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The Timeline Of My Pulp Fiction Universe (Current as of September 29, 2013)

rook_v2_cover_mock_up_smallMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Rook, Lazarus Gray, Eobard Grace 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]. Gravedigger confronts the twin threats of Hiroshi Tamaki and the immortal known as Pandora [Gravedigger Volume Two]. Lazarus Gray travels to Cape Noire to investigate the mysterious vigilante known as Brother Bones [“Shadows and Phantoms,” 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: Dangerous Curves Ahead

Emma Watson hotI gave a how-to writing class to a group of high schoolers about two years ago and one of the young men asked me how I wrote female characters. Having written several books starring female protagonists (The Damned Thing, Rabbit Heart and Gravedigger all come to mind), I immediately had a response. I said that you should always start thinking of your characters as people first and gender later. I told him that there is no one “type” of woman out there… there are women who cry at the drop of a hat but then there are women who are tough as nails. There are women who love to shop and wear pink… there are also women who love mixed martial arts and who can drink any man under the table. There are even women who love to wear pink, cry at the drop of a hat, are still tough as nails, love mixed martial arts *and* can drink any man under the table.

Women are people first. The same goes for different races or anything, really.

I also told him that if he were still worried, to look at the women around him — his friends, his family, his sisters. Think about how multifaceted those women are and then incorporate that into his work.

When I was creating Gravedigger, I thought of ways to make her different from my other characters — but not once did I think of her gender as being a personality trait. She’s a much harder-edged character than Lazarus Gray, because of her life experiences. Yes, she’s a beautiful woman… yes, she could be a mother someday. But she’s a human being first. I don’t need to worry about writing “women” because I know how to write “people.” I mean, I am one!

Yes, sometimes you should incorporate differences into female characters but again, if you know more than a handful of women, you’ll know how different they all can be — some poke fun at men, some don’t. Some like to smoke, drink and swear. Some don’t. Some women would never have sex with a man outside of a committed relationship. Some women see nothing wrong with ‘Friends with Benefits.’

Never assume that a woman — or a man, for that matter — can’t act one way just because of their gender. We have certain societal norms, yes, but the degrees to which we all fall inside or outside of them vary tremendously.

When it comes to sexualizing your characters, you have to know your character, your story and your audience. With my heroines, all of them are beautiful, yes — but this is adventure fiction. The women are beautiful and the men are handsome. I never try to objectify my female characters any more than I do the male ones — in other words, I do objectify them in the sense that they’re attractive and this is mentioned… but they’re far more than that. Pulp is escapism and part of the appeal is that our heroes (male & female) are larger-than-life. They’re gorgeous, they’re brave and they’re heroic. They’re idealized. Even in Rabbit Heart, which is highly charged with sex and violence, I don’t think I treat the women in the story any different than I do the males — some of them are very emotionally unstable, some are promiscuous and some are just downright nasty… but that’s true of both genders in the story. And Fiona Grace, though driven by powerful needs, is still an idealized heroine who rises above it all. Yes, Fiona’s outfit on the cover is risque — but if you read the story, you’ll know there’s a major reason why it’s shown that way. The story deals with archetypes and the way society views them — and Fiona is forced to play that part, to a degree.

So keep the focus on the *person* and not the gender… in the long run, it’ll pay off for you!

From the Vault: Sex in the Pulps

mellisa_clark_unmaskedYep. Today we’re talking about S-E-X and, by extension, loving relationships.

In the classic hero pulps, there wasn’t a whole lot of sex. You’d have the occasional lurid cover, with some scantily clad woman (usually with stockings showing) in distress while our hero moved to protect her but for the most part, guys like Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger were not very interested in knocking boots. Doc occasionally in later years would display a kind of boyish interest in the fairer sex and The Avenger’s love for his wife was constantly being referenced but even in the first book where you see The Avenger alongside his wife and daughter, you didn’t exactly get the image that they were passionate lovers. They were partners, friends and spouses, yes, but there was no sign of “heat” in the relationship.

There were some exceptions, of course. Jim Anthony was basically Doc Savage with a sex drive but by today’s standards, he was still a bit tame. In fact, the idea of Anthony was racier than the truth — he liked to lounge around at home in a speedo while working in the lab. Hell, what guy doesn’t? And then there was The Spider, who was very clearly a passionate lover of Nita Van Sloane. But most of the romance that was depicted between them were of steamy kisses and verbal flirtations.

