Category Archives: Guest Blogger

When the end is nigh, take another look at your characters’ “victory conditions”

JeMcK-col1-smallBy Juliet E McKenna

Preparing the ebook edition of the final volume of The Aldabreshin Compass set me thinking about the challenges I faced when writing this particular story as well as the wider questions which authors must answer when they’re wrapping up a multi-book series. Because there are some significant pitfalls to be wary of.

There’s a fine line to tread between ‘and they all (eventually) lived (more or less) happily ever after’ and ‘they all came full circle and hit the Reset Button’. The first can and arguably should be satisfactorily achieved, because ending a series with overall failure is hardly rewarding the reader for their time and commitment. On the other hand, hitting the Reset Button treats the reader just as badly, when an entire series ultimately fails the ‘So What?’ test. What was the point in following those characters through all that travelling, learning and struggle if nothing has really changed?

Quite apart from anything else, if your characters have been on a multi-volume journey, whether that’s literal or metaphorical, they’ve been planning for anticipated challenges as well as facing unforeseen threats. Surely they themselves will have changed? Real life, in fiction as well as in fact, is all about emotional growth and learning through experience. And the best fiction is always ultimately grounded in reality.

Which brings us to “victory conditions” which is an expression wargamers will be familiar with. If it’s new to you, it’s most satisfying when it’s far more complex than simply ‘beat the other guy and/or his army’. It can be ‘defeat a certain percentage of his army within a certain timescale’, like Napoleon at Waterloo needing to break the British army before the Prussians arrived. It can be ‘fight the other guy to a standstill’, like the Russians at Borodino who managed to mostly-not-lose-entirely rather than win that battle. That was still enough to mean Napoleon couldn’t force the Czar to surrender completely. Some games offer variations on victory conditions. We’ve been playing the tabletop Firefly game as a family recently, where winning the introductory scenario requires amassing a certain amount of credit and making two key allies. The longer scenarios for more experienced players have far trickier requirements for success.

In real life, as well as in gaming, and in fiction, victory conditions can change. Something I’ve seen time and again in martial arts is a shift in perspective once people attain their black belt. Starting out, every grading and each new coloured belt is generally seen as a rung on the ladder to that ultimate goal of black. That’s the summit of their ambition. However, by the time they’ve reached that level of experience, their understanding has usually developed so that they now recognise a First Dan grade isn’t anywhere near the end of their journey. Rather that achievement marks the point where they’ve laid a sufficiently solid foundation of skills and knowledge to appreciate the far deeper and more complete learning that’s still to come.

All this informs my writing. As the Aldabreshin Compass series begins with Southern Fire, the central character Kheda, warlord and absolute ruler of a tropical island realm, faces vicious invaders backed by brutal sorcery. In subsequent books, he realises that was merely the first of successive challenges stemming from all this upheaval. In Northern Storm, fighting magical fire with fire is not so easy when wizardry of any kind is forbidden in the Archipelago on pain of death. Add to that, in a feudal society full of rivalry and intrigue, there will always be those who’ll pursue their own, short-term advantage over and above any commitment to the greater good.

Such behaviour may be contemptible but those people can’t be ignored, by characters and authors alike. Turn your back and they’ll be sure to stab you between the shoulder blades. So keep your eye on them, and take a good hard look at their own victory conditions while you’re at it. Working out what they ultimately want may well show you the key to defeating them. Ideally achieving your own victory in ways that readers won’t be expecting at all, because the all-too-easily predictable end to a story is another writerly pitfall lurking at the end of a series.

Kheda’s journey is both literal and metaphorical throughout these books. He travels the length and breadth of the Archipelago as well as voyaging to an unknown land far beyond in Western Shore. Along the way, he meets new people and new ideas which profoundly alter his world view. he’s a very different person by the time Eastern Tide sweeps him back to more familiar waters. His personal victory conditions have become something very different indeed.

Northern Storm-smallWhile he’s doing all this, life for everyone else left behind goes on. All those people are still pursuing their own victory conditions. This highlights another fatal flaw of any ‘Hit the Reset Button’ conclusion. A realistic scenario will simply not allow for characters returning to easily slot back into holes and roles in other people’s lives which have been waiting for them, unfilled. Characters having to fight physically or emotionally to regain their former place can work but that’s another story.

Will Kheda achieve his new ambitions? You’ll have to read the books to find out. If you want to get a taste of these stories first, you can find the opening chapters via my website, along with some short stories about some of those characters getting on with their own lives while Kheda’s away.  https://www.julietemckenna.com/?page_id=1390

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author, living in the Cotswolds, UK. She has always been fascinated by myth and history, other worlds and other peoples. Her debut fantasy novel, The Thief’s Gamble, first of The Tales of Einarinn was published in 1999, followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence and The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution. Her fifteenth book, Defiant Peaks, concluded The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. She writes diverse shorter fiction ranging from stories for themed anthologies such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity and Tales from the Emerald Serpent to a handful of tales for Doctor Who, Torchwood and Warhammer 40k.  Exploring new opportunities in digital publishing she wrote a serial novella The Ties that Bind for Aethernet e-magazine and her Challoner, Murray and Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law short stories are now available in an ebook edition from Wizard’s Tower Press. She also reviews for web and print magazines and promotes SF&Fantasy by blogging, attending conventions and teaching creative writing. Learn more about all of this at www.julietemckenna.com

 

 

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How I Became a Publisher…Accidentally on Purpose

The Weird Wild West anthology from Espec Books rides into town in November looking like big trouble. Saddle up, pardner and discover strange, supernatural, otherworldly and downright weird adventures way out West from some of your favorite authors. Larry and I have a story in The Weird Wild West, so throughout November and December, we asked some of our author friends to prance their ponies over in this direction and share a few lines with us. Enjoy the blog posts—and then order the book please!

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

One of the things I swore I would never do was start my own press.

(Never make such claims. It is generally the most certain way to ensure that you eventually do whatever you say you’ll never do.)

