet her while she was alive. And she continues to inspire me.

Last summer at Blacktasticon 2018, I sat on a panel with some of the heaviest hitters in the black SF community, to discuss Octavia’s writing and the impact that she continues to have on speculative fiction. I was honored to sit beside them. So, as I writer I have arrived, but there’s still room for growth.

DF: What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?

VJ: Octavia Butler has the best recipe for overcoming writers block: “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” As writers, we have to keep it moving, even through creative slumps. It’s okay to take some time off, to step back and let things simmer for a while. But when I leave my characters for too long, they become strangers, and then I have to go through the process of reacquainting myself with them.

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Also, outlines work best for me, when I find myself writing in circles. Music too, is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. I’ve actually created scenes inspired by music. I once wrote a concluding action scene listening to “Rollin Crumblin” and another one listening to “Magic Carpet Ride.” And I listen to all genres of music depending on what mood I’m in: Jazz, Hip Hop, R&B, Blues and Rock.

Lately I’ve been listening to one of my favorite bands (just their music from the ‘70s) WAR

DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?

VJ: If I’m not writing I’m usually working or reading. I have three books on my kindle that I’m reading (Gerald Coleman’s “Plague of Shadows”, Joe Bonadonna’s “Mad Shadows II”, and Alan D. Jones’ “Blerd Tales”). I’m still working on reading stories from the anthologies I’ve been published in. I recently got my copy of The Bright Empire (edited by Milton Davis and Gene Peterson) and the first story I read was Balogun Ojetade’s “The Transmission of Aragomago;” it’s outstanding. I also just finished reading Nicole Kurtz’s story “Belly Talker” (from the Blacktasticon Anthology edited by Milton Davis) which is also off the chain. And I have a few favorite TV programs that I watch, or I try to catch a decent SF/fantasy movie.

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DF: Tell us about your upcoming projects. What can we look forward to from Valjeanne Jeffers in 2019?

VJ: I’m currently writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child. I should be finished by late Spring or early summer. And I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s novel based on my short story, “The Visitor” (which was very well received). But I won’t tackle this until I finish Mona Livelong III. Author and artist Penelope Flynn is releasing an anthology of erotic science science, Blerdrotica, and my story “Aura’s Awakening” will be included, and I am very excited about it.

DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers out there reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.

VJ: My advice to all new authors is read books in your genre, or just read. Read the authors you admire and don’t worry if your words don’t sound like theirs. Variety is the sugar and spice of life, so find your own voice and write! Once you put pen to paper, you are a writer, no matter what anyone says.

DF: What is the one story or novel of yours that you would recommend that we should start with?

VJ: If your taste is Fantasy/Afrofuturism with a dash of Horror start with Immortal. If you prefer your Horror/Steamfunk straight with no chaser, start with Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective: The Case of the Angry Ghost.

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DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Valjeanne Jeffers like?

VJ: Normally my days consist of writing, reading and playing with my grand babies – who are playing with my dog Caesar and my cat Cleo. I usually teach in the evenings, unless I’m editing a novel.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Valjeanne Jeffers: I’d like to thank you Derrick, pulp writer extraordinaire, for interviewing me! And I wish everyone love, peace and creativity.

You’re one click away from Valjeanne’s Amazon Page. Be sure to go check it out, y’hear?
Valjeanne is active on Facebook and Twitter so if you’d like to talk to her directly, start there.

 

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Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…Christofer Nigro

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Christofer Nigro and what are you all about?

Christofer Nigro: I am a humble Italian writer born and raised on the mean streets of a big city in New York State, but not fortunate enough for that big city to be the one that shares a name with the state itself and is associated with an apple and the Empire State Building. So, I’ve had to make do. Sometimes very opinionated, sometimes not funny when I try to be (okay, maybe more than just sometimes *sigh*), and always hoping to tell a good story. On pen and paper, or the modern digital equivalent thereof, that is.

I am a lifelong fan of the fantastic fiction genres, particularly those we all know as horror, sci-fi, fantasy, pulp adventure, superheroes, tokasatsu, and yes, crime noir. I have always been fascinated by the inherent subversive and larger than life nature of these genres. Hence, they are my own favorite way to tell stories, for imagining a more exciting and interesting variation of the world we live in, for pushing the limits of scientific and theological thinking; and ultimately, what they say about our culture’s vision of that which passes for heroism, villainy, the expected future, ideas of the past, what could be, and what actually is via the dynamic interplay of archetypes – some of them unique to the industrial age, others being  post-industrial versions of age-old epitomes. As in, the ancient world had Hercules and Thor, and we in the post-industrial era have Superman and Shazam. And we also still have Hercules and Thor! How awesome is that for the best of both worlds?

