Thursday, December 20, 2012

So... Why Pulp?

‘Tis The Season Of Pulpy Giving

At this time of year, the majority of us are thinking holiday gifting. So I thought I’d throw out a few ideas for what to give your favorite pulp writer or artist. There should be something in here for every budget, if you think creatively.

First of all, most of us are readers as well as creators, so books are quite appreciated. Certainly, we’d love reprints of classic pulps as well as works of modern authors in the pulp world. Don’t be afraid to look outside of pulp either, we often have eclectic tastes. Coffee table collections of classic pulp art are out there, and they make great inspirational page turning. Reference books are never a bad idea either, because we all can use them. Talk to your local bookstore or take a cyber jaunt through the online booksellers, and see what is available. Or just ask your pulpy friend or loved one what she or he really would love to read, I’m sure you’ll get a bunch of things to choose from. Most of us have a far larger wish list than we have funds. Gift cards are always welcome, and have the advantage of allowing the reader to wait until there’s a new release we’re coveting or a sale where you can get extra ‘bang’ for every buck. One of those E-readers or a tablet might be just the ticket too. Not all of them are expensive, and they allow you to carry an extensive library around at a fraction of the cost with no more weight than the device itself. There are a lot of public domain literature freebies out there for downloading, so you’ll be giving a gift that keeps rewarding.

Movies and TV show collections are crowd pleasers, both as relaxation and inspiration. You will need to think beyond the ubiquitous Tarentino flick, but there’s plenty to choose from. Any fast paced, hard driving, action adventure story with a heroic twist in just about any genre would work, so the sky is the limit. Ask what your favorite writer or artist is working on and find something in the same vein. All of us love to chat about what’s in the works these days, so a couple of judiciously pitched queries will garner you plenty of ideas. If you don’t know what to choose, a paid subscription to some streaming video such as Netflix of HULU Plus would fit the bill, or maybe a movie cinema gift certificate so we can afford to get out once in a while. Most of us are chronically under-funded and overworked, and could use a change of scenery. It’s good to be reminded that there is a world full of ideas living outside our heads.

Give the gift of music! Most writers and artists I know have some favorite tunes or recording stars we love to have playing in the background while we’re working. Personal taste aside, anything that relaxes or energizes will influence good working vibes, and that’s going to go over well. Don’t overlook the soundtracks to cherished movies; those are great mood setters for projects. Whether digital downloads or CDs, there are always gift cards so your creative person can do their own cherry picking. A portable playing device will always be welcome, though a lot of folks do everything on their favorite electronic gizmo. And, while you’re at it, an excellent set of headphones is also a thoughtful gift. I know from personal experience, being able to screen out background noise and accomplish something while sitting in the middle of chaos often depends on slipping those muffs over my ears and cranking up the volume. Yes, there are earbuds that will do the same thing without all the bulk, so shop around a bit. I just happen to prefer the big headsets, but not everyone does. If you don’t know, snoop! Or ask…

Supplies are always needed, whether it’s printer paper, writing utensils and sketch pads, memory cards and flash drives, business card stock, or other coveted tools of the trade. Even a desk calendar or a rolodex can be a big labor saver in keeping addresses, appointments, and deadlines handy, thus avoiding frayed nerves. Light boxes and other tools of the drawing/painting trade can be expensive and tricky to choose, so a gift certificate to the artist’s favorite shop can go a long way in making bigger ticket item affordable. If you go to an office supply store, look for archival pens, so we can sign our books and prints without cheap ink eating away at the pages. Storage solutions for said supplies can be inexpensive and creative, whether purchased from the big box discount place and jazzed up a bit, or fabricated from repurposed thrift store baskets, painted/fabric covered cans and flower pots. A little creativity and some trims, and the desk or worktable is going to be a lot neater, with supplies more easily at hand.

If you’re at all technically inclined; upgrading memory or hardware, installing a new word processing program, additional font pack, or graphics program; even getting that all-in-one printer to talk to the PC, will be greatly appreciated. With the increasing use of Skype interviews, online podcasts, and video conferences; a stand microphone, webcam, or microphone headset are all very welcome. An ergonomic or backlit keyboard (personal fave there) and a good quality mouse makes the workday easier. A bigger monitor is a blessing when eyes are tired, time is short and the midnight oil is a burnin’. Time and funds are generally in short supply and most of us pulp geeks aren’t as technically savvy as we’d like to be. A lot of us are limping through with old, outdated equipment.

