Friday, April 27, 2012

Undercover Review: Deathwalker

Review by Nick Ahlhelm

I’ve known the name R.A. Jones for years. I read his work on the Protectors line of comics from the pre-Marvel purchase Malibu Comics and remember it fondly. When his name suddenly popped up as the author of an original New Pulp novel from Airship 27, I instantly wanted to check it out.

Deathwalker introduces a new hero—and setting—to pulp heroes. Jones takes American Indian history and weaves in Conan-style adventuring to create a world for his hero. Deathwalker is a foreboding figure among his Cheyenne tribe. With the scar of a hand burnt to his chest, he has become a powerful killer, feared by all that know his name. To mark his killing prowess, the skin of his face turns a deathly white in battle.

Jones either clearly knows his history of the Pawnee and Cheyenne tribes of this story or can expertly fake them. He does an excellent job of making this wild, dangerous life seem real. Jones doesn’t pull punches with the violence or the sexuality of the Cheyenne tribe.

The villain, Stands Alone, isn’t the most epic villain in pulp history, but he does make a solid, dangerous and quite evil starting point for a character that seems ripe for series fiction.

Deathwalker doesn’t ever quite grasp the high adventure of Conan, but perhaps that isn’t really the author’s attention, though cover artist Laura Givens’ excellent art certainly makes it seem so. This reviewer was disappointed that the adventure wasn’t a bit grander in scope, but that can be chalked up as much to my own misreading of the marketing as the story itself.

Deathwalker offers solid adventure, great action and one of the most realistic pulp settings in quite some time. It is well worth a read by any New Pulp or fantasy hero enthusiast. And such a solid debut for a character just plain deserves more eyes on it.

The novel is now available in print and PDF editions. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy. Great books like this need everyone’s support. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

So... Why Pulp: Doing the Con



I’ve just had a wonderful weekend. It’s not often you can say you went off on business trip and came away feeling rejuvenated—at least spiritually. For those of you who don’t care for metaphysical references, let’s just say I am once again motivated to expand my craft. Conventions can do that to you.

I’d love to go to more than one convention, but it just isn’t in the budget. As it is, this will be my one and only con appearance this year, and my sole vacation as well. I chose Pulp Ark 2012 because it is hosted by the company I write most often for, Pro Se Press, and they gave me my first break. It is one of the smaller conventions out there, but it is also totally free, and set in a very lovely area in the Ozark foothills. Batesville is a quaint little city; it reminds me very much of the mill towns of my part of Connecticut, and the local folks are some of the nicest, most polite and pleasant people I’ve ever met.

This is only Pulp Ark’s second year and yet it’s already made some significant growth. We had more visitors this year, and some really interesting and eclectic special guests, which you can read about here.  We were in a new venue with more room to lay out tables so that all could be taken in at a glance, and hosted plenty of panels and entertainment. The weather wasn’t with us for the first day, but we got through it, and the enthusiasm of the 200 or so fifth graders from local schools who came to see the show and bought books or asked for autographs well made up for the rain. Those enthusiastic kids swarmed the hall after the outdoor presentation and entertainment for them was over, and it was a joyful sight to see. I love the fact that in this day and age of electronic gadgets; school children still love to read real books.

One of the nicest things about cons—especially small ones like Pulp Ark—is the people you get to meet and talk with. I renewed acquaintances with old friends and met some that I only knew from their writing, industry reputations, or online posts. I networked with a lot of folks. Our own Pro Se tables were overflowing with the largesse of our authors, with one strictly devoted to the magazines we have produced and the other was filled with novels and anthologies. When you consider that Pro Se itself has only been in business two years, that is quite impressive. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as we had eight other publishers present as well as folks selling sundry and varied items including books, masks, art, music, magic wands, collectibles... The night before the con opened we had a meet & greet in a local coffee house that makes the BEST chai latte ever known to mankind and several of us read excerpts of our work. During the con weekend I got to watch several new authors eagerly signing their first autographs or books, friends and peers humbly excepting awards for themselves and others, and some folks dressed up as their own story characters. We had a charity auction and a trivia game that both raised hundreds of dollars for local literacy groups, that aforementioned award ceremony with some very touching tributes included, and really, all sorts of activities going on throughout the weekend. It was like Woodstock, but with books and stories as the main draw, though we also had plenty of music. Pulp Ark is the little con with the big heart.

I enjoy talking to people about what I do, so I am always glad to be on panels and to have folks walking up to ask me about my writing, or how to get published. I found myself in the unique position of being a mentor and guide to some and a student listening carefully to others who have a lot more industry ‘chops’ than I do. You can learn quite a bit at cons if you hit the right folks. While I am far from experienced, having only attended two years of Pulp Ark so far, what I have learned has been invaluable. Pulp lovers and producers of all levels are some of the most generous folks in the world when it comes to sharing their expertise and knowledge, and you can soak up a lot just by walking around looking at displays and setup techniques. Just watching folks moving their stuff in and out, the way it gets packed or displayed, is an education in itself.

