Writing your First Novel

I’ve decided to make this a series. I have purchased a few copies of now-public-domain writing magazines from the 30s-50s and I’m reprinting various articles from them and calling them “Writing Tips from the Pulp Era.”

Editor’s note: Marjorie Holmes ended up writing 134 books, 32 of which hit the bestseller list. She also wrote for all manner of magazines. From Writer’s Digest, August 1943, which is now in the public domain.

Get That Novel Out of Your System

By MARJORIE HOLMES

Once you’ve written that novel that’s in you, crying to be written, you can live with yourself again. You can face your image in the mirror without flinching. You can sleep nights.

You’ll never be satisfied to dismiss it in a few pages as The Novel I Didn’t Write. A matter of personal integrity is involved. If it’s peculiarly and fiercely your novel, no one else can write it but you. And if you’re at all serious about your work, you’re in for self-inflicted hell until you do!

Writing a novel is so long a task, so perilous a gamble. The free-lancer must stake so much valuable writing time against monstrously uncertain success. In that same period he knows he can be turning Out many shorter manuscripts, making a go of Writing.

But unless the “good book” in the back of the mind of every writer is actually written, he fears that always he will be a hack Writer, at odds with himself and the people who have had faith in him.

But-and here looms the most sinister threat of all-what if he does gamble all on his novel and then it doesn’t sell? He realizes that, in that eventuality, he can no longer take refuge even in his dreams. He will be shocked and wounded; he will not only be far behind the eight-ball financially, but he will probably be conditioned for good against the novel form… And so, while you are tormented by the knowledge that you’re compromising, shirking your task, the cold sick dread of failure is holding you back. Mentally and emotionally you are a mess!

This is the story of the novel I did write. Things that affected the slow, agonized crawl to its completion. Maybe there’s something in it for you?

I began my novel shortly after I was out of college. The stimulus was a series of remarkable articles by Clark Venable, which the WRITER’s DIGEST ran from February through July, 1933. “Subject Matter and Beginning,” “The Voice of Jacob,” “Characterization,” “Color and Tempo,” even “The Last Hard Mile.” (They were wonderful!) I gulped down Mr. Venable’s advice, gave myself the tests: “Am I equipped to tell this story? Have I the dogged determination required for the chore? Is my story worth the labor and will it justify the use of the equipment I will bring to it? If all answers are definitely yes,” Mr. Venable urged, “then in heaven’s name begin.”

And so, gasping a frantic yes, yes! to all of them, in heaven’s name I-began. In heaven’s name I wrote, furiously, gloriously, for weeks. Then one sad day I paused for breath and looked back. To my stunned amazement, I found it had taken me 90,000 words to simply set the stage! Actually, I knew nothing about writing the novel. Even Mr. Venable’s fine articles assumed an experience and technical background I did not have.

I would have to put this material away. I would have to start at the bottom with stories and articles. I would have to learn structure and dramatic balance and discipline. I would have to mature.

It was a bitterly disappointing decision to have to make, but I knew it was the only way.

At that time I had sold a couple of pulp and confession stories. To these I gratefully and hopefully returned. I painstakingly built plot outlines; I polished and tested every page.

Sometimes, angrily throwing away the tenth version of a dramatic scene, I would protest, “What’s the difference? The editors will probably cut. And it’s just a confession, isn’t it?” But I could never kid myself. And I believe that this habit of petting, and practically tasting every sentence, every word, before letting it go, made for the kind of writing that had to go into my book. The book that I was still working on-simply because I couldn’t resist it-now and then.

To get my name into the more general magazines, I was also writing fluff. Airy little articles about love, glamor, personality, husbands, kids. These were easy to write and sold readily. I got anywhere from $10 to $75 for them, with frequent reprint bonuses which made the total take for the time involved very good. Together with story sales I made sometimes as much as $800 a month. I was in a (very small) unspectacular way, doing all right.

But-I couldn’t sleep nights. I’d read articles like Steve Fisher’s “Literary Roller Coaster” and walk the floor. Why, the guy was only 25 While I-well, let’s skip that. Anyway, I was old enough to have finished my book too if I’d just quit stalling, if I just had the courage to drop everything else and see it through. In a kind of panic, I’d open my notebook to the words an English prof had scribbled there once: “You can write beautiful things for people who crave beautiful things. There is a duty!” Or I’d gaze wretchedly at Clark Venable’s closing paragraph, clipped, framed, and hung over my desk: “For aught any man can say to the contrary, the author of that greatest novel may be now a lowly beginner who has within him the seed of genius which flowers only when WORKED. You?…”

In spasms like this I would haul down my novel, which despite the infrequent spurts on which I had worked on it, had grown to surprising proportions, and brood over it. I felt that I really had something in it; that, if nothing more, I had captured the spirit of a kind of people I wanted to portray. But something was wrong-and I didn’t know just what. I was too close to it, perhaps too much in love with it to regard it with an objective, discerning eye. Finally, though I’d never had much faith in critics, I bundled it up and sent it off to Mr. A. L. Fierst.

Money was never more luckily spent. I already knew that the book was too long, but I was lost and confused in determining what to cut. He pointed out what must go-and why. He suggested a plan for complete reorganization. In one letter he taught me things about writing a novel that I’ll remember all my life.

One mistake I had made was in the number of characters. I love characterization. My idea of creative bliss would be to write nothing but character sketches till the end of time. This I had been doing with the excuse that I was writing a novel. Every amusing or colorful character I had ever observed and “canned” in my notebook, had been lovingly dusted off and shoved onto a stage where he served no particular purpose and had no business to be. The result was a bizarre collection of personalities, each interesting in itself, perhaps, but contributing nothing to the plot, and only obscuring the true protaganists.

It was these few principal characters who were really important. On their backs rested the plot. It was through their courage, loyalty, and rollicking spirits that I must accent the theme. They deserved the spotlight, the very best that I could give them. To do this I couldn’t go dashing down bypaths, exploring the morals of the town drunkard, deciding what the garbage man thought about.

And once I had-however regretfully-killed off all these other minor characters, I had not only shortened the book considerably, but gained elbow-room to build up the characters I was really interested in. The Andrews family itself, and the few people who contributed to their destiny. This simplified the problem, the story, and the mood. It made for dramatic unity. It quickened the pace.

To further quicken the pace, I did what I should have done in the beginning-made chapter outlines, as if each were a short story in itself, leading to a dramatic climax. Then I went through every chapter already written, trying to shape it over the skeleton of this outline. A lot of irrelevant scenes had to be lifted out bodily-some of them to be discarded completely, others to be salvaged and worked into different chapters where they more aptly fit. For instance, in the original version of the manuscript, I had scattered the theatrical experiences of Ken, the older brother, through four or five chapters dealing with other matters. In revising, I gathered them all together and sewed them into a couple of chapters all his own, where they belonged.

In making these tardy chapter outlines, I discovered chapters that seemed dramatically out of place. These I shifted around until-like those little dime-store puzzles where you tilt and twist until the darkie’s eyes or teeth fall into place-they seemed to fit. To illustrate, I tried the chapter where the kitchen catches on fire, at least four different places. But not until I arranged so that it should follow a chapter dealing with the family’s difficulties at Christmas, did it live up to its own dramatic implications.

