Thursday, September 27, 2012

Press Release: Tales of the Rook volume II


The Rook first took flight into the world of New Pulp with the release of his debut story, “Lucifer’s Cage,” in 2006. Since then, he’s starred in six volumes of his own adventures, plus a comic book adventure in All-Star Pulp Comics # 1. The character has become a New Pulp standard-bearer and is recognized both inside and out of the ever-growing field. A favorite of many artists, The Rook has been depicted by the likes of George Sellas, Frank Brunner, Norm Breyfogle, Ed Mironiuk and Anthony Castrillo.

Earlier this year, Tales of The Rook was released to great critical and commercial acclaim, debuting at # 1 on the New Pulp Best Seller List. Now comes of the follow-up volume, which will see print in 2013 from the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press.

Rook creator Barry Reese says, “All of the authors who took part in Volume One did a wonderful job but I wanted to continue mixing things up, getting different visions of the character and his universe. To achieve that, I only sent out invitations to authors who didn’t take part in the previous book — and I think we’ve got one heck of a lineup!”

Pro Se Editor-in-Chief Tommy Hancock, who took part in the first volume, shares that same belief. “There’s nothing like a great idea. Except when that great idea has enough legs to come around again. Pro Se is ecstatic about Tales of the Rook Volume 2 and the ever growing collection of writers leaving their stamp on this iconic character.’

Lined up for Volume Two:
Russ Anderson, author of We Keep the Cars Running
and the editor of the How the West Was Weird series.

Jim Beard, author of Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker
and Captain Action – Riddle of the Glowing Men
 
Adam Lance Garcia, author of The Green Lama – Unbound
and The New Adventures of Richard Knight
 
James Palmer,author of Slow Djinn
and the mastermind behind Mechanoid Press
 


 

Sean Taylor, author of The Ruby Files
and Gene Simmons’ Dominatrix 
 
Creator Barry Reese will also be contributing a brand-new Rook story.

So... Why Pulp: Thinking Outside The Check Box






I was recently involved in a discussion about racism in the mainstream writing world—specifically comics and dealing with hiring practices. As indie creator roundtables are wont to do, it devolved into a converssation of how to be more diverse in what we actually write. Since the majority of us are New Pulp writers, and classic pulp was clearly aimed at a predominantly Caucasian male demographic, there’s a clear sense that we want and need to bring further cultural diversity into our writing.

Now I’m not here to bash what’s gone before, because in the golden age of pulp, some very amazing stories were conceived and many beloved characters were born. But it’s no secret that the old pulps tended to look down their noses disdainfully on anything other than heroic white male characters. That was simply a societal perception of the era it was written and marketed in. Classic Pulp is still a wonderful fountain of creative material, even if you have to hold your nose and wince at the overt racism, cultural defamation, and antipathy for strong female leads. Toward the end of the golden era run, there is a lot of evidence that the folks behind the scenes had caught on that they had a far less homogenous audience to serve.

Pulp has done some wonderful things for entertainment. You can successfully make the argument that it was the father of comics and dramatic radio plays, and the granddaddy of the action/adventure flick and all those riveting drama series that make for interesting television. Humans have always loved enthralling stories with larger than life characters, and Classic Pulp filled the bill when times were tough, money was scarce, and people needed something inexpensive and entertaining to take their minds off their troubles. Looking back at the amount of stories that were generated and how many magazines sprung up to serve them to the public, it’s obvious it became a marketing phenomenon. New Pulp is a bit different in that it started as a conscious effort to not let that style of writing die out, and has successfully brought back good old fashioned enjoyment to a reading market that has grown increasingly jaded with what the big six publishers have to offer. 

That people still love a well-written pulp story hasn’t changed. What has changed is both the makeup of the writers and the readers. While, as in comics, New Pulp writing is still primarily dominated by white males, that demographic is changing pretty rapidly for us these days. A lot more women and non-Caucasian men are writing now, and they’re bringing in a wealth of diversity in characters and situations within the framework of stories. And that my friends, is expanding the pool of readers.

