The Muddling Middle

Yesterday, I passed the 25K mark on SoulQuest, so I’ve hit the middle of my 50K goal. Crossing the 50% mark on a project is both exciting and scary and it’s when I enter what I like to call the Muddling Middle.

On every project, when I hit the 50% mark, there are two thoughts that occur to me. The first is, “wow, I’ve made it to the halfway point! This is great, I’m going to finish this thing!” And then the second thought is one of panic: “Wait…I’m only halfway through? All the work I’ve done so far and I basically have to do it all again?”

It’s more of a state of mind than anything else. The majority of my books are novellas of only around 30K, so I’d be close to the end if I were writing those. I entered the Muddling Middle on every one of those books when I reached 15K. When that didn’t happen with SoulQuest, I thought I was in the clear and on a great track…until I hit the Muddling Middle at 25K.

So like I said, it’s a state of mind. It’s even happened on short stories of only a few thousand words. It’s this whole idea of being so close to the finish, yet so far at the same time and also a sense of, “you’ve invested this much into it now, so there’s no turning back.”

And the Muddling Middle can really be the point where a project will either see fruition…or stop dead in its tracks. There have been a number of projects of mine that just stopped dead at the Muddling Middle because I didn’t know where to go. A big part of this had to do with the fact that in the past, I didn’t plan out as much. These days, I do much more planning and I’ve got everything mapped out with SoulQuest—I know where I want to go and what I want to do. I know one theory could be, “well obviously, it’s time to change the plan if you don’t like it,” except I do like the plan and I think it makes for a great story the way everything is connecting together.

So it’s more of a state of mind than anything else. Given how long I’ve lived with SoulQuest and how much effort I’ve put into it this far, I don’t think the Muddling Middle will be strong enough to cause me to drop it. Nonetheless, it’s a difficult stage to hit, and something I’m sure many writers struggle with.

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Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira

Dillon and the Pirates of XoniraThey say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but I’ve got a third certainty: a Derrick Ferguson Dillon yarn will always be spectacular.

I’m no stranger to Ferguson’s writing or the world of Dillon. I was both fortunate and unfortunate enough to jump onboard when the first book, Dillon and the Voice of Odin, was initially released almost ten years ago. I say fortunate because I’ve gotten to spend that time with this character, reading and in some cases re-reading his adventures. I say unfortunate because that also means I’ve had to endure waiting for the next book to come out. There have been four Dillon books to date: Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell, Four Bullets For Dillon (a collection of short stories), and now Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira. Each one has been superbly written, with white-knuckle action, snappy dialogue, and witty humor.

This latest tale comes on the heels of The Legend of the Golden Bell, and just like in that book, we see Dillon returning to the fictional nation of Xonira. When I first heard that this book would take place in Xonira again, I have to admit some skepticism on my part—we just finished a tale there, so why did we need to return so soon when Dillon is a global adventurer? But my skepticism was unfounded, as Xonira feels as fresh and as intriguing a setting now as it was a few years back when it was first introduced in The Legend of the Golden Bell.

Dillon, of course, is back. Along with his frequent partner-in-crime and mentor, Eli Creed (who, despite retiring, seems to be doing a very bad job of actually staying retired, and bless him for that as he’s always a fun addition). Signing up for this mission as well is Toi Lahayne, a representative of the mysterious Braithwaite Group and Allie and Shon Pierri, a mother-and-son team of French defense agents. On the other side, we have the Pirates of Xonira, commanded by a man who has some history with Dillon.

The action moves along at a brisk pace. At a little over two hundred pages, it feels like a lot less, given how quickly you can progress through the book. Ferguson very rarely lets up on his characters, even for the briefest of moments, and there’s always something either happening or on the verge of happening (or sometimes both simultaneously).

While the roles of one of the characters seemed a bit too obvious to me at first, Ferguson flipped it on its head slightly at the end of the book. I won’t say anything more about it than that, other than it’s a very realistic thing in this situation, and serves both to give Dillon a bit more humanity by presenting him with a problem he can’t really solve as well as opening the door for a follow-up in the future. And speaking of follow-ups, the last scene hints at exactly that in a very big way.

I’m not sure when the rest of that adventure will be told, but I will be waiting for it.

The Next Big Thing: SoulQuest

I was tagged in this game by Mark Bousquet earlier this month (which shows you how off my memory can be as I just remembered). The Next Big Thing is a little game where you answer ten interview questions about your upcoming project and then tag five writers in it. For this, I’m going to go ahead and tag Alan Lewis, Jim Beard, Sean TaylorKevin Rodgers, and Sean Michael Wilson. Join in if you guys feel so inclined.

