Tagged: Writing

John Ostrander: Are You Artistically Experienced?

Ostreander Art 131013Last week I wrote about seeing The Wizard of Oz again on the IMAX screen and how, once more, I really enjoyed the film. Since then, I’ve reflected on how my attitude towards the film has changed over the years.

The first time I saw Wizard was in the 50s on a relatively small black and white set. To be honest, I was not very taken with it. I was probably about eight or ten and The Guns of Navarone was far more my speed. Also, as I said, I saw it all in black and white and so the moment when the film transitions to Technicolor was lost on me until we got a color set. That’s when I got it and started to appreciate the film more.

What has really changed over the years has been what I bring to the film as I watch it – or any other film I see again or any book I re-read or piece of music that I listen to more than once. The work itself, in those cases, doesn’t really change. Oh, it might be restored or, in the case of The Wizard of Oz, blown up for the IMAX and have a few 3D effects tossed in. However, the fundamentals of the work do not change. I have changed.

To give an example, when I was in 8th grade at St. Jerome’s RC Grade School, I watched and was taken up with the TV version of Going My Way. This wasn’t the Bing Crosby movie, which I didn’t see until much later. This one starred Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby role and Leo G. Carroll (previously of the Topper TV series and later of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) in the Barry Fitzgerald role. I was very taken with it and with the idea of being a parish priest, so much so that I signed up for the seminary.

My “vocation” (as such things were called) didn’t last more than my freshman year but that year in seminary had a profound affect on my life and has been highly influential in my writing. It all stems back to that TV series version of Going My Way. I doubt very much it would have the same influence on me today because I’m a different person. I would bring a different self to it. I might find memories – ghosts – of who I was back then but seeing the series again wouldn’t have the same effect on me.

Any artistic work is like a light switch. The potential is there even when the switch closed. However, it takes the person encountering that work to flip that switch so that the electricity flows. That’s when the work is truly experienced. Part of the magic is no two of us experience that same work in exactly the same way.

The work created has the artist’s intent and exists as his or her self-expression. It has a life of its own, often independent of the creator (witness Sherlock Holmes). The experience, where the work really lives, happens only when someone encounters it, takes it in, brings his or her own life to it, when they really participate in it. A good example are comic books – a comic book page exists in a static form but the reader somehow uses the gutters to “see” and experience the action move from one panel to the next.

This essay exists whether you read it or not but it only reaches its full potential when you read it and, even better, it affects you. Then we shall have shared thoughts, feelings – an experience.

So – was it good for you?




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


New Pulp Author is the Talk of the Town…

Bobby on the Talk of The Town couch

New Pulp Author Bobby Nash was interviewed on Talk of The Town, a local interview show filmed in his community. Over the course of the twelve and a half minute interview, the show’s host, Karen Allen talked with Bobby about writing, pulp, Evil Ways, Lance Star: Sky Ranger, The Ruby Files, and his latest release, Fight Card: Barefoot Bones.

The video has now been posted to the internet. You can watch it above or here. Bobby is the second interview, following author Creston Mapes, starting around the 12 minute mark.

Host Karen Allen with Bobby Nash’s novel, Evil Ways

Dennis O’Neil: Graphic Storytelling… and Excess

O'Neil Art 130815A big black hole –

The galaxy’s bowl?

Captain Power’s goal?

Enough poesy. What we’re dissertating on today is not verse, which I’m pretty sure I don’t quite understand, but goals.

But first, a brief look at what are widely considered the seven basic plots. I’ll be courteous enough to add, under each one, an example of what it is. This I will do in italics.

Here we go:

Overcoming the Monster – Gilgamesh

Rags to Riches – Cinderella

The Quest – Lord of the Rings 

Voyage and Return – Wizard of Oz

Comedy – Modern Times

Tragedy – Oedipus Rex

Rebirth – Christmas Carol

Most of what I’ve just tossed at you are narrative germs that involve somebody trying to get or accomplish something – somebody with goals to achieve. (Tragedy and Rebirth are hereby excused. And Comedy can take a nap, if it wants.)

