Tagged: Shakespeare

John Ostrander: Talking The Talk

So you had a story idea and you’ve worked it up into a plot. The characters are defined, you know who is doing what, the twists and turns and even the theme.

Now you have to put words into everyone’s mouths or, more precisely, into their word balloons. For some would-be writers, that’s where the wheels come off. How do you write dialogue? More importantly, how do you write good dialogue?

Let’s start with a basic: all dialogue is action. No one just speaks: they cajole, they explain, they confirm, they deny, they confront, they exalt, they exult, they attack, they defend, they lie and so on.  It is an active transitive verb. When a character speaks, they are doing something or attempting to do something. What’s important is not what the character is saying but what the character is doing or trying to do when they speak.  What does the character want, what goals are they trying to achieve? In short, what drives them? What is their motivation? What do they need? Not just want – need.

Dialogue has two main purposes: to move the plot along and/or to reveal character. Even exposition falls under the “move the plot along” rule.

Keep in mind that in comics, you have very little room for dialogue. Each panel has room for maybe two word balloons – three, if they’re small. Each word balloon has room for two to three lines tops. And you can’t do that in every panel; the reader will just see too many words and skip the page.

I’ve heard it said that comic book scripting is revealing character via newspaper headlines. So you have to be succinct with your verbiage.

Major Ostrander rule: when in doubt, cut it out. If they can (and do) cut Shakespeare, they can (and should) cut some of your lines. You should do it first. I’ve heard a story that legendary writer and editor Robert Kanigher, when he was writing Sgt. Rock, would stand on his desk and shout out the dialogue; if it sounded okay doing it that way, he figured it was right.

Once I delivered a GrimJack script to First Comics and, while editor Rick Oliver was going through it, I was schmoozing the rest of the office as I usually did. Rick came out to me with a page of script in his hand and the matching page of art. He looked at them, looked at me, and asked how much I was paid per page. I told him and then Rick noted “So on this page we’re paying you one hundred dollars for six words.”

“No,” I replied easily; “You’re paying me for knowing which words to leave off.” I offered to add more if Rick really felt it was necessary but he smiled, said he was just curious, and went back into his office.

When writing dialogue, you need to differentiate between characters. They are not all the same characters (even though all of them are you) and so should speak differently. Some people speak brusquely, some like the sound of their own voices. Some people try to over explain their reasons why they are doing what they’re doing; they feel that if you understood, really understood, you’d do things their way. I was told once by one such person that I wasn’t listening, to which I replied, “Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”

There is a cadence to how people speak and that’s especially useful if you’re trying to indicate a person has a foreign accent; there is a way of speaking, a certain order. Some movies can give you a wealth of accents to hear; Casablanca is a very good one. Listen and learn.

There’s a simple short-cut that can help you; cast your characters as if they were in an animated feature. Who would you cast as their voice? The nice part of this is that it doesn’t have to be an actor; it can be anyone whose voice you can hear in your mind – a friend, a relative, a co-worker, a politician and so on. They don’t have to be currently living, either; past or present will do.

Listen to your characters as well once you have their voices in your mind; they will not only tell you what to write but may take the plot off in a direction you hadn’t considered. Listen to them and go with them if they do that. There was a GrimJack story once where I refused to do that; I stubbornly stuck to the lines and the plot that I had already decided on. That s.o.b. Gaunt stopped talking to me for the rest of the issue; it was the hardest GrimJack script I ever attempted. I learned my lesson and haven’t done it since.

Listen to people all around you; what do they say and how do they say it? What do they not say? What is left unsaid? In art, negative space can help define the figure. In writing, the silences can define the character. When do they happen, why, and what happens as a result?

Don’t be “clever.” Dialogue should be entertaining, yes; that’s part of storytelling. However, when I encounter “clever” dialogue, it means the author is really trying to draw attention to him/herself. “See how clever I am? Isn’t that a great turn of phrase?” It draws the reader right out of the story and that’s a failure to communicate. There are many writers whose dialogue is clever but that’s not their purpose. Brian Michael Bendis is an example of someone who writes very clever dialogue but he is also a very very good writer because his first focus is story and characterization. He just happens to be clever as well.

Your dialogue can be contemporaneous; it can be elevated. Poetic or streetwise. What it has to do is serve the story and reveal the character.

