End of August Update

It’s been a strange month. Students returned to school and I’m teaching both in-person classes and an online course so things are unusual to say the least.

I’ve been writing a novel that combines the Greek gods with the public domain characters Nature Boy and Nature Girl. I’m about 11,000 words into it and it’s good, I guess. It’s mostly been something that I do when I have free time and I haven’t been too enthused by it, I have to admit. I mean, I love the characters, Gilbert Monsanto did some lovely redesigns for me, and the plot is actually pretty badass… but I’m just not in love with it at the moment.

Pro Se is beginning to tease that the eighth volume of Lazarus Gray might be out next month – it’s been three years since volume 7 so I know a lot of you are anxious to see this one. The series has occasionally featured novel-length tales and collections of shorter works… this one will have five short stories in it and features a new version of Murder Unlimited, a team-up between Eun and Doctor Hancock, and some great new villains. I think you’ll enjoy it. The plan is to release new books every 3 months or so until they’ve caught up with the backlog of books I’ve written.

I’m looking around for something new to catch my muse and excite it… if you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see me write, speak now! I might actually listen to you lol

Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe (Updated 8/28/2020)

gravediggerMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Peregrine, 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 a headless warrior.

Continue reading → Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe (Updated 8/28/2020)

My Days in the Roleplaying Game Field

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 characters. 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 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 for the Amatsumara book. 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.

Ki-Gor Gets Reviewed!

devilsDale has posted a 5-star review of The New Adventures of Ki-Gor: The Devil’s Domain. Here’s what he had to say:

Long regarded as the Jungle Lord, Ki-Gor was known for his ferocity and savageness as well as his love for the people and the animals of the Congo where he lived. Now two enemies have raised their banners and are threatening to take that title from Ki-Gor.

In THE IVORY GODDESS, Ki-Gor finds a local village that had been so much a part of his youth apparently abandoned without word. As he and his most trusted companion, Tembu George, begin to investigate, they are thrust into a desperate race against time with the discovery of a sole survivor of a lost safari fleeing through the jungle. Soon Ki-Gor will not only have to fight to save those lost, but will find his own world teetering on the edge of a monstrous evil.

THE DEVIL’S DOMAIN finds Ki-Gor and Tembu answering the challenge of two evil slavers while trying to restore a god’s favor to a lost and hidden people who have a terrible secret that must not be revealed into Ki-Gor’s jungle.

Ki-Gor was one of the more successful copies of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. for 16 years from 1939 to 1954, his adventures in the Congo and other locales were chronicled in the pages of JUNGLE STORIES. In the author Barry Reese’s own words…

“The Jungle Heroes of the pulps have always appealed to me, both for their exotic locales and the constant dichotomy between ‘civilized’ people and their ‘savage’ brothers and sisters.”

Reese’s love for these stories comes through as he skillfully recreates the fun and adventure…and the thrill… of the stories of the jungle and its protector.

If you love the old pulp stories…and especially those tales set in the wild jungles…this is a book you will absolutely enjoy.

Thanks, Dale. I grew up as a huge Tarzan fan and discovered Ki-Gor along the way. It was great to add to the character’s legend and I’m glad that you enjoyed the stories!

It’s the Nature of Things

hands.jpgSo I sent off the thirteenth volume of the Lazarus Gray series to Pro Se head honcho Tommy Hancock today. It’s an exciting story with mummies, crazed sanitarium workers, a dangerous chemical weapon, a guy who has a pumpkin for a head and a whole lot more. Hopefully folks will enjoy it and will get a kick out of the additions to the team, the return of an old favorite, and the debut of a public domain superhero to the universe.

