From The “Making An Impression” File by Sean E. Ali

So, FINALLY, Tommy Hancock over at Pro Se has done his reveal of three author imprints where I got to do the initial logo designs…

The plan was to reveal them over the weekend at the convention that hosts the annual Pulp Factory Awards in Chicago.

Not that I’ve ever been, but I’ve won one to my complete surprise.

So the three authors involved with this part of the reveal were Kimberly RichardsonFrank Schildiner and my good friend and partner-in-virtual crime Derrick Ferguson. All three are authors in something called “New Pulp” but really that’s kind of a narrow definition of their particular brands of storytelling. All three are well regarded, they’re unique in their own rights, they all have their followings who eagerly await their latest projects and all of them have happened to be offered a chance to exercise their prodigious imaginations under their own brands with Pro Se.

And lucky me, I get to contribute by building the first part of that brand with these imprint logos…

So, though you’re probably not asking, how does that work? Well I’m glad you didn’t ask, let me tell you the intricate planning that went into each one of these and the meticulous work we in the independent publishing game go through to make our talent shine…

Last weekend, Tommy hits me up on Facebook with no warning whatsoever and says he needs some author imprint logos for this show in Chicago: “can you do it?” I ask for details because obviously I’m just getting to a party already in progress, and he kicks out the rough ideas for Kimberly and Frank…

…which, BTW, for a guy so full of ideas and stories and plans was woefully light on details just generalities, and he turns me loose after I inform him I’ll talk to Derrick who had already contacted me. Derrick and I do all our stuff more like a couple of guys shooting the breeze on the front stoop on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah we work, it’s just more of a relaxed thing where we kick back and chat and at some point we, usually accidentally, hit on the right thing. I love our process because when we do chop it up, I never fail to end our conversation without a smile at the end and at least two good belly laughs from the soul.

Which is pretty much how his brand POWER PLAY! was done. I, in the course of our discussion run an idea of what I’d like to use as his look and he shows me the very thing I had in mind, which in an odd bit of coincidence was sitting on his desk: a gold clenched fist with that 1960s/70s Soul Brother/grindhouse film vibe as the logo. In my head, what you see as the POWER PLAY! logo was a black light velveteen poster stuck to a ceiling between some mirror tiles with a fish net full of fake starfish.

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It was the 70s, you had to be there.

So he was easy and POWER PLAY! was done in one. There are colored variants and, as a last minute thing, I added the tag line “Old School New Pulp” which is what Derrick does. He’s got an updated Men’s Adventure/Action Hero/Thriller feel to a lot of his projects, so it felt right.

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Now Kimberly’s came with the most detail from Tommy. Crossed guns, gothic mansion, emboss this, something something that…

So I did that first and like an old “Men On Film” sketch: “Hated it!” It didn’t matter how many ways I crossed the 20 pistols I put together, none of them looked right. So instead I went to work on the manor house bit and abandoned the guns. Nice… but generic. The house was sitting on a cliff, so I pulled the cliff, threw in a really basic shield, colored it all black… better, but still needed something. I uncrossed the guns, used them as a frame and was there.

But then I wanted to make it hers. Any schmuck could build a lady a house but it needs to be HER house. So I took a look at the lady I was building the house for since I’ve never had the pleasure IRL or online of getting to know her. First thing I noticed, which is the first thing I notice about a lot of women in photos, were her eyes…

…that, kids was the hook, she’s got great eyes. I stared at those eyes and attempted to be as accurate as I could be despite simplifying them for an illustration. Stared at them for so long, I think I owe her dinner and one failed rom-com running through the airport scene. I tossed an oversized moon in the background added the eyes and I was in love…

…with the final product.

So PULP GOTHIC gave me the Lady of the House, a touch of Stephen King in the mansion, got the guns in and it all was an echo of the old paperbacks that used to come with the mapback covers telling you about the location of the story.

