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The Door of Eternal Night: Josh Reynolds, Interviewed

M.H. Norris

I had the great pleasure to sit down with Josh Reynolds and discuss his installment in The Science of Deduction, “The Door of Eternal Night.” It’s a new installment in his wonderful Royal Occultist series.

M.H. Norris: Welcome, Josh! Would you like to tell us a bit The Door of Eternal Night and the Royal Occultist (to say nothing of his able apprentice; no,I’m sorry, assistant)?

Josh Reynolds: Hi, thanks for having me.

To answer your second question first, the Royal Occultist is the man–or woman–who stands between the British Empire and its occult enemies, be they foreign, domestic, human, demonic or some form of worm of unusual size. If there are satyrs running amok in Somerset or werewolves in Wolverhampton, the Royal Occultist will be there to see them off.

The current Royal Occultist is Charles St. Cyprian, who’s best described as Rudolph Valentino by way of Bertie Wooster. His assistant, Ebe Gallowglass, is Louise Brooks by way of Emma Peel. St. Cyprian is the brains and Gallowglass is the muscle; he likes to talk things out, and she likes to shoot things until they die. Together, they defend Jazz Age Great Britain against a variety of gribbly monsters, secret societies and eldritch occurrences.

“The Door of Eternal Night” finds a Harry Houdini seeking help from his old friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Royal Occultist with regards to an uninvited apparition in his hotel room. If you want to know how it all ties into one of Sherlock Holmes’s old cases and the deadly Cult of the Pyramid Bat, well, you should probably buy the novella.

book cover the door of eternal night_Final

MHN: What caught your interest about “Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world”?

JR: I think because I find the implications of Mr. James Phillimore’s final fate more strange than criminal, much like the case of Isadora Persano and his worm unknown to science or the giant rat of Sumatra. In my opinion, the best Holmes stories have a whiff of the weird about them, and the snippet implies that whatever happened to Phillimore, it was, at the very least, unusual.

MHN: You made great use of the story Harry Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft collaborated on, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs.” What inspired you to write a sequel to that tale, and close off the loose ends Houdini and Lovecraft left behind?

JR: I’ve always been fascinated by this particular story–it’s got cults, ancient gods, animal-headed mummies, the whole shebang. Too, it’s a rough, but entertaining, start to what could have been an interesting collaboration, had Houdini’s life not been cut short in 1926. Imagine what other stories might have resulted, had their partnership continued…

MHN: The Door of Eternal Night–and, really, all of the Royal Occultist series–makes excellent use of the Jazz Age. What drew you to it, and how do you research it?

JR: I was drawn to the Jazz Age mostly through my enjoyment of some of the authors of that period, such as PG Wodehouse, Dorothy L. Sayers, Evelyn Waugh, John Buchan and Margery Allingham, among others, as well as the music. 1920s Jazz standards like ‘Limehouse Blues’, ‘Hard Hearted Hannah’ and ‘Snake Rag’ pop up regularly on my rotation.

As to research, well–more books, mostly. There’s a wealth of material, both fiction and non-fiction, on the Inter-War Period in Great Britain. Besides the authors I mentioned above, I have a stack of research books two feet high, mostly having to do with food, clothes, music and daily life in England during the 20’s and 30’s.

MHN: How do you think living through The Door of Eternal Night would have changed the real Conan Doyle and the Houdinis?

JR: I don’t think it would have changed them much at all, honestly. The events of “The Door of Eternal Night” would have only reinforced Conan Doyle’s belief in the spirit world, and I don’t see Houdini admitting that the supernatural was real (at least not in public). Though the contortions that Houdini would have to go through to justify the events with his world view might give even his escapology skills a run for their money.

MHN: What advice do you have for the authors in the house?

JR: Persistence counts for more than you think. Luck is great, skill is nice, but persistence keeps you in the game long enough for the one to happen and the other to be recognized.

MHN: Thank you so much for your time. Where can our readers follow you online?

JR: Thank you for having me! I have a blog which features links to my other work, and a complete bibliography.

There’s also a Royal Occultist-dedicated site which features free fiction, audio dramas and plenty of background on the world of the Royal Occultist, including a complete story chronology.

MHM: And remember that you can get a copy of “The Door of Eternal Night” all your own right here at 18thWall Productions’ website, and on Amazon.