Having worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years as a career taught me all the various headaches that come with publishing books. However, absorbing all that knowledge and doing virtually every job there is in the industry pretty much meant it was bound to happen eventually. At least I’d gathered a wealth of knowledge beforehand. Now I have only half as many mistakes to make on my own.

This doesn’t tell you how I became a publisher, though.

Earlier this year I ran my first Kickstarter. It was for a little personal project called Eternal Wanderings, a continuation of my Eternal Cycle series of Irish myth-based novels (you can learn more here if you are curious: https://kck.st/1tv0cq7) The campaign was successful and the book needed a brand, an imprint to serve as a foundation. Thus eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com) was born.

A few weeks after the campaign completed I received an email from my friend, Misty Massey. She remembered that I work for Dark Quest Books (www.darkquestbooks.com) and was hoping they would be interested in a project for which the original publisher had fallen through. That project was to become The Weird Wild West. Unfortunately Dark Quest had a full schedule through 2016 and Misty and her co-editors, Emily Lavin Leverett and Margaret S. McGraw, didn’t want to wait so long to see their vision become a reality.

(Yep…here comes the accidentally on purpose part…)

When I saw how disappointed they were I found myself saying…If you don’t mind taking a chance on a brand-new press, but with plenty of experience, eSpec Books could help you out.

We hashed out the particulars and the rest, as they say, is history!

Our editors did a fantastic job corralling high-quality authors for the project, such as R S Belcher (Six-Gun Tarot), Tonia Brown (Railroad!), Diana Pharoah Francis (Trace of Magic), John Hartness (Bubba the Monster Hunter), Jonathan Maberry (Code Zero), Gail Martin (Deadly Curiosities), Misty Massey (Mad Kestrel), and James Tuck (Blood and Bullets).

And, because we are optimistic that way, if we raise enough funds there will be a second volume, for which the editors already have commitments from Faith Hunter, Barb Hendee, Devon Monk, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Charles E. Gannon and Laura Anne Gilman.

But it’s not just about the known talent. Both eSpec Books and the editors are very dedicated to giving new authors a chance. To this end the first collection will have a minimum of four open submission slots, with two additional slots to be added if we hit the appropriate stretch goals. If we unlock a second volume, that will have open-submission slots as well.

BIOS

The Publisher

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books and has started her own press, eSpec Books.

Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (especbooks, damcphail or badassfaeries), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more visit www.especbooks.com, www.sidhenadaire.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.

 

The Editors

Misty Massey is the author of Mad Kestrel (Tor), a rollicking fantasy adventure of magic on the high seas, and Kestrel’s Voyages (Kindle DP), a set of stories following Captain Kestrel and her daring crew. Her short fiction has appeared in Rum and Runestones, Dragon’s Lure and The Big Bad II.  Misty is one of the featured writers on Magical Words (magicalwords.net). When she’s not writing, she studies Middle Eastern dance and performs with Mythos Tribal and Chimera. You can see more of what Misty’s up to at her website, mistymassey.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Emily Lavin Leverett is a fantasy, sci-fi, and (occasional) horror writer from North Carolina. Her works have appeared in Flash Fiction Online and Drafthorse: A Journal of Work and No Work, and will appear in Summer 2015 in Athena’s Daughters II from Silence in the Library. She also edits, with short story collections including The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil and Big Bad II with John Hartness, from Dark Oak Press.  She freelance edits as well. When not writing or editing, she also is a Professor of Medieval English Literature at a small college in Fayetteville. She teaches English literature including Chaucer and Shakespeare, as well as teaching composition and grammar.  Medieval studies, especially medieval romance, heavily influence her work. When neither writing nor teaching, she’s reading novels, short stories, and comic books or watching television and movies with her spouse and their cats.

Margaret S. McGraw’s writing includes the daily prompt-writing blog WritersSpark.com, several short stories currently in circulation for publication, and two novels in progress: Mira’s Children is a YA science fiction adventure, and OceanSong is a fantasy begun in the 2012 NaNoWriMo challenge. Her imagination draws on her lifelong love of science fiction, fantasy, and anthropology. Her education and experience range from anthropology and communication through web design and IT management. Margaret lives in North Carolina with her daughter and an array of cats, dogs, Macs and PCs, and too many unfinished craft projects. For more details on her writing, follow Margaret on Twitter @margaretsmcgraw or visit her daily blog at WritersSpark.com.

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eSpec Books interviews Keith R.A. DeCandido

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: https://amzn.com/1942990030 Now enjoy one of several interviews as our authors take you behind the scenes!

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eSpec Books interviews Keith R.A. DeCandido, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology, https://tiny.cc/SoGSoE.

eSB: What drew you to this project?
KRAD: Danielle Ackley-McPhail saying, “Wanna write a superhero story?” and me saying, “Sure!” I’ve been a huge fan of superhero stories since I saw Spider-Man show up on The Electric Company in the 1970s, and two of my first short story sales were superhero stories, as was my first novel.

eSB: Which side are you writing for?
KRAD: The villain side.

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?
KRAD: I’ve just always been taken by superhero stories. Seeing Spidey on children’s television led to reading the tie-in comic Spidey Super Stories, which led to reading more comics, and I just loved ’em. I love the notion of powers and what they do to change people, some for the better, some for the worse.

eSB: Please tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your story.
KRAD: I’ve written one novel and one short story so far in the world of Super City Police Department. SCPD is about the cops in a city filled with superheroes and all the nonsense they have to deal with. One of the bits in the first SCPD novel, The Case of the Claw, is about how the homicide detectives just hate when they find the body of the Clone Master, because another one always turns up later, and they waste time and effort investigating his death only to have him turn up again. When Dani came to me with the notion of TSoG/TSoE, I thought it might be cool to flesh the Clone Master out and delve into his particular brand of lunacy.

eSB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would it work?
KRAD: Flight. The closest I’ve come to unaided flight is when I went parasailing, and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

eSB: What would your weakness be and why?
KRAD: Why would I want a weakness? That’s just silly.

eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.
KRAD: Thin body armor that protects my entire body.

