Authors’ Cooperative: A New Publishing Paradigm

A novelist, screenwriter, television personality and half the creative genius behind the Fight Card series, Paul Bishop recently finished a 35 year career with the Los Angeles Police Department where he was twice honored as Detective Of The Year.  He continues to work privately as a deception expert and as a specialist in the investigation of sex crimes.  His books include the western Diamondback: Shroud Of Vengenace, two novels (Hot Pursuit / Deep Water) featuring LAPD officers Calico Jack Walker and Tina Tamiko, the thrillers Penalty Shot and Suspicious Minds, a short story collection (Running Wylde), and five novels in his L.A.P.D. Detective Fey Croaker series (Croaker: Kill Me Again, Croaker: Grave Sins, Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird, Croaker: Chalk Whispers, and Croaker: Pattern of Behavior).  His latest novel, Fight Card: Felony Fists (written as Jack Tunney), is a fast action boxing tale inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘40s and ‘50s. His novels are currently available as e-books.


The publishing world is changing fast with new opportunities for writers to support one another …


Mel Odom and I didn’t start out to create a new publishing paradigm.  We started out to take advantage of the world of e-publishing to create Fight Card – some pulpy fun for a niche audience, which included ourselves.  Two years and twenty-seven titles later, we find we just might have discovered something much more precious.

The genesis of our Fight Card series began with a phone conversation between the prolific writer Mel Odom and myself.  I’ve written a dozen novels published by major traditional publishers and have worked in scripted television and film.  However, Mel’s output of paperback originals, under his own name and a bouquet of pseudonyms, numbers in the hundreds.  We’re both pros, but Mel had made a living as a writer, while I wrote as a second career while keeping my day job as an LAPD detective.

In a Los Angeles to Oklahoma phone conversation in mid-2011, we were discussing – as so many writers were at the time, and still do – how the advent of e-books was turning the publishing business on its head in much the same way MP3s and the Internet had turned the music business upside down.  Suddenly, there were viable lines of distribution for individual writers who no longer needed the monolithic, outdated, methods of traditional publishing houses in order to reach readers.

For years, the major legacy publishers had treated most writers like serfs toiling in the kingdom’s fields.  Traditionally, self-publishing, via vanity presses (where the author paid to have his or her book published), was considered the trademark of foolish amateurs and crackpots who couldn’t put two coherent sentences together.  But Amazon and other e-publishing outlets (such as Smashwords) changed all that in virtually the blink of an eye.

During our conversation, the topic came up of Smoker, a Twilight Zone style short boxing story Mel had published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.  Both Mel and I were fans of Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan, and bemoaned the fact nobody was writing stories like those anymore …

Then the light bulb clicked on …  With the advances in e-publishing and the ability to use Amazon’s publishing platform as a worldwide distributor, there was no reason why niche interest stories couldn’t be published and reach their intended audience.  While there was only a very limited traditional publishing venue for short stories, there was no market at all for the novella – 20,000 – 50,000 word stories.  Again, e-publishing had changed that paradigm completely.

Inspired by the fight pulps of the ’30s and ’40s – such as Fight Stories Magazine an Knockout Magazine – as well as the aforementioned fight fiction by Robert E. Howard, Mel and I quickly conceived Fight Card as a monthly series of 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings.  We would take advantage of everything Amazon’s KDP platform had to offer.  We could have a  blast writing and publishing stories we wanted to read without having to find a traditional publisher who would never take a chance on such a niche audience scheme.

Mel and I wrote the first two books in the series, Felony Fists (me) and Cutman (Mel), before shanghaiing noir master Eric Beetner into writing the third entry, Split Decision. We began publishing the books in January of 2012 figuring between Mel and myself and a few other writer friends, we might crank out a half-dozen or so Fight Card tales.

Then came a surprise – the stories were not only resonating with readers, but also with writers.  Young writing lions such as Heath Lowrance, David Foster, Kevin Michaels, Terrence McCauley, and Robert Evans, as well as established pros like Wayne Dundee, Mike Faricy, and Robert Randisi expressed the desire to write entries in the series Fight Card series.