The fantasy pulps (like Conan) got a lot of mileage out of ladies whipping one another and there was no doubt that Conan and others got into lusty embraces. But I’m focusing on the hero pulps because those were my favorites and that’s where most of the New Pulp writings out today fall into place.

So…

Now we’re in the age of New Pulp. Writers are now bringing in more modern ideas about race, gender relations, etc. into their pulp-inspired writings.

But we still don’t have much in the way of S-E-X. I’m not saying we *need* it, I’m just surprised there’s not more variety out there.

When I wrote Rabbit Heart, I deliberately made it dirty. Foul language, lots of explicit sex and gory violence. It was my Anti-Pulp pulp book. When I did The Damned Thing, I didn’t go quite as far but it was still a pulp novel, only with explicit oral sex scenes and rape. The reviews I got for Rabbit Heart all made direct mention of the dirty stuff because I think it’s hard to discuss the novel without it — and it was out of place in the pulp world. The Damned Thing, though, got high praise but few people mentioned the sexy stuff — maybe after Rabbit Heart, they weren’t as surprised?

We have guys and gals in the pulp field who can cover all sorts of things and do it well. I’d like to see more variety in relationships on display in New Pulp stories. No, we don’t have to go into the boudoir with the Moon Man and his long-suffering girlfriend, but if a writer could do it well, why not? Hell, just some acknowledgement that these heroes are human beings and are sexual creatures would be welcome sometimes, just for the sake of something different.

The number of unfeeling automatons I’ve met in real life are relatively few in number… so why do I see so many in pulp? Look, I have one hero (Lazarus Gray) who kind of fits that bill, too — but in his series, there’s also plenty of sexual beings who surround him. Hell, I make it quite clear in Die Glocke that Lazarus had a “steamy” romance with the daughter of the local museum curator so even he’s not as stoic as he first appears.

Yes, I enjoy pulp that features heroic figures, over-the-top villains and happy endings. I make no apologies for that. But I also like to have my heroes fall in love, make babies and grow old.

I had The Rook fall in love, get married, become a father, etc. His wife is his partner and his lover, equal in both regards.

I did this because I think of Max Davies as a man — and most men want those things.They want love, they want sex, they want a family.

So, New Pulp writers, don’t be afraid to bring the sexy back!

Things That Fall Out of My Head

b_gangster-squad-emma-stoneAnother Monday? Yep, that means we’re starting yet another new week at Ye Olde Blog. I’ve kept up my streak of a-post-a-day for a long, long time now… when I know that I can’t be at my computer, I schedule a post ahead of time to keep the streak going. I want you guys to have something to read/look at/be annoyed by every single day. ‘Cause I love you so much!

I’ve got the beginnings of an idea for my Box Thirteen story and I should be starting on that this week. It’s only a 10,000 word piece so it shouldn’t take too long but since it’s a new character for me, it will take longer than it would if it were a Lazarus Gray or Gravedigger piece. I always have a few starts-and-stops with licensed work-for-hire stuff because it’s not a matter of *me* being happy with something… I’m using someone else’s character and so I have to take extra care to abide by their rules and restrictions, plus I have to find the character’s “voice” and make sure it’s accurate.

Currently reading one of the “Belmont Shadows,” the series that Belmont published in the Sixties. The first book in the series was written by Walter Gibson but after that, the books moved The Shadow and his friends firmly into a new decade and ramped up the spy stuff that was so popular at the time. In the one I’m reading right now, The Shadow is trying to make sure that the United States reaches the moon first in the Space Race. I’ll give it a full review on this week’s episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast. We’ll also be discussing The Shadow Year One # 4 from Dynamite Comics.

The 24-hour free offer on the first Lazarus Gray book was a big success last week and I’ve heard from a few people who have started reading it since. Hopefully we’ll get some new reviews of the book and a couple of those folks will stick around to try the other books in the series. Fingers crossed!

I think that our next release from Reese Unlimited will be the new edition of Rabbit Heart… that’s what I’ve been told anyway but things might always change. That’s a book that’s always kind of stood apart from the rest of my work — I have fans who love it who are cold to everything else I’ve written and then there are those who buy all my pulp work but grow very silent when Rabbit Heart comes up. It really comes down to how you feel about hardcore sex and violence, I suppose. Anyway, I look forward to having that and The Damned Thing back in print — The Damned Thing is a little gem that rarely gets mentioned, I think. Heck, All Pulp once called it “a masterpiece” so there’s got to be something there.