If Walls Could Talk: Writing Cycles

M. H. Norris

When I was looking at how television shows work for a previous project, I found the idea of production cycles fascinating. Once a season gets going, they are constantly in three different stages simultaneously for months at a time.

A show is in pre-production, then goes into production for the first episode, then when that’s done, it goes to post while episode 2 goes into post-produciton and the rest of the season is in pre-production. And yet, they manage this circle year after year and it somehow always comes together. Until the last week, I hadn’t experienced it in writing, per se, but got a feel for the three-fold circle a bit.

The draft for “Midnight” is done so, in theory, it has gone into the writing form of post-production. I’m working on another project that I’m not sure that I’m allowed to talk about yet so that is in the very beginning stages of production. And then, I’m in pre-production for the next All the Petty Myths book.

The circle is fun and sometimes I find myself switching gears. This feels different then working on different projects at the same time because then, they aren’t in different stages.

Sometimes, it’s hard to juggle. For example, as I write this, James is reading and editing “Midnight,” I have a tab open in my browser learning about a location I want to use in my next story, and for now, the next All the Petty Myths is taking the back burner so I can meet some deadlines.

Week to week, I come here and tell you what I’m up to, give advice where I can, and just sit down and collect my thoughts about the various stages of the writing process.

Project to project, I seem to forget various stages of projects as I get so involved in whatever stage I’m in. Like the one slipping from pre-production to production for example. At times, I forget how tricky it can be to have a blank slate and start a story from scratch. Sure, I love the blank page and the potential a new story has, but sometimes development can be a bit tricky. Names, stories, backstories, motivations, all this has to be figured out because it directly affects how your POV character not only tells their story to your readers but affects how they react to the world you are creating. If you don’t understand them, they can’t help you tell the story.

To me, the flattest stories are the ones who don’t allow their readers to connect to their characters~so when writing a story, I like to make sure that my characters have some odd fun quirk that I can reference, now and then, and remind you that for all their skills and abilities when it comes to solving crimes, they are people too and sometimes there is stuff going on right in the middle of a case. (It’s been awhile since I’ve done a post about creating characters. Maybe I should brush the old one off and modify it with my new experiences.)

It’s fun being in various stages of different projects. There’s constantly things to work on, things to think about, and gears to change sometimes at a moment’s notice.

And to those of you who have experienced you know that while it can make things a little crazy, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: Long Live Fantomas

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!


Release Date: 2007 (Setting is 1890)

Series: Tales of the Shadowmen

Horror Crosses: Phantom of the Opera; An American Werewolf in London/Paris

Non-Horror Crosses: Fantomas; Black Coats; Claudius Bombarnac; Sherlock Holmes; Rocambole; The Wandering Jew; Star Trek

The Story: In this tale, it appears that the infamous Jack the Ripper may be the “hero” named Fantomas, or in reality some other creature who possesses humans to do “his” evil deeds.

Notes: This story brings in the film An American Werewolf in Paris, and thus by extension the film An American Werewolf in London, though the latter is cemented by other crossovers (such as the Spike vs. Dracula tale).

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

If Walls Could Talk — Sprinting For The Finish Line

Before this past weekend, I hadn’t attempted a word sprint outside the confines of NaNoWriMo and part of me isn’t sure I consider what I did this weekend to be a real word sprint or just an extra bit of good luck in the writing department.

Either way, between Saturday and Sunday I wrote several thousand words, an amount I hadn’t accomplished since NaNoWriMo. And it felt good to be able to write like that again because it had been quite a while since I had

In fact, I went from the half-way writing point to a finished draft of Midnight, a relief on my part.

During NaNoWriMo, I found word springs to be invaluable and they were helpful when life got a little crazy. I could push myself in a short amount of time to accomplish a lot of writing. It’s probably a good part of what helped me to win this time, since it was something different I tried as opposed to other years.

Saturday, I just started to write. And I wrote, more and more and while part of me wanted to stop, another part of me pushed harder and harder to write. I finally did let myself stop when I realized I hit a point where I would need to do another marathon writing session and at that point in the day, I knew I didn’t have that much writing left in me.

There’s a side tip inside this post. At times, you have to know your writing limits because if you try to push past them on a fairly regular basis, you are going to do burn yourself out. And trust me, that is going to do you absolutely no good.

If case you haven’t heard the term, writing sprint before, let me explain it. The idea is setting a time (people usually go for 15-20 minutes but I have seen longer) and write like mad until the time is up. Anything under an hour is considered a short spring anything over is considered a long sprint.

