Friday, September 11, 2015


There’s something you should know about me right off the bat, and you may find it a little shocking – I’m white.
I’m not just white, I’m also male, and on the wrong side of forty. And I live on the East Coast.
I tell you all this to illustrate that I am about as far from a sixteen year-old Navajo girl as you can get and still be a member of the same species.
Which is sort of the point, I guess.
Let me back up…
Back in the heady days of 2003, Tom Deja – writer, podcaster, and proprietor of this very blog – was editor for a prose superhero anthology called Truth, Justice, And…
I wrote a story for it called “The Origin of Flight” about a teenage girl who gained the power to fly when she came into possession of a Thunderbird feather. The character didn’t exist, even as an idea, before Tom put out the call for stories. I Frankensteined her together from a bunch of different things I was interested in at the time (mythology and coming-of-age stories, mostly) strictly to meet the requirements of the anthology. I called her “Fly Girl” – a term that was about a decade past its cultural sell-by date even then, but I liked it because it was silly and simultaneously obvious and not obvious at all. For her real name, I decided on “Caryn Clay” because there’s a long, proud history of alliterative civilian names in superhero comics (Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, Peter Parker, Reed Richards, etc.). I left things open at the end, like any good origin story, but I didn’t have a venue to continue publishing her, so I moved on to other projects.
Over the next ten years, though, Fly Girl kept nagging at me. Without consciously trying to, I was figuring out her backstory, building a rogues gallery for her and a mythology around the feather that provided her powers, answering questions I didn’t realize I’d left unanswered in that first episode.
I think a lot of writers go through a phase early on when their protagonists are essentially themselves – but aside from the fact that we both went to high school in Phoenix, Caryn Clay was nothing at all like me. I wasn’t born into a culture I didn’t want to be part of, and, as noted above, I was never a teenage girl – not even for Halloween.
I couldn’t fly either, of course… but it turned out that was the least interesting thing about the character – any kid who’s ever picked up a comic book will tell you that “flight” all by itself is just about the most bargain basement power-set a superhero can have, after all. It was how different Caryn’s life experience was from mine that kept my thoughts coming back to her, and that difference started long before she got ahold of that Thunderbird feather.
I wrote two more episodes and took notes on a handful of other Fly Girl stories over the next decade, with no real idea of what I was going to do with any of it. Then, in 2014, I was developing a serial for Pro Se Press’s new Single Shots Signature Series line and realized that, for a variety of reasons, the idea I’d pitched to editor-in-chief Tommy Hancock wasn’t going to work. This realization came along pretty late in the game, and since I didn’t want to back out of my commitment with Pro Se, I looked around for something else I could do that would be a better fit in terms of tone and story length.
And here was all this Fly Girl material I’d been poking away at since 2003.
Fortunately, Tommy was okay with the substitution, and we’ve been publishing Fly Girl as a series of ebooks ever since, each episode wrapped in a sweet Jeffrey Hayes cover. It’s structured like an episodic television series, where each part has a complete story, and a subplot that runs through the entire season. We just published episode six, The Monster Inside of Me, which means we’re a little better than halfway through the first ten-episode season.
You should check it out – mostly because I’m proud of the series… but also because I have small children, and college ain’tgonna come cheap.
And if you like it, you can thank our host, Tom Deja, for inviting me to pitch for that anthology,way back in the dark times before Facebook and Gmail and Grumpy Cat.
Fly Girl: The Origin of Flight is the first episode in the Fly Girl series, and is available for free at all finer e-book retailers. Here’s the link to the Amazon listing.
Fly Girl: The Monster Inside of Me is the sixth and latest episode in the Fly Girl series, and is not free… but it’s a bargain at 99 cents. You can find it at all those finer e-book retailers I mentioned, like Amazon.

Russ Anderson Jr. has written a bunch of other stuff – much of it readable. You can find it all listed on his Amazon author page.

Friday, August 21, 2015


So the timewasting exercise of the blog strikes again as I give you my ideal casting for the Shadow Legion and related people.  To wit, it’s time to cast Alan Dennings, The Ferryman.

The thing about The Ferryman is that he’s a man of influence who, due to tragic circumstances, gains an ability that, as we’ll learn as the saga of the Legion continues, is going to drive him a little nuts.  Besieged by the spirits of the newly murdered, he is driven to avenge them and silence the howling in his head.  So we’d need somebody who’s classy but a little off, as if something will snap at any time.

