Sunday, July 23, 2017

What's the different between comics and novels?

Blog Tour Author: Dan Jolley
Featured Book Release:
Gray Widow's Web
July 19-26, 2017

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Dan Jolley to my blog. Author and creator of Gray Widow, writer of video games, comic books and novels, he's touring the internet with Gray Widow's web and he's stopped here on my blog to tell us about how all those different types of writing fit together. Thank you Dan, and welcome!

Over the years, I’ve met a few novelists who’ve said things like, “Wow, I could never imagine writing a comic book,” or “Man, I can’t believe how hard writing comics is compared with writing novels.” Since I started out writing comics, and only later moved to prose, that struck me a little funny to begin with.

But they were totally right about comics being a difficult medium to master. It’s incredibly rigid: you’ve got a set number of pages, a maximum number of panels on a page (depending on the artist you’re working with), you’ve got to manage your word count so that you don’t obscure the art and make it impossible to tell what’s going on, and because of the page-turn, you need to be really careful that your big, impactful, surprising moments happen at the tops of even-numbered pages. You’ve got to understand, as Scott McCloud put it in his brilliant book Understanding Comics, that most of the story takes place between the panels, in that space where your imagination fills in what isn’t actually seen.

I first learned to write professionally by writing comics. I got my start at age 19, when I was still in college, and soon I met my comics-writing mentor/guru, Dark Horse Comics editor Dan Thorsland. Dan gave me a crash-course in what worked and what didn’t, and I still use the wisdom he imparted to me every time I sit down to write a script. And because the medium of comics is so rigid and unforgiving, I incorporated that into my whole approach: being creative within a concretely-defined set of parameters.

That mindset came in handy when I got the chance to write some books in Lerner Publishing’s Twisted Journeys series, a hybrid prose/graphic novel format that presented a new take on Choose Your Own Adventure. One story with 27 different endings? A narrative structure that revolved around a massive, complicated flow-chart? Sure, okay. I ended up doing nine of those. Later, when I got into video games, I discovered it was every bit as regimented as comics, but in different ways—writing for a game requires things like coming up with 25 different ways to say, “I’m out of bullets,” usually limited to no more than about eight syllables. Or generating a cinematic scene that has to convey a pre-determined amount of information, and be dramatic and compelling, and last no more than 90 seconds. I adapted to all of that, too, and it was almost entirely because of how I got started.

Learning to write by scripting comics is kind of like learning to drive in a two-ton flatbed truck with a three-speed manual transmission. It’s not easy. It takes just the right approach to get that big, unwieldy beast to do what you want. Once you learn, of course, it becomes second nature…

…but then you finally get the chance to drive something else. Say, a Ford F-150 automatic. Suddenly you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh my God. It’s so much less complicated! I can just get in and go!”

That was kind of what it felt like to me when I first started writing prose. I can make the chapters as long as I want to? The page count is only a suggestion, and if I come in seven or eight thousand words above or below it, it’s okay? It was liberating. Revelatory.

But there were still parameters in place. I was mainly doing Young Adult prose (my Alex Unlimited trilogy), or prose that couldn’t be objectionable in any way to a mainstream audience (novelizations of movies like Iron Man and Transformers 2). I never really got the chance to cut loose.

Until Gray Widow.

For the first time in my career, the Gray Widow Trilogy is allowing me to cast off every limitation and go for broke. No ideas off-limits. No restrictions based on age range or vocabulary level. No censorship on violence or sexuality or horror.

The Gray Widow story centers on Janey Sinclair, a young woman in modern-day Atlanta who discovers that she and a few other people have for years been unwittingly involved in an extraterrestrial plot that classifies humans as something like raw material. Janey’s life has been scarred by tragedy, and when she mysteriously gains the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another, she decides to use that ability to try to overcome the pain and anguish that has threatened to overwhelm her. Digging into Janey’s mind and personality, bringing her to life, watching her take control of her destiny—at the same time exploring every implication of the extraterrestrials’ actions for Janey, the people around her, and the world at large—well.

Now it feels as if I’m driving a Lamborghini.

I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Wow, you make that Lamborghini sound fun! Thank you Dan, and I'm really looking forward to reading the Gray Widow books.


About the author: Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he soon branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-six-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and is the author of the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy novel series Five Elements. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats.
Where to find him:
Twitter: @_DanJolley
Grey Widow's Web_Final_1200X800About Gray Widow's Web: JANEY SINCLAIR never knew how or why she gained her ability to teleport. She never wanted it, and for years tried her best to ignore it. But when horrible violence shattered her world, she vowed to use her mysterious talent to protect the citizens of Atlanta, in an effort to prevent anyone else from suffering the kind of agony she had. Wearing a suit of stolen military body armor, Janey became known to the public as the GRAY WIDOW.

