Monday, July 21, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: KARA OWL

Derrick Ferguson: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
Kara Owl: I live in Tallahassee, Florida, and I tell the IRS I am disabled, because I am.  I write because I can make my own schedule, and if I’m exhausted or flaring, I can skip a day without having a boss yell at me for it.  I also write because I need to.  The stories must go somewhere!  

DF: Tell us something about your background.
KO: I attended Hollins University, where I had several professors tell me I should be majoring in English (I was a psych major) and encourage my creative writing.  I took multiple creative writing classes despite my major, and also attended a seminar led by Jeanne Larsen.  I don’t remember what the seminar was about, but Ms. Larsen made a huge impression.  She was larger than life, confident, and everything I wanted to be.  I’m still grateful for those encouraging teachers.  

DF: How long have you been writing?
KO: I wrote my first “book” in first grade.  It was an alternate ending to a story, because I hated the ending.  So, I fixed it!  I did that a lot, actually.  I don’t remember that first book, but I remember reading “Jacob Have I Loved” in third or fourth grade and rewriting the ending to it.  I would also write stories around episodes of my favorite TV shows.  Fanfic, basically, though it wasn’t called that back then. 

I am going to date myself horribly, but I recently found one of those stories.  It was a very silly story based around the Thundercats episode “Safari Joe.”  It’s terrible and yet I still love it because of what it says about chibi-me.  I was always a romantic at heart!

I never thought about writing for other people, though.  Even when I was writing a lot, it was mostly for me.  Then, I had a novel idea hit me, and I wrote it.  It wasn’t very good, but it led to a lot of conversations with my best friend and other novel ideas.  After he helped me see what needed to be changed to make my favorite novel idea work, I settled down and wrote (and rewrote) the story that became BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN.

DF: What are your influences?
KO: Author influences are definitely those I read when I was younger: Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn, etc.  But I also draw inspiration from comic books, movies, and TV as well.  I feel overwhelmed with all the awesome inspiration I see everywhere, recently.  It is wonderful. 

DF: What's your philosophy of writing?
KO: My philosophy is “if it works for you, do it!” 
I write almost every day, though I don’t follow the ‘rule’ that you should treat writing as a job and write from 8am to 5pm or at a set time every day.  I have chronic pain, and so I try to use my “best” time for writing, when I am feeling sharpest mentally.  There’s no set time for that: it varies, and so does my scheduled writing time.  

I also write very lean, so the “cut 10% rule” doesn’t work very well for me.  Nearly all my editing notes include “add more here” in at least one spot, so I have gotten to the point where my first editing pass adds description and “meat” in the hopes of avoiding that note. 

I do follow these truisms:  write interesting characters, “people” that you would want to spend time with.  Know the places you write, so you could find your way around inside them, so you can feel the air of your world on your face, and so you could describe it from the sky all the way to the earth beneath the grass.  Use all five senses when describing your setting, though not all at once.  Most of all, if you don’t love writing enough to deal with a LOT of criticism and rejection, don’t walk away, run. 

DF: Tell us all about BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN.
KO: BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN is a novel about an elven family trying to stand against a darkness that is taking over their world.  They must decide if keeping their land is worth a civil war, and if they don’t decide fast enough, they could lose everything…

DF: How did you develop your characters?
KO: The characters in this novel were developed over almost 20 years.  We started off with a throw-away sentence about a character named after a famous warhorse thanks to a mix-up in the history books, and ended up with a fully-realized world.  I used a lot of things to get these characters right, including role-playing, character questionnaires, and short stories.  I wanted to know how they’d react in almost any situation, and I feel like I do now.  

DF: You a plotter or a pantser?
KO: Definitely a plotter.  Having an outline helps me to keep the story fresh in my head.   My outlines aren’t horribly detailed; some of the chapters are one sentence guidelines.  But I know when I need to start getting towards the ending, or when I need to drop in information that I need another character for, etc.  

DF: Tell us about your future writing plans. Is there anything else you're working on that we should know about?
KO: I am working on the sequel to BLOOD at the moment, and it will be finished soon, I think.  Once it’s done I’ll be sending it to the publisher, and then I’ll get to work on book 3!  

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience out there for Kara Owl?
KO: I hope so.  I am trying to reach the epic fantasy audience.  My book is perfect for someone who wants elements of high or epic fantasy without the huge time commitment most of those books represent. 

DF: What's a typical Day In The Life of Kara Owl like?
KO: I suppose a typical day is me getting up, feeding cats and the dog, and then evaluating the pain levels and brain to figure out what’s going to happen next.  Depending on how I feel I might write for an hour in the morning if I am able.  If not, I’ll do chores and then eat lunch and see how I feel after lunch.  Keeping my writing time flexible enables me to do it when I am mentally sharpest, and that’s very good for me.  Sometimes, I don’t write until after dinner!  It all depends on my pain levels.  After lunch, I usually take a little time to rest and figure out what we’re doing for dinner, then cook it.  The husbeast and I go to the gym most days, because if I don’t work out my pain levels are even higher.  (Odd but true.)  We spend some time in the evening watching TV together, and then go to bed.  

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Kara Owl?
Kara Owl: I’m a passably good euchre player, I love board games and role playing games, and I dream of someday going to an NFL game at Soldier Field. 

You can order yourself a copy of BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN from Jupiter Gardens Press or

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Return Of PULPED!

PULPED! THE OFFICIAL NEW PULP PODCAST returns next week in its new spot as a JACKALOPE RADIO show! Starting Sunday, July 13 at 7 PM CST, PULPED!, an ESO Network Podcast, will run an hour every week on Jackalope Radio bringing the best in New Pulp Fiction to a brand new audience!