Timing, in the modern novel, is important. Almost as important as in a short story, I think. Speaking for the moment as simply a reader, I am distressed at how often novelists pay no attention to it. A dramatic effect achieved, a point made they often still go wordily on, to ruin that effect. I’m wordy enough myself, heaven knows! But the precaution of a chapter outline, pointing to a definite curtain line or peak of interest at which to stop, is a safeguard against going too far afield, as well as invaluable as a timing device.

Another mistake I made in first writing my novel was in handling the dialogue. My own short story experience should have taught me that dialogue serves two purposes-to delineate character and advance the plot. But somehow I got the notion that in novels no such hampering limitations prevailed. I love to write dialogue, and so I had a grand time letting everybody talk their heads off. They argued, they dissertated, they philosophized. And while a lot of it made interesting reading in itself, it kept the characters marking time when they should have been going someplace. A novel-as Mr. Venable had warned-must march!

Perhaps the over-abundance of dialogue had been due to my anxiety to make my characters realistic. I had faithfully reproduced pages of conversation authentic to a certain kind of people. Every interruption and half-speech, every “huh?” “gosh, kid,” “I dunno'” and “damn.” The result had used up a lot of space (you haven’t nearly as much elbow-room in a novel as you might imagine-the pasture looks vast and green after the narrow roads of short story writing, but that’s where so many of us go astray). More disastrously, it had become so realistic as to defeat its own end. The oral word is a tricky thing when reproduced in print. For instance, if I were to take down literally the conversation that took place recently at a luncheon, I would succeed only in making a group of refined ladies sound like a bunch of bawdy madams. Similarly, in my novel, the dialogue of typical, small-town middle-class girls, too conscientiously recorded, gave the impression that they were tawdry and cheap, instead of the nice, appealing youngsters they were. This dialogue had to be pared down and cleaned up. Since my novel wasn’t to be hairy-chested Steinbeck or Hemingway realism, anyhow, dialogue that went all out for realism threw the thing out of balance; actually giving it an unrealistic effect. Rather than impairing the ultimate realism–the stuff that makes a reader feel that he sees and knows the places described, participates in the story-a realism that, thank heaven, the critics are agreeing is there-I believe that my willingness to compromise a little with realism, contributed to its final achievement

In other words, the novelist, like the painter, must sort over his material, using only that part of it essential to the design he has in mind-and often streamlining and simplifying even that.

While on the subject of realism, you might like to know something about my methods of capturing it. This will take us back for a moment to characterization. Most people agree that the scene stealer in World by the Tail, is Sam, a cocky, witty, infuriating little clown of a dad, so let’s take a look at him. Better, let’s look at the strip of paper that was long pinned over my desk, labeled-SAM.

Physical Characteristics:

  • short, fat tummy, bald-headed
  • big nose
  • ruddy complexion
  • fat lips-wrinkled, like prunes
  • devilish blue eyes
  • likes snappy clothes
  • traces of powder on his ear lobes after
    shaving.
  • … etc.

Mannerisms:

  • thumbing his suspenders
  • slapping his knee
  • noisily blowing his nose
  • pointing foolishly to his bald head
  • … etc.

Pet speech tags:

  • “Never did like ya very good, any
    way-“
  • “Don’t y’know it is?”
  • “Cheer up, Christmas is comin’, ain’t
    it???
  • … etc.

I didn’t remember or think up all these characteristics at once; they came to me as I brooded over the character, recalling or observing them. The list grew along with the story. But having it within glancing distance kept Sam always vividly strutting and chuckling and kicking up his heels before me. I couldn’t lose sight of him, consequently he came vividly out of the typewriter.

I kept sheets like that for every one of the characters-Jean, Ken, Polly-all of them. Such lists helped me to visualize and get hold of the characters I wasn’t quite sure about. And they prevented me from being so mentally sure of a character that I failed to portray him on paper, where the reader could see and know him, too.

The realism of your settings is important. I know the small, midwestern lake town background intimately, but every time I go back to it I fill my notebook with homely little details never recorded there before. The shaggy, mashed-down look of dock posts, the melancholy dip of rowboats at anchor, the dried foam looking like snow upon the sand. Dusty little towns with their jutting flagpoles at the corner of main street, ordering inside turn… small town hostesses reminding pertly, “Save your fork,” as they serve the pie… the look and smell of a hayloft in late afternoon-. Those are the kind of things that go into my notebook. Then when I’m miles from the midwest but trying to write about it, I have at my fingertips all the warm, pungent, vivid details that will recreate the scene.

But in the use of realistic detail, as in all else, I learned that the novelist must not overplay his hand. Background must remain just that-background. It must not be so glowing as to detract from the color of the characters. It must not hold up the action. Any vast ornate chunks of it must be broken up and scattered throughout the scene.

Figures of speech also pepper my notebook. Everything I see seems to remind me of something else. It’s fun to discover unique ones, and I am perhaps overfond of using them. One reviewer said my novel starts off as if I had “contracted with Reader’s Digest to supply its Picturesque Speech department for the season” before I settle down to telling the tale. I shall remember that next time. Too many similes can be too much cake.

Another mistake I made in my first floundering attempts at writing a novel, was failure to clarify the theme. Frankly, I hadn’t considered that I was writing a “theme novel”—that is, a book to prove anything. I was interested only in showing a certain kind of people for the gay, courageous souls they were. What I had failed to realize was that by their gaiety and courage they were proving something-if I could just fasten on what that was, make all episodes, however subtly, point to it, draw it out. I reread novels that I had loved for their characterizations deliberately refusing to be charmed away from that binding thread-the theme. However well hidden, it was always there!

Well, I thought about this theme business a lot during the three years that my novel lay around the house untouched. You see, shortly after receiving my criticism of this first version and getting all steamed up to revise, there were complications on the home front. I was going to have a baby. It seemed a very poor time to turn my back on all the money I could be making free-lancing. Besides, I began to be plagued by all those doubts mentioned at first. What if I gave up my markets, gambled a year or two on my novel, and then it didn’t sell? I just didn’t have the nerve. Perhaps-now keenly aware of its many faults, and quailing at the staggering amount of work involved-I was discouraged. I had lost faith.

And so I went back to free-lancing, writing everything under heaven-confessions, articles, verse, juveniles, pulps. I collaborated on booklengths with Mary Frances Morgan, that clever, attractive gal who never fails. We made a lot of money. We had a lot of fun. But after a while I began to have that harried look again. And again-I couldn’t sleep nights. I’d lie awake thinking about my novel, figuring it out. I began to sneak a day or two Out of my busy schedule to work on it. But I’d just get going strong when a hurry-up, sure-money assignment would come in to lure me away from it. That would be followed by another-it would be weeks, months, before I could come back.

Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. I decided to get that novel out of my system—however swiftly, however poorly I wrote it, to get it done! I dropped everything else-sent back assignments, telling the editors the baby was keeping me busy (and he was). But even taking care of a new baby, an older child and the house didn’t seem so hard when I was doing the work I wanted to do-and now felt that I was ready for. I had had ample time to ponder over the mistakes I had first made; I corrected them. I had learned a lot more about story structure; I applied it to my book. I had gotten a grip on my theme. Whatever my impatience, habits of slow, painstaking writing were not to be thrown overboard. I fought every sentence to a finish. I let nothing go until it was right.

