A Farewell Tribute to Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture

Last week, we lost a dear friend of mine and a member of the Writing to be Read author family, Tom Johnson. Tom was a multi-genre writer for most of his life, mostly pulp fiction in the traditions of the classics, but in recent years, he dedicated himself to children’s fiction, with the intentions of creating stories for today’s children which reflect old fashioned values and morals in the traditions of the stories his mother read to him as a child. Tom took part in Round 2 of my “Ask the Authors” blog series, (which will become a published book by WordCrafter Press soon), and I interviewed Tom about his children’s stories back in 2018. He had some great things to say about writing for children that may be relevant here, since the Writing to be Read theme for November is young adult and children’s fiction. With that in mind, I’m reprinting that interview in part here, (you can read the full interview here), as we remember our friend and fellow author. Tom may be gone, but his wisdom lives on. This is what writing for children meant to him.


Kaye: Although in the past, you’ve written and published many different genres, you are currently writing only children’s stories. So, let’s talk about that. Tell me a little about your stories.

Tom: My children stories are about 1k and meant as bedtime tales, and to be read in classroom or library settings. They are short stories with little morals to teach children something about life.

Kaye: Are they a series or stand alone?

Tom: They are a series, and published in anthologies about once a year. There have been four anthologies so far. I was invited to participate beginning in volume #3. The anthology is called Wire Dog Storybook. Here is the background. True story. A young girl, Ellen Walters, asked her father, David Walters, if she could have a dog, and he said, “No.” So she found an old wire hanger and shaped it to resemble a dog, and called it wire dog. David Walters was fascinated by her ingenuity and created the Wire Dog storybooks. So the stories usually feature Ellen and Wire Dog, but always Wire Dog. Five of my stories have been published so far, and I’ve written three more for the 2018 yearbook when it comes out at the end of the year.

Kaye: What age group are they aimed at?

Tom: I feel that we should begin reading to our children by age one. With that in mind, my stories are aimed at the age group of 1 to 5. However, older children will enjoy the stories, as do adults.

Kaye: What differences do you see between writing for children and writing adult fiction?

Tom: Adult fiction usually means, “no holds barred”, while writing children stories you want to stay away from violence, horror, and adult themes. Keep in mind, young children absorb what they hear quickly, and some themes could have an adverse effect on young minds. When writing for children we must keep this in mind.

Kaye: What appeals to you about writing for children?

Tom: Do you remember the old radio show for kids, Let’s Pretend ? It produced shows for children that acted out fairy tales and light adventures – nothing as harsh as today’s cartoons that are aimed at our youth. Well, I have the chance to import my love for adventure in tales easily understood by young people; children who some day may also experience that same love to pass on to their children. Stories that give our children a moral to live by, not “It’s clobbering time!” Or Pow! Bang! Boom! It’s something my mother did for me when I was little, and now I have the same opportunity, and I’m not going to pass it up.

Kaye: You have wanted to write for children since you were little and your mother used to read to you.

Tom: Oh, yes. I hope that mothers are still reading to their children. They learn at such a young age, and we’re missing an opportunity if we fail them when they’re young. They will never forget what they learn as children, it’s when their minds are growing and grasping at everything. I think one of the first words they learn is, “Why?”

Kaye: What were your favorite children’s stories?

Tom: Really, I would have to look them up in the book of fairy tales on my shelf. There were so many she read to me. Knights saving young damsels come to mind. I remember one particular fairy tale where the princess was on a glass mountain, and the young knight had to save her. She watched each day as a knight riding brown horse attempts to scale the glass mountain, then a knight on a white horse, and so on, until the final day when a knight riding a great steed scales the mountain, and we find out that he was the knight on the brown horse, the white horse, etc. It wasn’t the color of the horse, but the persistence of the knight that finally achieved the goal.

Kaye: In what ways do the stories you write emulate those favorites from your childhood?

Tom: Like the fairy tale I mentioned above, my stories will also have a similar moral – it’s not the color of the horse, or the knight’s armor, but his persistence that wins the hand of the princess. Do the right thing, for the right reason. Persevere. If you don’t succeed today, try and try again.


