From the Vault: My “Favorite” Bad Review

illustration-friday-proverb-worst-book-ever-comic-holly-main-2010It’s inevitable.

At some point as a writer, you’re going to receive the dreaded Bad Review. I’ve gotten my share over the years but the one that stands out the most in my mind was posted on Amazon.com by a fellow named John Mondrian. He later removed the review from Amazon but it’s still up at Goodreads. The reason I remember it so clearly was how over-the-top some of the comments were.The review was for a novella I wrote for Wild Cat Books’ Pulse Pounders line, which were short tales priced at $4.95 or so.

The title of this book was Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island and it featured a female pirate in pursuit of her lost father and a fabled treasure. Along the way, there were ghosts, betrayals, and a giant ape. Fluffy fun at a low price.

Or so I hoped.

My favorite quotes from John’s lengthy review:

“…one of the most amateurishly written books I have ever read.”

“The author shows less knowledge of pirate life and seamanship than he would have gained by watching a season of THE PIRATES OF DARKWATER… ”

“This is pirate fiction at its most stereotypical, uninteresting, not well written, and not well thought out. It’s not even good pirate pulp fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not holding this book to a high literary standard. It’s just bad even for a simple little pirate story.”

and

“I hate movie novelizations but I’m sure the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN books are a thousand times better than this.”

The Pirates of Darkwater thing made me laugh out loud. That’s classic!

So — how did I react to the review? Well, of course, for the first few moments, I was a bit sad! 🙂

But I took to heart a few of the criticisms and the rest I had to laugh at — I showed it to quite a few of my friends, in fact. You can’t let haters get you down. Quality is very subjective and some people love things that others hate. Art Sippo, for instance, loved the book — and as the author of the excellent Sun Koh stuff, I respect his opinion. John paid for the book and has the right to express his views on whether or not it was worth his money — I respect that.

You’ve got to have a thick skin to be an artist of any type — because not everyone is going to love what you produce.

Bullet Points – Kapow!

rook_v2_domino_lady_rough It’s another day here at Ye Olde Blog so let’s jump right in to the various things that are running through my head:

So… I had hoped to be finished with my Weird Western tale yesterday but that didn’t happen. Will today be the lucky day? We’ll see!

I’ve been quite enjoying my new Tumblr account. It’s mostly a collection of quotes and pictures that happen to inspire my muse, so you get to see lots of comic book art, some pulp stuff, tons of pretty girls and quotes that have special meaning to or inspire me. If you’re a tumblr kind of person, feel free to look me up.

Supposed to be a guest on The White Rocket Podcast later today — Van Plexico usually records these a couple of weeks before they’re released so I’ll keep all of you appraised of its actual release date. I’ve know Van since the late Nineties so I’m sure the discussion will be an interesting one.

My newest work on The Avenger is now available through all online retailers – The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible contains a story entitled “The Box of Flesh” which is a sequel of sorts to my Pulp Ark Award-winning “The Devil’s Workmen” from 2011’s The Avenger: The Justice. Inc. Files. Writing The Avenger was one of my lifelong dreams – now if I could only get my hands on The Shadow, I’d have accomplished all my pulp fiction fantasies. Are you listening, Conde Nast?

Our art today is by the incredible George Sellas and comes from The Rook Volume Two Special Edition – it features the lovely but dangerous Domino Lady! I hope you enjoy it.

Characters I Love # 7: Adam Warlock

adam_warlockEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Adam Warlock.

Created way back in 1967 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Warlock made his debut in Fantastic Four # 66. Originally known as Him, Warlock was an artificial humanoid created by a scientific think-tank known as The Enclave. Turning against his creators, he battled both the Fantastic Four and Thor before fleeing Earth. Arriving on the world known as Counter-Earth, Him became Adam Warlock and aided the High Evolutionary in battling the Man-Beast. During this time, he gains possession of a green gem that becomes embedded in his forehead. This Soul-Gem is one of the legendary Infinity Gems and grants him additional powers. After becoming a sort of cosmic martyr to free Counter-Earth, Warlock embarked on a series of cosmic adventures that saw him befriend Gamora and Pip the Troll. He became a frequent enemy of the Mad Titan known as Thanos and eventually gained control of the mighty Infinity Gauntlet, which made him the most entity in the universe. He separated the gems, giving one each to various friends and allies, who were briefly united as Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Warlock has died several times, each time being resurrected out of a giant cocoon. Each incarnation has slightly different powers and personality. After one such recent revival, Adam joined the Guardians of the Galaxy and aided them in several major conflicts before apparently dying once more.