Finally, amazingly, the thing was done. Relieved, almost incredulous, I typed the final word. It might still be a punk book, but by golly, it was a whole one! Whole and balanced out this time in a sense that satisfied.

I sent it off to my agent and forgot about it. It was wonderful just to have it out of the house. I hoped that even if nobody bought it (and somehow I could scarcely conceive that they would) he would never send it back. Consequently it was the biggest shock of my life to arrive in Pittsburgh last summer (after moving up from Texas) and find a letter from my agent, saying the Lippincott editors would like a luncheon date to talk about the book!

I went to Philadelphia with a feeling of dazed incredulity. I came home sort of drifting on bubbles and stars. But I had to get my feet back on the ground and keep them there. There was a lot of cutting to be done, and I had to cook up a new ending before they would decide. I’m terribly superstitious; I didn’t risk jinxing it by telling anyone or even indulging in a dream. All I could do was work. I even wrote two new endings, so as to give the editors a choice. And fortunately so, as it was the second one they liked.

Because of my experience, I don’t advise people to start their novels too soon. Don’t gamble everything on your novel until you’re sure you have something to say, and know how to say it. But once you’re confident of that, wade in. Get it out of your system You’ll never have a moment’s peace until you do.

The Future of StoryHack

For all of you who are waiting for physical rewards from the Kickstarter campaign, I have ordered copies of StoryHack from the printer. They told me I should expect them to come in no later than the 17th of October. They’ve beat their estimates on a large order before, though. May they print and ship quickly.

Now, after I deliver the goods, what is next for StoryHack?

The magazine is a labor of love for me. I don’t need or expect it to ever be a real part of my income. That being said, eventually my wife’s vast tank of patience will run out and I’ll have to stop feeding it from my own pocket. So the plan is to publish at least another 5 issues. (3 or 4 a year, depending) If by the end of that time the magazine is self-sufficient, it’ll just keep going forever. And as the magazine becomes more profitable, I’ll pay more to the authors & artists. I think the fact that the Kickstarter campaign funded despite the fact that I am a nobody without any big name connections or large audience shows that readers are hungry for a quality publication.

If by that time the magazine is not self-sufficient, well, then I’ll just publish when I can, or suffer the indignity of becoming a token-payment market. But that thought makes me sick to my stomach, so let’s spend no more time considering it.

What you can do to keep this ball of pulp rolling?

The biggest thing I need right now are reviews. If you’ve read Issue 0 or 1, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or anywhere else it’s appropriate. Also, if you see me in real life, a high five would not go amiss.

And what am I doing before I start on Issue 2?

I’m going to run some marketing tests. Without much of a backlist, I don’t think dumping a lot of money into marketing is the right choice. When a new reader finds StoryHack, it would be nice to be able to sell her 4 issues rather than 1 or 2. But I know there’ll be a learning curve, so I’d better start learning.

I’m building a better submissions process. Doing everything via email is rather inefficient. I have plans to make a system that would shepherd stories from submission all the way through editing and approvals. But for Issue 2, I’m just going to have the software ready for the submission/accept/reject process.

I’m setting up a subscription option. It will bill when I release new issues. The plan is to make it $2.99 an issue for electronic versions, and $9.99 for printed (shipping included to U.S.). Printed subscribers will also get the electronic version. I will also try to throw in at least one fun freebie per issue like the extras I included to all backers of the Kickstarter. Price everywhere else will be $3.99 for electronic and $9.99 for paperback-only.

I know this is a wild dream, but If I could somehow get about 300 physical copy subscribers, I can speed up and simplify the printing and shipping significantly so that my grubby hands don’t have to touch a thing. And at that level, I think payment to authors would be up around $0.04 per word.

That’s about it for now. Thank you everybody for your continued support.

StoryHack, Issue 1 is available!

I have my proof back and everything looks good. So I’ve flipped the switch making it available for purchase in paperback. Down below you’ll see what to expect.

It took a couple of weeks longer than I wanted to get art back and such, but I believe it was worth the wait. It is seriously the best pulp magazine I have ever published. Thank you everyone who backed the issue or otherwise helped support the project. I hope you like it as much as I do.

And speaking of Kickstarter backers…

I’ll be ordering a big box of physical copies tonight. As soon as they get here, I’ll be packaging them up and shipping them out to those who backed for physical rewards.

Digital rewards have been available since last week, and everyone who backed at any level gets a couple of digital bonuses. If Kickstarter didn’t send you an email about that, then contact me and I’ll give you directions for claiming your downloads.

Cheers,

Bryce

Issue 1 Contents

StoryHack Action adventure is a fiction magazine in the style of the great pulps of years past. It includes stories from a wide variety of genres.

In this issue, you’ll find:

New Rules for Rocket Nauts by Michael DeCarolis. A recently dismissed recruit watches in horror as an alien race betrays and massacres his former classmates. Now he may be the only person capable of stopping the first wave of an interstellar war.

The Price of Hunger by Kevyn Winkless. A desperate chase through the woods leads to an occupied cabin. Has Fred Moose doomed everyone to be slaughtered by the wending outside?

Retrieving Abe by Jay Barnson. Lydia Madison is the daughter of a dragon hunter, and the second of three wives in a plural marriage in a tiny village in the Utah Territory. When her husband is abducted by a dragon, only Lydia can rescue him… even if it means trading her own life for his.

Protector of Newington by John M Olsen. A wealthy inventor has been secretly sponsoring do-gooders in steam-powered suits for years. When another of his heroes faces death, can he just stand by and watch a good man die?

Brave Day Sunk in Hideous Night by Julie Frost. Ben is a PI with PTSD who also just happens to be a werewolf. He is handed a repo job that seems too easy to be true. Of course things go awry and an accident flings him into a grim future. Will he be able to make it back to his wife and friends, or will he be doomed to die amongst total strangers?

Taking Control by Jon Del Arroz. What is a seasoned outlaw to do when she’s too worn out to heist?

Some things Missing from her Profile by David Skinner. His blind date was kidnapped by Martians. He had no idea why. But he wasn’t about to let them keep her.

Dream Master by Gene Moyers. What strange power could cause wealthy men to suddenly give away their fortunes and commit suicide?

Under the Gun by David J. West. A young man with a possessed gun that can’t miss collides with an aging gunslinger that can’t be hit. Trouble and death can’t be far behind.

Circus to Boulogne by Mike Adamson. A WWII pilot is shot down over enemy-held territory. Will he make it to safety, or will he spend the rest of the war in a POW camp?

StoryHack Issue 1 Going to Print

Here’s what’s been going on in the world of StoryHack.

I just ordered a physical proof of StoryHack Issue 1. I just want to make sure everything looks good before shipping to backers.

I wrote and did some testing on a download script to deliver all the ebook files to the backers who wanted them. I just need to import backers into it now. By the end of this week maybe early next everyone should get an email with downloading instructions.

 

StoryHack Podcast: Interview with Ryan Decaria

Ryan Decaria is a fellow podcaster and author. His debut novel, Devil in the Microscope, was recently published by Immortal Works. We met in his secret lair high above the bustling streets of Ogden to have a little chat.