Part of the appeal was the new publishing paradigm Mel and I had established … Fight Card was not a publishing company, but something different – an author’s cooperative.

Using the shared open pseudonym of Jack Tunney (to maintain series cohesiveness on Amazon) for the e-books, and the author’s own name for the cover of the paperback versions (via CreateSpace), each author would launch the books from their own individual KDP platform.  This ensures the royalties from each Fight Card title go directly to each individual writer – not to a company.

In return, each writer brings back to the cooperative whatever skills they can offer – cover art, editing, blurb writing, website design and maintenance, publicity contacts, podcasting, e-formatting, blog tours, advertising, creation of our free quarterly Fight Fictioneers Magazine, social networking, etc. – all as part of the Fight Card team. Fight Card became, first and foremost, a dynamic for the writers and of the writers.

Specific guidelines for the Fight Card stories were established, including time period, worldwide locations, a PG-13 level of sex and violence, no profanity, and, while the main character didn’t have to be a boxer (reporters, managers, etc. would also work), the heart and soul of the story had to revolve around and – most importantly – be resolved by boxing.

Within these guidelines, the Fight Card authors have submitted some incredible character pieces as their protagonists each stride a different journey to the big fight.  The big fight doesn’t usually hinge on the heavyweight championship of the world.  The stakes are often as small as a scrap between romantic rivals in a makeshift ring in Podunk, America, a bar championship in New Orleans, a pit fight in Singapore, a battle for the pride of a Navy ship in Hawaii, or a backroom smoker with a has-been champ redeeming himself on his last stop before Palookaville, but always life, liberty, love, or death hinge on the results for the characters involved.

As Fight Card moved into 2013 with a second year of monthly stories, a wider audience was sought with the addition of the spin-off brand, Fight Card MMA, which brought stories and characters into the current world of mixed martial arts.  Now, with two released Fight Card MMA titles and more on the way from MMA savvy writers, Fight Card is also moving in yet another direction.

Our Fight Card Romance brand debuted this month with Ladies Night from the first female writer on the Fight Card team Carol Malone.  Still the same two-fisted, pulptastic, stories, but with a touch of romance.

The Fight Card authors cooperative is still a work in progress. New writers and readers are regularly joining the troops – enjoying the camaraderie of fellow writers and a love for this style of storytelling.

By the end of 2013, Fight Card and our associated spin-off brands will have published twenty-seven titles, including our special December holiday offering – Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes.

2014 is also looking to be a bumper year for the Fight Card author cooperative with the upcoming Fight Card: Luchadores (Mexican Lucha Libre wrestlers), and tales featuring literary figures (such as Rod Serling, Hemingway, Jack London, Robert E. Howard) and historical figures (gangster Mickey Cohen, the notorious Jack Ruby – whose boxing nickname was Sparkling Jack) all with connections to boxing.

Boxing, MMA, romance, two-fisted prose and great storytelling from writers working together is what Fight Card is all about.  Hopefully, you’ll get on the Fight Card yourself.

Find out more about Fight Card here:

What Drives Your Fiction?

“The rest of it – and perhaps the best of it – is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

Stephen King, On Writing


What’s the primary vehicle behind your words?

A sports car, all angry growls and bright headlights screaming in the night?

A sleek roadster, all curves and purrs cruising languid on a Sunday afternoon?

A cozy sedan with air bags, a sunroof, and the best safety ratings in the country?

A tired old junker, barely holding itself together, let alone its own on the road?

There’s a certain headspace writers slip into when creating words and worlds, but there’s another space, a deeper one, that guides the path of those words–the emotional space. Let’s call it the hurt engine.

Some people thrive creatively when their hurt engine is fueled with anger, others work best with a stream of sorrow or happiness, and some can write no matter what emotions are flowing in the real.

Of the five novels I’ve written in as many years, the earliest two were penned when my hurt engine lived up to the name and was, in truth, running on overdrive. The words flowed and the stories poured out, like the perfect mix of gasoline and air through a carburetor. I wrote the first draft of the first novel in forty days and two weeks later started the second. Thirty days later, that first draft was done, too.