That’s mostly the stuff we see at the monsterplex and it is a sturdy beast that’s been transfixing audiences for…I don’t know – fifteen centuries?

But, I shall now claim, to be as effective as they can be, goalish-stories must have clarity: the goal itself must be clear and the obstacles between the hero and his goal must also be clear. In order to pull us to the edge of our seats, the storyteller has to let us see and know exactly what the hero has to overcome and in so doing, generate and the suspense and thrills and chills that we’ve paid for.

And here comes the kvetch: Some of our storytellers are failing, just a bit, by giving us too much. You’ve probably seen it: Good guy has to rescue good girl and to accomplish this he must get past the head villain’s henchman. Okay, fine. But – we don’t know who these henchmen are, how many there are, what they’re capable of. So good guy stalks through someplace that’s badly lit and has a lot of corners, and maybe a lot of door and-what the hey? let’s throw in a balcony or two, and a skylight would be nice. Now, the big action: out pops a bad guy and bangbangbang. Out pops a bad guy and bangbangbang. Out pops a bad guy and bangbangbang. Out pops a bad guy and bangbangbang. Out pops a bad guy and bangbangbang. And bang bang bang…We don’t know how many of these faceless nasties the hero has to vanquish so we can’t tell exactly what he’s overcoming, nor what progress he may be making. And he does pretty much the same couple of things to achieve his victories: a trio of shots from his Glock, with the occasional lethal martial arts move for lagniappe. Finally, he confronts the chief stinker and do we doubt that, after the hero’s dispatched legions, he’ll be stymied by this loser?

Are you bored yet?

Two words, Mr. Filmmaker: rising action. It’s part of your medium’s basic vocabulary and it is still as potent an audience-transfixer as when, way back, Laurel and Hardy used it to get laughs.

The same act of mayhem repeated and repeated does not constitute rising action.

And who the hell is Captain Power, anyway?


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases



BAD TIGER STUDIO debuted recently as a new force in Pulp and Comics, fitting the bill for just what All Pulp covers!  With this first interview of Company Partner C. William Russette, All Pulp begins a series spotlighting Bad Tiger Creators discussing characters, plans, and more to come from this new, but already popular company in Comics and Pulp Fiction


ALL PULP:  Tell us about yourself, your personal background, and how you got into writing/art/etc.

CWR; My name is C. William Russette I currently pay the rent working retail. I have an incredibly supportive wife and a fantastic son who digs my art. I have been drawing since I could hold a crayon as so many artists claim. Far as I recall it was the truth for me. I didn’t get interested in writing until I started playing role playing games and the plots provided just weren’t interesting enough for me to run my players through. Basically I always fancied myself an artist but never pushed that too hard. Writing was all dabbling too until I was in the army and took a correspondence course. That and trying to impress my future wife got me to start taking my writing seriously. I wrote some comic book scripts and short stories. Tommy roped me into the first of many web projects and his health has been on the decline ever since. I have been published in both comic book format and prose; most recently in Pro Se Presents.

AP: What is your role at Bad Tiger?

CWR: I am the co-Founder along with Justin Ditzler. That’s my biggest hat. I am also the plotter-scripter-penciller-inker of the OPERATOR ZERO comic. I recruited all of our talent from past associations be it writing or art. I also wear an editors hat but that’s pretty loose.

AP: In our modern society, some would say that there’s nothing new or original anymore.  What makes Bad Tiger stand out?

CWR: I don’t care for that idea. By that reasoning no one has done anything new or original since Macedonia four thousand years ago. Plots and themes can be retreaded and slapped together with different characters in different places and times. I think it really depends on how you present the story. How well was it written? Was it executed properly? What will make Bad Tiger material stand out is that no one has our unique viewpoints or the way we process everything we absorb. I’ll let my peers answer for themselves but I grew up reading a lot of fiction from comic books to fantasy-adventure and devouring films like Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian and especially the Ray Harryhausen works. So add to that a fondness for Pulp (that I was unaware of until it was brought to my attention.) and dump trucks of Robert E. Howard, Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver and there is a healthy eclectic mix that my creative engine can chew up, lace with adrenalin and spit out what I call my kinda stories. BTS is my stories done my way. It’s something that I have been wanting to do for some time and I’ve assembled a gang of like minded individuals to share their wares.

