Saturday, November 30, 2013


Today is SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY here in the United States, where consumers are urged to support smaller retailers, which is actually something everyone should do every chance they get!

Amongst events happening around the world this past week...

*Iran has signed a temporary agreement for limiting its nuclear program in exchange for reduced sanctions.
*Vietnam has passed a new constitution that reaffirms the power of the Communist Party in that country.
*Angola has denied any allegations of banning Islam in that country.
*Archaeologists might have discovered the earliest known Buddhist shrine at the Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal.
*Three unpublished short stories by J. D. Salinger (The Catcher In The Rye) have been leaked online, against the wishes of the late author and his estate.
*An official, but preliminary final report regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 in Connecticut, USA has revealed no clear motive for suspect Adam Lanza to do what he did, but confirmed that he DID plan the shooting in advance!
*France has announced plans to intervene in the current Central African Republic conflict.
*Civil unrest continues in Syria, Iran, Thai, and Afghanistan.

For more news at any time, either scroll down to our IN OTHER NEWS feature at the bottom of your screen or else visit any other reputable news source.


Despite the fact that this week marked both Thanksgiving, as well as the start of Hanukkah and the 2013 Christmas shopping season, we are proud to present our regularly scheduled Puzzle Corner.

Two separate things have at least one word in common, so can be combined to form a new item.
Based upon the clue below, do you know what the new thing is?

A team up between Jan Eliot and Rick Stromoski might be interesting, but would not create an edible menu choice.

How many new words can you spell out of the letters in the word THANKSGIVING?

We'll reveal all next weekend. But for now, let's peek inside THE ANSWERS BOX and discover the results from the November 23, 2013 Puzzle Corner.

November 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of the former President being taken from the world prematurely.
01. What was the most famous posting during Kennedy's World War 2 service? Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109.
02. Kennedy held what major public offices before running for the Presidency? He was both a Senator and a member of the House of Representatives in Congress, representing the state of Massachusetts.
03. Who did Kennedy run against for the Presidency in 1960? Richard Nixon, who was then the Vice-President for and hoping to succeed the outgoing Dwight David Eisenhower.
04. What was Jacqueline Kennedy's full name before marriage? Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
05. Fill-in the blank: Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States.

November 23rd marked the 50th anniversary of the BBC science fiction series.
01. Fill-in the blanks: The Doctor is a Time Lord, originally from the planet Gallifrey.
02. He travels through time and space in a TARDIS, which is an acronym for what?
Image (c) BBC
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
03. Why does the TARDIS always look like a blue police call box? Because the Chameleon Circuit broke after arriving on Earth and assuming the first disguise/shape it took.
04. Fill-in the blank: Many actors have been able to play the title role over the five decades (thus far) because the title character is able to regenerate.
05. The original broadcast of the very first episode (part 1 of An Unearthly Child) was delayed for over an hour for what reason? Extended news coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination the day before. But part 1 was reran the following week in its regular time slot, and the rest is history.

Thursday, November 28, 2013



As I post this, it is still about two hours from midnight (Eastern Time in the United States of America) Friday and what was the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season: the day after Thanksgiving, and the wee hours known as "Black Friday". 
The term is not politically incorrect but, depending upon which theory you believe, refers to either the retailers' hope that their profit margins go from the redness of debt to the blackness of profit; or the more modern theory that the name is derived from the fact that a lot of stores would open long before sunrise that day!


Thanksgiving is fast becoming just another business day for many retailers, provided they even bothered to close Wednesday night! There are now overnight ads and sales extended well beyond the original pre-dawn frenzy of years past.

Whether or not this strategy is actually successful, after you figure in such costs as employee salaries, security, advertising expenses, etc; remains to be seen.

Folks, I don't know about you, but I seriously think this concept is getting a bit out of hand!

Whatever happened to staying home on a holiday and enjoying the simpler things in life, like family and friends?

I personally have yet to shop any Black Friday event, regardless of when it actually started. Having worked in the retail industry for over twenty years until heart problems took me out of "the game", my sympathies go towards the employees who have to work those long, weird schedules instead of being with their loved ones.

So, while it still has some appropriateness, I'd like to close this missive with the poem I ran this time last year.



Lee Houston, Junior
Editor-In-Chief: The Free Choice E-zine.




We are within an unique calendar arrangement this year.

On one hand, we are in the midst of Thanksgiving, that time of year when one should pause to count their blessings for all the good things they have in life.

Yet on the other hand, at sunset last night, Hanukkah began. The annual festival of light where what was supposed to be just enough oil for one lone night actually lasted eight!

Some are calling this event Thanksgivukkah. The last time this happened was in 1888! While there will be several more occurrences of the two holidays sharing a weekend, the next occurrence of the events sharing one 24 hour period will not be for over another 77,000 years, on Thursday November 28, in the year 79811!

So, regardless of which (or both) you observe, take care of yourselves and try to enjoy life to the fullest!

