Friday, August 31, 2012

Press Release: Aliens Among Us

Pulp Empire’s newest release, Aliens Among Us is now available for sale in print and ebook forms. The all new anthology features ten new stories that span a range of genres. But they all have one thing in common: aliens have come to our planet, for good or ill. Aliens Among Us has all the abduction, infiltration and invasion for any reader of great science fiction pulp!

Wrapped in a cover by Brian Middleton Jr, Aliens Among Us features new tales from returning Pulp Empire favorites G. Lloyd Helm, Vince Morgan and Robert J. Sullivan plus Pulp Empire newcomers like David Boop, Melvin Hadley, Margaret Karmazin, Chris Nigro, Arthur Doweyko, Graham Phelps & Anton Cancre.

Click on the links below to purchase the book. Print editions retail for $12.00 while the ebook is available for just $2.99.


Createspace | Amazon
Kindle | Smashwords

Nook and DriveThruFiction editions will be available shortly.

Undercover Review: THE DJINN


by J. Kent Holloway
Seven Realms
268 pages
Review by Greg Daniel

New Pulp tends to focus on the “sweet spot” of time between the two World Wars with the occasional foray into the far future or the weird west.  However, back in the heyday of the pulps, Argosy, All-Story, Adventure, and other magazines often featured tales of action and derring-do from a variety of historical periods.  

I have been seeking a novel that embodies the essence of New Pulp in a more historical setting.  The problem with most historical fiction though is that it tends towards epic tales and equally epic proportions so no matter how compelling, it lacks that fast-driving, linear action that is a core component of New Pulp.
But, I think I may have found something.

New Pulp fans probably know Seven Realms as the publisher of Sean Ellis’ Dodge Dalton adventures.  For what it’s worth, they publish a wide variety of fiction ranging from action/adventure to mystery to contemporary paranormal and everything in between.  J. Kent Holloway, Managing Editor of Seven Realms, is also a fine action-adventure author, among other things; those things being a forensic death investigator, paranormal investigator, and publisher.

In his fourth novel, The Djinn, Holloway stakes out some new territory.  This tale is set in Jerusalem, near the end of the First Kingdom.  Baron Gregory De L'Ombre has spent the better part of two decades in the Outremer.  He had and his brother, William, had been sent by the Pope, commissioned to search for Urim and Thummim, the stones of Revelation and Truth. 

Much has changed since Gregory first reached the Holy Land.  He is estranged from William, who has contracted leprosy.  His wife is dead and his daughter, Isabella, has only known the Outremer as home.  He has lost his faith.  He has abandoned the Pope’s quest and replaced it with one of his own.

In searching the Temple Mount, Gregory has discovered something more amazing and more powerful than the stones.  Centuries ago, King Solomon had imprisoned a dozen golems created by one of his wives, who was not very pleased at being pledged to him in the first place.  Gregory believes that once he uncovers the hiding place of the golems and discovers the means to control them, he will have all of the power he needs to leave this forsaken place and return to Europe.

Despite the various knights and mercenaries that Gregory has in his employ, all is not well in Jerusalem.  He is opposed and his every move seemingly countered by the Djinn.  A mysterious creature, the Djinn seems to appear from nowhere, stepping effortlessly from the shadows, and disappears in an instant like a puff of smoke.  He is a master swordsman and seemingly impervious to pain.  Many of the knights who encounter him disappear as well.  Is he a force for good or ill?

This book is driven by multiple characters and plot points, but in a tight, concise manner.  There is Gregory’s quest.  Will he uncover the golems and, if so, how will he control them?  Who or what is the Djinn?  Why does he want to stop Gregory?

If that wasn’t enough, there is also a young knight, Horatio.  He and his squire are befuddled and beguiled repeatedly by the by the Djinn.  Gerard, a mercenary captain, does Gregory’s dirty work while lusting for his daughter, Isabella.  Al-Duda ibn Abdul, a warlord under Saladin, seeks power and has allied himself with Gregory, but can he be trusted?  And what of the dread Hashshashim?

The story moves along at a good clip, punctuated by several exciting fights scenes and the acrobatics and theatrics of the Djinn.  Mysteries are teased and gradually revealed.

The climactic battle is finely wrought and it makes for quite a vision played out across the desert.  Holloway concludes his tale with a fitting ending that brings resolution to all of the major characters.  But, he doesn’t stop there.  He adds an epilogue that truly closes the tale and simultaneously opens the door for more. 
The Djinn is both a fun read and a fascinating character.   I think that you will enjoy both.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

So... Why Pulp: Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Editor!