AP: What are your inspirations, influences for the work you do?

CWR: There are many so I’ll just scrape off the icing. For art I will say Mike Mignola, John Byrne and Walt Simonson are top of the heap. I am still learning to ink but Gary Martin and Shawn Martinbrough jump to mind. For writing it is really all over the place. Warren Ellis, Jim Shooter, Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Clavell (Shogun is still my favorite novel), R. A. Salvatore, Bruce Lee, Robert Ludlam, Chris Claremont and Grant Morrison to name a few. Are we doing movies? 13 Assassins, The Crow, Gladiator, The Avengers and cartoons like Alladin, Akira and Transformers G1. Toshiro Mifune, Jeff Goldblum, Jack Nicholson and Donnie Yen. For music its mostly 80’s rock and metal. For it all I need the high water mark, a direct line or an adrenaline shot to get the juices flowing. Oh, and coffee.

AP: What do you think appeals to the public about heroic/genre fiction and/or comic strips?  Why will people come to Bad Tiger?

CWR: I think there are a number of reasons why people like heroic fiction. I think there is a certain thrill to living vicariously through the characters that you’re absorbing. I know I do that. I think there is a certain level of escapism that feeds a down-time need during troubled times in your life. You want to forget the rent, the war, the homework or the job. Maybe reading about a domino masked ex-sailor that stands up against the unjust and lands a mighty jaw-breaking right cross is just the ticket to lower your blood pressure. The creators that I have roped into presenting their varied super-charged crime-breaking, airship-flying, sword swinging, mask wearing, machine gun unloading stories will deliver the super charged pulp, genre tales that much of the comic book industry just doesn’t deliver. Heck, we even have a comedic strip in Junior’s World by Frank Dawson Jr. Its all under one roof and great things are coming down the pipe. I assure you.

AP: Any closing thoughts?

CWR: I’ve gone on long enough but I will say that I am having a great time working with these guys and creating along side them the stories that we all love to read. Watch this Bad Tiger as he claws his way to the top!

 Bad Tiger Studio- http://www.badtigerstudio.com

John Ostrander: Conviction

Ostrander Art 130616My very good friend, William J. Norris, is an excellent actor, a wonderful director, an inspiring playwright (I wrote my first play because I really admired a play that he wrote and that led, in turn, to my writing career), and one helluva teacher. I should know. I’ve stolen cribbed borrowed applied so many ideas and concepts from his teaching into my own attempts.

I met him one night for drinks after he taught an acting class and he told me that a student came up to him after a session and asked Bill if he thought the student could act. Bill said, “No.” William J. says that every time a student asks him that question, he gives the same answer. That seemed a little brutal to me in this nurturing, everyone-wins-an-award-for-showing-up era we live in. Bill said he was being kind; the life of an actor – of any artist, actually – is hard enough and if someone can be talked out of it, they should be.

He was, and is, right.

In my own theater days one of sidelines I pursued, on occasion, was that of a freelance actor coach, focused on helping someone with their auditions. It was surprising how many actors (and I include myself overall in this) let their sense of self-worth hinge on whether or not they got a call-back or were cast in the part. The whole artistic process is too narrow a reed on which to hang so weighty an existential question – do I have worth?

I encounter a variation of this at the lectures on writing.

I do. At the onset, I ask who is interested in writing. Some hands go up. I ask the hands, “Are you a writer?” You’d be surprised at how many people equivocate. “Well, I’m trying to be. . .I don’t know. . .Maybe. . .” All those answers are wrong.