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Last, but not least, came Frank Schildiner. His was done first, I really didn’t like it but I took Tommy’s rough idea too literal. Frank and I aren’t online running buddies, but he and I enjoy decent fight techniques, he’s a martial artist and instructor (in addition to being an author) and I’m immensely impressed by his focus and skill. Unfortunately the logo I came up with didn’t really reflect Frank or his work. It was sort of a hero shot that reminded me of a rejected logo for the old fitness guru Jack LaLanne. It was passable, but it wasn’t Frank. As Friday rolled around I still wasn’t happy with it and it’s hard to put out something I’m not in love with as I send it out. Tommy’s looking for logos and I’m one short. But it was also something Tommy said that sparked an image early on: “Frank’s work goes everywhere.” The image that invoked was pure Jack “The King” Kirby. If you don’t know Jack and his work in changing the face of comics as we know them with Stan Lee…

…move out of that cave so I can get you some help.

So the image I came up with was a complete re-do which is inspired by guys like Kirby and the late Darwyn Cooke and we had something worthy of Frank in particular and his work in general.

And I FINALLY learned how to DIY the famous “Kirby Krackle”…

…yeah, whatever, it’s a big deal to me.

So SCHILDINER’S WORLDS final look is probably more due to Tommy’s summation of Frank’s work than anything else. I had the image in my head, but thought I had to do the other thing based on his explanation of what he said the look should be.

So I did what he said over what he asked.

I submitted both though, as I did with the manor only version of PULP GOTHIC, because you should give a guy options…

I’m glad he chose the ones he did.

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Bet you’re wondering where that planning aspect went that I mentioned at the start, right?

Tommy and I refer to this as the “Butch and Sundance”…

If you’ve ever seen how BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID ends for them, you’ll get it.

Sometimes we just have to take a leap, man…

So, if you follow these folks and missed Tommy’s press releases…

…big things are coming from some of your favorite folks…

Get ready to have your minds blown.

The rest of you, as you were…

…and move out of that cave so I can get you help.

Be good to yourselves and each other.

Dispatches From Windy City #4: A Last Series of Images

And actually that title is downright misleading because I’ve been back from Windy City for a week already. So this dispatch isn’t coming to you from Windy City but from the good old Ferguson Ponderosa in Brooklyn.

But this is the first time I’ve had to sit down at my desktop computer since I’ve been back (don’t ask…it’s a long story) since I had to unceremoniously flee from Chicago due to a freak snowstorm on Sunday morning. Which meant I had to miss a panel I was to sit on and for that I apologize to one and all. If I can make it up to you, please let me know.

But I wanted to cap off my Wind City adventure with some final images of the good time I had and share them with you good folks. So please enjoy and as always, thank you for your kind indulgence and support.

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Dispatches From Windy City #2

Tumbling through a thousand centuries

You don’t know where you’ll land

It’s so dark in mythology

Treasures of history to be found

Near the legends of time

All the handiworks remain there

Only a dream away

Those are lyrics from “Dream Away” The theme song to TIME BANDITS, one of my favorite movies of all time and they occurred to me because of the conversation I had this morning over breakfast with Ron Fortier and Rob Davis.

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Oh, we talked of many things. Of family, of our craft, of movies…and if you ever invite Rob Davis to your house, please watch YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN with him, okay? I’ll let him tell you why.

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But then we started talking about the art and craft of storytelling. And I told Ron and Rob my theory that if aliens ever did visit us it would be because they would be fascinated by the fact that we humans are a Race of Storytellers.

Think about it. You come home at the end of a long hard day from work or school or whatever. You sit down to dinner with your family and you say to them; “Tell me about your day.”

And then they tell you a story.

Because it is now a story because they have had time to think about it, to process it through their emotional and intellectual matrixes. It isn’t events as it actually happened.

It is A STORY.

And if there is any gift that we have as The Human Race is that we know how to tell A STORY.

Which is what a lot of today was about. I had breakfast with Ron and Rob and we told stories. Then we went to the venue and met up with Tommy Hancock and Aubrey Stephens and we told more stories. Then I met Gordon Dymowski and even more stories were shared. Gordon and I had a really good conversation about how much the subconscious plays in the creative process. Don’t sleep on this guy. I learned a LOT speaking to him in just fifteen minutes than I do in three hours with other folks.

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We’re having a good time and I hope you are as well. Tonight, it’s dinner at Fuddruckers, the New Pulp Awards and then the drinking and whoring.

Wait…scratch that last part.