Show Notes:

  • [0:35] The King of the Meeple Nation discusses board games.
  • [4:23] This was not intended as a fart joke. I promise. I’m not above making fart jokes, but this just happens to not be one.
  • [5:40] Mad science is better than sane science.
  • [7:00] Ryan’s favorite mad scientists.
  • [9:20] Mad science heroes vs villains
  • [12:16] The Devil in the Microscope
  • [15:32] Ethically-challenged scientists have more fun.
  • [17:45] Church ball is great. Not the movie, though.
  • [19:09] How Ryan writes: in defense of outlining
  • [20:55] Why Ryan writes
  • [22:12] What’s next?
  • [26:15] Where to find Ryan

For more about Ryan:

StoryHack Podcast: Interview with Gene Moyers

I recently had a chat with with new pulp author Gene Moyers, whose story “Dream Master” is appearing in StoryHack, Issue 1.

Some notes from the interview:

  • [0:25] Introducing Gene
  • [1:00] What is pulp fiction to you?
  • [1:45] How did you fall in with the New Pulp crowd?
  • [3:35] Pulp-Specific Conventions (Windy City Pulp and Paper, PulpFest) and why they’re great.
  • [7:03] Gene’s Hobby Shop
  • [8:08] How Gene writes
  • [10:50] Gene’s favorite classic pulps
  • [12:40] What’s coming up for Gene
  • [18:01] Modern authors Gene likes
  • [19:00] Writing inspirations
  • [21:00] Gene loves critical reviews (and positive ones, too.)
  • [23:00] Gene’s story in StoryHack, Issue 1

For more about Gene:

StoryHack Issue 1 Updates for 8/9

Here are some updates so that you know I’ve not just been sitting on my thumbs.

  • I’ve done my edits on all but 2 of the stories.
  • Artists have been found and started on the interior art.

Still to do.

  • Get a friend or two to do a copyediting pass.
  • Hound/plead with the artists to get art back to me.
  • Layout the magazine.
  • Once last comb through for typos.
  • Send out backer surveys getting physical addresses for those that need it and email addresses for those that need it.
  • Work out a good delivery system for the electronic copies.
  • Upload/print/publish/etc.
  • Deliver all the pulp.
  • Look to the future.

Release date? I think Cirsova is planning to release Sept 1, so I’ll shoot for a week after that.

I’m also working on a double-extra-secret something else for my wonderful backers (& even the less wonderful ones. You know who you are.) I hope it comes together in time.

Thoughts on Hiring a Cover Artist.

First, a couple of examples for those who are interested in behind the scenes stuff. At the end, I’ll collect a list of things I’ve learned. And I’ve talked about a couple of other cover projects before.

Project 1

After I finished the first draft of my children’s book I thought for a while that I would be self publishing it. I eventually decided to hire an editor then submit it for publication, but I did play around with making a cover for a bit. I went on fiverr and found three reasonably-priced artists. I asked for a a single character without a background (Artists on fiverr almost always charge extra for a 3/4 body, full body, background, etc.) I gave the artists the exact same description and this is what I got back.

Artist #1

Artist #2

Artist #3

 

Note: My instructions said “either running or dancing.” I included no instruction on arm position.

I had decided at the time to go with artist 3, simply because it was the most “painted” look. I dropped in a background and did some fiddling and here’s basically what I would have ended up with (but you know, with the title.)

Project 2

Here’s the process I went through for my recently released sword and sorcery novelette Swordcrossed Frostbite.

I tried the same thing again, except this time I just wanted a picture of my main character. If the picture was great, maybe I’d negotiate for commercial usage of the picture or hire the artist to do another for the cover. Here’s what I ended up with:

 

Again, I used the same description to give to all the artists.

In the end, I found someone else on Artistsnclients to do the cover, and I paid a little more. In case you haven’t seen it, this is what the finished cover looks like:

Project 3

There was this time that I thought my artist for StoryHack Issue 0 had disappeared (this was a deviantart hire). I emailed 4 times over a 3 week period without response. So in my freaking out, I hired a backup artist on fiverr. Two days later, I got the artwork back from the original artist and it was fantastic. A day or two after that, the backup artist sent me this:

Who knows, I still may use this for something.

Random Lessons

  • The sites I have used to find artists are Fiverr, Artistsnclients, and deviantart. I used to just search around deviantart but now I always use the job offers forum.
  • Artistsnclients either needs to hire a new web guy or move servers. They seem to go down quite often.
  • Fiverr and artistsnclients.com have a sort of escrow system set up to prevent you from losing your money if an artist disappears or does not fulfill on their end of the bargain. Deviantart has no such system.
  • Posting a gig request on fiverr is a good way to get a lot of offers for your art. You’ll have to constantly go through and remove offers from artists who obviously don’t use the style you ask for. I think it only lets you have 30 active offers at a time. Hence the constant removing. I’ve seriously gone through like 90 offers before finding one that would work.
  • If you post on the job offers forum at DeviantArt, you’ll be swamped with artists looking for work. You work out payment on your own. Usually paypal. I didn’t know for the longest time that deviantart even had a forum, so well do they hide it. The quality of the artists responding tends to be higher than the fiverr respondents.
  • While hiring an artist, especially on fiverr, be sure to look at an artist’s whole portfolio. If it feels like they’ve stolen some art to stick on there, do a google image search. I have almost hired several artists before realizing that they were using someone else’s work in their portfolio. Fiverr has no easy way to report those people, so if the pictures look way too awesome for the price, beware.
  • ArtistsnClients has a bunch of inactive artists. Just message your chosen artist first before buying a gig. That’s actually a good idea anyway.
  • No matter what service you use to find an artist, be prepared to look at a lot of portfolios before you start finding ones whose styles meet your needs.
  • ArtistsnClients itself is slow to respond to inquiries. I once had an issue with an artist. I emailed, tweeted and facebooked the company (after trying in vain to reach the artist) and it still took a few days to get back to me.
  • If you look around, you may be able to score a deal. Don’t expect to pay less than $100 for a decent piece of art, though.
  • The more info you can get to an artist, the better. Poses, references, descriptions.
  • If your artist want pose ideas and you can’t find any you like, you can try the software Design Doll. It’s kind of a pain to get used to the controls, but you can pose a virtual mannequin and render a picture that an artist can base the drawing on.
  • Know beforehand how well the artist communicates and how long they think it’ll take.

Issue #1 Lineup

Things are moving right along with Issue #1. I just got a new wip from the cover artist and I couldn’t be more excited. Little by little I’m working through edits of the stories. I’m horrible at finding typos, though, so I have to go slow. Also eating at my time is the day job and parenting and such, blah, blah, blah, I’m slow but it’s going to be great.

In no particular order, here’s the lineup for Issue 1:

  • “Taking Control” A western with a hint of magic by Jon Del Arroz.
  • “Under the Gun” A weird western by David J. West.
  • “New Rules for Rocket Nauts” A space opera by Michael DeCarolis.
  • “Protector of Newington” A steampunk adventure by John M Olsen.
  • “The Price of Hunger” A supernatural horror adventure by Kevyn Winkless.
  • “Retieving Abe” A fantasy western by Jay Barnson.
  • “Brave Day Sunk in Hideous Night.” An accidentally time-travelling werewolf adventure by Julie Frost.
  • “Dream Master” A supernatural detective mystery by Gene Moyers.
  • “Circus to Boulogne” A historical adventure by Mike Adamson.
  • “Some things Missing from her Profile” An off-planet action mystery by David Skinner.

Right about 65,000 words of pure action adventure fun.

