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 saut√©.

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!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2014 New Pulp Award Winners

The 2014 New Pulp Awards, formerly the Pulp Ark Awards, have announced the winners of its 12 Awards for this year.  Nominations were open to the public followed by a period of voting open to any and all voters as well.  The Awards will be presented to winners present at the Memphis Hilton during MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday, March 23rd.

The Winners of the 2014 New Pulp Awards are-

2014 New Pulp Best Novel- Slow Burn by Terrence McCauley (Noir Nation Books)

2014 New Pulp Best Collection/Anthology Award - Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie by Charie D. La Marr (Chupa Cabra House)

2014 New Pulp Best Short Story Award - A Bullet’s All It Takes by Terrence McCauley, The Kennedy Curse (Exeter Press)

2014 New Pulp Best Novella Award - The Scarlet Jaguar by Win Scott Eckert (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Cover Art Award - The Scarlet Jaguar by Mark Sparacio (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Interior Art Award - The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Will Meugniot (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Related Comic - Doc Savage (Dynamite Entertainment)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Magazine - Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Revival - The Avenger (Moonstone Books)

2014 New Pulp Best New Character Award - Gravedigger from the Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Barry Reese.

2014 New Pulp Best Author Award - Terrence McCauley.

2014 New Pulp Best New Author Award - Ralph Angelo, Jr.

Follow for updates in the coming months concerning the 2015 New Pulp Awards.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Pulp Awards Now Open For Voting

It is my pleasure and honor to announce that FIGHT CARD: BROOKLYN BEATDOWN has been nominated for a New Pulp Award in the category of Best Novella. In addition I have also been nominated for Best Author.

Voting is open to the public so if you follow the link you'll be able to get your hands on a ballot and vote. Please spread the word far and wide, okay?

Voting ends March 12th, 2014
Email your final ballot to

I want to thank everybody who nominated not only myself but all the other talented writers and their amazing stories. My congratulations go out to each and every one of them!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Derrick Ferguson Gets Et By BARRACUDA

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 205 KB
Print Length: 101 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Language: English
ASIN: B006426U5M

There’s a wonderful story told about the filming of the classic 1946 Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall murder mystery “The Big Sleep.” The plot of the book was so convoluted that in translating it from print to screen, director Howard Hawks and his screenwriters William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman discovered that not only weren’t they entirely sure who the killer of Sean Reagan was, they also had a dead chauffeur on their hands and they couldn’t figure out who killed him. In desperation they contacted the writer of the book, Raymond Chandler to ask him who killed Sean Regan and the chauffeur and Chandler had to admit that he himself didn’t know.

Indeed, there’s a wonderful bit right in the middle of “The Big Sleep” where Bogart’s Philip Marlowe is called into the Los Angeles D.A.’s office to explain the case to him and by extension to the us, the audience. Because by the time we’ve reached that point of the movie the filmmakers felt that there needed to be some kind of summary of what happened so that audiences back then could take a breath and feel they were up on what had happened up until then.

I feel kinda the same way about Raymond Embrack’s impressively deranged BARRACUDA: A PETER SURF NOVELLA. Halfway through it needs somebody to hold up both hands, yell “Hold everything, please!” and summarize the plot. And trust me, I mean that in a good way. Because in the same way that “The Big Sleep” is now regarded as a classic of the private eye genre, I think that BARRACUDA in its own way is going to become a classic. And Raymond Embrack is a writer to watch.

Peter Surf is a private eye living and working in Blonde City, a California city that seems to be entirely made up of linked beaches each with their own distinctive personality. Blonde City itself is one of the best characters in the story, inhabited by gangs such as The Schoolgirl Mafia who commit thrill killings while hopped up on Hentai-14 and The Beach Mafia whose members worship The Beach Boys to the extent that all of them have the last name of “Smile” in honor of Brian Wilson’s epic project. It’s a city that seems made up out of equal parts of 1950’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s pop culture with a healthy heaping dose of whatever the hell Raymond Embrack felt like throwing in and believe me, he makes it works. And for me watching him make it work was one of the fun things about reading this story.

Peter Surf himself is…well, the best way to describe him is if you imagined Mike Hammer created by Quentin Tarantino instead of Mickey Spillane. He lives and works out of a converted, arsenal filled service station and he doesn’t so much as do straight up detective work as wreak havoc among his enemies until somebody yells “uncle” and tells him what he wants to know.  

And the havoc is profane, sexy and violent and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The story begins with Surf investigating a terrorist group called T-Unit. They’re terrorizing the private eyes of Blonde City. They’re running some out of town and outright killing others. They make the mistake of terrorizing Surf instead of killing him. From then on, Peter Surf becomes a one man wrecking crew on the warpath of T-Unit.