But now the extraterrestrial source of her “Augmentation” is about to reveal itself, in an event that will profoundly impact Janey’s life and the lives of those closest to her—

TIM KAPOOR, who barely survived the assault of twisted, bloodthirsty shapeshifter Simon Grove and still struggles to pull himself together, both physically and mentally.

NATHAN PITTMAN, the teenager who got shot trying to imitate Janey’s vigilante tactics, and has since become obsessed with the Gray Widow.

SHA’DAE WILKERSON, Janey’s neighbor and newfound best friend, whose instant chemistry with Janey may have roots that neither of them fully understand.

And Janey’s going to need all the help she can get, because one of the other Augments has her sights set on the Gray Widow. The terrifying abomination known as APHRODITE LUPO is more powerful and lethal than anyone or anything Janey has ever faced. And Aphrodite is determined to recruit Janey to her twisted cause…or take her off the field for good.

Unrelenting ghosts of the past clash with the vicious threats of the future. Janey’s destiny bursts from the shadows into the light in GRAY WIDOW’S WEB, leaving the course of humanity itself forever changed.

Where to find it:

Kindle Version

Print Version

Barnes and Noble Link for Gray Widow's Web:


Find out more; follow the tour!

7/19/17 Jordan Hirsch Review
7/19/17 I Smell Sheep Top Ten's List
7/20/17 SpecMusicMuse Author's Interview
7/21/17 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top Ten's List
7/22/17 Review
7/22/17 The Seventh Star Blog Author's Interview
7/22/17 StoreyBook Reviews Guest Post
7/23/17 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
7/24/17 Infamous Scribbler Author's Interview
7/25/17 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
7/26/17 Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Mystery and More! Author Interview
7/26/17 Jeni's Bookshelf, Reviews, Swag, and More! Review

Monday, July 17, 2017

Would You Have Been Colorblind?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Leah Harper Bowron, author of the novel Colorblind, to my blog - a novel of the recent past with a powerful message for present-day middle-grade students.

Colorblind is set in 1968. In Montgomery, Alabama.,Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Bobby Kennedy have been assassinated. War is raging in Vietnam, and on the playground of the all-white Wyatt Elementary School. Schoolyard bullies tease sixth grader Lisa Parker because of the way her nose looks. Lisa frequently develops a stomachache and checsk out of school to escape the bullies, until sixth grade teacher Miss Annie Loomis came to Wyatt. Miss Loomis just happens to be the first African American at Wyatt, and Lisa loves her English class. Now, when the bullies tease Lisa, she stays in school so that she can be in Miss Loomis’ class. Then something terrible happens that will change Lisa and Miss Loomis forever. Racism rears its ugly head at Wyatt, and now Lisa is not the only victim of the bullies’ teasing. Will Miss Loomis endure the bullies’ racist taunts?

Find Colorblind on Amazon at

Now meet the author:

 Colorblind is based off your sixth grade experience when your school became integrated. How much of this novel depicts your actual experience? 

This novel depicts half of my actual experience and half of fictionalization for dramatic effect.  For example, there was an actual spelling bee at my school, but Miss Loomis’ reaction thereto was exaggerated for dramatic effect.

 You were inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. How did this novel influence your writing?  

This novel inspired me to write about racism from the point of view of a Caucasian Southern girl.

 How much research, if any, did you dedicate to the novel?

I researched the dates of Dr. King and Sen. Kennedy’s assassinations as well as the date of the Apollo moon launch.

How would you describe the characters Ms. Loomis and Lisa Parker apart from their physical appearances? 

Miss Loomis and Lisa Parker were both scared individuals who were bullied by two boys at school.  Lisa was also browbeat by her mother while Miss Loomis was browbeat by Rev. Reed.  Both characters had yet to realize their inner strengths.  Lisa would grow to recognize her inner strength while Miss Loomis would fall prey to the bullying and quit teaching at Lisa’s school.

What role do you think skin color and birth defects play in society today? 

Skin color and birth defects both define our individuality and discriminate based upon these genetic differences.  Are they as relevant as they were back in 1968?  Yes.  Unfortunately, people still discriminate against others based upon skin color and birth defects.  I prefer the phrase “physically challenged” to that of “birth defects.”  The latter phrase implies that the person is somehow less than a complete human being. 

How did you develop the characterization for the bullies? 

I used the physical descriptions of my actual schoolyard bullies for the two bullies in Colorblind.

How did you develop the resolution for the novel? 

I took what actually happened after my spelling bee—my African American teacher quit teaching school—and changed it by having her teach HeadStart children to demonstrate her resilience in the face of discrimination.  Yet her resilience is short-lived because she dies at the end of the book, an aspect of the book which I fictionalized for dramatic effect.