Issue 1 updates, 7/21

Quick updates:
  • I believe I have now responded to all submissions for this issue of StoryHack. Contact me if you’re still waiting.
  • I’ll post the lineup sometime next week after contracts are all signed and whatnot.
  • Still waiting on the cover. The artist sent a cover sketch about 2 weeks ago.
  • I started an editing pass on the already contracted & paid stories
  • I commissioned the first piece of interior art. Once the authors are all paid, I’ll double check against my original budget to see how many more I can get.

Another Pulp Story Formula

This is the first in a series I’m calling “Writing Tips from the Pulp Era.” These are writing articles from books and magazines that have entered the public domain.

Author Note: Nelson S. Bond wrote and had dozens of pulp stories published by a wide variety of magazines, including Blue Book, Fantastic Adventures, Weird Tales, Esquire and Amazing Stories. He also wrote for radio and television.

Copyright Note: This article comes from the October, 1940 issue of Writer’s Digest. The copyright records from 1940 do not show a filing for either the magazine issue or the article itself. Neither is there an entry in 1968, the year it would have needed to be renewed. So I believe it is in the public domain.

It’s All A Matter of Timing

A Foolproof Fiction Formula
by Nelson S. Bond

It’s the damnedest thing! I stand up there with my heart full of hope and my mitts full of driver; I wiggle and I waggle; I straighten my left arm and lower my head; I haul my hips back. I swing. My clubhead goes swoosh! – and the ball goes ploop! A one hundred and fifty yard drive. Fifty up, fifty down, and fifty yards into the lush tangle of crab grass between the tee and the fairway.

My companion says, “Tsk,” and stares after my ball thoughtfully. “You going after it?” she asks. “Be careful. There’s lions and tigers in there!”

She takes her stance. She’s tiny and slim, and her hands are soft. She weighs 106 in her Kaysers. Her biceps are about as tough and sinewy as a cup custard. She swings. A gentle little swaying motion. But the club head goes splat! against the ball. Said pill takes off like a homing pigeon; soars high and far and true, and comes to rest at long last, gleaming whitely upon the green bosom of the fairway halfway to the pin.

Why? I weigh more than she does. I’m taller. I’m stronger. My clubs are heavier.

* * *

If I wrote like I golf, there wouldn’t be any long, lazy, blood-pressure-raising afternoons on the links. There would be handouts and patched breeches and truckloads of rejection slips. But by some quirk of fate-possibly because the gods have a celestial budget to balance-I am so lucky as to possess, in my vocation, that which I can’t grasp when I’m playing. A sense of timing.

I’m not sure that I can tell you what it is, or how to do it. I suspect it’s One of Those Things, like swimming or swinging a golf club or knowing that the third Scotch-and is enough.You have it or you don’t. If you don’t, you just keep on plugging, going through the motions, until one day, suddenly, there it is and you know what I’m talking about.

And when you’ve got it, you’re sitting pretty. Meat on the table, checks in the poke, and luh-huv in my heart for yoo-hoo!

You’re bound to get it, too, if you keep working at it. You know the old gag about how “every writer has to get a million lousy words out of his system.” Of course, that’s the old malarkey. Some writers click on the first go-round, others (like myself) have to do it the hard way. The truth remains, though, that those first, feeble, fumbling attempts are valuable. Every word you put on paper is another lesson in writing. Even if the story comes bouncing back with the stamps still moist, you’ve learned something from it. Maybe you’ve just learned how not do it next time. And, buddy, if you have-that’s valuable!

Did I hear a snarl in the audience? You want me to skip the fight-talk, huh? Get down to business? All right. You’re asking for it. Here’s my theory on the way to “time” a normal, 5,000 word story in such a way as to make it fast, dramatic and salable.

I don’t guarantee it; I don’t claim that all other methods are wrong. I believe, with Kipling, that “there are six-and-twenty ways of constructing tribal lays . . . every single one of them is right!” All I say is that this works for me.

* * *

DESIGN FOR BRICKLAYING A STORY

(Patent not worth applying for)

General Instructions

Lay out approximately 20-25 sheets of clean, white paper. I prefer Corrasable Bond because it actually does-as Arnold Gingrich of Esquire puts it-“take erasure with dignity.” And an ordinary pencil eraser, to. If the Eaton People want to send me a check for this plug, I’m not proud. Use the 16, rather than the 20 pound weight. It costs less, and keeps down the postage.

Lay out an equal amount of yellow “second sheets,” a piece of carbon paper, your cigarettes and matches-Hold it! Change that typewriter ribbon! Your chances of selling fade in direct proportion to the fading of your ink, friend! Now put that damned thesaurus away. Hide it! If you don’t know the words and use them in your ordinary conversation, they’ll bulge in your story like an olive in a snake’s gut.

We’ll take it for granted you know how to title and identify your manuscript. If you don’t you shouldn’t be reading this; you should be studying back issues of Writer’s Digest. Name and address in upper left corner, approximate number of words in upper right, title and your name halfway down the page. All right! Let’s go!

* * *

First 1000 Words. Ends on Page 5.

Get going with a bang! Remember, you’re writing a short story, not Gone With the Wind. You can’t waste words, nor will the editor permit you to waste his or the readers’ time. Your first thousand words must tell who are to be the central characters of this work-of-art, when the story takes place, where the scene is set, what the problem is, and set the question as to how the hero expects to take care of it.

Get me straight! I don’t mean you should start off anything like this-

“John Marmaduke Frasier, tall, blonde and handsome Sheriff of Burp’s Crossing, Arizona, strode down Main Street wondering what he should do about saving the property of his fiancée, sweet Hildegarde Phlewzy, from the clutches of rich bank president, Phineas Gelt, who threatened to foreclose the mortgage on August 19th, 1904, twenty days hence . . .”

You think I’m crazy, eh? Nobody ever introduced a story that way? Guess again! I sat beside Harry Widmer of Ace Publications for a full hour one afternoon, reading over his shoulder unsolicited manuscripts that opened in exactly that fashion. Needless to say, the stories were not offered by “regulars,” nor did they come in the folders of an agent. They were the “unrush” mail, i.e., the free-lance offerings that earn pale blue slips reading, “We regret to say-”

But get the thing moving. Start with something happening to somebody; not with mental maunderings, Grab your hero by the neck and shove him smack into a mess of trouble. Then show who started that trouble-and why. Introduce the other persons involved in the problem, make their opening speeches depict their characters. As you write, keep an eye on your page numbers. Remember that this phase of the story must be finished by the middle of page 5.

End the opening sections with the implication that Our Hero recognizes his difficulty and knows what he’s going to do about it.

Second 1000 words. Ends on Page 9-10.

This is the phase wherein Our Hero’s star is in the ascendancy. Things move along with reasonable assurance of eventual success. Looks like the problem wasn’t so terrible after all. With matters moving smoothly, this section may also be used for brief, telling “flashbacks” (if required), and for strengthening characterizations.

A word about scene changes. Many beginning writers seem to go haywire over time and place transitions. That’s simply because they make an easy job tough for themselves. For instance, We’ve all seen manuscripts in which a character leaves a room, goes to another place, meets other people. The beginner, his “timing” hopelessly off, tries to follow the character all the way-

“He stalked from the building indignantly, found a taxi at the door, rode uptown, got out at his own apartment, paid off the cabby, took the elevator upstairs…”

Sharper-edged, neater and vastly more readable is a device used by all professionals and editors. The bridging of time by a quadruple space. Finish one scene. Slap your space-lever twice-and begin your new section with a scene as fresh, as new, as clean-cut as if you were starting an entirely new story!