While I’m not suggesting that Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Female, LBGT, etc readers won’t enjoy a story that has straight white males as the principal characters, I believe there’s a great need to have a New Pulp character list that reflects the times we live in—even in a period piece. What matters more is how the character(s) are handled against the backdrop, not what they look like. A costumed and masked vigilante in the 1950s American south could just as easily be a black woman as a white male. All the more reason to hide her identity, considering the racial tensions of the time, and it would add another layer of danger and intrigue to the stories. The old Kung Fu series on television very successfully portrayed a Chinese American man who used martial arts in a classic Western setting while still dealing with the prejudicial attitudes of those around him. I’m sure you can all think of even better and more contemporary examples.

So it can be done well, and by golly we’re doing it too! But we’ve got to do more if we want to distinguish ourselves from mainstream publishing, because folks... that’s where our market strength lies. We’re not like them, and for good reasons. Right now there are a handful of non-white male leads in New Pulp, and a gradually growing number of heroic female leads. Less common but noteworthy are the openly gay, bisexual, or lesbian characters that are cropping up. I’m thrilled because we need all of them if New Pulp is to grow and find additional audiences. Heroic fiction doesn’t have to follow any strict parameters, because we all love to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose, no matter who they are. There is a real hunger out there to have heroes that remind us that anybody can rise to the occasion.

From a personal standpoint, it’s sometimes hard for me to think outside my own gender and race when writing. I’m a white female and a good amount of my lead characters reflect that. I do write stories with male main characters but the majority of them still tend to be Eurocentric Straight Whites. Mixing in different races, cultures, and even gender identities has been a slow process for me because I tend to write from where I feel comfortable. It’s really a mindset thing; we gravitate to those elemental parts of a tale that we most identify with. Yet I want to craft stories that appeal to anyone or everyone, and so I consciously have to remind myself to diversify the cast and background of what I’m working on. I’ll admit to that being rather contrived, but it’s important for me to keep honing my skills while I’m broadening my audience. I know I am far too tentative about it at times, mainly because I’m concerned I won’t get it right and will alienate readers rather than drawing them in. The last thing I want is to do is create a thinly disguised token minority stick figure instead of a vitally admirable protagonist or a complex and skin-crawling antagonist. Regardless, I’m doing my best to bring some cultural diversity into the pulp stories I craft, without it seeming phony. Maybe I’m not doing enough though…?

I do understand the whys of diversifying New Pulp, but the answer to the ‘how’ is a lot more complex. Plenty of us are attempting to bring additional richness into the action tales we all love to read and write. One of the big stumbling blocks—and that got pointed out during the discussion on comics—is the dearth of diversity amongst writers. Now let me say right here that New Pulp writers are already a pretty eclectic bunch, and many of us work with indie publishers who are very open-minded to new ideas from all areas. We don’t answer to Madison Avenue and we don’t have huge staffs and fancy offices to maintain. This is a grassroots effort. The referential article we started to talk about was an editorial piece by a mainstream comics insider, who was frustrated with the brick wall he kept getting when matters of race were involved. As a woman writing in what has traditionally been a men’s adventure fiction field, I can somewhat sympathize. Getting my work out there and actually read still has its uphill climbs, mainly because there are a lot of predisposed notions about what I’m writing. I don’t strictly write for women or Tolkien fans, but that’s the impression that seems to be prevalent.

New Pulp is a lot more inclusive than any mainstream fiction field I’ve tested the waters in. My mission, if I have to state one, is to grab the attention of anyone who enjoys stories where women kick butts and name names. Yes, I do want to involve other cultures, races, genders, and what-have-you in my writing, and you can be sure that I will. But what I know best is how a woman longs to be known as capable, robust, independent, savvy, and respected—and those characteristics make great heroes. So if I seem a bit predisposed to write about the feminine gender, that’s why. I’m filling a niche with stories I wanted to read but had trouble finding. These are stories that need to be told. I want to see plenty of others do that too, in their own ways. We don’t have to pay complete homage to our pulpy past; we can evolve and captivate in the present as well.