That’s the job.

Dennis O’Neil: Be A Villain  

x…a man may smile, and smile, and be a villain

William Shakespeare

A lovely person with whom I once shared a wedge of life told me that the bad guys in my stories didn’t get really mean until I began having frequent encounters with a colleague who would never have gotten even close to my Christmas card list had I been the kind of guy who sends Christmas cards. And later I shifted part of the writer’s duty, the part that dealt with antagonists, to the editor while I pleasured myself with parts of the continuity that, at the time, I found more interesting.

Shame on me.

You may have heard it: the hero is only as good as the villain. Grant that there may be a taste of oversimplification in there somewhere, and then grant that the statement is true. Put Superman against a pickpocket? Batman against a jaywalker? Spider-Man against a graffiti artist? You’re not squirming in anticipation of those stories, are you? There’s not much conflict or drama – not much entertainment value – in a blatantly uneven contest. The powers and abilities of both halves of the story equation – good guy/bad guy – should be roughly equal and if you’re going to give an edge to one side, give it to the heavy; we do like to cheer for the underdog, don’t we?

Maybe my friend was right about the colleague. If so, I don’t know why. Maybe I needed some sort of emotional jolt, which the colleague generously supplied. Or maybe I was too involved with the plotting, as opposed to the charactering, of the stories. Maybe I wasn’t as involved in my craft as I should have been. Maybe my sun sign was not aligned with my moon sign and when that happens…run for the hills? Or maybe I was getting a preview of how I might feel in, oh, say – forty years later?: that is, now.

I’m not churning out as much fantasy-melodrama as I once did, but if I were, villains might be a problem. Time was that the baddies existed only to give he hero grief and if the baddie discharged that duty, enough said and well done! Some people are just nasty: case closed. But the best popular fiction now gives the evildoers just about the same degree of motivation and personality as is bestowed upon the good guys. And at a certain level, it’s becoming hard for me to really believe in villainy – that is actions that serve only to rain on someone’s parade. A really good writer – Shakespeare, say – can do a bad guy whose core seems to be sheer malevolence – and make the narrative work. But we aren’t all Shakespeare.

My problem is, I no longer believe in villainy. I believe in ignorance and, to borrow an idea from my days as a Catholic, some of it is invincible ignorance and the invincibly ignorant will hold onto their ignorance until ten seconds after they’re breathed their last. But they’re not infected with some spiritual toxin that makes men slimeys. They’re ignorant.

Thich Nhat Hanh, who is as close to a saint as anyone I know of, says that, given different circumstances he would have become a river pirate instead of a monk.

I look back on eight and a half decades and see myself doing plenty of ratty stuff. But I didn’t do it because I was a villain and, in the moment, I either rationalized my acts or simply didn’t deal with their moral implications. I guess what I did might fit some definitions of ignorance.

But “ignorance” doesn’t have the same dramatic heft as “evil,” does it?

John Ostrander: Under The Influences

Every artist has their influences. The ones who came before that make an impression on you. They blow your mind, they lift your heart, they power your imagination, they open your soul; you want to be like them and influence others as they have influenced you. The influences come from everywhere – real life, film, media, other artists – but ultimately you filter them through your own consciousness. You borrow from them but you make it your own. For myself, part of the reason I wanted to become a writer is because of the joy I got as a reader. I wanted to return that energy that I had gotten from my reading.

By the time I was ten, I had read all the Sherlock Holmes stories by A. Conan Doyle. The puzzles fascinated me, yes, as did the characters of Watson and Holmes but what I took away perhaps more than anything else was the setting and the time – the fog-shrouded street, the hansom cabs, the gaslight, the apartment, the back alleys. London of the late 1800s. When I think of that era, I think of the Homes stories. My takeaway was the importance of place in a story and it shows up most in my work with Cynosure in GrimJack. The city is the most important supporting character in the series; it has defined GrimJack and there is no relationship in the stories more important than the one between GrimJack and Cynosure.

Chicago has also influenced Cynosure as well. It is a city of neighborhoods and the ethnic culture changes from one area to the next. That’s how I understood the various dimensions that make up Cynosure; it was my experience of Chicago.