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And here’s a picture of Aubry Stephens along with a link to the video of Blues Traveler singing “Hook” for no other reason than every time I see Aubry, this song plays in my Personal Soundtrack:

 

 

Dispatches From Windy City #1

Whenever I’ve talked about trips I’ve taken in the past (especially to Florida) you’ve usually heard me talk about driving down there. And driving is usually how I do travel. I’ve driven down to Florida and back to Brooklyn at least a dozen times. Which has led some people to think that I don’t like to fly or am scared to fly. Actually, I’m not. I’ve flown many times in the past. Flying’s cool. I just prefer driving because I like to take my time to get to where I’m going and I like to run on my own schedule. I start taking planes and bam! everything is out of my hands. I gotta be here at this time and I gotta do this and I gotta do that. All of a sudden, it’s as if all the fun has gone out of travelling because now it’s more about meeting schedules that others have set for me rather than me just jumping in my car and going wherever I please and doing whatever I want.

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So why did I jump on a plane and come to Chicago for the 2019 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention?

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Simple. I thought it would be fun and there were people here I hadn’t seen in awhile and I wanted to see again.

Such as Ron Fortier and Rob Davis, the Captain and Chief Engineer of Airship 27. I haven’t seen these cats since the first Pulp Ark many moons ago and it was high time I hung out with them again.

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And I never pass up a chance to harass Tommy Hancock. I’ve been doing it for twenty years. Why should I stop now?

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And doubtless there are many more people I will resume an acquaintance with here and those I will meet for the first time. And that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. It most certainly is for me. Making connections. Meeting new people. Renewing friendships with fellow writers, colleagues and enthusiasts of Pulp, be it Classic or New.  Talking about the things we love in Pulp and how we can make it better and how we can expand the audience and share it with the world.

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I’ll be here in Chicago at the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention this weekend so get used to seeing these dispatches for the next couple of days. Like those war correspondents you see in those old Black & White WWII movies who went out on the front lines during the day and then at night filed stories about what they had heard and seen? Yeah, this will be kinda like that. You guys know how I be.

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Tommy and I have already talked about major Dillon and Fortune McCall stuff. Ron and Tommy are going to be making major announcements tomorrow as Friday is the actual day this shindig starts. We just got here early because there’s a whole LOT of stuff that has to go on behind the scenes before the jump-off jumps off. I may even do a Facebook Live from the floor of the convention. Anything to show you guys how much fun we’re having.

We haven’t even really gotten started yet and we’re already having a ball.

Watch this space.

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The Sword and Soul Must Read List Courtesy of Milton Davis, The Godson of Sword and Soul

Kind of a grandiose title, right? And Milton would probably be the first one to knock me upside my head for bestowing that title upon him but I can’t help it. Whenever I think of Sword and Soul I first think of Charles Saunders, that remarkably talented founder of the genre and the man who I consider to be The Godfather of Sword and Soul. At its simplest Sword and Soul is African inspired Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery . That’s the thumbnail version. For a more in depth and comprehensive overview of the genre I point you in the direction of an article written by Balogun Ojetade who is himself no stranger to the genre:

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Sword and Soul: Much needed new genre? Or Simply something old with a new coat of paint? By Balogun Ojetade

And Milton Davis is the second name I think of when it comes to Sword and Sword because he’s had  considerable influence in revitalizing and reinvigorating the genre, spreading knowledge of it and inspiring a whole generation of brand new writers who have embraced Sword and Soul with a burning passion, elevating and evolving it in exciting and fascinating new directions. That’s why I call him The Godson of Sword and Soul.

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“Okay, Derrick,” you say. “I’m sufficiently intrigued to want to know more. But where do I begin? Who should I be reading? What books and writers do I start with?”

