Monthly Archives: April 2015

How Comic Books Made Me a Better Human Being!

Free Comic Book Day in Halifax – and all across the world – May 2, 2015

Growing up in a little town called Capreol, about twenty miles north of Sudbury, I came to appreciate a little downtown convenience store called Del Papas.

Only I never called it Del Papas all that often. To me and my brother Dan it was simply “the comic book store”.

They had a whole wall full of comic books and was where I spent a fair bit of my paper route money. I also spent some of my grandmother’s money as well – but I will tell you a little bit more about that later on.

Let me tell you why I dig comic books.

Comic books help teach me how to read.

I would sit and I would pour over my comic book collection any chance that I got. The Hulk, Batman, Swamp Thing, Dark Shadows and the like – I read them all, cover to cover. I especially enjoyed the big smash-up issues – say where Hulk fought The Thing. Nothing appealed to my young growing psyche so much as the sight of Thor bringing down a skyscraper on top of The Hulk.

I read paperback novels as well – but I usually bought those paperbacks from the spinner rack at Lalonde’s Drugstore.

Once a month or so I would ride an hour long bus ride to Sudbury and go to a real bookstore. I would go to the Coles in Sudbury and I also frequented an amazing used bookstore that kept me happily reading the adventures of Doc Savage, Tarzan, Conan, Leo Kessler’s Wotan Panzer Division, Barnabas Collins and whatever other pulpy novels I could unearth in that wonderfully funky old used bookstore.

I can’t even remember the name of the bookstore – but it was the highlight of my shopping trips to Halifax. I recollect that it was close to the D&D Hobby Shop – and no, that did NOT have any connection to the D&D game that became popular in later years.

But growing up in Capreol, it was Del Papa’s Convenience Store that kept my comic book habit fed.

Funny thing was – but it also fed my spiritual side.

My grandmother had made a deathbed promise to her sister that she would faithfully attend church every Sunday – so every Sunday she made the long walk across the railroad tracks to the Capreol United Church. Early on she decided that we two kids had to go as well. Shortly after that decision my Grandmother – whom we called Nanny Judy – made the discovery that my brother Dan and I could be bribed by comic books.

So – every Sunday morning she got us to go to church with the promise of a visit to the comic book store on the way home from church.

At first she used to stop at the comic book store BEFORE going to church but she found out that Dan and I were not above reading our comic books during the sermon – so she quickly re-evaluated the situation and bumped the comic book store trip to AFTER church.

So every Sunday my brother and I would each get a 12 cent comic book. Later on that bumped up to 15 cents. Occasionally, I could talk her into a 25 cent comic book. Later on I discovered the wonderful Eerie and Creepy and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines put out by Warren Publishing – and I dedicated a regular portion of my hard-earned paper route money to following each issue of Eerie and Creepy magazine.

So hats off to all of you comic book readers out there. Get yourself to your local comic book store this weekend – and DEFINITELY next weekend for Free Comic Book Day.

Parents, if you have a kid who does NOT like to read – buy him a freaking comic book. Sure, it has got pictures in it. Sure, it is often nothing more than a visual ode to city-wreaking and chest-thumping and UFO crashing – but I tell you this. ANYTHING that gets a kid to pick up a book and read it is a wonderful thing. Reading comic books was what taught me about storytelling structure and voice and character.

Lets hear it for comic book day.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Bullets and Fire – a Short Story by Joe Lansdale

                                                       Just click on this to order it.

I am a big fan of Joe Lansdale and his writing. I even met the man once at a Horror Writers of America convention in New York City. He is a good man and a great writer. One of his books will stand you on the back of your heels like a good stiff right cross.

If it doesn’t hit you that way, you probably ought not to be reading anything beyond “See Dick Run”.

I especially like this little yarn because it was free. That’s right, I am a cheap old bear and I pinch my money until the janitor at the mint blushes flamingo pink.

This is a fast-reading yarn.

It is also a fairly simply tale and I have to admit that I saw where it was going by page 17 or so. That isn’t usually the case with a Joe Lansdale tale – but in this particular instance it was.

Still, that did not spoil the reading experience anymore than seeing a road sign that read “NEW YORK CITY TWENTY EIGHT MILES” is going to spoil the experience of the Empire State Building hitting you smack between the eyeballs with all of it’s skyscraping splendor.