(signed) The staff and management of The Free Choice E-zine.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Eye before Eve, except after Sea?
Hello everybody. Autumn the puppy here.
Now through my various studies and digs through the Internet, I have come to one staggering conclusion.
There are times when the English language is hard to comprehend!
Shocking, right?
But seriously, whoever assigns names to things doesn't always get it right.
Quicksand isn't fast. Boxing rings are square.
Guinea Pigs are neither swine or from Guinea.
Neither English Muffins nor French Fries originated where their names imply.

Yet English was invented by people, and not machines, and truly shows off Human creativity.
Some examples:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound. 
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

See what I mean? Spelling can be weird at times too.
I before E except after C.
Q is usually followed by U, but not always. (Guess that restraining order was finally issued.)
PH is pronounced as if you were saying the letter F.

But I guess it's just a question of how you look at everything.
Now, before we go, a special treat for everyone courtesy of YouTube. From their 1938 short "Violent is the Word for Curly", here are The Three Stooges Swinging The Alphabet.

And on that note, take care folks. Have a great Thanksgiving and please be back here next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!--AtP.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the British Broadcasting Company's science fiction programme Doctor Who, but while the show may be produced in England, it is far from just an United Kingdom phenomenon.
It all began with the very first episode: part 1 of An Unearthly Child, which first aired over an hour late because of the extended news coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination that occurred the day before.
A Dalek
Thankfully, someone at the BBC had the foresight to reair part 1 in its regular time slot the following week instead of continuing on with part 2, thus giving the series a chance.
But while the adventures of a friendly, yet mysterious man who traveled through time and space in what looked like a blue police call box was interesting unto itself, the show really took flight with the second adventure, The Daleks, which introduced an arch-enemy that would challenge the Doctor throughout the years to come.
Yet while the series was gaining momentum, it may have lost everything when ill health forced William Hartnell, the initial actor in the title role, to bow out.
However, the concept of regeneration (first called a rejuvenation process) was introduced to explain the exchange of a second actor (Patrick Troughton) for Hartnell.
The title cast, to date: Hartnell (far left) to Smith (far right)
As the series grew, much was added to the lore, including the fact that the Doctor is actually a Time Lord from the planet Gallfrey, who disagreed with his people's policies and decided to see the universe on his own.

Thanks to the regeneration process, to date, there have been 11 Doctors: Hartnell, Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker (no relation to the other Baker), Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith, who will soon step down for actor Peter Capaldi to take over. The mystery of where the character John Hurt is portraying in the 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor, may alter this count.

Yet I was blissfully unaware of the series' past history when I first encountered the Doctor on a weekday afternoon, when a local NBC station was airing the half hour segments featuring the fourth Doctor Tom Baker and Leela, his travelling companion of the time, portrayed by actress Louise Jameson.
But for whatever reason(s), the station soon moved the show to the weekends, showing complete adventures after Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. After finishing their first encore (reruns), the station dropped the series entirely.
That might have been the end of it, except the local PBS station not only picked up the series, but backtracked to show what was available of Hartnell and Troughton's adventures (there is still a world wide search for the missing episodes featuring these actors), before continuing on to Pertwee before starting the Tom Baker adventures from the very beginning.
Thanks to PBS, I continued watching the show to the end of the Sylvester McCoy episodes.

Meanwhile, because of internal politics at the BBC, the show was first cancelled during Colin Baker's tenure because a studio executive thought the money used to produce the series could be better spent making game shows!
But loyal fans rallied to bring Doctor Who back, abet in a smaller format (less episodes in shorter seasons) until the end of the McCoy era.
Yet that wasn't the end of the story either.
The series continued having loyal fans around the world and many factors, including the advent of the Internet to help people rally around the TARDIS better than they ever had before, eventually brought the Doctor back for a 1996 TV movie featuring Paul McGann, and returned (hopefully for good) the show to world wide broadcasts in 2005.
It has even had two spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures (featuring one of the more popular traveling companions of years past) and Torchwood, an adventure series geared towards more mature audiences.

So here's to you Doctor, and while I will be surprised if I'm actually around for them (I'm 51 as I post this article), here's to your 75th, 100th, and future anniversaries.
Long may you continue to save the universe and entertain fans throughout the stars!

All images (c) BBC and acquired either through Google or Wikipedia.


The BBC science fiction programme  Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary today.
For those interested, Thanksgiving is November 28 while Hanukkah begins at sundown the night before.