When I went into my first of several writing sprints, it was unintentional. I wasn’t planning to write that much for that long but once I got started I found that for the first time in a long time, the words flowed and I was able to pieces all the pieces together and write my way towards the end of the story.

That one was more or less around 90 minutes. I had a cuppa siting beside me, Disney tunes playing on Pandora and I wrote.

disney logo

A fun way to do a writing sprint is to get a couple of writers together and compete and/or encourage each other; nothing like a little healthy competition to drive you to write fast and furiously.

I did this a few times during NaNoWriMo and the idea of others out there writing frantically at the same time as you can really help motivate you to write, even if you don’t feel like it.

And while yes, you need to be careful not to burn yourself out, you need to also to push yourself. That or get someone to push you.

Or both.

The biggest thing about writing is that you need to figure out what works best for you. Often times, when I come to you week to week, I tell you things that I’ve experienced, or that I’m going through.

But each person writes a different way, they all have a different method. That’s why there are so many different writing how to books.

So, my hope is that when you read these posts you find a way to take my advice and find out how it works best for you.

Good luck with your writing this week!

By the way, did you check out my interview with the Television Crossover Universe Podcast?

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: The Heart of the Moon

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!


Release Date: 2007 (Setting is 1790)

Series: Tales of the Shadowmen

Horror Crosses: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (film); Vampire City (Paul Feval); Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos; Nosferatu; The Vampyre

Non-Horror Crosses: Doctor Omega; Telzey Amberdon, Solomon Kane, Maciste (Silent Film Series); Maciste (Revival Sword and Sandal Film Series); Baron Munchhausen; Shadow Warriors; Doctor Who; Northwest Smith; Star or Psi Cassiopeia; The Black Stone

The Story: Doctor Omega and his companion Telzey Amberdon team up with Captain Kronos, Doctor Grost, Solomon Kane, and Maciste against an army of vampires in Selene, the infamous Vampire City.

Notes: Another great horror crossover tale from Black Coat’s Tales of the Shadowmen and author Matthew Baugh. Captain Kronos is from the cult classic 70s film. Vampire City is from author Paul Feval, a French novel reprinted and translated to English by Black Coat Press. Of course, the Lovecraft Mythos are the glue that binds the Horror Universe. Nosferatu is a classic film that was a very loose adaptation of Dracula (loose enough to be considered a separate story.) The Vampyre is one of the earliest vampire works in literature. Doctor Omega is a French novel that has been conflated in recent times in literature with the Doctor from Doctor Who. Since it’s been published, I consider the theory to be canon. Telzey Amberdon is from her own sci-fi series but here she is the Doctor’s companion. Solomon Kane is an immortal hero of literature, while Maciste is an immortal sword and sorcery hero from films. Originally he was featured in silent films, then decades later was revived in several Italian sword and sorcery films. Though separate series, the two versions are conflated here, so I consider both the same character. Shadow Warriors is a Japanese television series. All the horror crosses here are considered fully part of the Horror Universe, with all of their works as canon. As for the non-horror crosses, we can consider that their appearances listed in this book are canon, and perhaps their original appearances by their original authors or production companies, but that’s it. Non-horror crosses do not count as crossover connectors to expand the Horror Universe.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

If Walls Could Talk: Writing Breakdown

M.H. Norris

I’m going to take a different stance on some pretty traditional writing advice. Last week, I finally managed to hit the half-way point on “Midnight”~my story in All the Petty Myths~and then found myself staring at the second half of the story as if it were a deep abyss and there was no end in sight.

And I’ll admit that it threw me for a loop. James and I have discussed an ideal word count for Midnight and I’ve often wondered if I’ll be able to meet it.

While half-way was an accomplishment the other half feels a bit overwhelming. This is where doubts can really set in. I have a whole half a story to wrap up clues, introduce and dismiss suspects, write a climax, and resolve it.

A couple of days ago, I think I finally started to figure out how to make this second half seem a little less overwhelming. I broke it into pieces.

Word counts and word goals are two popular terms throughout any writing advice book. And events like NaNoWriMo push the daily 1667 word count goal. And I guess that’s part of the appeal of it. 50,000 words seem like a lot but if you break it down to under 2000 a day that’s a little more manageable. Still a lot, but it seems easier than staring 50k in the face.