TEN INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE NEXT BIG THING

What is the working title of your book?

SoulQuest.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Several years ago, I was searching for an artist for a project. I got two responses and one of the artists was very talented, but his style didn’t quite fit the project in question. His style reminded me of the character designs for Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears, two of my favorite video games, and it got me thinking about those games. I then came up with the idea for SoulQuest, and contacted the artist. Unfortunately, the project never came to fruition as a comic book, but the idea has stuck with me over the past several years and I’ve now decided to finally produce it as a novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Sci-fi/fantasy. It’s very much inspired by Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fantasy in the Tolkien sense and there’s enough science and technology in it to set it apart from that setting.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

What, you couldn’t think of a more difficult question? In all seriousness, I’m not really sure. It’s got a fairly large cast. For Zarim, the main character and a sky pirate, I might go with Leonardo DiCaprio. Ekala, his right-hand woman, could only be played by Eliza Dushku. Swul, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking surly faerie would probably be either Jon Polito or Danny DeVito. Tanus, an ex-military guy who gets roped into this would probably be Idris Elba. There are more characters, but it’s difficult to cast them off the top of my head.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m terrible at writing these things, but here goes: When the power of the ancients is awakened, the fate of the world falls to a ragtag band of pirates.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published through PulpWork Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It’s not finished yet. Currently I’m at around 16,000 words, so got a ways to go. It’s been in development for a while. I first began work on it when it was going to be released digitally as a serialized novel through an original fiction site, but when that site closed down, work stalled. I’ve since come back to it and managed a good bit of progress.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

I’m not sure. I’m not familiar with a lot of books in this style, my inspiration for this comes more from video games and TV/movies.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said earlier, the impetus that got me thinking was an artist’s particular style and I drew inspiration from the previously-mentioned Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears, as well as TV shows like Firefly.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

New Pulp has a lot of focus on globe-trotting adventurers, masked heroes, or period pieces. This is a different kind of story from most of the New Pulp, and I hope that will cause some people to give it a look, even if it’s out of curiosity.

Back to the well

The life cycles of my projects can be really funny sometimes, and also a bit bizarre. For example, the project that would eventually become Love & Bullets, my third novel, was actually begun before I even sat down to write my first novel, Fallen. And The Myth Hunter may actually predate both of them, it’s all kind of fuzzy. But one project, SoulQuest, might predate all those books. This project originally came about when I was soliciting artists for a comic book project. I had it narrowed down to two artists, and both of them produced awesome samples of the title character. I had to choose one over the other (who unfortunately had to quit due to a higher-profile gig), but I liked the second artist’s style a lot and wanted to do a project tailored specifically to his strengths. So I came up with SoulQuest, a concept inspired heavily by some of the RPGs I’d played when I was younger (particularly Final Fantasy VII).

The artist liked the initial script and the character concepts I came up with. He drew two initial sketches and then just disappeared. Never heard from him again, never got any e-mail responses from him, nothing. Time went on and I stumbled on the project notes about a year or two later and started soliciting for an artist again. I had a really talented guy approach me about it, but his style wasn’t really what I was looking for. As this was inspired by Final Fantasy VII, I wanted more of a manga-esque style and he definitely wasn’t that. But he asked for a shot so I said sure, sent him the notes and he came up with some absolutely amazing concept art and character designs. They were spot-on perfect. I thought I’d had finally found my guy, as he seemed just as psyched about the project as me. He came up with designs for pretty much every significant character in the series, produced about three pages for what would have been the first issue…and then vanished. I tried e-mailing him numerous times over the past five years, each time getting no response. Even when I’d decide to transform this into a novel, I asked if he’d be interested in doing the cover art on commission, but still no response.

Brief note to any artists out there: If you aren’t able to complete a project, at the very least please have the courtesy to let your partner know. Yes, sometimes things happen and you can’t respond right away. And yes, sometimes you’ll get a gig that comes along that offers higher pay or more exposure and that’s fine. But at the very least, you should let them know what’s happened and why you can’t complete the project. It’s just common courtesy, don’t leave them waiting. I’ve more or less given up on trying to put together a comic, because this has happened to me on more than a few occasions.

Anyway, back on track. A few years ago, a friend began a website for original fiction, presented in a serialized format. This caught my interest and I wanted to get a chance to put SoulQuest out there. But the site fell through as the creator became too busy to maintain it, so he told us that he’d have to bring it to an end. The image you see at the top of this page was something he threw together as a promotional image for the series, combining a bunch of images he found online that were appropriate for the series.

