Friday, March 30, 2012

PRESS RELEASE- Pro Se Productions Announces 'Savior'!

Pro Se Productions, a leading Publisher of New Pulp, announces its latest volume today, a debut novel from a long time contributor to Pro Se's award winning magazine line.

"Science Fiction," Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions stated, "is definitely a cornerstone of Pulp Fiction, both Classic and New.  It's an area, though, that Pro Se really hasn't gotten into until recently with some entries in our magazines.  'Savior' by Don Thomas is our first novel jumping nose first into that genre and we're really proud of that.  And it's a vein of Science Fiction that's somewhat popular lately, apocalyptic virus takes on the world and a small portion of the population rises to combat it.  But it's also different, too, in that Don exposes what happens when that small section of humanity becomes heroes of almost cosmic proportions in the eyes of the world and at what costs this takes place."

From the back cover copy for SAVIOR by Don Thomas-  

In the Near Future, a Red Death will cover the world. As civilization struggles to survive, one government emerges with a sliver of hope- The Strategic Agency against Viral Infections by Organized Resistance. SAVIOR.

SAVIOR delivered on the promise of a miracle cure, elevating themselves into legends...but behind every legend lies truths and secrets...truths and secrets former SAVIOR agent Steve Ryker has sworn to bring into the light...even if it kills him.

SAVIOR is the debut novel of author Don Thomas, a mainstay writer of Pro Se Presents, a two year award winning New Pulp magazine. Complete with fully realized characters, lightning fast pacing, and more meteoric action, SAVIOR proves to be a solid, taut science fiction thriller!

SAVIOR-Edited by Nancy Hansen, Cover Art by Marc Guerrero and Design by Sean E. Ali! Ebook Formatting by Russ Anderson!  Available now on Amazon and at and in ebook form at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble!  

SAVIOR!  From Pro Se Productions- Puttin' The Monthly Back In Pulp!

UNDERCOVER REVIEWS - Pulp Obscura: Richard Knight

Review By Nick Ahlhelm
(Full disclosure: I am a writer for other titles in Pro Se Press’ Pulp Obscura line.)
Outside of a few cover illustrations floating around the web, I was completely unfamiliar with Richard Knight when I started to read The New Adventures of Richard Knight.

The book opens with “Hell’s Hand” by Josh Reynolds. The story is a straight forward adventure tale set almost completely in the air. It’s a fun wild ride and a great way to start off any anthology.

Barry Reese’s “Richard Knight and the Stones of Heaven” feels the most like an old school pulp of the stories. It’s a big adventure that pits Knight against the creator of a death ray. “The Stones of Heaven” is a solid tale but it lacks punch as a follow-up to “Hell’s Hand”.

“The Bapet” by Terry Alexander is a strange little tale that throws Knight and company in to a fight with the namesake monster. The Bapet is basically an Indian variation of a vampire, albeit much more physically powerful. It is a bit of a strange story and seems a bit out of place in a book focused around a man that is basically an aviation hero.

I.A. Watson gives us “The Hostage Academy”, the strongest story in the book in this reviewer’s opinion. Knight’s love interest is apparently killed, but as the story unfolds we quickly learn far more is happening than a simple murder. Instead a dangerous madman is controlling powerful people through a cunning kidnapping plot and only Richard Knight can stop it. A great premise and solid storytelling make this a real standout in the pack.

“Fear From Above” by Frank Schildiner shows an obvious fandom of the classic comic character Airboy. Schildiner introduces a new villain called the Grandmaster, a character somewhat reminiscent of Airboy’s supernatural foe, Misery. The Grandmaster is an ancient, perhaps unkillable, monster that rampages across the airways. He proves to be a near impossible threat, but ultimately the heroic Richard Knight comes through in the end.

Adam Lance Garcia closes out the book with “Crimes of the Ancients”, sadly the weakest piece in the volume from one of its strongest authors. The story is a rather forgettable character piece that throws Knight in with a pair of uninteresting new allies/enemies. In the end it reads like a story that is trying to be a little too clever for what it is and falls flat on its face in the process.

Three great stories, two good ones and only one below average is a mark of a great anthology. The New Adventures of Richard Knight is well worth a buy by any pulp fan. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I’m In A New Pulp State Of Mind…♪♫♪

Yeah, it’s like the song says, I like to get away now and then, see what’s going on out
there, writing wise. So last winter I signed on to guest review a mainstream fantasy novel.
I have to admit, after not having read anything but pulp for a couple of years, it was a bit
jarring to have in hand a far bigger book of almost 600 pages, and a story that took its
time to set up. There were a lot of lush and interesting details in it that I know I would
never have the time or space to add to one of my current manuscripts. I used to devour
stories like that, and yes I very much enjoyed this one—once I made up my mind it was
perfectly all right to slow down and savor it. It was a very well written book, and reading
it reminded me that my writing roots have always been in mainstream fantasy, where the
stories are far longer and often more complex.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the old hometown and look around, to see where
you’ve come from. These days however, I live in the New Pulp world, and that’s okay,
because they actually know me here.