Our image today is of the lovely Emma Stone, as she appeared in Gangster Squad. Not quite pulp, perhaps, but definitely rocking the right look.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more weirdness. Take Care!

 

My Favorite Heroic Creations

I sometimes get asked about which of my characters are my favorites. To some degree, I love all my creations — they’re my “babies,” as it were. But there are definitely ones that have a spot closer to my heart:

The Rook — Obviously, Max Davies would be near the top. I’ve written six books about him and he’s my most well-known creation. But I do have a love/hate relationship with him, in that when I do other projects, people always want to come back around to talk about The Rook. I’ve “finished” his series multiple times and always get sucked back in. Still, Max and his family are the backbone of the fictional pulp universe I’ve created and all the other characters exist in his shadow.

Lazarus Gray — For years, I tried to create a viable second “series” to The Rook. I did some good projects along the way but nothing that really felt like I could do this series for years — until Lazarus Gray and his friends in Assistance Unlimited came along. Taking all the things I loved about The Avenger and mixing them up with my own supernatural-tinged style, Lazarus has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Three books in the series have seen print and I’ve already written a fourth. The second book in the series swept the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, winning Best Novel, Best Cover and Best Interior Art.

Fiona Chapman — The star of my controversial novel Rabbit Heart, Fiona is the fictional outlet for my most visceral desires. Beautiful, intelligent and deadly, she’s the epitome of the “hot bad-ass girl with a sword” archetype. Though I may never do a sequel to the story, she’ll always be close to my heart. With a new edition of this novel coming soon from Pro Se, I hope the character will receive a new burst of popularity.

Ascott Keane — Not my original creation but I feel connected to him because he’s appeared in multiple Rook stories and co-starred in Rabbit Heart. Though the original character fought Doctor Satan in the Golden Age of the Pulps, I think I’ve tweaked Ascott enough that I can feel a sense of ownership over him.

Violet Cambridge — Violet starred in The Damned Thing and had a cameo in The Rook Volume Six. A tough-as-nails lady P.I. in the late Thirties, Violet is a well-rounded character in my opinion. Her quasi-romance with Rook supporting character Will McKenzie was quite charming, in my opinion. Her novel was one of my most tightly-written works and I think it holds together very, very well. As with Rabbit Heart, The Damned Thing will be getting a spiffy new edition soon.

Gravedigger — The newest character on this list, Gravedigger’s first appearance was released just a few months ago and has received rave reviews. I finished writing the sequel earlier this week. Charity Grace is in many ways the spiritual sister of Fiona, as they both fulfill the same archetypal requirements. But Gravedigger comes with a very strong back-story and premise — a young woman whose life has been filled with sin is killed, only to be revived by the mysterious Voice, who offers her a deal: serve as its champion for three years and at the end of that period, her soul will be judged once more. If she’s found redemption, she will be free to live with a second chance at life. Fail… and a lifetime of damnation awaits. While Lazarus Gray took its inspiration from The Avenger, Gravedigger is a heady mix of The Shadow and a lot of my more esoteric interests. I’ve kicked around an idea that would actually bring nearly all my characters together in one huge, time-spanning adventure. If I did, there’s no way I could resist having Gravedigger and Fiona clash swords.

I’ll have to do one of these lists for all my favorite villainous creations, too!

From the Vault: Dangerous Curves Ahead

cat-clara I gave a how-to writing class to a group of high schoolers about two years ago and one of the young men asked me how I wrote female characters. Having written several books starring female protagonists (The Damned Thing, Rabbit Heart and Gravedigger all come to mind), I immediately had a response. I said that you should always start thinking of your characters as people first and gender later. I told him that there is no one “type” of woman out there… there are women who cry at the drop of a hat but then there are women who are tough as nails. There are women who love to shop and wear pink… there are also women who love mixed martial arts and who can drink any man under the table. There are even women who love to wear pink, cry at the drop of a hat, are still tough as nails, love mixed martial arts *and* can drink any man under the table.

Women are people first. The same goes for different races or anything, really.

I also told him that if he were still worried, to look at the women around him — his friends, his family, his sisters. Think about how multifaceted those women are and then incorporate that into his work.

When I was creating Gravedigger, I thought of ways to make her different from my other characters — but not once did I think of her gender as being a personality trait. She’s a much harder-edged character than Lazarus Gray, because of her life experiences. Yes, she’s a beautiful woman… yes, she could be a mother someday. But she’s a human being first. I don’t need to worry about writing “women” because I know how to write “people.” I mean, I am one!