Want to be a guest on future episodes? Pulped! Will record on Tuesday nights at 7 PM each week. If you're interested in being a guest on PULPED!, email Tommy Hancock at and he'll schedule you!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

25 New Pulp Books To Get You Started

I get asked a lot of questions due to my affiliation with New Pulp and I’d have to say that the #1 question has to be: “Where do I get started? What should I read first just to get into it? What writers should I read?”

I can understand that. There is a lot of New Pulp out there now. Some of it excellent, some of its outstanding, some of its good, some of its just okay and a depressing amount of it no good at all. Even those of us who write and/or review or just read New Pulp feel the crush of recommending books and writers to others. For some time now I’ve been thinking about putting together a list of New Pulp books that virgins to the genre can start with just to get their brains wet and see if they like it. Well, today I stopped thinking and sat down and did it.

Notice that this list is titled 25 NEW PULP BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED. It’s not titled “The 25 Best New Pulp Books Of All Time” or “The 25 New Pulp Books That You Should Read.” I feel it necessary to point that out as there’s a whole lot of New Pulp writers with egos as fragile as spider webs who will feel themselves slighted because their book is not on the list. Many of the books on the list were recommended by Lucas Garrett, Barry Reese and Andrew Salmon who answered a question I posted on the New Pulp FacebookPage. I didn’t feel comfortable just coming up with a list on my own (even though I easily could have) and they responded with gusto and alacrity. And I thank them for their contribution. 

Some of the books they recommended certainly deserve to be on such a list. Along with a bunch of others that are not on here. But if you disagree with this list then I heartily suggest and recommend you compile your own! It’ll make for lively discussion if nothing else, right?

The books on this list are meant for nothing more than a helpful and handy starting point for those who have no idea where to start reading New Pulp. Okay? We clear on that? Good.

One last bit of business and then we’ll get to the list itself: My only criteria here was to have diversity in genres and writing styles. You’ll find a wide range of New Pulp represented here in various genres. And yes, I have read all of the books on this list as I would not recommend anything to anybody unless I had done so.

Okay? Okay? So let’s get on it with it. If you’ve never read any New Pulp and are anxious to find out for yourself what it’s all about then here are 25 NEW PULP BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED.

FIGHT CARD: FELONY FISTS by Paul Bishop (writing as Jack Tunney)
BROTHER BONES by Ron Fortier
TAURUS MOON by Keith Gaston
YESTERYEAR by Tommy Hancock
DIRE PLANET by Joel Jenkins
PROHIBITION by Terrence McCauley
EVIL WAYS by Bobby Nash
FIGHT CARD: THE CUTMAN by Mel Odom (writing as Jack Tunney)
THE OLD MAN Series by William Preston
THE ROOK Vol. I by Barry Reese
THE VRIL AGENDA by Joshua Reynolds and Derrick Ferguson
THE LIGHT OF MEN by Andrew Salmon
DAMBALLAH by Charles Saunders
HEIR OF ATLANTIS by Arthur Sippo
THE AUSLANDER FILES by Michael Patrick Sullivan
HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD by Various Authors
THE RUBY FILES by Various Authors

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: KEITH GASTON

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Keith Gaston?

Keith Gaston: I am the author of more than a dozen books ranging from Speculative Fiction to Crime novels. My first book was published in 2007. After serving five years in the military, I began college, earning a degree in Computer Science. Since earning my degree I've gone on to earn two Masters degrees in Technology Management and Business Administration. My experience in the military and computer sciences has shaped many of my stories and characters over the years. I also write under the name D K Gaston.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

KG: I currently live in Michigan and still file my taxes under the title of computer tech guy.

DF: Tell us something about your background

KG: I am married to a wonderful woman and have two beautiful children. They're twins, one boy, the other a girl. I have worked in pretty much every IT field at one time or another from programming to systems administrator.

DF: How long have you been writing?

KG: I started drawing and writing comic books with friends in the fourth grade, creating such characters and teams as the Hooded Phantom and The Legion Unknown. It wasn't until I was working on my Masters degree that it hit me that I should start writing again. I enjoyed in a creative writing class, helped form a writers group and then I was well on my way to working on my first book titled, XIII.

DF: What do you love most about writing?

KG: Tough question. I think I love coming up creative stories the best. I enjoy brainstorming these ideas off the members of my writers group.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

KG: Don't ever write for the money, do it for love. Once it becomes about money, it turns into a business using a formula style of repeating the same story and then you produce nothing original.

DF: What’s the best advice you can give for someone wanting to become a professional writer?

KG: Once you start writing, don't stop until you finish that first draft. This means do not edit yourself, because it'll only slow you down during the process. Once you're finished, but the first draft away for a week and then blow off the dust and start working on that second draft.

DF: Who’s Taurus Moon and why should we be reading his adventures?

KG: Taurus Moon is a relic hunter who will work for pretty much anyone if they can afford him. He's financially strap most of the time, lives in a run-down apartment in Detroit, and always seems to be in trouble. He searches for lost supernatural artifacts that may or may not be located on Earth.

He doesn't see himself as a hero, yet always finds himself helping those in needs, whether he wants to or not.

The Taurus Moon novels blends action, fantasy, science fiction and humor. Fairy tales, mythologies, and legends are not stories, but his reality.

Readers will enjoy Taurus Moon because his stories are a fun thrill ride.

DF: What further Taurus Moon adventures do you have planned?

KG: I'm working on an anthology featuring many of the secondary characters from Taurus Moon. I haven't come up with a title just yet, but I expect the book to be published sometime around August 2014.

DF: You really seem to have hit your stride in the suspense/thriller genre. So much so that you’ve been described as “the black James Patterson.” How do you feel about that and what is it about the suspense thriller that attracts you as both a reader and a writer?