Now last time I gave you a retro casting as well as a modern one.  If I had somehow gone back in time and somehow convinced a studio to make a SL movie, I would have ideally wanted Martin Landau to don the cloak and crimson blindfold for it.  There’s an intensity to Landau that I think will translate well to the Ferryman’s visage.

Now onto the here and now....

There was one actor who I had considered who turned out to be too old, so I ended up going with 39 year old Irish actor Cillian Murphy for the role.  Ever since I first saw him in the Wes Craven trifle Red Eye, I’ve always been struck by
the way Murphy is good looking  A lot of it is, of course, those far away eyes of his that always make me think he’s plotting something unsavory.  More importantly, we’ve seen him play sober and serious as well as massively deranged--in the case of Batman Begins, in the very same movie!  I can easily see him slowly transitioning from urbane socialite to tortured avenger over the course of a movie until the point where he’s actively scary.

Incidentally, given that my first two casting choices were in their late 30‘s, I’m thinking I may have to adjust my requirements upwards so everyone can appear to be, well, peers.

Do you agree? Disagree?  Have another idea?  Let me know.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

BEING LIGHTWEIGHT: Nicholas Ahlhelm on his super-hero saga

Every writer has a dozen projects for every one they produce. It’s the great ones that stick in your head, hold on tight and don’t let go no matter what. I created the first version of Lightweight when I was thirteen. Twenty-five years later, I’m embarking on the third novel in his now ongoing adventures.

In many ways, Lightweight fits the tropes of the modern super-powered hero. He’s still in high school, he’s got as many everyday life problems as he does hero problems. He has a crush on his best friend. But Kevin is different because he understands the trappings of a hero. Costumed adventurers have ran around his world for decades. He knows what it entails to put on a mask. He knows that it could endanger everyone he knows if he can’t keep his identity secret in a world filled with cameras. He knows that all, yet he still sets out to make his city a better place.

That tale is told in the pages of Lightweight: Senior Year and Lightweight: Black Death, both available right now. But as his career expands so does his universe. In Lightweight: Beyond, he literally finds his universe expanded as a hero that has never left his hometown finds himself stranded on an alien world.

The planet Nill opens up tons of new story elements that will change the course of Lightweight’s life and continue to revolutionize a new format for continuing superheroic adventures: prose. He will make new friends, gain new enemies and start on a path that will alter his life forever. Meanwhile, a new person will don his old costume in an attempt to carry on his legacy, but it is a path built for disaster for the friends he left behind.

Lightweight: Beyond is now funding on Kickstarter. Production costs are higher on Lightweight than anything else I have ever produced, which makes pre-orders an essential part of bringing the series to life. Anyone can put any amount of money they want behind the book, but $5 scores an ebook, $10 scores all three ebooks, $15 gives a print edition and for the bargain of $25, backers can get all three volumes of Lightweight.

Stretch goals will fund Lightweight’s next year of adventures in their entirety. Lightweight: Golden Age and Lightweight: Universal will conclude the second year of Lightweight’s adventures, while The Adventures of Lightweight would allow other authors a chance to create their own Lightweight adventures.

I’m not a person that asks folks to put money down sight unseen. The first chapter of Lightweight’s adventures is now free online. Read it, see if you like it and if you do, please give Lightweight your support. The Kickstarter runs through September 14th.

You can always find me at where I am always happy to answer any questions anyone might have.

Nicholas Ahlhelm
intergalactic storyteller

Friday, August 14, 2015


Sorry about the delays, everyone.  We should be back to normal service soon.

The big news since this site went dark is that Strange And Cozy, the anthology I co-edited with the creator of Gunfighter Gothic, Mark Bousquet, is out, available in paperback and Kindle format.  The book features tales that fuse pulp genres with the cozy mystery, including new stories by NTA contributor I.A. Watson, Joel Jenkins and others as well as ‘A Bullet for The Bride,’ a new Dreamcatcher tale where Maybelle and Colin travel to San Christobal for a wedding...and a murder!  This is the first story that explores a city outside of Nocturne, and it should be a doozy.  Go get your copy from Amazon here.

It’s also not too late to get a copy of A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests, the Josh Reynolds edited collection of tales featuring psychic detectives.  My contribution, ‘Body Of Proof’ sees Maybelle trying to determine why a man is still walking around after his son murdered him.  Get your copy here.