 What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing Colorblind

My most rewarding moment was re-living my bicycle ride with my brother to Katie’s candy store—this happy event actually happened many times during my childhood.

 What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Colorblind

My biggest challenge was being a Caucasian Southern woman writing about an African American Southern woman.  I developed a “second skin” which enabled me to write as Miss Loomis, Lisa’s African American sixth grade teacher.

 What do you hope readers will gain from Colorblind

I hope that my readers will gain insight into the evils of discrimination based upon skin color or physical challenge.  I hope my readers will also realize that discrimination is an ongoing problem which requires vigilance not only in 1968 but also today.

 What did you gain from writing Colorblind

I gained cathartic healing from writing Colorblind as I relived my childhood bullying.

Do you have anything else in the works? 

Yes, I am writing a nonfiction book on a code which permeates the writings of James Joyce.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog Leah. Colorblind sounds like a seriously good read with a seriously good message. Highly recommended

Saturday, July 15, 2017

One day I'll sort out all my websites

One day I'll sort out all my websites, blogs, links, connections and other wondrously ethereal e-things. Meanwhile, in an effort to answer a friend and at least sort out what I've got, here's my quick and easy guide to getting started with a blog.

Note to self - "a blog," not a gazillion blogs!

Note to anyone reading this - HELP! Any advice you can offer would be most welcome! - (Was it blogspot before it was blogger, or was it the other way around...? Anyway, this is where I started long years ago...)

Blogger let me create blogs free - so I foolishly made five of them:
I used one of blogspot's gadgets to create text with links and added lines across the top of each blog with links between them - so the webpage linked to the blog, etc. Then I had my first ever book released and just "had" to have a special blog/free website for that. Hence

Blogger's become more sophisticated now of course. It lets you create pages (much better than multiple blogs), and even set up a "landing page" that functions like a website. A neat pages "gadget" creates a bar of links across the top or down the side, and life is wonderful... unless, like me, you're already attached to the separate blogs you made earlier.

  • blogger has various templates (themes); you just choose one you like
  • then add and remove things on the layout page
  • including clever gadgets
  • some of which might be pictures of your books with links to your books on Amazon (for example) down one side of the page, as long as you choose an appropriate template.
  • you can move them around (drag and drop) on the "layout" then look at the "preview" page until you like it, then "save"
  • once you include a navigation bar and you can soon make it look like a pretty sophisticated website

  • Blogger's fairly clunky, moderately intuitive, and pretty easy to use with lots of good instructions to help you out. - offers pretty much the same sort of thing (a free blog) but it's not connected to google

    • It gives a more sophisticated appearance (perhaps - depends how well you choose)
    • with more sophisticated gadgets
    • but it's slightly less friendly if you don't know what you're doing.
    Wordpress also has a version that gives you real websites, but then you need to pay for website hosting. Our writers' group uses Wordpress software and hosts the site on ipage: Once I started running part of our website, Wordpress automatically gave me a blog, so I run that at is great for a free fun visual site - another author introduced me to it, so I set up a book page there quite a while ago - another place I need to keep up to date!

    Weebly's really easy and fun to experiment with, but the instructions tend to be cryptic unless you're accustomed to playing with icons. They'll keep trying to sell you stuff as well, in particular stuff to help you sell your stuff, but I haven't paid them anything yet. - is used by one of my publishers Again, it creates a very nice visual site. lets you create a free blog.

    And is a good resource to find out about other free (and cheap) options.

    But all of these leave you with strange-looking web addresses. If you want a "sensible" link to your website you'll have to pay someone for the privilege of "registering" your domain name. I pay for my  names - it's where I started and I'm comfortable staying there. though I'll have to learn how to set up a domain name that looks right when you go to the page, and lets you link to subpages and posts. I'm working on it. (That publisher, above, seems to have got it all worked out--can you spot the difference between their web addresses and mine when you go to their pages?) compares different options for domain registration.

    At the start, I registered too many names - all offered cheap to new customers. Cheap gets more expensive when you come to renewals, so I let most of them drop. I just kept three, below:

    And that's my infinitely tortuous blogging world--all sorted out and singularly messy, but it works.

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    How Much Do You Have To Learn, and how do we learn?

    Imagine a world full of colors and things and words and the strangeness of how it fits together. Imagine the page with its two-dimensional picture pulling you in. Imagine shapes on the page. They're called words. They have sounds attached, just like the shapes in the pictures... the shapes in the world. And slowly it all comes together.