KG: I think I'm referred to as the black James Patterson because I tend to write my novels in a movie-style much like Mr. Patterson. If there's a car chase scene, I like readers to feel as if they are sitting in the passenger seat. I take the reference as a compliment.

I am a big movie buff and a huge fan of the action movies of the seventies. It is the great movies of that yesteryear like, “Three Days Of The Condor”, “Telefon” “Shaft”, and many others, that have influenced my writing. This of course led me to finding books with the same type of story-telling, and I discovered writers like David Baldacci, James Patterson, James Rollins. And of course I was a huge fan of comic books and used to read Doc Savage and Conan the Barbarian.

When I first ventured into writing, what I discovered was lacking were action and speculative fiction novels written by Black authors. When I stumbled on a book written by Brandon Massey, I was thrilled, and he became part of my inspiration to write in genres other than thrillers.

DF: The TEASE Trilogy blends the spy/espionage genre with blaxploitation and urban/street lit. Was that deliberate on your part or did it just turn out that way?

KG: The TEASE novel was an experiment for me to see if I could attract readers who typically read Street Lit. I used a character I introduced in Darkest Hours (a Joe Hooks thriller) a spy called Shaw as my protagonist. To my surprise, TEASE became my best seller.

Tease is an assassin working for a local crime lord named D-Shroud. She has never failed on any of her missions... Well, not until she assigned to kill Shaw.

The book wasn't going to be called TEASE, nor was her character supposed to live beyond the first novel, but my beta readers insisted she continue on. Strange how things work in the writing world. LOL.

DF: You’ve just recently co-wrote a novel with Teresa D. Patterson: A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW. How did you two come together on this project?

KG: She approached me with the idea, wanting to reach an audience outside of her normal fan-base. I thought it was an opportunity for me to connect with readers who don't typically read my works.

She told me her idea and we hashed out the details of the basic plot and began writing together. She's located in Florida, while I'm in Michigan, so we did all this via the Internet.

DF: What did you learn from collaborating with another writer? And are there any future collaborations we can look forward to?

KG: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed collaborating with another author. It took a lot of pressure off my shoulders creatively and I believe our writing styles blended well.

I've also been co-writing a novel with Keith Kareem Williams called Blood & Vengeance. This book will be published mid-June 2015.

Yes, I am looking forward to working with other authors in the near future.

DF: Out of all your work, pick the three books that a new reader should start with that you feel represents you at your creative best.

KG: I always recommend The Friday House (government conspiracy thriller), The Promise (a mystery thriller), and Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter (action/speculative fiction.)

DF: What’s A Day In The Life Of Keith Gaston like?

KG: I work from 8 to 5 on weekdays, squeezing in a hour of writing during lunch. On weekends, I spend most of the time working around the house and spending time with the family. When I get a break, I do some writing and surf the web... Oh and I play Call of Duty.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Keith Gaston: I have two audiobooks, TEASE and Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter. Both bring the characters to life and should be checked out.

Thanks for interviewing me, Derrick, I've had a blast answering your questions.

For more information on Keith’s books, please check out both his Amazon pages: Keith Gaston and D.K. Gaston

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Progress Report #16

Y’know, I really have to stop promising that I’m going to do these Progress Reports on a more timely basis because everytime I do, up jumps The Devil and puts more work in my way. Then I feel guilty about goofing off here at BLOOD & INK instead of doing the writing I’m supposed to be doing. But then, when I don’t update the daggone thing I feel I’m slighting those of you who do read it. The Eternal Dilemma.

But it hasn’t been as if I’ve totally neglected it. I hope you’ve been enjoying the book reviews and “Kickin’ The Willy Bobo” interviews. And I have been busy with a few things that I’m sure you know about but just in case you don’t, allow me to catch you up as well as inform you about a few things coming your way in the months ahead:

We haven’t even hit the halfway point of the year yet and you’ve got three Dillon adventures to keep you busy. “Dillon and The Last Rail To Khusra” Young DillonIn The Halls of Shamballah” and “The Vril Agenda.” There’s three more new Dillon adventures planned for the rest of the year but for more information on those you’ll have to go over to the DILLON blog. Ain’t I a stinker?

The major project that is taking up most of my time is one that I can’t say much about yet as it’s a special project I’m working on for Pro Se. If I say too much about it, Tommy Hancock will cut out my tongue. You know how he is about his announcements and teases. But I think I’m safe enough in telling you this much: Tommy came to me with an idea for me to novelize a movie. Not just any movie mind you. But one of the worst movies ever made. I’ve seen the thing more than once in the course of taking notes for the novel and trust me on this. This movie makes “Plan 9 From Outer Space” look like “Citizen Kane.” Yes, it’s that bad.

But I had a challenge from not only Tommy but the star/director of the movie himself; write the novel and make it better than the movie. If it’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a challenge. And after writing two Dillon adventures back-to-back I thought it would be a nice change of pace. And so far it has been. I should be done with it by the end of this month and no doubt Tommy will be telling you all the grisly details about it then.

What else? There’s a new Sebastian Red story; “Sorrowful Are The Souls That Sleep With Gold” that will be appearing in HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD Vol. III sooner than you think. Last I heard the plan was to drop the ebook first with the paperback to follow soon after. So keep your eyes open for that. I get a lot of inquiries about a Sebastian Red anthology and I’m not ignoring you, I promise. There’s one story I have to finish; “The Bloodstained Trail” and then I can see about putting the thing together with the existing stories. The next time you see Sebastian Red after that will be in a novel that for now I’m calling THE SEVEN GUNS OF SEBASTIAN RED.