I don’t get no respect—no respect at all…

Yeah, that’s classic Rodney Dangerfield, but it pretty much sums up the editorial experience too, even down here in the indie New Pulp publishing world. Other than some well-known names that front mainstream publishing houses and popular anthologies penned by various authors, most editors labor away in obscurity. It’s kind of odd when you think about it too, because hardly anyone gets through their writing career without being edited and/or becoming at least a part time editor. There’s something really cachet about being known as an author, because suddenly you’re catapulted into that category of ‘creative genius’, and what we do with words is viewed as nothing short of magical. Writers have fans for that reason. The publisher is the God-Being of the Writing Universe who makes big things happen, and in indie publishing, the set-up person is an acknowledged wizard that puts it all together. Editing however, is a curmudgeon position, and those of us who accept such a role learn quickly that it comes without much in the way of recognition or kudos. Editors putter along behind the scenes, making that wonderful world of the author’s vision even more polished and laudable.

At least that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. To judge by some of the feedback I get, I’ve accomplished that much. As with many others who tackle editing in the New Pulp world right now, mine was a battlefield promotion of necessity. I was initially asked to help out when the office was swamped, and when I showed myself to be relatively capable, I got even more editing jobs. Now I’ve got this ‘assistant editor’ title, which sounds really important, and basically means that I get to work on all sorts of projects, often on short notice, with only a heartfelt thanks as compensation. There are a lot of hats to wear in a small publishing, and never enough royalties to go around. So what I do, I do because I want to be involved, and because the people I work with matter to me; from the author who’s brainchild I am reading over, to the publishers I respect, and to assist the people who have to pull it all together before it goes to press. Primarily though, I edit for the readers, who will be buying these stories and expecting to get a finished, polished piece for their hard earned dollars. So yeah, good editing matters and it’s something I take very seriously.

Because small publishers have a bare bones budget, editing often gets done by one person, or at best a select few. A lot of trust gets put into the editors to find the potential problems that will wind up being an embarrassment for someone down the road, and correct those without altering the story. There are times—for instance, when working with new authors—where I get to take a more hands-on approach and do some content adjusting or tweaking as well as coaching. If there’s one thing I love about working at the indie level, it’s being able to give the kind of one-on-one support and mentoring that I wish I’d had back when I first started. Even with well established writers, it helps to know there is someone in there reading your copy and making sure that it looks as good as humanly possible before it hits the printer. We don’t send printed galleys back to the author in independent publishing, because that costs money we don’t have. So between you, me, and the end stages, we need to look this manuscript you’ve submitted over very well. As I tell every writer I communicate with, I am an extra set of eyes that should be able to pick out the problems before it goes public. And yeah, I write too, so I get edited as well—by someone else of course.

Now what do I do as an editor? Well, it depends on the situation.

First of all, I do what I’m asked to do. If I’m told a manuscript gets strictly copy editing only, that’s all it gets, though I will read it through and give the publisher my thoughts about it. Copy editing, for those of you who don’t know, is looking for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammar issues, redundancies (repeated words within a short space), formatting, and really awkward phrasing. So I watch for anything that is going to interrupt the flow of your words and leave a reader wondering what the heck you meant. We want your story to look great and read well too, which reflects on all of us involved. So I read your story slowly, line-by-line, and hopefully I won’t miss much, including excess white spaces, which really add up and cost us money at the printing end. I usually will keep an eye on content and if there is something odd going on—say a foreign word or technical term I don’t understand, a fact that doesn’t make sense, or you named a character differently in three places—I flag that for the author. But I don’t change anything unless I’m asked to do a hard edit, which now and then, I am.

In a hard edit, I get to do all the copy editing stuff as well as considering closely the content and continuity. I do most of the hard editing on new authors or folks the company I am working with hasn’t printed before, and always on manuscripts that have been noted as needing some extra TLC. This is editing that requires a lot of input from both author and editor, and there’s bound to be some back and forth correspondence. What I like to do is read it over first, getting all the copy issues out of the way, highlighting problem areas as I go along, and sometimes making notes too. That gives me a sense of how this author sounds and what the story is about. Once we have all the cosmetic stuff ironed out, then we can go to work on teasing a coherent story out of what might only be a jumble of plot lines and characters with too much exposition and fillers, and not enough emphasis on action and adventure—the converse to writing great pulp. Here in the New Pulp world, the genre novels are smaller and much more to-the-point than their mainstream contemporaries, and there is an expectation of breathless pacing. So there isn’t a lot of room for character introspection, long winded speeches, and numerous subplots or side ventures. The story has to move forward and be exciting, and if I see it isn’t doing that, it will get pointed out. The idea is to work with the author on getting the best possible tale told.