Given his history, it’s inevitable that Adam will return.

Jim Starlin has been the main chronicler of Adam’s adventures and he’s done the best job of capturing the hero’s inscrutable  nature and doomed outlook. He’s very much cut from the Michael Moorcock mold of hero — he’s got a dark destiny and knows it but fights on despite this. His romance with Gamora was lovely to watch unfold and it’s a damned shame that Marvel has driven what looks like a permanent wedge between them.

I’ve bought virtually every Adam Warlock appearance they’ve ever done and will gladly continue to do so, as long as the stories maintain the high quality of those that came before.

Tuesday Things

marilynWelcome back to Ye Olde Blog!

Had a nice Memorial Day weekend, which included going to see Epic (great animated movie!), visiting Barnes & Noble (bought way too  many books!) and grilling some hot dogs and hamburgers with the family (yum!). So now I’m refreshed and ready to finish off my weird western tale for Mechanoid Press.

I got a copy of the George Sellas cover to The Rook Volume Three Special Edition and it is GORGEOUS. Definitely his best Room image yet — I posted it on both my tumblr and on Twitter so hopefully you managed to see it in one of those spots.

Uploaded The Shadow Fan’s Podcast Episode 33 this morning. I respond to listener feedback, share some Shadow news and then review Wizard of Crime novel from 1942 and Chris Roberson’s debut issue of The Shadow from Dynamite Comics. It’s always fun to chat about this great hero so I hope you’ll join me.

I’ve been really enjoying Orphan Black — that show is amazing! Tatiana Maslany is a revelation and Jordan Gavaris (who plays Felix) is absolutely wonderful. If you haven’t watched this show, you need to jump aboard NOW. The first season ends this Saturday so you can go back and watch all 10 episodes without too much trouble and then be ready for season two when it returns.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of “Characters I Love” so stay tuned!

The Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe

rook_v2_shambling_ones_smallMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Rook, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and other stories!

~ 800 Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as an headless warrior.

1793 – Mortimer Quinn comes to Sovereign City, investigating the tales of a Headless Horseman [Gravedigger Volume One]

1865 – Eobard Grace returns home from his actions in the American Civil War. Takes possession of the Book of Shadows from his uncle Frederick. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1877 – Eobard Grace is summoned to the World of Shadows, where he battles Uris-Kor and fathers a son, Korben. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1885 – Along with his niece Miriam and her paramour Ian Sinclair, Eobard returns to the World of Shadows to halt the merging of that world with Earth. [“The Flesh Wheel,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1890 – Eobard fathers a second son, Leopold.

1895 – Felix Cole (the Bookbinder) is born.

1900 – Max Davies is born to publisher Warren Davies and his wife, heiress Margaret Davies.

1901 – Leonid Kaslov is born.

1905 – Richard Winthrop is born in San Francisco.

1908 – Warren Davies is murdered by Ted Grossett, a killer nicknamed “Death’s Head”. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One, more details shown in “Origins,” the Rook Volume Two] Hans Merkel kills his own father. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Rook Volume Two]

1910 – Evelyn Gould is born.

1913 – Felix Cole meets the Cockroach Man and becomes part of The Great Work. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1914 – Margaret Davies passes away in her sleep. Max is adopted by his uncle Reginald.

1915 – Felix Cole marries Charlotte Grace, Eobard Grace’s cousin.

1916 – Leonid Kaslov’s father Nikolai becomes involved in the plot to assassinate Rasputin.

1917 – Betsy Cole is born to Felix and Charlotte Grace Cole. Nikolai Kaslov is murdered.

1918 – Max Davies begins wandering the world. Richard Winthrop’s parents die in an accident.

1922 – Warlike Manchu tutors Max Davies in Kyoto.

1925 – Max Davies becomes the Rook, operating throughout Europe.

1926 – Charlotte Grace dies. Richard Winthrop has a brief romance with exchange student Sarah Dumas.

1927 – Richard Winthrop graduates from Yale. On the night of his graduation, he is recruited into The Illuminati. Max and Leopold Grace battle the Red Lord in Paris. Richard Winthrop meets Miya Shimada in Japan, where he purchases The McGuinness Obelisk for The Illuminati.