I’ve also got to finish the third episode of A MAN CALLED MONGREL before Ron Fortier disowns me completely. The man has the patience of a Kansas City accountant, I tell ya. But in the last month or so I’ve actually been contemplating going ahead and writing a 30K story to bring the series to a satisfying conclusion. It’s a decision I’ve been wrestling with for quite a while and didn’t want to make but the hard truth is that Mongrel Henderson, much as I love him is a character that nobody seems much interested in reading about. And it’s mostly my fault because I don’t publicize Mongrel as much as I do Dillon or Fortune McCall or Sebastian Red. I suppose he’s that little brother who simply can’t get out of the shadows of his bigger, more successful brothers. And I’d rather devote my time and energy to writing stories about characters people do want to read. Maybe it’s just not Mongrel’s time or maybe I should go back to my original plan I had for him: find a helluva good artist and do a Mongrel graphic novel. We’ll see. In any case, I’ll keep you posted.

What else? I guess that’s it. Thank you for stopping by to chat and let’s get together real soon to do this again. In the meantime, read some good books, watch some good movies and say hello to everyone you meet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: RUSS ANDERSON JR.

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Russ Anderson Jr.?

Russ Anderson Jr.: I'm a 30-something father of two who likes pie, bicycling, and writing stories.

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

RAJ: I live in the suburbs of Baltimore. By day, I'm a technical writer for a company you've probably heard of.

DF: In the interest of full disclosure we should let the good folks at home know that we’ve known each other for quite a long time now. Care to tell the readers the circumstances of how we met and our past creative endeavors?

RAJ: You and I were part of a distinct wave of fan-fiction writers back around the turn of the century. We ended up writing at the same sites because we both have the same fantastic taste in source material (Marvel and DC Comics, mainly). I think the first time we talked was when I wrote a favorable review of a series of stories you'd written about a Legion of Super-Heroes character named Mon-El, but I might be misremembering that. It's been almost 15 years, after all.

We really started working together-together when you co-founded Frontier Publishing, which was a site that used the model of monthly serial releases we'd all been using for fanfic, but applied that to our own original works. I came along a couple months later and was one of the lead editors on the site until Frontier finally folded a few years later. One of the things I got to do at Frontier was be the main editor on Dillon and the Voice of Odin, and to help get it into print the first time around. Nowadays we're both part of the Pulpwork Press collective.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, you became a close friend. I've been to your house, you've been to my house. I've met your wife, you've met my wife. Also, we were in a zombie movie together. There's nobody else in my life I can say all those things about.

DF: When did you know that you were a writer?

RAJ: When I was in first grade, I wrote a short story about Spider-Man saving me from the Green Goblin, and then giving me a radioactive spider so that I could be his sidekick (because of course he just carried them around in his pocket). My first story AND my first fanfic! I showed it to my mom, and went and hid behind a chair while she read it, sure that she was going to tell me it was stupid. Since my mom isn't a monster - she's pretty great, actually - she did not tell me it was stupid. She told me she loved it. My course was pretty much set after that.

There were some dry spells between then and my early twenties, most of them having to do with girls and my discovery of various aspects thereof, but what really brought me back to writing was the fanfic community you and I were lucky enough to be a part of. Fanfic is a great training ground for original writing - it gives you a premade pallete to work from so that you can concentrate on things other than creating, things like dialogue and pacing and characterization and putting your butt in the chair on a regular basis. In my case, it also introduced me to a community of like-minded writers that helped me stay focused and motivated. I haven't written fanfic in over ten years, but I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't been part of that group back in the day.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

RAJ: My favorite quote is by Pablo Picasso. "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."

Basically, no matter how much of a "pure" artist you are, sometimes you have to show up for work when you don't feel like it, when your muse simply isn't talking to you. I think this is especially true for writers, because I don't care how inspired you are - inspiration alone is not going to carry you all the way through writing an 80,000 word novel.

Waiting to be in the mood is the best way to never finish anything. I think this is the case for pretty much anything in life.

DF: What’s Anderfam Press?

RAJ: Anderfam Press is an LLC my wife and I started to encompass all of my writing activity. It's also a creator-specific imprint that I can use for things that don't necessarily fit at other publishers.

DF: You’ve published a number of short stories as Ebooks. Tell us about them. And why as single Ebooks? Why not put them all in an anthology?

RAJ: A couple of years ago, I made a resolution that I was going to publish something new every month. If I didn't have something coming out from another publisher in a particular month, I would just self-publish one of my short stories as an Ebook. The resolution only lasted until April - I was working and going to school full-time that year, so it was a classic case of biting off more than I could chew. It did leave me with four short stories with my name on them in the Amazon store, though.

They were published singly in order to keep up with the resolution. I never collected them because they don't really fit together thematically. WE KEEP THE CARS RUNNING is sci-fi noir, A BEER AT THE END OF THE WORLD is drama with a pinch of Where's Waldo-style humor, THE NURSERY is mystery-horror, and THE ORIGIN OF FLIGHT is a straight-up teen superhero adventure.

DF: I have to ask you how you came up with “The Nursery.” That was a story I couldn’t get out of my mind for two or three days after I read it.

RAJ: Innsmouth Free Press was taking submissions for an anthology that year, the theme of which was "fungi" (that also ended up being the name of the book). That theme intrigued me. I had no idea what I could possibly do with it... until the moment came when I knew exactly what I could do with it. I mean, you're probably not going to write a romance story about fungus, right? You're going to make it a horror story. So I started wondering what the most messed-up thing I could do with that theme was, and the answer is in the last thousand words or so of THE NURSERY.