Unfortunately, both novels needed heavy-duty edits/rewrites because while the words were driven by hurt, they were twisted by it too. Had I perhaps edited the first novel before penning the second, I might have realized what I’d done wrong. Live and learn, right?

Imagine my surprise when I started the next novel and the words didn’t have the same flow. It didn’t take long to figure out why. My hurt engine was running on a different fuel. I won’t lie, I missed the rush. Instead of zipping along at 95, I was stuck on 50. But I finished the novel nonetheless. The story is cleaner, but I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so my first drafts always have a bit of rust on their edges. My motto is “first draft is for story, second draft is for pretty.”

Sometimes the hurt engine doesn’t affect productivity, but it changes the flavor of the prose. I can tell what was fueling my hurt engine in my fiction by the word choices I make, by the staccato rhythm or the lyrical quality of the sentences.

I’ve since learned that I can trick the hurt engine when needed. I’ve written a story that required a certain taste of sorrow, and even though I wasn’t feeling sad at that moment, I pulled the necessary fuel from a memory and poured that into the story instead.

I’ve also learned how to set things on literary cruise control by swallowing the emotional fuel. The hurt engine becomes a quiet place of numbness. And yes, I can tell what stories I’ve written in that place, too.

Last year I wrote the most deeply personal short story I’ve ever written. I had to dig deep into a place I don’t like for the fuel, but the story is probably my strongest work ever. It sold quickly and well, but no, I’m not going to tell you which story it is.

The only stone in my tire is anger. I can’t write when I’m angry. At all. Sure, I can fire off an expletive-filled email, no problem, but fiction? Impossible. Fortunately, my anger burns bright and hot and then fades. I might still be angry, but the rage fuel tank is empty. And then I get back to work.

So what about you? What fuels your hurt engine? Do you escape your emotions when you write or do you let the emotions paint your words? Do you get blocked when you’re not in the thick of your preferred emotional space?

Try changing your fuel and let’s go for a drive.


Kill the Goddamn Vulture

The Central Clancy Writer for Ubisoft/Red Storm, Richard Dansky  was named one of the Top Twenty Game Writers by Gamasutra in 2009. His game credits include Splinter Cell: Conviction, Outland, and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. He is also the author of five novels, including Booksense pick Firefly Rain, and his short fiction has appeared in anthologies such as The New Hero, Don’t Read This Book, and Dark Faith.


Once upon a time, they showed Bugs Bunny cartoons that featured a character named Killer. Killer was a vulture of an excessively bashful and self-effacing strain. He wasn’t particularly interested in doing vulture-ish things, he sang “Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee” when he flapped gracelessly along, and his reaction to his mother’s suggestion that he get off his feathery ass and bring home some food was always an embarrassed “Doh, nope, nope, nope, not gonna do it.”

Killer, as you might expect, is not a terrifically successful hunter. He is not what you’d call a great role model when it comes to career aspiration. And yet, he’s the guy so many burgeoning creatives reference when they get a compliment, or an opportunity. Instead of taking the compliment, they hang their heads. They blush. They stare at their shoes and mumble about how they’re really not all that good, and then they change the subject. It’s painful to watch, especially if you’re the one saying “nice work” or “do you have a story” or “you are a recognized professional, you know.”

And yet, too many smart, talented people turn into Killer the Vulture when faced with the slightest possibility of success. It doesn’t matter how good their work is, how original it might be, how salable it might be in the marketplace. Confronted with the chance to take the next step, they devolve into paroxysms of “Nope, nope, gawrsh, nope, ain’t gonna do it.” Hell, half the time Killer comes out, it’s not even in relation to a particular project or story or whatever, it’s at the mere thought that someone might be taking the next step in their career, that they might be recognized or noteworthy or, God forbid, a reputable pro.