The illustrations are being done for Shadow Legion: The Shape Of Fears  To Come, the next Legion book.  While I can’t show you them just yet, let me just say they’re knockouts!

‘Strange Weathers,’ the new El Cuevo story for this year’s Pulpworks Christmas Annual has been turned in.  This story will be significant, as it will both make a connection between the Cuevo tales and the Shadow Legion and give fans of the frontier exorcist the biggest hints as to his true nature.  And if you enjoy that when it comes out in the end of the year, wait until you see what I’ve got planned for Halloween next year....

The next book in the Shadow Legion, the second novel, is in the process of being written.  All the characters will be back, including a few from Shape in some new circumstances, and a new type of adventure as the Legion moves into a new era of history.

So there’s plenty to explore now, and plenty to look forward to.  And I’ll be back with more stuff soon!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Yeah, that’s’s time for that ‘killing time’ segment all authors with a series do.  As we wait for Shadow Legion: The Shape Of Fears To Come to be released and I work on not one but two Legion novels, I’m going to do some fantasy booking and tell you who I would cast in a Shadow Legion movie.

And we begin with what has become The Legion’s most popular character--at least judging from the number of stories people have demanded about her--Maybelle ‘Dreamcatcher’ Tremens.

Anyone who’s listened to the podcast I co-host with Derrick Ferguson, Better In The Dark, might not be surprised to learn that I patterned Maybelle after Hammer Films icon Caroline Munro.  Hell, the depiction of our favorite sorceress with a white streak through her dark hair is a conscious tip of the hat to that timeless beauty.  And if the Shadow Legion had been created in the 70‘s or early 80‘s, she would be my choice.

However, we are talking about casting someone in the here and now.  And I have to also keep the cast relatively in the same age as each other.  I’ve always pictured the quartet of heroes that are my protagonists as being in their late 20's or early 30's, so I’m going for actors in this general vicinity.  And since I’m also a person who claims exact looks don’t matter as long as the essence is there, I’m not bound by casting exact replicas.

Which is why, for Maybelle, I would choose 38 year old English actress--and original member of The Better In The Dark Hottie Hall Of Fame--Rhona Mitra.

Yes, I will admit that Ms. Mitra might be a touch older than my stated age range (even though she’s only five years older than my choice for The Black Talon), but she beats out another Hottie Hall of Famer for a number of reasons.  I think she’s always had this air of  elegance that I always imagined Maybelle as having (I love how one reviewer for ‘Jolly With A Pistol,’ the Dreamcatcher story for this year’s Pulpwork Christmas Annual, referred to her as ‘nattily dressed.’), but with this undercurrent of fierceness that I imagine someone in a committed relationship with The Black Talon would have.  Plus she’s got these long, wavy tresses like I’ve always imagined her as having that would look great with a white streak through it.  Sure, her hair is more brown than black, but I can deal with that little variant.  I can just imagine her in Dreamcatcher’s signature ‘battlecoat’ over her heroing uniform...and to be fair, given that her uniform is mainly khaki shorts and a white shirt, I know Rhona ‘they based Lara Croft on me’ Mitra can rock that outfit perfectly.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree with my choice?  Who would you cast?  Let me know!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Shadow Legion Time Line!

Good day, Nocturners!

In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten word that some of my Shadow Legion stories have been accepted to various venues.  That means that soon you’ll have new tales of Nocturne to tide you over until Machina Ex Deus hits the stands, hopefully sometime late in 2015 or early in 2016.

Now I know a lot of readers don’t like reading series out of order.  So, as a way of both letting you know what stories are going where and giving you a proper reading order, I’ve set up a Shadow Legion Time Line that will be updated from time to time.

So, as of October 2014, here’s the proper reading order of The Shadow Legion Series:

1. New Roads To Hell
2. “Ghost of Steel” (Shadow Legion: The Shape Of Fears To Come; portions of the story happen concurrent to New Roads To Hell; publication date TBA, Airship 27 Press)
3. “A Bullet For The Bride” (Strange and Cozy, coming late 2014, Atomic Anxiety Press)
4. “Body of Proof” (A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests, publication date TBA, Embry Press)
5. “A Waltz In Scarlet” (Mystery Men and Women V. 4/Shadow Legion: The Shape Of Fears To Come; publication date TBA, Airship 27 Press)
6. “A Prayer For The Toy God” (Shadow Legion: The Shape Of Fears To Come)
7. “The Ascension Of Indio Blaque” (Shadow Legion: The Shape Of Fears To Come)
8. “Jolly With A Pistol” (The 2014 Pulpworks Christmas Annual; coming late 2014, Pulpworks Press)
9. Machina Ex Deus (Airship 27; publication date TBA)

Granted, there may be new stories written and published (one I’m working on hints at a history between one of our Legionnaires and a certain Royal Occultist that’ll also be appearing in A Grinoire of Eldritch Inquests), but this is how you should read the series if you're doing so in order.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

TWEED FOR SPANDEX: THE BRITISH SUPERHERO: I.A. WATSON offers excuses for his latest novel

The Brits do superheroes differently.