Yes, sometimes you should incorporate differences into female characters but again, if you know more than a handful of women, you’ll know how different they all can be — some poke fun at men, some don’t. Some like to smoke, drink and swear. Some don’t. Some women would never have sex with a man outside of a committed relationship. Some women see nothing wrong with ‘Friends with Benefits.’

Never assume that a woman — or a man, for that matter — can’t act one way just because of their gender. We have certain societal norms, yes, but the degrees to which we all fall inside or outside of them vary tremendously.

When it comes to sexualizing your characters, you have to know your character, your story and your audience. With my heroines, all of them are beautiful, yes — but this is adventure fiction. The women are beautiful and the men are handsome. I never try to objectify my female characters any more than I do the male ones — in other words, I do objectify them in the sense that they’re attractive and this is mentioned… but they’re far more than that. Pulp is escapism and part of the appeal is that our heroes (male & female) are larger-than-life. They’re gorgeous, they’re brave and they’re heroic. They’re idealized. Even in Rabbit Heart, which is highly charged with sex and violence, I don’t think I treat the women in the story any different than I do the males — some of them are very emotionally unstable, some are promiscuous and some are just downright nasty… but that’s true of both genders in the story. And Fiona Grace, though driven by powerful needs, is still an idealized heroine who rises above it all. Yes, Fiona’s outfit on the cover is risque — but if you read the story, you’ll know there’s a major reason why it’s shown that way. The story deals with archetypes and the way society views them — and Fiona is forced to play that part, to a degree.

So keep the focus on the *person* and not the gender… in the long run, it’ll pay off for you!

How Far Is Too Far?

mellisa-clarke-2I keep most of my New Pulp writing in the PG-13 range but I’ve been known to cross “the line” on occasion… some of you may remember when Sun Koh ripped a rapist’s penis off in The Rook Volume Six, for instance! And my novel Rabbit Heart (soon to return to print via Pro Se Press) is basically a study in excess! Whenever I thought that I might be pushing the envelope too far, I went ahead and tore it open.

But when is it *really* too far?

I’ve kept hardcore sex and violence out of Lazarus Gray, for instance, but there’s an element of subjectivity there, as with all artistic endeavors. When I wrote The Damned Thing, there was a scene early on that involved oral sex. To be honest, I’d forgotten about it by the time it saw print — it was just a brief character moment and believe it or not, not every scene sticks in the mind of the person who wrote it (I write a lot of scenes…). So when it came out, I had a reader who went on and on about that scene and how much it disturbed them. I didn’t even remember what they were talking about! See, for them, that was shocking and extremely memorable. For me, it was no big deal. So you never know how folks will respond.

But there are times when even I know that I might be going into territory that would be best left undisturbed. I’ve mentioned before that I started writing a sequel to Rabbit Heart — it was going to be titled Starstruck. In fact, I wrote about 12,000 words on it, meaning it’s about 20% complete. But even as I was writing the opening scenes of Starstruck, I knew that this probably couldn’t see print. Despite how far I’d gone with Rabbit Heart, I went a lot further into the disturbing territory with just the first 12,000 words on Starstruck. There is at least one scene in there that I think would be hard for people to get out of their heads when they thought of me… and I’m not quite sure I want to go there.

Nobody’s read Starstruck – not even people who’ve really begged & pleaded! I’ve thought about finishing it but it’s so dark and if I didn’t publish it, what would be the point? I’ve considered completing it and then sticking it in a box with a note to say that it could be published after I was dead & gone but then I’d miss the perverse pleasure of seeing people freak out!

On the other hand, I don’t want to tone the story down, either. If I’m going to write disgusting smut then by God, I’m going to write disgusting smut!

Anyway, I think that I’ll continue staying on the PG-13 path for most of my New Pulp work – I often try to craft stories that will appeal to adolescent boys the way that classic pulp did me when I was that age. A little titillation is fine but I try not to veer too far into adult territory. Of course, sometimes the characters demand their course of action (like Sun Koh did in Rook v. 6) and often what I consider PG-13 isn’t what someone else would. In fact, I had one lady tell me she’d never let her 15 year old son read my books because they contained too many “demonic” elements.

New Pulp Farewells

fiction_writerWow.