And this, my friends, is moosepuckey. It’s a cutthroat method of self-sabotage disguised as humility. Because as long as you tell yourself that nope, that ain’t you, that can’t possibly be you, then you don’t have to try to be that person or achieve that success – and you don’t have to risk not achieving it. It’s far better, sayeth that little vulture-ish devil on your shoulder, to stay in the minor leagues. To be a big fish in a brandy glass. To listen to everyone tell you how good you are and how you should be playing to a wider audience, without ever having to run the risk of finding out that maybe the bigger audience isn’t all that interested.

Don’t argue with me here. I know it’s not a particularly charitable interpretation, but we’re past charity here and we’re on to paying work. And if I know one thing, it’s that you’re not going to get paying work, or succeed at it, if every time someone offers you an opportunity you aww-shucks it into the gutter.

So, you have to kill the vulture. Every time he rears his head, you need to wrap your hands around his metaphorical neck and squeeze, because if you don’t, he’s going to do the talking for you. He’s going to say that you’re not worthy, and you couldn’t possibly, and gosh, you have so many other (inevitably less productive/profitable/interesting) projects that suddenly became high priority to do, so you can’t. Don’t let him talk, because once he starts, he never shuts up. Clamp that beak closed, wrap duct tape around it, and throw poor old Killer in the trunk of your car.

Now, figuratively speaking that sounds easy. Nonexistent vultures don’t put up much of a fight, at least not the sort that results in broken furniture. Breaking a lifetime habit of putting yourself down before someone else can, that’s a little tougher, but for your own sake, you’ve got to do it. You need to teach yourself to think of yourself in a new way, as someone professionally and creatively worthwhile. And the best way to do that is to look at yourself like you’re someone else.

Seriously. Separate yourself from your resume, or, better yet, have someone else do it. Then run down your accomplishments, your publications, your awards. List them out. Watch them add up. Odds are, by the time the recitation is done, it’s going to be a pretty formidable list sitting there.

Then take a look at that list. Squint a little. Regard it objectively. Do not, for the love of all that is holy, start nitpicking those accomplishments or finding all the myriad ways you can diminish them. The fact remains, regardless of any caveats you can throw on there, You Accomplished Them. Then ask yourself, “If this track record belonged to someone named Elmore Q. Gherkin, would I be impressed?”

The answer should be “yes”. If people are willing to say nice things about you (and mean them) or offer projects or opportunities, it is because they are impressed with your track record and/or talent. That’s because there’s something there to be impressed by, which, if you are following my instructions, you just agreed objectively is impressive.

Which leaves the hard part: taking that “yes” and applying it to yourself. Realizing that you don’t need the goddamn vulture to protect you from success. Owning your achievements and accepting the recognition that comes with them.

It’s not easy. It’s always tempting to denigrate the stuff that you’ve done, to haul out “Oh, I knew the editor” or “I was a last-minute replacement so they couldn’t be choosy” or whatever. But that’s a sucker game. Once you start picking at one of your achievements, you won’t stop until you’ve torn up every last one, and then you’re right back where you started.

So embrace what you’ve done. Kill the vulture. Because if you don’t, you’re exactly what a vulture likes: dead meat.

The Adulterous Life of the Writer

Jay Faulkner resides in Northern Ireland with his wife, Carole, and their two boys, Mackenzie and Nathaniel. He says that while he is a writer, martial artist, sketcher, and dreamer he’s mostly just a husband and father. His work has been published widely, both online and in print anthologies, and was short-listed in the 2010 Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. He is currently working on his first novel. Jay founded, and edits With Painted Words, a creative writing site with inspiration from monthly image prompts, and The WiFiles, an online speculative fiction magazine, published weekly. He can also be found as a regular co-host and contributor on the Following The Nerd radio show. For more information, check out or follow him on Twitter at @thejayfaulkner.

Clocks slay time … time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~ William Faulkner

Hi there, my name is Jay and I’m a writer. I thought that it would be best to start this guest blog off with a simple introduction and that seemed quite apt. Except that isn’t quite true. You see if I was to tell you what I am – and being honest – ‘writer’ would come some way down the list of things. First and foremost I am a husband, to the beautiful Carole, and father, to my two wonderful boys: Mackenzie and Nathaniel. After that I am a worker, for which I travel about 90 miles a day and put in about 45 hours a week. I teach two martial art classes a week. I’m a regular co-host and contributor on a weekly radio show. I’m part of the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Partnership, where I do social media work and try to raise awareness of issues facing people with rare diseases. Oh yes, and I write.

