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Guest Blog: My Introduction to the World of New Pulp

The Rook COVERToday we’re turning the blog over to Mark Beaulieu, whom I’ve known since our shared days at Marvel Volume One (MV1), a huge fanfiction project that now seems to have existed in some long-ago semi-mythical era where talented writers argued over rules and regulations of a completely fictitious fanfiction “company”… and worked together to weave a tapestry of epic excitement.

Or something like that.

Anyway, Mark is a longtime friend and I was thrilled when he asked if he could contribute a guest blog post to my site — and I was even more humbled when I read the words that follow. Without further ado, here’s Mark Beaulieu:

I remember where I was when I read the first volume of The Rook. There was construction going on at the University of Hartford while I was teaching a summer course. I couldn’t go to the normal cafeteria for lunch so I’d lug over to the Hawk’s Nest (a cafeteria in the student dorms). I’d read The Rook while eating lunch and eating Buffalo chicken wraps.

Mmmmm….sorry I’ll get back on track.

I was blown away by Barry’s writing style. I had read some of his fan fiction, but this was much better. He had really grown as a writer. The Rook was a well-developed character that engaged in high action stories with supernatural baddies. And I’m a sucker for Nazi villains. I blame the old Captain America comics I read as a kid and of course the great Raiders of the Lost Ark movie (easily one of the best movies ever made). After reading this book, I looked for more like it. I got the next few Rook books and The Damned Thing. I enjoyed them all.

Barry’s books led me to look at other titles. In particular, How the West was Weird volumes 1 and 2. I absolutely love the second volume of that series. The first volume is good, but the second is much stronger, in my opinion. This introduced me to the work of Derrick Ferguson and Ron Fortier. The Sebastian Red stories in those two volumes are absolutely fantastic. Ron’s story in the second volume is also great. I knew Tony Wilson and Mark Bousquet before seeing their stories in the second volume, but Tony’s story is my favorite one in the anthology. It’s a Jonah Hex type story and it’s excellent. Mark’s story is part of a much bigger story arc and works on its own, but the later stories really add to that universe.

Now I’ve started copy editing for Pro Se Productions and I’m really enjoying that. I wouldn’t be editing for anyone if it wasn’t for Barry’s Rook books. This may bother Van Allen Plexico, but I was reading his books in a vacuum. I didn’t realize he was part of a larger movement. I really enjoyed Van’s Sentinel books and I’ll buy and read anything Van writes, but I was buying those as a friend and didn’t pay attention to any discussion of new pulp. Sorry Van. I also read Mark Bousquet’s stuff and I owe him for being a major supporter of my writing (what little I’ve done) but again I was reading his stuff in a vacuum. I feel strongly that I owe it to friends to buy their stuff if I like it and I’ve always enjoyed Mark’s and Van’s books. Heck, Dreamer’s Syndrome hit every button I could ask for as a reader. I couldn’t believe how good that book was when I read it. There aren’t many books I enjoyed more than that. However, I was reading these without understanding there was a larger world of small press books. It was really Barry’s The Rook that opened my eyes to the larger world of new pulp.

And I think my life is better for it.

Mark Beaulieu is the writer/creator of the upcoming Ulysses King anthology from Pro Se.

Running With Wild Cats

Rook Volume 5Let’s travel back in time, to the long-ago era that was 2007. By this time, I had been writing professionally for a few years, having worked for Marvel Comics on their Encyclopedia series and the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Inspired by Ron Forter & Gordon Linzner’s The Hounds of Hell I had even begun self-publishing some New Pulp stories. Already I had released a couple of Rook novellas (Lucifer’s Cage and Kingdom of Blood), as well as Conquerors of Shadow, which was my love letter to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I wanted more.

Self-publishing gives you tremendous freedom but it also takes away from what I really like to do — which is write. I’m fine with giving up a measure of control over the finished product if somebody else will handle all the formatting and editing that I really don’t want to do.

So I began to consider looking for a publisher. The obvious choice was the folks who had published The Hounds of Hell — not only had that book inspired me in the first place but at the time I didn’t know of anyone else who was publishing that sort of pulp fiction. Keep in mind that this predated Pro Se Press and so many of the others. So I wrote to the two Rons (Hanna and Fortier, who were working together at Wild Cat Books) and pitched them on my Rook series. Perhaps they could re-publish the first two novellas and I could add several new shorts to round out the package? They were agreeable and we were set.