In order to get to those last thousand words, I created Arnold Cheek, a private eye on a missing persons case, a black man living in New York in the 1970s. (I don't usually share in-progress work, but I remember that I sent one of the opening scenes to you to see if I got the feel of Times Square in the '70s right.) Arnold's world is a lot like ours, but the fungus is a lot more aggressive there, bursting up through concrete and taking root in human skin if it's not carefully controlled. I added that setup to the punchline I'd already developed, and there was my story.

Innsmouth passed on the story, but I thought it had merit, so I self-published it. I'm really glad you liked it! I'm still pretty proud of that one.

DF: Tell us about the HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD anthologies.

RAJ: Back in 2009, I had just started going to school full-time on top of my regular 9-to-5 job. My oldest daughter was also born that year, so 2009 started a 4-year drought for me writing-wise. I recognized that I wasn't going to be able to write anything substantial for a while, but I still wanted to be part of the fun with you and Joel Jenkins and Josh Reynolds over at Pulpwork Press, so I decided I'd put together a themed anthology. I could contribute a story under a pseudonym and fill the rest of the pages with other peoples' work.

I was reading a lot of Joe R. Lansdale at the time, so weird westerns were kind of on my mind. I also didn't see the genre being serviced much, so I thought it might be suitably different to find some sort of toehold in the market.

Getting a good cover is probably the biggest challenge of being a publisher. For the first How the West Was Weird, I decided I was really going to invest in the covers, and I approached one of my favorite comic artists, Jim Rugg. Fortunately, Jim was game. He was completely professional, and speedy like you wouldn't believe. Later, he came back and did the cover to volume 2 (one of my favorite covers ever... I still feel like we got robbed at the Pulp Ark awards that year), and he's signed up for volume 3 too. All three volumes will have a cohesive look.

DF: What’s been the most rewarding thing about working on those anthologies?

RAJ: The first collection was basically an excuse for me to work with my friends. It was invite-only, and since I wasn't in the mood to have to reject anything, I only invited people that I knew could turn out a quality story. I've often said that I didn't edit the first volume of HTWWW so much as I hosted it, and I still think that's true.

With the second and third volumes, I opened the submissions up, and that has surprisingly been the best part of the experience. I enjoy the process of editing, of working with a writer to find the best way to tell their story. It means that I've had to reject some stuff that wasn't quite ready - never fun - but it's also introduced me to a bunch of new writers and allowed me to be part of their journey through that work.

DF: The rumor is that the next HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD is going to be the last. True?

RAJ: Yes. The series was originally conceived as a way for me to be part of Pulpwork Press without actually having to write very much. Now that I'm finally finished getting my degree, and therefore have time to write, it's time to focus my energies on getting my own words out there. So we're going to wrap it up.  Also, I think three volumes is a good stopping point for this sort of thing.

DF: You’re going to drop a novel on us soon: MYTHWORLD. Tell us about it.

RAJ: Mythworld was my contribution to Frontier Publishing back in the days of yore. It's about a young architect named Charlie Reese who ends up working for a billionaire businessman who turns out to be the Greek god Hermes. Hermes wants to return the worship of the Greek gods to the world, and he's enlisted the help of Aphrodite and Pan to get it done. Along the way, Charlie meets a handful of other gods and goddesses in their modern aspects, learns the true nature of the world around him, and finds out that Hermes' motives might be a little more far-reaching than the messenger god is letting on. It's a little bit “AMERICAN GODS” and a little bit “THE MATRIX.”

Also, it's got a sweet cover by my buddy Steve Criado. I've had this book done and stored on various hard drives for almost a decade now, but could never figure out what I wanted to do with the cover. Steve nailed the perfect design after only a couple of phone calls.

DF: You’ve been working on MYTHWORLD for a very long time. What is it about MYTHWORLD that won’t let you go?

RAJ: Mostly that it's finished! I'm not a big fan of writing for the drawer, and even though I would not write MYTHWORLD the same way now as I did ten years ago, I think it's still a good story and that it deserves to be seen.

DF: What other projects do you have planned?

RAJ: HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD VOLUME 3 will be out as an Ebook in May, and as a print book in June.

Starting in August, I have a series of Ebook novellas coming out from Pro Se Press about a female character in the style of The Shadow or The Spider. It's set in the early 1950s, right in the middle of the Red Scare, and called BEWARE THE FURY. That'll run for six monthly installments and probably take up most of the rest of my writing year. BEWARE THE FURY is part of Pro Se's massive Signature Series line of Ebooks, and I'm sure you'll be hearing more about that soon.

I've also got a story in Pro Se's MAN IN PURPLE anthology, which should finally see the light of day in the next month or two.

And I'm sure I'll be contributing to the Pulpwork Press Christmas Special again this year. That's always a lot of fun.

DF: What’s A Day In The Life Of Russ Anderson Jr. like?

RAJ: I have two daughters under the age of five, so my days of chasing terrorists on jet skis and playing Poker for the fate of the free world are, unfortunately, behind me. But that's cool. Being a dad's a lot of fun too.

I generally try to get up early enough to get a half hour or so of writing in before everybody else starts getting up. Then I go to work. I try not to let the job take any more than the requisite 8 hours out of any given day, so that I get home early enough to spend some time with the family before the girls have to take their baths and go to bed. Afterward, if I haven't gotten my word count in for the day yet, I'll get it done, and then spend an hour or so with my wife before hitting the hay and doing it all again the next day.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Russ Anderson Jr.: I'd like to apologize to Willy Bobo for all the kicking. I'm sure you're a good person, Willy.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Three Examples Of Today's New Pulp

I’m gonna tell you the main problem us New Pulp writers have when we’re trying to explain New Pulp to folks who have no idea what Pulp is. Much less New Pulp. See, we go on and on with our explanations of Pulp and what it means to us as writers and what it is as a genre…

…and then we’ll get the Classic Pulp crowd chiming in with; “Pulp isn’t a genre! It’s the paper the original magazines were printed on!”