Would I write a mainstream novel? Oh sure, I’d be nuts not to! The material I’ve
scavenged for FORTUNE’S PAWN and its sequels came out of one of those big tomes,
though it got divided up and rewritten to appeal to the pulp crowd. I’d be more than
thrilled to be tapped for a big book of some kind—especially one that could wind up
on chain bookstore shelves (providing there are any still in business by then). But in all
honesty, I find myself gravitating more toward a pulpy perspective these days when it
comes to writing. I’ve become completely enamored with that hectic pacing and high
action and adventure of the New Pulp world of fiction. I like being able to turn out a
novel and a couple anthologies in one year. In the past seven months I’ve seen two novel
length books with my name on the cover. I have two more due this year, as well as short
stories and various other projects. I have even been given the honor of having my own
personal imprint under the company banner, and I also get to work with other writers in
my position as assistant editor. So I’m feeling plenty fulfilled, as far writing goes.

I recall when I first started writing; someone told me that the best way to learn to
write tight was to take on a local newspaper correspondent position. The idea was that
the columns are short and space is at a premium, so editors are quick to red pencil
superfluous material and demand rewrites. You learn rapidly to be clear and concise. I
can see the wisdom in that, though simple reporting is far removed from fiction writing,
where the reader has to be able to see the story setting and characters through your
carefully chosen words. Writing New Pulp has shown me how to describe scenes more
directly, and I know I’m far better at it now than I was before I sort of fell down the
rabbit hole into the pulp world. That pacing I mentioned helped me learn to concentrate
on just the nuts and bolts of the story, not adding extraneous material that doesn’t move
it forward. It also taught me the wisdom of keeping the action going to keep those pages
turning, which a lot of mainstream novels seem to miss for long stretches. I still tend to
write longwinded, but there’s more meat to it these days. And it has paid off, because
I’ve had more than one reader’s feedback that the books or stories of mine they read were
hard to put down.

That’s music to any writer’s ears!

I really would love to be able to support myself through my writing someday. It’s
something I think about every time I sit down here at the PC. It’s the thing that glues my
butt to the chair and gets my fingers dancing over the keys. To have a second chance
in this life, and instead of working at some 9-5 job or choosing a career path I’m only
mildly enthusiastic about, I’d love to be able to make a living doing what I enjoy so
much. Oh sure, writing gives me fits some days, and all the self-promotion and fanfare
about getting your stuff out there to be read is very wearying. I love it anyway. I’d love it
even more if I got paid well for doing it though… For me it’s not about the fame; nothing
like being able to walk into a fancy restaurant and instantly be recognized, or even flying
first class. I’d just love to see regular royalty checks that help pay the bills, and maybe
offer me a chance to have some retirement years’ health insurance. I’d like just enough
money coming in at a reasonably steady clip to have a comfortable and fairly secure old

With that said, if I never make it above this level, where we’re all scraping money
together to put out books and attend conventions, I’ll still be satisfied. I am writing
stories I feel really good about, and getting them into the hands of readers fairly quickly.
It’s pretty exciting to know you have something new coming out on a regular basis. I love
sitting down here to work at the keyboard, watching the story evolve on the screen before
me, thinking about what new twists and unexpected events I can toss into it this time.
I wouldn’t want to ever lose that feeling of wonder when a project is completed, and
become jaded and pessimistic about what I do. This is just too rewarding for me, at least
in the mental and emotional sense.

So when I read that big book—which has been #2 on the New York Times Bestseller
List—I did it without any trace of envy. The author earned her kudos, because it’s well
written and captivating. But I am no less ashamed of my own small novel and the tinier
circles it moves in. Like that author, I’ve been writing for a while too, and this is also my
first published work of fiction; the initial book of a three novel series. I’m sure we both
had the same sleepless nights, lost afternoons, pie-in-the-sky hopes and dreams for what
was coming out of the keyboard and winding up on the page. The process is the same,
even if the end result varies. I’ve been blessed in my own small way to have been able to
grab hold of that gold ring on the publishing carousel, something many people never get
the chance to do. I’m not in any place to complain.

So yeah, I’m going to keep writing New Pulp, and see where it takes me. At the very
least, I am doing something I love and feel good about, which is more than a lot of folks
can say today. I’ll keep promoting it and chatting with people about it too, because that’s
a passion of mine. This is not just some small underground group of pseudo publishing,
but a seriously committed and exponentially growing movement toward getting action
adventure tales back into the hands of eager readers. That’s a really fine goal, and if all
I ever get to do is contribute to that, I’ll be content. But if things heat up down the road,
and I manage to lift my work a couple more rungs up the ladder of success, I promise
you, I won’t forget the lessons I’ve learned these last two years. I’m very proud to be a
member of the burgeoning New Pulp community. That feeling I’ll never lose.

Now I am going back to writing, and you should too.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bold Venture Bulletins # 7

Radio Daze

Ever wonder why certain pulp heroes never had their own radio programs?

Pulp fans routinely gather at pulp-themed conventions and speculate on such matters. Why wasn’t there a Doc Savage movie serial, and who could have played him? What would a Spider radio show have been like? If only there had been an Avenger comic strip.

Chances are you never considered The Domino Lady for a radio series. Her profile has been raised considerably in the past seven years, so I took the liberty of answering the question, “What would a Domino Lady show have been like?”