As such, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to add my own two or three cents to this literary mix. Hopefully, Wild Hunt Press will end up adding a silver dollars’ worth of that metaphorical currency. Stranger things have happened.

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

CN: I live in Buffalo, New York and I tell them I am running a business that I hope takes off like a business, but must have an accountant figure out what I owe nevertheless. Owing nothing is great, but that suggests you’re making next to nothing, which is not so great. I think you get the gist. I also take into account all freelance work I do, including the writing assignments I complete for other publishing companies which I get paid for, however meager said payments happen to be.

DF: How long have you been writing? And what is your motivation for writing?

CN: I have been attempting to write since I was five years old, when I stapled together a very crude little book about dinosaurs. My love of dinosaurs is reflected in much of my writing today. During my early elementary school years I attempted to put together horribly rendered comic books drawn into loose-leaf notebooks featuring various superheroes — I recall trying to do a “split book” featuring the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner, a concept of publication that always fascinated me but which has long since gone out of vogue – and one featuring Doc Savage, a classic pulp hero I came to know and become fascinated with due to the rather awesome black and white comic magazine version published by Marvel back in the day.

My first honest-to-goddess short story was one called “Evil of the Wolf Man,” which I penned in sixth grade, featuring some werewolf character whose identity I do not recall pitted against a vampiric villain I called Dr. Morbius. A name I shamelessly stole from Marvel’s vampiric anti-hero, I should fess up to. I remember being so proud of that story that I actually gave it to my grandmother to read and assess, not caring about all the explicit cuss words it had. To her credit, she read and evaluated it without making nary a complaint about all the expletives and f-bombs in the dialogue.

I wrote continuously through my high school and college years, finally getting a few things published locally in the late ‘90s when I published two editions of my college journal The Poet for academic credit (I majored in English during my second and successful attempt at obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree). It was no big deal in retrospect, to be honest, but it was one of those things that seemed big to an aspiring writer at the time.

My first official published work was a short story in Volume 8 of Black Coat Press’s annual Tales of the Shadowmen anthology in 2010 (featuring new tales of pulp heroes and villains from vintage French literature and cinema), and I will be forever grateful to Jean-Marc Lofficier for believing in me and giving me this first big break. Much as I am likewise grateful to Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press, Nicholas Ahlhelm of Pulp Empire, and the crew at Sirens Call Publications for giving me similar early breaks as a published author. And finally, the crew at Severed Press for publishing my first two novels.

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I am also forever indebted to Win Scott Eckert, Chuck Loridans, and other authors from the Wold Newton circle of successors to the groundbreaking work of the late, great Philip Jose Farmer for providing me with so much inspiration and the networking that eventually made it possible for me to get published.

What is my motivation? To achieve the type of immortality that most people crave, but usually attempt to achieve simply by passing on their DNA to a new generation of people bearing their surname. In the case of authors, we hope to pass on our ideas and psychic creations to successive generations. I also simply love doing it, I enjoy doing my best to make a difference and impact on the world via the written word, and I cannot think of a better form of hard work that is suited to me as an individual.

DF: What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

CN: Well, for one thing, I learned that I have a habit of making overly long sentences with a lack of finesse for brevity, which has driven some of my editors crazy at times. Which has in turn taught me to be very appreciative of their efforts and patience, which I like to think has been carried over to my own work as an editor.

I learned how important perseverance and determination are to human achievement, not to mention the requirement of having a thick skin for when the inevitable negative reviews and criticism of your work come in. Not to mention the rejections.  I always wondered if I could handle these things and learn the discipline required to be prolific and successful in this field. Sometimes I still wonder, but so far, so good, I like to say.

I also learned that, thankfully, I am capable of pushing myself to do things I enjoy doing, even when the going gets rough. I was stoked to discover this, considering how poorly motivated I am to do things that need to be done but which I am not quite so fond of doing. Like managing time, cleaning up the potato chip crumbs I left all over my carpet following a snack, and making those dentist appointments.