Only about a week or two later, I got an email saying that the Rons had decided to part ways. I’m not going to go into the whys of that, though I’ve heard a good bit from both sides. What’s important for our purposes is that I was given a choice — I could go with Ron Fortier and his writers or I could stay with Ron Hanna, who planned to continue publishing New Pulp. Fortier was planning to start up his own company (this would become Airship 27) but initially had no idea how quick or how slow this might end up being. It ended up not being all that long but I didn’t know that at the time. I elected to stay with Hanna because he could get my book into print the fastest.

The first volume of The Rook came out and we were all happy about it. My buddy Storn Cook did the cover and it looked aces. Following on that, I ended up writing a lot for Wild Cat Books over the next few years — the first five volumes of The Rook series, Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island, The Damned Thing, Rabbit Heart, Savage Tales of Ki-Gor, etc.

Wild Cat was publishing other things, as well, but I think it’s safe to say that I had become their primary source for new books. I’m not tooting my own horn there because sales weren’t great — I’m simply speaking about the quantity of things I was producing.

WCB was wonderful in giving me tons of freedom. Too much freedom, in fact! They did little in the way of editing and hardly ever said “No,” which is a dangerous thing to give to creative types. Left to my own devices, I sometimes went off on weird tangents. I need an editor to occasionally say, “Um… Hmm. No.” So these were good and bad times — good in the sense that I was writing like a madman and having fun. Bad because some of the finished product was not particularly professional and I was making… well, nothing. Ron occasionally sent me money if I inquired about it but the sales he reported were miniscule. I’m not saying he was lying but I do think he’d agree that his business sense is not the best — he’s a fan of pulp and loves helping produce it but he’s not an entrepreneur in the money-making sense. With the eBook sales, I knew many people who claimed to be buying and reading my stuff but the sales indicated that this was not the case. There was also the issue of promotion — WCB generally released the books and that was it. I tried to push them myself, of course, but I wanted to have someone help me with the marketing.

Eventually, I decided to branch out. I wrote for other companies and once Pro Se Press came along, I took my creations over there and licensed them to Pro Se. I left my back catalog at Wild Cat Books out of respect for Ron Hanna as I didn’t want to gut the majority of their line. For awhile, I produced new Rook material for Pro Se, while the old books were still with WCB. I finally decided to remove my books entirely from WCB because sales at Pro Se were pretty good… and yet I was making nothing from the older books at WCB. That was strange to me — again, I’m sure that Ron was very honest with me about the sales figures but my thought was that if the new stuff I’m writing is selling this well, maybe new editions of the old stuff (with new packaging and editing) would, as well. So Pro Se began rolling out new editions of The Rook and Conquerors of Shadow (now called The Family Grace) — and soon they’ll do the same with Rabbit Heart and The Damned Thing.

Sales are much better on the new editions of The Rook. Go figure!

Ron was understanding when I began to ask him to pull my books from circulation. He did it quickly and efficiently and never complained. I told him honestly that I appreciated all the support he’d given me and for allowing me the opportunity to break into New Pulp. I felt then and do now that Wild Cat Books does not get the respect it deserves. With so many people producing New Pulp now, we need to remember companies like WCB who kept this alive when few others did. I salute Ron Hanna for being a true fan of classic pulp and for believing in the viability of New Pulp. I nominated him for both a Munsey Award and for the Lifetime Achievement Award (Pulp Ark) and was proud to do so.

A couple of days ago I was posting away on Facebook and put the following: Reading “Live and Let Die” by Ian Fleming and struggling to figure out how I should feel about this one. It’s undeniably a rip-snorting adventure but the casual racism of the book makes me feel all skeevy. I’m trying to remember the era in which it was written but I frequently wince as a great paragraph stumbles over something decidedly non-pc.

What I meant by this (and assume was obvious in the post itself) is that I’m really enjoying the book… but that when I run across things like Chapter 5 being entitled “Ni**** Heaven”, it gives me pause. I really like Ian Fleming, actually, but it’s still weird when you see an entire race being described in huge generalities. That’s all I meant. I’m enjoying the book but it makes me feel all skeevy. A classic conflict between intellect and emotion, as my wife pointed out — my intellect reminds me that it’s a product of its time, my emotion says “Ew!”