Behind the carnival atmosphere, there is a lot of serious, year round work that goes into putting even a small con together. It’s a monumental task even on a small scale, and I can sense that it is a learning experience too. Talking with the folks behind Pulp Ark, I am amazed at how much previous networking at other cons went into setting this one up. There is something to be said for the con experience, where you can gather all kinds of knowledge which will later impact your own ideas. Getting people to know you better definitely helps promote your work as well as any venue you are attached to. I try to learn more about the background and locations of those who have tables set up or come in as guests. Everyone has a story to tell, and they are all pretty interesting to talk with. Pulp is their love, but not their entire life, and I am so impressed with everything else these folks juggle to do what they so obviously enjoy.

Guest speakers generally have some sort of celebrity status or industry experience that makes them well known or considered experts in their field—at least by the reputation of their work. Pulp Ark had several this year, and I found listening to them very enlightening. You begin to realize that these are people who weren’t handed anything on a platter, and actually worked very hard to get where they are. Felix Silla was a great inspiration because he is a humble man who seemed to take everything in stride, and yet still found some mirth in the most frustrating circumstances. He was fun to chat with, and quite humorous, but I still got a strong sense of his love for the movie industry the way it was, and his frustration at it becoming a marketing scheme rather than a vehicle for entertainment. Having dealt with trying to break into mainstream publishing for so many years, I can easily relate to that, because this is the age of number crunchers running the show. It’s aggravating when you do good work and see it passed by repeatedly simply because nobody knows your name or cares about your reputation as much as they do what some industry wonk who doesn’t read claims should sell well.  At that level, Mr. Silla and I connected, something we wouldn’t have been able to do without the con bringing us together.

Cons have plenty of interesting stuff for sale. You can walk through the aisles and drool, and pore through racks and boxes to your heart’s content. Deals are struck and there’s generally a story behind each purchase. I couldn’t afford to do much in the way of buying with my suitcase already stuffed to the gills and my living arrangements in a state of flux, but I did some looking. I got to see what others were buying too. A couple of folks came up to show me their treasures, and while my tastes might be different, I shared in the joys of finding something unique and special or anxiously sought after. I’m a long time bargain hunter who prowls the thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales looking for gold nuggets in what other folks consider discards. I understand very well the thrill of the deal of the day.

Ah, and then there is the before and after hours gatherings, where groups of folks from the con find they really don’t want to start the day alone or go slinking off by themselves once it’s over. Breakfasts and dinners together, impromptu hotel lobby meetings and clandestine celebratory parties, there’s plenty of evidence that this is more a brother and sisterhood experience than a bunch of enthusiasts thrown together by chance. I’m sure there are instances where there is some aggressively competitive behavior, but I’ve seen far less of that than I expected. The atmosphere was often all-ages friendly, as a few children of parents who work the con were in attendance, and it’s interesting how even at a young age, they adjust to hanging around all day with a bunch of geek adults. Watching the young ones getting immersed into this pulpy world of ours, it makes me smile to realize we are quietly but effectively passing Pulp’s torch to a new generation. To say we’re all one big family isn’t really stretching the term much. I felt sad when the final day ended and it was time to pack up and go home. The goodbyes were heartfelt and emotional, the handshakes and hugs very real.

Over all, the con experience is a very positive one, and I’m glad I can attend at least one every year. Eventually I’d love to do more, because I do enjoy meeting people and talking about what I do and love, which is writing and reading New Pulp. If you can make it to even one con a year, I urge you to go. You’re going to learn a whole lot more about your craft, and have a chance to share what you know too.  You’ll come away with a far better appreciation for why we all do this crazy thing we do called New Pulp.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Table Talk: Label Me This

This week, New Pulp authors Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock return to the table to discuss labels and untapped genres.

Question (Bobby): I was recently on a panel at a convention with several writers. Each of them introduced themselves as “a dark urban fantasy author” or “a hard science fiction writer” or “a pulp writer.” This got me wondering about how we as writers present ourselves to readers. How do you introduce yourself on a panel at a convention, for instance? What type of label do you attach to yourself as a writer? Or do you attach a label?

Mike: I change it up for every appearance, but usually say something like “I’m Mike Bullock and I make stuff up for a living.” It’s easy enough to be pigeon-holed as a sub-sub-genre writer who can only write in one particular sub-sub-genre, so I don’t see any value in slapping labels on myself that advocate self-inflicted pigeon-holing. I write kids fantasy, young adult adventure, action comics, heroic adventure, pulp fiction, sports journalism, poetry, science fiction, Christian OP Ed, PR and so much more that it seems incomplete at best to simply say “I write (insert sub-genre here).” But, there are those I’ve known who are perfectly content to only write in one tight corner. I’m just not that guy.

Barry: It varies for me and often depends on the setting. For instance, if I’m at Dragon*Con, I typically say that I’m a writer who is best known for my pulp adventure stories but I’ve also dabbled in horror, sci-fi and other genres. But if I’m at something like Pulp Ark, I just dive straight into a genre label. I try not to define myself as “just* any kind of writer but when the majority of your work is in a particular genre, it’s hard to avoid it.