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I’m glad you asked because Milton Davis has been good enough to compile a list of Sword and Soul books that you can start with. And here it is:

  1. IMARO by Charles Saunders
  2. DOSSOUYE by Charles Saunders
  3. MEJI by Milton Davis
  4. GRIOTS Edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders
  5. GRIOTS: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR Edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis
  6. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balogun Ojetade
  7. THE CONSTANT TOWER by Carole McDonnell
  8. ABENGONI: FIRST CALLING by Charles Saunders
  9. SONGS OF THE SUNYA: TALES FROM THE SANDS OF TIME by Mansa Myrie
  10. CHANGA’S SAFARI by Milton Davis
  11. WHEN NIGHT FALLS by Gerald L. Coleman

Many of these I have read myself and heartily recommend and as for those I haven’t read, I trust Milton’s recommendation as to their quality and entertainment value so don’t be wary of diving in and discovering the magic and majesty of Sword and Soul for yourself. Enjoy!

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Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…Valjeanne Jeffers

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been quite a while since we’ve done this so for the benefit of those who don’t know you (and shame on them!) who is Valjeanne Jeffers?

Valjeanne Jeffers: Greetings sweet readers and authors. I’m the author of nine books, including my most popular Immortal series and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective series, as well as one nonfiction book, The Story of Eve, which has only been published as articles. I also co-edited, with Quinton Veal, Scierogenous: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy (Volumes I and II). I’ve been published in a number of anthologies, including: The Bright Empire, Fitting In, Black Magic Women, Luminescent Threads, Sycorax’s Daughters and Blerdrotica (in press).

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DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do?

VJ: I live in Alabama and I work as a teacher and literary editor. I love editing because I get to read wonderful books, mostly speculative fiction, for free.

DF: So how has the writing thing been going for you since we last talked? You’ve been a busy young lady.

VJ: I wish everything went as smoothly as my writing. There are always marketing headaches when you’re an Indie author. Right now, I’m working on getting all of my books on Barnes & Nobel’s site, and ultimately into their physical stores. I’m hoping that this will be a game changer for my book sales.

DF: Is writing getting easier or harder? Have you made any major changes or adjustments in how you work, where your work or the hours that you work?

VJ: I have to balance my writing with my work schedule, and that part is easier since I now set my own hours. I’ve also found my voice and a ton of support from my writing circle, so I don’t doubt myself as much as I used to. We writers are quirky folks, and it has been so beautiful to find my niche among them.

Yet, writing a book, for me, is like starting journey where you have a general idea of your destination, and no idea how you’re going to get there. It’s like that for me every time. That’s the difficult part. In my latest novel, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III, I tackled some issues that were very close to home, and this too made it harder. But I can see my way to the conclusion of my latest journey.

DF: You’ve been doing this for a goodly amount of time now. Have you found your audience? Or have they found you?

VJ: I believe that I have found my audience. Yet a writer’s work is never done when it comes to discovering new readers. I’m working really hard on getting my books into brick and mortar stores and attending events where I can meet and greet folks. Also, cons and author signings are a lot of fun.

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DF: What are your thoughts on the role and direction of African-American Speculative Fiction written by Women of Color in the past five years?

VJ: I started this journey back in 2007. When I first began writing and reading the only black female authors I knew were: Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson. Since then, black women have made tremendous strides as authors, directors and filmmakers. I’m one of the contributing screenwriters for the “7Magpies” horror anthology film, spearheaded by producer and creator, Lucy Cruell. Lucy decided to bring together me, Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Linda D Addison, and Paula Ashe together as screenwriters to make this project happen, as well as several female directors, including Rae Dawn Chong. This film project has been in the works for a while, but hopefully we’ll see the finished product soon.

DF: I’ve noticed in the past few years you’ve been writing in the genre of Erotic Science Fiction which I didn’t know was a genre until I read some of your stories. Is this a genre we should all be reading?

VJ: I’ve co-edited Scierogenous I and II, and some of the writers in my circle write erotic science fiction, most notably Sumiko Saulson, Quinton Veal and Penelope Flynn. So, I believe that erotic science fiction may be ascending from sub-genre to full-fledged genre status. It ain’t for the faint of heart, but a lot of folks dig it.