In late April 2012, the AudioComics Company ( will debut a series of pulp-themed audio dramas. Leading the charge is The Domino Lady, the original femme fatale from Saucy Romantic Adventures. She appeared in six stories, originally published in 1936, and then quietly disappeared. For nearly seven decades, only pulp magazine collectors remembered her.

The Domino Lady has a special place in my heart. I became aware of her through the pulp fanzines. The late Kristen Ladnier’s enthusiasm for the character led me to consider publishing a book compiling her half-dozen adventures.

When I first announced the project, everyone asked, “Why the Domino Lady?” She was a third-tier character that interested no one. She had become a joke, depicted in fanzine illustrations more appropriate for a Tijuana Bible.

Reading the original stories, bylined “Lars Anderson”, revealed a different character – Ellen Patrick, her true identity, was young and beautiful, sassy and sophisticated. Her adventures were crafted to titillate as much as thrill, but she was a cosmopolitan woman.
I chose to rescue her from the pornographic quagmire to which her reputation had sunk. To that end, I commissioned the legendary Jim Steranko to create a new cover and “title page dramatizations” for each story.

“We’ll present the Domino Lady,” Steranko assured me, “with the same beauty and grace with which she was created.”

Compliments of the Domino Lady (Bold Venture Press) was unveiled to the reading public on Christmas Eve 2004. That’s right about the time people started receiving their copies. What timing -- And what as pulpy present!

She was given a new lease on pop-culture life. Fans changed their assessment of the character. The book inspired New Pulp maverick Ron Fortier to assemble new stories for Domino Lady: Sex As A Weapon (Moonstone Books, 2009). Those who thumbed their nose at the character were probably begging to contribute.

Since I started the dominoes a-falling, I wanted to contribute to the anthology. My plot involved skullduggery at the 1935 California Pacific Exposition, a sprawling fairground of culture, history, oddities and amusements. I hadn’t given myself enough time to properly research (or describe) the Expo. I panicked and the writing stalled.

I bluffed my way through “writer’s block” by turning the story into a “vintage” radio drama, complete with music and sound effects cues. This approach gave the story a unique quality, distinguishing it from the other contributions, and did an end-run around the Dreaded Deadline Doom.

And that was that ... the story was exclusive to the hardcover edition. Most reviewers consult the paperback, never mentioning my script. That’s show business.

Audio Drama
I began corresponding with Lance Roger Axt, one of the creative madmen associated with AudioComics Company in November 2010. They had sent out a press release promoting Starstruck, an audio adaptation of the graphic novel by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta. Pulp-themed audio dramas were mentioned among their future projects.

In response to Lance’s interest in the Domino Lady, I forwarded the script from Sex As A Weapon. It met with their interest and approval. Suddenly, Ellen Patrick was now a pioneer in this new endeavor!

In early 2011, I met Lance Roger Axt and Bill Dufris, the men behind the AudioComics Company, at a convention in Long Island City, NY. They were directing a performance of Starstruck that weekend, and promoting AudioComics. I dragged along C.J. Henderson, whose “Return of the Originals” story Battle For L.A. (Moonstone Books, 2011) had piqued their interest. Huddled within close range of the breakfast buffet, we hashed out ideas regarding Battle For L.A. and Domino Lady, and talked shop.

Since then, I’ve been introduced (via telephone) to Karen Stilwell, the lovely actress bringing Ellen Patrick to life, and I’ve heard an actual cast rehearsal. The drama had played out across the landscape of my imagination thousands of times, complete with music and sound effects. It was strange to listen passively to something I had been so actively involved in creating, but satisfying to hear the actors’ interpretations of my dialogue and narration.

More Episodes
A week ago, I completed the second of three scripts. The newest storyline is replete with delightful ambiances and staccato bursts of gunfire and mayhem. The original Domino Lady stories were more sedate – though their scope increased with each installment – but my second script ramps up the action.

More importantly, the remaining installments take greater advantage of the power of the imagination. Part one of All’s Fair In War features a “general carnival ambiance”. Otherwise, most of the scenes boil down to people having indoor conversation or confrontation. The second script makes better use of the California Pacific Exposition and its colorful adult playground.

While ambiance and music is important, eventually audio drama is about people overcoming (or creating) conflict. As in every conversation, there is usually a dominant speaker and a more submissive participant. One character imparts information, or gives direction, while the other character replies or acts. Often, the characters may switch roles more than once in a scene.

Writing audio dialogue is akin to writing a song – you ain’t got a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.

Also, how to impart exposition without the characters simply orating on their history? In prose, the third-person narrator can disperse information freely. For audio, I ration information like tiny crumbs – Sprinkle a few here and there, then dispense more when appropriate.

Hardboiled author Carroll John Daly claimed he began a new paragraph whenever too many black lines ran together. Likewise, reading aloud to the household pets, I know it’s time for another character to speak up if I begin rushing through dialogue.

Audio drama is not a visual medium, so it may not be appropriate for car chases and full-scale gunfights. Undaunted, I forged ahead and The Domino Lady’s second episode features a shoot-out reminiscent of The Untouchables television series. These are pulp fiction characters, after all, so we need to have a large dollop of Thunder in the blood and thunder.

