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C.J. Henderson's Writing Advice: The Author of Horror Fiction and Comic Books Speaks!

Updated on November 19, 2014

C.J. Henderson on the Writing Life: A KotoriCon Anime Festival Panel

C.J. Henderson, a writer of novels and comic books, spoke at KotoriCon 2012, the anime festival at Gloucester County College in Sewell, New Jersey. His panel , entitled ''Abuse the Author,'' was less a presentation than an hourlong question-and-answer session that ranged from the nuts and bolts of writing to the business of collaborating with others in the world of fiction.

Henderson, author of the Jack Hagee detective novels and the Teddy London series, was very entertaining during the hour, but his talk also contained a lot of good advice for would-be writers. Here are some of the impressions I took away from the session.

Never Turn Down an Opportunity!

A Good Lesson in Life, Not Just in Writing!

Very early in the gathering Henderson said something that I thought was probably the best advice any writer could ever receive: Never turn down an opportunity.

If someone invites you to do anything, try it, he told the group.

This is absolutely essential advice for anyone who is trying to make his living as a writer. In the 1990s, I spent four years as a freelancer in Chile, taking just about any assignment I could get. One time, shortly after I arrived, I agreed to write a review of a play. Only after the play began did I realize my Spanish wasn't good enough to keep up with what was happening on stage!

So the review I handed in focused a lot on the scenery, the costumes, even the lighting, and no one was the wiser. I never heard a single complaint.

You know, when you think about it, never turn down an opportunity isn't just good advice for writers, or the writing life. It's just good advice.

How the Business of Writing is Changing

Self-Publishing is Opening Many Doors

Self-publishing is much more available today than when Henderson began writing 35 years ago, and the access to publishing your own work is making agents superfluous, he said.

''They won't take you unless you are already published,'' he told the gathering. And ``if you are one of the 110 or 115 clients that the agent has, how much time is he going to spend on you? Not much unless you are making the big bucks. It's a business, remember.''

I've seen this attitude before in articles and heard it from other writers, and perhaps there's some truth to it. I do think that there's a use for agents (Henderson did say they can help with contracts) and I am sure that most would-be writers still want to have their book put out by a big-time publisher. Still, strong medicine from a veteran.

C.J. Henderson's Books on eBay

You will also find many of C.J. Henderson's books on eBay. As before, please be aware that if a book from the series called The Cabin pops up it's by a different author of the same name!

The Spider, Pulp Fiction Crimefighter, in Henderson's Hands!

A Newly Discovered Classic Spider Novel As Well!

One of the reasons I sat in on Henderson's talk was that he had written some tales starring The Spider, a 1930s crimefighter that had appeared in the pulps. I have always enjoyed reprints of the old Spider pulps whenever I could find them (and The Shadow and Doc Savage stories as well).

I bought this collection of Spider short stories The Spider: Judge, Jury and Executioner at his table in KotoriCon's dealers row, so I thought it would be interesting to see what he had to say about writing.

Also, someone was clever enough to label his talk ''Abuse the Author,'' which was enticing enough for a dad walking around by himself because his daughter and friend didn't want any of the old folks around.

During the meeting I asked Henderson what it was like to write stories starring a character that someone else had created. He said he tried to stay true to the original author's vision and that while he was writing a new novel of The Spider for Moonstone he made what sounds like an awesome discovery: an unpublished Spider story from the pulp era!

The newly found novel will be published this year, followed a few months later by Henderson's own story of the crimefighter!

The Spider: Master of Men - Pulp Fiction's Bloodiest Crimefighter!

The Spider probably isn't as well-remembered as The Shadow and Doc Savage as far as the 1930s pulp fiction crimefighters are concerned, but many of his stories were the most over-the-top and bloodiest of the three.

All three fought master villains, but only in The Spider novels did the bad guys wipe out entire cities, lay waste to thousands of people -- and it happened in many, many of the stories! For more on The Spider, here is his Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spider.

Fortunately, many of his tales have been reprinted in recent years, and you can find them on Amazon. Order some today!

The Spider Reflects on His Mission!

Henderson's Take on the 1930s Crimefighter!

Henderson's new novel starring The Spider highlights what he means when he said you have to retain the original creator's essence of the character when writing a story starring someone you haven't created.