Bobby: I generally just refer to myself as a writer first. Then I mention some of the types of writing I do. I flirted with the idea of referring to myself as an author or novelist, but neither felt as natural as writer.

Bobby: What are the pros and cons of affixing this type of label to writers? Do you think it is it better to specialize and stick with writing one type of story only or to diversify into as many genres and types of story as possible?

Mike: I think it’s all about being true to who you are and how God made you. As I said above, some are meant to only do one thing and do it exceedingly well. And, they love doing that. But, that isn’t for me. I’d go crazy and most likely stop writing if I could only work in one small sub-genre. I flourished when I was working on Phantom one day, a press release the next, Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel the day after and then covering a variety of football teams for a sports site the day after. Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, and I love me some spice. [laughs] I’m actually researching my first ever foray into Steam Punk right now and while it isn’t a genre I’d ever really considered before, I’m very excited to delve into it.

Barry: Well, a label can help you with certain groups. You become identified with a certain type of story and the fans of that kind of work will easily recognize you and tend to adopt you. But it can sometimes make it hard when you want to do something different. When I did Rabbit Heart, I feared that some people might be turned off by the work because they were expecting me to do something more like The Rook or Ki-Gor. I do think it’s important as a writer to try and stretch your comfort zone, though. Even when I stay in the pulp field, I will often take on a character that I don’t really know or a sub-genre I’m not comfortable with, just to test myself.

Bobby: “Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, and I love me some spice.” This might just be my new favorite quote, Mike.

Barry brings up a great point about testing yourself creatively. One of the great joys of writing smaller piece for anthologies is being able to scratch certain creative itches. In my case it was writing a western and sci fi, two genres I’m not often asked to write. That leads to one final question for this week. Are there any genres out there you’d like to tackle at least once, but haven’t had the opportunity as yet? For me it would be a drama without the trappings of killers and those trying to capture them. I even have a plot laid out in my head. All I have to do now is make time in my schedule to write the darn thing. As you both know that’s easier said than done sometimes. heh.

Barry: You know, just for the challenge of it, I might be up for writing some sort of romance. It would be hard for me to write something without blowing stuff up or killing someone, so it might be a real stretch! Also, I’ve mostly stayed away from the real sci-fi kind of stuff so far, so maybe something along those lines, too.

Mike: Steampunk. I’d never really gotten into it before, but since I’m now researching a new project that’s in that genre, I’m getting pretty jazzed up about it (if you hadn't noticed already). Particularly because of a book called Writing Steampunk by Beth Daniels. I can’t wait to get my feet firmly planted, as I really want to do a merge and start writing some “SteamPulp”.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Undercover Review: TEN-A-WEEK STEALE

TEN-A-WEEK STEALE
By Stephen Jared
Solstice Publishing
303 pages
review by Ron Fortier

In the early 1920s, former Army Lieutenant Walter Steale has returned to civilian life and settled down in Los Angeles amongst the glitz of the silent movie world. His one ambition is to put the horrors of World War One behind him and get on with a normal, peaceful life. Unfortunately his brother, Sam, the state’s Lieutenant Governor, coerces him into working as hired muscle for his crooked boss, Governor Davies. This leads Steale into brutal confrontations with crazy mob gangsters and a prostitution ring tied to several corrupt politicians.

When a gang boss is murdered in a bombing and then Steale himself is targeted in another, even in his wounded condition he is savvy enough to realize he’s been set up as a patsy by his own brother. To clear his name and stay out of jail, Steale must rely on the courage of Virginia “Ginny” Joy, a beautiful young movie actress whose star is on the rise. As unlucky a couple as can be imagined, Ginny has fallen hard for the veteran doughboy and is willing to jeopardize her own career to save his neck.

Author Stephen Jared is an accomplished film actor with a vast knowledge of early Hollywood history which he deftly employs here by creating a truly authentic background for his wonderfully crafted mystery. Refusing to mimic classical noir settings, Jared presents a truly straight forward and original narrative that moves at its own leisurely pace. Then when the reader least expects it, he delivers scenes of gut wrenching violence in such a cold, calculating style, this reviewer was reminded of the late Mickey Spillane’s work.

TEN-A-WEEK STEALE was a nice surprise in many ways, exceeding my own expectations and in the end delivers a better than average tale in a field overrun with cheap knock-offs. Wally Steale and Ginny Joy make a nice team, let’s hope we get to see them again real soon.

Pulp Ark 2012 is This Weekend!


PULP ARK 2012
THE OFFICIAL NEW PULP CONVENTION
BATESVILLE, ARKANSAS
APRIL 20-22, 2012
INDEPENDENCE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS

FANS AND CREATORS OF MODERN PULP AND HEROIC GENRE FICTION
THIS IS YOUR CONVENTION!

JOIN THE LEADING WRITERS, ARTISTS, AND PUBLISHERS
IN NEW PULP TODAY! 

WESTERN, SCIENCE FICTION, HORROR, FANTASY, HEROES, MYSTERY AND MORE!