That’s why I’m a New Pulp writer folks. Because I can publish the kind of tales I always loved to read—and I doubt very much I’m the only person who feels that way. No matter what we do for marketing, how cleverly our books are presented, the kinds of deals we offer, or how lush the artwork is inside and out, it all comes down to knowing who you’re writing for. If we’re going to survive as a legitimate part of the greater publishing world, then we need to further trumpet the fact that here you get the kind of purely entertaining fiction you can’t find anywhere else. Diversity outside the check box borders is a huge part of that.

I salute you, my pioneering peers. Keep churning out that magical page-turning prose that takes our breath away. Keep pushing toward the next frontier and let’s see how far we can expand New Pulp’s horizons. There is no limit to the types of characters we can introduce or the situations we can shove them into. Don’t get caught up in the mentality that keeps people writing the same old protagonists facing the same kind of perils. It’s a big, amazing world out there filled with ideas just waiting to be mined. In the days of Classic Pulp, the imagineers of the time had vast pools of unknown places and people to draw from. We know far more about the world around us now, but to me that just opens up more avenues of possibilities.

Just tick off ‘OTHER’ in the profiling check box next time, and see where that takes you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Press Release: Airship 27 Announces SINBAD - The New Voyages



SET SAIL FOR ADVENTURE

Airship 27 Productions announces the release of their newest pulp anthology title, SINBAD – The New Voyages. 

The greatest seafaring adventurer of all times returns to the high seas, Sinbad the Sailor!
Born of countless legends and myths, this fearless rogue sets sail across the seven seas aboard his ship, the Blue Nymph, accompanied by an international crew of colorful, larger-than-life characters. Chief among these are the irascible Omar, a veteran seamen and trusted first mate, the blond Viking giant, Ralf Gunarson, the sophisticated archer from Gaul, Henri Delacrois and the mysterious, lovely and deadly female samurai, Tishimi Osara.  All of them banded together to follow their famous captain on perilous new voyages across the world’s oceans.

“This was another opportunity for us to explore another classic pulp genre,” Managing Editor Ron Fortier explained.  “Fantasy high adventure was a popular setting in many of the more exotic themed pulp titles of the 1930s.  Doing one starring Sinbad seemed a natural choice for us.”

Writers Nancy Hansen, I.A. Watson and Derrick Ferguson offer up three classic Sinbad tales to rival those of legend while adding a familiar sensibility from the cult favorite Sinbad movies of FX master, Ray Harryhausen.  SINBAD – The New Voyages will enthrall and entertain all lovers of fantasy adventure in a brand new way; featuring cover art by Bryan Fowler and twelve black and white illustrations by Ralf van der Hoeven.

“From inception to realization, this was one of the fastest titles we’ve ever put together,” Fortier added.  “In fact we received so many submissions that we had enough to fill two books.  You can expect volume two to sail over the horizon soon.  And we couldn’t be happier.”

So pack up your you traveling bags, bid ado to your loved ones and get ready to sail with the tide as Sinbad El Ari takes the tiller and the Blue Nymph sets sails once more; its destination worlds of wonder, mystery and high adventure.  

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – Pulp Fiction For A New Generation!

Now available as $3 PDF download.

From Create Space
(https://www.createspace.com/3988204)

Later from Indy Planet.com POD.
(http://indyplanet.com/store/)

And finally Amazon & Kindle.

Undercover Review: QUEST




by David Wood
Gryphonwood Press
266 pages
Review by Greg Daniel

The thriller is widely accepted to be the modern mainstream descendant of the adventure pulps.  More often than not though, it is a fat bloated cousin.  While I am intrigued by the plots and characters, often I get bogged down and give up after one too many info dumps, whether it be arcane history, pseudoscience, high tech weaponry, or a geography lesson.  Even more disheartening is when what should be a tense six paragraph action scene is dragged out over six pages.  Thankfully, David Wood avoids those pitfalls and has a written a fast-paced action adventure thriller that doesn’t waste words nor skimp on action. 