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
KRAD: Spider-Man, because he’s still a person who has to deal with the same nonsense as other people, and being a superhero not only doesn’t make it better, it often makes it worse. Plus, he’s someone who does whatever it takes to do the right thing regardless of personal consequences, even if the consequences are horrifically negative and those consequences only affect him. Plus, he’s hilarious…
eSB: Who is your real-life hero and why?
KRAD: My great-grandmother, Grazia DeBacco. She came to this country as a teenager on a crowded boat in the early part of the 20th century, moved to rural western Pennsylvania and proceeded to have ten kids. Despite the fact that the kids were almost all born at the height of the Depression, despite the fact that they lived in a house the size of a shoebox, those ten kids (starting with my grandmother) grew up into the nicest, sweetest, most generous people. And she was this little 4’9″ woman with incredible presence who kept them all in line and raised them to be fantastic. She died in 2003 at the age of 98, and I based Federation President Nan Bacco in several Star Trek novels after her.

eSB: Who is the villain you love to hate, and why?
KRAD: Dick Cheney. If I must stick with a fictional villain, it’s so hard to narrow it down I’m going to go with Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, because he was deliciously evil, and the root of his evil is something we see in the world today, with his need to control women and use them only as incubators for children.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?
KRAD: Someone who is faced with all the crap in the world, but still perseveres and does the right thing, even though it would be so much easier to not do it.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?
KRAD: Someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about consequences.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?
KRAD: They’re usually more interesting than the hero.
eSB: What is your favorite superhero movie and why?
KRAD: Mystery Men. It was ahead of its time, as it would have been much better received after superhero movies took off, not in 1999 the year before X-Men was released. But it’s a great sendup of the genre, and still also a great movie about heroes. “We’ve got a date with destiny, and she just ordered the lobster.”

eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?
KRAD: I’ve done a bunch of licensed comics: Star Trek, Farscape, StarCraft, Cars. I also scripted a graphic-novel adaptation of Greg Wilson’s Icarus, with art by Matt Slay, that should be out in 2016. My superhero work, on the other hand, is all prose. I’ve written two Spider-Man novels, two Spidey short stories, short stories featuring the Silver Surfer, Hulk, and the X-Men, plus I’ve got the aforementioned SCPD stuff, and another nifty superhero project I can’t talk about—yet…

eSB: What was your most exciting moment working in the comic industry?
KRAD: Getting to write the post-finale Farscape comics, collaborating with the show’s creator, Rockne S. O’Bannon. We did “season 5” of the show in comics form, and it was fantastic. Just a great three years.

eSB: If there was one comic franchise you could work on, which would it be and why?
KRAD: Probably Spider-Man, just because I have such a history with the character.

eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?
KRAD: I’m more comfortable with prose, because that’s what I’ve worked more in—more than 50 novels and more than 75 short stories, versus a comparative handful of comics. But I like both.

eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.
KRAD: Tons of it. Most recently or coming soon: the Star Trek coffee table book The Klingon Art of War, the novels Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution and Stargate SG-1: Kali’s Wrath, the short-story collection Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido, and short stories in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental, Buzzy Mag, Out of Tune, Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Far Horizons, V-Wars, V-Wars: Night Terrors, With Great Power, and The X-Files: Trust No One. I’m also doing weekly rewatches of the original Star Trek (Tuesdays) and of the various Stargate series (Fridays) on Tor.com; in the past I’ve done rewatches of both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for that site.

eSB: Do you have any news you would like to announce?
KRAD: I wish, but I’m working on two projects right now that I can’t talk about yet. But soon. Keep watching the skies! (Or the Internet…)

eSB: Please let us know where you can be found on social media.
KRAD: I’m on Facebook as Keith DeCandido, my blog is at kradical.livejournal.com, and I’m on Twitter @KRADeC.

eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.

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eSpec Books interviews Greg Schauer

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: https://amzn.com/1942990030 Now enjoy one of several interviews as our authors take you behind the scenes!

storiesinbetween_greg_sized

eSpec Books interviews Greg Schauer, co-editor of  The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology, https://tiny.cc/SoGSoE.

eSB: What drew you to this project?
GS: Danielle beat me over the head caveman style and forced me to edit a group of writers I have admired for many, many years. Actually, I have been a both a fan and comics retailer since I was a teenager. The nature of a good Superhero/Supervillian story is about the mythic fight between good and evil. Doing this as a flip book allows us to show that struggle from both sides. We have been lucky enough to attract a very talented pool of creators to this project. It will be a fun and exciting book.

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?
GS: To paraphrase Keith Laumer “Comics taught me how to read. Trust the Comics” I have always loved to read, but it was superhero comics that sent me to the dictionary more often than the books I was assigned in elementary school. What the young me took a long time to understand was that the stories I was reading were introducing me to many new concepts in science and philosophy and advanced my vocabulary at a very young age. Through them I was introduced to the modern mythologies Marvel and DC were creating at the time, worlds filled with Super Science, magic and a very firmly defined morality.

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
GS: Wow, so many favorites it is hard to choose. If pressed (I see that mallet, Dani) I would have to say ‘Mazing Man. Sigfried Horatio Hunch III is a man who believes he is a superhero and does what he can to help his friends and people in his neighborhood. The stories were told in a lighthearted whimsical style and yet told some of the most poignant stories about courage, bravery and selflessness I have ever read in a comic book      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%27Mazing_Man

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?
GS: A hero is someone who does their best to help their community. Whether that is placing themselves in danger or helping a neighbor in need.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?
GS: Anyone who intentional hurts other people by any means, Physically, Mentally, Emotionally or Financially.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?
GS: Sidekicks help to keep a Hero sane and balanced.

eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?
GS: John French and I edited a collection of Superhero stories, With Great Power published by DarkQuest Books.

eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?
GS: Hard to say, they both use vastly different techniques to tell a story. Comics, being a visual medium allows the story teller to focus on characterization in the dialogue while the art creates the mood and conveys the action. In fiction the writer needs to do it all through words. Comics can be a very surface medium if the storyteller relies exclusively on the art to tell the story sacrificing character motivations. Fiction allows the writer to delve into the inner being of a character but may sacrifice details of immediate surrounding. I love both for different types of stories.

eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.
GS: My not so secret identity is as the proprietor of Between Books 2.0 in Claymont Delaware. I am also the editor of Stories in Between edited by myself, Jeanne Benzel and W.H. Horner, a collection put out in 2010 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Between Books.

eSB: Please let us know where you can be found on social media.
GS: I can be found on Facebook under Greg Schauer and Between books.

eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.

