Sunday, June 12, 2016

Nothing's Wrong With Me, I'm a Writer

I recently read a story about famous Broadway choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne. Back in the 1930s, her mom took her to a doctor in an effort to find what was going on with the young girl. She didn’t pay attention in school. She constantly had to move. The diagnosis: the doctor determined there was nothing wrong with Gillian, she was a dancer. Once that was determined, and Lynne was allowed to do what came naturally to her, things made sense. She thrived. Finally, she was in her element.
I used to wonder what was wrong with me. It was very difficult for me to pay attention in school. I loved English and history. So many great stories there, and I could really get into those subjects. Everything else was a chore. Math was never my thing. Too concrete. There were no stories behind those numbers. When I started working, the same was true. As a bank teller (rough gig for a guy who hates math), I was constantly bored. My mind wandered. The same was true for every other job I held.
All the while, I wrote. My first work of fiction was a story based upon my favorite computer game and game show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego. It was a profanity laced action tale that, in my mind, was a masterpiece. Why the cursing? When my parents left, and I was under the care of my older brother, I’d sneak and watch my dad’s movies. All action movies were chock full of foul language. So, my young mind figured any good adventure tale needed to have it. I’d love to read it now, as I’m sure the majority of such words were misused. But, that story was the first time I put pencil to paper and recorded my ideas. It wouldn’t be the last.
After that, there was never a time when I wasn’t writing! My grandpa loved Louis L’amour. He had darn near every title by the prolific author. I don’t remember how old I was when I borrowed one and read it, but I was hooked! I used to stare at the bookcase that held them all and think, “I want to do that. I want to be that.” L’amour was a storyteller. That’s what I wanted to be. In fact, it was the one word I kept going back to in my mind. Storyteller.
I continued to write. I wrote non-fiction for a church email group, sending out thoughts, observations, and announcements. It was free, of course, so no one paid for it. I didn’t care; I had an audience! People were reading something that I wrote. Meanwhile, the fiction kept coming forth. I’d write stories for my best friend, Nick, eagerly awaiting his reaction. It was a small audience, but it was an audience. Again, someone was reading what I wrote!
I studied the bestseller charts and saw what people were reading. As an adult, I discovered the wonderful world of Robert Crais, Vince Flynn, Loren Estleman, and Robert Parker. I found other western authors, besides L’amour, like James Reasoner, William Johnstone, and Ralph Cotton.  The more I read, the more I was inspired to write. I had these stories floating around in my head that I just had to get out. I wasn’t happy when I tried to suppress them. Storyteller
So, I finally decided to see if I could actually sell one of these stories. After looking into the market, I realized there’s a steady appetite for romance. I’d never read one. I’d darn sure never tried to write one. In the spring of 2015, under a pen name, I did. It sold. I wrote another one, it sold more. All of the sudden, I had actual royalties coming in! It also showed me that I could produce a work from start to finish and send it to market. Some of these romances are a tad funny, some are a bit trashy, but all are incredibly cheesy. Still, they got me into the game and I’m not sorry I wrote them. I’ll put more out.
But I’m returning to my first literary love: pulp fiction. As noted in a different blog post, perhaps genre fiction is a better description. Whatever we decide to call it, I’m diving in. I have some projects coming out that I’m excited to share with folks. 2016 has been a very good year for me, writing wise, and I am extremely optimistic about the future. I’m finally doing what I’ve wanted to do all along. I may never be Stephen King, but like those early days, I have an audience. And after 35 plus years, I’ve finally realized that nothing is wrong with me…I’m just a writer.

Toward the middle of the summer, and late in the season, I have some works coming out that I’m very excited about! The first one is The Adventures of Johnny Derringer: Arbuckle Abduction. This story is pulp all the way, with a Depression Era gangster anti-hero hot on the trail of some of his colleagues. After a bank job goes wrong in Missouri, Johnny is given an ultimatum by the FBI: find the kidnapped daughter of an Oklahoma oil man, or else…
This is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to introduce Johnny and his adventures to pulp lovers.
The next work is War in the Wichatas. The protagonist, Frank Page, is a tough and grizzled lawman in the early 1900s who is tasked with bringing law and order to the emerging Oklahoma City. His quest takes him away from the growing city, to the still untamed frontier where he feels the most comfortable. Again, this is the start of what I hope becomes an ongoing series. I think western fans will like Frank. I sure do.