How this is all tied with the DEA, a particularly dangerous man named Gronsky and Blue Mermaid, a type of maryjane so mythical it’s supposed to be able to heal people I would not dream of telling you. Just be advised that by the time you reach the halfway point of BARRACUDA you may be tempted to say, “Hold everything, please!” go back to the beginning and start reading all over again just to make sure you know exactly what is going on.

That’s because Mr. Embrack writes like this was the only book he was ever going to write in his life. There’s an astounding amount of vibrantly alive characters, situations and concepts that other writers would have spread out over a trilogy. BARRACUDA is never boring and never lags due to the constant and unending stream of sheer delightfully WTF plot twists Mr. Embrack throws at us with glee.

The dialog is pure classic P.I. genre porn where everybody talks like a dame or a smartass or a tough guy. And Mr. Embrack allows himself to have fun with his concepts, his prose and the dialog. I like to think that I can tell when a writer had fun writing a story because that fun can’t help but translate into the prose. And if Raymond Embrack has half as much fun writing BARRACUDA: A PETER SURF NOVELLA as I did reading it then he had a big ol’ barrel of fun indeed. Highly recommended reading.

I do gotta point out that this is not for those of you who are PC minded or who object to graphic language, violence and/or sex. But if you want to read a really good crime/P.I. story that reminded me a lot of “Sin City” on crack you can’t do better than BARRACUDA: A PETER SURF NOVELLA.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You Liked It Before...


In April 2013, Pro Se Productions, a Publisher known for balancing tales harkening back to classic Pulp Fiction with stories pushing the boundaries of modern Genre Fiction, released a title that caused a ripple in the Genre Fiction and Pulp communities.  BLACK PULP is a collection that takes the wonderful style of Pulp Fiction, established in the early 20th Century, and wraps it around fully realized black heroes and heroines, something that was not done in Pulp’s classic era.  This bestselling collection features work from a variety of authors, including bestselling authors Walter Mosley and Joe Lansdale as well as notable authors such as well-known crime author Gary Phillips, Imaro creator Charles Saunders, Mel Odom, Christopher Chambers, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ron Fortier, Kimberly Richardson, Michael Gonzales, D. Alan Lewis, Derrick Ferguson, and Tommy Hancock.

Co-editor of BLACK PULP, crime novelist Gary Phillips observed, “While revisionism is not history, as the films “Django Unchained” and “42” attest, nonetheless historical matters find their way into popular fiction. This is certainly the case with New Pulp as it handles such issues as race with a modern take, even though stories can be set in a retro context.”

Pulp fiction of the early 20th century rarely, if ever, focused on characters of color and the handful of black characters in these stories were typically portrayed stereotypically. BLACK PULP brings some of today’s best authors together with up and coming writers to craft stories of adventure, mystery, and more -- all with black characters in the forefront.

BLACK PULP offers exciting tales of derring-do from larger-than-life heroes and heroines; aviators in sky battles, lords of the jungle, pirates battling slavers and the walking dead, gadget-wielding soldiers-of-fortune saving the world to mystics fighting for justice in other worlds.

Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Huffington Post, covered the release of BLACK PULP and positive reviews continue to stack up.

“BLACK PULP,” Pro Se Productions publisher and Black Pulp co-editor Tommy Hancock, "has been a phenomenon for Pro Se.  Not simply because sales have been spectacular for the resources available to us, but also because this title has brought awareness of the company to many writers, whole communities that we’re happy to be associated with.  And it’s not simply because it’s a great book with fantastic talent telling unbelievably good stories. It’s more about discussion, about bringing new stories into this classic style, individuals and entire groups getting a voice in a way they didn’t because of society in the early 20th Century.  New Pulp is what we call this type of fiction because of the chance to blend the best of the past with the sensibilities of today. You really see that with BLACK PULP and the impact it’s had.  And we want that to continue. It’s why there will be a BLACK PULP II and other similar volumes as well.”

Currently, ASIAN PULP is in development from Pro Se and will, like its predecessor, feature Pulp stories, this time with Asian protagonists.  ASIAN PULP is slated for a mid 2014 release.
BLACK PULP II is currently being developed as well. Many of the authors in the original volume are returning, as well as new names.   BLACK PULP II is scheduled for late 2014/early 2015 release.

The collection that started it all, BLACK PULP features a new essay on the nature of Pulp, both classic and modern, by award winning bestselling author Walter Mosley.

The other writers contributing original works to the anthology are: two-time Shamus award winner Gar Anthony Haywood, two time Award finalist Kimberly Richardson, Dixon Medal winner Christopher Chambers, critically acclaimed novelist Mel Odom, hip-hop chronicler Michael Gonzales, and award winning leading New Pulp writers Ron Fortier, D. Alan Lewis, Derrick Ferguson, Charles Saunders, Tommy Hancock, and Chester Himes award winner Phillips. This collection also features a classic story by Joe R. Lansdale, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe award, and multiple Bram Stoker awards.