Well, you Classic Pulp guys just hold on. I’ll get to you another time. Believe me. But right now I’ve got more interesting fish to sauté.

Anyway, we try to explain to The Average Reader Who Is Just Looking For Something Good To Read what New Pulp is. And they will listen most earnestly and patiently and attentively and they will then say; “Okay, I get what you’re saying…but why and how is New Pulp different from just plain ol’ Action Adventure? Or Horror? Or Science Fiction? Why can’t you guys just label what you do as that and get it over with?”

And The Average Reader Who Is Just Looking For Something Good To Read does have a valid point. And before you start with that tired old felgercarb about how you don’t like labels and you don’t see why anything has to be labeled…

…tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re going to take all the labels off the canned foods in your local supermarket and let you guess what’s inside those cans the next time you go shopping. Because much as you would like to think otherwise, labelling does have its place. And one reason why it’s so hard to label New Pulp is because over the years there have been so many TV shows, comic books and movies that have adopted the tropes of Classic Pulp that it’s become so ingrained in Pop Culture that most folks don’t even realize they’re watching Pulp. Still don’t believe me? Sit back while I hit you with three examples of New Pulp you watched and enjoyed and didn’t even know was New Pulp.

24 (2001-2010): For 8 Seasons we watched Counter Terrorist Unit Special Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) defend Our Country against supervillains, terrorist attacks and shadow government conspiracies. Each Season followed Jack Bauer on a Really Bad Day, each episode taking place in Real Time over the course of one hour. Before each commercial break, a clock would appear on screen to show us how much time had passed and each episode would end with Jack Bauer or another member of the cast in dire peril. You had to come back next week to find out how Jack or whoever got out of whatever death trap they had gotten into.

24 is one of the primary examples of New Pulp I love to hold up as it’s the Ultimate Saturday Morning Serial. A Serial was extended movies broken up into chapter plays that enjoyed their major popularity in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The chapters were shown in movie theaters in 10 or 15 minutes segments before the main double feature.  They ended with a Cliffhanger in which the hero or another member of the cast found themselves in dire peril. Sound familiar? 24 quite successfully adapted the Saturday Morning Serial in an innovative way. Sure, the episodes were now an hour long instead of 15 minutes but thanks to terrific writing and acting, they kept us on the end of our seats. And as a character, Jack Bauer has a whole lot in common with both Jimmy Christopher aka Operator #5 and The Spider.

Hudson Hawk: Is the most blatantly Pulp of my three examples and maybe that’s why it was the least successful. I dunno. All I know is that the very first time I saw it in the theater, I knew what director Michael Lehmann and screenplay writers Steven E. de Souza and Daniel Waters (based on a story by Bruce Willis and Robert Kraft) were going for. Eddie Hawkins is a master thief known professionally as Hudson Hawk

Upon being released from prison he attempts to go straight but is blackmailed by the CIA, The Mafia, the psychotic Mayflower twins ( Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard) and even his own partner-in-crime Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) into a complicated series of heists to steal the components of the La Machinnia dell’Oro, the greatest invention of Leonardo da Vinci, a machine that can convert lead into gold. The scene where Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello pull off a heist that is perfectly timed to their singing “Swinging On A Star” is one of my favorites in the movie.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004): Wes Anderson is not a director that anybody by any stretch of the imagination would associate with Pulp New or Classic. But I’ve watched The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou three times now and the more I see it, the more I’m convinced it’s a New Pulp Adventure. Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, an oceanographer/adventurer who sees his best friend and partner eater by a Jaguar Shark, a species of shark that had been previously considered to be mythical. Steve Zissou vows to hunt down and destroy the shark.

Aboard his massive research vessel/home, The Belafonte, Zissou and his eccentric crew, which includes a Brazilian musician who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, Anne-Marie Sakowitz who insists on walking around topless and a bunch of college interns from the University of North Alaska he sets out on what may be his last and greatest adventure. The adventure is flavored by Steve having to deal with Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who just may be his illegitimate son and the tagalong reporter Jane-Winslette Richardson (Cate Blanchett) who is attracted to both Steve and Ned.

It’s a movie that I consider New Pulp because of Steve Zissou, an aging adventurer who is trying to hold onto his life of adventure even though everybody and everything is telling him he has to conform to the modern world. But Steve believes in a different world. Halfway through the movie it turns into an almost straight out action adventure where Steve and his crew have to dig back into the day when they were badasses in order to track down and take out a band of pirates that have attacked  The Belafonte and taken some of the interns hostages.

Steve Zissou’s crew are just as talented, skilled and eccentric as Doc Savage’s Iron Crew or Buckaroo Banzai’s Hong Kong Cavaliers. And if you have any more doubts about the intention of this movie, check out the end credit scene where Steve Zissou and his crew march to their boat. Wes Anderson himself has said that is a deliberate homage to the Banzai Strut done during the closing credits of “Buckaroo Banzai”

The thing all these movies (and TV show) have in common is that there are various elements of Classic Pulp that the creators adapted successfully for modern audiences. Matter of fact, they did them so well that modern audiences have no idea that they’re watching Pulp.

And don’t get me started on how Scandal is a modern day version of The Avenger and Justice, Inc…we’ll leave that for next time…

Sunday, March 23, 2014

28 Months Later With: JOE BONADONNA

It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo Interview with Joe so I thought it about time we caught up with what he’s all about and what he’s doing 28 MONTHS LATER…

Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life since we last talked?