So this morning, I get up and check my email — where I immediately see a letter from Tommy Hancock, announcing his resignation from All Pulp. Now, I’ll be honest — I’m amazed that Tommy put this off as long as he did. He’s an incredibly busy guy and All Pulp is one of the many things that he’s done that benefits the New Pulp community a lot more than it benefits him and his own company. It’s a lot of thankless work. Still — seeing him announce that he’s leaving makes me immediately think that All Pulp in general is probably going away. Oh, sure, someone will step up most likely… but my experience tells me that someone who inherits something rarely has the same level of commitment as the person who founded it. I hope I’m wrong. If I had more time, I might step up myself… but I know better!

Thanks for all the work you’ve done on the site, Tommy!

Then I head over to Facebook and see a posting from Ronna Hanna that Wild Cat Books is shutting its doors in a few days. WCB has been publishing pulp stuff since 1997 and was instrumental in kicking off the whole New Pulp craze. More personally, Ron Hanna accepted my story submissions and gave The Rook a home for five volumes, plus all the other stuff I did there (Rabbit Heart, The Damned Thing, Ki-Gor, etc.). WCB had been growing more and more quiet in recent years and I’d pulled most of my own titles so they could be repackaged elsewhere… but I’m still damned sad to see WCB gone for good. They say they’ll continue publishing limited edition works and I hope so – but given heir recent output, I wonder if that’s more wishful thinking than anything else. I hope Ron (and, by extension, WCB) the very best, though — without them, my own writing career would be quite different… and the New Pulp movement might never have gotten off its feet. From WCB eventually came Airship 27, which inspired still more companies and publishers. Ron Hanna has contributed a lot to the pulp field and I hope he’s recognized for his contributions.

On a more positive note, I finished going over the Gravedigger edits I got from Pro Se and sent those back in. We’re steadily moving closer to its release date. I’m currently putting the final touches on the Lazarus Gray Volume Four manuscript, as well. It’s been a fun ride but I’m very close to typing THE END on this storyline, which has spanned books 2-4. I’m happy and sad at the same time, as I always am when I finish a major project.

Head over to All Pulp or the Wild Cat Books facebook group and commend Tommy & Ron for all their hard work, why don’t you? I plan to!

 

The Times They Are A-Changin’

mellisa_clarke_dark_eyesI informed Ron Hanna of Wild Cat Books today that I wanted him to remove The Damned Thing, Rabbit Heart and Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island from print. I’ve always been really proud of The Damned Thing & Rabbit Heart but the edits on both books have always been a bit rough and I’m going to be making sure they get a thorough scrubbing before I re-release them. I do plan to keep the cover artwork from the amazing Jason Levesque and he’s given me permission to continue the use of the art in the new editions.The main characters of those two books — Violet Cambridge and Fiona Chapman — are two of my favorite creations and I’m proud to say that the people who have managed to make their way through the books seem to agree that they’re amongst my best works.

As for Guan-Yin, I have no plans to return that one to print — it was always the least popular of my works, garnering some pretty terrible reviews over the years. To be honest, I don’t they were entirely unwarranted, either. So Guan-Yin will probably be gathering dust for the time being. I do hope, however, to put Rabbit Heart & The Damned Thing on the fast-track to publication. I’m not sure if these will be out again in print or if I’ll go with eBook only. I’m also not sure if they will appear via my Reese Unlimited imprint or if I’ll self-publish them, which is something that Mat Nastos keeps urging me to do, lol. really don’t want to get into self-publishing but once these things are edited, I want them back out there for sale ASAP and I’m not sure I want to wait for the Pro Se publication schedule to open up for that to happen.

This does mean if you don’t want to wait for the new editions and you want to get those books on the cheap, you better buy them right this second. They’ll be joining most of The Rook series as out-of-print soon, which means online vendors will be selling them for hundreds of dollars.

Or you could always buy them straight from me, courtesy of the Merchandise link at the top of the blog.

Moving on!

A new episode of Ubergeeks (# 45) went live today — check it out! Cari & I hit up the Orson Scott Card controversy and discuss our Top 5 Movie Quotes.

I was the guest on this week’s edition of Ralph’s Rants, where I was interviewed by the irrepressible Ralph Angelo. I think our discussion went pretty well so check it out!

From what I’ve heard, Gravedigger is still on track for a late March release — which means Lazarus Gray Volume 3 should be arriving in April. I really, really think you guys are going to like these books!