NESTLED IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE OZARKS, BATESVILLE ARKANSAS ONCE MORE PLAYS HOST TO PULP ARK!  In its second year, PULP ARK
Focuses on the Creators of Genre Fiction today and gives Fans and Peers a chance get up close and personal like no other event!

PANELS FROM LEADING AUTHORS, ARTISTS, AND CREATORS!

WRITER AND ARTIST CLASSROOMS!

STEAMPUNK!

LIVE AUDIO DRAMA!

COWBOYS!

MUSICAL PERFORMANCES!

COSTUMES!

VIDEO GAMES!

CELEBRITIES!

STUNT AND WEAPON DEMONSTRATIONS!






ATTENTION POTENTIAL GUESTS AND VENDORS (AND FANS FROM AFAR)

IF YOU ARE A WRITER, ARTIST, OR PUBLISHER OF GENRE FICTION THAT YOU FEEL WOULD FALL INTO THE PULP OR HEROIC ARENA, YOU ARE WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE AS A GUEST AT PULP ARK 2012! 
TABLES ARE FREE! No Membership Charges!

YOU MAY ALSO PARTICIPATE IN PANELS AND HOLD CLASSROOMS IF YOU WISH AS WELL!

IF YOU ARE A VENDOR OF GOODS RELATED TO THIS TYPE OF FICTION (WHICH INCLUDES TOYS, BOOKS, COMICS, CLOTHING, WEAPONS, ANYTHING FANTASY, HORROR, WESTERN, COLLECTOR RELATED), THEN YOU ARE WELCOME TO BE A VENDOR AT PULP ARK 2012
TABLES ARE FREE! No Membership Charges!

NEED A PLACE TO STAY FOR PULP ARK?
Batesville Comfort Inn and Suites
Is the Official Pulp Ark Hotel
Call 870-793-5624 for DISCOUNT reservations!
YOU MUST TELL THEM YOU ARE REGISTERING FOR PULP ARK!

Guests and Vendors will have PULP ARK BOARDING PASSES
Giving You Discounts All over Town to various restaurants and shops!

Any questions or issues, please email Tommy Hancock
Or call at 870-834-4022

Friday, April 13, 2012

Undercover Review: Killing Floor

Review by Nick Ahlhelm

Lee Child’s Killing Floor can only be called New Pulp by using a rather vague definition of “new”. Written over fifteen years ago, it may not be the most recent offering from a New Pulp author, but it does do an amazing job of introducing a compelling pulp hero: Jack Reacher.

Reacher walks through life as only the lead of a pulp novel can. A former M.P., expert sniper, and trained killer, he gave up the military to wander. Without any real destination, he treads across the country in search of whatever might draw his fancy.

In Killing Floor, the first Reacher novel, it is an obscure blues musician that draws him to a small Southern town. The town seems to be a nice little town, rather wealthy but otherwise quiet and unassuming. Of course in typical fashion, Reacher’s first experience with the quaint town is when he’s accused of murder.

Reacher quickly starts to reason out what’s happening in the town, even as he’s given a personal stake in the crime when his own brother is found to be the second murder victim. Working alongside two local cops, one a big city guy drummed down to the tiny force, the other a local beauty that Reacher quickly falls hard for.

Killing Floor moves at a breakneck pace as layer upon layer of action and mystery are piled on top the next. Reacher shows himself to be human, but the kind of human able to reason out any problem, fight any man and do anything he puts his mind to it, even if it means improvising.

This reviewer would like to give more plot information, but to say anymore would almost certainly ruin some of the great moments that Child laid to the page. This is breakneck action, adventure and mystery of the grandest pulp tradition and well worth any pulp fan’s well earned dollar.

Killing Floor is available in both mass market paperback and e-book additions for reading convenience. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It’s OK To Say No!




It’s amazing to me how much we New Pulp writers all think along the same lines
when it comes to what we do. I just read this week’s Table Talk column with Bobby
Nash, Barry Reese, and Mike Bullock (and you should too!) and was struck by how
close we are in topics. The decision about what to write, when, and why, is never an
easy one. It becomes much more complex when you have to choose one project over
another.

Sometimes, in writing, an opportunity will crop up that you know you should take
but have reservations about. It might be a question of conflicting deadlines or short
notice, or it maybe even a project you know you won’t do well with. While the
business part of your mind says you need to go for this, the creative side might be
balking. So what do you do?

Well, that depends on the situation, and you’ll need to ask yourself some important
questions. First of all, are you supporting yourself with your writing? If you are,
then getting paid is a lot of incentive. If it’s not about the money honey, then is this
project going to be a career building milestone of some sort? You have to weigh
the potential benefits of exposure with the time and effort this is going to take,
and what else you might have to drop or turn down to get to it. You need to take a
pragmatic look at the amount of writing and research that will go into it, and offset
that against what benefits doing it will bring—even if that’s simply the sheer joy of
working on something that makes you skip happily off to the keyboard every day.
And I always ask myself, “Will I do a good job on this project, or am I just going
to muddle through after making a half hearted stab at it?” I realize I’m not going
to be super-enthusiastic about every story I write or edit, but if I can get through it
without resenting the time I’m losing, and dreading pulling it up every session, I’m
going to do a far better job.

