Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So Why Pulp? - The Proof is in the Reading



You absolutely must proofread your work before you offer it to a publisher.

Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Well, you’d be surprised at what we editors wind up dealing with. We get to look at a lot of stuff that would be stunning work if it wasn’t full of misspellings, punctuation and grammar errors, redundancies (repeated words, phrases, or ideas) and just plain awkward sentence structure. Sometimes the story starts well, and then goes off on some tangent, and I don’t understand why it’s called ‘Zoe Conquers The Evil Mercenaries’ when Zoe doesn’t appear until page 23 of 25. Or maybe Rambunctious Rodney does something truly amazing in Chapter 10 that would require three arms and the ability to turn himself inside out. Now and then I see a sentence so cryptic I can’t for the life of me figure out what the devil is going on in there. Hey I’m no English Lit major, nor am I a bluestocking reader, because I love me some raw pulpy action, but if I am stopping every so often scratching my head about what’s happening within this manuscript, that doesn’t bode well for your future readers. I have to finish editing it. They don’t have to buy and read it.

I’m a writer and an editor, so I understand both ends of the spectrum. As a writer, I know how the best of intentions often go astray. You have a deadline, and somehow life always makes things more complicated. You’re plugging away on one project, and some amazing offer comes along, so you drop the first story to go knock out the second one. And then you sign on for a third one, because that’s exactly what you always wanted to write. You’ve been working on your novel for a decade and it’s almost finished, and now someone actually is interested in seeing it, so you can’t get that out the door fast enough. Then whew—let’s kick back and take a break! Now that first publisher says, “If you want your story to be in this anthology, send it immediately!” So you do an 11th hour spellcheck run and you’re pretty sure they’ll take the standard formatting, and off it goes because you’re on to the next shiny thing. The editor will take care of any problems in there anyway.

Well huzzah for you being so busy, except what you just sent out to me was a rough draft and I’m going to have to give up my own writing time to get it ready for print. It may be finished, but it’s not polished or anywhere near ready for publication, and you probably haven’t really read through it in weeks. You just became the editor’s nightmare, especially if this is a novel size manuscript. One or both of us is now going to be spending a whole lot of time reading and revising, and it’s likely going to fall way back in the line of things waiting to see print. If this was a mainstream submission, unless you have a very well known name, you’re either going to get it back for major revision, or it’s going from the slush pile to the round file. If it’s for a New Pulp publisher, we’re going to at least read it over and make some corrections and suggestions as warranted. If it’s simple stuff, we’ll handle it. If it’s a mess, or needs to be far shorter, you’re getting it back for a rewrite at some point. We will work with you, unless you have an issue with changing stuff, in which case we bid you good luck and send you on to find some other planet where nothing ever needs proofreading. Here on Earth, we read through all the submissions we get for that reason. We’re a team, and to be part of that team, you have to put your game face on and deal with it.

Neither writers nor editors are infallible. We all make mistakes. We get rushed. We forget how to spell words and spellchecker guesses wrong. The evil keyboard purposely screws up entire paragraphs. We neglect to go back to the first 5 chapters and change ‘blind Aunt Mabel’ to ‘lame Cousin Lizzie’. Everybody writes a totally bizarre sentence now and then; something so indecipherable the Rosetta Stone couldn’t decode it. And we all have trouble figuring out where to put the punctuation in a quotation, when to use a dash or semi-colon, or how to distinguish a character’s thoughts from spoken dialogue. That’s normal stuff that turns up in every manuscript, and it’s expected. That why we have editors—we’re that important second set of eyes. What makes editors pull their hair out by the roots is a manuscript so loaded with errors that it’d be easier to read the Dead Sea Scrolls. Especially if it has to be reformatted too, because if you didn’t upgrade that, it’s probably still in the setup you used for the last publisher it was sent to, 8 years ago.

Yes, you need to proofread most if not all of what you send out. Take some pride in your submissions, because it makes you look far more professional if you’re sending out polished work. Some writers are very good at that, and their stories are always a joy to work on. At the very least, if you are at that absolute deadline and time is running out, give us some warning that this is actually a rough draft. Something in the cover email saying that it hasn’t been gone over very well would be appreciated, and no, we won’t hold that against you. We’ve all been there, but a little advance warning does help us immensely, because we might be able to shift other work so your baby gets the attention it needs up front, while we still have time. Whatever you do, never represent a rough manuscript as finished work. You’re only lying to yourself; we’re going to see it immediately. Keep your reputation in the positive zone.

