Friday, September 30, 2016

The New Shadow Legion Timeline

First some news:

The first draft of MACHINA EX DEUS is done.  I’ve sent it out to a few select beta readers before I start on the next draft.  There will be a novel length story featuring our quartet battling a foe with desires to take over the minds of Nocturne--literally!--as well as a special back-up tale in which The Black Talon tries to bring the murderer of one of his friends to justice.  The book also sets up the fourth book in the series, tentatively titled THE ELEMENTAL FURIES

The thing that has developed about MACHINA EX DEUS is that it turned out to occur earlier in the timeline than I assumed.  In fact, it happens between stories in THE SHAPE OF FEARS TO COME (which is still at Airship 27, awaiting release).  That fact, plus the publication of a number of Dreamcatcher stories in the past year, dictates that I rework my reading order list I published a while ago.  So below is the chronological reading order if you wish to experience The Shadow Legion linearly....

“Ghosts of Steel” (in THE SHAPE OF FEARS TO COME...portions of this story actually happen concurrently with NEW ROADS TO HELL)
“A Bullet For The Bride” (in STRANGE AND COZY)
“The Ascension of Indio Blaque" (in THE SHAPES OF FEARS TO COME)
THE ELEMENTAL FURIES (Tentative title for Book 4)
“A Prayer For The Toy God” (in THE SHAPE OF FEARS TO COME)
THE BLOOD STAINED LOA (Tentative title for Book 5)
“A Game of Heads” (in MACHINA EX DEUS)
“The Fiend In The Factory” (in PULPWORKS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2016)
“Jolly With A Pistol” (in PULPWORKS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2014)

Obviously, this is not hard and fast.  The chronological order may change given new stories and how the next few books develop.

Check in to find out more about the upcoming books....

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I’ve always enjoyed adventure.

Although I have had a few in real life, the majority of my greatest adventures were found between the pages of books or on the big and small screen. I’ve traveled to strange new worlds, braved tests of strength and nobility, and even gotten the girl a time or two. All of these were spurned onward by these tales of derring-do that ignited my imagination.

For me, it started in the comics—Spider-man to be specific. In our first outing together, the wall-crawler and I were shackled to a bomb along with our nemesis, Daily Bugle publisher and all around pain in the butt, J. Jonah Jameson. Then, we fought The Fly at the Natural Museum of History, and fell head over heels for a cat burglar named Felicia. That’s the rundown of Amazing Spider-man issues 192, 193, and 194, by the way, the first comic books I can remember owning as a child.From comics, I found paperbacks, most notably a Han Solo adventure and mysteries solved by young Encyclopedia Brown. From there, it was on to Conan, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan.

That’s the long way of saying that I love a good science fiction adventure.

And that brings me to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Whether he took us on a journey to the deepest jungles of Tarzan’s Africa, the red mountains of Barsoom with John Carter, or Pellucidar with David Innes and Abner Perry, author Edgar Rice Burroughs took me, and countless others on many an adventure.

When the opportunity came along to join artist Jamie Chase on a graphic novel adaptation of ERB’s At The Earth’s Core for Sequential Pulp Comics and Dark Horse Comics, I jumped at it. I was a latecomer to the project after the original writer had to bow out. I quickly dove into a re-read of the novel we were adapting and fell in love with Pellucidar all over again. I remembered the major beats of the story, but it had been over thirty years since I read it originally that some of the details were a little off center in my memory. It didn’t take long to catch up though. One of Burroughs’ strengths as a writer is keeping things moving. Sure, there are big chunks of time that pass in the narrative, but he plows right on through to keep the story progressing.

For those not familiar with the novel, the movie, or any of the adaptations of it, At The Earth’s Core is the story of David Innes and Abner Perry. Together, in a newly designed vehicle they dubbed The Iron Mole, the adventurers set off beneath the earth’s crust in search of oil and precious minerals they can mine. When the Mole goes off course, they are certain that their days are numbered as they pass through layers of blistering heat and bone-numbing cold. The last thing either of them expected to find was a paradise at the center of the planet with the Earth’s core as the sun, keeping it constantly noon in this world they learned was called Pellucidar.

As harrowing as the adventure to get there, the real story begins once they reach Pellucidar and discover ancient beings, intelligent telepathic Mahars, a holdover from when dinosaurs roamed the surface, and the ape-like Sagoths who serve as their enforcers. There are also humans there, enslaved, of course by the cruel Mahars. That’s where David meets Dian the Beautiful.

One of the great joys of working in comics if collaborating with artist. There are few things as exciting as seeing pages of art in my inbox. They are rarely exactly what I expect, but I am always fascinated by the different ways in which artists interpret things. Working with Jamie Chase on this graphic novel, and the sequel, which is currently in production, has been nothing short of a joy. Like me, Jamie is a fan of the source material and wants to do justice to this world created long before either of us were born. Staying true to the spirit of the original was also important to Sequential Pulp’s Michael Hudson and our Dark Horse editors, Patrick Thorpe and Everett Patterson. I think we succeeded. Hopefully, readers will feel the same way. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote seven novels taking place in Pellucidar. It is my fondest hope that Jamie and I get the opportunity to adapt them all.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core graphic novel is now on sale in standard hardcover ($14.99) and limited edition hardcover ($49.99) wherever comic books and graphic novels are sold, including comic shops, book stores, and on-line retailers. I hope you’ll check it out. There are also links posted at as well.

I know Tom probably wasn’t expecting me to ramble this long, but I’m excited by this project. Big thanks to Mr. Deja for allowing me to hijack the Nocturne Travel Agency’s site to shamelessly plug our book. Make sure you check out his offerings as well. It is some good reading.

As for me, I’m off to my next adventure…

Just as soon as I can remember where I parked that darn Iron Mole.

Bobby Nash

Somewhere above the Earth’s Core

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!