    Author Efrat Shoham imagines that world of the 0-3 year old perfectly, and offers those simple sets of words that inspire imagination and learning in the My First ... books. My First Blue Book is drawn around a very cool cat--a soothing blueness offering the perfect bed-time read. 15 printed words are presented with illustrations designed to invite story-building and fun. Then there's My First Yellow Book, bright as the morning sun and drawn around sunshine and rain. Again, just 15 words. My First Red book presents the curious adventures of the color red as a family enjoy a day at the beach. All three are delightfully illustrated by different artists. All three have the attraction of simple printed words and inspiration. They're highly recommended, as is the light crisp one-star coffee to drink as you read.

    Piaras O Cionnaoith offers another series of cool picture books for beginning readers. Learning My Letters shows how to construct and draw each shape, inviting manual dexterity and mental imagination through fun combinations of letter-themed illustrations. Learning My Drawing builds simple shapes into images as complex and delightful as puppies, turtles, frogs and pterodactyls. Then Learning My ABCs offers a cool and different animal alphabet. And Learning My Words offers great images to go with each letter. Sometimes I wish the fonts had been more consistently chosen in these books, but the ideas are truly fun and inviting. A cool collection to enjoy with another light crisp one-star coffee.

    And so they learn, through solid objects, then pictures, then symbols, words, sounds, lists of facts... But do we ever stop learning? How much do you still have to learn? And how will you learn?

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    What world would you choose?

    If you could choose your perfect world, what would it look like? The characters in Endurance of the Free by James Litherland, third in his Miraibanashi trilogy, are out to change their technologically superior world into something more human, but they'll have to ponder the implications of every change they make. Meanwhile they're striving to hide, fight or flee in an intriguingly futuristic Japanese world of overlords and underlings. There's lots of food for thought--what world would you choose? Drink some bold dark intense five-star coffee while you think.

    The Japanese world of Miraibanashi stands in contrast to the starkly real and vividly different world of Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili. Both worlds might seem strange to modern American readers, but Then She Was Born is set in a very real present-day Tanzania, highlighting the plight of albino Africans and misfits everywhere. It's a terrifying, haunting tale--a difficult read at times, but powerful and evocative of the way we all should choose to change our world. Enjoy with some more bold dark intense five-star coffee.

    The Maze by Tony Bertauski presents a similarly intriguing view into a future world, this one dominated by computer gaming pseudo-reality. Real-world genius and loss combine with cyber-world adventure, creating something deeply compelling and surprising. Drink some more bold dark intense five-star coffee as the protagonists seeks a way out.

    Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann takes readers to the 1960s to solve a mystery in the present day, as a young woman sees all the patterns of her life fall apart. It's smoothly evocative, scarily real, and surprisingly relevant to the present. Enjoy with, yes, more dark five-star coffee, and find the world of the recent past not so different from today.

    But perhaps you'd rather choose a different part of the present world. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith invites readers to share a few weeks in Italy--evocative, filled with wondrous wines, delicious food and glorious scenery, and viewed from the front seat of a ... bulldozer ... this novel invites, welcomes and rewards the willing suspension of disbelief and is thoroughly enjoyable. Drink some fine wine as you read, or a fine cup of smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

    Blending present and distant past, The Last Oracle by James Rollins is an exciting action adventure novel, filled with political and historical intrigue, clever mystery, and genuine heart. It's part of a series, but it stands alone as a deeper Da Vinci Code with more terror and heart. Drink some dark five-star coffee again!

    Finally Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood offers a tale set firmly in the real world, oddly influenced by a possible fantasy world, wholly devoted to the presentation of a Shakespearean world as revealed in the Tempest. It works, on every imaginable level, keeping the reader guessing, leading, misleading, and building to a wonderful climax. Enjoy with some elegantly complex four-star coffee. I loved it!

    So, what world would you choose?

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    Got to love, murder & mayhem, surely?

    Today I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful authors and editor of Love Murder & Mayhem to spread some... love on my blog. (Please, no murder or mayhem - they should only exist in books!) So enjoy!

    About the Book

    Love science fiction stories that all include elements of  Love, Murder & Mayhem

    Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!
    With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ Colchamiro.
    You’ll never look at Love, Murder & Mayhem the same way again—and that’s just the way we like it--just the way it should be. Find Love, Murder & Mayhem here on:  Goodreads or Amazon

    About the Editor

    Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

    Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.

    As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

    Find Russ here on his: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram pages

    What to Expect from Love, Murder & Mayhem

    All stories -- in various settings -- include at least one element of love or romance, at least one murder, and with lots of mayhem.

    Stories in the Anthology include:
    •    Superheroes
    •    Super villains
    •    Artificial intelligence
    •    Off world
    •    Space cruisers
    •    Private eyes
    •    Sleep surrogates
    •    Time Travel
    •    Monster mash
    All stories are stand-alone, so there is no shared universe.

    What more could you want?

    Go spread some love!

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