Unfortunately there are no ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ answers when it comes to taking
on new work. It’s good to be challenged by a project and maybe do something
in an area where you never dreamed of writing before, or for a new company/
collaboration where you might gain additional exposure. Having your byline
attached to a story in a prestigious publication or along with a well know author’s
work is certainly advantageous. But if it is going to take over your life, and you’re
not sure how much the outcome is going to affect your career, is it worth putting
aside all you’re doing to concentrate on this one particular piece? That is a question
only you can answer, and you need to be realistic about it.

I’ve considered several projects like that lately myself, and while I can’t go into
detail about what they were, I can speak in generalities.

I am primarily a fantasy writer. It’s what I love to both read and create, and the
genre I know best. But I’ve been testing the waters in other genres with several
special projects. A couple of them I am quite happy with, though I had to struggle
to figure out exactly what I’m doing. Others… I let go by the wayside. So I had to
say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and it’s perfectly all right to do that. In fact it’s often
better for all involved.

I was honored to be asked to contribute to an ongoing anthology that is well loved,
but I knew I would have to wrestle with myself to do a good job. There was a lot
of research involved for me, and I was already knee deep in getting a book ready
for publication, gathering stories for an anthology collection of my own that would
launch my new Hansen’s Way imprint, while doing other writing and time-sensitive
editing. It was a tough decision and I wrangled with it for a few days. Now I’m glad
I did turn it down. The other folks did a bang up job of it. My story would have
been a ho-hum filler at best. Better not to be involved than become the weakest link.

I had a couple recent offers for projects. One of them is for a publisher I have never
worked for—which gives me additional exposure to new audiences—plus I was
dying to do it because I love the concept and know the backstory material very well.
The other was offered by my regular publisher and it will very likely turn out to
be something rather prestigious for all involved. I jumped at the first one because
it is just the kind of swashbuckling adventure I enjoy immensely, and I have been
spitting out the pages right and left. The other was one of those difficult decisions
where it could be a career maker, but only if I did a superb piece. I knew I could
at least turn out something readable, but it was material I have no background
experience with, mainly because it never really interested me. I kicked that one
around for an evening, because while my heart wasn’t in it, my writing career really
could use that kind of boost. And then someone said something very wise to me that
I’m going to paraphrase…

Sometimes it is better to make your impact on the reading world gradually,
with a bunch of small projects that are very well done, than to go for that more
distinguished piece and only do a mediocre job on it. Yeah, that profound and to-
the-point statement from someone whose judgment I’ve learned to trust helped
me make my decision. I respectfully declined, expressed my gratitude for being
considered at all, and never looked back. Again, I know I made the right decision.
Between the writing I am already slotted for, possible editing jobs that pop up
suddenly with short deadlines, the upcoming convention, and recent events in my
everyday life, I have all I can handle without negatively impacting my mental and
physical health. Sometimes you just have to say no.

I am sure this will happen again. Some very lucrative offer will come up and I’ll
sit here mulling it over. There is no way to predict what the appropriate answer
will be because there are too many variables of time and enterprise involved. What
I do know is that if I feel I must turn something down, I can do that with humble
gratitude and a clear conscience. While I am not a newbie writer anymore, this is
my first real experience with writing as a career move. I’ve had to take it slowly,
setting a course for myself that fits within my lifestyle as well as that of my family,
and still work to get where I hope to be someday—supporting myself on what I
write. Have I made all the correct decisions? Time will tell. In the meantime I will
trust my instincts.

The important thing here is that I am in control. If I made a mistake, no one pushed
me one way or another. The days when I had to work to survive are over. Now I can
do what I enjoy. Yes, I would love to make a comfortable living through my writing
someday. Just not at the expense of my sanity. Or my love of what I do.

So as you go about your writing (or editing, or artwork), be mindful of what you
promise to take on. You are not a machine, you’re a human being, and you do have
limits. When your passion becomes one slog after another through endless crushing
deadlines and you find yourself dreading each new day, is that worth it? Right now
I can get a 9-5 retail position and make more than I am at writing, and leave the
hassles behind when I walk out the door. I’m not just doing this for the money; I
actually love what I do. If I ever stop loving it, it’ll be because I made too much of
a drudgery out of it, and I will go do something else to survive that leaves me more
time for doing things that make me feel good.

So yep, it’s perfectly OK to say no. That keeps you in control of your future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Table Talk: What's it Worth?



It's time for another round of Table Talk, where we invite you, the reader, behind the table to listen in on what New Pulp authors Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock discuss when they think no one is listening. Shhhh! Don't let them know you're here.


Question: Since most new pulp writing jobs pay very little, if they pay at all, how do you decide what jobs to take and what ones to turn down?