Here’s the way it works in actual practice. Scene one was in the apartment of a detective, Sid (“Softy”) O’Neill. A policeman has come to bring Softy to headquarters. The first scene ends and the second scene begins as follows.

“Okay, let’s go!” (said Softy.) Then he remembered and jerked open a drawer in his desk. Dull blue glinted as he jammed something into a harness beneath his left arm-pit. “Let’s go!” he repeated.

The Chief said, “Gentlemen, meet Detective O’Neill. Sid is not a member of the city force, but as I told you . . .”

It is not until some paragraphs later that the Chief is introduced by name, or the second phase of the plot determined. But story stuff is unimportant here; we are concerned only with the question of time-and-place transitions. During the blank space left above, Softy O’Neill presumably covered a number of city miles and consumed a half hour’s time. The reader is made conscious of that by implication. You don’t have to drag him along the route with you. How Softy got to headquarters is unimportant; all that matters is that he got there! Save words, save time. It’s all a matter of timing!

Third 1000 words. Ends on Page 13-15.

Here’s where the Hero stubs his toe. Things looked good-now the Villain heaves a monkeywrench onto the woiks! Trouble-with a capital “Boo!”-pops up. Technically this is known as a “plot complication.” Which is just a literary way of saying it’s a, “Dood Dod, what do I do now?” mess.

Let’s backtrack a moment and dovetail this. We’ll suppose our story to have been (1) sports, (2) science-fiction, (3) detective, (4) love, (5) romantic adventure. Show how a “complication” piles on the major problem in each of the aforementioned.

  1. Hero flashy player, without his team cannot win championship vital to athletic future of small college. In phase one, main problem set forth. In phase two, path looks easy-hero going like house afire. Phase three, complication-vital blocking back busts leg before crucial game!
  2. Hero hastily finishing spaceship with which to visit Mars; must get special Martian desert weed to stave off dreadful scourge which threatens to destroy Earth. Complication. Enemy scientists corners market on beryllium, vitally essential metal for construction of spaceship.
  3. Detective hero hunting Red Jornegan, gangster, whose fingerprints were found all over gun that murdered cop. Tracks Jornegan to hide-out. Complication. Finds Jornegan dead, killer’s gun lying across room with Jornegan’s fingerprints on it! (Whew! This one came off the top of my mind. I wonder whodunit?)
  4. Hero admires movie idol, wangles introduction, succeeds in making him veddy, veddy interested. Soft odor of orange blossoms in distance, and then-complication! Learns his contract has a nix-wedding-bells clause.
  5. Hero, Foreign Legion lieutenant, besieged by a mob of howling Bedouins. Must carry news of uprising to post. Remembers cache of ammunition in desert. Finds it. Complication. Bullets are for different rifle!

In short, then, this complication is generally something he did not nor could have possibly expected; it may even be a break the villain himself did not count on. But it makes a heluva situation for Our Hero.

Fourth 1000 words. Ends on Page 17-19.

Herein, two things happen. The Hero, finds, thinks, or fights his way out of the complication. This consumes almost all of the fourth phase. And when we’ve suffered with him, bled him into open country again-

Up pops the Villain with his deepest, most dastardly plot, unfolded, finally, in all its dire ramifications!

This is the trouble! Ossa on Pelion, if youse lugs know what I mean. This is the spot wherein (in the ancient mellerdramers) Nick Carter used to get two busted legs and a broken back, while a horde of savages armed with scythes and swords and Stuka bumbers swarmed in on him.

That won’t go today-thank heaven! I’ve heard too much poppycock and balderdash about how “the pulps demand an excess of emotion.” Action, yes! True emotion, yes! But in my opinion, they neither want, nor will buy, blatantly overwritten mellerdrama.

Anyway, that’s a good rule to go buy. Figure it this way and you can’t go far wrong-the only reason pulps print hokey stuff is that sometimes they can’t get the smooth kind of writing they’ll grab when it’s offered to them. Let a man learn his trade, and he’ll be snatched up by the slicks in a split-second. I think none of the following ex-pulpateers will object if I mention their names in passing: William R. Cox, who has parlayed his Dime Sport muscle men into American, Liberty, et al. Ernest Haycox, who sells super-Westerns to every top-ranking magazine and to Hollywood. Richard Sale . . . Jacland Marmur . . . William Fay . . . but why go on? Their stories had what it takes; they’ve moved up (Yeah, yeah, I know, they still sell some to the pulps!) and others can profit by studying their techniques.

Some digression. We were in Phase Four, where Our Hero is up to his neck in Trouble. And the Villain is on the bank, heaving rocks at his head.

How to get him out? That’s your problem, pal! If I knew, I’d write the story, not donate the outline. But there are several sturdy, tried-and-true methods. By his superior knowledge. By a quirk of chance carefully planted in the earlier part of the story (none of that long arm of coincidence stuff)! By sheer fighting ability.

And he accomplishes this in-

The Fifth 1000 words. Ends on Page 21-25.

This is the phase of the solution, of final explanation, of denouement. In the detective story, here’s where your cop or shamus explains whodunit, why, and how he figured it out. In the western, science, sport or action story, this is where Our Hero fights free and, tying up loose ends, explains to his public how he knew just what to do.

The fifth phase of begins with violent action, tears along swiftly, leading to a swift, decisive conclusion-and ends happily.

Watch your timing here! Pace your final conflict so that the action of it consumes approximately 500 words or more. Previous action may have been truncated to move the story along-but not this final scene. Your readers have suffered with the Hero for 4,000 words. Give ’em a blow-by-blow description of the Last Stand, let their empathies jump with glee as the Villain flinches, cowers, and dies.

I could mention a half dozen writing “tricks” that arouse this emphatic feeling, but there’s no time to do so in this article. Nor is this the proper place to do it. This is simply a blueprint, a method of mechanically plotting the short story, that has worked for me-and it will work for you, if you’ll give it a trial.

If you’ll hew to the page-markers set forth here, I think you’ll have no more trouble with tedious openings, long, drowsy middle sections, stories that refuse to end. Because writing-like that confounded golf swing I cannot master-is all a matter of timing.

Oh, I said that before, didn’t I? Well-it still goes!

Podcast: Interview with Jon Mollison

Today on the podcast I interview author Jon Mollison. He currently has three books out (see links below.) His story “Desert Hunt” appeared in StoryHack issue zero, which you can still get for free by signing up for the newsletter.

Notes:

  • [0:20] A little bit about Jon
  • [4:01] Re: the #PulpRev crowd
  • [4:30] How do you define pulp? Jon mentions these 5 pillars of pulp.
  • [6:05] Action. Adventure. Romance. Heroism.
  • [7:05] Jon plugs the magazine. Thanks, bro.
  • [8:15] Classic Fictioneers
  • [10:15] Modern Authors with Action, Adventure, Romance & Heroism
  • [14:35] Jon’s writing proccess
  • [17:15] I’ve only missed my goal to post this by what, 3 weeks?
  • [17:30] Audiobooks
  • [18:15] That time Lee Merriwether (60’s movie Catwoman) shot Jon.
  • [19:30] Jon’s high tech recording setup revealed
  • [24:40] What Jon is working on now.
  • [28:30] The best advice
  • [31:01] Jon pimps the magazine again. I swear, I’m not paying him to say this stuff.
  • [32:20] Possibly Jon’s best line of the interview. “I have too much to read, and it’s still not enough.” I want this on a poster and a t-shirt. Maybe even a mug.
  • [33:05] Seagull Rising

For more about Jon, go visit him on his blog. And buy his books.