1928 – The Rook returns to Boston. Dexter van Melkebeek (later to be known as The Darkling) receives his training in Tibet from Tenzin.

1929 – Max Davies is one of the judges for the Miss Beantown contest [“The Miss Beantown Affair,” Tales of the Rook]. Richard Winthrop destroys a coven of vampires in Mexico.

1930 – Richard Winthrop pursues The Devil’s Heart in Peru [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three].

1932 – The Rook hunts down his father’s killer [“Origins,” the Rook Volume Two]. The Darkling returns to the United States.

1933 – Jacob Trench uncovers Lucifer’s Cage. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One] The Rook battles Doctor York [All-Star Pulp Comics # 1] After a failed attempt at betraying The Illuminati, Richard Winthrop wakes up on the shores of Sovereign City with no memory of his name or past. He has only one clue to his past in his possession: a small medallion adorned with the words Lazarus Gray and the image of a naked man with the head of a lion. [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One]

1934 – Now calling himself Lazarus Gray, Richard Winthrop forms Assistance Unlimited in Sovereign City. He recruits Samantha Grace, Morgan Watts and Eun Jiwon [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] Walther Lunt aids German scientists in unleashing the power Die Glocke, which in turn frees the demonic forces of Satan’s Circus [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The entity who will become known as The Black Terror is created [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two].

1935 – Felix Cole and his daughter Betsy seek out the Book of Eibon. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History] Assistance Unlimited undertakes a number of missions, defeating the likes of Walther Lunt, Doc Pemberley, Malcolm Goodwill & Black Heart, Princess Femi & The Undying, Mr. Skull, The Axeman and The Yellow Claw [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” “The Devil’s Bible,” “The Corpse Screams at Midnight,” “The Burning Skull,” “The Axeman of Sovereign City,” and “The God of Hate,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] The Rook journeys to Sovereign City and teams up with Assistance Unlimited to battle Devil Face [“Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black,” the Rook Volume Six)]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited become embroiled in the search for Die Glocke [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]

1936 – Assistance Unlimited completes their hunt for Die Glocke and confronts the threat of Jack-In-Irons. Abigail Cross and Jakob Sporrenberg join Assistance Unlimited [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The Rook moves to Atlanta and recovers the Dagger of Elohim from Felix Darkholme. The Rook meets Evelyn Gould. The Rook battles Jacob Trench. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One]. Reed Barrows revives Camilla. [“Kingdom of Blood,” The Rook Volume One]. Kevin Atwill is abandoned in the Amazonian jungle by his friends, a victim of the Gorgon legacy. [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Rook Volume Two]. Nathaniel Caine’s lover is killed by Tweedledum while Dan Daring looks on [“Catalyst,” The Rook Volume Three] Assistance Unlimited teams up with The Black Terror to battle Promethus and The Titan in South America [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. Doc Pemberley allies himself with Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Constance Majestros to form Murder Unlimited. Lazarus Gray is able to defeat this confederation of evil and Pemberley finds himself the victim of Doctor Satan’s machinations [“Murder Unlimited,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Lazarus Gray is forced to compete with The Darkling for possession of a set of demonic bones. During the course of this, a member of Assistance Unlimited becomes Eidolon. [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Charity Grace dies and is reborn as the first female Gravedigger. [Gravedigger Volume One]

1937 – Max and Evelyn marry. Camilla attempts to create Kingdom of Blood. World’s ancient vampires awaken and the Rook is ‘marked’ by Nyarlathotep. Gerhard Klempt’s experiments are halted. William McKenzie becomes Chief of Police in Atlanta. The Rook meets Benson, who clears his record with the police. [“Kingdom of Blood,” the Rook Volume One]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited teams up with Thunder Jim Wade to confront the deadly threat of Leviathan (“Leviathan Rising”, Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Hank Wilbon is murdered, leading to his eventual resurrection as the Reaper. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” The Rook Volume Two]. The Rook and Evelyn become unwelcome guests of Baron Werner Prescott, eventually foiling his attempts to create an artificial island and a weather-controlling weapon for the Nazis [“The Killing Games,” Tales of the Rook] Gravedigger confronts a series of terrible threats in Sovereign City, including Thanatos, a gender-swapping satanic cult and The Headless Horseman. Charity and Samantha Grace make peace about their status as half-sisters. [Gravedigger Volume One] Lazarus Gray teams with Eidolon and The Darkling to combat Doctor Satan [“Satan’s Circus,” Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Lazarus Gray battles the forces of Wilson Brisk and Skyrider. The Three Sisters are unleashed upon Sovereign City [“The Felonious Financier,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five].