The stories that we hear and read in childhood often stick with us into our later years. Even though Tom wrote other fiction through the years, as he grew older, it was the stories that his mother read to him as a child that inspired him. That’s what writing children’s fiction is all about.

Tom Johnson Books

Tom’s other works included pulp, crime and science fiction stories right up there with the best, and many may be familiar with his promotions for them on Facebook. His covers seem to reach out and grab your attention.  He published over eighty books during the span of his career. In that previous interview, Tom claimed that Alien Skies was born from his most unusual inspiration and the Guns of the Black Ghost was written as a homage to Walter Gibson’s The Shadow radio drama. You can read my review of Pangaea: Eden’s Planet here.

Tom Johnson and wife Ginger

Writing was a big part of Tom’s life. It was important to him. But, Tom was more than just a talented and dedicated writer. He was also a loved life partner to his lovely wife Ginger. She was supportive of his writing, and I believe she edited some, or perhaps all of his work. With Ginger at his side, Tom lived a life doing what he loved – bringing his characters to life.

Tom, farewell. You will live on through the plethora of books and stories you’ve left us with, but you will still be greatly missed.


Are you a Tom Johnson fan? If so, feel free to leave a few words in the comments telling us what Tom meant to you, or share a memory, or just tell me which of his books is your favorite.  Thank you all for joining me in saying good-bye.

 


“Awesome Tales #10”: An awesome tribute to pulp fiction of old

Amazing Tales #10

You just don’t see a lot of pulp magazines anymore in the classic tradition from days of old, but Awesome Tales is a modern pulp magazine pulp fans will take delight in. If your a fan of the dazzling heroes and diabolical villians of the classic pulp traditions, Awesome Tales #10 takes you on a refreshing trip down memory lane with four masterfully written contemporary tales, by four different authors, told in classic pulp form and style.

“No Virtue in Patience”, by John L. French is a futuristic pulp story with tech gangs and computer generated card tournaments. A heist of the biggest solitaire game in town, with a proize of a solid gold deck of cards.

“No Patience for Fools” by Aaron Rosenberg offers a different perspective on the solitaire tournament of the previous story. Cleverly crafted to tell the same story from the opposite side of the law, it has a surprise ending, as well.

In “Broken Doll” by Quintin Peterson, tough guy bionic P.I. Luther Kane sets out to save a one-legged streetwalker named Gypsy, and maybe his own guilt ridden self, but he learns the classic lesson all P.I.s should know the hard way: never trust anyone.

“Give Them a Corpse Part 2” by Rich Harvey is the second part of a three part story featuring the Domino Lady, a classic masked superheroine, complete with crime fighting skills and secret identity, fights against the classic villians of The Black Legion. Like all good cloak and dagger crime fighting serials, this story easily stands alone.

Every one of the stories in Awesome Tales #10 are well-crafted and entertaining. They will satisfy hardcore pulp fans and maybe even earn the genre a few new fans. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


July: On the hunt for crime fiction

Crime Fiction Theme

The crime fiction genre covers a lot of ground. By definition, crime fiction involves mystery to be solved, usually who the killer is, or a quest to figure out some type of diabolical plot. Crime fiction stories involve pretty high stakes, and therefore a lot of suspense. Often there is a ticking clock to ratchet the tension even higher. And of course, there is always a crime of some sort to be solved, or prevented; some sort of wrong to be righted.

Crime fiction is a broad term which includes many sub-genres, which focus on the investigation of a crime and the apprehension of a suspect, either by law enforcement agents, as in The Numbers Killer, by my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Jenifer Ruff or by a tough guy P.I., as in hardboiled crime fiction such as Jim Nesbitt writes, with his tough guy P.I., Ed Earl Burch in The Best Lousy Choice and the two previous books in that series.

Hardboiled heroes are memorable. Who doesn’t know of Sam Spade or Mike Hammer and their cynical tough-guy images?  They are usually down on their luck, or at least between clients. They are often heavily flawed, often self-destructive, but a ladies man none-the-less, with a love them and leave them attitude and the snappy dialog of the 1920’s. Hardboiled fiction was birthed by Carrolle John Daly and Dashielle Hammett in the 20’s, and carried on by authors such as Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane.