So what can you as an author do to help your editor? Well I’m glad you asked!

First of all, be patient and understanding. I am only a human being, not a machine, and nobody is currently paying me for editing. I also have a life outside of writing and editing, just like you do. So I will get to your baby as soon as I can, though at times other projects and unforeseen circumstances will interfere. Be realistic, because your manuscript is likely not the only thing the company has on the agenda, and we’re doing the best we can to get it done and into the printing queue. Unless it’s a very short story, you likely didn’t write it overnight, so don’t expect me to read and edit that fast either.

Secondly, please come to us with a professional attitude and a manuscript that is as polished as you can make it before you turn it in. Don’t trust the spellchecker on your word processor to fix everything because I can assure you it’s not going to catch more than 2/3 of the problems I see every day, and the program limitations will cause as many issues as it resolves. Reread your story at least one time from beginning to end, checking carefully for copy issues and redundancies, and changing the ones you find. Read it out loud to get an idea of how it sounds or turn it over to someone you trust to read it over for you. Fresh eyes find more problems. I usually set any manuscript I’ve written aside for a while or ask someone else to go over it—both if I have the time. A little extra care before you submit will insure that your work will always be welcomed. Every editor has authors whose writing they love to go over because it is generally well done. You want to be one of them.

Look, if you’re asked to rewrite something, that’s frustrating, but don’t take it out on your editor. We’re writers too, and yes, we have the requisite egos. We all want to think what we sent in was the best thing we’ve done so far. I have had my stuff sent back for revision too, and yeah, it smarts a bit. But the publisher makes the call, and editors have to look out for the house’s best interests. Being in print under someone else’s masthead is a privilege. Grumble all you want privately, but be part of the team and fix whatever you’re asked to alter without publicly snarking and sulking about it, because that’s bad advertising for you and your publisher. A workmanlike attitude is what separates the serious writers from the wannabes.

As far as formatting, if you don’t know what setup the publisher you’re targeting prefers and can’t find that in the submissions guidelines, please ask! Then follow through and set it up that way. Part of my job as editor is making sure that when your tale goes to print, the person at the end doesn’t have a migraine trying to get it up and running. The less fiddling I have to do with mundane stuff like that, the faster my job gets done and the less eyestrain I have too.

So don’t turn in a rough first draft and expect it to be perfect, because they never are. If you want to be published often, present yourself like a professional and polish your work up front. If you aren’t sure of something, ask someone. I don’t mind helping a newbie learn the ropes, but nothing sticks in my craw more than getting a messy manuscript from an old hand who should know better but represented it as a finished piece when it was obviously rushed to deadline. I don’t need another big mess that I’ve now got to untangle—meanwhile letting all my other projects sit by the wayside. Yeah, I’m a writer and I have deadlines too. I also have a life outside of my craft, as well as family and friends I’d like to see now and then. And I’m sure they’d like to see more of me than just my back at the computer. Do us all a favor, and send in the best copy you can. Then we’ll all be happier people.

So hug an editor today, we’ve got your back you know!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Press Release: Announcing Runemaster Press!

Runemaster Studios, in partnership with Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, is proud to announce the launch of Runemaster Press, the publishing arm of Runemaster Studios and home to a variety of new and existing properties in the Runemaster Pulp line.

"The arrival of the Kindle and other eReaders has opened an entire new frontier for authors," states Runemaster President Mike Bullock. "A frontier where, with just the click of a mouse, anyone on the planet who has internet access can instantly get their hands on a treasure chest full of great stories."

Beginning with the first offering, Dr. Dusk: Sentinel of the Shadows Book One, Runemaster Press will launch new stories on Amazon/KDP frequently throughout the rest of 2012. By 2013, the new line will branch out into print, with a variety of books available through CreateSpace.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Undercover Review: WRITTEN IN TIME


By Jerry & Sharon Ahern
41 pages
Baen Science Fiction
Review by Ron Fortier

Trying to decide what book I wanted to take with me when traveling to the Pulp Fest Convention in Columbus, several weeks ago, I grabbed a paperback that had been sitting on my To-Read stack for a few months.  It was “Written in Time,” by Jerry & Sharon Ahern and appeared to be an action-adventure science fiction novel dealing with time travel; a favorite sub-genre of mine. While packing the book away in my backpack, a niggling memory surfaced in my mind about a particular post I’d seen recently on Facebook concerning a writer’s recent passing.  For whatever reason, Ahern’s name was the one I remembered.  Sadly my memory proved to be working just fine because, after finishing this truly excellent novel, I discovered that Jerry Ahern, age 66, had indeed passed away only last month, 24th July, 2013.