Most importantly, I also learned that there is indeed a field where being opinionated, having a lot to say about a lot of things, and providing a sounding board for my ideas is useful rather than counter-productive. Well, most of the time, anyway. These days we live in a world predominated by political correctness, so not all opinions are welcome. However, writers are supposed to be subversive, and supposed to make people think when they do not want to. It can be nice to know you are providing a service that society needs, even though it’s one they often do not want. That is part of the risk this particular field entails.

People have a strong psychological requirement of feeling needed. But they also like to feel wanted, and this is a field where you quickly learn you cannot have everything.

So, one thing you quickly find out about yourself with writing is whether you prefer to play it safe and simply be entertaining, which writers can certainly do to great success; or try to say something about the world we live in and hopefully do so in an entertaining way, which can be quite dangerous. Not only to society, but to you. So, in some ways, being a writer helps you test your mettle against the world around you and see how often you can get up again after being knocked down. Not to mention learning to struggle in a field that, contrary to popular outside belief, is notoriously difficult to make a good living from. This forces us to ask whether making a lot of money is truly the sole measure of accomplishment or success in the world we know.

DF: How much room in your head do you allow do you allow for critics and criticism?

CN: I try to leave quite a bit in there for that, because writers (and all creatives, of course) have to be prepared for a lot of serious criticism – both personally from friends and editors, and publicly via critics you do not know. In fact, you need to be prepared for a serious public drubbing at times. You quickly learn that this is not work for sissies, because you must leave yourself vulnerable and open to public scrutiny.

Are there times when I want to give up after I get the latest bad review or drubbing that is visible for all to see? Of course. Until several minutes of teeth gnashing pass and you realize these types of psychological beatings and public verbal floggings are a routine occupational hazard for writers. Much like carpal tunnel syndrome is.

Of course, there are different types of criticism, with varying degrees of value. Constructive criticism that is genuine is a blessing despite the pain involved in receiving it, because it can tell you what your specific weaknesses are in storytelling, and what you should work on to improve your craft.

Ironic criticism, i.e., light-hearted roasting, is also to be expected, and I think, useful. It teaches you to be humble and not to take things too seriously all the time. This is good for your ego, as it keeps you grounded and resistant to becoming too full of yourself for each success you may achieve.

Derogatory criticism, that which is clearly designed just to be nasty and make someone feel bad about themselves, is not helpful. However, it is also an occupational hazard you have to expect and learn to deal with when you put yourself out there like creatives do. For instance, when I get a negative review that simply says, “Do not buy this book! It was awful, and if you must read it, see if you can rent it or borrow it for free. But do not spend any money on it!” … and nothing other than that, they are not helping either you or their fellow readers understand why they are feeling that way, or what you, as a writer, may need to improve on. They are just taking jabs at you with no real point behind it except to vent over feeling they wasted their time and money on your work.

I also have a pet peeve for nitpickers, because I believe all readers should not expect any work to be perfect and without a few nits to pick, especially considering how writers already have to take a lot of criticism for often genuinely serious matters. Adding a few kicks to a flurry of punches can be perceived as adding insult to a bullet wound, even if that initial shot to the gut was necessary. Kicking a guy after he is already laying there in a pool of his own blood is arguably not particularly necessary.

And of course, there are some people who find it easier to be critical than to say positive things even if they honestly feel more positive than negative feedback was warranted. And there are those critics who feel it’s simply their job to tear things apart rather than to criticize in a balanced fashion. Then there are those who dislike what you wrote because they may have picked up your book with a specific set of expectations that you never intended to meet.

So, again, criticism is a thing a writer must be prepared for, and something he/she needs to steel him/herself against no matter how much it may sting or be the written equivalent of a kick to the diaphragm. I try to take the genuine constructive criticism to heart for the useful and necessary feedback it is, and inure myself against the nitpicking, pointless “venting” critiques, and outright mean-spirited attacks while taking the constructive criticism to heart in the proper spirit for which it was generously offered. It’s going to come, and you have to be ready for it, just as a construction worker needs to wear that metal safety helmet in preparation of getting hit on the noggin from a metal bolt dropped from a hundred feet up.

One important thing I try to keep in mind, which all writers must, is that it’s utterly impossible to please everyone. One thing you are likely to notice with your reviews is that the things which some readers hated about your story/book are precisely the things that others absolutely loved about it. What is “good” or “bad” is often very subjective, and readers have a variety of aesthetic and stylistic tastes.