Joe Bonadonna: Well, Waters of Darkness, my third novel, was published since then. I’m officially retired now and collecting social security. Two stories I wrote have recently been published: A new tale of Dorgo the Dowser called “The Book of Echoes”, (inspired by Mickey Spillane’s “Kiss Me, Deadly”) is featured in a Kindle-only anthology called AZIERAN PRESENTS: ARTIFACTS AND RELICS—EXTREME SWORD AND SORCERY. This was edited by author Christopher Heath and published by his Heathen Oracle press. The other story is called “The Blood of the Lion”; it’s my first sword-and-soul story and it appears in GRIOTS: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR, published by Milton Davis’ MVmedia, which he and Charles Saunders assembled and edited. I also sold my first horror story, “Queen of Toads”, to be featured in a paperback anthology coming next year.

And I sold a story to Airship 27 for a future volume in one of their ongoing series. This summer I have two stories—one a collaboration—coming out in a long-running, very popular and successful shared-world series, and I am extremely excited about that. Currently, I’m working on a couple of fantasy and sword & sorcery stories unrelated to my Dorgo the Dowser character, although I have just completed the second draft of a special project involving him and his world, a novel that I’m hoping will become a reality.

Lately I’ve taken it upon myself to review the Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’ novels and anthologies that she is republishing under her own house, Perseid Press. Janet is one of the few living writers whose style, philosophy and character-driven stories influenced me years ago. I especially liked her Tempus and Niko stories for Thieves World; her Sacred Band novels, many of them co-written with her husband, Chris, are among my favorites of heroic fantasy. Her shared-universe series, Heroes in Hell, has been around since 1986 and is still going strong. Had my book-deal with Bantam Books not fallen through in 1980, Janet and I would have shared a publisher. I guess I appointed myself as the unofficial chronicler of her work. My reviews have been featured on Black Gate Magazine’s website. This has been keeping me quite busy for almost a year now.

DF: How do you feel your writing has developed since we last talked?

JB: I find myself wanting to experiment with different styles, as I did in “The Blood of the Lion”. (I must thank Milton and Charles for inspiring me and encouraging me in that direction, and for the opportunity and honor to write for such a great anthology as GRIOTS.) I want to go deeper with my stories, to say something about life and the human condition, without turning the stories into diatribes, lectures or dissertations. I’ve been reading philosophy lately, especially Heraclitus, to give my characters more depth. The plots of my stories are becoming very character-driven, and I’m trying to develop different and even more serious themes and subtext, with more introspection on the part of my characters. For instance, I have a 3-part heroic fantasy novel of Dorgo the Dowser waiting in the wings. One of the stories is about the loss of a child, loss of a mother, and a father’s betrayal. I plan to write another one where Dorgo’s involved in a case of child abuse and loss of innocence; might be interesting, for a sword & sorcery tale. The overall theme of Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser is about loss of one kind or another: financial loss, loss of trust, loss of identity, loss of family, friends and loved ones; one of the novellas in that volume deals with a lost race and the funerary customs of different cultures. I also find myself going for a more colorful and even poetic style of prose.

DF: In what direction do you think your work is heading now as opposed to 28 months ago? Or is it heading in the same direction?

JB: I guess I’m now attempting to write stories that are more literary in nature, while still remaining firmly in the sword & sorcery and heroic fantasy genres. Even my pulp stories seem to be heading in a different direction; my characters want me to go deeper, to tackle some social issues, if possible. I’m more interested in writing about characters and their relationships than I am with writing the next action scene, slaying the next monster. I can sit all day and let my characters talk. But when it comes to action scenes, I’m hard-pressed and often grow quickly bored: it’s a challenge for me to write fight and battle scenes, but not the sort of challenge that inspires me. What inspires me is planting the “McGuffin,” surrounding it with as interesting a cast of characters as I can devise, and then let them do whatever they want to and for and against each other to steal and sell, use or destroy the McGuffin. 

The films of Alfred Hitchcock, and the stories of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, as I’ve said many times, are the inspirations for the Gothic-Noir tales of Dorgo the Dowser. I just want to grow as a writer and storyteller, and not stick too much with one kind of tale. In this one project I’m working on I found that I needed to tell the story from different POVs, at times. So what I experimented with is this: in scenes with Dorgo, I write in first-person, past tense; in scenes that do not feature him, I write in 3rd person, present tense. In battle scenes, action scenes, scenes that need to have a certain power of immediacy, I use present tense. And of course, I have a horror novel I’d like to write someday, as well as a novelesque—if I may be allowed to coin a word—version of a personal memoir. I might even try a romance novel or some erotica. Who knows? 

DF: MAD SHADOWS: THE WEIRD TALES OF DORGO THE DOWSER is Fantasy. THREE AGAINST THE STARS is Space Opera. Does it take two different sets of creative muscles to write in two different genres?

JB: Most definitely. Dorgo is pretty much written in first person: he’s me. So the mindset is easy, and the door to his world is always open, although sometimes he isn’t in the mood to talk. And it really does feel like I’m chronicling his adventures, more than creating them. He tells me what to write. However, he doesn’t always take center stage, and the stories are really about one or more other characters. When I need some inspiration to write a Dorgo story, I watch a lot of film noir, read some Chandler and Hammett, and another favorite, Chester Himes, and then just step into the Dowser’s world. I know his world as well as I know the one I live in, and the style I use is pretty much my/his natural voice.

As for the space opera . . . that was tough, at first. There were three main characters and one central character to deal with, as well as a number of main and secondary heroes and villains. Plus, it was an exercise in style: I had to evoke that old-school, traditional space opera feel. I watched the three original Flash Gordon serials again, plus a lot of 1950s sci-fi films, and a few Republic Pictures Serials. Then I re-read some Edmund Hamilton and Henry Kuttner, and even some old novels I had never before read.