1938 – The Rook travels to Great City to aid the Moon Man in battling Lycos and his Gasping Death. The Rook destroys the physical shell of Nyarlathotep and gains his trademark signet ring. [“The Gasping Death,” The Rook Volume One]. The jungle hero known as the Revenant is killed [“Death from the Jungle,” The Rook Volume Four]

1939 – Ibis and the Warlike Manchu revive the Abomination. Evelyn becomes pregnant and gives birth to their first child, a boy named William. [“Abominations,” The Rook Volume One]. The Rook allies himself with Leonid Kaslov to stop the Reaper’s attacks and to foil the plans of Rasputin. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” the Rook Volume Two] Violet Cambridge and Will McKenzie become embroiled in the hunt for a mystical item known as The Damned Thing [The Damned Thing]

1940 – The Warlike Manchu returns with a new pupil — Hans Merkel, aka Shinigami. The Warlike Manchu kidnaps William Davies but the Rook and Leonid Kaslov manage to rescue the boy. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Rook Volume Two] The Rook journeys to Germany alongside the Domino Lady and Will McKenzie to combat the demonic organization known as Bloodwerks. [“Bloodwerks,” the Rook Volume Two] Kevin Atwill seeks revenge against his former friends, bringing him into conflict with the Rook [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Rook Volume Two]. The Rook takes a young vampire under his care, protecting him from a cult that worships a race of beings known as The Shambling Ones. With the aid of Leonid Kazlov, the cult is destroyed [“The Shambling Ones,” The Rook Volume Two].

1941 – Philip Gallagher, a journalist, uncovers the Rook’s secret identity but chooses to become an ally of the vigilante rather than reveal it to the world [“Origins,” the Rook Volume Two]. The Rook teams with the Black Bat and Ascott Keane, as well as a reluctant Doctor Satan, in defeating the plans of the sorcerer Arias [“The Bleeding Hells”]. The Rook rescues McKenzie from the Iron Maiden [“The Iron Maiden,” The Rook Volume Three].

1942 – The Rook battles a Nazi super agent known as the Grim Reaper, who is attempting to gather the Crystal Skulls [“The Three Skulls,” The Rook Volume Three]. The Rook becomes embroiled in a plot by Sun Koh and a group of Axis killers known as The Furies. The Rook and Sun Koh end up in deadly battle on the banks of the Potomac River. [“The Scorched God,” The Rook Volume Six]. In London, the Rook and Evelyn meet Nathaniel Caine (aka the Catalyst) and Rachel Winters, who are involved in stopping the Nazis from creating the Un-Earth. They battle Doctor Satan and the Black Zeppelin [“Catalyst,” The Rook Volume Three]. Evelyn learns she’s pregnant with a second child. The Rook solves the mystery of the Roanoke Colony [“The Lost Colony,” The Rook Volume Three]. The Rook battles against an arsonist in the employ of Bennecio Tommasso [“Where There’s Smoke”, Tales of the Rook]. The Warlike Manchu is revived and embarks upon a search for the Philosopher’s Stone [“The Resurrection Gambit,” The Rook Volume Three]

1943 – The Rook teams with Xander to deal with the Onyx Raven [“The Onyx Raven, Tales of the Rook]. The Rook is confronted by the twin threats of Fernando Pasarin and the undead pirate Hendrik van der Decken [“The Phantom Vessel,” The Rook Volume Four]. Evelyn and Max become the parents of a second child, Emma Davies. The Rook teams with the daughter of the Revenant to battle Hermann Krupp and the Golden Goblin [“Death from the Jungle,” The Rook Volume Four] The Rook battles Doctor Satan over possession of an ancient Mayan tablet [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]. The Rook travels to Peru to battle an undead magician called The Spook [“Spook,” The Rook Volume Four]. The Rook clashes with Doctor Death, who briefly takes possession of Will McKenzie [“The Rook Nevermore,” Tales of the Rook]. Baron Rudolph Gustav gains possession of the Rod of Aaron and kidnaps Evelyn, forcing the Rook into an uneasy alliance with the Warlike Manchu [“Dead of Night,” The Rook Volume Four]. Doctor Satan flees to the hidden land of Vorium, where the Rook allies with Frankenstein’s Monster to bring him to justice [“Satan’s Trial,” The Rook Volume Four]. Tim Roland is recruited by The Flame and Miss Masque [“The Ivory Machine,” The Rook Volume Five]. The Black Terror investigates a German attempt to replicate his powers and becomes friends with a scientist named Clarke [“Terrors”]