During his research of The Spider novels, Henderson realized that one of the main things that made The Spider unique was the reason he fought evil. The Spider was different from crimefighters like Batman who were after revenge.

For The Spider it was a higher calling. He felt he had an obligation to society.

Henderson says that's what drives his story of The Spider, and he gave us the setup of the tale.

In the upcoming novel, Richard Wentworth (The Spider's real identity) is turning 40, and he is pondering his self-proclaimed mission. Should he retire with his longtime fiancée Nita van Sloan? Could the world survive without The Spider?

But then the Green Death returns. The next day another old villain resurfaces, then another! And Wentworth realizes that the world can't live without the Spider.

This sounds like it'll be a really good tale!

The Spider: Shadow of Evil - The New Spider Novel is Available Now!

C.J. Henderson's new novel about The Spider has now been published!

Here is part of Amazon's description:

''The first new Spider novel in 65 years picks up where the last left off, packed to the gills with the greatest slam-bang action ever penned by master pulpster CJ Henderson! Richard Wentworth, The Spider, wonders if his long struggle against the forces of evil has been worth it?''

The Spider: Judge, Jury & Executioner

Featuring Two Spider Tales from C.J. Henderson

I bought this collection of six adventures by the 1930s crimefighter at Henderson's table, so I thought I'd update this lens with a review of the book. I think the stories capture the flavor of the pulps, in which the bad guys were truly bad and the good guys did what was necessary to exact justice. The stories are very straightforward, with the action barreling ahead at high speed.

Most of the stories are illustrated in what the publisher calls ''widevision,'' where the next on each page is bisected by a black & white image that stretches across the two-page spread. The illustrations add to the tone of the story, and make each tale zoom along even faster.

If you are interested you can buy a copy on Amazon today!

Pulp Fiction's Most Famous Crimefighter

The Shadow, not The Spider!

The Shadow, who debuted before The Spider in the 1930s, was probably pulp fiction's most famous crimefighter, mainly because of his popular weekly radio (which for a time starred Orson Welles).

A number of The Shadow pulps have been reprinted over the decades, and a new series from Sanctum Books collects two classic Shadow tales in each volume.

Here is my review of one of those volumes.

The Shadow Unmasks + The Yellow Band: A Pulp Book Review!
The Shadow, that mysterious crime-fighter from the 1930s pulps, is back in regular publication, with a series of books from Nostalgia Ventures. Each volume c...

Batman, the Punisher and Lady Justice

Writing Comics on a Grid

C.J. Henderson mentioned writing comic books several times, and later I looked him up on the Internet and among those that he's written are stories about Archie, Batman, the Punisher and Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice. He has also written comic books starring Kolchak: the Night Stalker, according to his Wikipedia entry.

In response to a question, he describes the physical writing of a comic book and makes it sound so basic. The first page is a full panel (called a 'splash' panel in the business).

``After that, take a piece of paper and make six boxes, three over three,'' he said. ''In the top half of each box write what should be in the scene. In the bottom half write what words will appear in each panel.''

There you have it. He makes it sound so easy!

C.J. Henderson's Favorite Character: Batman!

C.J. Henderson was asked: Of all the characters that other people have created, which has been your favorite to write?

His answer was simple and quick: Batman.

That really shouldn't come as a surprise. Who wouldn't want to write about a millionaire who is driven to fight crime because both his parents were murdered by a robber?


Just Go Ahead and Write!

Tell the Story and Get it Down on Paper!

One of the more interesting pieces of advice that C.J. Henderson kept returning to during the meeting's hour was simply, go ahead and write the story.

Someone asked about the best way to introduce a new world in a sci-fi or fantasy story: all at once up front or in bits and pieces. Either way can work, he said. Just go ahead and start the story.

Having trouble creating a character? Watch your favorite movie or television show, then take the main character and use him to start your own story. ''Envision him in your mind,'' Henderson said. But don't call him by his right name. Then go ahead and write the story.

Another person asked about the length of a chapter, and how do you know when to end one. Simply, Henderson said. ''End chapters with something nifty.'' It'll stay in the reader's mind.

All in all, the hour went by fairly quickly, with a lot of discussion and many of the attendees asking questions. It was well worth the time spent.

KotoriCon Anime Festival

Homestuck Fans, Role-Playing Participants, and Cosplayers Converge!