That last bit – the tease about the public domain hero – might lead into a future project. I’d kind of like to write about this character in a slightly different way… a long time ago, I wrote comic-book based fanfiction. I’d post chapters of the stories (labeled as “issues”) and it would be an ongoing work. I’m thinking about doing something similar with this character – maybe even just posting the “issues” for free here on the blog. After enough had been posted, I could accumulate enough for a “trade” and release a print version for folks that wanted to keep them in that fashion. One thing that I’ve gotten kind of burned out on is the long publishing lead that we have… keep in mind that the most recent Lazarus novel was volume 7 and that was nearly four years ago. Since then I’ve written six more volumes! So by posting the serial here on the blog, I’d be able to receive immediate feedback, which would be a nice change of pace.

I’m also thinking about taking my Skip Timeline characters and doing something with them.

For a few days, though, I’m taking a break. I’ve written pretty non-stop for years, taking only a day or two between projects. I’ve earned a vacation!

Alloy (Icons Writeup)

Alloyalloy
aka Paul Bouvier & Shanhara

Prowess 5
Coordination 5
Strength 7
Intellect 4
Awareness 5
Willpower 5

Stamina 12

Powers
*Blast (100 MGHz pulsed ion beams) 8
*Dazzle (blinding light) 6
*Flight 7 (Extra: Spaceflight)
*Interface 5
*Life Support 10
*Immortality 2
*Regeneration 4
*Damage Resistance 5
*Stretching 5

Specialties
Aerial Combat (+1 bonus), Athletics (Expert +2 bonus), Martial Arts (Expert +2 bonus), Military (Expert +2 bonus), Weapons – Guns (Expert +2 bonus)

Qualities
Twisted Perception of Reality – Blames Aric for his Death
I’m no longer human!
Dark Mirror of X-O Manowar

Background

Paul Bouvier was a former soldier and special agent of the Department W, a task force of the Canadian Secret Service. He was poisoned by Spider Aliens while he saved the lives of Aric Dacia, Randy Cartier, and Turok. Instead of dying he decided to sacrifice his body to bond with an X-O Manowar Seed and become Pol-Bekhara, a new Good Skin for Aric. Because the Manowar Class Armor was never designed to have a human life create it, Paul never merged correctly with the armor and he managed to gain control over the armor and recreate himself soon after. In his madness, he now blamed Aric for his death, discounting the sacrifice that he himself had made.

After a battle with Aric for control, Aric purged Paul from the armor (depriving it of sentience in the process). As the two were fighting near the remains of Aric’s original armor, Shanhara, Paul was able to merge with the remains and become a new being, Alloy. Because Shanhara was essentially dead, the merger rendered Paul completely insane and he sought out Aric to kill him. After a fierce battle that triggered an avalanche, Aric rose from the snow with Alloy’s severed head. He cast the head aside and departed.

Given that he literally IS the armor, there’s no reason to assume that being decapitated would prevent him from returning.

Alloy appeared to have all the offensive capabilities of a Manowar Armor but as he was comprised of a destroyed armor was not stable (physically nor mentally). Alloy also exhibited the ability to flex the metal parts of his arms to increase his physical striking range. Overall, Alloy is not as powerful as X-O… but his insanity can sometimes give him an advantage. Note that he still remembers his training as a mercenary and is thus adept at a number of things that a normal man would not be.

Updates Aplenty

lg11_lazarus_graveyard_smallWork has been continuing on the thirteenth volume in the Lazarus Gray series – the novel sits at just over 42,000 words at present. It brings back some old friends and introduces several new characters into the mix, as well. I think folks will like it — I’ve been assured that volume 8 will see print sometime in August and that there is a plan to get volumes 9-12 out on a timely schedule.

I’ve been catching up on the Black Lightning show – I’ve really been enjoying it. It and Stargirl are the best of the DC television shows right now in my opinion.

The Icons writeups have been coming in large numbers, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I might slow down on that front soon — it’s fun to stat up characters but it also takes up a good bit of time. We’ll see.

What did you guys think about the Skip Timeline characters I introduced recently? Any interest in seeing something done with them? I kicked around the idea of inviting writers to do short stories with them under my guidance but I’m not sure there would be any desire on anyone’s part to do that.