Ron Hanna took some issue with my post, saying I’ve been reading a lot of “Classics” recently: “Robinson Crusoe”, and stuff by Jules Verne and Mark Twain… If the “non-pc” aspects turn you off, despite realizing the times in which they were written, then maybe you should get over it… “Huckleberry Finn” was BANNED for many years, in many schools, yet it’s a CLASSIC… and since you are a Librarian, I would think that you would have a more open mind about stuff like that, Barry…

I explained that I thought Ron needed to get off his high horse! I didn’t think my status update was close-minded at all but whatever. Ron then asked me if I was to write a story set in the 1930s, how would I handle it. I responded by saying that I figured Ron would know since he’d published my stuff for years. Seriously, he published The Rook Volumes 1-5 — shouldn’t he be very familiar with what I would do with stories set in that era?

And this is how he answered that: LOL… Very true! And since I couldn’t afford to pay you what you truly deserved, I totally understand your taking your work elsewhere… I never had a problem with that… But when you talk about “High-Horses”? Well, you list yourself as “Pulp Author Extraordinaire” and have your own “Imprint” and you ARE a “Professional” writer… Yet you still work at a Library… so when will you finally make a LIVING off your writing? Not trying to be harsh… I guess I just get upset when people have to blow their own horns so much that they run out of breath… I’ve always wished you nothing but the best, and I hope that one day, you CAN become a TRUE “Professional” writer when you can devote ALL your time to writing fiction… FWIW… I’m a “Published” writer as well, but I know I’ll never make a living at it… I hope you can… Really, I do…

Well, now.

That was rather hurtful, I felt. Implying that I was blowing my horn so much that I was running out of breath… that I wasn’t a true professional because I also have a day job… and then taking a swipe at my humorous (I thought) “Pulp Author Extraordinaire” tag on my blog. Not cool. I decided to not feed the furor any further and simply thanked him for the concern.

Would I love to be living in a mansion and writing all day long? You betcha. But I’ve had so many dreams come true… seeing my name listed in Marvel’s solicitations and on their website, writing my childhood hero The Avenger, having dozens of books with my name on the cover, having people who tell me that they love my characters and my stories… All of that is worth more than money.

I appreciate all that Wild Cat Books has done for me. Without that company and without Ron Hanna, I would not be where I am today. If he’d blown me off when I’d first approached him, I might have never created Lazarus Gray or Fiona Chapman or Charity Grace. I owe him and genuinely wish him the best. I think it’s clear that he harbors some sort of resentment or jealousy towards not only me but others in the New Pulp field. I’d love to see WCB rise like a phoenix and become a true force in New Pulp again — hopefully that will happen.

I really do hope so.

Pulp Fiction Reviews Looks at Gravedigger!

gravedigger_cover_low_res_cropped_with_copyVeteran author Ron Fortier has been reviewing New Pulp works for several years now at his Pulp Fiction Reviews blog and earlier today he turned his attention to The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One. Here’s what he had to say:

The fun of any Barry Reese pulp fiction is that very element; the fun.  It is an inherent element in everything he writes and this, the premier volume, of his latest new character series is no exception.
 
Charity Grace grew up on the way-way wrong side of the tracks in Sovereign City.  The end result of this hard-knock life was her becoming a petty thief and ultimately led to her violent murder.  But cosmic forces manifested by a mysterious Voice are not prepared to allow her eternal slumber just yet.  Instead, floating in a weird limbo state between life and non-existence, Charity is offered a proposition.  She will be allowed to return to the land of the living for a period of three years.  In that time she must become an agent of righteous vengeance and eliminate, permanently, all who prey on the innocent in Sovereign City.  In other words she will become a vigilante executioner.  Considering her only other option is most likely eternal damnation, Charity wisely accepts the Voice’s offer.
 
Once back, her body renewed with new found vigor and abilities, she soon learns that she is only one in a long line of such special avengers known by the name, Gravedigger, though she has the dubious distinction of being the first female to assume the role.  With the all too brief mentoring of the former Gravedigger and his big, black British assistant, Charity begins to adapt to her new role.  Of course this being pulp fiction, she soon finds herself coming up against an assortment of supernatural menaces, too, including the gruesome Headless Horseman of American folklore; only he now proves to be a real entity and nearly impossible to kill.
 