Amongst events that have happened around the world this past week...
*Cyclone Cleopatra struck the Italian island of Sardinia, causing heavy flooding and at least 18 deaths.
`*Recovery efforts from Typhoon Haiyan are under way, with over 2 million displaced people and uncertain counts in regards to the dead and wounded.
*A host site for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons is being sought.
*Abdulla Yameen has been elected President of the Maldives.
*Mangus Carlsen defeated Viswanathan Anand to win the World Chess Championship.
*Author Doris Lessing (2007 Nobel Prize winner for Literature) has passed away.
*Former Nobel Prize winning biochemist Frederick Sanger has passed away.
*Civil unrest continues in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

*November 19 marked the 150th anniversary of former US President Abraham Lincoln's historic
Gettysburg Address.
*Banking giant J.P. Morgan-Chase has agreed to pay $13 billion US dollars in fines for seriously misrepresenting mortgage-backed securities.
*United States House of Representative member Trey Radel (a Republican from Florida) was arrested on cocaine charges, ironic considering he suggested drug screening for food stamp recipients. He has since plead guilty and faces 1 year supervised probation.
*NASA has launched the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe to explore the red planet. Estimated arrival time is early 2015.
*Sony claims to have sold over 1 million Play Station 4's on the first day of its release.
*With a victor at the 2013 United States Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has won his eighth consecutive Formula 1 race.
*Jimmie Johnson won the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup.


For more news at any time, either scroll down to our IN OTHER NEWS feature at the bottom of your screen or visit any other reputable news source.


Today, the Puzzle Corner pauses to commemorate two 50th anniversaries, so let's get to it.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the former President being taken from the world prematurely.
01. What was the most famous posting during Kennedy's World War 2 service?
02. Kennedy held what major public offices before running for the Presidency?
03. Who did Kennedy run against for the Presidency in 1960?
04. What was Jacqueline Kennedy's full name before marriage?
05. Fill-in the blank: Kennedy was the ___ President of the United States.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the BBC science fiction series.
01. Fill-in the blanks: The Doctor is a ____, originally from the planet _____.
Image (c) BBC
02. He travels through time and space in a TARDIS, which is an acronym for what?
03. Why does the TARDIS always look like a blue police call box?
04. Fill-in the blank: Many actors have been able to play the title role over the five decades (thus far) because the title character is able to ____.
05. The original broadcast of the very first episode (part 1 of An Unearthly Child) was delayed for over an hour for what reason?

We'll reveal all next weekend. But for now, let's peek inside THE ANSWERS BOX and reveal the results from the November 16, 2013 Puzzle Corner.

The items in each subset below have something in common.
Do you know what it is?

01. {Moses, Samuel, and Jerome Horwitz} We know them better as Moe, Shemp, and "Curly" Howard, members of The Three Stooges.
02. {Al, Jimmy, and Harry Joachim}  They are more famously known as the Ritz Brothers.

By what famous surname do we know Julius, Arthur, Leonard, Milton, and Herbert? MARX, for the brothers are more commonly known as Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo.

Friday, November 22, 2013


John Fitzgerald Kennedy in happier times
What can be said about the taking of someone from this mortal coil before their natural time?
In the case of former President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy, plenty.
There has been plenty of coverage concerning the man and the legend since his assassination on November 22, 1963; especially now upon the 50th anniversary of his passing.
Many still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Whether this is true or just a comforting thought, compared to the realization of what one lone gunman managed to do has never been fully proven.
However Kennedy's courage both as a World War 2 veteran and seeing the country through some difficult times as its 35th President cannot be denied.
He was a man of vision, and one can only wonder what he could have accomplished if he had completed his first term, let alone successfully campaigned and won a second in 1964.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Today, THE FREE CHOICE E-ZINE is honored to talk with the very prolific and entertaining author Ian Watson, whose work is published under the byline I. A. WATSON, to avoid confusion with the other writing Ian Watson. So Ian, just what have you been up to lately?
I. A. Watson
I.A.W.: Recently a lot of projects have ganged up on me. Airship 27 has just released ZEPPELIN TALES, featuring my story “Airship 27”. It’s a tale of romance and adventure, when disgraced Navy weatherman Finian follows mysterious blonde Verity on the deadly maiden flight of “Airship 27”. As the blurb says: “What is the secret in Shed 13? What lies behind the strange sky phenomenon known as the fall streak? Who plots the destruction of crew and ship alike? And what are the strange creatures that dwell beyond the clouds?”
That was almost an accidental project. I needed to write something short to “cleanse my palette” between two bigger projects, and I thought a contribution to publisher Ron Fortier’s appeal for zeppelin tales might be just the thing. Unfortunately, once I got into the writing, trying to channel Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Jules Verne, and a pinch of H. P. Lovecraft, it became clear this was going to be anything but short. Hence the novella.
Cover art by Mike Fyles for Airship 27
Naming the airship in my story Airship 27 (after the publisher’s company) was pure cheek on my part. Ron Fortier has a fondness for airships, so it was really difficult for me not to give him a cameo within my tale too.
That’s just the latest of several short stories I've completed for anthologies – a Spider/Black Bat meeting for Moonstone in their THE SPIDER: EXTREME PREJUDICE volume, a pair of SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE stories for volumes five and six of the Airship 27 series, an adventure featuring another classic character for Pro Se’s Pulp Obscura imprint, a one-off tale about what happens to a superhero’s girlfriend after he dies, a jungle girl tale, and a couple of magazine stories, including “Mr. Li’s Laundry of Doom” for WONDERLUST magazine.

