Archive for October, 2009

Oct 10 2009

15 Questions with Bob Heske

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Bob Heske is a screenwriter and an award-winning comic creator. Under his “Heske Horror” shingle, Bob produced a critically acclaimed indie horror series called COLD BLOODED CHILLERS and a “best of” CBC anthology coined BONE CHILLER which won a Bronze medal at the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Bob’s vampire graphic novel, THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, is being published by Studio 407 with film rights optioned by Myriad Pictures. 

Aside from being a horror writer, Bob has a funny side having written contest-winning short and feature film scripts. His comedy LOVE STUPID, an independent movie, will wrap by Summer 2010. Bob also writes the “Indie Creator” column for Invest Comics.

In our recent interview, here’s what Bob had to say…

SN: What are some effective and cheap ways to promote an independently published comic book?

HESKE:  The cheapest and easiest way is to set up a free Partners account at and create an e-preview book. My 4 e-previews for my Cold Blooded Chillers issues 1,2, and 3 and Bone Chiller anthology have had over 500,000 hits in 9 months.

Another way is to comb through the bulletins at and read all the ones with “Read my interview/review with XYZ website” — then contact those websites directly to see if they would be interested in reading YOUR book or doing an interview (sometimes you’ll strike gold and get both!).

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One response so far

Oct 10 2009

Michael Leza’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

See the comments below, thanks.

7 responses so far

Oct 10 2009

Why Women Love Vampires More Than Men?

Over at The Frisky, John DeVore speculates (careful– probably not safe for work) that vampire-lovers are disproportionately female because vampires are exotic, dangerous, mysterious and passionate.  So vampires do a better job of satisfying female wish-fulfillment (which is more about romance than violence).

In contrast, male wish-fulfillment tends to involve badass characters doing badass things (superhero stories, military action, James Bond, cops-and-robbers, etc).  Also, I don’t think that men find vampiric qualities very romantic.

All of this is probably an overgeneralization, but I think there’s some degree of truth to it.  What do you think?

25 responses so far

Oct 10 2009

The “Rules” of Writing

Hello!  Here are some tips about how to apply writing advice in a logical and productive manner.  (Trust, but verify!)

1.  Any “rule” of writing can be broken. Writing advice can be very helpful, but almost every writing tip ever given has been broken by at least one published work.  In particular, authors with a history of success get more leeway to publish whatever they want because their editors trust them and can give them the benefit of the doubt.

2.  However, it may not help you that another author could publish a book that did something otherwise hard-to-publish. For example, I’d generally recommend against using a character name in a title– most character names aren’t very interesting to prospective readers.  However, some authors (including JK Rowling) have gotten such books published anyway.  The main question is whether you can pull it off.  If you’re an unknown author with no audience that’s submitting to a publishing house that rejects 99.9% of unsolicited manuscripts, you’re facing a brutal decision-making process.  The publisher’s assistant sends only ~5 manuscripts out of every 1000 to her boss for consideration.  She is looking for any reason to eliminate your manuscript.  A bad title may be sufficient.  🙁

3.  The publisher’s assistant does not have a rulebook in front of her listing which sorts of manuscripts have to be rejected. “Oh, this manuscript has a character name in the title, so I have to reject it.”  Obviously not.  So think less about the advice (don’t use a character’s name!) and more about the goal (write a gripping title).  For example, an unsolicited manuscript named Tom Smith is probably dead on arrival.  But Barbara Bloodbath would probably warrant further attention.  Even though it uses a character name, it sounds really interesting.

When I offer advice, I don’t want the reader to think that “trying X cannot work,” but rather that “if you want to try X, make sure that it does work by avoiding problems Y and Z.”  For example, Barbara Bloodbath tells us enough about the character and plot to interest prospective readers. Tom Smith does not. There are very few stylistic choices that cannot work under any circumstances.

4.  Think critically before acting on any writing advice. For example, there may be logical reasons advice may not apply to your situation.  Perhaps you’re in a genre where editors will accept a particular type of writing?  Perhaps the market is changing or has changed to accept the type of writing in question?  Perhaps the advice is missing the point.  For example, “a lot of editors complain about manuscripts that have too many adverbs, so you should not use adverbs!”  Unless the logic behind the advice strikes you as sound–could you imagine an editor really tossing your manuscript because it had adverbs?– I would recommend disregarding it or at least investigating further.