Jon’s Books:

Issue 1 Submissions are Closed

Submissions are now closed for StoryHack Issue 1. Thanks to everyone who has submitted. I wish I could select more stories. I don’t feel like a gatekeeper standing watch at the entrance to the Great Hall of Quality Fiction.  I feel like an explorer of an ancient temple who has just found the pulp treasure room, but only has one pocket available to fill with action/adventure jewels.

Getting through the remaining stories should take me another week or ten days or so. Acceptances and rejections will be going out every day now.

Author Business (Cards)

While I was busy pretending to be a real author at Fyrecon, I did sit in on a couple of very good classes.

One of these was on networking and was given by Jason King from Immortal Works. It wasn’t revolutionary or anything, but had lots of amusing slides and I had 2 very important takeaways. So, thanks, Jason!

Takeaway #1

I have to network if I want anything to ever come of my writing & publishing pursuits. No use trying to deny it. And it’s not like I didn’t know this, but it was a good kick in the pants.

Takeaway #2

I need an author business card. Again, I suspect that I knew this somewhere deep down, but I have never felt like it was that important. However, after the class I became hyper aware of how many cards I collected. And three or for times during the rest of the conference I really wished I had one to give out.

I also recognized that most people’s business cards are boring. Even if a card has a little personality, there’s no reason for me to keep it after I’ve sent a single email.

I think it’s high time for that to change. To that end, I set the hamster cage in my mind to whirring and I came up with an idea that everyone should totally follow. It started with the following question:

What if an author’s business card was not only useful, but collectible?

People would remember you better, and they’d keep your contact info around longer. They might even show it off to other people.

To that end, I spent some time thinking about what a collectible author business card might actually be like. After much reflexion, I have come up with the perfect solution. So here are the guidelines to the perfect style of business card that every author everywhere should always make and use from now on.

  1. Forget traditional size. Make it playing card/trading card game size. There is a good reason for this, which I shall disclose in a later guideline.
  2. Make it of a playing card stock/lamination. It will feel more keepable.
  3. On the back side, put the cover art from one of your books. People like pretty things, and your books all have pretty covers, right? I suppose you could fill the back with a quote from one of your works, but it should at least be jazzed up with clever colors and typography. This is the primary reason for the size. Cover art fits better on a playing card.
  4. Front side should have a picture, your name, best contact, and your website. Honestly, you don’t need every bit of contact. People can get your twitter handle off your website.
  5. Front side should also have a description of what the back side is. I put the name of the work and credited the artist. I had to put the name of the work because I put the raw art without lettering

That’s it. As a test I made three different versions and had them printed at a print-on-demand game company, as I knew they’d have the type and quality of paper I was looking for.

And if you want to know what’s on the other side of these cards, well, I guess you’ll have to track me down in person.

Podcast: Interview with comic & new pulp legend Ron Fortier

Special treat today on the podcast. I had a chance to interview Ron Fortier. He’s probably the greatest living expert on the Green Hornet. I guess that makes sense, as he used to write the Green Hornet comic book. He’s been a writer of comics and pulp fictions for over 45 years. He’s the co-founder of the new pulp publisher Airship 27, which has over a hundred titles in print. Next year I want to go to Pulpfest or Windy City Pulp & Paper just so I can meet him. This interview went twice as long as they usually do, and now I wish it was even longer. I might be just a wee bit excited about this.

Notes:

  • [0:10] Ron has been a working comics writer for longer than I’ve been alive.
  • [7:21] How Ron got into writing.
  • [11:58] Getting into big name properties. (Terminator & Green Hornet…)
  • [21:15] Preparing for the right moment.
  • [22:30] How the Green Hornet came to be
  • [28:58] Crafting a legacy backstory from many sources
  • [35:05] Ron’s thoughts on the Green Hornet movie (2011)
  • [39:25] Writers have to be bad guys
  • [43:00] Airship 27 – If you’re a writer
  • [47:00] Airship 27 – if you just plain like pulp fictions
  • [53:15] Where is new pulp headed?
  • [55:00] Final advice: share your talents.

Special Note: There is a movie based on Ron’s “Brother Bones” character currently being kickstarted. Go check it out.

For more about Ron & Airship 27 check out:

StoryHack Issue 1 Updates for 6/26

On Friday last week Kickstarter finished doing the things it had to do and it sent me the pledged money for Issue 1. That means I can start paying authors and artists. In fact, I’ve accepted and sent out contracts on the first three stories. I already have several other pieces on my shortlist, and a couple more acceptances will go out this week. Also, I’ll put out feelers to artists this week for the cover. One of the stories that’s been accepted suggests exactly the sort of cover I’d love to have.

There is only one week left for submissions to Issue 1. Space is filling up fast. I haven’t even had one modern thriller type story submitted. So if you’re working on something like that, your odds of getting in are increased. But even if I don’t get any, there will still be a good spread of genres for this issue. When I have the lineup nailed down, I’ll announce it everywhere.

I love the energy and the excitement that surrounds pulp-styled fiction these days. Fun fiction is making a comeback in a big way.

Thanks again for your ongoing support.

Cheers,

Bryce

Podcast: Interview with Martin McConnell

Through a suggestion via a friend on twitter, I met (in a virtual sense) Martin McConnell. He’s a fascinating guy, and took the time to chat with me via skype.

Notes:

  • [0:15] What it really means to be full-time in the writing business
  • [1:05] The joy of RC Helicopters
  • [1:25] What happened when Martin looked up (at the stars)…
  • [4:00] What do you get when you cross astronomy and writing?
  • [4:50] Historically accurate mooning in fiction. (Would have been a great linkbait title for this post)
  • [5:40] Things he has written
  • [7:35] The story of how Martin bought the farm.
  • [13:00] How his farming affects his writing
  • [15:05] Martin’s kick in the pants (for writers)
  • [18:37] Coming soon
  • [21:30] For more about Martin…

For more information about Martin:

Just how introverted am I?

My 2oth high school reunion was this past Saturday. No, I didn’t go. I didn’t have that many friends in high school, and of the people I actually want to catch up with, I know how to reach most of them. So it seemed like a lot of work to drive the 13 minutes into Salt Lake just so I can feel like an outcast again.

And it’s not like they’re bad people or anything. There’s a lot of people that I liked and thought highly of, and perhaps I still would. I fully recognize that I’m the problem here. I’m an introvert, and that’s okay.

“But Bryce,” you say, “Didn’t you teach Lindy Hop and run/DJ dances for almost four years? Didn’t you go out of your way to get a presenting gig at Fyrecon?”

Yes, I did those things. Because I love swing dancing and I love writing. So it’s worth the psychic energy required to get out in public and teach/talk about them. But I’m still an introvert.