TFCE: Something tells me that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I.A.W.: I’m surprised I haven’t gone through more keyboards. I've also recently written a story for GRAND CENTRAL NOIR, an anthology for charity that might just have become my best-selling work to date. I've done a couple of Robin Hood novellas, one for issue 20 of Pro Se Presents magazine and one to save for later – and a short Robin Hood comic strip with Rob Davis for ALL STAR PULP COMICS #2.
I've more or less finished a two-volume novel called ST GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, despite not actually discussing it with any publisher; I just wanted to write it. For the same reasons I’m rattling off another novel without even a working title yet about a modern-day jobbing occultist in Soho, London, and his weird little world. I’m 80,000 words in plus six associated short stories and there’s no end in sight. And just last week I was commissioned for another novella set in the 1930s, so I’m about 29,000 words into that. It’s a shame it’s only supposed to be 30,000 words long, because I suspect it’ll take rather more than my remaining 1,000 words to get to the big finish. The villain has just showed up to boast and explain the plot.

TFCE: I’m dreading to ask what you do for fun.
I.A.W.: I've started going over some of my earlier work, revising it so it doesn't make me cringe, getting it fit
to do something with. I've found a bunch of stories that might well cluster together for an anthology volume sometime. I’m about half-way through editing them.
Finally, Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press talked me into writing my first non-fiction book, a collection of articles and essays about writing and odd people throughout history. That’s WHERE STORIES DWELL, due out around the end of the year.

TFCE: With everything else you have going right now, how did that come about?
I.A.W.: I came to write WHERE STORIES DWELL almost exactly the same way I got my first non-fiction in publication. Around four or five years ago, I got hauled into a project by White Rocket supremo Van Allen Plexico. I’d written some articles on the Avengers superhero team for his two essay books ASSEMBLED! and ASSEMBLED 2. He passed my name on to Ron Fortier, Commodore of Airship 27 publications, who needed a Sherlock Holmes story, stat, to meet a deadline. I think Van must have described me using the words “fast and cheap”.
I've been writing as a hobby all my life, but I've shied away from fiction publication because when your hobby becomes a job you need a new hobby, right? On the other hand, Sherlock Holmes is a fun character to write, and I hate saying no to creative folks with big ideas. So I wrote the story and thought no more of it.

TFCE: But obviously, and thankfully, you were wrong.
Art by Mike Manley for Airship 27
I.A.W.: Right, but here’s where the namedropping gets really bad. I went to a Buckingham Palace garden
party – that’s a whole other interview really – and was talking to a Personage there about my brush with publishing. It was suggested to me that I should consider pitching a book. The argument was that the discipline of writing to deadline with an editor could only improve my abilities. At that time Airship 27 wanted stories featuring classic heroes, and Robin Hood’s really an archetype. So I went for it. The odd route was: writing for fun, editor asked for material, someone at a party gave me a push, I fell.

TFCE: It sounds like you were a bit reluctant to undertake the WHERE STORIES DWELL assignment. Why?
I.A.W.: I’d already written quite a bit of my first non-fiction volume for my own interest. I often run off little articles about things that catch my attention, either to help me process and remember them, or just because I like telling stories. When I’m researching a historical period for a fiction tale, I often write a factual essay to get me into the era and the mood. Then I inflict these articles on other poor writers who share mailing lists with me.
One day, the unquenchable Mr. Hancock e-mailed me about collecting the stuff into a book; except that Tommy’s e-mails are never simply a little ping of the inbox. Somehow Tommy has the talent to make every message seem like it’s been written on the wall by a blazing finger. Anyhow, he wanted a book. I needed convincing. He gave me the finger.
And then I went to another party. I’m not really a party animal. I think I've now mentioned both social events I've been to this millennium. It was just that, in real life I set up projects for people or troubleshoot businesses, and I’d happened to make (or save) this particular company an awful lot of money, and they insisted I come to their event. They took over most of a county for it, I think, and I was the only person there who didn't arrive in a private helicopter. Long story short, I got talking to a lady whose name I cannot recall but whose dress I can remember exactly, what little of it there was. She convinced me that I was interesting enough to, um, go away and write down things I said. From her perspective, preferably in a dark room, far away. In a different county.
Anyway, I've been quite busy recently, and I've got a lot of “latest work” piled up on the desk right now.