Once the site fell through, I put the project on the back-burner, revisiting it occasionally. Now, I’ve gone back to it once more. I looked at what I’d written before and stripped out a bunch of sections that just didn’t work, the result was that the 10,000 words I had written were reduced to about 7,000. I also broke down the story, figured out the basic outline for it and went from there. As you can see in the sidebar on my main page, I’ve managed to make up a bit of the deficit I got from that big edit and have now broken 11,000 words.

Hopefully it continues.

NaNoWriMo

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been thinking lately about one of my favorite books, Frankenstein, and how that got me thinking about the monster. He’s always been one of my favorite characters in literature, and although I’ve enjoyed Karloff’s interpretation as slow and monosyllabic at best, I prefer the version Mary Shelley conceived, who was intelligent and well-spoken.

This, combined with the onset of National Novel Writing Month coalesced into a perfect storm, and so I’ve decided to participate once more. So this month, I will be working on…

Although this is a Frankenstein story, it’s not a horror book, not even really a sci-fi book. All I will really say about it is that it will be a pulp book. Should the book be completed, it will likely be published via PulpWork Press.

You can keep up with my progress on Twitter and Facebook, or on the sidebar of this site, with a word count widget checking my daily progress throughout the month. To meet the deadline, I need to write around 1667 words per day. My daily goal is 2000 to give myself a bit of a buffer. Today, the first day, I managed 2447 words. So already off to a good start.

Let’s hope it manages to stick.

 

Monsters everywhere!

I’ve got two pieces of news for you today. The first is that Pro Se Productions has just released a new book in time for Halloween, called Monster Aces! Here is the description from Pro Se:

Having selflessly abandoned their identities, their pasts and their futures, the Monster Aces are all that stand between humanity and the fell creatures that lurk in the shadows. Four men and one woman use their amazing abilities as a team to scour the globe for monsters and bring an end to their unholy existence – whatever the danger, whatever the cost.

The book includes two stories by Jim Beard, creator of the Monster Aces. Also included are stories by Barry Reese, Van Allen Plexico, and Ron Fortier! So altogether, you’ve got some great stories by some of the best New Pulp has to offer!

And this collection was edited by yours truly, so check it out! Well worth the price of admission!

The other piece of news I have is Mark Bousquet, writer of Gunfighter Gothic and Dreamer’s Syndrome, recently reviewed Dragon Kings of the Orient! Here’s a bit of what he had to say about it:

Percival Constantine sets his own course in DRAGON KINGS and Elisa is her own woman. Where this novel shines are the moments when Elisa finds herself, in the same instance, fighting both moral and physical quandaries. Her willingness to work with previous combatants when the situation calls for it, even if she doesn’t want to do it, makes her seem like a very real, very practical character. Which is important when you’ve got fox spirits and Dragon Kings running around with magical swords.

Head on over to Atomic Anxiety to check out the rest of Mark’s review! While you’re there, check out some of his work. And if you haven’t read Dragon Kings of the Orient yet, what are you waiting for? Jump over to the Novels section to see how to get yourself a copy!

Sentinels: A Distant Star

I absolutely loved Van Allen Plexico’s first Sentinels book, When Strikes The Warlord. So much, in fact, that once I finished, I immediately bought the second book, A Distant Star. These two books, along with Apocalypse Rising, form the first Sentinels trilogy, “The Grand Design.”

In this volume, we see the return of the Sentinels — Lyn Li/Pulsar, Ultraa, Esro Brachis and Vanadium. We also see the return of the enemy from the first book, the Warlord, albeit in a different form. There are a succession of Warlords, and every time one dies another takes his place, and it’s all part of something known as the Grand Design. Where this leads to is still something of a mystery that I assume will be the focus of the third book.

The Sentinels’ universe also expands with this book, with the introduction of the Kur-Bai, an alien race coming to Earth in order to eliminate the Xorex, a planet-destroying entity that served as the master of Kabaraak from the previous volume. Upon landing on Earth, one of the Kur-Bai, a warrior named Mondrian, and Esro get swept off on an adventure of their own in space, going up against Mondrian’s former shipmate in a Barsoomian setting.

There’s a lot of jumping around in this book as the Sentinels are seemingly pulled apart in all directions. Ultraa is injured, Pulsar has family issues, Vanadium appears to be corrupted, and the government is prepared to cut their support for the Sentinels, especially with Esro missing. All the while, the Warlord is scheming, but it’s really Esro and Mondrian’s story that serve as the most interesting set-pieces here.