Bobby: Good question. This is one I’ve struggled with myself. When I started writing pulp stories, as well as other shorter pieces for various genres and anthologies, it was always intended to help me get work out between novels. However, the more I wrote, the more I was asked to contribute to until I realized I had set aside the novels in favor of shorter pieces. There came a point where I had to start turning down projects so I could get back on track for my writing goal, which is to write more novels.

I don’t have a hard and fast rule for what projects I have take on or say no to, but I do ask a few questions.

When is it due and can I realistically meet that deadline? Sometimes the deadlines are tight, which makes it easier to pass on a project because I know I can’t realistically complete it in time.

Does it pay? Now that I’m writing full time this question becomes more and more important. I have to give priority to projects that are going to pay so I can keep the power bill paid so I can write more stories. Royalty pay is good, but on an anthology where every dollar of profit is split amongst several people, the pay tends to be small so those projects are usually the ones to get a pass.

Is it fun? There are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes a project comes along that sounds like so much fun that I can’t help but agree to write a story for it. Sometimes the fun factor outweighs the “does it pay?” factor. It doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen.

Is it something new? Breaking into potentially new markets is tricky. Sometimes an anthology is a great way to try your hand at a new genre you don’t often get to write. That was one of the deciding factors in my writing a story for A Fistful of Legends. I’d always wanted to try my hand at a western and this gave me an opportunity to do that and see whether or not I enjoyed writing that type of story. Doing that particular project allowed me to scratch a creative itch, so to speak.

Who is publishing it? Another important question as not all publishers are created equal. I’ve developed relationships with a few publishers over the years and I know which ones I work well with. I also like to meet and work with new publishers as well. Sometimes I’ll agree to a short story as a way of gauging how well a publisher and I fit.

I could probably go on and on about this topic, and I’m sure there are a few reading this now who will say I already have (HA! HA!), but it all boils down to following the career path I’ve set for myself. I’m more choosy about my projects now than I’ve ever been and I think that will help me reach my writing goals.

Barry: You’re right about the fact that most jobs don’t pay very much, if anything. Frequently, I work for comp copies. So the most important considerations for me when choosing if I should accept a project, I look at the deadline, my interest in the characters and how much exposure it will bring.

I’ve written things that didn’t really appeal to me just because I knew it would expose me to a wider audience and other times I’ve taken on projects that really didn’t “boost” my career but I just really wanted to do them because I loved the character or concept.

But deadlines are a major concern and frequently I’ll say no to a project just because of timing – my schedule is always pretty full.

Mike: I usually know pretty quickly if I’ll take the gig or not, based on all the same factors you mention, Bobby. The most important of those being pay. While I’ll occasionally do a freebie, they’re very few and far between and need to be the perfect mix of character/publisher/venue for me to consider doing something that won’t help put food on the table or clothes on my son.

That being said, there are some I’ve done recently just for the fun of it, but in the end, if I’m going to write for free, I’d rather write my own characters than something someone else assigns me.

In the end, every job pays something, whether it’s cash, comp copies, new network connections or just the enjoyment/satisfaction of working on something that makes you smile.

Question: Working for “exposure” is something we hear a lot these days. What are your thoughts on what amounts to basically writing for free? Is exposure worth the time and effort you put into a story?

Barry: I kind of touched on this in my answer to the last question – exposure is definitely worth the time and effort. You reach a new audience and sometimes even new potential editors and publishers. I was never a huge Green Hornet fan but you better believe I was ready to write the character for Moonstone!

Bobby: I’m in the same boat when it comes to exposure. I’ve worked on several anthologies or comic books where the goal was to reach a potentially new audience. Sometimes it has worked out, others not so much. I did a lot more work for exposure’s sake in the early days of my writing career than I do now though.

Mike: That’s a big, grey area for me. I think, to riff off the answers to the last question, every job pays something. However, “exposure” is hard to quantify. I wrote Phantom for years, yet at most US comic conventions the kids have no idea who the character is, but I get tons of fan mail from overseas. While I’ve met a lot of great people that way, especially in the ranks of Phantom Phandom, at the end of the day it’s hard to pay the mortgage with fan mail. (Thankfully, Phantom was a paying gig, and one I absolutely loved doing). While there are one or two characters out there I’d love to work with in that regard, I can’t say there’s anything I’d want to do at this point merely for exposure, unless it was screen/tele-play work, which is something I’ve wanted to get into for a long time.

Bobby: I can understand that, Mike. Last year I wrote a screenplay for a fan film for some folks I met at a convention because it sounded like a fun project and it was incentive to write a screenplay. In that instance, exposure was a good thing. Another time it came in handy was back when I started working on the Demonslayer comic. The first two issues were basically a try out. They liked what I did in the tryout and I worked on that book for a few years.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pulp Perusals: Was Billy the First?



During a recent visit to the corporate headquarters of the company that is kind enough to give me a day-job, as often happens when I catch up with colleagues I only see on an occasional basis, the lunch conversation drifted around to what writing projects I was working on. When I mentioned I was writing a couple of pup stories, several people asked what exactly did I mean by “pulp”, because as far as they knew Pulp Fiction began and ended with a Tarantino movie. But then someone asked a question I hadn’t considered before. Who was the first pulp writer?