Robert E. Howard also was a major influence on me, especially the Conan stories. My takeaway here was the pell-mell sense of storytelling, the breathless sense of excitement and action. In a similar fashion, Peter O’Donnell also influenced me with his Modesty Blaise comic strip. He might spend some time setting up a given story but he never wasted a panel or a word. It all drove the story, the characters, the action forward like a juggernaut.

Shakespeare showed me how to marry theme to the plot. Yes, there are the great soliloquies, the great speeches addressing deep philosophical questions but they are all tied to the specific moment in the plot. When Hamlet launches into his “To be or not to be. . .” speech, it’s not an idle musing. This is a guy who is contemplating killing himself. It’s a debate, it’s an argument with himself. It’s actually full of suspense. His life is at stake. The language used, the questions raised, all advance the character and the plot.

Our own Dennis O’Neil in his classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow series with Neal Adams showed me how comics could marry the important topics of the day with superheroes. Without those stories, without Denny, I would not have written the Suicide Squad or the Spectre as I did.

There are many many others in all fields – in movies, in TV, in music (Aaron Copland! Beethoven! The Blue Nile! Kate Bush!) – that have had a bearing on me, on who I am, and thus into my work. Others have told me I have an influence on them (which I sometimes have trouble dealing with) but we all have to be open to outside influences if, ultimately, we are to realize our own voice. We come from others, we give to others. That’s part of the wonder of it all.

Photo by JD Hancock

Box Office Democracy: “Only Lovers Left Alive”

Only Lovers Left Alive is such a waste of a film.  Two hours of nothing happening but Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton looking very attractive and exchanging meaningful glances as they struggle to tolerate the presence of any other characters.  If the main characters can’t seem to care about the people around them or the events happening it’s going to be very hard for me to do it in their stead.  They’re also vampires who do almost zero vampire things, Hiddleston’s Adam moves really fast twice and Swinton’s Eve seems to be able to tell how old a thing is by touching it.  These are not the big moments I expect when I sit down for a movie about vampires.  No one even drinks blood out of a person on camera.  Nosferatu had more action than this movie when it came out 92 years ago.

There’s one of the most flagrant and direct violation of the Chekhov’s gun principle I’ve ever seen.  The whole first section of the movie is devoted to Adam obtaining a wooden bullet, the kind that could kill a vampire, and once he has it that gun never gets fired.  It’s the impetus for a short exchange about how tired Adam is of the actions of humans but that conversation had already happened by that point and is really the entire plot anyway.  The bullet serves to kind of underline his despair but it isn’t good storytelling to show a gun that never gets fired.  I could perhaps forgive it if I was satisfied with the rest of the story, but there was just no satisfaction to be had.

The dialogue is aggressively not clever.  They’re vampires you see so they frequently talk about how old they are.  They talk about all the famous events they were at and how many great things they’ve done.  One of the peripheral vampires wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays.  I expect vampire movies to have enough self-awareness to not feel like they can trot out tropes that were widely mocked in Buffy the Vampire Slayer over a decade ago.

Much like the vampires who inhabit the film Only Lovers Left Alive feels like a movie trapped out of time.  I was struck while watching that the movie reminded me profoundly of movies like Suburbia or Clerks where rather than have a tight plot the movie was more like a loose character study.  If this movie also came out in the mid-90s maybe I would be prepared to feel more generous about it.  As it is, it just feels like an antique.  Also, none of those movies had anything nearly as shiny as vampires to dangle in front of me but never explore.

John Ostrander: Whore To Culture And Other Working Relationships

I’m over at Facebook a fair amount. I use it not just for friends and family, people I actually know, but also as a way to keep in touch with fans which I think is important. I try to give them a good personal experience with me because I value them; their support enables me to make a living as a writer. Some publishers have an interest in hiring me because they know I have my own fanbase.

So I post things and answer questions or notes – sort of like at a Con – and it’s nice. Most of the fans are very respectful; sometimes, maybe a little too respectful. There have been those who refer to me as “master”. I appreciate it as a token of respect but, to be honest, I’m uncomfortable with it. To my mind, I’m just a working guy and my work happens to be writing. It’s how I make my living – buy food, pay the bills, and so on.

I’m a professional writer and I take great pride in that; people pay money to read what I’ve written and, as I’ve said elsewhere, that’s something I’ve never taken for granted and never will. There’s a big demand on your dollar today (mine too) and if you spend the money on one thing chances are you aren’t spending it on another. Maybe if you buy a comic I’ve written you can’t buy some other comic. So it’s my job to make sure you get your money’s worth.