The goal is determine which information must be “spelled out” and which action can be hinted at through sound. When two characters are approaching a flight of stairs, I want to keep the story moving. “Ah, the staircase is right here,” and “Yes, let’s begin walking up the stairs,” just isn’t going to cut it.

So, if one character pulls a gun, he might yell, “Freeze!” while the other character implores, “Don’t shoot!” The seasoned pulp reader – whom I suppose is an educated, intelligent fellow or lady – assumes that the first speaker is pointing a gun.

Since I think visually, as I’m writing the script, I’m imagining actors in costume and decorated sets. Then I rewrite to make certain the scenes aren’t “too visual”, so that audiences will interpret the scene correctly. It can be a very schizophrenic process.
I proposed a Domino Lady one-shot comic to Moonstone publisher Joe Gentile, placing the Domino Lady at the California Pacific Exposition. Not a mere adaptation, but a brand new story to cross-promote the AudioComics drama. This would provide a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the visual elements of the Expo, which can only be hinted at in audio drama.

Many of the Exposition’s buildings were declared historical monuments, and are standing in San Diego’s Balboa Park in the present day. Should make it easy for an illustrator to reference.

Now the challenge with a comic book is to avoid the pitfalls of audio drama – one medium deals almost entirely with dialogue. Too little description results in a sound effects smorgasbord. Comic Books, on the other hand, thrive on eye-popping visuals. Too many panels of people conversing and sipping martinis, unless they happen to be beautiful nude women, is a commercial kiss of death.

Hopefully, the comic proposal takes flight – the result would be a comic and audio drama that compliment and cross-promote each other. Then again, I never imagined that my innocent “vintage radio drama” would go this far.

Who knows what the future holds for the lovely Domino Lady?

Rich Harvey is a New Jersey-based writer and graphic designer.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Review By Ron Fortier

By Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane
Titan Books
241 pages
Available May 2012

After returning home from World War II, veteran Mickey Spillane was prepared to go back to his civilian job of writing comics. But instead, he opted to take an idea for a new comic series and turn it into a private eye novel called, “I, The Jury.” Released in 1947, it was the first book to feature tough-as-nails Mike Hammer. (His last name pretty much defining everything he was about.) The book was a phenomenal success and the publisher was eager to get Spillane to do more. Three years later the first Mike Hammer sequel, “My Gun is Quick” appeared on the bookstore shelves and became as big a seller as the first. Both Spillane and his creation were on their way to becoming literary icons.

When Spillane passed away several years ago, he left his notes and such to his friend and protégé, Max Allan Collins. Among these files were bits and pieces of unfinished Mike Hammer mysteries. Getting the green light from several excited publishers, Collins set about finishing these projects and getting them in print. Thus far we’ve seen three;
“The Goliath Bone” (2008), “The Big Bang” (2010) and last year’s “Kiss Her Goodbye.”
Now comes the fourth and perhaps the most anxiously awaited of the entire lot. You see, according to Collins’ prologue notes, “Lady, Go Die” is actually the original sequel Spillane had intended to follow “I, The Jury.” Why he never finished it and instead completed and offered up “My Gun is Quick” is a puzzle no one will ever be able to fully solve. Still, it adds a generous slice of real mystery to this story that was envisioned by one of the greatest writers of our times nearly seventy years ago.

Taking up where the first Hammer book left off, “Lady, Go Die” finds the irascible P.I. and his gorgeous brunette secretary, Velda, traveling to a little beach resort town in Long Island for some R & R. Velda and Hammer’s cop pal, Det. Pat Chambers, think the emotional battering he suffered in his first case has left Hammer in need of some quiet time. Alas, as they discover all too speedily, Hammer’s personal shadow is called Trouble. No sooner does the couple arrive in Sidon, nearly deserted in its off-season, then they witness the brutal beating of a slow-witted drifter by three policemen, one known to Hammer as a dirty cop from the City.

Hammer steps in, pounds a few heads and rescues the helpless young man. Within hours, he and Velda learn that the small community is in a tizzy, as its most popular citizen, a famous ex-dancer turned media celebrity has vanished without a trace. Days later, her nude body is found draped over the stone statue of a horse in the park on the public beach.

Hammer smells the familiar odor of corruption and begins to investigate on his own. He soon learns the dead woman’s mansion was in actuality a secret gambling casino being fronted by a mob personality whose identity is carefully hidden. As if that weren’t enough to keep Hammer and Velda busy, dodging lead and wrestling with gangster muscle, their inquiries also unearth other, supposedly unrelated murders; all of young women in neighboring towns and counties. Now the savvy Hammer has to follow two different trails and decide if they connect or not. Suddenly he’s confronting dangerous mob gunsels at the same time hunting a twisted serial killer who may be targeting his next victim.

“Lady, Go Die” is another terrific Mike Hammer caper that moves non-stop like a flying cheetah across the reader’s field of imagination and comes to a pouncing kill in a truly classic Spillane finale. A big tip of the pulp fedora to this one, gents.


Review By Nick Ahlhelm

I have mentioned before how I think sports pulps are overlooked by a lot of the New Pulp publishers currently creating new pulp fiction, my own Pulp Empire included. Thankfully the modern publishing industry makes it easy for just about anyone to fill that void. Enter crime writer and LA police officer Paul Bishop and veteran genre writer Mel Odom.