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eSpec Books interviews John L. French

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: https://amzn.com/1942990030 Now enjoy one of several interviews as our authors take you behind the scenes!

JohnFrench
eSpec Books interviews John L. French, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology, https://tiny.cc/SoGSoE.

eSB: What drew you to this project?

JLF: I’ve always been interested in superheroes.

eSB: Which side are you writing for?

JLF: Truth, Justice, and the America Way, what else?

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?

JLF: I like stories of crime and adventure. In all of these there are, or should be, good guys and bad guys. This is especially so in superhero fiction with the lines between he two more clear-cut than usual

eSB: Please tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your story.

JLF: Some time ago I was asked to write a story for an anthology about phoenixes and firebirds. As one of my series characters is a pulp fiction hero called The Nightmare I created a story in which he helps a man who’s been cursed by immortality and rescues a phoenix. I like the character so much that I write two more stories about her and this Phoenix trilogy became the last three stories in my collection The Nightmare Strikes. I thought that was the (literary) end of The Phoenix. But as you know, a phoenix cannot die and so when I was asked to do a story I found myself brining her back.

eSB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would it work?

JLF: I would be able to read, speak and understand every language there was, is, and will be

eSB: What would your weakness be and why?

JLF: Poor penmanship

eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.

JLF: That depends on the hero and his mission. Heroes like Superman need something bright, something people can look up to. Heroes like Batman, the Shadow, and (ahem) the Nightmare need something dark so they can blend in with the darkness. I think the best super suit out there today is the Flash’s

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?

JLF: Batman and if you need to ask why you don’t know Batman.  My second favorite is anybody from Astro City. And if you don’t know about Astro City, you need to stop reading right now, go to a comic book store and buy the trade. Go ahead, I’ll wait …

eSB: Who is your real-life hero and why?

JLF: In general, it’s the people who keep us safe on a daily basis – the members of the police and fire department. Specifically it’s anyone who’s got the guts to do the right thing no matter the cost. There’s damned few of them these days and none of them hold elected office.

eSB: Who is the villain you love to hate, and why?

JLF: Keyser Söze – if you don’t know who that is, you need to watch The Usual Suspects as soon as possible. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?

JLF: Raymond Chandler said it best – “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
Anyone who meets this standard has the makings of a hero.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?

JLF: Someone who cares only for himself without regard to the consequences to the world or those who live in it. There are too many of these people around and, yes, some of them are in elected office.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?

JLF: I think a direct punch to face works better than a side kick. Oh, you mean people like Robin. Let’s get one thing straight – heroes like Tonto and Kato were not sidekicks (sidekick is what Kato did) they were partners. Maybe they were not always treated as equal partners but they were partners. It’s kids like Robin who were sidekicks. They are good dramatic derives that give the hero someone to explain things the reader need to know as well as gives the hero someone to rescue on a regular basis.

eSB: What is your favorite superhero movie and why?

JLF: I don’t know if this counts but right now it’s Daredevil: Season One. Why? Because they got (most of) it right.

eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?

JLF: I’ve written two superhero hero stories (Turquoise: The Right Betrayal” and “Hero” that can be found in my short story collection Paradise Denied and which will also be available as goals for this book.

eSB: What was your most exciting moment working in the comic industry?

JLF: My major contribution to the “comic industry” has been buying too many comics for far too long. But other than that, I have been in the three Batman comics written by the late, great C. J. Henderson. I “play” a crime lab technician for the Gotham PD and work for Captain James Gordon. It mirrors my real life job as a crime scene investigator for a large, east coast city. In addition, I am the co-editor of With Great Power … an anthology about people with superpowers.

eSB: If there was one comic franchise you could work on, which would it be and why?

JLF: While Batman is my favorite I’d like to take over either the Superman or Green Lantern franchises. Both of these have gotten away from fighting for truth, justice, etc. and have been too involved in fighting personal battles.

eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?

JLF: There’s this Romany fortune teller down the street who pretty good … but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I like books. The kind that come with just words and no pictures. I get to use more of my imagination.

eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.

JLF: I write short stories and edit anthologies. My books include The Nightmare Strikes, The Grey Monk: Souls on Fire, Here There Be Monsters, The Devil of Harbor City, and (with Patrick Thomas) The Assassins’ Ball.

eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.

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eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The Weird Wild West anthology from Espec Books rides into town in November looking like big trouble. Saddle up, pardner and discover strange, supernatural, otherworldly and downright weird adventures way out West from some of your favorite authors. Larry and I have a story in The Weird Wild West, so throughout November and December, we asked some of our author friends to prance their ponies over in this direction and share a few lines with us. Enjoy the blog posts—and then order the book please!

Ackley-McPhail_TheSideofGood-TheSideofEvil
eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail publisher of The Weird Wild West edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret McGraw.

What is your favorite western movie and why? You know, for me it isn’t a movie, though there are plenty of those that are really good. For me it was a TV show: Kung Fu, not only a western in the finest tradition, but thanks to the mystical aspects a bona fide Weird Wild Western! You had all the trademark elements of the frontier life, but also the unique flare of Shaolin mysticism and Asian culture. The fighting was a mix of kung fu and good old fashion gunfight/bar brawl, and the messages have stayed with me for a lifetime.

What does the wild frontier mean to you? The Wild West is a proving ground. An untamed land that tests a person’s soul and mines it to discover what they are made of, often when they don’t even know themselves. You either come out of the wild frontier strong or you come out broken…presuming you even come out alive.