I’m not a “fine” writer; I’m a storyteller. Both as a reader and a writer, my big interest is “and then what happened?” I’m not a stylist although I can turn a good phrase. I’m not apologizing in any way; I’m proud of what I’ve written but I know what I am and what I am not.

I had an interesting online discussion some years back with a defiantly amateur writer. He claimed he was “purer” as a writer because he didn’t accept money for his work. In fact, he claimed I was a whore and prostituting myself for taking money for something I should have done for the pure love of it.

I will confess to be a bit flummoxed by this. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I could have said that he probably couldn’t prostitute himself because nobody would pay him; it’s hard to make money if you’re an ugly whore. However, that would have been mere pique and invective and dodged the central question – does getting paid for my work inherently make one less of an artist? Shakespeare (a greater artist than I) got paid, as did Dickens, Shaw, and many other talented artists.

On the other hand, there are plenty of hacks out there who will grind out anything to make a buck. There are times I have taken an assignment, not because I loved the character or the concept but because I needed the work and the paycheck. However, I’ve never put in less work as a result. I have to find something in the character that I can relate to, into which I can invest myself. It’s not always easy but it is always necessary. In some cases I am more successful than in others but the effort is always there because I know that, at some point, someone will put down real cold cash to read it.

I write to be read. I know one of the cardinal rules of writing is, first and foremost, to write to please yourself and I do that. However, I don’t only do that. I’m aware as I write that, hopefully, someone is going to read those words as you are reading these words. If one writes only to please oneself, then I think that’s literary masturbation. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with masturbation; I’ve dated Five Finger Lucy myself. There’s the old joke that goes “if it wasn’t for masturbation, I’d have no sex life at all” and, at one point in my past, that was very true. However, I also happen to think that sex with a partner is, well, better.

When you connect with your reader, it’s like flipping the electric switch to “on”. The electricity flows and it can flow both ways. It’s that connection with the reader that I’m looking for. In my stories, I ask my reader, “Have you ever felt this? Thought this? Considered this”? If they have, then we share something. The electricity flows between us. There’s a bond between us. We celebrate a shared humanity.

That’s my job. That’s what I get paid to do. What I get paid has never determined the effort I put into the work; it has enabled me to do it without expending time and energy making a living some other way, time and energy that I need to put into the work.

I’m not a master; I could never claim that for myself. I’m a guy from Chicaguh who writes for a living; a working stiff like most of you. Most days, I love what I do and, on the other days, it’s a grind, like any other job. Overall I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I hope to keep doing it until I drop. To quote James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, “It’s what I do.”

Photo by mpclemens

John Ostrander: Writing Tids and Bits

Absent any overall topic occurring to me, maybe we’ll try the ol’ shotgun approach – a bunch of writing tips with the idea that, if there’s enough of them, some should work. (My friend William J. Norris used to describe my sense of humor that way – if I just kept talking, a certain percentage of it was bound to be funny.)

Da tips.

Cast your characters. This can be short-hand for a character and can help with dialogue. Who would play your character in TV or movies or who would provide their voice if the character was animated? It doesn’t have to be a living actor; heck, it doesn’t have to be an actor at all. It can be somebody you know or knew, friend or foe or relative (the last can be a combination of the first two). It can be a politician or your boss or a co-worker. Somebody you find distinctive and whose voice is inside your head.

Using a person as the template can help you with how the character acts, who they are, how they physically express themselves. Mannerisms, habits, nervous tics can all work into the character. The cadence of how the template speaks, verbal habits, and so on can help you as you write the dialogue. It’s sometimes easier to identify these traits in others than in yourself. That gives you perspective on them.

These traits are all shorthand – you still have to do all the basic hard work of who they are, their background, and what they want but this can help, especially if you get stuck.

You/Not You. All your characters are you; all your characters are not you. You have to find the point where you and your character intersect if you’re going to write the character honestly. Every character – the good, the bad, main characters, supporting character, one line wonders – lives inside you. However, you also have to detach from them a bit. You have to have some objectivity in portraying them. Give them their own life. It’s like parents with kids; at some point, the parent has to acknowledge their kid ain’t them. The dichotomy between you/not you can be tough to master.