From what I gathered, he and his wife were best known for their sci-fi series called, “The Survivalist,” about an American family surviving in a world ravaged by a nuclear war.  One of the hallmarks of Ahern’s writing was his expert descriptions of hand weapons employed in his fiction as he was himself an authority on handguns and contributed to many well known magazines such as “Guns & Ammo.”

“Written In Time,” mirrors the Aherns a great deal as the protagonists are Jack and Ellen Naile, a popular husband and wife sci-fi writing couple.  One day they receive a photo in the mail sent to them from a fan in a small Nevada town.  The picture, a clipping from the local newspaper dated 1904 shows Jack, Ellen, their daughter Elizabeth and son David all wearing western garb and standing before a general store bearing their name, “Jack Naile – General Merchandise.”  After several tests the two come to believe that the photo in the clipping is authentic and not a hoax; meaning sometime in the near future some bizarre event is going to hurl them almost a hundred years into the past.

From this point forward, the Nailes set about planning for the event and doing their best to prepare themselves for their new life in the past.  Eventually the freakish event occurs and our cast is sent back in time.  There they slowly begin to adapt to turn of the century living and the challenges it presents them while being careful not to affect any changes that may alter the future itself. 

Unfortunately the Nailes’ nephew, Clarence, having been told of their coming time travel adventure becomes obsessed with duplicating the phenomenon and joining them in the past.  In the process of successfully achieving this goal, he inadvertently sets into motion actions that ultimately exposes their experience to an unscrupulous business woman.  Being immoral, she sees the potential for riches and power to be won by shaping time to her own will.  When Jack and Ellen become aware of this new faction that is about to invade the past to control the future, they scramble to find allies to help them thwart her deranged plans and save history.  The person they recruit to their cause is none other than Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt.
The true fun of this book is that it really is two books in one; a fantastical science fiction adventure and a bona fide western actioner.  The Aherns pull this off seamlessly and after finishing the book, this reviewer had to wonder if in the writing, both of them saw it as a very special, intimate dream fulfillment to cap their writing careers.  That it would be their last book together lends a poignant credibility to that idea.

Sixty-six in our age is not a long time and yet Jerry Ahern seems to have filled it to overflowing with living a life of love and creativity.  After reading, “Written In Time,” it is clear we’ve lost a truly gifted and original voice.  R.I.P. Jerry Ahern and thanks.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Undercover Review: RED RIGHT RETURN

RED RIGHT RETURN
by John H. Cunningham
Wheatmark
316 pages
Review by Greg Daniel

   
Florida writers are inevitably compared to John D. MacDonald.  This is patently unfair to them as often the only reason to do is the fact that they are Florida writers.  But I have yet to read a Florida writer worth reading that wasn’t influenced by MacDonald.  John H. Cunningham is definitely worth reading; so it follows that he was influenced by MacDonald and it shows.

Cunningham’s first novel, Red Right Return, features Buck Reilly, a former Wall Street darling who ran a publicly traded treasure salvage company.  The market crashed hard and brought everything down around Buck.  His partner is in jail, his parents are dead, his brother has all but disowned him, old “friends” won’t take his calls, and he is flat broke.  So when the going gets tough, what is a guy like Buck to do?

He decides to lay low in Key West.  With a nod to Travis McGee, salvage consultant, Buck launches Last Resort Salvage and Charter.  With his Grumman Widgeon, Buck looks for sunken treasure and takes on the no questions asked (at least before the fact) kind of jobs one would expect from a treetop flyer living in the Conch Republic.

Red Right Return takes off with one of those “no questions asked” charters that has Buck dropping off a beautiful girl in the Gulf of Mexico to rendezvous with a boat he later discovers is on a mission trip bound for Cuba.  When the boat disappears, Buck’s life is turned upside down and he is again in the middle of the notoriety that he went to Key West to escape.

Someone doesn’t want the boat found.  And a lot of people want to take advantage of the situation.  Some are intent on making it a geopolitical incident, while others just want to find their loved ones.