Once I got started, I was totally lost in that world. Now, I have been battling with a sword and planet sequel to Three Against The Stars, but the characters do not wish to cooperate. I even read and re-read Burroughs, Bradley, Brackett, and a host of others, to get the feel. I want my story to be character-driven, as opposed to plot-driven, and I want it to be about something: marital problems, infidelity, child adoption, with the main plot concerned with the hunting and killing of endangered species on an alien planet, and the effect on the environment of that world. I was hoping to have the first draft completed by the end of last December, but I’ve only managed about 6000 words in in 2013. Of course, five other stories demanded to be written first. As it is, I keep falling further and further behind on this project. I really want to write this novel, but I find myself losing interest in the project. I keep hoping that something, someone’s novel or a film or TV show, will rekindle the fire.


JB: That came about because David C. Smith, author of “Call of Shadows” and “Dark Muse”, had a 30 year-old, unfinished rough draft of a sword & sorcery novel lying around: an old-fashioned pirate yarn set in the Indian Ocean, eastern Africa, and on Madagascar. I had a 30 year-old, unfinished pirate novel that bore many similarities to his. So I convinced him that I could do a mash-up of the two and create something new and different, and thus went to work. He had already done so much research that I did only a small amount for what I wanted to incorporate into the story. Dave had already had a dash of Robert E. Howard and a sprinkle of Rafael Sabatini and Alexandre Dumas in his original manuscript, and I added a bit of Lovecraft’s Deep Ones, the Philistine sea-god, Dagon, a pinch of King Kong, a drop of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, a sprinkle of Ray Harryhausen, and a lot of Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn—and then I put it all in a blender.

I did about four drafts before I showed it to Dave, and then he added more of his own to it. Matching his style was a fun challenge, and handling a large cast of characters, a lot of action scenes, and different ethnic “voices” turned into a labor of love. In the end, it’s roughly 60% Dave and 40% me. We argued over where to send it, and settled on Damnation Books because they had just published Dave’s very interesting thriller, “Dark Muse”, and they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, even consulting with us on what we wanted book cover to look like. I’m really happy with the novel, and hope more people pick up on it. It’s dark, action-packed, and with some great dialogue and meaningful relationships. It has two romances, and a lot of tragedy. It’s bloody, it’s violent and it’s a whole lotta fun!

DF: You’ve got a story in GRIOTS II: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR. Tell us about it.

JB: It’s called “The Blood of the Lion”, and it is set in the southern rainforest of Dorgo’s world, although he’s not in it. My main character is a young black woman named Nidreva, and her voice is the one I use to tell the story in first-person; I went with a semi-formal style I thought suited her personality. It’s a pretty universal theme: the relationship between a brother and sister. Nidreva’s older brother, Vidaro, has made an unusual self-sacrifice for the good of his tribe; their father is the chief. But this sacrifice produced an unforeseen adverse reaction on his physical and mental being that will eventually affect and change his life for the worst, if not dealt with immediately. To say more about this would give away too much of the story. So I’ll just say that Nidreva and Vidaro go on a quest to find Kijazura, a powerful Juju Mother who may be able to save Vidaro. Along the way Nidreva and Vidaro battle Monkeymen, encounter racism, and become prisoners of the Tulonga K’Adru, the Men with Two Horns, before their story ends. At the heart of this tale is the love between a brother and sister, their courage, and how they risk their lives for the good of their people. In a way, it’s a family-oriented, sword & sorcery tale, and one I am very proud of and honored to be included with such a fantastic group of writers in GRIOTS II: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR.

DF: Where do you see Joe Bonadonna in five years?

JB: God, I’ll be 67! I hope I’m still breathing and in decent health. Hopefully I’ll be in a nice retirement community in Arizona, chasing women half my age on the weekends . . . and still writing during the week.

DF: Hollywood calls and says that they’re going to give you 500 million dollars and the director of your choice to adapt one of your books into a movie. What book do you choose and what director?

JB: Mad Shadows, probably, and I’d want to write the script with my friend, Ted C. Rypel, author of “The Gonji Trilogy”. Now, since John Ford, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, Budd Boetticher, Burt Kennedy and John Houston are dead, and they probably won’t let me direct, I’d have to think about that. Martin Scorcese, Josh Whedon, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, Gail Anne Hurd, Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson, if his tendency to over-indulge can be curbed, and Zach Snyder, if we can pry him away from the CGI long enough to try something old-school, I’d have to say. But I’d to hire the best British actors, and to have real sets built, to use miniatures, matte-paintings, and state-of-the-art stop-motion animation, because Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien are at the heart and soul of almost everything I write.

DF: Recommend a movie, a book and a TV show.  

JB:  I can’t recommend any recent films, because I’ve pretty much lost interest in what Hollywood is cranking out these days, and I am so burned-out on Marvel Comic films. But for genre films, I do recommend Watchmen, Sin City, John Carter, and The Avengers. I also urge people to watch any black and white film noir of the 1940s and 1950s. John Ford westerns, the great costume epics of ancient Greece and Rome, too, and for the best fantasy and sword & sorcery films, watch 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger. The samurai films of Akira Kurosawa are a must.

Novels: anything by Ross Thomas, Robert W. Campbell and Guy Gavriel Kay. For television: The Big Bang Theory, NOVA, Masterpiece Mystery, The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, and the brilliant Futurama. I also like Antiques Roadshow, Louis Gates’ ancestry specials, and The Red Green Show.    

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?     

Joe Bonadonna: I lead a rather uneventful life, so there’s no drama to report. I do want to wish you well in all your endeavors, Derrick, and thank you for this nice surprise and wonderful opportunity to warp and corrupt the minds of your readers and fans. I hope I haven’t rambled on too long!
Many blessings, my friend!
Thanks, everyone!