I don’t want to spoil this tale for you just in case you don’t spot the plot point like I did. We all have our own set of eyes and you ought to look at this story with a fresh set. Still, I will tell you that it is gang-related and violent as all get out. If you are sensitive or easily-offended you probably might want to settle on a Zane Grey novel or perhaps an old school Harlequin Romance – one of the less violent kind.

BULLETS AND FIRE is a gangster story and it reeks of testosterone and locker room tale-telling. It is a cheap tavern steak, served up hot and fresh. It is a cold glass of beer on a hot summer day. It is not pretty or poetic but the scenes in the last couple of chapters will leave you feeling as if you had been drop-kicked by a sledge hammer.

If you dig Charles Bronson’s Death Wish, you want to read this story.

If you think that Breaking Bad is the epitome of episodic television then you will want to read this story.

If you want a tale that will smack you between the eyeballs so hard that the very next thing you look at will be hanging off the wrong end of your lower intestine then you really need to pick up this story.

It was free over at Amazon.

It was free over at Kobo – where I got it from.

You can probably find it for free elsewhere.

Go and read it because I told you to.

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon


Forgive me, folks – but I have been meaning to catch up a bit on some of my reviewing and this weekend seems like a fine time to do it.

So let me talk about novellas.

I really love a good novella. There is something that is just so very comfortable about a good pocket-sized read. It is like having your very own cheeseburger – or maybe a bottle of beer. It isn’t going to fill you up for the rest of the evening – but there is something innately satisfying about a well-written novella.

And, by the same token, there is something about the horror genre that just seems to fit PERFECTLY into a novella-sized package.

So I always enjoy sitting down and reading a good horror novella collection.

Like this one.

There are four novellas in this collection.

The first one – FAST ZOMBIES SUCK – by Brian Keene.

Now, Keene knows his zombies and this novella centers around the way that one particular person handles the zombie apocalypse. The protagonist, Ken, is a zombie movie nerd. Or maybe I ought to call him a geek. In any case this novella will take you through the opening minutes of a zombie outbreak – or does it?

You read it and see. It is a macabre little exercise in irony and it is well worth the read.


The second novella – PIZZA FACE – is written by Bryan Smith, a master of the no-holds-barred oh-my-god-I-think-I’m-going-to-puke school of gross-out horror. Let me put this way. A Bryan Smith novel is NOT for those folks who are easily offended by gratuitous violence. We are talking Edward Lee style mega-gore.

PIZZA FACE does NOT disappoint the Bryan Smith fan.


Scott Nicholson is a little more of a thoughtful subtle writer and his novella, A FAREWELL TO ARMS, is probably the best read of the collection. It is a soft and subtly haunting post-apocalyptic yarn – a campfire tale told in the dark. The last line echoes like a rock dropped down into the belly of a coal mine.


Jonathan Maberry’s COOKED is the last novella of the collection – a thick and rich gumbo that is DEFINITELY good to the last drop. It will stick to your ribs and leave you creaking out those tasty little pepper burps that good down-home cajun creole cooking will leave lingering in your belly. I guarantee you that you will NEVER look at a plastic pink flamingo or a lawn gnome the same way again.


SPOOKY STACKS is available – for now – for free on the Kobo network.

It’s a darned good read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a few good horror novellas.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

David Gaughran’s MERCENARY

Sometimes the difference between truth and fiction is an awfully thin gray line.

I picked up a copy of this e-book for my Kobo for free a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed the read. The whole way through I kept wondering if the protagonist, Lee Christmas, was actually based on a real life person.

Well, I was stubborn and I did not resort to Google until I had ACTUALLY completed reading the novel – just because I did not want to risk reading any spoilers.

The book was a solid action-filled read. Lee Christmas was a marvelously flawed hero who kind of reminded me a little of William Holden in THE WILD BUNCH – or better yet, Lee Marvin in THE PROFESSIONALS.

Only bigger.

Lee Christmas cast a big old shadow across any landscape and this was a heck of a story. I would recommend for any fans of military literature.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Designing Your Print Book Interior

Formatting is a constant challenge.

Here are some tips from author David Neth on setting up the formatting for your next paperback project.

Straight Razor at Scallywags!