It’s a cultural thing. If an American gets bitten by a radioactive spider then he’ll dress up in bright spandex, develop a secret identity, possibly get hunted by a mistrustful government, and punch people through walls. If a Briton gets bitten, and assuming he doesn’t turn into a ravening monster lurking in the shadows of society preying on the weak, he is more likely to end up working for a secret government agency assisted by an eccentric professor and a plucky sidekick, or else as a crumpled trench coated outcast thumbing his nose at society. Far less masks and body-hugging
costumes, rather more saying “bollocks”.

The British superhero tradition traces it pedigree back to Dan Dare and his generation, and to heroes who used gadgets or remarkable vehicles as their special advantage. When Americans create a British superhero he’s a mansion-dwelling Union Flag-wearing equivalent of Captain America. When Brits create one he travels round in a police public call box and sometimes wears a really long scarf or a bow-tie. All of which is a really long-winded preamble to introducing Sir Mumphrey Wilton.

A year or two back when I was talking with Pro Se supremo Tommy Hancock he wondered why I hadn’t evolved any “signature” characters. After twenty-plus publications in print into my time as an author, most of my work had been on legendary and public domain characters – the Robin Hood series, Sinbad, airman detective Richard Knight, Africa merc Armless O’Neil – or on other folks’ creations like Blackthorn and Gideon Cain. There’s a list at

“People keep asking em to write things,” I excused myself. “I don’t like to say no.” It goes back to school, I think, where it was drilled into me that every educated person should be able to write a decent essay on any set subject.

But what did I want to write?

On any list of literary influences I’ve ever prepared, Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame looms large. I discovered his Fantastic Four, Avengers, Spider-Man etc. at exactly the right age for them to forever impact on how I think; and how I think a story should go. So what I wanted to write should be steeped in Lee, and Kirby, and Ditko, and all the rest of those extraordinary talents that gave us 1960s comics.

But... I’m British. Therefore out with the lycra and in with the tweed. Less utility belts, more pocketwatches. Overlay any melodrama with stiff upper lip. Bad behaviour from the ungodly is no reason for a proper hero to be unsporting, what?

Sir Mumphrey Wilton coalesced over many years from several sources: from Simon Templar’s distinctive parlance in Leslie Charteris’ earliest Saint books; from Dr Who’s unorthodox methods of dominating a room of vile monsters by sheer force of personality; from all those intrepid imperial colonialists in politically-incorrect boys stories of the 1900s; from student roleplaying and fansite drafts; from a general desire to see what happened if John Steed got cast instead of Indiana Jones in Temple of Doom.

Like all characters that come alive in an author’s mind, somehow Mumphrey demanded what the world in which he adventured must be. He needed a great conflict as his backdrop, and surely there is no such sweeping panorama as World War II? He needed a vibrant female companion who could stand her own against him. He needed grotesque villains worthy of being smitten in the name of decency. He needed a super-power, but let’s keep that in the spoiler zone.

Most of all, it became clear that Sir Mumphrey insisted on being a Saturday matinee hero, leaping from one cliffhanger to the next, occasionally blurring into a black and white map with dotted travel lines on it before a new caption appears to read “Hong Kong: Three Days before the Japanese Invasion” or whatever.

And so it was.

So, SIR MUMPHREY WILTON AND THE LOST CITY OF MYSTERY is what happens when an editor doesn’t give me a suitably restrictive brief. It’s what happens when the secret origin happens to someone who is perhaps not a typical square-jawed hero. It’s about a very British superhero.

Jolly good show.

I.A. Watson

Saturday matinee cliffhanger adventure meets weird science

Out 7th OCTOBER 2014 from CHILLWATER PRESS in print and kindle

ISBN-13: 978-1502438485 ISBN-10: 1502438488

Available at and on Amazon Kindle