Quest is the third Dane Maddock novel.  While some might say that this book and its predecessors are somewhat formulaic, I would say that they actually follow a tried & true recipe with Wood adding spices and tweaking the recipe with each subsequent volume.

The story opens with a double-barred prologue that teases the mystery and hints at the adventure ahead.  As Carthage is about to fall, a descendant of Hannibal is sent on a voyage to save something that is sacred and powerful from falling into enemy hands.  Flash forward nearly two millennia and we are privy to Percy Fawcett encountering a South American “native” who neither looks nor sounds like others in the area.

The present day aspect of the story starts off with a couple of big bangs too.  A professor on an academic expedition in South America disappears after encountering a ferocious, aggressive tribe that is impervious to pain.  Maddock’s ex-girlfriend is being chased by an unknown enemy believing that she has knowledge of this lost expedition.  She enlists Maddock’s help and the globe-trotting adventure is off and running.

Dane Maddock is an ex-Navy Seal who, along with his pals, including best bud, “Bones” Bonebrake, a six-and-a-half foot tall Cherokee, is a treasure hunter who has knack for finding trouble and adventure where ever he goes.  Trading wisecracks, Dane, Bones, and the gang are always eager to jump into the fray, fists a-flyin’ and guns a-blazin’.  But don’t let the action fool you, the guys can use their brains when they need to as well.  Dane leans towards ancient history and problem solving, while Bones prefers conspiracy theories and cryptids.  Both men’s expertise will come in handy in Quest.

The beginning of the book focuses on interpreting the one clue they have and following it to other pieces of the puzzle, while avoiding, pursuing, and being pursued by the agents of a massive corporation intent on finding the missing professor first.  This takes them to multiple locations in London and to a couple of South Atlantic islands before they head off to the Amazon.  David Wood plays fast and loose with some bits of history, but it works in the story and he owns up to it in his afterword.  The action moves even faster once they reach the Amazon and start their actual search for the missing professor and whatever brought him and Percy Fawcett to the area.  Jungles, traps, temples, tunnels, firefights, Bones’ unique personality, and much more lay ahead.
David Wood does a good job of not revealing too much too soon and simply turning the book into a big chase.  Readers may be able to figure the mystery out ahead of time, but Wood still has a couple of twists at the end that ratchets up the excitement and keeps the pages turning.  

I think that any fan of pulp adventure will enjoy David Wood’s writing and Dane Maddock’s adventures.  You can start with Quest, which I think is the book where Wood really started to develop his craft and voice, and then go back and read the earlier ones.  Or you can start with the first, Dourado, and know for a fact that things are going to get even better.  And, if you are fortunate enough to have already read them all, you can get excited by the fact that the 5th Dane Maddock adventure (the 4th was a novella, Icefall), Buccaneer, will be released soon. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

So... Why Pulp: The Value Of Research






Okay, so that’s a pretty straightforward title, and I can already hear the groans. What’s she nattering on about now? Everyone knows that research is one of those necessary evils of writing—especially if you’re doing a period piece or working with unfamiliar concepts or cultures. In New Pulp, research covers a lot of ground because not only do we work with endless combinations of speculative ideas, but sometimes beloved or forgotten characters are revisited and we often pay homage to styles or archetypes that have gone before. Since we’re now creating stories for an audience which has become decidedly more diverse as well as knowledgeable and worldly, you want to understand what you’re writing about at least as thoroughly as the average reader.

I suppose you can be a good writer without doing a lot of research, because there is a certain element of creative license involved in all fiction. If and when you decide to stretch yourself and work outside your comfort zone, it gets harder to write with conviction and panache if you don’t know enough about a topic to really pull it off. Whether you’re guiding a gumshoe detective trying to solve the murder of a friend through prohibition era gangland, diving in a Spitfire being pursued by Messerschmitts manned by Aryan cyborgs, or riding hell-bent for leather into Texas Hill Country looking for the Mestizo man with the scarred neck who gunned down yer pa; you’ve got to know who and what you’re talking about. Or at least know enough to sound like you do. Get that instrument panel layout backwards or the wrong caliber pistol for the era, and someone who picked up the story because it looked like a good nostalgic read is bound to notice. Mess with the stats or personality of a beloved iconic character and there will be a virtual lynch mob pursuing you to the ends of the earth and beyond. Pulp fans know what they like, and in this more ‘enlightened’ day and age, they really will sound off about it. At least a modicum of background research is in order before you lay out a story so that you keep them happily coming back for more.