According to most research the first "pulp" was Frank Munsey's revamped Argosy Magazine published in1896. Reading the entry on pulp magazines on Wikipedia, one phrase caught my eye: “prior to Munsey, no one had combined cheap printing, cheap paper and cheap authors in a package that provided affordable entertainment to working-class people.” (emphasis mine).

The writers were so “cheap” that the creators of those early Argosy stories went unnamed, and it was the publisher rather than the writers that was given the kudos as the catalyst for change.

But the more I thought about it I realized that if we consider pulp as a writing style rather than a distribution method, then the search for the first "pulp" writer opens up many more candidates and rolls the clock back even further.

I quoted Tommy Hancock’s introduction to this very website in my December column, but I think it bears repeating here when trying to answer this particular question. Hancock defined pulp as “layered storytelling, the one-two punch of the dialogue and the action, and the over the top antics, characters, and resolutions that made readers believe in the amazing, the fantastic, and the incredible.” -

Given that definition, I'd propose a certain gentleman from a small town in the British midlands as a possible candidate for the premier writer of pulp – No other than Mr. William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon.

I can almost hear you wondering what I've been drinking? (Actually I have – but only a couple of Buds). Can I be serious in nominating the greatest writer in English literature as the developer of the antecedent of what we like to think of as "pulp fiction”?

First a little background to back up my hypothesis. Over the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of background research for novel featuring the aforementioned Bard, and I believe there is a reasonable argument to back up my strange idea.

Consider the following:
• Shakespeare wrote for the mass media of his time, the theater, where the vast majority of the audience were the working class.
• As a theater owner he employed other cheap writers to produce different adventures.
• It's argued that in fact for several of his plays he also worked with some of those other cheap authors.
• Or if you believe some Shakespeare himself was the cheap writer who acted as a front for others who couldn't be seen to be writing for the masses.

No matter who did actually sling the quill and ink, the stories attributed to Shakespeare feature the first use of serial characters and heroes, great adventures, strong characters, lots of action and intrigue, all set in incredible and occasionally fantastic settings.

Sounds a lot like "pulp" to me.

=================================

And to round off this month’s column, sit back and enjoy the concluding part of THE RAVEN: NAMELESS HERE FOR EVERMORE by Rick Klaw, and myself.

For those who wish to catch up you can find the previous installments here:
Part 1 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/10/pigskin-pulp.html
Part 2 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/11/pulp-perusals-3-brit-pulp.html
Part 3 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/11/so-which-ones-black-bat-anyway.html
Part 4 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/12/pulp-perusals-5-what-hollywood-can.html
Part 5 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2012/02/pulp-perusals-discovering-wold-newton.html

NAMELESS HERE FOR EVERMORE
(Part Six – The Conclusion)
By Alan J. Porter & Rick Klaw

Lala Ward, hated waiting for men. The only one she had ever waited for was Edwin Wilkes, (she still couldn’t think of him under any other name). Despite the entreaties from both the police Captain and that insufferable Brit, she had decided to sneak a look to see what was happening in the warehouse. The shot she heard as she opened the car door was enough to convince her to drop any attempt at subterfuge. She knew Edwin was in trouble. Lala put her strong dancers legs to good use and soon found out that the lock on the warehouse’s side door offered little resistance to a well placed high kick.

She rushed into the warehouse, and was surprised to see that it was basically one large room. The Captain and the Englishman stood off to one side watching her as she walked in. It was as if they had been expecting her at that very moment.

There was the body of a thuggish looking man on the other side of the room, and in the center The Raven, on his knees. Strange gurgling sounds like half strangled sobs were emanating from his throat. The floor nearby was covered in glass shards; pieces of a mirror as far as she could tell.

Then she saw the man in the chair. She couldn’t see his face, but she recognized the clothes. Despite her best intentions, she screamed his name. “Edwin!”
She never recalled actually moving to his side, she was just there. Holding his blooded head in her arms, sobbing and saying his name over and over, as if by some miracle it would bring him back to life. How long she continued with this fruitless ritual was also lost to memory. It may have been minutes, but most likely it was just a few seconds. “Who?” she demanded, almost screaming the question.

The Raven’s sobbing stopped. His gravelly voice spoke. “The Boss.”
“Where is he?” demanded the grief stricken girl.
“I am here?” she heard the new shadowy voice, but it seemed to come from the direction of the stricken vigilante. “I’m afraid your friend made a much better actor than a spy.”
‘Enough!” interrupted The Raven’s voice.
“But why should I, Raymond?”
“Raymond is gone, only The Raven remains.”
“But you are not alone in there, are you Raymond? Where ever The Raven goes I will be there.”
“No! The Raven was meant to protect Raymond from you.”
“But who would protect poor Raymond, from The Raven.?”

Lala slumped to the floor by Edwin’s body, her back to the wall, insensitive to the shattered glass on the floor cutting into her hands and legs. She stared at the cloaked figure having this strange surreal conversation with himself.