Where Plexico succeeds is in his characters, once more. Mondrian is every bit as intriguing and fascinating as the characters introduced in the previous volume. Her interaction with Esro is a joy to read and Esro himself steps up to the plate, becoming a much more central character than he was in the previous book. It could be said that When Strikes The Warlord was more Pulsar’s story and in that case, A Distant Star is definitely Esro’s. There’s a grandness to this book, a sense of a larger universe outside of Earth. I know that there were aliens in the first, but this one feels more like a space opera.

That being said, one of the strengths of A Distant Star, of it feeling like a part of something greater, can also be considered a shortcoming, depending on your point of view. When Strikes The Warlord can easily be viewed as a stand-alone tale, but with A Distant Star, there’s a lot of set-up for Apocalypse Rising and you know there’s something else coming.

Apocalypse Rising is a book I will be reading in the very near future. So far, Plexico has not disappointed with his superhero epic, and I’m looking forward to an epic conclusion of this trilogy!

Pro Se Promo Party!

This is a really exciting New Pulp development! Pro Se Productions and Shindig are teaming up to host a massive event, spotlighting every single aspect of Pro Se! Tons of creators will be taking part in this event, and I encourage everyone to check it out!

I was invited to participate as well, but unfortunately, my schedule (and time zone) makes it impossible for me to attend. Still, I hope the rest of you will, as this is a really exciting New Pulp development! Tell your friends!

I’ll let Tommy explain the details:

Pro Se Productions, a publishing company known for adventure, action, crime, fantasy, super heroes, New Pulp, and original stories featuring Classic characters, announces the beginning of a partnership with a new internet platform that will bring a brand new experience to Pro Se Fans, literally bringing a convention like activity into the homes of anyone wanting to find out more about Pro Se.

On Saturday, October 13th from 1 PM CST to 7 PM CST, Pro Se Productions will be hosting an online Promotional Party spotlighting the entire company. This event is being done in conjunction withwww.shindig.com, a platform designed to host small, medium, and even massive book tours, promotional events, Q & As, or in this case, a gala event focusing on one of the up and coming Publishers of cutting Edge New Pulp fiction today. Writers, artists, and creators associated with Pro Se will be providing readings, panels, and one on one question and answer sessions online while participants can wander in and out, just like an actual convention, and enjoy the events as they take place. Also, fans who attend the event at any point in the day can actually enter into private chats with up to four other people and set up their own ‘rooms’ while also participating in the reading/panel/etc. that is taking place. This allows for hundreds and hundreds of participants to be available.

“This is the ultimate con experience in a sense,” Tommy Hancock, Partner in and EIC of Pro Se Productions stated, “taken and turned into an all Pro Se event. People can attend panels, go to readings, meet authors and creators, and do it right in front of their computer. Pro Se is definitely excited about this opportunity, not only because its a neat thing to be able to do, but also because it’s a platform that allows us to reach out not just to our own little conclave of fans who frequent our site, see us at Conventions, and/or buy our books. This is an opportunity to open the doors of Pro Se up to any and all who have ever read a thriller and enjoyed it, who have ventured into Space and wanted more, who sneered with the villain and celebrated with the hero of some great story. Pro Se has all that and more to offer readers today, and although there’s stories of every genre under our banner, they all have something in common. They are pure escapist over the top fun. And now, thanks to Shindig, Pro Se’s ‘Puttin’ The New In Pulp’ Promotional Party is a chance for readers of all type to see what we do, meet our creators, hear some great stories, get great one day deals on Pro Se books, and even pick up some giveaways!”

Attending the ‘Pro Se- Puttin’ The New in Pulp’ is free for anyone who wants to attend. Interact with creators, hear readings, participate in panels, take part in contests and simply learn about one of the brightest stars in modern Pulp and adventure publishing. Both established Pro Se Authors as well as new authors will be present. Past and current releases will be focused on, but there will also be much discussion on books and events to come from Pro Se. Come in for your favorite author or a panel subject that interests you, leave when you’re done, then come back whenever you want to. Anyone interested in attending can RSVP atwww.shindig.com/event/prose. This is the sign in site for the event and will also be where times for panels, readings, and Q & As will be posted as a schedule becomes available.

Pro Se also announces today that this event is only the first. Pro Se will be providing opportunities for readings, panels, and creator meet and greets as well as online launch parties for Pro Se staff and material in the future. “Expect,” stated Hancock, “that an event, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, from Pro Se will happen every two weeks at a minimum, even more than that possibly with the fantastic books and such we have on the horizon.”

Saturday, October 13, 1 PM – 7 PM CST Pro Se Productions – ‘Puttin’ the New in Pulp’ Promotional hosted by shindig.com. RSVP and find out more at www.shindig.com/event/prose or by emailing Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net! And expect updates on this fantastic event in the coming days!