Exploring Key West, the Gulf, Cuba, and the Bahamas via seaplane, kayak, and scuba would be a fun and adventurous book in itself.  But here we get that along with eerie Santeria rituals and warnings, an unpleasant visit to a Cuban jail, an FBI agent with a personal vendetta against Buck, thugs in Bush and Clinton masks, mysterious ciphers, and a host of colorful Key West characters.

In addition to MacDonald and McGee, homage is also paid to the patron saints of Key West, Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett.  Papa provides the clues for Buck’s treasure hunt and is echoed in the references to rum, boxing, and more throughout the book.  Buffett actually appears as a character in the book and was the previous owner of Buck’s plane.  Both Hemingway and Buffett are revered for their obvious influences and blamed for what Key West has become.

While Buck may be a bit too introspective early on for some pulp fans, he is also a man of action.  Not some super-powered, super-gadgeted man of action, but a guy who has to rely upon his wits, guts, and the occasional fist to rescue the damsel and live the adventure.  Once the book hits the halfway point, the action and suspense build relentlessly toward a thrilling climax.

Cunningham and Buck have carved out a little place of their own in the New Pulp universe.  Here the rum flows freely, “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” and “Son of a Son of a Sailor” can be heard in the background, and your seaplane and sailboat are tethered to the dock.  Let’s call it Parrothead Pulp.  I am sure that you will enjoy your visit.

And according to the coconut telegraph, it is not just a one-time visit.  Buck’s second adventure, Green To Go, came out in June and Cunningham is busy writing the third Buck Reilly novel.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So... Why Pulp: Five Things I’ve Learned From Writing New Pulp



It’s hard to believe that this is my 20th column for the New Pulp site. Almost eight months ago, on December 22, 2011, my initial post went live. Wow—where does the time go?

Even more amazing are all the changes in my life since I started writing New Pulp specifically, just fewer than two and a half years ago. Besides the obvious—I actually got published!—it’s been a real climate shift in not only how I write, but how often and for what reasons. I have gone from closeting myself away now and then as an idea struck me to walling myself off in the center of chaos daily so that I can work on whatever is the hot project du jour. I’ve never written this consistently, or this well. Being a New Pulp writer has altered the way I feel about my craft, and it’s all for the better.

Now, I make a big distinction between Classic Pulp and New Pulp on purpose. While both were/are meant to be fast paced adventure entertainment fiction for the masses, and they follow a similar format, there’s one major difference. The writers of yesteryear were cranking out as much as they could as quickly as possible because they were looking to get paid and support themselves and families. I am sure that most of them loved writing, but the impetus to be prolific was to keep body and soul together. So content and artistry was not as important as hitting that deadline so that you could get on to the next project. It’s a different field today, where many of us write as a passion and pay homage to the stories we love while paying the bills via some other means of income. I’m not saying nobody in the New Pulp field is supporting themselves on her or his writing ability, but it’s not the general rule. We’re here because we’re square pegs in a round hole publishing world and we can’t find a mainstream market for our preferred style of fiction. This entire New Pulp wave is more about passion for the craft than feeding the hungry horde at home.

So the first thing I learned about writing New Pulp is there is no way I am going to get rich and famous doing this. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing, but it does require an attitude adjustment.

I’m still here because I enjoy what I’m doing. I’ve always devoured interesting books and I’ve been a storyteller most of my life. Writing is something that just comes naturally to me; it’s like breathing. I can’t imagine not writing. But writers need a widespread and appreciative audience in order to feed the muse, and to do that you have to get into print and be distributed outside your small circle of family and friends. Down at this level, publishers are small enterprises run out of homes and most of them exist as online entities with shoestring budgets. The corporate office might be someone’s den or garage. They don’t have the marketing forces of the big publishers, with their posh surroundings, hefty budgets, and glitzy ad campaigns. It’s really a team effort to get the word out that we are valid and alive down here in this subterranean plane of endeavor.

All my visions of locking myself in my lonely garret for sleepless weeks on end to produce a novel a year went out the window. I now realize that if I don’t get my face out there on a semi-regular basis and hawk my wares, no one is going to know who the heck I am or what I write. Just because I am a writer, doesn’t mean I won’t be asked to help edit or spread the word. There are no prima-donnas in New Pulp; we all wear multiple hats.

So my second lesson was that I can’t just write and then rest on my laurels waiting for accolades. I am a partner with the publishers I write for in marketing my own books as well as those of others. No divas need apply.