If someone says that yes, they are a writer, I then ask, “Are you a good one?” Again, I often get equivocation – they want to be a good writer, they hope someday to be a good writer, and on and on. I slap the buzzer. Errnk! Again, wrong answer.

There’s a right answer but it’s also a trick answer: “Yes, I’m a writer. I’m a good writer. Not as good as I want/going to be yet.” That’s the right answer.

Here’s the trick part: you have to mean it. You have to believe it. If you don’t, why should anyone else? You have to have conviction.

I’ve sometimes compared writing – or any creative, artistic endeavor – to a circus. Sometimes you are on the high-wire, working without a net. You put one foot in front of the other and you don’t look down.

Sometimes it’s like being on the trapeze, and then the spotlight goes out. You let go of one trapeze and reach out into the darkness, believing that there is another trapeze bar and that there is another set of hands that will grab yours. You have to believe.

Sometimes it’s like being the clown car; you putter into the central ring and then all of these strange, absurd, maybe wonderful beings come out of you. If they don’t then you’re just a stupid little car in the spotlight. You have to trust in your inner clowns.

You don’t ask whether or not you can write. If you have to ask, then you can’t and won’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best thing anyone has ever written or even if it’s the best you have ever written. You put the words down and you decide later if you like them. You have to believe in your talent. You’ll figure out later if the writing is good, bad, or indifferent. For now, you’re writing and that’s what a writer does. A writer writes.

In the belief – not the hope, not the wish – in the belief that they can.





 Pulp Ark 2013, a Convention/Creators Conference centering around all aspects of New Pulp, was held April 26-28, 2013 in Springdale, AR.   As a part of the convention, the Pulp Ark Awards were given for the third year in a row.  The only comprehensive awards in the Pulp field chosen specifically by anyone wishing to nominate writers, creators, etc. for an award, The Pulp Ark Awards are given in a variety of categories. 

Only one category within the Pulp Ark Awards is determined, not by the vote of the public, but by a committee selected to determine the winner.  The Pulp Ark Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a Person involved in Pulp that has devoted much of their life to participating in the production of and/or furthering the promotion and preservation of and education in Classic Pulp as well as supporting New Pulp either by being a participant or providing encouragement other ways. 

 This year’s Pulp Ark Lifetime Achievement Award Winner as selected by the Committee began his Pulp involvement in the 1930s, finding many of his stories printed in the 1940s and 50s and moving onto other publications with fiction after the Pulps faded away in the mid 1950s.   Born in Texas, this year’s recipient learned much about life that he later translated into great western tales.  Being a self taught Jazz Musician, he saw much in his travels that informed his mystery and suspense stories, many with a Jazz background.  Writing for digests as well as penning his own books well after Pulps left the bookshelves, this author recently collected his stories and has released two date two volumes of work, with the assistance and support of his wife, Patti.  This work has so inspired writers today that a New Pulp Publishing company, Pro Se Productions, has licensed and began an imprint utilizing characters originally written by the author in his early career.

The recipient of the Pulp Ark 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award is Charles Boeckman. 

Upon notification of receiving the award, Charles Boeckman provided the following statement

I am very honored to receive the Pulp Ark Convention 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. This was so unexpected and so gratifying. Until a couple of years ago, I thought the pulps were just a faded memory in the minds of anyone still alive who read them back in their hey day. Then I discovered the vibrant community of pulp and new pulp fans and writers, and my life suddenly took on new meaning. Connecting with pulp fans, republishing some of my vintage stories in anthologies, and finding some of my forgotten manuscripts in an old trunk havereawakened my passion to write, and at age 92, I am once again pounding on the keyboard.

It means so much that I will have concrete recognition of mycontribution to pulp fiction, something that I can proudly display and eventually leave to my progeny. Maybe it will help inspire them in some way.

Thank you so much, Pulp Ark Convention 2013.”

