I Am the Author, And You Will Obey Me…

As an addendum to the recent series of posts about the creation of Pandora Zwieback–related covers for books and comics, I thought you’d be interested in seeing a truly odd choice for subject matter…


What you see here is a pencil sketch by “Pandora Zwieback” cover-painting legend Bob Larkin, drawn on a blank “sketch cover” that Dynamite Entertainment published as a variant for the second issue of their Doc Savage comic series. Only Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, doesn’t appear on the cover. Instead, you’ve got actor Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, Torchwood: Children of Earth) in costume as his most recent, world-famous role: Doctor Who. And standing in front of him, looking rather dapper in his black ensemble, top hat, and John Lennon sunglasses, is…me. In the garb I wear to conventions and book festivals in order to draw attention to the StarWarp Concepts booth.

Yeah, I was surprised by this, myself. But as Bob explained, he was drawing a bunch of Doc Savage sketch covers commissioned by fans—including the one done for me, teaming Doc with our adventurous Ms. Zwieback—and had a blank left over. So, liking my con outfit and aware of my fannish love for Doctor Who—I even once got to write a short story for a licensed Doctor Who anthology, as I discussed in this post and this other post at the StarWarp Concepts blog—Bob decided to combine the two, just for the hell of it.

Well, I certainly love it. But I have to ask: With my black outfit and goatee, standing next to the Doctor, does this make me a future incarnation of his oldest enemy, the Master? Only time may tell…

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Well, after weeks of staring at this page every time I log on to Safari (it’s my home page, y’see), I’m kinda tired of seeing my face at the top of this blog—how about you?  😀  Here’s something far more attractive. (And I apologize for the lack of posts.)

This is a pencil sketch of Pan that I drew while killing some time at the 2011 Boston Comic Con. After seeing so many Doctor Who fans cosplaying as their favorite characters—the Doctor (many versions of the 10th and 11th incarnations), his companion Amy Pond, and the Doctor’s time machine the TARDIS (usually in the form of women wearing TARDIS dresses, with a flashing lamp worn as a hat)—I decided to do a tribute to old-school Who, back in the days when I became a fan.

Thus: Pan cosplaying as Sarah Jane Smith (played by the late Elisabeth Sladen), journalist and companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors, in the episode “The Hand of Fear.” Eldrad was an alien life force that possessed various people in the story—including Sarah Jane; you knew they were possessed because they’d always start droning, “Eldrad must live!”

As for why Pan would be wearing candy-striped overalls, here’s a screen cap from “The Hand of Fear” so you can see Sarah Jane’s now famous (infamous?) outfit. Hey, don’t you go judging 1970s costume designers!

When the (Internet) Radio Is on


Last Thursday I appeared on the Scifi Diner podcast to promote Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1, but that’s not all we discussed! It turned into an hour-long, freewheeling conversation that spanned my writing and editing careers, my fanboyish obsession with Doctor Who, the state of young adult fiction, praise for Pandora Zwieback artists Eliseu Gouveia and Bob Larkin, and even a plug or two for some StarWarp Concepts releases.

A big shout-out to hosts Scott Hertzog and Miles McLoughlin for allowing me to ramble on as much as I did, but once they got me started on a topic it was hard to shut up.  😀

Grab yourself a snack and a favorite beverage, then click on the Scifi Diner logo to head over to the show’s site and download the new episode. It’s a Pan-tastic interview!

Talking to Myself (Part 2)

Continuing a previously unprinted interview that I did for another Web site. (Part 1 ran yesterday.)

What was your big break?

As much as I hate this kind of thing, it really was a case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

In the late nineties I was an editor for a publisher/book packager named Byron Preiss, who had a license from Marvel Comics to publish original novels based on their characters. Having edited some of the books, and written short stories for a couple of anthologies (Untold Tales of Spider-Man and The Ultimate Hulk), I was offered the chance to take over a YA novel titled Spider-Man Super Thriller: Warrior’s Revenge—Marvel had rejected the manuscript delivered by a mystery and fantasy writer named Neal Barrett Jr. Basically, I was in Byron’s office when news of the rejection came in and he turned to me and said, “So, you want to write it?” Of course I said yes!

The only problem was, the cover for the book had already been printed for advance sales purposes, so I wound up ghostwriting the book for Neal, who was amazingly gracious about the whole thing.

So, if you ever come across a copy of Warrior’s Revenge, just remember: it might have Neal’s name on it, but it’s actually my first novel!

A couple of years later, a similar situation happened: two established writers were supposed to do an original X-Men novel trilogy, except Marvel rejected their proposal. And again Byron asked if I’d be interested in taking it over. Well, who was I to say no?

The result was X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy, in which the X-Men fight their archenemy Magneto, Doctor Doom (from the Fantastic Four), and the Red Skull (from Captain America) for control of the Cosmic Cube, a device that allows them to alter reality. All three books sold really well—helped in no small part by the fact that Book 1, X-Men/Dr. Doom, came out in time for the first X-movie. I think that’s when people really started to recognize my byline.

What authors have influenced you the most?