This is why, as an editor and publisher, I try to accept all professionally rendered submissions even if they happen to have a style or method of storytelling that I do not personally like. Because I know its very likely many readers will indeed like the work, even if I and certain other readers may not.

DF: What’s with the obsession with The Wold Newton Universe?

CN: The idea of a shared universe where many characters and concepts created by a vast array of writers, illustrators, game designers, etc., co-exist side-by-side and can actually run into each other just as surely as you and I can in the world outside our window is fascinating to many. As is the idea of a world, an entire universe, that is shaped by the activities and consequences of this multitude of exceptional beings and events while still reasonably resembling the one we know (and sometimes love) is ripe for creative inspiration and ruminations on how much more interesting the world we live in could be if only this or that physical law was a bit laxer.

Which one of these many extraordinary personages may be related without anyone – including possibly their own creators or original writers – knowing about it? Which of them may have contributed actions that beget or aided and abetted the life story of another personage, or this or that significant event, recorded in disparate sources by other writers? What type of hidden world or sequence of events would result from the sum of their various actions, independent or otherwise, over the course of that secret history going on alongside an analogue of the one we know?

It takes a lot of overthinking, yes, and it’s certainly not for every writer or consumer of genre fiction. But for those of us who find it a useful and interesting mental exercise to conceive of such a world, it can be quite fun and creatively inspiring to dwell on. And yes, maybe even obsessive. I am certainly one of the guilty parties in that regard.

For many, the Wold Newton Universe was the Holy Grail that got the New Pulp Movement started in many ways. Or, at least those of us fascinated with para-scholarship that seeks out hidden connections dispersed throughout a huge number of sources, sometimes via a variety of creative mediums outside of prose, both intentional and perceived.

There are actually a lot of intentional and semi-intentional “Easter Eggs” in the form of cross-source references, some blatant and others subtle/merely implied, thrown into works intended to make connections to others. This includes sources composed by entirely different creative teams from a variety of eras. Seeking these little gems out and making further connections for inclusion in the overall tapestry of a shared universe is the basis of a literary methodology that Win Scott Eckert christened ‘creative mythography’ (I strongly believe it was Win who coined the term, but if I am misremembering, I have no problem with being corrected).

The Wold Newton Universe is specifically Win Scott Eckert’s extension of the shared pulp universe connections conceived by the great sci-fi and pulp adventure author Philip Jose Farmer, largely within his para-biographies Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, as well as further short stories, articles, and other works by PJF. This was primarily embodied in the Wold Newton Family, a group of famous pulp heroes and villains of yesteryear who were genetically connected as a result of a few horse-driven carriages of their ancestors being irradiated by the mysterious energies of a meteor that landed in a field located within Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England circa 1795 (hence, the name of both that lineage and the shared universe it occurred within). The Wold Newton Universe was further added to and extrapolated upon between the late 1990s and mid-2000s by the creative inspiration of Chuck Loridans with the original MONSTAAH site, Dennis Power with his Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe site, and numerous other dabblers contributing articles to these sites (including yours truly).

After several years, it was decided by Win that the term “Wold Newton Universe” should be reserved for PJF’s specific oeuvre of work, or those directly connected to it by his successors. This is because the term “Wold Newton” was derived from PJF’s work and was not entirely about crossovers, which the expanded view of the Wold Newton Universe became associated with. Win therefore differentiated the expanded shared universe that incorporated the numerous additions extrapolated from crossover refs that were well outside of PJF’s personal body of work as, appropriately enough, the Crossover Universe. He provided a timeline for the Crossover Universe, now officially coined as such, in two big great volumes of Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of The World, followed up by two additional and similarly impressive  authorized volumes of Crossover Expanded by Sean Levin.

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The idea of a shared universe where many characters and concepts created by a vast array of writers, illustrators, game designers, etc., co-exist side-by-side and can actually run into each other just as surely as you and I can in the world outside our window is fascinating to many. As is the idea of a world, an entire universe, that is shaped by the activities and consequences of this multitude of exceptional beings and events while still reasonably resembling the one we know (and sometimes love) is ripe for creative inspiration and ruminations on how much more interesting the world we live in could be if only this or that physical law was a bit more lax.