So here’s how I’m going to approach Midnight. The next quarter of the book is going to give me the space to lay down the rest of my ground work and close some threads early. Then, in the last quarter, we’ll hit the climax and resolution.

To me, dividing the half in half makes the whole thing seem more manageable. Instead of a half, it’s divided into a quarter. Now, I can take a look at my notes and see what all I wanted to cover before the climax and figure out how it fits in between here and there.

From there, I’m leaving myself room for my climax and the fun resolution I have in mind.

Word counts are something I struggle with. I find it hard to make my word count goals and often find myself going under the goal. Which is something I’m trying to prevent with Midnight.

I’m hoping this plan works and that by creating a rough map of this half of the story, maybe I can finally finish this story.

And to answer the question I know is brewing in the minds of those who have followed my posts for a bit, I still do hate outlines. And while I say that, I kinda have to admit that what I’ve spent this post talking about sounds like an outline. I think I’m going to use the term breakdown just to make myself feel better about it.

Or, I’ll admit that I’m using an outline of sorts and, maybe this time around, I’m trying to keep an open mind about it.

But, if you’re like me and what’s left of your story is making you a bit nervous, trying breaking it down into sections. Maybe not even scenes (now we really are venturing into outline territory).

I’m going to give it a try and I guess we will all see how it goes. Over the weekend, I got some validation for Midnight and the concept and I’m excited to see what everyone else thinks about it.

By the way, thanks to Robert E. Wronski Jr and the Television Crossover Universe Podcast gang for a fun interview. Can’t wait for you guys to hear it. It comes out next Tuesday. 

Happy Writing



The Dragon Lord’s Secretary: Nicole Petit, Thoroughly Interviewed

It was our pleasure to recently sit down with Nicole Petit and discuss her recent release, The Dragon Lord’s Secretary.

MHN: You’ve been writing Scarlet for years, what encouraged you to take the next step and give her her first book?

NP: This current iteration of Scarlet was always intended to be part of a published series. It just took years before I managed to cobble together a book. A lot of those years were spent writing out short concept sketches, world-building, working on a series bible that still isn’t actually finished. There were quite a few discarded drafts before I got to the finished story that’s published as The Dragon Lord’s Secretary.

The Dragon Lord's Secretary_Digital Cover

MHN: Speaking of Scarlet, can you tell us a little about how she came to be?

NP: Scarlet Chase and the world she lives in I started writing as a hobby. She was something I wrote in the middle of my school notes when I was pretending to pay attention to the teacher. The first serious attempt to make something worth sharing was originally designed as the protagonist of, believe it or not, a tv show called Magic Inc. It was a bit of Bewitched, with a touch of The Bells Are Ringing. She’d go around solving problems with her magic. Not too different from what she does now.

MHN: What is one thing you want your readers to know about Scarlet that isn’t in the book?

NP: Scarlet plays her hand close to her chest, and I don’t think she’d much appreciate my tattling. So I won’t share any of her big secrets. It might be interesting to mention that she’s not formally trained in her magic talents, as most magi are, though she did get some pointers from a man she refers to as Dominie. Most of her “parlor tricks,” as she calls them, were learned on the fly.

MHN: A few weeks ago, you talked with me about doing research to world build. I know you’ve spent a lot of time building Scarlet’s world. Is there anything you’d like to share with someone who maybe doesn’t know how to tackle that process?

NP: Start small and work your way up. Tolkien built his Middle Earth around his created languages. That’s not actually small, all things considered, but the example still works. He built the multiple elvish languages, and then started creating a culture that would have developed these languages. The Silmarillion is an excellent example of worldbuilding. It’s the foundation on which he wrote The Lord of the Rings, though it wasn’t actually published until after his death.

MHN: Didn’t I hear you got a new Facebook page?

NP: Yeah! It even has a few posts on it and stuff. It’s almost like I’m a professional now or something. You can find it here.

MHN: What’s next for Scarlet?

NP: Lord knows. That woman is always up to something. There are a few stories in the works at the moment, but nothing concrete.

MHN: We got to see the Dragon Lord’s library and them meet him in The Dragon Lord’s Secretary, what gave you the idea to connect the book with the two anthologies?

NP: It was the other way around. The idea for the anthologies came from The Dragon Lord’s Secretary. I thought it would be interesting to find out what kind of stories you might find in The Great and Glorious Dragon Lord’s Library, which can be found hidden away in his treasure horde.