Who would you say is your wild west role model and why? LOL…I think most people would say Calamity Jane 😉 I gets into trouble, but I also gets out again.

What is your favorite spec fic/western mash-up? You know, again I have to say Kung Fu. Between the grittiness of the old west and the mysticism of the Shaolin there were a lot of fantastic things in that series, not to mention a lot of worthwhile lessons. There’s definitely an element of camp to it, but the show stuck with me and brought me back week after week. It’s one of the few shows where the complete box set sits on my shelf.

Which Wild West archetype (Gambler, Outlaw, Saloon Girl, School Marm, Railroad Man, Pioneer, Cowboy, Lawman or Indian) would you chose to be and why? You know, I think I would have to be the prospector…mining literary gold every chance I get, seeing the potential in things and sometimes getting carried away in pursuing that dream. Yes, sometimes I’m worn out, sometimes I’m grungy, and sometimes that claim fizzles out instead of producing the mother lode, but there’s always a dream right behind that one.

Have you written/created anything else in a weird western vein? Please tell us about it. A while back I edited a collection called In an Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk. I knew I wanted some variety in the collection so I wrote a piece of my own that took place in the old west. On the Wings of an Angel was meant to be a piece about an early photographer literally stealing souls with his new-fangled camera. Instead it turned into a redemption story for an almost soiled-dove. I don’t want to say much more, because that would be telling, but it was a lot of fun to write and even more fun to read aloud.

What are some of your own works readers can look for? I write a wide range of things so there is quite a variety to check out. My novels are mostly urban fantasy. The Eternal Cycle Trilogy (Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and Today’s Promise) is basically Irish elves in New York City fighting evil demigods…to start, anyway; The Bad-Ass Faerie Tale novels (The Halfling’s Court and The Redcaps’ Queen) are biker faeries taking on the forces of faerie land; and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn is a steampunk retelling of Ali Baba an the Forty Thieves. Everything else I’ve published is short fiction and there is way too much to go into here so best to check them out my site at www.sidhenadaire.com/books.htm.

What projects of your own do you have coming up? Right now I’m writing a spin-off series to the Eternal Cycle trilogy. The first book is called Eternal Wanderings and it follows Kara O’Keefe as she seeks out her purpose in her now-immortal life. I’m also working on Daire’s Devils, a military science fiction novel, and Kantasi, an unconventional vampire novel.

How can readers find out more about you? A websearch on “Ackley-McPhail” turns up loads of stuff! Plus there is my website (www.sidhenadaire.com) or most social media platforms.

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books and has started her own press, eSpec Books.

Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. To learn more visit www.especbooks.com, www.sidhenadaire.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.

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Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/989939.Danielle_Ackley_McPhail

 

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Q&A with Misty Massey

The Weird Wild West anthology from Espec Books rides into town in November looking like big trouble. Saddle up, pardner and discover strange, supernatural, otherworldly and downright weird adventures way out West from some of your favorite authors. Larry and I have a story in The Weird Wild West, so throughout November and December, we asked some of our author friends to prance their ponies over in this direction and share a few lines with us. Enjoy the blog posts—and then order the book please!

MistyMassey Banner

eSpec Books interviews Misty Massey, editor and contributor to The Weird Wild West edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret McGraw.

What is your favorite western movie and why?  A Fistful of Dollars.  It was the first western I ever paid any real attention to, and I was utterly fascinated by the anti-hero playing both sides against each other.  So much fun!

What is your favorite spec fic/western mash-up? Since someone else has already said Firefly, I’ll go with Cowboy Bebop.  Again, we find that Misty is attracted to the anti-hero, since Spike Spiegel is not really a good guy, but certainly not a villain either.  That ending scene can bring me to sobs every single time.  Bang.

Can you tell us anything about your story/artwork for The Weird Wild West?  At the moment, I’m finishing a western fantasy novel, so the story I’m submitting to the anthology is a prequel, focusing on Durango, a young woman who makes her living as a wrangler of unusual creatures.  None of the secrets of the novel will be given away, and of course readers don’t have to have read the short story to enjoy the novel, but I thought it would be fun to explore the character of Durango a little before releasing the novel.

What interested you in working on this project? Last summer, Emily, Margaret, and I were attending Congregate.  Margaret had presented the first page of a weird western story during a workshop, and we were encouraging her to submit it somewhere.  All of a sudden, the topic shifted to how much fun publishing a weird western anthology would be, and boom!

Describe your idea of a weird western chuck wagon meal. Beans and bread!

Which Wild West archetype (Gambler, Outlaw, Saloon Girl, School Marm, Railroad Man, Pioneer, Cowboy, Lawman or Indian) would you chose to be and why? I’d like to be a Gambler, because in my current life, I am lousy at gambling!  Playing poker has to be fun, because so many people love it, and I’d like to feel that particular thrill sometime.

Have you written/created anything else in a weird western vein? Please tell us about it. At the moment I’m finishing a weird western novel – with any luck, by the time the anthology comes out, there’ll be news about the novel being sold!

What are some of your own works readers can look for?  My first novel, Mad Kestrel, is still available for Kindle and in print.  My volume of short stories, Kestrel’s Voyages, is available for the Kindle as well.  And my short story “Drawing Flame” is appearing in The Big Bad II, coming to e-readers and bookshelves everywhere on December 15, 2014!

How can readers find out more about you?  Visit me at mistymassey.com

Misty Massey is the author of Mad Kestrel (Tor), a rollicking fantasy adventure of magic on the high seas, and Kestrel’s Voyages (Kindle DP), a set of stories following Captain Kestrel and her daring crew. Her short fiction has appeared in Rum and Runestones, Dragon’s Lure and The Big Bad II.  Misty is one of the featured writers on Magical Words (magicalwords.net). When she’s not writing, she studies Middle Eastern dance and performs with Mythos Tribal and Chimera. You can see more of what Misty’s up to at her website, mistymassey.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Facebook: Misty Massey
Twitter: @MistyMassey
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Misty-Massey/e/B001IQXT44/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1418174577&sr=8-1
Blog Address:  https://mistymassey.com/

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An excerpt from Making a Difference

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: https://amzn.com/1942990030  Now enjoy an excerpt from one of our authors!

an excerpt from
Making a Difference
by Robert Greenberger

(from The Side of Good)

Proof-SideofGoodGravel and grit forced their way into his mouth as he felt his boots drag along the street, kicking up the debris as the car picked up speed. He held on tight to the front bumper, willing his hips and legs to swivel into action, letting him scale up to the hood. His mind fought to control multiple inputs, starting with the foul taste in his mouth, the ache in his calves, and the strain in his biceps.