In some ways it’s never been easier to be a writer. For instance, if you’re reading this on a screen, you likely have a PC, laptop, or some other electronic device with internet capability at your disposal. The World Wide Web has revolutionized popular culture in general, and writing in particular, by making streaming information a daily fact of life. In all honesty though, the majority of that information is not useful, as the internet has become a bully platform for soapbox ideologies and wild theorizing on a grand scale. Still it is a rich and varied pool of resources for a writer to select from. Where, in the past you had to make a special trip to the library, haunt the local university, chase up resident experts, or pore over newspaper archives; now most of those more in-depth details are at your fingertips. You can do some or even all of your research all at home, in your grungy clothes, unshaven or having a bad hair day, in the middle of the night, and when you have the flu. Isn’t that wonderful?

Yeah it is, as long as you are getting good information. But how do you know what you’re reading is valid?

Cross check it. No, you can’t just say, “Well… I saw this on Wikipedia so it has to be true.” Personally I love that site, and use it for a lot of baseline fact finding so that I can get an overview of whatever it is I’m currently trying to wrap my brain around; but it is volunteer written, and results vary from subject to subject. My searching goes far deeper than that as I wade through pages of Google results, trying to verify something that is backed up by what appears to be expert opinion and solid fact. If during the course of a research session, I locate similar material documented over and over, I can be reasonably sure it’s a safe to include. Even if there are some little-known facts that contradict many of the bigger picture details; if most people seem to agree with what is laid out for me, I’ll likely go with it. I’m writing for ‘most people’ anyway, not just to pander to the small percentage of experts that might have esoteric knowledge not easily attainable to the rest of us.

Besides Wikipedia, the most useful sites for both general overview and specific knowledge are those which archive information; such as libraries, various media outlets, organizations devoted to the preservation of historical data, and some government pages. When I first got online back in the late 1990s, there was a plethora of open sites just waiting to be browsed and pillaged by us eager writerly types. These days, bandwidth issues, the proliferation of plagiarism/reposting without citation, and the up-ticking cost of web space has made it less lucrative to allow anyone and everyone in. It is getting harder to get into many of those very densely informative sites without an account and password, and some are starting to charge for articles. Good hunting nonetheless!

Commercial sites (those that are selling something) should be perused with a deep sense of skepticism, unless what you’re researching is the history or appearance of XYZ product. That doesn’t mean they don’t have useful info, just that you need to realize what is they are 100% geared toward marketing whatever is for sale. So you are by default going to get skewed results. These are best used as a way to get ideas to do some more in-depth digging later.

Beware of blogs. I know how they work, because I have one, and they are fountains of ‘Look At Me!’ showmanship. Don’t get me wrong, I love blogs and I read a lot of them. I just don’t pull much information off them for writing without doing some extra research to make sure what I’m getting is factual and accurate and not just unsubstantiated opinion. Blogs are mainly free sites where anyone can set up an account. Other than those geared toward a particular subject area, which can actually be quite helpful, you are going to get more random observation and UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) than cold, hard facts. Sure, I browse blogs for writing inspiration, but most times I am looking at pictures. Someone’s vacation or genealogy photos might just answer a question that’s been plaguing me.