BLACK PULP is available now from Amazon at
and via Pro Se's own store at!

It is also available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords as an Ebook, with format and design by Russ Anderson.

With a pulse pounding original cover by artist Adam Shaw and stunning cover design by Sean Ali, BLACK PULP delivers hair raising action and two fisted adventure out of both barrels!

For more information concerning BLACK PULP, BLACK PULP II, or ASIAN PULP, including interviews and review copies when available, email Morgan Minor, Director of Corporate Operations at Pro Se at

For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to 

Like Pro Se on Facebook at


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: TOMMY HANCOCK

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Tommy Hancock?

Tommy Hancock: It might be easier to answer with who I’m not, but we’ll leave that for another interview.  I am a father of three kids I dearly love (Braeden, Alex, and Kailee), husband to Lisa, who is overdue for her mental evaluation because she is still putting up with me, and an avid idea guy.  By that I mean I have ideas for stories and projects and events and…and…well, stuff all the time.   I’ve always been that way and it’s driven me into a whole lot of interesting directions.  Probably defined me more than anything else has, that urge to create, to get ideas out. It’s definitely shown me my strengths and weaknesses.

DF: Where do you reside and what do you do for a living?

TH: I live in Melbourne, Arkansas, a little town north of Batesville, Arkansas, which is a slightly bigger town about 90 miles north of Little Rock.

I am currently an investigator for an Attorney.  Not necessarily Pulp material, but sometimes it gets really interesting. And definitely inspires stories.

DF: Tell us something about your background.

TH: Grew up that kid who wrote his first story in third grade and used his friends as the heroes.  Never stopped writing after that.  By eighth grade, turned the stories into a script that we used to talk our English Teacher, Mrs. Sifford, into letting us act out.  Moved into theater that way, into audio drama from there, and somewhere along the way I collected comics, old time radio, books, and Pulps.  My parents and little sister didn’t really understand how I was a part of the foursome they called a family because my interests didn’t fit any of theirs.  So, I sort of got on a kick of searching out similar minds.  Took a while, but found a whole passle of ‘em in 1997 in the world of Fan Fiction.  From there, while I built a pretty neat family of my own, worked on my own original stuff until Pro Se happened.

DF: What are your influences?

TH: As eclectic as my interests. I am a huge Mystery/Detective fan and a writing influence is most definitely Robert B. Parker.  But I draw a lot from Hammett, from L’amour, Stuart Kaminsky, Steven J. Cannell (his television work), and a handful of Pulp types as well. 

Also, my writing is heavily influenced by my love of old TV and radio shows.  There’s something about the economy of 23 minute shows that I love and has given me the ability to tell a story in short form tightly and succinctly.

I also have three major influences, believe it or not, that are musical in nature.  The body of works of Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, and Meatloaf hugely impact my storytelling.  All three have different ways to tell a story, but they share one things-the almost cinematic way the stories they tell unfold.

DF: Which do you like better: writing, editing or publishing?

TH: That’s a hard question to ask simply because, to be honest, they’re the same for me.  Not that that they are the same activity, but what I derive from each is the same.  The concept of contributing to new stories, to being part of a creative process, to putting even just a little bit of me into a tale…I can do that as an author, editor, and publisher.  So, really, they’re all equal with me.

I’ve got a huge focus now on all aspects of creating, not just putting words on the page.  I am a major part of the storytelling process in publishing and even as an editor.  Also, my creativity has taken on a life of its own, evolving through conventions, events, and such.  I’ve learned that I am as much a part of the story as the stories we publish and I write.  So, being in panels, joining in discussions about writing and such, and coming up with special events is a new thing creatively for me in the writing sense.  Although, to be honest, I’ve always made room for the creative stuff I wanted to do.

DF: What is your philosophy of writing?

TH: It’s pretty simple.  Have the idea first.  Don’t write until You have the idea.  And even then, don’t write until the idea has You.  I am not a believer in the concept that stories go where they want to once the writing process starts.  The writer is the driver at that point.  But I firmly feel like while the idea is still just that, an abstract construct teasing one’s mind, then that is the moment where anything can happen.  And when it does, when the idea has you enough, then You write.  And You write until it’s done, even if that takes five years and you do other stories in between.  I have several ideas in progress and some that are just pieces…that I will write, that will end up in something I do.  Because the ideas had me before I started writing them down.

DF: What writing projects are you working on now?

TH: A lot that I’m really behind on.  One of the curses of doing a ton of things is that other things get left behind.  But that’s part of growing and I’ve tackled the ‘No, this can wait’ philosophy that anyone who is overwhelmed sort of slides into.   I’m working at this moment on a few things, including The Rook Volume 7, ‘Nomorrow (the follow up to my first novel, Yesteryear), The Adventures of Nicholas Saint, all for Pro Se.  Then I’m working on a Fight Card novella as well as a comic book and a couple of other things I can’t reveal for Moonstone.  I also have a two book deal with Dark Oak Press, one being a hard-boiled detective novel, which I am working on currently. 