Willing his body to behave, he once more moved into action and somehow wound up exactly where he wanted to be: riding a speeding car, weaving in and out of light Manhattan traffic at three in the morning, with police sirens beginning to fill the air. His gloved hands gripped the sides of the tapered hood and he stared through the windshield at the driver, a greasy-haired, pock-mocked kid of maybe twenty. Normally, he wouldn’t have bothered with a simple car theft except for the other occupant in the vehicle—a screaming infant, safely buckled in the car seat in the rear.

The driver’s eyes bulged and the hero saw his mouth work and finally form the name: “Crusader”.

He hated the name but it had been pinned on him on the very first night he sought to make a difference. When he decided to don the black-and-gold outfit, he had been mulling over names but after stopping a riot in the wake of an unfavorable legal decision, a reporter quipped, “Hey, caped crusader, where’s your cape?” And, that was all it took, suddenly he was the Crusader.

There were worse names, he supposed, and he’d grown accustomed to it, but he’d much rather have had a say in his alter ego’s name.

A sharp swerve to the right shook him from his reverie and he nearly lost his grip on the polished metal surface. With a severe gesture, he made it clear he wanted the panicky driver to pull over and surrender.

Rather than obeying the command, the driver braked hard and came to a sudden stop, the momentum dislodging the hero. Crusader rolled to the street, taking the brunt of the impact on his right shoulder, but the sound of the door opening, sneakers hitting the pavement, and the wail of the frightened infant shocked him into action. With an effort he regained his footing, checked to make certain the infant was still in the car, and took off after the thief, certain the impending arrival of the police would mean the kid would be looked after. The scumbag who stole the car, though, needed some justice. And the way the Crusader felt right then, it would be rough justice.

~ * ~

Harmony looked up in alarm when the Crusader appeared in the doorway to her bedroom. He tended to call ahead or at least knock to alert her of his arrival. Instead, given the late hour, the costumed figure slipped a key from a belt compartment and let himself in, the sound waking her.

“Its 4:30 in the mor…” her complaint trailed off when she saw him somewhat stagger to the edge of the bed where he heavily let himself down. “My god, you look terrible.”

“Feel worse,” he said in a hoarse voice. She turned on the night-table lamp and in the illumination saw the black streaks from his most recent activity. His mouth was bruised and swollen and even the skin was raw, trickling blood, adding a new color to the gold piping on his outfit. She noted that spots were worn through the costume and his boots were scuffed. The stylish outfit was one of the first things she focused on when they initially met. It was thick leather, providing him with some protection, creased and crinkled here and there but being mostly black you needed a strong light to notice. The helmet and faceplate cowl had a gold design that led to piping down both sleeves, disappearing under tight gloves. It was far less garish than some of the outfits other heroes appeared in, especially the women who clearly were using their cleavage to distract criminals from their fists.

“What happened?” She rose and kneeled beside him, totally unconscious that she was wearing her oversized Crusader night shirt, his grinning, cowled face looming large from shoulders to hips.

He began to speak of the evening’s activity but she placed two fingers on his lips, silencing him as she headed into the bathroom and came back with all the usual first-aid supplies. By then, he had peeled out of the leather and Kevlar-fitted jacket, exposing the various older yellow and fresh black bruises that created a pop art image on his body. She deftly applied antiseptic cream and bandages. His breathing slowed and resumed a regular rhythm.

“Was it worth it?”

“I saved a baby, so yeah,” he told her, which caught her attention. Children always do that to heroes and civilians alike, it must be hardwired into humanity, Mike Kinnard thought. Finally loosening his cowl and peeling it away, his brown eyes met hers and they silently communed for a minute.

“You’re a mess,” she said, breaking the silence which had been growing uncomfortable. “You never used to finish the night like this. You must be getting sloppy or…”

“…or old,” he finished for her. This had recently become the centerpiece of their conversations when it came to his colorful alter ego.

She nodded, closing up the first aid kit. “How much longer do you think you can keep this up?” she asked, the anger clear in her tone.

This was far from the first time she raised the question but tonight, this morning, was the first time he actually considered a real response. He ached. Seriously ached and not for the first time this year, he realized. He was not healing as quickly as he used to.

“There’s still work to be done,” he began before she could cut him off. “As long as I can make a difference.”

“That’s a pat, bullshit answer. You’re closing in on forty and are still trying to act like someone half your age. It’s no longer safe. You go out, beat the shit out of the bad guys, and come back here to be patched up. You make time for me as convenient, but even then you’d have to be inside me before you’d consider staying, rather than answer a cry for help.”

“Harm, that’s not true or really fair.”

She pulled a stray lock of hair away from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. “Fair? Fair is us being together, making a life for ourselves, actually planning more than a few hours out. I fell for you, Mike, not the Crusader.”

“I am the Crusader,” Mike Kinnard told her, some heat of his own in the words. “You knew that from the moment I yanked the rapist off you.” That had been four years ago, when he could still patrol the streets for hours, bust some heads, and go to work without getting tired. He felt strong and vital then; in love, real love, for the first time in his life. Mike could not now imagine his life without Harmony St. James, but she was challenging that idyllic vision and he was not in the mood to consider it. Letting a deep breath out slowly through his nose, Kinnard kept his mouth shut, not daring to let this escalate into something ugly. He was weary and sore and did not need a fight with his lover to finish off a tough night.