John Ostrander: Apparent Contradictions

Ostrander Art 130324None of us are the same person all the time. We change according to the people we are around; they draw different aspects of us out of ourselves. A sibling may draw us into the role of younger or older sibling automatically. A guy talking with other guys may talk and act one way and, on seeing a pretty girl, turn around and talk and act completely differently. Have you ever said or felt that a certain person brings out the best or worst in you? It’s probably true. You do it to others as well.

What’s true in life should be true in our writing. One of the major purposes of supporting characters, major or minor, good or bad, is to draw out aspects of the protagonist. There are differences between who we think we are and who we actually are and it’s other people and/or difficult situations that draw these out and reveal them to ourselves or to the readers of our stories.

Nothing reveals a character more than contradictions. The deeper the character, the more profound the contradictions. Let’s do an exercise. Take a sheet of paper and on one side in a vertical column write attributes or virtues that a character may have. For example, our character Jimmy Bill Bob is friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That’s right – a real Boy Scout. Now, draw a line down the center of the page and in a column opposite the first attributes, write their opposite. Be creative. You can’t use un – as in unkind or ir- as in irreverent. Find words that you feel mean the opposite of the word on the left hand side of the line. I’ll wait.

Done? Fine. Here’s the thing – if everything you’ve written on the left hand side of the line is true about the character, so will everything on the right hand side be true in some way to some degree. Not at the same moment, but it can flip from one to the other in a nanosecond. It doesn’t have to be a total change which would be kind of psychotic but it can and does happen just that fast. You’ve seen it in others and I’m sure you can see it in yourself, in your actions.

It also comes down to how you define each term. In what way is a given character courteous; in what way are they rude? An act of bravery can be a small thing as well as a big thing. If this is true in real life – and I submit that it is – then it should be true in the characters that we write.

I also want to pass on something I gleaned from a terrific book on acting called Audition by Michael Shurtleff. He noted that actors loved to do “transitions” from one moment to the next, from one emotion to the next. Fates know that I was guilty of that in my acting days. He proclaimed that transitions were the death of good acting. We didn’t do it in real life; we just went from one emotion to the next often showing them hard against one another, in great contrast.

This is true in writing as well. Don’t explain the contradictions; state them and move on to the next moment. The reader will sort them out. Just make sure that the moments are true; that you’re not doing a contradiction as a short hand for a character. They are meant to reveal things about the character. A gimmick is a gimmick and makes for bad writing. Let contradictions reveal the character to you and then you can show them to your reader.  The reader will be stunned and then nod in agreement because you’ve explored something that, deep down, they know – that people, and life, are a nice messy ball of contradictions.

That makes it true.





Nash thinks he smells something pulpy.

New Pulp Author Bobby Nash joined hosts David Wood and Alan Baxter on the latest episode of the ThrillerCast- The Podcast for Readers and Writers of Thrillers podcast. They talked about writing in general and also discuss the New Pulp book market and look into the definitions of pulp and New Pulp as well as what it takes to write a pulp yarn.

You can listen now at http://thrillerpodcast.blogspot.com/2013/03/episode-66-new-pulp-with-bobby-nash.html

ThrillerCast Episode 66- New Pulp with Bobby Nash

In this episode, David and Alan discuss “New Pulp” with Bobby Nash. We also take Random House to the woodshed for their new digital-first publishing contracts. More important, however, is the fact that Al finally bought a decent microphone. Woo hoo!

Our guest is author Bobby Nash.

What is the current state of “New Pulp?” Is it still alive and well, or is it on the decline?

What is New Pulp? Can it be defined? What are the common characteristics?


How has e-publishing driven New Pulp?

Story length and pacing.

Who is writing or publishing New Pulp right now?

Who are some of the “classic” pulp writers?

What’s happening with Bobby’s work?

Nominated for Pulp Ark and Pulp Factory awards. Other writing projects. Comics and screenplays.

Writing for comics vs writing prose.

Advice for writers- if you want it to be your job, treat it like a job!


You can listen to ThrillerCast Episode 66- New Pulp with Bobby Nash at http://thrillerpodcast.blogspot.com/2013/03/episode-66-new-pulp-with-bobby-nash.html