Our image today is by our old friend George Sellas.

A New Broken Empire Review!

broken_empireRaven’s Reviews recently took a look at the first Assistance Unlimited: The Silver Age novel, Broken Empire. Here’s what they had to say:

Assistance Unlimited, the next generation!

Lazarus Gray is now 59, still active, but not as involved in the daily affairs of Assistance Unlimited as he used to be. These are the adventures of Emily Grace, daughter of Samantha Grace, one of the original members of Lazarus Gray’s organization. Emily is getting a new partner, Benjamin Falk. Falk was on President Kennedy’s team in Dallas and blames himself for the assassination. But Gray referred to here as “the old man” sees something in Falk.

There are two interconnected stories in this volume.

Book One: The Rise of Helios

Marvin Levin and his crew of clones endeavor to reestablish the Fourth Reich. To accomplish the madman’s goal they seek supernatural objects either under lock and key in Assistance Unlimited headquarters or being actively pursued by them. But Levin has a rival… or is it more than one…

Book Two: Roll the Bones

Otto Darling, the current leader of SIGIL (Supreme International Group for Illicit Liaisons) is after the Chalice of Madness. Allying himself with Helios from Book One, he seeks knowledge that drinking from the chalice is said to bring. Or was that insanity and chaos?

I found the book exciting. The only complaint I have is that according to information at the end of this book, it is slightly out of sequence. Things that take place here are direct results of events in Lazarus Gray volume 8 which I am reliably informed will be out later this year.

That said, it does not really affect the story all that much since the focus is on the characters. The exact events of Emily’s birth and parentage being forthcoming does not stop the reader from enjoying what a kickass character she is. The character is 100% pure smashmouth pulp hero and the action never stops. There are over-the-top villains, world-shaking weapons, Nazis, the supernatural—what’s not to love? Encore! I say!

I give the book a resounding five stars plus!

The Immortal Princess Femi

lg03_femi_smallA good villain can make all the difference.

With The Peregrine, most of his enemies were dead and buried by the end of each adventure, though he had a few (The Warlike Manchu, for instance) who made return appearances. When I created Lazarus Gray, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the series was to create a series of recurring villains. I wanted him to have a vibrant rogue’s gallery that could return again and again.

But which of his enemies stands above the rest? If our hero is defined by his villains, which of those foes is his dark mirror?

Obviously, Lazarus Gray has Walther Lunt, his former mentor. Lunt was a major force in Volumes One and Two but his death in 1936 (“Die Glocke”) has left him as a shadow looming over the series. He did return to battle Lazarus in a winner-returns-to-life battle but his defeat there has seemingly ended his threat forever.

And then there’s Nemesis, whose very name suggests that he should be Lazarus Gray’s arch-foe. He plays a key role in volumes 7-9.

Bur are either of them really Gray’s arch-enemy? Or should that honor go to the equally-deserving immortal known as Femi?

Continue reading → The Immortal Princess Femi

Writing Update

cfstillsnowtoastBreezing along on the 13th volume of Lazarus Gray – I’m over 25,000 words into the book and the plot is a real humdinger with multiple threats, the return of an old friend, and some new romances. I’ve heard from more of you expressing frustration at the slow releases in the Lazarus Gray series and all I can say is that the eighth volume should be out in the next couple of months and that I’ve been told we’ll have a more regular schedule after that.

The blog’s recent focus on writeups for the Icons roleplaying game have seen the site getting a lot more hits than usual – I know that if you’re not a fan of the game system, you might not have much interest in them but I’d encourage you to check out the game. It’s definitely my favorite system that I’ve come across in many years.

Recently read “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which tells the story of President Coriolanus Snow’s rise to power as a young man. It wasn’t a book without flaws but overall it was a pleasant read with some intriguing philosophical questions. I’m not normally a fan of prequels centered around the villains (I’m looking at you, Star Wars prequels) but this one was better than most. If you were a fan of the Hunger Games series, I recommend it!