She needed answers to this nightmare she had stumbled into. Looking straight at Malone, her voice quivered, “The Raven and The Boss, they are both…?”
“I’m afraid so Missy.”
“Then Raymond killed Edwin?”
“I believe that is one possible interpretation of events,” agreed the Englishman.
“Why?” Lala reached out towards Malone and the Englishman, almost in supplication.
“Because, that’s what he, or at least The Boss, had been hired to do.”
“And The Raven?” As she spoke, Lala dropped her hands to the floor once again, but this time she moved her right hand a little way further forward. Still looking straight at the two men, her fingers searched until they connected with the cold metal shape she had spotted earlier. “Was that all a charade?”
“No I don’t believe it was.” The Englishman continued, “To Raymond, The Raven was a protector, a ….”

The loud report of The Raven’s discarded .45 reverberated around the warehouse. The vigilante’s confused mutterings ceased as the bullet entered his forehead, and removed the top part of his head along his signature black hat.

Lala Ward gently placed the smoking gun down on the floor. She gazed across the room at the two men as if the last few minutes had never happened. She spoke calmly, “if you two gentlemen don’t mind, I’d like to be alone with Edwin,” she looked in he direction of the Englishman, “sorry I mean Edward, for a while.”
“Ach, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” said the shocked Malone.
“Of course my dear, I totally understand, come Malone, let’s leave the young lady to say goodbye. What harm can it do?” Pointing in the direction of Finn’s still unconscious form, the Englishman continued, “We need to take out what you Americans would term the garbage.”
Lala Ward watched them lift the large thug from the floor and struggle through the door. Reaching up she ran her fingers through Edwin Wilke’s blood matted hair. “A protector….”
*********
After unceremoniously throwing Finn into the back of the squad car, Malone and the Englishman returned to the warehouse. All that awaited them was the two dead bodies of Raymond Vandemeer and Edward Sparrow. No mater how many parts each man had played, they’d only had one life to live.

Malone did a quick visual sweep of the room.
“It seems the bird has flown the coop,” said the Englishman.
“Looks like herself tisn’t the only thing to have flown,” Malone pointed in the direction of the vigilante’s body. The man’s scarf and guns have gone.”
The Englishman smiled, and muttered to himself, “and The Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting.”
*********
Captain Malone still shared the latest tittle-tattle over supper with the missus and he still solved crimes. Though he was surprised to realize that he missed the clandestine meetings, and often looked back on the myriad cases they had solved together, before it all went wrong. Sure, later other masked men emerged, some of whom he even worked closely with, but none of them were The Raven.

Sometimes at night while roaming the streets, he'll hear a crumble of a boot on a nearby rooftop and even catch a glimpse of a dark cape. On those occasions, Malone goes home, opens a special bottle of brandy, and has a drink for a departed friend.
*********
From her vantage point on top of the old Manhattan Theater, she scanned The Great White Way from Times Square back down towards Central Park. A sharp report of gunfire split the evening air ….

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from everyone at New Pulp Fiction.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Undercover Review: Atomic Robo presents Real Science Adventures

Review by Nick Ahlhelm

Over the past five years, no comic has done as much to capture the pulp esthetic for modern comic fans as Atomic Robo. Over six volumes of adventures, the robotic hero has experienced high adventure over nearly a century and all over the world. Writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener have created an enduring character with more heart and personality than 90% of the characters you see in modern comic writing.

And now Atomic Robo has his first ongoing series. Produced and written by Clevinger, Atomic Robo presents Real Science Adventures. Unlike previous volumes of the series, this doesn’t feature one shot issues or five to six part epics; instead it focuses on a mixture of short stories and multi-part serials featuring characters new and old. The first issue features three short tales and two opening chapters in six part serials.

“To Kill a Sparrow” (drawn by Ryan Cody) focuses on World War II spy Virginia Hall and her ally on the front lines of the war, The Sparrow. Sparrow is “the most dangerous allied commando”, and she shows it by setting up a room full of Nazis for death. A solid opening chapter of any pulp tale.

“The Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur” (art by Yuki Oda) brings back fan favorite villain: the super-smart raptor known as Dr. Dinosaur. The evil science-dinosaur plots a truly malicious act of vengeance against Robo in a short comedy tale.

Chris Houghton (Reed Gunther) draws “City of Skulls”, a poignant short story of an evil Russian version of Robo that doesn’t quite understand its own destructive capability.

“Leaping Metal Dragon” (drawn by John Broglia) takes Robo back to an adventure in Hong Kong circa 1970. The first chapter does little to set up the story but does end with a surprising ally for Robo.

Finally “Rocket Science is a Two-Edged Sword” (art by Joshua Ross) is a short tale that helped inspire the upcoming Atomic Robo animated short when it originally appeared as a back up in Atomic Robo vol. 1 issue 3. It’s a fun little adventure—and a dissertation of the Atomic Robo take on science.

Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures #1 is now available in all quality comic shops with a cover price of only $2.75, and on digital comic platforms. With three fun shorts and the beginnings of two great, longer pulp tales, this was should be sought out by any pulp fan.