How bad is it? I looked at the facebook group for my graduating class and glanced over the pictures taken at the reunion. I recognized very few faces. If there weren’t names attached to the posts, I would have no clue who most of those people are. And in reality, I only vaguely recognized most of their names. But it gets worse. On Sunday, a woman in my ward (congregation) came up and asked me if I had gone to “our” reunion. This is someone with whom I have been in the same ward for 4ish years. This is someone who has taught at least 2 of my kids in primary. I had literally no idea that we went to the same school and graduated in the same class. The same thing happened in my previous ward, too. A guy who ended up being one of my best ward buddies graduated same year, same school. I was in the ward with him for 3 years before I figured that out.

So if we ever are in the same room together and I don’t rush up to introduce myself, let me apologize now. Feel free to come say “Hi” though. I will probably like you, and I’ll be grateful for the human contact.

Fortunately writing is a hobby/profession that lends itself well to introversion.

Submissions for StoryHack Issue 1 are open!

Thanks to a bundle of support during a successful kickstarter campaign, it’s time to get moving on Issue #1. So I’m firing the metaphorical starting gun now and opening up submissions. They’ll be open until 12:01 AM on July 3rd, 2017, three weeks from now. I may open them up again for a bit afterword if I need to, but that’s currently the plan.

Go check out the submissions page for full details on submitting.

There’s this submission system used by several pro magazines. I emailed and tweeted at it’s programmer a few times to see if he’s sell me a copy or whatever. He never got back to me. I’d like to use Moksha, but I can’t exactly justify the $50 a month just yet. So I started coding up a submission system the other day, but it’s not to a point where I can use it. Maybe for issue #2…

It has also become clear to me that I’ll be needing to change up the theme of this blog now that I want to do the whole magazine thing. Now I need to decide if I can be happy with a theme that’s already out there, or if I should just grind out one of my own again.

Podcast: Interview with Daniel Swenson

A couple of weeks ago, Daniel made the journey all the way out to beautiful StoryHack Studios for an in person chat. Not that Skype is bad or anything, but it is always much more fun to do these in person. Daniel’s the founder of the Hugo-finalist podcast Dungeon Crawlers Radio. Today, his debut novel is officially released, so it’s time for him to sit on the other side of the metaphorical interview table. Except in this case it was an actual table.

Random show notes:

  • [0:30] Daniel embraces his hair color and laments the loss of gingers in comic-based media
  • [1:50] The Golden Eagles & hockey
  • [3:20] 10 redheads under one roof.
  • Bonus Fact: Daniel has a one-eyed dog that is terrible at playing catch.
  • [5:30] The Shadow Above the Flames
  • [8:15] Daniel’s writing process
  • [11:45] Getting published
  • [12:45] Definitely not a spoiler
  • Bonus Fact: Daniel has chickens.
  • [13:40] Dungeon Crawlers: A History
  • [17:48] The most exciting guest.
  • [20:15] Games & Helping out the little guy
  • [22:22] Daniel has two closets full of games. I only have one, so this made me feel a little inadequate…
  • [23:22] Running rpgs for teenagers
  • [24:45] RPG recommendations – Firefly RPG, D&D, Savage Worlds
  • [28:48] Board Game Suggestions – Shadows of Brimstone, Betrayal at House on the Hill
  • [31:23] What’s next for Daniel? How to find him online.

More about Daniel:

Campaign ending soon.

We’re down to the last little bit for the StoryHack campaign on Kickstarter. We’ve hit and gone a little over the goal! Issue #1 is getting made. Thank you to everybody who has helped this happen. The pledges, the retweets, the posts, all of it. I’m blown away by all of the support. Any extra funds from pledges now will go toward making issue #2.

The Campaign

Also, I’ll be opening up submissions for Issue 1 on June 12. Submissions will be open for about 3 weeks. So get your pulp stories ready.

My Fyrecon Schedule

I’ll be teaching a couple of classes and moderating a panel at Fyrecon on June 9-11. I may also be doing an author spotlight (signing thing) at some point.

Friday, June 10

  • 10:30 AM – Podcasting 101. All the basics you’ll need to know if you want to podcast. I’ll cover mics and other hardware, software, hosting, and getting your podcast listed in iTunes/etc. All in 50 minutes.

Saturday, June 11

  • 11:30 AM – Author Websites 101. You’ll learn the basics of how to design and build a good author website. You’ll also learn what a good author website actually is.
  • 3:30 AM – Writers and Artists Collaboration. I’m moderating this panel, also with me will be Caryn Larrinaga, who has been on the podcast before.

My Favorite Pulps: Lester Del Rey

I love the pulps. Seriously.

Have I talked about Lester Del Rey on here before? Yes, but it’s been a long time. So I have to do it again. He was an author and editor (Del Rey books still carries his name) and he wrote a bunch of great stories. I think I first bumped into him while cruising Gutenberg (maybe manybooks or feedbooks?) for free scifi. This was probably back in my prenook, prekindle days (2005-8?) when I had an eBookWise, which was my first ereader. It was super comfortable to use. Seriously, that thing may have been a bit heavy, but it was backlit long before eink devices figured out how to install a light bulb, its battery lasted like 4-5 times as long as the PDAs of the era, and it was easy to grip and change pages with one hand. The only downside was that it was a pain to get books loaded onto it. I digress.

Anyway, I didn’t have a ton of extra cash so I was always scouring the net for freebies. This was about the time I discovered A Princess of Mars and Solomon Kane, too. I read all the time and my pulp addiction was really taking off. So I happened upon three Del Rey works: Police Your Planet, Badge of Infamy, and Victory.

Let me start with Victory. I don’t remember much of the story itself, but I remember it being all space battle-y and fun. I also remember from this one the very idea of flying spaceships without a computer. I hadn’t really considered that before, being raised around computers my whole life. That thought really sparked my imagination.

Badge of Infamy really appealed to my libertarian streak. A doctor helps save the life of his best friend outside of a medical lobby-approved environment (it was an emergency). For this great crime, he is stripped of his doctor credentials and made into a societal outcast. His also-doctor wife basically disowns him but doesn’t divorce (So that they can reconnect later, spoiler). Despondent and oppressed, he sneaks his way onto a mars-bound spaceship to start a new life. On the red planet, he becomes involved in a revolution. Also, and this is a HUUUUGEEE spoiler, so don’t read the italics if you think it will ruin your enjoyment. He totally discovers that smoking martian space-weed is the cure for space lung cancer! How pulp is that?

Police Your Planet is probably the most pulpy of these three and would make an awesome movie. Just forget the rather tame covers that have besmirched the various paperback editions you find online. Our stalwart hero had had a number of manly jobs (newspaper man, prize fighter, I think a cop…) on Earth but he gets kicked off (probably for doing the right thing) with a yellow ticket, which means he can never return. On Mars he’s forced into a life of gambling, then a life of law enforcement, then political thuggery, and finally revolution. (Del Rey apparently didn’t like authoritarians or corruption) All the while there’s a woman who in turn tries to kill him , marries him (Plot Device!), and finally falls in love with him. The plot does not slow down for even one second. Honestly, Hollywood, why reboot more boring franchises when you could throw awesomness like this at the silver screen?

PS. Lester Del Rey also wrote a story called “Let ’em Breathe Space” which is possibly the best-named story of all time.

If you haven’t yet, check out the StoryHack Action & Adventure kickstarter. We’re about 3/4 of the way to the goal – within striking distance. There’s about 2 weeks left in the campaign, so please help out by passing the link along.