We could go on and on about the cool elements Reese throws into this heady pulp stew chief of which are the cameo guest appearances by two of his other popular heroes, the Rook and Lazarus Gray and their very different reactions to the Gravedigger’s arrival on the crime-fighting scene.  And then there’s the historical back story that adds even more mysterious layers to the plot and is a clever hook for future volumes.
 
“The Adventures of the Gravedigger,” is another winner from one of the most entertaining writers in New Pulp today.  And friends, that’s saying a whole lot.
Thanks so much, Ron! I appreciate the feedback. I had so much fun writing this book and I’m glad that people have responded to it so positively. I can’t wait to see what you think of the second book when it’s released!

Roar!

thumbsupTGIF!

I finished up the Brother Bones/Lazarus Gray team-up story yesterday and sent it off to Ron Fortier for his comments and approval. Ron seemed to really like it and even came up with a great addition to the ending battle that really makes it come together. It was a lot of fun writing Bones and I think fans of both characters will really enjoy it. Unfortunately, it’s going to be awhile before any of you can read it because it won’t be published until Volume Five of the Lazarus Gray series is out… and, as all of you know, we’ve just seen volume three released! The fourth book should be out in the first quarter of 2014 which means the fifth book won’t be out (at the earliest) until late next year. I’ve written two of the five stories that will comprise the fifth book.

So… now I need to start on the two projects I owe Pro Se Press: a Pulse Fiction story and a Sherlock Holmes novella.

But I think I will squeeze in a short (under 10,000 word) Shadowman story for Valiant’s Kindle Worlds project first. It won’t take me long and I think it will be a fun little exercise. We’ll see how it sells, if it at all. If nothing else, though, it will be neat to tiptoe through one of my favorite fictional universes.

Thanks go to John Simcoe for sending me the link to the following video, which is for the Katy Perry song, “Roar.” No matter what you think of the song itself, the video is a fun homage to the old “Jungle Girl” stories and I think that folks who enjoy my brand of adventure fiction will get a kick out of this. Enjoy!

Thursday Ramblings

20130609-173120.jpgWelcome back to Ye Olde Blog!

I’m almost finished with the big Brother Bones/Lazarus Gray crossover story and will probably be sending it on to Bones creator Ron Fortier for his approval later today. After that, I *really* need to start work on this Pulse Fiction story for Pro Se Press… and then I have this Sherlock Holmes novella I’m supposed to write, also for Pro Se.

But I’m also tempted to finally break down and do a Kindle Worlds story featuring one of the Valiant heroes. I’m leaning towards Shadowman, simply because I think my style is most compatible with that character. My favorite Valiant hero has always been X-O Manowar but Shadowman feels like he could have been one of my own creations so I might go that route. I do wonder if I should take the time to do it, though — maybe I should focus my creative energies on my own projects or ones that I’ve been commissioned to do. Still, it would be fun to do an “official” Valiant story at least once. We’ll see.

On the artistic front, Chris Batista informed me last night that he’s begun laying out the cover to the big Lazarus Gray/The Rook/Gravedigger book. Grant Miehm has also had his sketch approved for Tales of The Rook Volume Two and is hard at work on that one. And let’s not forget George Sellas, who is one interior piece away from finishing up The Rook Volume Three Special Edition! No matter what, the books always look great, thanks to guys like these.

I’ve had the briefest stirrings of a desire to write some more Rook stuff… but I think that will satisfied by the crossover novel, to be honest. If you are a big Rook fan, though, you can expect Tales of The Rook Volume Two in the near future… the third Special Edition… and, of course, Tommy Hancock will be writing Volume Seven, which actually kicks off an entire trilogy that he’ll be handling.

Uploaded the 47th episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast yesterday. I had a nice chat with Ralph Grasso, who runs The Shadow Knows Facebook Page. If you’re a fan of The Shadow, you need to be a part of that group! Members include Michael Uslan, Anthony Tollin, Michael Kaluta and a whole lot more — you won’t find a more active Shadow page anywhere and certainly not one with the pedigree of this one! Highly recommended.

Take care, folks!

Updates & Avalon Comics Appearance

11746dcd0c65886c_Kate-Upton-Elle-2Hello, folks!