Art by Ingrid Hardy for Airship 27
TFCE: So we now know basically how you became a writer, but why do you write what you do?
I.A.W.: I’m a big fan of old stories. I don’t mean stuff that was published a mere century ago or whatever, although I read and like a lot of that. I’m thinking of the Greek and Norse myths, of the medieval legends, of the Biblical narratives, of fairy tales that go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Those stories are deeply ingrained in our society. They shape it - and us.
All the great stories of today are recombinant retellings of older ones. Jason and the Argonauts is the archetypal team-goes-on-a-quest adventure. Robin Hood is the lone maverick who defies the system to bring true justice. King Arthur’s round table is the heroes’ varsity, banded together for common noble cause. Perseus and Andromeda or St George and the Dragon are template hero-kills-the-monster-saves-the-princess stories. I love ‘em all!
When I write, all those things are unavoidably crammed into my head. I’m not really interested in telling slice-of-life/world-is-a-bleak-place mundane narratives. I want big concepts, I want good and evil. I want hard choices and unexpected twists. I like stories with deep roots, old associations, hidden meanings, layers.
Those ancient storytellers in their fire lit caves, those cloistered monks with unfettered imaginations, those starving dime-a-word writers at their battered typewriters, they all knew that they had to grab their audience and hold it. They did it by going for the stuff that matters most to us – life and death, hope, love, betrayal, danger, triumph, tragedy. They did it by dazzling the minds and quickening the hearts of their readers through words and plots that spoke to the intellect and the emotions. On my best days that’s what I’m aspiring to emulate when I sit down to write.

TFCE: So you apply the lessons of the past to today when you write?
Cover by Bryan Fowler, from Airship 27
I.A.W.: Where applicable, yes. Editors or publishers often ask me to write stories featuring established characters. Those are challenges because one wishes to honour the work of those characters’ creators and delight fans of that work, while telling a new story with something fresh to say. I've done half a dozen Sherlock Holmes mysteries now (I've even got an award on my mantel for one of them). I’ve told stories about detective airman Richard Knight, about African adventurer-for-hire Armless O’Neil, about Sinbad the Sailor, Harry Houdini, the Spider, the Black Bat, and plenty of others. I enjoy the discipline of having to follow another creator’s lead – and I love to dig back to the archetypes behind the story.
Other times I’m working with fellow writers creating new collaborative mythologies. My contribution to these efforts is often in the world-building, drawing on the mythic roots I was talking about. For example, my short story in BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS, and the subsequent novels BLACKTHORN: DYNASTY OF MARS, and BLACKTHORN: SPIRES OF MARS was underpinned by all sorts of background material I generated, some of which is available for inspection at and the pages linked off it. I was similarly enthralled by the historical planning necessary for the GIDEON CAIN: DEMON HUNTER anthology.
Art by Adam Diller, White Rocket Books

TFCE: But what inspires you to write?
I.A.W.: Funny story. After my visit yesterday to a parent/teacher evening at my son’s school, his classmatesasked him if his father was a member of the Mafia. I went straight there from work, business-suited and black-long coated, and I suppose I trailed the grim professional demeanor I need to adopt as a management consultant and business troubleshooter. In my view, I probably looked more Russian gangster than Italian.
Anyway, my day job in the business world is getting projects off the ground, sorting them out if they falter, and making things happen. Actually, that does sound like a Mafia job. It requires a lot of fast-talking, a lot of hard-headed planning, tough, sometimes horrible decisions, and a work persona that keeps people listening to what I tell them.
So when I get home, when I relax, I want to do something entirely different. Fiction and essay writing are escapes, very different from preparing business plans or development assessments or redundancy lists. I can sit alone in my study all night, without anyone arguing except the characters in my head. I can make worlds with narrative sense to them. I can travel to times and places far away from grey office rooms. So I write to escape.

TFCE: A lot of people are avid readers, but never have any interest in becoming a writer. What first sparked your interest in writing?
I.A.W.: I first told stories to amuse playmates as a child. Then I wrote stories and plays for friends to act as a teenager. My first theatre directing credit was at age sixteen, for a play I’d written. Later I wrote stories for my wife, and after that for my children. My daughter is probably my most prominent reader now, and my severest critic. So although I write to escape, I also write to entertain. I enjoy communicating the worlds and words that were in my head with other people. Even writing is something of a performance art.
Finally, I suppose when I’m not working for the Mafia, I like to make people happy. Writing stories is often an attempt to do that. Whether it makes a small-print publisher or online magazine editor happy, or a member of my family grin, or a paying audience of book-purchasers feel they spent their money well, I like the idea that I’ve done something that helped. In fact a few publishing projects I've been involved in, like this year’s ALL STAR PULP COMICS #2 and GRAND CENTRAL NOIR have been charity fundraisers, so they tick the boxes twice, once for hopefully giving folks an enjoyable story and once for raising some cash for much-needed good causes.