Clicking this picture will take you straight to the SCALLYWAGS BARBERSHOP Facebook Page

Straight razor at Scallywags – how is that for a blog entry title?

Sounds like something from the pulp era. I can see Robert Mitchum duking it out with a pair of straight razor wielding gorilla-thugs.

Let me tell you about Scallywags.

For starters, I spotted a tiny wee paragraph or two talking about this new beard-oriented barbershop over on Chebucto right across from the European Pantry – which is walking distance from my home.

I have been searching for a good barber shop for sometime now. I do know a few – but they are all out of my walking range. This location was absolutely perfect for me.

Besides, I needed a haircut and a beard trim in the worst way possible. I had let my beard grow in since Movember and by this time last week I looked like I was running for town Santa Claus. Worse yet, I had a big gig coming up in Tatamogouche – WRITING ON FIRE.

I’ll tell you all about my time in Tatamagouche in my next blog entry.

So I decided to walk on up and try out Scallywags.

There were two young fellows there – one gent with a lavish beard and one who was beardless. Truth to tell, I probably would have opted for the dude with the beard – just because I have a strong beard-bias when it comes to barbers – but bearded Brad was busy with a client so I wound up with Dylan.

Turns out my fears where absolutely groundless. Dylan knew exactly what he was doing. He asked me what I wanted and I showed him an author’s photo from MARITIME MURDER.

If you click this picture it will take you the Kindle version of MARITIME MURDER. It is also available in Kobo, Nook or honest-to-Moses paperback. I'd put up a clickable picture for each of them but I have taken a sacred vow to help preserve our virtual forests and to abstain from over-spamming this blog page.

If you click this picture it will take you the Kindle version of MARITIME MURDER. It is also available in Kobo, Nook or honest-to-Moses paperback. I’d put up a clickable picture for each of them but I have taken a sacred vow to help preserve our virtual forests and to abstain from over-spamming this blog page.

“Make me look like that fellow again,” I told Dylan.

“I can do that,” Dylan said confidently. “Do you think that you might like to try a straight razor shave?”

Now, let me tell you, I have ALWAYS wanted to try a straight razor but I never had the opportunity before now. I had always watched dudes in western movies and noir movies getting that whole towel and cold steel treatment but until last week I had NEVER found a barber who did that sort of thing.

“You bet,” I said. “Hone that sucker keen and let’s get to it.”

All right, so I might have trembled just a little – but it was manful trembling.


So Dylan started out by cranking the barber chair up until I was almost at a total recline.

“This is great,” I said. “I need to get one of these chairs for my man-cave – just as soon as I could build me a man-cave – not to mention hanging my television on the ceiling so that I can watch it while leaning right back.”

That hot towel did something amazing to the pores of my face. It felt a little like my cheeks were made out of bubbling oatmeal. I could feel the pores popping and puckering and I think if I had had a camera whirling beneath that towel my face would have been twitching and dancing like a jitterbugging earthquake.

It felt weird.

Weird, but good.

Then he slapped some goop on my face and threw another even hotter towel onto me and then he tipped my face to the side and began the razoring.

Oh man, that felt so good.

I might need a cigarette after that shave – and I don’t even smoke.

After he was done he dropped a cold towel that felt it might have had some alcohol in it to help cleanse and cool my skin. After that he flap-dried me with the towel and I just lay there waiting for the Pope to come along and bless me and place a golden crown upon my head.

The Pope must have been busy though because he never bothered to put in an appearance.

So was it a close shave?

Let me tell you, it was two days before I needed to scrape the peach fuzz off of my features – and I can assure you that I possess some of the fiercest facial follicles in the entire known galaxy. I just have to sneeze and I have got a beard growing.

I got into Tatamagouche later that day and the first thing my host said to me was that I looked different.

“You look almost polished,” was how she put it.

The funny thing was, it turned out that the very barber chair I had sat in ACTUALLY came originally from a Tatamagouche barber shop that had closed when the barber passed away.

A haunted barber chair – now THAT’S a ghost story in the making!

SO – if any of you Haligonians out there are hankering for an amazing shaving experience you REALLY ought to get yourselves over to Scallywags Barber Shop – the shaving emporium for the discerning beard-bearer.

6513 Chebucto Road

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Wellie Boot

Writers look up some awfully funny things.