Editing is something that I always felt belonged to experts—as if editors were some kind of specialized creation of the Universe. I had seen anthologies where known authors compiled and oversaw the entire process, but that seemed to me to be something only the very elite and trustworthy ever got asked to do. So you can imagine my shock when I got a battlefield promotion into the editorial staff of first a magazine and then books. I’m now Assistant Editor for Pro Se Press, and it’s a position I never would have imagined taking on several years ago. Editing is something I would do as a favor for friends; but to handle a manuscript of someone I don’t know, one that is destined to be in print soon, is like being asked to care for a newborn child. You make a wrong move and you’ve destroyed something someone labored to bring to life. Happily, I find I enjoy working with other writers, and the laid back and high touch attention I can give to each manuscript hearkens back to the days when editors had more interest in making an author’s words sing than what the bottom line figures show. It is a challenge at times, and I’ve had to pull my hair out over a few projects—especially when deadlines are whisper-close and things aren’t coming together. Yet every experience I’ve had so far as an editor has brought some really interesting insights. I have writers now that come to me for advice, like they think I actually know what I’m doing! Some days I even believe I do.

The third lesson was about not being as apprehensive in trying new things or taking on extra responsibilities. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself through writing-related projects like editing, speaking on panels, writing columns, and doing podcasts.

One of the hardest things I had to adjust to in writing New Pulp was maintaining the pace of stories. I stumbled into this as a wannabe mainstream fantasy writer. Fantasy is a very wide and all encompassing story genre whose main tenet is worlds based on some sort of magical or occult system. It’s an adaptable and hearty species that easily crossbreeds with others around it. Most mainstream fantasy books are far larger than New Pulp ones and the stories unfold much slower. It’s also a genre that thrives on epic ongoing series, of which my first love, Sword & Sorcery, is especially known for.

Unfortunately mainstream fantasy short stories are a fairly dead market now, outside of specific anthologies. It seemed almost impossible to break in anywhere, and so I stopped writing short stories altogether and concentrated on novels. I had a book finished and was shopping it around with mediocre responses while I was writing the sequel. A dear friend suggested I might want to split the first one up and try to get smaller books published, but I flat refused. That story was not going under the knife!

So I get to this New Pulp part of the world, and not only are the books far shorter but the writers are far more prolific than I was. I was delighted that the companies actually print short stories in magazines and collections that I might have a shot being published in! I had to relearn how to write in order to fit in, so I took a lot of my archived shorts out of mothballs, read through them, rewrote sections that seemed dull or pointless, and with a kiss goodbye, sent them off. That novel I left on the back burner. No way was I chopping up my baby! It took me four years to write, and I’d done countless revisions as it was.

And then… someone asked if I had a book. I said yeah, but it’s not really pulp and it’s pretty big. He still wanted to see it anyway, so I sent a synopsis, and set to work rereading it. At that point I had been reading and writing pulp stories for months, and I knew the company was moving toward accepting novels—just not anywhere as long as my book. After all that intensity and fast pacing in the short stories, I could now see the problem with my own weighty tome. The concept was fine, and some passages really sang, but a lot of it was overblown and plodding, full of lengthy narrative exposition where nothing exciting happened. In fact, found it boring as heck! So I did what I swore I would never do—I lopped the thing into rough thirds and started to rewrite the first part. I kept everything that sounded good and pulpy, dumped the stuff that lost my attention, and gave it a fresh new title. That became FORTUNE’S PAWN, which remained Pro Se’s best selling novel for some months. That one book taught me more about writing New Pulp than anything else I’ve done.

The fourth lesson was to understand who you are writing for, as well as what you love to write, and combine the two ideals. Pulp audiences have a specific taste for stories with high action and adventure without a lot of fluff—but then, so do a lot of people who don’t read pulp. There are no sacred cows or untouchable manuscripts. If you want to sell books, you have to please the audience that is going to read them. What the readers want is more important than what you think they should be getting from you. Listen to them!

My writing life has evolved over the last couple years from something I did on occasion when the spirit moved me to a craft I practice almost every day. I had a lot of original material that I created over the past 20 years to draw from, and I’ve had no problem coming up with even more, because I park myself in front of that keyboard regularly to get words on a page. My reputation as an author I take seriously, so I don’t goof off and miss too many deadlines and I always turn out the best material I know how to create. I try and stay ahead on projects because I don’t know what else might come up. If I’m not writing it’s because I purposely chose to take a day off or something else important is going on.