TFCE: Considering our conversation so far, what has influenced your style and technique?
The Saint (logo)
I.A.W.: I read a lot as a child. Some seminal formative authorsinclude J.R.R. Tolkein, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Leslie Charteris (The Saint), T.H. White, Robert E. Howard, Bram Stoker, William Hope Hodgson, Sir Walter Scott, and the books The Good Companions and Watership Down. I also discovered Shakespeare, but that was more through acting than reading. At university I discovered Anne McCaffery, M.R. James, Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett, Raymond Chandler, and H.P. Lovecraft. All of those must have left their mark because I still catch myself recycling phrases or situations of theirs if I’m not careful.
But alongside that I was massively influenced by comic books. I stumbled across a UK reprint of some Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four issues and that hooked me into the Marvel universe. Those early tales of Spider-Man, FF, X-Men, Doctor Strange, and especially the Avengers really spoke to me. I was an avid comics collector for thirty-five years.
The influence of those comics was incalculable. The serial nature appealed to me, and has tended me towards long-running series in my own writing. The interactions and banter of those flawed, yet heroic early Marvel characters informed my own growing perception of how to effectively use a cast. The reveals and sub-plots and cliffhangers all shaped my own style, and still do.
Finally, very few British children of my age grew up without exposure to Doctor Who. I was, and am, a massive fan of the series. It’s a great programme that recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary! For a slightly odd child who was sometimes “too brainy” it was a massively life-affirming thing to watch a hero who won by being smart, and who saved the day because he was different from everyone else. There is a basic decency and underlying eccentricity about the programme that has somehow, without me ever intending it, suffused almost everything I write.

TFCE: With everything you've done and have in progress, what would be your dream project?
I.A.W.: A while ago, in correspondence with Pro Se overlord Tommy Hancock, he pointed out that I was
St. George by Hans Acker, Circa 1440
unusual in not having a “signature” character, as many prolific writers do these days. He’s right. I haven’t yet established a series or primary protagonist I could really call “my own”. So an ideal project would give me the chance to develop some of the ideas in my head and on my hard drive into an ongoing series with characters that are mine, all mine, and whose direction and fate lie solely with me.
Nowadays I vary my fiction writing time between responding to publisher or editor requests for stories on subjects they set and writing stories that nobody has asked for but that interest me. I’ve been working on that huge ST GEORGE AND THE DRAGON story for a couple of years now, and it’s complete now at around 160,000 words except for a final scene – but I have absolutely no idea what to do with it next! The same’s true of a World War II-based Saturday-matinee-style fantasy adventure that’s been awaiting a last-draft proofread for a year so far. And for a murder-mystery set in the Biblical Tower of Babel. It would be lovely to place some of these at some point so that readers could (hopefully) enjoy them.

TFCE: With such a busy schedule, where do you foresee yourself within the next few years?
I.A.W.: I have a vision of a fat, bald, gurning madman in some dirty and cluttered attic typing away at a grubby keyboard, not speaking to anyone for weeks on end, obsessively typing out words. Perhaps occasionally I will mutter to myself.
And I will finally learn to keep my sentence length and commas under control.

TFCE: With such a large bibliography to your credit, is there any character you would love to write, but have yet to have the opportunity to do so?
I.A.W.: Tough question. It depends on the genre and on the suspension of current copyright law, which are governed by different rules here in Europe than elsewhere.
In detective fiction, I’d really want to produce some new material for Simon Templar, the Saint. I’m a big fan of Charteris’ early work. The later stuff, much of which was ghost-written by others, is interesting but can’t compete. I’d want a Saint who runs around with the glorious Patricia Holm, who spars with and infuriates the gum-chewing Inspector Teal, who fights alongside big-hearted Hoppy Uniatz. I could so do a series with that Simon Templar and his war upon the ungodly.
In science fiction, I’d enjoy a go at Lois McMasters Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series – when she’s finished with it. It’s an excellent set-up full of rich nuanced characters, and I’d love to try my hand at it.
For horror, I’d enjoy a chance to redo the original penny dreadful serial Varney the Vampire for a modern audience. It’s been such an influential tale in the development of the genre, but it gets no respect or regard. Originally published serially in 220 chapters from 1845-47, predating Dracula by nearly forty years, the rambling 667,000 word story would strike most modern readers as slow and soapy, but its got a compelling core concept and it’s ripe for a modern retelling.
For historical series I’d probably pick George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, even though the research required to get to half of what the original author simply held in his head would be massive. Fraser hinted at, but never really covered Harry Flashman’s exploits in the American Civil War and I always regretted that he never explained about the rogue’s second meeting with Abraham Lincoln or how he came to be decorated for merit and valour by both Unionists and Confederates.
In the adapted-from-other-media category, it would have to be Doctor Who. As I mentioned, I’m a big fan and the series has shaped me. I’d enjoy a chance to chronicle the first or seventh incarnation of the Doctor. Actually, I got a chance to write a pastiche story for an upcoming new SF series that allowed me to channel my inner Who-writer; that project should be announced presently.