Together they created “Jack Tunney” a collective pseduonym they could use to publish their own line of boxing fiction under.

Bishop’s entry is called Felony Fists and it is pure pulp crime fiction through and through. Our narrator and star is Patrick “Felony” Flynn. Flynn grew up in an orphanage, his brother (and star of Odom’s “Fight Card” novel) his only family. He grew up a boxer, but went first to the army as an adult. Now it’s 1954 and he’s an L.A. cop with an intense hatred of police corruption and organized crime.

Specifically his target is Mickey Cohen, the city’s top gangster and a man that wants to control boxing on the west coast. Flynn still boxes as an amateur, but he’s far from being able to stop Cohen’s chosen fighter: Solomon King.

That quickly changes when Flynn is recruited by Parker, chief of the police detective ‘Hat Squad’. Teamed with Cornel ‘Tombstone’ Jones, the city’s first black detective, Flynn finds himself on a dual mission: search the city for Cohen’s criminal ties while also training to become the best boxer in the world.

His goal: beat Solomon King and sideline Cohen’s shot at the championship.

While the plot is complex and the work is short, it never gets in the way of the characters. They move through the story with singular motivation, but never fail to be compelling.

The boxing sequences are always well written and the technical lingo is never too much even for a boxing novice like this reviewer.

Felony Fists is available through Amazon in low price print and Kindle editions. Either is worth the price. Recommended.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Table Talk: Drafting Procedures II

Welcome back to Table Talk. Last week, Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock unpacked writing drafts. We thought this was such a good question that we went to some other experts to see what they had to say.

So, without further adieu, we'd like to welcome to Table Talk New Pulp authors Derrick Ferguson, Sean Taylor and Van Allen Plexico.

Question: What are you trying to accomplish with the first draft of a story -- is it mainly about getting the story out as quickly as possible and then fixing it in the editing stages or do you try to get the technical aspects right from the start, figuring you can tweak the story in revision?

Derrick: The first draft of my stories are always just pure STORY. I don't worry about anything technical at all. My first drafts are always huge, sloppy messes as I allow myself the luxury of going off into tangents, putting in scenes that have nothing to do with the story but come to me as I'm writing, whatever. After all, nobody's going to see my first draft so why not have fun and entertain myself while I'm doing it?

It's in the subsequent two drafts that I do the technical stuff and whack away the fat that bloats the story.

Sean: For me the first draft is about exactly that, getting the story down, but I tend to redraft as I write sometimes, especially as the character take over and spin out new directions. Then I have to go back to fix old "maps" in the story, even if it's not done. When I'm finished with a final draft, it's really more of a third draft before I ever hit "the end." What I end up fixing after that is proofreading and replacing weak words and sections with stronger ones, but the plot doesn't change much at all after that draft is done.

Van: The summary/outline stage is where I try to get the story out as quickly as possible. My memory for details is so bad in the short term, I have to note everything down as soon as I think of it, or it'll probably be gone within a few hours or a day.

I always try to write as full and clean a first draft as possible. I can do this mostly because I've done such a detailed outline and summary in as much depth and detail as possible beforehand.

I would say that probably three out of every five times I write a first draft, it's pretty close to being ready for the editor to see it when it's done. The main changes I make in second drafts on those occasions are generally just word choice and adding a few extra details where needed. The other two times out of five, I find major issues that require serious work--sometimes up to and including tossing whole sections out and starting over.

Question: When outlining, for those who do, how much information do you put into the outline stage? I know some writers whose outlines are roughly the size of a small book itself and others, like myself, whose outlines don’t fill a full sheet of paper. What method works best for you guys?

Derrick: I consider my first draft, the messy sloppy draft I was just talking about AS my outline. I honestly can't tell what I have to work with unless I write the story down, then I can read it objectively and say; "Okay, so THIS is what I'm trying to say here" and work from there. I know writers who use notecards to utline and even draw up diagrams and such. And if that works for them, that's cool. Me, I usually start a story/novel with a buncha hastily scribbled notes and a general idea of the major scenes and points I have to hit. But how I get there is a map I'd rather discover as I make the journey.

Sean: My outline could almost be called a skeleton draft for lack of a better word. I put a lot of time into my plots and usually write out a full plot document that highlights key scenes and even includes dialog. My plot outline if more a treatment (like a movie) or pitch (like a comic or novel) than it is just an outline.

Van: I need to include everything that I can possibly think of in the outline/summary stage. I want the story to be as close to "complete" as possible in the outline and in my head before I begin to type the very first sentence. The single thing that is most likely to cause me to get the equivalent of "writers' block" on a project and just bog down is simply not being sure what happens next, or where the story is going, or how it ends. Once I know (and outline) those things to my own satisfaction, even if only fairly loosely, I'm good to go with the actual writing.