Make Them Turn the Page. (more…)

John Ostrander: Dumb Ways To Die, Better Ways To Live

I was shocked to learn of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one of the bright lights of his acting generation. I then learned he died of a heroin overdose with a needle stuck in his arm, surrounded by 50 packets of heroin, and I’m afraid my first reaction was, “What a stupid way to die.” Ungenerous, I know, but that was my honest first reaction.

I had the same reaction to the death of Paul Walker, of the Fast and Furious franchise, in a fiery crash while drag-racing. Coroner’s report says that Walker was alive, at least briefly, after the car caught fire. What a stupid way to die. I feel sorry for his friends and family who loved him but I also wonder at who Walker and the guy driving him could have killed as well.

I was more bothered by Heath Ledger’s death, also by overdose although this was more prescription medication, than I was by Hoffman’s or Walker’s deaths. A common connection in all three cases is to wonder what else they might have done, what work might they have accomplished. They all left behind family, children, friends who grieve and wonder why the ones they loved died in this fashion.

You look at Hoffman’s life– brilliant actor, lots of acclaim, lots of work, highly regarded in the industry, loving partner and kids he loved. Lots to live for and he dies with a needle stuck in his arm. A common junkie’s death. What a stupid way to die.

Then I took a step back and thought more on Hoffman’s death, on all these deaths. One of my prime rules for writing is that “Nothing that is human is alien to me.” Can I really distance myself that much from these men and their deaths and judge so harshly? I’m presuming that they could have made other choices. Maybe they could have but can I understand the choices they made? If I was writing them as characters, could I understand them?

When writing a character, I always try to find something in myself that corresponds to the character that I’m writing. If I was to write Hitler, I would need to find the parts inside me that corresponded to Hitler. If I’m writing a racist, if I’m writing a misogynist, if I’m writing a homophobe, I need to find the parts in myself that are racist, misogynistic, homophobic.

I’ve never taken heroin but what am I addicted to? What self-destructive elements are in me? What really stupid things do I do despite knowing they will eventually catch up to me? Are they choices or compulsions?

This isn’t a confessional and I’m not going into details here. Suffice it to say I found plenty of the above and I didn’t need to look that hard or that long. There’s a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet where the Prince says, “I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.” It’s a little extreme but I’ve found a truth in it for me.

My apologies, Mr. Hoffman. I’ve learned things about people and the world from the roles you played; you found yourself in them and showed us part of ourselves. In your death, in the way you died, I may have also found aspects of myself.

Thank you. Sorry you’re gone.

John Ostrander: Bad Boys, Bad Boys

Ostrander Art 140119I was watching perhaps my favorite new TV show of the season, The Blacklist, last Monday. James Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington exacts a fierce revenge on those who wronged him. Reddington has done terrible things throughout the series and yet I find myself drawn to him, even rooting for him. I doubt that I’m the only one.

It’s not the first time for me. There was James Gandolfini in The Sopranos and, to an even greater extent, Michael Chiklis in The Shield. Who is the real center of The Dark Knight – Christian Bales’ Batman or Heath Ledger’s Joker? It’s a tradition that goes back a long way – the most interesting character in Shakespeare’s Othello isn’t the title character but Iago, the great and cunning villain of the play.

I really enjoy writing the bad guys as well. My favorite Star Wars creation? Probably the rogue and con man Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk. Over at DC, I had a whole series centering on the villains – Suicide Squad. My faves among them – probably Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot. It’s not hard to spot. Hell, even John Gaunt, GrimJack, is not a hero except maybe by default.

So… what is the attraction? I am, by most accounts, a nice guy. So where does all this come from? The bad guys have to come from somewhere inside of me. Why are all of us attracted by the Joker, or Hannibal Lecter, or Raymond Reddington and the others?

Going back to my acting days, it was always fun to play a villain. First of all, they usually had the best lines. More important, I think the villains do things that you and I have atavistic urges to do, but our own conditioning, our own morality, keep us from acting on those urges. By identifying with the bad guys, by emotionally investing myself with them and their acts, I do the crime without having to worry about paying the price. I get the thrill without having to worry about the consequences.