TFCE: With everything we've discussed, what's next for Ian Watson?
Artist(s) unknown
I.A.W.: That depends on publishers. There’s plenty of things out there in the queues waiting to go to press. I've mentioned the forthcoming Pro Se non-fiction WHERE STORIES DWELL, the first in their new Pulp Studies imprint. Any day now the weird fantasy magazine WONDERLUST will be out with my short story “Mr. Li’s Laundry of Doom”. I’ve turned in work for SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE volume 5, the most unusual Holmes story I've ever written and one I don’t think anyone had done before like that, and another mystery for CONSULTING DETECTIVE 6. White Rocket will be bringing out an anthology of tales about a classic historic fictional character sometime soon that will include my Lovecraft-tinted offering. Pro Se’s Pulp Obscura library is due to expand with some more work of mine about a classic occult hero. Airship 27 intends a series about a real-life person’s fictional adventures and I've turned in my work for that one. And just yesterday, Pro-Se Tommy talked me into writing a Richard Knight novella sometime in the next four weeks.
That should keep me busy for now.

TFCE: Perhaps, but we are not done with Ian folks, for there will be a follow up interview later on where we discuss Ian's historical fiction in greater detail, especially his visits to Sherwood Forest and writing the adventures of Robin Hood. Until then…

All of Ian's work is available via Amazon through its respective publishers, but for a complete list of his published works and links to free stories, visit his personal website at:

For more specific Robin Hood material, including maps and character profiles, feel free to visit

and for additional Blackthorn stuff, including a full online novel, SPIRES OF MARS, visit

All accompanying images provided either by the author, Wikipedia, or Google Search.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Why drive when you can fly?
Hello Everybody! Waxy Dragon here!
Now, a lot of times in the morning and late afternoon when I'm flying to and from Dragon School, I see a lot of congested roads below me.
My teacher says this is a daily ritual motorists participate in called "Rush Hour", because everyone is in a hurry to get to or from work.
Of course, why this is called "Rush Hour" when the roads are so jammed packed that nothing is moving very fast is beyond me, but does present a nice set up for some car jokes. Ready?

"How much gas do we have?" asked the passenger.
"The needle is pointing to one half. But I don't know if that means the tank is half-empty or half-full," replied the driver.

If no one can successfully refold a road map after it's been opened, how do the publishers manage to fold it
to begin with?

"How much gas does your tank hold?" one motorist asked the other.
"I don't know. I've never been able to afford a fill up."

A cop pulled a driver over for speeding and said, "Do you know you were doing over sixty miles per hour?"
"Really?" asked the driver. "That's great! I just got my first driving lesson yesterday."

A child asked his mother, "What happens to used cars?"
"Some salesman tricks your Daddy into buying them because they're allegedly as good as new," she answered.

Why do people drive in a parkway and park in a driveway?

A tourist was lost in New York City and asked his cab driver "Do you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?"
"Practice," replied the driver.

And now, because I like you all so much, a couple of more funny pictures.

Okay everybody! Take care and please be back here next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!--wd.

Saturday, November 16, 2013



Amongst events happening around the world this past week...
*Sadly, the death toll has been confirmed at over 3600 at this posting, with severe damage to the Philippines.
*Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports of as many as 20,000 citizens unaccounted for in the typhoon's wake.
*Philippine President Beningo Aquino the third is being criticized by some for his inadequate handling of the crisis.

*Canada reports that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children were rescued as a result of a three year investigation into child pornography within that country.
*Gambia has ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
*North Korea denies giving military aid to Syria.
*The International Court of Justice has declared that the Preah Vihear Temple is officially part of Cambodia, so Thai forces must withdraw from the area.
*Found on Tibetan soil, scientists have confirmed the discovery of the biggest cat fossil ever.
*The World Wildlife Federation has confirmed a sighting of the rare Saola (Asian Unicorn) in central Vietnam. The last confirmed sighting was 15 years ago.
*British composer Sir John Tavener has passed away.
*Hawaii has become the fifteenth member of the United States to make same gender marriages legal.
*The rebuilt One World Trade Center in New York City has been declared the tallest building in the United States.
*Civil unrest continues in Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.


For more news at any time, either scroll down to our IN OTHER NEWS feature at the bottom of your monitor or visit any other reputable news source.


Another weekend is upon us, so let's have some fun!

The items in each subset below have something in common.
Do you know what it is?

01. {Moses, Samuel, and Jerome Horwitz}
02. {Al, Jimmy, and Harry Joachim}

By what famous surname do we know Julius, Arthur, Leonard, Milton, and Herbert?
(Was originally considering this as part of a Common Bonds puzzle, but posting the surname would have given away the answer.)

We'll reveal all next weekend. But for now, let's peek inside THE ANSWERS BOX and discover the results from the November 9, 2013 Puzzle Corner as we honored Veterans' Day.

What branch of United States military service is known to some as Mother Green?
The United States Marine Corps.

Out of the letters in the word VETERANS, you can spell the following:
A, An, ant(s), are, art(s), as, at, ate
Ear(s), earn(s), earnest, era(s), eve(s)
Near(s), neat, neater, nerve(s), never
Ran, rat(s), rate(s), rave(s), raven(s), rest
Sat, sate, save, sea, sear, seat, see, seen, seer, sent, serve, seven, sever, sneer, star, stare, starve
Tea(s), tee(s), tear(s), tease, ten(s), teen(s), tense, tenser, tree(s)
Vee(s), vent(s), vest, and Veteran.
The last is allowed since the plural was our starting word.
Otherwise, there might be more words possible than the 74 listed above.