Doing it this way also makes it much less likely that I will miss opportunities to tie things together, set up things that pay off later, include all the cool little scenes and moments I can think of, and so on. I'm sure there are plenty of writers who can keep all this stuff safely in their brains and thus not need to do it this way; unfortunately, I've learned the hard way (by forgetting too much cool stuff!) that I don't have much of a choice. I have to jot it all down while it's still fresh!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Table Talk: Drafting Procedures

Welcome back to Table Talk, a column where New Pulp authors Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock gibber-gabber about whatever writing related thoughts come to mind. This week, the fellas explore the work before the work.

Question: What are you trying to accomplish with the first draft of a story -- is it mainly about getting the story out as quickly as possible and then fixing it in the editing stages or do you try to get the technical aspects right from the start, figuring you can tweak the story in revision?

Bobby: For me, getting the first draft down quickly is important, but I try to get it as right as possible and then go back over it and tweak it where needed afterward. Usually, this means adding set ups, moving or removing blocks of text, or just fixing mistakes I made in the first draft. I’m especially bad about repeating words so those are caught (hopefully) and corrected in the second draft.

Regardless, no first draft is ever perfect. This was one of those early lessons that my ego had to learn. No matter how much I might like to think every word I write is pure gold, more often than not the first draft is a hunk of lead with gold spray paint on it. Ha! Ha!

Mike: For me there is no one answer to this. Sometimes the first draft just nails what I'm after and I only need to do minor revisions afterward. In other cases, the first draft is really just me trying to explore the story and see where it takes me, then the second draft is what nails it. Other times, I work an outline first, then do all the heavy lifting in the first real draft.

Barry: For most projects, my intent is to get the first draft done as quickly as possible, hitting on all the main points. I use this draft to work out the story and see if there’s anything that I haven’t thought through well enough. I can always go back and adjust it all after I’ve gotten the first draft done… but I don’t generally do any editing until the first draft is complete.

Bobby: When outlining, for those who do, how much information do you put into the outline stage? I know some writers whose outlines are roughly the size of a small book itself and others, like myself, whose outlines don’t fill a full sheet of paper. What method works best for you guys?

Barry: I don’t outline. If what I’m working on is really complex, I might create a file that includes a series of names and brief lines of text – for example: Joe Smith (plumber, witnesses murder, dies?). But those are just to remind me of things that I think I might forget along the way. Outlining is the number one way I can kill any enthusiasm I might have for a project.

Bobby: I’m right there with you, Barry. I’ve tried outlining, but what I find is that when I start working on the actual writing I’m bored because I feel like I’ve already told this story and don’t feel like telling it again.

Barry: Yeah, the thrill of discovery is important to me in terms of enjoying a project. Even doing the requisite “pitch” for a story has to be handled cautiously. I want to give enough information for them to approve the story and know where it’s going to go but I don’t want to lay it all out there, either. I need room for improvisation.

Mike: I outline most of my comic scripts, then break it down further to what happens on each page before I do the actual first draft of the script. With short stories I find myself getting away from that more, and sticking with a very loose plot I've worked out in my head beforehand. With my Runemaster novel, I put together a very rough outline, that was barely more than a few paragraphs, mainly to use as a road map so that I make sure, when writing the first draft, I'm always moving towards the intended conclusion.

Bobby: With shorter pieces, I have recently started writing notes and bullet points directly into my Word Document so they are easily seen as I write. I also add character names so I make sure I spell them right, or more importantly, don’t forget they’re there. Once the story is done I just delete that part It seems to be working for me so far.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So... Why Pulp: Being in Your Write Mind

It’s no secret, I write a lot. It’s what I love to do, and currently I don’t have a day job. But there comes a point where that urge to get something on the page is defeated by what is going on around me. I’m not talking about the stack of unread books piling up, or the hottest online game that is calling my name so seductively. Oh they’re temptations all right, but much more easily avoided. I’m thinking about the hardcore situations, like a fight with the spouse, family illness, loss of a job, head pounding noise in the background… you know, those days or weeks when life gets in the way. What do you do to overcome that kind of distraction and find all your marbles so that you can still hit a deadline?

Well, I hate to tell you kiddo, but unless your heart is made of stone, and you have titanium nerves, you can’t. There are just some situations that are going to preempt writing. If it’s serious enough to be life altering to you or your family, and the need is immediate for you to be there, fire off an email or phone call to whoever is waiting, briefly explain the situation, and then get back to it. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t had to take time off to deal with some personal challenge. Nine times out of ten you’ll find empathy on the other end, and your inability to meet your writing obligations will be understood. That tenth time… well that person is just going to have to sit and grumble, because crises do have to be dealt with. As long as that unwanted sabbatical isn’t a regular thing, there should be no repercussions. Most small publishers are running a shoestring budget, so yeah, it sucks when you have to hold things up; but we adjust and move on.

The trick here is to be able to tell the difference between an actual catastrophic situation and something that can be worked around. That’s not always as simple as you think! When you have a pressing project and things are not going well with the actual writing, it’s easy to let background situations become major distractions. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about!