Dragon Lord's Library 2 Cover

MHN: Anything you care to add?

NP: Would this be the time to mention I was recently on a podcast where I talked a bit more about Scarlet and Calix and how fun it is to write them?
You can find it here.

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: The Cold Comes South

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!

Lovecraft Shadow


Release Date: March 30, 2007 (Setting is February 1874)

Series: Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos

Non-Horror Crosses: Mysterious Dan Hawkins/Dave Mather; John Thunstone; David Return

The Story: Gunfighter Dave Mather encounters a Great Old One in the old west.

Notes: The Great Old One Ithaqua is of course from the works of Lovecraft. Baugh has used Dan Hawkins and Dave Mather as names for the same character based on the real life Dave Mather. A tribe of Indians encountered by Mather is the Tsichah from the works of Manly Wade Wellman in both his John Thunstone and David Return series.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

If Walls Could Talk: Middle Blues

M.H. Norris

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how I love new projects because the empty page is full of untapped potential and the ideas are flowing and anything happens.

I stand by that statement. Beginnings are a fun stage in any story. But then, you get to the middle. The other day, James asked me how my All the Petty Myths story was going.  Here was my answer:

“It’s the part where I’ve done the edges of a puzzle, but now have to do the middle and no idea how to make it work.”

Welcome to the middle of a story. It’s hard and it’s often a place where you might doubt yourself a fair bit. The end is starting to come into the horizon but you know you have a lot of ground to cover.

And for a mystery, there are so many pieces in place. Did you introduce your UnSub? Did you lay enough clues? Did you give your protagonist a chance to find it? And, if you are in the mood, did you sneak enough red herrings in so that your readers are guessing until the big reveal?

With Notches, I got mixed reactions to the end of my book. A few people saw the killer coming from pretty early on in the book. But then I also go a lot of people who said they didn’t see it coming until I revealed it about three chapters from the end.

I’ll admit, it was satisfying to hear that people didn’t guess my ending. But here, in my second mystery, I doubt if I can pull it off again. And I can help but wonder if I can up my game for those who saw it coming.

Middles are hard. You’ve got the setup, which you may or may not be second-guessing, and you’ve got a vague (or maybe pretty solid) idea of where this tale is going to end. You might have some clues to find, red herrings to plant, suspects to name and then dismiss, an UnSub to introduce, and a variety of other things.

Yet, with all these pieces you might find yourself with no idea of where to go.

“How hard can it be?”

That’s a question I ask myself all to frequently in this process. I know where I need to go but I have no idea to get there.

They say the middle of a story is the hardest. It’s where you have to bridge the gap from your set up to your climax and resolution. It’s crucial because this is the body of your story, the meat in-between the beginning and the end.

In other words, no pressure.

That’s where I’m at, stuck in the middle blues. Suddenly, everything else is more fascinating. I’ve watched all thirteen episodes of Fuller House, the first three Pokémon movies, and docked a fair amount of hours in Alpha Sapphire. I’ve stared in envy at things like The Curious Case of the Clockwork Doll and The Door of Eternal Night, because Heidi and Josh make it all look so infuriatingly easy.

And that was just this weekend.

It becomes hard to manage to write when you hit the middle and you feel as if you have hit a brick wall. You try trick, yourself, then try bribing yourself, and nothing seems to work.

But, you tell yourself you’ll figure it out and the story will get written. Eventually, you’ll find the crucial pieces of the puzzle that makes the rest of the story fit together nice and snug.

And it will.

Eventually, you’ll get the story written, the gyms beaten, and the Elite Four conquered. Sorry, I’m still on a Pokémon Day high–so those analogies seem to just keep coming.

Take a deep breath, maybe a break, and then come back to the story. You can do it!

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: Andy Barker PI

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!


Release Date: March 15 – April 14, 2007 (Contemporary Setting)

Series: Andy Barker

Horror Crosses: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Story: Andy is an accountant who is mistaken for a private detective and ends up reluctantly taking a case. He finds he enjoys it so keeps doing it. Well, for a month.

Notes: Though this show only lasted a month, it made its mark on the Horror Universe. One episode centered around a fictional fast food franchise called the Double Meat Palace. Buffy Summers (the Vampire Slayer) was an employee of the franchise, which first appeared on her show.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.