Our lovely model today is one of the primary visual inspirations I had for Charity Grace, aka Gravedigger. Dark & lovely… and very, very deadly. Gravedigger will feature a stunning cover by George Sellas and six interior pieces by legendary artist Will Meugniot!

Why The Walking Dead Is Pissing Me Off

Rick-And-Carl-Talk-1331530206So last night I posted the following two status updates on Facebook — be warned that they, and what follows, could include spoilers for the current season of The Walking Dead. Do not shamble on if you are not okay with that!

I gave up on the comics series because of the unrelenting grimness – I might eventually do the same with The Walking Dead show. If we saw the triumph of the human spirit… The perseverance of morality… The growth of true heroism in the face of impossible odds… I’d be there. But this is just prolonged torture porn. Well-done but that’s what it is.

and

Tonight’s episode – they refuse to help the guy with the backpack TWICE… But they sure as hell stop to take his supplies from next to his dead body. Classy, Walking Dead.

Now, I love zombies — Dawn of the Dead being a particular favorite. I read about zombies, watch zombie movies, etc. I’m not down on zombies. And I’ll be the first to admit that 99% of zombie stories are bleak and hopeless — but it’s one thing to watch a zombie movie for two hours and see everyone die horribly, another thing to see it for an hour each week, week after week, year after year. Seeing everybody slowly ground down to their worst possible moments is not fun.

In that first episode, when Rick rode his horse into Atlanta, that was such a great visual. He was dressed as a lawman, the last vestige of Law in a world where that word had lost its meaning. It set him up as the Hero, a figure who would try to maintain his decency and morality in this horrible apocalypse. But in the name of realism, that Hero has been dragged through the mud, done some truly awful things and (for me) lost his moral authority. In last night’s episode, we see him lecturing somebody about how they’ve lost their path and given up hope, when this is the same character who has repeatedly turned his back on people in need this season. Some will say that his speech signifies that he’s coming back to the light but earlier in this same season he was confronted about his madness and his insistence that he was speaking to non-existent people on the phone… and he “came through it.” He showered, cleaned up and seemed to be coming back to the light… only to go nutso again. In a season where we should be defining the differences between Rick and the Governor, we’re instead seeing all the ways they’re alike.

Call me old. Call me naive. But I want to see heroes. I don’t think we need a whole cast full of White Knights… but having one guy, who stands up for what’s right? I’d like that. Daryl is the closest thing we have to that, strangely — in the midst of the chaos, he’s learned to be the Hero and a Leader.Unfortunately, Daryl isn’t the main character — there are whole episodes where he’s not even shown or mentioned. He’s a secondary figure, though a very popular one — and I think one of the reasons he IS so popular is because of an unspoken need on the part of the audience to have somebody who isn’t a disappointment as a human being on this show.

Rick, our supposed main character, is neither a Hero nor a Leader and that’s a damned shame. He should be. He’s the lawman — the old west sheriff riding through the lawless “West,” with nobody but his moral compass and his pistol for backup.

Some say that he can’t stop and help these people he meets because it would be a roll of the dice… they might be bad people, who would try and hurt the people Rick is protecting. That seems like a cowardly way to live and a terrible lesson to impart to his son, who already seems a few eggs shy of a full carton. I like to think that if I were in that situation, I would not turn away from those in need — and I would hope that others would not turn away from me. Compare the way that Rick ignored the hitchhiker (twice) last night to the way that Daryl reacted to the people being attacked on the bridge earlier this season. Daryl helped and refused to steal their items. Rick turned a blind eye and then stole the dead  man’s backpack.

Again, maybe that’s just me being naive.

Even in my own writing, there’s always hopes — Rabbit Heart is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written but (spoilers!) the good guys win. Same with The Damned Thing.

Real life sucks hard enough. Good people sometimes die in horrible ways and sometimes it  seems that good doesn’t prevail.

That’s why we have escapist entertainment, right? But The Walking Dead doesn’t qualify as escapist for me. It’s even more bleak and hopeless than the real world and damn, that’s saying something!

I’m not saying things shouldn’t suck sometimes… or that people shouldn’t die… or that our characters shouldn’t sometimes stumble and fall. But I do want to see the celebration of the human will — not simply to survive, but to rise above. I want to see at least one character standing at the gates of Hell and saying that he won’t become a victim of despair or fear.

I want a f’n HERO and The Walking Dead doesn’t want to give me one, it seems.

Which is why I think I might shamble on to something else.

I don’t need to see that much darkness on a continuing basis. I want to see the light.