1944 – The Rook organizes a strike force composed of Revenant, Frankenstein’s Monster, Catalyst and Esper. The group is known as The Claws of the Rook and they take part in two notable adventures in this year: against the diabolical Mr. Dee and then later against an alliance between Doctor Satan and the Warlike Manchu [“The Diabolical Mr. Dee” and “A Plague of Wicked Men”, The Rook Volume Five].

1946 – The Rook discovers that Adolph Hitler is still alive and has become a vampire in service to Dracula. In an attempt to stop the villains from using the Holy Lance to take over the world, the Rook allies with the Claws of the Rook, a time traveler named Jenny Everywhere, a thief called Belladonna and Leonid Kaslov. The villains are defeated and Max’s future is revealed to still be in doubt. Events shown from 2006 on are just a possible future. The Rook also has several encounters with a demonically powered killer known as Stickman. [“The Devil’s Spear,” The Rook Volume Five]. The Rook encounters a madman named Samuel Garibaldi (aka Rainman) and his ally, Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller. The Rook and his Claws team defeat the villainous duo and several new heroes join the ranks of the Claws team — Miss Masque, Black Terror & Tim and The Flame. [“The Ivory Machine,” The Rook Volume Five]

1953 – The Rook acquires the Looking Glass from Lu Chang. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

1961 – Max’s son William becomes the second Rook. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1967 – The second Rook battles and defeats the Warlike Manchu, who is in possession of the Mayan Tablet that Doctor Satan coveted in ’43. Evelyn Davies dies. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1970 – William Davies (the second Rook) commits suicide by jumping from a Manhattan rooftop. Emma Davies (Max’s daughter and William’s brother) becomes the Rook one week later, in February. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1973 – The third Rook is accompanied by Kayla Kaslov (daughter of Leonid Kaslov) on a trip to Brazil, where the two women defeat the Black Annis and claim the Mayan Tablet that’s popped up over the course of three decades. Emma gives it to her father, who in turn passes it on to Catalyst (Nathaniel Caine) [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

~1985 – Max resumes operating as the Rook, adventuring sporadically. Due to various magical events, he remains far more active than most men his age. The reasons for Emma giving up the role are unknown at this time.

Events depicted in the years 2006 forward occur in one of many possible futures for The Rook. As revealed in Volume Five of The Rook Chronicles, the events of 2006 onward may — or may not — be the ultimate future of Max Davies.

2006 – The Black Mass Barrier rises, enveloping the world in a magical field. The World of Shadows merges with Earth. Fiona Grace (descended from Eobard) becomes a worldwide celebrity, partially due to her failure to stop the Black Mass Barrier. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

2009 – Ian Morris meets Max Davies and becomes the new Rook. He meets Fiona Grace. Max dies at some point immediately following this. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

2010 – The Ian Morris Rook and Fiona Grace deal with the threat of Baron Samedi [“The Curse of Baron Samedi,” Tales of the Rook]

2012 – The fourth Rook (Ian Morris) receives the Mayan Tablet from Catalyst, who tells him that the world will end on December 21, 2012 unless something is done. Using the tablet, Ian attempts to take control of the magic spell that will end the world. Aided by the spirits of the three previous Rooks, he succeeds, though it costs him his life. He is survived by his lover (Fiona Grace) and their unborn child. Max Davies is reborn as a man in his late twenties and becomes the Rook again. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

From the Vault: My Days in the RPG World

I’ve always loved tabletop roleplaying games. I’ve played literally dozens and dozens of different systems but my all-time favorite is the D6 system invented by West End Games. They used it most famously in their Star Wars games from the late 80s through the 1990s. Elegant simplicity.