I especially enjoy writing characters like Captain Boomerang. Boomerbutt (as others called him) was remarkably well-adjusted in a rather reprehensible way. He knew exactly who he was and he was happy with it. No angst, no desire to make himself better. Nobody liked Captain Boomerang more than Boomerang himself; it might be safe to say that he was the only one who liked Boomerang at all. He was fine with that as well.

Another secret of villains is that they don’t think of themselves, for the most part, as bad. They may think that the rules don’t apply to them but they feel they have the perfect right to do what they’re doing.

I don’t like every villain. Simple thugs and bullies – not very interesting. Same goes for the megalomaniac who wants to rule the world. Usually they’re pretty one note. No, give me the guy or gal with intelligence or at least a low cunning, a sense of humor, a worldview of some kind, a touch of theatricality and who has no compunction about doing what they do. Ah, that’s a villain I can sink my literary teeth into!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY: Jen Krueger



Talking Ultrasylvania with Brian Schirmer

With the final volume currently on Kickstarter, I had a chance to talk to Brian Schrimer and Jeremy Saliba about Ultrasylvania – a comic series crafted in the classroom.

Joshua Pantalleresco:  How did Ultrasylvania came to be?

Brian Schrimer:  I was traveling in Europe in 2011, making any notes of things that crossed my mind in a little notebook – observations, passing thoughts, ideas. One notion – “What if Dracula had been a world leader?” – stuck with me. I didn’t know what I’d do with it, but it certainly had its hooks in me.

Months later, I was approached by a former student of mine – I teach Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco – who suggested that the school should offer a class that would be built around something I wrote, where students would provide the artwork. Naturally, I laughed at him.

Then, a few days passed and I realized the notion stuck with me. I spoke with Jeremy about it – and about the prospect of building a class around the idea that would become Ultrasylvania. He was on board, followed by the School of Illustration’s director, Chuck Pyle. We were off and running.

JP:  Is it a little intimidating using such classic characters?

BS: So many of our key characters – from Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster to the Invisible Man and the Mummy – have well known legacies. You know what to expect in a story that features any of them. Our challenge was to subvert those expectations. That was part of the fun. It wasn’t intimidating – it was liberating. We’d found a new way to look at these classic characters, despite some of them having been around for 100 years or more.

JP: What were your influences in creating this series?

BS:  I put a bit of my love for most everything in there somewhere. Coen Brothers films, ancient Egypt, Shakespeare. Apocalypse Now is in there a few times. Moral and ethical ambiguity abounds. Dracula is a bastard and Victor (our Frankenstein Monster) is very sympathetic – but neither is a hero or villain. I really wanted that to be the case, as it was something I wanted to explore.

JP:  Is it still a class project to this day?  If it is, have you had any comics pros work on the concept?  Would you like to?

BS:  The class is on indefinite hiatus.  After running the course for three consecutive semesters, completing three graphic novels worth of material in 18 months, and all of the subsequent efforts that go into bringing those works to digital and to print – including the Kickstarter for Volume Three that launches Monday – we decided to take a break and to work on other projects.

JP:The first story seemed to be about the concept of finding and losing love.  Was that an intentional theme?

BS:  It was indeed.  You’ll find that same theme explored in Volume Two.  More to the point, before writing this project I’d come to realize that perhaps the overarching subject in most of my work has been hope.  It was never something I set out to do.  I just began to recognize it as a throughline, as a pattern.  So, I decided to dive into Ultrasylvania with that in the back of my mind, allowing the tale to explore hope in all its permutations – loss of hope, misplaced hope, the hope one feels when richly in love, that last bit of pure hope one has when it seems things are all but lost, and so on.

JP:  What’s coming up in volume three?

BS:  Each volume has its own subtitle – Volume One: King Dracula, Volume Two: Emperor Frankenstein….  I had a couple working titles in my head that carried on that would have carried on that theme for Volume Three.  But once I’d seen the finished artwork and saw the lettering come together, I realized it needed to be titled Ultrasylvania, Vol. 3: The Book of the Dead.  There’s a very distinct reason for this.  To my mind, it couldn’t be called anything else.  This time out we finally see the origin of Meritaten, the “mummy” of our tale – and it’s a bit disturbing.  We also fill in some of the other blanks on Dracula’s side, including how he acquired the third of his three brides.  (Hint: There are witches in this world!  Hint #2: She’s not one of them.)  Also, we finally make it to the US of A – or what would be the US of A, had certain… unpleasantries not occurred.  This last part sets the stage for our big finish.  You know what else if coming up in Volume Three?  Quite possibly the best artwork of the whole damn series.  I know this sounds like self-serving hyperbole, but seriously, some of this work is jaw-dropping awesome.