Because of that workmanlike attitude, I am now at the point where other New Pulp writers and publishers are approaching me to be involved in projects they’ve developed. That, my friends, is the ultimate compliment; and one I am ever grateful for. By taking on additional work I am expanding my repertoire as well as my ability to reach new readers. I still tend to pick and choose my projects by the same criteria, which is asking myself: Do I enjoy this kind of writing? Will I do well with it? Do I have the time to make the deadline? Those projects that I feel confident with, I will take on, and I have. If something needs to be altered, or I am asked for a rewrite, I do it their way without whining. I never forget that being published is a privilege and an honor, not an entitlement.

Lesson number five was the hardest one to learn. A professional attitude means settling in to work even when you don’t feel like it and giving each project you agree to your best effort. You can’t be all things to all people, but you need to at least please the folks who buy your stuff as well as meeting deadlines for your publisher in a timely fashion. Then my friend, you will have something to show at the end of each day, week, month, and year, other than files full of unfulfilled dreams.

Here’s to a long and happy writing life for all of us!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pulp Perusals: A Thriller of an Afternoon




One day last month I was lucky enough to find my self spending a large part of a day hanging out with science fiction writer Michael Moorcock at his house in Texas. But I wasn’t there to interview him, or even talk about his work. Nope, I was there so Michael could teach me a little something about my Pulp heritage.

The invitation had been sparked after Moorcock had read the column I wrote for this site back in November; the one where I talked about my disappointment about not being able to find any British pulp magazines during a recent visit to the UK.

The collection of British pulps, some dating back to the 19th Century, that Moorcock shared with me that day was staggering in both its breadth and the condition. As well as boxes and boxes full of well-preserved single issues, he also had many runs of old pulps collected in leather bound volumes.

It was with one of these that we kicked off my day’s pulp education. For sitting on the sofa next to me was a bound volume of The Thriller magazine collecting various issues from the early 1930s. Flicking through I quickly came across an issue from 1931 with a great cover featuring one of my all-time favorite characters, The Saint. (And if anyone reading this owns the rights to Simon Templar – I’d love to write a Saint adventure or two one day – hint, hint.)

“The Best of All ages and Either Sex,” The Thriller “A 7/6 novel for 2d; The New Paper With a Thousand Thrills” , as the magazine styled itself, is a difficult one to classify. The two-penny pricing and the advertisements for other boys publications , various games and toys, and the occasional soccer scores, would suggest that it was aimed juvenile boys adventure weekly market; however the tone and style of the content would suggest a more adult target market. The aforementioned Saint’s creator, Leslie Charteris, who would be a frequent contributor, described it as appealing to a teenage and upward reader.

As British pulp historian Derek Adley points out, “The Thriller definitely had its fans in all age groups, even if it was sometimes hidden between the pages of The Times.”

The Thriller was published by Amalgamated Press, which by the end of the 1920s was publishing dozens of adventure style magazines, most with circulation numbers in the millions. It was group editor Percy Montague Haydon, aka “Monty,” who came up with the idea of producing a magazine with top-class mystery / crime / thriller detective stories for an affordable price. To launch the magazine he paid over the top rates (about ten times the then current going rate for a pulp manuscript) to thriller-writer Edgar Wallace, who would go on to be co-creator of King Kong. His story “Red Aces” launched the first issue of The Thriller on February 9th, 1929.

Word soon spread about the quality new adventure magazine, and over its run The Thriller would attract writers such as Dashiel Hammett, Capt. W.E. Johns, (Creator of air ace Biggles), Sax Rohmer (Creator of Fu Manchu), and even Agatha Christie, alongside established crime writers such as Wallace and Charteris.

The magazine was also renowned for its excellent black and white art work that accompanied the main story each issue. Perhaps the best being those by Arthur Jones whose illustrations have a distinct air of mystery and menace about them. All the artwork was original and only ever used once, at the time of a stories original publication. Even when stories were reprinted elsewhere the art was never reused.

Although best known for its great fiction, The Thriller also included articles covering nearly every aspect of crime, along with the art and science of detection. Also popular was a feature called “Bafflers,” a detective story game in which the readers had to solve the mystery for themselves.

In 1939 after ten years of publication and 525 issues, a short run cowboy story paper was folded into The Thriller, but with no real impact. However a year later with issue #579 the events of the world outside impeded on the fantasy with a lead story entitled “Gestapo Spy Trap,” and a change of title to “War Thriller.”  Ten issues later the magazine succumbed to the realities of paper rationing in worn torn Britain and ceased publication.