Editors have to do a lot of work to get a manuscript ready to publish. You want yours as finished looking as you can make it before they get it because the more that has to be done, the less likely it will appear on time. Having it in the right format will help. If you don’t know what XYZ publisher prefers and can’t find it on their site, please ask. We love those kinds of questions, because then we know you are doing something now we won’t have to later! An hour or three spent changing fonts and chapter headers, getting rid of indents, arranging scene breaks and transferring underlines to italics is going to save someone else major headaches. We’d rather focus on reading and editing the story itself than tinkering with the mechanics of the pages.

Editors do read your story, line by line, which is something you should have done too, before you sent it in—preferably aloud. Listen for the flow of the sentences and the way the paragraphs and chapters fall. Make sure you have all the information correct. If you stumble over something, that’s a clear indicator you need to reword it. If there are glaring errors, by all means, fix them. If you just can’t manage this, find someone else you trust as a beta reader who is willing to, and give her or him a paper copy that can be marked up. I can’t stress enough the value of a beta reader, because yes, I use one too. Don’t trust yourself to do everything and always get it right because I can guarantee you won’t. Your brain is going to fill in the gaps and your eyes will skip over mistakes that are going to be very evident to someone else. It’s an extra step, but an invaluable one.

Spellchecker is a tool. It’s not there to replace good proofreading. It’s a computer program and it has no idea which word you need to use, it just makes suggestions for how to spell common words correctly. So if you have a choice between pear, pair, and pare, it will either prompt you to change the word or it will fill in the most common spelling and move on. If you don’t know the difference between the three, we’re all in trouble because you can pare a pair of pears, but you can’t give Julio a pear of .45s and expect him to shoot someone with fruit. It’s still a correct spelling, but the wrong word. Get a printed dictionary or find an online site (I like Dictionary.com but there are others) so that you can look up the proper usage. Never let spellcheck make your decisions for you.

And please, now and then, access the thesaurus function or buy the paperback version, and find some new words to use. Nothing is more boring than column after column of he said/she said dialogue, or narrative with the same five action words. If Konin the Ronin always slashes with his kitana, we’re going to wonder if he has any other moves. If Sister Mary Beth said this, Sister Mary Beth said that, and Sister Mary Beth said some other thing, she’s going to get tiresome to listen to. Mix it up a little so the story doesn’t sound so flat. With real life dialogue, people don’t just stand there and talk without moving, they’re fiddling with things, tapping their toe, winding hair around their fingers, or grimacing. Dialogue is a great place to get those little personal quirks in that distinguish one speaker from another so you don’t have to say ‘SMB said’ all the time, and yet no one will have to go back 15 lines to figure out who’s talking now.

Plot holes happen, and when they do, they suck your story into oblivion faster than that door-to-door vacuum cleaner picks up coffee grounds. You’re going to locate them a whole lot easier if you read that manuscript from end to end. Timeframe issues are common, because it’s easy to get lost in space when you’re trying to lay out a string of events and you’ve been back and forth in chapters or scenes during the writing process. Read through and make sure you don’t have someone appear over here when they were over half a continent away 5 minutes ago. Unless that person can fly at the speed of light or cast a spell to move from one point to another, that just isn’t going to work. If Slingo the Magnificent dropped his whip in the lion’s den in last paragraph, you’d better explain how come he has it hanging off his belt in the next one.

Character abnormalities also show up as glaring neon signs. A reticent schoolgirl isn’t going to suddenly become a super powered crime fighter without some motivation and training. A back alley brawler isn’t likely to sit down and cry when he sees a magnificent sunset. If you’re going to change a character, make sure we see him or her change. Don’t just throw an about-face in there. Make sure you go through your work carefully, so that it remains consistent to the plot and characterization you initially chose.

It does take time to proofread a manuscript this way, but it’s very much worth the effort. You will gain a reputation as a careful, competent, and ultimately professional writer whose work is well prepared and a pleasure to deal with.  That goes a long way toward getting you an invitation to join in on other projects. You’ll benefit from it too, because proofreading trains your eyes to spot typical typos, misspelling, mixed tenses, and grammatical errors; and your other senses will learn to pick up on those nuances of dialogue, characterization, and plotting that make your work stand out in a field crowded with those who also have stories to sell. Most importantly, your tales will get into the hands of readers far sooner, and they will be a whole lot more entertaining for the extra attention to detail.

So don’t skip the proofreading stage unless you absolutely have to. Speaking for all editors out there, we’ll love you all the more for it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Press Release: MYSTERY MEN (& Women) Vol III



THEY’RE BACK!

Airship 27 Productions is excited to announce the release of their third MYSTERY MEN (& Women) anthology celebrating the creations of brand new pulp heroes to follow in the steps of the classic avengers of old.  Managing Editor, Ron Fortier explains it this way, “After doing new stories of classic pulp heroes for nearly four years, many of our writers starting getting the itch to invent their own original pulp characters.  This anthology series addresses that need and has been a huge hit with all our readers.”

As in the first two volumes in this series, a quartet of today’s most ambitious pulp writers put on their creative caps and have whipped up four thrilling brand new pulp adventures crammed with wall-to-wall action. In MYSTERY MEN (& Women) Vol III we get to meet three brand new characters and have the pleasure of enjoying the return of a familiar character from volume two.

THE SKEIN - A black veteran of World War One returns home to the bayou country only confront an evil practitioner of the voodoo magic is turning living people into lifeless zombies.  Donning his old doughboy uniform and a gasmask, the Skein is born to protect the innocent and defeat the wicked, written and created by Kevin Noel Olson

THE BROWN RECLUSE – Next, in the grand tradition of the old pulp magazines comes a new series that focuses not on the stalwart heroes of the tale but rather on its dastardly villain.  A mad scientist whose genius is capable of inventing the most bizarre weapons, the Brown Recluse has but one goal in mind, the complete domination of all mankind under his heel. He is the invention of writer by Greg Gick

KIRI - A beautiful female samurai comes to New York in the early 1930s employed as the personal aid to a newspaper business woman wanting to clean up the city from vice and corruption.  Along the way, Kiri stumbles on a white slavery ring connected to a former ally who murdered her teacher back in Japan.  Suddenly her mission becomes that of personal vengeance and before it is over blood will be spilled.  Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to welcome gifted writer Curt Ferlund to our ranks and premier this truly wonderful new pulp hero.

MONGREL (Chapter Two) – And lastly the saga of the modern day action hero, Mongrel, continues in this second chapter picking up where the first ended.  There is a conspiracy to destroy Mongrel’s family, the owners of a multi-faceted high tech communications empire.  Using disguised, sophisticated cyborg assassins, the enemy strikes from the shadows.  This is Airship 27 Productions’ first on-going chapter serial and is presented by the creator of Dillon, the one and only Derrick Ferguson.

Airship 27 Productions’ 14th title of the year features a stunning cover by artist Marco Turini with interior illustrations and designs by Art Director Rob Davis.  Here once more are four fast-paced, colorful heroes created in the spirit of the golden age pulp avengers and brought to you by the publisher where adventure reigns.  Airship 27 Productions.  PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Now Available at Create Space – (https://www.createspace.com/4049994)
Within 7 to 10 days at Amazon & Kindle.

As a PDF Digital Download Now at our Website.

And in two weeks as a POD from – (http://indyplanet.com/store/)

Press Release: Pulp Collector Mecca in November in NJ




Doc Savage team Will Murray and Joe DeVito are guests


November 8, 2012 -- (For Immediate Release)



BORDENTOWN, NJ – On Saturday, November 10th, 2012, the annual Pulp AdventureCon will convert the Ramada Inn in of Bordentown, NJ into a Pulp Collectors Mecca.  There will be vendors with rare pulp magazines, movie posters, and vintage paperbacks.  There are also several new publications and comics reviving both the heroes and tradition of pulp fiction --  and here you’ll find the original pulps, where it all began during the Depression, in plentiful supply.

Pulp magazines were an inexpensive form of entertainment in the days before the internet, cell phones, and even television.  They first appeared with Argosy in 1897, flourished in the 1930s, and ultimately died or reinvented themselves in the 1950s.  Characters like The Shadow, Tarzan, and Zorro prospered in the pulps, while authors like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Ray Bradbury actually started their careers in these rough old magazines.

Doc Savage fans will enjoy meeting author Will Murray, noted pulp historian, currently writing The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage from Altus Press.  Murray’s collaborator, noted illustrator Joe DeVito, will also display several of his Doc Savage paintings.  Also, Mala Mastroberte will unveil her new book, Malaland!, a collection of her pulpiest poses, photos, and pin-ups. Mala is passionate about vintage pin-up art, especially pertaining to pop-culture such as movie posters, pulps, and vintage paperbacks. She is a self taught photographer, model, stylist and editor.

The Pulp AdventureCon will be held at the Ramada Inn, 1083 Route 206, Bordentown, NJ. The show runs from 10AM to 5PM. Admission is $5.00. For more information, www.boldventurepress.com or boldventurepress@aol.com.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Press Release: Evil Ways Novel Returns To Print, Debuts As Ebook


Evil’s coming...
Don’t look back!

BEN Books is pleased to announce that the re-release version of author
Bobby Nash’s debut novel, EVIL WAYS is now available for purchase in
paperback and ebook formats.

Originally released in 2005 as a paperback (followed by a limited
hardcover edition a few years later), Evil Ways was the first
published novel for author Bobby Nash. “There was a feeling of joy I
just can’t explain,” said Nash of holding those initial copies of his
first published novel back in September of 2005. “I was so excited. I
smiled for a week. It was thrilling,” adds Nash. “With this
re-release, I’m excited to get the book back in the hands of readers.
Even more exciting is launching Evil Ways as an ebook for the first
time.”

As for the future of the characters, Nash announced that the second
book in the Harold Palmer Thriller Series, titled Evil Intent, is
underway for a 2013 release. “From there, hopefully we get to do a
book three, then four, and so on,” Nash added, smiling at the prospect
of seeing his characters continue. “With both The Harold Palmer
Thrillers and The John Bartlett/Benjamin West Thrillers (Book 1:
Deadly Games! is available now), not to mention my other writing
projects, it looks like I’ve got a lot of writing ahead of me.”

About Evil Ways:

FBI Agent Harold Palmer needed a relaxing vacation. All he wanted was
to travel to Sommersville, Georgia to visit his brother, newspaper
publisher and reporter, Franklin Palmer. He should have known better.

The graduating class of 2002 have returned to Sommersville for their
ten year high school reunion, timed to coincide with the annual
Sommersville Autumn Festival.  Classmates coming from all over to
reconnect, retell old stories, and have a great time reminiscing.

The discovery of a brutally murdered young lady with a connection to
the local police, coupled with a rowdy high school reunion and the
annual Autumn Festival has Sommersville Sheriff Tom Myers and his
deputies overwhelmed.

Agent Palmer finds himself on the trail of a killer who preys on the
fears of his victims. His next targets are the unsuspecting members of
the reunited class of ‘02.

They should fear his EVIL WAYS.

This re-release edition of Evil Ways by Author Bobby Nash kicks off
the beginning of a new series of suspense thrillers starring FBI
Special Agent Harold Palmer.

It all starts here.

Evil Ways was Bobby Nash's first published novel. He is excited to
have it once again in print. Currently, he is busy working on Harold
Palmer’s next adventure, Evil Intent, to be published in 2013.

EVIL WAYS can be purchased in paperback and ebook at the following:

BEN Books estore paperback - https://www.createspace.com/4049826


Amazon paperback - http://www.amazon.com/dp/1480253456

Amazon (Kindle) ebook -
http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Harold-Palmer-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00A2TU8OM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1352311694&sr=1-1&keywords=Evil+Ways+Bobby+Nash

Barnes and Noble (Nook) ebook -
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/evil-ways-bobby-nash/1007455702?ean=2940015936476

Smashwords ebook (multiple formats, Kindle, Nook, etc.) -
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/252330

DriveThru Fiction ebook -
http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/107856/Evil-Ways
 


Harold Palmer will return in Evil Intent.

Bobby Nash’s Deadly Games! is also available. Although not part of the
Harold Palmer Thriller series, characters and locations that appear in
Evil Ways also appear in Deadly Games! Learn more about Deadly Games!
at http://ben-books.blogspot.com/p/deadly-games.html

So Why Pulp: Picking Up Ideas From The World Around You





As Kate glanced up at him, she had the stray thought that Ryan Edward Johnston was still one handsome devil of a man. He was all bright blue eyes with that killer smile, and just the right amount of boyish charm. He absolutely oozed charisma, which he used to great effect, both in his burgeoning political career, and the conquests he’d made with the ladies. Unfortunately, he also was at the other end of the 9mm whose cold barrel was snugged tight up against her temple. Down on her knees with hands fastened behind her back, there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about that.

“Any last words?” he said, pulling the trigger back the first little bit.

Double action—some off brand model, faintly registered in her mind. Having a gun nut father does that to you. Didn’t matter, one more tug and her brain tissue would be all over the cellar floor.

“Yeah, go to hell!” she fairly spat, her own brown eyes defiantly meeting his amused smile. She knew Ryan wanted her to plead for her life—he got off on that sort of thing. ‘Katherine Mary, a Keener never begs’, her father had admonished her every time she wanted something so badly she’d needle him for days. Right now, Kate Keener wanted more than anything to live, at least a few minutes longer, but she wasn’t giving this sleazy sonavabitch the satisfaction of knowing that.

“See you there,” he answered with a smirk and pulled the trigger several times, more savagely at each instance.

Nothing happened.

Misfire! Kate’s still intact brain screamed triumphantly as she took advantage of his momentary confusion. The small woman lunged upright, head butting him as hard as possible in the abdomen before he could bring the phenolic grip of the pistol down across her temple. Being a gymnast and dating an always randy football player through high school had its advantages, because she could uncoil rapidly and move in ways the average 20-something never dreamed of.

The gun dropped from his hand as the air left his lungs in a rush. He went over backwards, with Kate sprawling sideways to stay out of range of a chokehold. She rolled and was on her feet before the desk jockey did more than get to his hands and knees, still gasping. A hard swung boot toe to the chin snapped his head up, and his eyes rolled white before his face hit the floor. She added an extra kick for good measure, and he was down for the count.

“Next time, you cheap bastard, spring for a Glock. They’re far more reliable,” she said matter-of-factly, one foot sweeping the weapon out of reach, into the shadows. Her cell phone was buzzing away in Johnston’s pocket, but Kate couldn’t reach it with her hands tied. No matter; Gwen always found a way to track her down. Sirens in the distance growing louder said someone had gotten her last text message before she went offline.

***

Yeah, that was exciting for me too, and just as unexpected. Now we return you to your regularly scheduled column…

It’s said that there’s nothing new under the sun. Yet here we are, a bunch of pulp hacks, trying to reinvent the wheel every time we pound the keyboard. Some days the hardest thing is just figuring out what to write that is going to satisfy pulp fans and yet stand out from the existing offerings as well as whatever is coming up. The answer to that is something I wrestle with every time I sit down to work. Besides keeping it high level action with plenty of adventure, how do I make this particular story resonate with readers and not seem like more of the same?

First thing I ask myself is, what do people care about today? Sometimes I troll the social networking sites, read some online message boards, and listen to conversations around me to get ideas for what seems to motivate folks.

That snippet above popped into my head as I sat down to write this column. I had a raw concept, inspired by yesterday’s election and all the online brouhaha surrounding it, involving a scheming pretty boy local politician willing to go as far as murder to cover his butt as he climbed the ladder of success. Not exactly a new idea, but I picked a fictional world to put it in, and I was off and running. Now, Kate Keener of The Keener Eye series of short stories is one of my newest creations, a departure from my usual sword and sorcery fantasy into a modern day Private Eye tale. This sort of thing certainly works well for one of her tales, but it just as easily could have been adapted into a feudal system, a horror thriller, a superhero/masked avenger outing, or could even have taken place in a galaxy far, far away. A little creativity and some appropriately designed details, and it could have fit any genre. The bottom line is, I pulled the seminal idea out of something that inspired strong feelings in lots of recent conversations, and made it work for what I wanted to write.

Yes, you can do that too. It’s one of those little secrets those of us who write regularly use. It’s hard to come up with brand new stuff all the time. Think of something that motivates you or has been making the rounds as conversation starters lately, and build on that. But set it in your world, with your people, in their era. Then and there it’s going to seem all fresh and new again, yet still have that familiar empathetic appeal.

We live in an intriguing age, where the world lies at our fingertips, and information mixed with opinions stream into our lives daily through various electronic devices. A good part of it is fluff and nonsense, but even that can be story fodder if enough people seem engaged. While I’m reading any news and weather reports that interest me, I’m always on the lookout for tidbits I might use for stories. Sometimes those human interest articles farther down the page or science and technology sections hold some fiction seeds. Now and then just a simple picture sparks an idea. On my PC I keep copious files of those morsels that particularly sparked a visceral response, figuring if they captivated me that much, I can eventually work out something based on them. That really helps on those days when I am at a loss for what to write about. As long as I have some sort of foundation to build upon or around, I can fill in the rest as I go along.

And don’t forget to read the comment sections when you’re perusing articles. You might only find the very occasional reply that is thoughtful and well said, but even the nasty and emotional ones will give you a good idea of where the general population’s minds and hearts are. It can be painful to wade through them when you’re of a different opinion altogether, but I look at it as helpful in developing the antagonists and their supporters in the story, if nothing else. Just don’t get caught up in your own inner responses to the point where it stops you from being able to write. Pretend you are a superior being from another time or place, sent in to quietly observe and report what you’ve witnessed without interfering. You are now the Jane Goodall of pulpdom.

I will definitely be using the little vignette I wrote above in a Keener Eye story somewhere down the road. I’m sure you can think of a couple things you saw lately that would work similarly as a story concept. In the human condition, history repeats itself through the ages, colored by the era it appears within, and standout heroes and villains are those who best captured the attention of the populace at the time. So don’t be afraid to mine today’s events for tomorrow’s tales. I’m sure the authors of those classic pulp stories we all love and admire did that too. While there might be a particular setting, nomenclature, and jargon for what you prefer to write, touching a human mind and heart is just as important as presenting an exciting, engaging plot. It’s what makes pulp stories enduring, and not just another forgettable copycat tale of derring-do with a cast of cardboard cutout characters.

So if you want to freshen up your writing, or you’re stuck for ideas, go see what the latest buzz is about. The human factor is what makes stories come alive on the page, and hit a nerve with readers. Just don’t forget to put your own personal spin on it. There’s a whole treasure hoard of gems winking out there, just waiting for you to pick them up, and run off before the dragon comes home and fries you like bacon. Make the most of it!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Undercover Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA




By Balogun Ojetade
Meji Books
MV Media LLC
145 pages
Review by Ron Fortier

Since the advent of Sword & Soul, a subgenre focusing primarily on African mythology, we’ve seen many wonderful anthologies and novels come along that are breathing new life and welcomed vigor into fantasy literature.  The two biggest proponents, creators if you will, of this new classification are authors Charles Saunders and Milton Davis.  Saunders is known for his lifelong achievements in authoring some of the finest black fantasy fiction ever put to paper to include his marvelous heroes, Imaro and Dossouye.  Whereas Davis, beside his own amazing fiction, has been the driving force behind MV media, LLC, a publishing brand devoted to Sword & Soul.

Now, from that house, we have ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balgum Ojetade; a sprawling, colorful and fast moving adventure that defines the best of Sword & Soul.  It is a tale of whimsy, love, magic and war told with such comfortable ease as to pull the reader along effortlessly.  Now in all fairness, this reviewer was challenged to keep the many characters separate due to their exotic foreign names that twists one’s mental tongue in a variety of unique vowels and consonants.  Thankfully Ojetade does provide a glossary of names at the book’s conclusion which was most helpful.  Despite this minor annoyance, he does distinguish each figure in unique ways that did allow us to enjoy the action without getting overly concerned about proper pronunciations along the way.

Alaafin, the Emperor of the Empire of Oyo wishes to marry off his beautiful but mischievous daughter, Princess Esuseeke.  Seeke, as she is referred to, is very much a “tomboy” who prefers studying martial arts rather than learning sewing or poetry in the royal palace.  It is Alaafin’s prime minister, Temileke who suggest Alaafin sponsor a Grand Tournament to feature the best fighters in all the land brought together to battle for the hand of the princess.  The emperor approves of the idea and dispatches Temileke to the furthest corners of Oyo to recruit only the greatest warriors in the kingdom to participate.

Meanwhile, Seeke, frustrated by her role as the prize in such a contest, accidently encounters her father’s chief general, Aare Ona Kakanfo.  Or so she believes. In reality the person she meets wearing the general’s combat mask is actually Akinkugbe; a young warrior wishing to enter the contest disguised as the general.  When Akin manages to win Seeke’s heart, things start to get complicated.  All the while the real Kakanfo is commanding the forces of Oyo in the south against their enemies the Urabi, desert people whose singular goal is to conquer Oyo.

As the day of the tournament fast approaches, Akin is trapped having to maintain his disguise and somehow figure a way to defeat the other fighters to win the hand of the woman he loves.  While at the same time, the Urabi, unable to defeat Kakanfo’s troops, desperately recruit the services of a brutal demon and a deadly female assassin to help turn the tide of battle in their favor.

All these various plot elements converge dramatically at the book’s conclusion wherein Akin and Seeke not only must overcome overwhelming odds to be together but at the same time rally their people to withstand the calamitous assault of their fiendish enemies and save the empire.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA is a rousing, old fashion adventure tale that had me wishing Hollywood would pick it up and film it; it is that captivating an epic.  Ojetade is a writer worth taking note of, he delivers on all fronts and this reviewer has become an instant fan.