JP:  So when does your kickstarter for volume three launch?

BS:  We are Kickstarting Volume 3 right now. We’ve already been spreading the word – via social media, recent cons – and sounds like there’s some anticipation out there – which is fantastic. I suspect October will be flush with campaigns. Here’s hoping we’ve got something that truly stands out in the crowd.

JP:  Anything else you’d like to add?

BS:  Jeremy and I have been so lucky to work with so many amazing artists on this project. It’s hard to believe they’re still both university students and so damned young! Some of them should absolutely be working in the industry NOW. If Ultrasylvania can be a calling card for us all, then that’s something of which I can feel proud.

Thanks Brian!

You can find and donate to volume three’s kickstarter at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/955965154/ultrasylvania-vol-3-the-book-of-the-damned?ref=live, the webpage is located at http://www.ultrasylvania.com and the twitter handle is @ultrasylvania.

(Update: The kickstarter has been funded.  Still, feel free to donate to achieve stretch goals.)m

ePulp Sampler e-Unearthed!


 A newly released action packed ePulp anthology unleashes 5 new tales inspired by the pulp magazines of the 1920s – 1940s. They are not for the faint of heart. Things will get intense and stuff on these pages can’t be unread.
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Get ready to explore strange worlds, visit forgotten pasts, and delve into parallel histories. Prepare to encounter an eclectic mix of heroes walking the line between life and death.
* Duck as Rurik’s blade carves demons in the Celtic landscape of dark fantasy.
As a rite of passage young Rurik faced a Demonhound. During his trial the creature’s flaming tentacles scarred Rurik leaving a mark coiling up his arm, shoulder and chest. After he triumphed in battle, Rurik carved a bone from the slain creatures body then sharpened it into strange looking sword. Now he patrols the badlands for more monsters and slays them with the very remains of their dead brethren. As the man grew so did his and legend.
* Witness the Dead Reckoner, a battlefield ghost looking for absolution in a weird war tale.
Anaxander Jones enlisted in the British Imperial Army when he was 18. That was in 1876. While assigned to the colonial troops in darkest Africa he found himself embroiled in the Zulu Wars. Armed with superior firepower and roman pride, the British war machine outclassed the savages toting spears and superstitions, but something misfired. Anaxander was infected by a Zulu curse, resurrected as the Dead Reckoner and damned to atone for the sins of empire. Now he’s yanked from battlefield to battlefield throughout history to witness the horrors of war, over and over again.
* Face Nazi occupation of USA with Wild Marjoram in an alternate history.
Wild Marjoram is a blonde haired blue eyed mechanic with a locket that holds the key to her past. This perfect Aryan specimen lives in hiding from the Nazi occupation. If they discovered her, she’s be condemned to the fate of a broodmare. But she’s not the type of girl to give up without a fight.
* Race through the Great Depression on an errand of mercy with Pandora Driver, a noir superheroine.
Pandora Driver was the relentless avenger of the common man. She sifts right from wrong in a realm where the villains were the local gentry and the heroes were outlaws. Pandora was a mistress of disguise who used sly audacity and an unstoppable Car-of-Tomorrow to unleash chaos into the halls of wealth and power.
* Fly across the universe with the Skyracos in a retro sci-fi adventure.
Skyracos are winged warriors who struggle to keep their humanity while executing unsavory missions on alien worlds. Though they hail from the planet Centrus, their technology is based in WWII with a hint of alien super-science. They operate on the frontier of the known and unimagined where they are forced to interpret crises and dispense justice on their terms, or so they think.
Whether you’re a nostalgian, dieselpunk, pulp fan,  sci-fi and fantasy aficionado, or ebook spelunker, there’s something in this collection for you to explore. However, I suggest you sample them all.
They ain’t Shakespeare. They’re  pure Pulp!

“ePulp Sampler Vol 1” is currently available on your favorite eBookstores. Download your free copy before it’s too late!

Barnes and Noble (*.99)
Google Play
Project Gutenberg