And finally, my personal favorite of the bunch, an anthology of stories featuring Ethan Tate. Ethan is a young tech billionaire who has a big secret: he is routinely visited by the dead. Tate helps clear a haunted theater in Chicago, meets the ghost of a cold blooded killer in Kansas, and runs into a very famous spirit in Dallas who once killed a very famous man.
Ethan Tate first appeared in a short story, “Saving Thelma”, that is for sale on the Kindle right now (under Daniel Fowler). If you need some reading material, it’s short and cheap, and serves as a good introduction to the character and his world. I wrote the tale originally to submit for a horror anthology. After completion, I noticed one big problem: the story isn’t scary! It’s more supernatural noir, but certainly not horror. A word of warning, though: there’s some rough language in this one, so just know what you’re getting into.
I’ll have more info on all of these books in the future. And, I have a whole bunch of book and film reviews coming to the blog. As always, thanks for reading. Until next time…peace, love, and pulp!

It's a Great Time to Be a Reader: The State of Modern Pulp, as I See It

When it comes to pulp fiction, it’s a great time to be a reader. I use the term “pulp” because I’m not sure how else to classify the type of works I’m referring to. For me, pulp is sort of an all-encompassing term that may include hard boiled P.I. tales, men’s adventure, and westerns. Perhaps “genre fiction” is more accurate. No matter what you call it, it’s a great time to be a fan and connoisseur.

A couple of years ago, I thought just the opposite. When I was a kid in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, one could still easily find pulp on the paperback racks. True, it was thinning out, and wasn’t anywhere near the levels it had been during its zenith. As a teen in the ‘90s, I could easily find such western series as Longarm, The Trailsman, Slocum, and The Gunsmith. Beyond these series, there were a whole host of other “adult westerns” that flooded the market, but never seemed to last long. Westerns as a whole regained popularity in the 1990s, in film and in paperback form, it seems, and there was a plethora of titles.

When it came to action and adventure, series such as The Executioner and The Destroyer were going strong, along with others that came and went. But, the herd started thinning as time went on. I could still scour used book stores, and the occasional antique store I went to with my grandparents, to find real treasures. The big publishers in New York decided to shave a few off here and there, and pretty soon only a few series held on. Recently, we saw Longarm, Slocum, Fargo, and even The Gunsmith go the way of the buffalo. A few western series are still out there (Johnstone), but it’s looking bleaker and bleaker every day—as far as the New York publishers, anyway.

Thankfully, it’s looking better and better with the small houses and independent guys. Today, even though the Big Guys aren’t publishing hardly any pulp or genre fiction, it’s a great time to be a pulp reader! Thanks to the Kindle, and other e-reading devices, I now have virtually more material at my fingertips than I have time to read! And it’s not poorly written, throw-away junk either. We are talking the masters here, people.
Prolific author James Reasoner is still putting out just as much as he used to, publishing under his own imprint, Rough Edges Press. He’s not alone, either. He has the likes of Ed Gorman and others joining him. Some stories are new, and some are reprints of long out of print gems. Either way, if you want some great action packed reads, Rough Edges is a good place to start.

James is one of my literary heroes. As a wannabe author, I admire the sheer amount the man writes (with no drop-off in quality), and the fact that he struck out on his own and is making it happen. I’ve read much of his work, even being able to spot the titles he wrote for various series such as Longarm (turns out, I was correct ina lot of my guesses. I believe I’ve spotted him writing for another still-running and aforementioned western series, but I will say no more).

Speaking of westerns, The Gunsmith can still be found, but not on the local drugstore paperback rack as in the old days. Robert Randisi (who writes wonderful mysteries, as well) has brought his creation Clint Adams (The Gunsmith) to the wonderful world of e-reading with new Gunsmith titles. The old ones are being reissued, as well, thanks to the guys over at Piccadilly Press. Piccadilly is publishing tons of works, many of them classic pulp western reprints, at affordable prices. Good stuff!

John Hegenberger is a “new to me” author who has quickly become one of my favorites. He’s been writing for a while, but only recently has introduced his detective fiction to the world. I’m sure glad he did! Stan Wade, a late ‘50s and early ‘60s P.I., is a great character who interacts with all sorts of classic Hollywood types. His adventures are quick and fun, and I highly recommend them. Beyond that, John has some other great titles including some sci-fi. I interviewed John, and if you haven’t read it, click here to enjoy. He’s an author you should be familiar with.

Long-time comic book and pulp author Ron Fortier is going strong over at Airship 27. Not only is Ron’s own work published under that press, but he’s got some great pulp authors with him, putting out some awesome stuff! Mr. Fortier recently announced that his Brother Bones character, the Undead Avenger, is going to be appearing in a movie! I’ve been reading Brother Bones, and I can tell you it’s great pulpy fun. Much like The Shadow and the great pulp heroes of old, he’s sure to please fans of the genre. Also, a good place to start when taking flight with the Airship is their anthology The Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Lots of good short stories in that collection, and it raises money for a great cause. It’s a good introduction and jumping off point to dozens of great modern pulp writers.

I could go on and on. I’m sure I’ll be back with another modern pulp round-up, but the authors mentioned above are a great place to get going, if you’re looking for such titles. For fans of the genre like me, we live in exciting times! It’s also a great time to be a pulp writer, but more on that in my next post.