I have similar caveats about social networking sites. I am a moderately enthusiastic fan of Facebook and I also have a presence on Google+ (I’m not fond of Twitter, too fiddly for me), but I mostly haunt them for news of friends, family, fans and peers, as well as to post my own status updates. You can make some very important contacts on those interactive sites, and that can lead to collaborations and access to resources you wouldn’t normally stumble across. Social networks, when things are going well, allow for free exchange of ideas and information across geographic and cultural borders. That’s wonderful stuff, and I applaud it; but I can tell you from experience that it’s far easier to simply become lost in the carnival atmosphere of the site and get little from it. If you’re spending the majority of your time reading celebrity tweets, telling the world your current status, and checking out backdrops on Facebook walls, you’re likely not getting much research or writing done. I tend to lurk only long enough to do a bunch of hit & run posts on the social networks—mainly in the mornings and evenings, leaving the bulk of my waking hours for writing and research. That is, unless I have a very valid reason to be there, like a chat with a fan, sharing an announcement by a publisher, or awaiting an update that will directly affect me. There are purely topical social networking pages (Facebook has tons of them), and if you’re savvy and patient enough to read through multiple posts, you can learn quite a lot from those who are knowledgeable in whatever the subject is. They can also be quite inspirational, and a great place to share what you know as well.

Bulletin Boards, or BBs as us old timers like to refer to them, are the antediluvian ancestors of social networking. The forums on BBs are where I cut my research teeth online, and believe it or not, there are still some out there. While their platform of posting in moderated sections has fallen by the wayside, those that have survived the explosion of social networking can be a storehouse of wonderfully informative material, and many have archives. I can think of several right off the bat that are devoted to hobbies such as gardening, health and nutrition, crafts, military families, genealogy, blacksmithing, edged weaponry, guns and ammo, various cultures/religions, and of course books and writing! What I liked about BBs was that while you had that camaraderie with like-minded individuals the social networks boast of, they were far more structured, so posts went much less off topic. It was far easier to find the information you needed without wading through fluff and flippant posts or rants. The online bulletin boards are disappearing at an alarming rate for the same reason that the free info sites are, and also because so many of us have migrated to the social networks to consolidate more of our online experience into a single place. If you find a good one, mark it and visit it often. Maybe even join the community. There’s no guarantee it will be there forever.

Search engines are hands down your best online resource facility. We all know Google is the undisputed emperor of their world, though it’s not the only one. When I was first online, we had a Prodigy account, and they went from hosting their own homepage to one with Excite in a sort of hybrid collaboration. When I started moderating BBs and answering questions in posts, I used every search engine at my disposal. I don’t know how many of them are left, but besides Excite I hunted in Yahoo, Dogpile, Ask Jeeves, Northern Light (long gone), Webcrawler, Infoseek, Lycos, Altavista, GoTo, LookSmart, Ask.com, HotBot, MetaCrawler and now and then AOL. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. Besides needing to answer questions, I’m just a curious person and have always loved browsing the ‘net for whatever had my attention at that moment. I use Google most of the time now, and my searches are split between information, images, and the occasional map.

I do a lot of picture browsing and I keep many in files. I also bookmark sites. It’s how I further visualize a setting, character, or idea. My personal files I can call up even when the internet is not cooperating or I need to revisit a concept and can’t find it again. That does happen, and far too often.

Those research bouts can eat up a lot of writing time but I find them absolutely vital to making a story come alive. When I write, I generally only have two or three internet ‘tabs’ open. One might be an online radio station playing the mood music du-jour, if I don’t have something going from one of my own playlists. The next is invariably a free dictionary/thesaurus site like Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, or Thesaurus.co. Those give me the words I need, so that I’m not repeating myself and the prose runs as smoothly as clean oil in a well-broken in engine. The last site is generally Google, which gets me all the info I want to know and a lot I had no idea I’d need. Oh, I would absolutely be able to write without those online ‘crutches’, because in the real world, they still have libraries and newspapers, but it’s a lot easier to get my work done if I don’t have to get into a car and go somewhere.

So whatever you decide to write, use all your modern day opportunities to research wisely and often. Your writing will only benefit from it, even if all you get is a few key lines in a paragraph that set the mood for the piece. Along the way you might even find some inspiration for another story. I will guarantee you will get a lot more out of your research opportunities than you ever expected—far more than just hanging out online chatting.

Now go write something!