Schedule for Pro Se Promotional Party- Puttin’ The New in Pulp
TIMES ARE CENTRAL STANDARD-Please Adjust for your Time Zone
SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE
1:00-1:30- Pro Se- Puttin’ The New In Pulp-Introduction to Pro Se by Tommy Hancock, EIC and Partner of PRO SE
1:30-2:00-Pro Se Presents-THE MAGAZINE THAT PUT THE MONTHLY BACK INTO PULP-Moderated by Tommy Hancock and featuring various
2:00-2:30- Reese Unlimited –Featuring the Works of Barry Reese
2:30-3:15-Sovereign City Project with Tommy Hancock, Derrick Ferguson, Barry Reese
3:15-3:30-Hansen’s Way- Featuring the Works of Nancy Hansen
3:30-4:00- Hugh Monn-Featuring Lee Houston, Jr.
4:00-4:30- The Black Centipede featuring Chuck Miller
4:30-5:00-The Silver Manticore Strikes- With PJ Lozito
5:00-6:00-Pulp Obscura-Classic Characters, New Stories-Featuring Various Writers and Creators
6:00-7:00 WHAT’S COMING SOON FROM PRO SE-Featuring Various Writers and Creators

For further information, contact Tommy Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net or at 870-834-4022.

Pro Se Productions

Casting Call #3: Christian Pierce

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, but Alias has now been added to Netflix and I’ve started to watch it. I saw about half of the first season, but then ended up missing the rest. Anyway, I’ve started watching it again and I started paying more attention to Bradley Cooper. I had no idea he was in this show, and it reminded me of this Casting Call segment. Particularly one of the protagonists of Love & Bullets — Agency operative Christian Pierce. In the book, Christian is not only an Agency operative pursuing Dante, but he was also once partnered with Angela’s late husband. When he discovers Angela is working with Dante, he tries to turn her into an asset, but in the process ends up falling for his friend’s widow.

One of the reasons I stalled this segment for so long is because I was stuck on who would make a good Christian. It’s not like it’s a very complicated role, but something just didn’t feel right about other actors who came to mind. Now while re-watching Alias,  I’m also reminded of two other films Cooper was in recently — The A-Team and Limitless.

Cooper has a tendency to play laid back guys, but he can also do more serious roles. If you take a bit of his performance from The A-Team and combine it with his performance in Alias, I think you’ve got a very good basis for Christian.

Do you think Cooper would make a good Christian Pierce? Sound off in the comments. And if you want to know more about Love & Bullets, you can pick it up for $9.95 in print or $0.99 in digital (also available at other online retailers).

The Myth Hunter Saga

Lost continents, ancient artifacts, strange creatures…for all these myths and legends, and more, there is an element of truth in them. Throughout the centuries, there have been myth hunters, people who seek out these legends. And they still exist to this day.

There are some, like Elisa Hill, who seek them out for knowledge and a better understanding of the world, as well as standing as a safeguard against those forces which would threaten humanity. But then there are mercenary myth hunters, out only for personal profit. And then there are those like the Order, which have a hidden agenda that bodes ill for all mankind.

Raised by myth hunters herself, Elisa grew up being prepared for this life, but in her early adulthood, she became a mercenary for hire. Eventually seeing the error of her ways, Elisa now works with her former mentor and family friend as well as other associates, including a Japanese changeling and a representative of a secret society.

The first book in the series, The Myth Hunter, focuses on Elisa as she takes on a legend that plagued her parents for most of their careers—the lost continent of Lemuria. When new evidence hints to its location, Elisa and her allies travel from the waters of the Caribbean to the temples of India and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan in search of the lost continent. All the while, they’re in a race against time against the mysterious organization called the Order, who have hired Elisa’s former partner, mercenary Lucas Davalos. And also in the wind is another myth hunter, a vicious and cold-blooded assassin known only as Seth.

Buy in print from CreateSpace or buy a digital copy from Smashwords!

The second book, Dragon Kings of the Orient, sees Elisa accepting a job from Asami, the Japanese changeling she met in The Myth Hunter. This time around, Elisa travels to China, where Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, has been released from centuries of imprisonment, and he desires deadly retribution against the beings who trapped him—the four mythical Dragon Kings. But if the Dragon Kings die, all of Asia could be plunged into the oceans. Elisa and her allies have to face up against gods and demons in order to save the lives of billions!

Buy in print from CreateSpace or buy a digital copy from Smashwords!

Both books are also available from other online retailers, in both print and digital, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.