C.J. Henderson's panel was only one small part of the KotoriCon anime festival in January. There were dozens of panels and videos, and hundreds of people walking around in costumes. It was blast, and here is our review of it.

KotoriCon Anime Festival: Reviewing the New Jersey Convention
Hundreds of anime fans, role-playing participants, and cosplayers converged in southern New Jersey for KotoriCon 2012, held Jan. 6-7 at Gloucester County Col...

Secret World of Arrietty Review

Anime Based on the Classic Book ''The Borrowers''

Our visit to the KorotiCon anime festival led to tickets for an advanced showing of ''The Secret World of Arrietty,'' an English-language version of the Japanese anime movie. The film, distributed by Disney, arrived in theaters in February.

The movie is based on ``The Borrowers,'' which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal, which in Britain is the book of the year award for children's and young adults.

Please check out our review of the film!

The Secret World of Arrietty Comes to America: Movie Review
The classic story of ''The Borrowers,'' the little people who live beneath the floorboards who only take what they need to survive and things that won't be m...

Are You a Writer of Fiction?

Writing is a lonely world, especially if you aren't getting published. I have one unpublished novel sitting on my bookcase and I'm partially through a second. Who knows if either will ever see the light of day.

Are you writing as well? At what stage are you?

Are You Writing Fiction?

See results

C.J. Henderson at Zenkaikon - Philadelphia's Celebration of Anime and Manga

In May, my daughter and I attended the Zenkaikon anime festival near Philadelphia, and once again I sat in on a session that Henderson held.

Much of the advice that Henderson gave the crowd was similar to what he said at KotoriCon, but he expounded a bit about some of the Batman stories he had hoped to write but never got the chance.

Two of the stories would have featured a young Harvey Bullock, who in the present-day Batman universe is a bit of a dirty cop. But these tales would show he turned sour watching fellow police officers give their lives to try to stop the villains menacing Gotham City, then get overlooked because Batman saved the day. That's a shorthand summary, but the tales certainly sounded very cool.

Henderson's View of Spider-Man

For Henderson's comments on the origin of Spider-Man, see my book review here:

Spider-Man's Earliest Adventures: A Review of Marvel Comics' Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1
Marvel Essential Spider-Man Volume 1 contains the debut story of Marvel Comics' most-popular character, who first appeared 50 years ago in the summer of 1962...

X-Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man and Many More Comics!

My Comic Book Reviews

I first started writing on Squidoo with my daughter because I thought it would be a good way to spend some time with her. We started with reviews of the comic books that I read growing up, and here are a few for you to check out.

The Avengers in the Late 1960s: A Marvel Comics Review!
Marvel Essential: Avengers Vol. 3 contains issues 47 to 68 of the comic's original series, as well as Avengers Annual No. 2. For the most part this collectio...

Marvel Essential X-Men Comic Book Review: Wolverine, Storm and a Return to Greatness!
Marvel Essential X-Men collects Giant-Size X-Men 1 and X-Men 94-119. Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 introduced the new team of superheroes, reviving the X-Men comic....

Essential Iron Fist: A Marvel Comic Book Review!
Essential Iron Fist Volume 1 collects the first four years' worth of Marvel comics starring the character, who debuted in 1974 during a martial arts craze. T...

The Avengers Debut! A Comic Book Review of the Marvel Masterworks Collection!
The Avengers Volume 1 was one of the first four collections when Marvel Comics began publishing its Marvel Masterworks series in 1987. Since then the company...

Captain America in the 1960s: A Marvel Comic Book Review
Marvel Essential Captain America Volume 1 reprints Captain America's stories from Tales of Suspense No. 59-99 as well as the first three issues of the newly-...

Marvel Masterworks X-Men Comic Book Review: Enter the Phoenix! Plus Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler!
This volume reprints Uncanny X-Men No. 101-110 in full color, a collection of 10 comics during a run that really established the new X-Men as a major franchi...

The Amazing Spider-Man Debuts! A Marvel Masterworks Comic Book Review
Marvel Comics began publishing its Marvel Masterworks series in 1987 with The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, among others. Since then the company has come out wi...

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller A Marvel Comic Book Review of The Complete Elektra Saga!
Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Vol. 2 collects issues 168-182 of the original Daredevil series. Issue 168 was the first comic of the series that Miller ...