Nothing makes getting down to work easier than having a good workplace setup. A new desk, drawing table, or a far more comfortable chair can make a whale of difference in what you accomplish and how you feel by the end of the session. Even a small, inexpensive file cabinet or bookcase dedicated to keeping things most used at hand is a thoughtful gift. You don’t have to outlay a lot of cash for that, but think in terms of store certificates that allow the recipient to go pick something out. My family often chips in on those big ticket items that are just too expensive for one person to afford.

A dedicated ‘office’ coffeemaker and a selection of imported brews, a basket full of teas and mugs, a couple cases of soda, or some other beverage of choice that your hardworking scribe or ink-slinger prefers will bring big smiles. Ditto snacks or easy-to-fix foods, because we’re always pressed for time. Consider gift certificates to one of those tony coffee shops or the local donut & joe-to-go purveyor, because now and then, we all deserve a treat. Dark chocolate and decaf coffee or tea is always welcome in this writer’s household!

Con-wear! No, you don’t have to hunt for those outlandish and quite expensive costumes, because working writers and artists aren’t going to have all weekend to march around as storm troopers and elven rangers. We would however, love to stand out a bit. If you can find tee shirts or caps with favorite licensed characters, those are always welcome. Ditto anything that advertises what we create—for instance I have an entire drawer of fantasy-themed tees that I trot out whenever I plan on being somewhere my writing might be mentioned; and I can attest, they do get conversations started. Those discussions can lead to sales. Along with the casual wear, at least one dressier outfit for book signings and cafĂ© readings is thoughtful too. I can tell you right now, fedoras are very big at pulp cons for both guys and dolls; and we all love those nerdy gadgets like ray guns, handheld or cell phone games, and sonic screwdrivers. There are down times when you’re sitting and just staring into space, and looking busy is always better than seeming alone and forlorn. Those toys can be conversation starters as well, and as any huckster will tell you, chatting people up in a friendly way often leads to sales.

Since we do travel at times, anything from suitcases to GPS units are useful. Or how about a smart phone upgrade, for those who go that route? Staying in touch is important. A small digital camera and extra memory card to capture those con memories is a thoughtful gift. Even a cash boost so that the con reservations are more affordable will garner you grateful thanks.

How about decorating our workspace? Motivational signs, prints and posters with a tie-in to what we usually work on, or some sort of montage frame filled with favorite family photos are appreciated. We all need to look up and see anything besides the mountains of work on the desk. Ditto a little something that speaks to our other hobbies or interests. Every single one of us needs to be reminded daily that we have alternative aspects to our lives that exist outside of pulpdom.

You know what can you give that doesn’t cost a whole lot but will bring some big smiles? Your time and energy. Record our favorite TV program when we’re going to miss it. Take the kids out for the day, or the dog for a walk on a regular basis, so we have quiet, stress-free periods to concentrate. Let us sleep in the next morning after a long night pounding the keyboard or slinging paint on deadline projects. Make or bring us dinner now and then, or pitch in with the housework without being asked. Offer to help proofread or mark up a manuscript if you are so inclined. Maybe give some constructive and politely-worded criticism on the latest illustration-in-progress. Just sit and talk with us about what we’re doing now and then; you have no idea how much that helps, because a lot of writing and artwork time is spent in total isolation. Do some free promotion for us wherever you can: write a review, or chat up the book or art piece online. If you have a blog, how about a guest interview? Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising and online ‘hits’ as promotions, even on simple, homey sites. You’re doing your creative pal or family member a huge service by being there as part of the process, because we all want and need our names and work spread around.

So there you have it; an entire laundry list of possibilities for the favorite pulpster in your life. Not everything has to be expensive, because it’s the connection with what we do, and the supportive encouragements for our pulpy passions, which make a gift thoughtful and appreciated.