5. If you want to try something unconventional– something that does not get published often–I would recommend caution.  For example, I can’t think of too many published adult novels with talking animals or 5+ main characters.  I would extrapolate that one is a gross mismatch for an adult audience and the other would probably suffer from massive character-development problems.  (Ahem– developing 5+ characters in a single novel is hard).  If you’re dead-set on doing something unconventional, I would recommend thinking long and hard about what it adds to the story.  If your rationale is something like “it would be neat to try this” or “I couldn’t tell this story any other way,” I would highly recommend going back to the drawing board.

9 responses so far

Oct 08 2009

The FTC Won’t Let Me Be

Legal disclaimer time! The FTC is requiring US bloggers, as of December 1, to disclose the receipt of free products. 

1.  Please assume that every novel and comic book I review has been given to me as a promotional copy. 

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Oct 04 2009

Please fill out our survey!

Published by under Superhero Nation

Hello. If you haven’t taken my survey yet, I would really appreciate if you gave me 10 minutes of your time. That will help me get published. You can take it by clicking here or by reading under the fold.
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Oct 03 2009

Highlights from our Blogroll

Published by under Research and Resources

Hello!  Here are some of my favorite posts from the bloggers on my radar screen…

The Creative Penn

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Oct 02 2009

Don’t Quit Your Day Job– Part 302

If you’re up for a starkly depressing perspective on how hard it is to start out as a writer, Writing Full Time– A User’s Guide is an excellent resource.  (Also, Robert Weinberg gets major kudos for being a dual novelist/comic book writer– hooah!)  It is depressing, but I think that it’s important to have realistic expectations.  Even if your manuscript survives the 99% rejection rate gauntlet and somehow gets published, you’re only looking at maybe $5000 for a typical first-time novel.  (He focuses on horror, but Tobias Buckell finds that the median advance is about $6000 for an agented first novel and $3500 for a first novel without an agent). 

Now, if you’re one of our readers in the 13-18 range, you’re probably thinking “whoa, that’s way more money than I’ve ever made before!”  Probably true, but when you have to cover your own rent and food and transportation and school loans, you will discover that $5000 is wholly inadequate for at least half a year worth of work.  By comparison, a 22-year-old college graduate  working for the US government starts at a GS-5 (~$35,000 a year and benefits) and moves up to GS-7 after two years.   Also, the government guy doesn’t have to pay an agent 10-15%.  (Indeed, if a government employee started giving agents money, it would probably prompt a federal investigation). 😉   

I don’t have any magic bullets to the problem that authors get paid so little starting out.  However, here are some suggestions. 

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Oct 01 2009

Thablue’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.  Thanks!

24 responses so far

Oct 01 2009

The Super Teacher’s Review Forum

Published by under Writing Articles

I’ve created eleven heroes with their own superpowers.  But what’s a superhero without a weakness?  Any suggestions for weaknesses to go with the following would be awesome: telekinesis, photokinesis and vitakinesis, chlorokinesis, shapeshifting, teleportation, aerokinesis , duplication, invisibility and phasing, geokinesis, force fields and energy blasts, and pyrokinesis. Thanks!

13 responses so far

Oct 01 2009

More Tips on Writing Two-Sentence Synopses

Synopses that are just a sentence or two long are intensely useful because 1) they’re often required as part of the query process and 2) they convey a lot of information in very little time.  The editor or agent reading your manuscript has a thousand other manuscripts in his pile and you have maybe a minute or two to impress him before he tosses you.  The synopsis is your best opportunity to do so.

Here are a few tips about how to write an extremely short synopsis.

1. It’s usually more effective to refer to characters by their profession and/or key traits rather than by name. Calling him a “neurotic detective” tells us more about the character than calling him Adrian Monk. Unless the name adds something critical, I’d recommend leaving it out. (For example, if you’re writing about a real person, you obviously need to name him).

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23 responses so far

Oct 01 2009

Sharpening Your Concept With a Two-Sentence Synopsis

What’s your story about?

That question usually sets off a rambling and unappealing description of the novel or comic book.  As part of your query, you need to describe your book in 1-2 sentences (I’d recommend 10-30 words).  New authors often have a great deal of trouble doing so– they’re so intimately familiar with all the details of their work that it’s hard to see what the big picture is.

As a writing exercise, I’d like you to boil down a lengthy work into 1-2 sentences.  That’s not easy.  It forces you to make tough decisions about what is absolutely essential to the core of your novel or comic book.  It also provides you an response when someone asks you what your book is about. Having a simple, elegant introduction available is crucial.

Here’s an easy way to write a two-sentence synopsis.

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100 responses so far

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