Well, Stephen King is probably my biggest influence. There’s comics guru Stan Lee (with whom I got to collaborate on a comics project!) and H. P. Lovecraft—an early twentieth century pulp-magazine horror writer who influenced guys like King. And there are some others who’ve influenced me: comic writer Alan Moore, mystery writer Robert B. Parker, Harlan Ellison, and Ray Bradbury. (I’m sure there’s somebody I’ve forgotten.)

The trick, though, is finding a way to blend all those influences into something that eventually becomes your own, unique writing style.

What are some of your hobbies?

I used to be a major comic book fan, but over the years I got tired with all the superhero stuff—which is kinda funny, considering my professional writing career started with me writing short stories and novels about Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk. Now I just spend all my money on Doctor Who merchandise! I’ve been a Who fan—Whovian?—since high school. I even got to write a story for an official Doctor Who anthology!

What’s your favorite movie?

When I was a teen it was the original, un-messed-with Star Wars. (The one where Han shot first.) Somewhere along the way it became The Blues Brothers. Must’ve been all that great blues music—well, that and the insane car stunts…

If your book, Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1, was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?

At conventions I often describe the Pandora Zwieback series to folks as “Ellen Page and Salma Hayek in a Hellboy movie.” They’re a little too old at this point to play Pan and Annie, but when I was trying to land the series with a publisher back in 2005/6, I thought they’d be perfect.

For me, Salma Hayek had been Sebastienne Mazarin since 1995, when her big-screen debut in Desperado coincided with Annie starring in the Heartstopper comic series I was writing. And when Ellen Page was running around in X-Men: The Last Stand, dressed in leather and calling Vinnie Jones’s Juggernaut character a dickhead, I thought, That’s Pan!

Oh, and Bruce Campbell for Pan’s dad!

Tomorrow: Advice for writers, and suggested reading. Be here for the thrilling conclusion!  😉

Talking to Myself (Part 1)

Sure, it’s said that the first sign of madness is when you start talking to yourself, but I’ve been doing it for years and I turned out okay.  😉

While I’m working on my convention report about this past Sunday’s Brooklyn Book festival for the StarWarp Concepts blog, I thought over here you might like to pass the time reading an interview I did that was meant to run on a review site to coincide with Blood Feud’s publication. “Meant to” being the operative phrase. Unfortunately, there was a change in policy—the site’s bosses decided to discontinue reviewing self-published books before the interview could be posted.

(What, you didn’t know I was also the publisher of StarWarp Concepts? Gee, I must’ve forgotten to mention that…  😉 )

Anyway, that was the end of the interview—until now, that is. I found it on an external hard drive last week and, after some tweaking, thought you might find it of interest. I broke it into three parts because some of the answers are a bit long—but hey, more reading for you. And you’re here because you like to read, right?

We join the interview already in progress, bypassing the introductions…

Did you always want to be a writer?

Oh, yeah! Back in grade school and high school I was always writing stories and doing comic strips. I was even appointed fiction editor of my high school’s magazine after winning a short-story contest. But when I started out as a professional writer I wanted to write comic books; in fact, I’ve been writing comics and graphic novels for a good while now. But it wasn’t until I was actually working in the book-publishing business that I began thinking about becoming more of a novelist.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Probably what I am right now: a freelance proofreader and copyeditor for a number of publishing houses. The hours are flexible and the money’s decent, and the work keeps me in touch with the industry.

What is your working style?

You mean when I’m forcing myself to sit down and write, instead of finding anything else to do that won’t involve staring at a blank computer screen until the words come into my head?  😉

My writing tends to be very fluid, changing as a new idea or better way of presenting something pops into my head, so I’m always going back and tinkering as I move ahead; usually it involves dialogue. It’s why, when I hand in a manuscript, my editors have always considered them tight first drafts (sometimes the only drafts, depending on their deadlines!).

Sometimes I’ll listen to specific pieces of music, for inspiration or scene pacing or emotional depth. I’ll give you an example: In Blood Feud, one of the most emotional scenes toward the end of the book involves Pan racing to rescue another character and then attacking the main bad guy, a fallen angel named Zaquiel. While I was writing it I kept playing on a loop a track from one of the recent Doctor Who soundtracks: “This is Gallifrey—Our Childhood, Our Home,” composed by Murray Gold.

Now I can’t listen to this piece without seeing Pan’s confrontation in my head.  😀

Do you prefer to write longhand, or on a computer?

Everything starts out longhand in notebooks—sometimes even on Post-its, if a good line pops into my head that I need to write down. And even after I transfer that handwritten material to my computer, I’ll still print out the pages and continue handwriting on those.

Do you believe in outlining?

For my own projects? No, but I’ve had to do that when working with licensed properties like the X-Men and Final Destination, and that’s because the editors and licensing agents need to know what you plan to do with their franchises. But even then I had a tendency to wander away from the outline and let the story write itself.

I know outlining works for other writers, but I’ve always found it too restrictive. I don’t even like working out a full plot because things change as I’m writing. My approach is: I know where I’m starting, I know where it’s gonna wind up—let’s see how we get there.

That’s probably not the best way to go about doing it, but it’s worked for me (so far).

Tomorrow: My big break, writing influences, and who I’d like to have seen starring in a Pandora Zwieback movie!