Now you go have a happy holiday too!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NEWS: DC Comics Officially Dumps Pulps

From ICv2:

DC Dumps the Pulps

No More 'Spirit,' 'Doc Savage,' or 'The Avenger'

Published: 12/17/2012, Last Updated: 12/18/2012 03:24am
Responding to a question on his Facebook page, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio stated flatly that a number of pulp characters, whose rights were owned by other publishers, but which had been part of a short-lived "First Wave" line of comic books "are no longer at DC."  Designed by Brian Azzarello, the First Wave comics melded vintage DC heroes with their contemporary 1930s pulp characters like Doc Savage, who did not originate at DC.  The First Wave line, which debuted in 2010 and lasted for about a year included DC characters such as Batman, Black Canary, Rima the Jungle Girl, and The Blackhawks along with such non-DC pulp luminaries as Doc Savage, The Avenger, and The Spirit.
As Didio explained on his Facebook page, the non-DC pulp characters (Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Spirit) are no longer with DC, though Didio did go on to say, "but here’s hoping that another publisher gets them into print soon."  It is quite possible that some in a position of authority at Warner Bros. or DC might have taken exception to paying royalties on non-DC characters given the mammoth number of characters for which DC already owns the rights.

Since Dynamite Comics has moved aggressively into the publishing of new comic book adventures featuring classic pulp heroes, it would appear to be a natural destination for at least some of the pulp characters involved. Dynamite’s Masks #1, a crossover series featuring that company’s pulp heroes, made the Top 25 in November, one of just two non-Marvel or DC titles in the Top 25 (see "Marvel NOW! Dominates November Sales").
One question that this new brings up is the fate of The Spirit Archives.  DC Comics has published more than 25 of these superbly-produced hardcover volumes, many of which are out of print.  Some of the Spirit Archive volumes are already fetching big prices in the aftermarket, a trend that will likely continue.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Nominations for the PULP ARK 2013 Awards are now open and will close at 5 PM CST on January 15th, 2013. The awards are given in conjunction with Pulp Ark, the convention/creators' conference and the official New Pulp Convention to be held in Springdale, AR, April 26-28, 2013!  The Awards are given for excellence in the field of Pulp, including books, stories, comic books, magazines, and characters as well as creators. 

To determine if a work or creator qualifies for these awards the definition for works that qualify is as follows-New Pulp is fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.

Tommy Hancock, Coordinator of Pulp Ark explains something that has become a tradition of the Pulp Ark Awards-adding categories for which awards are given.  “There will be one additional award this year added to the Pulp Ark Awards roster.  A point that is often debated within fiction circles is just what qualifies as a short story, a novella, and a novel.  Usually this argument centers around word length.   It has become increasingly apparent that stories that are longer than short, but not quite novel length are a primary part of New Pulp.  To that end, Pulp Ark will be adding an award for Best Novella of the Year as of the 2013 awards.”

“For the purposes of the Pulp Ark Awards,” Hancock continued, “A Short Story is any tale consisting of 17,500 words or less.  A Novella is any tale consisting of 17,500 words to 40,000 words.  A Novel is any work of 40,000 + words.  As with all Pulp Ark award categories, these works can be print or in ebook form or both.”

Hancock also states, “We will also give a Lifetime Achievement Award again this year as well.  A Ten Person committee selected from well-known Creators in New Pulp currently will decide the recipient of this award.  This award is given to someone who has contributed to Pulp, not necessarily just New Pulp, but to the continuation of the interest and promotion of Pulp in all its forms.” Last year’s winner of the Pulp Ark Lifetime Achievement Award was Howard Hopkins.

The only works eligible for the Pulp Ark 2013 Awards are those produced between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012. Anyone can make a nomination and anyone that makes a nomination will receive a ballot on January 15th, 2013 and voting will be open until 5 PM CST on February 15, 2013. The only people voting in these eleven awards will be those who made a minimum of one nomination. Also, each individual is allowed only ONE NOMINATION PER CATEGORY. A person may nominate someone in all nine categories, but may only nominate once in each category. All nominations are confidential and sources of nominations will not be revealed. All nominations should be mailed to Tommy Hancock at categories open for nomination are (in no particular order and this can be cut and pasted for your nominations ballot):

1. Best Novel (This includes E-books as well as print books and length must be 40,000 + words)

2. Best Collection/Anthology (This includes single author story collections and multi author anthologies.  This includes E-publications as well as print books)

3. Best short story (this includes stories that appear in short story collections, anthologies, magazines, and e magazines. If from an e-mag, the story must appear on a site identified as an e-magazine, not simply be posted on a site or blog. It includes e-publications as well as traditionally printed works. Length must be 17,500 words or less.)