Just this morning I was researching the Wellie boot.

What’s a Wellie boot?

I love my Wellies.

I wear them in the rain and I wear them when I shovel and I almost cried when my old pair up and died this February. I have a pair of cheap replacements that I bought at Walmart and they aren’t half the boot of my original Wellies.

Mind you, you can’t blame Walmart, because I bought my original pair at Walmart about six years ago.

Six years of hard slogging will wear down a boot, sure as sinning.

I like the versatility of a well-made Wellie. You can wear them in any weather and they even pass in certain social circles as formal wear. They go dandy with a suede suit jacket and a Greek fisherman’s cap.

How many of folks out there knew that the Wellie boot was actually named after the Duke of Wellington – the fellow who slogged across France fighting Napoleon – all in a pair of Wellies. Of course his Wellies were made of leather.

Proper Wellies are made of good stout rubber. Leather is only toffs and lollygaggers and them softer fellows who only pretend at manliness.

Real men wear rubber.

(insert dirty joke here)

While I was researching the Wellie boot – the perfect foot wear for April – and I tripped over this little ditty by Billy Connolly, one of the funniest men in the entire universe.

And while you are at it and looking for a good giggle check this one out as well.

A writer needs a good pair of Wellies for wading through his latest manuscript without getting his feet too wet.

So – while i get back to my writing answer me this question -How many of you out there actually own a pair of wellies?

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


Another way to create a cover for CreateSpace

Thanks to writer John H. Carroll for posting this info on his blog – how to convert a book cover for CreateSpace from jpeg to pdf.

John writes oddball fantasy/scifi – including his collection THE EMO BUNNY THAT SHOULD (STORIES FOR DEMENTED CHILDREN BOOK 1) – which you check out over at Amazon if you like.

Or you can order a copy just by clicking this cover shot.

And – in the interest of full disclosure – I came across the link to the blog entry over at kboards – and if you have any aspirations of writing e-books indie-style you really ought to give some thought to hanging out at kboards every now and then.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Nova Scotia Film Workers Pay Their Taxes!


The Nova Scotia Film Tax Credit is an important tax credit that helps to promote the Nova Scotia film making industry.

The political-types are making a stink about possibly ending the tax credit.

NS Films bring movie companies to Nova Scotia. There isn’t a season that goes by that I don’t see a long caravan of movie trucks parked somewhere downtown in Halifax. You have to remember that each one of the trucks is another chunk of cash getting dropped into the Nova Scotia economy.

NS Films and the film making industry in general bring jobs to Nova Scotians. They create work for actors, writers, painters, electricians, laborers, restaurants and a horde of other industries.

Listen all of you politicians!

Listen Diana Whalen​ and Stephen Macneil​ and all the rest of political types – more than TWO THOUSAND Nova Scotians work in the film industry. That is over TWO THOUSAND pebbles thrown into the Nova Scotia money pond – the resulting ripples creating a tsunami of benefit for the province’s economical structure.

Are you folks REALLY ready to put that many NS jobs at risk?

More important to you political types is that represents over TWO THOUSAND votes. Then you ought to factor in all of their family members who might take it personally that the political types are jeopardizing the film industry’s future here in Nova Scotia. Let alone all of the people that these actors and film workers are going to talk to while they are sitting at home wondering why the tax credit was turned off.

Have you ever BEEN to a wrap party. Listen, people, these actors just LOVE to talk.

Every year we pour thousands of dollars into tourism commercials that sing the praises of Nova Scotia.

Each of those film crews that fly here to make movies and take advantage of the lower costs that are created partially by the incentive of the NS tax credit are TOURISTS!

They all want to sit down in restaurants and pubs to eat and drink. They all shop for shoes and souvenirs and books to read.

That is MONEY going directly into the NS economy – money that eliminating the NS tax credit would jeopardize.

Stop and think about it all of you bean-counting budget-balancing political types.

This isn’t just a tax credit, that I am talking about.

This is a program that works to attract business and bucket-loads of money into the Nova Scotia economy.

This is a system that works.

Do not cut the NS tax credit.

You can read more here.

And here!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Where to Publish (For New Writers Who Are Looking to Self-Publish)

Some info for all of you writer-types out there.

There is ALWAYS something new to learn.