X-Men's Dark Phoenix Saga: A Marvel Comic Book Review
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga collects issues No. 129-137 of the original X-Men comic-book series, a series of tales that ends with the final battle over Jean...

Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Comic Book Review: Dr. Doom and Daredevil Guest Star as the Legend Grows!
The Fantastic Four rocked the comic-book world when it debuted in 1961, with writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby introducing more characterization and real...

The Rampaging Hulk Marvel Essential Comic Book Review
Marvel Essential: The Rampaging Hulk 1 is a collection of Hulk stories from his short-lived late 1970s magazine. This volume includes the tales from issues 1...

The Ghost Rider Debuts! A Marvel Comic Book Review
The Marvel Essential series contains four volumes devoted to the Ghost Rider superhero, who first appeared in 1972 in a comic book called Marvel Spotlight. H...

Captain America's 1960s Adventures in Color: A Marvel Comics Review
Marvel Masterworks: Captain America Volume 1 reprints the superhero's adventures in Tales of Suspense No. 59-81 in full color. This was Captain America's fir...

Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier Comic Book Review
DC: The New Frontier was a series of six comic book issues in 2004 that focused on the 1950s, when many of the major superheroes that populate the modern DC ...

The Mighty Thor Debuts: Highlights of His First Marvel Masterworks Collection
Thor, one of Marvel Comics' mightiest heroes, debuted 50 years ago in a comic book called Journey into Mystery. One of the Marvel Universe's earliest charact...

Marvel Essential Fantastic Four: Galactus, Silver Surfer and the Black Panther Debut!
Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 3 contains perhaps the most-sustained run of great comic book stories of the 1960s. This collection of Fantastic Four No...

The X-Men in the Early 1970s: Neal Adams' Dynamic Art
Marvel Essential Classic X-Men volume 3 is a real hodge-podge of stories that shows just how far below the radar screen the original X-Men had fallen in the ...

Spider-Man in the 1970s! A Marvel Comics Book Review
The Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8 contains issues No. 161-185 of the Amazing Spider-Man series, plus Nova issue No. 12 and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 11...

X-Men Reborn in the 1970s: Storm and Nightcrawler Debut, plus Wolverine!
Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 highlights the rebirth of the team in 1975-1976, reprinting Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 and X-Men No. 94-100. Promote...

About Goldenrulecomics

We are a father-daughter team who have been posting to Squidoo for more than three years. To find out more about us and what we write about please see this:

Of Comic Books and Family Vacations: Who is GoldenRuleComics?
Who is GoldenRuleComics? Actually, the better question is who ARE GoldenRuleComics! I am the father of a teenage daughter, and we live in New Jersey. I hand...

I hope you gained some writing tips or inspiration from this lens. What do you think of C.J. Henderson's advice or this lens in general? Please share, and thanks for stopping by!

What Do You Think?

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    • trevorjb1406 profile image

      trevorjb1406 3 years ago

      I think this is a good lens. Personally I am not a reader of fiction but the lens has all the components to make it interesting. Thanks.

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 3 years ago from Kentucky

      What an amazing and inspiring lens. Loved this! I liked the way you presented everything, it kept us reading and wanting to learn more. He seems like a guy with his head on his shoulders, and this was definitely great advice!

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      Opportunities don't come around everyday so his advice seems sound. You have to grab your potential chances as they open.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 4 years ago from New York

      I enjoy your easy writing style. I felt as if we were sitting across from each other talking about "The Shadow", Henderson and "The Spider". Well done.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

      I enjoyed reading about C.J. Henderson and the Spider. Wise advice -- never turn down an opportunity!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      Great advice (ABC) and the 12.5rules poster. Inspiring read, enjoyed it, Thanks

    • mrkensworld profile image

      mrkensworld 4 years ago

      I also like the ABC principal.. It is true the business is changing and self publishing has helped many people. great lens by the way!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      The ABC principle makes a lot of sense!

    • Siclone profile image

      Simon 5 years ago from NSW, Australia

      Nice lens. Interesting to hear how easy he makes comic writing sound, that's something I'd like to try one day, but need to practice first!

    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 5 years ago from France

      You might like the Blogvicar's lenses, mostly about writing and he is fairly new to Squidoo. Nice lens by the way.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      It's always interesting to see how a writer's mind works and what inspires him.