4.  Best Novella (this includes stories that appear in short story collections, anthologies, magazines, and e magazines. If from an e-mag, the story must appear on a site identified as an e-magazine, not simply be posted on a site or blog. It includes e-publications as well as traditionally printed works.  Length must be 17,500- 40,000 words)

5. Best Cover Art (This is restricted to prose book publications, including e-books)

6. Best Interior Art (This is restricted to prose book publications, including e-books)

7. Best Pulp Related Comic (This refers to a series, complete run, one shot, etc. This award is for art, writing, and all other work associated with the nominated comics and the winner. This includes e-publications as well. )

8. Best Pulp Magazine (This award is for art, writing, and all other work associated with the nominated comics and the winner. This includes e-publications as well, but the e-publication must be identified as an e-magazine on the site supporting it. )

9. Best Pulp Revival (The Revival nominated must be published within the calendar year of 2012 and relates specifically to characters featured in Pulps when they were originally created. This includes epublications as well.)

10.  Best New Character (This must be a character that debuts in a New Pulp work published in 2012.  This included e-publications as well)

11. Best Author (This reward refers to the author and any author with work published in 2012 is eligible, including novels, short stories, etc. This includes e-publications as well).

12. Best New Writer (To be nominated, a writer must have been published for the first time in the pulp field in the calendar year of 2012. This includes e-publications as well).

Send all nominations to Hancock via email at

For More information on how to attend Pulp Ark 2013 as Guest, Vendor, or fan, go to for regular updates!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So Why Pulp? What’cha Gonna Do When The Well Runs Dry?

I’d been sitting here for fifteen minutes, staring at the blinking cursor, trying to think about what kind of pulpy spin I can put on this week’s column. I wouldn’t exactly label that ‘writer’s block’, but the idea pool seemed a bit dehydrated. Normally, when I park myself in front of my PC, I have no problem coming up with an entire bucketful of possibilities to write. There’s just something about a looming deadline that makes it harder to raise that windlass out of the depths of the creative mind. Add in a half dozen other pressing projects milling around like lost sheep in my cerebellum, and the demands of a busy household intensified by the upcoming holiday; and is it any wonder this bucket’s got a hole in it? So, based on all that desperation, I decided this week I’m writing about what you have to do to get things on the page when you haven’t got a clue what to write next.

Piece of cake you know…

While I am not a Tommy Hancock-style ‘never-ending hail of bullets’ idea mill, mine do tend to come in a steady stream, or at least sort of a fast trickle. It’s rather disconcerting when I hit a speed bump that throws me off track and I get stuck by the wayside trying to invent something worth working on. In fiction writing, that can be the death knell of even a cherished project. A non-fiction column like this one is a bit easier to kind of ‘fake’ your way through, though a lack of conviction on a topic will announce itself fairly quickly and make you look pretty stupid in the process. If I’m going to bother to hammer out something on this keyboard, I need to have a solid concept of what I want to say and at least somewhere to go with it. The rest of it is details, and they tend to lay themselves out as the lines begin to fill the page.

So that’s all fine and dandy—now what do you do when the words just don’t come easy?

Fiction or non-fiction, when the well inside doesn’t produce, go outside yourself. Talk to someone else; maybe lots of people. Bitch and moan if you have to. You’d be surprised how opening up about what a rough time you’re having nailing down or fleshing out a story will suddenly put what’s stopping it from flowing into perspective. There’s nothing embarrassing about saying, “I haven’t got a clue how to approach this.” Hey, you think those folks on the best seller lists don’t have these days? Of course they do! And while you’re beefing about not being able to get the words out, be a good listener too. Let those kind souls who are willing to bear your ranting throw some advice your way, even if they’re not writers and don’t understand you or the process. This isn’t just about tea and sympathy; it’s getting your prose machine restarted. You can’t just sit there thinking about what you didn’t do today and feeling blue. A poor idea that gets you back at the keyboard is better than no ideas at all.

When it’s just not happening, take a short break, because the more you strain at forcing the project to be done, the harder it’s going to come. Fold clothes, play with the dog, or organize your files. Maybe cruise around online, read a couple emails, key up some awesome images, or check out posts on the social sites. Watch a favorite program, or a movie that is inspiring for what you’re trying to write. Change the environment a bit, move to another spot. Go to the library, pick up a newspaper, chase the significant other around the bedroom, trade gossip with the neighbor—even take a nap—just get away from the frustration for a bit. Set a time limit to be away, and then use that time wisely. When you come back, you’re going to be more relaxed and a lot less aggravated, and who knows; you might just have picked up an idea or three along the way.