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I have a mix-media approach to writing: I write horror, science fiction and fantasy and I adore them all. Derrick, you once referred to my writing style as imaginatively experimental and I love this description. Yet, I don’t consider myself to be an erotic writer. I think of myself as someone who writes stories and novels with erotic elements. Author Milton Davis, when I posed this question to him, told me that if I removed all of the erotic elements from my stories, they would still be solid stories. But, if folks describe me as a writer of erotica, that’s cool. Often, it’s your readers who define your work according to how it moves them. As a case in point, I didn’t consider myself to be a horror writer, until Sumiko Saulson included my Immortal series in “60 Black Women in Horror Fiction” (she has since updated this volume to include 100 writers). I was blown away! And so, I took on the cap of “horror writer” and ran with it. Now, my most popular series is Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, a horror/steamfunk series.

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DF: You are a highly prominent and respected female African-American Speculative Fiction writer. At least I think so. But where do you see your place on the field? What position do you hold?

VJ: I graciously accept both titles. I believe that I have reached the point in my writing career where I am both a well-known and respected author. But there are shoulders that I’ve stood on to reach this point in my writing journey, most notably Octavia Butler. Octavia has always been my writing mentor, although I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet her while she was alive. And she continues to inspire me.

Last summer at Blacktasticon 2018, I sat on a panel with some of the heaviest hitters in the black SF community, to discuss Octavia’s writing and the impact that she continues to have on speculative fiction. I was honored to sit beside them. So, as I writer I have arrived, but there’s still room for growth.

DF: What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?

VJ: Octavia Butler has the best recipe for overcoming writers block: “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” As writers, we have to keep it moving, even through creative slumps. It’s okay to take some time off, to step back and let things simmer for a while. But when I leave my characters for too long, they become strangers, and then I have to go through the process of reacquainting myself with them.

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Also, outlines work best for me, when I find myself writing in circles. Music too, is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. I’ve actually created scenes inspired by music. I once wrote a concluding action scene listening to “Rollin Crumblin” and another one listening to “Magic Carpet Ride.” And I listen to all genres of music depending on what mood I’m in: Jazz, Hip Hop, R&B, Blues and Rock.

Lately I’ve been listening to one of my favorite bands (just their music from the ‘70s) WAR

DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?

VJ: If I’m not writing I’m usually working or reading. I have three books on my kindle that I’m reading (Gerald Coleman’s “Plague of Shadows”, Joe Bonadonna’s “Mad Shadows II”, and Alan D. Jones’ “Blerd Tales”). I’m still working on reading stories from the anthologies I’ve been published in. I recently got my copy of The Bright Empire (edited by Milton Davis and Gene Peterson) and the first story I read was Balogun Ojetade’s “The Transmission of Aragomago;” it’s outstanding. I also just finished reading Nicole Kurtz’s story “Belly Talker” (from the Blacktasticon Anthology edited by Milton Davis) which is also off the chain. And I have a few favorite TV programs that I watch, or I try to catch a decent SF/fantasy movie.

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DF: Tell us about your upcoming projects. What can we look forward to from Valjeanne Jeffers in 2019?

VJ: I’m currently writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child. I should be finished by late Spring or early summer. And I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s novel based on my short story, “The Visitor” (which was very well received). But I won’t tackle this until I finish Mona Livelong III. Author and artist Penelope Flynn is releasing an anthology of erotic science science, Blerdrotica, and my story “Aura’s Awakening” will be included, and I am very excited about it.

DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers out there reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.

VJ: My advice to all new authors is read books in your genre, or just read. Read the authors you admire and don’t worry if your words don’t sound like theirs. Variety is the sugar and spice of life, so find your own voice and write! Once you put pen to paper, you are a writer, no matter what anyone says.

DF: What is the one story or novel of yours that you would recommend that we should start with?

VJ: If your taste is Fantasy/Afrofuturism with a dash of Horror start with Immortal. If you prefer your Horror/Steamfunk straight with no chaser, start with Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective: The Case of the Angry Ghost.

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DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Valjeanne Jeffers like?

VJ: Normally my days consist of writing, reading and playing with my grand babies – who are playing with my dog Caesar and my cat Cleo. I usually teach in the evenings, unless I’m editing a novel.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Valjeanne Jeffers: I’d like to thank you Derrick, pulp writer extraordinaire, for interviewing me! And I wish everyone love, peace and creativity.

You’re one click away from Valjeanne’s Amazon Page. Be sure to go check it out, y’hear?
Valjeanne is active on Facebook and Twitter so if you’d like to talk to her directly, start there.

 

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