In noir crime fiction, the protagonist is usually an extremely flawed, average guy. He’s usually down and out, or perhaps on a downward spiral in a situation that seems bleak and hopeless. He’s a self-destructive hero, who ends up going against all odds to fight corruption and injustice, not because it is his job, but for strictly personal motivations, which are usually not in his own best interests. An excellent example of this is found in Rose City, by Michael Pool (See my interview with Michael next Monday, the 29th).

And of course, the classic crime fiction is pulp, such as Quintin Peterson writes in Awesome Tales #10 . From pulp, we get our classic heroes and fiendish evil villains. It’s from pulp that comic book super heroes and super villains arose, which is yet, another sub-genre of crime fiction, which has expanded with a life of its own to super colossal proportions.

We went on a hunt for crime fiction, and we found quite a bit. I learned a lot and I hope you did to. Now, I’m looking forward to August in a quest for mysteries and mystery authors. My “Chatting with the Pros” guest will be New York Times bestselling author, Gilly Macmillan. I’ll also be interviewing mystery author Gerald Darnell. And I’ll be reviewing a mystery anthology, Death Among Us, as well as a search and rescue mystery, Murder on the Horizon, by M.L. Rowland, and a paranormal cozy, Broomsticks and Burials, by Lilly Webb. I hope you’ll join me.


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“God’s Body”: A post-apocalyptic tale with a new kind of hero.

GB Cover

God’s Body, by Jeff Bowles has one of the most masterfully crafted openings that I have read in a long time. By the beginning of the second paragraph, he had placed me in the setting, I knew this was like no other story I had ever read, and I was hooked, which is what a great opening should do. It impressed me so, that I asked the author’s permission to reprint it here.

“The toe was an ungodly mountain of flesh. As massive as it was inexplicable. It clung to the Earth like a bulbous pink tumor. Enormous, all-encompassing, the height of a skyscraper, the breadth of Niagara Falls. Rain water washed through its thick patchwork of crevasses and cracks. Long vertical rivers lapped at skin-cell canyon walls. There were flesh creeks and tidal waves. The toenail itself was the hanging shelf of the world.

Then Harold looked higher and saw the rest. Lord God Almighty…”

FB_IMG_1561221566724 You just can’t read this and not want to know more. It’s obvious this isn’t going to be your average, everyday story, and you must read on in anticipation of what will come next. It’s clear this will be a story of epic proportions, and Bowels does not disappoint. God’s Body is an Armageddon story like no other; a post apocalyptic tale of good vs. evil in the best of pulp fantasy traditions, if such traditions existed. Bowles pulls out all the stops, using humor, irony and contemplation of the human condition to tell his tale with skill and craftsmanship. Everything about this story is of epic scale.

I’m not going to give you a rundown of this story line because the whole thing was such an entertaining read that I wouldn’t want to give out any spoilers, but what I will tell you is that in addition to the wonderful writing talent of Bowles, the artistic craftsmanship of Writer’s of the Future illustrator Pat R. Steiner accompanies this story with some truly awesome illustrations like the one seen here.

A truly original story that puts a new twist to an age-old theme. Written with skill and talent in a literary work of true craftsmanship, God’s Body is like nothing else you’ve ever read. I give it five epic quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 


Interview with Pulp & Crime Fiction Author Quintin Peterson

Quintin Peterson Literary Hill BookFest 2018 Profile Photo

I have the pleasure of conversing with a pleasant guest today, whose love of life shines in his eyes and his smile, author Quintin Peterson. A talented author, whose work keeps classic craft alive in modern times. He writes pulp and crime fiction in many variations, throwing new twists on the classic styles. I can’t wait for you to meet him. So, without further adeau, let’s find out what Quintin Peterson has to share.


Kaye: Tell me about your author’s journey. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you make that dream a reality?

Quintin: I began entertaining my friends and family by telling them amazing stories long before I started writing them. I obtained my first copyright when I was 13. While in high school, I was awarded a National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, the University of Wisconsin’s Science Fiction Writing Award, and the Wisconsin Junior Academy’s Writing Achievement Award. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, I wrote and performed in two stage plays and received a Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation grant for my play project, Change. I also received a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, for playwriting.