Yeah, me too. I have one of those going on right now. The hot water heater here on the farm, which is our future home under renovation, bit the big one last night. Not terribly conducive to showering or anything else that requires more that liquid ice from the tap. I have an appointment tomorrow, so I will be heading back to the old homestead where most of the family and pets are still living, and staying at least overnight so I can shower and do all those things that require hot running water. Ah, but my PC stays here, and there are going to be frustrated guys swearing and thumping things around all day, when my netbook needs a battery boost. It’s another unexpected expense, and that really nags me too. I could blow off writing for the day because I’m upset about all that’s going on around me I suppose…

No, I’m not giving in to that. This is an unfortunate and inconvenient situation, but it can be worked around. In fact it’s the perfect opportunity to retrieve that time doing laundry and other chores, eat takeout off paper plates, and concentrate more on writing. This column is due by tomorrow night, so I am working on it today while my netbook battery charges. That’s why I have the portable machine, so I can take my writing to go. Saved on a flash card, I can pick up where I left off once I am at the other house. In the meantime, if it gets noisy here, I have headphones. As far as worrying about what’s going on, writing is the perfect distraction. I’ve done what I can about the situation and no amount of over-thinking it is going to help.

That’s what I call being in my ‘write’ mind. You learn to shove what has been dealt with aside, and go to work. It takes practice and self-discipline, but if you want writing to be your career like I do, it’s vital. You have to know when to say no to people, how to still those nagging inner demons that are looking to distract you, and get back down to business. And writing is a business, as well as an art form, because if you don’t treat it as such, you’re not making the transition from hobbyist to full time writer. I’m determined that someday I’m going to get paid for what I do at this keyboard, and so I treat it like I would any job. I show up at work just about every day around the same time, and do what I know I should be doing, as if I had a time clock to punch and a boss watching me. That’s the attitude you need to cultivate as a pro. You can’t wait until the time is right, the stars are aligned, and the entire world is in perfect harmony. I take the muse by the short hairs and hold his toes to the fire of creation. Over time, it gets easier to wring something out of yourself.

Besides this column, I’m working on a difficult writing project right now, one where I am completely out of my element and tackling a brand new genre that I have very little experience with. I knew I would struggle with it, and so I began it long before my late summer deadline. I’ve already done a lot of research, have some ideas on paper, and have started the actual story. This early launch assures me that if I hit a tough patch I can back off a bit before I get overly frustrated, and go work on something else for a few days. That’s kind of like getting back on the bicycle you fell off and riding somewhere else, so that your mind doesn’t register a general fear of bicycles. I can work at a relaxed pace, yet it adds time padding in case some more crushing deadline looms. Since I do editing for Pro Se, and that often involves someone else’s deadline, my schedule can change overnight. Part of being in the ‘write’ mind is not procrastinating, or putting off the hard stuff until last. Get it out of the way first, and things go far more smoothly later.

Another thing that is important for us writers in this over-connected day and age is to decide when and where to stay in touch. It’s very easy to while away the writing hours online, making Facebook and Twitter updates, checking and answering email, and then getting sucked into something else like chat or games. Same thing with the new phones, where you can do everything but make toast. (There’s probably an app for that…) Because I don’t know what else you do in your real life, I won’t presume to tell you what parts of those things are important. I will say how I manage the online networking and cell phone time, and why.

I have a cell phone, and it is my lifeline to family and services. On the farm right now, it’s my only phone. I keep it well charged for that reason. What I don’t have is a data plan or unlimited texting. I don’t text unless it’s absolutely necessary; not because I don’t know how but because I refuse to. First of all, I’d rather talk than type. I write all day long, why would I want to tap more buttons on a miniscule keypad? Secondly, texting quickly becomes a black hole of time-sucking minutes that take over your day. The people who have my number know that they can call me if they need me. I have voicemail, so I will answer now or call back ASAP. I can still type a few words or save my work while talking. As far as the other things you can do with cell phones these days, I don’t really want them. They are conveniences, but also a huge distraction. I need my mind on my work.

I love the social networking sites. I’m on both Google+ and Facebook (not a big Twitter fan—too fiddly) and I use them to communicate with family, friends, other writers, and anyone else interested in what I’m up to. I regularly use email and have several accounts designated for certain things. Unless I’m waiting for some kind of information or need a question answered immediately, I make morning and evening rounds online. The bulk of my day is off the social sites, out of chat, and not excessively checking email. I do have the internet up, playing background music that I write by, with another tab for, and one for Google searches in case I need inspiration or information for a story. Just as if I was in a company workplace, I stay off the personal sites as much as possible while writing. I need to be able to concentrate on what I’m doing, and I’m not that good at splitting my attention. I never edit while doing something else; that is asking for trouble. I am sure to miss something vital and that’s not fair to the person whose work I am responsible for.

Settling down to work from home or in some remote location is never easy. You have to cultivate a mindset that this is important, and nothing that isn’t more pressing should interfere with it. Most of us writers who turn out quite a bit of material have a few little rituals we indulge in that help our minds get into that groove where things get done. For me, I have designated areas that I write from, my PC and netbook have programs I find useful (and no games), and I save after every session on several portable drives as ‘grab-and-go’ backup. My desk here on the farm is in the dining room and faces the wall, but I have a window on the left that has a view of the driveway and the one on the right looks out at a birdfeeder and over the field. I keep things around me that support my writing, like my daily word count tally sheet, and that all important army ammo can full of dark chocolate, my brain stimulant and reward. I have music selected for certain moods and headphones ready to be plugged in if the background noise is intolerable, as it often is on renovation days. My cell phone is within reach, assuring me that I can make and receive calls when necessary.