DF: What’s the best thing you’ve written so far?

TH: Either “Lucky”, a story based on the Nightbeat radio show for a collection this past year from Radio Archives or my first published story, “Crossing Contention”, a western short featuring Virgil Earp, a story published by Airship 27.

DF: Where did your love affair with Pulp begin?

TH: Standing in an Kmart looking up at a spinner rack that had books on it and pulling a Doc Savage omnibus off of it.   Started like blazes right then and didn’t stop.

DF: What’s the best advice you can give an aspiring writer who wants to venture into the wild and wooly world of New Pulp?

TH: Read. Read what it is You think You want to write.  Then, when You decide to write for a Publisher, read what they publish.  That is a must, as far as I’m concerned.  A question I always ask new writers who approach Pro Se is ‘What of ours have You read?’

DF: How has New Pulp grown from where it was to where it is now?

TH: I think the readership has grown, although not where any of us want it to be.  I also think, and this may irritate a few people, that New Pulp has sort of reached its capacity in the way most companies have approached it.  We feed a niche and that niche has plenty to eat with Pro Se and other companies out there, not to mention what is out that really is New Pulp even though it doesn’t call itself such.  If Pro Se and others want to continue on, want to leave a mark outside our little circle, then we have to consider different ways of doing that without compromising what we want to produce.

Part of that means, at least for Pro Se, using the wide brush that I’ve always painted what Pulp is with.  To appeal to readers who wouldn’t think to pick up a book that someone says is a super hero book or a mystery book, to find writers, artists, and stories that fit what we do, but also to widen the reach of our work, New Pulp has to push beyond itself.

DF: What is the fascination that we as writers and readers have for the Classic Pulp Heroes?

TH: I can tell you what it is for me.  It’s to make sure their stories go on.  When I love a character, the two words I hate the most are ‘The End’.  So I enjoy reading new stories of established characters, even bad ones, because at least I know the story goes on. They keep on living.

DF: Tell us The Secret Origin of Pro Se.

TH: Well, one secret that isn’t really is I didn’t start Pro Se.  I have a partner, Fuller Bumpers, who worked as a writer and actor in LA for several years, who came back to Arkansas to be a lawyer and have a family, but couldn’t beat the bug of wanting to create.  Fuller brought me on board as we got to know each other in our regular jobs and he found out I was a creative like him.  We started out looking at audio drama and that was fun, but not where either of our hearts really were.  So, with my learning about the New Pulp Movement (not yet named such at that point), we decided to push in that direction and resurrected the Pulp magazine, then moved on to books and the rest is what Pro Se is today.

DF: Why have your own publishing house?

TH: That’s a question that probably should be harder to answer than it is.  Because I wanted to.  I wanted to have books I’d want to read and although some companies were doing what I liked, I knew the only way I’d really get books that I’d love to have on my shelf was to have a hand in producing them.

DF: What can we expect from Pro Se in 2014?

TH: A lot. I’m pretty well known for teases, you know, hinting at what’s coming…so that’s what I’ll do in response to this. A new imprint that takes a rather unique look at Genre Fiction... Women of Fantasy (and that's all I’m allowed to say at this point)... a Crossover that will shake one Universe at home in Pro Se to its foundations...a New Pulp Novel by a Classic Pulp Author...Another new imprint that will definitely pull back the steamy underbelly of Pulp and show how raw it can be…and the launch of something that no one else in our corner of publishing is doing that we think it is high time for. And that isn’t all…have to leave people wanting more.

DF: Where do you see Pro Se five years from now?

TH: I don’t really have a clear concept of where Pro Se will be in five years.  I have a plan, one that I’ve sort of kept close to the vest.  In five years, we’ll be in the third phase of it and all I can say is, if it goes anywhere near like I plan, then Pro Se will be a little bit of everywhere.

DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Tommy Hancock like?
TH: Very busy.  Literally a juggling act.  I get up, I pulp, I take care of the family, go to work, Pulp when I can get the time there, come home, do the family thing, then Pulp more.  

Although that is pretty much a day in day out sort of thing, I’ve been fortunate.  I’ve had people say, “wow, to be so focused on Pro Se and Pulp, that’s gotta be a lot of work and lonely.” It is a lot of work, but the instant it feels like work to me, I’ll walk away.  And as far as being alone, not in the least.  I’ve got a great staff at Pro Se.  Morgan Minor is the best wingwoman ever.  And then I have a circle of friends, sort of my own little Algonquin Round Table, that figuratively and at least digitally literally surround me and keep me going.  So, I’m good with a Pulp filled daily routine.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Tommy Hancock: That’s about it. Thanks for the opportunity