Which one of these many extraordinary personages may be related without anyone – including possibly their own creators or original writers – knowing about it? Which of them may have contributed actions that beget or aided and abetted the life story of another personage, or this or that significant event, recorded in disparate sources by other writers? What type of hidden world or sequence of events would result from the sum of their various actions, independent or otherwise, over the course of that secret history going on alongside an analogue of the one we know?

It takes a lot of overthinking, yes, and it’s certainly not for every writer or consumer of genre fiction. But for those of us who find it a useful and interesting mental exercise to conceive of such a world, it can be quite fun and creatively inspiring to dwell on. And yes, maybe even obsessive. I am certainly one of the guilty parties in that regard.

For many, the Wold Newton Universe was the Holy Grail that got the New Pulp Movement started in many ways. Or, at least those of us fascinated with para-scholarship that seeks out hidden connections dispersed throughout a huge number of sources, sometimes via a variety of creative mediums outside of prose, both intentional and perceived.

There are actually a lot of intentional and semi-intentional “Easter eggs” in the form of cross-source references, some blatant and others subtle/merely implied, thrown into works intended to make connections to others. This includes sources composed by entirely different creative teams from a variety of eras. Seeking these little gems out and making further connections for inclusion in the overall tapestry of a shared universe is the basis of a literary methodology that Win Scott Eckert christened creative mythography (I strongly believe it was Win who coined the term, but if I am misremembering, I have no problem with being corrected).

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The Wold Newton Universe is specifically Win Scott Eckert’s extension of the shared pulp universe connections conceived by the great sci-fi and pulp adventure author Philip Jose Farmer, largely within his para-biographies Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, as well as further short stories, articles, and other works by PJF. This was primarily embodied in the Wold Newton Family, a group of famous pulp heroes and villains of yesteryear who were genetically connected as a result of a few horse-driven carriages of their ancestors being irradiated by the mysterious energies of a meteor that landed in a field located within Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England circa 1795 (hence, the name of both that lineage and the shared universe it occurred within). The Wold Newton Universe was further added to and extrapolated upon between the late 1990s and mid-2000s by the creative inspiration of Chuck Loridans with the original MONSTAAH site, Dennis Power with his Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe site, and numerous other dabblers contributing articles to these sites (including yours truly).

After several years, it was decided by Win that the term “Wold Newton Universe” should be reserved for PJF’s specific oeuvre of work, or those directly connected to it by his successors. This is because the term “Wold Newton” was derived from PJF’s work and was not entirely about crossovers, which the expanded view of the Wold Newton Universe became associated with. Win therefore differentiated the expanded shared universe that incorporated the numerous additions extrapolated from crossover refs that were well outside of PJF’s personal body of work as, appropriately enough, the Crossover Universe. He provided a timeline for the Crossover Universe, now officially coined as such, in two big great volumes of Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of the World, followed up by two additional and similarly impressive authorized volumes of Crossovers Expanded by Sean Levin.

This is where the differentiation stands today, though of course many fans and creative mythographers are still in the habit of referring to the Crossover Universe as the “Wold Newton Universe” out of sheer habit, something I was guilty of a long time myself. But the current distinction is important to note.

And from there lies the genesis of the Wild Hunt Universe, as I call it. Back in the day, such an expansive concept as the Wold Newton Universe (before it became dis-entangled from what would eventually be called the Crossover Universe) obviously led to a host of disagreements and creative differences among numerous creative mythographers and pulp fiction fans as to what should or should not be included within its shared framework, and what might or might not appropriately fit into what was essentially a universe of pulp heroes/villains and monsters/horror heroes. The divide was crossed at many different lines, so many of us developed what back then we would call a “personal Wold Newton Universe,” whereas the one authorized by Win and his main fellow curators was often referred to as the “consensus Wold Newton Universe.”

Obviously, the expected creative differences, be they subtle or extensive, between such a large pool of authors and researchers resulted in a multitude of alternate variations of the Wold Newton Universe/Crossover Universe. Think of what Krona in the DC Universe did to create the Pre-Crisis Multiverse (before it was temporarily wiped out a few times and brought back again via Crisis after Crisis), only a lot less cosmic, and with we creative mythographers to blame for it rather than a rogue alien scientist.

Out of that cosmic catastrophe of creative conflicts came the Wild Hunt Universe. Among others. So, now we have another new multiverse. It’s getting crowded out there. Hence, while the Wild Hunt Universe is not the same as the Crossover Universe, it is a similar variation of it in that it is first and foremost a pulp hero and monster universe but may include or dispense of some elements known to exist in the Crossover Universe proper.