So after I’d been writing at Marvel for awhile, I decided I’d branch out into other avenues. I knew Nikola Virtis fairly well, since I ran a fansite devoted to West End’s DC Universe game and she’d been nice enough to send me some free stuff. When I asked if I could write for them, she put me on a book called D6 Space: The Fires of Amatsumara. By this time West End had lost the Star Wars license and were trying to reinvent themselves with various in-house setting. Amatsumara was basically Firefly, with a few modifications. When Nikola described it to me, it was Firefly-meets-Cowboy Bebop. Anyway, I was assigned about half the book to write and given a ton of free reign with the character. Basically, the high concept of the setting and brief descriptions of the planets were already in place but I had to flesh them out, fill the planets with characters (and stat them out!), then give a bunch of story ideas for each. It was fun and I included a few of my own homebrew characters in the setting, figuring that this would be the only one way I’d ever see them in print. I enjoyed it quite a bit and even started work on a second book for them (The Long Winter, about an earth frozen in ice after another Ice Age) but it was cancelled after I’d written about 8,000 words.

And then… well, I kinda wanted to get paid. I had a contract, after all. But West End didn’t send that check… and when I called the phone number on my contract, it had been disconnected. Uh-oh! So I tried emailing the guy in charge (not Nikola — she was always aces with me) and wouldn’t get a response, again and again. So I posted about it on the WEG message boards, which did two things: it finally brought the publisher’s attention to me (he wasn’t happy) and it brought out a bunch of fanboys who jumped all over me because they would have been glad to have worked for free. As I explained, I loved West End, too — and you know, I might have worked for free if they’d asked me to. I really dug the company and its system. But they didn’t. They offered me a contract and I felt I should get my money. I eventually did but it was well over 18 months after they had initially said I would get it.

I then did a book called Godsend Agenda: U.S.E.R.’s Most Wanted, which was basically a collection of villains. I got to dream up several dozen villains and stat them out — they used a variant on West End’s D6 System, so I was right at home. I enjoyed the experience and the folks at Khepera Publishing were easy to deal with. They wanted me to do more for them but I got too busy with the pulp stuff and never did.

And that’s my exciting adventures in the roleplaying game world. I learned that rpg publishers are, by and large, living on the edge financially. Anyone who thinks comics or pulp sales are low should look at the lower-tier rpg publishers to feel better about themselves. But the rpg world is filled with fans and it’s nice to see people working on things that they love. I’m glad I got the chance to work with WEG and Khepera.

Saturday Matinee: The Ron Ely Tarzan!

tarzanEvery Saturday I find a movie or clip that I think will appeal to the fans of this blog. Since most of you enjoy action/adventure, I tend to focus on something that falls into that category. This week we’re looking at the Tarzan series that starred Ron Ely. This was my first introduction to the Tarzan character and I often picture Ron Ely when I think of the jungle hero even now. What I loved about Ely’s portrayal of the character is that he was intelligent and well-spoken, just as Tarzan was in the original Burroughs novels. The whole “Me Tarzan, You Jane” thing always pissed me off.

Ron Ely, of course, went on to play Doc Savage in the ill-fated George Pal movie. Quite awesome to have played both Tarzan & Doc Savage!

First up, we have the full opening credits:

And a nice clip of season one action. Love the way it’s described that Tarzan prefers this jungle to “the other one.”

Great stuff!

The Day After

LG3_cover_smallHello and welcome to another Friday edition of Ye Olde Blog!

Yesterday was a busy day around here as we set an all-time record for hits to this site. My post about Kindle Worlds was shared far and wide, for which I am quite appreciative. I was surprised that most of the Kindle Worlds hate that I’d seen the day before didn’t pop up in response to my posting but maybe I was just so persuasive that I changed their minds 😉 More likely, cooler heads had prevailed by the time I actually posted my blog and people have moved into the “wait and see” mode.

Now, normally on Fridays I’ve been doing New Pulp Recommendations but I think that’s going to become just an irregular feature. Whenever I have something that I’m enthused about, I’ll post about it and encourage others to check it out. If I don’t have anything foremost in my head, I won’t force myself to come up with one. A perfect solution, at least for me!

Heard from Pro Se Press design guru Sean Ali yesterday. Looks like they’re in the final days of getting The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume 3 laid out and ready to go. This will be the middle chapter of a huge, sprawling epic that spans books 2-4. When you finish volume 3, you’ll see that the story is obviously not quite complete but I do think it stands well as a grand adventure on its own. With this one, we’ll introduce a major new hero named The Darkling and we also see the transformation of one Assistance Unlimited member into a much darker character known as Eidolon. The cover to the third edition is included with this post and it’s by the amazing George Sellas.

Considering that the second book in the series won Best Novel, Best Cover and Best Interior Art in the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, I’m hoping that there will be a lot of interest and excitement over this next release.