I occasionally like to sleep as well.

There are the lucky few who are able to put the ‘writer’ tag at the top of the parts that make their sum, so to speak. The ones who have worked hard, and caught a break or two, and now write full-time, for a living. Then there are the others – the ones like me – who are writers after everything else has been taken care off. The ones who grab whatever time they can to sit down in front of the keyboard and knock out the words that have been swimming in their heads whilst everything else is going on.

You see I might put everything else that I do, that I am, before the ‘writer’ part but I can honestly say that I go to sleep thinking about words, plots and characters; I wake up thinking about protagonists, antagonists and even tritagonists … though, admittedly, when it gets that far I have to do something as my mind gets far too crowded! I have notepads in my workbag, in my martial arts bag, in my jacket pockets even. I have electronic notes on my phone, on my email, on my laptop and on my PC. I have notes that never make it out of my head to anywhere else.

Because, even when I don’t have time to write – when I am busy being a husband, a father, an employee, a teacher, an advocate or any of the other things that fill my life – I am thinking about the words that are yet to come.

I used to think that the adage of a writer having to write each and every day, to set a word count and hit it no matter what, was the right thing to do; that without doing so you weren’t a writer. I used to feel frustrated if I couldn’t meet the word counts I had set myself, or wasn’t able to sit down for a solid couple of hours each and every day, and write. I used to feel guilty when I did take those hours, each and every day, because I could hear my children playing outside, or missed a social engagement with my friends. It got to the point where I was making excuses about what I was doing:

“Do you want to come to the cinema tonight, Jay?”

“No thanks, I’ve got a meeting in the morning to prepare for.”

“Did you get a chance to read that report last night, Jay?”

“No, actually, I went to the cinema with some friends.”

I’d actually done some research into men who go to any lengths when having an affair. They lie to everyone around them in order to fill whatever part of them it was that wanted to be with someone else. Eventually they even began to lie to themselves about what was going on, perhaps believing their own untruths.

And, just like a mistress, writing became my own guilty secret. Rendezvous with the laptop at 1am in the morning when everyone else was asleep; the notepad taken out, discreetly, and words fumbled between the tedium of project updates; a text message, or email, sent to myself in the middle of the night, hoping that my wife wouldn’t wake up with the glare of the phone as I sent my other love another furtive ‘quickie’.

To meet the spurious targets I had set myself, in order to satisfy myself that I was still a writer; I entered into an illicit affair with my Muse.

And then I caught myself on. I realised that it wasn’t something real, something tangible, I had with my Muse anymore but, instead, furtive moments in the dead of the night where neither of us were ever truly satisfied. I wasn’t living up to Her expectations at all: I wasn’t going the distance for her, in terms of time or words.

… yeah, I know, it happens to everyone and She was quite understanding about it really but one’s masculine ego does take a bashing the first time, in the middle of the night with the sheets wrapped around you, you can’t finish what you started.*

Something had to give and, finally, it did.

My ego.

I realised that I don’t have to write one thousand words a day, each and every day. I realised that I don’t have to try to ‘fit in’ my writing amongst everything else and try to keep up the pretence that I am a writer above everything else. As long as I write, to the best of my ability, each and every time that I can, then that is all that truly matters because, after all, a satisfying fifteen minutes is better than a wasted hour.

So, at the end of the day I am a husband, a father, a worker, a teacher and many other things too. Amongst them all – the parts of my sum – I am a writer. My family accepts that, and supports it, as do I.

My Muse is still happy to tease me, to call me at all hours of the night and day but, ultimately, knows that I will always be Hers, no matter how much time I get to spend with Her; She no longer watches the clock.

As long as I continue to write for Her, of course.

And I will.

– Jay

*I was talking about a short story, you filthy minded people! ;)