DF: Tell us about Wild Hunt Press.

CN: It is, plain and simple, my dream. I hope to one day make a living off my writing as do so many of us in this racket, and to help many other authors and artists do the same with an indie niche of my own in the field. One that is inundated with my way of doing things and building from there with the contributions of others.

Like many indie imprints, I hope to experiment and publish works that the big labels would deem “too risky” or “not commercial enough” and see what may actually click with the readers. As well as some publications that are not subject to the too-common PC rules of many other indie publishers. There is too much of that right now, as I see it. Sometimes you have to risk offending people to get them thinking, to expand boundaries, and to provide something new or a serious exchange of ideas; otherwise, no matter the quality of the work you publish, you end up fading into the crowd. Not that taking risks is necessarily the road to success, as that can break you as well as make you if all doesn’t go well, but part of the risk in doing something new is, well, taking these risks in the first place.

I will be focusing heavily on the genres I most like to read/view and write myself: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, tokasatsu, crime noir, and pulp adventure fiction. But I am hoping to expand into more experimental territory and play with other genres outside of the above from time to time and see what comes of it.

I will publish my own novels and single-author anthologies, those of others, and multi-author anthologies. Some of these works will be my own take on concepts others have published, and in other cases going in directions that no one has ever gone before. Hopefully.

DF: Tell us about The Warp Event Universe.

CN: This is distinct from the Wild Hunt Universe, which is essentially a pulp /monster/sci-fi universe, a similar variation on the Crossover Universe as noted above. In contrast, the Warp Event Universe will be an actual shared superhero universe. This will be an Earth whose history was very much like the world outside our window, save for a series of periodically occurring mysterious flashes of cosmic energy in the near-vicinity of the planet. They hit very localized areas across the globe, and when they do, the physical laws of that part of the universe changes so that what was previously improbable now becomes nightmarishly likely.

Many people caught in the energy surges of the Warp Events begin developing metahuman powers, on a world where they previously existed only in comic books or on film etc. Some of them change in cool and spectacular ways, others that are actually disturbing and even horrific. Certain animals caught in the Warp Events mutate into strange creatures; certain locales have a dimensional breach punched in time/space that permit access to other dimensions, with strange beings entering this reality from another… some of them may become heroes themselves, and others something decidedly different. And to top it off, exotic forms of technology that wouldn’t work previously suddenly become functional and viable – everything from suits of power-conferring armor, to plasma rifles, to sentient robots.

In short, a once more or less mundane Earth like our own suddenly becomes an amazing, much more interesting, and often outright terrifying place. The corporations and governments of the world respond accordingly, particularly the armed forces and various mercenary guilds, each hoping to study and exploit all of the above phenomena to their advantage. The various publications taking place in this shared universe will show the trials and tribulations of various individuals who are struggling to become heroes after ascending into metahumanity, or deciding to use their powers for very different purposes; or beings from beyond who suddenly gain access to this brave new world from another world; or simply striving to oppose or gain some measure of control over these forces.

The first two published novels in the Warp Event Universe, both written by me, are Centurion: Dark Genesis and Moonstalker: A Knight in Buffalo. Also taking place in the Warp Event Universe is my short story “An Un-Bear-Able Day in Cuyahoga” featuring my teen hero duo Moth Girl & Locust Lad, published in the multi-author superhero anthology The Good Fight 4: Homefront by Local Hero Press. They will soon get their own novel published by Wild Hunt Press.

Granted, the first batch of these heroes are teens, but all similarity between them ends beyond that. And future heroes and villains I have planned for the Warp Event Universe will not be limited to teens. One of them will be Ultimus, an adult who becomes the premiere superhero of  that world and respected by most for his genuine and inspiring nobility… but only because the public is unaware of his rather bizarre secret. Another will be Mr. Mystik, an otherworldly master of magick who enters the Warp Event Universe through a dimensional portal and attempts to protect the people of Earth from the various phenomena that has also bridged the gap between worlds… except that his system of ethics conflicts with that of the human race in some rather unsettling ways. And yes, a team featuring many of these heroes is also planned along the way.