I select my equipment to fit my writing style, with the most ergonomic devices that are still conducive to comfortable working. I have an office chair that fits my desk and height well (I’m short), and use an orthopedic cushion and a heating pad on the bad back days. I chose a big 24” monitor for easy viewing, and desktop tools that I know work for me. I even have a backlit keyboard for nighttime writing with the room lights off. When I sit down, I’m ready to go. Sure you can write on anything; a pad with a pencil, or bang out a story with an old manual typewriter, but this is the stuff that makes me happy. You need to do the same—set up your workspace with as much ease and incentive as you can put into it, because the more you have going for you, the more actual writing you’re going to get done.

So give that some thought. If you want to be in your ‘write’ mind, make sure the environment you work in, and the mindset you bring to it, reflect that this is serious business. Writing should be fulfilling, but if it’s also a vocation goal, you need to treat it like one. It takes a bit of planning and a lot of temperance along with a will to get things done. My rules are not necessarily yours; you need to find your own comfort zone within your personal life. When you do, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish even in just a short period of time on a regular basis.

Now go write something!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I’m primarily aware of PulpWork through Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon novels. Ferguson is a recurring member of the Pulped! podcast, so though I haven’t yet read one of his books, they’re one of the things I want to try first when I finish this overview of New Pulp publishers and actually start reading. There are currently three books in the series: Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell, and Four Bullets for Dillon. I’m a start-at-the-beginning kind of reader, so Dillon and the Voice of Odin would be going on my reading pile first even if it wasn’t available for free on Ferguson’s website. He’s currently working on a fourth book with the promising title, Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira.

Speaking of pirates (as I love to do) and looking at the rest of PulpWork’s catalog, Joel Jenkins’ The Pirates of Mirror Land has a great Toy Story meets Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland sound to it. And with John Carter firmly on everyone’s minds, now also seems like a good time to check out Jenkins’ Burroughs-esque Dire Planet series. And finally – only because I can’t read everything at once and need to stop this list somewhere – I’m going to need to check out Jenkins’ The Sea Witch, just because I love that title.

That’s plenty to keep me busy for a while, but as usual I also wanted to talk to someone at PulpWork about the company and its contribution to the New Pulp landscape. Jenkins was kind enough to answer my questions.

Michael May: Joel, what’s the short history of PulpWork? What was missing in the publishing world that you wanted to provide?

Joel Jenkins: After the dissolution of Frontier Publications, Josh [Reynolds, another PulpWork author], Derrick, and I had developed a few characters and concepts, as well as some full length novels, and were looking for a venue for pulp-inspired writings. We did find some publishers, and some of our work was published through them, but there were a number of difficulties that led us to conclude that we could form our own publishing cooperative to make our work available to anyone who might be disposed toward our peculiar niche of fantastic fiction.

Michael: Can you tell me more about Frontier? What was that and - as much as you feel comfortable talking about - how did it dissolve?

Joel: Frontier was a web-based publication that published serialized fiction on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. I wasn't privy to the inner-workings of Frontier, but I suspect it dissolved due to creative differences, or perhaps the demands of maintaining and updating such an ambitious endeavor became too much.

Michael: What differentiates PulpWork’s books from those of other pulp-inspired publishers?

Joel: Though we’re not opposed to using public domain characters (exhibit A: Josh Reynolds' Dracula novel), the main thrust of our efforts is to provide original characters and original pulp-inspired fiction. Also, two major differentiating factors are that we have the formidable talents and deadly quills of both Josh Reynolds and Derrick Ferguson at our disposal!

Michael: Where did the name PulpWork come from?

Joel: Pulp is a reference to the imaginative, ubiquitous, and action-packed fiction of the 1930s that was printed on cheap paper that actually had pulp flecks in it. Our trio of founders finds great inspiration in that style of writing. Work...well, it takes a lot of work to write a novel and get it to market.

Michael: Is there a PulpWork book that you’d recommend to someone who’s never read one of your books? Where's the perfect place for new readers to start in your catalog that will let them know what PulpWork is all about?

Joel: For just a taste try out our PulpWork Christmas Special, available for Kindle at just 99 cents. It features a horror tale by Josh Reynolds and a Christmas Eve assassination attempt written by myself. For more filling fare – and a “James Bond meets Cthulhu” vibe – check out Dillon and the Golden Bell. For horror, check out Dracula Lives or Devil Take the Hindmost. For Edgar Rice Burroughs-style, Martian adventure try the Dire Planet series. Fans of globetrotting adventure may want to check out the upcoming Dragon Kings of the Orient.

Michael: Let’s say someone has somehow enjoyed every PulpWork title available and is still craving more like it. What classic literature would you suggest he or she read that would be comparable to yours?

Joel: The reason we slave over our word processors is to feed that craving. We'll be supplying more shortly! However, there is no dearth of great classic fiction by Robert E. Howard (Conan and Solomon Kane), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Warlord of Mars, Tarzan), HP Lovecraft (horrific horror), Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Dashiell Hammett (hardboiled detective), Dumas (The Three Musketeers) and others.

Michael: Thank you for talking with me!