I did type THE END on the first story that will run in Lazarus Gray Volume 5. After the big events of the previous three books, I plan for volume five to follow the model we had for the first book – five or six short stories, all with running subplots going through them. The first one deals mainly with a felonious financier (I like alliteration) and a zeppelin crewed by beautiful deadly ladies. At the end of it, we’re introduced to a larger threat that will wind its way through the rest of the book. Should be fun!

Now I need to put the finishing touches on this weird western tale for Mechanoid Press and then I can work some more on Gravedigger Volume Two.

Always busy!

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

vanessa_hudgens_fightSo… yesterday the Internet’s writing communities went to war.

You may have missed it, since a war in the online writing communities is easy to ignore unless you’re in the midst of the stinging accusations, pointed jabs and hyperbole.

What brought about all of this?

Well, Amazon, of course!

The multimedia online retailer is both the bane and boon of many a writer’s existence and yesterday Amazon either strode forth bravely, changing the writing landscape forever… or engaged in a bit of reprehensible behavior for which there is no excuse! It all depends on where you fall on the deciding line.

This is what Amazon announced:

Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way. 

The Kindle Worlds Self-Service Submission Platform will launch soon and enable you to submit your original works for publication. Can’t wait to start writing? Learn more on our Kindle Worlds for Authors page.

In other words, all those Gossip Girl novels you’ve got hidden in the dark recesses of your flash drives can now be shared with the world — and you can even make money off of them! Yep, Amazon is willing to pay you 35% net revenue on each story/novella/novel sold. For some, this is very exciting! Assuming they eventually put up other licenses like Doctor Who or Batman, you could conceivably write a “licensed” novel featuring those characters. It’s kinda-sorta official since they’re saying you can do it and you’re potentially making money off of it. Many a fanboy and fangirl’s heart just went BOOM-BOOM.

How’s it going to work? Let’s see:

  • Kindle Worlds will accept novels, novellas, and short stories inspired by the Worlds we have licensed.
  • Using our Cover Creator, you will be able to design a cover for your Kindle Worlds story.
  • World Licensors have provided Content Guidelines for each World, and your work must follow these Content Guidelines. We strongly encourage you to read the Content Guidelines before you commit the time and effort to write.
  • Stories will be available in digital format exclusively on Amazon.com, Kindle devices, iOS, Android, and PC/Mac via our Kindle Free Reading apps. We hope to offer additional formats in the future.
  • You will receive monthly royalty reports and payments for all copies sold.

Now, the only “content guidelines” currently available are relatively minor and obvious – no pornography (sorry, shippers), no illegal content, no crossing over of worlds (so no My Little Pony meets The Vampire Diaries), etc.

There are some who see this as an awful, awful thing. They point out that some writers make their living writing licensed novels and this is basically taking a big old crap on what they’re doing. I’m not too sure about that — guys who write Star Trek novels, for instance, have always had to compete with people who wrote fan novels and posted them for free online (or even charged for them — go to Lulu.com and type in Star Trek… you’ll find plenty of Trek novels up there for $$). Heck, it seems like “free” would take away more sales from Peter David than “$2.99” but maybe I’m being a fool.

If you want to get into the whole “but letting anybody write Captain Kirk devalues the work of real writers who work on the character,” then okay… but I think that Peter David will always have an advantage over any Trek novel I would write. His work will appear not only in eBook format but in print, whereas currently none of the Kindle Worlds works will. That means that the remaining brick and mortar stores (hi, Barnes & Noble!) will likely have Peter’s book but they won’t have mine and they won’t even have it on the Nook since the eVersions are amazon exclusives.

Plus, he’s Peter David and I’m not.

Some folks say this is “reprehensible” because Amazon is fooling gullible writers into thinking this is some golden ticket to success. If Amazon were charging you for the privilege of writing Gossip Girl, I might could see that. But they’re not. In fact, they’re PAYING you for the sales you’ll be getting.

That sounds a hell of a lot less reprehensible than the treatment I’ve gotten from some “real” publishers.

As for the intellectual property owners, this is absolutely brilliant, especially for dormant properties. Why? Because they have the fans creating new product for them and if the IP owners see something that clicks with the fans, they can monetize it as they see fit.

How? Let’s see:

We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.