For the record, Centurion is an emotionally troubled young teen who is suddenly beset with extraordinary powers due to being suffused in the energies of a local Warp Event. It’s his intention to become the type of hero he had always admired in the comic books, but the serious emotional scars he carries as a result of being a severely bullied social outcast causes him to lash out in ways that make him as great a menace as the Warp Event-spawned threats he tries to oppose.

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Moonstalker is another teen hero who inhabits the same city as Centurion but is without superhuman powers. Rather, he has extremely formidable martial arts training and other skills & various weaponry related to that, and he takes up the mantle of a ninja-like vigilante to launch a brutal one-man war against a dangerous street gang that seeks to rule Buffalo’s East Side. The only thing is, Moonstalker’s ego is every bit as large as his set of martial arts skills and he believes he can control the East Side in a more benevolent fashion than the gangs. And then there is the matter of the several copycat vigilantes who begin springing up in the wake of his reputation, along with the fact that the police want to take down Moonstalker as much as the street gang itself.

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DF: How difficult was it creating your own superhero universe?

CN: It was something I definitely had to do some planning on. Centurion and Moonstalker are actually updated versions of characters I created way back during my high school years, and I had written some short stories and dossiers featuring these early versions of the characters. I even published one story for each of them locally — one in my aforementioned college journal The Poet (where Moonstalker appeared under his original name of Nightstalker, before I became convinced that moniker was much too ‘taken”); and the Centurion story in the first issue of a long gone, locally published zine that was called The Rebel’s Advocate. The new versions are updated so their stories take place in the 2010s. So now, each will be able to make use of an incredible technological breakthrough known as cell phones, devices unavailable to their earlier versions.

As you may surmise, I have long wanted to put these characters into official publication, and it’s far past the time that it finally happened. There are many superhero universes in prose right now, with the various authors going in some wild directions, whereas others take a more traditional route. Will the Warp Universe stand out amongst this mighty crowd? I do not by any means consider myself a superior writer to the many awesome authors of superhero prose fiction contributing to the market right now (many of whom are terrific inspirations to me). However, I am hoping that the characters and universe under my pen and editorial hand provide something unique and special to that market, much as all the other superhero characters and universes guided by other authors and editors are providing their own unique offerings. Is there room for all of us? Well, it’s a mighty big multiverse out there, so I like to think so.

What I had to really think about is whether or not this shared universe would be united by a specific source that connected virtually every instance of metahuman powers and strange phenomena, as was the case with Marvel’s old New Universe experiment (remember that? I sure do!); or, would multiple fantastic phenomena that are oftentimes unconnected to each other form the backdrop, as with the Marvel Universe proper. I ultimately decided on the former, with the obvious hope that this universe thrives better than the one whose basic premise partially inspired it. However, the heroes of the Warp Event Universe will often be much more powerful than the likes of D.P.7 and Psi-Force from the New Universe, and a wider range of phenomena will erupt from the Warp Events, including other dimensional sentient beings, actual supernatural monsters, and truly advanced technology (including fully sentient machines).

I also had to ask myself this: Do I want characters who are essentially people first, and heroes second (as was most often the case in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe), thus providing good-intentioned albeit highly flawed individuals we can all relate to? Or, have a universe full of essentially noble and selfless heroes of the traditional sort that inspire us? I decided to go for both of the above, and everything in between and outside any definition of “hero” altogether. Secondly, do I go for a grim and gritty tone, or something more fun and light-hearted? I again opted for variance in accordance with varied taste among the readers, with Centurion and Moonstalker being grim and rather dark characters, but Moth Girl & Locust Lad being heroes whose exploits and overall tone puts the word “fun” back in the superhero genre.

DF: Tell us about DORIAN GRAY: DARKER SHADES

CN: This is a multi-author anthology designed to deal with what was, prior to Halloween 2018, a glaring omission in the world of gothic horror: the utter lack of original prose tales featuring Dorian Gray, one of the most intriguing and versatile characters (from a storytelling point of view) in the history of fantastic fiction. And certainly, Oscar Wilde’s greatest creation.