Monday, November 11, 2013


It is NOT for sales or other retail events.

This is the day set aside to honor those, past and present, who have served and protected their respected countries.

The men and women who have defended the freedoms and liberties of those who could not fight for themselves.

To ensure the civil liberties of everyone, regardless whatever might set them socially apart from others.

If you are reading these words, please remember those, past and present, even to the point of sacrificing their own lives, so that you could live yours freely.


Sunday, November 10, 2013


Would love to meet the dog stars
Hello everybody! Autumn the Puppy here!
Now, everyone loves comedians, and there are a lot of people interested in the daily routine of celebrities; otherwise everyone working for those news stand magazines and tabloid shows would be out of work.
But sometimes, celebrities who are not comedians unintentionally say funny stuff.
So let's take a look at some comedic celebrity comments, with my responses below where appropriate.
(And if you think this set up is long, you should have seen my first attempt writing the above!)
Nicholson, circa 1976
Ready? I'm opening with a pair of Jacks.

"With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson. Without them, I'm fat and seventy."--actor Jack Nicholson.
So, if he's not wearing his sunglasses, then who is he?

Author Jack London

"I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet."--author Jack London.
I don't know Jack. It seems to me that the life of a planet is a lot more stable, depending upon its inhabitants. Then again, considering how some Human beings treat this world...
Osbourne, circa 2010

"America is the coolest place on the face of the Earth. You've got freedom of speech. You've got McDonalds..."-- musician Ozzy Osbourne.
TRUE STORY! When President George W. Bush was looking for allies to go into the Middle East following events of September 11, 2001; France said no.
In reaction to that, the United States Congress of the time actually debated, voted on, and changed the name of French Fries in the Capitol building to Freedom Fries. You would think that under the circumstances, there would be more important matters to attend to!

Simpson, circa 2011
"Is this chicken, what I have, or is it fish? I know it's tuna, but it <the can> says 'Chicken of the Sea'."--entertainer Jessica Simpson.
Does it matter? If you don't want to eat it, I will!
Schwarzenegger, circa 2010

"I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."--Arnold Schwarzenegger, during his time as Governor of California.
Well, everyone wants a HAPPY marriage, but in this case, I think we're talking a different variety.

And on that note, let me just pause to say that all the celebrity images are courtesy of Wikipedia. For more fun, I would like to close with a very appropriate video, TMZ by "Weird" Al Yankovic, via You Tube. This song is both funny and timely. I'm a big fan of his music.
Take care everyone, and please be back here next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!--AtP.

Saturday, November 9, 2013



Amongst events happening around the world this past week...

*Typhoon Haiyan has killed over 1200 people in its destructive wake through the Philippines on its way to the Vietnam coast.
*The Gravity field and steady state Ocean Circulation Observer (GOCE) satellite launched in 2009 is expected to come crashing back to Earth sometime Sunday.
*The 2012 recovery in Munich of some art treasures stolen by the Axis during World War 2 has been confirmed.
*Maria Gabriela Isler of Venezuela is the new Miss Universe.
*India has launched their own Mars Orbiter mission.
*Noted British journalist John Cole has passed away at age 85.
*Civil unrest continues in Syria, Somalia, the Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

For more news at any time, either scroll down to our IN OTHER NEWS feature at the bottom of your screen or visit any other reputable news source.


Since this coming Monday is Veterans' Day, let us salute those who helped protect the freedoms of the world.

What branch of military service is known to some as "Mother Green"?

How many words can you make out of the letters in the word VETERANS?
Hint: There are a few more than you might think.

We'll reveal all next weekend.
But for now, let's peek inside THE ANSWERS BOX, and discover the results from the November 2, 2013 Puzzle Corner, where we quizzed you on the 75th anniversary of the historic War of the Worlds radio broadcast!

01. Where did author H. G. Wells set his original novel, from which the drama was based? Southern England, between Surrey and London.
02. What do the initials H. G. in the author's name actually stand for? Herbert George
03. What was the name of the acting company, led by Orson Welles (no relation to the original author), that did the radio drama? The Mercury Theatre ON the Air, although most people think it's OF.
04. The radio drama reset the story to where? Grover's Mill, New Jersey
05. How did this simple radio drama lead to"The Night That Panicked America"? Between the news drama format and a lot of people tuning in after the program started, thus missing the disclaimer at the beginning that it was a work of fiction. Although there are reports that other listeners thought it was the Germans/Axis attacking American shores, since the planet was on the verge of World War 2.
06. How were the Martians eventually defeated? The same way they were defeated in the original novel. The Martians had no defense against Earth germs!

If you would like to hear that historic broadcast for yourself, you can listen to an MP3 of it and all the Mercury Theatre on the Air's productions here: