Thursday, January 31, 2013

So... Why Pulp? #32

Striking A Balance Between Writing and Promoting

I did a podcast recently for Earth Station One (Episode #147) where I sat in the Geek Seat and answered questions about myself and what-all I do along with writing, why I enjoy what I write, and what’s important to me about all this pulpy stuff. One of the questions that I answered was the basis for this column: What turns my geek off? While I had jotted down some ideas ahead of time, that one answer came easily to mind without even looking at my notes.

I absolutely love writing. I love talking about it, and meeting readers and other writers; but I really detest the endless promotional marketing. It’s a necessary evil down here in the indie frontier of the publishing business, where you are an author part of the time and the driving force that gets the word out the rest of it. I understand all that, and I accept it, but I still don’t like it. I’m happier as a creative person, and am not enjoying being a one-woman advertising firm.

I really do stink at merchandising. Back in the late 80s, I started a small business, selling craft items I’d made as well as supplies. It failed miserably because I found out the hard way I am just not a very committed huckster. Oh, I loved inventing interesting trinkets and hunting for bargains to resell. I really enjoyed standing and talking with people about what I was doing. I just wasn’t pushy enough when it came to the actual selling, and it showed. My business was a flop. Well, that’s really sad, but it was a learning experience. When it comes to the New Pulp world, selling your wares goes hand in hand with writing them, so I’ve put my big girl panties on and I’ve dealt with it. I love what I do so much, I am learning how to get the word out.

One thing I didn’t have ‘back in the day’ was the internet, which allows me to reach out to millions of potential readers. Of course, that can also turn into a time wasting trap… I could spend hours online, pushing my books and making myself look amazing; schmoozing and sharing witty anecdotes. But that doesn’t get too many stories and books written, and while I don’t have a job outside the home, I’m expected to at least do a passing job at housework and chores now and then. My family likes to see more than my back at the computer when they visit, so I need to make time for them. Occasionally I have to sleep more than a couple hours grabbed in between redeye sessions. All those things fill the day, which turns into weeks, months, and years. So yeah, there has to be some sort of balance between what I love doing, what I have to do, and what should be done.

Where do you draw the line? The easy answer is wherever you need to. The hard part is, understanding where that place is right now, because it varies from time to time. You also have to take into consideration how much you have on the docket and what you’re going to need to give up to do it, because you really can’t do it all and do it well. For instance, can you really afford to take any more time and resources away from your everyday life for that extra project? Can you still make a looming deadline and contribute to a charity anthology and have a social media blitz? If you can afford to schedule a few convention appearances, who will be manning the table to sell your stuff and make sure the books get signed while you make your rounds or participate in a panel or three? Is losing the chance to write a proposal or put 500 more words on the latest WIP worth answering a fun survey about how to write zombie porn? Be aware that everything you do that isn’t writing eventually takes away from actual writing time, so pick your promotional moments wisely. You don’t have to be out there 24/7/365, though making regular public or internet appearances is vital. People aren’t always going to stumble across your books by accident; you’ve got to wave them around now and then.

Just like everyone else does.

You think we pulpsters have it hard? All we’re trying to do is sell books; the continuance of the species doesn’t depend on how good we are at that. I once saw a wildlife documentary featuring some species of fiddler crabs, where the males had a large blue claw. During the courtship rituals, the males would congregate on the beach and wave those claws up and down, tapping the ground and trying to attract a mate. Some of them were wrestling with other males, trying to look macho to the ladies I suppose. There were hundreds of them, all doing the same thing the same way, and it was mindboggling to choose a particular one to zero in on, though I suppose the female crabs have their own criteria. Somehow, those fiddler crabs managed to perpetuate their genetics, which was the whole purpose of the mass mating maneuvers. With numbers like that, they weren’t focused on getting as much attention as possible from the entire crowd, but to get a single female crab to become interested enough to draw closer. Some days it pays to narrow to focus to on one customer at a time.

By now, I hope you can understand the analogy I’m trying to make. That fiddler crab behavior is called signaling, and various creatures use it to garner the attention of others of their species. We New Pulp writers are no different, because we’re all displaying our best assets in a field packed with other indie offerings; trying to get readers to pause long enough to peruse and hopefully purchase and read our tomes. So the song and dance routine you do really makes a difference. Mix it up a little! And don’t forget, substance is just as important as showmanship, because it is what’s between those covers that truly matters, though how colorful your offering is will certainly pull in some initial interest. A big blue claw displayed prominently results in crabby nirvana, though you have to actually be out there on the beach to wave it; there being no fiddler crab agents getting 15% of the hard earned mating bonus.

Peeps, it’s Ok to offer freebies. There’s no shame in just being generous. I readily admit that I have done favors via my talent for other writers, editors, or publishers with nothing more than a quick but heartfelt thanks in return. Sometimes I’ve been lucky to even get that much, writers being busy folks. In my mind, it doesn’t devalue me in any way that I don’t expect to be rewarded for every little deed. Oh I know, there’s a school of thought that says we writers ought to get paid for everything we do. Well I guess if you’re a mainstream author with books on the store shelves and a well known reputation, that’s very true. You make money for the publisher just by being you. Your name gets mentioned, and ears perk up, heads swivel, and the swooning starts. But shout my name in the middle of a convention floor and it’s likely I’m the only one in there who is going to notice. Believe me, I’ve thought of changing my author byline more than once to ‘FIRE!’, ‘NAKED STRIPPERS!’, or ‘FREE ICE CREAM!’

Sure, I absolutely believe that I should get paid for all my writing, because I put a lot of time, effort, and thought into it. Writing (or editing) is hard work. But the reality is, hardly anybody outside my peer circle knows who the hell I am right now, so putting on a prima donna attitude, saying that all of my time is worth paying me for, is going to get me just as far as happily doing everything for free. It might work for Harlan Ellison to declare that he deserves to be paid for every word that comes out of his keyboard, because he is Harlan Ellison after all. He has Warner Brothers calling him for interviews—I don’t. Warner Brothers has no idea Nancy Hansen even exists (yet). They might someday, but in the meantime, I’ve got a lot of hands to shake, babies to kiss, and dues to pay; and I’d like to make more friends than enemies in the business along the way. If even one of those people I do a favor for; or offer some free time, expertise, or advice to, remembers me somewhere down the road, a door might open that I may not have otherwise known about. If nothing comes of it… well, so what? I’m not spending all my time volunteering. I still get my writing done.

The wise writer finds a balance between promotional and paid work. The wise writer doesn’t beat the drum endlessly until everyone else wants to scream SHUT UP FOOL!!!! Nor does the savvy wordsmith hide in the woodshed waiting to be discovered, because nobody is buying books in the woodshed. And for crying out loud, don’t cop an attitude and alienate other people. Maintain a low profile and just lurk now and then. If you’re not always talking or posting, you will listen better and actually have time to read what others are doing. Some days, just let your written words do the talking for you. Sure you need to get them out there where they can be seen, read, and appreciated. Make yourself available when it’s most important, but otherwise, get some writing done!

Ah, publicity, the double-edged sword…Yes, people are going to want to know more about you personally once they’ve read your stuff. Tell only what you wish known, but demur politely when the digging goes too far. And do realize, opening your life to the public is just like living in the fishbowl of the world. Everybody can see your dirty laundry. Not everyone is going to like you or the things you’ve done, so prepare to be chastised and panned. Be thankful for any helpful feedback, be gracious even when it’s negative, dismiss what is just spiteful without substance, and once you’re done crowing or crying, study it all and learn something.

Then get back to work.

Don’t ever think you’re irreplaceable, because I got news for you bunky—you ain’t no Harlan Ellison (yet), and the beach is filled with a million waving claws these days. The next new sensation is going to wipe you right out of their minds, unless you’re going for the longevity thing—which means you’ve got to do more than walk around throwing confetti, shouting about how amazing your latest book is. Get yourself behind that keyboard, and go write something else even more amazing. You get a little better with each story. Build an impressive inventory, and now and then pop up out of the gopher hole, reminding us you’re still here, and tell us what you’ve been up to since last we saw you.

That’s how you balance writing and promotion, at least down here on the overcrowded beaches we’re all trying to storm at once.

Monday, January 28, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Captain Hazzard The Citadel of Fear

CAPTAIN HAZZARD The Citadel of Fear By Ron Fortier & Martin Powell NEW AIRSHIP 27 EDITION
Airship 27 Productions is happy to once again announce the availability of its second Captain Hazzard adventure; Citadel of Fear by Ron Fortier & Martin Powell.

 In 2011 Airship 27 Productions parted ways with their former publisher and many of their titles soon sold out at distributors such as Amazon etc. Eventually copies could only be found at various independent book stores selling for exorbitant prices.

“It was always our intention to get all our titles back out in these new Airship 27 editions,” explains Managing Editor & Co-author Fortier. “Of course we have to juggle doing these reprint editions around our schedule for releasing new titles. It’s not always an easy task. Over the past year, many Captain Hazzard fans have written us complaining of the book’s unavailability at a fair and reasonable price.”

Fortier also notes that the remaining two Captain Hazzard novels that he has written; Curse of the Red Maggot and Cavemen of New York will also be offered in new editions as time allows. “Obviously it’s our goal to have all of them up soon and we thank our loyal fans for their patience in this process.”

When scientists from all studies begin disappearing, Captain Hazzard and his team of adventures take up the mystery which leads them to a secluded city of wonders deep within Rocky Mountains ruled by the daughter of a would-be world conqueror. The book is the first co-writing venture between Fortier and Powell, long time friends and features interior illustrations by Art Director Rob Davis with a stunning cover by Laura Givens. 

Fortier is currently writing a fifth Captain Hazzard novel he hopes to have completed soon.

 CAPTAIN HAZZARD – CITADEL OF FEAR Now available at – Create Space ( Soon at Amazon and Kindle. Currently still available at their website – (

Saturday, January 26, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: RMP Announces Runemaster: Spell of Blood eBook series

Runemaster Press is pleased to announce the release of the newest eBook, the first in the series introducing Skarl Kirwall, The Runemaster. 

The series will continue in eBook installments each month for the foreseeable future. 

Click here to start reading The Runemaster: Spell of Blood

Forged in the fires of Conan, Beowulf and Braveheart, 
steeped in Norse legendry and 
baptized in the blood of those who would oppose him 
comes the

Born during the Last Great War, Skarl Kirwall was destined to lead his clan as the next Runemaster. Betrayed by a clansman, Skarl is banished from his village, only to learn of its destruction at the hands of their bitter enemies, the Ysling clan. Mourning his father’s death, he discovers his beloved Lacina is still alive, but taken by the bloodthirsty Yslings as a sacrifice to their god, Ysfang, the world serpent. Now, Skarl must pursue his lost love across the frozen wastes of Njordica and save her from the slathering jaws of the serpent god and in the process, take his rightful place as the next Runemaster. 

The latest in New ePulp from 


SAVAGE BEAUTY softcover trade on sale March, 2013

Written by Mike Bullock, art by Jose Massaroli, cover by Paul Gulacy.

Collecting issue #1 and the only-available-in-hardcover issues #2 and #3! 

Ripped from today's world news comes a re-imagining of the classic jungle girl genre debuting a new hero for the modern age! Join the Rae sisters, recent UCLA grads, as they travel across modern-day Africa finding their place and making a difference. Guided by the mysterious Mr. Eden, they assume the identity of a mythical goddess and reveal their Savage Beauty. Mike Bullock presents a fresh new spin on the genre, featuring real-world conflicts in Africa and beyond.

74 pages, $11.99. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I recently got involved in a couple of discussions on recycling older work to move it to print. As a writer, it’s something I’ve been doing off and on for the last couple of years, now that I finally have a place to publish my tales. I pull older stories out of files, reread them, decide whether there’s enough plot interest to be saved, pulp them up, and off they go. Pretty simple huh? Not really, because there’s a lot of rewriting involved, and some of these were just sketchy ideas that never got close to being finished. It’s worth the time and effort though, because it saves me valuable hours staring at the blinking cursor, wondering what I’m going to tackle next. I always have something new going too, so this is a good second piece to work on when I hit a rough spot on numero uno. It’s a whole lot faster to fix up a piece that has some underlying structure than to write from scratch, and it gives my brain a needed vacation from pulling magic rabbits out of a hat. Being able to fill out novels and anthologies quickly gives me the extra hours I need to work on those special projects that pop up unexpectedly.

Now, there is a school of thought that says you shouldn’t go back and look at your old stuff, and instead just move on, blazing new trails. I can kind of understand that way of thinking, even if I don’t totally agree with it. You certainly don’t want to get bogged down in continually rewriting something to the point where it’s never finished. But I have to disagree when it comes to never looking back on what you have done in the past. Sorting through old writing files can be very enlightening, as well as lucrative. Certainly it adds to the body of work you have available for publication, it provides something you have on hand to donate to a charitable cause, or to post on a webpage as a teaser. Besides the obvious reason that you have put time and effort into this backlog that is just sitting there doing nothing anyway, there are lessons to be learned here.

First off all, rereading older stories highlights just how far you have come. You might cringe a bit at the awkwardness of some of that early writing, but it does help to realize that skills do tend to develop over time and with regular usage. The more you can be encouraged to write, then more you put out, and the better you get. Win/win if you ask me. Secondly, you might just find a diamond down there amongst the rocks. As writing newbies with tender egos, we’ll tend to abandon ideas and projects that have some true promise simply because they proved too hard to write, or they met with sharp criticism or even complete lack of interest. Often that’s because we didn’t understand the mechanics, the market, or just weren’t ready to handle something of that caliber. Once you have more experience under your belt and some publishing credits, that’s an apt time to dust them off and see if they can be made to fly again. And honestly speaking, even if you’re an old hand, it’s a pretty good way to judge if you’re going stale or stuck in a rut, redoing the same themes repeatedly. If you read back over what you’ve done some years ago, and start seeing a longstanding pattern, it’s time to think about breaking out of the mold. Nothing is more tiresome than reading Volume Ten of Rehashed Tales and finding it has such a similarity to the last nine that it puts your brain in a coma. If you’re in a deep writing groove, you need to get out of it because you’re going to lose all but the most faithful audience. Look back at what you were previously doing and see if you can figure out where the repetitiousness started. Or conversely, if your writing has taken a sharp right angle you don’t like, and you want to get back to your roots, a walk down memory lane might be in order.

Now there are some dangers to excessively reliving the past via old writing. First of all, as it was pointed out in one discussion, you certainly don’t want to go into endless rewriting mode. In all honesty though, that’s a danger even with brand new work. I am a person who likes to edit as I move through a story in progress, and I will make a couple passes over something before it goes out to whoever is the next-step person. To me, that’s handling my work in a professional manner, by making sure it’s as readable and polished as I can get it. If it stalls right there though, and I’m doing copious rewriting, that’s a red flag to me that either something is drastically wrong with this story, or I’m out of my element and I know it. Whatever you’re working on, bring it to a conclusion at some point, tell yourself it’s good enough, and send it off.

Pet projects, they haunt us all! Every writer has something in the files that remains there because while it is unsalable and likely unfinished, it’s so near and dear to our hearts, we just can’t let go. There are a couple of issues here. First of all, we tend to see those little darlings through rose colored glasses, because like one of the kids, they simply have no flaws. Every writer has some favorite story or series they hold in high esteem and don’t have a clue why no one else feels the same way. Often it’s just not a very interesting piece, but it’s ours, and we love it, so we keep touting it. That can take up a serious amount of time that should be given to more salable and laudable projects. Sometimes… you just have to let it die. Keep it buried, walk away, and don’t look back. Not everything can be rescued and revived. Learn how to tell the difference.

Most of my older writing was done with a mainstream audience in mind, and so it’s written a lot differently from how I handle pulp. In writing pulp, I don’t have the word count space for endless narrative description and psychological introspection you get in a mainstream book or short story. Pulp has to be dynamic, it’s all about action; characters need to get moving and do things on a regular basis. So if I’m going to sell these stories as pulp, they need serious revamping, and I’ve been doing a lot of that. Interestingly enough, along the way that has suggested brand new tales based on the same characters and settings, but with a definite pulpy slant. It’s infectious, and once you get into the groove of writing things in the pulp vein, you don’t want to go back.

And I wouldn’t. Oh don’t get me wrong, if some mainstream publisher came along and made me an offer, I’d certainly write something longer, but it would have to include that high action, fast moving plot I’ve come to love. Looking back on my older writing, I can see now exactly where it drags along, and what needs cutting out or pulping up. Looking back has helped me to be a lot more realistic about why I was getting rejection slips and only mediocre interest from beta readers. It’s a hard lesson but a valuable one.

I’m currently working over an old novel start that I pulled out of mothballs because I need the seminal tale for a series, which has several short stories done already. I began working it over with the idea of turning this tale into the headliner for the anthology the rest of these stories are supposed to be in. As I went along, I realized that this is a bigger idea than even a novella-size book could hold, so I’m back to thinking of it as a novel. There’s some good stuff in there I am keeping, but because the short stories I wrote for these characters wound up being pulpy, I’m redoing a lot of this early novel to match that pace. It’s still far faster than writing a book from scratch, because I know where I wanted to go with this one, and where the short stories took it from there. The pathway is paved, and now it’s just a matter of making sure everything goes down it to a logical conclusion.

Reworking older tales gave me an opportunity to get three books out last year, all novel sized, though two of them were short story collections. And that’s along with over a half dozen other stories I wrote too. There are writers out there that can run rings around me in output, and kudos to them for that. I am at the keyboard almost every day banging on something. If not for having some earlier work to scavenge through, I might not have as much in print. My Amazon author page looks pretty impressive regardless.

Eventually I’m going to run out of this older backlog, but I have no regrets about mining and using it up. In the days when I was writing this stuff, it was done in odd hours with an earnest yearning to get it into the hands of readers. It’s rather cathartic to get this stuff out of my files and my mind. The whispers of stories-to-be have been filling my head as I’m exorcizing the old ghosts of what-might-have-been, and that keeps me happily tapping away at the keyboard. My idea files are still filling with story starts and synopses for tales I’ve yet to write.

So yeah, don’t be too apprehensive about looking back over what you’ve previously written and stashed away. At the worst, you can have a rueful chuckle and just shove it back where it was in the dead file, delete it, shred it, toast some marshmallows over it and make s’mores… You get the idea. If it stinks too badly to reuse or recycle, just let it go and move on. But if you find some gold specks amongst the silt, by all means, pan them out and use them somewhere. Bottom line is, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at making what’s old, and pick something to make all shiny and new again, as long as it’s worth the effort and you feel hopeful there’s some life left in the tale. It sure beats sitting around wondering what to create next, and if nothing else, it might spark an idea that sends you off on another hot writing session.

That’s always a good thing!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: BEN Books Releases Frontier

Author Bobby Nash’s newest BEN Books release, FRONTIER, a collection of pulpy sci fi and space opera themed stories is now available as an ebook for Kindle ( and Nook ( It is also as a paperback from BEN Books direct ( Paperbacks will be available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble within a week.

About Frontier:
Frontier collects 9 sci fi short stories from Bobby Nash, author of Earthstrike Agenda, Evil Ways, and Deadly Games! Some of the rare tales presented in Frontier are reprints and others are in print for the very first time. The stories that make up Frontier happen on Earth, on alien planets, and in the deepest recesses of space. There’s action, adventure, horror, and even a little romance.

Stories included in Frontier:

In deepest space, a research vessel rescues a survivor who asks to be returned home. The catch: her planet lies at the center of a black hole.

Nathanial “Doc” Dresden wakes up in space, free floating above the moon. But he is not alone.

Nathanial “Doc” Dresden and his team investigate bizarre happenings.

A meteor storm damages Midway station, a museum storage facility and frees an ancient creature from its icy tomb.

When war breaks out between neighboring worlds, the Outpost 9 space station is caught in the crossfire. Dr. Erin Moonshadow tries to save lives as chaos reigns around her.

War. Ground troops are dispatched. Dropped from their starship, the troop transport is attacked and one of the soldiers is lost. Then things get strange.

Are a young man’s dreams of an interstellar war a product of his imagination or a prophecy of things to come?

A survey crew discovers a veritable Garden of Eden. Is this paradise or is there a serpent in hiding, waiting to strike?

A one-page story that was doubled as an advertisement for a convention where Bobby was a guest. A fun experiment.

Illustrations in Frontier are by Bobby Nash and Jeff Austin (

The author shares the contents of the book as well as an essay on the making of the book on his website. You can read Bobby’s thoughts on Frontier at

Learn more about Bobby and his books at
Learn more about BEN Books at

Get your free Frontier ebook AuthorGraph at

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Airship 27 Lands at Windy City


Three of the finest New Pulp Writers will be appearing at this year’s Windy City Paper and Pulp Show to autograph their new Airship 27 Productions titles on Saturday, 13th April.

Each of the three is a professional writer of note and last year released their first novels for Airship 27 Productions which will be sponsoring their appearances at the con. 

DAVID C. SMITH – CALL OF SHADOWS – has written over twenty novels primarily in the sword and sorcery, fantasy and horror genres. He has written and co-authored eight pastiches featuring Robert E. Howard’s characters, including six starring Red Sonja with Richard L. Tierney. Smith, his wife, Janine, and daughter, Lily, live in Palatine, Ilinois.  CALL OF SHADOWS is the story of a modern day wizard living in Chicago today and his struggles against an evil warlock obsessed with destroying him.

JOE BONADONNA – THREE AGAINST THE STARS – has published many short stories and a novel.  He’s written several screenplays, one entitled “Magicians” is now in the hands of a director. He is a former member of the Chicago Screenwriters Network and has lectured on the history of science fiction, horror and fantasy in films. He recently sold a novella, “The Order of the Serpent,” to Weird Tales Magazine.  THREE AGAINST THE STARS is a fast paced military sci-fi actioner set against the landscape of an alien empire and mankind’s struggles to secure a foothold amongst the distant galaxies.

TERRENCE McCAULEY – PROHIBITION – a New York resident, he has sold dozens of short stories for various anthologies and is a devotee of noir films particularly those set in New York. His protagonist in PROHIBITION is former professional boxer Terry Quinn, now an enforcer for the Irish Mob in Hell’s Kitchen.  Later this year, a prequel story detailing Quinn’s fighting days will be featured in the highly popular New Pulp series, FIGHT CARD from editor/publisher Paul Bishop.

All signings will take place on Saturday April 13th at the Airship 27 Productions tables.
The schedule is as follows –

David C. Smith – 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon.
Joe Bonadonna – 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Terrence McCauley -  3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Now in its 13th year, the Windy City Paper & Pulp Show is one of the premier gatherings of pulp, comics and paperback collectors in the country.  The show runs from April 12-14.  You can learn more about the con, its location and how to register at their on-line site.  (

Airship 27 Productions was created six years ago by writer Ron Fortier and artist Rob Davis to support pulp fandom by producing new pulp fiction starring classic and new pulp heroes in both novels and anthologies.  Since their beginning Airship 27 Productions has published over fifty titles featuring some of the finest professional writers and artists while at the same time providing a showcase for newer talent.  Today their titles are available at Amazon, many on Kindle and they offer audio recordings several books.  You can learn more about the company at their on-line site.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So... Why Pulp? And That's a Wrap

And That’s A Wrap!

Another year of pulpy goodness has come and just about gone. I’m sitting here writing this, my 30th column, on the 30th of December, wondering just where the heck this past year went. Time-wise, it seems like it just flew on by. Writing-wise, I should have calluses on my fingers and butt. It was a very hardworking year at the Keyboard of Doom.

The end of the year is a good time for taking stock, and figuring out what worked well, and what didn’t and has to be changed. That’s what I am doing right now, both literally on the page, and figuratively, in my head, with next year’s goals in mind.

Every writing year that goes by, you learn something.

Lots of good pulpy stuff happened to me this year. First of all, I debuted my own imprint for Pro Se Press, HANSEN’S WAY. We put out a potential three full length books under that imprint this year: two anthologies of short stories, each featuring specific characters and settings from my little fantasy universe, and the novel sequel to Fortune’s Pawn. Prophecy’s Gambit hasn’t quite hit the market yet, but I keep hoping it will slip under the wire before we bid 2012 adieu. If not, it will hopefully see print sometime early in 2013.

Lesson here was that by getting those big projects completed very early in the year, I had time to take on other challenges. I did turn the big manuscripts in well ahead of schedule and because of that, I was able to add some selected projects to my roster as they occurred. I turned them out in a timely fashion as well, without completely sacrificing my life to writing. My output may not has been as great this past year, but pacing myself and using time efficiently gave me a chance to garden, work at other projects, and enjoy holidays and special occasions without all the fretting.

Along with the imprint, I signed on for three Pulp Obscura stories, in the collaboration between Pro Se and Altus Press. Two of those did get written and turned in, but haven’t seen publication yet. One other was jettisoned for 2012 as Altus is still working on source material. Those were a real writing experience, far outside my comfort zone of epic/heroic fantasy. I did a ton of research and pulled hair out by the roots before they were finished because not only did they have settings I’ve never used, but both were in genres I’ve not read much of, let alone tackled. I’ll admit to being initially intimidated, once I realized what I had gotten myself involved in. These stories had to emulate the style and setting of the original author, and I just didn’t have the knowledge or confidence of either of those gentlemen. In the end though, I was proud of and pleased with how both of them turned out, and I would certainly do it again.

Lesson learned was that even when writing far outside my normal shtick, if I persevere, I will be fine in the long run. A good story is always a tale told in an interesting way, with the trappings of the setting and characters acting like the frosting and decorations on the cake, not dominating the entire recipe.

I also saw my first Private Eye short story hit print this year, and the feedback on that has been very positive. That was something I got dared into doing, and since it’s another genre I seldom read, I had to dig down and cast about for ideas. I’d been challenged to write a female PI, and that’s what I intended, but beyond that I was clueless. I have watched enough TV detective series to at least have a passing familiarity with how the genre works. A few sleepless nights about where and when to set it spurred me on to shake things up and rethink the entire process. I knew I would never convincingly pull off the traditional hardboiled noir tone with the 1940s setting because my heart wasn’t in that, so I decided I had to do something quirky. About then I sat in on a newsgroup discussion on how you can’t write good PI stories anymore in this age of electronic gizmos in the hands of every other citizen, and the little voices of anarchy went off in my brain. They kept saying, “I bet I can pull that off!” Along with that, my homebody heart badly wanted to write something set here in my stomping grounds of Southern New England. That three-way conjunction of possibilities birthed The Keener Eye series, which had its first debut back in June, with another completed story in the queue, and a third one bubbling on the back burner. What I once groaned over now has a cast of characters that whisper their stories to me, in a setting I love and understand well enough to look forward to writing again.

Lesson learned for this one is sometimes you have to stand a tried-and-true genre on its ear and give it your own personal touch. Over time you learn to trust in your ability to pull things off.

Several times this year I was invited to join in on special writing projects. For the first time in my writing career, not only was I being sought after, but I was busy enough that I could afford to be choosy. Two of those that I said yes to were super exciting for me. I thrilled to being offered a chance to join the inaugural SINBAD: THE NEW VOYAGES series for Airship 27, written in the vein of the old Ray Harryhausen FX movies, but with an all new international cast of characters. I adored those movies, so that story flew out of my fingertips. I don’t know when I have written anything that quickly. Sinbad first set sail back in September. A similar impetus was behind my excitement at being tapped for contributing to MONSTER EARTH, the firstborn brainchild of fledgling Mechanoid Press. As someone who sat mesmerized in front of a black and white TV set back in the 60s and 70s every time Godzilla and his Kaiju  compadres stomped across the screen, turning out a story in a world where giant monsters are the weapons of mass destruction was a no-brainer. While MONSTER EARTH likely won’t make a debut until early 2013, I have a story in there I truly enjoyed writing. I’d happily do another tale for either of those anthologies.

Lesson here is, if someone offers you a chance to write something you love and know you will do well at, go for it! I turned down a few other prestigious offers simply because as busy as I have been, I didn’t think I’d do them justice. I thought each one over carefully though. In the end, you have to pick and choose, and a good story told well is always better than something written simply because it should bring the right kind of attention.

I did a lot of editing this past year too, the bulk of it for Pro Se Press, where I have somehow managed to snag the title of Assistant Editor. For the most part, what I do for Pro Se is work with authors who have book manuscripts that have been accepted on content but need help with some tweaking and rewriting. It’s a position I take very seriously, but those who have worked with me also know, with a sense of humor and pathos. As I tell everyone, I am mainly that second pair of eyes that helps you polish your diamond until it sparkles. Not everything I’ve edited got that one-on-one approach, but enough of it did, and so far, no one has threatened to throttle me, so I guess I’m doing OK. That kind of intense editing is exhausting work, because I tend to read slowly, mark up, write notes, and then a send a cover email with suggestions. Frankly it takes several weeks in many cases, but in the long run, we’re all happier for it, and I learn something with every book. I also make myself available online whenever I can so that if authors have questions or just need to chat, they’ll have a sympathetic ear; writing being a lonely business. Now and then when asked nicely by a friend or colleague, I will take a peek at a manuscript or story by someone outside my official status, and at least offer advice and/or encouragement, though my time for doing that is growing shorter as my workload increases and my eyesight worsens. I don’t get to do many reviews anymore, mainly because I haven’t got enough time to read. Unless it’s large, bold print on my big monitor, I can barely take a half hour of reading without my eyes streaming.

Lesson learned: I get as much out of helping others as they do. The bulk of writing well is more than just sitting around making up stories. Knowing how a plot works, what makes great characters, or how to keep timelines straight comes from reading, rereading, and reworking the first drafts. Having to explain all that coherently helps me become a better writer as well. Those are mantras that I pass along to each author I work with. While I might not be able to assist everyone who comes asking to the capacity he or she would prefer, I can at least spend a small amount of time helping others the way I wish someone had helped me, back when I was just beginning my experimentation with fiction.

One of the toughest things that needs to be absorbed in this age of indie publishing is that you are basically on your own with advertising who you are and what you do. Thankfully we have this magical world called ‘The Internet’ where you can go trumpet your wares to the masses without being arrested for not having a permit to sell. The problem is, 10 gazillion other people are doing the same thing, clamoring for the ever-ephemeral attention span of the faceless avatars in the crowds surfing by. And shouting over them are the soapbox standing street corner agenda preachers, the chain petition purveyors, the alarming information peddlers, the amazing gaming opportunists, and the craziest captioned cat pictures you’ll ever see. Besides being a great place to let people know what you have been doing, the internet is also an entire colony of circus sideshows, each one a bit more gaudy and noisier than the last. It’s easy to get caught up in the carnival madhouse atmosphere and start shouting your prevailing views on everything from politics to comic books, pop culture current events to toppings on cheeseburgers. I am one opinionated old broad and I have to continually restrain myself from getting embroiled in discussions where things are going to get contentious. I manage not to do that on most days, and I’m getting better at it too; mainly because I want to sell books, and not just to a particular demographic. As much as we all like to think we are objective and non-judgmental, the truth screams at me every time I open my email inbox or enter a social networking site. So I have learned to refrain from getting involved in most dialogues and discussions that are bound to bog down into back and forth slings and arrows.

Lesson learned: bite your tongue, post what you want them to know about your writing, and then get on with your life. The public doesn’t need to have a ringside seat to my spiritual beliefs, supported social causes, voting record, or what have you to enjoy what I’ve written; and I don’t need to be in everyone’s face 24/7 to share that information either. If I had to choose a way to pass the time, I’d rather do it writing, or promoting what I write, maybe chatting with other creators about what we do and why. Time spent wisely pays dividends; time spent arguing online is time you never get back.

So at least now that we’re bidding goodbye to 2012, I have some things I can look back upon with fondness and recognition for what was achieved, and a clear picture of what I had to let go of and move on from. One of the greatest accomplishments was writing an entire year of this column without missing one single deadline. What’s important about that is not the column itself as much as the positive work habit it enforces of meeting a goal on a regular basis. A writer has got to write, and that I did this year.

Hope you had a great writing year too. The next time we meet, it will be 2013, and we can look ahead to another year of pulpy goodness. For me, this year is a wrap.

Cut & Print,