This means that if I write an Arrow novel and introduce an amazingly awesome villain named Mr. Cool Dude and millions of people download that story ’cause Mr. Cool Dude lives up to his name, then Warner Bros. can take my character and stick him on the tv show or even give him his own action figure and cartoon series… all without paying me a cent. Talk about your ultimate research & development goldmine! And if I publish my Arrow novel and it’s absolutely horrible – and Mr. Cool Dude becomes the target of internet wrath or (even worse) is 100% completely and totally ignored by the reading public…

It doesn’t hurt Warner Brothers in the least.

I’ve heard some people say that the fanfiction crowd “will never go for this” since most of them are very into the “writing for free” model. They’d be offended by the offer of money because they’re real fans, doing it for the love.

99% of the time, that’s absolute crap. They may say it but they don’t really mean it.

How do I know?

Because I used to say it, too! Writers say they’re doing it for the “art” and for the “love” to rationalize why they’re spending so much time on something that’s not making them $$. When Marvel came to my door and asked me to jump aboard, do you know how quickly I went from “But I do it for the love” to “How high should I jump, sir?” — about 3.5 seconds!

Any fan who loves writing Star Trek novels will adore having the potential audience for their work increased and the chance to make 35% of the net profits. Will some poor fool create the next Captain Kirk and basically give it to Paramount for free by including him in one of these novels? Maybe. But you can’t cure dumb, people, so don’t even try.

There’s nothing currently available that interests me. I don’t watch Gossip Girl or The Vampire Diaries or Pretty Little Liars. If they do add other “worlds,” I might reconsider. Man, I’d love to write a Batman novel and make a few pennies off of it. Even if I made no more than $30, that isn’t far off from what I’ve earned for things of my own creation that I’ve written! And if Conde Nast threw The Shadow out there, I’d write the hell out of that!

It’s not the end of the world. This is not the death knell of licensed fiction. Amazon isn’t looking for ways to shaft “real publishing.” But all the people involved in this are business folks. They want to make money. The fact that they’ve finally found a way to make money off stuff people have been writing anyway is brilliant — AND it potentially brings money to people who were writing the stuff for free anyway.

I say we back off and see how it goes. Maybe it’ll be a huge flop and a year from now, we’ll all be going “Remember Kindle Worlds? Hahahahahaha.”

But I’d be willing to bet that Amazon might have stumbled onto something here.

We’ll see.

Characters I Love # 6: Spitfire

spitfireEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Spitfire, the super-fast Marvel Comics’ heroine. Spitfire first appeared in Invaders # 7 (July 1976) in her identity as Jacqueline Falsworth before debuting as Spitfire in Invaders # 12 (December 1976). Over the years, she’s been a member of not only the World War II-era Invaders but also of MI-13.

The daughter of the original Union Jack and the sister of the second man to use that identity, Spitfire was exposed to heroism and patriotism her entire life. As a teenager in World War II, she met the Invaders and was injured by the vampiric Baron Blood. Only a blood transfusion from the artificial lifeform that was the original Human Torch saved her, also endowing her with superspeed. After joining the Invaders, Spitfire operated throughout the war as one of England’s primary champions. After the war, she married Lord Crichton and bore him a son, Kenneth. Unfortunately, Kenneth would eventually be swayed to the side of darkness, becoming the second Baron Blood.

Spitfire eventually retired as a hero and focused on running Falsworth Industries, though a later second transfusion from the Torch not only restored her powers but also her youth. After this, she returned to active adventuring, working with both the New Invaders and MI-13. Unfortunately, the curse of vampirism that had claimed the lives of both her father and her son eventually played havoc on Spitfire herself as she manifested several unique abilities. She has vampire fangs that appear when she’s angered but she possesses no blood lust and does not need to drink it to survive.

I’ve always loved this character – not only because of her sleek costume design but because she’s such an old-fashioned hero. She wants to do the right thing so she does it! She’s a golden age hero through and through, with all that entails. I was a huge Invaders fan back in the day but I love seeing her in the modern world, as well — even with the darkening of her character brought about by the vampire business (which I’m not too keen on), she’s still a breath of relatively fresh air in what’s become a pretty seedy Marvel Universe.

Back in my fanfiction days, I wrote a LOT of stories featuring Spitfire, casting her as a member of the heroic Pendragons. Those were the days, eh?

Anyway, I’d love to see somebody treat Spitfire as a legitimate big gun in the Marvel Universe but I’m afraid that they’d just drag her through the mud like they have most of their heroes, so maybe she should just stay in the shadows for now.