I just uploaded the 46th episode of The Shadow Fan Podcast, so you can head over and download that one if you’re a fan of pulp’s greatest crimefighter. At the end of the episode I reveal who will be joining me on the 50th episode! I think people will really enjoy the conversation I had with this famous Shadow creator.

Work continues on the Lazarus Gray/Brother Bones crossover story. I’ve crossed the 6,000 word mark so I think we’re making good progress. Once I’m finished with it, I’ll pass it on to Brother Bones’ creator, Ron Fortier, for his approval and comments. If he gives it the green light, then I’ll have knocked out two of the five stories that will run in Lazarus Gray v. 5. It all adds up, doesn’t it? It’s interesting to note that once that book is released, I’ll have written almost as many Lazarus Gray books as I have The Rook.

I’ll be at Avalon Comics this Saturday from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm so if you’re in the Macon, Georgia area, please stop in and say hello! I’ll be there selling and signing books. Avalon is a great store and it’s located down the road from a Red Lobster so you can do what I’m doing and grab lunch afterward. Pulp fiction and cheddar bay biscuits… where could you go wrong?

I’ll be exchanging emails with my frequent collaborator George Sellas this morning, firming up our schedules for the next few months. Even though Chris Batista and Jen Broomall have been doing work with me lately, don’t think I’m letting George slip away. He’ll continue defining the looks of my characters for a long time to come, if I have anything to say about it!

Our accompanying photo today is of the lovely Kate Upton. She’s obviously doing some reading in bed, which makes it appropriate for inclusion on this blog. ‘Cause we promote literacy and stuff.

Plus, it’s Kate Upton.

Lazarus Gray Takes On… Brother Bones?!

BoCovGood morning!

I just uploaded the 45th episode of The Shadow Fan Podcast so if you’re a fan of those, get thee to a downloading station now! This week I spend a little time digging through Dynamite’s November 2013 solicitations, ramble a bit about the three different villains known as The Light, review “Death’s Bright Finger” (May 1942) and then give a thorough look at The Shadow # 16 (Dynamite Comics). I think it’s the best 35-40 minutes you’ll spend this week, podcast-wise, but I’m biased.

Made a difficult decision about the current Lazarus Gray story I’ve been writing… the overall plot just isn’t appropriate. It’s way too sci-fi and just doesn’t feel right. So I’m removing chapters 1 & 3… maybe they can be used for something else down the line. Chapters 2 & 4, with only minor revisions, will live on as the beginning of the revised Lazarus Gray story I’m planning. It’s difficult to do this kind of thing but it’s necessary at times. I really have no desire to roll out sub-par stories… there are definitely times when I’ve not been happy with the finished product but I’m so far ahead of the publishing schedule for Lazarus that there’s no reason to rush. Besides, by putting aside this story that’s not really working out, I can begin work on the Lazarus Gray story that I really want to work on right now…

It’s time to announce that Lazarus Gray Volume Five will feature a guest-appearance by one of New Pulp’s most popular heroes: Ron Fortier’s Brother Bones! That’s right, the Undead Avenger will be facing off against Assistance Unlimited in a story that takes our heroes into the gloomy environs of Cape Noire. I appreciate Ron’s willingness to share the character with me and I’m going to do my best to do it right.  Ron’s a good friend and a major figure in the New Pulp movement, which makes it all the more important for me to not screw it up! Since Ron did such a bang-up job writing The Rook in Tales of The Rook, I want to at least make him smile as much he did me.

For those who don’t know, Brother Bones starred in his own collection of stories (linked above) and has since appeared in “Bullets of Jade” (a comic book published by Red Bud Studio), as well as several issues of Pro Se Presents. I believe a Brother Bones novel is coming, as well, from an author other than Ron Fortier – I apologize, the name escapes me at the moment!. Regardless, he’s a character that I’ve always enjoyed in his varying incarnations and I’m looking forward to handling him, even if it’s just for one short story. Definitely go and check out the Undead Avenger’s other appearances, if you would! You’ll thank me later.

Ron Fortier had this to say about the team-up: “I’m really excited about our two characters meeting on the pulp stage and I personally can’t wait to see what happens when they do.”

Thanks, Ron!

Our image today is by the talented Sean Ali and shows Brother Bones as he appeared on the cover of Pro Se Presents’ July 2012 issue.