“Yeah, I knew you as the Crusader first,” Harmony went on, clearly not reading his mind or his body language. “But I came to love Mike Kinnard and you’re making that very hard right now. Before you, I wasn’t sure I’d ever find someone I could imagine growing old with, but then you swooped in and became my personal hero. But for us to grow old together, you need to stay alive and, you know, healthy.”

He winced at that, much as he winced at the aching muscles that screamed for Ben Gay or a whirlpool. His local gym was a 24-hour place and he wanted to go there before he had to make an appearance at Count on Kinnard, his private accounting company.

“I can’t do this without you,” he began. When she shot him a look, he let the sentence die mercifully.

“Do you want us to stay together? Get married, settle down, skip the picket fence and kids, but experience things as a couple? Answer yes and that will tell you what you need to do. Answer no then you’ve set the timer on our relationship starting tonight.”

He didn’t answer her and he didn’t believe she truly expected an answer at this late hour. She deserved one and he wanted to say the former but knew full well he was not done fighting for his city. The Blockade, Doctor Bizarre, Lightspeed, and the other heroes were still going strong and together, they were keeping Manhattan from becoming more dangerous. It felt like he’d be betraying them but then again, they had their powers to protect them. He was just an extraordinarily gifted athlete with an above-average intellect. Right now, though, he was not feeling particularly smart.

“Mike…you have to slow down. Take some nights off. Make some time for us. I don’t want to make an ultimatum, but we’re getting really close to having that ‘me or the mask’ conversation. The one you told me you never wanted us to get to.”

That conversation started about a year back, after he fought to stem a gang war while still wearing a splint, a trophy from battling the Gentleman. It was then he began to notice the wear and tear on his body and the impending onset of serious middle age. He always joked forty was when the warranty would end and his body would fall apart. What he didn’t realize at the time was that he wasn’t being sardonic but prophetic.

~ * ~

Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing December 1, 2015.

PROMOTIONAL COPY

Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference.

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story!

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An excerpt from Send in the Clones

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: https://amzn.com/1942990030  Now enjoy an excerpt from one of our authors!

An excerpt from Send in the Clones
A tale of the Super City Police Department by Keith R.A. DeCandido
(From The Side of Evil)

Proof-SideofEvil

Who’s in the interrogation room?”

Detective Kristin Milewski, who simply had not had enough coffee yet, stared intently at Officer M.C. Cunningham as she asked the question.

For her part, Cunningham looked very reluctant to answer. “I think it’s the Clone Master.”

“You think?”

“Well, he looks just like him, but he’s dressed up in that silly white outfit that all his henchmen wear.”

“And he just showed up?”

Cunningham nodded. “Came in, went straight to Sarge’s desk, wearing the whole outfit, saying he had to talk to a detective about the Clone Master. Then he took off the mask, and it was the Clone Master. Sarge had me take him up to Interrogation 2, and—well, you two are the only ones here.”

Milewski turned to face her partner, Detective Jorge Alvarado, who held up both hands. “Whatcha lookin’ at me for? I don’t even remember which one the Clone Master is.” Alvarado recently moved to Super City from Baltimore, and he still hadn’t gotten all the superheroes and supervillains straight in his head.

Though he should have recalled this one, as he was the scourge of the homicide squad. “Clone Master’s the one who keeps dying and then coming back. He’s probably the most reckless of the costumes out there, and he’s always getting himself knocked off. Every time that happens, one of us has to perform a death investigation, because the annotated code says that every time a body falls in Super City, the SCPD must perform an investigation. Which, for the Clone Master, is a huge waste of time, because somehow he always comes back.” She turned back to Cunningham. “And he’s in there now?”

“Disguised as one of his henchmen, yeah. I don’t get it, either, but he said he wanted a detective, so…” The uniformed officer shrugged.

Milewski stared at Alvarado, then stared at Cunningham, then declared, “I need more coffee.”

Once she’d poured more of the squadroom sludge into the mug her mother gave her when she made detective, she led Alvarado into the video room. The interrogation rooms all had cameras that fed to monitors here.

In her years on the job, Milewski had never actually encountered the Clone Master in person. The last two times he died and there was the usual abortive investigation, Fischer and Billinghurst had handled it. Both instances were right after she got promoted to homicide from vice. She had seen his face a few times, though, in news reports, and once in the morgue when the M.E. was working on one of his clones.

The person she saw on the monitor for Interrogation 2 matched her memory of that face: large nose, weak chin, beady eyes, and tiny ears. He was drumming his fingers on the battered metal table in the center of the room, and rocking back and forth in the metal chair. That seat was uneven and squeaky and uncomfortable, all of which was quite deliberate, since the people who sat there were intended to be made as uncomfortable as possible.

The one difference was that this one didn’t have a right eyebrow.

“That’s the guy?” Alvarado asked.

Milewski nodded. “And he’s wearing the same outfit his thugs wear. All the guys who help him on his jobs wear that froofy all-white thing that makes them look like low-rent Jedi, plus hoods to hide their faces.”

“That’s gotta fuck up their peripheral vision.”

“Prob’ly, yeah.” Milewski gulped down the rest of her coffee, which burned her throat a bit. “Let’s dig out the casefiles on the last couple Clone Master deaths, and then we’ll see what he’s got to say.”

They went to the file cabinets and retrieved the files in question, and then went into the interrogation room. The Clone Master stopped drumming his fingers and sat up straight. “Finally!”

“I’m Detective Milewski, this is Detective Alvarado. You must be the Clone Master.”

“I’m Markos Balidemaj, yes. Or, rather, I’m Clone Number 78. I mean, I’m both. I’m a clone of the Clone Master.”

Milewski sat down across from him, placing the two folders in front of her, while Alvarado chose instead to lean against the far wall. “So what do we call you. ‘Mr. 78’? Or can we be casual and call you ‘Clone’?”

“I wish I could answer, but I’m having trouble keeping track of who I am.”

“Okay. Well, you came to us, so why don’t you tell Detective Alvarado and I what it is you want to say?”

He took a very deep breath. “I want to enumerate all the crimes committed by all the various versions of Markos Balidemaj since 2007.”