Dorian Gray has been featured in movies, TV shows, video games, comic books, an excellent audio series from Big Finish – but no original prose, save for a duplicate of the novel that features additional erotica so that some of his hornier fans no longer had to rely on their imagination to fill in the gaps (pun not intended, honest!). Other than that, we had a good number of novels and anthologies that featured alternate reality versions of Gray or stories inspired by the concept behind the character, but no original prose that continues the actual saga begun in “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

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This anthology rectifies that rather inexplicable oversight. It features contributions from some of the best authors in horror fiction today, including none other than Peter Rawlik, Micah Harris, and the legendary comic book writer T. Casey Brennan (his first officially published prose to my knowledge). And more, including a novella from yours truly, a new short story by Kevin Heim, and a short one act play (just call it a playlet) by playwright David MacDowell Blue. The volume tops off with an extensive Dorian Gray timeline chronicling his history in the Wild Hunt Universe, culled from numerous sources across all mediums, and it’s co-authored by Robert E. Wronski Jr. (who provided the framework) and moi (who provided a bunch of extrapolations to Rob’s work).

Oh, and for crossover fanatics, the various tales feature Dorian Gray meeting up with the likes of Dracula, Dr. Pretorius, Becky Sharp (of Vanity Fair), Carmilla (of Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic eponymous vampire novella), Richard Pickman of the classic Lovecraftian tale “Pickman’s Model,” and… well, you’ll see!

DF: Tell us about THE EXPERIMENT

CN: This is a linear, multi-author anthology of separate but interconnected stories that is the brainchild of author Zach Cole. It occurs in a reality distinct from the Wild Hunt or Warp Event Universes, as well as Zach’s Blue Moon Universe where the novels featuring his monster hunting werewolf Jeremy Walker and the heroic daikaiju Marugrah take place. But it’s definitely a horror universe, and when Zach gets around to giving it a name, I’ll let you know!

The initial framing story, penned by Zach, features a black ops bio-weapons program called Project Hydra that is sequestered in the notorious Area 51 military facility at Groom Lake, Nevada. Basically, this top-secret program had the goal of creating six distinct and ultra-deadly new lifeforms created by splicing various genetic combinations of some of Earth’s most dangerous predatory animals with strands of alien DNA recovered from a crashed spacecraft. The resulting Subjects were supposed to be under the control of the U.S. Armed Forces for use as biological weapons on the battlefield. Of course, as is often the case with such things, plans go horribly awry, all six of the Subjects break free from the base after first going on a bloody rampage inside of the facility itself, and promptly go their separate ways to find refuge throughout the hidden byways of Nevada (and even beyond the state’s borders, as you will see).

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What follows are short stories and novellas scribed by different authors, including Zach and yours truly, which chronicle the bloody havoc wreaked on the lives of different groups of unwary civilians who come into contact with each one of the monstrous Subjects of Project Hydra; along with the efforts of special task force units of armored soldiers sent from Area 51 to track down and neutralize the incredibly dangerous creatures. And it ends with a final framing tale co-authored by Zach and yours truly that shows the aftermath of these events, along with revealing the plans that the Area 51 bureaucracy have in dealing with the residual problems left over from Project Hydra.

This anthology features the debut of several new authors, and I am proud to provide them with an outlet for some of their first published work.

DF: So where does Wild Hunt Press go from here?

CN: I can only hope it will go where successful small indie publishing efforts go. Towards that end, I will continue to strive to do what indie publishers do best: bring experimental genre titles to readers, to help many new professionally qualified authors and artists get the big break they need and deserve, and to put my own stamp on it in the process. One of those tasks that sounds simple when described, but is actually not quite so simple in practice, of course. But here’s to the effort!

DF: What’s an average Day In The Life of Christofer Nigro like?

CN: Dealing with whatever life may throw at you, much like everyone else. More specifically for a typical day, a lot of reading (and trying to become faster at it!), listening to music, drinking coffee, Green tea, or soda (whichever I most have a fancy for that day), and doing my share of writing, editing, formatting, discussing project ideas with contributing authors and artists, and hopefully treating myself to a pizza on that particular day.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Christofer Nigro: One other major thing! Wild Hunt Press is honored to have a collusion with author/artist Zach Cole, the scribe of the A Jeremy Walker Thriller series, the mastermind behind Wild Hunt’s just published linear horror anthology The Experiment, and with more from him to come under the Wild Hunt imprint, including Legion: A Thriller, Lovecraft: A Kaiju Thriller, and new editions of his first kaiju and Jeremy Walker novels that comprise his Blue Moon Universe. As for the immediate present, The Titans’ Children, Zach’s newest novel in the saga of Jeremy Walker, monster hunting werewolf, and Marugrah, his heroic kaiju, is now on sale from Wild Hunt Press.

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