Kaye: What is your favorite thing about writing crime fiction?

Quintin: I gave up creative writing and pursued a 30-year career in law enforcement. I rarely found justice during all the years I worked as a police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. I suppose it is the reason why writing crime fiction is my dominant obsession: I find justice in my stories.

Kaye: You’ve had both short fiction and novel length works published? Which do you prefer writing? Why?

Quintin: It’s a toss-up, really. I like writing short stories for magazines and anthologies because of the word count limits, but I also like not being constrained by a word count limit for longer fiction.

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing short fiction?

Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing short fiction is doing more with less. Writing short fiction for magazines and anthologies also afford me opportunities to experiment with genre-blending. For example, I’ve sold a cop/ghost story, a horror/mystery/noir thriller, science fiction/noir mysteries, and an Arthurian police story.

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about writing novel length works?

Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing novel length fiction is avoiding the pitfall of being too wordy and doing less with more.

Kaye: Pulp fiction, maybe even more than other genres, must have well developed, larger than life characters. How do your characters develop for you?

Quintin: I create backstories for my characters so that I know them in order to make them seem real, and then pit them against each other in what I endeavor to make compelling stories.

Kaye: Which of your main characters is your favorite? Why?

Quintin: I have two favorite characters: Norman Blalock and Luther Kane, who are cousins and appear in each other’s stories. I like Blalock because people underestimate him. I like Kane because he is a man of action.

Amazing Tales #10Kaye: Your story “Broken Doll” just came out in Awesome Tales #10. That story is a part of your Private Eye Luther Kane Mystery Series. Would you tell me a little about who Luther Kane is and what makes him a great pulp hero?

Quintin: Luther Kane is a former DC police officer, as well as a former soldier and soldier of fortune who is maimed by a landmine. The loss of his legs does not prevent him from operating upon the same principles he adhered to when he was whole. He rises from his own ashes and walks again on state-of-the-art bionic legs, a miracle of modern science. At the suggestion of his physical therapist Claire Bradley, who taught him to walk again, he takes over his late father’s business, the Intrepid Detective Agency, located atop the other family business he inherited, the Last Stop Liquor Store.

 

Kaye: The Voynich Gambit is book two in your Norman Blalock Mystery Series and it won the Literary Titan Book Award. Tell me a little about that series. Who is Norman Blalock, and what makes him a great pulp hero?

Quintin: In these old-fashioned heist stories, Norman Blalock is a disgraced Howard University history professor who has been working as a special police officer for the Folger Shakespeare Library for decades. No one at the library knows his background and only see him as “an old black security guard.” The first Norman Blalock Mystery is Guarding Shakespeare, followed by The Voynich Gambit. The upcoming third installment is The Shakespeare Redemption. (By the way: I worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library for almost seven years, beginning the same year I retired from the police department, and penned the first two installments while I was employed there.)

Kaye: Who is your favorite villain? Why?

Quintin: Kavitha Netram, the femme fatale Norman Blalock matches wits with in both Guarding Shakespeare and The Voynich Gambit. She returns in The Shakespeare Redemption. She is smart, sexy, and ruthless.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What can readers expect in the future from Quintin Peterson?

Quintin: Right now, I am working on The Shakespeare Redemption. I will continue to write more installments of the Norman Blalock and the Private Eye Luther Kane mysteries, as well as other noir stories. I also plan to write more science fiction and horror thrillers.

Thanks for having me, Kaye. It’s been a pleasure.

I want to thank Quintin Peterson for sharing with me. It’s been enlightening for me and I hope it has for all of you readers, too. You can find out more about Quintin and his books at the links below. (Be sure to visit his Amazon page. You’ll find a large selection of books and short fiction in a wide range of variations upon the genre. Pulp and crime fiction fans may call it a gold mine. Those unfamiliar with the genre should check it out. It’s a fun genre. )

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Quintin-Peterson/e/B002BMCR2E?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1561789921&sr=8-1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quintin.peterson.56

Twitter: https://twitter.com/luther_kane

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/quintin-peterson-263b4b8/

Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/26191433-quintin-peterson


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