When you do have excess ideas and no time to write them out completely, jot them down and shove them in a file. Likewise when you come across a picture that sparks a reaction, an article or news story that you might be able to mine for story fodder, or details on an interesting person, place, or thing; get it saved somewhere. Times like this, when the words don’t come, you pull up that file and browse through it, and I can almost guarantee something is going to ‘click’.

Networking with other creators also helps immensely, as the more ideas that fill a room, the more that seem to get generated. There must be some unwritten atomic law of the universe about that, because if you’ve ever been at a convention, in an online chat or podcast, or trolling through a social site devoted to writing, you’ve seen it happen. Someone says something off-the-cuff, all the assembled minds start to click and whirl, and before you know it there is a kaleidoscope avalanche of wacky fringe possibilities burying you up to your neck. Plug into your fellow writers and see what kind of buzz you can get from all that kinetic brain energy.

One big secret that the ‘expert’ books and articles don’t tell you is that the actual writing of a story is only one part of what makes the magic happen on the page. It’s the hardest part some days, but every story or article starts out in your head, and then you have to translate that into words that make the mental scenario come alive again. Daydreaming is not just a pleasurable diversion, it’s absolutely vital to making a jumble of symbols resemble a mental movie scene in someone else’s mind. So you need to take some time to visualize whatever is going to happen on that page, and then translate it into the language of the reader. No wonder it’s so much work, huh? Like making a movie, a good book has a lot of important little jobs behind the scenes that only get end credits when the lights come up and everyone is exiting the theater.

The most exasperating part of writing, is rewriting. You have to edit, and copiously, to get that prose sounding as smooth as bare skin sliding over satin sheets in a courtesan’s boudoir. Now in a way, it can be very freeing to know that no matter how rough that first draft might be, you’re going to go over it anyway, sanding it down with increasingly finer grit passes. I strongly suggest that you find a trusted someone who is willing to act as a sounding board and then actually listen to what she or he has to say about what you’ve written. Chances are even a non-writer is going to pick up on something you missed or that doesn’t make sense, and you’re going to be a lot better off for having run it through a beta reading test. If nothing else, handing it over gets your mind off the piece for a bit. Knowing it was read at least by one person adds an additional layer of confidence that you can carry into your next project. It’s hard to find that time when there is a deadline looming, but the editing has to be done at some point—if not before you turn it in, it certainly will be edited afterward. At least read it aloud before you hit SEND or PRINT, and see how it sounds.

When the writing gets tough, and the words run drier than a Death Valley afternoon, adopt the impressionistic artist approach. Stop trying to lay out the entire thing all at once. Picture one scene or a bit of dialogue that seems doable and build from there. Think about that blank page like a big canvas, and you’re going to put little swipes and blobs of words here and there with the aim of making something appear in their midst. I can’t tell you how many times I started a story with a random sentence and just constructed the rest around it. Sometimes it wasn’t until far later in the writing that I knew what the title and main thrust of the piece was going to be. Less often, I already knew where I wanted to go, but had to focus on one small detailed step at a time to get there.

Don’t be afraid to fail! Every single one of us has ideas in our files that didn’t work out well. Often enough they can be revisited, revived, and rewritten later. That’s why I don’t worry about length or side plots that develop within the main story anymore, because anything can be pared back, with the juiciest tidbits tucked away for later use. Ditto on proposals that get rejected or projects that you started on and then they got cancelled. Never be unwilling to cannibalize old ideas for new work. They really help fill in when that well runs dry and you’re sucking up nothing but dust and splinters.

I’m not going to lie to you and say you will always have a gushing inner spring of ideas to draw off of. Some days are just going to be harder than others when it comes to getting words on the page. What separates the pros from the wannabes is not only having the drive, self-discipline, and perseverance that makes you sit down in that chair and get at it, but the wisdom to know when it’s time to get up and try something different. You won’t pump sweet water out of a dry well unless you drill deeper, or seek out a new underground subconscious stream that flows more freely.

Now go write something pulpy for me!