Today copies of The Thriller are highly sought after, especially the Christie and Charteris ones, and I’m grateful to Michael Moorcock for allowing me to lose myself in the pages of his collection and journey back to a thrilling 1930s.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Undercover Review: TALES FROM THE HANGING MONKEY

TALES FROM THE HANGING MONKEY
by Bill Craig, Joshua Reynolds, Tommy Hancock, and Derrick Ferguson
Airship 27
184 pages
Review by Greg Daniel
[Full Disclosure: Tommy Hancock, one of the authors, is a staff member of NPF.com.]
           
Why Pulp?  It is a question that gets bandied around quite a bit.  As a matter of fact, if you explore this webpage you will see that very phrase as 2/3 of the title of Nancy Hansen’s always interesting column.  To me, that question has always had a rather simple answer … it’s fun!  It is that very phrase that drew me to Tales from the Hanging Monkey.  It’s fun!  Want to know why you should rush out and buy a copy of Tales from the Hanging Monkey?  Give up?  It’s fun!

Any discussion of Tales from the Hanging Monkey would be remiss without mentioning its inspiration, the too short-lived television series, “Tales of the Gold Monkey.”  For a brief time, riding the post ”Raiders of the Lost Ark” television wave, we were able to thrill to the adventures of Jake Cutter, “Bon Chance” Louie, one-eyed Jack and others.  While Raiders got the Gold Monkey on the tube, its origins can be traced back much further, to a variety of ancestors, such as “Only Angels Have Wings” and Louis Lamour (if you have only read his westerns, you have missed out on a ton of great tales).  But enough with the preamble, let’s get to the book.

The Hanging Monkey of the title is a bar, owned by Corky O’Brian, a former boxer from Ireland, which is heralded as, among other things, the first permanent structure on the South Seas island of Motugra.  The Monkey serves as the nexus for an assortment of expatriates, rogues, scoundrels, exiles, wanderers, and even the occasional hero and their various adventures and misadventures.  Rounding out the Monkey staff are Miko, bartender and Oriental lady of mystery, and Khuna, bouncer and (semi)reformed headhunter. Nick Fortune, skipper of the rum-runner Fortune’s Folly, Jimmy Dolan, air cargo pilot, and Grace Thomas, an American reporter, complete the ensemble cast.

The cover by Daniel Ibanez does a marvelous job of attracting and preparing the reader for the exotic adventure that awaits within.  Dolan’s Loosey Goosey ducks under the logo as it prepares to land.  Nick and Grace are side by side at the wheel of his schooner.  And in the center is a mysterious redhead who would not look out of place as the nose art on a WW2 bomber.  Clayton Hinkle provides equally fetching character sketches and interior illustrations.

Joshua Reynolds gets the action started in a big way with “The Devil’s Crater.” The lead-off features Jimmy Dolan as he transports a scientific expedition in search of a missing colleague.  Island-hopping via seaplane, hacking through the jungle, encountering exotic beasts, fearfully wondering what will be found at journey’s end makes for a great introduction to this volume and sets the pace for what is to follow.

Next up is “The Eye of Ka” by series creator Bill Craig.  Craig launches his tale with an opening scene that you might find vaguely familiar and keeps the pedal down as he provides some back stories, introduces (recurring?) villains, and lays the groundwork for future plotlines all while delivering an intriguing mystery.  The complete ensemble is active in this story with Nick Fortune spending most of the time in the spotlight.

Tommy Hancock serves up “Motugra’s Revenge” and this dish is definitely not served cold.  A diabolical madman seeks revenge on the Hanging Monkey regulars, but who and why both drive this tale to an explosive conclusion.  In an interesting twist, Khuna and Miko, both of whom I would consider more of a supporting character, take center stage and both prove worthy of the attention.

You know what they say happens when you assume something, right?  Well, I must admit that I assumed that Derrick Ferguson’s “The Knobloch Collection Assignment” would be my least favorite.  Nothing against Mr. Ferguson, but I knew going into the story that it was not what I considered a South Seas islands adventure nor did it feature any of the Hanging Monkey regulars.  But, boy oh boy, did Ferguson deliver! Meeting the Magician and seeing him in pre-war espionage action was an absolute blast! An exciting new tale and an intriguing new character and both were right at home in Tales of the Hanging Monkey.  Remember, my mantra from the opening paragraph?  Yes, indeed, it was fun!

My trunk is already packed for a return trip to the Hanging Monkey.  I just hope that Airship 27, Bill Craig, and the rest of the crew can arrange for me to travel by something a little faster than a slow boat to Motugra.