Alvarado asked, “Is that when the Clone Master first showed up?”

“Of course,” the clone said as if it was the stupidest question ever.

“He’s new,” Milewski said quickly. “I remember when he—or you, whatever—first showed up. You took on Old Glory and got your ass kicked, but you got away. Two weeks later, the Bruiser fought you and you were killed. Everyone figured that was the end of it, and nobody understood why you were called the Clone Master.”

“And then another Clone Master arrived to do battle with the Superior Six.”

“When you also died.”

Balidemaj smiled. “Well, I—or, rather, the Clone Master—can afford to be reckless.”

~ * ~

Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing December 1, 2015.

PROMOTIONAL COPY

Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference.

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story!

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An excerpt from The Shtick

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: https://amzn.com/1942990030  Now enjoy an excerpt from one of our authors!

An excerpt from
The Shtick
by Aaron Rosenberg
(From The Side of Evil)

Proof-SideofEvil “Those stupid do-gooders will never— aw, come on!” Walter C. Shticklemeyer whined as the costumed duo burst into the heart of his lair. “How’d you even find me?”

“Seriously, Eraserhead?” Twilight the Shade Prince asked, sharing a surprised but amused glance with his mentor and partner, Midnight King. “You stole the second-most valuable gem in the world—Number Two—from the Ticonderoga Museum. And now you’re holed up in an abandoned pencil factory?”

“Let’s face it, chum,” Midnight King added in that distinctive growl of his as he strode across the room toward where Walter cowered behind his desk, “you’re predictable. But then, evil always is.”

“Oh, yeah?” Walter straightened as the dark-clad hero approached. “Well, predict this!” he raised his voice. “Pencil-necks, get them!”

Twlight giggled, arms crossed over his chest. “We already took care of your henchmen,” he reported. “So you can go ahead and write them off.” He laughed at his own joke, and Midnight King joined in with his raspy chuckle.

“Curse you, Midnight King!” Walter cried. The hero reached for him, but Walter managed to pull free, wailing—and punched Midnight King full in the face.

“Owwww!” The skinny little villain cradled his injured hand as the hero dragged him from the room. “That hurt!”

“Crime always does,” Midnight King rasped down at him. “Crime always does.”

~ * ~

“You’re who, now?” The big bruiser who’d just cut in front of Walter asked, peering down at him with beady little eyes. “Erasermate?” Several of the other inmates in the prison cafeteria laughed.

“Eraserhead!” Walter replied indignantly, hands tightening on his lunch tray. “Eraserhead!” he pointed at his hair, which stood up several inches and was still cut in a perfectly circular flat top, thanks to First City’s policy of letting inmates retain their distinctive looks as much as possible. Looking around him, he could see plenty of others with unique hairstyles, face paint, eyewear, and even a certain degree of jewelry. The big guy in front of him, however, had none of those—he was completely nondescript in his orange prison jumpsuit, just another giant slab of muscle as he slowly shook his head.

“Never heard of you,” the bruiser declared, turning toward the cafeteria workers and holding out his tray to receive large scoops of nondescript prison food.

But Walter wasn’t ready to let it go. “Never heard of me!” he practically screeched. “I fought Midnight King! Repeatedly!”

Now the bruiser laughed. “You? Fought Midnight King?” Again the dismissive once-over. “What’d you do, threaten to bleed on him?” That got more laughs. “Listen, pal,” the big guy added, “most of us went up against that cowled clown, or worked for guys who did. That’s how we wound up in here. That don’t make you special.” The conversation over, he took his now-loaded tray and headed toward the row upon row of tables for someplace to eat in peace. Plenty of others moved aside to let him pass.

“I am special,” Walter insisted, but in a much quieter voice, nearly a whisper, as he surrendered his tray to the cafeteria workers. “I’m Eraserhead.”

But even he wasn’t sure he believed it anymore.

~ * ~

“I’m not special,” Walter declared, slumping on the stool in front of a threefold standing mirror. “Hardly anybody’s even heard of Eraserhead, and those who have think I’m a joke.”

“So change,” the woman at the long sewing table against the far wall replied. She glanced over at him and frowned. “You need a new—”

“Don’t say it,” Walter warned. Growing up, all anyone ever called him was “Shtick,” and he hated that nickname, and the word in general. But she was right. Look at how easily Midnight King had found him last time. An old pencil factory? Could he have been more obvious? “I really am a joke,” he decided, slumping even more. “I’m pathetic.”

“Stop putting yourself down,” his companion and hostess snapped. “Every time you do, you owe me twenty push-ups.”

“What?” That made his head jerk up, at least, as he stared across the room at her. “But, Launi—”

Her glare stopped him cold.

“Right, sorry—Seamstrix.” It was amazing how cowed he was by someone who was only five feet tall, but for all her short stature Launi Rombach, seamstress to the super-villains, was no one to mess with. And despite her height, with that long, straight silvery-white hair and her stern expression, not to mention her own costume—a leather dominatrix outfit, all buckles and straps, but covered in pockets filled with scissors and tape measures and needle and thread and lots and lots of pins—she was actually really imposing.

Which made sense. Why would you commission a super-villain costume from someone who couldn’t even make a convincing one for herself?

The Seamstrix was the go-to choice for every super-villain in First City. And Walter had been going to her for years. They’d even developed a sort of friendship. In fact, in a lot of ways she was his closest friend. Which was why, as soon as he’d gotten out—which had only been after a few months, since even with First City’s rather lax view toward costumed vigilantes it had still wound up being one costumed nut’s word against another, because like most super-villains who’d managed to survive, Walter was at least professional enough to blank out all security cameras first, and to wear gloves the whole time—Walter had gone straight to her.

But his days of wearing a striped yellow turtleneck and matching leggings were over. Eraserhead was dead.

That hated word aside, Launi was absolutely right, Walter realized as he wearily climbed down off the stool, stretched out on his stomach on the floor, and began slowly, wretchedly doing push-ups.

He needed something new.

~ * ~

Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing December 1, 2015.

PROMOTIONAL COPY

Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference.

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story!

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